City of Fallen Angels / Page 41

Page 41


"Alexander?" she said, her voice rich with disbelief. "Alexander Lightwood?"

It was Camille.

"Jace." Lilith's voice came down like a whip across bare flesh; even Clary flinched at the sound of it. "I command you to-"

Jace's arm drew back-Clary tensed, bracing herself-and he flung the knife at Lilith. It whipped through the air, end over end, and sank into her chest; she staggered back, caught off balance. Lilith's heels skidded on the smooth stone; the demoness righted herself with a snarl, reaching down to pluck the knife from her ribs. Spitting something in a language Clary couldn't understand, she let it drop. It fell hissing to the ground, its blade half-eaten away, as if by a powerful acid.

She whirled on Clary. "What did you do to him? What did you do?" Her eyes had been all black a moment ago. Now they seemed to bulge and protrude. Small black serpents slithered from her eye sockets; Clary cried out and stepped back, almost tripping over a low hedge. This was the Lilith she had seen in Ithuriel's vision, with her slithering eyes and harsh, echoing voice. She advanced on Clary-

And suddenly Jace was between them, blocking Lilith's path. Clary stared. He was himself again. He seemed to burn with a righteous fire, as Raziel had by Lake Lyn that horrible night. He had drawn a seraph blade from his belt; the white-silver of it reflected in his eyes; blood dripped from the rent in his shirt and slicked his bare skin. The way he looked at her, at Lilith-if angels could rise up out of Hell, Clary thought, they would look like that. "Michael," he said, and Clary wasn't sure whether it was the strength of the name, or the rage in his voice, but the blade he held blazed up brighter than any seraph blade she'd ever seen. She looked aside for a moment, blinded, and saw Simon lying in a crumpled dark heap beside Sebastian's glass coffin.

Her heart twisted inside her chest. What if Sebastian's demon blood had poisoned him? The Mark of Cain wouldn't help him. It was something he had done willingly, to himself. For her. Simon.

"Ah, Michael." Lilith's voice was rich with laughter as she moved toward Jace. "The captain of the hosts of the Lord. I knew him."

Jace raised the seraph blade; it blazed like a star, so bright that Clary wondered if all the city could see it, like a searchlight piercing the sky. "Don't come any closer."

Lilith, to Clary's surprise, paused. "Michael slew the demon Sammael, whom I loved," she said. "Why is it, little Shadowhunter, that your angels are so cold and without mercy? Why do they break that which will not obey them?"

"I had no idea you were such a proponent of free will," said Jace, and the way he said it, his voice heavy with sarcasm, did more to reassure Clary that he was himself again than anything else would have. "How about letting us all walk off this roof now, then? Me, Simon, Clary? What do you say, demoness? It's over. You don't control me anymore. I won't hurt Clary, and Simon won't obey you. And that piece of filth you're trying to resuscitate-I suggest you get rid of him before he starts to rot. Because he isn't coming back, and he's way past his sell-by date."

Lilith's face twisted. She spat at Jace, and her spit was a black flame that hit the ground and became a snake that wiggled toward him, its jaws agape. He smashed it with a booted foot and lunged for the demoness, blade outstretched; but Lilith was gone like a shadow when light shone on it, vanishing and reforming just behind him. As he spun, she reached out almost lazily and slammed her open palm against his chest.

Jace went flying, Michael knocked from his hand, skittering across the stone tiles. Jace sailed through the air and struck the low roof wall with such force that splintering lines appeared in the stone. He hit the ground hard, visibly stunned.

Gasping, Clary ran for the fallen seraph blade, but never reached it. Lilith caught Clary up in two thin, icy hands and threw her with incredible force. Clary hurtled into a low hedge, the branches slashing viciously at her skin, opening up long cuts. She struggled to free herself, her dress tangled in the foliage. She heard the silk rip as she tore free and turned to see Lilith drag Jace to his feet, her hand fastened in the bloody front of his shirt.

She grinned at him, and her teeth were black too, and gleamed like metal. "I am glad you're on your feet, little Nephilim. I want to see your face when I kill you, not stab you in the back the way you did my son."

Jace wiped his sleeve across his face; he was bleeding from a long cut along his cheek, and the fabric came away red. "He's not your son. You donated some blood to him. That doesn't make him yours. Mother of warlocks-" He turned his head and spat, blood. "You're not anyone's mother."

Lilith's snake eyes darted back and forth furiously. Clary, disentangling herself painfully from the hedge, saw that each of the snake heads had two eyes of its own, glittering and red. Clary's stomach turned as the snakes moved, their gazes seeming to slither up and down Jace's body. "Cutting my rune apart. How crude," she spat.

"But effective," said Jace.

"You cannot win against me, Jace Herondale," she said. "You may be the greatest Shadowhunter this world has known, but I am more than a Greater Demon."

"Then, fight me," said Jace. "I'll give you a weapon. I'll have my seraph blade. Fight me one on one, and we'll see who wins."

Lilith looked at him, shaking her head slowly, her dark hair swirling around her like smoke. "I am the oldest of demons," she said. "I am not a man. I have no male pride for you to trick me with, and I am not interested in single combat. That is entirely a weakness of your sex, not mine. I am a woman. I will use any weapon and all weapons to get what I want." She let go of him them, with a half-contemptuous shove; Jace stumbled for a moment, righting himself quickly and reaching to the ground for the glittering blade of Michael.

He seized it just as Lilith laughed and raised her hands. Half-opaque shadows exploded from her open palms. Even Jace looked shocked as the shadows solidified into the forms of twin black shadowy demons with shimmering red eyes. They hit the ground, pawing and growling. They were dogs, Clary thought in amazement, two gaunt, vicious-looking black dogs that vaguely resembled Doberman pinschers.

"Hellhounds," breathed Jace. "Clary-"

He broke off as one of the dogs sprang toward him, its mouth opened as wide as a shark's, a loud, baying howl erupting from its throat. A moment later the second one leaped into the air, launching itself directly at Clary.

"Camille." Alec's head was spinning. "What are you doing here?"

He immediately realized that he sounded like an idiot. He fought down the urge to smack himself in the forehead. The last thing he wanted was to look like a fool in front of Magnus's ex-girlfriend.

"It was Lilith," said the vampire woman in a small, trembling voice. "She had her cult members break into the Sanctuary. It isn't warded against humans, and they're human-barely. They cut my chains and brought me here, to her." She raised her hands; the chains binding her wrists to the pipe rattled. "They brutalized me."

Alec crouched down, bringing his eyes on a level with Camille's. Vampires didn't bruise-they healed too quickly for that-but her hair was matted with blood on the left side, which made him think she was telling the truth. "Let's say I believe you," he said. "What did she want with you? Nothing in what I know about Lilith says she has a particular interest in vampires."

"You know why the Clave was holding me," she said. "You would have heard."

"You killed three Shadowhunters. Magnus said you claimed you were doing it because someone had ordered you to-" He broke off. "Lilith?"

"If I tell you, will you help me?" Camille's lower lip trembled. Her eyes were huge, green, pleading. She was very beautiful. Alec wondered if she had once looked at Magnus like this. It made him want to shake her.

"I might," he said, astonished at the coldness in his own voice. "You don't have a lot of bargaining power here. I could go off and leave you for Lilith to have, and it wouldn't make much difference to me."

"Yes, it would," she said. Her voice was low. "Magnus loves you. He wouldn't love you if you were the sort of person who could abandon someone helpless."

"He loved you," Alec said.

She gave a wistful smile. "He appears to have learned better since then."

Alec rocked back on his heels slightly. "Look," he said. "Tell me the truth. If you do, I'll cut you free and bring you to the Clave. They'll treat you better than Lilith would."

She looked down at her wrists, chained to the pipe. "The Clave chained me," she said. "Lilith chained me. I see little difference in my treatment between the two."

"I guess it's your choice, then. Trust me, or trust her," Alec said. It was a gamble, he knew.

He waited for several tense moments before she said, "Very well. If Magnus trusts you, I will trust you." She raised her head, doing her best to look dignified despite torn clothing and bloody hair. "Lilith came to me, not I to her. She had heard I was looking to recover my position as head of the Manhattan clan from Raphael Santiago. She said she would help me, if I would help her."

"Help her by murdering Shadowhunters?"

"She wanted their blood," said Camille. "It was for those babies. She was injecting Shadowhunter blood and demon blood into the mothers, trying to replicate what Valentine did to his son. It didn't work, though. The babies became twisted things-and then they died." Catching his revolted look, she said, "I didn't know at first what she wanted the blood for. You may not think much of me, but I have no taste for murdering innocents."

"You didn't have to do it," said Alec. "Just because she offered."

Camille smiled tiredly. "When you are as old as I am," she said, "it is because you have learned to play the game correctly-to make the right alliances at the right times. To ally yourself not just with the powerful, but with those who you believe will make you powerful. I knew that if I did not agree to assist Lilith, she would kill me. Demons are not by nature trusting, and she would think that I would go to the Clave with what I knew about her plans to kill Shadowhunters, even if I promised her I would stay silent. I took a chance that Lilith was a greater danger to me than your kind were."

"And you didn't mind killing Shadowhunters."

"They were Circle members," said Camille. "They had killed my kind. And yours."

"And Simon Lewis? What was your interest in him?"

"Everyone wants the Daylighter on their side." Camille shrugged. "And I knew he had the Mark of Cain. One of Raphael's vampire underlings is still loyal to me. He passed on the information. Few other Downworlders know of it. It makes him an incalculably valuable ally."

"Is that what Lilith wants with him?"

Camille's eyes widened. Her skin was very pale, and beneath it Alec could see that her veins had darkened, the pattern of them beginning to spread across the whiteness of her face like widening cracks in china. Eventually, starving vampires became savage, then lost consciousness, once they had been without blood for too long. The older they were, the longer they could stave it off, but Alec couldn't help but wonder how long it had been since she had fed. "What do you mean?"

"Apparently she's summoned Simon to meet with her," said Alec. "They're somewhere in the building."

Camille stared a moment longer, then laughed. "A true irony," she said. "She never mentioned him to me, and I never mentioned him to her, and yet both of us were pursuing him for our own ends. If she wants him, it's for his blood," she added. "The ritual she's performing is most assuredly one of blood magic. His blood-mixed Downworlder and Shadowhunter blood-would be of great use to her."

Alec felt a flicker of unease. "But she can't hurt him. The Mark of Cain-"

"She'll find a way around that," said Camille. "She is Lilith, mother of warlocks. She's been alive a long time, Alexander."

Alec got to his feet. "Then I'd better find out what she's doing."

Camille's chains rattled as she tried to rise to her knees. "Wait-but you said you would free me."

Alec turned and looked down at her. "I didn't. I said I would let the Clave have you."

"But if you leave me here, nothing prevents Lilith from finding me first." She tossed her matted hair back; lines of strain showed in her face. "Alexander, please. I beg you-"

"Who's Will?" Alec said. The words came out abruptly, unexpectedly, and much to his horror.

"Will?" For a moment her face was blank; then it creased into a look of realization, and near amusement. "You heard my conversation with Magnus."

"Some of it." Alec exhaled carefully. "Will is dead, isn't he? I mean, Magnus said it was a long time ago that he knew him..."

"I know what's bothering you, little Shadowhunter." Camille's voice had gone musical and soft. Behind her, through the windows, Alec could see the distant flickering lights of a plane as it flew over the city. "At first you were happy. You thought of the moment, not of the future. Now you have realized. You will grow old, and will someday die. And Magnus will not. He will continue. You will not grow old together. You will grow apart instead."

Alec thought of the people on the airplane, high up in the cold and icy air, looking down on the city like a field of glittering diamonds, far below. Of course, he had never been in an airplane himself. He was only guessing at how it would feel: lonely, distant, disconnected from the world. "You can't know that," he said. "That we'll grow apart."

She smiled pityingly. "You're beautiful now," she said. "But will you be in twenty years? In forty? Fifty? Will he love your blue eyes when they fade, your soft skin when age cuts deep furrows in it? Your hands when they wrinkle and grow weak, your hair when it grows white-"

"Shut up." Alec heard the crack in his own voice, and was ashamed. "Just shut up. I don't want to hear it."

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