Lee stared up the front steps of the Academy, eyes wide and jaw dropped. She probably still couldn't believe she was actually here. Here in Alicante. Here at this school. Surrounded by these people. Shadowhunters.
"Holy shit, Liz. We made it," she said in awe. Her cousin (that's what they called each other, when in reality they were completely unrelated) shuddered at her language. She had just recently come to terms with the new Lee. The real Lee. The one who cussed like a sailor and cut at her thighs. The one who screamed in her sleep about dying and chattered nonstop about becoming the best Shadowhunter ever. The one she caught kissing a girl behind the school only to find out later that she was in love with the one boy Eliza could never forgive her for loving. The one who beat up anyone who tried to hurt her cousin. That was who Lee had become after both their parents had died and they had discovered the Shadow World.
"You sound so surprised," the other girl replied wearily. She hadn't liked Portal travel, and she was already missing her old room.
"Well, you know, nothing's ever set in stone until it comes to pass," Lee replied. Eliza blinked at the older girl. Another change she'd noticed was the strange, poetic way she spoke. Lee had always had a way with words, but the way she had spoken to Eliza had always been very careful. Measured, so as to hide things.
"I guess," she muttered. There was a burst of giggles from behind them, and Eliza turned to look for the cause. There was a group of girls turned into each other, their arms covered in strange tattoos.
'Marks,' she corrected herself mentally. Those strange "tattoos" were angelic runes, called Marks, that would one day decorate her own skin. She wasn't sure how she felt about that. She noticed several of the girls look over at the two of them before giggling again. She felt herself flush. They were laughing at them, because they were mundane. She grabbed Lee's hand and tugged her away from the school; towards the dorms. Patrick Penhallow had warned them that they may be made fun of, teased, and targeted because of their supposed "weakness." He had said that many would feel like they didn't belong; that they didn't deserve to be here. Not that she agreed with them, she just didn't want Lee to see and get angry.
Lee got angry too easily these days.
"Come on, Lee. We should go see where we're going to be living for the next two years," Eliza said. When they had been younger, Eliza had been unable to say her actual name, Alecia, so she had called her "Lee-Lee." And when they had gotten older, Alecia started going by Lee. She had told everyone that it was because her name was a mouthful and that a lot of people mispronounced it, but Eliza knew it was because she thought it was too girly.
"I wonder if it will be like normal dorms, or if it will be super cool with like, places to hold your weapons and stuff like that," she said distractedly, allowing Eliza to pull her towards the building. As she got closer, she saw Patrick standing on the front steps, his hands clasped in front of him and his eyes on them. Eliza welcomed his familiar face, some of the anxiety that had been gnawing at her insides lessening as he gave her a level smile.
"I was wondering when you two would arrive," he said as they ascended the steps. Lee gave him a broad smile, as if he were a favorite uncle she hadn't seen in a long time. That could be because he looked like a white version of Eliza's dad, who had been her godfather. That was why Eliza had trusted him from the beginning. Everything from his warm brown eyes to his deep, steady voice to his large build spoke of Christian Donner. No one understood why the Consul's husband had been personally dispatched to seek after two mundanes in some small Texas town to see about applying for Ascension, no one except for the two girls who had sent for him. They had seen some things that they hadn't wanted to see, and somehow had come up with his name when searching for answers.
“We hit a bit of a bump as we were trying to leave for the place where we were going to Portal here from. My aunt found out we were leaving for good and went hysterical. We couldn't tell her where we were going or anything, so we ended up having to call that number you gave us. The warlock showed up and put her to sleep so that we could leave," Lee related brightly, but Eliza, who had grown up around the girl, could tell how much it had hurt leaving Aunt Crissy like that. Without a proper goodbye. Without even a hug.
"That explains Jasper's fire-message," Patrick replied, turning and leading them through the front doors. There was a blonde girl holding some folders in her arms who was apparently waiting for them just inside, because she looked up and beamed when they entered.
"Girls, this is Elsie Blackwright. She'll be showing you around the girls dorms and explaining everything about the school to you. She'll also be your dorm contact, so any questions you may have should be taken straight to her," Patrick said, giving the girl-Elsie-a broad smile, which she returned readily.
"I can take them from here Mr. Penhallow," she said. He nodded and said goodbye to them before turning and leaving.
"Well, guys, now that you've met me, why don't I meet you?" Elsie asked, still grinning from ear to ear. Eliza was a bit confused, but Lee perked up immediately.
"I'm Lee Ritz, and this is my cousin Eliza Donner," she introduced, holding out her hand, just like her father had taught the both of them to do from the age of four. Elsie shook it gently and moved to shake Eliza's, who held her hand out. She felt herself smile a small smile. Elsie then handed them each a folder.
"In those you will find your dorm assignments, a map of the school, your class schedules, a course description guide, and the code of conduct. There is also information about the rules of curfew, the showers, boys caught in the girls dorms after hours-and vice versa- and all that jazz. And of course, my information is in there so that you can find me whenever you need me," Elsie said quickly. Lee tore into the folder, immediately going for the dorm assignment. Eliza followed suit.
"Dorm A8, Liz. Obviously a good sign. The first letter of my name and my lucky number," Lee said brightly, green eyes shining with excitement. She hadn't looked that happy in months, Eliza noted. Eliza looked at her own dorm assignment and frowned. B19. But that meant-
"We're in different dorms," she said aloud. Lee's smile fell and she shook her head.
"What? No. That can't be right," she replied, looking to Elsie for the answer. The girl frowned sympathetically.
"I'm sorry," she explained. "All Ascendants must room with with a Shadowhunter. That's the rule." Eliza's breathing became a little bit more difficult.
"But, no one told us that," she muttered. It wasn't that she couldn't be separated from Lee. It was that she didn't want to. She was confident in her abilities to make friends, but that took time. Meanwhile, she had counted on having Lee at her back. Now she realized that she was going to have to branch out a lot sooner than she had wanted to. She glanced over at Lee and saw the same panic written on her face. Perhaps more so, because Lee would have a much harder time making friends. She was loud and eccentric, and more than just a little arrogant. People would label her as a freak and a loser, just like they always had back home. Which Lee didn't mind. She did mind not having anyone by her side. She had always been surrounded by all the other misfits, laughing and having a good time, usually at the expense of the very people who had written them off. Until she found her niche here in the Shadow World, she would feel entirely alone.
"I'm sure everything will be just fine," Elsie assured them. But the lump in Eliza's throat begged to differ.
"This is it," Elsie told her, stopping in front of one of the many plain, black doors that lined the hall. Eliza gave her a halfhearted thanks and turned to go inside. She felt a hand on her arm, and looked back over her shoulder at the blonde.
"Hey, I know this must be rough. But you can come to me with anything, okay?" Elsie reassured. Eliza gave her a small nod. The girl gave her an encouraging smile before letting go of her shoulder and walking back down the hall. Eliza closed her eyes and walked through the door.
The first thing she saw was the explosion of pink that took up much of the right side of the room. She stood blinking at it for several minutes before she realized there was actually another person in the room. She was standing on the bed, hanging up a large picture of what was probably her family. She had very long honey colored hair that fell in thick waves down her back. Her skin was coppery and glowing, as if she spent a lot of time in the sun. She turned from the picture at the sound of the door closing and flashed Eliza a dazzling smile. Her eyes were a startling hazel, framed impecibly with dark brown eyeliner that made them pop. She hopped off the bed.
"Hi, I'm Trina," she said happily. Eliza went to extend her hand, but before she got the chance, she found herself caught in a bone-crushing hug. She spluttered in surprise, and looked at the girl like she was a different species when she was released. She didn't seem to notice.
"What's your name?" Trina asked cheerfully.
"Um Eliza. Eliza Donner," she answered, glancing over at her stuff, which was sitting on the other twin bed.
"It's so nice to meet you," Trina said in response. Eliza was torn. She liked happy people, after all, she was one, but this girl was kind of freaking her out. Plus, she could have sworn she'd seen this girl among the gigglers earlier that morning. She looked at the girls arms, decorated by the Marks, and again wondered if she was okay with her own arms looking like that someday.
"You too," she muttered, going over to the bed. She knew the other girl might feel a little offended, but Eliza was exhausted. There was a knock at the door. She left it for Trina to answer.
"Tegan!" she heard Trina exclaim excitedly. "I was wondering when you were going to stop by. How's your room? How's your roommate?" Eliza turned to see a girl who looked like the opposite of Trina walk into the room. She was very small, with black hair cut up past her ears. She wore large square-ish glasses that covered much of her face and an oversized plaid shirt with some worn jeans.
"They're fine. This your roommate?" she asked back. Trina nodded and turned to Eliza.
"Eliza, this is my best friend, Tegan," Trina introduced. Eliza nodded to the girl, who nodded back before turning back to Trina.
"I ran into some blonde girl who said that they were having a welcoming banquet up at the school. Do you wanna go?" she asked her friend.
"Of course! We might see some people we know," Trina replied. Tegan rolled her eyes and stepped out into the hall. Trina turned back to Eliza.
"Wanna come with?" she asked.
"No thanks," she answered. "I'd rather stay here and, um, adjust." Trina nodded with understanding and followed after Tegan, closing the door behind her.
"Adjust to the fact that I don't even want to be here," she muttered to herself.
Lee, who had told Elsie to show Eliza to her dorm, took a deep breath. She knew that whoever was on the other side of that door could very well hate her simply for being mundane. Lee had never done well with roommates, being a very selfish person by nature. The only person she'd ever been able to share a room with for any length of time had been Liz, because they understood each other. Lee secretly hoped that after they Ascended, they could become parabatai. She knew that that was a rare and difficult thing to achieve, especially later in life, but she couldn't get the idea out of her head.
She opened the door to her new home and glanced inside curiously. Her eyes landed on a girl with long, bright red hair and brilliant golden eyes, who was sitting on one of the twin beds and looking at the door expectantly. She looked at the other bed and saw that her stuff was already there. She entered the room and shut the door behind her.
"Hi, I'm Lee," she introduce, holding out her hand. The girl looked at it as of it were a bomb.
"You're like, what? Sixteen? Why are you trying to shake my hand?" she responded. This surprised Lee.
"Oh, well, I was taught at a young age that that's what you're supposed to do when you meet someone new," she replied.
"Maybe if you need to kiss ass, but I'm just your new roommate, so kissing ass isn't necessary," the girl said bluntly. Lee laughed against her will, which made the other girl smile.
"I'm Maya Fairfox," the girl introduced, grabbing Lee's hand and bending over it. "I am so very pleased to have the honor of making your acquaintance," she said in an over dramatic British accent. Again, Lee laughed, louder than before. This girl was cool. Maya straightened up and beamed at her. Lee just beamed right back.
After settling in some, there was a knock at the door. Lee immediately stood to answer it, opening the door to a boy who looked exactly like Maya, only with bright green eyes instead of gold.
"Hey, is Maya here?" he asked, searching over her shoulder.
"Wow Milo, way to introduce yourself," Maya called from her bed. The boy smiled and pushed past Lee, stalking into the room and flinging himself onto her bed.
"Hello, whatever your name is. Milo Fairfox, at your service," he introduced with a wicked grin, leaning against the wall with his hands behind his head. Lee laughed and shut the door.
"I'm Lee. It's nice to meet you too," she chuckled.
"Sorry about him," Maya apologized. "Manners aren't exactly his forté."
"Must run in the family," Lee responded. Milo burst out laughing, doubling over and clutching his stomach. Maya grinned.
"Kitty's got claws," she mused. Lee shrugged.
"Attitude is my middle name," she replied.
"Anyways. I stopped by because I ran into a Heartlake who said they were having a welcoming banquet up at the school. You wanna go?" Milo asked Maya, glancing over at Lee to show that she was invited, too.
"Sure. Let's get a feel for the teachers. See who we can wreak havoc upon," Maya agreed. Lee grinned.
"Sounds like my kinda party."
They traipsed across campus, talking about the lives they had come from. Lee learned that Maya and Milo's mother had been mundane, but that their father had died before they were born. Their mother had raised them as best as she could with knowledge of the Shadow World until they were ten, when she sent them to the Institute in New York. That's when Lee stopped them.
"Wait, does that mean that you've met Jace Herondale and Clary Fray?" she asked, eyes going fuzzy with admiration. They both nodded like they were the coolest people on earth.
"Jace is amazing. Best Shadowhunter there is. And he's talented. He taught Milo and me how to play the piano," Maya said. Milo nodded in agreement.
"And he and Clary are getting married next summer," he added. "Here in Idris. They're having the ceremony at the Herondale manor." Lee smiled. Jace Herondale was her hero. She wanted to be just like him. The best Shadowhunter.
They walked up the steps, fighting against the crowd of teens. Automatically, Lee cast her eyes about for Eliza. She was easy to find in a crowd, being so tall and having so much hair. But try as she might, she couldn't find the familiar mess of curly brown hair.
"Looking for someone?" Milo asked, green eyes studying her curiously.
"My cousin, but I don't think she's here," she answered. Suddenly there was a chorus of "shhh's" and hush fell over the crowd. A woman stood up in the front, regal and beautiful. Jia Penhallow, Patrick's wife, Consul of the Clave. Which in turn meant that she was the principal of Shadowhunter Academy.
"Welcome, students, to a new year at the Academy. We have the privilege of introducing some new teachers this year. Please welcome Diana Wrayburn and James Carstairs," Jia said to the crowd, and Lee gasped as a man with dark hair and runes on his cheekbones stepped forward with a woman who had a tattoo of a koi fish on her cheek.
"Ms. Wrayburn will be teaching Ascendants how to fight, and Mr. Carstairs will be teaching them Shadowhunter history." An eruption of muttering surrounded them, and Lee caught the words "special treatment" and "weak mundanes." Her cheeks burned, but not from embarrassment. She was pissed. Maya grabbed her hand.
"Not all of us feel that way," she murmured. Milo nodded in agreement. That surprised Lee. She had known these two for a matter of minutes, and they were already sticking up for her. The muttering died down, and Jia continued speaking.
"There will also be a change in the set up of this year. Every two months, more students will be joining the school. And every time, they will witness a staged fight between an Ascendant and a Shadowhunter. These are a sort of 'final exam' for each. The students will still continue training afterward, but they will be graded on the quality of their performance before the new students." More whispering broke out. Lee had never heard of such a way to run a school.
"Students will not be able to choose who they battle, it will be entirely random. The rules will be explained in fuller detail upon the actual date of the test."
That's when Lee saw him, standing with his arms crossed and a cocky smirk on his face. He was tall, broad-chested and tan. His windswept hair framed his face, and his eyes were the dark blue of the twilight sky. He was hot, Lee couldn't deny that, but his eyes were cold. His smirk was arrogant. One look and she could tell, he was an asshole. Then his blue eyes darted over to meet hers. She felt it fly up. Her armor. She knew what he was seeing. Her eyes steeled, her body tense. Her hands formed fists of their own accord, and her body weight focused onto the balls of her feet. It was pose that had made her notorious at her old high school. Everyone knew that Lee Ritz was someone you didn't piss off. But this kid remained unfazed. His smirk actually grew wider, his eyes traveling over her bare arms. His eyes met hers, and there was a challenge in them. A challenge to beat him. A challenge that Lee was itching to accept. A hand clamped onto her shoulder, snapping her attention away.
"Xander Nightwell," Milo said to her in a quiet voice, his eyes steady. They were focused on the boy. Xander.
"Wait 'til the battles. Then feel free to kick his ass. But right now isn't the time," Maya told her.
"But you heard Jia. The battles will be random," Lee argued.
"That's bullshit," Milo replied. "Make him hate you. Let Diana see him antagonizing you. Let her see him saying that you're an idiot mundane who could never match up to a Shadowhunter like him. Then she'll put you up against him, so that you can put his head up his ass where it belongs." Lee looked at him in shock. There was a cold fury in his eyes that didn't match his careless demeanor.
"Diana likes proving people wrong. She roots for the unlikely winner," Maya added. Lee raised an eyebrow.
"You seem pretty confident that I'll be good," she said. They nodded.
"We can see it in your eyes. You may not have been raised as a Shadowhunter, but it's what you were born to be." And hearing them say that, with such conviction in their eyes, Lee couldn't help but believe it.