She scrambled down the steps, pushing past Luke when he tried to reach out for her. “I just need to be alone for a second.”

“Clary—” She heard Luke call out to her, but she pulled away from him, darting around the side of the cathedral. She found herself following the stone path where it forked, making her way toward the small garden on the Institute’s east side, toward the smell of char and ashes—and a thick, sharp smell under that. The smell of demonic magic. There was mist in the garden still, scattered bits of it like trails of cloud caught here and there on the edge of a rosebush or hiding under a stone. She could see where the earth had been churned up earlier by the fighting—and there was a dark red stain there, by one of the stone benches, that she didn’t want to look at long.

Clary turned her head away. And paused. There, against the wall of the cathedral, were the unmistakable marks of rune magic, glowing a hot, fading blue against the gray stone. They formed a squarish outline, like the outline of light around a half-open door….

The Portal.

Something inside her seemed to twist. She remembered other symbols, shining dangerously against the smooth metal hull of a ship. She remembered the shudder the ship had given as it had wrenched itself apart, the black water of the East River pouring in. They’re just runes, she thought. Symbols. I can draw them. If my mother can trap the essence of the Mortal Cup inside a piece of paper, then I can make a Portal.

She found her feet carrying her to the cathedral wall, her hand reaching into her pocket for her stele. Willing her hand not to shake, she set the tip of the stele to the stone.

She squeezed her eyelids shut and, against the darkness behind them, began to draw with her mind in curving lines of light. Lines that spoke to her of doorways, of being carried on whirling air, of travel and faraway places. The lines came together in a rune as graceful as a bird in flight. She didn’t know if it was a rune that had existed before or one she had invented, but it existed now as if it always had.


She began to draw, the marks leaping out from the stele’s tip in charcoaled black lines. The stone sizzled, filling her nose with the acidic smell of burning. Hot blue light grew against her closed eyelids. She felt heat on her face, as if she stood in front of a fire. With a gasp she lowered her hand, opening her eyes.

The rune she had drawn was a dark flower blossoming on the stone wall. As she watched, the lines of it seemed to melt and change, flowing gently down, unfurling, reshaping themselves. Within moments the shape of the rune had changed. It was now the outline of a glowing doorway, several feet taller than Clary herself.

She couldn’t tear her eyes from the doorway. It shone with the same dark light as the Portal behind the curtain at Madame Dorothea’s. She reached out for it—

And recoiled. To use a Portal, she remembered with a sinking feeling, you had to imagine where you wanted to go, where you wanted the Portal to take you. But she had never been to Idris. It had been described to her, of course. A place of green valleys, of dark woods and bright water, of lakes and mountains, and Alicante, the city of glass towers. She could imagine what it might look like, but imagination wasn’t enough, not with this magic. If only …

She took a sudden sharp breath. But she had seen Idris. She’d seen it in a dream, and she knew, without knowing how she knew, that it had been a true dream. After all, what had Jace said to her in the dream about Simon? That he couldn’t stay because This place is for the living? And not long after that, Simon had died….

She cast her memory back to the dream. She had been dancing in a ballroom in Alicante. The walls had been gold and white, with a clear, diamondlike roof overhead. There had been a fountain—a silver dish with a mermaid statue at the center—and lights strung in the trees outside the windows, and Clary had been wearing green velvet, just as she was now.

As if she were still in the dream, she reached for the Portal. A bright light spread under the touch of her fingers, a door opening onto a lighted place beyond. She found herself staring into a whirling golden maelstrom that slowly began to coalesce into discernible shapes—she thought she could see the outline of mountains, a piece of sky—

“Clary!” It was Luke, racing up the path, his face a mask of anger and dismay. Behind him strode Magnus, his cat eyes shining like metal in the hot Portal light that bathed the garden. “Clary, stop! The wards are dangerous! You’ll get yourself killed!”

But there was no stopping now. Beyond the Portal the golden light was growing. She thought of the gold walls of the Hall in her dream, the golden light refracting off the cut glass everywhere. Luke was wrong; he didn’t understand her gift, how it worked—what did wards matter when you could create your own reality just by drawing it? “I have to go,” she cried, moving forward, her fingertips outstretched. “Luke, I’m sorry—”

She stepped forward—and with a last, swift leap, he was at her side, catching at her wrist, just as the Portal seemed to explode all around them. Like a tornado snatching a tree up by the roots, the force yanked them both off their feet. Clary caught a last glimpse of the cars and buildings of Manhattan spinning away from her, vanishing as a whiplash-hard current of wind caught her, sending her hurtling, her wrist still in Luke’s iron grip, into a whirling golden chaos.

Simon awoke to the rhythmic slap of water. He sat up, sudden terror freezing his chest—the last time he’d woken up to the sound of waves, he’d been a prisoner on Valentine’s ship, and the soft liquid noise brought him back to that terrible time with an immediacy that was like a dash of ice water in the face.

But no—a quick look around told him that he was somewhere else entirely. For one thing, he was lying under soft blankets on a comfortable wooden bed in a small, clean room whose walls were painted a pale blue. Dark curtains were drawn over the window, but the faint light around their edges was enough for his vampire’s eyes to see clearly. There was a bright rug on the floor and a mirrored cupboard on one wall.

There was also an armchair pulled up to the side of the bed. Simon sat up, the blankets falling away, and realized two things: one, that he was still wearing the same jeans and T-shirt he’d been wearing when he’d headed to the Institute to meet Jace; and two, that the person in the chair was dozing, her head propped on her hand, her long black hair spilling down like a fringed shawl.

“Isabelle?” Simon said.

Her head popped up like a startled jack-in-the-box’s, her eyes flying open. “Oooh! You’re awake!” She sat up straight, flicking her hair back. “Jace’ll be so relieved. We were almost totally sure you were going to die.”

“Die?” Simon echoed. He felt dizzy and a little sick. “From what?” He glanced around the room, blinking. “Am I in the Institute?” he asked, and realized the moment the words were out of his mouth that that, of course, was impossible. “I mean—where are we?”

An uneasy flicker passed across Isabelle’s face. “Well … you mean, you don’t remember what happened in the garden?” She tugged nervously at the crochet trim that bordered the chair’s upholstery. “The Forsaken attacked us. There were a lot of them, and the hellmist made it hard to fight them. Magnus opened up the Portal, and we were all running into it when I saw you coming toward us. You tripped over—over Madeleine. And there was a Forsaken just behind you; you must not have seen it, but Jace did. He tried to get to you, but it was too late. The Forsaken stuck its knife into you. You bled—a lot. And Jace killed the Forsaken and picked you up and dragged you through the Portal with him,” she finished, speaking so rapidly that her words blurred together and Simon had to strain to catch them. “And we were already on the other side, and let me tell you, everyone was pretty surprised when Jace came through with you bleeding all over him. The Consul wasn’t at all pleased.”

Simon’s mouth was dry. “The Forsaken stuck its knife into me?” It seemed impossible. But then, he had healed before, after Valentine had cut his throat. Still, he at least ought to remember. Shaking his head, he looked down at himself. “Where?”

“I’ll show you.” Much to his surprise, a moment later Isabelle was seated on the bed beside him, her cool hands on his midriff. She pushed his T-shirt up, baring a strip of pale stomach, bisected by a thin red line. It was barely a scar. “Here,” she said, her fingers gliding over it. “Is there any pain?”

“N-no.” The first time Simon had ever seen Isabelle, he’d found her so striking, so alight with life and vitality and energy, he’d thought he’d finally found a girl who burned bright enough to blot out the image of Clary that always seemed to be printed on the inside of his eyelids. It was right around the time she’d gotten him turned into a rat at Magnus Bane’s loft party that he’d realized maybe Isabelle burned a little too bright for an ordinary guy like him. “It doesn’t hurt.”

“But my eyes do,” said a coolly amused voice from the doorway. Jace. He had come in so quietly that even Simon hadn’t heard him; closing the door behind him, he grinned as Isabelle pulled Simon’s shirt down. “Molesting the vampire while he’s too weak to fight back, Iz?” he asked. “I’m pretty sure that violates at least one of the Accords.”

“I’m just showing him where he got stabbed,” Isabelle protested, but she scooted back to her chair with a certain amount of haste. “What’s going on downstairs?” she asked. “Is everyone still freaking out?”

The smile left Jace’s face. “Maryse has gone up to the Gard with Patrick,” he said. “The Clave’s in session and Malachi thought it would be better if she … explained … in person.”

Malachi. Patrick. Gard. The unfamiliar names whirled through Simon’s head. “Explained what?”

Isabelle and Jace exchanged a look. “Explained you,” Jace said finally. “Explained why we brought a vampire with us to Alicante, which is, by the way, expressly against the Law.”

“To Alicante? We’re in Alicante?” A wave of blank panic washed over Simon, quickly replaced by a pain that shot through his midsection. He doubled over, gasping.

“Simon!” Isabelle reached out her hand, alarm in her dark eyes. “Are you all right?”

“Go away, Isabelle.” Simon, his hands fisted against his stomach, looked up at Jace, pleading in his voice. “Make her go.”

Isabelle recoiled, a hurt look on her face. “Fine. I’ll go. You don’t have to tell me twice.” She flounced to her feet and out of the room, banging the door behind her.

Jace turned to Simon, his amber eyes expressionless. “What’s going on? I thought you were healing.”

Simon threw up a hand to ward the other boy off. A metallic taste burned in the back of his throat. “It’s not Isabelle,” he ground out. “I’m not hurt—I’m just … hungry.” He felt his cheeks burn. “I lost blood, so—I need to replace it.”

“Of course,” Jace said, in the tone of someone who’s just been enlightened by an interesting, if not particularly necessary, scientific fact. The faint concern left his expression, to be replaced by something that looked to Simon like amused contempt. It struck a chord of fury inside him, and if he hadn’t been so debilitated by pain, he would have flung himself off the bed and onto the other boy in a rage. As it was, all he could do was gasp, “Screw you, Wayland.”

“Wayland, is it?” The amused look didn’t leave Jace’s face, but his hands went to his throat and began to unzip his jacket.

“No!” Simon shrank back on the bed. “I don’t care how hungry I am. I’m not … drinking your blood … again.”

Jace’s mouth twisted. “Like I’d let you.” He reached into the inside pocket of his jacket and drew out a glass flask. It was half-full of a thin red-brown liquid. “I thought you might need this,” he said. “I squeezed the juice out of a few pounds of raw meat in the kitchen. It was the best I could do.”

Simon took the flask from Jace with hands that were shaking so badly that the other boy had to unscrew the top for him. The liquid inside was foul—too thin and salty to be proper blood, and with that faint unpleasant taste that Simon knew meant the meat had been a few days old.

“Ugh,” he said, after a few swallows. “Dead blood.”

Jace’s eyebrows went up. “Isn’t all blood dead?”

“The longer the animal whose blood I’m drinking has been dead, the worse the blood tastes,” Simon explained. “Fresh is better.”

“But you’ve never drunk fresh blood. Have you?”

Simon raised his own eyebrows in response.

“Well, aside from mine, of course,” Jace said. “And I’m sure my blood is fantastic.”

Simon set the empty flask down on the arm of the chair by the bed. “There’s something very wrong with you,” he said. “Mentally, I mean.” His mouth still tasted of spoiled blood, but the pain was gone. He felt better, stronger, as if the blood were a medicine that worked instantly, a drug he had to have to live. He wondered if this was what it was like for heroin addicts. “So I’m in Idris.”

“Alicante, to be specific,” said Jace. “The capital city. The only city, really.” He went to the window and drew back the curtains. “The Penhallows didn’t really believe us,” he said. “That the sun wouldn’t bother you. They put these blackout curtains up. But you should look.”

Rising from the bed, Simon joined Jace at the window. And stared.

A few years ago his mother had taken him and his sister on a trip to Tuscany—a week of heavy, unfamiliar pasta dishes, unsalted bread, hardy brown countryside, and his mother speeding down narrow, twisting roads, barely avoiding crashing their Fiat into the beautiful old buildings they’d ostensibly come to see. He remembered stopping on a hillside just opposite a town called San Gimignano, a collection of rust-colored buildings dotted here and there with high towers whose tops soared upward as if reaching for the sky. If what he was looking at now reminded him of anything, it was that; but it was also so alien that it was genuinely unlike anything he’d ever seen before. Copyright 2016 - 2024