“Oh, it is.” Raphael’s smile was blinding. “In fact, it is something that is within the walls of this Hall as we speak.” He turned and gestured gracefully toward the crowd. “It is the boy Simon that we want,” he said. “It is the Daylighter.”
The tunnel was long and twisting, switchbacking on itself over and over as if Jace were crawling through the entrails of an enormous monster. It smelled like wet rock and ashes and something else, something dank and odd that reminded Jace ever so slightly of the smell of the Bone City.
At last the tunnel opened out into a circular chamber. Huge stalactites, their surfaces as burnished as gems, hung down from a ridged, stony ceiling high above. The floor was as smooth as if it had been polished, alternating here and there with arcane patterns of gleaming inlaid stone. A series of rough stalagmites circled the chamber. In the very center of the room stood a single massive quartz stalagmite, rearing up from the floor like a gigantic fang, patterned here and there with a reddish design. Peering closer, Jace saw that the sides of the stalagmite were transparent, the reddish pattern the result of something swirling and moving inside it, like a glass test tube full of colored smoke.
High above, light filtered down from a circular hole in the stone, a natural skylight. The chamber had certainly been a product of design rather than accident—the intricate patterns tracing the floor made that much obvious—but who would have hollowed out such an enormous underground chamber, and why?
A sharp caw echoed through the room, sending a shock through Jace’s nerves. He ducked behind a bulky stalagmite, dousing his witchlight, just as two figures emerged from the shadows at the far end of the room and moved toward him, their heads bent together in conversation. It was only when they reached the center of the room and the light struck them that he recognized them.
Hoping to avoid the crowd, Simon took the long way back toward the dais, ducking behind the rows of pillars that lined the sides of the Hall. He kept his head down as he went, lost in thought. It seemed strange that Alec, only a year or two older than Isabelle, was heading off to fight in a war, and the rest of them were going to stay behind. And Isabelle seemed calm about it. No crying, no hysterics. It was as if she’d expected it. Maybe she had. Maybe they all had.
He was close to the dais steps when he glanced up and saw, to his surprise, Raphael standing across from Luke, looking his usual near-expressionless self. Luke, on the other hand, looked agitated—he was shaking his head, his hands up in protest, and Jocelyn, beside him, looked outraged. Simon couldn’t see Clary’s face—her back was to him—but he knew her well enough to recognize her tension just from the set of her shoulders.
Not wanting Raphael to see him, Simon ducked behind a pillar, listening. Even over the babble of the crowd, he was able to hear Luke’s rising voice.
“It’s out of the question,” Luke was saying. “I can’t believe you’d even ask.”
“And I can’t believe you would refuse.” Raphael’s voice was cool and clear, the sharp, still-high voice of a young boy. “It is such a small thing.”
“It’s not a thing.” Clary sounded angry. “It’s Simon. He’s a person.”
“He’s a vampire,” said Raphael. “Which you seem to keep forgetting.”
“Aren’t you a vampire as well?” asked Jocelyn, her tone as freezing as it had been every time Clary and Simon had ever gotten in trouble for doing something stupid. “Are you saying your life has no worth?”
Simon pressed himself back against the pillar. What was going on?
“My life has great worth,” said Raphael, “being, unlike yours, eternal. There is no end to what I might accomplish, while there is a clear end where you are concerned. But that is not the issue. He is a vampire, one of my own, and I am asking for him back.”
“You can’t have him back,” Clary snapped. “You never had him in the first place. You were never even interested in him either, till you found out he could walk around in daylight—”
“Possibly,” said Raphael, “but not for the reason you think.” He cocked his head, his bright, soft eyes dark and darting as a bird’s. “No vampire should have the power he has,” he said, “just as no Shadowhunter should have the power that you and your brother do. For years we have been told that we are wrong and unnatural. But this—this is unnatural.”
“Raphael.” Luke’s tone was warning. “I don’t know what you were hoping for. But there’s no chance we’ll let you hurt Simon.”
“But you will let Valentine and his army of demons hurt all these people, your allies.” Raphael made a sweeping gesture that encompassed the room. “You will let them risk their lives at their own discretion but won’t give Simon the same choice? Perhaps he would make a different one than you will.” He lowered his arm. “You know we will not fight with you otherwise. The Night Children will have no part in this day.”
“Then have no part in it,” said Luke. “I won’t buy your cooperation with an innocent life. I’m not Valentine.”
Raphael turned to Jocelyn. “What about you, Shadowhunter? Are you going to let this werewolf decide what’s best for your people?”
Jocelyn was looking at Raphael as if he were a roach she’d found crawling across her clean kitchen floor. Very slowly she said, “If you lay one hand on Simon, vampire, I’ll have you chopped up into tiny pieces and fed to my cat. Understand?”
Raphael’s mouth tightened. “Very well,” he said. “When you lie dying on Brocelind Plain, you may ask yourself whether one life was truly worth so many.”
He vanished. Luke turned quickly to Clary, but Simon was no longer watching them: He was looking down at his hands. He had thought they would be shaking, but they were as motionless as a corpse’s. Very slowly, he closed them into fists.
* * *
Valentine looked as he always had, a big man in modified Shadowhunter gear, his broad, thick shoulders at odds with his sharply planed, fine-featured face. He had the Mortal Sword strapped across his back along with a bulky satchel. He wore a wide belt with numerous weapons thrust through it: thick hunting daggers, narrow dirks, and skinning knives. Staring at Valentine from behind the rock, Jace felt as he always did now when he thought of his father—a persistent familial affection corroded through with bleakness, disappointment, and mistrust.
It was strange seeing his father with Sebastian, who looked—different. He wore gear as well, and a long silver-hilted sword strapped at his waist, but it wasn’t what he was wearing that struck Jace as odd. It was his hair, no longer a cap of dark curls but fair, shining-fair, a sort of white-gold. It suited him, actually, better than the dark hair had; his skin no longer looked so startlingly pale. He must have dyed his hair to resemble the real Sebastian Verlac, and this was what he really looked like. A sour, roiling wave of hatred coursed through Jace, and it was all he could do to stay hidden behind the rock and not lunge forward to wrap his hands around Sebastian’s throat.