And was struck from the side by a club of knotted wood. The skeleton burst apart like a pi?ata filled with bones. They rattled into pieces with a sound like castanets clacking before vanishing into the darkness.
A Shadowhunter stood over Simon. It was no one he’d ever seen before. A tall man, bearded and blood-splattered, who ran a grimy hand across his forehead as he stared down at Simon, leaving a dark streak behind. “You all right?”
Stunned, Simon nodded and began scrambling to his feet. “Thanks.”
The stranger leaned down, offering a hand to help Simon up. Simon accepted—and went flying up out of the pit. He landed on his feet at the edge, his feet skidding on the wet mud. The stranger offered a sheepish grin. “Sorry. Downworlder strength—my partner’s a werewolf. I’m not used to it.” He peered at Simon’s face. “You’re a vampire, aren’t you?”
The man grinned. It was a tired sort of grin, but there was nothing unfriendly about it. “Your fangs. They come out when you’re fighting. I know because—” He broke off. Simon could have filled in the rest for him: I know because I’ve killed my fair share of vampires. “Anyway. Thanks. For fighting with us.”
“I—” Simon was about to say that he hadn’t exactly fought yet. Or contributed anything, really. He turned to say it, and got exactly one word out of his mouth before something impossibly huge and clawed and ragged-winged swept down out of the sky and dug its talons into the Shadowhunter’s back.
The man didn’t even cry out. His head went back, as if he were looking up in surprise, wondering what had hold of him—and then he was gone, whipping up into the empty black sky in a whir of teeth and wings. His club thumped to the ground at Simon’s feet.
Simon didn’t move. The whole thing, from the moment he’d fallen into the pit, had taken less than a minute. He turned numbly, staring around him at the blades whirling through the darkness, at the slashing talons of demons, at the points of illumination that raced here and there through the darkness like fireflies darting through foliage—and then he realized what they were. The gleaming lights of seraph blades.
He couldn’t see the Lightwoods, or the Penhallows, or Luke, or anyone else he might recognize. He wasn’t a Shadowhunter. And yet that man had thanked him, thanked him for fighting. What he’d told Clary was true—this was his battle too, and he was needed here. Not human Simon, who was gentle and geeky and hated the sight of blood, but vampire Simon, a creature he barely even knew.
A true vampire knows he is dead, Raphael had said. But Simon didn’t feel dead. He’d never felt more alive. He turned as another demon loomed up in front of him: this one a lizard-thing, scaled, with rodent teeth. It swept down on Simon with its black claws extended.
Simon leaped. He struck the massive side of the thing and clung, his nails digging in, the scales giving way under his grip. The Mark on his forehead throbbed as he sank his fangs into the demon’s neck.
When the glass stopped falling, there was a hole in the ceiling, several feet wide, as if a meteor had crashed through it. Cold air blew in through the gap. Shivering, Clary got to her feet, brushing glass dust from her clothes.
The witchlight that had lit the Hall had been doused: It was gloomy inside now, thick with shadows and dust. The faint illumination of the fading Portal in the square was just visible, glowing through the open front doors.
It was probably no longer safe to stay in here, Clary thought. She should go to the Penhallows’ and join Aline. She was partway across the Hall when footsteps sounded on the marble floor. Heart pounding, she turned and saw Malachi, a long, spidery shadow in the half-light, striding toward the dais. But what was he still doing here? Shouldn’t he be with the rest of the Shadowhunters on the battlefield?
As he drew closer to the dais, she noticed something that made her put her hand to her mouth, stifling a cry of surprise. There was a hunched dark shape perched on Malachi’s shoulder. A bird. A raven, to be exact.
Clary ducked to crouch behind a pillar as Malachi climbed the dais steps. There was something unmistakably furtive in the way he glanced from side to side. Apparently satisfied that he was unobserved, he drew something small and glittering from his pocket and slipped it onto his finger. A ring? He reached to twist it, and Clary remembered Hodge in the library at the Institute, taking the ring from Jace’s hand …
The air in front of Malachi shimmered faintly, as if with heat. A voice spoke from it, a familiar voice, cool and cultured, now touched with just the faintest annoyance.
“What is it, Malachi? I’m in no mood for small talk right now.”
“My Lord Valentine,” said Malachi. His usual hostility had been replaced with a slimy obsequiousness. “Hugin visited me not a moment ago, bringing news. I assumed you had already reached the Mirror, and therefore he sought me out instead. I thought you might want to know.”
Valentine’s tone was sharp. “Very well. What news?”
“It’s your son, Lord. Your other son. Hugin tracked him to the valley of the cave. He may even have followed you through the tunnels to the lake.”
Clary clutched the pillar with whitened fingers. They were talking about Jace.
Valentine grunted. “Did he meet his brother there?”
“Hugin says that he left the two of them fighting.”
Clary felt her stomach turn over. Jace, fighting Sebastian? She thought of the way Sebastian had lifted Jace at the Gard and flung him, as if he weighed nothing. A wave of panic surged over her, so intense that for a moment her ears buzzed. By the time the room swam back into focus, she had missed whatever Valentine had said to Malachi in return.
“It is the ones old enough to be Marked but not old enough to fight that concern me,” Malachi was saying now. “They didn’t vote in the Council’s decision. It seems unfair to punish them in the same way that those who are fighting must be punished.”
“I did consider that.” Valentine’s voice was a bass rumble. “Because teenagers are more lightly Marked, it takes them longer to become Forsaken. Several days, at least. I believe it may well be reversible.”
“While those of us who have drunk from the Mortal Cup will remain entirely unaffected?”
“I’m busy, Malachi,” said Valentine. “I’ve told you that you’ll be safe. I am trusting my own life to this process. Have some faith.”
Malachi bowed his head. “I have great faith, my lord. I have kept it for many years, in silence, serving you always.”
“And you will be rewarded,” said Valentine.
Malachi looked up. “My lord—”
But the air had stopped shimmering. Valentine was gone. Malachi frowned, then marched down the dais steps and toward the front doors. Clary shrank back against the pillar, hoping desperately that he wouldn’t see her. Her heart was pounding. What had all that been about? What was all this about Forsaken? The answer glimmered at the corner of her mind, but it seemed too horrible to contemplate. Even Valentine wouldn’t—
Something flew at her face then, whirling and dark. She barely had time to throw her arms up to cover her eyes when something slashed along the back of her hands. She heard a fierce caw, and wings beat against her upraised wrists.
“Hugin! Enough!” It was Malachi’s sharp voice. “Hugin!” There was another caw and a thump, then silence. Clary lowered her arms and saw the raven lying motionless at the Consul’s feet—stunned or dead, she couldn’t tell. With a snarl Malachi kicked the raven savagely out of his way and strode toward Clary, glowering. He caught hold of her by a bleeding wrist and hauled her to her feet. “Stupid girl,” he said. “How long have you been there listening?”
“Long enough to know that you’re one of the Circle,” she spat, twisting her wrist in his grasp, but he held firm. “You’re on Valentine’s side.”
“There is only one side.” His voice came out in a hiss. “The Clave is foolish, misguided, pandering to half men and monsters. All I want is to make it pure, to return it to its former glory. A goal you’d think every Shadowhunter would approve of, but no—they listen to fools and demon lovers like you and Lucian Graymark. And now you’ve sent the flower of the Nephilim to die in this ridiculous battle—an empty gesture that will accomplish nothing. Valentine has already begun the ritual; soon the Angel will rise, and the Nephilim will become Forsaken. All those save the few under Valentine’s protection—”
“That’s murder! He’s murdering Shadowhunters!”
“Not murder,” said the Consul. His voice rang with a fanatic’s passion. “Cleansing. Valentine will make a new world of Shadowhunters, a world purged of weakness and corruption.”
“Weakness and corruption aren’t in the world,” Clary snapped. “They’re in people. And they always will be. The world just needs good people to balance them out. And you’re planning to kill them all.”
He looked at her for a moment with honest surprise, as if he was astonished at the force in her tone. “Fine words from a girl who would betray her own father.” Malachi jerked her toward him, yanking brutally on her bleeding wrist. “Perhaps we should see just how much Valentine would mind if I taught you—”
But Clary never found out what he wanted to teach her. A dark shape shot between them—wings outspread and claws extended.
The raven caught Malachi with the tip of a talon, raking a bloody groove across his face. With a cry the Consul let go of Clary and threw up his arms, but Hugo had circled back and was slashing at him viciously with beak and claws. Malachi staggered backward, arms flailing, until he struck the edge of a bench, hard. It fell over with a crash; unbalanced, he sprawled after it with a strangled cry—quickly cut off.
Clary raced to where Malachi lay crumpled on the marble floor, a circle of blood already pooling around him. He had landed on a pile of glass from the broken ceiling, and one of the jagged chunks had pierced his throat. Hugo was still hovering in the air, circling Malachi’s body. He gave a triumphant caw as Clary stared at him—apparently he hadn’t appreciated the Consul’s kicks and blows. Malachi should have known better than to attack one of Valentine’s creatures, Clary thought sourly. The bird was no more forgiving than his master.
But there was no time to think about Malachi now. Alec had said that there were wards up around the lake, and that if anyone Portaled there, an alarm would go off. Valentine was probably already at the Mirror—there was no time to waste. Backing slowly away from the raven, Clary turned and dashed toward the front doors of the Hall and the glimmer of the Portal beyond.
WEIGHED IN THE BALANCE
WATER STRUCK HER IN THE FACE LIKE A BLOW. CLARY WENT down, choking, into freezing darkness; her first thought was that the Portal had faded beyond repairing, and that she was stuck in the whirling black in-between place.
Her second thought was that she was already dead.
She was probably only actually unconscious for a few seconds, though it felt like the end of everything. When she came awake, it was with a shock that was like the shock of breaking through a layer of ice. She had been unconscious and now, suddenly, she wasn’t; she was lying on her back on cold, damp earth, staring up at a sky so full of stars it looked like a handful of silver pieces had been flung across its dark surface. Her mouth was full of brackish liquid; she turned her head to the side, coughed and spat and gasped until she could breathe again.
When her stomach had stopped spasming, she rolled onto her side. Her wrists were bound together with a faint band of glowing light, and her legs felt heavy and strange, prickling all over with intense pins and needles. She wondered if she’d lain on them strangely, or perhaps it was a side effect of nearly drowning. The back of her neck burned as if a wasp had stung her. With a gasp she heaved herself into a sitting position, legs stretched out awkwardly in front of her, and looked around.
She was on the shore of Lake Lyn, where the water gave way to powdery sand. A black wall of rock rose behind her, the cliffs she remembered from her time here with Luke. The sand itself was dark, glittering with silver mica. Here and there in the sand were witchlight torches, filling the air with their silvery glow, leaving a tracery of glowing lines across the surface of the water.
By the shore of the lake, a few feet away from where she sat, stood a low table made out of flat stones piled one on the other. It had clearly been assembled in haste; though the gaps between the stones were packed in with damp sand, some of the rocks were slipping away at angles. Placed on the surface of the stones was something that made Clary catch her breath—the Mortal Cup, and laid crossways atop it, the Mortal Sword, a tongue of black flame in the witchlight. Around the altar were the black lines of runes carved into the sand. She stared at them, but they were jumbled, meaningless—
A shadow cut across the sand, moving fast—the long black shadow of a man, made wavering and indistinct by the flickering light of the torches. By the time Clary raised her head, he was already standing over her.
The shock of seeing him was so enormous that it was almost no shock at all. She felt nothing as she stared up at her father, whose face hovered against the dark sky like the moon: white, austere, pitted with black eyes like meteor craters. Over his shirt were looped a number of leather straps holding a dozen or more weapons. They bristled behind him like a porcupine’s spines. He looked huge, impossibly broad, the terrifying statue of some warrior god intent on destruction.
“Clarissa,” he said. “You took quite a risk, Portaling here. You’re lucky I saw you appear in the water between one minute and the next. You were quite unconscious; if it weren’t for me, you would have drowned.” A muscle beside his mouth moved slightly. “And I wouldn’t concern yourself overmuch with the alarm wards the Clave put up around the lake. I took those down the moment I arrived. No one knows you’re here.”