Authors: Cassandra Clare
Both Thomas and Matthew were free of ichor, wearing wrinkled but clean clothes, their hairâThomas's sandy brown and Matthew's dark goldâstill damp. “James!” Matthew cheered upon seeing his friend. His eyes were suspiciously bright; there was already a half-drunk bottle of brandy on the table. “Is that a bottle of cheap spirits I see before me?”
James set the wine down on the table just as Christopher emerged from the small bedroom at the far end of the attic space. The bedroom had been there before they had taken over the space: there was still a bed in it, but none of the Merry Thieves used it for anything besides washing up and storing weapons and changes of clothes.
“James,” Christopher said, looking pleased. “I thought you'd gone home.”
“Why on earth would I go home?” James took a seat beside Matthew and tossed Polly's dish towels onto the table.
“No idea,” said Christopher cheerfully, pulling up a chair. “But you might have. People do odd things all the time. We had a cook who went to do the shopping and was found two weeks later in Regent's Park. She'd become a zookeeper.”
Thomas raised his eyebrows. James and the rest of the group were never sure whether to entirely believe Christopher's stories. Not that he was a liar, but when it came to anything that wasn't beakers and test tubes, he tended to be paying only a fraction of attention.
Christopher was the son of James's aunt Cecily and uncle Gabriel. He had the fine bone structure of his parents, dark brown hair, and eyes that could only be described as the color of lilacs.
“Wasted on a boy!” Cecily said often, with a martyred sigh. Christopher ought to have been popular with girls, but the thick spectacles he wore obscured most of his face, and he had gunpowder perpetually embedded under his fingernails. Most Shadowhunters regarded mundane guns with suspicion or disinterestâthe application of runes to metal or bullets prevented gunpowder from igniting, and non-runed weapons were useless against demons. Christopher, however, was obsessed with the idea that he could adapt incendiary weapons to Nephilim purposes. James had to admit that the idea of mounting a cannon on the roof of the Institute had a certain appeal.
“Your hand,” Matthew said suddenly, leaning forward and fixing his green eyes on James. “What happened?”
“Just a cut,” James said, opening his hand. The wound was a long diagonal slice across his palm. As Matthew took James's hand, the silver bracelet that James always wore on his right wrist clinked against the hock bottle on the table. “You should have told me,” Matthew said, reaching into his waistcoat for his stele. “I would have fixed you up in the alley.”
“I forgot,” James said.
Thomas, who was running his finger around the rim of his own glass without drinking, said, “Did something happen?”
Thomas was annoyingly perceptive. “It was very quick,” James said, with some reluctance.
“Many things that are âvery quick' are also very bad,” said Matthew, setting the point of his stele to James's skin. “Guillotines come down very quickly, for instance. When Christopher's experiments explode, they often explode very quickly.”
“Clearly, I have neither exploded nor been guillotined,” said James. “Iâwent into the shadow realm.”
Matthew's head jerked up, though his hand remained steady as the
, a healing rune, took shape on James's skin. James could
feel the pain in his hand begin to subside. “I thought all that business had stopped,” Matthew said. “I thought Jem had helped you.”
“He did help me. It's been a year since the last time.” James shook his head. “I suppose it was too much to hope it was gone forever.”
“Doesn't it usually happen when you're upset?” said Thomas. “Was it the demon attacking?”
“No,” James said quickly. “No, I can't imagineâno.” James had been almost looking forward to the fight. It had been a frustrating summer, the first one in over a decade that he hadn't spent with his family in Idris.
Idris was located in central Europe. Warded all around, it was an unspoiled country, hidden from mundane eyes and mundane inventions: a place without railroads, factories, or coal smoke. James knew why his family couldn't go this year, but he had his own reasons for wishing he were there instead of London. Patrolling had been one of his few distractions.
“Demons don't bother our boy,” said Matthew, finishing the healing rune. This close to his
, James could smell the familiar scent of Matthew's soap mixed with alcohol. “It must have been something else.”
“You ought to talk to your uncle, then, Jamie,” said Thomas.
James shook his head. He didn't want to bother Uncle Jem about what felt now like a moment-long flicker. “It was nothing. I was surprised by the demon; I grabbed at the blade by accident. I'm sure that's what caused it.”
“Did you turn into a shadow?” said Matthew, putting his stele away. Sometimes, when James was pulled into the shadow realm, his friends reported that they could see him blurring around the edges. On some occasions, he'd turned entirely into a dark shadowâJames-shaped, but transparent and incorporeal.
A few timesâa very few timesâhe'd been able to turn himself
into a shadow to pass through something solid. But he didn't wish to speak about those times.
Christopher looked up from his notebook. “Speaking of the demonâ”
“Which we weren't,” Matthew pointed out.
“âwhat kind was it again?” Christopher asked, biting the end of his pen. He often wrote down details of their demon-fighting expeditions. He claimed it helped him in his research. “The one that exploded, I mean.”
“As opposed to the one that didn't?” said James.
Thomas, who had an excellent memory for detail, said: “It was a Deumas, Christopher. Odd it was here; they're not usually found in cities.”
“I saved some of its ichor,” said Christopher, producing from somewhere on his person a corked test tube full of a greenish substance. “I caution all of you not to drink any of it.”
“I can assure you we had no plans to do any such thing, you daft boot,” said Thomas.
Matthew shuddered. “Enough talk of ichor. Let's toast again to Thomas being home!”
Thomas protested. James raised his glass and toasted with Matthew. Christopher was about to clink his test tube against James's glass when Matthew, muttering imprecations, confiscated it and handed Christopher a glass of hock instead.
Thomas, despite his objections, looked pleased. Most Shadowhunters went on a sort of grand tour when they turned eighteen, leaving their home Institute for one abroad; Thomas had only just returned from nine months in Madrid a few weeks ago. The point of the travel was to learn new customs and broaden one's horizons: Thomas had certainly broadened, though mostly in the physical sense.
Though the oldest of their group, Thomas had been slight in
stature. When James, Matthew, and Christopher arrived at the dock to meet his ship from Spain, they combed through the crowds, nearly failing to recognize their friend in the muscular young man descending the gangplank. Thomas was the tallest of them now, tanned as if he'd grown up on a farm instead of in London. He could wield a broadsword in one hand, and in Spain he had adopted a new weapon, the
, made of stout ropes and weights that whirled over his head. Matthew often said it was like being comrades with a friendly giant.
“When you're entirely done, I do have some news,” Thomas said, tipping his chair back. “You know that old manor in Chiswick that once belonged to my grandfather? Used to be called Lightwood House? It was given to my aunt Tatiana by the Clave some years ago, but she's never used itâpreferred to stay in Idris at the manor with my cousin, erâ¦”
“Gertrude,” said Christopher helpfully.
“Grace,” James said. “Her name is Grace.”
She was Christopher's cousin too, though James knew they had never met her.
“Yes, Grace,” agreed Thomas. “Aunt Tatiana's always kept them both in splendid isolation in Idrisâno visitors and all thatâbut apparently she's decided to move back to London, so my parents are all in a dither about it.”
James's heart gave a slow, hard thump. “Grace,” he began, and saw Matthew shoot him a quick sideways glance. “Graceâis moving to London?”
“Seems Tatiana wants to bring her out in society.” Thomas looked puzzled. “I suppose you've met her, in Idris? Doesn't your house there adjoin Blackthorn Manor?”
James nodded mechanically. He could feel the weight of the bracelet around his right wrist, though he had worn it now for so many years that usually he was unconscious of its presence.
“I usually see her every summer,” he said. “Not this summer, of course.”
Not this summer.
He hadn't been able to argue with his parents when they'd said the Herondale family would be spending this summer in London. Hadn't been able to mention the reason he wanted to return to Idris. After all, as far as they were aware, he barely even knew Grace. The sickness, the horror that gripped him at the thought that he would not see her for another year was nothing he could explain.
It was a secret he had carried since he was thirteen. In his mind, he could see the tall gates rising before Blackthorn Manor, and his own hands in front of himâa child's hands, without scars, cutting industriously away at the thorny vines. He could see the Long Hall in the manor, and the curtains blowing across the windows, and hear music. He could see Grace in her ivory dress.
Matthew was watching him with thoughtful green eyes that were no longer dancing. Matthew, alone of all James's friends, knew that there was a connection between James and Grace Blackthorn.
“London is being positively swarmed by new arrivals,” Matthew remarked. “The Carstairs family will be with us soon, won't they?”
James nodded. “Lucie is wild with excitement to see Cordelia.”
Matthew poured more wine into his glass. “Can't blame them for being tired of rusticating in Devonâwhat's that house of theirs called? Cirenworth? I gather they arrive in a day or twoâ”
Thomas upset his drink. James's drink and Christopher's test tube went with it. Thomas was still growing accustomed to occupying so much space in the world, and he sometimes proved clumsy.
of the Carstairs family are coming, did you say?” said Thomas.
“Not Elias Carstairs,” said Matthew. Elias was Cordelia's father. “But Cordelia, and of courseâ¦” He trailed off meaningfully.
“Oh, bloody hell,” said Christopher. “Alastair Carstairs.” He
looked vaguely ill. “I'm not remembering incorrectly? He's an awful pill?”
“ââAwful pill' seems a kind way of putting it,” said James. Thomas was mopping up his drink; James looked at him with concern. Thomas had been a shy, small boy at school, and Alastair a rotten bully. “We can avoid Alastair, Tom. There's no reason for us to spend time with him, and I can't imagine he'll be yearning for our society either.”
Thomas spluttered, but not in response to what James had said. The contents of Christopher's spilled test tube had turned a violent puce and begun to eat through the table. They all leaped up to grab for Polly's dish towels. Thomas hurled a pitcher of water at the table, which drenched Christopher, and Matthew doubled over laughing.
“I say,” said Christopher, mopping wet hair out of his eyes. “I do think that worked, Tom. The acid has been neutralized.”
Thomas was shaking his head. “Someone should neutralize you, you mopstickâ”
Matthew collapsed in hysterics.
In the midst of the chaos, James could not help feeling very far away from it all. For so many years, in so many hundreds of secret letters between London and Idris, he and Grace had sworn to each other that one day they would be together; that one day when they were adults, they would marry, whether their parents wished it or not, and live together in London. It had always been their dream.
So why hadn't she told him she was coming?
“Oh, look! The Royal Albert Hall!” Cordelia cried, pressing her nose against the window of the carriage. It was a brilliant day, bright sunlight streaming down over London, making the sparkling white row houses of South Kensington glow like rows of
ivory soldiers in an expensive chess set. “London really does have marvelous architecture.”
“A shrewd observation,” drawled her older brother, Alastair, who was ostentatiously reading a book on sums in the corner of the carriage, as if to announce that he couldn't be bothered to glance out the window. “I'm sure no one has ever commented on London's buildings before.”
Cordelia glared at him, but he didn't look up. Couldn't he tell she was just trying to raise everyone's spirits? Their mother, Sona, was leaning exhaustedly against the side of the carriage, violet hollows under her eyes, her normally radiant brown skin sallow. Cordelia had been worried about her for weeks now, ever since the news about Father had come to Devon from Idris. “The point, Alastair, is that now we're here to live, not visit. We'll meet people, we can entertain visitors, we needn't stay in the Instituteâeven though I would like to be near Lucieâ”
“And James,” said Alastair, without looking up from his book.
Cordelia gritted her teeth.
“Children.” Cordelia's mother glanced at them reprovingly. Alastair looked resentfulâhe was one month shy of his nineteenth birthday and, in his mind at least, certainly not a child. “This is serious business. As you well know, we are not in London to amuse ourselves. We are in London on behalf of our family.”
Cordelia exchanged a less hostile look with her brother. She knew he was worried about Sona too, though he never would have admitted it. She wondered for the millionth time how much he knew about the situation with Father. She knew both that it was more than she did, and that he would never speak to her of it.