City of heavenly fire, p.1
City of Heavenly Fire, p.1Part #6 of The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare
PROLOGUE: FALL LIKE RAIN The Los Angeles Institute, December 2007 On the day Emma Carstairs’s parents were killed, the weather was perfect. On the other hand the weather was usually perfect in Los Angeles. Emma’s mother and father dropped her off on a clear winter morning at the Institute in the hills behind the Pacific Coast Highway, overlooking the blue ocean. The sky was a cloudless expanse that stretched from the cliffs of the Pacific Palisades to the beaches at Point Dume. A report had come in the night before of demonic activity near the beach caves of Leo Carrillo. The Carstairs had been assigned to look into it. Later Emma would remember her mother tucking a windblown strand of hair behind her ear as she offered to draw a Fearless rune on Emma’s father, and John Carstairs laughing and saying he wasn’t sure how he felt about newfangled runes. He was fine with what was written in the Gray Book, thanks very much. At the time, though, Emma was impatient with her parents, hugging them quickly before pulling away to race up the Institute steps, her backpack bouncing between her shoulders as they waved good-bye from the courtyard. Emma loved that she got to train at the Institute. Not only did her best friend, Julian, live there, but she always felt as if she were flying into the ocean when she went inside it. It was a massive structure of wood and stone at the end of a long pebbled drive that wound through the hills. Every room, every floor, looked out over the ocean and the mountains and the sky, rippling expanses of blue and green and gold. Emma’s dream was to climb up onto the roof with Jules—though, so far they’d been foiled by parents—to see if the view stretched all the way to the desert in the south. The front doors knew her and gave way easily under her familiar touch. The entryway and lower floors of the Institute were full of adult Shadowhunters, striding back and forth. Some kind of meeting, Emma guessed. She caught sight of Julian’s father, Andrew Blackthorn, the head of the Institute, amid the crowd. Not wanting to be slowed down by greetings, she dashed for the changing room on the second floor, where she swapped her jeans and T-shirt for training clothes—oversize shirt, loose cotton pants, and the most important item of all: the blade slung over her shoulder. Cortana. The name simply meant “shortsword,” but it wasn’t short to Emma. It was the length of her forearm, sparkling metal, the blade inscribed with words that never failed to cause a shiver down her spine: I am Cortana, of the same steel and temper as Joyeuse and Durendal. Her father had explained what it meant when he put the sword in her ten-year-old hands for the first time. “You can use this for training until you’re eighteen, when it becomes yours,” John Carstairs had said, smiling down at her as her fingers traced the words. “Do you understand what that means?” She’d shaken her head. “Steel” she’d understood, but not “temper. ” “Temper” meant “anger,” something her father was always warning her she should control. What did it have to do with a blade? “You know of the Wayland family,” he’d said. “They were famous weapon makers before the Iron Sisters began to forge all the Shadowhunter blades. Wayland the Smith made Excalibur and Joyeuse, Arthur’s and Lancelot’s swords, and Durendal, the sword of the hero Roland. And they made this sword too, from the same steel. All steel must be tempered—subjected to great heat, almost enough to melt or destroy the metal—to make it stronger. ” He’d kissed the top of her head. “Carstairs have carried this sword for generations. The inscription reminds us that Shadowhunters are the Angel’s weapons. Temper us in the fire, and we grow stronger. When we suffer, we survive. ” Emma could hardly wait the six years until she would be eighteen, when she could travel the world to fight demons, when she could be tempered in fire. Now she strapped the sword on and left the changing room, picturing how it would be. In her imagination she was standing on top of the bluffs over the sea at Point Dume, fending off a cadre of Raum demons with Cortana. Julian was with her, of course, wielding his own favorite weapon, the crossbow. In Emma’s mind Jules was always there. Emma had known him for as long as she could remember. The Blackthorns and the Carstairs had always been close, and Jules was only a few months older; she’d literally never lived in a world without him in it. She’d learned to swim in the ocean with him when they’d both been babies. They’d learned to walk and then run together. She had been carried in his parents’ arms and corralled by his older brother and sister when misbehaving. And they’d misbehaved often. Dyeing the puffy white Blackthorn family cat—Oscar—bright blue had been Emma’s idea when they were both seven. Julian had taken the blame anyway; he often did. After all, he’d pointed out, she was an only child and he was one of seven; his parents would forget they were angry with him a lot more quickly than hers would. She remembered when his mother had died, just after Tavvy’d been born, and how Emma had stood holding Jules’s hand while the body had burned in the canyons and the smoke had climbed toward the sky. She remembered that he’d cried, and remembered thinking that boys cried so differently from girls, with awful ragged sobs that sounded like they were being pulled out with hooks. Maybe it was worse for them because they weren’t supposed to cry— “Oof!” Emma staggered back; she’d been so lost in thought that she’d plowed right into Julian’s father, a tall man with the same tousled brown hair as most of his children. “Sorry, Mr. Blackthorn!” He grinned. “Never seen anyone so eager to get to lessons before,” he called as she darted down the hall. The training room was one of Emma’s favorite rooms in the whole building. It took up almost an entire level, and both the east and the west walls were clear glass. You could see blue sea nearly everywhere you looked. The curve of the coastline was visible from north to south, the endless water of the Pacific stretching out toward Hawaii. In the center of the highly polished wood floor stood the Blackthorn family’s tutor, a commanding woman named Katerina, currently engaged in teaching knife-throwing to the twins. Livvy was following instructions obligingly as she always did, but Ty was scowling and resistant. Julian, in his loose light training clothes, was lying on his back near the west window, talking to Mark, who had his head stuck in a book and was doing his best to ignore his younger half brother. “Don’t you think ‘Mark’ is kind of a weird name for a Shadowhunter?” Julian was saying as Emma approached. “I mean, if you really think about it. It’s confusing. ‘Put a Mark on me, Mark. ’?” Mark lifted his blond head from the book he was reading and glared at his younger brother. Julian was idly twirling a stele in his hand. He held it like a paintbrush, something Emma was always scolding him about. You were supposed to hold a stele like a stele, as if it were an extension of your hand, not an artist’s tool. Mark sighed theatrically. At sixteen he was just enough their senior to find everything Emma and Julian did either annoying or ridiculous. “If it bothers you, you can call me by my full name,” he said. “Mark Antony Blackthorn?” Julian wrinkled his nose. “It takes a long time to say. What if we got attacked by a demon? By the time I was halfway through saying your name, you’d be dead. ” “In this situation are you saving my life?” Mark asked. “Getting ahead of yourself, don’t you think, pipsqueak?” “It could happen. ” Julian, not pleased to be called a pipsqueak, sat up. His hair stuck out in wild tufts all over his head. His older sister Helen was always attacking him with hairbrushes, but it never did any good. He had the Blackthorn hair, like his father and most of his brothers and sisters—wildly wavy, the color of dark chocolate. The family resemblance always fascinated Emma, who looked very little like either of her parents, unless you counted the fact that her father was blond. Helen had been in Idris for months now with her girlfriend, Aline; they had exchanged family rings and were “very serious” about each other, according to Emma’s parents, which mostly meant they looked at each other in a soppy way. Emma was determined that if she ever fell in love, she would not be soppy in that manner. She understood that there was some amount of fuss about the fact that both Helen and Aline were girls, but she didn’t understand why, and the Blackthorns seemed to like Aline a lot. She was a calming presence, and kept Helen from fretting. Helen’s current absence did mean that no one was cutting Jules’s hair, and the sunlight in the room turned the curling tips of it to gold. The windows along the east wall showed the shadowy sweep of the mountains that separated the sea from the San Fernando Valley—dry, dusty hills riddled with canyons, cacti, and thornbushes. Sometimes the Shadowhunters went outside to train, and Emma loved those moments, loved finding hidden paths and secret waterfalls and the sleepy lizards that rested on rocks near them. Julian was adept at coaxing the lizards to crawl into his palm and sleep there as he stroked their heads with his thumb. “Watch out!” Emma ducked as a wooden-tipped blade flew by her head and bounced off the window, hitting Mark in the leg on the rebound. He tossed his book down and stood up, scowling. Mark was technically on secondary supervision, backing up Katerina, although he preferred reading to teaching. “Tiberius,” Mark said. “Do not throw knives at me. ” “It was an accident. ” Livvy moved to stand between her twin and Mark. Tiberius was as dark as Mark was fair, the only one of the Blackthorns—other than Mark and Helen, who didn’t quite count, because of their Downworlder blood—not to have the brown hair and blue-green eyes that were the family traits. Ty had curly black hair, and gray eyes the color of iron. “No, it wasn’t,” said Ty. “I was aiming at you. ” Mark took an exaggerated deep breath and ran his hands through his hair, which left it sticking up in spikes. Mark had the Blackthorn eyes, the color of verdigris, but his hair, like Helen’s, was pale white-blond, as his mother’s had been. The rumor was that Mark’s mother had been a princess of the Seelie Court; she had had an affair with Andrew Blackthorn that had produced two children, whom she’d abandoned on the doorstep of the Los Angeles Institute one night before disappearing forever. Julian’s father had taken in his half-faerie children and raised them as Shadowhunters. Shadowhunter blood was dominant, and though the Council didn’t like it, they would accept part-Downworlder children into the Clave as long as their skin could tolerate runes. Both Helen and Mark had been first runed at ten years old, and their skin held the runes safely, though Emma could tell that being runed hurt Mark more than it hurt an ordinary Shadowhunter. She noticed him wincing, though he tried to hide it, when the stele was set to his skin. Lately she’d been noticing a lot more things about Mark—the way the odd, faerie-influenced shape of his face was appealing, and the breadth of his shoulders under his T-shirts. She didn’t know why she was noticing those things, and she didn’t exactly like it. It made her want to snap at Mark, or hide, often at the same time. “You’re staring,” Julian said, looking at Emma over the knees of his paint-splattered training gear. She snapped back to attention. “At what?” “At Mark—again. ” He sounded annoyed. “Shut up!” Emma hissed under her breath, and grabbed for his stele. He grabbed it back, and a tussle ensued. Emma giggled as she rolled away from Julian. She’d been training with him so long, she knew every move he’d make before he made it. The only problem was that she was inclined to go too easy on him. The thought of anyone hurting Julian made her furious, and sometimes that included herself. “Is this about the bees in your room?” Mark was demanding as he strode over to Tiberius. “You know why we had to get rid of those!” “I assume you did it to thwart me,” Ty said. Ty was small for his age—ten—but he had the vocabulary and diction of an eighty-year-old. Ty didn’t tell lies usually, mostly because he didn’t understand why he might need to. He couldn’t understand why some of the things he did annoyed or upset people, and he found their anger either baffling or frightening, depending on his mood. “It’s not about thwarting you, Ty. You just can’t have bees in your room—” “I was studying them!” Ty explained, his pale face flushing. “It was important, and they were my friends, and I knew what I was doing. ” “Just like you knew what you were doing with the rattle-snake that time?” said Mark. “Sometimes we take things away from you because we don’t want you to get hurt; I know it’s hard to understand, Ty, but we love you. ” Ty looked at him blankly. He knew what “I love you” meant, and he knew it was good, but he didn’t understand why it was an explanation for anything. Mark bent down, hands on his knees, keeping his eyes level with Ty’s gray ones. “Okay, here’s what we’re going to do. . . . ” “Ha!” Emma had managed to flip Julian onto his back and wrestle his stele away from him. He laughed, wriggling under her, until she pinned his arm to the ground. “I give up,” he said. “I give—” He was laughing up at her, and she was struck suddenly with the realization that the feeling of lying directly on top of Jules was actually sort of weird, and also the realization that, like Mark, he had a nice shape to his face. Round and boyish and really familiar, but she could almost see through the face he had now to the face he would have, when he was older. The sound of the Institute doorbell echoed through the room. It was a deep, sweet, chiming noise, like church bells. From outside, the Institute looked to mundane eyes like the ruins of an old Spanish mission. Even though there were PRIVATE PROPERTY and KEEP OUT signs posted everywhere, sometimes people—usually mundanes with a slight dose of the Sight—managed to wander up to the front door anyway. Emma rolled off Julian and brushed at her clothes. She had stopped laughing. Julian sat up, propping himself on his hands, his eyes curious. “Everything okay?” he said. “Banged my elbow,” she lied, and looked over at the others. Livvy was letting Katerina show her how to hold the knife, and Ty was shaking his head at Mark. Ty. She’d been the one to give Tiberius his nickname when he was born, because at eighteen months old she hadn’t been able to say “Tiberius” and had called him “Ty-Ty” instead. Sometimes she wondered if he remembered. It was strange, the things that mattered to Ty and the things that didn’t. You couldn’t predict them. “Emma?” Julian leaned forward, and everything seemed to explode around them. There was a sudden enormous flash of light, and the world outside the windows turned white-gold and red, as if the Institute had caught on fire. At the same time the floor under them rocked like the deck of a ship. Emma slid forward just as a terrible screaming rose from downstairs—a horrible unrecognizable scream. Livvy gasped and went for Ty, wrapped her arms around him as if she could encircle and protect his body with her own. Livvy was one of the very few people Ty didn’t mind touching him; he stood with his eyes wide, one of his hands caught in the sleeve of his sister’s shirt. Mark had risen to his feet already; Katerina was pale under her coils of dark hair. “You stay here,” she said to Emma and Julian, drawing her sword from the sheath at her waist. “Watch the twins. Mark, come with me. ” “No!” Julian said, scrambling to his feet. “Mark—” “I’ll be fine, Jules,” Mark said with a reassuring smile; he already had a dagger in each hand. He was quick and fast with knives, his aim unerring. “Stay with Emma,” he said, nodding toward both of them, and then he vanished after Katerina, the door of the training room shutting behind them. Jules edged closer to Emma, slipped his hand into hers, and helped her to her feet; she wanted to point out to him that she was just fine and could stand on her own, but she let it go. She understood the urge to feel as if you were doing something, anything to help. Another scream suddenly rose from downstairs; there was the sound of glass shattering. Emma hurried across the room toward the twins; they were deadly still, like little statues. Livvy was ashen; Ty was clutching her shirt with a death grip. “It’s going to be okay,” Jules said, putting his hand between his brother’s thin shoulder blades. “Whatever it is—” “You have no idea what it is,” Ty said in a clipped voice. “You can’t say it’s going to be okay. You don’t know. ” There was another noise then. It was worse than the sound of a scream. It was a terrible howl, feral and vicious. Werewolves? Emma thought with bewilderment, but she’d heard a werewolf’s cry before; this was something much darker and crueler. Livvy huddled against Ty’s shoulder. He raised his little white face, his eyes tracking from Emma to rest on Julian. “If we hide here,” Ty said, “and whatever it is finds us, and they hurt our sister, then it’s your fault. ” Livvy’s face was hidden against Ty; he had spoken softly, but Emma had no doubt he meant it. For all Ty’s frightening intellect, for all his strangeness and indifference to other people, he was inseparable from his twin. If Livvy was sick, Ty slept at the foot of her bed; if she got a scratch, he panicked, and it was the same the other way around. Emma saw the conflicting emotions chase themselves across Julian’s face—his eyes sought hers, and she nodded minutely. The idea of staying in the training room and waiting for whatever had made that sound to come to them made her skin feel as if it were peeling off her bones. Julian strode across the room and then returned with a recurve crossbow and two daggers. “You have to let go of Livvy now, Ty,” he said, and after a moment the twins separated. Jules handed Livvy a dagger and offered the other one to Tiberius, who stared at it as if it were an alien thing. “Ty,” Jules said, dropping his hand. “Why did you have the bees in your room? What is it you like about them?” Ty said nothing. “You like the way they work together, right?” Julian said. “Well, we have to work together now. We’re going to get to the office and make a call out to the Clave, okay? A distress call. So they’ll send backup to protect us. ” Ty held his hand out for the dagger with a curt nod. “That’s what I would have suggested if Mark and Katerina had listened to me. ” “He would have,” Livvy said. She had taken the dagger with more confidence than Ty, and held it as if she knew what she was doing with the blade. “It’s what he was thinking about. ” “We’re going to have to be very quiet now,” Jules said. “You two are going to follow me to the office. ” He raised his eyes; his gaze met Emma’s. “Emma’s going to get Tavvy and Dru and meet us there. Okay?” Emma’s heart swooped and plummeted like a seabird. Octavius—Tavvy, the baby, only two years old. And Dru, eight, too young to start physical training. Of course someone was going to have to get them both. And Jules’s eyes were pleading. “Yes,” she said. “That’s exactly what I’m going to do. ” Cortana was strapped to Emma’s back, a throwing knife in her hand. She thought she could feel the metal pulsing through her veins like a heartbeat as she slipped down the Institute corridor, her back to the wall. Every once in a while the hallway would open out into windows, and the sight of the blue sea and the green mountains and the peaceful white clouds would tease her. She thought of her parents, somewhere out on the beach, having no idea what was happening at the Institute. She wished they were here, and at the same time was glad they weren’t. At least they were safe. She was in the part of the Institute that was most familiar to her now: the family quarters. She slipped past Helen’s empty bedroom, clothes packed up and her coverlet dusty. Past Julian’s room, familiar from a million sleepovers, and Mark’s, door firmly shut. The next room was Mr. Blackthorn’s, and just beside it was the nursery. Emma took a deep breath and shouldered the door open. The sight that met her eyes in the little blue-painted room made them widen. Tavvy was in his crib, his small hands clutching the bars, cheeks bright red from screaming. Drusilla stood in front of the crib, a sword—Angel knew where she’d gotten it—clutched in her hand; it was pointed directly at Emma. Dru’s hand was shaking enough that the point of the sword was dancing around; her braids stuck out on either side of her plump face, but the look in her Blackthorn eyes was one of steely determination: Don’t you dare touch my brother. “Dru,” Emma said as softly as she could. “Dru, it’s me. Jules sent me to get you. ” Dru dropped the sword with a clatter and burst into tears. Emma swept past her and seized the baby out of his crib with her free arm, heaving him up onto her hip. Tavvy was small for his age but still weighed a good twenty-five pounds; she winced as he clutched onto her hair. “Memma,” he said. “Shush. ” She kissed the top of his head. He smelled like baby powder and tears. “Dru, grab onto my belt, okay? We’re going to the office. We’ll be safe there. ” Dru took hold of Emma’s weapons belt with her small hands; she’d already stopped crying. Shadowhunters didn’t cry much, even when they were eight. Emma led the way out into the hall. The sounds from below were worse now. The screams were still going on, the deep howling, the sounds of glass breaking and wood ripping. Emma inched forward, clutching Tavvy, murmuring over and over that everything was all right, he’d be all right. And there were more windows, and the sun slashed through them viciously, almost blinding her. She was blinded, by panic and the sun; it was the only explanation for the wrong turn she took next. She turned down a corridor, and instead of finding herself in the hallway that she expected, she found herself standing atop the wide staircase that led down to the foyer and the large double doors that were the building’s entrance. The foyer was filled with Shadowhunters. Some, familiar to her as the Nephilim of the Los Angeles Conclave, in black, others in red gear. There were rows of statuary, now toppled over, in pieces and powder on the ground. The picture window that opened onto the sea had been smashed, and broken glass and blood were everywhere. Emma felt a sick lurch in her stomach. In the middle of the foyer stood a tall figure in scarlet. He was pale blond, almost white-haired, and his face looked like the carved marble face of Raziel, only entirely without mercy. His eyes were coal black, and in one hand he carried a sword stamped with a pattern of stars; in the other, a goblet made of shimmering adamas. The sight of the cup triggered something in Emma’s mind. The adults didn’t like to talk about politics around the younger Shadowhunters, but she knew that Valentine Morgenstern’s son had taken on a different name and sworn vengeance against the Clave. She knew that he had made a cup that was the reverse of the Angel’s Cup, that changed Shadowhunters into evil, demonic creatures. She had heard Mr. Blackthorn call the evil Shadowhunters the Endarkened Ones; he had said he’d rather die than be one. This was him, then. Jonathan Morgenstern, whom everyone called Sebastian—a figure out of a fairy tale, a story told to frighten children, come to life. Valentine’s son. Emma put a hand to the back of Tavvy’s head, pressing his face into her shoulder. She couldn’t move. She felt as if lead weights were attached to her feet. All around Sebastian were Shadowhunters in black and red, and figures in dark cloaks—were they Shadowhunters, too? She couldn’t tell—their faces were hidden, and there was Mark, his hands being held behind his back by a Shadowhunter in red gear. His daggers lay at his feet, and there was blood on his training clothes. Sebastian raised a hand and crooked a long white finger. “Bring her,” he said; there was a rustle in the crowd, and Mr. Blackthorn stepped forward, dragging Katerina with him. She was fighting, beating at him with her hands, but he was too strong. Emma watched in disbelieving horror as Mr. Blackthorn pushed her to her knees. “Now,” said Sebastian in a voice like silk, “drink of the Infernal Cup,” and he forced the rim of the cup between Katerina’s teeth. That was when Emma found out what the terrible howling noise she had heard before was. Katerina tried to fight free, but Sebastian was too strong; he jammed the cup past her lips, and Emma saw her gasp and swallow. She wrenched away, and this time Mr. Blackthorn let her; he was laughing, and so was Sebastian. Katerina fell to the ground, her body spasming, and from her throat came a single scream—worse than a scream, a howl of pain as if her soul were being torn out of her body.
City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare / Young Adult / Fantasy have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on93 votes