City of Heavenly Fire / Page 42

Page 42


22
 THE ASHES OF OUR FATHERS
 
 
 
The sound of a sudden, wailing siren split the air, and Emma started up in bed, scattering the papers to the floor. Her heart was pounding.
 
Through the open window of her bedroom, she could see the demon towers, flashing gold and red. The colors of war.
 
She staggered to her feet, reaching for her gear, which was on a peg by the bed. She had just slid into it and was bending down to tie up her boots when the door to her room burst open. It was Julian. He skidded halfway inside before catching himself. He stared at the papers on the floor, and then at her. “Emma—didn’t you hear the announcement?”
 
“I was napping.” She clipped out the words as she attached the harness that held Cortana to her back, then slipped the blade into the scabbard.
 
“The city’s under attack,” he said. “We have to get to the Accords Hall. They’re going to lock us inside—all the kids—it’s the safest place in the city.”
 
“I won’t go,” Emma said.
 
Julian stared at her. He was wearing jeans and a gear jacket and sneakers; there was a shortsword stuck through his belt. His soft brown curls were wild and unbrushed. “What do you mean?”
 
“I don’t want to hide in the Accords Hall. I want to fight.”
 
Jules pushed his hands through his tangled hair. “If you fight, I fight,” he said. “And that means nobody carries Tavvy to the Accords Hall, and nobody protects Livvy or Ty or Dru.”
 
“What about Helen and Aline?” Emma demanded. “The Penhallows—”
 
“Helen’s waiting for us. All the Penhallows are up at the Gard, Aline included. There’s no one home but Helen and us,” said Julian, holding out a hand for Emma. “Helen can’t protect us all on her own and carry the baby, too; she’s only one person.” He looked at her, and she could see the fear in his eyes, the fear he was usually so careful to shield from the younger children.
 
“Emma,” he said. “You’re the best, the best fighter of all of us. You’re not just my friend, and I’m not just their older brother. I’m their father, or the closest thing to it, and they need me, and I need you.” The hand he was holding out was shaking. His sea-colored eyes were huge in his pale face: He didn’t look like anyone’s father. “Please, Emma.”
 
Slowly Emma reached out and took his hand, wrapping her fingers around his. She saw him let out a minute breath of relief, and felt her chest tighten. Behind him, through the open door, she could glimpse them: Tavvy and Dru, Livia and Tiberius. Her responsibility. “Let’s go,” she said.
 
   
 
 
 
At the top of the stairs Jace released Clary’s hand. She clutched at the balustrade, trying not to cough, though her lungs felt like they wanted to tear their way out of her chest. He looked at her—What’s wrong?—but then he stiffened. Audible behind them was the sound of racing feet. The Endarkened were on their heels.
 
“Come on,” Jace said, and started to run again.
 
Clary forced herself after him. Jace seemed to know where he was going, unerringly; she supposed he was using the map of the Gard in Alicante that he had in his head, burrowing in toward the center of the keep.
 
They turned into a long corridor; halfway down it Jace stopped in front of a set of metal doors. They were slashed with unfamiliar runes. Clary would have expected death runes, something that spoke of Hell and darkness, but these were runes of grieving and sorrow for a world destroyed. Who had etched them here, she wondered, and in what excess of mourning? She had seen runes of grief before. Shadowhunters wore them like badges when someone they loved had died, though they did nothing to ease suffering. But there was a difference between grief for a person and grief for a world.
 
Jace ducked his head, kissed her hard and fast on the mouth. “Are you ready?”
 
She nodded, and he swung the door open and stepped inside. She followed.
 
The room beyond was as large as the Council room in Alicante’s Gard, if not larger. The ceiling rose high above them, though instead of rows of seats a wide bare marble floor stretched toward a dais at the end of the room. Behind the dais were two massive, separate windows. Sunset light poured through each of them, though one sunset was the color of gold, and the other was the color of blood.
 
In the bloody golden light Sebastian knelt in the center of the room. He was etching runes into the floor, a circle of dark connected sigils. Realizing what he was doing, Clary started toward him—and then lurched back with a scream as a massive gray shape loomed up in front of her.
 
It looked like an enormous maggot, the only gap in its slick gray body its mouth full of jagged teeth. Clary recognized it. She’d seen one before in Alicante, rolling its slippery body over a pile of blood and glass and icing sugar. A Behemoth demon.
 
She reached for her dagger, but Jace was already leaping, sword in hand. He flew through the air and landed on the back of the demon, stabbing down through its eyeless head. Clary backed away as the Behemoth demon thrashed, spraying stinging ichor, a loud, ululating wail coming from its open throat. Jace clung to its back, ichor spraying up over him as he brought the sword down, and down, and down again until the demon, with a gurgling scream, collapsed to the ground with a thud. Jace rode it down, knees clamped to its sides, until the last moment. He rolled off and hit the ground standing.
 
For a moment there was silence. Jace looked around the room as if he expected another demon to lunge out at them from the shadows, but there was nothing, only Sebastian, who had risen to his feet in the center of his now completed circle of runes.
 
He began to clap slowly. “Lovely work,” he said. “Really excellent demon-dispatching. I bet Dad would have given you a gold star. Now. Shall we dispense with the pleasantries? You recognize where we are, don’t you?”
 
Jace’s eyes moved around the room, and Clary followed his gaze. The light outside the windows had dimmed slightly, and she could see the dais more clearly. On it sat two immense—well, the only word for them was “thrones.” They were ivory and gold, with gold steps leading up to them. Each had a curved back embossed with a single key.
 
“‘I am he that liveth, and was dead,’ ” said Sebastian, “ ‘and behold, I am alive for evermore, and have the keys of hell and of death.’ ” He made a sweeping gesture toward the two chairs, and Clary realized with a sudden jolt that there was someone kneeling beside the left-most chair—a Dark Shadowhunter in red gear. A woman on her knees, her hands clasped in front of her. “These are the keys, made over in the shapes of thrones and given to me by the demons who rule this world, Lilith and Asmodeus.”
 
His dark eyes moved to Clary, and she felt his gaze like cold fingers walking up her spine. “I don’t know why you’re showing me this,” she said. “What do you expect? Admiration? You won’t get it. You can threaten me if you want; you know I don’t care. You can’t threaten Jace—he has the fire of Heaven in his veins; you can’t hurt him.”
 
“Can’t I?” he said. “Who knows how much of Heaven’s fire he has still in his veins, after that fireworks display he put on the other night? That demon got to you, didn’t she, brother? I knew you could never quite bear the knowledge of it, that you had killed your own kind.”
 
“You forced me to murder,” Jace said. “It wasn’t my hand holding the knife that killed Sister Magdalena; it was yours.”
 
“If you like.” Sebastian’s smile turned cold. “Regardless, there are others I can threaten. Amatis, rise, and bring Jocelyn here.”
 
Clary felt tiny daggers of ice shoot through her veins; she tried to keep her face from showing any expression as the woman kneeling by the throne rose. It was indeed Amatis, with her disconcerting Luke-blue eyes. She smiled. “With pleasure,” she said, and stalked out of the room, the hem of her long red coat sweeping behind her.
 
Jace stepped forward with an inarticulate growl—and stopped in his tracks, several feet from Sebastian. He put his hands out, but they seemed to collide with something translucent, an invisible wall.
 
Sebastian snorted. “As if I’d let you get near me—you, with that fire burning in you. Once was enough, thank you.”
 
“So you know I can kill you,” Jace said, facing him, and Clary couldn’t help but think how alike they were and how different—like ice and fire, Sebastian all white and black, and Jace burning up with red and gold. “You can’t hide in there forever. You’ll starve.”
 
Sebastian made a quick gesture with his fingers, the way Clary had seen Magnus gesture when casting a spell—and Jace flew up and back, and slammed into the wall behind them. Her breath caught in a gasp as she spun to see him crumple to the ground, a bloody gash across the side of his head.
 
Sebastian hummed in delight and lowered his hand. “Don’t worry,” he said conversationally, and turned his gaze back to Clary. “He’ll be fine. Eventually. If I don’t change my mind about what to do with him. I’m sure you understand, now that you’ve seen what I can do.”
 
Clary held herself still. She knew how important it was to keep her face blank, not to look at Jace in panic, not to show Sebastian her anger or her fear. Deep down in her heart she knew what he wanted, better than anyone else; she knew what he was like, and that was the best weapon she had.
 
Well, maybe the second-best.
 
“I’ve always known you had power,” she said, deliberately not looking toward Jace, deliberately not analyzing his motionlessness, the thick trickle of blood that was making its way down the side of his face. This was always going to happen; it was always going to be her facing Sebastian with no one else, not even Jace, by her side.
 
“Power,” he echoed, as if it were an insult. “Is that what you call it? Here I have more than power, Clary. Here in this keep I can shape what is real.” He had begun to pace inside the circle he had drawn, his hands looped casually behind his back, like a professor delivering a lecture. “This world is connected only by the thinnest threads to the one where we were born. The road through Faerie is one such thread. These windows are another. Step through that one”—he pointed to the window on the right, through which Clary could see dark blue twilight sky, and stars—“and you will return to Idris. But it’s not that simple.” He regarded the stars through the window. “I came to this world because it was a place to hide. And then I began to realize. I am sure our father quoted these words to you many times”—he spoke to Jace, as if Jace could hear him—“but it is better to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven. And here I rule. I have my Dark Ones and my demons. I have my keep and citadel. And when the borders of this world are sealed, everything here will be my weapon. Rocks, dead trees, the ground itself will come to my hand and wield its power for me. And the Great Ones, the old demons, will look down on my work, and they will reward me. They will raise me up in glory, and I will rule the abysses between worlds and the spaces between all the stars.”
 
“‘And he shall rule them with a rod of iron,’” said Clary, remembering Alec’s words in the Accords Hall, “‘and I will give him the Morning Star.’”
 
Sebastian whirled on her, his eyes bright. “Yes!” he said. “Yes, very good, you’re understanding now. I thought I wanted our world, to bring it down in blood, but I want more than that. I want the legacy of the Morgenstern name.”
 
“You want to be the devil?” Clary said, half-baffled and half-terrified. “You want to rule Hell?” She spread her hands out. “Go ahead, then,” she said. “None of us will stop you. Let us go home, promise you’ll leave our world alone, and you can have Hell.”
 
“Alas,” said Sebastian. “For I have discovered one other thing that perhaps sets me apart from Lucifer. I do not want to rule alone.” He extended his arm, an elegant gesture, and indicated the two great thrones on the dais. “One of those is for me. And the other—the other is for you.”
 
   
 
 
 
The streets of Alicante turned and twisted back in on themselves like the currents of a sea; if Emma hadn’t been following Helen, who was carrying a witchlight in one hand and her crossbow in the other, she would have been hopelessly lost.
 
The last of the sun was vanishing from the sky, and the streets were dark. Julian was carrying Tavvy, the baby’s arms locked around his neck; Emma held Dru by the hand, and the twins clung together in silence.
 
Dru wasn’t fast, and kept stumbling; she fell several times, and Emma had to drag her to her feet. Jules called out to Emma to be careful, and she was trying to be careful. She couldn’t imagine how Julian did it, holding Tavvy so carefully, murmuring so reassuringly that the little boy didn’t even cry. Dru was sobbing silently; Emma brushed the tears off the younger girl’s cheeks as she helped her up for the fourth time, murmuring nonsense comforting words the way her mother once had to her when she’d been a child and had fallen.
 
She had never missed her parents more agonizingly than she did now; it felt like a knife under her ribs.
 
“Dru,” she began, and then the sky lit up red. The demon towers had flamed to the color of pure scarlet, all the gold of warning gone.
 
“The city walls are broken,” Helen said, staring up at the Gard. Emma knew she was thinking about Aline. The red glow of the towers turned her pale hair the color of blood. “Come on—quickly.”
 
Emma wasn’t sure they could go any more quickly; she got a tighter hold of Drusilla’s wrist and yanked the little girl nearly off her feet, muttering apologies as she went. The twins, hand in hand, were faster, even as they raced up a jagged set of stairs toward Angel Square, led by Helen.
 
They were almost at the top step when Julian gasped out, “Helen, behind us!” and Emma spun around to see a faerie knight in white armor approaching the foot of the stairs. He carried a bow made from a curved branch, and his hair was long and bark-colored.
 
For a moment his eyes met Helen’s. The expression on his face changed, and Emma couldn’t help wondering if he recognized the Fair Folk in her blood—and then Helen raised her right arm and shot her crossbow directly at him.
 
He whirled away. The bolt hit the wall behind him. The faerie smirked, and leaped up the first step, then the second—and screamed. Emma watched in shock as his legs buckled under him; he fell and howled as his skin came into contact with the edge of the step. For the first time Emma noticed that corkscrews, nails, and other hunks of cold-forged iron had been hammered into the step edges. The faerie warrior reeled back, and Helen shot again. The bolt went through his armor and into his chest. He crumpled.
 
“They’ve faerie-proofed,” Emma said, remembering looking out the window at the Penhallows’ with Ty and Helen. “All the metal, the iron.” She pointed at a nearby building, where a long row of scissors hung from cords connected to the edge of the roof. “That’s what the guards were doing—”
 
Suddenly Dru shrieked. Another figure raced up the street. A second faerie knight, this one a woman with armor of pale green, carrying a shield of overlapping carved leaves.
 
Emma whipped a knife from her belt and threw it. Instinctively the faerie raised her shield to block the knife—which sailed past her head, and severed the cord holding a pair of scissors to the roof above. The scissors fell, blade-first, and plunged between the faerie woman’s shoulders. She fell to the ground with a shriek, her body spasming.
 
“Good job, Emma,” said Helen in a hard voice. “Come on, all of you—”
 
She broke off with a cry as three Endarkened surged from a side street. They wore the red gear that had appeared so often in Emma’s nightmares, dyed even redder by the light from the demon towers.
 
The children were as silent as ghosts. Helen raised her crossbow and shot a bolt. It struck one of the Endarkened in the shoulder, and he spun away, staggering but not falling. She fumbled to reload the bow; Julian struggled to hold Tavvy while reaching for the blade at his side. Emma put her hand on Cortana—
 
A spinning circle of light hurtled through the air and buried itself in the throat of the first Endarkened, blood spattering the wall behind him. He clawed at his throat, once, and fell. Two more circles flew, one after the other, and sliced into the chests of the other Dark Nephilim. They crumpled silently, more blood spreading in a pool along the cobblestones.
 
Emma whirled and looked up. Someone stood at the top of the stairs: a young Shadowhunter with dark hair, a gleaming chakhram still in his right hand. Several others were hooked to his weapons belt. In the red light of the demon towers he seemed to glow—a tall, thin figure in dark gear against the darker black of night, the Accords Hall rising like a pale moon behind him.
 
“Brother Zachariah?” said Helen in amazement.
 
   
 
 
 
“What’s going on?” Magnus asked hoarsely. He was no longer able to sit up, and was lying, half-propped on his elbows, on the floor of the cell. Luke was standing with his face pressed to the arrow-slit window. His shoulders were tense, and he’d barely moved since the first screams and shouting had begun.
 
“Light,” Luke said, finally. “There’s some kind of light pouring out of the keep—it’s burning the mist away. I can see the plateau down below, and some of the Endarkened running around. I just don’t know what’s caused it.”
 
Magnus laughed under his breath, and tasted metal in his mouth. “Come on,” he said. “Who do you think?”
 
Luke looked at him. “The Clave?”
 
“The Clave?” Magnus said. “I hate to break it to you, but they don’t care enough about us to come here.” He tipped his head back. He felt worse than he could remember ever feeling—well, maybe not ever. There had been that incident with the rats and the quicksand around the turn of the century. “Your daughter, though,” he said. “She does.”
 
Luke looked horrified. “Clary. No. She shouldn’t be here.”
 
“Isn’t she always where she isn’t supposed to be?” Magnus said in a reasonable voice. At least, he thought he sounded reasonable. It was hard to tell when he felt so dizzy. “And the rest of them. Her constant companions. My . . .”
 
The door burst open. Magnus tried to sit up, couldn’t, and fell back onto his elbows. He felt a dull sense of annoyance. If Sebastian had come to kill them, he’d rather die on his feet than his elbows. He heard voices: Luke, exclaiming, and then others, and then a face swam into view, hovering over his, eyes like stars in a pale sky.
 
Magnus exhaled—for a moment he no longer felt ill, or afraid of dying, or even angry or bitter. Relief washed over him, as profound as sorrow, and he reached up to brush the cheek of the boy leaning over him with the back of his bruised knuckles. Alec’s eyes were huge and blue and full of anguish.
 
“Oh, my Alec,” he said. “You’ve been so sad. I didn’t know.”

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