“Pulvis et umbra sumus. It’s a line from Horace. ‘We are dust and shadows.’ Appropriate, don’t you think?” Will said. “It’s not a long life, killing demons; one tends to die young, and then they burn your body—dust to dust, in the literal sense. And then we vanish into the shadows of history, nary a mark on the page of a mundane book to remind the world that once we existed at all.”
Tessa looked at him. He was wearing that look she found so odd and compelling—that amusement that didn’t seem to pass beyond the surface of his features, as if he found everything in the world both infinitely funny and infinitely tragic all at the same time. She wondered what had made him this way, how he had come to find darkness amusing, for it was a quality he didn’t appear to share with any of the other Shadowhunters she had met, however briefly. Perhaps it was something he had learned from his parents—but what parents?
“Don’t you ever worry?” she said softly. “That what’s out there—might come in here?”
“Demons and other unpleasantness, you mean?” Will asked, though Tessa wasn’t sure if that was what she had meant, or if she had been speaking of the evils of the world in general. He placed a hand against the wall. “The mortar that made these stones was mixed with the blood of Shadowhunters. Every beam is carved of rowan wood. Every nail used to hammer the beams together is made of silver, iron, or electrum. The place is built on hallowed ground surrounded by wards. The front door can be opened only by one possessing Shadowhunter blood; otherwise it remains locked forever. This place is a fortress. So no, I am not worried.”
“But why live in a fortress?” At his surprised look she elaborated. “You clearly aren’t related to Charlotte and Henry, they’re hardly old enough to have adopted you, and not all Shadowhunter children must live here or there would be more than you and Jessamine—”
“And Jem,” Will reminded her.
“Yes, but—you see what I mean. Why don’t you live with your family?”
“None of us have parents. Jessamine’s died in a fire, Jem’s—well Jem came from quite a distance away to live here, after his parents were murdered by demons. Under Covenant Law, the Clave is responsible for parentless Shadowhunter children under the age of eighteen.”
“So you are one another’s family.”
“If you must romanticize it, I suppose we are—all brothers and sisters under the Institute’s roof. You as well, Miss Gray, however temporarily.”
“In that case,” Tessa said, feeling hot blood rise to her face, “I think I would prefer it if you called me by my Christian name, as you do with Miss Lovelace.”
Will looked at her, slow and hard, and then smiled. His blue eyes lit when he smiled. “Then you must do the same for me,” he said. “Tessa.”
She had never thought about her name much before, but when he said it, it was as if she were hearing it for the first time—the hard T, the caress of the double S, the way it seemed to end on a breath. Her own breath was very short when she said, softly, “Will.”
“Yes?” Amusement glittered in his eyes.
With a sort of horror Tessa realized that she had simply said his name for the sake of saying it; she hadn’t actually had a question. Hastily she said, “How do you learn—to fight like you do? To draw those magical symbols, and the rest of it?”
Will smiled. “We had a tutor who provided our schooling and physical training—though he’s left for Idris, and Charlotte’s looking for a replacement—along with Charlotte, who takes care of teaching us history and ancient languages.”
“So she’s your governess?”
A look of dark mirth passed across Will’s features. “You could say that. But I wouldn’t call Charlotte a governess if I were you, not if you want to preserve your limbs intact. You wouldn’t think it to look at her, but she’s quite skilled with a variety of weapons, our Charlotte.”
Tessa blinked in surprise. “You don’t mean—Charlotte doesn’t fight, does she? Not the way you and Henry do.”
“Certainly she does. Why wouldn’t she?”
“Because she’s a woman,” Tessa said.
“So was Boadicea.”
“‘So the Queen Boadicea, standing loftily charioted,/Brandishing in her hand a dart and rolling glances lioness-like—’” Will broke off at Tessa’s look of incomprehension, and grinned. “Nothing? If you were English, you’d know. Remind me to find a book about her for you. Regardless, she was a powerful warrior queen. When she was finally defeated, she took poison rather than let herself be captured by the Romans. She was braver than any man. I like to think Charlotte is much in the same mold, if somewhat smaller.”
“But she can’t be any good at it, can she? I mean, women don’t have those sort of feelings.”
“What kind of feelings are those?”
“Bloodlust, I suppose,” Tessa said after a moment. “Fierceness. Warrior feelings.”
“I saw you waving that hacksaw at the Dark Sisters,” Will pointed out. “And if I recall correctly, Lady Audley’s secret was, in fact, that she was a murderer.”
“So you’ve read it!” Tessa couldn’t hide her delight.
He looked amused. “I prefer The Trail of the Serpent. More adventure, less domestic drama. Neither is as good as The Moonstone, though. Have you read Collins?”
“I adore Wilkie Collins,” Tessa cried. “Oh—Armadale! And The Woman in White … Are you laughing at me?”
“Not at you,” said Will, grinning, “more because of you. I’ve never seen anyone get so excited over books before. You’d think they were diamonds.”
“Well, they are, aren’t they? Isn’t there anything you love like that? And don’t say ‘spats’ or ‘lawn tennis’ or something silly.”
“Good Lord,” he said with mock horror, “it’s like she knows me already.”
“Everyone has something they can’t live without. I’ll find out what it is for you, never you fear.” She meant to speak lightly, but at the look on his face, her voice trailed off into uncertainty. He was looking at her with an odd steadiness; his eyes were the same dark blue as the velvet binding of the book she held. His gaze passed over her face, down her throat, to her waist, before rising back up to her face, where it lingered on her mouth. Tessa’s heart was pounding as if she had been running up stairs. Something in her chest ached, as if she were hungry or thirsty. There was something she wanted, but she didn’t know what—