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.As the wind beganto howl, fil ing the air with grocery lists, homework sheets, and baseball cards, I saw a wal of swirling, glittering sand, eating up the ground as it flowed toward us like an unleashed flood.“Sandstorm!” I gasped, stumbling backward.“What’ll we do? There’s nowhere we can real y go.”“This way,” Grimalkin said, sounding much calmer than I was feeling.A gust of wind tossed sand over hisback, and he shook himself impatiently.“We have to get to the cliffs before the main storm arrives, or it couldbecome unpleasant.Follow me.”We headed for the cliffs, fighting the sand and wind that shrieked around us, ripping at clothes and stingingexposed flesh.As the storm drew closer, heavier items began to fly through the air, as well.When a pair ofscissors hit me in the chest, skittering off the dragon-scale armor, my blood ran cold.We had to get to shelterquickly, or we’d be sliced to pieces.The edge of the dust storm roared over me like a tidal wave, screaming in my ears, pelting me with sand andother things.With my eyes squinted nearly closed, I couldn’t see where I was going, and dust clogged mynose and mouth, making it hard to breathe.I lost sight of Grimalkin and the others and struggled blindlythrough the maelstrom, one arm covering my face, the other held out in front of me.Someone took my hand, pulling me forward.I peeked up and saw Ash, head and shoulders hunched againstthe wind, dragging me toward the looming cliff wal , a dark curtain in the middle of a stormy sea.Puck wasalready crouched behind a jagged outcropping, huddled against it as streams of sand flowed around him,bouncing odds and ends off the stones.“Well, this is fun,” Puck said as we ducked behind the rock, huddled together as wind and sand shriekedaround us.“It’s not every day I get to tell someone I was attacked by a pair of flying reading glasses.Ow.” Herubbed his forehead, where a bruise had started to form.“Where’s Grimalkin?” I yel ed, peering into the raging wind.A plastic doll head struck the rock inches from myface and went bouncing into the storm, and I cringed back.“I am here.” Grimalkin materialized behind the rock, shaking sand from his coat in a dusty cloud.“There is asmal opening in the cliff wal a few yards down,” he announced, peering up at me.“I am going there now, ifyou care to follow.It is more comfortable than cringing against a rock.”Hugging the wall, arms raised to shield our eyes from sand and flying objects, we trailed Grimalkin along thecliff until we reached a narrow crack, a corridor that snaked away into the rock.The opening was tight andnarrow, and there wasn’t much room to do more than stand, but it was better than being out in the storm.I squeezed into the corridor, sighing in relief.My ears rang from the shrieking wind, and sand clung toeverything: hair, lips, eyelashes.Taking off one gauntlet, I wiped my face, wishing I had a towel, and triedcombing the sand from my hair.“Ugh.” Puck shook his head like a dog, sending dust and grit flying.Ash glared at him and moved away fromthe shower, standing beside me.“Ack.Blech.Oh, great, I’m already starting to itch.I’m going to have sand inevery crack for months now.”Grinning at Puck’s statement, I reached up and ruffled Ash’s hair, sending a rain of dust to the ground.Hewinced and gave me a rueful look.“I wonder how long the storm will last,” I mused out loud, watching sand hurlpast the opening.Catching sight of Grimalkin, grooming rigorously on a nearby rock, I called out to him.“Grim? Any ideas?”The cat didn’t even slow down.“Why do you ask me, human?” he asked, licking himself as though his fur wason fire and not just covered in sand.“I have never been here.” He shook his head, then moved on to his pawsand whiskers.“We could be here for minutes or days—I am no expert of the sand and wind cycles in theDesert of Lost Things.” His voice was thick with sarcasm, and I rolled my eyes.“Although,” he continued, furiously scrubbing his face, “it might interest you to know there is a tunnel around the corner to the right, half-hidden behind a bush.Perhaps you should see to it that it is empty, and not fil ed with Iron spiders orsomething equally unpleasant.”We drew our weapons.Talk about a rock and a hard place.The last thing we wanted was to be trapped in anarrow corridor with an enemy bearing down on us and the storm at our backs.With Ash in front of me andPuck bringing up the rear, we edged forward until we found the tunnel Grim was talking about, a gaping slashin the rock wall, dark and uninviting, like the open mouth of a beast.Cautiously, Ash poked his sword through the opening, and when nothing immediately leaped out, I easedforward to peer inside.At first, as my eyes adjusted to the darkness, it looked like an ordinary stone tunnel, maybe to a cave systemor something similar.But then I saw that the tunnel had been carved out of the rock, that a clump of familiarwhite mushrooms grew on the wal near the entrance, and an old metal lantern hung on a nail farther in.Thiswasn’t a random cave.Someone had been using these tunnels, and recently.And suddenly, I knew where we were.“Princess, wait,” Puck warned as I stepped in farther.“What are you doing?”“I know what this is,” I muttered, taking the lantern off the nail.It still had oil, and I coaxed a tiny flame to life, lifting it up.The light glinted off a toy fire engine lying next to a rock, and I had to smile [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]