The Fiery Trial (Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy #8)(7) by Cassandra Clare, Maureen Johnson

“You?” he asked.

Clary shook her head.

“In my bag. Back there.”

That didn’t matter. It was enough to be home. The suddenness of it only made it more wonderful. Now that he looked more carefully, Simon could see clearly the outlines of the skyscrapers that lined the south end of the park. They looked like the blocks he used to play with as a kid—just a series of rectangles of various sizes set side to side. Some had the faint glow of signs above them, but he couldn’t read the writing. He could, however, see the colors of the signs with an unusual clarity. One sign was a pink rose, a bright bloom. The next was the color of electricity. It wasn’t just the colors that were sharp. He could smell everything in the air. The metallic tang of the cold. The sea funk of the East River, blocks away. Even the jutting bits of bedrock that reached up and made the many tiny mountains of Central Park seemed to have an odor. There was no garbage, though, and no smells of food or traffic. This was elemental New York. This was the island itself.

“I feel a little weird,” Simon said. “Maybe I should have finished dinner. And now that I’ve just said that, I know there must be something wrong with me.”

“You need to eat,” Clary said, giving him a light punch. “You’re turning into a big muscle man.”

“You noticed?”

“It’s hard not to notice, Superman. You’re like the after photo on some commercial for home workout equipment.”

Simon blushed and looked away. It wasn’t snowing anymore. It was just dark and open, with many trees around. There was a bright bitterness to the cold.

“Where do you think we are?” Clary said. “I’m guessing about . . . midway?”

Simon knew it was possible to walk for some time in Central Park without really having a sense of where you are. The paths wind. The trees create a canopy. The land goes up and down in sharp inclines and declines.

“Over there,” he said, pointing at a low pattern of shadows. “It opens up over there. It’s the entrance to something. Let’s go that way and look.”

Clary rubbed her hands together and huddled against the cold. Simon wished he had a coat to offer her, almost more than he wished he had a coat to offer himself. Still, being cold in New York was better than being cold in the Academy. He had to admit, though, that Idris was more temperate. New York weather went to more extremes. This was the kind of cold that would give you frostbite if you stayed out in it too long. They probably needed to figure out where they were and get out of the park and into a building—any building. A store, a coffee shop, whatever they could find.

They walked toward the opening, which revealed itself to be a collection of elaborately carved stone plinths. There were several of these, in sets. Eventually they led to an equally elaborately carved staircase that bent on its way down to a wide terrace with a massive fountain. There was a lake just beyond, covered in ice.

“Bethesda Terrace,” Simon said, nodding. “That’s where we are. That’s in the Seventies, right?”

“Seventy-Second,” Clary said. “I’ve drawn it before.”

The terrace was just a large, ornamental area inside of the park and not really somewhere to be on a cold night—but it seemed to be the only place to be. If they walked toward it, at least they would know where they were, as opposed to wandering around in the trees and looping paths. They walked down the stairs together. Strangely, the fountain was going tonight. It was often turned off in the winter, and certainly when it was freezing cold. But the water flowed freely, and there was no ice on the water in the fountain base. The lights were on and all focused on the statue of the angel that stood in the middle of the fountain on top of two layered tiers and four tiny cherubs.

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