THE BEST IS LOST
“Clary. Jace. Wake up.”
Clary raised her head and almost yelped as a twinge shot through her stiff neck. She’d fallen asleep curled up against Jace’s shoulder; he was asleep too, wedged into the corner of the sofa with his jacket wadded up under his head as a pillow. The hilt of his sword dug uncomfortably into Clary’s hip as he groaned and straightened up.
The Consul stood over them, dressed in Council robes, unsmiling. Jace scrambled to his feet. “Consul,” he said¸ in as dignified a voice as he could muster with his clothes rumpled and his light hair sticking out in every possible direction.
“We nearly forgot the two of you were in here,” Jia said. “The Council meeting has begun.”
Clary got to her feet more slowly, working out the cricks in her back and neck. Her mouth was as dry as chalk, and her body ached with tension and exhaustion. “Where’s my mother?” she said. “Where’s Luke?”
“I’ll wait for you in the hall,” Jia said, but she didn’t move.
Jace was sliding his arms into his jacket. “We’ll be right along, Consul.”
There was something in the Consul’s voice that made Clary look at her again. Jia was pretty, like her daughter Aline, but at the moment there were sharp lines of tension at the corners of her mouth and eyes. Clary had seen that look before.
“What’s going on?” she demanded. “There’s something wrong, isn’t there? Where’s my mother? Where’s Luke?”
“We’re not sure,” Jia said quietly. “They never responded to the message that we sent to them last night.”
Too many shocks, delivered too quickly, had left Clary numb. She didn’t gasp or exclaim, only felt a coldness spread through her veins. She seized up Heosphoros from the table where she’d left it, and shoved it through her belt. Without another word she pushed past the Consul, into the hallway outside.
Simon was waiting there. He looked rumpled and exhausted, pale even for a vampire. She reached to squeeze his hand, fingers brushing across the gold leaf ring on his finger as she did.
“Simon’s coming to the Council meeting,” Clary said, her look daring the Consul to say anything in return.
Jia simply nodded. She looked like someone who was too tired to argue anymore. “He can be the Night Children’s representative.”
“But Raphael was going to stand in for the representative,” Simon protested, alarmed. “I’m not prepared—”
“We haven’t been able to reach any of the Downworld representatives, Raphael included.” Jia began to make her way down the hall. The walls were wood, with the pale color and sharp scent of freshly cut lumber. This must have been part of the Gard that had been rebuilt after the Mortal War—Clary had been too tired to notice the night before. Runes of angelic power were cut into the walls at intervals. Each glowed with a deep light, illuminating the windowless corridor.
“What do you mean, you haven’t been able to reach them?” Clary demanded, hurrying after Jia. Simon and Jace followed. The corridor curved, leading deeper into the heart of the Gard. Clary could hear a dull roar, like the sound of the ocean, just ahead of them.
“Neither Luke nor your mother came back from their appointment at the house of the Fair Folk.” The Consul paused in a large antechamber. There was a good deal of natural light here, pouring through windows made up of alternating squares of plain and colored glass. Double doors stood before them, blazoned with the triptych of the Angel and the Mortal Instruments.
“I don’t understand,” Clary said, her voice rising. “So they’re still there? At Meliorn’s?”
Jia shook her head. “The house is empty.”
“But—what about Meliorn, what about Magnus?”
“Nothing is certain yet,” Jia said. “There is no one in the house, nor are any of the representatives responding to messages. Patrick is out searching the city now with a team of guards.”
“Was there blood in the house?” Jace asked. “Signs of a struggle, anything?”
Jia shook her head. “No. The food was still on the table. It was as if they just—vanished into thin air.”
“There’s more, isn’t there?” Clary said. “I can tell by your expression that there’s more.”
Jia didn’t answer, just pushed the door of the Council room open. Noise poured out into the antechamber. This was the sound Clary had been hearing, like the crash of the ocean. She hurried past the Consul and paused in the doorway, hovering uncertainly.
The Council room, so orderly only a few days before, was full of shouting Shadowhunters. Everyone was standing, some in groups and some apart. Most of the groups were arguing. Clary couldn’t make out the words, but she could see the angry gestures. Her eyes scanned the crowd for familiar faces—no Luke, no Jocelyn, but there were the Lightwoods, Robert in his Inquisitor’s robes beside Maryse; there were Aline and Helen, and the crowd of Blackthorn children.
And there, down in the center of the amphitheater, were the four carved wooden seats of the Downworlders, set around the lecterns in a half circle. They were empty, and splashed across the floorboards in front of them was a single word, scrawled in a crooked hand, in what looked like sticky gold paint:
Jace moved past Clary, into the room. His shoulders were tight as he stared down at the scrawl. “That’s ichor,” he said. “Angel blood.”
In a flash Clary saw the library at the Institute, the floor slicked with blood and feathers, the angel’s hollow bones.
I am coming.
And now the single word: Veni.
I have come.
A second message. Oh, Sebastian had been busy. Stupid, she thought, so stupid of her to think he’d come only for her, that it hadn’t been part of something larger, that he hadn’t wanted more, more destruction, more terror, more upheaval. She thought of his smirk when she’d mentioned the battle at the Citadel. Of course it had been more than an attack; it had been a distraction. Turning the gaze of the Nephilim outward from Alicante, making them search the world for him and his Endarkened, panicking them over the wounded and dead. And in the meantime Sebastian had found his way to the heart of the Gard and painted the floor in blood.
Near the dais was a group of Silent Brothers in their bone-colored robes, faces hidden by hoods. Her memory sparking, Clary turned to Jace. “Brother Zachariah—I never got a chance to ask you if you knew whether he was all right?”
Jace was staring at the writing on the dais, a sick look on his face. “I saw him in the Basilias. He’s all right. He’s—different.”
“Human different,” Jace said, and before Clary could ask him what he meant, she heard someone call her name.
Down in the center of the room, she saw a hand rise out of the crowd, waving toward her frantically. Isabelle. She was standing with Alec, a little distance from their parents. Clary heard Jia call out after her, but she was pushing through the crowd already, Jace and Simon at her heels. She sensed curious stares being cast in her direction. Everyone knew who she was, after all. Knew who they all were. Valentine’s daughter, Valentine’s adopted son, and the Daylighter vampire.
“Clary!” Isabelle called as Clary, Jace, and Simon pulled free of the staring onlookers and nearly fell into the Lightwood siblings, who had managed to clear a small space for themselves in the middle of the crowd. Isabelle shot an irritated glance at Simon before reaching out to hug Jace and Clary. As soon as she released Jace, Alec pulled him over by the sleeve and hung on, his knuckles whitening around the fabric. Jace looked surprised, but said nothing.
“Is it true?” Isabelle said to Clary. “Sebastian was at your house last night?”
“At Amatis’s, yes—how did you know?” Clary demanded.
“Our father’s the Inquisitor; of course we know,” said Alec. “Rumors about Sebastian being in the city were all everyone was talking about before they opened up the Council room and we saw—this.”
“It’s true,” Simon added. “The Consul asked me about it when she woke me up—like I’d know anything. I slept through it,” he added as Isabelle shot him an inquiring look.
“Did the Consul say anything to you about this?” Alec demanded, sweeping an arm toward the grim scene below. “Did Sebastian?”
“No,” Clary said. “Sebastian doesn’t exactly share his plans.”
“He shouldn’t have been able to get to the Downworld representatives. Not only is Alicante guarded, but each of their safe houses is warded,” said Alec. There was a pulse going in his throat like a hammer; his hand, where it rested on Jace’s sleeve, was shaking with a fine tremor. “They were at dinner. They should have been safe.” He let go of Jace and jammed his hands into his pockets. “And Magnus—Magnus wasn’t even supposed to be here. Catarina was coming instead of him.” He looked at Simon. “I saw you with him in Angel Square on the night of the battle,” he said. “Did he say why he was in Alicante?”
Simon shook his head. “He just shooed me away. He was healing Clary.”
“Maybe this is a bluff,” Alec said. “Maybe Sebastian is trying to make us think he’s done something to the Downworld representatives to throw us off—”
“We don’t know that he’s done anything to them. But—they are missing,” Jace said quietly, and Alec looked away, as if he couldn’t bear to meet their gazes.
“Veni,” Isabelle whispered, looking at the dais. “Why . . . ?”
“He’s telling us he has power,” Clary said. “Power none of us even begin to understand.” She thought of the way he’d appeared in her room and then disappeared. Of the way the ground had opened under his feet at the Citadel, as if the earth were welcoming him in, hiding him from the threat of the world above.
A sharp report rang out through the room, the bell that called the Council to order. Jia had moved to the lectern, an armed Clave guard in hooded robes on either side of her.
“Shadowhunters,” she said, and the word echoed as clearly through the room as if she’d used a microphone. “Please be silent.”
The room subsided gradually into quiet, though from the rebellious looks on quite a few faces, it was an uncooperative quiet. “Consul Penhallow!” called out Kadir. “What answers do you have for us? What is the meaning of this—this desecration?”
“We’re not sure,” said Jia. “It happened in the night, in between one watch of guards and another.”
“This is vengeance,” said a thin, dark-haired Shadowhunter whom Clary recognized as the head of the Budapest Institute. Lazlo Balogh, she thought his name was. “Vengeance for our victories in London and at the Citadel.”
“We didn’t have victories in London and at the Citadel, Lazlo,” said Jia. “The London Institute turned out to be protected by a force even we were unaware of, one we cannot replicate. The Shadowhunters there were warned and led to safety. Even then, a few were injured: None of Sebastian’s forces were harmed. At best it could be called a successful retreat.”
“But the attack on the Citadel,” Lazlo protested. “He did not enter the Citadel. He did not reach the armory there—”