City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments 6) - Page 41

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“But neither did he lose. We sent through sixty warriors, and he killed thirty and injured ten. He had forty warriors, and he lost perhaps fifteen. If it hadn’t been for what happened when he wounded Jace Lightwood, his forty would have slaughtered our sixty.”

“We’re Shadowhunters,” said Nasreen Choudhury. “We are used to defending that which we must defend with our last breaths, our last drops of blood.”

“A noble idea,” said Josiane Pontmercy, from the Marseilles Conclave, “but perhaps not entirely practical.”

“We were too conservative in the number we sent to face him at the Citadel,” said Robert Lightwood, his booming voice carrying through the room. “We have estimated since the attacks that Sebastian has four hundred Endarkened warriors on his side. Simply given the numbers, a head-to-head battle now between his forces and all Shadowhunters would mean that he would lose.”

“So what we need to do is fight him as soon as possible, before he Turns any other Shadowhunters,” said Diana Wrayburn.

“You can’t fight what you can’t find,” said the Consul. “Our attempts to track him continue to prove fruitless.” She raised her voice. “Sebastian Morgenstern’s best plan now is to lure us out in small numbers. He needs us to send out scouting parties to hunt demons, or to hunt him. We must stay together, here, in Idris, where he cannot confront us. If we split up, if we leave our homeland, then we will lose.”

“He’ll wait us out,” said a blond Shadowhunter from the Copenhagen Conclave.

“We have to believe he doesn’t have the patience for that,” said Jia. “We have to assume he will attack, and when he does, our superior numbers will defeat him.”

“There’s more than patience to be considered,” said Balogh. “We left our Institutes, we came here, with the understanding that we would be returning once we had held a Council with the Downworld representatives. Without us out in the world, who will protect it? We have a mandate, a mandate from Heaven, to protect the world, to hold back the demons. We cannot do that from Idris.”

“All the wards are at full strength,” said Robert. “Wrangel Island is working overtime. And given our new cooperation with Downworlders, we will have to rely on them to keep the Accords. That was part of what we were going to discuss at the Council today—”

“Well, good luck to you with that,” said Josiane Pontmercy, “considering that the representatives of Downworld are missing.”

Missing. The word fell into the silence like a pebble into water, sending out ripples through the room. Clary felt Alec stiffen, minutely, at her side. She hadn’t been letting herself think about it, hadn’t been letting herself believe that they could really be gone. It was a trick Sebastian was playing on them, she kept telling herself. A cruel trick, but nothing more.

“We don’t know that!” Jia protested. “Guards are out searching now—”

“Sebastian wrote on the floor in front of their very seats!” shouted a man with a bandaged arm. He was the head of the Mexico City Institute and had been at the Citadel battle. Clary thought his last name was Rosales. “Veni. ‘I am come.’ Just as he sent us a message with the death of the angel in New York, now he strikes at us in the heart of the Gard—”

“But he didn’t strike at us,” Diana interrupted. “He struck at the representatives of Downworld.”

“To strike at our allies is to strike at us,” called Maryse. “They are members of the Council, with all the attendant rights that represents.”

“We don’t even know what happened to them!” snapped someone in the crowd. “They could be perfectly all right—”

“Then where are they?” shouted Alec, and even Jace looked startled to hear Alec raise his voice. Alec was glowering, his blue eyes dark, and Clary was suddenly reminded of the angry boy she had met in the Institute what felt like so long ago. “Has anyone tried to track them?”

“We have,” said Jia. “It hasn’t worked. Not all of them can be tracked. You cannot track a warlock, or the dead—” Jia broke off with a sudden gasp. Without warning the Clave guard on her left had come up behind her and seized her by the back of her robes. A shout ran through the assembly as he yanked her back, placing the blade of a long, silver dagger against her throat.

“Nephilim!” he roared, and his hood fell away, showing the blank eyes and swirling, unfamiliar Marks of the Endarkened. A roar began to rise from the crowd, cut off quickly as the guard dug his blade farther into Jia’s throat. Blood bloomed around it, visible even from a distance.

“Nephilim!” the man roared again. Clary’s mind struggled to place him—he seemed somehow familiar. He was tall, brown-haired, probably around forty. His arms were thickly muscled, the veins standing out like ropes as he struggled to hold Jia still. “Stay where you are! Do not approach, or your Consul dies!”

Aline screamed. Helen had hold of her, visibly restraining her from running forward. Behind them the Blackthorn children huddled around Julian, who was carrying his youngest brother in his arms; Drusilla had her face pressed against his side. Emma, her hair bright even at a distance, stood with Cortana out, protecting the others.

“That’s Matthias Gonzales,” said Alec in a shocked voice. “He was head of the Buenos Aires Institute—”

“Silence!” roared the man behind Jia—Matthias—and an uneasy silence fell. Most Shadowhunters stood, like Jace and Alec, with their hands halfway to their weapons. Isabelle was clutching the handle of her whip. “Hear me, Shadowhunters!” Matthias cried, his eyes burning with a fanatic light. “Hear me, for I was one of you. Blindly following the rule of the Clave, convinced of my safety within the wards of Idris, protected by the light of the Angel! But there is no safety here.” He jerked his chin to the side, indicating the scrawl on the floor. “None are safe, not even Heaven’s messengers. That is the reach of the power of the Infernal Cup, and of he who holds it.”

A murmur ran through the crowd. Robert Lightwood pushed forward, his face anxious as he looked at Jia, and the blade at her throat. “What does he want?” he demanded. “Valentine’s son. What does he want from us?”

“Oh, he wants many things,” said the Endarkened Shadowhunter. “But for now he will content himself with the gift of his sister and adoptive brother. Give him Clarissa Morgenstern and Jace Lightwood, and avert disaster.”

Clary heard Jace suck in his breath. She looked at him, panicking; she could feel the gaze of the whole room on her, and felt as if she were dissolving, like salt in water.

“We are Nephilim,” Robert said coldly. “We do not trade away our own. He knows that.”

“We of the Infernal Cup have in our possession five of your allies,” was the reply. “Meliorn of the Fair Folk, Raphael Santiago of the Night’s Children, Luke Garroway of the Moon’s Children, Jocelyn Morgenstern of the Nephilim, and Magnus Bane of the Children of Lilith. If you do not give us Clarissa and Jonathan, they will be put to the deaths of iron and silver, of fire and rowan. And when your Downworld allies learn that you have sacrificed their representatives because you would not give up your own, they will turn on you. They will join with us, and you will find yourselves fighting not just he who holds the Infernal Cup, but all of Downworld.”

Clary felt a wave of dizziness, so intense that it was almost sickness, pass over her. She had known—of course she had known, with a creeping knowledge that was not certainty and could not be dismissed—that her mother and Luke and Magnus were in danger, but to hear it was something else. She began to shiver, the words of an incoherent prayer repeating over and over in her head: Mom, Luke, be all right, please be all right. Let Magnus be all right, for Alec. Please.

She heard Isabelle’s voice in her head too, saying that Sebastian could not fight them and all of Downworld. But he had found a neat way to turn it back on them: If harm came to the Downworld representatives now, it would seem the Shadowhunters’ fault.

Jace’s expression had gone bleak, but he met her eyes with the same understanding that had lodged like a needle in her heart. They could not stand back and let this happen. They would go to Sebastian. It was the only choice.

She started forward, meaning to call out, but she found herself jerked back by a hard grip on her wrist. She turned, expecting Simon, and saw to her surprise that it was Isabelle. “Don’t,” Isabelle said.

“You are a fool and a follower,” snapped Kadir, his eyes angry as he regarded Matthias. “No Downworlders will hold us accountable for not sacrificing two of our children to Jonathan Morgenstern’s pyre of corpses.”

“Oh, but he will not kill them,” said Matthias with vicious glee. “You have his word on the Angel that no harm will come to the Morgenstern girl or the Lightwood boy. They are his family, and he desires them by his side. So there is no sacrifice.”

Clary felt something brush her cheek—it was Jace. He had kissed her, quickly, and she remembered Sebastian’s Judas kiss the night before and whirled to catch at him, but he was gone already, away from all of them, striding out onto the aisle of stairs between the benches. “I will go!” he shouted, and his voice rang through the room. “I will go, willingly.” His sword was in his hand. He threw it down, where it clattered on the steps. “I will go with Sebastian,” he said, into the silence that followed. “Just leave Clary out of it. Let her stay. Take me alone.”

“Jace, no,” Alec said, but his voice was drowned by the clamor that ran through the room, voices rising like smoke and curling up toward the ceiling, and Jace stood calmly, with his hands out, showing he had no weapons, his hair shining under the light of the runes. A sacrificial angel.

Matthias Gonzales laughed. “There will be no bargain without Clarissa,” he said. “Sebastian demands her, and I deliver what my master demands.”

“You think we’re fools,” Jace said. “Actually, I know better than that. You don’t think at all. You’re a mouthpiece for a demon, that’s all you are. You don’t care about anything anymore. Not family or blood or honor. You’re no longer human.”

Matthias sneered. “Why would anyone want to be human?”

“Because your bargain is worthless,” said Jace. “So we give ourselves up, and Sebastian returns his hostages. Then what? You’ve been at such pains to tell us how much better he is than the Nephilim, how much stronger, how much cleverer. How he can strike at us here in Alicante, and all our wards and all our guards can’t keep him out. How he’ll destroy us all. If you want to bargain with someone, you offer them a chance to win. If you were human, you’d know that.”

In the silence that followed, Clary thought you could have heard a drop of blood strike the floor. Matthias was still, his blade still pinned against Jia’s throat, his lips shaping words as if he were whispering something, or reciting something he had heard—

Or listening, she realized, listening to words being whispered into his ear . . .

“You cannot win,” Matthias said finally, and Jace laughed, that sharp acerbic laugh Clary had first fallen in love with. Not a sacrificial angel, she thought, but an avenging one, all gold and blood and fire, confident even in the face of defeat.

“You see what I mean,” Jace said. “Then what does it matter if we die now or die later—”

“You cannot win,” said Matthias, “but you can survive. Those of you who choose it can be changed by the Infernal Cup; you will become soldiers of the Morning Star, and you will rule the world with Jonathan Morgenstern as your leader. Those who choose to remain the children of Raziel may do so, as long as you remain in Idris. The borders of Idris will be sealed, closing it away from the rest of the world, which will belong to us. This land granted you by the Angel, you will keep, and keeping within its borders, you will be safe. That, you can be promised.”

Jace glared. “Sebastian’s promises mean nothing.”

“His promises are all you have,” said Matthias. “Keep your alliance with Downworlders, stay within the borders of Idris, and you will survive. But this offer stands only so long as you give yourselves willingly up to our master. You and Clarissa both. There is no negotiation.”

Tags: Cassandra Clare The Mortal Instruments Young Adult