Excerpt: Chain of Gold – Shadowhunters
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Excerpt: Chain of Gold

Better Angels

The shadows of our own desires stand between us and our better angels, and thus their brightness is eclipsed.
—Charles Dickens, Barnaby Rudge

James Herondale was in the middle of fighting a demon when he was suddenly pulled into Hell.

It wasn’t the first time it had happened, and it wouldn’t be the last. Moments earlier he had been kneeling at the edge of a slanted roof in central London, a slim throwing knife in each hand, thinking about how disgusting the detritus that collected in the city was. In addition to dirt, empty gin bottles, and animal bones, there was definitely a dead bird wedged into the rain gutter just below his left knee.

How glamorous the life of a Shadowhunter was, indeed. It sounded good, he thought, gazing down at the empty alley below him: a narrow space choked with rubbish, lit dimly by the half- moon overhead. A special race of warriors, descended from an angel, gifted with powers that allowed them to wield weapons of shining adamas and to bear the black Marks of holy runes on their bodies—runes that made them stronger, faster, more deadly than any mundane human; runes that made them burn brightly in the dark. No one ever mentioned things like accidentally kneeling on a dead bird while waiting for a demon to turn up.

A yell echoed down the alley. A sound James knew well: Matthew Fairchild’s voice. He launched himself off the roof without a moment’s hesitation. Matthew Fairchild was his parabatai—his blood brother and warrior partner. James was sworn to protect him, not that it mattered: he would have given his life for Matthew’s, vows or not.

Movement flashed at the end of the alley, where it curved behind a narrow row of houses. James spun as a demon emerged from the shadows, roaring. It had a ribbed gray body, a curving, sharp beak lined with hooked teeth, and splayed paw-like feet from which ragged claws protruded. A Deumas demon, James thought grimly. He definitely remembered reading about Deumas demons in one of the old books his uncle Jem had given him. They were meant to be notable in some way. Extremely vicious, perhaps, or unusually dangerous? That would be typical, wouldn’t it—all these months of not running across any infernal activity at all, and he and his friends happened on one of the most dangerous demons out there.

Speaking of which—where were his friends?

The Deumas roared again and lurched toward James, drool spilling from its mouth in long strings of greenish slime.

James swung his arm back, ready to throw his first knife. The demon’s eyes fixed on him for a moment. They were coruscating, green and black, filled with a hate that turned suddenly into some- thing else.

Something like recognition. But demons, at least the lesser kind, didn’t recognize people. They were vicious animals driven by pure greed and hatred. As James hesitated in surprise, the ground under him seemed to lurch. He had only a moment to think, Oh no, not now, before the world went gray and silent. The buildings around him had turned to ragged shadow, the sky a black cave speared with white lightning.

He closed his right hand around his knife—not the handle, but the blade. The jolt of pain was like a slap to the face, snapping him out of a stupor. The world came rushing back at him in all its noise and color. He barely had time to register that the Deumas was in midair, claws extended toward him, when a swirl of cords whipped through the sky, entangling the demon’s leg and yanking it backward.

Thomas! James thought, and indeed, his massively tall friend had appeared behind the Deumas, armed with his bolas. Behind him was Christopher, armed with a bow, and Matthew, a seraph blade blazing in his hand.

The Deumas hit the ground with another roar, just as James let both his knives fly. One plunged into the demon’s throat, the other into its forehead. Its eyes rolled back, it spasmed, and James suddenly remembered what it was he’d read about Deumas demons.

“Matthew—” he began, just as the creature burst apart, showering Thomas, Christopher, and Matthew in ichor and burnt bits of what could only be described as goo.

Messy, James recalled belatedly. Deumas demons were notably messy. Most demons vanished when they died. Not Deumas demons.

They exploded.

“How—wha—?” Christopher stuttered, at a clear loss for words. Slime dripped off his pointed nose and gold-rimmed spectacles. “But how . . . ?”

“Do you mean how is it possible that we finally tracked down the last demon in London and it was also the most disgusting?” James was surprised by how normal his voice sounded: he was already shaking off the shock of his glimpse into the shadow realm. At least his clothes were untouched: the demon seemed to have exploded mostly over the other end of the alley. “Ours is not to question why, Christopher.”

James had a feeling his friends were gazing at him resentfully. Thomas rolled his eyes. He was scrubbing at himself with a hand- kerchief that was also half-burnt and covered in ichor, so it was doing little good.

Matthew’s seraph blade had begun to sputter. Seraph blades, infused with the energy of angels, were often a Shadowhunter’s most trusted weapon and best defense against demons, but it was still possible to drown one in enough ichor. “This is an outrage,” Matthew said, tossing the extinguished blade aside. “Do you know how much I spent on this waistcoat?”

“No one told you to go out patrolling for demons dressed like an extra from The Importance of Being Earnest,” said James, tossing him a clean handkerchief. As he did, he felt his hand sting. There was a bloody cut across his palm from the blade of the knife. He closed his hand into a fist to prevent his companions from seeing it.

“I don’t think he’s dressed like an extra,” said Thomas, who had turned his attention to cleaning off Christopher.

“Thank you,” said Matthew with a slight bow.

“I think he’s dressed like a main character.” Thomas grinned. He had one of the kindest faces James had ever known, and gentle hazel eyes. None of which meant he didn’t enjoy mocking his friends.

Matthew mopped at his dull gold hair with James’s handkerchief. “This is the first time in a year that we’ve patrolled and actually found a demon, so I’d supposed that my waistcoat would probably survive the evening. It’s not as if any of you are wearing gear either.”

It was true that Shadowhunters usually hunted in gear, a sort of flexible armor made of a tough, leatherlike black material resistant to ichor, blades, and the like, but a lack of reliable demonic presence on the streets had made them all a bit lax about rules.

“Stop scrubbing at me, Thomas,” said Christopher, windmilling his arms. “We should go back to the Devil and clean up there.”

There was a murmur of assent among the group. As they picked their sticky way back to the main street, James considered the fact that Matthew was right. James’s father, Will, had often told him about the patrols he used to do with his parabatai, Jem Carstairs— now James’s uncle Jem—back when they had battled demons nearly every night.

James and other young Shadowhunters still faithfully patrolled the streets of London, seeking out demons that might harm the mundane population, but in the last few years demon appearances had been few and far between. It was a good thing—of course it was a good thing—but still. It was decidedly odd. Demon activity was still normal as far as the rest of the world was concerned, so what made London special?

There were plenty of mundanes out and about on the streets of the city, though the hour was late. None glanced at the bedraggled group of Shadowhunters as they made their way down Fleet Street; their glamour runes made them invisible to all eyes not gifted with the Sight.

It was always strange to be surrounded by a humanity that did not see you, James thought. Fleet Street was home to the newspaper offices and law courts of London, and everywhere were brightly lit pubs, with print workers and barristers and law clerks, who kept late hours, drinking into the dawn light. The Strand nearby had spilled the contents of its music halls and theaters, and well- dressed groups of young people, laughing and boisterous, chased the last omnibuses of the night.

The bobbies were out working their beats too, and those denizens of London unfortunate enough to have no homes to go to crouched muttering around cellar vents that sent up drifts of warm air—even in August the nights could be damp and chilly. As they passed a group of such huddled figures, one looked up, and James caught a glimpse of the pale skin and glittering eyes of a vampire.

He looked away. Downworlders weren’t his business unless they were breaking Clave Law. And he was tired, despite his energy Marks: it always drained him to be dragged into that other world of gray light and black ragged shadows. It was something that had been happening to him for years: a remnant, he knew, of his mother’s warlock blood.

Warlocks were the offspring of humans and demons: capable of using magic but not of bearing runes or using adamas, the clear crystalline metal from which steles and seraph blades were carved. They were one of the four branches of Downworlders, along with vampires, werewolves, and the fey. James’s mother, Tessa Herondale, was such a warlock, but her mother had been not just human but a Shadowhunter. Tessa herself had once possessed the power to shape- shift and take on the appearance of anyone, living or dead: a power no other warlock had. She was unusual in one other way as well: warlocks could not have children. Tessa was an exception. Everyone had wondered what this would mean for James and his sister, Lucie, the first-ever known grandchildren of a demon and a human being.

For many years, it appeared to have meant nothing. Both James and Lucie could bear Marks and seemed to have the abilities of any other Shadowhunter. They could both see ghosts—like the Institute’s chatty phantom-in-residence, Jessamine—but that was not uncommon in the Herondale family. It seemed they might both be blessedly normal, or at least as normal as a Shadowhunter could be. Even the Clave—the governing body of all Shadowhunters—had seemed to forget about them.

Then, when James was thirteen, he first traveled into the shadow realm. One moment he had been standing on green grass: the next, charred earth. A similarly scorched sky arced above him. Twisted trees emerged from the ground, ragged claws grasping at the air. He had seen such places in woodcuts in old books. He knew what he was looking at: a demon world. A Hell dimension.

Moments later he had been jerked back to earth, but his life had never been the same again. For years the fear had been there that he might at any moment hurtle back into shadow. It was as if an invisible rope connected him to a world of demons, and at any moment the rope could be pulled taut, snatching him out of his familiar environment and into a place of fire and ash.

For the last few years, with his uncle Jem’s help, he’d thought he had it under control. Though it had been only a few seconds, tonight had shaken him, and he was relieved when the Devil Tavern appeared before them.

The Devil made its home at No. 2 Fleet Street, next to a respectable-looking print shop. Unlike the shop, it was glamoured so that no mundanes could see it or hear the raucous noises of debauchery that poured from the windows and the open doors. It was half-timbered in the Tudor style, the old wood ratty and splintering, kept from falling down by warlocks’ spells. Behind the bar, werewolf owner Ernie pulled pints: the crowd was a mix of pixies and vampires and lycanthropes and warlocks.
The usual welcome for Shadowhunters in a place like this would have been a cold one, but the patrons of the Devil Tavern were used to the boys. They greeted James, Christopher, Matthew, and Thomas with yells of welcome and mockery. James stayed in the pub to collect drinks from Polly, the barmaid, while the others tramped upstairs to their rooms, shedding ichor on the steps as they went.

Polly was a werewolf, and had taken the boys under her wing when James had first rented out the attic rooms three years ago, wanting a private bolt-hole he and his friends could retreat to where their parents wouldn’t be hovering. She was the one who’d first taken to calling them the Merry Thieves, after Robin Hood and his men. James suspected he was Robin of Locksley and Matthew was Will Scarlett. Thomas was definitely Little John.

Polly chuckled. “Almost didn’t recognize the lot of you when you tramped in here covered in whatever-you-call-it.”

“Ichor,” said James, accepting a bottle of hock. “It’s demon blood.”

Polly wrinkled her nose, draping several worn-looking dishcloths over his shoulder. She handed him an extra one, which he pressed against the cut on his hand. It had stopped bleeding but still throbbed. “Blimey.”

“It’s been ages since we’ve even seen a demon in London,” said James. “We may not have been as swift with our reaction time as we ought.”

“I reckon they’re all too scared to show their faces,” said Polly companionably, turning away to fetch a glass of gin for Pickles, the resident kelpie.

“Scared?” James echoed, pausing. “Scared of what?”

Polly started. “Oh, nothing, nothing,” she said, and hurried away to the other end of the bar. With a frown, James made his way upstairs. The ways of Downworlders were sometimes mysterious.

Two flights of creaking steps led to a wooden door on which a line had been carved years ago: It matters not how a man dies, but how he lives. S.J.

James shouldered the door open and found Matthew and Thomas already sprawled around a circular table in the middle of a wood-paneled room. Several windows, their glass bumpy and pocked with age, looked out upon Fleet Street, lit by intermittent streetlamps, and the Royal Courts of Justice across the way, dimly sketched against the cloudy night.

The room was a fond and familiar place, with worn walls, a collection of ragged furniture, and a low fire burning in the grate. Over the fireplace was a marble bust of Apollo, his nose chipped off long ago. The walls were lined with occult books written by mundane magicians: the library at the Institute didn’t allow such things, but James collected them. He was fascinated by the idea of those who had not been born to the world of magic and shadows and yet yearned for them so strongly that they had learned how to pry open the gates.

Both Thomas and Matthew were free of ichor, wearing wrinkled but clean clothes, their hair—Thomas’s sandy brown and Matthew’s dark gold—still damp. “James!” Matthew cheered upon seeing his friend. His eyes were suspiciously bright; there was already a half- drunk bottle of brandy on the table. “Is that a bottle of cheap spirits I see before me?”

James set the wine down on the table just as Christopher emerged from the small bedroom at the far end of the attic space. The bedroom had been there before they had taken over the space: there was still a bed in it, but none of the Merry Thieves used it for anything besides washing up and storing weapons and changes of clothes.

“James,” Christopher said, looking pleased. “I thought you’d gone home.”

“Why on earth would I go home?” James took a seat beside Matthew and tossed Polly’s dish towels onto the table.

“No idea,” said Christopher cheerfully, pulling up a chair. “But you might have. People do odd things all the time. We had a cook who went to do the shopping and was found two weeks later in Regent’s Park. She’d become a zookeeper.”

Thomas raised his eyebrows. James and the rest of the group were never sure whether to entirely believe Christopher’s stories. Not that he was a liar, but when it came to anything that wasn’t beakers and test tubes, he tended to be paying only a fraction of attention.

Christopher was the son of James’s aunt Cecily and uncle Gabriel. He had the fine bone structure of his parents, dark brown hair, and eyes that could only be described as the color of lilacs.

“Wasted on a boy!” Cecily said often, with a martyred sigh. Christopher ought to have been popular with girls, but the thick spectacles he wore obscured most of his face, and he had gunpowder perpetually embedded under his fingernails. Most Shadowhunters regarded mundane guns with suspicion or disinterest—the application of runes to metal or bullets prevented gunpowder from igniting, and non-runed weapons were useless against demons. Christopher, however, was obsessed with the idea that he could adapt incendiary weapons to Nephilim purposes. James had to admit that the idea of mounting a cannon on the roof of the Institute had a certain appeal.

“Your hand,” Matthew said suddenly, leaning forward and fixing his green eyes on James. “What happened?”

“Just a cut,” James said, opening his hand. The wound was a long diagonal slice across his palm. As Matthew took James’s hand, the silver bracelet that James always wore on his right wrist clinked against the hock bottle on the table. “You should have told me,” Matthew said, reaching into his waistcoat for his stele. “I would have fixed you up in the alley.”

“I forgot,” James said.

Thomas, who was running his finger around the rim of his own glass without drinking, said, “Did something happen?”

Thomas was annoyingly perceptive. “It was very quick,” James said, with some reluctance.

“Many things that are ‘very quick’ are also very bad,” said Matthew, setting the point of his stele to James’s skin. “Guillotines come down very quickly, for instance. When Christopher’s experiments explode, they often explode very quickly.”

“Clearly, I have neither exploded nor been guillotined,” said James. “I—went into the shadow realm.”

Matthew’s head jerked up, though his hand remained steady as the iratze, a healing rune, took shape on James’s skin. James could feel the pain in his hand begin to subside. “I thought all that business had stopped,” Matthew said. “I thought Jem had helped you.” “He did help me. It’s been a year since the last time.” James shook his head. “I suppose it was too much to hope it was gone forever.”

“Doesn’t it usually happen when you’re upset?” said Thomas. “Was it the demon attacking?”

“No,” James said quickly. “No, I can’t imagine—no.” James had been almost looking forward to the fight. It had been a frustrating summer, the first one in over a decade that he hadn’t spent with his family in Idris.

Idris was located in central Europe. Warded all around, it was an unspoiled country, hidden from mundane eyes and mundane inventions:  a place without railroads, factories, or coal smoke. James knew why his family couldn’t go this year, but he had his own reasons for wishing he were there instead of London. Patrolling had been one of his few distractions.

“Demons don’t bother our boy,” said Matthew, finishing the healing rune. This close to his parabatai, James could smell the familiar scent of Matthew’s soap mixed with alcohol. “It must have been something else.”

“You ought to talk to your uncle, then, Jamie,” said Thomas. James shook his head. He didn’t want to bother Uncle Jem about what felt now like a moment-long flicker. “It was nothing. I was surprised by the demon; I grabbed at the blade by accident. I’m sure that’s what caused it.”

“Did you turn into a shadow?” said Matthew, putting his stele away. Sometimes, when James was pulled into the shadow realm, his friends reported that they could see him blurring around the edges. On some occasions, he’d turned entirely into a dark shadow— James-shaped, but transparent and incorporeal.

A few times—a very few times—he’d been able to turn himself into a shadow to pass through something solid. But he didn’t wish to speak about those times.

Christopher looked up from his notebook. “Speaking of the demon—”

“Which we weren’t,” Matthew pointed out.

“—what kind was it again?” Christopher asked, biting the end of his pen. He often wrote down details of their demon-fighting expeditions. He claimed it helped him in his research. “The one that exploded, I mean.”

“As opposed to the one that didn’t?” said James.

Thomas, who had an excellent memory for detail, said: “It was a Deumas, Christopher. Odd it was here; they’re not usually found in cities.”

“I saved some of its ichor,” said Christopher, producing from somewhere on his person a corked test tube full of a greenish substance. “I caution all of you not to drink any of it.”

“I can assure you we had no plans to do any such thing, you daft boot,” said Thomas.

Matthew shuddered. “Enough talk of ichor. Let’s toast again to Thomas being home!”

Thomas protested. James raised his glass and toasted with Matthew. Christopher was about to clink his test tube against James’s glass when Matthew, muttering imprecations, confiscated it and handed Christopher a glass of hock instead.

Thomas, despite his objections, looked pleased. Most Shadowhunters went on a sort of grand tour when they turned eighteen, leaving their home Institute for one abroad; Thomas had only just returned from nine months in Madrid a few weeks ago. The point of the travel was to learn new customs and broaden one’s horizons: Thomas had certainly broadened, though mostly in the physical sense.

Though the oldest of their group, Thomas had been slight in stature. When James, Matthew, and Christopher arrived at the dock to meet his ship from Spain, they combed through the crowds, nearly failing to recognize their friend in the muscular young man descending the gangplank. Thomas was the tallest of them now, tanned as if he’d grown up on a farm instead of in London. He could wield a broadsword in one hand, and in Spain he had adopted a new weapon, the bolas, made of stout ropes and weights that whirled over his head. Matthew often said it was like being comrades with a friendly giant.

“When you’re entirely done, I do have some news,” Thomas said, tipping his chair back. “You know that old manor in Chiswick that once belonged to my grandfather? Used to be called Lightwood House? It was given to my aunt Tatiana by the Clave some years ago, but she’s never used it—preferred to stay in Idris at the manor with my cousin, er . . .”

“Gertrude,” said Christopher helpfully. “Grace,” James said. “Her name is Grace.”

She was Christopher’s cousin too, though James knew they had never met her.

“Yes, Grace,” agreed Thomas. “Aunt Tatiana’s always kept them both in splendid isolation in Idris—no visitors and all that—but apparently she’s decided to move back to London, so my parents are all in a dither about it.”

James’s heart gave a slow, hard thump. “Grace,” he began, and saw Matthew shoot him a quick sideways glance. “Grace—is moving to London?”

“Seems Tatiana wants to bring her out in society.” Thomas looked puzzled. “I suppose you’ve met her, in Idris? Doesn’t your house there adjoin Blackthorn Manor?”

James nodded mechanically. He could feel the weight of the bracelet around his right wrist, though he had worn it now for so many years that usually he was unconscious of its presence.

“I usually see her every summer,” he said. “Not this summer, of course.”

Not this summer. He hadn’t been able to argue with his parents when they’d said the Herondale family would be spending this summer in London. Hadn’t been able to mention the reason he wanted to return to Idris. After all, as far as they were aware, he barely even knew Grace. The sickness, the horror that gripped him at the thought that he would not see her for another year was nothing he could explain.

It was a secret he had carried since he was thirteen. In his mind, he could see the tall gates rising before Blackthorn Manor, and his own hands in front of him—a child’s hands, without scars, cutting industriously away at the thorny vines. He could see the Long Hall in the manor, and the curtains blowing across the windows, and hear music. He could see Grace in her ivory dress.

Matthew was watching him with thoughtful green eyes that were no longer dancing. Matthew, alone of all James’s friends, knew that there was a connection between James and Grace Blackthorn.

“London is being positively swarmed by new arrivals,” Matthew remarked. “The Carstairs family will be with us soon, won’t they?” James nodded. “Lucie is wild with excitement to see Cordelia.” Matthew poured more wine into his glass. “Can’t blame them for being tired of rusticating in Devon—what’s that house of theirs called? Cirenworth? I gather they arrive in a day or two—”

Thomas upset his drink. James’s drink and Christopher’s test tube went with it. Thomas was still growing accustomed to occupying so much space in the world, and he sometimes proved clumsy. “All of the Carstairs family are coming, did you say?” said Thomas.

“Not Elias Carstairs,” said Matthew. Elias was Cordelia’s father. “But Cordelia, and of course . . .” He trailed off meaningfully.

“Oh, bloody hell,” said Christopher. “Alastair Carstairs.” He looked vaguely ill. “I’m not remembering incorrectly? He’s an awful pill?”

“‘Awful pill’ seems a kind way of putting it,” said James. Thomas was mopping up his drink; James looked at him with concern. Thomas had been a shy, small boy at school, and Alastair a rotten bully. “We can avoid Alastair, Tom. There’s no reason for us to spend time with him, and I can’t imagine he’ll be yearning for our society either.”

Thomas spluttered, but not in response to what James had said. The contents of Christopher’s spilled test tube had turned a violent puce and begun to eat through the table. They all leaped up to grab for Polly’s dish towels. Thomas hurled a pitcher of water at the table, which drenched Christopher, and Matthew doubled over laughing.

“I say,” said Christopher, mopping wet hair out of his eyes. “I do think that worked, Tom. The acid has been neutralized.”

Thomas was shaking his head. “Someone should neutralize you, you mopstick—”

Matthew collapsed in hysterics.

In the midst of the chaos, James could not help feeling very far away from it all. For so many years, in so many hundreds of secret letters between London and Idris, he and Grace had sworn to each other that one day they would be together; that one day when they were adults, they would marry, whether their parents wished it or not, and live together in London. It had always been their dream.

So why hadn’t she told him she was coming?

 

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