“What’s happening?” Emma demanded. She pulled back from Helen’s touch, not because she didn’t like Helen but because her heart was pounding. “What about Mark, and Mr. Blackthorn—”
Helen hesitated. “Sebastian Morgenstern has attacked six Institutes over the past few days. He’s either killed everyone or Turned them. He can use the Infernal Cup to make Shadowhunters—not themselves anymore.”
“I saw him do it,” Emma whispered. “To Katerina. And he Turned your father, too. They were going to do it to Mark, but Sebastian said he didn’t want him because he had faerie blood.”
Helen flinched. “We have reason to think Mark’s still alive,” she said. “They were able to track him to a point where he disappeared, but the runes indicate he’s not dead. It’s possible that Sebastian may be holding him hostage.”
“My—my parents,” Emma said again, through a dryer throat this time. She knew what it meant that Helen hadn’t answered her question the first time she’d asked it. “Where are they? They weren’t in the Institute, so Sebastian couldn’t have hurt them.”
“Em . . .” Helen exhaled. She looked young suddenly, almost as young as Jules. “Sebastian doesn’t just attack Institutes; he murders or takes Conclave members from their own homes. Your parents—the Clave tried to track them, but they couldn’t. Then their bodies washed up in Marina del Rey, on the beach, this morning. The Clave doesn’t know what happened exactly, but . . .”
Helen’s voice trailed off into a meaningless string of words, words such as “positive identification” and “scars and markings on the bodies” and “no evidence recovered.” Things like “in the water for hours” and “no way to transport the corpses” and “given all the proper funeral rites, burned on the beach as they had both requested, you understand—”
Emma screamed. It was a scream with no words at first, rising higher and higher, a scream that tore her throat and brought the taste of metal into her mouth. It was a scream of loss so immense there was no speech for it. It was the wordless cry of having the sky over your head, the air in your lungs, ripped away from you forever. She screamed, and screamed again, and tore at the mattress with her hands until she gouged through it, and there were feathers and blood stuck under her fingernails, and Helen was sobbing, trying to hold her, saying, “Emma, Emma, please, Emma, please.”
And then there was more illumination. Someone had turned on a lantern in the room, and Emma heard her name, in a soft urgent familiar voice, and Helen let her go and there was Jules, leaning against the edge of the bed, and holding something out to her, something that gleamed gold in the new harsh light.
It was Cortana. Unsheathed, lying bare across his palms like an offering. Emma thought she was still screaming, but she took the sword, the words flashing across the blade, burning across her eyes: I am Cortana, of the same steel and temper as Joyeuse and Durendal.
She heard her father’s voice in 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 choked, pushing back on the screams, forcing them down and into silence. This was what her father had meant: Like Cortana, she had steel in her veins and she was meant to be strong. Even if her parents were not there to see it, she would be strong for them.
She hugged the sword against her chest. As if from a distance she heard Helen exclaim and reach for her, but Julian, Julian who always knew what Emma needed, tugged Helen’s hand back. Emma’s fingers were around the blade, and blood was running down her arms and chest where the tip sliced at her collarbone. She didn’t feel it. Rocking back and forth, she clutched the sword like it was the only thing she had ever loved, and let the blood spill down instead of tears.
Simon couldn’t quite shake a feeling of déjà vu.
He’d been here before, standing just outside the Institute, watching the Lightwoods disappear through a shimmering Portal. Though then, back before he had ever borne the Mark of Cain, the Portal had been created by Magnus, and this time it was under the oversight of a blue-skinned warlock woman named Catarina Loss. That time, he’d been summoned because Jace had wanted to talk to him about Clary before he disappeared into another country.
This time Clary was disappearing with them.
He felt her hand on his, her fingers lightly ringing his wrist. The whole of the Conclave—nearly every Shadowhunter in New York City—had come through the gates of the Institute and passed through the shimmering Portal. The Lightwoods, as guardians of the Institute, would go last. Simon had been here since the start of twilight, bars of red sky sliding down behind the buildings of the New York skyline, and now witchlight lit the scene in front of him, picking out small glimmering details: Isabelle’s whip, the spark of fire that jumped from Alec’s family ring as he gestured, the glints in Jace’s pale hair.
“It looks different,” Simon said.
Clary looked up at him. Like the rest of the Shadowhunters, she was dressed in what Simon could only describe as a cloak. It seemed to be what they broke out during cold winter weather, made of a heavy, velvety black material that buckled across the chest. He wondered where she’d gotten it. Maybe they just issued them. “What does?”
“The Portal,” he said. “It looks different from when Magnus did it. More—blue.”
“Maybe they all have different senses of style?”
Simon looked over at Catarina. She seemed briskly efficient, like a hospital nurse or kindergarten teacher. Definitely not like Magnus. “How’s Izzy?”
“Worried, I think. Everyone’s worried.”
There was a short silence. Clary exhaled, her breath floating white on the winter air.
“I don’t like you going,” Simon said, at exactly the same time that Clary said, “I don’t like going and leaving you here.”
“I’ll be fine,” Simon said. “I have Jordan looking after me.” Indeed, Jordan was there, sitting on top of the wall that ran around the Institute and looking watchful. “And no one’s tried to kill me in at least two weeks.”
“Not funny.” Clary scowled. The problem, Simon reflected, was that it was difficult to reassure someone that you’d be fine when you were a Daylighter. Some vampires might want Simon on their side, eager to benefit from his unusual powers. Camille had attempted to recruit him, and others might try, but Simon had the distinct impression that the vast majority of vampires wanted to kill him.
“I’m pretty sure Maureen’s still hoping to get her hands on me,” Simon said. Maureen was the head of the New York vampire clan and believed that she was in love with Simon. Which would have been less awkward if she hadn’t been thirteen years old. “I know the Clave warned people not to touch me, but . . .”
“Maureen wants to touch you,” Clary said with a sideways grin. “Bad touch.”
“Jordan will keep her off you.”
Simon looked ahead meditatively. He had been trying not to stare at Isabelle, who had greeted him with only a brief wave since he’d arrived at the Institute. She was helping her mother, her black hair flying in the brisk wind.
“You could just go up and talk to her,” Clary said. “Instead of staring like a creeper.”
“I’m not staring like a creeper. I’m staring subtly.”
“I noticed,” Clary pointed out. “Look, you know how Isabelle gets. When she’s upset, she withdraws. She won’t talk to anyone but Jace or Alec, because she hardly trusts anyone. But if you’re going to be her boyfriend, you have to show her you’re one of those people she can trust.”
“I’m not her boyfriend. At least, I don’t think I’m her boyfriend. She’s never used the word ‘boyfriend,’ anyway.”
Clary kicked him in the ankle. “You two need to DTR more than any other people I’ve ever met.”
“Defining relationships over here?” said a voice from behind them. Simon turned and saw Magnus, very tall against the dark sky behind them. He was soberly dressed, jeans and a black T-shirt, his dark hair partly in his eyes. “I see that even as the world plunges into darkness and peril, you two stand around discussing your love lives. Teenagers.”
“What are you doing here?” Simon said, too surprised for a smart comeback.
“Came to see Alec,” Magnus said.
Clary raised her eyebrows at him. “What was that about teenagers?”
Magnus held up a warning finger. “Don’t overstep yourself, biscuit,” he said, and moved past them, disappearing into the crowd around the Portal.
“Biscuit?” said Simon.
“Believe it or not, he’s called me that before,” Clary said. “Simon, look.” She turned toward him, tugging his hand out of his jeans pocket. She looked down at it and smiled. “The ring,” she said. “Handy when it worked, wasn’t it?”
Simon looked down as well. A hammered gold ring in the shape of a leaf encircled his right ring finger. It had once been a connection to Clary. Now, with hers destroyed, it was only a ring, but he kept it regardless. He knew it was a little close to having half of a BFF necklace, but he couldn’t help it. It was a beautiful object, and still a symbol of the connection between them.
She squeezed his hand hard, raising her eyes to his. Shadows moved in the green of her irises; he could tell she was afraid. “I know it’s just a Council meeting—” Clary started to say.
“But you’re staying in Idris.”
“Only until they can figure out what happened with the Institutes, and how to protect them,” said Clary. “Then we’ll come back. I know phones and texting and all that, that doesn’t work in Idris, but if you need to talk to me, tell Magnus. He’ll find a way to get me a message.”
Simon felt his throat tighten. “Clary—”
“I love you,” she said. “You’re my best friend.” She let go of his hand, her eyes shining. “No, don’t say anything, I don’t want you to say anything.” She turned and almost ran back toward the Portal, where Jocelyn and Luke were waiting for her, three packed duffel bags at their feet. Luke glanced across the courtyard at Simon, his expression thoughtful.
But where was Isabelle? The crowd of Shadowhunters had thinned. Jace had moved to stand beside Clary, his hand on her shoulder; Maryse was near the Portal, but Isabelle, who had been with her—
“Simon,” said a voice at his shoulder, and he turned to see Izzy, her face a pale smudge between dark hair and dark cloak, looking at him, her expression half-angry, half-sad. “I guess this is the part where we say good-bye?”