City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments 6) - Page 12

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Julian, Helen had called him. Her little brother.

The impish grin was gone now. He looked tired and dirty and frightened. Skinny wrists stuck out of the cuffs of a white mourning jacket, the sleeves of which were too short for him. In his arms he was carrying a little boy, probably not more than three years old, with tangled brown curls; it seemed to be a family trait. The rest of the children wore similar borrowed mourning clothes. Following Julian was a girl of about ten, her hand firmly clasped in the hold of a boy the same age. The girl’s hair was dark brown, but the boy had tangled black curls that nearly obscured his face. Fraternal twins, Clary guessed. After them came a girl who might have been eight or nine, her face round and very pale between brown braids. All of the Blackthorns—for the family resemblance was striking—looked bewildered and terrified, except perhaps Helen, whose expression was a mixture of fury and grief.

The misery on their faces cut at Clary’s heart. She thought of her power with runes, wishing that she could create one that would soften the blow of loss. Mourning runes existed, but only to honor the dead, in the same way that love runes existed, like wedding rings, to symbolize the bond of love. You couldn’t make someone love you with a rune, and you couldn’t assuage grief with it either. So much magic, Clary thought, and nothing to mend a broken heart.

“Julian Blackthorn,” said Jia Penhallow, and her voice was gentle. “Step forward, please.”

Julian swallowed and nodded, handing the little boy he was holding to his older sister. He stepped forward, his eyes darting around the dais. He was clearly scouring the space for someone. His shoulders had just begun to slump when another figure darted out onto the stage. A girl, also about twelve, with a tangle of dark blond hair that hung down around her shoulders. She wore jeans and a T-shirt that didn’t quite fit, and her head was down, as if she couldn’t bear so many people looking at her. It was clear that she didn’t want to be there—on the stage or perhaps even in Idris—but the moment he saw her, Julian seemed to relax. The terrified look vanished from his expression as she moved to stand beside Helen, her face tucked down and away from the crowd.

“Julian,” said Jia in the same gentle voice, “would you do something for us? Would you take up the Mortal Sword?”

Clary sat up straight. She had held the Mortal Sword; she had felt the weight of it. The cold, like hooks in your skin, dragged the truth out of you. You couldn’t lie holding the Mortal Sword, but the truth, even a truth you wanted to tell, was agony.

“They can’t,” she whispered. “He’s just a kid—”

“He’s the oldest of the children who escaped the Los Angeles Institute,” Jace said under his breath. “They don’t have a choice.”

Julian nodded, his thin shoulders straight. “I’ll take it.”

Robert Lightwood passed behind the lectern then and went to the table. He took up the Sword and returned to stand in front of Julian. The contrast between them was almost funny—the big, barrel-chested man and the lanky, wild-haired boy.

Julian reached a hand up and took the Sword. As his fingers closed around the hilt, he shuddered, a ripple of pain that was quickly forced down. The blond girl behind him started forward, and Clary caught a glimpse of the look on her face—pure fury—before Helen caught at her and pulled her back.

Jia knelt down. It was a strange sight, the boy with the Sword, bracketed on one side by the Consul, her robes spreading out about her, and on the other by the Inquisitor. “Julian,” Jia said, and though her voice was low, it carried throughout the Council room. “Can you tell us who is on the stage here with you today?”

In his clear boy’s voice Julian said, “You. The Inquisitor. My family—my sister Helen, and Tiberius and Livia, and Drusilla and Tavvy. Octavian. And my best friend, Emma Carstairs.”

“And they were all with you when the Institute was attacked?”

Julian shook his head. “Not Helen,” he said. “She was here.”

“Can you tell us what you saw, Julian? Without leaving anything out?”

Julian swallowed. He was pale. Clary could imagine the pain he was feeling, the weight of the Sword. “It was in the afternoon,” he said. “We were practicing in the training room. Katerina was teaching us. Mark was watching. Emma’s parents were on a routine patrol at the beach. We saw a flash of light; I thought it was lightning, or fireworks. But—it wasn’t. Katerina and Mark left us and went downstairs. They told us to stay in the training room.”

“But you didn’t,” Jia said.

“We could hear the sounds of fighting. We split up—Emma went to get Drusilla and Octavian, and I went to the office with Livia and Tiberius to call the Clave. We had to sneak by the main entrance to get there. When we did, I saw him.”


“I knew he was a Shadowhunter, but not. He was wearing a red cloak, covered in runes.”

“What runes?”

“I didn’t know them, but there was something wrong with them. Not like the Gray Book runes. They gave me a sort of sick feeling to look at. And he pushed his hood back—he had white hair, so I thought he was old at first. Then I realized it was Sebastian Morgenstern. He was holding a sword.”

“Can you describe the sword?”

“Silver, with a pattern of black stars on the blade and the handle. He took it out and he—” Julian’s breath skittered, and Clary could almost feel it, feel his horror at the recollection warring with the compulsion to tell it, to relive it. She was leaning forward, her hands in fists, hardly aware that her nails were digging into her palms. “He held it to my father’s throat,” Julian went on. “There were others with Sebastian. They were wearing red too—”

“Shadowhunters?” Jia said.

“I don’t know.” Julian’s breath was coming short. “Some wore black cloaks. Others wore gear, but their gear was red. I’ve never seen red gear. There was a woman, with brown hair, and she was holding a cup that looked like the Mortal Cup. She made my father drink out of it. He fell down and screamed. I could hear my brother screaming too.”

“Which brother?” asked Robert Lightwood.

“Mark,” said Julian. “I saw them start to move into the entryway, and Mark turned around and shouted for us to run upstairs and get out. I fell on the top step, and when I looked down, they were swarming all over him—” Julian made a gagging sound. “And my father, he was standing up, and his eyes were black too, and he started moving toward Mark like the rest of them, like he didn’t even know him—”

Julian’s voice cracked, just as the blonde girl wrenched herself free of Helen’s grasp and hurtled forward, throwing herself between Julian and the Consul.

“Emma!” Helen said, stepping forward, but Jia held out a hand to keep her back. Emma was white-faced and gasping. Clary thought she had never seen so much anger contained in such a small form.

“Leave him alone!” Emma shouted, throwing her arms out wide, as if she could shield Julian behind her, though she was a head shorter. “You’re torturing him! Leave him alone!”

“It’s okay, Emma,” Julian said, though the color was starting to come back into his face now that they were no longer questioning him. “They have to do it.”

She turned on him. “No, they don’t. I was there too. I saw what happened. Do it to me.” She held out her hands, as if begging for the Sword to be put into them. “I’m the one who stabbed Sebastian in the heart. I’m the one who saw him not die. You should be asking me!”

“No,” Julian began, and then Jia said, still gently:

“Emma, we will question you, next. The Sword is painful, but not harmful—”

“Stop it,” Emma said. “Just stop it.” And she walked over to Julian, who was holding the Sword tightly. It was clear he had no intention of trying to hand it over. He was shaking his head at Emma, even as she laid her hands over his, so that both of them were holding the Sword together.

“I stabbed Sebastian,” Emma said, in a voice that rang out through the room. “And he pulled the dagger out and laughed. He said, ‘It’s a shame you won’t live. Live to tell the Clave that Lilith has strengthened me beyond all measure. Perhaps Glorious could end my life. A pity for the Nephilim that they have no more favors they can ask of Heaven, and none of the puny instruments of war they forge in their Adamant Citadel can harm me now.’?”

Clary shuddered. She heard Sebastian through Emma’s words, and could almost see him, standing in front of her. Chatter had burst out among the Clave, drowning what Jace said to her next.

“Are you sure you didn’t miss the heart?” Robert demanded, his dark eyebrows drawn together.

It was Julian who answered. “Emma doesn’t miss,” he said, sounding as offended as if they had just insulted him.

“I know where the heart is,” Emma said, stepping back from Julian and casting a look of anger—more than anger, hurt—at the Consul and the Inquisitor. “But I don’t think you do.”

Her voice rose, and she spun and ran off the dais, practically elbowing her way past Robert. She disappeared through the door from which she had come, and Clary heard her own breath rush out through her teeth—wasn’t anyone going to go after her? Julian clearly wanted to, but, trapped between the Consul and Inquisitor, carrying the weight of the Mortal Sword, he couldn’t move. Helen was looking after her with an expression of raw pain, her arms cradling the youngest boy, Tavvy.

And then Clary was on her feet. Her mother reached for her, but she was already running down the sloping aisle between the rows of seats. The aisle turned into wooden steps; Clary clattered up them, past the Consul and Inquisitor, past Helen, and through the side door after Emma.

She nearly knocked over Aline, who was hovering near the open door, watching what was going on in the Council room and scowling. The scowl disappeared when she saw Clary, and was replaced by a look of surprise. “What are you doing?”

“The little girl,” Clary said breathlessly. “Emma. She ran back here.”

“I know. I tried to stop her, but she pulled away from me. She’s just . . .” Aline sighed and glanced at the Council room, where Jia had begun to question Julian again. “It’s been so hard on them, Helen and the others. You know their mother died, only a few years ago. All they’ve got now is an uncle in London.”

“Does that mean they’re going to move the kids to London? You know, when this is all over,” Clary said.

Aline shook her head. “Their uncle’s been offered the leadership of the Los Angeles Institute. I think the hope is that he’ll take over the job and raise the kids. I don’t think he’s agreed yet, though. He’s probably in shock. I mean, he lost his nephew, his brother—Andrew Blackthorn isn’t dead, but he might as well be. In a way, it’s worse.” Her voice was bitter.

“I know,” Clary said. “I know exactly what that’s like.”

Aline looked at her more closely. “I suppose you do know,” she said. “It’s just—Helen. I wish I could do more for her. She’s eating herself up with guilt because she was here with me and not in Los Angeles when the Institute was attacked. And she’s trying so hard, but she can’t be a mom to all those kids, and their uncle hasn’t gotten here yet, and then there’s Emma, Angel help her. She doesn’t even have a scrap of family left—”

“I’d like to talk to her. To Emma.”

Aline tucked a lock of hair behind her ear; the Blackthorn ring shimmered on her right hand. “She won’t talk to anyone but Julian.”

“Let me try,” Clary urged. “Please.”

Aline looked at the determined expression on Clary’s face and sighed. “Down the hall—the first room on the left.”

Tags: Cassandra Clare The Mortal Instruments Young Adult