Page 6

City of Glass (The Mortal Instruments 3) Cassandra Clare 2022/8/5 16:59:40

Clary blinked. “I did, but I couldn’t figure out what it was.”

“It was an angel rising out of a lake, holding a cup and a sword. It’s a repeating motif in Nephilim decorations. The legend is that the Angel Raziel rose out of Lake Lyn when he first appeared to Jonathan Shadowhunter, the first of the Nephilim, and gave him the Mortal Instruments. Ever since then the lake has been—”

“Sacred?” Clary suggested.

“Cursed,” Luke said. “The water of the lake is in some way poisonous to Shadowhunters. It won’t hurt Downworlders—the Fair Folk call it the Mirror of Dreams, and they drink its water because they claim it gives them true visions. But for a Shadowhunter to drink the water is very dangerous. It causes hallucinations, fever—it can drive a person to madness.”

Clary felt cold all over. “That’s why you tried to make me spit the water out.”

Luke nodded. “And why I wanted you to find your stele. With a healing rune, we could stave off the water’s effects. Without it, we need to get you to Alicante as quickly as possible. There are medicines, herbs, that will help, and I know someone who will almost certainly have them.”

“Not the Lightwoods.” Luke’s voice was firm. “Someone else. Someone I know.”

He shook his head. “Let’s just pray this person hasn’t moved away in the last fifteen years.”

“But I thought you said it was against the Law for Downworlders to come into Alicante without permission.”

His answering smile was a reminder of the Luke who had caught her when she’d fallen off the jungle gym as a child, the Luke who had always protected her. “Some laws were meant to be broken.”

The Penhallows’ house reminded Simon of the Institute—it had that same sense of belonging somehow to another era. The halls and stairways were narrow, made of stone and dark wood, and the windows were tall and thin, giving out onto views of the city. There was a distinctly Asian feel to the decorations: a shoji screen stood on the first-floor landing, and there were lacquer-flowered tall Chinese vases on the windowsills. There were also a number of silk-screen prints on the walls, showing what must have been scenes from Shadowhunter mythology, but with an Eastern feel to them—warlords wielding glowing seraph blades were prominently featured, alongside colorful dragonlike creatures and slithering, pop-eyed demons.

“Mrs. Penhallow—Jia—used to run the Beijing Institute. She splits her time between here and the Forbidden City,” Isabelle said as Simon paused to examine a print. “And the Penhallows are an old family. Wealthy.”

“I can tell,” Simon muttered, looking up at the chandeliers, dripping cut-glass crystals like teardrops.

Jace, on the step behind them, grunted. “Move it along. We’re not taking a historical tour here.”

Simon weighed a rude retort and decided it wasn’t worth bothering. He took the rest of the stairs at a rapid pace; they opened out at the bottom into a large room. It was an odd mixture of the old and the new: A glass picture window looked out onto the canal, and there was music playing from a stereo that Simon couldn’t see. But there was no television, no stack of DVDs or CDs, the sort of detritus Simon associated with modern living rooms. Instead there were a number of overstuffed couches grouped around a large fireplace, in which flames were crackling.

Alec stood by the fireplace, in dark Shadowhunter gear, drawing on a pair of gloves. He looked up as Simon entered the room and scowled his habitual scowl, but said nothing.

Seated on the couches were two teenagers Simon had never seen before, a boy and a girl. The girl looked as if she was partly Asian, with delicate, almond-shaped eyes, glossy dark hair pulled back from her face, and a mischievous expression. Her delicate chin narrowed into a point like a cat’s. She wasn’t exactly pretty, but she was very striking.

The black-haired boy beside her was more than striking. He was probably Jace’s height, but seemed taller, even sitting down; he was slender and muscular, with a pale, elegant, restless face, all cheekbones and dark eyes. There was something strangely familiar about him, as if Simon had met him before.

The girl spoke first. “Is that the vampire?” She looked Simon up and down as if she were taking his measurements. “I’ve never really been this close to a vampire before—not one I wasn’t planning to kill, at least.” She cocked her head to the side. “He’s cute, for a Downworlder.”

“You’ll have to forgive her; she has the face of an angel and the manners of a Moloch demon,” said the boy with a smile, getting to his feet. He held his hand out to Simon. “I’m Sebastian. Sebastian Verlac. And this is my cousin, Aline Penhallow. Aline—”

“I don’t shake hands with Downworlders,” Aline said, shrinking back against the couch cushions. “They don’t have souls, you know. Vampires.”

Sebastian’s smile disappeared. “Aline—”

“It’s true. That’s why they can’t see themselves in mirrors, or go in the sun.”

Very deliberately, Simon stepped backward, into the patch of sunlight in front of the window. He felt the sun hot on his back, his hair. His shadow was cast, long and dark, across the floor, almost reaching Jace’s feet.

Aline took a sharp breath but said nothing. It was Sebastian who spoke, looking at Simon with curious black eyes. “So it’s true. The Lightwoods said, but I didn’t think—”

“That we were telling the truth?” Jace said, speaking for the first time since they’d come downstairs. “We wouldn’t lie about something like this. Simon’s … unique.”

“I kissed him once,” Isabelle said, to no one in particular.

Aline’s eyebrows shot up. “They really do let you do whatever you want in New York, don’t they?” she said, sounding half-horrified and half-envious. “The last time I saw you, Izzy, you wouldn’t even have considered—”

“The last time we all saw each other, Izzy was eight,” Alec said. “Things change. Now, Mom had to leave here in a hurry, so someone has to take her notes and records up to the Gard for her. I’m the only one who’s eighteen, so I’m the only one who can go while the Clave’s in session.”

“We know,” Isabelle said, flopping down onto a couch. “You’ve already told us that, like, five times.”

Alec, who was looking important, ignored this. “Jace, you brought the vampire here, so you’re in charge of him. Don’t let him go outside.”

The vampire, Simon thought. It wasn’t like Alec didn’t know his name. He’d saved Alec’s life once. Now he was “the vampire.” Even for Alec, who was prone to the occasional fit of inexplicable sullenness, this was obnoxious. Maybe it had something to do with being in Idris. Maybe Alec felt a greater need to assert his Shadowhunterness here.

“That’s what you brought me down here to tell me? Don’t let the vampire go outside? I wouldn’t have done that anyway.” Jace slid onto the couch beside Aline, who looked pleased. “You’d better hurry up to the Gard and back. God knows what depravity we might get up to here without your guidance.”

Alec gazed at Jace with calm superiority. “Try to hold it together. I’ll be back in half an hour.” He vanished through an archway that led to a long corridor; somewhere in the distance, a door clicked shut.

“You shouldn’t bait him,” Isabelle said, shooting Jace a severe look. “They did leave him in charge.”

Aline, Simon couldn’t help but notice, was sitting very close to Jace, their shoulders touching, even though there was plenty of room around them on the couch. “Did you ever think that in a past life Alec was an old woman with ninety cats who was always yelling at the neighborhood kids to get off her lawn? Because I do,” Jace said, and Aline giggled. “Just because he’s the only one who can go to the Gard—”

“What’s the Gard?” Simon asked, tired of having no idea what anyone was talking about.

Jace looked at him. His expression was cool, unfriendly; his hand was atop Aline’s where it rested on her thigh. “Sit down,” he said, jerking his head toward an armchair. “Or did you plan to hover in the corner like a bat?”

Great. Bat jokes. Simon settled himself uncomfortably in the chair.

“The Gard is the official meeting place of the Clave,” Sebastian said, apparently taking pity on Simon. “It’s where the Law is made, and where the Consul and Inquisitor reside. Only adult Shadowhunters are allowed onto its grounds when the Clave is in session.”

“In session?” Simon asked, remembering what Jace had said earlier, upstairs. “You mean—not because of me?”

Sebastian laughed. “No. Because of Valentine and the Mortal Instruments. That’s why everyone’s here. To discuss what Valentine’s going to do next.”

Jace said nothing, but at the sound of Valentine’s name, his face tightened.

“Well, he’ll go after the Mirror,” Simon said. “The third of the Mortal Instruments, right? Is it here in Idris? Is that why everyone’s here?”

There was a short silence before Isabelle answered. “The thing about the Mirror is that no one knows where it is. In fact, no one knows what it is.”

“It’s a mirror,” Simon said. “You know—reflective, glass. I’m just assuming.”

“What Isabelle means,” said Sebastian kindly, “is that nobody knows anything about the Mirror. There are multiple mentions of it in Shadowhunter histories, but no specifics about where it is, what it looks like, or, most important, what it does.”

“We assume Valentine wants it,” said Isabelle, “but that doesn’t help much, since no one’s got a clue where it is. The Silent Brothers might have had an idea, but Valentine killed them all. There won’t be more for at least a little while.”

“All of them?” Simon demanded in surprise. “I thought he only killed the ones in New York.”

“The Bone City isn’t really in New York,” Isabelle said. “It’s like—remember the entrance to the Seelie Court, in Central Park? Just because the entrance is there doesn’t mean the Court itself is under the park. It’s the same with the Bone City. There are various entrances, but the City itself—” Isabelle broke off as Aline shushed her with a quick gesture. Simon looked from her face to Jace’s to Sebastian’s. They all had the same guarded expression, as if they’d just realized what they’d been doing: Telling Nephilim secrets to a Downworlder. A vampire. Not the enemy, precisely, but certainly someone who couldn’t be trusted.

Aline was the first one to break the silence. Fixing her pretty, dark gaze on Simon, she said, “So—what’s it like, being a vampire?”

“Aline!” Isabelle looked appalled. “You can’t just go around asking people what it’s like to be a vampire.”

“I don’t see why,” Aline said. “He hasn’t been a vampire that long, has he? So he must remember what it was like being a person.” She turned back to Simon. “Does blood still taste like blood to you? Or does it taste like something else now, like orange juice or something? Because I would think the taste of blood would—”

“It tastes like chicken,” Simon said, just to shut her up.

“Really?” Aline looked astonished.

“He’s making fun of you, Aline,” said Sebastian, “as well he should. I apologize for my cousin again, Simon. Those of us who were brought up outside Idris tend to have a little more familiarity with Downworlders.”

“But weren’t you brought up in Idris?” Isabelle asked. “I thought your parents—”

“Isabelle,” Jace interrupted, but it was already too late; Sebastian’s expression darkened.

“My parents are dead,” he said. “A demon nest near Calais—it’s all right; it was a long time ago.” He waved away Isabelle’s protestation of sympathy. “My aunt—my father’s sister—brought me up at the Institute in Paris.”

“So you speak French?” Isabelle sighed. “I wish I spoke another language. But Hodge never thought we needed to learn anything but ancient Greek and Latin, and nobody speaks those.”

“I also speak Russian and Italian. And some Romanian,” Sebastian said with a modest smile. “I could teach you some phrases—”

“Romanian? That’s impressive,” said Jace. “Not many people speak it.”

“Do you?” Sebastian asked with interest.

“Not really,” Jace said with a smile so disarming Simon knew he was lying. “My Romanian is pretty much limited to useful phrases like, ‘Are these snakes poisonous?’ and ‘But you look much too young to be a police officer.’”

Sebastian didn’t smile. There was something about his expression, Simon thought. It was mild—everything about him was calm—but Simon had the sense that the mildness hid something beneath it that belied his outward tranquility. “I do like traveling,” he said, his eyes on Jace. “But it’s good to be back, isn’t it?”

Jace paused in the act of playing with Aline’s fingers. “What do you mean?”

“Just that there’s nowhere else quite like Idris, however much we Nephilim might make homes for ourselves elsewhere. Don’t you agree?”

“Why are you asking me?” Jace’s look was icy.

Sebastian shrugged. “Well, you lived here as a child, didn’t you? And it’s been years since you’ve been back. Or did I get that wrong?”