City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments 6) - Page 18

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Maia’s heart lurched as he shoved the truck back into gear and they pitched forward, spinning around the corner of the drive. Up ahead of them, where the Praetor Lupus headquarters should have been rising, gold against the gray noon sky, was a gout of black smoke. Jordan swore and slewed the wheel to the left; the truck bumped into a ditch and sputtered out. He kicked his door open and jumped down; Maia followed a second later.

The Praetor Lupus headquarters had been built on a huge parcel of green land that sloped down to the Sound. The central building was built of golden stone, a Romanesque manor house surrounded by arched porticoes. Or it had been. It was a mass of smoking wood and stone now, charred like bones in a crematorium. White powder and ashes blew thickly across the gardens, and Maia choked on the stinging air, bringing up a hand to shield her face.

Jordan’s brown hair was thickly snowflaked with ash. He stared around him, his expression shocked and uncomprehending. “I don’t—”

Something caught Maia’s eye, a flicker of movement through the smoke. She grabbed Jordan’s sleeve. “Look—there’s someone there—”

He took off, skirting the smoking ruin of the Praetor building. Maia followed him, though she couldn’t help but hang back in horror, staring at the charred remnants of the structure that protruded from the earth—walls holding up a no-longer-existing roof, windows that had blown out or melted, glimpses here and there of white that could have been brick or bones . . .

Jordan stopped ahead of her. Maia moved up to stand beside him. Ash was clinging to her shoes, the grit of it in among the laces. She and Jordan were in the main body of the burned-out buildings. She could see the water in the near distance. The fire hadn’t spread, though there were charred dead leaves and blowing ash here, too—and in among the clipped hedgerows, there were bodies.

Werewolves—of all ages, though mostly young—lay sprawled along the manicured paths, their bodies being slowly covered by ash as if they were being swallowed by a blizzard.

Werewolves had an instinct to surround themselves with others of their kind, to live in packs, to draw strength from one another. This many dead lycanthropes felt like a tearing ache, a hole of loss in the world.She remembered the words from Kipling, written on the walls of the Praetor. For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.

Jordan was gazing around, his lips moving as he murmured the names of the dead—Andrea, Teal, Amon, Kurosh, Mara. At the edge of the water Maia suddenly saw something move—a body, half-submerged. She broke into a run, Jordan on her heels. She skidded through the ash, to where the grass gave way to sand, and dropped down beside the corpse.

It was Praetor Scott, corpse bobbing facedown, his gray-blond hair soaked, the water around him stained pinkish red. Maia bent down to turn him over, and nearly gagged. His eyes were open, staring sightlessly at the sky, his throat sliced wide open.

“Maia.” She felt a hand on her back—Jordan’s. “Don’t—”

His sentence was cut off by a gasp, and she whirled around, only to feel a sense of horror so intense that it nearly blacked out her vision. Jordan stood behind her, one hand outstretched, a look of utter shock on his face.

From the center of his chest protruded the blade of a sword, its metal stamped with black stars. It looked utterly bizarre, as if someone had taped it there, or as if it were some sort of theatrical prop.

Blood began to spread out in a circle around it, staining the front of his jacket. Jordan gave another bubbling gasp and slid to his knees, the sword retracting, slipping back out of his body as he collapsed to the ground and revealed what was behind him.

A boy carrying a massive black and silver sword stood looking at Maia over Jordan’s kneeling body. The hilt was slicked with blood—in fact, he was bloody all over, from his pale hair to his boots, spattered with it as if he had stood in front of a fan blowing scarlet paint. He was grinning all over his face.

“Maia Roberts and Jordan Kyle,” he said. “Have I heard a lot about you.”

Maia dropped to her knees, just as Jordan slumped sideways. She caught him, easing him down into her lap. She felt numb all over with horror, as if she were lying at the icy bottom of the Sound. Jordan was shuddering in her arms, and she put them around him as blood ran out of the corners of his mouth.

She looked up at the boy standing over her. For a dizzy moment she thought he had stepped out of one of her nightmares of her brother, Daniel. He was beautiful, like Daniel had been, though they could not have looked more different. Daniel’s skin had been the same brown as hers, while this boy looked like he had been carved out of ice. White skin, sharp pale cheekbones, salt-white hair that fell over his forehead. His eyes were black, shark’s eyes, flat and cold.

“Sebastian,” she said. “You’re Valentine’s son.”

“Maia,” Jordan whispered. Her hands were over his chest, and they were soaked in blood. So was his shirt, and the sand under them, the grains of it clumped together by sticky scarlet. “Don’t stay—run—”

“Shh.” She kissed his cheek. “You’ll be all right.”

“No, he won’t,” Sebastian said, sounding bored. “He’s going to die.”

Maia’s head jerked up. “Shut up,” she hissed. “Shut up, you—you thing—”

His wrist made a fast snapping motion—she had never seen anyone else move that fast, except maybe Jace—and the tip of the sword was at her throat. “Quiet, Downworlder,” he said. “Look how many lie dead around you. Do you think I would hesitate to kill one more?”

She swallowed but didn’t lean away. “Why? I thought your war was with the Shadowhunters—”

“It’s rather a long story,” he drawled. “Suffice it to say that the London Institute is annoyingly well protected, and the Praetor has paid the price. I was going to kill someone today. I just wasn’t sure who when I woke up this morning. I do love mornings. So full of possibilities.”

“The Praetor has nothing to do with the London Institute—”

“Oh, you’re wrong there. There’s quite a history. But it’s unimportant. You’re correct that my war is with the Nephilim, which means I am also at war with their allies. This”—and he swung his free hand back to indicate the burned ruins behind him—“is my message. And you will deliver it for me.”

Maia began to shake her head, but felt something grip her hand—it was Jordan’s fingers. She looked down at him. He was bone white, his eyes searching hers. Please, they seemed to say. Do what he asks.

“What message?” she whispered.

“That they should remember their Shakespeare,” he said. “?‘I’ll never pause again, never stand still, till either death hath closed these eyes of mine, or fortune given me measure of revenge.’?” Lashes brushed his bloody cheek as he winked. “Tell all the Downworlders,” he said. “I am in pursuit of vengeance, and I will have it. I will deal this way with any who ally themselves with Shadowhunters. I have no argument with your kind, unless you follow the Nephilim into battle, in which case you will be food for my blade and the blades of my army, until the last of you is cut from the surface of this world.” He lowered the tip of his sword, so that it brushed down the buttons of her shirt, as if he meant to slice it off her body. He was still grinning when he drew the sword back. “Think you can remember that, wolf girl?”

“I . . .”

“Of course you can,” he said, and glanced down at Jordan’s body, which had gone still in her arms. “Your boyfriend’s dead, by the way,” he added. He slid his sword into the scabbard at his waist and walked away, his boots sending up puffs of ash as he went.

Magnus hadn’t been inside the Hunter’s Moon since it had been a speakeasy during the years of Prohibition, a place where mundanes had gathered quietly to drink themselves blackout drunk. Sometime in the 1940s it had been taken over by Downworlder owners, and had catered to that clientele—primarily werewolves—ever since. It had been seedy then and was seedy now, the floor covered with a layer of sticky sawdust. There was a wooden bar with a flecked countertop, marked with decades of rings left by damp glasses and long claw scratches. Sneaky Pete, the bartender, was in the middle of serving a Coke to Bat Velasquez, the temporary head of Luke’s Manhattan wolf pack. Magnus squinted at him thoughtfully.

“Are you eyeing up the new wolf pack leader?” asked Catarina, who was squeezed into the shadowy booth beside Magnus, her blue fingers curled around a Long Island Iced Tea. “I thought you were over werewolves after Woolsey Scott.”

“I’m not eyeing him up,” Magnus said loftily. Bat wasn’t bad-looking, if you liked them square-jawed and broad-shouldered, but Magnus was deep in thought. “My mind was on other things.”

“Whatever it is, don’t do it!” said Catarina. “It’s a bad idea.”

“And why do you say that?”

“Because they’re the only kind you have,” she said. “I have known you a long time, and I am absolutely certain on this subject. If you are planning to become a pirate again, it’s a bad idea.”

“I don’t repeat my mistakes,” Magnus said, offended.

“You’re right. You make all new and even worse mistakes,” Catarina told him. “Don’t do it, whatever it is. Don’t lead a werewolf uprising, don’t do anything that might accidentally contribute to the apocalypse, and don’t start your own line of glitter and try to sell it at Sephora.”

“That last idea has real merit,” Magnus remarked. “But I’m not contemplating a career change. I was thinking about . . .”

“Alec Lightwood?” Catarina grinned. “I’ve never seen anyone get under your skin like that boy.”

“You haven’t known me forever,” Magnus muttered, but it was halfhearted.

“Please. You made me take the Portal job at the Institute so you wouldn’t have to see him, and then you showed up anyway, just to say good-bye. Don’t deny it; I saw you.”

“I didn’t deny anything. I showed up to say good-bye; it was a mistake. I shouldn’t have done it.” Magnus tossed back a slug of his drink.

“Oh, for goodness’ sake,” Catarina said. “What is this about, really, Magnus? I’ve never seen you so happy as you were with Alec. Usually when you’re in love, you’re miserable. Look at Camille. I hated her. Ragnor hated her—”

Magnus put his head down on the table.

“Everyone hated her,” Catarina went on ruthlessly. “She was devious and mean. And so your poor sweet boyfriend got suckered by her; well, really, is that any reason to end a perfectly good relationship? It’s like siccing a python on a bunny rabbit and then being angry when the bunny rabbit loses.”

“Alec is not a bunny rabbit. He’s a Shadowhunter.”

“And you’ve never dated a Shadowhunter before. Is that what this is?”

Tags: Cassandra Clare The Mortal Instruments Young Adult