Aline nodded. A lot of people had left since the attacks. Most had stayed—more than Clary would have expected—but quite a few had packed up and departed, leaving their houses standing empty.
“They’re okay, if that’s what you want to know. Look, I haven’t seen them either. Not since the battle. I could pass on a message through Luke if you want—”
“I don’t know.” Aline was chewing her lower lip. “My parents had to tell Sebastian’s aunt in Paris what he did. She was really upset.”
“As one would be if one’s nephew turned out to be an evil mastermind,” said Simon.
Aline shot him a dark look. “She said it was completely unlike him, that there must be some mistake. So she sent me some photos of him.” Aline reached into her pocket and drew out several slightly bent photographs, which she handed to Clary. “Look.”
Clary looked. The photographs showed a laughing dark-haired boy, handsome in an off-kilter sort of way, with a crooked grin and a slightly-too-big nose. He looked like the sort of boy it would be fun to hang out with. He also looked nothing at all like Sebastian. “This is your cousin?”
“That’s Sebastian Verlac. Which means—”
“That the boy who was here, who was calling himself Sebastian, is someone else entirely?” Clary riffled through the photos with increasing agitation.
“I thought—” Aline was worrying her lip again. “I thought that if the Lightwoods knew Sebastian—or whoever that boy was—wasn’t really my cousin, maybe they’d forgive me. Forgive us.”
“I’m sure they will.” Clary made her voice as kind as she could. “But this is bigger than that. The Clave will want to know that Sebastian wasn’t just some misguided Shadowhunter kid. Valentine sent him here deliberately as a spy.”
“He was just so convincing,” Aline said. “He knew things only my family knows. He knew things from our childhood—”
“It kind of makes you wonder,” said Simon, “what happened to the real Sebastian. Your cousin. It sounds like he left Paris, headed to Idris, and never actually got here. So what happened to him on the way?”
Clary answered. “Valentine happened. He must have planned it all and known where Sebastian would be and how to intercept him on the way. And if he did that with Sebastian—”
“Then there may be others,” said Aline. “You should tell the Clave. Tell Lucian Graymark.” She caught Clary’s surprised look. “People listen to him. My parents said so.”
“Maybe you should come to the Hall with us,” Simon suggested. “Tell him yourself.”
Aline shook her head. “I can’t face the Lightwoods. Especially Isabelle. She saved my life, and I—I just ran away. I couldn’t stop myself. I just ran.”
“You were in shock. It’s not your fault.”
Aline looked unconvinced. “And now her brother—” She broke off, biting her lip again. “Anyway. Look, there’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you, Clary.”
“To tell me?” Clary was baffled.
“Yes.” Aline took a deep breath. “Look, what you walked in on, with me and Jace, it wasn’t anything. I kissed him. It was—an experiment. And it didn’t really work.”
Clary felt herself blushing what she thought must be a truly spectacular red. Why is she telling me this? “Look, it’s okay. It’s Jace’s business, not mine.”
“Well, you seemed pretty upset at the time.” A small smile played around the corners of Aline’s mouth. “And I think I know why.”
Clary swallowed against the acid taste in her mouth. “You do?”
“Look, your brother gets around. Everyone knows that; he’s dated lots of girls. You were worried that if he messed around with me, he’d get in trouble. After all, our families are—were—friends. You don’t need to worry, though. He’s not my type.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever heard a girl say that before,” said Simon. “I thought Jace was the kind of guy who was everyone’s type.”
“I thought so too,” Aline said slowly, “which is why I kissed him. I was trying to figure out if any guy is my type.”
She kissed Jace, Clary thought. He didn’t kiss her. She kissed him. She met Simon’s eyes over Aline’s head. Simon was looking amused. “Well, what’d you decide?”
Aline shrugged. “Not sure yet. But, hey, at least you don’t have Jace to worry about.”
If only. “I always have Jace to worry about.”
The space inside the Hall of Accords had been swiftly reconfigured since the night of the battle. With the Gard gone it now served as a Council chamber, a gathering place for people looking for missing family members, and a place to learn the latest news. The central fountain was dry, and on either side of it long benches were drawn up in rows facing a raised dais at the far end of the room. While some Nephilim were seated on the benches in what looked like a Council session, in the aisles and beneath the arcades that ringed the great room dozens of other Shadowhunters were milling anxiously. The Hall no longer looked like a place where anyone would consider dancing. There was a peculiar atmosphere in the air, a mixture of tension and anticipation.
Despite the gathering of the Clave in the center, murmured conversations were everywhere. Clary caught snippets of chatter as she and Simon moved through the room: The demon towers were working again. The wards were back up, but weaker than before. The wards were back up, but stronger than before. Demons had been sighted on the hills south of the city. The country houses were abandoned, more families had left the city, and some had left the Clave altogether.
On the raised dais, surrounded by hanging maps of the city, stood the Consul, glowering like a bodyguard beside a short, plump man in gray. The plump man was gesticulating angrily as he spoke, but no one seemed to be paying any attention.
“Oh, crap, that’s the Inquisitor,” Simon muttered in Clary’s ear, pointing. “Aldertree.”
“And there’s Luke,” Clary said, picking him out from the crowd. He stood near the dry fountain, deep in conversation with a man in heavily scuffed gear and a bandage covering the left half of his face. Clary looked around for Amatis and finally saw her, sitting silently at the end of a bench, as far away from the other Shadowhunters as she could get. She caught sight of Clary and made a startled face, beginning to rise to her feet.
Luke saw Clary, frowned, and spoke to the bandaged man in a low voice, excusing himself. He crossed the room to where Clary and Simon stood by one of the pillars, his frown deepening as he approached. “What are you doing here? You know the Clave doesn’t allow children into its meetings, and as for you—” He glared at Simon. “It’s probably not the best idea for you to show your face in front of the Inquisitor, even if there isn’t really anything he can do about it.” A smile twitched the corner of his mouth. “Not without jeopardizing any alliance the Clave might want to have with Downworlders in the future, anyway.”
“That’s right.” Simon wiggled his fingers in a wave at the Inquisitor, which Aldertree ignored.
“Simon, stop it. We’re here for a reason.” Clary thrust the photographs of Sebastian at Luke. “This is Sebastian Verlac. The real Sebastian Verlac.”
Luke’s expression darkened. He shuffled through the photos without saying anything as Clary repeated the story Aline had told her. Simon, meanwhile, stood uneasily, glowering across the room at Aldertree, who was studiously ignoring him.
“So does the real Sebastian look much like the imposter version?” Luke asked finally.
“Not really,” Clary said. “The fake Sebastian was taller. And I think he was probably blond, because he was definitely dyeing his hair. No one has hair that black.” And the dye came off on my fingers when I touched it, she thought, but kept the thought to herself. “Anyway, Aline wanted us to show these to you and to the Lightwoods. She thought maybe if they knew he wasn’t really related to the Penhallows, then—”
“She hasn’t told her parents about these, has she?” Luke indicated the photos.
“Not yet, I think,” Clary said. “I think she came straight to me. She wanted me to tell you. She said people listen to you.”
“Maybe some of them do.” Luke glanced back at the man with the bandaged face. “I was just talking to Patrick Penhallow, actually. Valentine was a good friend of his back in the day and may have kept tabs on the Penhallow family in one way or another in the years since. You said Hodge told you he had spies here.” He handed the photos back to Clary. “Unfortunately, the Lightwoods aren’t going to be part of the Council today. This morning was Max’s funeral. They’re most likely in the cemetery.” Seeing the look on Clary’s face, he added, “It was a very small ceremony, Clary. Just the family.”
But I am Jace’s family, said a small, protesting voice inside her head. But there was another voice, a louder one, surprising her with its bitterness. And he told you that being around you was like bleeding to death slowly. Do you really think he needs that when he’s already at Max’s funeral?
“Then you can tell them tonight, maybe,” Clary said. “I mean—I think it’ll be good news. Whoever Sebastian really is, he isn’t related to their friends.”
“It’d be better news if we knew where he was,” Luke muttered. “Or what other spies Valentine has here. There must have been several of them, at least, involved in taking down the wards. It could only have been done from inside the city.”
“Hodge said Valentine had figured out how to do it,” said Simon. “He said that you need demon blood to take the wards down, but that there was no way to get demon blood into the city. Except that Valentine had figured out a way.”
“Someone painted a rune in demon blood on the apex of one of the towers,” Luke said with a sigh, “so, clearly, Hodge was right. Unfortunately, the Clave has always trusted too much in their wards. But even the cleverest puzzle has a solution.”
“It seems to me like the sort of clever that gets your butt kicked in gaming,” Simon said. “The second you protect your fortress with a Spell of Total Invincibility, someone comes along and figures out how to trash the place.”
“Simon,” Clary said. “Shut up.”
“He’s not so far off,” said Luke. “We just don’t know how they got demon blood into the city without setting the wards off in the first place.” He shrugged. “It’s the least of our problems at the moment. The wards are back up, but we already know they’re not foolproof. Valentine could return at any moment with an even bigger force of arms, and I doubt we could fight him off. There aren’t enough Nephilim, and those who are here are utterly demoralized.”
“But what about the Downworlders?” Clary said. “You told the Consul that the Clave had to fight with the Downworlders.”
“I can tell Malachi and Aldertree that until I’m blue in the face, but it doesn’t mean they’ll listen,” Luke said wearily. “The only reason they’re even letting me stay here is because the Clave voted to keep me on as an adviser. And they only did that because quite a few of them had their lives saved by my pack. But that doesn’t mean they want more Downworlders in Idris—”
Amatis was on her feet, her hand over her mouth, staring toward the front of the Hall. A man stood in the doorway, framed in the glow of the sunlight outside. He was only a silhouette, until he took a step forward, into the Hall, and Clary could see his face for the first time.
For some reason the first thing Clary noticed was that he was clean-shaven. It made him look younger, more like the angry boy in the memories Ithuriel had showed her. Instead of battle dress, he wore an elegantly cut pin-striped suit and a tie. He was unarmed. He could have been any man walking down the streets of Manhattan. He could have been anyone’s father.
He didn’t look toward Clary, didn’t acknowledge her presence at all. His eyes were on Luke as he walked up the narrow aisle between the benches.
How could he come in here like this without any weapons? Clary wondered, and had her question answered a moment later: Inquisitor Aldertree made a noise like a wounded bear; tore himself away from Malachi, who was trying to hold him back; staggered down the dais steps; and hurled himself at Valentine.
He passed through Valentine’s body like a knife tearing through paper. Valentine turned to watch Aldertree with an expression of bland interest as the Inquisitor staggered, collided with a pillar, and sprawled awkwardly to the ground. The Consul, following, bent to help him to his feet—there was a look of barely concealed disgust on his face as he did it, and Clary wondered if the disgust was directed at Valentine or at Aldertree for acting like such a fool.
Another faint murmur carried around the room. The Inquisitor squeaked and struggled like a rat in a trap, Malachi holding him firmly by the arms as Valentine proceeded into the room without another glance at either of them. The Shadowhunters who had been clustered around the benches drew back, like the waves of the Red Sea parting for Moses, leaving a clear path down the center of the room. Clary shivered as he drew closer to where she stood with Luke and Simon. He’s only a Projection, she told herself. Not really here. He can’t hurt you.
Beside her Simon shuddered. Clary took his hand just as Valentine paused at the steps of the dais and turned to look directly at her. His eyes raked her once, casually, as if taking her measure; passed over Simon entirely; and came to rest on Luke.
Luke returned his gaze, steady and level, saying nothing. It was the first time they had been together in the same room since Renwick’s, Clary thought, and then Luke had been half-dead from fighting and covered in blood. It was easier now to mark both the differences and the similarities between the two men: Luke in his ragged flannel and jeans, and Valentine in his beautiful and expensive-looking suit; Luke with a day’s worth of stubble and gray in his hair, and Valentine looking much as he had when he was twenty-five—only colder, somehow, and harder, as if the passing years were in the process of turning him slowly to stone.