City of Ashes – Chapte 18: DARKNESS VISIBLE

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Chapte 18: DARKNESS VISIBLE

CLARY HAD ALWAYS HATED ROLLER COASTERS, HATED THAT feeling of her stomach dropping out through her feet when the coaster hurtled downward. Being snatched from the truck and dragged through the air like a mouse in the claws of an eagle was ten times worse. She screamed out loud as her feet left the truck bed and her body soared upward, unbelievably fast. She screamed and twisted—until she looked down and saw how high she already was above the water and realized what would happen if the flying demon released her.

She went still. The pickup truck looked like a toy below, drifting impossibly on the waves. The city swung around her, blurred walls of glittering light. It might have been beautiful if she weren’t so terrified. The demon banked and dived, and suddenly instead of rising she was falling. She thought of the thing dropping her hundreds of feet through the air until she crashed into the icy black water, and shut her eyes—but falling through blind darkness was worse. She opened them again and saw the black deck of the ship rising up from below her like a hand about to swat them both out of the sky. She screamed a second time as they dropped toward the deck—and through a dark square cut into its surface. Now they were inside the ship.

The flying creature slowed its pace. They were dropping through the center of the boat, surrounded by railed metal decks. Clary caught glimpses of dark machinery; none of it looked in working order, and there were gears and tools abandoned in various places. If there had been electrical lights before, they were no longer working, though a faint glow permeated everything. Whatever had powered the ship before, Valentine was now powering it with something else.

Something that had sucked the warmth right out of the atmosphere. Icy air lashed at her face as the demon reached the bottom of the ship and ducked down a long, poorly lit corridor. It wasn’t being particularly careful with her. Her knee slammed against a pipe as the creature turned a corner, sending a shock wave of pain up her leg. She cried out and heard its hissing laughter above her. Then it released her and she was falling. Twisting in the air, Clary tried to get her hands and knees under her before she hit the ground. It almost worked. She struck the floor with a jarring impact and rolled to the side, stunned.

She was lying on a hard metal surface, in semidarkness. This had probably been a storage space at one point, because the walls were smooth and doorless. There was a square opening high above her through which the only light filtered. Her whole body felt like one big bruise.

“Clary?” A whispered voice. She rolled onto her side, wincing. A shadow knelt beside her. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she saw the small, curvy figure, braided hair, dark brown eyes. Maia. “Clary, is that you?”

Clary sat up, ignoring the screaming pain in her back. “Maia. Maia, oh my God. ” She stared at the other girl, then wildly around the room. It was empty but for the two of them. “Maia, where is he? Where’s Simon?”

Maia bit her lip. Her wrists were bloody, Clary saw, her face streaked with dried tears. “Clary, I’m so sorry,” she said, in her soft and husky voice. “Simon’s dead. ”

Soaked through and half-frozen, Jace collapsed onto the deck of the ship, water streaming from his hair and clothes. He stared up at the cloudy night sky, gasping in breaths. It had been no easy task to climb the rickety iron ladder badly bolted to the ship’s metal side, especially with slippery hands and drenched clothes dragging him down.

If it hadn’t been for the Fearless rune, he reflected, he probably would have been worried that one of the flying demons would pick him off the ladder like a bird picking a bug off a vine. Fortunately, they seemed to have returned to the ship once they’d seized Clary. Jace couldn’t imagine why, but he’d long ago given up trying to fathom why his father did anything.

Above him a head appeared, silhouetted against the sky. It was Luke, having reached the top of the ladder. He clambered laboriously onto the railing and dropped down onto the other side of it. He looked down at Jace. “You all right?”

“Fine. ” Jace got to his feet. He was shivering. It was cold on the boat, colder than it had been down by the water—and his jacket was gone. He’d given it to Clary.

Jace looked around. “Somewhere there’s a door that leads into the ship. I found it last time. We just have to walk around the deck until we find it again. ”

Luke started forward.

“And let me go first,” Jace added, stepping in front of him. Luke shot him an extremely puzzled look, seemed as if he were about to say something, and finally fell into step just beside Jace as they approached the curved front of the ship, where Jace had stood with Valentine the night before. He could hear the oily slap of water against the bow, far below.

“Your father,” Luke said, “what did he say to you when you saw him? What did he promise you?”

“Oh, you know. The usual. A lifetime’s supply of Knicks tickets. ” Jace spoke lightly but the memory bit into him deeper than the cold. “He said he’d make sure no harm came to me or anyone I cared about if I’d leave the Clave and return to Idris with him. ”

“Do you think—” Luke hesitated. “Do you think he’d hurt Clary to get back at you?”

They rounded the bow and Jace caught a brief glimpse of the Statue of Liberty off in the distance, a pillar of glowing light. “No. I think he took her to make us come onto the boat like this, to give him a bargaining chip. That’s all. ”

“I’m not sure he needs a bargaining chip. ” Luke spoke in a low voice as he unsheathed his kindjal. Jace turned to follow Luke’s gaze, and for a moment could only stare.

There was a black hole in the deck on the west side of the ship, a hole like a square that had been cut into the metal, and out of its depths poured a dark cloud of monsters. Jace flashed back to the last time he had stood here, with the Mortal Sword in his hand, staring around him in horror as the sky above him and the sea below him turned to roiling masses of nightmares. Only now they stood in front of him, a cacophony of demons: the bone-white Raum that had attacked them at Luke’s; Oni demons with their green bodies, wide mouths, and horns; the slinking black Kuri demons, spider demons with their eight pincer-tipped arms and the poison-dripping fangs that protruded from their eye sockets—

Jace couldn’t count them all. He felt for Camael and took it from his belt, its white glare lighting the deck. The demons hissed at the sight of it, but none of them backed away. The Fearless rune on Jace’s shoulder blade began to burn. He wondered how many demons he could kill before it burned itself away.

“Stop! Stop!” Luke’s hand, knotted in the back of Jace’s shirt, jerked him backward. “There’s too many, Jace. If we can get back to the ladder—”

“We can’t. ” Jace yanked himself out of Luke’s grip and pointed. “They’ve cut us off on both sides. ”

It was true. A phalanx of Moloch demons, flames jetting from their empty eyes, blocked their retreat. Luke swore, fluently and viciously. “Jump over the side, then. I’ll hold them off. ”

“You jump,” Jace said. “I’m fine here. ”

Luke threw his head back. His ears had gone pointed, and when he snarled at Jace, his lips drew back over canines that were suddenly sharp. “You—” He broke off as a Moloch demon leaped at him, claws outstretched. Jace stabbed it casually in the spine as it went by, and it staggered into Luke, yowling. Luke seized it in clawed hands and hurled it over the railing. “You used that Fearless rune, didn’t you?” Luke said, turning back to Jace with eyes that glowed amber.

There was a distant splash.

“You’re not wrong,” Jace admitted.

“Christ,” said Luke. “Did you put it on yourself?”

“No. Clary put it on me. ” Jace’s seraph blade cut the air with white fire; two Drevak demons fell. There were dozens more where it had come from, lurching toward them, their needle-tipped hands outstretched. “She’s good at that, you know. ”

“Teenagers,” said Luke, as if it were the filthiest word he knew, and threw himself into the oncoming horde.

“Dead?” Clary stared at Maia as if she’d spoken in Bulgarian. “He can’t be dead. ”

Maia said nothing, just watched her with sad, dark eyes.

“I would know. ” Clary sat up and pressed her hand, clenched into a fist, against her chest. “I would know it here. ”

“I thought that myself,” Maia said. “Once. But you don’t know. You never know. ”

Clary scrambled to her feet. Jace’s jacket hung off her shoulders, the back of it nearly shredded through. She shrugged it off impatiently and dropped it onto the floor. It was ruined, the back scored through with a dozen razored claw marks. Jace will be upset that I wrecked his jacket, she thought. I should buy him a new one. I should—

She drew a long, ragged breath. She could hear her own heart pounding, but that sounded distant too. “What—happened to him?”

Maia was still kneeling on the floor. “Valentine got us both,” she said. “He chained us up in a room together. Then he came in with a weapon—a sword, really long and bright, as if it was glowing. He threw silver powder at me so I couldn’t fight him, and he—he stabbed Simon in the throat. ” Her voice faded to a whisper. “He cut his wrists open and he poured the blood into bowls. Some of those demon creatures of his came in and helped him take it. Then he just left Simon lying there, like some toy he’d ripped all the insides out of so he had no use for it anymore. I screamed—but I knew he was dead. Then one of the demons picked me up and brought me down here. ”

Clary pressed the back of her hand against her mouth, pressed and pressed until she tasted salty blood. The sharp taste of the blood seemed to cut through the fog in her brain. “We have to get out of here. ”

“No offense, but that’s pretty obvious. ” Maia got to her feet, wincing. “There’s no way out of here. Not even for a Shadowhunter. Maybe if you were…”

“If I were what?” Clary demanded, pacing the square of their cell. “Jace? Well, I’m not. ” She kicked at the wall. It echoed hollowly. She dug into her pocket and pulled out her stele. “But I have my own talents. ”

She shoved the tip of the stele against the wall and began to draw. The lines seemed to flow out of her, black and charred-looking, hot as her furious anger. She slammed the stele against the wall again and again and the black lines flowed up out of its tip like flames. When she drew back, breathing hard, she saw Maia staring at her in astonishment.

“Girl,” she said, “what did you do?”

Clary wasn’t sure. It looked as if she had thrown a bucket of acid against the wall. The metal all around the rune was sagging and dripping like ice cream on a hot day. She stepped back, eyeing it warily as a hole the size of a large dog opened in the wall. Clary could see steel struts behind it, more of the ship’s metal innards. The edges of the hole still sizzled, though it had stopped spreading outward. Maia took a step forward, pushing Clary’s arm away.

“Wait. ” Clary was suddenly nervous. “The melted metal—it could be, like, toxic sludge or something. ”

Maia snorted. “I’m from New Jersey. I was born in toxic sludge. ” She marched up to the hole and peered through it. “There’s a metal catwalk on the other side,” she announced. “Here—I’m going to pull myself through. ” She turned around and stuck her feet through the hole, then her legs, moving backward slowly. She grimaced as she wriggled her body through, then froze. “Ouch! My shoulders are stuck. Push me?” She held her hands out.

Clary took her hands and pushed. Maia’s face turned white, then red—and she suddenly pulled free, like a champagne cork popped from the bottle. With a shriek, she tumbled backward. There was a crash and Clary stuck her head anxiously through the hole. “Are you all right?”

Maia was lying on a narrow metal catwalk several feet below. She rolled over slowly and pushed herself into a sitting position, wincing. “My ankle—but I’ll be fine,” she added, seeing Clary’s face. “We heal fast too, you know. ”

“I know. Okay, my turn. ” Clary’s stele poked uncomfortably into her stomach as she bent, prepared to slide through the hole after Maia. The drop to the catwalk was intimidating, but not as intimidating as the idea of waiting in the storage space for whatever came to claim them. She turned over onto her stomach, sliding her feet into the hole—

And something seized her by the back of her shirt, hauling her upward. Her stele fell out of her belt and rattled to the floor. She gasped in sudden shock and pain; the neck band of her sweater cut into her throat, and she choked. A moment later she was released. She crashed to the floor, her knees hitting the metal with a hollow clang. Gagging, she rolled onto her back and looked up, knowing what she would see.

Valentine stood over her. In one hand he held a seraph blade, glittering with a harsh white light. His other hand, which had gripped the back of her shirt, was clenched into a fist. His carved white face was set into a sneer of disdain. “Always your mother’s daughter, Clarissa,” he said. “What have you done now?”

Clary pulled herself painfully up to her knees. Her mouth was filled with the salty blood from where her lip had torn open. As she looked at Valentine, her simmering rage bloomed like a poisonous flower inside her chest. This man, her father, had killed Simon and left him dead on the floor like so much discarded trash. She had thought she had hated people before in her life; she’d been wrong. This was hatred.

“The werewolf girl,” Valentine went on, frowning, “where is she?”

Clary leaned forward and spat her mouthful of blood onto his shoes. With a sharp exclamation of disgust and surprise, he stepped backward, raising the blade in his hand, and for a moment Clary saw the unguarded fury in his eyes and thought he was really going to do it, was really going to kill her right there where she crouched at his feet, for spitting on his shoes.

Slowly, he lowered the blade. Without a word, he walked past Clary, and stared through the hole she had made in the wall. Slowly, she turned, her eyes raking the floor until she saw it. Her mother’s stele. She reached for it, her breath catching—

Valentine, turning, saw what she was doing. With a single stride, he was across the room. He kicked the stele out of her reach; it spun across the metal floor and fell through the hole in the wall. She half-closed her eyes, feeling the loss of the stele like the loss of her mother all over again.

“The demons will find your Downworlder friend,” said Valentine, in his cold, still voice, sliding his seraph blade into a sheath at his waist. “There is nowhere for her to flee to. Nowhere for any of you to go. Now get up, Clarissa. ”

Slowly, Clary got to her feet. Her whole body ached from the pummeling it had taken. A moment later she gasped in surprise as Valentine seized her by the shoulders, turning her so that her back was to him. He whistled; a high, sharp, and unpleasant sound. The air stirred overhead and she heard the ugly flap of leathery wings. With a little cry, she tried to break away, but Valentine was too strong. The wings settled around them both and then they were rising into the air together, Valentine holding her in his arms, as if he really were her father.

Jace had thought he and Luke would be dead by now. He wasn’t sure why they weren’t. The deck of the ship was slippery with blood. He was covered in filth. Even his hair was lank and sticky with ichor, and his eyes stung with blood and sweat. There was a deep cut along the top of his right arm, and no time to carve a healing rune into the skin. Every time he lifted the arm, a searing pain shot through his side.

They had managed to wedge themselves into a recess in the metal wall of the ship, and they fought from this shelter as the demons lurched at them. Jace had used both his chakhrams and was down to his last seraph blade and the dagger he’d taken from Isabelle. It wasn’t much—he wouldn’t have gone out to face only a few demons this poorly armed, and now he was facing a horde. He ought to be frightened, he knew, but he felt almost nothing at all—only a disgust for the demons, who did not belong in this world, and rage at Valentine, who had summoned them here. Distantly, he knew his lack of fear wasn’t entirely a good thing. He wasn’t even afraid of how much blood he was losing from his arm.

A spider demon scuttled toward Jace, chittering and jetting yellow poison. He ducked away, not quite fast enough to keep a few drops of the poison from splattering his shirt. It hissed as it ate through the material; he felt the sting as it burned his skin like a dozen tiny superheated needles.

The spider demon clicked in satisfaction, and sprayed another jet of poison. Jace ducked and the venom hit an Oni demon coming toward him from the side; the Oni screamed in agony and thrashed its way to the spider demon, claws extended. The two grappled together, rolling across the deck.

The surrounding demons surged away from the spilled poison, which made a barrier between them and the Shadowhunter. Jace took advantage of the momentary breather to turn to Luke beside him. Luke was almost unrecognizable. His ears rose to sharp, wolfish points; his lips were pulled back from his snarling muzzle in a permanent rictus, his clawed hands black with demon ichor.

“We should go for the railings. ” Luke’s voice was half a growl. “Get off the ship. We can’t kill them all. Maybe Magnus—”

“I don’t think we’re doing so badly. ” Jace twirled his seraph blade—which was a bad idea; his hand was wet with blood and the blade almost slipped out of his grasp. “All things considered. ”

Luke made a noise that might have been a snarl or a laugh, or a combination of both. Then something huge and shapeless fell out of the sky, knocking them both to the ground.

Jace hit the ground hard, his seraph blade flying out of his hand. It struck the deck, skittered across the metal surface, and slid over the edge of the boat, out of sight. Jace swore and staggered to his feet.

The thing that had landed on them was an Oni demon. It was unusually big for its kind—not to mention unusually smart to have thought of climbing up onto the roof and dropping down on them from above. It was sitting on top of Luke now, slashing at him with the sharp tusks that sprouted from its forehead. Luke was defending himself as best he could with his own claws, but he was already drenched in blood; his kindjal lay a foot away from him on the deck. Luke grabbed for it and the Oni seized one of his legs in a spadelike hand, bringing the leg down like a tree branch over its knee. Jace heard the bone break with a snap as Luke cried out.

Jace dived for the kindjal, grabbed it, and rolled to his feet, flinging the dagger hard at the back of the Oni demon’s neck. It sliced through with enough force to decapitate the creature, which sagged forward, black blood gushing from its neck stump. A moment later it was gone. The kindjal thumped to the deck beside Luke.

Jace ran to him and knelt down. “Your leg—”

“It’s broken. ” Luke struggled into a sitting position. His face twisted in pain.

“But you heal fast. ”

Luke looked around, his face grim. The Oni might have been dead, but the other demons had learned from its example. They were swarming up onto the roof. Jace couldn’t tell, in the dim moonlight, how many of them there were—dozens? Hundreds? After a certain number it didn’t matter anymore.

Luke closed his hand around the hilt of the kindjal. “Not fast enough. ”

Jace drew Isabelle’s dagger from his belt. It was the last of his weapons and it seemed suddenly and pitifully small. A sharp emotion pierced him—not fear, he was still beyond that, but sorrow. He saw Alec and Isabelle as if they were standing in front of him, smiling at him, and then he saw Clary with her arms out as if she were welcoming him home.

He rose to his feet just as they fell from the roof in a wave, a shadow tide blotting out the moon. Jace moved to try to block Luke, but it was no use; the demons were all around. One reared up in front of him. It was a six-foot skeleton, grinning with broken teeth. Scraps of brightly colored Tibetan prayer flags hung from its rotting bones. It gripped a katana sword in a bony hand, which was unusual—most demons didn’t arm themselves. The blade, inscribed with demonic runes, was longer than Jace’s arm, curling and sharp and deadly.

Jace flung the dagger. It struck the demon’s bony rib cage and stuck there. The demon barely seemed to notice; it only kept moving, inexorable as death. The air around it stank of death and graveyards. It raised the katana in a clawed hand—

A gray shadow cut the darkness in front of Jace, a shadow that moved with a whirling, precise, and deadly motion. The downward swing of the katana met with the grinding screech of metal on metal; the shadowy figure thrust the katana back at the demon, stabbing upward with the other hand with a swiftness that Jace’s eye could barely follow. The demon fell back, its skull shattering as it crumpled into nothingness. All around him he could hear the shrieks of demons howling in pain and surprise. Whirling, he saw that dozens of shapes—human shapes—were crawling up over the railings, dropping to the ground, and racing to close with the mass of demons that crawled, slithered, hissed, and flew upon the deck. They carried blades of light and wore the dark, tough clothing of—

“Shadowhunters?” Jace said, so startled that he spoke out loud.

“Who else?” A grin flashed in the darkness.

“Malik? Is that you?”

Malik inclined his head. “Sorry about earlier today,” he said. “I was under orders. ”

Jace was about to tell Malik that his having just saved his life more than made up for his earlier attempt to prevent Jace from leaving the Institute, when a group of Raum demons surged toward them, tentacles lashing the air. Malik whirled and charged to meet them with a shout, his seraph blade blazing like a star. Jace was about to follow him when a hand seized him by the arm and pulled him sideways.

It was a Shadowhunter, all in black, a hood shading the face beneath. “Come with me. ”

The hand tugged insistently at his sleeve.

“I need to get to Luke. He’s been hurt. ” He jerked his arm back. “Let go of me. ”

“Oh, for the Angel’s sake—” The figure released him and reached up to push back the hood of its long cloak, revealing a narrow white face and gray eyes that blazed like chips of diamond. “Now will you do what you’re told, Jonathan?”

It was the Inquisitor.

Despite the whirling speed with which they flew through the air, Clary would have kicked out at Valentine if she could. But he held her as if his arms were iron bands. Her feet swung free, but struggle as she might, she didn’t seem to be able to connect with anything.

When the demon banked and swerved suddenly, she let out a scream. Valentine laughed. Then they were spinning through a narrow metal tunnel and into a much larger, wider room. Instead of dropping them unceremoniously, the flying demon set them down gently on the floor.

Much to Clary’s surprise, Valentine let her go. She jerked away from him and stumbled into the middle of the room, looking around wildly. It was a big space, probably once some kind of machine room. Machinery still lined the walls, shoved out of the way to create a wide square space in the center. The floor was thick black metal, splotched here and there with darker stains. In the middle of the empty space were four basins, big enough to wash a dog in. The interiors of the first two were stained a dark rust brown. The third was full of dark red liquid. The fourth was empty.

A metal footlocker stood behind the bowls. A dark cloth had been thrown over it. As she drew closer, she saw that on top of the cloth rested a silver sword that glowed with a blackish light, almost an absence of illumination: a radiant, visible darkness.

Clary whirled around and stared at Valentine, who was quietly watching her. “How could you do it?” she demanded. “How could you kill Simon? He was just a—he was just a boy, just an ordinary human—”

“He wasn’t human,” said Valentine, in his silky voice. “He had become a monster. You just couldn’t see it, Clarissa, because it wore the face of a friend. ”

“He wasn’t a monster. ” She moved a little closer to the Sword. It looked huge, heavy. She wondered if she could lift it—and even if she could, could she swing it? “He was still Simon. ”

“Don’t think I’m not sympathetic to your situation,” said Valentine. He stood unmoving in the single shaft of light that came down from the trapdoor in the ceiling. “It was the same for me when Lucian was bitten. ”

“He told me,” she spat at him. “You gave him a dagger and told him to kill himself. ”

“That was a mistake,” said Valentine.

“At least you admit it—”

“I should have killed him myself. It would have showed that I cared. ”

Clary shook her head. “But you didn’t. You’ve never cared about anyone. Not even my mother. Not even Jace. They were just things that belonged to you. ”

“But isn’t that what love is, Clarissa? Ownership? ‘I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine,’ as the Song of Songs goes. ”

“No. And don’t quote the Bible at me. I don’t think you get it. ” She was standing very near to the locker now, the hilt of the Sword within reaching distance. Her fingers were wet with sweat and she dried them surreptitiously on her jeans. “It’s not just that someone belongs to you, it’s that you give yourself to them. I doubt you’ve ever given anything to anyone. Except maybe nightmares. ”

“To give yourself to someone?” The thin smile didn’t waver. “As you’ve given yourself to Jonathan?”

Her hand, which had been lifting toward the Sword, spasmed into a fist. She pulled it back against her chest, staring at him unbelievingly. “What?”

“You think I haven’t seen the way you two look at each other? The way he says your name? You may not think I can feel, but that doesn’t mean I can’t see feelings in others. ” Valentine’s tone was cool, every word a sliver of ice stabbing into her ears. “I suppose we have only ourselves to blame, your mother and I; having kept you two apart so long, you never developed the revulsion toward each other that would be more natural between siblings. ”

“I don’t know what you mean. ” Clary’s teeth were chattering.

“I think I make myself plain enough. ” He had moved out of the light. His face was a study in shadow. “I saw Jonathan after he faced the fear demon, you know. It showed itself to him as you. That told me all I needed to know. The greatest fear in Jonathan’s life is the love he feels for his sister. ”

“I don’t do what I’m told,” said Jace. “But I might do what you want if you ask me nicely. ”

The Inquisitor looked as if she wanted to roll her eyes but had forgotten how. “I need to talk to you. ”

Jace stared at the Inquisitor. “Now?”

She put a hand on his arm. “Now. ”

“You’re insane. ” Jace looked down the length of the ship. It looked like a Bosch painting of hell. The darkness was full of demons: lumbering, howling, squawking, and slashing out with claws and teeth. Nephilim darted back and forth, their weapons bright in the shadows. Jace could see already that there weren’t enough Shadowhunters. Not nearly enough. “There’s no way—we’re in the middle of a battle—”

The Inquisitor’s bony grip was surprisingly strong. “Now. ” She pushed him, and he took a step back, too surprised to do anything else, and then another, until they were standing in the recess of a wall. She let go of Jace and felt in the folds of her dark cloak, drawing forth two seraph blades. She whispered their names, and then several words Jace didn’t know, and flung them at the deck, one on either side of him. They stuck, points down, and a single blue-white sheet of light sprang up from them, walling Jace and the Inquisitor off from the rest of the ship.

“Are you locking me up again?” Jace demanded, staring at the Inquisitor in disbelief.

“This isn’t a Malachi Configuration. You can get out of it if you want. ” Her thin hands clasped each other tightly. “Jonathan—”

“You mean Jace. ” He could no longer see the battle past the wall of white light, but he could still hear the sounds of it, the screams and the howling of the demons. If he turned his head, he could just catch a glimpse of a small section of ocean, sparkling with light like diamonds scattered over the surface of a mirror. There were about a dozen boats down there, the sleek, multi-hulled trimarans used on the lakes in Idris. Shadowhunter boats. “What are you doing here, Inquisitor? Why did you come?”

“You were right,” she said. “About Valentine. He wouldn’t make the trade. ”

“He told you to let me die. ” Jace felt suddenly light-headed.

“The moment he refused, of course, I called the Conclave together and brought them here. I—I owe you and your family an apology. ”

“Noted,” said Jace. He hated apologies. “Alec and Isabelle? Are they here? They won’t be punished for helping me?”

“They’re here, and no, they won’t be punished. ” She was still staring at him, eyes searching. “I can’t understand Valentine,” she said. “For a father to throw away the life of his child, his only son—”

“Yeah,” said Jace. His head ached and he wished she would shut up, or that a demon would attack them. “It’s a conundrum, all right. ”

“Unless…”

Now he looked at her in surprise. “Unless what?”

She jabbed a finger at his shoulder. “When did you get that?”

Jace looked down and saw that the spider demon’s poison had eaten a hole in his shirt, leaving a good deal of his left shoulder bare. “The shirt? At Macy’s. Winter sale. ”

“The scar. This scar, here on your shoulder. ”

“Oh, that. ” Jace wondered at the intensity of her gaze. “I’m not sure. Something that happened when I was very young, my father said. An accident of some kind. Why?”

Breath hissed through the Inquisitor’s teeth. “It can’t be,” she murmured. “You can’t be—”

“I can’t be what?”

There was a note of uncertainty in the Inquisitor’s voice. “All those years,” she said, “when you were growing up—you truly thought you were Michael Wayland’s son—?”

Sharp fury went through Jace, made all the more painful by the tiny stab of disappointment that accompanied it. “By the Angel,” he spat, “you dragged me off here in the middle of battle just to ask me the same goddamned questions again? You didn’t believe me the first time and you still don’t believe me. You’ll never believe me, despite everything that’s happened, even though everything I told you was the truth. ” He jabbed a finger toward whatever was happening on the other side of the wall of light. “I should be out there fighting. Why are you keeping me here? So after this is all over, if any of us are still even alive, you can go to the Clave and tell them I wouldn’t fight on your side against my father? Nice try. ”

She had gone even paler than he’d thought possible. “Jonathan, that’s not what I—”

“My name is Jace!” he shouted. The Inquisitor flinched, her mouth half-open, as if she were still about to say something. Jace didn’t want to hear it. He stalked past her, nearly knocking her to the side, and kicked at one of the seraph blades in the deck. It toppled over and the wall of light vanished.

Beyond it was chaos. Dark shapes hurtled to and fro on deck, demons clambered over crumpled bodies, and the air was full of smoke and screaming. He strained to see anyone he knew in the melee. Where was Alec? Isabelle?

“Jace!” The Inquisitor hurried after him, her face pulled tight with fear. “Jace, you don’t have a weapon, at least take—”

She broke off as a demon loomed up out of the darkness in front of Jace like an iceberg off the bow of a ship. It wasn’t one he’d seen before tonight; this one had the wrinkled face and agile hands of a huge monkey, but the long, barbed tail of a scorpion. Its eyes were rolling and yellow. It hissed at him through broken needle teeth. Before Jace could duck, its tail shot forward with the speed of a striking cobra. He saw the needle tip whipping toward his face—

And for the second time that night, a shadow passed between him and death. Drawing a long-bladed knife, the Inquisitor threw herself in front of him, just in time for the scorpion’s sting to bury itself in her chest.

She screamed, but stayed on her feet. The demon’s tail whipped back, ready for another strike—but the Inquisitor’s knife had already left her hand, flying straight and true. The runes carved on its blade gleamed as it sliced through the demon’s throat. With a hiss, as of air escaping from a punctured balloon, it folded inward, its tail spasming as it vanished.

The Inquisitor crumpled to the deck. Jace knelt down beside her and laid a hand on her shoulder, rolling her onto her back. Blood was spreading across the gray front of her blouse. Her face was slack and yellow, and for a moment Jace thought she was already dead.

“Inquisitor?” He couldn’t say her first name, not even now.

Her eyes fluttered open. Their whites were already dulling. With a great effort she beckoned him toward her. He bent closer, close enough to hear her whisper in his ear, whisper on a last exhale of breath—

“What?” Jace said, bewildered. “What does that mean?”

There was no answer. The Inquisitor had slumped back against the deck, her eyes wide open and staring, her mouth curved into what almost looked like a smile.

Jace sat back on his heels, numb and staring. She was dead. Dead because of him.

Something seized hold of the back of his jacket and hauled him to his feet. Jace clapped a hand to his belt—realized he was weaponless—and twisted around to see a familiar pair of blue eyes staring into his with utter incredulity.

“You’re alive,” Alec said—two short words, but there was a wealth of feeling behind them. The relief on his face was plain, as was his exhaustion. Despite the chill in the air, his black hair was plastered to his cheeks and forehead with sweat. His clothes and skin were streaked with blood and there was a long rip in the sleeve of his armored jacket, as if something jagged and sharp had torn it open. He clutched a bloody guisarme in his right hand and Jace’s collar in the other.

“I seem to be,” Jace admitted. “I won’t be for long if you don’t give me a weapon, though. ”

With a quick glance around, Alec let go of Jace, took a seraph blade from his belt, and handed it over. “Here,” he said. “It’s called Samandiriel. ”

Jace barely had the blade in his hand when a medium-size Drevak demon scuttled toward them, chittering imperiously. Jace raised Samandiriel, but Alec had already dispatched the creature with a jabbing blow from his guisarme.

“Nice weapon,” Jace said, but Alec was looking past him, at the crumpled gray figure on the deck.

“Is that the Inquisitor? Is she…?”

“She’s dead,” Jace said.

Alec’s jaw set. “Good riddance. How’d she get it?”

Jace was about to reply when he was interrupted by a loud cry of “Alec! Jace!” It was Isabelle, hurrying toward them through the stench and smoke. She wore a close-fitting dark jacket, smeared with yellowish blood. Gold chains hung with rune charms circled her wrists and ankles, and her whip curled around her like a net of electrum wire.

She held her arms out. “Jace, we thought—”

“No. ” Something made Jace step back, shying away from her touch. “I’m all covered in blood, Isabelle. Don’t. ”

A hurt expression crossed her face. “But we’ve all been looking for you—Mom and Dad, they—”

“Isabelle!” Jace shouted, but it was too late: A massive spider demon reared up behind her, jetting yellow poison from its fangs. Isabelle screamed as the poison struck her, but her whip shot out with blinding speed, slicing the demon in half. It thudded to the deck in two pieces, then vanished.

Jace darted toward Isabelle just as she slumped forward. Her whip slipped from her hand as he caught her, cradling her awkwardly against him. He could see how much of the poison had gotten on her: It had splashed mostly onto her jacket, but some of it spattered her throat, and where it touched, the skin burned and sizzled. Barely audibly, she whimpered—Isabelle, who never showed pain.

“Give her to me. ” It was Alec, dropping his weapon as he hurried to help his sister. He took Isabelle from Jace’s arms and lowered her gently to the deck. Kneeling beside her, stele in hand, he looked up at Jace. “Hold off whatever comes while I heal her. ”

Jace couldn’t drag his eyes away from Isabelle. Blood streamed from her neck down onto her jacket, soaking her hair. “We have to get her off this boat,” he said roughly. “If she stays here—”

“She’ll die?” Alec was tracing the tip of his stele as gently as he could over his sister’s throat. “We’re all going to die. There are too many of them. We’re being slaughtered. The Inquisitor deserved to die for this—this is all her fault. ”

“A Scorpios demon tried to kill me,” Jace said, wondering why he was saying it, why he was defending someone he hated. “The Inquisitor got in its way. Saved my life. ”

“She did?” Astonishment was clear in Alec’s tone. “Why?”

“I guess she decided I was worth saving. ”

“But she always—” Alec broke off, his expression changing to one of alarm. “Jace, behind you—two of them—”

Jace whirled. Two demons were approaching: a Ravener, with its alligator-like body and serrated teeth, its scorpion tail curling forward over its back, and a Drevak, its pale white maggot-flesh gleaming in the moonlight. Jace heard Alec, behind him, suck in an alarmed breath; then Samandiriel left his hand, cutting a silvery path through the air. It sliced through the Ravener’s tail, just below the pendulous poison sac at the end of its long stinger.

The Ravener howled. The Drevak turned, confused—and got the poison sac full in the face. The sac broke open, drenching the Drevak in venom. It emitted a single garbled scream and crumpled, its head eaten away to the bone. Blood and poison splattered the deck as the Drevak vanished. The Ravener, blood gushing from its tail stump, dragged itself a few more paces forward before it, too, disappeared.

Jace bent and picked up Samandiriel gingerly. The metal deck was still sizzling where the Ravener’s poison had spilled on it, pocking it with tiny spreading holes like cheesecloth.

“Jace. ” Alec was on his feet, holding a pale but upright Isabelle by the arm. “We need to get Isabelle out of here. ”

“Fine,” Jace said. “You get her out of here. I’m going to deal with that. ”

“With what?” Alec said, bewildered.

“With that,” Jace said again, and pointed. Something was coming toward them through the smoke and flames, something huge, humped, and massive. Easily five times the size of any other demon on the ship, it had an armored body, many-limbed, each appendage ending in a spiked chitinous talon. Its feet were elephant feet, huge and splayed. It had the head of a giant mosquito, Jace saw as it came closer, complete with insectile eyes and a dangling blood-red feeding tube.

Alec sucked in his breath. “What the hell is it?”

Jace thought for a moment. “Big,” he said finally. “Very. ”

“Jace—”

Jace turned and looked at Alec, and then at Isabelle. Something inside him told him that this might very well be the last time he ever saw them, and yet he still wasn’t afraid, not for himself. He wanted to say something to them, maybe that he loved them, that either one of them was worth more to him than a thousand Mortal Instruments and the power they could bring. But the words wouldn’t come.

“Alec,” he heard himself say. “Get Isabelle to the ladder, now, or we’ll all die. ”

Alec met his gaze and held it for a moment. Then he nodded and pushed Isabelle, still protesting, toward the railing. He helped her up onto it and then over, and with immense relief Jace saw her dark head disappearing as she began to descend the ladder. And now you, Alec, he thought. Go.

But Alec wasn’t going. Isabelle, now out of view, cried out sharply as her brother jumped back down from the railing, onto the deck of the ship. His guisarme lay on the deck where he’d dropped it; he seized it now and moved to stand next to Jace and face the demon as it came.

He never got that far. The demon, bearing down on Jace, made a sudden swerve and rushed toward Alec, its bloody feeding tube whipping back and forth hungrily. Jace spun to block Alec, but the metal deck he was standing on, rotted with poison, crumbled underneath him. His foot plunged through and he fell hard against the deck.

Alec had time to shout Jace’s name, and then the demon was on him. He stabbed at it with his guisarme, plunging the sharp end of it deep into the demon’s flesh. The creature reared back, screaming a weirdly human scream, black blood spraying from the wound. Alec retreated, reaching for another weapon, just as the demon’s talon whipped around, knocking him to the deck. Then its feeding tube wrapped around him.

Somewhere, Isabelle was screaming. Jace struggled desperately to pull his leg from the deck; sharp edges of metal stabbed into him as he jerked himself free and staggered to his feet.

He raised Samandiriel. Light blazed forth from the seraph blade, bright as a falling star. The demon flinched back, making a low hissing sound. It relaxed its grip on Alec and for a moment Jace thought it might be going to let him go. Then it whipped its head back with a sudden, startling speed and flung Alec with immense force. Alec hit the blood-slippery deck hard, skidded across it—and fell, with a single hoarse cry, over the side of the ship.

Isabelle was screaming Alec’s name; her screams were like spikes being driven into Jace’s ears. Samandiriel was still blazing in his hand. Its light illuminated the demon stalking toward him, its insectile gaze bright and predatory, but all he could see was Alec; Alec falling over the side of the ship, Alec drowning in the black water far below. He thought he tasted seawater in his own mouth, or it might have been blood. The demon was almost on him; he raised Samandiriel in his hand and flung it—the demon squealed, a high, agonized sound—and then the deck gave way beneath Jace with a screech of crumbling metal and he fell into darkness.

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