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City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments 2) Cassandra Clare 2022/8/5 16:53:10

Jace tore his gaze from Clary’s. “All right.” His voice was rough. “But on one condition. I don’t want to go by myself.”

“I’ll go with you,” Clary said quickly.

“I know.” Jace’s voice was low. “And I want you to. But I want Luke to come too.”

Luke looked startled. “Jace—I’ve lived here fifteen years and I’ve never gone to the Institute. Not once. I doubt Maryse is any fonder of me—”

“Please,” Jace said, and though his voice was flat and he spoke quietly, Clary could almost feel, like a palpable thing, the pride he’d had to fight down to say that single word.

“All right.” Luke nodded, the nod of a pack leader used to doing what he had to do, whether he wanted to or not. “Then I’ll come with you.”

Simon leaned against the wall in the corridor outside Pete’s office and tried not to feel sorry for himself.

The day had started off well. Fairly well, anyway. First there’d been that bad episode with the Dracula film on television making him feel sick and faint, bringing up all the emotions, the longings, he’d been trying to push down and forget about. Then somehow the sickness had knocked the edge off his nerves and he’d found himself kissing Clary the way he’d wanted to for so many years. People always said that things never turned out the way you imagined they would. People were wrong.

And she’d kissed him back…

But now she was in there with Jace, and Simon had a knotting, twisting feeling in his stomach, like he’d swallowed a bowl full of worms. It was a sick feeling he’d grown used to lately. It hadn’t always been like this, even after he’d realized how he felt about Clary. He’d never pressed her, never pushed his feelings on her. He’d always been sure that one day she would wake up out of her dreams of animated princes and kung fu heroes and realize what was staring them both in the face: They belonged together. And if she hadn’t seemed interested in Simon, at least she hadn’t seemed interested in anyone else either.

Until Jace. He remembered sitting on the porch steps of Luke’s house, watching Clary as she explained to him who Jace was, what he did, while Jace examined his nails and looked superior. Simon had barely heard her. He’d been too busy noticing how she looked at the blond boy with the strange tattoos and the angular, pretty face. Too pretty, Simon had thought, but Clary clearly hadn’t thought so: She’d looked at him as though he were one of her animated heroes come to life. He had never seen her look at anyone that way before, and had always thought that if she ever did, it would be him. But it wasn’t, and that hurt more than he’d ever imagined anything could hurt.

Finding out that Jace was Clary’s brother was like being marched up in front of a firing squad and then being handed a reprieve at the last minute. Suddenly the world seemed full of possibilities again.

Now he wasn’t so sure.

“Hey, there.” Someone was coming along the corridor, a not-very-tall someone picking their way gingerly among the blood spatters. “Are you waiting to see Luke? Is he in there?”

“Not exactly.” Simon moved away from the door. “I mean, sort of. He’s in there with a friend of mine.”

The person, who had just reached him, stopped and stared. Simon could see that she was a girl, about sixteen years old, with smooth light brown skin. Her brown-gold hair was braided close to her head in dozens of small braids, and her face was nearly the exact shape of a heart. She had a compact, curvy body, wide hips flaring out from a smaller waist. “That guy from the bar? The Shadowhunter?”

“Well, I hate to tell you this,” she said, “but your friend is an asshole.”

“He’s not my friend,” said Simon. “And I couldn’t agree with you more, actually.”

“But I thought you said—”

“I’m waiting for his sister,” said Simon. “She’s my best friend.”

“And she’s in there with him right now?” The girl jerked her thumb toward the door. She wore rings on each of her fingers, primitive-looking bands hammered out of bronze and gold. Her jeans were worn but clean and when she turned her head, he saw the scar that ran along her neck, just above the collar of her T-shirt. “Well,” she said grudgingly, “I know about asshole brothers. I guess it’s not her fault.”

“It’s not,” said Simon. “But she’s maybe the only person he might listen to.”

“He didn’t strike me as the listening type,” said the girl, and caught his sidelong look with a look of her own. Amusement flickered across her face. “You’re looking at my scar. It’s where I was bitten.”

“Bitten? You mean you’re a—”

“A werewolf,” said the girl. “Like everyone else here. Except you, and the asshole. And the asshole’s sister.”

“But you weren’t always a werewolf. I mean, you weren’t born one.”

“Most of us aren’t,” said the girl. “That’s what makes us different than your Shadowhunter buddies.”

She smiled fleetingly. “We were human once.”

Simon said nothing to that. After a moment the girl held her hand out. “I’m Maia.”

“Simon.” He shook her hand. It was dry and soft. She looked up at him through golden-brown eyelashes, the color of buttered toast. “How do you know Jace is an asshole?” he said. “Or maybe I should say, how did you find out?”

She took her hand back. “He tore up the bar. Punched out my friend Bat. Even knocked a couple of the pack unconscious.”

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“Are they all right?” Simon was alarmed. Jace hadn’t seemed perturbed, but knowing him, Simon had no doubt he could kill several people in a single morning and go out for waffles afterward. “Did they get to a doctor?”

“A warlock,” said the girl. “We don’t have much to do with mundane doctors, our kind.”

Her eyebrows went up. “Someone taught you all the lingo, didn’t they?”

Simon was nettled. “How do you know I’m not one of them? Or you? A Shadowhunter or a Downworlder, or—”

She shook her head until her braids bounced. “It just shines out of you,” she said, a little bitterly, “your humanity.”

The intensity in her voice almost made him shiver. “I could knock on the door,” he suggested, feeling suddenly lame. “If you want to talk to Luke.”

She shrugged. “Just tell him Magnus is here, checking out the scene in the alley.” He must have looked startled, because she said, “Magnus Bane. He’s a warlock.”

I know, Simon wanted to say, but didn’t. The whole conversation had been weird enough already. “Okay.”

Maia turned as if to go, but paused partway down the hall, one hand on the doorjamb. “You think she’ll be able to talk sense into him?” she asked. “His sister?”

“If he listens to anyone, it would be her.”

“That’s sweet,” said Maia. “That he loves his sister like that.”

“Yeah,” Simon said. “It’s precious.”

THE FIRST TIME CLARY HAD EVER SEEN THE INSTITUTE, IT HAD looked like a dilapidated church, its roof broken in, stained yellow police tape holding the door closed. Now she didn’t have to concentrate to dispel the illusion. Even from across the street she could see it exactly as it was, a towering Gothic cathedral whose spires seemed to pierce the dark blue sky like knives.

Luke fell silent. It was clear from the look on his face that some kind of struggle was taking place inside him. As they mounted the steps, Jace reached inside his shirt as if from habit, but when he drew his hand out, it was empty. He laughed without any mirth. “I forgot. Maryse took my keys from me before I left.”

“Of course she did.” Luke was standing directly in front of the Institute’s doors. He gently touched the symbols carved into the wood, just below the architrave. “These doors are just like the ones at the Council Hall in Idris. I never thought I would see their like again.”

Clary almost felt guilty interrupting Luke’s reverie, but there were practical matters to attend to. “If we don’t have a key—”

“One shouldn’t be necessary. An Institute should be open to any of the Nephilim who mean no harm to the inhabitants.”

“What if they mean harm to us?” Jace muttered.

Luke’s mouth quirked at the corner. “I don’t think that makes a difference.”

“Yeah, the Clave always stacks the deck its way.” Jace’s voice sounded muffled—his lower lip was swelling, his left eyelid turning purple.

Why didn’t he heal himself? Clary wondered. “Did she take your stele, too?”

“I didn’t take anything when I left,” Jace said. “I didn’t want to take anything the Lightwoods got for me.”

Luke looked at him with some concern. “Every Shadowhunter must have a stele.”

“So I’ll get another one,” said Jace, and put his hand to the Institute’s door. “In the name of the Clave,” he said, “I ask entry to this holy place. And in the name of the Angel Raziel, I ask your blessings upon my mission against—”

The doors swung open. Clary could see the cathedral’s interior through them, the shadowy darkness illuminated here and there by candles in tall iron candelabras.

“Well, that’s convenient,” said Jace. “I guess blessings are easier to come by than I thought. Maybe I should ask for blessings on my mission against all those who wear white after Labor Day.”

“The Angel knows what your mission is,” said Luke. “You don’t have to say the words aloud, Jonathan.”

For a moment Clary thought she saw something flicker across Jace’s face—uncertainty, surprise—and maybe even relief? But all he said was, “Don’t call me that. It’s not my name.”

They made their way through the ground floor of the cathedral, past the empty pews and the light burning forever on the altar. Luke looked around him curiously, and even seemed surprised when the elevator, like a gilded birdcage, arrived to carry them up. “This must have been Maryse’s idea,” he said as they stepped into it. “It’s entirely her taste.”

“It’s been here as long as I have,” said Jace, as the door clanged shut behind them. The ride up was brief, and none of them spoke. Clary played nervously with the fringe of her scarf. She felt a little guilty about having told Simon to go home and wait for her to call him later. She had seen from the annoyed set of his shoulders as he stalked off down Canal Street that he’d felt summarily dismissed. Still, she couldn’t imagine having him—a mundane—here while Luke petitioned Maryse Lightwood on Jace’s behalf; it would just make everything awkward.

The elevator came to a clanging stop and they stepped out to find Church waiting for them in the entryway, a slightly dilapidated red bow around his neck. Jace bent to rub the back of his hand along the cat’s head. “Where’s Maryse?”

Church made a noise in his throat, halfway between a purr and a growl, and headed off down the corridor. They followed, Jace silent, Luke glancing around with evident curiosity. “I never thought I’d see the inside of this place.”

Clary asked, “Does it look like you thought it would?”

“I’ve been to the Institutes in London and Paris; this is not unlike those, no. Though somehow—”

“Somehow what?” Jace was several strides ahead.

Jace said nothing. They had reached the library. Church sat down as if to indicate that he planned to go no farther. Voices were faintly audible through the thick wooden door, but Jace pushed it open without knocking and strode inside.

Clary heard a voice exclaim in surprise. For a moment her heart contracted as she thought of Hodge, who had all but lived in this room. Hodge, with his gravelly voice, and Hugin, the raven who was his almost constant companion—and who had, at Hodge’s orders, nearly ripped out her eyes.

It wasn’t Hodge, of course. Behind the enormous mahogany plank desk that balanced on the backs of two kneeling stone angels sat a middle-aged woman with Isabelle’s ink black hair and Alec’s thin, wiry build. She wore a neat black suit, very plain, in contrast to the multiple brightly colored rings that burned on her fingers.

Beside her stood another figure: a slender teenage boy, slightly built, with curling dark hair and honey-colored skin. As he turned to look at them, Clary couldn’t hold back an exclamation of surprise. “Raphael?”

For a moment the boy looked taken aback. Then he smiled, his teeth very white and sharp—not surprising, considering that he was a vampire. “Dios,” he said, addressing himself to Jace. “What happened to you, brother? You look as if a pack of wolves tried to tear you apart.”

“That’s either a shockingly good guess,” said Jace, “or you heard about what happened.”

Raphael’s smile turned into a grin. “I hear things.”

The woman behind the desk rose to her feet. “Jace,” she said, her voice full of anxiety. “Did something happen? Why are you back so soon? I thought you were going to stay with—” Her gaze moved past him to Luke and Clary. “And who are you?”

“Jace’s sister,” Clary said.

Maryse’s eyes rested on Clary. “Yes, I can see it. You look like Valentine.” She turned back to Jace. “You brought your sister with you? And a mundane, as well? It’s not safe for any of you here right now. And especially a mundane—”