Clockwork Prince (Page 12)

Clockwork Prince(12)
Author: Cassandra Clare

He swept his arm about as if to encompass the portraits, the landing, and odd, lonely Aloysius Starkweather, all in one gesture. "Well, no wonder the old man thinks he has the right to throw us out of the place."

"Mad as hops, my aunt would have said. shall we go down to dinner?"

In a rare show of gentility, Will had offered his arm. Tessa hadn’t looked at him as she’d taken it. Will dressed for dinner was handsome enough to take away her breath, and she’d had the feeling she’d need her wits about her.

Jem had already been waiting in the dining room when they’d arrived, and Tessa had settled herself beside him to await their host. His place had been set, his plate fil ed with stew, even his wineglass fil ed with dark red wine, but there had been no sign of him. It was Will who had shrugged first and begun to eat, though he’d soon looked as if he wished he hadn’t.

"What is this?" he went on now, spearing an unfortunate object on a fork and raising it to eye level. "This . . . this . . . thing?"

"A parsnip?" Jem suggested.

"A parsnip planted in Satan’s own garden," said Will. He glanced about. "I don’t suppose there’s a dog I could feed it to."

"There don’t seem to be any pets about," Jem-who loved all animals, even the inglorious and il -tempered Church-observed.

"Probably all poisoned by parsnips," said Will.

"Oh, dear," Tessa said sadly, laying her fork down. "And I was so hungry too."

"There’s always the dinner rol s," said Will, pointing to a covered basket.

"Though I warn you, they’re as hard as stones. You could use them to kil black beetles, if any beetles bother you in the middle of the night."

Tessa made a face and took a swig of her wine. It was as sour as vinegar.

Will set his fork down and began cheerful y, in the manner of Edward Lear’s Book of Nonsense: "There once was a lass from New York Who found herself hungry in York.

But the bread was like rocks, The parsnips shaped like-"

"You can’t rhyme ‘York’ with ‘York,’" interrupted Tessa. "It’s cheating."

"She’s right, you know," said Jem, his delicate fingers playing with the stem of his wineglass. "Especial y with ‘fork’ being so obviously the correct choice-"

"Good evening." The hulking shadow of Aloysius Stark-weather loomed up suddenly in the doorway; Tessa wondered with a flush of embarrassment how long he’d been standing there. "Mr. Herondale, Mr. Carstairs, Miss, ah -"

"Gray," Tessa said. "Theresa Gray."

"Indeed." Starkweather made no apologies, just settled himself heavily at the head of the table. He was carrying a square, flat box, the sort bankers used to keep their papers in, which he set down beside his plate. With a flash of excitement Tessa saw that there was a year marked on it-1825- and even better, three sets of initials. JTS, A ES, A HM.

"No doubt your young miss Will be pleased to know I’ve buckled to her demands and searched the archives all day and half last night besides,"

Starkweather began in an aggrieved tone. It took Tessa a moment to realize that in this case, "young miss" meant Charlotte. "It’s lucky, she is, that my father never threw anything out. And the moment I saw the papers, I remembered." He tapped his temple. "Eighty-nine years, and I never forget a thing. You tell old Wayland that when he talks about replacing me."

"We surely will, sir," said Jem, his eyes dancing.

Starkweather took a hearty gulp of his wine and made a face. "By the Angel, this stuff’s disgusting." He set the glass down and began pul ing papers from the box. "What we have here is an application for Reparations on behalf of two warlocks. John and Anne Shade. A married couple.

"Now, here’s the odd bit," the old man went on. "The filing was done by their son, Axel Hol ingworth Mortmain, twenty-two years old. Now, of course warlocks are barren-"

Will shifted uncomfortably in his seat, his eyes slanting away from Tessa’s.

"This son was adopted," said Jem.

"Shouldn’t be all owed, that," said Starkweather, taking another slug of the wine he had pronounced disgusting. His cheeks were beginning to redden.

"Like giving a human child to wolves to raise. Before the Accords-"

"If there are any clues to his whereabouts," said Jem, gently trying to steer the conversation back onto its track. "We have very little time-"

"Very well, very well," snapped Starkweather. "There’s little information about your precious Mortmain in here. More about the parents. It seems suspicion fell on them when it was discovered that the male warlock, John Shade, was in possession of the Book of the White. Quite a powerful spel book, you understand; disappeared from the London Institute’s library under suspicious circumstances back in 1752. The book specializes in binding and unbinding spel s-tying the soul to the body, or untying it, as the case may be. Turned out the warlock was trying to animate things. He was digging up corpses or buying them off medical students and replacing the more damaged bits with mechanisms. Then trying to bring them to life.

Necromancy-very much against the Law. And we didn’t have the Accords in those days. An Enclave group swept in and slaughtered both warlocks."

"And the child?" said Will. "Mortmain?"

"No hide nor hair of him," said Starkweather. "We searched, but nothing.

Assumed he was dead, til this turned up, cheeky as you please, demanding reparations. Even his address-"

"His address?" Will demanded. That information had not been included in the scrol they had seen at the Institute. "In London?"

"Nay. Right here in Yorkshire." Starkweather tapped the page with a wrinkled finger. "Ravenscar Manor. A massive old pile up north from here.

Been abandoned now, I think, for decades. Now that I think about it, can’t figure how he could’ve afforded it in the first place. It’s not where the Shades lived."

"Still," said Jem. "An excel ent starting point for us to go looking. If it’s been abandoned since his tenancy, there may be things he left behind. In fact, he may well still be using the place."

"I suppose." Starkweather sounded unenthusiastic about the whole business. "Most of the Shades’ belongings were taken for spoils."

"Spoils," Tessa echoed faintly. She remembered the term from the Codex.

Anything a Shadowhunter took from a Downworlder who had been caught breaking the Law belonged to him. Those were the spoils of war. She looked across the table at Jem and Will ; Jem’s gentle eyes resting on her with concern, Will ‘s haunted blue ones holding all their secrets. Did she real y belong to a race of creatures that was at war with what Jem and Will were?

"Spoils," Starkweather rumbled. He had polished off his wine and started on Will ‘s untouched glass. "Do those interest you, girl? We’ve quite a col ection here in the Institute. Puts the London col ection to shame, or so I’m told." He stood up, nearly knocking over his chair. "Come along. I’ll show them to you, and tell you the rest of this sorry tale, though there’s not that much more to it."

Tessa looked quickly to Will and Jem for a cue, but they were already on their feet, following the old man out of the room. Starkweather spoke as he walked, his voice drifting back over his shoulder, making the rest of them hurry to match his long strides.

"Never thought much of this Reparations business myself," he said as they passed down another dimly lit, interminably long stone corridor. "Makes Downworlders uppity, thinking they have a right to get something out of us. all the work we do and no thanks, just hands held out for more, more, more.

Don’t you think so, gentlemen?"

"Bastards, all of them," said Will, who seemed as if his mind were a thousand miles away. Jem looked at him sideways.

"Absolutely!" barked Starkweather, clearly pleased. "Not that one should use such language in front of a lady, of course. As I was saying, this Mortmain was protesting the death of Anne Shade, the male warlock’s wife -said she’d had nothing to do with her husband’s projects, hadn’t known about them, he claimed. Her death was undeserved. Wanted a trial of those guilty of what he called her ‘murder,’ and his parents’ belongings back."

"Was the Book of the White among what he asked for?" Jem inquired. "I know it’s a crime for a warlock to own such a volume . . ."

"It was. It was retrieved and placed in the London Institute library, where no doubt it remains still. Certainly no one was going to give it to him."

Tessa did a quick mental calculation in her head. If he was eighty-nine now, Starkweather would have been twenty-six at the time of the Shades’ deaths. "Were you there?"

His bloodshot eyes danced over her; she noticed that even now, a little drunk, he didn’t seem to want to look at her too directly. "Was I where?"

"You said an Enclave group was sent out to deal with the Shades. Were you among them?"

He hesitated, then shrugged. "Aye," he said, his Yorkshire accent thickening for a moment. "Dinna take long to get the both of them. They weren’t prepared. Not a bit. I remember them lying there in their blood. The first time I saw dead warlocks, I was surprised they bled red. I could have sworn it’d be another color, blue or green or some such." He shrugged. "We took the cloaks off them, like skins off a tiger. I was given the keeping of them, or more rightly, my father was. Glory, glory. Those were the days." He grinned like a skull, and Tessa thought of Bluebeard’s chamber where he kept the remains of the wives he had kil ed. She felt both very hot and very cold all over.

"Mortmain never had a chance, did he," she said quietly. "Filing his complaint like that. He was never going to get his reparations."

"Of course not!" barked Starkweather. "Rubbish, all of it-claiming the wife wasn’t involved. What wife isn’t neck-deep in her husband’s business?

Besides, he wasn’t even their blood son, couldn’t have been. Probably more of a pet to them than anything else. I’d wager the father’d have used him for spare parts if it came down to it. He was better off without them. He should have been thanking us, not asking for a trial-"

The old man broke off as he reached a heavy door at the end of the corridor and put his shoulder to it, grinning down at them from beneath beetling brows. "Ever been to the Crystal Palace? Well, this is even better."

He shouldered the door open, and light blazed up around them as they passed through into the room beyond. Clearly it was the only well -lit room in the place.

The room was full of glass-fronted cabinets, and over each cabinet was mounted a lamp of witchlight, il uminating the contents within. Tessa saw Will ‘s back stiffen, and Jem reached for her, his hand tightening on her arm with an almost bruising grip. "Don’t-," he began, but she had pushed forward, and was staring at the contents of the cabinets.

Spoils. A gold locket, open to a daguerreotype of a laughing child. The locket was splattered with dried blood. Behind her Starkweather was talking about digging the silver bul ets out of the bodies of freshly kil ed werewolves and melting them down to recast. There was a dish of such bul ets, in fact, in one of the cabinets, fil ing a bloodstained bowl. Sets of vampire fangs, row on row of them. What looked like sheets of gossamer or delicate fabric, pressed under glass. Only on closer inspection did Tessa realize they were the wings of faeries. A goblin, like the one she had seen with Jessamine in Hyde Park, floating open-eyed in a large jar of preservative fluid.

And the remains of warlocks. Mummified taloned hands, like Mrs. Black’s.

A stripped skull, utterly de-fleshed, human-looking save that it had tusks instead of teeth. Vials of sludgy-looking blood. Starkweather was now talking about how much warlock parts, especial y a warlock’s "mark," could be sold for on the Downworld market. Tessa felt dizzy and hot, her eyes burning.

Tessa turned around, her hands shaking. Jem and Will stood, looking at Starkweather with mute expressions of horror; the old man was holding up another hunting trophy-a human-looking head mounted to a backing. The skin had shriveled and gone gray, drawn back against the bones. Fleshless spiral horns protruded from the top of its skull. "Got this off a warlock I kil ed down by Leeds way," he said. "You wouldn’t believe the fight he put up-"

Starkweather’s voice hollowed out, and Tessa felt herself suddenly cut free and floating. Darkness rushed up, and then there were arms around her, and Jem’s voice. Words floated by her in ragged scraps. "My fiancee-never seen spoils before-can’t stand blood-very delicate-"

Tessa wanted to fight free of Jem, wanted to rush at Stark-weather and strike the old man, but she knew it would ruin everything if she did. She clenched her eyes shut and pressed her face against Jem’s chest, breathing him in. He smelled of soap and sandalwood. Then there were other hands on her, drawing her away from Jem. Starkweather’s maidservants. She heard Starkweather tell ing them to take her upstairs and help her to bed. She opened her eyes to see Jem’s troubled face as he looked after her, until the door of the spoils room closed between them.

It took Tessa a long time to fal asleep that night, and when she did, she had a nightmare. In the dream she lay manacled to the brass bed in the house of the Dark Sisters . . .

Light like thin gray soup seeped through the windows. The door opened and Mrs. Dark came in, followed by her sister, who had no head, only the white bone of her spine protruding from her raggedly severed neck.

"Here she is, the pretty, pretty princess," said Mrs. Dark, clapping her hands together. "Just think of what we will get for all the parts of her. A hundred each for her little white hands, and a thousand for the pair of her eyes. We’d get more if they were blue, of course, but one can’t have everything."

She chuckled, and the bed began to spin as Tessa screamed and thrashed in the darkness. Faces appeared above her: Mortmain, his narrow features screwed up in amusement. "A nd they say the worth of a good woman is far above rubies," he said. "What of the worth of a warlock?"