The Downworld prisoners. Clary heard Alec’s sharp intake of breath behind her, and Meliorn’s head whipped to the side. She saw his eyes narrow. “If I do not mistake myself,” he said, reaching for the blade at his side, “my lady, we have visitors—”
Jace was already sliding his hand down his side, whispering, “Gabriel.” The seraph blade blazed up, and Isabelle leaped to her feet, sweeping her whip forward, slicing through the curtain of thorns, which collapsed, rattling, to the ground.
Jace darted past the thorns and advanced into the throne room, Gabriel blazing in his hand. Clary whipped her sword free.
They poured out into the room, arranging themselves in an arc behind Jace: Alec with his bow already strung, Isabelle with her whip out and glittering, Clary with her sword, and Simon—Simon had no better weapon than his own self, but he stood and smiled at Meliorn, and his teeth glittered.
The Queen drew herself upright with a hiss, quickly covered; it was the only time Clary had seen her flustered.
“How dare you enter the Court unbidden?” she demanded. “This is the highest of crimes, a breaking of Covenant Law—”
“How dare you speak of breaking Covenant Law!” Jace shouted, and the seraph blade burned in his hand. Clary thought Jonathan Shadowhunter must have looked like that, so many centuries ago, when he drove the demons back and saved an unknowing world from destruction. “You, who have murdered, and lied, and taken Downworlders of the Council prisoner. You have allied yourself with evil forces, and you will pay for it.”
“The Queen of the Seelie Court does not pay,” said the Queen.
“Everyone pays,” Jace said, and suddenly he was standing on the divan, over the Queen, and the tip of his blade was against her throat. She flinched back, but she was pinned in place, Jace standing over her, his feet braced on the couch. “How did you do it?” he demanded. “Meliorn swore that you were on the side of the Nephilim. Faeries can’t lie. That’s why the Council trusted you—”
“Meliorn is half-faerie. He can lie,” said the Queen, shooting an amused glance at Isabelle, who looked shocked. Only the Queen could look amused with a blade to her throat, Clary thought. “Sometimes the simplest answer is the correct one, Shadowhunter.”
“That’s why you wanted him on the Council,” said Clary, remembering the favor the Queen had asked of her what seemed so long ago now. “Because he can lie.”
“A betrayal long-planned.” Jace was breathing hard. “I should cut your throat right now.”
“You would not dare,” said the Queen, unmoving; the point of the sword against her throat. “If you touch the Queen of the Seelie Court, the Fair Folk will be ranged against you for all time.”
Jace was breathing hard as he spoke, and his face was full of burning light. “Then what are you now?” he demanded. “We heard you. You spoke of Sebastian as an ally. The Adamant Citadel lies on ley lines. Ley lines are the province of the fey. You led him there, you opened the way, you let him ambush us. How are you not already ranged against us?”
An ugly look crossed Meliorn’s face. “You may have heard us speaking, little Nephilim,” he said. “But if we kill you before you return to the Clave to tell your tales, none others need ever know—”
The knight started forward. Alec let an arrow fly, and it plunged into Meliorn’s leg. The knight toppled backward with a cry.
Alec strode forward, already notching another arrow to his bow. Meliorn was on the ground, moaning, the snow around him turning red. Alec stood over him, bow at the ready. “Tell us how to get Magnus—how to get the prisoners back,” he said. “Do it, or I’ll turn you into a pincushion.”
Meliorn spat. His white armor seemed to blend into the snow around him. “I will tell you nothing,” he said. “Torture me, kill me, I shall not betray my Queen.”
“It doesn’t matter what he says, anyway,” said Isabelle. “He can lie, remember?”
Alec’s face shut. “True,” he said. “Die, then, liar.” And he let the next arrow go.
It sank into Meliorn’s chest, and the faerie knight fell back, the force of the arrow sending his body skidding back across the snow. His head hit the cave wall with a wet smack.
The Queen cried out. The sound pierced Clary’s ears, snapping her out of her shock. She could hear the sound of faeries shouting, running feet in the corridors outside. “Simon!” she yelled, and he whirled around. “Come here!”
She jammed Heosphoros back into her belt, seized her stele, and darted toward the main door, now denuded of its ragged curtain of thorns. Simon was at her heels. “Lift me,” she panted, and without asking, he put his hands around her waist and thrust her upward, his vampire strength nearly sending her hurtling to the roof.
She grabbed on tight to the top of the archway with her free hand, and looked down. Simon was staring up at her, obviously puzzled, but his grip on her was steady.
“Hold on,” she said, and began to draw. It was the opposite of the rune she’d drawn on Valentine’s boat: This was a rune for shutting and locking, for closing away all things, for hiding and safety.
Black lines spread from the tip of her stele as she drew, and she heard Simon say, “Hurry up. They’re coming,” just as she finished, and drew the stele back.
The ground underneath them jerked. They fell together, Clary landing on Simon—not the most comfortable landing, he was all knees and elbows—and rolling to the side as a wall of earth began to slide across the open archway, like a theater curtain being drawn. There were shadows rushing toward the door, shadows that began to take the shape of running faerie folk, and Simon jerked Clary upright just as the doorway that opened onto the corridor disappeared with a final rumble, shutting away the faeries on the other side.
“By the Angel,” Isabelle said in an awed voice.
Clary turned around, stele in hand. Jace was on his feet, the Seelie Queen in front of him, his sword pointed at her heart. Alec stood over Meliorn’s corpse; he was expressionless as he looked at Clary, and then at his parabatai. Behind him opened the passageway through which Meliorn had come and Gwyn had gone.
“Are you going to close the back tunnel?” Simon asked Clary.
She shook her head. “Meliorn had pitch on his shoes,” she said. “?‘And the streams of Edom shall be turned into pitch,’ remember? I think he came from the demon realms. I think they’re that way.”
“Jace,” Alec said. “Tell the Queen what we want, and that if she does it, we will let her live.”
The Queen laughed, a shrill sound. “Little archer boy,” she said. “I underestimated you. Sharp are the arrows of a broken heart.”
Alec’s face tightened. “You underestimated all of us; you always have. You and your arrogance. The Fair Folk are an old people, a good people. You aren’t fit to lead them. Under your rule they will all wind up like this,” he said, jerking his chin toward Meliorn’s corpse.
“You are the one who killed him,” said the Queen, “not I.”
“Everyone pays,” Alec said, and his eyes on her were steady and blue and hard.
“We desire the safe return of the hostages Sebastian Morgenstern has taken,” said Jace.
The Queen spread her hands. “They are not in this world, nor here in Faerie, nor in any land over which I have jurisdiction. There is nothing I can do to help you rescue them, nothing at all.”
“Very well,” said Jace, and Clary had the feeling he had expected that response. “There is one other thing you can do, one thing you can show us, that will make me spare you.”
The Queen went still. “What is that, Shadowhunter?”
“The road to the demon realm of Edom,” said Jace. “We want safe passage to it. We will walk it, and walk our way out of your kingdom.”
To Clary’s surprise the Queen seemed to relax. The tension bled from her posture, and a small smile tugged at the corner of her mouth—a smile that Clary did not like. “Very well. I will lead you to the road to the demon realm.” The Queen lifted her diaphanous dress in her hands so that she could make her way down the steps that surrounded her divan. Her feet were bare, and as white as the snow. She began to make her way across the room to the dark passage that stretched away behind her throne.
Alec fell into step behind Jace, and Isabelle behind him; Clary and Simon made up the rear, a strange procession.
“I really, really hate to say this,” Simon said in a low voice as they went out from the throne room and into the shadowed darkness of the underground passage, “but that kind of seemed too easy.”
“That wasn’t easy,” Clary whispered back.
“I know, but the Queen—she’s clever. She could have found a way out of doing this if she’d wanted to. She doesn’t have to let us go to the demon realms.”
“But she does want to,” Clary said. “She thinks we’ll die there.”
Simon shot her a sideways look. “Will we?”
“I don’t know,” Clary said, and sped up her pace to catch up with the others.