City of Heavenly Fire / Page 45

Page 45


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In Clary’s life she had seen many things that were wonderful and beautiful, and many things that were terrible. But none were as terrible as the look on her mother’s face as Jocelyn stared at her daughter, seated on the throne beside Sebastian’s.
 
“Mom,” Clary breathed, so softly that no one could hear her. They were all staring at her—Magnus and Alec, Luke and her mother, Simon and Isabelle, who had moved to hold Jace in her lap, her dark hair falling down over him like the fringe of a shawl. It was every bit as bad as Clary had imagined it would be. Worse. She had expected shock and horror; she hadn’t thought of hurt and betrayal. Her mother staggered back; Luke’s arms went around her, to hold her up, but his gaze was on Clary, and he looked as if he were staring at a stranger.
 
“Welcome, citizens of Edom,” said Sebastian, his lips curling up like a bow being drawn. “Welcome to your new world.”
 
And he stepped free of the burning circle that held him. Luke’s hand went to his belt; Isabelle began to rise, but it was Alec who moved fastest: one hand to his bow and the other to the quiver at his back, the arrow nocked and flying before Clary could shape the cry for him to stop.
 
The arrow flew straight toward Sebastian and buried itself in his chest. He staggered back from the force of it, and Clary heard a gasp ripple down the line of Dark Shadowhunters. A moment later Sebastian regained his balance and, with a look of annoyance, pulled the arrow from his chest. It was stained with blood.
 
“Fool,” he said. “You can’t hurt me; nothing under Heaven can.” He flung the arrow at Alec’s feet. “Did you think you were an exception?”
 
Alec’s eyes flicked toward Jace; it was minute, but Sebastian caught the glance, and grinned.
 
“Ah, yes,” he said. “Your hero with the heavenly fire. But it’s gone, isn’t it? Spent on rage in the desert at a demon of my sending.” He snapped his fingers, and a spark of ice blue shot from them, rising like a mist. For a moment Clary’s view of Jace and Isabelle was obscured; a moment later she heard a cough and gasp, and Isabelle’s arms were sliding away from Jace as he sat up, then rose to his feet. Behind Clary the window was still splintering, slowly; she could hear the grind of the glass. Through the now-crazed glass spilled a lacelike quilting of light and shadow.
 
“Welcome back, brother,” said Sebastian equably, as Jace stared around him with a face that was rapidly draining of color as he took in the room full of warriors, his friends standing horrified around him, and lastly: Clary, on her throne. “Would you like to try to kill me? You have plenty of weapons there. If you feel like you’d like to try slaying me with the heavenly fire, now is your chance.” He opened his arms wide. “I won’t fight back.”
 
Jace stood facing Sebastian. They were the same height, almost the same build, though Sebastian was thinner, more wiry. Jace was filthy and bloodstained, his gear torn, his hair tangled. Sebastian was elegant in red; even his bloody hand seemed intentional. Sebastian’s wrists were bare; around Jace’s left wrist, a silver circlet gleamed.
 
“You’re wearing my bracelet,” Sebastian observed. “‘If I cannot reach Heaven, I will raise Hell.’ Apt, don’t you think?”
 
“Jace,” Isabelle hissed. “Jace, do it. Stab him. Go on—”
 
But Jace was shaking his head. His hand had been at his weapons belt; slowly he lowered it to his side. Isabelle gave a cry of despair; the look on Alec’s face was just as bleak, though he stayed silent.
 
Sebastian lowered his arms to his sides and held out his hand. “I believe that it’s time you returned my bracelet, brother. Time you rendered unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. Give me back my possessions, including my sister. Do you renounce her to my keeping?”
 
“No!” It wasn’t Jace; it was Jocelyn. She pulled away from Luke and launched herself forward, hands reaching out for Sebastian. “You hate me—so kill me. Torture me. Do what you want to me, but leave Clary alone!”
 
Sebastian rolled his eyes. “I am torturing you.”
 
“She’s just a girl,” Jocelyn panted. “My child, my daughter—”
 
Sebastian’s hand shot out and gripped Jocelyn’s jaw, half-lifting her off the floor. “I was your child,” he said. “Lilith gave me a realm; you gave me your curse. You are no kind of mother, and you will stay away from my sister. You are alive on her sufferance. You all are. Do you understand?” He let go of Jocelyn; she staggered back, the bloody print of his hand marked on her face. Luke caught her. “You all are alive because Clarissa wants you alive. There is no other reason.”
 
“You told her you wouldn’t kill us if she ascended that throne,” Jace said, unclasping the silver bracelet from around his wrist. His voice was without inflection. He hadn’t met Clary’s eyes. “Didn’t you?”
 
“Not exactly,” said Sebastian. “I offered her something much more . . . substantial than that.”
 
“The world,” Magnus said. He appeared to be upright through sheer force of will. His voice sounded like gravel tearing his throat. “You’re sealing the borders between our world and this one, aren’t you? That’s what this rune circle is for, not just protection. So you could work your spell. That’s what you’ve been doing. If you close the gateway, you are no longer splitting your powers between two worlds. All your force will be concentrated here. With all your power concentrated in this dimension, you will be well-nigh invincible here.”
 
“If he seals the borders, how will he get back to our world?” Isabelle demanded. She had risen to her feet; her whip gleamed on her wrist, but she made no move to use it.
 
“He won’t,” said Magnus. “None of us will. The gates between the worlds will close forever, and we will be trapped here.”
 
“Trapped,” Sebastian mused. “Such an ugly word. You’ll be . . . guests.” He grinned. “Trapped guests.”
 
“That’s what you offered her,” Magnus said, raising his eyes to Clary. “You told her if she would agree to rule beside you here, you would close the borders and leave our world in peace. Rule in Edom, save the world. Right?”
 
“You’re very perceptive,” Sebastian said after a brief pause. “It’s annoying.”
 
“Clary, no!” Jocelyn cried; Luke tugged her back, but she was paying attention to nothing but her daughter. “Don’t do this—”
 
“I have to,” Clary said, speaking for the first time. Her voice caught and carried, incredibly loud in the stone room. Suddenly everyone was looking at her. Everyone but Jace. He was staring down at the bracelet held between his fingers.
 
She straightened. “I have to. Don’t you understand? If I don’t, he’ll kill everyone in our world. Destroy everything. Millions, billions of people. He’ll turn our world to this.” She gestured toward the window that looked out onto the burned plains of Edom. “It’s worth it. It has to be. I’ll learn to love him. He won’t hurt me. I believe it.”
 
“You think you can change him, temper him, make him better, because you’re the only thing he cares about,” Jocelyn said. “I know Morgenstern men. It doesn’t work. You’ll regret—”
 
“You never held the life of a whole world in your hand, Mom,” said Clary, with infinite tenderness and infinite sorrow. “There’s only so much advice you can give me.” She looked at Sebastian. “I choose what he chooses. The gift he gave me. I accept it.”
 
She saw Jace swallow. He dropped the bracelet into Sebastian’s open palm. “Clary is yours,” he said, and stepped back.
 
Sebastian snapped his fingers. “You heard her,” he said. “All of you. Kneel to your queen.”
 
No! Clary thought, but she forced herself into stillness, silence. She watched as the Endarkened began to kneel, one by one, their heads bowed; the last to kneel was Amatis, and she did not bow her head. Luke was staring at his sister, his face flayed open. It was the first time he had seen her like this, Clary realized, though he had been told of it.
 
Amatis turned and looked over her shoulder at the Shadowhunters. Her gaze caught on her brother’s for just a moment; her lip curled. It was a vicious look. “Do it,” she said. “Kneel, or I will kill you.”
 
Magnus knelt first. Clary would never have guessed that. Magnus was so proud, but then it was a pride that transcended the emptiness of gestures. She doubted it would shame him to kneel when it meant nothing to him. He went down on his knees, gracefully, and Alec followed him down; then Isabelle, then Simon, then Luke, drawing Clary’s mother down beside him. And lastly Jace, his blond head bowed, went to his knees, and Clary heard the window behind her shatter into pieces. It sounded like her breaking heart.
 
Glass rained down; behind it was bare stone. There was no longer any window that led to Alicante.
 
“It is done. The paths between the worlds are closed.” Sebastian wasn’t smiling, but he looked—incandescent. As if he were blazing. The circle of runes on the floor was shimmering with blue fire. He ran toward the platform, took the steps two at a time, and reached up to catch Clary’s hands; she let him draw her down from the throne, until she stood in front of him. He was still holding her. His hands felt like bracelets of fire around her wrists. “You accept it,” he said. “You accept your choice?”
 
“I accept it,” she said, forcing herself to look at him with absolute directness. “I do.”
 
“Then kiss me,” he said. “Kiss me like you love me.”
 
Her stomach tightened. She had been expecting this, but it was like expecting a blow to the face: Nothing could prepare you. Her face searched his; in some other world, some other time, some other brother was smiling across the grass at her, eyes as green as springtime. She tried to smile. “In front of everyone? I don’t think—”
 
“We have to show them,” he said, and his face was as immovable as an angel pronouncing a sentencing. “That we are unified. Prove yourself, Clarissa.”
 
She leaned toward him; he shivered. “Please,” she said. “Put your arms around me.”
 
She caught a flash of something in his eyes—vulnerability, surprise at being asked—before his arms came up around her. He drew her close; she laid one hand on his shoulder. Her other hand slid to her waist, where Heosphoros rested with its scabbard tucked into the belt of her gear. Her fingers curled around the back of his neck. His eyes were wide; she could see his heartbeat, pulsing in his throat.
 
“Now, Clary,” he said, and she leaned up, touching her lips to his face. She felt him shudder against her as she whispered, her lips moving against his cheek.
 
“Hail, master,” she said, and saw his eyes widen, just as she pulled Heosphoros free and brought it up in a bright arc, the blade slamming through his rib cage, the tip positioned to pierce his heart.
 
Sebastian gasped, and spasmed in her arms; he staggered back, the hilt of the blade protruding from his chest. His eyes were wide, and for a moment she saw the shock of betrayal in them, shock and pain, and it actually hurt; it hurt somewhere down deep in a place she thought she had buried long ago, a place that mourned the brother he might have been.
 
“Clary,” he gasped, starting to straighten, and now the look of betrayal in his eyes was fading, and she saw the beginning spark of rage. It hadn’t worked, she thought in terror; it hadn’t worked, and even if the borders between the worlds were sealed now, he would take it out on her, on her friends, her family, on Jace. “You know better,” he said, reaching down to grasp the hilt of the sword in his hand. “I can’t be hurt, not by any weapon under Heaven—”
 
He gasped, and broke off. His hands had closed around the hilt, just above the wound in his chest. There was no blood, but there was a flash of red, a spark—fire. The wound was beginning to burn. “What—is—this?” he demanded through clenched teeth.
 
“‘And I will give him the Morning Star,’” Clary said. “It’s not a weapon that was made under Heaven. It is Heaven’s fire.”
 
With a scream he pulled the sword free. He gave the hilt, with its hammered pattern of stars, one incredulous look before he blazed up like a seraph blade. Clary staggered back, tripped over the edge of the steps to the throne, and threw one arm partly over her face. He was burning, burning like the pillar of fire that went before the Israelites. She could still see Sebastian within the flames, but they were around him, consuming him in their white light, turning him to an outline of dark char within a flame so bright, it seared her eyes.
 
Clary looked away, burying her face in her arm. Her mind raced back through that night when she had come to Jace through the flames, and kissed him and told him to trust her. And he had, even when she had knelt down in front of him and driven the point of Heosphoros into the ground. All around it she had drawn the same rune over and over with her stele—the rune she had once seen, it felt like so long ago now, on a rooftop in Manhattan: the winged hilt of an angel’s sword.
 
A gift from Ithuriel, she guessed, who had given her so many gifts. The image had rested in her mind until she’d needed it. The rune for shaping Heaven’s fire. That night on the demon plain, the blaze all around them had evaporated, drawn into the blade of Heosphoros, until the metal had burned and glowed and sung when she’d touched it, the sound of angelic choruses. The fire had left behind only a wide circle of sand fused into glass, a substance that had glowed like the surface of the lake she had so often dreamed about, the frozen lake where Jace and Sebastian had battled to the death in her nightmares.
 
This weapon could kill Sebastian, she had said. Jace had been more dubious, careful. He had tried to take it from her, but the light had died in it when he’d touched it. It reacted only to her, the one who had created it. She had agreed that they had to be cautious, in case it didn’t work. It seemed the height of hubris to imagine she had trapped holy fire in a weapon, the way that fire had been trapped in the blade of Glorious. . . .
 
But the Angel gave you this gift to create, Jace had said. And do we not have his blood in our veins?
 
Whatever the blade had sung with, it was gone now, gone into her brother. Clary could hear Sebastian screaming, and over that, the cries of the Endarkened. A burning wind blew past her, carrying with it the tang of ancient deserts, of a place where miracles were common and the divine was manifest in fire.
 
The noise stopped as suddenly as it had started. The dais shook under Clary as a weight collapsed onto it. She looked up and saw that the fire was gone, though the ground was scarred and both thrones looked blackened, the gold on them no longer bright but charred and burned and melted.
 
Sebastian lay a few feet away from her, on his back. There was a great blackened hole across the front of his chest. He turned his head toward her, his face taut and white with pain, and her heart contracted.
 
His eyes were green.
 
The strength in her legs gave out. She collapsed to the dais on her knees. “You,” he whispered, and she stared at him in horrified fascination, unable to look away from what she had wrought. His face was utterly without color, like paper stretched over bone. She didn’t dare to look down at his chest, where his jacket had fallen away; she could see the stain of blackness across his shirt, like a spill of acid. “You put . . . the heavenly fire . . . into the blade of the sword,” he said. “It was . . . cleverly done.”
 
“It was a rune, that’s all,” she said, kneeling over him, her eyes searching his. He looked different, not just his eyes but the whole shape of his face, his jawline softer, his mouth without its cruel twist. “Sebastian . . .”
 
“No. I’m not him. I’m—Jonathan,” he whispered. “I’m Jonathan.”
 
“Go to Sebastian!” It was Amatis, rising, with all the Endarkened behind her. There was grief on her face, and rage. “Kill the girl!”
 
Jonathan struggled to sit upright. “No!” he shouted hoarsely. “Get back!”
 
The Dark Shadowhunters, who had begun to surge forward, froze in confusion. Then, pushing between them, came Jocelyn; she shoved by Amatis without a look and dashed up the steps to the dais. She moved toward Sebastian—Jonathan—and then froze, standing over him, staring down with a look of amazement, mixed with a terrible horror.
 
“Mother?” Jonathan said. He was staring, almost as if he couldn’t quite focus his eyes on her. He began to cough. Blood ran from his mouth. His breath rattled in his lungs.
 
I dream sometimes, of a boy with green eyes, a boy who was never poisoned with demon blood, a boy who could laugh and love and be human, and that is the boy I wept over, but that boy never existed.
 
Jocelyn’s face hardened, as if she were steeling herself to do something. She knelt down by Jonathan’s head and drew him up into her lap. Clary stared; she didn’t think she could have done it. Could have brought herself to touch him like that. But then her mother had always blamed herself for Jonathan’s existence. There was something in her determined expression that said that she had seen him into the world, and she would see him out.
 
The moment he was propped up, Jonathan’s breathing eased. There was bloody foam on his lips. “I am sorry,” he said with a gasp. “I am so . . .” His eyes tracked to Clary. “I know there is nothing I could do or say now that would allow me to die with even a shred of grace,” he said. “And I would hardly blame you if you cut my throat. But I am . . . I regret. I’m . . . sorry.”
 
Clary was speechless. What could she say? It’s all right? But it wasn’t all right. Nothing he had done was all right, not in the world, not to her. There were things you could not forgive.
 
And yet he had not done them, not exactly. This person, the boy her mother was holding as if he were her penance, was not Sebastian, who had tormented and murdered and wrought destruction. She remembered what Luke had said to her, what felt like years ago: The Amatis that is serving Sebastian is no more my sister than the Jace who served Sebastian was the boy you loved. No more my sister than Sebastian is the son your mother ought to have had.
 
“Don’t,” he said, and half-closed his eyes. “I see you trying to puzzle it out, my sister. Whether I ought to be forgiven the way Luke would forgive his sister if the Infernal Cup released her now. But you see, she was his sister once. She was human once. I—” And he coughed, more blood appearing on his lips. “I never existed at all. Heavenly fire burns away that which is evil. Jace survived Glorious because he is good. There was enough of him left to live. But I was born to be all corruption. There is not enough left of me to survive. You see the ghost of someone who could have been, that is all.”
 
Jocelyn was crying, tears falling silently down her face as she sat very still. Her back was straight.
 
“I must tell you,” he whispered. “When I die—the Endarkened will rush at you. I won’t be able to hold them back.” His gaze flicked to Clary. “Where’s Jace?”
 
“I’m here,” Jace said. And he was, already up on the dais, his expression hard and puzzled and sad. Clary met his eyes. She knew how hard it must have been for him to play along with her, to let Sebastian think he had her, to let Clary risk herself at the last. And she knew how this must be for him, Jace who had wanted revenge so badly, to look at Jonathan and realize that the part of Sebastian that could have been—should have been—punished was gone. Here was another person, someone else entirely, someone who had never been given a chance to live, and now never would.
 
“Take my sword,” said Jonathan, his breath coming in gasps, indicating Phaesphoros, which had fallen some feet away. “Cut—cut it open.”
 
“Cut what open?” Jocelyn said in puzzlement, but Jace was already moving, bending to seize Phaesphoros, flipping himself down from the dais. He strode across the room, past the huddled Dark Shadowhunters, past the ring of runes, to where the Behemoth demon lay dead in its ichor.
 
“What is he doing?” Clary asked, though as Jace raised the sword and sliced cleanly down into the demon’s body, it seemed obvious. “How did he know . . .”
 
“He—knows me,” Jonathan breathed.
 
A tide of stinking demon guts poured across the floor; Jace’s expression twisted with disgust—and then surprise, and then realization. He bent down and, with his bare hand, picked up something lumpy, glistening with ichor—he held it up, and Clary recognized the Infernal Cup.
 
She looked over at Jonathan. His eyes were rolling back, shudders racking his body. “T-tell him,” he stuttered. “Tell him to throw it into the ring of runes.”
 
Clary lifted her head. “Throw it into the circle!” she cried to Jace, and Amatis whipped around.
 
“No!” she cried. “If the Cup is ruined, so shall we all be!” She spun toward the dais. “Lord Sebastian! Do not let your army be destroyed! We are loyal!”
 
Jace looked at Luke. Luke was gazing at his sister with an expression of ultimate sadness, a sadness as profound as death. Luke had lost his sister forever, and Clary had only just gotten back her brother, the brother who had been gone from her all her life, and still it was death on both sides.
 
Jonathan, half-supported against Jocelyn’s shoulder, looked at Amatis; his green eyes were like lights. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I should never have made you.”
 
And he turned his face away.
 
Luke nodded, once, at Jace, and Jace flung the Cup as hard as he could into the circle of runes. It struck the ground and shattered into pieces.
 
Amatis gasped, and put her hand to her chest. For a moment—just a moment—she stared at Luke with a look of recognition in her eyes: a look of recognition, even love.
 
“Amatis,” he whispered.
 
Her body slumped to the ground. The other Endarkened followed, one by one, collapsing where they stood, until the room was full of corpses.
 
Luke turned away, too much pain in his eyes for Clary to be able to bear to look at him. She heard a cry—distant and harsh—and wondered for a moment if it was Luke, or even one of the others, horrified to see so many Nephilim fall, but the cry rose and rose and became a great shrieking howl that rattled the glass and swirled the dust outside the window that looked out on Edom. The sky turned a red the color of blood, and the cry went on, fading now, a gasping exhalation of sorrow as if the universe were weeping.
 
“Lilith,” Jonathan whispered. “She weeps for her dead children, the children of her blood. She weeps for them and for me.”

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