The Lost Book of the White – Cassandra Clare, Wesley Chu

IT WAS NOT QUITE DAWN when Magnus Bane rode into the low clearing with death on his mind. He rarely came to Idris these days—that many Shadowhunters close together made him nervous—but he had to admit that the Angel had picked a pretty spot for the Nephilim’s home. The air was alpine and fresh, cold and clean. Pines shuЖed aАably against one another on the banks of the valley. Idris could be intense at times, gloomy and Gothic and full of foreboding, but this pocket of it felt like something from a German fairy tale. Perhaps that was why, despite all the Shadowhunters everywhere, his friend Ragnor Fell had built his house here. Ragnor was not a cheerful person, but he had unaccountably built a cheerful house. It was a squat stone cottage, sharply gabled in rye straw thatch. Magnus knew perfectly well that Ragnor had teleported the thatch directly from a tavern in North Yorkshire, to the consternation of its guests. As he trotted his horse down to the valley Мoor, he felt the troubles of the present fade. At the top of the valley, everything was terrible. Valentine Morgenstern was working very hard to start the war he wanted, and Magnus was so much more wrapped up in it than he would have wished. There was this boy, though, with these very hard-to-describe blue eyes. For a moment, though, it would just be Magnus and Ragnor again, as it had been so many times before. Then he would have to deal with the world and its problems, which would be arriving shortly in the form of Clary Fairchild.

He left the horse behind the house and tried the front door, which was unlocked and swung open at his light touch. Magnus had presumed he’d Йnd his friend engaged in drinking a cup of tea or reading a voluminous tome, but instead Ragnor was in the process of trashing his own living room. He was holding a wooden chair above his own head, in some kind of frenzy. “Ragnor?” Magnus oАered, and in response Ragnor threw the chair against the stone wall, where it broke into splinters. “Bad time?” Magnus called. Ragnor seemed to notice Magnus for the Йrst time. He held up one Йnger, as though telling Magnus to wait a moment, and then with great purpose he strode to the oak bombe chest across the room and, one after the other, pulled each of its drawers out, allowing each to fall and smash against the ground in a huge clatter of metal and porcelain. He straightened up, rolled his shoulders, and turned to Magnus. “You have crazy eyes, Ragnor,” said Magnus carefully. He was used to Ragnor being a relatively dapper gentleman, well-dressed, with a healthy glow to his green skin and a shine on the white horns that curved back from his forehead.

The man before him would have seemed in bad shape no matter who he was, but for Ragnor, this was very, very bad. He looked lost, his glance Мicking around the room as though trying to catch someone hiding just out of sight. Without preamble he said, in a loud, clear voice, “Do you know the expression sub specie aeternitatis?” Magnus was not sure what he’d expected Ragnor to say, but it had not been that. “Something like ‘things as they really are’? Though that’s not the literal translation, of course.” Already this conversation had gone completely off the rails. “Yes,” said Ragnor. “Yes. It means, from the perspective of that which is really true, really and truly true. Not the illusions we see, that we pretend are real, but things with all illusions stripped away. Spinoza.

” After a moment he added thoughtfully, “That man could drink. Very good at grinding lenses, though.” “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Magnus said. Ragnor’s focus abruptly snapped and he looked straight into Magnus’s eyes, unblinking. “Do you know what existence is, sub specie aeternitatis? Not our world, not even the worlds that we know, but the whole ofeverything? I do.” “Do you now,” said Magnus. Ragnor didn’t break his gaze. “It is demons,” he said. “It is evil. It is chaosall the way down, a bubbling cauldron of malevolent intent.

” Magnus sighed. His friend had become depressed. It happened to warlocks sometimes; the absurdity of the universe became somehow both more and less funny as their life spans stretched so far beyond any mundane’s. This was a dangerous path for Ragnor. “Some things are nice, though, right?” He tried to think of Ragnor’s favorite things. “The sunrise over Fujiyama? A good old bottle of Tokay? That place we used to have coАee in the Hague, it came in those tiny thimbles and you could feel it burn its way to your stomach?” He thought harder. “How stupid an albatross looks when it lands on water?” Ragnor Йnally blinked, many times in a row, and then dropped into the plaid-upholstered armchair behind him. “I’m not depressed, Magnus.” “Sure,” said Magnus, “total existential nihilism, that’s regular old Ragnor.” “It has caught up with me, Magnus.

All of it. Now the big guy’s after me. The biggest guy. Well, the second-biggest guy.” “Still a pretty big guy,” Magnusagreed. “Is thisabout Valentine? Because—” “Valentine!” Ragnor barked. “Idiot Shadowhunter business, I’ve no patience for it. But the timing is good. For me to disappear. Anything bad happening in Idris right now is probably just part of this whole business with the Mortal Instruments.

No reason for the agents of the real threat to question it.” Magnus was getting fed up. “You want to tell me what this is about? Since you asked me to come here? Said something about the matter’s great urgency? Can we have a cup of tea, or have you already smashed the kettle?” Ragnor leaned in toward Magnus. “I’m faking my own death, Magnus.” He chuckled, before turning and heading through a doorway toward, Magnus guessed, more redecorating. With reluctance, Magnus followed. “For heaven’s sake, why?” he called after Ragnor’s retreating back. “I don’t know why now,” Ragnor called back, “but a bunch of them are coming back. You can’t kill them, you know, you can only send them away for a while, but then they come back. Oh yes, do they come back.

” Magnus was starting to wonder if Ragnor had finally lost it. “Who?” Ragnor suddenly appeared directly beside Magnus, emerging from what Magnus had thought was a closet but was, he now realized, a hallway. “He says ‘who,’ ” Ragnor echoed sarcastically, and for a moment he sounded like his usual self. “Who are we talking about? Demons! Greater Demons! What a name. Why did we let them name themselves? They’re not so great.” “Have you been drinking?” Magnus said. “All my life,” Ragnor said. “Let me say a name to you. You tell me if it meansanything.” “Go.

” “Asmodeus.” “Dear old Dad,” said Magnus. “Belphegor.” “Blobby sort of chap,” said Magnus. “Where are we going with this? Is one of them after you?” “Lilith.” Magnus sucked in air through his teeth. If Lilith was on Ragnor’s trail, that was very bad. “Mother of Demons. Lover of Sammael.” “Right.

” Ragnor’seyes flashed. “Not her. Him.” “Sammael?” Magnus said, chuckling. “No way.” “Yes,” said Ragnor, with the sort of Йnality that made Magnus realize, with a sinking feeling, that Ragnor wasn’t kidding. “Can I sit down or something?” Magnusasked. THEY TOOK REFUGE IN THE wreckage of Ragnor’s bedroom. He’d managed to split the whole bed frame in two, which was a pretty impressive trick. Magnus sat on a desktop that had miraculously remained intact.

Ragnor paced back and forth. “Sammael, as everyone knows, is dead,” Magnus said. “He did something that started letting demons into our world, and then he was killed, people say by the Taxiarch—” “You know Sammael couldn’t truly be killed,” Ragnor snapped impatiently. “Much lesser demons than him come back eventually. He wasalways going to. And now he has.” “Fine,” Magnus reasoned, “but I don’t see what it has to do with you. I mean other than in the sense that it has to do with all of us. No, please don’t throw any furniture until you’ve explained.” Ragnor lowered his hands, and a Мoor lamp that had been spinning lazily toward the ceiling fell to the ground with a clatter.

“He’s been looking for me. I don’t know why, but I can guess.” “Wait,” Magnus said, his brain starting to catch up. “If Sammael is back, why isn’t he, you know, wreaking havoc?” “He’s not all the way back. He can’t spend much time in our world, and he’s still just Мoating out there in some kind of void. I think he wants me to find him a realm.” Magnus’seyebrows went up. “A realm?” Ragnor nodded. “A demon realm. One of the other dimensions in the cluster of soap bubbles that is our reality.

He’ll be very weak at the start. He’ll need energy to build up his strength, build up his magic. If he can Йnd a realm to claim for his own, he can make it into a kind of dynamo for his own power. And I, Ragnor Fell, am the world’s leading expert on dimensional magic.” “And its most humble. Why can’t he find his own realm?” “Oh, he probably would eventually. He’s probably been looking all this time. But demon time is not the same as human time. Or even warlock time. It could be hundreds more years before he returns.

Or it could be tomorrow.” He trailed oА. In the corner, a wastebasket slowly tipped over and spilled its contentsacross the uneven planks of the floor. “So you’re going to fake your own death. Doesn’t that seem—hasty?” “Do you understand,” Ragnor roared, “what it would mean for Sammael to return to his full might? If he returned to Lilith, and they joined their power together? It would be war, Magnus. War upon Earth. Total destruction. No more bottles of Tokay! No more albatrosses!” “Whatabout other seabirds?” Ragnor sighed and sat down next to Magnus. “I have to go into hiding. I have to make Sammael think I’m gone where nobody can ever reach me.

Ragnor Fell, the expert on dimensional magic, must disappear forever.” Magnus processed that for a moment. He stood and walked out of the bedroom to regard the devastation Ragnor had wreaked upon his living room. He liked this house. It had been a place that felt like a second home for more than a hundred years. Ragnor had been his friend, his mentor, for many more years before that. He felt sad, and angry. Without turning back, he said, “How will I find you?” “I’ll find you,” said Ragnor, “in whatever new persona I adopt. You’ll know me.” “We could have a code word,” said Magnus.

“The code word,” Ragnor said, “is that I will tell the story of the Йrst night you, Magnus Bane, consumed the Eastern European plum brandy known as slivovice in the Czech tongue. I believe you sang a song that night, of your own composition.” “Maybe no code word,” said Magnus. “Maybe you can just wink or something.” Ragnor shrugged. “It should not take me long to reestablish myself. I wonder who I shall be. Anyway, if there is nothing more—” “There is,” Magnus said. He turned and found that Ragnor had gotten up from the desk and come to join him in the living room. Magnus said quietly, “I need the Book of the White.

” Ragnor began to chuckle and then broke into a heartier laugh. He slapped Magnus on the back. “Magnus Bane,” he said. “Keeping me drowning in Downworld intrigue to my fake last breath. Why, why could you possibly need the Book of the White now?” Magnus turned to face Ragnor. “I need to wake up Jocelyn Fairchild.” Ragnor laughed again. “Amazing. Amazing! You not only need the Book of the White, you need to Йnd it before Valentine Morgenstern. My friendship with you has always been a rich tapestry of terrible things happening, Magnus.

I think I’ll miss it.” He smiled. “It’s in Wayland manor. In the library, inside another book.” “It’s hidden in Valentine’s old house?” Ragnor smiled even wider. “Jocelyn hid it there. Inside a cookbook. Simple Recipes for Housewives, I believe it’s called. Remarkable woman. Terrible choice of husband.

Anyway, I’m oА.” He began to make for the door. “Wait.” Magnus followed and tripped over what turned out to be a statue of a monkey cast in brass. “Jocelyn’s daughter is on her way to ask you about the book right now.” Ragnor’s eyebrows went up. “Well, I can’t help her. I’m dead. You’ll have to pass on the information yourself.” He turned to go.

“Wait,” Magnus said again. “How, um… how did you die?” “Killed by Valentine’s thugs, obviously,” said Ragnor. “That’s why I’m doing this now.” “Obviously,” murmured Magnus. “They were looking for the Book of the White themselves. There was a scuЖe; I was killed.” Ragnor looked impatient. “Do I have to do everything for you? Here.” He stomped past Magnus, pointed at the back wall with his left index Йnger, and began to write on it in Йery Abyssal script. “I’ll write it on the wall for you so you won’t forget.

” “Really? Abyssal?” “‘I… was… killed… by… Valentine’s… goons… because… they…’” He paused and glanced at Magnus. “You never kept up your Abyssal, Magnus. This will be good practice for you.” He turned back to the wall and resumed writing. “‘Now… I… am… dead… oh… no.’ There. Easy enough for you.” “Wait,” Magnus said a third time, but he didn’tactually have anything to ask. He grabbed ata random glass jar, tipped over on top of the mantelpiece. “You’re not taking your”—he peered at the label and cocked an eyebrow at Ragnor—“horn polish?” “My horns will have to go unpolished,” Ragnor said.

“Get out of my way, I’m faking my own death now.” “I didn’t know you had to polish your horns.” “You do. Or at least you should. If you have horns. If you don’t want them to look dirty and unkempt. I’m leaving, Magnus.” Finally Magnus’s composure broke. “Do you have to?” he said, sounding to his own ears like a petulant child. “This is insane, Ragnor.

You don’t have to die to protect yourself. We can talk to the Spiral Labyrinth. You don’t have to deal with this alone. You have friends! Powerful friends! Such as myself!” Ragnor gazed at Magnus for a long moment. Eventually, he walked over and with great solemnity gave his friend a hug. Magnus reМected that this was perhaps their Йfth or sixth hug in their hundreds of years of friendship. Ragnor was not much for physical touch. “This is my problem, and I will deal with it myself,” said Ragnor. “My dignity demands it.” “What I’m saying,” said Magnus, “is that you don’t have to.

.

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