- City of Heavenly Fire
“Don’t eavesdrop,” said Julian.
Emma glared at him. All right, so she could hear the raised voices through the thick wood of the Consul’s office door, now shut but for a crack. And maybe she had been leaning toward the door, tantalized by the fact that she could hear the voices, could nearly make them out, but not quite. So? Wasn’t it better to know things than to not know them?
She mouthed “So what?” at Julian, who raised his eyebrows at her. Julian didn’t exactly like rules, but he obeyed them. Emma thought rules were for breaking, or bending at the very least.
Plus, she was bored. They had been led to the door and left there by one of the Council members, at the end of the long corridor that stretched nearly the length of the Gard. Tapestries hung all around the office entrance, threadbare from the passing of years. Most of them showed passages from Shadowhunter history: the Angel rising from the lake with the Mortal Instruments, the Angel passing the Gray Book to Jonathan Shadowhunter, the First Accords, the Battle of Shanghai, the Council of Buenos Aires. There was another tapestry as well, this one looking newer and freshly hung, which showed the Angel rising out of the lake, this time without the Mortal Instruments. A blond man stood at the edge of the lake, and near him, almost invisible, was the figure of a slight girl with red hair, holding a stele. . . .
“There’ll be a tapestry about you someday,” said Jules.
Emma flicked her eyes over to him. “You have to do something really big to get a tapestry about you. Like win a war.”
“You could win a war,” he said confidently. Emma felt a little tightening around her heart. When Julian looked at her like that, like she was brilliant and amazing, it made the missing-her-parents ache in her heart a little less. There was something about having someone care about you like that that made you feel like you could never be totally alone.
Unless they decided to take her away from Jules, of course. Move her to Idris, or to one of the Institutes where she had distant relatives—in England, or China or Iran. Suddenly panicked, she took out her stele and carved an audio rune into her arm before pressing her ear to the wood of the door, ignoring Julian’s glare.
The voices immediately came clear. She recognized Jia’s first, and then the second after a beat: The Consul was talking to Luke Garroway.
“. . . Zachariah? He is no longer an active Shadowhunter,” Jia was saying. “He left today before the meeting, saying he had some loose ends to tie up, and then an urgent appointment in London in early January, something he couldn’t miss.”
Luke murmured an answer Emma didn’t hear; she hadn’t known Zachariah was leaving, and wished she could have thanked him for the help he’d given them the night of the battle. And asked him how he’d known her middle name was Cordelia.
She leaned in more closely to the door, and heard Luke, halfway through a sentence. “. . . should tell you first,” he was saying. “I’m planning to step down as representative. Maia Roberts will take my place.”
Jia made a surprised noise. “Isn’t she a little young?”
“She’s very capable,” said Luke. “She hardly needs my endorsement—”
“No,” Jia agreed. “Without her warning before Sebastian’s attack, we would have lost many more Shadowhunters than we did.”
“And as she’ll be leading the New York pack from now on, it makes more sense for her to be your representative than for me.” He sighed. “Besides, Jia. I’ve lost my sister. Jocelyn lost her son—again. And Clary’s still devastated over what happened with Simon. I’d like to be there for my daughter.”
Jia made an unhappy noise. “Maybe I shouldn’t have let her try to call him.”
“She had to know,” said Luke. “It’s a loss. She has to come to terms with it. She has to grieve. I’d like to be there to help her through it. I’d like to get married. I’d like to be there for my family. I need to step away.”
“Well, you have my blessing, of course,” she said. “Though I could have used your help in reopening the Academy. We have lost so many. It has been a long time since death undid so many Nephilim. We must reach out into the mundane world, find those who might Ascend, teach and train them. There will be a great deal to do.”
“And many to help you do it.” Luke’s tone was inflexible.
Jia sighed. “I’ll welcome Maia, no fear. Poor Magnus, surrounded by women.”
“I doubt he’ll mind or notice,” said Luke. “Though, I should say that you know he was right, Jia. Abandoning the search for Mark Blackthorn, sending Helen Blackthorn to Wrangel Island—that was unconscionable cruelty.”
There was a pause, and then, “I know,” said Jia in a low voice. “You think I don’t know what I did to my own daughter? But letting Helen stay—I saw the hate in the eyes of my own Shadowhunters, and I was afraid for Helen. Afraid for Mark, should we be able to find him.”
“Well, I saw the devastation in the eyes of the Blackthorn children,” said Luke.
“Children are resilient.”
“They’ve lost their brother and their father, and now you’re leaving them to be raised by an uncle they’ve seen only a few times—”
“They will come to know him; he is a good man. Diana Wrayburn has requested the position of their tutor as well, and I am inclined to give it to her. She was impressed by their bravery—”
“But she isn’t their mother. My mother left when I was a child,” Luke said. “She became an Iron Sister. Cleophas. I never saw her again. Amatis raised me. I don’t know what I would have done without her. She was—all I had.”
Emma glanced quickly over at Julian to see if he’d heard. She didn’t think he had; he wasn’t looking at her but was staring off into nothing, blue-green eyes as distant as the ocean they resembled. She wondered if he was remembering the past or fearing for the future; she wished she could rewind the clock, get her parents back, give Jules back his father and Helen and Mark, unbreak what was broken.
“I’m sorry about Amatis,” said Jia. “And I am worried about the Blackthorn children, believe me. But we have always had orphans; we’re Nephilim. You know that as well as I do. As for the Carstairs girl, she will be brought to Idris; I’m worried she might be a little headstrong—”
Emma shoved the door of the office open; it gave much more easily than she had anticipated, and she half-fell inside. She heard Jules give a startled yelp and then follow her, grabbing at the back of the belt on her jeans to pull her upright. “No!” she said.
Both Jia and Luke looked at her in surprise: Jia’s mouth partly open, Luke beginning to crack a smile. “A little?” he said.
“Emma Carstairs,” Jia began, rising to her feet, “how dare you—”
“How dare you.” And Emma was utterly surprised that it was Julian who had spoken, his verdigris eyes blazing. In five seconds he had turned from worried boy to furious young man, his brown hair standing out wildly as if it were angry too. “How dare you shout at Emma when you’re the one who promised. You promised the Clave would never abandon Mark while he was living—you promised!”
Jia had the grace to look ashamed. “He is one of the Wild Hunt now,” she said. “They are neither the dead nor the living.”
“So you knew,” said Julian. “You knew when you promised that it didn’t mean anything.”
“It meant saving Idris,” said Jia. “I am sorry. We needed the two of you, and I . . .” She sounded as if she were choking out the words. “I would have fulfilled the promise if I could. If there were any way—if it could be done—I would see it done.”
“Then you owe us,” Emma said, planting her feet firmly in front of the Consul’s desk. “You owe us a broken promise. So you have to do this now.”
“Do what?” Jia looked bewildered.
“I won’t be moved to Idris. I won’t. I belong in Los Angeles.”
Emma felt Jules freeze up behind her. “Of course they’re not moving you to Idris,” he said. “What are you talking about?”
Emma pointed an accusing finger at Jia. “She said it.”
“Absolutely not,” Julian said. “Emma lives in L.A.; it’s her home. She can stay at the Institute. That’s what Shadowhunters do. The Institute is supposed to be a refuge.”
“Your uncle will be running the Institute,” said Jia. “It’s up to him.”
“What did he say?” Julian demanded, and behind those four words were a wealth of feeling. When Julian loved people, he loved them forever; when he hated them, he hated them forever. Emma had the feeling the question of whether he was going to hate his uncle forever hung in the balance at exactly this moment.
“He said he would take her in,” Jia said. “But really, I think there’s a place for Emma at the Shadowhunter Academy here in Idris. She’s exceptionally talented, she’d be surrounded by the best instructors, there are many other students there who’ve suffered losses and could help her with her grief—”
Her grief. Emma’s mind suddenly swam through images: the photos of her parents’ bodies on the beach, covered in markings. The Clave’s clear lack of interest in what had happened to them. Her father bending to kiss her before he walked off to the car where her mother waited. Their laughter on the wind.
“I’ve suffered losses,” Julian said through clenched teeth. “I can help her.”
“You’re twelve,” said Jia, as if that answered everything.
“I won’t be always!” Julian shouted. “Emma and I, we’ve known each other all our lives. She’s like—she’s like—”
“We’re going to be parabatai,” said Emma suddenly, before Julian could say that she was like his sister. For some reason she didn’t want to hear that.
Everyone’s eyes snapped wide open, including Julian’s.
“Julian asked me, and I said yes,” she said. “We’re twelve; we’re old enough to make the decision.”
Luke’s eyes sparked as he looked at her. “You can’t split up parabatai,” he said. “It’s against the Clave’s Law.”
“We need to be able to train together,” Emma said. “To take the examinations together, to do the ritual together—”
“Yes, yes, I understand,” said Jia. “Very well. Your uncle doesn’t mind, Julian, if Emma lives in the Institute, and the institution of parabatai trumps all other considerations.” She looked from Emma to Julian, whose eyes were shining. He looked happy, actually happy, for the first time in so long that Emma nearly couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen him smile like that. “You’re sure?” the Consul added. “Becoming parabatai is serious business, nothing to be undertaken lightly. It’s a commitment. You’ll have to look out for each other, protect each other, care for the other one more than you care for yourself.”
“We already do,” said Julian confidently. It took Emma a moment more to speak. She was still seeing her parents in her head. Los Angeles held the answers to what had happened to them. Answers she needed. If no one ever avenged their deaths, it would be as if they had never lived at all.
And it wasn’t as if she didn’t want to be Jules’s parabatai. The thought of a whole life spent without ever being separated from him, a promise that she would never be alone, trumped the voice in the back of her head that whispered: Wait . . .
She nodded firmly. “Absolutely,” she said. “We’re absolutely sure.”
Idris had been green and gold and russet in the autumn, when Clary had first been there. It had a stark grandeur in the late winter, so close to Christmas: The mountains rose in the distance, capped white with snow, and the trees along the side of the road that led back to Alicante from the lake were stripped bare, their leafless branches making lacelike patterns against the bright sky.
They rode without haste, Wayfarer treading lightly along the path, Clary behind Jace, her arms clasped around his torso. Sometimes he would slow the horse to point out the manor houses of the richer Shadowhunter families, hidden from the road when the trees were full but revealed now. She felt his shoulders tense as they passed one whose ivy-covered stones nearly melded with the forest around it. It had clearly been burned to the ground and rebuilt. “Blackthorn manor,” he said. “Which means that around this bend in the road is . . .” He paused as Wayfarer summited a small hill, and then Jace reined him in so they could look down to where the road split in two. One direction led back toward Alicante—Clary could see the demon towers in the distance—while the other curled down toward a large building of mellow golden stone, surrounded by a low wall. “Herondale manor,” Jace finished.
The wind picked up; icy, it ruffled Jace’s hair. Clary had her hood up, but he was bareheaded and bare-handed, having said he hated wearing gloves when horseback riding. He liked to feel the reins in his hands. “Did you want to go and look at it?” she asked.
His breath came out in a white cloud. “I’m not sure.”
She pressed closer to him, shivering. “Are you worried about missing the Council meeting?” She had been, though they were returning to New York tomorrow and there had been no other time she could think of to secretly lay her brother’s ashes to rest; it was Jace who had suggested taking the horse from the stables and riding to Lake Lyn when nearly everyone else in Alicante was sure to be in the Accords Hall. Jace understood what it meant to her to bury the idea of her brother, though it would have been hard to explain to almost anyone else.
He shook his head. “We’re too young to vote. Besides, I think they can manage without us.” He frowned. “We’d have to break in,” he said. “The Consul told me that as long as I want to call myself Jace Lightwood, I’ve got no legal right to the Herondale properties. I don’t even have a Herondale ring. One doesn’t exist. The Iron Sisters would have to craft a new one. In fact, when I turn eighteen, I’ll lose the right to the name entirely.”
Clary sat still, holding on to his waist lightly. There were times when he wanted to be prompted and asked questions, and times when he didn’t; this was one of the latter. He would get there on his own. She held him and breathed quietly until he suddenly tensed under her hold and dug his heels into Wayfarer’s sides.
The horse headed down the path toward the manor house at a trot. The low gates—decorated with an iron motif of flying birds—were open, and the path opened out into a circular gravel drive, in the center of which was a stone fountain, now dry. Jace drew up in front of the wide steps that led up to the front door, and stared up at the blank windows.
“This is where I was born,” he said. “This is where my mother died, and Valentine cut me out of her body. And Hodge took me and hid me, so no one would know. It was winter then, too.”
“Jace . . .” She splayed her hands over his chest, feeling his heart beat under her fingers.
“I think I want to be a Herondale,” he said abruptly.
“So be a Herondale.”
“I don’t want to betray the Lightwoods,” he said. “They’re my family. But I realized that if I don’t take the Herondale name, it’ll end with me.”
“It’s not your responsibility—”
“I know,” he said. “In the box, the one Amatis gave me, there was a letter from my father to me. He wrote it before I was born. I read it a few times. The first times I read it, I just hated him, even though he said he loved me. But there were a few sentences I couldn’t get rid of in my head. He said, ‘I want you to be a better man than I was. Let no one else tell you who you are or should be.’” He tipped his head back, as if he could read his future in the curl of the manor’s eaves. “Changing your name, it doesn’t change your nature. Look at Sebastian—Jonathan. Calling himself Sebastian didn’t make any difference in the end. I wanted to spurn the Herondale name because I thought I hated my father, but I don’t hate him. He might have been weak and have made the wrong decisions, but he knew it. There’s no reason for me to hate him. And there have been generations of Herondales before him—it’s a family that’s done a lot of good—and to let their whole house fall just to get back at my father would be a waste.”
“That’s the first time I’ve heard you call him your father and sound like that,” Clary said. “Usually you only say it about Valentine.”
She felt him sigh, and then his hand covered hers where it lay on his chest. His fingers were cool, long and slender, so familiar, she would have known them in the dark. “We might live here someday,” he said. “Together.”
She smiled, knowing he couldn’t see her, but unable to help it. “Think you can win me over with a fancy house?” she said. “Don’t get ahead of yourself, Jace. Jace Herondale,” she added, and wrapped her arms around him in the cold.
Alec sat at the edge of the roof, dangling his feet over the side. He supposed that if either of his parents came back to the house and looked up, they’d see him and he’d get shouted at, but he doubted Maryse or Robert would return soon. They’d been called to the Consul’s office after the meeting and were probably still there. The new treaty with the Fair Folk would be hammered out over the next week, during which they’d stay in Idris, while the rest of the Lightwoods went back to New York and celebrated the New Year without them. Alec would, technically, be running the Institute for that week. He was surprised to find that he was actually looking forward to it.
Responsibility was a good way to take your mind off other things. Things like the way Jocelyn had looked when her son had died, or the way Clary had stifled her silent sobs against the floor when she’d realized that they’d come back from Edom, but without Simon. The way Magnus’s face had looked, bleak with despair, as he’d said his father’s name.
Loss was part of being a Shadowhunter, you expected it, but that didn’t help the way Alec had felt when he’d seen Helen’s expression in the Council Hall as she’d been exiled to Wrangel Island.
“You couldn’t have done anything. Don’t punish yourself.” The voice behind him was familiar; Alec squeezed his eyes shut, trying to steady his breathing before he replied.
“How’d you get up here?” he asked. There was a rustle of fabric as Magnus settled himself down next to Alec at the edge of the roof. Alec chanced a sideways glance at him. He’d seen Magnus only twice, briefly, since they’d returned from Edom—once when the Silent Brothers had released them from quarantine, and once again today in the Council Hall. Neither time had they been able to talk. Alec looked him over with a yearning he suspected was poorly disguised. Magnus was back to his normal healthy color after the drained look he had had in Edom; his bruises were largely healed, and his eyes were bright again, glinting under the dimming sky.
Alec remembered throwing his arms around Magnus in the demon realm, when he’d found him chained up, and wondered why things like that were always so much easier to do when you thought you were about to die.
“I should have said something,” Alec said. “I voted against sending her away.”
“I know,” said Magnus. “You and about ten other people. It was overwhelmingly in favor.” He shook his head. “People get scared, and they take it out on anyone they think is different. It’s the same cycle I’ve seen a thousand times.”
“It makes me feel so useless.”
“You’re anything but useless.” Magnus tipped his head back, his eyes searching the sky as the stars began to make their appearances, one by one. “You saved my life.”
“In Edom?” Alec said. “I helped, but really—you saved your own life.”
“Not just in Edom,” Magnus said. “I was—I’m almost four hundred years old, Alexander. Warlocks, as they get older, they start to calcify. They stop being able to feel things. To care, to be excited or surprised. I always told myself that would never happen to me. That I’d try to be like Peter Pan, never grow up, always retain a sense of wonder. Always fall in love, be surprised, be open to being hurt as much as I was open to being happy. But over the last twenty years or so I’ve felt it creeping up on me anyway. There was nobody before you for a long time. Nobody I loved. No one who surprised me or took my breath away. Until you walked into that party, I was starting to think I’d never feel anything that strongly again.”
Alec caught his breath and looked down at his hands. “What are you saying?” His voice was uneven. “That you want to get back together?”
“If you want to,” Magnus said, and he actually sounded uncertain, enough that Alec looked at him in surprise. Magnus looked very young, his eyes wide and gold-green, his hair brushing his temples in wisps of black. “If you . . .”
Alec sat, frozen. For weeks he’d sat and daydreamed about Magnus saying these exact words, but now that Magnus was, it didn’t feel the way he’d thought it would. There were no fireworks in his chest; he felt empty and cold. “I don’t know,” he said.
The light died out of Magnus’s eyes. He said, “Well, I can understand that you—I wasn’t very kind to you.”
“No,” Alec said bluntly. “You weren’t, but I guess it’s hard to break up with someone kindly. The thing is, I am sorry about what I did. I was wrong. Incredibly wrong. But the reason I did it, that isn’t going to change. I can’t go through my life feeling like I don’t know you at all. You keep saying the past is the past, but the past made you who you are. I want to know about your life. And if you’re not willing to tell me about it, then I shouldn’t be with you. Because I know me, and I won’t ever be okay with it. So I shouldn’t put us both through that again.”
Magnus pulled his knees up to his chest. In the darkening twilight he looked gangly against the shadows, all long legs and arms and thin fingers sparkling with rings. “I love you,” he said quietly.
“Don’t—” Alec said. “Don’t. It’s not fair. Besides—” He glanced away. “I doubt I’m the first one who ever broke your heart.”
“My heart’s been broken more times than the Clave’s Law about Shadowhunters not engaging in romances with Downworlders,” Magnus said, but his voice sounded brittle. “Alec . . . you’re right.”
Alec cut his eyes sideways. He didn’t think he’d ever seen the warlock look so vulnerable.
“It’s not fair to you,” Magnus said. “I’ve always told myself I was going to be open to new experiences, and so when I started to—to harden—I was shocked. I thought I’d done everything right, not closed my heart off. And then I thought about what you said, and I realized why I was starting to die inside. If you never tell anyone the truth about yourself, eventually you start to forget. The love, the heartbreak, the joy, the despair, the things I did that were good, the things I did that were shameful—if I kept them all inside, my memories of them would start to disappear. And then I would disappear.”
“I . . .” Alec wasn’t sure what to say.
“I had a lot of time to think, after we broke up,” Magnus said. “And I wrote this.” He pulled a notebook out of the inside pocket of his jacket: just a very ordinary spiral-bound notebook of lined paper, but when the wind flapped it open, Alec could see that the pages were covered with thin, looping handwriting. Magnus’s handwriting. “I wrote down my life.”
Alec’s eyes widened. “Your whole life?”
“Not all of it,” Magnus said carefully. “But some of the incidents that have shaped me. How I first met Raphael, when he was very young,” Magnus said, and sounded sad. “How I fell in love with Camille. The story of the Hotel Dumort, though Catarina had to help me with that. Some of my early loves, and some of my later ones. Names you might know—Herondale—”
“Will Herondale,” said Alec. “Camille mentioned him.” He took the notebook; the thin pages felt bumpy, as if Magnus had pressed the pen very hard into the paper while writing. “Were you . . . with him?”
Magnus laughed and shook his head. “No—though, there are a lot of Herondales in the pages. Will’s son, James Herondale, was remarkable, and so was James’s sister, Lucie, but I have to say Stephen Herondale rather put me off the family until Jace came along. That guy was a pill.” He noticed Alec staring at him, and added quickly, “No Herondales. No Shadowhunters at all, in fact.”
“None in my heart like you are,” Magnus said. He tapped the notebook lightly. “Consider this a first installment of everything I want to tell you. I wasn’t sure, but I hoped—if you wanted to be with me, as I want to be with you, you might take this as evidence. Evidence that I am willing to give you something I have never given anyone: my past, the truth of myself. I want to share my life with you, and that means today, and the future, and all of my past, if you want it. If you want me.”
Alec lowered the notebook. There was writing on the first page, a scrawled inscription: Dear Alec . . .
He could see the path in front of him very clearly: He could hand back the book, walk away from Magnus, find someone else, some Shadowhunter to love, be with him, share the kinship of predictable days and nights, the daily poetry of an ordinary life.
Or he could take the step out into nothingness and choose Magnus, the far stranger poetry of him, his brilliance and anger, his sulks and joys, the extraordinary abilities of his magic and the no less breathtaking magic of the extraordinary way he loved.
It was hardly a choice at all. Alec took a deep breath, and jumped.
“All right,” he said.
Magnus whipped toward him in the dark, all coiled energy now, all cheekbones and shimmering eyes. “Really?”
“Really,” Alec said. He reached out a hand, and interlinked his fingers with Magnus’s. There was a glow being woken in Alec’s chest, where all had been dark. Magnus cupped his long fingers under Alec’s jawline and kissed him, his touch light against Alec’s skin: a slow and gentle kiss, a kiss that promised more later, when they were no longer on a roof and could be seen by anyone walking by.
“So I’m your first ever Shadowhunter, huh?” Alec said when they separated at last.
“You’re my first so many things, Alec Lightwood,” Magnus said.