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Queen of Air and Darkness, page 1

 

Queen of Air and Darkness
 



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Queen of Air and Darkness


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  For Sarah.

  She knows what she did.

  Lo! Death has reared himself a throne

  In a strange city lying alone

  Far down within the dim West,

  Where the good and the bad and the worst and the best

  Have gone to their eternal rest.

  There shrines and palaces and towers

  (Time-eaten towers that tremble not!)

  Resemble nothing that is ours.

  Around, by lifting winds forgot,

  Resignedly beneath the sky

  The melancholy waters lie.

  No rays from the holy heaven come down

  On the long night-time of that town;

  But light from out the lurid sea

  Streams up the turrets silently—

  Gleams up the pinnacles far and free—

  Up domes—up spires—up kingly halls—

  Up fanes—up Babylon-like walls—

  Up shadowy long-forgotten bowers

  Of sculptured ivy and stone flowers—

  Up many and many a marvellous shrine

  Whose wreathed friezes intertwine

  The viol, the violet, and the vine.

  Resignedly beneath the sky

  The melancholy waters lie.

  So blend the turrets and shadows there

  That all seem pendulous in air,

  While from a proud tower in the town

  Death looks gigantically down.

  There open fanes and gaping graves

  Yawn level with the luminous waves;

  But not the riches there that lie

  In each idol’s diamond eye—

  Not the gaily-jewelled dead

  Tempt the waters from their bed;

  For no ripples curl, alas!

  Along that wilderness of glass—

  No swellings tell that winds may be

  Upon some far-off happier sea—

  No heavings hint that winds have been

  On seas less hideously serene.

  But lo, a stir is in the air!

  The wave—there is a movement there!

  As if the towers had thrust aside,

  In slightly sinking, the dull tide—

  As if their tops had feebly given

  A void within the filmy Heaven.

  The waves have now a redder glow—

  The hours are breathing faint and low—

  And when, amid no earthly moans,

  Down, down that town shall settle hence,

  Hell, rising from a thousand thrones,

  Shall do it reverence.

  —Edgar Allan Poe, “City in the Sea”

  PART ONE

  Feel No Sorrow

  In the Land of Faerie,

  as mortals feel no sorrow, neither can they feel joy.

  —Faerie proverb

  1

  DEATH LOOKS DOWN

  There was blood on the Council dais, blood on the steps, blood on the walls and the floor and the shattered remnants of the Mortal Sword. Later Emma would remember it as a sort of red mist. A piece of broken poetry kept going through her mind, something about not being able to imagine people had so much blood in them.

  They said that shock cushioned great blows, but Emma didn’t feel cushioned. She could see and hear everything: the Council Hall full of guards. The screaming. She tried to fight her way through to Julian. Guards surged up in front of her in a wave. She could hear more shouting. “Emma Carstairs shattered the Mortal Sword! She destroyed a Mortal Instrument! Arrest her!”

  She didn’t care what they did to her; she had to get to Julian. He was still on the ground with Livvy in his arms, resisting all efforts by the guards to lift her dead body away from him.

  “Let me through,” she said. “I’m his parabatai, let me through.”

  “Give me the sword.” It was the Consul’s voice. “Give me Cortana, Emma, and you can help Julian.”

  She gasped, and tasted blood in her mouth. Alec was up on the dais now, kneeling by his father’s body. The floor of the Hall was a mass of rushing figures; among them Emma glimpsed Mark, carrying an unconscious Ty out of the Hall, shouldering other Nephilim aside as he went. He looked grimmer than she’d ever seen him. Kit was with him; where was Dru? There—she was alone on the ground; no, Diana was with her, holding her and weeping, and there was Helen, fighting to get to the dais.

  Emma took a step back and almost stumbled. The wood floor was slippery with blood. Consul Jia Penhallow was still in front of her, her thin hand held out for Cortana. Cortana. The sword was a part of Emma’s family, had been a part of her memory for as long as she could recall. She could still remember Julian laying it in her arms after her parents had died, how she’d held the sword to her as if it were a child, heedless of the deep cut the blade left on her arm.

  Jia was asking her to hand over a piece of herself.

  But Julian was there, alone, bowed in grief, soaked in blood. And he was more of herself than Cortana was. Emma surrendered the sword; feeling it yanked from her grip, her whole body tensed. She almost thought she could hear Cortana scream at being parted from her.

  “Go,” Jia said; Emma could hear other voices, including Horace Dearborn’s, raised, demanding she be stopped, that the destruction of the Mortal Sword and the disappearance of Annabel Blackthorn be answered for. Jia was snapping at the guards, telling them to escort everyone from the Hall: now was a time of grief, not a time for revenge—Annabel would be found—go with dignity, Horace, or you’ll be escorted out, now is not the time—Aline helping Dru and Diana to their feet, helping them walk from the room . . .

  Emma fell to her knees by Julian. The metallic smell of blood was everywhere. Livvy was a crumpled shape in his arms, her skin the color of skimmed milk. He had stopped calling for her to come back and was rocking her as if she were a child, his chin against the top of her head.

  “Jules,” Emma whispered, but the word sat bitterly on her tongue: that was her childhood name for him, and he was an adult now, a grieving parent. Livvy had not just been his sister. For years he had raised her as a daughter. “Julian.” She touched his cold cheek, then Livvy’s colder one. “Julian, love, please, let me help you. . . .”

  He raised his head slowly. He looked as if someone had flung a pail full of blood at him. It masked his chest, his throat, spattered his chin and cheeks. “Emma.” His voice was barely a whisper. “Emma, I drew so many iratzes—”

  But Livvy had already been dead when she hit the wood of the dais. Before Julian even lifted her into his arms. No rune, no iratze, would have helped.

  “Jules!” Helen had finally forced her way past the guards; she flung herself down beside Emma and Julian, heedless of the blood. Emma watched numbly as Helen carefully removed the broken shard of the Mortal Sword from Livvy’s body and set it on the ground. It stained her hands with blood. Her lips white with grief, she put her arms around Julian and Livvy both, whispering soothing words.

  The room was emptying around them. Magnus had come in, walking very slowly and looking pale. A long row of Silent Brothers followed him. He ascended the dais and Alec rose to his feet, flinging himself into Magnus’s arms. They held each other wordlessly as four of the Brothers knelt and lifted R
obert Lightwood’s body. His hands had been folded over his chest, his eyes carefully closed. Soft murmurs of “ave atque vale, Robert Lightwood,” echoed behind him as the Brothers carried his body from the room.

  The Consul moved toward them. There were guards with her. The Silent Brothers hovered behind them, like ghosts, a blur of parchment.

  “You have to let go of her, Jules,” Helen said in her gentlest voice. “She has to be taken to the Silent City.”

  Julian looked at Emma. His eyes were stark as winter skies, but she could read them. “Let him do it,” Emma said. “He wants the last person to carry Livvy to be him.”

  Helen stroked her brother’s hair and kissed his forehead before rising. She said, “Jia, please.”

  The Consul nodded. Julian got slowly to his feet, Livvy cradled against him. He began to move toward the stairs that led down from the dais, Helen at his side and the Silent Brothers following, but as Emma rose too, Jia put a hand out to hold her back.

  “Only family, Emma,” she said.

  I am family. Let me go with them. Let me go with Livvy, Emma screamed silently, but she kept her mouth firmly closed: She couldn’t add her own sadness to the existing horror. And the rules of the Silent City were unchangeable. The Law is hard, but it is the Law.

  The small procession was moving toward the doors. The Cohort had gone, but there were still some guards and other Shadowhunters in the room: a low chorus of “hail and farewell, Livia Blackthorn,” followed them.

  The Consul turned, Cortana flashing in her hand, and went down the steps and over to Aline, who had been watching as Livvy was carried away. Emma began to shiver all over, a shiver that started deep down in her bones. She had never felt so alone—Julian was going away from her, and the other Blackthorns seemed a million miles away like distant stars, and she wanted her parents with a painful intensity that was almost humiliating, and she wanted Jem and she wanted Cortana back in her arms and she wanted to forget Livvy bleeding and dying and crumpled like a broken doll as the window of the Council Hall exploded and the broken crown took Annabel—had anyone else seen it but her?

  “Emma.” Arms went around her, familiar, gentle arms, raising her to her feet. It was Cristina, who must have waited through all the chaos for her, who had stayed stubbornly in the Hall as the guards shouted for everyone to leave, stayed to remain by Emma’s side. “Emma, come with me, don’t stay here. I’ll take care of you. I know where we can go. Emma. Corazoncita. Come with me.”

  Emma let Cristina help her to her feet. Magnus and Alec were coming over to them, Alec’s face tight, his eyes reddened. Emma stood with her hand clasped in Cristina’s and looked out over the Hall, which seemed to her an entirely different place than it had when they had arrived hours ago. Maybe because the sun had been up then, she thought, dimly hearing Magnus and Alec talking to Cristina about taking Emma to the house that had been set aside for the Blackthorns. Maybe because the room had darkened, and shadows were thick as paint in the corners.

  Or maybe because everything had changed, now. Maybe because nothing at all would ever be the same again.

  * * *

  “Dru?” Helen knocked gently on the closed door of the room. “Dru, can I talk to you?”

  At least, she was fairly sure it was Dru’s room. The canal house next to the Consul’s residence on Princewater Street had been prepared for the Blackthorns before the meeting, since everyone had assumed they would spend several nights in Idris. Helen and Aline had been shown it earlier by Diana, and Helen had appreciated the light touch of Diana’s loving hands everywhere: There were flowers in the kitchen, and rooms had names taped to the doors—the one with two narrow beds was for the twins, the one for Tavvy full of books and toys Diana had brought from her own home over the weapons shop.

  Helen had stopped in front of a small room with flowered wallpaper. “For Dru, maybe?” she’d said. “It’s pretty.”

  Diana had looked dubious. “Oh, Dru isn’t like that,” she’d said. “Maybe if the wallpaper had bats on it, or skeletons.”

  Helen had winced.

  Aline had taken her hand. “Don’t worry,” she’d whispered. “You’ll get to know them all again.” She’d kissed Helen’s cheek. “It’ll be easy-peasy.”

  And maybe it would have been, Helen thought, staring at the door with the note that said Drusilla on it. Maybe if everything had gone well. Grief’s sharp agony flared up in her chest—she felt as she imagined a fish caught on a hook might feel, twisting and turning to get away from the spike of pain driven into its flesh.

  She remembered this pain from the death of her father, when only the thought that she had to take care of her family, had to look after the children, had gotten her through. She was trying to do the same now, but it was clear the children—if they could even really be called that; only Tavvy was truly a child, and he was at the Inquisitor’s house, having thankfully missed the horror in the Council Hall—felt awkward around her. As if she were a stranger.

  Which only made the pain pierce deeper in her chest. She wished Aline was with her, but Aline had gone to be with her parents for a few hours.

  “Dru,” Helen said again, knocking with more force. “Please let me in.”

  The door flew open and Helen jerked her hand back before she accidentally punched Dru in the shoulder. Her sister stood in front of her, glaring in her ill-fitting black meeting clothes, too tight in the waist and chest. Her eyes were so red-rimmed it looked as if she had smeared scarlet eye shadow across her lids.

  “I know you might want to be alone,” said Helen. “But I need to know that you’re—”

  “All right?” Dru said, a little sharply. The implication was clear: How could I possibly be all right?

  “Surviving.”

  Dru glanced away for a moment; her lips, pressed tightly together, trembled. Helen ached to grab her little sister and hug her, to cuddle Dru the way she had years ago when Dru was a stubborn toddler. “I want to know how Ty is.”

  “He’s asleep,” said Helen. “The Silent Brothers gave him a sedative potion, and Mark’s sitting with him. Do you want to sit with him too?”

  “I . . .” Dru hesitated, while Helen wished she could think of something comforting to say about Ty. She was terrified of what would happen when he woke up. He’d fainted in the Council Hall, and Mark had carried him to the Brothers, who were already in the Gard. They’d examined him in eerie silence and stated that physically he was healthy, but they would give him herbs that would keep him sleeping. That sometimes the mind knew when it needed to shut down to prepare itself to heal. Though Helen didn’t know how a night of sleep, or even a year of it, would prepare Ty for losing his twin.

  “I want Jules,” Dru said finally. “Is he here?”

  “No,” Helen said. “He’s still with Livvy. In the Silent City.” She wanted to say he’d be back any moment—Aline had said the ceremony of laying someone out in the City as a preparation for cremation was a short one—but she didn’t want to say anything to Dru that would turn out not to be true.

  “What about Emma?” Dru’s voice was polite but clear: I want the people I know, not you.

  “I’ll go look for her,” Helen said.

  She had barely turned away from Dru’s door when it shut behind her with a small but determined click. She blinked away tears—and saw Mark, standing in the hallway a few feet from her. He had come close so soundlessly that she hadn’t heard him approach. He held a crumpled piece of paper in his hand that looked like a fire-message.

  “Helen,” he said. His voice was rough. After all his years in the Hunt, would he grieve as faeries grieved? He looked rumpled, weary: There were very human lines under his eyes, at the sides of his mouth. “Ty is not alone—Diana and Kit are with him, and he sleeps on, besides. I needed to speak with you.”

  “I have to get Emma,” Helen said. “Dru wants her.”

  “Her room is just there; we can certainly get her before we leave,” Mark said, indicating the farther end of t
he corridor. The house was paneled in honey-colored wood, the witchlight lamps lighting it to warmth; on another day, it would have been a pretty place.

  “Leave?” Helen said, puzzled.

  “I have had a message from Magnus and Alec, at the Inquisitor’s house. I must go and fetch Tavvy and tell him our sister is dead.” Mark reached out a hand for her, his face twisting with pain. “Please, Helen. Come with me.”

  * * *

  When Diana was young, she had visited a museum in London where the star attraction was a Sleeping Beauty made of wax. Her skin was like pale tallow, and her chest rose and fell as she “breathed” with the help of a small motor implanted in her body.

  Something about Ty’s stillness and pallor reminded her now of the wax girl. He lay partly covered with the blankets on his bed, his only movement his breath. His hands were loose and open at his sides; Diana longed for nothing more than to see his fingers moving, playing with one of Julian’s creations or the cord of his headphones.

  “Is he going to be all right?” Kit spoke in a half whisper. The room was papered in cheerful yellow, both twin beds covered in rag bedspreads. Kit could have sat on the empty bed that was meant to be Livvy’s, but he hadn’t. He was crouched in a corner of the room, his back against the wall, his legs drawn up. He was staring at Ty.

  Diana put her hand to Ty’s forehead; it was cool. She felt numb throughout her body. “He’s fine, Kit,” she said. She tugged the blanket up over Ty; he stirred and murmured, shrugging it off. The windows were open—they’d thought the air might be better for Ty—but Diana crossed the room to close them now. Her mother had always been obsessed with the idea that the worst thing that could happen to someone was catching a chill, and apparently you never forgot what your parents told you.

  Beyond the window she could see the city, outlined in the early dusk, and the rising moon. She thought of a figure on horseback, riding across that vast sky. She wondered if Gwyn knew of this afternoon’s events, or if she would have to send him a message. And what would he do or say when he received it? He had come to her once before when Livvy, Ty, and Kit were in danger, but he had been called upon by Mark then. She still wasn’t sure if he’d done it because he was genuinely fond of the children, or if he had simply been discharging a debt.

 
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