"Light, when suddenly let in, dazzles and hurts and almost blinds us: but this soon passes away, and it seems to become the only element we can exist in." - Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare
An oval mirror hung above the sink. The copper rim tarnished by a deep, earthy rust. Alec shut his eyes briefly, and opened them again. He wasn't imagining it. It was like looking at blurry snapshots of himself as if the film had been loose inside the camera. He closed his eyes a second time, and when he opened them, his vision had cleared.
"Do you mind explaining what that was all about?" Isabelle demanded.
Alec gripped the edges of the sink and looked down, avoiding looking directly at Isabelle.
"I mean with you and Clary," Isabelle said. "And while you're at it, you can tell me why you look whiter than the bathroom walls…were you throwing up in here?"
"Yeah," Alec said. "But I'm fine now."
Isabelle swore sharply. She shook her long hair back so it was pulled back from her face and drew her fingers across her scalp. "What have you been doing to yourself?"
Alec finally spoke. Isabelle was watching him. Her eyes widened when Alec turned to face her. "I didn't want you to find out like this," Alec told her.
Those words kept echoing through his ears, sending an onset of burdening jolts through his exhausted body. His heart was pounding, and the longer he stared at his sister, who was like a stranger now staring blankly back at him, the more his heart threatened to stop still in his chest.
"There's something I never told you." Alec wanted to say. "I said I couldn't remember what had happened…well I lied. Because I did remember everything about that night." However, he swallowed those words into his throat, and something else spilled forth instead.
"I hate waiting like this," he said.
"What are you talking about?" Isabelle's voice was course. She drew her hand over her chest and wrapped the Fenix necklace between her fingers.
The world was whispering to him to give up. Should he tell her he was going to die in two days and there was nothing he could do about it – at least, nothing he was willing to give up – or was he going to wear blinders again, and live with the shadow in the corner of his mind, pretending not to notice he was hurting Isabelle, waiting for the end to come?
"Can I ask you something?" Alec said.
"If there was something you had to do, and you couldn't do it…what would you do?"
For a moment, Isabelle didn't say anything. She chewed the corner of her lip and threw her head back. The lids of her eyes quivered, and for a moment, it looked as if she were fighting back from either screaming out in frustration, or crying. "I suppose you can't do anything else," she finally said. A sigh released through her lips. She pressed her lips together and drew her fingers over her mouth. "I wish you would tell me what was bothering you."
Alec stepped forward. He was close enough he could wrap his hand over her shoulder, but he didn't. "…do you really want to know?"
"Then you're going to have to trust me when I say things are going to work out," Alec told her. "Can you do that?"
"I wouldn't be asking this if I wasn't absolutely sure this was going to turn out okay," Alec said. He felt lightheaded, but he convinced himself it had to turn out all right, despite the fact that now he was holding on to more doubt than hope. At least it seemed the onset he suddenly endured from the poison in his system was over. "And I'm sorry about tonight…I got carried away."
"Well, just get some sleep," Isabelle said finally. "Because I have a vague idea of what's happened here tonight. And I promise in the morning when your head clears up, I won't tell mom and dad that you were drunker than a shithouse rat tonight."
"That's not...Izzy, wait."
But she stormed off towards her room. Alec watched her leave. He heard her slam the door to her bedroom, and then it was quiet. All he could hear was the faint, festive music outside and the muffled voices coming through the walls. He wanted to scream, but words didn't come out of his cracked lips. Instead, he tightened them. He was going crazy. He couldn't think, and he needed to think, and more than anything, he needed to know what to do next.
And that was when the idea struck him.
If it was the Queen of the Seelie Court who had cursed that water nymph to the river, she more than anyone else would know how to help.
That is, if she would be willing. It wasn't as if Alec had much left to lose at this point.
Alec never made it back outside, nor even to his room for that matter. He collapsed against the nearest sofa in the parlor, tired and quiet like a swan who had his wings caught in a trap too long. Inevitably, sleep claimed him.
Pale, cool sunlight crept through the near window. Alec groaned and rolled over, surprised to find himself lying over linen sheets. He was in his room. He pulled himself up and dragged his legs over the siding. His bare feet touched the lacquered, wooden floor beneath him. He was still wearing his clothes from the night before, sweat-ridden and plastered to his skin. Pulling a fresh towel from the closet, he made his way toward the shower.
His hair was dripping wet with cold water when he stepped out. Quickly drying his hair, he ruffled the towel through his hair and dragged the towel over his face. When the towel fell back across his arm, he discovered standing in front of him was the one person Alec had been hoping to avoid since last night.
"Thought that might be you," was all Jace said. He leaned against the wall opposite Alec, arms folded gently across his chest. "From what I could tell last night, you had quite some evening."
"Was it obvious?"
"I gathered from a few things, one of which was finding you crashed on the sofa in the living room," Jace said. "I figured your room would be a less likely place to be woken up the next morning."
"…thanks," Alec muttered. Then it was Jace who had carried him to his room last night. He wondered where Isabelle was. "How was the party?"
"Fine. I did have an interesting conversation with a certain warlock, in case it struck your interest. He left the party early."
"Why?" Alec glanced up. "What did he say?"
"Not much. All he said was that he regretted coming."
"I don't know why he'd say something like that," Alec said. He looked away when at that moment, but Jace called back to him.
"Come downstairs when you're ready," he said. "We're heading back to the Institute later. Received some notices about some possible demonic activity happening in downtown Brooklyn outside the East River. We were going to check it out."
"Give me a second. I'll be right there," Alec told him. "By the way, have you seen Isabelle?"
"Yeah, she's downstairs. I tried to talk her out of it, but wanted to cook something for all of us. It looks like moldy bread thought Isabelle insists it's something else. Your mom is giving her a hand, but I swear that food isn't meant to be taken internally. I say we get a bite to eat once we're back at the Institute."
Alec agreed, but as soon as he turned to walk away, he swore. They were going to have to spend most of today investigating the possibility of a demonic presence when he really should be figuring out a way to meet with the Queen. Alec shook his head. It didn't matter. Tonight he would go to her, regardless of the consequences.
The sky was gray and streaked with heavy clouds when they arrived outside the East River. Their sensor led them to an abandoned warehouse.
It reeked of rotting flesh inside. A strange clicking was coming from Jace's sensor. When he removed the device from his pocket, the lines in his forehead creased. The sensor had acted as if it had detected a demon, but now it was dead. Jace withdrew one of his seraph blades. A faint glow radiated from the tip.
Alec ran his fingers across the quiver strapped across his back. He reached for an arrow and placed it at the ready against the strings of his bow.
A piece of metal snapped behind them.
All three of them whirled around. Standing in front of them was a tall, lanky man, dressed in a black suit and red tie. His arms dangled stiffly at his side. He stared back at them with hollow eyes, expressionless.
"This isn't right," Alec muttered under his breath so only Isabelle and Jace could hear. "Something's wrong."
The man's lips curled back, and suddenly, a horrible scream filled Alec's head. Sickening images swarmed his mind then, as clear as film…he saw Isabelle's mutilated body strewn across the floor, Jace's body lying next to hers, clothes shredded by wounds and deep cuts. A wave of nausea overcame him. He immediately pulled back on the bow and blindly shot an arrow into the distance.
With blinding agility, the man slinked back, dodging the shot.
Alec shook his head, wiping the flooding images out of his head. He looked down now, seeing Isabelle fallen to her knees, palms pressed to the ground. Her arms were shaking.
Before they had time to move, the man had appeared in front of them. He stared directly at Alec, locking eyes with him.
Then Jace ran forward, slashing his seraph blade across the man's neck, but with a stealth twist of his head, the man dodged the path of the blade. He stepped aside as Jace stepped forward, and grabbing his arm and pressing his palm to Jace's chest, flung him with unnatural strength over his back.
With a bone shattering crack, Jace landed a considerable distance against a stack of cold, cement bricks.
Isabelle was on her feet now. She flicked her whip so it wrapped around the demon's ankles. Tightening her grip, she pulled. The man was knocked off his feet to the ground.
"What's a Seere demon doing here?" Isabelle gasped. They were illusionist demons that could fill images of anything into your head. Alec had no doubt the faulty sensor reading from before was due to the demon concealing the device from them.
Alec darted his eyes towards Jace. He hadn't yet moved. "Jace!" he shouted.
"Alec," Isabelle said desperatately. "It's getting up."
The demon snarled and hissed. Then it lunged at Isabelle's neck, squeezing its hands around her throat. She dropped the whip and struggled. The collar of her sweater was torn down her chest, and suddenly, the demon scrambled off her. It swung its hand back violently as if it were burning.
It had touched the Fenix Necklace. The chain had snapped in two, the crystal now lying a few feet from her.
Pulling out an arrow, Alec shot it into the demon's chest. It disappeared into an inky stain, melting away into the cracks in the ground. Alec stared in a daze, then quickly snapped his attention towards Isabelle. He knelt beside her.
"I'm fine," she insisted, gathering herself to her feet. "Jace…is he all right?"
Alec hurried towards him. There was bruising around his eyes. Blood was draining from his ears. He shakily gripped his stele and began carving iratze runes into his skin.
The bruising seemed to fade, and the blood dried. Jace was suddenly awake, but he didn't move. He didn't look at Alec, but stared up at the ceiling. "Is it gone?"
"The demon? Yeah."
"Did you kill it?"
Alec nodded faintly, and Jace chuckled. "I can't believe it." He squinted slightly.
"Well…when you put it like that," Alec said, rising to his defense.
"Hey," Jace said seriously. He turned his face towards Alec. While his eyes were normally a dark, gold color, he noticed his eyes were now considerably paler, like milk spilled over amber ice. "I know you're there...so where are you?"
Alec frowned. "Are you kidding?" He reached forward and touched Jace on his shoulder to let him know he was nearby. "I'm right here."
"I guess I'll have to take your word for it," Jace muttered through a scratchy throat. He clenched his fists. His body shook as he turned his head away. "Because I can't see a single, goddamned thing."
A/N: Thank you all for reading. An extra thanks to everyone who has been prodding me to update. The encouragement was appreciated.
A few personal thoughts for some of my reviewers:
hi – thank you!! :]
TheLadyPendragon – aww, thank you so much! I just wanted to let you know I wish Alec would tell everyone, especially Magnus! Actually, I was seriously debating if I wanted Alec to tell Isabelle everything this chapter, but then what I had planned for later wouldn't work…but I promise the ending will be well worth it. Thanks for reading!
Awww… - Thanks and I hope this chapter didn't disappoint.
Meg89 – Wow. You're reviews are too kind and you write them with so much thought! Thank you!!! I hope you enjoyed this chapter!
.ixos. – thank you so much!!!
BlackFyre94 – thank you!!!
Silverwitch07 – Seriously, your reviews always make me smile. Thank you so much! You've always been so encouraging!
Auphora66 – thank you so much!
wintersilk – thank you!
tennisfreak – thank you!
lynxspanther – aww, thanks!! I hope you enjoyed this latest chapter! :)
m. maberry – I'm so glad you're enjoying the story so far! You are so sweet! Thank you so much and I hope you enjoyed this chapter!
Thank you to everyone else who has been reading so far! Unfortunately, the next update may not come for a while. With school starting soon, I won't have time to be writing very often. But by no means will I quit with this story!! I didn't mean to clutter the end of this chapter with so many appreciations to different readers, so I'm sorry for that. But I just wanted to take an extra bit of writing space to let everyone know how much I love hearing from you!
I will try to update again as soon as I can!
Oh, and please review!