City of Fallen Angels / Page 43

Page 43


Loading...


"You forget," said Lilith. "I was there, Shadowhunter. I watched you fall and die. I watched Valentine weep over your body. And then I watched as the Angel asked Clarissa what she desired of him, what she wanted in the world more than she wanted anything else, and she said you. Thinking you could be the only people in the world who could have their dead loved one back, and that there would be no consequences. That is what you thought, isn't it, both of you? Fools." Lilith spat. "You love each other-anyone can see that, looking at you-that kind of love that can burn down the world or raise it up in glory. No, she would never leave your side. Not while she thought you were in danger." Her head jerked back, her hand shooting out, fingers curved into claws. "There."

There was a scream, and one of the hedges seemed to tear apart, revealing Clary, who had been crouched, hiding, in the middle of it. Kicking and clawing, she was dragged forward, her fingernails scraping the ground, seizing in vain for a purchase on something that she could grip. Her hands left bloody trails on the tiles.

"No!" Jace started forward, then froze as Clary was whipped up into the air, where she hovered, dangling in front of Lilith. She was barefoot, her satin dress-now so torn and filthy it looked red and black rather than gold-swirling around her, one of her shoulder straps torn and dangling. Her hair had come completely out of its sparkling combs and spilled down over her shoulders. Her green eyes fixed on Lilith with hatred.

"You bitch," she said.

Jace's face was a mask of horror. He really had believed it when he'd said Clary was gone, Simon realized. He'd thought she was safe. But Lilith had been right. And she was gloating now, her snake's eyes dancing as she moved her hands like a puppeteer, and Clary spun and gasped in the air. Lilith flicked her fingers, and what looked like the lash of a silver whip came down across Clary's body, slicing her dress open, and the skin under it. She screamed and clutched at the wound, and her blood pattered down on the tiles like scarlet rain.

"Clary." Jace whirled on Lilith. "All right," he said. He was pale now, his bravado gone; his hands, clenched into fists, were white at the knuckles. "All right. Let her go, and I'll do what you want-so will Simon. We'll let you-"

"Let me?" Somehow the features of Lilith's face had rearranged themselves. Snakes wriggled in the sockets of her eyes, her white skin was too stretched and shining, her mouth too wide. Her nose had nearly vanished. "You have no choice. And more to the point, you have annoyed me. All of you. Perhaps if you had simply done as I'd ordered, I would have let you go. You will never know now, will you?"

Simon let go of the stone pedestal, swayed, and steadied himself. Then he began to walk. Putting his feet down, one after the other, felt like heaving enormous bags of packed wet sand down the side of a cliff. Each time his foot hit the ground, it sent a stab of pain through his body. He concentrated on moving forward, one step at a time.

"Maybe I can't kill you," Lilith said to Jace. "But I can torture her past the point of her endurance-torture her to madness-and make you watch. There are worse things than death, Shadowhunter."

She flicked her fingers again, and the silver whip came down, slashing across Clary's shoulder this time, opening up a wide gash. Clary buckled but didn't scream, jamming her hands into her mouth, curling in on herself as if she could protect herself from Lilith.

Jace started forward to throw himself at Lilith-and saw Simon. Their gazes met. For a moment the world seemed to hang in suspension, all of it, not just Clary. Simon saw Lilith, all her attention focused on Clary, her hand drawn back, ready to deliver an even more vicious blow. Jace's face was white with anguish, his eyes darkening as they met Simon's-and he realized-and understood.

Jace stepped back.

The world blurred around Simon. As he leaped forward, he realized two things. One, that it was impossible, he would never reach Lilith in time; her hand was already whipping forward, the air in front of her alive with whirling silver. And two, that he had never understood before quite how fast a vampire could move. He felt the muscles in his legs, his back, tear, the bones in his feet and ankles crack-

And he was there, sliding between Lilith and Clary as the demoness's hand came down. The long, razored silver wire struck him across the face and chest-there was a moment of shocking pain-and then the air seemed to burst apart around him like glittering confetti, and Simon heard Clary scream, a clear sound of shock and amazement that cut through the darkness. "Simon!"

Lilith froze. She stared from Simon, to Clary, still hanging in the air, and then down at her own hand, now empty. She drew in a long, ragged breath.

"Sevenfold," she whispered-and was abruptly cut off as a blinding incandescence lit up the night. Dazed, all Simon could think of was ants burning under the concentrated beam from a magnifying glass as a great ray of fire plunged down from the sky, spearing through Lilith. For a long moment she burned white against the darkness, trapped within the blinding flame, her mouth open like a tunnel in a silent scream. Her hair lifted, a mass of burning filaments against the darkness-and then she was white gold, beaten thin against the air-and then she was salt, a thousand crystalline granules of salt that rained down at Simon's feet with a dreadful sort of beauty.

And then she was gone.

Chapter 19

HELL IS SATISFIED

The unimaginable brilliance printed on the back of Clary's eyelids faded into darkness. A surprisingly long darkness that gave way slowly to an intermittent grayish light, blotched with shadows. There was something hard and cold pressing into her back, and her whole body hurt. She heard murmured voices above her, which sent a stab of pain through her head. Someone touched her gently on the throat, and the hand was withdrawn. She took a deep breath.

Her whole body was throbbing. She opened her eyes to slits, and looked around her, trying not to move very much. She was lying on the hard tiles of the rooftop garden, one of the paving stones digging into her back. She had fallen to the ground when Lilith vanished, and was covered in cuts and bruises, her shoes were gone, her knees were bleeding, and her dress was slashed where Lilith had cut her with the magical whip, blood welling through the rents in her silk dress.

Simon was kneeling over her, his face anxious. The Mark of Cain still gleamed whitely on his forehead. "Her pulse is steady," he was saying, "but come on. You're supposed to have all those healing runes. There must be something you can do for her-"

"Not without a stele. Lilith made me throw Clary's away so she couldn't grab it from me when she woke up." The voice was Jace's, low and tense with suppressed anguish. He knelt across from Simon, on her other side, his face in shadow. "Can you carry her downstairs? If we can get her to the Institute-"

"You want me to carry her?" Simon sounded surprised; Clary didn't blame him.

"I doubt she'd want me touching her." Jace stood up, as if he couldn't bear to remain in one place. "If you could-"

His voice cracked, and he turned away, staring at the place where Lilith had stood until a moment ago, a bare patch of stone now silvered with scattered molecules of salt. Clary heard Simon sigh-a deliberate sound-and he bent over her, his hands on her arms.

She opened her eyes the rest of the way, and their gazes met. Though she knew he realized she was conscious, neither of them said anything. It was hard for her to look at him, at that familiar face with the mark she had given him blazing like a white star above his eyes.

She had known, giving him the Mark of Cain, that she was doing something enormous, something terrifying and colossal whose outcome was almost totally unpredictable. She would have done it again, to save his life. But still, while he'd been standing there, the Mark burning like white lightning as Lilith-a Greater Demon as old as mankind itself-charred away to salt, she had thought, What have I done?

"I'm all right," she said. She lifted herself up onto her elbows; they hurt horribly. At some point she'd landed on them and scraped off all the skin. "I can walk just fine."

At the sound of her voice, Jace turned. The sight of him tore at her. He was shockingly bruised and bloody, a long scratch running the length of his cheek, his lower lip swollen, and a dozen bleeding rents in his clothes. She wasn't used to seeing him so damaged-but of course, if he didn't have a stele to heal her, he didn't have one to heal himself, either.

His expression was absolutely blank. Even Clary, used to reading his face as if she were reading the pages of a book, could read nothing in it. His gaze dropped to her throat, where she could still feel the stinging pain, the blood crusting there where his knife had cut her. The nothingness of his expression cracked, and he looked away before she could see his face change.

Waving away Simon's offer of a helping hand, she tried to rise to her feet. A searing pain shot through her ankle, and she cried out, then bit her lip. Shadowhunters didn't scream in pain. They bore it stoically, she reminded herself. No whimpering.

"It's my ankle," she said. "I think it might be sprained, or broken."

Jace looked at Simon. "Carry her," he said. "Like I told you."

This time Simon didn't wait for Clary's response; he slid one arm under her knees and the other under her shoulders and lifted her; she looped her arms around his neck and held on tight. Jace headed toward the cupola and the doors that led inside. Simon followed, carrying Clary as carefully as if she were breakable porcelain. Clary had almost forgotten how strong he was, now that he was a vampire. He no longer smelled like himself, she thought, a little wistfully-that Simon-smell of soap and cheap aftershave (that he really didn't need) and his favorite cinnamon gum. His hair still smelled like his shampoo, but otherwise he seemed to have no smell at all, and his skin where she touched it was cold. She tightened her arms around his neck, wishing he had some body heat. The tips of her fingers looked bluish, and her body felt numb.

Jace, ahead of them, shouldered the glass double doors open. Then they were inside, where it was mercifully slightly warmer. It was strange, Clary thought, being held by someone whose chest didn't rise and fall as they breathed. A strange electricity still seemed to cling to Simon, a remnant of the brutally shining light that had enveloped the roof when Lilith was destroyed. She wanted to ask him how he was feeling, but Jace's silence was so devastatingly total that she felt afraid to break it.

He reached for the elevator call button, but before his finger touched it, the doors slid open of their own accord, and Isabelle seemed to almost explode through them, her silvery-gold whip trailing behind her like the tail of a comet. Alec followed, hard on her heels; seeing Jace, Clary, and Simon there, Isabelle skidded to a stop, Alec nearly crashing into her from behind. Under other circumstances it would almost have been funny.

"But-," Isabelle gasped. She was cut and bloodied, her beautiful red dress torn raggedly around the knees, her black hair having come down out of its updo, strands of it matted with blood. Alec looked as if he had fared only a little better; one sleeve of his jacket was sliced open down the side, though it didn't look as if the skin beneath had been injured. "What are you doing here?"

Jace, Clary, and Simon all stared at her blankly, too shell-shocked to respond. Finally Jace said dryly, "We could ask you the same question."

"I didn't- We thought you and Clary were at the party," Isabelle said. Clary had rarely seen Isabelle so not self-possessed. "We were looking for Simon."

Clary felt Simon's chest lift, a sort of reflexive human gasp of surprise. "You were?"

Isabelle flushed. "I..."

"Jace?" It was Alec, his tone commanding. He had given Clary and Simon an astonished look, but then his attention went, as it always did, to Jace. He might not be in love with Jace anymore, if he ever really had been, but they were still parabatai, and Jace was always first on his mind in any battle. "What are you doing here? And for the Angel's sake, what happened to you?"

Jace stared at Alec, almost as if he didn't know him. He looked like someone in a nightmare, examining a new landscape not because it was surprising or dramatic but to prepare himself for whatever horrors it might reveal. "Stele," he said finally, in a cracking voice. "Do you have your stele?"

Alec reached for his belt, looking baffled. "Of course." He held the stele out to Jace. "If you need an iratze-"

"Not for me," Jace said, still in the same odd, cracked voice. "Her." He pointed at Clary. "She needs it more than I do." His eyes met Alec's, gold and blue. "Please, Alec," he said, the harshness gone from his voice as suddenly as it had come. "Help her for me."

He turned and walked away, toward the far side of the room, where the glass doors were. He stood, staring through them-at the garden outside or his own reflection, Clary couldn't tell.

Alec looked after Jace for a moment, then came toward Clary and Simon, stele in hand. He indicated that Simon should lower Clary to the floor, which he did gently, letting her brace her back against the wall. He stepped back as Alec knelt down over her. She could see the confusion in Alec's face, and his look of surprise as he saw how bad the cuts across her arm and abdomen were. "Who did this to you?"

"I-" Clary looked helplessly toward Jace, who still had his back to them. She could see his reflection in the glass doors, his face a white smudge, darkened here and there with bruises. The front of his shirt was dark with blood. "It's hard to explain."

"Why didn't you summon us?" Isabelle demanded, her voice thin with betrayal. "Why didn't you tell us you were coming here? Why didn't you send a fire-message, or anything? You know we would have come if you needed us."

"There wasn't time," Simon said. "And I didn't know Clary and Jace were going to be here. I thought I was the only one. It didn't seem right to drag you into my problems."

"D-drag me into your problems?" Isabelle sputtered. "You-," she began-and then to everyone's surprise, clearly including her own, she flung herself at Simon, wrapping her arms around his neck. He staggered backward, unprepared for the assault, but he recovered quickly enough. His arms went around her, nearly snagging on the dangling whip, and he held her tightly, her dark head just under his chin. Clary couldn't quite tell-Isabelle was speaking too softly-but it sounded like she was swearing at Simon under her breath.


Prev Next
Loading...