City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments 6) - Page 63

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Magnus shrugged. “Sometimes it comes down to a choice,” he said. “Between saving one person and saving the whole world. I’ve seen it happen, and I’m selfish enough to want the person who loves me to choose me. But Nephilim will always choose the world. I look at Alec and I feel like Lucifer in Paradise Lost. ‘Abashed the Devil stood, And felt how awful goodness is.’ He meant it in the classic sense. ‘Awful’ as in inspiring awe. And awe is well and good, but it’s poison to love. Love has to be between equals.”

“He’s just a boy,” said Luke. “Alec—he’s not perfect. And you’re not fallen.”

“We’re all fallen,” said Magnus, and he wrapped himself up in his chains and was silent.

“You have got to be kidding me,” Maia said. “Here? Seriously?”

Bat rubbed his fingers over the back of his neck, ruffling up his short hair. “Is that a Ferris wheel?”

Maia turned around in a slow circle. They were standing inside the darkened massive Toys“R”Us on Forty-Second Street. Outside the windows the neon glow of Times Square lit the night with blue, red, and green. The store stretched upward, level on level of toys: bright plastic superheroes, plush stuffed bears, pink and glittery Barbies. The Ferris wheel rose above them, each metal strut carrying a dangling plastic carriage decorated with decals. Maia had a dim memory of her mother taking her and her brother to ride on the wheel when they were ten years old. Daniel had tried to push Maia over the edge and had made her cry. “This is . . . crazy,” she whispered.

“Maia.” It was one of the younger wolves, skinny and nervous, with dreadlocks. Maia had worked to cure them all of the habit of calling her “lady” or “madam” or anything else but Maia, even if she was temporary pack leader. “We’ve swept the place. If there were security guards, someone’s taken them out already.”

“Great. Thanks.” Maia looked at Bat, who shrugged. There were about fifteen other pack wolves with them, looking incongruous among the Disney princess dolls and stuffed reindeer. “Could you—”

The Ferris wheel started up suddenly with a screech and a groan. Maia jumped back, almost knocking into Bat, who took her by the shoulders. They both stared as the wheel started to turn and music began to play—“It’s a Small World,” Maia was pretty sure, though there were no words, just tinny instrumentals.

“Wolves! Oooh! Wooolves!” sang out a voice, and Maureen, looking like a Disney princess in a pink gown and a rainbow tiara, tripped barefoot out from a stacked display of candy canes. She was followed by about twenty vamps, as pale-faced as dolls or mannequins in the sickly light. Lily strode just behind her, her black hair pinned back perfectly, her heels clicking on the floor. She looked Maia up and down as if she’d never seen her before. “Hello, hello!” Maureen burbled. “I’m so glad to meet you.”

“Glad to meet you as well,” Maia said stiffly. She put a hand out for Maureen to shake, but Maureen just giggled and seized up a sparkly wand from a nearby carton. She waved it in the air.

“So sorry to hear about Sebastian killing all your wolfie friends,” Maureen said. “He’s a nasty boy.”

Maia flinched at a vision of Jordan’s face, the memory of the heavy, helpless weight of him in her arms.

She steeled herself. “That’s what I wanted to talk to you about,” she said. “Sebastian. He’s trying to threaten Downworlders. . . .” She paused as Maureen, humming, began to climb to the top of a stack of boxes of Christmas Barbies, each one dressed in a red-and-white Santa miniskirt. “Trying to get us to turn against the Shadowhunters,” Maia went on, slightly flummoxed. Was Maureen even paying attention? “If we unite . . .”

“Oh, yes,” Maureen said, perching atop the highest box. “We should unite against Shadowhunters. Definitely.”

“No, I said—”

“I heard what you said.” Maureen’s eyes flashed. “It was silly. You werewolves are always full of silly ideas. Sebastian isn’t very nice, but the Shadowhunters are worse. They make up stupid rules and they make us follow them. They steal from us.”

“Steal?” Maia craned her head back to see Maureen.

“They stole Simon from me. I had him, and now he’s gone. I know who took him. Shadowhunters.”

Maia met Bat’s eyes. He was staring. She realized she’d forgotten to tell him about Maureen’s crush on Simon. She’d have to catch him up later—if there was a later. The vampires behind Maureen were looking more than a little hungry.

“I asked you to come meet me so that we could form an alliance,” Maia said, as gently as if she were trying not to spook an animal.

“I love alliances,” said Maureen, and she hopped down from the top of the boxes. Somewhere she’d gotten hold of an enormous lollipop, the kind with multicolored swirls. She began to peel off the wrapping. “If we form an alliance, we can be part of the invasion.”

“The invasion?” Maia raised her eyebrows.

“Sebastian’s going to invade Idris,” Maureen said, dropping the plastic wrap. “He’ll fight them and he’ll win, and then we’ll divide up the world, all of us, and he’ll give us all the people we want to eat. . . .” She bit down on the lollipop, and made a face. “Ugh. Nasty.” She spit out the candy, but it had already painted her lips red and blue.

“I see,” Maia said. “In that case—absolutely, let us ally against the Shadowhunters.”

She felt Bat tense at her side. “Maia—”

Maia ignored him, stepping forward. She offered her wrist. “Blood binds an alliance,” she said. “So say the old laws. Drink my blood to seal our compact.”

“Maia, no,” Bat said; she shot him a quelling look.

“This is how it has to be done,” Maia said.

Maureen was grinning. She tossed aside the candy; it shattered on the floor. “Oh, fun,” she said. “Like blood sisters.”

“Just like that,” said Maia, bracing herself as the younger girl took hold of her arm. Maureen’s small fingers interlaced with hers. They were cold and sticky with sugar. There was a click as Maureen’s fang teeth snapped out. “Just like—”

Maureen’s teeth sank into Maia’s wrist. She was making no effort to be gentle: pain lanced up Maia’s arm, and she gasped. The wolves behind her stirred uneasily. She could hear Bat, breathing hard with the effort not to lunge at Maureen and tear her away.

Maureen swallowed, smiling, her teeth still firmly seated in Maia’s arm. The blood vessels in Maia’s arm throbbed with pain; she met Lily’s eyes over Maureen’s head. Lily smiled coldly.

Maureen gagged suddenly and pulled away. She put a hand to her mouth; her lips were swelling, like someone who’d had an allergic reaction to bee stings. “Hurts,” she said, and then fissuring cracks spread out from her mouth, across her face. Her body spasmed. “Mama,” she whispered in a small voice, and she began to crumble: Her hair drifted to ashes, and then her skin, peeling away to show the bones underneath. Maia stepped back, her wrist throbbing, as Maureen’s dress folded away to the ground, pink and sparkling and . . . empty.

“Holy—What happened?” Bat demanded, and caught Maia as she stumbled. Her torn wrist was already beginning to heal, but she felt a little dizzy. The wolf pack was murmuring around her. More disturbing, the vampires had come together, whispering, their pale faces venomous, full of hate.

“What did you do?” demanded one of them, a blond boy, in a shrill voice. “What did you do to our leader?”

Maia stared at Lily. The other girl’s expression was cool and blank. For the first time Maia felt a thread of panic unfurl beneath her rib cage. Lily . . .

“Holy water,” said Lily. “In her veins. She put it there with a syringe, earlier, so Maureen would be poisoned with it.”

The blond vampire bared his teeth, his fangs snapping into place. “Betrayal has consequences,” he said. “Werewolves—”

“Stop,” Lily said. “She did it because I asked her to.”

Maia exhaled, almost surprised by the relief that hit her. Lily was looking around at the other vampires, who were staring at her in confusion.

“Sebastian Morgenstern is our enemy, as he is the enemy of all Downworlders,” Lily said. “If he destroys the Shadowhunters, the next thing he will do is turn his attention on us. His army of Endarkened warriors would murder Raphael and then lay waste to all the Night’s Children. Maureen would never have seen that. She would have driven us all to our destruction.”

Maia shook out her wrist, and turned to the pack. “Lily and I agreed,” she said. “This was the only way. The alliance between us, that was sincere. Now is our chance, when Sebastian’s armies are at their smallest and the Shadowhunters are still powerful; now is the time we can make a difference. Now is the time we can revenge those who died at the Praetor.”

“Who’s going to lead us?” whined the blond vampire. “The one who kills the previous leader takes up the mantle of leadership, but we can’t be led by a werewolf.” He glanced at Maia. “No offense.”

“None taken,” she muttered.

“I am the one who killed Maureen,” said Lily. “Maia was the weapon I wielded, but it was my plan, my hand behind it. I will lead. Unless anyone objects.”

The vampires glanced around at one another in confusion. Bat, to Maia’s surprise and amusement, cracked his knuckles loudly in the silence.

Lily’s red lips curved. “I didn’t think so.” She took a step toward Maia, daintily avoiding the tulle dress and pile of ashes that were all that was left of Maureen. “Now,” she said. “Why don’t we discuss this alliance?”

Tags: Cassandra Clare The Mortal Instruments Young Adult