III. THE DESCENT BECKONS
The descent beckons
as the ascent beckoned.
—William Carlos Williams, The Descent
Chapter 21: THE WEREWOLF’S TALE
THE TRUTH IS, I’VE KNOWN YOUR MOTHER SINCE WE WERE children. We grew up in Idris. It’s a beautiful place, and I’ve always regretted that you’ve never seen it: You would love the glossy pines in winter, the dark earth and cold crystal rivers. There’s a small network of towns and a single city, Alicante, where the Clave meets. They call it the Glass City because its towers are shaped from the same demon-repelling substance as our steles; in the sunlight they sparkle like glass.
When Jocelyn and I were old enough, we were sent to Alicante to school. It was there that I met Valentine.
He was older than I was by a year. By far the most popular boy in school. He was handsome, clever, rich, dedicated, an incredible warrior. I was nothing—neither rich nor brilliant, from an unremarkable country family. And I struggled in my studies. Jocelyn was a natural Shadowhunter; I was not. I could not bear the lightest Marks or learn the simplest techniques. I thought sometimes about running away, returning home in shame. Even becoming a mundane. I was that miserable.
It was Valentine who saved me. He came to my room—I’d never even thought he knew my name. He offered to train me. He said he knew that I was struggling, but he saw in me the seeds of a great Shadowhunter. And under his tutelage I did improve. I passed my exams, bore my first Marks, killed my first demon.
I worshipped him. I thought the sun rose and set on Valentine Morgenstern. I wasn’t the only misfit he’d rescued, of course. There were others. Hodge Starkweather, who got along better with books than he did with people; Maryse Trueblood, whose brother had married a mundane; Robert Lightwood, who was terrified of the Marks—Valentine brought them all under his wing. I thought it was kindness, then; now I am not so sure. Now I think he was building himself a cult.
Valentine was obsessed with the idea that in every generation there were fewer and fewer Shadowhunters—that we were a dying breed. He was sure that if only the Clave would more freely use Raziel’s Cup, more Shadowhunters could be made. To the teachers this idea was sacrilege—it is not for just anyone to choose who can and cannot become a Shadowhunter. Flippantly, Valentine would ask: Why not make all men Shadowhunters, then? Why not gift them all with the ability to see the Shadow World? Why keep that power selfishly to ourselves?
When the teachers answered that most humans cannot survive the transition, Valentine claimed they were lying, trying to keep the power of the Nephilim limited to an elite few. That was his claim, at the time—now I think he probably felt the collateral damage was worth the end result. In any case, he convinced our little group of his rightness. We formed the Circle, with our stated intent being to save the race of Shadowhunters from extinction. Of course, being seventeen, we weren’t quite sure how we would do it, but we were sure we’d eventually accomplish something significant.
Then came the night that Valentine’s father was killed in a routine raid on a werewolf encampment. When Valentine returned to school, after the funeral, he wore the red Marks of mourning. He was different in other ways. His kindness was now interspersed with flashes of rage that bordered on cruelty. I put this new behavior down to grief and tried harder than ever to please him. I never answered his anger with anger of my own. I felt only the sick sense that I had disappointed him.
The only one that could calm his rages was your mother. She had always stood a little apart from our group, sometimes mockingly calling us Valentine’s fan club. That changed when his father died. His pain awakened her sympathy. They fell in love.
I loved him too: He was my closest friend, and I was happy to see Jocelyn with him. When we left school, they married and went to live on her family’s estate. I also returned home, but the Circle continued. It had started as a sort of school adventure, but it grew in scale and power, and Valentine grew with it. Its ideals had changed as well. The Circle still clamored for the Mortal Cup, but since the death of his father, Valentine had become an outspoken proponent of war against all Downworlders, not just those who broke the Accords. This world was for humans, he argued, not part demons. Demons could never be fully trusted.
I was uncomfortable with the Circle’s new direction, but I stuck with it—partly because I still couldn’t bear to let Valentine down, partly because Jocelyn had asked me to continue. She had some hope that I would be able to bring moderation to the Circle, but that was impossible. There was no moderating Valentine, and Robert and Maryse Lightwood—now married—were almost as bad. Only Michael Wayland was unsure, as I was, but despite our reluctance we followed still; as a group we hunted Downworlders tirelessly, seeking those who had committed even the slightest infraction. Valentine never killed a creature who had not broken the Accords, but he did other things. I saw him fasten silver coins to the eyelids of a werewolf child, blinding her, in an attempt to get the girl to tell him where her brother was …. I saw him—but you don’t need to hear this. No. I’m sorry.
What happened next was that Jocelyn became pregnant. The day she told me that, she also confessed that she had grown afraid of her husband. His behavior had turned weird, erratic. He would disappear into their cellars for nights at a time. Sometimes she would hear screams through the walls ….
I went to him. He laughed, dismissing her fears as the jitters of a woman carrying her first child. He invited me to hunt with him that night. We were still trying to clean out the nest of werewolves who had killed his father years before. We were parabatai, a perfect hunting team of two, warriors who would die for each other. So when Valentine told me he would guard my back that night, I believed him. I didn’t see the wolf until it was on me. I remember its teeth fastened in my shoulder, and nothing else of that night. When I awoke, I was lying in Valentine’s house, my shoulder bandaged, and Jocelyn was there.
Not all werewolf bites result in lycanthropy. I healed of the injury and passed the next weeks in a torment of waiting. Waiting for the full moon. The Clave would have locked me in an observation cell, had they known. But Valentine and Jocelyn kept silent. Three weeks later the moon rose full and bright, and I began to change. The first Change is always the hardest. I remember a bewilderment of agony, a blackness, and waking up hours later in a meadow miles from the city. I was covered in blood, the torn body of some small woodland animal at my feet.
I made my way back to the manor, and they met me at the door. Jocelyn fell on me, weeping, but Valentine pulled her away. I stood, bloody and shaking on my feet. I could scarcely think, and the taste of raw meat was still in my mouth. I don’t know what I had expected, but I suppose I should have known.
Valentine dragged me down the steps and into the woods with him. He told me that he ought to kill me himself, but, seeing me then, he could not bring himself to do it. He gave me a dagger that had once belonged to his father. He said I should do the honorable thing and end my own life. He kissed the dagger when he handed it to me, and went back inside the manor house, and barred the door.
I ran through the night, sometimes as a man, sometimes as a wolf, until I crossed the border. I burst into the midst of the werewolf encampment, brandishing my dagger, and demanded to meet in combat the lycanthrope who had bitten me and turned me into one of them. Laughing, they pointed me toward the clan leader. Hands and teeth still bloody from the hunt, he rose to face me.
I had never been much for single combat. The crossbow was my weapon; I had excellent sight and aim. But I had never been very good at close range; it was Valentine who was skilled in fighting hand to hand. But I wanted only to die, and to take with me the creature who had ruined me. I suppose I thought if I could avenge myself, and kill the wolves who had murdered his father, Valentine would mourn me. As we grappled, sometimes as men, sometimes as wolves, I saw that he was surprised by my fierceness. As the night faded into day, he began to tire, but my rage never abated. And as the sun began to set again, I sank my dagger into his neck and he died, soaking me with his blood.
I expected the pack to set on me and tear me apart. But they knelt at my feet and bared their throats in submission. The wolves have a law: Whoever kills the clan leader takes his place. I had come to the place of the wolves, and instead of finding death and vengeance there, I found a new life.
I left my old self behind and almost forgot what it was like to be a Shadowhunter. But I did not forget Jocelyn. The thought of her was a constant companion. I feared for her in the company of Valentine, but knew that if I came near the manor house, the Circle would hunt me down and kill me.
In the end she came to me. I was asleep in the camp when my second in command came to tell me that there was a young Shadowhunter woman waiting to see me. I knew immediately who it must be. I could see the disapproval in his eyes as I raced to meet her. They all knew I had once been a Shadowhunter, of course, but it was considered a shameful secret, never spoken of. Valentine would have laughed.
She was waiting for me just outside the encampment. She was no longer pregnant, and looked drawn and pale. She had had her child, she said, a boy, and had named him Jonathan Christopher. She cried when she saw me. She was angry that I had not let her know I was still alive. Valentine had told the Circle I had taken my own life, but she had not believed it. She knew that I would never do such a thing. I felt her faith in me was unwarranted, but I was so relieved to see her again that I didn’t contradict her.
I asked how she had found me. She said that there were rumors in Alicante of a werewolf who had once been a Shadowhunter. Valentine had heard the rumors too, and she had ridden to warn me. He came soon after, but I hid from him, as werewolves can, and he left without bloodshed.
After that I began to meet Jocelyn in secret. It was the year of the Accords, and all of Downworld was abuzz about them and Valentine’s probable plans for disrupting them. I heard that he had argued passionately in the Clave against the Accords, but with no success. So the Circle made a new plan, steeped in secrecy. They allied themselves with demons—the greatest enemies of Shadowhunters—in order to procure weapons that could be smuggled undetected into the Great Hall of the Angel, where the Accords would be signed. And with the aid of a demon, Valentine stole the Mortal Cup. He left in its place a facsimile. It was months before the Clave realized the Cup was missing, and by then it was too late.
Jocelyn tried to learn what Valentine intended to do with the Cup, but could not. But she knew that the Circle planned to fall upon the unarmed Downworlders and murder them in the Hall. After such wholesale slaughter, the Accords would fail.
Despite the chaos, in a strange way those were happy days. Jocelyn and I sent messages covertly to the faeries, the warlocks, and even to those age-old enemies of wolfkind, the vampires, warning them of Valentine’s plans and bidding them prepare for battle. We worked together, werewolf and Nephilim.
On the day of the Accords, I watched from a hidden place as Jocelyn and Valentine left the manor house. I remember how she bent to kiss the white-blond head of her son. I remember the way the sun shone on her hair; I remember her smile.
They rode into Alicante by carriage; I followed running on four feet, and my pack ran with me. The Great Hall of the Angel was crowded with all the assembled Clave and score upon score of Downworlders. When the Accords were presented for signing, Valentine rose to his feet, and the Circle rose with him, sweeping back their cloaks to lift their weapons. As the Hall exploded into chaos, Jocelyn ran to the great double doors of the Hall and flung them open.
My pack were the first at the door. We burst into the Hall, tearing the night with our howls, and were followed by faerie knights with weapons of glass and twisted thorns. After them came the Night Children with bared fangs, and warlocks wielding flame and iron. As the panicked masses fled the Hall, we fell upon the members of the Circle.
Never had the Hall of the Angel seen such bloodshed. We tried not to harm those Shadowhunters who were not of the Circle; Jocelyn marked them out, one by one, with a warlock’s spell. But many died, and I fear we were responsible for some. Certainly, afterward, we were blamed for many. As for the Circle, there were far more of them than we had imagined, and they clashed fiercely with the Downworlders. I fought through the crowd to Valentine. My only thought had been of him—that I might be the one to kill him, that I might have that honor. I found him at last by the great statue of the Angel, dispatching a faerie knight with a broad stroke of his bloodstained dagger. When he saw me, he smiled, fierce and feral. “A werewolf who fights with sword and dagger,” he said, “is as unnatural as a dog who eats with a fork and a knife. ”
“You know the sword; you know the dagger,” I said. “And you know who I am. If you must address me, use my name. ”
“I do not know the names of half men,” said Valentine. “Once I had a friend, a man of honor who would have died before he let his blood be polluted. Now a nameless monster with his face stands before me. ” He raised his blade. “I should have killed you while I had the chance,” he cried, and lunged for me.
I parried the blow, and we fought up and down the dais, while the battle raged around us and one by one the members of the Circle fell. I saw the Lightwoods drop their weapons and flee; Hodge was already gone, having fled at the outset. And then I saw Jocelyn racing up the stairs toward me, her face a mask of fear. “Valentine, stop!” she cried out. “This is Luke, your friend, almost your brother—”
With a snarl Valentine seized her and dragged her in front of him, his dagger to her throat. I dropped my blade. I would not risk his harming her. He saw what was in my eyes. “You always wanted her,” he hissed. “And now the two of you have plotted my betrayal together. You will regret what you have done, all the rest of your lives. ”
With that, he snatched the locket from Jocelyn’s throat and hurled it at me. The silver cord burned me like a lash. I screamed and fell back, and in that moment he vanished into the melee, dragging her with him. I followed, burned and bleeding, but he was too fast, cutting a path through the thick of the crowd and over the dead.
I staggered out into the moonlight. The Hall was burning and the sky was lit with fire. I could see all down the green lawns of the capital to the dark river, and the road along the riverbank where people were fleeing into the night. I found Jocelyn by the banks of the river, at last. Valentine was gone and she was terrified for Jonathan, desperate to get home. We found a horse, and she plunged away. Dropping into wolf form, I followed at her heels.
Wolves are fast, but a rested horse is faster. I fell far behind, and she arrived at the manor house before I did.
I knew even as I neared the house that something was terribly wrong. Here too the smell of fire hung heavy in the air, and there was something overlaying it, something thick and sweet—the stench of demonic witchcraft. I became a man again as I limped up the long drive, white in the moonlight, like a river of silver leading … to ruins. For the manor house had been reduced to ashes, layer upon layer of sifting whiteness, strewn across the lawns by the night wind. Only the foundations, like burned bones, were still visible: here a window, there a leaning chimney—but the substance of the house, the bricks and the mortar, the priceless books and ancient tapestries handed down through generations of Shadowhunters, was dust blowing across the face of the moon.
Valentine had destroyed the house with demon fire. He must have. No fire of this world burns so hot, nor leaves so little behind.
I made my way into the still-smoldering ruins. I found Jocelyn kneeling on what had perhaps once been the front doorsteps. They were blackened by fire. And there were bones. Charred to blackness, but recognizably human, with scraps of cloth here and there, and bits of jewelry the fire had not taken. Red and gold threads still clung to the bones of Jocelyn’s mother, and the heat had melted her father’s dagger to his skeletal hand. Among another pile of bones gleamed Valentine’s silver amulet, with the insignia of the Circle still burning white-hot upon its face … and among the remains, scattered as if they were too fragile to hold together, were the bones of a child.
You will regret what you have done, Valentine had said. And as I knelt with Jocelyn on the burned paving stones, I knew that he was right. I did regret it and have regretted it every day since.
We rode back through the city that night, among the still-burning fires and shrieking people, and then out into the darkness of the country. It was a week before Jocelyn spoke again. I took her out of Idris. We fled to Paris. We had no money, but she refused to go to the Institute there and ask for help. She was done with Shadowhunters, she told me, done with the Shadow World.
I sat in the tiny, cheap hotel room we had rented and tried to reason with her, but it did no good. She was obstinate. At last she told me why: She was carrying another child, and had known it for weeks. She would make a new life for herself and her baby, and she wanted no whisper of Clave or Covenant ever to taint her future. She showed me the amulet she had taken from the pile of bones; in the flea market at Clignancourt she sold it, and with that money purchased an airplane ticket. She wouldn’t tell me where she was going. The farther away she could get from Idris, she said, the better.
I knew that leaving her old life behind meant leaving me behind as well, and I argued with her, but to no avail. I knew that if not for the child she carried, she would have taken her own life, and since to lose her to the mundane world was better than to lose her to death, I at last reluctantly agreed to her plan. And so it was that I bid her good-bye at the airport. The last words Jocelyn spoke to me in that dreary departure hall chilled me to the bone: “Valentine is not dead. ”
After she was gone, I returned to my pack, but I found no peace there. Always there was a hollow aching inside me, and always I woke with her name unspoken on my lips. I was not the leader I had once been; I knew that much. I was just and fair, but remote; I could not find friends among the wolf-people, nor a mate. I was, in the end, too much human—too much Shadowhunter—to be at rest among the lycanthropes. I hunted, but the hunt brought no satisfaction; and when it came time for the Accords to be signed at last, I went into the city to sign them.
In the Hall of the Angel, scrubbed free of blood, the Shadowhunters and the four branches of half humans sat down again to sign the papers that would bring peace among us. I was astonished to see the Lightwoods, who seemed equally astonished that I wasn’t dead. They themselves, they said, along with Hodge Starkweather and Michael Wayland, were the only members of the former Circle to have escaped death that night in the Hall. Michael, racked with grief over the loss of his wife, had hidden himself away at his country estate with his young son. The Clave had punished the other three with exile: They were leaving for New York, to run the Institute there. The Lightwoods, who had connections to the highest families in the Clave, got off with a far lighter sentence than Hodge. A curse had been laid on him: He would go with them, but if ever he were to leave the hallowed ground of the Institute, he would be instantly slain. He was devoting himself to his studies, they said, and would make a fine tutor for their children.
When we had signed the Accords, I rose from my chair and went from the Hall, down to the river where I had found Jocelyn on the night of the Uprising. Watching the dark waters flow, I knew I could never find peace in my homeland: I had to be with her or nowhere at all. I determined to look for her.
I left my pack, naming another in my stead; I think they were relieved to see me go. I traveled as the wolf without a pack travels: alone, at night, keeping to the byways and country roads. I went back to Paris, but found no clue there. Then I went to London. From London I took a boat to Boston.
I stayed awhile in the cities, then in the White Mountains of the frozen north. I traveled a good deal, but more and more I found myself thinking of New York, and the exiled Shadowhunters there. Jocelyn, in a way, was an exile too. At length I arrived in New York with a single duffel bag and no idea where to look for your mother. It would have been easy enough for me to find a wolf pack and join it, but I resisted. As I had done in other cities, I sent out messages through Downworld, searching for any sign of Jocelyn, but there was nothing, no word at all, as if she had simply disappeared into the mundane world without a trace. I began to despair.
In the end I found her by chance. I was prowling the streets of SoHo, randomly. As I stood on the cobblestones of Broome Street, a painting hanging in a gallery window caught my eye.
It was the study of a landscape I recognized immediately: the view from the windows of her family’s manor house, the green lawns sweeping down to the line of trees that hid the road beyond. I recognized her style, her brushwork, everything. I banged on the door of the gallery, but it was closed and locked. I returned to the painting, and this time saw the signature. It was the first time I had seen her new name: Jocelyn Fray.
By that evening, I had found her, living in a fifth-floor walk-up in that artists’ haven, the East Village. I walked up the grimy half-lit stairs with my heart in my throat, and knocked on her door. It was opened by a little girl with dark red braids and inquisitive eyes. And then, behind her, I saw Jocelyn walking toward me, her hands stained with paint and her face just the same as it had been when we were children ….
The rest you know.