It bloomed like a flower against the clouded black sky: a sudden, silent explosion of flame. Luke, standing by the window, flinched back in surprise before pressing himself against the narrow opening, trying to identify the source of the radiance.
“What is it?” Raphael looked up from where he was kneeling by Magnus. Magnus appeared to be asleep, his eyes shadowed dark crescents against his skin. He had curled himself uncomfortably around the chains that held him, and looked ill, or at least exhausted.
“I’m not sure,” Luke said, and held himself still as the vampire boy came to join him at the window. He had never felt entirely comfortable around Raphael. Raphael seemed to him like Loki or some other trickster god, sometimes working for good and sometimes for evil, but always in his own interests.
Raphael muttered something in Spanish and pushed past Luke. The flames reflected in the pupils of his dark eyes, red-gold.
“Sebastian’s work, do you think?” Luke asked.
“No.” Raphael’s gaze was distant, and Luke was reminded that the boy in front of him, though he looked an ageless, angelic fourteen, was in fact older than he was, older than Luke’s parents would have been, if they had lived—or in his mother’s case, if she had remained mortal. “There is something holy about this fire. Sebastian’s work is demon’s work. This is like the way God appeared to the wanderers in the desert. ‘By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.’”
Luke raised an eyebrow at him.
Raphael shrugged. “I was brought up a good Catholic boy.” He cocked his head to the side. “I think our friend Sebastian will not like this very much, whatever it is.”
“Can you see anything else?” Luke demanded; vampire vision was more powerful even than a werewolf’s enhanced sight.
“Something—ruins, perhaps, like a dead city—” Raphael shook his head in frustration. “Look where the fire fades. It is dying away.”
There was a soft murmur from the floor, and Luke glanced down. Magnus had rolled onto his back. His chains were long, giving him at least enough freedom of movement to curl his hands over his stomach, as if in pain. His eyes were open. “Speaking of fading . . .”
Raphael returned to his place by Magnus’s side. “You must tell us, warlock,” he said, “if there is something that we can do for you. I have not seen you so sick.”
“Raphael . . .” Magnus pushed a hand through his sweaty black hair. His chain rattled. “It’s my father,” he said abruptly. “This is his realm. Well, one of them.”
“He’s a demon,” Magnus said shortly. “Which shouldn’t be a huge surprise. Don’t expect any more information than that.”
“Fine, but why would being in your father’s realm make you sick?”
“He’s trying to get me to call on him,” said Magnus, propping himself on his elbows. “He can reach me here easily. I can’t do magic in this realm, so I can’t protect myself. He can make me sick or make me well. He’s making me sick because he thinks if I get desperate enough, I’ll call on him for help.”
“Will you?” asked Luke.
Magnus shook his head, and winced. “No. It wouldn’t be worth the price. There’s always a price, with my father.”
Luke felt himself tense. He and Magnus weren’t close, but he had always liked the warlock, respected him. Respected Magnus and warlocks such as Catarina Loss and Ragnor Fell and the others, those who had worked with Shadowhunters for generations. He didn’t like the sound of despair in Magnus’s voice now, or the echoing look in his eyes. “Wouldn’t you pay it? If the choice were your life?”
Magnus looked at Luke wearily, and flopped back against the stone floor. “I might not be the one who pays it,” he said, and shut his eyes.
“I—” Luke began, but Raphael shook his head at him, a scolding gesture. He had hunched up by Magnus’s shoulder, his hands looped around his knees. Dark veins were visible at his temples and throat, signs that it had been too long since he had fed. Luke could only imagine the odd picture they made: the starving vampire, the dying warlock, and the werewolf keeping watch at the window.
“You know nothing of his father,” said Raphael in a low voice. Magnus was still, clearly asleep again, his breathing labored.
“And I suppose you know who Magnus’s father is?” Luke said.
“I paid a lot of money once to find it out.”
“Why? What good would the knowledge do you?”
“I like to know things,” Raphael said. “It can be useful. He knew my mother; it only seemed fair I know his father. Magnus saved my life once,” added Raphael in an emotionless voice. “When I first became a vampire, I wanted to die. I thought I was a damned thing. He stopped me from throwing myself into the sunlight—Magnus showed me how to walk on holy ground, how to say the name of God, how to wear a cross. It wasn’t magic he gave me, just patience, but it saved my life all the same.”
“So you owe him,” said Luke.
Raphael shrugged off his jacket and, in a single swift move, pushed it beneath Magnus’s head. Magnus stirred but didn’t wake. “You think about it however you would like to,” he said. “I will not give up his secrets.”
“Answer me one thing,” Luke said, the stone wall cold against his back. “Is Magnus’s father someone who could help us?”
Raphael laughed: a short, sharp bark without any real amusement in it. “You are very funny, werewolf,” he said. “Go back to your watching at the window, and if you are the sort who prays, then perhaps you should pray that Magnus’s father does not decide he wants to help us. If you trust me as regards nothing else, trust me about that, at least.”
“Did you just eat three pizzas?” Lily was staring at Bat with a mixture of distaste and amazement.
“Four,” said Bat, placing a now empty Joe’s Pizza box on top of a stack of other boxes, and smiling serenely. Maia felt a rush of affection for him. She hadn’t let him in on her plan for the meeting with Maureen, and he hadn’t complained once, just complimented her on her poker face. He’d agreed to sit down with her and Lily to discuss the alliance, even though she knew he didn’t much like vampires.
And he’d saved for her the pizza that had only cheese on it, since he knew she didn’t like toppings. She was on her fourth slice. Lily, perched daintily on the edge of the desk in the police station lobby, was smoking a long cigarette (Maia guessed lung cancer wasn’t that big a worry when you were dead already) and eyeing the pizza suspiciously. Maia didn’t care how much Bat ate—something had to fuel all those muscles—as long as he seemed happy to keep her company during the meeting. Lily had stuck to their agreement about Maureen, but she still gave Maia the shivers.
“You know,” Lily said, swinging her booted feet, “I must say I was expecting something a bit more—exciting. Less of a phone bank.” She wrinkled her nose.
Maia sighed and looked around. The lobby of the police station was full of werewolves and vampires, probably for the first time since it had been built. There were stacks of papers listing what contact information for important Downworlders they’d managed to beg, borrow, steal, and dig up—it had turned out the vampires had pretty impressive records of who was in charge where—and everyone was on cell phones or computers, calling and texting and emailing the heads of clans and packs and every warlock they could track down.
“Thank goodness the faeries are centralized,” said Bat. “One Seelie Court, one Unseelie Court.”
Lily smirked. “The land under the hill stretches far and wide,” she said. “The Courts are all we can reach in this world, that’s all.”
“Well, this world is what we’re concerned with at the moment,” said Maia, stretching and rubbing the back of her neck. She’d been calling and emailing and writing messages all day herself, and she was exhausted. The vampires had joined them only at nightfall, and were expected to work through till morning while the werewolves slept.
“You realize what Sebastian Morgenstern will do to us if his side wins,” said Lily, looking thoughtfully around the crowded room. “I doubt he has much forgiveness for anyone who works against him.”
“Maybe he’ll kill us first,” said Maia. “But he would kill us anyway. I know you vampires love the idea of reason and logic and clever, careful alliances, but that’s not how he works. He wants to burn the world down. That’s all he wants.”
Lily exhaled smoke. “Well,” she said. “That would be inconvenient, considering how we feel about fire.”
“You’re not having second thoughts, are you?” Maia said, trying hard to keep the worry from her voice. “You seemed very sure we should stand against Sebastian when we talked before.”
“We walk a very dangerous line, that is all,” said Lily. “Have you ever heard the expression ‘When the cat is away, the mice will play’?”
“Of course,” said Maia, glancing over at Bat, who muttered something darkly in Spanish.
“For hundreds of years the Nephilim have kept their rules, and made sure that we kept to them as well,” Lily said. “For that, they are much resented. Now they have gone to hide themselves away in Idris, and we cannot pretend that Downworlders will not enjoy certain . . . advantages while they are gone.”
“Being able to eat people?” Bat inquired, folding a piece of pizza in half.
“It is not just vampires,” Lily said coldly. “The faeries love to tease and torment humans; only Shadowhunters prevent them. They will begin taking human babies again. The warlocks will sell their magic to the highest bidder, like—”