Page 39

City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments 2) Cassandra Clare 2022/8/5 16:53:22

He choked, his throat burning.

Valentine laughed. “For God’s sake?” he said. “Is that what you were going to say?”

Simon said nothing. Valentine reached over his shoulder and drew the heavy silver Sword from its sheath. Light played along its blade like water slipping down a sheer silver wall, like sunlight itself refracted. Simon’s eyes stung and he turned his face away.

“The Angel blade burns you, just as God’s name chokes you,” said Valentine, his cool voice sharp as crystal. “They say that those who die upon its point will achieve the gates of heaven. In which case, revenant, I am doing you a favor.” He lowered the blade so that the tip touched Simon’s throat. Valentine’s eyes were the color of black water and there was nothing in them: no anger, no compassion, not even any hate. They were empty as a hollowed-out grave. “Any last words?”

Simon knew what he was supposed to say. Sh’ma Yisrael, adonai elohanu, adonai echod. Hear, oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. He tried to speak the words, but a searing pain burned his throat. “Clary,” he whispered instead.

A look of annoyance passed across Valentine’s face, as if the sound of his daughter’s name in a vampire’s mouth displeased him. With a sharp flick of his wrist, he brought the Sword level and slashed it with a single smooth gesture across Simon’s throat.

“HOW DID YOU DO THAT?” CLARY DEMANDED AS THE TRUCK sped uptown, Luke hunched over the wheel.

“You mean how did I get onto the roof?” Jace was leaning back against the seat, his eyes half-closed. There were white bandages tied around his wrists and flecks of dried blood at his hairline. “First I climbed out Isabelle’s window and up the wall. There are a number of ornamental gargoyles that make good handholds. Also, I’d like to note for the record that my motorcycle is no longer where I left it. I bet the Inquisitor took it on a joyride around Hoboken.”

“I meant,” Clary said, “how did you jump off the cathedral roof and not die?”

“I don’t know.” His arm brushed hers as he raised his hands to rub at his eyes. “How did you create that rune?”

“I don’t know either,” she whispered. “The Seelie Queen was right, wasn’t she? Valentine, he—he did things to us.” She glanced over at Luke, who was pretending to be absorbed in turning left. “Didn’t he?”

“This isn’t the time to talk about that,” Luke said. “Jace, did you have a particular destination in mind or did you just want to get away from the Institute?”

“Valentine’s taken Maia and Simon to the boat to perform the Ritual. He’ll want to do it as soon as possible.” Jace tugged at one of the bandages on his wrist. “I’ve got to get there and stop him.”

“No,” Luke said sharply.

“Okay, we have to get there and stop him.”

“Jace, I’m not having you go back to that ship. It’s too dangerous.”

“You saw what I just did,” Jace said, incredulity rising in his voice, “and you’re worried about me?”

“I’m worried about you.”

“There’s no time for that. After my father kills your friends, he’ll call on an army of demons you can’t even imagine. After that, he’ll be unstoppable.”

“The Inquisitor won’t do anything,” Jace said. “She’s blocked the Lightwoods’ access to the Clave. She wouldn’t call for reinforcements, even when I told her what Valentine has planned. She’s obsessed with this insane plan she has.”

“What plan?” Clary said.

Jace’s voice was bitter. “She wanted to trade me to my father for the Mortal Instruments. I told her Valentine would never go for it, but she didn’t believe me.” He laughed, a sharp staccato laugh. “Isabelle and Alec are going to tell her what happened with Simon and Maia. I’m not too optimistic, though. She doesn’t believe me about Valentine and she’s not going to upset her precious plan just to save a couple of Downworlders.”

“We can’t just wait to hear from them, anyway,” Clary said. “We have to get to the boat now. If you can take us to it—”

“I hate to break it to you, but we need a boat to get to another boat,” said Luke. “I’m not sure even Jace can walk on water.”

At that moment Clary’s phone buzzed. It was a text message from Isabelle. Clary frowned. “It’s an address. Down by the waterfront.”

Jace looked over her shoulder. “That’s where we have to go to meet Magnus.” He read the address off to Luke, who executed an irritable U-turn and headed south. “Magnus will get us across the water,” Jace explained. “The ship is surrounded by protection wards. I got onto it before because my father wanted me to get onto it. This time he won’t. We’ll need Magnus to deal with the wardings.”

“I don’t like this.” Luke tapped his fingers on the steering wheel. “I think I should go and you two should stay with Magnus.”

Jace’s eyes flashed. “No. It has to be me who goes.”

“Because Valentine’s using a fear demon,” Jace explained. “That’s how he was able to kill the Silent Brothers. It’s what slaughtered that warlock, the werewolf in the alley outside the Hunter’s Moon, and probably what killed that fey child in the park. And it’s why the Brothers had those looks on their faces. Those terrified looks. They were literally scared to death.”

“He drained the blood later. And in the alley he was interrupted by one of the lycanthropes. That’s why he didn’t have enough time to get the blood he needed. And that’s why he still needs Maia.” Jace raked a hand through his hair. “No one can stand up against the fear demon. It gets in your head and destroys your mind.”

“Agramon,” said Luke. He’d been silent, staring through the windshield. His face looked gray and pinched.

“Yeah, that’s what Valentine called it.”

“He’s not a fear demon. He’s the fear demon. The Demon of Fear. How did Valentine get Agramon to do his bidding? Even a warlock would have trouble binding a Greater Demon, and outside the pentagram—” Luke sucked his breath in. “That’s how the warlock child died, isn’t it? Summoning Agramon?”

Jace nodded assent, and explained quickly the trick that Valentine had played on Elias. “The Mortal Cup,” he finished, “lets him control Agramon. Apparently it gives you some power over demons. Not like the Sword does, though.”

“Now I’m even less inclined to let you go,” Luke said. “It’s a Greater Demon, Jace. It would take this city’s worth of Shadowhunters to deal with it.”

“I know it’s a Greater Demon. But its weapon is fear. If Clary can put the Fearless rune on me, I can take it down. Or at least try.”

“No!” Clary protested. “I don’t want your safety dependent on my stupid rune. What if it doesn’t work?”

“It worked before,” Jace said as they turned off the bridge and headed back into Brooklyn. They were rolling down narrow Van Brunt Street, between high brick factories whose boarded-up windows and padlocked doors betrayed no hint of what lay inside. In the distance, the waterfront glimmered between buildings.

“What if I mess it up this time?”

Jace turned his head toward her, and for a moment their eyes met. His were the gold of distant sunlight. “You won’t,” he said.

“Are you sure this is the address?” asked Luke, bringing the truck to a slow stop. “Magnus isn’t here.”

Clary glanced around. They had drawn up in front of a large factory, which looked as if it had been destroyed by a terrible fire. The hollow brick and plaster walls still stood, but metal struts poked through them, bent and pitted with burns. In the distance Clary could see the financial district of lower Manhattan and the black hump of Governors Island, farther out to sea. “He’ll come,” she said. “If he told Alec he was coming, he’ll do it.”

They got out of the truck. Though the factory stood on a street lined with similar buildings, it was quiet, even for a Sunday. There was no one else around and none of the sounds of commerce—trucks backing up, men shouting—that Clary associated with warehouse districts. Instead there was silence, a cool breeze off the river, and the cries of seabirds. Clary drew her hood up, zipped her jacket, and shivered.

Luke slammed the truck door shut and zipped his flannel jacket closed. Silently, he offered Clary a pair of his thick woolly gloves. She slid them on and wiggled her fingers. They were so big for her that it was like wearing paws. She glanced around. “Wait—where’s Jace?”

Luke pointed. Jace was kneeling down by the waterline, a dark figure whose bright hair was the only spot of color against the blue-gray sky and brown river.

“You think he wants privacy?” she asked.

“In this situation, privacy is a luxury none of us can afford. Come on.” Luke strode off down the driveway, and Clary followed him. The factory itself backed up right onto the waterline, but there was a wide gravelly beach next to it. Shallow waves lapped at the weed-choked rocks. Logs had been placed in a rough square around a black pit where a fire had once burned. There were rusty cans and bottles strewn everywhere. Jace was standing by the edge of the water, his jacket off. As Clary watched, he threw something small and white toward the water; it hit with a splash and vanished.

“What are you doing?” she said.

Jace turned to face them, the wind whipping his fair hair across his face. “Sending a message.”

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

Over his shoulder Clary thought she saw a shimmering tendril—like a living piece of seaweed—emerge from the gray river water, a bit of white caught in its grip. A moment later it vanished and she was left blinking.

Jace scowled. “No one.” He turned away from the water and stalked across the pebbled beach to where he’d spread his jacket out. There were three long blades laid out on it. As he turned, Clary saw the sharpened metal disks threaded through his belt.

Jace stroked his fingers along the blades—they were flat and gray-white, waiting to be named. “I didn’t have a chance to get to the armory, so these are the weapons we have. I thought we might as well get as ready as we can before Magnus gets here.” He lifted the first blade. “Abrariel.” The seraph knife shimmered and changed color as he named it. He held it out to Luke.

“I’m all right,” Luke said, and drew his jacket aside to show the kindjal thrust through his belt.

Jace handed Abrariel to Clary, who took the weapon silently. It was warm in her hand, as if a secret life vibrated inside it.

“Camael,” Jace said to the next blade, making it shudder and glow. “Telantes,” he said to the third.

“Do you ever use Raziel’s name?” Clary asked as Jace slid the blades into his belt and shrugged his jacket back on, getting to his feet.

“Never,” Luke said. “That’s not done.” His gaze scanned the road behind Clary, looking for Magnus. She could sense his anxiety, but before she could say anything else, her phone buzzed. She flipped it open and handed it wordlessly to Jace. He read the text message, his eyebrows lifting.

“It looks like the Inquisitor gave Valentine until sunset to decide whether he wants me or the Mortal Instruments more,” he said. “She and Maryse have been fighting for hours, so she hasn’t noticed I’m gone yet.”

He handed Clary back her phone. Their fingers brushed and Clary jerked her hand back, despite the thick woolly glove that covered her skin. She saw a shadow pass over his features, but he said nothing to her. Instead, he turned to Luke and demanded, with surprising abruptness, “Did the Inquisitor’s son die? Is that why she’s like this?”

Luke sighed and thrust his hands into the pockets of his coat. “How did you figure that out?”

“The way she reacts when someone says his name. It’s the only time I’ve ever seen her show any human feelings.”

Luke expelled a breath. He had pushed his glasses up and his eyes were squinted against the harsh wind off the river. “The Inquisitor is the way she is for many reasons. Stephen is only one of them.”

“It’s weird,” Jace said. “She doesn’t seem like someone who even likes kids.”

“Not other people’s,” said Luke. “It was different with her own. Stephen was her golden boy. In fact, he was everyone’s … everyone who knew him. He was one of those people who was good at everything, unfailingly nice without being boring, handsome without everyone hating him. Well, maybe we hated him a little.”

“He went to school with you?” Clary said. “And my mother—and Valentine? Is that how you knew him?”

“The Herondales were in charge of running the London Institute, and Stephen went to school there. I saw him more after we all graduated, when he moved back to Alicante. And there was a time when I saw him very often indeed.” Luke’s eyes had gone distant, the same blue-gray as the river. “After he was married.”

“So he was in the Circle?” Clary asked.