City of Fallen Angels – Chapter 17: AND CAIN ROSE UP

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Chapter 17: AND CAIN ROSE UP

Clary had never been so cold.

Even when she had crawled out of Lake Lyn, coughing and sputtering its poisonous water onto the shore, she hadnt been this cold. Even when she had thought Jace was dead, she hadnt felt this terrible icy paralysis in her heart. Then she had burned with rage, rage against her father. Now she just felt ice, all the way down to her toes.

She had come back to consciousness in the marble lobby of a strange building, under the shadow of an unlit chandelier. Jace had been carrying her, one arm under her bent knees, the other supporting her head. Still dizzy and groggy, shed buried her head against his neck for a moment, trying to remember where she was.

“What happened?” she had whispered.

They had reached the elevator. Jace pushed the button, and Clary heard the rattle that meant the machine was moving down toward them. But where were they?

“You were unconscious,” he said.

“But how-” She remembered then, and fell silent. His hands on her, the sting of her stele on her skin, the wave of darkness that had come over her. Something wrong with the rune he had drawn on her, the way it had looked and felt. She stayed motionless in his arms for a moment, and then said:

“Put me down. ”

He set her down on her feet, and they looked at each other. Only a small space separated them. She could have reached out and touched him, but for the first time since she had met him, she didnt want to. She had the terrible feeling that she was looking at a stranger. He looked like Jace, and sounded like Jace when he spoke, and had felt like Jace when she was holding him. But his eyes were strange and distant, as was the tiny smile playing about his mouth.

The elevator doors opened behind him. She remembered standing in the nave of the Institute, saying “I love you” to a closed elevator door. The gap yawned behind him now, as black as the mouth of a cave. She felt for the stele in her pocket; it was gone.

“You knocked me out,” she said. “With a rune. You brought me here. Why?”

His beautiful face was entirely, carefully blank. “I had to do it. I didnt have a choice. ”

She turned and ran then, going for the door, but he was faster than she was. He always had been. He swung in front of her, blocking her path, and held out his hands. “Clary, dont run,” he said. “Please. For me. ”

She looked at him incredulously. His voice was the same-he sounded just like Jace, but not like him-like a recording of him, she thought, all the tones and patterns of his voice there, but the life that animated it gone. How had she not realized it before? She had thought he sounded remote because of stress and pain, but no. It was that he was gone. Her stomach turned over, and she bolted for the door again, only to have him catch her around the waist and swing her back toward him. She pushed at him, her fingers locking into the fabric of his shirt, ripping it sideways.

She froze, staring. On the skin of his chest, just over his heart, was a rune.

It wasnt one she had ever seen before. It wasnt black, like Shadowhunter runes were, but dark red, the color of blood. And it lacked the delicate grace of the runes from the Gray Book. It was scrawling, ugly, its lines sharp and cruel rather than curving and generous.

Jace didnt seem to see it. He stared down at himself as if wondering what she was gazing at, then looked at her, puzzled. “Its all right. You didnt hurt me. ”

“That rune-,” she began, but cut herself off, hard. Maybe he didnt know it was there. “Let me go, Jace,” she said instead, backing away from him. “You dont have to do this. ”

“Youre wrong about that,” he said, and reached for her again.

This time she didnt fight. What would happen even if she escaped? She couldnt just leave him here. Jace was still there, she thought, trapped somewhere behind those blank eyes, maybe screaming for her. She had to stay with him. Had to know what was happening. She let him pick her up and carry her into the elevator.

“The Silent Brothers will notice you left,” she said, as the buttons for floor after floor lit up while the elevator rose. “Theyll alert the Clave. Theyll come looking-”

“I need not fear the Brothers. I wasnt a prisoner; they werent expecting me to want to leave. They wont notice Im gone until they wake up tomorrow morning. ”

“What if they wake up earlier than that?”

“Oh,” he said, with a cold certainly, “they wont. Its much more likely the other partygoers at the Ironworks will notice youre missing. But what can they do about it? Theyll have no idea where you went, and Tracking to this building is blocked. ” He stroked her hair back from her face, and she went still. “Youre just going to have to trust me. No ones coming for you. ”

He didnt bring the knife out until they left the elevator, and then he said, “I would never hurt you. You know that, dont you?” even as he flicked her hair back with the tip of the blade and pressed the edge to her throat. The icy air hit her bare shoulders and arms as soon as they were out on the roof. Jaces hands were warm where he touched her, and she could feel the heat of him through her thin dress, but it didnt warm her, not inside. Inside she was filled with jagged slivers of ice.

She grew colder still when she saw Simon, looking at her with his huge dark eyes. His face looked scrubbed blank with shock, like a white piece of paper. He was looking at her, and Jace behind her, as if he were seeing something fundamentally wrong, a person with their face turned inside-out, a map of the world with all the land gone and nothing left but ocean.

She barely looked at the woman beside him, with her dark hair and her thin, cruel face. Clarys gaze had gone immediately to the transparent coffin on its pedestal of stone. It seemed to glow from within, as if lit by a milky inner light. The water that Jonathan was floating in was probably not water but some other, less natural liquid. Normal Clary, she thought dispassionately, would have screamed at the sight of her brother, floating still and dead-looking and totally unmoving in what looked like Snow Whites glass coffin. But frozen Clary just stared with a remote and distant shock.

Lips as red as blood, skin as white as snow, hair as black as ebony. Well, some of that was true. When she had met Sebastian, his hair had been black, but it was white-silver now, floating around his head like albino seaweed. The same color as his fathers hair. Their fathers hair. His skin was so pale it looked as if it could be made up of luminous crystals. But his lips were colorless too, as were the lids of his eyes.

“Thank you, Jace,” the woman that Jace had called Lady Lilith said. “Nicely done, and very prompt. I thought I was going to have difficulties with you at first, but it appears I worried for nothing. ”

Clary stared. Though the woman did not look familiar, her voice was familiar. She had heard that voice before. But where? She tried to pull away from Jace, but his grip on her only tightened. The edge of the knife kissed her throat. An accident, she told herself. Jace-even this Jace-would never hurt her.

“You,” she said to Lilith between her teeth. “What have you done to Jace?”

“Valentines daughter speaks. ” The dark-haired woman smiled. “Simon? Would you like to explain?”

Simon looked like he was going to throw up. “I have no idea. ” He sounded as if he were choking. “Believe me, you two were the last thing I expected to see. ”

“The Silent Brothers said that a demon was responsible for whats been happening with Jace,” Clary said, and saw Simon look more baffled than ever. The woman, though, just watched her with eyes like flat obsidian circles. “That demon was you, wasnt it? But why Jace? What do you want from us?”

“Us?” Lilith pealed with laughter. “As if you mattered in this, my girl. Why you? Because you are a means to an end. Because I needed both these boys, and both of them love you. Because Jace Herondale is the one person you trust more than anyone else in the world. And you are someone the Daylighter loves enough to give up his own life for. Perhaps you cannot be harmed,” she said, turning to Simon. “But she can be. Are you so stubborn that you will sit back and watch Jace cut her throat rather than give up your blood?”

Simon, looking like death itself, shook his head slowly, but before he could speak, Clary said, “Simon, no! Dont do it, whatever it is. Jace wouldnt hurt me. ”

The womans fathomless eyes turned to Jace. She smiled. “Cut her,” she said. “Just a little. ”

Clary felt Jaces shoulders tense, the way they had in the park when hed been showing her how to fight. She felt something at her throat, like a stinging kiss, cold and hot at once, and felt a warm trickle of liquid spill down onto her collarbone. Simons eyes widened.

He had cut her. He had actually done it. She thought of Jace crouched on the floor of the bedroom at the Institute, his pain clear in every line of his body. I dream that you come into my room. And then I hurt you. I cut you or strangle or stab you, and you die, looking up at me with those green eyes of yours while your life bleeds away between my hands.

She had not believed him. Not really. He was Jace. He would never hurt her. She looked down and saw the blood staining the neckline of her dress. It looked like red paint.

“You see now,” said the woman. “He does what I tell him. Dont blame him for it. He is completely within my power. For weeks I have crept through his head, seeing his dreams, learning his fears and wants, his guilts and desires. In a dream he accepted my Mark, and that Mark has been burning through him ever since-through his skin, down into his soul. Now his soul is in my hands, to shape or direct as I see fit. He will do whatever I say. ”

Clary remembered what the Silent Brothers had said. When a Shadowhunter is born, a ritual is performed, a number of protective spells placed upon the child by both the Silent Brothers and the Iron Sisters. When Jace died and then was raised, he was born a second time, with those protections and rituals stripped away. It would have left him as open as an unlocked door-open to any kind of demonic influence or malevolence.

I did this, Clary thought. I brought him back, and I wanted it kept secret. If we had only told someone what had happened, maybe the ritual could have been done in time to keep Lilith out of his head. She felt sick with self-loathing. Behind her Jace was silent, as still as a statue, his arms around her and the knife still at her throat. She could feel it against her skin when she took a breath to speak, keeping her voice even with an effort. “I understand that you control Jace,” she said. “I dont understand why. Surely there are other, easier ways to threaten me. ”

Lilith sighed as if the whole business had grown tedious. “I need you,” she said, with exaggerated patience, “to get Simon to do what I want, which is give me his blood. And I need Jace not just because I needed a way to get you here, but as a counterweight. All things in magic must balance, Clarissa. ” She pointed at the rough black circle drawn on the tiles, and then at Jace. “He was the first. The first to be brought back, the first soul restored to this world in the name of Light. Therefore he must be present for me to successfully restore the second, in the name of the Dark. Do you understand now, silly girl? We are all needed here. Simon to die. Jace to live. Jonathan to return. And you, Valentines daughter, to be the catalyst for it all. ”

The demon womans voice had dropped to a low chant. With a shock of surprise Clary realized that she now knew where she had heard it before. She saw her father, standing inside a pentagram, a black-haired woman with tentacles for eyes kneeling at his feet. The woman said, The child born with this blood in him will exceed in power the Greater Demons of the abysses between the worlds. But it will burn out his humanity, as poison burns the life from the blood.

“I know,” Clary said through stiff lips. “I know who you are. I saw you cut your wrist and drip blood into a cup for my father. The angel Ithuriel showed it to me in a vision. ”

Simons eyes darted back and forth between Clary and the woman, whose dark eyes held a hint of surprise. Clary guessed she didnt surprise easily. “I saw my father summon you. I know what he called you. My Lady of Edom. Youre a Greater Demon. You gave your blood to make my brother what he is. You turned him into a-a horrible thing. If it werent for you-”

“Yes. All that is true. I gave my blood to Valentine Morgenstern, and he put it in his baby boy, and this is the result. ” The woman placed her hand gently, almost as a caress, against the glass surface of Sebastians coffin. There was the oddest smile on her face. “You might almost say that, in a way, I am Jonathans mother. ”

“I told you that address didnt mean anything,” Alec said.

Isabelle ignored him. The moment they had stepped through the doors of the building, the ruby pendant around her neck had pulsed, faintly, like the beat of a distant heart. That meant demonic presence. Under other circumstances she would have expected her brother to sense the weirdness of the place just like she did, but he was clearly too sunk in gloom about Magnus to concentrate.

“Get your witchlight,” she said to him. “I left mine at home. ”

He shot her an irritated look. It was dark in the lobby, dark enough that a normal human wouldnt have been able to see. Maia and Jordan both had the excellent night vision of werewolves. They were standing at opposite ends of the room, Jordan examining the big marble lobby desk, and Maia leaning against the far wall, apparently examining her rings. “Youre supposed to bring it with you everywhere,” Alec replied.

“Oh? Did you bring your Sensor?” she snapped. “I didnt think so. At least I have this. ” She tapped the pendant. “I can tell you that theres something here. Something demonic. ”

Jordans head snapped around. “There are demons here?”

“I dont know-maybe only one. It pulsed and faded,” Isabelle admitted. “But its too big a coincidence for this just to have been the wrong address. We have to check it out. ”

A dim light rose up all around her. She looked over and saw Alec holding up his witchlight, its blaze contained by his fingers. It threw strange shadows across his face, making him look older than he was, his eyes a darker blue. “So lets get going,” he said. “Well take it one floor at a time. ”

They moved toward the elevator, Alec first, then Isabelle, Jordan and Maia dropping into line behind them. Isabelles boots had Soundless runes carved into the soles, but Maias heels clicked on the marble floor as she walked. Frowning, she paused to discard them, and went barefoot the rest of the way. As Maia stepped into the elevator, Isabelle noticed that she wore a gold ring around her left big toe, set with a turquoise stone.

Jordan, glancing down at her feet, said in a surprised tone, “I remember that ring. I bought that for you at-”

“Shut up,” Maia said, hitting the door close button. The doors slid shut as Jordan lapsed into silence.

They paused at every floor. Most were still under construction-there were no lights, and wires hung down from the ceilings like vines. Windows had plywood nailed over them. Drop cloths blew in the faint wind like ghosts. Isabelle kept a firm hand on her pendant, but nothing happened until they reached the tenth floor. As the doors opened, she felt a flutter against the inside of her cupped palm, as if she had been holding a tiny bird there and it had beaten its wings.

She spoke in a whisper. “Theres something here. ”

Alec just nodded; Jordan opened his mouth to say something, but Maia elbowed him, hard. Isabelle slipped past her brother, into the hall outside the elevators. The ruby was pulsing and vibrating against her hand now like a distressed insect.

Behind her, Alec whispered, “Sandalphon. ” Light blazed up around Isabelle, illuminating the hall. Unlike some of the other floors they had seen, this one seemed at least partly finished. Bare granite walls rose around her, and the floor was smooth black tile. A corridor led in two directions. One ended in a heap of construction equipment and tangled wires. The other ended in an archway. Beyond the archway, black space beckoned.

Isabelle turned to look back at her companions. Alec had put away his witchlight stone and was holding a blazing seraph blade, lighting the interior of the elevator like a lantern. Jordan had produced a large, brutal-looking knife and was gripping it in his right hand. Maia seemed to be in the process of putting her hair up; when she lowered her hands, she was holding a long, razor-tipped pin. Her nails had grown, too, and her eyes held a feral, greenish gleam.

“Follow me,” Isabelle said. “Quietly. ”

Tap, tap went the ruby against Isabelles throat as she went down the hall, like the prodding of an insistent finger. She didnt hear the rest of them behind her, but she knew they were there from the long shadows cast against the dark granite walls. Her throat was tight, her nerves singing, the way they always did before she walked into battle. This was the part she liked least, the anticipation before the release of violence. During a fight nothing mattered but the fight itself; now she had to struggle to keep her mind on the task at hand.

The archway loomed above them. It was carved marble, oddly old-fashioned for such a modern building, its sides decorated with scrollwork. Isabelle glanced up briefly as she passed through, and almost started. The face of a grinning gargoyle was carved into the stone, leering down at her. She made a face at it and turned to look at the room she had entered.

It was vast, high-ceilinged, clearly meant to someday be a full loft apartment. The walls were floor-to-ceiling windows, giving out onto a view of the East River with Queens in the distance, the Coca-Cola sign flashing blood-red and navy blue down onto the black water. The lights of surrounding buildings hovered glittering in the night air like tinsel on a Christmas tree. The room itself was dark, and full of odd, humped shadows, spaced at regular intervals, low to the ground. Isabelle squinted, puzzled. They werent animate; they appeared to be chunks of square, blocky furniture, but what-?

“Alec,” she said softly. Her pendant was writhing as if alive, its ruby heart painfully hot against her skin.

In a moment her brother was beside her. He raised his blade, and the room was full of light. Isabelles hand flew to her mouth. “Oh, dear God,” she whispered. “Oh, by the Angel, no. ”

“Youre not his mother. ” Simons voice cracked as he said it; Lilith didnt even turn to look at him. She still had her hands on the glass coffin. Sebastian floated inside it, silent and unaware. His feet were bare, Simon noticed. “He has a mother. Clarys mother. Clarys his sister. Sebastian-Jonathan-wont be too pleased if you hurt her. ”

Lilith looked up at that, and laughed. “A brave attempt, Daylighter,” she said. “But I know better. I saw my son grow up, you know. Often I visited him in the form of an owl. I saw how the woman who had given birth to him hated him. He has no love lost for her, nor should he, nor does he care for his sister. He is more like me than he is like Jocelyn Morgenstern. ” Her dark eyes moved from Simon to Jace and Clary. They had not moved, not really. Clary still stood in the circle of Jaces arms, with the knife near her throat. He held it easily, carelessly, as if he were barely paying attention. But Simon knew how quickly Jaces seeming uninterest could explode into violent action.

“Jace,” said Lilith. “Step into the circle. Bring the girl with you. ”

Obediently Jace moved forward, pushing Clary ahead of him. As they crossed the barrier of the black-painted line, the runes inside the line flashed a sudden, brilliant red-and something else lit as well. A rune on the left side of Jaces chest, just above his heart, glowed suddenly, with such brightness that Simon closed his eyes. Even with his eyes closed, he could still see the rune, a vicious swirl of angry lines, printed against the inside of his eyelids.

“Open your eyes, Daylighter,” Lilith snapped. “The time has come. Will you give me your blood, or will you refuse? You know the price if you do. ”

Simon looked down at Sebastian in his coffin-and did a double take. A rune that was the twin of the one that had just flashed on Jaces chest was visible on his bare chest as well, just beginning to fade as Simon stared down at him. In a moment it was gone, and Sebastian was still and white again. Unmoving. Unbreathing.

Dead.

“I cant bring him back for you,” Simon said. “Hes dead. Id give you my blood, but he cant swallow it. ”

Her breath hissed through her teeth in exasperation, and for a moment her eyes glowed with a harsh acidic light. “First you must bite him,” she said. “You are a Daylighter. Angel blood runs through your body, through your blood and tears, through the fluid in your fangs. Your Daylighter blood will revive him enough that he can swallow and drink. Bite him and give him your blood, and bring him back to me. ”

Simon stared at her wildly. “But what youre saying-youre saying I have the power to bring back the dead?”

“Since youve been a Daylighter youve had that power,” she said. “But not the right to use it. ”

“The right?”

She smiled, tracing the tip of one long red-painted nail across the top of Sebastians coffin. “History is written by the winners, they say,” she said. “There might not be so much of a difference between the side of Light and the side of Dark as you suppose. After all, without the Dark, there is nothing for the Light to burn away. ”

Simon looked at her blankly.

“Balance,” she clarified. “There are laws older than any you can imagine. And one of them is that you cannot bring back what is dead. When the soul has left the body, it belongs to death. And it cannot be taken back without a price to pay. ”

“And youre willing to pay it? For him?” Simon gestured toward Sebastian.

“He is the price. ” She threw her head back and laughed. It sounded almost like human laughter. “If the Light brings back a soul, then the Dark has the right to bring one back as well. This is my right. Or perhaps you should ask your little friend Clary what Im talking about. ”

Simon looked at Clary. She looked as if she might pass out. “Raziel,” she said faintly. “When Jace died-”

“Jace died?” Simons voice went up an octave. Jace, despite being the subject under discussion, remained serene and expressionless, his knife hand steady.

“Valentine stabbed him,” Clary said in an almost-whisper. “And then the Angel killed Valentine, and he said I could have anything I wanted. And I said I wanted Jace back, I wanted him back, and he brought him back-for me. ” Her eyes were huge in her small white face. “He was dead for only a few minutes . . . hardly any time at all. . . ”

“It was enough,” breathed Lilith. “I was hovering near my son during his battle with Jace; I saw him fall and die. I followed Jace to the lake, I watched as Valentine slew him, and then as the Angel raised him again. I knew that was my chance. I raced back to the river and took my sons body from it. . . I kept it preserved for just this moment. ” She looked fondly down at the coffin. “Everything in balance. An eye for an eye. A tooth for a tooth. A life for a life. Jace is the counterweight. If Jace lives, then so shall Jonathan. ”

Simon couldnt tear his eyes away from Clary. “What shes saying-about the Angel-its true?” he said. “And you never told anyone?”

To his surprise it was Jace who answered. Brushing his cheek against Clarys hair, he said, “It was our secret. ”

Clarys green eyes flashed, but she didnt move.

“So you see, Daylighter,” said Lilith, “I am only taking what is mine by right. The Law says that the one who was first brought back must be here in the circle when the second is returned. ” She indicated Jace with a contemptuous flick of her finger. “He is here. You are here. All is in readiness. ”

“Then you dont need Clary,” said Simon. “Leave her out of it. Let her go. ”

“Of course I need her. I need her to motivate you. I cannot hurt you, Mark-bearer, or threaten you, or kill you. But I can cut out your heart when I cut out her life. And I will. ”

She looked toward Clary, and Simons gaze followed hers.

Clary. She was so pale that she looked almost blue, though perhaps that was the cold. Her green eyes were vast in her pale face. A trickle of drying blood spilled from her collarbone to the neckline of her dress, now spotted with red. Her hands hung at her sides, loose, but they were shaking.

Simon saw her as she was, but also as she had been when she was seven years old, skinny arms and freckles and those blue plastic barrettes shed worn in her hair until she was eleven. He thought of the first time hed noticed she had a real girls shape under the baggy T-shirt and jeans she always wore, and how he hadnt been sure if he should look or look away. He thought of her laugh and her quick pencil moving across a page, leaving intricately designed images behind: spired castles, running horses, brightly colored characters shed made up in her head. You can walk to school by yourself, her mother had said, but only if Simon goes with you. He thought of her hand in his when they crossed the street, and his own sense of the awesome task that he had undertaken: the responsibility for her safety.

He had been in love with her once, and maybe some part of him always would be, because she had been his first. But that wasnt what mattered now. She was Clary; she was part of him; she always had been and would be forever. As he stared at her, she shook her head, very slightly. He knew what she was saying. Dont do it. Dont give her what she wants. Let whatever happens to me happen.

He stepped into the circle; as his feet passed over the painted line, he felt a shiver, like an electric shock, go through him. “All right,” he said. “Ill do it. ”

“No!” Clary cried, but Simon didnt look at her. He was watching Lilith, who smiled a cool, gloating smile as she raised her left hand and passed it across the surface of the coffin.

The lid of it vanished, peeling back in a way that reminded Simon bizarrely of peeling back the lid of a tin of sardines. As the top layer of glass pulled away, it melted and ran, dripping down the sides of the granite pedestal, crystallizing into tiny shards of glass as the drops struck the ground.

The coffin was open now, like a fish tank; Sebastians body drifted inside, and Simon thought he could once again see the flash of the rune on his chest as Lilith reached into the tank. As Simon watched, she took Sebastians dangling arms and crossed them over his chest with an oddly tender gesture, tucking the bandaged one under the one that was whole. She brushed a lock of his wet hair away from his still, white forehead, and stepped back, shaking milky water from her hands.

“To your work, Daylighter,” she said.

Simon moved toward the coffin. Sebastians face was slack, his eyelids still. No pulse beat in his throat. Simon remembered how much he had wanted to drink Maureens blood. How he had craved the feeling of his teeth sinking into her skin and freeing the salty blood beneath. But this-this was feeding off a corpse. The very thought made his stomach turn.

Though he wasnt looking at her, he was aware of Clary watching him. He could feel her breath as he bent over Sebastian. He could sense Jace, too, watching him out of blank eyes. Reaching into the coffin, he closed his hands around Sebastians cold, slippery shoulders. Biting back the urge to be sick, he bent and sank his teeth into Sebastians throat. Black demon blood poured into his mouth, as bitter as poison.

***

Isabelle moved silently among the stone pedestals. Alec was with her, Sandalphon in his hand, sending light winging through the room. Maia was in one corner of the room, bent over and retching, her hand braced against the wall; Jordan hovered over her, looking as if he wanted to reach out and stroke her back, but was afraid of being rebuffed.

Isabelle didnt blame Maia for throwing up. If she hadnt had years of training, she would have thrown up herself. She had never seen anything like what she was looking at now. There were dozens, maybe fifty, of the stone pedestals in the room. Atop each one was a low crib-like basket. Inside each basket was a baby. And every one of the babies was dead.

She had held out hope at first, as she walked up and down the rows, that she might find one alive. But these children had been dead for some time. Their skin was gray, their small faces bruised and discolored. They were wrapped in thin blankets, and though it was cold in the room, Isabelle didnt think it was cold enough for them to have frozen to death. She wasnt sure how they had died; she couldnt bear to investigate too closely. This was clearly a matter for the Clave.

Alec, behind her, had tears running down his face; he was cursing under his breath by the time they reached the last of the pedestals. Maia had straightened up and was leaning against the window; Jordan had given her some kind of cloth, maybe a handkerchief, to hold to her face. The cold white lights of the city burned behind her, cutting through the dark glass like diamond drills.

“Iz,” Alec said. “Who could have done something like this? Why would someone-even a demon-”

He broke off. Isabelle knew what he was thinking about. Max, when he had been born. She had been seven, Alec nine. They had bent over their little brother in the cradle, amused and enchanted by this fascinating new creature. Theyd played with his little fingers, laughed at the weird faces he made when they tickled him.

Her heart twisted. Max. As she had moved down the lines of little cribs, now turned into little coffins, a sense of overwhelming dread had begun to press down on her. She couldnt ignore the fact that the pendant around her neck was glowing with a harsh, steady glow. The sort of glow she might have expected if she were facing down a Greater Demon.

She thought of what Clary had seen in the morgue in Beth Israel. He looked just like a normal baby. Except for his hands. They were twisted into claws. . .

With great care she reached into one of the cribs. Careful not to touch the baby, she twitched aside the thin blanket that wrapped its body.

She felt the breath puff out of her in a gasp. Ordinary chubby baby arms, round baby wrists. The hands looked soft and new. But the fingers-the fingers were twisted into claws, as black as burned bone, tipped with sharp little talons. She took an involuntary step back.

“What?” Maia moved toward them. She still looked sickened, but her voice was steady. Jordan followed her, hands in his pockets. “What did you find?” she asked.

“By the Angel. ” Alec, beside Isabelle, was looking down into the crib. “Is this-like the baby Clary was telling you about? The one at Beth Israel?”

Slowly Isabelle nodded. “I guess it wasnt just the one baby,” she said. “Someones been trying to make a lot more of them. More . . . Sebastians. ”

“Why would anyone want more of him?” Alecs voice was full of naked hatred.

“He was fast and strong,” Isabelle said. It almost hurt physically to say anything complimentary about the boy who had killed her brother and tried to kill her. “I guess theyre trying to breed a race of super-warriors. ”

“It didnt work. ” Maias eyes were dark with sadness.

A noise so soft it was almost inaudible teased at the edge of Isabelles hearing. Her head jerked up, her hand going to her belt, where her whip was coiled. Something in the thick shadows at the edge of the room, near the door, moved, just the faintest flicker, but Isabelle had already broken away from the others and was running for the door. She burst out into the hallway near the elevators. There was something there-a shadow that had broken free of the greater darkness and was moving, edging along the wall. Isabelle picked up speed and threw herself forward, knocking the shadow to the floor.

It wasnt a ghost. As they went down together in a heap, Isabelle surprised a very human-sounding grunt of surprise out of the shadowy figure. They hit the ground together and rolled. The figure was definitely human-slight and shorter than Isabelle, wearing a gray warm-up suit and sneakers. Sharp elbows came up, jabbing into Isabelles collarbone. A knee dug into her solar plexus. She gasped and rolled aside, feeling for her whip. By the time she got it free, the figure was on its feet. Isabelle rolled onto her stomach, flicking the whip forward; the end of it coiled around the strangers ankle and pulled tight. Isabelle jerked the whip back, yanking the figure off its feet.

She scrambled to her feet, reaching with her free hand for her stele, which was tucked down the front of her dress. With a quick slash she finished the nyx Mark on her left arm. Her vision adjusted quickly, the whole room seeming to fill with light as the night vision rune took effect. She could see her attacker more clearly now-a thin figure in a gray warm-up suit and gray sneakers, scrambling backward until its back hit the wall. The hood of the suit had fallen back, exposing the face. The head was shaved cleanly bald, but the face was definitely female, with sharp cheekbones and big dark eyes.

“Stop it,” Isabelle said, and pulled hard on the whip. The woman cried out in pain. “Stop trying to crawl away. ”

The woman bared her teeth. “Worm,” she said. “Unbeliever. I will tell you nothing. ”

Isabelle jammed her stele back into her dress. “If I pull hard enough on this whip, itll cut through your leg. ” She gave the whip another flick, tightening it, and moved forward, until she was standing in front of the woman, looking down at her. “Those babies,” she said. “What happened to them?”

The woman gave a bubbling laugh. “They were not strong enough. Weak stock, too weak. ”

“Too weak for what?” When the woman didnt answer, Isabelle snapped, “You can tell me or lose your leg. Your choice. Dont think I wont let you bleed to death here on the floor. Child-murderers dont deserve mercy. ”

The woman hissed, like a snake. “If you harm me, She will smite you down. ”

“Who-” Isabelle broke off, remembering what Alec had said. Talto is another name for Lilith. You might say shes the demon goddess of dead children. “Lilith,” she said. “You worship Lilith. You did all this . . . for her?”

“Isabelle. ” It was Alec, carrying the light of Sandalphon before him. “Whats going on? Maia and Jordan are searching, looking for any more . . . children, but it looks like they were all in the big room. Whats going on here?”

“This . . . person,” Isabelle said with disgust, “is a cult member of the Church of Talto. Apparently they worship Lilith. And theyve murdered all these babies for her. ”

“Not murder!” The woman struggled upright. “Not murder. Sacrifice. They were tested and found weak. Not our fault. ”

“Let me guess,” Isabelle said. “You tried injecting the pregnant women with demon blood. But demon blood is toxic stuff. The babies couldnt survive. They were born deformed, and then they died. ”

The woman whimpered. It was a very slight sound, but Isabelle saw Alecs eyes narrow. He had always been the one of them that was best at reading people.

“One of those babies,” he said. “It was yours. How could you inject your own child with demon blood?”

The womans mouth trembled. “I didnt. We were the ones who took the blood injections. The mothers. Made us stronger, faster. Our husbands, too. But we got sick. Sicker and sicker. Our hair fell out. Our nails. . . ” She raised her hands, showing the blackened nails, the torn, bloody nail beds where some had fallen away. Her arms were dotted with blackish bruises. “Were all dying,” she said. There was a faint sound of satisfaction in her voice. “We will be dead in days. ”

“She made you take poison,” Alec said, “and yet you worship her?”

“You dont understand. ” The woman sounded hoarse, dreamy. “I had nothing before She found me. None of us did. I was on the streets. Sleeping on subway gratings so I wouldnt freeze. Lilith gave me a place to live, a family to take care of me. Just to be in Her presence is to be safe. I never felt safe before. ”

“Youve seen Lilith,” Isabelle said, struggling to keep the disbelief from her voice. She was familiar with demon cults; she had done a report on them once, for Hodge. He had given her high marks on it. Most cults worshipped demons they had imagined or invented. Some managed to raise weak minor demons, who either killed them all when set free, or contented themselves with being served by the cult members, all their needs attended to, and little asked of them in return. She had never heard of a cult who worshipped a Greater Demon in which the members had ever actually seen that demon in the flesh. Much less a Greater Demon as powerful as Lilith, the mother of warlocks. “Youve been in her presence?”

The womans eyes fluttered half-shut. “Yes. With Her blood in me I can feel when She is near. As She is now. ”

Isabelle couldnt help it; her free hand flew to her pendant. It had been pulsing on and off since theyd entered the building; she had assumed it was because of the demon blood in the dead children, but the presence nearby of a Greater Demon would make even more sense. “Shes here? Where is she?”

The woman seemed to be drifting off into sleep. “Upstairs,” she said vaguely. “With the vampire boy. The one who walks by day. She sent us to fetch him for Her, but he was protected. We could not lay hands on him. Those who went to find him died. Then, when Brother Adam returned and told us the boy was guarded by holy fire, Lady Lilith was angry. She slew him where he stood. He was lucky, to die by Her hand, so lucky. ” Her breath rattled. “And She is clever, Lady Lilith. She found another way to bring the boy. . . ”

The whip dropped from Isabelles suddenly limp hand. “Simon? She brought Simon here? Why?”

“None that go unto Her,” the woman breathed, “return again. . . ”

Isabelle dropped to her knees, seizing up the whip. “Stop it,” she said in a voice that shook. “Stop yammering and tell me where he is. Where did she take him? Where is Simon? Tell me, or Ill-”

“Isabelle. ” Alec spoke heavily. “Iz, theres no point. Shes dead. ”

Isabelle stared at the woman in disbelief. She had died, it seemed, between one breath and the next, her eyes wide open, her face set in slack lines. It was possible to see now that beneath the starvation and the baldness and the bruising, she had probably been quite young, not more than twenty. “God damn it. ”

“I dont get it,” Alec said. “What does a Greater Demon want with Simon? Hes a vampire. Granted, a powerful vampire, but-”

“The Mark of Cain,” Isabelle said distractedly. “This must have something to do with the Mark. Its got to. ” She moved toward the elevator and jabbed at the call button. “If Lilith was really Adams first wife, and Cain was Adams son, then the Mark of Cain is nearly as old as she is. ”

“Where are you going?”

“She said they were upstairs,” Isabelle said. “Im going to search every floor until I find him. ”

“She cant hurt him, Izzy,” said Alec in the reasonable voice

Isabelle detested. “I know youre worried, but hes got the Mark of Cain; hes untouchable. Even a Greater Demon cant harm him. No one can. ”

Isabelle scowled at her brother. “So what do you think she wants him for, then? So shell have someone to pick up her dry cleaning during the day? Really, Alec-”

There was a ping, and the arrow above the farthest elevator lit up. Isabelle started forward as the doors began to open. Light flooded out . . . and after the light, a wave of men and women-bald, emaciated, and dressed in gray tracksuits and sneakers-poured out. They were brandishing crude weapons culled from the debris of construction: jagged shards of glass, torn-off chunks of rebar, concrete blocks. None of them spoke. In a silence as total as it was eerie, they surged from the elevator as one, and advanced on Alec and Isabelle.

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