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

Isabelle turned scarlet. Magnus cut in before she could reply. “Look, it’s not a problem,” he said. “I can keep Jace at my place easily enough.”

The Inquisitor turned to Alec. “Your warlock does realize,” she said, “that Jonathan is a witness of utmost importance to the Clave?”

“He’s not my warlock.” The tops of Alec’s angular cheekbones flared a dark red.

“I’ve held prisoners for the Clave before,” Magnus said. The joking edge had left his voice. “I think you’ll find I have an excellent record in that department. My contract is one of the best.”

Was it Clary’s imagination, or did his eyes seem to linger on Maryse when he said that? She didn’t have time to wonder; the Inquisitor made a sharp noise that might have been amusement or disgust, and said, “It’s settled, then. Let me know when he’s well enough to talk, warlock. I’ve still got plenty of questions for him.”

“Of course,” Magnus said, but Clary got the sense that he wasn’t really listening to her. He crossed the lawn gracefully and came to stand over Jace; he was as tall as he was thin, and when Clary glanced up to look at him, she was surprised how many stars he blotted out. “Can he talk?” Magnus asked Clary, indicating Jace.

Before Clary could respond, Jace’s eyes slid open. He looked up at the warlock, dazed and dizzy. “What are you doing here?”

Magnus grinned down at Jace, and his teeth sparkled like sharpened diamonds.

“Hey, roommate,” he said.

Before me things created were none, save things

Eternal, and eternal I endure.

All hope abandon, ye who enter here.

IN THE DREAM CLARY WAS A CHILD AGAIN, WALKING DOWN THE narrow strip of beach near the boardwalk at Coney Island. The air was thick with the smell of hot dogs and roasting peanuts, and with the shouts of children. The sea surged in the distance, its blue-gray surface alive with sunlight.

She could see herself as if from a distance, wearing oversize child’s pajamas. The hems of the pajama bottoms dragged along the beach. Damp sand grated between her toes, and her hair hung heavily against the nape of her neck. There were no clouds and the sky was blue and clear, but she shivered as she walked along the perimeter of the water toward a figure she could see only dimly in the distance.

As she approached, the figure became suddenly clear, as if Clary had focused the lens of a camera. It was her mother, kneeling in the ruins of a half-built sand castle. She wore the same white dress Valentine had put her in at Renwick’s. In her hand was a twisted bit of driftwood, silvery from long exposure to salt and wind.

“Have you come to help me?” her mother said, raising her head. Jocelyn’s hair was undone and it blew free in the wind, making her look younger than she was. “There’s so much to do and so little time.”

Clary swallowed against the hard lump in her throat. “Mom—I’ve missed you, Mom.”

Jocelyn smiled. “I’ve missed you, too, honey. But I’m not gone, you know. I’m only sleeping.”

“Then how do I wake you up?” Clary cried, but her mother was looking out to sea, her face troubled. The sky had turned a twilight iron gray and the black clouds looked like heavy stones.

“Come here,” said Jocelyn, and when Clary came to her, she said, “Hold out your arm.”

Clary did. Jocelyn moved the driftwood over her skin. The touch stung like the burning of a stele, and left the same thick black line behind. The rune Jocelyn drew was a shape Clary had never seen before, but she found it instinctively soothing to her eye. “What does this do?”

“It should protect you.” Clary’s mother released her.

Jocelyn didn’t answer, just looked out toward the sea. Clary turned and saw that the ocean had drawn far out, leaving brackish piles of garbage, heaps of seaweed and flopping, desperate fish in its wake. The water had gathered itself into a huge wave, rising like the side of a mountain, like an avalanche ready to fall. The shouts of children from the boardwalk had turned into screams. As Clary stared in horror, she saw that the side of the wave was as transparent as a membrane, and through it she could see things that seemed to move under the surface of the sea, huge dark shapeless things pushing against the skin of the water. She threw up her hands—

And woke up, gasping, her heart slamming painfully against her ribs. She was in her bed in the spare room in Luke’s house, and afternoon light was filtering in through the curtains. Her hair was plastered to her neck with sweat, and her arm burned and ached. When she sat up and flipped on the bedside light, she saw without surprise the black Mark that ran the length of her forearm.

When she went into the kitchen, she found Luke had left breakfast for her in the form of a Danish in a grease-spotted cardboard box. He’d also left a note stuck to the fridge. Gone to the hospital.

Clary ate the Danish on the way to meet Simon. He was supposed to be on the corner of Bedford by the L train stop at five, but he wasn’t. She felt a faint tug of anxiety before she remembered the used record store on the corner of Sixth. Sure enough, he was sorting through the CDs in the new arrivals section. He wore a rust-colored corduroy jacket with a torn sleeve and a blue T-shirt bearing the logo of a headphone-wearing boy dancing with a chicken. He grinned when he saw her. “Eric thinks we should change the name of our band to Mojo Pie,” he said, by way of greeting.

“What is it now? I forgot.”

“Champagne Enema,” he said, selecting a Yo La Tengo CD.

“Change it,” Clary said. “By the way, I know what your T-shirt means.”

“No you don’t.” He headed up to the front of the store to buy his CD. “You’re a good girl.”

Outside, the wind was cold and brisk. Clary drew her striped scarf up around her chin. “I was worried when I didn’t see you at the L stop.”

Simon pulled his knit cap down, wincing as if the sunlight hurt his eyes. “Sorry. I remembered I wanted this CD, and I thought—”

“It’s fine.” She waved a hand at him. “It’s me. I panic way too easily these days.”

“Well, after what you’ve been through, no one could blame you.” Simon sounded contrite. “I still can’t believe what happened to the Silent City. I can’t believe you were there.”

“Neither could Luke. He freaked out completely.”

“I bet.” They were walking through McCarren Park, the grass underfoot turning winter brown, the air full of golden light. Dogs were running off their leashes among the trees. Everything changes in my life, and the world stays the same, Clary thought. “Have you talked to Jace since it happened?” Simon asked, keeping his voice neutral.

“No, but I checked in with Isabelle and Alec a few times. Apparently he’s fine.”

“Did he ask to see you? Is that why we’re going?”

“He doesn’t have to ask.” Clary tried to keep the irritation out of her voice as they turned onto Magnus’s street. It was lined with low warehouse buildings that had been converted into lofts and studios for artistic—and wealthy—residents. Most of the cars parked along the shallow curb were expensive.

As they neared Magnus’s building, Clary saw a lanky figure unfurl itself from where it had been sitting on the stoop. Alec. He was wearing a long black coat made of the tough, slightly shiny material Shadowhunters liked to use for their gear. His hands and throat were marked with runes, and it was evident from the faint shimmer in the air around him that he was glamoured into invisibility.

“I didn’t know you were bringing the mundane.” His blue eyes flicked uneasily over Simon.

“That’s what I like about you people,” said Simon. “You always make me feel so welcome.”

“Oh, come on, Alec,” said Clary. “What’s the big deal? It’s not like Simon hasn’t been here before.”

Alec heaved a theatrical sigh, shrugged, and led the way up the stairs. He unlocked the door to Magnus’s apartment using a thin silver key, which he tucked back into the breast pocket of his jacket the moment he’d finished, as if he hoped to keep his companions from seeing it.

In daylight the apartment looked the way an empty nightclub might look during off hours: dark, dirty, and unexpectedly small. The walls were bare, spackled here and there with glitter paint, and the floorboards where faeries had danced a week ago were warped and shiny with age.

“Hello, hello.” Magnus swept toward them. He was wearing a floor-length green silk dressing gown open over a silver mesh shirt and black jeans. A glittering red stone winked in his left ear. “Alec, my darling. Clary. And rat-boy.” He swept a bow toward Simon, who looked annoyed. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”

“We came to see Jace,” Clary said. “Is he all right?”

“I don’t know,” Magnus said. “Does he normally just lie on the floor like that without moving?”

“What—” Alec began, and broke off as Magnus laughed. “That’s not funny.”

“You’re so easy to tease. And yes, your friend is just fine. Well, except that he keeps putting all my things away and trying to clean up. Now I can’t find anything. He’s compulsive.”

“Jace does like things neat,” Clary said, thinking of his monklike room at the Institute.

“Well, I don’t.” Magnus was watching Alec out of the corner of his eye while Alec stared off into the middle distance, scowling. “Jace is in there if you want to see him.” He pointed toward a door at the end of the room.

“In there” turned out to be a medium-size den—surprisingly cozy, with smudged walls, velvet curtains drawn across the windows, and cloth-draped armchairs marooned like fat, colorful icebergs in a sea of nubbly beige carpeting. A hot-pink couch was made up with sheets and a blanket. Next to it was a duffel bag stuffed full of clothes. No light came through the heavy curtains; the only source of illumination was a flickering television screen, which glowed brightly despite the fact that the television itself was not plugged in.

“What’s on?” Magnus inquired.

“What Not to Wear,” came a familiar drawling voice, emanating from a sprawled figure in one of the armchairs. He sat forward and for a moment Clary thought Jace might get up and greet them. Instead, he shook his head at the screen. “High-waisted khaki pants? Who wears those?” He turned and glared at Magnus. “Nearly unlimited supernatural power,” he said, “and all you do is use it to watch reruns. What a waste.”

“Also, TiVo accomplishes much the same thing,” pointed out Simon.

“My way is cheaper.” Magnus clapped his hands together and the room was suddenly flooded with light. Jace, slumped in the chair, raised an arm to cover his face. “Can you do that without magic?”

“Actually,” said Simon, “yes. If you watched infomercials, you’d know that.”

Clary sensed the mood in the room was deteriorating. “That’s enough,” she said. She looked at Jace, who had lowered his arm and was blinking resentfully into the light. “We need to talk,” she said. “All of us. About what we’re going to do now.”

“I was going to watch Project Runway,” said Jace. “It’s on next.”

“No you’re not,” said Magnus. He snapped his fingers and the TV went off, releasing a small puff of smoke as the picture died. “You need to deal with this.”

“Suddenly you’re interested in solving my problems?”

“I’m interested in getting my apartment back. I’m tired of you cleaning all the time.” Magnus snapped his fingers again, menacingly. “Get up.”

“Or you’ll be the next one to go up in smoke,” said Simon with relish.

“There’s no need to clarify my finger snap,” said Magnus. “The implication was clear in the snap itself.”

“Fine.” Jace got up out of the chair. He was barefoot and there was a line of purplish silver skin around his wrist where his injuries were still healing. He looked tired, but not as if he were still in pain. “You want a round table meeting, we can have a round table meeting.”

“I love round tables,” said Magnus brightly. “They suit me so much better than square.”

In the living room Magnus conjured up an enormous circular table surrounded by five high-backed wooden chairs. “That’s amazing,” Clary said, sliding into a chair. It was surprisingly comfortable. “How can you create something out of nothing like that?”

“You can’t,” said Magnus. “Everything comes from somewhere. These come from an antiques reproduction store on Fifth Avenue, for instance. And these”—suddenly five white waxed paper cups appeared on the table, steam rising gently from the holes in their plastic lids—“come from Dean & DeLuca on Broadway.”

“That seems like stealing, doesn’t it?” Simon pulled a cup toward him. He drew the lid back. “Ooh. Mochaccino.” He looked at Magnus. “Did you pay for these?”

“Sure,” said Magnus, while Jace and Alec snickered. “I make dollar bills magically appear in their cash register.”

“No.” Magnus popped the lid off his own coffee. “But you can pretend I did if it makes you feel better. So, first order of business is what?”

Clary put her hands around her own coffee cup. Maybe it was stolen, but it was also hot and full of caffeine. She could stop by Dean & DeLuca and drop a dollar in their tip jar some other time. “Figuring out what’s going on would be a start,” she said, blowing on her foam. “Jace, you said what happened in the Silent City was Valentine’s fault?”