“Seriously?” Julian kicked Mark’s duffel bag aside, grabbing hold of his brother’s shoulders. “What are you doing here?”
Julian was taller than Mark, a fact that always struck Emma as odd—Mark had been taller for so many years. Taller and older. But he was neither now. He looked like a slim pale blade in the darkness, against Julian’s more solid strength and height. He looked as if he might at any moment turn into moonlight on the waves and vanish.
He turned his gaze to Cristina. “You got my fire-message.”
She nodded, tendrils of her dark hair, caught in a jeweled clip at the back of her head, curling around her face. “We all read it.”
Mark closed his eyes. “I had not thought you could follow me on the moon’s road.”
“But we did.” Julian tightened his hands on Mark’s shoulders. “You’re not going anywhere in Faerie, much less alone.”
“It’s for Kieran,” Mark said simply.
“Kieran betrayed you,” said Julian.
“They will kill him, Jules,” said Mark. “Because of me. Kieran killed Iarlath because of me.” He opened his eyes to gaze into his brother’s face. “I should not have tried to leave without telling you. That was unfair of me. I knew you would try to stop me, and I knew I had little time. I will never forgive Kieran for what happened to you and Emma, but I will not leave him to death and torture, either.”
“Mark, the Fair Folk aren’t fond of you,” said Julian. “They were forced to give you back, and they hate giving back anything they take. If you go into Faerie, they’ll keep you there if they can, and it won’t be easy, and they will hurt you. I won’t let that happen.”
“Then you will be my jailer, brother?” Mark held out his hands, palms up. “You will bind my wrists in cold iron, my ankles with thorns?”
Julian flinched. It was too dark to see Mark’s Blackthorn features, his blue-green eye, and in the dimness the brothers seemed only a Shadowhunter and a faerie, eternally at odds. “Emma,” Julian said, removing his hands from Mark’s shoulders. There was a desperate bitterness in his voice. “Mark loves you. You convince him.”
Emma felt Julian’s bitterness like thorns under her skin, and heard Mark’s anguished words again: Will you be my jailer? “We aren’t going to stop you from going. We’re going to go with you.”
Even in the moonlight, she could see Mark’s face lose color. “No. You’re obviously Nephilim. You’re in gear. Your runes aren’t hidden. Shadowhunters are not well-loved in the Land Under the Hill.”
“Apparently only Kieran is,” said Julian. “He’s lucky to have your loyalty, Mark, since we don’t.”
At that, Mark flushed and turned toward his brother, his eyes glittering angrily. “All right, stop—stop,” Emma said, taking a step toward them. The shimmering water bent and flexed beneath her feet. “Both of you—”
“Who walks the path of moonlight?”
A figure approached, its voice a deep boom above the waves. Julian’s hand went to the hilt of the dagger at his waist. Emma’s seraph blade was out; Cristina had her balisong in hand. Mark’s fingers had reached for the place where the elf-bolt Kieran had given him had once rested in the hollow of his throat. It was gone now. His face tightened before relaxing into recognition.
“It’s a phouka,” he said under his breath. “Mostly, they’re harmless.”
The figure on the path before them had drawn closer. It was a tall faerie, dressed in ragged trousers held up by a belt of rope. Thin strands of gold were woven into his long dark hair and gleamed against his dark skin. His feet were bare.
He spoke, and his voice sounded like the tide at sunset. “Seek you to enter through the Gate of Lir?”
“Yes,” said Mark.
Metallic gold eyes without irises or pupils passed over Mark, Cristina, Julian, and Emma. “Only one of you is fey,” the phouka said. “The others are human. No—Nephilim.” Thin lips curled into a smile. “That is a surprise. How many of you wish passage through the gate to the Shadow Lands?”
“All of us,” said Emma. “The four.”
“If the King or Queen finds you, they will kill you,” said the phouka. “The Fair Folk are not friendly to the angel-blooded, not since the Cold Peace.”
“I am half-faerie,” said Mark. “My mother was the Lady Nerissa of the Seelie Court.”
The phouka raised his eyebrows. “Her death grieved us all.”
“And these are my brothers and sisters,” Mark continued, pressing his advantage. “They would accompany me; I will protect them.”
The phouka shrugged. “It is not my concern what befalls you in the Lands,” he said. “Only that first you must pay a toll.”
“No payments,” said Julian, his hand tightening on his dagger hilt. “No tolls.”
The phouka smiled. “Come here and speak to me a moment, in private, and then decide if you would pay my price. I will not force you.”
Julian’s expression darkened, but he stepped forward. Emma strained to hear what he was saying to the phouka, but the sound of wind and waves slid between them. Behind them, the air swirled and clouded: Emma thought she could see a shape in it, arched like the shape of a door.
Julian stood motionless as the phouka spoke, but Emma saw a muscle twitch in his cheek. A moment later, he unsnapped his father’s watch from around his wrist and dropped it into the phouka’s hand.
“One payment,” said the phouka loudly, as Julian turned away. “Who would come next?”
“I will,” said Cristina, and moved carefully across the path toward the phouka. Julian rejoined Mark and Emma.
“Did he threaten you?” Emma whispered. “Jules, if he threatened you—”
“He didn’t,” Julian said. “I wouldn’t let Cristina near him if he had.”
Emma turned to watch as Cristina reached up and pulled the jeweled clip from her hair. It cascaded down over her back and shoulders, blacker than the night sea. She handed the clip over and began to walk back toward them, looking dazed.
“Mark Blackthorn will go last,” said the phouka. “Let the golden-haired girl come to me next.”
Emma could feel the others watching her as she went toward the phouka, Julian more intensely than the rest. She thought of the painting he’d done of her, where she’d risen above the ocean with a body made of stars.
She wondered what he’d done with those paintings. If he’d thrown them all out. Were they gone, burned? Her heart ached at the thought. Such lovely work of Jules’s, every brushstroke a whisper, a promise.
She reached the faerie, who stood slyly smiling as his kind did when they were amused. All around them the sea stretched, black and silver. The phouka bent his head to speak to her; the wind rushed up around them. She stood with him inside a circle of cloud. She could no longer see the others.
“If you’re going to threaten me,” she said, before he could speak, “understand that I will hunt you down for it, if not now, then later. And I will make you die for a long time.”
The phouka laughed. His teeth were also gold, tipped in silver. “Emma Carstairs,” he said. “I see you know little about phoukas. We are seducers, not bullies. When I tell you what I tell you, you will wish to go to Faerie. You will wish to give me what I ask for.”
“And what do you ask for?”
“That stele,” he said, pointing at the one in her belt.
Everything in Emma rebelled. The stele had been given to her by Jace, years ago in Idris, after the Dark War. It was a symbol of everything that had marked her life after the War. Clary had given her words, and she treasured them: Jace had given her a stele, and with it given a grief-stricken and frightened girl a purpose. When she touched the stele, it whispered that purpose to her: The future is yours now. Make it what you will.
“What use could a faerie have for a stele?” she asked. “You don’t draw runes, and they only work for Shadowhunters.”
“No use for a stele,” he said. “But for the precious demon bone of the handle, quite a lot.”
She shook her head. “Choose something else.”