Authors: Cassandra Clare
“But you said you were invited.” Lucie was not inclined to drop the comment. “How could that be, if no one can see you, though why that should beâ”
“All the Blackthorns were invited,” he said. “The invitation was addressed to Tatiana Blackthorn and Family. I am family. I am Jesse Blackthorn.”
“But he's dead,” Lucie said, without thinking. She met his gaze with her own. “So you're a ghost?”
“Well,” he said. “Yes.”
“That's why you said âeven your father,'â” said Lucie. “Because he can see ghosts. All the Herondales can. My brother, my fatherâthey should be able to see you too.”
“I am no ordinary ghost, and if you can see me, you are no ordinary girl,” said Jesse. Now that he'd told her who he was, the resemblance was unmistakable. He had Tatiana's height, and Gabriel's handsome, angular features. Though the crow-dark hair must have come from his father. Blackthorn blood and Lightwood blood, blended.
“But I can touch you,” said Lucie. “I touched you in the forest. You lifted me out of the pit. One cannot touch a ghost.”
He shrugged. “Think of me as on the threshold of a door. I am unable to take a step outside the door, and I know I can never be allowed back in, to live again. But the door has not closed behind me.”
“Your mother and your sisterâcan they see you?”
He perched on the billiard table with a sigh, as if resigning himself to settling into a long conversation. Lucie could not believe it.
To see her forest changeling again, and then to find out he was not a changeling but an odd kind of ghost no one else could see. It was quite a lot to be getting on with.
“They can see me,” he said. “Perhaps because they were there when I died. My mother worried I would vanish on them when we moved to Chiswick House, but that doesn't seem to have happened.”
“You could have told me your name.”
“You were a little girl. I believed you wouldn't always be able to see me. I thought it would be kinder not to tell you who I was, when our families are enemies.” Jesse spoke as if the enmity was a fact, as though there were a bloodstained feud between the Blackthorns and the Herondales as there was between the Montagues and Capulets. But it was Tatiana Blackthorn who hated them: they had never hated her.
“Why did you drag me out of the ballroom?” Lucie demanded.
“No one else can see me save my family. I don't understand how
can; it's never happened before. I didn't want everyone to think you were mad. And besidesâ¦”
Jesse jerked upright. A shadow passed over his face, and Lucie felt a chill at her very bones; for a moment his eyes seemed too large for his face, too liquid, all the wrong shape. She thought she could see darkness in them, and the form of something moving. He turned his eerie gaze on her. “Stay in this room,” he said, grasping her wrist below the bell of her sleeve. She gasped; his hands were ice-cold.
“There is death here,” he said, and vanished.
The gray world surrounded James. He had forgotten the cold that came when the shadows rose up. Forgotten the way he could still see the real world, as if through a thin scrim of dust: the ballroom was all around him, but it had turned to black and white like a
photograph. The Nephilim on the dance floor had become shadows, stretched and elongated like figures from a nightmare.
He staggered back a step as trees seemed to explode up through the ground, sending roots twining along the polished wood floor. He knew enough not to scream: there was no one to hear him. He was alone in a world that was not real. Scorched earth and sky flickered in and out of his vision, even as the shadow figures twirled around him, unheeding. He recognized a face, a gesture here and thereâhe thought he saw Cordelia's bright hair, Ariadne Bridgestock in her wine-colored dress, his cousin Barbara as she reached up toward her dancing partnerâjust as a curling tendril of root wound its way around her ankle and drew her down.
Lightning seemed to fork behind his vision, and suddenly he was back in the ordinary ballroom, the world teeming with sound and light. There was a firm grip on his shoulders. “Jamie, Jamie, Jamie,” said an urgent voice, and Jamesâhis heart trying to beat its way out of his chestâtried to focus on what was in front of him.
Matthew. Behind him were other Shadowhunters: James could hear their laughter and chatter, like the background dialogue of characters in a play.
“Jamie, breathe,” Matthew said, and his voice was the only steady thing in a world turning upside down. The horror of this happening in front of a crowd of peopleâ
“Did they see me?” James breathed. “Did they see me turn?”
“You didn't,” Matthew said, “or at least, only a very little bitâperhaps just a bit fuzzy round the edgesâ”
“It's not funny,” James said through his teeth, but Matthew's humor acted like a slap of cold water. His heart was starting to slow down. “You meanâI didn't turn into a shadow?”
Matthew shook his head, letting his hands slide from James's shoulders. “No.”
“Then how did you know to come to me?”
“I felt it,” Matthew said. “That you had gone toâthat place.” He shuddered slightly and reached into his waistcoat, drawing out a flask monogrammed with his initials. James could smell the sharp, biting scent of whiskey as he unscrewed the top. “What happened?” Matthew asked. “I thought you were just talking to Anna.”
In the distance, James could see that Thomas and Christopher had caught sight of him with Matthew. They were both looking over with curiosity. He and Matthew must look as if they were speaking very intently, James realized. “It was your brother's fault,” he said.
“I am perfectly prepared to think everything is Charles's fault,” said Matthew, his voice steadier now. “But in this caseâ”
He broke off as a yell echoed through the room.
Cordelia couldn't understand why she was so worried about Lucie. Several withdrawing rooms had been opened up, and Lucie could have wandered off to any of those, or returned to her own bedroom. She could really be anywhere in the Institute. Matthew had told her not to worry before he'd hurried off somewhere, but Cordelia couldn't shake her sense of unease.
“For pity's sake!” someone called, interrupting her thoughts. It was a man's voice, low and baritone. “Someone come help her!”
Cordelia glanced about: everyone seemed to be looking surprised and chattering to each other. In the distance she could see a loose circle of people standing around whatever was going on. She picked up her skirts and began to push her way through the crowd.
She could feel her hair coming out of its carefully arranged curls and spilling down over her shoulders. Her mother would be furious, but
. Why didn't people
? They were Shadowhunters. What on earth were they doing standing around like sticks while someone was in distress?
She wriggled through a small knot of onlookers and there, on the floor, was a young man holding Barbara Lightwood's limp body in his arms. Oliver Hayward, Cordelia realized. Barbara's suitor. “We were dancing,” he was saying, looking bewildered, “and she just collapsedâ”
Cordelia dropped to her knees. Barbara Lightwood was ghastly white, her hair dark with sweat at her temples. She was breathing in short, erratic bursts. In times like this, all shyness deserted Cordelia: she could only think of what to do next. “She needs air,” she said. “Her corset is probably tormenting her. Has anyone a knife?”
Anna Lightwood pushed through the crowd and moved forward, kneeling down opposite Cordelia with fluid grace. “I have a dagger,” she said, drawing a sheathed blade from her waistcoat. “What needs to be done?”
“We need to cut her corset off,” Cordelia said. “She has had a shock, and she needs to breathe.”
“You might leave that to me,” said Anna. She had an extraordinary husky voice, honey and sandpaper. She reached to lift Barbara out of Oliver's lap, then ran the dagger down the back of her dress, delicately separating the fabric and then the thicker material of the corset underneath. As it sagged free of Barbara's body, Anna glanced up and said absently, “Ariâyour wrapperâ”
Ariadne Bridgestock swiftly drew her silk wrapper from her shoulders and handed it to Anna, who swaddled Barbara in it to keep her decent. Barbara was already beginning to breathe more regularly, the color in her cheeks returning. Anna looked at Cordelia over Barbara's head, a considering look in her blue eyes.
“What on earth?” Sophie Lightwood had made her way through the circle of onlookers, her husband, Gideon, just behind her. “Barbara!” She turned to Oliver, who stood nearby, looking utterly distressed. “Did she fall?”
“She just collapsed,” repeated Oliver. “We were dancing, and she faintedâ”
Barbara's eyelids fluttered. She sat up in her cousin's arms, blinking up at her mother. Her cheeks flushed bright red. “I'mâI'm all right,” she said. “I'm all right now. I had a spell, a silly dizzy spell.”
Cordelia rose to her feet as more guests joined the loose circle of bystanders surrounding Barbara. Gideon and Sophie helped their daughter to her feet, and Thomas, appearing from the crowd, offered his sister a worn-looking handkerchief. She took it with a wobbly smile and dabbed at her lip.
It came away stained with blood.
“I bit my lip,” Barbara said hastily. “I fell, and bit my lip. That's all.”
“We need a stele,” Thomas said. “James?”
Cordelia hadn't realized James was there. She turned and saw him standing just behind her.
The sight of him startled her. Years ago, he'd had the scalding fever: she was reminded of the way he'd looked then, pale and sick. “My stele,” he said roughly. “Inside my breast pocket. Barbara needs a healing rune.”
For a moment Cordelia wondered why he couldn't fetch it himself, but his hands were clenched at his sides, hard as stones. She reached out and fumbled nervously at his chest. Silk and cloth under her hand, and the beat of his heart. She seized hold of the slim, pen-shaped object in his pocket and held it out to Thomas, who took it with a look of surprised thanks. She hadn't really looked at Thomas beforeâhe had bright hazel eyes, like his mother's, framed by thick brown lashes.
Lucie had slipped between James and Cordelia and was tugging at her brother's sleeve. “Jamie. Did youâ”
He shook his head. “Not now, Luce.”
Lucie looked worried. The three of them watched in a silent group as Thomas finished the healing rune on his sister's arm, and
Barbara exclaimed again that she was just fine and had only had a dizzy spell. “I forgot to eat today,” she said to her mother, as Sophie put her arm around her. “That's all it is.”
“Nevertheless, we had better get you home,” Sophie said, glancing around. “Willâcan you have the carriage brought around?”
The crowd had begun to scatter; clearly there was nothing more of interest to see here. The Lightwood family were headed to the door, Barbara on Thomas's arm, when they paused. A pigeon-chested man with a black handlebar mustache had rushed up to Gideon and was speaking to him excitedly.
“What's the Inquisitor saying to Uncle Gideon?” Lucie asked curiously. James and Matthew only shook their heads. After a few moments, Gideon nodded and followed the manâthe Inquisitor, Cordelia supposedâto where Charles stood speaking to Grace Blackthorn. Her face was turned up to his, her eyes bright and interested. Cordelia remembered all the lessons her mother had given her in how to appear interested in conversation at social events: Grace seemed to have already absorbed them all after only being in society for a short time.
Charles turned reluctantly away from Grace and fell into discussion with Gideon Lightwood. The Inquisitor was moving through the crowd, stopping to speak to several Shadowhunters as he went. Most seemed to be about Charles's age: Cordelia guessed he was somewhere in his twenties.
“Looks like the party's over,” said Alastair, appearing out of the crowd holding a cigar. He was gesturing with it, though Cordelia knew that if he ever started puffing tobacco, Sona would murder him. “Apparently there was a Shax demon attack in Seven Dials.”
“A demon attack?” James said, with some surprise. “On mundanes?”
Alastair smirked. “Yes, you know, the sort of thing we're meant to prevent. Angelic mandate and all that.”
Matthew's face had turned to stone; Lucie was looking at him anxiously. James's eyes narrowed.
“Charles is going with Gideon Lightwood and Inquisitor Bridgestock to see what's going on,” Alastair said. “I offered to go with them, but I don't know the streets of London well enough yet. Charles will get me acquainted with the city and I will soon be a gift to any patrol.”
, a gift,” Matthew said, his eyes glittering. “Imagine.”
He walked away. Alastair watched him go with one eyebrow raised. “Moody, isn't he?” he said, to no one in particular.
“No,” said James shortly. His jaw was set, as if he was barely tolerating Alastair's presence. Cordelia thought back to the time Alastair had been at the Academy and wished she knew what had happened there.
Alastair looked as if he was about to speak again, but Sona appeared out of the crowd, arriving like a docking steamship. Her
quivered as her gaze fell upon Alastair, and then Cordelia. “Children,” she said, as Alastair hastily slid his cigar into his pocket. “I believe we should take our leave.”
Rumors of the attack were clearly spreading through the ballroom, breaking up the dance. The musicians had stopped playing, and quite a few of the girls in pastel dresses were being bundled into wrappers and gloves by anxious parents. Will and Tessa were now at the center of a crowd, bidding them good night. Nearby Charles was tucking a wrapper fondly about Ariadne's shoulders as Gideon and the Inquisitor waited for him by the doors.