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

It was Isabelle who snatched one of the empty candelabras from the side of the door and aimed it at Raphael as if it were an enormous three-pointed spear.

“What have you done to Simon?” For that moment, her voice clear and commanding, she sounded exactly like her mother.

“El no es muerto,” Raphael said, in a flat and emotionless voice, and laid Simon down on the ground almost at Clary’s feet, with a surprising gentleness. She had forgotten how strong he must be—he had a vampire’s unnatural strength despite his slightness.

In the light of the candles that spilled through the doorway, Clary could see that Simon’s shirt was soaked through at the front with blood.

“Did you say—” she began.

“He isn’t dead,” Jace said, holding her tighter. “He’s not dead.”

She pulled away from him with a hard jerk and went to her knees on the concrete. She felt no disgust at touching Simon’s bloodied skin as she slid her hands under his head, pulling him up into her lap. She felt only the terrified childish horror she remembered from being five years old and having broken her mother’s priceless Liberty lamp. Nothing, said a voice in the back of her head, will put these pieces back together again.

“Simon,” she whispered, touching his face. His glasses were gone. “Simon, it’s me.”

“He can’t hear you,” said Raphael. “He’s dying.”

Her head jerked up. “But you said—”

“I said he was not dead yet,” said Raphael. “But in a few minutes—ten, perhaps—his heart will slow and stop. Already he is beyond seeing or hearing anything.”

Her arms tightened around him involuntarily. “We have to get him to a hospital—or call Magnus.”

“They can’t do him any good,” said Raphael. “You don’t understand.”

“No,” said Jace, his voice as soft as silk tipped with needle-sharp points. “We don’t. And perhaps you should explain yourself. Because otherwise I’m going to assume you’re a rogue bloodsucker, and cut your heart out. Like I should have done last time we met.”

Raphael smiled at him without amusement. “You swore not to harm me, Shadowhunter. Have you forgotten?”

“I never actually finished the oath,” Jace reminded him.

“And I never started,” said Isabelle, brandishing the candelabra.

Raphael ignored her. He was still looking at Jace. “I remembered that night you broke into the Dumort looking for your friend. It is why I brought him here”—and he gestured at Simon—“when I found him in the hotel, instead of letting the others drink him to death. You see, he broke in, without permission, and therefore was fair game for us. But I kept him alive, knowing he was yours. I have no wish for a war with the Nephilim.”

“He broke in?” Clary said in disbelief. “Simon would never do anything that stupid and crazy.”

“But he did,” said Raphael, with the faintest trace of a smile, “because he was afraid he was becoming one of us, and he wanted to know if the process could be reversed. You might remember that when he was in the form of a rat, and you came to fetch him from us, he bit me.”

“Very enterprising of him,” said Jace. “I approved.”

“Perhaps,” said Raphael. “In any case, he took some of my blood into his mouth when he did it. You know that is how we pass our powers to each other. Through the blood.”

Through the blood. Clary remembered Simon jerking away from the vampire film on TV, wincing at the sunlight in McCarren Park. “He thought he was turning into one of you,” she said. “He went to the hotel to see if it was true.”

“Yes,” said Raphael. “The pity of it is that the effects of my blood would probably have faded over time had he done nothing. But now—” He gestured at Simon’s limp body expressively.

“Now what?” said Isabelle, with a hard edge to her voice. “Now he’ll die?”

“And rise again. Now he will be a vampire.”

The candelabra tipped forward as Isabelle’s eyes widened in shock. “What?”

Jace caught the makeshift weapon before it hit the floor. When he turned to Raphael, his eyes were bleak. “You’re lying.”

“Wait and see,” said Raphael. “He will die and rise as one of the Night Children. That is also why I came. Simon is one of mine now.” There was nothing in his voice, no sorrow or pleasure, but Clary could not help but wonder what hidden glee he might feel at having so opportunely lucked into an effective bargaining chip.

“There’s nothing that can be done? No way to reverse it?” demanded Isabelle, panic tinging her voice. Clary thought distantly that it was strange that these two, Jace and Isabelle, who did not love Simon the way she did, were the ones doing all the talking. But perhaps they were speaking for her precisely because she couldn’t bear to say a word.

“You could cut off his head and burn his heart in a fire, but I doubt that you will do that.”

“No!” Clary’s arms tightened around Simon. “Don’t you dare hurt him.”

“I have no need to,” said Raphael.

“I wasn’t talking to you.” Clary didn’t look up. “Don’t you even think about it, Jace. Don’t even think about it.”

There was silence. She could hear Isabelle’s worried intake of breath, and Raphael of course did not breathe at all. Jace hesitated a moment before he said, “Clary, what would Simon want? Is this what he’d want for himself?”

She jerked her head up. Jace was looking down at her, the three-pronged metal candelabra still in his hand, and suddenly an image flashed across her mental landscape of Jace holding Simon down and plunging the sharp end of it into his chest, making the blood splash up like a fountain. “Get away from us!” she screamed suddenly, so loudly that she saw the distant figures walking along the avenue in front of the cathedral turn and look behind them, as if startled at the noise.

Jace went white to the roots of his hair, so white that his wide eyes looked like gold disks, inhuman and weirdly out of place. He said, “Clary, you don’t think—”

Simon gasped suddenly, arching upward in Clary’s grasp. She screamed again and caught at him, pulling him up toward her. His eyes were wide and blind and terrified. He reached up. She wasn’t sure if he was trying to touch her face or claw at her, not knowing who she was.

“It’s me,” she said, gently pushing his hand down to his chest, lacing their fingers together. “Simon, it’s me. It’s Clary.” Her hands slipped on his; when she looked down, she saw they were wet with blood from his shirt and from the tears that had slid down her face without her noticing. “Simon, I love you,” she said.

His hands tightened on hers. He breathed out—a harsh, ratcheting sound—and then did not breathe in again.

I love you. I love you. I love you. Her last words to Simon seemed to echo in Clary’s ears as he went limp in her grasp. Isabelle was suddenly next to her, saying something in her ear, but Clary couldn’t hear her. The sound of rushing water, like an oncoming tidal wave, filled her ears. She watched as Isabelle tried gently to pry her hands away from Simon’s, and couldn’t. Clary was surprised. She didn’t feel like she was holding on to him that tightly.

Giving up, Isabelle got to her feet and turned angrily on Raphael. She was shouting. Halfway through her tirade, Clary’s hearing switched back on, like a radio that had finally found a station within range. “—and now what are we supposed to do?” Isabelle screamed.

“Bury him,” said Raphael.

The candelabra swung up again in Jace’s hand. “That’s not funny.”

“It isn’t supposed to be,” said the vampire, unfazed. “It is how we are made. We are drained, blooded, and buried. When he digs his own way out of a grave, that is when a vampire is born.”

Isabelle made a faint sound of disgust. “I don’t think I could do that.”

“Some can’t,” said Raphael. “If no one is there to help them dig out, they stay like that, trapped like rats under the earth.”

A sound tore its way out of Clary’s throat. A sob that was as raw as a scream. She said, “I won’t put him in the ground.”

“Then he’ll stay like this,” said Raphael mercilessly. “Dead but not quite dead. Never waking.”

They were all staring down at her. Isabelle and Jace as if they were holding their breaths, waiting on her response. Raphael looked incurious, almost bored.

“You didn’t come into the Institute because you can’t, isn’t that right?” Clary said. “Because it’s holy ground and you’re unholy.”

“That’s not exactly—” Jace began, but Raphael cut him off with a gesture.

“I should tell you,” said the vampire boy, “that there is not much time. The longer we wait before putting him into the ground, the less likely he’ll be able to dig his own way back out of it.”

Clary looked down at Simon. He really would look as if he were sleeping, if it weren’t for the long gashes along his bare skin. “We can bury him,” she said. “But I want it to be in a Jewish cemetery. And I want to be there when he wakes up.”

Raphael’s eyes glittered. “It will not be pleasant.”

“Nothing ever is.” She set her jaw. “Let’s get going. We only have a few hours until dawn.”

A FINE AND PRIVATE PLACE

THE CEMETERY WAS IN THE OUTSKIRTS OF QUEENS, WHERE apartment buildings gave way to rows of orderly-looking Victorian houses painted gingerbread colors: pink, white, and blue. The streets were wide and mostly deserted, the avenue leading up to the cemetery unlit except by a single streetlight. It took them a short while with their steles to break in through the locked gates, and another while to find a spot hidden enough for Raphael to begin digging. It was at the top of a low hill, sheltered from the road below by a thick line of trees. Clary, Jace, and Isabelle were protected with glamour, but there was no way to hide Raphael, or to hide Simon’s body, so the trees provided a welcome cover.

The sides of the hill not facing the road were thickly layered with headstones, many of them bearing a pointed Star of David at the top. They gleamed white and smooth as milk in the moonlight. In the distance was a lake, its surface pleated with glittering ripples. A nice place, Clary thought. A good place to come and lay flowers on someone’s grave, to sit awhile and think about their life, what they meant to you. Not a good place to come at night, under cover of darkness, to bury your friend in a shallow dirt grave without the benefit of a coffin or a service.

“Did he suffer?” she asked Raphael.

He looked up from his digging, leaning on the handle of the shovel like the grave digger in Hamlet. “What?”

“Simon. Did he suffer? Did the vampires hurt him?”

“No. The blood death is not such a bad way to die,” said Raphael, his musical voice soft. “The bite drugs you. It is pleasant, like going to sleep.”

A wave of dizziness passed over her, and for a moment she thought she might faint.

“Clary.” Jace’s voice snapped her out of her reverie. “Come on. You don’t have to watch this.”

He held out his hand to her. Looking past him, she could see Isabelle standing with her whip in her hand. They had wrapped Simon’s body in a blanket and it lay on the ground at her feet, as if she were guarding it. Not it, Clary reminded herself fiercely. Him. Simon.

“I want to be here when he wakes up.”

“I know. We’ll come right back.” When she didn’t move, Jace took her unresisting arm and drew her away from the clearing and down the side of the hill. There were boulders here, just above the first line of graves; he sat down on one, zipping up his jacket. It was surprisingly chilly out. For the first time this season Clary could see her breath when she exhaled.

She sat down on the boulder beside Jace and stared down at the lake. She could hear the rhythmic thump-thump of Raphael’s spade hitting the dirt and the shoveled dirt hitting the ground. Raphael wasn’t human; he worked fast. It wouldn’t take that long for him to dig a grave. And Simon wasn’t all that big a person; the grave wouldn’t have to be that deep.

A stab of pain twisted through her abdomen. She bent forward, hands splayed across her stomach. “I feel sick.”

“I know. That’s why I brought you out here. You looked like you were going to throw up on Raphael’s feet.”

She made a soft groaning noise.

“Might have wiped the smirk off his face,” Jace observed reflectively. “There’s that to consider.”

“Shut up.” The pain had eased. She tipped her head back, looking up at the moon, a circle of chipped silver polish floating in a sea of stars. “This is my fault.”

“It’s not your fault.”

“You’re right. It’s our fault.”

Jace turned toward her, exasperation clear in the lines of his shoulders. “How do you figure that?”

She looked at him silently for a moment. He needed a haircut. His hair curled the way vines did when they got too long, in looping tendrils, the color of white gold in the moonlight. The scars on his face and throat looked like they had been etched there with metallic ink. He was beautiful, she thought miserably, beautiful and there was nothing there in him, not an expression, not a slant of cheekbone or shape of jaw or curve of lips that bespoke any family resemblance to herself or her mother at all. He didn’t even really look like Valentine.

“What?” he said. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

She wanted to throw herself into his arms and sob at the exact same time that she wanted to pound on him with her fists. Instead, she said, “If it weren’t for what happened in the faerie court, Simon would still be alive.”