Page 8


She must have made some noise, because he twisted around on the stool, blinking into the shadows. “Alec?” he said. “Is that you?”

“It’s not Alec. It’s me.” She stepped farther into the room. “Clary.”

Piano keys jangled as he got to his feet. “Our own Sleeping Beauty. Who finally kissed you awake?”

“Nobody. I woke up on my own.”

“Was there anyone with you?”

“Isabelle, but she went off to get someone—Hodge, I think. She told me to wait, but—”

“I should have warned her about your habit of never doing what you’re told.” Jace squinted at her. “Are those Isabelle’s clothes? They look ridiculous on you.”

“I could point out that you burned my clothes.”

“It was purely precautionary.” He slid the gleaming black piano cover closed. “Come on, I’ll take you to Hodge.”

The Institute was huge, a vast cavernous space that looked less like it had been designed according to a floor plan and more like it had been naturally hollowed out of rock by the passage of water and years. Through half-open doors Clary glimpsed countless identical small rooms, each with a stripped bed, a nightstand, and a large wooden wardrobe standing open. Pale arches of stone held up the high ceilings, many of the arches intricately carved with small figures. She noticed certain repeating motifs: angels and swords, suns and roses.

“Why does this place have so many bedrooms?” Clary asked. “I thought it was a research institute.”

“This is the residential wing. We’re pledged to offer safety and lodging to any Shadowhunter who requests it. We can house up to two hundred people here.”

“But most of these rooms are empty.”

“People come and go. Nobody stays for long. Usually it’s just us: Alec, Isabelle, Max, their parents—and me and Hodge.”

“Max?”

“You met the beauteous Isabelle? Alec is her elder brother. Max is the youngest, but he’s overseas with his parents.”

“On vacation?”

“Not exactly.” Jace hesitated. “You can think of them as—as foreign diplomats, and of this as an embassy, of sorts. Right now they’re in the Shadowhunter home country, working out some very delicate peace negotiations. They brought Max with them because he’s so young.”

“Shadowhunter home country?” Clary’s head was spinning. “What’s it called?”

“Idris.”

“I’ve never heard of it.”

“You wouldn’t have.” That irritating superiority was back in his voice. “Mundanes don’t know about it. There are wardings—protective spells—up all over the borders. If you tried to cross into Idris, you’d simply find yourself transported instantly from one border to the next. You’d never know what happened.”

“So it’s not on any maps?”

“Not mundie ones. For our purposes you can consider it a small country between Germany and France.”

“But there isn’t anything between Germany and France. Except Switzerland.”

“Precisely,” said Jace.

“I take it you’ve been there. To Idris, I mean.”

“I grew up there.” Jace’s voice was neutral, but something in his tone let her know that more questions in that direction would not be welcome. “Most of us do. There are, of course, Shadowhunters all over the world. We have to be everywhere, because demonic activity is everywhere. But to a Shadowhunter, Idris is always ‘home.’”

“Like Mecca or Jerusalem,” said Clary, thoughtfully. “So most of you are brought up there, and then when you grow up—”

“We’re sent where we’re needed,” said Jace shortly. “And there are a few, like Isabelle and Alec, who grow up away from the home country because that’s where their parents are. With all the resources of the Institute here, with Hodge’s training—” He broke off. “This is the library.”

They had reached an arch-shaped set of wooden doors. A blue Persian cat with yellow eyes lay curled in front of them. It raised its head as they approached and yowled. “Hey, Church,” Jace said, stroking the cat’s back with a bare foot. The cat slit its eyes in pleasure.

“Wait,” said Clary. “Alec and Isabelle and Max—they’re the only Shadowhunters your age that you know, that you spend time with?”

Jace stopped stroking the cat. “Yes.”

“That must get kind of lonely.”

“I have everything I need.” He pushed the doors open. After a moment’s hesitation she followed him inside.

The library was circular, with a ceiling that tapered to a point, as if it had been built inside a tower. The walls were lined with books, the shelves so high that tall ladders set on casters were placed along them at intervals. These were no ordinary books either—these were books bound in leather and velvet, clasped with sturdy-looking locks and hinges made of brass and silver. Their spines were studded with dully glowing jewels and illuminated with gold script. They looked worn in a way that made it clear that these books were not just old but were well used, and had been loved.

The floor was polished wood, inlaid with chips of glass and marble and bits of semiprecious stone. The inlay formed a pattern that Clary couldn’t quite decipher—it might have been the constellations, or even a map of the world; she suspected she’d have to climb up into the tower and look down in order to see it properly.

In the center of the room sat a magnificent desk. It was carved from a single slab of wood, a great, heavy piece of oak that gleamed with the dull shine of years. The slab rested upon the backs of two angels, carved from the same wood, their wings gilded and their faces engraved with a look of suffering, as if the weight of the slab were breaking their backs. Behind the desk sat a thin man with gray-streaked hair and a long beaky nose.

“A book lover, I see,” he said, smiling at Clary. “You didn’t tell me that, Jace.”

Jace chuckled. Clary could tell that he had come up behind her and was standing there with his hands in his pockets, grinning that infuriating grin of his. “We haven’t done much talking during our short acquaintance,” he said. “I’m afraid our reading habits didn’t come up.”

Clary turned around and shot him a glare.

“How can you tell?” she asked the man behind the desk. “That I like books, I mean.”

“The look on your face when you walked in,” he said, standing up and coming around from behind the desk. “Somehow I doubted you were that impressed by me.”

Clary stifled a gasp as he rose. For a moment it seemed to her that he was strangely misshapen, his left shoulder humped and higher than the other. As he approached, she saw that the hunch was actually a bird, perched neatly on his shoulder—a glossy feathered creature with bright black eyes.

“This is Hugo,” the man said, touching the bird on his shoulder. “Hugo is a raven, and, as such, he knows many things. I, meanwhile, am Hodge Starkweather, a professor of history, and, as such, I do not know nearly enough.”

Clary laughed a little, despite herself, and shook his outstretched hand. “Clary Fray.”

“Honored to make your acquaintance,” he said. “I would be honored to make the acquaintance of anyone who could kill a Ravener with her bare hands.”

“It wasn’t my bare hands.” It still felt odd to be congratulated for killing something. “It was Jace’s—well, I don’t remember what it was called, but—”

“She means my Sensor,” Jace said. “She shoved it down the thing’s throat. The runes must have choked it. I guess I’ll need another one,” he added, almost as an afterthought. “I should have mentioned that.”

“There are several extra in the weapons room,” said Hodge. When he smiled at Clary, a thousand small lines rayed out from around his eyes, like the cracks in an old painting. “That was quick thinking. What gave you the idea of using the Sensor as a weapon?”

Before she could reply, a sharp laugh sounded through the room. Clary had been so enraptured by the books and distracted by Hodge that she hadn’t seen Alec sprawled in an overstuffed red armchair by the empty fireplace. “I can’t believe you buy that story, Hodge,” he said.

At first Clary didn’t even register his words. She was too busy staring at him. Like many only children, she was fascinated by the resemblance between siblings, and now, in the full light of day, she could see exactly how much Alec looked like his sister. They had the same jet-black hair, the same slender eyebrows winging up at the corners, the same pale, high-colored skin. But where Isabelle was all arrogance, Alec slumped down in the chair as if he hoped nobody would notice him. His lashes were long and dark like Isabelle’s, but where her eyes were black, his were the dark blue of bottle glass. They gazed at Clary with a hostility as pure and concentrated as acid.

“I’m not quite sure what you mean, Alec.” Hodge raised an eyebrow. Clary wondered how old he was; there was a sort of agelessness to him, despite the gray in his hair. He wore a neat gray tweed suit, perfectly pressed. He would have looked like a kindly college professor if it hadn’t been for the thick scar that drew up the right side of his face. She wondered how he had gotten it. “Are you suggesting that she didn’t kill that demon after all?”

“Of course she didn’t. Look at her—she’s a mundie, Hodge, and a little kid, at that. There’s no way she took on a Ravener.”

“I’m not a little kid,” Clary interrupted. “I’m sixteen years old—well, I will be on Sunday.”

“The same age as Isabelle,” Hodge said. “Would you call her a child?”

“Isabelle hails from one of the greatest Shadowhunter dynasties in history,” Alec said dryly. “This girl, on the other hand, hails from New Jersey.”

“I’m from Brooklyn!” Clary was outraged. “And so what? I just killed a demon in my own house, and you’re going to be a dickhead about it because I’m not some spoiled-rotten rich brat like you and your sister?”

Alec looked astonished. “What did you call me?”

Jace sounded as if he could barely contain his laughter. “She has a point, Alec. Plenty of Downworld activity going on in the boroughs, you know. It’s those bridge-and-tunnel demons you really have to watch out for—”

“It’s not funny, Jace,” Alec interrupted, starting to his feet. “Are you just going to let her stand there and call me names?”

“Yes,” Jace said kindly. “It’ll do you good—try to think of it as endurance training.”

“We may be parabatai,” Alec said tightly. “But your flippancy is wearing on my patience.”

“And your obstinacy is wearing on mine. When I found her, she was lying on the floor in a pool of blood with a dying demon practically on top of her. I watched as it vanished. If she didn’t kill it, who did?”

“Raveners are stupid. Maybe it got itself in the neck with its stinger. It’s happened before—”

“Now you’re suggesting it committed suicide?”

Alec’s mouth tightened. “It isn’t right for her to be here. Mundies aren’t allowed in the Institute, and there are good reasons for that. If anyone knew about this, we could be reported to the Clave.”

“That’s not entirely true,” Hodge said. “The Law does allow us to offer sanctuary to mundanes in certain circumstances. A Ravener has already attacked Clary’s mother—she could well have been next.”

Attacked. Clary wondered if this was a euphemism for “murdered.” The raven on Hodge’s shoulder cawed softly.

“Raveners are search-and-destroy machines,” Alec said. “They act under orders from warlocks or powerful demon lords. Now, what interest would a warlock or demon lord have in an ordinary mundane household?” His eyes when he looked at Clary were bright with dislike. “Any thoughts?”

Clary said, “It must have been a mistake.”

“Demons don’t make those kinds of mistakes. If they went after your mother, there must have been a reason. If she were innocent—”

“What do you mean, ‘innocent’?” Clary’s voice was quiet.

Alec looked taken aback. “I—”

“What he means,” said Hodge, “is that it is extremely unusual for a powerful demon, the kind who might command a host of lesser demons, to interest himself in the affairs of human beings. No mundane may summon a demon—they lack that power—but there have been some, desperate and foolish, who have found a witch or warlock to do it for them.”

“My mother doesn’t know any warlocks. She doesn’t believe in magic.” A thought occurred to Clary. “Madame Dorothea—she lives downstairs—she’s a witch. Maybe the demons were after her and got my mom by mistake?”

Hodge’s eyebrows shot up into his hair. “A witch lives downstairs from you?”

“She’s a hedge-witch—a fake,” Jace said. “I already looked into it. There’s no reason for any warlock to be interested in her unless he’s in the market for nonfunctional crystal balls.”

“And we’re back where we began.” Hodge reached up to stroke the bird on his shoulder. “It seems the time has come to notify the Clave.”

“No!” Jace said. “We can’t—”

“It made sense to keep Clary’s presence here a secret while we were not sure she would recover,” Hodge said. “But now she has, and she is the first mundane to pass through the doors of the Institute in over a hundred years. You know the rules about mundane knowledge of Shadowhunters, Jace. The Clave must be informed.”

Source: www_Novel12_Com