Chain of GoldCassandra Clare
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For Clary (the real one)
That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But, it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been. Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.
—Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
DAYS PAST: 1897
Lucie Herondale was ten years old when she first met the boy in the forest.
Growing up in London, Lucie had never imagined a place like Brocelind. The forest surrounded Herondale Manor on all sides, its trees bent together at the tops like cautious whisperers: dark green in the summer, burnished gold in the fall. The carpeting of moss underfoot was so green and soft that her father told her it was a pillow for faeries at night, and that the white stars of the flowers that grew only in the hidden country of Idris made bracelets and rings for their delicate hands.
James, of course, told her that faeries didn’t have pillows, they slept underground and they stole away naughty little girls in their sleep. Lucie stepped on his foot, which meant that Papa swept her up and carried her back to the house before a fight could erupt. James came from the ancient and noble line of Herondale, but that didn’t mean he was above pulling his little sister’s plaits if the need arose.
Late one night the brightness of the moon woke Lucie. It was pouring into her room like milk, laying white bars of light over her bed and across the polished wood floor.
She slipped out of bed and climbed through the window, dropping lightly to the flower bed underneath. It was a summer night and she was warm in her nightdress.
The edge of the forest, just past the stables where their horses were kept, seemed to glow. She flitted toward it like a small ghost. Her slippered feet barely disturbed the moss as she slid in between the trees.
She amused herself at first by making chains of flowers and hanging them from branches. After that she pretended she was Snow White fleeing from the huntsman. She would run through the tangled trees and then turn dramatically and gasp, putting the back of her hand to her forehead. “You will never slay me,” she said. “For I am of royal blood and will one day be queen and twice as powerful as my stepmother. And I shall cut off her head.”
It was possible, she thought later, that she had not remembered the story of Snow White entirely correctly.
Still, it was very enjoyable, and it was on her fourth or fifth sprint through the woods that she realized she was lost. She could no longer see the familiar shape of Herondale Manor through the trees.
She spun around in a panic. The forest no longer seemed magical. Instead the trees loomed above like threatening ghosts. She thought she could hear the chatter of unearthly voices through the rustle of leaves. The clouds had come out and covered the moon. She was alone in the dark.
Lucie was brave, but she was only ten. She gave a little sob and began to run in what she thought was the right direction. But the forest only grew darker, the thorns more tangled. One caught at her nightdress and ripped a long tear in the fabric. She stumbled—
And fell. It felt like Alice’s fall into Wonderland, though it was much shorter than that. She tumbled head over heels and hit a layer of hard-packed dirt.
With a whimper, she sat up. She was lying at the bottom of a circular hole that had been dug into the earth. The sides were smooth and rose several feet above the reach of her arms.
She tried digging her hands into the dirt that rose on every side of her and climbing up it the way she might shinny up a tree. But the earth was soft and crumbled away in her fingers. After the fifth time she’d tumbled from the side of the pit, she spied something white gleaming from the sheer side of the dirt wall. Hoping it was a root she could climb up, she bounded toward it and reached to grasp it.…
Soil fell away from it. It wasn’t a root at all but a white bone, and not an animal’s…
“Don’t scream,” said a voice above her. “It’ll bring them.”
She threw her head back and stared. Leaning down over the side of the pit was a boy. Older than her brother, James—maybe even sixteen years old. He had a lovely melancholy face and straight black hair without a hint of curl. The ends of his hair almost touched the collar of his shirt.
“Bring who?” Lucie put her fists on her hips.
“The faeries,” he said. “This is one of their pit traps. They usually use them to catch animals, but they’d be very pleased to find a little girl instead.”
Lucie gasped. “You mean they’d eat me?”
He laughed. “Unlikely, though you could find yourself serving faerie gentry in the Land Under the Hill for the rest of your life. Never to see your family again.”
He wiggled his eyebrows at her.
“Don’t try to scare me,” she said.
“I assure you, I speak only the perfect truth,” he said. “Even the imperfect truth is beneath me.”
“Don’t be silly, either,” she said. “I am Lucie Herondale. My father is Will Herondale and a very important person. If you rescue me, you will be rewarded.”
“A Herondale?” he said. “Just my luck.” He sighed and wriggled closer to the edge of the pit, reaching his arm down. A scar gleamed on the back of his right hand—a bad one, as if he had burned himself. “Up you go.”
She grasped his wrist with both her hands and he hauled her up with surprising strength. A moment later they were both standing. Lucie could see more of him now. He was older than she’d thought, and formally dressed in white and black. The moon was out again and she could see that his eyes were the color of the green moss on the forest floor.
“Thank you,” she said, rather primly. She brushed at her nightdress. It was quite ruined with dirt.
“Come along, now,” he said, his voice gentle. “Don’t be frightened. What shall we talk about? Do you like stories?”
“I love stories,” said Lucie. “When I grow up, I am going to be a famous writer.”
“That sounds wonderful,” said the boy. There was something wistful about his tone.
They walked together through the paths under the trees. He seemed to know where he was going, as if the forest was very familiar to him. He must be a changeling, Lucie thought wisely. He knew a great deal about faeries, but was clearly not one of them: he had warned her about being stolen away by the Fair Folk, which must be what had happened to him. She would not mention it and make him feel awkward; it must be dreadful to be a changeling, and to be taken far away from your family. Instead she engaged him in a discussion about princesses in fairy tales, and which one was the best. It hardly seemed any time at all before they were back in the garden of Herondale Manor.
“I imagine this princess can make her own way back into the castle from here,” he said with a bow.
“Oh, yes,” said Lucie, eyeing her window. “Do you think they’ll know I was gone?”
He laughed and turned to go. She called after him when he reached the gates.
“What’s your name?” she said. “I told you mine. What’s yours?”
He hesitated for a moment. He was all white and black in the night, like an il
lustration from one of her books. He swept a bow, low and graceful, the kind knights had once made.
“You will never slay me,” he said. “For I am of royal blood and will one day be twice as powerful as the queen. And I shall cut off her head.”
Lucie gave an outraged gasp. Had he been listening to her, in the woods, playing her game? How dare he make fun of her! She raised a fist, meaning to shake it at him, but he had already vanished into the night, leaving only the sound of his laughter behind.
It would be six years before she saw him again.
1 BETTER ANGELS
The shadows of our own desires stand between us and our better angels, and thus their brightness is eclipsed.
—Charles Dickens, Barnaby Rudge
James Herondale was in the middle of fighting a demon when he was suddenly pulled into Hell.
It wasn’t the first time it had happened, and it wouldn’t be the last. Moments earlier he had been kneeling at the edge of a slanted roof in central London, a slim throwing knife in each hand, thinking about how disgusting the detritus that collected in the city was. In addition to dirt, empty gin bottles, and animal bones, there was definitely a dead bird wedged into the rain gutter just below his left knee.
How glamorous the life of a Shadowhunter was, indeed. It sounded good, he thought, gazing down at the empty alley below him: a narrow space choked with rubbish, lit dimly by the half-moon overhead. A special race of warriors, descended from an angel, gifted with powers that allowed them to wield weapons of shining adamas and to bear the black Marks of holy runes on their bodies—runes that made them stronger, faster, more deadly than any mundane human; runes that made them burn brightly in the dark. No one ever mentioned things like accidentally kneeling on a dead bird while waiting for a demon to turn up.
A yell echoed down the alley. A sound James knew well: Matthew Fairchild’s voice. He launched himself off the roof without a moment’s hesitation. Matthew Fairchild was his parabatai—his blood brother and warrior partner. James was sworn to protect him, not that it mattered: he would have given his life for Matthew’s, vows or not.
Movement flashed at the end of the alley, where it curved behind a narrow row of houses. James spun as a demon emerged from the shadows, roaring. It had a ribbed gray body, a curving, sharp beak lined with hooked teeth, and splayed paw-like feet from which ragged claws protruded. A Deumas demon, James thought grimly. He definitely remembered reading about Deumas demons in one of the old books his uncle Jem had given him. They were meant to be notable in some way. Extremely vicious, perhaps, or unusually dangerous? That would be typical, wouldn’t it—all these months of not running across any infernal activity at all, and he and his friends happened on one of the most dangerous demons out there.
Speaking of which—where were his friends?
The Deumas roared again and lurched toward James, drool spilling from its mouth in long strings of greenish slime.
James swung his arm back, ready to throw his first knife. The demon’s eyes fixed on him for a moment. They were coruscating, green and black, filled with a hate that turned suddenly into something else.
Something like recognition. But demons, at least the lesser kind, didn’t recognize people. They were vicious animals driven by pure greed and hatred. As James hesitated in surprise, the ground under him seemed to lurch. He had only a moment to think, Oh no, not now, before the world went gray and silent. The buildings around him had turned to ragged shadow, the sky a black cave speared with white lightning.
He closed his right hand around his knife—not the handle, but the blade. The jolt of pain was like a slap to the face, snapping him out of a stupor. The world came rushing back at him in all its noise and color. He barely had time to register that the Deumas was in midair, claws extended toward him, when a swirl of cords whipped through the sky, entangling the demon’s leg and yanking it backward.
Thomas! James thought, and indeed, his massively tall friend had appeared behind the Deumas, armed with his bolas. Behind him was Christopher, armed with a bow, and Matthew, a seraph blade blazing in his hand.
The Deumas hit the ground with another roar, just as James let both his knives fly. One plunged into the demon’s throat, the other into its forehead. Its eyes rolled back, it spasmed, and James suddenly remembered what it was he’d read about Deumas demons.
“Matthew—” he began, just as the creature burst apart, showering Thomas, Christopher, and Matthew in ichor and burnt bits of what could only be described as goo.
Messy, James recalled belatedly. Deumas demons were notably messy. Most demons vanished when they died. Not Deumas demons.
“How—wha—?” Christopher stuttered, at a clear loss for words. Slime dripped off his pointed nose and gold-rimmed spectacles. “But how…?”
“Do you mean how is it possible that we finally tracked down the last demon in London and it was also the most disgusting?” James was surprised by how normal his voice sounded: he was already shaking off the shock of his glimpse into the shadow realm. At least his clothes were untouched: the demon seemed to have exploded mostly over the other end of the alley. “Ours is not to question why, Christopher.”
James had a feeling his friends were gazing at him resentfully. Thomas rolled his eyes. He was scrubbing at himself with a handkerchief that was also half-burnt and covered in ichor, so it was doing little good.
Matthew’s seraph blade had begun to sputter. Seraph blades, infused with the energy of angels, were often a Shadowhunter’s most trusted weapon and best defense against demons, but it was still possible to drown one in enough ichor. “This is an outrage,” Matthew said, tossing the extinguished blade aside. “Do you know how much I spent on this waistcoat?”
“No one told you to go out patrolling for demons dressed like an extra from The Importance of Being Earnest,” said James, tossing him a clean handkerchief. As he did, he felt his hand sting. There was a bloody cut across his palm from the blade of the knife. He closed his hand into a fist to prevent his companions from seeing it.
“I don’t think he’s dressed like an extra,” said Thomas, who had turned his attention to cleaning off Christopher.
“Thank you,” said Matthew with a slight bow.
“I think he’s dressed like a main character.” Thomas grinned. He had one of the kindest faces James had ever known, and gentle hazel eyes. None of which meant he didn’t enjoy mocking his friends.
Matthew mopped at his dull gold hair with James’s handkerchief. “This is the first time in a year that we’ve patrolled and actually found a demon, so I’d supposed that my waistcoat would probably survive the evening. It’s not as if any of you are wearing gear either.”
It was true that Shadowhunters usually hunted in gear, a sort of flexible armor made of a tough, leatherlike black material resistant to ichor, blades, and the like, but a lack of reliable demonic presence on the streets had made them all a bit lax about rules.
“Stop scrubbing at me, Thomas,” said Christopher, windmilling his arms. “We should go back to the Devil and clean up there.”
There was a murmur of assent among the group. As they picked their sticky way back to the main street, James considered the fact that Matthew was right. James’s father, Will, had often told him about the patrols he used to do with his parabatai, Jem Carstairs—now James’s uncle Jem—back when they had battled demons nearly every night.
James and other young Shadowhunters still faithfully patrolled the streets of London, seeking out demons that might harm the mundane population, but in the last few years demon appearances had been few and far between. It was a good thing—of course it was a good thing—but still. It was decidedly odd. Demon activity was still normal as far as the rest of the world was concerned, so what made London special?
There were plenty of mundanes out and about on the streets of the city, though the hour was late. None glanced at the bedraggled group of Shadowhunters as they made their way down Fleet Street; th
eir glamour runes made them invisible to all eyes not gifted with the Sight.
It was always strange to be surrounded by a humanity that did not see you, James thought. Fleet Street was home to the newspaper offices and law courts of London, and everywhere were brightly lit pubs, with print workers and barristers and law clerks, who kept late hours, drinking into the dawn light. The Strand nearby had spilled the contents of its music halls and theaters, and well-dressed groups of young people, laughing and boisterous, chased the last omnibuses of the night.
The bobbies were out working their beats too, and those denizens of London unfortunate enough to have no homes to go to crouched muttering around cellar vents that sent up drifts of warm air—even in August the nights could be damp and chilly. As they passed a group of such huddled figures, one looked up, and James caught a glimpse of the pale skin and glittering eyes of a vampire.
He looked away. Downworlders weren’t his business unless they were breaking Clave Law. And he was tired, despite his energy Marks: it always drained him to be dragged into that other world of gray light and black ragged shadows. It was something that had been happening to him for years: a remnant, he knew, of his mother’s warlock blood.
Warlocks were the offspring of humans and demons: capable of using magic but not of bearing runes or using adamas, the clear crystalline metal from which steles and seraph blades were carved. They were one of the four branches of Downworlders, along with vampires, werewolves, and the fey. James’s mother, Tessa Herondale, was such a warlock, but her mother had been not just human but a Shadowhunter. Tessa herself had once possessed the power to shape-shift and take on the appearance of anyone, living or dead: a power no other warlock had. She was unusual in one other way as well: warlocks could not have children. Tessa was an exception. Everyone had wondered what this would mean for James and his sister, Lucie, the first-ever known grandchildren of a demon and a human being.