“A favor?” Jace felt cold all over. “And Valentine is going to demand the defeat of the Shadowhunters at Brocelind?”
Sebastian stood up. “That would be a waste,” he said. “No. He’s going to demand that all Shadowhunters who have not drunk from the Mortal Cup—all those who are not his followers—be stripped of their powers. They will no longer be Nephilim. And as such, bearing the Marks they do …” He smiled. “They will become Forsaken, easy prey for the demons, and those Downworlders who have not fled will be quickly eradicated.”
Jace’s ears were ringing with a harsh, tinny sound. He felt dizzy. “Even Valentine,” he said, “even Valentine would never do that—”
“Please,” said Sebastian. “Do you really think my father won’t go through with what he’s planned?”
“Our father,” Jace said.
Sebastian glanced down at him. His hair was a white halo; he looked like the sort of bad angel who might have followed Lucifer out of heaven. “Pardon me,” he said, with some amusement. “Are you praying?”
“No. I said our father. I meant Valentine. Not your father. Ours.”
For a moment Sebastian was expressionless; then his mouth quirked up at the corner, and he grinned. “Little angel boy,” he said. “You’re a fool, aren’t you—just like my father always said.”
“Why do you keep calling me that?” Jace demanded. “Why are you blathering about angels—”
“God,” said Sebastian, “you don’t know anything, do you? Did my father ever say a word to you that wasn’t a lie?”
Jace shook his head. He’d been pulling at the ropes binding his wrists, but every time he jerked at them, they seemed to get tighter. He could feel the pounding of his pulse in each of his fingers. “How do you know he wasn’t lying to you?”
“Because I am his blood. I am just like him. When he’s gone, I’ll rule the Clave after him.”
“I wouldn’t brag about being just like him if I were you.”
“There’s that, too.” Sebastian’s voice was emotionless. “I don’t pretend to be anything other than I am. I don’t behave as if I’m horrified that my father does what he needs to do to save his people, even if they don’t want—or, if you ask me, deserve—saving. Who would you rather have for a son, a boy who’s proud that you’re his father or one who cowers from you in shame and fear?”
“I’m not afraid of Valentine,” said Jace.
“You shouldn’t be,” said Sebastian. “You should be afraid of me.”
There was something in his voice that made Jace abandon his struggle against the bindings and look up. Sebastian was still holding his blackly gleaming sword. It was a dark, beautiful thing, Jace thought, even when Sebastian lowered the point of it so that it rested above Jace’s collarbone, just nicking his Adam’s apple.
Jace struggled to keep his voice steady. “So now what? You’re going to kill me while I’m tied up? Does the thought of fighting me scare you that much?”
Nothing, not a flicker of emotion, passed across Sebastian’s pale face. “You,” he said, “are not a threat to me. You’re a pest. An annoyance.”
“Then why won’t you untie my hands?”
Sebastian, utterly still, stared at him. He looked like a statue, Jace thought, like the statue of some long-dead prince—someone who’d died young and spoiled. And that was the difference between Sebastian and Valentine; though they shared the same cold marble looks, Sebastian had an air about him of something ruined—something eaten away from the inside.
“I’m not a fool,” Sebastian said, “and you can’t bait me. I left you alive only long enough so that you could see the demons. When you die now, and return to your angel ancestors, you can tell them there is no place for them in this world anymore. They’ve failed the Clave, and the Clave no longer needs them. We have Valentine now.”
“You’re killing me because you want me to give a message to God for you?” Jace shook his head, the point of the blade scraping across his throat. “You’re crazier than I thought.”
Sebastian just smiled and pushed the blade in slightly deeper; when Jace swallowed, he could feel the point of it denting his windpipe. “If you have any real prayers, little brother, say them now.”
“I don’t have any prayers,” said Jace. “I have a message, though. For our father. Will you give it to him?”
“Of course,” Sebastian said smoothly, but there was something in the way he said it, a flicker of hesitation before he spoke, that confirmed what Jace was already thinking.
“You’re lying,” he said. “You won’t give him the message, because you’re not going to tell him what you’ve done. He never asked you to kill me, and he won’t be happy when he finds out.”
“Nonsense. You’re nothing to him.”
“You think he’ll never know what happened to me if you kill me now, here. You can tell him I died in the battle, or he’ll just assume that’s what happened. But you’re wrong if you think he won’t know. Valentine always knows.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” Sebastian said, but his face had tightened.
Jace kept talking, pressing home his advantage. “You can’t hide what you’re doing, though. There’s a witness.”
“A witness?” Sebastian looked almost surprised, which Jace counted as something of a victory. “What are you talking about?”
“The raven,” Jace said. “He’s been watching from the shadows. He’ll tell Valentine everything.”
“Hugin?” Sebastian’s gaze snapped up, and though the raven was nowhere to be seen, Sebastian’s face when he glanced back down at Jace was full of doubt.
“If Valentine knows you murdered me while I was tied up and helpless, he’ll be disgusted with you,” Jace said, and he heard his own voice drop into his father’s cadences, the way Valentine spoke when he wanted something: soft and persuasive. “He’ll call you a coward. He’ll never forgive you.”
Sebastian said nothing. He was staring down at Jace, his lips twitching, and hatred boiled behind his eyes like poison.
“Untie me,” Jace said softly. “Untie me and fight me. It’s the only way.”
Sebastian’s lip twitched again, hard, and this time Jace thought he had gone too far. Sebastian drew the sword back and raised it, and the moonlight burst off it in a thousand silver shards, silver as the stars, silver as the color of his hair. He bared his teeth—and the sword’s whistling breath cut the night air with a scream as he brought it down in a whirling arc.
Clary sat on the steps of the dais in the Hall of Accords, holding the stele in her hands. She had never felt quite so alone. The Hall was utterly, totally empty. Clary had looked everywhere for Isabelle once the fighters had all passed through the Portal, but she hadn’t been able to find her. Aline had told her that Isabelle was probably back at the Penhallows’ house, where Aline and a few other teenagers were meant to be looking after at least a dozen children under fighting age. She’d tried to get Clary to go there with her, but Clary had declined. If she couldn’t find Isabelle, she’d rather be alone than with near strangers. Or so she’d thought. But sitting here, she found the silence and the emptiness becoming more and more oppressive. Still, she hadn’t moved. She was trying as hard as she could not to think of Jace, not to think of Simon, not to think of her mother or Luke or Alec—and the only way not to think, she had found, was to remain motionless and to stare at a single square of marble on the floor instead, counting the cracks in it, over and over.
There were six. One, two, three. Four, five, six. She finished the count and started again, from the beginning. One—
The sky overhead exploded.
Or at least that was what it sounded like. Clary threw her head back and stared upward, through the clear roof of the Hall. The sky had been dark a moment ago; now it was a roiling mass of flame and blackness, shot through with an ugly orange light. Things moved against that light—hideous things she didn’t want to see, things that made her grateful to the darkness for obscuring her view. The occasional glimpse was bad enough.
The transparent skylight overhead rippled and bent as the demon host passed, as if it were being warped by tremendous heat. At last there was a sound like a gunshot, and a huge crack appeared in the glass, spiderwebbing out into countless fissures. Clary ducked, covering her head with her hands, as glass rained down around her like tears.
They were almost to the battlefield when the sound came, ripping the night in half. One moment the woods were as silent as they were dark. The next moment the sky was lit with a hellish orange glow. Simon staggered and nearly fell; he caught at a tree trunk to steady himself and looked up, barely able to believe what he was seeing. All around him the other vampires were staring up at the sky, their white faces like night-blooming flowers, lifting to catch the moonlight as nightmare after nightmare streaked across the sky.
“You keep passing out on me,” Sebastian said. “It’s extremely tedious.”
Jace opened his eyes. Pain lanced through his head. He put his hand up to touch the side of his face—and realized his hands were no longer tied behind him. A length of rope trailed from his wrist. His hand came away from his face black—blood, dark in the moonlight.
He stared around him. They were no longer in the cavern: He was lying on soft dirt and grass on the valley floor, not far from the stone house. He could hear the sound of the water in the creek, clearly close by. Knotted tree branches overhead blocked some of the moonlight, but it was still fairly bright.
“Get up,” Sebastian said. “You have five seconds before I kill you where you are.”
Jace stood as slowly as he thought he could get away with. He was still a little dizzy. Fighting for balance, he dug the heels of his boots into the soft dirt, trying to give himself some stability. “Why did you bring me out here?”
“Two reasons,” Sebastian said. “One, I enjoyed knocking you out. Two, it would be bad for either of us to get blood on the floor of that cavern. Trust me. And I intend to spill plenty of your blood.”
Jace felt at his belt, and his heart sank. Either he’d dropped most of his weapons while Sebastian was dragging him through the tunnels, or, more likely, Sebastian had thrown them away. All he had left was a dagger. It was a short blade—too short, no match for the sword.
“Not much of a weapon, that.” Sebastian grinned, white in the moon-dazzled darkness.
“I can’t fight with this,” Jace said, trying to sound as quavering and nervous as he could.
“What a shame.” Sebastian came closer to Jace, grinning. He was holding his sword loosely, theatrically unconcerned, the tips of his fingers beating a light rhythm on the hilt. If there was ever going to be an opening for him, Jace thought, this was probably it. He swung his arm back and punched Sebastian as hard as he could in the face.
Bone crunched under his knuckles. The blow sent Sebastian sprawling. He skidded backward in the dirt, the sword flying from his grip. Jace caught it up as he darted forward, and a second later was standing over Sebastian, blade in hand.
Sebastian’s nose was bleeding, the blood a scarlet streak across his face. He reached up and pulled his collar aside, baring his pale throat. “So go ahead,” he said. “Kill me already.”
Jace hesitated. He didn’t want to hesitate, but there it was: an annoying reluctance to kill anyone lying helpless on the ground in front of him. Jace remembered Valentine taunting him, back at Renwick’s, daring his son to kill him, and Jace hadn’t been able to do it. But Sebastian was a murderer. He’d killed Max and Hodge.
He raised the sword.
And Sebastian erupted off the ground, faster than the eye could follow. He seemed to fly into the air, performing an elegant backflip and landing gracefully on the grass barely a foot away. As he did, he kicked out, striking Jace’s hand. The kick sent the sword spinning out of Jace’s grasp. Sebastian caught it out of the air, laughing, and slashed out with the blade, whipping it toward Jace’s heart. Jace leaped backward and the blade split the air just in front of him, slicing his shirt open down the front. There was a stinging pain and Jace felt blood welling from a shallow slice across his chest.
Sebastian chuckled, advancing toward Jace, who backed up, fumbling his insufficient dagger out of his belt as he went. He looked around, desperately hoping there was something else he could use as a weapon—a long stick, anything. There was nothing around him but the grass, the river running by, and the trees above, spreading their thick branches overhead like a green net. Suddenly he remembered the Malachi Configuration the Inquisitor had trapped him in. Sebastian wasn’t the only one who could jump.
Sebastian slashed the sword toward him again, but Jace had already leaped—straight up into the air. The lowest tree branch was about twenty feet high; he caught at it, swinging himself up and over. Kneeling on the branch, he saw Sebastian, on the ground, spin around and look up. Jace flung the dagger and heard Sebastian shout. Breathless, he straightened up—
And Sebastian was suddenly on the branch beside him. His pale face was flushed angrily, his sword arm streaming blood. He had dropped the sword, evidently, in the grass, though that merely made them even, Jace thought, since his dagger was gone as well. He saw with some satisfaction that for the first time Sebastian looked angry—angry and surprised, as if a pet he’d thought was tame had bitten him.
“That was fun,” Sebastian said. “But now it’s over.”
He flung himself at Jace, catching him around the waist, knocking him off the branch. They fell twenty feet through the air clutched together, tearing at each other—and hit the ground hard, hard enough that Jace saw stars behind his eyes. He grabbed for Sebastian’s injured arm and dug his fingers in; Sebastian yelled and backhanded Jace across the face. Jace’s mouth filled with salty blood; he gagged on it as they rolled through the dirt together, slamming punches into each other. He felt a sudden shock of icy cold; they’d rolled down the slight incline into the river and were lying half in, half out of the water. Sebastian gasped, and Jace took the opportunity to grab for the other boy’s throat and close his hands around it, squeezing. Sebastian choked, seizing Jace’s right wrist in his hand and jerking it backward, hard enough to snap the bones. Jace heard himself scream as if from a distance, and Sebastian pressed the advantage, twisting the broken wrist mercilessly until Jace let go of him and fell back in the cold, watery mud, his arm a howl of agony.