She was about to turn and ask Jace if he wanted to dance, when she felt a hand on her back. It was Sebastian. She tensed but didn't pull away. "Come on," he said into her ear. "We're not staying up here with the hoi polloi."
His hand was like iron pressing against her spine. She let him propel her forward, through the dancers; the crowd seemed to part to let them through, people looking up to glance at Sebastian, then dropping their gazes, backing away. The heat increased, and Clary was almost gasping by the time they reached the far side of the room. There was an archway there that she hadn't noticed before. A set of worn stone steps led downward, curving away into darkness.
She glanced up as Sebastian took his hand away from her back. Light blazed around them. Jace had taken out his witchlight rune-stone. He grinned at her, his face all angles and shadows in the harsh, focused light.
"'Easy is the descent,'" he said.
Clary shivered. She knew the whole phrase. Easy is the descent into Hell.
"Come on." Sebastian jerked his head, and then he was moving downward, graceful and sure-footed, not worried about slipping on the age-smoothed stones. Clary followed a little more slowly. The air grew cooler as they went down, and the sound of the pounding music faded. She could hear their breathing, and see their shadows thrown, distorted and spindly, against the walls.
She heard the new music before they reached the bottom of the stairs. It had an even more insistent beat than the music in the club upstairs; it shot through her ears and into her veins and spun her around. She was almost dizzy by the time they reached the last of the stairs and stepped out into a massive room that stole her breath.
Everything was stone, the walls bumpy and uneven, the floor smooth beneath their feet. A massive statue of a black-winged angel rose along the far wall, its head lost in shadows far above, its wings dripping strings of garnets that looked like drops of blood. Explosions of color and light burst like cherry bombs throughout the room, nothing like the artificial light upstairs-these were beautiful, sparkling like fireworks, and every time one burst, it rained down a glittering shimmer onto the dancing crowd below. Huge marble fountains sprayed sparkling water; black rose petals drifted onto the surface. And far above everything, dangling down above the packed floor of dancers on a long golden cord, was a massive chandelier made of bones.
It was as intricate as it was gruesome. The main body of the chandelier was formed by spinal columns, fused together; femurs and tibias dripped like decoration from the arms of the fixture, which swooped up to cradle human skulls, each holding a massive taper. Black wax dripped like demon blood to spatter on the dancers below, none of whom seemed to notice. And the dancers themselves-whirling and spinning and clapping-none of them were human.
"Werewolves and vampires," said Sebastian, answering Clary's unasked question. "In Prague they're allies. This is where they... relax." A hot breeze was blowing through the room, like desert wind; it lifted his silvery hair and blew it across his eyes, hiding their expression.
Clary wriggled out of her coat and held it pressed against her chest almost like a shield. She looked around with wide eyes. She could sense the nonhuman-ness of the others in the room, the vampires with their pallor and their swift and languid grace, the werewolves fierce and fast. Most were young, dancing close, writhing up and down each other's bodies. "But-won't they mind us being here? Nephilim?"
"They know me," said Sebastian. "And they'll know you're with me." He reached out and tugged the coat out of her grip. "I'll go get that hung up for you."
"Sebastian-," But he was gone, into the crowd.
She looked at Jace beside her. He had his thumbs hooked into his belt and was looking around with casual interest. "Vampire coat check?" she said.
"Why not?" Jace smiled. "You'll notice he didn't offer to take my coat. Chivalry is dead, I tell you." He tipped his head to the side at her quizzical expression. "Whatever. There's probably someone he has to talk to here."
"So this isn't just for fun?"
"Sebastian never does anything just for fun." Jace took her hands and pulled her toward him. "But I do."
To Simon's complete lack of surprise, no one was enthusiastic about his plan. There was a loud chorus of disapproval, followed by a clamor of voices trying to talk him out of it, and questions, mostly directed at Magnus, about the safety of the whole enterprise. Simon rested his elbows on his knees and waited it out.
Eventually he felt a soft touch on his arm. He turned, and to his surprise it was Isabelle. She gestured at him to follow her.
They wound up in the shadows near one of the pillars as the argument raged behind them. Since Isabelle had initially been one of the loudest dissenters, he braced himself for her to yell at him. However, she only looked at him with her mouth tight. "Okay," he said finally, hating the silence. "I guess you're not pleased with me right now."
"You guess? I'd kick your butt, vampire, but I don't want to ruin my expensive new boots."
"I'm not your girlfriend."
"Right," Simon said, though he couldn't help a twinge of disappointment. "I know that."
"And I've never begrudged you the time you've spent with Clary. I even encouraged it. I know how much you care about her. And how much she cares about you. But this-this is an insane risk you're talking about taking. Are you sure?"
Simon looked around-at Magnus's messy apartment, the small group in the corner arguing about his fate. "This isn't just about Clary."
"Well, it isn't about your mother, is it?" Isabelle said. "That she called you a monster? You don't have anything to prove, Simon. That's her problem, not yours."
"It's not like that. Jace saved my life. I owe him."
Isabelle looked surprised. "You're not doing this just to pay Jace back, are you? Because I think by now everyone's pretty even."
"No, not completely," he said. "Look, we all know the situation. Sebastian can't be running around loose. It isn't safe. The Clave is right about that much. But if he dies, Jace dies. And if Jace dies, Clary..."
"She'll survive," Isabelle said, her voice quick and hard. "She's tough and strong."
"She'll hurt. Maybe forever. I don't want her to hurt like that. I don't want you to hurt like that."
Isabelle crossed her arms. "Of course not. But do you think she won't be hurt, Simon, if something happens to you?"
Simon bit his lip. He actually hadn't thought about it. Not like that. "What about you?"
"What about me?"
"Will you be hurt if something happens to me?"
She kept looking at him, her back straight, her chin steady. But her eyes were shining. "Yes."
"But you want me to help Jace."
"Yes. I want that, too."
"You have to let me do this," he said. "It's not just for Jace, or for you and Clary, though you're all a big part of it. It's because I believe darkness is coming. I believe Magnus when he says it. I believe Raphael is truly afraid of a war. I believe we're seeing a small piece of Sebastian's plan, but I don't think it's any coincidence he took Jace with him when he went. Or that he and Jace are linked. He knows we need Jace to win a war. He knows what Jace is."
Isabelle didn't deny it. "You're just as brave as Jace."
"Maybe," said Simon. "But I'm not Nephilim. I can't do what he can do. And I don't mean as much to as many people."
"Special destinies and special torments," Isabelle whispered. "Simon-you mean a lot to me."
He reached out, and lightly cupped her cheek. "You're a warrior, Iz. It's what you do. It's what you are. But if you can't fight Sebastian because hurting him would hurt Jace, you can't fight the war. And if you have to kill Jace to win the war, I think it'll kill part of your soul. And I don't want to see that, not if I could do something to change it."
She swallowed. "It's not fair," she said. "That it has to be you-"
"This is my choice, to do this. Jace doesn't have a choice. If he dies, it's for something he didn't have anything to do with, not really."
Isabelle expelled a breath. She uncrossed her arms and took him by the elbow. "All right," she said. "Let's go."
She steered him back toward the group, who broke off their argument and stared when she cleared her throat, as if they hadn't quite realized the two of them had been missing until this moment.
"That's enough," she said. "Simon has made his decision, and it's his decision to make. He's going to summon Raziel. And we're going to help him in any way we can."
They danced. Clary tried to lose herself in the pounding beat of the music, the rush of blood in her veins, the way she had once been able to do at Pandemonium with Simon. Of course Simon had been a fairly terrible dancer, and Jace was an excellent dancer. She supposed it made sense. With all that trained fighting control and careful grace, there wasn't much he couldn't make his body do. When he flung his head back, his hair was dark with sweat, pasted to his temples, and the curve of his throat gleamed in the light of the bone chandelier.
She saw the way the other dancers looked at him-appreciation, speculation, predatory hunger. A possessiveness she couldn't name or control rose up inside her. She moved closer, sliding up his body the way she'd seen girls do on the dance floor before but had never had the nerve to try herself. She'd always been convinced she'd get her hair caught on someone's belt buckle, but things were different now. Her months of training didn't pay off just in a fight, but any time she had to use her body. She felt fluid, in control, in a way she never had before. She pressed her body against Jace's.
His eyes had been closed; he opened them just as an explosion of colored light lit up the darkness above them. Metallic drops rained down on them; droplets were caught in Jace's hair and shimmering on his skin like mercury. He touched his fingers to a drop of silver liquid on his collarbone and showed it to her, his lips curving. "Do you remember what I told you that first time at Taki's? About faerie food?"
"I remember you said you ran down Madison Avenue naked with antlers on your head," said Clary, blinking silver drops off her lashes.
"I don't think that was ever proved to have actually been me." Only Jace could talk while he danced and not make it look awkward. "Well, this stuff"-and he flicked at the silvery liquid that mixed with his hair and skin, painting him in metal-"is like that. It'll get you..."
He watched her with darkened eyes. "It can be fun." Another of the drifting flower-things burst above their head; this spatter was silver-blue, like water. Jace licked a drop off the side of his hand, studying her.
High. Clary had never done drugs, didn't even drink. Maybe if you counted the bottle of Kahlúa she and Simon had smuggled out of his mom's liquor cabinet and drunk when they'd been thirteen. They'd been heartily sick afterward; Simon had, in fact, thrown up in a hedge. It hadn't been worth it, but she did remember the sensation of being dizzy and giggly and happy for no reason.
When Jace lowered his hand, his mouth was stained with silver. He was still watching her, gold eyes dark under his long lashes.
Happy for no reason.
She thought of the way they had been together in the time after the Mortal War before Lilith had begun to possess him. He had been the Jace in the photograph on his wall then: so happy. They both had been happy. There had been no nagging doubt when she looked at him, none of this feeling of tiny knives under her skin, eroding the closeness between them.
She leaned up then, and kissed him, slowly and definitively, on the lips.
Her mouth exploded with a sweet-sour taste, a mixture of wine and candy. More of the silvery liquid rained down on them as she pulled away from him, licking her mouth deliberately. Jace was breathing hard; he reached for her, but she spun away, laughing.
She felt wild and free suddenly, and incredibly light. She knew there was something terribly important she was supposed to be doing, but she couldn't remember what it was, or why she had cared. The faces of the dancers around her no longer looked vulpine and faintly frightening, but darkly beautiful. She was in a great echoing cavern, and the shadows around her were painted with colors lovelier and brighter than any sunset. The angel statue that loomed above her seemed benevolent, a thousand times more so than Raziel and his cold white light, and a high singing note sounded from it, pure and clear and perfect. She spun, faster and faster, leaving behind grief, memories, loss, until she spun into a pair of arms that snaked around her from behind and held her tight. She looked down and saw scarred hands locked around her waist, slim beautiful fingers, the Voyance rune. Jace. She melted back against him, closing her eyes, letting her head fall into the curve of his shoulder. She could feel his heart beating against her spine.
No one else's heart beat like Jace's did, or ever could.
Her eyes flew open, and she spun around, her hands out to push him away. "Sebastian," she whispered. Her brother grinned down at her, silver and black like the Morgenstern ring.
"Clarissa," he said. "I want to show you something."
No. The word came and went, dissolving like sugar into liquid. She couldn't remember why she was supposed to say no to him. He was her brother; she should love him. He had brought her to this beautiful place. Perhaps he had done bad things, but that was a long time ago and she could no longer remember what they were.
"I can hear angels singing," she said to him.
He chuckled. "I see you found out that silvery stuff isn't just glitter." He reached forward and stroked his forefinger across her cheekbone; it was silver when it came away, as if he had caught a painted tear. "Come along, angel girl." He held out his hand.
"But Jace," she said. "I lost him in the crowd-"
"He'll find us." Sebastian's hand clamped around hers, surprisingly warm and comforting. She let him draw her toward one of the fountains in the middle of the room, and set her down on the wide marble edge. He sat down beside her, her hand still in his. "Look in the water," he said. "Tell me what you see."