Learn About Loss
On the morning of October 23, 1936, the inhabitants of Chattanooga, Tennessee, woke up to discover posters tacked up on the sides of buildings on every street. FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY, the posters declared, MAGIC & MUSIC & MOST MYSTERIOUS MERCHANTS’ BAZAAR. PAY ONLY WHAT YOU CAN AFFORD & ENTER FAIRYLAND. SEE WHAT YOU MOST DESIRE. ALL WELCOME.
Some men and women passed these posters, shaking their heads. It was the height of the Great Depression, and even if the President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was promising more work on projects like the tunnel and trails and campgrounds underway in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, jobs were scarce and times were hard and most people didn’t have money to spare on fripperies or fun. And who wanted to travel all the way up Lookout Mountain only to be turned away because what you could afford was nothing? Besides, no one ever gave you something for nothing.
But plenty of other Chattanoogans saw the posters and thought that maybe better times really were just around the corner. There was a New Deal, and maybe there would be new fun too. And there was not a single child who caught sight of the posters and didn’t yearn with their entire heart for what the posters promised. The sixth of October was a Friday. On Saturday, at least half the city of Chattanooga lit out for the carnival. Some of them packed bedrolls or tarps to sleep under. If there was music and festivity, maybe they would stay longer than a day. The churches of Chattanooga were poorly attended on Sunday morning. But the carnival in the Fairyland neighborhood of Lookout Mountain was busier than a beehive.
Up on top of Lookout Mountain, a local boy named Garnet Carter had quite recently established the community of Fairyland, which included Tom Thumb Golf, the first miniature golf course in the United States. There was the eerie natural landscape of Rock City, where his wife, Freida Carter, had laid out paths between towering, mossy rock formations, planting wildflowers and importing German statuary so that the trails were watched over by gnomes and characters from fairytale stories like Little Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs.
Rich people came on holidays and rode the funicular, which also happened to be the world’s steepest passenger railway, the mile up from Chattanooga to the Lookout Mountain Hotel. The hotel was also known as the Castle Above the Clouds, and if all the rooms were taken, well, there was also the Fairyland Inn. For the wealthy, there was golf and ballroom dancing and hunting. For the civic minded, there was the site of the Battle Among the Clouds, where the Union Army had, in living memory, driven off at great cost the Confederates. You could still find minié bullets and other traces of the dead all down the slopes of the mountain, along with flint arrowheads used by Cherokee. But the Cherokee had all been driven off, and the Civil War was over too. There had been a greater war in recent memory, and many a family in Chattanooga had lost sons or fathers to it. Human beings did terrible things to each other, and the traces of those terrible things were everywhere if you looked.
If your taste ran more to corn whiskey than history, well, there were plenty of moonshine stills up on Lookout Mountain too. And who knew what other illegal or immoral delights might be found at a Mysterious Merchants’ Bazaar?
There were men and women of money and taste at the carnival on that first Saturday, rubbing alongside the thin-faced children and wives of farmers. The rides were free to all. There were games with prizes, and a petting zoo with a three-headed dog and a winged snake so large that it was able to swallow a full-grown steer each day at noon. There were strolling fiddle players who drew such melancholy and lovely songs out on their instruments that tears came to the eyes of all who heard them. There was a woman who said that she could speak with the dead, and asked no coin. There was a magician, too, Roland the Astonishing, who grew a dogwood tree from a seed on his stage and then caused it to flower, drop its leaves, and grow bare again as if all the seasons were passing in the blink of an eye. He was a handsome man in his sixties, with bright blue eyes, a luxuriant white moustache, and snowy white hair with a black streak running through it as if some devil had touched it with a sooty hand.
There were delicious things to eat at such a negligible cost, or freely given as samples, that every child ate himself or herself sick. As promised, the Bazaar was full of remarkable objects on display, tended by even more remarkable people. Some of the customers, too, drew curious glances. Were there people in faraway lands who had curly tails or flames in their pupils? One of the most popular stalls had on offer a local product: a clear, potent liquor rumored to give dreams of a moonlit forest full of running wolves to those who drank it. The men at that booth were taciturn and did not smile often. But when they did, their teeth were unsettlingly white. They lived up in the mountains and mostly kept to themselves, but here at the Bazaar they seemed quite at home.
One tent was staffed by nurses so very lovely it wasn’t a chore at all to let them draw your blood. They took a cup or two, “for research purposes,” they said. And to those who donated, they gave away tokens that could be used elsewhere in the bazaar, just like money.
Just beyond the tents of the Bazaar was a sign that led to the Maze of Mirrors. It said SEE FOR YOURSELF. THE TRUE WORLD AND THE FALSE LIE NEXT DOOR TO ONE ANOTHER. Those who went through the Maze of Mirrors came out looking a little dazed. Some of them had found their way to the very center, in which they had been made an offer by an entity that each described differently. To some, the person in the room had appeared as a small child, or an old woman in an elegant gown, or even in the shape of a loved one long dead. The person in the room had a mask, and if you confessed a thing that you desired, the mask was put upon you and, well, you should really go and see for yourself. If, that is, you could find your way through the maze and to the place where that person and the mask were waiting.
By the end of the first weekend, most of Chattanooga had come up to see for themselves the strange charms of the carnival. And many came back to the carnival on the second weekend, although by then rumors were beginning to spread of troubling behavior exhibited by some who had returned. A woman claimed that the man she was married to was an impostor who had killed her real husband: this claim would have been easier to dismiss if a body had not been discovered in the river, in all ways a double of the man she was married to. A young man stood up in church and said that he saw and knew the secrets of all the congregation by looking at them. When he began to say these secrets out loud, the pastor tried to shout him down until the man began to declaim the things he knew about the pastor. At this, the pastor fell silent, then left his church and went home and slit his throat.
Another man won again and again at a weekly game of poker, until, drunk, he confessed, sounding astonished, that he could see the cards every man there held as if they were his very own hand. He proved this by calling out each card in order, and after that was beaten soundly and left unconscious and bloody in the street by men who had been his friends since childhood.
A boy of seventeen, newly engaged to be married, came home from the carnival and that night woke up everyone in his household screaming. He had put out his own eyes with two hot coals, but refused to say why. In fact, he never spoke again, and his poor fiancée at last broke off the engagement and went to live with an aunt in Baltimore.
A beautiful girl turned up at the Fairyland Inn at dusk one evening, claiming that she was Mrs. Dalgrey, when the staff of the inn knew very well Mrs. Dalgrey was a bucket-faced dowager in her late seventies. She stayed at the Inn every fall, and never tipped anyone no matter how good the service.
Other terrible incidents were reported in the neighborhoods of Chattanooga, and by the middle of the week after the carnival had put up its signs, word of these happenings had made its way to those whose business it was to prevent the human world from being troubled and tormented by the malicious whims of Downworlders and demons.
It is only to be expected that some amount of trouble will arrive with a carnival. Pleasure and trouble are brother and sister to each other. But there were indications that this particular carnival was more than it seemed. For one thing, the Bazaar of the Bizarre was not just trinkets and gaudy junk. The Bazaar was a full-on Shadow Market where there had never been one before, and humans were strolling its aisles and freely handling its wares. And there were indications, too, that there was an artifact made out of adamas in the hands of one who should not have had it. For this reason, on Thursday the twenty-ninth of October, a portal opened at Lookout Point, and two individuals who had only just met stepped through it unnoticed by any of the human sightseers gathered there.
One was a young woman not yet fully invested as an Iron Sister, although already her hands showed the scars and calluses of one who worked adamas. Her name was Emilia, and this was the last task her Sisters had set her before she joined their company: to recover the adamas and bring it back to the Adamant Citadel. She had a smiling, watchful face, as if she liked the world but did not quite trust that it would be on its best behavior.
Her companion was a Silent Brother who bore the runic marks on his face, although neither his eyes nor his mouth had been sewn shut. Instead, they were merely closed, as if he had voluntarily chosen to withdraw inside the citadel of his own self. He was handsome enough that if any of the women at Lookout Point had seen his face, one or two might have thought of fairytales where a kiss is sufficient to wake one who is under an enchantment. Sister Emilia, who could see Brother Zachariah quite plainly, thought he was one of the handsomest men she had ever seen. Certainly he was one of the first men she had seen in quite some time. And if their errands were successful and she returned to the Iron Citadel with the adamas in her possession, well, it wouldn’t be the worst thing if handsome Brother Zachariah was the last man she ever laid eyes on. There was no harm in appreciating beauty when you chanced upon it.
She said, “Nice view, isn’t it?” Because from the place they stood you could see Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, both North and South Carolina, and, on the horizon, Virginia and Kentucky too, all spread out rumpled like a tapestry quilt haphazardly embroidered in green and blue, little pricks of red and gold and orange where, in places, the trees were already beginning to turn.
Inside her head, Brother Zachariah said, It’s extraordinary. Though, I confess, I had imagined America to look somewhat different. Someone I . . . knew . . . told me about New York City. That was where she grew up. We talked one day of going together to see the things and places that she loved. But we talked of many things that I knew, even then, would likely never happen. And this is a very large country.
Sister Emilia was not at all sure that she liked having someone else talking inside her head. She had encountered Silent Brothers before, but this was the first time one had spoken directly into her mind. It was like having company show up when you hadn’t had the inclination to do the dishes or straighten up your living quarters in a while. What if they could see all the untidy thoughts you sometimes just shoved under the carpet?
Her mentor, Sister Lora, had assured Emilia that although Silent Brothers could ordinarily read the minds of those around them, their sisterhood was exempt. But on the other hand, what if this was part of the test she had been set? What if Brother Zachariah’s task was also to look inside her brain, to be sure that she was a deserving candidate? She thought, as loudly as she could, Excuse me! Can you hear me thinking?
When Brother Zachariah didn’t respond, she said, relieved, “Your first time in the States, then?”
Yes, Brother Zachariah said. Then, as if to be polite, he said, And you?
“Born and bred in California,” Sister Emilia said. “I grew up in the San Francisco Conclave.”
Is San Francisco very like this? Brother Zachariah said.
She almost choked. “Indeed,” she said, “it is not. Not even the trees are the same. And the ground there is like as not to give you a little shake now and then. Sometimes just enough to move your bed a few inches while you’re trying to sleep. Other times, it knocks buildings down without so much as a warning. Oh, but the fruits on the trees are the best thing you’ve ever tasted. And the sun shines every single day.”
Her oldest brother had been an infant in their mother’s arms during the earthquake of 1906. Half the city had burned, and Emilia’s father said that even demons had stayed away during the destruction. Their mother, who had been pregnant, had had a miscarriage. If that baby had lived, Emilia would have had seven siblings, all brothers. Her first night in the Iron Citadel, she had woken up every hour because it was all so quiet and peaceful.
You sound as if you miss it, Brother Zachariah said.
Sister Emilia said, “I do miss it. But it was never home. Now. I believe the carnival is thataways, and here we stand here jawing when we have work to do.”
Although his eyes and ears and mouth had all been closed by the magic of the Silent City, Jem could still smell and hear the carnival much better than any mortal–here was the scent of sugar and hot metal and, yes, blood as well, and the sounds of barkers and calliope music and excited shrieks. Soon enough he could see it too.
The carnival stood on mostly level ground where once there must have been quite a battle. Jem could feel the presence of the human dead. Now their forgotten remains lay buried under a grassy field where a kind of stockade fence had been erected around all manner of brightly colored tents and fanciful structures. A Ferris wheel stood above these, carriages dangling from the central wheel, full of laughing people. Two great gates stood flung wide open, with a broad avenue between them welcoming all who approached.
Sweethearts in their Sunday clothes strolled through the gates, arms around each other’s waists. Two boys pelted past, one with tousled black hair. They looked about the age that Will and Jem had been, a very long time ago, when they’d first met. But Will’s hair was white now, and Jem was no longer Jem. He was Brother Zachariah. A few nights ago, he had sat at Will Herondale’s bedside and watched his old friend struggle to draw a breath. Jem’s hand on the coverlet was the hand of a young man still, and Tessa, of course, would never grow old. How must it seem to Will, who loved them both, that he must go on so far ahead of them? But then, Jem had left Will first, and Will had had to let him go. It would only be fair when, soon, Jem would be the one left behind.
Inside his head, Brother Enoch said, It will be hard. But you will be able to bear it. We will help you bear it.
I will endure it because I must, Jem said.
Sister Emilia had stopped, and he caught up with her. She was taking in the carnival, her hands on her hips. “What a thing!” she said. “Did you ever read Pinocchio?”
“I don’t believe so,” Jem told her. Though he thought that once, when he’d been in the London Institute, he might have heard Tessa reading it to a young James.
“A wooden puppet yearns to be a real boy,” Sister Emilia said. “And so a fairy gives him his wish, more or less, and he gets into all sorts of trouble at a place that I always thought would look rather like this.”
Jem said, almost against his will, And does he?
“Does he what?” Sister Emilia said.
Does he become real?
“Well, of course,” Sister Emilia said. Then, saucily, “What kind of story would it be if he only ever got to be a puppet? His father loves him, and that’s how he starts to become real, I guess. I always liked those stories the best, the ones where people could make things or carve things and make them come to life. Like Pygmalion.”
In his head, Brother Enoch said, She’s quite lively, for an Iron Sister. He didn’t sound exactly disapproving, but neither was it a compliment.
“Of course,” Sister Emilia said, “you’re something of a story yourself, Brother Zachariah.”
What do you know of me? Jem said.
She said, pertly, “That you fought Mortmain. That you once had a parabatai and he became the head of the London Institute. That his wife, the warlock Tessa Gray, wears a pendant that you gave her. But I know something of you that perhaps you do not know yourself.”
That seems unlikely, Jem said. But go on. Tell me what I do not know about myself.
“Give me your staff,” Sister Emilia said.
He gave it to her, and she examined it carefully. “Yes,” she said. “I thought so. This was made by Sister Dayo, whose weapons were so exquisitely wrought that it was rumored an angel had touched her forge. Look. Her mark.”
It has served me well enough, Jem said. Perhaps one day you too will find renown for the things that you make.
“One day,” said Sister Emilia. She handed him back the staff. “Perhaps.” There was a formidable glint in her eyes. Jem thought it made her look very young. The world was its own sort of crucible, and in it all dreams were tempered and tested. Many crumbled away entirely, and then you went on without them. In his head his brothers murmured in agreement. After nearly seventy years, Jem was almost used to this. Instead of music, he had this stern brotherly chorus. Once upon a time, he had imagined each of the Silent Brothers as a musical instrument. Brother Enoch, he’d thought, would be a bassoon heard through the high-up window of a desolate lighthouse, the waves crashing down at the base. Yes, yes, Brother Enoch had said. Very poetic. And what are you, Brother Zachariah?
Jem had tried not to think of his violin. But you couldn’t keep secrets from your Brothers. And that violin had lain silent and neglected for a very long time.
He said, attempting to think of other things as they walked, Can you tell me if you know anything of an Annabel Blackthorn? An Iron Sister? She and a friend of mine, the warlock Malcom Fade, fell in love and made plans to run away together, but when her family discovered this, they forced her to join the Iron Sisterhood. It would ease his mind to know something of what her life has been in the Adamant Citadel.
Sister Emilia said, “It’s clear that you know very little about the Iron Sisters! No one is ever forced to join against their will. Indeed, it is a great honor, and many who attempt the path are turned away. If this Annabel became an Iron Sister, she chose that for herself. I know nothing of her, although it’s true that most of us change our names when we are consecrated.”
Jem said, If you come to know anything of her, my friend would be most grateful. He does not speak of her much, but I believe that she is always in his thoughts.
When Jem and Sister Emilia passed through the gates of the carnival, the first strange thing they saw was a werewolf eating cotton candy out of a paper cone. Sticky pink strands were caught in his beard.
“Full moon tonight,” Sister Emilia said. “The Praetor Lupus has sent down some of their people, but it’s said the werewolves here are a law to themselves. They run moonshine and ride roughshod in the mountains. These boys should be steering clear of mundanes this time of the month, not eating cotton candy and peddling rotgut.”
The werewolf stuck out its tongue at them and sauntered away. “Sauce!” Sister Emilia said, and would have pursued the werewolf.
Jem said, Hold. There are worse things here than Downworlders with terrible manners and sweet tooths. Can you smell that?
Sister Emilia wrinkled her nose. “Demon,” she said.
They followed the smell through the winding alleys of the carnival, through the strangest iteration of the Shadow Market that Jem had ever seen. The Market was, of course, much bigger than you would have expected a carnival, even one of this size, to encompass. Some of the vendors he recognized. Some watched warily as he and Sister Emilia passed. One or two, with looks of resignation, began to pack up their wares. The rules by which Shadow Markets existed were more the rules of long custom than those written down and codified, but everything about this Shadow Market felt wrong to Jem, and the Silent Brothers in his head were all debating how it might have come to be. Even if a Shadow Market had been right and proper in this place, there should not have been mundanes browsing and exclaiming over the strange goods on offer. Here went a man, looking pale and dreamy-eyed, blood still trickling from two neat punctures in his neck.
“I’ve never actually been to a Shadow Market,” Sister Emilia said, slowing down. “My mother always said it was no place for Shadowhunters and insisted that my brothers and I stay away from it.” She seemed particularly interested in a booth that sold knives and weapons.
Souvenirs later, Jem said, pushing on. Business first.
They were suddenly out of the Shadow Market and in front of a stage where a magician was telling jokes as he turned a small shaggy dog into a green melon and then cut the melon in half with a playing card. Inside was a fiery sphere that rose up and hung in the air like a miniature sun. The magician (the sign above his head proclaimed him to be Roland the Astonishing) poured water out of his hat onto it, and the sphere became a mouse and ran off the stage into an audience that gasped and shrieked and then applauded.
Sister Emilia had stopped to watch, and Jem stopped too.
She said, “Real magic?”
Real illusions at least, Jem said. He gestured at the woman who stood at the side of the stage watching the magician perform his tricks.
The magician looked to be in his sixties, but his companion could have been any age at all. She was clearly of high Fey lineage, and there was a baby in her arms. The way that she watched the magician on the stage made Jem’s chest grow tight. He had seen Tessa look at Will the same way, with that rapt attention and love mingled with the knowledge of future sorrow that must, one day, be endured.
Brother Enoch said, again, When the day comes, we will bear it with you.
A thought came to Jem like an arrow, that when that day came and Will left the world, he did not wish to share his grief with his brothers. That others would be there with him when Will was not. And, too, there was Tessa. Who would stay to help her endure when Jem took the body that Will had left behind back to the Silent City?
The faerie woman looked out over the crowd and then drew back suddenly behind a velvet curtain. When Jem tried to see what she had seen, he saw a goblin perched on a flag above the top of a nearby tent. It appeared to be sniffing the wind as if it smelled something particularly delicious. Mostly what Jem smelled now was demon.
Sister Emilia craned her neck to see where Jem was looking and said, “Another faerie! It’s nice to be out in the world again. I’ll have such a lot to write about in my diary when I’m back in the Iron Citadel.”
Do Iron Sisters keep diaries? Jem asked politely.
“That was a joke,” Sister Emilia said. She actually looked disappointed in him. “Do Silent Brothers have any kind of a sense of humor, or do they stitch that up too?”
We collect knock-knock jokes, Jem said.
She perked up. “Really? Do you have any favorites?”
No, Jem said. That was a joke. And if he could have, he would have smiled. Sister Emilia was so very human that he found it was waking up some of the humanity he’d put aside so long ago. That, too, must have been why he was thinking of Will and Tessa and the person he’d been before. His heart would ache slightly less, he was sure, once they’d completed their mission and Sister Emilia and he had been dispatched back to the places where they belonged. She had some of the same spark that Will had had, back when he and Jem had chosen to be parabatai. Jem had been drawn to that fire in Will, and he thought that he and Sister Emilia could have been friends too, under other circumstances.
He was thinking this when a small boy tugged at his sleeve. “Are you part of the carnival?” the boy said. “Is that why you’re dressed like that? Is that why your face looks like that?”
Jem looked down at the boy and then at the runes on his arms to make sure that they hadn’t somehow rubbed off.
“You can see us?” Sister Emilia said to the boy.
“Course I can,” the boy said. “Nothing wrong with my eyes. Although I think there must have been something wrong with them before. Because now I see all sorts of things that I never used to see.”
How? Jem said, bending over to peer into the boy’s eyes. What’s your name? When did you start seeing things that you never used to see?
“My name’s Bill,” the boy said. “I’m eight. Why are your eyes closed like that? And how can you talk when your mouth isn’t open?”
“He’s a man of special talents,” said Sister Emilia. “You should taste his chicken pot pie. Where are your people, Bill?”
The boy said, “I live down in St. Elmo’s, and I came up here on the Incline Railroad with my mother and today I ate a whole bag of salt-water taffy and didn’t have to share a piece with anyone else.”
“Maybe the taffy had magical properties,” Sister Emilia said softly to Jem.
“My mother said not to wander off,” the boy said, “but I never pay any attention to her unless she’s het up like a kettle. I went through the Maze of Mirrors all by myself, and I got all the way to the middle where the fancy lady is, and she said as a prize I could ask her for anything I wanted.”
What did you ask her for? Jem said.
“I thought about asking for a battle with real knights and real horses and real swords, like in King Arthur, but the lady said if what I wanted was real adventures, I should ask to see the world as it really was, and so I did. And after that she put a mask on me, and now everything’s strange and also she wasn’t a lady at all. She was something that I didn’t want to be around anymore, and so I ran away. I’ve seen all kinds of strange people, but I haven’t seen my mother. Have you seen her? She’s little but she’s ferocious. She has red hair like me, and she’s got an awful temper when she’s worried.”
“I know all about that kind of mother,” Sister Emilia said. “She must be looking everywhere for you.”
Bill said, “I am a constant trial to her. Or so she says.”
Over there, Jem said. Is that her?
A small woman standing by a tent advertising MYSTERIES OF THE WORM DEMONSTRATED THRICE DAILY was looking over in their direction. “Bill Doyle!” she said, advancing. “You are in a heap of trouble, my little man!”
She had a carrying voice.
“I see my fate is upon me,” Bill said in grave tones. “You should flee before you become a casualty of battle.”
“Don’t worry for us, Bill,” Sister Emilia said. “Your mother can’t see us. And I wouldn’t mention us to her either. She’ll think you’re making it all up.”
“It appears I have gotten myself into a real predicament,” Bill said. “Fortunately I am as good at getting out of tight spots as I am at getting into them. I’ve had lots of practice. A pleasure to have met both of you.”
Then Mrs. Doyle was upon him. She seized her son’s arm and began to pull him back toward the exit of the carnival, scolding him as they went.
Jem and Sister Emilia turned to watch them go in silence.
Finally Sister Emilia said, “The Maze of Mirrors, then.”
And even if they hadn’t encountered young Bill Doyle, they would have known they’d found the place they were looking for when they came to the Maze of Mirrors at last. It was a pointy structure, painted all over in glossy forbidding black, fissures of red running through the black paint, the red paint looking so fresh and wet that the building appeared to be seeping blood. Through the entrance, mirrors and lights dazzled. THE TRUE WORLD AND THE FALSE said the sign. YOU SHALL KNOW EVEN AS YOU ARE KNOWN. THOSE WHO SEEK ME WILL FIND THEMSELVES.
The reek of demon malignance here was so strong that even Jem and Sister Emilia, wearing runes to keep from being overpowered by the stench, flinched.
Be careful, the voices in Jem’s head warned. This is no ordinary Eidolon demon.
Sister Emilia had drawn her sword.
Jem said, We should be careful. There may be dangers here that we are not prepared for.
Sister Emilia said, “I think we can be at least as brave as little Bill Doyle was, facing danger.”
He didn’t know he was dealing with a demon, Jem said.
“I meant his mother,” Sister Emilia said. “Come on.”
And so Jem followed her into the Maze of Mirrors.
They found themselves in a long, glittering corridor with many companions. Here was another Sister Emilia and another Brother Zachariah, stretched out monstrously thin and wavy. Here they were again, squashed and hideous. There they were, their reflections’ backs turned to them. In one mirror, they lay upon the shores of a shallow purple sea, dead and bloated and yet looking utterly content to be so, as if they had died of some great happiness. In another, they began to age rapidly and then to crumble away to bare bones, the bones to dust.
Sister Emilia had never been fond of mirrors. But she had a craftwoman’s interest in these. When a mirror is made, it must be coated in some reflective metal. Silver could be used, though vampires were not fond of this kind. The mirrors in the Maze of Mirrors, she thought, must have been treated with some kind of demonic metal. You could smell it. Every breath she took in here coated her mouth, her tongue, her throat with a kind of greasy residue of despair and horror.
She walked forward slowly, her sword held in front of her, and stumbled into a mirror where she had thought there was an open space.
Careful, Brother Zachariah said.
“You don’t come to the carnival to be careful,” she said. This was bluster, and perhaps he knew it. But bluster is a kind of armor too, as much as taking care is. Sister Emilia had appreciation for both.
“If it’s a maze, then how are we to know which way to go?” she said. “I could shatter the mirrors with my sword. If I broke them all, we would find the center.”
Hold your sword, Brother Zachariah said.
He had paused in front of a mirror in which Sister Emilia was not present. Instead, there was a slender white-haired boy holding the hand of a tall girl with a solemn, beautiful face. They were on a city avenue.
“That’s New York,” Sister Emilia said. “I thought you hadn’t been there!”
Brother Zachariah advanced through the mirror, which allowed passage as if it had never been there at all. The image was gone like a popped soap bubble. Go toward the reflections that show you whatever thing you most long to see, Brother Zachariah said. But that you know to be impossible.
“Oh,” Sister Emilia said, involuntarily. “Over there!”
Over there was a mirror where a Sister much like her, but with silvery hair, held a glowing blade between tongs. She plunged it into a bath of cold water, and steam shot up in the shape of a dragon, writhing and splendid. All her brothers were there too, watching in admiration.
They passed through that mirror too. They made their way through mirror after mirror, and Sister Emilia felt her chest grow tight with longing. Her cheeks burned red, too, that Brother Zachariah could see the vainest and most frivolous longings of her heart. But she saw the things that he longed for too. A man and a woman she thought must have been his parents, listening to their son play his violin in a great concert hall. A black-haired man with blue eyes and laugh lines around his mouth, building up a fire in a drawing room while the solemn girl, smiling now, perched on the lap of Brother Zachariah, no longer a Brother but a husband and a parabatai in the company of the ones he loved most.
They came to a mirror where the black-haired man, now old and frail, lay in a bed. The girl sat curled up beside him, stroking his forehead. Suddenly Brother Zachariah came into the room, but when he threw back his hood, he had open, clear eyes and a smiling mouth. At this sight, the old man in the bed sat up and grew younger and younger, as if joy had renewed his youth. He sprang out of bed and embraced his parabatai.
“It is horrible,” Sister Emilia said. “We should not see inside each other’s hearts like this!”
They passed through that mirror and now came face-to-face with one that showed Sister Emilia’s mother, sitting before a window, holding a letter from her daughter. There was the most desolate look in her eyes, but then the mother in the reflection began, slowly, to compose a fire-message to her daughter. I am so very proud of you, my darling. I am so happy you have found your life’s work.
I see nothing shameful in you, Brother Zachariah said in his tranquil voice. He held out his hand, and after a moment Sister Emilia looked away from the reflection of her mother writing all the things she had never said. She took the offered hand gratefully.
“It is shameful to be vulnerable,” she admitted. “Or so I have always thought.”
They passed through the mirror, and someone said, “And that is exactly what a weapon-maker and armorer would think. Don’t you agree?”
They had found their way to the heart of the maze, and a demon was there with them—a handsome man in a well-cut suit that was the worst thing that Sister Emilia had ever seen.
Belial, Brother Zachariah said.
“Old friend!” Belial said. “I was so hoping it would be you they sent sniffing after me.”
This was Sister Emilia’s first time encountering a Greater Demon. She held the sword she had forged herself in one hand, and Brother Zachariah’s warm hand in the other. If it had not been for those two things, she knew she would have turned and fled.
“Is that human skin?” she asked, her voice wavering.
Whatever the suit was made of, it had the glazed, slightly cracked appearance of poorly tanned leather. It had a pink, blistered look to it. And yes, she could now see that what she had thought was an odd flower poking out of the boutonnière was actually a mouth pursed in agony, a cartilaginous lump of nose sagging over it.
Belial looked down at the stained cuff sticking out past the sleeve. He flicked a speck off. “You have an eye, my dear,” he said.
“Whose skin is it?” Sister Emilia said. Her voice was steadier now, she found to her great relief. It was not so much that she wanted to know the answers, as that she had found quite early on in her training in the Iron Citadel that asking questions was a way to discipline your fear. Taking in new information meant you had something to focus on besides how terrifying your teachers or your environment was.
“A tailor I employed,” Belial said. “He was a very bad tailor, you see, but in the end he has made a very good suit after all.” He gave her and Brother Zachariah the most charming smile. But in the mirrors all around them, his reflections gnashed their teeth and raged.
Brother Zachariah gave every appearance of calm, but Sister Emilia could feel how tight his grip had grown. She said, “You’re friends with him?”
We have met before, Brother Zachariah said. Silent Brothers do not choose the company they keep. Though I will confess I find yours more to my taste than his.
“Hurtful!” said Belial, leering. “And, I fear, honest. And I only enjoy one of those things.”
What is your business here? Brother Zachariah said.
“No business at all,” Belial said. “This is purely fun. You see, they turned up some adamas in the caverns underneath Ruby Falls. A small vein of it in the limestone. Do you know that people come from all over the country to gawk at Ruby Falls? A subterranean waterfall! I haven’t seen it myself, but I hear it’s spectacular. I did play a few rounds of Tom Thumb golf though. And then gorged myself sick on the famous salt-water taffy. Had to eat the taffy seller afterwards to get the taste out of my mouth. I think there’s still a little stuck in my teeth. Chattanooga, Tennessee! The slogan should be Come for the Adamas, Stay for the Salt-water Taffy! They could paint it on barns.
“Did you know there’s a whole city underneath the city of Chattanooga? They had such terrible floods over the last century that finally they built over the original buildings. The old buildings are still there, underground, hollowed out like rotten teeth. And sure, everything is on higher ground now, but the floods still come. It washes away all the limestone, and what happens eventually? The foundations will crumble, and everything will be washed away in a deluge. There’s a metaphor there somewhere, little Shadowhunters. You build and you struggle and you fight, but the darkness and the abyss will come one day in a great tide and sweep away everything that you love.”
We didn’t have time to tour Chattanooga, Brother Zachariah said. We’re here for the adamas.
“The adamas! Of course!” Belial said. “You people kept such a tight grasp on the stuff.”
“You have it?” Sister Emilia said. “I thought it was death to demons, just the touch.”
“Your ordinary sort will just explode, yes,” Belial said. “But I am a prince of Hell. Made of sterner stuff.”
Greater Demons can handle adamas, Brother Zachariah said. Though my understanding is that it is agonizing to them.
“To-may-to of agony, to-mah-to of ah-gony,” Belial said. His reflections in the various mirrors wept tears of blood. “Do you know what causes us pain? The one who made us has turned his face from us. We are not allowed before the throne. But adamas, that’s angelic stuff. When we touch it, the pain of our absence from the divine is indescribable. And yet, it’s the closest we ever get to being in its presence. So we touch adamas, and we feel the absence of our creator, and in that absence we feel the smallest spark of what we once were. Oh, it’s the most wonderful thing you can imagine, that pain.”
Brother Zachariah said, “And God said, I shall not retain Belial within my heart.”
A sly, wounded look came over Belial’s face. “Of course you, too, my dear Brother Zachariah, have been cut off from the ones you love. We understand each other.” And then he said something in a language that Sister Emilia did not recognize, almost spitting out the awful, hissing syllables.
“What is he saying?” she said. She thought that the room seemed to be growing hotter. The mirrors were blazing brighter.
He’s speaking Abyssal, Brother Zachariah said calmly. Nothing of any interest.
“He’s doing something,” Sister Emilia hissed. “We have to stop him. Something is happening.”
In all the mirrors, Belial was swelling up, the suit of skin bursting like the skin of a sausage. The mirror versions of Sister Emilia and Brother Zachariah were dwindling, shrinking and blackening as if scorched by the heat of Belial.
Knock-knock, Brother Zachariah said.
“What?” Sister Emilia said.
He said again, Don’t pay any attention to Belial. He thrives on it. It’s not real. It’s illusions. Nothing more. Demons won’t kill those they owe a debt to. Knock-knock.
“Who’s there?” she said.
Sister Emilia’s throat was so dry she could barely speak at all. The pommel of her sword was blazingly hot, as if she had her hand in the heart of a forge. “Spell who?”
If you insist, Brother Zachariah said. W-H-O.
And when Sister Emilia understood the joke, it was so very ridiculous that she laughed in spite of herself. “That’s terrible!” she said.
Brother Zachariah looked at her with his expressionless, sealed-off face. He said, You didn’t ask me if Silent Brothers had a good sense of humor.
Belial had stopped speaking Abyssal. He looked incredibly disappointed in them both. “This is no fun,” he said.
What did you do with the adamas? Brother Zachariah said.
Belial reached down into the neck of his shirt and drew up a chain. Dangling on the end of it was an adamas half mask. Sister Emilia could see his skin go red and then grow raw and festering and yellow with pus where the mask touched him. And where he touched the mask, the metal flared up in coruscating ripples of turquoise, scarlet, viridian. But Belial’s expression of proud indifference never changed. “I’ve been using it on behalf of your precious mundane folk,” he said. “It strengthens my power as I strengthen its. Some of them want to be people other than themselves, and so I give them the illusion of that. Strong enough that they can fool others. Other people want to see something that they want, or that they’ve lost, or that they can’t have, and I can do that too. There was a young man the other day—a boy, really—he was to be married. But he was afraid. He wanted to know the worst things that might happen to him and the girl he loved, so that he could prepare for them and go on bravely. I hear he wasn’t that brave after all.”
“He put out his eyes,” Sister Emilia said. “And what about Billy Doyle?”
“That one, I think, will have a remarkable life,” Belial said. “Or else end up in a lunatic asylum. Care to wager which?”
There shouldn’t be a Shadow Market here, Brother Zachariah said.
“There are many things that shouldn’t be that are,” Belial said. “And many things that aren’t that might still be if you only want them enough. I’ll admit, I hoped that the Shadow Market would provide better cover. Or at least a warning to me, when your kind showed up to spoil my fun. But you weren’t distracted at all.”
Sister Emilia will take the adamas, Brother Zachariah said. And once you’ve given it to her, you will send the Market away because I ask it of you.
“If I do so, will that cancel out the favor that I owe you?” Belial said.
“He owes you a favor?” Sister Emilia said. She thought, No wonder they stitch up the Silent Brothers’ mouths. They have so many secrets.
It will not, Brother Zachariah said to Belial. To Emilia, he said Yes, and that is why you need not be afraid of him. A demon cannot kill one it is indebted to.
“I could kill her, though,” Belial said. He took a step toward Sister Emilia, and she raised her sword, determined to make her death count.
But you won’t, Brother Zachariah said calmly.
Belial raised an eyebrow. “I won’t? Why not?”
Brother Zachariah said, Because you find her interesting. I certainly find her so.
Belial was silent. Then he nodded. “Here.” He threw the mask at Sister Emilia, who let go of Brother Zachariah’s hand to catch it. It was lighter than she would have expected. “I imagine they won’t let you work it, though. Too worried I might have corrupted it in some way. And who is to say that I didn’t?”
We’re done, Brother Zachariah said. Go from here and do not return.
“Absolutely!” Belial said. “Only, about that favor. It pains me so to be in debt to you when I might be of some service. I wonder if there isn’t a thing that I could offer you. For example, the yin fen in your blood. Do the Silent Brothers still not know what the cure might be?”
Brother Zachariah said nothing, but Sister Emilia could see how his knuckles grew white where his fist was clenched. At last he said, Go on.
“I might know a cure,” Belial said. “Yes, I think I know a sure cure. You could be who you once were. You could be Jem again. Or.”
Brother Zachariah said, Or?
Belial’s long tongue flicked out, as if he was tasting the air and found it delicious. “Or I could tell you a thing you don’t know. There are Herondales, not the ones you know, but of the same bloodline as your parabatai. They are in great danger, their lives hang by a thread, and they are closer to us as we stand here than you can imagine. I can tell you something of them and set you on the path to find them if that is what you choose. But you must choose. To aid them or else to be who you once were. To once more be the one who left behind those who loved him best. The one they still yearn for. You could be him again if that is what you choose. Choose, Brother Zachariah.”
Brother Zachariah hesitated for a long moment.
In the mirrors around them, Emilia saw visions of what Belial was promising, of all that his cure would mean. The woman Brother Zachariah adored would not be alone. He would be with her, able to share her pain and to love her wholly once more. He could rush to the side of the friend he loved, see his friend’s blue eyes shine like stars on a midsummer night as he beheld Brother Zachariah transformed. They could clasp hands with no shadow of grief or pain upon them, just once. They had been waiting all their lives for that moment, and feared it would never come.
In a hundred reflections, Brother Zachariah’s eyes flew open, blind and silver with agony. His face twisted as if he were being forced to endure the most terrible pain, or worse, forced to turn from the most perfect bliss.
The real Brother Zachariah’s eyes stayed closed. His face remained serene.
At last he said, The Carstairs owe a life debt to the Herondales. That is my choice.
Belial said, “Then here is what I will tell you about these lost Herondales. There is power in their blood, and there is great danger too. They are in hiding from an enemy who is neither mortal nor demon. These pursuers are resourceful, and close on their heels, and they will kill them if they find them.”
“But where are they?” Sister Emilia said.
Belial said, “The debt is not that great, my dear. And now it is paid.”
Sister Emilia looked at Brother Zachariah, who shook his head. Belial is what he is, he said. A fornicator, a miser, and a polluter of sanctuaries. A creator of illusions. If I had made the other choice, do you really think I would be better off?
“How well we know each other!” Belial said. “We all play a role, and it would astonish you, I think, to know how helpful I am being. You think I have only offered you tricks and slights, but truly I have extended the hand of friendship. Or do you think that I can simply draw these Herondales out of a hat like so many rabbits? As for you, Sister Emilia, I owe you no debt, but would do you a good turn. Unlike our acquaintance here, you have chosen the path that you are set on.”
“I have,” Sister Emilia said. All she had ever wanted was to make things. To shape seraph blades and be known as a master of the forge. Shadowhunters, it seemed to her, gloried in destruction. What she longed for was to be permitted to create.
“I could make it so that you were the greatest adamas worker that Iron Citadel has ever seen. Your name would be spoken for generations.”
In the mirrors, Sister Emilia saw the blades that she could make. She saw how they were used in battle, how the ones who wielded them thanked the one who had made them. They blessed the name of Sister Emilia, and acolytes came to study with her, and they, too, blessed her name.
“No!” Sister Emilia said to her reflections. “I will be the greatest adamas worker that the Iron Citadel has ever seen, but it will not be because I accepted aid from you. It will be because of the work that I do with the aid of my sisters.”
“Nuts!” Belial said. “I don’t even know why I bother.”
Brother Zachariah said, Roland the Astonishing!
And before Sister Emilia could ask him what he meant by that, he was running out of the maze. She could hear him knocking over mirror after mirror with his staff, in too much of a hurry to find his way out as they had found their way in. Or maybe he knew that all the magic was bound up to make the center hard to find, and that smashing things on the way out would work just fine.
“A little slow on the draw, that one,” Belial said to Sister Emilia. “Anyhow, I ought to make tracks. See you around, girlie.”
“Wait!” Sister Emilia said. “I have an offer to make you.”
Because she could not stop thinking of what she had seen in Brother Zachariah’s mirrors. How much he longed to be with his parabatai and with the girl who must have been the warlock Tessa Gray.
“Go on,” Belial said. “I’m listening.”
“I know that the things you offer us aren’t real,” Sister Emilia said. “But perhaps the illusion of a thing that we can’t have is better than nothing at all. I want you to give Brother Zachariah a vision. A few hours with the one he misses most.”
“He loves the warlock girl,” Belial said. “I could give her to him.”
“No!” Sister Emilia said. “Warlocks endure. I believe one day he will have his hours with Tessa Gray even if he does not dare to hope for it. But his parabatai, Will Herondale, is old and frail and drawing near the end of his life. I want you to give them both a span of time. Both of them in a time and place where they can be young and happy and together.”
“And what will you give me in return?” Belial said.
“If I had agreed to your previous offer,” Sister Emilia said, “I think that my name would have lived on in infamy. And even if I was one day celebrated for my work, still every blade that I made would have been tainted by the idea that you had had some part in my successes. Every victory would have been poisoned.”
“You’re not as stupid as most Shadowhunters,” Belial said.
“Oh, stop trying to flatter me!” Sister Emilia said. “You’re wearing a suit made of human skin. No one of any sense should care what you have to say. But you should care very much about what I say to you. And that is this. I promise you if you do not give Brother Zachariah and Will Herondale the thing that I am asking for them, my life’s work will be to forge a blade that is capable of killing you. And I will go on making blades until one day I accomplish my goal. And I warn you, I am not only talented, I am single-minded. Feel free to ask my mother if you don’t believe me.”
Belial met her gaze. He blinked twice and then looked away. Sister Emilia could see, now, the way that he saw her reflected in the remaining mirrors, and she quite liked, for once, how she looked.
“You are interesting,” he said. “As Brother Zachariah said. But perhaps you are also dangerous. You’re too small to make a suit. But a hat. You would make a fine Trilby. And perhaps a pair of spats. Why shouldn’t I kill you now?”
Sister Emilia stuck her chin out. She said, “Because you are bored. You are curious whether or not I will be good at my work. And if my swords fail those who wield them, you will find it good entertainment.”
Belial said, “True. I will.”
Emilia said, “Then our deal?”
“Done,” Belial said. And was gone, leaving Sister Emilia in a room walled in mirrors, holding an adamas mask in one hand and in her other a sword that was quite remarkable and yet in no way the equal of the blades that she would make one day.
When she emerged onto the carnival thoroughfare, already many of the tents were gone or else simply abandoned. There were few people about, and those she saw looked dazed and dreamy, as if they had just woken up. The Bazaar of the Bizarre was gone entirely, and there was not a single werewolf to be seen, although the cotton-candy machine was still spinning slowly, filaments of sugar floating in the air.
Brother Zachariah was standing in front of the empty stage where they had seen the magician and his faerie wife. “We all play a role, and it would astonish you, I think, to know how helpful I am being,” he said.
She realized that he was quoting Belial. “I have no idea what that means,” she said.
He waved his hand at the sign above the stage. ROLAND THE ASTONISHING.
“Role and,” she said slowly. “It would astonish you.”
Tricks and slights. He offered me the hand of friendship. Sleight of hand. Magic tricks. I should have known sooner. I thought the magician had the look of my friend Will. But he and his wife have fled.
“You’ll find them again,” Sister Emilia said. “I feel quite sure.”
They are Herondales, and they are in trouble, said Brother Zachariah. So I will find them, because I must. And Belial did say something that has proved of some interest to my brothers.
“Go on,” Sister Emilia said.
I am as I am, Brother Zachariah said, A Silent Brother but not entirely of the Brotherhood, because for so long I was unwillingly dependent on yin fen. And now I am, not entirely whole-heartedly, a Silent Brother, so that I might remain alive in spite of the yin fen in my blood that should have killed me years ago. Brother Enoch and the others have long searched for a cure and found nothing. We had begun to think perhaps there was no cure. But Brother Enoch was extremely interested in the choice Belial offered me. He said he’s already researching demonic cures associated with Belial.
“Then if you were cured,” Sister Emilia said, “you would choose not to be what you are?”
Brother Zachariah said, Without hesitation. Though not without gratitude for what my Brothers in the Silent City have done for me. And you? Will you regret choosing a life in the Iron Citadel?
Sister Emilia said, “How can I know that? But no. I am being given an opportunity to become what I have always known I was meant to be. Come on. We’ve done what we were sent to do.”
Not quite, Brother Zachariah said. Tonight is a full moon, and we don’t know whether or not the werewolves have gone back into the mountains. As long as there are mundanes here, we must wait and watch. The Silent Brothers have sent messages to the Praetor Lupus. They take a hardline Prohibitionist stance, not to mention they crack down hard on eating mundanes.
“Seems a little harsh,” Sister Emilia said. “The Prohibitionist stance. I get that eating people is wrong, generally.”
Werewolves live by a harsh code, Brother Zachariah said. She could not tell, by looking at his face, whether or not he was joking. But she was fairly sure that he was.
He said, Though now that you have passed your test, I know you must be anxious to return to the Iron Citadel. I’m sorry to keep you here.
He wasn’t wrong. She longed with all of her heart to go to the only place that had ever truly felt like home to her. And she knew, too, that some part of Brother Zachariah must dread returning to the Silent City. She had seen enough in the mirrors to know where his home and his heart was.
She said, “I’m not sorry to tarry here a little longer with you, Brother Zachariah. And I’m not sorry that I met you. If we never meet again, I will hope that one day a weapon made by my hand may yet prove useful to you in some way.” Then she yawned. Iron Sisters, unlike Silent Brothers, required things like sleep and food.
Brother Zachariah hoisted himself up onto the edge of the stage and then patted the space beside him. I’ll keep watch. If you grow weary, sleep. No harm will come while I keep vigil.
Sister Emilia said, “Brother Zachariah? If something strange happens tonight. If you should see something that you thought you would not see again, don’t be alarmed. No harm will come of it.”
What do you mean? Brother Zachariah said. What did you and Belial discuss when I had gone?
In the back of his mind, his brothers murmured: be careful, be careful, be careful. Oh, be careful.
Sister Emilia said, “Nothing of any great importance. But I think he is a little afraid of me now, and he should be. He offered me something so that I would not become his nemesis.”
Tell me what you mean, Brother Zachariah said.
“I’ll tell you later,” Sister Emilia said firmly. “Right now I’m so tired I can barely talk at all.”
Sister Emilia was hungry as well as tired, but she was so very tired she couldn’t be bothered to eat. She would sleep first. She climbed up on the stage beside Brother Zachariah and took off her cloak and made it into a pillow. The evening was still warm, and if she grew cold, well, then she would wake up, and she and Brother Zachariah could keep watch together companionably.
She hoped that her brothers, now grown men all, were as kind and stout-hearted as this man was. She fell asleep remembering how she and they had played at fighting before they were old enough to train, laughing and tumbling and vowing to be great heroes. Her dreams were very sweet, though she did not remember them in the morning when she woke.
Silent Brothers do not sleep as mortals do, but nevertheless Brother Zachariah, as he sat and watched and listened in the deserted carnival, felt as the night drew on that he was in a dream. Silent Brothers do not dream, and yet slowly the voices of Brother Enoch and the others in his head dissipated and blew away and were replaced by music. Not carnival music, but the sound of a qinqin. There should not have been a qinqin anywhere on the mountain above Chattanooga, and yet he heard it. Listening to the sound of it, he discovered that he was no longer Brother Zachariah at all. He was only Jem. He did not sit upon a stage. Instead, he was perched on a tiled roof, and the sounds and smells and sights around him were all familiar ones. Not the Silent City. Not London. He was Jem again, and he was in the city where he had been born. Shanghai. Someone said, “Jem? Am I dreaming?”
Even before he turned his head, Jem knew who would be sitting there beside him. “Will?” he said.
And it was Will. Not Will old and tired and wasted as Jem had last seen him, and not even Will as he had been when they’d first met Tessa Gray. No, this was Will as he had been in the first few years when they had lived and trained together in the London Institute. As he had been when they made their oath and become parabatai. Thinking this, Jem looked at his shoulder, where his parabatai rune had been inscribed. The flesh there was unmarked. He saw that Will was doing the same thing, looking under his collar for the rune on his chest.
Jem said, “How is this possible?”
Will said, “This is the time between when we had pledged to become parabatai and when we went through the ritual. Look. See the scar here?” He showed Jem a distinctive mark on his wrist.
“You got that from an Iblis demon,” Jem said. “I remember. It was two nights after we had decided. It was the first fight we had once we’d made up our minds.”
“So that is when we are,” Will said. “But what I don’t know is where we are. Or how this is happening.”
“I think,” Jem said, “that a friend has made a bargain for me. I think that we are here together because the demon Belial is afraid of her, and she asked this for me. Because I would not ask for myself.”
“Belial!” Will said. “Well, if he’s afraid of this friend of yours, I hope I never meet her.”
“I wish you could,” Jem said. “But let’s not waste whatever time we have talking about people you don’t have any interest in. You may not know where we are, but I do. And I am afraid that the span of time that we have together may not be long.”
“That has always been the case with us,” Will said. “But let us be grateful to your terrifying friend, because however long we have, here we are together and I see no sign of yin fen on you, and we are in possession of the knowledge that there was never any curse on me. For however long, there is no shadow on us.”
“There is no shadow,” Jem agreed. “And we are in a place that I long wished to go with you. This is Shanghai, where I was born. Remember when we used to talk about traveling here together? There were so many places I wanted to show you.”
“I remember you thought very highly of a temple or two,” Will said. “You promised me gardens, although why you think I care for gardens, I don’t know. And there were some vistas or famous rock formations or things.”
“Forget the rock formations,” Jem said. “There’s a dumpling place down the street, and I haven’t eaten human food in almost a century. Let’s go see who can eat the most dumplings in the shortest amount of time. And duck! You really ought to try pressed duck! It’s a great delicacy.”
Jem looked at Will, suppressing a smile. His friend glared back, but at last neither of them could hold back their laughter. Will said, “There is nothing so sweet as feasting upon the bones of my enemies. Especially with you at my side.”
There was a lightness in Jem’s chest that Jem realized, finally, was joy. He saw that joy mirrored in his parabatai’s face. The face of the one you love is the best mirror of all. It shows you your own happiness and your own pain and it helps you to bear both, because to bear either alone is to be overwhelmed by the flood.
Jem stood up and held out his hand to Will. Without realizing it, he held his breath. Perhaps this was a dream after all, and when Jem touched him Will would vanish away again. But Will’s hand was warm and solid and strong, and Jem drew him up easily. Together they began to run lightly over the tiles of the roof.
The night was very beautiful and warm, and they were both young.