City of Fallen Angels / Page 42

Page 42


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"It doesn't have to be that way." Camille leaned toward him, her green eyes luminous. "What if I told you that you didn't have to grow old? Didn't have to die?"

Alec felt a wave of rage. "I'm not interested in becoming a vampire. Don't even bother making the offer. Not if the only other alternative was death."

For the briefest of moments her face twisted. It was gone in a flash as her control reasserted itself; she smiled a thin smile and said, "That wasn't my suggestion. What if I told you there was another way? Another way for the two of you to be together forever?"

Alec swallowed. His mouth was as dry as paper. "Tell me," he said.

Camille raised her hands. Her chains rattled. "Cut these free."

"No. Tell me first."

She shook her head. "I won't do that." Her expression was as hard as marble, as was her voice. "You said I had nothing to bargain with. But I do. And I will not give it away."

Alec hesitated. In his head he heard Magnus's soft voice. She is a master of implication and manipulation. She always has been.

But Magnus, he thought. You never told me. Never warned me it would be like this, that I would wake up one day and realize that I was going somewhere you couldn't follow. That we are essentially not the same. There's no "till death do us part" for those who never die.

He took a step toward Camille, and then another. Raising his right arm, he brought the seraph blade down, as hard as he could. It sheared through the metal of her chains; her wrists sprang apart, still in their manacles but free. She brought her hands up, her expression gloating, triumphant.

"Alec." Isabelle spoke from the doorway; Alec turned and saw her standing there, her whip at her side. It was stained with blood, as were her hands and her silk dress. "What are you doing in here?"

"Nothing. I-" Alec felt a wave of shame and horror; almost without thinking, he moved to step in front of Camille, as if he could obscure her from his sister's view.

"They're all dead." Isabelle sounded grim. "The cultists. We killed every one of them. Now come on. We have to start looking for Simon." She squinted at Alec. "Are you okay? You look really pale."

"I cut her free," Alec blurted. "I shouldn't have. It's just-"

"Cut who free?" Isabelle took a step into the room. The ambient city light sparked off her dress, making her shine like a ghost. "Alec, what are you blathering about?"

Her expression was blank, confused. Alec turned, following her gaze, and saw-nothing. The pipe was still there, a length of chain lying beside it, the dust on the floor only very slightly disturbed. But Camille was gone.

Clary barely had time to put her arms up before the hellhound collided with her, a cannonball of muscle and bone and hot, stinking breath. Her feet went out from under her; she remembered Jace telling her the best way to fall, how to protect yourself, but the advice flew from her mind and she hit the ground with her elbows, agony shooting through her as the skin tore. A moment later the hound was on top of her, its paws crushing her chest, its gnarled tail swishing from side to side in a grotesque imitation of a wag. The tip of its tail was spiked with nail-like protrusions like a medieval mace, and a thick growl came from its barrel-chested body, so loud and strong that she could feel her bones vibrate.

"Hold her there! Tear her throat out if she tries to get away!" Lilith snapped instructions as the second hellhound sprang at Jace; he was struggling with it, rolling over and over, a whirlwind of teeth and arms and legs and the vicious whipping tail. Painfully Clary turned her head to the other side, and saw Liliths triding toward the glass coffin and Simon, still lying in a heap beside it. Inside the coffin Sebastian floated, as motionless as a drowned body; the milky color of the water had turned dark, probably with his blood.

The hound pinning her to the ground snarled close to her ear. The sound sent a jolt of fear through her-and along with the fear, anger. Anger at Lilith, and at herself. She was a Shadowhunter. It was one thing to be taken down by a Ravener demon when she'd never heard of the Nephilim. She had some training now. She ought to be able to do better.

Anything can be a weapon. Jace had said that to her in the park. The weight of the hellhound was crushing; she made a gagging noise and reached for her throat, as if fighting for air. It barked and snarled, baring its teeth; her fingers closed on the chain holding the Morgenstern ring around her neck. She yanked it, hard, and the chain snapped; she whipped it toward the dog's face, slashing the hound brutally across the eyes. The hound reared back, howling in pain, and Clary rolled to the side, scrambling to her knees. Bloody-eyed, the dog crouched, ready to spring. The necklace had fallen out of Clary's hand, the ring rolling away; she scrabbled for the chain as the dog leaped-

A shining blade split the night, slashing down inches from Clary's face, severing the dog's head from its body. It gave a single howl and vanished, leaving behind a scorched black mark on the stone, and the stench of demon in the air.

Hands came down, lifted Clary gently to her feet. It was Jace. He had shoved the burning seraph blade through his belt, and he held her by both hands, gazing at her with a peculiar look. She couldn't have described it, or even drawn it-hope, shock, love, yearning, and anger all mixed together in his expression. His shirt was torn in several places, soaked with blood; his jacket was gone, his fair hair matted with sweat and blood. For a moment they simply stared at each other, his grip on her hands painfully tight. Then they both spoke at once:

"Are you-," she began.

"Clary." Still gripping her hands, he pushed her away from him, away from the circle, toward the walkway that led to the elevators. "Go," he said raggedly. "Get out of here, Clary."

"Jace-"

He took a shaking breath. "Please," he said, and then he let her go, drawing the seraph blade from his belt as he turned back toward the circle.

"Get up," Lilith growled. "Get up."

A hand shook Simon's shoulder, sending a wave of agony through his head. He had been floating in darkness; he opened his eyes now and saw night sky, stars, and Lilith's white face looming over him. Her eyes were gone, replaced by slithering black snakes. The shock of the sight was enough to propel Simon to his feet.

The moment he was upright, he retched and nearly fell to his knees again. Shutting his eyes against the nausea, he heard Lilith snarl his name, and then her hand was on his arm, guiding him forward. He let her do it. His mouth was full of the nauseating, bitter taste of Sebastian's blood; it was spreading through his veins, too, making him sick, weak, and shivery down to his bones. His head felt like it weighed a thousand pounds, and dizziness was advancing and receding in waves.

Abruptly Lilith's cold grip on his arm was gone. Simon opened his eyes and found that he was standing over the glass coffin, just as he had been before. Sebastian floated in the dark, milky liquid, his face smooth, no pulse in his neck. Two dark holes were visible at the side of his throat where Simon had bitten him.

Give him your blood. Lilith's voice echoed, not aloud but inside his head. Do it now.

Simon looked up dizzily. His vision was fogging. He strained to see Clary and Jace through the encroaching darkness.

Use your fangs, said Lilith. Tear your wrist open. Give Jonathan your blood. Heal him.

Simon raised his wrist to his mouth. Heal him. Raising someone from the dead was a lot more than healing them, he thought. Maybe Sebastian's hand would grow back. Maybe that's what she meant. He waited for his fangs to come, but they didn't. He was too sick to be hungry, he thought, and fought back the insane urge to laugh.

"I can't," he said, half-gasping. "I can't-"

"Lilith!" Jace's voice cut through the night; Lilith turned with an incredulous hiss. Simon lowered his wrist slowly, struggling to focus his eyes. He focused on the brightness in front of him, and it became the leaping flame of a seraph blade, held in Jace's left hand. Simon could see him clearly now, a distinct image painted onto the darkness. His jacket was gone, he was filthy, his shirt torn and black with blood, but his eyes were clear and steady and focused. He no longer looked like a zombie or someone caught sleepwalking in a terrible dream.

"Where is she?" Lilith said, her snake eyes slithering forward on their stalks. "Where is the girl?"

Clary. Simon's fogged gaze scanned the darkness around Jace, but she was nowhere to be seen. His vision was beginning to clear. He could see blood smearing the tiled ground, and bits of shredded, torn satin caught on the sharp branches of a hedge. What looked like paw prints smeared the blood. Simon felt his chest tighten. He looked quickly back at Jace. Jace looked angry-very angry indeed-but not shattered the way Simon would have expected him to look if something had happened to Clary. So where was she?

"She has nothing to do with this," Jace said. "You say I can't kill you, demoness. I say I can. Let's see which of us is right."

Lilith moved so fast, she was a blur. One moment she was beside Simon, the next she was on the step above Jace. She slashed out at him with her hand; he ducked, spinning behind her, whipping the seraph blade across her shoulder. She screamed, whirling on him, blood arcing from her wound. It was a shimmering black color, like onyx. She brought her hands together as if she meant to smash the blade between them. They struck each other with a sound like a thunderclap, but Jace was already gone, several feet away, the light of the seraph blade dancing in the air before him like the wink of a mocking eye.

If it had been any other Shadowhunter but Jace, Simon thought, he would have been dead already. He thought of Camille saying, Man cannot contend with the divine. Shadowhunters were human, despite their angel blood, and Lilith was more than a demon.

Pain shot through Simon. With surprise he realized his fangs had, finally, come out, and were cutting into his lower lip. The pain and the taste of blood roused him further. He began to rise to his feet, slowly, his eyes on Lilith. She certainly didn't appear to notice him, or what he was doing. Her eyes were fixed on Jace. With another sudden snarl she leaped for him. It was like watching moths flashing to and fro, watching the two of them as they battled back and forth across the rooftop. Even Simon's vampire vision had trouble keeping up as they moved, leaping over hedges, darting among the walkways. Lilith backed Jace up against the low wall that surrounded a sundial, the numbers on its face picked out in shining gold. Jace was moving so fast he was nearly a blur, the light of Michael whipping around Lilith as if she were being wrapped in a net of shining filaments. Anyone else would have been cut to ribbons in seconds. But Lilith moved like dark water, like smoke. She seemed to vanish and reappear at will, and though Jace was clearly not tiring, Simon could sense his frustration.

Finally it happened. Jace swung the seraph blade violently toward Lilith-and she caught it out of the air, her hand wrapping around the blade. Her hand was dripping black blood as she yanked the blade toward her. The drops, as they struck the ground, became tiny obsidian snakes that wiggled away into the underbrush.

Taking the blade in both hands, she raised it. Blood was running down her pale wrists and forearms like streaks of tar. With a snarling grin she snapped the blade in half; one half crumbled to a shining powder in her hands, while the other-the hilt and a jagged shard of blade-sputtered darkly, a flame half-smothered by ash.

Lilith smiled. "Poor little Michael," she said. "He always was weak."

Jace was panting, his hands clenched at his sides, his hair pasted to his forehead with sweat. "You and your name-dropping," he said. "'I knew Michael.' 'I knew Sammael.' 'The angel Gabriel did my hair.' It's like I'm with the Band with biblical figures."

This was Jace being brave, Simon thought, brave and snarky because he thought Lilith was going to kill him, and that was the way he wanted to go, unafraid and on his feet. Like a warrior. The way Shadowhunters did. His death song would always be this-jokes and snideness and pretend arrogance, and that look in his eyes that said, I'm better than you. Simon just hadn't realized it before.

"Lilith," Jace went on, managing to make the word sound like a curse. "I studied you. In school. Heaven cursed you with barrenness. A thousand babies, and they all died. Isn't that the case?"

Lilith held her darkly glowing blade, her face impassive. "Be careful, little Shadowhunter."

"Or what? Or you'll kill me?" Blood was dripping down Jace's face from the cut on his cheek; he made no move to wipe it away. "Go ahead."

No. Simon tried to take a step; his knees buckled, and he fell, slamming his hands into the ground. He took a deep breath. He didn't need the oxygen, but it helped somehow, steadying him. He reached up and grabbed the edge of the stone pedestal, using it to pull himself upright. The back of his head was pounding. There was no way there would be enough time. All Lilith had to do was drive forward the jagged blade she held-

But she didn't. Looking at Jace, she didn't move, and suddenly his eyes flashed, his mouth relaxing. "You can't kill me," he said, his voice rising. "What you said before-I'm the counterweight. I'm the only thing tethering him"-he thrust out an arm, indicating Sebastian's glass coffin-"to this world. If I die, he dies. Isn't that true?" He took a step back. "I could jump off this roof right now," he said. "Kill myself. End this."

For the first time Lilith appeared truly agitated. Her head whipped from side to side, her serpent eyes quivering, as if they were searching the wind. "Where is she? Where's the girl?"

Jace wiped blood and sweat from his face and grinned at her; his lip was already split, and blood ran down his chin. "Forget it. I sent her back downstairs while you weren't paying attention. She's gone-safe from you."

Lilith snarled. "You lie."

Jace took another step back. A few more steps would bring him to the low wall, the edge of the building. Jace could survive a lot, Simon knew, but a fall from a forty-story building might be too much even for him.


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