Pale Kings and PrincesCassandra Clare
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What I Did on My Summer Vacation
By Simon Lewis
This summer, I lived in Brooklyn. Every morning I ran through the park. One morning, I met a nixie who lived in the dog pond. She had--
Simon Lewis paused to consult his Cthonian/English dictionary for the word for "blond"--there was no entry. Apparently words relating to hair color were a nonissue for creatures of the demon dimensions. Much like, he'd discovered, words relating to family, friendship, or watching TV. He chewed his eraser, sighed, then bent over the page again. Five hundred words on how he spent his summer was due to his Cthonian teacher by morning and after an hour of work he had written approximately . . . thirty.
She had hair. And--
--an enormous rack.
"Just trying to help," Simon's roommate George Lovelace said, reaching over Simon's shoulder to scrawl in an ending to the sentence.
"And failing miserably," Simon said, but he couldn't suppress a grin.
He'd missed George this summer, more than he had expected to. He'd missed all of it more than he'd expected--not just his new friends, but Shadowhunter Academy itself, the predictable rhythms of the day, all the things he'd spent months complaining about. The slime, the dank, the morning calisthenics, the chittering of creatures trapped in the walls . . . he'd even missed the soup. Simon had spent most of his first year at the Academy worrying that he was out of place--that, any minute, someone important would realize they'd made a terrible mistake and send him back home.
It wasn't until he was back in Brooklyn, trying to sleep beneath Batman sheets with his mother snoring in the next room, that he realized home wasn't home anymore.
Home, unexpectedly, inexplicably, was Shadowhunter Academy.
Park Slope wasn't quite the same as he remembered, not with the werewolf cubs frolicking in the Prospect Park dog run, the warlock selling artisanal cheese and love potions at the Grand Army farmers' market, the vampires lounging on the banks of the Gowanus, flicking cigarette butts at strolling hipsters. Simon had to keep reminding himself that they'd been there all along--Park Slope hadn't changed; Simon had. Simon was the one who now had the Sight. Simon was the one who flinched at flickering shadows and, when Eric had the misfortune of sneaking up behind him, instinctively yanked his old friend off his feet and slammed him to the ground with an effortless judo flip.
"Dude," Eric gasped, goggling up at him from the parched August grass, "stand down, soldier."
Eric, of course, thought he'd spent the year at military school--as did the rest of the guys, as did Simon's mother and sister. Lying to almost everyone he loved: That was another thing different about his Brooklyn life now, and maybe the thing that made him most eager for escape. It was one thing to lie about where he'd been all year, to make up half-assed stories about demerits and drill sergeants, most of them cribbed from bad eighties movies. It was another thing altogether to lie about who he was. He had to pretend to be the guy they remembered, the Simon Lewis who thought demons and warlocks were confined to the pages of comic books, the one whose closest brush with death involved aspirating a chocolate-covered almond. But he wasn't that Simon anymore, not even close. Maybe he wasn't a Shadowhunter, not yet--but he wasn't exactly a mundane anymore, either, and he was tired of pretending to be.
The only person he didn't have to pretend with was Clary, and as the weeks passed, he'd spent more and more time with her, exploring the city and listening to stories of the boy he used to be. Simon still couldn't quite remember what they'd been to each other in that other life, the one he'd been magicked into forgetting--but the past seemed to matter less and less.
"You know, I'm not the person I used to be either," Clary had said to him one day, as they nursed their fourth coffee at Java Jones. Simon was doing his best to turn his blood into caffeine, in preparation for September. The Academy was a coffee-free zone. "Sometimes, that old Clary feels just as far away from me as the old Simon must from you."
"Do you miss her?" Simon asked, but he meant: Do you miss him? The old Simon. The other Simon. The better, braver Simon, who he was always worried he no longer had it in himself to be.
Clary had shaken her head, fiery red curls bouncing at her shoulders, green eyes glinting with certainty. "And I don't miss you anymore, either," she'd said, with that uncanny knack to know what was going on in his head. "Because I have you back. At least, I hope . . ."
He'd squeezed her hand. It was answer enough for both of them.
"Speaking of what you did on your summer vacation," George said now, flopping back on his sagging mattress, "are you ever going to tell me?"
"Tell you what?" Simon leaned back in his chair--then, at the ominous sound of cracking wood, abruptly leaned forward again. As second-years, Simon and George had been offered the opportunity to claim a room aboveground, but they'd both decided to stay in the dungeon. Simon had gotten rather attached to the gloomy damp--and he'd discovered there were certain advantages to being far from the prying eyes of the faculty. Not to mention the judgmental glares of the elite-track students. While the Shadowhunter kids in his class had, for the most part, come around to the slim possibility that their mundane peers could have something to offer, there was a whole new class now, and Simon didn't relish teaching them the lesson all over again. Still, as his desk chair decided whether or not to split in half and something furry and gray scampered past his feet, he wondered if it was too late to change his mind.
"Simon. Mate. Toss me a bone here. Do you know how I spent my summer vacation?"
"Shearing sheep?" George had sent him a handful of postcards over the last two months. The front of each of them had borne a photograph of the idyllic Scottish countryside. And on the back, a series of messages circling a single theme:
Kill me now.
Too late, already dead.
"Shearing sheep," George confirmed. "Feeding sheep. Herding sheep. Mucking about in sheep muck. While you were . . . who-knows-what-ing with a certain raven-haired superwarrior. You're not going to let me live vicariously?"
Simon sighed. George had restrained himself for four and a half days. Simon supposed that was more than he could have asked for.
"What makes you think I was doing anything with Isabelle Lightwood?"
"Oh, I don't know, maybe because last I saw you, you wouldn't shut up about her?" George affected an American accent--poorly. "What should I do on my date with Isabelle? What should I say on my date with Isabelle? What should I wear on my date with Isabelle? Oh, George, you bronze Scottish love god, tell me what to do with Isabelle."
"I don't recall those words coming out of my mouth."
"I was paraphrasing your body language," George said. "Now spill."
Simon shrugged. "It didn't work out."
"Didn't work out?" George's eyebrows nearly rocketed off his forehead. "Didn't work out?"
"Didn't work out," Simon confirmed.
"You're telling me that your epic love story with the hottest Shadowhunter of her generation that spanned multiple dimensions and several incidences of saving the world is over with a shrug and a"--his voice flattened again to an American accent--"didn't work out."
"Yeah. That's what I'm telling you." Simon tried to sound casual about it, but he must have failed, because George got up and gen
tly slugged his roommate's shoulder.
"Sorry, mate," George said quietly.
Simon sighed again. "Yeah."
How I Spent My Summer Vacation
By Simon Lewis
I screwed up my chances with the most amazing girl in the world.
Not once, not twice, but three times.
She took me on a date to her favorite nightclub, where I stood around like an idiot clod all night and once literally tripped over my own two feet. Then I dropped her off at the Institute and shook her hand good night.
Yes, you read that right: Shook. Her. Hand.
Then I took her on date number two, to my favorite movie theater, where I made her sit through a Star Wars: The Clone Wars marathon and didn't notice when she fell asleep, then I accidentally insulted her taste because how was I supposed to know she once dated some warlock with a tail and not that I wanted to know that anyway and then: Zoom in on yet another good night handshake.
Date number three, another of my genius ideas: double date with Clary and Jace. Which maybe would have been fine, except for how Clary and Jace are more in love than any people in love in the history of love, and how I'm pretty sure they were playing footsie under the table, because there was that one time when Jace started rubbing his foot against my leg by accident. (I think by accident?) (It better have been by accident.) And then we got attacked by demons, because Clary and Jace are apparently some kind of demon magnet, and I got knocked down in about thirty seconds and just kind of lay around in a corner while the rest of them saved the day and Isabelle did her amazing warrior goddess thing. Because she's an amazing warrior goddess--and I'm a weenie.
After that they all went off on some super awesome cross-country road trip to chase down the demons that sent the other demons after us, and they wouldn't let me come. (See above re: my weenie-ness.) Then when they came back, Isabelle didn't call me, probably because what kind of warrior goddess wants to date a cowering-in-the-corner weenie? And I didn't call her, for the same reason . . . and also because I thought maybe she'd call me.
Which she didn't.
Simon decided to ask his Cthonian teacher for an extension.
The second-year curriculum, it turned out, was much the same as the first--with one exception. This year, as the months ticked down toward Ascension day, the Shadowhunter Academy students were expected to learn current events. Although judging from what they'd learned so far, Simon thought, their current events class could just as easily be titled "Why Faeries Suck."
Every day Shadowhunter and mundane second-years crowded into one of the classrooms that had been locked down the year before. (Something about a demonic beetle infestation.) Each squeezed into a rusty chair-desk combo that seemed designed for students half their size, and listened as Professor Freeman Mayhew explained the Cold Peace.
Freeman Mayhew was a scrawny, bald man with a graying Hitler mustache, and though he started most of his sentences with "Back when I was fighting demons . . ." it was difficult to imagine him fighting so much as a cold. Mayhew believed it was his responsibility to persuade his students that faeries were shrewd, untrustworthy, coldhearted, and--not that the "lily-livered politicians" running the Clave would admit it any time soon--worthy of extinction.
The students quickly realized that disagreeing--or even interrupting to ask a question--drove up Mayhew's blood pressure, an angry red blotch blooming across his skull as he snapped, "Were you there? I don't think so!"
This morning Mayhew ceded the classroom to a girl a few years older than Simon. Her white-blond hair fell in ringlets around her shoulders, her blue-green eyes sparkled, and her mouth was set in a grim line that suggested she'd rather be anywhere else. Professor Mayhew stood beside her, but Simon noticed the way he kept his distance and was careful not to turn his back on her. Mayhew was afraid.
"Go on," the professor said gruffly. "Tell them your name."
The girl kept her eyes on the floor and mumbled something.
"Louder," Mayhew snapped.
Now the girl lifted her head and faced the class full on, and when she spoke, her voice was loud and clear. "Helen Blackthorn," she said. "Daughter of Andrew and Eleanor Blackthorn."
Simon gave her a closer look. Helen Blackthorn was a name he knew well from the stories Clary told him about the Dark War. The Blackthorns had all lost quite a bit in that fight, but he thought Helen and her brother Mark had lost most of all.
"Liar!" Mayhew shouted. "Try again."
"If I can lie, shouldn't that prove something to you?" she asked, but it was clear she already knew the answer.
"You know the conditions of your presence here," he snapped. "Tell them the truth or go home."
"That's not my home," Helen said quietly but firmly.
After the Dark War, she had been exiled--not that anyone officially used that term--to Wrangel Island, an Arctic outpost that was the hub of the world's protective wards. It was also, Simon had heard, a desolate frozen wasteland. Officially, Helen and her girlfriend, Aline Penhallow, were studying the wards, which had to be rebuilt after the Dark War. Unofficially, Helen was being punished for the accident of her birth. The Clave had decided that despite her bravery in the Dark War, despite her impeccable history, despite the fact that her younger siblings were orphans and had no one to care for them but an uncle they barely knew, she couldn't be trusted in their midst. The Clave thought that even though her skin could bear the angelic runes, she wasn't a real Shadowhunter.
Simon thought they were all idiots.
It didn't matter that she had no weapons, was clad in a pale yellow shirt and jeans, and had no visible runes. It was clear, simply from her posture and the control she exerted over herself, transforming rage into dignity, that Helen Blackthorn was a Shadowhunter. A warrior.
"Last chance," Mayhew grumbled.
"Helen Blackthorn," the girl said again, and tucked her hair back, revealing delicate pale ears, each of which tapered to an elfin point. "Daughter of Andrew Blackthorn the Shadowhunter and the Lady Nerissa. Of the Seelie Court."
At that Julie Beauvale stood up and, without a word, walked out of the classroom.
Simon felt for her, or tried to. During the final hours of the Dark War, a faerie had murdered Julie's sister right in front of her. But that wasn't Helen's fault. Helen was only half-faerie, and it wasn't the half that counted.
Not that anyone in the Clave--or the classroom--seemed to believe it. The students buzzed, faerie slurs bouncing between them. At the front of the classroom, Helen stood very still, hands clasped behind her back.
"Oh, shut up," Mayhew said loudly. Simon wondered, not for the first time, why the man had become a teacher when it seemed the only thing he loathed more than young people was the obligation to teach them. "I don't expect any of you to respect this . . . person. But she's here to offer you a cautionary tale. You will listen."
Helen cleared her throat. "My father and his brother were once students here, just like you." She spoke softly, with flat affect, as if she were talking about strangers. "And perhaps like you, they didn't realize how dangerous the Fair Folk could be. Which almost destroyed them."
It was my father, Andrew's, second year at the Academy, Helen continued, and Arthur's first. Normally, only second-years would be sent on a mission to the land of the fey, but everyone knew Arthur and Andrew fought best side by side. This was long before the Cold Peace, obviously, when the fey were bound by the Accords. But it didn't stop them from breaking the rules where they thought they could get away with it. A Shadowhunter child had been taken. Ten students from the Academy, accompanied by one of their teachers, were sent to get her back.
The mission was a success--or would have been, if a clever faerie hadn't snared my father's hand in a berry thornbush. Without thinking, he sucked the blood from a small wound--and, with it, took in a bit of the juice.
Drinking something in Faerie bound him to the Queen's whim, and the Queen bade h
im stay. Arthur insisted on staying with him--that's how much the brothers cared for each other.
The Academy teacher quickly made a bargain with the Queen: Their imprisonment would last only one day.
The Academy teachers have, of course, always been rather clever. But the fey were more so. What passed as one day in the world lasted much longer in Faerie.
It lasted for years.
My father and my uncle had always been quiet, bookish boys. They served bravely on the battlefield, but they preferred the library. They weren't prepared for what happened to them next.
What happened to them next was they encountered the Lady Nerissa, of the Seelie Court, the faerie who would become my mother, a faerie whose beauty was surpassed only by her cruelty.
My father never spoke to me of what happened to him at Nerissa's hands, nor did my uncle. But upon their return, they both made full reports to the Inquisitor. I've been . . . invited to read these reports in full and relay the details to you.
The details are these: For seven long years Nerissa made of my father her plaything. She bound him to her, not with chains but with dark faerie magic. As her servants held him down, she latched a silver choker around his neck. It was enchanted. It made my father see her not as she was, a monster, but as a miracle. It deceived his eyes and his heart, and turned his hatred of his captor into love. Or, rather, the curdled faerie version of love. A claustrophobic worship. He would do anything for her. He did, over those seven years, do everything for her.
And then there was Arthur, his brother, younger than Andrew and young for his age. Kind, they say. Soft.
Lady Nerissa had no use for Arthur, except as a toy, a tool, something with which to torture my father and affirm his loyalty.
Nerissa forced my father to live all those years in love; she forced Arthur to live in pain.
Arthur was burned alive, many times over, as a faerie fire ate away his flesh and bone but would not kill.
Arthur was whipped, a chain of thorns slashing wounds in his back that would never heal.
Arthur was chained to the ground, cuffs binding his wrists and ankles as if he were a wild beast, and forced to watch his worst nightmares play out before his eyes, faerie glamours impersonating the people he loved most dying excruciating deaths before his eyes.