City of Glass / Page 23

Page 23



She sat up slowly and looked around. She was lying in the center of a Persian rug thrown over the floor of a large stone-walled room. There were items of furniture here and there; the white sheets thrown over them turned them into humped, unwieldy ghosts. Velvet curtains sagged across huge glass windows; the velvet was gray-white with dust, and motes of dust danced in the moonlight.

“Clary?” Jace emerged from behind a massive white-sheeted shape; it might have been a grand piano. “Are you all right?”

“Fine.” She stood up, wincing a little. Her elbow ached. “Aside from the fact that Amatis will probably kill me when we get back. Considering that I smashed all her plates and opened up a Portal in her kitchen.”

He reached his hand down to her. “For whatever it’s worth,” he said, helping her to her feet, “I was very impressed.”

“Thanks.” Clary glanced around. “So this is where you grew up? It’s like something out of a fairy tale.”

“I was thinking a horror movie,” Jace said. “God, it’s been years since I’ve seen this place. It didn’t use to be so—”

“So cold?” Clary shivered a little. She buttoned her coat, but the cold in the manor was more than physical cold: The place felt cold, as if there had never been warmth or light or laughter inside it.

“No,” said Jace. “It was always cold. I was going to say dusty.” He took a witchlight stone out of his pocket, and it flared to life between his fingers. Its white glow lit his face from beneath, picking out the shadows under his cheekbones, the hollows at his temples. “This is the study, and we need the library. Come on.”

He led her from the room and down a long corridor lined with dozens of mirrors that gave back their own reflections. Clary hadn’t realized quite how disheveled she looked: her coat streaked with dust, her hair snarled from the wind. She tried to smooth it down discreetly and caught Jace’s grin in the next mirror. For some reason, due doubtless to a mysterious Shadowhunter magic she didn’t have a hope of understanding, his hair looked perfect.

The corridor was lined with doors, some open; through them Clary could glimpse other rooms, as dusty and unused-looking as the study had been. Michael Wayland had had no relatives, Valentine had said, so she supposed no one had inherited this place after his “death”—she had assumed Valentine had carried on living here, but that seemed clearly not to be the case. Everything breathed sorrow and disuse. At Renwick’s, Valentine had called this place home, had showed it to Jace in the Portal mirror, a gilt-edged memory of green fields and mellow stone, but that, Clary thought, had been a lie too. It was clear Valentine hadn’t really lived here in years—perhaps he had just left it here to rot, or he had come here only occasionally, to walk the dim corridors like a ghost.

They reached a door at the end of the hallway and Jace shouldered it open, standing back to let Clary pass into the room before him. She had been picturing the library at the Institute, and this room was not entirely unlike it: the same walls filled with row upon row of books, the same ladders on rolling casters so the high shelves could be reached. The ceiling was flat and beamed, though, not conical, and there was no desk. Green velvet curtains, their folds iced with white dust, hung over windows that alternated panes of green and blue glass. In the moonlight they sparkled like colored frost. Beyond the glass, all was black.

“This is the library?” she said to Jace in a whisper, though she wasn’t sure why she was whispering. There was something so profoundly still about the big, empty house.

He was looking past her, his eyes dark with memory. “I used to sit in that window seat and read whatever my father had assigned me that day. Different languages on different days—French on Saturday, English on Sunday—but I can’t remember now what day Latin was, if it was Monday or Tuesday….”

Clary had a sudden flashing image of Jace as a little boy, book balanced on his knees as he sat in the window embrasure, looking out over—over what? Were there gardens? A view? A high wall of thorns like the wall around Sleeping Beauty’s castle? She saw him as he read, the light that came in through the window casting squares of blue and green over his fair hair and the small face more serious than any ten-year-old’s should be.

“I can’t remember,” he said again, staring into the dark.

She touched his shoulder. “It doesn’t matter, Jace.”

“I suppose not.” He shook himself, as if waking out of a dream, and moved across the room, the witchlight lighting his way. He knelt down to inspect a row of books and straightened up with one of them in his hand. “Simple Recipes for Housewives,” he said. “Here it is.”

She hurried across the room and took it from him. It was a plain-looking book with a blue binding, and dusty, like everything in the house. When she opened it, dust swarmed up from its pages like a gathering of moths.

A large, square hole had been cut out of the center of the book. Fitted into the hole like a jewel in a bezel was a smaller volume, about the size of a small chapbook, bound in white leather with the title printed in gilded Latin letters. Clary recognized the words for “white” and “book,” but when she lifted it out and opened it, to her surprise the pages were covered with thin, spidery handwriting in a language she couldn’t understand.

“Greek,” Jace said, looking over her shoulder. “Of the ancient variety.”

“Can you read it?”

“Not easily,” he admitted. “It’s been years. But Magnus will be able to, I imagine.” He closed the book and slipped it into the pocket of her green coat before turning back to the bookshelves, skimming his fingers along the rows of books, his fingertips tracing their spines.

“Are there any of these you want to take with you?” she asked gently. “If you’d like—”

Jace laughed and dropped his hand. “I was only allowed to read what I was assigned,” he said. “Some of the shelves had books on them I wasn’t even allowed to touch.” He indicated a row of books, higher up, bound in matching brown leather. “I read one of them once, when I was about six, just to see what the fuss was about. It turned out to be a journal my father was keeping. About me. Notes about ‘my son, Jonathan Christopher.’ He whipped me with a belt when he found out I’d read it. Actually, it was the first time I even knew I had a middle name.”

A sudden ache of hatred for her father went through Clary. “Well, Valentine’s not here now.”

“Clary …” Jace began, a warning note in his voice, but she’d already reached up and yanked one of the books out from the forbidden shelf, knocking it to the ground. It made a satisfying thump. “Clary!”

“Oh, come on.” She did it again, knocking another book down, and then another. Dust puffed up from their pages as they hit the floor. “You try.”

Jace looked at her for a moment, and then a half smile teased the corner of his mouth. Reaching up, he swept his arm along the shelf, knocking the rest of the books to the ground with a loud crash. He laughed—and then broke off, lifting his head, like a cat pricking up its ears at a distant sound. “Do you hear that?”

Hear what? Clary was about to ask, and stopped herself. There was a sound, getting louder now—a high-pitched whirring and grinding, like the sound of machinery coming to life. The sound seemed to be coming from inside the wall. She took an involuntary step back just as the stones in front of them slid back with a groaning, rusty scream. An opening gaped behind the stones—a sort of doorway, roughly hacked out of the wall.

Beyond the doorway was a set of stairs, leading down into darkness.

9

THIS GUILTY BLOOD

“I DON’T REMEMBER THERE EVEN BEING A CELLAR HERE,” Jace said, staring past Clary at the gaping hole in the wall. He raised the witchlight, and its glow bounced off the downward-leading tunnel. The walls were black and slick, made of a smooth dark stone Clary didn’t recognize. The steps gleamed as if they were damp. A strange smell drifted up through the opening: dank, musty, with a weird metallic tinge that set her nerves on edge.

“What do you think could be down there?”

“I don’t know.” Jace moved toward the stairs; he put a foot on the top step, testing it, and then shrugged as if he’d made up his mind. He began to make his way down the steps, moving carefully. Partway down he turned and looked up at Clary. “Are you coming? You can wait up here for me if you want to.”

She glanced around the empty library, then shivered and hurried after him.

The stairs spiraled down in tighter and tighter circles, as if they were making their way through the inside of a huge conch shell. The smell grew stronger as they reached the bottom, and the steps widened out into a large square room whose stone walls were streaked with the marks of damp—and other, darker stains. The floor was scrawled with markings: a jumble of pentagrams and runes, with white stones scattered here and there.

Jace took a step forward and something crunched under his feet. He and Clary looked down at the same time. “Bones,” Clary whispered. Not white stones after all, but bones of all shapes and sizes, scattered across the floor. “What was he doing down here?”

The witchlight burned in Jace’s hand, casting its eerie glow over the room. “Experiments,” Jace said in a dry, tense tone. “The Seelie Queen said—”

“What kind of bones are these?” Clary’s voice rose. “Are they animal bones?”

“No.” Jace kicked a pile of bones with his feet, scattering them. “Not all of them.”

Clary’s chest felt tight. “I think we should go back.”

Instead Jace raised the witchlight in his hand. It blazed out, brightly and then more brightly, lighting the air with a harsh white brilliance. The far corners of the room sprang into focus. Three of them were empty. The fourth was blocked with a hanging cloth. There was something behind the cloth, a humped shape—

“Jace,” Clary whispered. “What is that?”

He didn’t reply. There was a seraph blade in his free hand, suddenly; Clary didn’t know when he’d drawn it, but it shone in the witchlight like a blade of ice.

“Jace, don’t,” said Clary, but it was too late—he strode forward and twitched the cloth aside with the tip of the blade, then seized it and jerked it down. It fell in a blossoming cloud of dust.

Jace staggered back, the witchlight falling from his grasp. As the blazing light fell, Clary caught a single glimpse of his face: It was a white mask of horror. Clary snatched the witchlight up before it could go dark and raised it high, desperate to see what could have shocked Jace—unshockable Jace—so badly.

At first all she saw was the shape of a man—a man wrapped in a dirty white rag, crouched on the floor. Manacles circled his wrists and ankles, attached to thick metal staples driven into the stone floor. How can he be alive? Clary thought in horror, and bile rose up in her throat. The rune-stone shook in her hand, and light danced in patches over the prisoner: She saw emaciated arms and legs, scarred all over with the marks of countless tortures. The skull of a face turned toward her, black empty sockets where the eyes should have been—and then there was a dry rustle, and she saw that what she had thought was a white rag were wings, white wings rising up behind his back in two pure white crescents, the only pure things in this filthy room.

She gave a dry gasp. “Jace. Do you see—”

“I see.” Jace, standing beside her, spoke in a voice that cracked like broken glass.

“You said there weren’t any angels—that no one had ever seen one—”

Jace was whispering something under his breath, a string of what sounded like panicked curses. He stumbled forward, toward the huddled creature on the floor—and recoiled, as if he had bounced off an invisible wall. Looking down, Clary saw that the angel crouched inside a pentagram made of connected runes graven deeply into the floor; they glowed with a faint phosphorescent light. “The runes,” she whispered. “We can’t get past—”

“But there must be something—” Jace said, his voice nearly breaking, “something we can do.”

The angel raised its head. Clary saw with a distracted, terrible pity that it had curling golden hair like Jace’s that shone dully in the light. Tendrils clung close to the hollows of its skull. Its eyes were pits, its face slashed with scars, like a beautiful painting destroyed by vandals. As she stared, its mouth opened and a sound poured from its throat—not words but a piercing golden music, a single singing note, held and held and held so high and sweet that the sound was like pain—

A flood of images rose up before Clary’s eyes. She was still clutching the rune-stone, but its light was gone; she was gone, no longer there but somewhere else, where the pictures of the past flowed before her in a waking dream—fragments, colors, sounds.

She was in a wine cellar, bare and clean, a single huge rune scrawled on the stone floor. A man stood beside it; he held an open book in one hand and a blazing white torch in the other. When he raised his head, Clary saw that it was Valentine: much younger, his face unlined and handsome, his dark eyes clear and bright. As he chanted, the rune blazed up into fire, and when the flames receded, a crumpled figure lay among the ashes: an angel, wings spread and bloody, like a bird shot out of the sky….

The scene changed. Valentine stood by a window, at his side a young woman with shining red hair. A familiar silver ring gleamed on his hand as he reached to put his arms around her. With a jolt of pain Clary recognized her mother—but she was young, her features soft and vulnerable. She was wearing a white nightgown and was obviously pregnant.

“The Accords,” Valentine was saying angrily, “were not just the worst idea the Clave has ever had, but the worst thing that could happen to Nephilim. That we should be bound to Downworlders, tied to those creatures—”


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