The Fiery Trial (Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy #8)(3) by Cassandra Clare, Maureen Johnson

He’d chickened out. He had seen his birthday coming, like a giant countdown clock. Every day he told himself it was too late. Clary had come the day before his birthday, bringing him a Sandman Omnibus as a gift. By then, he told himself, the countdown was over. The buzzer went off in his mind. He was nineteen.

He’d tried to put it out of his mind. But now, looking at these two newly announced parabatai, he delivered himself a mental kick.

“It’s not for everyone, Si,” George said. “Come on. Eat up, and we’ll go back and you can tell me more about Firefly.”

In the evenings, Simon had been expanding George’s cultural education by explaining the plot of every episode of Firefly, one by one. This had become a pleasant ritual, but it, too, had a countdown. There was only one more episode to go.

Before they could do this, the dean made her way past their table and stopped.

“Simon Lewis, if you would please come with me for a moment?”

People from other tables glanced over. George looked down and poked at his pizza-fry.

“Sure?” Simon said. “Am I in trouble?”

“No,” she said, her voice flat. “No trouble.”

Simon pushed back his chair and stood.

“I’ll see you back at the room, yeah?” George said. “I’ll bring you some cake.”

“Sure,” Simon said.

Many people watched him go, because that is what happens when the dean gets you in the middle of dinner. Most of the elites, though, had clustered around Julie and Beatriz. There were laughs and squeals and everyone was talking very loudly. Simon worked his way around them to get to the dean.

“This way,” she said.

Simon tried to pause by the fire just for a second, but the dean was already moving toward the door that teachers used to enter and leave the cafeteria. The teachers didn’t eat with them all the time. There was clearly some other place, some other dining room somewhere in the Academy. Catarina Loss was the only one who came regularly, and Simon got the impression that she did so because she would rather brave the terrible student food than sit around with a bunch of Shadowhunters in a private room.

Simon had never been in the hall that the dean led him down. It was more dimly lit than the halls the students used. There were tapestries on the stone walls that were certainly as threadbare as the ones in the rest of the school, but they also looked more valuable. The colors were brighter and the gold threading had the glint of real gold. There were weapons along these walls. The student weapons were all in the weapons room, and those had some kind of safety to keep them in place. If you wanted a sword, you needed to undo several straps to get it down. These were placed in simple holders, making them easy to snatch at a second’s notice.

The noise of the cafeteria shrank away within the first few steps, and then there was quiet all around. The hall was a series of closed doorways, and the silence crowded him in.

“Where are we going?” Simon asked.

“To the reception room,” the dean said.

Simon looked out of the windows as they passed. Here, the glass was a quilt of tiny panes, held together by lead piping. Each diamond of glass was old and warped, and the overall effect was like a cheap kaleidoscope, one that showed only dark and a very lightly falling snow. It was the kind of snow that didn’t amount to anything on the ground. It would just dust the dead grass. The technical term for that level, he decided, was an “annoyance” of snow.

They reached a turn in the hall. The dean opened the first door after the turn and revealed a small but grand room, with furnishings that were not in the slightest bit broken or threadbare. Every chair in the room had legs of the same length, and the sofas were long and comfortable-looking with no visible sags or stuffing. Everything was upholstered in a lush, grape-purple velvet. There was a low table made of cherrywood, and on it was a massive and elaborate silver tea set with china cups. And sitting around the table on the fine-quality chairs and sofas were Magnus Bane, Jem Carstairs, Catarina Loss, and Clary, her red hair bright against her light blue sweater. Magnus and Catarina were together at the end (near the fire—of course it was, as in all other rooms, at the far end). Clary looked up at Simon, and though she smiled as soon as she saw him, her expression suggested that her invitation to this little party had also been recent and not well explained.

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