“It almost doesn’t seem to make a difference,” said Jace, curled into the window seat in his and Alec’s attic room. “It all feels like prison.”
“Do you think that’s a side effect of the fact that armed guards are standing all around the house?” Simon suggested. “I mean, just a thought.”
Jace shot him an irritable look. “What is it about mundanes and their overwhelming compulsion to state the obvious?” he asked. He leaned forward, staring through the panes of the window. Simon might have been exaggerating slightly, but only slightly. The dark figures standing at cardinal points surrounding the Inquisitor’s house might have been invisible to the untrained eye, but not to Jace’s.
“I’m not a mundane,” Simon said, an edge to his voice. “And what is it about Shadowhunters and their overwhelming compulsion to get themselves and everyone they care about killed?”
“Stop arguing.” Alec had been leaning against the wall, in classical thinking pose, with his chin propped on his hand. “The guards are there to protect us, not keep us in. Have some perspective.”
“Alec, you’ve known me for seven years,” said Jace. “When have I ever had perspective?”
Alec glowered at him.
“Are you still mad because I broke your phone?” Jace said. “Because you broke my wrist, so I’d say we’re even.”
“It was sprained,” Alec said. “Not broken. Sprained.”
“Now who’s arguing?” said Simon.
“Don’t talk.” Alec gestured at him with an expression of vague disgust. “Every time I look at you, I keep remembering coming in here and seeing you draped all over my sister.”
Jace sat up. “I didn’t hear about this.”
“Oh, come on—” said Simon.
“Simon, you’re blushing,” observed Jace. “And you’re a vampire and almost never blush, so this better be really juicy. And weird. Were bicycles involved in some kinky way? Vacuum cleaners? Umbrellas?”
“Big umbrellas, or the little kind you get with drinks?” Alec asked.
“Does it matter—” Jace began, and then broke off as Clary came into the room with Isabelle, holding a small girl by the hand. After a moment of shocked silence, Jace recognized her: Emma, the girl whom Clary had run off to comfort during the Council meeting. The one who’d looked at him with barely concealed hero worship. Not that he minded hero worship, but it was a bit odd to have a child dropped suddenly into the middle of what had, admittedly, begun to be a somewhat awkward conversation.
“Clary,” he said. “Did you kidnap Emma Carstairs?”
Clary gave him an exasperated look. “No. She got here on her own.”
“I came in through one of the windows,” Emma supplied helpfully. “Like in Peter Pan.”
Alec started to protest. Clary held her free hand up to stop him; her other hand was now on Emma’s shoulder. “Everyone just be quiet for a second, okay?” Clary said. “She’s not supposed to be here, yeah, but she came for a reason. She has information.”
“That’s right,” Emma said in her small, determined voice. She was actually only about a head shorter than Clary, but then Clary was tiny. Emma would probably be tall one day. Jace tried to remember her father, John Carstairs—he was sure he’d seen him at Council meetings, and thought he recalled a tall, fair-haired man. Or had his hair been dark? The Blackthorns he remembered, of course, but the Carstairs had faded out of his memory.
Clary returned his sharp look with one that said: Be nice. Jace closed his mouth. He’d never given much thought to whether he liked children or not, though he’d always liked playing with Max. Max had been surprisingly adept at strategy for such a little boy, and Jace had always liked setting him puzzles. The fact that Max had worshipped the ground he walked on hadn’t hurt either.
Jace thought of the wooden soldier he’d given to Max, and closed his eyes in sudden pain. When he opened them again, Emma was looking at him. Not the way she’d looked at him when he’d found her with Clary in the Gard, that sort of startled half-impressed, half-frightened You’re Jace Lightwood look, but with a little bit of worry. In fact, her whole posture was a mix of confidence that he was fairly sure she was faking, and clear fright. Her parents were dead, he thought, had died days ago. And he remembered a time, seven years before, when he’d faced the Lightwoods himself with the knowledge in his heart that his father had just died, and the bitter tang of the word “orphan” in his ears.
“Emma,” he said as gently as he could. “How did you get into the window?”
“I climbed over the rooftops,” she said, pointing out the window. “It wasn’t that hard. Dormer windows are almost always bedrooms, so I climbed down to the first one, and—it was Clary’s.” She shrugged, as if what she’d done hadn’t been either risky or impressive.
“It was mine, actually,” said Isabelle, who was looking at Emma as if she were a fascinating specimen. Isabelle sat down on the trunk at the foot of Alec’s bed, stretching out her long legs. “Clary lives over at Luke’s.”
Emma looked confused. “I don’t know where that is. And everyone was talking about all of you being here. That’s why I came.”
Alec looked down at Emma with the half-fond, half-worried look of a much older brother. “Don’t be afraid—” he began.
“I’m not afraid,” she snapped. “I came here because you need help.”
Jace felt his mouth quirk up involuntarily at the corner. “What kind of help?” he asked.
“I recognized that man today,” she said. “The one who threatened the Consul. He came with Sebastian, to attack the Institute.” She swallowed. “That place he said we would all burn in, Edom—”
“It’s another word for ‘Hell,’?” said Alec. “Not a real place, you don’t have to be worried—”
“She’s not worried, Alec,” Clary said. “Just listen.”
“It is a place,” said Emma. “When they attacked the Institute, I heard them. I heard one of them say that they could take Mark to Edom, and sacrifice him there. And when we escaped through the Portal, I heard her calling after us that we’d burn in Edom, that there was no real escape.” Her voice shook. “The way they talked about Edom, I know it was a real place, or a real place to them.”
“Edom,” said Clary, remembering. “Valentine called Lilith something like that; he called her ‘my Lady of Edom.’?”
Alec’s eyes met Jace’s. Alec nodded, and slipped out of the room. Jace felt his shoulders relax minutely; in among the clamor of everything, it was good to have a parabatai who knew what you were thinking, without you having to say it. “Have you told anyone else about this?”
Emma hesitated, and then shook her head.
“Why not?” said Simon, who had been quiet until that moment. Emma looked at him, blinking; she was only twelve, Jace thought, and had probably barely encountered Downworlders up close before. “Why not tell the Clave?”