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Obsidian Mirror

Obsidian Mirror




    An imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
    Published by The Penguin Group
    Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014, U.S.A.
    Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) * Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England * Penguin Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd) * Penguin Group (Australia), 707 Collins Street, Melbourne, Victoria 3008, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd) * Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi—110 017, India * Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd) * Penguin Books (South Africa), Rosebank Office Park, 181 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parktown North 2193, South Africa * Penguin China, B7 Jiaming Center, 27 East Third Ring Road North, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100020, China * Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
    First published in the United States 2013 by Dial Books
    Published in Great Britain 2012 by Hodder Books
    Copyright © 2012 by Catherine Fisher
    All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
    The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
    Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
    Fisher, Catherine, date.
    The obsidian mirror / Catherine Fisher.
    p.   cm.
    Summary: When his father disappears while experimenting with a black mirror that is a portal to both the past and future, Jake encounters obstacles when he tries to use the mirror to find his father.
    ISBN: 978-1-101-60313-0
    [1. Time travel—Fiction. 2. Fathers—Fiction. 3. Missing persons—Fiction.] I. Title.
    PZ7.F4995Ob 2013  [Fic]—dc23   2012019459

    Table of Contents
    The son of a dear father murder’d.
    A forged process of my death.
    Like the hectic in my blood he rages.
    If like a crab you could go backward…
    The time is out of joint; O cursed spite That ever I was born to set it right.
    About the Author

    The son of a dear father murder’d.

    I have discovered something totally impossible. I will be rich. Celebrated. A hero of science.
    And yet in truth I am so bewildered that I can only sit for hours in this room and gaze out at the rain.
    What can I do with such terrifying knowledge? How can I ever dare use it?
    Journal of John Harcourt Symmes, December 1846
    THE BOY PUT on the mask outside the door. It was a heavy black fencing mask and inside its mesh he felt different.
    It made him dark, supple, dangerous.
    An actor.
    An assassin.
    He was wearing the costume for Hamlet, Act 5, the duel with Laertes, and he had the fencing sword ready in his hand. He had to be very careful. This could all go badly wrong, and not just in the way he wanted. He took a deep breath and peered in through the glass panel. The rehearsal seemed to have paused; people were sitting around and Mr. Wharton was explaining something, waving an arm expressively to Mark Patten, who was playing Laertes.
    He opened the door and went in. At once, as if someone had switched it on, he burst into a world of chattering voices and music and loud hammering behind the scenery. Mr. Wharton turned around and glared at him. “Seb! Where have you been?” Without waiting for an answer he swung back. “Well, maybe now we can get on. Are you sure you’ve got the blunt sword? And you remember the jump over the table?”
    The boy nodded and climbed up on the stage. It was shadowy there; the lights weren’t set up properly, and the cardboard scenery leaned at awkward angles. A mirror reflected him, slanting. He saw he was too tall, that the costume was a little tight. His eyes were dark and steely.
    He just nodded.
    “Please yourself,” Wharton muttered. The Head of Humanities—a big man, ex-army—looked hot and harassed, his collar undone, hair sticking up where he’d run a sweaty hand through it. “Right, boys. All set to run through the duel?”
    Run through. That was apt. The boy put the foil tip to the floor and carefully flexed the supple steel blade. He watched Laertes come up onstage. Patten, the one with the big-shot father. The one with the mouth.
    “Okay.” Wharton glanced at the script. “So. Let’s go from ‘I’ll be your foil…’ And let’s have it sad, Seb, really sad and noble. You’re confused, you’re angry—your father has been killed and all you want is revenge, but instead of the real killer, you have to fight this guy you hardly know. You’re sick to the soul. Got it?”
    He nodded, silent. They had no idea how much he got it.
    The others took their places. He waited, inside the mesh of his hatred, his heart thumping like a machine out of control, the leather grip of the foil already sweaty in his hand.
    Wharton scrambled down and sat in the front row. The lights flickered, a shudder of scarlet in the shadowy hall. His hand on the sword-hilt was suddenly bloodred.
    “Sorry,” someone shouted from the back.
    “Okay. Laertes and Hamlet duel. Do the moves exactly as we practiced yesterday.” Mr. Wharton tipped his glasses to the end of his nose. “In your own time.”
    Patten faced his opponent. “Get it right this time, prat,” he whispered.
    “Oh, I will.” The answer was a bare breath, intent.
    Patten stared. “What…?”
    But the boy dressed as Hamlet had already lifted his sword and was speaking, his voice hoarse with the built-up tension of weeks. “I’ll be your foil, Laertes; in mine ignorance, your skill shall, like a star in the darkest night, stick fiery off indeed.”
    “You mock me, sir,” Laertes snarled.
    “No. By this hand.”
    He moved forward. They gripped fists, but he squeezed too hard, crushing Patten’s fingers.
    “What the hell.” Patten stepped back. “You’re not Seb!”
    The boy smiled. And instantly he attacked, slashing with the foil. Patten’s sword came up in alarmed defense. “Hey! Idiot! Wait!”
    He didn’t wait. He shoved against Patten’s chest, sending him flailing back into crashing scenery.
    Wharton jumped to his feet. “That’s all wrong. Boys! Seb!
    Thrust. Parry. Attack and keep on attacking. Fight the anger. Fight the pain and the loss. And then his head seemed suddenly to clear, and he was free and laughing, breathing easier, knocking away Patten’s wild blade, ignoring the shouts, the people jumping up onto the stage, Wharton’s roar of “Stop this at once!” He chose his moment and aimed coldly above the guard, at the bare white flesh between sleeve and glove. Then, as if it weren’t even him doing this, he struck.
    Patten howled. A great howl of pain and fury. He leaped back, flung down his foil and grabbed his wrist. Blood was already dripping through his fingers. “He’s sodding mad! It’s a sharp sword! I’ve been stabbed!
    Clatter. Shouts. The cardboard balcony rippling backward into a dusty, oddly muffled collapse. Hands grabbing him, tight around his neck, hauling him back, snatching the weapon from his fingers. He let them. He stood calm, breathing hard, in a circle of staring boys. He’d done it. They couldn’t ignore him anymore.
    Abruptly, as if a spotlight had come on, brilliant glare blinded him. He realized Wharton had snatched the mask off him and was standing there, staring in astonishment and fury at his white face.
    “Jake. Jake Wilde! What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
    He tried not to smile. “I think you know the answer to that. Sir.
    “Where’s Seb? What have you…”
    “Locked in his room. I haven’t hurt him.” He made himself sound cold. Icy. That’s what they should see, these staring, brainless kids, even though he wanted to scream and shout in their faces.
    Behind the teacher, Mark Patten had crumpled onto the stage; someone had a first-aid kit and was wrapping his wrist in a tight white bandage that immediately went red. Patten looked up, his eyes panicky and furious. “You’re finished in this school, Wilde, finished. You’ve really flipped this time. My father’s one of the governors, and if they don’t expel you there’ll be hell to pay. What are you, some sort of sodding nutcase?”
    “That’s enough.” Wharton turned. “Get him down to the med room. The rest of you, out of here. Now! Rehearsals are canceled.”
    It took a while for everyone to go, an explosion of gossip and rumor roaring out into the corridors of the school, the last boys lingering curiously. Wharton kept a resolute silence until there was no one left but Jake and himself in the hall, and the echoes from outside fading away. Then he took his glasses off, put them in his jacket pocket, and said, “Well. You’ve really made your point this time.”
    “I hope so.”
    “They’ll expel you.”
    “That’s what I want.”
    Eye to eye, they faced each other. Mr. Wharton said, “You can trust me, Jake. I’ve told you that before. Whatever it is, whatever’s wrong, tell me and—”
    “Nothing’s wrong. I hate the school. I’m out of here. That’s all.”
    It wasn’t all. Both of them knew it. But standing in the ruins of his stage, Wharton realized that was all he was going to get. Coldly he said, “Get out of that costume and be at the Head’s office in five minutes.”
    Jake turned. He went without a word.
    For a moment Wharton stared at the wreckage. Then he snatched up the foil and marched. He slammed through the fire doors of the corridors, raced up the stairs and flung open the office with HEADMASTER printed in the frosted glass.
    “Is he in?” he said, breathless.
    The secretary looked up. “Yes, but…”
    He stalked past her desk and into the inner room.
    The Head was eating pastries. A tray of them lay on the desk, next to a china mug of coffee that was releasing such a rich aroma that it made Wharton instantly nostalgic for his favorite coffee shop back home in Shepton Mallet, where he’d liked to read the papers every morning. Before he’d come to this hell-hole of a school.
    “George!” The Head had his elbows on the desk. “I was expecting you.”
    “You’ve heard?”