“Yes?” Alec said, desperate to know what Magnus wanted to ask him.
“Are you being chased?”
“I—ah—some of the Endarkened are looking for us,” Alec said carefully.
“Pity,” Magnus said, closing his eyes again. “It would be nice if you could just lie down with me here. Just . . . for a little while.”
“Well, you can’t,” said Isabelle, not unkindly. “We have to get out of here. The Endarkened will be here any second, and we’ve got what we came for—”
“Jocelyn.” Luke drew away from the wall, straightening up. “You’re forgetting Jocelyn.”
Isabelle opened her mouth, then closed it again. “You’re right,” she said. Her hand went to her weapons belt, and she unfastened a sword; taking a step across the room, she handed it to Luke, then bent down to pick up Alec’s still-burning seraph blade.
Luke took the sword and held it with the careless competence of someone who had handled blades all their life; sometimes it was hard for Alec to remember that Luke had been a Shadowhunter once, but he remembered now.
“Can you stand?” Alec said to Magnus gently, and Magnus nodded, and let Alec lift him to his feet.
He lasted almost ten seconds before his knees buckled and he collapsed forward, coughing. “Magnus!” Alec exclaimed, and threw himself down by the warlock’s side, but Magnus waved him away and struggled up to his knees.
“You should go without me,” he said, in a voice made gravelly by hoarseness. “I’ll slow you down.”
“I don’t understand.” Alec felt as if a vise were compressing his heart. “What happened? What did he do to you?”
Magnus shook his head; it was Luke who answered. “This dimension is killing Magnus,” he said, voice flat. “There’s something about it—about his father—that’s destroying him.”
Alec glanced at Magnus, but Magnus only shook his head again. Alec fought down an irrational burst of anger—still withholding things, even now—and took a deep breath. “The rest of you go find Jocelyn,” he said. “I’ll stay with Magnus. We’ll head toward the center of the keep. When you find her, come looking for us there.”
Isabelle looked wretched. “Alec—”
“Please, Izzy,” said Alec, and he saw Simon put his hand on Isabelle’s back, and whisper something into her ear. She nodded, finally, and turned toward the door; Luke and Simon followed her, both pausing to look back at Alec before they went, but it was the image of Izzy that stuck in his mind, carrying her blazing seraph blade in front of her like a star.
“Here,” he said to Magnus as gently as he could, and reached down to lift him up. Magnus stumbled to his feet, and Alec managed to get one of the warlock’s long arms slung over his shoulder. Magnus was thinner than he had ever been; his shirt clung to his ribs, and the spaces under his cheekbones looked sunken, but there was still a lot of warlock to contend with: a lot of skinny arms and legs and long, bony spine.
“Hold on to me,” Alec said, and Magnus gave him the sort of smile that made Alec feel like someone had taken an apple corer to his heart and tried to dig out the center.
“I always do, Alexander,” he said. “I always do.”
The baby had fallen asleep in Julian’s lap. He was holding Tavvy tightly, carefully, great dark hollows under his eyes. Livvy and Ty were huddled together on one side of him, Dru curled against him on the other.
Emma sat behind him, her back against his, giving him something to lean on to balance the weight of the baby. There were no free pillars to sit against, no bare space of wall; dozens, hundreds of children were prisoned in the Hall.
Emma leaned her head back against Jules’s. He smelled the way he always did: soap, sweat, and the tang of ocean, as if he carried it in his veins. It was comforting and not comforting in its familiarity. “I hear something,” she whispered. “Do you?”
Julian’s eyes flicked immediately to his brothers and sisters. Livvy was half-asleep, her chin propped on her hand. Dru was looking all around the room, her big blue-green eyes taking everything in. Ty was tapping his finger against the marble floor, obsessively counting from one to a hundred and backward again. He had kicked and screamed when Julian had tried to look at a welt on his arm where he had fallen. Jules had let it go, and allowed Ty to go back to his counting and rocking. It soothed him to quietness, which was what mattered.
“What do you hear?” Jules asked, and Emma’s head fell back then as the sound rose, a sound like a great wind or the crackle of a massive bonfire. People started to move and cry out, looking up at the glass ceiling of the Hall.
Through it clouds were visible, moving across the face of the moon—and then from the clouds burst a wild assortment of riders: riders of black horses, whose hooves were flame, riders of massive black dogs with orange-burning eyes. More modern forms of transport were mixed in as well—black carriages drawn by skeletal steeds, and motorcycles gleaming with chrome and bone and onyx.
“The Wild Hunt,” Jules whispered.
The wind was a living thing, whipping the clouds into peaks and valleys that the horsemen hurtled up and down, their cries audible even over the gale, their hands bristling with weapons: swords and maces and spears and crossbows. The front doors of the Hall began to shake and tremble; the wooden bar that had been placed across them exploded into splinters. The Nephilim stared toward the doors with terrified eyes. Emma heard the voice of one of the guards among the crowd, speaking in a harsh whisper:
“The Wild Hunt are chasing away our warriors outside the Hall,” she said. “The Endarkened are clearing away the iron and the grave dirt. They’ll break down the doors if the guards don’t get rid of them!”
“The Raging Host has come,” said Ty, breaking off his counting briefly. “The Gatherers of the Dead.”
“But the Council protected the city against faeries,” Emma protested. “Why . . .”
“They’re not ordinary faeries,” said Ty. “The salt, the grave dirt, the cold iron; it won’t work on the Wild Hunt.”
Dru whipped round and looked up. “The Wild Hunt?” she said. “Does that mean Mark’s here? Has he come to save us?”
“Don’t be a fool,” Ty said witheringly. “Mark is with the Huntsmen now, and the Wild Hunt want there to be battles. They come to gather the dead when it’s all over, and the dead serve them.”
Dru screwed up her face in confusion. The doors of the Hall were shuddering violently now, the hinges threatening to tear free of the walls. “But if Mark isn’t coming to save us, then who will?”
“No one,” said Ty, and only the nervous tapping of his fingers on marble showed that the idea bothered him at all. “No one is coming to save us. We’re going to die.”
Jocelyn flung herself once more against the door. Her shoulder was already bruised and bloody, her nails torn where she’d gouged at the lock. She had been hearing the sounds of fighting for a quarter of an hour now, the unmistakable sounds of running feet, of demons screaming. . . .
The knob of the door began to turn. She scrambled back, and seized up the brick she’d managed to loosen from the wall. She couldn’t kill Sebastian; she knew that much, but if she could hurt him, slow him—
The door swung open, and the brick flew from her hand. The figure in the doorway ducked; the brick hit the wall, and Luke straightened up and looked at her curiously. “I hope when we’re married, that’s not the way you greet me every day when I come home,” he said.
Jocelyn hurled herself at him. He was filthy and bloody and dusty, his shirt torn, a sword in his right hand, but his left arm came around her and held her close. “Luke,” she said into his neck, and for a moment she thought she might shake apart from relief and happiness and delirium and fear, the way she’d shaken apart in his arms when she’d found out he’d been bitten. If only she’d known then, had realized then, that the way she loved him was the way you loved someone you wanted to spend your life with, everything would have been different.
But then there would never have been Clary. She pulled back, looking up into his face, his blue eyes steady on hers. “Our daughter?” she asked.
“She’s here,” he said, and stepped back so that she could see past him to where Isabelle and Simon waited in the corridor. Both looked very uncomfortable, as if seeing two adults embrace was about the worst thing you could glimpse, even in the demon realms. “Come with us—we’re going to find her.”
“It’s not certain,” Clary said desperately. “The Shadowhunters might not lose. They could rally.”
Sebastian smiled. “That’s a chance you could take,” he said. “But listen. They have come to Alicante now, those who ride the winds between the worlds. They are drawn to places of slaughter. Can you see?”
He gestured toward the window that opened out onto Alicante. Through it Clary could see the Hall of Accords under the moonlight, clouds moving restlessly to and fro in the background—and then the clouds resolved themselves, and became something else. Something she had seen once before, with Jace, lying in the bottom of a boat in Venice. The Wild Hunt, racing across the sky: dark-clothed and ragged warriors, bristling with weapons, howling as their ghostly steeds pounded across the sky.
“The Wild Hunt,” she said, numb, and remembered Mark Blackthorn suddenly, the whip marks on his body, his broken eyes.
“The Gatherers of the Dead,” said Sebastian. “The carrion crows of magic, they go where great slaughter is. A slaughter only you can prevent.”
Clary closed her eyes. She felt as if she were adrift, floating on dark water, seeing the lights of the shore recede and recede in the distance. Soon she would be alone on the ocean, the icy sky above her and eight miles of empty darkness below.
“Go and take the throne,” he said. “If you do it, you can save them all.”
She looked at him. “How do I know you’ll keep your word?”
He shrugged. “I’d be a fool not to. You’d know immediately that I’d lied to you, and then you’d fight me, which I don’t want. Besides. To fully come into my power here, I must seal the borders between our world and this one. Once the borders are closed, the Endarkened in your world will be weakened, cut off from me, their source. The Nephilim will be able to defeat them.” He smiled, ice-white and blinding. “It will be a miracle. A miracle performed for them by us—by me. Ironic, don’t you think? That I should be their saving angel?”
“What about everyone who’s here? Jace? My mom? My friends?”
“They can all live. It makes no difference to me,” Sebastian said. “They cannot harm me, not now, and doubly not when the borders are sealed.”
“And all I have to do is ascend that throne,” Clary said.
“And promise to stay beside me for as long as I live. Which, admittedly, will be a long time. When this world is sealed, I will not just be invulnerable; I will live forever. ‘And behold, I am alive for evermore, and have the keys of hell and of death.’”
“You’re willing to do this? Give up the whole world of Earth, your Dark Shadowhunters, your revenge?”
“It was beginning to bore me,” said Sebastian. “This is more interesting. To be honest, you’re beginning to bore me a bit too. Do decide whether you’re going to get up on the throne or not, will you? Or do you need persuasion?”
Clary knew Sebastian’s methods of persuasion. Knives under the fingernails, a hand to the throat. Part of her wished he would kill her, take this decision away from her. No one could help her. In this she was utterly alone.
“I will not be the only one who lives forever,” Sebastian said, and to her surprise his voice was almost gentle. “Ever since you discovered the Shadow World, haven’t you secretly wanted to be a hero? To be the most special of a special people? In our own way we each wish to be the hero of our kind.”
“Heroes save worlds,” Clary said. “They don’t destroy them.”
“And I am offering you that chance,” said Sebastian. “When you ascend that throne, you save the world. You save your friends. You have power unlimited. I am giving you a great gift, because I love you. You can embrace your own darkness and yet always tell yourself that you did the right thing. How is that for getting everything you want?”
Clary closed her eyes for one heartbeat, and then another. Only enough time to see faces flash behind her eyelids: Jace, her mother, Luke, Simon, Isabelle, Alec. And so many more: Maia and Raphael and the Blackthorns, little Emma Carstairs, the faeries of the Seelie Court, the faces of the Clave, even the ghostly memory of her father.
She opened her eyes, and walked toward the throne. She heard Sebastian, behind her, draw a sharp breath. So, for all the surety in his voice, he had doubted, hadn’t he? He had not been sure of her. Behind the thrones the two windows flickered like video screens: one showing desolation, the other Alicante under attack. She caught glimpses of the inside of the Accords Hall as she reached the steps and walked up them. She moved steadily. She had made her decision; there was no faltering now. The throne was huge; it was like climbing up onto a platform. The gold of it was icy cold to her touch. She reached the last step, turned, and took her seat.
She seemed to be looking down for miles from the top of a mountain peak. She saw the Council Hall spread out before her; Jace, lying motionless by the wall. Sebastian, looking up at her with a smile spreading over his face.
“Well done,” he said. “My sister, my queen.”