Clary blinked. “I did, but I couldn’t figure out what it was.”
“It was an angel rising out of a lake, holding a cup and a sword. It’s a repeating motif in Nephilim decorations. The legend is that the Angel Raziel rose out of Lake Lyn when he first appeared to Jonathan Shadowhunter, the first of the Nephilim, and gave him the Mortal Instruments. Ever since then the lake has been—”
“Sacred?” Clary suggested.
“Cursed,” Luke said. “The water of the lake is in some way poisonous to Shadowhunters. It won’t hurt Downworlders—the Fair Folk call it the Mirror of Dreams, and they drink its water because they claim it gives them true visions. But for a Shadowhunter to drink the water is very dangerous. It causes hallucinations, fever—it can drive a person to madness.”
Clary felt cold all over. “That’s why you tried to make me spit the water out.”
Luke nodded. “And why I wanted you to find your stele. With a healing rune, we could stave off the water’s effects. Without it, we need to get you to Alicante as quickly as possible. There are medicines, herbs, that will help, and I know someone who will almost certainly have them.”
“Not the Lightwoods.” Luke’s voice was firm. “Someone else. Someone I know.”
He shook his head. “Let’s just pray this person hasn’t moved away in the last fifteen years.”
“But I thought you said it was against the Law for Downworlders to come into Alicante without permission.”
His answering smile was a reminder of the Luke who had caught her when she’d fallen off the jungle gym as a child, the Luke who had always protected her. “Some laws were meant to be broken.”
The Penhallows’ house reminded Simon of the Institute—it had that same sense of belonging somehow to another era. The halls and stairways were narrow, made of stone and dark wood, and the windows were tall and thin, giving out onto views of the city. There was a distinctly Asian feel to the decorations: a shoji screen stood on the first-floor landing, and there were lacquer-flowered tall Chinese vases on the windowsills. There were also a number of silk-screen prints on the walls, showing what must have been scenes from Shadowhunter mythology, but with an Eastern feel to them—warlords wielding glowing seraph blades were prominently featured, alongside colorful dragonlike creatures and slithering, pop-eyed demons.
“Mrs. Penhallow—Jia—used to run the Beijing Institute. She splits her time between here and the Forbidden City,” Isabelle said as Simon paused to examine a print. “And the Penhallows are an old family. Wealthy.”
“I can tell,” Simon muttered, looking up at the chandeliers, dripping cut-glass crystals like teardrops.
Jace, on the step behind them, grunted. “Move it along. We’re not taking a historical tour here.”
Simon weighed a rude retort and decided it wasn’t worth bothering. He took the rest of the stairs at a rapid pace; they opened out at the bottom into a large room. It was an odd mixture of the old and the new: A glass picture window looked out onto the canal, and there was music playing from a stereo that Simon couldn’t see. But there was no television, no stack of DVDs or CDs, the sort of detritus Simon associated with modern living rooms. Instead there were a number of overstuffed couches grouped around a large fireplace, in which flames were crackling.
Alec stood by the fireplace, in dark Shadowhunter gear, drawing on a pair of gloves. He looked up as Simon entered the room and scowled his habitual scowl, but said nothing.
Seated on the couches were two teenagers Simon had never seen before, a boy and a girl. The girl looked as if she was partly Asian, with delicate, almond-shaped eyes, glossy dark hair pulled back from her face, and a mischievous expression. Her delicate chin narrowed into a point like a cat’s. She wasn’t exactly pretty, but she was very striking.
The black-haired boy beside her was more than striking. He was probably Jace’s height, but seemed taller, even sitting down; he was slender and muscular, with a pale, elegant, restless face, all cheekbones and dark eyes. There was something strangely familiar about him, as if Simon had met him before.
The girl spoke first. “Is that the vampire?” She looked Simon up and down as if she were taking his measurements. “I’ve never really been this close to a vampire before—not one I wasn’t planning to kill, at least.” She cocked her head to the side. “He’s cute, for a Downworlder.”
“You’ll have to forgive her; she has the face of an angel and the manners of a Moloch demon,” said the boy with a smile, getting to his feet. He held his hand out to Simon. “I’m Sebastian. Sebastian Verlac. And this is my cousin, Aline Penhallow. Aline—”
“I don’t shake hands with Downworlders,” Aline said, shrinking back against the couch cushions. “They don’t have souls, you know. Vampires.”
Sebastian’s smile disappeared. “Aline—”
“It’s true. That’s why they can’t see themselves in mirrors, or go in the sun.”
Very deliberately, Simon stepped backward, into the patch of sunlight in front of the window. He felt the sun hot on his back, his hair. His shadow was cast, long and dark, across the floor, almost reaching Jace’s feet.
Aline took a sharp breath but said nothing. It was Sebastian who spoke, looking at Simon with curious black eyes. “So it’s true. The Lightwoods said, but I didn’t think—”
“That we were telling the truth?” Jace said, speaking for the first time since they’d come downstairs. “We wouldn’t lie about something like this. Simon’s … unique.”
“I kissed him once,” Isabelle said, to no one in particular.
Aline’s eyebrows shot up. “They really do let you do whatever you want in New York, don’t they?” she said, sounding half-horrified and half-envious. “The last time I saw you, Izzy, you wouldn’t even have considered—”
“The last time we all saw each other, Izzy was eight,” Alec said. “Things change. Now, Mom had to leave here in a hurry, so someone has to take her notes and records up to the Gard for her. I’m the only one who’s eighteen, so I’m the only one who can go while the Clave’s in session.”
“We know,” Isabelle said, flopping down onto a couch. “You’ve already told us that, like, five times.”
Alec, who was looking important, ignored this. “Jace, you brought the vampire here, so you’re in charge of him. Don’t let him go outside.”
The vampire, Simon thought. It wasn’t like Alec didn’t know his name. He’d saved Alec’s life once. Now he was “the vampire.” Even for Alec, who was prone to the occasional fit of inexplicable sullenness, this was obnoxious. Maybe it had something to do with being in Idris. Maybe Alec felt a greater need to assert his Shadowhunterness here.