The City of Bones, 1900
On the morning of his parabatai ceremony, Matthew Fairchild walked through Highgate Cemetery, past the tall stone tombs and long grass wet with dew, until he reached the entrance leading down into the Silent City. He tried not to be nervous.
“I was exceedingly apprehensive on the day of my wedding ceremony,” Henry had told him at breakfast. “You know how poorly I thought of myself when I was young—I believed your mother couldn’t possibly love me as I loved her. And you know how absentminded I can be. I repeated the words over and over, and I was so sure I would get them wrong that when the time came I just blurted them all out at once. All went swimmingly in the end, save for the small matter of the scorched flowers. But that’s another tale.”
“Thank you for the advice, Papa,” Matthew said, leaning affectionately against his father’s Bath chair. “But I must point out that I’m not marrying James. Though I would be a vision in bridal lace.”
Henry grinned up at him. “Why would you be wearing the dress?”
“You can’t think I would permit James to do it,” said Matthew. “He has no sense of style.”
To his surprise, the ceremony was packed densely with guests. Family and friends would be expected, but Matthew understood that most of the people were here for the spectacle, or for political advantage. The Consul’s son, and the son of the head of the Institute, whose mother was a warlock.
The crowd was so thick, Matthew could barely see the skulls set in the walls. Brother Zachariah was waiting in the center of the chamber where the ceremony would be performed, a figure of profound stillness in his parchment-colored hood and cloak.
James called Brother Zachariah “Uncle Jem” and adored him. Today eldritch fire for the ceremony woke strange shadows on his face, and Matthew was a little afraid. The whole London Enclave was assembled here to see the ceremony performed. Matthew had absolute faith in James, but if something went wrong, the Council might never let them try again. James’s parentage had so far had no effect on his ability to receive Marks or otherwise be an active Shadowhunter, but the parabatai ceremony was a stranger, more transcendent bit of magic, and nobody knew for sure that it would turn out as expected.
Several members of the Enclave had taken Matthew aside and warned him in an avuncular fashion not to make any rash decisions, so Matthew had pleaded with his mother to set a date for their parabatai ceremony as soon as possible.
Matthew gave a particularly dark look to Mr. Bridgestock, recently made Inquisitor. Awful Bridgestock, whose first name was Maurice and it served him right, had said Matthew was a very promising young warrior, and that he shouldn’t blight his bright future. Matthew told him he knew what he was doing, that his family was supportive, and he assumed the Clave would stand behind the ceremony as well.
“I have nothing but respect for your family,” Bridgestock had said, “but they often…ignore the opinions of others. Sometimes to their detriment.”
Matthew would have liked to give Bridgestock a piece of his mind, but of course he could not. Instead he smiled, and told Bridgestock that he appreciated the advice but that he was firm in his decision.
He tried to push his way through the crowd and find James. Instead his ear was caught by the whisper of his own name.
“I simply can’t believe Fairchild is being such a fool,” a boy called Albert Breakspear said to his companion, Bertram Pounceby. “I saw that fellow turn into a shadow at the Academy, you know. Horribly ghastly thing to witness.”
Pounceby sniggered. “I can’t believe the Clave gave their approval. The parabatai ceremony is meant to be an honor, for the best among us. Not for ruffians who got expelled from school.”
“It’s all politics,” scoffed Breakspear. “Son of the head of the London Institute, son of the Consul—it doesn’t matter how much of an embarrassment they are, strings will be pulled and they’ll get what they want.”
“I bet it won’t even work,” said Pounceby. “There is no way the Angel will accept them as parabatai. Can you imagine if Herondale turns into a shadow when Fairchild tries to put the parabatai rune on him?”
“Don’t be so sure you’re on the side of the Angel,” Matthew said mildly. “I know what you lot got up to in school.”
Both boys spun around. Matthew gave them his most charming smile.
“Didn’t realize I was standing behind you?” he asked. “What an awkward situation for you.”
“Rather,” James agreed, in his quiet voice, and Matthew startled. He hadn’t realized James was even nearby, but there he was: hair a wreck, book tucked under his arm, face slightly paler than usual. He must have heard everything.
Matthew seized James by the elbow and dragged him around a corner so they could be alone among the skulls. He felt the tension running along James’s body. When he released James, he saw the tightness around his mouth, and feared he was very upset.
“We can call the ceremony off,” James said.
“I don’t want to call the ceremony off!” Matthew said. “Do you—do you want to call the ceremony off?”
James blinked his golden eyes like an owl. “Of course not. But if I do turn into a shadow… I know how it would reflect on you.”
“I shouldn’t care if you did, but I see no reason why you should become a shadow,” Matthew said firmly. “You never have when other Marks were put on you. I shall not be threatening you in any way. Unless you do change your mind, of course, in which case I shall chase after you, belaboring you with my fists.”
James grinned, his face brightening, and Matthew beamed back at him.
“If you’re going to belabor me with your fists, I don’t know if I want you going where I goest.”
“Too bad,” Matthew said. “Whither thou goest, I shall go. Just try and stop me.”
They stood in two separate rings of fire, ready to be joined. Brother Zachariah conducted the ceremony before the eyes of the Enclave and everyone James and Matthew loved.
“Entreat me not to leave thee, or return from following after thee. For whither thou goest,” Matthew promised, “I will go.”
Their voices mingled like the colors of the dancing flames, and Matthew remembered trying so hard to befriend James at the Academy. He’d begged James’s father to take him to London, saying he and James were going to be parabatai, the greatest and most audacious lie Matthew had ever told. Now his lie had become truth.
“And where thou lodgest, I will lodge. Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.”
James and Matthew had both chosen their fathers as witnesses, and Will stepped forward first. He looked at his son, and Matthew too, sweeping them up in a fierce and tender gaze. Henry wheeled himself to join them, red hair and silver chair catching the light. He smiled up at Matthew and James with an absolute approval that Matthew was very grateful to have.
“Where thou diest, I will die, and there will I be buried. The Angel do so to me, and more also,” James said, calling on Raziel in his clearest voice, “If aught but death part thee and me.”
Matthew thought of the Angel. He had always been mostly dismissive of the honor-death-and-glory bits of being of a Shadowhunter. He supposed he believed in Raziel, but he never gave the fellow much thought. He believed there was more to life than blood and fire. There was beauty, there was art, there was color. Perhaps Raziel knew his heart wasn’t in the fighting. Perhaps Raziel didn’t approve.
They stepped through the flames.
Did those flames burn higher than they had at other ceremonies? For just a moment, did the hearts of the fire burn black instead of blue? It was his imagination, Matthew decided. They were through, after all, and James’s hand stayed flesh in Matthew’s own, stayed steady as he drew the parabatai rune on the inside of Matthew’s left wrist.
James wanted his Mark on his shoulder, because, he had said, he knew Matthew would always be at his back in battle. Matthew had rolled his eyes, but felt a surge of affection; James’s sincerity was one of his best features, even if it did get him into trouble. When Matthew finished inscribing the rune on James’s shoulder blade, when it was complete, he gave a great sigh of relief. He felt the assembled audience sigh too. It was done, and it had been fine.
The flames shot to the ceiling and the dark hollow eyes of skulls watched them in the place of their ancestors, and they were sure of each other forever. When souls were knit, nobody could tear them apart.
The Breakspears and Pouncebys didn’t matter at all. Only James and Matthew’s families, their friends. When they stepped out of the fiery circles, Will was there to catch them both in an embrace. Lucie came forward to congratulate them, her ringlets rebelliously escaping from her ribbons and her blue eyes wide. Matthew had to glance away from how pretty she looked; it was almost too much for him. Now Tessa was hugging James, and Matthew’s mother was reaching down to touch his father’s hand where it rested on the arm of his chair.
Thy people will be my people, Matthew thought, and promised himself to love the Herondales as his own. Beneath the hood, he glimpsed a slight smile on Brother Zachariah’s rune-sealed mouth, and Matthew smiled back at him. Matthew was suddenly certain he would love Jem too, that he would love everything James loved. Other people might go through the world uncertain and alone, but not Matthew: now wherever he wandered, whenever he called out, there would be an answer. He would never walk anywhere alone.