The doors of the Hall exploded inward with a blast of splinters; shards of marble and wood flew like shattered bone.
Emma stared numbly as red-clad warriors began to spill into the Hall, followed by faeries in green and white and silver. And after them came the Nephilim: Shadowhunters in black gear, desperate to protect their children.
A wave of guards raced to meet the Endarkened at the door, and were cut down. Emma watched them fall in what felt like slow motion. She knew she had risen to her feet, and so had Julian, thrusting Tavvy into Livia’s arms; they both moved to block the younger Blackthorns, as hopeless as Emma knew the gesture was.
This is how it ends, she thought. They had run from Sebastian’s warriors in Los Angeles, had fled to the Penhallows’, and from the Penhallows to the Hall, and now they were trapped like rats and they would die here and they might as well never have run at all.
She reached for Cortana, thinking of her father, of what he would have said if she gave up. Carstairs didn’t give up. They suffered and survived, or they died on their feet. At least if she died, she thought, she’d see her parents again. At least she’d have that.
The Endarkened surged into the room, parting the desperately fighting Shadowhunters like blades parting a field of wheat, driving toward the center of the Hall. They seemed a murderous blur, but Emma’s vision sharpened suddenly as one of them moved out of the crowd, directly toward the Blackthorns.
It was Julian’s father.
His time as a servant of Sebastian’s had not been good to him. His skin looked dull and gray, his face welted with bloody cuts, but he was striding forward purposefully, his eyes on his children.
Emma froze. Julian, beside her, had caught sight of his father; he seemed mesmerized, as if by a snake. He had seen his father forced to drink from the Internal Cup, Emma realized, but he hadn’t seen him after, hadn’t seen him raise a blade to his own son, or laugh about the idea of his son’s death, or force Katerina to her knees to be tortured and Turned. . . .
“Jules,” she said. “Jules, that isn’t your father—”
His eyes widened. “Emma, look out—”
She whirled, and screamed. A faerie warrior was looming above her, decked in silver armor; his hair was not hair at all, but a ropy tangle of thorned branches. Half his face was burned and bubbling where he must have been sprayed with iron powder or rock salt. One of his eyes was rolling, white and blinded, but the other fixed on Emma with murderous intent. Emma saw Diana Wrayburn, her dark hair whirling as she spun toward them, her mouth open to cry a warning. Diana moved toward Emma and the faerie, but there was no way she was going to make it in time. The faerie raised his bronze sword with a savage snarl—
Emma lunged forward, sinking Cortana into his chest.
His blood was like green water. It sprayed out over her hand as she let go of her sword in shock; he fell like a tree, striking the marble floor of the Hall with a heavy clang. She sprang forward, reaching for the hilt of Cortana, and heard Julian cry out:
She whipped around. Amid the chaos of the Hall, she could see the small space in which the Blackthorns stood. Andrew Blackthorn stopped in front of his children, an odd little smile on his face, and reached out a hand.
And Ty—Ty, of all of them, the least trusting, the least sentimental—was moving forward, his eyes fixed on his father, his own hand outstretched. “Dad?” he said.
“Ty?” Livia reached for her twin, but her hand closed on air. “Ty, don’t—”
“Don’t listen to her,” said Andrew Blackthorn, and if there had been any doubt that he was no longer the man who had been Julian’s father, it was gone when Emma heard his voice. There was no kindness in it, only ice, and the savage edge of a cruel glee. “Come here, my boy, my Tiberius . . .”
Ty took another step forward, and Julian pulled the shortsword from his belt and threw it. It sang through the air, straight and true, and Emma remembered, with a bizarre clarity, that last day in the Institute, and Katerina showing them how to throw a blade as direct and graceful as a line of poetry. How to throw a blade so that it never missed its mark.
The blade whipped past Tiberius and sank into Andrew Blackthorn’s chest. The man’s eyes flew open in shock, his gray hand fumbling for the hilt protruding from his rib cage—and then he fell, crumpling to the ground. His blood smeared across the marble floor as Tiberius gave a cry, whirling to lash out at his brother, pounding his fists against Julian’s chest.
“No,” Ty panted. “Why did you do that, Jules? I hate you, I hate you—”
Julian hardly seemed to feel it. He was staring at the place where his father had fallen; the other Endarkened were already moving forward, trampling the body of their fallen comrade. Diana Wrayburn stood a distance away: She had begun to move toward the children and then stopped, her eyes full of sorrow.
Hands came up and caught at the back of Tiberius’s shirt, pulling him away from Julian. It was Livvy, her face set. “Ty.” Her arms went around her twin, pinning his fists to his sides. “Tiberius, stop it right now.” Ty stopped, and sagged against his sister; slight as she was, she supported his weight. “Ty,” she said again, softly. “He had to. Don’t you understand? He had to.”
Julian stepped back, his face as white as paper, stepped back and back until he hit one of the stone pillars and slid down it, crumpling, his shoulders shaking with silent gasps.
My sister. My queen.
Clary sat rigid on the ivory and gold throne. She felt like a child in an adult’s chair: the thing had been built for someone massive, and her feet dangled above the top step. Her hands gripped the arms of the throne, but her fingers didn’t come close to reaching the carved handrests—though, since each was shaped like a skull, she had no desire to touch them anyway.
Sebastian was pacing inside his protective circle of runes; every once in a while he would pause to look up at her and smile the sort of uninhibited, gleeful smile she associated with the Sebastian from her vision, the boy with guiltless green eyes. He drew a long, sharp dagger from his belt as she watched, and ran the blade along the inside of his palm. His head fell back, his eyes half-closing as he stretched his hand out; blood ran down his fingers and splattered onto the runes.
Each began to glow with a dawning spark as the blood struck it. Clary pressed herself against the solid back of the throne. The runes were not Gray Book runes; they were alien and strange.
The door to the room opened, and Amatis strode in, followed by two moving lines of Endarkened warriors. Their faces were blank as they silently ranged themselves along the walls of the room, but Amatis looked worried. Her gaze skipped past Jace, motionless on the floor beside the body of the dead demon, to focus on her master. “Lord Sebastian,” she said. “Your mother is not in her cell.”
Sebastian frowned and tightened his bleeding hand into a fist. All around him the runes were burning fiercely now, with a cold ice-blue flame. “Vexing,” he said. “The others must have let her out.”
Clary felt a surge of hope mixed with terror; she forced herself to remain silent, but saw Amatis’s eyes flick toward her. She didn’t seem surprised to see Clary on the throne: on the contrary, her lips curved into a smirk. “Would you like me to set the rest of the army to searching for them?” she said to Sebastian.
“There’s no need.” He glanced up toward Clary and smiled; there was a sudden explosive shattering sound, and the window behind her, the one that had looked out on Alicante, splintered into a spiderweb of mazed lines. “The borders are closing,” Sebastian said. “I will bring them to me.”
“The walls are closing in,” Magnus said.
Alec tried to pull Magnus farther upright; the warlock slumped heavily against him, his head almost on Alec’s shoulder. Alec had absolutely no idea where they were going—he had lost track of the twisting corridors what felt like ages ago, but he had no desire to communicate that to Magnus. Magnus seemed to be doing badly enough as it was—his breathing ragged and shallow, his heartbeat rapid. And now this.
“Everything’s fine,” Alec soothed, his arm sliding around Magnus’s waist. “We just have to make it to—”
“Alec,” Magnus said again, his voice surprisingly firm. “I am not hallucinating. The walls are moving.”
Alec stared—and felt a flutter of panic. The corridor was heavy with dusty air; the walls seemed to shimmer and tremble. The floor warped as the walls began to slide toward each other, the corridor narrowing from one end like a trash compactor slamming closed. Magnus slipped and hit one of the buckling walls with a hiss of pain. Panicked, Alec seized his arm and pulled Magnus toward him.
“Sebastian,” Magnus gasped as Alec began to drag him down the hall, away from the collapsing stone. “He’s doing this.”
Alec managed an incredulous look. “How would that even be possible? He doesn’t control everything!”
“He could—if he sealed the borders between the dimensions.” Magnus took a rattling breath as he pushed himself into a run. “He could control this whole world.”
Isabelle shrieked as the ground opened up behind her; she threw herself forward just in time to avoid toppling into the chasm that was splitting the corridor apart. “Isabelle!” Simon shouted, and reached to catch her by the shoulders.
He forgot, sometimes, the strength that his vampire blood flooded through his body. He wrenched Isabelle up with such force that they both toppled backward and Izzy landed on top of him. Under other circumstances, he might have enjoyed it, but not with the stone keep shuddering itself apart around them.
Isabelle sprang to her feet, pulling him up after. They had lost Luke and Jocelyn back in one of the other corridors as a wall had split apart, shedding mortarless rocks like scales. Everything since then had been a mad dash, dodging splintering wood and falling stones, and now chasms opening up in the ground. Simon was fighting despair—he couldn’t help but feel that this was the end; the fortress would fall apart around them, and they would die and be buried here.
“Don’t,” Isabelle said, breathless. Her dark hair was full of dust, her face bloody where flying rock had cut her skin.
“Don’t what?” The ground heaved, and Simon half-ducked, half-fell forward into another corridor. He couldn’t rid himself of the thought that somehow the fortress was herding them. There seemed a purpose to its dissolution, as if it were directing them somehow. . . .
“Don’t give up,” she gasped, flinging herself against a set of doors as the corridor behind them began to crumble; the doors swung open, and she and Simon tumbled into the next room.
Isabelle sucked in a gasp, quickly cut off as the doors slammed behind them, shutting away the explosive noise of the keep. For a moment Simon simply thanked God that the ground under his feet was steady and the walls weren’t moving.
Then he registered where he was, and his relief vanished. They were in an enormous room, semicircular in shape, with a raised platform at the curved end half cast in shadow. The walls were lined with Endarkened warriors in red gear, like a row of scarlet teeth.
The room stank like pitch and fire, sulfur and the unmistakable taint of demon blood. The body of a bloated demon lay sprawled against one wall, and near it was another body. Simon felt his mouth go dry. Jace.
Within a circle of glowing runes etched on the floor stood Sebastian. He grinned as Isabelle gave a cry, ran to Jace, and dropped down by his side. She put her fingers to his throat; Simon saw her shoulders relax.
“He’s alive,” Sebastian said, sounding bored. “Queen’s orders.”
Isabelle looked up. Some of the strands of her dark hair were stuck to her face with blood. She looked fierce, and beautiful. “The Seelie Queen? When has she ever cared about Jace?”
Sebastian laughed. He seemed to be in an enormously good mood. “Not the Seelie Queen,” he said. “The queen of this realm. You may know her.”
With a flourish he gestured toward the platform at the far end of the room, and Simon felt his unbeating heart contract. He had barely glanced at the dais when he had come into the room. He saw now that on it were two thrones, of ivory bone and melted gold, and on the right-hand throne sat Clary.
Her red hair was incredibly vivid against the white and gold, like a banner of fire. Her face was pale and still, expressionless.
Simon took an involuntary step forward—and was immediately blocked by a dozen Endarkened warriors, Amatis at their center. She carried a massive spear and wore an expression of frightening venom. “Stop where you are, vampire,” she said. “You will not approach the lady of this realm.”
Simon staggered back; he could see Isabelle staring incredulously from Clary, to Sebastian, to him. “Clary!” he called; she didn’t flinch or move, but Sebastian’s face darkened like a thunderstorm.
“You will not say my sister’s name,” he hissed. “You thought she belonged to you; she belongs to me now, and I will not share.”
“You’re insane,” Simon said.
“And you’re dead,” Sebastian said. “Does any of it matter now?” His eyes raked up and down Simon. “Dear sister,” he said, pitching his voice loudly enough for the whole room to hear it. “Are you absolutely sure you want to keep this one intact?”
Before she could answer, the entryway to the room burst open and Magnus and Alec spilled in, followed by Luke and Jocelyn. The doors slammed behind them, and Sebastian clapped his hands together. One hand was bloody, and a drop of blood fell at his feet, and sizzled where it hit the glowing runes, like water sizzling on a hot skillet.
“Now everyone’s here,” he declared, his voice delighted. “It’s a party!”