“It’s late,” Will said abruptly, looking away from her. “I should show you back to your room.”
“I—” Tessa wanted to protest, but there was no reason to do so. He was right. It was late, the pinprick light of stars visible through the clear panes of the window. She rose to her feet, cradling the book to her chest, and went with Will out into the corridor.
“There are a few tricks to learning your way around the Institute that I ought to teach you,” he said, still not looking at her. There was something oddly diffident in his attitude now that hadn’t been there moments before, as if Tessa had done something to offend him. But what could she have done? “Ways to identify the different doors and turn—”
He broke off, and Tessa saw that someone was coming down the corridor toward them. It was Sophie, a basket of laundry tucked under one of her arms. Seeing Will and Tessa, she paused, her expression growing more guarded.
“Sophie!” Will’s diffidence turned to mischief. “Have you finished putting my room in order yet?”
“It’s done.” Sophie didn’t return his smile. “It was filthy. I hope that in future you can refrain from tracking bits of dead demon through the house.”
Tessa’s mouth fell open. How could Sophie talk to Will like that? She was a servant, and he—even if he was younger than she was—was a gentleman.
And yet Will seemed to take it in stride. “All part of the job, young Sophie.”
“Mr. Branwell and Mr. Carstairs seem to have no problem cleaning their boots,” Sophie said, looking darkly from Will to Tessa. “Perhaps you could learn from their example.”
“Perhaps,” said Will. “But I doubt it.”
Sophie scowled, and started off along the corridor again, her shoulders tightly set with indignation.
Tessa looked at Will in amazement. “What was that?”
Will shrugged lazily. “Sophie enjoys pretending she doesn’t like me.”
“Doesn’t like you? She hates you!” Under other circumstances, she might have asked if Will and Sophie had had a falling out, but one didn’t fall out with servants. If they were unsatisfactory, one ceased to employ them. “Did—did something happen between you?”
“Tessa,” Will said with exaggerated patience. “Enough. There are things you can’t hope to understand.”
If there was one thing Tessa hated, it was being told that there were things she couldn’t understand. Because she was young, because she was a girl—for any of a thousand reasons that never seemed to make any real sense. She set her chin stubbornly. “Well, not if you won’t tell me. But then I’d have to say that it looks a great deal like she hates you because you did something awful to her.”
Will’s expression darkened. “You can think what you like. It’s not as if you know anything about me.”
“I know you don’t like giving straightforward answers to questions. I know you’re probably around seventeen. I know you like Tennyson—you quoted him at the Dark House, and again just now. I know you’re an orphan, as I am—”
“I never said I was an orphan.” Will spoke with unexpected savagery. “And I loathe poetry. So, as it happens, you really don’t know anything about me at all, do you?”
And with that, he spun on his heel and walked away.
THE SHADOWHUNTER’S CODEX
Dreams are true while they last, and do we not live in dreams?
—Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “The Higher Pantheism”
It took an age of wandering glumly from corridor to identical corridor before Tessa, by lucky chance, recognized a rip in yet another of the endless tapestries and realized that the door to her bedroom must be one of the ones lining that particular hallway. A few minutes of trial and error later, and she was gratefully shutting the correct door behind her and sliding the bolt home in the lock.
The moment she was back in her nightgown and had slipped under the covers, she opened The Shadowhunter’s Codex and began to read. You’ll never understand us from reading a book, Will had said, but that wasn’t the point really. He didn’t know what books meant to her, that books were symbols of truth and meaning, that this one acknowledged that she existed and that there were others like her in the world. Holding it in her hands made Tessa feel that everything that had happened to her in the past six weeks was real—more real even than living through it had been.
Tessa learned from the Codex that all Shadowhunters descended from an archangel named Raziel, who had given the first of them a volume called the Gray Book, filled with “the language of Heaven”—the black runic Marks that covered the skin of trained Shadowhunters such as Charlotte and Will. The Marks were cut into their skin with a styluslike tool called a stele—the odd penlike object she’d seen Will use to draw on the door at the Dark House. The Marks provided Nephilim with all sorts of protection: healing, superhuman strength and speed, night vision, and even allowed them to hide themselves from mundane eyes with runes called glamours. But they were not a gift anyone could use. Cutting Marks into the skin of a Downworlder or human—or even a Shadowhunter who was too young or improperly trained—would be torturously painful and result in madness or death.
The Marks were not the only way they protected themselves—they wore tough, enchanted leather garments called gear when they went into battle. There were sketches of men in the gear of different countries. To Tessa’s surprise, there were also sketches of women in long shirts and trousers—not bloomers, such as the sort she’d seen ridiculed in newspapers, but real men’s trousers. Turning the page, she shook her head, wondering if Charlotte and Jessamine really wore such outlandish getups.
The next pages were devoted to the other gifts Raziel had given the first Shadowhunters—powerful magical objects called the Mortal Instruments—and a home country: a tiny piece of land sliced out of what was then the Holy Roman Empire, surrounded with wardings so that mundanes could not enter it. It was called Idris.
The lamp flickered low as Tessa read, her eyelids slipping lower and lower. Downworlders, she read, were supernatural creatures such as faeries, werewolves, vampires, and warlocks. In the case of vampires and werewolves, they were humans infected with demon disease. Faeries, on the other hand, were half-demon and half-angel, and therefore possessed both great beauty and an evil nature. But warlocks—warlocks were the direct offspring of humans and demons. No wonder Charlotte had asked if both her parents were human. But they were, she thought, so I can’t possibly be a warlock, thank God. She stared down at an illustration showing a tall man with shaggy hair, standing in the center of a pentagram chalked onto a stone floor. He looked completely normal, save for the fact that he had eyes with slit pupils like a cat’s. Candles burned at each of the star’s five points. The flames seemed to slide together, blurring as Tessa’s own vision blurred in exhaustion. She closed her eyes—and was instantly dreaming.