I know I posted this a little early, but I was really excited to have this chapter done and out. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
They had been riding for three days, three uneventful days, when they finally spotted a sign that the woods was coming to its end. For days, they had ridden through an endless barrage of tree trunks, the light falling in dappled shadows, and the horses kicking up snow. They never saw any signs of demons, and Jace said this was a good thing; it meant that none of the demons Jonathan had sent had managed to escape Alicante. They were, however, nervous of pursuit; Jocelyn was no doubt furious with their plan, and they were surprised she hadn't gone after them, Luke's werewolf pack in her wake. Because of this, Jace had urged them all on faster, and they rested only once a day, for five hours at a time, just long enough for a scant amount of sleep. When the trees began to thin, there was a general feeling of relief about the quartet.
"Finally beyond the reach of the Clave," Clary sighed, drawing up beside Jace. "Though I don't know if it's any better out here; it seems we're caught between Jonathan and the them."
Jace nodded thoughtfully. "Hopefully, with one fell blow, we can finish them both. With the Cup, the Clave can build an army and undo all Jonathan has done. Then you and I can return to Woodend and start life anew."
The thought of Woodend made Clary smile a bit, and she snuggled down into her cloak. "We just need the Cup. How far to the palace?"
"It'll be another three day's ride," Jace said, considering the trip ahead, and then turned to Isabelle and Alec who were talking quietly of Max, Simon, and Magnus. "We'll go on now, and take a rest around midnight. Hopefully, we'll meet with some village or city soon and buy food. Let's go."
They set off again, and soon, found the river that Luke had taken Jace by. Travel was certainly faster by wolf back, Jace thought regretfully, but he had no doubt no werewolf in their right mind would offer any assistance. Now that they were beyond the woods about Alicante, though, there was a subtle difference in the land around them. Though Jace would never have called it magic, he believed that some enchantment, or maybe just the blessing of the Angel, had protected the forests around Alicante. For whatever reason, something was foul beyond the borders of the shadowhunter homeland.
Wherever they looked, there were signs of madness and darkness about the lands. The trees through which they rode where wilted and grey, and none of the coming spring was coaxing them to life. The snow and ice clung to the land fiercely, refusing to melt; the horses were slowed terribly by the high drifts and at night, they all shivered, wrapping their cloaks tighter and tighter. Any fires they started were small, and barely burned beyond the pit, their flames orange and yellow, but never the desired blue. The sun never rose fully, and a perpetual darkness seemed to have settled over the land.
During the second day of riding, they found the first signs of civilization. There were traps set for small game, and here and there, the markings of hunting parties. Isabelle hummed, pleased, as she desperately wanted to stop by a pub and buy a large, warm mulled wine. However, as they drew nearer and nearer, something unsettled them, and it was Alec who was the first to spot something truly disturbing.
They were on a main road, hoods drawn to ward off curious eyes, and directly off the beaten dirt and snow was a small boy, crouched low in drifts. He was fiddling with something, muttering all the while. As they drew level with him, Alec gasped, because in the boy's hands was a small rodent, most likely a mouse, and it was squirming frantically-due mostly to the fact that the boy was peeling its flesh off.
"What are you doing?" Alec demanded, his horse snorting and tossing its head. "Stop it, boy!"
Jace and Clary both turned about in their saddles, and Isabelle, who was by Alec's side, drew her horse away. Clary heard the mouse give a tormented squeal as the boy tugged a strip of its flesh clean off. "Let that poor thing go, or put it out of its misery!"
The boy surveyed them all with blank eyes. "Why? It's just a mouse." As if to prove a point, the boy plucked one of its whiskers off.
"You're torturing it," Isabelle rasped, and her hand moved unerringly for the knife at her boot. "If you were planning on eating it, at last do the honorable thing and end its life fast."
The boy seemed truly confused; he titled his head to the side. "I'm not going to eat it," he said, and then promptly snapped the poor things neck. He tossed the corpse aside and then gathered some snow in his hands to clean the blood off. "I was just playing."
"What's wrong with you?" Clary snarled, and she pushed her horse closer, her eyes glinting. "You ought to be punished. Where's your village?"
The boy shrugged, unimpressed by Clary's outrage. "Just about the bend."
"Come with us," Clary ordered, pointing ahead of her. "You'll lead us and then we'll have a talk with your parents. Such cruelty is not to go unpunished."
The boy seemed even more confused, but then stood up and walked off. Jace stared long and hard at the boy and then looked back to the sorry corpse of the mouse. There was something at work here, and he didn't know if they could risk the time or the energy to see it through. He loosed his sword and told the others to do the same before they entered the village.
Jace had been right. The small village was oddly empty, the houses' windows blank, no smoke spiraling up from the chimneys. There was no noise, not a tired sigh, a baby's wail, or a child's playful scream; it was too quiet for comfort. As they entered the town center, though, they were greeted by what must have been the entire village. The gathering was whispering, pointing to something on a large prow in the middle of the large circle. When the four arrived, one of the horses gave a shrill cry, and Jace used the sound to draw their attention.
"Villagers!" he cried, and they turned as one to face him. Jace gave the boy a push. "Whose boy is this?"
"What you doing to my son, then?" a woman snarled, coming forward and taking her son's hand. "You leave my boy alone if you know what's best for you."
"Your son was torturing a field mouse out on the road," Alec said angrily. "He didn't take a care for its pain; he was skinning it alive!"
"And what of it?" the boy demanded, his eye glinting. "It's just a mouse!"
"Do you hear your son?" Alec said fiercely to the woman.
"I do, and I don't care." She lifted her chin. "Let him have his play; what's the use in having mice if not for play? They're nothing but rodents leastways."
Jace's gold eyes burned and he felt his hand shake. "It's a foul-" Clary's gasp cut Jace off. She cried, pointing to the center of the circle of people.
This close now, they could properly see what had been placed on the prow, what all the people had been muttering about. It was a baby, a live, crying baby; its little fists flailed about in the cold and its cries rent the air painfully. What had drawn Clary's attention, though, was the man dressed all in black who was standing over the small bundle, a wicked knife clasped in two hands, raised above the baby. He was muttering fast in a harsh language, one none of them knew. He gave a cry and brought the knife down with a flash; the crying suddenly ceased.
"By the Angel!" Clary cried.
The woman snorted. "Angel? Who praises the Angel anymore?"
Alec was enraged, and Jace almost as much so; they both kicked their horses forward and they split the crowd, plowing down anyone who wanted to block them. By the time they arrived at the scene, the poor thing was dead, a gash bone deep across its small chest. Jace's eyes, though, were drawn to the decoration about the table: skulls, human skulls, skulls too small to belong to an adult.
"What is this?" Jace demanded of the man in black who had murdered the child. "What have you done?" He drew his sword and leveled it with the man's head. "Speak carefully."
The man snorted and smiled smugly. "I am praising the Great Goddess. She asks for the blood of a newborn, and so we offer it to her."
Jace's hand shook, but before he could so much as ask, Clary gave a cry of fury and a dagger shot from her hand. Before the man in black could speak his next revolting comment, Clary's knife had burrowed itself in his throat. A cry of terror went up through the amassed crowd and they scattered before the four horsed intruders. Clary didn't care, she was shaking and gave a furious cry.
"What is this place?" Clary's horse spun about. "Who are these people?"
"We should go," Isabelle said quickly looking from place to place. "There's something wrong with this place, something very wrong. We need to go!"
Clary wanted to stay and seek justice for the many dead babies, but Jace seemed to agree, because he nodded and urged his horse to flee. The four shot from the village, their hoods falling back and their hair streaming out before them. In the distance, they could hear the cries of the villagers, and they followed them as they ran. The four didn't stop for hours, not until night had fallen and their horses could go no further.
Clary shuddered and caught Jace's hand. "What was that place? And what were they doing?"
Jace shook his head. "The man said praising the Great Goddess."
"Great Goddess?" Isabelle snarled. "By murdering babies? Has the world gone mad?"
"Did you hear what the woman said?" Clary said suddenly, looking between them. "I spoke of the Angel and she said, who praises him anymore. They no longer believe in the Angel."
"This isn't good," Jace said contemplatively. "I think this is Jonathan's work. Murdering the innocent, torture, the Great Goddess? It sounds like he's trying to run the old ways out."
"Should we keep going before rest?" Alec asked, his thoughts still on the poor baby he'd seen murdered.
"We'll keep going the rest of the night," Jace said, looking back the way they had come. "I want to be far away from these parts, though I think this isn't the last we're going to see of this madness."
They pressed on, haunted by the village, and when the sun rose, cold and bleak, they finally drew off the road and into a small copse of trees. They didn't starting a fire, and instead ate cold bread and meat, and then Alec and Isabelle set to a watch, and Jace and Clary took the first sleep. Clary pressed herself against Jace, trying to push the slaughtered baby from her mind, but it just wouldn't go. She heaved a dry sob and Jace lifted her chin up so she could look into his eyes.
"Don't think of it, Clary, just try and put it from your thoughts." When her lips trembled, he kissed her. "Think of other things."
Clary closed her eyes and tried to picture Max, sleeping curled up by her side. Her body relaxed a little, and she drew her hood up to blot out the world around her. It was only the presence of Jace that allowed her any sleep at all, and when she woke, she was still bone tired. She and Jace, though, gathered themselves and sat by to watch over Isabelle and Alec while they slept. When the sun was at its peak, they all set to mounting their horses and setting out again.
Now they were entering more built up parts, and they knew the palace was near at hand. There were more people on the road, and they were forced to draw their hoods up and keep their faces down. Men and women on the road talked, and they caught snatches of their conversation: Jonathan's campaign against the demon-folk, the bitter, unending winter, the Great Goddess, and rumors of the lord and ladies. None of it sat well with Jace, Clary, or the Lightwoods, and they wished fervently for the safety of the Alicante again.
Something has happened here, Clary thought fearfully. These people have been poisoned by Jonathan's madness. We need the Cup as soon as possible. Clary now felt the urgency of stopping her brother even more. The darkness was all around them, and between Idris and Alicante, she would take the Clave any day.
When they finally topped a hill, they found themselves looking down upon the bustling city and accompanying palace. Clary drew a sharp breath. "We're home."
They passed down the hillside, almost like ghosts, and into the bustling metropolis that ringed the palace. Clary found herself again shocked by the sheer size and diversity of the city. With each turn of her head, she was given a new view. Buildings flanked a cobbled street, their windows frosted from the cold, and glowing pale yellow from the candles within. Smoke rose in spirals from every chimney and seemed to gather like clouds above the city, and only proved to hold back the light of the sun. One the street was a thorough of people from every conceivable walk of life. Clary saw the merchant class first, their warm furs and bright colored clothing shone like a flag, announcing their arrival wherever they went. Though they weren't as ostentatious as the ruling class Clary had grown up around, they was a certain air about them, in the way they spoke, the way they dressed, even in the way the women styled their hair: it was desperation and envy. Clary also spotted the working class citizens, the craftsmen and bakers and tailors who went about their business, speaking quietly and keeping their heads bowed to the wind. It was in the shadows she saw the dregs of the society, hunched adults in tattered robes and dirty, grimy children who begged for a coin, food, anything.
The four pressed on, and now Isabelle drew alongside Clary and lowered her voice. "When we stop, you should pretend to be my nursemaid; we can pretend I'm being escorted by my brothers to my husband, and I'm sick with child."
Clary raised one copper eyebrow. "Jace and Alec do not favor each other."
"He's a bastard," Isabelle shrugged, and earned herself a very malicious smile from Jace. "You haven't been gone that long, Clary, only seven or eight months; I do not think the people have quite forgotten your face. The farther away from Princess Clarissa Morgenstern you are, the better."
"Alright then," Clary nodded and cast her gaze about. No one seemed to paying her attention, but that didn't mean Jonathan's spies weren't out and about. Surely, they would be tracking her? "Why don't we stop by an inn with a bar? We'll have to wait till evening if we want to sneak into the palace; the court will be dining then."
Jace and Alec agreed, and after a quick survey of the shop fronts about them, chose a place called The North Star, an establishment of some size and propriety. They pulled their horses aside and carefully dismounted and entered the inn. It was large and open on the bottom floor, with two hearths alive and bright, small lanterns hung from the wood paneled walls, and tables crowded all about, many of them claimed. No one seemed interested in the people who had just entered, in fact, they only spoke louder.
"There," Isabelle said, jerked her head to an empty table in a corner. As they settled, a waitress came and took orders for wine with a bored expression. Once she had gone and come back, they sank into whispered talk.
"So," Alec began with trepidation, "we're waiting until the dinner starts before we enter the palace. When do they dine?"
"Six or so," Clary said meditatively. "We have about three hours, but we should plan to leave very soon; the palace will be well guarded, and we'll have to sneak along the river bank and into the gardens."
"There's a door in gardens the slaves used," Isabelle said excitedly. "It takes us down into the dormitories and from there, we can take the servants' stair up to the main level."
Jace nodded. "Will any of the slaves know you?"
"Will they know you?" Alec asked back meaningfully. "These cloaks will have to be discarded if we want to pass for anything like a slave, and the weapons will have to be hidden. You might consider a bit of dirt and despondency just to give off the effect-"
"You lot doing alright then?" asked the server who had returned and was eyeing them all curiously. Her gaze rested on Clary's downcast face. "Don't I know you, girl?"
Clary felt her mouth go dry, but she was saved responding by Isabelle's imperious voice. "I would think not, seeing as she's been living out on my husband's land all her life. This is her first time in a city this size." Clary eyes moved to Isabelle, but she kept her face turned down in what she hoped was a timid look. "She's my nursemaid, but the poor thing is hardly worth a thing; she can't read or write, all she's good for is keeping my baby alive."
The waitress cocked a hip. "I swear I seen her."
"Impossible," Isabelle dismissed.
"Well, suppose it's a mistake," the woman replied, looking around the table. "We get so many outlandish people in the town nowadays. Never know one face from the other, do I."
"Outlandish?" Jace asked sharply, and the woman smiled welcoming at him. "People coming into town more often?"
"Course they are," said the woman. "There's been a call going out around the country for soldiers and servants up at the castle, just last month as is. King Jonathan has been summoning able bodied men and women willing to serve the kingdom. They go up the road to the castle and never come back; marching off to war I expect."
"You've heard of the war?" Alec asked a little foolishly.
"Who hasn't?" the woman responded. "It's all there been talk of for the last two months. Rumors have gotten out about demon people who live out in the wilderness and make pacts with animals. It's only King Jonathan and the great lords who hold off their assault."
Jace's face flushed at being called a demon person. "I suppose you've seen the lords and ladies then?"
"Are you mad?" she asked sharply, giving Jace a suspicious look. "They live up at the castle, deep in war council they are. Never leave."
"Probably very busy," Jace agreed and offered the woman a smile that won her trust again. "Well, thank you. we should be getting on soon."
"Do stop back by," the waitress said with a meaningful look at Jace before she flounced off.
Clary waited until the woman was gone before opening her mouth. "Jonathan has been summoning men and women?"
"It's certainly not for war," Isabelle said darkly. "Do you think it's got to do with the demons he's called up?"
"If it is, I pity those poor souls," Jace said softly. "Demons feed off people, and they must be running short on fresh flesh up there, locked away behind their towers and gates."
"You don't think he's feeding them to his de-?"
Clary shushed Alec sharply. "Don't go blabbing about it! Our success rests in secrecy."
Alec snapped his mouth shut and Jace and Isabelle finished their wine. The four sat for a time, waiting for the light to wane a little and their time to come. When four-thirty rolled about, Clary stirred and whispered for them to rise and leave. They did so, still unlooked for and still invisible to most eyes. They took their horses toward the docks and took advantage of the lull in sea traffic caused by the solid ice, and then they ordered their horses into the small, natural ravine that formed around the river. Following this, they made their slow, careful way towards the palace and Jonathan.
After following the frozen river for almost half an hour, they drew to a halt before the royal dock, the horses whinnying and crying shrilly. They could sense the demons close by and could not master their fear like their riders. Isabelle rubbed the space between her horse's ears and cooed at it warmly. There was no one around, no sign of life-or worse, so they led the horses under the dock and dismounted. While they tied their horses loosely to the wooden beams that held up the dock, Jace was running over the plan.
"Dinner begins soon, and the court should all be there. We're going to use the edges that run along this path up into the garden. We should be able to go unseen to the door in the castle that leads us into the slaves' quarters. The meal itself should only last an hour, and we don't know what kind of entertainments, if any, these demon lords enjoy. We should plan for no more than an hour and half to do this."
"That's mad," Isabelle said sharply. "It'll take us an hour to sneak past all the slaves and get to Jonathan's room, let alone finding the Cup and then getting back out."
"It's out only choice," Jace said sternly. "It's the time we've been given, and it's what we're going to work with. Just keep a weapon ready and your ears and eyes open." His speech done, Isabelle and Alec dissolved into whispers, considering their best route. Jace, though, went to join Clary. She was shaking and her eyes were glassy. "Clary, Clary look at me."
When Clary just glanced up with empty eye, Jace drew her away from view and kissed her passionately on her lips. "I won't let anything happen to you, do you understand that?"
Clary rested her head on Jace's chest. "He's there, Jace, he's so close. I didn't think I would feel this way, but…I do."
"It's okay to be afraid, Clary," he said gently. "I'm going to protect you. Even from Jonathan."
"What if he catches us?" Clary's little fingers dug into Jace's shirt front. "If he finds us everything is lost. He'll have the Cup and us, and he'll use his army to destroy everything. And he'll kill you."
"He won't kill me," Jace promised.
But it was these words that stirred Clary to life; she lifted her eyes to his and he saw the hardness in them. "No, you're right, he won't kill you; I won't let him."
Jace nodded. "It'll all be over soon."
The hour drew nearer and nearer, and finally, they heard the resounding bell that signaled the summons to dinner. For perhaps a second, they waited tensely in the shadows of the dock, and then, like a snap of lightening, broke cover. They ran, bent over, along the high hedges that flanked the path to the boats, and before they realized where they were, they crashed through a strand of trees and found themselves in the palace gardens.
Clary had a fleeting rush of terror at being so very close to her prison of sixteen years, but there was no time for fear. They moved on swiftly through the frozen gardens, jumping bare flower beds and low hedges. They were all experiencing that heart-stopping terror, the feeling of the hunted. As they hurtled along, the walls of the palace drew nearer and nearer, and Isabelle was the first to spot the dip in the land that would give way to a small depression where the door to the slaves' quarters was hidden. It seemed like they all tumbled rather than landed before the door, but didn't even take time for a breath. Clary flicked out her stele and drew a bright, flashing rune; the door swung open soundlessly.
In they went, stumbling through the door and into the palace dark. When the door drew shut behind them, a feeling of finality and coldness settled over all of them. There was no more turning back now, they were in the palace. Now, Alec took the lead because he knew the way so well; they took the steps two at a time, descending into the belly of the palace.
Does he know? Clary wondered, heart pounding. Has Jonathan sensed that I've returned? Has he already sent his demons after me?
It was too much to bear, so Clary forced her thoughts to the present, and to the sound of voices that was fast approaching. They came to a sudden bend in the stairs and a landing; they were at the slaves' quarters. Alec carefully removed his cloak and the others followed suit; each took a moment to adjust their clothing, to look more like a slave, and then Alec peeked around the corner; after half a minute, he waved them on to follow him.
The slaves' quarters were mostly bare, but for a few lone figures. At first, they were worried about the slaves seeing them and asking questions, but after a quick inspection, they saw how pointless these fears were. Isabelle gasped and drew against Clary, pointing weakly at the slaves; they were bent and pale, their eyes unseeing, their mouths slack. Something was very wrong with these slaves.
Still they moved on, and Alec brought them quickly to the servants' stair that was the main thoroughfare of the staff. At that moment, there were a few people there, carrying clothing to be washed, plates for the kitchen, food for the lords and ladies, but none of them even seemed to see the four intruders; it was if they were completely blind to the world around them, consumed with their menial task.
Upward they went, one floor, two floors, three floors, and still more. Clary was counting now, and every step she took begged her to turn back; they were coming too close to danger. When Alec drew them to a halt, Clary knew they had arrived and it was time to begin the horrible task of breaking into Jonathan's room and stealing the Cup.
"We won't have much time," Jace breathed, listening closely for and danger. "It'll be thirty minutes, that's as long as we can risk it. Let's go."
The door to the floor opened and the four poured out into the lavish hall. Clary and Jace both experienced the shock of seeing the palace once again, and, to their mounting horror, the doors to Clary's old bedroom. Jace paused on the spot, and then grabbed Clary's arm forcefully and pulled her down the hall. They met no one, and the rich carpet quieted their footsteps, but before the large, double doors that marked the entrance to the King's chamber, they were met with a powerful set of runes that locked the door. Both Jace and Clary set to work while Isabelle and Alec scanned the hall, and when the spell broke on the door, he hissed in victory.
In they went, stealing into Jonathan's chambers like wraiths. The entrance chamber was vast and dark, a fire burning in the grate, a number of dark furniture gathered around it. Jace glanced a book on the table, the cover painted in strange red runes he had never seen. Isabelle and Alec both noted how cold the room seemed, how very dark and quiet. Clary, though, couldn't bring herself to venture past the hearth; her eyes were wide and clouded.
"Jace," she whispered, "I can't do this. I can't go through with all this while he's down there. I'll guard the door…please, just do this without me."
Jace wanted to stay and coax Clary to come with him, but for once, he didn't have the time to tend to her emotions. Jace led Alec away from the entrance chamber and into the private study, sending Isabelle into his sleeping chambers. Clary loitered by the doors, listening for the sound of voices in the halls.
Jace and Alec were tearing the study apart, throwing papers asides, plans for war, numbers of crops. They dug through his chests, tossing books aside uselessly. Jace drew a blade and began cutting the chairs apart; a small part of him enjoyed running everything Jonathan had. Alec was checking the desks, jerking the drawers out and emptying their contents on the floor. In his bedroom, Isabelle had thoroughly destroyed his room. She had torn his closet and chests apart, lavish clothing piled in a heap on the floor. She had cut the mattress apart and torn the insides out. She was just giving up hope when she spotted the small, closed cabinet in the corner by the window.
"Anything, Alec?" Jace called desperately. "Have you seen anything that looks like a cup-?"
"Yes!" It was Isabelle, and she ecstatic.
Jace and Alec streamed out of the study just as Isabelle came out, the Cup aloft. Her face was the picture of victory, her eyes shining and her lips parted in that victory cry, but her face fell almost at once when Clary gave a cry of terror.
"It triggered an alarm!" she crowed, watching a rune flash across the door and then explode. The sound rang out down the hall, reverberating off the walls, shaking the panes of glass in the windows. For a moment, a breath's moment, there was silence, and then a snarl unlike any they had ever heard answered and the air was rent with cried.
"Run!" Jace cried, and the chase began.
Out into the halls they fled, and behind them, where the main stairs waited, they could hear strange footfalls coming. Clary led the way, Isabelle followed with the Cup, and Alec and Jace pulled up the rear. They could see the door to the servants' stair, if they could slip through before the demons were up, they'd be safe. A screech was heard and Clary gave a terrified cry, putting on an extra spurt of speed."
"Open the door!" Jace ordered as Clary's hand curled around the handle, but just then, the first of the demons cleared the stairs. Its eyes pinioned on the small group.
"Isabelle, keep going!" Clary ordered, throwing the door wide while Jace launched a knife that speared the demon. "Just keep running and don't look back. Get to the horses and get out of here!"
Isabelle's face paled in horror. "I can't leave you here-" but Clary shoved her, eyes alight with frantic energy.
"Just go," she said in a ragged voice. "Jace and I can hold them off while you escape."
Isabelle would have said more, but at that moment, Alec came up and tried to push Clary in next. Clary, marked with runes for strength, managed to swing around and force Alec into the hidden stair. Alec's mouth hung wide open, but Clary just shook her head and slammed the door shut in his face. She slashed her stele across the door, locking it firmly-just in case.
"Jace!" Clary cried, running up to where he was grappling with three demons. She shot past him, running her blade through the throat of one, then the other, and faced him. "I sent Isabelle and Alec away. They have the Cup."
For a moment, her words didn't sink in, but when they did, Jace's eyes flamed. "Clary, no. Go, go now!"
"I'm not leaving you here," Clary said firmly.
"I'm ordering you-"
Clary laughed just as another demon soared through the air; she slashed upward, slicing through its throat. "You'll do nothing of the sort, Jace; you're my husband, my best friend, my equal. Did you think I was just going to let you stay? Did you think I would leave you to Jonathan's mercy?"
"Clary, you have to go-"
"I'm staying with you," she said softly. "I promised you, didn't I?"
"I can't let him have you!" Jace sounded desperate, frantic. His eyes moved to the door and he saw the rune Clary had drawn, the same rune she'd used to lock her bedroom door all those many months ago. "I swore to protect you."
More demons were spilling into the corridor, and they were being forced back to the dead end. Clary kissed Jace fiercely. "You have, and you will; now, let me protect you." Clary grasped Jace's left arm and raised her stele. "You swore to me, Jace, that if Jonathan was ever moments away from killing you, you'd let me bind you to myself. Now, it seems, is that time."
Jace's mouth was dry, but he heard a horrible groan and saw human shape, dark and shadowy, lurch toward them. A shiver raced up his spine and the breath in his throat died. The real demons were coming now. "Quickly," was all he said.
Jace's eyes moved from Clary's determined face to the strange figure that were streaming up the steps and slowly, surrounding them. They were human, at least in form, but their eyes were pitch black, their mouths gaping wide and fanged, and their hands hooked like claws. They lurched as if they weren't accustomed to walking on feet, and their bodies bent at weird angles. One of them he noticed was a woman who was walking backward, but it's head was turned about 180 degrees and its arms were stretching our behind it; it's mouth hung wide, the jaw unhinged, and a snake tongue lashed about-
"Ouch!" Jace gasped and looked down.
Clary was completely a very permanent looking rune. It was two entwined strands, they looked more likes vines than runes, and they looped about Jace's wrist almost like a bracelet. On Clary's right wrist was the same rune, and when she held up her wrist to his, the runes flared to life and glowed bright white. In a single moment, Jace felt a rush of his blood and suddenly a barrage of images passed over his mind: he saw fields of sloping grass, a young pale boy with bright eyes, a tall, beautiful red-haired woman, and then himself, standing tall and bathed in golden light. Jace jerked backward and stumbled against a wall, gasping; blood was pounding through his veins, his heart was beating out of tempo, emotions were flooding over him faster than he could understand.
Clary was still standing, leaning against the wall, but standing. She stared fiercely around at the assembled demons, all of them smiling back at her with their human faces. She knew this was it, this was the moment she had dreaded for months, but for some reason, she felt nothing but a pulsing courage. She knew it was her bond to Jace, and she took full advantage of it. Her eyes flashed and she placed a hand bracingly on Jace's shoulder. It was then that the hissing and snarling around her died. A fission went through the crowd and from the direction of the stairs, the crowd slowly parted.
The hairs on the back of Clary's neck prickled and she saw, as if from a distance, a tall, pale figure emerging. He strolled forward at a leisurely pace, as if out for an evening walk, but there was a contained ferocity about him that belied the grace. The crowd of spectator demons fell away and bowed back, and Clary felt the blood drain from her face and down to her toes.
It was Jonathan.
He stood before Clary, tall and darkly handsome, his eyes glowing with a wild light and his smile hungry and possessive. His lips turned up, revealing many white teeth; Clary was reminded of a wolf. His gaze slipped from hers, down to the still glowing rune, and then to the matching one on Jace's wrist. He frowned a bit, but seemed unconcerned. When he spoke, Clary shivered against her will but held strong to Jace.
"Welcome home, little sister. I've been waiting for you."
This is the end of part two. The story will conclude in the third and final part, Empire of Starlight
I hope everyone who read this enjoyed it, and I want to thank everyone who reviewed. You really make it worthwhile! I am planning to post the first chapter of Empire of Starlight in about two weeks. I hope to hear from you then.