City of Heavenly FireBy: Cassandra Clare
Fall Like Rain
The Los Angeles Institute, December 2007
On the day Emma Carstairs’s parents were killed, the weather was perfect.
On the other hand the weather was usually perfect in Los Angeles. Emma’s mother and father dropped her off on a clear winter morning at the Institute in the hills behind the Pacific Coast Highway, overlooking the blue ocean. The sky was a cloudless expanse that stretched from the cliffs of the Pacific Palisades to the beaches at Point Dume.
A report had come in the night before of demonic activity near the beach caves of Leo Carrillo. The Carstairs had been assigned to look into it. Later Emma would remember her mother tucking a windblown strand of hair behind her ear as she offered to draw a Fearless rune on Emma’s father, and John Carstairs laughing and saying he wasn’t sure how he felt about newfangled runes. He was fine with what was written in the Gray Book, thanks very much.
At the time, though, Emma was impatient with her parents, hugging them quickly before pulling away to race up the Institute steps, her backpack bouncing between her shoulders as they waved good-bye from the courtyard.
Emma loved that she got to train at the Institute. Not only did her best friend, Julian, live there, but she always felt as if she were flying into the ocean when she went inside it.
It was a massive structure of wood and stone at the end of a long pebbled drive that wound through the hills. Every room, every floor, looked out over the ocean and the mountains and the sky, rippling expanses of blue and green and gold. Emma’s dream was to climb up onto the roof with Jules—though, so far they’d been foiled by parents—to see if the view stretched all the way to the desert in the south.
The front doors knew her and gave way easily under her familiar touch. The entryway and lower floors of the Institute were full of adult Shadowhunters, striding back and forth.
Some kind of meeting, Emma guessed. She caught sight of Julian’s father, Andrew Blackthorn, the head of the Institute, amid the crowd. Not wanting to be slowed down by greetings, she dashed for the changing room on the second floor, where she swapped her jeans and T-shirt for training clothes—oversize shirt, loose cotton pants, and the most important item of all: the blade slung over her shoulder.
Cortana. The name simply meant “shortsword,” but it wasn’t short to Emma. It was the length of her forearm, sparkling metal, the blade inscribed with words that never failed to cause a shiver down her spine: I am Cortana, of the same steel and temper as Joyeuse and Durendal. Her father had explained what it meant when he put the sword in her ten-year-old hands for the first time.
“You can use this for training until you’re eighteen, when it becomes yours,” John Carstairs had said, smiling down at her as her fingers traced the words. “Do you understand what that means?”
She’d shaken her head. “Steel” she’d understood, but not “temper.” “Temper” meant “anger,” something her father was always warning her she should control. What did it have to do with a blade?
“You know of the Wayland family,” he’d said. “They were famous weapon makers before the Iron Sisters began to forge all the Shadowhunter blades. Wayland the Smith made Excalibur and Joyeuse, Arthur’s and Lancelot’s swords, and Durendal, the sword of the hero Roland. And they made this sword too, from the same steel. All steel must be tempered—subjected to great heat, almost enough to melt or destroy the metal—to make it stronger.” He’d kissed the top of her head. “Carstairs have carried this sword for generations. The inscription reminds us that Shadowhunters are the Angel’s weapons.
Temper us in the fire, and we grow stronger. When we suffer, we survive.” Emma could hardly wait the six years until she would be eighteen, when she could travel the world to fight demons, when she could be tempered in fire. Now she strapped the sword on and left the changing room, picturing how it would be. In her imagination she was standing on top of the bluffs over the sea at Point Dume, fending off a cadre of Raum demons with Cortana. Julian was with her, of course, wielding his own favorite weapon, the crossbow.