City of Heavenly Fire – Chapter 11: THE BEST IS LOST

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Chapter 11: THE BEST IS LOST

“Clary. Jace. Wake up. ” Clary raised her head and almost yelped as a twinge shot through her stiff neck. She’d fallen asleep curled up against Jace’s shoulder; he was asleep too, wedged into the corner of the sofa with his jacket wadded up under his head as a pillow. The hilt of his sword dug uncomfortably into Clary’s hip as he groaned and straightened up. The Consul stood over them, dressed in Council robes, unsmiling. Jace scrambled to his feet. “Consul,” he said¸ in as dignified a voice as he could muster with his clothes rumpled and his light hair sticking out in every possible direction. “We nearly forgot the two of you were in here,” Jia said. “The Council meeting has begun. ” Clary got to her feet more slowly, working out the cricks in her back and neck. Her mouth was as dry as chalk, and her body ached with tension and exhaustion. “Where’s my mother?” she said. “Where’s Luke?” “I’ll wait for you in the hall,” Jia said, but she didn’t move. Jace was sliding his arms into his jacket. “We’ll be right along, Consul. ” There was something in the Consul’s voice that made Clary look at her again. Jia was pretty, like her daughter Aline, but at the moment there were sharp lines of tension at the corners of her mouth and eyes. Clary had seen that look before. “What’s going on?” she demanded. “There’s something wrong, isn’t there? Where’s my mother? Where’s Luke?” “We’re not sure,” Jia said quietly. “They never responded to the message that we sent to them last night. ” Too many shocks, delivered too quickly, had left Clary numb. She didn’t gasp or exclaim, only felt a coldness spread through her veins. She seized up Heosphoros from the table where she’d left it, and shoved it through her belt. Without another word she pushed past the Consul, into the hallway outside. Simon was waiting there. He looked rumpled and exhausted, pale even for a vampire. She reached to squeeze his hand, fingers brushing across the gold leaf ring on his finger as she did. “Simon’s coming to the Council meeting,” Clary said, her look daring the Consul to say anything in return. Jia simply nodded. She looked like someone who was too tired to argue anymore. “He can be the Night Children’s representative. ” “But Raphael was going to stand in for the representative,” Simon protested, alarmed. “I’m not prepared—” “We haven’t been able to reach any of the Downworld representatives, Raphael included. ” Jia began to make her way down the hall. The walls were wood, with the pale color and sharp scent of freshly cut lumber. This must have been part of the Gard that had been rebuilt after the Mortal War—Clary had been too tired to notice the night before. Runes of angelic power were cut into the walls at intervals. Each glowed with a deep light, illuminating the windowless corridor. “What do you mean, you haven’t been able to reach them?” Clary demanded, hurrying after Jia. Simon and Jace followed. The corridor curved, leading deeper into the heart of the Gard. Clary could hear a dull roar, like the sound of the ocean, just ahead of them. “Neither Luke nor your mother came back from their appointment at the house of the Fair Folk. ” The Consul paused in a large antechamber. There was a good deal of natural light here, pouring through windows made up of alternating squares of plain and colored glass. Double doors stood before them, blazoned with the triptych of the Angel and the Mortal Instruments. “I don’t understand,” Clary said, her voice rising. “So they’re still there? At Meliorn’s?” Jia shook her head. “The house is empty. ” “But—what about Meliorn, what about Magnus?” “Nothing is certain yet,” Jia said. “There is no one in the house, nor are any of the representatives responding to messages. Patrick is out searching the city now with a team of guards. ” “Was there blood in the house?” Jace asked. “Signs of a struggle, anything?” Jia shook her head. “No. The food was still on the table. It was as if they just—vanished into thin air. ” “There’s more, isn’t there?” Clary said. “I can tell by your expression that there’s more. ” Jia didn’t answer, just pushed the door of the Council room open. Noise poured out into the antechamber. This was the sound Clary had been hearing, like the crash of the ocean. She hurried past the Consul and paused in the doorway, hovering uncertainly. The Council room, so orderly only a few days before, was full of shouting Shadowhunters. Everyone was standing, some in groups and some apart. Most of the groups were arguing. Clary couldn’t make out the words, but she could see the angry gestures. Her eyes scanned the crowd for familiar faces—no Luke, no Jocelyn, but there were the Lightwoods, Robert in his Inquisitor’s robes beside Maryse; there were Aline and Helen, and the crowd of Blackthorn children. And there, down in the center of the amphitheater, were the four carved wooden seats of the Downworlders, set around the lecterns in a half circle. They were empty, and splashed across the floorboards in front of them was a single word, scrawled in a crooked hand, in what looked like sticky gold paint: Veni. Jace moved past Clary, into the room. His shoulders were tight as he stared down at the scrawl. “That’s ichor,” he said. “Angel blood. ” In a flash Clary saw the library at the Institute, the floor slicked with blood and feathers, the angel’s hollow bones. Erchomai. I am coming. And now the single word: Veni. I have come. A second message. Oh, Sebastian had been busy. Stupid, she thought, so stupid of her to think he’d come only for her, that it hadn’t been part of something larger, that he hadn’t wanted more, more destruction, more terror, more upheaval. She thought of his smirk when she’d mentioned the battle at the Citadel. Of course it had been more than an attack; it had been a distraction. Turning the gaze of the Nephilim outward from Alicante, making them search the world for him and his Endarkened, panicking them over the wounded and dead. And in the meantime Sebastian had found his way to the heart of the Gard and painted the floor in blood. Near the dais was a group of Silent Brothers in their bone-colored robes, faces hidden by hoods. Her memory sparking, Clary turned to Jace. “Brother Zachariah—I never got a chance to ask you if you knew whether he was all right?” Jace was staring at the writing on the dais, a sick look on his face. “I saw him in the Basilias. He’s all right. He’s—different. ” “Good different?” “Human different,” Jace said, and before Clary could ask him what he meant, she heard someone call her name. Down in the center of the room, she saw a hand rise out of the crowd, waving toward her frantically. Isabelle. She was standing with Alec, a little distance from their parents. Clary heard Jia call out after her, but she was pushing through the crowd already, Jace and Simon at her heels. She sensed curious stares being cast in her direction. Everyone knew who she was, after all. Knew who they all were. Valentine’s daughter, Valentine’s adopted son, and the Daylighter vampire. “Clary!” Isabelle called as Clary, Jace, and Simon pulled free of the staring onlookers and nearly fell into the Lightwood siblings, who had managed to clear a small space for themselves in the middle of the crowd. Isabelle shot an irritated glance at Simon before reaching out to hug Jace and Clary. As soon as she released Jace, Alec pulled him over by the sleeve and hung on, his knuckles whitening around the fabric. Jace looked surprised, but said nothing. “Is it true?” Isabelle said to Clary. “Sebastian was at your house last night?” “At Amatis’s, yes—how did you know?” Clary demanded. “Our father’s the Inquisitor; of course we know,” said Alec. “Rumors about Sebastian being in the city were all everyone was talking about before they opened up the Council room and we saw—this. ” “It’s true,” Simon added. “The Consul asked me about it when she woke me up—like I’d know anything. I slept through it,” he added as Isabelle shot him an inquiring look. “Did the Consul say anything to you about this?” Alec demanded, sweeping an arm toward the grim scene below. “Did Sebastian?” “No,” Clary said. “Sebastian doesn’t exactly share his plans. ” “He shouldn’t have been able to get to the Downworld representatives. Not only is Alicante guarded, but each of their safe houses is warded,” said Alec. There was a pulse going in his throat like a hammer; his hand, where it rested on Jace’s sleeve, was shaking with a fine tremor. “They were at dinner. They should have been safe. ” He let go of Jace and jammed his hands into his pockets. “And Magnus—Magnus wasn’t even supposed to be here. Catarina was coming instead of him. ” He looked at Simon. “I saw you with him in Angel Square on the night of the battle,” he said. “Did he say why he was in Alicante?” Simon shook his head. “He just shooed me away. He was healing Clary. ” “Maybe this is a bluff,” Alec said. “Maybe Sebastian is trying to make us think he’s done something to the Downworld representatives to throw us off—” “We don’t know that he’s done anything to them. But—they are missing,” Jace said quietly, and Alec looked away, as if he couldn’t bear to meet their gazes. “Veni,” Isabelle whispered, looking at the dais. “Why . . . ?” “He’s telling us he has power,” Clary said. “Power none of us even begin to understand. ” She thought of the way he’d appeared in her room and then disappeared. Of the way the ground had opened under his feet at the Citadel, as if the earth were welcoming him in, hiding him from the threat of the world above. A sharp report rang out through the room, the bell that called the Council to order. Jia had moved to the lectern, an armed Clave guard in hooded robes on either side of her. “Shadowhunters,” she said, and the word echoed as clearly through the room as if she’d used a microphone. “Please be silent. ” The room subsided gradually into quiet, though from the rebellious looks on quite a few faces, it was an uncooperative quiet. “Consul Penhallow!” called out Kadir. “What answers do you have for us? What is the meaning of this—this desecration?” “We’re not sure,” said Jia. “It happened in the night, in between one watch of guards and another. ” “This is vengeance,” said a thin, dark-haired Shadowhunter whom Clary recognized as the head of the Budapest Institute. Lazlo Balogh, she thought his name was. “Vengeance for our victories in London and at the Citadel. ” “We didn’t have victories in London and at the Citadel, Lazlo,” said Jia. “The London Institute turned out to be protected by a force even we were unaware of, one we cannot replicate. The Shadowhunters there were warned and led to safety. Even then, a few were injured: None of Sebastian’s forces were harmed. At best it could be called a successful retreat. ” “But the attack on the Citadel,” Lazlo protested. “He did not enter the Citadel. He did not reach the armory there—” “But neither did he lose. We sent through sixty warriors, and he killed thirty and injured ten. He had forty warriors, and he lost perhaps fifteen. If it hadn’t been for what happened when he wounded Jace Lightwood, his forty would have slaughtered our sixty. ” “We’re Shadowhunters,” said Nasreen Choudhury. “We are used to defending that which we must defend with our last breaths, our last drops of blood. ” “A noble idea,” said Josiane Pontmercy, from the Marseilles Conclave, “but perhaps not entirely practical. ” “We were too conservative in the number we sent to face him at the Citadel,” said Robert Lightwood, his booming voice carrying through the room. “We have estimated since the attacks that Sebastian has four hundred Endarkened warriors on his side. Simply given the numbers, a head-to-head battle now between his forces and all Shadowhunters would mean that he would lose. ” “So what we need to do is fight him as soon as possible, before he Turns any other Shadowhunters,” said Diana Wrayburn. “You can’t fight what you can’t find,” said the Consul. “Our attempts to track him continue to prove fruitless. ” She raised her voice. “Sebastian Morgenstern’s best plan now is to lure us out in small numbers. He needs us to send out scouting parties to hunt demons, or to hunt him. We must stay together, here, in Idris, where he cannot confront us. If we split up, if we leave our homeland, then we will lose. ” “He’ll wait us out,” said a blond Shadowhunter from the Copenhagen Conclave. “We have to believe he doesn’t have the patience for that,” said Jia. “We have to assume he will attack, and when he does, our superior numbers will defeat him. ” “There’s more than patience to be considered,” said Balogh. “We left our Institutes, we came here, with the understanding that we would be returning once we had held a Council with the Downworld representatives. Without us out in the world, who will protect it? We have a mandate, a mandate from Heaven, to protect the world, to hold back the demons. We cannot do that from Idris. ” “All the wards are at full strength,” said Robert. “Wrangel Island is working overtime. And given our new cooperation with Downworlders, we will have to rely on them to keep the Accords. That was part of what we were going to discuss at the Council today—” “Well, good luck to you with that,” said Josiane Pontmercy, “considering that the representatives of Downworld are missing. ” Missing. The word fell into the silence like a pebble into water, sending out ripples through the room. Clary felt Alec stiffen, minutely, at her side. She hadn’t been letting herself think about it, hadn’t been letting herself believe that they could really be gone. It was a trick Sebastian was playing on them, she kept telling herself. A cruel trick, but nothing more. “We don’t know that!” Jia protested. “Guards are out searching now—” “Sebastian wrote on the floor in front of their very seats!” shouted a man with a bandaged arm. He was the head of the Mexico City Institute and had been at the Citadel battle. Clary thought his last name was Rosales. “Veni. ‘I am come. ’ Just as he sent us a message with the death of the angel in New York, now he strikes at us in the heart of the Gard—” “But he didn’t strike at us,” Diana interrupted. “He struck at the representatives of Downworld. ” “To strike at our allies is to strike at us,” called Maryse. “They are members of the Council, with all the attendant rights that represents. ” “We don’t even know what happened to them!” snapped someone in the crowd. “They could be perfectly all right—” “Then where are they?” shouted Alec, and even Jace looked startled to hear Alec raise his voice. Alec was glowering, his blue eyes dark, and Clary was suddenly reminded of the angry boy she had met in the Institute what felt like so long ago. “Has anyone tried to track them?” “We have,” said Jia. “It hasn’t worked. Not all of them can be tracked. You cannot track a warlock, or the dead—” Jia broke off with a sudden gasp. Without warning the Clave guard on her left had come up behind her and seized her by the back of her robes. A shout ran through the assembly as he yanked her back, placing the blade of a long, silver dagger against her throat. “Nephilim!” he roared, and his hood fell away, showing the blank eyes and swirling, unfamiliar Marks of the Endarkened. A roar began to rise from the crowd, cut off quickly as the guard dug his blade farther into Jia’s throat. Blood bloomed around it, visible even from a distance. “Nephilim!” the man roared again. Clary’s mind struggled to place him—he seemed somehow familiar. He was tall, brown-haired, probably around forty. His arms were thickly muscled, the veins standing out like ropes as he struggled to hold Jia still. “Stay where you are! Do not approach, or your Consul dies!” Aline screamed. Helen had hold of her, visibly restraining her from running forward. Behind them the Blackthorn children huddled around Julian, who was carrying his youngest brother in his arms; Drusilla had her face pressed against his side. Emma, her hair bright even at a distance, stood with Cortana out, protecting the others. “That’s Matthias Gonzales,” said Alec in a shocked voice. “He was head of the Buenos Aires Institute—” “Silence!” roared the man behind Jia—Matthias—and an uneasy silence fell. Most Shadowhunters stood, like Jace and Alec, with their hands halfway to their weapons. Isabelle was clutching the handle of her whip. “Hear me, Shadowhunters!” Matthias cried, his eyes burning with a fanatic light. “Hear me, for I was one of you. Blindly following the rule of the Clave, convinced of my safety within the wards of Idris, protected by the light of the Angel! But there is no safety here. ” He jerked his chin to the side, indicating the scrawl on the floor. “None are safe, not even Heaven’s messengers. That is the reach of the power of the Infernal Cup, and of he who holds it. ” A murmur ran through the crowd. Robert Lightwood pushed forward, his face anxious as he looked at Jia, and the blade at her throat. “What does he want?” he demanded. “Valentine’s son. What does he want from us?” “Oh, he wants many things,” said the Endarkened Shadowhunter. “But for now he will content himself with the gift of his sister and adoptive brother. Give him Clarissa Morgenstern and Jace Lightwood, and avert disaster. ” Clary heard Jace suck in his breath. She looked at him, panicking; she could feel the gaze of the whole room on her, and felt as if she were dissolving, like salt in water. “We are Nephilim,” Robert said coldly. “We do not trade away our own. He knows that. ” “We of the Infernal Cup have in our possession five of your allies,” was the reply. “Meliorn of the Fair Folk, Raphael Santiago of the Night’s Children, Luke Garroway of the Moon’s Children, Jocelyn Morgenstern of the Nephilim, and Magnus Bane of the Children of Lilith. If you do not give us Clarissa and Jonathan, they will be put to the deaths of iron and silver, of fire and rowan. And when your Downworld allies learn that you have sacrificed their representatives because you would not give up your own, they will turn on you. They will join with us, and you will find yourselves fighting not just he who holds the Infernal Cup, but all of Downworld. ” Clary felt a wave of dizziness, so intense that it was almost sickness, pass over her. She had known—of course she had known, with a creeping knowledge that was not certainty and could not be dismissed—that her mother and Luke and Magnus were in danger, but to hear it was something else. She began to shiver, the words of an incoherent prayer repeating over and over in her head: Mom, Luke, be all right, please be all right. Let Magnus be all right, for Alec. Please. She heard Isabelle’s voice in her head too, saying that Sebastian could not fight them and all of Downworld. But he had found a neat way to turn it back on them: If harm came to the Downworld representatives now, it would seem the Shadowhunters’ fault. Jace’s expression had gone bleak, but he met her eyes with the same understanding that had lodged like a needle in her heart. They could not stand back and let this happen. They would go to Sebastian. It was the only choice. She started forward, meaning to call out, but she found herself jerked back by a hard grip on her wrist. She turned, expecting Simon, and saw to her surprise that it was Isabelle. “Don’t,” Isabelle said. “You are a fool and a follower,” snapped Kadir, his eyes angry as he regarded Matthias. “No Downworlders will hold us accountable for not sacrificing two of our children to Jonathan Morgenstern’s pyre of corpses. ” “Oh, but he will not kill them,” said Matthias with vicious glee. “You have his word on the Angel that no harm will come to the Morgenstern girl or the Lightwood boy. They are his family, and he desires them by his side. So there is no sacrifice. ” Clary felt something brush her cheek—it was Jace. He had kissed her, quickly, and she remembered Sebastian’s Judas kiss the night before and whirled to catch at him, but he was gone already, away from all of them, striding out onto the aisle of stairs between the benches. “I will go!” he shouted, and his voice rang through the room. “I will go, willingly. ” His sword was in his hand. He threw it down, where it clattered on the steps. “I will go with Sebastian,” he said, into the silence that followed. “Just leave Clary out of it. Let her stay. Take me alone. ” “Jace, no,” Alec said, but his voice was drowned by the clamor that ran through the room, voices rising like smoke and curling up toward the ceiling, and Jace stood calmly, with his hands out, showing he had no weapons, his hair shining under the light of the runes. A sacrificial angel. Matthias Gonzales laughed. “There will be no bargain without Clarissa,” he said. “Sebastian demands her, and I deliver what my master demands. ” “You think we’re fools,” Jace said. “Actually, I know better than that. You don’t think at all. You’re a mouthpiece for a demon, that’s all you are. You don’t care about anything anymore. Not family or blood or honor. You’re no longer human. ” Matthias sneered. “Why would anyone want to be human?” “Because your bargain is worthless,” said Jace. “So we give ourselves up, and Sebastian returns his hostages. Then what? You’ve been at such pains to tell us how much better he is than the Nephilim, how much stronger, how much cleverer. How he can strike at us here in Alicante, and all our wards and all our guards can’t keep him out. How he’ll destroy us all. If you want to bargain with someone, you offer them a chance to win. If you were human, you’d know that. ” In the silence that followed, Clary thought you could have heard a drop of blood strike the floor. Matthias was still, his blade still pinned against Jia’s throat, his lips shaping words as if he were whispering something, or reciting something he had heard— Or listening, she realized, listening to words being whispered into his ear . . . “You cannot win,” Matthias said finally, and Jace laughed, that sharp acerbic laugh Clary had first fallen in love with. Not a sacrificial angel, she thought, but an avenging one, all gold and blood and fire, confident even in the face of defeat. “You see what I mean,” Jace said. “Then what does it matter if we die now or die later—” “You cannot win,” said Matthias, “but you can survive. Those of you who choose it can be changed by the Infernal Cup; you will become soldiers of the Morning Star, and you will rule the world with Jonathan Morgenstern as your leader. Those who choose to remain the children of Raziel may do so, as long as you remain in Idris. The borders of Idris will be sealed, closing it away from the rest of the world, which will belong to us. This land granted you by the Angel, you will keep, and keeping within its borders, you will be safe. That, you can be promised. ” Jace glared. “Sebastian’s promises mean nothing. ” “His promises are all you have,” said Matthias. “Keep your alliance with Downworlders, stay within the borders of Idris, and you will survive. But this offer stands only so long as you give yourselves willingly up to our master. You and Clarissa both. There is no negotiation. ”

Clary looked slowly around the room. Some of the Nephilim looked anxious, others fearful, others full of rage. And others were calculating. She remembered the day when she had stood up in the Hall of Accords in front of these same people and showed them the Binding rune that could win their war. They had been grateful, then. But this was also the same Council who had voted to cease searching for Jace when Sebastian had taken him, because one boy’s life had not been worth their resources. Especially when that boy had been Valentine’s adopted son. She had thought once that there were good people and bad people, that there was a side of light and a side of darkness, but she no longer thought that. She had seen evil, in her brother and her father, the evil of good intentions gone wrong and the evil of sheer desire for power. But in goodness there was also no safety: Virtue could cut like a knife, and the fire of Heaven was blinding. She moved away from Alec and Isabelle, felt Simon catch at her arm. She turned and looked at him, and shook her head. You have to let me do this. His dark eyes pleaded with her. “Don’t,” he whispered. “He said both of us,” she whispered back. “If Jace goes to Sebastian without me, Sebastian will kill him. ” “He’ll kill you both anyway. ” Isabelle was nearly crying with frustration. “You can’t go, and Jace can’t either—Jace!” Jace turned to look at them. Clary saw his expression change as he realized she was struggling to get to him. He shook his head, mouthing the word: “No. ” “Give us time,” Robert Lightwood called. “Give us some time to cast a vote, at least. ” Matthias drew the knife away from Jia’s throat and held it aloft; his other arm circled her, his hand gripping the front of her robes. He raised the knife toward the ceiling, and light sparked off it at the gesture. “Time,” he sneered. “Why should Sebastian give you time?” A sharp singing noise cut the air. Clary saw something bright shoot past her, and heard the noise of metal striking metal as an arrow slammed into the knife Matthias held above Jia’s head, knocking it free of his grasp. Clary whipped her head sideways and saw Alec, his bow raised, the string still vibrating. Matthias let out a roar and staggered back, his hand bleeding. Jia darted away from him as he dived for his fallen blade. Clary heard Jace call out “Nakir!” He had drawn a seraph blade from his belt and its light illuminated the hall. “Get out of my way!” he shouted, and began to shoulder his way down the steps, toward the dais. “No!” Alec, dropping his bow, flung himself over the back of the row of benches, and dived on top of Jace, knocking him to the ground just as the dais went up in flames like a bonfire doused with gasoline. Jia cried out and leaped from the platform into the crowd; Kadir caught her and lowered her gently as all the Shadowhunters turned to stare at the rising flames. “What the hell,” Simon whispered, his fingers still clasped around Clary’s arm. She could see Matthias, a black shadow at the heart of the flames. They were clearly not harming him; he seemed to be laughing, throwing up his arms over and over as if he were a conductor directing an orchestra of fire. The room was full of shrieks and the stink and crackle of burning wood. Aline had run to clutch at her bleeding mother, weeping; Helen was watching helplessly as, along with Julian, she tried to shield the younger Blackthorns from what was happening below. No one was shielding Emma, though. She was standing apart from the group, her small face white with shock as, over the already horrible sounds filling the room, Matthias’s cries pierced the din: “Two days, Nephilim! You have two days to decide your fate! And then you will all burn! You will burn in the fires of Hell, and the ashes of Edom will cover your bones!” His voice rose to an unearthly shriek and was suddenly silenced, as the flames dropped away and he disappeared along with them. The last of the embers licked across the floor, their glowing tips barely touching the message still scrawled in ichor across the dais. Veni. I HAVE COME. It had taken Maia two minutes of deep breathing outside the apartment door before she could bring herself to slide the key into the lock. Everything in the hallway seemed normal, eerily so. Jordan’s coats, and Simon’s, hung on pegs in the narrow entranceway. The walls were decorated with street signs bought from flea markets. She moved into the living room, which seemed frozen in time: The TV was on, the screen showing dark static, the two game controllers still on the couch. They’d forgotten to turn off the coffeepot. She went and flipped the switch, trying as hard as she could to ignore all the pictures of herself and Jordan stuck to the fridge: them on the Brooklyn Bridge, drinking coffee at the Waverly Place diner, Jordan laughing and showing off his fingernails, which Maia had painted blue and green and red. She hadn’t realized how many pictures he’d taken of them, as if he’d been trying to record every second of their interactions, lest they slip through his memories like water. She had to steel herself again before she could go into the bedroom. The bed was still mussed and untucked—Jordan had never been particularly neat—his clothes scattered around the room. Maia went across the room to the bureau where she’d kept her own belongings and stripped off Leila’s clothes. With relief she threw on her own jeans and T-shirt. She was reaching to pull out a coat when the doorbell rang. Jordan had kept his weapons, issued to him by the Praetor, in the trunk at the foot of the bed. She flung the trunk open and scooped up a heavy iron vial with a cross carved into the front. She flung on her coat and stalked into the living room, the vial in her pocket, her fingers wrapped around it. She reached out and yanked the front door open. The girl who stood on the other side had dark hair falling sheer to her shoulders. Against it her skin was dead white, her lips dark red. She wore a severely tailored black suit; she was a modern Snow White in blood, char, and ice. “You called me,” she said. “Jordan Kyle’s girlfriend, am I correct?” Lily—she’s one of the smartest of the vampire clan. Knows everything. She and Raphael were always thick as thieves. “Don’t act like you don’t know, Lily,” Maia snapped. “You’ve been here before; I’m pretty sure you grabbed Simon from this apartment for Maureen. ” “And?” Lily crossed her arms, making her expensive suit crackle. “Are you going to invite me in, or not?” “I’m not,” said Maia. “We’re going to talk here, in the hallway. ” “Dull. ” Lily leaned back against the wall with its peeling paint, and made a face. “Why did you summon me here, werewolf?” “Maureen is crazy,” said Maia. “Raphael and Simon are gone. Sebastian Morgenstern is murdering Downworlders to make a point to the Nephilim. And maybe it’s time for the vampires and lycanthropes to talk. Even to ally. ” “Well, aren’t you as cute as a bug’s ear,” Lily said, and stood up straight. “Look, Maureen’s crazy, but she’s still the clan leader. And I can tell you one thing. She isn’t going to parley with some jumped-up pack member who’s lost the plot because her boyfriend died. ” Maia tightened her grip on the bottle in her hand. She yearned to throw the contents in Lily’s face, so much so that it frightened her. “Call me when you’re the pack leader. ” There was a dark light in the vampire girl’s eyes, as if she were trying to tell Maia something without saying the words. “And we’ll talk then. ” Lily turned and clicked off down the hallway on her high heels. Slowly Maia loosened her grip on the bottle of holy water in her pocket. “Nice shot,” Jace said. “You don’t need to make fun of me. ” Alec and Jace were in one of the Gard’s dizzying array of meeting rooms—not the same room Jace had been in earlier with Clary, but another more austere room in an older part of the Gard. The walls were stone, and there was one long bench that ran across the west wall. Jace was kneeling on it, his jacket thrown aside, the right sleeve of his shirt rolled up. “I’m not,” Jace protested as Alec set the tip of his stele to the bare skin of Jace’s arm. As the dark lines began to spiral out from the adamas, Jace couldn’t help but remember another day, in Alicante, Alec bandaging Jace’s hand, telling him angrily: You can heal slow and ugly, like a mundane. Jace had put his hand through a window that day; he’d deserved everything Alec had said to him. Alec exhaled slowly; he was always very careful with his runes, especially the iratzes. He seemed to feel the slight burn, the sting against the skin that Jace felt, though Jace had never minded the pain—the map of white scars that covered his biceps and ran down to his forearm attested to that. There was a special strength to a rune given by your parabatai. It was why they had sent the two of them away, while the rest of the Lightwood family met in the Consul’s offices, so that Alec could heal Jace as quickly and efficiently as possible. Jace had been rather startled; he’d half-expected them to make him sit through the meeting with his wrist blue and swelling up. “I’m not,” Jace said again, as Alec finished and stepped back to examine his handiwork. Already Jace could feel the numbing of the iratze spreading through his veins, soothing the pain in his arm, sealing his split lip. “You hit Matthias’s knife from halfway across an amphitheater. Clean shot, didn’t hit Jia at all. And he was moving around, too. ” “I was motivated. ” Alec slid his stele back into his belt. His dark hair hung raggedly into his eyes; he hadn’t gotten it properly cut since he and Magnus had broken up. Magnus. Jace closed his eyes. “Alec,” he said. “I’ll go. You know I’ll go. ” “You’re saying that like you think it’ll reassure me,” said Alec. “You think I want you to give yourself up to Sebastian? Are you crazy?” “I think it might be the only way to get Magnus back. ” Jace spoke into the darkness behind his eyelids. “And you’re willing to barter Clary’s life too?” Alec’s tone was acid. Jace’s eyes flew open; Alec was looking at him steadily, but without expression. “No,” Jace said, hearing the defeat in his own voice. “I couldn’t do that. ” “And I wouldn’t ask it,” said Alec. “This—this is what Sebastian’s trying to do. Drive wedges between all of us, using the people we love as hooks to pull us apart. We shouldn’t let him. ” “When did you get so wise?” Jace said. Alec laughed, a short, brittle laugh. “The day I’m wise is the day you’re careful. ” “Maybe you’ve always been wise,” Jace said. “I remember when I asked if you wanted to be parabatai, and you said you needed a day to think about it. And then you came back and said yes, and when I asked you why you agreed to do it, you said it was because I needed someone to look after me. You were right. I never thought about it again, because I never had to. I had you, and you’ve always looked after me. Always. ” Alec’s expression tightened; Jace could almost see the tension thrumming through his parabatai’s veins. “Don’t,” Alec said. “Don’t talk like that. ” “Why not?” “Because,” Alec said. “That’s how people talk when they think they’re going to die. ” “If Clary and Jace are delivered to Sebastian, then they will be delivered to their deaths,” said Maryse. They were in the offices of the Consul, likely the most plushly decorated room in all the Gard. A thick rug was underfoot, the stone walls spread with tapestries, a massive desk standing diagonally across the room. On one side of it was Jia Penhallow, the cut on her throat sealing as her iratzes took effect. Behind her chair stood her husband, Patrick, his hand on her shoulder. Facing them were Maryse and Robert Lightwood; to Clary’s surprise, she, Isabelle, and Simon had been allowed to stay in the room as well. It was her own and Jace’s fate they were discussing, she supposed, but then the Clave had never before seemed to have much in the way of a problem with deciding people’s fates without their input. “Sebastian says he won’t hurt them,” said Jia. “His word’s worthless,” Isabelle snapped. “He lies. And it doesn’t mean anything if he swears on the Angel, because he doesn’t care about the Angel. He serves Lilith, if he serves anyone. ” There was a soft click, and the door opened, admitting Alec and Jace. Jace and Alec had tumbled down quite a few stairs, and Jace had gotten the worst of it, with a split lip and a wrist that had either been broken or twisted. It looked back to normal now, though; he tried to smile at Clary as he came in, but his eyes were haunted. “You have to understand how the Clave will see it,” Jia said. “You fought Sebastian at the Burren. They were told, but they didn’t see, not until the Citadel, the difference between Endarkened warriors and Shadowhunters. There has never been a race of warriors more powerful than Nephilim. Now there is. ” “The reason he attacked the Citadel was to gather information,” said Jace. “He wanted to know what the Nephilim were capable of: not just the group we could scramble together at the Burren, but warriors sent to fight by the Clave. He wanted to see how they stood up against his forces. ” “He was taking our measure,” said Clary. “He was weighing us in the balance. ” Jia looked at her. “Mene mene tekel upharsin,” she said softly. “You were right when you said Sebastian doesn’t want to fight a big battle,” said Jace. “His interest is to fight a lot of small battles where he can Turn a bunch of Nephilim. Add to his forces. And it might have worked, to stay in Idris, let him bring the battle here, break the tide of his army on the rocks of Alicante. Except now that he’s taken the Downworld representatives, staying here won’t work. Without us watching, with Downworld turning against us, the Accords will fall apart. The world—will fall apart. ” Jia’s gaze went to Simon. “What do you say, Downworlder? Was Matthias correct? If we refuse to ransom Sebastian’s hostages, will it mean war with Downworld?” Simon looked startled to be addressed in such an official capacity. Consciously or unconsciously, his hand had gone to Jordan’s medallion at his throat; he held it as he spoke. “I think,” he said with reluctance, “that though there are some Downworlders who would be reasonable, the vampires wouldn’t. They already believe Nephilim set a light price on their lives. Warlocks . . . ” He shook his head. “I don’t really understand warlocks. Or faeries—I mean, the Seelie Queen seems to look out for herself. She helped Sebastian with these. ” He held up his hand, where his ring glimmered. “It seems likely that was less about helping Sebastian than about her own insatiable desire to know everything,” Robert said. “It is true, she did spy on you, but Sebastian was not known to be our enemy then. More tellingly, Meliorn has sworn up and down that the Fair Folk’s loyalty is to us and that Sebastian is their enemy, and faeries cannot lie. ” Simon shrugged. “Anyway, my point is that I don’t understand how they think. But the werewolves love Luke. They’ll be desperate to get him back. ” “He used to be a Shadowhunter—” Robert began. “That makes it worse,” said Simon, and it wasn’t Simon, Clary’s oldest friend, talking but someone else, someone knowledgeable about Downworld politics. “They see the way Nephilim treat Downworlders who were once Nephilim as evidence of the fact that Shadowhunters believe Downworld blood is tainted. Magnus told me once about a dinner he was invited to at an Institute for Downworlders and Shadowhunters alike; afterward the Shadowhunters threw out all the plates. Because Downworlders had touched them. ” “Not all Nephilim are like that,” Maryse said. Simon shrugged. “The first time I ever came to the Gard, it was because Alec brought me,” he said. “I trusted that the Consul only wanted to talk to me. Instead I was thrown into prison and starved. Luke’s own parabatai told him to kill himself when Luke was Turned. The Praetor Lupus has been burned to the ground by someone who, even if he is an enemy of Idris, is a Shadowhunter. ” “So you are saying, yes, it will be war?” asked Jia. “It’s already war, isn’t it?” said Simon. “Weren’t you just injured in a battle? I’m just saying—Sebastian is using the cracks in your alliances to break you, and he’s doing it well. Maybe he doesn’t understand humans, I’m not saying he does, but he does understand evil and betrayal and selfishness, and that’s something that applies to everything with a mind and a heart. ” He closed his mouth abruptly, as if afraid that he’d said too much. “So you think that we should do as Sebastian asks, send Jace and Clary to him?” asked Patrick. “No,” Simon said. “I think he always lies, and sending them won’t help anything. Even if he swears, he lies, like Isabelle said. ” He looked at Jace, and then Clary. “You know,” he said. “You know him better than anyone; you know he never means what he says. Tell them. ” Clary shook her head, mutely. It was Isabelle who answered for her: “They can’t,” she said. “It would seem like they were begging for their lives, and neither of them are going to do that. ” “I’ve already volunteered,” said Jace. “I said I would go. You know why he wants me. ” He threw his arms wide. Clary wasn’t surprised to see that the heavenly fire was visible against the skin of his forearms, like golden wires. “The heavenly fire injured him at the Burren. He’s afraid of it, so he’s afraid of me. I saw it on his face, in Clary’s room. ” There was a long silence. Jia slumped back in her chair. “You’re right,” she said. “I don’t disagree with any of you. But I cannot control the Clave, and there are those among them who will choose what they see as safety, and yet others who hate the idea that we allied with Downworlders in the first place and will welcome a chance to refuse. If Sebastian wished to splinter the Clave into factions, and I am sure he did, he chose a good way to do it. ” She looked around at the Lightwoods, at Jace and Clary, the Consul’s steady dark gaze resting on each of them in turn. “I would love to hear suggestions,” she added, a little dryly. “We could go into hiding,” Isabelle said immediately. “Disappear to a place where Sebastian will never find us; you can report back to him that Jace and Clary fled despite your attempts to keep us. He can’t blame you for that. ” “A reasonable person wouldn’t blame the Clave,” said Jace. “Sebastian’s not reasonable. ” “And there isn’t anywhere we can hide from him,” Clary said. “He found me in Amatis’s house. He can find me anywhere. Maybe Magnus could have helped us, but—” “There are other warlocks,” said Patrick, and Clary chanced a glimpse at Alec’s face. It looked like it had been carved out of stone. “You can’t count on them helping us, no matter what you pay them, not now,” Alec said. “That’s the point of the kidnapping. They won’t come to the aid of the Clave, not until they see whether we come to their aid first. ” There was a knock on the door and in came two Silent Brothers, their robes glimmering like parchment in the witchlight. “Brother Enoch,” said Patrick, by way of greeting, “and—” “Brother Zachariah,” said the second of them, drawing his hood down. Despite what Jace had hinted at in the Council room, the sight of the now-human Zachariah was a shock. He was barely recognizable, only the dark runes on the arches of his cheekbones a reminder of what he had been. He was slender, almost slight, and tall, with a delicate and very human elegance to the shape of his face, and dark hair. He looked perhaps twenty. “Is that,” Isabelle said in a low, amazed voice, “Brother Zachariah? When did he get hot?” “Isabelle!” Clary whispered, but Brother Zachariah either hadn’t heard her or had great self-restraint. He was looking at Jia, and then, to Clary’s surprise, said something in a language she didn’t know. Jia’s lips trembled for a moment. Then they tightened into a hard line. She turned to the others. “Amalric Kriegsmesser is dead,” she said. It took Clary, numb from a dozen shocks in as many hours, several seconds to remember who that was: the Endarkened who had been captured in Berlin and brought to the Basilias while the Brothers searched for a cure. “Nothing we tried on him worked,” said Brother Zachariah. His spoken voice was musical. He sounded British, Clary thought; she’d only ever heard his voice in her mind before, and telepathic communication apparently wiped out accents. “Not a single spell, not a single potion. Finally we had him drink from the Mortal Cup. ” It destroyed him, said Enoch. Death was instantaneous. “Amalric’s body must be sent through a Portal to the warlocks in the Spiral Labyrinth, to study,” Jia said. “Perhaps if we act quickly enough, she—they can learn something from his death. Some clue to a cure. ” “His poor family,” said Maryse. “They will not even see him burned and buried in the Silent City. ” “He is not Nephilim anymore,” said Patrick. “If he were to be buried, it would be at the crossroads outside Brocelind Forest. ” “Like my mother was,” said Jace. “Because she killed herself. Criminals, suicides, and monsters are buried at the place where all roads cross, right?” He had his false bright voice on, the one Clary knew covered up anger or pain; she wanted to move closer to him, but the room was too full of people. “Not always,” said Brother Zachariah in his soft voice. “One of the young Longfords was at the battle at the Citadel. He found himself forced to kill his own parabatai, who had been Turned by Sebastian. Afterward he turned his sword on himself and cut his wrists. He will be burned with the rest of the dead today, with all attendant honors. ” Clary remembered the young man she had seen at the Citadel, standing over a dead Shadowhunter in red gear, weeping as the battle raged around him. She wondered if she should have stopped, spoken to him, if it would have helped, if there was anything she could have done. Jace looked as if he were going to throw up. “This is why you have to let me go after Sebastian,” he said. “This can’t keep happening. These battles, fighting the Endarkened—he’ll find worse things to do. Sebastian always does. Being Turned is worse than dying. ” “Jace,” Clary said sharply, but Jace shot her a look, half-desperate and half-pleading. A look that begged her not to doubt him. He leaned forward, hands on the Consul’s desk. “Send me to him,” Jace said. “And I’ll try to kill him. I have the heavenly fire. It’s our best chance. ” “It’s not an issue of sending you anywhere,” said Maryse. “We can’t send you to him; we don’t know where Sebastian is. It’s an issue of letting him take you. ” “Then let him take me—” “Absolutely not. ” Brother Zachariah looked grave, and Clary remembered what he had said to her, once: If the chance comes before me to save the last of the Herondale bloodline, I consider that of higher importance than the fealty I render the Clave. “Jace Herondale,” he said. “The Clave can choose to obey Sebastian or defy him, but either way you cannot be given up to him in the way he will expect. We must surprise him. Otherwise we are simply delivering to him the only weapon that we know he fears. ” “Do you have another suggestion?” asked Jia. “Do we draw him out? Use Jace and Clary to capture him?” “You can’t use them as bait,” Isabelle protested. “Maybe we could separate him from his forces?” suggested Maryse. “You can’t trick Sebastian,” Clary said, feeling exhausted. “He doesn’t care about reasons or excuses. There’s only him and what he wants, and if you get between those two things, he’ll destroy you. ” Jia leaned across the table. “Maybe we can convince him he wants something else. Is there anything else we could offer him as a bargaining chip?” “No,” Clary whispered. “There’s nothing. Sebastian is . . . ” But how did you explain her brother? How could you explain staring into the dark heart of a black hole? Imagine if you were the last Shadowhunter left on earth, imagine if all your family and friends were dead, imagine if there were no one left who even believed in what you were. Imagine if you were on the earth in a billion, billion years, after the sun had scorched away all the life, and you were crying out from inside yourself for just one single living creature to still draw breath alongside you, but there was nothing, only rivers of fire and ashes. Imagine being that lonely, and then imagine there was only one way you could think of to fix it. Then imagine what you would do to make that thing happen. “No. He won’t change his mind. Not ever. ” A murmur of voices broke out. Jia clapped her hands for silence. “Enough,” she said. “We’re going around in circles. It is time for the Clave and Council to discuss the situation. ” “If I might make a suggestion. ” Brother Zachariah’s eyes swept the room, thoughtful under dark lashes, before coming to rest on Jia. “The funeral rites for the Citadel dead are about to begin. You will be expected there, Consul, as will you, Inquisitor. I would suggest that Clary and Jace remain at the Inquisitor’s house, considering the contention surrounding them, and that the Council gather after the rites. ” “We have a right to be at the meeting,” said Clary. “This decision concerns us. It’s about us. ” “You will be summoned,” said Jia, her gaze not resting on Clary or Jace, but skipping past them, sweeping over Robert and Maryse, Brother Enoch and Zachariah. “Until then, rest; you will need your energy. It could be a long night. ”

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