Clary looked slowly around the room. Some of the Nephilim looked anxious, others fearful, others full of rage. And others were calculating. She remembered the day when she had stood up in the Hall of Accords in front of these same people and showed them the Binding rune that could win their war. They had been grateful, then. But this was also the same Council who had voted to cease searching for Jace when Sebastian had taken him, because one boy’s life had not been worth their resources.
Especially when that boy had been Valentine’s adopted son.
She had thought once that there were good people and bad people, that there was a side of light and a side of darkness, but she no longer thought that. She had seen evil, in her brother and her father, the evil of good intentions gone wrong and the evil of sheer desire for power. But in goodness there was also no safety: Virtue could cut like a knife, and the fire of Heaven was blinding.
She moved away from Alec and Isabelle, felt Simon catch at her arm. She turned and looked at him, and shook her head. You have to let me do this.
His dark eyes pleaded with her. “Don’t,” he whispered.
“He said both of us,” she whispered back. “If Jace goes to Sebastian without me, Sebastian will kill him.”
“He’ll kill you both anyway.” Isabelle was nearly crying with frustration. “You can’t go, and Jace can’t either—Jace!”
Jace turned to look at them. Clary saw his expression change as he realized she was struggling to get to him. He shook his head, mouthing the word: “No.”
“Give us time,” Robert Lightwood called. “Give us some time to cast a vote, at least.”
Matthias drew the knife away from Jia’s throat and held it aloft; his other arm circled her, his hand gripping the front of her robes. He raised the knife toward the ceiling, and light sparked off it at the gesture. “Time,” he sneered. “Why should Sebastian give you time?”
A sharp singing noise cut the air. Clary saw something bright shoot past her, and heard the noise of metal striking metal as an arrow slammed into the knife Matthias held above Jia’s head, knocking it free of his grasp. Clary whipped her head sideways and saw Alec, his bow raised, the string still vibrating.
Matthias let out a roar and staggered back, his hand bleeding. Jia darted away from him as he dived for his fallen blade. Clary heard Jace call out “Nakir!” He had drawn a seraph blade from his belt and its light illuminated the hall. “Get out of my way!” he shouted, and began to shoulder his way down the steps, toward the dais.
“No!” Alec, dropping his bow, flung himself over the back of the row of benches, and dived on top of Jace, knocking him to the ground just as the dais went up in flames like a bonfire doused with gasoline. Jia cried out and leaped from the platform into the crowd; Kadir caught her and lowered her gently as all the Shadowhunters turned to stare at the rising flames.
“What the hell,” Simon whispered, his fingers still clasped around Clary’s arm. She could see Matthias, a black shadow at the heart of the flames. They were clearly not harming him; he seemed to be laughing, throwing up his arms over and over as if he were a conductor directing an orchestra of fire. The room was full of shrieks and the stink and crackle of burning wood. Aline had run to clutch at her bleeding mother, weeping; Helen was watching helplessly as, along with Julian, she tried to shield the younger Blackthorns from what was happening below.
No one was shielding Emma, though. She was standing apart from the group, her small face white with shock as, over the already horrible sounds filling the room, Matthias’s cries pierced the din: “Two days, Nephilim! You have two days to decide your fate! And then you will all burn! You will burn in the fires of Hell, and the ashes of Edom will cover your bones!”
His voice rose to an unearthly shriek and was suddenly silenced, as the flames dropped away and he disappeared along with them. The last of the embers licked across the floor, their glowing tips barely touching the message still scrawled in ichor across the dais.
I HAVE COME.
It had taken Maia two minutes of deep breathing outside the apartment door before she could bring herself to slide the key into the lock.
Everything in the hallway seemed normal, eerily so. Jordan’s coats, and Simon’s, hung on pegs in the narrow entranceway. The walls were decorated with street signs bought from flea markets.
She moved into the living room, which seemed frozen in time: The TV was on, the screen showing dark static, the two game controllers still on the couch. They’d forgotten to turn off the coffeepot. She went and flipped the switch, trying as hard as she could to ignore all the pictures of herself and Jordan stuck to the fridge: them on the Brooklyn Bridge, drinking coffee at the Waverly Place diner, Jordan laughing and showing off his fingernails, which Maia had painted blue and green and red. She hadn’t realized how many pictures he’d taken of them, as if he’d been trying to record every second of their interactions, lest they slip through his memories like water.
She had to steel herself again before she could go into the bedroom. The bed was still mussed and untucked—Jordan had never been particularly neat—his clothes scattered around the room. Maia went across the room to the bureau where she’d kept her own belongings and stripped off Leila’s clothes.
With relief she threw on her own jeans and T-shirt. She was reaching to pull out a coat when the doorbell rang.
Jordan had kept his weapons, issued to him by the Praetor, in the trunk at the foot of the bed. She flung the trunk open and scooped up a heavy iron vial with a cross carved into the front.
She flung on her coat and stalked into the living room, the vial in her pocket, her fingers wrapped around it. She reached out and yanked the front door open.
The girl who stood on the other side had dark hair falling sheer to her shoulders. Against it her skin was dead white, her lips dark red. She wore a severely tailored black suit; she was a modern Snow White in blood, char, and ice. “You called me,” she said. “Jordan Kyle’s girlfriend, am I correct?”
Lily—she’s one of the smartest of the vampire clan. Knows everything. She and Raphael were always thick as thieves.
“Don’t act like you don’t know, Lily,” Maia snapped. “You’ve been here before; I’m pretty sure you grabbed Simon from this apartment for Maureen.”
“And?” Lily crossed her arms, making her expensive suit crackle. “Are you going to invite me in, or not?”
“I’m not,” said Maia. “We’re going to talk here, in the hallway.”
“Dull.” Lily leaned back against the wall with its peeling paint, and made a face. “Why did you summon me here, werewolf?”
“Maureen is crazy,” said Maia. “Raphael and Simon are gone. Sebastian Morgenstern is murdering Downworlders to make a point to the Nephilim. And maybe it’s time for the vampires and lycanthropes to talk. Even to ally.”
“Well, aren’t you as cute as a bug’s ear,” Lily said, and stood up straight. “Look, Maureen’s crazy, but she’s still the clan leader. And I can tell you one thing. She isn’t going to parley with some jumped-up pack member who’s lost the plot because her boyfriend died.”
Maia tightened her grip on the bottle in her hand. She yearned to throw the contents in Lily’s face, so much so that it frightened her.
“Call me when you’re the pack leader.” There was a dark light in the vampire girl’s eyes, as if she were trying to tell Maia something without saying the words. “And we’ll talk then.”
Lily turned and clicked off down the hallway on her high heels. Slowly Maia loosened her grip on the bottle of holy water in her pocket.
“Nice shot,” Jace said.
“You don’t need to make fun of me.” Alec and Jace were in one of the Gard’s dizzying array of meeting rooms—not the same room Jace had been in earlier with Clary, but another more austere room in an older part of the Gard. The walls were stone, and there was one long bench that ran across the west wall. Jace was kneeling on it, his jacket thrown aside, the right sleeve of his shirt rolled up.
“I’m not,” Jace protested as Alec set the tip of his stele to the bare skin of Jace’s arm. As the dark lines began to spiral out from the adamas, Jace couldn’t help but remember another day, in Alicante, Alec bandaging Jace’s hand, telling him angrily: You can heal slow and ugly, like a mundane. Jace had put his hand through a window that day; he’d deserved everything Alec had said to him.
Alec exhaled slowly; he was always very careful with his runes, especially the iratzes. He seemed to feel the slight burn, the sting against the skin that Jace felt, though Jace had never minded the pain—the map of white scars that covered his biceps and ran down to his forearm attested to that. There was a special strength to a rune given by your parabatai. It was why they had sent the two of them away, while the rest of the Lightwood family met in the Consul’s offices, so that Alec could heal Jace as quickly and efficiently as possible. Jace had been rather startled; he’d half-expected them to make him sit through the meeting with his wrist blue and swelling up.
“I’m not,” Jace said again, as Alec finished and stepped back to examine his handiwork. Already Jace could feel the numbing of the iratze spreading through his veins, soothing the pain in his arm, sealing his split lip. “You hit Matthias’s knife from halfway across an amphitheater. Clean shot, didn’t hit Jia at all. And he was moving around, too.”
“I was motivated.” Alec slid his stele back into his belt. His dark hair hung raggedly into his eyes; he hadn’t gotten it properly cut since he and Magnus had broken up.
Magnus. Jace closed his eyes. “Alec,” he said. “I’ll go. You know I’ll go.”
“You’re saying that like you think it’ll reassure me,” said Alec. “You think I want you to give yourself up to Sebastian? Are you crazy?”
“I think it might be the only way to get Magnus back.” Jace spoke into the darkness behind his eyelids.
“And you’re willing to barter Clary’s life too?” Alec’s tone was acid. Jace’s eyes flew open; Alec was looking at him steadily, but without expression.
“No,” Jace said, hearing the defeat in his own voice. “I couldn’t do that.”
“And I wouldn’t ask it,” said Alec. “This—this is what Sebastian’s trying to do. Drive wedges between all of us, using the people we love as hooks to pull us apart. We shouldn’t let him.”
“When did you get so wise?” Jace said.
Alec laughed, a short, brittle laugh. “The day I’m wise is the day you’re careful.”
“Maybe you’ve always been wise,” Jace said. “I remember when I asked if you wanted to be parabatai, and you said you needed a day to think about it. And then you came back and said yes, and when I asked you why you agreed to do it, you said it was because I needed someone to look after me. You were right. I never thought about it again, because I never had to. I had you, and you’ve always looked after me. Always.”
Alec’s expression tightened; Jace could almost see the tension thrumming through his parabatai’s veins. “Don’t,” Alec said. “Don’t talk like that.”
“Because,” Alec said. “That’s how people talk when they think they’re going to die.”