Sebastian’s fixed expression didn’t change. “I think that should be her choice,” he said. “Don’t you?”

They both looked at Clary. She looked past them, toward Luke, still arguing with Malachi.

“I want to go with my brother,” she said.

Something flickered behind Sebastian’s eyes—something that was there and gone too quickly for Clary to identify it, though she felt a chill at the base of her neck, as if a cold hand had touched her there. “Of course you do,” he said, and stepped aside.

It was Alec who moved first, pushing Jace ahead of him, making him walk. They were partway to the doors when she realized that her wrist was hurting—stinging as if it had been burned. Looking down, she expected to see a mark on her wrist, where Sebastian had gripped her, but there was nothing there. Just a smear of blood on her sleeve where she had touched the cut on his face. Frowning, with her wrist still stinging, she drew her sleeve down and hurried to catch up with the others.




He had tried yanking the bars out of the window and the cell door, but touching any of them for very long seared bleeding score marks into his palms. Eventually he collapsed, gasping, on the floor, and stared numbly at his hands as the injuries swiftly healed, the lesions closing up and the blackened skin flaking away like in a video on fast-forward.

On the other side of the cell wall, Samuel was praying. “‘If, when evil cometh upon us, as the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we stand before this house, and in thy presence, and cry unto thee in our affliction, then thou wilt hear and help—’”

Simon knew he couldn’t pray. He’d tried it before, and the name of God burned his mouth and choked his throat. He wondered why he could think the words but not say them. And why he could stand in the noonday sun and not die but he couldn’t say his last prayers.

Smoke had begun to drift down the corridor like a purposeful ghost. He could smell burning and hear the crackle of fire spreading out of control, but he felt oddly detached, far from everything. It was strange to become a vampire, to be presented with what could only be described as an eternal life, and then to die anyway when you were sixteen.

“Simon!” The voice was faint, but his hearing caught it over the pop and crackle of growing flames. The smoke in the corridor had presaged heat; the heat was here now, pressing against him like an oppressive wall. “Simon!”

The voice was Clary’s. He would know it anywhere. He wondered if his mind was conjuring it up now, a sense memory of what he’d most loved during life to carry him through the process of death.

“Simon, you stupid idiot! I’m over here! At the window!”

Simon jumped to his feet. He doubted his mind would conjure that up. Through the thickening smoke he saw something white moving against the bars of the window. As he came closer, the white objects evolved into hands gripping the bars. He leaped onto the cot, yelling over the sound of the fire. “Clary?”

“Oh, thank God.” One of the hands reached out, squeezed his shoulder. “We’re going to get you out of here.”

“How?” Simon demanded, not unreasonably, but there was the sound of a scuffle and Clary’s hands vanished, replaced a moment later by another pair. These were bigger hands, unquestionably masculine, with scarred knuckles and thin pianist’s fingers.

“Hang on.” Jace’s voice was calm, confident, for all the world as if they were chatting at a party instead of through the bars of a rapidly burning dungeon. “You might want to stand back.”

Startled into obedience, Simon moved aside. Jace’s hands tightened on the bars, his knuckles whitening alarmingly. There was a groaning crack, and the square of bars jerked free of the stone that held it and clattered to the ground beside the bed. Stone dust rained down in a choking white cloud.

Jace’s face appeared at the empty square of window. “Simon. Come ON.” He reached down.

Simon reached up and caught Jace’s hands. He felt himself hauled up, and then he was grabbing at the edge of the window, lifting himself through the narrow square like a snake wriggling through a tunnel. A second later he was sprawled out on damp grass, staring up at a circle of worried faces above his. Jace, Clary, and Alec. They were all looking down at him in concern.

“You look like crap, vampire,” Jace said. “What happened to your hands?”

Simon sat up. The injuries to his hands had healed, but they were still black where he’d grabbed at the bars of his cell. Before he could reply, Clary caught him in a sudden, fierce hug.

“Simon,” she breathed. “I can’t believe it. I didn’t even know you were here. I thought you were in New York until last night—”

“Yeah, well,” Simon said, “I didn’t know you were here either.” He glared at Jace over her shoulder. “In fact, I think I was specifically told that you weren’t.”

“I never said that,” Jace pointed out. “I just didn’t correct you when you were, you know, wrong. Anyway, I just saved you from being burned to death, so I figure you’re not allowed to be mad.”

Burned to death. Simon pulled away from Clary and stared around. They were in a square garden, surrounded on two sides by the walls of the fortress and on the other two sides by a heavy growth of trees. The trees had been cleared where a gravel path led down the hill to the city—it was lined with witchlight torches, but only a few were burning, their light dim and erratic. He looked up at the Gard. Seen from this angle, you could barely even tell there was a fire—black smoke stained the sky overhead, and the light in a few windows seemed unnaturally bright, but the stone walls hid their secret well.

“Samuel,” he said. “We have to get Samuel out.”

Clary looked baffled. “Who?”

“I wasn’t the only person down there. Samuel—he was in the next cell.”

“The heap of rags I saw through the window?” Jace recalled.

“Yeah. He’s kind of weird, but he’s a good guy. We can’t leave him down there.” Simon scrambled to his feet. “Samuel? Samuel!”

There was no answer. Simon ran to the low, barred window beside the one he’d just crawled through. Through the bars he could see only swirling smoke. “Samuel! Are you in there?”

Something moved inside the smoke—something hunched and dark. Samuel’s voice, roughened by smoke, rose hoarsely. “Leave me alone! Go away!”

“Samuel! You’ll die down there.” Simon yanked at the bars. Nothing happened.

“No! Leave me alone! I want to stay!”

Simon looked desperately around to see Jace beside him. “Move,” Jace said, and when Simon leaned to the side, he kicked out with a booted foot. It connected with the bars, which tore free violently from their mooring and tumbled into Samuel’s cell. Samuel gave a hoarse shout.

“Samuel! Are you all right?” A vision of Samuel being brained by the falling bars rose up before Simon’s eyes.

Samuel’s voice rose to a scream. “GO AWAY!”

Simon looked sideways at Jace. “I think he means it.”

Jace shook his blond head in exasperation. “You had to make a crazy jail friend, didn’t you? You couldn’t just count ceiling tiles or tame a pet mouse like normal prisoners do?” Without waiting for an answer, Jace got down on the ground and crawled through the window.

“Jace!” Clary yelped, and she and Alec hurried over, but Jace was already through the window, dropping into the cell below. Clary shot Simon an angry look. “How could you let him do that?”

“Well, he couldn’t leave that guy down there to die,” Alec said unexpectedly, though he looked a little anxious himself. “It’s Jace we’re talking about here—”

He broke off as two hands rose up out of the smoke. Alec grabbed one and Simon the other, and together they hauled Samuel like a limp sack of potatoes out of the cell and deposited him on the lawn. A moment later Simon and Clary were grabbing Jace’s hands and pulling him out, though he was considerably less limp and swore when they accidentally banged his head on the ledge. He shook them off, crawling the rest of the way onto the grass himself and then collapsing onto his back. “Ouch,” he said, staring up at the sky. “I think I pulled something.” He sat up and glanced over at Samuel. “Is he okay?”

Samuel sat hunched on the ground, his hands splayed over his face. He was rocking back and forth soundlessly.

“I think there’s something wrong with him,” said Alec. He reached down to touch Samuel’s shoulder. Samuel jerked away, almost toppling over.

“Leave me alone,” he said, his voice cracking. “Please. Leave me alone, Alec.”

Alec went still all over. “What did you say?”

“He said to leave him alone,” said Simon, but Alec wasn’t looking at him, didn’t even appear to notice he had spoken. He was looking at Jace—who, suddenly very pale, had already begun to rise to his feet.

“Samuel,” Alec said. His tone was strangely harsh. “Take your hands away from your face.”

“No.” Samuel tucked his chin down, his shoulders shaking. “No, please. No.”

“Alec!” Simon protested. “Can’t you see he isn’t well?”

Clary caught at Simon’s sleeve. “Simon, there’s something wrong.”

Her eyes were on Jace—when weren’t they?—as he moved to stare down at the crouched figure of Samuel. The tips of Jace’s fingers were bleeding where he’d scraped them on the window ledge, and when he moved to push his hair back from his eyes, they left bloody tracks across his cheek. He didn’t seem to notice. His eyes were wide, his mouth a flat, angry line. “Shadowhunter,” he said. His voice was deathly clear. “Show us your face.”

Samuel hesitated, then dropped his hands. Simon had never seen his face before, and he hadn’t realized how gaunt Samuel was, or how old he looked. His face was half-covered by a thatch of thick gray beard, the eyes swimming in dark hollows, his cheeks grooved with lines. But for all that, he was still—somehow—strangely familiar.

Alec’s lips moved, but no sound came out. It was Jace who spoke.

“Hodge,” he said.

“Hodge?” Simon echoed in confusion. “But it can’t be. Hodge was … and Samuel, he can’t be …”

“Well, that’s just what Hodge does, apparently,” Alec said bitterly. “He makes you think he’s someone he’s not.”

“But he said—” Simon began. Clary’s grip tightened on his sleeve, and the words died on his lips. The expression on Hodge’s face was enough. Not guilt, really, or even horror at being discovered, but a terrible grief that was hard to look at for long.

“Jace,” Hodge said very quietly. “Alec … I’m so sorry.”

Jace moved then the way he moved when he was fighting, like sunlight across water. He was standing in front of Hodge with a knife out, the sharp tip of it aimed at his old tutor’s throat. The reflected glow of the fire slid off the blade. “I don’t want your apologies. I want a reason why I shouldn’t kill you right now, right here.”

“Jace.” Alec looked alarmed. “Jace, wait.”

There was a sudden roar as part of the Gard roof went up in orange tongues of flame. Heat shimmered in the air and lit the night. Clary could see every blade of grass on the ground, every line on Hodge’s thin and dirty face.

“No,” Jace said. His blank expression as he gazed down at Hodge reminded Clary of another masklike face. Valentine’s. “You knew what my father did to me, didn’t you? You knew all his dirty secrets.”

Alec was looking uncomprehendingly from Jace to his old tutor. “What are you talking about? What’s going on?”

Hodge’s face creased. “Jonathan …”

“You’ve always known, and you never said anything. All those years in the Institute, and you never said anything.”

Hodge’s mouth sagged. “I—I wasn’t sure,” he whispered. “When you haven’t seen a child since he was a baby—I wasn’t sure who you were, much less what you were.”

“Jace?” Alec was looking from his best friend to his tutor, his blue eyes dismayed, but neither of the two was paying attention to anything but the other. Hodge looked like a man trapped in a tightening vise, his hands jerking at his sides as if with pain, his eyes darting. Clary thought of the neatly dressed man in his book-lined library who had offered her tea and kindly advice. It seemed like a thousand years ago.

“I don’t believe you,” Jace said. “You knew Valentine wasn’t dead. He must have told you—”

“He told me nothing,” Hodge gasped. “When the Lightwoods informed me they were taking in Michael Wayland’s son, I hadn’t heard a word from Valentine since the Uprising. I had thought he had forgotten me. I’d even prayed he was dead, but I never knew. And then, the night before you arrived, Hugo came with a message for me from Valentine. ‘The boy is my son.’ That’s all it said.” He took a ragged breath. “I had no idea whether to believe him. I thought I’d know—I thought I’d know, just looking at you, but there was nothing, nothing, to make me sure. And I thought that this was a trick of Valentine’s, but what trick? What was he trying to do? You had no idea, that was clear enough to me, but as for Valentine’s purpose—”

“You should have told me what I was,” Jace said, all in one breath, as if the words were being punched out of him. “I could have done something about it, then. Killed myself, maybe.”

Hodge raised his head, looking up at Jace through his matted, filthy hair. “I wasn’t sure,” he said again, half to himself, “and in the times that I wondered—I thought, perhaps, that upbringing might matter more than blood; that you could be taught—” Copyright 2016 - 2024