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Lady Midnight (The Dark Artifices #1)
Author:Cassandra Clare

“Look, I can’t help you,” said Kit’s father. “There’s no magic here. It’s just some cotton. Shredded up and full of seawater, but—cotton.”

The look of disappointment that passed over the girl’s face was vivid and unmistakable. She made no attempt to hide it, just tucked the cloth into her pocket. Kit couldn’t help feeling a jolt of sympathy, which surprised him—he never thought he’d be sympathetic to a Shadowhunter.

Emma looked over at him, almost as if he’d spoken. “So,” she said, and suddenly there was a glint in her eyes. “You’ve got the Sight, huh, like your dad? How old are you?”

Kit froze. His dad moved in front of him quickly, blocking him from Emma’s view. “Now here I thought you were going to ask me about the murders that have been happening. Behind on your information, Carstairs?”

Apparently Wren had been right, Kit thought—everyone did know about these murders. He could tell by the warning note in his father’s voice that he should make himself scarce, but he was trapped behind the counter with no escape route.

“I heard some rumors about dead mundanes,” Emma said. Most Shadowhunters used the term for normal human beings with intense contempt. Emma just sounded tired. “We don’t investigate mundanes killing each other. That’s for the police.”

“There were dead faeries,” said Johnny. “Several of the bodies were fey.”

“We can’t investigate those,” said Cameron. “You know that. The Cold Peace forbids it.”

Kit heard a faint murmur from nearby booths: a noise that let him know he wasn’t the only one eavesdropping.

The Cold Peace was Shadowhunter Law. It had come into being almost five years ago. He barely remembered a time before it. They called it a Law, at least. What it really was, was a punishment.

When Kit was ten years old, a war had rocked the universe of Downworlders and Shadowhunters. A Shadowhunter, Sebastian Morgenstern, had turned against his own kind: He had gone from Institute to Institute, destroying their occupants, controlling their bodies, and forcing them to fight for him as an unspeakable army of mind-controlled slaves. Most of the Shadowhunters in the Los Angeles Institute had been taken or killed.

Kit had had nightmares about it sometimes, of blood running through hallways he’d never seen, hallways painted with the runes of the Nephilim.

Sebastian had been helped by the Fair Folk in his attempt to destroy the Shadowhunters. Kit had learned about fairies in school: cute little creatures that lived in trees and wore flower hats. The Fair Folk were nothing like that. They ranged from mermaids and goblins and shark-toothed kelpies to gentry faeries, those who held high rank in the faerie courts. Gentry faeries were tall and beautiful and terrifying. They were split into two Courts: the Seelie Court, a dangerous place ruled by a Queen no one had seen in years, and the Unseelie Court, a dark place of treachery and black magic whose King was like a monster out of legend.

Since the faeries were Downworlders, and had sworn allegiance and loyalty to the Shadowhunters, their betrayal was an unforgivable crime. The Shadowhunters had punished them viciously in a sweeping gesture that had come to be known as the Cold Peace: forcing them to pay huge sums to rebuild the Shadowhunter buildings that had been destroyed, stripping them of their armies, and instructing other Downworlders never to give them aid. The punishment for helping a faerie was severe.

Faeries were a proud, ancient, magical people, or so it was said. Kit had never known them as anything but broken. Most Downworlders and other denizens of the shadowy space between the mundane world and the Shadowhunter one didn’t dislike faeries or hold much of a grudge against them. But none of them were willing to go against the Shadowhunters, either. Vampires, werewolves, and warlocks stayed away from faeries except in places like the Shadow Market, where money was more important than Laws.

“Really?” said Johnny. “What if I told you that the bodies have been found covered in writing?”

Emma’s head jerked up. Her eyes were dark brown, almost black, surprising against her pale hair. “What did you say?”

“You heard me.”

“What kind of writing? Is it the same language that was on my parents’ bodies?”

“Don’t know,” said Johnny. “Just what I heard. Still, seems suspicious, doesn’t it?”

“Emma,” said Cameron warningly. “The Clave won’t like it.”

The Clave was the Shadowhunter government. In Kit’s experience, they didn’t like anything.

“I don’t care,” Emma said. She’d clearly forgotten about Kit completely; she was staring at his dad, her eyes burning. “Tell me what there is to know. I’ll give you two hundred.”

“Fine, but I don’t know that much,” said Johnny. “Someone gets grabbed, a few nights later they turn up dead.”

“And the last time someone ‘got grabbed’?” said Cameron.