Clockwork Prince (Page 19)

Clockwork Prince(19)
Author: Cassandra Clare

"I’m most sorry to hear that. I hope your father is well," murmured Tessa, praying she would not be stricken down on the spot for this blatant falsehood.

"I suppose I had better go after my brother," said Gideon without answering her question. "If I do not, he Will take the carriage and leave me stranded. I hope to have him back to you at our next session in a better humor." He bowed to Sophie, then Tessa. "Miss Col ins, Miss Gray."

And he was gone, leaving both girls looking after him in mingled confusion and surprise.

With the training session merciful y over, Tessa found herself hurrying to change back into her ordinary clothes, and then to lunch, eager to see if Will had returned. He hadn’t. His chair, between Jessamine and Henry, still sat empty-but there was someone new in the room, someone who made Tessa stop short at the doorway, trying not to stare. A tal man, he sat near the head of the table beside Charlotte, and was green. Not a very dark green -his skin had a faint greenish sheen to it, like light reflecting off the ocean, and his hair was snowy white. From his forehead curled two smal elegant horns.

"Miss Tessa Gray," said Charlotte, making the introductions, "this is the High Warlock of London, Ragnor Fell. Mr. Fell, Miss Gray."

After murmuring that she was delighted to meet him, Tessa sat down at the table beside Jem, diagonal y from Fell, and tried not to stare at him out of the corner of her eye. As Magnus’s cat’s eyes were his warlock’s mark, Fel ‘s would be his horns and tinted skin. She couldn’t help being fascinated by Downworlders still, warlocks in particular. Why were they marked and she wasn’t?

"What’s on the carpet, then, Charlotte?" Ragnor was saying. "Did you real y call me out here to discuss dark doings on the Yorkshire moors? I was under the impression that nothing of great interest ever happened in Yorkshire. In fact, I was under the impression that there was nothing in Yorkshire except sheep and mining."

"So you never knew the Shades?" Charlotte inquired. "The warlock population of Britain is not so large . . ."

"I knew them." As fell sawed into the ham on his plate, Tessa saw that he had an extra joint to each finger. She thought of Mrs. Black, with her elongated taloned hands, and repressed a shudder. "Shade was a little mad, with his obsession with clockwork and mechanisms. Their death was a shock to Downworld. The ripples of it went through the community, and there was even some discussion of vengeance, though none, I believe, was ever taken."

Charlotte leaned forward. "Do you remember their son? Their adopted child?"

"I knew of him. A married warlock couple is rare. One who adopts a human child from an orphanage is rarer still. But I never saw the boy. Warlocks-we live forever. A gap of thirty, even fifty, years between meetings is not unusual.

Of course now that I know what the boy grew up to be, I wish I had met him.

Do you think there is value in attempting to discover who his true parents were?"

"Certainly, if it can be discovered. Whatever information we can glean about Mortmain could be useful."

"I can tell you he gave himself that name," said Fell. "It sounds like a Shadowhunter name. It is the sort of name someone with a grudge against Nephilim, and a dark sense of humor, would take. Mort main-"

"Hand of death," supplied Jessamine, who was proud of her French.

"It does make one wonder," said Tessa. "If the Clave had simply given Mortmain what he wanted-reparations-would he still have become what he did? Would there ever have been a Pandemonium Club at all?"

"Tessa-," Charlotte began, but Ragnor fell waved her silent. He gazed amusedly down the table at Tessa. "You’re the shape-changer, aren’t you?"

he said. "Magnus Bane told me about you. No mark on you at all, they say."

Tessa swal owed and looked him straight in the eye. They were discordantly human eyes, ordinary in his extraordinary face. "No. No mark."

He grinned around his fork. "I do suppose they’ve looked everywhere?"

"I’m sure Will ‘s tried," said Jessamine in a bored tone. Tessa’s silverware clattered to her plate. Jessamine, who had been mashing her peas flat with the side of her knife, looked up when Charlotte let out an aghast, "Jessamine!"

Jessamine shrugged. "Well, he’s like that."

Fel turned back to his plate with a faint smile on his face. "I remember Will ‘s father. Quite the ladies’ man, he was. They couldn’t resist him. Until he met Will ‘s mother, of course. Then he threw it all in and went to live in Wales just to be with her. What a case he was."

"He fell in love," said Jem. "It isn’t that peculiar."

"’Fel ‘ into it," said the warlock, still with the same faint smile. "Hurtled into it is more like. Headlong-crashed into it. Still, there are always some men like that-just one woman for them, and only she Will do, or nothing."

Charlotte looked over at Henry, but he appeared completely lost in thought, counting something-though who knew what-off on his fingers. He was wearing a pink and violet waistcoat today, and had gravy on his sleeve.

Charlotte’s shoulders slumped visibly, and she sighed. "Well," she said. "By all accounts they were very happy together-"

"Until they lost two of their three children and Edmund Herondale gambled away everything they had," said Fell. "But I imagine you never told young Will about that."

Tessa exchanged a glance with Jem. My sister is dead, Will had said.

"They had three children, then?" she said. "Wil had two sisters?"

"Tessa. Please." Charlotte looked uneasy. "Ragnor . . . I never hired you to invade the privacy of the Herondales, or Will. I did it because I had promised Will I would tell him if harm came to his family."

Tessa thought of Will -a twelve-year-old Will, clinging to Charlotte’s hand, begging to be told if his family died. Why run? she thought for the hundredth time. Why put them behind you? She had thought perhaps he did not care, but clearly he had cared. Cared still. She could not stop the tightening at her heart as she thought of him call ing out for his sister. If he loved Cecily as she had once loved Nate . . .

Mortmain had done something to his family, she thought. As he had to hers. That bound them to each other in a peculiar way, she and Will. Whether he knew it or not.

"Whatever it is that Mortmain has been planning," she heard herself say, "he has been planning it a long time. Since before I was born, when he tricked or coerced my parents into ‘making’ me. And now we know that years ago he involved himself with Will ‘s family and moved them to Ravenscar Manor. I fear we are like chess pieces he slides about a board, and the outcome of the game is already known to him."

"That is what he desires us to think, Tessa," said Jem. "But he is only a man. And each discovery we make about him makes him more vulnerable. If we were no threat, he would not have sent that automaton to warn us off."

"He knew exactly where we would be-"

"There is nothing more dangerous than a man bent on revenge," said Ragnor. "A man who has been bent on it for nearly three score years, who has nurtured it from a tiny, poisonous seed to a living, choking flower. He Will see it through, unless you end him first."

"Then, we Will end him," said Jem shortly. It was as close to a threat as Tessa had ever heard him make.

Tessa looked down at her hands. They were a paler white than they had been when she lived in New York, but they were her hands, familiar, the index finger slightly longer than the middle one, the half-moons of her nails pronounced. I could Change them, she thought. I could become anything, anyone. She had never felt more mutable, more fluid, or more lost.

"Indeed." Charlotte’s tone was firm. "Ragnor, I want to know why the Herondale family is in that house-that house that belonged to Mortmain- and I want to see to it that they are safe. And I want to do it without Benedict Lightwood or the rest of the Clave hearing about it."

"I understand. You want me to look out for them as quietly as possible while also making inquiries regarding Mortmain in the area. If he moved them there, it must have been for a purpose."

Charlotte exhaled. "Yes."

Ragnor twirled his fork. "That Will be expensive."

"Yes," Charlotte said. "I am prepared to pay."

Fel grinned. "Then, I am prepared to endure the sheep."

The rest of the lunch passed in awkward conversation, with Jessamine moodily destroying her food without eating it, Jem unusual y quiet, Henry muttering equations to himself, and Charlotte and fell finalizing their plans for the protection of Will ‘s family. As much as Tessa approved of the idea-and she did-there was something about the warlock that made her uncomfortable in a way Magnus never had, and she was glad when lunch was over and she could escape to her room with a copy of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

It was not her favorite of the Bronte sisters’ books-that honor went to Jane Eyre, and then Wuthering Heights, with Tenant a distant third-but she had read the other two so many times that no surprises lay between the pages, only phrases so familiar to her they had become like old friends. What she real y wanted to read was A Tale of Two Cities , but Will had quoted Sydney Carton to her enough times that she was afraid that picking it up would make her think of him, and make the weight of her nervousness greater. After all, it was never Darnay he quoted, only Sydney, drunk and wrecked and dissipated. Sydney, who died for love.

It was dark out, and the wind was blowing gusts of light rain against the windowpanes when the knock came at her door. It was Sophie, carrying a letter on a silver tray. "A letter for you, miss."

Tessa put the book down in astonishment. "Mail for me?"

Sophie nodded and came closer, holding out the tray. "Yes, but it doesn’t say who it’s from. Miss Lovelace almost snatched it, but I managed to keep it from her, nosy thing."

Tessa took the envelope. It was addressed to her, indeed, in a slanting, unfamiliar hand, printed on heavy cream-colored paper. She turned it over once, began to open it, and caught sight of Sophie’s wide-eyed curious gaze reflected in the window. She turned and smiled at her. "That Will be all, Sophie," she said. It was the way she had read her**nes dismissing servants in novels, and it seemed to be correct. With a disappointed look Sophie took her salver and retired from the room.

Tessa unfolded the letter and spread it out on her lap.

Dear sensible Miss Gray, I write to you on behalf of a mutual friend, one William Herondale.

I know that it is his habit to come and go-most often go-from the Institute as he pleases, and that therefore it may be some time before any alarm is raised at his absence. But I ask you, as one who holds your good sense in esteem, not to assume this absence to be of the ordinary sort. I saw him myself last night, and he was, to say the least, distraught when he left my residence. I have reason for concern that he might do himself an injury, and therefore I suggest that his whereabouts be sought and his safety ascertained. He is a difficult young man to like, but I believe you see the good in him, as I do, Miss Gray, and that is why I humbly address my letter to you- Your servant, Magnus Bane Postscript: If I were you, I would not share the contents of this letter with Mrs. Branwell. Just a suggestion.

M.B.

Though reading Magnus’s letter made her feel as if her veins were full of fire, somehow Tessa survived the rest of the afternoon, and dinner as well, without-she thought-betraying any outward sign of her distress. It seemed to take Sophie an agonizingly long time to help her out of her dress, brush her hair, stoke the fire, and tell her the day’s gossip. (Cyril’s cousin worked in the Lightwoods’ house and had reported that Tatiana-Gabriel and Gideon’s sister-was due to return from her honeymoon on the Continent with her new husband any day now. The household was in an uproar as she was rumored to have a most unpleasant disposition.) Tessa muttered something about how she must take after her father that way. Impatience made her voice a croak, and Sophie was only just prevented from rushing out to get her a tisane of mint by Tessa’s insistence that she was exhausted, and needed sleep more than she needed tea.

The moment the door shut behind Sophie, Tessa was on her feet, shimmying out of her nightclothes and into a dress, lacing herself up as best she could and throwing a short jacket on over the top. After a cautious glance out into the corridor, she slipped out of her room and across the hal to Jem’s door, where she knocked as quietly as she could. For a moment nothing happened, and she had the fleeting worry that he had already gone to sleep, but then the door flew open and Jem stood on the threshold.

She had clearly caught him in the middle of readying himself for bed; his shoes and jacket were off, his shirt open at the col ar, his hair an adorable rumpled mess of silver. She wanted to reach out and smooth it down. He blinked at her. "Tessa?"

Without a word she handed him the note. He glanced up and down the corridor, then gestured her inside the room. She shut the door behind him as he read Magnus’s scrawl once, and then again, before bal ing it up in his hand, the crackling paper loud in the room. "I knew it," he said.

It was Tessa’s turn to blink. "Knew what?"

"That this wasn’t an ordinary sort of absence." He sat down on the trunk at the foot of his bed and shoved his feet into his shoes. "I felt it. Here." He put his hand over his chest. "I knew there was something strange. I felt it like a shadow on my soul."

"You don’t think he’d really hurt himself, do you?"

"Hurt himself, I don’t know. Put himself in a situation where he might be hurt -" Jem stood up. "I should go."

"Don’t you mean ‘we’? You weren’t thinking of going looking for Will without me, were you?" she asked archly, and when he said nothing, she said, "That letter was addressed to me, James. I didn’t have to show it to you."

He half-closed his eyes for a moment, and when he opened them, he was smiling crookedly. "James," he said. "Ordinarily only Will call s me that."