The Wicked Ones – Cassandra Clare, Robin Wasserman

Paris, 1989 It was said among the Shadowhunters that one could not know true beauty until one had seen the gleaming towers of Alicante. It was said that no city on Earth could rival its wonders. It was said that no Shadowhunter could feel truly at home anywhere else. If anyone had asked Céline Montclaire her opinion on the subject, she would have said: obviously these Shadowhunters had never been to Paris. She would have rhapsodized about gothic spires spearing the clouds, cobblestone streets shimmering with rain, sunlight dancing on the Seine, and, bien sûr, the infinite varieties of cheese. She would have pointed out that Paris had been home to Baudelaire and Rimbaud, Monet and Gauguin, Descartes and Voltaire, that this was the city that had birthed a new way of speaking, seeing, thinking, being—drawing even the most mundane of mundanes a little closer to the angels. In every way, Paris was la ville de la lumière. The City of Light. If you ask me, Céline would have said, nothing could be more beautiful than that. But no one ever asked. As a general rule, no one asked Céline Montclaire’s opinion on anything. Until now. “You sure there’s not some kind of rune to keep these foul beasts away?” Stephen Herondale said as a thunderous flutter of wings descended. He ducked, whacked blindly at his feathered foe. The flock of pigeons quickly passed, without dealing any mortal blows.

Céline waved off a couple of stragglers, and Stephen breathed a sigh of relief. “My hero,” he said. Céline felt her cheeks warm alarmingly. She had a terrible blushing problem. Especially when she was in the presence of Stephen Herondale. “The great Herondale warrior afraid of pigeons?” she teased, hoping he wouldn’t hear the quaver in her voice. “Not afraid. Simply exhibiting a prudent amount of caution in the face of a potentially demonic creature.” “Demon pigeons?” “I look upon them with great suspicion,” Stephen said with as much dignity as a pigeon-phobe could muster. He tapped the longsword hanging by his hip.

“And this great warrior stands at the ready to do what need be done.” As he spoke, another flock of pigeons took flight from the cobblestones, and for a moment all was wings and feathers and Stephen’s rather high-pitched squeal. Céline laughed. “Yes, I can see you’re fearless in the face of danger. If not in the beak of danger.” Stephen glared fiercely at her. Her pulse quickened. Had she overstepped? Then he winked. Sometimes she wanted him so much she felt like her heart might explode. “You sure we’re still going in the right direction?” he said.

“I feel like we’re walking in circles.” “Trust me,” she said. Stephen clapped a hand to his heart. “Bien sûr, mademoiselle.” Unless you counted the starring role he played in her daydreams, Céline hadn’t seen Stephen since he’d graduated the Academy four years before. Back then, he’d barely noticed her. He was too busy with his training, his girlfriend, his friends in the Circle to give much thought to the slip of a girl whose eyes tracked his every move. But now, Céline thought, her cheeks burning again, they were practically equals. Yes, she was 17, still a student, while he was 22, not just a full-fledged adult but Valentine Morgenstern’s most trusted lieutenant in the Circle—the elite group of young Shadowhunters sworn to reform the Clave and return it to its pure and ancient glory. But Céline was finally a member of the Circle too, handpicked by Valentine himself.

Valentine had been a student at the Academy alongside Stephen and the other founding members of the Circle—but unlike the rest of them, he’d never seemed quite young. Most of the students and teachers at the Academy had thought of Valentine’s crowd as nothing but a harmless clique, odd only in that it preferred late-night policy debates to partying. Even then, Céline understood that this was exactly how Valentine wanted to appear: harmless. Those who paid attention knew better. He was a fierce warrior, with an even fiercer mind—once he fixed his inky black gaze on a goal, nothing would stop him from achieving it. He’d comprised his Circle of young Shadowhunters he knew to be as capable as they were loyal. Only the best of them, he’d told her that day he’d approached her at a particularly boring lecture on Downworlder history. “Every member of the Circle is exceptional,” he’d said. “Including, if you accept my offer, you.” No one had ever called her exceptional before.

Ever since then, she’d felt different. Strong. Special. And it must have been true, because even though she still had one more year at the Academy, here she was, spending her summer vacation on an official mission with Stephen Herondale. Stephen was one of the greatest fighters of his generation, and now—owing to Lucian Graymark’s unfortunate werewolf situation—Valentine’s most trusted deputy. But Céline was the one who knew Paris, its streets and its secrets. It was the perfect moment to show Stephen that she’d changed, that she was exceptional. That he couldn’t do this without her. Those had, in fact, been his exact words. I couldn’t do this without you, Céline.

She loved the way her name sounded on his tongue. She loved every detail of him: the blue eyes that sparkled like the sea of the Côte d’Azur. The white-blond hair that glowed like the golden rotunda of the Palais Garnier. The curve of his neck, the tautness of his muscles, the smooth lines of his body like something carved by Rodin, a model of human perfection. Somehow he’d gotten even more handsome since she saw him last. He’d also gotten married. She tried not to think about that. “Can we pick up the pace?” Robert Lightwood grumbled. “The sooner we get this done, the sooner we can get back to civilization. And air-conditioning.

” Robert was something else she tried not to think about. His grouchy presence made it substantially more difficult to pretend she and Stephen were taking a romantic stroll through the moonlight. “The faster we go, the more you’ll sweat,” Stephen pointed out. “And trust me, no one wants that.” Paris in August was approximately ten degrees hotter than hell. Even after dark, the air felt like a blanket soaked in hot soup. For the sake of discretion, they’d traded their Shadowhunter gear for mundane fashion, choosing long sleeves to cover up their runes. The white T-shirt Céline had selected for Stephen was already soaked through. This was not exactly unfortunate. Robert just grunted.

He was different than Céline remembered him from the Academy. Back then, he’d been a little stiff and curt, but never deliberately cruel. Now, though, there was something in his eyes she didn’t like. Something icy. It reminded her too much of her father. According to Stephen, Robert had had some kind of falling out with his parabatai and was understandably cranky. It’s just Robert being Robert, Stephen had said. Great fighter but a bit of a drama queen. Nothing to worry about. Céline always worried.

They trudged up the final hill of Rue Mouffetard. By day, this was one of Paris’s most bustling market streets, bursting with fresh produce, colorful scarves, falafel vendors and gelato stands, and obnoxious tourists. At night, its storefronts were shuttered and silent. Paris was a market town, but all of its markets went to sleep after dark—all except one. Céline hurried them around a corner, down another narrow, winding road. “ We’re almost there.” She tried to keep the anticipation out of her voice. Robert and Stephen had made it very clear that the Circle did not approve of Shadow Markets. Downworlders mingling with mundanes, illicit goods changing hands, secrets swapped and sold? According to Valentine, this was all the unseemly consequence of the laxness and corruption of the Clave. When the Circle took power, Stephen had assured her eagerly, the Shadow Markets would be shut down for good.

Céline had only been in the Circle for a few months, but she’d already learned this lesson: if Valentine hated something, it was her duty to hate it too. She was trying her best. There was no law that a Shadow Market had to be located on a site rich with dark energy, marinated in the blood of a violent past—but it helped. Paris had no shortage of possibilities. It was a city of ghosts, most of them angry. Revolution after revolution, blood-spattered barricades and heads rolling from the guillotine, the September massacres, the Bloody Week, the burning of the Tuileries, the Terror. As a child, Céline had spent many sleepless nights wandering the city, summoning visions of its greatest cruelties. She liked to imagine she could hear screams echoing through the centuries. They made her feel less alone. This, she knew, was not a normal childhood hobby.

Céline’s had not been a normal childhood. She discovered this only when she arrived at the Academy, where for the first time she’d met Shadowhunters her own age. That first day, the other students had chattered about their idyllic lives in Idris, galloping horses across the Brocelind Plain; their idyllic lives in London, New York, Tokyo, training under the kind eye of loving parents and Institute tutors; their idyllic lives anywhere and everywhere. After a while Céline stopped listening, drifted out unnoticed, too bitterly jealous to stay. Too embarrassed by the prospect that someone might make her tell her own story. After all, she’d grown up on her parents’ Provence estate, surrounded by apple orchards, vineyards, rolling fields of lavender: by all appearances, la belle epoque. Céline knew her parents loved her, because they told her so repeatedly. We’re only doing this because we love you, her mother would say before locking her in the basement. We’re only doing this because we love you, her father would say before lashing her with the whip. We’re only doing this because we love you, when they set the Dragonidae demon on her; when they dumped her for the night, eight years old and weaponless, in a werewolfridden wood; when they taught her the bloody consequences of weakness or clumsiness or fear.

The first time she ran away to Paris, she was eight years old. Young enough to think she could escape for good. She’d found her way to the Arènes de Lutèce, the remains of a Roman amphitheater from the first century AD. It was, perhaps, the city’s oldest bloodsoaked ruin. Two thousand years before, gladiators had warred to the death before a cheering, bloodthirsty crowd, until the arena—and its crowd—were overtaken by an equally bloodthirsty barbarian horde. For a time, it had been a cemetery; now it was a tourist trap, yet another heap of stones for bored schoolchildren to ignore. By day, at least. Under the midnight moon, it came alive with Downworlders, a bacchanalia of faerie fruits and wines, gargoyles enchanted by warlock magic, waltzing werewolves, vampires in berets painting portraits in blood, an ifrit accordionist who could make you weep yourself to death. It was the Paris Shadow Market, and from the moment Céline first saw it, she felt herself finally home. That first trip, she’d spent two nights there, haunting the booths, befriending a shy werewolf cub, sating her gnawing hunger with the crêpe nutella that a Silent Brother had purchased for her, no questions asked.

She’d napped beneath the tablecloth of a vampire’s jewelry stand; she’d whirled with horned children in an improvised faerie revel; she’d finally discovered what it meant to be happy. On the third night, the Shadowhunters of the Paris Institute tracked her down and returned her home. That was when she learned—not for the last time—the consequences of running away. We love you too much to lose you. That night, Céline had curled fetal in the corner of the basement, back still bloody, and thought, so this is how it feels to be loved too much. Their mission was straightforward. First, track down the warlock Dominique du Froid’s booth at the Paris Shadow Market. Second, find some evidence of her shady business dealings with two rogue Shadowhunters. “I have reason to believe they’ve been trading Downworlder blood and parts to her in return for illegal services,” Valentine had told them. He needed proof.

It was up to Céline, Stephen, and Robert to find some. “Quietly,” Valentine had cautioned. “I don’t want her tipping off her associates.” Valentine made the word associates sound like a vulgarity. For him, it was: Downworlders were bad enough, but Shadowhunters allowing themselves to be corrupted by a Downworlder? That was unforgivable. Step one proved simple. Dominique du Froid was easy to find. She’d conjured her name in neon lights, right out of thin air. Literally—the letters glowed brightly, three feet above her booth, with a neon arrow pointing down. DOMINIQUE DU FROID, LES SOLDES, TOUJOURS! “Just like a warlock,” Robert said sourly.

“Always for sale.” “Always on sale,” Céline corrected, too quietly for him to hear. The booth turned out to be an elaborate tent with display tables and a curtained-off area in the back. It was crammed with tacky jewelry and colorful potions—none quite as tacky or as colorful as Dominique herself. Her hair was dyed in platinum blond and hot pink stripes, half of it scooped into a side ponytail. The other half was crimped and hairsprayed to a hard sheen. She wore a ripped lace shirt, a black leather miniskirt, purple fingerless gloves, and what looked like a significant portion of her jewelry inventory around her neck. Her warlock mark, a long, feathered pink tail, was slung over her shoulders like a boa. “It’s like an Eidolon demon tried turning into Cyndi Lauper and accidentally got stuck midway through,” Céline joked. “Huh?” Robert said.

“Is that another warlock?”

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