A Long Conversation (The Shadowhunter Chronicles)Cassandra Clare
A Long Conversation
Clary looked around the Institute’s music room with a tired but gratified smile. It was a hot New York summer night, the windows were flung open, and Magnus had magicked up icicles that sparkled down from the ceiling and cooled the space. The room was filled with people Clary loved and cared about, and in her personal opinion it looked pretty good, considering she’d had to race to find somewhere in the Institute they could hold a party on about twenty-four hours’ notice.
There was really no reason not to smile.
Two days previously, Simon had showed up at the Institute, breathless and wild-eyed. Jace and Clary had been in the training room, checking in on the new Institute tutor, Beatriz Mendoza, and some of the Conclave students.
“Simon!” Clary had exclaimed. “I didn’t know you were in town.”
Simon was a graduate of Shadowhunter Academy, Clary’s parabatai, and a Recruiter, a job created by the Consul to help replenish the diminished ranks of Shadowhunters. When likely candidates for Ascension were found, Simon would talk to them about what it meant to become a Shadowhunter after a mundane life. It was a job that often took him away from New York, which was its downside; in the plus column, Simon seemed to truly enjoy helping scared mundanes with the Sight feel like they weren’t alone.
Not that Simon looked like a dependable voice of reassurance at the moment. He looked like a tornado had hit him.
“I just proposed to Isabelle,” he announced.
Beatriz screamed with excitement. Some of the students, fearing a demon attack, also screamed. One of them fell off a rafter and thumped to the ground on a training mat. Clary burst into happy tears and threw her arms around Simon.
Jace lay down on the floor, arms thrown wide. “We’re going to be family,” he said glumly. “You and me, Simon, we’re going to be brothers. People will think we’re related.”
“No one will think that,” Simon said, his voice muffled against Clary’s hair.
“I’m so delighted for you, Simon,” Clary said. “You and Izzy will be so, so happy.” She turned and glared at Jace. “As for you, get up and congratulate Simon or I’ll pour all your expensive shampoo down the drain.”
Jace bounced up, and he and Simon pounded each other on the back in a manly way, which Clary was pleased to feel she had engineered. Jace and Simon had been friends for years now, but Jace still seemed to think he needed excuses to show his affection. Clary was happy to provide them.
“Did the proposal go well? Was it romantic? Did you surprise her? I can’t believe you didn’t tell me you were going to do it.” Clary smacked Simon on the arm. “Did you have roses? Izzy loves roses.”
“It was on impulse,” Simon said. “An impulse proposal. We were on the Brooklyn Bridge. Izzy had just snipped the head off a Shax demon.”
“Covered in ichor, she had never appeared to you more luminous?” said Jace.
“Something like that,” said Simon.
“That’s the most Shadowhunterish thing I’ve ever heard,” said Clary. “So, details? Did you get down on one knee?”
“Shadowhunters don’t do that,” said Jace.
“That’s a pity,” said Clary. “I love that part in movies.”
“So why are you looking so wild-eyed?” Jace asked. “She said yes, didn’t she?”
Simon raked his fingers through his hair. “She wants an engagement party.”
“Open bar,” said Jace, who had developed an interest in mixology that Clary found amusing. “Definitely open bar.”
“No, you don’t get it,” said Simon. “She wants it in two days.”
“Um,” Clary said. “I can see why she’d be excited to share this with her friends and family but surely it can wait a little longer . . . ?”
When Jace spoke, his voice was flat. “She wants to do it on Max’s birthday.”
“Oh,” Clary said softly. Max, the smallest, the sweetest Lightwood, Izzy and Alec’s little brother. He would be fourteen now, almost the same age as Tiberius and Livvy Blackthorn. She could understand entirely why Isabelle would want to have her engagement party at a time when it would feel most genuinely to her that Max was there. “Well, did you think of asking Magnus?”
“Of course I did,” said Simon. “And he said he’d help if he could, but they have the whole situation with Rafael . . .”
“Right,” Clary said. “So you want our help?”
“I was hoping we could have it here,” Simon said. “In the Institute. And you could help me with a few things I don’t really understand?”
Clary felt a growing sense of dread. The Institute had undergone major renovations recently; some were still ongoing. The ballroom that was hardly ever used was being turned into a second training room, and several floors were full of stacks of tiles and lumber. There was the music room, which was enormous, but packed with old cellos, pianos, and even an organ. “What kind of things?”
Simon looked at her with big brown puppy eyes. “Flowers, catering, decorations . . .”
Clary groaned. Jace ruffled her hair. “You can do it,” he said, and she could tell just from the tone of his voice that he was grinning. “Come on, you saved the world once, remember? I believe in you.”
And that was how Clary had come to be standing in the Institute’s music room, with Magnus’s sparkling icicles dripping down onto her green dress. Every once in a while Magnus would change it up a little, and illusory rose petals would blow through the room. Some of Maia’s werewolf pack had helped move the harp, the organ, and a smatter of other instruments into the adjoining empty room. (Its door was closed firmly now, half-obscured by a glamoured waterfall of tumbling butterflies.)
It reminded Clary a little of the Court of the Seelie Queen, which had been different each time she had visited it years ago: sparkling ice at some times, plush scarlet velvet at others. She felt a small pang, not for the Queen herself, who had been cruel and traitorous, but for the magic of the fey. Since the Cold Peace had been put into practice, she had not visited the Courts of Faerie again. Central Park was no longer filled with dancing on nights when the moon was full. You could no longer see pixies and mermaids in the waters of the Hudson. Sometimes, late at night, she would hear the high lonely sound of the Wild Hunt’s horn as they pounded through the sky, and think of Mark Blackthorn, and grieve. But Gwyn and his people had never been subject to any laws, and the sound of the Hunt was no replacement for the music of faerie revels that had once drifted from Hart Island.
She had talked to Jace about it, and he had agreed with her, both in his capacity as her boyfriend and also as second head of the Institute: the Shadowhunter world, without the Fair Folk, was unbalanced. Shadowhunters needed Downworlders. They always had. Trying to pretend the Fair Folk didn’t exist would only lead to disaster. But they weren’t the Council—they were only the very young leaders of a single Institute. So they waited, and tried to be prepared.
Certainly, Clary thought, there was no other Institute she could think of that would be likely to host a party quite like this one.
Beatriz’s students were standing in as waiters, carrying platters of canapés around the room—the canapés had been provided by Simon’s sister, who worked at a restaurant in Brooklyn, and the platters and cutlery were pewter, not silver, out of deference to werewolves present.
Speaking of Downworlders, Maia was laughing in a corner of the room with her hand in Bat’s. She wore a floating orange dress, her curls piled on her head and her Praetor Lupus medallion gleaming at her brown throat.
She was talking with Clary’s stepfather, Luke, whose glasses were pushed up onto his head. There was
a bit more gray in Luke’s hair these days, but his eyes were as bright as ever. Jocelyn had gone off to one of the offices to have a long chat with Maryse Lightwood, Simon’s prospective mother-in-law. Clary couldn’t help but wonder if she was delivering the maternal speech about how the Lightwoods were lucky to have Simon in their family and they’d better not forget it.
Julie Beauvale, Beatriz’s parabatai, passed by them, carrying a platter of tiny puff pastries. As Clary watched, Lily, the head of the New York vampire clan, snagged a pastry off the platter, winked at Bat and Maia, and sashayed over to the piano, passing by Simon—who was making conversation with Isabelle’s father, Robert Lightwood—on her way. Simon wore a charcoal-gray suit and looked nervous enough to jump out of his skin.
Jace was playing, his velvet blazer tossed over the back of his chair, his slim hands dancing over the piano keys. Clary couldn’t help but remember the first time she’d seen him in the Institute, playing the piano, his back to her. Alec? he’d said. Is that you?
Jace’s expression was focused and intent, the way it was only when he was doing something he considered worthy of his entire focus—fighting, or playing music, or kissing. He glanced up as if he could feel Clary’s gaze on him, and smiled at her. Even after all this time, he still gave her shivers down her spine.
She was amazingly proud of him. They had been as surprised as anyone when the Conclave had voted them in as the new heads of the Institute when Maryse had left. They’d been only nineteen years old, and she supposed they’d assumed Alec or Isabelle would take over, but neither of them wanted it. Isabelle wanted to travel, and Alec was involved with the Downworlder-Shadowhunter Alliance he was building.
They could always turn it down, Clary had said to Jace at the time. No one could force someone to head up an Institute, and they’d planned to go around the world together, while Clary painted and Jace fought demons in unusual locations. But he’d wanted to do it. She knew that in his heart he felt it was a way of paying back for the people they’d lost in the war, the people they hadn’t been able to save. For the good fortune they’d had in coming through it all with most of the people they loved unscathed. For the fact that the universe had given him Alec, and Isabelle, and Clary, when once he’d thought that he would never have a best friend, or a sister, and that he would never fall in love.
Running the Institute was hard work. It required all Jace’s ability to charm, and Clary’s instinct to keep peace and build alliances.
Alone, neither one of them could have done it, but together, Clary’s determination balanced his ambition, her knowledge of the mundane world and its practicalities, his ancient Shadowhunter blood and training. Jace had always been the natural leader of their small group, a proven strategist, excellent at being able to judge who would be best at what. Clary was the one who could reassure the frightened, as well as the one who finally got a forbidden computer installed in the strategy room.
Lily said something in Jace’s ear, probably a song request—she’d died in the twenties and was always demanding ragtime—before twirling on her red heels and heading off toward a blanket that had been spread in one corner of the room. Magnus was seated on it, his son Max, a three-year-old warlock with navy-blue skin, curled up against his side. Also on the blanket was a five-year-old boy, this one a Shadowhunter, with tangled black hair, who reached for a book Magnus held out to him and gave the warlock a shy smile.
Beatriz was suddenly at Clary’s side. “Where’s Isabelle?” she whispered.
“She wants to make an entrance,” Clary whispered back. “She was waiting for everyone to get here. Why?”
Beatriz gave her a meaningful look and cocked her head toward the door. A few seconds later, Clary was following her down the hall, the skirt of her dress hoisted up so she wouldn’t trip on the hem. She could see herself in the mirror along the corridor wall, her green dress the color of a flower stem.
Jace liked her in green, and it matched her eyes, but there had been a time when the color had troubled her. She had been unable to look at it without thinking of her brother, Jonathan, whose eyes had turned green when he died.
When he had been Sebastian, his eyes had been black. But that had been years ago.
Beatriz led her into the dining room, which was full of flowers.
Dutch tulips, Clary was pretty sure. They were piled on the chairs, on the table, on the sideboard.
“These just got delivered,” Beatriz said in a dire tone, as if they were a dead body and not some local flora.
“Okay, so what’s the problem?” Clary said.
“Isabelle’s allergic to tulips,” said a voice from the shadows.
Clary jumped. Alec Lightwood was seated in a chair at the far end of the table, wearing an untucked white shirt over black suit pants and holding a yellow tulip in one hand. He was busy plucking off the petals with his long fingers. “Beatriz, can I talk to Clary for a second?”
Beatriz nodded, looking relieved to have the problem handed off to someone else, and slipped from the room.
“What’s wrong, Alec?” Clary asked, taking a step toward him.
“Why are you in here and not with the rest of the party?”
“My mother told me the Consul might drop by,” he said darkly.
Clary stared. “And?” she said. It wasn’t as if Alec was a wanted criminal.
“You know about Rafe, right?” he said. “I mean, all the details.”
Clary hesitated. A few months previously, Alec had been sent to Buenos Aires to follow up on a set of vampire attacks. While there, he had come across a five-year-old Shadowhunter boy, a survivor of the decimation of the Buenos Aires Institute during the Dark War. He and Magnus had Portaled back and forth from Argentina over and over, telling no one what they were doing, until one day they appeared in New York with a skinny, wide-eyed little boy and announced that they were adopting him. He would be their son, and Max’s brother.
They named him Rafael Santiago Lightwood.
“When I found Rafe, he was living on the street, starving,” Alec said. “Stealing food from mundanes, having nightmares because he had the Sight and could see monsters.” He bit his lip. “The thing is, they let us adopt Max because Max is a Downworlder.
Nobody wanted him. Nobody cared. But Rafe is a Shadowhunter and Magnus—isn’t. I don’t know how the Council will feel about a Downworlder parenting a Nephilim kid, especially when they’re desperate for new Shadowhunters.”
“Alec,” Clary said firmly. “They won’t take Rafe away from you. We won’t let them.”
“I won’t let them,” said Alec. “I’d kill them all first. But that would be awkward and ruin the party.”
Clary had a brief but vivid mental image of Alec shooting at the party guests with his bow and arrow while Magnus took them out with magical fire. She sighed. “Do you have any reason to think they’ll take Rafe? Has there been any sign, any complaint from the Council?”
Alec shook his head. “No. It’s just—you know this Council. The Cold Peace means they’re edgy all the time. And even though there are Downworlders on the Council now, they don’t trust them. Sometimes I think they’re worse than they were before the Dark War.”
“I’m not going to say you’re wrong,” Clary said. “But can I suggest something?”
“Is it poisoning the punch?” Alec asked with worrisome eagerness.
“No,” Clary said. “I was just going to say that you might be displacing your anxiety.”
Alec looked puzzled. Mundane psychological terms were fairly hit or miss with Shadowhunters.
“You’re really worried because having a kid is a big deal, and this was sudden,” said Clary. “But Max was sudden too. And you and Magnus are terrific parents. You love each other so much, and that just makes for more love that you have to give. You should never worry that you don’t have plenty of love for as many kids as you would ever want to have.”
Alec’s eyes glittered for a moment, bright blue under coal-black lashes. He
stood up and came over to where Clary was standing by the door. “Wise girl,” he said.
“You didn’t always think I was wise.”
“No, I thought you were a pest, but I know better now.” He dropped a kiss on top of her head and went out the door, still carrying his tulip.
“Throw that out before you get back to the music room!” Clary called after him, imagining Isabelle laid out on the floor with hives.
She sighed and stared at the tulips. She supposed they could have a party without flowers. Still—
There was a knock on the door. A girl in a patchwork silk dress with long brown braids peeked around it. Rebecca, Simon’s sister. “Can I come in?” she asked, swinging the door open. “Whoa, tulips!”
“Isabelle’s allergic to tulips,” said Clary grimly. “Apparently.”
“Bummer,” said Rebecca. “Can you talk for a second?”
Clary nodded. “Sure, why not?”
Rebecca came in and perched herself on the corner of the table.
“I wanted to thank you,” she said.
“For everything.” Rebecca looked around the room, taking in the portraits of Shadowhunter ancestors, the motifs of angels and crossed swords. “I still don’t know all that much about this Shadowhunter business. Simon can only tell me a little bit without tripping off some kind of alarm. I don’t really know what his job is—”
“He’s a Recruiter,” said Clary, knowing that this would mean nothing to Rebecca, but she was proud of Simon. Everything that had happened to him that was hard, that was painful, that was a challenge—being a vampire, losing his memories, becoming a Shadowhunter, losing George—he had turned into a way to help people. “We lost a lot of Shadowhunters in the war five years ago.
And since then we’ve been trying to make new ones. The best candidates are mundanes who have some Shadowhunter blood, which often means they don’t know they’re Shadowhunters but they do have the Sight. They can see vampires, werewolves, magic—things that might make you think you were going crazy. Simon talks to them, tells them about becoming a Shadowhunter, why it’s hard—and why it matters.”