City of Fallen Angels / Page 40

Page 40


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Chapter 18

SCARS OF FIRE

Clouds had rolled in over the river, the way they sometimes did at night, bringing a thick mist with them. It didn't hide what was happening on the roof, just laid a sort of dimming fog over everything else. The buildings rising all around them were murky pillars of light, and the moon glowed barely, a muffled lamp, through the low scudding clouds. The broken bits of the glass coffin, scattered across the tiled ground, shone like shards of ice, and Lilith, too, shone, pale under the moon, watching Simon as he bent over Sebastian's still body, drinking his blood.

Clary could hardly bear to watch. She knew Simon hated what he was doing; she knew he was doing it for her. For her, and even, a little bit, for Jace. And she knew what the next step in the ritual would be. Simon would give up his blood, willingly, to Sebastian, and Simon would die. Vampires could die when their blood was drained. He would die, and she would lose him forever, and it would-all of it-be her own fault.

She could feel Jace behind her, his arms still tight around her, the soft, regular beat of his heart against her shoulder blades. She remembered the way he had held her on the steps of the Accords Hall in Idris. The sound of the wind in the leaves as he'd kissed her, his hands warm on either side of her face. The way she had felt his heart beating and thought that no one else's heart beat like his, like every pulse of his blood matched her own.

He had to be in there somewhere. Like Sebastian inside his glass prison. There had to be some way to reach him.

Lilith was watching Simon as he bent over Sebastian, her dark eyes wide and fixed. Clary and Jace might as well not have been there at all.

"Jace," Clary whispered. "Jace, I don't want to watch this."

She pressed back against him, as if she were trying to snuggle into his arms, then pretended a wince as the knife brushed the side of her throat.

"Please, Jace," she whispered. "You don't need the knife. You know I can't hurt you."

"But why-"

"I just want to look at you. I want to see your face."

She felt his chest rise and fall once, fast. A shudder went through him, as if he were fighting something, pushing against it. Then he moved, the way only he could move, so swiftly it was like a flash of light. He kept his right arm tight around her; his left hand slid the knife into his belt.

Her heart leaped wildly. I could run, she thought, but he would only catch her, and it was only a moment. Seconds later both arms were around her again, his hands on her arms, turning her. She felt his fingers trail over her back, her bare, shivering arms, as he spun her to face him.

She was looking away from Simon now, away from the demon woman, though she could still feel their presence at her back, shivering up her spine. She looked up at Jace. His face was so familiar. The lines of it, the way his hair fell across his forehead, the faint scar over his cheekbone, another at his temple. His eyelashes a shade darker than his hair. His eyes were the color of pale yellow glass. That was where he was different, she thought. He still looked like Jace, but his eyes were clear and blank, as if she were looking through a window into an empty room.

"I'm afraid," she said.

He stroked her shoulder, sending sparks winging through her nerves; with a feeling of sickness she realized her body still responded to his touch. "I won't let anything happen to you."

She stared at him. You really think that, don't you? Somehow you can't see the disconnect between your actions and your intentions. Somehow she's taken that away from you.

"You won't be able to stop her," she said. "She's going to kill me, Jace."

He shook his head. "No. She wouldn't do that."

Clary wanted to scream, but she kept her voice deliberate, careful, calm. "I know you're in there, Jace. The real you." She pressed closer to him. The buckle on his belt dug into her waist. "You could fight her..."

It had been the wrong thing to say. He tensed all over, and she saw a flash of anguish in his eyes, the look of an animal in a trap. In another instant it had turned to hardness. "I can't."

She shivered. The look on his face was awful, so awful. At her shudder his eyes softened. "Are you cold?" he said, and for a moment he sounded like Jace again, concerned about her well-being. It made her throat hurt.

She nodded, though physical cold was the furthest thing from her mind. "Can I put my hands inside your jacket?"

He nodded. His jacket was unbuttoned; she slid her arms inside, her hands touching his back lightly. Everything was eerily silent. The city seemed frozen inside an icy prism. Even the light radiating off the buildings around them was still and cold.

He breathed slowly, steadily. She could see the rune on his chest through the torn fabric of his shirt. It seemed to pulse when he breathed. It was sickening, she thought, attached to him like that, like a leech, sucking out what was good, what was Jace.

She remembered what Luke had said to her about destroying a rune. If you disfigure it enough, you can minimize or destroy its power. Sometimes in battle the enemy will try to burn or slice off a Shadowhunter's skin, just to deprive them of the power of their runes.

She kept her eyes fixed on Jace's face. Forget about what's happening, she thought. Forget about Simon, about the knife at your throat. What you say now matters more than anything you've ever said before.

"Remember what you said to me in the park?" she whispered.

He looked down at her, startled. "What?"

"When I told you I didn't speak Italian. I remember what you told me, what that quote meant. You said it meant love is the most powerful force on earth. More powerful than anything else."

A tiny line appeared between his eyebrows. "I don't ..."

"Yes, you do." Tread carefully, she told herself, but she couldn't help it, couldn't help the strain that surfaced in her voice. "You remember. The most powerful force there is, you said. Stronger than Heaven or Hell. It has to be more powerful than Lilith, too."

Nothing. He stared at her as if he couldn't hear her. It was like shouting down into a black, empty tunnel. Jace, Jace, Jace. I know you're in there.

"There's a way you could protect me and still do what she wants," she said. "Wouldn't that be the best thing?" She pressed her body closer against his, feeling her stomach twist. It was like holding Jace and not like it, all at the same time, joy and horror mixed together. And she could feel his body react to her, the drumbeat of his heart in her ears, her veins; he had not stopped wanting her, whatever layers of control Lilith exerted over his mind.

"I'll whisper it to you," she said, brushing her lips against his neck. She breathed in the scent of him, as familiar as the scent of her own skin. "Listen."

She tilted her face up, and he leaned down to hear her-and her hand moved from his waist to clamp down on the hilt of the knife in his belt. She whipped it upward, just as he had shown her when they had trained, balancing its weight in her palm, and she slashed the blade across the left side of his chest in a wide, shallow arc. Jace cried out-more in surprise than pain, she guessed-and blood burst from the cut, spilling down his skin, obscuring the rune. He put his hand to his chest; when it came away red, he stared at her, his eyes wide, as if somehow he was genuinely hurt, genuinely unable to believe in her betrayal.

Clary spun away from him as Lilith cried out. Simon was no longer bending over Sebastian; he had straightened up and was staring down at Clary, the back of his hand jammed against his mouth. Black demon blood dripped from his chin onto his white shirt. His eyes were wide.

"Jace," Lilith's voice soared upward in astonishment. "Jace, get hold of her-I order it-"

Jace didn't move. He was staring from Clary, to Lilith, at his bloody hand, and then back again. Simon had begun to back away from Lilith; suddenly he stopped with a jerk and bent double, falling to his knees. Lilith whirled away from Jace and advanced on Simon, her hard face contorted. "Get up!" she shrieked. "Get on your feet! You drank his blood. Now he needs yours!"

Simon struggled to a sitting position, then slid limply to the ground. He retched, coughing up black blood. Clary remembered him in Idris, saying that Sebastian's blood was like poison. Lilith drew back her foot to kick him-then staggered back as if an invisible hand had pushed her, hard. Lilith screeched-not words, just a scream like the cry of an owl. It was a sound of unadulterated hatred and rage.

It was not a sound a human being could have made; it felt like jagged shards of glass being driven into Clary's ears. She cried out, "Leave Simon alone! He's sick. Can't you see he's sick?"

She was immediately sorry she'd spoken. Lilith turned slowly, her gaze sliding over Jace, cold and imperious. "I told you, Jace Herondale." Her voice rang out. "Don't let the girl leave the circle. Take her weapon."

Clary had barely realized she was still holding the knife. She felt so cold she was nearly numb, but beneath that a wash of unbearable rage at Lilith-at everything-freed the movement of her arm. She flung the knife at the ground. It skidded across the tiles, fetching up at Jace's feet. He stared down at it blindly, as if he'd never seen a weapon before.

Lilith's mouth was a thin red slash. The whites of her eyes had vanished; they were all black. She did not look human. "Jace," she hissed. "Jace Herondale, you heard me. And you will obey me."

"Take it," Clary said, looking at Jace. "Take it and kill either her or me. It's your choice."

Slowly Jace bent down and picked up the knife.

Alec had Sandalphon in one hand, a hachiwara-good for parrying multiple attackers-in the other. At least six cultists lay at his feet, dead or unconscious.

Alec had fought quite a few demons in his time, but there was something especially eerie about fighting the cultists of the Church of Talto. They moved all together, less like people than like an eerie dark tide-eerie because they were so silent and so bizarrely strong and fast. They also seemed totally unafraid of death. Though Alec and Isabelle shouted at them to keep back, they kept moving forward in a wordless, clustering horde, flinging themselves at the Shadowhunters with the self-destructive mindlessness of lemmings hurling themselves over a cliff. They had backed Alec and Isabelle down the hallway and into the big, open room full of stone pedestals, when the noise of the fight brought Jordan and Maia running: Jordan in wolf form, Maia still human, but with her claws fully out.

The cultists seemed barely to register their presence. They fought on, falling one after the other as Alec, Maia, and Jordan laid about themselves with knives, claws, and blades. Isabelle's whip traced shimmering patterns in the air as it sliced through bodies, sending fine sprays of blood into the air. Maia especially was acquitting herself well. At least a dozen cultists lay crumpled around her, and she was laying into another one with a blazing fury, her clawed hands red to the wrists.

A cultist streaked across Alec's path and lunged at him, hands outstretched. Its hood was up; he couldn't see its face, or guess at sex or age. He sank the blade of Sandalphon into the left side of its chest. It screamed-a male scream, loud and hoarse. The man collapsed, clawing at his chest, where flames were licking at the edge of the torn hole in his jacket. Alec turned away, sickened. He hated watching what happened to humans when a seraph blade pierced their skin.

Suddenly he felt a searing burn across his back, and turned to see a second cultist wielding a jagged piece of rebar. This one was hoodless-a man, his face so thin that his cheekbones seemed to be digging through his skin. He hissed and lunged again at Alec, who leaped aside, the weapon whistling harmlessly past him. He spun and kicked it out of the cultist's hand; it rattled to the floor, and the cultist backed up, nearly tripped over a body-and ran.

Alec hesitated for a moment. The cultist who had just attacked him had nearly made it to the door. Alec knew he ought to follow-for all he knew, the man might be running to warn someone or to get reinforcements-but he felt bone-weary, disgusted, and a little sick. These people might be possessed; they might barely be people anymore, but it still felt too much like killing human beings.

He wondered what Magnus would say, but to tell the truth, he already knew. Alec had fought creatures like this before, the cult servants of demons. Almost all that was human about them had been consumed by the demon for energy, leaving nothing but a murderous yearning to kill and a human body dying slowly in agony. They were beyond help: incurable, unfixable. He heard Magnus's voice as if the warlock stood beside him. Killing them is the most merciful thing you can do.

Jamming the hachiwara back into his belt, Alec gave chase, pounding out the door and into the hall after the fleeing cultist. The hallway was empty, the farthest of the elevator doors jammed open, a weird high-pitched alarm noise sounding through the corridor. Several doorways branched off from the foyer. Shrugging inwardly, Alec picked one at random and dashed through it.

He found himself in a maze of small rooms that were barely finished-drywall had been hastily thrown up, and bouquets of multicolored wire sprouted from holes in the walls. The seraph blade threw a patchwork quilt of light across the walls as he moved cautiously through the rooms, his nerves prickling. At one point the light caught movement, and he jumped. Lowering the blade, he saw a pair of red eyes and a small gray body skittering into a hole in the wall. Alec's mouth twitched. That was New York for you. Even in a building as new as this one, there were rats.

Eventually the rooms opened out into a larger space-not as large as the room with the pedestals, but more sizeable than the others. There was a wall of glass here, too, with cardboard taped across sections of it.

A dark shape was huddled in one corner of the room, near an exposed section of piping. Alec approached cautiously. Was it a trick of the light? No, the shape was recognizably human, a bent, huddled figure in dark clothes. Alec's night vision rune twinged as he narrowed his eyes, moving forward. The shape resolved itself into a slim woman, barefoot, her hands chained in front of her to a length of pipe. She raised her head as Alec approached, and the dim light that poured through the windows illuminated her pale white-blond hair.


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