Her eyes flew open. She was still sitting at the table, Jessamine’s ring clutched in her hand. Her skin zinged with the sharp pins and needles that always accompanied her transformations. She could feel the oddness that was the different weight of another body, not her own; could feel the brush of Jessamine’s light hair against her shoulders. Too thick to be held back by the pins that had clasped Tessa’s hair, it had come down around her neck in a pale cascade.
“By the Angel,” breathed Charlotte. Tessa looked around the table. They were all staring at her—Charlotte and Henry with their mouths open; Will speechless for once, a glass of water frozen halfway to his lips. And Jessamine—Jessamine was gazing at her in abject horror, like someone who has seen a vision of their own ghost. For a moment Tessa felt a stab of guilt.
It lasted only a moment, though. Slowly Jessamine lowered her hand from her mouth, her face still very pale. “Goodness, my nose is enormous,” she exclaimed. “Why didn’t anyone tell me?”
WE ARE SHADOWS
Pulvis et umbra sumus.
The moment Tessa transformed back to her own shape, she had to suffer a barrage of questions. For people who lived in a shadow world of magic, the assembled Nephilim seemed surprisingly awed by her ability, which only served to underline what Tessa had already begun to suspect—that her shape-changing talent was exceedingly unusual. Even Charlotte, who had known about it before Tessa’s demonstration, seemed fascinated.
“So you must be holding something that belongs to the person you’re transforming into?” Charlotte asked for the second time. Sophie and the older woman, who Tessa suspected was the cook, had already taken away the dinner plates and had served fancy cake and tea, but none of the diners had touched it yet. “You can’t simply look at someone and—”
“I explained that already.” Tessa’s head was beginning to hurt. “I must be holding something that belongs to them, or a bit of hair or an eyelash. Something that’s theirs. Otherwise nothing happens.”
“Do you think a vial of blood would do the trick?” Will asked, in a tone of academic interest.
“Probably—I don’t know. I’ve never tried it.” Tessa took a sip of her tea, which had grown cold.
“And you’re saying that the Dark Sisters knew this was your talent? They knew you had this ability before you did?” Charlotte asked.
“Yes. It’s why they wanted me in the first place.”
Henry shook his head. “But how did they know? I don’t quite understand that part.”
“I don’t know,” Tessa said, not for the first time. “They never explained it to me. All I know is what I told you—that they seemed to know exactly what it was I could do, and how to train me to do it. They spent hours with me, every day …” Tessa swallowed against the bitterness in her mouth. Memories of how it had been rose up in her mind—the hours and hours in the cellar room at the Dark House, the way they had screamed at her that Nate would die if she couldn’t Change as they wanted her to, the agony when she finally learned to do it. “It hurt, at first,” she whispered. “As if my bones were snapping, melting inside my body. They would force me to Change two, three, then a dozen times a day, until I would finally lose consciousness. And then, the next day, they’d start at it again. I was locked in that room, so I couldn’t try to leave… .” She took a ragged breath. “That last day, they tested me by asking me to Change into a girl who had died. She had memories of being attacked with a dagger, being stabbed. Of some thing chasing her into an alley—”
“Perhaps it was the girl Jem and I found.” Will sat up straight, his eyes shining. “Jem and I guessed she must have escaped from an attack and run out into the night. I believe they sent the Shax demon after her to bring her back, but I killed it. They must have wondered what happened.”
“The girl I changed into was named Emma Bayliss,” Tessa said, in a half whisper. “She had very fair hair—tied in little pink bows—and she was only a little thing.”
Will nodded as if the description were familiar to him.
“Then they did wonder what had happened to her. That’s why they had me Change into her. When I told them she was dead, they seemed relieved.”
“The poor soul,” Charlotte murmured. “So you can Change into the dead? Not only the living?”
Tessa nodded. “Their voices speak in my mind when I Change too. The difference is that many of them can remember the moment they died.”
“Ugh.” Jessamine shuddered. “How morbid.”
Tessa looked over at Will. Mr. Herondale, she chided herself silently, but it was hard to think of him that way. She felt somehow as if she knew him better than she really did. But that was foolishness. “You found me because you were looking for the murderer of Emma Bayliss,” she said. “But she was only one dead human girl. One dead—what do you call it?—mundane. Why so much time and effort to find out what happened to her?”
For a moment Will’s eyes met hers, his own a very dark blue. Then his expression changed—only a slight change, but she saw it, though she could not have said what the change meant. “Oh, I wouldn’t have bothered, but Charlotte insisted. She felt there was something larger at work. And once Jem and I infiltrated the Pandemonium Club, and heard rumors of the other murders, we realized there was more going on than the death of one girl. Whether or not we like mundanes particularly, we can’t allow them to be systematically slaughtered. It’s the reason we exist.”
Charlotte leaned forward across the table. “The Dark Sisters never mentioned what use they intended to make of your abilities, did they?”
“You know about the Magister,” Tessa said. “They said they were preparing me for him.”
“For him to do what?” Will asked. “Eat you for dinner?”
Tessa shook her head. “To—to marry me, they said.”
“To marry you?” Jessamine was openly scornful. “That’s ridiculous. They were probably going to blood sacrifice you and didn’t want you to panic.”
“I don’t know about that,” Will said. “I looked in several rooms before I found Tessa. I remember one that was done up surprisingly like a wedding chamber. White hangings on an enormous bed. A white dress hanging in the wardrobe. It looked about your size.” He eyed Tessa thoughtfully.