City of Glass – Chapter 9: THIS GUILTY BLOOD

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


“I DON’T REMEMBER THERE EVEN BEING A CELLAR HERE,” Jace said, staring past Clary at the gaping hole in the wall. He raised the witchlight, and its glow bounced off the downward-leading tunnel. The walls were black and slick, made of a smooth dark stone Clary didn’t recognize. The steps gleamed as if they were damp. A strange smell drifted up through the opening: dank, musty, with a weird metallic tinge that set her nerves on edge.

“What do you think could be down there?”

“I don’t know. ” Jace moved toward the stairs; he put a foot on the top step, testing it, and then shrugged as if he’d made up his mind. He began to make his way down the steps, moving carefully. Partway down he turned and looked up at Clary. “Are you coming? You can wait up here for me if you want to. ”

She glanced around the empty library, then shivered and hurried after him.

The stairs spiraled down in tighter and tighter circles, as if they were making their way through the inside of a huge conch shell. The smell grew stronger as they reached the bottom, and the steps widened out into a large square room whose stone walls were streaked with the marks of damp—and other, darker stains. The floor was scrawled with markings: a jumble of pentagrams and runes, with white stones scattered here and there.

Jace took a step forward and something crunched under his feet. He and Clary looked down at the same time. “Bones,” Clary whispered. Not white stones after all, but bones of all shapes and sizes, scattered across the floor. “What was he doing down here?”

The witchlight burned in Jace’s hand, casting its eerie glow over the room. “Experiments,” Jace said in a dry, tense tone. “The Seelie Queen said—”

“What kind of bones are these?” Clary’s voice rose. “Are they animal bones?”

“No. ” Jace kicked a pile of bones with his feet, scattering them. “Not all of them. ”

Clary’s chest felt tight. “I think we should go back. ”

Instead Jace raised the witchlight in his hand. It blazed out, brightly and then more brightly, lighting the air with a harsh white brilliance. The far corners of the room sprang into focus. Three of them were empty. The fourth was blocked with a hanging cloth. There was something behind the cloth, a humped shape—

“Jace,” Clary whispered. “What is that?”

He didn’t reply. There was a seraph blade in his free hand, suddenly; Clary didn’t know when he’d drawn it, but it shone in the witchlight like a blade of ice.

“Jace, don’t,” said Clary, but it was too late—he strode forward and twitched the cloth aside with the tip of the blade, then seized it and jerked it down. It fell in a blossoming cloud of dust.

Jace staggered back, the witchlight falling from his grasp. As the blazing light fell, Clary caught a single glimpse of his face: It was a white mask of horror. Clary snatched the witchlight up before it could go dark and raised it high, desperate to see what could have shocked Jace—unshockable Jace—so badly.

At first all she saw was the shape of a man—a man wrapped in a dirty white rag, crouched on the floor. Manacles circled his wrists and ankles, attached to thick metal staples driven into the stone floor. How can he be alive? Clary thought in horror, and bile rose up in her throat. The rune-stone shook in her hand, and light danced in patches over the prisoner: She saw emaciated arms and legs, scarred all over with the marks of countless tortures. The skull of a face turned toward her, black empty sockets where the eyes should have been—and then there was a dry rustle, and she saw that what she had thought was a white rag were wings, white wings rising up behind his back in two pure white crescents, the only pure things in this filthy room.

She gave a dry gasp. “Jace. Do you see—”

“I see. ” Jace, standing beside her, spoke in a voice that cracked like broken glass.

“You said there weren’t any angels—that no one had ever seen one—”

Jace was whispering something under his breath, a string of what sounded like panicked curses. He stumbled forward, toward the huddled creature on the floor—and recoiled, as if he had bounced off an invisible wall. Looking down, Clary saw that the angel crouched inside a pentagram made of connected runes graven deeply into the floor; they glowed with a faint phosphorescent light. “The runes,” she whispered. “We can’t get past—”

“But there must be something—” Jace said, his voice nearly breaking, “something we can do. ”

The angel raised its head. Clary saw with a distracted, terrible pity that it had curling golden hair like Jace’s that shone dully in the light. Tendrils clung close to the hollows of its skull. Its eyes were pits, its face slashed with scars, like a beautiful painting destroyed by vandals. As she stared, its mouth opened and a sound poured from its throat—not words but a piercing golden music, a single singing note, held and held and held so high and sweet that the sound was like pain—

A flood of images rose up before Clary’s eyes. She was still clutching the rune-stone, but its light was gone; she was gone, no longer there but somewhere else, where the pictures of the past flowed before her in a waking dream—fragments, colors, sounds.

She was in a wine cellar, bare and clean, a single huge rune scrawled on the stone floor. A man stood beside it; he held an open book in one hand and a blazing white torch in the other. When he raised his head, Clary saw that it was Valentine: much younger, his face unlined and handsome, his dark eyes clear and bright. As he chanted, the rune blazed up into fire, and when the flames receded, a crumpled figure lay among the ashes: an angel, wings spread and bloody, like a bird shot out of the sky….

The scene changed. Valentine stood by a window, at his side a young woman with shining red hair. A familiar silver ring gleamed on his hand as he reached to put his arms around her. With a jolt of pain Clary recognized her mother—but she was young, her features soft and vulnerable. She was wearing a white nightgown and was obviously pregnant.

“The Accords,” Valentine was saying angrily, “were not just the worst idea the Clave has ever had, but the worst thing that could happen to Nephilim. That we should be bound to Downworlders, tied to those creatures—”

“Valentine,” Jocelyn said with a smile, “enough about politics, please. ” She reached up and twined her arms around Valentine’s neck, her expression full of love—and his was as well, but there was something else in it, something that sent a shiver down Clary’s spine….

Valentine knelt in the center of a circle of trees. There was a bright moon overhead, illuminating the black pentagram that had been scrawled into the scraped earth of the clearing. The branches of trees made a thick net overhead; where they extended above the edge of the pentagram, their leaves curled and turned black. In the center of the five-pointed star sat a woman with long, shining hair; her shape was slim and lovely, her face hidden in shadow, her arms bare and white. Her left hand was extended in front of her, and as she opened her fingers, Clary could see that there was a long slash across her palm, dripping a slow stream of blood into a silver cup that rested on the pentagram’s edge. The blood looked black in the moonlight, or perhaps it was black.

“The child born with this blood in him,” she said, and her voice was soft and lovely, “will exceed in power the Greater Demons of the abysses between the worlds. He will be more mighty than the Asmodei, stronger than the shedim of the storms. If he is properly trained, there is nothing he will not be able to do. Though I warn you,” she added, “it will burn out his humanity, as poison burns the life from the blood. ”

“My thanks to you, Lady of Edom,” said Valentine, and as he reached to take the cup of blood, the woman lifted her face, and Clary saw that though she was otherwise beautiful, her eyes were hollow black holes from which curled waving black tentacles, like feelers probing the air. Clary stifled a scream—

The night, the forest, vanished. Jocelyn stood facing someone Clary couldn’t see. She was no longer pregnant, and her bright hair straggled around her stricken, despairing face. “I can’t stay with him, Ragnor,” she said. “Not for another day. I read his book. Do you know what he did to Jonathan? I didn’t think even Valentine could do that. ” Her shoulders shook. “He used demon blood—Jonathan’s not a baby anymore. He isn’t even human; he’s a monster—”

She vanished. Valentine was pacing restlessly around the circle of runes, a seraph blade shining in his hand. “Why won’t you speak?” he muttered. “Why won’t you give me what I want?” He drove down with the knife, and the angel writhed as golden liquid poured from its wound like spilled sunlight. “If you won’t give me answers,” Valentine hissed, “you can give me your blood. It will do me and mine more good than it will you. ”

Now they were in the Wayland library. Sunlight shone through the diamond-paned windows, flooding the room with blue and green. Voices came from another room: the sounds of laughter and chatting, a party going on. Jocelyn knelt by the bookshelf, glancing from side to side. She drew a thick book from her pocket and slipped it onto the shelf….

And she was gone. The scene showed a cellar, the same cellar that Clary knew she was standing in right now. The same scrawled pentagram scarred the floor, and within the center of the star lay the angel. Valentine stood by, once again with a burning seraph blade in his hand. He looked years older now, no longer a young man. “Ithuriel,” he said. “We are old friends now, aren’t we? I could have left you buried alive under those ruins, but no, I brought you here with me. All these years I’ve kept you close, hoping one day you would tell me what I wanted—needed—to know. ” He came closer, holding the blade out, its blaze lighting the runic barrier to a shimmer. “When I summoned you, I dreamed that you would tell me why. Why Raziel created us, his race of Shadowhunters, yet did not give us the powers Downworlders have—the speed of the wolves, the immortality of the Fair Folk, the magic of warlocks, even the endurance of vampires. He left us naked before the hosts of hell but for these painted lines on our skin. Why should their powers be greater than ours? Why can’t we share in what they have? How is that just?”

Within its imprisoning star the angel sat silent as a marble statue, unmoving, its wings folded. Its eyes expressed nothing beyond a terrible silent sorrow.

Valentine’s mouth twisted. “Very well. Keep your silence. I will have my chance. ” Valentine lifted the blade. “I have the Mortal Cup, Ithuriel, and soon I shall have the Sword—but without the Mirror I cannot begin the summoning. The Mirror is all I need. Tell me where it is. Tell me where it is, Ithuriel, and I will let you die. ”

The scene broke apart in fragments, and as her vision faded, Clary caught glimpses of images now familiar to her from her own nightmares—angels with wings both white and black; sheets of mirrored water, gold and blood; and Jace, turning away from her, always turning away. Clary reached out for him, and for the first time the angel’s voice spoke in her head in words that she could understand.

These are not the first dreams I have ever showed you.

The image of a rune burst behind her eyes, like fireworks—not a rune she had ever seen before; it was as strong, simple, and straightforward as a tied knot. It was gone in a breath as well, and as it vanished, the angel’s singing ceased. Clary was back in her own body, reeling on her feet in the filthy and reeking room. The angel was silent, frozen, wings folded, a grieving effigy.

Clary let out her breath in a sob. “Ithuriel. ” She reached her hands out to the angel, knowing she couldn’t pass the runes, her heart aching. For years the angel had been down here, sitting silent and alone in the blackness, chained and starving but unable to die….

Jace was beside her. She could see from his stricken face that he’d seen everything she had. He looked down at the seraph blade in his hand and then back at the angel. Its blind face was turned toward them in silent supplication.

Jace took a step forward, and then another. His eyes were fixed on the angel, and it was as if, Clary thought, there were some silent communication passing between them, some speech she couldn’t hear. Jace’s eyes were bright as gold disks, full of reflected light.

“Ithuriel,” he whispered.

The blade in his hand blazed up like a torch. Its glow was blinding. The angel raised its face, as if the light were visible to its blind eyes. It reached out its hands, the chains that bound its wrists rattling like harsh music.

Jace turned to her. “Clary,” he said. “The runes. ”

The runes. For a moment she stared at him, puzzled, but his eyes urged her onward. She handed Jace the witchlight, took his stele from her pocket, and knelt down by the scrawled runes. They looked as if they’d been gouged into the stone with something sharp.

She glanced up at Jace. His expression startled her, the blaze in his eyes—they were full of faith in her, of confidence in her abilities. With the tip of the stele she traced several lines into the floor, changing the runes of binding to runes of release, imprisonment to openness. They flared up as she traced them, as if she were dragging a match tip across sulphur.

Done, she rose to her feet. The runes shimmered before her. Abruptly Jace moved to stand beside her. The witchlight stone was gone, the only illumination coming from the seraph blade that he’d named for the angel, blazing in his hand. He stretched it out, and this time his hand passed through the barrier of the runes as if there were nothing there.

The angel reached its hands up and took the blade from him. It shut its blind eyes, and Clary thought for a moment that it smiled. It turned the blade in its grasp until the sharp tip rested just below its breastbone. Clary gave a little gasp and moved forward, but Jace grabbed her arm, his grip like iron, and yanked her backward—just as the angel drove the blade home.

The angel’s head fell back, its hands dropping from the hilt, which protruded from just where its heart would be—if angels had hearts; Clary didn’t know. Flames burst from the wound, spreading outward from the blade. The angel’s body shimmered into white flame, the chains on its wrists burning scarlet, like iron left too long in a fire. Clary thought of medieval paintings of saints consumed in the blaze of holy ecstasy—and the angel’s wings flew wide and white before they, too, caught and blazed up, a lattice of shimmering fire.

Clary could no longer watch. She turned and buried her face in Jace’s shoulder. His arm came around her, his grip tight and hard. “It’s all right,” he said into her hair, “it’s all right,” but the air was full of smoke and the ground felt like it was rocking under her feet. It was only when Jace stumbled that she realized it wasn’t shock: The ground was moving. She let go of Jace and staggered; the stones underfoot were grinding together, and a thin rain of dirt was sifting down from the ceiling. The angel was a pillar of smoke; the runes around it glowed painfully bright. Clary stared at them, decoding their meaning, and then looked wildly at Jace. “The manor—it was tied to Ithuriel. If the angel dies, the manor—”

She didn’t finish her sentence. He had already seized her hand and was running for the stairs, pulling her along after him. The stairs themselves were surging and buckling; Clary fell, banging her knee painfully on a step, but Jace’s grip on her arm didn’t loosen. She raced on, ignoring the pain in her leg, her lungs full of choking dust.

They reached the top of the steps and exploded out into the library. Behind them Clary could hear the soft roar as the rest of the stairs collapsed. It wasn’t much better here; the room was shuddering, books tumbling from their shelves. A statue lay where it had tipped over, in a pile of jagged shards. Jace let go of Clary’s hand, seized up a chair, and, before she could ask him what he meant to do, threw it at the stained-glass window.

It sailed through in a waterfall of broken glass. Jace turned and held his hand out to her. Behind him, through the jagged frame that remained, she could see a moonlight-saturated stretch of grass and a line of treetops in the distance. They seemed a long way down. I can’t jump that far, she thought, and was about to shake her head at Jace when she saw his eyes widen, his mouth shaping a warning. One of the heavy marble busts that lined the higher shelves had slid free and was falling toward her; she ducked out of its way, and it hit the floor inches from where she’d been standing, leaving a sizeable dent in the floor.

A second later Jace’s arms were around her and he was lifting her off her feet. She was too surprised to struggle as he carried her over to the broken window and dumped her unceremoniously out of it.

She hit a grassy rise just below the window and tumbled down its steep incline, gaining speed until she fetched up against a hillock with enough force to knock the breath out of her. She sat up, shaking grass out of her hair. A second later Jace came to a stop next to her; unlike her, he rolled immediately into a crouch, staring up the hill at the manor house.

Clary turned to look where he was looking, but he’d already grabbed her, shoving her down into the depression between the two hills. Later she’d find dark bruises on her upper arms where he’d held her; now she just gasped in surprise as he knocked her down and rolled on top of her, shielding her with his body as a huge roar went up. It sounded like the earth shattering apart, like a volcano erupting. A blast of white dust shot into the sky. Clary heard a sharp pattering noise all around her. For a bewildered moment she thought it had started to rain—then she realized it was rubble and dirt and broken glass: the detritus of the shattered manor being flung down around them like deadly hail.

Jace pressed her harder into the ground, his body flat against hers, his heartbeat nearly as loud in her ears as the sound of the manor’s subsiding ruins.

The roar of the collapse faded slowly, like smoke dissipating into the air. It was replaced by the loud chirruping of startled birds; Clary could see them over Jace’s shoulder, circling curiously against the dark sky.

“Jace,” she said softly. “I think I dropped your stele somewhere. ”

He drew back slightly, propping himself on his elbows, and looked down at her. Even in the darkness she could see herself reflected in his eyes; his face was streaked with soot and dirt, the collar of his shirt torn. “That’s all right. As long as you’re not hurt. ”

“I’m fine. ” Without thinking, she reached up, her fingers brushing lightly through his hair. She felt him tense, his eyes darkening.

“There was grass in your hair,” she said. Her mouth was dry; adrenaline sang through her veins. Everything that had just happened—the angel, the shattering manor—seemed less real than what she saw in Jace’s eyes.

“You shouldn’t touch me,” he said.

Her hand froze where it was, her palm against his cheek. “Why not?”

“You know why,” he said, and shifted away from her, rolling onto his back. “You saw what I saw, didn’t you? The past, the angel. Our parents. ”

It was the first time, she thought, that he’d called them that. Our parents. She turned onto her side, wanting to reach out to him but not sure if she should. He was staring blindly up at the sky. “I saw. ”

“You know what I am. ” The words breathed out in an anguished whisper. “I’m part demon, Clary. Part demon. You understood that much, didn’t you?” His eyes bored into her like drills. “You saw what Valentine was trying to do. He used demon blood—used it on me before I was even born. I’m part monster. Part everything I’ve tried so hard to burn out, to destroy. ”

Clary pushed away the memory of Valentine’s voice saying, She told me that I had turned her first child into a monster. “But warlocks are part demon. Like Magnus. It doesn’t make them evil—”

“Not part Greater Demon. You heard what the demon woman said. ”

It will burn out his humanity, as poison burns the life from the blood. Clary’s voice trembled. “It’s not true. It can’t be. It doesn’t make sense—”

“But it does. ” There was a furious desperation in Jace’s expression. She could see the gleam of the silver chain around his bare throat, lit to a white flare by the starlight. “It explains everything. ”

“You mean it explains why you’re such an amazing Shadowhunter? Why you’re loyal and fearless and honest and everything demons aren’t?”

“It explains,” he said, evenly, “why I feel the way I do about you. ”

“What do you mean?”

He was silent for a long moment, staring at her across the tiny space that separated them. She could feel him, even though he wasn’t touching her, as if he still lay with his body against hers. “You’re my sister,” he said finally. “My sister, my blood, my family. I should want to protect you”—he laughed soundlessly and without any humor—“to protect you from the sort of boys who want to do with you exactly what I want to do. ”

Clary’s breath caught. “You said you just wanted to be my brother from now on. ”

“I lied,” he said. “Demons lie, Clary. You know, there are some kinds of wounds you can get when you’re a Shadowhunter—internal injuries from demon poison. You don’t even know what’s wrong with you, but you’re bleeding to death slowly inside. That’s what it’s like, just being your brother. ”

“But Aline—”

“I had to try. And I did. ” His voice was lifeless. “But God knows, I don’t want anyone but you. I don’t even want to want anyone but you. ” He reached out, trailed his fingers lightly through her hair, fingertips brushing her cheek. “Now at least I know why. ”

Clary’s voice had sunk to a whisper. “I don’t want anyone but you, either. ”

She was rewarded by the catch in his breathing. Slowly he drew himself up onto his elbows. Now he was looking down at her, and his expression had changed—there was a look on his face she’d never seen before, a sleepy, almost deadly light in his eyes. He let his fingers trail down her cheek to her lips, outlining the shape of her mouth with the tip of a finger. “You should probably,” he said, “tell me not to do this. ”

She said nothing. She didn’t want to tell him to stop. She was tired of saying no to Jace—of never letting herself feel what her whole heart wanted her to feel. Whatever the cost.

He bent down, his lips against her cheek, brushing it lightly—and still that light touch sent shivers through her nerves, shivers that made her whole body tremble. “If you want me to stop, tell me now,” he whispered. When she still said nothing, he brushed his mouth against the hollow of her temple. “Or now. ” He traced the line of her cheekbone. “Or now. ” His lips were against hers. “Or—”

But she had reached up and pulled him down to her, and the rest of his words were lost against her mouth. He kissed her gently, carefully, but it wasn’t gentleness she wanted, not now, not after all this time, and she knotted her fists in his shirt, pulling him harder against her. He groaned softly, low in his throat, and then his arms circled her, gathering her against him, and they rolled over on the grass, tangled together, still kissing. There were rocks digging into Clary’s back, and her shoulder ached where she’d fallen from the window, but she didn’t care. All that existed was Jace; all she felt, hoped, breathed, wanted, and saw was Jace. Nothing else mattered.

Despite her coat, she could feel the heat of him burning through his clothes and hers. She tugged his jacket off, and then somehow his shirt was off too. Her fingers explored his body as his mouth explored hers: soft skin over lean muscle, scars like thin wires. She touched the star-shaped scar on his shoulder—it was smooth and flat, as if it were a part of his skin, not raised like his other scars. She supposed they were imperfections, these marks, but they didn’t feel that way to her; they were a history, cut into his body: the map of a life of endless war.

He fumbled with the buttons of her coat, his hands shaking. She didn’t think she’d ever seen Jace’s hands unsteady before. “I’ll do it,” she said, and reached for the last button herself; as she raised herself up, something cold and metallic struck her collarbone, and she gasped in surprise.

“What is it?” Jace froze. “Did I hurt you?”

“No. It was this. ” She touched the silver chain around his neck. On its end hung a small silver circle of metal. It had bumped against her when she’d leaned forward. She stared at it now.

That ring—the weather-beaten metal with its pattern of stars—she knew that ring.

The Morgenstern ring. It was the same ring that had gleamed on Valentine’s hand in the dream the angel had showed them. It had been his, and he had given it to Jace, as it had always been passed along, father to son.

“I’m sorry,” Jace said. He traced the line of her cheek with his fingertip, a dreamlike intensity in his gaze. “I forgot I was wearing the damn thing. ”

Sudden cold flooded Clary’s veins. “Jace,” she said, in a low voice. “Jace, don’t. ”

“Don’t what? Don’t wear the ring?”

“No, don’t—don’t touch me. Stop for a second. ”

His face went still. Questions had chased away the dreamlike confusion in his eyes, but he said nothing, just withdrew his hand.

“Jace,” she said again. “Why? Why now?”

His lips parted in surprise. She could see a dark line where he had bitten his bottom lip, or maybe she had bitten it. “Why what now?”

“You said there was nothing between us. That if we—if we let ourselves feel what we might want to feel, we’d be hurting everyone we care about. ”

“I told you. I was lying. ” His eyes softened. “You think I don’t want to—?”

“No,” she said. “No, I’m not stupid; I know that you do. But when you said that now you finally understand why you feel this way about me, what did you mean?”

Not that she didn’t know, she thought, but she had to ask, had to hear him say it.

Jace caught her wrists and drew her hands up to his face, lacing his fingers through hers. “You remember what I said to you at the Penhallows’ house?” he asked. “That you never think about what you do before you do it, and that’s why you wreck everything you touch?”

“No, I’d forgotten that. Thanks for the reminder. ”

He barely seemed to notice the sarcasm in her voice. “I wasn’t talking about you, Clary. I was talking about me. That’s what I’m like. ” He turned his face slightly and her fingers slid along his cheek. “At least now I know why. I know what’s wrong with me. And maybe—maybe that’s why I need you so much. Because if Valentine made me a monster, then I suppose he made you a sort of angel. And Lucifer loved God, didn’t he? So says Milton, anyway. ”

Clary sucked in her breath. “I am not an angel. And you don’t even know that that’s what Valentine used Ithuriel’s blood for—maybe Valentine just wanted it for himself—”

“He said the blood was for ‘me and mine,’” Jace said quietly. “It explains why you can do what you can do, Clary. The Seelie Queen said we were both experiments. Not just me. ”

“I’m not an angel, Jace,” she repeated. “I don’t return library books. I steal illegal music off the Internet. I lie to my mom. I am completely ordinary. ”

“Not to me. ” He looked down at her. His face hovered against a background of stars. There was nothing of his usual arrogance in his expression—she had never seen him look so unguarded, but even that unguardedness was mixed with a self-hatred that ran as deep as a wound. “Clary, I—”

“Get off me,” Clary said.

“What?” The desire in his eyes cracked into a thousand pieces like the shards of the Portal mirror at Renwick’s, and for a moment his expression was blankly astonished. She could hardly bear to look at him and still say no. Looking at him now—even if she hadn’t been in love with him, that part of her that was her mother’s daughter, that loved every beautiful thing for its beauty alone, would still have wanted him.

But, then, it was precisely because she was her mother’s daughter that it was impossible.

“You heard me,” she said. “And leave my hands alone. ” She snatched them back, knotting them into tight fists to stop their shaking.

He didn’t move. His lip curled back, and for a moment she saw that predatory light in his eyes again, but now it was mixed with anger. “I don’t suppose you want to tell me why?”

“You think you only want me because you’re evil, not human. You just want something else you can hate yourself for. I won’t let you use me to prove to yourself how worthless you are. ”

“I never said that. I never said I was using you. ”

“Fine,” she said. “Tell me now that you’re not a monster. Tell me there’s nothing wrong with you. And tell me you would want me even if you didn’t have demon blood. ” Because I don’t have demon blood. And I still want you.

Their gazes locked, his blindly furious; for a moment neither breathed, and then he flung himself off her, swearing, and rolled to his feet. Snatching his shirt up from the grass, he drew it over his head, still glaring. He yanked the shirt down over his jeans and turned away to look for his jacket.

Clary stood up, staggering a little. The stinging wind raised goose bumps on her arms. Her legs felt like they were made of half-melted wax. She did up the buttons on her coat with numb fingers, fighting the urge to burst into tears. Crying wouldn’t help anything now.

The air was still full of dancing dust and ash, the grass all around scattered with debris: shattered bits of furniture; the pages of books blowing mournfully in the wind; splinters of gilded wood; a chunk of almost half a staircase, mysteriously unharmed. Clary turned to look at Jace; he was kicking bits of debris with a savage satisfaction. “Well,” he said, “we’re screwed. ”

It wasn’t what she’d expected. She blinked. “What?”

“Remember? You lost my stele. There’s no chance of you drawing a Portal now. ” He spoke the words with a bitter pleasure, as if the situation satisfied him in some obscure way. “We’ve got no other way of getting back. We’re going to have to walk. ”

It wouldn’t have been a pleasant walk under normal circumstances. Accustomed to city lights, Clary couldn’t believe how dark it was in Idris at night. The thick black shadows that lined the road on either side seemed to be crawling with barely visible things, and even with Jace’s witchlight she could see only a few feet ahead of them. She missed streetlights, the ambient glow of headlights, the sounds of the city. All she could hear now was the steady crunch of their boots on gravel and, every once in a while, her own breath puffing out in surprise as she tripped over a stray rock.

After a few hours her feet began to ache and her mouth was dry as parchment. The air had grown very cold, and she hunched along shivering, her hands thrust deep into her pockets. But even all that would have been bearable if only Jace had been talking to her. He hadn’t spoken a word since they’d left the manor except to snap out directions, telling her which way to turn at a fork in the road, or ordering her to skirt a pothole. Even then she doubted if he would have minded much if she’d fallen into the pothole, except that it would have slowed them down.

Eventually the sky in the east began to lighten. Clary, stumbling along half-asleep, raised her head in surprise. “It’s early for dawn. ”

Jace looked at her with bland contempt. “That’s Alicante. The sun doesn’t come up for another three hours at least. Those are the city lights. ”

Too relieved that they were nearly home to mind his attitude, Clary picked up her pace. They rounded a corner and found themselves walking along a wide dirt path cut into a hillside. It snaked along the curve of the slope, disappearing around a bend in the distance. Though the city was not yet visible, the air had grown brighter, the sky shot through with a peculiar reddish glow.

“We must be nearly there,” Clary said. “Is there a shortcut down the hill?”

Jace was frowning. “Something’s wrong,” he said abruptly. He took off, half-running down the road, his boots sending up puffs of dust that gleamed ochre in the strange light. Clary ran to keep pace, ignoring the protests of her blistered feet. They rounded the next curve and Jace skidded to a sudden halt, sending Clary crashing into him. In another circumstance it might have been comic. It wasn’t now.

The reddish light was stronger now, throwing a scarlet glow up into the night sky, lighting the hill they stood on as if it were daylight. Plumes of smoke curled up from the valley below like the unfurling feathers of a black peacock. Rising from the black vapor were the demon towers of Alicante, their crystalline shells like arrows of fire piercing the smoky air. Through the thick smoke, Clary could glimpse the leaping scarlet of flames, scattered across the city like a handful of glittering jewels across a dark cloth.

It seemed incredible, but there it was: They were standing on a hillside high over Alicante, and below them the city was burning.

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