The marks on his skin told the story of his life. Jace Wayland had always been proud of them. Some of the other young people in the Clave didn't like the disfiguring black letters, didn't like the burning pain of the stele where it cut into the skin, didn't like the nightmares that came when runes too powerful were inked into the flesh of someone unready. Jace had no sympathy for them. It was their own fault they were not stronger.
He had always been strong. He'd had to be. Most boys got their first Marks when they were fifteen. Alec had been thirteen, and that was very young. Jace had been nine. His father had cut the marks into his skin with a stele made from carved ivory. The runes spelled out his true name, and other things besides. "Now you are a man," his father had said. That night Jace dreamed of cities made of gold and blood, of tall bone towers sharp as splinters. He was almost ten years old and had never seen a city.
That winter his father took him to Manhattan for the first time. The hard pavement was filthy, the buildings crowding too close together, but the lights were bright and beautiful. And the streets were full of monsters. Jace had only seen them before in his father's instructional manuals. Vampires in their finery, faces dead white as paper. Lycanthropes with their too-sharp teeth and their smell of wolf. Warlocks with their cat's-eyes and pointed ears, sometimes a forked tail protruding from the hem of an elegant velvet coat.
"Monsters," his father had said, with distaste. His mouth curled at the corner. "But they bleed as red as men do when you kill them."
"What about demons? Do they bleed red?"
"Some do. Some bleed thin blood like green poison, and some bleed silver or black. I have a scar here from a demon that bled acid the color of sapphires."
Jace gazed at his father's scar in wonder. "And have you killed many demons?"
"I have," said his father. "And some day, you will too. You were born to kill demons, Jace. It's in your bones.”
It would be years later that Jace would see a demon for the first time, and by then his father had already been dead for several years. He pulled aside his shirt now and looked at the scar where that first demon had clawed him. Four parallel claw marks that ran from his breastbone to his shoulder, where his father had inked the runes that would make him fast and strong, and hide him from mundane eyes. Swift as the wind, strong as the earth, silent as the forest, invisible as water.
Jace thought of the girl in his dream, the one with the braided scarlet hair. In the dream, he had not been invisible to her. She had looked at him with more than awareness; there had been recognition in her eyes, as if he were familiar to her. But how could a human girl see through his glamour?
He had woken up shivering, cold as if his skin had been stripped
away. It was frightening to feel so vulnerable, more frightening than any demon. He would have to ask Hodge about runes for nightmare protection it in the morning. Perhaps there would be something about it in one of his books.
But there was no time now. There had been reports of dark activity in a nightclub downtown, human bodies found limp and drained as the sun came up. Jace shrugged on his jacket, checked his weaponry, ink-Marked hands skating lightly over cloth and metal. Marks that no human eye could see--and he was glad, thinking of the girl in his dream, the way she had looked at him, as if he were no different than she was. Stripped of their magic, the marks on his body were only marks, after all, of no more power than the scars on his wrists and chest, or the deep scar just over his heart where his father's killer had stabbed him when he was ten years old.
The sound of his name startled him out of his reverie. They were calling him from the corridor, Alec and Isabelle, impatient, eager for the hunt and the kill. Sweeping thoughts of nightmares from his mind, Jace went to join them.