City of Heavenly Fire / Page 23

Page 23


“It almost doesn’t seem to make a difference,” said Jace, curled into the window seat in his and Alec’s attic room. “It all feels like prison.”
 
“Do you think that’s a side effect of the fact that armed guards are standing all around the house?” Simon suggested. “I mean, just a thought.”
 
Jace shot him an irritable look. “What is it about mundanes and their overwhelming compulsion to state the obvious?” he asked. He leaned forward, staring through the panes of the window. Simon might have been exaggerating slightly, but only slightly. The dark figures standing at cardinal points surrounding the Inquisitor’s house might have been invisible to the untrained eye, but not to Jace’s.
 
“I’m not a mundane,” Simon said, an edge to his voice. “And what is it about Shadowhunters and their overwhelming compulsion to get themselves and everyone they care about killed?”
 
“Stop arguing.” Alec had been leaning against the wall, in classical thinking pose, with his chin propped on his hand. “The guards are there to protect us, not keep us in. Have some perspective.”
 
“Alec, you’ve known me for seven years,” said Jace. “When have I ever had perspective?”
 
Alec glowered at him.
 
“Are you still mad because I broke your phone?” Jace said. “Because you broke my wrist, so I’d say we’re even.”
 
“It was sprained,” Alec said. “Not broken. Sprained.”
 
“Now who’s arguing?” said Simon.
 
“Don’t talk.” Alec gestured at him with an expression of vague disgust. “Every time I look at you, I keep remembering coming in here and seeing you draped all over my sister.”
 
Jace sat up. “I didn’t hear about this.”
 
“Oh, come on—” said Simon.
 
“Simon, you’re blushing,” observed Jace. “And you’re a vampire and almost never blush, so this better be really juicy. And weird. Were bicycles involved in some kinky way? Vacuum cleaners? Umbrellas?”
 
“Big umbrellas, or the little kind you get with drinks?” Alec asked.
 
“Does it matter—” Jace began, and then broke off as Clary came into the room with Isabelle, holding a small girl by the hand. After a moment of shocked silence, Jace recognized her: Emma, the girl whom Clary had run off to comfort during the Council meeting. The one who’d looked at him with barely concealed hero worship. Not that he minded hero worship, but it was a bit odd to have a child dropped suddenly into the middle of what had, admittedly, begun to be a somewhat awkward conversation.
 
“Clary,” he said. “Did you kidnap Emma Carstairs?”
 
Clary gave him an exasperated look. “No. She got here on her own.”
 
“I came in through one of the windows,” Emma supplied helpfully. “Like in Peter Pan.”
 
Alec started to protest. Clary held her free hand up to stop him; her other hand was now on Emma’s shoulder. “Everyone just be quiet for a second, okay?” Clary said. “She’s not supposed to be here, yeah, but she came for a reason. She has information.”
 
“That’s right,” Emma said in her small, determined voice. She was actually only about a head shorter than Clary, but then Clary was tiny. Emma would probably be tall one day. Jace tried to remember her father, John Carstairs—he was sure he’d seen him at Council meetings, and thought he recalled a tall, fair-haired man. Or had his hair been dark? The Blackthorns he remembered, of course, but the Carstairs had faded out of his memory.
 
Clary returned his sharp look with one that said: Be nice. Jace closed his mouth. He’d never given much thought to whether he liked children or not, though he’d always liked playing with Max. Max had been surprisingly adept at strategy for such a little boy, and Jace had always liked setting him puzzles. The fact that Max had worshipped the ground he walked on hadn’t hurt either.
 
Jace thought of the wooden soldier he’d given to Max, and closed his eyes in sudden pain. When he opened them again, Emma was looking at him. Not the way she’d looked at him when he’d found her with Clary in the Gard, that sort of startled half-impressed, half-frightened You’re Jace Lightwood look, but with a little bit of worry. In fact, her whole posture was a mix of confidence that he was fairly sure she was faking, and clear fright. Her parents were dead, he thought, had died days ago. And he remembered a time, seven years before, when he’d faced the Lightwoods himself with the knowledge in his heart that his father had just died, and the bitter tang of the word “orphan” in his ears.
 
“Emma,” he said as gently as he could. “How did you get into the window?”
 
“I climbed over the rooftops,” she said, pointing out the window. “It wasn’t that hard. Dormer windows are almost always bedrooms, so I climbed down to the first one, and—it was Clary’s.” She shrugged, as if what she’d done hadn’t been either risky or impressive.
 
“It was mine, actually,” said Isabelle, who was looking at Emma as if she were a fascinating specimen. Isabelle sat down on the trunk at the foot of Alec’s bed, stretching out her long legs. “Clary lives over at Luke’s.”
 
Emma looked confused. “I don’t know where that is. And everyone was talking about all of you being here. That’s why I came.”
 
Alec looked down at Emma with the half-fond, half-worried look of a much older brother. “Don’t be afraid—” he began.
 
“I’m not afraid,” she snapped. “I came here because you need help.”
 
Jace felt his mouth quirk up involuntarily at the corner. “What kind of help?” he asked.
 
“I recognized that man today,” she said. “The one who threatened the Consul. He came with Sebastian, to attack the Institute.” She swallowed. “That place he said we would all burn in, Edom—”
 
“It’s another word for ‘Hell,’ ” said Alec. “Not a real place, you don’t have to be worried—”
 
“She’s not worried, Alec,” Clary said. “Just listen.”
 
“It is a place,” said Emma. “When they attacked the Institute, I heard them. I heard one of them say that they could take Mark to Edom, and sacrifice him there. And when we escaped through the Portal, I heard her calling after us that we’d burn in Edom, that there was no real escape.” Her voice shook. “The way they talked about Edom, I know it was a real place, or a real place to them.”
 
“Edom,” said Clary, remembering. “Valentine called Lilith something like that; he called her ‘my Lady of Edom.’ ”
 
Alec’s eyes met Jace’s. Alec nodded, and slipped out of the room. Jace felt his shoulders relax minutely; in among the clamor of everything, it was good to have a parabatai who knew what you were thinking, without you having to say it. “Have you told anyone else about this?”
 
Emma hesitated, and then shook her head.
 
“Why not?” said Simon, who had been quiet until that moment. Emma looked at him, blinking; she was only twelve, Jace thought, and had probably barely encountered Downworlders up close before. “Why not tell the Clave?”
 
“Because I don’t trust the Clave,” said Emma in a small voice. “But I trust you.”
 
Clary swallowed visibly. “Emma . . .”
 
“When we got here, the Clave questioned all of us, especially Jules, and they used the Mortal Sword to make sure we weren’t lying. It hurts, but they didn’t care. They used it on Ty and Livvy. They used it on Dru.” Emma sounded outraged. “They would probably have used it on Tavvy if he could talk. And it hurts. The Mortal Sword hurts.”
 
“I know,” Clary said, quietly.
 
“We’ve been staying with the Penhallows,” Emma said. “Because of Aline and Helen, and because the Clave wants to keep an eye on us too. Because of what we saw. I was downstairs when they came back from the funeral, and I heard them talking, so—so I hid. A whole group of them, not just Patrick and Jia, but a lot of the other Institute heads too. They were talking about what they should do, what the Clave should do, whether they should turn over Jace and Clary to Sebastian, as if it was their choice. Their decision. But I thought it should be your decision. Some of them said it didn’t matter whether you wanted to go or not—”
 
Simon was on his feet. “But, Jace and Clary offered to go, practically begged to go—”
 
“We would have told them the truth.” Emma pushed her tangled hair out of her face. Her eyes were enormous, brown shot through with bits of gold and amber. “They didn’t have to use the Mortal Sword on us, we would have told the Council the truth, but they used it anyway. They used it on Jules until his hands—his hands were burned from it.” Her voice shook. “So, I thought you should know what they were saying. They don’t want you to know that it’s not your choice, because they know Clary can make Portals. They know she can get out of here, and if she escapes, they think they’ll have no way to bargain with Sebastian.”
 
The door opened, and Alec came back into the room, carrying a book bound in brown leather. He was holding it in such a way as to obscure the title, but his eyes met Jace’s, and he gave a slight nod, and then a glance toward Emma. Jace’s heartbeat sped up; Alec had found something. Something he didn’t like, judging from his grim expression, but something nonetheless.
 
“Did the Clave members you overheard give any sense of when they were going to decide what to do?” Jace asked Emma, partly to distract her, as Alec sat down on the bed, sliding the book behind him.
 
Emma shook her head. “They were still arguing when I left. I crawled out the top floor window. Jules told me not to, because I’d get killed, but I knew I wouldn’t. I’m a good climber,” she added with a tinge of pride. “And he worries too much.”
 
“It’s good to have people worry about you,” said Alec. “It means they care. It’s how you know they’re good friends.”
 
Emma’s gaze went from Alec to Jace, curious. “Do you worry about him?” she asked Alec, surprising a laugh out of him.
 
“All the time,” he said. “Jace could get himself killed putting his pants on in the morning. Being his parabatai is a full-time job.”
 
“I wish I had a parabatai,” Emma said. “It’s like someone who’s your family, but because they want to be, not because they have to be.” She flushed, suddenly self-conscious. “Anyway. I don’t think anyone should be punished for saving people.”
 
“Is that why you trust us?” Clary asked, touched. “You think we save people?”
 
Emma toed the carpet with her boots. Then she looked up. “I knew about you,” she said to Jace, blushing. “I mean, everyone knows about you. That you were Valentine’s son, but then you weren’t, you were Jonathan Herondale. And I don’t think that meant anything to most people—most of them call you Jace Lightwood—but it made a difference to my dad. I heard him say to my mom that he’d thought the Herondales were all gone, that the family was dead, but you were the last of them, and he voted in the Council meeting for the Clave to keep looking for you because, he said, ‘The Carstairs owe the Herondales.’ ”
 
“Why?” Alec said. “What do they owe them for?”
 
“I don’t know,” Emma said. “But I came because my dad would have wanted me to, even if it was dangerous.”
 
Jace huffed a soft laugh. “Something tells me you don’t care if things are dangerous.” He crouched down, putting his eyes on a level with Emma’s. “Is there anything else you can tell us? Anything else they said?”
 
She shook her head. “They don’t know where Sebastian is. They don’t know about the Edom thing—I mentioned it when I was holding the Mortal Sword, but I think they just thought it was another word for ‘Hell.’ They never asked me if I thought it was a real place, so I didn’t say.”
 
“Thanks for telling us. It’s a help. A huge help. You should go,” he added, as gently as he could, “before they notice you’re gone. But from now on the Herondales owe the Carstairs. Okay? Remember that.”
 
Jace stood up as Emma turned to Clary, who nodded and led her over to the window where Jace had been sitting earlier. Clary bent down and hugged the younger girl before reaching over to unlatch the window. Emma clambered out with the agility of a monkey. She swung herself up until only her dangling boots were visible, and a moment later those were gone too. Jace heard a light scraping overhead as she darted across the roof tiles, and then silence.
 
“I like her,” Isabelle said finally. “She kind of reminds me of Jace when he was little, and stubborn, and acted like he was immortal.”
 
“Two of those things still apply,” said Clary, swinging the window shut. She sat down on the window seat. “I guess the big question is, do we tell Jia or anyone else on the Council what Emma told us?”
 
“That depends,” said Jace. “Jia has to bow to what the whole Clave wants; she said so herself. If they decide that what they want is to toss us into a cage until Sebastian comes for us—well, that pretty much squanders any upper hand this information might give us.”
 
“So it depends on if the information’s actually useful or not,” said Simon.
 
“Right,” said Jace. “Alec, what did you find out?”
 
Alec pulled the book out from behind him. It was an encyclopedia daemonica, the sort of book every Shadowhunter library would have. “I thought Edom might be a name for one of the demon realms—”
 
“Well, everyone’s been theorizing that Sebastian might be in a different dimension, since he’s untrackable,” said Isabelle. “But the demon dimensions—there are millions of them, and people can’t just go there.”
 
“Some are better known than others,” said Alec. “The Bible and the Enochian texts mention quite a few, disguised and subsumed, of course, into stories and myths. Edom is mentioned as a wasteland—” He read out loud, his voice measured. “And the streams of Edom shall be turned into pitch, and her soil into sulfur; her land shall become burning pitch. Night and day it shall not be quenched; its smoke shall go up forever. From generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it forever and ever.” He sighed. “And of course there’s the legends about Lilith and Edom, that she was banished there, that she rules the place with the demon Asmodeus. That’s probably why the Endarkened were talking about sacrificing Mark Blackthorn to her in Edom.”
 
“Lilith protects Sebastian,” said Clary. “If he was going to go to a demon realm, he’d go to hers.”
 
“ ‘None shall pass through it forever and ever’ doesn’t sound very encouraging,” said Jace. “Besides, there’s no way to get to the demon realms. Traveling from place to place in this world is one thing—”
 
“Well, there is a way, I think,” said Alec. “A pathway that the Nephilim can’t close, because it lies outside the jurisdiction of our Laws. It’s old, older than Shadowhunters—old, wild magic.” He sighed. “It’s in the Seelie Court, and it is guarded by the Fair Folk. No human being has set foot on that pathway in more than a hundred years.”

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