Home > The Lost Book of the White (The Eldest Curses #2)(8)

The Lost Book of the White (The Eldest Curses #2)(8)
Author: Cassandra Clare, Wesley Chu

“Well,” said Magnus heavily. “I have some good news. There is only one line of fire burning on my chest right now, not an X. Prophetic dream understood. Avoid getting another cut in the shape of an X. Excellent advice.”

“There’s more,” said Clary. “The confusing part.”

“So far, this has been very straightforward,” agreed Magnus.

“You were in chains. Like, in lots of chains. Your legs were chained to the ground, your arms and your shoulders and your waist all chained to the wall. Huge chains, with huge iron links. You were weighed down by them. It was amazing you weren’t literally crushed to death under their weight.”

Magnus had to admit that did seem bad.

“But here’s the thing,” Clary said. “You didn’t look like you were in pain. Or even bothered. You looked happy. More than happy. You looked ecstatic. You looked… triumphant.”

She fixed her gaze on Magnus. “I don’t know what it means. Like I said—I don’t have prophetic dreams anymore. Usually. But I thought I should tell you anyway.”

“Better safe than sorry,” said Magnus. “I hope it’s totally abstract, like, I will be sad, but happy about being sad. Something like that. Rather than involving actual iron chains or having bigger teeth.”

“Well, here’s hoping,” said Clary.

“Run along to the Institute,” Magnus said. “I should go check on my family.”

Clary departed, and Magnus, uneasy for the first time since the morning, went to find Alec and their son and hold them close for a moment. Just to warm himself up.

CHAPTER THREE A Brief Farewell

ALEC WAS GETTING A LITTLE frustrated. He’d called Catarina and asked if she could look after Max for a couple of days, only to find out that she was working double shifts at the hospital and would barely be home (though she did agree to stop in and feed Chairman Meow in the evenings). He’d called Maia, who turned out to be hosting friends of Bat’s. He’d considered, but rejected, calling Lily. Lily often spoke of how Max was “so delicious” that she just wanted “to eat him up,” and while Alec trusted Lily, he was not completely sure she was speaking figuratively.

“What about your mother?” Magnus said. He had put Max into an iridescent magical bubble and was rolling him around the bedroom while Alec fetched suitcases from the back of their closet.

“What? No,” Alec said. He watched Max for a moment. “Is he in a magical hamster ball?”

“No! Well, kind of, yes,” said Magnus. “He likes it. Why not your mother?”

“This kid floats up to the ceiling sometimes,” said Alec. “He sets a blanket on fire in his sleep every three weeks or so.”

“Another advantage of the magical hamster ball,” said Magnus. “Magic shield. I didn’t want Max knocking out the neighbors’ cable again.”

“Well, my mother doesn’t have a magical hamster ball,” said Alec.

Magnus rolled Max out into the hallway, to squeals of delight, and called back, “She’s a Shadowhunter! She’s supposed to be able to handle warlocks. She raised you!” He ducked his head back into the bedroom and raised his eyebrows. “She raised Jace.”

“All right!” said Alec, laughing. “You win. I’ll call her.”

* * *

IT TOOK THEM TWENTY MINUTES to pack their things, and then two hours to assemble Max’s gear, which was strewn all over the apartment. It hadn’t seemed like a lot of stuff, but when it was all in one place, it made quite a haul: his stroller, his Pack ’n Play, a huge stack of clothes, a cardboard box of baby food, and a black satchel into which Magnus stuffed a few of Max’s favorite picture books and toys, and also some components for the more useful wards to handle Max’s accidental magic.

Eventually, after fishing a recalcitrant Chairman Meow out of the satchel, where he’d gone to sleep, they departed and made their way to the Institute.

The New York Institute was a solemn stone castle amid towers of metal and glass. Magnus liked the churches of New York, the way they carved a hushed and sacred space into the bustle of the city. Maybe that was why he had always found the self-seriousness of the Shadowhunters oddly charming. They tended to be flippant about it if you asked—even Alec—but the Institute was a reminder, even when it would be easy to forget, that theirs was a divine assignment.

It could be both good and bad that warlocks were so much more idiosyncratic and disorganized. Even the idea of High Warlocks had started as a joke, an affectation among the rare warlocks of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries who were able to achieve some prestige in the mundane society that mostly rejected them as monsters. Magnus would estimate that a good half of the “High Warlocks” in the world today had appointed themselves to the position. Even cities with a long history of High Warlocks, like London, still mostly named them as a result of dares at parties.

Magnus was, in fact, one of those self-appointed warlocks; the whole joke about his being the High Warlock of Brooklyn was that no other New York borough had a High Warlock at all. He’d hoped to popularize the idea, but so far nobody had stepped up, except for a young woman with a unicorn horn sticking out of her forehead who had declared herself the “Medium Warlock,” also of Brooklyn. But over the years, he’d come to feel it as a kind of real responsibility. And the Shadowhunters, he’d learned fast, were thrilled to have a warlock they could reliably call upon—even the Lightwoods, who, when they came to run the Institute in New York, Magnus had known only as members of a famous Shadowhunter hate group. And Magnus, for his part, was thrilled to have a steady, recurring revenue stream.

When he’d heard they were coming, Magnus took a deep breath, added a 15 percent “Nuisance Fee” to his already monstrous rates, and, when it was absolutely necessary, breezed into the Institute and tried to keep things light. How have you been; lovely non-apocalyptic weather we’re having; enjoy this beautiful spell you don’t deserve; please pay my absurdly high bill promptly; am I providing regular protection spells for fugitives in hiding from the Nephilim? Why, no!

It was strange to walk into that same Institute, with a Lightwood next to him, holding their child. To have Maryse Lightwood as something more like family and less like a business partner he could never fully trust. He was glad that Robert, at least, was busy with Inquisitor business in Idris. Inquisiting some folks, he assumed.

The entrance hall of the Institute stretched high above them, silent and dim and imposing. It always seemed to Magnus that the small group of Shadowhunters who lived here really rattled around the place. He knew it well, but in the manner that he might know a hotel lobby he’d passed through many times. It was not his place, and despite the efforts of the Lightwoods and Jace to make him feel comfortable here, he remained almost unconsciously on guard. Three years of close collaboration and friendship with the local Shadowhunters did not erase decades of more tense times spent here.

For one thing, it meant that he whispered to Alec, even though there was no reason at all to whisper. It just felt true to the aesthetics of the place. “Where is everyone?”

Alec shrugged, striding across the hall as if he owned the place, which Magnus supposed he sort of did. “I expect everyone’s off gathering gear and weapons. We should just go find my mother.”

“How do you propose to find her?” Magnus said.

“Ah,” said Alec, “the Institute has a very old magic woven into its walls. I shall now use it to commune with my mother, wherever she might be found.” He put his hands around his mouth and bellowed at the top of his lungs. “MOOOOOOOOOOM!”

Alec’s voice reverberated impressively against the stone walls. Max giggled and yelled, “Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!” alongside Alec. The sound faded away and Magnus waited.

“Well?” he said, and Alec held up a finger. After a moment, there was a flare, and a fire-message appeared in front of him. He plucked it from the air and opened it, giving Magnus a superior look. “ ‘She’s in the library,’ ” he read.

A second fire-message appeared, in the same spot as the first. Alec opened it. “ ‘Did you know you can send fire-messages within the Institute?’ ” he read. “ ‘I just found out.’ ” He looked at Magnus in bewilderment. “Of course I knew that.”

“To the library, then?” said Magnus.

A third fire-message appeared. Max lunged to try to grab it, but it was too far above his head. Magnus grabbed that one and read, “ ‘I love fire-messages, have a great day, your friend, Simon Lovelace, Shadowhunter.’ Can we go?”

They heard a fourth one burst behind them as they left by the hall door, but neither of them looked back at it.

* * *

“I PROMISE YOU,” SAID MARYSE, “I can completely handle Max for a few days.”

Alec’s mother was standing in the center of the library, near the desk where their old tutor had once sat. She was tall in the same way Isabelle was tall, unapologetically taking up space in the world, standing so straight she seemed even taller than she was. She folded her arms as though daring Alec and Magnus to disagree.

“Mom,” Alec said, rubbing the back of his neck, “I just don’t want you to have to deal with any… emergencies. He’s a warlock.”

“You’re kidding,” said Maryse. “I thought he had a terrible accident with a fountain pen.”

Max lay on his stomach on the rug between them, doodling with Maryse’s stele on an old, beaten-up shield she had found in the cellar the last time Max was over. The stele left sparking bright lines across the steel surface that faded slowly to black. Max was extremely into it.

“You know, you’ve gotten sassier recently,” said Magnus, eyes twinkling. He had opened the satchel and was unloading toys and books onto Maryse’s desk. She didn’t seem to mind.

“I’m just saying,” Alec pressed on, “he was floating on the ceiling this morning. He doesn’t really have any control yet over the magical stuff he does.”

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