They eventually gathered in the parlor, the warmest room in the house. Evelyn was already there, muttering by the fire burning in the grate; even though it was late summer, London had a damp, chill edge to it. Bridget brought sandwiches—tuna and sweet corn, chicken and bacon—and the newcomers tucked into them as if they were wildly starving. Julian had to eat awkwardly with his left hand, balancing Tavvy on his lap with the other.
The parlor had aged better than a lot of the other rooms in the Institute. It had cheerful flowered wallpaper, only slightly discolored, and gorgeous antique furniture someone had clearly picked out with care—a lovely rolltop desk, a delicate escritoire, plush velvet armchairs and sofas grouped around the fireplace. Even the fire screen was made of delicate wrought iron, patterned with wing-spread herons, and when the fire shone through it, the shadow of the birds was cast against the wall as if they were flying by.
Kieran alone didn’t seem thrilled with the sandwiches. He poked at them suspiciously and then pulled them apart, eating only the tomatoes, while Julian explained what had happened in Faerie: their journey to the Unseelie Court, the meeting with the Queen, the blight on the Unseelie Land. “There were burned places, white as ash, like the surface of the moon,” Mark said, eyes dark with distress. Kit tried his best to hang on to the story, but it was like trying to ride a roller coaster with faulty brakes—phrases like “scrying glass,” “Unseelie champion,” and “Black Volume of the Dead” kept hurling him off track.
“How much time passed for them?” he whispered finally to Ty, who was wedged in beside him and Livvy on a love seat too small for the three of them.
“It sounds like a few less days than passed for us,” said Ty. “Some time slippage, but not much. Cristina’s necklace seems to have worked.”
Kit whistled under his breath. “And who’s Annabel?”
“She was a Blackthorn,” said Ty. “She died, but Malcolm brought her back.”
“From the dead?” said Kit. “That’s—that’s necromancy.”
“Malcolm was a necromancer,” pointed out Ty.
“Shut up.” Livvy elbowed Kit, who was lost in thought. Necromancy wasn’t just a forbidden art at the Shadow Market, it was a forbidden topic. The punishment for raising the dead was death. If the Shadowhunters didn’t catch you, other Downworlders would, and the way you died would not be pretty.
Bringing back the dead, Johnny Rook had always said, warped the fabric of life, the same way making humans immortal did. Invite in death, and death would stay. Could anyone bring back the dead and have it work? Kit had asked him once. Even the most powerful magician?
God, Johnny had said, after a long, long pause. God could do that. And those who raise the dead may think they are God, but soon enough they will find out the lie they have believed.
“The head of the Los Angeles Institute is dead?” Evelyn exclaimed, dropping the remains of her sandwich on a likely very expensive antique table.
Kit didn’t really blame her for her surprise. The Blackthorns didn’t act like a family in grief over the death of a beloved uncle. Rather they seemed stunned and puzzled. But then, they had behaved around Arthur almost as if they were strangers.
“Is that why he wanted to stay behind in Los Angeles?” Livvy demanded, her cheeks flushed. “So he could sacrifice himself—for us?”
“By the Angel.” Diana had her hand against her chest. “He hadn’t replied to any of my messages, but that wasn’t unusual. Still, for Zara not to notice—”
“Maybe she did, maybe she didn’t,” said Livvy. “But it’s better for her plans if he’s out of the way.”
“What plans?” said Cristina. “What do you mean, Zara’s plans?”
It was time for another long explanation, this time of things Kit already knew about. Evelyn had fallen asleep in front of the fireplace and was snoring. Kit wondered how much the silver top of her cane was worth. Was it real silver, or just plated?
“By the Angel,” said Cristina, when the explanation was done. Julian said nothing; Emma said something unprintable. Mark leaned forward, a flush on his cheeks.
“Let me get this straight,” he said. “Zara and her father want to run the Los Angeles Institute so they can push their anti-Downworlder agenda. The new Laws would likely apply to me and to Helen. Certainly to Magnus, Catarina—every Downworlder we know, no matter how loyal.”
“I know of their group,” said Diana. “They don’t believe in loyal Downworlders.”
“What is their group?” Emma asked.
“The Cohort,” said Diana. “They are a well-known faction in the Council. Like all groups who exist primarily to hate, they believe that they speak for a silent majority—that everyone despises Downworlders as they do. They believe opposition to the Cold Peace is moral cowardice, or at best, whining from those who feel inconvenienced by it.”
“Inconvenienced?” said Kieran. There was no expression in his voice, just the word, hanging there in the room.
“They are not intelligent,” said Diana. “But they are loud and vicious, and they have frightened many better people into silence. They do not number an Institute head among them, but if they did . . .”
“This is bad,” Emma said. “Before, they would have had to prove Arthur wasn’t fit to run an Institute. Now he’s dead. The spot’s open. All they have to do is wait for the next Council meeting and put their candidate forward.”
“And they’re in a good place for it.” Diana had risen to her feet and begun to pace. “The Clave is enormously impressed with Zara Dearborn. They believe she and her Centurions beat back the sea demon threat on their own.”
“The demons vanished because Malcolm died—again, and this time hopefully for good,” said Livvy furiously. “None of it’s because of Zara. She’s taking credit for what Arthur did!”
“And there’s nothing we can do about it,” said Julian. “Not yet. They’ll figure out Arthur is dead or missing soon enough—but even abandonment of his post would be cause to replace him. And we can’t be seen to know how or why he died.”
“Because the only reason we do know is thanks to the Seelie Queen,” said Emma in a low voice, eyeing the sleeping Evelyn.
“Annabel is the key to our finding the Black Volume,” said Julian. “We need to be the only ones looking for her right now. If the Clave finds her first, we’ll never get the book to the Queen.”
“When we agreed with the Queen’s plan, though, we didn’t know about the Cohort,” said Mark, looking troubled. “What if there isn’t time to find the book before the Cohort makes their move?”
“We’ll just have to find the book faster,” said Julian. “We can’t face the Dearborns in an open Council. What’s Zara done wrong, according to the Clave? Arthur wasn’t qualified to run an Institute. Many Council members do hate Downworlders. She wants to run an Institute so she can pass an evil law. She wouldn’t be the first. She’s not breaking the rules. We are.”
Kit felt a faint shudder go up his spine. For a moment, Julian had sounded like Kit’s father. The world isn’t the way you want it to be. It’s the way it is.
“So we’re just supposed to pretend we don’t know what Zara’s up to?” Emma frowned.
“No,” said Diana. “I’m going to go to Idris. I’m going to speak to the Consul.”
They all looked at her, wide-eyed—all except Julian, who didn’t seem surprised, and Kieran, who was still glaring at his food.
“What Zara is proposing would mean Jia’s daughter would be married to one of the Downworlders being registered. Jia knows what that would lead to. I know she’d meet with me. If I can reason with her—”
“She let the Cold Peace pass,” said Kieran.