City of Heavenly Fire / Page 40

Page 40


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21
 THE KEYS OF DEATH AND HELL
 
 
 
“God, my head,” Alec said as he and Jace knelt beside a ridge of rock that crowned the top of a gray, scree-covered hill. The rock gave them cover, and past it, using Farsighted runes, they could see the half-ruined fortress, and all around it, Dark Shadowhunters clustered like ants.
 
It was like a warped mirror of Alicante’s Gard Hill. The structure atop it resembled the Gard they knew, but with a massive wall around it, the fortress enclosed within like a garden in a cloister.
 
“Maybe you shouldn’t have drunk so much last night,” Jace said, leaning forward and narrowing his eyes. All around the wall the Endarkened stood in concentric rings, a tight group in front of the gates that led inside. There were smaller groups of them at strategic points up and down the hill. Alec could see Jace computing the numbers of the enemy, considering and discarding strategies in his head.
 
“Maybe you should try looking a little less smug about what you did last night,” said Alec.
 
Jace nearly fell off the ridge. “I do not look smug. Well,” he amended, “no more than usual.”
 
“Please,” Alec said, pulling out his stele. “I can read your face like a very open, very pornographic book. I wish I couldn’t.”
 
“Is this your way of telling me to shut my face?” Jace inquired.
 
“Remember when you mocked me for sneaking around with Magnus and asked me if I’d fallen on my neck?” Alec asked, placing the tip of the stele against his forearm and starting to draw an iratze. “This is payback.”
 
Jace snorted and grabbed the stele from Alec. “Give me that,” he said, and finished off the iratze for him, with his usual messy flourish. Alec felt the numbing kick as his headache started to recede. Jace turned his attention back to the hill.
 
“You know what’s interesting?” he said. “I’ve seen a few flying demons, but they’re staying well away from the Dark Gard—”
 
Alec raised an eyebrow. “Dark Gard?”
 
“Got a better name?” Jace shrugged. “Anyway, they’re staying away from the Dark Gard and the hill. They serve Sebastian, but they seem to be respecting his space.”
 
“Well, they can’t be too far away,” said Alec. “They got to the Accords Hall pretty fast when you triggered that alarm.”
 
“They could be inside the fortress,” said Jace, voicing what they were both thinking.
 
“I wish you’d managed to get the skeptron,” Alec said, in a subdued voice. “I got the feeling it could take out a lot of demons. If it still worked, after all these years.” Jace had an odd expression on his face. Alec hastened to add, “Not that anyone could have gotten it. You tried—”
 
“I’m not so sure,” Jace said, his expression both calculating and faraway. “Come on. Let’s get back to the others.”
 
There was no time to reply; Jace was already retreating. Alec followed him, crawling backward, out of range of sight of the Dark Gard. Once they had gone enough of a distance, they straightened up and half-slid down the scree slope to where the others were waiting. Simon was standing by Izzy, and Clary had her sketchpad and a pen out and was drawing runes. From the way she was shaking her head, tearing out the pages and crumpling them up in her hand, it wasn’t going as well as she might have liked.
 
“Are you littering?” Jace demanded as he and Alec jogged to a stop beside the other three.
 
Clary gave him what was probably meant to be a withering look, but which came out fairly soppy. Jace returned it just as soppily. Alec wondered what would happen if he made a sacrifice to the dark demon gods of this world in exchange for not being constantly reminded that he was single. And not just single. He didn’t only miss Magnus; he was terrified for him, with a deep constant aching terror that never went away completely.
 
“Jace, this world has been burned to a cinder, and every living creature is dead,” Clary said. “I’m fairly sure there’s no one left to recycle.”
 
“So what did you see?” Isabelle demanded. She hadn’t been at all pleased to be left behind while Alec and Jace did recon, but Alec had insisted that she save her strength. She was listening to him more these days, Alec thought, in that way that Izzy only listened to people whose opinions she respected. It was nice.
 
“Here.” Jace pulled his stele from his pocket and knelt down, shrugging off his gear jacket. The muscles of his back moved under his shirt as he used the pointed tip of the stele to draw in the yellowish dirt. “Here’s the Dark Gard. There’s one way in, and that’s through the gate in the outer wall. It’s closed, but an Open rune should take care of that. The question is how to get to the gate. The most defensible positions are here, here, and here”—his stele made quick swipes in the dirt—“so we go around and up the back. If the geography here is like it is in our Alicante, and it looks like it is, there’s a natural pathway up the back of the hill. Once we get closer, we split here and here”—the stele made swirls and patterns as he drew, and a patch of sweat darkened between his shoulder blades—“and we try to herd any demons or Endarkened toward the center.” He sat back, worrying at his lip. “I can take out a lot of them, but I’ll need you to keep them contained while I do it. Do you understand the plan?”
 
They all stared for a few silent moments. Then Simon pointed. “What’s that wobbly thing?” he said. “Is it a tree?”
 
“Those are the gates,” Jace said.
 
“Ohh,” said Isabelle, pleased. “So what are the swirly bits? Is there a moat?”
 
“Those are trajectory lines—Honestly, am I the only person who’s ever seen a strategy map?” Jace demanded, throwing his stele down and raking his hand through his blond hair. “Do you understand anything I just said?”
 
“No,” Clary said. “Your strategy is probably awesome, but your drawing skills are terrible; all the Endarkened look like trees, and the fortress looks like a frog. There has to be a better way to explain.”
 
Jace sank back on his heels and crossed his arms. “Well, I’d love to hear it.”
 
“I have an idea,” Simon said. “Remember how before, I was talking about Dungeons and Dragons?”
 
“Vividly,” Jace said. “It was a dark time.”
 
Simon ignored him. “All the Dark Shadowhunters dress in red gear,” he said. “And they’re not enormously bright or self-driven. Their wills seem to be subsumed, at least in part, by Sebastian’s. Right?”
 
“Right,” Isabelle said, and gave Jace a quelling look.
 
“In D&D, my first move, when you’re dealing with an opposing army like that, would be to lure away a group of them—say five—and take their clothes.”
 
“Is this so they have to go back to the fortress naked and their embarrassment will negatively affect morale?” said Jace. “Because that seems complicated.”
 
“I’m pretty sure he means take their clothes and wear them as disguises,” Clary said. “So that we can sneak up to the gates unobserved. If the other Endarkened aren’t very perceptive, they might not notice.” Jace looked at her in surprise. She shrugged. “It’s in every movie, like, ever.”
 
“We don’t watch movies,” said Alec.
 
“I think the question is whether Sebastian watches movies,” said Isabelle. “Is our strategy when we actually see him still ‘trust me,’ by the way?”
 
“It’s still ‘trust me,’ ” Jace said.
 
“Oh, good,” Isabelle said. “For a second there I was worried there was going to be an actual plan with, like, steps we could follow. You know, something reassuring.”
 
“There is a plan.” Jace slid his stele into his belt and rose fluidly to his feet. “Simon’s idea for how we get into Sebastian’s fortress. We’re going to do it.”
 
Simon stared at him. “Seriously?”
 
Jace retrieved his jacket. “It’s a good idea.”
 
“But it’s my idea,” Simon said.
 
“And it was good, so we’re doing it. Congratulations. We’re going up the hill the way I outlined, and then we’re going to enact your plan when we get toward the top. And when we get there . . .” He turned to Clary. “That thing you did in the Seelie Court. The way you jumped up and drew the rune on the wall; could you do it again?”
 
“I don’t see why not,” Clary said. “Why?”
 
Jace began to smile.
 
   
 
 
 
Emma sat on the bed in her small attic room, surrounded by papers.
 
She had finally liberated them from the folder she had taken from the Consul’s office. They were spread out on her blanket, illuminated by the light of the sun coming through the small window, though she could hardly bring herself to touch them.
 
There were grainy photographs, taken under a bright Los Angeles sky, of the bodies of her parents. She could see now why they hadn’t been able to bring the bodies to Idris. They had been stripped, their skin gray like ash except where it was marked all over with ugly black scrawls, not like Marks at all but hideous. The sand around them was wet, as if it had rained; they were far back from the tide line. Emma fought back the urge to throw up as she tried to force herself to absorb the information: when the bodies had been found, when they had been identified, and how they had crumbled away in clumps when the Shadowhunters had tried to lift them—
 
“Emma.” It was Helen, standing in the doorway. The light that spilled in through the window turned the edges of her hair to the color of silver, the way it had always done to Mark’s. She looked more like Mark than ever; in fact, stress had made her thinner and revealed more clearly the delicate arches of her cheekbones, the points at the tops of her ears. “Where did you get those?”
 
Emma raised her chin defiantly. “I took them from the Consul’s office.”
 
Helen sat down on the edge of the bed. “Emma, you have to put them back.”
 
Emma jabbed a finger at the papers. “They’re not going to look to find out what happened to my parents,” she said. “They’re saying it’s just a random attack by the Endarkened, but it wasn’t. I know it wasn’t.”
 
“Emma, the Endarkened and their allies didn’t just kill the Shadowhunters of the Institute. They wiped out the Los Angeles Conclave. It makes sense they’d go after your parents, too.”
 
“Why wouldn’t they Turn them?” Emma demanded. “They needed every warrior they could get. When you say they wiped out the Conclave, they didn’t leave bodies. They Turned them all.”
 
“Except the young and the very old.”
 
“Well, my parents were neither of those things.”
 
“Would you rather they’d been Turned?” Helen said quietly, and Emma knew she was thinking of her own father.
 
“No,” Emma said. “But are you really saying that it doesn’t matter who killed them? That I shouldn’t even want to know why?”
 
“Why what?” Tiberius was standing in the door, his mop of unruly black curls tumbling into his eyes. He looked younger than his ten years, an impression helped by the fact that his stuffed bee was dangling from one hand. His delicate face was smudged with tiredness. “Where’s Julian?”
 
“He’s down in the kitchen getting food,” Helen said. “Are you hungry?”
 
“Is he angry with me?” Ty asked, looking at Emma.
 
“No, but you know he gets upset when you yell at him, or hurt yourself,” Emma said carefully. It was hard to know what might frighten Ty or send him into a tantrum. In her experience it was better to always tell him the unvarnished truth. The sort of lies people routinely told children, of the “This injection won’t hurt a bit” variety, were disastrous when told to Ty.
 
Yesterday, Julian had spent quite a bit of time picking broken glass out of his brother’s bloody feet and had explained to him rather sternly that if he ever walked on broken glass again, Julian would tell on him to the adults and he’d have to take whatever punishment he got. Ty had kicked him in response, leaving a bloody footprint on Jules’s shirt.
 
“Jules wants you to be okay,” Emma said now. “That’s all he wants.”
 
Helen reached out her arms for Ty—Emma didn’t blame her. Ty looked small and huddled, and the way he was clutching his bee made her worried for him. She would have wanted to hug him too. But he didn’t like to be touched, not by anyone but Livvy. He flinched away from his half sister and moved over to the window. After a moment Emma joined him there, being careful to give him his space.
 
“Sebastian can get in and out of the city,” said Ty.
 
“Yes, but he’s only one person, and he’s not that interested in us. Besides, I believe the Clave has a plan to keep us safe.”
 
“I believe the same thing,” Ty muttered, looking down and out the window. He pointed. “I just don’t know if it’ll work.”
 
It took Emma a moment to realize what he was indicating. The streets were crowded, and not with pedestrians. Nephilim in the uniforms of the Gard, and some in gear, were moving back and forth in the streets, carrying hammers and nails and boxes of objects that made Emma stare—scissors and horseshoes, knives and daggers and assorted weapons, even boxes of what looked like earth. One man carried several burlap sacks marked SALT.
 
Each box and bag had a symbol stamped on it: a spiral. Emma had seen it before in her Codex: the sigil of the Spiral Labyrinth of the warlocks.
 
“Cold iron,” said Ty thoughtfully. “Wrought, not heated and shaped. Salt, and grave dirt.”
 
There was a look on Helen’s face, that look adults got when they knew something but didn’t want to tell you what it was. Emma looked over at Ty, quiet and composed, his serious gray eyes tracking up and down the streets outside. Beside him stood Helen, who had risen up off the bed, her expression anxious.
 
“They sent for magical ammunition,” said Ty. “From the Spiral Labyrinth. Or maybe it was the warlocks’ idea. It’s hard to know.”
 
Emma stared through the glass and then back at Ty, who looked up at her through his long lashes. “What does it mean?” she asked.
 
Ty smiled his rare, unpracticed smile. “It means what Mark said in his note was true,” he said.

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