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City of Glass (The Mortal Instruments 3) Cassandra Clare 2022/8/5 16:59:48

The ruined demon towers cast their dull, dead light down onto the moving streets of the city, where things loped and crawled and slunk in the shadows between buildings, like roaches skittering through a dark apartment. The air carried cries and shouts, the sound of screaming, names called on the wind—and there were the cries of demons as well, howls of mayhem and delight, shrieks that pierced the human ear like pain. Smoke rose above the honey-colored stone houses in a haze, wreathing the spires of the Hall of Accords. Glancing up toward the Gard, Alec saw a flood of Shadowhunters racing down the path from the hill, illuminated by the witchlights they carried. The Clave were coming down to battle.

He moved to the edge of the roof. The buildings here were very close together, their eaves almost touching. It was easy to jump from this roof to the next, and then to the one after that. He found himself running lightly along the rooftops, jumping the slight distances between houses. It was good to have the cold wind in his face, overpowering the stench of demons.

He’d been running for a few minutes before he realized two things: One, he was running toward the white spires of the Accords Hall. And two, there was something up ahead, in a square between two alleys, something that looked like a shower of rising sparks—except that they were blue, a dark gas-flame blue. Alec had seen blue sparks like that before. He stared for a moment before he began to run.

The roof closest to the square was steeply pitched. Alec skidded down the side of it, his boots knocking against loose shingles. Poised precariously at the edge, he looked down.

Cistern Square was below him, and his view was partly blocked by a massive metal pole that jutted out midway down the face of the building he was standing on. A wooden shop sign dangled from it, swaying in the breeze. The square beneath was full of Iblis demons—human-shaped but formed of a substance like coiling black smoke, each with a pair of burning yellow eyes. They had formed a line and were moving slowly toward the lone figure of a man in a sweeping gray coat, forcing him to retreat against a wall. Alec could only stare. Everything about the man was familiar—the lean curve of his back, the wild tangle of his dark hair, and the way that blue fire sprang from his fingertips like darting cyanotic fireflies.

Magnus. The warlock was hurling spears of blue fire at the Iblis demons; one spear struck an advancing demon in the chest. With a sound like a pail of water poured onto flames, it shuddered and vanished in a burst of ash. The others moved to fill his place—Iblis demons weren’t very bright—and Magnus hurled another spate of fiery spears. Several Iblis fell, but now another demon, more cunning than the others, had drifted around Magnus and was coalescing behind him, ready to strike—

Alec didn’t stop to think. Instead he jumped, catching the edge of the roof as he fell, and then dropped straight down to seize the metal pole and swing himself up and around it, slowing his fall. He released it and dropped lightly to the ground. The demon, startled, began to turn, its yellow eyes like flaming jewels; Alec had time only to reflect that if he were Jace, he would have had something clever to say before he snatched the seraph blade from his belt and ran it through the demon. With a dusty shriek the demon vanished, the violence of its exit from this dimension splattering Alec with a fine rain of ash.

“Alec?” Magnus was staring at him. He had dispatched the remaining Iblis demons, and the square was empty but for the two of them. “Did you just—did you just save my life?”

Alec knew he ought to say something like, Of course, because I’m a Shadowhunter and that’s what we do, or That’s my job. Jace would have said something like that. Jace always knew the right thing to say. But the words that actually came out of Alec’s mouth were quite different—and sounded petulant, even to his own ears. “You never called me back,” he said. “I called you so many times and you never called me back.”

Magnus looked at Alec as if he’d lost his mind. “Your city is under attack,” he said. “The wards have broken, and the streets are full of demons. And you want to know why I haven’t called you?”

Alec set his jaw in a stubborn line. “I want to know why you haven’t called me back.”

Magnus threw his hands up in the air in a gesture of utter exasperation. Alec noted with interest that when he did it, a few sparks escaped from his fingertips, like fireflies escaping from a jar. “You’re an idiot.”

“Is that why you didn’t call me? Because I’m an idiot?”

“No.” Magnus strode toward him. “I didn’t call you because I’m tired of you only wanting me around when you need something. I’m tired of watching you be in love with someone else—someone, incidentally, who will never love you back. Not the way I do.”

“You stupid Nephilim,” Magnus said patiently. “Why else am I here? Why else would I have spent the past few weeks patching up all your moronic friends every time they got hurt? And getting you out of every ridiculous situation you found yourself in? Not to mention helping you win a battle against Valentine. And all completely free of charge!”

“I hadn’t looked at it that way,” Alec admitted.

“Of course not. You never looked at it in any way.” Magnus’s cat eyes shone with anger. “I’m seven hundred years old, Alexander. I know when something isn’t going to work. You won’t even admit I exist to your parents.”

Alec stared at him. “I thought you were three hundred! You’re seven hundred years old?”

“Well,” Magnus amended, “eight hundred. But I don’t look it. Anyway, you’re missing the point. The point is—”

But Alec never found out what the point was, because at that moment a dozen more Iblis demons flooded into the square. He felt his jaw drop. “Damn it.”

Magnus followed his gaze. The demons were already fanning out into a half circle around them, their yellow eyes glowing. “Way to change the subject, Lightwood.”

“Tell you what.” Alec reached for a second seraph blade. “We live through this, and I promise I’ll introduce you to my whole family.”

“VALENTINE,” JACE BREATHED. HIS FACE WAS WHITE AS HE stared down at the city. Through the layers of smoke, Clary thought she could almost glimpse the narrow warren of city streets, choked with running figures, tiny black ants darting desperately to and fro—but she looked again and there was nothing, nothing but the thick clouds of black vapor and the stench of flame and smoke.

“You think Valentine did this?” The smoke was bitter in Clary’s throat. “It looks like a fire. Maybe it started on its own—”

“The North Gate is open.” Jace pointed toward something Clary could barely make out, given the distance and the distorting smoke. “It’s never left open. And the demon towers have lost their light. The wards must be down.” He drew a seraph blade from his belt, clutching it so tightly his knuckles turned the color of ivory. “I have to get over there.”

A knot of dread tightened Clary’s throat. “Simon—”

“They’ll have evacuated him from the Gard. Don’t worry, Clary. He’s probably better off than most down there. The demons aren’t likely to bother him. They tend to leave Downworlders alone.”

“I’m sorry,” Clary whispered. “The Lightwoods—Alec—Isabelle—”

“Jahoel,” Jace said, and the angel blade flared up, bright as daylight in his bandaged left hand. “Clary, I want you to stay here. I’ll come back for you.” The anger that had been in his eyes since they’d left the manor had evaporated. He was all soldier now.

She shook her head. “No. I want to go with you.”

“Clary—” He broke off, stiffening all over. A moment later Clary heard it too—a heavy, rhythmic pounding, and laid over that, a sound like the crackling of an enormous bonfire. It took Clary several long moments to deconstruct the sound in her mind, to break it down as one might break down a piece of music into its component notes. “It’s—”

“Werewolves.” Jace was staring past her. Following his gaze, she saw them, streaming over the nearest hill like a spreading shadow, illuminated here and there with fierce bright eyes. A pack of wolves—more than a pack; there must have been hundreds of them, even a thousand. Their barking and baying had been the sound she’d thought was a fire, and it rose up into the night, brittle and harsh.

Clary’s stomach turned over. She knew werewolves. She had fought beside werewolves. But these were not Luke’s wolves, not wolves who’d been instructed to look after her and not to harm her. She thought of the terrible killing power of Luke’s pack when it was unleashed, and suddenly she was afraid.

Beside her Jace swore once, fiercely. There was no time to reach for another weapon; he pulled her tightly against him, his free arm wrapped around her, and with his other hand he raised Jahoel high over their heads. The light of the blade was blinding. Clary gritted her teeth—

And the wolves were on them. It was like a wave crashing—a sudden blast of deafening noise, and a rush of air as the first wolves in the pack broke forward and leaped. There were burning eyes and gaping jaws; Jace dug his fingers into Clary’s side—

And the wolves sailed by on either side of them, clearing the space where they stood by a good two feet. Clary whipped her head around in disbelief as two wolves—one sleek and brindled, the other huge and steely gray—hit the ground softly behind them, paused, and kept running, without even a backward glance. There were wolves all around them, and yet not a single wolf touched them. They raced past, a flood of shadows, their coats reflecting moonlight in flashes of silver so that they almost seemed to be a single, moving river of shapes thundering toward Jace and Clary—and then parting around them like water around a stone. The two Shadowhunters might as well have been statues for all the attention the lycanthropes paid them as they hurtled by, their jaws gaping, their eyes fixed on the road ahead of them.

And then they were gone. Jace turned to watch the last of the wolves pass by and race to catch up with its companions. There was silence again now, only the very faint sounds of the city in the distance.

Jace let go of Clary, lowering Jahoel as he did so. “Are you all right?”

“What happened?” she whispered. “Those werewolves—they just went right by us—”

“They’re going to the city. To Alicante.” He took a second seraph blade from his belt and held it out to her. “You’ll need this.”

“You’re not leaving me here, then?”

“No point. It’s not safe anywhere. But—” He hesitated. “You’ll be careful?”

“I’ll be careful,” Clary said. “What do we do now?”

Jace looked down at Alicante, burning below them. “Now we run.”

It was never easy to keep up with Jace, and now, when he was running nearly flat out, it was almost impossible. Clary sensed that he was in fact restraining himself, cutting back his speed to let her catch up, and that it cost him something to do it.

The road flattened out at the base of the hill and curved through a stand of high, thickly branched trees, creating the illusion of a tunnel. When Clary came out the other side, she found herself standing before the North Gate. Through the arch Clary could see a confusion of smoke and leaping flames. Jace stood in the gateway, waiting for her. He was holding Jahoel in one hand and another seraph blade in the other, but even their combined light was lost against the greater brightness of the burning city behind him.

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“The guards,” she panted, racing up to him. “Why aren’t they here?”

“At least one of them is over in that stand of trees.” Jace jerked his chin in the direction they’d come from. “In pieces. No, don’t look.” He glanced down. “You’re holding your seraph blade wrong. Hold it like this.” He showed her. “And you need to name it. Cassiel would be a good one.”

“Cassiel,” Clary repeated, and the light of the blade flared up.

Jace looked at her soberly. “I wish I’d had time to train you for this. Of course, by all rights, no one with as little training as you should be able to use a seraph blade at all. It surprised me before, but now that we know what Valentine did—”

Clary very much did not want to talk about what Valentine had done. “Or maybe you were just worried that if you did train me properly, I’d turn out to be better than you,” she said.

The ghost of a smile touched the corner of his mouth. “Whatever happens, Clary,” he said, looking at her through Jahoel’s light, “stay with me. You understand?” He held her gaze, his eyes demanding a promise from her.

For some reason the memory of kissing him in the grass at the Wayland manor rose up in her mind. It seemed like a million years ago. Like something that had happened to someone else. “I’ll stay with you.”

“Good.” He looked away, releasing her. “Let’s go.”

They moved slowly through the gate, side by side. As they entered the city, she became aware of the noise of battle as if for the first time—a wall of sound made up of human screams and nonhuman howls, the sounds of smashing glass and the crackle of fire. It made the blood sing in her ears.

The courtyard just past the gate was empty. There were huddled shapes scattered here and there on the cobblestones; Clary tried not to look at them too hard. She wondered how it was that you could tell someone was dead even from a distance, without looking too closely. Dead bodies didn’t resemble unconscious ones; it was as if you could sense that something had fled from them, that some essential spark was now missing.