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City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments 2) Cassandra Clare 2022/8/5 16:53:25

But Simon wasn’t hurting him—not really—the pain that had started out sharp faded to a sort of dull burn, pleasant the way the burn of the stele was sometimes pleasant. A drowsy sense of peace stole through Jace’s veins and he felt his muscles relax; the hands that had been trying to push Simon away a moment ago now pressed him closer. He could feel the beat of his own heart, feel it slowing, its hammering fading to a softer echo. A shimmering darkness crept in at the corners of his vision, beautiful and strange. Jace closed his eyes—

Pain lanced through his neck. He gasped and his eyes flew open; Simon was sitting up on him, staring down with wide eyes, his hand across his own mouth. Simon’s wounds were gone, though fresh blood stained the front of his shirt.

Jace could feel the pain of his bruised shoulders again, the slash across his wrist, his punctured throat. He could no longer hear his heart beating, but knew it was slamming away inside his chest.

Simon took his hand away from his mouth. The fangs were gone. “I could have killed you,” he said. There was a sort of pleading in his voice.

“I would have let you,” said Jace.

Simon stared down at him, then made a noise in the back of his throat. He rolled off Jace and hit the floor on his knees, hugging his elbows. Jace could see the dark tracery of Simon’s veins through the pale skin of his throat, branching blue and purple lines. Veins full of blood.

My blood. Jace sat up. He fumbled for his stele. Dragging it across his arm felt like hauling a lead pipe across a football field. His head throbbed. When he finished the iratze, he leaned his head back against the wall behind him, breathing hard, the pain leaving him as the healing rune took effect. My blood in his veins.

“I’m sorry,” Simon said. “I’m so sorry.”

The healing rune was having its effect. Jace’s head started to clear and the banging in his chest slowed. He got to his feet, carefully, expecting a wave of dizziness, but he felt only a little weak and tired. Simon was still on his knees, staring down at his hands. Jace reached down and grabbed the back of his shirt, hauling him to his feet. “Don’t apologize,” he said, letting Simon go. “Just get moving. Valentine has Clary and we haven’t got much time.”

The second her fingers closed around the hilt of Maellartach, a searing blast of cold shot up Clary’s arm. Valentine watched with an expression of mild interest as she gasped with pain, her fingers going numb. She clutched desperately at the Sword, but it slipped from her grasp and clattered to the ground at her feet.

She barely saw Valentine move. A moment later he was standing in front of her with the Sword in his grasp. Clary’s hand was stinging. She glanced down and saw that a red, burning weal was rising along her palm.

“Did you really think,” Valentine said, a tinge of disgust coloring his voice, “that I’d let you near a weapon I thought you could use?” He shook his head. “You didn’t understand a word I said, did you? It appears that of my two children, only one seems capable of understanding the truth.”

Clary closed her injured hand into a fist, almost welcoming the pain. “If you mean Jace, he hates you too.”

Valentine swung the Sword up, bringing the tip of it level with Clary’s collarbone. “That is enough,” he said, “out of you.”

The tip of the Sword was sharp; when she breathed, it pricked her throat, and a trickle of blood threaded its way down her chest. The Sword’s touch seemed to spill cold through her veins, sending sizzling ice particles through her arms and legs, numbing her hands.

“Ruined by your upbringing,” Valentine said. “Your mother was always a stubborn woman. It was one of the things I loved about her in the beginning. I thought she would stand by her ideals.”

It was strange, Clary thought with a detached sort of horror, that when she had seen her father before at Renwick’s, his considerable personal charisma had been on display for Jace’s benefit. Now he wasn’t bothering, and without the surface patina of charm, he seemed—empty. Like a hollow statue, eyes cut out to show only darkness inside.

“Tell me, Clarissa—did your mother ever talk about me?”

“She told me my father was dead.” Don’t say anything else, she warned herself, but she was sure he could read the rest of the words in her eyes. And I wish she had been telling the truth.

“And she never told you you were different? Special?”

Clary swallowed, and the tip of the blade cut a little deeper. More blood trickled down her chest. “She never told me I was a Shadowhunter.”

“Do you know why,” Valentine said, looking down the length of the Sword at her, “your mother left me?”

Tears burned the back of Clary’s throat. She made a choking noise. “You mean there was only one reason?”

“She told me,” he went on, as if Clary hadn’t spoken, “that I had turned her first child into a monster. She left me before I could do the same to her second. You. But she was too late.”

The cold at her throat, in her limbs, was so intense that she was beyond shivering. It was as if the Sword was turning her to ice. “She’d never say that,” Clary whispered. “Jace isn’t a monster. Neither am I.”

“I wasn’t talking about—”

The trapdoor over their heads slammed open and two shadowy figures dropped from the hole, landing just behind Valentine. The first, Clary saw with a bright shock of relief, was Jace, falling through the air like an arrow shot from a bow, sure of its target. He hit the floor with an assured lightness. He was clutching a bloodstained steel strut in one hand, its end broken off to a wicked point.

The second figure landed beside Jace with the same lightness if not the same grace. Clary saw the outline of a slender boy with dark hair and thought, Alec. It was only when he straightened and she recognized the familiar face that she realized who it was.

She forgot the Sword, the cold, the pain in her throat, forgot everything. “Simon!”

Simon looked across the room at her. Their eyes met for just a moment and Clary hoped he could read in her face her full and overwhelming relief. The tears that had been threatening came, and spilled down her face. She didn’t move to wipe them away.

Valentine turned his head to look behind him, and his mouth sagged in the first expression of honest surprise Clary had ever seen on his face. He whirled to face Jace and Simon.

The moment the point of the Sword left Clary’s throat, the ice drained from her, taking all her strength with it. She sank to her knees, shivering uncontrollably. When she raised her hands to wipe the tears away from her face, she saw that the tips of her fingers were white with the beginnings of frostbite.

Jace stared at her in horror, then at his father. “What did you do to her?”

“Nothing,” Valentine said, regaining control of himself. “Yet.”

To Clary’s surprise, Jace paled, as if his father’s words had shocked him.

“I’m the one who should be asking you what you’ve done, Jonathan,” Valentine said, and though he spoke to Jace, his eyes were on Simon. “Why is it still alive? Revenants can regenerate, but not with such little blood in them.”

“You mean me?” Simon demanded. Clary stared. Simon sounded different. He didn’t sound like a kid smarting off to an adult; he sounded like someone who felt like he could face Valentine Morgenstern on equal footing. Like someone who deserved to face him on equal footing. “Oh, that’s right, you left me for dead. Well, dead-er.”

“Shut up.” Jace shot a glare at Simon; his eyes were very dark. “Let me answer this.” He turned to his father. “I let Simon drink my blood,” he said. “So he wouldn’t die.”

Valentine’s already severe face settled into harder lines, as if the bones were pushing out through the skin. “You willingly let a vampire drink your blood?”

Jace seemed to hesitate for a moment—he glanced over at Simon, who was staring fixedly at Valentine with a look of intense hatred. Then he said, carefully, “Yes.”

“You have no idea what you’ve done, Jonathan,” said Valentine in a terrible voice. “No idea.”

“I saved a life,” said Jace. “One you tried to take. I know that much.”

“Not a human life,” said Valentine. “You resurrected a monster that will only kill to feed again. His kind are always hungry—”

“I’m hungry right now,” Simon said, and smiled to reveal that his fang teeth had slid from their sheaths. They glittered white and pointed against his lower lip. “I wouldn’t mind a little more blood. Of course your blood would probably choke me, you poisonous piece of—”

Valentine laughed. “I’d like to see you try it, revenant,” he said. “When the Soul-Sword cuts you, you will burn as you die.”

Clary saw Jace’s eyes go to the Sword, and then to her. There was an unspoken question in them. Quickly, she said, “The Sword isn’t turned. Not quite. He didn’t get Maia’s blood, so he didn’t finish the ceremony—”

Valentine turned toward her, Sword in hand, and she saw him smile. The Sword seemed to flick in his grasp, and then something hit her—it was like being knocked over by a wave, thrown down and then lifted against your will and tossed through the air. She rolled across the floor, helpless to stop herself, until she struck the bulkhead with bruising force. She crumpled at the base of it, gasping with breathlessness and pain.

Simon started toward her at a run. Valentine swung the Soul-Sword and a sheet of sheer, blazing fire rose up, sending him stumbling backward with its surging heat.

Clary struggled to raise herself onto her elbows. Her mouth was full of blood. The world swayed around her and she wondered how hard she’d hit her head and if she was going to pass out. She willed herself to stay conscious.

The fire had receded, but Simon was still crouched on the floor, looking dazed. Valentine glanced briefly at him, and then at Jace. “If you kill the revenant now,” he said, “you can still undo what you’ve done.”

“No,” Jace whispered.

“Just take the weapon you hold in your hand and drive it through his heart.” Valentine’s voice was soft. “One simple motion. Nothing you haven’t done before.”

Jace met his father’s stare with a level gaze. “I saw Agramon,” he said. “It had your face.”

“You met with Agramon alone?” The Soul-Sword glittered as Valentine moved toward his son. “And you lived?”

“You killed the Demon of Fear, but you won’t kill a single vampire, not even at my order?”

Jace stood watching Valentine without expression. “He’s a vampire, that’s true,” he said. “But his name is Simon.”

Valentine stopped in front of Jace, the Soul-Sword in his hand, burning with a harsh black light. Clary wondered for a terrified moment if Valentine meant to stab Jace where he stood, and if Jace meant to let him. “I take it, then,” Valentine said, “that you haven’t changed your mind? What you told me when you came to me before, that was your final word, or do you regret having disobeyed me?”

Jace shook his head slowly. One hand still clutched the broken strut, but his other hand—his right—was at his waist, drawing something from his belt. His eyes, though, never left Valentine’s, and Clary wasn’t sure Valentine saw what he was doing. She hoped not.

“Yes,” Jace said, “I regret having disobeyed you.”

No! Clary thought, but her heart sank. Was he giving up, did he think it was the only way to save her and Simon?

Valentine’s face softened. “Jonathan—”

“Especially,” Jace said, “since I plan to do it again. Right now.” His hand moved, quick as a flash of light, and something hurtled through the air toward Clary. It fell a few inches from her, hitting the metal with a clang and rolling. Her eyes widened.

It was her mother’s stele.

Valentine began to laugh. “A stele? Jace, is this some sort of joke? Or have you finally—”

Clary didn’t hear the rest of what he said; she heaved herself up, gasping as pain lanced through her head. Her eyes watered, her vision blurred; she reached out a shaking hand for the stele—and as her fingers touched it, she heard a voice, as clear inside her head as if her mother stood beside her. Take the stele, Clary. Use it. You know what to do.

Her fingers closed spasmodically around it. She sat up, ignoring the wave of pain that went through her head and down her spine. She was a Shadowhunter, and pain was something you lived with. Dimly, she could hear Valentine call her name, hear his footsteps, coming nearer—and she flung herself at the bulkhead, thrusting the stele forward with such force that when its tip touched the metal, she thought she heard the sizzle of something burning.

She began to draw. As always happened when she drew, the world fell away and there was only herself and the stele and the metal she drew on. She remembered standing outside Jace’s cell whispering to herself, Open, open, open, and knew that she had drawn on all her strength to create the rune that had broken Jace’s bonds. And she knew that the strength she had put into that rune was not a tenth, not a hundredth, of the strength she was putting into this. Her hands burned and she cried out as she dragged the stele down the metal wall, leaving a thick black line like char behind it. Open.

All her frustration, all her disappointment, all her rage went through her fingers and into the stele and into the rune. Open. All her love, all her relief at seeing Simon alive, all her hope that they still might survive. Open!

Her hand, still holding the stele, dropped to her lap. For a moment there was utter silence as all of them—Jace, Valentine, even Simon—stared along with her at the rune that burned on the ship’s bulkhead.