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The Wicked Ones (Ghosts of the Shadow Market Book 6), Page 2

Cassandra Clare

  Céline and Stephen laughed together, and Robert’s obvious fury at being mocked only made them laugh harder. Like most Shadowhunters, Céline had grown up entirely ignorant of mundane pop culture. But Stephen showed up at the Academy full of arcane knowledge about bands, books, songs, movies that no one had ever heard of. Once he’d joined the Circle, he’d dropped his love of the Sex Pistols just as quickly as he’d trade his leather jacket and frayed denim for the dull black uniform that Valentine favored. Still, Céline had spent the last couple of years studying mundane TV, just in case.

  I can be whatever you want me to be, she thought, wishing she had the nerve to say it.

  Céline knew Amatis, Stephen’s wife. At least, she knew enough. Amatis was sharp-tongued and stuck-up. She was opinionated, argumentative, stubborn, and not even that pretty. There were also rumors that she still secretly associated with her werewolf brother. Céline didn’t much care about that—she had nothing against Downworlders. But she had plenty against Amatis, who obviously didn’t appreciate what she had. Stephen needed someone who would admire him, agree with him, support him. Someone like Céline. If only she could make him see that for himself.

  They surveilled the warlock for a couple hours. Dominique du Froid was constantly leaving her booth unattended, scurrying off to gossip or trade with other sellers. It was almost like she wanted someone to rifle through her belongings.

  Stephen yawned theatrically. “I was hoping for slightly more of a challenge. But let’s get this done and get out of here. This place stinks of Downworlders. I already feel like I need a shower.”

  “Ouai, c’est terrible,” Céline lied.

  The next time Dominique left her booth, Stephen tailed her. Robert slipped into the booth’s curtained-off area to poke around for evidence of dirty dealings. Céline was left to play lookout, browsing the booth next to Dominique’s, where she could signal Robert if Dominique unexpectedly came back.

  Of course they’d assigned her the most boring job, the one that required nothing but shopping for jewelry. They thought she was useless.

  Céline did as she was told, feigning interest in the hideous display of enchanted rings, chunky gold chains, charm bracelets jangling with Greater Demons carved in brass and pewter. Then she spotted something that actually did interest her: a Silent Brother, gliding toward the booth in that disconcertingly inhuman way they all had of moving. She watched out of the corner of her eye as the robed Shadowhunter studied the jewelry display with great care. What could someone like him possibly be looking for in a place like this?

  The scruffy pre-teen werewolf manning the booth had barely acknowledged Céline’s presence. But he scurried straight over to the Silent Brother, eyes wide with fear. “You can’t be poking around here,” he said. “My boss doesn’t like doing business with your kind.”

  Aren’t you a bit young to have a boss?

  The words reverberated in Céline’s mind, and she wondered for a moment whether the Silent Brother wanted her to overhear. But that seemed unlikely—she was standing several feet away, and there was no reason for him to have noticed her.

  “Parents threw me out when I got bitten, so it’s either work or go hungry,” the kid said. He shrugged. “And I like food. Which is why you got to get out of here before the boss comes back and thinks I’m selling to a Shadowhunter.”

  I am in search of a piece of jewelry.

  “Look, man, there’s nothing here you can’t get somewhere else, better and cheaper. This stuff is all junk.”

  Yes, that I can see. But I am looking for something particular, something I’ve been told I can find here only. A silver necklace, with a pendant in the shape of a heron.

  The word heron pricked Céline’s ear. It was such a specific request. And it was something so suited to a Herondale.

  “Uh, yeah, I don’t know how you heard about that, but it’s possible we’ve got one of those back here. I told you, though, I can’t sell to—”

  What if I doubled the price.

  “You don’t even know what the price is.”

  No, I do not. And I imagine you won’t get a better offer, given that the necklace is not on display for customers.

  “Yeah, I pointed that out myself, but—” He leaned forward and lowered his voice. Céline tried not to make it too obvious she was straining to hear. “Boss doesn’t want his wife to know he’s selling it. Said he just needs to put the word out. and a buyer will find us.”

  And now a buyer has. Imagine how pleased your employer will be when you tell him it sold for more than his asking price.

  “I guess he never needs to know who bought it . . .”

  He will not hear it from me.

  The kid considered this for a moment, then ducked beneath the counter for a moment and reappeared dangling a silver pendant. Céline suppressed a gasp. It was a delicately carved heron, sparkling in the moonlight, the perfect gift for a young Herondale proud of his heritage. She closed her eyes, allowing herself to drift into an alternate reality, one in which she was allowed to give Stephen gifts. Imagining fastening the pendant around his neck, nuzzling his soft skin, breathing him in. Imagining him saying I love it. Almost as much as I love you.

  It is beautiful, is it not?

  Céline flinched at the voice of the Silent Brother in her head. Of course he couldn’t know what she’d been thinking. But nonetheless, her cheeks burned with shame. The kid had retreated to the back of the booth to count his money. The Silent Brother had now fixed his blind gaze on her.

  He was different than the other Silent Brothers she’d seen, his face young—even handsome. His jet-black hair was threaded with streaks of silver, and his eyes and mouth were sealed, but not sewn shut. Runes sliced viciously across each cheek. Céline was reminded how envious she had once been of the Silent Brotherhood. They had scars like she had scars; they endured great pain like she endured great pain. But their scars gave them power; their pain felt like nothing, because they had no feeling. You could not be a Silent Brother if you were a girl. This had never seemed very fair to Céline. Women were, however, allowed to join the Iron Sisters. Céline had liked the idea when she was younger, but now she felt no desire to live cloistered on a volcanic plain, with nothing to do but craft weapons of adamas. The very thought of it made her claustrophobic.

  I am sorry to startle you. But I noted your interest in the pendant.

  “It’s . . . it just, it reminded me of someone.”

  Someone you care about a great deal, I sense.

  “Yeah. I guess.”

  Is that someone perhaps a Herondale?

  “Yes, and he’s wonderful.” The words slipped out accidentally, but there was an unexpected joy in saying them out loud. She’d never let herself do so before—not in front of someone else. Not even alone.

  That was the thing about Silent Brothers. Being with them wasn’t quite like being with someone else or like being alone. Confiding in a Silent Brother was like confiding in no one, she thought, because who was he going to tell?

  “Stephen Herondale,” she said, softly but firmly. “I’m in love with Stephen Herondale.”

  There was a jolt of power in saying the words, almost as if speaking her claim aloud made it a little more real.

  The love of a Herondale can be a great gift.

  “Yeah, it’s awesome,” she said, bitterly enough that even the Silent Brother noticed her tone.

  I have upset you.

  “No, it’s just . . . I said I love him. He barely knows I’m alive.”


  It was stupid, hoping for sympathy from a Silent Brother. Like hoping for sympathy from a rock. His face remained completely impassive. But the voice that spoke in her head was gentle. She let herself believe it was even a little kind.

  That must be difficult.

  If Céline had been another type of girl, the type with fr
iends, or sisters, or a mother who spoke to her with anything but icy disdain, she might have told someone else about Stephen. She might have spent hours dissecting his tone, the way he sometimes seemed to flirt with her, the way he’d once touched her on the shoulder in gratitude when she lent him a dagger. Maybe talking about it would have blunted the pain of loving him; maybe she even would have talked herself out of loving him. Talking about Stephen might have become commonplace, like talking about the weather. Background noise.

  But Céline had no one to talk to. All she had were her secrets, and the longer she kept them, the more they hurt.

  “He’s never going to love me,” she said. “All I’ve ever wanted was to be near him, but now he’s right here, and I can’t have him, and in a way that’s even worse. I’m just . . . I just . . . it just hurts so much.”

  I sometimes think there is nothing more painful than love denied. To love someone you cannot have, to stand beside your heart’s desire and be unable to take them in your arms. A love that cannot be requited. I can think of nothing more painful than that.

  It was impossible that a Silent Brother could understand how she felt. And yet . . .

  He sounded as if he understood exactly how she felt.

  “I wish I could be more like you,” she admitted.

  In what sense?

  “You know, just, shut off my feelings? Feel nothing. For anybody.”

  There was a long pause, and she wondered if she’d offended him. Was that even possible? Finally, his cool, steady voice spoke again.

  This is a wish you should dispense with. Feeling is what makes us human. Even the most difficult feelings. Perhaps especially those. Love, loss, longing—this is what it means to be truly alive.

  “But . . . you’re a Silent Brother. You’re not supposed to feel any of those things, right?”

  I . . . There was another long pause. I remember feeling them. That is sometimes as close as I can get.

  “And you’re still alive, as far as I can tell.”

  Sometimes that, too, is difficult to remember.

  If she didn’t know any better, she would think he had sighed.

  The Silent Brother she met on her first trip to the Shadow Market had been kind like this. When he bought her the crêpe, he hadn’t asked her where her parents were or why she was wandering the crowds alone, or why her eyes were red from crying. He only knelt and pinned his blind eyes on hers. The world is a hard thing to face alone, he said inside her mind. You do not have to.

  Then he did what Silent Brothers did best and fell silent. She knew, even as a child, that he was waiting for her to tell him what she needed. That if she asked for help, he might even offer it.

  No one could help her. Even as a child, she knew that too. The Montclaires were a respected, powerful Shadowhunter family. Her parents had the ear of the Consul. If she told the Brother who she was, he would only bring her home. If she told him what waited for her there, what her parents were really like, he probably wouldn’t believe her. He might even tell her parents she was spreading lies about them. And there would be consequences.

  She’d thanked him for the crêpe and skittered away.

  She’d endured so many years since then. After this summer, she would return to the Academy for her final year, and graduate; she would never have to live in her parents’ house again. She was almost free. She didn’t need anyone’s help.

  But the world was still a hard thing to face alone.

  And she was so, so lonely.

  “Maybe the pain of loving someone is a fact of life and all, but do you really think that, like, all pain is? You don’t think it would be better if you could just stop hurting?”

  Is something hurting you?

  “I . . .” She summoned her nerve. She could do it. She almost believed that. She could tell this stranger about the cold house. About the parents who only seemed to notice her when she did something wrong. About the consequences, when she did. “The thing is—”

  She broke off abruptly as the Silent Brother turned away. His sightless eyes seemed to be tracking a man in a black trench coat hurrying toward him. The man stopped short when he caught sight of the Silent Brother. His face abruptly drained of color. Then he spun on his heel and hustled away. Most Downworlders were skittish around Shadowhunters these days—news of the Circle’s exploits had gotten around. But this looked almost personal.

  “Do you know that guy?”

  I apologize, I must attend to this.

  Silent Brothers did not display emotion, and, as far as Céline knew, they didn’t feel it. But if she didn’t know any better, she would say this Silent Brother was feeling something very deeply. Fear, maybe, or excitement—or that strange combination of the two that descended just before a fight.

  “Okay, I just—”

  But the Silent Brother was already gone. She was alone again. And thank the Angel for that, she thought. It had been careless, even toying with the idea of dredging her dark truths into the light. How foolish, how weak, wanting to be heard. Wanting to be truly seen by anyone, much less a man with his eyes fused shut. Her parents always said she was stupid and weak. Maybe they were right.

  Brother Zachariah wove through the crowded Shadow Market, careful to keep a few feet of distance between him and his target. It was a strange game they were playing. The man, who went by the name of Jack Crow, certainly knew that Zachariah was following him. And Brother Zachariah could have picked up his speed and overtaken the man at any point. But for whatever reason, Crow didn’t want to stop, and Brother Zachariah didn’t want to make him. So Crow strode across the arena and into the dense warren of streets just beyond its gates.

  Brother Zachariah followed.

  He was sorry to have left the girl so abruptly. He felt a certain kinship with her. They’d both given a piece of their hearts to a Herondale. And they both loved someone they could not have.

  Of course, Brother Zachariah’s love was a pale imitation of the real, raw, human thing. He loved through a scrim, and every year it got harder to remember what lay beyond. To remember how it had felt to long for Tessa the way a living, breathing human longed. How it had felt to need her. Zachariah no longer truly needed anything. Not food, not sleep, not even, much as he sometimes tried to summon it in himself, Tessa. His love persisted, but it was blunted. The girl’s love had a jagged edge, and talking to her had helped him remember.

  She had wanted his help too, he could tell. The most human part of him was tempted to stay by her side. She’d seemed so fragile—and so determined to seem otherwise. It touched his heart. But Brother Zachariah’s heart was encased in stone.

  He tried to tell himself otherwise. After all, the very fact of his presence here was evidence of his still-human heart. He’d been hunting for decades—because of Will, because of Tessa, because a part of him was still Jem, the Shadowhunter boy who had loved them both.

  Still loves them both, Brother Zachariah reminded himself. Present tense.

  The heron pendant had confirmed his suspicions. This was definitely the man he’d been seeking. Zachariah couldn’t let him get away.

  Crow ducked into a narrow cobblestone alley. Brother Zachariah followed, tense and alert. He sensed their slow-motion chase was nearing its end. And indeed, the alley was a dead-end. Crow whirled around to face Zachariah, a knife in his hand. He was still young, barely into his twenties, with a proud face and a shock of blond hair.

  Brother Zachariah had a weapon and was quite good at using it. But he made no move to draw his staff. This man could never be a threat to him.

  “Okay, Shadowhunter, you wanted me, you got me,” Crow said, feet braced and knife ready, clearly expecting an attack.

  Brother Zachariah studied his face, searching for something familiar. But there was nothing. Nothing but the pretense of brash courage. With his sightless eyes, Zachariah could see beneath such
facades. He could see fear.

  There was a rustling behind him. Then a woman’s voice.

  “You know what they say, Shadowhunter. Be careful what you wish for.”

  Brother Zachariah turned, slowly. Here was a surprise. A young woman—even younger than Crow—stood in the mouth of the alley. She was almost ethereally beautiful, with shining blond hair and the kind of ruby lips and cobalt eyes that had inspired millennia of bad poetry. She was smiling sweetly. She was aiming a crossbow directly at Brother Zachariah’s heart.

  He felt a jolt of fear. Not because of the knife or the crossbow; he had nothing to fear from these two. He would prefer not to fight at all, but if necessary he could disarm them harmlessly. They weren’t equipped to protect themselves. That was the problem.

  The fear stemmed from the realization that he had achieved his goal. This search was the one thing that still bound him to Tessa, to Will, to his former self. What if today he lost his only remaining tie to Jem Carstairs? What if this, today, was his last truly human act?

  “Come on, Shadowhunter,” the woman said. “Spit it out. If you’re very lucky, maybe we’ll let you live.”

  I don’t want to fight you. From their reaction, he could tell they hadn’t expected the voice in their head. These two knew enough to recognize a Shadowhunter—but apparently they didn’t know as much as they thought. I have been looking for you, Jack Crow.

  “Yeah, so I heard. Someone should have warned you, people who come looking for me tend to regret it.”

  I mean you no harm. I only want to deliver a message. It is about who you are and where you came from. You might find this difficult to believe, but—

  “Yeah, yeah, I’m a Shadowhunter too.” Crow shrugged. “Now tell me something I don’t know.”

  “You here to buy, or to shoplift?”

  Céline dropped the potion bottle. It shattered on the ground, releasing a puff of noxious blue smoke.

  After the Silent Brother had ditched her for the hot guy in the trench coat, the werewolf kid had shut down the booth. He glared at Céline until she accepted it was time to move on. So she’d meandered over to Dominique du Froid’s booth, trying to look innocuous. Which worked fine, until the warlock herself appeared, seemingly out of nowhere.