City of Lost Souls mi-5, Page 2Cassandra Clare
Before Clary could reply to Isabelle, the door opened. Both girls sat up ramrod straight, Clary clutching one of Izzy’s pink pillows so hard that the rhinestones on it dug into the skin of her palms.
“Hey.” A slim figure stepped into the room and shut the door. Alec, Isabelle’s older brother, was dressed in Council wear — a black robe figured with silver runes, open now over jeans and a long-sleeved black T-shirt. All the black made his pale skin look paler, his crystal-blue eyes bluer. His hair was black and straight like his sister’s, but shorter, cut just above his jawline. His mouth was set in a thin line.
Clary’s heart started to pound. Alec didn’t look happy. Whatever the news was, it couldn’t be good.
It was Isabelle who spoke. “How did it go?” she said quietly. “What’s the verdict?”
Alec sat down at the vanity table, swinging himself around the chair to face Izzy and Clary over the back. At another time it would have been comical — Alec was very tall, with long legs like a dancer, and the way he folded himself awkwardly around the chair made it look like dollhouse furniture.
“Clary,” he said. “Jia Penhallow handed down the verdict. You’re cleared of any wrongdoing. You broke no Laws, and Jia feels that you’ve been punished enough.”
Isabelle exhaled an audible breath and smiled. For just a moment a feeling of relief broke through the layer of ice over all of Clary’s emotions. She wasn’t going to be punished, locked up in the Silent City, trapped somewhere where she couldn’t help Jace. Luke, who as the representative of the werewolves on the Council had been present for the verdict, had promised to call Jocelyn as soon as the meeting ended, but Clary reached for her phone anyway; the prospect of giving her mother good news for a change was too tempting.
“Clary,” Alec said as she flipped her phone open. “Wait.”
She looked at him. His expression was still as serious as an undertaker’s. With a sudden sense of foreboding, Clary put her phone back down on the bed. “Alec — what is it?”
“It wasn’t your verdict that took the Council so long,” said Alec. “There was another matter under discussion.”
The ice was back. Clary shivered. “Jace?”
“Not exactly.” Alec leaned forward, folding his hands along the back of the chair. “A report came in early this morning from the Moscow Institute. The wardings over Wrangel Island were smashed through yesterday. They’ve sent a repair team, but having such important wards down for so long — that’s a Council priority.”
Wards — which served, as Clary understood it, as a sort of magical fence system — surrounded Earth, put there by the first generation of Shadowhunters. They could be bypassed by demons but not easily, and kept out the vast majority of them, preventing the world from being flooded by a massive demon invasion. She remembered something that Jace had said to her, what felt like years ago: There used to be only small demon invasions into this world, easily contained. But even in my lifetime more and more of them have spilled in through the wardings.
“Well, that’s bad,” Clary said. “But I don’t see what it has to do with—”
“The Clave has its priorities,” Alec interrupted. “Searching for Jace and Sebastian has been top priority for the past two weeks. But they’ve scoured everything, and there’s no sign of either of them in any Downworld haunt. None of Magnus’s tracking spells have worked. Elodie, the woman who brought up the real Sebastian Verlac, confirmed that no one’s tried to get in touch with her. That was a long shot, anyway. No spies have reported any unusual activity among the known members of Valentine’s old Circle. And the Silent Brothers haven’t been able to figure out exactly what the ritual Lilith performed was supposed to do, or whether it succeeded. The general consensus is that Sebastian — of course, they call him Jonathan when they talk about him — kidnapped Jace, but that’s not anything we didn’t know.”
“So?” Isabelle said. “What does that mean? More searching? More patrolling?”
Alec shook his head. “They’re not discussing expanding the search,” he said quietly. “They’re de-prioritizing it. It’s been two weeks and they haven’t found anything. The specially commissioned groups brought over from Idris are going to be sent home. The situation with the ward is taking priority now. Not to mention that the Council has been in the middle of delicate negotiations, updating the Laws to allow for the new makeup of the Council, appointing a new Consul and Inquisitor, determining different treatment of Downworlders — they don’t want to be thrown completely off track.”
Clary stared. “They don’t want Jace’s disappearance to throw them off the track of changing a bunch of stupid old Laws? They’re giving up?”
“They’re not giving up—”
“Alec,” Isabelle said sharply.
Alec took a breath and put his hands up to cover his face. He had long fingers, like Jace’s, scarred like Jace’s were as well. The eye Mark of the Shadowhunters decorated the back of his right hand. “Clary, for you — for us—this has always been about searching for Jace. For the Clave it’s about searching for Sebastian. Jace as well, but primarily Sebastian. He’s the danger. He destroyed the wards of Alicante. He’s a mass murderer. Jace is…”
“Just another Shadowhunter,” said Isabelle. “We die and go missing all the time.”
“He gets a little extra for being a hero of the Mortal War,” said Alec. “But in the end the Clave was clear: The search will be kept up, but right now it’s a waiting game. They expect Sebastian to make the next move. In the meantime it’s third priority for the Clave. If that. They expect us to go back to normal life.”
Normal life? Clary couldn’t believe it. A normal life without Jace?
“That’s what they told us after Max died,” said Izzy, her black eyes tearless but burning with anger. “That we’d get over our grief faster if we just went back to normal life.”
“It’s supposed to be good advice,” said Alec from behind his fingers.
“Tell that to Dad. Did he even come back from Idris for the meeting?”
Alec shook his head, dropping his hands. “No. If it’s any consolation, there were a lot of people at the meeting speaking out angrily on behalf of keeping the search for Jace up at full strength. Magnus, obviously, Luke, Consul Penhallow, even Brother Zachariah. But at the end of the day it wasn’t enough.”
Clary looked at him steadily. “Alec,” she said. “Don’t you feel anything?”
Alec’s eyes widened, their blue darkening, and for a moment Clary remembered the boy who had hated her when she’d first arrived at the Institute, the boy with bitten nails and holes in his sweaters and a chip on his shoulder that had seemed immovable. “I know you’re upset, Clary,” he said, his voice sharp, “but if you’re suggesting that Iz and I care less about Jace than you do—”
“I’m not,” Clary said. “I’m talking about your parabatai connection. I was reading about the ceremony in the Codex. I know being parabatai ties the two of you together. You can sense things about Jace. Things that will help you when you’re fighting. So I guess I mean… can you sense if he’s still alive?”
“Clary.” Isabelle sounded worried. “I thought you didn’t…”
“He’s alive,” Alec said cautiously. “You think I’d be this functional if he weren’t alive? There’s definitely something fundamentally wrong. I can feel that much. But he’s still breathing.”
“Could the ‘wrong’ thing be that he’s being held prisoner?” said Clary in a small voice.
Alec looked toward the windows, the sheeting gray rain. “Maybe. I can’t explain it. I’ve never felt anything like it before.”
“But he’s alive.”
Alec looked at her directly then. “I’m sure of it.”
“Then screw the Council. We’ll find him ourselves,” Clary said.
“Clary… if that were possible… don’t you think we already would have—,” Alec began.
“We were doing what the Clave wanted us to do before,” said Isabelle. �
�Patrols, searches. There are other ways.”
“Ways that break the Law, you mean,” said Alec. He sounded hesitant. Clary hoped he wasn’t going to repeat the Shadowhunters’ motto when it came to the Law: Sed lex, dura lex. “The Law is harsh, but it is the Law.” She didn’t think she could take it.
“The Seelie Queen offered me a favor,” Clary said. “At the fireworks party in Idris.” The memory of that night, how happy she’d been, made her heart contract for a moment, and she had to stop and regain her breath. “And a way to contact her.”
“The Queen of the Fair Folk gives nothing for free.”
“I know that. I’ll take whatever debt it is on my shoulders.” Clary remembered the words of the faerie girl who had handed her the bell. You would do anything to save him, whatever it cost you, whatever you might owe to Hell or Heaven, would you not? “I just want one of you to come with me. I’m not good with translating faerie-speak. At least if you’re with me you can limit whatever the damage is. But if there’s anything she can do—”
“I’ll go with you,” Isabelle said immediately.
Alec looked at his sister darkly. “We already talked to the Fair Folk. The Council questioned them extensively. And they can’t lie.”
“The Council asked them if they knew where Jace and Sebastian were,” Clary said. “Not if they’d be willing to look for them. The Seelie Queen knew about my father, knew about the angel he summoned and trapped, knew the truth about my blood and Jace’s. I think there’s not much that happens in this world that she doesn’t know about.”
“It’s true,” said Isabelle, a little animation entering into her voice. “You know you have to ask faeries the exact right things to get useful information out of them, Alec. They’re very hard to question, even if they do have to tell the truth. A favor, though, is different.”
“And its potential for danger is literally unlimited,” said Alec. “If Jace knew I let Clary go to the Seelie Queen, he’d—”
“I don’t care,” Clary said. “He’d do it for me. Tell me he wouldn’t. If I were missing—”
“He’d burn the whole world down till he could dig you out of the ashes. I know,” Alec said, sounding exhausted. “Hell, you think I don’t want to burn down the world right now? I’m just trying to be…”
“An older brother,” said Isabelle. “I get it.”
Alec looked as if he were fighting for control. “If something happened to you, Isabelle — after Max, and Jace—”
Izzy got to her feet, went across the room, and put her arms around Alec. Their dark hair, precisely the same color, mixed together as Isabelle whispered something into her brother’s ear; Clary watched them with not a little envy. She had always wanted a brother. And she had one now. Sebastian. It was like always wanting a puppy for a pet and being handed a hellhound instead. She watched as Alec tugged his sister’s hair affectionately, nodded, and released her. “We should all go,” he said. “But I have to tell Magnus, at least, what we’re doing. It wouldn’t be fair not to.”
“Do you want to use my phone?” Isabelle asked, offering the battered pink object to him.
Alec shook his head. “He’s waiting downstairs with the others. You’ll have to give Luke some kind of excuse too, Clary. I’m sure he’s expecting you to go home with him. And he says your mother’s been pretty sick about this whole thing.”
“She blames herself for Sebastian’s existence.” Clary got to her feet. “Even though she thought he was dead all those years.”
“It’s not her fault.” Isabelle pulled her golden whip down from where it hung on the wall and wrapped it around her wrist so that it looked like a ladder of shining bracelets. “No one blames her.”
“That never matters,” said Alec. “Not when you blame yourself.”
In silence, the three of them made their way through the corridors of the Institute, oddly crowded now with other Shadowhunters, some of whom were part of the special commissions that had been sent out from Idris to deal with the situation. None of them really looked at Isabelle, Alec, or Clary with much curiosity. Initially Clary had felt so much as if she were being stared at — and had heard the whispered words “Valentine’s daughter” so many times — that she’d started to dread coming to the Institute, but she’d stood up in front of the Council enough times now that the novelty had worn off.
They took the elevator downstairs; the nave of the Institute was brightly lit with witchlight as well as the usual tapers and was filled with Council members and their families. Luke and Magnus were sitting in a pew, talking to each other; beside Luke was a tall, blue-eyed woman who looked just like him. She had curled her hair and dyed the gray brown, but Clary still recognized her — Luke’s sister, Amatis.
Magnus got up at the sight of Alec and came over to talk to him; Izzy appeared to recognize someone else across the pews and darted away in her usual manner, without pausing to say where she was going. Clary went to greet Luke and Amatis; both of them looked tired, and Amatis was patting Luke’s shoulder sympathetically. Luke rose to his feet and hugged Clary when he saw her. Amatis congratulated Clary on being cleared by the Council, and she nodded; she felt only half-there, most of her numb and the rest of her responding on autopilot.
She could see Magnus and Alec out of the corner of her eye. They were talking, Alec leaning in close to Magnus, the way couples often seemed to curve into each other when they spoke, in their own contained universe. She was happy to see them happy, but it hurt, too. She wondered if she would ever have that again, or ever even want it again. She remembered Jace’s voice: I don’t even want to want anyone but you.
“Earth to Clary,” said Luke. “Do you want to head home? Your mother is dying to see you, and she’d love to catch up with Amatis before she goes back to Idris tomorrow. I thought we could have dinner. You pick the restaurant.” He was trying to hide the concern in his voice, but Clary could hear it. She hadn’t been eating much lately, and her clothes had started to hang more loosely on her frame.
“I don’t really feel like celebrating,” she said. “Not with the Council de-prioritizing the search for Jace.”
“Clary, it doesn’t mean they’re going to stop,” said Luke.
“I know. It’s just — It’s like when they say a search and rescue mission is now a search for bodies. That’s what it sounds like.” She swallowed. “Anyway, I was thinking of going to Taki’s for dinner with Isabelle and Alec,” she said. “Just… to do something normal.”
Amatis squinted toward the door. “It’s raining pretty hard out there.”
Clary felt her lips stretch into a smile. She wondered if it looked as false as it felt. “I won’t melt.”
Luke folded some money into her hand, clearly relieved she was doing something as normal as going out with friends. “Just promise to eat something.”
“Okay.” Through the twinge of guilt, she managed a real half smile in his direction before she turned away.
Magnus and Alec were no longer where they had been a moment ago. Glancing around, Clary saw Izzy’s familiar long black hair through the crowd. She was standing by the Institute’s large double doors, talking to someone Clary couldn’t see. Clary headed toward Isabelle; as she drew closer, she recognized one of the group, with a slight shock of surprise, as Aline Penhallow. Her glossy black hair had been cut stylishly just above her shoulders. Standing next to Aline was a slim girl with pale white-gold hair that curled in ringlets; it was drawn back from her face, showing that the tips of her ears were slightly pointed. She wore Council robes, and as Clary came closer she saw that the girl’s eyes were a brilliant and unusual blue-green, a color that made Clary’s fingers yearn for her Prismacolor pencils for the first time in two weeks.
“It must be weird, with your mother being the new Consul,” Isabelle was saying to Aline as Clary joined them. “Not that Jia isn’t much better than — Hey, Clary. Aline, you remember Clary.”
The two girls exchanged nods. Clary had once walked in on Aline kissin
g Jace. It had been awful at the time, but the memory held no sting now. She’d be relieved to walk in on Jace kissing someone else at this point. At least it would mean he was alive.
“And this is Aline’s girlfriend, Helen Blackthorn.” Isabelle said with heavy emphasis. Clary shot her a glare. Did Isabelle think she was an idiot? Besides, she remembered Aline telling her that she’d kissed Jace only as an experiment to see if any guy were her type. Apparently the answer had been no. “Helen’s family runs the Los Angeles Institute. Helen, this is Clary Fray.”
“Valentine’s daughter,” Helen said. She looked surprised and a little impressed.
Clary winced. “I try not to think about that too much.”
“Sorry. I can see why you wouldn’t.” Helen flushed. Her skin was very pale, with a slight sheen to it, like a pearl. “I voted for the Council to keep prioritizing the search for Jace, by the way. I’m sorry we were overruled.”
“Thanks.” Not wanting to talk about it, Clary turned to Aline. “Congratulations on your mother being made Consul. That must be pretty exciting.”
Aline shrugged. “She’s busy a lot more now.” She turned to Isabelle. “Did you know your dad put his name in for the Inquisitor position?”
Clary felt Isabelle freeze beside her. “No. No, I didn’t know that.”
“I was surprised,” Aline added. “I thought he was pretty committed to running the Institute here—” She broke off, looking past Clary. “Helen, I think your brother is trying to make the world’s biggest puddle of melted wax over there. You might want to stop him.”
Helen blew out an exasperated breath, muttered something about twelve-year-old boys, and vanished into the crowd just as Alec pushed his way forward. He greeted Aline with a hug — Clary forgot, sometimes, that the Penhallows and the Lightwoods had known each other for years — and looked at Helen in the crowd. “Is that your girlfriend?”
Aline nodded. “Helen Blackthorn.”
“I heard there’s some faerie blood in that family,” said Alec.
Ah, Clary thought. That explained the pointed ears. Nephilim blood was dominant, and the child of a faerie and a Shadowhunter would be a Shadowhunter as well, but sometimes the faerie blood could express itself in odd ways, even generations down the line.