“The Clave?” Simon felt dazed. “But what does that have to do with—”
“You see,” Aldertree went on, “the Clave is split down the middle—at war with itself, you might say, in a time of war. Mistakes were made, by the previous Inquisitor and others—perhaps it’s better not to dwell. But you see, the very authority of the Clave, of the Consul and the Inquisitor, is under question. Valentine always seems to be a step ahead of us, as if he knows our plans in advance. The Council will not listen to my advice or Malachi’s, not after what happened in New York.”
“I thought that was the Inquisitor—”
“And Malachi was the one who appointed her. Now, of course, he had no idea she would go as mad as she did—”
“But,” Simon said, a little sourly, “there is the question of how it looks.”
The vein bulged in Aldertree’s forehead again. “Clever,” he said. “And you’re correct. Appearances are significant, and never more than in politics. You can always sway the crowd, provided you have a good story.” He leaned forward, his eyes locked on Simon. “Now let me tell you a story. It goes like this. The Lightwoods were once in the Circle. At some point they recanted and were granted mercy on the grounds that they stayed out of Idris, went to New York, and ran the Institute there. Their blameless record began to win them back the trust of the Clave. But all along they knew Valentine was alive. All along they were his loyal servants. They took in his son—”
“But they didn’t know—”
“Be quiet,” the Inquisitor snarled, and Simon shut his mouth. “They helped him find the Mortal Instruments and assisted him with the Ritual of Infernal Conversion. When the Inquisitor discovered what they were secretly up to, they arranged to have her killed during the battle on the ship. And now they have come here, to the heart of the Clave, to spy on our plans and reveal them to Valentine as they are made, so that he can defeat us and ultimately bend all Nephilim to his will. And they have brought you with them—you, a vampire who can withstand sunlight—to distract us from their true plans: to return the Circle to its former glory and destroy the Law.” The Inquisitor leaned forward, his piggy eyes gleaming. “What do you think of that story, vampire?”
“I think it’s insane,” said Simon. “And it’s got more giant holes in it than Kent Avenue in Brooklyn—which, incidentally, hasn’t been resurfaced in years. I don’t know what you’re hoping to accomplish with this—”
“Hoping?” echoed Aldertree. “I don’t hope, Downworlder. I know in my heart. I know it is my sacred duty to save the Clave.”
“With a lie?” said Simon.
“With a story,” said Aldertree. “Great politicians weave tales to inspire their people.”
“There’s nothing inspirational about blaming the Lightwoods for everything—”
“Some must be sacrificed,” said Aldertree. His face shone with a sweaty light. “Once the Council has a common enemy, and a reason to trust the Clave again, they will come together. What is the cost of one family, weighed against all that? In fact, I doubt anything much will happen to the Lightwood children. They won’t be blamed. Well, perhaps the eldest boy. But the others—”
“You can’t do this,” Simon said. “Nobody will believe this story.”
“People believe what they want to believe,” Aldertree said, “and the Clave wants someone to blame. I can give them that. All I need is you.”
“Me? What does this have to do with me?”
“Confess.” The Inquisitor’s face was scarlet with excitement now. “Confess that you’re a servant of the Lightwoods, that you’re all in league with Valentine. Confess and I’ll show you leniency. I’ll send you back to your own people. I swear to it. But I need your confession to make the Clave believe.”
“You want me to confess to a lie,” Simon said. He knew he was just repeating what the Inquisitor had already said, but his mind was whirling; he couldn’t seem to catch hold of a single thought. The faces of the Lightwoods spun through his mind—Alec, catching his breath on the path up to the Gard; Isabelle’s dark eyes turned up to his; Max bent over a book.
And Jace. Jace was one of them as much as if he shared their Lightwood blood. The Inquisitor hadn’t said his name, but Simon knew Jace would pay along with the rest of them. And whatever he suffered, Clary would suffer. How had it happened, Simon thought, that he was bound to these people—to people who thought of him as nothing more than a Downworlder, half human at best?
He raised his eyes to the Inquisitor’s. Aldertree’s were an odd charcoal black; looking into them was like looking into darkness. “No,” Simon said. “No, I won’t do it.”
“That blood I gave you,” Aldertree said, “is all the blood you’ll see until you give me a different answer.” There was no kindness in his voice, not even false kindness. “You’d be surprised how thirsty you can get.”
“Another night in the cells, then,” the Inquisitor said, rising to his feet and reaching for a bell to summon the guards. “It’s quite peaceful down there, isn’t it? I do find that a peaceful atmosphere can help with a little problem of memory—don’t you?”
Though Clary had told herself she remembered the way she’d come with Luke the night before, this turned out not to be entirely true. Heading toward the city center seemed like the best bet for getting directions, but once she found the stone courtyard with the disused well, she couldn’t remember whether to turn left or right from it. She turned left, which plunged her into a warren of twisting streets, each one much like the next and each turn getting her more hopelessly lost than before.
Finally she emerged into a wider street lined with shops. Pedestrians hurried by on either side, none of them giving her a second glance. A few of them were also dressed in fighting gear, although most weren’t: It was cool out, and long, old-fashioned coats were the order of the day. The wind was brisk, and with a pang Clary thought of her green velvet coat, hanging up in Amatis’s spare bedroom.
Luke hadn’t been lying when he’d said that Shadowhunters had come from all over the world for the summit. Clary passed an Indian woman in a gorgeous gold sari, a pair of curved blades hanging from a chain around her waist. A tall, dark-skinned man with an angular Aztec face was gazing into a shop window full of weaponry; bracelets made of the same hard, shining material as the demon towers laddered his wrists. Farther down the street a man in a white nomadic robe consulted what looked like a street map. The sight of him gave Clary the nerve to approach a passing woman in a heavy brocade coat and ask her the way to Princewater Street. If there was ever going to be a time when the city’s inhabitants wouldn’t necessarily be suspicious of someone who didn’t seem to know where they were going, this would be it.
Her instinct was right; without a trace of hesitation the woman gave her a hurried series of directions. “And then right at the end of Oldcastle Canal, and over the stone bridge, and that’s where you’ll find Princewater.” She gave Clary a smile. “Visiting anyone in particular?”
“Oh, that’s the blue house, gold trim, backs up onto the canal. It’s a big place—you can’t miss it.”
She was half-right. It was a big place, but Clary walked right by it before realizing her mistake and swerving back around to look at it again. It was really more indigo than blue, she thought, but then again not everyone noticed colors that way. Most people couldn’t tell the difference between lemon yellow and saffron. As if they were even close to each other! And the trim on the house wasn’t gold; it was bronze. A nice darkish bronze, as if the house had been there for many years, and it probably had. Everything in this place was so ancient—
Enough, Clary told herself. She always did this when she was nervous, let her mind wander off in all sorts of random directions. She rubbed her hands down the sides of her trousers; her palms were sweaty and damp. The material felt rough and dry against her skin, like snake scales.
She mounted the steps and took hold of the heavy door knocker. It was shaped like a pair of angel’s wings, and when she let it fall, she could hear the sound echoing like the tolling of a huge bell. A moment later the door was yanked open, and Isabelle Lightwood stood on the threshold, her eyes wide with shock.
Clary smiled weakly. “Hi, Isabelle.”
Isabelle leaned against the doorjamb, her expression dismal. “Oh, crap.”
Back in the cell Simon collapsed on the bed, listening to the footsteps of the guards recede as they marched away from his door. Another night. Another night down here in prison, while the Inquisitor waited for him to “remember.” You do see how it looks? In all his worst fears, his worst nightmares, it had never occurred to Simon that anyone might think he was in league with Valentine. Valentine hated Downworlders, famously. Valentine had stabbed him and drained his blood and left him to die. Although, admittedly, the Inquisitor didn’t know that.
There was a rustle from the other side of the cell wall. “I have to admit, I wondered if you’d be coming back,” said the hoarse voice Simon remembered from the night before. “I take it you didn’t give the Inquisitor what he wants?”
“I don’t think so,” Simon said, approaching the wall. He ran his fingers over the stone as if looking for a crack in it, something he could see through, but there was nothing. “Who are you?”
“He’s a stubborn man, Aldertree,” said the voice, as if Simon hadn’t spoken. “He’ll keep trying.”
Simon leaned against the damp wall. “Then I guess I’ll be down here for a while.”
“I don’t suppose you’d be willing to tell me what it is he wants from you?”
“Why do you want to know?”
The chuckle that answered Simon sounded like metal scraping against stone. “I’ve been in this cell longer than you have, Daylighter, and as you can see, there’s not a lot to keep the mind occupied. Any distraction helps.”
Simon laced his hands over his stomach. The deer blood had taken the edge off his hunger, but it hadn’t been quite enough. His body still ached with thirst. “You keep calling me that,” he said. “Daylighter.”
“I heard the guards talking about you. A vampire who can walk around in the sunlight. No one’s ever seen anything like it before.”
“And yet you have a word for it. Convenient.”
“It’s a Downworlder word, not a Clave one. They have legends about creatures like you. I’m surprised you don’t know that.”
“I haven’t exactly been a Downworlder for very long,” Simon said. “And you seem to know a lot about me.”
“The guards like to gossip,” said the voice. “And the Lightwoods appearing through the Portal with a bleeding, dying vampire—that’s a good piece of gossip. Though I have to say I wasn’t expecting you to show up here—not until they started fixing up the cell for you. I’m surprised the Lightwoods stood for it.”
“Why wouldn’t they?” Simon said bitterly. “I’m nothing. I’m a Downworlder.”
“Maybe to the Consul,” said the voice. “But the Lightwoods—”
There was a short pause. “Those Shadowhunters who live outside Idris—especially those who run Institutes—tend to be more tolerant. The local Clave, on the other hand, is a good deal more … hidebound.”
“And what about you?” Simon said. “Are you a Downworlder?”
“A Downworlder?” Simon couldn’t be sure, but there was an edge of anger in the stranger’s voice, as if he resented the question. “My name is Samuel. Samuel Blackburn. I am Nephilim. Years ago I was in the Circle, with Valentine. I slaughtered Downworlders at the Uprising. I am not one of them.”
“Oh.” Simon swallowed. His mouth tasted of salt. The members of Valentine’s Circle had been caught and punished by the Clave, he remembered—except for those like the Lightwoods, who’d managed to make deals or accept exile in exchange for forgiveness. “Have you been down here ever since?”
“No. After the Uprising, I slipped out of Idris before I could be caught. I stayed away for years—years—until like a fool, thinking I’d been forgotten, I came back. Of course they caught me the moment I returned. The Clave has its ways of tracking its enemies. They dragged me in front of the Inquisitor, and I was interrogated for days. When they were done, they tossed me in here.” Samuel sighed. “In French this sort of prison is called an oubliette. It means ‘a forgetting place.’ It’s where you toss the garbage you don’t want to remember, so it can rot away without bothering you with its stench.”
“Fine. I’m a Downworlder, so I’m garbage. But you’re not. You’re Nephilim.”
“I’m Nephilim who was in league with Valentine. That makes me no better than you. Worse, even. I’m a turncoat.”
“But there are plenty of other Shadowhunters who used to be Circle members—the Lightwoods and the Penhallows—”
“They all recanted. Turned their backs on Valentine. I didn’t.”
“You didn’t? But why not?”
“Because I’m more afraid of Valentine than I am of the Clave,” said Samuel, “and if you were sensible, Daylighter, you would be too.”
“But you’re supposed to be in New York!” Isabelle exclaimed. “Jace said you’d changed your mind about coming. He said you wanted to stay with your mother!”