Clockwork Prince (Page 11)

Clockwork Prince(11)
Author: Cassandra Clare

Platforms stretched as far as the eye could see; Tessa, Jem, and Will stood on the one closest to the main body of the station, where great gold- faced railway clocks proclaimed the time to be six o’clock. They were farther north now, and the sky had already begun to darken to twilight.

They had only just gathered beneath one of the clocks when a man stepped out of the shadows. Tessa barely suppressed a start at the sight of him. He was heavily cloaked, wearing a black oilskin-looking hat, and boots like an old sailor. His beard was long and white, his eyes crested with thick white eyebrows. He reached out and laid a hand on Will ‘s shoulder.

"Nephilim?" he said, his voice gruff and thickly accented. "Is it you?"

"Dear God," said Will, putting his hand over his heart in a theatrical gesture. "It’s the Ancient Mariner who stoppeth one of three."

"Ah’m ‘ere at t’bequest of Aloysius Starkweather. Art t’lads he wants or not? Ah’ve not got all night to stand about."

"Important appointment with an albatross?" Will inquired. "Don’t let us keep you."

"What my mad friend means to say," said Jem, "is that we are indeed Shadowhunters of the London Institute. Charlotte Branwel sent us. And you are . . . ?"

"Gottshall," the man said gruffly. "Me family’s been serving the Shadowhunters of the York Institute for nigh on three centuries now. I can see through tha’ glamours, young ones. Save for this one," he added, and turned his eyes on Tessa. "If there’s a glamour on the girl, it’s summat I’ve never seen before."

"She’s a mundane-an Ascendant," Jem said quickly. "Soon to be my wife." He took Tessa’s hand protectively, and turned it so that Gottshal could see the ring on her finger. "The Council thought it would be beneficial for her to see another Institute besides London’s."

"Has Mr. Starkweather been told aught about this?" Gottshal asked, black eyes keen beneath the rim of his hat.

"It depends what Mrs. Branwel told him," said Jem.

"Well, I hope she told him something, for yer sakes," said the old servant, raising his eyebrows. "If there’s a man in t’ world who hates surprises more than Aloysius Starkweather, Ah’ve yet to meet the bast-beggar. Begging your pardon, miss."

Tessa smiled and inclined her head, but inside, her stomach was churning.

She looked from Jem to Will, but both boys were calm and smiling. They were used to this sort of subterfuge, she thought, and she was not. She had played parts before, but never as herself, never wearing her own face and not someone else’s. For some reason the thought of lying without a false image to hide behind terrified her. She could only hope that Gottshal was exaggerating, though something-the glint in his eye as he regarded her, perhaps-told her that he wasn’t.

Chapter 5: Shades of the Past

But evil things, in robes of sorrow,

A ssailed the monarch’s high estate;

(A h, let us mourn, for never morrow

Shall dawn upon him desolate!)

And round about his home the glory

That blushed and bloomed,

Is but a dim-remembered story

Of the old time entombed.

-Edgar all an Poe, "The Haunted Palace"

Tessa barely noticed the interior of the station as they fol owed Starkweather’s servant through its crowded entry hall. Hustle and bustle, people bumping into her, the smel of coal smoke and cooking food, blurring signs for the Great Northern Railway company and the York and North Midland lines. Soon enough they were outside the station, under a graying sky that arched overhead, threatening rain. A grand hotel reared up against the twilit sky at one end of the station; Gottshal hurried them toward it, where a black carriage with the four Cs of the Clave painted on the door waited near the entrance. After settling the luggage and clambering inside, they were off, the carriage surging into Tanner Row to join the flow of traffic.

Will was silent most of the way, drumming his slim fingers on his black- trousered knees, his blue eyes distant and thoughtful. It was Jem who did the talking, leaning across Tessa to draw the curtains back on her side of the carriage. He pointed out items of interest-the graveyard where the victims of a cholera epidemic had been interred, and the ancient gray wal s of the city rising up in front of them, crenel ated across the top like the pattern on his ring. Once they were through the wal s, the streets narrowed. It was like London, Tessa thought, but on a reduced scale; even the stores they passed -a butcher’s, a draper’s-seemed smal er. The pedestrians, mostly men, who hurried by, chins dug into their col ars to block the light rain that had begun to fall, were not as fashionably dressed; they looked "country," like the farmers who came into Manhattan on occasion, recognizable by the redness of their big hands, the tough, sunburned skin of their faces.

The carriage swung out of a narrow street and into a huge square; Tessa drew in a breath. Before them rose a magnificent cathedral, its Gothic turrets piercing the gray sky like Saint Sebastian stuck through with arrows. A massive limestone tower surmounted the structure, and niches along the front of the building held sculpted statues, each one different. "Is that the Institute? Goodness, it’s so much grander than London’s-"

Will laughed. "Sometimes a church is only a church, Tess."

"That’s York Minster," said Jem. "Pride of the city. Not the Institute. The Institute’s in Goodramgate Street." His words were confirmed as the carriage swung away from the cathedral, down Deangate, and onto the narrow, cobbled lane of Goodramgate, where they rattled beneath a smal iron gate between two leaning Tudor buildings.

When they emerged on the other side of the gate, Tessa saw why Will had laughed. What rose before them was a pleasant-enough-looking church, surrounded by enclosing wal s and smooth grass, but it had none of the grandeur of York Minster. When Gottshal came around to swing the door of the carriage open and help Tessa down to the ground, she saw that occasional headstones rose from the rain-dampened grass, as if someone had intended to begin a cemetery here and had lost interest halfway through the proceedings.

The sky was nearly black now, silvered here and there with clouds made near-transparent by starlight. Behind her, Jem’s and Will ‘s familiar voices murmured; before her, the doors of the church stood open, and through them she could see flickering candles. She felt suddenly bodiless, as if she were the ghost of Tessa, haunting this odd place so far from the life she had known in New York. She shivered, and not just from the cold.

She felt the brush of a hand against her arm, and warm breath stirred her hair. She knew who it was without turning. "Shal we go in, my betrothed?"

Jem said softly in her ear. She could feel the laughter in him, vibrating through his bones, communicating itself to her. She almost smiled. "Let us beard the lion in his den together."

She put her hand through his arm. They made their way up the steps of the church; she looked back at the top, and saw Will gazing up after them, apparently unheeding as Gottshal tapped him on the shoulder, saying something into his ear. Her eyes met his, but she looked quickly away; entangling gazes with Will was confusing at best, dizzying at worst.

The inside of the church was smal and dark compared to the London Institute’s. Pews dark with age ran the length of the wal s, and above them witchlight tapers burned in holders made of blackened iron. At the front of the church, in front of a veritable cascade of burning candles, stood an old man dressed all in Shadowhunter black. His hair and beard were thick and gray, standing out wildly around his head, his gray-black eyes half-hidden beneath massive eyebrows, his skin scored with the marks of age. Tessa knew him to be almost ninety, but his back was still straight, his chest as thick around as the trunk of a tree.

"Young Herondale, are you?" he barked as Will stepped forward to introduce himself. "Half-mundane, half-Welsh, and the worst traits of both, I’ve heard."

Will smiled politely. "Diolch."

Starkweather bristled. "Mongrel tongue," he muttered, and turned his gaze to Jem. "James Carstairs," he said. "Another Institute brat. I’ve half a mind to tel the lot of you to go to blazes. That upstart bit of a girl, that Charlotte Fairchild, foisting you all on me with nary a by-your-leave." He had a little of the Yorkshire accent that his servant had, though much fainter; still, the way he pronounced "I" did sound a bit like "Ah." "None of that family ever had a bit o’ manners. I could do without her father, and I can do without-"

His flashing eyes came to rest on Tessa then, and he stopped abruptly, his mouth open, as if he had been slapped in the face midsentence. Tessa glanced at Jem; he looked as startled as she did at Starkweather’s sudden silence. But there, in the breach, was Will.

"This is Tessa Gray, sir," he said. "She is a mundane girl, but she is the betrothed of Carstairs here, and an Ascendant."

"A mundane, you say?" demanded Starkweather, his eyes wide.

"An Ascendant," said Will in his most soothing, silken voice. "She has been a faithful friend to the Institute in London, and we hope to welcome her into our ranks soon."

"A mundane," the old man repeated, and broke into a fit of coughing. "Well, times have-Yes, I suppose then-" His eyes skipped across Tessa’s face again, and he turned to Gottshall, who was looking martyred among the luggage. "Get Cedric and Andrew to help you bring our guests’ belongings up to their rooms," he said. "And do tell El en to instruct Cook to set three extra places for dinner tonight. I may have forgotten to remind her that we would have guests."

The servant gaped at his master before nodding in a seeming daze; Tessa couldn’t blame him. It was clear that Starkweather had meant to send them packing and had changed his mind at the last moment. She glanced at Jem, who looked just as mystified as she felt; only Will, blue eyes wide and face as innocent as a choirboy’s, seemed as if he had expected nothing else.

"Well, come along, then," said Starkweather gruffly without looking at Tessa. "You needn’t stand there. Fol ow me and I’ll show you to your rooms."

"By the Angel," Will said, scraping his fork through the brownish mess on his plate. "What is this stuff?"

Tessa had to admit, it was difficult to tell. Starkweather’s servants-mostly bent old men and women and a sour-faced female housekeeper-had done as he’d asked and had set three extra places for supper, which consisted of a dark, lumpy stew ladled out of a silver tureen by a woman in a black dress and white cap, so bent and old that Tessa had to physical y prevent herself from leaping up to assist her with the serving. When the woman was done, she turned and shuffled off, leaving Jem, Tessa, and Will alone in the dining room to stare at one another across the table.

A place had been set for Starkweather as well, but he wasn’t at it. Tessa had to admit that if she were him, she wouldn’t be rushing to eat the stew either. Heavy with overcooked vegetables and tough meat, it was even more unappetizing-looking in the dim light of the dining room. Only a few tapers lit the cramped space; the wal paper was dark brown, the mirror over the unlit hearth stained and discolored. Tessa felt dreadful y uncomfortable in her evening dress, a stiff blue taffeta borrowed from Jessamine and let out by Sophie, which had turned to the color of a bruise in the unhealthy light.

Still, it was awful y peculiar behavior for a host, to be so insistent that they join him for supper and then not to appear. A servant just as frail and ancient as the one who’d ladled out the stew had led Tessa to her room earlier, a great dim cavern full of heavy carved furniture. It too was dimly lit, as if Starkweather were trying to save money on oil or tapers, though as far as Tessa knew, witchlight cost nothing. Perhaps he simply liked the dark.

She had found her room chil y, dark, and more than slightly ominous. The low fire burning in the grate had done little to warm the room. On either side of the hearth was carved a jagged lightning bolt. The same symbol was on the white pitcher full of chil y water that Tessa had used to wash her hands and face. She had dried off quickly, wondering why she couldn’t remember the symbol from the Codex. It must mean something important. The whole of the London Institute was decorated with Clave symbols like the Angel rising from the lake, or the interlocked Cs of Council, Covenant, Clave, and Consul.

Heavy old portraits were everywhere as well -in her bedroom, in the corridors, lining the staircase. After changing into evening dress and hearing the dinner bel ring, Tessa had made her way down the staircase, a great carved Jacobean monstrosity, only to pause on the landing to gaze at the portrait of a very young girl with long, fair hair, dressed in an old-fashioned child’s dress, a great ribbon surmounting her smal head. Her face was thin and pale and sickly, but her eyes were bright-the only bright thing in this dark place, Tessa had thought.

"Adele Starkweather," had come a voice at her elbow, reading off the placard on the portrait’s frame. "1842."

She had turned to look at Will, who’d stood with his feet apart, his hands behind his back, gazing at the portrait and frowning.

"What is it? You look as if you don’t like her, but I rather do. She must be Starkweather’s daughter-no, granddaughter, I think."

Will had shaken his head, looking from the portrait to Tessa. "No doubt.

This place is decorated like a family home. It is clear there have been Starkweathers in the York Institute for generations. You’ve seen the lightning bolts everywhere?"

Tessa had nodded.

"That is the Starkweather family symbol. There is as much of the Starkweathers here as there is of the Clave. It is bad form to behave as if one owns a place like this. One cannot inherit an Institute. The guardian of an Institute is appointed by the Consul. The place itself belongs to the Clave."

"Charlotte’s parents ran the London Institute before she did."

"Part of the reason old Lightwood is so tinder-tempered about the whole business," Will had replied. "Institutes aren’t necessarily meant to stay in families. But the Consul wouldn’t have given Charlotte the post if he hadn’t thought she was the right person for it. And it’s only one generation. This-"