Emma made a screeching right turn off Fairfax into a parking lot down the street from Canter’s Delicatessen. It belonged to a paint store that was closed now. She wheeled around to the back, where the lot was totally empty, and pulled the car to a jerking stop, making Jules swear.
She looked back at him, unbuckling her belt. He was pale, clutching his side. She couldn’t see much, given the darkness inside the car and the black clothes he was wearing, but blood was leaking through his fingers in slow pulses. Her stomach went cold.
When he’d fallen at Wells’s house, the first thing she’d done was sketch a healing rune on his skin. The second was get him to his feet and half-drag him, the weapons, and Ava’s purse into the backseat of the car.
It was only after they’d driven a few blocks that he’d moaned and she’d looked back to realize he was still bleeding. She’d pulled over and put on another healing rune, and then another. That would work. It had to.
There were very few kinds of wounds that healing runes couldn’t help. Those made by demon poisons, and those bad enough to kill you. She’d felt her brain hitch and freeze up at the thought of either of those possibilities and had gone immediately for her phone. She’d texted Livvy the first location she could think of that was familiar—they all knew and loved Canter’s—and then driven straight for it as fast as she could.
She turned the car off with a jerk of her wrist and climbed into the backseat beside Jules. He was wedged into the corner, pale and sweating with obvious pain. “Okay,” she said in a shaking voice. “You have to let me look at you.”
He was biting his lip. The streetlights from Fairfax illuminated the backseat, but not enough for Emma to see him well. He reached down for the hem of his shirt—and hesitated.
She took her witchlight out of her pocket and lit it, filling the car with bright light. Jules’s shirt was soaked with blood, and worse, the healing runes she’d drawn had vanished from his skin.
They weren’t working.
“Jules,” she said. “I have to call the Silent Brothers. They can help you. I have to.”
His eyes screwed shut with pain. “You can’t,” he said. “You know we can’t call the Silent Brothers. They report directly to the Clave.”
“So we’ll lie to them. Say it was a routine demon patrol. I’m calling,” she said, and reached for her phone.
“No!” Julian said, forcefully enough to stop her. “Silent Brothers know when you’re lying! They have
the Mortal Sword, Emma. They’ll find out about the investigation. About Mark—” “You’re not going to bleed to death in a car for Mark!”
“No,” he said, looking at her. His eyes were eerily blue-green, the only deep color in the witch-lit interior of the car. “You’re going to fix me.”
Emma could feel it when Jules was hurt, like a splinter lodged under her skin. The physical pain didn’t bother her—it was the terror, the only terror worse than her fear of the ocean. The fear of Jules being hurt, of him dying. She would give up anything, sustain any wound, to prevent that from happening.
“Okay,” she said. Her voice sounded dry and thin to her own ears. “Okay.” She took a deep breath. “Hang on.”
She unzipped her jacket, threw it aside. Leaned over the console between the seats to put her witchlight on the floorboard. Then she reached for Jules. The next few seconds were a blur of Jules’s blood on her hands and his harsh breathing as she pulled him partly upright, wedging him against the back door. He didn’t make a sound as she moved him, but she could see him biting his lip and the blood on his mouth and chin, and she felt as if her bones were popping inside her skin.
“Your jacket,” she said through gritted teeth. “I have to cut it off.” He nodded, letting his head fall back. She reached for Cortana.
Despite the toughness of the material, the blade went through the gear jacket like a knife through paper. It fell away in pieces. Emma sliced down the front of his T-shirt and pulled it apart as if she were peeling open a fruit.
Emma had seen blood before, often, but this felt different. It was Julian’s, and there seemed to be a lot of it. It was smeared up and down his chest and rib cage; she could see where the arrow had gone in and where the skin had torn when he’d yanked it out.
“Why did you pull the arrow out?” she demanded, pulling her sweater over her head. She had a tank top on under it. She patted his chest and side with the sweater, absorbing as much of the blood as she could.
Jules’s breath was coming in harsh pants. “Because when someone—shoots you with an arrow—” he gasped, “your immediate response is not—‘Thanks for the arrow, I think I’ll keep it for a while.’”
“Good to know your sense of humor is intact.”
“Like I said, it was burning,” Julian said. “Not like a normal wound. Like there was something on the arrowhead, acid or something.”
Emma had mopped away as much of the blood as she could. It was still welling from the puncture wound, running in thin streams down his stomach, gathering in the lines between his abdominal muscles. He had deep gaps above his hip bones, too, and his sides were hard and smooth to the touch.
She took a deep breath. “You’re too skinny,” she said as brightly as she could. “Too much coffee, not enough pancakes.”
“I hope they put that on my tombstone.” He gasped as she shifted forward, and she realized abruptly that she was squarely in Julian’s lap, her knees around his hips. It was a bizarrely intimate position.
“I—Am I hurting you?” she asked.
He swallowed visibly. “Try with the iratze again.” “Fine,” she said. “Grab the panic bar.”
“The what?” He opened his eyes and peered at her.
“The plastic handle! Up there, above the window!” She pointed. “It’s for grabbing on to when the car is going around curves.”
“Are you sure? I always thought it was for hanging things on,” he said. “Like dry cleaning.” “Julian, now is not the time to be pedantic. Grab the bar or I swear—”
“All right!” He reached up, grabbed hold of it, and winced. “I’m ready.”
She nodded and set Cortana aside, reaching for her stele. Maybe her previous iratzes had been too fast,
too sloppy. She’d always focused on the physical aspects of Shadowhunting, not the more mental and artistic ones: seeing through glamours, drawing runes.
She set the tip of it to his shoulder and drew, carefully and slowly. She had to brace herself with her hand against his body. She tried to press as lightly as she could, but she could feel him tense under her fingers. The skin on his shoulder was smooth under her touch, and she wanted to get closer to him, put her hand over the wound on his side and heal it with the sheer force of her will—
Stop. She had finished the iratze. She sat back, her hand clamped around the stele. Julian straightened, the ragged remnants of his shirt hanging off his shoulders. He took a deep breath, glancing down at himself —and the iratze faded back into his skin, like black ice melting, spreading, being absorbed by the sea.
He looked up at Emma. She could see her own reflection in his eyes: She looked wrecked, panicked, blood on her neck and her white tank top. “It hurts less,” he whispered.
The wound pulsed again; blood slid down the side of his rib cage, staining his leather belt and the waistband of his jeans. She put her hands on his bare skin, panic rising up inside her. His skin felt hot, too hot. Fever hot.
“You’re lying,” she said. “Jules. Enough. I’m going to get help—”
She moved to climb off him, but his hand shot out and clamped over her wrist. “Em,” he said. “Emma, look at me.”
She looked. There was a little blood on his cheek and his hair hung in sweaty dark curls, but otherwise he just looked like Jules, like he always did. His left hand was pressed to his side, but his right came up, his fingers curling around the back of her neck. “Em,” he said again, his eyes wide and dark blue in the dim light. “Did you kiss Mark the other night?”
“What?” Emma stared. “Okay, you’ve definitely lost too much blood.”
He shifted minutely under her, keeping his hand where it was, gentle, tickling the fine hairs at the nape of her neck. “I saw the way you looked at him,” he said. “Outside Poseidon’s.”
“If you’re worried about Mark’s well-being, you shouldn’t be. He’s a mess. I know that. I don’t think he needs to be more confused.”
“It wasn’t that. I wasn’t worried about Mark.” He closed his eyes, as if he were counting silently inside his head. When he opened them again his pupils were wide black circles sketched onto his irises. “Maybe it should have been that. But it wasn’t.”
Was he actually hallucinating? Emma thought in a panic. It wasn’t like him to ramble like this, to make no sense at all. “I have to call the Silent Brothers,” she said. “I don’t care if you hate me forever or the investigation gets canceled—”
“Please,” he said, desperation clear in his voice. “Just—just one more try.” “One more?” she echoed.
“You’ll fix this. You’ll fix me, because we’re parabatai. We’re forever. I said that to you once, do you remember?”
She nodded warily, hand on the phone.
“And the strength of a rune your parabatai gives you is special. Whatever was on that arrowhead was meant to prevent healing magic, but Emma, you can do it. You can heal me. We’re parabatai and that means the things we can do together are . . . extraordinary.”
There was blood on her jeans now, blood on her hands and her tank top, and he was still bleeding, the wound still open, an incongruous tear in the smooth skin all around it.
“Try,” Jules said in a dry whisper. “For me, try?”
His voice went up on the question, and in it she heard the voice of the boy he had been once, remembered him smaller, skinnier, younger, standing upright before his siblings in the Great Hall in Alicante as his father advanced on him with his blade unsheathed.
And she remembered what Julian had done then. Done to protect her, to protect all of them, because he
always would do everything to protect them.
She took her hand off the phone and gripped the stele, so tightly she felt it dig into her damp palm. “Look at me, Jules,” she said, and he met her eyes with his. She placed the stele against his skin, and for a moment she held still, just breathing, breathing and remembering.
Julian. A presence in her life for as long as she could recall, splashing water at each other in the ocean, digging in the sand together, him putting his hand over hers and them marveling at the difference in the shape and length of their fingers. Julian singing, terribly and off-key, while he drove, his fingers in her hair carefully freeing a trapped leaf, his hands catching her in the training room when she fell, and fell, and fell. The first time after their parabatai ceremony when she’d smashed her hand into a wall in rage at not being able to get a sword maneuver right, and he’d come up to her, taken her still-shaking body in his arms, and said, “Emma, Emma, don’t hurt yourself. When you do, I feel it too.”
Something in her chest seemed to split and crack; she marveled that it wasn’t audible. Energy raced along her veins and the stele moved in her hand, tracing the graceful outline of a healing rune across Julian’s chest. She heard him gasp, his eyes flying open. His hand slid down her back and he pressed her against him, his teeth gritted.
“Don’t stop,” he said.
Emma couldn’t have stopped if she’d wanted to. The stele seemed to be moving of its own accord; she was blinded with memories, a kaleidoscope of them, all of Julian. Sun in her eyes and Julian asleep on the beach in an old T-shirt and her not wanting to wake him, but he’d woken anyway when the sun went down and looked for her, immediately, not smiling till his eyes found her and he knew she was there. Falling asleep talking and waking up with their hands interlocked; they’d been children in the dark together once but now they were something else, something intimate and powerful, something Emma felt she was touching only the very edge of as she finished the rune and the stele fell from her fingers.
“Oh,” she said softly. The rune seemed lit from within by a soft glow. Julian was breathing hard, his stomach muscles rising and falling quickly, but the bleeding had stopped. The wound was closing, sealing itself up like an envelope. “Does it—does it hurt?”
A smile was spreading across Julian’s face. His hand was still on Emma’s hip, gripping hard; he must have forgotten. “No,” he said. His voice was hushed, soft, as if he were speaking inside a church. “You did it; you fixed it.” He was looking at her like she was a rare miracle. “Emma, my God, Emma.”
Emma slumped against his shoulder as the tension drained out of her. She let her head rest there as his arms circled her body.
“It’s all right.” He slid his hands down her back, clearly able to tell that she was shaking. “Everything’s fine, I’m fine.”
“Jules,” she whispered. His face was close to hers; she could see the light freckles across his cheekbones, under the smears of blood. Could feel his body against hers, vividly alive, the slamming of his heart in his rib cage, the heat of his skin, as if on fire from the power of the iratze. Her own heart was beating hard as her hands found his shoulders—
The front door of the car flew open. Light streamed in and Emma jerked away from Julian as Livvy clambered into the front seat.
Livvy was holding a witchlight in her right hand, and its irregular beams illuminated the strange scene in the back of the Toyota: Emma in her bloody clothes; Julian, shirtless, jammed against the rear door. His hands fell away from Emma.
“Is everything okay?” Livvy demanded. She was gripping her phone in one hand; she must have been waiting for more messages, Emma thought guiltily. “You texted nine-one-one—”
“Everything’s fine.” Emma slid across the bench seat, away from Jules.
He struggled upright, looking down dubiously at his shredded shirt. “Someone shot me with a crossbow bolt. The iratzes weren’t working.”
“Well, you look fine now.” Livvy eyed him, puzzled. “Bloody, but . . .”
“A little parabatai magic,” said Jules. “They weren’t working, then they were. Sorry to scare you.” “It looks like a mad science lab back here.” There was relief on Livvy’s face. “Who shot you,
“It’s a long story,” said Jules. “How did you get here? You didn’t drive, did you?”
Another head suddenly appeared beside Livvy’s. Mark, his blond hair haloed in the witchlight. “I drove,” he announced. “Upon a faerie steed.”
“What? But—but your faerie steed was shredded by demons!”
“There are as many faerie steeds as there are riders,” Mark said, looking pleased to be mysterious. “I did not say it was my faerie steed. Just a faerie steed.” Mark disappeared from his side of the car. Before Emma could determine where he’d gone, the door behind Julian flew open. Mark leaned in, picked up his younger brother bodily, and lifted him out of the car.
“What—?” Emma seized up her stele and scrambled out after them.
There were two more figures standing on the asphalt of the parking lot—Cristina and Ty, illuminated by the lights of a motorcycle. In fact, the whole motorcycle was glowing. It wasn’t Mark’s: It was black, with a painted design of horns on the chassis.
“Jules?” Ty looked blanched and frightened as Julian pulled free of Mark’s grip, yanking down the tattered remains of his shirt.
Cristina hurried over to Emma as Julian turned to his younger brother. “Ty, everything’s all right,” he said. “I’m fine.”
“But you’re covered in blood,” said Ty. He wasn’t looking directly at Julian, but Emma couldn’t help wondering if he was remembering—remembering the Dark War, and the blood and the dying all around him. “People have only so much blood they can lose before—”
“I’ll get some blood-replacement runes,” said Julian. “Remember, Ty, we’re Shadowhunters. We can handle a lot.”
“You’re covered in blood too,” Cristina murmured to Emma, shrugging off her own jacket. She slung it around Emma’s shoulders, covering her bloody tank. She brushed her hands through Emma’s hair, looking at her worriedly. “You sure you’re not hurt?”
“Julian’s blood,” Emma whispered, and Cristina made a murmuring noise and pulled Emma into a hug. She patted Emma’s back and Emma hung on to her for dear life and decided there and then that if anyone ever tried to hurt Cristina she would grind them to a pulp and make amusing sand castles out of the remains.
Livvy had moved to stand next to Ty and was holding his hand, murmuring to him that the blood was just blood, Julian wasn’t hurt, everything was fine. Ty was breathing quickly, his hand opening and closing over Livvy’s.
“Here.” Mark shrugged out of his blue T-shirt. He was wearing another T-shirt under it, this one gray. Julian blinked at him. “Proper vestments.” He offered it to his brother.
“Why are you wearing a T-shirt under your other T-shirt?” Livvy asked, temporarily diverted.
“In case one of them is stolen,” Mark said, as if this were entirely normal. Everyone paused to stare at him, even Julian, who had stripped off the rags of his shirt and covered himself with Mark’s.
“Thanks,” Julian said, pulling Mark’s shirt down over his belt. He tossed the scraps of his old shirt on top of a Dumpster. Mark seemed pleased—and, Emma realized belatedly, looked different. His hair was no longer hanging past his shoulders, but was cut short—or shorter, curling around his ears. It made him look both younger and more modern, less incongruous in his jeans and boots.
More like a Shadowhunter.
Mark looked back. She could still see the wind in his eyes, and the stars, and vast fields of empty clouds. Wildness and freedom. She wondered how deep his transformation back into a Shadowhunter ran.
How deep it would ever run.
She put a hand to her head. “I feel dizzy.”
“You need food.” It was Livvy, grabbing her hand. “We all do. Nobody’s eaten tonight, and Jules, you’re forbidden from cooking. Let’s go to Canter’s, grab some dinner, and figure out what to do next.”
Everything inside Canter’s was yellow. The walls were yellow, the booths were yellow, and most of the food was a shade of yellow. Not that Emma minded; she’d been coming to Canter’s since she was four years old with her parents to eat their chocolate-chip pancakes and challah French toast.
They piled into a corner booth and for a few minutes everything was absolutely ordinary: The waitress, a tall woman with gray hair, came by to dump a pile of laminated menus on their table; Livvy and Ty shared one, and Cristina asked Emma in a whisper what matzo brei was. They were scrunched together in the booth, and Emma found herself pressed up against Julian’s side. He still felt hot against her, as if the iratze hadn’t worked its way out of his system yet.
Her skin still felt supersensitized too, as if she would jump or scream the moment someone touched her. She nearly did scream when the waitress returned to get their orders. She just stared until Julian ordered waffles and hot chocolate for her and handed the menu back hastily, looking at her worriedly.
A-R-E Y-O-U A-L-L R-I-G-H-T? he scribbled on her back.
She nodded, reaching for her plastic glass of ice water, just as Mark smiled at the waitress and ordered a plate of strawberries.
The waitress, whose name tag said JEAN, blinked. “We don’t have that on the menu.”
“But you do have strawberries on the menu,” said Mark. “And I have seen plates being carried to and fro. So it stands to reason that the strawberries could be placed upon a plate and brought to me.”
“He has a point,” said Ty. “Strawberries are offered as a topping on several dishes. Surely you could separate them out.”
“A plate of strawberries,” Jean repeated.
“I would take them in a bowl,” said Mark with a winning gaze. “It has been many years since I have eaten freely at my choice, fair one, and a plate of strawberries is all that I desire.”
Jean looked dazed. “Right,” she said, and disappeared with the menus. “Mark,” said Julian. “Was that necessary?”
“Was what necessary?”
“You don’t have to sound like a medieval faerie poem,” Julian said. “You sound perfectly normal half the time. Maybe we should discuss keeping a low profile.”
“I cannot help it,” Mark said with a small smile. “It’s something about mundanes. . . .” “You need to act more like a normal human being,” said Jules. “When we’re out in public.” “He doesn’t need to act normal,” said Ty sharply.
“He bumped into a pay phone and said, ‘Excuse me, miss,’ on our way in,” said Julian. “It’s polite to apologize,” said Mark with the same small smile.
“Not to inanimate objects.”
“All right, enough,” said Emma. She filled them in quickly on the events at Stanley Wells’s house, including Ava’s body and the mysterious figure on the roof.
“So she was dead, but it was nothing like the other murders?” Livvy asked with a frown. “It seems unrelated—no markings, body dumped in a pool outside her own house, not at a ley line. . . .”
“What about the guy on the roof?” Cristina said. “Do you think he’s the killer?”
“Doubt it,” said Emma. “He had a crossbow, and none of them have been killed with crossbows. But he hurt Jules, so when we track him down, I’m going to chop him up and feed him to my fish.”
“You don’t have fish,” Julian said.
“Well, I’m going to buy some,” said Emma. “I’m going to buy goldfish and feed them blood until they acquire a taste for human flesh.”
“That’s disgusting,” said Livvy. “Does this mean we still need to return to Wells’s house and search it?”
“As long as we check the roof first,” said Emma.
“We can’t,” Ty said. He held up his phone. “I was looking at the news. Someone called in the body. The mundane police are crawling all over the place. We won’t be able to get anywhere near it for a few days at least.”
Emma blew out an exasperated breath. “Well,” she said, “at least we have this,” and she reached behind her to grab Ava’s bag. She upended it on the table and the contents rattled out: wallet, makeup case, lip balm, mirror, hairbrush, and something flat, golden, and shiny.
“No phone,” Ty observed, a line of annoyance gathering between his brows. Emma didn’t blame him. He could have done a lot with the phone. Too bad; it was at the bottom of Wells’s pool.
“What’s this?” Livvy picked up the shining square. It was blank.
“Not sure.” Emma flicked through the wallet. Credit cards, driver’s license, about eleven dollars in cash that made her feel a little queasy. Taking evidence was one thing; taking cash was another.
Not that they could have returned it to Ava.
“No photos or anything?” Julian asked, looking over her shoulder.
“I don’t think people keep photos in their wallets except in movies,” Emma said. “Not since iPhones.” “Speaking of movies.” Livvy furrowed her brow, looking briefly—as she did sometimes—like Ty.
“This thing looks like the Golden Ticket. You know, from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” She waved the shining piece of laminated paper.
“Let me see it.” Cristina held out her hand. Livvy gave it to her as the waitress returned with their food: grilled cheese for Ty, a turkey sandwich for Cristina, a BLT for Julian, waffles for Emma and Livvy, and Mark’s plate of strawberries.
Cristina took out her stele and scribbled, humming, on a corner of the gold paper. Mark, looking beatific, took the dispenser of maple syrup off the table and upended it over his strawberries. He picked one up and put it in his mouth, stem and all. Julian stared at him.
“What?” Mark said. “This is a perfectly normal thing to eat.” “Sure it is,” said Julian. “If you’re a hummingbird.”
Mark raised an eyebrow. “Look,” Cristina said, and pushed the golden paper toward the middle of the table. It was no longer blank. Instead it featured the shimmering photo of a building, and beside it words in block letters.
THE FOLLOWERS OF THE GUARDIAN
INVITE YOU TO THE LOTTERY
THIS MONTH’S PERFORMANCE: AUGUST 11, 7 P.M.
THE MIDNIGHT THEATER
This ticket admits one group. Semiformal attire.
“The Lottery?” Julian echoed. “That’s the name of a famous horror story. Did they make it into a play or something?”
“It doesn’t sound like a play,” said Livvy. “It sounds creepy.” “It could be a creepy play,” said Ty.
“It was a creepy story.” Julian picked up the ticket. There was paint under his fingernails, shimmering small crescents of blue. “And the creepiest thing about this is that this theater is shut down. I know the place; it’s up past Highland Park. It’s been been shut down for years.”
“Sixteen years,” said Ty. He had mastered the art of using his phone one-handed and was squinting at the screen. “Shut down after a fire and never rebuilt.”
“I’ve driven past it,” Emma said. “It’s all boarded up, isn’t it?”
Julian nodded. “I painted it once. I was painting abandoned buildings, places like the Murphy Ranch, closed businesses. I remember that one. It had a ghostly feel.”
“It’s interesting,” Mark said. “But does it have anything to do with the investigation? The murders?” Everyone looked mildly surprised that Mark had asked something so practical. “I think it might,” Emma
said. “I was at the Shadow Market last week—”
“I wish you’d quit going to the Shadow Market,” Julian muttered. “It’s dangerous there—” “Oh, NO,” Emma said. “Not danger, Mr. I-Just-Almost-Bled-Out-in-My-Car.”
Julian sighed and reached for his soda. “I can’t believe I ever complained about ‘Jules’ as a nickname.”
“Maybe we should talk about the Shadow Market,” said Cristina hastily. “It is where Emma first heard information about the murders.”
“Well, you can imagine how happy the Marketers were to see me and Cameron—” “You went with Cameron?” Julian said.
Livvy held up a hand. “In Emma’s defense, Cameron’s annoying, but he’s hot.” Julian gave her a look. “I mean, if you like guys who look like a redheaded Captain America, which I . . . don’t?”
“Captain America is definitely the most handsome Avenger,” said Cristina. “But I like the Hulk. I would like to heal his broken heart.”
“We’re Nephilim,” said Julian. “We’re not even supposed to know about the Avengers. Besides,” he added, “Iron Man is obviously the best-looking.”
“Can I finish my story?” Emma demanded. “I was at the Market with Cameron, and I remember now, I saw a booth that had a placard up that said something like ‘Sign Up for the Lottery.’ So I think it’s something supernatural, not experimental theater or whatever.”
“I have no idea who the Avengers are,” observed Mark, who had finished his strawberries and was eating sugar out of a packet. Ty looked gratified—he had no time for superheroes. “But I agree with you. This is a lead. Someone murdered Stanley Wells, and now his girlfriend is dead too. Even if it is in a completely different way.”
“I think we can all agree it can’t be a coincidence,” said Emma. “Them both dying.”
“I don’t think it is,” said Mark. “But she could have been killed because she knew something, not because she was a sacrifice like he was or part of the same ritual. Death breeds death, after all.” He looked thoughtful. “She was invited to this Lottery performance. She thought it was important enough to carry the ticket around with her. I think it could be a thread to follow.”
“Or it could be nothing,” said Jules.
“We don’t have much else to investigate,” pointed out Emma.
“We do, actually,” said Jules. “We’ve still got your photos from the inside of the cave at the convergence. And now we have whoever was at Wells’s house and shot at me—we’ve still got my gear jacket with whatever poison he used on it. Maybe Malcolm could look into that, find out if it’s associated with a particular demon or warlock who might sell it.”
“Great,” Emma said. “We can do both. August eleventh is tomorrow night.” She frowned at the ticket. “Oh God, semiformal. Fancy. I don’t think I have any dresses that fancy, and Mark will need a suit. . . .”
“Mark doesn’t have to go,” Julian said quickly. “He can stay at the Institute.”
“No,” Mark said. His voice was calm, but his eyes sparked. “I will not. I was brought here to help you investigate these murders, and that is what I will do.”
Julian sat back. “Not if we can’t rune you. It’s not safe.”
“I have protected myself without runes for many years. If I do not go with you, then those in Faerie who
sent me here will learn of it, and they will not be pleased. The punishment will be severe.” “Oh, let him go,” Livvy said, looking anxious. “Jules—”
Julian touched the edge of his shirt, the gesture half-unconscious. “How will they know to punish you,” he said, “if you don’t tell them?”
“You think it is easy to lie when you have grown up around people who do not lie?” Mark said, cheeks flushing with anger. “And do you think they do not have their own ways to ferret out lies when humans tell them?”
“You’re human,” Julian said hotly. “You’re not one of them, you don’t act like one of them—” Mark flung himself up from the table and stalked across the room.
“What’s he doing?” Emma stared. Mark had made his way to a neighboring table of pierced and tattooed mundane girls who looked like they’d just come from a nightclub and were giggling madly as he talked to them.
“By the Angel.” Julian threw down some money on the table and scrambled to his feet, ducking out of the booth. Emma scraped everything back into Ava’s handbag and hastily followed Julian, the others at her heels.
“Might I make free with your lettuce, my lady?” Mark was saying to a girl with bright pink hair and a pile of salad on her plate. She pushed it toward him, grinning.
“You’re gorgeous,” she said. “Even with the fake elf ears. Forget the lettuce, you can make free with my—”
“All right, you’ve made your point, enough.” Julian took Mark—who was cheerfully eating a baby carrot—by the wrist and tried to draw him toward the door. “Sorry, ladies,” he said as a chorus of protests rose.
The girl with pink hair stood up. “If he wants to stay, he can stay,” she said. “Who are you, anyway?” “I’m his brother,” Julian said.
“Boy, do you two not look alike,” she said in a way that made Emma bristle. She’d called Mark gorgeous—Julian was just as gorgeous, just in a quieter, less flashy way. He didn’t have Mark’s sharp cheekbones or faerie charm, but he had luminous eyes and a beautiful mouth that—
She goggled at herself. What was wrong with her? What was wrong with her thoughts?
Livvy made an exasperated noise, stomped forward, and seized Mark by the back of the shirt. “You don’t want him,” she said to the pink-haired girl. “He has syphilis.”
The girl stared. “Syphilis?”
“Five percent of people in America have it,” said Ty helpfully.
“I do not have syphilis,” Mark said angrily. “There are no sexually transmitted diseases in Faerieland!” The mundane girls fell instantly silent.
“Sorry,” Jules said. “You know how syphilis is. Attacks the brain.” The table of girls were open-mouthed as Livvy hauled Mark by his shirt through the restaurant and into the parking lot, the rest of them following.
The moment they were outside and the door had closed behind them, Emma burst out laughing. She leaned against Cristina, who was also giggling, as Livvy let go of Mark and smoothed down her skirt, looking unruffled. “Sorry,” Emma said. “It’s just—syphilis?”
“Ty was reading about it today,” said Livvy.
Julian, who had been trying to hide a smile, looked over at Ty. “Why have you been reading about syphilis?”
Ty shrugged. “Research.”
“Was that really necessary?” Mark demanded. “I was merely making conversation. I thought I would practice my gentry speech on them.”
“You were being ridiculous on purpose,” said Emma. “I’m beginning to get the feeling you think faeries
“I did at first,” said Mark candidly. “Then you get used to it. Now . . . Now I don’t know what to think.” He sounded a little lost.
“We’re not supposed to talk to mundanes,” Julian said, his smile vanishing. “It’s—it’s basic, Mark. One of the first things we learn. Especially not about things like Faerieland.”
“I spoke to those mundanes, and no one exploded or caught on fire,” said Mark. “No doom came down upon us. They thought I was wearing a costume.” He ducked his head, then looked up at Julian. “You are right that I will stand out, but people see what they want to see.”
“Maybe the rules about not going out in battle without runes are stupid rules,” said Ty, and Emma thought of the way Mark had spoken to Ty in the training room. Now we both have hurt hands.
“Maybe a lot of the rules are stupid rules,” said Julian, and there was an edge of bitterness to his voice that surprised Emma. “Maybe we just have to follow them anyway. Maybe that’s what makes us Shadowhunters.”
Livvy looked puzzled. “Having to follow stupid rules makes us Shadowhunters?” “Not the rules,” said Julian. “The penalty for breaking them.”
“The penalty for breaking the rules of Faerie are just as severe, if not more so,” said Mark. “You must trust me on this, Julian. If they think I am not part of the investigation, they will punish not just me, but also all of you. They do not require me to tell them. They will know.” His eyes burned. “You understand me?” “I understand, Mark. And I trust you.” Julian smiled at his brother, then, unexpectedly, that smile that
was all the more bright for its unpredictability. “Anyway. Everyone into the car, okay? We’re heading back.”
“I must return with the steed,” said Mark. “I cannot leave him—it—here. If it were lost, the Wild Hunt would take it amiss.”
“Fine,” said Julian. “Take it back alone. Ty and Livvy aren’t getting onto it again, understood? Too dangerous.”
Livvy looked disappointed, Ty relieved. Mark nodded almost imperceptibly.
“I’ll go with Mark,” Cristina said suddenly. Emma saw Mark’s face light up in a way that surprised her. “I shall fetch the steed,” Mark said. “I find I desire to fly.”
“And go the speed limit!” Julian yelled as Mark disappeared around the side of the building. “It’s the sky, Julian,” said Emma. “There isn’t really a speed limit.”
“I know,” he said, and smiled. It was the smile Emma loved, the one she felt like was just for her, the one that said that although life often forced him to be serious, Julian wasn’t actually serious by nature. She wanted to hug him suddenly or touch his shoulder, so badly that she forced her hands down and clasped them together. She looked down at her fingers; for some reason she had intertwined them, as if they made a cage that would hold her feelings in.
The moon was high and full in the sky when Mark brought the motorcycle to a gentle stop in the sand behind the Institute.
The trip into the city had been all panic, Livvy gripping on to Cristina’s belt with small, worried hands, Ty telling Mark not to go too fast, the freeway disappearing under their feet. They’d nearly crashed into the Dumpster in the parking lot.
The way back was quiet, Cristina holding Mark lightly around the waist, thinking about how close they seemed to be flying to the clouds. The city below them was an interlocking pattern of colored lights. Cristina had always hated amusement park rides and airplane flights, but this was like neither of those: She felt a part of the air, buoyed up by it like a small craft on the water.
Mark slid off the cycle and held out his hand to help her down after him. She took it, her eyes still full of the sight of the Santa Monica Pier below them, the bright lights of the turning Ferris wheel. She’d never
felt so far away from her mother, from the Institute in Mexico City, from the Rosaleses. She liked it.
“My lady,” he said as her feet touched the sand. She felt her lips curl up. “That seems so formal.”
“The Courts are nothing if not formal,” he agreed. “Thank you for coming back with me. You didn’t have to.”
“You seemed like maybe you didn’t want to be alone,” Cristina said. The soft wind was blowing off the desert, moving the sand, lifting his newly cut hair away from his face. Short now, it looked like a halo, so pale blond as to be almost silver.
“You see a great deal.” His eyes studied her face. She wondered what he had looked like when both of his eyes had been Blackthorn eyes, blue-green as the sea. She wondered if the strangeness of his eyes, now, added to his beauty.
“When no one you know tells the truth, you learn to see under the surface,” she said, and thought of her mother and the yellow petals of roses.
“Yes,” he said. “But then, I come from a place where everyone tells the truth, no matter how dreadful.” “Is that something you miss about Faerie?” Cristina asked. “That there were no lies there?”
“How did you know I miss Faerie?”
“Your heart is not settled here,” said Cristina. “And I think it is more than just familiarity that draws you back. You spoke of feeling free there—but then you also said that they cut runes into your back. I am trying to understand how that can be something you could miss.”
“That was the Unseelie Court, not the Hunt,” said Mark. “And I cannot speak of what I miss. I cannot speak of the Hunt, not truly. It is forbidden.”
“That is terrible. How can you choose if you cannot speak of your choice?”
“The world is terrible,” said Mark tonelessly. “And some are drawn down into it and drown there, and some rise above and carry others with them. But not very many. Not everyone can be Julian.”
“Julian?” Cristina was startled. “But I thought perhaps you didn’t even like him. I thought—” “You thought?” He arched his silvery eyebrows.
“I thought you didn’t like any of us,” she said sheepishly. It seemed a foolish thing to say, but his face softened. He reached to take her hand, brushing his own fingers along her palm. A shiver raced up her arm —the touch of his hand was like an electric current.
“I like you,” he said. “Cristina Mendoza Rosales. I like you very much.” He leaned down toward her. His eyes filled her vision, blue and gold—
“Mark Blackthorn.” The voice that spoke his name was sharp, clipped. Both Cristina and Mark whirled around.
The tall faerie warrior who had brought Mark to the Institute stood in front of them, as if he had simply evolved out of the black-and-white sand and sky. He looked black and white himself, his hair the color of ink, curling darkly against his temples. His silver eye glowed in the moonlight; his black eye looked pupil-less. He wore a gray tunic and trousers, and daggers at his belt. He was as inhumanly lovely as a statue.
“Kieran,” said Mark, a sort of half-shocked exhale. “But I—”
“Should have expected me.” Kieran stalked forward. “You asked to borrow my steed; I lent it. The longer I go without it, the more chary Gwyn will grow. Did you hope to raise his suspicions?”
“I intended to return it,” Mark said, his voice low. “Did you?” Kieran crossed his arms over his chest.
“Cristina, go inside,” said Mark. He had dropped his hand and was looking at Kieran, not at her, his expression fixed.
“Please,” he said. “This is—if you respect my privacy, please, go inside.”
She hesitated. But his expression was clear. He knew what he was asking. She turned and went in through the Institute’s back door, letting it bang loudly shut behind her.
The stairs loomed up in front of her, but she couldn’t climb them. She barely knew Mark Blackthorn. But as she went to put her foot on the first step, she thought of the scars on his back. Of the way he had curled into a ball in his bedroom that first day, the way he had accused Julian of being a dream or a nightmare sent to haunt him by the Wild Hunt.
She didn’t believe in the Cold Peace, had never believed in it, but Mark’s pain had torn away at her beliefs. Perhaps the faeries truly were that cruel. Perhaps there really was no good in them, no honor. And if that was the case, how could she leave Mark out there, alone, with one of them?
She whirled around and pushed the door open—and froze.
It took a moment for her gaze to find them, but when it did, Mark and Kieran seemed to leap out at her like the images from a lighted screen. They stood in a patch of moonlight at the edge of the lot, Mark’s back against one of the scrub oak trees. Kieran was leaning against him, pinning him to the tree, and they were kissing.
Cristina hesitated a moment, blood rising into her face, but it was clear Mark wasn’t being touched against his will. Mark’s hands were tangled in Kieran’s hair, and he was kissing him as fiercely as if he were starving. Their bodies were pressed together tightly; nevertheless, Kieran clutched at Mark’s waist, his hands moving restlessly, desperately, as if he could pull Mark closer still. They slid up, pushing Mark’s jacket off his shoulders, stroking the skin at the edge of his collar. He made a low keening sound, like a cry of grief, deep in his throat, and broke away.
He was staring at Mark, his gaze as hungry as it was hopeless. Never had a faerie looked so human to Cristina as Kieran did then. Mark looked back at him, eyes wide, shining in the moonlight. A shared look of love and longing and terrible sadness. It was too much. It had already been too much: Cristina knew she shouldn’t have been watching them but she hadn’t been able to stop, mingled shock and fascination rooting her to the spot.
And desire. There was desire, too. Whether for Mark, or for both of them, or just for the idea of wanting someone so much, she wasn’t sure. She moved back, her heart pounding, about to pull the door shut after her—
And the whole parking lot lit up like a stadium as a car rounded the corner and turned into it. Music blared out the windows; Cristina could hear Emma’s and Julian’s voices.
Her gaze darted back toward Mark and Kieran, but Kieran had vanished, a shadow into shadows. Mark was bending down to pick up his jacket as Emma and the others piled out of the car.
Cristina pulled the door shut. Through it she heard Emma ask Mark where she was, and Mark say that she had gone inside. He sounded casual, calm, as if nothing had happened.
But everything had happened.
She had wondered, when he’d looked in her eyes and said that he’d had to make do without mirrors in the Wild Hunt, whose eyes he’d been looking into for all those years.
Now she knew.
The Wild hunt, some Years ago
Mark Blackthorn came to the Wild Hunt when he was sixteen years old, and not because he wanted to. He remembered only darkness after he had been taken from the Institute that was his home, before
he woke in underground caverns, amid lichen and dripping moss. A massive man with eyes of two different colors was standing over him, carrying a horned helmet.
Mark recognized him, of course. You couldn’t be a Shadowhunter and not know about the Wild Hunt. You couldn’t be half-faerie and not have read about Gwyn the Hunter, who had led the hunt for centuries. He wore a long blade of hammered metal at his waist, blackened and twisted as if it had been through many fires. “Mark Blackthorn,” he said, “you are with the Hunt now, for your family is dead. We are your blood kin now.” And drawing the sword, he sliced across his palm until he drew blood, and dripped it into water for Mark to drink.
In the years to come Mark would see others come to the Hunt, and Gwyn say the same thing to them, and watch them drink his blood. And he would watch their eyes change, splintering into two different colors as if to symbolize the division of their souls.
Gwyn believed a new recruit had to be broken down to be built back up again as a Hunter, someone who could ride through the night without sleep, someone who could suffer hunger that was close to starvation and endure pain that would break a mundane. And he believed their loyalty must be unswerving. They could choose no one over the Hunt.
Mark gave his loyalty to Gwyn, and his service, but he did not make friends among the Wild Hunt. They were not Shadowhunters, and he was a Shadowhunter. The others were all of the faerie Courts, pressed into service with the Hunt as punishment. They did not like the fact that he was Nephilim, and he felt their scorn and scorned them in turn.
He rode through the nights alone, on a silver mare given to him by Gwyn. Gwyn seemed, perversely, to like him, perhaps to spite the others of the Hunt. He taught Mark to navigate by the stars and to listen for the sounds of a battle that might echo through hundreds, even thousands of miles: cries of anger and the shouts of the dying. They would ride to the field of battle and, invisible to mundane eyes, divest the dead bodies of precious things. Most of them were paid in tribute to the Seelie and Unseelie Courts, but some Gwyn kept for himself.
Mark slept alone, every night, on the cold ground, wrapped in a blanket, a stone for his pillow. When it was cold, he shivered, and dreamed of runes that would warm him, of the hot blaze of seraph blades. In his pocket he kept the witchlight rune-stone Jace Herondale had given him, though he dared not light it except when he was alone.
Each night as he fell asleep he recited the names of his sisters and brothers, in order of age. Each word was weighted like an anchor, cleaving him to the earth. Keeping him alive.
Helen. Julian. Tiberius. Livia. Drusilla. Octavian.
The days blurred into months. Time was not like it was in the mundane world. Mark had given up counting days—there was no way to mark them down, and Gwyn hated such things. Therefore he had no idea how long he had been with the Hunt when Kieran came.
He had known they were getting a new Hunter; gossip spread quickly, and besides, Gwyn always Turned the newest of them in the same place: a cavern near to the entrance of the Unseelie Court,
where the walls were thickly carpeted in emerald lichen and a small natural pool welled among the rocks.
They found him there when they arrived, left for Gwyn to discover. At first all Mark could see was the outline of a boy with a tangle of black hair and a slender body, the chains binding his wrists and ankles pulling it into a strange torsion. He appeared to be all bones and angles.
“Prince Kieran,” said Gwyn as he approached the boy, and a murmur ran through the Hunt. If the newcomer was a prince, he was more exalted than faerie gentry. And what could a prince have done to get himself so brutally exiled from the Court, cut off from family and name, kith and kin?
The boy lifted his head when Gwyn came to him, revealing his face. He was certainly gentry. He had their strange, luminous, almost inhumanly beautiful features, high-cheekboned and black-eyed. His hair had a sheen to it of blue and green among the black, the color of the ocean at night. He turned his face away when Gwyn tried to press the water on him, mixed with blood, but Gwyn forced it down his throat. Mark watched in fascination as Kieran’s right eye turned from black to silver, and the chains fell away from lacerated wrists and ankles.
“You are of the Hunt now,” said Gwyn with a grimness that was unusual. “Rise and join us.” Kieran was a strange addition to the group. Though his rank as prince had been stripped from him
when he was exiled to the Hunt, he still carried an indefinable air of arrogance and royalty with him, which did not sit well with the others. They mocked him, called him “princeling,” and would have done worse if Gwyn had not stayed their hands. It seemed there was someone in the Courts looking out for Kieran, despite his exile.
Mark could not help but watch him. Something about Kieran fascinated him. He soon learned that the prince’s hair changed color depending on his mood, from night black (when he was despairing) to pale blue (when he laughed, which was not often)—always colors of the sea. It was thick and curling and sometimes Mark wanted to touch it and see if it felt like hair or something else, shot silk, a fabric that changed color in the light. Kieran rode his horse—given to him by Gwyn; it was the fiercest Mark had ever seen, black and skeletal, a mount of the dead—as if he were born to it. Like Mark, he seemed determined to ride out the pain of exile and friendlessness alone, rarely speaking to the others of the Hunt, rarely even glancing at them.
Only he looked at Mark sometimes, when the others called him Nephilim and Shadow-spawn and angel-boy and other names much worse. A day came when news spread that the Clave had hanged a group of faeries in Idris for treason. The faeries had had friends among the Hunt, and in a rage, Mark’s fellows demanded that Mark kneel and say the words “I am not a Shadowhunter.”
When he would not, they stripped Mark’s shirt from his body and whipped him bloody. They left him crumpled under a tree in a snowy field, his blood turning the white flakes to red.
When he woke there was firelight and warmth, and he was lying in someone’s lap. Only groggily did he come to enough consciousness to realize that it was Kieran’s. Kieran lifted him in his arms and gave him water and folded a blanket around his shoulders. His touch was gentle and light. “I believe among your people,” he said, “there are healing runes.”
“Yes,” Mark said in a croak, moving only very slightly. Pain from his lacerated skin jolted through him. “They’re called iratzes. One would mend these injuries for me. But they cannot be made without a stele, and my stele was broken years past.”
“That is a pity,” said Kieran. “I believe your skin will be scarred forevermore.”
“What care I?” said Mark, listless. “It is not as if it matters much, here in the Hunt, whether I am beautiful.”
Kieran gave a secret half smile at that and touched Mark’s hair lightly. Mark closed his eyes. It had been years since anyone had touched him, and the feeling sent shivers down through his body despite the pain of the cuts.
After that, when they rode out, they rode out together. Kieran made of the Hunt an adventure for the two of them. He showed Mark wonders that only the Fair Folk knew of: sheets of ice lying silent and silver under moonlight, and hidden glens, blooming with night flowers. They rode among the spray of waterfalls and amid the towers of clouds. And Mark was, if not happy, no longer tortured by loneliness.
At night they slept curled together under Kieran’s blanket, made of a thickly woven material that was always warm. One night they stopped on a hilltop, in a place green and north. There was a cairn of stones crowning the hill, something built by mundanes a thousand years back. Mark leaned against the side of it and looked out over the green country, silvering in the dark, to the distant sea. The sea, everywhere, he thought, was the same, the same sea that broke against the shores in the place he still thought of as home.
“Your scars have healed,” Kieran said, touching one of his light, slender fingers to a torn place in Mark’s shirt where the skin showed through.
“But they are still ugly,” Mark said. He was waiting for the first stars to come out, so he could name his family on them. He didn’t see Kieran draw closer until the other boy was opposite him, his face elegantly shadowed in the twilight.
“Nothing about you is ugly,” Kieran said. He leaned in to kiss Mark and Mark, after a moment of surprise, turned his face up and met Kieran’s lips with his.
It was the first time he had ever been kissed, and he had never thought it would be by a boy, but he was glad it was Kieran. He had never expected a kiss to be so agonizing and pleasurable at the same time. He had wanted to touch Kieran’s hair for months, and now he did, burying his fingers in the strands, which were turning from black to blue edged with gold. They felt like licks of flame against his skin.
They curled up under the blanket together that night, but they got little sleep, and Mark forgot to number the names of his family on the stars—for that night and most nights after. Soon Mark grew used to waking with his arm thrown over Kieran’s body or his hand tangled in blue-white curls.
He learned that kisses and touches and professions of love could make you forget, and that the more he was with Kieran, the more he wanted to be with him and not with anyone else. He lived for the time they were alone together, usually at night, whispering so no one could overhear them. “Tell me of the Unseelie Court,” Mark would say, and Kieran would murmur tales of the dark Court and the pale King, his father, who ruled over it. And “Tell me of the Nephilim,” Kieran would say, and Mark would speak of the Angel, and of the Dark War and what had happened to him, and of his brothers and sisters.
“You don’t hate me?” Mark said, lying in Kieran’s arms, somewhere in a high Alpine meadow. His unkempt blond hair brushed against Kieran’s shoulder as he turned his head. “For being Nephilim? The others do.”
“You need not be Nephilim anymore. You could choose to be of the Wild Hunt. Embrace your faerie nature.”
Mark shook his head. “When they beat me for saying I was a Shadowhunter, it only made me more sure. I know what I am even if I cannot say it.”
“You can say it only to me,” said Kieran, his long fingers ghosting across Mark’s cheek. “Here in this space between us. It is safe.”
So Mark pressed up against his lover and only friend and whispered into the space between them, where his cold body pressed against Kieran’s warm one. “I am a Shadowhunter. I am a Shadowhunter. I am a Shadowhunter.”