Chapter 18: SCARS OF FIRE
Clouds had rolled in over the river, the way they sometimes did at night, bringing a thick mist with them. It didnt hide what was happening on the roof, just laid a sort of dimming fog over everything else. The buildings rising all around them were murky pillars of light, and the moon glowed barely, a muffled lamp, through the low scudding clouds. The broken bits of the glass coffin, scattered across the tiled ground, shone like shards of ice, and Lilith, too, shone, pale under the moon, watching Simon as he bent over Sebastians still body, drinking his blood.
Clary could hardly bear to watch. She knew Simon hated what he was doing; she knew he was doing it for her. For her, and even, a little bit, for Jace. And she knew what the next step in the ritual would be. Simon would give up his blood, willingly, to Sebastian, and Simon would die. Vampires could die when their blood was drained. He would die, and she would lose him forever, and it would-all of it-be her own fault.
She could feel Jace behind her, his arms still tight around her, the soft, regular beat of his heart against her shoulder blades. She remembered the way he had held her on the steps of the Accords Hall in Idris. The sound of the wind in the leaves as hed kissed her, his hands warm on either side of her face. The way she had felt his heart beating and thought that no one elses heart beat like his, like every pulse of his blood matched her own.
He had to be in there somewhere. Like Sebastian inside his glass prison. There had to be some way to reach him.
Lilith was watching Simon as he bent over Sebastian, her dark eyes wide and fixed. Clary and Jace might as well not have been there at all.
“Jace,” Clary whispered. “Jace, I dont want to watch this. ”
She pressed back against him, as if she were trying to snuggle into his arms, then pretended a wince as the knife brushed the side of her throat.
“Please, Jace,” she whispered. “You dont need the knife. You know I cant hurt you. ”
“I just want to look at you. I want to see your face. ”
She felt his chest rise and fall once, fast. A shudder went through him, as if he were fighting something, pushing against it. Then he moved, the way only he could move, so swiftly it was like a flash of light. He kept his right arm tight around her; his left hand slid the knife into his belt.
Her heart leaped wildly. I could run, she thought, but he would only catch her, and it was only a moment. Seconds later both arms were around her again, his hands on her arms, turning her. She felt his fingers trail over her back, her bare, shivering arms, as he spun her to face him.
She was looking away from Simon now, away from the demon woman, though she could still feel their presence at her back, shivering up her spine. She looked up at Jace. His face was so familiar. The lines of it, the way his hair fell across his forehead, the faint scar over his cheekbone, another at his temple. His eyelashes a shade darker than his hair. His eyes were the color of pale yellow glass. That was where he was different, she thought. He still looked like Jace, but his eyes were clear and blank, as if she were looking through a window into an empty room.
“Im afraid,” she said.
He stroked her shoulder, sending sparks winging through her nerves; with a feeling of sickness she realized her body still responded to his touch. “I wont let anything happen to you. ”
She stared at him. You really think that, dont you? Somehow you cant see the disconnect between your actions and your intentions. Somehow shes taken that away from you.
“You wont be able to stop her,” she said. “Shes going to kill me, Jace. ”
He shook his head. “No. She wouldnt do that. ”
Clary wanted to scream, but she kept her voice deliberate, careful, calm. “I know youre in there, Jace. The real you. ” She pressed closer to him. The buckle on his belt dug into her waist. “You could fight her. . . ”
It had been the wrong thing to say. He tensed all over, and she saw a flash of anguish in his eyes, the look of an animal in a trap. In another instant it had turned to hardness. “I cant. ”
She shivered. The look on his face was awful, so awful. At her shudder his eyes softened. “Are you cold?” he said, and for a moment he sounded like Jace again, concerned about her well-being. It made her throat hurt.
She nodded, though physical cold was the furthest thing from her mind. “Can I put my hands inside your jacket?”
He nodded. His jacket was unbuttoned; she slid her arms inside, her hands touching his back lightly. Everything was eerily silent. The city seemed frozen inside an icy prism. Even the light radiating off the buildings around them was still and cold.
He breathed slowly, steadily. She could see the rune on his chest through the torn fabric of his shirt. It seemed to pulse when he breathed. It was sickening, she thought, attached to him like that, like a leech, sucking out what was good, what was Jace.
She remembered what Luke had said to her about destroying a rune. If you disfigure it enough, you can minimize or destroy its power. Sometimes in battle the enemy will try to burn or slice off a Shadowhunters skin, just to deprive them of the power of their runes.
She kept her eyes fixed on Jaces face. Forget about whats happening, she thought. Forget about Simon, about the knife at your throat. What you say now matters more than anything youve ever said before.
“Remember what you said to me in the park?” she whispered.
He looked down at her, startled. “What?”
“When I told you I didnt speak Italian. I remember what you told me, what that quote meant. You said it meant love is the most powerful force on earth. More powerful than anything else. ”
A tiny line appeared between his eyebrows. “I dont . . . ”
“Yes, you do. ” Tread carefully, she told herself, but she couldnt help it, couldnt help the strain that surfaced in her voice. “You remember. The most powerful force there is, you said. Stronger than Heaven or Hell. It has to be more powerful than Lilith, too. ”
Nothing. He stared at her as if he couldnt hear her. It was like shouting down into a black, empty tunnel. Jace, Jace, Jace. I know youre in there.
“Theres a way you could protect me and still do what she wants,” she said. “Wouldnt that be the best thing?” She pressed her body closer against his, feeling her stomach twist. It was like holding Jace and not like it, all at the same time, joy and horror mixed together. And she could feel his body react to her, the drumbeat of his heart in her ears, her veins; he had not stopped wanting her, whatever layers of control Lilith exerted over his mind.
“Ill whisper it to you,” she said, brushing her lips against his neck. She breathed in the scent of him, as familiar as the scent of her own skin. “Listen. ”
She tilted her face up, and he leaned down to hear her-and her hand moved from his waist to clamp down on the hilt of the knife in his belt. She whipped it upward, just as he had shown her when they had trained, balancing its weight in her palm, and she slashed the blade across the left side of his chest in a wide, shallow arc. Jace cried out-more in surprise than pain, she guessed-and blood burst from the cut, spilling down his skin, obscuring the rune. He put his hand to his chest; when it came away red, he stared at her, his eyes wide, as if somehow he was genuinely hurt, genuinely unable to believe in her betrayal.
Clary spun away from him as Lilith cried out. Simon was no longer bending over Sebastian; he had straightened up and was staring down at Clary, the back of his hand jammed against his mouth. Black demon blood dripped from his chin onto his white shirt. His eyes were wide.
“Jace,” Liliths voice soared upward in astonishment. “Jace, get hold of her-I order it-”
Jace didnt move. He was staring from Clary, to Lilith, at his bloody hand, and then back again. Simon had begun to back away from Lilith; suddenly he stopped with a jerk and bent double, falling to his knees. Lilith whirled away from Jace and advanced on Simon, her hard face contorted. “Get up!” she shrieked. “Get on your feet! You drank his blood. Now he needs yours!”
Simon struggled to a sitting position, then slid limply to the ground. He retched, coughing up black blood. Clary remembered him in Idris, saying that Sebastians blood was like poison. Lilith drew back her foot to kick him-then staggered back as if an invisible hand had pushed her, hard. Lilith screeched-not words, just a scream like the cry of an owl. It was a sound of unadulterated hatred and rage.
It was not a sound a human being could have made; it felt like jagged shards of glass being driven into Clarys ears. She cried out, “Leave Simon alone! Hes sick. Cant you see hes sick?”
She was immediately sorry shed spoken. Lilith turned slowly, her gaze sliding over Jace, cold and imperious. “I told you, Jace Herondale. ” Her voice rang out. “Dont let the girl leave the circle. Take her weapon. ”
Clary had barely realized she was still holding the knife. She felt so cold she was nearly numb, but beneath that a wash of unbearable rage at Lilith-at everything-freed the movement of her arm. She flung the knife at the ground. It skidded across the tiles, fetching up at Jaces feet. He stared down at it blindly, as if hed never seen a weapon before.
Liliths mouth was a thin red slash. The whites of her eyes had vanished; they were all black. She did not look human. “Jace,” she hissed. “Jace Herondale, you heard me. And you will obey me. ”
“Take it,” Clary said, looking at Jace. “Take it and kill either her or me. Its your choice. ”
Slowly Jace bent down and picked up the knife.
Alec had Sandalphon in one hand, a hachiwara-good for parrying multiple attackers-in the other. At least six cultists lay at his feet, dead or unconscious.
Alec had fought quite a few demons in his time, but there was something especially eerie about fighting the cultists of the Church of Talto. They moved all together, less like people than like an eerie dark tide-eerie because they were so silent and so bizarrely strong and fast. They also seemed totally unafraid of death. Though Alec and Isabelle shouted at them to keep back, they kept moving forward in a wordless, clustering horde, flinging themselves at the Shadowhunters with the self-destructive mindlessness of lemmings hurling themselves over a cliff. They had backed Alec and Isabelle down the hallway and into the big, open room full of stone pedestals, when the noise of the fight brought Jordan and Maia running: Jordan in wolf form, Maia still human, but with her claws fully out.
The cultists seemed barely to register their presence. They fought on, falling one after the other as Alec, Maia, and Jordan laid about themselves with knives, claws, and blades. Isabelles whip traced shimmering patterns in the air as it sliced through bodies, sending fine sprays of blood into the air. Maia especially was acquitting herself well. At least a dozen cultists lay crumpled around her, and she was laying into another one with a blazing fury, her clawed hands red to the wrists.
A cultist streaked across Alecs path and lunged at him, hands outstretched. Its hood was up; he couldnt see its face, or guess at sex or age. He sank the blade of Sandalphon into the left side of its chest. It screamed-a male scream, loud and hoarse. The man collapsed, clawing at his chest, where flames were licking at the edge of the torn hole in his jacket. Alec turned away, sickened. He hated watching what happened to humans when a seraph blade pierced their skin.
Suddenly he felt a searing burn across his back, and turned to see a second cultist wielding a jagged piece of rebar. This one was hoodless-a man, his face so thin that his cheekbones seemed to be digging through his skin. He hissed and lunged again at Alec, who leaped aside, the weapon whistling harmlessly past him. He spun and kicked it out of the cultists hand; it rattled to the floor, and the cultist backed up, nearly tripped over a body-and ran.
Alec hesitated for a moment. The cultist who had just attacked him had nearly made it to the door. Alec knew he ought to follow-for all he knew, the man might be running to warn someone or to get reinforcements-but he felt bone-weary, disgusted, and a little sick. These people might be possessed; they might barely be people anymore, but it still felt too much like killing human beings.
He wondered what Magnus would say, but to tell the truth, he already knew. Alec had fought creatures like this before, the cult servants of demons. Almost all that was human about them had been consumed by the demon for energy, leaving nothing but a murderous yearning to kill and a human body dying slowly in agony. They were beyond help: incurable, unfixable. He heard Magnuss voice as if the warlock stood beside him. Killing them is the most merciful thing you can do.
Jamming the hachiwara back into his belt, Alec gave chase, pounding out the door and into the hall after the fleeing cultist. The hallway was empty, the farthest of the elevator doors jammed open, a weird high-pitched alarm noise sounding through the corridor. Several doorways branched off from the foyer. Shrugging inwardly, Alec picked one at random and dashed through it.
He found himself in a maze of small rooms that were barely finished-drywall had been hastily thrown up, and bouquets of multicolored wire sprouted from holes in the walls. The seraph blade threw a patchwork quilt of light across the walls as he moved cautiously through the rooms, his nerves prickling. At one point the light caught movement, and he jumped. Lowering the blade, he saw a pair of red eyes and a small gray body skittering into a hole in the wall. Alecs mouth twitched. That was New York for you. Even in a building as new as this one, there were rats.
Eventually the rooms opened out into a larger space-not as large as the room with the pedestals, but more sizeable than the others. There was a wall of glass here, too, with cardboard taped across sections of it.
A dark shape was huddled in one corner of the room, near an exposed section of piping. Alec approached cautiously. Was it a trick of the light? No, the shape was recognizably human, a bent, huddled figure in dark clothes. Alecs night vision rune twinged as he narrowed his eyes, moving forward. The shape resolved itself into a slim woman, barefoot, her hands chained in front of her to a length of pipe. She raised her head as Alec approached, and the dim light that poured through the windows illuminated her pale white-blond hair.
“Alexander?” she said, her voice rich with disbelief. “Alexander Lightwood?”
It was Camille.
“Jace. ” Liliths voice came down like a whip across bare flesh; even Clary flinched at the sound of it. “I command you to-”
Jaces arm drew back-Clary tensed, bracing herself-and he flung the knife at Lilith. It whipped through the air, end over end, and sank into her chest; she staggered back, caught off balance. Liliths heels skidded on the smooth stone; the demoness righted herself with a snarl, reaching down to pluck the knife from her ribs. Spitting something in a language Clary couldnt understand, she let it drop. It fell hissing to the ground, its blade half-eaten away, as if by a powerful acid.
She whirled on Clary. “What did you do to him? What did you do?” Her eyes had been all black a moment ago. Now they seemed to bulge and protrude. Small black serpents slithered from her eye sockets; Clary cried out and stepped back, almost tripping over a low hedge. This was the Lilith she had seen in Ithuriels vision, with her slithering eyes and harsh, echoing voice. She advanced on Clary-
And suddenly Jace was between them, blocking Liliths path. Clary stared. He was himself again. He seemed to burn with a righteous fire, as Raziel had by Lake Lyn that horrible night. He had drawn a seraph blade from his belt; the white-silver of it reflected in his eyes; blood dripped from the rent in his shirt and slicked his bare skin. The way he looked at her, at Lilith-if angels could rise up out of Hell, Clary thought, they would look like that. “Michael,” he said, and Clary wasnt sure whether it was the strength of the name, or the rage in his voice, but the blade he held blazed up brighter than any seraph blade shed ever seen. She looked aside for a moment, blinded, and saw Simon lying in a crumpled dark heap beside Sebastians glass coffin.
Her heart twisted inside her chest. What if Sebastians demon blood had poisoned him? The Mark of Cain wouldnt help him. It was something he had done willingly, to himself. For her. Simon.
“Ah, Michael. ” Liliths voice was rich with laughter as she moved toward Jace. “The captain of the hosts of the Lord. I knew him. ”
Jace raised the seraph blade; it blazed like a star, so bright that Clary wondered if all the city could see it, like a searchlight piercing the sky. “Dont come any closer. ”
Lilith, to Clarys surprise, paused. “Michael slew the demon Sammael, whom I loved,” she said. “Why is it, little Shadowhunter, that your angels are so cold and without mercy? Why do they break that which will not obey them?”
“I had no idea you were such a proponent of free will,” said Jace, and the way he said it, his voice heavy with sarcasm, did more to reassure Clary that he was himself again than anything else would have. “How about letting us all walk off this roof now, then? Me, Simon, Clary? What do you say, demoness? Its over. You dont control me anymore. I wont hurt Clary, and Simon wont obey you. And that piece of filth youre trying to resuscitate-I suggest you get rid of him before he starts to rot. Because he isnt coming back, and hes way past his sell-by date. ”
Liliths face twisted. She spat at Jace, and her spit was a black flame that hit the ground and became a snake that wiggled toward him, its jaws agape. He smashed it with a booted foot and lunged for the demoness, blade outstretched; but Lilith was gone like a shadow when light shone on it, vanishing and reforming just behind him. As he spun, she reached out almost lazily and slammed her open palm against his chest.
Jace went flying, Michael knocked from his hand, skittering across the stone tiles. Jace sailed through the air and struck the low roof wall with such force that splintering lines appeared in the stone. He hit the ground hard, visibly stunned.
Gasping, Clary ran for the fallen seraph blade, but never reached it. Lilith caught Clary up in two thin, icy hands and threw her with incredible force. Clary hurtled into a low hedge, the branches slashing viciously at her skin, opening up long cuts. She struggled to free herself, her dress tangled in the foliage. She heard the silk rip as she tore free and turned to see Lilith drag Jace to his feet, her hand fastened in the bloody front of his shirt.
She grinned at him, and her teeth were black too, and gleamed like metal. “I am glad youre on your feet, little Nephilim. I want to see your face when I kill you, not stab you in the back the way you did my son. ”
Jace wiped his sleeve across his face; he was bleeding from a long cut along his cheek, and the fabric came away red. “Hes not your son. You donated some blood to him. That doesnt make him yours. Mother of warlocks-” He turned his head and spat, blood. “Youre not anyones mother. ”
Liliths snake eyes darted back and forth furiously. Clary, disentangling herself painfully from the hedge, saw that each of the snake heads had two eyes of its own, glittering and red. Clarys stomach turned as the snakes moved, their gazes seeming to slither up and down Jaces body. “Cutting my rune apart. How crude,” she spat.
“But effective,” said Jace.
“You cannot win against me, Jace Herondale,” she said. “You may be the greatest Shadowhunter this world has known, but I am more than a Greater Demon. ”
“Then, fight me,” said Jace. “Ill give you a weapon. Ill have my seraph blade. Fight me one on one, and well see who wins. ”
Lilith looked at him, shaking her head slowly, her dark hair swirling around her like smoke. “I am the oldest of demons,” she said. “I am not a man. I have no male pride for you to trick me with, and I am not interested in single combat. That is entirely a weakness of your sex, not mine. I am a woman. I will use any weapon and all weapons to get what I want. ” She let go of him them, with a half-contemptuous shove; Jace stumbled for a moment, righting himself quickly and reaching to the ground for the glittering blade of Michael.
He seized it just as Lilith laughed and raised her hands. Half-opaque shadows exploded from her open palms. Even Jace looked shocked as the shadows solidified into the forms of twin black shadowy demons with shimmering red eyes. They hit the ground, pawing and growling. They were dogs, Clary thought in amazement, two gaunt, vicious-looking black dogs that vaguely resembled Doberman pinschers.
“Hellhounds,” breathed Jace. “Clary-”
He broke off as one of the dogs sprang toward him, its mouth opened as wide as a sharks, a loud, baying howl erupting from its throat. A moment later the second one leaped into the air, launching itself directly at Clary.
“Camille. ” Alecs head was spinning. “What are you doing here?”
He immediately realized that he sounded like an idiot. He fought down the urge to smack himself in the forehead. The last thing he wanted was to look like a fool in front of Magnuss ex-girlfriend.
“It was Lilith,” said the vampire woman in a small, trembling voice. “She had her cult members break into the Sanctuary. It isnt warded against humans, and theyre human-barely. They cut my chains and brought me here, to her. ” She raised her hands; the chains binding her wrists to the pipe rattled. “They brutalized me. ”
Alec crouched down, bringing his eyes on a level with Camilles. Vampires didnt bruise-they healed too quickly for that-but her hair was matted with blood on the left side, which made him think she was telling the truth. “Lets say I believe you,” he said. “What did she want with you? Nothing in what I know about Lilith says she has a particular interest in vampires. ”
“You know why the Clave was holding me,” she said. “You would have heard. ”
“You killed three Shadowhunters. Magnus said you claimed you were doing it because someone had ordered you to-” He broke off. “Lilith?”
“If I tell you, will you help me?” Camilles lower lip trembled. Her eyes were huge, green, pleading. She was very beautiful. Alec wondered if she had once looked at Magnus like this. It made him want to shake her.
“I might,” he said, astonished at the coldness in his own voice. “You dont have a lot of bargaining power here. I could go off and leave you for Lilith to have, and it wouldnt make much difference to me. ”
“Yes, it would,” she said. Her voice was low. “Magnus loves you. He wouldnt love you if you were the sort of person who could abandon someone helpless. ”
“He loved you,” Alec said.
She gave a wistful smile. “He appears to have learned better since then. ”
Alec rocked back on his heels slightly. “Look,” he said. “Tell me the truth. If you do, Ill cut you free and bring you to the Clave. Theyll treat you better than Lilith would. ”
She looked down at her wrists, chained to the pipe. “The Clave chained me,” she said. “Lilith chained me. I see little difference in my treatment between the two. ”
“I guess its your choice, then. Trust me, or trust her,” Alec said. It was a gamble, he knew.
He waited for several tense moments before she said, “Very well. If Magnus trusts you, I will trust you. ” She raised her head, doing her best to look dignified despite torn clothing and bloody hair. “Lilith came to me, not I to her. She had heard I was looking to recover my position as head of the Manhattan clan from Raphael Santiago. She said she would help me, if I would help her. ”
“Help her by murdering Shadowhunters?”
“She wanted their blood,” said Camille. “It was for those babies. She was injecting Shadowhunter blood and demon blood into the mothers, trying to replicate what Valentine did to his son. It didnt work, though. The babies became twisted things-and then they died. ” Catching his revolted look, she said, “I didnt know at first what she wanted the blood for. You may not think much of me, but I have no taste for murdering innocents. ”
“You didnt have to do it,” said Alec. “Just because she offered. ”
Camille smiled tiredly. “When you are as old as I am,” she said, “it is because you have learned to play the game correctly-to make the right alliances at the right times. To ally yourself not just with the powerful, but with those who you believe will make you powerful. I knew that if I did not agree to assist Lilith, she would kill me. Demons are not by nature trusting, and she would think that I would go to the Clave with what I knew about her plans to kill Shadowhunters, even if I promised her I would stay silent. I took a chance that Lilith was a greater danger to me than your kind were. ”
“And you didnt mind killing Shadowhunters. ”
“They were Circle members,” said Camille. “They had killed my kind. And yours. ”
“And Simon Lewis? What was your interest in him?”
“Everyone wants the Daylighter on their side. ” Camille shrugged. “And I knew he had the Mark of Cain. One of Raphaels vampire underlings is still loyal to me. He passed on the information. Few other Downworlders know of it. It makes him an incalculably valuable ally. ”
“Is that what Lilith wants with him?”
Camilles eyes widened. Her skin was very pale, and beneath it Alec could see that her veins had darkened, the pattern of them beginning to spread across the whiteness of her face like widening cracks in china. Eventually, starving vampires became savage, then lost consciousness, once they had been without blood for too long. The older they were, the longer they could stave it off, but Alec couldnt help but wonder how long it had been since she had fed. “What do you mean?”
“Apparently shes summoned Simon to meet with her,” said Alec. “Theyre somewhere in the building. ”
Camille stared a moment longer, then laughed. “A true irony,” she said. “She never mentioned him to me, and I never mentioned him to her, and yet both of us were pursuing him for our own ends. If she wants him, its for his blood,” she added. “The ritual shes performing is most assuredly one of blood magic. His blood-mixed Downworlder and Shadowhunter blood-would be of great use to her. ”
Alec felt a flicker of unease. “But she cant hurt him. The Mark of Cain-”
“Shell find a way around that,” said Camille. “She is Lilith, mother of warlocks. Shes been alive a long time, Alexander. ”
Alec got to his feet. “Then Id better find out what shes doing. ”
Camilles chains rattled as she tried to rise to her knees. “Wait-but you said you would free me. ”
Alec turned and looked down at her. “I didnt. I said I would let the Clave have you. ”
“But if you leave me here, nothing prevents Lilith from finding me first. ” She tossed her matted hair back; lines of strain showed in her face. “Alexander, please. I beg you-”
“Whos Will?” Alec said. The words came out abruptly, unexpectedly, and much to his horror.
“Will?” For a moment her face was blank; then it creased into a look of realization, and near amusement. “You heard my conversation with Magnus. ”
“Some of it. ” Alec exhaled carefully. “Will is dead, isnt he? I mean, Magnus said it was a long time ago that he knew him. . . ”
“I know whats bothering you, little Shadowhunter. ” Camilles voice had gone musical and soft. Behind her, through the windows, Alec could see the distant flickering lights of a plane as it flew over the city. “At first you were happy. You thought of the moment, not of the future. Now you have realized. You will grow old, and will someday die. And Magnus will not. He will continue. You will not grow old together. You will grow apart instead. ”
Alec thought of the people on the airplane, high up in the cold and icy air, looking down on the city like a field of glittering diamonds, far below. Of course, he had never been in an airplane himself. He was only guessing at how it would feel: lonely, distant, disconnected from the world. “You cant know that,” he said. “That well grow apart. ”
She smiled pityingly. “Youre beautiful now,” she said. “But will you be in twenty years? In forty? Fifty? Will he love your blue eyes when they fade, your soft skin when age cuts deep furrows in it? Your hands when they wrinkle and grow weak, your hair when it grows white-”
“Shut up. ” Alec heard the crack in his own voice, and was ashamed. “Just shut up. I dont want to hear it. ”
“It doesnt have to be that way. ” Camille leaned toward him, her green eyes luminous. “What if I told you that you didnt have to grow old? Didnt have to die?”
Alec felt a wave of rage. “Im not interested in becoming a vampire. Dont even bother making the offer. Not if the only other alternative was death. ”
For the briefest of moments her face twisted. It was gone in a flash as her control reasserted itself; she smiled a thin smile and said, “That wasnt my suggestion. What if I told you there was another way? Another way for the two of you to be together forever?”
Alec swallowed. His mouth was as dry as paper. “Tell me,” he said.
Camille raised her hands. Her chains rattled. “Cut these free. ”
“No. Tell me first. ”
She shook her head. “I wont do that. ” Her expression was as hard as marble, as was her voice. “You said I had nothing to bargain with. But I do. And I will not give it away. ”
Alec hesitated. In his head he heard Magnuss soft voice. She is a master of implication and manipulation. She always has been.
But Magnus, he thought. You never told me. Never warned me it would be like this, that I would wake up one day and realize that I was going somewhere you couldnt follow. That we are essentially not the same. Theres no “till death do us part” for those who never die.
He took a step toward Camille, and then another. Raising his right arm, he brought the seraph blade down, as hard as he could. It sheared through the metal of her chains; her wrists sprang apart, still in their manacles but free. She brought her hands up, her expression gloating, triumphant.
“Alec. ” Isabelle spoke from the doorway; Alec turned and saw her standing there, her whip at her side. It was stained with blood, as were her hands and her silk dress. “What are you doing in here?”
“Nothing. I-” Alec felt a wave of shame and horror; almost without thinking, he moved to step in front of Camille, as if he could obscure her from his sisters view.
“Theyre all dead. ” Isabelle sounded grim. “The cultists. We killed every one of them. Now come on. We have to start looking for Simon. ” She squinted at Alec. “Are you okay? You look really pale. ”
“I cut her free,” Alec blurted. “I shouldnt have. Its just-”
“Cut who free?” Isabelle took a step into the room. The ambient city light sparked off her dress, making her shine like a ghost. “Alec, what are you blathering about?”
Her expression was blank, confused. Alec turned, following her gaze, and saw-nothing. The pipe was still there, a length of chain lying beside it, the dust on the floor only very slightly disturbed. But Camille was gone.
Clary barely had time to put her arms up before the hellhound collided with her, a cannonball of muscle and bone and hot, stinking breath. Her feet went out from under her; she remembered Jace telling her the best way to fall, how to protect yourself, but the advice flew from her mind and she hit the ground with her elbows, agony shooting through her as the skin tore. A moment later the hound was on top of her, its paws crushing her chest, its gnarled tail swishing from side to side in a grotesque imitation of a wag. The tip of its tail was spiked with nail-like protrusions like a medieval mace, and a thick growl came from its barrel-chested body, so loud and strong that she could feel her bones vibrate.
“Hold her there! Tear her throat out if she tries to get away!” Lilith snapped instructions as the second hellhound sprang at Jace; he was struggling with it, rolling over and over, a whirlwind of teeth and arms and legs and the vicious whipping tail. Painfully Clary turned her head to the other side, and saw Liliths triding toward the glass coffin and Simon, still lying in a heap beside it. Inside the coffin Sebastian floated, as motionless as a drowned body; the milky color of the water had turned dark, probably with his blood.
The hound pinning her to the ground snarled close to her ear. The sound sent a jolt of fear through her-and along with the fear, anger. Anger at Lilith, and at herself. She was a Shadowhunter. It was one thing to be taken down by a Ravener demon when shed never heard of the Nephilim. She had some training now. She ought to be able to do better.
Anything can be a weapon. Jace had said that to her in the park. The weight of the hellhound was crushing; she made a gagging noise and reached for her throat, as if fighting for air. It barked and snarled, baring its teeth; her fingers closed on the chain holding the Morgenstern ring around her neck. She yanked it, hard, and the chain snapped; she whipped it toward the dogs face, slashing the hound brutally across the eyes. The hound reared back, howling in pain, and Clary rolled to the side, scrambling to her knees. Bloody-eyed, the dog crouched, ready to spring. The necklace had fallen out of Clarys hand, the ring rolling away; she scrabbled for the chain as the dog leaped-
A shining blade split the night, slashing down inches from Clarys face, severing the dogs head from its body. It gave a single howl and vanished, leaving behind a scorched black mark on the stone, and the stench of demon in the air.
Hands came down, lifted Clary gently to her feet. It was Jace. He had shoved the burning seraph blade through his belt, and he held her by both hands, gazing at her with a peculiar look. She couldnt have described it, or even drawn it-hope, shock, love, yearning, and anger all mixed together in his expression. His shirt was torn in several places, soaked with blood; his jacket was gone, his fair hair matted with sweat and blood. For a moment they simply stared at each other, his grip on her hands painfully tight. Then they both spoke at once:
“Are you-,” she began.
“Clary. ” Still gripping her hands, he pushed her away from him, away from the circle, toward the walkway that led to the elevators. “Go,” he said raggedly. “Get out of here, Clary. ”
He took a shaking breath. “Please,” he said, and then he let her go, drawing the seraph blade from his belt as he turned back toward the circle.
“Get up,” Lilith growled. “Get up. ”
A hand shook Simons shoulder, sending a wave of agony through his head. He had been floating in darkness; he opened his eyes now and saw night sky, stars, and Liliths white face looming over him. Her eyes were gone, replaced by slithering black snakes. The shock of the sight was enough to propel Simon to his feet.
The moment he was upright, he retched and nearly fell to his knees again. Shutting his eyes against the nausea, he heard Lilith snarl his name, and then her hand was on his arm, guiding him forward. He let her do it. His mouth was full of the nauseating, bitter taste of Sebastians blood; it was spreading through his veins, too, making him sick, weak, and shivery down to his bones. His head felt like it weighed a thousand pounds, and dizziness was advancing and receding in waves.
Abruptly Liliths cold grip on his arm was gone. Simon opened his eyes and found that he was standing over the glass coffin, just as he had been before. Sebastian floated in the dark, milky liquid, his face smooth, no pulse in his neck. Two dark holes were visible at the side of his throat where Simon had bitten him.
Give him your blood. Liliths voice echoed, not aloud but inside his head. Do it now.
Simon looked up dizzily. His vision was fogging. He strained to see Clary and Jace through the encroaching darkness.
Use your fangs, said Lilith. Tear your wrist open. Give Jonathan your blood. Heal him.
Simon raised his wrist to his mouth. Heal him. Raising someone from the dead was a lot more than healing them, he thought. Maybe Sebastians hand would grow back. Maybe thats what she meant. He waited for his fangs to come, but they didnt. He was too sick to be hungry, he thought, and fought back the insane urge to laugh.
“I cant,” he said, half-gasping. “I cant-”
“Lilith!” Jaces voice cut through the night; Lilith turned with an incredulous hiss. Simon lowered his wrist slowly, struggling to focus his eyes. He focused on the brightness in front of him, and it became the leaping flame of a seraph blade, held in Jaces left hand. Simon could see him clearly now, a distinct image painted onto the darkness. His jacket was gone, he was filthy, his shirt torn and black with blood, but his eyes were clear and steady and focused. He no longer looked like a zombie or someone caught sleepwalking in a terrible dream.
“Where is she?” Lilith said, her snake eyes slithering forward on their stalks. “Where is the girl?”
Clary. Simons fogged gaze scanned the darkness around Jace, but she was nowhere to be seen. His vision was beginning to clear. He could see blood smearing the tiled ground, and bits of shredded, torn satin caught on the sharp branches of a hedge. What looked like paw prints smeared the blood. Simon felt his chest tighten. He looked quickly back at Jace. Jace looked angry-very angry indeed-but not shattered the way Simon would have expected him to look if something had happened to Clary. So where was she?
“She has nothing to do with this,” Jace said. “You say I cant kill you, demoness. I say I can. Lets see which of us is right. ”
Lilith moved so fast, she was a blur. One moment she was beside Simon, the next she was on the step above Jace. She slashed out at him with her hand; he ducked, spinning behind her, whipping the seraph blade across her shoulder. She screamed, whirling on him, blood arcing from her wound. It was a shimmering black color, like onyx. She brought her hands together as if she meant to smash the blade between them. They struck each other with a sound like a thunderclap, but Jace was already gone, several feet away, the light of the seraph blade dancing in the air before him like the wink of a mocking eye.
If it had been any other Shadowhunter but Jace, Simon thought, he would have been dead already. He thought of Camille saying, Man cannot contend with the divine. Shadowhunters were human, despite their angel blood, and Lilith was more than a demon.
Pain shot through Simon. With surprise he realized his fangs had, finally, come out, and were cutting into his lower lip. The pain and the taste of blood roused him further. He began to rise to his feet, slowly, his eyes on Lilith. She certainly didnt appear to notice him, or what he was doing. Her eyes were fixed on Jace. With another sudden snarl she leaped for him. It was like watching moths flashing to and fro, watching the two of them as they battled back and forth across the rooftop. Even Simons vampire vision had trouble keeping up as they moved, leaping over hedges, darting among the walkways. Lilith backed Jace up against the low wall that surrounded a sundial, the numbers on its face picked out in shining gold. Jace was moving so fast he was nearly a blur, the light of Michael whipping around Lilith as if she were being wrapped in a net of shining filaments. Anyone else would have been cut to ribbons in seconds. But Lilith moved like dark water, like smoke. She seemed to vanish and reappear at will, and though Jace was clearly not tiring, Simon could sense his frustration.
Finally it happened. Jace swung the seraph blade violently toward Lilith-and she caught it out of the air, her hand wrapping around the blade. Her hand was dripping black blood as she yanked the blade toward her. The drops, as they struck the ground, became tiny obsidian snakes that wiggled away into the underbrush.
Taking the blade in both hands, she raised it. Blood was running down her pale wrists and forearms like streaks of tar. With a snarling grin she snapped the blade in half; one half crumbled to a shining powder in her hands, while the other-the hilt and a jagged shard of blade-sputtered darkly, a flame half-smothered by ash.
Lilith smiled. “Poor little Michael,” she said. “He always was weak. ”
Jace was panting, his hands clenched at his sides, his hair pasted to his forehead with sweat. “You and your name-dropping,” he said. “I knew Michael. I knew Sammael. The angel Gabriel did my hair. Its like Im with the Band with biblical figures. ”
This was Jace being brave, Simon thought, brave and snarky because he thought Lilith was going to kill him, and that was the way he wanted to go, unafraid and on his feet. Like a warrior. The way Shadowhunters did. His death song would always be this-jokes and snideness and pretend arrogance, and that look in his eyes that said, Im better than you. Simon just hadnt realized it before.
“Lilith,” Jace went on, managing to make the word sound like a curse. “I studied you. In school. Heaven cursed you with barrenness. A thousand babies, and they all died. Isnt that the case?”
Lilith held her darkly glowing blade, her face impassive. “Be careful, little Shadowhunter. ”
“Or what? Or youll kill me?” Blood was dripping down Jaces face from the cut on his cheek; he made no move to wipe it away. “Go ahead. ”
No. Simon tried to take a step; his knees buckled, and he fell, slamming his hands into the ground. He took a deep breath. He didnt need the oxygen, but it helped somehow, steadying him. He reached up and grabbed the edge of the stone pedestal, using it to pull himself upright. The back of his head was pounding. There was no way there would be enough time. All Lilith had to do was drive forward the jagged blade she held-
But she didnt. Looking at Jace, she didnt move, and suddenly his eyes flashed, his mouth relaxing. “You cant kill me,” he said, his voice rising. “What you said before-Im the counterweight. Im the only thing tethering him”-he thrust out an arm, indicating Sebastians glass coffin-“to this world. If I die, he dies. Isnt that true?” He took a step back. “I could jump off this roof right now,” he said. “Kill myself. End this. ”
For the first time Lilith appeared truly agitated. Her head whipped from side to side, her serpent eyes quivering, as if they were searching the wind. “Where is she? Wheres the girl?”
Jace wiped blood and sweat from his face and grinned at her; his lip was already split, and blood ran down his chin. “Forget it. I sent her back downstairs while you werent paying attention. Shes gone-safe from you. ”
Lilith snarled. “You lie. ”
Jace took another step back. A few more steps would bring him to the low wall, the edge of the building. Jace could survive a lot, Simon knew, but a fall from a forty-story building might be too much even for him.
“You forget,” said Lilith. “I was there, Shadowhunter. I watched you fall and die. I watched Valentine weep over your body. And then I watched as the Angel asked Clarissa what she desired of him, what she wanted in the world more than she wanted anything else, and she said you. Thinking you could be the only people in the world who could have their dead loved one back, and that there would be no consequences. That is what you thought, isnt it, both of you? Fools. ” Lilith spat. “You love each other-anyone can see that, looking at you-that kind of love that can burn down the world or raise it up in glory. No, she would never leave your side. Not while she thought you were in danger. ” Her head jerked back, her hand shooting out, fingers curved into claws. “There. ”
There was a scream, and one of the hedges seemed to tear apart, revealing Clary, who had been crouched, hiding, in the middle of it. Kicking and clawing, she was dragged forward, her fingernails scraping the ground, seizing in vain for a purchase on something that she could grip. Her hands left bloody trails on the tiles.
“No!” Jace started forward, then froze as Clary was whipped up into the air, where she hovered, dangling in front of Lilith. She was barefoot, her satin dress-now so torn and filthy it looked red and black rather than gold-swirling around her, one of her shoulder straps torn and dangling. Her hair had come completely out of its sparkling combs and spilled down over her shoulders. Her green eyes fixed on Lilith with hatred.
“You bitch,” she said.
Jaces face was a mask of horror. He really had believed it when hed said Clary was gone, Simon realized. Hed thought she was safe. But Lilith had been right. And she was gloating now, her snakes eyes dancing as she moved her hands like a puppeteer, and Clary spun and gasped in the air. Lilith flicked her fingers, and what looked like the lash of a silver whip came down across Clarys body, slicing her dress open, and the skin under it. She screamed and clutched at the wound, and her blood pattered down on the tiles like scarlet rain.
“Clary. ” Jace whirled on Lilith. “All right,” he said. He was pale now, his bravado gone; his hands, clenched into fists, were white at the knuckles. “All right. Let her go, and Ill do what you want-so will Simon. Well let you-”
“Let me?” Somehow the features of Liliths face had rearranged themselves. Snakes wriggled in the sockets of her eyes, her white skin was too stretched and shining, her mouth too wide. Her nose had nearly vanished. “You have no choice. And more to the point, you have annoyed me. All of you. Perhaps if you had simply done as Id ordered, I would have let you go. You will never know now, will you?”
Simon let go of the stone pedestal, swayed, and steadied himself. Then he began to walk. Putting his feet down, one after the other, felt like heaving enormous bags of packed wet sand down the side of a cliff. Each time his foot hit the ground, it sent a stab of pain through his body. He concentrated on moving forward, one step at a time.
“Maybe I cant kill you,” Lilith said to Jace. “But I can torture her past the point of her endurance-torture her to madness-and make you watch. There are worse things than death, Shadowhunter. ”
She flicked her fingers again, and the silver whip came down, slashing across Clarys shoulder this time, opening up a wide gash. Clary buckled but didnt scream, jamming her hands into her mouth, curling in on herself as if she could protect herself from Lilith.
Jace started forward to throw himself at Lilith-and saw Simon. Their gazes met. For a moment the world seemed to hang in suspension, all of it, not just Clary. Simon saw Lilith, all her attention focused on Clary, her hand drawn back, ready to deliver an even more vicious blow. Jaces face was white with anguish, his eyes darkening as they met Simons-and he realized-and understood.
Jace stepped back.
The world blurred around Simon. As he leaped forward, he realized two things. One, that it was impossible, he would never reach Lilith in time; her hand was already whipping forward, the air in front of her alive with whirling silver. And two, that he had never understood before quite how fast a vampire could move. He felt the muscles in his legs, his back, tear, the bones in his feet and ankles crack-
And he was there, sliding between Lilith and Clary as the demonesss hand came down. The long, razored silver wire struck him across the face and chest-there was a moment of shocking pain-and then the air seemed to burst apart around him like glittering confetti, and Simon heard Clary scream, a clear sound of shock and amazement that cut through the darkness. “Simon!”
Lilith froze. She stared from Simon, to Clary, still hanging in the air, and then down at her own hand, now empty. She drew in a long, ragged breath.
“Sevenfold,” she whispered-and was abruptly cut off as a blinding incandescence lit up the night. Dazed, all Simon could think of was ants burning under the concentrated beam from a magnifying glass as a great ray of fire plunged down from the sky, spearing through Lilith. For a long moment she burned white against the darkness, trapped within the blinding flame, her mouth open like a tunnel in a silent scream. Her hair lifted, a mass of burning filaments against the darkness-and then she was white gold, beaten thin against the air-and then she was salt, a thousand crystalline granules of salt that rained down at Simons feet with a dreadful sort of beauty.
And then she was gone.