Half-kneeling on Jace’s chest, one knee digging hard into his ribs, Sebastian grinned down at him. His eyes shone out white and black from a mask of dirt and blood. Something glittered in his right hand. Jace’s dagger. He must have picked it up from the ground. Its point rested directly over Jace’s heart.
“And we find ourselves exactly where we were five minutes ago,” Sebastian said. “You’ve had your chance, Wayland. Any last words?”
Jace stared up at him, his mouth streaming blood, his eyes stinging with sweat, and felt only a sense of total and empty exhaustion. Was this really how he was going to die? “Wayland?” he said. “You know that’s not my name.”
“You have as much of a claim to it as you have to the name of Morgenstern,” said Sebastian. He bent forward, leaning his weight onto the dagger. Its tip pierced Jace’s skin, sending a hot stab of pain through his body. Sebastian’s face was inches away, his voice a hissing whisper. “Did you really think you were Valentine’s son? Did you really think a whining, pathetic thing like yourself was worthy of being a Morgenstern, of being my brother?” He tossed his white hair back: It was lank with sweat and creek water. “You’re a changeling,” he said. “My father butchered a corpse to get you and make you one of his experiments. He tried to raise you as his own son, but you were too weak to be any good to him. You couldn’t be a warrior. You were nothing. Useless. So he palmed you off on the Lightwoods and hoped you might be of some use to him later, as a decoy. Or as bait. He never loved you.”
Jace blinked his burning eyes. “Then you …”
“I am Valentine’s son. Jonathan Christopher Morgenstern. You never had any right to that name. You’re a ghost. A pretender.” His eyes were black and glinting, like the carapaces of dead insects, and suddenly Jace heard his mother’s voice, as if in a dream—but she wasn’t his mother—saying, Jonathan’s not a baby anymore. He isn’t even human; he’s a monster.
“You’re the one,” Jace choked. “The one with the demon blood. Not me.”
“That’s right.” The dagger slid another millimeter into Jace’s flesh. Sebastian was still grinning, but it was a rictus, like a skull’s. “You’re the angel boy. I had to hear all about you. You with your pretty angel face and your pretty manners and your delicate, delicate feelings. You couldn’t even watch a bird die without crying. No wonder Valentine was ashamed of you.”
“No.” Jace forgot the blood in his mouth, forgot the pain. “You’re the one he’s ashamed of. You think he wouldn’t take you with him to the lake because he needed you to stay here and open the gate at midnight? Like he didn’t know you wouldn’t be able to wait. He didn’t take you with him because he’s ashamed to stand up in front of the Angel and show him what he’s done. Show him the thing he made. Show him you.” Jace gazed up at Sebastian—he could feel a terrible, triumphant pity blazing in his own eyes. “He knows there’s nothing human in you. Maybe he loves you, but he hates you too—”
“Shut up!” Sebastian pushed down on the dagger, twisting the hilt. Jace arched backward with a scream, and agony burst like lightning behind his eyes. I’m going to die, he thought. I’m dying. This is it. He wondered if his heart had already been pierced. He couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe. He knew now what it must be like for a butterfly pinned to a board. He tried to speak, tried to say a name, but nothing came out of his mouth but more blood.
And yet Sebastian seemed to read his eyes. “Clary. I’d almost forgotten. You’re in love with her, aren’t you? The shame of your nasty incestuous impulses must nearly have killed you. Too bad you didn’t know she’s not really your sister. You could have spent the rest of your life with her, if only you weren’t so stupid.” He bent down, pushing the knife in harder, its edge scraping bone. He spoke in Jace’s ear, a voice as soft as a whisper. “She loved you, too,” he said. “Keep that in mind while you die.”
Darkness flooded in from the edges of Jace’s vision, like dye spilling onto a photograph, blotting out the image. Suddenly there was no pain at all. He felt nothing, not even Sebastian’s weight on him, as if he were floating. Sebastian’s face drifted over him, white against the darkness, the dagger raised in his hand. Something bright gold glittered at Sebastian’s wrist, as if he were wearing a bracelet. But it wasn’t a bracelet, because it was moving. Sebastian looked toward his hand, surprised, as the dagger fell from his loosened grasp and struck the mud with an audible sound.
Then the hand itself, separated from his wrist, thumped to the ground beside it.
Jace stared wonderingly as Sebastian’s severed hand bounced and came to rest against a pair of high black boots. The boots were attached to a pair of delicate legs, rising to a slender torso and a familiar face capped with a waterfall of black hair. Jace raised his eyes and saw Isabelle, her whip soaked with blood, her eyes fastened on Sebastian, who was staring at the bloody stump of his wrist with openmouthed amazement.
Isabelle smiled grimly. “That was for Max, you bastard.”
“Bitch,” Sebastian hissed—and sprang to his feet as Isabelle’s whip came slashing at him again with incredible speed. He ducked sideways and was gone. There was a rustle—he must have vanished into the trees, Jace thought, though it hurt too much to turn his head and look.
“Jace!” Isabelle knelt down over him, her stele shining in her left hand. Her eyes were bright with tears; he must seem pretty bad, Jace realized, for Isabelle to look like that.
“Isabelle,” he tried to say. He wanted to tell her to go, to run, that no matter how spectacular and brave and talented she was—and she was all those things—she was no match for Sebastian. And there was no way that Sebastian was going to let a little thing like getting his hand sliced off stop him. But all that came out of Jace’s mouth was a sort of gurgling noise.
“Don’t talk.” He felt the tip of her stele burn against the skin of his chest. “You’ll be fine.” Isabelle smiled down at him tremulously. “You’re probably wondering what the hell I’m doing here,” she said. “I don’t know how much you know—I don’t know what Sebastian’s told you—but you’re not Valentine’s son.” The iratze was close to finished; already Jace could feel the pain fading. He nodded slightly, trying to tell her: I know. “Anyway, I wasn’t going to come looking for you after you ran off, because you said in your note not to, and I got that. But there was no way I was going to let you die thinking you have demon blood, or without telling you that there’s nothing wrong with you, though honestly, how you could have thought anything so stupid in the first place—” Isabelle’s hand jerked, and she froze, not wanting to spoil the rune. “And you needed to know that Clary’s not your sister,” she said, more gently. “Because—because you just did. So I got Magnus to help me track you. I used that little wooden soldier you gave to Max. I don’t think Magnus would have done it normally, but let’s just say he was in an unusually good mood, and I may have told him Alec wanted him to do it—although that wasn’t strictly true, but it’ll be a while before he finds that out. And once I knew where you were, well, he’d already set up that Portal, and I’m very good at sneaking—”
Isabelle screamed. Jace tried to reach for her, but she was beyond his grasp, being lifted, flung to the side. Her whip fell from her hand. She scrambled to her knees, but Sebastian was already in front of her. His eyes blazed with rage, and there was a bloody cloth tied around the stump of his wrist. Isabelle darted for her whip, but Sebastian moved faster. He spun and kicked out at her, hard. His booted foot connected with her rib cage. Jace almost thought he could hear Isabelle’s ribs crack as she flew backward, landing awkwardly on her side. He heard her cry out—Isabelle, who never cried out in pain—as Sebastian kicked her again and then caught up her whip, brandishing it in his hand.
Jace rolled onto his side. The almost finished iratze had helped, but the pain in his chest was still bad, and he knew, in a detached sort of way, that the fact that he was coughing up blood probably meant that he had a punctured lung. He wasn’t sure how long that gave him. Minutes, probably. He scrabbled for the dagger where Sebastian had dropped it, next to the grisly remains of his hand. Jace staggered to his feet. The smell of blood was everywhere. He thought of Magnus’s vision, the world turned to blood, and his slippery hand tightened on the hilt of the dagger.
He took a step forward. Then another. Every step felt like he was dragging his feet through cement. Isabelle was screaming curses at Sebastian, who was laughing as he brought the whip down across her body. Her screams drew Jace forward like a fish caught on a hook, but they grew fainter as he moved. The world was spinning around him like a carnival ride.
One more step, Jace told himself. One more. Sebastian had his back to him; he was concentrating on Isabelle. He probably thought Jace was already dead. And he nearly was. One step, he told himself, but he couldn’t do it, couldn’t move, couldn’t bring himself to drag his feet one more step forward. Blackness was rushing in at the edges of his vision—a more profound blackness than the darkness of sleep. A blackness that would erase everything he had ever seen and bring him a rest that would be absolute. Peaceful. He thought, suddenly, of Clary—Clary as he had last seen her, asleep, with her hair spread across the pillow and her cheek on her hand. He had thought then that he had never seen anything so peaceful in his life, but of course she had only been sleeping, like anyone else might sleep. It hadn’t been her peace that had surprised him, but his own. The peace he felt at being with her was like nothing he had ever known before.
Pain jarred up his spine, and he realized with surprise that somehow, without any volition of his own, his legs had moved him forward that last crucial step. Sebastian had his arm back, the whip shining in his hand; Isabelle lay on the grass, a crumpled heap, no longer screaming—no longer moving at all. “You little Lightwood bitch,” Sebastian was saying. “I should have smashed your face in with that hammer when I had the chance—”
And Jace brought his hand up, with the dagger in it, and sank the blade into Sebastian’s back.
Sebastian staggered forward, the whip falling out of his hand. He turned slowly and looked at Jace, and Jace thought, with a distant horror, that maybe Sebastian really wasn’t human, that he was unkillable after all. Sebastian’s face was blank, the hostility gone from it, and the dark fire from his eyes. He no longer looked like Valentine, though. He looked—scared.
He opened his mouth, as if he meant to say something to Jace, but his knees were already buckling. He crashed to the ground, the force of his fall sending him sliding down the incline and into the river. He came to rest on his back, his eyes staring sightlessly up at the sky; the water flowed around him, carrying dark threads of his blood downstream on the current.
He taught me that there’s a place on a man’s back where, if you sink a blade in, you can pierce his heart and sever his spine, all at once, Sebastian had said. I guess we got the same birthday present that year, big brother, Jace thought. Didn’t we?
“Jace!” It was Isabelle, her face bloody, struggling into a sitting position. “Jace!”
He tried to turn toward her, tried to say something, but his words were gone. He slid to his knees. A heavy weight was pressing on his shoulders, and the earth was calling him: down, down, down. He was barely aware of Isabelle crying his name as the darkness carried him away.
Simon was a veteran of countless battles. That is, if you counted battles engaged in while playing Dungeons and Dragons. His friend Eric was the military history buff and he was the one who usually organized the war part of the games, which involved dozens of tiny figurines moving in straight lines across a flat landscape drawn on butcher paper.
That was the way he’d always thought of battles—or the way they were in movies, with two groups of people advancing at each other across a flat expanse of land. Straight lines and orderly progression.
This was nothing like that.
This was chaos, a melee of shouting and movement, and the landscape wasn’t flat but a mass of mud and blood churned into a thick, unstable paste. Simon had imagined that the Night Children would walk to the battlefield and be greeted by someone in charge; he imagined he’d see the battle from a distance first and be able to watch as the two sides clashed against each other. But there was no greeting, and there were no sides. The battle loomed up out of the darkness as if he’d wandered by accident from a deserted side street into a riot in the middle of Times Square—suddenly there were crowds surging around him, hands grabbing him, shoving him out of the way, and the vampires were scattering, diving into the battle without even a glance back for him.
And there were demons—demons everywhere, and he’d never imagined the kind of sounds they’d make, the screaming and hooting and grunting, and what was worse, the sounds of tearing and shredding and hungry satisfaction. Simon wished he could turn his vampire hearing off, but he couldn’t, and the sounds were like knives piercing his eardrums.
He stumbled over a body lying half in and half out of the mud, turned to see if help was needed, and saw that the Shadowhunter at his feet was gone from the shoulders up. White bone gleamed against the dark earth, and despite Simon’s vampire nature, he felt nauseated. I must be the only vampire in the world sickened by the sight of blood, he thought, and then something struck him hard from behind and he went over, skidding down a slope of mud into a pit.
Simon’s wasn’t the only body down there. He rolled onto his back just as the demon loomed up over him. It looked like the image of Death from a medieval woodcut—an animated skeleton, a bloodied hatchet clutched in one bony hand. He threw himself to the side as the blade thumped down, inches from his face. The skeleton made a disappointed hissing noise and hoisted the hatchet again—