The Spindlers

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Authors: Lauren Oliver
upward, heaving her into the air. She was on her back, gripped by hundreds of iron-strong fingers, flailing. “Mirabella! Help me!”
    â€œMiss Liza! Grab on to my paw!”
    Mirabella had appeared at the window, looking pale and desperate. Liza tore an arm free of the nids’ grip and tried to reach for Mirabella’s extended paw. The nids wrenched them apart, so Liza came away with only a handful of brownish-gray fur.
    â€œMirabella!” Liza screamed, but already the nids had swelled forward and had grabbed the rat firmly by the shoulders. They hauled Mirabella into the room as they had done to Liza, then heaved her into the air above her heads, plucking the ruined hat from her head and picking at her wig.
    â€œLet go of me!” Mirabella shrieked. “Get your filthy hands off my hair! Stop fiddling with my skirt. I—ow! That was my tail! ”
    The nids paid no attention to their protests. “A rat and a monster!” they chattered excitedly. “Strangers and intruders! Criminals in our midst! They must be punished!”
    The orchestra continued playing, but now the notes were frenzied and discordant. Directly above her, the fireflies were flitting ever faster around the vaulted ceiling of roots. Now Liza found their movement frightening, as though the ceiling was covered with golden-skinned snakes.
    They passed underneath the golden staircase, where the king of the nids was standing with a finger pointed toward the double doors, through which the nids had come. “Criminals must be punished!” the king thundered, and the nids cheered. “Intruders must be educated! Strangers must be abolished! Bring them to the Court of Stones! ”
    â€œThe Court of Stones! The Court of Stones!” the nids chanted.
    â€œOh dear,” Mirabella squeaked as they were carried through the double doors and swallowed up by darkness.

Chapter 9

T HE C OURT OF S TONES
    T he nids carried Liza and Mirabella down a broad set of stone stairs into a dank, dark part of the palace, where slicks of black mold clung to all the walls, and the only light came from a few dim clusters of sick-looking fireflies straggling through the air. As they passed through dark caverns, Liza could hear the lapping of water from up ahead, and fear snaked like a cold, damp finger down her back.
    â€œPlease!” Liza cried out, renewing her attempts to fight the nids off. Now that she had shaken off the fog of the music, terror came rushing in its place: Patrick’s name drummed louder than ever in her mind. “Please let me go. You don’t understand. I’m on a very important mission.”
    â€œSave your breath, Miss Liza,” Mirabella said in a low voice. “You’ll need it for the Court of Stones.”
    The finger did another unpleasant zaggle down her back.
    The nids set Liza and Mirabella down at the edge of a vast, fog-enshrouded lake. The surface of the black water was spotted with enormous, dark flowers, which looked like overgrown teacups. As soon as the nids reached its shore, the flowers began to move, skating toward them, leaving behind a gentle wake of dark ripples.
    Then Liza saw that the blooms were being pushed upward from underneath; and suddenly dozens of large, slimy green frogs were waddling up through the shallows and plopping down on the banks on their fat, wet stomachs, blinking expectantly. Each frog had one of the oversize lily pads strapped to its back, and Liza found herself pushed, headfirst, into one of them.
    She managed to grab hold of one of the flower petals and right herself. Immediately Liza’s frog waddled back into the lake. Her stomach dipped as all at once it submerged. But the flower stayed above water, skating easily along the surface. Around her, the water was alive with floating flowers, sliding rapidly toward the opposite shore as though moving on invisible tracks. Wisps of mist floated past them.
    Liza wished, fiercely, that Patrick

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