II. THE GATES OF HELL
Before me things created were none, save things
Eternal, and eternal I endure.
All hope abandon, ye who enter here.
Chapter 8: THE SEELIE COURT
IN THE DREAM CLARY WAS A CHILD AGAIN, WALKING DOWN THE narrow strip of beach near the boardwalk at Coney Island. The air was thick with the smell of hot dogs and roasting peanuts, and with the shouts of children. The sea surged in the distance, its blue-gray surface alive with sunlight.
She could see herself as if from a distance, wearing oversize child’s pajamas. The hems of the pajama bottoms dragged along the beach. Damp sand grated between her toes, and her hair hung heavily against the nape of her neck. There were no clouds and the sky was blue and clear, but she shivered as she walked along the perimeter of the water toward a figure she could see only dimly in the distance.
As she approached, the figure became suddenly clear, as if Clary had focused the lens of a camera. It was her mother, kneeling in the ruins of a half-built sand castle. She wore the same white dress Valentine had put her in at Renwick’s. In her hand was a twisted bit of driftwood, silvery from long exposure to salt and wind.
“Have you come to help me?” her mother said, raising her head. Jocelyn’s hair was undone and it blew free in the wind, making her look younger than she was. “There’s so much to do and so little time. ”
Clary swallowed against the hard lump in her throat. “Mom—I’ve missed you, Mom. ”
Jocelyn smiled. “I’ve missed you, too, honey. But I’m not gone, you know. I’m only sleeping. ”
“Then how do I wake you up?” Clary cried, but her mother was looking out to sea, her face troubled. The sky had turned a twilight iron gray and the black clouds looked like heavy stones.
“Come here,” said Jocelyn, and when Clary came to her, she said, “Hold out your arm. ”
Clary did. Jocelyn moved the driftwood over her skin. The touch stung like the burning of a stele, and left the same thick black line behind. The rune Jocelyn drew was a shape Clary had never seen before, but she found it instinctively soothing to her eye. “What does this do?”
“It should protect you. ” Clary’s mother released her.
Jocelyn didn’t answer, just looked out toward the sea. Clary turned and saw that the ocean had drawn far out, leaving brackish piles of garbage, heaps of seaweed and flopping, desperate fish in its wake. The water had gathered itself into a huge wave, rising like the side of a mountain, like an avalanche ready to fall. The shouts of children from the boardwalk had turned into screams. As Clary stared in horror, she saw that the side of the wave was as transparent as a membrane, and through it she could see things that seemed to move under the surface of the sea, huge dark shapeless things pushing against the skin of the water. She threw up her hands—
And woke up, gasping, her heart slamming painfully against her ribs. She was in her bed in the spare room in Luke’s house, and afternoon light was filtering in through the curtains. Her hair was plastered to her neck with sweat, and her arm burned and ached. When she sat up and flipped on the bedside light, she saw without surprise the black Mark that ran the length of her forearm.
When she went into the kitchen, she found Luke had left breakfast for her in the form of a Danish in a grease-spotted cardboard box. He’d also left a note stuck to the fridge. Gone to the hospital.
Clary ate the Danish on the way to meet Simon. He was supposed to be on the corner of Bedford by the L train stop at five, but he wasn’t. She felt a faint tug of anxiety before she remembered the used record store on the corner of Sixth. Sure enough, he was sorting through the CDs in the new arrivals section. He wore a rust-colored corduroy jacket with a torn sleeve and a blue T-shirt bearing the logo of a headphone-wearing boy dancing with a chicken. He grinned when he saw her. “Eric thinks we should change the name of our band to Mojo Pie,” he said, by way of greeting.
“What is it now? I forgot. ”
“Champagne Enema,” he said, selecting a Yo La Tengo CD.
“Change it,” Clary said. “By the way, I know what your T-shirt means. ”
“No you don’t. ” He headed up to the front of the store to buy his CD. “You’re a good girl. ”
Outside, the wind was cold and brisk. Clary drew her striped scarf up around her chin. “I was worried when I didn’t see you at the L stop. ”
Simon pulled his knit cap down, wincing as if the sunlight hurt his eyes. “Sorry. I remembered I wanted this CD, and I thought—”
“It’s fine. ” She waved a hand at him. “It’s me. I panic way too easily these days. ”
“Well, after what you’ve been through, no one could blame you. ” Simon sounded contrite. “I still can’t believe what happened to the Silent City. I can’t believe you were there. ”
“Neither could Luke. He freaked out completely. ”
“I bet. ” They were walking through McCarren Park, the grass underfoot turning winter brown, the air full of golden light. Dogs were running off their leashes among the trees. Everything changes in my life, and the world stays the same, Clary thought. “Have you talked to Jace since it happened?” Simon asked, keeping his voice neutral.
“No, but I checked in with Isabelle and Alec a few times. Apparently he’s fine. ”
“Did he ask to see you? Is that why we’re going?”
“He doesn’t have to ask. ” Clary tried to keep the irritation out of her voice as they turned onto Magnus’s street. It was lined with low warehouse buildings that had been converted into lofts and studios for artistic—and wealthy—residents. Most of the cars parked along the shallow curb were expensive.
As they neared Magnus’s building, Clary saw a lanky figure unfurl itself from where it had been sitting on the stoop. Alec. He was wearing a long black coat made of the tough, slightly shiny material Shadowhunters liked to use for their gear. His hands and throat were marked with runes, and it was evident from the faint shimmer in the air around him that he was glamoured into invisibility.
“I didn’t know you were bringing the mundane. ” His blue eyes flicked uneasily over Simon.
“That’s what I like about you people,” said Simon. “You always make me feel so welcome. ”
“Oh, come on, Alec,” said Clary. “What’s the big deal? It’s not like Simon hasn’t been here before. ”
Alec heaved a theatrical sigh, shrugged, and led the way up the stairs. He unlocked the door to Magnus’s apartment using a thin silver key, which he tucked back into the breast pocket of his jacket the moment he’d finished, as if he hoped to keep his companions from seeing it.
In daylight the apartment looked the way an empty nightclub might look during off hours: dark, dirty, and unexpectedly small. The walls were bare, spackled here and there with glitter paint, and the floorboards where faeries had danced a week ago were warped and shiny with age.
“Hello, hello. ” Magnus swept toward them. He was wearing a floor-length green silk dressing gown open over a silver mesh shirt and black jeans. A glittering red stone winked in his left ear. “Alec, my darling. Clary. And rat-boy. ” He swept a bow toward Simon, who looked annoyed. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”
“We came to see Jace,” Clary said. “Is he all right?”
“I don’t know,” Magnus said. “Does he normally just lie on the floor like that without moving?”
“What—” Alec began, and broke off as Magnus laughed. “That’s not funny. ”
“You’re so easy to tease. And yes, your friend is just fine. Well, except that he keeps putting all my things away and trying to clean up. Now I can’t find anything. He’s compulsive. ”
“Jace does like things neat,” Clary said, thinking of his monklike room at the Institute.
“Well, I don’t. ” Magnus was watching Alec out of the corner of his eye while Alec stared off into the middle distance, scowling. “Jace is in there if you want to see him. ” He pointed toward a door at the end of the room.
“In there” turned out to be a medium-size den—surprisingly cozy, with smudged walls, velvet curtains drawn across the windows, and cloth-draped armchairs marooned like fat, colorful icebergs in a sea of nubbly beige carpeting. A hot-pink couch was made up with sheets and a blanket. Next to it was a duffel bag stuffed full of clothes. No light came through the heavy curtains; the only source of illumination was a flickering television screen, which glowed brightly despite the fact that the television itself was not plugged in.
“What’s on?” Magnus inquired.
“What Not to Wear,” came a familiar drawling voice, emanating from a sprawled figure in one of the armchairs. He sat forward and for a moment Clary thought Jace might get up and greet them. Instead, he shook his head at the screen. “High-waisted khaki pants? Who wears those?” He turned and glared at Magnus. “Nearly unlimited supernatural power,” he said, “and all you do is use it to watch reruns. What a waste. ”
“Also, TiVo accomplishes much the same thing,” pointed out Simon.
“My way is cheaper. ” Magnus clapped his hands together and the room was suddenly flooded with light. Jace, slumped in the chair, raised an arm to cover his face. “Can you do that without magic?”
“Actually,” said Simon, “yes. If you watched infomercials, you’d know that. ”
Clary sensed the mood in the room was deteriorating. “That’s enough,” she said. She looked at Jace, who had lowered his arm and was blinking resentfully into the light. “We need to talk,” she said. “All of us. About what we’re going to do now. ”
“I was going to watch Project Runway,” said Jace. “It’s on next. ”
“No you’re not,” said Magnus. He snapped his fingers and the TV went off, releasing a small puff of smoke as the picture died. “You need to deal with this. ”
“Suddenly you’re interested in solving my problems?”
“I’m interested in getting my apartment back. I’m tired of you cleaning all the time. ” Magnus snapped his fingers again, menacingly. “Get up. ”
“Or you’ll be the next one to go up in smoke,” said Simon with relish.
“There’s no need to clarify my finger snap,” said Magnus. “The implication was clear in the snap itself. ”
“Fine. ” Jace got up out of the chair. He was barefoot and there was a line of purplish silver skin around his wrist where his injuries were still healing. He looked tired, but not as if he were still in pain. “You want a round table meeting, we can have a round table meeting. ”
“I love round tables,” said Magnus brightly. “They suit me so much better than square. ”
In the living room Magnus conjured up an enormous circular table surrounded by five high-backed wooden chairs. “That’s amazing,” Clary said, sliding into a chair. It was surprisingly comfortable. “How can you create something out of nothing like that?”
“You can’t,” said Magnus. “Everything comes from somewhere. These come from an antiques reproduction store on Fifth Avenue, for instance. And these”—suddenly five white waxed paper cups appeared on the table, steam rising gently from the holes in their plastic lids—“come from Dean & DeLuca on Broadway. ”
“That seems like stealing, doesn’t it?” Simon pulled a cup toward him. He drew the lid back. “Ooh. Mochaccino. ” He looked at Magnus. “Did you pay for these?”
“Sure,” said Magnus, while Jace and Alec snickered. “I make dollar bills magically appear in their cash register. ”
“No. ” Magnus popped the lid off his own coffee. “But you can pretend I did if it makes you feel better. So, first order of business is what?”
Clary put her hands around her own coffee cup. Maybe it was stolen, but it was also hot and full of caffeine. She could stop by Dean & DeLuca and drop a dollar in their tip jar some other time. “Figuring out what’s going on would be a start,” she said, blowing on her foam. “Jace, you said what happened in the Silent City was Valentine’s fault?”
Jace stared down at his coffee. “Yes. ”
Alec put his hand on Jace’s arm. “What happened? Did you see him?”
“I was in the cell,” said Jace, his voice dead. “I heard the Silent Brothers screaming. Then Valentine came downstairs with—with something. I don’t know what it was. Like smoke, with glowing eyes. A demon, but not like any I’ve ever seen before. He came up to the bars and he told me…”
“Told you what?” Alec’s hand slid up Jace’s arm to his shoulder. Magnus cleared his throat. Alec dropped his hand, red-faced, while Simon grinned into his undrunk coffee.
“Maellartach,” Jace said. “He wanted the Soul-Sword and he killed the Silent Brothers to get it. ”
Magnus was frowning. “Alec, last night, when the Silent Brothers called for your help, where was the Conclave? Why was no one at the Institute?”
Alec looked surprised to be asked. “There was a Downworlder murder in Central Park last night. A faerie child was killed. The body was drained of blood. ”
“I bet the Inquisitor thinks I did that, too,” said Jace. “My reign of terror continues. ”
Magnus stood up and went to the window. He pushed the curtain back, letting in just enough light to silhouette his hawklike profile. “Blood,” he said, half to himself. “I had a dream two nights ago. I saw a city all of blood, with towers made of bone, and blood ran in the streets like water. ”
Simon slewed his eyes over to Jace. “Is standing by the window muttering about blood something he does all the time?”
“No,” said Jace, “sometimes he sits on the couch and does it. ”
Alec shot them both a sharp glance. “Magnus, what’s wrong?”
“The blood,” said Magnus again. “It can’t be a coincidence. ” He seemed to be looking down at the street. Sunset was coming on fast over the silhouette of the city in the distance: The sky was striped with bars of aluminum and rosy gold. “There have been several murders this week,” he said, “of Downworlders. A warlock, killed in an apartment tower down by the South Street Seaport. His neck and wrists were cut and the body drained of blood. And a werewolf was killed at the Hunter’s Moon a few days ago. The throat was cut in that case as well. ”
“It sounds like vampires,” said Simon, suddenly very pale.
“I don’t think so,” Jace said. “At least, Raphael said it wasn’t the Night Children’s work. He seemed adamant about it. ”
“Yeah, ’cause he’s trustworthy,” muttered Simon.
“In this case I think he was telling the truth,” said Magnus, drawing the curtain closed. His face was angular, shadowed. As he came back to the table, Clary saw that he was carrying a heavy book bound in green cloth. She didn’t think he’d been holding it a few moments ago. “There was a strong demonic presence at both locations. I think someone else was responsible for all three deaths. Not Raphael and his tribe, but Valentine. ”
Clary’s eyes went to Jace. His mouth was a thin line, but “Why do you say that?” was all he asked.
“The Inquisitor thought the faerie murder was a diversion,” she said quickly. “So that he could plunder the Silent City without worrying about the Conclave. ”
“There are easier ways to create a diversion,” said Jace, “and it is unwise to antagonize the Fair Folk. He wouldn’t have murdered one of the clan of faerie if he didn’t have a reason. ”
“He had a reason,” said Magnus. “There was something he wanted from the faerie child, just as there was something he wanted from the warlock and the werewolf he killed. ”
“What’s that?” asked Alec.
“Their blood,” said Magnus, and opened the green book. The thin parchment pages had words written on them that glowed like fire. “Ah,” he said, “here. ” He looked up, tapping the page with a sharp fingernail. Alec leaned forward. “You won’t be able to read it,” Magnus warned him. “It’s written in a demon language. Purgatic. ”
“I can recognize the drawing, though. That’s Maellartach. I’ve seen it before in books. ” Alec pointed at an illustration of a silver sword, familiar to Clary—it was the one she’d noticed was missing from the wall of the Silent City.
“The Ritual of Infernal Conversion,” Magnus said. “That’s what Valentine’s trying to do. ”
“The what of what?” Clary frowned.
“Every magical object has an alliance,” Magnus explained. “The alliance of the Soul-Sword is seraphic—like those angel knives you Shadowhunters use, but a thousand times more so, because its power was drawn from the Angel himself, not simply from the invocation of an angelic name. What Valentine wants to do is reverse its alliance—make it an object of demonic rather than angelic power. ”
“Lawful good to lawful evil!” said Simon, pleased.
“He’s quoting Dungeons and Dragons,” said Clary. “Ignore him. ”
“As the Angel’s Sword, Maellartach’s use to Valentine would be limited,” said Magnus. “But as a sword whose demonic power is equal to the angelic power it once possessed—well, there is much it could offer him. Power over demons, for one. Not just the limited protection the Cup might offer, but power to call demons to him, to force them to do his bidding. ”
“A demon army?” said Alec.
“This guy is big on armies,” observed Simon.
“Power even to bring them into Idris, perhaps,” Magnus finished.
“I don’t know why he’d want to go there,” Simon said. “That’s where all the demon hunters are, aren’t they? Wouldn’t they just annihilate the demon guys?”
“Demons come from other dimensions,” said Jace. “We don’t know how many of them there are. Their numbers could be infinite. The wardings keep most of them back, but if they all came through at once…”
Infinite, Clary thought. She remembered the Greater Demon, Abbadon, and tried to imagine hundreds more of it. Or thousands. Her skin felt cold and exposed.
“I don’t get it,” said Alec. “What does the ritual have to do with dead Downworlders?”
“To perform the Ritual of Conversion, you need to seethe the Sword until it’s red-hot, then cool it four times, each time in the blood of a Downworld child. Once in the blood of a child of Lilith, once in the blood of a child of the moon, once in the blood of a child of the night, and once in the blood of a child of faerie,” Magnus explained.
“Oh my God,” said Clary. “So he’s not done killing? There’s still one more child to go?”
“Two more. He didn’t succeed with the werewolf child. He was interrupted before he could get all the blood he needed. ” Magnus shut the book, dust puffing out from its pages. “Whatever Valentine’s ultimate goal is, he’s already more than halfway to reversing the Sword. He’s probably able to garner some power from it already. He could already be calling on demons—”
“But you’d think if he were doing that, there’d be reports of disturbances, excess demon activity,” Jace said. “But the Inquisitor said the opposite is true—that everything’s been quiet. ”
“And so it might be,” said Magnus, “if Valentine were calling all the demons to him. No wonder it’s quiet. ”
The group stared at one another. Before anyone could think of a single thing to say, a sharp noise cut through the room, making Clary start. Hot coffee spilled onto her wrist and she gasped at the sudden pain.
“It’s my mother,” said Alec, checking his phone. “I’ll be right back. ” He went over to the window, head down, voice too low to overhear.
“Let me see,” said Simon, taking Clary’s hand. There was an angry red blotch on her wrist where the hot liquid had scalded her.
“It’s okay,” she said. “No big deal. ”
Simon lifted her hand and kissed the injury. “All better now. ”
Clary made a startled noise. He had never done anything like that before. Then again, that was the sort of thing boyfriends did, didn’t they? Drawing her wrist back, she looked across the table and saw Jace staring at them, his golden eyes blazing. “You’re a Shadowhunter,” he said. “You know how to deal with injuries. ” He slid his stele across the table toward her. “Use it. ”
“No,” Clary said, and pushed the stele back across the table at him.
Jace slammed his hand down on the stele. “Clary—”
“She said she doesn’t want it,” said Simon. “Ha-ha. ”
“Ha-ha?” Jace looked incredulous. “That’s your comeback?”
Alec, folding his phone, approached the table with a puzzled look. “What’s going on?”
“We seem to be trapped in an episode of One Life to Waste,” Magnus observed. “It’s all very dull. ”
Alec flicked a strand of hair out of his eyes. “I told my mother about the Infernal Conversion. ”
“Let me guess,” said Jace. “She didn’t believe you. Plus, she blamed everything on me. ”
Alec frowned. “Not exactly. She said she’d bring it up with the Conclave, but that she didn’t have the Inquisitor’s ear right now. I get the feeling the Inquisitor has pushed Mom out of the way and taken over. She sounded angry. ” The phone in his hand rang again. He held up a finger. “Sorry. It’s Isabelle. One sec. ” He wandered to the window, phone in hand.
Jace glanced over at Magnus. “I think you’re right about the werewolf at the Hunter’s Moon. The guy who found his body said someone else was in the alley with him. Someone who ran off. ”
Magnus nodded. “It sounds to me like Valentine was interrupted in the middle of doing whatever it is he does to get the blood he needs. He’ll probably try again with a different lycanthrope child. ”
“I ought to warn Luke,” Clary said, half-rising out of her chair.
“Wait. ” Alec was back, phone in hand, a peculiar expression on his face.
“What did Isabelle want?” Jace asked.
Alec hesitated. “Isabelle says the Queen of the Seelie Court has requested an audience with us. ”
“Sure,” said Magnus. “And Madonna wants me as a backup dancer on her next world tour. ”
Alec looked puzzled. “Who’s Madonna?”
“Who’s the Queen of the Seelie Court?” said Clary.
“She is the Queen of Faerie,” said Magnus. “Well, the local one, anyway. ”
Jace put his head in his hands. “Tell Isabelle no. ”
“But she thinks it’s a good idea,” Alec protested.
“Then tell her no twice. ”
Alec frowned. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Oh, just that some of Isabelle’s ideas are world-beaters and some are total disasters. Remember that idea she had about using abandoned subway tunnels to get around under the city? Talk about giant rats—”
“Let’s not,” said Simon. “I’d rather not talk about rats at all, in fact. ”
“This is different,” said Alec. “She wants us to go to the Seelie Court. ”
“You’re right, this is different,” said Jace. “This is her worst idea ever. ”
“She knows a knight in the Court,” said Alec. “He told her that the Seelie Queen is interested in meeting with us. Isabelle overheard my conversation with our mother—and she thought if we could explain our theory about Valentine and the Soul-Sword to the Queen, the Seelie Court would side with us, maybe even ally with us against Valentine. ”
“Is it safe to go there?” Clary asked.
“Of course it’s not safe,” Jace said, as if she’d asked the stupidest question he’d ever heard.
She shot a glare at him. “I don’t know anything about the Seelie Court. Vampires and werewolves I get. There are enough movies about them. But faeries are little-kid stuff. I dressed up as a faerie for Halloween when I was eight. My mom made me a hat shaped like a buttercup. ”
“I remember that. ” Simon had leaned back in his chair, arms crossed over his chest. “I was a Transformer. Actually, I was a Decepticon. ”
“Can we get back to the point?” Magnus asked.
“Fine,” Alec said. “Isabelle thinks—and I agree—that it’s not a good idea to ignore the Fair Folk. If they want to talk, what harm can it do? Besides, if the Seelie Court were on our side, the Clave would have to listen to what we have to say. ”
Jace laughed without any humor. “The Fair Folk don’t help humans. ”
“Shadowhunters are not human,” Clary said. “Not really. ”
“We are not much better to them,” said Jace.
“They can’t be worse than vampires,” Simon muttered. “And you did all right with them. ”
Jace looked at Simon as if he were something he’d found growing under the sink. “Did all right with them? By which I take it you mean we survived?”
“Faeries,” Jace went on, as if Simon hadn’t spoken, “are the offspring of demons and angels, with the beauty of angels and the viciousness of demons. A vampire might attack you, if you entered its domain, but a faerie could make you dance until you died with your legs ground down into stumps, trick you into a midnight swim and drag you screaming underwater until your lungs burst, fill your eyes with faerie dust until you gouged them out at the roots—”
“Jace!” Clary snapped, cutting him off mid-rant. “Shut up. Jesus. That’s enough. ”
“Look, it’s easy to outsmart a werewolf or a vampire,” Jace said. “They’re no smarter than anyone else. But faeries live for hundreds of years and they’re as cunning as snakes. They can’t lie, but they love to engage in creative truth-telling. They’ll find out whatever it is you want most in the world and give it to you—with a sting in the tail of the gift that will make you regret you ever wanted it in the first place. ” He sighed. “They’re not really about helping people. More about harm disguised as help. ”
“And you don’t think we’re smart enough to know the difference?” asked Simon.
“I don’t think you’re smart enough not to get turned into a rat by accident. ”
Simon glared at him. “I don’t see that it matters what you think we should do,” he said. “Considering that you can’t go with us in the first place. You can’t go anywhere. ”
Jace stood up, knocking his chair back violently. “You are not taking Clary to the Seelie Court without me and that is final!”
Clary stared at him with her mouth open. He was flushed with anger, teeth gritted, veins corded in his neck. He was also avoiding looking at her.
“I can take care of Clary,” Alec said, and there was hurt in his voice—whether because Jace had doubted his abilities or because of something else, Clary wasn’t sure.
“Alec,” said Jace, his eyes locked with his friend’s. “No. You can’t. ”
Alec swallowed. “We’re going,” he said. He spoke the words like an apology. “Jace—a request from the Seelie Court—it would be stupid to ignore it. Besides, Isabelle’s probably already told them we’re coming. ”
“There is no chance I’m going to let you do this, Alec,” Jace said in a dangerous voice. “I’ll wrestle you to the ground if I have to. ”
“While that does sound tempting,” said Magnus, flipping his long silk sleeves back, “there is another way. ”
“What other way? This is a directive from the Clave. I can’t just weasel out of it. ”
“But I can. ” Magnus grinned. “Never doubt my weaseling abilities, Shadowhunter, for they are epic and memorable in their scope. I specifically enchanted the contract with the Inquisitor so that I could let you go for a short time if I desired, as long as another of the Nephilim was willing to take your place. ”
“Where are we going to find another—Oh,” Alec said meekly. “You mean me. ”
Jace’s eyebrows shot up. “Oh, now you don’t want to go to the Seelie Court?”
Alec flushed. “I think it’s more important for you to go than me. You’re Valentine’s son, I’m sure you’re the one the Queen really wants to see. Besides, you’re charming. ”
Jace glared at him.
“Maybe not at the moment,” Alec amended. “But you’re usually charming. And faeries are very susceptible to charm. ”
“Plus, if you stay here, I’ve got the whole first season of Gilligan’s Island on DVD,” Magnus said.
“No one could turn that down,” said Jace. He still wouldn’t look at Clary.
“Isabelle can meet you in the park by Turtle Pond,” said Alec. “She knows the secret entrance to the Court. She’ll be waiting. ”
“And one last thing,” Magnus said, jabbing a ringed finger at Jace. “Try not to get yourself killed in the Seelie Court. If you die, I’ll have a lot of explaining to do. ”
At that, Jace broke into a grin. It was an unsettling grin, less a flash of amusement than the gleam of an unsheathed blade. “You know,” he said, “I have a feeling that that’s going to be the case whether I get myself killed or not. ”
Thick tendrils of moss and plants surrounded the rim of Turtle Pond like a bordering of green lace. The surface of the water was still, rippled here and there in the wake of drifting ducks, or dimpled by the silvery flick of a fish’s tail.
There was a small wooden gazebo built out over the water; Isabelle was sitting in it, staring out across the lake. She looked like a princess in a fairy tale, waiting at the top of her tower for someone to ride up and rescue her.
Not that traditional princess behavior was like Isabelle at all. Isabelle with her whip and boots and knives would chop anyone who tried to pen her up in a tower into pieces, build a bridge out of the remains, and walk carelessly to freedom, her hair looking fabulous the entire time. This made Isabelle a hard person to like, though Clary was trying.
“Izzy,” said Jace, as they neared the pond, and she jumped up and spun around. Her smile was dazzling.
“Jace!” She flew at him and hugged him. Now that was the way sisters were supposed to act, Clary thought. Not all stiff and weird and peculiar, but happy and loving. Watching Jace hug Isabelle, she tried to school her features into a happy and loving expression.
“Are you all right?” Simon asked, with some concern. “Your eyes are crossing. ”
“I’m fine. ” Clary abandoned the attempt.
“Are you sure? You looked sort of … contorted. ”
“Something I ate. ”
Isabelle drifted over, Jace a pace behind her. She was wearing a long black dress with boots and an even longer cutaway coat of soft green velvet, the color of moss. “I can’t believe you did it!” she exclaimed. “How did you get Magnus to let Jace leave?”
“Traded him for Alec,” Clary said.
Isabelle looked mildly alarmed. “Not permanently?”
“No,” said Jace. “Just for a few hours. Unless I don’t come back,” he added thoughtfully. “In which case, maybe he does get to keep Alec. Think of it as a lease with an option to buy. ”
Isabelle looked dubious. “Mom and Dad won’t be pleased if they find out. ”
“That you freed a possible criminal by trading away your brother to a warlock who looks like a gay Sonic the Hedgehog and dresses like the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?” Simon inquired. “No, probably not. ”
Jace looked at him thoughtfully. “Is there some particular reason that you’re here? I’m not so sure we should be bringing you to the Seelie Court. They hate mundanes. ”
Simon rolled his eyes upward. “Not this again. ”
“Not what again?” said Clary.
“Every time I annoy him, he retreats into his No Mundanes Allowed tree house. ” Simon pointed at Jace. “Let me remind you, the last time you wanted to leave me behind, I saved all your lives. ”
“Sure,” said Jace. “One time—”
“The faerie courts are dangerous,” cut in Isabelle. “Even your skill with the bow won’t help you. It’s not that kind of danger. ”
“I can take care of myself,” said Simon. A sharp wind had come up. It blew drying leaves across the gravel at their feet and made Simon shiver. He dug his hands into the wool-lined pockets of his jacket.
“You don’t have to come,” Clary said.
He looked at her, a steady, measured look. She remembered him back at Luke’s, calling her my girlfriend with no measure of doubt or indecision. Whatever else you could say about Simon, he knew what he wanted. “Yeah,” he said. “I do. ”
Jace made a noise under his breath. “Then I suppose we’re ready,” he said. “Don’t expect any special consideration, mundane. ”
“Look on the bright side,” said Simon. “If they need a human sacrifice, you can always offer me. I’m not sure the rest of you qualify anyway. ”
Jace brightened. “It’s always nice when someone volunteers to be the first up against the wall. ”
“Come on,” Isabelle said. “The door is about to open. ”
Clary glanced around. The sun had set completely and the moon was up, a wedge of creamy white casting its reflection onto the pond. It wasn’t quite full, but shadowed at one edge, giving it the look of a half-lidded eye. Night wind rattled the tree branches, knocking them against one another with a sound like hollow bones.
“Where do we go?” Clary asked. “Where’s the door?”
Isabelle’s smile was like a whispered secret. “Follow me. ”
She moved down to the edge of the water, her boots leaving deep impressions in the wet mud. Clary followed, glad she was wearing jeans and not a skirt as Isabelle hiked her coat and dress up over her knees, leaving her slim white legs bare above her boots. Her skin was covered in Marks like licks of black fire.
Simon, behind her, swore as he slipped in the mud; Jace moved automatically to steady him as they all turned. Simon jerked his arm back. “I don’t need your help. ”
“Stop it. ” Isabelle tapped a booted foot in the shallow water at the lake’s edge. “Both of you. In fact, all three of you. If we don’t stick together in the Seelie Court, we’re dead. ”
“But I haven’t—” Clary started.
“Maybe you haven’t, but the way you let those two act…” Isabelle indicated the boys with a disdainful wave of her hand.
“I can’t tell them what to do!”
“Why not?” the other girl demanded. “Honestly, Clary, if you don’t start utilizing a bit of your natural feminine superiority – I just don’t know what I’ll do with you. ” She turned toward the pond, then spun around again. “And lest I forget,” she added sternly, “for the love of the Angel, don’t eat or drink anything while we’re underground, any of you. Okay?”
“Underground?” said Simon worriedly. “Nobody said anything about underground. ”
Isabelle threw up her hands and splashed out into the pond. Her green velvet coat swirled out around her like an enormous lily pad. “Come on. We only have until the moon moves. ”
The moon what? Shaking her head, Clary stepped out into the pond. The water was shallow and clear; in the bright starlight, she could see the black shapes of tiny darting fish moving past her ankles. She gritted her teeth as she waded farther out into the pond. The cold was intense.
Behind her, Jace moved out into the water with a contained grace that barely rippled the surface. Simon, behind him, was splashing and cursing. Isabelle, having reached the center of the pond, paused there, up to her rib cage in water. She held out her hand toward Clary. “Stop. ”
Clary stopped. Just in front of her, the reflection of the moon glimmered atop the water like a huge silvery dinner plate. Some part of her knew that it didn’t work like this; the moon was supposed to move away from you as you approached, ever receding. But here it was, hovering just on the surface of the water as if it were anchored in place.
“Jace, you go first,” Isabelle said, and beckoned him. “Come on. ”
He brushed past Clary, smelling of wet leather and char. She saw him smile as he turned, and then he stepped backward into the reflection of the moon—and vanished.
“Okay,” said Simon unhappily. “Okay, that was weird. ”
Clary glanced back at him. He was only hip-deep in water, but he was shivering, his hands hugging his elbows. She smiled at him and took a step backward, feeling a shock of icier cold when she moved into the shimmering silver reflection. She teetered for a moment, as if she’d lost her balance on the highest rung of a ladder—and then fell backward into darkness as the moon swallowed her up.
She hit packed earth, stumbled, and felt a hand on her arm, steadying her. It was Jace. “Easy does it,” he said, and let her go.
She was soaking wet, rivulets of cold water running down the back of her shirt, her damp hair clinging to her face. Her drenched clothes felt as if they weighed a ton.
They were in a hollowed-out dirt corridor, illuminated by faintly glowing moss. A tangle of dangling vines formed a curtain at one end of the corridor and long, hairy tendrils hung like dead snakes from the ceiling. Tree roots, Clary realized. They were underground. And it was cold down here, cold enough to make her breath puff out in an icy mist when she exhaled.
“Cold?” Jace was soaking wet too, his light hair almost colorless where it stuck to his cheeks and forehead. Water ran from his wet jeans and jacket, and made the white shirt he was wearing transparent. She could see the dark lines of his permanent Marks through it and the faint scar on his shoulder.
She looked away quickly. Water clung to her lashes, blurring her vision like tears. “I’m fine. ”
“You don’t look fine. ” He moved closer, and she could feel the warmth of him even through his wet clothes and hers, thawing her icy skin.
A dark shape hurtled by, just out of the corner of her eye, and hit the ground with a thud. It was Simon, also soaking wet. He rolled onto his knees and looked around frantically. “My glasses—”
“I’ve got them. ” Clary was used to retrieving Simon’s glasses for him during soccer games. They always seemed to fall just under his feet, where they were inevitably stepped on. “Here you go. ”
He slid them on, scraping dirt off the lenses. “Thanks. ”
Clary could feel Jace watching them, feel his gaze like a weight on her shoulders. She wondered if Simon could too. He stood up with a frown, just as Isabelle dropped out of the heavens, landing gracefully on her feet. Water ran from her long, streaming hair and weighed down her heavy velvet coat, but she barely seemed to notice. “Oooh, that was fun. ”
“That does it,” said Jace. “I’m going to get you a dictionary for Christmas this year. ”
“Why?” Isabelle said.
“So you can look up ‘fun. ’ I’m not sure you know what it means. ”
Isabelle pulled the long heavy mass of her wet hair forward and wrung it out as if it were wet washing. “You’re raining on my parade. ”
“It’s a pretty wet parade already, if you hadn’t noticed. ” Jace glanced around. “Now what? Which way do we go?”
“Neither way,” said Isabelle. “We wait here, and they come and get us. ”
Clary was not impressed by this suggestion. “How do they know we’re here? Is there a doorbell we have to ring or something?”
“The Court knows all that happens in their lands. Our presence won’t go unnoticed. ”
Simon looked at her with suspicion. “And how do you know so much about faeries and the Seelie Court, anyway?”
Isabelle, to everyone’s surprise, blushed. A moment later the curtain of vines was drawn aside and a faerie stepped through it, shaking back his long hair. Clary had seen some of the fey before at Magnus’s party and had been struck by both their cold beauty and a certain wild unearthliness they possessed even when they were dancing and drinking. This faerie was no exception: His hair fell in blue-black sheets around a cool, sharp, lovely face; his eyes were green as vines or moss and there was the shape of a leaf, either a birthmark or tattoo, across one of his cheekbones. He wore an armor of a silvery brown like the bark of trees in winter, and when he moved, the armor flashed a multitude of colors: peat black, moss green, ash gray, sky blue.
Isabelle gave a cry and jumped into his arms. “Meliorn!”
“Ah,” said Simon, quietly and not without amusement, “so that’s how she knows. ”
The faerie—Meliorn—looked down at her gravely, then detached her and set her gently aside. “This is not a time for affection,” he said. “The Queen of the Seelie Court has requested an audience with the three Nephilim among you. Will you come?”
Clary put a protective hand on Simon’s shoulder. “What about our friend?”
Meliorn looked impassive. “Mundane humans are not permitted in the Court. ”
“I wish someone had mentioned that earlier,” said Simon, to no one in particular. “I take it I’m just supposed to wait out here until vines start growing on me?”
Meliorn considered. “That might offer significant amusement. ”
“Simon’s not an ordinary mundane. He can be trusted,” Jace said, startling them all, and Simon more than the rest. Clary could tell Simon was surprised because he stared at Jace without offering a single smart remark. “He has fought many battles with us. ”
“By which you mean one battle,” muttered Simon. “Two if you count the one where I was a rat. ”
“We will not enter the Seelie Court without Simon,” Clary said, her hand still on Simon’s shoulder. “Your Queen requested this audience with us, remember? It wasn’t our idea to come here. ”
There was a spark of dark amusement in Meliorn’s green eyes. “As you wish,” he said. “Let it not be said that the Seelie Court does not respect the desires of its guests. ” He spun on a perfectly booted heel and began to lead them down the corridor without pausing to see if they were following him. Isabelle hurried to walk alongside him, leaving Jace, Clary, and Simon to follow the two of them in silence.
“Are you allowed to date faeries?” Clary asked finally. “Would your—would the Lightwoods be cool with Isabelle and what’shisname—”
“Meliorn,” put in Simon.
“—Meliorn going out?”
“I’m not sure they’re going out,” Jace said, weighting the last two words with a heavy irony. “I’d guess they mostly stay in. Or in this case, under. ”
“You sound like you disapprove. ” Simon pushed a tree root aside. They had moved from a dirt-walled corridor to one lined with smooth stones, only the occasional root snaking down between the stones from above. The floor was some kind of polished hard stuff, not marble but stone veined and flaked with lines of shimmering material like powdered jewels.
“I don’t disapprove exactly,” said Jace. “The faeries are known to dally with the occasional mortal, but they always end in abandoning them, usually the worse for wear. ”
His words sent a shiver down Clary’s spine. At that moment Isabelle laughed, and Clary could see now why Jace had dropped his voice, because the stone walls threw Isabelle’s voice back to them amplified and echoing so that Isabelle’s laughter seemed to bounce off the walls.
“You’re so funny!” She tripped as the heel of her boot caught between two stones, and Meliorn caught and righted her without changing expression.
“I do not understand how you humans can walk in shoes that are that tall. ”
“It’s my motto,” said Isabelle, with a sultry smile. “‘Nothing less than seven inches. ’”
Meliorn gazed at her stonily.
“I’m talking about my heels,” she said. “It’s a pun. You know? A play on—”
“Come,” the faerie knight said. “The Queen will be growing impatient. ” He headed down the corridor without giving Isabelle a second glance.
“I forgot,” Isabelle muttered as the rest of them caught up to her. “Faeries have no sense of humor. ”
“Oh, I wouldn’t say that,” said Jace. “There’s a pixie nightclub downtown called Hot Wings. Not,” he added, “that I have ever been there. ”
Simon looked at Jace, opened his mouth as if he intended to ask him a question, then seemed to think better of it. He closed his mouth with a snap just as the corridor opened out into a wide room whose floor was packed dirt and whose walls were lined with high stone pillars twined all over with vines and bright flowers bursting with color. Thin cloths were hung between the pillars, dyed a soft blue that was almost the exact hue of the sky. The room was filled with light, though Clary could see no torches, and the overall effect was of a summer pavilion in bright sunshine rather than a dirt and stone room underground.
Clary’s first impression was that she was outside; her second was that the room was full of people. There was a strange sweet music playing, flawed with sweet-sour notes, a sort of aural equivalent of honey mixed with lemon juice, and there was a circle of faeries dancing to the music, their feet barely seeming to skim the floor. Their hair—blue, black, brown and scarlet, metal gold and ice white—flew like banners.
She could see why they were called the Fair Folk, for they were fair indeed with their pale lovely faces, their wings of lilac and gold and blue—how could she have believed Jace that they meant to harm her? The music that had jarred her ears at first now sounded only sweet. She felt the urge to toss her own hair and to move her own feet in the dance. The music told her that if she did that, she too would be so light that her feet would barely touch the earth. She took a step forward—
And was jerked back by a hand on her arm. Jace was glaring at her, his golden eyes bright as a cat’s. “If you dance with them,” he said in a low voice, “you’ll dance until you die. ”
Clary blinked at him. She felt as if she’d been pulled out of a dream, groggy and half-awake. Her voice slurred when she spoke. “Whaaat?”
Jace made an impatient noise. He had his stele in his hand; she hadn’t seen him take it out. He gripped her wrist and inscribed a quick, stinging Mark onto the skin of her inner arm. “Now look. ”
She looked again—and froze. The faces that had seemed so lovely to her were still lovely, yet behind them lurked something vulpine, almost feral. The girl with the pink-and-blue wings beckoned, and Clary saw that her fingers were made of twigs, budded with closed leaves. Her eyes were entirely black, without iris or pupil. The boy dancing next to her had poison green skin and curling horns twisting from his temples. When he turned in the dance, his coat fell open and Clary saw that beneath it, his chest was an empty rib cage. Ribbons were woven through his bare rib bones, possibly to make him look more festive. Clary’s stomach lurched.
“Come on. ” Jace pushed her and she stumbled forward. When she regained her balance, she looked around anxiously for Simon. He was up ahead and she saw that Isabelle had a firm grip on him. This once, she didn’t mind. She doubted Simon would have made it through the room on his own.
Skirting the circle of dancers, they made their way to the far end of the room and through a parted curtain of blue silk. It was a relief to be out of the room and into another corridor, this one carved from a glossy brown material like the outside of a nut. Isabelle let go of Simon and he stopped walking immediately; when Clary caught up to him, she saw that this was because Isabelle had tied her scarf across his eyes. He was fiddling with the knot when Clary reached him. “Let me get it,” she said, and he went still while she untied him and handed the scarf back to Isabelle with a nod of thanks.
Simon pushed his hair back; it was damp where the scarf had held it down. “That was some music,” he observed. “A little bit country, a little bit rock and roll. ”
Meliorn, who had paused to wait for them, frowned. “You didn’t care for it?”
“I cared for it a little too much,” Clary said. “What was that supposed to be, some kind of test? Or a joke?”
He shrugged. “I am used to mortals who are easily swayed by our faerie glamours; not so the Nephilim. I thought you had protections. ”
“She does,” Jace said, meeting Meliorn’s jade green gaze with his own.
Meliorn only shrugged and began walking again. Simon kept pace beside Clary for a few moments without speaking before he said, “So what did I miss? Naked dancing ladies?”
Clary thought of the male faerie’s torn-open ribs and shuddered. “Nothing that pleasant. ”
“There are ways for a human to join the faerie revels,” Isabelle, who had been eavesdropping, put in. “If they give you a token—like a leaf or a flower—to hold on to, and you keep it through the night, you’ll be fine in the morning. Or if you go with a faerie for a companion…” She shot a glance at Meliorn, but he had reached a leafy screen set into the wall and paused there.
“These are the Queen’s chambers,” he said. “She’s come from her Court in the north to see about the child’s death. If there’s to be war, she wants to be the one declaring it. ”
Up close, Clary could see that the screen was made of thickly woven vines, budded with amber droplets. He drew the vines apart and ushered them into the chamber on the other side.
Jace ducked through first, followed by Clary. She straightened up, looking around her curiously.
The room itself was plain, the earthen walls hung with pale fabric. Will-o’-the-wisps glowed in glass jars. A lovely woman reclined on a low couch surrounded by what must have been her courtiers—a motley assortment of faeries, from tiny sprites to what looked like lovely human girls with long hair … if you discounted their black, pupil-less eyes.
“My Queen,” said Meliorn, bowing low. “I have brought the Nephilim to you. ”
The Queen sat up straight. She had long scarlet hair that seemed to float around her like autumn leaves in a breeze. Her eyes were clear blue as glass, her gaze sharp as a razor. “Three of these are Nephilim,” she said. “The other is a mundane. ”
Meliorn seemed to shrink back, but the Queen didn’t even look at him. Her gaze was on the Shadowhunters. Clary could feel the weight of it, like a touch. Despite her loveliness, there was nothing fragile about the Queen. She was as bright and hard to look at as a burning star.
“Our apologies, my lady. ” Jace stepped forward, putting himself between the Queen and his companions. His voice had changed its tone—there was something in the way he spoke now, something careful and delicate. “The mundane is our responsibility. We owe him protection. Therefore we keep him with us. ”
The Queen tilted her head to the side, like an interested bird. All her attention was on Jace now. “A blood debt?” she murmured. “To a mundane?”
“He saved my life,” Jace said. Clary felt Simon stiffen beside her in surprise. She willed him not to show it. Faeries couldn’t lie, Jace had said, and Jace wasn’t lying, either—Simon had saved his life. That just wasn’t why they’d brought him with them. Clary began to appreciate what Jace had meant by creative truth-telling. “Please, my lady. We had hoped you would understand. We had heard you were as kind as you were beautiful, and in that case—well,” Jace said, “your kindness must be extreme indeed. ”
The Queen smirked and leaned forward, gleaming hair falling to shadow her face. “You are as charming as your father, Jonathan Morgenstern,” she said, and gestured at the cushions scattered around the floor. “Come, sit beside me. Eat something. Drink. Rest yourselves. Talk is better with wet lips. ”
For a moment Jace looked thrown. He hesitated. Meliorn leaned over to him and spoke softly. “It would be unwise to refuse the bounty of the Queen of the Seelie Court. ”
Isabelle’s eyes flicked toward him. Then she shrugged. “It won’t hurt us just to sit down. ”
Meliorn led them over to a pile of silky cushions near the Queen’s divan. Clary sat down cautiously, half-expecting there to be some kind of big sharp root just waiting to poke her in the behind. It seemed like the sort of thing the Queen would find amusing. But nothing happened. The cushions were very comfortable; she settled back with the others around her.
A pixie with bluish skin came toward them carrying a platter with four silver cups on it. They each took a cup of the gold-toned liquid. There were rose petals floating on the top.
Simon set his cup down beside him.
“Don’t you want any?” the pixie asked.
“The last faerie drink I had didn’t agree with me,” he muttered.
Clary barely heard him. The drink had a heady, intoxicating scent, richer and more delicious than roses. She picked a petal out of the liquid and crushed it between her thumb and forefinger, releasing more of the scent.
Jace jostled her arm. “Don’t drink any of it,” he said under his breath.
“Just don’t. ”
She set the cup down, as Simon had done. Her finger and thumb were stained pink.
“Now,” said the Queen. “Meliorn tells me you claim to know who killed our child in the park last night. Though I tell you now, it seems no mystery to me. A faerie child, drained of blood? Is it that you bring me the name of a single vampire? But all vampires are at fault here, for the breaking of the Law, and should be punished accordingly. Despite what may seem, we are not such a particular people. ”
“Oh, come on,” said Isabelle. “It isn’t vampires. ”
Jace shot her a look. “What Isabelle means to say is that we’re almost certain that the murderer is someone else. We think he may be trying to throw suspicion on the vampires to shield himself. ”
“Have you proof of that?”
Jace’s tone was calm, but the shoulder that brushed Clary’s was tight with tension. “Last night the Silent Brothers were slaughtered as well, and none of them were drained of blood. ”
“And this has to do with our child, how? Dead Nephilim are a tragedy to Nephilim, but nothing to me. ”
Clary felt a sharp sting at her left hand. Looking down, she saw the tiny shape of a sprite darting away between the pillows. A red bead of blood had risen on her finger. She put the finger into her mouth with a wince. The sprites were cute, but they had a mean bite.
“The Soul-Sword was stolen as well,” said Jace. “You know of Maellartach?”
“The sword that makes Shadowhunters tell the truth,” said the Queen, with dark amusement. “We fey have no need of such an object. ”
“It was taken by Valentine Morgenstern,” said Jace. “He killed the Silent Brothers to get it, and we think he killed the faerie as well. He needed the blood of a faerie child to effect a transformation on the Sword. To make it a tool he could use. ”
“And he won’t stop,” Isabelle added. “He needs more blood after that. ”
The Queen’s high eyebrows were arched even higher. “More blood of the Folk?”
“No,” Jace said, shooting a look at Isabelle that Clary couldn’t quite interpret. “More Downworlder blood. He needs the blood of a werewolf, and a vampire—”
The Queen’s eyes shone with reflected light. “That seems hardly our concern. ”
“He killed one of yours,” Isabelle said. “Don’t you want revenge?”
The Queen’s gaze brushed her like a moth’s wing. “Not immediately,” she said. “We are a patient folk, for we have all the time in the world. Valentine Morgenstern is an old enemy of ours—but we have enemies older still. We are content to wait and watch. ”
“He’s summoning demons to him,” Jace said. “Creating an army—”
“Demons,” said the Queen lightly, as her courtiers chattered behind her. “Demons are your charge, are they not, Shadowhunter? Is that not why you hold authority over us all? Because you are the ones who slay demons?”
“I’m not here to give you orders on behalf of the Clave. We came when you asked us because we thought that if you knew the truth, you’d help us. ”
“Is that what you thought?” The Queen sat forward in her chair, her long hair rippling and alive. “Remember, Shadowhunter, there are those of us who chafe under the rule of the Clave. Perhaps we are tired of fighting your wars for you. ”
“But it isn’t our war alone,” said Jace. “Valentine hates Downworlders more than he hates demons. If he defeats us, he’ll go after you next. ”
The Queen’s eyes bored into him.
“And when he does,” said Jace, “remember that it was a Shadowhunter who warned you what was coming. ”
There was silence. Even the Court had fallen silent, watching their Lady. At last, the Queen leaned back on her cushions and took a swallow from a silver chalice. “Warning me about your own parent,” she said. “I had thought you mortals capable of filial affection, at least, and yet you seem to feel no loyalty toward Valentine, your father. ”
Jace said nothing. He seemed, for a change, lost for words.
Sweetly, the Queen went on, “Or perhaps this hostility of yours is the pretense. Love does make liars out of your kind. ”
“But we don’t love our father,” said Clary, as Jace remained frighteningly silent. “We hate him. ”
“Do you?” The Queen looked almost bored.
“You know how the bonds of family are, my lady,” said Jace, recovering his voice. “They cling as tightly as vines. And sometimes, like vines, they cling tightly enough to kill. ”
The Queen’s lashes fluttered. “You would betray your own father for the sake of the Clave?”
“Even so, Lady. ”
She laughed, a sound as bright and cold as icicles. “Who would have thought,” she said, “that Valentine’s little experiments would turn on him?”
Clary looked at Jace, but she could see by the expression on his face that he had no idea what the Queen meant.
It was Isabelle who spoke. “Experiments?”
The Queen didn’t even glance at her. Her gaze, a luminous blue, was fixed on Jace. “The Fair Folk are a people of secrets,” she said. “Our own, and others’. Ask your father, when next you see him, what blood runs in your veins, Jonathan. ”
“I hadn’t planned on asking him anything next time I see him,” Jace said. “But if you desire it, my lady, it will be done. ”
The Queen’s lips curved into a smile. “I think you are a liar. But what a charming one. Charming enough that I will swear you this: Ask your father that question, and I will promise you what aid is in my power, should you strike against Valentine. ”
Jace smiled. “Your generosity is as remarkable as your loveliness, Lady. ”
Clary made a gagging noise, but the Queen looked pleased.
“And I think we’re done here now,” Jace added, rising from the cushions. He’d set his untouched drink down earlier, beside Isabelle’s. They all rose after him. Isabelle was already talking to Meliorn in the corner, by the vine door. He looked slightly hunted.
“A moment. ” The Queen rose. “One of you must remain. ”
Jace paused halfway to the door, and turned to face her. “What do you mean?”
She stretched out one hand to indicate Clary. “Once our food or drink passes mortal lips, the mortal is ours. You know that, Shadowhunter. ”
Clary was stunned. “But I didn’t drink any of it!” She turned to Jace. “She’s lying. ”
“Faeries don’t lie,” he said, confusion and dawning anxiety chasing each other across his face. He turned back to the Queen. “I’m afraid you’re mistaken, Lady. ”
“Look to her fingers and tell me she didn’t lick them clean. ”
Simon and Isabelle were staring now. Clary glanced down at her hand. “Of blood,” she said. “One of the sprites bit my finger—it was bleeding—” She remembered the sweet taste of the blood, mixed with the juice on her finger. Panicked, she moved toward the vine door, and stopped as what felt like invisible hands shoved her back into the room. She turned to Jace, stricken. “It’s true. ”
Jace’s face was flushed. “I suppose I should have expected a trick like that,” he said to the Queen, his previous flirtatiousness gone. “Why are you doing this? What do you want from us?”
The Queen’s voice was soft as spider’s fur. “Perhaps I am only curious,” she said. “It is not often I have young Shadowhunters so close within my purview. Like us, you trace your ancestry to heaven; that intrigues me. ”
“But unlike you,” said Jace, “there is nothing of hell in us. ”
“You are mortal; you age; you die,” the Queen said dismissively. “If that is not hell, pray tell me, what is?”
“If you just want to study a Shadowhunter, I won’t be much use to you,” Clary cut in. Her hand ached where the sprite had bitten it, and she fought the urge to scream or burst into tears. “I don’t know anything about Shadowhunting. I hardly have any training. I’m the wrong person to pick. ” On, she added silently.
For the first time the Queen looked directly at her. Clary wanted to shrink back. “In truth, Clarissa Morgenstern, you are precisely the right person. ” Her eyes gleamed as she took in Clary’s discomfiture. “Thanks to the changes your father worked in you, you are not like other Shadowhunters. Your gifts are different. ”
“My gifts?” Clary was bewildered.
“Yours is the gift of words that cannot be spoken,” the Queen said to her, “and your brother’s is the Angel’s own gift. Your father made sure of it, when your brother was a child and before you were ever born. ”
“My father never gave me anything,” Clary said. “He didn’t even give me a name. ”
Jace looked as blank as Clary felt. “While the Fair Folk do not lie,” he said, “they can be lied to. I think you have been the victim of a trick or joke, my lady. There is nothing special about myself or my sister. ”
“How deftly you downplay your charms,” said the Queen with a laugh. “Though you must know you are not of the usual sort of human boy, Jonathan…” She looked from Clary to Jace to Isabelle—Isabelle closed her mouth, which had been wide open, with a snap—and back at Jace again. “Could it be that you do not know?” she murmured.
“I know that I will not leave my sister here in your Court,” said Jace, “and since there is nothing to be learned from either her or myself, perhaps you could do us the favor of releasing her?” Now that you’ve had your fun? his eyes said, though his voice was polite and cool as water.
The Queen’s smile was wide and terrible. “What if I told you she could be freed by a kiss?”
“You want Jace to kiss you?” Clary said, bewildered.
The Queen burst out laughing, and immediately, the courtiers copied her mirth. The laughter was a bizarre and inhuman mix of hoots, squeaks, and cackles, like the high shrieking of animals in pain.
“Despite his charms,” the Queen said, “that kiss will not free the girl. ”
The four looked at each other, startled. “I could kiss Meliorn,” suggested Isabelle.
“Nor that. Nor any one of my Court. ”
Meliorn moved away from Isabelle, who looked at her companions and threw up her hands. “I’m not kissing any of you,” she said firmly. “Just so it’s official. ”
“That hardly seems necessary,” Simon said. “If a kiss is all…”
He moved toward Clary, who was frozen in surprise. When he took her by the elbows, she had to fight the urge to push him away. Not that she hadn’t kissed Simon before, but this would have been a peculiar situation even if kissing him were something she was entirely comfortable doing, which it wasn’t. And yet it was the logical answer, wasn’t it? Without being able to help it, she cast a quick look over her shoulder at Jace and saw him scowl.
“No,” said the Queen, in a voice like tinkling crystal. “That is not what I want either. ”
Isabelle rolled her eyes. “Oh, for the Angel’s sake. Look, if there’s no other way of getting out of this, I’ll kiss Simon. I’ve done it before, it wasn’t that bad. ”
“Thanks,” said Simon. “That’s very flattering. ”
“Alas,” said the Queen of the Seelie Court. Her expression was sharp with a sort of cruel delight, and Clary wondered if it weren’t a kiss she wanted so much as simply to watch them all squirm in discomfort. “I’m afraid that won’t do either. ”
“Well, I’m not kissing the mundane,” said Jace. “I’d rather stay down here and rot. ”
“Forever?” said Simon. “Forever’s an awfully long time. ”
Jace raised his eyebrows. “I knew it,” he said. “You want to kiss me, don’t you?”
Simon threw up his hands in exasperation. “Of course not. But if—”
“I guess it’s true what they say,” observed Jace. “There are no straight men in the trenches. ”
“That’s atheists, jackass,” said Simon furiously. “There are no atheists in the trenches. ”
“While this is all very amusing,” said the Queen coolly, leaning forward, “the kiss that will free the girl is the kiss that she most desires. ” The cruel delight in her face and voice had sharpened, and her words seemed to stab into Clary’s ears like needles. “Only that and nothing more. ”
Simon looked as if she had hit him. Clary wanted to reach out to him, but she stood frozen to the spot, too horrified to move.
“Why are you doing this?” Jace demanded.
“I rather thought I was offering you a boon. ”
Jace flushed, but said nothing. He avoided looking at Clary.
Simon said, “That’s ridiculous. They’re brother and sister. ”
The Queen shrugged, a delicate twitch of her shoulders. “Desire is not always lessened by disgust. Nor can it be bestowed, like a favor, to those most deserving of it. And as my words bind my magic, so you can know the truth. If she doesn’t desire his kiss, she won’t be free. ”
Simon said something angrily, but Clary didn’t hear him: Her ears were buzzing, as if a swarm of angry bees were trapped inside her head. Simon whirled around, looking furious, and said, “You don’t have to do this, Clary, it’s a trick—”
“Not a trick,” said Jace. “A test. ”
“Well, I don’t know about you, Simon,” said Isabelle, her voice edged. “But I’d like to get Clary out of here. ”
“Like you’d kiss Alec,” Simon said, “just because the Queen of the Seelie Court asked you to?”
“Sure I would. ” Isabelle sounded annoyed. “If the other option was being stuck in the Seelie Court forever? Who cares, anyway? It’s just a kiss. ”
“That’s right. ” It was Jace. Clary saw him, at the blurred edge of her vision, as he moved toward her and put a hand on her shoulder, turning her to face him. “It’s just a kiss,” he said, and though his tone was harsh, his hands were inexplicably gentle. She let him turn her, looked up at him. His eyes were very dark, perhaps because it was so dim down here in the Court, perhaps because of something else. She could see her reflection in each of his dilated pupils, a tiny image of herself inside his eyes. He said, “You can close your eyes and think of England, if you like. ”
“I’ve never even been to England,” she said, but she shut her eyelids. She could feel the dank heaviness of her clothes, cold and itchy against her skin, and the cloying sweet air of the cave, colder yet, and the weight of Jace’s hands on her shoulders, the only things that were warm. And then he kissed her.
She felt the brush of his lips, light at first, and her own opened automatically beneath the pressure. Almost against her will she felt herself go fluid and pliant, stretching upward to twine her arms around his neck the way that a sunflower twists toward light. His arms slid around her, his hands knotting in her hair, and the kiss stopped being gentle and became fierce, all in a single moment like tinder flaring into a blaze. Clary heard a sound like a sigh rush through the Court, all around them, a wave of noise, but it meant nothing, was lost in the rush of her blood through her veins, the dizzying sense of weightlessness in her body.
Jace’s hands moved from her hair, slid down her spine; she felt the hard press of his palms against her shoulder blades—and then he pulled away, gently disengaging himself, drawing her hands away from his neck and stepping back. For a moment Clary thought she might fall; she felt as if something essential had been torn away from her, an arm or a leg, and she stared at Jace in blank astonishment—what did he feel, did he feel nothing? She didn’t think she could bear it if he felt nothing.
He looked back at her, and when she saw the look on his face, she saw his eyes at Renwick’s, when he had watched the Portal that separated him from his home shatter into a thousand irretrievable pieces. He held her gaze for a split second, then looked away from her, the muscles in his throat working. His hands were clenched into fists at his sides. “Was that good enough?” he called, turning to face the Queen and the courtiers behind her. “Did that entertain you?”
The Queen had a hand across her mouth, half-covering a smile. “We are quite entertained,” she said. “But not, I think, so much as the both of you. ”
“I can only assume,” said Jace, “that mortal emotions amuse you because you have none of your own. ”
The smile slipped from her mouth at that.
“Easy, Jace,” said Isabelle. She turned to Clary. “Can you leave now? Are you free?”
Clary went to the door and was not surprised to find no resistance barring her way. She stood with her hand among the vines and turned to Simon. He was staring at her as if he’d never seen her before.
“We should go,” she said. “Before it’s too late. ”
“It’s already too late,” he said.
Meliorn led them from the Seelie Court and deposited them back in the park, all without speaking a single word. Clary thought his back looked stiff and disapproving. He turned away after they’d splashed out of the pond, without even a good-bye for Isabelle, and disappeared back into the wavering reflection of the moon.
Isabelle watched him go with a scowl. “He is so broken up with. ”
Jace made a sound like a choked laugh and flipped the collar of his wet jacket up. They were all shivering. The cold night smelled like dirt and plants and human modernity—Clary almost thought she could scent the iron on the air. The ring of city surrounding the park sparked with fierce lights: ice blue, cool green, hot red, and the pond lapped quietly against its dirt shores. The moon’s reflection had moved to the pond’s far edge and quivered there as if it were afraid of them.
“We’d better get back. ” Isabelle drew her still-wet coat closer around her shoulders. “Before we freeze to death. ”
“It’s going to take forever to get back to Brooklyn,” Clary said. “Maybe we should take a taxi. ”
“Or we could just go to the Institute,” suggested Isabelle. At Jace’s look, she said quickly, “No one’s there anyway—they’re all in the Bone City, looking for clues. It’ll just take a second to stop by and grab your clothes, change into something dry. Besides, the Institute is still your home, Jace. ”
“It’s fine,” Jace said, to Isabelle’s evident surprise. “There’s something I need from my room there anyway. ”
Clary hesitated. “I don’t know. I might just grab a cab back with Simon. ” Maybe if they spent a little time alone together, she could explain to him what had happened down in the Seelie Court, and that it wasn’t what he thought.
Jace had been examining his watch for water damage. Now he looked at her, eyebrows raised. “That might be a little difficult,” he said, “seeing that he left already. ”
“He what?” Clary whirled around and stared. Simon was gone; the three of them were alone by the pond. She ran a little way up the hill and shouted his name. In the distance, she could just see him, striding purposefully away along the concrete path that led out of the park and onto the avenue. She called out to him again, but he didn’t turn around.