City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments 6) - Page 92

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In Clary’s life she had seen many things that were wonderful and beautiful, and many things that were terrible. But none were as terrible as the look on her mother’s face as Jocelyn stared at her daughter, seated on the throne beside Sebastian’s.

“Mom,” Clary breathed, so softly that no one could hear her. They were all staring at her—Magnus and Alec, Luke and her mother, Simon and Isabelle, who had moved to hold Jace in her lap, her dark hair falling down over him like the fringe of a shawl. It was every bit as bad as Clary had imagined it would be. Worse. She had expected shock and horror; she hadn’t thought of hurt and betrayal. Her mother staggered back; Luke’s arms went around her, to hold her up, but his gaze was on Clary, and he looked as if he were staring at a stranger.

“Welcome, citizens of Edom,” said Sebastian, his lips curling up like a bow being drawn. “Welcome to your new world.”

And he stepped free of the burning circle that held him. Luke’s hand went to his belt; Isabelle began to rise, but it was Alec who moved fastest: one hand to his bow and the other to the quiver at his back, the arrow nocked and flying before Clary could shape the cry for him to stop.

The arrow flew straight toward Sebastian and buried itself in his chest. He staggered back from the force of it, and Clary heard a gasp ripple down the line of Dark Shadowhunters. A moment later Sebastian regained his balance and, with a look of annoyance, pulled the arrow from his chest. It was stained with blood.

“Fool,” he said. “You can’t hurt me; nothing under Heaven can.” He flung the arrow at Alec’s feet. “Did you think you were an exception?”

Alec’s eyes flicked toward Jace; it was minute, but Sebastian caught the glance, and grinned.

“Ah, yes,” he said. “Your hero with the heavenly fire. But it’s gone, isn’t it? Spent on rage in the desert at a demon of my sending.” He snapped his fingers, and a spark of ice blue shot from them, rising like a mist. For a moment Clary’s view of Jace and Isabelle was obscured; a moment later she heard a cough and gasp, and Isabelle’s arms were sliding away from Jace as he sat up, then rose to his feet. Behind Clary the window was still splintering, slowly; she could hear the grind of the glass. Through the now-crazed glass spilled a lacelike quilting of light and shadow.

“Welcome back, brother,” said Sebastian equably, as Jace stared around him with a face that was rapidly draining of color as he took in the room full of warriors, his friends standing horrified around him, and lastly: Clary, on her throne. “Would you like to try to kill me? You have plenty of weapons there. If you feel like you’d like to try slaying me with the heavenly fire, now is your chance.” He opened his arms wide. “I won’t fight back.”

Jace stood facing Sebastian. They were the same height, almost the same build, though Sebastian was thinner, more wiry. Jace was filthy and bloodstained, his gear torn, his hair tangled. Sebastian was elegant in red; even his bloody hand seemed intentional. Sebastian’s wrists were bare; around Jace’s left wrist, a silver circlet gleamed.

“You’re wearing my bracelet,” Sebastian observed. “‘If I cannot reach Heaven, I will raise Hell.’ Apt, don’t you think?”

“Jace,” Isabelle hissed. “Jace, do it. Stab him. Go on—”

But Jace was shaking his head. His hand had been at his weapons belt; slowly he lowered it to his side. Isabelle gave a cry of despair; the look on Alec’s face was just as bleak, though he stayed silent.

Sebastian lowered his arms to his sides and held out his hand. “I believe that it’s time you returned my bracelet, brother. Time you rendered unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. Give me back my possessions, including my sister. Do you renounce her to my keeping?”

“No!” It wasn’t Jace; it was Jocelyn. She pulled away from Luke and launched herself forward, hands reaching out for Sebastian. “You hate me—so kill me. Torture me. Do what you want to me, but leave Clary alone!”

Sebastian rolled his eyes. “I am torturing you.”

“She’s just a girl,” Jocelyn panted. “My child, my daughter—”

Sebastian’s hand shot out and gripped Jocelyn’s jaw, half-lifting her off the floor. “I was your child,” he said. “Lilith gave me a realm; you gave me your curse. You are no kind of mother, and you will stay away from my sister. You are alive on her sufferance. You all are. Do you understand?” He let go of Jocelyn; she staggered back, the bloody print of his hand marked on her face. Luke caught her. “You all are alive because Clarissa wants you alive. There is no other reason.”

“You told her you wouldn’t kill us if she ascended that throne,” Jace said, unclasping the silver bracelet from around his wrist. His voice was without inflection. He hadn’t met Clary’s eyes. “Didn’t you?”

“Not exactly,” said Sebastian. “I offered her something much more . . . substantial than that.”

“The world,” Magnus said. He appeared to be upright through sheer force of will. His voice sounded like gravel tearing his throat. “You’re sealing the borders between our world and this one, aren’t you? That’s what this rune circle is for, not just protection. So you could work your spell. That’s what you’ve been doing. If you close the gateway, you are no longer splitting your powers between two worlds. All your force will be concentrated here. With all your power concentrated in this dimension, you will be well-nigh invincible here.”

“If he seals the borders, how will he get back to our world?” Isabelle demanded. She had risen to her feet; her whip gleamed on her wrist, but she made no move to use it.

“He won’t,” said Magnus. “None of us will. The gates between the worlds will close forever, and we will be trapped here.”

“Trapped,” Sebastian mused. “Such an ugly word. You’ll be . . . guests.” He grinned. “Trapped guests.”

“That’s what you offered her,” Magnus said, raising his eyes to Clary. “You told her if she would agree to rule beside you here, you would close the borders and leave our world in peace. Rule in Edom, save the world. Right?”

“You’re very perceptive,” Sebastian said after a brief pause. “It’s annoying.”

“Clary, no!” Jocelyn cried; Luke tugged her back, but she was paying attention to nothing but her daughter. “Don’t do this—”

“I have to,” Clary said, speaking for the first time. Her voice caught and carried, incredibly loud in the stone room. Suddenly everyone was looking at her. Everyone but Jace. He was staring down at the bracelet held between his fingers.

She straightened. “I have to. Don’t you understand? If I don’t, he’ll kill everyone in our world. Destroy everything. Millions, billions of people. He’ll turn our world to this.” She gestured toward the window that looked out onto the burned plains of Edom. “It’s worth it. It has to be. I’ll learn to love him. He won’t hurt me. I believe it.”

“You think you can change him, temper him, make him better, because you’re the only thing he cares about,” Jocelyn said. “I know Morgenstern men. It doesn’t work. You’ll regret—”

“You never held the life of a whole world in your hand, Mom,” said Clary, with infinite tenderness and infinite sorrow. “There’s only so much advice you can give me.” She looked at Sebastian. “I choose what he chooses. The gift he gave me. I accept it.”

She saw Jace swallow. He dropped the bracelet into Sebastian’s open palm. “Clary is yours,” he said, and stepped back.

Sebastian snapped his fingers. “You heard her,” he said. “All of you. Kneel to your queen.”

No! Clary thought, but she forced herself into stillness, silence. She watched as the Endarkened began to kneel, one by one, their heads bowed; the last to kneel was Amatis, and she did not bow her head. Luke was staring at his sister, his face flayed open. It was the first time he had seen her like this, Clary realized, though he had been told of it.

Amatis turned and looked over her shoulder at the Shadowhunters. Her gaze caught on her brother’s for just a moment; her lip curled. It was a vicious look. “Do it,” she said. “Kneel, or I will kill you.”

Magnus knelt first. Clary would never have guessed that. Magnus was so proud, but then it was a pride that transcended the emptiness of gestures. She doubted it would shame him to kneel when it meant nothing to him. He went down on his knees, gracefully, and Alec followed him down; then Isabelle, then Simon, then Luke, drawing Clary’s mother down beside him. And lastly Jace, his blond head bowed, went to his knees, and Clary heard the window behind her shatter into pieces. It sounded like her breaking heart.

Glass rained down; behind it was bare stone. There was no longer any window that led to Alicante.

“It is done. The paths between the worlds are closed.” Sebastian wasn’t smiling, but he looked—incandescent. As if he were blazing. The circle of runes on the floor was shimmering with blue fire. He ran toward the platform, took the steps two at a time, and reached up to catch Clary’s hands; she let him draw her down from the throne, until she stood in front of him. He was still holding her. His hands felt like bracelets of fire around her wrists. “You accept it,” he said. “You accept your choice?”

“I accept it,” she said, forcing herself to look at him with absolute directness. “I do.”

“Then kiss me,” he said. “Kiss me like you love me.”

Her stomach tightened. She had been expecting this, but it was like expecting a blow to the face: Nothing could prepare you. Her face searched his; in some other world, some other time, some other brother was smiling across the grass at her, eyes as green as springtime. She tried to smile. “In front of everyone? I don’t think—”

“We have to show them,” he said, and his face was as immovable as an angel pronouncing a sentencing. “That we are unified. Prove yourself, Clarissa.”

She leaned toward him; he shivered. “Please,” she said. “Put your arms around me.”

She caught a flash of something in his eyes—vulnerability, surprise at being asked—before his arms came up around her. He drew her close; she laid one hand on his shoulder. Her other hand slid to her waist, where Heosphoros rested with its scabbard tucked into the belt of her gear. Her fingers curled around the back of his neck. His eyes were wide; she could see his heartbeat, pulsing in his throat.

“Now, Clary,” he said, and she leaned up, touching her lips to his face. She felt him shudder against her as she whispered, her lips moving against his cheek.

“Hail, master,” she said, and saw his eyes widen, just as she pulled Heosphoros free and brought it up in a bright arc, the blade slamming through his rib cage, the tip positioned to pierce his heart.

Sebastian gasped, and spasmed in her arms; he staggered back, the hilt of the blade protruding from his chest. His eyes were wide, and for a moment she saw the shock of betrayal in them, shock and pain, and it actually hurt; it hurt somewhere down deep in a place she thought she had buried long ago, a place that mourned the brother he might have been.

“Clary,” he gasped, starting to straighten, and now the look of betrayal in his eyes was fading, and she saw the beginning spark of rage. It hadn’t worked, she thought in terror; it hadn’t worked, and even if the borders between the worlds were sealed now, he would take it out on her, on her friends, her family, on Jace. “You know better,” he said, reaching down to grasp the hilt of the sword in his hand. “I can’t be hurt, not by any weapon under Heaven—”

He gasped, and broke off. His hands had closed around the hilt, just above the wound in his chest. There was no blood, but there was a flash of red, a spark—fire. The wound was beginning to burn. “What—is—this?” he demanded through clenched teeth.

“‘And I will give him the Morning Star,’” Clary said. “It’s not a weapon that was made under Heaven. It is Heaven’s fire.”

With a scream he pulled the sword free. He gave the hilt, with its hammered pattern of stars, one incredulous look before he blazed up like a seraph blade. Clary staggered back, tripped over the edge of the steps to the throne, and threw one arm partly over her face. He was burning, burning like the pillar of fire that went before the Israelites. She could still see Sebastian within the flames, but they were around him, consuming him in their white light, turning him to an outline of dark char within a flame so bright, it seared her eyes.

Tags: Cassandra Clare The Mortal Instruments Young Adult