Chain of Gold (The Last Hours #1)

“Your father adores any Carstairs,” said Cordelia. “I’m not sure it’s to my particular credit. He may even like Alastair.”

“I think he has convinced himself Alastair has hidden depths,” said James.

“So does quicksand,” said Cordelia.

James laughed.

“That’s quite enough,” said Lucie, reaching over to smack James on the shoulder with a gloved hand. “Daisy is my friend, and you’re monopolizing her. Do go off somewhere else.”

They were walking up Queen’s Gate toward Kensington Road, the clatter of omnibus traffic all around them. Cordelia imagined James wandering off into the crowd, where surely he would find something more interesting to do, or perhaps be kidnapped by a beautiful heiress who would fall in love with him instantly. These sort of things happened in London.

“I will walk ten paces behind you like a train-bearer,” said James. “But I must keep you within sight, otherwise Mother will kill me, and then I will miss tomorrow’s ball and Matthew will kill me, and I will be dead twice.”

Cordelia smiled, but James was already dropping back as promised. He ambled along behind them, giving the girls space to talk; Cordelia tried to hide her disappointment at the lack of his presence. She lived in London now, after all, and sightings of James were no longer rare glimpses but would hopefully become part of her everyday life.

She glanced back at him; he had already taken out a book and was reading it while walking and whistling under his breath.

“What ball did he mean?” she asked, turning to Lucie. They passed under the black wrought-iron gates of Kensington Park and into leafy shade. The public garden was full of nannies pushing babies in prams and young couples walking together under the trees. Two little girls were making daisy chains, and a boy in a blue sailor suit was running along with a hoop, shrieking with laughter. He ran to a tall man, who picked him up and swung him into the air as he laughed. Cordelia squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, thinking of her own father, of the way he had tossed her into the air when she was very small, making her laugh and laugh even as he caught her on her way down.

“The one tomorrow night,” Lucie said, linking her arm with Cordelia’s. “We’re throwing it to welcome you to London. All the Enclave will be there, and there will be dancing, and Mother will have a chance to show off the new ballroom. And I will have a chance to show off you.”

Cordelia felt a chill go over her—part excitement, part fear. The Enclave was the official name for the Shadowhunters of London: every city had an Enclave, who answered to their local Institute as well as the superior authority of the Clave and the Consul. She knew it was foolish, but the thought of so many people prickled her skin with anxiety. The life she had lived with her family—constantly traveling save when they were at Cirenworth in Devon—had been devoid of crowds.

And yet this was what she had to do—what they had all come to London to do. She thought of her mother.

It was not a ball, she told herself. It was the first skirmish in a war.

She lowered her voice. “Will everyone there—does everyone know about my father?”

“Oh, no. Very few people have heard any details, and those are being quite closemouthed about it.” Lucie eyed her speculatively. “Would you be willing—if you told me what happened, I swear I would not share it with a soul, not even James.”

Cordelia’s chest hurt, as it always did when she thought about her father. But she must tell this to Lucie nevertheless, and she would need to tell it to others, too. She would not be able to help her father unless she was straightforward in demanding what she wanted. “About a month ago, my father went to Idris,” she said. “It was all very secret, but a nest of Kravyaˉd demons had been discovered just outside the border of Idris.”

“Really?” said Lucie. “They’re nasty ones, aren’t they? Man-eaters?”

Cordelia nodded. “They had wiped out nearly a whole pack of werewolves. It was the wolves, actually, who brought the news to Alicante. The Consul put together an expeditionary force of Nephilim and called in my father because of his expertise with rare demons. Along with two of the Downworlders, he helped plan the expedition to slay the Kravyaˉds.”

“That sounds very exciting,” said Lucie. “And how wonderful, to be working with Downworlders like that.”

“It ought to have been,” said Cordelia. She glanced back; James was a good distance away, still reading. He couldn’t possibly hear them. “The expedition went wrong. The Kravyaˉdād demons had gone—and the Nephilim had trespassed onto land that a vampire clan believed was theirs. There was a fight—a bad one.”

Lucie paled. “By the Angel. Was anyone killed?”

“Several Nephilim were injured,” said Cordelia. “And the vampire clan believed that we—that the Shadowhunters—had allied with the werewolves to attack them. It was a terrible mess, something that could have undone the Accords.”

Lucie looked horrified. Cordelia didn’t blame her. The Accords were a peace agreement between Shadowhunters and Downworlders that helped maintain order. If they were broken, bloody chaos could ensue.

“The Clave launched an investigation,” Cordelia said. “All right and proper. We thought my father was meant to be a witness, but he was arrested instead. They are blaming him for the expedition having gone wrong. But it was not his fault. He couldn’t have known—” She closed her eyes. “It nearly killed him, having let down the Clave so badly. He will have to live with the guilt all his life. But none of us expected them to end the investigation and arrest him instead.” Her hands were shaking; she laced them tightly together. “He sent me one note, but nothing after that: they forbid it. He is being held under house arrest in Alicante until his trial can take place.”

“A trial?” said Lucie. “Just for him? But there were others in charge of the expedition as well, weren’t there?”

“There were others, but my father is being made the scapegoat. Everything has been blamed on him. My mother wanted to go to Idris to see him, but he forbid it,” Cordelia added. “He said we must go to London instead—that if he is convicted, the shame that will fall on our family will be immense, and that we must move quickly to stave it off.”

“That would be very unfair!” Lucie’s eyes flashed. “Everyone knows Shadowhunting is a dangerous job. Surely it will be determined after your father is questioned that he did the best he could.”

“Perhaps,” Cordelia said, in a low voice. “But they need someone to blame—and he is right that we have few friends among Shadowhunters. We have moved so much because Baba was ill, never living long in one place—Paris, Bombay, Morocco—”

“I always thought it was very glamorous.”

“We were trying to find a climate that might be best for his health,” said Cordelia, “but now my mother feels she knows few allies. That is why we are here, in London. She hopes we can make friends quickly, so that if my father faces imprisonment, we will have some to stand by our side and defend us.”

“There is always Uncle Jem. He is your cousin,” Lucie suggested. “And Silent Brothers are held in high esteem by the Clave.”

Lucie’s uncle Jem was James Carstairs, known to the majority of Nephilim as Brother Zachariah. Silent Brothers were the doctors and archivists of the Nephilim: mute, long-lived, and powerful, they inhabited the Silent City, a mausoleum belowground with a thousand entrances all over the world.

The oddest thing about them to Cordelia was that—like their counterparts, the Iron Sisters, who carved weapons and steles out of adamas—they chose to be what they were: Jem had been an ordinary Shadowhunter once, the parabatai of Lucie’s father, Will. When he had become a Silent Brother, powerful runes had silenced him and scarred him, and shut his eyes forever. The Silent Brothers did not age physically, but neither did they have children, or wives, or homes. It seemed an awfully lonely life. Cordelia had certainly seen Brother Zachariah—Jem—on important occasions, but she did not feel she knew him as James and Lucie did. Her father had never been comfortable in the presence of a Silent Brother and had done his lifelong best to prevent Jem from visiting their family.

If only Elias had thought differently, Jem might now be an ally. As it was, Cordelia had no idea how to begin to approach him.

“Your father will not be convicted,” said Lucie, squeezing Cordelia’s hand. “I will speak to my parents—”

“No, Lucie.” Cordelia shook her head. “Everyone knows how close our families are. They won’t think your mother and father are impartial.” She exhaled. “I am going to go to the Consul myself. Directly. She may not realize they are trying to make this scandal with the Downworlders go away by blaming my father. It is easier to point the finger at one person than to admit everyone made mistakes.”

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