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City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments 2) Cassandra Clare 2022/8/5 16:53:23

The Inquisitor’s hands fluttered around her face. “It’s no good,” she said. “There aren’t enough of us—we can’t possibly—”

Robert ignored her. Instead, he looked at Maryse. “We should go very soon,” he said, and in his tone there was the respect that had been lacking when he had addressed the Inquisitor.

“But the Clave,” the Inquisitor began. “They should be informed.”

Maryse shoved the phone on the desk toward the Inquisitor, hard. “You tell them. Tell them what you’ve done. It’s your job, after all.”

The Inquisitor said nothing, just stared at the phone, one hand over her mouth.

Before Alec could start to feel sorry for her, the door opened again and Isabelle came in, in her Shadowhunter gear, with her long silver-gold whip in one hand and a wooden-bladed naginata in the other. She frowned at her brother. “Go get ready,” she said. “We’re sailing for Valentine’s ship right away.”

Alec couldn’t help it; the corner of his mouth twitched upward. Isabelle was always so determined. “Is that for me?” he asked, indicating the naginata.

Isabelle jerked it away from him. “Get your own!”

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Some things never change. Alec headed toward the door, but was stopped by a hand on his shoulder. He looked up in surprise.

It was his father. He was looking down at Alec, and though he wasn’t smiling, there was a look of pride on his lined and tired face. “If you’re in need of a blade, Alexander, my guisarme is in the entryway. If you’d like to use it.”

Alec swallowed and nodded, but before he could thank his father, Isabelle spoke from behind him:

“Here you go, Mom,” she said. Alec turned and saw his sister in the process of handing the naginata to his mother, who took it and spun it expertly in her grasp.

“Thank you, Isabelle,” Maryse said, and with a movement as swift as any of her daughter’s, she lowered the blade so that it pointed directly at the Inquisitor’s heart.

Imogen Herondale looked up at Maryse with the blank, shattered eyes of a ruined statue. “Are you going to kill me, Maryse?”

Maryse hissed through her teeth. “Not even close,” she said. “We need every Shadowhunter in the city, and right now, that includes you. Get up, Imogen, and get yourself ready for battle. From now on, the orders around here are going to come from me.” She smiled grimly. “And the first thing you’re going to do is free my son from that accursed Malachi Configuration.”

She looked magnificent as she spoke, Alec thought with pride, a true Shadowhunter warrior, every line of her blazing with righteous fury.

He hated to spoil the moment—but they were going to find out Jace was gone on their own soon enough. Better that someone cushioned the shock.

He cleared his throat. “Actually,” he said, “there’s something you should probably know…”

CLARY HAD ALWAYS HATED ROLLER COASTERS, HATED THAT feeling of her stomach dropping out through her feet when the coaster hurtled downward. Being snatched from the truck and dragged through the air like a mouse in the claws of an eagle was ten times worse. She screamed out loud as her feet left the truck bed and her body soared upward, unbelievably fast. She screamed and twisted—until she looked down and saw how high she already was above the water and realized what would happen if the flying demon released her.

The flying creature slowed its pace. They were dropping through the center of the boat, surrounded by railed metal decks. Clary caught glimpses of dark machinery; none of it looked in working order, and there were gears and tools abandoned in various places. If there had been electrical lights before, they were no longer working, though a faint glow permeated everything. Whatever had powered the ship before, Valentine was now powering it with something else.

Something that had sucked the warmth right out of the atmosphere. Icy air lashed at her face as the demon reached the bottom of the ship and ducked down a long, poorly lit corridor. It wasn’t being particularly careful with her. Her knee slammed against a pipe as the creature turned a corner, sending a shock wave of pain up her leg. She cried out and heard its hissing laughter above her. Then it released her and she was falling. Twisting in the air, Clary tried to get her hands and knees under her before she hit the ground. It almost worked. She struck the floor with a jarring impact and rolled to the side, stunned.

She was lying on a hard metal surface, in semidarkness. This had probably been a storage space at one point, because the walls were smooth and doorless. There was a square opening high above her through which the only light filtered. Her whole body felt like one big bruise.

“Clary?” A whispered voice. She rolled onto her side, wincing. A shadow knelt beside her. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she saw the small, curvy figure, braided hair, dark brown eyes. Maia. “Clary, is that you?”

Clary sat up, ignoring the screaming pain in her back. “Maia. Maia, oh my God.” She stared at the other girl, then wildly around the room. It was empty but for the two of them. “Maia, where is he? Where’s Simon?”

Maia bit her lip. Her wrists were bloody, Clary saw, her face streaked with dried tears. “Clary, I’m so sorry,” she said, in her soft and husky voice. “Simon’s dead.”

Soaked through and half-frozen, Jace collapsed onto the deck of the ship, water streaming from his hair and clothes. He stared up at the cloudy night sky, gasping in breaths. It had been no easy task to climb the rickety iron ladder badly bolted to the ship’s metal side, especially with slippery hands and drenched clothes dragging him down.

If it hadn’t been for the Fearless rune, he reflected, he probably would have been worried that one of the flying demons would pick him off the ladder like a bird picking a bug off a vine. Fortunately, they seemed to have returned to the ship once they’d seized Clary. Jace couldn’t imagine why, but he’d long ago given up trying to fathom why his father did anything.

Above him a head appeared, silhouetted against the sky. It was Luke, having reached the top of the ladder. He clambered laboriously onto the railing and dropped down onto the other side of it. He looked down at Jace. “You all right?”

“Fine.” Jace got to his feet. He was shivering. It was cold on the boat, colder than it had been down by the water—and his jacket was gone. He’d given it to Clary.

Jace looked around. “Somewhere there’s a door that leads into the ship. I found it last time. We just have to walk around the deck until we find it again.”

Luke started forward.

“And let me go first,” Jace added, stepping in front of him. Luke shot him an extremely puzzled look, seemed as if he were about to say something, and finally fell into step just beside Jace as they approached the curved front of the ship, where Jace had stood with Valentine the night before. He could hear the oily slap of water against the bow, far below.

“Your father,” Luke said, “what did he say to you when you saw him? What did he promise you?”

“Oh, you know. The usual. A lifetime’s supply of Knicks tickets.” Jace spoke lightly but the memory bit into him deeper than the cold. “He said he’d make sure no harm came to me or anyone I cared about if I’d leave the Clave and return to Idris with him.”

“Do you think—” Luke hesitated. “Do you think he’d hurt Clary to get back at you?”

They rounded the bow and Jace caught a brief glimpse of the Statue of Liberty off in the distance, a pillar of glowing light. “No. I think he took her to make us come onto the boat like this, to give him a bargaining chip. That’s all.”

“I’m not sure he needs a bargaining chip.” Luke spoke in a low voice as he unsheathed his kindjal. Jace turned to follow Luke’s gaze, and for a moment could only stare.

There was a black hole in the deck on the west side of the ship, a hole like a square that had been cut into the metal, and out of its depths poured a dark cloud of monsters. Jace flashed back to the last time he had stood here, with the Mortal Sword in his hand, staring around him in horror as the sky above him and the sea below him turned to roiling masses of nightmares. Only now they stood in front of him, a cacophony of demons: the bone-white Raum that had attacked them at Luke’s; Oni demons with their green bodies, wide mouths, and horns; the slinking black Kuri demons, spider demons with their eight pincer-tipped arms and the poison-dripping fangs that protruded from their eye sockets—

Jace couldn’t count them all. He felt for Camael and took it from his belt, its white glare lighting the deck. The demons hissed at the sight of it, but none of them backed away. The Fearless rune on Jace’s shoulder blade began to burn. He wondered how many demons he could kill before it burned itself away.

“Stop! Stop!” Luke’s hand, knotted in the back of Jace’s shirt, jerked him backward. “There’s too many, Jace. If we can get back to the ladder—”

“We can’t.” Jace yanked himself out of Luke’s grip and pointed. “They’ve cut us off on both sides.”

It was true. A phalanx of Moloch demons, flames jetting from their empty eyes, blocked their retreat. Luke swore, fluently and viciously. “Jump over the side, then. I’ll hold them off.”

“You jump,” Jace said. “I’m fine here.”

Luke threw his head back. His ears had gone pointed, and when he snarled at Jace, his lips drew back over canines that were suddenly sharp. “You—” He broke off as a Moloch demon leaped at him, claws outstretched. Jace stabbed it casually in the spine as it went by, and it staggered into Luke, yowling. Luke seized it in clawed hands and hurled it over the railing. “You used that Fearless rune, didn’t you?” Luke said, turning back to Jace with eyes that glowed amber.

There was a distant splash.

“You’re not wrong,” Jace admitted.

“Christ,” said Luke. “Did you put it on yourself?”

“No. Clary put it on me.” Jace’s seraph blade cut the air with white fire; two Drevak demons fell. There were dozens more where it had come from, lurching toward them, their needle-tipped hands outstretched. “She’s good at that, you know.”

“Teenagers,” said Luke, as if it were the filthiest word he knew, and threw himself into the oncoming horde.

“Dead?” Clary stared at Maia as if she’d spoken in Bulgarian. “He can’t be dead.”

Maia said nothing, just watched her with sad, dark eyes.

“I would know.” Clary sat up and pressed her hand, clenched into a fist, against her chest. “I would know it here.”

“I thought that myself,” Maia said. “Once. But you don’t know. You never know.”

Clary scrambled to her feet. Jace’s jacket hung off her shoulders, the back of it nearly shredded through. She shrugged it off impatiently and dropped it onto the floor. It was ruined, the back scored through with a dozen razored claw marks. Jace will be upset that I wrecked his jacket, she thought. I should buy him a new one. I should—

She drew a long, ragged breath. She could hear her own heart pounding, but that sounded distant too. “What—happened to him?”

Maia was still kneeling on the floor. “Valentine got us both,” she said. “He chained us up in a room together. Then he came in with a weapon—a sword, really long and bright, as if it was glowing. He threw silver powder at me so I couldn’t fight him, and he—he stabbed Simon in the throat.” Her voice faded to a whisper. “He cut his wrists open and he poured the blood into bowls. Some of those demon creatures of his came in and helped him take it. Then he just left Simon lying there, like some toy he’d ripped all the insides out of so he had no use for it anymore. I screamed—but I knew he was dead. Then one of the demons picked me up and brought me down here.”

Clary pressed the back of her hand against her mouth, pressed and pressed until she tasted salty blood. The sharp taste of the blood seemed to cut through the fog in her brain. “We have to get out of here.”

“No offense, but that’s pretty obvious.” Maia got to her feet, wincing. “There’s no way out of here. Not even for a Shadowhunter. Maybe if you were…”

“If I were what?” Clary demanded, pacing the square of their cell. “Jace? Well, I’m not.” She kicked at the wall. It echoed hollowly. She dug into her pocket and pulled out her stele. “But I have my own talents.”

She shoved the tip of the stele against the wall and began to draw. The lines seemed to flow out of her, black and charred-looking, hot as her furious anger. She slammed the stele against the wall again and again and the black lines flowed up out of its tip like flames. When she drew back, breathing hard, she saw Maia staring at her in astonishment.

“Girl,” she said, “what did you do?”

Clary wasn’t sure. It looked as if she had thrown a bucket of acid against the wall. The metal all around the rune was sagging and dripping like ice cream on a hot day. She stepped back, eyeing it warily as a hole the size of a large dog opened in the wall. Clary could see steel struts behind it, more of the ship’s metal innards. The edges of the hole still sizzled, though it had stopped spreading outward. Maia took a step forward, pushing Clary’s arm away.