Read an exclusive excerpt of Cassandra Clare's Queen of Air and Darkness
The following is an excerpt from Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare, the final book in her Dark Artifices series which explores the rise of a racist oppressive regime as the Clave teeters on the brink of civil war. The novel publishes Dec. 4 and is available for pre-order; Clare will also embark on a nationwide tour to commemorate the conclusion of her series, before her next one debuts. Above, you can also watch a trailer for Queen of Air and Darkness.
Cristina stood despairingly in the extremely clean kitchen of the Princewater Street canal house and wished there was something she could tidy up.
She’d washed dishes that didn’t need washing. She’d mopped the floor and set and reset the table. She’d arranged flowers in a vase and then thrown them out, and then retrieved them from the trash and arranged them again. She wanted to make the kitchen nice, the house pretty, but was anyone really going to care if the kitchen was nice and the house was pretty?
She knew they wouldn’t. But she had to do something. She wanted to be with Emma and comfort Emma, but Emma was with Drusilla, who had cried herself to sleep holding Emma’s hands. She wanted to be with Mark, and comfort Mark, but he’d left with Helen, and she could hardly be anything but glad that at last he was getting to spend time with the sister he’d missed for so long.
The front door rattled open, startling Cristina into knocking a dish from the table. It fell to the floor and shattered. She was about to pick it up when she saw Julian come in, closing the door behind him—Locking runes were more common than keys in Idris, but he didn’t reach for his stele, just looked sightlessly from the entryway to the stairs.
Cristina stood frozen. Julian looked like the ghost from a Shakespeare play. He clearly hadn’t changed since the Council Hall; his shirt and jacket were stiff with dried blood.
She never quite knew how to talk to Julian anyway; she knew more about him than was comfortable, thanks to Emma. She knew he was desperately in love with her friend; it was obvious in the way he looked at Emma, spoke to her, in gestures as tiny as handing her a dish across a table. She didn’t know how everyone else didn’t see it too. She’d known other parabatai and they didn’t look at each other like that.
Having such personal information about someone was awkward at the best of times. This wasn’t the best of times. Julian’s expression was blank; he moved into the hall, and as he walked, his sister’s dried blood flaked off his jacket and drifted to the floor.
If she just stood still, Cristina thought, he might not see her, and he might go upstairs and they’d both be spared an awkward moment. But even as she thought it, the bleakness in his face tugged at her heart. She was in the doorway before she realized she’d moved.
“Julian,” she said quietly.
He didn’t seem startled. He turned to face her as slowly as an automaton winding down. “How are they?”
How did you answer that? “They’re well taken care of,” she said finally. “Helen has been here, and Diana, and Mark.”
“Ty . . .”
“Is still asleep.” She tugged nervously at her skirt. She’d changed all her clothes since the Council Hall, just to feel clean.
For the first time, he met her eyes. His were shot through with red, though she didn’t remember having seen him cry. Or maybe he had cried when he was holding Livvy—she didn’t want to remember that. “Emma,” he said. “Is she all right? You’d know. She would—tell you.”
“She’s with Drusilla. But I’m sure she’d like to see you.”
“But is she all right?”
“No,” Cristina said. “How could she be all right?”
He glanced toward the steps, as if he couldn’t imagine the effort it would take to climb them. “Robert was going to help us,” he said. “Emma and me. You know about us, I know that you do, that you know how we feel.”
Cristina hesitated, stunned. She’d never thought Julian would mention any of this to her. “Maybe the next Inquisitor—”
“I passed through the Gard on my way back,” Julian said. “They’re already meeting. Most of the Cohort and half the Council. Talking about who’s going to be the next Inquisitor. I doubt it’s going to be someone who will help us. Not after today. I should care,” he said. “But right now I don’t.”
A door opened at the top of the steps, and light spilled onto the dark landing. “Julian?” Emma called. “Julian, is that you?”
He straightened a little, unconsciously, at the sound of her voice. “I’ll be right there.” He didn’t look at Cristina as he went up the stairs, but he nodded to her, a quick gesture of acknowledgment.
She heard his footsteps die away, his voice mingling with Emma’s. She glanced back at the kitchen. The broken dish lay in the corner. She could sweep it up. It would be the more practical thing to do, and Cristina had always thought of herself as practical. A moment later she had thrown her gear jacket on over her clothes. Tucking several seraph blades into her weapons belt, she slipped quietly out the door and into the streets of Alicante.
Emma listened to the familiar sound of Julian coming up the stairs. The tread of his feet was like music she had always known, so familiar it had almost stopped being music.
Emma resisted calling out again—she was in Dru’s room, and Dru had just fallen asleep, worn-out, still in the clothes she’d worn to the Council meeting. Emma heard Julian’s step in the hall, and then the sound of a door opening and closing.
Careful not to wake Dru, she slipped out of the room. She knew where Julian was without having to wonder: Down the hall a few doors was Ty’s borrowed bedroom.
Inside, the room was softly lit. Diana sat in an armchair by the head of Ty’s bed, her face tight with grief and weariness. Kit was asleep, propped against the wall, his hands in his lap.
Julian stood by Ty’s bed, looking down, his hands at his sides. Ty slept without restlessness, a drugged sleep, hair dark against the white pillows. Still, even in sleep he kept himself to the left side of the bed, as if leaving the space beside him open for Livvy.
“. . . his cheeks are flushed,” Julian was saying. “Like he has a fever.”
“He doesn’t,” Diana said firmly. “He needs this, Jules. Sleep heals.” Emma saw the open doubt on Julian’s face. She knew what he was thinking: Sleep didn’t heal me when my mother died, or my father, and it won’t heal this, either. It will always be a wound.
Diana glanced over at Emma. “Dru?” she said.
Julian looked up at that, and his eyes met Emma’s. She felt the pain in his gaze like a blow to her chest. It was suddenly hard to breathe. “Asleep,” she said, almost in a whisper. “It took a little while, but she finally crashed.”
“I was in the Silent City,” he said. “We brought Livvy down there. I helped them lay her body out.”
Diana reached up to put her hand on his arm. “Jules,” she said quietly. “You need to go and get yourself cleaned up, and get some rest.”
“I should stay here,” Julian said in a low voice. “If Ty wakes up and I’m not here—”
“He won’t,” Diana said. “The Silent Brothers are precise with their doses.”
“If he wakes up and you’re standing here covered in Livvy’s blood, Julian, it won’t help anything,” Emma said. Diana looked at her, clearly surprised by the harshness of her words, but Julian blinked as if coming out of a dream.
Emma held out her hand to him. “Come on,” she said.
The sky was a mixture of dark blue and black, where storm clouds had gathered over the mountains in the distance. Fortunately, the way up to the Gard was lit by witchlight torches. Cristina slipped along beside the path, keeping to the shadows. The air held the ozone tang of an oncoming storm, making her think of the bitter- penny tang of blood.
As she reached the front doors of the Gard, they opened and a group of Silent Brothers emerged. Their ivory robes seemed to glimmer with what looked like raindrops.
Cristina pressed herself back against the wall. She wasn’t doing anything wrong—any Shadowhunter could come to the Gard when they liked—but she instinctively didn’t want to be seen. As the Brothers passed close by her, she saw that it wasn’t rain after all sparkling on their robes but a fine dusting of glass.
They must have been in the Council Hall. She remembered the window smashing inward as Annabel had disappeared. It had been a blur of noise, splintering light: Cristina had been focused on the Blackthorns. On Emma, the look of devastation on her face. On Mark, his body hunched inward as if he were absorbing the force of a physical blow.
The inside of the Gard was quiet. Head down, she walked rap- idly down the corridors, following the sound of voices toward the Hall. She veered aside to take the stairs up to the second-floor seats, which jutted out over the rest of the room like the balcony in a theater. There was a crowd of Nephilim milling around on the dais below. Someone (the Silent Brothers?) had cleared away the broken glass and blood. The window was back to normal.
Clear up the evidence all you want, Cristina thought as she knelt down to peer over the railing of the balcony. It still happened.
She could see Horace Dearborn, seated on a high stool. He was a big, bony man, not muscular though his arms and neck were ropy with tendons. His daughter, Zara Dearborn—her hair in a neat braid around her head, her gear immaculate—stood behind him. She didn’t resemble her father much, except perhaps in the tight anger of their expressions and in their passion for the Cohort, a faction within the Clave who believed in the primacy of Shadowhunters over Downworlders, even when it came to breaking the Law.
Crowded around them were other Shadowhunters, young and old. Cristina recognized quite a few Centurions—Manuel Casales Villalobos, Jessica Beausejours, and Samantha Larkspear among them—as well as many other Nephilim who had been carrying Cohort signs at the meeting. There were quite a few, though, who as far as she knew were not members of the Cohort. Like Lazlo Balogh, the craggy head of the Budapest Institute, who had been one of the main architects of the Cold Peace and its punitive measures against Downworlders. Josiane Pontmercy she knew from the Marseilles Institute. Delaney Scarsbury taught at the Academy. A few others she recognized as friends of her mother’s—Trini Castel from the Barcelona Conclave, and Luana Carvalho, who ran the Institute in São Paulo, had both known her when she was a small girl.
They were all Council members. Cristina said a silent prayer of thanks that her mother wasn’t here, that she’d been too busy dealing with an outbreak of Halphas demons in the Alameda Central to attend, trusting Diego to represent her interests.
“There is no time to lose,” Horace said. He exuded a sense of humorless intensity, just like his daughter. “We are without an Inquisitor, now, at a critical time, when we are under threat from outside and inside the Clave.” He glanced around the room. “We hope that after today’s events, those of you who have doubted our cause will come to be believers.”
Cristina felt cold inside. This was more than just a Cohort meeting. This was the Cohort recruiting. Inside the empty Council Hall, where Livvy had died. She felt sick.
“What do you think you’ve learned, exactly, Horace?” said a woman with an Australian accent. “Be clear with us, so we’re all understanding the same thing.”
He smirked a little. “Andrea Sedgewick,” he said. “You were in favor of the Cold Peace, if I recall correctly.”
She looked pinched. “I don’t think much of Downworlders. But what happened here today . . .”
“We were attacked,” said Dearborn. “Betrayed, attacked, inside and out. I’m sure you all saw what I saw—the sigil of the Unseelie Court?”
Cristina remembered. As Annabel had disappeared, borne away through the shattered window of the Hall as if by unseen hands, a single image had flashed on the air: a broken crown.
The crowd murmured their assent. Fear hung in the air like a miasma. Dearborn clearly relished it, almost licking his lips as he gazed around the room. “The Unseelie King, striking at the heart of our homeland. He sneers at the Cold Peace. He knows we are weak. He laughs at our inability to pass stricter Laws, to do anything that would really control the fey—”
“No one can control the fey,” said Scarsbury.
“That’s exactly the attitude that’s weakened the Clave all these years,” snapped Zara. Her father smiled at her indulgently.
“My daughter is right,” he said. “The fey have their weaknesses, like all Downworlders. They were not created by God or by our Angel. They have flaws, and we have never exploited them, yet they exploit our mercy and laugh at us behind their hands.”
“What are you suggesting?” said Trini. “A wall around Faerie?”
There was a bit of derisive laughter. Faerie existed everywhere and nowhere: It was another plane of existence. No one could wall it off.
Horace narrowed his eyes. “You laugh,” he said, “but iron doors at all the entrances and exits of Faerie would do a great deal to prevent their incursions into our world.”
“Is that the goal?” Manuel spoke lazily, as if he didn’t have much invested in the answer. “Close off Faerie?”
“There is not only one goal, as you well know, boy,” said Dearborn. Suddenly he smiled, as if something had just occurred to him. “You know of the blight, Manuel. Perhaps you should share your knowledge, since the Consul has not. Perhaps these good people should be aware of what happens when the doors between Faerie and the world are flung wide.”
Holding her necklace, Cristina seethed silently as Manuel described the patches of dead blighted earth in Brocelind Forest: the way they resisted Shadowhunter magic, the fact that the same blight seemed to exist in the Unseelie Lands of Faerie. How did he know that? Cristina agonized silently. It had been what Kieran was going to tell the Council, but he hadn’t had the chance. How did Manuel know?
She was only grateful that Diego had done what she had asked him to do, and taken Kieran to the Scholomance. It was clear there would have been no safety for a full-blood faerie here.
“The Unseelie King is creating a poison and beginning to spread it to our world—one that will make Shadowhunters powerless against him. We must move now to show our strength,” said Zara, cutting Manuel off before he was finished.
“As you moved against Malcolm?” said Lazlo. There were titters, and Zara flushed—she had proudly claimed to have slain Malcolm Fade, a powerful warlock, though it had later turned out she had lied. Cristina and the others had hoped the fact would discredit Zara—but now, after what had happened with Annabel, Zara’s lie had become little more than a joke.
Dearborn rose to his feet. “That’s not the issue now, Balogh. The Blackthorns have faerie blood in their family. They brought a creature—a necromantic half-dead thing that slew our Inquisitor and filled the Hall with blood and terror—into Alicante.”
“Their sister was killed too,” said Luana. “We saw their grief.
They did not plan what happened.”
Cristina could see the calculations going on inside Dearborn’s head—he would have dearly liked to blame the Blackthorns and see them all tossed into the Silent City prisons, but the spectacle of Julian holding Livvy’s body as she died was too raw and visceral for even the Cohort to ignore. “They are victims too,” he said, “of the Fair Folk prince they trusted, and possibly their own faerie kin. Perhaps they can be brought around to see a reasonable point of view. After all, they are Shadowhunters, and that is what the Cohort is about— protecting Shadowhunters. Protecting our own.” He laid a hand on Zara’s shoulder. “When the Mortal Sword is restored, I am sure Zara will be happy to lay any doubts you have about her accomplishments to rest.”
Zara flushed and nodded. Cristina thought she looked guilty as sin, but the rest of the crowd had been distracted by the mention of the Sword.
“The Mortal Sword restored?” said Trini. She was a deep believer in the Angel and his power, as Cristina’s family was too. She looked anxious now, her thin hands working in her lap. “Our irreplaceable link to the Angel Raziel—you believe it will be returned to us?”
“It will be restored,” Dearborn said smoothly. “Jia will be meeting with the Iron Sisters tomorrow. As it was forged, so can it be reforged.”
“But it was forged in Heaven,” protested Trini. “Not the Adamant Citadel.”
“And Heaven let it break,” said Dearborn, and Cristina suppressed a gasp. How could he claim such a brazen thing? Yet the others clearly trusted him. “Nothing can shatter the Mortal Sword save Raziel’s will. He looked upon us and he saw we were unworthy. He saw that we had turned away from his message, from our service to angels, and were serving Downworlders instead. He broke the sword to warn us.” His eyes glittered with a fanatic light. “If we prove ourselves worthy again, Raziel will allow the Sword to be reforged. I have no doubts.”
How dare he speak for Raziel? How dare he speak as if he were God? Cristina shook with fury, but the others seemed to be looking at him as if he offered them a light in darkness. As if he were their only hope.
“And how do we prove ourselves worthy?” said Balogh in a more somber voice.
“We must remember that Shadowhunters were chosen,” said Horace. “We must remember that we have a mandate. We stand first in the face of evil, and therefore we come first. Let Downworlders look to their own. If we work together with strong leadership—”
“But we don’t have strong leadership,” said Jessica Beausejours, one of Zara’s Centurion friends. “We have Jia Penhallow, and she is tainted by her daughter’s association with faeries and half-bloods.”
There was a gasp and a titter. All eyes turned toward Horace, but he only shook his head. “I will not utter a word against our Consul,” he said primly.
More murmurs. Clearly Horace’s pretense of loyalty had won him some support. Cristina tried not to grind her teeth.
“Her loyalty to her family is understandable, even if it may have blinded her,” said Horace. “What matters now is the Laws the Clave passes. We must enforce strict regulations on Downworlders, the strictest of all on the Fair Folk—though there is nothing fair about them.”
“That won’t stop the Unseelie King,” said Jessica, though Cristina got the feeling she didn’t so much doubt Horace as desire to prompt him to go further.
“The issue is preventing faeries and other Downworlders from joining the King’s cause,” said Horace. “That is why they need to be observed and, if necessary, incarcerated before they have a chance to betray us.”
“Incarcerated?” Trini echoed. “But how—?”
“Oh, there are several ways,” said Horace. “Wrangel Island, for instance, could hold a host of Downworlders. The important thing is that we begin with control. Enforcement of the Accords. Registration of each Downworlder, their name and location. We would start with the faeries, of course.”
There was a buzz of approval.
“We will, of course, need a strong Inquisitor to pass and enforce those laws,” said Horace.
“Then let it be you!” cried Trini. “We have lost a Mortal Sword and an Inquisitor tonight; let us at least replace one. We have a quorum—enough Shadowhunters are here to put Horace forward for the Inquisitor’s position. We can hold the vote tomorrow morning. Who is with me?”
A chant of “Dearborn! Dearborn!” filled the room. Cristina hung on to the railing of the balcony, her ears ringing. This couldn’t happen. It couldn’t. Trini wasn’t like that. Her mother’s friends weren’t like that. This couldn’t be the real face of the Council.
She scrambled to her feet, unable to stand another second of it, and bolted from the gallery.