City of Heavenly Fire / Page 30

Page 30


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16
 THE TERRORS OF THE EARTH
 
 
 
Night had fallen over Alicante, and the stars shone down like bright sentinels, making the demon towers, and the water in the canals—half ice now—shimmer. Emma sat on the windowsill of the twins’ bedroom and looked out over the city.
 
Emma had always thought she would come to Alicante for the first time with her parents, that her mother would show her the places she had known growing up, the now-closed Academy where her mother had gone to school, her grandparents’ house. That her father would show her the monument to the Carstairs family he always spoke of proudly. She’d never imagined she would first look on the demon towers of Alicante with her heart so swelled up with grief that sometimes it felt like it was choking her.
 
Moonlight spilled in through the attic windows, illuminating the twins. Tiberius had spent the day in a vicious tantrum, kicking the bars of the baby’s crib when he was told he couldn’t leave the house, shrieking for Mark when Julian tried to calm him down, and finally smashing his fist through a glass jewelry box. He was too young for healing runes, so Livvy had wrapped her arms around him to keep him still while Julian picked the glass out of his younger brother’s bloody hand with tweezers, and then carefully bandaged it.
 
Ty had collapsed into bed finally, though he hadn’t slept until Livvy, as calm as always, had lain down beside him and put her hand over his bandaged one. He was asleep now, head on the pillow, turned toward his sister. It was only when Ty was sleeping that you could see how uncommonly beautiful a child he was, with his head of dark Botticelli curls and delicate features, anger and despair smoothed away by exhaustion.
 
Despair, Emma thought. It was the right word, for the loneliness in Tavvy’s screaming, for the emptiness at the heart of Ty’s anger and Livvy’s eerie calm. No one who was ten should feel despair, but she supposed there was no other way to describe the words that pulsed through her blood when she thought of her parents, every heartbeat a mournful litany: Gone, gone, gone.
 
“Hey.” Emma looked up at the sound of a quiet voice from the doorway, and saw Julian standing at the entrance to the room. His own dark curls, shades lighter than Ty’s black, were tousled, and his face was pale and tired in the moonlight. He looked skinny, thin wrists protruding from the cuffs of his sweater. He was holding something furry in his hand. “Are they . . .”
 
Emma nodded. “Asleep. Yeah.”
 
Julian stared at the twins’ bed. Up close Emma could see Ty’s bloody handprints on Jules’s shirt; he hadn’t had time to change his clothes. He was clutching a large stuffed bee that Helen had retrieved from the Institute when the Clave had gone back to search the place. It had been Tiberius’s for as long as Emma could remember. Ty had been screaming for it before he’d fallen asleep. Julian crossed the room and bent down to tuck it against his little brother’s chest, then paused to gently untangle one of Ty’s curls before he drew back.
 
Emma took his hand as he moved it, and he let her. His skin was cold, as if he’d been leaning out the window into the night air. She turned his hand and drew with her finger on the skin of his forearm. It was something they’d done since they were small children and didn’t want to get caught talking during lessons. Over the years they’d gotten so good at it that they could map out detailed messages on each other’s hands, arms, even their shoulders through their T-shirts.
 
D-I-D Y-O-U E-A-T? she spelled out.
 
Julian shook his head, still staring at Livvy and Ty. His curls were sticking up in tufts as if he’d been raking his hands through his hair. She felt his fingers, light on her upper arm. N-O-T H-U-N-G-R-Y.
 
“Too bad.” Emma slid off the windowsill. “Come on.”
 
She shooed him out of the room, onto the hallway landing. It was a small space, with a steep set of stairs descending into the main house. The Penhallows had made it clear the children were welcome to food whenever they wanted it, but there were no set mealtimes, and certainly no family meals. Everything was eaten hastily at tables in the attic, with Tavvy and even Dru covering themselves in food, and only Jules responsible for cleaning them up afterward, for washing their clothes, and even for making sure they ate at all.
 
The moment the door closed behind them, Julian slumped against the wall, tipping his head back, his eyes closed. His thin chest rose and fell quickly under his T-shirt. Emma hung back, unsure what to do.
 
“Jules?” she said.
 
He looked toward her. His eyes were dark in the low light, fringed by thick lashes. She could tell that he was fighting not to cry.
 
Julian was part of Emma’s earliest memories. They had been put in cribs together as babies by their parents; apparently she had crawled out, and bitten through her lip when she’d hit the ground. She hadn’t cried, but Julian had screamed at the sight of her bleeding, until their parents had come running. They had taken their first steps together: Emma first as always, Julian afterward, hanging determinedly on to her hand. They had started training at the same time, had gotten their first runes together: Voyance on his right hand and on her left. Julian never wanted to lie, but if Emma was in trouble, Julian lied for her.
 
Now they had lost their parents together. Julian’s mother had died two years before, and watching the Blackthorns go through that loss had been terrible, but this was a different experience altogether. It was shattering, and Emma could feel the breakage, could feel them coming apart and being glued back together in a new and different way. They were becoming something else, she and Julian, something that was more than best friends but not family, either.
 
“Jules,” she said again, and took his hand. For a moment it lay, still and cold, in hers; then he seized her wrist and gripped it tightly.
 
“I don’t know what to do,” he said. “I can’t take care of them. Tavvy’s just a baby, Ty hates me—”
 
“He’s your brother. And he’s only ten. He doesn’t hate you.”
 
Julian took a shuddering breath. “Maybe.”
 
“They’ll figure something out,” Emma said. “Your uncle lived through the London attack. So when this is all over, you’ll move in with him, and he’ll look after you and the others. It won’t be your responsibility.”
 
Julian shrugged. “I barely remember Uncle Arthur. He sends us books in Latin; sometimes he comes from London for Christmas. The only one of us who can read Latin is Ty, and he just learned it to annoy everyone.”
 
“So he gives bad gifts. He remembered you at Christmas. He cares enough to take care of you. They won’t have to just send you to a random Institute or to Idris—”
 
Julian swung around to face her. “That’s not what you think is going to happen to you, is it?” he demanded. “Because it won’t. You’ll stay with us.”
 
“Not necessarily,” Emma said. She felt as if her heart were being squeezed. The thought of leaving Jules, Livvy, Dru, Tavvy—even Ty—made her feel sick and lost, like she was being swept out into the ocean, alone. “It depends on your uncle, doesn’t it? Whether he wants me in the Institute. Whether he’s willing to take me in.”
 
Julian’s voice was fierce. Julian was rarely fierce, but when he was, his eyes went nearly black and he shook all over, as if he were freezing. “It’s not up to him. You’re going to stay with us.”
 
“Jules—” Emma began, and froze as voices drifted up from downstairs. Jia and Patrick Penhallow were passing through the corridor below. She wasn’t sure why she was nervous; it wasn’t as if they weren’t allowed full run of the house, but the idea of being caught wandering around this late at night by the Consul made her feel awkward.
 
“. . . smirking little bastard was right, of course,” Jia was saying. She sounded frayed. “Not only are Jace and Clary gone, but Isabelle and Alec along with them. The Lightwoods are absolutely frantic.”
 
Patrick’s deep voice rumbled an answer. “Well, Alec is an adult, technically. Hopefully he’s looking after the rest of them.”
 
Jia made a muffled, impatient noise in response. Emma leaned forward, trying to hear her. “. . . could have left a note at least,” she was saying. “They were clearly furious when they fled.”
 
“They probably thought we were going to deliver them to Sebastian.”
 
Jia sighed. “Ironic, considering how hard we fought against that. We assume Clary made a Portal to get them out of here, but as to how they’ve blocked us from tracking them, we don’t know. They’re nowhere on the map. It’s like they disappeared off the face of the earth.”
 
“Just like Sebastian has,” said Patrick. “Doesn’t it make sense to assume they’re wherever he is? That the place itself is shielding them, not runes or some other kind of magic?”
 
Emma leaned farther forward, but the rest of their words faded with distance. She thought she heard a mention of the Spiral Labyrinth, but she wasn’t positive. When she straightened up again, she saw Julian looking at her.
 
“You know where they are,” he said, “don’t you?”
 
Emma put her finger to her lips and shook her head. Don’t ask.
 
Julian huffed out a laugh. “Only you. How did you—No, don’t tell me, I don’t even want to know.” He looked at her searchingly, the way he did sometimes when he was trying to tell if she was lying or not. “You know,” he said, “there’s a way they couldn’t send you away from our Institute. They’d have to let you stay.”
 
Emma raised an eyebrow. “Let’s hear it, genius.”
 
“We could—” he started, then stopped, swallowed, and started again. “We could become parabatai.”
 
He said it shyly, half-turning his face away from her, so that the shadows partially hid his expression.
 
“Then they couldn’t separate us,” he added. “Not ever.”
 
Emma felt her heart turn over. “Jules, being parabatai is a big deal,” she said. “It’s—it’s forever.”
 
He looked at her, his face open and guileless. There was no trickery in Jules, no darkness. “Aren’t we forever?” he asked.
 
Emma thought. She couldn’t imagine her life without Julian. It was just a sort of black hole of terrible loneliness: nobody ever understanding her the way he did, getting her jokes the way he did, protecting her the way he did—not protecting her physically but protecting her feelings, her heart. No one to be happy with or angry with or bounce ridiculous ideas off. No one to complete her sentences, or pick all the cucumbers out of her salad because she hated them, or eat the crusts off her toast, or find her keys when she lost them.
 
“I—” she began, and there was a sudden crash from the bedroom. She exchanged panicked looks with Julian before they burst back into Ty and Livvy’s room, to find Livia sitting up on the bed, looking sleepy and puzzled. Ty was at the window, a poker in his hand. The window had a hole punched through the middle of it, and the window glass was glittering across the floor.
 
“Ty!” Julian said, clearly terrified by the shards piled around his little brother’s bare feet. “Don’t move. I’ll get a broom for the glass—”
 
Ty glared out at both of them from beneath his wild dark hair. He held up something in his right hand. Emma squinted in the moonlight—was it an acorn?
 
“It’s a message,” Ty said, letting the poker drop from his hand. “Faeries often choose objects from the natural world to send their messages in—acorns, leaves, flowers.”
 
“You’re saying that’s a message from faeries?” Julian said dubiously.
 
“Don’t be stupid,” said Tiberius. “Of course it’s not a message from faeries. It’s a message from Mark. And it’s addressed to the Consul.”
 
   
 
 
 
It must be daytime here, Luke thought, for Raphael was curled in one corner of the stone room, his body tense even in sleep, his dusky curls pillowed on his arm. It was hard to tell, given that there was little to see beyond the window but thick mist.
 
“He needs to feed,” Magnus said, looking at Raphael with a tense gentleness that surprised Luke. He hadn’t thought there was much love lost between the warlock and the vampire. They had circled each other as long as he had known them, polite, occupying their different spheres of power within the Downworld of New York City.
 
“You know each other,” Luke said, realizing. He was still leaning against the wall by the narrow stone window, as if the view outside—clouds and yellowish poison—could tell him anything.
 
Magnus raised an eyebrow, the way he did when someone asked an obviously stupid question.
 
“I mean,” Luke clarified, “you knew each other. Before.”
 
“Before what? Before you were born? Let me make something clear to you, werewolf; almost everything in my life happened before you were born.” Magnus’s eyes lingered on the sleeping Raphael; despite the sharpness in his tone, his expression was almost gentle. “Fifty years ago,” he said, “in New York, a woman came to me and asked me to save her son from a vampire.”
 
“And the vampire was Raphael?”
 
“No,” said Magnus. “Her son was Raphael. I couldn’t save him. It was too late. He was already Turned.” He sighed, and in his eyes suddenly Luke saw his great, great age, the wisdom and sorrow of centuries. “The vampire had killed all his friends. I don’t know why he Turned Raphael instead. He saw something in him. Will, strength, beauty. I don’t know. He was a child when I found him, a Caravaggio angel painted in blood.”
 
“He still looks like a child,” said Luke. Raphael had always reminded him of a choirboy gone bad, with his sweet young face and his black eyes older than the moon.
 
“Not to me,” said Magnus. He sighed. “I hope he survives this,” he said. “The New York vampires need someone with sense to run their clan, and Maureen’s hardly that.”
 
“You hope Raphael survives this?” Luke said. “Come on—how many people has he killed?”
 
Magnus turned cold eyes on him. “Who among us has bloodless hands? What did you do, Lucian Graymark, to gain yourself a pack—two packs—of werewolves?”
 
“That was different. That was necessary.”
 
“What did you do when you were in the Circle?” Magnus demanded.
 
At that, Luke was silent. Those were days he hated to think about. Days of blood and silver. Days of Valentine by his side, telling him everything was all right, silencing his conscience. “I’m worried about my family now,” he said. “I’m worried about Clary and Jocelyn and Amatis. I can’t worry about Raphael, too. And you—I thought you’d be worried about Alec.”
 
Magnus breathed out through gritted teeth. “I don’t want to talk about Alec.”
 
“All right.” Luke said nothing else, just rested against the cold stone wall and watched Magnus fiddle with his chains. A moment later Magnus spoke again.
 
“Shadowhunters,” he said. “They get in your blood, under your skin. I’ve been with vampires, werewolves, faeries, warlocks like me—and humans, so many fragile humans. But I always told myself I wouldn’t give my heart to a Shadowhunter. I’ve so nearly loved them, been charmed by them—generations of them, sometimes: Edmund and Will and James and Lucie . . . the ones I saved and the ones I couldn’t.” His voice choked off for a second, and Luke, staring in amazement, realized that this was the most of Magnus Bane’s real, true emotions that he had ever seen. “And Clary, too, I loved, for I watched her grow up. But I’ve never been in love with a Shadowhunter, not until Alec. For they have the blood of angels in them, and the love of angels is a high and holy thing.”
 
“Is that so bad?” Luke asked.
 
Magnus shrugged. “Sometimes it comes down to a choice,” he said. “Between saving one person and saving the whole world. I’ve seen it happen, and I’m selfish enough to want the person who loves me to choose me. But Nephilim will always choose the world. I look at Alec and I feel like Lucifer in Paradise Lost. ‘Abashed the Devil stood, And felt how awful goodness is.’ He meant it in the classic sense. ‘Awful’ as in inspiring awe. And awe is well and good, but it’s poison to love. Love has to be between equals.”
 
“He’s just a boy,” said Luke. “Alec—he’s not perfect. And you’re not fallen.”
 
“We’re all fallen,” said Magnus, and he wrapped himself up in his chains and was silent.
 
“You have got to be kidding me,” Maia said. “Here? Seriously?”
 
Bat rubbed his fingers over the back of his neck, ruffling up his short hair. “Is that a Ferris wheel?”
 
Maia turned around in a slow circle. They were standing inside the darkened massive Toys“R”Us on Forty-Second Street. Outside the windows the neon glow of Times Square lit the night with blue, red, and green. The store stretched upward, level on level of toys: bright plastic superheroes, plush stuffed bears, pink and glittery Barbies. The Ferris wheel rose above them, each metal strut carrying a dangling plastic carriage decorated with decals. Maia had a dim memory of her mother taking her and her brother to ride on the wheel when they were ten years old. Daniel had tried to push Maia over the edge and had made her cry. “This is . . . crazy,” she whispered.
 
“Maia.” It was one of the younger wolves, skinny and nervous, with dreadlocks. Maia had worked to cure them all of the habit of calling her “lady” or “madam” or anything else but Maia, even if she was temporary pack leader. “We’ve swept the place. If there were security guards, someone’s taken them out already.”
 
“Great. Thanks.” Maia looked at Bat, who shrugged. There were about fifteen other pack wolves with them, looking incongruous among the Disney princess dolls and stuffed reindeer. “Could you—”
 
The Ferris wheel started up suddenly with a screech and a groan. Maia jumped back, almost knocking into Bat, who took her by the shoulders. They both stared as the wheel started to turn and music began to play—“It’s a Small World,” Maia was pretty sure, though there were no words, just tinny instrumentals.
 
“Wolves! Oooh! Wooolves!” sang out a voice, and Maureen, looking like a Disney princess in a pink gown and a rainbow tiara, tripped barefoot out from a stacked display of candy canes. She was followed by about twenty vamps, as pale-faced as dolls or mannequins in the sickly light. Lily strode just behind her, her black hair pinned back perfectly, her heels clicking on the floor. She looked Maia up and down as if she’d never seen her before. “Hello, hello!” Maureen burbled. “I’m so glad to meet you.”
 
“Glad to meet you as well,” Maia said stiffly. She put a hand out for Maureen to shake, but Maureen just giggled and seized up a sparkly wand from a nearby carton. She waved it in the air.
 
“So sorry to hear about Sebastian killing all your wolfie friends,” Maureen said. “He’s a nasty boy.”
 
Maia flinched at a vision of Jordan’s face, the memory of the heavy, helpless weight of him in her arms.
 
She steeled herself. “That’s what I wanted to talk to you about,” she said. “Sebastian. He’s trying to threaten Downworlders. . . .” She paused as Maureen, humming, began to climb to the top of a stack of boxes of Christmas Barbies, each one dressed in a red-and-white Santa miniskirt. “Trying to get us to turn against the Shadowhunters,” Maia went on, slightly flummoxed. Was Maureen even paying attention? “If we unite . . .”
 
“Oh, yes,” Maureen said, perching atop the highest box. “We should unite against Shadowhunters. Definitely.”
 
“No, I said—”
 
“I heard what you said.” Maureen’s eyes flashed. “It was silly. You werewolves are always full of silly ideas. Sebastian isn’t very nice, but the Shadowhunters are worse. They make up stupid rules and they make us follow them. They steal from us.”
 
“Steal?” Maia craned her head back to see Maureen.
 
“They stole Simon from me. I had him, and now he’s gone. I know who took him. Shadowhunters.”
 
Maia met Bat’s eyes. He was staring. She realized she’d forgotten to tell him about Maureen’s crush on Simon. She’d have to catch him up later—if there was a later. The vampires behind Maureen were looking more than a little hungry.
 
“I asked you to come meet me so that we could form an alliance,” Maia said, as gently as if she were trying not to spook an animal.
 
“I love alliances,” said Maureen, and she hopped down from the top of the boxes. Somewhere she’d gotten hold of an enormous lollipop, the kind with multicolored swirls. She began to peel off the wrapping. “If we form an alliance, we can be part of the invasion.”
 
“The invasion?” Maia raised her eyebrows.
 
“Sebastian’s going to invade Idris,” Maureen said, dropping the plastic wrap. “He’ll fight them and he’ll win, and then we’ll divide up the world, all of us, and he’ll give us all the people we want to eat. . . .” She bit down on the lollipop, and made a face. “Ugh. Nasty.” She spit out the candy, but it had already painted her lips red and blue.
 
“I see,” Maia said. “In that case—absolutely, let us ally against the Shadowhunters.”
 
She felt Bat tense at her side. “Maia—”
 
Maia ignored him, stepping forward. She offered her wrist. “Blood binds an alliance,” she said. “So say the old laws. Drink my blood to seal our compact.”
 
“Maia, no,” Bat said; she shot him a quelling look.
 
“This is how it has to be done,” Maia said.
 
Maureen was grinning. She tossed aside the candy; it shattered on the floor. “Oh, fun,” she said. “Like blood sisters.”
 
“Just like that,” said Maia, bracing herself as the younger girl took hold of her arm. Maureen’s small fingers interlaced with hers. They were cold and sticky with sugar. There was a click as Maureen’s fang teeth snapped out. “Just like—”
 
Maureen’s teeth sank into Maia’s wrist. She was making no effort to be gentle: pain lanced up Maia’s arm, and she gasped. The wolves behind her stirred uneasily. She could hear Bat, breathing hard with the effort not to lunge at Maureen and tear her away.
 
Maureen swallowed, smiling, her teeth still firmly seated in Maia’s arm. The blood vessels in Maia’s arm throbbed with pain; she met Lily’s eyes over Maureen’s head. Lily smiled coldly.
 
Maureen gagged suddenly and pulled away. She put a hand to her mouth; her lips were swelling, like someone who’d had an allergic reaction to bee stings. “Hurts,” she said, and then fissuring cracks spread out from her mouth, across her face. Her body spasmed. “Mama,” she whispered in a small voice, and she began to crumble: Her hair drifted to ashes, and then her skin, peeling away to show the bones underneath. Maia stepped back, her wrist throbbing, as Maureen’s dress folded away to the ground, pink and sparkling and . . . empty.
 
“Holy—What happened?” Bat demanded, and caught Maia as she stumbled. Her torn wrist was already beginning to heal, but she felt a little dizzy. The wolf pack was murmuring around her. More disturbing, the vampires had come together, whispering, their pale faces venomous, full of hate.
 
“What did you do?” demanded one of them, a blond boy, in a shrill voice. “What did you do to our leader?”
 
Maia stared at Lily. The other girl’s expression was cool and blank. For the first time Maia felt a thread of panic unfurl beneath her rib cage. Lily . . .
 
“Holy water,” said Lily. “In her veins. She put it there with a syringe, earlier, so Maureen would be poisoned with it.”
 
The blond vampire bared his teeth, his fangs snapping into place. “Betrayal has consequences,” he said. “Werewolves—”
 
“Stop,” Lily said. “She did it because I asked her to.”
 
Maia exhaled, almost surprised by the relief that hit her. Lily was looking around at the other vampires, who were staring at her in confusion.
 
“Sebastian Morgenstern is our enemy, as he is the enemy of all Downworlders,” Lily said. “If he destroys the Shadowhunters, the next thing he will do is turn his attention on us. His army of Endarkened warriors would murder Raphael and then lay waste to all the Night’s Children. Maureen would never have seen that. She would have driven us all to our destruction.”
 
Maia shook out her wrist, and turned to the pack. “Lily and I agreed,” she said. “This was the only way. The alliance between us, that was sincere. Now is our chance, when Sebastian’s armies are at their smallest and the Shadowhunters are still powerful; now is the time we can make a difference. Now is the time we can revenge those who died at the Praetor.”
 
“Who’s going to lead us?” whined the blond vampire. “The one who kills the previous leader takes up the mantle of leadership, but we can’t be led by a werewolf.” He glanced at Maia. “No offense.”
 
“None taken,” she muttered.
 
“I am the one who killed Maureen,” said Lily. “Maia was the weapon I wielded, but it was my plan, my hand behind it. I will lead. Unless anyone objects.”
 
The vampires glanced around at one another in confusion. Bat, to Maia’s surprise and amusement, cracked his knuckles loudly in the silence.
 
Lily’s red lips curved. “I didn’t think so.” She took a step toward Maia, daintily avoiding the tulle dress and pile of ashes that were all that was left of Maureen. “Now,” she said. “Why don’t we discuss this alliance?”

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