The Fiery Trial (Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy #8)(6) by Cassandra Clare, Maureen Johnson

“That’s not uncommon for this time of year,” Jem said. “As the year draws to a close, people reflect, they make decisions.”

The room suddenly got warmer. Had the fire gotten higher? Had it sneaked closer? It was definitely crackling loudly, but now it didn’t sound like laughter—it sounded like breaking glass. The fire was speaking to them.

Simon caught himself. The fire was speaking? What was wrong with him? He looked around the room fuzzily, and heard Clary make an odd, surprised sound, as if she’d seen something she hadn’t expected.

“I think it’s time to begin,” said Jem. “Magnus?”

Simon could hear Magnus sigh as he stood up. Magnus was really tall. This, Simon had always known. Now he looked like he might hit the ceiling. He opened a door that Simon hadn’t noticed was there.

“Come through here,” Magnus said. “There are some things you need to see.”

Clary got up and went over to the door. Simon followed. Catarina caught his eye as he went. Everything was unsaid in this room. She didn’t quite approve of what was happening. Neither did Magnus.

Whatever was on the other side of the doorway was utterly dark, and Clary hesitated for a second.

“It’s fine,” Magnus said. “It’s just a bit cold in there. Sorry.”

Clary went in, and Simon followed a step behind. They were in a shadowy space, definitely cold. He turned, but could no longer see the door. It was just him and Clary. Clary’s hair shone bright red in the dark.

“We’re outside,” Clary said.

Sure enough. Simon blinked. His thoughts were a little slow and stretched. Of course they were outside.

“They maybe could have said we were going outside,” Simon said, shivering. “No one here believes in coats.”

“Turn around,” Clary said.

Simon turned. The door they had just come through—in fact, the entire building they had just come from—was gone. They were simply outdoors, surrounded by just a few trees. The sky above was a purple-gray parchment that seemed to be lit by a low haze of lights on the horizon, just out of sight. There was a web of brick paths all around, dotted with fenced-off areas of trees and urns that probably contained flowers in better weather and now stood as reminders of the season.

It was familiar, and yet, it was like nowhere Simon had ever been.

“We’re in Central Park,” Clary said. “I think . . .”

“What? We . . .”

But as soon as he said it, it became clear. The low metal fences that marked off the brick paths. But there were no benches, no trash cans, no people. There was no view of the skyline in any direction.

“Okay . . . ,” said Simon. “This is weird. Did Magnus just completely screw up? Can that happen? You guys just came from New York. Did he just open up the same Portal?”

“Maybe?” Clary said.

Simon took a deep breath of the New York air. It was bitterly cold and burned the inside of his nose, waking him up.

“They’ll realize in a second,” Clary said, shivering in the cold. “Magnus doesn’t make mistakes.”

“So maybe it wasn’t a mistake. Maybe we just got a free trip to New York. Or, I did. I’m going to assume that we go wherever we want until they come and get us. You know they have their ways. Might as well take advantage!”

This unexpected and utterly sudden trip home had completely reinvigorated Simon.

“Pizza,” he said. “Oh my God. They stir-fried pizza tonight. It was the worst. Maybe coffee. Maybe there’s time to get to Forbidden Planet? I just . . .”

He patted his pockets. Money. He had no money.

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