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City of Glass (The Mortal Instruments 3) Cassandra Clare 2022/8/5 16:59:45

Sebastian stroked the horse fondly on the shoulder. “A lot of Shadowhunter families keep a horse in the stables here in Alicante. If you’ve noticed, there are no cars in Idris. They don’t work well with all these wards around.” He patted the pale leather of the horse’s saddle, emblazoned with a crest of arms that depicted a water serpent rising out of a lake in a series of coils. The name Verlac was written beneath in delicate script. “Come on up.”

Clary backed up. “I’ve never ridden a horse before.”

“I’ll be riding Wayfarer,” Sebastian reassured her. “You’ll just be sitting in front of me.”

The horse grunted softly. He had huge teeth, Clary noticed uneasily; each one the size of a PEZ dispenser. She imagined those teeth sinking into her leg and thought of all the girls she’d known in middle school who’d wanted ponies of their own. She wondered if they were insane.

Be brave, she told herself. It’s what your mother would do.

She took a deep breath. “All right. Let’s go.”

Clary’s resolution to be brave lasted as long as it took for Sebastian—after helping her into the saddle—to swing himself up onto the horse behind her and dig in his heels. Wayfarer took off like a shot, pounding over the graveled road with a force that sent jolting shocks up her spine. She clutched at the bit of the saddle that stuck up in front of her, her nails digging into it hard enough to leave marks in the leather.

The road they were on narrowed as they headed out of town, and now there were banks of thick trees on either side of them, walls of green that blocked any wider view. Sebastian drew back on the reins, and the horse ceased his frantic galloping, Clary’s heartbeat slowing along with his pace. As her panic receded, she became slowly conscious of Sebastian behind her—he was holding the reins on either side of her, his arms making a sort of cage around her that kept her from feeling like she was about to slide off the horse. She was suddenly very aware, not just of the hard strength in the arms that held her, but that she was leaning back against his chest and that he smelled of, for some reason, black pepper. Not in a bad way—it was spicy and pleasant, very different from Jace’s smell of soap and sunlight. Not that sunlight had a smell, really, but if it did—

She gritted her teeth. She was here with Sebastian, on her way to see a powerful warlock, and mentally she was maundering on about the way Jace smelled. She forced herself to look around. The green banks of trees were thinning out and now she could see a sweep of marbled countryside to either side. It was beautiful in a stark sort of way: a carpet of green broken up here and there by a scar of gray stone road or a crag of black rock rising up out of the grass. Clusters of delicate white flowers, the same ones she’d seen in the necropolis with Luke, starred the hills like occasional snowfall.

“How did you find out where Ragnor Fell is?” she asked as Sebastian skillfully guided the horse around a rut in the road.

“My aunt élodie. She’s got quite a network of informants. She knows everything that’s going on in Idris, even though she never comes here herself. She hates to leave the Institute.”

“What about you? Do you come to Idris much?”

“Not really. The last time I was here I was about five years old. I haven’t seen my aunt and uncle since then either, so I’m glad to be here now. It gives me a chance to catch up. Besides, I miss Idris when I’m not here. There’s nowhere else like it. It’s in the earth of the place. You’ll start to feel it, and then you’ll miss it when you’re not here.”

“I know Jace missed it,” she said. “But I thought that was because he lived here for years. He was brought up here.”

“In the Wayland manor,” Sebastian said. “Not that far from where we’re going, in fact.”

“You do seem to know everything.”

“Not everything,” Sebastian said with a laugh that Clary felt through her back. “Yeah, Idris works its magic on everyone—even those like Jace who have reason to hate the place.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Well, he was brought up by Valentine, wasn’t he? And that must have been pretty awful.”

“I don’t know.” Clary hesitated. “The truth is, he has mixed feelings about it. I think Valentine was a horrible father in a way, but in another way the little bits of kindness and love he did show were all the kindness and love Jace ever knew.” She felt a wave of sadness as she spoke. “I think he remembered Valentine with a lot of affection, for a long time.”

“I can’t believe Valentine ever showed Jace kindness or love. Valentine’s a monster.”

“Well, yes, but Jace is his son. And he was just a little boy. I think Valentine did love him, in his way—”

“No.” Sebastian’s voice was sharp. “I’m afraid that’s impossible.”

Clary blinked and almost turned around to see his face, but then thought better of it. All Shadowhunters were sort of crazy on the topic of Valentine—she thought of the Inquisitor and shuddered inwardly—and she could hardly blame them. “You’re probably right.”

“We’re here,” Sebastian said abruptly—so abruptly that Clary wondered if she really had offended him somehow—and slid down from the horse’s back. But when he looked up at her, he was smiling. “We made good time,” he said, tying the reins to the lower branch of a nearby tree. “Better than I thought we would.”

He indicated with a gesture that she should dismount, and after a moment’s hesitation Clary slid off the horse and into his arms. She clutched him as he caught her, her legs unsteady after the long ride. “Sorry,” she said sheepishly. “I didn’t mean to grab you.”

“I wouldn’t apologize for that.” His breath was warm against her neck, and she shivered. His hands lingered just a moment longer on her back before he reluctantly let her go.

All this wasn’t helping Clary’s legs feel any steadier. “Thanks,” she said, knowing full well she was blushing, and wishing heartily that her fair skin didn’t show color so readily. “So—this is it?” She looked around. They were standing in a small valley between low hills. There were a number of gnarled-looking trees ranged around a clearing. Their twisted branches had a sculptural beauty against the steel blue sky. But otherwise … “There’s nothing here,” she said with a frown.

“Clary. Concentrate.”

“You mean—a glamour? But I don’t usually have to—”

“Glamours in Idris are often stronger than they are elsewhere. You may have to try harder than you usually do.” He put his hands on her shoulders and turned her gently. “Look at the clearing.”

Clary silently performed the mental trick that allowed her to peel glamour from the thing it disguised. She imagined herself rubbing turpentine on a canvas, peeling away layers of paint to reveal the true image underneath—and there it was, a small stone house with a sharply gabled roof, smoke twisting from the chimney in an elegant curlicue. A winding path lined with stones led up to the front door. As she looked, the smoke puffing from the chimney stopped curling upward and began to take on the shape of a wavering black question mark.

Sebastian laughed. “I think that means, Who’s there?”

Clary pulled her coat closer around her. The wind blowing across the level grass wasn’t that brisk, but there was ice in her bones nevertheless. “It looks like something out of a fairy tale.”

“Are you cold?” Sebastian put an arm around her. Immediately the smoke curling from the chimney stopped forming itself into question marks and began puffing out in the shape of lopsided hearts. Clary ducked away from him, feeling both embarrassed and somehow guilty, as if she’d done something wrong. She hurried toward the front walk of the house, Sebastian just behind her. They were halfway up the front path when the door flew open.

Despite having been obsessed with finding Ragnor Fell ever since Madeleine had told her his name, Clary had never stopped to picture what he might look like. A large, bearded man, she would have thought, if she’d thought about it at all. Someone who looked like a Viking, with big broad shoulders.

But the person who stepped out of the front door was tall and thin, with short, spiky dark hair. He was wearing a gold mesh vest and a pair of silk pajama pants. He regarded Clary with mild interest, puffing gently on a fantastically large pipe as he did so. Though he looked nothing at all like a Viking, he was instantly and totally familiar.

“But …” Sebastian seemed as astonished as Clary. He was staring at Magnus with his mouth slightly open, a blank look on his face. Finally he stammered, “Are you—Ragnor Fell? The warlock?”

Magnus took the pipe out of his mouth. “Well, I’m certainly not Ragnor Fell the exotic dancer.”

“I …” Sebastian seemed at a loss for words. Clary wasn’t sure what he’d been expecting, but Magnus was a lot to take in. “We were hoping you could help us. I’m Sebastian Verlac, and this is Clarissa Morgenstern—her mother is Jocelyn Fairchild—”

“I don’t care who her mother is,” Magnus said. “You can’t see me without an appointment. Come back later. Next March would be good.”

“March?” Sebastian looked horrified.

“You’re right,” Magnus said. “Too rainy. How about June?”

Sebastian drew himself upright. “I don’t think you understand how important this is—”

“Sebastian, don’t bother,” Clary said in disgust. “He’s just messing with your head. He can’t help us, anyway.”

Sebastian only looked more confused. “But I don’t see why he can’t—”

“All right, that’s enough,” Magnus said, and snapped his fingers once.

Sebastian froze in place, his mouth still open, his hand partially outstretched.

“Sebastian!” Clary reached out to touch him, but he was as rigid as a statue. Only the slight rise and fall of his chest showed that he was even still alive. “Sebastian?” she said again, but it was hopeless: She knew somehow that he couldn’t see or hear her. She turned on Magnus. “I can’t believe you just did that. What on earth is wrong with you? Has whatever’s in that pipe melted your brain? Sebastian’s on our side.”

“I don’t have a side, Clary darling,” Magnus said with a wave of his pipe. “And really, it’s your own fault I had to freeze him for a short while. You were awfully close to telling him I’m not Ragnor Fell.”

“That’s because you’re not Ragnor Fell.”

Magnus blew a stream of smoke out of his mouth and regarded her thoughtfully through the haze. “Come on,” he said. “Let me show you something.”

He held the door of the small house open, gesturing her inside. With a last, disbelieving glance at Sebastian, Clary followed him.

The interior of the cottage was unlit. The faint daylight streaming in through the windows was enough to show Clary that they stood inside a large room crowded with dark shadows. There was an odd smell in the air, as of burning garbage. She made a faint choking noise as Magnus raised his hand and snapped his fingers once again. A bright blue light bloomed from his fingertips.

Clary gasped. The room was a shambles—furniture smashed into splinters, drawers opened and their contents scattered. Pages ripped from books drifted in the air like ash. Even the window glass was shattered.

“I got a message from Fell last night,” said Magnus, “asking me to meet him here. I turned up here—and found it like this. Everything destroyed, and the stench of demons all around.”

“Demons? But demons can’t come into Idris—”

“I didn’t say they have. I’m just telling you what happened.” Magnus spoke without inflection. “The place stank of something demonic in origin. Ragnor’s body was on the floor. He hadn’t been dead when they left him, but he was dead when I arrived.” He turned to her. “Who knew you were looking for him?”

“Madeleine,” Clary whispered. “But she’s dead. Sebastian, Jace, and Simon. The Lightwoods—”

“Ah,” said Magnus. “If the Lightwoods know, the Clave may well know by now, and Valentine has spies in the Clave.”

“I should have kept it a secret instead of asking everyone about him,” Clary said in horror. “This is my fault. I should have warned Fell—”

“Might I point out,” said Magnus, “that you couldn’t find Fell, which is in fact why you were asking people about him. Look, Madeleine—and you—just thought of Fell as someone who could help your mother. Not someone Valentine might be interested in beyond that. But there’s more to it. Valentine might not have known how to wake up your mother, but he seems to have known that what she did to put herself in that state had a connection to something he wanted very much. A particular spell book.”

“How do you know all this?” Clary asked.

“Because Ragnor told me.”

Magnus cut her off with a gesture. “Warlocks have ways of communicating with each other. They have their own languages.” He raised the hand that held the blue flame. “Logos.”

Letters of fire, each at least six inches tall, appeared on the walls as if etched into the stone with liquid gold. The letters raced around the walls, spelling out words Clary couldn’t read. She turned to Magnus. “What does it say?”

“Ragnor did this when he knew he was dying. It tells whatever warlock comes after him what happened.” As Magnus turned, the glow of the burning letters lit his cat eyes to gold. “He was attacked here by servants of Valentine. They demanded the Book of the White. Aside from the Gray Book, it’s among the most famous volumes of supernatural work ever written. Both the recipe for the potion Jocelyn took and the recipe for the antidote to it are contained in that book.”