City of Heavenly Fire / Page 12

Page 12


 7
 CLASH BY NIGHT
 
 
 
The volcanic plain spread out like a pale moonscape before Jace, reaching to a line of distant mountains, black against the horizon. White snow dusted the ground: thick in some places; crisp, thin ice in others. Deadly sharp rocks sliced through the ice and snow, along with the bare branches of hedges and frozen moss.
 
The moon was behind clouds, the velvet dark sky pricked here and there with stars, dulled by a sheen of cloud. Light blazed up all around them, though, from seraph blades—and, Jace saw as his eyes adjusted, light from what looked like a bonfire burning in the distance.
 
The Portal had deposited Jace and Clary a few feet from each other, in the snow. They were side by side now, Clary very silent, her coppery hair dusted with white flakes. All around them were cries and shouts, the sound of seraph blades being ignited, the murmur of the names of angels.
 
“Stay close to me,” Jace murmured as he and Clary neared the top of the ridge. He had caught up a longsword from the pile by the Portal just before leaping in, Jia’s cry of dismay following them through the shrieking winds. Jace had half-expected her or Robert to follow them through, but instead the Portal had closed up immediately after them, like a door slamming shut.
 
The unfamiliar blade was heavy in Jace’s hand. He preferred to use his left arm, but the sword had a right-handed grip. The weapon was dented around the sides, as if it had seen quite a few battles. He wished he had one of his own weapons in his hand—
 
It appeared all at once, rising up in front of them like a fish breaking the surface of water with a sudden silver glint. Jace had seen the Adamant Citadel before only in pictures. Carved out of the same stuff as seraph blades, the Citadel glowed against the night sky like a star; it was what Jace had mistaken for the light of a bonfire. A circular wall of adamas ringed it, with no opening in the wall except a single gate, formed of two huge blades plunged into the ground at angles, like an open pair of scissors.
 
All around the Citadel the volcanic ground stretched away, black and white like a chessboard—half volcanic rock and half snow. Jace felt the hairs rise on the back of his neck. It was like being at the Burren again, though he remembered that only the way one might remember a dream: Sebastian’s dark Nephilim, in their red gear, and the Nephilim of the Clave, in black, blade to blade, the sparks of battle rising into the night, and then the fire of Glorious, wiping out all that had gone before.
 
The earth of the Burren had been dark, but now Sebastian’s warriors stood out like drops of blood against the white ground. They were waiting, red under the light of the stars, their dark blades in their hands. They stood between the Nephilim who had come through the Portal, and the gates of the Adamant Citadel. Though the Endarkened were at a distance, and though Jace could not see any of their faces clearly, he could somehow feel them smiling.
 
And he could feel too the unease in the Nephilim around him, the Shadowhunters who had come through the Portal so confident, so ready for battle. They stood and looked down at the Endarkened, and Jace could feel the hesitation in their bravado. At last—too late—they felt it: the alienness, the difference of the Endarkened. These were not Shadowhunters who had temporarily strayed from the path. They were not Shadowhunters at all.
 
“Where is he?” Clary whispered. Her breath was white in the cold. “Where’s Sebastian?”
 
Jace shook his head; many of the red-geared Shadowhunters had their hoods up, and their faces were invisible. Sebastian could have been any one of them.
 
“And the Iron Sisters?” Clary searched the plain with her gaze. The only white was snow. There was no sign of the Sisters in their robes, familiar from many Codex illustrations.
 
“They’ll stay inside the Citadel,” Jace said. “They have to protect what’s inside it. The arsenal. Presumably that’s what Sebastian’s here for—the weapons. The Sisters will have surrounded the interior armory with their bodies. If he manages to get through the gates, or his Endarkened do, the Sisters will destroy the Citadel before they let him have it.” His voice was grim.
 
“But if Sebastian knows that, if he knows what the Sisters will do—” Clary began.
 
A scream cut the night like a knife. Jace started forward before realizing the scream was coming from behind them. Jace whirled to see a man in worn gear go down with the blade of a Dark Shadowhunter in his chest. It was the man who had called out to Clary in Alicante, before they had reached the Gard.
 
The Dark Shadowhunter whirled, grinning. There was a cry from the Nephilim, and the blonde woman Clary had heard speaking excitedly at the Gard stepped forward. “Jason!” she cried, and Clary realized she was speaking to the Endarkened warrior, a thickset man with the same blonde hair she had. “Jason, please.” Her voice trembled as she moved forward, stretching out her hand to the Endarkened, who drew another blade from his belt, looking at her expectantly.
 
“Please, no,” Clary said. “Don’t—don’t go near him—”
 
But the blonde woman was only a step away from the Dark Shadowhunter. “Jason,” she whispered. “You’re my brother. You’re one of us, a Nephilim. You don’t have to do this—Sebastian can’t force you. Please—” She looked around, desperate. “Come with us. They’re working on a cure; we’ll fix you—”
 
Jason laughed. His blade flashed out, a sideways slash. The blonde Shadowhunter’s head fell. Blood fanned out, black against the white snow, as her body slumped to the ground. Someone was screaming over and over, hysterically, and then someone else cried out and gestured wildly behind them.
 
Jace looked up and saw a line of Endarkened advancing from behind, from the direction of the closed Portal. Their blades flashed out in the moonlight. The Nephilim began to stumble down the ridge, but it was no longer an orderly progression—there was panic among them; Jace could feel it, like the taste of blood on the wind. “Hammer and anvil!” he shouted, hoping they would understand. He seized Clary with his free hand and yanked her back, away from the headless body on the ground. “It’s a trap,” he shouted at her over the noise of the fighting. “Get to a wall, somewhere you can make a Portal! Get us out of here!”
 
Her green eyes widened. He wanted to grab her, kiss her, cling on to her, protect her, but the fighter in him knew he had brought her into this life. Encouraged her. Trained her. When he saw the understanding in her eyes, he nodded and let her go.
 
Clary pulled away from his grip, sliding past an Endarkened warrior who was facing off against a staff-wielding Silent Brother in bloody parchment robes. Her boots skidded on the snow as she darted toward the Citadel. The crowd swallowed her up just as an Endarkened warrior drew his weapon free and lunged for Jace.
 
Like all Endarkened Shadowhunters, his motions were blindingly swift, almost feral. As he rose up with his blade, he seemed to blot out the moon. And Jace’s blood rose up too, shooting like fire through his veins as his awareness narrowed: There was nothing else in the world, only this moment, only the weapon in his hand. He leaped toward the Dark Shadowhunter, his sword outstretched.
 
   
 
 
 
Clary bent to retrieve Heosphoros from where it had fallen in the snow. The blade was smeared with blood, the blood of a Dark Shadowhunter who was even now darting away from her, flinging himself back into the battle churning on the plain.
 
It had happened now a half dozen times. Clary would attack, attempt to engage one of the Endarkened in a fight, and they would drop their weapons, back away, turn from her as if she were a ghost, and hurry away. The first time or two she had wondered if they were afraid of Heosphoros, confused by a blade that looked so much like Sebastian’s. She suspected something else now. Sebastian had probably told them not to touch her or hurt her, and they were obeying.
 
It made her want to scream. She knew she should fling herself after them when they ran, end them with a blade to the back, or a slice to the throat, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. They still looked like Nephilim, human enough. Their blood ran red onto the snow. It still felt like cowardice to attack someone who could not attack back.
 
Ice crunched behind her, and she spun, her blade out. Everything had happened in a rush: the realization that there were twice as many Endarkened as they had counted on, that they were besieged on two sides, Jace’s plea to her to make a Portal. She was fighting her way through a desperate crowd now. Some Shadowhunters had scattered, and some had planted themselves where they were, determined to fight. As a mass they were being slowly pushed down the hill toward the plain, where the battle was at its thickest, bright seraph blades flashing out against dark knives, a mix of black and white and red.
 
For the first time Clary had cause to bless her small size. She was able to dart through the crowd, her gaze catching on desperate tableaux of fighting. There, a Nephilim barely older than she was waged a desperate battle against one of the Endarkened, twice the Shadowhunter’s size, who forced her down into the blood-slicked snow; a blade swung out, and then a shriek, and a seraph blade darkened forever. A dark-haired young man in black Shadowhunter gear stood over the body of a dead warrior in red. He held a bloody sword in one hand, and tears were running down his face, unchecked. Nearby a Silent Brother, a sight unexpected but welcome in his parchment robes, crushed the skull of a Dark Shadowhunter with one blow from his wooden staff; the Endarkened crumpled in silence. A man fell to his knees, wrapping his arms around the legs of a woman in red gear; she looked at him dispassionately, then drove her sword down between his shoulder blades. None of the warriors moved to stop her.
 
Clary burst out on the other side of the crowd and found herself beside the Citadel. Its walls were shining with an intense light. Through the arch of the scissor gate, she thought she could see the glow of something red-gold like fire. She scrabbled for the stele at her belt, took hold of it, put the tip to the wall—and froze.
 
Only feet from her, a Dark Shadowhunter had slipped away from the battle and toward the Citadel gates. He carried a mace and flail under his arm; with a grinning glance back at the battle, he ducked through the Citadel gate—
 
And the scissors closed. There was no scream, but the sickening crunch of bone and gristle was audible even through the noise of battle. A gout of blood sprayed across the closed gate, and Clary realized it was not the first. There were other stains, fanned across the Citadel wall, darkening the ground beneath—
 
She turned away, her stomach clenching, and pressed her stele harder against the stone. She began to force her mind to thoughts of Alicante, trying to visualize the grassy space before the Gard, trying to push away the distractions all around her.
 
“Drop the stele, Valentine’s daughter,” said a cold, even voice.
 
She froze. Behind her stood Amatis, sword in hand, the sharp tip pointing directly at Clary. There was a feral grin on her face. “That’s right,” she said. “Drop the stele to the ground and come with me. I know someone who’ll be very pleased to see you.”
 
   
 
 
 
“Move, Clarissa.” Amatis jabbed Clary in the side with the tip of her sword—not hard enough to cut through her jacket, but enough to make Clary uncomfortable. Clary had dropped her stele; it lay feet away in the filthy snow, shining with a tantalizing glimmer. “Stop dawdling.”
 
“You can’t hurt me,” Clary said. “Sebastian’s given orders.”
 
“Orders not to kill you,” Amatis agreed. “He never said anything about hurting you. I’ll happily turn you over to him with all your fingers missing, girl. Don’t think I won’t.”
 
Clary glared before turning around and letting Amatis herd her toward the battle. Her gaze was darting among the Endarkened, looking for a familiar fair head in the sea of scarlet. She needed to know how much time she had before Amatis threw her down at Sebastian’s feet and the chance to fight or run was over. Amatis had taken Heosphoros, of course, and the Morgenstern blade now dangled at the older woman’s hip, the stars along the ridge winking in the dim light. “I bet you don’t even know where he is,” Clary said.
 
Amatis jabbed her again, and Clary lurched forward, almost stumbling over the dead body of a Dark Shadowhunter. The ground was a churned-up mass of snow and dirt and blood. “I am Sebastian’s first lieutenant; I always know where he is. That is why I am the one he trusts to bring you to him.”
 
“He doesn’t trust you. He doesn’t care about you, or anything. Look.” They had reached the bump of a small ridge; Clary slowed to a stop and swept her arm out, indicating the battlefield. “Look how many of you are falling—Sebastian just wants cannon fodder. Just wants to use you up.”
 
“Is that what you see? I see dead Nephilim.” Clary could see Amatis out of the corner of her eye. Her gray-brown hair floated on the cold air, and her eyes were hard. “You think the Clave is not overmatched? Look. Look there.” She jabbed with a finger, and Clary looked, unwillingly. The two halves of Sebastian’s army had closed in and were encircling the Nephilim in their midst. Many of the Nephilim were fighting with skill and viciousness. They were, in their own strange way, lovely to watch in battle; the light of their seraph blades traced patterns on the dark sky. Not that it changed the fact that they were doomed. “They did what they always do when there’s an attack outside Idris and a Conclave is not near. They sent through the Portal whoever arrived at the Gard first. Some of these warriors have never fought in a real battle before. Some of them have fought in too many. None of them are prepared to kill an enemy that bears the faces of their sons, lovers, friends, parabatai.” She spat the last word. “The Clave does not understand our Sebastian or his forces, and they will be dead before they do.”
 
“Where did they come from?” Clary demanded. “The Endarkened. The Clave said there were only twenty of them, and there was no way for Sebastian to hide their numbers. How—”
 
Amatis threw her head back and laughed. “As if I’d tell you. Sebastian has allies in more places than you know, little one.”
 
“Amatis.” Clary tried to keep her voice steady. “You’re one of us. Nephilim. You’re Luke’s sister.”
 
“He’s a Downworlder, and no brother of mine. He should have killed himself when Valentine told him to.”
 
“You don’t mean that. You were happy to see him when we came to your house. I know you were.”
 
This time the jab of the blade’s tip between her shoulder blades was more than uncomfortable: It hurt. “I was trapped then,” Amatis said. “Thinking I needed the approval of the Clave and the Council. The Nephilim took everything from me.” She turned to glare at the Citadel. “The Iron Sisters took my mother. Then an Iron Sister presided over my divorce. They cut my marriage Marks in two, and I cried with the pain of it. They have no hearts in them, only adamas, and the Silent Brothers too. You think they are kind, that the Nephilim are kind, because they are good, but goodness is not kindness, and there is nothing crueler than virtue.”
 
“But we can choose,” Clary said, but how could you explain to someone who didn’t understand that their choices had been taken away, that there was such a thing as free will?
 
“Oh, for Hell’s sake, be quiet—” Amatis broke off, stiffening.
 
Clary followed her gaze. For a moment she couldn’t see what the other woman was staring at. She saw the chaos of fighting, blood in the snow, the spark of starlight on blades and the harsh glow of the Citadel. Then she realized that the battle seemed to be resolving itself into an odd sort of pattern—something was cutting a path through the middle of the crowd, like a ship slicing through water, leaving chaos in its wake. A slender black-clad Shadowhunter with bright hair, moving so fast, it was like watching fire spring from ridge to ridge in a forest, catching everything ablaze.
 
Only in this case the forest was Sebastian’s army, Endarkened falling one by one. Falling so quickly, they barely had time to reach for their weapons, much less raise them. And as they fell, others began to fall back, confused and uncertain, so that Clary could see the space that was being cleared in the middle of the battle, and who stood in the center of it.
 
Despite everything, she smiled. “Jace.”
 
Amatis sucked in a breath of surprise—it was a moment’s distraction, but it was all Clary needed to swing forward and hook her leg around Amatis’s ankles the way Jace had taught her, and then she swept Amatis’s feet out from under her. Amatis fell, her sword skittering out of her hand, across the frozen ground. Amatis was bending to spring back up when Clary tackled her—not gracefully but effectively, knocking her back into the snow. Amatis hit out at her, snapping Clary’s head back, but Clary’s hand was at the older woman’s belt, snatching Heosphoros free, and then jamming the razor-sharp tip against Amatis’s throat.
 
Amatis froze.
 
“That’s right,” Clary said. “Don’t even think about moving.”
 
   
 
 
 
“Let me go!” Isabelle screamed at her father. “Let me go!”
 
When the demon towers had gone red and gold with the warning to get to the Gard, she and Alec had scrambled to seize their gear and their weapons and hurtle up the hill. Isabelle’s heart pounded, not from the exertion but from excitement. Alec was grim and practical as always, but Isabelle’s whip was singing to her. Maybe this might be it, a real battle; maybe this might be the time they faced Sebastian again on the field, and this time she would kill him.
 
For her brother. For Max.
 
Alec and Isabelle had been unprepared for the crush of people in the Gard courtyard, or the speed with which Nephilim were being ushered through the Portal. Isabelle had lost her brother in the crowd but had pushed toward the Portal—she had seen Jace and Clary there, about to step through, and she’d redoubled her speed—until suddenly two hands had come out of the crowd and seized hold of her arms.
 
Her father. Isabelle kicked against him and yelled for Alec, but Jace and Clary were already gone, into the Portal whirlpool. Snarling, Isabelle fought, but her father had height and build and years of training on her.
 
He let her go just as the Portal gave one last whirl and slammed closed, disappearing into the blank wall of the armory. The remaining Nephilim in the courtyard went quiet, waiting for instructions. Jia Penhallow announced that enough of them had gone through to the Citadel, that the others should wait inside the Gard in case reinforcements were needed; there was no need to stand in the courtyard and freeze. She understood how badly everyone wanted to fight, but plenty of warriors had been dispatched to the Citadel, and Alicante still required a force to guard it.
 
“See?” said Robert Lightwood, gesturing at his daughter in exasperation as she whirled to face him. She was pleased to see that there were bleeding scratches on his wrists where she’d clawed at him. “You’re needed here, Isabelle—”
 
“Shut up,” she hissed at him through her teeth. “Shut up, you lying bastard.”
 
Astonishment wiped his expression blank. Isabelle knew from Simon and Clary that a certain amount of shouting at one’s parents was expected in mundane culture, but Shadowhunters believed in respect for elders and a governance of one’s emotions.
 
Only, Isabelle didn’t feel like governing her emotions. Not right now.
 
“Isabelle—” It was Alec, skidding into place beside her. The crowd around was thinning, and she was distantly aware that many of the Nephilim had already gone inside the Gard. The ones who were left were looking away awkwardly. Other people’s family fights were not Shadowhunter business. “Isabelle, let’s go back to the house.”
 
Alec reached for her hand; she jerked it out of his with an irritated movement. Isabelle loved her brother, but never had she more wanted to punch him in the head. “No,” she said. “Jace and Clary went through; we should get to go with them.”
 
Robert Lightwood looked weary. “They weren’t meant to go,” he said. “They did it against strict orders. It doesn’t mean you should follow.”
 
“They knew what they were doing,” Isabelle snapped. “You need more Shadowhunters facing Sebastian, not less.”
 
“Isabelle, I don’t have time for this,” said Robert, looking exasperatedly at Alec as if he expected his son to side with him. “There are only twenty Endarkened there with Sebastian. We sent fifty warriors through.”
 
“Twenty of them is like a hundred Shadowhunters,” said Alec in his quiet voice. “Our side could be slaughtered.”
 
“If anything happens to Jace and Clary, it’ll be your fault,” Isabelle said. “Just like Max.”
 
Robert Lightwood recoiled.
 
“Isabelle.” Her mother’s voice cut through the sudden, terrible silence. Isabelle whipped her head around and saw that Maryse had come up behind them; she, like Alec, looked stunned. A small distant part of Isabelle felt guilty and sick, but the part of her that seemed to have taken the reins, that was bubbling up inside her like a volcano, felt only a bitter triumph. She was tired of pretending everything was all right. “Alec’s right,” Maryse went on. “Let’s go back to the house—”
 
“No,” Isabelle said. “Didn’t you hear the Consul? We’re needed here, at the Gard. They might want reinforcements.”
 
“They’ll want adults, not children,” said Maryse. “If you’re not going to go back, then apologize to your father. Max’s—What happened to Max was no one’s fault but Valentine’s.”
 
“And maybe if you hadn’t been on Valentine’s side once, there wouldn’t have been a Mortal War,” Isabelle hissed at her mother. Then she rounded on her father. “I’m tired of pretending I don’t know what I know. I know you cheated on Mom.” Isabelle couldn’t stop the words now; they kept coming, like a flood. She saw Maryse go white, Alec open his mouth to protest. Robert looked as if she had hit him. “Before Max was born. I know. She told me. With some woman who died in the Mortal War. And you were going to leave too, leave all of us, and you only stayed because Max was born, and I bet you’re glad he’s dead, aren’t you, because now you don’t have to stay.”
 
“Isabelle—” Alec began, in horror.
 
Robert turned to Maryse. “You told her? By the Angel, Maryse, when?”
 
“You mean it’s true?” Alec’s voice shook with revulsion.
 
Robert turned to him. “Alexander, please—”
 
But Alec had turned his back. The courtyard was almost entirely empty of Nephilim now. Isabelle could see Jia standing in the distance, near the entrance to the armory, waiting for the last of them to come inside. She saw Alec go over to Jia, heard the sound of him arguing with her.
 
Isabelle’s parents were both looking at her as if their worlds were toppling over. She had never thought of herself as being able to destroy her parents’ world before. She had expected her father to shout at her, not to stand there in his Inquisitor’s gray, looking wrecked. Finally he cleared his throat.
 
“Isabelle,” he said hoarsely. “Whatever else you think, you must believe—you can’t really think that when we lost Max, that I—”
 
“Don’t talk to me,” Isabelle said, stumbling away from both of them, her heart thudding brokenly in her chest. “Just—don’t talk to me.”
 
She turned and fled.

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