“It’s not that simple, Alec,” Jia said tiredly. “Portal magic is complicated, and we’ve heard nothing from the Iron Sisters to indicate that they need our assistance. Besides, after what happened in London earlier today, we need to be here, on alert—”
“I’m telling you, I know,” Alec said. He was shivering, despite his gear. It was cold on the Gard Hill, but it was more than that. In part it was shock, at what Isabelle had said to his parents, at the look on his father’s face. But more of it was apprehension. Cold foreboding was dripping down his spine like ice. “You don’t understand the Endarkened; you don’t understand what they’re like—”
He doubled over. Something hot had lanced through him, through his shoulder down through his guts, like a spear of fire. He hit the ground on his knees, crying out.
“Alec—Alec!” The Consul’s hands were on his shoulders. He was distantly aware of his parents running toward him. His vision swam with agony. Pain, overlapping and doubled because it wasn’t his pain at all; the sparks under his rib cage didn’t burn in his body but in someone else’s.
“Jace,” he ground out between his teeth. “Something’s happened—the fire. You have to open a Portal, quickly.”
Amatis, flat on her back on the ground, laughed. “You won’t kill me,” she said. “You haven’t got the backbone.”
Clary, breathing hard, nudged the tip of the sword under Amatis’s chin. “You don’t know what I’m capable of.”
“Look at me.” Amatis’s eyes glittered. “Look at me and tell me what you see.”
Clary looked, already knowing. Amatis didn’t look exactly like her brother, but she had the same jawline, the same trustworthy blue eyes, the same brown hair touched with gray.
“Mercy,” Amatis said, raising her hands as if to ward off Clary’s blow. “Will you give it to me?”
Mercy. Clary stood frozen, even as Amatis looked up at her with obvious amusement. Goodness is not kindness, and there is nothing crueler than virtue. She knew she should cut Amatis’s throat, wanted to, even, but how to tell Luke she had killed his sister? Killed his sister while she’d lain on the ground, begging for mercy?
Clary felt her own hand shake, as if it were disconnected from her body. Around her the sounds of battle had dimmed: she could hear shouts and murmurs but didn’t dare turn her head away to see what was going on. She was focused on Amatis, on her own grip on the hilt of Heosphoros, of the thin trickle of blood that ran from beneath Amatis’s chin, where the tip of Clary’s sword had pierced the skin—
The earth erupted. Clary’s boots slipped in the snow, and she was flung to the side; she rolled, barely managing not to slice herself on her own blade. The fall knocked the breath from her, but she scrambled back, clutching Heosphoros as the ground shook around her. Earthquake, she thought wildly. She clutched at a rock with her free hand as Amatis rolled to her knees, looking around with a predatory grin.
There were screams all around, and an awful ripping noise. As Clary stared in horror, the ground tore itself in half, a massive crack opening in the earth. Rocks, dirt, and jagged chunks of ice rained down into the gap as Clary scrambled to get away from it. It was widening quickly, the jagged crack becoming a vast chasm with sheer sides that dropped away into shadow.
The ground was beginning to stop shaking. Clary heard Amatis laugh. She looked up and saw the older woman rise to her feet, grinning mockingly at Clary. “Give my brother all my love,” Amatis called, and jumped into the chasm.
Clary jolted to her feet, her heart pounding, and ran to the edge of the crack. She stared down over it. She could see only a few feet of sheer earth and then darkness—and shadows, moving shadows. She turned to see that everywhere across the battlefield the Endarkened were running toward the chasm and leaping into it. They reminded her of Olympic divers, sure and determined, confident of their landing.
The Nephilim were scrambling to get away from the chasm as their red-clad enemies dashed past them, throwing themselves into the pit. Clary’s gaze tracked among them, anxious, looking for one particular black-clad figure, one head of bright hair.
She stopped. There, just at the right of the chasm, some distance from her, were a group of women dressed in white. The Iron Sisters. Through gaps between them, Clary could see a figure on the ground, and another, this one in parchment robes, bent over him—
She broke into a run. She knew she shouldn’t run with an unsheathed blade, but she didn’t care. She pounded across the snow, darting out of the way of running Endarkened, weaving through the Nephilim, and here the snow was bloody and soaked and slippery, but she ran on anyway, until she burst through the circle of the Iron Sisters and reached Jace.
He was on the ground, and her heart, which had felt as if it were exploding inside her chest, slowed its beating slightly when she saw that his eyes were open. He was very pale, though, and breathing harshly enough that she could hear it. The Silent Brother was kneeling next to him, long pale fingers unsnapping the gear at Jace’s shoulder.
“What’s going on?” Clary asked, looking around wildly. A dozen Iron Sisters gazed back, impassive and silent. There were more Iron Sisters as well, on the other side of the chasm, watching unmoving as the Endarkened threw themselves into it. It was eerie. “What happened?”
“Sebastian,” Jace said through gritted teeth, and she dropped down beside him, across from the Silent Brother, as his gear peeled away and she saw the gash in his shoulder. “Sebastian happened.”
The wound was weeping fire.
Not blood but fire, tinged gold like the ichor of angels. Clary took a ragged breath and looked up to see Brother Zachariah looking back at her. She caught a single glimpse of his face, all angles and pallor and scars, before he drew a stele from his robe. Instead of setting it to Jace’s skin, as she would have expected, he set it to his own and carved a rune into his palm. He did it quickly, but Clary could feel the power that came from the rune. It made her shudder.
Stay still. This will end the hurt, he said in his soft omnidirectional whisper, and placed his hand over the fiery gash on Jace’s shoulder.
Jace cried out. His body half-lifted off the ground, and the fire that had bled like slow tears from his wound rose as if gasoline had been poured on it, searing up Brother Zachariah’s arm. Wildfire consumed the parchment sleeve of Zachariah’s robe; the Silent Brother jerked away, but not before Clary saw that the blaze was rising, consuming him. In the depths of the flame, as it wavered and crackled, Clary saw a shape—the shape of a rune that looked like two wings joined by a single bar. A rune she had seen before, standing on a rooftop in Manhattan: the first rune not from the Gray Book that she had ever visualized. It flickered and disappeared, so quickly that she wondered if she had imagined it. It seemed to be a rune that appeared to her in times of stress and panic, but what did it mean? Was it meant to be a way to help Jace—or Brother Zachariah?
The Silent Brother fell back silently into the snow, collapsing like a burned tree shivering to ashes.
A murmur tore through the ranks of the Iron Sisters. Whatever was happening to Brother Zachariah, it wasn’t supposed to be happening. Something had gone horribly wrong.
The Iron Sisters moved toward their fallen brother. They blocked Clary’s view of Zachariah as she reached for Jace. He was bucking and spasming on the ground, his eyes closed, his head tilted back. She looked around wildly. Through the gaps between the Iron Sisters she could see Brother Zachariah, thrashing on the ground: His body was shimmering, sizzling with fire. A cry burst from his throat—a human noise, the cry of a man in pain, not the silent mind-whisper of the Brothers. Sister Cleophas caught at him—parchment robes and fire, and Clary could hear the Sister’s voice rising, “Zachariah, Zachariah—”
But he was not the only one wounded. Some of the Nephilim were grouped around Jace, but many of the others were with their injured comrades, administering healing runes, searching their gear for bandages.
“Clary,” Jace whispered. He was trying to struggle up onto his elbows, but they wouldn’t hold him. “Brother Zachariah—what’s happened? What did I do to him—”
“Nothing. Jace. Lie still.” Clary sheathed her blade and fumbled his stele from his weapons belt with numb fingers. She reached to press the tip to his skin, but he writhed away from her, his body jerking.
“No,” he gasped. His eyes were huge and burning gold. “Don’t touch me. I’ll hurt you, too.”
“You won’t.” Desperate, she threw herself on top of him, the weight of her body bearing him backward into the snow. She reached for his shoulder as he twisted under her, his clothes and skin blood-slippery and fire-hot. Her knees slid to either side of his hips as she threw her full weight against his chest, pinning him down. “Jace,” she said. “Jace, please.” But his eyes wouldn’t focus on her, his hands spasming against the ground. “Jace,” she said, and put the stele to his skin, just over his wound.
And she was on the ship again with her father, with Valentine, and she was throwing everything she had, every bit of strength, every last atom of will and energy into crafting a rune, a rune that would burn down the world, that would reverse death, that would make the oceans fly up into the sky. Only, this time it was the simplest of runes, the rune every Shadowhunter learned in their first year of training:
The iratze took shape on Jace’s shoulder, the color spiraling from the tip so black that the light coming from the stars and the Citadel seemed to vanish into it. Clary could feel her own energy vanishing into it too as she drew. Never had she felt more like the stele was an extension of her own veins, that she was writing in her own blood, as if all the energy in her was being drawn out through her hand and fingers, her vision darkening as she fought to keep the stele steady, to finish the rune. The last thing she saw was the great burning whirl of a Portal, opening onto the impossible sight of Angel Square, before she slid into nothingness.