“Izzy!” Alec dropped his bow and launched himself across the bloody floor at his sister. He fell to his knees, hauling her up into his lap. He yanked the stele from her belt. “Iz, Izzy, hold on—”
Jace, who had gathered up Alec’s fallen bow, looked like he was going to throw up or fall; Clary saw with dull surprise that Simon had his hand on Jace’s arm, his fingers digging in, as if he were holding Jace up.
Alec tore at the slashed fabric of Isabelle’s gear, ripping her trouser leg open to the knee. Clary stifled a cry. Isabelle’s leg was ribboned: it looked like pictures of shark bites Clary had seen, blood and pulped tissue surrounding deep indents.
Alec put his stele to the skin of her knee and drew an iratze, and then another an inch farther down. His shoulders were shaking, but his hand was steady. Clary wrapped her hand around Jace’s and squeezed. His was ice-cold.
“Izzy,” Alec whispered as the iratzes faded and sank into her skin, leaving white remnants behind. Clary remembered Hodge, how they had drawn healing rune after healing rune on him, but his wounds had been too great: the runes had faded, and he had bled out and died despite the runes’ power.
Alec looked up. The shape of his face was awkward, twisted; there was blood on his cheek: Isabelle’s, Clary thought. “Clary,” he said. “Maybe if you try—”
Simon suddenly stiffened. “We need to get out of here,” he said. “I can hear wings. There’s going to be more of them.”
Isabelle was no longer gasping. The bleeding from the slash in her leg had slowed, but Clary could see, with a sinking heart, that the wounds were still there, a puffed and angry red.
Alec rose, cradling his sister’s limp body in his arms, her black hair hanging down like a flag. “Go where?” he said harshly. “If we run, they’ll be on us—”
Jace whirled around. “Clary—”
His eyes were full of pleading. Clary’s heart broke for him. Jace, who hardly ever pleaded for anything. For Isabelle, the bravest of them all.
Alec looked from the statue to Jace, to the pale face of his unconscious sister. “Someone,” he said, his voice cracking, “do something—”
Clary spun on her heel and ran for the wall. She half-flung herself against it, yanking her stele free from her boot, and went for the stone. The contact of the instrument’s tip with the marble sent a shock wave up her arm, but she pressed on, her fingers vibrating as she drew. Black lines fissured out across the stone, cracking into the shape of a door; the edges of the lines began to shimmer. Behind her Clary could hear the demons: the bellow of their voices, the flap of taloned wings, their hissing calls rising to shrieks as the door blazed up with light.
It was a silvery rectangle, as depthless as water but not water, framed with fiery runes. A Portal. Clary reached out with one hand, touched the surface. Every part of her mind concentrated on visualizing a single place. “Come on!” she screamed, her eyes fixed on it, not moving as Alec, carrying his sister, darted past her and disappeared into it, vanishing utterly. Simon followed him, and then Jace, catching at her free hand as he went. Clary only had a moment to turn and look behind her—a great black wing swept across her vision, a terrifying glimpse of teeth dripping poison—before the storm of the Portal took her and whirled her away into chaos.
Clary slammed into the ground hard, bruising her knees. The Portal had torn her away from Jace; she rolled to her feet quickly and looked around, breathing hard—what if the Portal hadn’t worked? What if it had taken them to the wrong place?
But the cave roof rose above, familiar and towering, marked with runes. There was the fire pit, the scuff marks on the floor where they had all slept the night before. Jace, rising to his feet, Alec’s bow falling from his hand, Simon—
And Alec, on his knees beside Isabelle. Any satisfaction Clary felt at her success with the Portal popped like a balloon. Isabelle lay still and drained-looking, gasping shallow breaths. Jace dropped down beside Alec and touched Isabelle’s hair gently.
Clary felt Simon clasp her wrist. His voice was ragged. “If you can do anything—”
She moved forward as if in a dream, and knelt down on the other side of Isabelle, opposite Jace, stele slipping in her bloody fingers. She put the tip to Izzy’s wrist, remembering what she had done outside the Adamant Citadel, how she had poured herself into healing Jace. Heal, heal, heal, she prayed, and finally the stele jerked to life and the black lines began to spiral sluggishly across Izzy’s forearm. Izzy moaned and jerked in Alec’s arms. He had his head down, his face buried against his sister’s hair. “Izzy, please,” he whispered. “Not after Max. Izzy, please, stay with me.”
Isabelle gasped, her eyelids fluttering. She arched up—and then sank back as the iratze vanished from her skin. A dull pulse of blood oozed sluggishly from the wound in her leg: the blood looked tinted black. Clary’s hand tightened so hard on her stele, she felt it bend in her hand. “I can’t do it,” she whispered. “I can’t make one strong enough.”
“It’s not you; it’s the poison,” Jace said. “Demon poison. In her blood. Sometimes runes can’t help.”
“Try again,” Alec said to Clary; his eyes were dry, but with a terrible brightness. “With the iratze. Or with a new rune; you could create a rune—”
Clary’s mouth was dry. Never had she wanted to create a rune more, but the stele no longer felt like an extension of her arm; it felt like a dead thing in her hand. She had never felt more helpless.
Isabelle was taking rasping breaths. “Something has to help!” Simon shouted suddenly, his voice echoing off the walls. “You’re Shadowhunters; you fight demons all the time. You have to be able to do something—”
“And we die all the time!” Jace shouted back at him, and then suddenly crumpled over Isabelle’s body, doubling up as if he’d been punched in the stomach. “Isabelle, God, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry—”
“Move,” Simon said, and suddenly he was on his knees next to Isabelle, all of them grouped around her, and Clary was reminded of the horrible tableau in the Accords Hall when the Lightwoods had gathered around Max’s dead body, and it couldn’t be happening again, it couldn’t—
“Leave her alone,” Alec snarled. “You’re not her family, vampire—”
“No,” Simon said, “I’m not.” And his fangs snapped out, sharp and white. Clary sucked in her breath as Simon raised his own wrist to his mouth and tore at it, slicing open the veins, and blood ran in rivulets down his arm.
Jace’s eyes widened. He stood up and backed away; his hands were in fists, but he didn’t move to stop Simon, who held his wrist over the gash in Isabelle’s leg and let his blood run down his fingers, spattering onto her, covering her wound.
“What . . . are . . . you . . . doing?” Alec ground out between his teeth, but Jace flung up a hand, his eyes on Simon.
“Let him,” Jace said, almost in a whisper. “It can work, I’ve heard of it working. . . .”
Isabelle, still unconscious, arched back into her brother’s arms. Her leg was twitching. The heel of her boot dug into the ground as her ribboned skin began to knit itself back together. Simon’s blood poured in a steady stream, covering the injury, but even beneath the blood Clary could see that new, pink skin was covering the torn mess of flesh.
Isabelle’s eyes opened. They were wide and dark. Her lips had been almost white, but color was starting to come back into them. She stared at Simon uncomprehendingly, and then down at her leg.
The skin that had been torn and shredded looked clean and pale, only a faint half-moon of neatly spaced white scars left to show where the demon’s teeth had gone in. Simon’s blood was still dripping slowly from his fingers, though the wound in his wrist had mostly healed. He looked pale, Clary realized anxiously, much paler than usual, and his veins were standing out blackly against his skin. He lifted his wrist to his mouth, his teeth bared—
“Simon, no!” Isabelle said, struggling to sit up against Alec, who was staring down at her with shocked blue eyes.
Clary caught Simon’s wrist. “It’s all right,” she said. Blood stained his sleeve, his shirt, the corners of his mouth. His skin was cold under her touch, his wrist pulseless. “It’s okay—Isabelle’s okay,” she said, and drew Simon to his feet. “Let’s give them a second,” she said softly, and led him away to where he could lean against her by the wall. Jace and Alec were bending over Isabelle, their voices low and murmuring. Clary held Simon by the wrist as he slumped back against the stone, his eyes fluttering shut in exhaustion.