City of Heavenly Fire / Page 24

Page 24


 13
 PAVED WITH GOOD INTENTIONS
 
Jace was prowling the room like a cat. The others watched him, Simon with one eyebrow cocked. “There’s no other way to get there?” Jace asked. “We can’t try to Portal?”
 
“We’re not demons. We can Portal only within a dimension,” said Alec.
 
“I know that, but if Clary experimented with the Portal runes—”
 
“I won’t do it,” Clary interrupted, putting her hand protectively over the pocket where her stele rested. “I won’t put you all in danger. I Portaled myself and Luke to Idris and nearly got us killed. I’m not risking it.”
 
Jace was still prowling. It was what he did when he was thinking; Clary knew that but looked at him worriedly all the same. He was closing and unclosing his hands, and murmuring under his breath. Finally he stopped. “Clary,” he said. “You can make a Portal to the Seelie Court, right?”
 
“Yes,” she said. “That I could do—I’ve been there; I remember it. But would we be safe? We haven’t been invited, and the Fair Folk don’t like incursions into their territory—”
 
“There’s no ‘we,’ ” Jace said. “None of you are coming. I’m going to do this alone.”
 
Alec sprang to his feet. “I knew it, I bloody knew it, and absolutely not. Not a chance.”
 
Jace cocked an eyebrow at him; he was outwardly calm, but Clary could see his tension in the set of his shoulders and the way he rocked forward slightly on the balls of his feet. “Since when do you say ‘bloody’?”
 
“Since the situation bloody warrants it.” Alec crossed his arms over his chest. “And I thought we were going to discuss telling the Clave?”
 
“We can’t do that,” Jace said. “Not if we’re going to get to the demon realms through the Seelie Court. It’s not like half the Clave can just pour into the Court; that would seem like an act of war against the Fair Folk.”
 
“Whereas if it’s just five of us we can sweet-talk them into letting us through?” Isabelle raised an eyebrow.
 
“We’ve parleyed with the Queen before,” Jace said. “You went to the Queen when I—when Sebastian had me.”
 
“And she tricked us into taking walkie-talkie rings she could listen in on,” Simon said. “I wouldn’t trust her further than I could throw a medium-sized elephant.”
 
“I didn’t say anything about trusting her. She’ll do whatever’s in her interest at the moment. We just have to make it her interest to let us have access to the road to Edom.”
 
“We’re still Shadowhunters,” said Alec, “still representatives of the Clave. Whatever we do in Faerie, they’ll answer for it.”
 
“So we’ll use tact and cleverness,” said Jace. “Look, I’d love to make the Clave deal with the Queen and her court for us. But we don’t have the time. They—Luke and Jocelyn and Magnus and Raphael—don’t have the time. Sebastian’s gearing up; he’s speeding up his plans, his bloodlust. You don’t know what he’s like when he gets like this, but I do. I do.” He caught his breath; there was a thin sheen of sweat across his cheekbones. “Which is why I want to do this alone. Brother Zachariah said it to me: I am the heavenly fire. It’s not like we can get another Glorious. We can’t exactly summon another angel; we played that card.”
 
“Fine,” Clary said, “but even if you’re the only source of heavenly fire, that doesn’t mean you need to do this alone.”
 
“She’s right,” Alec said. “We know that heavenly fire can hurt Sebastian. But we don’t know it’s the only thing that can hurt him.”
 
“And it definitely doesn’t meant you’re the only one who can kill however many Endarkened Sebastian has standing around him,” Clary pointed out. “Or that you can get yourself through the Seelie Court safely on your own or, after that, through some forsaken demon realm where you have to find Sebastian—”
 
“We can’t track him because we’re not in the same dimension,” Jace said. He held up his wrist where Sebastian’s silver bracelet glittered. “Once I’m in his world, I can track him. I’ve done it before—”
 
“We can track him,” Clary said. “Jace, there’s more to this than just finding him; this is huge, bigger than anything we’ve done. This isn’t just about killing Sebastian; this is about the prisoners. It’s a rescue mission. It’s their lives on the line as well as ours.” Her voice cracked.
 
Jace had paused his prowling; he looked from one of his friends to the other, almost pleading. “I just don’t want anything to happen to you.”
 
“Yeah, well, none of us want anything to happen to us either,” said Simon. “But think ahead; what happens if you go and we stay? Sebastian wants Clary, wants her more than he wants you, and he can find her here in Alicante. Nothing’s stopping him from coming again except a promise that he’ll wait two days, and what are his promises worth? He could come for any of us at any time; he proved that with the Downworld representatives. We’re sitting ducks here. Better to go where he isn’t expecting or looking for us.”
 
“I will not hang back here in Alicante while Magnus is in danger,” said Alec, in a surprisingly cold, adult voice. “Go without me, and you disrespect our parabatai oaths, you disrespect me as a Shadowhunter, and you disrespect the fact that this is my battle too.”
 
Jace looked shocked. “Alec, I would never disrespect our oaths. You’re one of the best Shadowhunters I know—”
 
“Which is why we come with you,” said Isabelle. “You need us. You need Alec and me to back you up the way we always have. You need Clary’s rune powers and Simon’s vampire strength. This isn’t just your fight. If you respect us as Shadowhunters and as your friends—all of us—then we go with you. It’s that simple.”
 
“I know,” Jace said, softly. “I know I need you.” He looked over at Clary, and she heard Isabelle’s voice saying you need Clary’s rune powers and remembered the first time she had ever seen him, Alec and Isabelle on either side of him, and how she had thought he looked dangerous.
 
It had never occurred to her that she was like him—that she was dangerous too.
 
“Thank you,” he said, and cleared his throat. “Okay. Everyone get into gear, and pack bags. Pack for overland travel: water, what food you can grab, extra steles, blankets. And you,” he added to Simon, “you might not need food, but if you have bottled blood, bring it. There might not be anything you can . . . eat where we’re going.”
 
“There’s always the four of you, “Simon said, but he smiled a little, and Clary knew it was because Jace had included him among their number without a moment’s hesitation. Finally Jace had accepted that where they went, Simon went too, whether he was a Shadowhunter or not.
 
“All right,” Alec said. “Everyone meet back here in ten minutes. Clary, get ready to create a Portal. And Jace?”
 
“Yes?”
 
“You’d better have a strategy for what we’re going to do when we get to the Faerie Court. Because we’re going to need it.”
 
   
 
 
 
The maelstrom inside the Portal was almost a relief. Clary went last through the shining doorway, after the other four had stepped through, and she let the cold darkness take her like water pulling her down and under, stealing the breath from her lungs, making her forget everything but the clamor and the falling.
 
It was over too fast, the grip of the Portal releasing her to fall awkwardly, her backpack twisted underneath her, on the packed dirt floor of a tunnel. She caught her breath and rolled over, using a long, dangling root to pull herself upright. Alec, Isabelle, Jace, and Simon were picking themselves up around her, brushing off their clothes. It wasn’t dirt they had fallen on, she realized, but a carpet of moss. More moss spread along the smooth brown tunnel walls, but it glowed with phosphorescent light. Small glowing flowers, like electric daisies, grew in among the moss, starring the green with white. Snaky roots dangled down from the roof of the tunnel, making Clary wonder what exactly was growing aboveground. Various smaller tunnels branched off the main one, some of them too small to admit a human form.
 
Isabelle picked a piece of moss out of her hair and frowned. “Where are we exactly?”
 
“I aimed for just outside the throne room,” Clary said. “We’ve been here. It just always looks different.”
 
Jace had already moved down the main corridor. Even without the Soundless rune, he was as quiet as a cat on the soft moss. The others followed, Clary with her hand on the hilt of her sword. She was a little surprised at how short a time it had taken to become used to a weapon hovering at her side; if she reached for Heosphoros and found it not there, she thought, she would panic.
 
“Here,” Jace said softly, motioning the rest of them to be quiet. They were in an archway, a curtain separating them from a larger room beyond. The last time Clary had been here, the curtain had been made out of living butterflies, and their struggles had made it rustle.
 
Today it was thorns, like the thorns that surrounded Sleeping Beauty’s castle, thorns woven into one another so that they formed a dangling sheet. Clary could catch only glimpses of the room beyond—a glimmer of white and silver—but they could all hear the sound of laughing voices coming from the corridors around them.
 
Glamour runes didn’t work on the Fair Folk; there was no way to hide from view. Jace was alert, his whole body tight. He carefully raised a dagger and parted the sheet of thorns as silently as he could. They all leaned in, staring.
 
The room beyond was a winter fairyland, the kind Clary had rarely seen, except in visits to Luke’s farmhouse. The walls were sheets of white crystal, and the Queen reclined upon her divan, which was white crystal to match, shot through with veins of silver in the rock. The floor was covered in snow, and long icicles hung from the ceiling, each one bound around with ropes of gold-and-silver thorns. Bunches of white roses were piled around the room, scattered at the foot of the Queen’s divan, wound through her red hair like a crown. Her dress was white and silver too, as diaphanous as a sheet of ice; one could glimpse her body through it, though not clearly. Ice and roses and the Queen. The effect was blinding. She was leaning back on her couch, her head tipped up, speaking to a heavily armored faerie knight. His armor was dark brown, the color of the trunk of a tree; one of his eyes was black, the other pale blue, almost white. For a moment Clary thought he had the head of a deer tucked under his big arm, but as she looked closer, she realized that it was a helmet, decorated with antlers.
 
“And how goes it with the Wild Hunt, Gwyn?” the Queen was asking. “The Gatherers of the Dead? I assume there were rich pickings for you at the Adamant Citadel the other night. I hear that the howls of the Nephilim tore the sky as they died.”
 
Clary felt the Shadowhunters around her tense. She remembered lying beside Jace in a boat in Venice and watching the Wild Hunt go by overhead; a maelstrom of shouts and battle cries, horses whose hooves gleamed scarlet, hammering across the sky.
 
“So I have heard, my lady,” Gwyn said in a voice so hoarse, it was barely understandable. It sounded like the scrape of a blade against rough bark. “The Wild Hunt comes when the ravens of the battlefield scream for blood: We gather our riders from among the dying. But we were not at the Adamant Citadel. The war games of Nephilim and Dark Ones are too rich for our blood. The Fair Folk mix poorly with demons and angels.”
 
“You disappoint me, Gwyn,” said the Queen, pouting. “This is a time of power for the Fair Folk; we gain, we rise, we achieve the world. We belong on the chessboards of power, as much as Nephilim do. I had hoped for your advice.”
 
“Forgive me, lady,” said Gwyn. “Chess is too delicate a game for us. I cannot advise you.”
 
“But I gave you such a gift.” The Queen sulked. “The Blackthorn boy. Shadowhunter and faerie blood together; it is rare. He will ride at your back, and demons will fear you. A gift from myself, and from Sebastian.”
 
Sebastian. She said it comfortably, familiarly. There was fondness in her voice, if the Queen of Faeries could be said to be fond. Clary could hear Jace’s breathing beside her: sharp and quick; the others were tense as well, panic chasing realization across their faces as the Queen’s words sank in.
 
Clary felt Heosphoros grow cold in the grip of her hand. A path to the demon realms that leads through faerie lands. The earth cracking open under Sebastian’s feet. Sebastian bragging that he had allies.
 
The Queen and Sebastian, giving the gift of a captured Nephilim child. Together.
 
“Demons already fear me, beautiful one,” said Gwyn, and he smiled.
 
My beautiful one. The blood in Clary’s veins was an icy river, singing down into her heart. Glancing down, she saw Simon move to cover Isabelle’s hand with his, a quick reassuring gesture; Isabelle had gone white, and looked sick, as did Alec and Jace. Simon swallowed; the gold ring on his finger glittered, and she heard Sebastian’s voice in her head:
 
Do you really think she’d let you get your hands on something that would let you communicate with your little friends without her being able to listen in? Since I took it from you, I’ve spoken to her, she’s spoken to me—you were a fool to trust her, little sister. She likes to be on the winning side of things, the Seelie Queen. And that side will be ours, Clary. Ours.
 
“You owe me one favor, then, Gwyn, in exchange for the boy,” said the Queen. “I know that the Wild Hunt serves its own laws, but I would request your presence at the next battle.”
 
Gwyn frowned. “I am not sure one boy is worth such a weighty promise. As I have said, the Hunt has small desire to involve itself in the business of Nephilim.”
 
“You need not fight,” said the Queen, in a voice like silk. “I would ask only your assistance with the bodies afterward. And there will be bodies. The Nephilim will pay for their crimes, Gwyn. Everyone must pay.”
 
Before Gwyn could reply, another figure strode into the room from the dark tunnel that curved away behind the Queen’s throne. It was Meliorn, in his white armor, his black hair in a braid down his back. His boots were encrusted with what looked like blackish tar. He frowned when he saw Gwyn. “A Hunter never brings good tidings,” he said.
 
“Subside, Meliorn,” said the Queen. “Gwyn and I were only discussing an exchange of favors.”
 
Meliorn inclined his head. “I bear news, my lady, but I would have counsel with you in private.”
 
She turned to Gwyn. “Are we agreed?”
 
Gwyn hesitated, then nodded, curtly, and with a glance of dislike in Meliorn’s direction, disappeared down the dark tunnel from which the faerie knight had come.
 
The Queen slid down in her divan, her pale fingers like marble against her gown. “Very well, Meliorn. What did you wish to speak of? Is it news of the Downworld prisoners?”
 
The Downworld prisoners. Clary heard Alec’s sharp intake of breath behind her, and Meliorn’s head whipped to the side. She saw his eyes narrow. “If I do not mistake myself,” he said, reaching for the blade at his side, “my lady, we have visitors—”
 
Jace was already sliding his hand down his side, whispering, “Gabriel.” The seraph blade blazed up, and Isabelle leaped to her feet, sweeping her whip forward, slicing through the curtain of thorns, which collapsed, rattling, to the ground.
 
Jace darted past the thorns and advanced into the throne room, Gabriel blazing in his hand. Clary whipped her sword free.
 
They poured out into the room, arranging themselves in an arc behind Jace: Alec with his bow already strung, Isabelle with her whip out and glittering, Clary with her sword, and Simon—Simon had no better weapon than his own self, but he stood and smiled at Meliorn, and his teeth glittered.
 
The Queen drew herself upright with a hiss, quickly covered; it was the only time Clary had seen her flustered.
 
“How dare you enter the Court unbidden?” she demanded. “This is the highest of crimes, a breaking of Covenant Law—”
 
“How dare you speak of breaking Covenant Law!” Jace shouted, and the seraph blade burned in his hand. Clary thought Jonathan Shadowhunter must have looked like that, so many centuries ago, when he drove the demons back and saved an unknowing world from destruction. “You, who have murdered, and lied, and taken Downworlders of the Council prisoner. You have allied yourself with evil forces, and you will pay for it.”
 
“The Queen of the Seelie Court does not pay,” said the Queen.
 
“Everyone pays,” Jace said, and suddenly he was standing on the divan, over the Queen, and the tip of his blade was against her throat. She flinched back, but she was pinned in place, Jace standing over her, his feet braced on the couch. “How did you do it?” he demanded. “Meliorn swore that you were on the side of the Nephilim. Faeries can’t lie. That’s why the Council trusted you—”
 
“Meliorn is half-faerie. He can lie,” said the Queen, shooting an amused glance at Isabelle, who looked shocked. Only the Queen could look amused with a blade to her throat, Clary thought. “Sometimes the simplest answer is the correct one, Shadowhunter.”
 
“That’s why you wanted him on the Council,” said Clary, remembering the favor the Queen had asked of her what seemed so long ago now. “Because he can lie.”
 
“A betrayal long-planned.” Jace was breathing hard. “I should cut your throat right now.”
 
“You would not dare,” said the Queen, unmoving; the point of the sword against her throat. “If you touch the Queen of the Seelie Court, the Fair Folk will be ranged against you for all time.”
 
Jace was breathing hard as he spoke, and his face was full of burning light. “Then what are you now?” he demanded. “We heard you. You spoke of Sebastian as an ally. The Adamant Citadel lies on ley lines. Ley lines are the province of the fey. You led him there, you opened the way, you let him ambush us. How are you not already ranged against us?”
 
An ugly look crossed Meliorn’s face. “You may have heard us speaking, little Nephilim,” he said. “But if we kill you before you return to the Clave to tell your tales, none others need ever know—”
 
The knight started forward. Alec let an arrow fly, and it plunged into Meliorn’s leg. The knight toppled backward with a cry.
 
Alec strode forward, already notching another arrow to his bow. Meliorn was on the ground, moaning, the snow around him turning red. Alec stood over him, bow at the ready. “Tell us how to get Magnus—how to get the prisoners back,” he said. “Do it, or I’ll turn you into a pincushion.”
 
Meliorn spat. His white armor seemed to blend into the snow around him. “I will tell you nothing,” he said. “Torture me, kill me, I shall not betray my Queen.”
 
“It doesn’t matter what he says, anyway,” said Isabelle. “He can lie, remember?”
 
Alec’s face shut. “True,” he said. “Die, then, liar.” And he let the next arrow go.
 
It sank into Meliorn’s chest, and the faerie knight fell back, the force of the arrow sending his body skidding back across the snow. His head hit the cave wall with a wet smack.
 
The Queen cried out. The sound pierced Clary’s ears, snapping her out of her shock. She could hear the sound of faeries shouting, running feet in the corridors outside. “Simon!” she yelled, and he whirled around. “Come here!”
 
She jammed Heosphoros back into her belt, seized her stele, and darted toward the main door, now denuded of its ragged curtain of thorns. Simon was at her heels. “Lift me,” she panted, and without asking, he put his hands around her waist and thrust her upward, his vampire strength nearly sending her hurtling to the roof.
 
She grabbed on tight to the top of the archway with her free hand, and looked down. Simon was staring up at her, obviously puzzled, but his grip on her was steady.
 
“Hold on,” she said, and began to draw. It was the opposite of the rune she’d drawn on Valentine’s boat: This was a rune for shutting and locking, for closing away all things, for hiding and safety.
 
Black lines spread from the tip of her stele as she drew, and she heard Simon say, “Hurry up. They’re coming,” just as she finished, and drew the stele back.
 
The ground underneath them jerked. They fell together, Clary landing on Simon—not the most comfortable landing, he was all knees and elbows—and rolling to the side as a wall of earth began to slide across the open archway, like a theater curtain being drawn. There were shadows rushing toward the door, shadows that began to take the shape of running faerie folk, and Simon jerked Clary upright just as the doorway that opened onto the corridor disappeared with a final rumble, shutting away the faeries on the other side.
 
“By the Angel,” Isabelle said in an awed voice.
 
Clary turned around, stele in hand. Jace was on his feet, the Seelie Queen in front of him, his sword pointed at her heart. Alec stood over Meliorn’s corpse; he was expressionless as he looked at Clary, and then at his parabatai. Behind him opened the passageway through which Meliorn had come and Gwyn had gone.
 
“Are you going to close the back tunnel?” Simon asked Clary.
 
She shook her head. “Meliorn had pitch on his shoes,” she said. “ ‘And the streams of Edom shall be turned into pitch,’ remember? I think he came from the demon realms. I think they’re that way.”
 
“Jace,” Alec said. “Tell the Queen what we want, and that if she does it, we will let her live.”
 
The Queen laughed, a shrill sound. “Little archer boy,” she said. “I underestimated you. Sharp are the arrows of a broken heart.”
 
Alec’s face tightened. “You underestimated all of us; you always have. You and your arrogance. The Fair Folk are an old people, a good people. You aren’t fit to lead them. Under your rule they will all wind up like this,” he said, jerking his chin toward Meliorn’s corpse.
 
“You are the one who killed him,” said the Queen, “not I.”
 
“Everyone pays,” Alec said, and his eyes on her were steady and blue and hard.
 
“We desire the safe return of the hostages Sebastian Morgenstern has taken,” said Jace.
 
The Queen spread her hands. “They are not in this world, nor here in Faerie, nor in any land over which I have jurisdiction. There is nothing I can do to help you rescue them, nothing at all.”
 
“Very well,” said Jace, and Clary had the feeling he had expected that response. “There is one other thing you can do, one thing you can show us, that will make me spare you.”
 
The Queen went still. “What is that, Shadowhunter?”
 
“The road to the demon realm of Edom,” said Jace. “We want safe passage to it. We will walk it, and walk our way out of your kingdom.”
 
To Clary’s surprise the Queen seemed to relax. The tension bled from her posture, and a small smile tugged at the corner of her mouth—a smile that Clary did not like. “Very well. I will lead you to the road to the demon realm.” The Queen lifted her diaphanous dress in her hands so that she could make her way down the steps that surrounded her divan. Her feet were bare, and as white as the snow. She began to make her way across the room to the dark passage that stretched away behind her throne.
 
Alec fell into step behind Jace, and Isabelle behind him; Clary and Simon made up the rear, a strange procession.
 
“I really, really hate to say this,” Simon said in a low voice as they went out from the throne room and into the shadowed darkness of the underground passage, “but that kind of seemed too easy.”
 
“That wasn’t easy,” Clary whispered back.
 
“I know, but the Queen—she’s clever. She could have found a way out of doing this if she’d wanted to. She doesn’t have to let us go to the demon realms.”
 
“But she does want to,” Clary said. “She thinks we’ll die there.”
 
Simon shot her a sideways look. “Will we?”
 
“I don’t know,” Clary said, and sped up her pace to catch up with the others.

 


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