City of lost souls, p.22
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       City of Lost Souls, p.22

         Part #5 of The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare
 
Page 22

 

  Jace held his hand out. "You look gorgeous," he said. "Lets go. "

  She took his hand and let him pull her to her feet. "I dont know. . . "

  "Come on. " His voice had that self-mocking, seductive tone she remembered from when they had first been getting to know each other, when hed brought her up to the greenhouse to show her the flower that bloomed at midnight. "Were in Italy. Venice. One of the most beautiful cities in the world. Shame not to see it, dont you think?"

  Jace pulled her forward, so she fell against his chest. The material of his shirt was soft under her fingers, and he smelled like his familiar soap and shampoo. Her heart took a sweeping dive inside her chest. "Or we could stay in," he said, sounding a little breathless.

  "So I can swoon watching you make a triple-word score?" With an effort she pulled back from him. "And spare me the jokes about scoring. "

  "Dammit, woman, you read my mind," he said. "Is there no filthy wordplay you cant foresee?"

  "Its my special magical power. I can read your mind when youre thinking dirty thoughts. "

  "So, ninety-five percent of the time. "

  She craned her head back to look up at him. "Ninety-five percent? Whats the other five percent?"

  "Oh, you know, the usual-demons I might kill, runes I need to learn, people whove annoyed me recently, people whove annoyed me not so recently, ducks. "

  "Ducks?"

  He waved her question away. "All right. Now watch this. " He took her shoulders and turned her gently, so they were both facing the same way. A moment later-she wasnt sure how-the walls of the room seemed to melt away around them, and she found herself stepping out onto cobblestones. She gasped, turning to look behind her, and saw only a blank wall, windows high up in an old stone building. Rows of similar houses lined the canal they stood beside. If she craned her head to the left, she could see in the distance that the canal opened out into a much larger waterway, lined with grand buildings. Everywhere was the smell of water and stone.

  "Cool, huh?" Jace said proudly.

  She turned and looked at him. "Ducks?" she said again.

  A smile tugged the edge of his mouth. "I hate ducks. Dont know why. I just always have. "

  It was early morning when Maia and Jordan arrived at Praetor House, the headquarters of the Praetor Lupus. The truck clanked and bumped over the long white drive that swept through manicured lawns to the massive house that rose like the prow of a ship in the distance. Behind it Maia could see strips of trees, and behind that, the blue water of the Sound some distance away.

  "This is where you did your training?" she demanded. "This place is gorgeous. "

  "Dont be fooled," Jordan said with a smile. "This place is boot camp, emphasis on the boot. "

  She looked sideways at him. He was still smiling. He had been, pretty much nonstop, since shed kissed him down by the beach at dawn. Part of Maia felt as if a hand had lifted her up and dropped her back into her past, when shed loved Jordan beyond anything shed ever imagined, and part of her felt totally adrift, as if shed woken up in a completely foreign landscape, far from the familiarity of her everyday life and the warmth of the pack.

  It was very peculiar. Not bad, she thought. Just. . . peculiar.

  Jordan came to a stop at a circular drive in front of the house, which, up close, Maia could see was built of blocks of golden stone, the tawny color of a wolf pelt. Black double doors were set at the top of a massive stone staircase. In the center of the circular drive was a massive sundial, its raised face telling her that it was seven in the morning. Around the edge of the sundial, words were carved: I ONLY MARK THE HOURS THAT SHINE.

  She unlocked her door and jumped down from the cab just as the doors of the house opened and a voice rang out: "Praetor Kyle!"

  Jordan and Maia both looked up. Descending the stairs was a middle-aged man in a charcoal suit, his blond hair streaked with gray. Jordan, smoothing all expression from his face, turned to him. "Praetor Scott," he said. "This is Maia Roberts, of the Garroway pack. Maia, this is Praetor Scott. He runs the Praetor Lupus, pretty much. "

  "Since the 1800s the Scotts have always run the Praetor," said the man, glancing at Maia, who inclined her head, a sign of submission. "Jordan, I have to admit, we did not expect you back again so soon. The situation with the vampire in Manhattan, the Daylighter-"

  "Is in hand," Jordan said hastily. "Thats not why were here. This concerns something quite different. "

  Praetor Scott raised his eyebrows. "Now youve piqued my curiosity. "

  "Its a matter of some urgency," said Maia. "Luke Garroway, our packs leader-"

  Praetor Scott gave her a sharp look, silencing her. Though he might have been packless, he was an alpha, that much was clear from his bearing. His eyes, under his thick eyebrows, were green-gray; around his throat, under the collar of his shirt, sparkled the bronze pendant of the Praetor, with its imprint of a wolfs paw. "The Praetor chooses what matters it will regard as urgent," he said. "Nor are we a hotel, open to uninvited guests. Jordan took a chance in bringing you here, and he knows that. If he were not one of our most promising graduates, I might well send you both away. "

  Jordan hooked his thumbs into the waistband of his jeans and looked at the ground. A moment later Praetor Scott set his hand on Jordans shoulder.

  "But," he said, "you are one of our most promising graduates. And you look exhausted; I can see you were up all night. Come, and well discuss this in my office. "

  The office turned out to be down a long and winding hallway, elegantly paneled in dark wood. The house was lively with the sound of voices, and a sign saying HOUSE RULES was pinned to the wall beside a staircase leading up.

  HOUSE RULES

  No shape-shifting in the hallways.

  No howling.

  No silver.

  Clothes must be worn at all times. ALL TIMES.

  No fighting. No biting.

  Mark all your food before you put it in the communal refrigerator.

  The smell of cooking breakfast wafted through the air, making Maias stomach grumble. Praetor Scott sounded amused. "Ill have someone make us up a plate of snacks if youre hungry. "

  "Thanks," Maia muttered. They had reached the end of a hallway, and Praetor Scott opened a door marked OFFICE.

  The older werewolfs eyebrows drew together. "Rufus," he said. "What are you doing here?"

  Maia peered past him. The office was a large room, comfortably messy. There was a rectangular picture window that gave out onto wide lawns, on which groups of mostly young people were executing what looked like drill maneuvers, wearing black warm-up pants and tops. The walls of the room were lined with books about lycanthropy, many in Latin, but Maia recognized the word "lupus. " The desk was a slab of marble set upon the statues of two snarling wolves.

  In front of it were two chairs. In one of them sat a large man-a werewolf-hunched over, his hands gripped together. "Praetor," he said in a grating voice. "I had hoped to speak with you regarding the incident in Boston. "

  "The one in which you broke your assigned charges leg?" the Praetor said dryly. "I will be speaking to you about it, Rufus, but not this moment. Something more pressing calls me. "

  "But, Praetor-"

  "That will be all, Rufus," said Scott in the ringing tone of an alpha wolf whose orders were not to be challenged. "Remember, this is a place of rehabilitation. Part of that is learning to respect authority. "

  Muttering under his breath, Rufus rose from the chair. Only when he stood up did Maia realize, and react to, his enormous size. He towered over both her and Jordan, his black T-shirt straining over his chest, the sleeves about to split around his biceps. His head was closely shaved, his face scored with deep claw marks all across one cheek, like furrows dug in soil. He gave her a sour look as he stalked past them and out into the hall.

  "Of course some of us," Jordan muttered, "are easier to rehabilitate than others. "

  As Rufuss heavy tread faded down the
hall, Scott threw himself into the high-backed chair behind the desk and buzzed a joltingly modern-looking intercom. After requesting breakfast in a terse voice, he leaned back, hands clasped behind his head.

  "Im all ears," he said.

  As Jordan recounted their story, and their request, to Praetor Scott, Maia couldnt keep her eyes and mind from wandering. She wondered what it would have been like to have been raised here, in this elegant house of rules and regulations, rather than with the comparatively lawless freedom of the pack. At some point a werewolf dressed all in black-it seemed to be the regulation outfit of the Praetor-came in with sliced roast beef, cheese, and protein drinks on a pewter tray. Maia eyed the breakfast with some dismay. It was true that werewolves needed more protein than normal people, much more, but roast beef for breakfast?

  "Youll find," Praetor Scott said as Maia drank her protein shake gingerly, "that, in fact, refined sugar is harmful to werewolves. If you cease consuming it for a period of time, you will cease desiring it. Hasnt your pack leader told you that?"

  Maia tried to imagine Luke, who liked to make pancakes in odd and amusing shapes, lecturing her about sugar, and failed. Now was not the time to mention that, though. "No, he has, of course," she said. "I tend to, ah, backslide in times of stress. "

  "I understand your concern for your pack leader," said Scott. A gold Rolex glinted on his wrist. "Normally we maintain a strict policy of noninterference regarding matters not related to new-fledged Downworlders. We do not, in fact, prioritize werewolves over other Downworlders, though only lycanthropes are allowed into the Praetor. "

  "But thats exactly why we do need your help," said Jordan. "Packs are by their nature always moving, transitional. They have no opportunity to build up things like libraries of stored knowledge. Im not saying they dont have wisdom, but everything is an oral tradition and every pack knows different things. We could go from pack to pack, and maybe someone would know how to cure Luke, but we dont have time. Here"-he gestured at the books lining the walls-"is the closest thing werewolves have to, say, the archives of the Silent Brothers or the Spiral Labyrinth of the warlocks. "

  Scott looked unconvinced. Maia set her protein shake down. "And Luke isnt just any pack leader," she said. "Hes the lyncanthropes representative on the Council. If you helped cure him, you would know that the Praetor would always have a Council voice in their favor. "

  Scotts eyes glinted. "Interesting," he said. "Very well. Ill have a look through the books. Itll probably take a few hours. Jordan, I suggest that if youre going to drive back to Manhattan you get some rest. We dont need you wrapping your truck around a tree. "

  "I could drive-," Maia began.

  "You look equally exhausted. Jordan, as you know, there will always be a room for you here at the Praetor House, even though youve graduated. And Nick is on assignment, so theres a bed for Maia. Why dont you both get some rest, and Ill call you down when Im finished. " He swiveled around in his chair to examine the books on the walls.

  Jordan gestured to Maia that this was their cue to leave; she stood up, brushing crumbs off her jeans. She was halfway to the door when Praetor Scott spoke again.

  "Oh, and Maia Roberts," he said, and his voice held a note of warning. "I hope you understand that when you make promises in other peoples names, it falls upon your head to make sure they follow through. "

  Simon awoke still feeling exhausted, blinking in the darkness. The thick black curtains over the windows let in very little light, but his internal body clock told him it was daytime. That and the fact that Isabelle was gone, her side of the bed rumpled, the covers turned back.

  Daytime, and he hadnt talked to Clary since shed gone. He drew his hand out from under the covers and looked at the gold ring on his right hand. Delicate, it was etched with what were either designs or words in an alphabet he didnt know.

  Clenching his jaw, he sat up and touched the ring. Clary?

  The answer was immediate and clear. He nearly slid off the bed with relief. Simon. Thank God.

  Can you talk?

  No. He felt rather than heard a tense distraction in the voice of her mind. Im glad you spoke to me, but now isnt good. Im not alone.

  But youre all right?

  Im fine. Nothings happened yet. Im trying to gather information. I promise Ill talk to you the moment I hear anything.

  Okay. Take care of yourself.

  You too.

  And she was gone. Sliding his legs over the side of the mattress, Simon did his best to flatten his sleep-mussed hair, and went to see if anyone else was awake.

  They were. Alec, Magnus, Jocelyn, and Isabelle sat around the table in Magnuss living room. While Alec and Magnus were in jeans, both Jocelyn and Isabelle wore gear, Isabelle with her whip wrapped around her right arm. She glanced up as he came in but didnt smile; her shoulders were tense, her mouth a thin line. They all had mugs of coffee in front of them.

  "Theres a reason the ritual of the Mortal Instruments was so complicated. " Magnus made the sugar bowl float over to himself and dumped some of the white powder into his coffee. "Angels act at the behest of God, not human beings-not even Shadowhunters. Summon one, and youre likely to find yourself blasted with divine wrath. The whole point of the Mortal Instruments ritual wasnt that it allowed someone to summon Raziel. It was that it protected the summoner from the Angels wrath once he did appear. "

  "Valentine-," Alec began.

  "Yes, Valentine also summoned a very minor angel. And it never spoke to him, did it? Never gave him a sliver of help, though he harvested its blood. And even then he must have been using incredibly powerful spells just to bind it. My understanding is that he tied its life to the Wayland manor, so that when the angel died the manor collapsed to rubble. " He tapped a blue-painted fingernail on his mug. "And he damned himself. Whether you believe in Heaven and Hell or not, he damned himself surely. When he summoned Raziel, Raziel struck him down. Partly in revenge for what Valentine had done to his brother angel. "

 

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