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City of Glass (The Mortal Instruments 3) Cassandra Clare 2022/8/5 16:59:55

“Oh, it is.” Raphael’s smile was blinding. “In fact, it is something that is within the walls of this Hall as we speak.” He turned and gestured gracefully toward the crowd. “It is the boy Simon that we want,” he said. “It is the Daylighter.”

The tunnel was long and twisting, switchbacking on itself over and over as if Jace were crawling through the entrails of an enormous monster. It smelled like wet rock and ashes and something else, something dank and odd that reminded Jace ever so slightly of the smell of the Bone City.

At last the tunnel opened out into a circular chamber. Huge stalactites, their surfaces as burnished as gems, hung down from a ridged, stony ceiling high above. The floor was as smooth as if it had been polished, alternating here and there with arcane patterns of gleaming inlaid stone. A series of rough stalagmites circled the chamber. In the very center of the room stood a single massive quartz stalagmite, rearing up from the floor like a gigantic fang, patterned here and there with a reddish design. Peering closer, Jace saw that the sides of the stalagmite were transparent, the reddish pattern the result of something swirling and moving inside it, like a glass test tube full of colored smoke.

High above, light filtered down from a circular hole in the stone, a natural skylight. The chamber had certainly been a product of design rather than accident—the intricate patterns tracing the floor made that much obvious—but who would have hollowed out such an enormous underground chamber, and why?

A sharp caw echoed through the room, sending a shock through Jace’s nerves. He ducked behind a bulky stalagmite, dousing his witchlight, just as two figures emerged from the shadows at the far end of the room and moved toward him, their heads bent together in conversation. It was only when they reached the center of the room and the light struck them that he recognized them.

Hoping to avoid the crowd, Simon took the long way back toward the dais, ducking behind the rows of pillars that lined the sides of the Hall. He kept his head down as he went, lost in thought. It seemed strange that Alec, only a year or two older than Isabelle, was heading off to fight in a war, and the rest of them were going to stay behind. And Isabelle seemed calm about it. No crying, no hysterics. It was as if she’d expected it. Maybe she had. Maybe they all had.

He was close to the dais steps when he glanced up and saw, to his surprise, Raphael standing across from Luke, looking his usual near-expressionless self. Luke, on the other hand, looked agitated—he was shaking his head, his hands up in protest, and Jocelyn, beside him, looked outraged. Simon couldn’t see Clary’s face—her back was to him—but he knew her well enough to recognize her tension just from the set of her shoulders.

Not wanting Raphael to see him, Simon ducked behind a pillar, listening. Even over the babble of the crowd, he was able to hear Luke’s rising voice.

“It’s out of the question,” Luke was saying. “I can’t believe you’d even ask.”

“And I can’t believe you would refuse.” Raphael’s voice was cool and clear, the sharp, still-high voice of a young boy. “It is such a small thing.”

“It’s not a thing.” Clary sounded angry. “It’s Simon. He’s a person.”

“He’s a vampire,” said Raphael. “Which you seem to keep forgetting.”

“Aren’t you a vampire as well?” asked Jocelyn, her tone as freezing as it had been every time Clary and Simon had ever gotten in trouble for doing something stupid. “Are you saying your life has no worth?”

Simon pressed himself back against the pillar. What was going on?

“My life has great worth,” said Raphael, “being, unlike yours, eternal. There is no end to what I might accomplish, while there is a clear end where you are concerned. But that is not the issue. He is a vampire, one of my own, and I am asking for him back.”

“You can’t have him back,” Clary snapped. “You never had him in the first place. You were never even interested in him either, till you found out he could walk around in daylight—”

“Possibly,” said Raphael, “but not for the reason you think.” He cocked his head, his bright, soft eyes dark and darting as a bird’s. “No vampire should have the power he has,” he said, “just as no Shadowhunter should have the power that you and your brother do. For years we have been told that we are wrong and unnatural. But this—this is unnatural.”

“Raphael.” Luke’s tone was warning. “I don’t know what you were hoping for. But there’s no chance we’ll let you hurt Simon.”

“But you will let Valentine and his army of demons hurt all these people, your allies.” Raphael made a sweeping gesture that encompassed the room. “You will let them risk their lives at their own discretion but won’t give Simon the same choice? Perhaps he would make a different one than you will.” He lowered his arm. “You know we will not fight with you otherwise. The Night Children will have no part in this day.”

“Then have no part in it,” said Luke. “I won’t buy your cooperation with an innocent life. I’m not Valentine.”

Raphael turned to Jocelyn. “What about you, Shadowhunter? Are you going to let this werewolf decide what’s best for your people?”

Jocelyn was looking at Raphael as if he were a roach she’d found crawling across her clean kitchen floor. Very slowly she said, “If you lay one hand on Simon, vampire, I’ll have you chopped up into tiny pieces and fed to my cat. Understand?”

Raphael’s mouth tightened. “Very well,” he said. “When you lie dying on Brocelind Plain, you may ask yourself whether one life was truly worth so many.”

He vanished. Luke turned quickly to Clary, but Simon was no longer watching them: He was looking down at his hands. He had thought they would be shaking, but they were as motionless as a corpse’s. Very slowly, he closed them into fists.

Valentine looked as he always had, a big man in modified Shadowhunter gear, his broad, thick shoulders at odds with his sharply planed, fine-featured face. He had the Mortal Sword strapped across his back along with a bulky satchel. He wore a wide belt with numerous weapons thrust through it: thick hunting daggers, narrow dirks, and skinning knives. Staring at Valentine from behind the rock, Jace felt as he always did now when he thought of his father—a persistent familial affection corroded through with bleakness, disappointment, and mistrust.

It was strange seeing his father with Sebastian, who looked—different. He wore gear as well, and a long silver-hilted sword strapped at his waist, but it wasn’t what he was wearing that struck Jace as odd. It was his hair, no longer a cap of dark curls but fair, shining-fair, a sort of white-gold. It suited him, actually, better than the dark hair had; his skin no longer looked so startlingly pale. He must have dyed his hair to resemble the real Sebastian Verlac, and this was what he really looked like. A sour, roiling wave of hatred coursed through Jace, and it was all he could do to stay hidden behind the rock and not lunge forward to wrap his hands around Sebastian’s throat.

Hugo cawed again and swooped down to land on Valentine’s shoulder. An odd pang went through Jace, seeing the raven in the posture that had become so familiar to him over the years he’d known Hodge. Hugo had practically lived on the tutor’s shoulder, and seeing him on Valentine’s felt oddly foreign, even wrong, despite everything Hodge had done.

Valentine reached up and stroked the bird’s glossy feathers, nodding as if the two of them were deep in conversation. Sebastian watched, his pale eyebrows arched. “Any word from Alicante?” he said as Hugo lifted himself from Valentine’s shoulder and soared into the air again, his wings brushing the gemlike tips of the stalactites.

“Nothing as comprehensible as I would like,” Valentine said. The sound of his father’s voice, cool and unruffled as ever, went through Jace like an arrow. His hands twitched involuntarily and he pressed them hard against his sides, grateful for the bulk of the rock hiding him from view. “One thing is certain. The Clave is allying itself with Lucian’s force of Downworlders.”

Sebastian frowned. “But Malachi said—”

“Malachi has failed.” Valentine’s jaw was set.

To Jace’s surprise Sebastian moved forward and put a hand on Valentine’s arm. There was something about that touch—something intimate and confident—that made Jace’s stomach feel as if it had been invaded by a nest of worms. No one touched Valentine like that. Even he would not have touched his father like that. “Are you upset?” Sebastian asked, and the same tone was in his voice, the same grotesque and peculiar assumption of closeness.

“The Clave is further gone than I had thought. I knew the Lightwoods were corrupted beyond hope, and that sort of corruption is contagious. It’s why I tried to keep them from entering Idris. But for the rest to have so easily had their minds filled with Lucian’s poison, when he is not even Nephilim …” Valentine’s disgust was plain, but he didn’t move away from Sebastian, Jace saw with growing disbelief, didn’t move to brush the boy’s hand from his shoulder. “I am disappointed. I thought they would see reason. I would have preferred not to end things this way.”

Sebastian looked amused. “I don’t agree,” he said. “Think of them, ready to do battle, riding out to glory, only to find that none of it matters. That their gesture is futile. Think of the looks on their faces.” His mouth stretched into a grin.

“Jonathan.” Valentine sighed. “This is ugly necessity, nothing to take delight in.”

Jonathan? Jace clutched at the rock, his hands suddenly slippery. Why would Valentine call Sebastian by his name? Was it a mistake? But Sebastian didn’t look surprised.

“Isn’t it better if I enjoy what I’m doing?” Sebastian said. “I certainly enjoyed myself in Alicante. The Lightwoods were better company than you led me to believe, especially that Isabelle. We certainly parted on a high note. And as for Clary—”

Just hearing Sebastian say Clary’s name made Jace’s heart skip a sudden, painful beat.

“She wasn’t at all like I thought she’d be,” Sebastian went on petulantly. “She wasn’t anything like me.”

“There is no one else in the world like you, Jonathan. And as for Clary, she has always been exactly like her mother.”

“She won’t admit what she really wants,” Sebastian said. “Not yet. But she’ll come around.”

Valentine raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean, come around?”

Sebastian grinned, a grin that filled Jace with an almost uncontrollable rage. He bit down hard on his lip, tasting blood. “Oh, you know,” Sebastian said. “To our side. I can’t wait. Tricking her was the most fun I’ve had in ages.”

“You weren’t supposed to be having fun. You were supposed to be finding out what it was she was looking for. And when she did find it—without you, I might add—you let her give it to a warlock. And then you failed to bring her with you when you left, despite the threat she poses to us. Not exactly a glorious success, Jonathan.”

“I tried to bring her. They wouldn’t let her out of their sight, and I couldn’t exactly kidnap her in the middle of the Accords Hall.” Sebastian sounded sulky. “Besides, I told you, she doesn’t have any idea how to use that rune power of hers. She’s too naive to pose any danger—”

“Whatever the Clave is planning now, she’s at the center of it,” Valentine said. “Hugin says as much. He saw her there on the dais in the Accords Hall. If she can show the Clave her power …”

Jace felt a flash of fear for Clary, mixed with an odd sort of pride—of course she was at the center of things. That was his Clary.

“Then they’ll fight,” said Sebastian. “Which is what we want, isn’t it? Clary doesn’t matter. It’s the battle that matters.”

“You underestimate her, I think,” Valentine said quietly.

“I was watching her,” said Sebastian. “If her power were as unlimited as you seem to think, she could have used it to get her little vampire friend out of his prison—or save that fool Hodge when he was dying—”

“Power doesn’t have to be unlimited to be deadly,” Valentine said. “And as for Hodge, perhaps you might show a bit more reserve regarding his death, since you’re the one who killed him.”

“He was about to tell them about the Angel. I had to.”

“You wanted to. You always do.” Valentine took a pair of heavy leather gloves from his pocket and drew them on slowly. “Perhaps he would have told them. Perhaps not. All those years he looked after Jace in the Institute and must have wondered what it was he was raising. Hodge was one of the few who knew there was more than one boy. I knew he wouldn’t betray me—he was too much of a coward for that.” He flexed his fingers inside the gloves, frowning.

More than one boy? What was Valentine talking about?

Sebastian dismissed Hodge with a wave of his hand. “Who cares what he thought? He’s dead, and good riddance.” His eyes gleamed blackly. “Are you going to the lake now?”

“Yes. You’re clear on what must be done?” Valentine jerked his chin toward the sword at Sebastian’s waist. “Use that. It’s not the Mortal Sword, but its alliance is sufficiently demonic for this purpose.”

“I can’t go to the lake with you?” Sebastian’s voice had taken on a distinct whining tone. “Can’t we just release the army now?”

“It’s not midnight yet. I said I would give them until midnight. They may yet change their minds.”