City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments 6) - Page 35

Listen Audio



Clary’s own harsh breathing was loud in her ears.

She thought of the first time that Luke had ever taken her swimming, in the lake at the farm, and how she had sunk so far down into the blue-green water that the world outside had disappeared and there was only the sound of her own heartbeat, echoing and distorted. She had wondered if she had left the world behind, if she would always be lost, until Luke had reached down and pulled her back, sputtering and disoriented, into the sunlight.

She felt that way now, as if she had tumbled into another world, distorted and suffocating and unreal. The room was the same, the same worn furniture and wood walls and colorful rug, dimmed and bleached by moonlight, but now Sebastian had sprung up in the middle of it like some exotic poisonous flower growing in a bed of familiar weeds.

In what felt like slow motion, Clary turned to run back out through the open door—only to find it banging shut in her face. An invisible force seized hold of her, spinning her around and slamming her up against the bedroom wall, her head hitting the wood. She blinked away tears of pain and tried to move her legs; she couldn’t. She was pinned against the wall, paralyzed from the waist down.

“My apologies for the binding spell,” Sebastian said, a light, mocking tone to his voice. He lay back against the pillows, stretching his arms up to touch the headboard in a catlike arch. His T-shirt had ridden up, baring his flat, pale stomach, traced with the lines of runes. There was something that was clearly meant to be seductive about the pose, something that made nausea twist in her gut. “It took me a little while to set up, but you know how it is. One can’t take risks.”

“Sebastian.” To her amazement her voice was steady. She was very aware of every inch of her skin. She felt exposed and vulnerable, as if she were standing without gear or protection in front of flying broken glass. “Why are you here?”

His sharp face was thoughtful, searching. A serpent sleeping in the sun, just waking, not dangerous quite yet. “Because I’ve missed you, little sister. Have you missed me?”

She thought about screaming, but Sebastian would have a dagger in her throat before she got a sound out. She tried to still the pounding of her heart: she had survived him before. She could do it again.

“Last time I saw you, you had a crossbow in my back,” she said. “So that would be a no.”

He traced a lazy pattern in the air with his fingers. “Liar.”

“So are you,” she said. “You didn’t come here because you miss me; you came because you want something. What is it?”

He was suddenly on his feet—graceful, too fast for her to catch the movement. White-pale hair fell into his eyes. She remembered standing at the edge of the Seine with him, watching the light catch his hair, as fine and fair as the feathery stems of a dandelion clock. Wondering if Valentine had looked like that, when he was young.

“Maybe I want to broker a truce,” he said.

“The Clave isn’t going to want to broker a truce with you.”

“Really? After last night?” He took a step toward her. The realization that she couldn’t run surged back up inside her; she bit back a scream. “We are on two different sides. We have opposing armies. Isn’t that what you do? Broker a truce? Either that or fight till one of you loses enough people that you give up? But then, maybe I’m not interested in a truce with them. Maybe I’m only interested in a truce with you.”

“Why? You don’t forgive. I know you. What I did—you wouldn’t forgive it.”

He moved again, a sharp flicker, and suddenly he was pressed against her, his fingers wrapped around her left wrist, pinioning it over her head. “Which part? Destroying my house—our father’s house? Betraying me and lying to me? Breaking my bond with Jace?” She could see the flicker of rage behind his eyes, feel his heart pounding.

She wanted nothing more than to kick out at him, but her legs simply wouldn’t move. Her voice shook. “Any of it.”

He was so close, she felt it when his body relaxed. He was hard and lean and whippet-thin, the sharp edges of him pressing into her. “I think you may have done me a favor. Maybe you even meant to do it.” She could see herself in his uncanny eyes, the irises so dark they almost melded with the pupils. “I was too dependent on our father’s legacy and protection. On Jace. I had to stand on my own. Sometimes you must lose everything to gain it again, and the regaining is the sweeter for the pain of loss. Alone I united the Endarkened. Alone I forged alliances. Alone I took the Institutes of Buenos Aires, of Bangkok, of Los Angeles . . .”

“Alone you murdered people and destroyed families,” she said. “There was a guard stationed in front of this house. He was meant to be protecting me. What did you do to him?”

“Reminded him he ought to be better at his job,” Sebastian said. “Protecting my sister.” He raised the hand that wasn’t pinioning her wrist to the wall, and touched a curl of her hair, rubbing the strands between his fingers. “Red,” he said, his voice half-drowsy, “like sunset and blood and fire. Like the leading edge of a falling star, burning up when it touches the atmosphere. We are Morgensterns,” he added, a dark ache in his voice. “The bright stars of morning. The children of Lucifer, the most beautiful of all God’s angels. We are so much lovelier when we fall.” He paused. “Look at me, Clary. Look at me.”

She looked at him, reluctantly. His black eyes were focused on her with a sharp hunger; they contrasted starkly with his salt-white hair, his pale skin, the faint flush of pink along his cheekbones. The artist in Clary knew he was beautiful, the way panthers were beautiful, or bottles of shimmering poison, or the polished skeletons of the dead. Luke had told Clary once that her talent was to see the beauty and horror in ordinary things. Though Sebastian was far from ordinary, in him, she could see both.

“Lucifer Morningstar was Heaven’s most beautiful angel. God’s proudest creation. And then came the day when Lucifer refused to bow to mankind. To humans. Because he knew they were lesser. And for that he was cast down into the pit with the angels who had taken his side: Belial, and Azazel, and Asmodeus, and Leviathan. And Lilith. My mother.”

“She’s not your mother.”

“You’re right. She’s more than my mother. If she were my mother, I’d be a warlock. Instead I was fed on her blood before I was born. I am something very different from a warlock; something better. For she was an angel once, Lilith.”

“What’s your point? Demons are just angels who make poor life decisions?”

“Greater Demons are not so different from angels,” he said. “We are not so different, you and I. I’ve said it to you before.”

“I remember,” she said. “?‘You have a dark heart in you, Valentine’s daughter.’?”

“Don’t you?” he said, and his hand stroked down through her curls, to her shoulder, and slid finally to her chest, and rested just over her heart. Clary felt her pulse slam against her veins; she wanted to push him away, but forced her right arm to remain at her side. The fingers of her hand were against the edge of her jacket, and under her jacket was Heosphoros. Even if she couldn’t kill him, maybe she could use the blade to put him down long enough for help to arrive. Maybe they could even trap him. “Our mother cheated me,” he said. “She denied me and hated me. I was a child and she hated me. As did our father.”

“Valentine raised you—”

“But all his love was for Jace. The troubled one, the rebellious one, the broken one. I did everything our father ever asked of me, and he hated me for it. And he hated you, too.” His eyes were glowing, silver in the black. “It’s ironic, isn’t it, Clarissa? We were Valentine’s blood children, and he hated us. You because you took our mother from him. And me because I was exactly what he created me to be.”

Clary remembered Jace then, bloody and torn, standing with the Morgenstern blade in his hand on the banks of Lake Lyn, shouting at Valentine: Why did you take me? You didn’t need a son. You had a son.

And Valentine, his voice hoarse: It wasn’t a son I needed. It was a soldier. I had thought Jonathan might be that soldier, but he had too much of the demon nature in him. He was too savage, too sudden, not subtle enough. I feared even then, when he was barely out of infancy, that he would never have the patience or the compassion to follow me, to lead the Clave in my footsteps. So I tried again with you. And with you I had the opposite trouble. You were too gentle. Too empathic. Understand this, my son—I loved you for those things.

She heard Sebastian’s breath, harsh in the quiet. “You know,” he said, “that what I’m saying is the truth.”

“But I don’t know why it matters.”

“Because we are alike!” Sebastian’s voice rose; her flinch let her ease her fingers down another millimeter, toward the hilt of Heosphoros. “You are mine,” he added, controlling his voice with obvious effort. “You have always been mine. When you were born, you were mine, my sister, though you did not know me. There are bonds that nothing can erase. And that is why I am giving you a second chance.”

“A chance at what?” She moved her hand downward another half inch.

“I am going to win this,” he said. “You know. You were at the Burren, and the Citadel. You have seen the power of the Endarkened. You know what the Infernal Cup can do. If you turn your back on Alicante and come with me, and pledge your loyalty, I will give you what I have given to no one else. Not ever, for I have saved it for you.”

Clary let her head fall back against the wall. Her stomach was twisting, her fingers just touching the hilt of the sword in her belt. Sebastian’s eyes were fixed on her. “You’ll give me what?”

He smiled then, exhaling, as if the question were, somehow, a relief. He seemed to blaze for a moment with his own conviction; looking at him was like watching a city burn.

“Mercy,” he said.

The dinner was surprisingly elegant. Magnus had dined with faeries only a few times before in his life, and the décor had always tended toward the naturalistic—tree-trunk tables, cutlery made of elaborately shaped branches, plates of nuts and berries. He had always been left with the feeling, afterward, that he would have enjoyed the whole business more if he had been a squirrel.

Tags: Cassandra Clare The Mortal Instruments Young Adult