You have never seen a city until you have seen Alicante of the glass towers.

“What was that?” Luke said, overhearing. “What did you say?”

Clary hadn’t realized she’d spoken out loud. Embarrassed, she repeated her words, and Luke looked at her in surprise. “Where did you hear that?”

“Hodge,” Clary said. “It was something Hodge said to me.”

Luke peered at her more closely. “You’re flushed,” he said. “How are you feeling?”

Clary’s neck was aching, her whole body on fire, her mouth dry. “I’m fine,” she said. “Let’s just get there, okay?”

“Okay.” Luke pointed; at the edge of the city, where the buildings ended, Clary could see an archway, two sides curving to a pointed top. A Shadowhunter in black gear stood watch inside the shadow of the archway. “That’s the North Gate—it’s where Downworlders can legally enter the city, provided they’ve got the paperwork. Guards are posted there night and day. Now, if we were on official business, or had permission to be here, we’d go in through it.”

“But there aren’t any walls around the city,” Clary pointed out. “It doesn’t seem like much of a gate.”

“The wards are invisible, but they’re there. The demon towers control them. They have for a thousand years. You’ll feel it when you pass through them.” He glanced one more time at her flushed face, concern crinkling the corners of his eyes. “Are you ready?”

She nodded. They moved away from the gate, along the east side of the city, where buildings were more thickly clustered. With a gesture to be quiet, Luke drew her toward a narrow opening between two houses. Clary shut her eyes as they approached, almost as if she expected to be smacked in the face with an invisible wall as soon as they stepped onto the streets of Alicante. It wasn’t like that. She felt a sudden pressure, as if she were in an airplane that was dropping. Her ears popped—and then the feeling was gone, and she was standing in the alley between the buildings.

Just like an alley in New York—like every alley in the world, apparently—it smelled like cat pee.

Clary peered around the corner of one of the buildings. A larger street stretched away up the hill, lined with small shops and houses. “There’s no one around,” she observed, with some surprise.

In the fading light Luke looked gray. “There must be a meeting going on up at the Gard. It’s the only thing that could get everyone off the streets at once.”

“But isn’t that good? There’s no one around to see us.”

“It’s good and bad. The streets are mostly deserted, which is good. But anyone who does happen by will be much more likely to notice and remark on us.”

“I thought you said everyone was at the Gard.”

Luke smiled faintly. “Don’t be so literal, Clary. I meant most of the city. Children, teenagers, anyone exempted from the meeting, they won’t be there.”

Teenagers. Clary thought of Jace, and, despite herself, her pulse leaped forward like a horse charging out of the starting gate at a race.

Luke frowned, almost as if he could read her thoughts. “As of now, I’m breaking the Law by being in Alicante without declaring myself to the Clave at the gate. If anyone recognizes me, we could be in real trouble.” He glanced up at the narrow strip of russet sky visible between the rooftops. “We have to get off the streets.”

“I thought we were going to your friend’s house.”

“We are. And she’s not a friend, precisely.”

“Then who—?”

“Just follow me.” Luke ducked into a passage between two houses, so narrow that Clary could reach out and touch the walls of both houses with her fingers as they made their way down it and onto a cobblestoned winding street lined with shops. The buildings themselves looked like a cross between a Gothic dreamscape and a children’s fairy tale. The stone facings were carved with all manner of creatures out of myth and legend—the heads of monsters were a prominent feature, interspersed with winged horses, something that looked like a house on chicken legs, mermaids, and, of course, angels. Gargoyles jutted from every corner, their snarling faces contorted. And everywhere there were runes: splashed across doors, hidden in the design of an abstract carving, dangling from thin metal chains like wind chimes that twisted in the breeze. Runes for protection, for good luck, even for good business; staring at them all, Clary began to feel a little dizzy.

They walked in silence, keeping to the shadows. The cobblestone street was deserted, shop doors shut and barred. Clary cast furtive glances into the windows as they passed. It was strange to see a display of expensive decorated chocolates in one window and in the next an equally lavish display of deadly-looking weapons—cutlasses, maces, nail-studded cudgels, and an array of seraph blades in different sizes. “No guns,” she said. Her own voice sounded very far away.

Luke blinked at her. “What?”

“Shadowhunters,” she said. “They never seem to use guns.”

“Runes keep gunpowder from igniting,” he said. “No one knows why. Still, Nephilim have been known to use the occasional rifle on lycanthropes. It doesn’t take a rune to kill us—just silver bullets.” His voice was grim. Suddenly his head went up. In the dim light it was easy to imagine his ears pricking forward like a wolf’s. “Voices,” he said. “They must be finished at the Gard.”

He took her arm and pulled her sideways off the main street. They emerged into a small square with a well at its center. A masonry bridge arched over a narrow canal just ahead of them. In the fading light the water in the canal looked almost black. Clary could hear the voices herself now, coming from the streets nearby. They were raised, angry-sounding. Clary’s dizziness increased—she felt as if the ground were tilting under her, threatening to send her sprawling. She leaned back against the wall of the alley, gasping for air.

“Clary,” Luke said. “Clary, are you all right?”

His voice sounded thick, strange. She looked at him, and the breath died in her throat. His ears had grown long and pointed, his teeth razor-sharp, his eyes a fierce yellow—

“Luke,” she whispered. “What’s happening to you?”

“Clary.” He reached for her, his hands oddly elongated, the nails sharp and rust-colored. “Is something wrong?”

She screamed, twisting away from him. She wasn’t sure why she felt so terrified—she’d seen Luke Change before, and he’d never harmed her. But the terror was a live thing inside her, uncontrollable. Luke caught at her shoulders and she cringed away from him, away from his yellow, animal eyes, even as he hushed her, begging her to be quiet in his ordinary, human voice. “Clary, please—”

“Let me go! Let me go!”

But he didn’t. “It’s the water—you’re hallucinating—Clary, try to keep it together.” He drew her toward the bridge, half-dragging her. She could feel tears running down her face, cooling her burning cheeks. “It’s not real. Try to hold on, please,” he said, helping her onto the bridge. She could smell the water below it, green and stale. Things moved below the surface of it. As she watched, a black tentacle emerged from the water, its spongy tip lined with needle teeth. She cringed away from the water, unable to scream, a low moaning coming from her throat.

Luke caught her as her knees buckled, swinging her up into his arms. He hadn’t carried her since she was five or six years old. “Clary,” he said, but the rest of his words melded and blurred into a nonsensical roar as they stepped down off the bridge. They raced past a series of tall, thin houses that almost reminded Clary of Brooklyn row houses—or maybe she was just hallucinating her own neighborhood? The air around them seemed to warp as they went on, the lights of the houses blazing up around them like torches, the canal shimmering with an evil phosphorescent glow. Clary’s bones felt as if they were dissolving inside her body.

“Here.” Luke jerked to a halt in front of a tall canal house. He kicked hard at the door, shouting; it was painted a bright, almost garish, red, a single rune splashed across it in gold. The rune melted and ran as Clary stared at it, taking the shape of a hideous grinning skull. It’s not real, she told herself fiercely, stifling her scream with her fist, biting down until she tasted blood in her mouth.

The pain cleared her head momentarily. The door flew open, revealing a woman in a dark dress, her face creased with a mixture of anger and surprise. Her hair was long, a tangled gray-brown cloud escaping from two braids; her blue eyes were familiar. A witchlight rune-stone gleamed in her hand. “Who is it?” she demanded. “What do you want?”

“Amatis.” Luke moved into the pool of witchlight, Clary in his arms. “It’s me.”

The woman blanched and tottered, putting out a hand to brace herself against the doorway. “Lucian?” Luke tried to take a step forward, but the woman—Amatis—blocked his path. She was shaking her head so hard that her braids whipped back and forth. “How can you come here, Lucian? How dare you come here?”

“I had very little choice.” Luke tightened his hold on Clary. She bit back a cry. Her whole body felt as if it were on fire, every nerve ending burning with pain.

“You have to go, then,” Amatis said. “If you leave immediately—”

“I’m not here for me. I’m here for the girl. She’s dying.” As the woman stared at him, he said, “Amatis, please. She’s Jocelyn’s daughter.”

There was a long silence, during which Amatis stood like a statue, unmoving, in the doorway. She seemed frozen, whether from surprise or horror Clary couldn’t guess. Clary clenched her fist—her palm was sticky with blood where the nails dug in—but even the pain wasn’t helping now; the world was coming apart in soft colors, like a jigsaw puzzle drifting on the surface of water. She barely heard Amatis’s voice as the older woman stepped back from the doorway and said, “Very well, Lucian. You can bring her inside.”

By the time Simon and Jace came back into the living room, Aline had laid food out on the low table between the couches. There were bread and cheese, slices of cake, apples, and even a bottle of wine, which Max was not allowed to touch. He sat in the corner with a plate of cake, his book open on his lap. Simon sympathized with him. He felt just as alone in the laughing, chatting group as Max probably did.

He watched Aline touch Jace’s wrist with her fingers as she reached for a piece of apple, and felt himself tense. But this is what you want him to do, he told himself, and yet somehow he couldn’t get rid of the sense that Clary was being disregarded.

Jace met his eyes over Aline’s head and smiled. Somehow, even though he wasn’t a vampire, he was able to manage a smile that seemed to be all pointed teeth. Simon looked away, glancing around the room. He noticed that the music he’d heard earlier wasn’t coming from a stereo at all but from a complicated-looking mechanical contraption.

He thought about striking up a conversation with Isabelle, but she was chatting with Sebastian, whose elegant face was bent attentively to hers. Jace had laughed at Simon’s crush on Isabelle once, but Sebastian could doubtless handle her. Shadowhunters were brought up to handle anything, weren’t they? Although the look on Jace’s face when he’d said that he planned to be only Clary’s brother made Simon wonder.

“We’re out of wine,” Isabelle declared, setting the bottle down on the table with a thump. “I’m going to get some more.” With a wink at Sebastian, she disappeared into the kitchen.

“If you don’t mind my saying so, you seem a little quiet.” It was Sebastian, leaning over the back of Simon’s chair with a disarming smile. For someone with such dark hair, Simon thought, Sebastian’s skin was very fair, as if he didn’t go out in the sun much. “Everything all right?”

Simon shrugged. “There aren’t a lot of openings for me in the conversation. It seems to be either about Shadowhunter politics or people I’ve never heard of, or both.”

The smile disappeared. “We can be something of a closed circle, we Nephilim. It’s the way of those who are shut out from the rest of the world.”

“Don’t you think you shut yourselves out? You despise ordinary humans—”

“‘Despise’ is a little strong,” said Sebastian. “And do you really think the world of humans would want anything to do with us? All we are is a living reminder that whenever they comfort themselves that there are no real vampires, no real demons or monsters under the bed—they’re lying.” He turned his head to look at Jace, who, Simon realized, had been staring at them both in silence for several minutes. “Don’t you agree?”

Jace smiled. “De ce crezi cã vã ascultam conversatia?”

Sebastian met his glance with a look of pleasant interest. “M-ai urmãrit de când ai ajuns aici,” he replied. “Nu-mi dau seama dacã nu mã placi ori dacã ești atât de bãnuitor cu toatã lumea.” He got to his feet. “I appreciate the Romanian practice, but if you don’t mind, I’m going to see what’s taking Isabelle so long in the kitchen.” He disappeared through the doorway, leaving Jace staring after him with a puzzled expression.

“What’s wrong? Does he not speak Romanian after all?” Simon asked.

“No,” said Jace. A small frown line had appeared between his eyes. “No, he speaks it all right.”

Before Simon could ask him what he meant by that, Alec entered the room. He was frowning, just as he had been when he’d left. His gaze lingered momentarily on Simon, a look almost of confusion in his blue eyes. Copyright 2016 - 2024