Page 8

City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments 2) Cassandra Clare 2022/8/5 16:53:11

Simon shuddered and kicked Luke’s fridge door shut. “Order pizza?”

“I already did,” said Luke, coming into the kitchen with the cordless phone in hand. “One large veggie pie, three Cokes. And I called the hospital,” he added, hanging the phone up. “There’s been no change with Jocelyn.”

“Oh,” Clary said. She sat down at the wooden table in Luke’s kitchen. Usually Luke was pretty neat, but at the moment the table was covered in unopened mail and stacks of dirty plates. Luke’s green duffel hung across the back of a chair. She knew she should be helping with the cleaning up, but lately she just hadn’t had the energy. Luke’s kitchen was small and a little dingy at the best of times—he wasn’t much of a cook, as evidenced by the fact that the spice rack that hung over the old-fashioned gas stove was empty of spices. Instead, he used it to hold boxes of coffee and tea.

Simon sat down next to her as Luke cleared the dirty dishes off the table and dumped them into the sink. “Are you okay?” he asked in a low voice.

“I’m all right.” Clary managed a smile. “I didn’t expect my mom to wake up today, Simon. I have this feeling she’s—waiting for something.”

“No. Just that something’s missing.” She looked up at Luke, but he was involved in vigorously scrubbing the plates clean in the sink. “Or someone.”

Simon looked quizzically at her, then shrugged. “So it sounds like the scene at the Institute was pretty intense.”

Clary shuddered. “Alec and Isabelle’s mom is scary.”

“What’s her name again?”

“May-ris,” said Clary, copying Luke’s pronunciation.

“It’s an old Shadowhunter name.” Luke dried his hands on a dishcloth.

“And Jace decided to stay there and deal with this Inquisitor person? He didn’t want to leave?” Simon said.

“It’s what he has to do if he ever wants to have a life as a Shadowhunter,” said Luke. “And being that—one of the Nephilim—means everything to him. I knew other Shadowhunters like him, back in Idris. If you took that away from him—”

The familiar buzz of the doorbell sounded. Luke tossed the dishcloth onto the counter. “I’ll be right back.”

As soon as he was out of the kitchen, Simon said, “It’s really weird thinking of Luke as someone who was once a Shadowhunter. Weirder than it is thinking of him as a werewolf.”

Simon shrugged. “I’ve heard of werewolves before. They’re sort of a known element. So he turns into a wolf once a month, so what. But the Shadowhunter thing—they’re like a cult.”

“They’re not like a cult.”

“Sure they are. Shadowhunting is their whole lives. And they look down on everyone else. They call us mundanes. Like they’re not human beings. They’re not friends with ordinary people, they don’t go to the same places, they don’t know the same jokes, they think they’re above us.” Simon pulled one gangly leg up and twisted the frayed edge of the hole in the knee of his jeans. “I met another werewolf today.”

“Don’t tell me you were hanging out with Freaky Pete at the Hunter’s Moon.” There was an uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach, but she couldn’t have said exactly what was causing it. Probably free-floating stress.

“No. It was a girl,” Simon said. “About our age. Named Maia.”

“Maia?” Luke was back in the kitchen carrying a square white pizza box. He dropped it onto the table and Clary reached over to pop it open. The smell of hot dough, tomato sauce, and cheese reminded her how starved she was. She tore off a slice, not waiting for Luke to slide a plate across the table to her. He sat down with a grin, shaking his head.

“Maia’s one of the pack, right?” Simon asked, taking a slice himself.

Luke nodded. “Sure. She’s a good kid. I’ve had her over here a few times looking out for the bookstore while I’ve been at the hospital. She lets me pay her in books.”

Simon looked at Luke over his pizza. “Are you low on money?”

Luke shrugged. “Money’s never been important to me, and the pack looks after its own.”

Clary said, “My mom always said that when we ran low on money she’d sell one of my dad’s stocks. But since the guy I thought was my dad wasn’t my dad, and I doubt Valentine has any stocks—”

“Your mother was selling her jewelry off bit by bit,” said Luke. “Valentine had given her some of his family’s pieces, jewelry that had been with the Morgensterns for generations. Even a small piece would fetch a high price at auction.” He sighed. “Those are gone now—though Valentine may have recovered them from the wreckage of your old apartment.”

“Well, I hope it gave her some satisfaction, anyway,” Simon said. “Selling off his stuff like that.” He took a third piece of pizza. It was truly amazing, Clary thought, how much teenage boys were able to eat without ever gaining weight or making themselves sick.

“It must have been weird for you,” she said to Luke. “Seeing Maryse Lightwood like that, after such a long time.”

“Not precisely weird. Maryse isn’t that different now from how she was then—in fact, she’s more like herself than ever, if that makes sense.”

Clary thought it did. The way that Maryse Lightwood had looked recollected to her the slim dark girl in the photo Hodge had given her, the one with the haughty tilt to her chin. “How do you think she feels about you?” she asked. “Do you really think they hoped you were dead?”

Luke smiled. “Maybe not out of hatred, no, but it would have been more convenient and less messy for them if I had died, certainly. That I’m not just alive but am leading the downtown pack can’t be something they’d hoped for. It’s their job, after all, to keep the peace between Downworlders—and here I come, with a history with them and plenty of reason to want revenge. They’ll be worried I’m a wild card.”

“Are you?” asked Simon. They were out of pizza, so he reached over without looking and took one of Clary’s nibbled crusts. He knew she hated crust. “A wild card, I mean.”

“There’s nothing wild about me. I’m stolid. Middle-aged.”

“Except that once a month you turn into a wolf and go tearing around slaughtering things,” Clary said.

“It could be worse,” Luke said. “Men my age have been known to purchase expensive sports cars and sleep with supermodels.”

“You’re only thirty-eight,” Simon pointed out. “That’s not middle-aged.”

“Thank you, Simon, I appreciate that.” Luke opened the pizza box and, finding it empty, shut it with a sigh. “Though you did eat all the pizza.”

“I only had five slices,” Simon protested, leaning his chair backward so it balanced precariously on its two back legs.

“How many slices did you think were in a pizza, dork?” Clary wanted to know.

“Less than five slices isn’t a meal. It’s a snack.” Simon looked apprehensively at Luke. “Does this mean you’re going to wolf out and eat me?”

“Certainly not.” Luke rose to toss the pizza box into the trash. “You would be stringy and hard to digest.”

“But kosher,” Simon pointed out cheerfully.

“I’ll be sure to point any Jewish lycanthropes your way.” Luke leaned his back against the sink. “But to answer your earlier question, Clary, it was strange seeing Maryse Lightwood, but not because of her. It was the surroundings. The Institute reminded me too much of the Hall of Accords in Idris—I could feel the strength of the Gray Book’s runes all around me, after fifteen years of trying to forget them.”

“Did you?” Clary asked. “Manage to forget them?”

“There are some things you never forget. The runes of the Book are more than illustrations. They become part of you. Part of your skin. Being a Shadowhunter never leaves you. It’s a gift that’s carried in your blood, and you can no more change it than you can change your blood type.”

“I was wondering,” Clary said, “if maybe I should get some Marks myself.”

Simon dropped the pizza crust he’d been gnawing on. “You’re kidding.”

“No, I’m not. Why would I joke about something like that? And why shouldn’t I get Marks? I’m a Shadowhunter. I might as well go for what protection I can get.”

“Protection from what?” Simon demanded, leaning forward so that the front legs of his chair hit the floor with a bang. “I thought all this Shadowhunting stuff was over. I thought you were trying to live a normal life.”

Luke’s tone was mild. “I’m not sure there’s such a thing as a normal life.”

Clary looked down at her arm, where Jace had drawn the only Mark she’d ever received. She could still see the lacelike white tracery it had left behind, more a memory than a scar. “Sure, I want to get away from the weirdness. But what if the weirdness comes after me? What if I don’t have a choice?”

“Or maybe you don’t want to get away from the weirdness that badly,” Simon muttered. “Not as long as Jace is still involved with it, anyway.”

Luke cleared his throat. “Most Nephilim go through levels of training before they receive their Marks. I wouldn’t recommend getting any until you’ve completed some instruction. And whether you even want to do that is up to you, of course. However, there is something you should have. Something every Shadowhunter should have.”

“An obnoxious, arrogant attitude?” Simon said.

“A stele,” said Luke. “Every Shadowhunter should have a stele.”

“Do you have one?” Clary asked, surprised.

Without responding, Luke headed out of the kitchen. He was back in a few moments, holding an object wrapped in black fabric. Setting the object down on the table, he unrolled the cloth, revealing a gleaming wandlike instrument, made of a pale, opaque crystal. A stele.

“Pretty,” said Clary.

“I’m glad you think so,” said Luke, “because I want you to have it.”

“Have it?” She looked at him in astonishment. “But it’s yours, isn’t it?”

He shook his head. “This was your mother’s. She didn’t want to keep it at the apartment in case you happened across it, so she asked me to hold on to it for her.”

Clary picked the stele up. It felt cool to the touch, though she knew it would heat to a glow when used. It was a strange object, not quite long enough to be a weapon, not quite short enough to be an easily manipulated drawing tool. She supposed the odd size was just something you got used to over time.

“Sure. It’s an old model, of course, almost twenty years out of date. They may have refined the designs since. Still, it’s reliable enough.”

Simon watched her as she held the stele like a conductor’s baton, tracing invisible patterns lightly on the air between them. “This kind of reminds me of the time my grandfather gave me his old golf clubs.”

Clary laughed and lowered her hand. “Yeah, except you never used those.”

“And I hope you never have to use that,” Simon said, and looked quickly away before she could reply.

Smoke rose from the Marks in black spirals and he smelled the choking scent of his own skin burning. His father stood over him with the stele, its tip gleaming red like the tip of a poker left too long in the fire. “Close your eyes, Jonathan,” he said. “Pain is only what you allow it to be.” But Jace’s hand curled in on itself, unwillingly, as if his skin were writhing, twisting to get away from the stele. He heard the snap as one bone in his hand broke, and then another…

Jace opened his eyes and blinked up at the darkness, his father’s voice fading away like smoke in rising wind. He tasted pain, metallic on his tongue. He’d bitten the inside of his lip. He sat up, wincing.

The snap came again and involuntarily he glanced down at his hand. It was unmarked. He realized the sound was coming from outside the room. Someone knocking, albeit hesitantly, at the door.

He rolled off the bed, shivering as his bare feet hit the cold floor. He’d fallen asleep in his clothes and he looked down at his wrinkled shirt in distaste. He probably still smelled like wolf. And he ached all over.

The knock came again. Jace strode across the room and threw the door open. He blinked in surprise. “Alec?”

Alec, hands in his jeans pockets, shrugged self-consciously. “Sorry it’s so late. Mom sent me to get you. She wants to see you in the library.”

“What the hell are you doing up?”

“Couldn’t sleep.” It looked like he was telling the truth. His blue eyes were surrounded by dark shadows.

Jace ran a hand through his tousled hair. “All right. Hang on a second while I change my shirt.” Heading to the wardrobe, he rummaged through neatly folded square stacks until he found a dark blue long-sleeved T-shirt. He peeled the shirt he was wearing off carefully—in some places it was stuck to his skin with dried blood.

Alec looked away. “What happened to you?” His voice was oddly constricted.

“Picked a fight with a pack of werewolves.” Jace slid the blue shirt over his head. Dressed, he padded after Alec into the hallway. “You have something on your neck,” he observed.

Alec’s hand flew to his throat. “What?”

“Looks like a bite mark,” said Jace. “What have you been doing all night, anyway?”