She stabbed down viciously with the blade, driving it into his heart. Malcolm’s body jerked. His head fell back, his eyes rolling to whites. Expressionless, Annabel bent over him and snatched the Black Volume from his belt. Without another glance at Malcolm, she turned and strode from the church, disappearing from the view of the scrying glass.
“Where did she go?” Julian said. He barely recognized his own voice. “Follow her, use the glass—”
“The scrying glass cannot find its way through so much dark magic,” said the Queen. Her face was shining as if she’d just seen something wonderful.
Julian flinched away from her—he couldn’t help it. He wanted nothing more than to stagger off to a corner of the room and be sick. But the Queen would see that as weakness. He found his way to a wall and leaned against it.
The Queen stood with one hand on the edge of the golden bowl, smiling at him. “Did you see how Fade never raised a hand to defend himself?” she said. “That is love, son of thorns. We welcome its cruelest blows and when we bleed from them, we whisper our thanks.”
Julian braced himself against the wall. “Why did you show me that?”
“I would bargain with you,” she said. “And there are things I would not have you be ignorant of when we do.”
Julian tried to steady his breathing, forcing himself deeper into his own head, his own worst memories. He was in the Hall of Accords, he was twelve years old and he had just killed his father. He was in the Institute, and he had just found out that Malcolm Fade had kidnapped Tavvy. He was in the desert, and Emma was telling him that she loved Mark; Mark, and not him.
“What kind of bargain?” he said, and his voice was as steady as a rock.
She shook her head. Her red hair rayed out around her gaunt and hollowed face. “I would have all of your group there when the bargain is made, Shadowhunter.”
“I will not bargain with you,” said Julian. “The Cold Peace—”
She laughed. “You have shattered the Cold Peace a thousand times, child. Do not pretend that I know nothing of you or your family. Despite the Cold Peace, despite all I have lost, I am still the Queen of the Seelie Court.”
Julian couldn’t help but wonder what despite all I have lost meant—what had she lost, exactly? Did she only mean the strain of the Cold Peace, the shame of losing the Dark War?
“Besides,” she said, “you don’t know what I am offering yet. And neither do your friends. I think they might be quite interested, especially your lovely parabatai.”
“You have something for Emma?” he demanded. “Then why did you bring me here alone?”
“There was something I wished to say to you. Something that you might not wish her to know that you knew.” A tiny smile played across her lips. She took another step toward him. He was close enough to see the detail of the feathers on her dress, the flecks of blood that showed they had been torn by the roots from the bird. “The curse of the parabatai. I know how to break it.”
Julian felt as if he could not catch his breath. It was what the phouka had said to him at the Gate: In Faerie, you will find one who knows how the parabatai bond might be broken.
He had carried that knowledge in his heart since they had arrived here. He had wondered who it would be. But it was the Queen—of course it was the Queen. Someone he absolutely should not trust.
“The curse?” he said, keeping his voice mild and a little puzzled, as if he had no idea why she’d called it that.
Something indefinable flashed in her eyes. “The parabatai bond, I should say. But it is a curse to you, is it not?” She caught his wrist, turning his hand over. The crescents he’d dug into his palms with his bitten nails were faint but visible. He thought of the scrying glass. Of her watching him with Emma in Fergus’s room. Of course she had. She’d known when Emma fell asleep. When he was vulnerable. She knew he loved Emma. It might be something he could conceal from his family and friends, but to the Queen of the Seelie Court, accustomed to seeking out weakness and vulnerability and cruelly attuned to unpleasant truths, it would be as clear as a beacon. “As I said,” she told him, smiling, “we welcome the wounds of love, do we not?”
A wave of rage went through him, but his curiosity was stronger. He drew his hand from hers. “Tell me,” he said. “Tell me what you know.”
Faerie knights in green and gold and red came to fetch Emma and bring her to the throne room. She was a little bewildered at Julian’s absence, though reassured when she met Mark and Cristina in the hall, similarly escorted, and Mark told her in a low voice that he’d heard one of the guards say that Julian was already waiting for them in the throne room.
Emma cursed her own exhaustion. How could she not have noticed him leave? She’d forced herself to sleep, unable to bear another second of being so physically close to Jules without being able to even hug him. And he’d been so calm, so totally calm; he’d looked at her with distant friendliness—kindness, even, when he reassured her their friendship was intact—and it hurt like hell and all she wanted was for exhaustion to wipe it all away.
She reached to touch Cortana, strapped across her back. She carried the rest of her and Julian’s things in her pack. She felt silly wearing a weapon over a filmy dress, but she hadn’t been about to change in front of the Queen’s Guard. They’d offered to carry the sword for her, but she’d refused. No one touched Cortana but her.
Cristina was nearly twitching with excitement. “The throne room of the Seelie Queen,” she whispered. “I have read about it but never thought to actually see it. The look of it is meant to change with the moods of the Queen, as she changes.”
Emma remembered Clary telling her stories of the Court, of a room of ice and snow where the Queen wore gold and silver, of a curtain of fluttering butterflies. But it was not quite like that when they arrived. Just as Mark had said, Julian was already in the throne room. It was a bare oval place, filled with grayish smoke. Smoke drifted across the floor and crackled along the ceiling, where it was forked with small darts of black lightning. There were no windows, but the gray smoke formed patterns against the walls—a field of dead flowers, a crashing wave, the skeleton of a winged creature.
Julian was sitting on the steps that led up to the great stone block where the Queen’s throne stood. He wore a piecemeal mix of gear and ordinary clothes, and over his shirt was thrown a jacket he could only have found here in Faerie. It shimmered with bright thread and bits of brocade, the sleeves turned back to expose his forearms. His sea-glass bracelet glittered on his wrist.
He looked up when they came in. Even against the colorless background, his blue-green eyes shone.
“Before you say anything, I have something to tell you,” he said. Only half of Emma’s mind was on his words as he began to speak; the other was on how strangely at ease he seemed.
He looked calm, and when Julian was calm was always when he was at his most frightening. But he spoke on, and she began to realize what he was saying. Waves of shock went through her. Malcolm: dead, alive, and dead again? Arthur, murdered? Annabel risen from the grave? The Black Volume gone?
“But Malcolm was dead,” she said, numbly. “I killed him. I saw his body float away. He was dead.”
“The Queen cautioned me against thinking death was final,” said Julian. “Especially in the case of warlocks.”
“But Annabel is alive,” said Mark. “What does she want? Why did she take the Black Volume?”
“All good questions, Miach,” said a voice from across the room. They all turned in surprise, save Julian.
She came out of the gray shadows wrapped in more gray: a long gray gown made of moth wings and ashes, dipped low in front so that it was easy to see the jutting bones of her clavicle. Her face was pinched, triangular, dominated by burning blue eyes. Her red hair was bound back tightly in a silver net. The Queen. There was a glitter in her eye: malice or madness, it would be hard to be sure.
“Who’s Miach?” Emma asked.
The Queen indicated Mark with the sweep of her hand. “Him,” she said. “The nephew of my handmaiden Nene.”
Mark looked stunned.