“I . . .” Simon looked at Isabelle, who glanced at her brother.
After a moment Alec nodded. “We trusted you enough to come here,” he said. “We’ll trust you to the end.”
“Although it would be really awesome if you told us the plan, you know, a little before it,” said Isabelle. “Before the end, I mean.”
Alec raised an eyebrow at her. She shrugged innocently.
“Just a little before,” she said. “I like to have some preparation.”
Her brother’s eyes met hers and then, a little hoarsely—as if he’d almost forgotten how to do it—he started to laugh.
To the Consul:
The Fair Folk are not your allies. They are your enemies. They hate the Nephilim and plan to betray them and bring them down. They have cooperated with Sebastian Morgenstern in attacking and destroying Institutes. Do not trust Meliorn or any other advisers from any Court. The Seelie Queen is your enemy. Do not try to respond to this message. I ride with the Wild Hunt now, and they will kill me if they think I have told you anything.
Jia Penhallow looked over her reading glasses at Emma and Julian, who stood nervously in front of the desk in the library of her house. A large picture window opened behind the Consul, and Emma could see the view of Alicante spread out: houses spilling down the hills, canals running toward the Accords Hall, Gard Hill rising against the sky.
Jia glanced down again at the paper they had brought her. It had been folded up with almost diabolical cleverness inside the acorn, and it had taken ages, and Ty’s skilled fingers, to get it extricated. “Did your brother write anything else besides this? A private message to you?”
“No,” Julian said, and there must have been something in the wounded tightness of his voice that made Jia believe him, because she didn’t pursue it.
“You realize what this means,” she said. “The Council will not want to believe it. They will say it’s a trick.”
“It’s Mark’s handwriting,” said Julian. “And the way he signed it—” He pointed to the mark at the bottom of the page: a clear print of thorns, made in what looked like red-brown ink. “He rolled his family ring in blood and used it to make that,” Julian said, his face flushed. “He showed me how to do it once. No one else would have the Blackthorn family ring, or know to do that with it.”
Jia looked from Julian’s clenched fists to Emma’s set face, and nodded. “Are you all right?” she said more gently. “Do you know what the Wild Hunt is?”
Ty had lectured them rather extensively on it, but Emma found that now, with the Consul’s compassionate dark gaze on her, she couldn’t find words. It was Julian who spoke. “Faeries that are huntsmen,” he said. “They ride across the sky. People think that if you follow them, they can lead you to the land of the dead, or to Faerie.”
“Gwyn ap Nudd leads them,” said Jia. “He has no allegiance; he is part of a wilder magic. He is called the Gatherer of the Dead. Though he is a faerie, he and his huntsmen are not involved with the Accords. They have no agreement with Shadowhunters and do not recognize our jurisdiction, and they will not abide by laws, any laws. Do you understand?”
They looked at her blankly. She sighed. “If Gwyn has taken your brother to be one of his Hunters, it might be impossible—”
“You’re saying you won’t be able to get him back,” Emma said, and saw something in Julian’s eyes shatter. The sight made her want to leap over the desk and clobber the Consul with her stack of neatly labeled files, each with a different name on it.
One leaped out at Emma like a sign lit up in neon. CARSTAIRS: DECEASED. She tried not to let the recognition of her family name show on her face.
“I’m saying I don’t know.” The Consul spread her hands flat over the surface of the desk. “There’s so much we don’t know right now,” she said, and her voice sounded quiet and nearly broken. “To lose the Fair Folk as allies is a severe blow. Of all Downworlders, they are the subtlest enemies, and the most dangerous.” She rose to her feet. “Wait here for a moment.”
She left the room through a door in the paneling, and after a few moments of silence, Emma heard the sound of feet and the murmur of Patrick’s voice. She caught individual words—“trial” and “mortal” and “betrayal.”
She could sense Julian beside her, wound as tightly as a spring-loaded crossbow. She reached out to touch her hand lightly to his back, and drew between his shoulder blades with her finger: A-R-E Y-O-U A-L-L R-I-G-H-T?
He shook his head, without looking at her. Emma glanced toward the stack of files on the desk, then toward the door, then at Julian, silent and expressionless, and decided. She launched herself at the desk, plunging her hand into the stack of files, and pulled out the one labeled CARSTAIRS.
It was a bound file, not heavy, and Emma reached out to yank up Julian’s shirt. She muffled his cry of surprise with a hand over his mouth, and used the other hand to stuff the file into the back of his jeans. She pulled his shirt down over it just as the door opened and Jia walked back in.
“Would you two be willing to testify before the Council one last time?” she asked, gazing from Emma, who guessed she was probably flushed, to Julian, who looked as if he had been electrified. His gaze hardened, and Emma marveled. Julian was so gentle, she sometimes forgot that those sea-colored eyes could turn as cold as the waves off the coast in winter. “No Mortal Sword,” the Consul said. “I just want you to tell them what you know.”
“If you promise you’ll try to get Mark back,” said Julian. “And you won’t just say it, you’ll actually do it.”
Jia looked at him solemnly. “I promise that the Nephilim will not abandon Mark Blackthorn, not as long as he lives.”
Julian’s shoulders relaxed just a fraction. “Okay, then.”