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City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments 2) Cassandra Clare 2022/8/5 16:53:18

“I am,” Jace said, “in the end, what you made me.”

“Good,” said Valentine. “That’s what I wanted to hear.” He leaned back against the railing, looking up at the night sky. There was gray in his silvery white hair; Jace had never noticed it before. “This is a war,” Valentine said. “The only question is, what side will you fight on?”

“I thought we were all on the same side. I thought it was us against the demon worlds.”

“If only it could be. Don’t you understand that if I felt that the Clave had the best interests of this world at heart, if I thought they were doing the best job they possibly could—by the Angel, why would I fight them? What reason would I have?”

Power, Jace thought, but he said nothing. He was no longer sure what to say, much less what to believe.

“If the Clave goes on as they are,” Valentine said, “the demons will see their weakness and attack, and the Clave, distracted by their endless courting of the degenerate races, will be in no condition to fight them off. The demons will attack and they will destroy and there will be nothing left.”

The degenerate races. The words carried an uncomfortable familiarity; they recalled Jace’s childhood to him, in a way that was not entirely unpleasant. When he thought of his father and of Idris, it was always the same blurred memory of hot sunshine burning down on the green lawns in front of their country house, and of a big, dark, broad-shouldered figure leaning down to lift him off the grass and carry him inside. He must have been very young then, and he had never forgotten it, not the way the grass had smelled—green and bright and newly cut—or the way the sun had turned his father’s hair to a white halo, nor the feeling of being carried. Of being safe.

“Luke,” Jace said, with some difficulty. “Luke isn’t a degenerate—”

“Lucian is different. He was a Shadowhunter once.” Valentine’s tone was flat and final. “This isn’t about specific Downworlders, Jonathan. This is about the survival of every living creature in this world. The Angel chose the Nephilim for a reason. We are the best of this world, and we are meant to save it. We are the closest thing that exists in this world to gods—and we must use that power to save this world from destruction, whatever the cost to us.”

Jace leaned his elbows on the railing. It was cold here: The icy wind cut through his clothes, and the tips of his fingers were numb. But in his mind, he saw green hills and blue water and the honey-colored stones of the Wayland manor house.

“In the old tale,” he said, “Satan said to Adam and Eve ‘You shall be as gods’ when he tempted them into sin. And they were cast out of the garden because of it.”

There was a pause before Valentine laughed. He said, “See, that’s what I need you for, Jonathan. You keep me from the sin of pride.”

“There are all sorts of sins.” Jace straightened up and turned to face his father. “You didn’t answer my question about the demons, Father. How can you justify summoning them, associating with them? Do you plan to send them against the Clave?”

“Of course I do,” said Valentine, without hesitation, without a moment’s pause to consider whether it might be wise to reveal his plans to someone who might share them with his enemies. Nothing could have shaken Jace more than to realize how sure his father was of success. “The Clave won’t yield to reason, only to force. I tried to build an army of Forsaken; with the Cup, I could create an army of new Shadowhunters, but that will take years. I don’t have years. We, the human race, don’t have years. With the Sword I can call to me an obedient army of demons. They will serve me as tools, do whatever I demand. They will have no choice. And when I am done with them, I will command them to destroy themselves, and they will do it.” His voice was emotionless.

Jace was gripping the railing so hard that his fingers had begun to ache. “You can’t slaughter every Shadowhunter who opposes you. That’s murder.”

“I won’t have to. When the Clave sees the power arrayed against them, they’ll surrender. They’re not suicidal. And there are those among them who support me.” There was no arrogance in Valentine’s voice, only a calm certainty. “They will step forward when the time comes.”

“I think you’re underestimating the Clave.” Jace tried to make his voice steady. “I don’t think you understand how much they hate you.”

“Hate is nothing when weighed against survival.” Valentine’s hand went to his belt, where the hilt of the Sword gleamed dully. “But don’t take my word for it. I told you there was something I wanted to show you. Here it is.”

He drew the Sword from its sheath and held it out to Jace. Jace had seen Maellartach before in the Bone City, hanging on the wall in the pavilion of the Speaking Stars. And he had seen the hilt of it protruding from Valentine’s shoulder sheath, but he’d never really examined it up close. The Angel’s Sword. It was a dark, heavy silver, glimmering with a dull sheen. Light seemed to move over and through it, as if it were made of water. In its hilt bloomed a fiery rose of light.

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Jace spoke through his dry mouth. “Very nice.”

“I want you to hold it.” Valentine presented the Sword to his son, the way he’d always taught him, hilt first. The Sword seemed to shimmer blackly in the starlight.

Jace hesitated. “I don’t…”

“Take it.” Valentine pressed it into his hand.

The moment Jace’s fingers closed around the grip, a spear of light shot up the hilt of the Sword and down the core of it into the blade. He looked quickly to his father, but Valentine was expressionless.

A dark pain spread up Jace’s arm and through his chest. It wasn’t that the Sword was heavy; it wasn’t. It was that it seemed to want to pull him downward, to drag him through the ship, through the green ocean water, through the fragile crust of the earth itself. Jace felt as if the breath were being torn out of his lungs. He flung his head up and looked around—

And saw that the night had changed. A glimmering net of thin gold wires had been flung across the sky, and the stars shone down through it, bright as nail heads hammered into the darkness. Jace saw the curve of the world as it slipped away from him, and for a moment was struck by the beauty of it all. Then the night sky seemed to crack open like a glass and pouring through the shards came a horde of dark shapes, humped and twisted, gnarled and faceless, howling out a soundless scream that seared the inside of his mind. Icy wind burned him as six-legged horses hurtled past, their hooves striking bloody sparks from the deck of the ship. The things that rode them were indescribable. Overhead eyeless, leathery-winged creatures circled, screeching and dripping a venomous green slime.

Jace bent over the railing, retching uncontrollably, the Sword still gripped in his hand. Below him the water churned with demons like a poisonous stew. He saw spiny creatures with bloody saucerlike eyes struggling as they were dragged under by boiling masses of slippery black tentacles. A mermaid caught in the grip of a ten-legged water spider screamed hopelessly as it sank its fangs into her thrashing tail, its red eyes glittering like beads of blood.

The Sword fell from Jace’s hand and clattered to the deck. Abruptly the sound and spectacle were gone and the night was silent. He hung tightly to the railing, staring down at the sea below in disbelief. It was empty, its surface ruffled only by wind.

“What was that?” Jace whispered. His throat felt rough, as if it had been scraped with sandpaper. He looked wildly at his father, who had bent to retrieve the Soul-Sword from the deck where Jace had dropped it. “Are those the demons you’ve already called?”

“No.” Valentine slid Maellartach into its sheath. “Those are the demons that have been drawn to the edges of this world by the Sword. I brought my ship to this place because the wards are thin here. What you saw is my army, waiting on the other side of the wards—waiting for me to call them to my side.” His eyes were grave. “Do you still think the Clave won’t capitulate?”

Jace closed his eyes and said, “Not all of them—not the Lightwoods—”

“You could convince them. If you stand with me, I swear no harm will come to them.”

The darkness behind Jace’s eyes began to turn red. He had been imagining the ashes of Valentine’s old house, the blackened bones of the grandparents he’d never met. Now he saw other faces. Alec’s. Isabelle’s. Max’s. Clary’s.

“I’ve done so much to hurt them already,” he whispered. “Nothing else must happen to any of them. Nothing.”

“Of course. I understand.” And Jace realized, to his astonishment, that Valentine did understand, that somehow he saw what no one else seemed to be able to understand. “You think it is your fault, all the harm that has befallen your friends, your family.”

“You’re right. It is.” At that, Jace looked up in absolute astonishment. Surprise at being agreed with battled with horror and relief in equal measures.

“The harm is not deliberate, of course. But you are like me. We poison and destroy everything we love. There is a reason for that.”

Valentine glanced up at the sky. “We are meant for a higher purpose, you and I. The distractions of the world are just that, distractions. If we allow ourselves to be turned aside from our course by them, we are duly punished.”

“And our punishment is visited on everyone we care about? That seems a little hard on them.”

“Fate is never fair. You are caught in a current much stronger than you are, Jonathan; struggle against it and you’ll drown not just yourself but those who try to save you. Swim with it, and you’ll survive.”

“No harm will come to your sister if you join with me. I will go to the ends of the earth to protect her. I will bring her to Idris, where nothing can happen to her. I promise you that.”

“Alec. Isabelle. Max—”

“The Lightwood children, also, will have my protection.”

Jace said softly, “Luke—”

Valentine hesitated, then said, “All your friends will be protected. Why can’t you believe me, Jonathan? This is the only way that you can save them. I swear it.”

Jace couldn’t speak. He shut his eyes again. Inside him the cold of fall battled with the memory of summer.

“Have you made your decision?” Valentine said; Jace couldn’t see him, but he could hear the finality in the question. He even sounded eager.

Jace opened his eyes. The starlight was a white burst against his irises; for a moment he could see nothing else. He said, “Yes, Father. I’ve made my decision.”

Day of wrath, that day of burning,

Seer and Sibyl speak concerning,

All the world to ashes turning.

WHEN CLARY AWOKE, LIGHT WAS STREAMING IN THROUGH the windows and there was a sharp pain in her left cheek. Rolling over, she saw that she’d fallen asleep on her sketchpad and the corner of it had been digging into her face. She’d also dropped her pen onto the duvet, and there was a black stain spreading across the cloth. With a groan she sat up, rubbed her cheek ruefully, and went in search of a shower.

The bathroom showed telltale signs of the activities of the night before; there were bloody cloths shoved into the trash and a smear of dried blood across the sink. With a shudder Clary ducked into the shower with a bottle of grapefruit body wash, determined to scrub away her lingering feelings of unease.

Afterward, wrapped in one of Luke’s robes and with a towel around her damp hair, she pushed the bathroom door open to discover Magnus lurking on the other side, clutching a towel in one hand and his glittery hair in the other. He must have slept on it, she thought, because one side of the glittered spikes looked dented in. “Why does it take girls so long to shower?” he demanded. “Mortal girls, Shadowhunters, female warlocks, you’re all the same. I’m not getting any younger waiting out here.”

Clary stepped aside to let him pass. “How old are you, anyway?” she asked curiously.

Magnus winked at her. “I was alive when the Dead Sea was just a lake that was feeling a little poorly.”

Clary rolled her eyes.

Magnus made a shooing motion. “Now move your petite behind. I need to get in there; my hair is a wreck.”

“Don’t use up all my body wash, it’s expensive,” Clary told him, and headed into the kitchen, where she rooted around for some filters and plugged in the Mr. Coffee machine. The familiar burble of the percolator and the smell of coffee damped down her feeling of unease. As long as there was coffee in the world, how bad could things be?

She headed back to the bedroom to get dressed. Ten minutes later, in jeans and a blue-and-green striped sweater, she was in the living room shaking Luke awake. He sat up with a groan, his hair rumpled and his face creased with sleep.

“How are you feeling?” Clary asked, handing him a chipped mug full of steaming coffee.

“Better now.” Luke glanced down at the torn fabric of his shirt; the edges of the tear were stained with blood. “Where’s Maia?”

“She’s asleep in your room, remember? You said she could have it.” Clary perched on the arm of the sofa.

Luke rubbed at his shadowed eyes. “I don’t remember last night all that well,” he admitted. “I remember going out to the truck and not much after that.”

“There were more demons hiding outside. They attacked you. Jace and I took care of them.”

“More Drevak demons?”

“No.” Clary spoke with reluctance. “Jace called them Raum demons.”