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City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments 2) Cassandra Clare 2022/8/5 16:53:13

“We answered it,” Alec said. His gaze moved anxiously over the gathered crowd. Clary could hardly blame him for his nerves. This was the largest crowd of adult Shadowhunters—of Shadowhunters in general—that she herself had ever seen. She kept looking from face to face, marking the differences between them—they varied widely in age and race and overall appearance, and yet they all gave the same impression of immense, contained power. She could sense their subtle gazes on her, examining her, evaluating. One of them, a woman with rippling silver hair, was staring at her so fiercely that there was nothing subtle about it. Clary blinked and looked away as Alec continued, “You weren’t at the Institute—and we couldn’t raise anyone—so we came ourselves.”

“It doesn’t matter, anyway,” Alec said. “They’re dead. The Silent Brothers. They’re all dead. They’ve been murdered.”

This time there was no sound from the assembled crowd. Instead they seemed to go still, the way a pride of lions might go still when it spotted a gazelle.

“Dead?” Maryse repeated. “What do you mean, they’re dead?”

“I think it’s quite clear what he means.” A woman in a long gray coat had appeared suddenly at Maryse’s side. In the flickering light she looked to Clary like a sort of Edward Gorey caricature, all sharp angles and pulled-back hair and eyes like black pits scraped out of her face. She held a glimmering chunk of witchlight on a long silver chain, looped through the skinniest fingers Clary had ever seen. “They are all dead?” she asked, addressing herself to Alec. “You found no one alive in the City?”

Alec shook his head. “Not that we saw, Inquisitor.”

So that was the Inquisitor, Clary realized. She certainly looked like someone capable of tossing teenage boys into dungeon cells for no reason other than that she didn’t like their attitude.

“That you saw,” repeated the Inquisitor, her eyes like hard, glittering beads. She turned to Maryse. “There may yet be survivors. I would send your people into the City for a thorough check.”

Maryse’s lips tightened. From what very little Clary had learned about Maryse, she knew that Jace’s adoptive mother didn’t like being told what to do. “Very well.”

She turned to the rest of the Shadowhunters—there were not as many, Clary was coming to realize, as she had initially thought, closer to twenty than thirty, though the shock of their appearance had made them seem like a teeming crowd.

Maryse spoke to Malik in a low voice. He nodded. Taking the arm of the silver-haired woman, he led the Shadowhunters toward the entrance to the Bone City. As one after another descended the stairs, taking their witchlight with them, the glow in the courtyard began to fade. The last one in line was the woman with the silver hair. Halfway down the stairs she paused, turned, and looked back—directly at Clary. Her eyes were full of a terrible yearning, as if she longed desperately to tell Clary something. After a moment she drew her hood back up over her face and vanished into the shadows.

Maryse broke the silence. “Why would anyone murder the Silent Brothers? They’re not warriors, they don’t carry battle Marks—”

“Don’t be naive, Maryse,” said the Inquisitor. “This was no random attack. The Silent Brothers may not be warriors, but they are primarily guardians, and very good at their jobs. Not to mention hard to kill. Someone wanted something from the Bone City and was willing to kill the Silent Brothers to get it. This was premeditated.”

“What makes you so sure?”

“That wild goose chase that called us all out to Central Park? The dead fey child?”

“I wouldn’t call that a wild goose chase. The fey child was drained of blood, like the warlock. These killings could cause serious trouble between the Night Children and other Downworlders—”

“Distractions,” said the Inquisitor dismissively. “He wanted us gone from the Institute so that no one would respond to the Brothers when they called for aid. Ingenious, really. But then he always was ingenious.”

“He?” It was Isabelle who spoke, her face very pale between the black wings of her hair. “You mean—”

Jace’s next words sent a shock through Clary, as if she’d touched a live current. “Valentine,” he said. “Valentine took the Mortal Sword. That’s why he killed the Silent Brothers.”

A thin, sudden smile curved on the Inquisitor’s face, as if Jace had said something that pleased her very much.

Alec started and turned to stare at Jace. “Valentine? But you didn’t say he was here.”

“He couldn’t have killed the Brothers. They were torn apart. No one person could have done all that.”

“He probably had demonic help,” said the Inquisitor. “He’s used demons to aid him before. And with the protection of the Cup on him, he could summon some very dangerous creatures. More dangerous than Raveners,” she added with a curl of her lip, and though she didn’t look at Clary when she said it, the words felt somehow like a verbal slap. Clary’s faint hope that the Inquisitor hadn’t noticed or recognized her vanished. “Or the pathetic Forsaken.”

“I don’t know about that.” Jace was very pale, with hectic spots like fever on his cheekbones. “But it was Valentine. I saw him. In fact, he had the Sword with him when he came down to the cells and taunted me through the bars. It was like a bad movie, except he didn’t actually twirl his mustache.”

Clary looked at him worriedly. He was talking too fast, she thought, and looked unsteady on his feet.

The Inquisitor didn’t seem to notice. “So you’re saying that Valentine told you all this? He told you he killed the Silent Brothers because he wanted the Angel’s Sword?”

“What else did he tell you? Did he tell you where he was going? What he plans to do with the two Mortal Instruments?” Maryse asked quickly.

The Inquisitor moved toward him, her coat swirling around her like drifting smoke. Her gray eyes and gray mouth were drawn into tight horizontal lines. “I don’t believe you.”

Jace just looked at her. “I didn’t think you would.”

“I doubt the Clave will believe you either.”

Alec said hotly, “Jace isn’t a liar—”

“Use your brain, Alexander,” said the Inquisitor, not taking her eyes off Jace. “Leave aside your loyalty to your friend for a moment. What’s the likelihood that Valentine stopped by his son’s cell for a paternal chat about the Soul-Sword, and didn’t mention what he planned to do with it, or even where he was going?”

“S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse,” Jace said in a language Clary didn’t know, “a persona che mai tornasse al mondo…”

“Dante.” The Inquisitor looked dryly amused. “The Inferno. You’re not in hell yet, Jonathan Morgenstern, though if you insist on lying to the Clave, you’ll wish you were.” She turned back to the others. “And doesn’t it seem odd to anyone that the Soul-Sword should disappear the night before Jonathan Morgenstern is supposed to stand trial by its blade—and that his father is the one who took it?”

Jace looked shocked at that, his lips parting slightly in surprise, as if this had never occurred to him. “My father didn’t take the Sword for me. He took it for him. I doubt he even knew about the trial.”

“How awfully convenient for you, regardless. And for him. He won’t have to worry about you spilling his secrets.”

“Yeah,” Jace said, “he’s terrified I’ll tell everyone that he’s always really wanted to be a ballerina.” The Inquisitor simply stared at him. “I don’t know any of my father’s secrets,” he said, less sharply. “He never told me anything.”

The Inquisitor regarded him with something close to boredom. “If your father didn’t take the Sword to protect you, then why did he take it?”

“It’s a Mortal Instrument,” said Clary. “It’s powerful. Like the Cup. Valentine likes power.”

“The Cup has an immediate use,” said the Inquisitor. “He can use it to make an army. The Sword is used in trials. I can’t see how that would interest him.”

“He might have done it to destabilize the Clave,” suggested Maryse. “To sap our morale. To say that there is nothing we can protect from him if he wants it badly enough.” It was a surprisingly good argument, Clary thought, but Maryse didn’t sound very convinced. “The fact is—”

But they never got to hear what the fact was, because at that moment Jace raised his hand as if he meant to ask a question, looked startled, and sat down on the grass suddenly, as if his legs had given out. Alec knelt down next to him, but Jace waved away his concern. “Leave me alone. I’m fine.”

“You’re not fine.” Clary joined Alec on the grass, Jace watching her with eyes whose pupils were huge and dark, despite the witchlight illuminating the night. She glanced down at his wrist, where Alec had drawn the iratze. The Mark was gone, not even a faint white scar left behind to show that it had worked. Her eyes met Alec’s and she saw her own anxiety reflected there. “Something’s wrong with him,” she said. “Something serious.”

“He probably needs a healing rune.” The Inquisitor looked as if she were exquisitely annoyed at Jace for being injured during events of such importance. “An iratze, or—”

“We tried that,” said Alec. “It isn’t working. I think there’s something of demonic origin going on here.”

“Like demon poison?” Maryse moved as if she meant to go to Jace, but the Inquisitor held her back.

“He’s shamming,” she said. “He ought to be in the Silent City’s cells right now.”

Alec rose to his feet at that. “You can’t say that—look at him!” He gestured at Jace, who had slumped back on the grass, his eyes closed. “He can’t even stand up. He needs doctors, he needs—”

“The Silent Brothers are dead,” said the Inquisitor. “Are you suggesting a mundane hospital?”

“No.” Alec’s voice was tight. “I thought he could go to Magnus.”

Isabelle made a sound somewhere between a sneeze and a cough. She turned away as the Inquisitor looked at Alec blankly. “Magnus?”

“He’s a warlock,” said Alec. “Actually, he’s the High Warlock of Brooklyn.”

“You mean Magnus Bane,” said Maryse. “He has a reputation—”

“He healed me after I fought a Greater Demon,” said Alec. “The Silent Brothers couldn’t do anything, but Magnus…”

“It’s ridiculous,” said the Inquisitor. “What you want is to help Jonathan escape.”

“He’s not well enough to escape,” Isabelle said. “Can’t you see that?”

“Magnus would never let that happen,” Alec said, with a quelling glance at his sister. “He’s not interested in crossing the Clave.”

“And how would he propose preventing it?” The Inquisitor’s voice dripped acid sarcasm. “Jonathan is a Shadowhunter; we’re not so easy to keep under lock and key.”

“Maybe you should ask him,” Alec suggested.

The Inquisitor smiled her razor smile. “By all means. Where is he?”

Alec glanced down at the phone in his hand and then back at the thin gray figure in front of him. “He’s here,” he said. He raised his voice. “Magnus! Magnus, come on out.”

Even the Inquisitor’s eyebrows shot up when Magnus strode through the gate. The High Warlock was wearing black leather pants, a belt with a buckle in the shape of a jeweled M, and a cobalt-blue Prussian military jacket open over a white lace shirt. He shimmered with layers of glitter. His gaze rested for a moment on Alec’s face with amusement and a hint of something else before moving on to Jace, prone on the grass. “Is he dead?” he inquired. “He looks dead.”

“No,” snapped Maryse. “He’s not dead.”

“Have you checked? I could kick him if you want.” Magnus moved toward Jace.

“Stop that!” the Inquisitor snapped, sounding like Clary’s third-grade teacher demanding that she stop doodling on her desk with a marker. “He’s not dead, but he’s injured,” she added, almost grudgingly. “Your medical skills are required. Jonathan needs to be well enough for the interrogation.”

“Fine, but it’ll cost you.”

“I’ll pay it,” said Maryse.

The Inquisitor didn’t even blink. “Very well. But he can’t remain at the Institute. Just because the Sword is gone doesn’t mean the interrogation won’t proceed as planned. And in the meantime, the boy must be held under observation. He’s clearly a flight risk.”

“A flight risk?” Isabelle demanded. “You act as if he tried to escape from the Silent City—”

“Well,” the Inquisitor said. “He’s no longer in his cell now, is he?”

“That’s not fair! You couldn’t have expected him to stay down there surrounded by dead people!”

“Not fair? Not fair? Do you honestly expect me to believe that you and your brother were motivated to come to the Bone City because of a distress call, and not because you wanted to free Jonathan from what you clearly consider unnecessary confinement? And do you expect me to believe you won’t try to free him again if he’s allowed to remain at the Institute? Do you think you can fool me as easily as you fool your parents, Isabelle Lightwood?”