Clockwork Prince (Page 15)

Clockwork Prince(15)
Author: Cassandra Clare

Will drew his gaze from the window and looked at them both. When he smiled, it was ghastly. "My sister is dead," he said.

And that was all he would say. They rode the rest of the way back to the city of York in silence.

Having barely slept the night before, Tessa fell in and out of a fitful doze that lasted until they reached the York train station. In a fog she dismounted from the carriage and fol owed the others to the London platform; they were late for the train, and nearly missed it, and Jem held the door open for her, for her and Will, as both of them stumbled up the steps and into the compartment after him. Later she would remember the way he looked, hanging on to the door, hatless, call ing to both of them, and recal staring out the window of the train as it pulled away, seeing Gottshal standing on the platform looking after them with his unsettling dark eyes, his hat pulled low. Everything else was a blur.

There was no conversation this time as the train puffed its way through countryside increasingly darkened by clouds, only silence. Tessa rested her chin on her palm, cradling her head against the hard glass of the window.

Green hil s flew by, and smal towns and vil ages, each with their own neat smal station, the name of it picked out in gold on a red sign. Church spires rose in the distance; cities swel ed and vanished, and Tessa was aware of Jem whispering to Will, in Latin, she thought-"Me specta, me specta," and Will not answering. Later she was aware that Jem had left the compartment, and she looked at Will across the smal dimming space between them. The sun had begun to go down, and it lent a rosy flush to his skin, belying the blank look in his eyes.

"Will," she said softly, sleepily. "Last night-" You were kind to me, she was going to say. Thank you.

The glare from his blue eyes stabbed through her. "There was no last night," he said through his teeth.

At that, she sat up straight, almost awake. "Oh, truly? We just went right from one afternoon on through til the next morning? How odd no one else has remarked on it. I should think it some sort of miracle, a day with no night -"

"Don’t test me, Tessa." Will ‘s hands were clenched on his knees, his fingernails, half-moons of dirt under them, digging into the fabric of his trousers.

"Your sister’s alive," she said, knowing perfectly well that she was provoking him. "Oughtn’t you be glad?"

He whitened. "Tessa-," he began, and leaned forward as if he meant to do she knew not what-strike the window and break it, shake her by the shoulders, or hold her as if he never meant to let her go. It was all one great bewilderment with him, wasn’t it? Then the compartment door opened and Jem came in, carrying a damp cloth.

He looked from Will to Tessa and raised his silvery eyebrows. "A miracle,"

he said. "You got him to speak."

"Just to shout at me, real y," said Tessa. "Not quite loaves and fishes."

Will had gone back to staring out the window, and looked at neither of them as they spoke.

"It’s a start," said Jem, and he sat down beside her. "Here. Give me your hands."

Surprised, Tessa held her hands out to him-and was horrified. They were filthy, the nails cracked and broken and thick with half-moons of dirt where she had clawed at the Yorkshire earth. There was even a bloody scratch across her knuckles, though she had no memory of having gotten it.

Not a lady’s hands. She thought of Jessamine’s perfect pink and white paws. "Jessie would be horrified," she said mournful y. "She’d tell me I had charwoman’s hands."

"And what, pray tell, is dishonorable about that?" said Jem as he gently cleaned the dirt from her scratches. "I saw you chase after us, and that automaton creature. If Jessamine does not know by now that there is honor in blood and dirt, she never will."

The cool cloth felt good on her fingers. She looked up at Jem, who was intent on his task, his lashes a fringe of lowered silver. "Thank you," she said.

"I doubt I was any help at all, and probably a hindrance, but thank you all the same."

He smiled at her, the sun coming out from behind clouds. "That’s what we’re training you for, isn’t it?"

She lowered her voice. "Have you any idea what could have happened? Why Will ‘s family would be living in a house Mortmain once owned?"

Jem glanced over at Will, who was still staring bitterly out the window. They had entered London, and gray buildings were beginning to rise up around them on either side. The look Jem gave Will was a tired, loving sort of look, a familial look, and Tessa realized that, though when she had imagined them as brothers, she had always imagined Will as the older, the caretaker, and Jem as the younger, the reality was far more complicated than that. "I do not,"

he said, "though it makes me think that the game Mortmain is playing is a long one. Somehow he knew exactly where our investigations would lead us, and he arranged for this-encounter-to shock us as much as possible. He wishes us to be reminded who it is who has the power."

Tessa shuddered. "I don’t know what he wants from me, Jem," she said in a low voice. "When he said to me that he made me, it was as if he were saying he could unmake me just as easily."

Jem’s warm arm touched hers. "You cannot be unmade," he said just as softly. "And Mortmain underestimates you. I saw how you used that branch against the automaton-"

"It was not enough. If it had not been for my angel-" Tessa touched the pendant at her throat. "The automaton touched it and recoiled. Another mystery I do not understand. It protected me before, and again this time, but in other situations lies dormant. It is as much a mystery as my talent."

"Which, fortunately, you did not need to use to Change into Starkweather.

He seemed quite happy simply to give us the Shade files."

"Thank goodness," said Tessa. "I wasn’t looking forward to it. He seems such an unpleasant, bitter man. But if it ever turns out to be necessary . . ."

She took something from her pocket and held it up, something that glinted in the carriage’s dim light. "A button," she said smugly. "It fell from the cuff of his jacket this morning, and I picked it up."

Jem smiled. "Very clever, Tessa. I knew we’d be glad we brought you with us-"

He broke off with a cough. Tessa looked at him in alarm, and even Will was roused out of his silent despondency, turning to look at Jem with narrowed eyes. Jem coughed again, his hand pressed to his mouth, but when he took it away, there was no blood visible. Tessa saw Will ‘s shoulders relax.

"Just some dust in my throat," Jem reassured them. He looked not il but very tired, though his exhaustion only served to point up the delicacy of his features. His beauty did not blaze like Will ‘s did in fierce colors and repressed fire, but it had its own muted perfection, the loveliness of snow fal ing against a silver-gray sky.

"Your ring!" She started up suddenly as she remembered that she was stil wearing it. She put the button back into her pocket, then reached to draw the Carstairs ring off her hand. "I had meant to give it back to you earlier," she said, placing the silver circlet in his palm. "I forgot . . ."

He curled his fingers around hers. Despite her thoughts of snow and gray skies, his hand was surprisingly warm. "That’s all right," he said in a low voice. "I like the way it looks on you."

She felt her cheeks warm. Before she could answer, the train whistle sounded. Voices cried out that they were in London, Kings Cross Station.

The train began to slow as the platform came into view. The hubbub of the station rose to assault Tessa’s ears, along with the sound of the train braking. Jem said something, but his words were lost in the noise; it sounded like a warning, but Will was already on his feet, his hand reaching for the compartment door latch. He swung it open and leaped out and down.

If he were not a Shadowhunter, Tessa thought, he would have fal en, and badly, but as it was, he simply landed lightly on his feet and began to run, pushing his way among the crowding porters, the commuters, the gentility traveling north for the weekend with their massive trunks and hunting hounds on leashes, the newspaper boys and pickpockets and costermongers and all the other human traffic of the grand station.

Jem was on his feet, hand reaching for the door-but he turned back and looked at Tessa, and she saw an expression cross his face, an expression that said that he realized that if he fled after Will, she could not fol ow. With another long look at her, he latched the door shut and sank into the seat opposite her as the train came to a stop.

"But Will -," she began.

"He Will be all right," said Jem with conviction. "You know how he is.

Sometimes he just wants to be alone. And I doubt he wishes to take part in recounting today’s experiences to Charlotte and the others." When she didn’t move her eyes from his, he repeated, gently, "Wil can take care of himself, Tessa."

She thought of the bleak look in Will ‘s eyes when he had spoken to her, starker than the Yorkshire moors they had just left behind them. She hoped Jem was right.

Chapter 7: The Curse

A n orphan’s curse would drag to hell

A spirit from on high;

But oh! more horrible than that

Is the curse in a dead man’s eye!

Seven days, seven nights, I saw that curse,

And yet I could not die.

-Samuel Taylor Coleridge,

"The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"

Magnus heard the sound of the front door opening and the following clatter of raised voices, and thought immediately, Will. And then was amused that he had thought it. The Shadow-hunter boy was becoming like an annoying relative, he thought as he folded down a page of the book he was reading- Lucian’s Dialogues of the Gods; Camil e would be furious he had dog-eared her volume-someone whose habits you knew well but could not change.

Someone whose presence you could recognize by the sound of their boots in the hal way. Someone who felt free to argue with the footman when he’d been given orders to tell everyone that you were not at home.

The parlor door flew open, and Will stood on the threshold, looking half- triumphant and half-wretched-quite a feat. "I knew you were here," he announced as Magnus sat up straight on the sofa, swinging his boots to the floor. "Now, Will you tell this-this overgrown bat to stop hovering over my shoulder?" He indicated Archer, Camil e’s subjugate and Magnus’s temporary footman, who was indeed lurking at Will ‘s side. His face was set in a look of disapproval, but then it was always set in a look of disapproval.

"Tel him you want to see me."

Magnus set his book down on the table beside him. "But maybe I don’t want to see you," he said reasonably. "I told Archer to let no one in, not to let no one in but you."

"He threatened me," Archer said in his hissing not-quite-human voice. "I shal tell my mistress."

"You do that," said Will, but his eyes were on Magnus, blue and anxious.

"Please. I have to talk to you."

Drat the boy, Magnus thought. After an exhausting day spent clearing a memory-blocking spel for a member of the Penhal ow family, he had wanted only to rest. He had stopped listening for Camil e’s step in the hall, or waiting for her message, but he still preferred this room to others-this room, where her personal touch seemed to cling to the thorned roses on the wal paper, the faint perfume that rose from the draperies. He had looked forward to an evening spent by the fire here-a glass of wine, a book, and being left strictly alone.

But now here was Will Herondale, his expression a study in pain and desperation, wanting Magnus’s help. He was really going to have to do something about this annoying softhearted impulse to assist the desperate, Magnus thought. That, and his weakness for blue eyes.

"Very well," he said with a martyred sigh. "You may stay and talk to me. But I warn you, I’m not raising a demon. Not before I’ve had my supper. Unless you have turned up some sort of hard proof . . ."

"No." Will came eagerly into the room, shutting the door in Archer’s face.

He reached around and locked it, for good measure, and then strode over to the fire. It was chil y out. The visible bit of window not blocked by drapes showed the square outside darkening to a blackish twilight, leaves blown rattling across the pavement by a brisk-looking wind. Will drew off his gloves, laid them on the mantel, and stretched his hands out to the flames. "I don’t want you to raise a demon."

"Huh." Magnus put his booted feet up on the smal rosewood table before the sofa, another gesture that would have infuriated Camil e, had she been there. "That’s good news, I suppose-"

"I want you to send me through. To the demon realms."

Magnus choked. "You want me to do what?"

Will ‘s profile was black against the flickering fire. "Create a portal to the demon worlds and send me through. You can do that, can’t you?"

"That’s black magic," said Magnus. "Not quite necromancy, but-"

"No one need know."

"Real y." Magnus’s tone was acid. "These things have a way of getting out.

And if the Clave found out I’d sent one of their own, their most promising, to be rent apart by demons in another dimension-"

"The Clave does not consider me promising." Will ‘s voice was cold. "I am not promising. I am not anything, nor Will I ever be. Not without your help."

"I am beginning to wonder if you’ve been sent to test me, Will Herondale."

Will gave a harsh little bark of laughter. "By God?"

"By the Clave. Who might as well be God. Perhaps they simply seek to find out whether I am Will ing to break the Law."

Will swung around and stared at him. "I am deadly earnest," he said. "This is not some sort of test. I cannot go on like this, summoning up demons at random, never having them be the correct one, endless hope, endless disappointment. Every day dawns blacker and blacker, and I Will lose her forever if you-"

"Lose her?" Magnus’s mind fastened on the word; he sat up straight, narrowing his eyes. "This is about Tessa. I knew it was."