City of Glass – Chapter 12: DE PROFUNDIS

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

Chapter 12: DE PROFUNDIS


He had tried yanking the bars out of the window and the cell door, but touching any of them for very long seared bleeding score marks into his palms. Eventually he collapsed, gasping, on the floor, and stared numbly at his hands as the injuries swiftly healed, the lesions closing up and the blackened skin flaking away like in a video on fast-forward.

On the other side of the cell wall, Samuel was praying. “‘If, when evil cometh upon us, as the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we stand before this house, and in thy presence, and cry unto thee in our affliction, then thou wilt hear and help—’”

Simon knew he couldn’t pray. He’d tried it before, and the name of God burned his mouth and choked his throat. He wondered why he could think the words but not say them. And why he could stand in the noonday sun and not die but he couldn’t say his last prayers.

Smoke had begun to drift down the corridor like a purposeful ghost. He could smell burning and hear the crackle of fire spreading out of control, but he felt oddly detached, far from everything. It was strange to become a vampire, to be presented with what could only be described as an eternal life, and then to die anyway when you were sixteen.

“Simon!” The voice was faint, but his hearing caught it over the pop and crackle of growing flames. The smoke in the corridor had presaged heat; the heat was here now, pressing against him like an oppressive wall. “Simon!”

The voice was Clary’s. He would know it anywhere. He wondered if his mind was conjuring it up now, a sense memory of what he’d most loved during life to carry him through the process of death.

“Simon, you stupid idiot! I’m over here! At the window!”

Simon jumped to his feet. He doubted his mind would conjure that up. Through the thickening smoke he saw something white moving against the bars of the window. As he came closer, the white objects evolved into hands gripping the bars. He leaped onto the cot, yelling over the sound of the fire. “Clary?”

“Oh, thank God. ” One of the hands reached out, squeezed his shoulder. “We’re going to get you out of here. ”

“How?” Simon demanded, not unreasonably, but there was the sound of a scuffle and Clary’s hands vanished, replaced a moment later by another pair. These were bigger hands, unquestionably masculine, with scarred knuckles and thin pianist’s fingers.

“Hang on. ” Jace’s voice was calm, confident, for all the world as if they were chatting at a party instead of through the bars of a rapidly burning dungeon. “You might want to stand back. ”

Startled into obedience, Simon moved aside. Jace’s hands tightened on the bars, his knuckles whitening alarmingly. There was a groaning crack, and the square of bars jerked free of the stone that held it and clattered to the ground beside the bed. Stone dust rained down in a choking white cloud.

Jace’s face appeared at the empty square of window. “Simon. Come ON. ” He reached down.

Simon reached up and caught Jace’s hands. He felt himself hauled up, and then he was grabbing at the edge of the window, lifting himself through the narrow square like a snake wriggling through a tunnel. A second later he was sprawled out on damp grass, staring up at a circle of worried faces above his. Jace, Clary, and Alec. They were all looking down at him in concern.

“You look like crap, vampire,” Jace said. “What happened to your hands?”

Simon sat up. The injuries to his hands had healed, but they were still black where he’d grabbed at the bars of his cell. Before he could reply, Clary caught him in a sudden, fierce hug.

“Simon,” she breathed. “I can’t believe it. I didn’t even know you were here. I thought you were in New York until last night—”

“Yeah, well,” Simon said, “I didn’t know you were here either. ” He glared at Jace over her shoulder. “In fact, I think I was specifically told that you weren’t. ”

“I never said that,” Jace pointed out. “I just didn’t correct you when you were, you know, wrong. Anyway, I just saved you from being burned to death, so I figure you’re not allowed to be mad. ”

Burned to death. Simon pulled away from Clary and stared around. They were in a square garden, surrounded on two sides by the walls of the fortress and on the other two sides by a heavy growth of trees. The trees had been cleared where a gravel path led down the hill to the city—it was lined with witchlight torches, but only a few were burning, their light dim and erratic. He looked up at the Gard. Seen from this angle, you could barely even tell there was a fire—black smoke stained the sky overhead, and the light in a few windows seemed unnaturally bright, but the stone walls hid their secret well.

“Samuel,” he said. “We have to get Samuel out. ”

Clary looked baffled. “Who?”

“I wasn’t the only person down there. Samuel—he was in the next cell. ”

“The heap of rags I saw through the window?” Jace recalled.

“Yeah. He’s kind of weird, but he’s a good guy. We can’t leave him down there. ” Simon scrambled to his feet. “Samuel? Samuel!”

There was no answer. Simon ran to the low, barred window beside the one he’d just crawled through. Through the bars he could see only swirling smoke. “Samuel! Are you in there?”

Something moved inside the smoke—something hunched and dark. Samuel’s voice, roughened by smoke, rose hoarsely. “Leave me alone! Go away!”

“Samuel! You’ll die down there. ” Simon yanked at the bars. Nothing happened.

“No! Leave me alone! I want to stay!”

Simon looked desperately around to see Jace beside him. “Move,” Jace said, and when Simon leaned to the side, he kicked out with a booted foot. It connected with the bars, which tore free violently from their mooring and tumbled into Samuel’s cell. Samuel gave a hoarse shout.

“Samuel! Are you all right?” A vision of Samuel being brained by the falling bars rose up before Simon’s eyes.

Samuel’s voice rose to a scream. “GO AWAY!”

Simon looked sideways at Jace. “I think he means it. ”

Jace shook his blond head in exasperation. “You had to make a crazy jail friend, didn’t you? You couldn’t just count ceiling tiles or tame a pet mouse like normal prisoners do?” Without waiting for an answer, Jace got down on the ground and crawled through the window.

“Jace!” Clary yelped, and she and Alec hurried over, but Jace was already through the window, dropping into the cell below. Clary shot Simon an angry look. “How could you let him do that?”

“Well, he couldn’t leave that guy down there to die,” Alec said unexpectedly, though he looked a little anxious himself. “It’s Jace we’re talking about here—”

He broke off as two hands rose up out of the smoke. Alec grabbed one and Simon the other, and together they hauled Samuel like a limp sack of potatoes out of the cell and deposited him on the lawn. A moment later Simon and Clary were grabbing Jace’s hands and pulling him out, though he was considerably less limp and swore when they accidentally banged his head on the ledge. He shook them off, crawling the rest of the way onto the grass himself and then collapsing onto his back. “Ouch,” he said, staring up at the sky. “I think I pulled something. ” He sat up and glanced over at Samuel. “Is he okay?”

Samuel sat hunched on the ground, his hands splayed over his face. He was rocking back and forth soundlessly.

“I think there’s something wrong with him,” said Alec. He reached down to touch Samuel’s shoulder. Samuel jerked away, almost toppling over.

“Leave me alone,” he said, his voice cracking. “Please. Leave me alone, Alec. ”

Alec went still all over. “What did you say?”

“He said to leave him alone,” said Simon, but Alec wasn’t looking at him, didn’t even appear to notice he had spoken. He was looking at Jace—who, suddenly very pale, had already begun to rise to his feet.

“Samuel,” Alec said. His tone was strangely harsh. “Take your hands away from your face. ”

“No. ” Samuel tucked his chin down, his shoulders shaking. “No, please. No. ”

“Alec!” Simon protested. “Can’t you see he isn’t well?”

Clary caught at Simon’s sleeve. “Simon, there’s something wrong. ”

Her eyes were on Jace—when weren’t they?—as he moved to stare down at the crouched figure of Samuel. The tips of Jace’s fingers were bleeding where he’d scraped them on the window ledge, and when he moved to push his hair back from his eyes, they left bloody tracks across his cheek. He didn’t seem to notice. His eyes were wide, his mouth a flat, angry line. “Shadowhunter,” he said. His voice was deathly clear. “Show us your face. ”

Samuel hesitated, then dropped his hands. Simon had never seen his face before, and he hadn’t realized how gaunt Samuel was, or how old he looked. His face was half-covered by a thatch of thick gray beard, the eyes swimming in dark hollows, his cheeks grooved with lines. But for all that, he was still—somehow—strangely familiar.

Alec’s lips moved, but no sound came out. It was Jace who spoke.

“Hodge,” he said.

“Hodge?” Simon echoed in confusion. “But it can’t be. Hodge was … and Samuel, he can’t be …”

“Well, that’s just what Hodge does, apparently,” Alec said bitterly. “He makes you think he’s someone he’s not. ”

“But he said—” Simon began. Clary’s grip tightened on his sleeve, and the words died on his lips. The expression on Hodge’s face was enough. Not guilt, really, or even horror at being discovered, but a terrible grief that was hard to look at for long.

“Jace,” Hodge said very quietly. “Alec … I’m so sorry. ”

Jace moved then the way he moved when he was fighting, like sunlight across water. He was standing in front of Hodge with a knife out, the sharp tip of it aimed at his old tutor’s throat. The reflected glow of the fire slid off the blade. “I don’t want your apologies. I want a reason why I shouldn’t kill you right now, right here. ”

“Jace. ” Alec looked alarmed. “Jace, wait. ”

There was a sudden roar as part of the Gard roof went up in orange tongues of flame. Heat shimmered in the air and lit the night. Clary could see every blade of grass on the ground, every line on Hodge’s thin and dirty face.

“No,” Jace said. His blank expression as he gazed down at Hodge reminded Clary of another masklike face. Valentine’s. “You knew what my father did to me, didn’t you? You knew all his dirty secrets. ”

Alec was looking uncomprehendingly from Jace to his old tutor. “What are you talking about? What’s going on?”

Hodge’s face creased. “Jonathan …”

“You’ve always known, and you never said anything. All those years in the Institute, and you never said anything. ”

Hodge’s mouth sagged. “I—I wasn’t sure,” he whispered. “When you haven’t seen a child since he was a baby—I wasn’t sure who you were, much less what you were. ”

“Jace?” Alec was looking from his best friend to his tutor, his blue eyes dismayed, but neither of the two was paying attention to anything but the other. Hodge looked like a man trapped in a tightening vise, his hands jerking at his sides as if with pain, his eyes darting. Clary thought of the neatly dressed man in his book-lined library who had offered her tea and kindly advice. It seemed like a thousand years ago.

“I don’t believe you,” Jace said. “You knew Valentine wasn’t dead. He must have told you—”

“He told me nothing,” Hodge gasped. “When the Lightwoods informed me they were taking in Michael Wayland’s son, I hadn’t heard a word from Valentine since the Uprising. I had thought he had forgotten me. I’d even prayed he was dead, but I never knew. And then, the night before you arrived, Hugo came with a message for me from Valentine. ‘The boy is my son. ’ That’s all it said. ” He took a ragged breath. “I had no idea whether to believe him. I thought I’d know—I thought I’d know, just looking at you, but there was nothing, nothing, to make me sure. And I thought that this was a trick of Valentine’s, but what trick? What was he trying to do? You had no idea, that was clear enough to me, but as for Valentine’s purpose—”

“You should have told me what I was,” Jace said, all in one breath, as if the words were being punched out of him. “I could have done something about it, then. Killed myself, maybe. ”

Hodge raised his head, looking up at Jace through his matted, filthy hair. “I wasn’t sure,” he said again, half to himself, “and in the times that I wondered—I thought, perhaps, that upbringing might matter more than blood; that you could be taught—”

“Taught what? Not to be a monster?” Jace’s voice shook, but the knife in his hand was steady. “You should know better. He made a crawling coward out of you, didn’t he? And you weren’t a helpless little kid when he did it. You could have fought back. ”

Hodge’s eyes fell. “I tried to do my best by you,” he said, but even to Clary’s ears his words sounded weak.

“Until Valentine came back,” Jace said, “and then you did everything he asked of you—you gave me to him like I was a dog that had belonged to him once, that he’d asked you to look after for a few years—”

“And then you left,” said Alec. “You left us all. Did you really think you could hide here, in Alicante?”

“I didn’t come here to hide,” said Hodge, his voice lifeless. “I came here to stop Valentine. ”

“You can’t expect us to believe that. ” Alec sounded angry again now. “You’ve always been on Valentine’s side. You could have chosen to turn your back on him—”

“I could never have chosen that!” Hodge’s voice rose. “Your parents were given their chance for a new life—I was never given that! I was trapped in the Institute for fifteen years—”

“The Institute was our home!” Alec said. “Was it really so bad living with us—being part of our family?”

“Not because of you. ” Hodge’s voice was ragged. “I loved you children. But you were children. And no place that you are never allowed to leave can be a home. I went weeks sometimes without speaking to another adult. No other Shadowhunter would trust me. Not even your parents truly liked me; they tolerated me because they had no choice. I could never marry. Never have children of my own. Never have a life. And eventually you children would have been grown and gone, and then I wouldn’t even have had that. I lived in fear, as much as I lived at all. ”

“You can’t make us feel sorry for you,” Jace said. “Not after what you did. And what the hell were you afraid of, spending all your time in the library? Dust mites? We were the ones who went out and fought demons!”

“He was afraid of Valentine,” Simon said. “Don’t you get it—”

Jace shot him a venomous look. “Shut up, vampire. This isn’t in any way about you. ”

“Not Valentine exactly,” Hodge said, looking at Simon for almost the first time since he’d been dragged from the cell. There was something in that look that surprised Clary—a tired almost-affection. “My own weakness where Valentine was concerned. I knew he would return someday. I knew he would make a bid for power again, a bid to rule the Clave. And I knew what he could offer me. Freedom from my curse. A life. A place in the world. I could have been a Shadowhunter again, in his world. I could never be one again in this one. ” There was a naked longing in his voice that was painful to hear. “And I knew I would be too weak to refuse him if he offered it. ”

“And look at the life you got,” Jace spat. “Rotting in the cells of the Gard. Was it worth it, betraying us?”

“You know the answer to that. ” Hodge sounded exhausted. “Valentine took the curse off me. He’d sworn he would, and he did. I thought he’d bring me back to the Circle, or what remained of it then. He didn’t. Even he didn’t want me. I knew there would be no place for me in his new world. And I knew I’d sold out everything I did have for a lie. ” He looked down at his clenched, filthy hands. “There was only one thing I had left—one chance to make something other than an utter waste out of my life. After I heard that Valentine had killed the Silent Brothers—that he had the Mortal Sword—I knew he would go after the Mortal Glass next. I knew he needed all three of the Instruments. And I knew the Mortal Glass was here in Idris. ”

“Wait. ” Alec held up a hand. “The Mortal Glass? You mean, you know where it is? And who has it?”

“No one has it,” said Hodge. “No one could own the Mortal Glass. No Nephilim, and no Downworlder. ”

“You really did go crazy down there,” Jace said, jerking his chin toward the burned-out windows of the dungeons, “didn’t you?”

“Jace. ” Clary was looking anxiously up at the Gard, its roof crowned with a thorny net of red-gold flames. “The fire is spreading. We should get out of here. We can talk down in the city—”

“I was locked in the Institute for fifteen years,” Hodge went on, as if Clary hadn’t spoken. “I couldn’t put so much as a hand or a foot outside. I spent all my time in the library, researching ways to remove the curse the Clave had put on me. I learned that only a Mortal Instrument could reverse it. I read book after book telling the story of the mythology of the Angel, how he rose from the lake bearing the Mortal Instruments and gave them to Jonathan Shadowhunter, the first Nephilim, and how there were three of them: Cup, Sword, and Mirror—”

“We know all this,” Jace interrupted, exasperated. “You taught it to us. ”

“You think you know all of it, but you don’t. As I went over and over the various versions of the histories, I happened again and again on the same illustration, the same image—we’ve all seen it—the Angel rising out of the lake with the Sword in one hand and the Cup in the other. I could never understand why the Mirror wasn’t pictured. Then I realized. The Mirror is the lake. The lake is the Mirror. They are one and the same. ”

Slowly Jace lowered the knife. “Lake Lyn?”

Clary thought of the lake, like a mirror rising to meet her, the water shattering apart on impact. “I fell in the lake when I first got here. There is something about it. Luke said it has strange properties and that the Fair Folk call it the Mirror of Dreams. ”

“Exactly,” Hodge began eagerly. “And I realized the Clave wasn’t aware of this, that the knowledge had been lost to time. Even Valentine didn’t know—”

He was interrupted by a crashing roar, the sound of a tower at the far end of the Gard collapsing. It sent up a fireworks display of red and glittering sparks.

“Jace,” Alec said, raising his head in alarm. “Jace, we have to get out of here. Get up,” he said to Hodge, yanking him upright by the arm. “You can tell the Clave what you just told us. ”

Hodge got shakily to his feet. What must it be like, Clary thought with a pang of unwelcome pity, to live your life ashamed not just of what you’d done but of what you were doing and of what you knew you’d do again? Hodge had given up a long time ago trying to live a better life or a different one; all he wanted was not to be afraid, and so he was afraid all the time.

“Come on. ” Alec, still gripping Hodge’s arm, propelled him forward. But Jace stepped in front of them both, blocking their way.

“If Valentine gets the Mortal Glass,” he said, “what then?”

“Jace,” Alec said, still holding Hodge’s arm, “not now—”

“If he tells it to the Clave, we’ll never hear it from them,” Jace said. “To them we’re just children. But Hodge owes us this. ” He turned on his old tutor. “You said you realized you had to stop Valentine. Stop him doing what? What does the Mirror give him the power to do?”

Hodge shook his head. “I can’t—”

“And no lies. ” The knife gleamed at Jace’s side; his hand was tight on the hilt. “Because maybe for every lie you tell me, I’ll cut off a finger. Or two. ”

Hodge cringed back, real fear in his eyes. Alec looked stricken. “Jace. No. This is what your father’s like. It’s not what you’re like. ”

“Alec,” said Jace. He didn’t look at his friend, but his tone was like the touch of a regretful hand. “You don’t really know what I’m like. ”

Alec’s eyes met Clary’s across the grass. He can’t imagine why Jace is acting like this, she thought. He doesn’t know. She took a step forward. “Jace, Alec is right—we can take Hodge down to the Hall and he can tell the Clave what he’s just told us—”

“If he’d been willing to tell the Clave, he would have done it already,” Jace snapped without looking at her. “The fact that he didn’t proves he’s a liar. ”

“The Clave isn’t to be trusted!” Hodge protested desperately. “There are spies in it—Valentine’s men—I couldn’t tell them where the Mirror is. If Valentine found the Mirror, he would be—”

He never finished his sentence. Something bright silver gleamed out in the moonlight, a nail head of light in the darkness. Alec cried out. Hodge’s eyes flew wide as he staggered, clawing at his chest. As he sank backward, Clary saw why: The hilt of a long dagger protruded from his rib cage, like the haft of an arrow bristling from its target.

Alec, leaping forward, caught his old tutor as he fell, and lowered him gently to the ground. He looked up helplessly, his face spattered with Hodge’s blood. “Jace, why—”

“I didn’t—” Jace’s face was white, and Clary saw that he still held his knife, gripped tightly at his side. “I …”

Simon spun around, and Clary turned with him, staring into the darkness. The fire lit the grass with a hellish orange glow, but it was black between the trees of the hillside—and then something emerged from the blackness, a shadowy figure, with familiar dark, tumbled hair. He moved toward them, the light catching his face and reflecting off his dark eyes; they looked as if they were burning.

“Sebastian?” Clary said.

Jace looked wildly from Hodge to Sebastian standing uncertainly at the edge of the garden; Jace looked almost dazed. “You,” he said. “You—did this?”

“I had to do it,” Sebastian said. “He would have killed you. ”

“With what?” Jace’s voice rose and cracked. “He didn’t even have a weapon—”

“Jace. ” Alec cut through Jace’s shouting. “Come here. Help me with Hodge. ”

“He would have killed you,” Sebastian said again. “He would have—”

But Jace had gone to kneel beside Alec, sheathing his knife at his belt. Alec was holding Hodge in his arms, blood on his own shirtfront now. “Take the stele from my pocket,” he said to Jace. “Try an iratze—”

Clary, stiff with horror, felt Simon stir beside her. She turned to look at him and was shocked—he was white as paper except for a hectic red flush on both cheekbones. She could see the veins snaking under his skin, like the growth of some delicate, branching coral. “The blood,” he whispered, not looking at her. “I have to get away from it. ”

Clary reached to catch his sleeve, but he lurched back, jerking his arm out of her grasp.

“No, Clary, please. Let me go. I’ll be okay; I’ll be back. I just—” She started after him, but he was too quick for her to hold him back. He vanished into the darkness between the trees.

“Hodge—” Alec sounded panicked. “Hodge, hold still—”

But his tutor was struggling feebly, trying to pull away from him, away from the stele in Jace’s hand. “No. ” Hodge’s face was the color of putty. His eyes darted from Jace to Sebastian, who was still hanging back in the shadows. “Jonathan—”

“Jace,” Jace said, almost in a whisper. “Call me Jace. ”

Hodge’s eyes rested on him. Clary could not decipher the look in them. Pleading, yes, but something more than that, filled with dread, or something like it, and with need. He lifted a warding hand. “Not you,” he whispered, and blood spilled from his mouth with the words.

A look of hurt flashed across Jace’s face. “Alec, do the iratze—I don’t think he wants me to touch him. ”

Hodge’s hand tightened into a claw; he clutched at Jace’s sleeve. The rattle of his breath was audible. “You were … never …”

And he died. Clary could tell the moment the life left him. It was not a quiet, instant thing, like in a movie; his voice choked off in a gurgle and his eyes rolled back and he went limp and heavy, his arm bent awkwardly under him.

Alec closed Hodge’s eyes with his fingertips. “Vale, Hodge Starkweather. ”

“He doesn’t deserve that. ” Sebastian’s voice was sharp. “He wasn’t a Shadowhunter; he was a traitor. He doesn’t deserve the last words. ”

Alec’s head jerked up. He lowered Hodge to the ground and rose to his feet, his blue eyes like ice. Blood streaked his clothes. “You know nothing about it. You killed an unarmed man, a Nephilim. You’re a murderer. ”

Sebastian’s lip curled. “You think I don’t know who that was?” He gestured at Hodge. “Starkweather was in the Circle. He betrayed the Clave then and was cursed for it. He should have died for what he did, but the Clave was lenient—and where did it get them? He betrayed us all again when he sold the Mortal Cup to Valentine just to get his curse lifted—a curse he deserved. ” He paused, breathing hard. “I shouldn’t have done it, but you can’t say he didn’t deserve it. ”

“How do you know so much about Hodge?” Clary demanded. “And what are you doing here? I thought you agreed to stay back at the Hall. ”

Sebastian hesitated. “You were taking so long,” he said finally. “I got worried. I thought you might need my help. ”

“So you decided to help us by killing the guy we were talking to?” Clary demanded. “Because you thought he had a shady past? Who—who does that? It doesn’t make any sense. ”

“That’s because he’s lying,” Jace said. He was looking at Sebastian—a cold, considering look. “And not well. I thought you’d be a little faster on your feet there, Verlac. ”

Sebastian met his look evenly. “I don’t know what you mean, Morgenstern. ”

“He means,” said Alec, stepping forward, “that if you really think what you just did was justified, you won’t mind coming with us to the Accords Hall and explaining yourself to the Council. Will you?”

A beat passed before Sebastian smiled—the smile that had charmed Clary before, but now there was something a little off-kilter about it, like a picture hanging slightly crookedly on a wall. “Of course not. ” He moved toward them slowly, almost strolling, as if he didn’t have a worry in the world. As if he hadn’t just committed murder. “Of course,” he said, “it is a little odd that you’re so upset that I killed a man when Jace was planning on cutting his fingers off one by one. ”

Alec’s mouth tightened. “He wouldn’t have done it. ”

“You—” Jace looked at Sebastian with loathing. “You have no idea what you’re talking about. ”

“Or maybe,” Sebastian said, “you’re really just angry because I kissed your sister. Because she wanted me. ”

“I did not,” Clary said, but neither of them was looking at her. “Want you, I mean. ”

“She has this little habit, you know—the way she gasps when you kiss her, like she’s surprised?” Sebastian had come to a stop now, just in front of Jace, and was smiling like an angel. “It’s rather endearing; you must have noticed it. ”

Jace looked as if he wanted to throw up. “My sister—”

“Your sister,” Sebastian said. “Is she? Because you two don’t act like it. You think other people can’t see the way you look at each other? You think you’re hiding the way you feel? You think everyone doesn’t think it’s sick and unnatural? Because it is. ”

“That’s enough. ” The look on Jace’s face was murderous.

“Why are you doing this?” Clary said. “Sebastian, why are you saying all these things?”

“Because I finally can,” Sebastian said. “You’ve no idea what it’s been like, being around the lot of you these past few days, having to pretend I could stand you. That the sight of you didn’t make me sick. You,” he said to Jace, “every second you’re not panting after your own sister, you’re whining on and on about how your daddy didn’t love you. Well, who could blame him? And you, you stupid bitch”—he turned to Clary—“giving that priceless book away to a half-breed warlock; have you got a single brain cell in that tiny head of yours? And you—” He directed his next sneer at Alec. “I think we all know what’s wrong with you. They shouldn’t let your kind in the Clave. You’re disgusting. ”

Alec paled, though he looked more astonished than anything else. Clary couldn’t blame him—it was hard to look at Sebastian, at his angelic smile, and imagine he could say these things. “Pretend you could stand us?” she echoed. “But why would you have to pretend that unless you were … unless you were spying on us,” she finished, realizing the truth even as she spoke it. “Unless you were a spy for Valentine. ”

Sebastian’s handsome face twisted, the full mouth flattening, his long, elegant eyes narrowing to slits. “And finally they get it,” he said. “I swear, there are utterly lightless demon dimensions out there that are less dim than the bunch of you. ”

“We may not be all that bright,” Jace said, “but at least we’re alive. ”

Sebastian looked at him in disgust. “I’m alive,” he pointed out.

“Not for long,” said Jace. Moonlight exploded off the blade of his knife as he flung himself at Sebastian, his motion so fast that it seemed blurred, faster than any human movement Clary had ever seen.

Until now.

Sebastian darted aside, missing the blow, and caught Jace’s knife arm as it descended. The knife clattered to the ground, and then Sebastian had Jace by the back of his jacket. He lifted him and flung him with incredible strength. Jace flew through the air, hit the wall of the Gard with bone-cracking force, and crumpled to the ground.

“Jace!” Clary’s vision went white. She ran at Sebastian to choke the life out of him. But he sidestepped her and brought his hand down as casually as if he were swatting an insect aside. The blow caught her hard on the side of the head, sending her spinning to the ground. She rolled over, blinking a red mist of pain out of her eyes.

Alec had taken his bow from his back; it was drawn, an arrow notched at the ready. His hands didn’t waver as he aimed at Sebastian. “Stay where you are,” he said, “and put your hands behind your back. ”

Sebastian laughed. “You wouldn’t really shoot me,” he said. He moved toward Alec with an easy, careless step, as if he were striding up the stairs to his own front door.

Alec’s eyes narrowed. His hands went up in a graceful, even series of movements; he drew the arrow back and loosed it. It flew toward Sebastian—

And missed. Sebastian had ducked or moved somehow, Clary couldn’t tell, and the arrow had gone past him, lodging in the trunk of a tree. Alec had time only for a momentary look of surprise before Sebastian was on him, wrenching the bow out of his grasp. Sebastian snapped it in his hands—cracked it in half, and the crack of the splintering made Clary wince as if she were hearing bones splinter. She tried to drag herself into a sitting position, ignoring the searing pain in her head. Jace was lying a few feet away from her, utterly still. She tried to get up, but her legs didn’t seem to be working properly.

Sebastian tossed the shattered halves of the bow aside and closed in on Alec. Alec already had a seraph blade out, glittering in his hand, but Sebastian swept it aside as Alec came at him—swept it aside and caught Alec by the throat, almost lifting him off his feet. He squeezed mercilessly, viciously, grinning as Alec choked and struggled. “Lightwood,” he breathed. “I’ve taken care of one of you already today. I hadn’t expected I’d be lucky enough to get to do it twice. ”

He jerked backward, like a puppet whose strings had been yanked. Released, Alec slumped to the ground, his hands at his throat. Clary could hear his rattling, desperate breath—but her eyes were on Sebastian. A dark shadow had affixed itself to his back and was clinging to him like a leech. He clawed at his throat, gagging and choking as he spun in place, clawing at the thing that had hold of his throat. As he turned, the moonlight fell on him, and Clary saw what it was.

It was Simon. His arms were wrapped around Sebastian’s neck, his white incisors glittering like bone needles. It was the first time Clary had seen him actually look fully like a vampire since the night he’d risen from his grave, and she stared in horrified amazement, unable to look away. His lips were curled back in a snarl, his fangs fully extended and sharp as daggers. He sank them into Sebastian’s forearm, opening up a long red tear in the skin.

Sebastian yelled out loud and flung himself backward, landing hard on the ground. He rolled, Simon half on top of him, the two of them clawing at each other, tearing and snarling like dogs in a pit. Sebastian was bleeding in several places when he finally staggered to his feet and delivered two hard kicks to Simon’s rib cage. Simon doubled over, clutching his midsection. “You foul little tick,” Sebastian snarled, drawing his foot back for another blow.

“I wouldn’t,” said a quiet voice.

Clary’s head jerked up, sending another starburst of pain shooting behind her eyes. Jace stood a few feet from Sebastian. His face was bloody, one eye swollen nearly shut, but in one hand was a blazing seraph blade, and the hand that held it was steady. “I’ve never killed a human being with one of these before,” said Jace. “But I’m willing to try. ”

Sebastian’s face twisted. He glanced down once at Simon, and then raised his head and spat. The words he said after that were in a language Clary didn’t recognize—and then he turned with the same terrifying swiftness with which he’d moved when he’d attacked Jace, and vanished into the darkness.

“No!” Clary cried. She tried to raise herself to her feet, but the pain was like an arrow searing its way through her brain. She crumpled to the damp grass. A moment later Jace was leaning over her, his face pale and anxious. She looked up at him, her vision blurring—it had to be blurred, didn’t it, or she could never have imagined that whiteness around him, a sort of light—

She heard Simon’s voice and then Alec’s, and something was handed down to Jace—a stele. Her arm burned, and a moment later the pain began to recede, and her head cleared. She blinked up at the three faces hovering over hers. “My head …”

“You have a concussion,” Jace said. “The iratze should help, but we ought to get you to a Clave doctor. Head injuries can be tricky. ” He handed the stele back to Alec. “Do you think you can stand up?”

She nodded. It was a mistake. Pain shot through her again as hands reached down and helped her to her feet. Simon. She leaned against him gratefully, waiting for her balance to return. She still felt as if she might fall over at any minute.

Jace was scowling. “You shouldn’t have attacked Sebastian like that. You didn’t even have a weapon. What were you thinking?”

“What we were all thinking. ” Alec, unexpectedly, came to her defense. “That he’d just thrown you through the air like a softball. Jace, I’ve never seen anyone get the better of you like that. ”

“I—he surprised me,” Jace said a little reluctantly. “He must have had some kind of special training. I wasn’t expecting it. ”

“Yeah, well. ” Simon touched his rib cage, wincing. “I think he kicked in a couple of my ribs. It’s okay,” he added at Clary’s worried look. “They’re healing. But Sebastian’s definitely strong. Really strong. ” He looked at Jace. “How long do you think he was standing there in the shadows?”

Jace looked grim. He glanced among the trees in the direction Sebastian had gone. “Well, the Clave will catch him—and curse him, probably. I’d like to see them put the same curse on him they put on Hodge. That would be poetic justice. ”

Simon turned aside and spat into the bushes. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, his face twisted into a grimace. “His blood tastes foul—like poison. ”

“I suppose we can add that to his list of charming qualities,” said Jace. “I wonder what else he was up to tonight. ”

“We need to get back to the Hall. ” The look on Alec’s face was strained, and Clary remembered that Sebastian had said something to him, something about the other Lightwoods…. “Can you walk, Clary?”

She drew away from Simon. “I can walk. What about Hodge? We can’t just leave him. ”

“We have to,” said Alec. “There’ll be time to come back for him if we all survive the night. ”

As they left the garden, Jace paused, drew off his jacket, and laid it over Hodge’s slack, upturned face. Clary wanted to go to Jace, put a hand on his shoulder even, but something in the way he held himself told her not to. Even Alec didn’t go near him or offer a healing rune, despite the fact that Jace was limping as he walked down the hill.

They moved together down the zigzag path, weapons drawn and at the ready, the sky lit red by the burning Gard behind them. But they saw no demons. The stillness and eerie light made Clary’s head throb; she felt as if she were in a dream. Exhaustion gripped her like a vise. Just putting one foot in front of the other was like lifting a block of cement and slamming it down, over and over. She could hear Jace and Alec talking up ahead on the path, their voices faintly blurred despite their proximity.

Alec was speaking softly, almost pleading. “Jace, the way you were talking up there, to Hodge. You can’t think like that. Being Valentine’s son, it doesn’t make you a monster. Whatever he did to you when you were a kid, whatever he taught you, you have to see it’s not your fault—”

“I don’t want to talk about this, Alec. Not now, not ever. Don’t ask me about it again. ” Jace’s tone was savage, and Alec fell silent. Clary could almost feel his hurt. What a night, Clary thought. A night of so much pain for everyone.

She tried not to think of Hodge, of the pleading, pitiful look on his face before he’d died. She hadn’t liked Hodge, but he hadn’t deserved what Sebastian had done to him. No one did. She thought of Sebastian, of the way he’d moved, like sparks flying. She’d never seen anyone but Jace move like that. She wanted to puzzle it out—what had happened to Sebastian? How had a cousin of the Penhallows managed to go so wrong, and how had they never noticed? She’d thought he’d wanted to help her save her mother, but he’d only wanted to get the Book of the White for Valentine. Magnus had been wrong—it hadn’t been because of the Lightwoods that Valentine had found out about Ragnor Fell. It had been because she’d told Sebastian. How could she have been so stupid?

Appalled, she barely noticed as the path turned into an avenue, leading them into the city. The streets were deserted, the houses dark, many of the witchlight streetlamps smashed, their glass scattered across the cobblestones. Voices were audible, echoing as if at a distance, and the gleam of torches was visible here and there among the shadows between buildings, but—

“It’s awfully quiet,” Alec said, looking around in surprise. “And—”

“It doesn’t stink like demons. ” Jace frowned. “Strange. Come on. Let’s get to the Hall. ”

Though Clary was half-braced for an attack, they didn’t see a single demon as they moved through the streets. Not a live one, at least—though as they passed a narrow alley, she saw a group of three or four Shadowhunters gathered in a circle around something that pulsed and twitched on the ground. They were taking turns stabbing it with long, sharpened poles. With a shudder she looked away.

The Hall of Accords was lit like a bonfire, witchlight pouring out of its doors and windows. They hurried up the stairs, Clary steadying herself when she stumbled. Her dizziness was getting worse. The world seemed to be swinging around her, as if she stood inside a great spinning globe. Above her the stars were white-painted streaks across the sky. “You should lie down,” Simon said, and then, when she said nothing, “Clary?”

With an enormous effort, she forced herself to smile at him. “I’m all right. ”

Jace, standing at the entrance to the Hall, looked back at her in silence. In the harsh glare of the witchlight, the blood on his face and his swollen eye looked ugly, streaked and black.

There was a dull roar inside the Hall, the low murmur of hundreds of voices. To Clary it sounded like the beating of an enormous heart. The lights of the bracketed torches, coupled with the glow of witchlights carried everywhere, seared her eyes and fragmented her vision; she could see only vague shapes now, vague shapes and colors. White, gold, and then the night sky above, fading from dark to paler blue. How late was it?

“I don’t see them. ” Alec, casting anxiously around the room for his family, sounded as if he were a hundred miles off, or deep underwater. “They should be here by now—”

His voice faded as Clary’s dizziness worsened. She put a hand against a nearby pillar to steady herself. A hand brushed across her back—Simon. He was saying something to Jace, sounding anxious. His voice faded into the pattern of dozens of others, rising and falling around her like waves breaking.

“Never seen anything like it. The demons just turned around and left, just vanished. ”

“Sunrise, probably. They’re afraid of sunrise, and it’s not far off. ”

“No, it was more than that. ”

“You just don’t want to think they’ll be back the next night, or the next. ”

“Don’t say that; there’s no reason to say that. They’ll get the wards back up. ”

“And Valentine will just take them down again. ”

“Maybe it’s no better than we deserve. Maybe Valentine was right—maybe allying ourselves with Downworlders means we’ve lost the Angel’s blessing. ”

“Hush. Have some respect. They’re tallying the dead out in Angel Square. ”

“There they are,” Alec said. “Over there, by the dais. It looks like …” His voice trailed off, and then he was gone, pushing his way through the crowd. Clary squinted, trying to sharpen her vision. All she could see were blurs—

She heard Jace catch his breath, and then, without another word, he was shoving through the crowd after Alec. Clary let go of the pillar, meaning to follow them, but stumbled. Simon caught her.

“You need to lie down, Clary,” he said.

“No,” she whispered. “I want to see what happened—”

She broke off. He was staring past her, after Jace, and he looked stricken. Bracing herself against the pillar, she raised herself up on her toes, struggling to see over the crowd—

There they were, the Lightwoods: Maryse with her arms around Isabelle, who was sobbing, and Robert Lightwood sitting on the ground and holding something—no, someone, and Clary thought of the time she had seen Max at the Institute, lying limp and asleep on a couch, his glasses knocked askew and his hand trailing along the floor. He can sleep anywhere, Jace had said, and he almost looked as if he were sleeping now, in his father’s lap, but Clary knew he wasn’t.

Alec was on his knees, holding one of Max’s hands, but Jace was just standing where he was, not moving, and more than anything else he looked lost, as if he had no idea where he was or what he was doing there. All Clary wanted was to run to him and put her arms around him, but the look on Simon’s face told her no, no, and so did her memory of the manor house and Jace’s arms around her there. She was the last person on earth who could ever give him any comfort.

“Clary,” Simon said, but she was pulling away from him, despite her dizziness and the pain in her head. She ran for the doors of the Hall and pushed them open, ran out onto the steps and stood there, gulping down breaths of cold air. In the distance the horizon was streaked with red fire, the stars fading, bleached out of the lightening sky. The night was over. Dawn had come.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21