Just to the left, there was a wide archway flanked by pillars covered in a floral pattern. This clearly led to one of the hotel's grander rooms and seemed as likely a place as any to look. Magnus opened this door. It led to a ballroom - an utterly magnificent one - with a white marble floor and a lacing of gilded balconies all around the room, broken by gilded mirrors that reflected the room back on itself over and over.
They also reflected the pile of human bodies scattered at the far end of the floor, around what appeared to be a highly polished granite slab. That these were the same people Magnus had seen getting out of the many expensive cars, he was fairly certain. There were some faces left, some bits of fine clothing scattered around the room in strips and ribbons, sometimes still attached to a loose arm or torso. The floor on that end of the room was entirely blackish-red, the blood having spread and pooled evenly over the marble like a fine glaze.
"By the Angel . . ."
Magnus turned and found Edgar Greymark standing behind him, in full Shadowhunter battle black, his seraph blade drawn.
"Good of you to come," Magnus said. The remark was meant to be sarcastic but came out flat. It was good of them to come. Whatever was happening, help would be required.
"Did you think we would just ignore your warning?" Edgar asked.
Magnus decided not to reply to that. They probably had ignored his warning and, like him, seen the light in the sky.
"Who are these people?" Edgar asked.
"I believe these are some mundanes who came here to see Aldous."
"And where is Aldous?"
"I haven't seen him. I've only arrived myself."
Edgar raised his hand, and a half-dozen more Shadowhunters appeared and went to the bodies and examined them.
"Looks like a Behemoth attack to me," one girl said as she examined a pile of blood and fleshy bits and some shredded crepe de chine. "Messy. Disorganized. And these are probably double rows of teeth marks, but it's hard to tell. . . ."
Behind them, there was a massive bang, and they all turned as a young man yelled and dropped something to the ground, which smoked and hissed.
"My Sensor exploded," he growled.
"I think we can assume some very serious demonic activity," Edgar said. "Search the hotel. Find Aldous Nix and bring him here."
The Shadowhunters ran off, and Edgar and Magnus remained with the pile of bodies.
"Do you have any idea what might be happening here?" Edgar asked.
"I told you all I knew," Magnus said. "I came because I saw something in the sky. I found this."
"What is Aldous capable of?"
"Aldous is two thousand years old. He's capable of anything."
"Aldous Nix is two thousand years old?"
"So I've heard. He doesn't invite me to his birthday parties."
"He seemed a bit dotty to me, but I never thought . . . well, it doesn't matter what I thought. We clearly have several demons in the area. That's our first concern. And Nix . . ."
"Is here," said a voice.
Aldous stepped out from behind one of the heavy wall hangings. He leaned heavily on his cane, walking slowly to the granite slab, where he sat. Edgar raised his weapon a bit, but Magnus steadied his arm.
"What happened here, Aldous?" Magnus asked.
"It was merely a test," Aldous said. "For the benefit of my sponsors, who have kindly engaged this entire hotel to allow me to do my work in peace."
"Your sponsors," Magnus said. "These people here, on the floor, in pieces."
"What is this work?" Edgar asked.
"The work? Ah. Now that is an interesting subject. But not for your ears. I will speak to him." He pointed to Magnus. "The rest of you can go and keep busy. You Shadowhunters always keep busy. There must be ten demons out there. I didn't make note of them all, but as the girl said, they looked to be mostly Behemoths. Nasty things. Go kill them."
Edgar Greymark was not the kind of man who liked to be dismissed, but Magnus gave him a look and tried to encourage him to back away.
"Yes," Edgar growled. "We do have some work. But do not leave, Nix. We will be back to discuss this."
Magnus nodded, and Edgar left the ballroom, shutting the doors loudly behind him. Aldous regarded his gnarled hands for a moment before speaking.
"Magnus, we don't belong here. We never have belonged here. I've lived in this world longer than anyone I know, and that is the only truth I can rely on. I'm sure you've come to that conclusion as well."
"Not exactly," Magnus said. He stepped a bit closer but avoided the great sea of blood and bodies that lay between them.
"I sometimes feel a bit out of place, but I very much consider myself of this world. Where else would I be from?"
"You may have been born here, but you originate in another dimension."
"You mean the Void?"
"I mean that exactly. I intend to go where I do belong. I want to go to the only place I feel I can truly call my home. I want to go to Pandemonium. I was opening up a Portal to allow me to get there."
"And these people?"
"These people believed they ran the world. They believed that their money entitled them to control. They heard about me, they came to me seeking a way to gain that control without war, without force. And I told them that I would expose them to a power they never knew possible if they gave me what I needed. So they gave me this hotel. I've been working here for some months, preparing the way. This entire building is now a latticework of spells and enchantments. The walls are spun with electrum and demon metal. It is a channel now. It will be the perfect and strongest Portal."
"And they came here . . ."
"For a demonstration. I did tell them there were risks. Perhaps I wasn't clear enough. I thought I was. . . ."
He smiled a bit at this.
"They were monsters, Magnus. They could not be allowed to live. Stupid mundanes, thinking they could rule their world by harnessing our power? No. They died quickly."
"And, I would imagine, in great pain and terror."
"Perhaps. But their sufferings have ended. And now, so have mine. Come with me."
"Come with you? To Pandemonium? To the Void? And here I thought that my invitation to summer in New Jersey was the worst I had ever received."
"This isn't the time for jokes, Bane."
"Aldous," Magnus said, "you are talking about going to the demon realm. You do not come back from there. And you know what horrors you would face."
"We don't know what it's like. We don't know anything. I wish to know. My final wish is for knowledge of that most mysterious place, my true home. The final step to finish the spell," he said, pulling up on the balled head of his cane and revealing a knife. "A few drops of warlock blood. Just a bit will do. A slice across the palm."
Aldous looked at the knife thoughtfully, then at Magnus.
"If you stay here, the Portal will open, and you will come with me. If you do not wish to come, leave now."
"Aldous, you can't - "
"I most certainly can, and I'm about to. Make your choice, Magnus. Stay or go, but if you go, go now."
What was now extremely clear to Magnus was that Aldous was insane. You did not plan trips to the Void if you were compos mentis. Going to the Void was an act greater and more terrible than suicide - it was sending yourself to Hell. But it was also very, very hard to talk to people who had gone insane. Alfie could be talked off the window with reason. It would not be so easy with Aldous. Physical force was just as difficult an approach. Any move Magnus made here would likely be predicted and met with equal or greater strength.
"Aldous . . ."
"You stay then? You come with me?"
"No. I just - I - "
"You worry for me," Aldous said. "You think I don't know what I'm doing."
"I wouldn't put it like that, exactly. . . ."
"I have considered this for a long time, Magnus. I know what I am doing. So please. Stay or go. Decide now, as I am going to open the Por - "
The arrow made a kind of singing noise as it cut through the air. It entered Aldous's chest like a knife sliding easily into an apple. Aldous sat upright for a moment, looking at it; then he slumped to the side, dead.
Magnus watched his blood hit the granite.
"RUN," he yelled.
The young Shadowhunter was still proudly looking at his work, how perfectly he had hit his mark. He didn't notice the web of cracks spreading from the altar and across the floor, splintering the white marble into hundreds and thousands of pieces with a sound like breaking ice.
Magnus ran. He ran in a way he wasn't aware he could run, and when he reached the Shadowhunter, he grabbed him and dragged him along. They had just reached the door and jumped out when one great belch of fire exploded into the foyer, filling the room with fire from floor to ceiling. Just as quickly, the fire was suctioned back into the ballroom. The doors of the hotel pulled themselves shut. The very building shook as if an enormous vacuum had appeared just over it and was sucking it up.
"What's happening?" said the Shadowhunter.
"He's opened some kind of channel to the Void," Magnus said, staggering to his feet.
Magnus shook his head. There was no time to explain.