Cristina gasped in horror as the fey below them gave a hoarse cry, his glamour falling away from him like a snake shedding its skin.
A chorus of shrieks went up from the crowd as the fey’s true appearance was revealed. Branches grew like twisted horns from his head, and his skin was the dark green of moss or mildew, cracked all over like bark. His hands were spatulate claws, three-fingered.
“Emma,” Cristina warned. “We should stop this now—call the Silent Brothers—”
But Emma had already jumped.
For a moment she was weightless, falling through the air. Then she struck the ground, knees bent as she’d been taught. How she remembered those first jumps from great heights, the snapping, awkward falls, the days she’d have to wait to heal before trying again.
No longer. Emma rose to her feet, facing the faerie across the fleeing crowd. Gleaming from his weathered, barklike face, his eyes were yellow as a cat’s. “Shadowhunter,” he hissed.
The partygoers continued to flee from the courtyard through the gates that led into the parking lot. None of them saw Emma, though their instincts kicked in anyway, making them pass around her like water around the pilings of a bridge.
Emma reached back over her shoulder and closed her hand around the hilt of her sword, Cortana. The blade made a golden blur in the air as she drew it and pointed the tip at the fey. “No,” she said. “I’m a candygram. This is my costume.”
The faerie looked puzzled.
Emma sighed. “It’s so hard to be sassy to the Fair Folk. You people never get jokes.”
“We are well known for our jests, japes, and ballads,” the faerie said, clearly offended. “Some of our ballads last for weeks.”
“I don’t have that kind of time,” Emma said. “I’m a Shadowhunter. Quip fast, die young.” She wiggled Cortana’s tip impatiently. “Now turn out your pockets.”
“I have done nothing to break the Cold Peace,” said the fey.
“Technically true, but we do frown on stealing from mundanes,” Emma said. “Turn out your pockets or I’ll rip off one of your horns and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine.”
The fey looked puzzled. “Where does the sun not shine? Is this a riddle?”
Emma gave a martyred sigh and raised Cortana. “Turn them out, or I’ll start peeling your bark off. My boyfriend and I just broke up, and I’m not in the best mood.”
The faerie began slowly to empty his pockets onto the ground, glaring at her all the while. “So you’re single,” he said. “I never would have guessed.”
A gasp sounded from above. “Now that is simply rude,” said Cristina, leaning over the edge of the roof.
“Thank you, Cristina,” Emma said. “That was a low blow. And for your information, faerie guy, I broke up with him.”
The faerie shrugged. It was a remarkably expressive shrug, managing to convey several different kinds of not caring at once.
“Although I don’t know why,” Cristina said. “He was very nice.”
Emma rolled her eyes. The faerie was still dumping his loot—earrings, expensive leather wallets, diamond rings tumbled to the ground in a sparkling cacophony. Emma braced herself. She didn’t really care about the jewelry or the stealing. She was looking for weapons, spell books, any sign of the kind of dark magic she associated with the markings on her parents. “The Ashdowns and the Carstairs don’t get along,” she said. “It’s a well-known fact.”
At that the faerie seemed to freeze in place. “Carstairs,” he spat, his yellow eyes fixed on Emma. “You are Emma Carstairs?”
Emma blinked, thrown. She glanced up; Cristina had disappeared from the edge of the roof. “I really don’t think we’ve met. I’d remember a talking tree.”
“Would you?” Spatulate hands twitched at the faerie’s side. “I would have expected more courteous treatment. Or have you and your Institute friends forgotten Mark Blackthorn so quickly?”
“Mark?” Emma froze, unable to control her reaction. In that moment, something glittering hurtled toward her face. The fey had whipped a diamond necklace at her. She ducked, but the edge of the chain caught her cheek. She felt a stinging pain and the warmth of blood.
She bolted upright, but the fey was gone. She swore, wiping at the blood on her face. “Emma!” It was Cristina, who had made it down from the roof and was standing by a barred door in the wall. An emergency exit. “He went through here!”