Secrets of Blackthorn Hall is a multimedia, serialized novel that is being released online for free. The first piece was released on July 10, 2021, and the rest of installments are to be released weekly from August 16, 2021 to August 2022.
The story takes place roughly starting in January 2014—about fifteen months after The Dark Artifices and more than a year before The Wicked Powers—and will take course over the span of a few months. It centers on the characters from The Dark Artifices but also delves into the history of those from The Last Hours and The Infernal Devices through books and old papers found in the house.
- 1 Description
- 2 Installments
- 2.1 Dear Cristina, from Emma
- 2.2 Dearest Magnus, from Tessa
- 2.3 Julian to Mark
- 2.4 Emma to Dru
- 2.5 From the diary of Tatiana Lightwood. December 27, 1873
- 2.6 Emma to Diary
- 2.7 Seventh installment
- 2.8 Kieran to General Winter
- 2.9 Mark to Ty
- 2.10 Ty to Julian and Emma
- 2.11 The Very Secret Diary of Miss Tatiana Lightwood
- 2.12 Dru texts Kit
- 2.13 Emma to Diary
- 2.14 Julian to Magnus
- 2.15 Magnus to Alec
- 2.16 Emma To Bruce
- 2.17 Emma To Jem
- 2.18 Tessa to Maryse
- 2.19 Jem to Emma
- 2.20 Emma To Bruce
- 3 Characters
- 4 Teasers
- 5 Trivia
- 6 References
Julian and Emma are on their travel year when the Clave sends him a message—clean up Blackthorn Hall or ownership reverts back to the Clave. Amidst the clutter and disrepair they discover secrets that Blackthorn Hall has kept hidden for years... They find out something... or someone... else might be sharing the space with them. They’ll also entertain visitors like Jem, Tessa, Cristina, Mark, Kieran, Kit, Ty, Dru and more.
Emma and Julian of The Dark Artifices move temporarily to London to fix up the crumbling Blackthorn Hall... only to find that among the various objects that belonged to their ancestors, there might be a spectral presence that wishes them harm...
Dear Cristina, from Emma
I was going to try addressing this letter to Polyamorous Cottage In Faerieland, but I figured it might never be delivered. :) Ok, ok, I’m kidding. I’m sending it to the New York Institute—Clary says she’ll hold onto it for you. I know Jules and I have been popping around the globe like ping-pong balls, but we’ve finally settled here in London for at least a couple of months, so you can — and should — write me back at the London Institute — I’m not sure the place we’re staying even has an address.
(And sure, I could have just sent you a fire-message, but I have too much to tell you. Buckle up.)
So, a while ago Jules and I were in Manaus, in Brazil, studying Curupiras, when we got called into the Rio Institute. They had a message for Julian. His great-aunt — yeah, the one he was visiting when you first came to L.A. — had died. Really sad. And then, remember the beautiful house in Sussex where she lived? Well, she left that to some cousin nobody’s heard of, but she left Julian Blackthorn Hall. Which is a crumbling ruin in Chiswick (kind of a suburb of London). And then we had to come here, because of a codicil in the will (ahem, according to the dictionary, that’s “an addition or supplement that explains, modifies, or revokes a will or part of one”). Either Julian has to fix the place up, get it livable again, in five years, or he has to donate it to the Clave.
Anyway, you know how Julian is. He makes up his mind fast. We Portaled to London the next day after he got the news.
I was all set to eat scones, drink tea, and go on the Eye (all the things I didn’t get to do last time we came to London, due to being pursued by unkillable Faerie warriors.) But that was before we took a black cab from the Institute out to Chiswick and really saw the place.
From the outside it looks like a museum or an old library—you know, big marble columns, grand staircase, big metal dome on top that looks like it should have a telescope in it. (It doesn’t; I checked.) But inside it’s more like a fairytale. Not, like, something from Faerie. Or something from a kid’s movie. It’s like one of those fairytales where a crumbling palace sleeps for a thousand years. It was kind of romantic, for about five minutes. Then we spotted the first rat, nibbling on the tassel end of one of the drapes.
It’s a weird mix of interesting history, weird old art, and total ruin. There are cool portraits of old Blackthorn ancestors, mostly intact. Julian says he doesn’t recognize most of the faces. Some of them have names written on the back of the canvas or on the frame but other than “Blackthorn” none of the names mean anything to any of us. There are wooden chests full of ancient books and papers, and beautiful overgrown grounds that I’m sure were once gardens and are now England’s version of a jungle. There’s an old greenhouse and a weird little brick structure we can’t figure out. (Storage shed? Very small weapons room?) The whole place is just a mess, and most of the house isn’t habitable at all anymore. Someone built an apartment with “updates” off in one wing, probably in the sixties. (The apartment, by the way, reminds me of that vintage shop in Topanga I dragged you to. Remember?) Whoever lived in it left a closet of all kinds of vintage clothes and there’s crazy flower-patterned wallpaper and modern art everywhere. At least the apartment has electricity, running water, and heat, because the rest of the house definitely doesn’t —
I’m back now. Sorry, had to stop writing for a second. Julian was calling me. He was up in what was probably a ballroom? But anyway he took a wrong step and his foot went through the floor. (Not all the way through the floor, which is a relief. But it definitely made a hole.) The ballroom is big and dusty, but you can see how long ago it must have been beautiful, and very fancy. It has these huge French doors that open onto marble balconies, though most of the glass in the doors is gone now.
Once I freed Jules from the broken floor I figured it was my only chance to try to talk some sense into him, so I pointed out that this is a gigantic project for two people who have never fixed up a house before, and that we have a perfectly fine place to live already. And the weather is better there.
Jules, being Jules, took his time answering, really thinking about what I’d been saying. Then he said, “If you don’t want to do this, we don’t have to do it. You’re more important to me than a house. Any house.”
“It’s not that I don’t want to do it,” I said. “I just don’t even know where to start.”
Jules calmly explained that he’d been in contact with some faerie builders of some kind, hobgoblins maybe? who would be here Monday to do “a walkthrough.” Then he put his arms around me and said, “I know we can always live in the L.A. Institute. I love it there, too. But as much as any Blackthorn legacy exists, this is it. All these old papers, whatever secrets the house is hiding, they’re our family history. I want to pass it on to Dru and Ty and Tavvy. I want to give them what I never had.”
Well, what could I say to that? I get it. I have Jem as my living family history. Jules doesn’t have anything like that. And while Aline and Helen run the L.A. Institute now, they might not always, and besides, it belongs to the Clave. I get that he feels like he can’t give away a big chunk of his family’s history without giving them a choice in the matter.
I said, “All right. We’ll see what we can do. If we ever decide it’s too much, we can hold a big family meeting and everyone can vote. Keep the place or not.”
He picked me up and swung me around. Then we started kissing. I’ll be merciful and not give you the details.
So I’ve decided to consider all this An Adventure. It’s like an archeological site, and we are intrepid historians. Later I’ll see if I can convince Jules to put on a tweed coat and a pith helmet while we sort through the debris. Because whoever lived here before had a lot of stuff. It’s a big house, and every room has furniture with drawers and cabinets, and inside every drawer and every cabinet is clutter. Rusty weapons, water-damaged books, little boxes with more clutter in them, costume jewelry, portraits of random people, broken teacups…And remember, we’ll be going through it without any light but witchlights.
Anyway. I wanted to let you know what I was up to, and where we were. Our travel year was basically over anyway, so this is a sort of way of extending it and spending more time together. I’m not sad about that part. I was actually doing pretty well psyching myself up for the excavation of Blackthorn History, until this morning.
I know I said the house seemed haunted, but I was joking. Mostly. I’m not Kit; I can’t see ghosts unless they want me to see them, and so far I haven’t come across any ectoplasmic spirits with messages from The Beyond. But the place does feel odd — I keep finding myself turning around at the end of long, spiderwebby hallways, as if expecting to see something in the shadows. Or imagining I glimpse something over my shoulder in the mirror. I chalked it all up to nerves until this morning, when I came into the dining room and saw that the words “GO AWAY” were written in the dust on the floor.
I literally jumped. I was actually reaching for Cortana before I got a hold of myself. Don’t be ridiculous, I thought. That message could have been written any time. Long before we got to the house. It could have been sitting here in the dust for years, undisturbed.
I have a confession to make, though. I rubbed the GO AWAY message away with my foot. I didn’t want Julian to see it. He worries too much as it is. I didn’t want him to have that same bad moment of shock that I did, especially over something unimportant.
I feel better getting the story off my chest to you, though. Oh dear, Julian is calling for me again, I can’t wait to see what he’s put his foot through this time. I will write again soon, and in the meantime pip pip cheerio from London!
Love to you and the boys,
Dearest Magnus, from Tessa
Jem, Kit and I are so looking forward to your visit. In preparation, Kit has been attempting to teach Mina to say your name. She’s almost got it, but you may have to content yourself with being called “Agnes,” as she has trouble with the M — very trying for her as she is so advanced in her speech, just as you say Max was. You should have heard them in the kitchen this morning. “Who is coming to visit, Mina?” “Agnes!” I feel that your alter ego, Agnes, would wear sequins and be absolutely deadly at whist.
Thank you for your thoughts about the wards. I will look for labradorite at the gem store in Exeter. I tried what you suggested with the chickens—I was able to borrow a Blue Orpington from a neighbor on the last quarter moon. Since then chickens seem to be avoiding Kit, so maybe it will work on demons too? (Though can you really tell when a chicken is avoiding someone as opposed to just being a chicken?)
Jem and I are endeavoring to walk a narrow line, keeping Kit safe and hidden while also providing him with the most normal life we can. We don’t want to lock him away in a tower like a fairytale princess—he’d be miserable. And Mina would be miserable, she just adores him and rides everywhere on his back, clutching onto his shirt with her little hands. It reminds me of the way James and Lucie used to ride on Will’s shoulders. I suppose times change, but children never do.
We’re trying to allow Kit freedom wherever we can. He’s enrolled at the small school in the village, where a few of his friends know about the Shadow World and others don’t. There’s a local pack of werewolves who we’ve become friendly with, and some of their children go to school with him. I’ve begun to suspect that Kit has a girlfriend, but he’s secretive about it. (I guess that’s another thing that never changes about children—how secretive they are. I just hope he knows he can tell us anything. Especially related to demons, or in Kit’s case, the fey. A hundred and ten years later and I’m still edgy.)
He’s a puzzle, our Christopher Jonathan Herondale. About some things he’s opened up, and is willing to talk to Jem and me about them freely — his father, and what it was like growing up being able to see all sorts of peculiar things but not really understanding why. About being taught to fear Shadowhunters. About his concerns about his heritage — what it means, what kind of power he might have. I think it frustrates him, not knowing.
Other things he won’t talk about. We have asked him about Ty, as you and I discussed, but he’s like a brick wall about their friendship. Whatever happened he won’t speak of it. I think Livvy’s death hit him harder than we guessed, too. I’ve heard him call out her name in his sleep, always in this very despairing way. Sometimes he’ll say Not if you do this. Not if you do this, Ty. I feel like whatever they fought about, it must have been awful. But people can be terrible when they’re grieving; we both know that.
You can probably tell from everything I’ve said how much I — how much we — love Kit. I just love him, Magnus, like he was my own. He is my own. I’d kill anyone who wanted to hurt him, just as I would protect Mina or Jem with my life. I never thought I’d have this again, this perfect family I love so much it hurts. Strange after so many years to be so surprised by one’s own feelings — but I imagine it’s much the same for you, isn’t it? Speaking of which, I hope you and Alec and the kids are well. Please let Max know that we found his superhero cape—it was inside the piano.
I enclose a picture from your last visit here. How adorable they all are!
Julian to Mark
℅ Helen Blackthorn
Los Angeles Institute
Don’t worry about the parchment scroll yet, I’ll get to it at the end of the letter.
Hello from Chiswick! It’s pronounced like chizzick, it’s just outside central London, and it is a collapsing ruin. The house, I mean, not the neighborhood, which is cozy, a little suburban, lots of green space, quiet. You’d like it.
I should have been in touch before, I know that – and I’m sorry. We had to move fast to save this place and I knew a fire-message wouldn’t reach you. Blackthorn Hall may be a ruin, but it’s our family’s legacy, one of the very few things that we’ve inherited from Blackthorns past. I feel this sense of responsibility, a need to preserve the place for Tavvy and Dru, for Ty and
Liv — well. You know.
It was us or the Clave, and they would have knocked it down and put something else in its place. It’s easily in bad enough shape that knocking it down would be the practical move. But it’s ours, and I kind of love it. I mean, if we don’t love it, who will? It can be truly beautiful again, I believe that. You should visit when you get a chance—all of you there are invited, of course—but be warned that if you come in the next couple of months you will be put to work.
This brings me to the parchment, which is the estimate and contract from the faerie builders for the renovation work on the house. I was hoping you and Kieran could look it over for faerie trickery, both in terms of whether their rates seem reasonable, and also to make sure they don’t get Tavvy if we’re late with payment, that kind of thing. They came highly recommended—they’re brownies? I think? They look like big garden gnomes. I mean, it’s probably the pointy hats. They could take them off, of course, but I guess they like them. They must know they look like garden gnomes. Anyway, they seem trustworthy and industrious and all that. But faeries do love tricking humans. Let me know what you think.
Oh, I should explain that there is one part of the house that is in all right shape and has all the “mod cons,” as they say here. It was redone in the Sixties and, well… it is groovy. The cons are Mod as well as mod. I am not sure you will get that joke but don’t worry about it, it was pretty stupid. The thing is, I’d never thought about it, but I realized this must have been fixed up by our grandparents. The timing works out. So this must be where Dad lived, once. And Uncle Arthur. It was where they grew up. And I realized: they, too, must have been groovy.
Arthur. Must have at one point. Been really groovy.
I just want you to sit with that for a moment, the way I did. It creates a feeling I believe to have never been felt before by any human being in the world.
You should see the clothes. I mean, really. You should see them. There’s a consignment shop’s worth of vintage stuff here and none of it suits me at all. You’re welcome to it but it is almost all synthetic fabrics and would not go over in Faerie itself.
Aaand I know I’m rambling. I was trying to avoid saying this, but there’s something about this house. It reminds me of some of the nights you and I used to ramble around the Institute back home. Which I know is weird, London couldn’t be more different than the Santa Monica Mountains — I miss the wildfire tang in the air, the smell of the chaparral and sage, the coarse dirt under our feet. (Do you miss it too? I feel like it has to be very different where you are in Faerie.) But there were plenty of times, especially when we were younger, when we’d tell ghost stories out there and scare ourselves that something was watching us. Maybe something was, though I’m inclined to think now that it was something friendly. Here in this house I get the same watched feeling, like there are eyes on me, shadows I see out of the corners of my own eyes that disappear when I turn around.
Anyway, I really wish you were here. I’d bring it up with Emma, but I don’t want to freak her out. She’s started the massive job of sorting through decades of papers and journals that used to belong to the people who lived here, and I’ve started painting the ballroom. I know Emma has been in touch with Cristina, please send my love to her and to K as well!
Your loving bro,
PS: I realize now I don’t know where this letter will find you, so let me clarify that “all of you are invited” from the LA Institute, not “all of you are invited” from the Unseelie Court.
Emma to Dru
Hey, baby bat! So how’s Shadowhunter Academy? Still having a good time? How’s the roommate — Thais, isn’t that her name? How’s having a roommate? I always kinda wished I’d gotten to go to SA, although obviously the weather was better in California. But you like things dark and gloomy! Just, you know – try to get some sun sometimes, okay? While I know you love your ghostly pallor, vitamin D is a real thing.
Not that we’re getting any sun here in Chiswick, where England is being fully England with the weather. I guess it goes with the house, though. You’re going to love this place when you see it, by the way. It’s the most goth building you’ve ever seen. The whole place is full of crumbling statues and faded wallpaper with creepy stains and a LOT of these dark brambles—
Huh, I guess it makes sense there are a lot of black thorns at Blackthorn Manor. Still, they’re a huge pain to cut back. Why didn’t your ancestors go with something less pointy? This was owned by Lightwoods for years, why no light woods? We may never know.(I always forget about the Lightwoods because I think of it as Blackthorn Manor but I found a diary of a girl who grew up here, hidden under one of the floorboards. Like way back in the 1870s. She’s just a normal Shadowhunter teenager of the time, complaining about boring history lessons and obnoxious older brothers. Normal stuff! She’s about 13 in the part I’m reading but it goes for a few years. Her name was Tatiana Lightwood, I wonder if Isabelle and Alec have heard of her?)
Anyway, Jules is working hard on de-spookying the place, but trust me, it’ll still be gothier than a ripped fishnet whenever you get to see it. It’s going to be ages before we’re done with all the hallways full of empty birdcages and decaying books. This house is big. And extremely busted.
Also … haunted. At first I think we were both in denial. It was just weird moving shadows, cold spots in places — if this was one of your mundane movies, we’d still be arguing about what was going on. But we’re Shadowhunters. We know ghosts exist. And we finally broke down and admitted to each other that there’s definitely one in this house. Somebody’s moving small objects around and playing the piano off in the distance… low, haunting bits of sweet music we can both hear. But here’s the thing — the only piano here isn’t even playable. It rotted through a long time ago.
So, we have a ghost. But they don’t seem definitely or even particularly hostile. It could just be a bitty poltergeist, or a passing unquiet spirit. I’ve just started going through papers and it’s obvious Some Stuff Went Down Here at some point, lots of weird references to demons and bindings. (Oh, I’m putting a thing aside for you, it’s a taxidermied raven covered in flowers, I think it used to be part of a really extra hat.) So the potential for unquiet spirits is definitely there. One more thing to deal with along with the need for all new drains. (What, exactly, are drains?)
Anyway, I can’t wait to see you and oh no, I spent most of the letter telling you about the house but I really do want to hear about the Academy and your roommate and teachers, like is Catarina there? What about Ragnor? Have you seen Jaime lately? Tell me everything!
PS I just found out who Tatiana Lightwood thought was the cutest boy in London. Will Herondale. Wasn’t that the guy Tessa was married to, a long time ago? Would she think this was funny? I mean, it’s kind of funny. Always a Herondale, you know?
From the diary of Tatiana Lightwood. December 27, 1873
I hate Will Herondale.
I hate Will Herondale.
I HATE Will Herondale.
How could I have ever felt anything but loathing for him, with his ridiculous name and his infernal Welsh accent and his preposterous handsome face! Ugh! The horrid monster read my old diary, OUT LOUD at the Institute Christmas party. On the stage, in the ballroom. To the entire Enclave.
Every single entry where I’d written my name as Mrs. Tatiana Herondale. Every bit where I wrote poetry about his absurdly blue eyes, how I shudder now to recall it! How I wish Elise Penhallow had never stopped playing the spinet and given him an opening to start reading OUT LOUD. I wish she was still playing the spinet now and for the rest of eternity and that Will Herondale had been utterly drowned out by the racket.
The HUMILIATION, it is not to be borne. He is a MONSTER. Gideon just stood there like a lummox. Gabriel had the decency to attempt to defend my honor and got his arm broken, which was the least he could do, really.
I suppose it is better that I have discovered Will Herondale’s TRUE NATURE and EVIL INTENT now rather than later. But oh, couldn’t I have found it out in a different way? A whispered cruel comment—an act of brutishness at someone else’s expense—but no. The whole Enclave just standing there gaping at me and whispering, whispering.
Of course Father told me in the carriage on the way home that I had disgraced us all and the good name of Lightwood, too. Gabriel sulked for the entire journey, even though the healing runes must have taken away any pain he was in, so there was no need for him to be so peevish. None of this was about him. Gideon took my hand and said, “Don’t fret, Tati. Everyone will forget about this before you know it.” I looked out the window of the carriage and ignored him. What could he possibly understand about the injury that has been dealt to me? Nothing, for he is a lunkhead.
When we arrived at Chiswick I thought about burning the diary, for I could no longer stand the sight of the thing. Will ruined it. I went up to my room and ripped the pages from the spine, then tore each page to pieces. I looked at the fire, which had plenty of hot coals, but I could not bring myself to consign the remains of the diary to the flames, whether they had disgraced our family name or not. Those pages were full of my fascinating ruminations and ideas and observations—about the London Enclave, about my father’s heroic exploits, about the precise shape of Elise Penhallow’s nose and what it revealed about her terrible character—and I found I did not want to see those words curl and vanish into ash. Instead I stuffed the mutilated pages into my green silk purse and tiptoed down the corridor. I hid them in the old mousehole behind one of my father’s paintings of demons doing peculiar things. (I don’t know why he collects them, but then I suppose I have not yet developed a taste for art.) I hurried back to my room and threw the spine and covers of the book into the fire.
I am starting over with a new diary in which I will not mention W.H. at all. Except now. This is the last time.
But I will make him pay. No matter how long I have to wait.
Emma to Diary
Dear Diary — that’s how you’re supposed to start off, right? I feel kind of silly writing this, since I never thought I’d keep a diary, but what can I say. I guess Tatiana Lightwood inspired me. I feel like I should give the diary a name though, something friendly, so I can write “Dear Clara” or “Dear Bruce” instead of Dear Diary. Bruce is growing on me, actually.
So I thought I could use this to organize my thoughts. I’ve been jotting things down in little notebooks the whole time Jules and I have been traveling. (Did you know that there are a lot of fey creatures who have been incorrectly classified as demonic by the Clave? Like Curupiras? Most of the old bestiaries direly need correcting.)
It’s actually quite odd to be standing still after rushing around the globe for nearly a year. Julian has really thrown himself into this whole restoration project. I think it appeals to his sense of care and deliberation. He loves working with his hands (and I like watching him work with his hands) and figuring out projects. In addition to everything else, he’s painting a mural in the ballroom. He won’t let me in to see it. He says it’s a surprise so I have to live in suspense, I guess!
I really hope that when this place is all fixed up it does something to de-creepify the place. I joked about it to Dru when I wrote to her but I still get that sense that things are lurking in every shadow. Even when I turn my witchlight up to its brightest, it just highlights the weird cracks in the walls and the strange stains on the plaster. I can’t explain it but I feel like a long time ago, something awful happened here. It’s in the chills up and down my spine, and in the strange way the glass in the windows fogs up for no reason, or the odd cold spot halfway up the stairs. I keep wanting to reach for Cortana, but this isn’t the kind of thing you can fight. It’s just a feeling.
And sometimes it isn’t there — I spent a perfectly normal afternoon today digging through boxes in what used to be the kitchen. We pulled a lot of them up from the cellar (which is so spidery I will plan to refer to it from now on as Spidertown. I haven’t seen this many spiders since Thule. *shudder*)
Some of the boxes have perfectly normal stuff in them. There’s some beautiful silverware and china that belonged to someone named Barbara Pangborn (must have married a Lightwood or Blackthorn.) Fancy linens and tablecloths with the Blackthorn symbol of thorns woven around the edges as a border. A big box of broken toys and china dolls marked “Grace Blackthorn.” There was a runed dagger shoved down among the broken doll heads so my guess is she was a little girl just starting training. Aw! (Though the doll heads are creepy.)
Julian came in when I was partway through unpacking, and decided to help by cleaning out the fireplace grate. He got completely covered in soot and was coughing, so I dragged him into the modern wing, pulled off his shirt, and started mopping him off. And well, he was shirtless and dirty and looking at me with those gorgeous blue-green eyes and what can I say?
I jumped him. We backed into the bedroom kissing like crazy and toppled onto the bed and got soot all over the sheets and it was worth it. (And that’s all the details you get, Bruce. Stop asking.)
I can’t believe I ever thought Jules and I were just friends. It’s almost like I loved him so much I couldn’t see all of it, how big it was. I was standing inside it, looking for that kind of love without realizing I was surrounded by it. Does that make sense, Bruce? I’m not a writer so I’m probably terrible at expressing this kind of thing! I know I often feel like I should tell Julian I love him more, but he never says anything about it, and so I try to tell him in other ways than words. The way I curl up against him when we sleep, the way I come up behind him and hug him when he’s concentrating on something (not when he’s painting, though, or there’d be splotches on all the canvases!) The way — wait a second. Is that someone knocking on the door?
[One hour later]
Bruce! You’re not going to believe it but Cristina is here! And Mark and Kieran are with her! I don’t even know how Kieran managed to get away from Faerieland — something about him making a vow to the land that he’d be here for less than three sunsets — but I’m so happy to see them! Cristina and I danced around like maniacs and hugged each other, and somehow Mark and Kieran managed to convince Julian we should go out tonight and see London. We’re all going to wear clothes from the Super Groovy Sixties closet and hit as many pubs as we can. I can’t wait, Jules and I need a break. London, here we come! Prepare yourself for Partying Shadowhunters!*
*And a faerie King.
Kieran to General Winter
Three sunsets. I told you, I have three sunsets. I will be back in just that amount of time. It is not a very long amount of time. And yet you have written to me, spent your valuable time and mine because you could not wait three sunsets to know whether I prefer velvet in midnight blue or one in more of an eggplant, I believe was your phrase.
Forgive me my temper. I am not really angry with you. I am only somewhat out of sorts this morning, after a night of merriment and whimsy on the streets of London-Town, along with my Nephilim friends. Now, obviously any faerie revel contains such dark delights as mortals can only dream, and so on. But after the previous night I must concede a grudging respect for the reveling capacities of an unexpected group: London businessmen of late middle-age. In our journeys we encountered what is known here as a “Retirement Party,” a kind of movable feast in which these businessmen traverse the city in celebration of a chosen one. In this case I knew him only as “Kraig.”
We met his Party thrice last night! The first time, at the Tongue & Grapes, we shared only a mutual acknowledgement of fellow celebrants passing in the night. The second time, at the Inn of the Shaved Werewolf, there were mutual roars of recognition from both parties, and a ceremonial exchange of beverages, as is custom. And the third time, at the Pigeon & Spoon, we were welcomed and—a great honor—inducted as honorary members of the Party, whereupon we were bestowed with festive hats and jersey-cotton smocks proclaiming the majesty of the great Kraig.
So you will understand if I am shorter of patience than I would like, this day, for I have a vile headache engendered by too much of what mortals call “shandy”, a repellent beverage with a kick like an angry kelpie. It quite left my darling Cristina asleep on a rather sticky table at the Pigeon and Spoon; Mark and I had to carry her back to the Institute. She is awake now, of course, and demanding coffee with rather more force than usual. Given that my time is short, I shall endeavor to answer your queries as well as I can.
I like the midnight blue, for the throne room. I think it sets off the creeping vines well, and also I think that you were hinting you prefer it as well. Next, I am in general agreement that the overall aesthetic of the throne rooms should move in the direction of an opulent Gothic feel, rather than its previous occupant’s preferred mood of “blasted hellscape.” Let us remind our Court that we are the Moon, as the Seelie Court is the Sun; rather than that they are Beauty, and we Tackiness.
However, I disagree about the skulls. I think they should remain. Skulls are perfectly appropriate in an opulent Gothic setting. In fact, I am hard-pressed to think of a style in which skulls would not be an improving presence. If such a style exists, it would definitely not be a good choice for the throne rooms of the Unseelie Lord, let us at least agree upon that.
Lastly, I am disturbed to hear that the Seelie Court continues to rebuff my requests for a summit of peace. You were right when you noted your suspicions earlier; they have become more secretive in this past year, even for them. We will see if our scouts manage to learn anything, although in my experience our scouts mostly seem to fall into forbidden romances with Seelie scouts and then they run off together; we lose something like four out of five that way. I suppose what I am saying is that I am not exactly holding my breath. (A charming human expression, is that not?)
You do not need to suggest to me that I contact Adaon; he is my own brother and I speak with him often. Whenever I bring up the possibility of a united court, or a meeting between myself and the Seelie Queen, he says the same thing: now is not the time for a summit that might lead to discord — now is the time to preserve the fragile peace between the two courts by leaving well enough alone. He has the Queen’s ear, so I must trust he knows what I do not. Still, you know it is not in my nature to do nothing and call it progress.
Speaking of that fragile peace, I must inquire—have your redcaps learned any more about the strange presence that has been noted in Faerie, and whether it is beneficial or antagonistic to our interests? I feel it through my connection to the Land — I am woken sometimes, feeling that presence I cannot define, knowing it is both of Faerie and not of it, and that the Land itself is afraid.
Enough of that. I trust that you can manage to keep the Court in working order for the thirty-six remaining hours I will be gone. If more color selection is necessary before my return, I trust you to go with your instincts, which have always served you well.
Until then I have the honor to remain Your Eternal Sovereign, Master of the Hob and the Domovoi, Breaker of the Broken Lands, Crown Under the Hill, Dark Star of the Evening, Friend of Kraig, and King of the Unseelie Court —
Mark to Ty
Greetings and Salutations, Tiberius.
I hope this missive finds you well at the Scholomance. For my own part, I am rather hungover. We took to the clubs of London and ended up swept away in the festivities of Kraig’s retirement party. ‘Who is Kraig?’ you may ask. That is a very good question, Tiberius. As of this morning, I have no idea.
You will be relieved to know that none of this is why I’m writing to you. It’s rather about what happened afterwards.
As you know, Julian and Emma are staying at Blackthorn Hall, attempting to get it fixed up. Emma has been going through stacks of old papers and ephemera, and Julian has been dealing with the particulars of the needed repairs. Julian also mentioned that he’s been working on a mural, though he keeps it covered with a cloth so I don’t know what it depicts. Whatever the subject matter, I am glad that he is finding time to paint.
This is my first visit to Blackthorn Hall since I was a child, and I must say that Julian and Emma have their work cut out for them. Especially because it seems to be haunted.
Yes, haunted. I woke early this morning to the sound of an exclamation. Having passed out upon the stairs for some reason, I was directly across the hall from the ballroom, where I found Julian in the throes of dismay. There was paint spilled all over the ballroom floor. Julian has been working on the mural up there, and was quite upset by the mess. I wondered whether wild animals could have been responsible—the place certainly looks like it could be harboring numerous bands of cunning raccoons *—but then I saw that there were footsteps in the paint. They looked to be old-fashioned shoes, not like any soles I’d seen before. Since the house itself contains many garments of earlier eras, we looked for matches, but found none.
I felt a sort of chill in the ballroom that reminded me of my time with the Hunt. A hint of the cold of the grave. I suppose that is why I am inclined to agree with Emma and Julian that this mess is the work of a mischievous ghost, and not a strangely-dressed housebreaking vagrant. (Emma mentioned the term ‘cosplay’ but I do not know what that means.)
Julian, being who he is, blames himself. He keeps muttering about how he shouldn’t have gone out, how it’s his responsibility to take care of the place, and so on. You know how hard he can be on himself. I hate to hear it. I’d like to get to the bottom of this—for Julian’s sake, for the restoration of the house, and for the sake of all of us, because mopping up so much paint was not enjoyable, especially with a clanging headache—and that is why I am appealing to you, Ty, for aid. You’re at the Scholomance, and as a student you have at your fingertips a vast quantity of books, family trees, and historical records. Could you look and see if there are any references to Blackthorn Hall being haunted? If we know who the ghost is, it will be much easier to dispel them—lay them to rest, I should say. I cannot imagine it is enjoyable to be a ghost.
Please reply to Julian with any information, for unfortunately Kieran, Cristina and I must depart the day after tomorrow; Kieran cannot be away from the Land too long, and Cristina and I have work to do in New York.
I must go—Kieran has come to fetch me. Cristina and Emma have prepared a cream tea in an effort to lighten the mood. Kieran assures me that the sandwiches are extremely tiny, and that he cut the crusts off himself, with great accuracy.
I love you, Tiberius. I wish you were here with us, but I know you are doing great work in the Scholomance. I am proud to be your brother.
* Julian informs me there are no raccoons in England, whatever Disney films might have indicated to the contrary. I cannot express the depth of my betrayal.
Ty to Julian and Emma
Hi Julian and Emma,
There are lots of things in this letter, so I have made them into an ordered list.
- Don’t worry. The device I’ve included is not dangerous and is in no danger of exploding. (Obviously.) (When Professor Hardcastle saw me packing it up, she suggested I tell you up front it is not a bomb. I told her that you know I would never send you anything dangerous without taking all appropriate precautions. She said yes, but it looks like a bomb.)
- I started looking through the records. Nothing so far about Blackthorn Hall being haunted. Plenty of weird stuff happened there in the past, so it’s definitely possible there are ghosts that haven’t been reported. But I’ll bet plenty of weird stuff has happened at every big old Shadowhunter manor. Are all of them haunted? Now that I think about: it’s possible.
- I’m not done with the records yet, just letting you know what I’ve found so far. I’m still looking. The library is huge, and the Cohort left it very disorganized. So finding particular documents can be a challenge. Genealogies aren’t hard to come by, but given all the intermarrying among Shadowhunter families there’s a lot of tracing up and down ancestors and cross-referencing, and yes, I know what you’re going to say, and I do like cross-referencing. But the volume is still very high. Also, Professor Loss warned me that a lot of the Shadowhunter family trees are inaccurate, and there was a period where Shadowhunter families would create fanciful family trees, like a… marriage wish list. But there’s some accurate truth beneath all this mess and I am resolved to find it.
- The only thing I’ve learned that might be helpful so far is that before the place was Blackthorn Hall, it was Lightwood House, and occupied in the mid-19th century by a Benedict Lightwood who got into some kind of legal trouble. I’m not sure what kind. His death is recorded as by “misadventure,” but that could mean anything. Oh, and there are records of demons being found on the grounds at various points but that doesn’t mean anything, sometimes demons wander onto grounds.
- You probably find this lack of information frustrating. I find it frustrating. I will be devoting myself to uncovering the history of this house in the fashion of Sherlock Holmes, although I do not have the hat with me.
- On the topic of the Scholomance, and how I am doing here. I have been putting together a curriculum, with the help of Prof. Loss, aimed in the direction of investigation and detection. So far it includes: Signs & Sigils, Alchemy (closest I will get here to forensics), Tracking, Law, and Downworld Relations (apparently this one used to be a real doozy back in the pre-Accords days, when it was called “Interrogation.” The older profs still call it that sometimes). You will see the glaring omission here. I need a course on criminology, but the term only dates to the late 1800s and that is not nearly enough time for the Scholomance to have put together a class by now. They move very slowly.
- This is maybe more like 6A. A friend suggested that I put together my own syllabus for a course on the history of non-mundane crime. That sounded good to me, so I’ve been doing that on top of my own academic work.
- The device. Since the situation sounds urgent and I don’t have much yet, Anush and I rushed to put this together for you. It’s a modified Sensor—instead of picking up demonic energies, it’s sensitive to spectral energies. At least, it’s supposed to be. The design is theoretically very sound, but I admit this is the first prototype. Normally I would want to go through a couple of revisions before I shared it with anyone, but I trust you. So I hope it works and will help you to feel better about the house. I would appreciate it if you tell me anything about it that doesn’t work, or that works differently than you expect, or functionality you’d like it to have, so we can put those changes into the next version. This is Anush and my first real invention, and it’s more like a hack for an existing tool. Anyway, the more feedback you can provide, the better.
- Will you send me a fire-message next time you’re going into London? I’d like you to pick up a couple things for me. I should have expected this, but it’s really hard to do any shopping in the Carpathian mountains.
PS. If you do find a ghost, treat it kindly. I don’t think all ghosts mind being ghosts, as long as people are nice to them.
The Very Secret Diary of Miss Tatiana Lightwood
Dear Diary, I am inconsolable. As planned, I importuned Papa to beg him for mercy. It was my last-ditch attempt to be permitted to stay home tonight rather than to attend the ball at the Institute. It was a bad plan, I recognize now. He was in his private study, and he hates to be interrupted there; when I came in he had only an unfriendly look for me, and I should have retreated right then. Lessons learned, I suppose.
The upshot is that I, quote, must, unquote, attend the ball at the Institute tonight, as—so I am told—the Name of the Lightwoods depends upon it. I told him that if Gabriel attended — as Gideon has abandoned us for Spain — this would surely be enough to show the Lightwood flag. But he only shook his head, muttered something about how “tongues would wag,” and waved me away. I suggested that I could be reported to be unable to attend due to temporary illness of a non-specified womanly nature. For that suggestion I was cast out of the study immediately, of course.
The name of the Lightwoods! What care I for the name of the Lightwoods? What good has the name of the Lightwoods ever done for me? My only purpose in life, after all, is meant to be to find a better last name to replace it with. And what a grand entrance I will make at this party towards that purpose, attending the ball on the arms of my disgusting brothers, my escorts of last resort.
Not that I will find any sympathy in this house. Gabriel seems perfectly happy to attend the ball without escorting any lady besides his sister. He does not understand, being soft of brain and even softer of heart, that the favor of our father is bestowed easily, carelessly, upon him, because he is a boy, whereas I must work ten times as hard for less than one-tenth the approval. By the Angel…Gideon abandoned the family to drink wine and sun himself in Spain, and Papa still treats him better than me. His travel year! As though it is some unbreachable commandment handed down by Raziel himself. It is tradition and tradition is happily broken for the sake of family. We need Gideon here—Papa needs Gideon here. I will never forgive him for having left us, the great lummox.
Gabriel, of course, only grows worse in the absence of his personal hero Hideous Gideon. He wishes to be taken seriously now and so he acts like Father, and it is like watching a dog try to walk on its hind legs. An embarrassment of pomposity and egomania the like of which is, I daresay, a black mark on the Lightwood name far worse than any harm I could do by staying home from a party.
I go now to dress for the ball, weighed down by the burden of my fate.
Dear Diary, I know I am not in the habit of writing more than once in a day but I had to take you up immediately upon returning from the party because a miracle has occurred. I have met a boy—no, a man, a wonderful man. His name is Rupert Blackthorn — though he is not one of the tedious Blackthorns from the Cornwall Institute. He usually lives in Leeds, but he is here visiting family friends. He is the most beautiful man ever to have lived. His hair is deep black as midnight, and his eyes are emerald orbs that gaze into one’s soul. Every girl in the Institute was watching him, hoping he would give them a dance, and he came right to me, without hesitation, and smiled at me and asked me. And I danced with him and it was glorious. Even better yet, he had no interest in anyone at the party but me. I do believe he even gave Gabriel the cut direct when Gabriel tried to start talking about himself, at one point. I am not entirely sure; it was quite loud and he might only not have heard. But I choose to believe it was a deliberate snub. From the most desirable boy in the whole detestable building.
When I wrote earlier I was the lowest of the low in this house, but now I am raised up triumphant. I danced with a beautiful dark-haired man who said my name as though it were poetry. The name of the Lightwoods indeed! Take that, Will Herondale!
Dru texts Kit
Emma to Diary
Sorry it’s been a long time since I’ve written in you. Everything’s been kind of crazy since Ty sent the Ghost Sensor. Which was incredibly helpful and nice of him, and we decided that even if it didn’t work we’d still tell him it did, but that didn’t turn out to matter. It definitely works. The minute we unpacked it, it started to make weird little crackles and beeps. It didn’t seem to be reacting to anything specific, it was more like it was reacting to the environment of the house, fussing about it like a grumpy baby.
Julian decided to use it kind of like a divining rod, following where the strongest crackles and beeps seemed to be. We spent probably an hour traipsing through the house while the sensor made whistling sounds like an angry teakettle.
Eventually the sensor led us to one of the upstairs hallways. There’s no furniture in it now, and it looks a bit forlorn, with bits of tattered curtains hanging from the windows and an empty frame on the wall. It was also pretty eerie, standing in that room with the sensor going crazy but not being able to see anything. We both looked at each other, thinking,
Is there a ghost in here with us right now?
At that moment, I remembered what I’d read in Tatiana Lightwood’s diary, how she’d hidden the pages of her old diary in the wall. I went over to the wall and tapped on it. Jules picked up on what I was doing right away and started tapping on the wall as well, and we found a spot that echoed hollowly. We both stared at it for a minute, before Julian said, “Hang on.” He went downstairs and returned with a sledgehammer. He started to swing at the wall but I stopped him. “I really think you should take your jacket off while you do this. And maybe your shirt, too.”Obligingly, he stripped down to his undershirt. That’s my guy. I may have taken a picture.
Plaster started flying everywhere. Pretty soon Julian had smashed through the wall, revealing a dark hollow space behind it.
Julian backed off while I reached inside. I cannot tell you how many spiderwebs I touched, Bruce. It was disgusting. Finally I pulled out a bunch of old clumped together pages. I can’t help but think they are Tatiana’s old diary pages, the ones she talked about destroying, but they were so water damaged that I couldn’t be sure. I was just wondering if I should tell Julian about the diary—for some reason I haven’t mentioned it to him yet—when he reached into the hole and pulled out a hard wooden board that had been engraved with letters and numbers.
“It’s a Ouija board,” he said. “Dru wanted one for Christmas last year.”
I’ve always thought of Ouija boards as being part of human superstition. Like palmistry, not something that Shadowhunters needed to take seriously. But the sensor was going crazy, beeping these dark red pulses that reminded me of Isabelle’s necklace.
“Should we try to use it?” I asked. Julian frowned. “I don’t know. When I was looking into getting one for Dru, I found out that these things can be kind of…dangerous.”
So I’m writing this right now while I’m lying in bed. Julian is already asleep, with plaster in his hair. He looks so cute. Anyway, we decided that we’d try using the ouija board tomorrow. We’re Shadowhunters, we can deal with ghosts, right?
Goodnight, Bruce. I think I’ll read a little of Tatiana’s diary to put me to sleep. Meanwhile, enjoy the eye candy.
Julian to Magnus
So I know you told me only to get in touch for a “real emergency,” and I think you might have already left for vacation. But we’ve got some ghost trouble here at Chiswick House and we could use a little advice. Just in writing! No need to interrupt your time away! Unless, um, you think it really is an emergency.
Chiswick House is in awful shape in general, so it’s hard to know what’s a real problem and what’s just a hundred years of neglect. Other than one small area nobody’s touched the place since, it seems, the time of Tatiana Blackthorn.
We have some garden gnomes here doing the structural repairs and the big stuff, masonry and framing and so on. I mean, they’re not actually garden gnomes, I think they’re brownies, but they have the big pointy hats and the beards and everything. They’ve been moving pretty slowly, but recently Kieran was here and he had a talk with the foreman (this guy named Round Tom who is not even all that round) and since then things have sped up a lot. And there is a lot less complaining about the work conditions, and a lot less disappearing for the day if the tea runs out for more than five minutes. On the other hand, they’ve started leaving little offerings around intended for “the Un-Seel Laird,” which I gather is Kieran. Not anything Kieran would want, I don’t think. A lot of acorns and pretty rocks, mostly? And the occasional portrait of Kieran in chalk, which let me tell you, it’s a good thing they’re competent at construction because their portraiture could use some work. We’ve been keeping all the stuff in a box for him just in case.
I’m rambling, sorry. It’s just us rattling around in this giant ruin and all we want is for someone to listen to our dull stories about home renovation. But what I actually want to tell you about is the ghost.
I’m sure there are dozens of random spirits going back centuries that have some kind of faint presence in the house—Round Tom hinted as much to me—but there’s definitely some specific one that is actively haunting the place. We’ve had some poltergeist-y stuff. Mostly harmless pranks: vases overturned, drinks spilled, music faintly playing in the distance but originating from nowhere, weird hot spots, weird cold spots, doors slamming, doors closing very slowly on their own. To clarify, I do NOT mean poltergeist as in the movie Dru made me watch. No one has been sucked into evil dimensions or levitated (yet!). Still, it seems like we ought to try to get out ahead of this, so Emma and I have been trying to communicate with the presence directly. Whoever it is, they haven’t responded to us speaking to them, and it’s starting to feel silly to constantly talk in a friendly voice to nobody, like we have an imaginary friend. All that happens is the next morning someone has stacked all the gnomes’ hats into a hat tower and we have to convince the gnomes it wasn’t us.
Lest you think we haven’t tried smarter things than just yelling “Here ghostie ghostie ghostie,” Tiberius sent us a device he’s been working on, like a Sensor for ghosts. I spent some time walking the halls and eventually found a spot along some random corridor where the Sensor went crazy. I busted the wall open with a sledgehammer—somehow I feel like you would approve, although the gnomes did not—and behind the plaster, wedged between two of the beams, was a Ouija board that must go back to at least Tatiana’s time, if not before. There was no planchette, so we made our own out of scrap wood and furniture tacks. Maybe there was something bad about using that instead of something that went with the Ouija board, I don’t know how it works, but in any event, we tried the board and it went really badly.
We tried to do things officially—Emma and I waited until midnight, we got dressed up nicely, and we went down into the cellar. (There are a bunch of rooms down there that are highly spooky and look like they’ve been used for ghost-ish business in the past.) We extinguished witchlights (no electricity down there any more than it’s anywhere else), lit lots of candles. Ghosts love candles, right? We had a bolt of black silk to sit on that Emma found in a trunk somewhere, and we sat on either side of the board and both put our hands on the planchette.Us: HELLO
The candles guttered, but most of the windows in the room are smashed, so with the usual draft from outside I’m not sure we can count that as a response.
We heard a scratching sound coming from one of the walls, and we opened up that wall in great excitement, but it turned out to be a badger. Actually, it was a mother badgers and some badger cubs, which was very cute until the mother starting trying to kill us. So we had to interrupt and go get the gnomes to help us and they relocated the badger family to a glade of some kind. (They also issued us a bill for “badger decampment.”)
This was all very disappointing. Emma said that maybe it was rude to ask for the ghost’s name before introducing ourselves.
Well, that got a reaction. As soon as I finished the last “N” the board leapt off the ground and twisted violently around. The planchette went flying and Emma went to go retrieve it from the other end of the room, but then when she came back the board went flying around in the air and, I am sorry to say, we chased it around for probably two full minutes without catching it. Eventually the ghost got bored, I guess, and the Ouija board stopped in midair and shattered into pieces, which fell to the ground. And all the candles went out. (There were sixteen pieces, if that means anything. Emma says no, I said we should mention it anyway just in case.)
So…any advice? Too much ghostly energy for an old Ouija board? Defective board in the first place? Does the ghost want to be left alone? (If so, why does it keep knocking things over?) Did we offend it? There hasn’t been anything like that since, but exploding Ouija board seemed sufficiently threatening that I wanted to get in touch. What do you think is our next step?
Again, I’m really sorry to bother you, but your help would mean a lot to me. I really want to make Blackthorn Hall a place that the Blackthorns can use again, a place that will feel like a second home for all of us. And it would be nice if people in London associated the Blackthorns with a grand manor house rather than an infamous wreck. Which is not going to happen if visitors wake up with their hair tied to the bedposts, or have their suitcases upended on the staircase. In payment, we promise you as much babysitting as you like, whenever you need. Although maybe once we’re no longer living in a collapsing death-trap.
Magnus to Alec
Before anything else, I just want to mention once again that you are by far the handsomest man I have ever met, with the most beautiful blue eyes, and what I love most about you, among so, so many other features, is that you are a man of incalculable understanding, patience, and forgiveness.
Yes, this is our vacation. Yes, you and the kids are lounging on the soft white sands of St Barths, as is good and right. Yes, I have had to dash to London on urgent business involving Blackthorns. Yes, I have been receiving your many supportive texts, accompanied by your many photos in which you look angry while holding umbrella drinks.
No, I will not be back today. You must imagine me saying this with the heaviest of sighs and the most forlorn look. I need one more day. Blackthorn Hall is haunted—which I could have told anyone who had bothered to ask, I’ve never known a more obviously haunted place in my life—and none of the little Blackthorns (who I suppose are no longer quite as little as all that) have had to deal with this kind of ghostiness before.
So again, let me commend you for your forbearance in this time of trial. That is not sarcasm, just formal! I really mean it!
Love you, Alec. See you tomorrow night. The next morning at the absolute latest -
To the Greatest Man Who Has Ever Or Will Ever Live,
It will be tomorrow morning. I was meaning to depart tonight, but it is now very, very late, and I have had no small amount of wine, and these are not the conditions by which I would feel quite safe opening a Portal. It will not do me any good to return to St Barth if I show up on top of the Gustavia Lighthouse.
So since I cannot yet sleep, but must, let me quickly fill you in.
The Blackthorns are fixing up Blackthorn Hall—fancy that—and while I understand they are now properly adults, they are still young enough to use a hundred year old Ouija board they found hidden in the walls. Didn’t have a planchette? Not a problem, we will just make one out of scrap without reference to the wood or the ley-lines or any of the— Sorry. I couldn’t help it, it’s such the Shadowhunter stereotype. Leap before you look. In fact, just leap. Leap whenever and wherever.
As it turns out (spoiler alert!) the spirit of the house—at least the restless one—means no apparent harm and is just your standard everyday “ghost looking for its missing bauble to move on” situation, as you’ll see. But I was more alarmed for it being the house in Chiswick. Many generations of Lightwoods lived in it over many years, and there always seemed a dark shadow over the place. In the mid-19th it was the home of, I’m sorry to say, a very bad Lightwood, definitely one of the worst Lightwoods, and after that, well, its fall from grace was precipitous. I cannot say from what time period this ghost might date, but given its reaction to the name “Blackthorn”, I had my worries.
Anyway, by the time I got to the house, Julian and Emma had managed to cause the Ouija board to, you know, magically shatter into a dozen pieces. I magicked it back—note for future reference, easier to magically repair something that was magically broken in the first place rather than with, say, a hammer—and produced a makeshift but actually calibrated and warded planchette. And burned their planchette in a fire. Outside.
It was quick enough at that point to contact the presence in the house, who was indistinct, probably from being alone for the past hundred-odd years. Let me tell you, Alec love, I was worried then. I was worried that this ghost was someone I knew. Someone I cared about, once. It probably isn’t—most of them would have no reason to be ghosts at all, much less ghosts stuck here—but once the thought occurred to me, I couldn’t put it aside. I tried to ask but you know how ghosts are. “I do not now know you,” it said. Great. But did you know me when you were alive? Just “I do not now know you.”
Anyway the thing was peaceful enough. We finally got around to the topic of why he is a ghost—we got enough of a spoken voice to know the voice is male, at least. He spoke aloud, and firmly. I am bound here by a silver band, he said.
Whether this silver band is a ring, a bracelet, a handcuff, the concept of “the ties that bind,” or a group of robot musicians, I have no idea. But it’s normal enough for a ghost to be bound by an object and to be looking for the thing that binds them. I honestly didn’t get a negative vibe from the guy. I’m… let’s say ninety percent sure that it’s not the aforementioned Bad Lightwood, at least. I told Julian and Emma there was no harm in their keeping an eye out for a silver band during their cleanup of the house, but not to worry themselves sick over it. This felt like wise advice at the time, although we had all had quite a bit of wine at that point.The wine was in fact drunk continually throughout the evening, as there are some salvageable bottles from the cellar—rather amazingly, although I don’t know, maybe Shadowhunters have wine preservation runes somewhere near the back of the Gray Book. And drinking red wine while talking to a ghost just seemed, I don’t know, the right pairing? But of course now I have a splitting headache from a combination of sulfites and light necromancy. I am going to put myself to long-overdue sleep, and then tomorrow at six in the morning your time please tell le garçon I would like waiting for me a café allongé, very hot and a sidecar, very cold. I will then entertain the children for the rest of the day while you, my love, my all, take a nap and join us whenever you please.
With all my love, all my kissin’, you don’t know what you been missin’,
Emma To Bruce
I woke up this morning to find it was an improbably beautiful day with bright blue skies and those cute little white scudding clouds. “All right,” I thought. “There is no way I am spending this gorgeous day in wonderful London inside this falling-down house, scrubbing the floors and brooding about ghosts. The question: how to convince Julian that we should go out and have fun?”
I marched upstairs and found Julian drinking coffee in the kitchen. I said, “Jules. You know that thing you want me to do, that I’ve been refusing to do? If you come out and have a good time with me today in London, I’ll do it.”
A big grin spread over his face. He said, “OKAY!” In fact, he said it as he was already running out the door. I had to get him to come back for a jacket.
Bruce, we had an absolutely great time in London. We took a boat ride down the Thames. We went to a costume shop. We saw the Tower and went to Fortnum and Mason’s and had tea. Julian ate all my cucumber sandwiches because I hate them. We went on the London Eye, which is like a more spectacular version of the Ferris wheel on the Santa Monica Pier. Demons did not attack this time, and Julian booked a whole pod so that we could snuggle and cuddle.
In the middle of the snuggling and cuddling, Julian stopped and stared into my eyes with an intense look. I could tell he had something to ask me, and for a moment I thought—well, it doesn’t matter what I thought.
“Emma,” he said, “what would you think about moving to London with me?”
I said, “What do you mean? We’re already here.”
He explained that he was thinking, if we got Blackthorn Hall all fixed up, we could live in it until Dru or Ty or Tavvy (or all three of them) grow up and want to move there. He explained that Helen and Aline were doing a great job running the LA Institute and that they don’t really need us. Besides, they’re thinking of starting a family soon so maybe they don’t want so many people running around the Institute. I said, “But I thought you liked Los Angeles, and practically everyone we know is there.” He pointed out that that wasn’t totally true. In London, we’d be closer to Ty, and pretty much the same distance from the east coast, where Dru is, and of course Mark and Cristina are in New York half the time, too. I think he could tell that I wasn’t sure what to say, because he added, “It’s really about us having a home, one that we make together. Being grown up, and having a grown up kind of life.”
I joked around, saying we were still pretty young, and he said, “I know that most people who get together when they’re teenagers break up. They get older and they change. I just want us to go through the important things together, so we change together. Does that make sense?”
I told him it did though I was pretty freaked out he even mentioned BREAKING UP as a concept. So I kissed him, which distracted us both, and when our pod came to a stop on the ground everyone cheered and whistled. The English are more lustful than I had previously suspected.
I was exhausted by the time we got home and discovered that our ghost friend had been active in our absence. In the dust on the dining room floor were written the words
FIND THE DEVIL TAVERN
Now what on earth does that mean? Though honestly, we were both kind of pleased to see the message. At least it’s a clue so that we can begin to unravel the mystery of our ghost and his silver band.PS Bruce, I know you’re dying to find out what it was that Julian wanted me to let him do that I have been refusing to do. Remember when I said we went to a costume shop? Well, apparently Dru made Julian watch The Hunger Games with her the last time we were home, and he really really wanted to paint me like this.
The things we do for love.
Emma To Jem
I feel bad writing to you about this out of the blue, but you said it was okay to get in touch with you anytime for advice. And you always give good advice, but I can’t help feeling like beyond that, maybe you might have some familiarity here that could be helpful?
So, as you know, Julian and I have taken on the gigantic task of renovating Blackthorn Hall. AND, you probably are totally unsurprised to hear, we found a ghost. (I say this because everyone else who was around back when this house was being taken care of, are also not surprised there’s a ghost.)
Good news: ghost is not unfriendly (or at least not violent). He’s just looking for the “silver band” that binds him. Not unusual, lots of ghosts are bound to an earthly object.
Bad news: ghost can’t be identified as a specific person, so could be pretending to not be violent. Also, “silver band” could be any of a thousand things.
I suppose we can just put aside anything we find that might be what he’s looking for, but that seems pretty unlikely to work. (After all, he hasn’t found the “silver band” in the house and he’s been haunting it for however long.)
We did get one direct clue from the ghost. He likes to communicate by scrawling in dust on the floor, and his last message told us to Find the Devil Tavern. Ok. A little research turns up that it’s a Downworlder speakeasy, heavily glamoured, that’s been around for hundreds of years, in London’s Old City. (It was apparently a real tavern once, and Samuel Johnson had a drinking club there. Wild times, I gather.) Jules looked it up and apparently it’s still in operation. It’s not far from the Institute, actually, though whether that has to do with the ghost or is just a coincidence we don’t know.Anyway, Julian and I went to check out the place. It’s a glamoured pub, of course. From the outside you pretty much just see a bank and one of those blue plaques they put on historical sites.
It was clear the mundanes walking by couldn’t see the entrance. But we could, of course. So we went in.
Inside, it’s a pretty normal pub, it turns out, though they make you go through a whole rigamarole to get in, they’re really leaning into the speakeasy thing. You actually now have to go into the mundane bank, which must think it has the weirdest clientele of any bank branch in England. You have to mention “the Devil” to the teller, who then gives you a key made of salt that opens a panel in the lift that reveals a button with little devil horns on it. Which takes you down to the pub. (The key disintegrates when you use it, obviously.) I have no idea what happens when some random mundane says, “what the devil happened to my money,” or something.
Anyway, that all sounds very complicated but in practice it was easy enough; rather than trying for some complicated password Julian only said casually, “I’m here for the Devil,” and the teller handed him the key. She barely even looked interested, she was doing a sudoku on her phone or something and just kind of handed the key over from a tray of them. Maybe Londoners just don’t blink at bizarre very old London stuff.
We came in and looked around and then eventually the barman asked if we wanted anything and we left. They obviously recognized us as Shadowhunters and were not super-pleased to see us. But in that short visit we didn’t see anything in plain view that had anything to do with a silver band, or the house in Chiswick, or the Blackthorns and Lightwoods who lived there. The place could be any ancient London pub, very old, dark wood, stained glass, and just an overwhelming crowd of drunk Downworlders. We had, it seems, interrupted a retirement party for one of their regulars, a kelpie. I know what you’re going to ask, and yes, the kelpie was in a big tub of water. His name was Pickles—I know!—and he kept yelling about how he was “starting a new life under the sea.” So of course they thought we were basically the cops come to bust up their party, and didn’t want us there. But I don’t know what we could have done even if we stayed. We’d been hoping we’d see the place and it would just spark some kind of ideas about silver bands and the like, but — no dice.
So I thought, since you and Tessa were both around in the earlier better days of Blackthorn Hall, once Lightwood House—does the Devil Tavern ring any bells for you? Can you think of any connection between this random Downworlder pub and the people who lived in the house in Chiswick? If not, no worries, but I thought I would at least ask. If you have any thoughts about the identity of our ghost, based on the Devil Tavern thing or anything else I’ve said, please get in touch and let us know! Cleaning out the house definitely includes cleaning out the ghosts, but also, you know, it feels like the right thing to do to help him out if we can.
My love to Tessa and Kit and Mina, and love from us here!
Tessa to Maryse
As one mother to another, I’m writing to you for advice. It’s been many many years since I was raising children, and when I say many years, I mean more than a century. And now I find myself in that position again. Although we have not talked frequently, I have often thought what a wonderful mother you must have been and continue to be. After all, your children have turned out so wonderfully. Isabelle is so brave, Alec such a leader, and Jace, well, I can only tell you that I know what an excellent example of a Herondale is, and he is one.
I also know that you have experienced profound loss and grief, and that you understand it.
I am writing to you about Kit. He too is a Herondale, and I believe that he will be an excellent example of one as well. But like all Herondale men (and the girls, too, believe me I know!) he is very private and secretive. On the whole Jem and I wish nothing but to respect his privacy. But when comes the time when worry requires one, as a parent, to intervene?
A few nights ago after dinner I stopped by Kit’s room to give him his phone (he is forever losing it and leaving it somewhere!), and I found that he was not there. Glancing out the window, I could see him outside, standing in our front garden. He had his back to me and appeared to be staring off into the distance, but I could tell by the way he was standing and the movements of his shoulders that he was agitated. Concerned, I followed him outside. I came up behind him quietly, not wanting to startle him. Perhaps I came too quietly. I realized immediately that he was talking to a ghost—I’ve had experiences of such things before. As is always the case in this kind of situation, I could hear only his side of the conversation.
Kit said, “If you keep trying to talk to me about this, I’m not going to be able to see you anymore.” Then he said, “Of course I believe in forgiveness. But some things are so terrible that you never want to revisit them.” There was a long pause. I thought maybe it was over. And then he said, “Don’t you understand? Everytime you bring him up, it tears another piece out of my heart.” Then he turned around, and of course saw me, standing on the path outside the house. He didn’t say anything, just gave me a sort of betrayed look and ran inside.
The next day of course he just pretended that nothing had happened. I just don’t know what to do. Should I leave him alone to work through this on his own? I always figured there must be ghosts at Cirenworth—Kit has informed me that there is a ghost dog that he plays with sometimes, a retriever I think —but I can’t imagine any of them as malicious or hurtful. And indeed it didn’t sound as though he were afraid of the ghost, but as though the ghost brought back dark memories of his past. Perhaps of his father? I just don’t know what to do. Jem thinks we should let him work it out on his own, as he is a teenager, but then I remember my first two children, when they were teenagers, how there were times when they did need my help. (I am very much hoping that Kit is not having a tempestuous affair with a ghost, as I’m not sure I could go through that again.)It’s keeping me up nights worrying. If there’s any advice that you have, I’d love to hear it.
I’m enclosing a picture of Jace and Clary with Kit and Mina, last time they visited. They look so happy!
Jem to Emma
Thank you for writing to keep me apprised of the situation at Blackthorn Hall, and this haunting in particular. It means a great deal to me that you’re willing to share what’s going on. I’m glad we’ve moved beyond the days when you felt you had to conceal your more wild schemes from the older generation, myself included. I hope you know that you need keep no secrets from me, no matter how outlandish those schemes are. Secrets have caused you and Julian so much heartbreak in the past, I want you to know that you can tell me anything and I will not judge you.
So you say you are helping a ghost? That could be a noble pursuit, and a compassionate one, but I must urge you to be careful. Blackthorn Hall has a history that at times involved unsavory characters and sinister magic, and if a spirit truly is haunting the manor, it may not be benevolent. The fact that Magnus sensed no ill will eases my mind a great deal, but I would still urge you to think carefully about what this ghost asks of you in seeking its freedom. It may not mean you any overt harm, but that does not mean that no harm will come to you.
As for the Devil Tavern—I do indeed know it. It has been a Downworlder haunt for many centuries, and for some time, at the early part of the last century, it was something of a refuge for people Tessa and I cared about very much. I do not want to tell you too much about them — it is painful to cast our thoughts back to that time, for it is a reminder of so much that has been lost, and of those we could not save. But I also think it may not help you — it seems to me best that you go into this search without preconceptions or expectations of what you may find.
Why do I feel this? I can only say that during my many years of being a Silent Brother, I felt a great kinship for shades: for the dead and those who haunted, and for the memories that tethered them to earth. I too was tethered by memories in those times. They were what kept me human and able to return to this life I have now, that I love so much.
So I will not tell you of names, or personalities — they may not be relevant to your search at all, but you must go forward, to find that out. And that is why I will tell you this: you saw only a little of the Devil Tavern. There are a set of rather blackened stairs behind the bar, and up those stairs there is a secret room, one that was closed off decades ago. It is possible that whatever your ghost is looking for may be in there. If you wish to gain entry to the hidden room — and a warmer reception at the Devil in general — show the bartender your family rings. Say the names: Blackthorn. Carstairs. They will matter.
I hope you will keep me apprised of what you discover, and the next steps in your adventure. I wish to know, though there is some part of me that fears what you might find in that room, and what it may say about the fates of those I loved in the past. I hope that I am wrong. I hope that this tale will have a happy ending. I know this much—this ghost is lucky to have determined souls such as yourself and Julian helping it to find rest.
Church has informed me that it is, in fact, time for dinner, and naturally I must attend to his every whim. I hope that you and Julian are having a good time settling in at Blackthorn Hall, in spite of the restive ghost and the many years of neglect the place has suffered. You are correct that it does not surprise me that a ghost is there. The past haunts that place, a story of things done and things left undone. It is possible that by bringing love and warmth into that place, you will close that chapter of neglect, and open a new one, of infinite possibility.
I believe in you, Emma. When I see you, I see Carstairs past; I see bravery, and the flame of Cortana. Remember that you are of the steel and temper of those who have gone before you. I hope that I will see you again soon, and that when I do I will have the strength to tell you of some of them, of a girl with fire-bright hair, and her brother, and those who came before and after them.
Emma To Bruce
We went back to Devil Tavern today with Jem’s advice (bring family rings, show to bartender, gain access to secret room). I don’t know, the Devil Tavern seems to really like elaborate ways of getting in places? So we went in and there was some confusion because when we were there before I heard one of the customers call the bartender “Ernie,” so we asked one of the waitresses for Ernie, and she said there was no Ernie. But then, because we were Shadowhunters she thought we were there to question Ernie about something, so I figured she was just covering up for Ernie and I said, “No, it’s okay, you can tell Ernie he’s not in any trouble,” and the waitress looked even more baffled and said there was no Ernie…we went around like that a few times.
Anyway eventually the bartender comes back up from the basement or wherever he was, and he explains that he is Fred, not Ernie, but that for many many years the bartender was named Ernie, his grandfather and his great-grandfather at least were both named Ernie. So most of the vampires and faeries who have been coming since the Time of Ernies have just stubbornly refused to learn any of the newer bartenders’ names. He tried, when he was a younger man, but they just laughed and said, “That’s a good one, Ernie.” He sounded kind of sad when he said it. I guess everyone has their weird stuff they have to deal with.
We explained to Not Ernie about what Jem had told us, and we showed him our rings. He said yeah, there’s an old room that used to be used by Shadowhunters for clandestine meetings, upstairs. There are instructions left that go back a hundred years that say the room has to be maintained for the use of Shadowhunters, even though none have come around for a long time. They take it really seriously though.
He brought us the key from somewhere—one of those old skeleton key type keys you never see anymore—and we went upstairs and let ourselves in. Let me tell you, Bruce, they do not think being obligated to “maintain” the room means they are obligated to “dust” the room. Absolute nightmare for an asthmatic.
The room is still intact, though—actually, it’s more like a tiny apartment (a “bedsit,” Julian adorably called it), with a tiny bedroom off of a sitting area with a table in the middle and a rather shabby couch. It’s not like the rest of the tavern at all, it feels like you’d imagine a study room in the oldest library at the oldest college in Oxford would feel. Books everywhere, lots of big chunky carved wood, people’s initials carved into the table (note for people scratching their initials into tables: include your last initials! It makes it much easier for your descendants to figure out who you were! There could be a million people named “J!”).
There was nothing obviously ghostly, so Julian used the Sensor we got from Ty. It didn’t find much, but eventually it reacted near a particular book on one of the shelves built into the wall. We pulled it out and it seems to be a handwritten book, with a really elaborate stitched cover. It was called The Beautiful Cordelia and it’s by “L.H.” I would bet any amount of money “H” stands for Herondale. But there was nothing magical about the book. I mean, I didn’t read it yet; maybe it weaves a truly magical tale. But the Sensor didn’t react much to the book itself, there was nothing in between any of the pages, the ink wasn’t sparkly, etc.
Eventually we thought to kneel down and look into the space on the shelf where the book had come from, and sure enough, there was a little nook carved deeper into the wall. Julian and I agreed that in that nook was definitely…a ton of spiders. So we rock-paper-scissorsed for it, I lost, and stuck my hand back there. Luckily, no spiders. Instead, a surprise: an antique metal flask! Like the kind a gentleman would keep in his coat pocket. It is silver—well, at least the color is silver. It might be pewter. It is also definitely not a “band.”BUT. The Sensor went bananas. We put the flask on the table and the Sensor next to it and it wailed like crazy. It looks like a normal flask to me, kind of blackened with time, and it’s not like when we opened it, a ghost slithered out. I don’t know. It was empty, and the Sensor didn’t react to anything else in the room. We hung out there for about half an hour even after we were done, though. The place did feel comfortable, it must have been really great in its day. I thought I might go back sometime and offer to pay Fred if he would have it dusted and cleaned. There’s probably stuff in there the London Institute would want, too. But that’s for when we’re done with Blackthorn House (and its ghost).
We couldn’t think of anything to do with the flask there at the Tavern, so we left and locked it up and returned the key. We brought the flask into the house, and Julian went to get the silver polish. When we cleaned the flask up, we saw that it had a pretty, elaborate tracery pattern of leaves and flowers on it, and was monogrammed. Not a Herondale this time. Not a Blackthorn, either. The initials were M.F.
Julian is squinting angrily at the witchlight I’m holding to write this. I guess it is pretty late. Good night, Bruce. Good night, groovy bedroom. Good night, ghost. Good night, mysterious flask.
Good night, Julian my love.
- Snippets of teased passages for future installments of this series.
- The series was originally intended to be a novella compilation about Julian and Emma before Cassandra Clare decided to make it focus on more characters and to include images, sound files, and the like.
- It is meant to tie The Last Hours to The Dark Artifices and The Wicked Powers and explore how they are connected.
- It may eventually be released in print or collected in a pdf, however all the multimedia additions make that difficult and so it is not planned at this time.
- Though installments were released weekly during its yearlong run, there was a holiday break from December 20, 2021 to January 24, 2022 in which no new updates were posted.
- Cassandra Clare on Tumblr
- Cassandra Clare on Instagram
- Cassandra Clare's August 2021 newsletter
- "That guy would actually be a troll demon" — Cassandra Clare on Twitter
- "A lovely cockroach demon in a dress." Cassandra Jean on Twitter
- "There are a ton of projects I’d like to work on — a Jules and Emma novella collection" — Cassandra Clare on Tumblr
- Cassandra Clare's announcement of the project on Instagram Live
- "The idea behind this project is the different connections between The Dark Artifices, The Last Hours and The Wicked Powers." Cassandra Clare with TMI Source
- "It is a possibility in the far future." Cassandra Clare on Twitter
- "We will take a short break and resume regular posting on January 24th, 2022." Cassandra Clare on Twitter