City of lost souls, p.54
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       City of Lost Souls, p.54
 

         Part #5 of The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare
Page 54

 

  But Jace. Jace didnt make a sound. Despite everything, his face was calm and peaceful, the face of a statue. He looked down at Clary, and his eyes shone, as if he were filling with light.

  And then he began to burn.

  Alec didnt remember scrambling down from the top of the stone tomb, or pushing his way across the stony plain among the litter of fallen bodies: dark Shadowhunters, dead and wounded werewolves. His eyes were seeking out only one person. He stumbled and nearly fell; when he looked up, his gaze scanning the field in front of him, he saw Isabelle, kneeling beside Magnus on the stony ground.

  It felt like there was no air in his lungs. He had never seen Magnus so pale, or so still. There was blood on his leather armor, and blood on the ground beneath him. But it was impossible. Magnus had lived so long. He was permanent. A fixture. In no world Alecs imagination could conjure did Magnus die before he did.

  "Alec. " It was Izzys voice, swimming up toward him as if through water. "Alec, hes breathing. "

  Alec let his own breath out in a shaking gasp. He held a hand out to his sister. "Dagger. "

  She handed him one silently. She had never paid as much attention as he had in field first aid classes; she had always said runes would do the job. He slit open the front of Magnuss leather armor and then the shirt beneath it, his teeth gritted. It could be that the armor was all that was holding him together.

  He peeled back the sides gingerly, surprised at the steadiness of his own hands. There was a good deal of blood, and a wide stab wound under the right side of Magnuss ribs. But from the rhythm of Magnuss breathing, it was clear his lungs hadnt been punctured. Alec yanked off his jacket, wadded it up, and pressed it against the still-bleeding wound.

  Magnuss eyes fluttered open. "Ouch," he said feebly. "Quit leaning on me. "

  "Raziel," Alec breathed thankfully. "Youre all right. " He slipped his free hand under Magnuss head, his thumb stroking Magnuss bloody cheek. "I thought. . . "

  He looked up to glance at his sister before he said anything too embarassing, but she had slipped quietly away.

  "I saw you fall," Alec said quietly. He bent down and kissed Magnus lightly on the mouth, not wanting to hurt him. "I thought you were dead. "

  Magnus smiled crookedly. "What, from that scratch?" He glanced down at the reddening jacket in Alecs hand. "Okay, a deep scratch. Like, from a really, really big cat. "

  "Are you delirious?" Alec said.

  "No. " Magnuss eyebrows drew together. "Amatis was aiming for my heart, but she didnt get anything vital. The problem is that the blood loss is sapping my energy and my ability to heal myself. " He took a deep breath that ended in a cough. "Here, give me your hand. " He raised his hand, and Alec twined their fingers together, Magnuss palm hard against his. "Do you remember, the night of the battle on Valentines ship, when I needed some of your strength?"

  "Do you need it again now?" Alec said. "Because you can have it. "

  "I always need your strength, Alec," Magnus said, and closed his eyes as their intertwined fingers began to shine, as if between them they held the light of a star.

  Fire exploded up through the hilt of the angels sword and along the blade. The flame shot through Clarys arm like a bolt of electricity, knocking her to the ground. Heat lightning sizzled up and down her veins, and she curled up in agony, clutching herself as if she could keep her body from blowing to pieces.

  Jace fell to his knees. The sword still pierced him, but it was burning now, with a white-gold flame, and the fire was filling his body like colored water filling a clear glass pitcher. Golden flame shot through him, turning his skin translucent. His hair was bronze; his bones were hard, shining tinder visible through his skin. Glorious itself was burning away, dissolving in liquid drops like gold melting in a crucible. Jaces head was thrown back, his body arched like a bow as the conflagration raged through him. Clary tried to pull herself toward him across the rocky ground, but the heat radiating from his body was too much. His hands clutched at his chest, and a river of golden blood slipped through his fingers. The stone on which he knelt was blackening, cracking, turning to ash. And then Glorious burned up like the last of a bonfire, in a shower of sparks, and Jace collapsed forward, onto the stones.

  Clary tried to stand, but her legs buckled under her. Her veins still felt as if fire were shooting through them, and pain was darting across the surface of her skin like the touch of hot pokers. She pulled herself forward, bloodying her fingers, hearing her ceremonial dress rip, until she reached Jace.

  He was lying on his side with his head pillowed on one arm, the other arm flung out wide. She crumpled beside him. Heat radiated from his body as if he were a dying bed of coals, but she didnt care. She could see the rip in the back of his gear where Glorious had torn through it. There were ashes from the burned rocks mixed in with the gold of his hair, and blood.

  Moving slowly, every movement hurting as if she were old, as if she had aged a year for every second Jace had burned, she pulled him toward her, so he was on his back on the bloodstained and blackened stone. She looked at his face, no longer gold but still, and still beautiful.

  Clary laid her hand against his chest, where the red of his blood stood out against the darker red of his gear. She had felt the edges of the blade grind against the bones of his ribs. She had seen his blood spill through his fingers, so much blood that it had stained the rocks beneath him black and had stiffened the edges of his hair.

  And yet. Not if hes more Heavens than Hells.

  "Jace," she whispered. All around them were running feet. The shattered remains of Sebastians small army was fleeing across the Burren, dropping their weapons as they went. She ignored them. "Jace. "

  He didnt move. His face was still, peaceful under the moonlight. His eyelashes threw dark, spidering shadows against the tops of his cheekbones.

  "Please," she said, and her voice felt as if it were scraping out of her throat. When she breathed, her lungs burned. "Look at me. "

  Clary closed her eyes. When she opened them again, her mother was kneeling down beside her, touching her shoulder. Tears were running down Jocelyns face. But that couldnt be-Why would her mother be crying?

  "Clary," her mother whispered. "Let him go. Hes dead. "

  In the distance Clary saw Alec kneeling beside Magnus. "No," Clary said. "The sword-it burns away whats evil. He could still live. "

  Her mother ran a hand down her back, her fingers tangling in Clarys filthy curls. "Clary, no. . . "

  Jace, Clary thought fiercely, her hands curling around his arms. Youre stronger than this. If this is you, really you, youll open your eyes and look at me.

  Suddenly Simon was there, kneeling on the other side of Jace, his face smeared with blood and grime. He reached for Clary. She whipped her head up to glare at him, at him and her mother, and saw Isabelle coming up behind them, her eyes wide, moving slowly. The front of her gear was stained with blood. Unable to face Izzy, Clary turned away, her eyes on the gold of Jaces hair.

  "Sebastian," Clary said, or tried to say. Her voice came out as a croak. "Someone should go after him. " And leave me alone.

  "Theyre looking for him now. " Her mother leaned in, anxious, her eyes wide. "Clary, let him go. Clary, baby. . . "

  "Let her be," Clary heard Isabelle say sharply. She heard her mothers protest, but everything they were doing seemed to be going on at a great distance, as if Clary were watching a play from the last row. Nothing mattered but Jace. Jace, burning. Tears scalded the backs of her eyes. "Jace, goddamit," she said, her voice ragged. "You are not dead. "

  "Clary," Simon said gently. "It was a chance. . . "

  Come away from him. That was what Simon was asking, but she couldnt. She wouldnt. "Jace," she whispered. It was like a mantra, the way he had once held her at Renwicks and chanted her name over and over. "Jace Lightwood. . . "

  She froze. There. A movement so tiny, it was hardly a movement at all. The flutter of an eyelash. She leaned
forward, almost overbalancing, and pressed her hand against the torn scarlet material over his chest, as if she could heal the wound she had made. She felt instead-so wonderful that for a moment it made no sense to her, could not possibly be-under her fingertips, the rhythm of his heart.

  Chapter

  EPILOGUE

  At first, Jace was conscious of nothing. Then there was darkness, and within the darkness, a burning pain. It was as if hed swallowed fire, and it choked him and burned his throat. He gasped desperately for air, for a breath that would cool the fire, and his eyes flew open.

  He saw darkness and shadows-a dimly lit room, known and unknown, with rows of beds and a window letting in hollow blue light, and he was in one of the beds, blankets and sheets pulled down and tangled around his body like ropes. His chest hurt as if a dead weight lay on it, and his hand scrabbled to find what it was, encountering only a thick bandage wrapped around his bare skin. He gasped again, another cooling breath.

  "Jace. " The voice was familiar to him as his own, and then there was a hand gripping his, fingers interlacing with his own. With a reflex born out of years of love and familiarity, he gripped back.

  "Alec," he said, and he was almost shocked at the sound of his own voice in his ears. It hadnt changed. He felt as if he had been scorched, melted, and recreated like gold in a crucible-but as what? Could he really be himself again? He looked up at Alecs anxious blue eyes, and knew where he was. The infirmary at the Institute. Home. "Im sorry. . . "

  A slim, callused hand stroked his cheek, and a second familiar voice said, "Dont apologize. You have nothing to apologize for. "

  He half-closed his eyes. The weight on his chest was still there: half a wound and half guilt. "Izzy. "

  Her breath caught. "It really is you, right?"

  "Isabelle," Alec began, as if to warn her not to upset Jace, but Jace touched her hand. He could see Izzys dark eyes shining in the dawn light, her face full of hopeful expectancy. This was the Izzy only her family knew, loving and worried.

  "Its me," he said, and cleared his throat. "I could understand if you didnt believe me, but I swear on the Angel, Iz, its me. "

  Alec said nothing, but his grip on Jaces hand tightened. "You dont need to swear," he said, and with his free hand touched the parabatai rune near his collarbone. "I know. I can feel it. I dont feel like Im missing a part of me anymore. "

  "I felt it too. " Jace took a ragged breath. "Something missing. I felt it, even with Sebastian, but I didnt know what it was I was missing. But it was you. My parabatai. " He looked at Izzy. "And you. My sister. And. . . " His eyelids burned suddenly with a scorching light: the wound on his chest throbbed, and he saw her face, lit by the blaze of the sword. A strange burning spread through his veins, like white fire. "Clary. Please tell me-"

  "Shes completely all right," Isabelle said hastily. There was something else in her voice-surprise, unease.

  "You swear. Youre not just telling me that because you dont want to upset me. "

  "She stabbed you," Isabelle pointed out.

  Jace gave a strangled laugh; it hurt. "She saved me. "

  "She did," Alec agreed.

  "When can I see her?" Jace tried not to sound too eager.

  "It really is you," Isabelle said, her voice amused.

  "The Silent Brothers have been in and out, checking on you," said Alec. "On this"-he touched the bandage on Jaces chest-"and to see if you were awake yet. When they find out you are, theyll probably want to talk to you before they let you see Clary. "

  "How long have I been out cold?"

  "About two days," said Alec. "Since we got you back from the Burren and were pretty sure you werent going to die. Turns out its not that easy to completely heal a wound made by an archangels blade. "

  "So what youre saying is that Im going to have a scar. "

  "A big ugly one," said Isabelle. "Right across your chest. "

  "Well, damn," said Jace. "And I was relying on that money from the topless underwear modeling gig I had lined up, too. " He spoke wryly, but he was thinking that it was right, somehow, that he have a scar: that he should be marked by what had happened to him, physically as well as mentally. He had almost lost his soul, and the scar would serve to remind him of the fragility of will, and the difficulty of goodness.

  And of darker things. Of what lay ahead, and what he could not allow to happen. He strength was returning; he could feel it, and he would bend all of it against Sebastian. Knowing that, he felt suddenly lighter, a little of the weight gone from his chest. He turned his head, enough to look into Alecs eyes.

  "I never thought Id fight on the opposite side of a battle from you," he said hoarsely. "Never. "

  "And you never will again," Alec said, his jaw set.

  "Jace," Isabelle said. "Try to stay calm, all right? Its just. . . "

  Now what? "Is something else wrong?"

  "Well, youre glowing a bit," Isabelle said. "I mean, just a smidge. Of the glowing. "

  "Glowing?"

  Alec raised the hand that held Jaces. Jace could see, in the darkness, a faint shimmer across his forearm that seemed to trace the lines of his veins like a map. "We think its a leftover effect from the archangels sword," he said. "Itll probably fade soon, but the Silent Brothers are curious. Of course. "

  Jace sighed and let his head fall back against the pillow. He was too exhausted to muster up much interest in his new, illuminated state. "Does that mean you have to go?" he asked. "Do you have to get the Brothers?"

  "They instructed us to get them when you woke," said Alec, but he was shaking his head, even as he spoke. "But not if you dont want us to. "

 
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