City of Heavenly Fire / Page 43

Page 43


As they forged their way farther into the center of the city, the crowd thickened: more Nephilim, more Endarkened, more faerie warriors—though the faeries moved sluggishly, painfully, many of them weakened by contact with the iron, steel, rowan wood, and salt that had been liberally deployed around the city as protection against them. The might of faerie soldiers was legendary, but Emma saw many of them—who might otherwise have been victorious—fall beneath the flashing swords of the Nephilim, their blood running across the white flagstones of Angel Square.
 
The Endarkened, however, were not weakened. They seemed unconcerned with the troubles of their faerie companions, hacking and slashing their way through the Nephilim jamming Angel Square. Julian had Tavvy zipped into his jacket; the little boy was screaming now, his cries lost among the shrieks of battle. “We have to stop!” Julian shouted. “We’re going to be separated! Helen!”
 
Helen was pale and ill-looking. The closer they got to the Hall of Accords, now looming above them, the thicker the clusters of faerie protection spells were; even Helen, with her partial heritage, was beginning to feel it. It was Brother Zachariah—just Zachariah now, Emma reminded herself, just a Shadowhunter like they were—in the end who moved to fashion them all into a line, Blackthorns and Carstairs, everyone hand in hand. Emma hung on to Julian’s belt since his other hand was supporting Tavvy. Even Ty was forced to hold hands with Drusilla, though he scowled at her when he did it, bringing fresh tears to her eyes.
 
They made their way toward the Hall, clinging together, Zachariah in front of them; he was out of throwing blades and had taken out a long-bladed spear. He swept the crowd with it as they went, efficiently and icily hacking a pathway through the Endarkened.
 
Emma burned to seize Cortana out of its scabbard, to run forward and stab and slash at the enemies who had murdered her parents, who had tortured and Turned Julian’s father, who had taken Mark away from them. But that would have meant letting go of Julian and Livvy, and that she would not do. She owed the Blackthorns too much, Jules especially, Jules who had kept her alive, who had brought her Cortana when she had thought she would die of grief.
 
Finally they stumbled up the front steps of the Hall behind Helen and Zachariah, and reached the massive double doors of the entryway. There was a guard on either side, one holding an enormous wooden bar. Emma recognized one of them as the woman with the koi tattoo who sometimes spoke out in meetings: Diana Wrayburn. “We’re about to shut the doors,” said the one holding the bar. “You two, you’re going to have to leave them here; only children are allowed inside—”
 
“Helen,” said Dru in a trembling little voice. The line broke into pieces then, with the Blackthorn children swarming Helen; Julian standing a little aside, his face blank and ashen, his free hand stroking Tavvy’s curls.
 
“It’s all right,” Helen was saying in a choked voice. “This is the safest place in Alicante. Look, there’s salt and grave dirt all up and down the steps to keep the faeries out.”
 
“And cold iron under the flagstones,” said Diana. “The instructions of the Spiral Labyrinth were followed to the letter.”
 
At the mention of the Spiral Labyrinth, Zachariah took in a sharp breath and knelt down, bringing his eyes on a level with Emma’s. “Emma Cordelia Carstairs,” he said. He looked both very young and very old at the same time. There was blood at his throat where his faded rune stood out, but it wasn’t his. He seemed to be searching her face, though for what, she couldn’t tell. “Stay with your parabatai,” he said finally, so quietly that no one else could hear them. “Sometimes it’s braver not to fight. Protect them, and save your vengeance for another day.”
 
Emma felt her eyes widen. “But I don’t have a parabatai—and how did you—”
 
One of the guards cried out and fell, a red-fletched arrow in his chest. “Get inside!” shouted Diana, seizing hold of the children and half-throwing them into the Hall. Emma felt herself caught and tossed inside; she spun to get one last look at Zachariah and Helen, but it was too late. The double doors had slammed shut after her, the massive wooden latch falling into place with a sound of echoing finality.
 
   
 
 
 
“No,” Clary said, looking from the terrifying throne to Sebastian and back again. Blank your mind, she told herself. Focus on Sebastian, on what’s happening here, on what you can do to stop him. Don’t think about Jace. “You must know I won’t stay here. Maybe you’d rather rule Hell than serve in Heaven, but I don’t want either—I just want to go home and live my life.”
 
“That isn’t possible. I’ve already sealed the pathway that brought you here. No one can return through it. All that’s left is this, here”—he gestured at the window—“and in a short time that will be sealed too. There will be no returning home, not for you. You belong here, with me.”
 
“Why?” she whispered. “Why me?”
 
“Because I love you,” Sebastian said. He looked—uncomfortable. Tense and strained, as if he were reaching for something he couldn’t quite touch. “I don’t want you hurt.”
 
“You don’t—You have hurt me. You tried to—”
 
“It doesn’t matter if I hurt you,” he said. “Because you belong to me. I can do what I want with you. But I don’t want other people touching you or owning you or hurting you. I want you to be around, to admire me and to see what I’ve done, what I’ve accomplished. That’s love, isn’t it?”
 
“No,” Clary said, in a soft sad voice. “No, it isn’t.” She took a step toward him, and her boot knocked against the invisible force field of his circle of runes. She could go no farther. “If you love someone, then you want them to love you back.”
 
Sebastian’s eyes narrowed. “Don’t patronize me. I know what you think love is, Clarissa; I happen to think you’re wrong. You will ascend the throne, and you will reign beside me. You have a dark heart in you, and it is a darkness we share. When I am all there is in your world, when I am all that is left, you will love me back.”
 
“I don’t understand—”
 
“I can’t imagine you would,” Sebastian smirked. “You aren’t exactly in possession of all the information. Let me guess, you know nothing of what’s happened in Alicante since you departed?”
 
A cold feeling began to spread in Clary’s stomach. “We’re in another dimension,” she said. “There’s no way to know.”
 
“Not exactly,” said Sebastian, and his voice was rich with delight, as if she had fallen into precisely the trap he had wanted. “Look into the window above the eastern throne. Look, and see Alicante now.”
 
Clary looked. When she had come into the room, she had seen only what seemed like the starred night sky through the eastern window, but now, as she concentrated, the surface of the glass shimmered and rippled. She thought of the story of Snow White suddenly, the magic mirror, its surface shimmering and changing to reveal the outside world. . . .
 
She was looking at the inside of the Accords Hall. It was full of children. Shadowhunter children sat and stood and clung together. There were the Blackthorns, the children huddled tightly in a group, Julian sitting with the baby on his lap, his free arm stretched out as if he could encompass the rest of his siblings, could pull them all in and protect them. Emma sat close by him, her expression stony, her golden sword gleaming behind her shoulder—
 
The scene resolved into Angel Square. All around the Hall of Accords was a boiling mass of Nephilim, and ranged against them were the Endarkened in their scarlet gear, bristling with weapons—and not just the Endarkened but figures that Clary recognized with a sinking heart as faerie warriors. A tall faerie with hair of mixed blue and green strands was battling Aline Penhallow, who stood in front of her mother, her sword drawn as if ready to fight to the death. Across the square Helen was trying to push her way through the crowd toward Aline, but the crush was too great. The fighting penned her back, but so did the bodies—bodies of Nephilim warriors, fallen and dying, so many more in black gear than red. They were losing the battle, losing it—
 
Clary whirled on Sebastian as the scene began to fade. “What’s happening?”
 
“It’s over,” he said. “I requested that the Clave turn you over to me; they didn’t. Admittedly because you’d run off, but nevertheless, they were no further use to me. My forces have invaded the city. The Nephilim children are hiding in the Accords Hall, but when all the others are dead, the Hall will be taken. Alicante will be mine. All of Idris will be mine. The Shadowhunters have lost the war—not that there was much of one. I really thought they’d put up more of a fight.”
 
“That’s hardly all the Shadowhunters that exist,” Clary said. “That was just who was in Alicante. There are still Nephilim scattered all over the world—”
 
“All the Shadowhunters you see there will drink from the Infernal Cup soon enough. Then they will be my servants, and I will send them out to find their brethren in the world, and those who remain will be Turned or killed. I will slay the Iron Sisters and the Silent Brothers in their citadels of stone and silence. Inside of a month the race of Jonathan Shadowhunter will be wiped from the world. And then . . .” He smiled a terrible smile, and gestured toward the western window, which looked out on the dead and blasted world of Edom. “You’ve seen what happens to a world without protectors,” he gloated. “Your world will die. Death on death, and blood in the streets.”
 
Clary thought of Magnus. I saw a city all of blood, with towers made of bone, and blood ran in the streets like water.
 
“You can’t imagine,” she said in a dead voice, “that if you do this, if what you’re telling me is going to happen does actually happen, that there is any chance I would sit on a throne beside you. I’d rather be tortured to death.”
 
“Oh, I don’t think it,” he said breezily. “That’s why I’ve waited, you see. To give you a choice. All those Fair Folk who are my allies, all the Endarkened you see there, they wait on my orders. If I give the signal, they will stand down. Your world will be safe. You’ll never be able to return there, of course—I’ll seal the borders between this world and that, and never again will anyone, demon or human, travel between them. But it will be safe.”
 
“A choice,” Clary said. “You said you were giving me a choice?”
 
“Of course,” he said. “Rule beside me, and I will spare your world. Refuse, and I will give the order to annihilate it. Choose me, and you can save millions, billions of lives, my sister. You could save a whole world by damning a single soul. Your own. So tell me, what is your decision?”
 
   
 
 
 
“Magnus,” Alec said desperately, reaching to feel the adamas chains, sunk deep into the floor, that connected to the manacles on the warlock’s wrists. “Are you all right? Are you hurt?”
 
Isabelle and Simon were checking Luke for injuries. Isabelle kept glancing back at Alec, her face anxious; Alec deliberately didn’t meet her gaze, not wanting her to see the fear in his eyes. He touched the back of his hand to Magnus’s face.
 
Magnus looked sunken and sallow, his lips dry, ashy shadows beneath his eyes.
 
My Alec, Magnus had said, you’ve been so sad. I didn’t know. And then he had sunk back against the floor, as if the effort of speaking exhausted him.
 
“Hold still,” Alec said now, and drew a seraph blade from his belt. He opened his mouth to name it, and felt a sudden touch at his wrist. Magnus had wrapped his slender fingers around Alec’s wrist.
 
“Call it Raphael,” Magnus said, and when Alec looked at him in puzzlement, Magnus glanced toward the blade in Alec’s hand. His eyes were half-closed, and Alec remembered what Sebastian had said in the entryway, to Simon: I killed the one who made you. Magnus’s mouth quirked at the corner. “It is an angel’s name,” he said.
 
Alec nodded. “Raphael,” he said softly, and when the blade blazed up, he brought it down hard on the adamas chain, which splintered under the touch of the knife. The chains fell away, and Alec, dropping the blade to the floor, reached forward to take Magnus by the shoulders and help him up.
 
Magnus reached for Alec, but instead of rising to his feet, he pulled Alec against him, his hand sliding up Alec’s back to knot in his hair. Magnus pulled Alec down and against him, and kissed him, hard and awkward and determined, and Alec froze for a moment and then abandoned himself to it, to kissing Magnus, something he’d thought he’d never get to do again. Alec ran his hands up Magnus’s shoulders to the sides of his neck and cupped his hands there, holding Magnus in place while he kissed him thoroughly breathless.
 
Finally Magnus drew back; his eyes were shining. He let his head fall onto Alec’s shoulder, arms encircling him, keeping them tightly together. “Alec . . . ,” he began softly.
 
“Yes?” Alec said, desperate to know what Magnus wanted to ask him.
 
“Are you being chased?”
 
“I—ah—some of the Endarkened are looking for us,” Alec said carefully.
 
“Pity,” Magnus said, closing his eyes again. “It would be nice if you could just lie down with me here. Just . . . for a little while.”
 
“Well, you can’t,” said Isabelle, not unkindly. “We have to get out of here. The Endarkened will be here any second, and we’ve got what we came for—”
 
“Jocelyn.” Luke drew away from the wall, straightening up. “You’re forgetting Jocelyn.”
 
Isabelle opened her mouth, then closed it again. “You’re right,” she said. Her hand went to her weapons belt, and she unfastened a sword; taking a step across the room, she handed it to Luke, then bent down to pick up Alec’s still-burning seraph blade.
 
Luke took the sword and held it with the careless competence of someone who had handled blades all their life; sometimes it was hard for Alec to remember that Luke had been a Shadowhunter once, but he remembered now.
 
“Can you stand?” Alec said to Magnus gently, and Magnus nodded, and let Alec lift him to his feet.
 
He lasted almost ten seconds before his knees buckled and he collapsed forward, coughing. “Magnus!” Alec exclaimed, and threw himself down by the warlock’s side, but Magnus waved him away and struggled up to his knees.
 
“You should go without me,” he said, in a voice made gravelly by hoarseness. “I’ll slow you down.”
 
“I don’t understand.” Alec felt as if a vise were compressing his heart. “What happened? What did he do to you?”
 
Magnus shook his head; it was Luke who answered. “This dimension is killing Magnus,” he said, voice flat. “There’s something about it—about his father—that’s destroying him.”
 
Alec glanced at Magnus, but Magnus only shook his head again. Alec fought down an irrational burst of anger—still withholding things, even now—and took a deep breath. “The rest of you go find Jocelyn,” he said. “I’ll stay with Magnus. We’ll head toward the center of the keep. When you find her, come looking for us there.”
 
Isabelle looked wretched. “Alec—”
 
“Please, Izzy,” said Alec, and he saw Simon put his hand on Isabelle’s back, and whisper something into her ear. She nodded, finally, and turned toward the door; Luke and Simon followed her, both pausing to look back at Alec before they went, but it was the image of Izzy that stuck in his mind, carrying her blazing seraph blade in front of her like a star.
 
“Here,” he said to Magnus as gently as he could, and reached down to lift him up. Magnus stumbled to his feet, and Alec managed to get one of the warlock’s long arms slung over his shoulder. Magnus was thinner than he had ever been; his shirt clung to his ribs, and the spaces under his cheekbones looked sunken, but there was still a lot of warlock to contend with: a lot of skinny arms and legs and long, bony spine.
 
“Hold on to me,” Alec said, and Magnus gave him the sort of smile that made Alec feel like someone had taken an apple corer to his heart and tried to dig out the center.
 
“I always do, Alexander,” he said. “I always do.”
 
   
 
 
 
The baby had fallen asleep in Julian’s lap. He was holding Tavvy tightly, carefully, great dark hollows under his eyes. Livvy and Ty were huddled together on one side of him, Dru curled against him on the other.
 
Emma sat behind him, her back against his, giving him something to lean on to balance the weight of the baby. There were no free pillars to sit against, no bare space of wall; dozens, hundreds of children were prisoned in the Hall.
 
Emma leaned her head back against Jules’s. He smelled the way he always did: soap, sweat, and the tang of ocean, as if he carried it in his veins. It was comforting and not comforting in its familiarity. “I hear something,” she whispered. “Do you?”
 
Julian’s eyes flicked immediately to his brothers and sisters. Livvy was half-asleep, her chin propped on her hand. Dru was looking all around the room, her big blue-green eyes taking everything in. Ty was tapping his finger against the marble floor, obsessively counting from one to a hundred and backward again. He had kicked and screamed when Julian had tried to look at a welt on his arm where he had fallen. Jules had let it go, and allowed Ty to go back to his counting and rocking. It soothed him to quietness, which was what mattered.
 
“What do you hear?” Jules asked, and Emma’s head fell back then as the sound rose, a sound like a great wind or the crackle of a massive bonfire. People started to move and cry out, looking up at the glass ceiling of the Hall.
 
Through it clouds were visible, moving across the face of the moon—and then from the clouds burst a wild assortment of riders: riders of black horses, whose hooves were flame, riders of massive black dogs with orange-burning eyes. More modern forms of transport were mixed in as well—black carriages drawn by skeletal steeds, and motorcycles gleaming with chrome and bone and onyx.
 
“The Wild Hunt,” Jules whispered.
 
The wind was a living thing, whipping the clouds into peaks and valleys that the horsemen hurtled up and down, their cries audible even over the gale, their hands bristling with weapons: swords and maces and spears and crossbows. The front doors of the Hall began to shake and tremble; the wooden bar that had been placed across them exploded into splinters. The Nephilim stared toward the doors with terrified eyes. Emma heard the voice of one of the guards among the crowd, speaking in a harsh whisper:
 
“The Wild Hunt are chasing away our warriors outside the Hall,” she said. “The Endarkened are clearing away the iron and the grave dirt. They’ll break down the doors if the guards don’t get rid of them!”
 
“The Raging Host has come,” said Ty, breaking off his counting briefly. “The Gatherers of the Dead.”
 
“But the Council protected the city against faeries,” Emma protested. “Why . . .”
 
“They’re not ordinary faeries,” said Ty. “The salt, the grave dirt, the cold iron; it won’t work on the Wild Hunt.”
 
Dru whipped round and looked up. “The Wild Hunt?” she said. “Does that mean Mark’s here? Has he come to save us?”
 
“Don’t be a fool,” Ty said witheringly. “Mark is with the Huntsmen now, and the Wild Hunt want there to be battles. They come to gather the dead when it’s all over, and the dead serve them.”
 
Dru screwed up her face in confusion. The doors of the Hall were shuddering violently now, the hinges threatening to tear free of the walls. “But if Mark isn’t coming to save us, then who will?”
 
“No one,” said Ty, and only the nervous tapping of his fingers on marble showed that the idea bothered him at all. “No one is coming to save us. We’re going to die.”
 
Jocelyn flung herself once more against the door. Her shoulder was already bruised and bloody, her nails torn where she’d gouged at the lock. She had been hearing the sounds of fighting for a quarter of an hour now, the unmistakable sounds of running feet, of demons screaming. . . .
 
The knob of the door began to turn. She scrambled back, and seized up the brick she’d managed to loosen from the wall. She couldn’t kill Sebastian; she knew that much, but if she could hurt him, slow him—
 
The door swung open, and the brick flew from her hand. The figure in the doorway ducked; the brick hit the wall, and Luke straightened up and looked at her curiously. “I hope when we’re married, that’s not the way you greet me every day when I come home,” he said.
 
Jocelyn hurled herself at him. He was filthy and bloody and dusty, his shirt torn, a sword in his right hand, but his left arm came around her and held her close. “Luke,” she said into his neck, and for a moment she thought she might shake apart from relief and happiness and delirium and fear, the way she’d shaken apart in his arms when she’d found out he’d been bitten. If only she’d known then, had realized then, that the way she loved him was the way you loved someone you wanted to spend your life with, everything would have been different.
 
But then there would never have been Clary. She pulled back, looking up into his face, his blue eyes steady on hers. “Our daughter?” she asked.
 
“She’s here,” he said, and stepped back so that she could see past him to where Isabelle and Simon waited in the corridor. Both looked very uncomfortable, as if seeing two adults embrace was about the worst thing you could glimpse, even in the demon realms. “Come with us—we’re going to find her.”
 
   
 
 
 
“It’s not certain,” Clary said desperately. “The Shadowhunters might not lose. They could rally.”
 
Sebastian smiled. “That’s a chance you could take,” he said. “But listen. They have come to Alicante now, those who ride the winds between the worlds. They are drawn to places of slaughter. Can you see?”
 
He gestured toward the window that opened out onto Alicante. Through it Clary could see the Hall of Accords under the moonlight, clouds moving restlessly to and fro in the background—and then the clouds resolved themselves, and became something else. Something she had seen once before, with Jace, lying in the bottom of a boat in Venice. The Wild Hunt, racing across the sky: dark-clothed and ragged warriors, bristling with weapons, howling as their ghostly steeds pounded across the sky.
 
“The Wild Hunt,” she said, numb, and remembered Mark Blackthorn suddenly, the whip marks on his body, his broken eyes.
 
“The Gatherers of the Dead,” said Sebastian. “The carrion crows of magic, they go where great slaughter is. A slaughter only you can prevent.”
 
Clary closed her eyes. She felt as if she were adrift, floating on dark water, seeing the lights of the shore recede and recede in the distance. Soon she would be alone on the ocean, the icy sky above her and eight miles of empty darkness below.
 
“Go and take the throne,” he said. “If you do it, you can save them all.”
 
She looked at him. “How do I know you’ll keep your word?”
 
He shrugged. “I’d be a fool not to. You’d know immediately that I’d lied to you, and then you’d fight me, which I don’t want. Besides. To fully come into my power here, I must seal the borders between our world and this one. Once the borders are closed, the Endarkened in your world will be weakened, cut off from me, their source. The Nephilim will be able to defeat them.” He smiled, ice-white and blinding. “It will be a miracle. A miracle performed for them by us—by me. Ironic, don’t you think? That I should be their saving angel?”
 
“What about everyone who’s here? Jace? My mom? My friends?”
 
“They can all live. It makes no difference to me,” Sebastian said. “They cannot harm me, not now, and doubly not when the borders are sealed.”
 
“And all I have to do is ascend that throne,” Clary said.
 
“And promise to stay beside me for as long as I live. Which, admittedly, will be a long time. When this world is sealed, I will not just be invulnerable; I will live forever. ‘And behold, I am alive for evermore, and have the keys of hell and of death.’”
 
“You’re willing to do this? Give up the whole world of Earth, your Dark Shadowhunters, your revenge?”
 
“It was beginning to bore me,” said Sebastian. “This is more interesting. To be honest, you’re beginning to bore me a bit too. Do decide whether you’re going to get up on the throne or not, will you? Or do you need persuasion?”
 
Clary knew Sebastian’s methods of persuasion. Knives under the fingernails, a hand to the throat. Part of her wished he would kill her, take this decision away from her. No one could help her. In this she was utterly alone.
 
“I will not be the only one who lives forever,” Sebastian said, and to her surprise his voice was almost gentle. “Ever since you discovered the Shadow World, haven’t you secretly wanted to be a hero? To be the most special of a special people? In our own way we each wish to be the hero of our kind.”
 
“Heroes save worlds,” Clary said. “They don’t destroy them.”
 
“And I am offering you that chance,” said Sebastian. “When you ascend that throne, you save the world. You save your friends. You have power unlimited. I am giving you a great gift, because I love you. You can embrace your own darkness and yet always tell yourself that you did the right thing. How is that for getting everything you want?”
 
Clary closed her eyes for one heartbeat, and then another. Only enough time to see faces flash behind her eyelids: Jace, her mother, Luke, Simon, Isabelle, Alec. And so many more: Maia and Raphael and the Blackthorns, little Emma Carstairs, the faeries of the Seelie Court, the faces of the Clave, even the ghostly memory of her father.
 
She opened her eyes, and walked toward the throne. She heard Sebastian, behind her, draw a sharp breath. So, for all the surety in his voice, he had doubted, hadn’t he? He had not been sure of her. Behind the thrones the two windows flickered like video screens: one showing desolation, the other Alicante under attack. She caught glimpses of the inside of the Accords Hall as she reached the steps and walked up them. She moved steadily. She had made her decision; there was no faltering now. The throne was huge; it was like climbing up onto a platform. The gold of it was icy cold to her touch. She reached the last step, turned, and took her seat.
 
She seemed to be looking down for miles from the top of a mountain peak. She saw the Council Hall spread out before her; Jace, lying motionless by the wall. Sebastian, looking up at her with a smile spreading over his face.
 
“Well done,” he said. “My sister, my queen.”

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