Authors: Ken Brosky,Isabella Fontaine,Dagny Holt,Chris Smith,Lioudmila Perry
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Teen & Young Adult, #Mythology & Folk Tales, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Fairy Tales, #Action & Adventure, #Paranormal & Urban, #Science Fiction, #Dystopian
The Grimm Chronicles
By Isabella Fontaine
Cover art by Chris Smith. Edited by Dagny Holt.
Published 2012 by Brew City Press.
Table of Contents
(For easy navigation, duh!)
Well, here we are again. Another three books “in the books,” so to speak. No, wait. That sounds awful. We should be able to come up with a better metaphor than that.
OK, forget it. We’re tired. The truth is, this series is becoming so much bigger than anticipated. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s good because people are reading it, and reviewers are enjoying it. That obviously makes us very happy. It’s also a bad thing, because now we’ve become so invested in the series that every time we put out a new episode, we get stress pimples from anticipating the reaction. What if there’s a formatting error? What if there’s a misspelled word? WHAT IF …?
“Relax,” you tell us. That’s all well and good for you, Dear Reader. But not for us. Because, you see, we truly feel blessed to have so many readers enjoying this series. We are in your debt. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
(We also apologize for the minor formatting issues with Vol. 1, which are now fixed and must never be spoken of again.)
And we hope this series means something more than just entertainment. That’s our goal now. It started as just a story, but it’s become so much more. Alice isn’t a
… she’s a
. She’s a human being with flaws who’s on the verge of going through some very difficult, trying times. Situations that you, Dear Reader, may just be able to relate to.
Oh, sure, you’ve probably never done battle with a cursed sea captain aboard a whaling vessel while a giant Corrupted fish attacks the ship … but perhaps you’ve seen a friend make some bad decisions. And we haven’t all had the pleasure of trying to stop an insane rock band dedicated to eradicating music from the world … but we
at one point or another all found ourselves tempted by some dangerous habits.
We hope that you see something in Alice, something admirable that you can bring into your own life. And we hope you join us for the 6 remaining books.
Because it only gets crazier from here …
I held my foil in front of me, watching my opponent through the mesh faceguard. My teeth closed on the wad of peppermint gum I’d put in just minutes ago. The smell made the stifling air inside the mask feel cool. I shuffled forward, reaching out and stabbing quickly. My opponent stepped back, letting the tip of the blade graze off his arm. He was a full head taller than me, with broad shoulders. His free hand clenched and unclenched, clenched and unclenched.
Suddenly he stepped forward. Our foils clanged together. I stepped back, desperately parrying each blow. He stepped in closer and our foils crossed; we were so close now that our masks bumped into each other and I could see his face through the dark mesh. What was he thinking?
I figured it out a breath later, when I felt the tip of his foil stab into my shoulder.
“Point for Jeffrey.”
We stepped back. I fought frantically to suck in enough oxygen; the mask felt stifling. I’d lost. How had he untangled his foil?
“That’s fifteen points for Jeffrey and … three for Alice,” Mr. Whitmann announced.
I tore off my mask, handing it to one of the other boys on the team. “I wasn’t out of bounds on that fifth point, Mr. Whitmann.”
Mr. Whitmann’s bushy eyebrows raised up. “Oh really? You questioning my eyes, Goodenough?”
I lowered my head, sighing. “No, sir.”
“Next two up,” Mr. Whitmann called out. He put a hand on my shoulder. “You’re a killer swordswoman, Alice, but this isn’t junior-year fencing class anymore. This is a
. We’re going to be competing, and that means you need to be able to follow all of the rules. You can’t step out of bounds or they’ll kill you in tournaments.”
Great, I thought. My very first day of senior year and already I was falling behind.
Let me get you caught up quick. I’m the hero, I have a magic pen, blah blah blah blah. Over the summer I killed a bunch of really weird people from
Grimms’ Fairy Tales
and made a deal with a dwarf who managed to gain the upper hand and buy himself some extra time on this planet.
I’ll get him. Somehow.
But with school starting up again, I had bigger fish to fry. Those fish came in four distinct flavors: U.S. History, 21
Century Literature, Genetics, and Geometry. Fencing took up another hour. When my classes were over for the day, I had “work-based learning,” which meant I went right to the library to volunteer there for a couple hours. It would have been nice to get to do something related to nursing, which is what I
to do if I ever got out of the hero business, but then again the prospect of living long enough to get through college seemed improbable at best.
Tricia and Seth didn’t have “work-based learning.” Tricia had Algebra and World History in the afternoon. Seth had Programming, Study Hall, and Physics. Both of them had to play catch-up so they would be ready for college. Video games and texting took precedence too often for them to stay on top of their studies.
And Briar … hmmm. Well, in addition to keeping me on a pretty rigorous training regimen, Briar was doing his very best to find more Corrupted for me to kill. I’d been having nightmares for the past three weeks, but we couldn’t make any sense of them just yet. They were too clouded. Too vague. In every single dream, I could hear kids laughing, but I couldn’t see them. All I could see were dark tunnels. Sometimes, the tunnels turned into old rooms with glossy ancient dark wood paneling and aged furniture that looked like something right out of a Charles Dickens novel.
Then the children would start crying. I moved through each of the rooms, searching, but I never saw anything more than little shadows on the wall that quickly disappeared.
In other words: I hadn’t had a decent night’s sleep in weeks.
Add to that the stress of starting up school again, and it was no wonder Briar had chosen to conduct his research in a slightly less
environment. I’m not sure exactly where he went during the day, but I have to admit I was glad to see him in my room after the first day of school was over.
Obviously, he was updating his Facebook status.
“Back from vacation?” I asked, giving him a start. I shut the door. My parents were both working late. They’d been putting in more hours because election season was coming up; all the ad agencies in town were busy putting together those awful political ads always on TV.
Briar’s ears perked up. “Hello to you, too. I trust your first day went well?”
“Oh, just great.” I plopped onto the bed. “My History teacher assigned a full chapter. I have no idea how Genetics works, like, at all … oh, and it turns out I’m not that good of a fencer.”
“Hmmm.” Briar rubbed his chin with one paw. “I think you’re all right. Your form could use some work, though …”
“I lost my first match!” I exclaimed, clawing at the air for melodramatic emphasis. “And there are only two other girls on the team. Unless more join, I won’t even be able to compete in tournaments. You need a full team.”
“Trish.” I snorted. “She has a full plate of classes as it is. I can only imagine how much homework she has already. And you know what the worst part is? I only have lunch period with her twice a week! What am I going to do the other days? Today I just skipped lunch entirely.”
“Well that’s no good.” The rabbit pointed to the door to my bedroom. “Go get yourself a snack right now. And I wouldn’t say no to a handful of chocolate chip cookies. And some carrots. And a glass of milk.”
I got up from the bed. “Anything else, your majesty?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact. But it has nothing else to do with food. Let’s keep our priorities in order, shall we?”
“Right,” I murmured, dragging myself downstairs and into the kitchen. No one had done the dishes from the night before, so there were plates and pans of spaghetti sauce sitting in the sink. I gave each one a quick rinse, then put them in the dishwasher and turned it on. There. “Good daughter” chore of the day finished. Maybe I could even make my parents something for dinner.
“Don’t get ahead of yourself, Alice.” I grabbed a paper plate and began searching the cupboards for Briar’s favorite type of cookie. It wasn’t
a chocolate chip
. It was more of a cookie
: two chocolate chip cookies glued together with vanilla icing. Being a fictional character brought to life had one advantage: no need to count calories.
I added carrots, a few slices of turkey, a few slices of Swiss cheese, and some raw broccoli around a little dip of blue cheese. Raw broccoli had quickly become a favorite of mine over the summer. It wasn’t good for replenishing calories, though, and so for the sake of keeping my energy up before our nightly training session, I also grabbed two slices of sourdough bread.
Back in my room, Briar had delved deep into the digital archives of various Midwestern newspapers. He also had one of my playlists up and running and Fiona Apple’s amazing voice was coming through the speakers. I set the big plate of food on my desk and sat on the bed, checking my phone messages.
“Two from Trish,” I said. “Oh gawd … she’s going to another party. On a Wednesday! At … Joey Harrington’s house? That can’t be right.”
“Why?” Briar asked, suddenly interested. “Is he sketchy? Is he devious? Is there perhaps some nefarious side to him that must be investigated?”
“No. It’s just that he’s the school bully. He picks on everyone.” I stared at the text message again before responding with a prompt NO. “I can’t believe Trish would want to go there. Joey’s picked on Seth a dozen times at least.”
“Such a nice fellow.” Briar crossed his legs, nibbling on a cookie sandwich. Crumbs landed on his lap and he brushed them onto the floor.
“Oh. Thanks. I really wanted to vacuum my room today.”
He gave me a curious look. “Is that a threat? Because you shouldn’t joke about vacuums.”
“Anything new on the dreams?”
I groaned. “Let’s see … I was moving through a big, big house with lots of old antique furniture and a big old fireplace and—”
“More details, if you please.”
Briar tapped his foot impatiently. “I need more details. Details are the key to understanding your dreams.”
“Oh.” I thought back, searching my memory for something more specific. “Well, the room with the giant fireplace, there were two easy chairs. Both of them were red. There was a rug on the floor that looked Persian, I think. It had lots of blue and white. The fireplace … it had a huge carved stone mantel with a wrought iron grate.”
“Good. Good. Now tell me more.”
I closed my eyes. I could almost see the house. “The hallway was really narrow. There was a marble staircase with a dark polished wood banister. The ceilings are really tall. The walls are lined with old gas lamps, but there are also some electric lights, too.”
“Gee, I dunno. The lamps are all shaped like urns. Big, white urns with lampshades on the top. Some of them are off. They’re ugly. The hallway is dark. Lots of the rooms are dark. Every time I hear children laughing, they’re upstairs. But when I hear them crying, they’re … somewhere else. Maybe downstairs.”
“Good!” Briar spun in his chair, opening up a new web page. “So we have a big house with at least two floors and a basement.”
“At least four rooms on the first floor, too,” I said. “So it was a big house.”
The rabbit’s paws tapped on the keyboard. “All right. In the general area, there are only … fifteen thousand houses that meet those specifications.” His ears dropped. “Oh dear.”
The next morning, I dragged myself out of bed. Briar was still curled up on the floor beside the desk. It was cute, in its own way. And good for him, too—he didn’t like to talk about it, but he obviously had a bit of a fear of turning visible to human beings on accident. I wasn’t sure where it came from, but it was obviously bugging him in recent weeks.
I went downstairs and poured myself a big bowl of cereal, then cut a banana into it. My mom was up, hogging the bathroom upstairs. Before the first day of school, I’d taken all of my makeup and the old spare hairdryer and brought all of it down to the cramped first-floor basement. The shower was tiny. The shower curtain was gross and had pictures of ducks. The old porcelain sink was barely big enough for me to balance my bin of toiletries on it.
Not ideal conditions. Basically, I was getting ready for school every morning in a bathroom that was only slightly more accommodating than a portable toilet.
So between the tiny bathroom and my need to get as much sleep as possible, I decided senior year was going to be “dress casual.” A little mascara, some tinted moisturizer, and no lipstick. I’d dyed my hair back to its usual black, but getting it to do anything now was impossible. The chemicals in the dye had turned my hair into a batch of straw, so for a little while at least I would have to stick with a ponytail.
The second day of school was a lot like the first: everyone excited about their new notebooks and supplies, but no one using them. My teacher in U.S. History, Mr. Feinman, was making a good first impression on all of us. There was no note-taking in his class. Instead, Mr. Feinman got us into groups on the very first day and had
about the chapter we read! Then, on the second day, he got us together and had us put ourselves in the shoes of colonists during the American Revolution. Would we join, or would we stay loyal to the crown? They both had their advantages … and dangers.
I wish I could say Geometry was as good. But by just the second day, I already felt like I was two years ahead of everyone else and could barely stay focused. I wasn’t so lucky with Genetics, though. The second day in, it was clear that Y chromosomes would be the death of me and … you know what? I’m not writing about Genetics. Ever.
In fact, the only really noteworthy thing to happen on the second day came during lunch. I’d made my way hesitantly to the cafeteria in the basement, knowing full well that Seth and Trish both had a different lunch period. I would be alone, unless a casual classmate happened to be there as well.
As it was, I had a little luck on my side: Tina was there, sitting with a guy who only looked vaguely familiar. He had long blond hair, a narrow chin, and freckled cheeks. He had sunglasses on, too, and wore a jean jacket over a black t-shirt. He seemed like the kind of guy Seth would like. They could talk about heavy metal and bizarre video games and then laugh at their boogers in typical “boy” fashion.
“Hi, Tina,” I said after grabbing a grilled cheese sandwich and baked chips from the lunch counter. The entire cafeteria smelled like French fries. Based on my four years of experience, it was a permanent smell in our cafeteria. “Can I sit with you guys?”
“Sure,” Tina said with a shrug.
I sat down across from her, next to the boy with sunglasses, who was either looking at me or at the emergency exit to my right. We were at the far back of the large cafeteria, next to one of the big white pillars that seemed to hold up the entire school. Two tables away were the skater kids. The next row of tables was occupied by a mishmash of students who didn’t belong to any specific clique. Two more rows down were some of the athletes, excluding the football players. The football players and their friends all sat on the other side of the cafeteria and had pushed their tables closer together so they were away from all the other students.