Chapter 1: Bittersweet Dreams
The girl stared at the photograph with thinly veiled disgust. The woman smiling in the picture resembled the girl—long red locks that fell in a heavy cascade, eyes holding the liveliness of spring, the light spray of freckles across their cheekbones. The girl hated her all the more for it. She could hear her father’s voice in her head, as clear as adamas: She abandoned you, and took your brother instead. Because you are an unwanted brat, useless for everything.
How could someone abandon their own child, especially if the child had inherited their traits? The girl flung the photograph into the embers, watching with satisfaction as the hungry flames devoured it. She would be whipped for it, she was sure, but it was worth it.
The photograph had brought her train of thoughts to her brother. The one with the demon blood, the one who her father liked more, despite spending barely a year of time with him. Her father had injected her with Lilith’s blood after his failure in the Uprising, but it couldn’t replace the blood of the Angel running in her veins. That didn’t stop him from continuing his experiments on her. He injected her with the demonic ichor every month, taking notes as she screamed from the following agony and nightmares. The result was a Nephilim child with advanced physical abilities, who suffered from sudden bursts of incredible pain when her body attacked itself.
The girl reached for the glass bottle holding her pills. She relaxed a little when her fingers brushed against its cold, smooth surface. The bottle was for her what a teddy bear is for a normal child of her age. She climbed out the open window and landed on the grass with a soft thud. She treaded through the darkness, occasionally casting her eyes at the moon hanging limply in the dark sky. Her father had gone to meet one of his Circle members, who was hiding from the eyes of the corrupted Clave. This was a great opportunity to escape his close surveillance.
She stood by the door of the Wayland manor. She twisted the handle, only to find it locked, but it was nothing her rune couldn’t fix. She scraped the Open rune into the polished wood of the door, smiling with satisfaction when the rune disappeared with a sudden flash of light. The door slid open at her pull. What she didn’t expect was the boy curled up by the door like a cat, sound asleep despite the disturbance and his lack of blankets.
So this was the boy. The other Jonathan. The girl observed his tousled blond hair, pale in the dim moonlight. She had heard her father describe him countless times as they sat at the dining table. The hint of affection he couldn’t keep out of his voice was all he needed to spark hatred in the girl’s heart. She considered killing him, purely to spite her father. It would be almost too easy, to slit his throat with the knife she had stolen from her father’s drawer. But his angelic countenance, so serene in his slumber, made her discard the thought. She knelt by the boy instead, studying his delicate features.
He seemed to notice her presence, even in his sleep. He stirred, and when his hand grazed her knee, he woke up with a jolt.
“Wha—who are you?” The girl idly examined his alarmed eyes. They were bright gold, the colour of Heaven’s glory. The boy scrambled up to glare at her. “How did you get here?”
“Through the door,” she pointed the obvious. It was still open, the moonlight spilling in through the gap. “Please sit. My neck hurts.” To her amusement, the boy obediently sat cross-legged in front of her.
“Who are you?”
“No one you should know about, though I’ll tell you my name if you swear on the Angel not to tell anyone that you met me.” The girl held his gaze with a challenging glint in her eyes.
“I swear,” he automatically replied. There was a fierce curiosity burning behind the pale gold of his eyes that the girl, to her own surprise, found captivating.
“My father calls me Seraphina, after his mother. My grandmother, though I’ve never seen her.” It was the first time she had ever introduced herself to someone. The feeling of her own name rolling off her tongue felt strangely alien.
“It doesn’t suit you,” the boy said with a frown, as if he had heard her thoughts. “It sounds cold. It kind of reminds me of my father, actually.” The girl had to bite her tongue to stop herself from laughing. How blind the boy was.
“Then give me another name that suits me,” she said.
The boy looked thoughtful as he inspected her with intense eyes. The pondering silence hung over them for a good while before his mouth finally opened. “Clarissa. Clary for short.”
The way his lips formed the name, his tongue curling at the r, made her heart twinge with an unfamiliar emotion. Maybe it was the caution in his voice as he suggested her new name, so entirely different from the way her father barked out her previous one. Clary found her own lips curving into a smile, and the boy visibly relaxed.
“My name is Jonathan,” the boy continued. “but you can give me another name like I did, if you’d like.”
Clary nodded. The name Jonathan reminded her of the hatred toward her brother and the jealousy she had felt toward the boy. She tilted her head, flexing her fingers habitually as she did when she was deep in thought. Jonathan Christopher. JC.
“Jace.” The name tumbled out of her mouth before she could even gauge how it sounded in her head. It was a simple, short name, like a clean cut of a sword.
“Jace,” repeated the boy. “I like it. Nice and short.” Jace grinned, and Clary noticed how one tip of his lips quirked up a millisecond before the other followed.
The magic of this moment, of Clary and Jace sitting across each other with tentative smiles on their faces, was branded into her memories. Whenever she suffered from nightmares, she retreated into the memory, like a wanderer in the desert reaching for a last gulp of water. Since then, she was Clary, and he was Jace. Nothing more, nothing less.
Every night after the incident, when even her father had fallen asleep, Clary slinked in the shadows and snuck into the Wayland manor. Sometimes, they didn’t whisper a single word. They just sat in the dim illumination of the moon and stars of Idris, finding relief in each other’s presence. Clary never told him anything about herself, and Jace didn’t push. When she had asked if it didn’t bother him, he simply answered, “You’re Clary; that’s enough.”
And it was enough. The night when her father had broken the neck of Jace’s falcon, she had held him in the circle of her arms as he silently let his tears fall. He had to be strong, too strong to weep, but in front of Clary, he just needed to be himself. The very same night, she released her own falcon into the wild. The following night, Jace wiped the blood oozing from the gashes on her back, torn by the demon metal of the whip her father wielded.
A few years later, Clary was twisting her neck to study the scars. As soon as Clary had woken up from her nightmares after the injection, her father had tested her with different trials. He was finishing his notes while she sat across him, trying hard not to look miserable. Her entire body ached, and the bruises along her forearm weren’t healing despite her iratzes. Clary looked up when her father cleared his throat, taking an envelope out from between the pages of his journal. Her eyes flickered to the elegant W-shaped wax seal.
“I’m sending Jonathan to the Lightwoods.” Clary’s eyes snapped to her father in an instant. She carefully hid her dismay behind a mask of nonchalance.
“I thought you liked him,” she commented mildly.
“I need a warrior to strike against the Clave. Jonathan is nothing like that. He gets devastated over a dead bird.” Clary bit her tongue before she could snap at her father, that the falcon he had killed was not just a bird.
“Wouldn’t that draw attention to the Wayland manor?” Clary questioned instead. “You’ll have to remove all signs of yourself, father.”
“I have ordered Pangborn and Blackwell to assist me in faking my own death.”
Clary stiffened, though she maintained her façade of indifference. Jace would no doubt be devastated, losing his only family. And this time, she wouldn’t be there to let him weep into her arms. But she knew what was bothering her was not the sorrow Jace would inevitably go through. It was his absence she would have to suffer from, probably for the rest of her life. She hid her grimace by tilting her face down to stare at her grimy laps.
She dismissed herself and returned to her room. She slumped to the ground, leaning on the door, and hugged her knees to her chest. She made a noise when her fingers clamped over a hot dampness. There was an ugly scarlet slash stretching from her knee to her ankle under the torn fabric of her ruined gear. It seemed to be a shallow wound, but it was still spewing blood. She brushed the dirt away with her hands, smearing blood on her leg and palms. With her other hand, she scrawled another iratze on her knee, closing her eyes gratefully as the pleasant burn took away the throbbing pain.
It reminded her of how the boy at the Wayland manor would gently clean her wounds with a wet towel, while he endured his own injuries until they were badly infected. Despite what her father seemed to believe, the boy was the stronger of the two.
She waited by the door, watching the darkness consume the world. The moon had crept up to its peak, and eventually Clary’s ears caught the soft footsteps of her father finally going to his bedroom. She waited for what must have been a half-hour, and when she was sure the cottage was silent, she slipped out from her bedroom window.
Her body knew the way before her brain registered the path. Keeping to the shadows, she ignored the protest of her limbs as she hastened her pace. The door was open by a finger’s breadth, a signal indicating that the coast was clear. Her fingers had hardly even touched the doorknob when it swung open, revealing a grinning Jace who greeted her with a mock curtsey.
“I thought you weren’t coming,” he said as he stepped away from the entrance. Clary shut the door behind her before facing the boy. She studied him from head to toe, for what she guessed would be the last time. He was a head taller than her now, his hair ruffled as always. There was always a challenging glint in his eyes and an air of confidence clinging to him. He reminded her of a lion, proud and dangerous, even though he was barely ten years old.
“I always do,” she said without amusement. Jace raised an eyebrow, registering her odd gaze.
“Is something up?” Jace asked, peering into her eyes. It was his eyes that Clary liked most. They held the light of the stars, blazing gold like the path to heaven. Clary wondered if his angelic heritage was concentrated in his eyes, and whether the world he saw through them was more radiant than the world she knew.
“If you want to weasel out any information about me, you need to be subtler than that,” she replied. She sank to the ground with her grubby legs splayed in front of her before her legs could give out under her. The dirt and dry blood was hidden in the shadows. Jace bent down beside her, curling into a ball and balancing on the soles of his feet.
“Thought I might as well try,” he said, his voice filled with all the solemnity a ten-year-old could muster. “I tell you everything about me. Why won’t you tell me anything about you?”
“Why are you suddenly so curious about me? You were okay with me not telling you anything before.”
Jace paused, his accusing glare faltering. “I have a feeling… that I won’t get to see you again.”
Clary was surprised, but she kept her face straight. “Listen,” she said, pulling him closer. He leaned into her so their foreheads touched. He carried a scent of burnt leaves that she savoured for a moment before whispering, “even if you know it’s a lie, I need you to believe this. Believe this with all your heart, for your sake and mine.” Well, mine more than yours, she added silently.
“Believe what?” His eyes were widened so the gold disks of his irises were visible even in the darkness.
“I am a figment of your imagination. I am just an imaginary friend you made up.” Jace began to protest, but she tightened her grip on his arm to silence him. “I’ll always be with you here.” She put a finger to the centre of his ribs, where his heart was steadily beating.
“But you’re real. I know you’re real,” he said stubbornly.
“That’s why I need you to convince yourself. That all the time we spent together was a dream.” Clary took a deep breath, and pushed herself up. Jace stood up too, glaring down at her with blazing eyes. They were no longer touching, but his presence alone made her feel as though he were embracing her. “Tell no one, even the people you meet after… whatever happens, about me.”
“What is going to happen? Is something wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong,” she said, her voice as calm as the chilly night air. “I’m just a dream.”
Clary reached out for his wrist, which he held out willingly. The white scars of faded Marks and healed injuries were almost identical to hers. She pressed her stele to his skin, and traced a rune almost lazily. His puzzled expression shifted to one of recognition and alarm, but it was too late—he lost his balance, his eyelids sliding shut, as soon as the Sleep Now rune was completed.
She caught him before he could tumble to the ground, and slowly lowered him. He was too tall for her to carry, so she lay him on the wooden boards, just like the young boy she had met years ago. She eased him into a comfortable position and knelt by him. Clary ran her fingers through his soft hair, then cut a lock of it with her knife. Twirling the gold strand between her thumb and forefinger, she straightened up. Casting one last look at the boy, she crept back into the shadows.
Chapter 2: The Encounter
Clary woke up with a start. For the first time, the injection had not given her nightmares. Rubbing the sleep out of her eyes, she pulled herself out of the blanket. It slithered to the floor as she swung her legs to the side of the bed, but she didn’t bother to pick it up. The rest of the room was neat—too neat for her liking. But she kept it that way, because it was the way Jace had kept his room.
Her mouth was painfully dry, and her throat felt as if it had been rubbed thoroughly with sandpaper. Clary touched her cheek with the back of her hand. It was burning up; the injections always gave her a scorching fever. Her feet felt like giant slabs of lead as she dragged herself to the kitchen and filled a glass with cold water. She held it against her cheek for a moment, relaxing at its cool touch, then quaffed the liquid down. Her throat stung at each swallow, but it was a pleasant pain, similar to the dull burn of an iratze.
“Seraphina.” It took a moment for Clary to realize it was her real name. She swivelled to face her father. He had been unscathed by the ages save a few lines on his forehead he had obtained from his constant scowl. Stubble as pale as his hair was dotted across his chin, but somehow, he retained his elegant allure. “I have located your brother.”
She nearly spat out the water. “What?”
“He lives in Brooklyn with your mother as a mundane. He calls himself Sebastian Fray.” Distaste coloured his voice as he relayed the information. “I need you to bring him. I would prefer him alive, but a corpse will do if things get… difficult.”
Clary gingerly lowered her glass and leaned against the refrigerator for balance. “Only my brother? I thought you needed the Mortal Cup.”
“We’ll get to that later. Perhaps the boy will prove to be resourceful, if you manage to bring him alive.” Valentine handed her a photograph of a tall, lean boy who closely resembled his father. He had platinum white hair that fell to his onyx eyes, but unlike the unsmiling coldness of their father, his face held a wide, pleasant grin. Attached to the photo with a clip was a small note of an address.
“St. Francis Xavier School. Will I find him there?” Clary looked up from her note to see her father give a curt nod in answer. She fingered the photo, her mind wandering. It was such a simple mission, yet she felt as if she were missing something. A leftover image from her dreams tugged at her mind.
“Recover for the rest of the day. If you take a Portal to New York at late evening, you should be there in time.” Valentine gave her a quick kiss on her forehead, but she knew it was feigned affection. He hated her. To him, she was a reminder of the wife he had lost. But he was still her father, who kept her by his side despite the hatred. For that reason, Clary loved her father and despised her mother.
Clary padded back to her bedroom and organized her blanket and bed sheets. She only stood back when she was sure that they were in perfect shape, without a single crease. She hesitated for a moment, restraining herself. Then she pulled the loose floorboard enough to seize the fist-sized, piano-shaped container. She lifted what would have been the lid of the piano and cautiously held the strand of blonde hair between her fingers.
Every day, she was tempted to Track the boy using the lock of gold. She had to force her fingers to release the strand each time. But now that she was finally free to wander a world outside her confinement…
She bit her lip and placed it back into the ornament. It was only a temporary freedom, and the chances of the boy being in Brooklyn of all places was extremely thin. Clary swallowed her temptation and squeezed the box back under the floorboard.
She grabbed a butterfly knife from her desk and slumped onto the velvet sofa. She twirled it absentmindedly, barely aware of the soft snicks it made as it swung freely in her hand. Whenever the lure became unbearable, she played with the knife to empty her mind. It was effective at first; the balisong was wild and nearly uncontrollable, so Clary had to focus on every movement lest she lose a finger. But after repeating this almost every day for seven years, she could make it dance in her hand with her eyes closed. Still, it gave her fingers something to hold instead of the last fragment of her childhood memories.
Behind all the longing, blazing anger poisoned her mind. It took an hour of twirling the knife for Clary to realize its source: how joyful her brother looked in the photo. He was living a happy mundane life—a life free of death and pain, where he didn’t need to wonder which demon would be the one to finally rip him to pieces. A life with enemies on both sides; vicious demons on one side and self-righteous half-angel soldiers on the other. He lived as a son of a Fray; everything a daughter of a Morgenstern could wish for.
Maybe she didn’t want to bring him alive. Clary threw the knife as hard as she could. It sank into the wall, quivering at the impact.
Clary leaned on the brick wall of an alley, observing the boy. Whenever she moved, the air shimmered around her in an effect of the heavy glamour she had placed to hide from the prying eyes of mundanes. Sebastian seemed to have attracted a group of thugs, and Clary was watching with mild interest.
“Tough luck, guys, you’re picking on the wrong person,” he was saying. He pulled a leather wallet from his pocket and upended it. A few receipts fluttered to the ground. “See? I’m broke.”
A lanky thug with the word ten tattooed below his right eye grunted scornfully. Clary was idly wondering what had been going on in his tiny brains when he got that tattoo, until the guy drew a rusty knife. It was a poor weapon in Shadowhunter standards, but it was a weapon nonetheless.
“You know that’s not why we’re here, Fray,” the boy snarled.
Two other thugs—Clary decided to call one Pimple and the other Hairy—lunged to grab Sebastian and hold him down, but he was too fast for them. He ducked under their arms and kicked the back of Hairy’s knees. Hairy stumbled, and Sebastian took that chance to shove him into a very surprised Pimple. They toppled to the ground in a tangle of arms and legs. Sebastian slammed his foot down on Pimple’s wrist for good measure, and by the sickening snap, Clary guessed it was badly broken.
Ten growled and charged forward, only to be thrust brutally to the brick wall. Sebastian twisted the hand holding the knife and kicked the weapon away when his fingers loosened. Sebastian grabbed Ten by his hair and smashed his face against the wall again. When he fell to the ground unconscious, his nose was contorted and bloody.
“Enjoyed the show?” Clary turned to meet the amused black eyes of her brother. She was startled—her father had told her before her departure that Sebastian’s Sight was blocked by a warlock—but she hid it expertly with a smile.
“What did you do to piss them off?” She padded towards the boy, measuring his response to her appearance. He looked momentarily stunned as he registered her face, but it quickly wore off.
“Oh, this and that,” he replied airily. “Who are you, anyway?”
“You don’t know me? We take Literature class together at St. Xavier’s.” She feigned a hurt expression, but he looked sceptical.
“Huh, I thought I knew everyone in that class. Did you follow me all the way here?”
“Yes. I wanted to talk to you.” She took another step closer. Sebastian raised an eyebrow, but he didn’t say anything. He gestured for her to go on, so she continued. “I don’t come to school often because of my health, but every time I do come, I’ve wanted to get to know you.” She dipped her head in a shy manner, though secretly she was struggling not to puke.
“I’m guessing not as friends,” he mused. “Well, I barely know you. What’s your name?”
“Emily Smiths.” Valentine had picked the name, informing her that it was the name of a mundane girl at the school who Sebastian had most likely never met.
“Yes, I think I’ve heard your name before,” he said slowly. “We can talk on the way to the bus stop. If that’s okay with you…?”
“That would be great.” Clary bit the inside of her cheeks to suppress a smirk. This was too easy. Pretending to trip over a stray brick, she stumbled and grabbed Sebastian’s phone from his pocket. She slid it into her own pocket as she said, “Oh, Jesus, sorry about that.”
“Don't be.” He grasped her forearm to steady her. She flashed him a grateful grin.
“Oh, right, can I have your phone number?” She fumbled for a non-existent phone and threw her hands up. “Shoot, I think I’ve left it at school. I’m such an idiot.”
Sebastian dug into his pockets and frowned. “That’s strange, I must have dropped mine, too. Mum’s going to kill me.” Clary’s face soured at the mention of their mother, but Sebastian seemed to take it as disappointment.
“Can I just write my number on your hand?” Her fingers wrapped around the stele in her pocket when Sebastian obediently held his hand out. A quick Sleep Now rune, and she would be free to drag him into a Portal. But before she could take out the stele, she did as her instincts directed—duck.
A knife slammed into the wall beside her. Sebastian, stunned, took a step back. Clary cursed under her breath and rolled to the side to glare up at her attacker. She froze. A familiar set of gold eyes, as deadly as inferno, stared back. Clary tore her gaze from the boy when another set of footsteps approached.
“We’re here to protect you,” a boy with startling blue eyes said to Sebastian as he stepped protectively in front of him. Another girl with raven hair grinned from behind, a silver whip snaking out into her hand.
“So, you’re the famous Valentine’s daughter,” she said. “We’ve been itching to meet you.”
Not bothering to answer, Clary bolted for the exit. There was a yell behind her, but she didn’t pause to see who it was. She was about to turn around the corner before she was harshly thrust to the ground. A pair of firm hands pinned her to the ground, but that was not what trapped Clary in place.
“Clary,” Jace breathed, eyes shining with wonder. His grip loosened. Clary reached out to run her fingers through his familiar, dishevelled locks. They were silken and soft under her touch, just as they had been seven years ago.
Then a burst of pain lanced through her, turning her vision bright red. Shit, not now! Her trembling fingers scrabbled for the bottle of pills, but thinking she was reaching for a weapon, Jace grappled her wrists and held them in a tight grip.
“Get off!” she screamed. Clary struggled to escape his constraint desperately, but the strength was draining from her limbs. She choked on her own blood, coughing violently. Realizing the peril, Jace released her. Blood sprayed the ground as she scrambled to sit up and wretchedly failed. Heaving for breath, she groped for the bottle. It slipped from her fingers and rolled away from her.
It isn’t the demons or the Clave that finishes me off, Clary thought as her vision dimmed. It’s my own fucked up body.
Chapter 3: Fraying From Within
Clary’s eyelids fluttered open. She registered the witchlight illuminating the room, and the unfamiliar white wallpaper decorated with ornaments of marble and gold. She took a deep breath, letting the cool air fill her dying lungs.
Why am I still alive? The overwhelming pain should have been enough to kill her. She would have been grateful for the chance to finally end it all, and rest in a painless slumber for the rest of eternity. She had met the one thing in her life that bugged her, and she would have been more than happy to let it be her last sight before she exhaled her last breath. Instead, she was treated with the sight of her mother beholding her with tearful eyes.
“How dare you,” Clary whispered, her voice quaking. “How can you have the nerve to show your face after discarding me like a torn ragdoll?” She tried to thrust herself at the woman, but the restraints on her wrists yanked her back. She glared at her mother, shaking with loathe.
“Don’t call me Clary!” she screamed. Murderous rage bubbled up inside her at the thought of Jace confiding their secrets to her mother. She tugged at the handcuffs viciously, but they held fast.
“I tried,” Jocelyn said softly. “I had Sebastian with me when Valentine initiated the Uprising, but you were with Céline, a family friend. I got there as fast as I could, but Céline had already slit her wrists, and you had vanished.”
“Then you should have come back for me,” Clary growled. “You left me with a father who hated me and saw me more as a tool than a daughter. He tortured me for his plans, but he was all I had.”
“I thought you were dead.” Silent tears rolled down her cheeks, eliciting a scornful glower from Clary. “They said there were scorched bones of a man and a child.”
“Oh, you knew better than that,” she spat. “Otherwise you wouldn’t have hidden him so well with the mundanes.”
Jocelyn opened her mouth to reply, but she was interrupted by the appearance of the black-haired boy and girl Clary had seen when she had been attacked. The girl observed her with curious eyes while the boy addressed Jocelyn.
“Our mother wants to see you,” he said, then glanced at Clary. She could see the pity in his eyes, making her grit her teeth in anger.
“And Jace wants to see you,” the girl said. She knelt by Clary’s side and undid the cuffs on her wrist. “I’m doing this against mom’s strict orders, so you’d better behave. I wouldn’t mind giving Jace a punch or two, though. He’s been annoying the crap out of me.”
The three walked out of the room, Jocelyn casting a last look behind her shoulders. As soon as they shut the door, Clary bolted to the window. It was a long way down, but nothing she couldn’t manage. She slid it open and glanced down, gauging the distance and searching for a way to break the fall.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” called a voice from behind her. She whirled to see Jace leaning on the door, flashing her an awkward grin. Clary didn’t reply, but she backed away from the window, eyeing the boy warily. She wasn’t sure what he was capable of, after all these years. “What, aren’t you going to say hi?”
“You nearly killed me,” she replied, ice creeping into her voice. “so, no.”
“And you nearly gave me a heart attack,” he retorted. “so, we’re even.” He took a step forward, but when Clary stiffened, he immediately stopped. He held his hands above his head, showing her that he held no weapons.
“Let me escape, and I swear I’ll never show my face to your lot,” Clary said. Her eyes flickered to the window once more before snapping back to the boy.
“Quite a bargain,” he mused. “I’ve spent my entire life searching for you, and now you’re offering to disappear again?”
Though his expression remained calm, there was a flare in his eyes that caused a twinge of pain against Clary’s ribs. She set her jaws in frustration, but otherwise didn’t move. Jace irritably strode across the room toward her, ignoring her warning glare.
They stood there in silence, so close that Clary could feel the whispers of his breath on her cheeks, until she finally spoke, her voice hard. “You know now. I’m Valentine’s daughter. I was made to kill. I’m not a figment of your imagination, nor am I a character from your dreams. I was created and trained by my father to be the worst of your nightmares.” She took a deep breath, trying to steady her fluttering heart. “Kill me. Kill me, and make it a happy ending.”
“For the Clave? Maybe.” She could see his hands clenched into fists on either side of him, shaking with an emotion she could not guess. Anger? But what was he angry about? Didn’t she give him an answer to the questions he must have had for years? “But what about you? What about me?”
“What about you?” Clary asked, confused. “Do you mean who you really are? My father pretended he was Michael Wayland and your father, but—”
“I meant,” Jace whispered, each word filled to the brim with fury. “that your death can’t be a happy ending for me.” Clary froze, and looked up at him uncomprehendingly. Heaving a sigh, he sank into a nearby chair and buried his face in his hands. “I just learned from Hodge that my entire childhood was a lie. The only shred of truth I have left is you. I went through Hell to convince the Clave that you aren’t a danger, that you can be used as a bait for Valentine. Don’t make me think that all that was for nothing.”
Backstabbing Judas, Clary seethed. Hodge had been a double-spy for the Clave all along. After a moment of weighing her options, she heaved a sigh and finally opened her lips. “Why do you trust me? I can kill you and escape through the window before you can blink.”
“Because you didn’t,” Jace’s eyes bore into her, the fire burning within them intense. “and you won’t. If something happens to you, I’m responsible. And you can’t afford that.” There was a challenging air to him that annoyed her, but she knew it was true. He must already be under the Clave’s surveillance because of his upbringing. One wrong step, and he was likely to be stripped of his runes and live the rest of his life in the prisons of the Silent City. He had bet his entire life on the guess that she cared for him. And, to her own dismay, she did. She was trapped like a rabbit, and she didn’t like it.
“I’m going to pay you back for this,” she promised with a glare.
“I hope you do,” he replied, smirking. He fished out a familiar glass bottle from his pocket, and Clary fought to hide the wave of relief she felt. His smirk had melted into a mask of deadly seriousness as he turned the bottle around in his hand.
“What happened to you? The Silent Brothers have looked into the pills, but even they hadn’t seen such substances before.”
Clary looked away, avoiding the boy’s piercing gaze. He grabbed her shoulders and bowed his head to stare directly into her eyes. She could see the full outline of his face, and the face of the little boy who had uttered her new name with all the solemnity in the world. It was a face she couldn’t possibly lie to.
“My father experimented on me with demon blood. It strengthens me, but also causes my body to attack itself from time to time. The pills stop the symptoms.” Seeing Jace’s face, she added, “It’s not new. I had this… illness during our time together, too.”
“You should have told me,” he said. His grip on her shoulders weakened, and Clary shrugged them off. He straightened up, but his visible anguish kept her from moving away from him.
“Why? So you could kill him?” Clary laughed, but her eyes weren’t smiling. “We were ten years old, and whatever he’s done to me, he’s still my father. He’s the only family I have.”
“You have your mother and brother—”
“A mother who had abandoned me, and a worthless brother whose absence was the very cause of the experiments I went through? I don’t think so.” She realized that her hands were clenched into fists and slowly flexed them.
“He was my father, too,” Jace murmured. Though his voice was barely a whisper, it made Clary hold her breath. “and he was my only family. But I lost him.” He pressed the bottle into her palm, and she wrapped her fingers around it. It retained the warmth from Jace’s hand.
Without another word, the boy walked away. The door swung open before he even touched it; they were being watched. Two guards strode in before the door shut behind Jace. They stared down at her dispassionately, an action that would normally leave them with a black eye, but Clary didn’t have the energy to snap at them.
“Your answers saved you, girl,” one of them said. She ignored them and stared at the wall. The guard grunted in annoyance. “Someone wants to meet you. We won’t cuff you, but one wrong move and you’ll find a blade buried between your ribs.”
She let the guards take her out of the room. She followed them to a terrace, where she could overlook the busy streets of New York. It was decorated with marble statues of past heroic Shadowhunters and plants native to Idris. However, what caught Clary’s gaze was not the delicate décor but a tall figure tending to a spruce, and another beside him.
“Hello, Seraphina,” Hodge said with a kind smile. “or should I say Clary?” She padded towards the well-mannered traitor, the main reason she was confined to the one place she had never expected to visit. “I’m sure you are well acquainted with this young fellow here.” Sebastian regarded her with a half-smile of amusement. Hodge dipped his head to the guards behind her, who left after responding with a deft nod.
“Quite the actor,” Sebastian commented when she approached. “I know you didn’t ask for my opinion, but Clary suits you better than Seraphina. It’s too much of a mouthful, and it’s weird to have the same name as your grandma.”
“Why is he here?” Clary glared at her brother with venomous eyes.
“I’ve always wanted a sister,” he replied, ignoring her hostility. “I want to get to know you.”
“I tried to kill you,” she stared incredulously. “and you want to get to know me? You’re as bright as a doorknob, aren’t you?”
“You don’t have it in you,” Sebastian said, his voice calm as though they were talking about the weather. “Trust me, I’m the one with the demon blood running in my veins.”
“Your upbringing took care of that. You might as well be a mundane.” Sebastian raised an eyebrow, but he didn’t seem to be insulted, much to her disappointment.
“Maybe,” he acknowledged. Clary didn’t like his scrutinizing eyes, but punching him wasn’t worth the trouble. “but despite what you imply, you’ve never actually killed anyone, have you? Not even the Downworlders our father hates so much.”
“What are you trying to say?”
“I’m persuading you to stop acting like a cold-blooded murderer when you’re really a plush doll inside,” he said quietly.
Infuriated, Clary took a step forward, but before she could do anything, something black shot from the sky and launched itself at Hodge.
“Hugin!” Clary waved the bird away, but it was already too late—Hodge lay face-down in a pool of blood. Valentine’s raven dropped a dagger to Clary’s hand before gliding away from the bloody scene.
Sebastian momentarily froze from shock, but soon his lips curved in a challenging smile as he met Clary’s gaze.
“Go ahead. Kill me.” He spread his arms out like an angel stretching his wings, his dark eyes glittering dangerously. “I dare you.”
She didn’t need more prompting. She lunged at her brother, knocking him down like a hunting panther. She held the dagger up high before swinging it down toward his heart. However, at the last moment, her aim faltered. The blade fell to the marble floor with a loud, defeated clatter and skittered in the puddle of Hodge’s blood. She closed her eyes and exhaled through gritted teeth. Beneath her, Sebastian laughed triumphantly.
Chapter 4: Captured Chess Piece
Clary leaned against the cold walls of the cell in the Silent City’s deepest level. She could hear Sebastian yelling, “I’m telling you, it wasn’t her!”, but she couldn’t care less. A trial by the Mortal Sword was going to clear the mess up, anyway. There was a greater problem that bothered her more than anything.
She had been trained and experimented on for a purpose—a purpose she couldn’t fulfil. If Valentine found out, she would be discarded like a captured chess piece. And maybe she already was. Through the prison bars, she could see the keeper of the City approach. She had read about the Silent Brothers’ silent gait and lifeless faces, but they were much ghostlier than she had imagined.
You have a visitor, Seraphina Morgenstern. The archivist had his hood pulled down to conceal most of his features, but Clary could see that his mouth had not been sewn up like the others of the Brotherhood. Beside him was Jace, wearing a crooked smile that failed to hide the concern in his eyes.
“It’s Clary, Brother Zachariah,” he corrected.
“What’s the point of correcting everyone? I’ll always be Valentine’s daughter to them,” she wondered aloud.
“Everyone knows me as Jace. It’s only fair that I introduce you to them as Clary.” He crossed his arms defiantly, as if to dare Clary to suggest otherwise. She rolled her eyes in response. Seeing her grumpiness, Jace frowned. “Come on, where’s the gratitude?”
“My stunning presence is brightening your dank cell. Don’t I deserve a thank you kiss?” Clary crinkled her nose and looked away. She didn’t have the patience for his narcissistic jokes.
“Just say what you want and go,” she said. She turned her head at the sound of ruffling clothes to see Jace sit on the cold floor. His eyes were a dark shade of gold in the dim witchlight hanging above them.
“I just wanted to talk to you,” he said, his joking tone gone. Clary blinked; his face, half-obscured by the shadows, was overlapped by the face of the young child of her memories. A sense of déjà vu gripped her; the pull of his steady gaze was almost physical. “Remember my falcon?”
After a long moment of silence, Clary realized that he was waiting for an answer. “I wouldn’t be able to forget him even if I wanted to.”
“I tried so hard to keep the tears in,” he said, the tip of his lips twitching. “But as soon as I saw you, I was wailing like a banshee. My father—I mean, Valentine was so disgusted by me the next day, when he saw how my eyelids were puffed from crying.”
The smallest of smiles tugged the corner of her lips at the memory, but it soon melted off her face. “I didn’t tell you then,” Clary confided, her voice only barely audible. “but my father had given me a falcon, too. I let it go into the wild that night.”
“Then the gashes on your back the next day—”
“Yes, I was whipped,” she said, her voice flat and remorseless. Jace winced. She looked away from the pain in his eyes; they were like fresh lashes, more agonizing than the memories her remaining scars held.
“I’m sorry.” Clary’s stared at the boy across the bars with widened eyes. The boy she knew never apologized; rather, he kept his chin high and pointed out how the incident might actually be beneficial. Had he really grown so much, or was there a scheme behind his words? Suddenly suspicious, she hid her emotions behind a carefully constructed mask of indifference.
“What for? I defied my father’s orders, and was disciplined for my actions.” Jace’s eyebrows knitted together at that, but he didn’t say anything. “It wasn’t your fault.”
“Listen, Clary.” He took a deep breath, then shot a glance at Brother Zachariah. The archivist was as still as a statue, but she was sure he was listening carefully to their exchange for anything suspicious. Jace turned back to Clary, and finally opened his lips. “Sebastian told me what happened. I know that you’re wondering what to do next, since you can’t find the courage to kill someone.”
Clary laughed dryly. “You came here to taunt me too, huh?”
“No!” He seemed surprised by the sharpness in his own voice. He paused, then continued softly, “No. I’ve come to tell you that you can have a new life here, with a new family. You can live with me and the Lightwoods at the New York Institute after your trial. No one will whip or discipline you for a mistake.”
“I wasn’t whipped for mistakes,” she snapped, her facade breaking. “I was punished—”
“What Valentine did was not your fault!” Jace’s eyes flared like molten lava as his frustration erupted. “Everything he did to us is child abuse! We didn’t deserve it. You didn’t deserve it. No one deserves punishment like that.”
“But he’s still my father,” she whispered.
“Only if you want him to be,” he replied, the flames still burning within him. “Tell me; do you want to be Seraphina, or do you want to be Clary?”
That made her clamp her mouth shut and stubbornly stare at the cracks on the ancient floors of the City. Her mind was a jumble of words she couldn’t sort out. She felt as though someone had hit the emergency button and her brain had stopped functioning. With effort, she opened her mouth, but not a word came out.
Stop. She has been through enough. A foreign thought brushed upon her mind, and it took Clary a minute to realize that it was Brother Zachariah. Jace fixed Clary in a beseeching stare before storming off into the darkness. She waited for Brother Zachariah to follow his steps, but to her surprise, his long, white fingers pulled the hood of his papery robes to reveal a young face with runes on each cheekbone. When his mind touched hers again, his thoughts held a tinge of pity.
I believe that you have a good heart, and I know that you are in pain. I will not judge you no matter what your next step is. However, keep this in mind when you make the decision: you are a victim, and love is not defined by usefulness. There are those who will welcome you without wanting to exploit your powers.
Brother Zachariah turned to leave. Suddenly in a panic, Clary hurriedly called to him. “Brother Zachariah, can you tell Jace that I’m sorry?” She bit her lip—she didn’t even know what she was sorry for. Nonetheless, the Silent Brother looked back at her, and she could have sworn that his lips curled by a millimetre.
Of course, Clary. He pulled up his hood again and disappeared into the darkness of the corridors.
Clary wrapped her arms around herself, holding all the emotions in. She struggled to think of anything other than the wreck she was in, and her thoughts flew to Brother Zachariah. He felt oddly human, closer to the mortals he assists than any other Gregori she had seen during her stay. Other Brothers were completely devoid of emotion, and she had thought of them as animated caskets of human flesh; Brother Zachariah, on the other hand, displayed his emotions, muted as they were.
But what did her own emotions mean? Clary shook her head, annoyed by how her train of thoughts boomeranged. She lay on her side and pressed her cheek to the cold stone floor. She welcomed the drowsiness pulling her eyelids shut. She wrapped her fingers around the bottle of pills in the pocket of her jacket. Stroking its smooth surface to soothe herself, she yielded gratefully to the tug of sleep.
An icy prick on her forehead woke her. Her vision focused on the long blade of the Mortal Sword and the blood clinging to the metal. Droplets of it dripped onto her face. Slowly, she raised her eyes to see Valentine smiling down at her.
“If I’d known the state of your cell, I would have come earlier,” he said. He took a step back, taking the Sword away from her face. Clary sat up and wiped the blood with the back of her hands, staring at the smear of crimson.
“The Mortal Sword,” she said, her voice hushed. “you stole it from the Silent Brothers?”
“Call it a spoil,” he replied, his demeanour as calm as ever. “Unfortunately, I had to kill half of the Brotherhood to get my hands on it.”
Clary froze, her mind’s eye painting the bloody face of Brother Zachariah. She kept her mouth shut and bit her tongue to stop herself from asking about him; she knew her father would hunt him down and murder him in front of her eyes even if the archivist had survived. Puzzled by her lack of response, Valentine raised his eyebrows. Clary quickly asked before he could notice her concern, “Are you going to get me out of here?”
“I’m afraid you’ll have to remain. Think of it as a punishment for disobeying my direct orders to keep away from the boy.” Clary flinched at his words. The rumours of their friendship must have finally reached her father’s ears. Valentine’s voice softened as he continued. “You also need to keep the Clave busy while I collect the ingredients for the Ritual of Infernal Conversion. Make a commotion so they wouldn’t mind a few missing Downworlders.”
“That’s all up to you.” He glanced at his watch, then turned his back to her without a shred of regret. “The Conclave will be coming soon. I have to go now.” He stepped out of the cell, and not sparing her a backward glance, he whispered, “I love you, Seraphina.”
She sat alone in the darkness, wondering what to do. Her attempts to formulate a plan was disrupted by Brother Zachariah’s voice, repeating itself over and over again: love is not defined by usefulness. It was such a simple statement, but it was against the foundations of her beliefs. Her entire life, she had to prove her usefulness to her father; she didn’t want to be thrown away like Jace had been. Even then, it had not been enough. She knew that her father’s words of affection held no meaning.
She was broken from her abstraction by the sound of rushing footsteps. When she looked up, she found several eyes raking her miserable appearance with open hostility. She tensed, not sure whether she should prepare for an attack, when a boy burst into the cell, his familiar voice lined with worry,
“Clary, are you okay? Is that your blood?” He dabbed her face with his sleeve. Clary shook her head and stopped him with a light touch.
“Of course not. She’s the daughter of the culprit.” A robust man glared down at them. “Left by her father to spy on us.” Clary didn’t move to contradict him; she knew that nothing she could say would change his mind. She felt Jace stiffen beside her, but she pressed his hand to stop him from snapping in her defence.
“Should we transport her to Idris, sir?”
“And make it easier for her to spy on the entire Clave? No.” He stepped into the stream of light, and Clary realized that he was wearing the grey robes of the Clave’s Inquisitor. “We execute her.”
“No!” Jace jumped to his feet and lunged towards the Inquisitor, but was brutally thrust back into the cell. The Inquisitor slammed the prison door shut, and an audible click indicated that it was firmly locked. Growling in fury, Jace kicked the obsidian bars. It shuddered at the impact, but didn’t give in.
“What is the meaning of this?” A willowy woman with long black hair stepped forward. She carried an air of importance, and Clary decided that she deserved the title of Inquisitor more than the man. “Inquisitor Aldertree, you cannot imprison my son because of your whims—”
“He is not your son, Maryse,” he said in a silky tone. “He was raised by Valentine Morgenstern, and he fights so hard to protect the traitor’s daughter. What is he if not a spy Valentine had placed in advance?”
“He’s not my father’s spy.” Clary finally spoke, making everyone turn. “He’s done nothing wrong. Let him go.”
“Let us go,” Jace spat through gritted teeth. “How many times do I have to tell you, Clary is innocent!”
“It’s a pity that your father has taken the Mortal Sword, then, isn’t it?” Aldertree laughed, drawing a scowl from Jace. He shot Maryse a sideways look before saying, “We’ll discuss it in the Institute.”
The Inquisitor stalked away from the cell, and the crowd followed him. Jace slammed his fist against the bars, but they didn’t spare so much as a glance at him. Maryse whispered something to Jace that Clary couldn’t hear, then followed the other Shadowhunters. The halls were now empty, or so she had thought—a slinking shadow caught her eye, and she squinted to see who it was.
“Isabelle,” Jace breathed. Clary stared at the dark-haired girl who had materialized from the darkness.
“By the Angel, I’m going to kill that man,” Isabelle muttered under her breath. “Do you have a stele?”
“Nope.” Jace grimaced, and upturned his pockets. Only a bone-handled knife clattered to the floor.
Isabelle sighed, and rolled a stele into the cell. “Listen, you need to run away. Aldertree seems to have a grudge against you, for some obnoxious reason. No matter what mom says to him, he’s not going to be lenient. Just run away as far as you can, and don’t do anything stupid.”
Jace grabbed the stele and shot her a grateful grin. “But that’s what I expert in. I turn things that seem stupid into awesome feats.”
Isabelle glared at him and crossed her arms. “I mean it, Jace. I texted Alec to burn your stuff and replace them with his, so the Clave can’t track you.” She sighed again and massaged her temples. “I can’t believe we’re risking our lives to save you.”
“That’s because I’m an amazing person,” he said with a smirk. “Go, before they find out you’re missing.”
“Fine,” she huffed, then paused mid-turn. “I’m going to regret this for the rest of my life, and I’m only saying it because this may be the last time we see each other.” She took a deep breath, and forced out a noise that vaguely resembled the words, love you. Then she faced Clary, her eyes carrying the same fire that burned within Jace. “You’d better be worth it, ginger.”
Clary watched with a mixture of astonishment and amusement as Isabelle melted into the shadows, only the patter of her footsteps betraying her direction. Jace threw the stele to Clary, who snatched it out of the air with Shadowhunter grace.
“Your runes were always better than mine,” he said with a shrug. “Open our way out of here.”
“Nah,” she replied, and her face broke into a mischievous, impish smile. “I’ve got something better up my sleeves.”
She had missed the feeling of a stele in her hand. She let the power flow through her hands to the rod of adamas as she carved a rune into the wall. When it was completed, she took a step back, watching the wall shift and fold into the shape of a rectangular Portal. The streetlights of Brooklyn flooded into the room through it, bathing the two in artificial light.
“A Portal? Clary, how—”
“I guess I’m a much more amazing person than you are,” she said, the tip of her lips twitching. She tugged a hesitant Jace into the Portal, and staggered out the other side. Clary inhaled the night air, free of the smell of age and dust.
“Are you secretly a warlock?” Jace demanded. Seeing Clary’s face, he rolled his eyes. “Right. Valentine’s pure-blooded daughter. My mistake.”
Instead of shooting back a witty comment, Clary pulled him into a narrow alley and clamped a hand over his mouth. They both held their breaths as they heard shoes clacking against concrete. The footsteps grew louder, then stopped abruptly.
“Clary, Jace,” called a male voice. “I’m Jocelyn’s friend. I’m here to help you.” Jace nodded at Clary, then walked out to confront the man. Clary followed closely behind him, ready to retaliate if there was an attack. “I’m Luke Garroway. I used to be Lucian Graymark.”
“Those names don’t mean anything to us,” Clary said warily.
“I can explain, but it isn’t safe here,” Luke said in a low, urgent voice. “I have a truck. We can talk in there, and if you still can’t trust me, you can go your own way. Deal?” Clary exchanged a look with Jace, then nodded. They followed Luke into the cab of a red truck. Jace climbed in first, then pulled Clary onto his lap and shut the door. It was much too intimate for her liking, but she didn’t have a choice. Luke didn’t lock the doors, but he did scan the streets with narrowed eyes.
“How did you know we’d be here? Does the Clave know?”
“Meeting you was purely chance. That place you see there is my bookstore. I got Sebastian’s call and was about to search for you when I saw you coming out of the Portal.” Clary raised her eyebrows at the mention of her brother. Luke noticed, and started to explain. “One of your friends texted her brother to clear up your tracks. Sebastian was there with him, and he called me to search for you with the help of my pack. I was about to head for the entrance to the Silent City, but fortunately I was saved the trip.”
“You’re a werewolf,” Clary said accusingly. Despite all her father’s rantings about Downworlders, the actual presence of one didn’t disturb her. She realized that she had started to doubt Valentine. She averted her eyes from the werewolf’s gaze and stared at her knees, but not before she saw his kind green eyes and the soft wrinkles of laugh lines around them.
“I won’t deny it,” he admitted. “but I promise it’s not a reason to hate me.”
After a moment of silence, she muttered, “I’m not my father.” Luke relaxed visibly at her words.
“I take it that the Clave doesn’t know we’re missing yet?” Jace asked.
“Sebastian hasn’t texted me, so I’m guessing that they won’t find out until next morning,” he replied. “Do you have any place to go? A house to stay in?” He waited for an answer, but none came. “If you don’t, you can stay in my apartment. I live behind that bookstore. We can talk there.”
“It’s fine with me, but…” Jace’s words trailed away. Though Clary was still staring at her knees, she could feel Luke’s eyes on her.
“Okay, I guess,” she mumbled. She no longer knew who to trust anymore, so she followed her instincts.
Chapter 5: George Lovelace
Clary sat on the shabby sofa and held the mug of steaming coffee to her lips. She hadn’t realized how cold she was until she took a sip. Jace had already finished his cup and was fiddling with his bone handled knife beside her.
“I wanted to tell you about my former parabatai… your father,” Luke began. Clary stiffened at the mention of Valentine. She lowered her mug so she wouldn’t drop it. “He was a charismatic man, a role model to most of the younger Shadowhunters. Needless to say, he gained many followers to support his cause against Downworlders. Jocelyn—your mother—and I were among them.
“Jocelyn fell in love, and they became a married couple. They had a baby. Everything seemed perfect.” Luke heaved a sigh, regret plain in his voice. “However, Valentine was becoming more radical every day, and things began to fall apart. It was the last straw for Jocelyn when she found out that Valentine had experimented on her child. She couldn’t run away, because she already had you in her womb. She asked for my assistance, and I helped her plot against him. Unfortunately, Valentine found out, but I didn’t know that. He asked me to go on a patrol with him. That night, I was bitten by a werewolf.”
Clary bit her lower lip. She didn’t want to believe the werewolf’s tale, but the description fit her father like Cinderella’s shoe. Luke seemed to notice, and his eyes softened.
“Valentine handed me a dagger, and told me to kill myself before I was Turned. Instead, I used my transformation to take leadership of a pack and gather new allies. Jocelyn was closely guarded, so I couldn’t meet her. She probably thought that I was dead. She lost all hope of overthrowing him. Time passed, and she gave birth to you.” Luke’s lips were curled into a warm smile. “Valentine was busy finalizing his plans with his Circle of followers then, so I managed to visit you and your mother. You were the most beautiful thing.
“We discussed Valentine’s plans, and made our own schemes to prevent them from succeeding. But Valentine must have sensed something, and had Céline take you on the day of the Uprising so Jocelyn couldn’t run away.” At the mention of his mother, Jace looked up. “We raced to Céline as soon as we could, but all we found was her corpse. You and Jace were nowhere to be seen. Later, we heard news that the charred bones of a man and a child was found in the burnt remains of the Fairchild manor.”
“But you said Céline had both me and Jace with her. There were two children missing, and you found the bones of only one child,” Clary pointed out.
“We thought he had died in the Uprising. A lot of children had been victims of the war.” Luke dipped his head in grief.
Clary stared at the now lukewarm mug in her hands. She had never questioned her father about his past. He had ranted about the corruption of the Clave and the impurity of Downworlders, but never told her why. She wondered if circumstances would have been different if she had known all this before she had set out to Brooklyn for her brother.
“Clary,” Jace whispered, and wrapped her hand in his. “are you alright?”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” she mumbled. All her life, she had believed that her mother had been disgusted by her. She lived 16 years thinking that she was a child who cannot be loved, and hated the world for despising her. Then all of a sudden, a stranger came up to her, persuading her that that was not the case. To make things worse, the stranger’s version perfectly added up. She was not fine at all, but years of acting like she was ‘fine’ kept her from confessing otherwise.
“I’ll get you some blankets.” Luke got to his feet, his worried eyes lingering on Clary before he left the room.
“Clary,” Jace said. He bent his head to meet her eyes.
Clary stared into his pale gold eyes, and was viciously snatched into the depths of her memories. She had been convinced that the boy would abhor her once he knew who she was, but the fear had been an illusion.
“Hello? Earth to Clary,” Jace waved a hand in her face. She blinked. “By the Angel, this is just like the old times. You always disappeared into your head, leaving me alone to wonder what on earth was going on in there.”
“I don’t remember,” she lied. She heard a knock at the door. She pushed Jace aside and strode across the room to open it. She was greeted by a heap of blankets on the floor and Luke’s fading footsteps. With Jace’s help, she arranged them into two separate, more comfortable heaps.
“I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a long day and I haven’t slept in ages,” Jace said with a yawn. He slipped into his blankets and closed his eyes, still facing Clary. “Turn the lights off, will you?”
“Say the magic word,” she replied. She secretly grabbed a pair of scissors from a pot of stationery.
“It’s please, you ungrateful twat.” Clary cast her eyes to the lump under the blanket before flicking the light off. “I have something to tell Luke. Don’t wait for me.”
“Good night,” came his muffled reply.
Clary padded along the corridor to the bathroom. The figure she saw in the mirror felt unfamiliar to her. After staring at her reflection for a long moment, she began to clip her hair short. She wanted to trim her bangs, too—it had grown long enough to poke her eyes—but she didn’t have time, so she swept them to the side.
When she was satisfied with the length of her hair, she burned the remains with a single rune and sneaked back into the room. She scribbled a short note on a scrap of paper and put her Morgenstern ring on the note instead of a signature. She donned Luke’s jacket and cap and rolled up the sleeves so her hands peeked out over the edge. Pulling the brim of the cap over her eyes, she surreptitiously climbed out the window and disappeared into the night streets of Brooklyn.
Tiny flakes of snow began to fall from the late-night sky, tickling Clary’s nose. She had been roaming the streets aimlessly for hours when she noticed the heavy footfalls behind her. Judging by the clumsily loud noises her stalker made, it was definitely a mundane. She grinned, preparing to surprise the mugger if he took a step too close.
“Um, excuse me,” called a shy voice with a strong Scottish accent. “I believe you’ve dropped something.”
“Oh.” Clary, not knowing whether she should be relieved or disappointed, whirled around to see who had addressed her. A boy with untidy, curled locks of light-brown hair that looked beige in the streetlight smiled awkwardly at her. There was something in his hand that gleamed mysteriously. It was Isabelle’s stele.
“Thanks.” The word felt foreign on her tongue; she had never imagined that she would say it to a mundane.
The boy stepped closer to hand her the stele. Up close, she could make out the shape of his face under the shadows cast by the lights. He had clean-cut features with a set of friendly dark eyes that reminded her of a golden retriever. “You’re welcome,” he replied. “Always happy to help out a young fellow—but wait.” He halted, momentarily horrified. “You’re not a boy.”
“No, I’m not,” she replied, her patience wearing thin. “I’ll be on my way, then—”
“I’ll escort you. The streets are dangerous at this time of the night."
“Don’t be sexist.”
“I’m not. I was planning to escort you if you were a boy, anyway. The night streets are dangerous for either of the sexes.”
“And what are you doing on the streets if it’s so dangerous?” She immediately regretted asking. She needed to be on her way, not waste her time chatting with some random mundane.
“Believe me, I won’t be out here if it weren’t for my mate Simon,” the boy huffed. “Oh, and my name’s George, by the way. George Lovelace.”
Clary froze. Lovelace was the family name of a long line of Shadowhunters. She surveyed her surroundings, suspecting a trap, but nobody was there save the two of them.
“I don’t have a destination, and I don’t need your help.” She leered at George, whose eyes widened at her words.
“Did you run away from home?” He clasped her hands in a surprisingly strong grip. Clary snatched them away.
“It’s none of your business,” she said through gritted teeth. “Thanks for your help, I should really get going now—”
“I know I sound like a creep, but I have a free room. Simon—the mate I mentioned—went to his mum’s house for the winter break.” Clary halted at his words. George noticed and hurried on. “I was worried about being all alone there, anyway. This is a secret, but I believe my apartment is haunted. I need someone with me.” He scratched the side of his head, wearing a sheepish grin.
Clary bit her lip. She did have nowhere to go, and mingling with mundanes was the best way to hide herself from the Clave. But the fact that he was so willing to help and yet was asking for nothing in return made her hesitant to trust him.
“Fine,” she said after considering the idea for a long moment. She decided she could easily overpower him if he had proved to be treacherous. George noticeably brightened at her response. Clary pictured him wagging a tail and suppressed a snicker. “but I’ll cook and do the dishes. To make us even.”
“That would be wonderful,” he said with a relieved sigh. “My humble cooking abilities are restricted to sandwiches, and I was absolutely terrified that I would have to eat them every day for every meal.”
“Then you’re in luck, mundane,” Clary smirked. “Lead the way.”
During their walk, George was completely immersed in a chatter that Clary didn’t even pretend to listen to. Clary stared at the patterns of the pavement as she attempted to plan her next step but miserably failed. She was in such a wreck that every scenario she could think of ended with her getting killed. She only snapped out of it when she realized that George was watching her with the quizzical eyes of someone expecting an answer.
“Uh, what was that again?”
“Now that we’re roommates and all, I thought I might get to know you, starting with your name.” He was very careful with his words as though he were coaxing an injured wild animal to stay still.
“Clary. Clary Morgenstern.” The name had escaped from her lips before she could stop herself. For some reason, she didn’t want to hide things from this mundane.
“It’s a pretty name,” George said, then abruptly cleared his throat. Clary glanced up at him and swallowed a smile when she saw the tips of his ears burn bright red. Maybe his honesty was contagious and was rubbing off on her.
The remainder of the trip was silent, much to Clary’s relief. She was on her guard, constantly shooting glances around them for any possible danger, when George gave a slight tug on her arm.
“We’re here,” he announced, looking pleased.
Clary followed him into a low brick building. She observed the cobwebs on the ceiling and the fine sheet of dust on the railings as they climbed the stairs and reached a door. She anticipated a room with fungi growing on the walls and roaches peeking out from under the furniture, but was surprised to see a snug, clean room with posters of movies pasted on pastel coloured walls, worn but functional furniture, and comic books lying in piles. She hung her coat on a hanger and settled on a threadbare couch.
“That’s the room you can stay in.” George pointed at a closed door. “It’s probably messy, but it’s liveable.”
Clary nodded, then pulled her cap off, shaking away the locks of hair that fell into her eyes with a jerk of her head. George perched on the sofa beside her. Clary raised her eyebrows when she saw the hesitation in his demeanour.
“What’s the matter?”
“I wanted to ask you… if… you’re from the Clave?”
In a heartbeat, Clary was across the room, her back to the wall, eyes flashing dangerously. “Are you a Shadowhunter?”
“No! No, Jesus, it’s not that. I didn’t mean to alarm you.” George began to stand, but thinking better of it, he slumped back into his seat. “I was an Ascendant. My parents are from a long line of Shadowhunters who gave up on being Shadowhunters. When I was fifteen, the Clave came and asked me if I wanted to work for them. I wanted to, but my parents weren’t too happy with that. I went with them anyway.”
There was a look of utter regret in his eyes that melted her hostility away. She took a step forward, an action which George seemed to take as encouragement.
“But then the Clave found out that I was actually adopted, that I didn’t carry any of the Angel’s blood. They were angry at me, too. They had to prepare me for Ascension, in case they do find out where the Cup is. They also told me that if I became a Shadowhunter, I would never be able to meet my parents again. I chickened out, escaped to New York, luckily met a mate who helped me out, and here I am. What can I tell you? The Lovelaces are quitters, blood-related or not.”
Clary slowly padded back to her seat. “Better than dying from Ascension,” she said.
“I could have done worse, I guess,” he agreed lightly. “When I picked up your stele… I thought maybe you were like me. A runaway Ascendant.”
“That’s why you helped me.”
“Yes. Though I was astonished when I realized you were a girl, mind you,” he said with a sad sigh. “I was certain that you would mistake me for a pervert and call the police.”
Clary regarded the boy thoughtfully, then made up her mind. “I’m not an Ascendant. I’m a Shadowhunter.” She took a deep breath and recounted the series of events. She kept her voice calm and composed, but her throat tightened traitorously. George was a surprisingly good listener; he was silent throughout her speech, nodding now and then.
“So, you’re the daughter of the arch-enemy of the Clave, trying to determine whose side you’re on?” There was a strange twinkle in his eyes that Clary found startling.
“Yeah, that pretty much sums it up,” she said carefully.
“That’s amazing!” A beam crossed his face, brightening his features. “Honestly, there should be a movie about you. Wow, Si is going to love this story.”
“I’m sorry…?” Abruptly, fatigue rolled over her, causing her words to slur. She must have been nervous about George’s reaction to her identity. Now that her tension was released, all the strain she had gone under struck her at once.
“God, you must be tired. Let’s get you to sleep.” He offered her a gentle hand and led her to his former roommate’s room. It was littered with band flyers and Marvel comic books. George shoved them away with his foot and opened the wardrobe. He took out a bedsheet and flung it onto the bare mattress. Clary straightened it before George threw her a blanket and a matching pillow.
“Thanks,” she said before wriggling into the blanket. She buried her face in the pillow, breathing in the smell of cotton-scented products. She heard a soft click as George turned the lights off and tiptoed out of the room. “George?” Her voice was quiet and muffled, but George halted.
“You don’t think I’m a monster?”
Though she was half-asleep, she could still hear the whispers of his muted laughter. “You’re the furthest thing from it, Clary.”
Chapter 6: The Weight of the Stars
Jace rolled the ring in his fingers, gnawing his lower lip. He read the note multiple times, wishing the words would rearrange to hold a different message, but he had no such luck. Luke entered the room, his hair dishevelled and a bewildered look in his eyes.
“I’ve searched the entire place and there’s no sign of her,” he said, heaving a sigh. Then he noticed the scrap of paper in Jace’s hand and his eyebrows quirked up. “Did you find something?”
“Yeah, she left a note.” He handed it to Luke, who took the pair of glasses that were hanging on his shirt and slid it on.
After everything that has happened, I’m not sure what to do. I’m not sure who to trust, and what to believe. I’ve never felt so insecure in my life, but I know one thing: You’re not safe near me. The Clave may not be able to track us, but my father can track me. I’m not sure what he’ll do to you, but I can tell it won’t be pretty. For both of our sakes, let’s pretend once more that we don’t exist to each other, at least until I decide who I want to be.
I can’t tell you where I’ll be, partially because I don’t know, but I can tell you this. You must relay this information to Luke and whoever needs it, but never inform the Clave. There are spies there, and my father will think that I have betrayed him. And I don’t even know whose side I’m on.
Protect the children of the Downworld—werewolves, vampires, faeries, warlocks, all of them—at all cost. The world as you know depends on it. Spread word to all of Downworld, but make it sound like it was your idea, or Luke’s. Tell them that you suspect Valentine’s attempting the Ritual of Infernal Conversion.
I’m leaving you my ring because I don’t want it to cloud my judgement, but I can’t bear the thought of losing it, either. Keep it safe for me.
“She’s always running away,” Jace mumbled, still absentmindedly fiddling with the ring. He racked his brains for a place in New York where Clary might find shelter in, but the more he thought, the more he realized that he really knew nothing about her. “She’s like a ghost. Sometimes I wonder if she’s my imaginary friend, like Bing Bong.”
“I was worried it would be too much for her,” Luke admitted. “though this wasn’t what I was expecting.”
“Do you think she’ll be safe?” Jace looked up at the werewolf, suddenly focused.
“I’ll order the pack to keep an eye out. Sebastian will tell us if the Clave catches a whiff of her.” Luke handed the note back to Jace, who folded it neatly into quarters. He slipped the ring onto his finger and clenched his hands into fists.
“Go where?” Luke stared at him with puzzled eyes.
“To the High Warlock of Brooklyn,” he replied as though it was the most obvious answer in the world. He moved for the door, but Luke blocked him.
“Oh no, you don’t,” he said sternly. “You’re a wanted criminal.”
“To hell with it,” he snapped. “I can’t sit back and do nothing while Clary’s out there doing who-knows-what in Raziel-knows-where.”
“I wasn’t telling you to,” Luke replied. He pointed at the clothes hanging on the drying rack. “You need to hide your scent, or else you’ll be announcing to the entire Downworld where you are. In addition, Sebastian texted me that the Clave visited your empty cell. They weren’t happy.” Jace didn’t answer, but he did pull some clothes off the rack. “I’ll meet you at my truck when you’re ready,” Luke called behind his back as he left the room.
Jace swiftly changed into the werewolf’s clothes. They were a little short on him, but not by too much. Pulling the hood of Luke’s jacket over his face to conceal his features, he headed for the red truck idling by the sidewalk. Luke watched him as he hopped into the vehicle, and only began to drive when Jace fastened his seatbelt.
“You seem to be well-aware of where the High Warlock of Brooklyn lives,” Jace observed.
“I’ve visited him from time to time.”
“Not for illegal purposes, I hope?” inquired Jace with a delicate smile.
“I’m sheltering an outlaw of the Clave. Are you proposing that I follow the Law?” he replied amicably.
“When you put it that way…” Jace shrugged and leaned back in his seat and gazed out the window. After what felt like hours of boredom, Jace opened his mouth again to ask, “Is it that bad? The purpose of your visits, I mean.”
Luke barked a short laugh. “Not really. Jocelyn wanted Sebastian to live a mundane life, so we took him to Magnus to block his Sight. The spell wore off every few years, so we had to visit him frequently.”
Jace paused, thinking of the silver-haired boy he had glimpsed. He didn’t resemble Clary in the slightest. “That’s quite a feat,” he commented instead. “Only a handful of people could hide from the Clave like that for years.”
“You mean Valentine?” Luke rubbed his chin as he stopped at a red light. Startled by the mention of his adoptive father’s name, Jace looked up, but Luke didn’t seem to notice. “Let’s hope Clary inherited her parents’ talents, then.”
The green light flickered on, and the truck shot forward. Jace fell silent as he wondered where Clary was. He could track her with the Morgenstern ring, but she had sounded so adamant in the letter about keeping her location secret even from him.
Jace looked out the window when the truck pulled to a stop. Through the glamour designed to keep mundanes out, he could see a fairly ordinary apartment, not something he would expect from such an infamous warlock. He watched sceptically while Luke rang the doorbell. It was answered only by a long silence, and a muscle on Luke’s temple twitched infinitesimally with annoyance. Jace was about to suggest setting fire to the building when an ear-splitting voice boomed from the speaker.
“It’s me, Magnus,” Luke interrupted in a wary voice. “and a friend.”
“Oh,” came a disappointed voice. “Well, come on in, then.”
The door swung open, revealing a medieval castle-themed room decorated with ancient tapestries and sets of silver armour lined up against the wall. Lying on a dark-red velvet sofa was a man with a ridiculous amount of glitter in his hair, wearing a denim jacket on a close-fitting dress shirt sequined with red beads in the shape of a rose, and dark grey slacks. His green-gold eyes glinted in the lights of the chandelier above him, and at a closer look Jace realized that his pupils were dark slits like a cat’s. He raised an eyebrow as they approached.
“Interesting,” he mused. “Lucian Greymark and Valentine’s other brat. Who would have guessed?”
“You used too much glitter on your hair,” Jace noted.
“There’s no such thing as too much glitter,” the warlock replied airily. “So, what brings you here? Planning to turn over the Clave’s little outlaw? I’ll help if you hand me half the bounty.”
“There’s a bounty on my head?” Jace asked, pleased.
“What did you do to annoy the Clave so much?” Magnus sat up, grinning like a Cheshire cat. “I can think of an island or two I can buy with that money.”
“We’re here because we know Valentine’s next plan,” Luke said, taking a protective step forward. “and Jace suggested that you should be the first one to know about it.”
“Me, and not the Clave?”
“The Clave won’t listen. It concerns only Downworlders.” There was a hint of authority seeping into Luke’s voice. Despite his mundane looks, he really was a pack leader. “We need to protect the children of Downworld. Valentine will attempt the Ritual of Infernal Conversion.”
Magnus frowned thoughtfully. “Yes, that does make sense. What else would he do with the Mortal Sword?” Then he leered at the two with suspicious eyes. “Whose idea was this?”
“Mine,” Jace answered smoothly. “My father—I mean, Valentine taught me about the ritual before he sent me to the Lightwoods.”
“Hmm, then what can you tell me of the Ritual?” Jace momentarily froze at the question. Before he could craft up a convincing reply, Magnus had already noticed his hesitation. The warlock’s lips twitched gleefully. “I knew it. Valentine’s daughter gave you the information, didn’t she?”
His instincts told him that there was no point in lying. Jace slowly nodded, maintaining eye contact with the warlock.
“Does that mean the girl is on our side now?” Magnus asked with genuine curiosity.
“We don’t know either,” Luke replied, shooting a warning glance at Jace. “She was living a lie. All the ugly truths that were abruptly thrust into her face must be confusing.”
Magnus padded across the room to a bookshelf packed with books with titles in ancient languages. He pulled one out and swiftly flipped through the pages. He stopped at a dog-eared page and set the book on a circular oak table.
“She seems to be a decent enough person if the truth matters to her. I’ll do her a favour.” He conjured up a mug of coffee and took a long sip before continuing. “I’ll tell every Downworlder who bothers to listen to me about your theory and make it sound like it was my idea.”
“How is it a favour if you take all the credit?”
“Because, boy, my time is expensive and I’m not charging you for wasting it.” He looked up from his mug and sighed. “Since I’ve already wasted a considerable amount of time, I’ll waste some more. Let me tell you about the Infernal Conversion. I take it that you’re aware of the sacrifice it requires?” Luke nodded, a grim scowl on his face. “Like Lucifer was cast down from the heavens to reign in Hell, the Mortal Sword’s alliance can be changed from seraphic to demonic. Seethe it until it’s red-hot, then cool it in the blood of four Downworlder children’s blood.”
“What happens then?”
“Even I can’t know for sure,” Magnus replied with a frown. “but it won’t be good. Be grateful that Valentine’s daughter decided to share this information. If Valentine gets his way, his victory will be unstoppable.”
Jace found himself rolling Clary’s ring in his fingers as he listened to Magnus’s words. The graceful M and the pattern of stars weighed down on him like a dumbbell. He could only imagine what a weight it would be to Clary.
“Yeah,” he muttered. “I can’t thank her more.”
“Wow,” came a voice from behind Clary as she lowered the fried eggs onto a plate. George stared with awestruck eyes at the sandwiches, bacons, sausages, and pancakes. “This is beautiful. I think I’m going to cry.”
“It’s just breakfast, George,” she said as she set the plate on the table and took a seat. “Keep your tears in.”
“It’s just—I’ve been growing sick of having Pop-Tarts every single morning,” he said, dabbing at his eyes with his sleeve. He took a big bite of the sandwich and sighed. “I’m in heaven.”
“Someone’s got a high opinion of heaven,” she observed.
“Yeah,” he agreed with a dreamy smile. He took another bite into the sandwich and munched happily. “I have a question.” Clary, chewing her sausage, gestured for him to continue. “You said you left your friend because your father might find him. But I don’t see why that would be a problem. Your father did raise him for ten years. There’s no reason for your father to hurt him.”
Clary didn’t answer. Instead, she stared at her sausage, refusing to admit the true cause to her escape. George seemed to notice and began to say something before he abruptly clamped a hand over his mouth, his eyes widening.
“It’s not him you’re worried about. It’s the werewolf.”
Clary nodded, feeling humiliated. She hated Downworlders as she had been trained to by her father, but as soon as the Downworlder had a face, she couldn’t make herself hate them. It was a weakness—the inability to blindly hate her enemies. She dropped her fork, her appetite lost.
George, unexpectedly, laughed. “And you asked me if I thought you were a monster.” He shook his head in disbelief. “You were raised by a racist your entire life, trained to murder for racist reasons, but in the end, despite all that bullshit you went through, you’re not a racist. You really are the furthest thing from a monster, Clary.”
“But I still don’t hate my father,” she mumbled. “I’m starting to see how wrong he is, but he’s still the only family I have.”
“What’s wrong with loving your own father? Some things don’t work with logic.” His lips curved into an awkward, lopsided smile. It felt oddly comforting, and Clary felt herself relax. “What are you planning to do now?”
“I don’t have a plan,” she replied, chewing her lower lip out of habit.
“You’re hiding from the Clave, and you’re not sure about siding with your father just yet, right?” George stuffed his mouth with the rest of the sandwich and downed it with a long chug of water. “If Si were here, he’d tell you to fake your own death.”
“Fake my own death?” Clary repeated slowly.
“To throw them off your trail. Let them think you’re dead, so you can sneak behind their backs more easily. Besides, your father did ask you to make a diversion.”
Clary sucked in a breath. “That’s actually a decent plan. There’s more to you than meets the eye, Lovelace.” She set down her cup and flexed her fingers with anticipation.
“Um, thanks? I guess?” He frowned. “It is a compliment, isn’t it?”
“Sure it is,” she said with a grin. “Eat up. We’ve got planning to do.”