Home > The Lost Book of the White (The Eldest Curses #2)(4)

The Lost Book of the White (The Eldest Curses #2)(4)
Author: Cassandra Clare, Wesley Chu

Magnus had almost reached Ragnor, but Shinyun closed the distance shockingly quickly and held Magnus at Svefnthorn-point. Magnus stopped short and held up his hands in the classic pose of nonthreatening surrender. His heart was pounding. It was hard to concentrate while Ragnor had his hands on Max.

“You don’t understand,” Shinyun said. “We’re not stealing the Book of the White from you. We’re giving you something in exchange. Something even more valuable.”

And with a jolt she jabbed the Svefnthorn into Magnus’s chest.

It sank into his chest without any resistance from bone or muscle. Magnus felt no pain at all, nor any desire to move, even as the thorn pierced his heart. There was only a sort of terrible lassitude. He could sense his heart beating around the thorn. He didn’t want to look down, didn’t want to see it sticking out of his chest.

Part of him couldn’t believe Ragnor was here, watching this. Watching, and not doing anything about it.

Shinyun leaned forward and gave Magnus a kiss on the cheek. She twisted the thorn a half-turn, like the dial on a safe, then withdrew it. It exited as painlessly as it had entered, leaving a trail of cold red flames emerging from his chest in its wake. Magnus touched the flames, which passed through his fingers harmlessly. The wound didn’t hurt.

The lassitude was beginning to clear. “What have you done?” Magnus said.

“As I said,” Shinyun said, “I’ve given you a great gift. The first part of it, anyway. And in exchange… we’ll be taking the Book of the White.”

“I told you—” Magnus began.

“Yes, but I knew you were lying,” said Shinyun, “because I already have the Book. I retrieved it from your child’s bedroom before I made myself known to you. As one would. If one were not stupid.”

“Don’t take it to heart, Magnus,” Ragnor said sympathetically. “Sammael’s very will is bound up with the Book of the White, and his servants feel a constant pull toward its presence.”

Magnus had not known that, in fact, and would probably have left the Book of the White somewhere safer than among a pile of his son’s picture books if he had. “I could do things to stop you leaving with the Book,” he said, and saw Ragnor’s eyes narrow. “And also, Alec is here. But you put me at a disadvantage. Ragnor, give me Max, and you can leave with the Book.”

“We would leave with the Book regardless,” Shinyun said, but Ragnor, who had never had much of an appetite for a physical fight, nodded.

“No funny business,” he said to Magnus.

“Of course not,” said Magnus.

Ragnor came closer and handed the baby to Magnus, who carefully curled Max into the crook of his left arm. Then, in a sudden outburst of motion, he violently stabbed all five fingers of his right hand into Ragnor’s chest, in the general vicinity of his heart. Instantly, through the flow of magic within Ragnor’s body and into Magnus’s hand, he could sense the presence of Sammael’s control: a void, a place where the light of Ragnor’s life-essence fell away into blackness. With an effort, trying not to disturb Max, he attempted to draw it out from Ragnor.

“That’s funny business, Magnus!” yelled Shinyun. She was pointing the Svefnthorn at Ragnor, manipulating it in subtle movements.

Ragnor made a guttural noise deep in his chest as he struggled against Magnus. Then he tensed, and with a sudden strength cast Magnus away. Magnus was thrown back, lost his footing, and managed to fall onto the sofa behind him, cradling Max. The landing was soft, all things considered, but the fall was certainly surprising enough for Max to wake and immediately burst into tears.

All the adults in the room stopped short where they were. Very quietly Ragnor said, “Don’t feel bad, Magnus. The power granted to me by my fealty to Sammael is more than you, or any warlock, could overcome.”

“Ragnor!” Shinyun hissed. “Quiet! The baby—”

She shrieked. And fell suddenly to the ground, the shaft of an arrow jutting from her calf. It was so surprising that Max fell silent again.

“Stay where you are!” Alec yelled from the end of the hallway. Ragnor turned to gaze down the hallway with an expression of genuine, curious surprise.

Magnus ought to involve himself in the melee, he knew, but he was sprawled on his couch underneath his infant son. With some effort he began the elaborate movements necessary to stand up and not drop Max. He considered, not for the first time, teleporting his child, and rejected the idea as not safe. He didn’t have time to get a Portal open. Maybe if he floated Max to the ceiling…

His thoughts were interrupted by the telltale sound and shimmer of Shinyun opening a Portal of her own. Magnus had foolishly assumed she was out of the fight, and Ragnor was already making a beeline for the Portal. There was no way Magnus could catch him in time.

But then Magnus beheld a truly glorious sight. Like a Greek god, Alec stepped into view, his hair wildly out of sorts from the shower, still dripping with water. He had a white towel wrapped around his waist, a leather cord around his neck with a Lightwood ring hanging from it, a huge Sure-Strike rune on his chest, absolutely nothing else on, and an arrow fully nocked in the beautifully polished oak recurve bow that normally hung decoratively on the bedroom wall. It was like something from a Renaissance painting.

Magnus knew that Alec often worried that he was too ordinary for Magnus, that compared to the wonders Magnus had seen in hundreds of years, he must seem comparatively mundane. Magnus did not think Alec understood what it was like to behold, up close, a Shadowhunter in full warrior mode.

It was a lot.

Snapping back to the situation at hand, Magnus noted that Shinyun was already gone through the Portal and Ragnor was now entering it. Magnus, meanwhile, had gotten to his feet and was holding Max in front of him. He needed his hands free to do magic, but he didn’t want to let go of his child.

An arrow flew. It missed Ragnor by a hair, but tore a scrap from the back of the warlock’s cloak as the Portal closed around him.

There was a sudden silence. Alec turned to Magnus, who was holding and rocking Max. Max had gone quiet.

“Was that Ragnor Fell?” Alec looked stunned. “With Shinyun Jung?” Alec had never met Ragnor, but there were plenty of photos, sketches, and even one large oil painting of the warlock among Magnus’s belongings.

“That’s exactly who it was,” Magnus said into the silence.

Alec crossed the room and crouched down to retrieve the arrow and the scrap of cloth it had pinned to the floor. When he looked up at Magnus, his expression was somber. “But Ragnor Fell is dead.”

“No,” said Magnus. He shook his head, suddenly exhausted. “Ragnor lives.”

CHAPTER TWO Between Air and Angels

WHILE MAGNUS RETURNED MAX TO bed, Alec went to put some clothes on. His whole body was still tensed, full of adrenaline and anxiety; he was unsure of what had just happened in his home, or what it meant. Magnus had talked about Ragnor mostly as a figure from his past—his mentor, his teacher, his fellow traveler among the Shadowhunters at various points. He remembered the stoic calm with which Magnus had reacted to Ragnor’s death three years ago. At the time, he’d assumed it represented Magnus’s great existential wisdom, born of a life lived through so many deaths.

Now he wasn’t so sure. When he heard Magnus come into the bedroom behind him he pulled a T-shirt on over his boxers and said, “So you knew about Ragnor? Being alive?”

“Sort of,” said Magnus.

Alec waited.

“I knew he was planning to fake his own death, but—he had promised to be in touch. And he had been in deadly danger. That’s why he’d gone into hiding. When weeks passed, months, a year, two years, I assumed something had gone badly wrong.”

“So first you thought he wasn’t dead,” said Alec. He turned to face Magnus, who looked oddly vulnerable and uncertain. He’d put the black robe back on. “And then you thought he was dead?”

“It was the obvious conclusion,” said Magnus. “And I was right, in a way—he had been caught. Just by Shinyun.” He looked at Alec with intensity. “He was holding Max,” he said quietly. He came over and sat on the end of the bed. “I didn’t—that’s the first—”

He took a moment and then spoke again, the quaver gone from his voice. “There is something quite marvelous about having a child,” he said. “In times of danger, it does focus the mind very well.”

Alec went over to Magnus and put his hands on his boyfriend’s shoulders. “It isn’t just us anymore.”

“I had to hold it together,” said Magnus. “I had to. I had no other option. So I did. Otherwise I would be very shaken up right now.”

Alec gave him a wry smile. “Because Ragnor Fell is alive? Because Shinyun Jung is back in our lives? Because they’re working together? Because they took the Book of the White?”

“Actually,” said Magnus mildly, shrugging off his pajama top and robe, “because Shinyun stabbed me with a mythological stick and I don’t know what it’s done.”

Alec looked. There was a fissure in Magnus’s chest, from which flowered wisps of scarlet flame that dissipated as soon as they appeared. He wondered why Magnus was not more concerned. He himself was very, very concerned. Before speaking, he bent down and grabbed his trousers from the floor.

“It’s called a Svefnthorn, apparently,” said Magnus. The lightness of his tone set Alec’s teeth on edge. What was wrong with Magnus? Was he in shock? “Why are you putting on your pants?” he asked.

Alec held up the cell phone he’d just withdrawn from his pocket. “I’m calling Catarina.”

“Oh, don’t bother her in the middle of the night—” Magnus began. Alec held up a finger to silence him.

A voice still half-buried in sleep came over the phone. “Alec?”

“I’m so sorry to wake you up,” Alec said in a rush. “But—it’s Magnus. He’s been stabbed by a… well, by a big thorn, I guess. Something demonic, definitely. And now he’s got a magical fissure in his chest and there’s a light coming out of it.”

   
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