Luke hesitated. Something about Jace’s white and tired face drew sympathy out of his own exhaustion—sympathy and a desire to show this boy, who had been so betrayed and badly used by the adults in his life, that not all adults were like that, that there were some he could rely on. “All right.”
“And,” Jace said, “because I trust you to know how to explain it to Clary.”
“Explain what to Clary?”
“Why I had to do it.” Jace’s eyes were wide in the light of the rising sun; it made him look years younger. “I’m going after Sebastian, Luke. I know how to find him, and I’m going to follow him until he leads me to Valentine.”
Luke let his breath out in surprise. “You know how to find him?”
“Magnus showed me how to use a tracking spell when I was staying with him in Brooklyn. We were trying to use my father’s ring to find him. It didn’t work, but—”
“You’re not a warlock. You shouldn’t be able to do a tracking spell.”
“These are runes. Like the way the Inquisitor watched me when I went to see Valentine on the ship. All I needed to make it work was something of Sebastian’s.”
“But we went over this with the Penhallows. He left nothing behind. His room was utterly cleared out, probably for exactly this reason.”
“I found something,” said Jace. “A thread soaked in his blood. It’s not much, but it’s enough. I tried it, and it worked.”
“You can’t go haring off after Valentine on your own, Jace. I won’t let you.”
“You can’t stop me. Not really. Unless you want to fight me right here on these steps. You won’t win, either. You know that as well as I do.” There was a strange note in Jace’s voice, a mixture of certainty and self-hatred.
“Look, however determined you may be to play the solitary hero—”
“I am not a hero,” Jace said. His voice was clear and toneless, as if he were stating the simplest of facts.
“Think of what this will do to the Lightwoods, even if nothing happens to you. Think of Clary—”
“You think I haven’t thought of Clary? You think I haven’t thought of my family? Why do you think I’m doing this?”[email protected]@@@[email protected]@@@@=======
“Do you think I don’t remember what it’s like to be seventeen?” Luke answered. “To think you have the power to save the world—and not just the power but the responsibility—”
“Look at me,” said Jace. “Look at me and tell me I’m an ordinary seventeen-year-old.”
Luke sighed. “There’s nothing ordinary about you.”
“Now tell me it’s impossible. Tell me what I’m suggesting can’t be done.” When Luke said nothing, Jace went on, “Look, your plan is fine, as far as that goes. Bring in Downworlders, fight Valentine all the way to the gates of Alicante. It’s better than just lying down and letting him walk over you. But he’ll expect it. You won’t be catching him by surprise. I—I could catch him by surprise. He may not know Sebastian’s being followed. It’s a chance at least, and we have to take whatever chances we can get.”
“That may be true,” said Luke. “But this is too much to expect of any one person. Even you.”
“But don’t you see—it can only be me,” Jace said, desperation creeping into his voice. “Even if Valentine senses I’m following him, he might let me get close enough—”
“Close enough to do what?”
“To kill him,” said Jace. “What else?”
Luke looked at the boy standing below him on the stairs. He wished in some way he could reach through and see Jocelyn in her son, the way he saw her in Clary, but Jace was only, and always, himself—contained, alone, and separate. “You could do that?” Luke said. “You could kill your own father?”
“Yes,” Jace said, his voice as distant as an echo. “Now is this where you tell me I can’t kill him because he is, after all, my father, and patricide is an unforgivable crime?”
“No. This is where I tell you that you have to be sure you’re capable of it,” said Luke, and realized, to his own surprise, that some part of him had already accepted that Jace was going to do exactly what he said he was going to do, and that he would let him. “You can’t do all this, cut your ties here and hunt Valentine down on your own, just to fail at the final hurdle.”
“Oh,” said Jace, “I’m capable of it.” He looked away from Luke, down the steps toward the square that until yesterday morning had been full of bodies. “My father made me what I am. And I hate him for it. I can kill him. He made sure of that.”
Luke shook his head. “Whatever your upbringing, Jace, you’ve fought it. He didn’t corrupt you—”
“No,” Jace said. “He didn’t have to.” He glanced up at the sky, striped with blue and gray; birds had begun their morning songs in the trees lining the square. “I’d better go.”
“Is there something you wanted me to tell the Lightwoods?”
“No. No, don’t tell them anything. They’ll just blame you if they find out you knew what I was going to do and you let me go. I left notes,” he added. “They’ll figure it out.”
“Did I tell you all this? Because I want you to know. I want you to keep it in mind while you make your battle plans. That I’m out there, looking for Valentine. If I find him, I’ll send you a message.” He smiled fleetingly. “Think of me as your backup plan.”
Luke reached out and clasped the boy’s hand. “If your father weren’t who he is,” he said, “he’d be proud of you.”
Jace looked surprised for a moment, and then just as quickly he flushed and drew his hand back. “If you knew—” he began, and bit his lip. “Never mind. Good luck to you, Lucian Graymark. Ave atque vale.”
“Let us hope there will be no real farewell,” Luke said. The sun was rising fast now, and as Jace lifted his head, frowning at the sudden intensification of the light, there was something in his face that struck Luke—something in that mixture of vulnerability and stubborn pride. “You remind me of someone,” he said without thinking. “Someone I knew years ago.”
“I know,” Jace said with a bitter twist to his mouth. “I remind you of Valentine.”
“No,” said Luke, in a wondering voice; but as Jace turned away, the resemblance faded, banishing the ghosts of memory. “No—I wasn’t thinking of Valentine at all.”
The moment Clary awoke, she knew Jace was gone, even before she opened her eyes. Her hand, still outstretched across the bed, was empty; no fingers returned the pressure of her own. She sat up slowly, her chest tight.
He must have drawn the curtains back before he left, because the windows were open and bright bars of sunlight striped the bed. Clary wondered why the light hadn’t woken her. From the position of the sun, it had to be afternoon. Her head felt heavy and thick, her eyes bleary. Maybe it was just that she hadn’t had nightmares last night, for the first time in so long, and her body was catching up on sleep.
It was only when she stood up that she noticed the folded piece of paper on the nightstand. She picked it up with a smile hovering around her lips—so Jace had left a note—and when something heavy slid from beneath the paper and rattled to the floor at her feet, she was so surprised that she jumped back, thinking it was alive.
It lay at her feet, a coil of bright metal. She knew what it was before she bent and picked it up. The chain and silver ring that Jace had worn around his neck. The family ring. She had rarely seen him without it. A sudden sensation of dread washed over her.
She opened the note and scanned the first lines: “Despite everything, I can’t bear the thought of this ring being lost forever, any more than I can bear the thought of leaving you forever. And though I have no choice about the one, at least I can choose about the other.”
The rest of the letter seemed to wash together into a meaningless blur of letters; she had to read it over and over to make any sense of it. When she did finally understand, she stood staring down, watching the paper flutter as her hand shook. She understood now why Jace had told her everything he had, and why he had said one night didn’t matter. You could say anything you wanted to someone you thought you were never going to see again.
She had no recollection, later, of having decided what to do next, or of having hunted for something to wear, but somehow she was hurrying down the stairs, dressed in Shadowhunter gear, the letter in one hand and the chain with the ring clasped hastily around her throat.
The living room was empty, the fire in the grate burned down to gray ash, but noise and light emanated from the kitchen: a chatter of voices, and the smell of something cooking. Pancakes? Clary thought in surprise. She wouldn’t have thought Amatis knew how to make them.
And she was right. Stepping into the kitchen, Clary felt her eyes widen—Isabelle, her glossy dark hair swept up in a knot at the back of her neck, stood at the stove, an apron around her waist and a metal spoon in her hand. Simon was sitting on the table behind her, his feet up on a chair, and Amatis, far from telling him to get off the furniture, was leaning against the counter, looking highly entertained.
Isabelle waved her spoon at Clary. “Good morning,” she said. “Would you like breakfast? Although, I guess it’s more like lunchtime.”
Speechless, Clary looked at Amatis, who shrugged. “They just showed up and wanted to make breakfast,” she said, “and I have to admit, I’m not that good a cook.”
Clary thought of Isabelle’s awful soup back at the Institute and suppressed a shudder. “Where’s Luke?”
“In Brocelind, with his pack,” said Amatis. “Is everything all right, Clary? You look a little …”
“Wild-eyed,” Simon finished for her. “Is everything all right?”
For a moment Clary couldn’t think of a reply. They just showed up, Amatis had said. Which meant Simon had spent the entire night at Isabelle’s. She stared at him. He didn’t look any different.
“I’m fine,” she said. Now was hardly the time to be worrying about Simon’s love life. “I need to talk to Isabelle.”
“So talk,” Isabelle said, poking at a misshapen object in the bottom of the frying pan that was, Clary feared, a pancake. “I’m listening.”
Isabelle frowned. “Can’t it wait? I’m almost done—”
“No,” Clary said, and there was something in her tone that made Simon, at least, sit up straight. “It can’t.”
Simon slid off the table. “Fine. We’ll give you two some privacy,” he said. He turned to Amatis. “Maybe you could show me those baby pictures of Luke you were talking about.”
Amatis shot a worried glance at Clary but followed Simon out of the room. “I suppose I could….”
Isabelle shook her head as the door closed behind them. Something glinted at the back of her neck: A bright, delicately thin knife was thrust through the coil of her hair, holding it in place. Despite the tableau of domesticity, she was still a Shadowhunter. “Look,” she said. “If this is about Simon—”
“It’s not about Simon. It’s about Jace.” She thrust the note at Isabelle. “Read this.”
With a sigh Isabelle turned off the stove, took the note, and sat down to read it. Clary took an apple out of the basket on the table and sat down as Isabelle, across from her at the table, scanned the note silently. Clary picked at the apple peel in silence—she couldn’t imagine actually eating the apple, or, in fact, eating anything at all, ever again.
Isabelle looked up from the note, her eyebrows arched. “This seems kind of—personal. Are you sure I should be reading it?”
Probably not. Clary could barely even remember the words in the letter now; in any other situation, she would never have showed it to Isabelle, but her panic about Jace overrode every other concern. “Just read to the end.”
Isabelle turned back to the note. When she was done, she set the paper down on the table. “I thought he might do something like this.”
“You see what I mean,” Clary said, her words stumbling over themselves, “but he can’t have left that long ago, or gotten that far. We have to go after him and—” She broke off, her brain finally processing what Isabelle had said and catching up with her mouth. “What do you mean, you thought he might do something like this?”
“Just what I said.” Isabelle pushed a dangling lock of hair behind her ears. “Ever since Sebastian disappeared, everyone’s been talking about how to find him. I tore his room at the Penhallows’ apart looking for anything we could use to track him—but there was nothing. I might have known that if Jace found anything that would allow him to track Sebastian, he’d be off like a shot.” She bit her lip. “I just would have hoped that he’d have taken Alec with him. Alec won’t be happy.”
“So you think Alec will want to go after him, then?” Clary asked, with renewed hope.
“Clary.” Isabelle sounded faintly exasperated. “How are we supposed to go after him? How are we supposed to have the slightest idea where he’s gone?”
“There must be some way—”
“We can try to track him. Jace is smart, though. He’ll have figured out some way to block the tracking, just like Sebastian did.”
A cold anger stirred in Clary’s chest. “Do you even want to find him? Do you even care that he’s gone off on what’s practically a suicide mission? He can’t face down Valentine all by himself.”