Clockwork Prince (Page 17)

Clockwork Prince(17)
Author: Cassandra Clare

"You had Ragnor fell look into Will ‘s family’s welfare before," said Jem.

"Can you do it again? If Mortmain is somehow entangled with them . . . for whatever reason . . ."

"Yes, yes, of course," said Charlotte. "I Will write to him immediately."

"There is a part of this I do not understand," Tessa said. "The reparations demand was filed in 1825, and the complain-ant’s age was listed as twenty- two. If he was twenty-two then, he’d be seventy-five now, and he doesn’t look that old. Maybe forty . . ."

"There are ways," Charlotte said slowly, "for mundanes who dabble in dark magic to prolong their lives. Just the sort of spell, by the way, that one might find in the Book of the White. Which is why possession of the Book by anyone other than the Clave is considered a crime."

"All that newspaper business about Mortmain inheriting a shipping company from his father," Jem said. "Do you think he pulled the vampire trick?"

"The vampire trick?" echoed Tessa, trying in vain to remember such a thing from the Codex.

"It’s a way vampires have of keeping their money over time," said Charlotte. "When they have been too long in one place, long enough that people have started to notice that they never age, they fake their own death and leave their inheritance to a long-lost son or nephew. Voila-the nephew shows up, bears an uncanny resemblance to his father or uncle, but there he is and he gets the money. And they go on like that for generations sometimes. Mortmain could easily have left the company to himself to disguise the fact that he wasn’t aging."

"So he pretended to be his own son," said Tessa. "Which would also have given him a reason to be seen changing the direction of the company-to return to Britain and begin interesting himself in mechanisms, that sort of thing."

"And is probably also why he left the house in Yorkshire," said Henry.

"Though that does not explain why it is being inhabited by Will ‘s family,"

mused Jem.

"Or where Will is," added Tessa.

"Or where Mortmain is," put in Jessamine, with a sort of dark glee. "Only nine more days, Charlotte."

Charlotte put her head back into her hands. "Tessa," she said, "I hate to ask this of you, but it is, after all, why we sent you to Yorkshire, and we must leave no stone unturned. You still have the button from Starkweather’s coat?"

Wordlessly Tessa took the button from her pocket. It was round, pearl and silver, strangely cold in her hand. "You want me to Change into him?"

"Tessa," Jem said quickly. "If you do not want to do this, Charlotte- we- would never require it."

"I know," Tessa said. "But I offered, and I would not go back on my word."

"Thank you, Tessa." Charlotte looked relieved. "We must know if there is anything he is hiding from us-if he was lying to you about any part of this business. His involvement in what happened to the Shades . . ."

Henry frowned. "It Will be a dark day when you cannot trust your fell ow Shadowhunters, Lottie."

"It is a dark day already, Henry dear," Charlotte replied without looking at him.

"You won’t help me, then," Will said in a flat voice. Using magic, Magnus had built the fire up in the grate. In the glow of the leaping flames, the warlock could see more of the details of Will -the dark hair curling close at the nape of his neck, the delicate cheekbones and strong jaw, the shadow cast by his lashes. He reminded Magnus of someone; the memory tickled at the back of his mind, refusing to come clear. After so many years, it was hard sometimes to pick out individual memories, even of those you had loved. He could no longer remember his mother’s face, though he knew she had looked like him, a mixture of his Dutch grandfather and his Indonesian grandmother.

"If your definition of ‘help’ involves dropping you into the demon realms like a rat into a pit full of terriers, then no, I won’t help you," said Magnus. "This is madness, you know. Go home. Sleep it off."

"I’m not drunk."

"You might as well be." Magnus ran both hands through his thick hair and thought, suddenly and irrational y, of Camil e. And was pleased. Here in this room, with Will, he had gone nearly two hours without thinking of her at all.

Progress. "You think you’re the only person who’s ever lost anyone?"

Will ‘s face twisted. "Don’t make it sound like that. Like some ordinary sort of grief. It’s not like that. They say time heals all wounds, but that presumes the source of the grief is finite. Over. This is a fresh wound every day."

"Yes," said Magnus, leaning back against the cushions. "That is the genius of curses, isn’t it."

"It would be one thing if I had been cursed so that everyone I loved would die," said Will. "I could keep myself from loving. To keep others from caring for me-it is an odd, exhausting procedure." He sounded exhausted, Magnus thought, and dramatic in that way that only seventeen-year-olds could be. He also doubted the truth of Will ‘s statement that he could have kept himself from loving, but understood why the boy would want to tel himself such a story. "I must play the part of another person all day, each day -bitter and vicious and cruel-"

"I rather liked you that way. And don’t tell me you don’t enjoy yourself at least a little, playing the devil, Will Heron-dale."

"They say it runs in our blood, that sort of bitter humor," said Will, looking at the flames. "El a had it. So did Cecily. I never thought I did until I found I needed it. I have learned good lessons in how to be hateful over all these years. But I feel myself losing myself-" He groped for words. "I feel myself diminished, parts of me spiraling away into the darkness, that which is good and honest and true-If you hold it away from yourself long enough, do you lose it entirely? If no one cares for you at all, do you even really exist?"

He said this last so softly that Magnus had to strain to hear him. "What was that?"

"Nothing. Something I read somewhere once." Will turned to him. "You would be doing me a mercy, sending me to the demon realms. I might find what I am looking for. It is my only chance-and without that chance my life is worthless to me anyway."

"Easy enough to say at seventeen," said Magnus, with no smal amount of coldness. "You are in love and you think that is all there is in the world. But the world is bigger than you, Will, and may have need of you. You are a Shadowhunter. You serve a greater cause. Your life is not yours to throw away."

"Then nothing is mine," said Will, and pushed himself away from the mantel, staggering a little as if he really were drunk. "If I don’t even own my own life-"

"Who ever said we were owed happiness?" Magnus said softly, and in his mind he saw the house of his childhood, and his mother flinching away from him with frightened eyes, and her husband, who was not his father, burning.

"What about what we owe to others?"

"I’ve given them everything I have already," said Will, seizing his coat off the back of the chair. "They’ve had enough out of me, and if this is what you have to say to me, then so have you-warlock."

He spat the last word like a curse. Regretting his harshness, Magnus began to rise to his feet, but Will pushed past him toward the door. It slammed behind him. Moments later Magnus saw him pass by the front window, struggling into his coat as he walked, his head bent down against the wind.

Tessa sat before her vanity table, wrapped in her dressing gown and rol ing the smal button back and forth in her palm. She had asked to be left alone to do what Charlotte had requested of her. It was not the first time she had transformed into a man; the Dark Sisters had forced her to do it, more than once, and while it was a peculiar feeling, it was not what fueled her reluctance. It was the darkness she had seen in Starkweather’s eyes, the slight sheen of madness to his tone when he spoke of the spoils he had taken. It was not a mind she wanted to acquaint herself with further.

She did not have to do it, she thought. She could walk out there and tel them she had tried and it had not worked. But she knew even as the thought flickered through her mind, she could not do that. Somehow she had come to think of herself as bound with loyalty to the Institute’s Shadowhunters. They had protected her, shown her kindness, taught her much of the truth of what she was, and they had the same goal she did-find Mortmain and destroy him. She thought of Jem’s kind eyes on her, steady and silver and full of faith.

With a deep breath she closed her fingers around the button.

The darkness came and enveloped her, wrapping her in its cool silence.

The faint sound of the fire crackling in the grate, the wind against the panes of the window, vanished. Blackness and silence. She felt her body Change: Her hands felt large and swol en, shot through with the pains of arthritis. Her back ached, her head felt heavy, her feet were throbbing and painful, and there was a bitter taste in her mouth. Rotting teeth, she thought, and felt ill, so il that she had to force her mind back to the darkness surrounding her, looking for the light, the connection.

It came, but not as the light usual y did, as steady as a beacon. It came in shattered fragments, as if she were watching a mirror break into pieces.

Each piece held an image that whipped by her, some at terrifying speed.

She saw the image of a horse rearing back, a dark hil covered in snow, the black basalt Council room of the Clave, a cracked headstone. She struggled to seize and catch at a single image. Here was one, a memory: Starkweather dancing at a bal with a laughing woman in an empire-waisted bal gown. Tessa discarded it, reaching for another: The house was small, nestled in the shadows between one hil and another. Starkweather watched from the darkness of a copse of trees as the front door opened and out came a man. Even in memory Tessa felt Starkweather’s heart begin to beat more quickly. The man was tall, broad- shouldered-and as green-skinned as a lizard. His hair was black. The child he held by the hand, by contrast, seemed as normal as a child could be- small, chubby-fisted, pink-skinned.

Tessa knew the man’s name, because Starkweather knew it.

John Shade.

Shade hoisted the child up onto his shoulders as through the door of the house spilled a number of odd-looking metal creatures, like a child’s jointed dol s, but human-size, and with skin made of shining metal. The creatures were featureless. Though, oddly, they wore clothes-the rough workman’s coveral s of a Yorkshire farmer on some, and on others plain muslin dresses.

The automatons joined hands and began to sway as if they were at a country dance. The child laughed and clapped his hands.

"Look well on this, my son," said the green-skinned man, "for one day I shal rule a clockwork kingdom of such beings, and you shall be its prince."

"John!" came a voice from inside the house; a woman leaned through the window. She had long hair the color of a cloudless sky. "John, come in.

Someone Will see! And you’l frighten the boy!"

"He’s not frightened at all, Anne." The man laughed, and set the boy down on the ground, ruffling his hair. "My little clockwork prince . . ."

A swel of hatred rose in Starkweather’s heart at the memory, so violent that it ripped Tessa free, sending her spinning through the darkness again.

She began to realize what was happening. Starkweather was becoming senile, losing the thread that connected thought and memory. What came and went in his mind was seemingly random. With an effort she tried to visualize the Shade family again, and caught the brief edge of a memory-a room torn apart, cogs and cams and gears and ripped metal everywhere, fluid leaking as black as blood, and the green-skinned man and blue-haired woman lying dead among the ruins. Then that, too, was gone, and she saw, again and again, the face of the girl from the portrait on the stairwel -the child with the fair hair and stubborn expression-saw her riding a smal pony, her face set determinedly, saw her hair blowing in the wind off the moors- saw her screaming and writhing in pain as a stele was set to her skin and black Marks stained its whiteness. And last, Tessa saw her own face, appearing out of the shadowy gloom of the York Institute’s nave, and she felt the wave of his shock ripple through her, so strong that it threw her out of his body and back into her own.

There was a faint thump as the button fell out of her hand and struck the floor. Tessa raised her head and looked into the mirror over her vanity. She was herself again, and the bitter taste in her mouth now was blood where she had bitten her lip.

She rose to her feet, feeling ill, and went over to the window, throwing it open to feel the cool night air on her sweaty skin. The night outside was heavy with shadow; there was little wind, and the black gates of the Institute seemed to loom before her, their motto speaking more than ever of mortality and death. A glimmer of movement caught her eye. She looked down and saw a white shape gazing up at her from the stony courtyard below. A face, twisted but recognizable. Mrs. Dark.

She gasped and jerked back reflexively, out of sight of the window. A wave of dizziness came over her. She shook it off fiercely, her hands gripping the sill, and pulled herself forward again, gazing down with dread- But the courtyard was empty, nothing moving inside it but shadows. She closed her eyes, then opened them again slowly, and put her hand to the ticking angel at her throat. There had been nothing there, she told herself, just the rags of her wild imagination. tell ing herself she’d better rein in her daydreaming or she’d end up as mad as old Starkweather, she slid the window shut.

Chapter 8: A Shadow On the Soul

Oh, just, subtle, and mighty opium! that to the hearts of poor and rich alike, for the wounds that will never heal, and for "the pangs that tempt the spirit to rebel," bringest an assuaging balm; eloquent opium! that with thy potent rhetoric stealest away the purposes of wrath; and to the guilty man for one night givest back the hopes of his youth, and hands washed pure from blood.

-Thomas De Quincey, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater In the morning when Tessa went down for breakfast, she found to her surprise that Will was not there. She had not realized how completely she had expected him to return during the night, and she found herself pausing in the doorway, scanning the seats around the table as if somehow she had accidental y glanced past him. It was not until her gaze came to rest on Jem, who returned her look with a rueful and worried expression of his own, that she knew that it was true. Will was still gone.