That World Inverted
And that the whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt, and burning, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein.
THE SLEEP OF REASON
Clary stood on a shady lawn that rolled away down a sloping hill. The sky overhead was perfectly blue, dotted here and there with white clouds. At her feet a stone walkway stretched to the front door of a large manor house, built of mellow golden stone.
She craned her head back, looking up. The house was lovely: The stones were the color of butter in the spring sunshine, covered in trellises of climbing roses in red and gold and orange. Wrought iron balconies curved out from the facade, and there were two large arched doors of bronze-colored wood, their surfaces wrought with delicate designs of wings. Wings for the Fairchilds, said a soft voice, reassuring, in the back of her mind. This is Fairchild manor. It has stood for four hundred years and will stand four hundred more.
“Clary!” Her mother appeared at one of the balconies, wearing an elegant champagne-colored dress; her red hair was down, and she looked young and beautiful. Her arms were bare, circled with black runes. “What do you think? Doesn’t it look gorgeous?”
Clary followed her mother’s gaze toward where the lawn flattened out. There was an archway of roses set up at the end of an aisle, on either side of which were rows of wooden benches. White flowers were scattered along the aisle: the white flowers that grew only in Idris. The air was rich with their honey scent.
She looked back up at her mother, who was no longer alone on the balcony. Luke was standing behind her, an arm around her waist. He was in rolled-up shirtsleeves and formal trousers, as if halfway dressed for a party. His arms too were twined with runes: runes for good luck, for insight, for strength, for love. “Are you ready?” he called down to Clary.
“Ready for what?” she said, but they didn’t seem to hear her. Smiling, they disappeared back into the house. Clary took a few steps along the path.
She whirled. He was coming toward her across the grass—slender, with white-pale hair that shone in the sunlight, dressed in formal black with gold runes at his collar and cuffs. He was grinning, a smudge of dirt on his cheek, and holding up a hand to block the brightness of the sun.
He was entirely the same and yet entirely different: He was clearly himself, and yet the whole shape and set of his features seemed to have changed, his bones less sharp, his skin sundarkened rather than pale, and his eyes—
His eyes shone, as green as spring grass.
He has always had green eyes, said the voice in her head. People often marvel at how much alike you are, he and your mother and yourself. His name is Jonathan and he is your brother; he has always protected you.
“Clary,” he said again, “you’re not going to believe—”
“Jonathan!” a small voice trilled, and Clary turned her wondering eyes to see a little girl dashing across the grass. She had red hair, the same shade as Clary’s, and it flew out behind her like a banner. She was barefoot, wearing a green lace dress that had been so thoroughly torn to ribbons at the cuffs and hem that it resembled shredded lettuce. She might have been four or five years old, dirty-faced and adorable, and as she reached Jonathan, she held up her arms, and he bent down to swing her up into the air.
She shrieked in delight as he held her over his head. “Ouch, ouch—quit that, you demon child,” he said as she pulled at his hair. “Val, I said stop it, or I’ll hold you upside down. I mean it.”
“Val?” Clary echoed. But of course, her name is Valentina, said the whispering voice in the back of her head. Valentine Morgenstern was a great hero of the war; he died in battle against Hodge Starkweather, but not before he had saved the Mortal Cup, and the Clave along with it. When Luke married your mother, they honored his memory in the name of their daughter.
“Clary, make him let me go, make him—owwww!” shrieked Val as Jonathan turned her upside down and swung her through the air. Val dissolved into giggles as he set her down on the grass, and she turned a pair of eyes the exact blue of Luke’s up at Clary. “Your dress is pretty,” she said matter-of-factly.
“Thank you,” Clary said, still half in a daze, and looked at Jonathan, who was grinning down at his small sister. “Is that dirt on your face?”
Jonathan reached up and touched his cheek. “Chocolate,” he said. “You’ll never guess what I found Val doing. She had both fists in the wedding cake. I’m going to have to patch it up.” He squinted at Clary. “Okay, maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned that. You look like you’re going to pass out.”
“I’m fine,” Clary said, tugging nervously at a lock of her hair.
Jonathan put his hands up as if to ward her off. “Look, I’ll perform surgery on it. No one will ever be able to tell that someone ate half the roses off.” He looked thoughtful. “I could eat the other half of the roses, just so it’s even.”
“Yeah!” said Val from her place on the grass at his feet. She was busy yanking up dandelions, their white pods blowing on the wind.
“Also,” Jonathan added, “I hate to bring this up, but you might want to put some shoes on before the wedding.”
Clary looked down at herself. He was right, she was barefoot. Barefoot, and wearing a pale gold dress. The hem drifted around her ankles like a sunset-colored cloud. “I—What wedding?”
Her brother’s green eyes widened. “Your wedding? You know, to Jace Herondale? About yea high, blond, all the girls looove him—” He broke off. “Are you having cold feet? Is that what this is?” He leaned in conspiratorially. “Because if it is, I’ll totally smuggle you over the border into France. And I won’t tell anyone where you went. Even if they stick bamboo shoots under my fingernails.”
“I don’t—” Clary stared at him. “Bamboo shoots?”
He shrugged eloquently. “For my only sister, not counting the creature currently sitting on my foot”—Val yelped—“I would do it. Even if it means not getting to see Isabelle Lightwood in a strapless dress.”
“Isabelle? You like Isabelle?” Clary felt as if she were running a marathon and couldn’t quite catch her breath.
He squinted at her. “Is that a problem? Is she a wanted criminal or something?” He looked thoughtful. “That would be kind of hot, actually.”
“Okay, I don’t need to know what you think is hot,” Clary said automatically. “Bleh.”
Jonathan grinned. It was an unconcerned, happy grin; the grin of someone who’d never really had much to worry about beyond pretty girls and whether one of his little sisters had eaten the other sister’s wedding cake. Somewhere in the back of Clary’s mind she saw black eyes and whip marks, but she didn’t know why. He’s your brother. He’s your brother, and he’s always taken care of you. “Right,” he said. “Like I didn’t have to suffer through years of ‘Oooh, Jace is so cute. Do you think he liiikes me?’ ”
“I—” Clary said, and broke off, feeling a little dizzy. “I just don’t remember him proposing.”
Jonathan knelt down and tugged on Val’s hair. She was humming to herself, bundling daisies together in a pile. Clary blinked—she’d been so sure they were dandelions. “Oh, I don’t know if he ever did,” he said casually. “We all just knew you’d end up together. It was inevitable.”
“But I should have gotten to choose,” she said, in a near whisper. “I should have gotten to say yes.”
“Well, you would have, wouldn’t you?” he said, watching the daisies blow across the grass. “Speaking of, do you think Isabelle would go out with me if I asked her?”
Clary’s breath caught. “But what about Simon?”
He looked up at her, the sun bright in his eyes. “Who’s Simon?”
Clary felt the ground give way under her. She reached out, as if to catch at her brother, but her hand went through him. He was as insubstantial as air. The green lawn and the golden mansion and the boy and the girl on the grass flew away from her, and she stumbled, hitting the ground hard, jarring her elbows with a pain she felt flare up her arms.
She rolled to her side, choking. She was lying on a patch of bleak ground. Broken cobblestones jutted up through the earth, and the burned-out shells of stone houses loomed over her. The sky was white-gray steel, shot through with black clouds like vampire veins. It was a dead world, a world with all the color leached out of it, and all the life. Clary curled up on the ground, seeing in front of her not the shell of a destroyed town but the eyes of the brother and the sister that she would never have.
Simon stood at the window, taking in the view of the city of Manhattan.
It was an impressive sight. From the penthouse floor of the Carolina, you could see across Central Park, to the Met museum, to the high-rises of downtown. Night was falling, and the city lights were beginning to shine out one by one, a bed of electric flowers.
Electric flowers. He looked around, frowning thoughtfully. It was a nice turn of phrase; perhaps he should write it down. He never seemed to have time these days to really work on lyrics; time was swallowed up by other things: promotion, touring, signings, appearances. It was hard to remember sometimes that his main job was making music.
Still. A good problem to have. The darkening sky turned the window to a mirror. Simon smiled at his reflection in the glass. Tousled hair, jeans, vintage T-shirt; he could see the room behind him, vast acres of hardwood floor, gleaming steel, and leather furniture, a single elegant gold-framed painting on the wall. A Chagall—Clary’s favorite, all soft roses and blues and greens, incongruous against the apartment’s modernity.
There was a vase of hydrangeas on the kitchen island, a gift from his mother, congratulating him on playing a gig with Stepping Razor the week before. I love you, said the note attached. I’m proud of you.
He blinked at it. Hydrangeas; that was odd. If he had a favorite flower, it was roses, and his mother knew that. He turned away from the window and looked more closely at the vase. They were roses. He shook his head to clear it. White roses. They always had been. Right.
He heard the rattle of keys, and the door swung open, admitting a petite girl with long red hair and a brilliant smile. “Oh, my God,” said Clary, half-laughing, half out of breath. She pushed the door shut behind her and leaned against it. “The lobby is a zoo. Press, photographers; it’s going to be crazy going out tonight.”
She came across the room, dropping her keys on the table. She was wearing a long dress, yellow silk printed with colorful butterflies, and a butterfly clip in her long red hair. She looked warm and open and loving, and as she neared him, she put her arms up, and he went to kiss her.
Just like he did every day when she came home.
She smelled like Clary, perfume and chalk, and her fingers were smudged with color. She wound her fingers in his hair as they kissed, tugging him down, laughing against his mouth as he nearly overbalanced.
“You’re going to have to start wearing heels, Fray,” he said, lips against her cheek.
“I hate heels. You’ll either have to deal or buy me a portable ladder,” she said, letting him go. “Unless you want to leave me for a really tall groupie.”
“Never,” he said, tucking a lock of her hair behind her ear. “Would a really tall groupie know all my favorite foods? Remember when I had a bed shaped like a race car? Know how to beat me mercilessly at Scrabble? Be willing to put up with Matt and Kirk and Eric?”
“A groupie would more than put up with Matt and Kirk and Eric.”
“Be nice,” he said, and grinned down at her. “You’re stuck with me.”
“I’ll survive,” she said, plucking his glasses off and setting them on the table. The eyes she turned up to him were dark and wide. This time the kiss was more heated. He wound his arms around her, pulling her against him as she whispered, “I love you; I’ve always loved you.”
“I love you too,” he said. “God, I love you, Isabelle.”
He felt her stiffen in his arms, and then the world around him seemed to sprout black lines like shattered glass. He heard a high-pitched whine in his ears and staggered back, tripping, falling, not hitting the ground but spinning forever through the dark.
“Don’t look, don’t look . . .”
Isabelle laughed. “I’m not looking.”
There were hands over her eyes: Simon’s hands, slim and flexible. His arms were around her, and they were shuffling forward together, laughing. He’d grabbed her the moment she’d walked in the front door, wrapping his arms around her as her shopping bags dropped from her hands.
“I have a surprise for you,” he’d said, grinning. “Close your eyes. No looking. No, really. I’m not kidding.”
“I hate surprises,” Isabelle protested now. “You know that.” She could just see the edge of the rug under Simon’s hands. She’d picked it out herself, and it was thick, bright pink, and fuzzy. Their apartment was small and cozy, a hodgepodge of Isabelle and Simon: guitars and katanas, vintage posters and hot-pink bedspreads. Simon had brought his cat, Yossarian, when they’d moved in together, which Isabelle had protested but secretly liked: She’d missed Church after she’d left the Institute.
The pink rug vanished, and now Isabelle’s heels clicked onto the tile floor of the kitchen. “Okay,” Simon said, and withdrew his hands. “Surprise!”
“Surprise!” The kitchen was full of people: her mother and father, Jace and Alec and Max, Clary and Jordan and Maia, Kirk and Matt and Eric. Magnus was holding a silver sparkler and winking, waving it back and forth as the sparkles flew everywhere, landing on the stone counters and Jace’s T-shirt, making him yelp. Clary was holding a clumsily lettered sign: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ISABELLE. She held it up and waved.
Isabelle whirled on Simon accusingly. “You planned this!”
“Of course I did,” he said, pulling her toward him. “Shadowhunters might not care about birthdays, but I do.” He kissed her ear, murmuring, “You should have everything, Izzy,” before he let her go, and her family descended.
There was a whirl of hugs, of presents and cake—baked by Eric, who actually had something of a flair for pastry creation, and decorated by Magnus with luminous frosting that tasted better than it looked. Robert had his arms around Maryse, who was leaning back against him, looking on proudly and contentedly as Magnus, one hand ruffling Alec’s hair, tried to convince Max to put on a party hat. Max, with all the self-possession of a nine-year-old, was having none of it. He waved away Magnus’s hand impatiently and said, “Izzy, I made the sign. Did you see the sign?”
Izzy glanced over at the hand-lettered sign, now liberally smeared with frosting, on the table. Clary winked at her. “It’s awesome, Max; thank you.”
“I was going to put what birthday it was on the sign,” he said, “but Jace said that after twenty, you’re just old, so it doesn’t matter anyway.”
Jace stopped with his fork halfway to his mouth. “I said that?”
“Way to make us all feel ancient,” said Simon, pushing his hair back to smile at Isabelle. She felt a little twist of pain inside her chest—she loved him that much, for doing this for her, for always thinking of her. She couldn’t remember a time when she hadn’t loved him or trusted him, and he’d never given her a reason not to do either.
Isabelle slid off the stool she’d been sitting on, and knelt down in front of her little brother. She could see their reflection in the steel of the refrigerator: her own dark hair, cut to her shoulders now—she remembered vaguely years ago, when her hair had reached her waist—and Max’s brown curls and glasses. “Do you know how old I am?” she said.
“Twenty-two,” Max said, in the tone of voice that indicated he wasn’t sure why she was asking him such a stupid question.
Twenty-two, she thought. She’d always been seven years older than Max, Max the surprise, Max the little brother she hadn’t expected.
Max, who should be fifteen now.
She swallowed, suddenly cold all over. Everyone was still talking and laughing all around her, but the laughing sounded distant and echoing, as if it came from very far away. She could see Simon, leaning against the counter, his arms folded over his chest, his dark eyes unreadable as he watched her.
“And how old are you?” Isabelle said.
“Nine,” said Max. “I’ve always been nine.”
Isabelle stared. The kitchen around her was wavering. She could see through it, as if she were staring through printed fabric: everything going transparent, as mutable as water.
“Baby,” she whispered. “My Max, my baby brother, please, please stay.”
“I’ll always be nine,” he said, and touched her face. His fingers passed through her, as if he were passing his hand through smoke. “Isabelle?” he said in a fading voice, and disappeared.
Isabelle felt her knees give. She sank to the ground. There was no laughter around her, no pretty tiled kitchen, only gray, powdery ash and blackened rock. She put up her hands to stop her tears.
The Hall of Accords was hung with blue banners, each gilded with the flame blazon of the Lightwood family. Four long tables had been arranged facing one another. In the center was a raised speaker’s lectern, decked with swords and flowers.
Alec sat at the longest table, in the highest of the chairs. On his left was Magnus, and on his right his family stretched out beside him: Isabelle and Max; Robert and Maryse; Jace; and beside Jace, Clary. There were Lightwood cousins there too, some of whom he hadn’t seen since he’d been a child; all of them were beaming with pride, but no face glowed as brightly as his father’s.
“My son,” he kept saying, to anyone who would listen—he had buttonholed the Consul now, who’d been passing by their table with a glass of wine in hand. “My son won the battle; that’s my son up there. Lightwood blood will tell; our family have always been fighters.”
The Consul laughed. “Save it for the speech, Robert,” she said, winking at Alec over the rim of her glass.
“Oh, God, the speech,” Alec said, in horror, hiding his face in his hands.
Magnus rubbed his knuckles gently across Alec’s spine, as if he were petting a cat. Jace looked over at them, and raised his eyebrows.
“As if we all haven’t been in a room full of people telling us how amazing we are before,” he said, and when Alec glared at him sideways, he grinned. “Ah, just me, then.”
“Leave my boyfriend alone,” Magnus said. “I know spells that could turn your ears inside out.”
Jace touched his ears worriedly as Robert rose to his feet, his chair scraping backward, and tapped the side of his fork against his glass. The sound rang out in the room, and the Shadowhunters fell silent, looking up toward the Lightwood table expectantly.
“We gather here today,” said Robert, reaching out his arms expansively, “to honor my son, Alexander Gideon Lightwood, who has single-handedly destroyed the forces of the Endarkened and who defeated in battle the son of Valentine Morgenstern. Alec saved the life of our third son, Max. Along with his parabatai, Jace Herondale, I am proud to say that my son is one of the greatest warriors I have ever known.” He turned and smiled at Alec and Magnus. “It takes more than a strong arm to make a great warrior,” he went on. “It takes a great mind and a great heart. My son has both. He is strong in courage, and strong in love. Which is why I also wanted to share our other good news with you. As of yesterday, my son became engaged to be married to his partner, Magnus Bane—”
A chorus of cheers broke out. Magnus accepted them with a modest wave of his fork. Alec slid down in his chair, his cheeks burning. Jace looked at him meditatively.
“Congratulations,” he said. “I kind of feel like I missed an opportunity.”
“W-what?” Alec stammered.
Jace shrugged. “I always knew you had a crush on me, and I kind of had a crush on you, too. I thought you should know.”
“What?” Alec said again.
Clary sat up straight. “You know,” she said, “do you think there’s any chance that you two could . . .” She gestured between Jace and Alec. “It would be kind of hot.”
“No,” Magnus said. “I am a very jealous warlock.”
“We’re parabatai,” Alec said, regaining his voice. “The Clave would—I mean—it’s illegal.”
“Oh, come on,” said Jace. “The Clave would let you do anything you wanted. Look, everyone loves you.” He gestured out at the room full of Shadowhunters. They were all cheering as Robert spoke, some of them wiping away tears. A girl at one of the smaller tables held up a sign that said, ALEC LIGHTWOOD, WE LOVE YOU.
“I think you should have a winter wedding,” said Isabelle, looking longingly at the white floral centerpiece. “Nothing too big. Five or six hundred people.”
“Isabelle,” Alec croaked.
She shrugged. “You have a lot of fans.”
“Oh, for God’s sake,” Magnus said, and snapped his fingers in front of Alec’s face. His black hair stood up in spikes, and his gold-green eyes were brilliant with annoyance. “THIS IS NOT HAPPENING.”
“What?” Alec stared.
“It’s a hallucination,” Magnus said, “brought on by your entry into the demon realms. Probably a demon that lurks near the entrance to the world and feeds on the dreams of travelers. Wishes have a lot of power,” he added, examining his reflection in his spoon. “Especially the deepest wishes of our hearts.”
Alec looked around the room. “This is the deepest wish of my heart?”
“Sure,” Magnus said. “Your father, proud of you. You, the hero of the hour. Me, loving you. Everyone approving of you.”
Alec looked over at Jace. “Okay, what about the Jace thing?”
Magnus shrugged. “I don’t know. That part’s just weird.”
“So I have to wake up.” Alec put his hands on the table, flat; the Lightwood ring shone on his finger. It all seemed real, felt real—but he couldn’t remember what his father was talking about. Couldn’t remember defeating Sebastian, or winning a war. Couldn’t remember saving Max.
“Max,” he whispered.
Magnus’s eyes darkened. “I’m sorry,” he said. “The wishes of our hearts are weapons that can be used against us. Fight, Alec.” He touched Alec’s face. “This isn’t what you want, this dream. Demons don’t understand human hearts, not well. They see as through a distorted glass and show you what you desire, but warped and wrong. Use that wrongness to push yourself out of the dream. Life is loss, Alexander, but it’s better than this.”
“God,” Alec said, and closed his eyes. He felt the world around him crack, as if he were tapping his way out of a shell. The voices around him vanished, along with the feel of the chair underneath him, the smell of food, the clamor of applause, and lastly, the touch of Magnus’s hand on his face.
His knees hit the ground. He gasped and his eyes snapped open. All around him was a gray landscape. The stink of garbage hit his nostrils, and he jerked back instinctively as something reared over him—a surging mass of inchoate smoke, a cluster of glittering yellow eyes hanging in the darkness. They glared out at him as he fumbled for his bow and drew it back.
The thing roared, and rushed forward, surging toward him like a wave breaking. Alec let the runed arrow fly—it flicked through the air and sank itself deep into the smoke demon. A shrilling scream cracked the air, the demon pulsing around the arrow buried deep inside it, tendrils of smoke flailing outward, clawing at the sky—
And the demon vanished. Alec scrambled to his feet, fumbling another arrow into position, and swung around, scanning the landscape. It looked like pictures he’d seen of the surface of the moon, pitted and ashy, and above was a scorched sky, gray and yellow, cloudless. The sun hung orange and low, a dead cinder. There was no sign of the others.
Fighting down panic, he jogged up the rise of the nearest hill, and down the other side. Relief hit him in a wave. There was a depression between two rises of ash and rock, and crouched in it was Isabelle, struggling to her feet. Alec scrambled down the steep side of the hill and caught her in a one-armed hug. “Iz,” he said.
She made a sound suspiciously like a sniffle and pulled away from him. “I’m all right,” she said. There were tear tracks on her face; he wondered what she had seen. The wishes of our hearts are weapons that can be used against us.
“Max?” he asked.
She nodded, her eyes bright with unshed tears and anger. Of course Isabelle would be angry. She hated to cry.
“Me too,” he said, and then whirled at the sound of a footstep, half-pushing Isabelle behind him.
It was Clary, and beside her, Simon. They both looked shell-shocked. Isabelle moved out from behind Alec. “You two . . . ?”
“Fine,” Simon said. “We . . . saw things. Weird things.” He wouldn’t meet Isabelle’s gaze, and Alec wondered what he’d imagined. What were Simon’s dreams and desires? Alec had never given it much thought.
“It was a demon,” Alec said. “The kind that feeds on dreams and wishes. I killed it.” He glanced from them to Isabelle. “Where’s Jace?”