Clary’s eyes burned. “Don’t say that.”
“I see.” He turned to Alaric. “Thank you for taking care of her. While we go on—”
“I’m going with you,” said Alaric. He had made most of the transformation to man-form, but his eyes were still wolf’s eyes, and his lips were drawn back from teeth as long as toothpicks. He flexed his long-nailed hands.
Luke’s eyes were troubled. “Alaric, no.”
Alaric’s growling voice was flat. “You are the pack leader. I am your second now that Gretel is dead. It would not be right to let you go alone.”
“I—” Luke looked at Clary, and then back out at the field in front of the hospital. “I need you out here, Alaric. I’m sorry. That’s an order.”
Alaric’s eyes flashed resentfully, but he stepped aside. The hospital door was ornate heavy carved wood, patterns familiar to Clary, the roses of Idris, curling runes, rayed suns. It gave with the popping noise of a burst latch when Luke kicked at it. He pushed Clary forward as the door swung wide. “Get inside.”
She stumbled past him, turned on the threshold. She caught a single brief glimpse of Alaric looking after them, his wolf eyes gleaming. Behind him the lawn in front of the hospital was strewn with bodies, the dirt stained with blood, black and red. When the door slammed shut behind her, cutting off her view, she was grateful.
She and Luke stood in half-lit dimness, in a stone entryway lit by a single torch. After the din of battle the silence was like a smothering cloak. Clary found herself gasping in breaths of air, air that wasn’t thick with humidity and the smell of blood.
Luke gripped her shoulder with his hand. “Are you all right?”
She wiped at her cheeks. “You shouldn’t have said that. About Gretel being just a Downworlder. I don’t think that.”
“I’m glad to hear it.” He reached for the torch in its metal holder. “I hated the idea of the Lightwoods turning you into a copy of them.”
“Well, they haven’t.”
The torch would not come away in Luke’s hand; he frowned. Digging into her pocket, Clary removed the smooth rune-stone Jace had given her for her birthday, and raised it high. Light burst between her fingers, as if she’d cracked a seed of darkness, letting out the illumination trapped inside. Luke let go of the torch.
“Witchlight?” he said.
“Jace gave it to me.” She could feel it pulse in her hand, like the heartbeat of a tiny bird. She wondered where Jace was in this gray stone pile of rooms, if he was frightened, if he had wondered whether he’d see her again.
“It’s been years since I fought by witchlight,” Luke said, and started up the stairs. They creaked loudly under his boots. “Follow me.”
The flaring glow of the witchlight cast their shadows, weirdly elongated, against the smooth granite walls. They paused at a stone landing that curved around in an arc. Above them she could see light. “Is this what the hospital used to look like, hundreds of years ago?” Clary whispered.
“Oh, the bones of what Renwick built are still here,” said Luke. “But I would imagine Valentine, Blackwell, and the others had the place renovated to be a bit more to their taste. Look here.” He scraped a boot along the floor. Clary glanced down and saw a rune carved into the granite beneath their feet: a circle, in the center of which was a Latin motto: In Hoc Signo Vinces.
“What does that mean?” she asked.
“It means ‘By this sign we will conquer.’ It was the motto of the Circle.”
She glanced up, toward the light. “So they’re here.”
“They’re here,” said Luke, and there was anticipation in the narrow edge of his tone. “Come.”
They went up the winding staircase, circling under the light until it was all around them and they were standing at the entrance to a long and narrow corridor. Torches blazed along the passage. Clary closed her hand over the witchlight, and it blinked out like a doused star.
There were doors set at intervals along the corridor, all of them closed tight. She wondered if they had been wards when this had once been a hospital, or perhaps private rooms. As they moved down the corridor, Clary saw the marks of boot-prints, muddy from the grass outside, crisscrossing the passage. Someone had walked here recently.
The first door they tried swung open easily, but the room beyond was empty: only polished wood floor and stone walls, lit to eeriness by the moonlight spilling through the window. The dim roar of the battle outside filled the room, as rhythmic as the sound of the ocean. The second room was full of weapons: swords, maces, and axes. Moonlight ran like silver water over row upon row of cold unsheathed steel. Luke whistled under his breath. “Quite a collection.”
“You think Valentine uses all these?”
“Unlikely. I suspect they’re for his army.” Luke turned away.
The third room was a bedroom. The hangings around the four-poster bed were blue, the Persian carpet patterned in blue, black, and gray, and the furniture was painted white, like the furnishings in a child’s room. A thin and ghostly layer of dust covered it all, glinting faintly in the moonlight.
In the bed lay Jocelyn, asleep.
She was on her back, one hand thrown carelessly across her chest, her hair spread across the pillow. She wore a sort of white nightdress Clary had never seen, and she was breathing regularly and quietly. In the piercing moonlight Clary could see the flutter of her mother’s eyelids as she dreamed.
With a little scream Clary hurled herself forward—but Luke’s outflung arm caught her across the chest like a bar of iron, holding her back. “Wait,” he said, his own voice tense with effort. “We have to be careful.”
Clary glared at him, but he was looking past her, his expression angry and pained. She followed the line of his gaze and saw what she had not wanted to see before. Silver manacles closed around Jocelyn’s wrists and feet, the ends of their chains sunk deep into the stone floor on either side of the bed. The table beside the bed was covered in a weird array of tubes and bottles, glass jars and long, wickedly tipped instruments glinting with surgical steel. A rubberized tube ran from one of the glass jars to a vein in Jocelyn’s left arm.
Clary jerked herself away from Luke’s restraining hand and lunged toward the bed, wrapping her arms around her mother’s unresponsive body. But it was like trying to hug a badly jointed doll. Jocelyn remained motionless and stiff, her slow breathing unaltered.
A week ago Clary would have cried as she had that first terrible night she had discovered her mother missing, cried and called out. But no tears came now, as she let her mother go and straightened up. There was no terror in her now, and no self-pity: only a bitter rage and a need to find the man who’d done this, the one responsible for all of it.
“Valentine,” she said.
“Of course.” Luke was beside her, touching her mother’s face lightly, raising her eyelids. The eyes beneath were as blank as marbles. “She’s not drugged,” he said. “Some kind of spell, I expect.”
Clary let her breath out in a tight half sob. “How do we get her out of here?”
“I can’t touch the manacles,” said Luke. “Silver. Do you have—”
“The weapons room,” Clary said, standing up. “I saw an ax there. Several. We could cut the chains—”
“Those chains are unbreakable.” The voice that spoke from the door was low, gritty, and familiar. Clary spun and saw Blackwell. He was grinning now, wearing the same clotted-blood-colored robes as before, the hood pushed back, muddy boots visible under the hem. “Graymark,” he said. “What a nice surprise.”
Luke stood up. “If you’re surprised, you’re an idiot,” he said. “I didn’t exactly arrive quietly.”
Blackwell’s cheeks flushed a darker purple, but he didn’t move toward Luke. “Clan leader again, are you?” he said, and gave an unpleasant laugh. “Can’t break yourself of the habit of getting Downworlders to do your dirty work? Valentine’s troops are busy strewing pieces of them all over the lawn, and you’re up here safe with your girlfriends.” He sneered in Clary’s direction. “That one looks a little young for you, Lucian.”
Clary flushed angrily, her hands balling into fists, but Luke’s voice, when he replied, was polite. “I wouldn’t exactly call those troops, Blackwell,” he said. “They’re Forsaken. Tormented once-human beings. If I recall properly, the Clave looks pretty darkly on all that—torturing people, performing black magic. I can’t imagine they’ll be too pleased.”
“Damn the Clave,” growled Blackwell. “We don’t need them and their half-breed-tolerating ways. Besides, the Forsaken won’t be Forsaken much longer. Once Valentine uses the Cup on them, they’ll be Shadowhunters as good as the rest of us—better than what the Clave is passing off as warriors these days. Downworlder-loving milksops.” He bared his blunt teeth.
“If that is his plan for the Cup,” said Luke, “why hasn’t he done it already? What’s he waiting for?”
Blackwell’s eyebrows went up. “Didn’t you know? He’s got his—”
A silky laugh interrupted him. Pangborn had appeared at his elbow, all in black with a leather strap across his shoulder. “Enough, Blackwell,” he said. “You talk too much, as usual.” He flashed his pointed teeth at Luke. “Interesting move, Graymark. I didn’t think you’d have the stomach for leading your newest clan on a suicide mission.”
A muscle twitched in Luke’s cheek. “Jocelyn,” he said. “What has he done to her?”
Pangborn chuckled musically. “I thought you didn’t care.”
“I don’t see what he wants with her now,” Luke went on, ignoring the jibe. “He’s got the Cup. She can’t be of further use. Valentine was never one for pointless murder. Murder with a point. Now, that might be a different story.”
Pangborn shrugged indifferently. “It makes no difference to us what he does with her,” he said. “She was his wife. Perhaps he hates her. That’s a point.”
“Let her go,” said Luke, “and we’ll leave with her, call the clan off. I’ll owe you one.”
“No!” Clary’s furious outburst made Pangborn and Blackwell swing their stares to her. Both looked faintly incredulous, as if she were a talking cockroach. She turned to Luke. “There’s still Jace. He’s here somewhere.”
Blackwell was chuckling. “Jace? Never heard of a Jace,” he said. “Now, I could ask Pangborn to let her out. But I’d rather not. She was always a bitch to me, Jocelyn was. Thought she was better than the rest of us, with her looks and her lineage. Just a pedigreed bitch, that’s all. She only married him so she could turn it around on us all—”
“Disappointed you didn’t get to marry him yourself, Blackwell?” was all Luke said in reply, though Clary could hear the cold rage in his voice.
Blackwell, his face purpling, took an angry step forward into the room.
And Luke, moving so swiftly that Clary almost did not see him do it, seized a scalpel from the bedside table and flung it. It flipped twice in the air and sank point-first into Blackwell’s throat, cutting off his growling retort. He gagged, eyes rolling up to the whites, and fell to his knees, hands at his throat. Scarlet liquid pulsed between his spread fingers. He opened his mouth as if to speak, but only a thin line of blood dribbled out. His hands slipped from his throat, and he crashed to the ground like a tree falling.
“Oh, dear,” said Pangborn, gazing at the fallen body of his comrade with fastidious distaste. “How unpleasant.”
Blood from Blackwell’s cut throat was spreading across the floor in a viscous red pool. Luke, taking Clary’s shoulder, whispered something in her ear. It meant nothing. Clary was aware only of a numb buzzing in her head. She remembered another poem from English class, something about how after the first death you saw, no other deaths mattered. That poet hadn’t known what he was talking about.
Luke let her go. “The keys, Pangborn,” he said.
Pangborn nudged Blackwell with a foot, and glanced up. He looked irritable. “Or what? You’ll throw a syringe at me? There was only one blade on that table. No,” he added, reaching behind him and drawing from his shoulder a long and wicked-looking sword, “I’m afraid that if you want the keys, you’ll have to come and get them. Not because I care about Jocelyn Morgenstern one way or the other, you understand, but only because I, for one, have been looking forward to killing you … for years.”
He drew the last word out, savoring it with a delicious exultation as he moved forward into the room. His blade flashed, a spear of lightning in the moonlight. Clary saw Luke thrust a hand out toward her—a strangely elongated hand, tipped with nails like tiny daggers—and she realized two things: that he was about to Change, and that what he had whispered in her ear was a single word.
She ran. She zigzagged around Pangborn, who barely glanced at her, skirted Blackwell’s body, and was out the door and in the corridor, heart pounding, before Luke’s transformation was complete. She didn’t glance back, but she heard a howl, long and piercing, the sound of metal on metal, and a shattering fall. Breaking glass, she thought. Perhaps they had knocked over the bedside table.
She dashed down the hall to the weapons room. Inside, she reached for a weathered steel-hafted ax. It stuck firmly to the wall, no matter how hard she yanked at it. She tried a sword, and then a featherstaff—even a small dagger—but not a single blade would come free in her hand. At last, nails torn and fingers bloodied with effort, she had to give up. There was magic in this room, and not runic magic either: something wild and strange, something dark.
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com