Magnus’s uneven smile broadened. “You didn’t think I was going to do it, did you?”

“I wondered,” Clary admitted. “Especially considering that when I saw you at the cottage, you didn’t even see fit to tell me that Jace brought Simon through the Portal with him when he came to Alicante. I didn’t have a chance to yell at you about that before, but what were you thinking? That I wouldn’t be interested?”

“That you’d be too interested,” said Magnus. “That you’d drop everything and go rushing off to the Gard. And I needed you to look for the Book of the White.”

“That’s ruthless,” Clary said angrily. “And you’re wrong. I would have—”

“Done what anyone would have done. What I would have done if it were someone I cared about. I don’t blame you, Clary, and I didn’t do it because I thought you were weak. I did it because you’re human, and I know humanity’s ways. I’ve been alive a long time.”

“Like you never do anything stupid because you have feelings,” Clary said. “Where’s Alec, anyway? Why aren’t you off choosing him as your partner right now?”

Magnus seemed to wince. “I wouldn’t approach him with his parents there. You know that.”

Clary propped her chin on her hand. “Doing the right thing because you love someone sucks sometimes.”

“It does,” Magnus said, “at that.”

The raven flew in slow, lazy circles, making his way over the treetops toward the western wall of the valley. The moon was high, eliminating the need for witchlight as Jace followed, keeping to the edges of the trees.

The valley wall rose above, a sheer wall of gray rock. The raven’s path seemed to be following the curve of the stream as it wended its way west, disappearing finally into a narrow fissure in the wall. Jace nearly twisted his ankle several times on wet rock and wished he could swear out loud, but Hugo would be sure to hear him. Bent into an uncomfortable half crouch, he concentrated on not breaking a leg instead.

His shirt was soaked with sweat by the time he reached the edge of the valley. For a moment he thought he’d lost sight of Hugo, and his heart fell—then he saw the black sinking shape as the raven swooped low and disappeared into the dark, fissured hole in the valley’s rock wall. Jace ran forward—it was such a relief to run instead of crawl. As he neared the fissure, he could see a much larger, darker gap beyond it—a cave. Fumbling his witchlight stone out of his pocket, Jace dived in after the raven.

Only a little light seeped in through the cave’s mouth, and after a few steps even that was swallowed up by the oppressive darkness. Jace raised his witchlight and let the illumination bleed out between his fingers.

At first he thought he’d somehow found his way outside again, and that the stars were visible overhead in all their glittering glory. The stars never shone anywhere else the way they shone in Idris—and they weren’t shining now. The witchlight had picked out dozens of sparkling deposits of mica in the rock around him, and the walls had come alive with brilliant points of light.

They showed him that he was standing in a narrow space carved out of sheer rock, the cave entrance behind him, two branching dark tunnels ahead. Jace thought of the stories his father had told him about heroes lost in mazes who used rope or twine to find their way back. He didn’t have either of those on him, though. He moved closer to the tunnels and stood silent for a long moment, listening. He heard the drip of water, faintly, from somewhere far away; the rush of the stream; a rustling like wings; and—voices.

He jerked back. The voices were coming from the left-hand tunnel, he was sure of it. He ran his thumb over the witchlight to dim it, until it was giving off a faint glow that was just enough to light his way. Then he plunged forward into the darkness.

“Are you serious, Simon? It’s really true? That’s fantastic! It’s wonderful!” Isabelle reached out for her brother’s hand. “Alec, did you hear what Simon said? Jace isn’t Valentine’s son. He never was.”

“So whose son is he?” Alec replied, though Simon had the feeling that he was only partly paying attention. He seemed to be casting around the room for something. His parents stood a little distance away, frowning in their direction; Simon had been worried he’d have to explain the whole business to them, too, but they’d nicely allowed him a few minutes with Isabelle and Alec alone.

“Who cares!” Isabelle threw her hands up in delight, then frowned. “Actually, that’s a good point. Who was his father? Michael Wayland after all?”

Simon shook his head. “Stephen Herondale.”

“So he was the Inquisitor’s grandson,” Alec said. “That must be why she—” He broke off, staring into the distance.

“Why she what?” Isabelle demanded. “Alec, pay attention. Or at least tell us what you’re looking for.”

“Not what,” said Alec. “Who. Magnus. I wanted to ask him if he’d be my partner in the battle. But I’ve no idea where he is. Have you seen him?” he asked, directing his question at Simon.

Simon shook his head. “He was up on the dais with Clary, but”—he craned his neck to look—“he’s not now. He’s probably in the crowd somewhere.”

“Really? Are you really going to ask him to be your partner?” Isabelle asked. “It’s like a cotillion, this partners business, except with killing.”

“So, exactly like a cotillion,” said Simon.

“Maybe I’ll ask you to be my partner, Simon,” Isabelle said, raising an eyebrow delicately.

Alec frowned. He was, like the rest of the Shadowhunters in the room, entirely geared up—all in black, with a belt from which dangled multiple weapons. A bow was strapped across his back; Simon was happy to see he’d found a replacement for the one Sebastian had smashed. “Isabelle, you don’t need a partner, because you’re not fighting. You’re too young. And if you even think about it, I’ll kill you.” His head jerked up. “Wait—is that Magnus?”

Isabelle, following his gaze, snorted. “Alec, that’s a werewolf. A girl werewolf. In fact, it’s what’s-her-name. May.”

“Maia,” Simon corrected. She was standing a little ways away, wearing brown leather pants and a tight black T-shirt that said WHATEVER DOESN’T KILL ME … HAD BETTER START RUNNING. A cord held back her braided hair. She turned, as if sensing their eyes on her, and smiled. Simon smiled back. Isabelle glowered. Simon stopped smiling hastily—when exactly had his life gotten so complicated?

Alec’s face lit up. “There’s Magnus,” he said, and took off without a backward glance, shearing a path through the crowd to the space where the tall warlock stood. Magnus’s surprise as Alec approached him was visible, even from this distance.

“It’s sort of sweet,” said Isabelle, looking at them, “you know, in kind of a lame way.”

“Why lame?”

“Because,” Isabelle explained, “Alec’s trying to get Magnus to take him seriously, but he’s never told our parents about Magnus, or even that he likes, you know—”

“Warlocks?” Simon said.

“Very funny.” Isabelle glared at him. “You know what I mean. What’s going on here is—”

“What is going on, exactly?” asked Maia, striding into earshot. “I mean, I don’t quite get this partners thing. How is it supposed to work?”

“Like that.” Simon pointed toward Alec and Magnus, who stood a bit apart from the crowd, in their own small space. Alec was drawing on Magnus’s hand, his face intent, his dark hair falling forward to hide his eyes.

“So we all have to do that?” Maia said. “Get drawn on, I mean.”

“Only if you’re going to fight,” Isabelle said, looking at the other girl coldly. “You don’t look eighteen yet.”

Maia smiled tightly. “I’m not a Shadowhunter. Lycanthropes are considered adults at sixteen.”

“Well, you have to get drawn on, then,” said Isabelle. “By a Shadowhunter. So you’d better look for one.”

“But—” Maia, still looking over at Alec and Magnus, broke off and raised her eyebrows. Simon turned to see what she was looking at—and stared.

Alec had his arms around Magnus and was kissing him, full on the mouth. Magnus, who appeared to be in a state of shock, stood frozen. Several groups of people—Shadowhunters and Downworlders alike—were staring and whispering. Glancing to the side, Simon saw the Lightwoods, their eyes wide, gaping at the display. Maryse had her hand over her mouth.

Maia looked perplexed. “Wait a second,” she said. “Do we all have to do that, too?”

For the sixth time Clary scanned the crowd, looking for Simon. She couldn’t find him. The room was a roiling mass of Shadowhunters and Downworlders, the crowd spilling through the open doors and onto the steps outside. Everywhere was the flash of steles as Downworlders and Shadowhunters came together in pairs and Marked each other. Clary saw Maryse Lightwood holding out her hand to a tall green-skinned faerie woman who was just as pale and regal as she was. Patrick Penhallow was solemnly exchanging Marks with a warlock whose hair shone with blue sparks. Through the Hall doors Clary could see the bright glimmer of the Portal in the square. The starlight shining down through the glass skylight lent a surreal air to all of it.

“Amazing, isn’t it?” Luke said. He stood at the edge of the dais, looking down over the room. “Shadowhunters and Downworlders, mingling together in the same room. Working together.” He sounded awed. All Clary could think was that she wished Jace were here to see what was happening. She couldn’t put aside her fear for him, no matter how hard she tried. The idea that he might face down Valentine, might risk his life because he thought he was cursed—that he might die without ever knowing it wasn’t true—

“Clary,” Jocelyn said, with a trace of amusement, “did you hear what I said?”

“I did,” said Clary, “and it is amazing, I know.”

Jocelyn put her hand on top of Clary’s. “That’s not what I was saying. Luke and I will both be fighting. I know you know that. You’ll be staying here with Isabelle and the other children.”

“I’m not a child.”

“I know you’re not, but you’re too young to fight. And even if you weren’t, you’ve never been trained.”

“I don’t want to just sit here and do nothing.”

“Nothing?” Jocelyn said in amazement. “Clary, none of this would be happening if it weren’t for you. We wouldn’t even have a chance to fight if it weren’t for you. I’m so proud of you. I just wanted to tell you that even though Luke and I will be gone, we’ll be coming back. Everything’s going to be fine.”

Clary looked up at her mother, into the green eyes so like her own. “Mom,” she said. “Don’t lie.”

Jocelyn took a sharp breath and stood up, drawing her hand back. Before she could say anything, something caught Clary’s eye—a familiar face in the crowd. A slim, dark figure, moving purposefully toward them, slipping through the thronged Hall with deliberate and surprising ease—as if he could drift through the crowd, like smoke through the gaps in a fence.

And he was, Clary realized, as he neared the dais. It was Raphael, dressed in the same white shirt and black pants she’d first seen him in. She had forgotten how slight he was. He looked barely fourteen as he climbed the stairs, his thin face calm and angelic, like a choirboy mounting the steps to the chancel.

“Raphael.” Luke’s voice held amazement, mixed with relief. “I didn’t think you were coming. Have the Night Children reconsidered joining us in fighting Valentine? There’s still a Council seat open for you, if you’d like to take it.” He held a hand out to Raphael.

Raphael’s clear and lovely eyes regarded him expressionlessly. “I cannot shake hands with you, werewolf.” When Luke looked offended, he smiled, just enough to show the white tips of his fang teeth. “I am a Projection,” he said, raising his hand so that they could all see how the light shone through it. “I can touch nothing.”

“But—” Luke glanced up at the moonlight pouring through the roof. “Why—” He lowered his hand. “Well, I’m glad you’re here. However you choose to appear.”

Raphael shook his head. For a moment his eyes lingered on Clary—a look she really didn’t like—and then he turned his gaze to Jocelyn, and his smile widened. “You,” he said, “Valentine’s wife. Others of my kind, who fought with you at the Uprising, told me of you. I admit I never thought I would see you myself.”

Jocelyn inclined her head. “Many of the Night Children fought very bravely then. Does your presence here indicate that we might fight alongside each other once again?”

It was odd, Clary thought, to hear her mother speak in that cool and formal way, and yet it seemed natural to Jocelyn. As natural in its way as sitting on the ground in ancient overalls, holding a paint-splattered brush.

“I hope so,” Raphael said, and his gaze brushed Clary again, like the touch of a cold hand. “We have only one requirement, one simple—and small—request. If that is honored, the Night Children of many lands will happily go to battle at your side.”

“The Council seat,” said Luke. “Of course—it can be formalized, the documents drawn up within the hour—”

“Not,” said Raphael, “the Council seat. Something else.”

“Something—else?” Luke echoed blankly. “What is it? I assure you, if it’s in our power—” Copyright 2016 - 2024