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City of Glass (The Mortal Instruments 3) Cassandra Clare 2022/8/5 16:59:50

“I hear the Clave has brought you onto the Council now,” Valentine said. “It would only be fitting for a Clave diluted by corruption and pandering to find itself infiltrated by half-breed degenerates.” His voice was placid, even cheerful—so much so that it was hard to feel the poison in his words, or to really believe that he meant them. His gaze moved back to Clary. “Clarissa,” he said, “here with the vampire, I see. When things have settled a bit, we really must discuss your choice of pets.”

A low growling noise came from Simon’s throat. Clary gripped his hand, hard—hard enough that there would have been a time he’d have jerked away in pain. Now he didn’t seem to feel it. “Don’t,” she whispered. “Just don’t.”

Valentine had already turned his attention away from them. He climbed the dais steps and turned to gaze down at the crowd. “So many familiar faces,” he observed. “Patrick. Malachi. Amatis.”

Amatis stood rigid, her eyes bright with hatred.

The Inquisitor was still struggling in Malachi’s grasp. Valentine’s gaze flicked over him, half-amused. “Even you, Aldertree. I hear you were indirectly responsible for the death of my old friend Hodge Starkweather. A pity, that.”

Luke found his voice. “You admit it, then,” he said. “You brought the wards down. You sent the demons.”

“I sent them,” said Valentine. “I can send more. Surely the Clave—even the Clave, stupid as they are—must have expected this? You expected it, didn’t you, Lucian?”

Luke’s eyes were gravely blue. “I did. But I know you, Valentine. So have you come to bargain, or to gloat?”

“Neither.” Valentine regarded the silent crowd. “I have no need to bargain,” he said, and though his tone was calm, his voice carried as if amplified. “And no desire to gloat. I don’t enjoy causing the deaths of Shadowhunters; there are precious few of us already, in a world that needs us desperately. But that’s how the Clave likes it, isn’t it? It’s just another one of their nonsensical rules, the rules they use to grind ordinary Shadowhunters into the dust. I did what I did because I had to. I did what I did because it was the only way to make the Clave listen. Shadowhunters didn’t die because of me; they died because the Clave ignored me.” He met Aldertree’s eyes across the crowd; the Inquisitor’s face was white and twitching. “So many of you here were once in my Circle,” said Valentine slowly. “I speak to you now, and to those who knew of the Circle but stood outside it. Do you remember what I predicted fifteen years ago? That unless we acted against the Accords, the city of Alicante, our own precious capital, would be overrun by slobbering, slavering crowds of half-breeds, the degenerate races trampling underfoot everything we hold dear? And just as I predicted, all that has come to pass. The Gard burned to the ground, the Portal destroyed, our streets awash with monsters. Half-human scum presuming to lead us. So, my friends, my enemies, my brothers under the Angel, I ask you—do you believe me now?” His voice rose to a shout. “DO YOU BELIEVE ME NOW?”

His gaze swept the room as if he expected an answer. There was none—only a sea of staring faces.

“Valentine.” Luke’s voice, though soft, broke the silence. “Can’t you see what you’ve done? The Accords you dreaded so much didn’t make Downworlders equal to Nephilim. They didn’t assure half humans a spot on the Council. All the old hatreds were still in place. You should have trusted to those, but you didn’t—you couldn’t—and now you’ve given us the one thing that could possibly have united us all.” His eyes sought Valentine’s. “A common enemy.”

A flush passed over Valentine’s pale face. “I am not an enemy. Not of Nephilim. You are that. You’re the one trying to entice them into a hopeless fight. You think those demons you saw are all I have? They were a fraction of what I can summon.”

“There are more of us as well,” said Luke. “More Nephilim, and more Downworlders.”

“Downworlders,” Valentine sneered. “They will run at the first sign of true danger. Nephilim are born to be warriors, to protect this world, but the world hates your kind. There is a reason clean silver burns you, and daylight scorches the Night Children.”

“It doesn’t scorch me,” Simon said in a hard, clear voice, despite the grip of Clary’s hand. “Here I am, standing in sunlight—”

But Valentine just laughed. “I’ve seen you choke on the name of God, vampire,” he said. “As for why you can stand in the sunlight—” He broke off and grinned. “You’re an anomaly, perhaps. A freak. But still a monster.”

A monster. Clary thought of Valentine on the ship, of what he had said there: Your mother told me that I had turned her first child into a monster. She left me before I could do the same to her second.

Jace. The thought of his name was a sharp pain. After what Valentine did, he stands here talking about monsters—

“The only monster here,” she said, despite herself and despite her resolution to keep silent, “is you. I saw Ithuriel,” she went on when he turned to look at her in surprise. “I know everything—”

“I doubt that,” Valentine said. “If you did, you’d keep your mouth shut. For your brother’s sake, if not your own.”

Don’t you even talk about Jace to me! Clary wanted to shout, but another voice came to cut hers off, a cool, unexpected female voice, fearless and bitter.

“And what about my brother?” Amatis moved to stand at the foot of the dais, looking up at Valentine. Luke started in surprise and shook his head at her, but she ignored him.

Valentine frowned. “What about Lucian?” Amatis’s question, Clary sensed, had unsettled him, or maybe it was just that Amatis was there, asking, confronting him. He had written her off years ago as weak, unlikely to challenge him. Valentine never liked it when people surprised him.

“You told me he wasn’t my brother anymore,” said Amatis. “You took Stephen away from me. You destroyed my family. You say you aren’t an enemy of Nephilim, but you set each of us against each other, family against family, wrecking lives without compunction. You say you hate the Clave, but you’re the one who made them what they are now—petty and paranoid. We used to trust one another, we Nephilim. You changed that. I will never forgive you for it.” Her voice shook. “Or for making me treat Lucian as if he were no longer my brother. I won’t forgive you for that, either. Nor will I forgive myself for listening to you.”

“Amatis—” Luke took a step forward, but his sister put up a hand to stop him. Her eyes were shining with tears, but her back was straight, her voice firm and unwavering.

“There was a time we were all willing to listen to you, Valentine,” she said. “And we all have that on our conscience. But no more. No more. That time is over. Is there anyone here who disagrees with me?”

Clary jerked her head up and looked out at the gathered Shadowhunters: They looked to her like a rough sketch of a crowd, with white blurs for faces. She saw Patrick Penhallow, his jaw set; and the Inquisitor, who was shaking like a frail tree in a high wind. And Malachi, whose dark, polished face was strangely unreadable.

If Clary had expected Valentine to be angry at this lack of response from the Nephilim he had hoped to lead, she was disappointed. Other than a twitch in the muscle of his jaw, he was expressionless. As if he had expected this response. As if he had planned for it.

“Very well,” he said. “If you will not listen to reason, you will have to listen to force. I have already showed you I can take down the wards around your city. I see that you’ve put them back up, but that’s of no consequence; I can easily do it again. You will either accede to my requirements or face every demon the Mortal Sword can summon. I will tell them not to spare a single one of you, not a man, woman, or child. It’s your choice.”

A murmur swept around the room; Luke was staring. “You would deliberately destroy your own kind, Valentine?”

“Sometimes diseased plants must be culled to preserve the whole garden,” said Valentine. “And if all are diseased …” He turned to face the horrified crowd. “It is your choice,” he went on. “I have the Mortal Cup. If I must, I will start over with a new world of Shadowhunters, created and taught by me. But I can give you this one chance. If the Clave will sign over all the powers of the Council to me and accept my unequivocal sovereignty and rule, I will stay my hand. All Shadowhunters will swear an oath of obedience and accept a permanent loyalty rune that binds them to me. These are my terms.”

There was silence. Amatis had her hand over her mouth; the rest of the room swung before Clary’s eyes in a whirling blur. They can’t give in to him, she thought. They can’t. But what choice did they have? What choice did any of them ever have? They are trapped by Valentine, she thought dully, as surely as Jace and I are trapped by what he made us. We are all chained to him by our own blood.

It was only a moment, though it felt like an hour to Clary, before a thin voice cut through the silence—the high, spidery voice of the Inquisitor. “Sovereignty and rule?” he shrieked. “Your rule?”

“Aldertree—” The Consul moved to restrain him, but the Inquisitor was too quick. He wriggled free and darted toward the dais. He was yelping something, the same words over and over, as if he’d lost his mind entirely, his eyes rolled back practically to the whites. He thrust Amatis aside, staggering up the steps of the dais to face Valentine. “I am the Inquisitor, do you understand, the Inquisitor!” he shouted. “I am part of the Clave! The Council! I make the rules, not you! I rule, not you! I won’t let you do this, you upstart, demon-loving slime—”

With a look very close to boredom, Valentine reached out a hand, almost as if he meant to touch the Inquisitor on the shoulder. But Valentine couldn’t touch anything—he was just a Projection—and then Clary gasped as Valentine’s hand passed through the Inquisitor’s skin, bones and flesh, vanishing into his rib cage. There was a second—only a second—during which the whole Hall seemed to gape at Valentine’s left arm, buried somehow, impossibly, wrist-deep in Aldertree’s chest. Then Valentine jerked his wrist hard and suddenly to the left—a twisting motion, as if he were turning a stubbornly rusty doorknob.

The Inquisitor gave a single cry and dropped like a stone.

Valentine drew his hand back. It was slicked with blood, a scarlet glove reaching halfway to his elbow, staining the expensive wool of his suit. Lowering his bloody hand, he gazed out across the horrified crowd, his eyes coming to rest at last on Luke. He spoke slowly. “I will give you until tomorrow at midnight to consider my terms. At that time I will bring my army, in all its force, to Brocelind Plain. If I have not yet received a message of surrender from the Clave, I will march with my army here to Alicante, and this time we will leave nothing living. You have that long to consider my terms. Use the time wisely.”

And with that, he vanished.

“WELL, HOW ABOUT THAT,” SAID JACE, STILL WITHOUT looking at Clary—he hadn’t really looked at her since she and Simon had arrived on the front step of the house the Lightwoods were now inhabiting. Instead he was leaning against one of the high windows in the living room, staring out toward the rapidly darkening sky. “A guy attends the funeral of his nine-year-old brother and misses all the fun.”

“Jace,” Alec said, in a tired sort of voice. “Don’t.”

Alec was slumped in one of the worn, overstuffed chairs that were the only things to sit on in the room. The house had the odd, alien feel of houses belonging to strangers: It was decorated in floral-printed fabrics, frilly and pastel, and everything in it was slightly worn or tattered. There was a glass bowl filled with chocolates on the small end table near Alec; Clary, starving, had eaten a few and found them crumbly and dry. She wondered what kind of people had lived here. The kind who ran away when things got tough, she thought sourly; they deserved to have their house taken over.

“Don’t what?” Jace asked; it was dark enough outside now that Clary could see his face reflected in the window glass. His eyes looked black. He was wearing Shadowhunter mourning clothes—they didn’t wear black to funerals, since black was the color of gear and fighting. The color of death was white, and the white jacket Jace wore had scarlet runes woven into the material around the collar and wrists. Unlike battle runes, which were all about aggression and protection, these spoke a gentler language of healing and grief. There were bands of hammered metal around his wrists, too, with similar runes on them. Alec was dressed the same way, all in white with the same red-gold runes traced over the material. It made his hair look very black.

Jace, Clary thought, on the other hand, all in white, looked like an angel. Albeit one of the avenging kind.

“You’re not mad at Clary. Or Simon,” Alec said. “At least,” he added, with a faint, worried frown, “I don’t think you’re mad at Simon.”

Clary half-expected Jace to snap an angry retort, but all he said was, “Clary knows I’m not angry at her.”

Simon, leaning his elbows on the back of the sofa, rolled his eyes but said only, “What I don’t get is how Valentine managed to kill the Inquisitor. I thought Projections couldn’t actually affect anything.”

“They shouldn’t be able to,” said Alec. “They’re just illusions. So much colored air, so to speak.”

“Well, not in this case. He reached into the Inquisitor and he twisted …” Clary shuddered. “There was a lot of blood.”