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City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments 2) Cassandra Clare 2022/8/5 16:53:21

“Because,” Clary said with grim certainty, “only Jace can piss someone off that much.”

“Isabelle!” Alec pounded on his sister’s door. “Isabelle, open the door. I know you’re in there.”

The door opened a crack. Alec tried to peer through it, but no one appeared to be on the other side. “She doesn’t want to talk to you,” said a well-known voice.

Alec glanced down and saw gray eyes glaring at him from behind a bent pair of spectacles. “Max,” he said. “Come on, little brother, let me in.”

“I don’t want to talk to you either.” Max started to push the door shut, but Alec, quick as a flick of Isabelle’s whip, wedged his foot into the gap.

“Don’t make me knock you over, Max.”

“You wouldn’t.” Max pushed back with all his might.

“No, but I might go get our parents, and I have a feeling Isabelle doesn’t want that. Do you, Izzy?” he demanded, pitching his voice loud enough for his sister, inside the room, to hear.

“Oh, for God’s sake.” Isabelle sounded furious. “All right, Max. Let him in.”

Max stepped away and Alec pushed his way in, letting the door swing half-shut behind him. Isabelle was kneeling in the embrasure of the window beside her bed, her gold whip coiled around her left arm. She was wearing her hunting gear, the tough black trousers and skintight shirt with their silvery, near-invisible design of runes. Her boots were buckled up to her knees and her black hair whipped in the breeze from the open window. She glared at him, reminding him for a moment of nothing more than Hugo, Hodge’s black raven.

“What the hell are you doing? Trying to get yourself killed?” he demanded, striding furiously across the room toward his sister.

Her whip snaked out, coiling around his ankles. Alec stopped dead, knowing that with a single flick of her wrist Isabelle could jerk him off his feet and land him in a trussed bundle on the hardwood floor. “Don’t come any closer to me, Alexander Lightwood,” she said in her angriest voice. “I’m not feeling very charitable toward you at the moment.”

“How could you just turn on Jace like that? After all he’s been through? And you swore that oath to watch out for each other too—”

“Not,” he reminded her, “if it meant breaking the Law.”

“The Law”!” Isabelle snapped in disgust. “There’s a higher law than the Clave, Alec. The law of family. Jace is your family.”

“The law of family? I’ve never heard of that before,” Alec said, nettled. He knew he ought to be defending himself, but it was hard not to be distracted by the lifelong habit of correcting one’s younger siblings when they were wrong. “Could that be because you just made it up?”

Isabelle flicked her wrist. Alec felt his feet go out from under him and twisted to absorb the impact of falling with his hands and wrists. He landed, rolled onto his back, and looked up to see Isabelle looming over him. Max was beside her. “What should we do with him, Maxwell?” Isabelle asked. “Leave him tied up here for the parents to find?”

Alec had had enough. He whipped a blade from the sheath at his wrist, twisted, and slashed it through the whip around his ankles. The electrum wire parted with a snap and he sprang to his feet as Isabelle drew her arm back, the wire hissing around her.

A low chuckle broke the tension. “All right, all right, you’ve tortured him enough. I’m here.”

Isabelle’s eyes flew wide. “Jace!”

“The same.” Jace ducked into Isabelle’s room, shutting the door behind him. “No need for the two of you to fight—” He winced as Max careened into him, yelping his name. “Careful there,” he said, gently disentangling the boy. “I’m not in the best shape right now.”

“I can see that,” Isabelle said, her eyes raking him anxiously. His wrists were bloody, his fair hair was plastered sweatily to his neck and forehead, and his face and hands were stained with dirt and ichor. “Did the Inquisitor hurt you?”

“Not too badly.” Jace’s eyes met Alec’s across the room. “She just locked me up in the weapons gallery. Alec helped me get out.”

The whip drooped in Isabelle’s hand like a flower. “Alec, is that true?”

“Yes.” Alec brushed dust from the floor off his clothes with deliberate ostentation. He couldn’t resist adding: “So there.”

“Well, you should have said.”

“And you should have had some faith in me—”

“Enough. There’s no time for bickering,” Jace said. “Isabelle, what kind of weapons do you have in here? And bandages, any bandages?”

“Bandages?” Isabelle set her whip down and took her stele out of a drawer. “I can fix you up with an iratze—”

Jace raised his wrists. “An iratze would be good for my bruises, but it won’t help these. These are rune burns.” They looked even worse in the bright light of Isabelle’s room—the circular scars were black and cracked in places, oozing blood and clear fluid. He lowered his hands as Isabelle paled. “And I’ll need some weapons, too, before I—”

“Bandages first. Weapons later.” She set her stele down on top of the dresser and herded Jace into the bathroom with a basketful of ointments, gauze pads, and bandage strips. Alec watched them through the half-open door, Jace leaning against the sink as his adoptive sister sponged his wrists and wrapped them in white gauze. “Okay, now take your shirt off.”

“I knew there was something in this for you.” Jace slid off his jacket and drew his T-shirt over his head, wincing. His skin was pale gold, layered over hard muscle. Black ink Marks twined his slim arms. A mundane might have thought the white scars that snowflaked Jace’s skin, remnants of old runes, made him less than perfect, but Alec didn’t. They all had those scars; they were badges of honor, not flaws.

Jace, seeing Alec watching him through the half-open door, said, “Alec, can you get the phone?”

“It’s on the dresser.” Isabelle didn’t look up. She and Jace were conversing in low tones; Alec couldn’t hear them, but suspected this was because they were trying not to scare Max.

Alec looked. “It’s not on the dresser.”

Isabelle, tracing an iratze on Jace’s back, swore in annoyance. “Oh, hell. I left my phone in the kitchen. Crap. I don’t want to go looking for it in case the Inquisitor’s around.”

“I’ll get it,” Max offered. “She doesn’t care about me, I’m too young.”

“I suppose.” Isabelle sounded reluctant. “What do you need the phone for, Alec?”

“We just need it,” Alec said impatiently. “Izzy—”

“If you’re texting Magnus to say ‘I think u r kewl,’ I’m going to kill you.”

“Who’s Magnus?” Max inquired.

“He’s a warlock,” said Alec.

“A sexy, sexy warlock,” Isabelle told Max, ignoring Alec’s look of total fury.

“But warlocks are bad,” protested Max, looking baffled.

“Exactly,” said Isabelle.

“I don’t understand,” said Max. “But I’m going to get the phone. I’ll be right back.”

He slipped out the door as Jace pulled his shirt and jacket back on and came back into the bedroom, where he commenced looking for weapons in the piles of Isabelle’s belongings that were strewn around the floor. Isabelle followed him, shaking her head. “What’s the plan now? Are we all leaving? The Inquisitor’s going to freak when she finds out you’re not there anymore.”

“Not as much as she’ll freak when Valentine turns her down.” Tersely, Jace outlined the Inquisitor’s plan. “The only problem is, he’ll never go for it.”

“The—the only problem?” Isabelle was so furious she was almost stuttering, something she hadn’t done since she was six. “She can’t do that! She can’t just trade you away to a psychopath! You’re a member of the Clave! You’re our brother”!”

“The Inquisitor doesn’t think so.”

“I don’t care what she thinks. She’s a hideous bitch and she has got to be stopped.”

“Once she finds out her plan is seriously flawed, she might be able to be talked down,” Jace observed. “But I’m not sticking around to find out. I’m getting out of here.”

“It’s not going to be easy,” Alec said. “The Inquisitor’s got this place locked up tighter than a pentagram. You know there are guards downstairs? She’s called in half the Conclave.”

“She must think highly of me,” said Jace, tossing aside a pile of magazines.

“Maybe she’s not wrong.” Isabelle looked at him thoughtfully. “Did you seriously jump thirty feet out of a Malachi Configuration? Did he, Alec?”

“He did,” Alec confirmed. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“I’ve never seen anything like this.” Jace lifted a ten-inch dagger from the floor. One of Isabelle’s pink brassieres was speared on the wickedly sharp tip. Isabelle snatched it off, scowling.

“That’s not the point. How did you do it? Do you know?”

“I jumped.” Jace pulled two razor-edged spinning disks out from under the bed. They were covered in gray cat hair. He blew on them, scattering fur. “Chakhrams. Cool. Especially if I meet any demons with serious dander allergies.”

Isabelle thwacked him with the bra. “You’re not answering me!”

“Because I don’t know, Izzy.” Jace scrambled to his feet. “Maybe the Seelie Queen was right. Maybe I have powers I don’t even know about because I’ve never tested them. Clary certainly does.”

Isabelle wrinkled her forehead. “She does?”

Alec’s eyes widened suddenly. “Jace—is that vampire cycle of yours still up on the roof?”

“Possibly. But it’s daylight, so it’s not much use.”

“Besides,” Isabelle pointed out, “we can’t all fit on it.”

Jace slid the chakhrams onto his belt, along with the ten-inch dagger. Several angel blades went into his jacket pockets. “That doesn’t matter,” he said. “You’re not coming with me.”

Isabelle spluttered. “What do you mean, we’re not—” She broke off as Max returned, out of breath and clutching her battered pink phone. “Max, you’re a hero.” She snatched the phone from him, shooting a glare at Jace. “I’ll get back to you in a minute. Meanwhile, who are we calling? Clary?”

“I’ll call her—” Alec began.

[email protected]@@@[email protected]@@@@=======

“No.” Isabelle batted his hand away. “She likes me better.” She was already dialing; she stuck her tongue out as she held the phone up to her ear. “Clary? It’s Isabelle. I—What?” The color in her face vanished as if it had been wiped away, leaving her gray and staring. “How is that possible? But why—”

“How is what possible?” Jace was at her side in two strides. “Isabelle, what’s happened? Is Clary—”

Isabelle drew the phone away from her ear, her knuckles white. “It’s Valentine. He’s taken Simon and Maia. He’s going to use them to perform the Ritual.”

In one smooth motion, Jace reached over and plucked the phone out of Isabelle’s hand. He put it to his ear. “Drive to the Institute,” he said. “Don’t come in. Wait for me. I’ll meet you outside.” He snapped the phone shut and handed it to Alec. “Call Magnus,” he said. “Tell him to meet us down by the waterfront in Brooklyn. He can pick the place, but it should be somewhere deserted. We’re going to need his help getting to Valentine’s ship.”

“We?” Isabelle perked up visibly.

“Magnus, Luke, and myself,” Jace clarified. “You two are staying here and dealing with the Inquisitor for me. When Valentine doesn’t come through with his part of her deal, you’re the ones who are going to have to convince her to send all the backup the Conclave has got after Valentine.”

“I don’t get it,” Alec said. “How do you plan to get out of here in the first place?”

Jace grinned. “Watch,” he said, and jumped up onto Isabelle’s windowsill. Isabelle cried out, but Jace was already ducking through the window opening. He balanced for a moment on the sill outside—and then he was gone.

Alec raced to the window and stared out in horror, but there was nothing to see: just the garden of the Institute far below, brown and empty, and the narrow path that led up to the front door. There were no screaming pedestrians on Ninety-sixth Street, no cars pulled over at the sight of a falling body. It was as if Jace had vanished into thin air.

The sound of water woke him. It was a heavy repetitive sound—water sloshing against something solid, over and over, as if he were lying in the bottom of a pool that was rapidly draining and refilling itself. There was the taste of metal in his mouth and the smell of metal all around. He was conscious of a nagging, persistent pain in his left hand. With a groan, Simon opened his eyes.

He was lying on a hard, bumpy metal floor painted an ugly gray-green. The walls were the same green metal. There was a single high round window in one wall, letting in only a little sunlight, but it was enough. He’d been lying with his hand in a patch of it and his fingers were red and blistered. With another groan, he rolled away from the light and sat up.

And realized he wasn’t alone in the room. Though the shadows were thick, he could see in the dark just fine. Across from him, her hands bound together and chained to a large steam pipe, was Maia. Her clothes were torn and there was a massive bruise across her left cheek. He could see where her braids had been torn away from her scalp on one side, her hair matted with blood. The moment he sat up, she stared at him and burst immediately into tears. “I thought,” she hiccupped between sobs, “that you—were dead.”