City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments 6) - Page 52

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His eyes were large, long-lashed, like Helen’s; unlike hers, his were mismatched. One was Blackthorn blue, the color of water. The other was gold, hazed through with shadows, a darker version of Jace’s own.

Jace swallowed visibly. “The Wild Hunt,” he said. “You’re one of them now.”

Jace was scanning the boy with his eyes, as if Mark were a book he could read. “Put your hands out,” Jace said finally, and Mark did so. Jace caught them and turned them over, baring the other boy’s wrists. Clary felt her throat tighten. Mark was wearing only a T-shirt, and his bare forearms were striped with bloody whip marks. Clary thought of the way she had touched Mark’s shoulder and he’d flinched away. God knew what his other injuries were, under his clothes. “When did this happen?”

Mark pulled his hands away. They were shaking. “Meliorn did it,” he said. “When he first took me. He said he’d stop if I ate and drank their food, so I did. I didn’t think it mattered, if my family was dead. And I thought faeries couldn’t lie.”

“Meliorn can,” said Alec grimly. “Or at least, he could.”

“When did this all happen?” Isabelle demanded. “The faeries only took you less than a week ago—”

Mark shook his head. “I’ve been with the Folk for a long time,” he said. “I couldn’t say how long.”

“Time runs differently in Faerie,” Alec said. “Sometimes faster, sometimes slower.”

Mark said, “Gwyn told me I belonged to the Hunt and I couldn’t leave them unless they allowed me to go. Is that true?”

“It’s true,” Jace said.

Mark slumped against the cave wall. He turned his head toward Clary. “You saw them. You saw my brothers and sisters. And Emma?”

“They’re all right, all of them, Emma, too,” Clary said. She wondered if it helped. He had sworn to stay in Faerie because he thought his family was dead, and the promise held, though it was based on a lie. Was it better to think you had lost everything, and to start over? Or easier to know that the people you loved were alive, even if you could never see them again?

She thought of her own mother, somewhere in the world beyond the end of the tunnel. Better to know they were alive, she thought. Better for her mother and Luke to be alive and all right, and for her never to see them again, than for them to be dead.

“Helen can’t take care of them. Not alone,” Mark said a little desperately. “And Jules, he’s too young. He can’t take care of Ty; he doesn’t know the things he needs. He doesn’t know how to talk to him—” He took a shuddering breath. “You should let me come with you.”

“You know you can’t,” said Jace, though he couldn’t look Mark in the face; he was staring at the ground. “If you’ve sworn fealty to the Wild Hunt, you’re one of them.”

“Take me with you,” Mark repeated. He had the stunned, bewildered look of someone who had been mortally injured but didn’t yet realize the extent of the injury. “I don’t want to be one of them. I want to be with my family—”

“We’re going to Hell,” Clary said. “We couldn’t bring you with us, even if you could leave Faerie safely—”

“And you can’t,” Alec said. “If you try to leave, you’ll die.”

“I’d rather die,” Mark said, and Jace’s head whipped up. His eyes were bright gold, almost too bright, as if the fire inside him were spilling out through them.

“They took you because you have faerie blood, but also because you have Shadowhunter blood. They want to punish the Nephilim,” Jace said, his gaze intent. “Show them what a Shadowhunter is made of; show them you aren’t afraid. You can live through this.”

In the wavering illumination of the witchlight, Mark looked at Jace. Tears had made their tracks through the dirt on his face, but his eyes were dry. “I don’t know what to do,” he said. “What do I do?”

“Find a way to warn the Nephilim,” Jace said. “We’re going into Hell, like Clary said. We might never come back. Someone has to tell the Shadowhunters the Fair Folk are not their allies.”

“The Hunters will catch me if I try to send a message.” The boy’s eyes flashed. “They’ll kill me.”

“Not if you’re fast and smart,” said Jace. “You can do it. I know you can.”

“Jace,” Alec said, his bow at his side. “Jace, we need to let him go before the Hunt notice he’s missing.”

“Right,” Jace said, and hesitated. Clary saw him take Mark’s hand; he pressed his witchlight into the boy’s palm, where it flickered, and then resumed its steady glow. “Take this with you,” said Jace, “for it can be dark in the land under the hill, and the years very long.”

Mark stood for a moment, the rune-stone in his hand. He looked so slight in the wavering light that Clary’s heart hammered a tattoo of disbelief—surely they could help him, they were Nephilim, they didn’t leave their own behind—and then he turned and ran, away from them, on soundless bare feet.

“Mark—” Clary whispered, and cut herself off; he was gone. The shadows swallowed him up, only the darting will-o’-the-wisp light of the rune-stone visible, until it too blended with the darkness. She looked up at Jace. “What did you mean, ‘the land under the hill’?” she asked. “Why did you say that?”

Jace didn’t answer her; he looked stunned. She wondered if Mark, brittle and orphaned and alone, reminded him somehow of himself.

“The land under the hill is Faerie,” said Alec. “An old, old name for it. He’ll be all right,” he said to Jace. “He will.”

“You gave him your witchlight,” Isabelle said. “You’ve always had that witchlight—”

“Screw the witchlight,” Jace said violently, and slammed his hand against the wall of the cave; there was a brief flare of light, and he drew his arm back. The mark of his hand was burned black into the stone of the tunnel, and his palm still glowed, as if the blood in his fingers were phosphorus. He gave an odd, choked laugh. “I don’t exactly need it, anyway.”

“Jace,” Clary said, and put her hand on his arm. He didn’t move away from her, but he didn’t react, either. She dropped her voice. “You can’t save everyone,” she said.

“Maybe not,” he said as the light in his hand dimmed. “But it would be nice to save someone for a change.”

“Guys,” Simon said. He’d been oddly quiet throughout the encounter with Mark, and Clary was startled to hear him speak now. “I don’t know if you can see it, but there’s something—something at the end of the tunnel.”

“A light?” Jace said, his voice edged with sarcasm. His eyes glittered.

“The opposite.” Simon moved forward, and after a hesitant moment Clary took her hand from Jace’s arm, and followed him. The tunnel went straight on ahead and then jogged slightly; at the curve she saw what Simon must have seen, and stopped dead.

Darkness. The tunnel ended in a whirling vortex of darkness. Something moved in it, shaping the dark like the wind shaping clouds. She could hear it too, the purr and rumble of the dark, like the sound of jet engines.

The others joined her. Together they stood in a line, watching the dark. Watching it move. A curtain of shadow, and beyond it the utter unknown.

It was Alec who spoke, staring, awed, at the moving shadows. The air that blew down the corridor was stinging hot, like pepper thrown into the heart of a fire. “This,” he said, “is the craziest thing we’ve ever done.”

“What if we can’t ever come back?” Isabelle said. The ruby around her neck was pulsing, glowing like a stoplight, illuminating her face.

“Then at least we’ll be together,” Clary said, and looked around at her companions. She reached out and took Jace’s hand, and Simon’s hand on the other side of her, and held them tight. “We go through together, and on the other side we stay together,” she said. “All right?”

None of them answered, but Isabelle took Simon’s other hand, and Alec took Jace’s. They all stood for a moment, staring. Clary felt Jace’s hand tighten on hers, a nearly imperceptible pressure.

They stepped forward, and the shadows swallowed them up.

“Mirror, my mirror,” said the Queen, placing her hand upon the mirror. “Show me my Morning Star.”

The mirror hung on the wall of the Queen’s bedroom. It was surrounded by wreaths of flowers: roses from which no one had cut away the thorns.

The mist inside the mirror coalesced, and Sebastian’s angular face looked out. “My beautiful one,” he said. His voice was calm and composed, though there was blood on his face and clothes. He was holding his sword, and the stars along the blade were dimmed with scarlet. “I am . . . somewhat occupied at the moment.”

“I thought you might wish to know that your sister and adoptive brother have just left this place,” said the Queen. “They found the road to Edom. They are coming to you.”

His face transformed with a wolfish grin. “And they didn’t make you promise not to tell me that they came to your court?”

“They did,” said the Queen. “They said nothing about telling you of leaving.”

Sebastian laughed.

“They killed one of my knights,” said the Queen. “Spilled blood before my throne. They are beyond my reach now. You know my people cannot survive in the poison lands. You will have to take my revenge for me.”

The light in his eyes changed. The Queen had always found what Sebastian felt for his sister, and Jace as well, to be something of a mystery, but then Sebastian himself was by far the greater mystery. Before he had come to make her his offer, she would never have considered a true alliance with Shadowhunters. Their peculiar sense of honor made them untrustworthy. It was Sebastian’s very lack of honor that made her trust him. The fine craft of betrayal was second nature to Fair Folk, and Sebastian was an artist of lies.

“I will serve your interests in all ways, my Queen,” he said. “In a short enough while your people and mine shall hold the reins of the world, and when we do, you may have revenge on any who have ever offended you.”

She smiled at him. Blood still stained the snow in her throne room, and she still felt the jab of Jace Lightwood’s blade against her throat. It was not a real smile, but she knew enough to let her beauty do her work for her, sometimes. “I do adore you,” she said.

“Yes,” said Sebastian, and his eyes flickered, their color like dark clouds. The Queen wondered idly if he thought of the two of them the way she did: lovers who, even while embracing, each held a knife to the other’s back, ready to stab and to betray. “And I do like to be adored.” He grinned. “I am glad they are coming. Let them come.”

Tags: Cassandra Clare The Mortal Instruments Young Adult