The Outcast Dead
The fog was thick, muffling sound and sight. Where it parted, Will Herondale could see the street rising ahead of him, slick and wet and black with rain, and he could hear the voices of the dead.
Not all Shadowhunters could hear ghosts, unless the ghosts chose to be heard, but Will was one of those who could. As he approached the old cemetery, their voices rose in a ragged chorus-wails and pleading, cries and snarls. This was not a peaceful buriall ground, but Will knew that; it was not his first visit to the Cross Bones Graveyard near London Bridge. He did his best to block out the noises, hunching his shoulders so that his collar covered his ears, head down, a fine mist of rain dampening his black hair.
The entrance to the cemetery was halfway down the block: a pair of wrought iron gates set into a high stone wall, though any mundane passing by would have observed nothing but a plot of overgrown land, part of an unnamed builder’s yard. As Will neared the gates, something else no mundane would have seen materialized out of the fog: a great bronze knocker in the shape of a hand, the fingers bony and skeletal. With a grimace Will reached out one of his own gloved hands and lifted the knocker, letting it fall once, twice, three times, the hollow clank resounding through the night.
Beyond the gates mist rose like steam from the ground, obscuring the gleam of bone against the rough ground. Slowly the mist began to coalesce, taking on an eerie blue glow. Will put his hands to the bars of the gate; the cold of the metal seeped through his gloves, into his bones, and he shivered.
It was a more than ordinary cold. When ghosts rose, they drew energy from their surroundings, depriving the air around them of heat. The hairs on the back of Will ‘s neck prickled and stood up as the blue mist formed slowly into the shape of an old woman in a ragged dress and white apron, her head bent.
"Hallo, Mol," said Will. "You’re looking particularly fine this evening, if I do say so."
The ghost raised her head. Old Molly was a strong spirit, one of the stronger Will had ever encountered. Even as moonlight speared through a gap in the clouds, she hardly looked transparent. Her body was solid, her hair twisted in a thick yellow-gray coil over one shoulder, her rough, red hands braced on her hips. Only her eyes were hollow, twin blue flames flickering in their depths.
"William ‘erondale," she said. "Back again so soon?"
She moved toward the gate with that gliding motion peculiar to ghosts. Her feet were bare and filthy, despite the fact that they never touched the ground.
Will leaned against the gate. "You know I missed your pretty face."
She grinned, her eyes flickering, and he caught a glimpse of the skull beneath the half-transparent skin. Overhead the clouds had closed in on one another again, blocking out the moon. Idly, Will wondered what Old Molly had done to get herself buried here, far from consecrated ground. Most of the wailing voices of the dead belonged to prostitutes, suicides, and still births- those outcast dead who could not be buried in a churchyard. Although Molly had managed to make the situation quite profitable for herself, so perhaps she didn’t mind.
She chortled. "What d’you want, then, young Shadow-hunter? Malphas venom? I ‘ave the talon of a Morax demon, polished very fine, the poison at the tip entirely invisible-"
"No," Will said. "That’s not what I need. I need Foraii demon powders, ground fine."
Molly turned her head to the side and spat a tendril of blue fire. "Now what’s a fine young man like you want with stuff like that?"
Will just sighed inwardly; Molly’s protests were part of the bargaining process. Magnus had already sent Will to Old Molly several times now, once for black stinking candles that stuck to his skin like tar, once for the bones of an unborn child, and once for a bag of faeries’ eyes, which had dripped blood on his shirt. Foraii demon powder sounded pleasant by comparison.
"You think I’m a fool," Molly went on. "This is a trap, innit? You Nephilim catch me selling that sort of stuff, an’ it’s the stick for Old Mol, it is."
"You’re already dead." Will did his best not to sound irritable. "I don’t know what you think the Clave could do to you now."
"Pah." Her hollow eyes flamed. "The prisons of the Silent Brothers, beneath the earth, can ‘old either the living or the dead; you know that, Shadowhunter."
Will held up his hands. "No tricks, old one. Surely you must have heard the rumors running about in Downworld. The Clave has other things on its mind than tracking down ghosts who traffic in demon powders and faerie blood."
He leaned forward. "I’ll give you a good price." He drew a cambric bag from his pocket and dangled it in the air. It clinked like coins rattling together.
"They all fit your description, Mol."
An eager look came over her dead face, and she solidified enough to take the bag from him. She plunged one hand into it and brought her palm out ful of rings-gold wedding rings, each tied in a lovers’ knot at the top. Old Mol, like many ghosts, was always looking for that talisman, that lost piece of her past that would finally all low her to die, the anchor that kept her trapped in the world. In her case it was her wedding ring. It was common belief, Magnus had told Will, that the ring was long gone, buried under the silty bed of the Thames, but in the meantime she’d take any bag of found rings in the hope one would turn out to be hers.
She dropped the rings back into the bag, which vanished somewhere on her undead person, and handed him a folded sachet of powder in return. He slipped it into his jacket pocket just as the ghost began to shimmer and fade.
"Hold up, there, Mol. That isn’t all I have come for tonight."
The spirit flickered while greed warred with impatience and the effort of remaining visible. finally she grunted. "Very well. What else d’you want?"
Will hesitated. This was not something Magnus had sent him for; it was something he wanted to know for himself. "Love potions-"
Old Molly screeched with laughter. "Love potions? For Willl’erondale?
‘Tain’t my way to turn down payment, but any man who looks like you ‘as got no need of love potions, and that’s a fact."
"No," Will said, a little desperation in his voice. "I was looking for the opposite, really-something that might put an end to being in love."
"An ‘atred potion?" Molly still sounded amused.
"I was hoping for something more akin to indifference? Tolerance?"
She made a snorting noise, astonishingly human for a ghost. "I ‘ardly like to tell you this, Nephilim, but if you want a girl to ‘ate you, there’s easy enough ways of making it ‘appen. You don’t need my help with the poor thing."
And with that she vanished, spinning away into the mists among the graves. Will, looking after her, sighed. "Not for her," he said under his breath, though there was no one to hear him, "for me . . ." And he leaned his head against the cold iron gate.
Chapter 1: The Council Chamber
A bove, the fair hall-ceiling stately set
Many an arch high up did lift,
And angels rising and descending met
With interchange of gift.
-Alfred, Lord Tennyson, "The Palace of Art"
"Oh, yes. It really does look just as I imagined," Tessa said, and turned to smile at the boy who stood beside her. He had just helped her over a puddle, and his hand still rested politely on her arm, just above the crook of her elbow.
James Carstairs smiled back at her, elegant in his dark suit, his silver-fair hair whipped by the wind. His other hand rested on a jade-topped cane, and if any of the great crowd of people milling around them thought that it was odd that someone so young should need a walking stick, or found anything unusual about his coloring or the cast of his features, they didn’t pause to stare.
"I shall count that as a blessing," said Jem. "I was beginning to worry, you know, that everything you encountered in London was going to be a disappointment."
A disappointment. Tessa’s brother, Nate, had once promised her everything in London-a new beginning, a wonderful place to live, a city of soaring buildings and gorgeous parks. What Tessa had found instead was horror and betrayal, and danger beyond anything she could have imagined.
And yet . . .
"Not everything has been." She smiled up at Jem.
"I am glad to hear it." His tone was serious, not teasing. She looked away from him up at the grand edifice that rose before them. Westminster Abbey, with its great Gothic spires nearly touching the sky. The sun had done its best to struggle out from behind the haze-tipped clouds, and the abbey was bathed in weak sunlight.
"This is really where it is?" she asked as Jem drew her forward, toward the abbey entrance. "It seems so . . ."
"I had meant to say crowded." The Abbey was open to tourists today, and groups of them swarmed busily in and out the enormous doors, most clutching Baedeker guidebooks in their hands. A group of American tourists -middle-aged women in unfashionable clothes, murmuring in accents that made Tessa briefly homesick-passed them as they went up the stairs, hurrying after a lecturer who was offering a guided tour of the Abbey. Jem and Tessa melted in effortlessly behind them.
The inside of the abbey smelled of cold stone and metal. Tessa looked up and around, marveling at the size of the place. It made the Institute look like a village church.
"Notice the triple division of the nave," a guide droned, going on to explain that smaller chapels lined the eastern and western aisles of the Abbey. There was a hush over the place even though no services were going on. As Tessa let Jem lead her toward the eastern side of the church, she realized she was stepping over stones carved with dates and names. She had known that famous kings, queens, soldiers, and poets were buried in Westminster Abbey, but she hadn’t quite expected she’d be standing on top of them.
She and Jem slowed finally at the southeastern corner of the church.
Watery daylight poured through the rose window overhead. "I know we are in a hurry to get to the Council meeting," said Jem, "but I wanted you to see this." He gestured around them. "Poets’ Corner."
Tessa had read of the place, of course, where the great writers of England were buried. There was the gray stone tomb of Chaucer, with its canopy, and other familiar names: "Edmund Spenser, oh, and Samuel Johnson," she gasped, "and Coleridge, and Robert Burns, and Shakespeare-"
"He isn’t really buried here," said Jem quickly. "It’s just a monument. Like Milton’s."
"Oh, I know, but-" She looked at him, and felt herself flush. "I can’t explain it. It’s like being among friends, being among these names. Silly, I know . . ."
"Not silly at all."
She smiled at him. "How did you know just what I’d want to see?"
"How could I not?" he said. "When I think of you, and you are not there, I see you in my mind’s eye always with a book in your hand." He looked away from her as he said it, but not before she caught the slight flush on his cheekbones. He was so pale, he could never hide even the least blush, she thought-and was surprised how affectionate the thought was.
She had become very fond of Jem over the past fortnight; Will had been studiously avoiding her, Charlotte and Henry were caught up in issues of Clave and Council and the running of the Institute-and even Jessamine seemed preoccupied. But Jem was always there. He seemed to take his role as her guide to London seriously. They had been to Hyde Park and Kew Gardens, the National Gal ery and the British Museum, the Tower of London and Traitors’ Gate. They had gone to see the cows being milked in St.
James’s Park, and the fruit and vegetable sellers hawking their wares in Covent Garden. They had watched the boats sailing on the sun-sparked Thames from the Embankment, and had eaten things called "doorstops,"
which sounded horrible but turned out to be butter, sugar, and bread. And as the days went on, Tessa felt herself unfolding slowly out of her quiet, huddled unhappiness over Nate and Will and the loss of her old life, like a flower climbing out of frozen ground. She had even found herself laughing. And she had Jem to thank for it.
"You are a good friend," she exclaimed. And when to her surprise he said nothing to that, she said, "At least, I hope we are good friends. You do think so too, don’t you, Jem?"
He turned to look at her, but before he could reply, a sepulchral voice spoke out of the shadows,
"’Mortality, behold and fear!
What a change of flesh is here:
Think how many royal bones
Sleep within these heaps of stones.’"
A dark shape stepped out from between two monuments. As Tessa blinked in surprise, Jem said, in a tone of resigned amusement, "Will.
Decided to grace us with your presence after all?"
"I never said I wasn’t coming." Will moved forward, and the light from the rose windows fell on him, ill uminating his face. Even now, Tessa never could look at him without a tightening in her chest, a painful stutter of her heart.
Black hair, blue eyes, graceful cheekbones, thick dark lashes, full mouth-he would have been pretty if he had not been so tall and so muscular. She had run her hands over those arms. She knew what they felt like-iron, corded with hard muscles; his hands, when they cupped the back of her head, slim and flexible but rough with call uses . . .
She tore her mind away from the memories. Memories did one no good, not when one knew the truth in the present. Will was beautiful, but he was not hers; he was not anybody’s. Something in him was broken, and through that break spilled a blind cruelty, a need to hurt and to push away.
"You’re late for the Council meeting," said Jem good-naturedly. He was the only one Will ‘s puckish malice never seemed to touch.
"I had an errand," said Will. Up close Tessa could see that he looked tired.
His eyes were rimmed with red, the shadows beneath them nearly purple.
His clothes looked crumpled, as if he had slept in them, and his hair wanted cutting. But that has nothing to do with you, she told herself sternly, looking away from the soft dark waves that curled around his ears, the back of his neck. It does not matter what you think of how he looks or how he chooses to spend his time. He has made that very clear. "And you are not exactly on the dot of the hour yourselves."