II. STARS SHINE DARKLY
ANTONIO: Will you stay no longer? Nor will you not that I go with you?
SEBASTIAN: By your patience, no. My stars shine darkly over me; the malignancy of my fate might, perhaps, distemper yours; therefore I shall crave of you your leave that I may bear my evils alone. It were a bad recompense for your love to lay any of them on you.
—William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night
Chapter 10: FIRE AND SWORD
“IT’S LATE,” ISABELLE SAID, FRETFULLY TWITCHING THE LACE curtain across the high living room window back into place. “He ought to be back by now. ”
“Be reasonable, Isabelle,” Alec pointed out, in that superior big-brother tone that seemed to imply that while she, Isabelle, might be prone to hysteria, he, Alec, was always perfectly calm. Even his posture—he was lounging in one of the overstuffed armchairs next to the Penhallows’ fireplace as if he didn’t have a care in the world—seemed designed to show off how unworried he was. “Jace does this when he’s upset, goes off and wanders around. He said he was going for a walk. He’ll be back. ”
Isabelle sighed. She almost wished her parents were there, but they were still up at the Gard. Whatever the Clave was discussing, the Council meeting was dragging on brutally late. “But he knows New York. He doesn’t know Alicante—”
“He probably knows it better than you do. ” Aline was sitting on the couch reading a book, its pages bound in dark red leather. Her black hair was pulled behind her head in a French braid, her eyes fastened on the volume spread across her lap. Isabelle, who had never been much of a reader, always envied other people their ability to get lost in a book. There were a lot of things she once would have envied Aline for—being small and delicately pretty, for one thing, not Amazonian and so tall in heels she towered over almost every boy she met. But then again, it was only recently that Isabelle had realized other girls weren’t just for envying, avoiding, or disliking. “He lived here until he was ten. You guys have only visited a few times. ”
Isabelle raised her hand to her throat with a frown. The pendant slung on the chain around her neck had given a sudden, sharp pulse—but it normally only pulsed in the presence of demons, and they were in Alicante. There was no way there were demons nearby. Maybe the pendant was malfunctioning. “I don’t think he’s wandering around, anyway. I think it’s pretty obvious where he went,” Isabelle responded.
Alec raised his eyes. “You think he went to see Clary?”
“Is she still here? I thought she was supposed to be going back to New York. ” Aline let her book fall closed. “Where is Jace’s sister staying, anyway?”
Isabelle shrugged. “Ask him,” she said, cutting her eyes toward Sebastian.
Sebastian was sprawled on the couch opposite Aline’s. He had a book in his hand too, and his dark head was bent over it. He raised his eyes as if he could feel Isabelle’s gaze on him.
“Were you talking about me?” he asked mildly. Everything about Sebastian was mild, Isabelle thought with a twinge of annoyance. She’d been impressed by his looks at first—those sharply planed cheekbones and those black, fathomless eyes—but his affable, sympathetic personality grated on her now. She didn’t like boys who looked as if they never got mad about anything. In Isabelle’s world, rage equaled passion equaled a good time.
“What are you reading?” she asked, more sharply than she’d meant to. “Is that one of Max’s comic books?”
“Yep. ” Sebastian looked down at the copy of Angel Sanctuary balanced on the sofa’s arm. “I like the pictures. ”
Isabelle blew out an exasperated breath. Shooting her a look, Alec said, “Sebastian, earlier today … Does Jace know where you went?”
“You mean that I was out with Clary?” Sebastian looked amused. “Look, it’s not a secret. I would have told Jace if I’d seen him since. ”
“I don’t see why he would care. ” Aline put her book aside, an edge to her voice. “It’s not like Sebastian did anything wrong. So what if he wants to show Clarissa some of Idris before she goes home? Jace ought to be pleased his sister isn’t sitting around bored and annoyed. ”
“He can be very … protective,” Alec said after a slight hesitation.
Aline frowned. “He should back off. It can’t be good for her, being so overprotected. The look on her face when she walked in on us, it was like she’d never seen anyone kissing before. I mean, who knows, maybe she hasn’t. ”
“She has,” Isabelle said, thinking of the way Jace had kissed Clary in the Seelie Court. It wasn’t something she liked to think about—Isabelle didn’t enjoy wallowing in her own sorrows, much less other people’s. “It’s not that. ”
“Then what is it?” Sebastian straightened up, pushing a lock of dark hair out of his eyes. Isabelle caught a flash of something—a red line across his palm, like a scar. “Is it just that he hates me personally? Because I don’t know what it is I ever—”
“That’s my book. ” A small voice interrupted Sebastian’s speech. It was Max, standing in the living room doorway. He was wearing gray pajamas and his brown hair was disarrayed as if he’d just woken up. He was glaring at the manga novel sitting next to Sebastian.
“What, this?” Sebastian held out the copy of Angel Sanctuary. “Here you go, kid. ”
Max stalked across the room and snatched the book back. He scowled at Sebastian. “Don’t call me kid. ”
Sebastian laughed and stood up. “I’m getting some coffee,” he said, and headed for the kitchen. He paused and turned in the doorway. “Does anyone want anything?”
There was a chorus of refusals. With a shrug Sebastian disappeared into the kitchen, letting the door swing shut behind him.
“Max,” Isabelle said sharply. “Don’t be rude. ”
“I don’t like it when people take my stuff. ” Max hugged the comic book to his chest.
“Grow up, Max. He was just borrowing it. ” Isabelle’s voice came out more irritably than she’d intended; she was still worried about Jace, she knew, and was taking it out on her little brother. “You should be in bed anyway. It’s late. ”
“There were noises up on the hill. They woke me up. ” Max blinked; without his glasses, everything was pretty much a blur to him. “Isabelle …”
The questioning note in his voice got her attention. Isabelle turned away from the window. “What?”
“Do people ever climb the demon towers? Like, for any reason?”
Aline looked up. “Climb the demon towers?” She laughed. “No, no one ever does that. It’s totally illegal, for one thing; and besides, why would you want to?”
Aline, Isabelle thought, did not have much imagination. She herself could think of lots of reasons why someone might want to climb the demon towers, if only to spit gum down on passersby below.
Max was frowning. “But someone did. I know I saw—”
“Whatever you think you saw, you probably dreamed it,” Isabelle told him.
Max’s face creased. Sensing a potential meltdown, Alec stood up and held out a hand. “Come on, Max,” he said, not without affection. “Let’s get you back to bed. ”
“We should all get to bed,” Aline said, standing up. She came over to the window beside Isabelle and drew the curtains firmly shut. “It’s already almost midnight; who knows when they’ll get back from the Council? There’s no point staying—”
The pendant at Isabelle’s throat pulsed again, sharply—and then the window Aline was standing in front of shattered inward. Aline screamed as hands reached through the gaping hole—not hands, really, Isabelle saw with the clarity of shock, but huge, scaled claws, streaked with blood and blackish fluid. They seized Aline and yanked her through the smashed window before she could utter a second scream.
Isabelle’s whip was lying on the table by the fireplace. She dashed for it now, ducking around Sebastian, who had come racing out of the kitchen. “Get weapons,” she snapped as he stared around the room in astonishment. “Go!” she shrieked, and ran for the window.
By the fireplace Alec was holding Max as the younger boy squirmed and yelled, trying to wriggle out of his brother’s grip. Alec dragged him toward the door. Good, Isabelle thought. Get Max out of here.
Cold air blew through the shattered window. Isabelle pulled her skirt up and kicked out the rest of the broken glass, thankful for the thick soles of her boots. When the glass was gone, she ducked her head and jumped out through the gaping hole in the frame, landing with a jolt on the stone walkway below.
At first glance the walkway looked empty. There were no streetlights along the canal; the main illumination here came from the windows of nearby houses. Isabelle moved forward cautiously, her electrum whip coiled at her side. She had owned the whip for so long—it had been a twelfth birthday present from her father—that it felt like part of her now, like a fluid extension of her right arm.
The shadows thickened as she moved away from the house and toward Oldcastle Bridge, which arched over the Princewater canal at an odd angle to the walkway. The shadows at its base were clustered as thickly as black flies—and then, as Isabelle stared, something moved within the shadows, something white and darting.
Isabelle ran, crashing through a low border of hedges at the end of someone’s garden and hopping down onto the narrow brick causeway that ran below the bridge. Her whip had begun to glow with a harsh silvery light, and in its faint illumination she could see Aline lying limply at the edge of the canal. A massive scaled demon was sprawled on top of her, pressing her down with the weight of its thick lizardlike body, its face buried in her neck—
But it couldn’t be a demon. There had never been demons in Alicante. Never. As Isabelle stared in shock, the thing raised its head and sniffed the air, as if sensing her there. It was blind, she saw, a thick line of serrated teeth running like a zipper across its forehead where eyes should be. It had another mouth on the lower half of its face as well, fanged with dripping tusks. The sides of its narrow tail glittered as it whipped back and forth, and Isabelle saw, drawing closer, that the tail was edged with razor-sharp lines of bone.
Aline twitched and made a noise, a gasping whimper. Relief spilled over Isabelle—she’d been half-sure Aline was dead—but it was short-lived. As Aline moved, Isabelle saw that her blouse had been sliced open down the front. There were claw marks on her chest, and the thing had another claw hooked into the waistband of her jeans.
A wave of nausea rolled over Isabelle. The demon wasn’t trying to kill Aline—not yet. Isabelle’s whip came alive in her hand like the flaming sword of an avenging angel; she launched herself forward, her whip slashing down across the demon’s back.
The demon screeched and rolled off Aline. It advanced on Isabelle, its two mouths gaping, talons slashing toward her face. Dancing backward, she threw the whip forward again; it slashed across the demon’s face, its chest, its legs. A myriad of crisscrossing lash marks sprang up across the demon’s scaled skin, dripping blood and ichor. A long forked tongue shot from its upper mouth, probing for Isabelle’s face. There was a bulb on the end of it, she saw, a sort of stinger, like a scorpion’s. She flicked her wrist to the side and the whip curled around the demon’s tongue, roping it with bands of flexible electrum. The demon screamed and screamed as she pulled the knot tight and jerked. The demon’s tongue fell with a wet, sickening thump to the bricks of the causeway.
Isabelle jerked the whip back. The demon turned and fled, moving with quick, darting motions like a snake. Isabelle darted after it. The demon was halfway to the path that led up from the causeway when a dark shape rose up in front of it. Something flashed in the darkness, and the demon fell twitching to the ground.
Isabelle came to an abrupt stop. Aline stood over the fallen demon, a slender dagger in her hand—she must have been wearing it on her belt. The runes on the blade shone like flashing lightning as she drove the dagger down, plunging it over and over into the demon’s twitching body until the thing stopped moving entirely and vanished.
Aline looked up. Her face was blank. She made no move to hold her blouse closed, despite its torn buttons. Blood oozed from the deep scratch marks on her chest.
Isabelle let out a low whistle. “Aline—are you all right?”
Aline let the dagger fall to the ground with a clatter. Without another word she turned and ran, disappearing into the darkness under the bridge.
Caught by surprise, Isabelle swore and dashed after Aline. She wished she’d worn something more practical than a velvet dress tonight, although at least she’d put her boots on. She doubted she could have caught up to Aline wearing heels.
There were metal stairs on the other side of the causeway, leading back up to Princewater Street. Aline was a blur at the top of the stairway. Hiking up the heavy hem of her dress, Isabelle followed, her boots clattering on the steps. When she reached the top, she looked around for Aline.
And stared. She was standing at the foot of the broad road on which the Penhallows’ house fronted. She could no longer see Aline—the other girl had disappeared into the churning throng of people crowding the street. And not just people, either. There were things in the street—demons—dozens of them, maybe more, like the taloned lizard-creature Aline had dispatched under the bridge. Two or three bodies lay in the street already, one only a few feet from Isabelle—a man, half his rib cage torn away. Isabelle could see from his gray hair that he’d been elderly. But of course he was, she thought, her brain ticking over slowly, the speed of her thoughts dulled by panic. All the adults are in the Gard. Down in the city are only children, the old, and the sick….
The red-tinged air was full of the smell of burning, the night split by shrieks and screams. Doors were open all up and down the rows of houses—people were darting out of them, then stopping dead as they saw the street filled with monsters.
It was impossible, unimaginable. Never in history had a single demon crossed the wards of the demon towers. And now there were dozens. Hundreds. Maybe more, flooding the streets like a poisonous tide. Isabelle felt as if she were trapped behind a glass wall, able to see everything but unable to move—watching, frozen, as a demon seized a fleeing boy and lifted him bodily off the ground, sinking its serrated teeth into his shoulder.
The boy screamed, but his screams were lost in the clamor that was tearing the night apart. The sound rose and rose in volume: the howling of demons, people calling one another’s names, the sounds of running feet and shattering glass. Someone down the street was shouting words she could barely understand—something about the demon towers. Isabelle looked up. The tall spires stood sentry over the city as they always had, but instead of reflecting the silver light of the stars, or even the red light of the burning city, they were as dead white as the skin of a corpse. Their luminescence had vanished. A chill ran through her. No wonder the streets were full of monsters—somehow, impossibly, the demon towers had lost their magic. The wards that had protected Alicante for a thousand years were gone.
Samuel had fallen silent hours ago, but Simon was still awake, staring sleeplessly into the darkness, when he heard the screaming.
His head jerked up. Silence. He looked around uneasily—had he dreamed the noise? He strained his ears, but even with his newly sensitive hearing, nothing was audible. He was about to lie back down, when the screams came again, driving into his ears like needles. It sounded as if they were coming from outside the Gard.
Rising, he stood on the bed and looked out the window. He saw the green lawn stretching away, the faraway light of the city a faint glow in the distance. He narrowed his eyes. There was something wrong about the city light, something … off. It was dimmer than he remembered it—and there were moving points here and there in the darkness, like needles of fire, weaving through the streets. A pale cloud rose above the towers, and the air was full of the stench of smoke.
“Samuel. ” Simon could hear the alarm in his own voice. “There’s something wrong. ”
He heard doors slamming open and running feet. Hoarse voices shouted. Simon pressed his face close to the bars as pairs of boots hurtled by outside, kicking up stones as they ran, the Shadowhunters calling to one another as they raced away from the Gard, down toward the city.
“The wards are down! The wards are down!”
“We can’t abandon the Gard!”
“The Gard doesn’t matter! Our children are down there!”
Their voices were already growing fainter. Simon jerked back from the window, gasping. “Samuel! The wards—”
“I know. I heard. ” Samuel’s voice came strongly through the wall. He didn’t sound frightened but resigned, and even perhaps a little triumphant at being proved right. “Valentine has attacked while the Clave is in session. Clever. ”
“But the Gard—it’s fortified; why don’t they stay up here?”
“You heard them. Because all the children are in the city. Children, aged parents—they can’t just leave them down there. ”
The Lightwoods. Simon thought of Jace, and then, with terrible clarity, of Isabelle’s small, pale face under her crown of dark hair, of her determination in a fight, of the little-girl Xs and Os on the note she’d written him. “But you told them—you told the Clave what would happen. Why didn’t they believe you?”
“Because the wards are their religion. Not to believe in the power of the wards is not to believe that they are special, chosen, and protected by the Angel. They might as well believe they’re just ordinary mundanes. ”
Simon swung back to stare out the window again, but the smoke had thickened, filling the air with a grayish pallor. He could no longer hear voices shouting outside; there were cries in the distance, but they were very faint. “I think the city is on fire. ”
“No. ” Samuel’s voice was very quiet. “I think it’s the Gard that’s burning. Probably demon fire. Valentine would go after the Gard, if he could. ”
“But—” Simon’s words stumbled over one another. “But someone will come and let us out, won’t they? The Consul, or—or Aldertree. They can’t just leave us down here to die. ”
“You’re a Downworlder,” said Samuel. “And I’m a traitor. Do you really think they’re likely to do anything else?”
Alec had his hands on her shoulders and was shaking her. Isabelle raised her head slowly; her brother’s white face floated against the darkness behind him. A curved piece of wood stuck up behind his right shoulder: He had his bow strapped across his back, the same bow that Simon had used to kill Greater Demon Abbadon. She couldn’t remember Alec walking toward her, couldn’t remember seeing him in the street at all; it was as if he’d materialized in front of her all at once, like a ghost.
“Alec. ” Her voice came out slow and uneven. “Alec, stop it. I’m all right. ”
She pulled away from him.
“You didn’t look all right. ” Alec glanced up and cursed under his breath. “We have to get off the street. Where’s Aline?”
Isabelle blinked. There were no demons in view; someone was sitting on the front steps of the house opposite them and crying in a loud and grating series of shrieks. The old man’s body was still in the street, and the smell of demons was everywhere. “Aline … one of the demons tried to—it tried to—” She caught her breath, held it. She was Isabelle Lightwood. She did not get hysterical, no matter what the provocation. “We killed it, but then she ran off. I tried to follow her, but she was too fast. ” She looked up at her brother. “Demons in the city,” she said. “How is it possible?”
“I don’t know. ” Alec shook his head. “The wards must be down. There were four or five Oni demons out here when I came out of the house. I got one lurking by the bushes. The others ran off, but they could come back. Come on. Let’s get back to the house. ”
The person on the stairs was still sobbing. The sound followed them as they hurried back to the Penhallows’ house. The street stayed empty of demons, but they could hear explosions, cries, and running feet echoing from the shadows of other darkened streets. As they climbed the Penhallows’ front steps, Isabelle glanced back just in time to see a long snaking tentacle whip out from the darkness between the two houses and snatch the sobbing woman off the front steps. Her sobs turned to shrieks. Isabelle tried to turn back, but Alec had already grabbed her and shoved her ahead of him into the house, slamming and locking the front door behind them. The house was dark. “I doused the lights. I didn’t want to attract any more of them,” Alec explained, pushing Isabelle ahead of him into the living room.
Max was sitting on the floor by the stairs, his arms hugging his knees. Sebastian was by the window, nailing logs of wood he’d taken from the fireplace across the gaping hole in the glass. “There,” he said, standing back and letting the hammer drop onto the bookshelf. “That should hold for a while. ”
Isabelle dropped down by Max and stroked his hair. “Are you all right?”
“No. ” His eyes were huge and scared. “I tried to see out the window, but Sebastian told me to get down. ”
“Sebastian was right,” Alec said. “There were demons out in the street. ”
“Are they still there?”
“No, but there are some still in the city. We have to think about what we’re going to do next. ”
Sebastian was frowning. “Where’s Aline?”
“She ran off,” Isabelle explained. “It was my fault. I should have been—”
“It was not your fault. Without you she’d be dead. ” Alec spoke in a clipped voice. “Look, we don’t have time for self-recriminations. I’m going to go after Aline. I want you three to stay here. Isabelle, look after Max. Sebastian, finish securing the house. ”
Isabelle spoke up indignantly. “I don’t want you going out there alone! Take me with you. ”
“I’m the adult here. What I say goes. ” Alec’s tone was even. “There’s every chance our parents will be coming back any minute from the Gard. The more of us here, the better. It’ll be too easy for us to get separated out there. I’m not risking it, Isabelle. ” His glance moved to Sebastian. “Do you understand?”
Sebastian had already taken out his stele. “I’ll work on warding the house with Marks. ”
“Thanks. ” Alec was already halfway to the door; he turned and looked back at Isabelle. She met his eyes for a split second. Then he was gone.
“Isabelle. ” It was Max, his small voice low. “Your wrist is bleeding. ”
Isabelle glanced down. She had no memory of having hurt her wrist, but Max was right: Blood had already stained the sleeve of her white jacket. She got to her feet. “I’m going to get my stele. I’ll be right back and help you with the runes, Sebastian. ”
He nodded. “I could use some help. These aren’t my specialty. ”
Isabelle went upstairs without asking him what his specialty might actually be. She felt bone-tired, in dire need of an energy Mark. She could do one herself if necessary, though Alec and Jace had always been better at those sorts of runes than she was.
Once inside her room, she rummaged through her things for her stele and a few extra weapons. As she shoved seraph blades into the tops of her boots, her mind was on Alec and the look they’d shared as he’d gone out the door. It wasn’t the first time she’d watched her brother leave, knowing she might never see him again. It was something she accepted, had always accepted, as part of her life; it wasn’t until she’d gotten to know Clary and Simon that she’d realized that for most people, of course, it was never like that. They didn’t live with death as a constant companion, a cold breath down the back of their neck on even the most ordinary days. She’d always had such contempt for mundanes, the way all Shadowhunters did—she’d believed that they were soft, stupid, sheeplike in their complacency. Now she wondered if all that hatred didn’t just stem from the fact that she was jealous. It must be nice not worrying that every time one of your family members walked out the door, they’d never come back.
She was halfway down the stairs, her stele in hand, when she sensed that something was wrong. The living room was empty. Max and Sebastian were nowhere to be seen. There was a half-finished protection Mark on one of the logs Sebastian had nailed over the broken window. The hammer he’d used was gone.
Her stomach tightened. “Max!” she shouted, turning in a circle. “Sebastian! Where are you?”
Sebastian’s voice answered her from the kitchen. “Isabelle—in here. ”
Relief washed over her, leaving her light-headed. “Sebastian, that’s not funny,” she said, marching into the kitchen. “I thought you were—”
She let the door fall shut behind her. It was dark in the kitchen, darker than it had been in the living room. She strained her eyes to see Sebastian and Max and saw nothing but shadows.
“Sebastian?” Uncertainty crept into her voice. “Sebastian, what are you doing in here? Where’s Max?”
“Isabelle. ” She thought she saw something move, a shadow dark against lighter shadows. His voice was soft, kind, almost lovely. She hadn’t realized before now what a beautiful voice he had. “Isabelle, I’m sorry. ”
“Sebastian, you’re acting weird. Stop it. ”
“I’m sorry it’s you,” he said. “See, out of all of them, I liked you the best. ”
“Out of all of them,” he said again, in the same low voice, “I thought you were the most like me. ”
He brought his fist down then, with the hammer in it.
Alec raced through the dark and burning streets, calling out over and over for Aline. As he left the Princewater district and entered the heart of the city, his pulse quickened. The streets were like a Bosch painting come to life: full of grotesque and macabre creatures and scenes of sudden, hideous violence. Panicked strangers shoved Alec aside without looking and ran screaming past without any apparent destination. The air stank of smoke and demons. Some of the houses were in flames; others had their windows knocked out. The cobblestones sparkled with broken glass. As he drew close to one building, he saw that what he’d thought was a discolored patch of paint was a huge swath of fresh blood splattered across the plaster. He spun in place, glancing in every direction, but saw nothing that explained it; nevertheless, he hurried away as quickly as he could.
Alec, alone of all the Lightwood children, remembered Alicante. He’d been a toddler when they’d left, yet he still carried recollections of the shimmering towers, the streets full of snow in winter, chains of witchlight wreathing the shops and houses, water splashing in the mermaid fountain in the Hall. He had always felt an odd tug at his heart at the thought of Alicante, the half-painful hope that his family would return one day to the place where they belonged. To see the city like this was like the death of all joy. Turning onto a wider boulevard, one of the streets that led down to the Accords Hall, he saw a pack of Belial demons ducking through an archway, hissing and howling. They dragged something behind them—something that twitched and spasmed as it slid over the cobbled street. He darted down the street, but the demons were already gone. Crumpled against the base of a pillar was a limp shape leaking a spidery trail of blood. Broken glass crunched like pebbles under Alec’s boots as he knelt to turn the body over. After a single glance at the purple, distorted face, he shuddered and drew away, grateful that it was no one he knew.
A noise made him scramble to his feet. He smelled the stench before he saw it: the shadow of something humped and huge slithering toward him from the far end of the street. A Greater Demon? Alec didn’t wait to find out. He darted across the street toward one of the taller houses, leaping up onto a sill whose window glass had been smashed in. A few minutes later he was pulling himself onto the roof, his hands aching, his knees scraped. He got to his feet, brushing grit from his hands, and looked out over Alicante.
The ruined demon towers cast their dull, dead light down onto the moving streets of the city, where things loped and crawled and slunk in the shadows between buildings, like roaches skittering through a dark apartment. The air carried cries and shouts, the sound of screaming, names called on the wind—and there were the cries of demons as well, howls of mayhem and delight, shrieks that pierced the human ear like pain. Smoke rose above the honey-colored stone houses in a haze, wreathing the spires of the Hall of Accords. Glancing up toward the Gard, Alec saw a flood of Shadowhunters racing down the path from the hill, illuminated by the witchlights they carried. The Clave were coming down to battle.
He moved to the edge of the roof. The buildings here were very close together, their eaves almost touching. It was easy to jump from this roof to the next, and then to the one after that. He found himself running lightly along the rooftops, jumping the slight distances between houses. It was good to have the cold wind in his face, overpowering the stench of demons.
He’d been running for a few minutes before he realized two things: One, he was running toward the white spires of the Accords Hall. And two, there was something up ahead, in a square between two alleys, something that looked like a shower of rising sparks—except that they were blue, a dark gas-flame blue. Alec had seen blue sparks like that before. He stared for a moment before he began to run.
The roof closest to the square was steeply pitched. Alec skidded down the side of it, his boots knocking against loose shingles. Poised precariously at the edge, he looked down.
Cistern Square was below him, and his view was partly blocked by a massive metal pole that jutted out midway down the face of the building he was standing on. A wooden shop sign dangled from it, swaying in the breeze. The square beneath was full of Iblis demons—human-shaped but formed of a substance like coiling black smoke, each with a pair of burning yellow eyes. They had formed a line and were moving slowly toward the lone figure of a man in a sweeping gray coat, forcing him to retreat against a wall. Alec could only stare. Everything about the man was familiar—the lean curve of his back, the wild tangle of his dark hair, and the way that blue fire sprang from his fingertips like darting cyanotic fireflies.
Magnus. The warlock was hurling spears of blue fire at the Iblis demons; one spear struck an advancing demon in the chest. With a sound like a pail of water poured onto flames, it shuddered and vanished in a burst of ash. The others moved to fill his place—Iblis demons weren’t very bright—and Magnus hurled another spate of fiery spears. Several Iblis fell, but now another demon, more cunning than the others, had drifted around Magnus and was coalescing behind him, ready to strike—
Alec didn’t stop to think. Instead he jumped, catching the edge of the roof as he fell, and then dropped straight down to seize the metal pole and swing himself up and around it, slowing his fall. He released it and dropped lightly to the ground. The demon, startled, began to turn, its yellow eyes like flaming jewels; Alec had time only to reflect that if he were Jace, he would have had something clever to say before he snatched the seraph blade from his belt and ran it through the demon. With a dusty shriek the demon vanished, the violence of its exit from this dimension splattering Alec with a fine rain of ash.
“Alec?” Magnus was staring at him. He had dispatched the remaining Iblis demons, and the square was empty but for the two of them. “Did you just—did you just save my life?”
Alec knew he ought to say something like, Of course, because I’m a Shadowhunter and that’s what we do, or That’s my job. Jace would have said something like that. Jace always knew the right thing to say. But the words that actually came out of Alec’s mouth were quite different—and sounded petulant, even to his own ears. “You never called me back,” he said. “I called you so many times and you never called me back. ”
Magnus looked at Alec as if he’d lost his mind. “Your city is under attack,” he said. “The wards have broken, and the streets are full of demons. And you want to know why I haven’t called you?”
Alec set his jaw in a stubborn line. “I want to know why you haven’t called me back. ”
Magnus threw his hands up in the air in a gesture of utter exasperation. Alec noted with interest that when he did it, a few sparks escaped from his fingertips, like fireflies escaping from a jar. “You’re an idiot. ”
“Is that why you didn’t call me? Because I’m an idiot?”
“No. ” Magnus strode toward him. “I didn’t call you because I’m tired of you only wanting me around when you need something. I’m tired of watching you be in love with someone else—someone, incidentally, who will never love you back. Not the way I do. ”
“You love me?”
“You stupid Nephilim,” Magnus said patiently. “Why else am I here? Why else would I have spent the past few weeks patching up all your moronic friends every time they got hurt? And getting you out of every ridiculous situation you found yourself in? Not to mention helping you win a battle against Valentine. And all completely free of charge!”
“I hadn’t looked at it that way,” Alec admitted.
“Of course not. You never looked at it in any way. ” Magnus’s cat eyes shone with anger. “I’m seven hundred years old, Alexander. I know when something isn’t going to work. You won’t even admit I exist to your parents. ”
Alec stared at him. “I thought you were three hundred! You’re seven hundred years old?”
“Well,” Magnus amended, “eight hundred. But I don’t look it. Anyway, you’re missing the point. The point is—”
But Alec never found out what the point was, because at that moment a dozen more Iblis demons flooded into the square. He felt his jaw drop. “Damn it. ”
Magnus followed his gaze. The demons were already fanning out into a half circle around them, their yellow eyes glowing. “Way to change the subject, Lightwood. ”
“Tell you what. ” Alec reached for a second seraph blade. “We live through this, and I promise I’ll introduce you to my whole family. ”
Magnus raised his hands, his fingers shining with individual azure flames. They lit his grin with a fiery blue glow. “It’s a deal. ”