“I’m not sure that’s exactly true—” Clary began, but Jace was already putting a foot up onto the plinth, preparing to climb. He had the glint in his eye she both loved and dreaded, the one that said, I do what I want, and damn the consequences.
“Wait!” Simon darted to block Jace from climbing farther. “I’m sorry, but does anyone else see what’s going on here?”
“Nooo,” Jace drawled. “Why don’t you tell us all about it? I mean, we’ve got nothing but time.”
Simon crossed his arms over his chest. “I’ve been in a lot of campaigns—”
“Campaigns?” Isabelle echoed, bewildered.
“He means Dungeons and Dragons games,” Clary explained.
“Games?” Alec echoed in disbelief. “In case you haven’t noticed, this is no game.”
“That’s not the point,” Simon said. “The point is that when you’re playing D&D and your group comes across a heap of treasure, or a big sparkly gem, or a magical golden skull, you should never take it. It’s always a trap.” He uncrossed his arms and waved them wildly. “This is a trap.”
Jace was silent. He was looking at Simon thoughtfully, as if he’d never seen him before, or at least never considered him so closely. “Come here,” he said.
Simon moved toward him, his eyebrows raised. “What—oof!”
Jace had dropped his sword into Simon’s hands. “Hold this for me while I climb,” Jace said, and leaped up onto the plinth. Simon’s protests were drowned out by the sound of Jace’s boots knocking against the stone as he scrambled up the statue, pulling himself up hand over hand. He reached the middle of the statue, where the carved hauberk offered footholds, and braced himself, reaching across the stone to close his hand around the handle of the skeptron.
It might have been an illusion, but Clary thought she saw the statue’s smiling mouth twist into an even crueler grimace. The red stone flared up suddenly; Jace jerked back, but the room was already full of an earsplitting noise, the terrible combination of a fire alarm and a human scream, going on and on and on.
“Jace!” Clary raced to the statue; he had already dropped from it to the ground, wincing at the awful noise. The light of the red stone was increasing, filling the room with a bloody illumination.
“Goddamn it,” Jace shouted over the noise. “I hate it when Simon is right.”
With a glare Simon shoved Jace’s sword back at him; Jace took it, his gaze darting around warily. Alec had raised his bow again; Isabelle stood ready with her whip. Clary drew a dagger from her belt.
“We’d better get out of here,” Alec called. “It could be nothing, but—”
Isabelle cried out, and clapped her hand to her chest. Her pendant had begun to flash, slow steady bright pulses like a heartbeat.
“Demons!” she cried, just as the sky filled with flying things. And they were things—they had heavy round bodies, like huge pale grubs, pocked with rows of suckers. They had no faces: Both ends of them terminated in massive pink circular mouths rimmed with sharks’ teeth. Rows of stubby wings lined their bodies, each wing tipped with a dagger-sharp talon. And there were a lot of them.
Even Jace paled. “By the Angel—run!”
They ran, but the creatures, despite their girth, were faster: They were landing all around them, with ugly wet sounds. Clary thought wildly that they sounded like giant spitballs falling from the sky. The light pouring from the skeptron had vanished the moment they’d appeared, and the room was now bathed in the ugly yellowish glow of the sky.
“Clary!” Jace shouted as one of the creatures heaved itself toward her, its circular mouth open. Ropes of yellow drool hung from it.
Thump. An arrow embedded itself in the roof of the demon’s mouth. The creature reared back, spitting black blood. Clary saw Alec seize another arrow, fit it, let it fly. Another demon reeled back, and then Isabelle was on it, her whip slashing back and forth, slicing it to ribbons. Simon had seized another demon and was holding it, his hands sinking into its fleshy gray body, and Jace plunged his sword into it. The demon collapsed, knocking Simon back to the floor: he landed on his backpack. Clary thought she heard a sound like breaking glass, but a moment later Simon was back up on his feet, Jace steadying him with a hand to the shoulder before they both turned back to the fight.
Ice had descended over Clary: the silent coldness of battle. The demon Alec had shot was writhing, trying to spit out the arrow lodged in its mouth; she stepped over to it and plunged her dagger into its body, black blood spraying up from the wounds, soaking her gear. The room was full of the rotten-garbage stench of demons, laced through with the acid of ichor; she gagged as the demon gave a last spasm and collapsed.
Alec was backing up, steadily letting arrow after arrow fly, sending the demons reeling back, wounded. As they struggled, Jace and Isabelle fell on them, slashing them to pieces with sword and whip. Clary followed their lead, leaping on another wounded demon, sawing away at the soft band of flesh under its mouth, her hand, coated in oily demon blood, slipping on the hilt of her dagger. The demon collapsed in on itself with a hiss, sending her crashing to the ground. The blade skittered out of her hand, and she threw herself after it, seized it up, and rolled to the side just as another demon lunged with an uncoiling of its powerful body.
It hit the space where she’d just been lying, and curled itself around, hissing, so that Clary found herself facing two open, gaping mouths. She readied her blade to let it fly, when there was a flash of silver-gold and Isabelle’s whip came down, slicing the thing in half.
It fell apart in two pieces, a jumbled mess of steaming internal organs pouring out. Even through the ice of battle, Clary was nearly sick. Demons usually died and vanished before you saw much of their insides. This one was still writhing, even in two pieces, twitching forward and back. Isabelle grimaced and raised her whip again—and the twitch turned into a sudden, violent jerk as half the monster twisted backward and sank its teeth into Isabelle’s leg.
Izzy screamed, slashing down with the whip, and it released her; she fell back, her leg going out from under her. Clary leaped forward, stabbing at the other half of the demon, plunging her dagger into the creature’s back until it crumbled apart under her and she found herself kneeling in a welter of demon blood, drenched blade in her hand, gasping.
There was silence. The ringing alarm had stopped, and the demons were gone. They had all been slaughtered, but there was no joy of victory. Isabelle was on the ground, her whip curled around her wrist, blood pouring from a crescent-shaped slash in her left leg. She was gasping, her eyelids fluttering.