Lady Midnight – chapter 9

No wonder Jace Herondale had once jumped at the chance to fly a motorcycle, Emma thought. It was a completely different vantage point on the world. She and Mark followed the line of the highway north, flying over mansions with massive swimming pools that hung out over the ocean, castles tucked up into canyons and bluffs, dipping down low enough once to see a party going on in someone’s backyard, complete with glowing multicolored lanterns.

 

Mark guided her from behind with taps on her wrists; the wind had risen too high for her to hear his voice. They passed over a late-night seafood shack, music and light pouring out of the windows. Emma had been there before and remembered sitting on the big wooden picnic tables with Jules, dunking fried oysters in tartar sauce. Dozens of Harley-Davidsons were parked outside the restaurant, though Emma doubted any of them could fly.

She grinned to herself, unable to help it, feeling drunk on the height and the cold air.

Mark tapped her right wrist. A smooth stretch of sand spilled from the beach, reaching halfway up high bluffs. Emma tilted the cycle so that they were nearly vertical, hurtling up the side of a cliff. They cleared the lip of the bluff with a foot of space and shot forward, the wheels scraping the tips of the California thistle that grew among the long grass.

 

A granite rise loomed in front of them, a dome-like hill atop the bluffs. Emma leaned back, preparing to gun the cycle, but Mark reached around her, his voice in her ear: “Stop! Stop!

 

The cycle skidded to a halt just as they passed the tangle of weeds that bordered the bluffs. Inside the border of coastal shrubs was a stretch of grass that reached to the low granite hill. The grass looked trampled in places, as if it had been walked on, and in the distance, to the right of the grassy stretch, Emma could see a faint dirt road winding down the bluffs toward the highway.

 

Emma swung herself off the cycle. Mark followed, and they stood for a moment, the sea a gleam in the distance, the hill rising dark in front of them.

“You drive too fast,” said Mark.

Emma snorted and checked the strap of Cortana where it fastened across her chest. “You sound like Julian.”

 

“It brought me joy,” Mark said, moving to stand beside her. “It was as if I flew with the Hunt again, and tasted the blood of the sky.”

 

“Okay, you sound like Julian on drugs,” Emma muttered. She glanced around. “Where are we? Is this the ley line convergence?”

“There.” Mark pointed at a dark opening in the rock of the hill. As they moved toward it, Emma

 

reached back to touch the hilt of Cortana. Something about the place was giving her shivers—maybe it was simply the power of the convergence, but as they neared the cave, and the hair rose on the back of her neck, she doubted it.

 

“The grass is flat,” she said, indicating the area around the cave with a sweep of her hand. “Trampled. Someone’s been walking here. A lot of someones. But there are no fresh tire tracks on the road.”

 

Mark glanced around, head tilted back, like a wolf scenting the air. His feet were still bare, but he seemed to have no problem walking on the rough ground, despite the thistles and sharp rocks visible between the grasses.

 

There was a sharp, bright trill—Emma’s phone ringing. Jules, she thought, and snatched it out of her pocket.

 

“Emma?” It was Cristina, her low, sweet voice oddly startling—a sharp reminder of reality after the unreal flight through the sky. “Where are you? Did you find Mark?”

 

“I found him,” Emma said, glancing over toward Mark. He appeared to be examining the plants growing around the mouth of the cave. “We’re at the convergence.”

What? Where is it? Is it dangerous?”

“Not yet,” Emma said as Mark ducked into the cave. “Mark!” she called. “Mark, don’t—Mark!”

 

The phone connection dropped. Swearing, Emma stuck the phone back into her pocket and took out her witchlight. It came on, soft and bright, raying out through her fingers. It illuminated the mouth of the cave. She headed toward it, cursing Mark under her breath.

 

He was just inside the cave, looking down at more of the same plants, clustering around the dry, soft stone. “Atropa belladonna,” he said. “It means ‘beautiful lady.’ It’s poisonous.”

Emma made a face. “Does it grow around here normally?”

“Not in this quantity.” He reached down to touch it. Emma caught his wrist. “Don’t,” she said. “You said it was poisonous.”

 

“Only if swallowed,” he said. “Hasn’t Uncle Arthur taught you anything about the death of Augustus?” “Nothing I haven’t worked hard to forget.”

 

Mark straightened up, and she let go of him. She flexed her fingers. There was wiry strength in his arms.

 

As he moved forward into the cave, which began to narrow into a tunnel, she couldn’t help but remember Mark the last time she had seen him, before he had been taken by Sebastian Morgenstern. Smiling, blue-eyed, short pale hair curling over the tips of his pointed ears. Broad-shouldered—or at least she, at twelve, had thought so. Certainly he had been bigger than Julian, taller and broader than all of them. Grown up.

 

Now, prowling ahead of her, he seemed a feral child, hair gleaming in the witchlight. He moved like a cloud across the sky, vapor at the mercy of wind that could tear it to shreds.

 

He vanished around a bend of rock, and Emma almost closed her eyes against the image of a vanished Mark. He belonged to the past that contained her parents, and you could drown in the past if you let it have you while you were working.

And she was a Shadowhunter. She was always working.

“Emma!” Mark called, his voice echoing off the walls. “Come and see this.”

 

She hurried after him down the tunnel. It opened out into a circular chamber lined with metal. Emma turned on her heel in a slow circle, staring. She wasn’t sure what she had expected, but not something that looked like the inside of an occult ocean liner. The walls were bronze, covered in strange symbols, a scrawled mixture of languages: some demonic, some ancient but human—she recognized demotic Greek and Latin, a few passages from the Bible. . . .

 

Two massive glass doors like portholes were set into the walls, shut and bolted with rivets. A strange metal ornament had been fixed in the wall between them. Through the glass, Emma could see only surging

 

darkness, as if they were underwater.

 

There was no furniture in the room, but a circle of symbols, done in chalk, was drawn onto the smooth black stone floor. Emma brought out her phone and began to take pictures. The flash going off seemed eerie in the dimness.

Mark moved toward the circle. “Don’t—” Emma lowered her phone. “Go in there,” she sighed.

 

He was already inside the circle, looking around curiously. Emma couldn’t see anything in there with him besides bare floor.

 

“Please come out,” she said wheedlingly. “If there’s some magic spell in there and it kills you, explaining to Jules is going to be so awkward.

 

There was a faint shimmer of light as Mark stepped out of the circle. “‘Awkward’ seems like an understatement,” he said.

“That’s the point,” Emma said. “That’s why it’s funny.” He looked blank. “Never mind.”

“I read once that explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog,” Mark said. “You find out how it works, but the frog dies in the process.”

 

“Maybe we should get out of here before we die in the process. I took some pictures with my phone, so —”

 

“I found this,” Mark said, and showed her a square leather object. “It was inside the circle along with some clothes and what looked like”—he frowned—“broken teeth.”

 

Emma snatched the object out of his hand. It was a wallet—a man’s wallet, semi-scorched by fire. “I didn’t see anything,” she said. “The circle looked empty.”

“Glamour spell. I felt it when I passed through.”

She flipped the wallet open, and her heart leaped. Pressed behind plastic was a driver’s license with a familiar picture. The man whose body she’d found in the alley.

 

There was money in the wallet and credit cards, but her eyes were fixed on the license and his name— Stanley Albert Wells. The same longish, graying hair and round face she remembered, only this time his features weren’t twisted up and stained with blood. The address under the name had been burned to illegibility, but the birth date and other information were clear.

 

“Mark. Mark!” She waved the wallet over her head. “This is a clue. An actual clue. I think I love you.” Mark’s eyebrows went up. “In Faerie, if you said that, we would have to pledge our troth, and you

might put a geas upon me that I would not stray from you or I would die.”

Emma shoved the wallet in her pocket. “Well, here it’s just an expression that means ‘I like you very much’ or even ‘Thanks for the bloodstained wallet.’”

 

“How specific you humans are.” “You’re human, Mark Blackthorn.”

A sound echoed through the room. Mark jerked his gaze from hers and raised his head. Emma almost imagined his pointed ears twitching toward the sound and suppressed a smile.

“Outside,” he said. “There’s something outside.”

Her incipient smile disappeared. She slipped into the tunnel, sliding her witchlight into her pocket to douse the illumination. Mark fell into step behind her as she drew out her stele with her left hand, scrawling a number of quick runes onto her arms—Sure-Strike, Swift-Footedness, Battle-Rage, Soundless. She turned to Mark as they neared the entrance, her stele out, but he shook his head. No. No runes.

 

She flipped the stele back into her belt. They had reached the mouth of the cave. The air was cooler here, and she could see the sky, dotted with stars, and the grass, silvery in the moonlight. The field in front of the cave looked bare and empty. Emma could see nothing but grass and thistles, pounded flat as if by the tread of boots, reaching all the way to the edge of the bluff. There was a sharp musical sound in the air, like the buzz of insects.

 

She heard Mark’s sharp intake of breath behind her. Light flared as he spoke. “Remiel.”

 

His seraph blade blazed to life. As if the light had ripped away a glamour, suddenly, she could see them. Whistling and chittering among the long grass.

Demons.

She whipped Cortana free so quickly it was as if it had leaped into her hand. There were dozens of them, spread between the cave and the bluff. They looked like enormous insects: praying mantises, to be precise. Triangular heads, elongated bodies, massive grasping arms ridged with blades of chitin, sharp as razors. Their eyes were pallid, flat, and milky.

They were between her and Mark and the motorcycle.

 

“Mantid demons,” Emma whispered. “We can’t fight all of them.” She looked up at Mark, his face illuminated by Remiel. “We have to get to the cycle.”

Mark nodded. “Go,” he said.

Emma sprang forward. It came down like a cage the moment her boots hit the grass: a wave of cold that seemed to slow time. She saw one of the Mantids turn toward her, lashing out with grasping, spiked forelegs. She bent her knees and sprang, rising into the air as she slashed downward, severing the Mantid’s head from its body.

 

Green ichor sprayed. She landed on soaked ground as the demon’s body folded up and vanished, sucked back to its home dimension. A flicker rose in her peripheral vision. She spun and struck out again, jamming the point of Cortana into another Mantid’s thorax. She jerked her sword back, struck again, watched the demon crumble around the blade.

 

Her heart was beating in her ears. This was the sharp point of the blade, the moments when all the training, all the hours and the passion and the rage narrowed down to a single point of focus and determination. Killing demons. That was what mattered.

 

Mark was easily visible, his seraph blade lighting up the grass around him. He slashed out at a Mantid, severing its forelegs. It wobbled, chittering, still alive. Mark’s face twisted with disgust. Emma ran toward a heap of rocks, darted up the side, and sailed down, slicing the crippled Mantid in half. It vanished as she landed in front of Mark.

“That was mine to dispatch,” he said with a cold look.

 

“Trust me,” Emma said, “there’s plenty.” She grabbed him with her free hand and spun him around. Five Mantids were lurching toward them from cracks in the granite hill. “Kill those,” she said. “I’ll get the cycle.”

 

Mark leaped forward with a cry like a hunting horn. He cut at the Mantids’ legs and forelegs, crippling them; they fell around him, spraying green-black ichor. It stank like burning gasoline.

 

Emma began to run for the bluff. Demons surged up at her as she went. She slashed at where they were weakest, the connective tissue where the chitin was thin, severing heads from thoraxes, legs from bodies. Her jeans and cardigan were wet with demon blood. She skidded around a dying Mantid, slid toward the edge of the bluff—

 

And froze. A Mantid was lifting the cycle in its forelegs. She could swear it was grinning at her, its triangular head splitting open to reveal rows of needle teeth, as it clamped razored forelegs around the cycle, crushing it to pieces. Metal screamed and rent, tires popped, and the Mantid chittered in joy as the machine came apart, the pieces hurtling down the side of the bluff, taking with it Emma’s hope of an easy escape.

 

She glared at the Mantid. “That,” she said, “was a really sweet ride,” and catching up a knife from her belt, she threw it.

 

It jammed into the Mantid’s body, severing thorax from prothorax. Ichor sprayed from the demon’s mouth as it tipped backward, spasming, its body following the cycle down the cliffside.

“Jerk,” Emma muttered, whirling back toward the field. She hated using throwing knives to kill an

 

enemy, mostly because you were unlikely to get them back. She had three more in her belt, a seraph blade, and Cortana.

She knew it wasn’t nearly enough to take on the two dozen Mantids still prowling the grass. But it was what she had. It would have to do.

 

She could see Mark, who had climbed the face of the granite hill and was perched on an outcropping, stabbing downward with his blade. She began to run toward him. She dodged a lashing foreleg, arcing Cortana up to sever the limb as she ran. She heard the Mantid shriek in pain.

 

One of the taller Mantids was reaching up toward Mark, jagged forelegs grasping. He brought Remiel down, hard, severing its head—and as it collapsed, a second Mantid appeared, its jaws biting down on the blade. It fell back, shrieking its high insect shriek. It was dying, but it had taken Remiel with it. They subsided together into a sizzling puddle of ichor and adamas.

 

Mark had used all the weapons Emma had given him. He pressed his back against the granite as another Mantid reached out. Emma’s heart lurched into her throat. She raced forward, flinging herself at the wall, scrambling toward Mark. A massive Mantid loomed up in front of him. He reached for his throat as the Mantid leaned in, jaws gaping, and Emma wanted to scream at him to back down, back away.

 

Something shone between his fingers. A silver chain, gleaming arrowhead dangling. He whipped it forward toward the head of the Mantid, slashing open its bulging white eyes. Milky fluid burst forth. It reared back, screaming, just as Emma leaped to the ridge beside Mark and slashed Cortana forward to cut it in half.

 

Mark dropped the chain back over his head as Emma swore and pressed her only seraph blade into his hand. Ichor was running down the blade of Cortana, burning her skin. She gritted her teeth and ignored the pain as Mark raised his new blade.

 

“Name it,” she said, breathing hard, pulling a knife from her belt. She clutched it in her right hand, Cortana in her left.

 

Mark nodded. “Raguel,” he said, and the blade exploded with light. The Mantids screeched, crouching down, wincing away from the glow, and Emma leaped from the rock.

 

She fell, whipping Cortana and the dagger around herself like the blades of a helicopter. The air was filled with insectile screeches as her weapons connected with chitin and flesh.

 

The world had slowed. She was still falling. She had all the time in the world. She reached out, left hand and right, severing head from thorax, mesothorax from metathorax, hacking through the jaws of two Mantids to leave them drowning in their own blood. A foreleg reached for her. She slashed through it with an angled twist of Cortana. When she hit the ground six Mantid bodies tumbled after her, each landing with a dull thud and vanishing.

 

Only the foreleg remained, sticking into the ground like a strange cactus plant. The remaining Mantids were circling, hissing and clicking, but not yet attacking. They seemed wary, as if even their tiny bug brains had noted the fact that she was a danger to them.

One of them was missing its foreleg.

 

She glanced toward Mark. He was still balanced on the rock outcropping—she couldn’t blame him; it made an excellent fixed position to fight from. As she watched, a Mantid lunged toward him, swiping a razored limb across his chest; he brought Raguel down, stabbing into its abdomen. It roared, staggering back.

 

In the bright light of the seraph blade, Emma saw blood bloom across Mark’s shirt, red-black. “Mark,” she whispered.

 

He spun gracefully. His seraph blade cut the Mantid apart. It fell into two pieces, vanishing just as the night exploded with light.

 

A car burst from the road and hurtled into the center of the clearing. A familiar red Toyota. The headlights burned through the darkness, sweeping across the field, illuminating the Mantids.

 

A figure knelt on the car’s roof, a light crossbow raised to its shoulder. Julian.

The car shot forward, and Julian rose to his feet, lifting the crossbow. It was an intricate weapon, Julian’s crossbow, capable of firing multiple bolts fast. He pivoted toward the demons, firing off a bolt, then another, all the while riding the roof of the car like a surfboard, his feet firmly planted as the Toyota bumped and hurtled over the rough ground.

 

Pride swelled in Emma. People often acted as if Julian couldn’t be a warrior because he was gentle in his life, gentle to his friends and family.

People were wrong.

Each bolt connected, each sank home into the body of a demon. The bolts were runed: As they struck, the Mantids exploded with silent screams.

 

The car screeched through the clearing. Emma saw Cristina at the wheel, her jaw set. The Mantid demons were scattering, vanishing back into the shadows. Cristina gunned the engine, and the car rammed into several of them, mashing them flat. Mark leaped off the rock, landing in a crouch, and dispatched a twitching, spasming demon, grinding his blade into its anvil-shaped head and smearing it across the grass. The front of his shirt was dark with blood. As the demon vanished with a wet, sticky sound, Mark collapsed to his knees, his seraph blade tumbling into the grass beside him.

 

The car jerked to a halt. Cristina had just flung the driver’s door open when one of the Mantids slithered out from under the wheels of the car. It bounded toward Mark.

 

Julian shouted aloud, leaping down from the car. The Mantid reared up over Mark, who shoved himself up on his knees, reaching for the chain around his neck—

 

Energy poured through Emma, like a jolt of caffeine. Julian’s presence, making her stronger. She jerked the severed foreleg out of the ground in front of her and flung it. It whipped through the air, spinning like a propellor, and punched into the body of the Mantid with a thick smack. The demon shrieked in agony and disappeared in a cloud of ichor.

 

Mark sank back into the grass. Julian was bending over him, Emma already running. Jules had his stele out. “Mark,” he said as Emma reached them. “Mark, please—”

 

“No,” Mark said thickly. He batted away his brother’s hands. “No runes.” He dragged himself to his knees, then his feet, and stood swaying. “No runes, Julian.” He glanced toward Emma. “Are you all right?”

 

“I’m fine,” Emma said, sheathing Cortana. The coldness of battle had faded away, leaving her feeling light-headed. In the moonlight Julian’s eyes were a coldly burning blue. He was in gear, his dark hair a mess from the wind, his right hand clasping the stock of his crossbow.

 

He put his other hand up to her face. Her gaze felt dragged up to his. She could see the night sky in his pupils. “Fine?” he echoed, and his voice was rough. “You’re bleeding.”

 

He lowered his arm. His fingers were red. Her free hand sprang to her cheek; she felt the ragged cut, the blood. The sting. “I didn’t realize,” she said, and then, the words spilling out: “How did you find us? Jules, how did you know where to go?”

 

Before Julian could answer, the Toyota backed up with a roar, spun around, and drove back toward them. Cristina leaned out the driver’s side window, her medallion gleaming at her throat. “Let’s go,” she said. “It’s dangerous here.”

“The demons have not gone,” Mark agreed. “They have only retreated.”

 

He wasn’t wrong. The night around them was alive with moving shadows. They clambered hastily into the car: Emma beside Cristina, Julian and Mark in the backseat. As the car sped away from the cave, Emma reached into her cardigan pocket, feeling for the hard square of leather.

 

The wallet. It was still there. She felt a burst of relief. She was here, in the car, with Julian beside her, and evidence in her hand. Everything was all right.

 

“You need an iratze,” said Julian. “Mark—”

 

“Stay away from me with that thing,” said his brother in a low, intent voice, glaring at Julian and the stele in his hand. “Or I will leap from the window of this moving vehicle.”

 

“Oh, no you won’t,” said Cristina in her calm, sweet voice, reaching to depress the button that locked all the car doors with a firm click.

“You’re bleeding,” Julian said. “All over the car.”

Emma craned around in her seat to look back at them. Mark’s shirt was bloody, but he didn’t seem to be in much pain. His eyes flickered with annoyance. “I am still protected by the magic of the Wild Hunt,” he said. “My wounds heal quickly. You need not trouble yourself.” He picked up the edge of his shirt and mopped at the blood on his chest; Emma caught a quick glimpse of pale skin stretched tightly over a hard stomach, and the edges of old scars.

 

“It’s a good thing you showed up when you did,” Emma said, turning to look at Cristina and then Julian. “I don’t know how you figured out what was going on, but—”

 

“We didn’t,” Julian said shortly. “After you hung up on Cristina, we checked your phone’s GPS and realized you were out here. It seemed weird enough to follow up.”

 

“But you didn’t know we were in trouble,” Emma realized. “Just that we were at the convergence.” Cristina gave her an expressive look. Julian didn’t say anything.

 

Emma unzipped her cardigan and shrugged out of it, transferring Wells’s wallet to the pocket of her jeans. Battle brought on a sort of numbness, a lack of awareness of injury that let her go forward. The aches and pains were coming now, and she winced as she peeled her sleeve away from her forearm. A long burn reached from her elbow to her wrist, red-black at the edges.

 

She glanced up at the rearview mirror and saw Jules registering the injury. He leaned forward. “Can you pull over here, Cristina?”

 

Unfailingly polite Jules. Emma tried to smile at him in the mirror, but he wasn’t looking at her. Cristina pulled off the highway and into the parking lot of the seafood shack Emma and Mark had flown over earlier. A massive neon sign reading POSEIDON’S TRIDENT hung over the ramshackle building.

 

The four of them piled out of the car. The shack was nearly deserted except for a few tables of long-distance truckers and campers from the sites down the road, huddling over coffee and plates of fried oysters.

 

Cristina insisted on going inside to order them some food and drinks; after a moment’s argument, they let her. Julian threw his jacket on a table, claiming it. “There’s an outdoor shower around the back,” he said. “And some privacy. Come on.”

 

“How do you know that?” Emma asked, joining him as he stalked around the building. He didn’t answer. She could feel his anger, not just in the way he looked at her, but in a tight knot under her rib cage.

 

The dirt path that circled the shack opened out into an area ringed by Dumpsters. There was a massive steel double sink, and—as Jules had promised—a large open shower with surfing equipment stacked next to it.

 

Mark crossed the sand to the shower and flipped the spigot. “Wait,” Julian began. “You’ll get—”

 

Water poured down, soaking Mark instantly. He lifted his face up to it as calmly as if he were bathing in tropical rainfall and not unheated shower water on a chilly night.

 

“—Wet.” Julian raked his fingers through his tangled hair. Chocolate-colored hair, Emma had thought when she was younger. People thought brown hair was boring, but it wasn’t: Julian’s had bits of gold in it and hints of russet and coffee.

 

Emma went to the sink and ran water over the cut on her arm, then splashed it up over her face and neck, rinsing off the ichor. Demon blood was toxic: It could burn your skin, and it was a bad idea to get it into your mouth and eyes.

 

Mark flipped the shower off and stepped away, water streaming off him. She wondered if he was uncomfortable—his jeans stuck to him, as did his shirt. His hair was plastered to his neck.

His eyes met hers. Cold burning blue and colder gold. In them Emma saw the wildness of the Hunt: the emptiness and freedom of the skies. It made her shiver.

 

She saw Julian look at her sharply. He said something to Mark, who nodded and vanished around the side of the building.

 

Emma reached to turn the sink water off, wincing: There was a burn on her palm. She reached for her stele.

 

“Don’t,” said Jules’s voice, and there was a warm presence behind her suddenly. She gripped the edge of the sink and closed her eyes, feeling momentarily dizzy. The heat of Jules’s body was palpable up and down her back. “Let me.”

 

Healing runes—any runes—given to you by your parabatai worked better, amplified by the magic of the bonding spell. Emma turned around, her back against the sink. Julian was so close to her that she had to turn carefully so as not to bump into him. He smelled of fire and cloves and paint. Goose bumps exploded across her skin as he took her arm, cupping her wrist, drawing his stele with his free hand.

 

She could feel the path each of his fingers traced on the sensitive skin of her forearm. His skin was hard with calluses, roughened with turpentine.

 

“Jules,” she said. “I’m sorry.” “Sorry for what?”

“Going to the convergence without you,” she said. “I wasn’t trying to—”

“Why did you?” he asked, and the stele began its journey over her skin, forming the lines of the healing rune. “Why go off with just Mark?”

 

“The motorcycle,” Emma said. “It could only take two. The motorcycle,” she said again, at Julian’s blank look, and then remembered the Mantid demon crushing it in its jagged, razored arms.

 

“Right,” she said. “Mark’s steed? The one the faerie convoy was talking about in the Sanctuary? It was a motorcycle. One of the Mantids crushed it, so I guess it’s an ex-motorcycle.”

 

The iratze was finished. Emma drew her hand back, watching as the cut began to heal itself, closing up like a seam.

 

“You’re not even wearing gear,” Julian said. He sounded quiet, intent, but his fingers were trembling as he put his stele away. “You’re still human, Emma.”

“I was fine—”

“You can’t do this to me.” The words sounded as if they had been dredged up from the bottom of the ocean.

She froze. “Do what?”

“I’m your parabatai,” he said as if the words were final, and in a way, they were. “You were facing down what, two dozen Mantid demons before we got there? If Cristina hadn’t called you—”

 

“I would have fought them off,” Emma said heatedly. “I’m glad you showed up, thank you, but I would have gotten us out of there—”

 

“Maybe!” His voice rose. “Maybe you would have, maybe you could have done it, but what if you didn’t? What if you died? It would kill me, Emma, it would kill me. You know what happens . . .”

He didn’t finish the sentence. You know what happens to someone when their parabatai dies.

 

They stood, staring at each other, breathing hard. “When you were away, I felt it here,” Emma said finally, touching her upper arm, where the parabatai rune was etched. “Did you feel it?” She splayed her hand over the front of his T-shirt, warm from his body. Julian’s rune was at the outside edge of his collarbone, about five inches above his heart.

 

“Yeah,” he said, eyelashes lowering as his gaze traced the movement of her fingers. “It hurt me being away from you. It feels like there’s a hook dug in under my ribs, and there’s something pulling at the other

 

end. Like I’m tethered to you, no matter the distance.” Emma inhaled sharply. She was remembering Julian, fourteen years old, in the overlapping circles of fire in the Silent City, where the parabatai ritual was performed. The look on his face as they each stepped into the central circle and the fire rose up around them, and he unbuttoned his shirt to let her touch the stele to his skin and carve the rune that would bind them together for their whole lives. She knew if she just moved her hand now, she could touch the rune cut into his chest, the rune she had put there. . . .

 

She reached out and touched his collarbone. She could feel the warmth of his skin through his shirt. He half-closed his eyes, as if her touch hurt. Please don’t be angry, Jules, she thought. Please.

 

“I’m not a Blackthorn,” she said, her voice ragged. “What?”

 

“I’m not a Blackthorn,” she said again. The words hurt to say: They came from a deep place of truth, one she hesitated to look at too closely. “I don’t belong in the Institute. I’m there because of you, because I’m your parabatai, so they had to let me stay. The rest of you don’t have to prove you’re giving back. I do. Everything I do is a—is a test.”

 

Julian’s face had changed; he was looking down at her in the moonlight, the cupid’s bow of his lips parted. His hands came up and gently looped her upper arms. Sometimes, she thought, it was as if she were a kite, and Julian the flier: She soared above the ground, and he kept her tethered to the earth.

 

Without him she would be lost among the clouds.

She lifted her head. She could feel his breath on her face. There was something in his eyes, something breaking open, not like a crack in a wall but like a door swinging wide, and she could see the light.

“I’m not testing you, Emma,” he said. “You’ve proved everything to me already.”

There was a wild feeling in Emma’s blood, the desire to seize Julian, to do something, something, crush his hands in hers, put her arms around him, cause them both pain, make them both taste the same seeking desperation. She couldn’t understand it, and it terrified her.

 

She moved aside, gently breaking Julian’s hold on her. “We should get back to Mark and Cristina,” she murmured. “It’s been a while.”

 

She turned away from him, but not before she saw the expression on his face shut, a slamming door. She felt it like a hollow in her stomach, the intractable certainly that no matter how many demons she had killed that night, her nerve had failed her when she needed it most.

 

When they got back to the front of the restaurant, they found Mark and Cristina seated on top of a picnic table, surrounded by cardboard boxes of french fries, buttered rolls, fried clams, and fish tacos. Cristina was holding a bottle of lime soda and smiling at something Mark had said.

 

The wind off the ocean had dried Mark’s hair. It blew around his face, highlighting how much he looked like a faerie and how little he seemed like Nephilim.

 

“Mark was telling me about the fight at the convergence point,” said Cristina as Emma clambered onto the table and reached for a fry. Julian climbed up after her and snagged a soda.

 

Emma launched into her own version of events, from their discovery of the cave and the wallet to the appearance of the Mantid demons. “They crushed Mark’s motorcycle so we couldn’t get away,” she said.

Mark looked glum.

“Thy steed is no more, methinks,” Emma said to him. “Will they get you another one?” “Unlikely,” said Mark. “The Fair Folk are not generous.”

 

Julian looked at Emma with his eyebrows raised. “Methinks?” he echoed. “I can’t help it.” She shrugged. “It’s catching.”

 

Cristina held out a hand. “Let’s see what you found,” she said. “Since you sacrificed so much to get it.” Emma pulled the square leather object from her pocket and let them all pass it around. Next she

 

retrieved her phone and held it out while she flipped through the photos of the inside of the cave with the

 

odd languages scrawled on the walls.

 

“We can translate the Greek and Latin,” said Emma. “But we’ll need to hit the library for the other languages.”

 

“Stanley Wells,” said Julian, looking through the half-burned wallet. “Name sounds familiar.” “When we get back, Ty and Livvy can find out who he is,” Emma said. “And we can figure out his

 

address, see if there’s anything to find at his house. See if there’s a reason he might have been targeted for sacrifice.”

 

“They could be randomly chosen,” said Julian. “They are not,” said Mark.

They all paused, Julian with a bottle halfway to his mouth. “What?” Emma said.

“Not everyone makes a fit subject to be sacrificed for a summoning spell,” said Mark. “It cannot be completely random.”

“They teach you much about dark magic in the Wild Hunt?” Julian asked.

“The Wild Hunt is dark magic,” said Mark. “I recognized the circle in the cave.” He tapped Emma’s phone. “This is a sacrificial circle. This is necromancy. The power of death harnessed to some purpose.”

 

They were all quiet for a moment. The cold wind off the ocean ruffled Emma’s damp hair. “The Mantids were guards,” she said finally. “Whoever the necromancer is doesn’t want anyone finding the secret ceremonial chamber.”

“Because he needs it,” said Jules.

 

“It could be a she,” said Emma. “It isn’t just men who get to be psycho magic serial killers.” “Granted,” said Julian. “Either way, there’s nowhere else near the city with a ley line convergence like

 

this. Necromancy that was done at a ley line extension would probably show up on Magnus’s map—but what if it was done at a convergence?”

 

“Then it might well be hidden from the Nephilim,” said Mark. “The killer could be doing the ceremonial killings at the convergence point—”

 

“And then dumping the bodies at the ley line extensions?” finished Cristina. “But why? Why not leave them in the cave?”

 

“Perhaps they want the bodies to be found,” said Mark. “After all, the marks on them are writing. It could be a message. A message they want to communicate.”

 

“Then they should have written the message in a language we know,” Emma muttered. “Maybe the message isn’t for us,” said Mark.

 

“The convergence will have to be watched,” said Cristina. “Someone will have to monitor it. There is no other convergence point; the murderer will have to come back at some point.”

 

“Agreed,” Julian said. “We’ll need to set up something at the convergence. Something that’ll warn us.” “Tomorrow, during the day,” Emma said. “The Mantid demons ought to be inactive—”

 

Julian laughed. “You know what we have tomorrow? Testing,” he said. Twice a year Diana was required to test them on certain basics, from rune drawing to training to languages, and report back to the Clave on their progress.

 

There was a chorus of protest. Julian held his hands up. “I’ll text Diana about it,” he said. “But if we don’t do it, the Clave will get suspicious.”

 

Mark said something unprintable about what the Clave could do with its suspicions. “I don’t think I know that word,” Cristina said, looking amused.

“I’m not sure I do either,” Emma said. “And I know a lot of bad words.”

Mark leaned back with the beginning of a smile, then sucked in his breath. He pulled his bloody shirt collar away from his neck and glanced down gingerly at his injured chest.

Julian set his bottle down. “Let me see.”

Mark let go of his collar. “There is nothing you can do. It will heal.”

 

“It’s a demon injury,” said Julian. “Let me see it.”

 

Mark looked at him, startled. The waves made a soft soughing sound around them. There was no one left outside the restaurant except them; the other tables had emptied. Mark hadn’t heard that voice of Julian’s before, Emma thought, the one that brooked no argument, the one that sounded like a grown man’s. The kind of man you listened to.

 

Mark lifted the front of his shirt. The cut ran jaggedly across his chest. It was no longer bleeding, but the sight of the ragged pale flesh made Emma grit her teeth.

“Let me—” Julian began.

Mark sprang off the table. “I am fine,” he said. “I do not need your healing magic. I do not need your runes of safety.” He touched his shoulder, where a black Mark bloomed like a butterfly: a permanent rune of protection. “I have had this since I was ten,” he said. “I had this when they took me, and this when they broke me and made me one of them. Never has it helped me. The runes of the Angel are lies cast into the teeth of Heaven.”

 

Hurt bloomed and faded in Julian’s eyes. “They’re not perfect,” he said. “Nothing is perfect. But they do help. I just don’t want to see you hurt.”

 

“Mark,” Cristina said in a soft voice. But Mark had gone somewhere else, somewhere where none of their voices could reach him. He stood with his eyes blazing, his hands opening and closing into fists.

 

Slowly, his hand came up, caught the hem of his shirt. Pulled it up and over his head. He shrugged the shirt off, dropping it to the sand. Emma saw pale skin, much paler than hers, a hard chest and a narrow waist cut with the fine lines of old scars. Then he turned around.

 

His back was covered in runes, from nape to waist. But not like a normal Shadowhunter’s, where the black Marks faded eventually to a thin white line against the skin. These were raised and thick and livid.

Julian had gone white around the mouth. “What . . . ?”

“When I first came to Faerie, they mocked me for my Nephilim blood,” Mark said. “The Folk of the Unseelie Court took my stele and broke it, they said it was nothing but a dirty stick. And when I fought back for it, they used knives to cut the Angel’s runes into my skin. After that I stopped fighting with them about Shadowhunters. And I swore no other rune would touch my skin.”

 

He bent down and picked up his bloody, wet shirt, and stood facing them, his rage gone, vulnerable again.

 

“Maybe they could still be healed,” Emma said. “The Silent Brothers—” “I don’t need them healed,” said Mark. “They serve as a reminder.” Julian slid off the table. “A reminder of what?”

“Not to trust,” said Mark.

Cristina looked at Emma across the boys’ heads. There was a terrible sadness on her face.

 

“I am sorry your protection rune failed you,” Julian said, and his voice was low and careful, and Emma had never wanted to put her arms around him so much as she did then, as he faced his brother in the ocean-washed moonlight, his heart in his eyes. His hair was a tangle, his soft curls like question marks against his forehead. “But there are other kinds of protection. Your family protects you. We will always protect you, Mark. We won’t let them make you go back.”

Mark smiled, the oddest, sad smile. “I know,” he said. “My gentle little brother. I know.”

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