City of Heavenly Fire / Page 28

Page 28

They made it only a few feet into the tunnel before they found the way blocked with a metal gate. Alec cursed, looking back over his shoulder. The cave entrance was just behind them, and through it Clary could see orange sky and dark, circling shapes.
“No—this is good,” Jace said, stepping closer to the gate. “Look. Runes.”
Runes were indeed worked into the curves of the metal: some familiar, some Clary didn’t know. Still, they spoke to her of protection, of the fending off of demonic forces, a whisper in the back of her head. “They’re protection runes,” she said. “Protection against demons.”
“Good,” said Simon, casting another anxious glance back over his shoulder. “Because the demons are coming—fast.”
Jace shot a glance behind them, then seized the gate and yanked at it. The lock burst, shedding flakes of rust. He pulled again, harder, and the gate swung open; Jace’s hands were shimmering with suppressed light, and the metal where he had touched it looked blackened.
He ducked into the darkness beyond, and the others followed, Isabelle reaching for her witchlight. Simon came after, then Alec last, reaching out to slam the gate shut behind them. Clary took a moment to add a locking rune, just to be sure.
Izzy’s witchlight flared up, illuminating the fact that they were standing in a tunnel that snaked forward into darkness. The walls were smooth, marbled gneiss, carved over and over again with runes of protection, holiness, and defense. The floor was sanded stone, easy to walk on. The air grew clearer as they made their way deeper into the mountain, the taint of fog and demons slowly receding until Clary was breathing more easily than she had since they had come to this realm.
They emerged at last into a large circular space, clearly crafted by human hands. It looked like the inside of a cathedral dome: round, with a massive ceiling arching overhead. There was a fire pit in the center of the room, long gone cold. White stone gems had been set into the ceiling. They glowed softly, filling the room with dim illumination. Isabelle lowered her witchlight, letting it blink off in her hand.
“I think this was a place to hide,” Alec said in a hushed voice. “Some sort of last barricade where whoever lived here once would be safe from the demons.”
“Whoever lived here once knew rune magic,” Clary said. “I don’t recognize them all, but I can feel what they mean. They’re holy runes, like Raziel’s.”
Jace slung his pack off his shoulders and let it slide to the ground. “We’re sleeping here tonight.”
Alec looked dubious. “Are you sure that’s safe?”
“We’ll scout the tunnels,” Jace said. “Clary, come with me. Isabelle, Simon, take the east corridor.” He frowned. “Well, we’re going to call it the east corridor. Here’s hoping this is still accurate in the demon realms.” He tapped the compass rune on his forearm, which was one of the first Marks most Shadowhunters received.
Isabelle dropped her pack, took out two seraph blades, and slid them into holsters on her back. “Fine.”
“I’ll go with you,” Alec said, looking at Isabelle and Simon with suspicious eyes.
“If you must,” said Isabelle with exaggerated indifference. “I should warn you we’ll be making out in the dark. Big, sloppy make-outage.”
Simon looked startled. “We are—” he began, but Isabelle stomped on his toe, and he quieted.
“ ‘Make-outage’?” said Clary. “Is that a word?”
Alec looked ill. “I suppose I could stay here.”
Jace grinned and tossed him a stele. “Make a fire,” he said. “Cook us a pie or something. This demon-hunting is hungry work.”
Alec drove the stele into the sand of the pit and began drawing the rune for fire. He appeared to be muttering something about how Jace wouldn’t like it if he woke up in the morning with all of his hair shaved off.
Jace grinned at Clary. Under the ichor and blood, it was a ghost of his old, impish grin, but good enough. She took out Heosphoros. Simon and Isabelle had already disappeared down the east-facing tunnel; she and Jace turned the other way, which sloped slightly downward. As they fell into step, Clary heard Alec yell from behind them, “And your eyebrows, too!”
Dryly, Jace chuckled.
Maia wasn’t sure what she’d thought being pack leader would be like, but it hadn’t been this.
She was sitting on the big desk in the lobby of the Second Precinct building, Bat in the swivel chair behind her, patiently explaining various aspects of wolf pack administration: how they communicated with the remaining members of the Praetor Lupus in England, how messages were sent back and forth from Idris, even how they managed orders placed at the Jade Wolf restaurant. They both looked up when the doors burst open and a blue-skinned warlock woman in nurse’s scrubs stalked into the room, followed by a tall man in a sweeping black coat.
“Catarina Loss,” Bat said, by way of introduction. “Our new pack leader, Maia Roberts—”
Catarina waved him away. She was very blue, almost a sapphire color, and had glossy white hair piled into a bun. Her scrubs had trucks on them. “This is Malcolm Fade,” she said, gesturing to the tall man beside her. “High Warlock of Los Angeles.”
Malcolm Fade inclined his head. He had angular features, hair the color of paper, and his eyes were purple. Really purple, a color no human eyes ever were. He was attractive, Maia thought, if you liked that sort of thing. “Magnus Bane is missing!” he announced, as if it were the title of a picture book.
“And so is Luke,” said Catarina grimly.
“Missing?” Maia echoed. “What do you mean, missing?”
“Well, not missing exactly. Kidnapped,” said Malcolm, and Maia dropped the pen she was holding. “Who knows where they could be?” He sounded as if the whole thing was rather exciting and he was sad not to be a greater part of it.
“Is Sebastian Morgenstern responsible?” Maia asked Caterina.
“Sebastian captured all the Downworld representatives. Meliorn, Magnus, Raphael, and Luke. And Jocelyn, too. He’s holding them, he says, unless the Clave agrees to give him Clary and Jace.”
“And if they don’t?” asked Leila. Catarina’s dramatic entrance had brought the pack out, and they were filing into the room, draping themselves over the stairwell, and huddling up to the desk in the curious manner of lycanthropes.
“Then he’ll kill the representatives,” said Maia. “Right?”
“The Clave must know that if they let him do that, then Downworlders will rebel,” Bat said. “It would be tantamount to declaring that the lives of four Downworlders are worth less than the safety of two Shadowhunters.”
Not just two Shadowhunters, Maia thought. Jace was difficult and prickly, and Clary had been reserved at first, but they had fought for her and with her; they had saved her life and she had saved theirs. “Handing Jace and Clary over would be murdering them,” Maia said. “And with no real guarantee that we’d get Luke back. Sebastian lies.”
Catarina’s eyes flashed. “If the Clave doesn’t at least make a gesture toward getting Magnus and the others back, they won’t just lose the Downworlders on their Council. They’ll lose the Accords.”
Maia was quiet for a moment; she was conscious of all the eyes on her. The other wolves watching for her reaction. For their leader’s reaction.
She straightened. “What is the word from the warlocks? What are they doing? What about the Fair Folk and the Night’s Children?”
“Most of the Downworlders don’t know,” said Malcolm. “I happen to have an informant. I shared the news with Catarina because of Magnus. I thought she ought to know. I mean, this sort of thing doesn’t happen every day. Kidnapping! Ransoms! Love, sundered by tragedy!”
“Shut up, Malcolm,” said Catarina. “This is why no one ever takes you seriously.” She turned to Maia. “Look. Most of Downworld knows that the Shadowhunters packed up and went to Idris, of course; they don’t know why, though. They’re waiting for news from their representatives, which of course hasn’t come.”
“But that situation can’t hold,” said Maia. “Downworld will find out.”
“Oh, they’ll find out,” said Malcolm, looking as if he were trying hard to be serious. “But you know Shadowhunters; they keep themselves to themselves. Everyone knows about Sebastian Morgenstern, of course, and the Dark Nephilim, but the attacks on the Institutes have been kept fairly quiet.”
“They have the warlocks of the Spiral Labyrinth working on a cure for the effects of the Infernal Cup, but even they don’t know how urgent the situation is, or what’s been happening in Idris,” Catarina said. “I fear the Shadowhunters will wipe themselves out with their own secrecy.” She looked even bluer than before; her color seemed to change with her mood.
“So why come here to us, to me?” Maia asked.
“Because Sebastian already brought his message to you through his attack on the Praetor,” Catarina replied. “And we know you’re close with the Shadowhunters—the Inquisitor’s children and Sebastian’s own sister, for instance. You know as much as we do, maybe more, about what’s going on.”
“I don’t know that much,” Maia admitted. “The wards around Idris have been making it hard for messages to get through.”
“We can help with that,” said Catarina. “Can’t we, Malcolm?”
“Hmm?” Malcolm was idly wandering around the station, stopping to stare at things Maia thought of as everyday—a banister railing, a cracked tile in the wall, a pane of window glass—as if they were revelatory. The pack watched him in puzzlement.
Catarina sighed. “Don’t mind him,” she said to Maia in an undertone. “He’s quite powerful, but something happened to him at the beginning of last century, and he’s never been quite right since. He’s pretty harmless.”
“Help? Of course we can help,” Malcolm said, turning around to face them. “You need to get a message through? There’s always carrier kittens.”
“You mean pigeons,” said Bat. “Carrier pigeons.”
Malcolm shook his head. “Carrier kittens. They’re so cute, no one can deny them. Fix your mouse problem, too.”
“We don’t have a mouse problem,” said Maia. “We have a megalomaniac problem.” She looked at Catarina. “Sebastian’s determined to drive wedges between Downworlders and Shadowhunters. Kidnapping the representatives, attacking the Praetor, he won’t stop there. All of Downworld will know soon enough what’s going on. The question is, where will they stand?”
“We will stand bravely with you!” Malcolm announced. Catarina looked darkly at him, and he quailed. “Well, we will stand bravely near you. Or at least within earshot.”
Maia gave him a hard look. “So no guarantees, basically?”
Malcolm shrugged. “Warlocks are independent. And hard to get hold of. Like cats, but with fewer tails. Well, there are some tails. I don’t have one myself—”
“Malcolm,” said Catarina.
“The thing is,” Maia said, “either the Shadowhunters win or Sebastian does, and if he does, he’ll come for us, for all Downworlders. All he wants is to turn this world into a wasteland of ashes and bone. None of us will survive.”
Malcolm looked faintly alarmed, though not anywhere near as alarmed, Maia thought, as he ought to. His overwhelming aspect was one of innocent, childlike glee; he had none of Magnus’s wise mischief. She wondered how old he was.
“I don’t think we can get into Idris to fight beside them, like we did before,” Maia went on. “But we can try to get the word out. Reach other Downworlders before Sebastian does. He’ll try to recruit them; we have to make them understand what joining up with him will mean.”
“The destruction of this world,” said Bat.
“There are High Warlocks in various cities; they’ll probably consider the issue. But we’re loners, like Malcolm said,” replied Catarina. “The Fair Folk are unlikely to talk to any of us; they never do—”
“And who cares what the vampires do?” snapped Leila. “They turn on their own, anyway.”
“No,” said Maia after a moment. “No, they can be loyal. We need to meet with them. It’s high time the leaders of the New York pack and vampire clan formed an alliance.”
A shocked murmur ran around the room. Werewolves and vampires didn’t parley unless brought together by a larger outside force, like the Clave.
She reached her hand out to Bat. “Pen and paper,” she said, and he gave it to her. She scrawled a quick note, tore off a sheet of paper, and handed it to one of the younger wolf pups. “Take this to Lily at the Dumort,” she said. “Tell her I want to meet with Maureen Brown. She can pick a neutral location; we’ll approve it before the meeting. Tell them it should be as soon as possible. The lives of both our representative and theirs might depend on it.”
“I want to be mad at you,” Clary said. They were making their way down the snaking tunnel; Jace was holding her witchlight, its illumination guiding them. She was reminded of the first time he had pressed one of the smooth carved stones into her hand. Every Shadowhunter should have their own witchlight rune-stone.
“Oh?” Jace said, casting a wary glance at her. The ground under their feet was polished smooth, and the walls of the corridor curved inward gracefully. Every few feet a new rune was carved into the stone. “What for?”
“Risking your life,” she said. “Except you didn’t, really. You were just standing there and the demon grabbed you. Admittedly, you were being obnoxious to Simon.”
“If a demon grabbed me every time I was obnoxious to Simon, I’d have died the day you met me.”
“I just . . .” She shook her head. Her vision was blurring with exhaustion, and her chest ached with longing for her mother, for Luke. For home. “I don’t know how I got here.”
“I could probably retrace our steps,” Jace said. “Straight through the faerie corridor, left at the decimated village, right at the blasted plain of the damned, sharp U-turn at the heap of dead demon—”
“You know what I mean. I don’t know how I got here. My life was ordinary. I was ordinary—”
“You’ve never been ordinary,” Jace said, his voice very quiet. Clary wondered if she’d ever stop being dizzied by his sudden transformations from humor to seriousness and back again.
“I wanted to be. I wanted to have a normal life.” She glanced down at herself, dusty boots and stained gear, her weapons glittering at her belt. “Go to art school.”
“Marry Simon? Have six kids?” There was a slight edge to Jace’s voice now. The corridor made a sharp right turn, and he disappeared around it. Clary quickened her step to catch up with him—
And gasped. They had come out of the tunnel into an enormous cavern, half-filled with an underground lake. The cavern stretched out into the shadows. It was beautiful, the first beautiful thing Clary had seen since they’d entered the demon realm. The roof of the cave was folded stone, formed by years of trickling water, and it glowed with the intense blue shimmer of bioluminescent moss. The water below was just as blue, a deep glowing twilight, with pillars of quartz jutting up here and there like rods of crystal.
The path opened out into a shallow beach of fine, very powdery sand, nearly as soft as ash, that led down to the water. Jace moved down the beach and crouched by the water, thrusting his hands into it. Clary came up behind him, her boots sending up puffs of sand, and knelt down as he splashed water over his face and neck, scrubbing at the stains of black ichor.
“Be careful—” She caught at his arm. “The water could be poisonous.”
He shook his head. “It’s not. Look under the surface.”
The lake was clear, glassine. The bottom was smooth stone, carved all over with runes that emitted a faint glow. They were runes that spoke of purity, healing, and protection.
“I’m sorry,” Jace said, snapping her out of her reverie. His hair was wet, plastered to the sharp curves of his cheekbones and temples. “I shouldn’t have said that about Simon.”
Clary put her hands into the water. Small ripples spread from the movement of her fingers. “You have to know I wouldn’t wish for a different life,” she said. “This life brought me you.” She cupped her hands, bringing the water to her mouth. It was cold and sweet, reviving her flagging energy.
He gave her one of his real smiles, not just a quirk of the mouth. “Hopefully not just me.”
Clary searched for words. “This life is real,” she said. “The other life was a lie. A dream. It’s just that . . .”
“You haven’t really been drawing,” he said. “Not since you started training. Not seriously.”
“No,” she said quietly, because it was true.
“I wonder sometimes,” he said. “My father—Valentine, I mean—loved music. He taught me to play. Bach, Chopin, Ravel. And I remember once asking why the composers were all mundanes. There were no Shadowhunters who had written music. And he said that in their souls, mundanes have a creative spark, but our souls hold a warrior spark, and both sparks can’t exist in the same place, any more than a flame can divide itself.”
“So you think the Shadowhunter in me . . . is driving out the artist in me?” Clary said. “But my mother painted—I mean, paints.” She bit back the pain of having thought of Jocelyn in the past tense, even briefly.
“Valentine said that was what Heaven had given to mundanes, artistry and the gift of creation,” said Jace. “That was what made them worth protecting. I don’t know if there was any truth to any of that,” he added. “But if people have a spark in them, then yours burns the brightest I know. You can fight and draw. And you will.”
Impulsively Clary leaned in to kiss him. His lips were cool. He tasted like sweet water and like Jace, and she would have leaned farther into the kiss, but a sharp zap, like static electricity, passed between them; she sat back, her lips stinging.
“Ouch,” she said ruefully. Jace looked wretched. She reached out to touch his damp hair. “Earlier, with the gate. I saw your hands spark. The heavenly fire—”
“I don’t have it under control here, not like I did at home,” Jace said. “There’s something about this world. It feels like it’s pushing the fire closer to the surface.” He looked down at his hands, from which the glow was fading. “I think we both need to be careful. This place is going to affect us more than it does the others. Higher concentration of angel blood.”
“So we’ll be careful. You can control it. Remember the exercises Jordan did with you—”
“Jordan’s dead.” His voice was tight as he stood up, brushing sand from his clothes. He held out a hand to help her up from the ground. “Come on,” he said. “Let’s get back to Alec before he decides Isabelle and Simon are having sex off in the caves and starts freaking out.”
“You know everyone thinks we’re off having sex,” said Simon. “They’re probably freaking out.”
“Hmph,” Isabelle said. The glow of her witchlight bounced off the runed walls of the cave. “As if we’d have sex in a cave surrounded by hordes of demons. This is reality, Simon, not your fevered imagination.”
“There was a time in my life when the idea that I might have sex one day seemed more likely than being surrounded by hordes of demons, I’ll have you know,” he said, maneuvering around a pile of tumbled rocks. The whole place reminded him of a trip to the Luray Caverns in Virginia that he’d taken with his mother and Rebecca in middle school. He could see the glitter of mica in the rocks with his vampire sight; he didn’t need Isabelle’s witchlight to guide him, but he imagined she did, so said nothing about it.
Isabelle muttered something; he wasn’t sure what, but he had a feeling it wasn’t complimentary.
“Izzy,” he said. “Is there a reason you’re so angry with me?”
Her next words came out on a sighing rush that sounded like “youerensupposedbhere.” Even with his amplified hearing, he could make no sense of it. “What?”
She swung around on him. “You weren’t supposed to be here!” she said, her voice bouncing off the tunnel walls. “When we left you in New York, it was so you would be safe—”
“I don’t want to be safe,” he said. “I want to be with you.”
“You want to be with Clary.”
Simon paused. They were facing each other across the tunnel, both of them still now, Isabelle’s hands in fists. “Is that what this is about? Clary?”
She was silent.
“I don’t love Clary that way,” he said. “She was my first love, my first crush. But what I feel about you is totally different—” He held up a hand as she started to shake her head. “Hear me out, Isabelle,” he said. “If you’re asking me to choose between you and my best friend, then yes, I won’t choose. Because no one who loved me would force to me make such a pointless choice; it would be like I asked you to choose between me and Alec. Does it bother me seeing Jace and Clary together? No, not at all. In their own incredibly weird way they’re great for each other. They belong together. I don’t belong with Clary, not like that. I belong with you.”
“Do you mean that?” She was flushed, color high up in her cheeks.
He nodded.
“Come here,” she said, and he let her pull him toward her, until he was flush up against her, the rigidity of the cave wall behind them forcing her to curve her body against his. He felt her hand slide up under the back of his T-shirt, her warm fingers bumping gently over the knobs of his spine. Her breath stirred his hair, and his body stirred too, just from being this close to her.
“Isabelle, I love—”
She slapped his arm, but it wasn’t an angry slap. “Not now.”
He nuzzled down into her neck, into the sweet smell of her skin and blood. “Then when?”
She suddenly jerked back, leaving him feeling the unpleasant sensation of having had a bandage ripped away with no ceremony. “Did you hear that?”
He was about to shake his head, when he did hear it—what sounded like a rustle and a cry, coming from the part of the tunnel they hadn’t explored yet. Isabelle took off at a run, her witchlight bouncing wildly off the walls, and Simon, cursing the fact that Shadowhunters were Shadowhunters above all else, followed her.
The tunnel had only one more curve before it ended in the remains of a shattered metal gate. Beyond what was left of the gate, a plateau of stone that sloped down to a blasted landscape. The plateau was rough, shingled with rock and heaps of weathered stone. Where it met the sand below, the desert started up again, dotted here and there with black, twisted trees. Some of the clouds had cleared, and Isabelle, looking up, made a little gasping noise. “Look at the moon,” she said.
Simon looked—and started. It wasn’t so much a moon as moons, as if the moon itself had been cracked apart into three pieces. They floated, jagged-edged, like shark’s teeth scattered in the sky. Each gave off a dull glow, and in the broken moonlight Simon’s vampire vision picked out the circling movements of creatures. Some seemed like the flying thing that had seized Jace earlier; others had a distinctly more insectile look. All were hideous. He swallowed.
“What can you see?” Isabelle asked, knowing that even a Farsighted rune wouldn’t give her better vision than Simon’s, especially here, where runes faded so quickly.
“There are demons out there. A lot. Mostly airborne.”
Isabelle’s tone was grim. “So they can come out during the day, but they’re more active at night.”
“Yeah.” Simon strained his eyes. “There’s more. There’s a stone plateau that goes for a distance, and then it drops off and there’s something behind it, something shimmering.”
“A lake, maybe?”
“Maybe,” Simon said. “It almost looks like—”
“Like what?”
“Like a city,” he said reluctantly. “Like a demon city.”
“Oh.” He saw the implications hit Isabelle, and for a moment she paled; then, being Izzy, she straightened up and nodded, turning away, away from the wrecked and shattered ruins of a world. “We’d better get back and tell the others.”

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