A vast tome had been left out on a stand, its pages open and inviting; Tessa moved toward it, thinking it must be a dictionary, only to find that its pages were scrawled with illegible, illuminated script and etched with unfamiliar-looking maps.
“This is the Great Library,” said Will. “Every Institute has a library, but this one is the largest of them all—the largest in the West, at any rate.” He leaned against the door, his arms crossed over his chest. “I said I would get you more books, didn’t I?”
Tessa was so startled that he remembered what he had said, that it took her several seconds to respond. “But the books are all behind bars!” she said. “Like a literary sort of prison!”
Will grinned. “Some of these books are dangerous,” he said. “It’s wise to be careful.”
“One must always be careful of books,” said Tessa, “and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us.”
“I’m not sure a book has ever changed me,” said Will. “Well, there is one volume that promises to teach one how to turn oneself into an entire flock of sheep—”
“Only the very weak-minded refuse to be influenced by literature and poetry,” said Tessa, determined not to let him run wildly off with the conversation.
“Of course, why one would want to be an entire flock of sheep is another matter entirely,” Will finished. “Is there something you want to read here, Miss Gray, or is there not? Name it, and I shall attempt to free it from its prison for you.”
“Do you think the library has The Wide, Wide World? Or Little Women?”
“Never heard of either of them,” said Will. “We haven’t many novels.”
“Well, I want novels,” said Tessa. “Or poetry. Books are for reading, not for turning oneself into livestock.”
Will’s eyes glittered. “I think we may have a copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland about somewhere.”
Tessa wrinkled her nose. “Oh, that’s for little children, isn’t it?” she said. “I never liked it much—seemed like so much nonsense.”
Will’s eyes were very blue. “There’s plenty of sense in nonsense sometimes, if you wish to look for it.”
But Tessa had already spied a familiar volume on a shelf and went over to greet it like an old friend. “Oliver Twist!” she cried. “Have you any other of Mr. Dickens’s novels?” She clasped her hands together. “Oh! Do you have A Tale of Two Cities?”
“That silly thing? Men going around getting their heads chopped off for love? Ridiculous.” Will unpeeled himself from the door and made his way toward Tessa where she stood by the bookshelves. He gestured expansively at the vast number of volumes all around him. “No, here you’ll find all sorts of advice about how to chop off someone’s else’s head if you need to; much more useful.”
“I don’t!” Tessa protested. “Need to chop off anyone’s head, that is. And what’s the point of a lot of books no one actually wants to read? Haven’t you really any other novels?”
“Not unless Lady Audley’s Secret is that she slays demons in her spare time.” Will bounded up onto one of the ladders and yanked a book off the shelf. “I’ll find you something else to read. Catch.” He let it fall without looking, and Tessa had to dart forward to seize it before it hit the floor.
It was a large squarish volume bound in dark blue velvet. There was a pattern cut into the velvet, a swirling symbol reminiscent of the marks that decorated Will’s skin. The title was stamped on the front in silver: The Shadowhunter’s Codex. Tessa glanced up at Will. “What is this?”
“I assumed you’d have questions about Shadowhunters, given that you’re currently inhabiting our sanctum sanctorum, so to speak. That book ought to tell you anything you want to know—about us, about our history, even about Downworlders like you.” Will’s face turned grave. “Be careful with it, though. It’s six hundred years old and the only copy of its kind. Losing or damaging it is punishable by death under the Law.”
Tessa thrust the book away from her as if it were on fire. “You can’t be serious.”
“You’re right. I’m not.” Will leaped down from the ladder and landed lightly in front of her. “You do believe everything I say, though, don’t you? Do I seem unusually trustworthy to you, or are you just a naïve sort?”
Instead of replying, Tessa scowled at him and stalked across the room toward one of the stone benches inside a window alcove. Throwing herself down onto the seat, she opened the Codex and began to read, studiously ignoring Will even as he moved to sit beside her. She could feel the weight of his gaze on her as she read.
The first page of the Nephilim book showed the same image she’d grown used to seeing on the tapestries in the corridors: the angel rising out of the lake, holding a sword in one hand and a cup in the other. Underneath the illustration was a note: The Angel Raziel and the Mortal Instruments.
“That’s how it all began,” Will said cheerfully, as if oblivious to the fact that she was ignoring him. “A summoning spell here, a bit of angel blood there, and you’ve a recipe for indestructible human warriors. You’ll never understand us from reading a book, mind you, but it’s a start.”
“Hardly human—more like avenging angels,” Tessa said softly, turning the pages. There were dozens of pictures of angels—tumbling out of the sky, shedding feathers as a star might shed sparks as it fell. There were more images of the Angel Raziel, holding open a book on whose pages runes burned like fire, and there were men kneeling around him, men on whose skin Marks could be seen. Images of men like the one she’d seen in her nightmare, with missing eyes and sewed-shut lips; images of Shadowhunters brandishing flaming swords, like warrior angels out of Heaven. She looked up at Will. “You are, then, aren’t you? Part angel?”
Will didn’t answer. He was looking out the window, through a clear lower pane. Tessa followed his gaze; the window gave out onto what had to be the front of the Institute, for there was a rounded courtyard below them, surrounded by walls. Through the bars of a high iron gate surmounted by a curved arch, she could glimpse a bit of the street beyond, lit by dim yellow gaslight. There were iron letters worked into the wrought arch atop the gate; when looked at from this direction, they were backward, and Tessa squinted to decipher them.