Chapter 1: The Bright Web 1 THE BRIGHT WEB
And still she sits, young while the earth is old,
And, subtly of herself contemplative,
Draws men to watch the bright web she can weave,
Till heart and body and life are in its hold.
The rose and poppy are her flower; for where
Is he not found, O Lilith, whom shed scent
And soft-shed kisses and soft sleep shall snare?
—Dante Gabriel Rossetti, “Body’s Beauty”
A smoky winter fog had settled atop the city of London, reaching its pale tendrils across the streets, wreathing the buildings in dull tinsel. It cast a gray pallor over ruined trees as Lucie Herondale drove her carriage up the long, neglected drive toward Chiswick House, its roof rising from the fog like the top of a Himalayan peak above clouds.
With a kiss on the nose and a blanket over his withers, she left her horse, Balios, at the foot of the front steps and set off through the remains of the terraced garden. She passed the cracked and ruined statues of Virgil and Sophocles, now overgrown by long tendrils of vines, their limbs broken off and lying among the weeds. Other statues were partially hidden by overhanging trees and unpruned hedges, as if they were being devoured by the dense foliage.
Picking her way over a toppled rose arbor, Lucie finally reached the old brick shed in the garden. Its roof was long since gone; Lucie felt a bit as if she’d come across an abandoned shepherd’s hut on the moors. A thin finger of gray smoke was even rising from within. If this were The Beautiful Cordelia, a mad but handsome duke would come staggering across the heath, but nothing ever happened as it did in books.
All around the shed she could see small mounds of earth where over the past four months, she and Grace had buried the unsuccessful results of their experimentation—the unfortunate bodies of fallen birds or cat-slain rats and mice that they had tried over and over to bring back to life.
Nothing had worked yet. And Grace didn’t even know all of it. She remained unaware of Lucie’s power to command the dead. She did not know that Lucie had tried ordering the small bodies to come back to life, had tried reaching within them to catch at something she could draw into the world of the living. But it had never worked. Whatever part of them Lucie might have been able to command had fled with their deaths.
She had mentioned none of that to Grace.
Lucie gave a philosophic shrug and went up to the massive wooden slab of a door—she did sometimes question what the point was of having a door on a building that didn’t have any roof—and tapped a coded pattern: one two, one two.
Instantly she heard someone crossing the floor and turning the bolt, and the door swung open. Grace Blackthorn stood in the doorway, her face set and serious. Even in the foggy weather, her hair, loose around her shoulders, glinted silvery bright. “You’ve come,” she said, sounding more surprised than pleased.
“I said I would.” Lucie pushed past Grace. The shed had a single room inside with a floor of packed earth, now partly frozen.
A table had been pushed against the wall under the Blackthorn family sword, which hung from coarsely forged iron hooks. On the table a makeshift laboratory had been constructed: there were rows of alembics and glass bottles, a mortar and pestle, and dozens of test tubes. An assortment of packets and tins took up the rest of the table, some lying open, others emptied and collected in a pile.
Next to the table was a fire that had been laid directly on the ground, the source of the smoke escaping from the missing roof. The fire was unnaturally silent, emanating not from wood logs but from a mound of stones, its greenish flames licking greedily upward as though seeking to consume the iron cauldron suspended from a hook above it. The cauldron held a simmering black brew that smelled earthy and chemical at the same time.
Lucie approached a second, larger table slowly. On it rested a coffin. Through its glass lid she could see Jesse, exactly as he’d appeared when they were last together—white shirt, black hair lying soft against the nape of his neck. His eyelids were pale half-moons.
She had not confined herself to birds and bats and mice. She had tried commanding Jesse to come back to life too, though she had been able to do it only during the short periods when Grace had gone to fetch something and left her alone with Jesse’s body. She had fared even worse with that than she had with the animals. Jesse was not empty, as the animals were—she could feel something inside him: a life, a force, a soul. But whatever it was, it was anchored in the space between life and death, and she could not shift it. Even trying made her feel ill and weak, as if she were doing something wrong.
“I wasn’t sure if you were still coming,” Grace said crossly. “I’ve been waiting forever. Did you get the thorn-apple?”
Lucie reached in her pocket for the tiny packet. “It was hard to get away. And I can’t stay long. I’m meeting Cordelia tonight.”
Grace took the packet and tore it open. “Because the wedding’s tomorrow? But what’s it got to do with you?”
Lucie looked at Grace hard, but the other girl seemed genuinely not to understand. Often Grace didn’t seem to grasp why people did things if the answer was because that’s how friends behave or because that’s what you do for someone you’re fond of. “I’m Cordelia’s suggenes,” she said. “I walk her down the aisle, but I also provide help and support before the ceremony. Tonight I’m going out with her to—”
Whoosh. Grace had upended the packet into the cauldron. A flash of flame licked toward the ceiling, then a puff of smoke. It smelled of vinegar. “You don’t have to tell me. I’m sure Cordelia is not fond of me.”
“I’m not going to discuss Cordelia with you,” said Lucie, coughing a little.
“Well, I wouldn’t like me, if I were her,” said Grace. “But we don’t have to discuss anything. I didn’t ask you here for chitchat.”
She gazed down at the cauldron. Fog and smoke collided together in the little room, surrounding Grace with a nebulous halo. Lucie rubbed her own gloved hands together, her heart beating quickly as Grace began to speak: “Hic mortui vivunt. Igni ferroque, ex silentio, ex animo. Ex silentio, ex animo! Resurget!”
As Grace chanted, the concoction began to boil more rapidly, the flames beginning to hiss, rising higher and higher, reaching the cauldron. A bit of the mixture bubbled over the side of the cauldron, splattering onto the ground. Lucie instinctively jumped back as green stalks burst out of the ground, growing stems and leaves and buds as they shot up almost as high as her knees.
“It’s working!” she gasped. “It’s really working!”
A quick spasm of delight passed over Grace’s normally expressionless face. She started toward the coffin, and Jesse—
As quickly as they had sprung up, the blooms withered and dropped from the stems. It was like seeing time itself speed faster. Lucie watched helplessly as the leaves fell away, and the stalks dried and crackled and snapped under their own weight.
Grace stood frozen, staring down at the dead flowers lying in the dirt. She glanced at the coffin—but Jesse had not moved.
Of course he had not moved.
Grace’s shoulders were stiff with disappointment.
“I’ll ask Christopher for fresher samples next time,” Lucie said. “Or more powerful reagents. There has to be something we’re not getting right.”
Grace went to stand over her brother’s coffin. She placed the palm of her hand against the glass. Her lips moved, as if she were whispering something; Lucie could not tell what. “The problem isn’t the quality of the ingredients,” she said in a cold, small voice. “The problem is that we’re relying too much on science. Activators, reagents—science is woefully limited when it comes to feats like the one we are attempting.”
“How would you know?”
Grace looked at her coldly. “I know you think I’m stupid because I never had any tutoring,” she said, “but I did manage to read a few books while I was in Idris. In fact, I made it through most of the library.”
Lucie had to admit that Grace was at least partially right—she’d had no idea Grace was interested in reading, or in anything really besides torturing men and raising Jesse from the dead. “If we don’t rely on science, what are you proposing?”
“The obvious. Magic.” Grace spoke as if she were instructing a child. “Not this—this child’s play, working spells we got from a book my mother didn’t even bother to keep hidden.” She practically spat the words with contempt. “We must draw power from the only place it can be found.”
Lucie swallowed. “You mean necromancy. Taking power from death and using it to work magic on the dead.”
“Some would consider that kind of magic evil. But I call it necessary.”
“Well, I would call it evil,” Lucie said, unable to keep her frustration from her voice. Grace seemed to have come to a decision without her, which was definitely not in the spirit of their partnership. “And I don’t want to do evil things.”
Grace shook her head dismissively, as though Lucie was making a fuss over nothing. “We must speak to a necromancer about this.”
Lucie hugged her elbows. “A necromancer? Surely not. The Clave would forbid it even if we could find one.”
“And there’s a reason for that,” Grace retorted sharply, gathering up her skirts. She seemed ready to stalk out of the shed. “What we have to do is not altogether good. Not… the way most people think of good, at any rate. But you already knew that, Lucie, so you can stop pretending to be so much better than me.”
“Grace, no.” Lucie moved to block the door. “I don’t want that, and I don’t think Jesse would want that either. Could we not speak to a warlock? Someone the Clave trusts?”
“The Clave may trust them, but I do not.” Grace’s eyes burned. “I decided we should work together because Jesse seemed to like you. But you have known my brother very little time, and never when he was alive. You are hardly an expert. I am his sister, and I will bring him back—whatever I need to do, and however I need to do it. Do you understand, Lucie?” Grace took a deep breath. “It is time to decide whether you care more about the precious sanctity of your own life than you care about giving my brother back his.”
Cordelia Carstairs winced as Risa fixed the tortoiseshell comb more tightly in place. It anchored a heavy coil of dark red hair, which the lady’s maid had convinced her to put up in an elaborate style she promised was very popular.
“You needn’t go to all this trouble tonight,” Cordelia had protested. “It’s just a sledding party. My hair’s going to end up a mess no matter how many pins and combs you poke into it.”
Risa’s disapproving look had prevailed. Cordelia assumed she felt that her charge should be making an effort to look good for her fiancé. After all, Cordelia was marrying James Herondale, a catch by any standards of society, Shadowhunter or mundane—handsome, rich, well-connected, and kind.
There was no point in saying that it didn’t matter how she looked. James wouldn’t care if she showed up in an opera gown, or stark naked for that matter. But there was nothing to be gained in trying to explain that to Risa. In fact, it was much too risky to explain it to anyone.
“Dokhtare zibaye man, tou ayeneh khodet ra negah kon,” said Risa, holding up a silver hand mirror for Cordelia. My beautiful daughter, look in the glass.
“It looks lovely, Risa,” Cordelia had to admit. The pearl combs were striking against her dark ruby hair. “But how will you ever top this tomorrow?”
Risa just winked. At least someone was looking forward to the next day, Cordelia thought. Every time she thought about her wedding, she wanted to jump out of the window.
Tomorrow she would sit for the last time in this room, while her mother and Risa wove silk flowers into her long, heavy hair. Tomorrow she would have to appear as happy a bride as she was an elaborately dressed one. Tomorrow, if Cordelia was very lucky, most of her wedding guests would be distracted by her clothes. One could always hope.
Risa smacked her lightly on the shoulder. Cordelia rose obediently, taking one last deep breath before Risa tightened the laces of her corset, pushing her breasts up and straightening her spine. The nature of the corset, Cordelia thought irritably, was to make a woman aware of every minute way that her shape differed from society’s impossible ideal.
“Enough!” she protested as the whalebone stays cut into her skin. “I did hope to eat at the party, you know.”
Risa rolled her eyes. She held up a green velvet dress and Cordelia stepped into it. Risa guided the long, fitted sleeves up her arms, adjusting the frothy white lace at the cuffs and neckline. Then came the process of fastening each of the tiny buttons that ran up the back of the dress. The fit was snug; without the corset Cordelia would never have managed it. The Herondale ring, the visible sign of her engagement, gleamed on her left hand as she lifted her arm so that Risa could arrange Cortana across her back.
“I should hurry down,” Cordelia said as Risa handed her a small silk handbag and a muff to warm her hands. “James is hardly ever late.”
Risa nodded briskly, which for her was the equivalent of a warm hug goodbye.
It was true, Cordelia thought, as she rustled down the stairway. James was hardly ever late. It was the duty of a fiancé to escort a lady to parties and dinners, fetch lemonade and fans, and generally dance attendance. James had played his part to perfection. All season long he had faithfully partnered her at all sorts of eye-wateringly boring Enclave events, but outside of those occasions, she barely saw him. Sometimes he would join her and the rest of his friends for excursions that were actually enjoyable—afternoons in the Devil Tavern, tea at Anna’s—but even then he seemed distracted and preoccupied. There was little chance to talk about their future, and Cordelia wasn’t sure precisely what she’d say if there was.
Cordelia had reached the sword-and-stars-tiled entryway of the house, and at first saw no one there. She realized a moment later that her mother, Sona, stood by the front window, having drawn back one of the curtains with a narrow hand. Her other hand rested on her rounded belly.
“It is you,” Sona said. Cordelia couldn’t help noticing that the dark shadows under her mother’s eyes seemed to have deepened. “Where are you off to, again?”
“The Pouncebys’ sledding party on Parliament Hill,” Cordelia said. “They’re dreadful, really, but Alastair’s going and I thought I might as well keep my mind off tomorrow.”
Sona’s lips curved into a smile. “It’s quite normal to be nervous before a wedding, Layla joon. I was terrified the night before I married your father. I nearly escaped on a milk train to Constantinople.”
Cordelia took a short, sharp breath, and her mother’s smile faltered. Oh, dear, Cordelia thought. It had been a week since her father, Elias Carstairs, had been released from his confinement at the Basilias, the Shadowhunter hospital in Idris. He’d been there for months—much longer than they’d first expected—to cure him of his trouble with alcohol, a fact that all three other members of the Carstairs family knew but never mentioned.
They had expected him home five days ago. But there had been no word save a terse letter sent from France. No promise that he would return by the day of Cordelia’s wedding. It was a wretched situation, made more wretched by the fact that neither Cordelia’s mother nor her brother, Alastair, was willing to discuss it.
Cordelia took a deep breath. “Mâmân. I know you’re still hoping Father might arrive in time for the wedding—”
“I do not hope; I know,” Sona said. “No matter what has waylaid him, he will not miss his only daughter’s wedding.”
Cordelia almost shook her head in wonderment. How could her mother have such faith? Her father had missed so many birthdays, even Cordelia’s first rune, because of his “sickness.” It was a sickness that had gotten him arrested in the end and sent to the Basilias in Idris. He was meant to be cured now, but his absence so far was not promising.
Boots clattered down the stairs, and Alastair appeared in the entrance hall, dark hair flying. He looked handsome in a new tweed winter coat, though he was scowling.
“Alastair,” Sona said. “Are you going to this sledding party as well?”
“I wasn’t invited.”
“That isn’t true,” Cordelia said. “Alastair, I was only going to go because you were!”
“I have decided that my invitation was sadly lost in the post,” Alastair said, with a dismissive wave of his hand. “I can entertain myself, Mother. Some of us have things to do and cannot be out cavorting at all hours.”
“Honestly, the two of you,” Sona scolded, shaking her head. This seemed to Cordelia to be highly unfair. She had only corrected Alastair’s untruth.
Sona placed her hands in the small of her back and sighed. “I ought to speak to Risa about tomorrow. There’s still so much to be done.”
“You should be resting,” Alastair called, as his mother headed down the corridor toward the kitchen. The moment she was out of sight, he turned to Cordelia, his expression stormy. “Was she waiting for Father?” he demanded in a low whisper. “Still? Why must she torment herself?”
Cordelia shrugged helplessly. “She loves him.”
Alastair made an inelegant sound. “Chi! Khodah margam bedeh,” he said, which Cordelia thought was very rude.
“Love doesn’t always make sense,” she said, and at that, Alastair looked quickly away. He had not mentioned Charles in Cordelia’s presence for some months, and though he’d received letters in Charles’s careful handwriting, Cordelia had found more than one tossed unopened into the dustbin. After a moment, she added, “Still, I wish he would send word that he’s all right, at least—for Mother’s sake.”
“He’ll come back in his own time. At the worst possible moment, if I know him.”
Cordelia stroked the soft lambswool of her muff with one finger. “Do you not want him to come back, Alastair?”
Alastair’s look was opaque. He had spent years protecting Cordelia from the truth, making excuses for their father’s “bouts of illness” and frequent absences. Some months ago Cordelia had learned the emotional cost of Alastair’s interventions, the invisible scars he worked so diligently to conceal.
He seemed about to reply when outside the window, the sound of a horse’s hooves echoed, their tromping muffled by the still-falling snow. The dark shape of a carriage came to a stop by the lamppost in front of the house. Alastair twitched the curtain aside and frowned.
“That’s the Fairchilds’ carriage,” he observed. “James couldn’t be bothered to pick you up, so he sent his parabatai to do his job?”
“That is not fair,” Cordelia said sharply. “And you know it.”
Alastair hesitated. “I suppose. Herondale has been dutiful enough.”
Cordelia watched as Matthew Fairchild leaped lightly down from the carriage outside. She couldn’t stop a flash of fear—what if James had panicked and sent Matthew to break things off with her the night before the wedding?
Don’t be ridiculous, she told herself firmly. Matthew was whistling as he came up the front steps. The ground was white with snow, tramped down here and there with boot prints. Flakes had already come to rest on the shoulders of Matthew’s fur-collared greatcoat. Crystals glittered in his blond hair, and his high cheekbones were flushed with cold. He looked like an angel painted by Caravaggio and sugar-dusted with snow. Surely he wouldn’t be whistling if he had bad news to deliver?
Cordelia opened the door and found Matthew on the front step, stamping snow from his balmoral boots. “Hello, my dear,” he said to Cordelia. “I’ve come to bring you to a large hill, which we will both hurtle down on rickety, out-of-control bits of wood.”
Cordelia smiled. “Sounds marvelous. What will we do after that?”
“Unaccountably,” Matthew said, “we will climb back to the top of the hill in order to do it again. It is some kind of snow-related mania, they say.”
“Where’s James?” Alastair interrupted. “You know, the one of you that was supposed to be here.”
Matthew regarded Alastair with dislike. Cordelia felt a familiar sinking of her heart. This was how it always went now, when Alastair interacted with any of the Merry Thieves. Suddenly, a few months ago, they had all become enormously angrier at Alastair, and she had no idea why. She couldn’t bring herself to ask. “James was called away on important business.”
“What business?” said Alastair.
“No business of yours,” Matthew said, clearly pleased with himself. “Rather walked into that one, eh?”
Alastair’s black eyes glittered. “You had best not lead my sister into trouble, Fairchild,” he said. “I know the kind of company you keep.”
“Alastair, stop it,” Cordelia said. “Now, are you really skipping out on the Pouncebys’ party or were you just needling Mother? And if the latter, do you wish to accompany Matthew and myself in the carriage?”
Alastair’s gaze flicked to Matthew. “Why,” he said, “are you not even wearing a hat?”
“And cover up this hair?” Matthew indicated his golden locks with a flourish. “Would you blot out the sun?”
Alastair wore the sort of expression that indicated that no amount of eye rolling would be enough. “I,” he said, “am going for a walk.”
He stalked out into the snowy night without another word, the effect of his exit dampened by the snow swallowing up the tread of his boots.
Cordelia sighed and started down the walk with Matthew. South Kensington was a fairy tale of white houses frosted in shimmering ice, the glow of the streetlamps shrouded in halos of snow-softened mist. “I feel I am ever apologizing for Alastair. Last week he made the milkman cry.”
Matthew handed her up to the carriage seat. “Never apologize for Alastair to me. He provides me an adversary to sharpen my wits on.”
He swung himself up next to her and closed the heavy door. The silk-lined interior of the carriage was made cozy by soft cushions and velvet curtains over the windows. Cordelia sat back against the bench, the sleeve of Matthew’s greatcoat brushing her arm reassuringly.
“I feel as if I haven’t seen you in an age, Matthew,” she said, happy to change the subject. “I heard your mother was back from Idris? And Charles from Paris?” As Consul, Matthew’s mother, Charlotte, was often away from London. Her son Charles, Matthew’s brother, had taken a junior position at the Paris Institute, where he was training in politics: everyone knew Charles hoped to be the next Consul someday.
Matthew ran his fingers through his hair, dislodging ice crystals. “You know Mother—the minute she steps from her carriage she’s off and running again. And of course Charles lost no time in coming home to see her. Reminding the Paris Institute of how close he is to the Consul, how much she depends on his advice. Pontificating to Father and Martin Wentworth. When I left, he had interrupted their chess match to try to drag them into a discussion of Downworlder politics in France. Wentworth was looking a bit desperate, actually—probably hoping Christopher would cause another explosion in the lab to give him an opportunity to escape.”
Matthew grinned. “Kit almost blew off Thomas’s eyebrows with the latest experiment. He says he’s close to making gunpowder ignite even in the presence of runes, but Thomas has no eyebrows left to give to the cause of science.”
Cordelia tried to think of something to say about Thomas’s eyebrows but couldn’t. “All right,” she said, hugging her arms around herself. “I give up. Where is James? Has he taken fright and legged it for France? Is the wedding off?”
Matthew pried a silver flask from his coat and took a nip before replying. Was he buying himself time? He did look a bit worried, Cordelia thought, though anxiety and Matthew were things that rarely went together. “That’s my fault, I’m afraid,” he admitted. “Well, me and the rest of the Merry Thieves, to be fair. At the last minute, we just couldn’t let James tie the knot without throwing him a party, and it’s my job to make sure that you know nothing of the scandalous proceedings.”
Relief passed over Cordelia in a wave. James wasn’t abandoning her. Of course not. He never would. He was James.
She squared her shoulders. “Since you just told me that the proceedings will be scandalous, doesn’t that mean you’ve failed in your mission?”
“Not at all!” Matthew took another drink from the flask before replacing it in his pocket. “I’ve only told you that James is spending the eve of his wedding night with his friends. For all you know, they’re having tea and studying the history of faeries in Bavaria. I’m meant to make sure you don’t learn otherwise.”
Cordelia couldn’t help but smile. “And how do you intend to do that?”
“By escorting you to scandalous proceedings of your own, of course. You didn’t think we were really going to the Pouncebys’ party?”
Cordelia drew back the curtain of the carriage window and looked out into the night. Instead of the tree-lined streets of Kensington, shrouded in winter snow, they had arrived at the outer edge of the West End. The streets were narrow and thick with fog, and crowds of people milled about, speaking in a dozen languages, warming their hands over fires in oil drums.
“Soho?” she said curiously. “What—the Hell Ruelle?”
Matthew cocked an eyebrow. “Where else?” The Hell Ruelle was a Downworlder nightclub and salon, operating a few nights of each week in an outwardly nondescript building on Berwick Street. Cordelia had ventured there twice before, months ago. Her visits had been memorable.
She let the curtain fall and turned back to Matthew, who was watching her closely. She pretended to stifle a yawn. “Really, the Ruelle again? I’ve been there so often it might as well be a ladies’ bridge club. Surely you must know a more scandalous place?”
Matthew grinned. “Are you asking me to take you to the Inn of the Shaved Werewolf?”
Cordelia hit him with her muff. “That’s not a real place. I refuse to believe it.”
“Believe me when I say that there are few places more scandalous than the Ruelle, and none I could take you to and expect James to forgive me,” said Matthew. “Corrupting one’s parabatai’s bride is not considered sporting.”
The laughter went out of Cordelia; she suddenly felt very tired. “Oh, Matthew, you know it’s a fake wedding,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what I do. James won’t care.”
Matthew seemed to hesitate. Cordelia had broken with the masquerade, and he was clearly taken aback. He never remained speechless for long, though. “He does care,” he said, as the carriage turned onto Berwick Street. “Not, perhaps, in the way everyone imagines. But I don’t think it will be a hardship to be married to James, and it is only for a year, isn’t it?”
Cordelia closed her eyes. That was the agreement she had made with James: one year of marriage, to save both their reputations. Then she would sue for divorce. They would part amicably and remain friends.
“Yes,” she said. “Only a year.”
The carriage drew to a stop, just beneath a streetlamp whose yellow light illuminated Matthew’s face. Cordelia felt a small catch at her heart. Matthew knew as much of the truth as anyone else, even James, did, but there was something in his eyes—something that made her fear for a moment that he suspected the last piece of the puzzle, the bit she’d hidden from everyone but herself. She couldn’t bear to be pitied. She couldn’t bear it if anyone knew how desperately she loved James and wished the marriage were a real one.
Matthew pushed the door of the carriage open, revealing the pavement of Berwick Street, glossy with melted snow. He jumped out and, after a quick conversation with the driver, reached up to help Cordelia down from the carriage.
The Hell Ruelle was reached through the narrow alley of Tyler’s Court. Matthew took Cordelia’s arm and tucked it through his, and together they made their way through the shadows. “It occurs to me,” he said, “that while we may know the truth, the rest of the Enclave doesn’t. Remember what pests they were when you first came to London—and now, as far as that smug bunch is concerned, you’re marrying one of the most eligible bachelors in the country. Look at Rosamund Wentworth. She’s gone and gotten herself engaged to Thoby Baybrook just to prove you’re not the only one getting married.”
“Really?” Cordelia was highly entertained; it had never occurred to her she had anything to do with Rosamund’s sudden announcement. “But I assume that marriage is a love match.”
“The timing raises questions, is all I’m saying.” Matthew waved a hand airily. “My only point is, you may as well rejoice in being the envy of all London. Everyone who was snide to you when you first arrived—everyone who shorted you because of your father, or muttered rumors—they’ll be eating their hearts out with envy, wishing they were you. Enjoy it.”
Cordelia chuckled. “You always do find the most decadent possible solution to any problem.”
“I believe that decadence is a valuable perspective that should always be considered.” They had reached the entrance of the Hell Ruelle and passed through a private door into a narrow hallway lined with heavy tapestries. The corridor was seemingly done up for Christmas (though the holiday itself was weeks away); the tapestries were adorned with green boughs wound with white roses and red poppies.
They found their way through a labyrinth of small salons to the octagonal main room of the Ruelle. It had been transformed; shimmering trees, their bare boughs and trunks painted white, stood at intervals, festooned with dark green wreaths and dangling red glass globes. A glimmering mural portrayed a forest scene: a glacier edged by a grove of snowcapped pines, owls peeking out from the shadows between the trees. A black-haired woman with the body of a serpent coiled around a lightning-struck tree; her scales gleamed with gold paint. At the front of the room, Malcolm Fade, the purple-eyed High Warlock of London, seemed to be leading a group of faeries in an intricate dance.
The floor was piled with heaps of what looked like snow, but on closer examination was delicately cut white paper, kicked up in drifts by dancing Downworlders. Not everyone was dancing, of course: many of the salon’s guests were crowded at small circular tables, their hands wrapped around copper mugs of mulled wine. Nearby, a werewolf and a faerie sat together, arguing about Irish home rule. Cordelia had always marveled at the mix of Downworlders that attended the Hell Ruelle; enmities out in the world between vampires and werewolves, or between different faerie courts, seemed to be suspended for the sake of art and poetry. She could understand why Matthew liked it so much.
“Well, well, my favorite Shadowhunter,” drawled a familiar voice. Turning, Cordelia recognized Claude Kellington, a young werewolf musician who oversaw the entertainment at the Ruelle. He was seated at a table with a faerie woman with long, blue-green hair; she stared curiously at Cordelia. “I see you brought Fairchild,” Kellington added. “Convince him to be more entertaining, will you? He never dances.”
“Claude, I am crucial to your entertainments,” Matthew said. “I am that irreplaceable thing, the eager audience.”
“Well, bring me more performers like this one,” Kellington said, indicating Cordelia. “If you happen to meet any.”
Cordelia couldn’t help but recall the performance that had so impressed Kellington. She’d danced on the Ruelle’s stage, so scandalously that she’d rather shocked herself. She tried not to blush now, but rather to appear a sophisticated sort of girl prepared to dance like Salome at the drop of a hat.
She nodded at the decorated boughs. “Is Christmas celebrated at the Hell Ruelle, then?”
“Not exactly.” Cordelia turned to see Hypatia Vex, the patroness of the Hell Ruelle. Though Malcolm Fade owned the place, the guests were invited by Hypatia; anyone she disapproved of would never make it past the door. She wore a shimmering red gown, and a gilt-dipped peony was tucked into her cloud of dark hair. “The Ruelle does not celebrate Christmas. Its attendees may do what they like in their own homes, of course, but in December the Ruelle pays homage rather to its patron with the Festum Lamia.”
“Its patron? You mean… you?” said Cordelia.
There was a hint of amusement in Hypatia’s distinctive eyes with their star-shaped pupils. “Its cosmic patron. Our ancestor, called by some the mother of warlocks, by others the Mother of Demons.”
“Ah,” said Matthew. “Lilith. Now that you point it out, you do have rather a lot more owls in the decor than usual.”
“The owl is one of her symbols,” said Hypatia, gliding a hand along the back of Kellington’s chair. “In the first days of the Earth, God made for Adam a wife. Her name was Lilith, and she would not be subservient to Adam’s wishes, so she was cast from the Garden of Eden. She mated with the demon Sammael, and with him had many demon children, whose offspring were the first warlocks. This angered Heaven, and three vengeful angels—Sanvi, Sansanvi, and Semangelaf—were sent to punish Lilith. She was made barren by the angels, banished to the realm of Edom, a wasteland of night creatures and screech owls, where she resides still. But she stretches out her hand sometimes to assist warlocks who are faithful to her cause.”
Most of the story was familiar to Cordelia, though in the legends of Shadowhunters, the three angels were heroes and protectors. Eight days after a Shadowhunter child was born, a ritual was performed: the names Sanvi, Sansanvi, and Semangelaf, chanted as spells, were placed upon the child by both the Silent Brothers and the Iron Sisters. It was a way of locking the soul of the child, Sona had explained to Cordelia once, making them a closed door to any kind of demonic possession or influence.
Probably best not to mention that now, she thought. “Matthew did promise me scandal,” she said, “but I suspect the Clave frowns on Shadowhunters attending birthday parties for well-known demons.”
“It isn’t her birthday,” said Hypatia. “Merely a day of celebration. We believe it to be the time she left the Garden of Eden.”
“The red baubles hanging from the trees,” Cordelia said, realizing. “They’re apples. Forbidden fruit.”
“The Hell Ruelle delights,” said Hypatia, smiling, “at the consumption of that which is forbidden. We believe it is more delicious for being taboo.”
Matthew shrugged. “I can’t see why the Clave would mind. I don’t believe we need to celebrate Lilith, or anything like that. It’s really just decorations.”
Hypatia looked amused. “Of course. Nothing else. Which reminds me…”
She glanced meaningfully at Kellington’s faerie companion, who rose and offered Hypatia her seat. Hypatia took it without a second glance, spreading her skirts out around her. The faerie melted back into the crowd as Hypatia went on, “My Pyxis has been missing since the last night you were here, Miss Carstairs. Matthew was here too, I remember. I’m wondering if I might have inadvertently made a gift of it to you?”
Oh no. Cordelia thought of the Pyxis they had stolen months ago: it had exploded during a battle with a Mandikhor demon. She looked at Matthew. He shrugged and nicked a mug of spiced wine from the tray of a passing faerie waiter. Cordelia cleared her throat. “I believe you did, actually. I believe you wished me the best of luck for my future.”
“Not only was it a thoughtful gift,” Matthew added, “it was very helpful in saving the city of London from destruction.”
“Yes,” Cordelia agreed. “Instrumental. An absolutely necessary aid in preventing complete disaster.”
“Mr. Fairchild, you are a bad influence on Miss Carstairs. She is beginning to develop a worrying amount of cheek.” Hypatia turned to Cordelia, her starry eyes unreadable. “I must say, I’m a bit surprised to see you tonight. I would have thought a Shadowhunter bride would want to spend the evening before her nuptials sharpening her weapons, or beheading stuffed dummies.”
Cordelia began to wonder why Matthew had brought her to the Ruelle. No one wanted to spend the night before their wedding being scorned by haughty warlocks, however interestingly decorated the surroundings. “I am no ordinary Shadowhunter bride,” she said shortly.
Hypatia only smiled. “As you say,” she said. “I think there are a few guests here who’ve been expecting you.”
Cordelia glanced across the room and saw, to her surprise, two familiar figures sitting at a table. Anna Lightwood, gorgeous as always in a fitted frock coat and blue spats, and Lucie Herondale, looking neat and pretty in an ivory dress with blue beading and waving energetically.
“Did you invite them?” she said to Matthew, who had turned up his flask again. He tipped it into his mouth, grimaced at finding it empty, and tucked it back into his pocket. His eyes were glitter-bright.
“I did,” he said. “I can’t stay—must make my way to James’s party—but I wanted to make sure you were well accompanied. They have instructions to dance and drink the night away with you. Enjoy.”
“Thank you.” Cordelia leaned in to kiss Matthew on the cheek—he smelled of cloves and brandy—but he turned his face at the last moment, and her kiss brushed his lips. She drew away quickly and saw Kellington and Hypatia both watching her with sharp eyes.
“Before you go, Fairchild, I see your flask is empty,” said Kellington. “Come with me to the bar; I’ll have it refilled with anything you like.”
He was looking at Matthew with a curious expression—a bit the way Cordelia recalled Kellington looking at her, after her dance. A hungry sort of look.
“I’ve never been one to turn down the offer of ‘anything you like,’?” said Matthew, allowing himself to be spirited away by Kellington. Cordelia considered calling out after him but decided against it—and anyway, Anna was gesturing at her to come join their table.
She took her leave of Hypatia and was halfway across the room when something caught her eye in the shadows: two male figures, close together. She realized with a jolt that they were Matthew and Kellington. Matthew was leaning against the wall, Kellington—the taller of the two—bending over him.
Kellington’s hand rose to cup the back of Matthew’s neck, his fingers in Matthew’s soft hair.
Cordelia saw Matthew shake his head just as more dancers joined the throng on the floor, cutting off her view; when they passed, she saw that Matthew was gone and Kellington, looking stormy, was headed back across the room toward Hypatia. She wondered why she had been so shocked—it was hardly news to her that Matthew liked men as well as women, and Matthew was single: his decisions were his own. Still, Kellington’s overall air discomfited her. She hoped Matthew would be careful—
Someone placed a hand on her arm.
She whirled to see a woman standing before her—the faerie who’d been seated with Kellington earlier. She wore a dress of emerald velvet, and around her throat was a necklace of gleaming blue stones.
“Forgive the intrusion,” she said breathlessly, as though nervous. “Are you—are you the girl who danced for us all some months ago?”
“I am,” said Cordelia warily.
“I thought I recognized you,” the faerie said. She had a pale, intent face. “I quite admired your skill. And the sword, of course. Am I correct in thinking that the blade you bear is Cortana itself?” She whispered this last part, as though just invoking the name took courage.
“Oh, no,” Cordelia said. “It’s a fake. Just a nicely made replica.”
The faerie stared at her for a moment, and then burst out laughing. “Oh, very good!” she said. “I forget sometimes that mortals joke—it is a sort of lie, isn’t it, yet meant to be funny? But any true faerie would know the work of Wayland the Smith.” She gazed at the sword in admiration. “If I may say so, Wayland is the greatest living metalworker of the British Isles.”
That brought Cordelia up short. “Living?” she echoed. “Are you saying that Wayland the Smith is still alive?”
“Why, of course!” said the faerie, clapping her hands, and Cordelia wondered whether she was about to reveal that Wayland the Smith was in fact the rather drunk goblin in the corner with the lampshade on his head. But she only said, “Nothing that he has made has passed into human hands in many centuries, but it is said he still operates his forge, under a barrow in the Berkshire Downs.”
“Indeed,” Cordelia said, trying to catch Anna’s eye in hope of rescue. “How very interesting.”
“If you had any thought of meeting Cortana’s maker, I could take you. Past the great white horse and under the hill. For only a coin and a promise of—”
“No,” Cordelia said firmly. She might be as naive as the Ruelle’s clientele assumed her to be, but even she knew the right response to a faerie trying to make a deal: walk away. “Enjoy the party,” she added, “but I must go.”
As she turned away, the woman said, in a low voice, “You need not marry a man who does not love you, you know.”
Cordelia froze. She glanced back over her shoulder; the faerie was looking at her with all the dreaminess gone from her expression. It was pinched, sharp and watchful now.
“There are other paths,” the woman said. “I could help.”
Cordelia schooled her face to blankness. “My friends are waiting for me,” she said, and walked away, her heart hammering. She sank into a chair opposite Anna and Lucie. They greeted her with cheers, but her mind was miles away.
A man who does not love you. How could that faerie know?
“Daisy!” Anna said. “Do pay attention. We’re fussing over you.” She was drinking from a tapered flute of pale champagne, and with a wave of her fingers a second one appeared, which she handed to Cordelia.
“Hurrah!” Lucie cried in delight, before returning to ignoring her cider and her friends completely, alternating instead between scribbling furiously in a notebook and staring into the middle distance.
“Did the light of inspiration hit you, pet?” Cordelia asked. Her heart was beginning to slow down. The faerie had been full of nonsense, she told herself firmly. She must have heard Hypatia talking to Cordelia about her wedding and decided to play upon the insecurities of any bride. Who didn’t worry that the man they were going to marry might not love them? In Cordelia’s case it might be true, but anyone would fear it, and faeries preyed upon the fears of mortals. It meant nothing—just an effort to get from Cordelia what she had asked for before: a coin and a promise.
Lucie waved an ink-stained hand to get her attention. “There is so much material here,” she said. “Did you see Malcolm Fade over there? I adore his coat. Oh, I’ve decided that rather than being a dashing naval officer, Lord Kincaid should be an artist whose work was banned in London, so he fled to Paris, where he makes the beautiful Cordelia his muse and is welcomed into all the best salons—”
“What happened to the Duke of Blankshire?” said Cordelia. “I thought fictional Cordelia was about to become a duchess.”
“He died,” said Lucie, licking some ink off her finger. Around her neck, a gilded chain gleamed. She had been wearing the same plain gold locket for several months now; when Cordelia had asked her about it, Lucie had said it was an old family heirloom meant to be good luck. Cordelia could still remember its presence, a gold flash in the darkness, the night James had nearly died from demon poison in Highgate Cemetary. She did not recall having seen Lucie wear the necklace before that time. She could have pressed Lucie on it, she supposed, but she knew she kept her own secrets from her future parabatai—she could hardly demand to know all of Lucie’s, especially about a matter as small as a locket.
“This sounds like quite a tragic novel,” said Anna, admiring the way her champagne reflected the light.
“Oh, it’s not,” said Lucie. “I didn’t want fictional Cordelia to be tied to only one man. I wanted her to have adventures.”
“Not quite the sentiment one might hope for on the eve of a wedding,” said Anna, “but I applaud it nonetheless. Though one hopes that you will continue having adventures even after being married, Daisy.” Her blue eyes sparkled as she lifted her glass in a toast.
Lucie hoisted her mug. “To the end of freedom! To the beginning of a joyous captivity!”
“Nonsense,” Anna said. “A woman’s wedding is the beginning of her liberation, Lucie.”
“And how is that?” asked Cordelia.
“An unmarried lady,” said Anna, “is perceived by society as being in a temporary state of not being married, and in hopes of becoming married at any moment. A married woman, on the other hand, can flirt with whomever she wants, without damaging her reputation. She can travel freely. To and from my flat, for instance.”
Lucie’s eyes widened. “Are you saying that some of your love affairs have been with ladies who are already married?”
“I am saying it is the case more often than not,” Anna said. “It is simply the case that a married woman is in a freer position to do as she pleases. A single young lady can hardly leave the house unaccompanied. A married lady can shop, go to lectures, meet friends—she has a dozen excuses for being away from home while wearing a flattering hat.”
Cordelia giggled. Anna and Lucie were always able to cheer her up. “And you do like a lady in a flattering hat.”
Anna raised a thoughtful finger. “A lady who can choose a hat that truly suits her is very likely to have paid attention to every layer of her ensemble.”
“What a wise observation,” said Lucie. “Do you mind if I put it in my novel? It’s just the sort of thing Lord Kincaid would say.”
“Do as you like, magpie,” said Anna, “you’ve stolen half my best lines already.” Her gaze flicked about the room. “Did you see Matthew with Kellington? I hope that doesn’t start up again.”
“What happened with Kellington?” Lucie inquired.
“He rather broke Matthew’s heart, a year or so back,” said Anna. “Matthew has a habit of getting his heart broken. He seems to prefer a hopeless love.”
“Does he?” Lucie was scribbling in her book again. “Oh, dear.”
“Greetings, lovely ladies,” said a tall young man with dead-white skin and curling brown hair, appearing at their table as if by magic. “Which of you dazzling beauties yearns to dance with me first?”
Lucie leaped up. “I shall dance with you,” she said. “You’re a vampire, aren’t you?”
“Capital. We shall dance, and you will tell me all about vampirism. Do you stalk beautiful ladies through the streets of the city in the hopes of snatching a sip of their genteel blood? Do you weep because your soul is damned?”
The young man’s dark eyes darted around worriedly. “I really only wanted to waltz,” he said, but Lucie had already seized him and dragged him out onto the floor. Music rose up in a surge, and Cordelia clinked glasses with Anna, both of them laughing.
“Poor Edwin,” Anna said, looking out at the dancers. “He has a nervous disposition at the best of times. Now, Cordelia, pray tell me every detail of the wedding plans, and I will get us some fresh champagne.”