“I’m not sure that’s exactly true—” Clary began, but Jace was already putting a foot up onto the plinth, preparing to climb. He had the glint in his eye she both loved and dreaded, the one that said, I do what I want, and damn the consequences.
“Wait!” Simon darted to block Jace from climbing farther. “I’m sorry, but does anyone else see what’s going on here?”
“Nooo,” Jace drawled. “Why don’t you tell us all about it? I mean, we’ve got nothing but time.”
Simon crossed his arms over his chest. “I’ve been in a lot of campaigns—”
“Campaigns?” Isabelle echoed, bewildered.
“He means Dungeons and Dragons games,” Clary explained.
“Games?” Alec echoed in disbelief. “In case you haven’t noticed, this is no game.”
“That’s not the point,” Simon said. “The point is that when you’re playing D&D and your group comes across a heap of treasure, or a big sparkly gem, or a magical golden skull, you should never take it. It’s always a trap.” He uncrossed his arms and waved them wildly. “This is a trap.”
Jace was silent. He was looking at Simon thoughtfully, as if he’d never seen him before, or at least never considered him so closely. “Come here,” he said.
Simon moved toward him, his eyebrows raised. “What—oof!”
Jace had dropped his sword into Simon’s hands. “Hold this for me while I climb,” Jace said, and leaped up onto the plinth. Simon’s protests were drowned out by the sound of Jace’s boots knocking against the stone as he scrambled up the statue, pulling himself up hand over hand. He reached the middle of the statue, where the carved hauberk offered footholds, and braced himself, reaching across the stone to close his hand around the handle of the skeptron.
It might have been an illusion, but Clary thought she saw the statue’s smiling mouth twist into an even crueler grimace. The red stone flared up suddenly; Jace jerked back, but the room was already full of an earsplitting noise, the terrible combination of a fire alarm and a human scream, going on and on and on.
“Jace!” Clary raced to the statue; he had already dropped from it to the ground, wincing at the awful noise. The light of the red stone was increasing, filling the room with a bloody illumination.
“Goddamn it,” Jace shouted over the noise. “I hate it when Simon is right.”
With a glare Simon shoved Jace’s sword back at him; Jace took it, his gaze darting around warily. Alec had raised his bow again; Isabelle stood ready with her whip. Clary drew a dagger from her belt.
“We’d better get out of here,” Alec called. “It could be nothing, but—”
Isabelle cried out, and clapped her hand to her chest. Her pendant had begun to flash, slow steady bright pulses like a heartbeat.
“Demons!” she cried, just as the sky filled with flying things. And they were things—they had heavy round bodies, like huge pale grubs, pocked with rows of suckers. They had no faces: Both ends of them terminated in massive pink circular mouths rimmed with sharks’ teeth. Rows of stubby wings lined their bodies, each wing tipped with a dagger-sharp talon. And there were a lot of them.
Even Jace paled. “By the Angel—run!”
They ran, but the creatures, despite their girth, were faster: They were landing all around them, with ugly wet sounds. Clary thought wildly that they sounded like giant spitballs falling from the sky. The light pouring from the skeptron had vanished the moment they’d appeared, and the room was now bathed in the ugly yellowish glow of the sky.
“Clary!” Jace shouted as one of the creatures heaved itself toward her, its circular mouth open. Ropes of yellow drool hung from it.
Thump. An arrow embedded itself in the roof of the demon’s mouth. The creature reared back, spitting black blood. Clary saw Alec seize another arrow, fit it, let it fly. Another demon reeled back, and then Isabelle was on it, her whip slashing back and forth, slicing it to ribbons. Simon had seized another demon and was holding it, his hands sinking into its fleshy gray body, and Jace plunged his sword into it. The demon collapsed, knocking Simon back to the floor: he landed on his backpack. Clary thought she heard a sound like breaking glass, but a moment later Simon was back up on his feet, Jace steadying him with a hand to the shoulder before they both turned back to the fight.
Ice had descended over Clary: the silent coldness of battle. The demon Alec had shot was writhing, trying to spit out the arrow lodged in its mouth; she stepped over to it and plunged her dagger into its body, black blood spraying up from the wounds, soaking her gear. The room was full of the rotten-garbage stench of demons, laced through with the acid of ichor; she gagged as the demon gave a last spasm and collapsed.
Alec was backing up, steadily letting arrow after arrow fly, sending the demons reeling back, wounded. As they struggled, Jace and Isabelle fell on them, slashing them to pieces with sword and whip. Clary followed their lead, leaping on another wounded demon, sawing away at the soft band of flesh under its mouth, her hand, coated in oily demon blood, slipping on the hilt of her dagger. The demon collapsed in on itself with a hiss, sending her crashing to the ground. The blade skittered out of her hand, and she threw herself after it, seized it up, and rolled to the side just as another demon lunged with an uncoiling of its powerful body.
It hit the space where she’d just been lying, and curled itself around, hissing, so that Clary found herself facing two open, gaping mouths. She readied her blade to let it fly, when there was a flash of silver-gold and Isabelle’s whip came down, slicing the thing in half.
It fell apart in two pieces, a jumbled mess of steaming internal organs pouring out. Even through the ice of battle, Clary was nearly sick. Demons usually died and vanished before you saw much of their insides. This one was still writhing, even in two pieces, twitching forward and back. Isabelle grimaced and raised her whip again—and the twitch turned into a sudden, violent jerk as half the monster twisted backward and sank its teeth into Isabelle’s leg.
Izzy screamed, slashing down with the whip, and it released her; she fell back, her leg going out from under her. Clary leaped forward, stabbing at the other half of the demon, plunging her dagger into the creature’s back until it crumbled apart under her and she found herself kneeling in a welter of demon blood, drenched blade in her hand, gasping.
There was silence. The ringing alarm had stopped, and the demons were gone. They had all been slaughtered, but there was no joy of victory. Isabelle was on the ground, her whip curled around her wrist, blood pouring from a crescent-shaped slash in her left leg. She was gasping, her eyelids fluttering.
“Izzy!” Alec dropped his bow and launched himself across the bloody floor at his sister. He fell to his knees, hauling her up into his lap. He yanked the stele from her belt. “Iz, Izzy, hold on—”
Jace, who had gathered up Alec’s fallen bow, looked like he was going to throw up or fall; Clary saw with dull surprise that Simon had his hand on Jace’s arm, his fingers digging in, as if he were holding Jace up.
Alec tore at the slashed fabric of Isabelle’s gear, ripping her trouser leg open to the knee. Clary stifled a cry. Isabelle’s leg was ribboned: it looked like pictures of shark bites Clary had seen, blood and pulped tissue surrounding deep indents.
Alec put his stele to the skin of her knee and drew an iratze, and then another an inch farther down. His shoulders were shaking, but his hand was steady. Clary wrapped her hand around Jace’s and squeezed. His was ice-cold.
“Izzy,” Alec whispered as the iratzes faded and sank into her skin, leaving white remnants behind. Clary remembered Hodge, how they had drawn healing rune after healing rune on him, but his wounds had been too great: the runes had faded, and he had bled out and died despite the runes’ power.
Alec looked up. The shape of his face was awkward, twisted; there was blood on his cheek: Isabelle’s, Clary thought. “Clary,” he said. “Maybe if you try—”
Simon suddenly stiffened. “We need to get out of here,” he said. “I can hear wings. There’s going to be more of them.”
Isabelle was no longer gasping. The bleeding from the slash in her leg had slowed, but Clary could see, with a sinking heart, that the wounds were still there, a puffed and angry red.
Alec rose, cradling his sister’s limp body in his arms, her black hair hanging down like a flag. “Go where?” he said harshly. “If we run, they’ll be on us—”
Jace whirled around. “Clary—”
His eyes were full of pleading. Clary’s heart broke for him. Jace, who hardly ever pleaded for anything. For Isabelle, the bravest of them all.
Alec looked from the statue to Jace, to the pale face of his unconscious sister. “Someone,” he said, his voice cracking, “do something—”
Clary spun on her heel and ran for the wall. She half-flung herself against it, yanking her stele free from her boot, and went for the stone. The contact of the instrument’s tip with the marble sent a shock wave up her arm, but she pressed on, her fingers vibrating as she drew. Black lines fissured out across the stone, cracking into the shape of a door; the edges of the lines began to shimmer. Behind her Clary could hear the demons: the bellow of their voices, the flap of taloned wings, their hissing calls rising to shrieks as the door blazed up with light.
It was a silvery rectangle, as depthless as water but not water, framed with fiery runes. A Portal. Clary reached out with one hand, touched the surface. Every part of her mind concentrated on visualizing a single place. “Come on!” she screamed, her eyes fixed on it, not moving as Alec, carrying his sister, darted past her and disappeared into it, vanishing utterly. Simon followed him, and then Jace, catching at her free hand as he went. Clary only had a moment to turn and look behind her—a great black wing swept across her vision, a terrifying glimpse of teeth dripping poison—before the storm of the Portal took her and whirled her away into chaos.
Clary slammed into the ground hard, bruising her knees. The Portal had torn her away from Jace; she rolled to her feet quickly and looked around, breathing hard—what if the Portal hadn’t worked? What if it had taken them to the wrong place?
But the cave roof rose above, familiar and towering, marked with runes. There was the fire pit, the scuff marks on the floor where they had all slept the night before. Jace, rising to his feet, Alec’s bow falling from his hand, Simon—
And Alec, on his knees beside Isabelle. Any satisfaction Clary felt at her success with the Portal popped like a balloon. Isabelle lay still and drained-looking, gasping shallow breaths. Jace dropped down beside Alec and touched Isabelle’s hair gently.
Clary felt Simon clasp her wrist. His voice was ragged. “If you can do anything—”
She moved forward as if in a dream, and knelt down on the other side of Isabelle, opposite Jace, stele slipping in her bloody fingers. She put the tip to Izzy’s wrist, remembering what she had done outside the Adamant Citadel, how she had poured herself into healing Jace. Heal, heal, heal, she prayed, and finally the stele jerked to life and the black lines began to spiral sluggishly across Izzy’s forearm. Izzy moaned and jerked in Alec’s arms. He had his head down, his face buried against his sister’s hair. “Izzy, please,” he whispered. “Not after Max. Izzy, please, stay with me.”
Isabelle gasped, her eyelids fluttering. She arched up—and then sank back as the iratze vanished from her skin. A dull pulse of blood oozed sluggishly from the wound in her leg: the blood looked tinted black. Clary’s hand tightened so hard on her stele, she felt it bend in her hand. “I can’t do it,” she whispered. “I can’t make one strong enough.”
“It’s not you; it’s the poison,” Jace said. “Demon poison. In her blood. Sometimes runes can’t help.”
“Try again,” Alec said to Clary; his eyes were dry, but with a terrible brightness. “With the iratze. Or with a new rune; you could create a rune—”
Clary’s mouth was dry. Never had she wanted to create a rune more, but the stele no longer felt like an extension of her arm; it felt like a dead thing in her hand. She had never felt more helpless.
Isabelle was taking rasping breaths. “Something has to help!” Simon shouted suddenly, his voice echoing off the walls. “You’re Shadowhunters; you fight demons all the time. You have to be able to do something—”
“And we die all the time!” Jace shouted back at him, and then suddenly crumpled over Isabelle’s body, doubling up as if he’d been punched in the stomach. “Isabelle, God, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry—”
“Move,” Simon said, and suddenly he was on his knees next to Isabelle, all of them grouped around her, and Clary was reminded of the horrible tableau in the Accords Hall when the Lightwoods had gathered around Max’s dead body, and it couldn’t be happening again, it couldn’t—
“Leave her alone,” Alec snarled. “You’re not her family, vampire—”
“No,” Simon said, “I’m not.” And his fangs snapped out, sharp and white. Clary sucked in her breath as Simon raised his own wrist to his mouth and tore at it, slicing open the veins, and blood ran in rivulets down his arm.
Jace’s eyes widened. He stood up and backed away; his hands were in fists, but he didn’t move to stop Simon, who held his wrist over the gash in Isabelle’s leg and let his blood run down his fingers, spattering onto her, covering her wound.
“What . . . are . . . you . . . doing?” Alec ground out between his teeth, but Jace flung up a hand, his eyes on Simon.
“Let him,” Jace said, almost in a whisper. “It can work, I’ve heard of it working. . . .”
Isabelle, still unconscious, arched back into her brother’s arms. Her leg was twitching. The heel of her boot dug into the ground as her ribboned skin began to knit itself back together. Simon’s blood poured in a steady stream, covering the injury, but even beneath the blood Clary could see that new, pink skin was covering the torn mess of flesh.
Isabelle’s eyes opened. They were wide and dark. Her lips had been almost white, but color was starting to come back into them. She stared at Simon uncomprehendingly, and then down at her leg.
The skin that had been torn and shredded looked clean and pale, only a faint half-moon of neatly spaced white scars left to show where the demon’s teeth had gone in. Simon’s blood was still dripping slowly from his fingers, though the wound in his wrist had mostly healed. He looked pale, Clary realized anxiously, much paler than usual, and his veins were standing out blackly against his skin. He lifted his wrist to his mouth, his teeth bared—
“Simon, no!” Isabelle said, struggling to sit up against Alec, who was staring down at her with shocked blue eyes.
Clary caught Simon’s wrist. “It’s all right,” she said. Blood stained his sleeve, his shirt, the corners of his mouth. His skin was cold under her touch, his wrist pulseless. “It’s okay—Isabelle’s okay,” she said, and drew Simon to his feet. “Let’s give them a second,” she said softly, and led him away to where he could lean against her by the wall. Jace and Alec were bending over Isabelle, their voices low and murmuring. Clary held Simon by the wrist as he slumped back against the stone, his eyes fluttering shut in exhaustion.