Emma tensed. She couldn’t help it. Any mention of her parents’ murders hurt as if it had happened yesterday. Even when the person asking her about it was as gentle as Cristina. “Yes.”
“The Clave says Sebastian Morgenstern murdered your parents,” said Cristina. “That is what Diana told me. That’s what they believe. But you don’t believe it.”
The Clave. Emma looked out into the Los Angeles night, at the brilliant explosion of electricity that was the skyline, at the rows and rows of billboards that lined Sunset Boulevard. It had been a harmless word, “Clave,” when she had first learned it. The Clave was simply the government of the Nephilim, made up of all active Shadowhunters over the age of eighteen.
In theory every Shadowhunter had a vote and an equal voice. In point of fact, some Shadowhunters were more influential than others: Like any political party, the Clave had its corruption and prejudices. For Nephilim this meant a strict code of honor and rules that every Shadowhunter had to adhere to or face dire consequences.
The Clave had a motto: The Law is hard, but it is the Law. Every Shadowhunter knew what it meant. The rules of the Law of the Clave had to be obeyed, no matter how hard or painful. The Law overrode everything else—personal need, grief, loss, unfairness, treachery. When the Clave had told Emma that she was to accept the fact that her parents had been murdered as part of the Dark War, she had been required to do so.
“No,” Emma said slowly. “I don’t think so.”
Cristina sat with the stele motionless in her hand, the rune unfinished. The adamas gleamed in the moonlight. “Could you tell me why?”
“Sebastian Morgenstern was building an army,” Emma said, still looking out at the sea of lights. “He took Shadowhunters and turned them into monsters that served him. He didn’t mark them up with demon languages written on their bodies and then dump them in the ocean. When the Nephilim tried to move my parents’ bodies, they dissolved. That didn’t happen to any of Sebastian’s victims.” She moved her finger along a roof tile. “And—it’s a feeling. Not a passing feeling. Something I’ve always believed. I believe it more every day. I believe my parents’ deaths were different. And that laying them at Sebastian’s door means—” She broke off with a sigh. “I’m sorry. I’m just rambling. Look, this is probably going to be nothing. You shouldn’t worry about it.”
“I worry about you,” Cristina said, but she laid the stele back against Emma’s skin and finished the rune without another word. It was something that Emma had liked about Cristina since the moment she’d met her—she never pressed or pressured.
Emma glanced down in appreciation as Cristina sat back, done with her work. The Farsighted rune gleamed clear and clean on Emma’s arm. “The only person I know who draws better runes than you do is Julian,” she said. “But he’s an artist—”
“Julian, Julian, Julian,” echoed Cristina in a teasing voice. “Julian is a painter, Julian is a genius, Julian would know how to fix this, Julian could build that. You know, for the past seven weeks I’ve heard so many wonderful things about Julian I’m starting to worry that when I meet him I will fall in love with him instantly.”
Emma brushed her gritty hands carefully down her legs. She felt tight and itchy and tense. All wound up for a battle and no fighting, she told herself. No wonder she wanted to jump out of her skin. “I don’t think he’s your type,” she said. “But he’s my parabatai, so I’m not objective.”
Cristina handed Emma’s stele back to her. “I always wanted a parabatai,” she said a little wistfully. “Someone who is sworn to protect you and to watch your back. A best friend forever, for your whole life.”
A best friend forever, for your whole life. When Emma’s parents had died, she’d fought to stay with the Blackthorns. Partly because she’d lost everything familiar to her and she couldn’t bear the thought of starting over, and partly because she’d wanted to stay in Los Angeles so that she could investigate her parents’ deaths.
It might have been awkward; she might have felt, the only Carstairs in a house of Blackthorns, out of place in the family. But she never had, because of Jules. Parabatai was more than friendship, more than family; it was a bond that tied you together, fiercely, in a way that every Shadowhunter respected and acknowledged the way that they respected the bond between husband and wife.