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City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments 2) Cassandra Clare 2022/8/5 16:53:14

Jace stared down at his coffee. “Yes.”

Alec put his hand on Jace’s arm. “What happened? Did you see him?”

“I was in the cell,” said Jace, his voice dead. “I heard the Silent Brothers screaming. Then Valentine came downstairs with—with something. I don’t know what it was. Like smoke, with glowing eyes. A demon, but not like any I’ve ever seen before. He came up to the bars and he told me…”

“Told you what?” Alec’s hand slid up Jace’s arm to his shoulder. Magnus cleared his throat. Alec dropped his hand, red-faced, while Simon grinned into his undrunk coffee.

“Maellartach,” Jace said. “He wanted the Soul-Sword and he killed the Silent Brothers to get it.”

Magnus was frowning. “Alec, last night, when the Silent Brothers called for your help, where was the Conclave? Why was no one at the Institute?”

Alec looked surprised to be asked. “There was a Downworlder murder in Central Park last night. A faerie child was killed. The body was drained of blood.”

“I bet the Inquisitor thinks I did that, too,” said Jace. “My reign of terror continues.”

Magnus stood up and went to the window. He pushed the curtain back, letting in just enough light to silhouette his hawklike profile. “Blood,” he said, half to himself. “I had a dream two nights ago. I saw a city all of blood, with towers made of bone, and blood ran in the streets like water.”

Simon slewed his eyes over to Jace. “Is standing by the window muttering about blood something he does all the time?”

“No,” said Jace, “sometimes he sits on the couch and does it.”

Alec shot them both a sharp glance. “Magnus, what’s wrong?”

“The blood,” said Magnus again. “It can’t be a coincidence.” He seemed to be looking down at the street. Sunset was coming on fast over the silhouette of the city in the distance: The sky was striped with bars of aluminum and rosy gold. “There have been several murders this week,” he said, “of Downworlders. A warlock, killed in an apartment tower down by the South Street Seaport. His neck and wrists were cut and the body drained of blood. And a werewolf was killed at the Hunter’s Moon a few days ago. The throat was cut in that case as well.”

“It sounds like vampires,” said Simon, suddenly very pale.

“I don’t think so,” Jace said. “At least, Raphael said it wasn’t the Night Children’s work. He seemed adamant about it.”

“Yeah, ’cause he’s trustworthy,” muttered Simon.

“In this case I think he was telling the truth,” said Magnus, drawing the curtain closed. His face was angular, shadowed. As he came back to the table, Clary saw that he was carrying a heavy book bound in green cloth. She didn’t think he’d been holding it a few moments ago. “There was a strong demonic presence at both locations. I think someone else was responsible for all three deaths. Not Raphael and his tribe, but Valentine.”

Clary’s eyes went to Jace. His mouth was a thin line, but “Why do you say that?” was all he asked.

“He had a reason,” said Magnus. “There was something he wanted from the faerie child, just as there was something he wanted from the warlock and the werewolf he killed.”

“What’s that?” asked Alec.

“Their blood,” said Magnus, and opened the green book. The thin parchment pages had words written on them that glowed like fire. “Ah,” he said, “here.” He looked up, tapping the page with a sharp fingernail. Alec leaned forward. “You won’t be able to read it,” Magnus warned him. “It’s written in a demon language. Purgatic.”

“I can recognize the drawing, though. That’s Maellartach. I’ve seen it before in books.” Alec pointed at an illustration of a silver sword, familiar to Clary—it was the one she’d noticed was missing from the wall of the Silent City.

“The Ritual of Infernal Conversion,” Magnus said. “That’s what Valentine’s trying to do.”

“The what of what?” Clary frowned.

“Every magical object has an alliance,” Magnus explained. “The alliance of the Soul-Sword is seraphic—like those angel knives you Shadowhunters use, but a thousand times more so, because its power was drawn from the Angel himself, not simply from the invocation of an angelic name. What Valentine wants to do is reverse its alliance—make it an object of demonic rather than angelic power.”

“Lawful good to lawful evil!” said Simon, pleased.

“He’s quoting Dungeons and Dragons,” said Clary. “Ignore him.”

“As the Angel’s Sword, Maellartach’s use to Valentine would be limited,” said Magnus. “But as a sword whose demonic power is equal to the angelic power it once possessed—well, there is much it could offer him. Power over demons, for one. Not just the limited protection the Cup might offer, but power to call demons to him, to force them to do his bidding.”

“A demon army?” said Alec.

“This guy is big on armies,” observed Simon.

“Power even to bring them into Idris, perhaps,” Magnus finished.

“I don’t know why he’d want to go there,” Simon said. “That’s where all the demon hunters are, aren’t they? Wouldn’t they just annihilate the demon guys?”

“Demons come from other dimensions,” said Jace. “We don’t know how many of them there are. Their numbers could be infinite. The wardings keep most of them back, but if they all came through at once…”

Infinite, Clary thought. She remembered the Greater Demon, Abbadon, and tried to imagine hundreds more of it. Or thousands. Her skin felt cold and exposed.

“I don’t get it,” said Alec. “What does the ritual have to do with dead Downworlders?”

“To perform the Ritual of Conversion, you need to seethe the Sword until it’s red-hot, then cool it four times, each time in the blood of a Downworld child. Once in the blood of a child of Lilith, once in the blood of a child of the moon, once in the blood of a child of the night, and once in the blood of a child of faerie,” Magnus explained.

“Oh my God,” said Clary. “So he’s not done killing? There’s still one more child to go?”

“Two more. He didn’t succeed with the werewolf child. He was interrupted before he could get all the blood he needed.” Magnus shut the book, dust puffing out from its pages. “Whatever Valentine’s ultimate goal is, he’s already more than halfway to reversing the Sword. He’s probably able to garner some power from it already. He could already be calling on demons—”

“But you’d think if he were doing that, there’d be reports of disturbances, excess demon activity,” Jace said. “But the Inquisitor said the opposite is true—that everything’s been quiet.”

“And so it might be,” said Magnus, “if Valentine were calling all the demons to him. No wonder it’s quiet.”

The group stared at one another. Before anyone could think of a single thing to say, a sharp noise cut through the room, making Clary start. Hot coffee spilled onto her wrist and she gasped at the sudden pain.

“It’s my mother,” said Alec, checking his phone. “I’ll be right back.” He went over to the window, head down, voice too low to overhear.

“Let me see,” said Simon, taking Clary’s hand. There was an angry red blotch on her wrist where the hot liquid had scalded her.

“It’s okay,” she said. “No big deal.”

Simon lifted her hand and kissed the injury. “All better now.”

Clary made a startled noise. He had never done anything like that before. Then again, that was the sort of thing boyfriends did, didn’t they? Drawing her wrist back, she looked across the table and saw Jace staring at them, his golden eyes blazing. “You’re a Shadowhunter,” he said. “You know how to deal with injuries.” He slid his stele across the table toward her. “Use it.”

“No,” Clary said, and pushed the stele back across the table at him.

Jace slammed his hand down on the stele. “Clary—”

“She said she doesn’t want it,” said Simon. “Ha-ha.”

“Ha-ha?” Jace looked incredulous. “That’s your comeback?”

Alec, folding his phone, approached the table with a puzzled look. “What’s going on?”

“We seem to be trapped in an episode of One Life to Waste,” Magnus observed. “It’s all very dull.”

Alec flicked a strand of hair out of his eyes. “I told my mother about the Infernal Conversion.”

“Let me guess,” said Jace. “She didn’t believe you. Plus, she blamed everything on me.”

Alec frowned. “Not exactly. She said she’d bring it up with the Conclave, but that she didn’t have the Inquisitor’s ear right now. I get the feeling the Inquisitor has pushed Mom out of the way and taken over. She sounded angry.” The phone in his hand rang again. He held up a finger. “Sorry. It’s Isabelle. One sec.” He wandered to the window, phone in hand.

Jace glanced over at Magnus. “I think you’re right about the werewolf at the Hunter’s Moon. The guy who found his body said someone else was in the alley with him. Someone who ran off.”

Magnus nodded. “It sounds to me like Valentine was interrupted in the middle of doing whatever it is he does to get the blood he needs. He’ll probably try again with a different lycanthrope child.”

“I ought to warn Luke,” Clary said, half-rising out of her chair.

“Wait.” Alec was back, phone in hand, a peculiar expression on his face.

“What did Isabelle want?” Jace asked.

Alec hesitated. “Isabelle says the Queen of the Seelie Court has requested an audience with us.”

“Sure,” said Magnus. “And Madonna wants me as a backup dancer on her next world tour.”

Alec looked puzzled. “Who’s Madonna?”

“Who’s the Queen of the Seelie Court?” said Clary.

“She is the Queen of Faerie,” said Magnus. “Well, the local one, anyway.”

Jace put his head in his hands. “Tell Isabelle no.”

“But she thinks it’s a good idea,” Alec protested.

“Then tell her no twice.”

Alec frowned. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Oh, just that some of Isabelle’s ideas are world-beaters and some are total disasters. Remember that idea she had about using abandoned subway tunnels to get around under the city? Talk about giant rats—”

“Let’s not,” said Simon. “I’d rather not talk about rats at all, in fact.”

“This is different,” said Alec. “She wants us to go to the Seelie Court.”

“You’re right, this is different,” said Jace. “This is her worst idea ever.”

“She knows a knight in the Court,” said Alec. “He told her that the Seelie Queen is interested in meeting with us. Isabelle overheard my conversation with our mother—and she thought if we could explain our theory about Valentine and the Soul-Sword to the Queen, the Seelie Court would side with us, maybe even ally with us against Valentine.”

“Is it safe to go there?” Clary asked.

“Of course it’s not safe,” Jace said, as if she’d asked the stupidest question he’d ever heard.

She shot a glare at him. “I don’t know anything about the Seelie Court. Vampires and werewolves I get. There are enough movies about them. But faeries are little-kid stuff. I dressed up as a faerie for Halloween when I was eight. My mom made me a hat shaped like a buttercup.”

“I remember that.” Simon had leaned back in his chair, arms crossed over his chest. “I was a Transformer. Actually, I was a Decepticon.”

“Can we get back to the point?” Magnus asked.

“Fine,” Alec said. “Isabelle thinks—and I agree—that it’s not a good idea to ignore the Fair Folk. If they want to talk, what harm can it do? Besides, if the Seelie Court were on our side, the Clave would have to listen to what we have to say.”

Jace laughed without any humor. “The Fair Folk don’t help humans.”

“Shadowhunters are not human,” Clary said. “Not really.”

“We are not much better to them,” said Jace.

“They can’t be worse than vampires,” Simon muttered. “And you did all right with them.”

Jace looked at Simon as if he were something he’d found growing under the sink. “Did all right with them? By which I take it you mean we survived?”

“Faeries,” Jace went on, as if Simon hadn’t spoken, “are the offspring of demons and angels, with the beauty of angels and the viciousness of demons. A vampire might attack you, if you entered its domain, but a faerie could make you dance until you died with your legs ground down into stumps, trick you into a midnight swim and drag you screaming underwater until your lungs burst, fill your eyes with faerie dust until you gouged them out at the roots—”

“Jace!” Clary snapped, cutting him off mid-rant. “Shut up. Jesus. That’s enough.”

“Look, it’s easy to outsmart a werewolf or a vampire,” Jace said. “They’re no smarter than anyone else. But faeries live for hundreds of years and they’re as cunning as snakes. They can’t lie, but they love to engage in creative truth-telling. They’ll find out whatever it is you want most in the world and give it to you—with a sting in the tail of the gift that will make you regret you ever wanted it in the first place.” He sighed. “They’re not really about helping people. More about harm disguised as help.”