The pyres were still burning as the procession turned and headed back toward the city. It was customary for the smoke to rise all night, and for families to gather in Angel Square to mourn among others.
Not that Emma thought it was likely the Blackthorns would do that. They would remain in their house, closeted in with each other: They had been too much apart all their lives to want comfort from other Shadowhunters who they barely knew.
She had trailed away from the rest of the group, too raw to want to try to talk to Julian again in front of his family. Besides, he was holding Tavvy’s hand.
“Emma,” said a voice beside her. She turned and saw Jem Carstairs.
Jem. She was too surprised to speak. Jem had been a Silent Brother once, and though he was a Carstairs, he was a very distant relative, due to being more than a century old. He only looked about twenty-four, though, and was dressed in jeans and scuffed shoes. He wore a white sweater, which she guessed was his concession to Shadowhunter funeral whites.
Jem was no longer a Shadowhunter, though he had been one for many years, and was one of the most famous of the Carstairs family, along with his cousin Cordelia.
“Jem,” she whispered, not wanting to alert anyone else in the procession. “Thanks for coming.”
“I wished you to know how sorry I am,” he said. He looked pale and drawn, but that couldn’t be grief for Livvy, could it? He’d barely known her. “I know you loved Livia like a sister.”
“Can we talk?” she said abruptly. “Just us?”
He nodded and indicated a low rise some distance away, partially hidden by a stand of trees. After whispering to Cristina that she was going to talk to Jem—“The Jem? The really old one? Who’s married to a warlock? Really?”—she followed Jem to where he was sitting on the grass, among a tumble of old stones.
They sat for a moment in silence, both of them looking out over the Imperishable Fields. “When you were a Silent Brother,” Emma said abruptly, “did you burn people?”
Jem looked over at her. His eyes were very dark. “I helped light the pyres,” he said. “A clever man I knew once said that we cannot understand life, and therefore we cannot hope to understand death. I have lost many I loved to death, and it does not get easier, nor does watching the pyres burn.”
“We are dust and ashes,” Emma said.
“It was meant to make us all equal,” said Jem. “We are all burned. Our ashes all go to build the City of Bones.”
“Except for criminals,” said Emma.
Jem’s brow furrowed. “Livia was hardly that,” he said. “Nor you, unless you are thinking of committing a crime?”
I already have. I’m horribly in love with my parabatai. The desire to say the words, to confess to someone—to Jem, specifically—was like a pressure behind Emma’s eyes. To forestall them, she said hastily: “Did your parabatai ever pull away from you? When you, you know, wanted to talk?”
“People do strange things when they’re grieving,” said Jem gently. “I was watching from a distance, earlier. I saw what Julian did for his brother at the funeral. I know how much he has always loved those children. Nothing he says or does now, in these first and worst days, is symbolic of who he is. Besides,” he added with a slight smile, “being parabatai is complicated. I hit my parabatai in the face, once.”
“You did what?”
“As I said.” Jem seemed to enjoy her astonishment. “I struck my parabatai—I loved him more than anyone else in the world I’ve ever loved save Tessa, and I struck him in the face because my heart was breaking. I can hardly judge anyone else.”
“Tessa!” Emma said, feeling suddenly rude that she hadn’t asked after her before. “Where is she?”
Jem’s hand made a fist in the grass. “She is in the Spiral Labyrinth with Catarina Loss, searching desperately for a cure. All the warlocks are sickening. Tessa herself seems protected by her Shadowhunter blood. But those who are older, who have used more magic and more powerful magic, are sickening first.”
“Magnus,” Emma said. “He’s older, and powerful, isn’t he? And he uses a lot of magic?”
Jem nodded grimly.
“How much does Tessa know about it?” Emma demanded. “What have they figured out?”
“Tessa thinks it’s connected to the murders Malcolm committed with the Followers of the Guardian,” said Jem. Emma blinked at him. All of that seemed a thousand worlds away. “He used the ley lines to power his necromantic magic—if they’re poisoned, it might be communicating that poison to any warlock who uses them.”
“Can’t warlocks just not use them?”
“There are only a few sources of power,” said Jem. “Ley lines are the easiest. Many of the warlocks have stopped using them, but it means they’re exhausting their powers very quickly, which is also unhealthy.” He gave her an unconvincing smile. “Tessa will solve it,” he said. “She found Kit—she’ll discover the answer to this as well. I’m more worried about you at this moment. You look thin and drawn—”
“I had to watch Livvy die,” said Emma. “Have you ever watched someone you loved die?”
“Yes,” said Jem.
That was the problem with very old people, Emma thought. It was rare that you had a life experience that they hadn’t.
“And Horace Dearborn is the Inquisitor now,” she said. “It’s like there’s no hope for anything now.”
“There is always hope,” said Jem. “And though I cannot stay with you, for I must return to Tessa, I will be a fire-message away. Send me a letter and I will come, no matter how distant I may be.” He put an arm around her and hugged her close for a moment. “Take care, mèi mei.”
“What does that mean?” Emma asked. But he was already gone, vanishing into the trees as swiftly as he’d come.