Mark’s bedroom was full of dust.
They had left it untouched for years after he disappeared. Finally, on what would have been his eighteenth birthday, Julian had thrown the door of the room open and cleared it out in a savage spree. Mark’s clothes, toys, games, all had gone into storage. The room was cleaned out and stripped down, a bare, empty space waiting for decoration.
Emma moved around, pushing back dusty curtains and opening windows, letting in light, while Julian, who had carried his brother up the stairs, set Mark down on the bed.
The blankets were pulled tight, a thin layer of dust across the coverlet. It puffed up as he set Mark down; Mark coughed but didn’t stir.
Emma turned away from the windows; open, they flooded the room with light and turned the dust motes in the air into dancing creatures.
“He’s so thin,” Julian said. “He hardly weighs anything at all.”
Someone who didn’t know him might have thought he was expressionless: His face betrayed only a kind of tightening of the muscles, his soft mouth compressed into a hard line. It was the way he looked when he was struck to the heart with some strong emotion and was trying to hide it¸ usually from his younger siblings.
Emma came over to the bed. For a moment they both stood looking down at Mark. Indeed, the curves of elbows and knees and collarbone were painfully sharp under the clothes he wore: ragged jeans and a T-shirt gone almost transparent with years and washing. Tangled blond hair half-covered his face.
“Is it true?” said a small voice from the doorway.
Emma whirled around. Ty and Livia had come into the room, only a little way. Cristina was in the doorway behind them; she looked at Emma as if to say she’d tried to hold them back. Emma shook her head. She knew how impossible it was to stop the twins when they wanted to be part of something.
It was Livvy who had spoken. She looked across the room now, past Emma, to where Mark lay on the bed. She sucked in a breath. “It is true.”
“It can’t be.” Ty’s hands were fluttering at his sides. He was counting on his fingers, one to ten, ten to one. The gaze he fixed on his unconscious brother was full of disbelief. “The Fair Folk don’t give back what they take.”
“No,” Julian said, his voice gentle, and Emma wondered not for the first time how he could be so gentle when she knew he must feel like screaming and flying apart into a thousand pieces. “But sometimes they give you back what belongs to you.”
Ty said nothing. His hands were still fluttering in their repetitive movements. There had been a time when Ty’s father had tried to train him to immobility, had held his son’s hands tightly at his sides when he was upset and said, “Still, still.” It had panicked Ty into throwing up. Julian never did that. He just said everyone got butterflies when they were nervous; some people got them in their stomachs, and Ty showed his in his hands. Ty had been pleased by that. He loved moths, butterflies, bees—anything with wings.
“He doesn’t look like I remember,” said a tiny voice. It was Dru, who had edged into the room around Cristina. She was holding hands with Tavvy.
“Well,” said Emma. “Mark is five years older now.”
“He doesn’t look older,” said Dru. “He just looks different.”
There was a silence. Dru was right. Mark didn’t look older, certainly not five years older. Partly it was because he was so thin, but there was more to it than that.
“He’s been in Faerie all these years,” Julian said. “And time— time works differently there.”
Ty stepped forward. His gaze raked the bed, examining his brother. Drusilla hung back. She’d been eight when Mark had gone; Emma couldn’t imagine what her memories of him were like— cloudy and blurred, probably. And as for Tavvy—Tavvy had been two. To him the boy in the bed would be a total stranger.
But Ty. Ty would remember. Ty moved closer to the bed, and Emma could almost see the quick mind working behind his gray eyes. “That would make sense. There are all sorts of stories about people vanishing for a night with the faeries and coming back to find a hundred years have passed. Five years could have been like two years for him. He looks about the same age as you, Jules.”
Julian cleared his throat. “Yeah. Yeah, he does.”
Ty cocked his head to the side. “Why did they bring him back?”
Julian hesitated. Emma didn’t move; she didn’t know, any more than he did, how to tell the children who were looking at them with wide eyes that the lost brother who appeared to have been returned to them forever might be here only temporarily.
“He’s bleeding,” Dru said.
“What?” Julian tapped the witchlight lamp at the side of the bed and the glow in the room intensified to a hot brightness. Emma drew in her breath. The side of Mark’s ragged white T-shirt, at his shoulder, was red with blood—a patch that was slowly spreading.
“Stele,” Julian barked, holding out his hand. He was already pulling at his brother’s shirt, baring his shoulder and collarbone, where a half-healed gash had opened. Blood was trickling from the wound, not fast, but Tavvy made an inarticulate sound of distress.
Emma pulled her stele from her belt and threw it. She didn’t say anything; she didn’t need to. Julian’s hand came up and he caught it out of the air. He bent to press the tip to Mark’s skin, to begin the healing rune—
His eyes flew open, bright and crazed, and he thrashed out at the air with his stained, dirty, bloody hands.
“Get it away,” he snarled, struggling upright. “Get it away, get that thing away from me!” “Mark—”
Julian reached for his brother, but Mark batted him away. He might have been thin, but he was strong; Julian stumbled, and Emma felt it like a burst of pain in the back of her head. She dashed forward, putting herself between the two brothers.
She was about to shout at Mark, to tell him to stop, when she caught sight of his face. His eyes were wide and white with fear, his hand clutched to his chest—there was something there, something that glittered at the end of a cord around his throat—and then he hurled himself off the bed, his body jerking, hands and feet scrabbling at the hardwood.
“Move back,” Julian said to his siblings, not shouting, but his voice quick and authoritative. They scrambled away, scattering. Emma caught a glimpse of Tavvy’s unhappy face as Dru lifted him off his feet and carried him out of the room.
Mark had darted into the corner of the bedroom, where he froze, his hands wrapped around his knees, his back pressed hard to the wall. Julian started after his brother, then stopped, the stele dangling helplessly from his hand.
“Don’t touch me with that,” Mark said, and his voice—very recognizably Mark’s voice, and very cold and precise—was shockingly at odds with the filthy scarecrow look of him. He held them at bay with his glare.
“What’s wrong with him?” Livvy asked in a near whisper. “It’s the stele.” It was Julian, voice soft.
“But why?” said Emma. “How can a Shadowhunter be afraid of a stele?”
“You call me afraid?” demanded Mark. “Insult me again and find your blood spilled, girl.” “Mark, this is Emma,” Julian said. “Emma Carstairs.”
Mark pressed himself farther back into the wall. “Lies,” he said. “Lies and dreams.” “I’m Julian,” Jules said. “Your brother Julian. And that’s Tiberius—”
“My brother Tiberius is a child!” Mark shouted, suddenly livid, his hands clawing behind him at the wall. “He is a little boy!”
There was a horrified silence. “I’m not,” said Ty, finally, into the quiet. His hands were fluttering at his sides, pale butterflies in the dim light. “I’m not a child.”
Mark said nothing. He closed his eyes, and tears slid out from beneath his lids, tracking down his face, mixing with the dirt.
“Enough.” To everyone’s surprise, it was Cristina who had spoken. She looked embarrassed as everyone turned to look at her, but stood her ground, chin up, straight-backed. “Can’t you see this is tormenting him? If we were to go into the hall—”
“You go,” said Julian, looking at Mark. “I’ll stay here.”
Cristina shook her head. “No.” She sounded apologetic but firm. “All of us.” She paused as Julian hesitated.
“Please,” she said.
She crossed the room and opened the door. Emma watched in amazement as the Blackthorns, one by one, filed out of the room; a moment later they were all standing in the corridor, and Cristina was shutting the door of Mark’s room behind her.
“I don’t know,” Julian said immediately as the door clicked shut. “Leaving him alone in there—” “It’s his room,” Cristina said. Emma stared at her in amazement; how could she be so calm? “But he doesn’t remember it,” Livvy said, looking agitated. “He doesn’t remember—anything.” “He does remember,” Emma said, laying a hand on Livvy’s shoulder. “It’s just that everything he
remembers has changed.”
“We haven’t.” Livvy looked so woebegone that Emma pulled her close and kissed the top of her head, which was no mean feat since Livvy was only an inch shorter than her.
“Oh, you have,” she said. “We all have. And so has Mark.”
Ty looked agitated. “But the room is dusty,” he said. “We threw out his things. He’ll think we forgot him, that we don’t care.”
Julian winced. “I kept his things. They’re in one of the storerooms on the ground floor.”
“Good.” Cristina brought her hands together sharply. “He’ll need them. And more. Clothes to replace the ones he’s wearing. Anything of his that was kept. Anything that’ll seem familiar. Photos, or things he might remember.”
“We can get those,” said Livvy. “Me and Ty.”
Ty looked relieved to have been given a specific task. He and Livvy headed downstairs, their voices a low murmur.
Julian, looking after them, exhaled raggedly—mingled tension and relief. “Thanks for giving them something to do.”
Emma reached out to squeeze Cristina’s hand. She felt oddly proud, as if she wanted to point to Cristina and say: “Look, my friend knows exactly what to do!”
“How do you know exactly what to do?” she asked aloud, and Cristina blinked.
“This is my field of study, remember,” Cristina said. “Faerie and the results of the Cold Peace. Of course the Folk have returned him to you with demands, that is part of their cruelty. He needs time to recover, to begin to recognize this world and his life again. Instead they would thrust him back into it as if it would be easy for him to be a Shadowhunter again.”
Julian leaned back against the wall beside the door. Emma could see the dark fire in his eyes, banked under his lowered eyelids. “They injured him,” he said. “Why?”
“So you would do what you did,” said Emma. “So you would get a stele.”
He cursed, short and harsh. “So I would see what they did to him, how he hates me?”
“He doesn’t hate you,” said Cristina. “He hates himself. He hates that he is Nephilim, because they would have taught that to him. Hate for hate. They are an old people and that is their idea of justice.” “How is Mark?” It was Diana, emerging at the top of the stairs. She hurried toward them, her skirts
whispering around her ankles. “Is someone in there with him?”
As Julian explained what had happened, Diana listened silently. She was buckling on her weapons belt. She had put on boots, and her hair was tied back. A leather satchel was slung over her shoulder.
“Hopefully he can rest,” she said when Julian finished. “Kieran said the journey here took them two days through Faerie, no sleep, he’s probably exhausted.”
“Kieran?” said Emma. “It’s weird calling gentry faeries by their first names. He is gentry, right?” Diana nodded. “Kieran’s a prince of Faerie; he didn’t say so, but it’s obvious. Iarlath is from the
Unseelie Court, not a prince, but some sort of Court member. You can tell.”
Julian glanced toward the door of his brother’s room. “I should go back in there—”
“No,” Diana said. “You and Emma are going to Malcolm Fade’s.” She fished into her satchel and came out with the faerie documents that Kieran had given to her earlier. Up close Emma could see that they were two sheets of parchment, thin as onionskin. The ink on them looked as if it had been carved there. “Take this to him. See what he can make of it.”
“Now?” Emma said. “But—”
“Now,” said Diana flatly. “The Folk have given you—given us— three weeks. Three weeks with Mark to solve this. Then they take him back.”
“Three weeks?” Julian echoed. “That’s not nearly enough time.” “I could go with them,” Cristina said.
“I need you here, Cristina,” said Diana. “Someone has to watch over Mark, and it can’t be one of the children. And it can’t be me. I have to go.”
“Go where?” Emma demanded.
But Diana only shook her head, unforthcoming. It was a familiar wall. Emma had crashed against it more than once. “It’s important,” was all Diana said. “You’ll have to trust me.”
Julian said nothing. Emma suspected Diana’s aloofness bothered him as much, if not more, than it bothered her, but he never showed it.
“But this changes things,” Emma said, and she fought down the emotion in her voice, the spark of relief, even triumph, that she knew she shouldn’t feel. “Because of Mark. Because of Mark, you’re willing to let us try to find out who did this.”
“Yes.” For the first time since she’d come into the hallway, Diana looked directly at Emma. “You must
be pleased,” she said. “You got exactly what you wanted. We’ve got no choice now. We’ll have to investigate these killings, and we’ll have to do it without the knowledge of the Clave.”
“I didn’t make this happen,” Emma protested.
“No situation in which you have no choice is a good one, Emma,” Diana said. “Which you will eventually learn. I only hope it isn’t too late. You might think this is a good thing that’s happened, but I can assure you it isn’t.” She turned away from Emma, fixing her attention on Julian. “As you well know, Julian, this is an illegal investigation. The Cold Peace forbids cooperation with the Fair Folk, and certainly forbids what amounts to working for them, no matter the inducement. It’s to our advantage to figure this out as quickly and cleanly as we can, so the Clave has as little opportunity as possible to find out what we’re doing.”
“And when it’s done?” Julian said. “And Mark’s back? How do we explain that?” Something in Diana’s eyes shifted. “We’ll worry about that when it happens.”
“So we’re racing the Clave and the Courts,” said Julian. “Fantastic. Maybe there’s someone else we can piss off. The Spiral Labyrinth? The Scholomance? Interpol?”
“No one’s pissed off yet,” said Diana. “Let’s just keep it that way.” She handed the papers to Emma. “Just to be clear: We can’t cooperate with the Fair Folk and we can’t harbor Mark without reporting it, except obviously we’re going to, so the upshot is that no one outside the building can know. And I refuse to lie to the Clave directly, so hopefully we can get this done with before they start asking questions.” She looked at them each in turn, her expression serious. “We have to work together. Emma, no more fighting me. Cristina, if you want to be reassigned to another Institute, we’ll understand. We’d just ask you to keep this to yourself.”
Emma gasped. “No!”
Cristina was already shaking her head. “I don’t need a new assignment,” she said. “I will keep your secret. I will make it my secret too.”
“Good,” Diana said. “Speaking of keeping things secret, don’t tell Malcolm how we got our hands on these papers. Don’t mention Mark, don’t mention the faerie delegation. If he says anything, he’ll have me to deal with.”
“Malcolm’s our friend,” said Julian. “We can trust him.”
“I’m trying to make sure he doesn’t get in trouble if anyone finds out,” she said. “He needs to be able to deny it.” She zipped up her jacket. “Okay, I’ll be back tomorrow. Good luck.”
“Threatening the High Warlock,” Julian muttered as Diana disappeared down the hall. “Better and better. Maybe we should head down to vampire clan headquarters and punch Anselm Nightshade in the face?”
“But think of the consequences,” Emma said. “No more pizza.” Julian gave her a wry sideways-looking smile.
“I could go to Malcolm’s alone,” Emma said. “You could stay here, Jules, wait for Mark to—”
She didn’t finish. She wasn’t sure she knew what exactly they were waiting for Mark to do, that any of them knew.
“No,” Julian said. “Malcolm trusts me. I know him the best. I can convince him to keep this secret.” He straightened up. “We’ll both go.”
As parabatai. As we should.
Emma nodded and caught at Cristina’s hand. “We’ll make it as fast as we can,” she said. “You’ll be all right?”
Cristina nodded. Her hand was at her throat, her fingers resting on her necklace. “I will watch over Mark,” she said. “It will be all right. Everything will be all right.”
And Emma almost believed her.
Being a High Warlock must pay well, Emma thought, as she always did when she saw Malcolm Fade’s house. It looked like a castle.
Malcolm lived up the highway from the Institute, past Kanan Dume Road. It was a spot where the bluffs rose high above, threaded with green sea grass. The house was shrouded by glamour spells, hiding it from mundanes. If you were driving—which Emma was— you had to look hard at a spot between two bluffs, and a silvery bridge that climbed up into the hills would appear.
Emma pulled over to the side of the highway. Lines of cars were parked along the sides of the PCH here, most of them surfers drawn by the wide beach to the west.
Emma exhaled, turning the car off. “Okay,” she said. “We—” “Emma,” Julian said.
She paused. Julian had been almost completely silent since they’d left the Institute. She couldn’t blame him. She couldn’t find words herself. She’d let the distraction of driving take her, the need to concentrate on the road. She’d been aware of him beside her the whole time, though, his head back against the seat, his eyes closed, his fist clenched against the knee of his jeans.
“Mark thought I was my father,” said Julian abruptly, and she could tell he was remembering that awful moment, the look of hope in his brother’s eyes, a hope that had nothing to do with him. “He didn’t recognize me.”
“He remembers you twelve,” Emma said. “He remembers all of you as so young.” “And you, too.”
“I doubt he remembers me at all.”
He unsnapped his seat belt. Light sparked off the bracelet of sea glass he wore on his left wrist, turning it to bright colors: flame red, fire gold, Blackthorn blue.
“He does,” he said. “No one could forget you.”
She blinked at him in surprise. A moment later Julian was out of the car. She scrambled to follow him, slamming the driver’s side door as cars whizzed by just a lane away.
Jules was standing at the foot of Malcolm’s bridge, looking up toward the house. She could see his shoulder blades under the thin cotton of his T-shirt, the nape of his neck, a shade lighter than the rest of his skin where his hair had kept it from getting tanned.
“The Fair Folk are tricksters,” Julian said without turning. “They won’t want to give Mark up: Faerie blood and Shadowhunter blood together, that’s too valuable. There’ll be some clause that’ll allow them to take him back when we’re done.”
“Well, it’s up to him,” said Emma. “He gets to choose whether to stay or go.”
Julian shook his head. “A choice seems simple, I know,” he said. “But a lot of choices aren’t simple.” They began to climb the stairs. The staircase was helical, twisting upward through the hills. It was
glamoured, visible only to supernatural creatures. The first time Emma had visited, Malcolm had escorted her; she had looked down in wonder at all the mundanes speeding by below in their cars, entirely unaware that above them, a crystal staircase rose impossibly against the sky.
She was more used to it now. Once you’d seen the staircase, it would never be invisible to you again. Julian didn’t say anything else as they walked, but Emma found she didn’t mind. What he’d said in the
car—he’d meant it. His gaze had been level and direct as he’d spoken. It had been Julian talking, her Jules, the one who lived in her bones and her brain and at the base of her spine, the one who was threaded all through her like veins or nerves.
The staircase ended abruptly in a path to Malcolm’s front door. You were meant to climb down, but Emma jumped, her feet landing on the hard-packed dirt. A moment later Julian had landed beside her and reached out to steady her, his fingers five warm lines across her back. She didn’t need the help—of the two of them, she likely had the better balance—but, she realized, it was something he’d always done, unthinkingly. A protective reflex.
She glanced toward him, but he seemed lost in thought, barely noticing that they were touching. He moved away as the staircase behind them vanished back into its glamour.
They were standing in front of two obelisks that thrust up out of the dusty ground, forming a gateway. Each was carved with alchemical symbols: fire, earth, water, air. The path that led up to the warlock’s house was lined with desert plants: cactus, sagebrush, California lilacs. Bees buzzed among the flowers. The dirt turned to crushed seashells as they neared the brushed-metal front doors.
Emma knocked and the doors slid open with a near-silent hiss. The hallways inside Malcolm’s house were white, lined with pop-art reproductions, snaking off in a dozen different directions. Julian was at her side, unobtrusive; he hadn’t brought his crossbow with him, but she felt the ridge of a knife strapped to his wrist when he nudged her with his arm.
“Down the hall,” he said. “Voices.”
They moved toward the living room. It was all steel and glass, entirely circular, giving out onto views of the sea. Emma thought it looked like the sort of place a movie star might own—everything was modern, from the sound system that piped in classical music to the infinity-edged swimming pool that hung over the cliffs.
Malcolm was sprawled on the long couch that ran the length of the room, his back to the Pacific. He wore a black suit, very plain and clearly expensive. He was nodding and smiling agreeably as two men in much the same kind of dark suits stood over him with briefcases in hand, speaking in low, urgent voices.
Malcolm, seeing them, waved. The vistors were white men in their forties with nondescript faces. Malcolm made a nonchalant gesture with his fingers, and they froze in place, eyes staring blankly.
“It always creeps me out when you do that,” Emma said. She walked up to one of the frozen men and poked him thoughtfully. He tilted slightly.
“Don’t break the movie producer,” said Malcolm. “I’d have to hide the body in the rock garden.” “You’re the one who froze him.” Julian sat down on the arm of the couch. Emma slumped down onto
the cushions beside him, feet on the coffee table. She wiggled her toes in their sandals. Malcolm blinked. “But how else am I meant to talk to you without them hearing?”
“You could ask us to wait till your meeting is over,” Julian said. “It probably wouldn’t be a major risk to any lives.”
“You’re Shadowhunters. It could always be life-or-death,” said Malcolm, not unreasonably. “Besides, I’m not sure I want the job. They’re movie producers and they want me to cast a spell to ensure the success of their new release. But it looks terrible.” He stared glumly at the poster on the sofa beside him. It showed several birds flying toward the viewer, with the caption EAGLE EXPLOSION THREE: FEATHERS FLY.
“Does anything happen in this movie that wasn’t adequately covered in Eagle Explosion One and Two?” Julian asked.
“Does it matter if it’s terrible? Terrible movies do well all the time,” Emma pointed out. She knew more about movies than she wished she did. Most Shadowhunters paid little attention to mundane culture, but you couldn’t live in Los Angeles and escape it.
“It means a stronger spell. More work for me. But it does pay well. And I’ve been thinking of installing a train in my house. It could bring me shrimp crackers from the kitchen.”
“A train?” Julian echoed. “How big a train?”
“Small. Medium. Like this.” Malcolm gestured, low to the ground. “It would go ‘choo-choo’—” He snapped his fingers to punctuate the noise, and the movie producers jerked into life.
“Whoops,” Malcolm said as they blinked. “Didn’t mean to do that.” “Mr. Fade,” said the older one. “You’ll consider our offer?” Malcolm looked dispiritedly at the poster. “I’ll get in touch.”
The producers turned toward the front door, and the younger one jumped at the sight of Emma and
Julian. Emma could hardly blame him. From his perspective, they must have appeared out of thin air. “Sorry, gents,” said Malcolm. “My niece and nephew. Family day, you know.”
The mundanes looked from Malcolm to Jules and Emma and back again, clearly wondering how someone who looked twenty-seven could possibly have a niece and nephew in their teens. The older one shrugged.
“Enjoy the beach,” he said, and they marched out, brushing by Emma with a whiff of expensive cologne and the rattle of briefcases.
Malcolm stood up, listing a bit to one side—he had a slightly awkward way of walking that made Emma wonder if he’d once been injured and hadn’t completely healed. “Everything all right with Arthur?”
Julian tensed beside Emma, almost imperceptibly, but she felt it. “The family’s fine, thanks.” Malcolm’s violet eyes, his warlock’s mark, darkened before clearing like a sky briefly touched by
clouds. His expression as he ambled over to the bar that ran along one wall and poured himself a glass of clear liquid was amiable. “Then what can I help you with?”
Emma moved over toward the couch. They had made copies of the papers the faeries had given them. She set them down on the coffee table. “You remember what we were talking about the other night. . . .”
Malcolm put his glass aside and picked up the papers. “That demon language again,” he said. “The one that was on that body you found in the alley, and on your parents’ bodies . . .” He paused to whistle through his teeth. “Look at that,” he said, stabbing his finger at the first page. “Someone’s translated the first line. Fire to water.”
“It’s a breakthrough, right?” Emma said.
Malcolm shook his bone-white head of hair. “Maybe, but I can’t do anything with this. Not if it’s a secret from Diana and Arthur. I can’t get involved in something like that.”
“It’s fine with Diana,” Emma said. Malcolm gave her a dubious look. “Seriously. Call her and ask—” She broke off as a man ambled into the room, hands in his pockets. He looked about twenty, tall, with
spiked black hair and cat’s eyes. He wore a white suit that contrasted crisply with his brown skin. “Magnus!” Emma said, jumping to her feet. Magnus Bane was the High Warlock of Brooklyn, and also
held the warlock’s seat on the Council of Shadowhunters. He was possibly the most famous warlock in the world, though you’d never guess it; he seemed young, and had been kind and friendly to Emma and the Blackthorns since he’d met them during the Dark War.
She’d always liked Magnus. He seemed to bring a sense of infinite possibility with him wherever he went. He looked the same as the last time she’d seen him, down to his sardonic smile and the heavy jeweled rings on his fingers. “Emma, Julian. A pleasure. What are you doing here?”
Emma darted her gaze toward Julian. They might have been fond of Magnus, but she could tell from Julian’s expression—it was quickly hidden, smoothed over by a look of mild interest, but she could still see it—that he wasn’t thrilled Magnus was there. This was already going to be a secret Malcolm needed to keep. Adding someone else in . . . especially someone on the Council . . .
“What are you doing in town?” Julian’s tone was casual.
“Ever since the Dark War, the Clave has been tracking incidences of the kind of magic Sebastian Morgenstern used,” said Magnus. “Energy raised from evil sources, Hell dimensions and the like, to draw power and extend life. Necyomanteis, the Greeks called it.”
“Necromancy,” Emma translated.
Magnus nodded. “We built a map,” he said, “with help from the Spiral Labyrinth, from the Silent Brothers—even Zachariah—that reveals where necromantic magic is being used. We caught a flare of it here in Los Angeles, out by the desert, so I thought I’d stop by, see if Malcolm knew about it.”
“It was a rogue necromancer,” said Malcolm. “Diana said she took care of him.”
“God, I hate rogue necromancers,” said Magnus. “Why can’t they just follow the rules?”
“Probably because the biggest rule is ‘no necromancy’?” Emma suggested.
Magnus grinned at her, sideways. “Anyway. It was no big deal for me to stop by here on my way to Buenos Aires.”
“What’s in Buenos Aires?” said Julian.
“Alec,” Magnus said. Alexander Lightwood was Magnus’s boyfriend of half a decade. They could have gotten married under the new laws that allowed Shadowhunters to marry Downworlders (other than faeries), but they hadn’t. Emma didn’t know why. “Routine check on a vampire-worshipping cult, but he ran into some trouble there.”
“Nothing serious?” said Julian. He’d known Alec Lightwood longer than Emma had; the Blackthorns and the Lightwoods had been friends for years.
“Complicated, but not serious,” said Magnus, just as Malcolm pushed himself away from the wall. “I’m going to go call Diana. Be right back,” he said, and vanished down the hallway.
“So.” Magnus sat down on the couch, in the place Malcolm had just vacated. “What brings you to the High Warlock of the City of Angels?”
Emma exchanged a worried look with Julian, but short of diving across the table and whacking Magnus over the head—inadvisable for so many reasons—she couldn’t think of anything to do.
“Something you’re not supposed to tell me, I take it.” Magnus templed his hands under his chin. “About the killings?” At their surprised looks, he added, “I have friends at the Scholomance. Catarina Loss, for one. Anything about rogue magic or the Fair Folk interests me. Is Malcolm helping out?”
Julian shook his head, a minute gesture.
“Some of the bodies were fey,” said Emma. “We’re not meant to get involved. The Cold Peace—” “The Cold Peace is despicable,” Magnus said, and the humor had gone out of his voice. “Punishing a
whole species for the actions of a few. Denying them rights. Exiling your sister,” he added, looking at Julian. “I’ve spoken to her. She helped make the map I spoke of; any magic that global involves the wards. How often do you talk to her?”
“Every week,” said Jules.
“She said you always told her that everything was fine,” said Magnus. “I think she was worried you weren’t telling her the truth.”
Julian said nothing. It was true that he talked to Helen every week; they all did, passing the phone or computer back and forth. And it was also true that Julian never told her anything except that everything was fine, they were all fine, there was no need for her to worry.
“I remember her wedding,” Magnus said, and there was gentleness in his eyes. “How young you both were. Though it wasn’t the last wedding I saw you at, was it?”
Emma and Julian exchanged puzzled glances. “I’m pretty sure it was,” said Julian. “What other wedding would it have been?”
“Hm,” said Magnus. “Perhaps my memory is going in my old age.” He didn’t sound as if he thought that was likely, though. He leaned back instead, sliding his long legs under the coffee table. “As for Helen, I’m sure it’s just an older sibling’s anxiety. Certainly Alec worries about Isabelle, whether it’s warranted or not.”
“What do you think about ley lines?” Emma asked abruptly.
Magnus’s eyebrows flew up. “What about them? Spells done at ley lines are amplified.” “Does it matter what kind of magic? Dark magic, warlock magic, faerie magic?”
Magnus frowned. “It depends. But it’s unusual to use a ley line to amplify dark magic. Usually they’re used to move power. Like a delivery system for magic—”
“Well, how about that.” Malcolm, returning to the living room, darted an amused look at Emma. “Diana corroborates your story. Color me astonished.” His gaze moved to Magnus. “What’s going on?”
A light flashed in his eyes, whether amusement or something else, Emma couldn’t quite tell. Sometimes
Malcolm seemed completely childlike, going on about trains and shrimp crackers and eagle movies. At other times he seemed as sharp and focused as anyone she knew.
Magnus stretched his arms along the back of the sofa. “We were talking about ley lines. I was saying they amplify magic, but only certain kinds of magic. Magic that has to do with energy transferrals. Didn’t you and Catarina Loss run into some kind of trouble with ley lines back when you lived in Cornwall, Malcolm?”
A vague expression passed over Malcolm’s face. “I can’t remember precisely. Magnus, stop bothering Emma and Julian,” he said, and there was a tinge of something like annoyance in his voice. Professional jealousy, Emma guessed. “This is my domain. You’ve got your own hopeless humans in New York.”
“One of those hopeless humans is the father of my child,” Magnus pointed out.
Magnus had not ever been pregnant, though that would have been interesting, Emma thought. He and Alec Lightwood had an adopted warlock child, named Max, who was a scintillating shade of navy blue.
“And,” Magnus added, “the rest of them have all saved the world, at least once.” Malcolm gestured toward Julian and Emma. “I have high hopes for these.”
Magnus’s face broke into a grin. “I’m sure you’re right,” he said. “Anyway, I should go. Long trip ahead of me and Alec doesn’t like me to be late.”
There was a flurry of good-byes. Magnus clapped Malcolm on the arm and paused to hug Julian, and then Emma. His shoulder bumped her forehead as he bent his head, and she heard his voice in her ear, whispering. She looked at him in surprise, but he only let her go and marched toward the door, whistling. Halfway to the door there was the familiar shimmer and burned-sugar smell of Portal magic, and Magnus disappeared.
“Did you tell him about the investigation?” Malcolm looked anxious. “He mentioned ley lines.” “I asked him about them,” Emma admitted. “But I didn’t say why I wanted to know. And I didn’t
mention anything about translating the markings.”
Malcolm circled around to look at the paper again. “I don’t suppose you’ll tell me who untangled the first line? Fire to water. It would help to know what it means.”
“We can’t,” Julian said. “But I don’t think the translator knew what it meant either. You can use it, though, right? To get the rest of the spell or message or whatever it is?”
“Probably, though it would help if I knew the language.”
“It’s a very old language,” Emma said carefully. “Older than Nephilim.”
Malcolm sighed. “You’re not giving me much. Okay, old demony language, very ancient. I’ll check with the Spiral Labyrinth.”
“Be careful what you tell them,” Julian said. “Like we said—the Clave can’t know we’re investigating this.”
“Which means faerie involvement,” said Malcolm, amusement flickering across his face as he saw their horrified expressions. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell. I don’t like the Cold Peace any more than any other Downworlder does.”
Julian was expressionless. He ought to take up a career playing poker, Emma thought. “How long do you think you’ll need?” he asked. “To translate?”
“Give me a few days.”
A few days. Emma tried to conceal her disappointment.
“Sorry I can’t do it any faster.” Malcolm sounded genuinely sorry. “Come on. I’ll walk you outside. I need some air.”
The sun had come out from behind the clouds and was blazing down on Malcolm’s front garden. The desert flowers shivered, silver-edged, in the wind from the canyons. A lizard darted out from behind a piece of shrubbery and stared at them. Emma stuck her tongue out at it.
“I’m worried,” Malcolm said abruptly. “I don’t like this. Necromantic magic, demon languages, a
series of killings no one understands. Working without the Clave’s knowledge. It seems, dare I say it, dangerous.”
Julian stared off toward the distant hills, silent. It was Emma who answered.
“Malcolm, last year we fought off a battalion of Forneus demons with tentacles and no faces,” Emma said. “Don’t try to freak us out about this.”
“I’m just saying. Danger. You know, that thing most people avoid.” “Not us,” Emma said cheerfully. “Tentacles, Malcolm. No faces.”
“Stubborn.” Malcolm sighed. “Just promise to call me if you need me or if you find out anything else.” “Definitely,” said Julian. Emma wondered if the cold knot of guilt that she felt at hiding things from
Malcolm also sat in his chest. The wind off the ocean had picked up. It caught the dust in the garden and blew it into swirls. Julian pushed his hair out of his eyes. “Thanks for helping,” he added. “We know we can depend on you.” He headed down the path, toward the steps to the bridge, which shimmered alive as he approached it.
Malcolm’s face had turned somber, despite the bright noon light reflecting off the ocean. “Don’t depend on me too much,” he said, so softly she wondered if he knew she would hear him.
“Why not?” She turned her face up to him in the sunlight, blinking. His eyes were the color of jacaranda blossoms.
“Because I’ll let you down. Everyone does,” Malcolm said, and went back inside his house.