The Los Angeles Institute, December 2007
On the day Emma Carstairs’s parents were killed, the weather was perfect.
On the other hand the weather was usually perfect in Los Angeles. Emma’s mother and father dropped her off on a clear winter morning at the Institute in the hills behind the Pacific Coast Highway, overlooking the blue ocean. The sky was a cloudless expanse that stretched from the cliffs of the Pacific Palisades to the beaches at Point Dume.
A report had come in the night before of demonic activity near the beach caves of Leo Carrillo. The Carstairs had been assigned to look into it. Later Emma would remember her mother tucking a windblown strand of hair behind her ear as she offered to draw a Fearless rune on Emma’s father, and John Carstairs laughing and saying he wasn’t sure how he felt about newfangled runes. He was fine with what was written in the Gray Book, thanks very much.
At the time, though, Emma was impatient with her parents, hugging them quickly before pulling away to race up the Institute steps, her backpack bouncing between her shoulders as they waved good-bye from the courtyard.
Emma loved that she got to train at the Institute. Not only did her best friend, Julian, live there, but she always felt as if she were flying into the ocean when she went inside it. It was a massive structure of wood and stone at the end of a long pebbled drive that wound through the hills. Every room, every floor, looked out over the ocean and the mountains and the sky, rippling expanses of blue and green and gold. Emma’s dream was to climb up onto the roof with Jules—though, so far they’d been foiled by parents—to see if the view stretched all the way to the desert in the south.
The front doors knew her and gave way easily under her familiar touch. The entryway and lower floors of the Institute were full of adult Shadowhunters, striding back and forth. Some kind of meeting, Emma guessed. She caught sight of Julian’s father, Andrew Blackthorn, the head of the Institute, amid the crowd. Not wanting to be slowed down by greetings, she dashed for the changing room on the second floor, where she swapped her jeans and T-shirt for training clothes—oversize shirt, loose cotton pants, and the most important item of all: the blade slung over her shoulder.
Cortana. The name simply meant “shortsword,” but it wasn’t short to Emma. It was the length of her forearm, sparkling metal, the blade inscribed with words that never failed to cause a shiver down her spine: I am Cortana, of the same steel and temper as Joyeuse and Durendal. Her father had explained what it meant when he put the sword in her ten-year-old hands for the first time.
“You can use this for training until you’re eighteen, when it becomes yours,” John Carstairs had said, smiling down at her as her fingers traced the words. “Do you understand what that means?”
She’d shaken her head. “Steel” she’d understood, but not “temper.” “Temper” meant “anger,” something her father was always warning her she should control. What did it have to do with a blade?
“You know of the Wayland family,” he’d said. “They were famous weapon makers before the Iron Sisters began to forge all the Shadowhunter blades. Wayland the Smith made Excalibur and Joyeuse, Arthur’s and Lancelot’s swords, and Durendal, the sword of the hero Roland. And they made this sword too, from the same steel. All steel must be tempered—subjected to great heat, almost enough to melt or destroy the metal—to make it stronger.” He’d kissed the top of her head. “Carstairs have carried this sword for generations. The inscription reminds us that Shadowhunters are the Angel’s weapons. Temper us in the fire, and we grow stronger. When we suffer, we survive.”
Emma could hardly wait the six years until she would be eighteen, when she could travel the world to fight demons, when she could be tempered in fire. Now she strapped the sword on and left the changing room, picturing how it would be. In her imagination she was standing on top of the bluffs over the sea at Point Dume, fending off a cadre of Raum demons with Cortana. Julian was with her, of course, wielding his own favorite weapon, the crossbow.
In Emma’s mind Jules was always there. Emma had known him for as long as she could remember. The Blackthorns and the Carstairs had always been close, and Jules was only a few months older; she’d literally never lived in a world without him in it. She’d learned to swim in the ocean with him when they’d both been babies. They’d learned to walk and then run together. She had been carried in his parents’ arms and corralled by his older brother and sister when misbehaving.
And they’d misbehaved often. Dyeing the puffy white Blackthorn family cat—Oscar—bright blue had been Emma’s idea when they were both seven. Julian had taken the blame anyway; he often did. After all, he’d pointed out, she was an only child and he was one of seven; his parents would forget they were angry with him a lot more quickly than hers would.
She remembered when his mother had died, just after Tavvy’d been born, and how Emma had stood holding Jules’s hand while the body had burned in the canyons and the smoke had climbed toward the sky. She remembered that he’d cried, and remembered thinking that boys cried so differently from girls, with awful ragged sobs that sounded like they were being pulled out with hooks. Maybe it was worse for them because they weren’t supposed to cry—
“Oof!” Emma staggered back; she’d been so lost in thought that she’d plowed right into Julian’s father, a tall man with the same tousled brown hair as most of his children. “Sorry, Mr. Blackthorn!”
He grinned. “Never seen anyone so eager to get to lessons before,” he called as she darted down the hall.
The training room was one of Emma’s favorite rooms in the whole building. It took up almost an entire level, and both the east and the west walls were clear glass. You could see blue sea nearly everywhere you looked. The curve of the coastline was visible from north to south, the endless water of the Pacific stretching out toward Hawaii.
In the center of the highly polished wood floor stood the Blackthorn family’s tutor, a commanding woman named Katerina, currently engaged in teaching knife-throwing to the twins. Livvy was following instructions obligingly as she always did, but Ty was scowling and resistant.
Julian, in his loose light training clothes, was lying on his back near the west window, talking to Mark, who had his head stuck in a book and was doing his best to ignore his younger half brother.
“Don’t you think ‘Mark’ is kind of a weird name for a Shadowhunter?” Julian was saying as Emma approached. “I mean, if you really think about it. It’s confusing. ‘Put a Mark on me, Mark.’”
Mark lifted his blond head from the book he was reading and glared at his younger brother. Julian was idly twirling a stele in his hand. He held it like a paintbrush, something Emma was always scolding him about. You were supposed to hold a stele like a stele, as if it were an extension of your hand, not an artist’s tool.
Mark sighed theatrically. At sixteen he was just enough their senior to find everything Emma and Julian did either annoying or ridiculous. “If it bothers you, you can call me by my full name,” he said.
“Mark Antony Blackthorn?” Julian wrinkled his nose. “It takes a long time to say. What if we got attacked by a demon? By the time I was halfway through saying your name, you’d be dead.”
“In this situation are you saving my life?” Mark asked. “Getting ahead of yourself, don’t you think, pipsqueak?”
“It could happen.” Julian, not pleased to be called a pipsqueak, sat up. His hair stuck out in wild tufts all over his head. His older sister Helen was always attacking him with hairbrushes, but it never did any good. He had the Blackthorn hair, like his father and most of his brothers and sisters—wildly wavy, the color of dark chocolate. The family resemblance always fascinated Emma, who looked very little like either of her parents, unless you counted the fact that her father was blond.
Helen had been in Idris for months now with her girlfriend, Aline; they had exchanged family rings and were “very serious” about each other, according to Emma’s parents, which mostly meant they looked at each other in a soppy way. Emma was determined that if she ever fell in love, she would not be soppy in that manner. She understood that there was some amount of fuss about the fact that both Helen and Aline were girls, but she didn’t understand why, and the Blackthorns seemed to like Aline a lot. She was a calming presence, and kept Helen from fretting.
Helen’s current absence did mean that no one was cutting Jules’s hair, and the sunlight in the room turned the curling tips of it to gold. The windows along the east wall showed the shadowy sweep of the mountains that separated the sea from the San Fernando Valley—dry, dusty hills riddled with canyons, cacti, and thornbushes. Sometimes the Shadowhunters went outside to train, and Emma loved those moments, loved finding hidden paths and secret waterfalls and the sleepy lizards that rested on rocks near them. Julian was adept at coaxing the lizards to crawl into his palm and sleep there as he stroked their heads with his thumb.
Emma ducked as a wooden-tipped blade flew by her head and bounced off the window, hitting Mark in the leg on the rebound. He tossed his book down and stood up, scowling. Mark was technically on secondary supervision, backing up Katerina, although he preferred reading to teaching.
“Tiberius,” Mark said. “Do not throw knives at me.”
“It was an accident.” Livvy moved to stand between her twin and Mark. Tiberius was as dark as Mark was fair, the only one of the Blackthorns—other than Mark and Helen, who didn’t quite count, because of their Downworlder blood—not to have the brown hair and blue-green eyes that were the family traits. Ty had curly black hair, and gray eyes the color of iron.
“No, it wasn’t,” said Ty. “I was aiming at you.”
Mark took an exaggerated deep breath and ran his hands through his hair, which left it sticking up in spikes. Mark had the Blackthorn eyes, the color of verdigris, but his hair, like Helen’s, was pale white-blond, as his mother’s had been. The rumor was that Mark’s mother had been a princess of the Seelie Court; she had had an affair with Andrew Blackthorn that had produced two children, whom she’d abandoned on the doorstep of the Los Angeles Institute one night before disappearing forever.
Julian’s father had taken in his half-faerie children and raised them as Shadowhunters. Shadowhunter blood was dominant, and though the Council didn’t like it, they would accept part-Downworlder children into the Clave as long as their skin could tolerate runes. Both Helen and Mark had been first runed at ten years old, and their skin held the runes safely, though Emma could tell that being runed hurt Mark more than it hurt an ordinary Shadowhunter. She noticed him wincing, though he tried to hide it, when the stele was set to his skin. Lately she’d been noticing a lot more things about Mark—the way the odd, faerie-influenced shape of his face was appealing, and the breadth of his shoulders under his T-shirts. She didn’t know why she was noticing those things, and she didn’t exactly like it. It made her want to snap at Mark, or hide, often at the same time.
“You’re staring,” Julian said, looking at Emma over the knees of his paint-splattered training gear.
She snapped back to attention. “At what?”
“At Mark—again.” He sounded annoyed.
“Shut up!” Emma hissed under her breath, and grabbed for his stele. He grabbed it back, and a tussle ensued. Emma giggled as she rolled away from Julian. She’d been training with him so long, she knew every move he’d make before he made it. The only problem was that she was inclined to go too easy on him. The thought of anyone hurting Julian made her furious, and sometimes that included herself.
“Is this about the bees in your room?” Mark was demanding as he strode over to Tiberius. “You know why we had to get rid of those!”
“I assume you did it to thwart me,” Ty said. Ty was small for his age—ten—but he had the vocabulary and diction of an eighty-year-old. Ty didn’t tell lies usually, mostly because he didn’t understand why he might need to. He couldn’t understand why some of the things he did annoyed or upset people, and he found their anger either baffling or frightening, depending on his mood.
“It’s not about thwarting you, Ty. You just can’t have bees in your room—”
“I was studying them!” Ty explained, his pale face flushing. “It was important, and they were my friends, and I knew what I was doing.”
“Just like you knew what you were doing with the rattlesnake that time?” said Mark. “Sometimes we take things away from you because we don’t want you to get hurt; I know it’s hard to understand, Ty, but we love you.”
Ty looked at him blankly. He knew what “I love you” meant, and he knew it was good, but he didn’t understand why it was an explanation for anything.
Mark bent down, hands on his knees, keeping his eyes level with Ty’s gray ones. “Okay, here’s what we’re going to do. . . .”
“Ha!” Emma had managed to flip Julian onto his back and wrestle his stele away from him. He laughed, wriggling under her, until she pinned his arm to the ground.
“I give up,” he said. “I give—”
He was laughing up at her, and she was struck suddenly with the realization that the feeling of lying directly on top of Jules was actually sort of weird, and also the realization that, like Mark, he had a nice shape to his face. Round and boyish and really familiar, but she could almost see through the face he had now to the face he would have, when he was older.
The sound of the Institute doorbell echoed through the room. It was a deep, sweet, chiming noise, like church bells. From outside, the Institute looked to mundane eyes like the ruins of an old Spanish mission. Even though there were PRIVATE PROPERTY and KEEP OUT signs posted everywhere, sometimes people—usually mundanes with a slight dose of the Sight—managed to wander up to the front door anyway.
Emma rolled off Julian and brushed at her clothes. She had stopped laughing. Julian sat up, propping himself on his hands, his eyes curious. “Everything okay?” he said.
“Banged my elbow,” she lied, and looked over at the others. Livvy was letting Katerina show her how to hold the knife, and Ty was shaking his head at Mark. Ty. She’d been the one to give Tiberius his nickname when he was born, because at eighteen months old she hadn’t been able to say “Tiberius” and had called him “Ty-Ty” instead. Sometimes she wondered if he remembered. It was strange, the things that mattered to Ty and the things that didn’t. You couldn’t predict them.
“Emma?” Julian leaned forward, and everything seemed to explode around them. There was a sudden enormous flash of light, and the world outside the windows turned white-gold and red, as if the Institute had caught on fire. At the same time the floor under them rocked like the deck of a ship. Emma slid forward just as a terrible screaming rose from downstairs—a horrible unrecognizable scream.
Livvy gasped and went for Ty, wrapped her arms around him as if she could encircle and protect his body with her own. Livvy was one of the very few people Ty didn’t mind touching him; he stood with his eyes wide, one of his hands caught in the sleeve of his sister’s shirt. Mark had risen to his feet already; Katerina was pale under her coils of dark hair. “You stay here,” she said to Emma and Julian, drawing her sword from the sheath at her waist. “Watch the twins. Mark, come with me.”
“No!” Julian said, scrambling to his feet. “Mark—”
“I’ll be fine, Jules,” Mark said with a reassuring smile; he already had a dagger in each hand. He was quick and fast with knives, his aim unerring. “Stay with Emma,” he said, nodding toward both of them, and then he vanished after Katerina, the door of the training room shutting behind them.
Jules edged closer to Emma, slipped his hand into hers, and helped her to her feet; she wanted to point out to him that she was just fine and could stand on her own, but she let it go. She understood the urge to feel as if you were doing something, anything to help. Another scream suddenly rose from downstairs; there was the sound of glass shattering. Emma hurried across the room toward the twins; they were deadly still, like little statues. Livvy was ashen; Ty was clutching her shirt with a death grip.
“It’s going to be okay,” Jules said, putting his hand between his brother’s thin shoulder blades. “Whatever it is—”
“You have no idea what it is,” Ty said in a clipped voice. “You can’t say it’s going to be okay. You don’t know.”
There was another noise then. It was worse than the sound of a scream. It was a terrible howl, feral and vicious. Werewolves? Emma thought with bewilderment, but she’d heard a werewolf’s cry before; this was something much darker and crueler.
Livvy huddled against Ty’s shoulder. He raised his little white face, his eyes tracking from Emma to rest on Julian. “If we hide here,” Ty said, “and whatever it is finds us, and they hurt our sister, then it’s your fault.”
Livvy’s face was hidden against Ty; he had spoken softly, but Emma had no doubt he meant it. For all Ty’s frightening intellect, for all his strangeness and indifference to other people, he was inseparable from his twin. If Livvy was sick, Ty slept at the foot of her bed; if she got a scratch, he panicked, and it was the same the other way around.
Emma saw the conflicting emotions chase themselves across Julian’s face—his eyes sought hers, and she nodded minutely. The idea of staying in the training room and waiting for whatever had made that sound to come to them made her skin feel as if it were peeling off her bones.
Julian strode across the room and then returned with a recurve crossbow and two daggers. “You have to let go of Livvy now, Ty,” he said, and after a moment the twins separated. Jules handed Livvy a dagger and offered the other one to Tiberius, who stared at it as if it were an alien thing. “Ty,” Jules said, dropping his hand. “Why did you have the bees in your room? What is it you like about them?”
Ty said nothing.
“You like the way they work together, right?” Julian said. “Well, we have to work together now. We’re going to get to the office and make a call out to the Clave, okay? A distress call. So they’ll send backup to protect us.”
Ty held his hand out for the dagger with a curt nod. “That’s what I would have suggested if Mark and Katerina had listened to me.”
“He would have,” Livvy said. She had taken the dagger with more confidence than Ty, and held it as if she knew what she was doing with the blade. “It’s what he was thinking about.”
“We’re going to have to be very quiet now,” Jules said. “You two are going to follow me to the office.” He raised his eyes; his gaze met Emma’s. “Emma’s going to get Tavvy and Dru and meet us there. Okay?”
Emma’s heart swooped and plummeted like a seabird. Octavius—Tavvy, the baby, only two years old. And Dru, eight, too young to start physical training. Of course someone was going to have to get them both. And Jules’s eyes were pleading.
“Yes,” she said. “That’s exactly what I’m going to do.”
Cortana was strapped to Emma’s back, a throwing knife in her hand. She thought she could feel the metal pulsing through her veins like a heartbeat as she slipped down the Institute corridor, her back to the wall. Every once in a while the hallway would open out into windows, and the sight of the blue sea and the green mountains and the peaceful white clouds would tease her. She thought of her parents, somewhere out on the beach, having no idea what was happening at the Institute. She wished they were here, and at the same time was glad they weren’t. At least they were safe.
She was in the part of the Institute that was most familiar to her now: the family quarters. She slipped past Helen’s empty bedroom, clothes packed up and her coverlet dusty. Past Julian’s room, familiar from a million sleepovers, and Mark’s, door firmly shut. The next room was Mr. Blackthorn’s, and just beside it was the nursery. Emma took a deep breath and shouldered the door open.
The sight that met her eyes in the little blue-painted room made them widen. Tavvy was in his crib, his small hands clutching the bars, cheeks bright red from screaming. Drusilla stood in front of the crib, a sword—Angel knew where she’d gotten it—clutched in her hand; it was pointed directly at Emma. Dru’s hand was shaking enough that the point of the sword was dancing around; her braids stuck out on either side of her plump face, but the look in her Blackthorn eyes was one of steely determination: Don’t you dare touch my brother.
“Dru,” Emma said as softly as she could. “Dru, it’s me. Jules sent me to get you.”
Dru dropped the sword with a clatter and burst into tears. Emma swept past her and seized the baby out of his crib with her free arm, heaving him up onto her hip. Tavvy was small for his age but still weighed a good twenty-five pounds; she winced as he clutched onto her hair.
“Memma,” he said.
“Shush.” She kissed the top of his head. He smelled like baby powder and tears. “Dru, grab onto my belt, okay? We’re going to the office. We’ll be safe there.”
Dru took hold of Emma’s weapons belt with her small hands; she’d already stopped crying. Shadowhunters didn’t cry much, even when they were eight.
Emma led the way out into the hall. The sounds from below were worse now. The screams were still going on, the deep howling, the sounds of glass breaking and wood ripping. Emma inched forward, clutching Tavvy, murmuring over and over that everything was all right, he’d be all right. And there were more windows, and the sun slashed through them viciously, almost blinding her.
She was blinded, by panic and the sun; it was the only explanation for the wrong turn she took next. She turned down a corridor, and instead of finding herself in the hallway that she expected, she found herself standing atop the wide staircase that led down to the foyer and the large double doors that were the building’s entrance.
The foyer was filled with Shadowhunters. Some, familiar to her as the Nephilim of the Los Angeles Conclave, in black, others in red gear. There were rows of statuary, now toppled over, in pieces and powder on the ground. The picture window that opened onto the sea had been smashed, and broken glass and blood were everywhere.
Emma felt a sick lurch in her stomach. In the middle of the foyer stood a tall figure in scarlet. He was pale blond, almost white-haired, and his face looked like the carved marble face of Raziel, only entirely without mercy. His eyes were coal black, and in one hand he carried a sword stamped with a pattern of stars; in the other, a goblet made of shimmering adamas.
The sight of the cup triggered something in Emma’s mind. The adults didn’t like to talk about politics around the younger Shadowhunters, but she knew that Valentine Morgenstern’s son had taken on a different name and sworn vengeance against the Clave. She knew that he had made a cup that was the reverse of the Angel’s Cup, that changed Shadowhunters into evil, demonic creatures. She had heard Mr. Blackthorn call the evil Shadowhunters the Endarkened Ones; he had said he’d rather die than be one.
This was him, then. Jonathan Morgenstern, whom everyone called Sebastian—a figure out of a fairy tale, a story told to frighten children, come to life. Valentine’s son.
Hear Cassandra Clare read the start of chapter one, and then read on below for the rest of the scene!
He looked smaller these days, almost skinny in his worn blue pullover, holes at the elbows, his lips bitten and chapped. Clary’s heart went out to him. He’d spent the first week after Magnus had broken up with him in a sort of daze of sadness and disbelief. None of them could really believe it. She’d always thought Magnus loved Alec, really loved him; clearly Alec had thought so too. “I didn’t want him to think that I didn’t—to think that I forgot.”
“You’re pining,” said Jace.
Alec shrugged. “Look who’s talking. ‘Oh, I love her. Oh, she’s my sister. Oh why, why, why—’”
Jace threw a handful of dead leaves at Alec, making him splutter.
Isabelle was laughing. “You know he’s right, Jace.”
“Give me your phone,” Jace said, ignoring Isabelle. “Come on, Alexander.”
“It’s none of your business,” Alec said, holding the phone away. “Just forget about it, okay?”
“You don’t eat, you don’t sleep, you stare at your phone, and I’m supposed to forget about it?” Jace said. There was a surprising amount of agitation in his voice; Clary knew how upset he’d been that Alec was unhappy, but she wasn’t sure Alec knew it. Under normal circumstances Jace would have killed, or at least threatened, anyone who hurt Alec; this was different. Jace liked to win, but you couldn’t win out over a broken heart, even someone else’s. Even someone you loved.
Jace leaned over and grabbed the phone out of his parabatai’s hand. Alec protested and reached for it, but Jace held him off with one hand, expertly scrolling through the messages on the phone with the other. “Magnus, just call me back. I need to know if you’re okay—” He shook his head. “Okay, no. Just no.” With a decisive move he snapped the phone in half. The screen went blank as Jace dropped the pieces to the ground. “There.”
Alec looked down at the shattered pieces in disbelief. “You BROKE my PHONE.”
Jace shrugged. “Guys don’t let other guys keep calling other guys. Okay, that came out wrong. Friends don’t let friends keep calling their exes and hanging up. Seriously. You have to stop.”
Alec looked furious. “So you broke my brand-new phone? Thanks a lot.”
Jace smiled serenely and lay back on the rock. “You’re welcome.”
“Look on the bright side,” Isabelle said. “You won’t be able to get texts from Mom anymore. She’s texted me six times today. I turned my phone off.” She patted her pocket with a significant look.
“What does she want?” Simon asked.
“Constant meetings,” Isabelle said. “Depositions. The Clave keeps wanting to hear what happened when we fought Sebastian at the Burren. We’ve all had to give accounts, like, fifty times. How Jace absorbed the heavenly fire from Glorious. Descriptions of the Dark Shadowhunters, the Infernal Cup, the weapons they used, the runes that were on them. What we were wearing, what Sebastian was wearing, what everyone was wearing . . . like phone sex but boring.”
Simon made a choking noise.
“What we think Sebastian wants,” Alec added. “When he’ll come back. What he’ll do when he does.”
Clary leaned her elbows on her knees. “Always good to know the Clave has a well-thought-out and reliable plan.”
“They don’t want to believe it,” said Jace, staring at the sky. “That’s the problem. No matter how many times we tell them what we saw at the Burren. No matter how many times we tell them how dangerous the Endarkened are. They don’t want to believe that Nephilim could really be corrupted. That Shadowhunters could kill Shadowhunters.”
Clary had been there when Sebastian had created the first of the Endarkened. She had seen the blankness in their eyes, the fury with which they’d fought. They terrified her. “They’re not Shadowhunters anymore,” she added in a low voice. “They’re not people.”
“It’s hard to believe that if you haven’t seen it,” Alec said. “And Sebastian has only so many of them. A small force, scattered—they don’t want to believe he’s really a threat. Or if he is a threat, they’d rather believe it was more a threat to us, to New York, than to Shadowhunters at large.”
“They’re not wrong that if Sebastian cares about anything, it’s about Clary,” Jace said, and Clary felt a cold shiver at her spine, a mixture of disgust and apprehension. “He doesn’t really have emotions. Not like we do. But if he did, he’d have them about her. And he has them about Jocelyn. He hates her.” He paused, thoughtful. “But I don’t think he’d be likely to strike directly here. Too . . . obvious.”
“I hope you told the Clave this,” Simon said.
“About a thousand times,” said Jace. “I don’t think they hold my insights in particularly high regard.”
Clary looked down at her hands. She had been deposed by the Clave, just like the rest of them; she’d given answers to all their questions. There were still things about Sebastian she hadn’t told them, hadn’t told anyone. The things he’d said he wanted from her.
She hadn’t dreamed much since they’d come back from the Burren with Jace’s veins full of fire, but when she did have nightmares, they were about her brother.
“It’s like trying to fight a ghost,” Jace said. “They can’t track Sebastian, they can’t find him, they can’t find the Shadowhunters he’s turned.”
“They’re doing what they can,” Alec said. “They’re shoring up the wards around Idris and Alicante. All the wards, in fact. They’ve sent dozens of experts to Wrangel Island.”
Wrangel Island was the seat of all the world’s wards, the spells that protected the globe, and Idris in particular, from demons and demon invasion. The network of wards wasn’t perfect, and demons slipped through sometimes anyway, but Clary could only imagine how bad the situation would get if the wards didn’t exist.
“I heard Mom say that the warlocks of the Spiral Labyrinth have been looking for a way to reverse the effects of the Infernal Cup,” said Isabelle. “Of course it would be easier if they had bodies to study. . . .”
She trailed off; Clary knew why. The bodies of the Dark Shadowhunters killed at the Burren had been brought back to the Bone City for the Silent Brothers to examine. The Brothers had never gotten the chance. Overnight the bodies had rotted away to the equivalent of decade-old corpses. There had been nothing to do but burn the remains.
Isabelle found her voice again: “And the Iron Sisters are churning out weapons. We’re getting thousands more seraph blades, swords, chakhrams, everything . . . forged in heavenly fire.” She looked at Jace. In the days immediately following the battle at the Burren, when the fire had raged through Jace’s veins violently enough to make him scream sometimes with the pain, the Silent Brothers had examined him over and over, had tested him with ice and flame, with blessed metal and cold iron, trying to see if there was some way to draw the fire out of him, to contain it.
They hadn’t found one. The fire of Glorious, having once been captured in a blade, seemed in no hurry to inhabit another, or indeed to leave Jace’s body for any kind of vessel. Brother Zachariah had told Clary that in the earliest days of Shadowhunters, the Nephilim had sought to capture heavenly fire in a weapon, something that could be wielded against demons. They had never managed it, and eventually seraph blades had become their weapons of choice. In the end, again, the Silent Brothers had given up. Glorious’s fire lay curled in Jace’s veins like a serpent, and the best he could hope for was to control it so that it didn’t destroy him.
The loud beep of a text message sounded; Isabelle had flicked on her phone again. “Mom says to get back to the Institute now,” she said. “There’s some meeting. We have to be at it.” She stood up, brushing dirt from her dress. “I’d invite you back,” she said to Simon, “but you know, banned for being undead and all.”
“I did remember that,” Simon said, getting to his feet. Clary scrambled up and reached a hand down to Jace. He took it and stood.
“Simon and I are going Christmas shopping,” she said. “And none of you can come, because we have to get you presents.”
Alec looked horrified. “Oh, God. Does that mean I have to get you guys presents?”
Clary shook her head. “Don’t Shadowhunters do . . . you know, Christmas?” She thought back suddenly to the rather distressing Thanksgiving dinner at Luke’s when Jace, on being asked to carve the turkey, had laid into the bird with a sword until there had been little left but turkey flakes. Maybe not?
“We exchange gifts, we honor the change of the seasons,” said Isabelle. “There used to be a winter celebration of the Angel. It observed the day the Mortal Instruments were given to Jonathan Shadowhunter. I think Shadowhunters got annoyed with being left out of all the mundane celebrations, though, so a lot of Institutes have Christmas parties. The London one is famous.” She shrugged. “I just don’t think we’re going to do it . . . this year.”
“Oh.” Clary felt awful. Of course they didn’t want to celebrate Christmas after losing Max. “Well, let us get you presents, at least. There doesn’t have to be a party, or anything like that.”
“Exactly.” Simon threw his arms up. “I have to buy Hanukkah presents. It’s mandated by Jewish law. The God of the Jews is an angry God. And very gift-oriented.”
Clary smiled at him. He was finding it easier and easier to say the word “God” these days.
Jace sighed, and kissed Clary—a quick good-bye brush of lips against her temple, but it made her shiver. Not being able to touch Jace or kiss him properly was starting to make her jump out of her own skin. She’d promised him it would never matter, that she’d love him even if they could never touch again, but she hated it anyway, hated missing the reassurance of the way they had always fit together physically. “See you later,” Jace said. “I’m going to head back with Alec and Izzy—”
“No, you’re not,” Isabelle said unexpectedly. “You broke Alec’s phone. Granted, we’ve all been wanting to do that for weeks—”
“ISABELLE,” Alec said.
“But the fact is, you’re his parabatai, and you’re the only one who hasn’t been to see Magnus. Go talk to him.”
“And tell him what?” Jace said. “You can’t talk people into not breaking up with you. . . . Or maybe you can,” he added hastily, at Alec’s expression. “Who can say? I’ll give it a try.”
“Thanks.” Alec clapped Jace on the shoulder. “I’ve heard you can be charming when you want to be.”
“I’ve heard the same,” Jace said, breaking into a backward jog. He was even graceful doing that, Clary thought gloomily. And sexy. Definitely sexy. She lifted her hand in a halfhearted wave.
“See you later,” she called. If I’m not dead from frustration by then.
The Frays had never been a religiously observant family, but Clary loved Fifth Avenue at Christmastime. The air smelled like sweet roasted chestnuts, and the window displays sparkled with silver and blue, green and red. This year there were fat round crystal snowflakes attached to each lamppost, sending back the winter sunlight in shafts of gold. Not to mention the huge tree at Rockefeller Center. It threw its shadow across them when she and Simon draped themselves over the gate at the side of the skating rink, watching tourists fall down as they tried to navigate the ice.
Clary had a hot chocolate wrapped in her hands, the warmth spreading through her body. She felt almost normal—this, coming to Fifth to see the window displays and the tree, had been a winter tradition for her and Simon for as long as she could remember.
“Feels like old times, doesn’t it?” he said, echoing her thoughts as he propped his chin on his folded arms.
She chanced a sideways look at him. He was wearing a black topcoat and scarf that emphasized the pallor of his skin. His eyes were shadowed, indicating that he hadn’t fed on blood recently. He looked like what he was—a hungry, tired vampire.
Well, she thought. Almost like old times. “More people to buy presents for,” she said. “Plus, the always traumatic what-to-buy-someone-for-the-first-Christmas-after-you’ve-started-dating question.”
“What to get the Shadowhunter who has everything,” Simon said with a grin.
“Jace mostly likes weapons,” Clary said. “He likes books, but they have a huge library at the Institute. He likes classical music. . . .” She brightened. Simon was a musician; even though his band was terrible, and was always changing their name—currently they were Lethal Soufflé—he did have training. “What would you give someone who likes to play the piano?”
“A really huge metronome that could also double as a weapon?”
Clary sighed, exasperated.
“Sheet music. Rachmaninoff is tough stuff, but he likes a challenge.”
“Good idea. I’m going to see if there’s a music store around here.” Clary, done with her hot chocolate, tossed the cup into a nearby trash can and pulled her phone out. “What about you? What are you giving Isabelle?”
“I have absolutely no idea,” Simon said. They had started heading toward the avenue, where a steady stream of pedestrians gawking at the windows clogged the streets.
“Oh, come on. Isabelle’s easy.”
“That’s my girlfriend you’re talking about.” Simon’s brows drew together. “I think. I’m not sure. We haven’t discussed it. The relationship, I mean.”
“You really have to DTR, Simon.”
“Define the relationship. What it is, where it’s going. Are you boyfriend and girlfriend, just having fun, ‘it’s complicated,’ or what? When’s she going to tell her parents? Are you allowed to see other people?”
Simon blanched. “What? Seriously?”
“Seriously. In the meantime—perfume!” Clary grabbed Simon by the back of his coat and hauled him into a cosmetics store. It was massive on the inside, with rows of gleaming bottles everywhere. “And something unusual,” she said, heading for the fragrance area. “Isabelle isn’t going to want to smell like someone else. She’s going to want to smell like figs, or vetiver, or—”
“Figs? Figs have a smell?” Simon looked horrified; Clary was about to laugh at him when her phone buzzed. It was her mother.
where are you?
Clary rolled her eyes and texted back. Jocelyn still got nervous when she thought Clary was out with Jace. Even though, as Clary had pointed out, Jace was probably the safest boyfriend in the world since he was pretty much banned from (1) getting angry, (2) making sexual advances, and (3) doing anything that would produce an adrenaline rush.
On the other hand, he had been possessed; she and her mother had both watched while he’d stood by and let Sebastian threaten Luke. Clary still hadn’t talked about everything she’d seen in the apartment she’d shared with Jace and Sebastian for that brief time out of time, a mixture of dream and nightmare. She’d never told her mother that Jace had killed someone; there were things Jocelyn didn’t need to know, things Clary didn’t want to face herself.
“There is so much in this store I can picture Magnus wanting,” Simon said, picking up a glass bottle of body glitter suspended in some kind of oil. “Is it against some kind of rule to buy presents for someone who broke up with your friend?”
“I guess it depends. Is Magnus your closer friend, or Alec?”
“Alec remembers my name,” said Simon, and he set the bottle back down. “And I feel bad for him. I understand why Magnus did it, but Alec is so wrecked. I feel like if someone loves you, they should forgive you, if you’re really sorry.”
“I think it depends what you did,” Clary said. “I don’t mean Alec—I just mean in general. I’m sure Isabelle would forgive you for anything,” she added hastily.
Simon looked dubious.
“Hold still,” she announced, wielding a bottle near his head. “In three minutes I’m going to smell your neck.”
“Well, I never,” said Simon. “You’ve waited a long time to make your move, Fray, I’ll say that for you.”
Clary didn’t bother with a smart retort; she was still thinking of what Simon had said about forgiveness, and remembering someone else, someone else’s voice and face and eyes. Sebastian sitting across from her at a table in Paris. Do you think you can forgive me? I mean, do you think forgiveness is possible for someone like me?
“There are things you can never forgive,” she said. “I can never forgive Sebastian.”
“You don’t love him.”
“No, but he’s my brother. If things were different—” But they’re not different. Clary abandoned the thought, and leaned in to inhale instead. “You smell like figs and apricots.”
“Do you really think Isabelle wants to smell like a dried fruit plate?”
“Maybe not.” Clary picked up another bottle. “So, what are you going to do?”
Clary looked up from pondering the question of how a tuberose was different from a regular rose, to see Simon looking at her with puzzlement in his brown eyes. She said, “Well, you can’t live with Jordan forever, right? There’s college . . .”
“You’re not going to college,” he said.
“No, but I’m a Shadowhunter. We keep studying after eighteen, we get posted to other Institutes—that’s our college.”
“I don’t like the thought of you going away.” He shoved his hands into the pockets of his coat. “I can’t go to college,” he said. “My mother’s not exactly going to pay for it, and I can’t take out student loans. I’m legally dead. And besides, how long would it take
at school to notice they were getting older but I wasn’t? Sixteen-year-olds don’t look like college seniors, I don’t know if you’ve noticed.”
Clary set the bottle down. “Simon . . .”
“Maybe I should get my mom something,” he said bitterly. “What says ‘Thanks for throwing me out of the house and pretending I died’?”
But Simon’s joking mood had gone. “Maybe it’s not like old times,” he said. “I would have gotten you pencils usually, art supplies, but you don’t draw anymore, do you, except with your stele? You don’t draw, and I don’t breathe. Not so much like last year.”
“Maybe you should talk to Raphael,” Clary said.
“He knows how vampires live,” Clary said. “How they make lives for themselves, how they make money, how they get apartments—he does know those things. He could help.”
“He could, but he wouldn’t,” said Simon with a frown. “I haven’t heard anything from the Dumort bunch since Maureen took over from Camille. I know Raphael is her second in command. I’m pretty sure they still think I have the Mark of Cain; otherwise they would have sent someone after me by now. Matter of time.”
“No. They know not to touch you. It would be war with the Clave. The Institute’s been very clear,” said Clary. “You’re protected.”
“Clary,” Simon said. “None of us are protected.”
Before Clary could answer, she heard someone call out her name; thoroughly puzzled, she looked over and saw her mother shoving her way through a crowd of shoppers. Through the window she could see Luke, waiting outside on the sidewalk. In his flannel shirt he looked out of place among the stylish New Yorkers.
Breaking free of the crowd, Jocelyn caught up to them and threw her arms around Clary. Clary looked over her mother’s shoulder, baffled, at Simon. He shrugged. Finally Jocelyn released her and stepped back. “I was so worried something had happened to you—”
“In Sephora?” Clary said.
Jocelyn’s brow furrowed. “You haven’t heard? I would have thought Jace would have texted you by now.”
Clary felt a sudden cold wash through her veins, as if she’d swallowed icy water. “No. I—What’s going on?”
“I’m sorry, Simon,” Jocelyn said. “But Clary and I have to get to the Institute right away.”
Not much had changed at Magnus’s since the first time Jace had been there. The same small entryway and single yellow bulb. Jace used an Open rune to get in through the front door, took the stairs two at a time, and buzzed Magnus’s apartment bell. Safer than using another rune, he figured. After all, Magnus could be playing video games naked or, really, doing practically anything. Who knew what warlocks got up to in their spare time?
Jace buzzed again, this time leaning firmly on the doorbell. Two more long buzzes, and Magnus finally yanked the door open, looking furious. He was wearing a black silk dressing gown over a white dress shirt and tweed pants. His feet were bare. His dark hair was tangled, and there was the shadow of stubble on his jaw. “What are you doing here?” he demanded.
“My, my,” said Jace. “So unwelcoming.”
“That’s because you’re not welcome.”
Jace raised an eyebrow. “I thought we were friends.”
“No. You’re Alec’s friend. Alec was my boyfriend, so I had to put up with you. But now he’s not my boyfriend, so I don’t have to put up with you. Not that any of you seem to realize it. You must be the—what, fourth?—of you lot to bother me.” Magnus counted off on his long fingers. “Clary. Isabelle. Simon—”
“Simon came by?”
“You seem surprised.”
“I didn’t think he was that invested in your relationship with Alec.”
“I don’t have a relationship with Alec,” said Magnus flatly, but Jace had already shouldered past him and was in his living room, looking around curiously.
One of the things Jace had always secretly liked about Magnus’s apartment was that it rarely looked the same way twice. Sometimes it was a big modern loft. Sometimes it looked like a French bordello, or a Victorian opium den, or the inside of a spaceship. Right now, though, it was messy and dark. Stacks of old Chinese food cartons littered the coffee table. Chairman Meow lay on the rag rug, all four legs sticking straight out in front of him like a dead deer.
“It smells like heartbreak in here,” said Jace.
“That’s the Chinese food.” Magnus threw himself onto the sofa and stretched out his long legs. “Go on, get it over with. Say whatever you came here to say.”
“I think you should get back together with Alec,” said Jace.
Magnus rolled his eyes up to the ceiling. “And why is that?”
“Because he’s miserable,” said Jace. “And he’s sorry. He’s sorry about what he did. He won’t do it again.”
“Oh, he won’t sneak around behind my back with one of my exes planning to shorten my life again? Very noble of him.”
“Besides, Camille’s dead. He can’t do it again.”
“You know what I mean,” said Jace. “He won’t lie to you or mislead you or hide things from you or whatever it is you’re actually upset about.” He threw himself into a wingback leather chair and raised an eyebrow. “So?”
Magnus rolled onto his side. “What do you care if Alec’s miserable?”
“What do I care?” Jace said, so loudly that Chairman Meow sat bolt upright as if he’d been shocked. “Of course I care about Alec; he’s my best friend, my parabatai. And he’s unhappy. And so are you, by the look of things. Take-out containers everywhere, you haven’t done anything to fix up the place, your cat looks dead—”
“He’s not dead.”
“I care about Alec,” Jace said, fixing Magnus with an unswerving gaze. “I care about him more than I care about myself.”
“Don’t you ever think,” Magnus mused, pulling at a bit of peeling fingernail polish, “that the whole parabatai business is rather cruel? You can choose your parabatai, but then you can never un-choose them. Even if they turn on you. Look at Luke and Valentine. And though your parabatai is the closest person in the world to you in some ways, you can’t fall in love with them. And if they die, some part of you dies too.”
“How do you know so much about parabatai?”
“I know Shadowhunters,” said Magnus, patting the sofa beside him so that the Chairman leaped up onto the cushions and nudged at Magnus with his head. The warlock’s long fingers sank into the cat’s fur. “I have for a long time. You are odd creatures. All fragile nobility and humanity on one side, and all the thoughtless fire of angels on the other.” His eyes flicked toward Jace. “You especially, Herondale, for you have the fire of angels in your blood.”
“You’ve been friends with Shadowhunters before?”
“Friends,” said Magnus. “What does that mean, really?”
“You’d know,” said Jace, “if you had any. Do you? Do you have friends? I mean, besides the people who come to your parties. Most people are afraid of you, or they seem to owe you something or you slept with them once, but friends—I don’t see you having a lot of those.”
“Well, this is novel,” said Magnus. “None of the rest of your group has tried insulting me.”
“Is it working?”
“If you mean do I suddenly feel compelled to get back together with Alec, no,” said Magnus. “I have developed an odd craving for pizza, but that might be unrelated.”
“Alec said you do that,” said Jace. “Deflect questions about yourself with jokes.”
Magnus narrowed his eyes. “And I’m the only one who does that?”
“Exactly,” Jace said. “Take it from someone who knows. You hate talking about yourself, and you’d rather make people angry than be pitied. How old are you, Magnus? The real answer.”
Magnus said nothing.
“What were your parents’ names? Your father’s name?”
Magnus glared at him out of gold-green eyes. “If I wanted to lie on a couch and complain to someone about my parents, I’d hire a psychiatrist.”
“Ah,” said Jace. “But my services are free.”
“I heard that about you.”
Jace grinned and slid down in his chair. There was a pillow with a pattern of the Union Jack on the ottoman. He grabbed it and put it behind his head. “I don’t have anywhere to be. I can sit here all day.”
“Great,” Magnus said. “I’m going to take a nap.” He reached out for a crumpled blanket lying on the floor, just as Jace’s phone rang. Magnus watched, arrested midmotion, as Jace dug around in his pocket and flipped the phone open.
It was Isabelle. “Jace?”
“Yeah. I’m at Magnus’s place. I think I might be making some headway. What’s up?”
“Come back,” Isabelle said, and Jace sat up straight, the pillow tumbling to the floor. Her voice was tightly strained. He could hear the sharpness in it, like the off notes of a badly tuned piano. “To the Institute. Right away, Jace.”
“What is it?” he asked. “What’s happened?” And he saw Magnus sit up too, the blanket dropping from his hand.
“Sebastian,” Isabelle said.
Jace closed his eyes. He saw golden blood, and white feathers scattered across a marble floor. He remembered the apartment, a knife in his hands, the world at his feet, Sebastian’s grip on his wrist, those fathomless black eyes looking at him with dark amusement. There was a buzzing in his ears.
“What is it?” Magnus’s voice cut through Jace’s thoughts. He realized he was already at the door, the phone back in his pocket. He turned. Magnus was behind him, his expression stark. “Is it Alec? Is he all right?”
“What do you care?” said Jace, and Magnus flinched. Jace didn’t think he’d ever seen Magnus flinch before. It was the only thing that kept Jace from slamming the door on the way out.