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City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments 2) Cassandra Clare 2022/8/5 16:53:12

“I told you before,” Alec said, “half the time it seems like Jace is trying to get himself killed. He has to learn to look out for himself, and that includes cooperating with the Inquisitor.”

“And you think I can help you make him do that?” Clary said, disbelief coloring her voice.

“I’m not sure anyone can make Jace do anything,” said Isabelle. “But I think you can remind him that he has something to live for.”

Alec looked down at the pillow in his hand and gave a sudden savage yank to the fringe. Beads rattled down onto Isabelle’s blanket like a shower of localized rain.

Isabelle frowned. “Alec, don’t.”

Clary wanted to tell Isabelle that they were Jace’s family, that she wasn’t, that their voices carried more weight with him than hers ever would. But she kept hearing Jace’s voice in her head, saying, I never felt like I belonged anywhere. But you make me feel like I belong. “Can we go to the Silent City and see him?”

“Will you tell him to cooperate with the Inquisitor?” Alec demanded.

Clary considered. “I want to hear what he has to say first.”

Alec dropped the denuded pillow onto the bed and stood up, frowning. Before he could say anything, there was a knock at the door. Isabelle unhitched herself from the vanity table and went to answer it.

It was a small, dark-haired boy, his eyes half-hidden by glasses. He wore jeans and an oversize sweatshirt and carried a book in one hand. “Max,” Isabelle said, with some surprise, “I thought you were asleep.”

“I was in the weapons room,” said the boy—who had to be the Lightwoods’ youngest son. “But there were noises coming from the library. I think someone might be trying to contact the Institute.” He peered around Isabelle at Clary. “Who’s that?”

“That’s Clary,” said Alec. “She’s Jace’s sister.”

Max’s eyes rounded. “I thought Jace didn’t have any brothers or sisters.”

“That’s what we all thought,” said Alec, picking up the sweater he’d left draped over one of Isabelle’s chairs and yanking it on. His hair rayed out around his head like a soft dark halo, crackling with static electricity. He pushed it back impatiently. “I’d better get to the library.”

“We’ll both go,” Isabelle said, taking her gold whip, which was twisted into a shimmering rope, out of a drawer and sliding the handle through her belt. “Maybe something’s happened.”

“Where are your parents?” Clary asked.

“They got called out a few hours ago. A fey was murdered in Central Park. The Inquisitor went with them,” Alec explained.

“You didn’t want to go?”

“We weren’t invited.” Isabelle looped her two dark braids up on top of her head and stuck the coil of hair through with a small glass dagger. “Look after Max, will you? We’ll be right back.”

“But—” Clary protested.

“We’ll be right back.” Isabelle darted out into the corridor, Alec on her heels. The moment the door shut behind them, Clary sat down on the bed and regarded Max with apprehension. She’d never spent much time around children—her mother had never let her babysit—and she wasn’t really sure how to talk to them or what might amuse them. It helped a little that this particular little boy reminded her of Simon at that age, with his skinny arms and legs and glasses that seemed too big for his face.

Max returned her stare with a considering glance of his own, not shy, but thoughtful and contained. “How old are you?” he said finally.

Clary was taken aback. “How old do I look?”

“I’m sixteen, but people always think I’m younger than I am because I’m so short.”

Max nodded. “Me too,” he said. “I’m nine but people always think I’m seven.”

“You look nine to me,” said Clary. “What’s that you’re holding? Is it a book?”

Max brought his hand out from behind his back. He was holding a wide, flat paperback, about the size of one of those small magazines they sold at grocery store counters. This one had a brightly colored cover with Japanese kanji script on it under the English words. Clary laughed. “Naruto,” she said. “I didn’t know you liked manga. Where did you get that?”

“In the airport. I like the pictures but I can’t figure out how to read it.”

“Here, give it to me.” She flipped it open, showing him the pages. “You read it backward, right to left instead of left to right. And you read each page clockwise. Do you know what that means?”

“Of course,” said Max. For a moment Clary was worried she’d annoyed him. He seemed pleased enough, though, when he took the book back and flipped to the last page. “This one is number nine,” he said. “I think I should get the other eight before I read it.”

“That’s a good idea. Maybe you can get someone to take you to Midtown Comics or Forbidden Planet.”

“Forbidden Planet?” Max looked bemused, but before Clary could explain, Isabelle burst through the door, clearly out of breath.

“It was someone trying to contact the Institute,” she said, before Clary could ask. “One of the Silent Brothers. Something’s happened in the Bone City.”

“What kind of something?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never heard of the Silent Brothers asking for help before.” Isabelle was clearly distressed. She turned to her brother. “Max, go to your room and stay there, okay?”

Max set his jaw. “Are you and Alec going out?”

“To the Silent City?”

Isabelle shook her head; the hilt of the dagger at the back of her head glittered like a point of fire. “Absolutely not. You’re too young.”

“You’re not eighteen either!”

Isabelle turned to Clary with a look half of anxiety and half of desperation. “Clary, come here for a second, please.”

Clary got up, wonderingly—and Isabelle grabbed her by the arm and yanked her out of the room, slamming the door shut behind her. There was a thump as Max threw himself against it. “Damn it,” said Isabelle, holding the knob, “can you grab my stele for me, please? It’s in my pocket—”

Hastily, Clary held out the stele Luke had given her earlier that night. “Use mine.”

With a few swift strokes, Isabelle had carved a Locking rune onto the door. Clary could still hear Max’s protests from the other side as Isabelle stepped away from the door, grimacing, and handed Clary back her stele. “I didn’t know you had one of these.”

“It was my mother’s,” said Clary, then she mentally chided herself. Is my mother’s. It is my mother’s.

“Huh.” Isabelle thumped on the door with a closed fist. “Max, there’s some PowerBars in the nightstand drawer if you get hungry. We’ll be back as soon as we can.”

There was another outraged yell from behind the door; with a shrug, Isabelle turned and hurried back down the hallway, Clary at her side. “What did the message say?” Clary demanded. “Just that there was trouble?”

“That there was an attack. That’s it.”

Alec was waiting for them outside the library. He was wearing black leather Shadowhunter armor over his clothes. Gauntlets protected his arms and Marks circled his throat and wrists. Seraph blades, each one named for an angel, gleamed at the belt around his waist. “Are you ready?” he said to his sister. “Is Max taken care of?”

“He’s fine.” She held out her arms. “Mark me.”

As Alec traced the patterns of runes along the backs of Isabelle’s hands and the insides of her wrists, he glanced over at Clary. “You should probably head home,” he said. “You don’t want to be here by yourself when the Inquisitor gets back.”

“I want to go with you,” Clary said, the words spilling out before she could stop them.

Isabelle took one of her hands back from Alec and blew on the Marked skin as if she were cooling a too-hot cup of coffee. “You sound like Max.”

“Max is nine. I’m the same age as you.”

“But you haven’t got any training,” Alec argued. “You’ll just be a liability.”

“No, I won’t. Has either of you ever been inside the Silent City?” Clary demanded. “I have. I know how to get in. I know how to find my way around.”

Alec straightened up, putting his stele away. “I don’t think—”

Isabelle cut in. “She has a point, actually. I think she should come if she wants.”

Alec looked taken aback. “Last time we faced a demon, she just cowered and screamed.” Seeing Clary’s acid glare, he shot her an apologetic glance. “I’m sorry, but it’s true.”

“I think she needs a chance to learn,” Isabelle said. “You know what Jace always says. Sometimes you don’t have to search out danger, sometimes danger finds you.”

“You can’t lock me up like you did Max,” Clary added, seeing Alec’s weakening resolution. “I’m not a child. And I know where the Bone City is. I can find my way there without you.”

Alec turned away, shaking his head and muttering something about girls. Isabelle held out a hand to Clary. “Give me your stele,” she said. “It’s time you got some Marks.”

IN THE END ISABELLE GAVE CLARY ONLY TWO MARKS, ONE on the back of each hand. One was the open eye that decorated the hand of every Shadowhunter. The other was like two crossed sickles; Isabelle said it was a Rune of Protection. Both runes burned when the stele first touched skin, but the pain faded as Clary, Isabelle, and Alec headed downtown in a black gypsy cab. By the time they reached Second Avenue and stepped out onto the pavement, Clary’s hands and arms felt as light as if she were wearing water wings in a swimming pool.

The three of them were silent as they passed under the wrought iron arch and into the Marble Cemetery. The last time Clary had been in this small courtyard she had been hurrying along after Brother Jeremiah. Now, for the first time, she noticed the names carved into the walls: Youngblood, Fairchild, Thrushcross, Nightwine, Ravenscar. There were runes beside them. In Shadowhunter culture each family had their own symbol: The Waylands’ was a blacksmith’s hammer, the Lightwoods’ a torch, and Valentine’s a star.

The grass grew tangled over the feet of the Angel statue in the courtyard’s center. The Angel’s eyes were closed, his slim hands closed over the stem of a stone goblet, a reproduction of the Mortal Cup. His stone face was impassive, streaked with dirt and grime.

Clary said, “Last time I was here, Brother Jeremiah used a rune on the statue to open the door to the City.”

“I wouldn’t want to use one of the Silent Brothers’ runes,” Alec said. His face was grim. “They should have sensed our presence before we got this far. Now I’m starting to worry.” He took a dagger from his belt and drew the blade of it across his bare palm. Blood welled from the shallow gash. Making a fist over the stone Cup, he let the blood drip into it. “Blood of the Nephilim,” he said. “It should work as a key.”

The stone Angel’s eyelids flew open. For a moment Clary almost expected to see eyes glaring at her from between the folds of stone, but there was only more granite. A second later, the grass at the Angel’s feet began to split. A crooked black line, rippling like the back of a snake, curved away from the statue, and Clary jumped back hastily as a dark hole opened at her feet.

She peered down into it. Stairs led away into shadow. Last time she had been here, the darkness had been lit at intervals by torches, illuminating the steps. Now there was only blackness.

“Something’s wrong,” Clary said. Neither Isabelle nor Alec seemed inclined to argue. Clary took the witchlight stone Jace had given her out of her pocket and raised it overhead. Light burst from it, raying out through her spread fingers. “Let’s go.”

Alec stepped in front of her. “I’ll go first, then you follow me. Isabelle, bring up the rear.”

They clambered down slowly, Clary’s damp boots slipping on the age-rounded steps. At the foot of the stairs was a short tunnel that opened out into an enormous hall, a stone orchard of white arches inset with semiprecious stones. Rows of mausoleums huddled in the shadows like toadstool houses in a fairy story. The more distant of them disappeared into shadow; the witchlight was not strong enough to light the whole hall.

Alec looked somberly down the rows. “I never thought I would enter the Silent City,” he said. “Not even in death.”

“I wouldn’t sound so sad about it,” Clary said. “Brother Jeremiah told me what they do to your dead. They burn them up and use most of the ashes to make the City’s marble.” The blood and bone of demon slayers is itself a powerful protection against evil. Even in death, the Clave serves the Cause.

“Hmph,” said Isabelle. “It’s considered an honor. Besides, it’s not like you mundies don’t burn your dead.”

That doesn’t make it not creepy, Clary thought. The smell of ashes and smoke hung heavy on the air, familiar to her from the last time she was here—but there was something else underlying those smells, a heavier, thicker stench, like rotting fruit.

Frowning as if he smelled it too, Alec took one of his angel blades out of his weapons belt. “Arathiel,” he whispered, and its glow joined the illumination of Clary’s witchlight as they found the second staircase and descended into even denser gloom. The witchlight pulsed in Clary’s hand like a dying star—she wondered if they ever ran out of power, witchlight stones, like flashlights ran out of batteries. She hoped not. The idea of being plunged into sightless darkness in this creepy place filled her with a visceral terror.