Chapter 19: ABBADON
CLARY WASN’T SURE WHAT SHE’D EXPECTED—EXCLAMATIONS of delight, perhaps a smattering of applause. Instead there was silence, broken only when Jace said, “Somehow, I thought it would be bigger. ”
Clary looked at the Cup in her hand. It was the size, perhaps, of an ordinary wineglass, only much heavier. Power thrummed through it, like blood through living veins. “It’s a perfectly nice size,” she said indignantly.
“Oh, it’s big enough,” he said patronizingly, “but somehow I was expecting something … you know. ” He gestured with his hands, indicating something roughly the size of a house cat.
“It’s the Mortal Cup, Jace, not the Mortal Toilet Bowl,” said Isabelle. “Are we done now? Can we go?”
Dorothea had her head cocked to one side, her beady eyes bright and interested. “But it’s damaged!” she exclaimed. “How did that happen?”
“Damaged?” Clary looked at the Cup in bewilderment. It looked fine to her.
“Here,” said the witch, “let me show you,” and she took a step toward Clary, holding her long red-nailed hands out for the Cup. Clary, without knowing why, shrank back. Suddenly Jace was between them, his hand hovering near the sword at his waist.
“No offense,” he said calmly, “but nobody touches the Mortal Cup except us. ”
Dorothea looked at him for a moment, and that same strange blankness returned to her eyes. “Now,” she said, “let’s not be hasty. Valentine would be displeased if anything were to happen to the Cup. ”
With a soft snick, the sword at Jace’s waist came free. The point hovered just below Dorothea’s chin. Jace’s look was steady. “I don’t know what this is about,” he said. “But we’re leaving. ”
The old woman’s eyes gleamed. “Of course, Shadowhunter,” she said, backing up to the curtained wall. “Would you like to use the Portal?”
The point of Jace’s sword wavered as he stared in momentary confusion. Then Clary saw his jaw tighten. “Don’t touch that—”
Dorothea chuckled, and quick as a flash she jerked down the curtains hanging along the wall. They fell with a sound of soft collapse. The Portal behind them was open.
Clary heard Alec, behind her, suck in his breath. “What is that?” Clary had caught only a glimpse of what was visible through the door—red roiling clouds shot through with black lightning, and a terrible dark, rushing shape that hurtled toward them—when Jace shouted for them to get down. He dropped to the floor, yanking Clary down with him. Flat on her stomach on the carpet, she lifted her head in time to see the rushing dark thing strike Madame Dorothea, who screamed, thrusting her arms upward. Rather than knocking her down, the dark thing wrapped her like a shroud, its blackness seeming to seep into her like ink sinking into paper. Her back humped monstrously, her whole shape elongating as she rose and rose into the air, her bulk stretching and re-forming. A sharp rattle of objects striking the floor made Clary look down: They were Dorothea’s bracelets, twisted and broken. Scattered among the jewels were what looked like small white stones. It took Clary a moment to realize that they were teeth.
Beside her Jace whispered something. It sounded like an exclamation of disbelief. Next to him, Alec in a choked voice said, “But you said there wasn’t much demonic activity—you said the levels were low!”
“They were low,” Jace growled.
“Your version of low must be different from mine!” Alec shouted, as the thing that had once been Dorothea howled and twisted. It seemed to be spreading, humped and knobbled and grotesquely misshapen—
Clary tore her eyes away as Jace stood, pulling her after him. Isabelle and Alec stumbled to their feet, gripping their weapons. The hand holding Isabelle’s whip was trembling slightly.
“Move!” Jace shoved Clary toward the apartment door. When she tried to look back over her shoulder, she saw only a thickly swirling grayness, like storm clouds, a dark shape at its center …
The four of them burst out into the foyer, Isabelle in the lead. She raced toward the front door, tried it, and turned with a stricken face. “It’s resistant. Must be a spell—”
Jace swore and fumbled in his jacket. “Where the hell is my stele?”
“I have it,” Clary said, remembering. As she reached for her pocket, a noise like thunder exploded through the room. The floor heaved under her feet. She stumbled and nearly fell, catching at the banister for support. When she looked up, she saw a gaping new hole in the wall separating the foyer from Dorothea’s apartment, lined all around its ragged edges with wood and plaster rubble, through which something was climbing—almost oozing—
“Alec!” It was Jace, shouting: Alec was standing in front of the hole, white-faced and horrified-looking. Swearing, Jace ran up and grabbed him, dragging him back just as the oozing thing pulled itself free of the wall and into the foyer.
Clary heard her breath catch. The creature’s flesh was livid and bruised-looking. Through the seeping skin, bones protruded—not new white bones, but bones that looked as if they had been in the earth a thousand years, black and cracked and filthy. Its fingers were stripped and skeletal, its thin-fleshed arms pocked with dripping black sores through which more yellowing bone was visible. Its face was a skull, its nose and eyes caved-in holes. Its taloned fingers brushed the floor. Tangled around its wrists and shoulders were bright swatches of cloth: all that remained of Madame Dorothea’s silk scarves and turban. It was at least nine feet tall.
It looked down at the four teenagers with empty eye sockets. “Give me,” it said, in a voice like the wind blowing trash across empty pavement, “the Mortal Cup. Give it to me, and I will let you live. ”
Panicked, Clary stared at the others. Isabelle looked as if the sight of the thing had hit her like a punch to the stomach. Alec was motionless. It was Jace, as always, who spoke. “What are you?” he asked, voice steady, though he looked more rattled than Clary had ever seen him.
The thing inclined its head. “I am Abbadon. I am the Demon of the Abyss. Mine are the empty places between the worlds. Mine is the wind and the howling darkness. I am as unlike those mewling things you call demons as an eagle is unlike a fly. You cannot hope to defeat me. Give me the Cup or die. ”
Isabelle’s whip trembled. “It’s a Greater Demon,” she said. “Jace, if we—”
“What about Dorothea?” Clary’s voice came shrilly out of her mouth before she could stop it. “What happened to her?”
The demon’s empty eyes swung to regard her. “She was a vessel only,” it said. “She opened the Portal and I took possession of her. Her death was swift. ” Its gaze moved to the Cup in her hand. “Yours will not be. ”
It began to move toward her. Jace blocked its way, the glittering sword in one hand, a seraph blade appearing in the other. Alec was watching him, his expression sick with horror.
“By the Angel,” Jace said, looking the demon up and down. “I knew Greater Demons were meant to be ugly, but no one ever warned me about the smell. ”
Abbadon opened its mouth and hissed. Inside its mouth were two rows of jagged glass-sharp teeth.
“I’m not so sure about this wind and howling darkness business,” Jace went on, “smells more like landfill to me. You sure you’re not from Staten Island?”
The demon leaped at him. Jace whipped his blades up and outward with an almost frightening speed; both sank into the fleshiest part of the demon, its abdomen. It howled and struck at him, knocking him aside the way a cat might bat aside a kitten. Jace rolled and got to his feet, but Clary could see from the way he was holding his arm that he’d been hurt.
That was enough for Isabelle. Darting forward, she lashed out at the demon with her whip. It struck the demon’s gray hide, and a red weal appeared, welling blood. Abbadon ignored her, moving toward Jace.
With his uninjured hand Jace drew out a second seraph blade. He whispered to it and it sprang free, bright and gleaming. He raised it as the demon loomed up before him; he looked impossibly small in front of it, a child dwarfed by a monster. And he was grinning, even as the demon reached for him. Isabelle, screaming, lashed at it, sending blood in a thick spray across the floor—
The demon struck, its razored hand lashing down at Jace. Jace staggered back, but he was unharmed. Something had thrown itself between him and the demon, a slim black shadow with a gleaming blade in its hand. Alec. The demon shrieked—Alec’s featherstaff had pierced its skin. With a snarl it struck again, bone-talons catching Alec a vicious blow that lifted him off his feet and hurled him against the far wall. He struck with a sickening crunch and slid to the floor.
Isabelle screamed her brother’s name. He didn’t move. Lowering the whip, she started to run to him. The demon, turning, caught her a backhanded blow that sent her spinning to the ground. Coughing blood, Isabelle started to get to her feet; Abbadon knocked her down again, and this time she lay still.
The demon moved toward Clary.
Jace stood frozen, staring at Alec’s crumpled body like someone caught in a dream. Clary screamed as Abbadon neared her. She began to back up the stairs, stumbling on the broken steps. The stele burned against her skin. If only she had a weapon, anything—
Isabelle had clawed her way into a sitting position. Pushing her bloody hair back, she screamed at Jace. Clary heard her own name in Isabelle’s screams and saw Jace, blinking as if slapped awake, spin toward her. He began to run. The demon was close enough now that Clary could see the black sores on its skin, could see that there were things crawling inside them. It reached for her—
But Jace was there, knocking Abbadon’s hand aside. He flung the seraph blade at the demon; it stuck in the creature’s chest, next to the two blades already there. The demon snarled as if the blades were no more than an annoyance.
“Shadowhunter,” it snarled. “I shall take pleasure in killing you, in hearing your bones crunch as your friend’s did—”
Springing onto the banister, Jace flung himself at Abbadon. The force of the jump knocked the demon backward; it staggered, Jace clinging to its back. He seized a seraph blade out of its chest, sending up a spray of ichor, and brought the blade down, again and again, into the demon’s back, its shoulders running with black fluid.
Snarling, Abbadon backed toward the wall. Jace had to drop or be crushed. He fell to the ground, landed lightly, and raised the blade again. But Abbadon was too swift for him; its hand lashed out, knocking Jace into the stairs. Jace went down, a circle of talons at his throat.
“Tell them to give me the Cup,” Abbadon snarled, talons hovering just above Jace’s skin. “Tell them to give it to me and I will let them live. ”
Jace swallowed. “Clary—”
But Clary would never know what he would have said, because at that moment the front door flew open. For a moment all she saw was brightness. Then, blinking away the fiery afterimage, she saw Simon standing in the open doorway. Simon. She had forgotten he was outside, had almost forgotten he existed.
He saw her, crouched on the stairs, and his gaze moved past her and over Abbadon and Jace. He reached back over his shoulder. He was holding Alec’s bow, she realized, and the quiver was strapped across his back. He drew an arrow from it, fitted it to the string, and lifted the bow expertly, as if he’d done the same thing a hundred times before.
The arrow sprang free. It made a hot buzzing sound, like a huge bumblebee, as it shot over Abbadon’s head, plunged toward the roof—
And shattered the skylight. Dirty black glass fell like rain, and through the broken pane streamed sunlight, quantities of sunlight, great golden bars of it stabbing downward and flooding the foyer with light.
Abbadon screamed and staggered back, shielding its misshapen head with its hands. Jace put a hand to his unharmed throat, staring in disbelief as the demon crumpled, howling, to the floor. Clary half-expected it to burst into flames, but instead it began to fold in on itself. Its legs collapsed toward its torso, its skull crumpling like burning paper, and within the span of a minute it had vanished entirely, leaving only scorch marks behind.
* * *
Simon lowered the bow. He was blinking behind his glasses, his mouth slightly open. He looked as astonished as Clary felt.
Jace lay on the stairs where the demon had thrown him. He was struggling to sit up as Clary slid down the steps and fell to her knees beside him. “Jace—”
“I’m all right. ” He sat up, wiping blood from his mouth. He coughed and spit red. “Alec—”
“Your stele,” she interrupted, reaching for her pocket. “Do you need it to fix yourself?”
He looked at her. The sunlight pouring through the shattered skylight lit his face. He looked as if he were holding himself back from something with a terrible effort. “I’m all right,” he said again, and pushed her aside, none too gently. He got to his feet, staggered, and nearly fell—the first ungraceful thing she’d ever seen him do. “Alec?”
Clary watched him as he limped across the foyer toward his unconscious friend. Then she zipped the Mortal Cup into the pocket of her hoodie and got to her feet. Isabelle had crawled to her brother’s side and was cradling his head in her lap, stroking his hair. His chest rose and fell—slowly, but he was breathing. Simon, leaning against the wall watching them, looked utterly drained. Clary squeezed his hand as she passed him. “Thank you,” she whispered. “That was amazing. ”
“Don’t thank me,” he said, “thank the archery program at B’nai B’rith summer camp. ”
“Simon, I don’t—”
“Clary!” It was Jace, calling her. “Bring my stele. ”
Simon let her go reluctantly. She knelt down next to the Shadowhunters, the Mortal Cup thumping heavily against her side. Alec’s face was white, freckled with drops of blood, his eyes unnaturally blue. His grip on Jace’s wrist left bloody smears. “Did I …” he started, then seemed to see Clary, as if for the first time. There was something in his look she hadn’t expected. Triumph. “Did I kill it?”
Jace’s face twisted painfully. “You—”
“Yes,” Clary said. “It’s dead. ”
Alec looked at her and laughed. Blood bubbled up in his mouth. Jace pulled his wrist free, touched his fingers to either side of Alec’s face. “Don’t,” he said. “Hold still, just hold still. ”
Alec closed his eyes. “Do what you have to,” he whispered.
Isabelle held her stele out to Jace. “Take it. ”
He nodded, and drew the tip of the stele down the front of Alec’s shirt. The material parted as if he’d sliced it with a knife. Isabelle watched him through frantic eyes as he yanked the shirt open, leaving Alec’s chest bare. His skin was very white, marked here and there with old translucent scars. There were other injuries there too: a darkening lattice of claw marks, each hole red and oozing. Jaw set, Jace set the stele to Alec’s skin, moving it back and forth with the ease of long practice. But there was something wrong. Even as he drew the healing marks, they seemed to vanish as if he were writing on water.
Jace threw the stele aside. “Damn it. ”
Isabelle’s voice was shrill. “What’s going on?”
“It cut him with its talons,” Jace said. “There’s demon poison in him. The Marks can’t work. ” He touched Alec’s face again, gently. “Alec,” he said. “Can you hear me?”
Alec didn’t move. The shadows under his eyes looked blue and as dark as bruises. If it weren’t for his breathing, Clary would have thought he was already dead.
Isabelle bent her head, her hair covering Alec’s face. Her arms were around him. “Maybe,” she whispered, “we could—”
“Take him to the hospital. ” It was Simon, standing over them, the bow dangling in his hand. “I’ll help you carry him to the van. There’s Methodist down on Seventh Avenue—”
“No hospitals,” said Isabelle. “We need to get him to the Institute. ”
“They won’t know how to treat him in a hospital,” said Jace. “He’s been cut by a Greater Demon. No mundane doctor would know how to heal those wounds. ”
Simon nodded. “All right. Let’s get him to the car. ”
In a stroke of good luck, the van hadn’t been towed. Isabelle draped a dirty blanket across the backseat and they laid Alec down across it, his head on Isabelle’s lap. Jace crouched down on the floor beside his friend. His shirt was stained dark across the sleeves and chest with blood, demon and human. When he looked at Simon, Clary saw that all the gold seemed washed out of his eyes by something she had never seen in them before. Panic.
“Drive fast, mundane,” he said. “Drive like hell was following you. ”
They careened down Flatbush and rocketed onto the bridge, keeping pace with the Q train as it roared over the blue water. The sun was painfully bright in Clary’s eyes, striking hot sparks off the river. She clutched at her seat as Simon took the curving ramp off the bridge at fifty miles an hour.
She thought about the awful things she’d said to Alec, the way he’d thrown himself at Abbadon, the look of triumph on his face. When she turned her head now, she saw Jace kneeling next to his friend as blood seeped through the blanket. She thought of the little boy with the dead falcon. To love is to destroy.
Clary turned back around, a hard lump lodged in the back of her throat. Isabelle was visible in the badly angled rearview mirror, wrapping the blanket around Alec’s throat. She looked up and met Clary’s eyes. “How much farther?”
“Maybe ten minutes. Simon’s driving as fast as he can. ”
“I know,” Isabelle said. “Simon—what you did, that was incredible. You moved so fast. I wouldn’t have thought a mundane could have thought of something like that. ”
Simon didn’t seem fazed by praise from such an unexpected quarter; his eyes were on the road. “You mean shooting out the skylight? It hit me after you guys went inside. I was thinking about the skylight and how you’d said demons couldn’t stand direct sun. So, actually, it took me a while to act on it. Don’t feel bad,” he added, “you can’t even see that skylight unless you know it’s there. ”
I knew it was there, Clary thought. I should have acted on it. Even if I didn’t have a bow and arrow like Simon, I could have thrown something at it or told Jace about it. She felt stupid and useless and thick, as though her head were full of cotton. The truth was that she’d been frightened. Too frightened to think straight. She felt a bright surge of shame that burst behind her eyelids like a small sun.
Jace spoke then. “It was well done,” he said.
Simon’s eyes narrowed. “So, if you don’t mind telling me—that thing, the demon—where did it come from?”
“It was Madame Dorothea,” said Clary. “I mean, it was sort of her. ”
“She was never exactly a pinup, but I don’t remember her looking that bad. ”
“I think she was possessed,” said Clary slowly, trying to piece it together in her own mind. “She wanted me to give her the Cup. Then she opened the Portal …”
“It was clever,” said Jace. “The demon possessed her, then hid the majority of its ethereal form just outside the Portal, where the Sensor wouldn’t register it. So we went in expecting to fight a few Forsaken. Instead we found ourselves facing a Greater Demon. Abbadon—one of the Ancients. The Lord of the Fallen. ”
“Well, it looks like the Fallen will just have to learn to get along without him from now on,” said Simon, turning onto the street.
“He’s not dead,” Isabelle said. “Hardly anyone’s ever killed a Greater Demon. You have to kill them in their physical and ethereal forms before they’ll die. We just scared him off. ”
“Oh. ” Simon looked disappointed. “What about Madame Dorothea? Will she be all right now that—”
He broke off, because Alec had begun to choke, his breath rattling in his chest. Jace swore under his breath with vicious precision. “Why aren’t we there yet?”
“We are here. I just don’t want to crash into a wall. ” As Simon pulled up carefully at the corner, Clary saw that the door of the Institute was open, Hodge standing framed in the arch. The van jerked to a halt and Jace leaped out, reaching back to lift Alec as if he weighed no more than a child. Isabelle followed him up the walk, holding her brother’s bloody featherstaff. The Institute door slammed shut behind them.
Tiredness washing over her, Clary looked at Simon. “I’m sorry. I don’t know how you’re going to explain all the blood to Eric. ”
“Screw Eric,” he said with conviction. “Are you all right?”
“Not a scratch. Everyone else got hurt, but not me. ”
“It’s their job, Clary,” he said gently. “Fighting demons—it’s what they do. Not what you do. ”
“What do I do, Simon?” she asked, searching his face for an answer. “What do I do?”
“Well—you got the Cup,” he said. “Didn’t you?”
She nodded, and tapped her pocket. “Yes. ”
He looked relieved. “I almost didn’t want to ask,” he said. “That’s good, right?”
“It is,” she said. She thought of her mother, and her hand tightened on the Cup. “I know it is. ”
* * *
Church met her at the top of the stairs, yowling like a foghorn, and led her to the infirmary. The double doors were open, and through them she could see Alec’s still figure, motionless on one of the white beds. Hodge was bent over him; Isabelle, beside the older man, held a silver tray in her hands.
Jace was not with them. He was not with them because he was standing outside the infirmary, leaning against the wall, his bare, bloody hands curled at his sides. When Clary stopped in front of him, his lids flew open, and she saw that the pupils of his eyes were dilated, all the gold swallowed up in black.
“How is he?” she asked, as gently as she could.
“He’s lost a lot of blood. Demon poisonings are common, but since it was a Greater Demon, Hodge isn’t sure if the antidotes he usually employs will be viable. ”
She reached to touch his arm. “Jace—”
He flinched away. “Don’t. ”
She sucked in her breath. “I never would have wanted anything to happen to Alec. I’m so sorry. ”
He looked at her as if seeing her there for the first time. “It’s not your fault,” he said. “It’s mine. ”
“Yours? Jace, no it isn’t—”
“Oh, but it is,” he said, his voice as fragile as a sliver of ice. “Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. ”
“What does that mean?”
“‘My fault,’” he said. “‘My own fault, my most grievous fault. ’ It’s Latin. ” He brushed a lock of her hair back from her forehead absently, as if unaware he was doing it. “Part of the Mass. ”
“I thought you didn’t believe in religion. ”
“I may not believe in sin,” he said, “but I do feel guilt. We Shadowhunters live by a code, and that code isn’t flexible. Honor, fault, penance, those are real to us, and they have nothing to do with religion and everything to do with who we are. This is who I am, Clary,” he said desperately. “I am one of the Clave. It’s in my blood and bones. So tell me, if you’re so sure this wasn’t my fault, why is it that the first thought in my mind when I saw Abbadon wasn’t for my fellow warriors but for you?” His other hand came up; he was holding her face, prisoned between his palms. “I know—I knew—Alec wasn’t acting like himself. I knew something was wrong. But all I could think about was you …”
He bent his head forward, so their foreheads touched. She could feel his breath stir her eyelashes. She closed her eyes, letting the nearness of him wash over her like a tide. “If he dies, it will be like I killed him,” he said. “I let my father die, and now I’ve killed the only brother I ever had. ”
“That’s not true,” she whispered.
“Yes, it is. ” They were close enough to kiss. And still he held her tightly, as if nothing could reassure him that she was real. “Clary,” he said. “What’s happening to me?”
She searched her mind for an answer—and heard someone clear his throat. She opened her eyes. Hodge stood by the infirmary door, his neat suit stained with patches of rust. “I have done what I can. He is sedated, not in pain, but …” He shook his head. “I must contact the Silent Brothers. This is beyond my abilities. ”
Jace drew slowly away from Clary. “How long will it take them to get here?”
“I don’t know. ” Hodge started down the corridor, shaking his head. “I’ll send Hugo immediately, but the Brothers come at their own discretion. ”
“But for this—” Even Jace was scrambling to keep up with Hodge’s long strides; Clary had fallen hopelessly behind the two of them and had to strain her ears to hear what he was saying. “He might die otherwise. ”
“He might,” was all Hodge said in response.
The library was dark and smelled like rain: One of the windows had been left open, and a puddle of water had collected under the curtains. Hugo chirruped and bounced on his perch as Hodge strode over to him, pausing only to light the lamp on his desk. “It is a pity,” Hodge said, reaching for paper and a fountain pen, “that you did not retrieve the Cup. It would, I think, bring some comfort to Alec and certainly to his—”
“But I did retrieve the Cup,” said Clary, amazed. “Didn’t you tell him, Jace?”
Jace was blinking, though whether it was because of surprise or the sudden light, Clary couldn’t tell. “There wasn’t time—I was bringing Alec upstairs …”
Hodge had gone very still, the pen motionless between his fingers. “You have the Cup?”
“Yes. ” Clary drew the Cup out of her pocket: It was still cold, as if contact with her body could not warm the metal. The rubies winked like red eyes. “I have it here. ”
The pen slipped from Hodge’s hand entirely and struck the floor at his feet. The lamplight, thrown upward, was not kind to his ravaged face: It showed every etched line of harshness and worry and despair. “That is the Angel’s Cup?”
“The one,” said Jace. “It was—”
“Never mind that now,” said Hodge. He set the paper down on the desk and moved toward Jace, catching his student by the shoulders. “Jace Wayland, do you know what you’ve done?”
Jace looked up at Hodge, surprised. Clary noted the contrast: the ravaged face of the older man and the boy’s unlined one, the pale locks of hair falling into Jace’s eyes making him look even younger. “I’m not sure what you mean,” Jace said.
Hodge’s breath hissed out through his teeth. “You look so much like him. ”
“Like who?” said Jace in astonishment; he had clearly never heard Hodge talk this way before.
“Like your father,” Hodge said, and raised his eyes to where Hugo, black wings stirring the humid air, hovered just overhead.
Hodge narrowed his eyes. “Hugin,” he said, and with an unearthly caw the bird dived straight for Clary’s face, claws outstretched.
Clary heard Jace shout, and then the world was whirling feathers and slashing beak and claws. Bright pain bloomed along her cheek and she shrieked, instinctively throwing her hands up to cover her face.
She felt the Mortal Cup yanked from her grasp. “No!” she cried, grabbing for it. An agonizing pain shot up her arm. Her legs seemed to go out from under her. She slipped and fell, striking her knees painfully against the hard floor. Claws raked her forehead.
“That’s enough, Hugo,” said Hodge in his quiet voice.
Obediently the bird spun away from Clary. Gagging, she blinked blood out of her eyes. Her face felt shredded.
Hodge had not moved; he stood where he was, holding the Mortal Cup. Hugo was circling him in wide, agitated rounds, cawing softly. And Jace—Jace lay on the floor at Hodge’s feet, very still, as if he had fallen suddenly asleep.
All other thoughts were driven from her mind. “Jace!” Speaking hurt—the pain in her cheek was startling and she could taste blood in her mouth. Jace didn’t move.
“He’s not hurt,” said Hodge. Clary started to her feet, meaning to fling herself at him—then reeled back as she struck something invisible but as hard and strong as glass. Infuriated, she struck against the air with her fist.
“Hodge!” she shouted. She kicked out, nearly bruising her feet on the same invisible wall. “Don’t be stupid. When the Clave finds out what you’ve done—”
“I’ll be long gone by then,” he said, kneeling over Jace.
“But—” A shock ran through her, a jolt of electric realization. “You never sent a message to the Clave, did you? That’s why you were so weird when I asked you about it. You wanted the Cup for yourself. ”
“Not,” said Hodge, “for myself. ”
Clary’s throat was dry as dust. “You work for Valentine,” she whispered.
“I do not work for Valentine,” said Hodge. He lifted Jace’s hand and drew something from it. It was the engraved ring Jace always wore. Hodge slipped it onto his own finger. “But I am Valentine’s man, it is true. ”
With a swift movement he twisted the ring three times around his finger. For a moment nothing happened; then Clary heard the sound of a door opening and turned instinctively to see who was coming into the library. When she turned back, she saw that the air beside Hodge was shimmering, like the surface of a lake seen from a distance. The shimmering wall of air parted like a silver curtain, and then a tall man was standing next to Hodge, as if he had coalesced out of the humid air.
“Starkweather,” he said. “You have the Cup?”
Hodge raised the Cup in his hands, but said nothing. He appeared paralyzed, whether with fear or astonishment, it was impossible to tell. He had always seemed tall to Clary, but now he looked hunched and small. “My Lord Valentine,” he said, finally. “I had not expected you so quickly. ”
Valentine. He bore little resemblance to the handsome boy in the photograph, though his eyes were still black. His face was not what she had expected: It was a restrained, closed, interior face, the face of a priest, with sorrowful eyes. Creeping out beneath the black cuffs of his tailored suit were the ridged white scars that spoke of years of the stele. “I told you I would come to you through a Portal,” he said. His voice was resonant, and strangely familiar. “Didn’t you believe me?”
“Yes. It’s just—I thought you’d send Pangborn or Blackwell, not come yourself. ”
“You think I would send them to collect the Cup? I am not a fool. I know its lure. ” Valentine held out his hand, and Clary saw, gleaming on his finger, a ring that was the twin of Jace’s. “Give it to me. ”
But Hodge held the Cup fast. “I want what you promised me first. ”
“First? You don’t trust me, Starkweather?” Valentine smiled, a smile not without humor in it. “I’ll do as you asked. A bargain is a bargain. Though I must say I was astonished to get your message. I wouldn’t have thought you’d mind a life of hidden contemplation, so to speak. You never were much for the battlefield. ”
“You don’t know what it’s like,” Hodge said, letting out his breath with a hissing gasp. “Being afraid all the time—”
“That’s true. I don’t. ” Valentine’s voice was as sorrowful as his eyes, as if he pitied Hodge. But there was dislike in his eyes too, a trace of scorn. “If you did not intend to give the Cup to me,” he said, “you should not have summoned me here. ”
Hodge’s face worked. “It is not easy to betray what you believe in—those who trust you. ”
“Do you mean the Lightwoods, or their children?”
“Both,” said Hodge.
“Ah, the Lightwoods. ” Valentine reached out, and with a hand caressed the brass globe that stood on the desk, his long fingers tracing the outlines of continents and seas. “But what do you owe them, really? Yours is the punishment that should have been theirs. If they had not had such high connections in the Clave, they would have been cursed along with you. As it is, they are free to come and go, to walk in the sunlight like ordinary men. They are free to go home. ” His voice as he said “home” thrilled with all the meaning of the word. His finger had stopped moving over the globe; Clary was sure he was touching the place where Idris would be.
Hodge’s eyes darted away. “They did what anyone would do. ”
“You would not have done it. I would not have done it. To let a friend suffer in my place? And surely it must engender some bitterness in you, Starkweather, to know that they so easily left this fate to you …”
Hodge’s shoulders shook. “But it is not the children’s fault. They have done nothing—”
“I never knew you to be so fond of children, Starkweather,” Valentine said, as if the idea entertained him.
The breath rattled in Hodge’s chest. “Jace—”
“You will not speak of Jace. ” For the first time Valentine sounded angry. He glanced at the still figure on the floor. “He is bleeding,” he observed. “Why?”
Hodge held the Cup against his heart. His knuckles were white. “It’s not his blood. He’s unconscious, but not injured. ”
Valentine raised his head with a pleasant smile. “I wonder,” he said, “what he will think of you when he wakes. Betrayal is never pretty, but to betray a child—that’s a double betrayal, don’t you think?”
“You won’t hurt him,” whispered Hodge. “You swore you wouldn’t hurt him. ”
“I never did that,” said Valentine. “Come, now. ” He moved away from the desk, toward Hodge, who flinched away like a small, trapped animal. Clary could see his misery. “And what would you do if I said I did plan to hurt him? Would you fight me? Keep the Cup from me? Even if you could kill me, the Clave will never lift your curse. You’ll hide here till you die, terrified to do so much as open a window too widely. What wouldn’t you trade away, not to be afraid any longer? What wouldn’t you give up, to go home again?”
Clary tore her eyes away. She could no longer bear the look on Hodge’s face. In a choked voice he said, “Tell me you won’t hurt him, and I’ll give it to you. ”
“No,” said Valentine, even more softly. “You’ll give it to me anyway. ” And he reached out his hand.
Hodge closed his eyes. For a moment his face was the face of one of the marble angels beneath the desk, pained and grave and crushed beneath a terrible weight. Then he swore, pathetically, under his breath, and held the Mortal Cup out for Valentine to take, though his hand shook like a leaf in a high wind.
“Thank you,” said Valentine. He took the Cup, and eyed it thoughtfully. “I do believe you’ve dented the rim. ”
Hodge said nothing. His face was gray. Valentine bent down and gathered up Jace; as he lifted him up lightly, Clary saw the impeccably cut jacket tighten over his arms and back, and she realized that he was a deceptively massive man, with a torso like the trunk of an oak tree. Jace, limp in his arms, looked like a child by comparison.
“He’ll be with his father soon,” said Valentine, looking down at Jace’s white face. “Where he belongs. ”
Hodge flinched. Valentine turned away from him and walked back toward the shimmering curtain of air that he had come through. He must have left the Portal door open behind him, Clary realized. Looking at it was like looking at sunlight bouncing off the surface of a mirror.
Hodge reached out an imploring hand. “Wait!” he cried. “What of your promise to me? You swore to end my curse. ”
“That is true,” said Valentine. He paused, and looked hard at Hodge, who gasped and stepped back, his hand flying to his chest as if something had struck him in the heart. Black fluid seeped out around his splayed fingers and trickled to the floor. Hodge lifted his scarred face to Valentine. “Is it done?” he asked wildly. “The curse—it is lifted?”
“Yes,” said Valentine. “And may your bought freedom bring you joy. ” And with that he stepped through the curtain of glowing air. For a moment he himself seemed to shimmer, as if he stood underwater. Then he vanished, taking Jace with him.