For once Will was speechless. It was not a position he found himself in often, and he was forced to admit that he did not like it.
"Oh, leave him be, Woolsey," said a familiar voice from inside the house- Magnus, hurrying along the corridor. He was fastening his shirt cuffs as he came forward, and his hair was a thicket of mussed black tangles. "I told you Will would be coming by."
Will looked from Magnus to Woolsey. Magnus was barefoot; so was the werewolf. Woolsey had a glimmering gold chain around his neck. From it hung a pendant that said Beati Bellicosi, "Blessed Are the Warriors." Beneath it was an imprint of a wolf’s paw. Scott noticed Will staring at it and grinned.
"Like what you see?" he inquired.
"Woolsey," said Magnus.
"Your note to me did have something to do with demon summoning, didn’t it?" Will asked, looking at Magnus. "This isn’t you . . . call ing in your favor, is it?"
Magnus shook his rumpled head. "No. This is business, nothing else.
Woolsey’s been kind enough to let me lodge with him while I decide what to do next."
"I say we go to Rome," said Scott. "I adore Rome."
"All well and fine, but first I need the use of a room. Preferably one with little or nothing in it."
Scott removed his monocle and stared at Magnus. "And you’re going to do what in this room?" His tone was more than suggestive.
"Summon the demon Marbas," said Magnus, flashing a grin.
Scott choked on his pipe smoke. "I suppose we all have our ideas about what constitutes an enjoyable evening . . ."
"Woolsey." Magnus ran his hands through his rough black hair. "I hate to bring this up, but you do owe me. Hamburg? 1863?"
Scott threw his hands up. "Oh, very well. You may utilize my brother’s room.
No one’s used it since he died. Enjoy. I’ll be in the drawing room with a glass of sherry and some rather naughty woodcuts I had imported from Romania."
With that, he turned and padded off down the hall. Magnus gestured Will inside, and he entered gladly, the warmth of the house enveloping him like a blanket. Since there was no footman, he slid off his blue wool frock coat and draped it over his arm as Magnus watched him with a curious gaze. "Will," he said. "I see you wasted no time after you got my note. I wasn’t expecting you until tomorrow."
"You know what this means to me," said Will. "Did you really think I’d delay?"
Magnus’s eyes searched his face. "You are prepared," he said. "For this to fail? For the demon to be the incorrect one? For the summoning not to work?"
For a long moment Will could not move. He could see his own face in the mirror that hung by the door. He was horrified to see how raw he looked-as if there were no longer any wal between the world and his own heart’s desires. "No," he said. "I am not prepared."
Magnus shook his head. "Will. . ." He sighed. "Come with me."
He turned with catlike grace and made his way down the hal and up the curving wooden steps. Will fol owed, up through the shadowed staircase, the thick Persian stair runner muffling his footsteps. Niches set back in the wal s contained polished marble statues of entwined bodies. Will looked away from them hastily, and then back. It wasn’t as if Magnus seemed to be paying attention to what Will was doing, and he’d honestly never imagined two people could get themselves into a position like that, much less make it look artistic.
They reached the second landing, and Magnus padded off down the corridor, opening doors as he went and muttering to himself. finally finding the correct room, he threw the door open and gestured for Will to fol ow him.
The bedroom of Woolsey Scott’s dead brother was dark and cold, and the air smelled of dust. Automatical y Will fumbled for his witchlight, but Magnus waved a dismissing hand at him, blue fire sparking from his fingertips. A fire roared up suddenly in the grate, lighting the room. It was furnished, though everything had been draped with white cloths-the bed, the wardrobe and dressers. As Magnus stalked through the room, rol ing up his shirtsleeves and gesturing with his hands, the furniture began to slide back from the center of the room. The bed swung around and lay flat against the wal ; the chairs and bureaus and washstand flew into the corners of the room.
Will whistled. Magnus grinned. "Easily impressed," Magnus said, though he sounded slightly out of breath. He knelt down in the now denuded center of the room and hastily drew a pentagram. In each point of the occult symbol, he scrawled a rune, though none were runes Will knew from the Gray Book.
Magnus raised his arms and held them out over the star; he began to chant, and gashes opened up in his wrists, spil ing blood into the pentagram’s center. Will tensed as the blood struck the floor and began to burn with an eerie blue glow. Magnus backed out of the pentagram, still chanting, reached into his pocket, and produced the demon’s tooth. As Will watched, Magnus tossed it into the now flaming center of the star.
For a moment nothing happened. Then, out of the burning heart of the fire, a dark shape began to take form. Magnus had stopped chanting; he stood, his narrowed eyes focused on the pentagram and what was happening within it, the gashes on his arms closing swiftly. There was little sound in the room, just the crackle of the fire and Will ‘s harsh breathing, loud in his own ears, as the dark shape grew in size-coalesced, and, final y, took a solid, recognizable shape.
It was the blue demon from the party, no longer dressed in evening wear.
Its body was covered in overlapping blue scales, and a long yel owish tail with a stinger on the end switched back and forth behind it. The demon looked from Magnus to Will, its scarlet eyes narrowed.
"Who summons the demon Marbas?" it demanded in a voice that sounded as if its words were echoing from the bottom of a well.
Magnus jerked his chin toward the pentagram. The message was clear: This was Will ‘s business now.
Will took a step forward. "You don’t remember me?"
"I remember you," the demon growled. "You chased me through the grounds of the Lightwood country house. You tore out one of my teeth." It opened its mouth, showing the gap. "I tasted your blood." Its voice was a hiss. "When I escape this pentagram, I will taste it again, Nephilim."
"No." Will stood his ground. "I’m asking you if you remember me."
The demon was silent. Its eyes, dancing with fire, were unreadable.
"Five years ago," said Will. "A box. A Pyxis. I opened it, and you emerged.
We were in my father’s library. You attacked, but my sister fended you off with a seraph blade. Do you recollect me now?"
There was a long, long silence. Magnus kept his cat’s eyes fixed on the demon. There was an implied threat in them, one that Will couldn’t read.
"Speak the truth," Magnus said final y. "Or it Will go badly for you, Marbas."
The demon’s head swung toward Will. "You," it said reluctantly. "You are that boy. Edmund Herondale’s son."
Will sucked in a breath. He felt suddenly light-headed, as if he were going to pass out. He dug his nails into his palms, hard, gashing the skin, letting the pain clear his head. "You remember."
"I had been trapped for twenty years in that thing," Marbas snarled. "Of course I remember being freed. Imagine it, if you can, idiot mortal, years of blackness, darkness, no light or movement-and then the break, the opening. A nd the face of the man who imprisoned you hovering just above your gaze."
"I am not the man who imprisoned you-"
"No. That was your father. But you look just like him to my eyes." The demon smirked. "I remember your sister. Brave girl, fending me off with that blade she could hardly use."
"She used it well enough to keep you away from us. That’s why you cursed us. Cursed me. Do you remember that?"
The demon chuckled. "’A ll who love you will find only death. Their love will be their destruction. It may take moments, it may take years, but any who look upon you with love will die of it. A nd I shall begin it with her.’"
Will felt as if he were breathing fire. His whole chest burned. "Yes."
The demon cocked its head to the side. "A nd you summoned me that we might reminisce about this shared event in our past?"
"I called you up, you blue-skinned bastard, to get you to take the curse off me. My sister-El a-she died that night. I left my family to keep them safe.
It’s been five years. It’s enough. Enough!"
"Do not try to engage my pity, mortal," said Marbas. "I was twenty years tortured in that box. Perhaps you too should suffer for twenty years.
Or two hundred-"
Will ‘s whole body tensed. Before he could fling himself toward the pentagram, Magnus said, in a calm tone, "Something about this story strikes me as odd, Marbas."
The demon’s eyes flicked toward him. "A nd what is that?"
"A demon, upon being let out of a Pyxis, is usual y at its weakest, having been starved for as long as it was imprisoned. Too weak to cast a curse as subtle and strong as the one you claim to have cast on Will."
The demon hissed something in a language Will didn’t know, one of the more uncommon demon languages, not Cthonic or Purgatic. Magnus’s eyes narrowed.
"But she died," Will said. "Marbas said my sister would die, and she did.
Magnus’s eyes were still fixed on the demon’s. Some kind of battle of Will s was taking place silently, outside Will ‘s range of understanding. Final y Magnus said, softly, "Do you really wish to disobey me, Marbas? Do you wish to anger my father?"
Marbas spat a curse, and turned to Will. Its snout twitched. "The half-caste is correct. The curse was false. Your sister died because I struck her with my stinger." It swished its yel owish tail back and forth, and Will remembered El a knocked to the ground by that tail, the blade skittering from her hand.
"There has never been a curse on you, Will Herondale. Not one put there by me."
"No," Will said softly. "No, it isn’t possible." He felt as if a great storm were blowing through his head; he remembered Jem’s voice saying the wall is coming down, and he envisioned a great wal that had surrounded him, isolated him, for years, crumbling away into sand. He was free-and he was alone, and the icy wind cut through him like a knife. "No." His voice had taken on a low, keening note. "Magnus . . ."
"Are you lying, Marbas?" Magnus snapped. "Do you swear on Baal that you are tell ing the truth?"
"I swear," said Marbas, red eyes rol ing. "What benefit would it be to me to lie?"
Will slid to his knees. His hands were locked across his stomach as if they were keeping his guts from spil ing out. Five years, he thought. Five years wasted. He heard his family screaming and pounding on the doors of the Institute and himself ordering Charlotte to send them away. And they had never known why. They had lost a daughter and a son in a matter of days, and they had never known why. And the others-Henry and Charlotte and Jem-and Tessa-and the things he had done- Jem is my great sin.
"Wil is right," said Magnus. "Marbas, you are a blue-skinned bastard. Burn and die!"
Somewhere at the edge of Will ‘s vision, dark red flame soared toward the ceiling; Marbas screamed, a howl of agony cut off as swiftly as it had begun.
The stench of burning demon flesh fil ed the room. And still Will crouched on his knees, his breath sawing in and out of his lungs. Oh God, oh God, oh God.
Gentle hands touched his shoulders. "Will," Magnus said, and there was no humor in his voice, only a surprising kindness. "Will, I am sorry."
"Everything I’ve done," Will said. His lungs felt as if he couldn’t get enough air. "Al the lying, the pushing people away, the abandonment of my family, the unforgivable things I said to Tessa-a waste. A bloody waste, and all because of a lie I was stupid enough to believe."
"You were twelve years old. Your sister was dead. Marbas was a cunning creature. He has fooled powerful magicians, never mind a child who had no knowledge of the Shadow World."
Will stared down at his hands. "My whole life wrecked, destroyed . . ."
"You’re seventeen," Magnus said. "You can’t have wrecked a life you’ve barely lived. And don’t you understand what this means, Will ? You’ve spent the last five years convinced that no one could possibly love you, because if they did, they would be dead. The mere fact of their continued survival proved their indifference to you. But you were wrong. Charlotte, Henry, Jem -your family-"
Will took a deep breath, and let it out. The storm in his head was ebbing slowly.
"Tessa," he said.
"Well." Now there was a touch of humor to Magnus’s voice. Will realized the warlock was kneeling beside him. I am in a werewolf’s house, Will thought, with a warlock comforting me, and the ashes of a dead demon mere feet away. Who could ever have imagined? "I can give you no assurance of what Tessa feels. If you have not noticed, she is a decidedly independent girl. But you have as much a chance to win her love as any man does, Will, and isn’t that what you wanted?" He patted Will on the shoulder and withdrew his hand, standing up, a thin dark shadow looming over Will. "If it’s any consolation, from what I observed on the balcony the other night, I do believe she rather likes you."
Magnus watched as Will made his way down the front walk of the house.
Reaching the gate, he paused, his hand on the latch, as if hesitating on the threshold of the beginning of a long and difficult journey. The moon had come out from behind the clouds and shone on his thick dark hair, the pale white of his hands.
"Very curious," said Woolsey, appearing behind Magnus in the doorway.
The warm lights of the house turned Woolsey’s dark blond hair into a pale gold tangle. He looked as if he’d been sleeping. "If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were fond of that boy."
"Know better in what sense, Woolsey?" Magnus asked, absently, stil watching Will, and the light sparking off the Thames behind him.