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City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments 2) Cassandra Clare 2022/8/5 16:53:09

“It was … different,” Jace hedged. “How was Alicante?”

“It was awesome. We saw the coolest stuff. There’s this huge armory in Alicante and they took me to some of the places where they make the weapons. They showed me a new way to make seraph blades too, so they last longer, and I’m going to try to get Hodge to show me—”

Jace couldn’t help it; his eyes flicked instantly to Maryse, his expression incredulous. So Max didn’t know about Hodge? Hadn’t she told him?

Maryse saw his look and her lips thinned into a knifelike line. “That’s enough, Max.” She took her youngest son by the arm.

He craned his head to look up at her in surprise. “But I’m talking to Jace—”

“I can see that.” She pushed him gently toward Isabelle. “Isabelle, Alec, take your brother to his room. Jace,”—there was a tightness in her voice when she spoke his name, as if invisible acid were drying up the syllables in her mouth—“get yourself cleaned up and meet me in the library as soon as you can.”

“I don’t get it,” said Alec, looking from his mother to Jace, and back again. “What’s going on?”

Jace could feel cold sweat start up along his spine. “Is this about my father?”

Maryse jerked twice, as if the words “my father” had been two separate slaps. “The library,” she said, through clenched teeth. “We’ll discuss the matter there.”

Alec said, “What happened while you were gone wasn’t Jace’s fault. We were all in on it. And Hodge said—”

“We’ll discuss Hodge later as well.” Maryse’s eyes were on Max, her tone warning.

“But, Mother,” Isabelle protested. “If you’re going to punish Jace, you should punish us as well. It would only be fair. We all did exactly the same things.”

“No,” said Maryse, after a pause so long that Jace thought perhaps she wasn’t going to say anything at all. “You didn’t.”

“Rule number one of anime,” Simon said. He sat propped up against a pile of pillows at the foot of his bed, a bag of potato chips in one hand and the TV remote in the other. He was wearing a black T-shirt that said I BLOGGED YOUR MOM and a pair of jeans with a hole ripped in one knee. “Never screw with a blind monk.”

“I know,” Clary said, taking a potato chip and dunking it into the can of dip balanced on the TV tray between them. “For some reason they’re always way better fighters than monks who can see.” She peered at the screen. “Are those guys dancing?”

“That’s not dancing. They’re trying to kill each other. This is the guy who’s the mortal enemy of the other guy, remember? He killed his dad. Why would they be dancing?”

Clary crunched at her chip and stared meditatively at the screen, where animated swirls of pink-and-yellow clouds rippled between the figures of two winged men, who floated around each other, each clutching a glowing spear. Every once in a while one of them would speak, but since it was all in Japanese with Chinese subtitles, it didn’t clarify much. “The guy with the hat,” she said. “He was the evil guy?”

“No, the hat guy was the dad. He was the magical emperor, and that was his hat of power. The evil guy was the one with the mechanical hand that talks.”

The telephone rang. Simon set the bag of chips down and made as if to get up and answer it. Clary put her hand on his wrist. “Don’t. Just leave it.”

“But it might be Luke. He could be calling from the hospital.”

“It’s not Luke,” Clary said, sounding more sure than she felt. “He’d call my cell, not your house.”

Simon looked at her a long moment before sinking back down on the rug beside her. “If you say so.” She could hear the doubt in his voice, but also the unspoken assurance, I just want you to be happy. She wasn’t sure “happy” was anything she was likely to be right now, not with her mother in the hospital hooked up to tubes and bleeping machines, and Luke like a zombie, slumped in the hard plastic chair next to her bed. Not with worrying about Jace all the time and picking up the phone a dozen times to call the Institute before setting it back down, the number still undialed. If Jace wanted to talk to her, he could call.

Maybe it had been a mistake to take him to see Jocelyn. She’d been so sure that if her mother could just hear the voice of her son, her firstborn, she’d wake up. But she hadn’t. Jace had stood stiff and awkward by the bed, his face like a painted angel’s, with blank indifferent eyes. Clary had finally lost her patience and shouted at him, and he’d shouted back before storming off. Luke had watched him go with a clinical sort of interest on his exhausted face. “That’s the first time I’ve seen you act like sister and brother,” he’d remarked.

Clary had said nothing in response. There was no point telling him how badly she wanted Jace not to be her brother. You couldn’t rip out your own DNA, no matter how much you wished you could. No matter how much it would make you happy.

But even if she couldn’t quite manage happy, she thought, at least here in Simon’s house, in his bedroom, she felt comfortable and at home. She’d known him long enough to remember when he had a bed shaped like a fire truck and LEGOs piled in a corner of the room. Now the bed was a futon with a brightly striped quilt that had been a present from his sister, and the walls were plastered with posters of bands like Rock Solid Panda and Stepping Razor. There was a drum set wedged into the corner of the room where the LEGOs had been, and a computer in the other corner, the screen still frozen on an image from World of Warcraft. It was almost as familiar as being in her own bedroom at home—which no longer existed, so at least this was the next best thing.

“More chibis,” said Simon gloomily. All the characters on-screen had turned into inch-high baby versions of themselves and were chasing each other around waving pots and pans. “I’m changing the channel,” Simon announced, seizing the remote. “I’m tired of this anime. I can’t tell what the plot is and no one ever has sex.”

“Of course they don’t,” Clary said, taking another chip. “Anime is wholesome family entertainment.”

“If you’re in the mood for less wholesome entertainment, we could try the porn channels,” Simon observed. “Would you rather watch The Witches of Breastwick or As I Lay Dianne?”

“Give me that!” Clary grabbed for the remote, but Simon, chortling, had already switched the TV to another channel.

His laughter broke off abruptly. Clary looked up in surprise and saw him staring blankly at the TV. An old black-and-white movie was playing—Dracula. She’d seen it before, with her mother. Bela Lugosi, thin and white-faced, was on-screen, wrapped in the familiar high-collared cloak, his lips curled back from his pointed teeth. “I never drink … wine,” he intoned in his thick Hungarian accent.

“I love how the spiderwebs are made out of rubber,” Clary said, trying to sound light. “You can totally tell.”

But Simon was already on his feet, dropping the remote onto the bed. “I’ll be right back,” he muttered. His face was the color of winter sky just before it rained. Clary watched him go, biting her lip hard—it was the first time since her mother had gone to the hospital that she’d realized maybe Simon wasn’t too happy either.

Toweling off his hair, Jace regarded his reflection in the mirror with a quizzical scowl. A healing rune had taken care of the worst of his bruises, but it hadn’t helped the shadows under his eyes or the tight lines at the corners of his mouth. His head ached and he felt slightly dizzy. He knew he should have eaten something that morning, but he’d woken up nauseated and panting from nightmares, not wanting to pause to eat, just wanting the release of physical activity, to burn out his dreams in bruises and sweat.

Tossing the towel aside, he thought longingly of the sweet black tea Hodge used to brew from the night-blooming flowers in the greenhouse. The tea had taken away hunger pangs and brought a swift surge of energy. Since Hodge’s disappearance, Jace had tried boiling the plants’ leaves in water to see if he could produce the same effect, but the only result was a bitter, ashy-tasting liquid that made him gag and spit.

Barefoot, he padded into the bedroom and threw on jeans and a clean shirt. He pushed back his wet blond hair, frowning. It was too long at the moment, falling into his eyes—something Maryse would be sure to chide him about. She always did. He might not be the Lightwoods’ biological son, but they’d treated him like it since they’d adopted him at age ten, after the death of his own father. The supposed death, Jace reminded himself, that hollow feeling in his guts resurfacing again. He’d felt like a jack-o’-lantern for the past few days, as if his guts had been yanked out with a fork and dumped in a heap while a grinning smile stayed plastered on his face. He often wondered if anything he’d believed about his life, or himself, had ever been true. He’d thought he was an orphan—he wasn’t. He’d thought he was an only child—he had a sister.

Clary. The pain came again, stronger. He pushed it down. His eyes fell on the bit of broken mirror that lay atop his dresser, still reflecting green boughs and a diamond of blue sky. It was nearly twilight now in Idris: The sky was dark as cobalt. Choking on hollowness, Jace yanked his boots on and headed downstairs to the library.

He wondered as he clattered down the stone steps just what it was that Maryse wanted to say to him alone. She’d looked like she’d wanted to haul off and smack him. He couldn’t remember the last time she’d laid a hand on him. The Lightwoods weren’t given to corporal punishment—quite a change from being brought up by Valentine, who’d concocted all sorts of painful castigations to encourage obedience. Jace’s Shadowhunter skin always healed, covering all but the worst of the evidence. In the days and weeks after his father died Jace could remember searching his body for scars, for some mark that would be a token, a remembrance to tie him physically to his father’s memory.

He reached the library and knocked once before pushing the door open. Maryse was there, sitting in Hodge’s old chair by the fire. Light streamed down through the high windows and Jace could see the touches of gray in her hair. She was holding a glass of red wine; there was a cut-glass decanter on the table beside her.

She jumped a little, spilling some of the wine. “Jace. I didn’t hear you come in.”

He didn’t move. “Do you remember that song you used to sing to Isabelle and Alec—when they were little and afraid of the dark—to get them to fall asleep?”

Maryse appeared taken aback. “What are you talking about?”

“I used to hear you through the walls,” he said. “Alec’s bedroom was next to mine then.”

“It was in French,” Jace said. “The song.”

“I don’t know why you’d remember something like that.” She looked at him as if he’d accused her of something.

“You never sang to me.”

There was a barely perceptible pause. Then, “Oh, you,” she said. “You were never afraid of the dark.”

“What kind of ten-year-old is never afraid of the dark?”

Her eyebrows went up. “Sit down, Jonathan,” she said. “Now.”

He went, just slowly enough to annoy her, across the room, and threw himself into one of the wing-back chairs beside the desk. “I’d rather you didn’t call me Jonathan.”

“Why not? It’s your name.” She looked at him consideringly. “How long have you known?”

“Don’t be stupid. You know exactly what I’m asking you.” She turned her glass in her fingers. “How long have you known that Valentine is your father?”

Jace considered and discarded several responses. Usually he could get his way with Maryse by making her laugh. He was one of the only people in the world who could make her laugh. “About as long as you have.”

Maryse shook her head slowly. “I don’t believe that.”

Jace sat up straight. His hands were in fists where they rested on the chair arms. He could see a slight tremor in his fingers, wondered if he’d ever had it before. He didn’t think so. His hands had always been as steady as his heartbeat. “You don’t believe me?”

He heard the incredulity in his own voice and winced inwardly. Of course she didn’t believe him. That had been obvious from the moment she had arrived home.

“It doesn’t make sense, Jace. How could you not know who your own father is?”

“He told me he was Michael Wayland. We lived in the Wayland country house—”

“A nice touch,” said Maryse, “that. And your name? What’s your real name?”

“You know my real name.”

“Jonathan. I knew that was Valentine’s son’s name. I knew Michael had a son named Jonathan too. It’s a common enough Shadowhunter name—I never thought it was strange they shared it, and as for Michael’s boy’s middle name, I never inquired. But now I can’t help wondering. What was Michael Wayland’s son’s real middle name? How long had Valentine been planning what he was going to do? How long did he know he was going to murder Jonathan Wayland—?” She broke off, her eyes fixed on Jace. “You never looked like Michael, you know,” she said. “But sometimes children don’t look like their parents. I didn’t think about it before. But now I can see Valentine in you. The way you’re looking at me. That defiance. You don’t care what I say, do you?”

But he did care. All he was good at was making sure she couldn’t see it. “Would it make a difference if I did?”