“Jace,” she said. “Give me your stele.”
He pressed it, warm and alive-feeling, into her palm. She turned the card over and traced over the runes painted on its back—a twist here and a line there and they meant something entirely different. When she turned the card back over, the picture had subtly changed: The fingers had released their grip on the Cup’s stem, and the hand seemed almost to be offering the Cup to her as if to say, Here, take it.
She slid the stele into her pocket. Then, though the painted square was no bigger than her hand, she reached into it as if through a wide gap. Her hand wrapped around the base of the Cup—her fingers closed on it—and as she drew her hand back, the Cup gripped firmly in it, she thought she heard the smallest of sighs before the card, now blank and empty, turned to ash that sifted away between her fingers to the carpeted floor.
CLARY WASN’T SURE WHAT SHE’D EXPECTED—EXCLAMATIONS of delight, perhaps a smattering of applause. Instead there was silence, broken only when Jace said, “Somehow, I thought it would be bigger.”
Clary looked at the Cup in her hand. It was the size, perhaps, of an ordinary wineglass, only much heavier. Power thrummed through it, like blood through living veins. “It’s a perfectly nice size,” she said indignantly.
“Oh, it’s big enough,” he said patronizingly, “but somehow I was expecting something … you know.” He gestured with his hands, indicating something roughly the size of a house cat.
“It’s the Mortal Cup, Jace, not the Mortal Toilet Bowl,” said Isabelle. “Are we done now? Can we go?”
Dorothea had her head cocked to one side, her beady eyes bright and interested. “But it’s damaged!” she exclaimed. “How did that happen?”
“Damaged?” Clary looked at the Cup in bewilderment. It looked fine to her.
“Here,” said the witch, “let me show you,” and she took a step toward Clary, holding her long red-nailed hands out for the Cup. Clary, without knowing why, shrank back. Suddenly Jace was between them, his hand hovering near the sword at his waist.
“No offense,” he said calmly, “but nobody touches the Mortal Cup except us.”
Dorothea looked at him for a moment, and that same strange blankness returned to her eyes. “Now,” she said, “let’s not be hasty. Valentine would be displeased if anything were to happen to the Cup.”
With a soft snick, the sword at Jace’s waist came free. The point hovered just below Dorothea’s chin. Jace’s look was steady. “I don’t know what this is about,” he said. “But we’re leaving.”
The old woman’s eyes gleamed. “Of course, Shadowhunter,” she said, backing up to the curtained wall. “Would you like to use the Portal?”
The point of Jace’s sword wavered as he stared in momentary confusion. Then Clary saw his jaw tighten. “Don’t touch that—”
Dorothea chuckled, and quick as a flash she jerked down the curtains hanging along the wall. They fell with a sound of soft collapse. The Portal behind them was open.
Clary heard Alec, behind her, suck in his breath. “What is that?” Clary had caught only a glimpse of what was visible through the door—red roiling clouds shot through with black lightning, and a terrible dark, rushing shape that hurtled toward them—when Jace shouted for them to get down. He dropped to the floor, yanking Clary down with him. Flat on her stomach on the carpet, she lifted her head in time to see the rushing dark thing strike Madame Dorothea, who screamed, thrusting her arms upward. Rather than knocking her down, the dark thing wrapped her like a shroud, its blackness seeming to seep into her like ink sinking into paper. Her back humped monstrously, her whole shape elongating as she rose and rose into the air, her bulk stretching and re-forming. A sharp rattle of objects striking the floor made Clary look down: They were Dorothea’s bracelets, twisted and broken. Scattered among the jewels were what looked like small white stones. It took Clary a moment to realize that they were teeth.
Beside her Jace whispered something. It sounded like an exclamation of disbelief. Next to him, Alec in a choked voice said, “But you said there wasn’t much demonic activity—you said the levels were low!”
“They were low,” Jace growled.
“Your version of low must be different from mine!” Alec shouted, as the thing that had once been Dorothea howled and twisted. It seemed to be spreading, humped and knobbled and grotesquely misshapen—
Clary tore her eyes away as Jace stood, pulling her after him. Isabelle and Alec stumbled to their feet, gripping their weapons. The hand holding Isabelle’s whip was trembling slightly.
“Move!” Jace shoved Clary toward the apartment door. When she tried to look back over her shoulder, she saw only a thickly swirling grayness, like storm clouds, a dark shape at its center …
The four of them burst out into the foyer, Isabelle in the lead. She raced toward the front door, tried it, and turned with a stricken face. “It’s resistant. Must be a spell—”
Jace swore and fumbled in his jacket. “Where the hell is my stele?”
“I have it,” Clary said, remembering. As she reached for her pocket, a noise like thunder exploded through the room. The floor heaved under her feet. She stumbled and nearly fell, catching at the banister for support. When she looked up, she saw a gaping new hole in the wall separating the foyer from Dorothea’s apartment, lined all around its ragged edges with wood and plaster rubble, through which something was climbing—almost oozing—
“Alec!” It was Jace, shouting: Alec was standing in front of the hole, white-faced and horrified-looking. Swearing, Jace ran up and grabbed him, dragging him back just as the oozing thing pulled itself free of the wall and into the foyer.
Clary heard her breath catch. The creature’s flesh was livid and bruised-looking. Through the seeping skin, bones protruded—not new white bones, but bones that looked as if they had been in the earth a thousand years, black and cracked and filthy. Its fingers were stripped and skeletal, its thin-fleshed arms pocked with dripping black sores through which more yellowing bone was visible. Its face was a skull, its nose and eyes caved-in holes. Its taloned fingers brushed the floor. Tangled around its wrists and shoulders were bright swatches of cloth: all that remained of Madame Dorothea’s silk scarves and turban. It was at least nine feet tall.
It looked down at the four teenagers with empty eye sockets. “Give me,” it said, in a voice like the wind blowing trash across empty pavement, “the Mortal Cup. Give it to me, and I will let you live.”
Panicked, Clary stared at the others. Isabelle looked as if the sight of the thing had hit her like a punch to the stomach. Alec was motionless. It was Jace, as always, who spoke. “What are you?” he asked, voice steady, though he looked more rattled than Clary had ever seen him.
The thing inclined its head. “I am Abbadon. I am the Demon of the Abyss. Mine are the empty places between the worlds. Mine is the wind and the howling darkness. I am as unlike those mewling things you call demons as an eagle is unlike a fly. You cannot hope to defeat me. Give me the Cup or die.”
Isabelle’s whip trembled. “It’s a Greater Demon,” she said. “Jace, if we—”
“What about Dorothea?” Clary’s voice came shrilly out of her mouth before she could stop it. “What happened to her?”
The demon’s empty eyes swung to regard her. “She was a vessel only,” it said. “She opened the Portal and I took possession of her. Her death was swift.” Its gaze moved to the Cup in her hand. “Yours will not be.”
It began to move toward her. Jace blocked its way, the glittering sword in one hand, a seraph blade appearing in the other. Alec was watching him, his expression sick with horror.
“By the Angel,” Jace said, looking the demon up and down. “I knew Greater Demons were meant to be ugly, but no one ever warned me about the smell.”
Abbadon opened its mouth and hissed. Inside its mouth were two rows of jagged glass-sharp teeth.
“I’m not so sure about this wind and howling darkness business,” Jace went on, “smells more like landfill to me. You sure you’re not from Staten Island?”
The demon leaped at him. Jace whipped his blades up and outward with an almost frightening speed; both sank into the fleshiest part of the demon, its abdomen. It howled and struck at him, knocking him aside the way a cat might bat aside a kitten. Jace rolled and got to his feet, but Clary could see from the way he was holding his arm that he’d been hurt.
That was enough for Isabelle. Darting forward, she lashed out at the demon with her whip. It struck the demon’s gray hide, and a red weal appeared, welling blood. Abbadon ignored her, moving toward Jace.
With his uninjured hand Jace drew out a second seraph blade. He whispered to it and it sprang free, bright and gleaming. He raised it as the demon loomed up before him; he looked impossibly small in front of it, a child dwarfed by a monster. And he was grinning, even as the demon reached for him. Isabelle, screaming, lashed at it, sending blood in a thick spray across the floor—
The demon struck, its razored hand lashing down at Jace. Jace staggered back, but he was unharmed. Something had thrown itself between him and the demon, a slim black shadow with a gleaming blade in its hand. Alec. The demon shrieked—Alec’s featherstaff had pierced its skin. With a snarl it struck again, bone-talons catching Alec a vicious blow that lifted him off his feet and hurled him against the far wall. He struck with a sickening crunch and slid to the floor.
Isabelle screamed her brother’s name. He didn’t move. Lowering the whip, she started to run to him. The demon, turning, caught her a backhanded blow that sent her spinning to the ground. Coughing blood, Isabelle started to get to her feet; Abbadon knocked her down again, and this time she lay still.
The demon moved toward Clary.
Jace stood frozen, staring at Alec’s crumpled body like someone caught in a dream. Clary screamed as Abbadon neared her. She began to back up the stairs, stumbling on the broken steps. The stele burned against her skin. If only she had a weapon, anything—
Isabelle had clawed her way into a sitting position. Pushing her bloody hair back, she screamed at Jace. Clary heard her own name in Isabelle’s screams and saw Jace, blinking as if slapped awake, spin toward her. He began to run. The demon was close enough now that Clary could see the black sores on its skin, could see that there were things crawling inside them. It reached for her—
But Jace was there, knocking Abbadon’s hand aside. He flung the seraph blade at the demon; it stuck in the creature’s chest, next to the two blades already there. The demon snarled as if the blades were no more than an annoyance.
“Shadowhunter,” it snarled. “I shall take pleasure in killing you, in hearing your bones crunch as your friend’s did—”
Springing onto the banister, Jace flung himself at Abbadon. The force of the jump knocked the demon backward; it staggered, Jace clinging to its back. He seized a seraph blade out of its chest, sending up a spray of ichor, and brought the blade down, again and again, into the demon’s back, its shoulders running with black fluid.
Snarling, Abbadon backed toward the wall. Jace had to drop or be crushed. He fell to the ground, landed lightly, and raised the blade again. But Abbadon was too swift for him; its hand lashed out, knocking Jace into the stairs. Jace went down, a circle of talons at his throat.
“Tell them to give me the Cup,” Abbadon snarled, talons hovering just above Jace’s skin. “Tell them to give it to me and I will let them live.”
Jace swallowed. “Clary—”
But Clary would never know what he would have said, because at that moment the front door flew open. For a moment all she saw was brightness. Then, blinking away the fiery afterimage, she saw Simon standing in the open doorway. Simon. She had forgotten he was outside, had almost forgotten he existed.
He saw her, crouched on the stairs, and his gaze moved past her and over Abbadon and Jace. He reached back over his shoulder. He was holding Alec’s bow, she realized, and the quiver was strapped across his back. He drew an arrow from it, fitted it to the string, and lifted the bow expertly, as if he’d done the same thing a hundred times before.
The arrow sprang free. It made a hot buzzing sound, like a huge bumblebee, as it shot over Abbadon’s head, plunged toward the roof—
And shattered the skylight. Dirty black glass fell like rain, and through the broken pane streamed sunlight, quantities of sunlight, great golden bars of it stabbing downward and flooding the foyer with light.
Abbadon screamed and staggered back, shielding its misshapen head with its hands. Jace put a hand to his unharmed throat, staring in disbelief as the demon crumpled, howling, to the floor. Clary half-expected it to burst into flames, but instead it began to fold in on itself. Its legs collapsed toward its torso, its skull crumpling like burning paper, and within the span of a minute it had vanished entirely, leaving only scorch marks behind.
* * *
Simon lowered the bow. He was blinking behind his glasses, his mouth slightly open. He looked as astonished as Clary felt.
Jace lay on the stairs where the demon had thrown him. He was struggling to sit up as Clary slid down the steps and fell to her knees beside him. “Jace—”
“I’m all right.” He sat up, wiping blood from his mouth. He coughed and spit red. “Alec—”
“Your stele,” she interrupted, reaching for her pocket. “Do you need it to fix yourself?”
He looked at her. The sunlight pouring through the shattered skylight lit his face. He looked as if he were holding himself back from something with a terrible effort. “I’m all right,” he said again, and pushed her aside, none too gently. He got to his feet, staggered, and nearly fell—the first ungraceful thing she’d ever seen him do. “Alec?”