FALL LIKE RAIN
The Los Angeles Institute, December 2007
On the day Emma Carstairs’s parents were killed, the weather was perfect.
On the other hand the weather was usually perfect in Los Angeles. Emma’s mother and father dropped her off on a clear winter morning at the Institute in the hills behind the Pacific Coast Highway, overlooking the blue ocean. The sky was a cloudless expanse that stretched from the cliffs of the Pacific Palisades to the beaches at Point Dume.
A report had come in the night before of demonic activity near the beach caves of Leo Carrillo. The Carstairs had been assigned to look into it. Later Emma would remember her mother tucking a windblown strand of hair behind her ear as she offered to draw a Fearless rune on Emma’s father, and John Carstairs laughing and saying he wasn’t sure how he felt about newfangled runes. He was fine with what was written in the Gray Book, thanks very much.
At the time, though, Emma was impatient with her parents, hugging them quickly before pulling away to race up the Institute steps, her backpack bouncing between her shoulders as they waved good-bye from the courtyard.
Emma loved that she got to train at the Institute. Not only did her best friend, Julian, live there, but she always felt as if she were flying into the ocean when she went inside it. It was a massive structure of wood and stone at the end of a long pebbled drive that wound through the hills. Every room, every floor, looked out over the ocean and the mountains and the sky, rippling expanses of blue and green and gold. Emma’s dream was to climb up onto the roof with Jules—though, so far they’d been foiled by parents—to see if the view stretched all the way to the desert in the south.
The front doors knew her and gave way easily under her familiar touch. The entryway and lower floors of the Institute were full of adult Shadowhunters, striding back and forth. Some kind of meeting, Emma guessed. She caught sight of Julian’s father, Andrew Blackthorn, the head of the Institute, amid the crowd. Not wanting to be slowed down by greetings, she dashed for the changing room on the second floor, where she swapped her jeans and T-shirt for training clothes—oversize shirt, loose cotton pants, and the most important item of all: the blade slung over her shoulder.
Cortana. The name simply meant “shortsword,” but it wasn’t short to Emma. It was the length of her forearm, sparkling metal, the blade inscribed with words that never failed to cause a shiver down her spine: I am Cortana, of the same steel and temper as Joyeuse and Durendal. Her father had explained what it meant when he put the sword in her ten-year-old hands for the first time.
“You can use this for training until you’re eighteen, when it becomes yours,” John Carstairs had said, smiling down at her as her fingers traced the words. “Do you understand what that means?”
She’d shaken her head. “Steel” she’d understood, but not “temper.” “Temper” meant “anger,” something her father was always warning her she should control. What did it have to do with a blade?
“You know of the Wayland family,” he’d said. “They were famous weapon makers before the Iron Sisters began to forge all the Shadowhunter blades. Wayland the Smith made Excalibur and Joyeuse, Arthur’s and Lancelot’s swords, and Durendal, the sword of the hero Roland. And they made this sword too, from the same steel. All steel must be tempered—subjected to great heat, almost enough to melt or destroy the metal—to make it stronger.” He’d kissed the top of her head. “Carstairs have carried this sword for generations. The inscription reminds us that Shadowhunters are the Angel’s weapons. Temper us in the fire, and we grow stronger. When we suffer, we survive.”
Emma could hardly wait the six years until she would be eighteen, when she could travel the world to fight demons, when she could be tempered in fire. Now she strapped the sword on and left the changing room, picturing how it would be. In her imagination she was standing on top of the bluffs over the sea at Point Dume, fending off a cadre of Raum demons with Cortana. Julian was with her, of course, wielding his own favorite weapon, the crossbow.
In Emma’s mind Jules was always there. Emma had known him for as long as she could remember. The Blackthorns and the Carstairs had always been close, and Jules was only a few months older; she’d literally never lived in a world without him in it. She’d learned to swim in the ocean with him when they’d both been babies. They’d learned to walk and then run together. She had been carried in his parents’ arms and corralled by his older brother and sister when misbehaving.
And they’d misbehaved often. Dyeing the puffy white Blackthorn family cat—Oscar—bright blue had been Emma’s idea when they were both seven. Julian had taken the blame anyway; he often did. After all, he’d pointed out, she was an only child and he was one of seven; his parents would forget they were angry with him a lot more quickly than hers would.
She remembered when his mother had died, just after Tavvy’d been born, and how Emma had stood holding Jules’s hand while the body had burned in the canyons and the smoke had climbed toward the sky. She remembered that he’d cried, and remembered thinking that boys cried so differently from girls, with awful ragged sobs that sounded like they were being pulled out with hooks. Maybe it was worse for them because they weren’t supposed to cry—
“Oof!” Emma staggered back; she’d been so lost in thought that she’d plowed right into Julian’s father, a tall man with the same tousled brown hair as most of his children. “Sorry, Mr. Blackthorn!”
He grinned. “Never seen anyone so eager to get to lessons before,” he called as she darted down the hall.
The training room was one of Emma’s favorite rooms in the whole building. It took up almost an entire level, and both the east and the west walls were clear glass. You could see blue sea nearly everywhere you looked. The curve of the coastline was visible from north to south, the endless water of the Pacific stretching out toward Hawaii.
In the center of the highly polished wood floor stood the Blackthorn family’s tutor, a commanding woman named Katerina, currently engaged in teaching knife-throwing to the twins. Livvy was following instructions obligingly as she always did, but Ty was scowling and resistant.
Julian, in his loose light training clothes, was lying on his back near the west window, talking to Mark, who had his head stuck in a book and was doing his best to ignore his younger half brother.
“Don’t you think ‘Mark’ is kind of a weird name for a Shadowhunter?” Julian was saying as Emma approached. “I mean, if you really think about it. It’s confusing. ‘Put a Mark on me, Mark.’?”
Mark lifted his blond head from the book he was reading and glared at his younger brother. Julian was idly twirling a stele in his hand. He held it like a paintbrush, something Emma was always scolding him about. You were supposed to hold a stele like a stele, as if it were an extension of your hand, not an artist’s tool.
Mark sighed theatrically. At sixteen he was just enough their senior to find everything Emma and Julian did either annoying or ridiculous. “If it bothers you, you can call me by my full name,” he said.
“Mark Antony Blackthorn?” Julian wrinkled his nose. “It takes a long time to say. What if we got attacked by a demon? By the time I was halfway through saying your name, you’d be dead.”
“In this situation are you saving my life?” Mark asked. “Getting ahead of yourself, don’t you think, pipsqueak?”
“It could happen.” Julian, not pleased to be called a pipsqueak, sat up. His hair stuck out in wild tufts all over his head. His older sister Helen was always attacking him with hairbrushes, but it never did any good. He had the Blackthorn hair, like his father and most of his brothers and sisters—wildly wavy, the color of dark chocolate. The family resemblance always fascinated Emma, who looked very little like either of her parents, unless you counted the fact that her father was blond.
Helen had been in Idris for months now with her girlfriend, Aline; they had exchanged family rings and were “very serious” about each other, according to Emma’s parents, which mostly meant they looked at each other in a soppy way. Emma was determined that if she ever fell in love, she would not be soppy in that manner. She understood that there was some amount of fuss about the fact that both Helen and Aline were girls, but she didn’t understand why, and the Blackthorns seemed to like Aline a lot. She was a calming presence, and kept Helen from fretting.
Helen’s current absence did mean that no one was cutting Jules’s hair, and the sunlight in the room turned the curling tips of it to gold. The windows along the east wall showed the shadowy sweep of the mountains that separated the sea from the San Fernando Valley—dry, dusty hills riddled with canyons, cacti, and thornbushes. Sometimes the Shadowhunters went outside to train, and Emma loved those moments, loved finding hidden paths and secret waterfalls and the sleepy lizards that rested on rocks near them. Julian was adept at coaxing the lizards to crawl into his palm and sleep there as he stroked their heads with his thumb.
Emma ducked as a wooden-tipped blade flew by her head and bounced off the window, hitting Mark in the leg on the rebound. He tossed his book down and stood up, scowling. Mark was technically on secondary supervision, backing up Katerina, although he preferred reading to teaching.
“Tiberius,” Mark said. “Do not throw knives at me.”
“It was an accident.” Livvy moved to stand between her twin and Mark. Tiberius was as dark as Mark was fair, the only one of the Blackthorns—other than Mark and Helen, who didn’t quite count, because of their Downworlder blood—not to have the brown hair and blue-green eyes that were the family traits. Ty had curly black hair, and gray eyes the color of iron.
“No, it wasn’t,” said Ty. “I was aiming at you.”