City of Heavenly Fire / Page 33

Page 33


It bloomed like a flower against the clouded black sky: a sudden, silent explosion of flame. Luke, standing by the window, flinched back in surprise before pressing himself against the narrow opening, trying to identify the source of the radiance.
 
“What is it?” Raphael looked up from where he was kneeling by Magnus. Magnus appeared to be asleep, his eyes shadowed dark crescents against his skin. He had curled himself uncomfortably around the chains that held him, and looked ill, or at least exhausted.
 
“I’m not sure,” Luke said, and held himself still as the vampire boy came to join him at the window. He had never felt entirely comfortable around Raphael. Raphael seemed to him like Loki or some other trickster god, sometimes working for good and sometimes for evil, but always in his own interests.
 
Raphael muttered something in Spanish and pushed past Luke. The flames reflected in the pupils of his dark eyes, red-gold.
 
“Sebastian’s work, do you think?” Luke asked.
 
“No.” Raphael’s gaze was distant, and Luke was reminded that the boy in front of him, though he looked an ageless, angelic fourteen, was in fact older than he was, older than Luke’s parents would have been, if they had lived—or in his mother’s case, if she had remained mortal. “There is something holy about this fire. Sebastian’s work is demon’s work. This is like the way God appeared to the wanderers in the desert. ‘By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.’”
 
Luke raised an eyebrow at him.
 
Raphael shrugged. “I was brought up a good Catholic boy.” He cocked his head to the side. “I think our friend Sebastian will not like this very much, whatever it is.”
 
“Can you see anything else?” Luke demanded; vampire vision was more powerful even than a werewolf’s enhanced sight.
 
“Something—ruins, perhaps, like a dead city—” Raphael shook his head in frustration. “Look where the fire fades. It is dying away.”
 
There was a soft murmur from the floor, and Luke glanced down. Magnus had rolled onto his back. His chains were long, giving him at least enough freedom of movement to curl his hands over his stomach, as if in pain. His eyes were open. “Speaking of fading . . .”
 
Raphael returned to his place by Magnus’s side. “You must tell us, warlock,” he said, “if there is something that we can do for you. I have not seen you so sick.”
 
“Raphael . . .” Magnus pushed a hand through his sweaty black hair. His chain rattled. “It’s my father,” he said abruptly. “This is his realm. Well, one of them.”
 
“Your father?”
 
“He’s a demon,” Magnus said shortly. “Which shouldn’t be a huge surprise. Don’t expect any more information than that.”
 
“Fine, but why would being in your father’s realm make you sick?”
 
“He’s trying to get me to call on him,” said Magnus, propping himself on his elbows. “He can reach me here easily. I can’t do magic in this realm, so I can’t protect myself. He can make me sick or make me well. He’s making me sick because he thinks if I get desperate enough, I’ll call on him for help.”
 
“Will you?” asked Luke.
 
Magnus shook his head, and winced. “No. It wouldn’t be worth the price. There’s always a price, with my father.”
 
Luke felt himself tense. He and Magnus weren’t close, but he had always liked the warlock, respected him. Respected Magnus and warlocks such as Catarina Loss and Ragnor Fell and the others, those who had worked with Shadowhunters for generations. He didn’t like the sound of despair in Magnus’s voice now, or the echoing look in his eyes. “Wouldn’t you pay it? If the choice were your life?”
 
Magnus looked at Luke wearily, and flopped back against the stone floor. “I might not be the one who pays it,” he said, and shut his eyes.
 
“I—” Luke began, but Raphael shook his head at him, a scolding gesture. He had hunched up by Magnus’s shoulder, his hands looped around his knees. Dark veins were visible at his temples and throat, signs that it had been too long since he had fed. Luke could only imagine the odd picture they made: the starving vampire, the dying warlock, and the werewolf keeping watch at the window.
 
“You know nothing of his father,” said Raphael in a low voice. Magnus was still, clearly asleep again, his breathing labored.
 
“And I suppose you know who Magnus’s father is?” Luke said.
 
“I paid a lot of money once to find it out.”
 
“Why? What good would the knowledge do you?”
 
“I like to know things,” Raphael said. “It can be useful. He knew my mother; it only seemed fair I know his father. Magnus saved my life once,” added Raphael in an emotionless voice. “When I first became a vampire, I wanted to die. I thought I was a damned thing. He stopped me from throwing myself into the sunlight—Magnus showed me how to walk on holy ground, how to say the name of God, how to wear a cross. It wasn’t magic he gave me, just patience, but it saved my life all the same.”
 
“So you owe him,” said Luke.
 
Raphael shrugged off his jacket and, in a single swift move, pushed it beneath Magnus’s head. Magnus stirred but didn’t wake. “You think about it however you would like to,” he said. “I will not give up his secrets.”
 
“Answer me one thing,” Luke said, the stone wall cold against his back. “Is Magnus’s father someone who could help us?”
 
Raphael laughed: a short, sharp bark without any real amusement in it. “You are very funny, werewolf,” he said. “Go back to your watching at the window, and if you are the sort who prays, then perhaps you should pray that Magnus’s father does not decide he wants to help us. If you trust me as regards nothing else, trust me about that, at least.”
 
   
 
 
 
“Did you just eat three pizzas?” Lily was staring at Bat with a mixture of distaste and amazement.
 
“Four,” said Bat, placing a now empty Joe’s Pizza box on top of a stack of other boxes, and smiling serenely. Maia felt a rush of affection for him. She hadn’t let him in on her plan for the meeting with Maureen, and he hadn’t complained once, just complimented her on her poker face. He’d agreed to sit down with her and Lily to discuss the alliance, even though she knew he didn’t much like vampires.
 
And he’d saved for her the pizza that had only cheese on it, since he knew she didn’t like toppings. She was on her fourth slice. Lily, perched daintily on the edge of the desk in the police station lobby, was smoking a long cigarette (Maia guessed lung cancer wasn’t that big a worry when you were dead already) and eyeing the pizza suspiciously. Maia didn’t care how much Bat ate—something had to fuel all those muscles—as long as he seemed happy to keep her company during the meeting. Lily had stuck to their agreement about Maureen, but she still gave Maia the shivers.
 
“You know,” Lily said, swinging her booted feet, “I must say I was expecting something a bit more—exciting. Less of a phone bank.” She wrinkled her nose.
 
Maia sighed and looked around. The lobby of the police station was full of werewolves and vampires, probably for the first time since it had been built. There were stacks of papers listing what contact information for important Downworlders they’d managed to beg, borrow, steal, and dig up—it had turned out the vampires had pretty impressive records of who was in charge where—and everyone was on cell phones or computers, calling and texting and emailing the heads of clans and packs and every warlock they could track down.
 
“Thank goodness the faeries are centralized,” said Bat. “One Seelie Court, one Unseelie Court.”
 
Lily smirked. “The land under the hill stretches far and wide,” she said. “The Courts are all we can reach in this world, that’s all.”
 
“Well, this world is what we’re concerned with at the moment,” said Maia, stretching and rubbing the back of her neck. She’d been calling and emailing and writing messages all day herself, and she was exhausted. The vampires had joined them only at nightfall, and were expected to work through till morning while the werewolves slept.
 
“You realize what Sebastian Morgenstern will do to us if his side wins,” said Lily, looking thoughtfully around the crowded room. “I doubt he has much forgiveness for anyone who works against him.”
 
“Maybe he’ll kill us first,” said Maia. “But he would kill us anyway. I know you vampires love the idea of reason and logic and clever, careful alliances, but that’s not how he works. He wants to burn the world down. That’s all he wants.”
 
Lily exhaled smoke. “Well,” she said. “That would be inconvenient, considering how we feel about fire.”
 
“You’re not having second thoughts, are you?” Maia said, trying hard to keep the worry from her voice. “You seemed very sure we should stand against Sebastian when we talked before.”
 
“We walk a very dangerous line, that is all,” said Lily. “Have you ever heard the expression ‘When the cat is away, the mice will play’?”
 
“Of course,” said Maia, glancing over at Bat, who muttered something darkly in Spanish.
 
“For hundreds of years the Nephilim have kept their rules, and made sure that we kept to them as well,” Lily said. “For that, they are much resented. Now they have gone to hide themselves away in Idris, and we cannot pretend that Downworlders will not enjoy certain . . . advantages while they are gone.”
 
“Being able to eat people?” Bat inquired, folding a piece of pizza in half.
 
“It is not just vampires,” Lily said coldly. “The faeries love to tease and torment humans; only Shadowhunters prevent them. They will begin taking human babies again. The warlocks will sell their magic to the highest bidder, like—”
 
“Magical prostitutes?” They all looked up in surprise; Malcolm Fade had appeared in the doorway, brushing white flakes of snow from his already white hair. “It’s what you were going to say, wasn’t it?”
 
“I wasn’t,” said Lily, clearly caught off guard.
 
“Oh, say what you like. I don’t mind,” Malcolm said brightly. “Nothing against prostitution. It keeps civilization running.” He shook snow off his coat. He was wearing a plain black suit and worn trench coat; there was nothing of Magnus’s glittering eclecticism about him. “How do you people stand snow?” he demanded.
 
“ ‘You people’?” Bat bristled. “Do you mean werewolves?”
 
“I mean East Coasters,” said Malcolm. “Who would have weather if they could avoid it? Snow, hail, rain. I’d move to Los Angeles in a jiffy. Did you know that a jiffy is an actual measurement of time? It’s a sixtieth of a second. You can’t do anything in a jiffy, not really.”
 
“You know,” Maia said, “Catarina said you were pretty harmless—”
 
Malcolm looked pleased. “Catarina said I was pretty?”
 
“Can we stick to the point?” Maia demanded. “Lily, if what you’re worried about is that the Shadowhunters will take it out on all Downworlders if some of us go rogue while they’re in Idris, well, that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing. Assuring Downworlders that the Accords hold, that the Shadowhunters are trying to get our representatives back, that Sebastian is the real enemy here, will minimize the chances of chaos outside Idris affecting what happens in the case of a battle, or when all this is over—”
 
“Catarina!” Malcolm announced suddenly, as if remembering something pleasant. “I nearly forgot why I stopped by here in the first place. Catarina asked me to contact you. She’s in the morgue at Beth Israel hospital, and she wants you to come as quickly as you can. Oh, and she said to bring a cage.”
 
   
 
 
 
One of the bricks in the wall by the window was loose. Jocelyn had been passing the time by using the metal clip of her barrette to try to pry it free. She wasn’t foolish enough to think that she could create a gap she could escape through, but she was hopeful that freeing a brick would give her a weapon. Something she could slam into Sebastian’s head.
 
If she could make herself do it. If she wouldn’t hesitate.
 
She had hesitated when he was a baby. She had held him in her arms and known there was something wrong with him, something irreparably damaged, but hadn’t been able to act on her knowledge. She had believed in some small corner of her heart that he could still be saved.
 
The door rattled, and she around about, sliding the barrette back into her hair. It was Clary’s barrette, something she had picked off her daughter’s desk when she’d needed to keep her hair out of the paint. She hadn’t returned it because it reminded her of her daughter, but it seemed wrong to even think of Clary here, in front of her other child, though she missed her, missed her so much that it hurt.
 
The door opened and Sebastian stepped through.
 
He wore a white knit shirt, and she was reminded again of his father. Valentine had liked to wear white. It had made him appear paler, his hair whiter, just that little bit more inhuman, and it did the same for Sebastian. His eyes looked like black paint dripped onto a white canvas. He smiled at her.
 
“Mother,” he said.
 
She crossed her arms over her chest. “What are you doing here, Jonathan?”
 
He shook his head, still with the same smile on his face, and drew a dagger from his belt. It was narrow, with a thin blade like an awl. “If you call me that again,” he said, “I will put your eyes out with this.”
 
She swallowed. Oh, my baby. She remembered holding him, cold and still in her arms, not like a normal child at all. He hadn’t cried. Not once. “Is that what you came to tell me?”
 
He shrugged. “I came to ask you a question.” He glanced around the room, his expression bored. “And to show you something. Come. Walk with me.”
 
She joined him as he left the room, with a mixture of reluctance and relief. She hated her cell, and surely it would be better to see more of the place where she was being kept? The size of it, the exits?
 
The corridor outside the room was stone, big blocks of limestone slotted together with concrete. The floor was smooth, worn down by footsteps. Yet there was a dusty feel to the place, as if no one had been in it for decades, even centuries.
 
There were doors set into the walls at random intervals. Jocelyn felt her heart begin to pound. Luke could be behind any of those doors. She wanted to dash at them, jerk them open, but the dagger was still in Sebastian’s hand, and she didn’t doubt for a moment that he knew that better than she did.
 
The corridor began to curve around, and Sebastian spoke. “What,” he said, “if I did tell you I loved you?”
 
Jocelyn clasped her hands loosely in front of her. “I suppose,” she said carefully, “that I would say that you could no more love me than I could love you.”
 
They had reached a set of double doors. They paused in front of them. “Aren’t you supposed to pretend, at least?”
 
Jocelyn said, “Could you? Part of you is me, you know. The demon’s blood changed you, but did you really think that everything in you otherwise comes from Valentine?”
 
Without answering, Sebastian shouldered the doors open and stepped inside. After a moment Jocelyn followed—and stopped in her tracks.
 
The room was huge and semicircular. A marble floor stretched out to a platform built of stone and wood rising against the western wall. In the center of the platform sat two thrones. There was no other word for them—massive ivory chairs overlaid with gold; each had a rounded back and six steps leading down from it. An enormous window, glass reflecting nothing but blackness, hung behind each throne. Something about the room was oddly familiar, but Jocelyn couldn’t have said exactly what.
 
Sebastian bounded up onto the platform and beckoned her to follow him. Jocelyn moved slowly up the few steps to join her son, who stood in front of the two thrones with a look of gloating triumph on his face. She had seen the same look on his father’s face, when he’d gazed down at the Mortal Cup. “ ‘He will be great,’ ” Sebastian intoned, “ ‘and he will be called the Son of the Highest, and the Devil will give him the throne of his father. And he will reign over Hell forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ ”
 
“I don’t understand,” Jocelyn said, and her voice came out bleak and dead even to her own ears. “You want to rule this world? Some dead world of demons and destruction? You want to give orders to corpses?”
 
Sebastian laughed. He had Valentine’s laugh: harsh and musical. “Oh, no,” he said. “You misunderstand me entirely.” He made a quick gesture with his fingers, something she had seen Valentine do when he had taught himself magic, and suddenly the two great windows behind the thrones were no longer blank.
 
One showed a blasted landscape: withered trees and scorched earth, vile winged creatures circling in front of a broken moon. A barren plateau of rocks spread out before the windows. It was populated by dark figures, each standing a little distance from the next, and Jocelyn realized that they were the Endarkened, keeping watch.
 
The other window showed Alicante, sleeping peacefully in the moonlight. A curve of moon, a sky full of stars, the shimmer of water in the canals. The view was one Jocelyn had seen before, and she realized with a jolt why the room she was in had seemed familiar.
 
It was the Council room in the Gard—transformed from an amphitheater to a throne room, but still the same arched roof, the same size, the same view of the City of Glass from what had been two great windows. Only, now one window looked out onto the world she knew, the Idris she had come from. And the other looked out onto the world she was in.
 
“This fortress of mine has doorways to both worlds,” said Sebastian, his tone smug. “This world is drained dry, yes. A bloodless corpse of a place. Oh, but your world is ripe for ruling. I dream about it during the days as well as the nights. Do I burn the world slowly, with plague and famine, or should the slaughter be quick and painless—all that life, extinguished so quickly, imagine how it would burn!” His eyes were feverish. “Imagine the heights I could rise to, borne aloft on the screams of billions of people, raised up by the smoke of millions of burning hearts!” He turned to her. “Now,” he said. “Tell me I got that from you. Tell me any of that is from you.”
 
Jocelyn’s head was ringing. “There are two thrones,” she said.
 
A small crease appeared between his brows. “What?”
 
“Two thrones,” she said. “And I’m not a fool; I know who you intend to have sit beside you. You need her there; you want her there. Your triumph means nothing if she isn’t there to watch it. And that—that need for someone to love you—that does come from me.”
 
He stared at her. He was biting his lip so hard, she was sure he would draw blood. “Weakness,” he said, half to himself. “It’s a weakness.”
 
“It’s human,” she said. “But do you really think Clary could sit next to you here and be happy or willing?”
 
For a moment she thought she saw something spark in his eyes, but a moment later they were black ice again. “I’d rather have her happy and willing and here, but I’ll take simply here,” he said. “I don’t care that much about willing.”
 
Something seemed to explode inside Jocelyn’s brain. She lunged forward, reaching for the dagger in his hand; he stepped back, evading her, and spun with a quick, graceful movement, knocking her legs out from under her. She hit the ground, rolled, and crouched. Before she could rise, she found a hand knotted in her jacket, yanking her to her feet.
 
“Stupid bitch,” Sebastian snarled, inches from her face, the fingers of his left hand digging into the skin below her clavicle. “You think you could hurt me? My true mother’s spell protects me.”
 
Jocelyn jerked back. “Let me go!”
 
The leftmost window exploded with light. Sebastian reeled back, surprise blooming across his face as he stared. The blasted landscape of the dead world had suddenly lit up with fire, blazing golden fire, rising in a pillar toward the broken sky. The Dark Shadowhunters were running to and fro over the ground like ants. The stars were coruscating, reflecting the fire back, red and gold and blue and orange. It was as beautiful and terrible as an angel.
 
Jocelyn felt the hint of a smile touch the corners of her mouth. Her heart was lifting with the first hope she had felt since she had woken up in this world.
 
“Heavenly fire,” she whispered.
 
“Indeed.” A smile played around Sebastian’s mouth. Jocelyn looked at him in dismay. She had expected him to be horrified, but instead he looked exalted. “As the Good Book says: ‘This is the law of the burnt offering: It is the burnt offering, because of the burning upon the altar all night unto the morning, and the fire of the altar shall be burning in it,’” he cried, and raised both arms, as if he meant to embrace the fire that burned so high and so bright beyond the window. “Waste your fire on the desert air, my brother!” he cried. “Let it pour into the sands like blood or water, and may you never stop coming—never stop coming until we are face-to-face.”

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