City of Heavenly Fire / Page 22

Page 22


 12
 THE FORMAL NIGHTMARE
 
 
The bodies were burning on orderly rows of pyres that had been set up along the road to Brocelind Forest. The sun was beginning to set behind a cloudy white sky, and as each pyre went up, it burst in orange sparks. The effect was oddly beautiful, although Jia Penhallow doubted that any of the mourners gathered on the plain thought so.
 
For some reason a rhyme she had learned as a child was repeating itself in her head.
 
Black for hunting through the night
 
 
 
For death and mourning the color’s white
 
Gold for a bride in her wedding gown
 
And red to call enchantment down.
 
White silk when our bodies burn,
 
Blue banners when the lost return.
 
Flame for the birth of a Nephilim,
 
And to wash away our sins.
 
Gray for knowledge best untold,
 
Bone for those who don’t grow old.
 
Saffron lights the victory march,
 
Green will mend our broken hearts.
 
Silver for the demon towers,
 
And bronze to summon wicked powers.
 
Bone for those who don’t grow old. Brother Enoch, in his bone-colored robes, was striding up and down the line of pyres. Shadowhunters stood or knelt or cast into the orange flames handfuls of the pale white Alicante flowers that grew even in the winter.
 
“Consul.” The voice at her shoulder was soft. She turned to see Brother Zachariah—the boy who had once been Brother Zachariah, at least—standing at her shoulder. “Brother Enoch said you wished to speak to me.”
 
“Brother Zachariah,” she began, and then paused. “Is there another name by which you wish to be called? The name you had before you became a Silent Brother?”
 
“ ‘Zachariah’ will do fine for now,” he said. “I am not yet ready to reclaim my old name.”
 
“I have heard,” she said, and paused, for the next bit was awkward, “that one of the warlocks of the Spiral Labyrinth, Theresa Gray, is someone whom you knew and cared for during your mortal life. And for someone who has been a Silent Brother as long as you have, that must be a rare thing.”
 
“She is all I have left from that time,” said Zachariah. “She and Magnus. I would have wished to talk to Magnus, if I could have, before he—”
 
“Would you like to go to the Spiral Labyrinth?” Jia interrupted.
 
Zachariah looked down at her with startled eyes. He looked about the same age as her daughter, Jia thought, his lashes impossibly long, his eyes both young and old at the same time. “You’re releasing me from Alicante? Aren’t all warriors needed?”
 
“You have served the Clave for more than a hundred and thirty years. We can ask no more of you.”
 
He looked back at the pyres, at the black smoke smearing the air. “How much does the Spiral Labyrinth know? Of the attacks on the Institutes, the Citadel, the representatives?”
 
“They are students of lore,” said Jia. “Not warriors or politicians. They know of what happened at the Burren. We have discussed Sebastian’s magic, possible cures for the Endarkened, ways to strengthen the wards. They do not ask beyond that—”
 
“And you do not tell,” said Zachariah. “So they do not know of the Citadel, the representatives?”
 
Jia set her jaw. “I suppose you will say I must tell them.”
 
“No,” he said. He had his hands in his pockets; his breath was visible on the cold clear air. “I will not say that.”
 
They stood side by side, in the snow and silence, until, to her surprise, he spoke again:
 
“I will not go to the Spiral Labyrinth. I will stay in Idris.”
 
“But don’t you want to see her?”
 
“I want to see Tessa more than I want anything else in the world,” said Zachariah. “But if she knew more of what was happening here, she would want to be here and fight beside us, and I find that I do not want that.” His dark hair fell forward as he shook his head. “I find that as I waken from being a Silent Brother, I am capable of not wanting that. Perhaps it is selfishness. I am not sure. But I am sure that the warlocks in the Spiral Labyrinth are safe. Tessa is safe. If I go to her, I will be safe as well, but I will also be hiding. I am not a warlock; I cannot be a help to the Labyrinth. I can be a help here.”
 
“You could go to the Labyrinth and return. It would be complicated, but I could request—”
 
“No,” he said quietly. “I cannot see Tessa face-to-face and keep from telling her the truth about what is happening here. And more than that, I cannot go to Tessa and present myself to her as a mortal man, as a Shadowhunter, and not tell her the feelings I had for her when I was—” He broke off. “That my feelings are unchanged. I cannot offer her that, and then return to a place where I might be killed. Better she thinks there never was a chance for us.”
 
“Better you think it as well,” said Jia, looking at his face, at the hope and longing that was painted there clearly for anyone to see. She looked over at Robert and Maryse Lightwood, standing a distance apart from each other in the snow. Not far away was her own daughter, Aline, leaning her head against Helen Blackthorn’s curly blond one. “We Shadowhunters, we put ourselves in danger, every hour, every day. I think sometimes we are reckless with our hearts the way we are with our lives. When we give them away, we give every piece. And if we do not get what we so desperately need, how do we live?”
 
“You think she might not still love me,” said Zachariah. “After all this time.”
 
Jia said nothing. It was, after all, exactly what she thought.
 
“It is a reasonable question,” he said. “And perhaps she does not. As long as she is alive and well and happy in this world, I will find a way to be happy as well, even if it is not beside her.” He looked over at the pyres, at the lengthening shadows of the dead. “Which body is that of young Longford? The one who killed his parabatai?”
 
“There.” Jia pointed. “Why do you want to know?”
 
“It is the worst thing I can imagine ever having to do. I would not have been brave enough. Since there is someone who was, I wish to pay my respects to him,” said Zachariah, and he walked away across the snow-dusted ground toward the fires.
 
   
 
 
 
“The funeral’s over,” Isabelle said. “Or at least, the smoke’s stopped rising.” She was perched on the windowsill of her room in the Inquisitor’s house. The room was small and white-painted, with flowered curtains. Not very Isabelle, Clary thought, but then it would have been hard to replicate Isabelle’s powder-and-glitter-strewn room in New York on short notice.
 
“I was reading my Codex the other day.” Clary finished buttoning up the blue wool cardigan she’d changed into. She couldn’t stand to keep on for one more second the sweater she’d been wearing all yesterday, had slept in, and that Sebastian had touched. “And I was thinking. Mundanes kill one another all the time. We—they—have wars, all kinds of wars, and slaughter one another, but this is the first time Nephilim have ever had to kill other Shadowhunters. When Jace and I were trying to convince Robert to let us go through to the Citadel, I couldn’t understand why he was being so stubborn. But I think I kind of get it now. I think he couldn’t believe that Shadowhunters could really pose a threat to other Shadowhunters. No matter what we told them about the Burren.”
 
Isabelle laughed shortly. “That’s charitable of you.” She pulled her knees up to her chest. “You know, your mom took me to the Adamant Citadel with her. They said I would have made a good Iron Sister.”
 
“I saw them at the battle,” said Clary. “The Sisters. They were beautiful. And scary. Like looking at fire.”
 
“But they can’t get married. They can’t be with anyone. They live forever, but they don’t—they don’t have lives.” Isabelle rested her chin on her knees.
 
“There’s all different ways of living,” said Clary. “And look at Brother Zachariah—”
 
Isabelle glanced up. “I heard my parents talking about him on the way to the Council meeting today,” she said. “They said what happened to him was a miracle. I’ve never heard of anyone ending being a Silent Brother before. I mean they can die, but reversing the spells, it shouldn’t be possible.”
 
“A lot of things shouldn’t be possible,” Clary said, raking her fingers through her hair. She wanted a shower, but she couldn’t bear the thought of standing there alone, under the water. Thinking about her mother. About Luke. The idea of losing either of them, never mind both of them, was as terrifying as the idea of being abandoned out at sea: a tiny speck of humanity surrounded by miles of water around and below, and empty sky above. Nothing to moor her to earth.
 
Mechanically she started to divide her hair into two braids. A second later Isabelle had appeared behind her in the mirror. “Let me do that,” she said gruffly, and took hold of the strands of Clary’s hair, her fingers working the curls expertly.
 
Clary closed her eyes and let herself be lost for a moment in the sensation of someone else taking care of her. When she had been a little girl, her mother had braided her hair every morning before Simon had come to pick her up for school. She remembered his habit of undoing the ribbons while she was drawing, and hiding them in places—her pockets, her backpack—waiting for her to notice and throw a pencil at him.
 
It was impossible, sometimes, to believe that her life had once been so ordinary.
 
“Hey,” Isabelle said, nudging her. “Are you okay?”
 
“I’m fine,” Clary said. “I’m fine. Everything’s fine.”
 
“Clary.” She felt Isabelle’s hand on her hand, slowly unclosing Clary’s fingers. Her hand was wet. Clary realized that she had been gripping one of Isabelle’s hairpins so tightly that the ends had dug into her palm and blood was running down her wrist. “I don’t—I don’t even remember picking that up,” she said numbly.
 
“I’ll take it.” Isabelle pulled it away. “You’re not fine.”
 
“I have to be fine,” Clary said. “I have to be. I have to stay in control and not fall apart. For my mom and for Luke.”
 
Isabelle made a gentle, noncommittal noise. Clary was aware that the other girl’s stele was sweeping over the back of her hand, and the flow of blood was slowing. She still felt no pain. There was only the darkness at the edge of her vision, the darkness that threatened to close in every time she thought about her parents. She felt like she was drowning, kicking at the edges of her own consciousness to keep herself alert and above the water.
 
Isabelle suddenly gasped and jumped back.
 
“What is it?” Clary asked.
 
“I saw a face, a face at the window—”
 
Clary seized Heosphoros from her belt and started to make her way across the room. Isabelle was right behind her, her silver-gold whip uncurling from her hand. It slashed forward, and the tip curled around the handle of the window and yanked it open. There was a yelp, and a small, shadowy figure fell forward onto the rug, landing on hands and knees.
 
Isabelle’s whip snapped back into her grasp as she stared, wearing a rare look of astonishment. The shadow on the floor uncurled, revealing a diminutive figure clad in black, the smudge of a pale face, and a tousle of long blonde hair, coming free from a careless braid.
 
“Emma?” Clary said.
 
   
 
 
 
The southwest part of the Long Meadow in Prospect Park was deserted at night. The moon, half-full, shone down on the distant view of Brooklyn brownstones beyond the park, the outline of bare trees, and the space that had been cleared on the dry winter grass by the pack.
 
It was a circle, roughly twenty feet across, hemmed in by standing werewolves. The whole of the downtown New York pack was there: thirty or forty wolves, young and old.
 
Leila, her dark hair bound back in a ponytail, stalked to the center of the circle and clapped once for attention. “Members of the pack,” she said. “A challenge has been issued. Rufus Hastings has challenged Bartholomew Velasquez for the seniority and leadership of the New York pack.” There was a muttering in the crowd; Leila raised her voice. “This is an issue of temporary leadership in the absence of Luke Garroway. No discussion of replacing Luke as leader will be had at this time.” She clasped her hands behind her back. “Please step forward, Bartholomew and Rufus.”
 
Bat stepped forward into the circle, and a moment later Rufus followed. Both were dressed unseasonably in jeans, T-shirts, and boots, their arms bare despite the chill air.
 
“The rules of the challenge are these,” said Leila. “Wolf must fight wolf without weapons save the weapons of tooth and claw. Because it is a challenge for leadership, the fight will be a fight to death, not to the blood. Whoever lives will be leader, and all other wolves will swear loyalty to him tonight. Do you understand?”
 
Bat nodded. He looked tense, his jaw set; Rufus was grinning all over, his arms swinging at his sides. He waved away Leila’s words. “We all know how it works, kid.”
 
Her lips compressed into a thin line. “Then you may begin,” she said, though as she moved back into the circle with the others, she muttered, “Good luck, Bat” under her breath just loudly enough for everyone to hear her.
 
Rufus didn’t seem bothered. He was still grinning, and the moment Leila stepped back into the circle with the pack, he lunged.
 
Bat sidestepped him. Rufus was big and heavy; Bat was lighter and a shade faster. He spun sideways, just missing Rufus’s claws, and came back with an uppercut that snapped Rufus’s head back. He pressed his advantage quickly, raining down blows that sent the other wolf stumbling back; Rufus’s feet dragged along the ground as a low growl began in the depths of his throat.
 
His hands hung at his sides, his fingers clenched in. Bat swung again, landing a punch to Rufus’s shoulder, just as Rufus turned and slashed out with his left hand. His claws were fully extended, massive and gleaming in the moonlight. It was clear he had sharpened them somehow. Each one was like a razor, and they raked across Bat’s chest, slicing open his shirt, and his skin with it. Scarlet bloomed across Bat’s rib cage.
 
“First blood,” Leila called, and the wolves began to stamp, slowly, each raising their left foot and bringing it down in a regular beat, so that the ground seemed to echo like a drum.
 
Rufus grinned again and advanced on Bat. Bat swung and hit him, landing another punch to the jaw that brought blood to Rufus’s mouth; Rufus turned his head to the side and spit red onto the grass—and kept coming. Bat backed up; his claws were out now, his eyes gone flat and yellow. He growled and flung out a kick; Rufus grabbed his leg and twisted, sending Bat to the ground. He flung himself after Bat, but the other werewolf had already rolled away, and Rufus landed on the ground in a crouch.
 
Bat staggered to his feet, but it was clear that he was losing blood. Blood had rolled down his chest and was soaking the waistband of his jeans, and his hands were wet with it. He slashed out with his claws; Rufus turned, taking the blow on his shoulder, four shallow cuts. With a snarl he seized Bat’s wrist and twisted. The sound of snapping bone was loud, and Bat gasped and pulled back.
 
Rufus lunged. The weight of him bore Bat to the ground, slamming Bat’s head hard against a tree root. Bat went limp.
 
The other wolves were still pounding the earth with their feet. Some of them were openly weeping, but none moved forward as Rufus sat up on Bat, one hand pressing him flat to the grass, the other raised, the razors of his fingers gleaming. He moved in for the killing blow—
 
“Stop.” Maia’s voice rang out through the park. The other wolves looked up in shock. Rufus grinned.
 
“Hey, little girl,” he said.
 
Maia didn’t move. She was in the middle of the circle. Somehow she had pushed past the line of wolves without them noticing. She wore cords and a denim jacket, her hair pulled tightly back. Her expression was severe, almost blank.
 
“I want to issue a challenge,” she said.
 
“Maia,” Leila said. “You know the law! ‘When ye fight with a wolf of the pack, ye must fight him alone and afar, Lest others take part in the quarrel, and the pack be diminished by war.’ You cannot interrupt the battle.”
 
“Rufus is about to deliver the death blow,” Maia said unemotionally. “Do you really feel like I need to wait that five minutes before I issue my challenge? I will, if Rufus is too scared to fight me with Bat still breathing—”
 
Rufus leaped off Bat’s limp body with a roar, and advanced on Maia. Leila’s voice rose in panic:
 
“Maia, get out of there! Once there’s first blood, we can’t stop the fight—”
 
Rufus lunged at Maia. His claws tore the edge of her jacket; Maia dropped to her knees and rolled, then came up onto her knees, her claws extended. Her heart was slamming against her rib cage, sending wave after wave of icy-hot blood through her veins. She could feel the sting of the cut on her shoulder. First blood.
 
The werewolves began to stamp the earth again, though this time they weren’t silent. There was muttering and gasping in the ranks. Maia did her best to block it out, ignore it. She saw Rufus step toward her. He was a shadow, outlined by moonlight, and in that moment she saw not just him but also Sebastian, looming over her on the beach, a cold prince carved out of ice and blood.
 
Your boyfriend’s dead.
 
Her fist clenched against the ground. As Rufus threw himself at her, razor claws extended, she rose and flung her handful of dirt and grass into his face.
 
He staggered back, choking and blinded. Maia stepped forward and slammed her boot down on his foot; she felt the small bones shatter, heard him scream; in that moment, when he was distracted, she jammed her claws into his eyes.
 
A scream ripped from his throat, quickly cut off. He slumped backward, collapsing onto the grass with a loud crash that made her think of a tree falling. She looked down at her hand. It was covered in blood and smears of liquid: brain matter and vitreous humor.
 
She dropped to her knees and threw up in the grass. Her claws slid back in, and she wiped her hands on the ground, over and over, as her stomach spasmed. She felt a hand on her back and looked up to see Leila leaning over her. “Maia,” she said softly, but her voice was drowned out by the pack chanting the name of their new leader: “Maia, Maia, Maia.”
 
Leila’s eyes were dark and concerned. Maia rose to her feet, wiping her mouth on the sleeve of her jacket, and hurried across the grass to Bat. She bent down beside him and touched her hand to his cheek. “Bat?” she said.
 
With an effort he opened his eyes. There was blood on his mouth, but he was breathing steadily. Maia guessed he was already healing from Rufus’s blows. “I didn’t know you fought dirty,” he said with a half smile.
 
Maia thought of Sebastian and his glittering grin and the bodies on the beach. She thought of what Lily had told her. She thought of the Shadowhunters behind their wards, and of the fragility of the Accords and Council. It’s going to be a dirty war, she thought, but that wasn’t what she said out loud.
 
“I didn’t know your name was Bartholomew.” She picked up his hand, held it in her own bloody one. All around them the pack was still chanting. “Maia, Maia, Maia.”
 
He closed his eyes. “Everyone’s got their secrets.”

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