City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments 6) - Page 24

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Only feet from her, a Dark Shadowhunter had slipped away from the battle and toward the Citadel gates. He carried a mace and flail under his arm; with a grinning glance back at the battle, he ducked through the Citadel gate—

And the scissors closed. There was no scream, but the sickening crunch of bone and gristle was audible even through the noise of battle. A gout of blood sprayed across the closed gate, and Clary realized it was not the first. There were other stains, fanned across the Citadel wall, darkening the ground beneath—

She turned away, her stomach clenching, and pressed her stele harder against the stone. She began to force her mind to thoughts of Alicante, trying to visualize the grassy space before the Gard, trying to push away the distractions all around her.

“Drop the stele, Valentine’s daughter,” said a cold, even voice.

She froze. Behind her stood Amatis, sword in hand, the sharp tip pointing directly at Clary. There was a feral grin on her face. “That’s right,” she said. “Drop the stele to the ground and come with me. I know someone who’ll be very pleased to see you.”

“Move, Clarissa.” Amatis jabbed Clary in the side with the tip of her sword—not hard enough to cut through her jacket, but enough to make Clary uncomfortable. Clary had dropped her stele; it lay feet away in the filthy snow, shining with a tantalizing glimmer. “Stop dawdling.”

“You can’t hurt me,” Clary said. “Sebastian’s given orders.”

“Orders not to kill you,” Amatis agreed. “He never said anything about hurting you. I’ll happily turn you over to him with all your fingers missing, girl. Don’t think I won’t.”

Clary glared before turning around and letting Amatis herd her toward the battle. Her gaze was darting among the Endarkened, looking for a familiar fair head in the sea of scarlet. She needed to know how much time she had before Amatis threw her down at Sebastian’s feet and the chance to fight or run was over. Amatis had taken Heosphoros, of course, and the Morgenstern blade now dangled at the older woman’s hip, the stars along the ridge winking in the dim light. “I bet you don’t even know where he is,” Clary said.

Amatis jabbed her again, and Clary lurched forward, almost stumbling over the dead body of a Dark Shadowhunter. The ground was a churned-up mass of snow and dirt and blood. “I am Sebastian’s first lieutenant; I always know where he is. That is why I am the one he trusts to bring you to him.”

“He doesn’t trust you. He doesn’t care about you, or anything. Look.” They had reached the bump of a small ridge; Clary slowed to a stop and swept her arm out, indicating the battlefield. “Look how many of you are falling—Sebastian just wants cannon fodder. Just wants to use you up.”

“Is that what you see? I see dead Nephilim.” Clary could see Amatis out of the corner of her eye. Her gray-brown hair floated on the cold air, and her eyes were hard. “You think the Clave is not overmatched? Look. Look there.” She jabbed with a finger, and Clary looked, unwillingly. The two halves of Sebastian’s army had closed in and were encircling the Nephilim in their midst. Many of the Nephilim were fighting with skill and viciousness. They were, in their own strange way, lovely to watch in battle; the light of their seraph blades traced patterns on the dark sky. Not that it changed the fact that they were doomed. “They did what they always do when there’s an attack outside Idris and a Conclave is not near. They sent through the Portal whoever arrived at the Gard first. Some of these warriors have never fought in a real battle before. Some of them have fought in too many. None of them are prepared to kill an enemy that bears the faces of their sons, lovers, friends, parabatai.” She spat the last word. “The Clave does not understand our Sebastian or his forces, and they will be dead before they do.”

“Where did they come from?” Clary demanded. “The Endarkened. The Clave said there were only twenty of them, and there was no way for Sebastian to hide their numbers. How—”

Amatis threw her head back and laughed. “As if I’d tell you. Sebastian has allies in more places than you know, little one.”

“Amatis.” Clary tried to keep her voice steady. “You’re one of us. Nephilim. You’re Luke’s sister.”

“He’s a Downworlder, and no brother of mine. He should have killed himself when Valentine told him to.”

“You don’t mean that. You were happy to see him when we came to your house. I know you were.”

This time the jab of the blade’s tip between her shoulder blades was more than uncomfortable: It hurt. “I was trapped then,” Amatis said. “Thinking I needed the approval of the Clave and the Council. The Nephilim took everything from me.” She turned to glare at the Citadel. “The Iron Sisters took my mother. Then an Iron Sister presided over my divorce. They cut my marriage Marks in two, and I cried with the pain of it. They have no hearts in them, only adamas, and the Silent Brothers too. You think they are kind, that the Nephilim are kind, because they are good, but goodness is not kindness, and there is nothing crueler than virtue.”

“But we can choose,” Clary said, but how could you explain to someone who didn’t understand that their choices had been taken away, that there was such a thing as free will?

“Oh, for Hell’s sake, be quiet—” Amatis broke off, stiffening.

Clary followed her gaze. For a moment she couldn’t see what the other woman was staring at. She saw the chaos of fighting, blood in the snow, the spark of starlight on blades and the harsh glow of the Citadel. Then she realized that the battle seemed to be resolving itself into an odd sort of pattern—something was cutting a path through the middle of the crowd, like a ship slicing through water, leaving chaos in its wake. A slender black-clad Shadowhunter with bright hair, moving so fast, it was like watching fire spring from ridge to ridge in a forest, catching everything ablaze.

Only in this case the forest was Sebastian’s army, Endarkened falling one by one. Falling so quickly, they barely had time to reach for their weapons, much less raise them. And as they fell, others began to fall back, confused and uncertain, so that Clary could see the space that was being cleared in the middle of the battle, and who stood in the center of it.

Despite everything, she smiled. “Jace.”

Amatis sucked in a breath of surprise—it was a moment’s distraction, but it was all Clary needed to swing forward and hook her leg around Amatis’s ankles the way Jace had taught her, and then she swept Amatis’s feet out from under her. Amatis fell, her sword skittering out of her hand, across the frozen ground. Amatis was bending to spring back up when Clary tackled her—not gracefully but effectively, knocking her back into the snow. Amatis hit out at her, snapping Clary’s head back, but Clary’s hand was at the older woman’s belt, snatching Heosphoros free, and then jamming the razor-sharp tip against Amatis’s throat.

Amatis froze.

“That’s right,” Clary said. “Don’t even think about moving.”

“Let me go!” Isabelle screamed at her father. “Let me go!”

When the demon towers had gone red and gold with the warning to get to the Gard, she and Alec had scrambled to seize their gear and their weapons and hurtle up the hill. Isabelle’s heart pounded, not from the exertion but from excitement. Alec was grim and practical as always, but Isabelle’s whip was singing to her. Maybe this might be it, a real battle; maybe this might be the time they faced Sebastian again on the field, and this time she would kill him.

For her brother. For Max.

Alec and Isabelle had been unprepared for the crush of people in the Gard courtyard, or the speed with which Nephilim were being ushered through the Portal. Isabelle had lost her brother in the crowd but had pushed toward the Portal—she had seen Jace and Clary there, about to step through, and she’d redoubled her speed—until suddenly two hands had come out of the crowd and seized hold of her arms.

Her father. Isabelle kicked against him and yelled for Alec, but Jace and Clary were already gone, into the Portal whirlpool. Snarling, Isabelle fought, but her father had height and build and years of training on her.

He let her go just as the Portal gave one last whirl and slammed closed, disappearing into the blank wall of the armory. The remaining Nephilim in the courtyard went quiet, waiting for instructions. Jia Penhallow announced that enough of them had gone through to the Citadel, that the others should wait inside the Gard in case reinforcements were needed; there was no need to stand in the courtyard and freeze. She understood how badly everyone wanted to fight, but plenty of warriors had been dispatched to the Citadel, and Alicante still required a force to guard it.

“See?” said Robert Lightwood, gesturing at his daughter in exasperation as she whirled to face him. She was pleased to see that there were bleeding scratches on his wrists where she’d clawed at him. “You’re needed here, Isabelle—”

“Shut up,” she hissed at him through her teeth. “Shut up, you lying bastard.”

Astonishment wiped his expression blank. Isabelle knew from Simon and Clary that a certain amount of shouting at one’s parents was expected in mundane culture, but Shadowhunters believed in respect for elders and a governance of one’s emotions.

Only, Isabelle didn’t feel like governing her emotions. Not right now.

“Isabelle—” It was Alec, skidding into place beside her. The crowd around was thinning, and she was distantly aware that many of the Nephilim had already gone inside the Gard. The ones who were left were looking away awkwardly. Other people’s family fights were not Shadowhunter business. “Isabelle, let’s go back to the house.”

Alec reached for her hand; she jerked it out of his with an irritated movement. Isabelle loved her brother, but never had she more wanted to punch him in the head. “No,” she said. “Jace and Clary went through; we should get to go with them.”

Robert Lightwood looked weary. “They weren’t meant to go,” he said. “They did it against strict orders. It doesn’t mean you should follow.”

“They knew what they were doing,” Isabelle snapped. “You need more Shadowhunters facing Sebastian, not less.”

“Isabelle, I don’t have time for this,” said Robert, looking exasperatedly at Alec as if he expected his son to side with him. “There are only twenty Endarkened there with Sebastian. We sent fifty warriors through.”

“Twenty of them is like a hundred Shadowhunters,” said Alec in his quiet voice. “Our side could be slaughtered.”

“If anything happens to Jace and Clary, it’ll be your fault,” Isabelle said. “Just like Max.”

Robert Lightwood recoiled.

“Isabelle.” Her mother’s voice cut through the sudden, terrible silence. Isabelle whipped her head around and saw that Maryse had come up behind them; she, like Alec, looked stunned. A small distant part of Isabelle felt guilty and sick, but the part of her that seemed to have taken the reins, that was bubbling up inside her like a volcano, felt only a bitter triumph. She was tired of pretending everything was all right. “Alec’s right,” Maryse went on. “Let’s go back to the house—”

“No,” Isabelle said. “Didn’t you hear the Consul? We’re needed here, at the Gard. They might want reinforcements.”

“They’ll want adults, not children,” said Maryse. “If you’re not going to go back, then apologize to your father. Max’s—What happened to Max was no one’s fault but Valentine’s.”

“And maybe if you hadn’t been on Valentine’s side once, there wouldn’t have been a Mortal War,” Isabelle hissed at her mother. Then she rounded on her father. “I’m tired of pretending I don’t know what I know. I know you cheated on Mom.” Isabelle couldn’t stop the words now; they kept coming, like a flood. She saw Maryse go white, Alec open his mouth to protest. Robert looked as if she had hit him. “Before Max was born. I know. She told me. With some woman who died in the Mortal War. And you were going to leave too, leave all of us, and you only stayed because Max was born, and I bet you’re glad he’s dead, aren’t you, because now you don’t have to stay.”

“Isabelle—” Alec began, in horror.

Robert turned to Maryse. “You told her? By the Angel, Maryse, when?”

“You mean it’s true?” Alec’s voice shook with revulsion.

Robert turned to him. “Alexander, please—”

But Alec had turned his back. The courtyard was almost entirely empty of Nephilim now. Isabelle could see Jia standing in the distance, near the entrance to the armory, waiting for the last of them to come inside. She saw Alec go over to Jia, heard the sound of him arguing with her.

Isabelle’s parents were both looking at her as if their worlds were toppling over. She had never thought of herself as being able to destroy her parents’ world before. She had expected her father to shout at her, not to stand there in his Inquisitor’s gray, looking wrecked. Finally he cleared his throat.

“Isabelle,” he said hoarsely. “Whatever else you think, you must believe—you can’t really think that when we lost Max, that I—”

“Don’t talk to me,” Isabelle said, stumbling away from both of them, her heart thudding brokenly in her chest. “Just—don’t talk to me.”

She turned and fled.

Tags: Cassandra Clare The Mortal Instruments Young Adult