City of lost souls – Chapter 11: Ascribe All Sin

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Chapter 11: Ascribe All Sin

Magnus said that no electricity could be used during the summoning of Azazel, so the loft apartment was lit only by candlelight. The candles burned in a circle in the center of the room, all different heights and brightness, though they shared a similar blue-white flame.

Inside the circle, a pentagram had been drawn by Magnus, using a rowan stick that had burned the pattern of overlapping triangles into the floor. In between the spaces formed by the pentagram were symbols unlike anything Simon had seen before: not quite letters and not quite runes, they gave off a chilly sense of menace despite the heat of the candle flames.

It was dark outside the windows now, the sort of dark that came with the early sunsets of approaching winter. Isabelle, Alec, Simon, and finally, Magnus-who was chanting aloud from Forbidden Rites-each stood at one cardinal point around the circle. Magnuss voice rose and fell, the Latin words like a prayer, but one that was inverted and sinister.

The flames rose higher and the symbols carved into the floor began to burn black. Chairman Meow, who had been watching from a corner of the room, hissed and fled into the shadows. The blue-white flames rose, and now Simon could hardly see Magnus through them. The room was getting hotter, the warlock chanting faster, his black hair curling in the humid heat, sweat gleaming on his cheekbones. “Quod tumeraris: per Jehovam, Gehennam, et consecratam aquam quam nunc spargo, signumque crucis quod nunc facio, et per vota nostra, ipse nunc surgat nobis dicatus Azazel!”

There was a burst of fire from the center of the pentagram, and a thick black wave of smoke rose, dissipating slowly through the room, making everyone but Simon cough and choke. It swirled like a whirlpool, coalescing slowly in the center of the pentagram into the figure of a man.

Simon blinked. He wasnt sure what hed expected, but it wasnt this. A tall man with auburn hair, neither young nor old-an ageless face, inhuman and cold. Broad-shouldered, dressed in a well-cut black suit and shining black shoes. Around each wrist was a dark red groove, the marks of some sort of binding, rope or metal, that had cut into the skin over many years. In his eyes were leaping red flames.

He spoke. “Who summons Azazel?” His voice was like metal grinding on metal.

“I do. ” Magnus firmly shut the book he was holding. “Magnus Bane. ”

Azazel craned his head slowly toward Magnus. His head seemed to swivel unnaturally on his neck, like the head of a snake. “Warlock,” he said. “I know who you are. ”

Magnus raised his eyebrows. “You do?”

“Summoner. Binder. Destroyer of the demon Marbas. Son of-”

“Now,” said Magnus quickly. “Theres no need to go into all of that. ”

“But there is. ” Azazel sounded reasonable, even amused. “If it is infernal assistance you require, why not summon your father?”

Alec was looking at Magnus with his mouth open. Simon felt for him. He didnt think any of them had ever assumed that Magnus even knew who his father was, beyond that he had been a demon who had tricked his mother into believing he was her husband. Alec clearly knew no more about it than the rest of them, which, Simon imagined, was probably something he wasnt too happy about.

“My father and I are not on the best of terms,” said Magnus. “I would prefer not to involve him. ”

Azazel raised his hands. “As you say, Master. You hold me within the seal. What do you demand?”

Magnus said nothing, but it was clear from the expression on Azazels face that the warlock was speaking to him silently, mind to mind. The flames leaped and danced in the demons eyes, like eager children listening to a story. “Clever Lilith,” the demon said at last. “To raise the boy from death, and secure his life by binding him to someone whom you cannot bear to kill. She was always better at manipulating human emotions than most of the rest of us. Perhaps because she was something close to human once. ”

“Is there a way?” Magnus sounded impatient. “To break the bond between them?”

Azazel shook his head. “Not without killing them both. ”

“Then, is there a way to harm Sebastian only, without hurting Jace?” It was Isabelle, eager; Magnus shot her a quelling look.

“Not with any weapon I might create, or have at my disposal,” said Azazel. “I can craft only weapons whose alliance is demonic. A bolt of lightning from the hand of an angel, perhaps, might burn away what was evil in Valentines son and either break their tie or cause it to become more benevolent in nature. If I might make a suggestion. . . ”

“Oh,” said Magnus, narrowing his cats eyes, “please do. ”

“I can think of a simple solution that will separate the boys, keep yours alive, and neutralize the danger of the other one. And I will ask very little of you in return. ”

“You are my servant,” Magnus said. “If you wish to leave this pentagram, you will do what I ask, and not demand favors in return. ”

Azazel hissed, and fire curled from his lips. “If I am not bound here, then I am bound there. It makes little difference to me. ”

“For this is Hell, nor am I out of it,” said Magnus, with the air of someone quoting an old saying.

Azazel showed a metallic smile. “You may not be proud like old Faustus, warlock, but you are impatient. I am sure my willingness to remain in this pentagram will outlast your desire to keep watch over me inside it. ”

“Oh, I dont know,” Magnus said. “Ive always been fairly bold where decorating is concerned, and having you here does add that little extra touch of something to the room. ”

“Magnus,” Alec said, clearly not thrilled at the idea of an immortal demon taking up residence in his boyfriends loft.

“Jealous, little Shadowhunter?” Azazel grinned at Alec. “Your warlock is not my type, and besides, I would hardly want to anger his-”

“Enough,” Magnus said. “Tell us what the little thing you want in return for your plan is. ”

Azazel templed his hands-hard workmans hands, the color of blood, topped with black nails. “One happy memory,” he said. “From each of you. Something to amuse me while I am bound like Prometheus to his rock. ”

“A memory?” said Isabelle in astonishment. “You mean it would vanish out of our heads? We wouldnt be able to recall it anymore?”

Azazel squinted at her through the flames. “What are you, little one? A Nephilim? Yes, I would take your memory and it would become mine. You would no longer know that it had happened to you. Although, please do avoid giving me memories of demons youve slaughtered under the light of the moon. Not the sort of thing I enjoy. No, I want these memories to be. . . personal. ” He grinned, and his teeth gleamed like an iron portcullis.

“Im old,” Magnus said. “I have many memories. I would give one up, if needed. But I cannot speak for the rest of you. No one should be forced to give up something like this. ”

“Ill do it,” Isabelle said immediately. “For Jace. ”

“I will too, of course,” said Alec, and then it was Simons turn. He thought suddenly of Jace, cutting his wrist and giving him his blood in the tiny room on Valentines boat. Risking his own life for Simons. It might have been for Clarys sake at its heart, but it was still a debt. “Im in. ”

“Good,” Magnus said. “All of you, try to think of happy memories. They must be genuinely happy. Something that gives you pleasure in the recollection. ” He shot a sour glance at the smug demon in the pentagram.

“Im ready,” Isabelle said. She was standing with her eyes closed, her back straight as if braced for pain. Magnus moved toward her and laid his fingers against her forehead, murmuring softly.

Alec watched Magnus with his sister, his mouth tight, then shut his eyes. Simon shut his own too, hastily, and tried to summon up a happy memory-something to do with Clary? But so many of his memories of her were tinged now with his worry over her well-being. Something from when they were very young? An image swam to the forefront of his mind-a hot summer day at Coney Island, him on his fathers shoulders, Rebecca running behind them, trailing a handful of balloons. Looking up at the sky, trying to find shapes in the clouds, and the sound of his mothers laughter. No, he thought, not that. I dont want to lose that-

There was a cool touch on his forehead. He opened his eyes and saw Magnus lowering his hand. Simon blinked at him, his mind suddenly blank. “But I wasnt thinking of anything,” he protested.

Magnuss cat eyes were sad. “Yes, you were. ”

Simon glanced around the room, feeling a little dizzy. The others looked the same, as if they were awakening from a strange dream; he caught Isabelles eye, the dark flutter of her lashes, and wondered what she had thought about, what happiness she had given away.

A low rumble from the center of the pentagram drew his gaze from Izzy. Azazel stood, as close to the edge of the pattern as he could, a slow growl of hunger coming from his throat. Magnus turned and looked at him, a look of disgust on his face. His hand was closed into a fist, and something seemed to be shining between his fingers as if he held a witchlight rune-stone. He turned and flung it, fast and sideways, into the center of the pentagram. Simons vampire vision tracked it. It was a bead of light that expanded as it flew, expanded into a circle holding multiple images. Simon saw a piece of azure ocean, the corner of a satin dress that belled out as its wearer spun, a glimpse of Magnuss face, a boy with blue eyes-and then Azazel opened his arms and the circle of images vanished into his body, like a stray piece of trash sucked into the fuselage of a jet plane.

Azazel gasped. His eyes, which had been darting flickers of red flame, blazed like bonfires now, and his voice crackled when he spoke. “Ahhhh. Delicious. ”

Magnus spoke sharply. “Now for your side of the bargain. ”

The demon licked his lips. “The solution to your problem is this. You release me into the world, and I take Valentines son and bring him living into Hell. He will not die, and therefore your Jace will live, but he will have left this world behind, and slowly their connection will burn away. You will have your friend back. ”

“And then what?” Magnus said slowly. “We release you into the world, and then you return and let yourself be bound again?”

Azazel laughed. “Of course not, foolish warlock. The price for the favor is my freedom. ”

“Freedom?” Alec spoke, sounding incredulous. “A Prince of Hell, set free in the world? We already gave you our memories-”

“The memories were the price you paid to hear my plan,” said Azazel. “My freedom is what you will pay to have my plan enacted. ”

“That is a cheat, and you know it,” said Magnus. “You ask for the impossible. ”

“So do you,” said Azazel. “By all rights your friend is lost to you forever. For if a man vow a vow unto the Lord, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond, he shall not break his word. And by the terms of Liliths spell, their souls are bound, and both agreed. ”

“Jace would never agree-,” Alec began.

“He said the words,” said Azazel. “Of his own will or under compunction, it does not matter. You are asking me to sever a bond only Heaven can sever. But Heaven will not help you; you know that as well as I. That is why men summon demons and not angels, is it not? This is the price you pay for my intervention. If you do not want to pay it, you must learn to accept what youve lost. ”

Magnuss face was pale and tight. “We will converse among ourselves and discuss whether your offer is acceptable. In the meantime I banish you. ” He waved his hand, and Azazel vanished, leaving behind the smell of charred wood.

The four people in the room stared at one another incredulously. “What he is asking for,” Alec said finally, “it isnt possible, is it?”

“Theoretically anything is possible,” said Magnus, staring ahead as if into an abyss. “But to loose a Greater Demon on the world-not just a Greater Demon, a Prince of Hell, second only to Lucifer himself-the destruction he could wreak-”

“Isnt it possible,” Isabelle said, “that Sebastian could wreak just as much destruction?”

“Like Magnus said,” Simon put in bitterly, “anythings possible. ”

“There could be almost no greater crime in the eyes of the Clave,” said Magnus. “Whoever loosed Azazel upon the world would be a wanted criminal. ”

“But if it were to destroy Sebastian. . . ” Isabelle began.

“We dont have proof Sebastians plotting anything,” said Magnus. “For all we know, all he wants is to settle down in a nice country house in Idris. ”

“With Clary and Jace?” Alec said incredulously.

Magnus shrugged. “Who knows what he wants with them? Maybe hes just lonely. ”

“No way did he kidnap Jace off that roof because hes desperately in need of a bromance,” said Isabelle. “Hes planning something. ”

They all looked at Simon. “Clarys trying to find out what. She needs some time. And dont say We dont have time,” he added. “She knows that. ”

Alec raked a hand through his dark hair. “Fine, but we just wasted a whole day. A day we didnt have. No more stupid ideas. ” His voice was uncharacteristically sharp.

“Alec,” Magnus said. He put a hand on his boyfriends shoulder; Alec was standing still, staring angrily at the floor. “Are you okay?”

Alec looked at him. “Who are you again?”

Magnus gave a little gasp; he looked-for the first time Simon could remember-actually unnerved. It lasted only a moment, but it was there. “Alexander,” he said.

“Too soon to joke about the happy memory thing, I take it,” Alec said.

“You think?” Magnuss voice soared. Before he could say anything else, the door swung open and Maia and Jordan came in. Their cheeks were red from the cold, and-Simon saw with a small start-Maia was wearing Jordans leather jacket.

“We just came from the station,” she said excitedly. “Luke hasnt woken up yet, but it looks like hes going to be all right-” She broke off, looking around at the still-glimmering pentagram, the clouds of black smoke, and the scorched patches on the floor. “Okay, what have you guys been doing?”

With the help of a glamour and Jaces ability to swing himself one-armed up onto a curving old bridge, Clary and Jace escaped the Italian police without being arrested. Once they had stopped running, they collapsed against the side of a building, laughing, side by side, their hands interlinked. Clary felt a moment of pure sharp happiness and had to bury her head against Jaces shoulder, reminding herself, in a hard internal voice, that this wasnt him, before her laughter trailed off into silence.

Jace seemed to take her sudden quiet as a sign that she was tired. He held her hand lightly as they made their way back to the street theyd started out from, the narrow canal with bridges on both ends. In between them Clary recognized the blank, featureless townhouse theyd left. A shudder ran over her.

“Cold?” Jace pulled her toward him and kissed her; he was so much taller than she was that he either had to bend down or pick her up; in this case he did the latter, and she suppressed a gasp as he swung her up and through the wall of the house. Setting her down, he kicked a door-which had appeared suddenly behind them-shut with a bang, and was about to shuck off his jacket when there was the sound of a stifled chuckle.

Clary pulled away from Jace as lights blazed up around them. Sebastian sat on the sofa, his feet up on the coffee table. His fair hair was tousled; his eyes were glossy black. He wasnt alone, either. There were two girls there, one on either side of him. One was fair, a little scantily dressed, in a glittering short skirt and spangled top. She had her hand splayed out across Sebastians chest. The other was younger, softer-looking, with black hair cut short, a red velvet band around her head, and a lacy black dress.

Clary felt her nerves tighten. Vampire, she thought. She didnt know how she knew, but she did-whether it was the waxy white sheen of the dark-haired girls skin or the bottomlessness of her eyes, or perhaps Clary was just learning to sense these things, the way Shadowhunters were supposed to. The girl knew she knew; Clary could tell. The girl grinned, showing her little pointed teeth, and then bent to run them over Sebastians collarbone. His lids fluttered, fair eyelashes lowering over dark eyes. He looked up at Clary through them, ignoring Jace.

“Did you enjoy your little date?”

Clary wished she could say something rude, but instead she just nodded.

“Well, then, would you like to join us?” he said, indicating himself and the two girls. “For a drink?”

The dark-haired girl laughed and said something in Italian to Sebastian, her voice questioning.

“No,” said Sebastian. “Lei e mia sorella. ”

The girl sat back, looking disappointed. Clarys mouth was dry. Suddenly she felt Jaces hand against hers, his callused fingertips rough. “I dont think so,” he said. “Were going upstairs. Well see you in the morning. ”

Sebastian wiggled his fingers, and the Morgenstern ring on his hand caught the light, sparking like a signal fire. “Ci vediamo. ”

Jace led Clary out of the room and up the glass stairs; only when they were in the corridor did she feel like she had gotten her breath back. This different Jace was one thing. Sebastian was something else. The sense of menace that rose off him was like smoke off a fire. “What did he say?” she asked. “In Italian?”

“He said, No, she is my sister,” said Jace. He did not say what the girl had asked Sebastian.

“Does he do this much?” she asked. They had stopped in front of Jaces room, on the threshold. “Bring girls back?”

Jace touched her face. “He does what he wants, and I dont ask,” he said. “He could bring a six-foot tall pink rabbit in a bikini back home with him if he wanted to. Its not my business. But if youre asking me if Ive brought any girls back here, the answer is no. I dont want anybody but you. ”

It hadnt been what she was asking, but she nodded anyway, as if reassured. “I dont want to go back downstairs. ”

“You can sleep in my room with me tonight. ” His gold eyes were luminous in the dark. “Or you can sleep in the master bedroom. You know I wouldnt ever ask you-”

“I want to be with you,” she said, surprising herself with her own vehemence. Maybe it was just that the idea of sleeping in that bedroom, where Valentine had once slept, where he had hoped to live again with her mother, was too much. Or maybe it was that she was tired, and she had only ever spent one night in the same bed as Jace, and they had slept with only their hands touching, as if an unsheathed sword had lain between them.

“Give me a second to clean up the room. Its a mess. ”

“Yeah, when I was in there before, I think I might actually have seen a fleck of dust on the windowsill. Youd better get on that. ”

He tugged a lock of her hair, running it through his fingers. “Not to actively work against my own interests, but do you need something to sleep in? Pajamas, or. . . ”

She thought of the wardrobe full of clothes in the master bedroom. She was going to have to get used to the idea. Might as well start now. “Ill get a nightgown. ”

Of course, she thought several moments later, standing over an open drawer, the sort of nightgowns men bought because they wanted the women in their lives to wear them were not necessarily the kind of thing you might buy for yourself. Clary usually slept in a tank top and pajama shorts, but everything here was silky or lacy or barely there, or all three. She settled finally on a pale green silk shift that hit her midthigh. She thought of the red nails of the girl downstairs, the one with her hand on Sebastians chest. Her own nails were bitten, her toenails never decorated with much more than clear polish. She wondered what it would be like to be more like Isabelle, so aware of your own feminine power you could wield it as a weapon instead of gazing at it mystified, like someone presented with a housewarming gift they had no idea where to display.

She touched the gold ring on her finger for luck before heading into Jaces bedroom. He was sitting on the bed, shirtless in black pajama bottoms, reading a book in the small pool of yellow light from the bedside lamp. She stood for a moment, watching him. She could see the delicate play of muscles under his skin as he turned the pages-and could see Liliths Mark, just over his heart. It didnt look like the black lacework of the rest of his Marks; it was silvery-red, like blood-tinged mercury. It seemed not to belong on him.

The door slipped closed behind her with a click, and Jace looked up. Clary saw his face change. She might not have been such a big fan of the nightgown, but he definitely was. The look on his face made a shiver run over her skin.

“Are you cold?” He threw the covers back; she crawled in with him as he tossed the book onto the nightstand, and they slid together under the blanket, until they were facing each other. They had lain in the boat for what had seemed like hours, kissing, but this was different. That had been out in public, under the gaze of the city and the stars. This was a sudden intimacy, just the two of them under the blanket, their breath and the heat of their bodies mingling. There was no one to watch them, no one to stop them, no reason to stop. When he reached out and laid his hand against her cheek, she thought the thunder of her own blood in her ears might deafen her.

Their eyes were so close together, she could see the pattern of gold and darker gold in his irises, like a mosaic opal. She had been cold for so long, and now she felt as if she were burning and melting at the same time, dissolving into him-and they were barely touching. She found her gaze drawn to the places he was most vulnerable-his temples, his eyes, the pulse at the base of his throat, wanting to kiss him there, to feel his heartbeat against her lips.

His scarred right hand moved down her cheek, across her shoulder and side, stroking her in a single long caress that ended at her hip. She could see why men liked silk nightclothes so much. There was no friction; it was like sliding your hands across glass. “Tell me what you want,” he said in a whisper that couldnt quite disguise the hoarseness in his voice.

“I just want you to hold me,” she said. “While I sleep. Thats all I want right now. ”

His fingers, which had been stroking slow circles on her hip, stilled. “Thats all?”

It wasnt what she wanted. What she wanted was to kiss him until she lost track of space and time and location, as she had in the boat-to kiss him until she forgot who she was and why she was here. She wanted to use him like a drug.

But that was a very bad idea.

He watched her, restless, and she remembered the first time she had seen him and how she had thought he seemed deadly as well as beautiful, like a lion. This is a test, she thought. And maybe a dangerous one. “Thats all. ”

His chest rose and fell. Liliths Mark seemed to pulse against the skin just over his heart. His hand tightened on her hip. She could hear her own breathing, as shallow as low tide.

He pulled her toward him, rolling her over until they lay tucked together like spoons, her back to him. She swallowed a gasp. His skin was hot against hers, as if he were slightly feverish. But his arms as they went around her were familiar. The two of them fit together, as always, her head under his chin, her spine against the hard muscles of his chest and stomach, her legs bent around his. “All right,” he whispered, and the feel of his breath against the back of her neck raised goose bumps over her body. “So well sleep. ”

And that was all. Slowly her body relaxed, the thudding of her heart slowing. Jaces arms around her felt the way they always had. Comfortable. She closed her hands around his and shut her eyes, imagining their bed cut free of this strange prison, floating through space or on the surface of the ocean, just the two of them alone.

She slept like that, her head tucked under Jaces chin, her spine fitted to his body, their legs entwined. It was the best sleep she had had in weeks.

Simon sat on the edge of the bed in Magnuss spare room, staring down at the duffel bag in his lap.

He could hear voices from the living room. Magnus was explaining to Maia and Jordan what had happened that night, with Izzy occasionally interjecting a detail. Jordan was saying something about how they should order Chinese food so they wouldnt starve; Maia laughed and said as long as it wasnt from the Jade Wolf, that would be fine.

Starving, Simon thought. He was getting hungry-hungry enough to have begun to feel it, like a pull on all his veins. It was a different kind of hunger than human hunger. He felt scraped out, a hollow emptiness inside. If you struck him, he thought, he would ring like a bell.

“Simon. ” His door opened, and Isabelle slid inside. Her black hair was down and loose, almost reaching her waist. “Are you okay?”

“Im fine. ”

She saw the duffel bag on his lap, and her shoulders tensed. “Are you leaving?”

“Well, I wasnt planning to stay forever,” Simon said. “I mean, last night was-different. You asked. . . ”

“Right,” she said in an unnaturally bright voice. “Well, you can get a ride back with Jordan at least. Did you notice him and Maia, by the way?”

“Notice what about them?”

She lowered her voice. “Something definitely happened between them on their little road trip. Theyre all couply now. ”

“Well, thats good. ”

“Are you jealous?”

“Jealous?” he echoed, confused.

“Well, you and Maia. . . ” She waved a hand, looking up at him through her lashes. “You were. . . ”

“Oh. No. No, not at all. Im glad for Jordan. This will make him really happy. ” He meant it too.

“Good. ” Isabelle looked up then, and he saw that her cheeks were rosy red, and not just from the cold. “Would you stay here tonight, Simon?”

“With you?”

She nodded, not looking at him. “Alecs going out to get some more of his clothes from the Institute. He asked if I wanted to go back with him, but I-Id rather stay here with you. ” She raised her chin, looking at him directly. “I dont want to sleep by myself. If I stay here, will you stay with me?” He could tell how much she hated to ask.

“Of course,” he said, as lightly as he possibly could, pushing the thought of his hunger out of his head, or trying to. The last time he had tried to forget to drink, it had ended with Jordan pulling him off a semiconscious Maureen.

But that was when he hadnt eaten for days. This was different. He knew his limits. He was sure of it.

“Of course,” he said again. “That would be great. ”

Camille smirked up at Alec from her divan. “So where does Magnus think you are now?”

Alec, who had put a plank of wood across two cinderblocks to form a sort of bench, stretched his long legs out and looked at his boots. “At the Institute, picking up clothes. I was going to go up to Spanish Harlem, but I came here instead. ”

Her eyes narrowed. “And why is that?”

“Because I cant do it. I cant kill Raphael. ”

Camille threw up her hands. “And why not? Have you some sort of personal bond with him?”

“I barely know him,” Alec said. “But killing him is deliberately breaking Covenant Law. Not that I havent broken Laws before, but theres a difference between breaking them for good reasons and breaking them for selfish ones. ”

“Oh, dear God. ” Camille began to pace. “Spare me from Nephilim with consciences. ”

“Im sorry. ”

Her eyes narrowed. “Sorry? Ill make you-” She broke off. “Alexander,” she went on in a more composed voice. “What of Magnus? If you continue as you have been, you will lose him. ”

Alec watched her as she moved, catlike and composed, her face blank of anything now but a curious sympathy. “Where was Magnus born?”

Camille laughed. “You dont even know that? My goodness. Batavia, if you must know. ” She snorted at his look of incomprehension. “Indonesia. Of course, it was the Dutch East Indies then. His mother was a native, I believe; his father was some dull colonial. Well, not his real father. ” Her lips curved into a smile.

“Who was his real father?”

“Magnuss father? Why, a demon, of course. ”

“Yes, but which demon?”

“How could it possibly matter, Alexander?”

“I get the feeling,” Alec went on stubbornly, “that hes a pretty powerful, high-up demon. But Magnus wont talk about him. ”

Camille collapsed back onto the divan with a sigh. “Well, of course he wont. One must preserve some mystery in ones relationship, Alec Lightwood. A book that one has not read yet is always more exciting than a book one has memorized. ”

“You mean I tell him too much?” Alec pounced on the morsel of advice. Somewhere here, inside this cold, beautiful shell of a woman, was someone who had shared a unique experience with him-of loving and being loved by Magnus. Surely she must know something, some secret, some key that would keep him from screwing everything up.

“Almost certainly. Although, youve been alive for such a short time that I cant imagine how much there could be to say. Certainly you must be out of anecdotes. ”

“Well, it seems clear to me that your policy of not telling him anything didnt work out either. ”

“I was not so invested in keeping him as you are. ”

“Well,” Alec asked, knowing it was a bad idea but not being able to help it, “if you had been interested in keeping him, what would you have done differently?”

Camille sighed dramatically. “The thing that you are too young to understand is that we all hide things. We hide them from our lovers because we wish to present our best selves, but also because if it is real love, we expect our loved one to simply understand it, without needing to ask. In a true partnership, the kind that lasts through the ages, there is an unspoken communion. ”

“B-but,” Alec stammered, “I would have thought he would have wanted me to open up. I mean, I have a hard time being open even with people Ive known my whole life-like Isabelle, or Jace. . . ”

Camille snorted. “Thats another thing,” she said. “You no longer need other people in your life once you have found your true love. No wonder Magnus feels he cannot open up to you, when you rely so heavily upon these other people. When love is true, you should meet each others every desire, every need-Are you listening, young Alexander? For my advice is precious, and not given often. . . ”

The room was filled with translucent dawn light. Clary sat up, watching Jace as he slept. He was on his side, his hair a pale brass color in the bluish air. His cheek was pillowed on his hand, like a childs. The star-shaped scar on his shoulder was revealed, and so were the patterns of old runes up and down his arms, back, and sides.

She wondered if other people would find the scars as beautiful as she did, or if she only saw them that way because she loved him and they were part of him. Each one told the story of a moment. Some had even saved his life.

He murmured in his sleep and turned over onto his back. His hand, the Voyance rune clear and black on the back of it, was splayed across his stomach, and above it was the one rune that Clary did not find beautiful: Liliths rune, the one that bound him to Sebastian.

It seemed to pulse, like Isabelles ruby necklace, like a second heart.

Silent as a cat, she moved up the bed and onto her knees. She reached up and pulled the Herondale dagger from the wall. The photograph of her and Jace together fluttered free, spinning in the air before landing face-down on the floor.

She swallowed and looked back at him. Even now, he was so alive, he seemed to glow from inside, as if lit by inner fire. The scar on his chest pulsed its steady beat.

She lifted the knife.

Clary came awake with a start, her heart slamming against her rib cage. The room swung around her like a carousel: it was still dark, and Jaces arm was around her, his breath warm on the back of her neck. She could feel his heartbeat against her spine. She closed her eyes, swallowing against the bitter taste in her mouth.

It was a dream. Just a dream.

But there was no way she was getting back to sleep now. She sat up carefully, gently moving Jaces arm away, and climbed off the bed.

The floor was icy cold, and she winced as her bare feet touched it. She found the knob of the bedroom door in the half-light, and swung it open. And froze.

Though there were no windows in the hallway outside, it was lit by pendant chandeliers. Puddles of something that looked sticky and dark marred the floor. Along one white-painted wall was the clear mark of a bloody handprint. Blood spattered the wall at intervals leading to the stairs, where there was a single long, dark smear.

Clary looked toward Sebastians room. It was quiet, the door shut, no light showing beneath it. She thought of the blond girl in the spangled top, looking up at him. She looked at the bloody handprint again. It was like a message, a hand thrust out, saying Stop.

And then Sebastians door opened.

He stepped out. He was wearing a thermal shirt over black jeans, and his silver-white hair was rumpled. He was yawning; he did a double take when he saw her, and a look of genuine surprise passed over his face. “What are you doing up?”

Clary sucked in a breath. The air tasted metallic. “What am I doing? What are you doing?”

“Going downstairs to get some towels to clean up this mess,” he said matter-of-factly. “Vampires and their games. . . ”

“This doesnt look like the outcome of a game,” Clary said. “The girl-the human girl who was with you-what happened to her?”

“She got a little frightened at the sight of fangs. Sometimes they do. ” At the look on her face, he laughed. “She came around. Even wanted more. Shes asleep in my bed now, if you want to check and make sure shes alive. ”

“No. . . Thats not necessary. ” Clary dropped her eyes. She wished shed worn something besides this silk nightgown to bed. She felt undressed. “What about you?”

“Are you asking if Im all right?” She hadnt been, but Sebastian looked pleased. He pulled the collar of his shirt aside, and she could see two neat puncture wounds just at his collarbone. “I could use an iratze. ”

Clary said nothing.

“Come downstairs,” he said, and gestured for her to follow him as he padded past her, barefoot, and down the glass staircase. After a moment she did as hed asked. He flicked on the lights as he went, so by the time they reached the kitchen, it was glowing with warm light. “Wine?” he said to her, pulling the refrigerator door open.

She settled herself on one of the counter stools, smoothing down her nightgown. “Just water. ”

She watched him as he poured two glasses of mineral water-one for her, one for him. His smooth economical movements were like Jocelyns, but the control with which he moved must have been instilled in him by Valentine. It reminded her of the way Jace moved, like a carefully trained dancer.

He pushed her water toward her with one hand, the other tipping his glass toward his lips. When he was done, he slammed the glass back down on the counter. “You probably know this, but fooling around with vampires certainly makes you thirsty. ”

“Why would I know that?” Her question came out sharper than intended.

He shrugged. “Figured you were playing some biting games with that Daylighter. ”

“Simon and I never played biting games,” she said in a frozen tone. “In fact, I cant figure out why anyone would want vampires feeding on them on purpose. Dont you hate and despise Downworlders?”

“No,” he said. “Dont mix me up with Valentine. ”

“Yeah,” she muttered. “Tough mistake to make. ”

“Its not my fault I look exactly like him and you look like her. ” His mouth curled into an expression of distaste at the thought of Jocelyn. Clary scowled at him. “See, there you go. Youre always looking at me like that. ”

“Like what?”

“Like I burn down animal shelters for fun and light my cigarettes with orphans. ” He poured another glass of water. As he turned his head from her, she saw that the puncture wounds at his throat were already beginning to heal over.

“You killed a child,” she said sharply, knowing as she said it that she should be keeping her mouth shut, going along with the pretense that she didnt think Sebastian was a monster. But Max. He was alive in her head as if it were the first time shed ever seen him, asleep on a sofa at the Institute with a book on his lap and his glasses askew on his small face. “Thats not something you can be forgiven for, ever. ”

Sebastian drew in a breath. “So thats it,” he said. “Cards on the table so soon, little sister?”

“What did you think?” Her voice sounded thin and tired to her own ears, but he flinched as if shed snapped at him.

“Would you believe me if I told you it was an accident?” he said, setting his glass down on the counter. “I didnt mean to kill him. Just to knock him out, so he wouldnt tell-”

Clary silenced him with a look. She knew she couldnt hide the hatred in her eyes: knew she should, knew it was impossible.

“I mean it. I meant to knock him out, like I did Isabelle. I misjudged my own strength. ”

“And Sebastian Verlac? The real one? You killed him, didnt you?”

Sebastian looked at his own hands as if they were strange to him: there was a silver chain holding a flat metal plate, like an ID bracelet, around his right wrist-hiding the scar where Isabelle had sliced his hand away. “He wasnt supposed to fight back-”

Disgusted, Clary started to slide off the stool, but Sebastian caught at her wrist, pulling her toward him. His skin was hot against hers and she remembered, in Idris, the time his touch had burned her. “Jonathan Morgenstern killed Max. But what if Im not the same person? Havent you noticed I wont even use the same name?”

“Let me go. ”

“You believe Jace is different,” Sebastian said quietly. “You believe he isnt the same person, that my blood changed him. Dont you?”

She nodded without speaking.

“Then, why is it so hard to believe it might go the other way? Maybe his blood changed me. Maybe Im not the same person I was. ”

“You stabbed Luke,” she said. “Someone I care about. Someone I love-”

“He was about to blow me to pieces with a shotgun,” said Sebastian. “You love him; I dont know him. I was saving my life, and Jaces. Do you really not understand that?”

“And maybe youre just saying whatever you think you need to say to get me to trust you. ”

“Would the person I used to be care if you trusted me?”

“If you wanted something. ”

“Maybe I just want a sister. ”

At that, her eyes flicked up to his-involuntary, disbelieving. “You dont know what a family is,” she said. “Or what youd do with a sister if you had one. ”

“I do have one. ” His voice was low. There were bloodstains at the collar of his shirt, just where it touched his skin. “Im giving you a chance. To see that what Jace and I are doing is the right thing. Can you give me a chance?”

She thought of the Sebastian she had known in Idris. She had heard him sound amused, friendly, detached, ironic, intense, and angry. She had never heard him sound pleading.

“Jace trusts you,” he said. “But I dont. He believes you love him enough to throw over everything youve ever valued or believed in to come and be with him. No matter what. ”

Her jaw tightened. “And how do you know I wouldnt?”

He laughed. “Because youre my sister. ”

“Were nothing alike,” she spat, and saw the slow smile on his face. She bit back the rest of her words, but it was already too late.

“Thats what I would have said,” he said. “But come on, Clary. Youre here. You cant go back. Youve thrown your lot in with Jace. You might as well do it wholeheartedly. Be a part of whats happening. Then you can make up your own mind about. . . me. ”

Not looking at him but down at the marble floor, she nodded, very slightly.

He reached up and brushed away the hair that had fallen into her eyes, and the kitchen lights sparked off the bracelet he wore, the one she had noticed before, with letters etched into it. Acheronta movebo. Boldly she put her hand on his wrist. “What does this mean?”

He looked at her hand where it touched the silver on his wrist. “It means Thus always to tyrants. I wear it to remind me of the Clave. Its said this was shouted by the Romans who murdered Caesar before he could become a dictator. ”

“Traitors,” said Clary, dropping her hand.

Sebastians dark eyes flashed. “Or fighters for freedom. History gets written by the winners, little sis. ”

“And you intend to write this portion?”

He grinned at her, his dark eyes alight. “You bet I do. ”

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