City of lost souls, p.31
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       City of Lost Souls, p.31

         Part #5 of The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare
 
Page 31

 

  "I dont think I can," she said. "Theyll send hunters after him. Set a trap for him. Hes just a boy. "

  He was never just a boy, said Zachariah, and he turned to glide from the room. Maryse did not watch him go. She had returned to staring at the map.

  Simon?

  Relief opened like a flower in his chest. Clarys voice, tentative but familiar, filled his head. He looked sideways. Isabelle was still sleeping. Midday light was visible around the edges of the curtains.

  Are you awake?

  He rolled onto his back, stared up at the ceiling. Of course Im awake.

  Well, I wasnt sure. Youre what, six, seven hours behind where I am. Its twilight here.

  Italy?

  Were in Prague now. Its pretty. Theres a big river and a lot of buildings with spires. Looks a little like Idris from a distance. Its cold here, though. Colder than at home.

  Okay, enough with the weather report. Are you safe? Where are Sebastian and Jace?

  Theyre with me. I wandered off a little, though. I said I wanted to commune with the view from the bridge.

  So Im the view from the bridge?

  She laughed, or at least he felt something that was like laughter in his head-a soft, nervous laughter. I cant take too long. Though, they dont really seem to suspect anything. Jace. . . Jace definitely doesnt. Sebastian is harder to read. I dont think he trusts me. I searched his room yesterday, but theres nothing-I mean, nothing-to indicate what theyre planning. Last night. . .

  Last night?

  Nothing. It was odd, how she could be inside his head and he could still sense that she was hiding something. Sebastian has in his room the box my mom used to own. With his baby stuff in it. I cant figure out why.

  Dont waste your time trying to figure out Sebastian, Simon told her. Hes not worth it. Figure out what theyre going to do.

  Im trying. She sounded irritable. Are you still at Magnuss?

  Yeah. Weve moved to phase two of our plan.

  Oh, yeah? What was phase one?

  Phase one was sitting around the table, ordering pizza, and arguing.

  Whats phase two? Sitting around the table drinking coffee and arguing?

  Not exactly. Simon took a deep breath. We raised the demon Azazel.

  Azazel? Her mental voice spiked upward; Simon almost clutched at his ears. So thats what the stupid Smurf question was about. Tell me youre kidding.

  Im not. Its a long story. He filled her in as best he could, watching Isabelle breathe as he did, watching the light outside the window grow brighter. We thought he could help us find a weapon that can hurt Sebastian without hurting Jace.

  Yeah, but-demon-raising? Clary didnt sound convinced. And Azazel is no ordinary demon. Im the one with Team Evil over here. Youre Team Good. Keep it in mind.

  You know nothings that simple, Clary.

  It was as if he could feel her sigh, a breath of air that passed over his skin, raising the hairs on the back of his neck. I know.

  Cities and rivers, Clary thought as she took her fingers from the gold ring on her right hand and turned away from the view off Charles Bridge, back to Jace and Sebastian. They were on the other side of the old stone bridge, pointing off at something she couldnt see. The water below was the color of metal, sliding soundlessly around the bridges ancient struts; the sky was the same color, pocked with black clouds.

  The wind whipped at her hair and coat as she walked over to join Sebastian and Jace. They all set off again, the two boys conversing softly; she could have joined the conversation if shed wanted to, she supposed, but there was something about the still loveliness of the city, its spires rising into mist in the distance, that made her want to be quiet, to look and to think on her own.

  The bridge emptied out into a twisting cobblestone street lined with tourist shops, shops selling blood-red garnets and big chunks of golden Polish amber, heavy Bohemian glass, and wooden toys. Even at this hour, touts stood outside nightclubs, holding free passes or cards that would give you discounts on drinks; Sebastian gestured them aside impatiently, snapping his annoyance in Czech. The press of people was relieved when the street widened into an old medieval square. Despite the cold weather, it was filled with milling pedestrians and kiosks were selling sausages and hot, spiced cider. The three of them stopped for food and ate around a tall rickety table while the huge astronomical clock in the squares center began to chime the hour. Clanking machinery started up, and a circle of dancing wooden figures appeared from doors on either side of the clock-the twelve apostles, Sebastian explained as the figures whirled around and around.

  "Theres a legend," he said, leaning forward with his hands cupped around a mug of hot cider, "that the king had the eyes of the clock maker put out after this clock was finished, so he could never build anything as beautiful again. "

  Clary shuddered and moved a little closer to Jace. He had been quiet since theyd left the bridge, as if lost in thought. People-girls, mainly-stopped to look at him as they passed, his hair bright and startling among the winter-dark colors of the Old Square. "Thats sadistic," she said.

  Sebastian ran his finger around the rim of his mug, and licked the cider off. "The past is another country. "

  "Foreign country," said Jace.

  Sebastian looked at him with lazy eyes. "What?"

  "The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there," Jace said. "Thats the whole quote. "

  Sebastian shrugged and pushed his mug away. You got a euro for returning them to the stand where you bought the cider, but Clary suspected Sebastian couldnt be bothered to fake good citizenship for a measly euro. "Lets go. "

  Clary wasnt finished with her cider, but she set it down anyway and followed as Sebastian led them away from the square, among a maze of narrow, twisting streets. Jace had corrected Sebastian, she thought. Certainly it had been over something minor, but wasnt Liliths blood magic supposed to bind him to her brother in such a way that he thought everything Sebastian did was right? Could this be a sign-even a tiny sign-that the spell that connected them was starting to fade?

  It was stupid to hope, she knew. But sometimes hope was all you had.

  The streets grew narrower, darker. The clouds overhead had completely blocked out the lowering sun, and old-fashioned gas lamps burned here and there, illuminating the misty dimness. The streets had turned to cobblestones, and the sidewalks were narrowing, forcing them to walk in a line, as if they were picking their way across a narrow bridge. Only the sight of other pedestrians, appearing and disappearing out of the fog, made Clary feel that she had not stepped through some sort of warp in time into a dream city out of her own imagination.

  Finally they reached an archway of stone that opened out into a small square. Most of the stores had turned off their lights, though across from them one was lit up. It said ANTIKVARIAT in gold letters, and the window was full of old display bottles of different substances, their peeling labels marked in Latin. Clary was surprised when Sebastian headed toward it. What use could they possibly have for old bottles?

  She dismissed the thought when they stepped over the threshold. The store inside was dimly lit and smelled of mothballs, but it was stuffed, every cranny, with an incredible selection of junk-and not-junk. Beautiful celestial maps warred for space with salt and pepper shakers shaped like the figures from the clock in the Old Town Square. There were heaps of old tobacco and cigar tins, stamps mounted in glass, old cameras of East German and Russian design, a gorgeous cut-glass bowl in a deep emerald shade sitting side by side with a stack of water-stained old calendars. An antique Czech flag hung from a mounting pole overhead.

  Sebastian moved forward through the stacks toward a counter in the back of the store, and Clary realized that what she had taken for a mannequin was in fact an old man with a face as creased and wrinkled as an old bedsheet, leaning back against the counter with his arms crossed. The counter itself was glass-fronted and held heaps of vintage jewelry and sparkling g
lass beads, small chain purses with gem clasps, and rows of cuff links.

  Sebastian said something in Czech, and the man nodded and indicated Clary and Jace with a jerk of his chin and a suspicious look. His eyes were, Clary saw, a dark red color. She narrowed her own eyes, concentrating hard, and began to strip the glamour from him.

  It wasnt easy; it seemed to stick to him like flypaper. In the end she managed to pull it away only enough to see in flashes the real creature standing in front of her-tall and human-shaped, with gray skin and ruby-red eyes, a mouth full of pointed teeth that jutted every which way, and long, serpentine arms that ended in heads like an eels-narrow, evil-looking, and toothy.

  "A Vetis demon," Jace muttered in her ear. "Theyre like dragons. They like to stockpile sparkly things. Junk, jewels, its all the same to them. "

  Sebastian was looking back over his shoulder at Jace and Clary. "Theyre my brother and sister," he said after a moment. "They are entirely to be trusted, Mirek. "

  A faint shudder ran under Clarys skin. She didnt like the idea of posing as Jaces sister, even for a demons benefit.

  "I dont like this," the Vetis demon said. "You said we would be dealing only with you, Morgenstern. And while I know Valentine had a daughter"-his head dipped toward Clary-"I also know he had only one son. "

  "Hes adopted," said Sebastian breezily, gesturing toward Jace.

  "Adopted?"

  "I think youll find the definition of the modern family is really changing at an impressive pace these days," said Jace.

  The demon-Mirek-didnt look impressed. "I dont like this," he said again.

  "But youll like this," said Sebastian, taking a pouch, tied at the top, from his pocket. He turned it upside down above the counter, and a clattering pile of bronze coins fell out, clinking together as they rolled across the glass. "Pennies from dead mens eyes. A hundred of them. Now, do you have what we agreed on?"

  One toothed hand felt its way across the counter and bit gently at a coin. The demons red eyes flickered over the pile. "That is all very well, but it is not enough to buy what you seek. " He gestured with an undulating arm, and above it appeared what looked to Clary like a hunk of rock crystal-only it was more luminous, more sheer, silvery, and beautiful. She realized with a jolt that it was the stuff seraph blades were made from. "Pure adamas," Mirek said. "The stuff of Heaven. Priceless. "

  Anger crackled across Sebastians face like lightning, and for a moment Clary saw the vicious boy underneath, the one who had laughed while Hodge lay dying. Then the look was gone. "But we agreed on a price. "

  "We also agreed you would come alone," said Mirek. His red eyes returned to Clary, and to Jace, who hadnt moved but whose aspect had taken on the controlled stillness of a crouching cats. "Ill tell you what else you can give me," he said. "A lock of your sisters pretty hair. "

  "Fine," Clary said, stepping forward. "You want a snip of my hair-"

  "No!" Jace moved to block her. "Hes a dark magician, Clary. You have no idea what he could do with a lock of your hair or a bit of blood. "

  "Mirek," Sebastian said slowly, not looking at Clary. And in that moment she wondered, If Sebastian wanted to trade a lock of her hair for the adamas, what was to stop him? Jace had objected, but he was also compelled to do what Sebastian asked of him. In the crunch, what would win out? The compulsion or Jaces feelings for her? "Absolutely not. "

  The demon blinked a slow lizardlike blink. "Absolutely not?"

  "You will not touch a hair on my sisters head," said Sebastian. "Nor will you renege on our bargain. No one cheats Valentine Morgensterns son. The agreed upon price, or-"

  "Or what?" Mirek snarled. "Or Ill be sorry? You are not Valentine, little boy. Now, that was a man who inspired loyalty-"

  "No," said Sebastian, sliding a seraph blade from the belt at his waist. "I am not Valentine. I do not intend to deal with demons as Valentine did. If I cannot have your loyalty, I will have your fear. Know that I am more powerful than my father ever was, and if you do not deal fairly with me, I will take your life, and have what I have come for. " He raised the blade he held. "Dumah," he whispered, and the blade shot forth, shimmering like a column of fire.

  The demon recoiled, snapping several words in a muddy-sounding language. Jaces hand already had a dagger in it. He called out to Clary, but not fast enough. Something struck her hard on the shoulder, and she fell forward, sprawling on the cluttered floor. She flipped over onto her back, fast, looked up-

  And screamed. Looming over her was a massive snake-or at least it had a thick, scaled body and a head hooded like a cobras, but its body was jointed, insectile, with a dozen skittering legs that ended in jagged claws. Clary fumbled for her weapons belt as the creature reared back, yellow venom dripping from its fangs, and struck.

  Simon had fallen back asleep after "speaking" with Clary. When he awoke again, the lights were on, and Isabelle knelt on the edge of the bed, wearing jeans and a worn T-shirt she must have borrowed from Alec. It had holes in the sleeves, and the stitching around the hem was coming undone. She had the collar pulled away from her throat and was using the tip of a stele to trace a rune onto the skin of her chest, just below her collarbone.

  He raised himself up on his elbows. "What are you doing?"

  "Iratze," she said. "For this. " She tucked her hair back behind her ear, and he saw the two puncture wounds hed made in the side of her throat. As she finished the rune, they smoothed over, leaving only the faintest white flecks behind.

  "Are you. . . all right?" His voice came out in a whisper. Smooth. He was trying to bite back the other questions he wanted to ask. Did I hurt you? Do you think Im a monster now? Have I creeped you out completely?

  "Im fine. I slept a lot later than I normally ever do, but I think thats probably a good thing. " Seeing his expression, Isabelle slid her stele into her belt. She crawled toward Simon with a catlike grace and positioned herself over him, her hair falling down around them. They were so close their noses touched. She looked at him unblinklingly. "Why are you so crazy?" she said, and he could feel her breath against his face, as soft as a whisper.

 

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