Certain Dark Things
I love you as one loves certain dark things
-Pablo Neruda, “Sonnet XVII”
Chapter 8: Fire Tests Gold
Maia had never been to Long Island, but when she thought of it at all, shed always thought of it as being a lot like New Jersey-mostly suburban, a place where people who worked in New York or Philly actually lived.
She had dropped her bag into the back of Jordans truck-startlingly unfamiliar. Hed driven a beaten-up red Toyota when theyd been dating, and it had always been littered with old, crumpled coffee cups and fast-food bags, the ashtray full of cigarettes smoked down to the filter. The cab of this truck was comparatively clean, the only detritus a stack of papers on the passenger seat. He moved them aside with no comment as she climbed in.
They hadnt spoken through Manhattan and onto the Long Island Expressway, and eventually Maia had dozed, her cheek against the cool glass of the window. Shed finally woken when theyd gone over a bump in the road, jolting her forward. Shed blinked, rubbing at her eyes.
“Sorry,” Jordan had said ruefully. “I was going to let you sleep until we got there. ”
Shed sat up, looking around. Theyd been driving down a two-lane blacktop road, the sky around them just beginning to lighten. There were fields on either side of the road, the occasional farmhouse or silo, clapboard houses set far back with picket fences around them.
“Its pretty,” shed said in surprise.
“Yeah. ” Jordan had changed gears, clearing his throat. “Since youre up anyway. . . Before we get to the Praetor House, can I show you something?”
Shed hesitated only a moment before nodding. And now here they were, bumping down a one-lane dirt road, trees on either side. Most were leafless; the road was muddy, and Maia cranked the window down to smell the air. Trees, salt water, softly decaying leaves, small animals running through the high grass. She took another deep breath just as they bumped off the road and onto a small circular turnaround space. In front of them was the beach, stretching down to dark steel-blue water. The sky was almost lilac.
She looked over at Jordan. He was staring straight ahead. “I used to come here while I was training at the Praetor House,” he said. “Sometimes just to look at the water and clear my head. The sunrises here. . . Every one is different, but theyre all beautiful. ”
He didnt look at her. “Yeah?”
“Im sorry about before. About running off, you know, in the navy yard. ”
“Its fine. ” He let his breath out slowly, but she could tell by the tension in his shoulders, his hand gripping the gearshift, that it wasnt, not really. She tried not to look at the way the tension shaped the muscles in his arm, accenting the indentation of his bicep. “It was a lot for you to take in; I get that. I just. . . ”
“I think we should take it slow. Work toward being friends. ”
“I dont want to be friends,” he said.
She couldnt hide her surprise. “You dont?”
He moved his hands from the gearshift to the steering wheel. Warm air poured from the heater inside the car, mixing with the cooler air outside Maias open window. “We shouldnt talk about this now. ”
“I want to,” she said. “I want to talk about it now. I dont want to be stressing about us when were in the Praetor House. ”
He slid down in his seat, chewing his lip. His tangled brown hair fell forward over his forehead. “Maia. . . ”
“If you dont want to be friends, then what are we? Enemies again?”
He turned his head, his cheek against the back of the car seat. Those eyes, they were just as she remembered, hazel with flecks of green and blue and gold. “I dont want to be friends,” he said, “because I still love you. Maia, you know I havent even so much as kissed anyone since we broke up?”
“Isabelle. . . ”
“Wanted to get drunk and talk about Simon. ” He took his hands off the steering wheel, reached for her, then dropped them back into his lap, a defeated look on his face. “Ive only ever loved you. Thinking about you got me through my training. The idea that I might be able to make it up to you someday. And I will, in any way that I can except for one. ”
“You wont be my friend. ”
“I wont be just your friend. I love you, Maia. Im in love with you. I always have been. I always will be. Just being your friend would kill me. ”
She looked out toward the ocean. The rim of the sun was just showing above the water, its rays lighting the sea in shades of purple and gold and blue. “Its so beautiful here. ”
“Thats why I used to come here. I couldnt sleep, and Id watch the sun come up. ” His voice was soft.
“Can you sleep now?” She turned back to him.
He closed his eyes. “Maia. . . if youre going to say no, you dont want to be anything but friends with me,. . . just say it. Rip the Band-Aid off, okay?”
He looked braced, as if for a blow. His eyelashes cast shadows on his cheekbones. There were pale white scars on the olive skin of his throat, scars she had made. She unclipped her seat belt and scooted across the bench seat toward him. She heard his gasp of breath, but he didnt move as she leaned in and kissed his cheek. She inhaled the scent of him. Same soap, same shampoo, but no lingering scent of cigarettes. Same boy. She kissed across his cheek, to the corner of his mouth, and finally, edging even closer, set her mouth over his.
His lips opened under hers and he growled, low in his throat. Werewolves werent gentle with each other, but his hands were light on her as he lifted her and set her on his lap, wrapping his arms around her as their kiss deepened. The feel of him, the warmth of his corduroy-covered arms around her, the beat of his heart, the taste of his mouth, the clash of lips, teeth, and tongue, stole her breath. Her hands slipped around the back of his neck, and she melted against him as she felt the soft thick curls of his hair, exactly the same as it had always been.
When they finally drew apart, his eyes were glassy. “Ive been waiting for that for years. ”
She traced the line of his collarbone with a finger. She could feel her own heart beating. For a few moments they hadnt been two werewolves on a mission to a deadly secret organization-theyd been two teenagers, making out in a car on the beach. “Did it live up to your expectations?”
“It was much better. ” His mouth crooked up at the corner. “Does this mean. . . ”
“Well,” she said. “Thats not the sort of thing you do with your friends, right?”
“Isnt it? Ill have to tell Simon. Hes going to be seriously disappointed. ”
“Jordan. ” She hit him lightly in the shoulder, but she was smiling, and so was he, an uncharacteristically big, goofy grin spreading over his face. She bent close and put her face against the crook of his neck, breathing him in along with the morning.
They were battling across the frozen lake, the icy city glowing like a lamp in the distance. The angel with the golden wings and the angel with the wings like black fire. Clary stood on the ice as blood and feathers fell around her. The golden feathers burned like fire where they touched her skin, but the black feathers were as cold as ice.
Clary awoke with her heart pounding, tangled in a knot of blankets. She sat up, pushing the blankets to her waist. She was in an unfamiliar room. The walls were white plaster, and she was lying in a bed made of black wood, still wearing the clothes shed worn the night before. She slid out of the bed, her bare feet hitting the cold stone floor, and looked around for her backpack.
She found it easily, propped on a black leather chair. There were no windows in the room; the only light came from a pendant glass light fixture overhead made of cut black glass. She swept her hand through the pack and realized to her annoyance, although without surprise, that someone had already gone through the contents. Her art box was gone, including her stele. All that remained was her hairbrush and a change of jeans and underwear. At least the gold ring was still on her finger.
She touched it lightly and thought at Simon. Im in.
There was no response. She swallowed back her uneasiness. She had no idea where she was, what time it was, or how long shed been out cold. Simon could be asleep. She couldnt panic and assume the rings didnt work. She had to go on autopilot. Check out where she was, learn what she could. Shed try Simon again later.
She took a deep breath and tried to focus on her immediate surroundings. Two doors led off the bedroom. She tried the first, and found that it opened onto a small glass-and-chrome bathroom with a copper claw-footed bathtub. There were no windows in here either. She showered quickly and dried herself with a fluffy white towel, then changed into clean jeans and a sweater before padding back into the bedroom, picking up her shoes, and trying the second door.
Bingo. Here was the rest of the-house? Apartment? She was in a large room, half of which was devoted to a long glass table. More of the black pendant cut-glass lights hung from the ceiling, sending dancing shadows against the walls. Everything was very modern, from the black leather chairs to the large fireplace, framed in washed chrome. There was a fire blazing in it. So someone else must be home, or must have been very recently.
The other half of the room was taken up with a large television screen, a glossy black coffee table on which were scattered games and controllers, and low leather couches. A set of glass stairs led upward in a spiral. After a glance around Clary began to climb them. The glass was perfectly clear, and lent the impression that she was climbing an invisible staircase into the sky.
The second floor was much like the first-pale walls, black floor, a long corridor with doors opening off it. The first door led into what was clearly a master bedroom. A huge rosewood bed, hung with gauzy white curtains, took up most of the space. There were windows in here, tinted a dark blue. Clary went across the room to look out.
She wondered for a moment if she was back in Alicante. She was looking across a canal at another building, its windows covered in closed green shutters. The sky above was gray, the canal a dark greenish-blue, and there was a bridge visible just at her right, crossing the canal. Two people were standing on the bridge. One of them held a camera to his face and was industriously taking photos. Not Alicante, then. Amsterdam? Venice? She looked everywhere for a way to open the window, but there didnt appear to be one; she banged on the glass and shouted, but the bridge-crossers took no notice. After a few moments they moved on.
Clary turned back into the bedroom and went to one of the wardrobes, and threw it open. Her heart skipped a beat. The wardrobe was full of clothes-womens clothes. Gorgeous dresses-lace and satin and beads and flowers. The drawers held camisoles and underwear, tops in cotton and silk, skirts but no jeans or pants. There were even shoes lined up, sandals and heels, and folded pairs of stockings. For a moment she just stared, wondering if there were another girl staying here, or if Sebastian had taken to cross-dressing. But the clothes all had the tags on them, and all of them were near her size. Not only that, she realized slowly, staring. They were exactly the shapes and colors that would suit her-blues and greens and yellows, cut for a petite frame. Eventually she drew out one of the simpler tops, a dark green cap-sleeved blouse with silk lacing up the front. After discarding her worn top on the floor, she shrugged the blouse on and glanced at the mirror hanging inside the wardrobe.
It fit perfectly. Made the most of her small figure, clinging to her waist, darkening the green of her eyes. She yanked the tag off, not wanting to see how much it had cost, and hurried out of the room, feeling a shiver run down her spine.
The next room was clearly Jaces. She knew it the minute she walked in. It smelled like him, like his cologne and soap and the scent of his skin. The bed was ebonized wood with white sheets and blankets, perfectly made. It was as neat as his room at the Institute. Books were stacked by his bed, the titles in Italian and French and Latin. The silver Herondale dagger with its pattern of birds was jammed into the plaster wall. When she looked closer, she could see that it was pinning a photograph in place. A photograph of herself and Jace, taken by Izzy. She remembered it, a clear day in early October, Jace sitting on the front steps of the Institute, a book on his lap. She was sitting a step above him, her hand on his shoulder, leaning forward to see what he was reading. His hand covered hers, almost absently, and he was smiling. She hadnt been able to see his face that day, hadnt known he was smiling like that, not until now. Her throat contracted, and she went out of the room, catching her breath.
She couldnt act like this, she told herself sternly. As if each sight of Jace the way he was now was a sucker punch to the gut. She had to pretend that it didnt matter, as if she noticed no difference. She went into the next room, another bedroom, much like the one before it, but this one was a mess-the bed a tangle of black silk sheets and comforter, a glass and steel desk covered with books and papers, boy clothes scattered everywhere. Jeans and jackets and T-shirts and gear. Her eye fell on something that gleamed silver, propped on the nightstand near the bed. She moved forward, staring, unable to believe her eyes.
It was the small box of her mothers, the one with the initials J. C. on it. The one her mother used to take out every year, once a year, and weep over silently, the tears running down her face to splash onto her hands. Clary knew what was in the box-a lock of hair, as fine and white as dandelion fluff; scraps from a childs shirt; a baby shoe, small enough to fit inside the palm of her hand. Bits and pieces of her brother, a sort of collage of the child her mother had wanted to have, had dreamed of having, before Valentine had done what he had and turned his own son into a monster.
Her stomach twisted, and she backed up quickly out of the room-directly into a wall of living flesh. Arms came around her, wrapping her tight, and she saw that they were slim and muscular, downed with fine pale hair, and for a moment she thought it was Jace holding her. She began to relax.
“What were you doing in my room?” Sebastian said into her ear.
Isabelle had been trained to wake early every morning, rain or shine, and a slight hangover did nothing to prevent it from happening again. She sat up slowly and blinked down at Simon.
Shed never spent an entire night in a bed with anyone else, unless you counted crawling into her parents bed when she was four and afraid of thunderstorms. She couldnt help staring at Simon as if he were some exotic species of animal. He lay on his back, his mouth slightly open, his hair in his eyes. Ordinary brown hair, ordinary brown eyes. His T-shirt was pulled up slightly. He wasnt muscular like a Shadowhunter. He had a smooth flat stomach but no six-pack, and there was still a hint of softness to his face. What was it about him that fascinated her? He was plenty cute, but she had dated gorgeous faerie knights, sexy Shadowhunters. . . .
“Isabelle,” Simon said without opening his eyes. “Quit staring at me. ”
Isabelle sighed irritably and swung herself out of bed. She rummaged in her bag for her gear, retrieved it, and headed out to find the bathroom.
It was halfway down the hall, and the door was just opening, Alec emerging in a cloud of steam. He had a towel around his waist and another around his shoulders and was rubbing energetically at his wet black hair. Isabelle supposed she shouldnt be surprised to see him; hed been trained to wake up early in the morning just like she had.
“You smell like sandalwood,” she said by way of greeting. She hated the smell of sandalwood. She liked sweet scents-vanilla, cinnamon, gardenia.
Alec looked at her. “We like sandalwood. ”
Isabelle made a face. “Either thats the royal we or you and Magnus are turning into one of those couples that think theyre one person. We like sandalwood. We adore the symphony. We hope you enjoy our Christmas present-which, if you ask me, is just a cheap way of avoiding having to buy two gifts. ”
Alec blinked wet lashes at her. “Youll understand-”
“If you tell me Ill understand when Im in love, Ill smother you with that towel. ”
“And if you keep preventing me from going back to my room and getting dressed, Ill get Magnus to summon up pixies to tie your hair in knots. ”
“Oh, get out of my way. ” Isabelle kicked at Alecs ankle until he moved, unhurriedly, down the hall. She had the feeling if she turned around and looked at him hed be sticking his tongue out at her, so she didnt look. Instead she locked herself in the bathroom and turned on the shower, full steam. Then she looked at the rack of shower products and said an unladylike word.
Sandalwood shampoo, conditioner, and soap. Ugh.
When she finally emerged, dressed in her gear and with her hair up, she found Alec, Magnus, and Jocelyn waiting for her in the living room. There were doughnuts, which she didnt want, and coffee, which she did. She poured a liberal amount of milk into it and sat back, looking at Jocelyn, who was also dressed-to Isabelles surprise-in Shadowhunter gear.
It was odd, she mused. People often told her she looked like her mother, though she didnt see it herself, and she wondered now if it was in the same way that Clary looked like Jocelyn. The same color hair, yes, but also the same cast of features, the same tilt of the head, the same stubborn set to the jaw. The same sense that this person might look like a porcelain doll but was steel underneath. Although, Isabelle wished that, in the same way that Clary had gotten her mothers green eyes, shed gotten Maryse and Roberts blue ones. Blue was so much more interesting than black.
“As with the Silent City, there is only one Adamant Citadel, but there are many doors through which one may find it,” said Magnus. “The closest to us is the old Augustinian Monastery on Grymes Hill, in Staten Island. Alec and I will Portal with you there and wait for you to return, but we cant go with you all the way. ”
“I know,” said Isabelle. “Because youre boys. Cooties. ”
Alec pointed a finger at her. “Take this seriously, Isabelle. The Iron Sisters arent like the Silent Brothers. Theyre way less friendly and they dont like being bothered. ”
“I promise Ill be on my best behavior,” Isabelle said, and set her empty coffee mug down on the table. “Lets go. ”
Magnus looked at her suspiciously for a moment, then shrugged. His hair was gelled up today into a million sharp points, and his eyes were smudged with black, making them look more catlike than ever. He moved past her to the wall, already murmuring in Latin; the familiar outline of a Portal, its arcane door shape outlined with glittering symbols, began to take form. Wind rose, cool and sharp, blowing back the tendrils of Isabelles hair.
Jocelyn stepped forward first, and walked through the Portal. It was a little like watching someone disappear into the side of a wave of water: A silvery haze seemed to swallow her in, dulling the color of her red hair as she vanished into it with a faint shimmer.
Isabelle went next. She was used to the stomach-dropping feeling of transportation by Portal. There was a soundless roar in her ears and no air in her lungs. She closed her eyes, then opened them again as the whirlwind released her and she fell into dry brush. She rose to her feet, brushing dead grass from her knees, and saw Jocelyn looking at her. Clarys mother opened her mouth-and closed it again as Alec appeared, dropping into the vegetation beside Isabelle, and then Magnus, the shimmering half-seen Portal closing behind him.
Even the trip through the Portal had not disarranged Magnuss hair spikes. He tugged on one proudly. “Check it out,” he said to Isabelle.
“Hair gel. $3. 99 at Rickys. ”
Isabelle rolled her eyes at him and turned to take in her new surroundings. They stood atop a hill, its peak covered in dry brush and withered grass. Lower down were autumn-blackened trees, and in the far distance Isabelle saw cloudless sky and the top of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge connecting Staten Island to Brooklyn. As she turned, Isabelle saw the monastery behind her, rising out of the dull foliage. It was a large building of red brick, most of its windows smashed out or boarded over. It was tagged here and there with graffiti. Turkey vultures, disturbed by the travelers arrival, circled the dilapidated bell tower.
Isabelle squinted at it, wondering if there was a glamour to be peeled off. If so, it was a strong one. Try as she might, she couldnt see anything but the ruinous building before her.
“Theres no glamour,” said Jocelyn, startling Isabelle. “What you see is what you get. ”
Jocelyn trudged toward it, her boots crushing down the dry vegetation in front of her. After a moment Magnus shrugged and followed her, and Isabelle and Alec came after. There was no path; branches grew in tangles, dark against the clear air, and the foliage underfoot crackled with dryness. As they neared the building, Isabelle saw that patches of the dry grass were burned away where pentagrams and runic circles had been spray-painted into the grass.
“Mundanes,” said Magnus, lifting a branch out of Isabelles way. “Playing their little games with magic, not really understanding it. Theyre often drawn to places like this-centers of power-without really knowing why. They drink and hang out and spray-paint the walls, like you could leave a human mark on magic. You cant. ” They had reached a boarded-up door in the brick wall. “Were here. ”
Isabelle looked hard at the door. Again there was no sense that a glamour covered it, although if she concentrated hard, a faint shimmer grew visible, like sunshine glancing off water. A look passed between Jocelyn and Magnus. Jocelyn turned to Isabelle. “Youre ready?”
Isabelle nodded, and without further ado Jocelyn stepped forward and vanished through the boards of the door. Magnus looked expectantly at Isabelle.
Alec leaned closer to her, and she felt the brush of his hand on her shoulder. “Dont worry,” he said. “Youll be fine, Iz. ”
She raised her chin. “I know,” she said, and followed Jocelyn through the door.
Clary sucked in her breath, but before she could reply, there was a step on the stairs, and Jace appeared at the end of the hallway. Sebastian immediately let her go and spun her around. With a smile like a wolfs, he ruffled her hair. “Good to see you, little sister. ”
Clary was speechless. Jace, though, wasnt; he moved toward them soundlessly. He was wearing a black leather jacket, a white T-shirt and jeans, and was barefoot. “Were you hugging Clary?” He looked at Sebastian in amazement.
Sebastian shrugged. “Shes my sister. Im pleased to see her. ”
“You dont hug people,” Jace said.
“I ran out of time to bake a casserole. ”
“It was nothing,” Clary said, waving a dismissive hand at her brother. “I tripped. He was just keeping me from falling over. ”
If Sebastian was surprised to hear her defend him, he didnt show it. He was expressionless as she moved across the corridor, toward Jace, who kissed her on the cheek, his fingers cool against her skin. “What were you doing up here?” Jace asked.
“Looking for you. ” She shrugged. “I woke up and couldnt find you. I thought maybe you were asleep. ”
“I see you discovered the clothes stash. ” Sebastian indicated her shirt with a gesture. “Do you like them?”
Jace shot him a look. “We were out getting food,” he said to Clary. “Nothing fancy. Bread and cheese. You want lunch?”
Which was how, several minutes later, Clary found herself installed at the big glass and steel table. From the comestibles spread out over the table, she figured that her second guess had been right. They were in Venice. There was bread, Italian cheeses, salami and prosciutto, grapes and fig jam, and bottles of Italian wine. Jace sat across from her, Sebastian at the head of the table. She was eerily reminded of the night she had met Valentine, at Renwicks in New York, how he had put himself between Jace and Clary at the head of a table, how he had offered them wine and told them they were brother and sister.
She sneaked a glance at her real brother now. She thought of how her mother had looked when shed seen him. Valentine. But Sebastian wasnt a carbon copy of their father. She had seen pictures of Valentine when he was their age. Sebastians face tempered her fathers hard features with her mothers prettiness; he was tall but less broad-shouldered, more lithe and catlike. He had Jocelyns cheekbones and fine soft mouth, Valentines dark eyes and white-blond hair.
He looked up then, as if he had caught her staring at him. “Wine?” He offered the bottle.
She nodded, though she had never much liked the taste of wine, and since Renwicks she had hated it. She cleared her throat as Sebastian filled the glass. “So,” she said. “This place-is it yours?”
“It was our fathers,” said Sebastian, setting the bottle down. “Valentines. It moves, in and out of worlds-ours and others. He used to use it as a retreat as well as a mode of travel. He brought me here a few times, showed me how to get in and out and how to make it travel. ”
“Theres no front door. ”
“There is if you know how to find it,” said Sebastian. “Dad was very clever about this place. ”
Clary looked at Jace, who shook his head. “He never showed it to me. I wouldnt have guessed it existed either. ”
“Its very. . . bachelor pad,” Clary said. “I wouldnt have thought of Valentine as. . . ”
“Owning a flat-screen TV?” Jace grinned at her. “Not that it gets channels, but you can watch DVDs on it. Back at the manor we had an old icebox powered by witchlight. Here hes got a Sub-Zero fridge. ”
“That was for Jocelyn,” said Sebastian.
Clary looked up. “What?”
“All the modern stuff. The appliances. And the clothes. Like that shirt youre wearing. They were for our mother. In case she decided to come back. ” Sebastians dark eyes met hers. She felt a little sick. This is my brother, and were talking about our parents. She felt dizzy-too much happening too fast to take in, to process. She had never had time to think about Sebastian as her living, breathing brother. By the time shed found out who he really was, hed been dead.
“Sorry if its weird,” Jace said apologetically, indicating her shirt. “We can buy you some other clothes. ”
Clary touched the sleeve lightly. The fabric was silky, fine, expensive. Well, that explained that-everything close to her size, everything in colors that suited her. Because she looked just like her mother.
She took a deep breath. “Its fine,” she said. “Its just-What do you do exactly? Just travel around inside this apartment and. . . ”
“See the world?” Jace said lightly. “Theres worse things. ”
“But you cant do that forever. ”
Sebastian hadnt eaten much, but hed drunk two glasses of wine. He was on his third, and his eyes were glittering. “Why not?”
“Well, because-because the Clave is looking for both of you, and you cant spend forever running and hiding. . . ” Clarys voice trailed off as she looked from one of them to the other. They were sharing a look-the look of two people who knew something, together, that no one else did. It was not a look Jace had shared with someone else in front of her in a very long time.
Sebastian spoke softly and slowly. “Are you asking a question or making an observation?”
“She has a right to know our plans,” Jace said. “She came here knowing she couldnt go back. ”
“A leap of faith,” said Sebastian, running his finger around the rim of his glass. It was something Clary had seen Valentine do. “In you. She loves you. Thats why shes here. Isnt it?”
“So what if it is?” Clary said. She supposed she could pretend there was another reason, but Sebastians eyes were dark and sharp, and she doubted hed believe her. “I trust Jace. ”
“But not me,” Sebastian said.
Clary chose her next words with extreme care. “If Jace trusts you, then I want to trust you,” she said. “And youre my brother. That counts for something. ” The lie tasted bitter in her mouth. “But I dont really know you. ”
“Then, maybe you should spend a little time getting to know me,” Sebastian said. “And then well tell you our plans. ”
Well tell you. Our plans. In his mind there was a him and Jace; there was no Jace and Clary.
“I dont like keeping her in the dark,” Jace said.
“Well tell her in a week. What difference does a week make?”
Jace gave him a look. “Two weeks ago you were dead. ”
“Well, I wasnt suggesting two weeks,” said Sebastian. “That would be insane. ”
Jaces mouth quirked up at the corner. He looked at Clary.
“Im willing to wait for you to trust me,” she said, knowing it was the right, smart thing to say. Hating to say it. “However long it takes. ”
“A week,” Jace said.
“A week,” agreed Sebastian. “And that means she stays here in the apartment. No communication with anyone. No unlocking the door for her, no going in and out. ”
Jace leaned back. “What if Im with her?”
Sebastian gave him a long look from under lowered eyelashes. His look was calculating. He was deciding what he was going to allow Jace to do, Clary realized. He was deciding how much leash to give his “brother. ” “Fine,” he said at last, his voice rich with condescension. “If youre with her. ”
Clary looked down at her wineglass. She heard Jace reply in a mumur but couldnt look at him. The idea of a Jace who was allowed to do things-Jace, who always did whatever he wanted-made her sick to her stomach. She wanted to get up and smash the wine bottle over Sebastians head, but she knew it was impossible. Cut one, and the other bleeds.
“Hows the wine?” It was Sebastians voice, an undercurrent of amusement plain in his tone.
She drained the glass, choking on the bitter flavor. “Delicious. ”
Isabelle emerged in an alien landscape. A deep green plain swept out before her under a lowering gray-black sky. Isabelle pulled up the hood of her gear and peered out, fascinated. She had never seen such a great, overarching expanse of sky, or such a vast plain-it was shimmering, jewel-toned, the shade of moss. As Isabelle took a step forward, she realized it was moss, growing on and around the black rocks scattered across the coal-colored earth.
“Its a volcanic plain,” Jocelyn said. She was standing beside Isabelle, and the wind was pulling red-gold strands of her hair out of its tightly pinned bun. She looked so much like Clary that it was eerie. “These were lava beds once. The whole area is probably volcanic to some degree. Working with adamas, the Sisters need incredible heat for their forges. ”
“Youd think it would be a little warmer, then,” Isabelle muttered.
Jocelyn cast her a dry look, and started walking, in what seemed to Isabelle a randomly chosen direction. She scrambled to follow. “Sometimes youre so much like your mother you astound me a little, Isabelle. ”
“I take that as a compliment. ” Isabelle narrowed her eyes. No one insulted her family.
“It wasnt meant as an insult. ”
Isabelle kept her eyes on the horizon, where the dark sky met the jewel-green ground. “How well did you know my parents?”
Jocelyn gave her a quick sideways look. “Well enough, when we were all in Idris together. I hadnt seen them for years until recently. ”
“Did you know them when they got married?”
The path Jocelyn was taking had begun to slant uphill, so her reply was slightly breathless. “Yes. ”
“Were they. . . in love?”
Jocelyn stopped short and turned to look at Isabelle. “Isabelle, what is this about?”
“Love?” Isabelle suggested, after a moments pause.
“I dont know why youd think Id be an expert on that. ”
“Well, you managed to keep Luke hanging around for his whole life, basically, before you agreed to marry him. Thats impressive. I wish I had that kind of power over a guy. ”
“You do,” said Jocelyn. “Have it, I mean. And it isnt something to wish for. ” She pushed her hands up through her hair, and Isabelle felt a little jolt. For all that Jocelyn looked like her daughter, her thin long hands, flexible and delicate, were Sebastians. Isabelle remembered slicing one of those hands off, in a valley in Idris, her whip cutting through skin and bone. “Your parents arent perfect, Isabelle, because no ones perfect. Theyre complicated people. And they just lost a child. So if this is about your father staying in Idris-”
“My father cheated on my mother,” Isabelle blurted out, and nearly covered her own mouth with her hand. She had kept this secret, kept it for years, and to say it out loud to Jocelyn seemed like a betrayal, despite everything.
Jocelyns face changed. It held sympathy now. “I know. ”
Isabelle took a sharp breath. “Does everyone know?”
Jocelyn shook her head. “No. A few people. I was. . . in a privileged position to know. I cant say more than that. ”
“Who was it?” Isabelle demanded. “Who did he cheat on her with?”
“It was no one you know, Isabelle-”
“You dont know who I know!” Isabelles voice rose. “And stop saying my name that way, as if Im a little kid. ”
“Its not my place to tell you,” Jocelyn said flatly, and began to walk again.
Isabelle scrambled after her, even as the path took a steeper turn upward, a wall of green rising to meet the thunderous sky. “I have every right to know. Theyre my parents. And if you dont tell me, I-”
She stopped, inhaling sharply. They had reached the top of the ridge, and somehow, in front of them, a fortress had sprung like a fast-blooming flower out of the ground. It was carved of white-silver adamas, reflecting the cloud-streaked sky. Towers topped with electrum reached toward the sky, and the fortress was surrounded by a high wall, also of adamas, in which was set a single gate, formed of two great blades plunged into the ground at angles, so that they resembled a monstrous pair of scissors.
“The Adamant Citadel,” said Jocelyn.
“Thanks,” Isabelle snapped. “I figured that out. ”
Jocelyn made the noise that Isabelle was familiar with from her own parents. Isabelle was pretty sure it was parent-speak for “Teenagers. ” Then Jocelyn started down the hill to the fortress. Isabelle, tired of scrambling, stalked ahead of her. She was taller than Clarys mother and had longer legs, and saw no reason why she should wait for Jocelyn if the other woman was going to persist in treating her like a child. She stomped down the hill, crushing moss under her boots, ducked through the scissorlike gates-
And froze. She was standing on a small outcropping of rock. In front of her the earth dropped away into a vast chasm, at the bottom of which boiled a river of red-gold lava, encircling the fortress. Across the chasm, much too far to jump-even for a Shadowhunter-was the only visible entrance to the fortress, a closed drawbridge.
“Some things,” said Jocelyn at her elbow, “are not as simple as they first appear. ”
Isabelle jumped, then glared. “So not the place to sneak up on someone. ”
Jocelyn simply crossed her arms over her chest and raised her eyebrows. “Surely Hodge taught you the proper method of approaching the Adamant Citadel,” she said. “After all, it is open to all female Shadowhunters in good standing with the Clave. ”
“Of course he did,” said Isabelle haughtily, scrambling mentally to remember. Only those with Nephilim blood. . . She reached up and took one of the metal chopsticks from her hair. When she twisted its base, it popped and clicked and unfolded into a dagger with a Rune of Courage on the blade.
Isabelle raised her hands over the chasm. “Ignis aurum probat,” she said, and used the dagger to cut open her left palm; it was a swift searing pain, and blood ran from the cut, a ruby stream that splattered into the chasm below. There was a flash of blue light, and a creaking noise. The drawbridge was slowly lowering.
Isabelle smiled and wiped the blade of her knife on her gear. After another twist, it had become a slim metal chopstick again. She slid it back into her hair.
“Do you know what that means?” asked Jocelyn, her eyes on the lowering bridge.
“What you just said. The motto of the Iron Sisters. ”
The drawbridge was almost flat. “It means Fire tests gold. ”
“Right,” said Jocelyn. “They dont just mean forges and metalwork. They mean that adversity tests ones strength of character. In difficult times, in dark times, some people shine. ”
“Oh, yeah?” said Izzy. “Well, Im sick of dark and difficult times. Maybe I dont want to shine. ”
The drawbridge crashed at their feet. “If youre anything like your mother,” said Jocelyn, “you wont be able to help it. ”