“Julian calls it my Wall of Crazy,” Emma said.
She and Cristina were standing in front of the closet in Emma’s bedroom, the door of which was propped wide open.
The closet was empty of clothes. Emma’s wardrobe, mostly vintage dresses and jeans she’d picked up in secondhand stores in Silver Lake and Santa Monica, was either hung in her armoire or folded in her dresser. The inside walls of the closet in her blue-painted room (the mural on the bedroom wall of swallows in flight over the towers of a castle had been done by Julian when she first moved in, a nod to the symbol of the Carstairs family) were covered in photographs, newspaper clippings, and sticky notes in Emma’s cramped handwriting.
“Everything is color coded,” she said, indicating the sticky notes. “Stories from mundane newspapers, research into spells, research into demonic languages, things I’ve managed to get out of Diana over the years . . . It’s everything I’ve ever found that connects to my parents’ deaths.”
Cristina moved closer to examine the walls, then swung around suddenly to stare at Emma. “Some of these look like official Clave files.”
“They are,” Emma said. “I stole them from the Consul’s office in Idris when I was twelve.”
“You stole these from Jia Penhallow?” Cristina looked horrified. Emma supposed she couldn’t blame her. The Consul was the highest elected official in the Clave—only the Inquisitor came close in terms of power and influence.
“Where else was I going to get photos of my parents’ bodies?” Emma asked, shrugging off her jacket and tossing it onto her bed. She wore a tank top underneath, the breeze from the wilderness cool on her bare arms.
“So the pictures I took tonight—where do they go?”
Cristina handed them to Emma. They were still damp with toner—the first thing they’d done when they’d gotten back to the Institute was print out the two clearest photos of the alleyway body from Cristina’s phone. Emma leaned in and pinned them carefully beside the Clave photos of her own parents’ bodies—dimmed with time now and curling at the edges.
She leaned back and looked from one to the other. The markings were ugly, spiky, hard to concentrate on. They seemed to push back against being viewed. They weren’t a demon language anyone had been able to identify to her, but they felt as if no human mind could have conceived of them.
“So now what?” Cristina said. “I mean, what is your plan for what to do next?”
“I’ll see what Diana says tomorrow,” Emma said. “If she found out anything. Do the Silent Brothers already know about the murders Rook was talking about? If they don’t, I’ll go back to the Shadow Market. I’ll dig up whatever money I’ve got, or owe Johnny Rook a favor—I don’t care. If someone’s killing people now and covering their bodies with this writing, then it means—it means Sebastian Morgenstern didn’t kill my parents five years ago. It means I’m right, and their deaths were something else.”
“It might not mean exactly that, Emma.” Cristina’s voice was gentle.
“I’m one of the few people alive who saw Sebastian Morgenstern attack an Institute,” said Emma. It was both one of her clearest memories and a blur: She remembered grabbing up baby Tavvy with Dru following, carrying him through the Institute as Sebastian’s Dark warriors howled, remembered the sight of Sebastian himself, all white hair and dead black demonic eyes, remembered the blood and Mark, remembered Julian waiting for her. “I saw him. Saw his face, his eyes when he looked at me. It’s not that I don’t think he could have killed my parents. He would have killed anyone who stood in his way. It’s just that I don’t think he would have bothered.” Her eyes stung. “I just have to get more proof. Convince the Clave. Because as long as this is laid at Sebastian’s door, the real murderer, the person responsible, won’t be punished. And I don’t think I could stand that.”
“Emma.” Cristina touched Emma’s arm lightly with her hand. “You know I think the Angel has a plan for us. For you. And whatever I can do to help you, I will.”
Emma did know that. To many Shadowhunters, the Angel who had created the race of Nephilim was a distant figure. To Cristina, Raziel was a living presence. Around her throat she wore a medallion consecrated to the Angel. Raziel was etched on the front, and there were words written in Latin on the back: Blessed be the Angel my strength, who teaches my hands to war, and my fingers to fight.
Cristina touched her medallion often: for strength, before an exam, before a battle. In many ways, Emma envied Cristina her faith. Sometimes she thought the only things she had faith in were revenge and Julian.
Emma leaned back against the wall, paper and sticky notes rough against her bare shoulder. “Even if it means breaking the rules? I know you hate that.”
“I am not as boring as you seem to think.” Cristina hit Emma’s shoulder lightly in mock offense. “Anyway, there is nothing more we can do tonight. What would take your mind off things? Bad movies? Ice cream?”
“Introducing you to the Blackthorns,” Emma said, pushing off the wall of the closet. “But they’re not here.” Cristina looked at Emma as if worried she’d hit her head. “They aren’t and they are.” Emma held out her hand. “Come with me.”
Cristina allowed herself to be led out into the corridor. It was all wood and glass, the windows giving out onto what during the daytime were vistas of sea and sand and desert. Emma had thought when she moved into the Institute that eventually the views would start to fade out of her consciousness, that she wouldn’t wake up every morning still startled by the blue of the ocean, the sky. That hadn’t happened. The sea still fascinated her with its ever-changing surface, and the desert with its shadows and flowers.
She could see the gleam of the moon off the sea now, through the night windows: silver and black. Emma and Cristina made their way down the hall. Emma paused at the top of the enormous staircase
that descended to the Institute’s entryway. It was located exactly in the middle of the Institute, splitting the north and south wings. Emma had deliberately chosen a bedroom, years ago, that was at the other end of the Institute from where the Blackthorns slept. It was a way of declaring silently that she knew she was still a Carstairs.
She leaned on the railing now and looked down, Cristina beside her. Institutes were built to impress: They were meeting places for Shadowhunters, the heart of Conclaves—communities of local Nephilim. The massive entryway, a square room whose focal point was the enormous staircase that led up to the landing and the second floor, had a black-and-white marble floor and was decorated with uncomfortable-
looking furniture that no one ever sat in. It seemed like the entrance of a museum.
From the landing you could see that the white and black tiles that patterned the floor formed the shape of the Angel Raziel, rising from the waters of Lake Lyn in Idris, holding two of the Mortal Instruments—a flashing sword and a gold-encrusted cup.
It was an image every Shadowhunter child knew. A thousand years ago the Angel Raziel had been summoned by Jonathan Shadowhunter, the father of all Nephilim, to put down a plague of demons. Raziel had gifted Jonathan with the Mortal Instruments and the Gray Book, in which all runes were inscribed. He had also mixed his blood with human blood and given it to Jonathan and his followers to drink, allowing their skin to bear runes and creating the first of the Nephilim. The image of Raziel rising was sacred to Nephilim: It was called the Triptych and was found in places where Shadowhunters met or where they had died.
The image on the floor of the Institute’s entryway was a memorial. When Sebastian Morgenstern and his faerie army had stormed the Institute, the floor had been plain marble. After the Dark War, the Blackthorn children had returned to the Institute to find that the room where so many had died was already being torn up. The stones where Shadowhunters had bled were replaced, and the mural put in to commemorate those who had been lost.
Every time Emma walked on it, she was reminded of her parents and of Julian’s father. She didn’t mind —she didn’t want to forget.
“When you said they are and they aren’t, did you mean because Arthur was here?” Cristina asked. She was looking thoughtfully down on the Angel.
“Definitely not.” Arthur Blackthorn was the head of the Los Angeles Institute. At least, that was his title. He was a classicist, obsessed with the mythology of Greece and Rome, constantly locked in the attic with bits of old pottery, moldering books, and endless essays and monographs. Emma didn’t think she’d ever seen him take a direct interest in a Shadowhunter issue. She could count on one hand the number of times she and Cristina had seen him since Cristina’s arrival at the Institute. “Although I’m impressed you remember he lives here.”
Cristina rolled her eyes.
“Don’t roll your eyes. It punctures my dramatic moment. I want my dramatic moment unpunctured.” “What dramatic moment?” Cristina demanded. “Why have you dragged me out here when I want to
shower and change out of this gear? Besides, I need coffee.”
“You always need coffee,” said Emma, moving back toward the corridor and the other wing of the house. “It’s a debilitating addiction.”
Cristina said something uncomplimentary under her breath in Spanish, but she followed Emma nonetheless, her curiosity clearly winning out. Emma spun around so she could walk backward, like a tour guide.
“Okay, most of the family is in the south wing,” she said. “First stop, Tavvy’s room.” The door of Octavian Blackthorn’s room was already open. He wasn’t that invested in privacy, being only seven. Emma leaned in, and Cristina, looking puzzled, leaned in beside her.
The room contained a small bed with a brightly striped coverlet, a playhouse nearly as tall as Emma, and a tent full of books and toys. “Tavvy has nightmares,” Emma said. “Sometimes Julian comes and sleeps in the tent with him.”
Cristina smiled. “Di—my mother used to do that for me when I was a little girl.”
The next room was Drusilla’s. Dru was thirteen and obsessed with horror movies. Books about slasher films and serial killers littered the floor. The walls were black, and vintage horror posters were pasted up over the windows. “Dru loves horror movies,” said Emma. “Anything with the word ‘blood’ or ‘terror’ or ‘prom’ in it. Why do they call it a prom, I wonder—”
“It’s short for ‘promenade,’” said Cristina.
“Why do you speak English so much better than I do?”
“That wasn’t English,” Cristina pointed out, as Emma darted farther down the hall. “That was French.” “The twins have rooms across from each other.” Emma gestured at two closed doors. “This is Livvy.”
She swung a door open to reveal a beautifully clean and decorated bedroom. Someone had artfully covered the headboard with whimsical fabric decorated with a pattern of teacups. Bright costume jewelry hung from screens nailed to the wall. Books about computers and programming languages were stacked in careful rows by her bed.
“Programming languages,” Cristina exclaimed. “Does she like computers?”
“She and Ty,” said Emma. “Ty likes computers, he likes the way they organize patterns so that he can analyze them, but he’s actually not great at math. Livvy does the math and they tag team.”
The next room was Ty’s. “Tiberius Nero Blackthorn,” said Emma. “I think his parents may have gone a little overboard with the name. It’s like naming someone Magnificent Bastard.”
Cristina giggled. Ty’s room was neat, with books lined up not in alphabetical order but by color. Colors that Ty liked the most, like blue and gold and green, were at the front of the room and near the bed. Colors he didn’t like—orange and purple—were relegated to nooks and spaces by the window. It might have looked haphazard to someone else, but Emma knew that Ty was aware of the location of every volume.
On the bedside table were his most beloved books: Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. Beside them were a collection of small toys. Julian had made them for Ty years before when he found that having something in his hand calmed Ty down and helped him focus. There was a squiggly ball of pipe cleaners, and a black plastic cube made up of clicking parts that could be twisted into different patterns.
Cristina cast a look at Emma’s wry-fond expression and said, “You’ve talked about Tiberius before. He’s the one who loves animals.”
Emma nodded. “He’s always outside, bothering lizards and squirrels.” She waved her arm to indicate the desert that spread out behind the Institute—unspoiled land, without houses or human occupation, that stretched to the ridge of mountains that separated the beach from the Valley. “Hopefully he’s having fun in England, collecting tadpoles and frogs and toads-in-the-hole. . . .”
“That’s a kind of food!”
“Can’t be,” Emma said, moving down the hall.
“It’s pudding!” Cristina objected as Emma found the next door and opened it. The room inside was painted almost the exact same blue as the sea and sky outside. During the day it looked as if it were part of them, floating in a blue forever. Murals covered the walls— intricate patterns, and along the whole wall that faced the desert, the outline of a castle wrapped by a high wall of thorns. A prince rode toward it, his head down, his sword broken.
“La Bella Durmiente,” said Cristina. Sleeping Beauty. “But I did not remember it being so sad, or the prince so defeated.” She glanced at Emma. “Is he a sorrowful boy, Julian?”
“No,” Emma said, only half paying attention. She hadn’t come into Jules’s room since he’d gone. It looked like he hadn’t cleaned up before he left, and there were clothes on the floor, half-done sketches scattered over the desk, even a mug on the nightstand that probably held coffee that had long since molded. “Not depressed or anything like that.”
“Depressed is not the same as sad,” Cristina observed.
But Emma didn’t want to think about Julian being sad, not now, not when he was so close to coming home. Now that it was past midnight, he was technically coming home tomorrow. She felt a shiver of excitement and relief.
“Come on.” She went out of the room and across the hall, Cristina following. Emma put her hand against a closed door. It was wood, like the others, the surface chipped as if no one had cleaned or sanded it in a long time.
“This was Mark’s room,” she said.
Every Shadowhunter knew Mark Blackthorn’s name. The half-faerie, half-Shadowhunter boy who had been taken during the Dark War and made a part of the Wild Hunt, the most vicious of the fey. The ones who rode through the sky once a month, preying on humans, visiting the scenes of battle, feeding on fear and death like murderous hawks.
Mark had always been gentle. Emma wondered whether he still was anymore.
“Mark Blackthorn was part of the reason I came here,” Cristina said, a little shyly. “It has always been my hope that one day I might be part of brokering a better treaty than the Cold Peace. Something more fair to Downworlders and those Shadowhunters who might love them.”
Emma felt her eyes widen. “I didn’t know. You never told me that.”
Cristina gestured around them. “You have shared something with me,” she said. “You have shared the Blackthorns. I thought I should share something with you.”
“I’m glad you came here,” Emma said impulsively, and Cristina blushed. “Even if it was partly for Mark. And even if you won’t tell me anything else about why.”
Cristina shrugged. “I like Los Angeles.” She gave Emma a sly sideways smile. “Are you absolutely sure you don’t want bad movies and ice cream?”
Emma took a deep breath. She remembered Julian telling her once that when things got to be too much, he imagined locking certain situations and emotions away in a box. Shut them away, he’d said, and they won’t bother you. They’re gone.
She imagined, now, taking her memories of the body in the alley, of Sebastian Morgenstern and the Clave, her breakup with Cameron, her need for answers, her anger at the world over her parents’ deaths, and her eagerness to see Julian and the others tomorrow, and locking them up in a box. She imagined placing the box somewhere she could get to it easily, somewhere she could find it and open it again.
“Emma?” Cristina said anxiously. “Are you all right? You look a little as if you might throw up.” Click went the lock on the box. In her mind, Emma set it aside; back in the world, she smiled at
Cristina. “Ice cream and bad movies sounds great,” she said. “Let’s go.”
The sky above the ocean was streaked with the pink and rose of sunset. Emma slowed from a run to a jog, gasping, her heart pounding in her chest.
Usually Emma trained in the afternoon and evening and ran in the early morning, but she’d woken up late after staying up nearly all night with Cristina. She’d spent the day feverishly rearranging her evidence, calling Johnny Rook to cajole further details about the murders out of him, writing up notes for her wall, and waiting impatiently for Diana to turn up.
Unlike most tutors, Diana didn’t live in the Institute with the Blackthorns—she had her own house in Santa Monica. Technically, Diana didn’t need to be at the Institute at all today, but Emma’d sent her at least six texts. Maybe seven. Cristina had stopped her from sending eight, and suggested she go for a run to get rid of her anxiety.
She leaned forward, hands on her bent knees, trying to catch her breath. The beach was nearly deserted except for a few mundane couples finishing their romantic sunset walks, heading back up to the cars they’d left parked along the highway.
She wondered how many miles she’d run up and down this stretch of beach in the years she’d lived in the Institute. Five miles a day, every day. And that was after three hours at least in the training room. Half the scars Emma had on her body she’d put there herself, teaching herself to fall from the highest rafters, training herself to fight through pain by practicing barefoot—on broken glass.
The most brutal scar she had was on her forearm, and she’d given herself that, too, in a sense. It had come from Cortana, the day her parents had died. Julian had placed the blade in her arms, and she’d cradled it through the blood and the pain, weeping as it cut her skin. It had left a long white line along her
arm, one that sometimes made her feel shy about wearing sleeveless dresses or tank tops. She wondered if even other Shadowhunters would stare at the scar, wonder where it came from.
Though Julian never stared.
She straightened up. From the waterline, she could see the Institute, all glass and stone, up on the hill above the beach. She could see the bump of Arthur’s attic, even the dark window of her own bedroom. She’d slept restlessly there today, dreaming about the dead mundane man, the marks on his body, the marks on her parents. She’d tried to conjure up a vision of what she’d do when she found out who’d killed them. How any amount of physical pain she could inflict could ever even begin to make up for what she’d lost.
Julian had been in the dream too. She didn’t know what exactly she’d dreamed, but she’d woken up with a clear picture of him in her mind—tall, slender Jules, with his dark brown curls and startling blue-green eyes. His dark lashes and pale skin, the way he bit his nails when he was under stress, his confident handling of weapons and even more confident handling of brushes and paints.
Julian, who would be home tomorrow. Julian would understand exactly what she was feeling—how long she’d waited for a clue about her parents. How now that she’d found one, the world suddenly seemed full of a terrifyingly imminent possibility. She remembered what Jem, the ex–Silent Brother who’d helped preside over her parabatai ceremony, had said about what Julian was to her, that there was an expression for it in his native Chinese, zhi yin. “The one who understands your music.”
Emma couldn’t play a note on any instrument, but Julian understood her music. Even the music of revenge.
Dark clouds were rolling in from the ocean. It was about to rain. Trying to put Jules out of her mind, Emma started to run again, darting up the dirt road toward the Institute. Nearing the building, she slowed, staring. There was a man coming down the steps. He was tall and narrow, dressed in a long coat the color of crow feathers. His hair was short and graying. He usually dressed in black; she suspected that was where his last name came from. He wasn’t a warlock, Johnny Rook, even if he had a name like one. He was something else.
He saw her and his eyes widened. She broke into a sprint, cutting him off before he could dart around the side of the house, away from her.
She skidded to a stop in front of him, blocking his way. “What are you doing here?” His odd eyes darted around, seeking an escape route. “Nothing. Stopping by.”
“Did you say anything about me coming to the Shadow Market to Diana? Because if you did—” He drew himself up. There was something odd about his face, as well as his eyes; it had an almost
ravaged look, as if something awful had happened to him when he was young, something that had cut lines like knife scars into his skin. “You’re not the head of the Institute, Emma Carstairs,” he said. “The information I gave you was good.”
“You said you’d stay quiet!”
“Emma.” Emma’s name, spoken firmly and with precision. Emma turned with slow dread to see Diana watching her from the top of the steps, the evening wind blowing her curly hair. She was wearing another long, elegant dress that made her look tall and imposing. She also looked absolutely furious.
“I guess you got my texts,” Emma said. Diana didn’t react.
“Leave Mr. Rook alone. We need to talk. I want to see you in my office in precisely ten minutes,” she said.
Diana turned and went back into the Institute. Emma shot Rook a venomous glare. “Deals with you are supposed to be secret,” she said, stabbing her index finger into his chest. “Maybe you didn’t promise you’d keep your mouth shut, but we both know that’s what people want from you. What they expect.”
A small smile played around his mouth. “You don’t scare me, Emma.” “Maybe I should.”
“That’s what’s funny about you Nephilim,” said Rook. “You know about Downworld, but you don’t live in it.” He put his lips to her ear, uncomfortably close. His breath raised the hairs on her neck when he spoke. “There are far more frightening things than you in this world, Emma Carstairs.”
Emma wrenched herself away from him, turned, and ran up the Institute steps.
Ten minutes later Emma was standing in front of Diana’s desk, her hair, still wet from her shower, dripping onto the polished tile floor.
Though Diana didn’t live at the Institute, she had an office there, a comfortable corner room overlooking the highway and the sea. Emma could see the grass stretching out in front of the Institute in the twilight, blue-shadowed at the edges with coastal sage scrub. Rain had begun to patter down, streaking the windows.
The office was sparsely decorated. On the desk was a photograph of a tall man with his arm around a small girl who resembled Diana despite her youth. They stood in front of a shop whose sign read DIANA’S
There were flowers on the windowsill that Diana had placed there to brighten the room. She folded her arms across the top of the desk and looked at Emma levelly.
“You lied to me last night,” she said.
“I didn’t,” Emma said, “not exactly. I—”
“Don’t say you omitted, Emma,” said Diana. “You know better than that.”
“What did Johnny Rook tell you?” Emma said, and was immediately sorry she’d said it. Diana’s expression darkened.
“Why don’t you tell me?” she said. “In fact, tell me what you did and what your punishment should be. Does that seem fair?”
Emma crossed her arms defiantly over her chest. She hated being caught, and Diana was good at catching her. Diana was smart, which was often awesome, but not when she was angry.
Emma could either fill in for Diana what she thought Diana was angry about, thus possibly revealing more than Diana already knew, or she could stay silent, thus possibly annoying Diana further. After a moment’s deliberation, she said, “I should have to take care of a box of kittens. You know how cruel kittens are, with their tiny little claws and terrible attitudes.”
“Speaking of terrible attitudes,” Diana said. She was idly playing with a pencil. “You went to the Shadow Market, against specific rules. You talked to Johnny Rook. He tipped you off that there’d be a body dump at the Sepulchre that might be connected to your parents’ deaths. You didn’t just happen to be there. You weren’t patrolling.”
“I paid Rook not to say anything,” Emma muttered. “I trusted him!”
Diana threw her pencil down. “Emma, the guy is known as Rook the Crook. In fact, he’s not just a crook, he’s on the Clave’s watch list because he works with faeries without permission. Any Downworlder or mundane who works in secret with faeries is locked out of business with Shadowhunters and forfeits their protection; you know that.”
Emma threw up her hands. “But those are some of the most useful people out there! Cutting them off isn’t helping the Clave, it’s punishing Shadowhunters!”
Diana shook her head. “The rules are the rules for a reason. Being a Shadowhunter, a good one, is about more than just training fourteen hours a day and knowing sixty-five ways of killing a man with salad tongs.”
“Sixty-seven,” Emma said automatically. “Diana, I’m sorry. I really am, especially for dragging Cristina into this. It’s not her fault.”
“Oh, I know that.” Diana was still frowning. Emma plunged ahead.
“Last night,” she said, “you told me you believed me. About Sebastian not killing my parents. About
there being more to it. Their deaths weren’t just—just Sebastian wiping out the Conclave. Someone wanted them dead. Their deaths meant something—”
“Everyone’s death means something,” Diana said in a clipped tone. She passed a hand across her eyes. “I talked to the Silent Brothers last night. I found out what they know. And God, I’ve been telling myself I ought to lie to you about it—I’ve been struggling with it all day—”
“Please,” Emma whispered. “Please, don’t lie.”
“But I can’t. I remember when I came here, and you were this little girl, you were twelve years old, and you were wrecked. You’d lost everything. All you had to hang on to was Julian and your need for revenge. For Sebastian not to have been the reason your parents died, because if he was, then how could you punish him?” She took a deep breath. “I know Johnny Rook told you there’ve been a rash of murders. He’s right. Twelve total, counting the one last night. No trace of the murderer left behind. All of the victims unidentified. Their teeth broken, wallets missing, fingerprints sanded off.”
“And the Silent Brothers didn’t know about this? The Clave, the Council—?”
“They did know. And this is the part you’re not going to like.” Diana’s fingernails tapped on the glass of her desk. “Several of the dead were Fair Folk. That makes this a matter for the Scholomance, the Centurions, and the Silent Brothers. Not for Institutes. The Silent Brothers knew. The Clave knew. They didn’t tell us, deliberately, because they don’t want us involved.”
The Scholomance was a piece of Shadowhunter history come to life. A cold castle of towers and corridors carved into the side of a mountain in the Carpathians, it had existed for centuries as a place where the most elite of Shadowhunters were trained to deal with the double menaces of demons and Downworlders. It had been closed when the first Accords were signed: a show of faith that Downworlders and Shadowhunters were no longer at war.
Now with the advent of the Cold Peace, it had been reopened and was operational again. One had to pass a series of harsh tests to be admitted, and what was learned at the school was not to be shared with others. Those who graduated were called Centurions, scholars and legendary warriors; Emma had never met one in person.
“It might not be fair, but it’s the truth.”
“But the markings. They admitted they were the same markings that were on my parents’ bodies?” “They didn’t admit anything,” Diana said. “They said they’d handle it. They said not to get involved,
that the rule had come down from the Council itself.”
“The bodies?” Emma said. “Did the bodies dissolve when they tried to move them, like my parents’ bodies?”
“Emma!” Diana rose to her feet. Her hair was a dark, lovely cloud around her face. “We don’t interfere with what happens to the fey, not anymore. That’s what the Cold Peace means. The Clave hasn’t just suggested we don’t do this. It’s forbidden to interfere with faerie business. If you involve yourself, it could have consequences not just for you but for Julian.”
It was as if Diana had picked up one of the heavy paperweights from the desk and smashed it into Emma’s chest. “Julian?”
“What does he do every year? On the anniversary of the Cold Peace?”
Emma thought of Julian, sitting here, in this office. Year after year, from the time he was twelve and all scraped elbows and torn jeans. He would sit patiently with pen and ink, writing his letter to the Clave, petitioning them to let his sister Helen come home from Wrangel Island.
Wrangel Island was the seat of all the world’s wards, a set of magical spells that had been set up to protect the earth from certain demons a thousand years ago. It was also a tiny ice floe thousands of miles away in the Arctic Sea. When the Cold Peace had been declared, Helen had been sent there; the Clave had said it was in order that she study the wards, but no one believed it was anything other than an exile.
She had been allowed a few trips home since then, including the one to Idris when she had married Aline Penhallow, the daughter of the Consul. But even that powerful connection couldn’t free her. Every year Julian wrote. And every year he was denied.
Diana spoke in a softer voice. “Every year the Clave says no because Helen’s loyalty might be to the Fair Folk. How will it look if they think we’re investigating faerie killings against their orders? How would it affect the chance that they might let her go?”
“Julian would want me to—” Emma started.
“Julian would cut off his hand if you asked him to. That doesn’t mean you should.” Diana rubbed her temples as if they ached. “Revenge isn’t family, Emma. It isn’t a friend, and it’s a cold bedfellow.” She dropped her hand and moved toward the window, glancing back over her shoulder at Emma. “Do you know why I took this job, here at the Institute? And don’t give me a sarcastic answer.”
Emma looked down at the floor. It was made up of alternating blue and white tiles; inside the white tiles were drawings: a rose, a castle, a church spire, an angel wing, a flock of birds, each one different. “Because you were there in Alicante during the Dark War,” said Emma, a catch in her voice. “You were there when Julian had to—to stop his father. You saw us fight, and you thought we were brave and
you wanted to help. That’s what you’ve always said.”
“I had someone when I was younger who helped me become who I really am,” said Diana. Emma’s ears perked. Diana rarely spoke about her life. The Wrayburns had been a famous Shadowhunter family for generations, but Diana was the last. She never talked about her childhood, her family. It was as if her life had started when she’d taken over her father’s weapons shop in Alicante. “I wanted to help you become who you really are.”
“The best Shadowhunter of your generation,” said Diana. “You train and fight like no one I’ve ever seen. Which is exactly why I don’t want to see you throw your potential away in the pursuit of something that won’t heal your wounds.”
Throw my potential away? Diana didn’t know, didn’t understand. None of her family had died in the Dark War. And Emma’s parents hadn’t died fighting; they’d been murdered, tortured and mutilated. Crying out for her, maybe, in those moments, short or long or endless, between life and death.
There was a sharp knock on the door. It swung open to reveal Cristina. She wore jeans and a sweater and her cheeks were pink, as if she was embarrassed to be interrupting. “The Blackthorns,” she said. “They’ve come home.”
Emma completely forgot whatever she’d been about to say to Diana and spun toward the door. “What? They’re not supposed to get here until tomorrow!”
Cristina shrugged helplessly. “It could be a different huge family that just Portaled into the entryway.” Emma put her hand to her chest. Cristina was right. She could feel it: That faint pain that had existed
behind her ribs ever since Julian had gone had become suddenly both better and worse—less painful, more like a butterfly wildly flapping its wings under her heart.
She darted out of the office, her bare feet slapping against the polished hardwood of the corridor. She hit the stairs and took them two at a time, swinging around the landings. She could hear voices now too. She thought she heard Dru’s high, soft voice raised in a question, and Livvy answering.
And then she was there, on the second-floor gallery overlooking the foyer. The space was lit up as if it were daytime by a myriad of swirling colors, remnants of a vanishing Portal. In the center of the room stood the Blackthorns: Julian towering over the fifteen-year-old twins, Livvy and Ty. Beside them was Drusilla, holding the hand of the youngest, Tavvy. He looked asleep on his feet, his curly head against Dru’s arm, his eyes closed.
“You’re back!” Emma cried.
They all looked up at her. The Blackthorns had always been a family with a strong resemblance to each
other: They shared the same wavy dark-brown hair, the color of bitter chocolate, and the same blue-green eyes. Though Ty, with his gray eyes, skinny frame, and tousled black hair, looked as if he’d wandered in from another branch of the family.
Dru and Livvy were smiling, and there was welcome in Ty’s grave nod, but it was Julian who Emma saw. She felt the parabatai rune on her upper arm throb as he looked up at her.
She darted down the stairs. Julian was bending to say something to Dru. Then he turned and took several quick strides toward Emma. He filled up her vision; he was all she could see. Not just Julian as he appeared now, walking toward her across the Angel-patterned floor, but Julian handing her seraph blades he’d named, Julian always giving her the blanket when it was cold in the car, Julian standing opposite her in the Silent City, white and gold fire rising up between them as they said their parabatai vows.
They collided in the middle of the foyer, and she threw her arms around him. “Jules,” she said, but the sound was muffled against his shoulder as he hugged her back. She could hear the parabatai vows in the back of her mind as she breathed in the familiar scent of him: cloves, soap, salt.
Whither thou goest, I will go.
For a moment his arms were so tight around her that she could barely breathe. Then he let her go and stepped back.
Emma nearly unbalanced. She hadn’t expected either quite such a tight hug or such a quick shove away. He looked different too. Her mind couldn’t quite take it in.
“I thought you were coming tomorrow morning,” Emma said. She tried to catch Julian’s eye, to get him to return her welcoming smile. Instead, he was looking at his brothers and sisters as if counting to make sure they were all there.
“Malcolm showed up early,” he said to her, over his shoulder. “Suddenly appeared in Great-Aunt Marjorie’s kitchen, wearing pajamas. Said he’d forgotten the time difference. She screamed the house down.”
Emma felt the tension in her chest easing. Malcolm Fade, the head of the warlocks of Los Angeles, was a family friend, and his eccentricity was an old joke between her and Jules.
“Then he accidentally Portaled us to London instead of here,” Livvy announced, bounding forward to hug Emma. “And we had to hunt someone down to open another Portal—Diana!”
Livvy detached herself from Emma and went to greet her tutor. For a few moments, everything was welcoming hubbub: questions and hellos and hugs. Tavvy had woken up and was wandering around sleepily, tugging on people’s sleeves. Emma ruffled his hair.
Thy people shall be my people. Julian’s family had become Emma’s when they had made themselves parabatai. It was almost like marriage in that way.
Emma looked over at Julian. He was watching his family, his expression intent. As if he’d forgotten she was there. And in that moment her mind suddenly seemed to wake up and present her with a catalog of the ways in which he seemed different.
He’d always kept his hair short and practical, but he must have forgotten to cut it in England: It had grown out, in thick, luscious, curly Blackthorn waves. The tips hung down past his ears. He was tanned, and it wasn’t as if she didn’t know the color of his eyes, but now they seemed suddenly both brighter and darker at once, the intense blue-green of the ocean a mile down from the surface. The shape of his face had changed as well, resettling into more adult lines, losing the softness of childhood, revealing the clean sweep of jawbone that peaked at his slightly sharp chin, an echo of the wing shape of his collarbone, visible just beneath the collar of his T-shirt.
She looked away. To her surprise, her heart was beating fast, as if she was nervous. Flustered, she knelt down to hug Tavvy. “You’re missing teeth,” she told him when he grinned at her. “Careless of you.”
“Dru told me that faeries steal your teeth while you’re sleeping,” Tavvy said.
“That’s because that’s what I told her,” Emma said, rising to her feet. She felt a light touch on her arm. It was Julian. With his finger he began to trace words against her skin—it was something they had been
doing their whole lives, ever since they realized they needed a way to silently communicate during boring study sessions or time with adults. A-R-E Y-O-U A-L-L R-I-G-H-T?
She nodded at him. He was looking at her with faint concern, which was a relief. It felt familiar. Did he really look so different? He was less thin, more muscular, though it was a slender sort of muscle. He looked like the swimmers she had always admired for their spare beauty. He still wore the same arrangement of leather and shell and sea-glass bracelets around his wrists, though. His hands were still spotted with paint. He was still Julian.
“You’re all so tanned,” Diana was saying. “How are you all so tanned? I thought it rained all the time in England!”
“I don’t have a tan,” said Tiberius matter-of-factly. It was true, he didn’t. Ty detested the sun. When they all went to the beach he was usually to be found under a terrifyingly huge umbrella, reading a detective story.
“Great-Aunt Marjorie made us train outside all day,” Livvy said. “Well, not Tavvy. She kept him inside and fed him bramble jelly.”
“Tiberius hid,” said Drusilla. “In the barn.”
“It wasn’t hiding,” said Ty. “It was a strategic retreat.”
“It was hiding,” said Dru, a scowl spreading across her round face. Her braids stuck out on either side of her head like Pippi Longstocking’s. Emma tugged on one of them affectionately.
“Don’t argue with your brother,” said Julian, and turned to Ty. “Don’t argue with your sister. You’re both tired.”
“What does being tired have to do with not arguing?” asked Ty. “Julian means you should all be asleep,” Diana said.
“It’s only eight o’clock,” Emma protested. “They just got here!”
Diana pointed. Tavvy had curled up on the floor and was asleep in the angled beam of light from a lamp, exactly like a cat. “It’s considerably later in England.”
Livvy stepped forward and picked up Tavvy gently. His head lolled against her neck. “I’ll put him to bed.”
Julian’s eyes met Diana’s briefly. “Thanks, Livvy,” he said. “I’ll go tell Uncle Arthur we got in all right.” He looked around and sighed. “We can deal with luggage in the morning. Everybody, bedtime.” Livvy grumbled something; Emma didn’t hear it. She felt puzzled; more than puzzled. Even though
Julian had answered her texts and calls with short, neutral missives, she hadn’t been prepared for a Julian who looked different, who seemed different. She wanted him to look at her the way he always had, with the smile that seemed reserved for their interactions.
Diana was saying good night, picking up her keys and handbag. Taking advantage of the distraction, Emma reached out to trace lightly against Julian’s skin with her finger.
I N-E-E-D T-O T-A-L-K T-O Y-O-U, she wrote.
Without looking at her, Julian dropped his own hand and wrote along her forearm. W-H-A-T A-B-O-U-T
The foyer door opened and closed behind Diana, letting in a chilly gust of wind and rain. Water splashed on Emma’s cheek as she turned to look at Julian. “It’s important,” she said. She wondered if she sounded incredulous. She’d never had to tell him something was important before. If she said she needed to talk to him, he knew she meant it. “Just—” She dropped her voice. “Come to my room after you see Arthur.”
He hesitated, just for a moment; the glass and shells on his wristbands rattled as he pushed his hair out of his face. Livvy was already headed upstairs with Tavvy, the others in her wake. Emma felt her
annoyance soften immediately into guilt. Jules was exhausted, obviously. That was all. “Unless you’re too tired,” she said.
He shook his head, his face unreadable—and Emma had always been able to read his face. “I’ll come,” he said, and then he put a hand on her shoulder. Lightly, a casual gesture. As if they hadn’t been separated for two months. “It’s good to see you again,” he said, and turned to head up the stairs after Livvy.
Of course he would have to go see Arthur, Emma thought. Someone had to tell their eccentric guardian that the Blackthorns were home. And of course he was tired. And of course he seemed different: people did, when you hadn’t seen them in a while. It could take a day or two to get back to the way they used to be: Comfortable. Inseparable. Secure.
She put her hand against her chest. Though the pain she had felt while Julian was in England, the stretched-rubber-band feeling she’d hated, was gone, she now felt a new strange ache near her heart.