Clockwork Prince (Page 20)

Clockwork Prince(20)
Author: Cassandra Clare

"I’m sorry-"

"No. Don’t be. I like the sound of it on your lips."

Lips. There was something strangely, delicately indelicate about the word, like a kiss itself. It seemed to hover in the air between them while they both hesitated. But it’s Jem, Tessa thought in bewilderment. Jem. Not Will, who could make her feel as if he were running his fingers along her bare skin just by looking at her- "You’re right," Jem said, clearing his throat. "Magnus would not have sent the letter to you had he not intended you to be part of searching for Will.

Perhaps he thinks your power Will be useful. In either case-" He turned from her, going to his wardrobe and flinging it open. "Wait for me in your room. I Will be there momentarily."

Tessa wasn’t sure if she nodded-she thought she had-and moments later she found herself back in her bedroom, leaning against the door. Her face felt hot, as if she had stood too close to a fire. She looked around.

When had she started to think of this room as her bedroom? The big, grand space, with its mul ioned windows and softly glowing witchlight tapers, was so unlike the tiny box room she had slept in in the flat in New York, with its puddles of wax on the bedside table, caused by her staying up all night reading by candlelight, and the cheap wooden-framed bed with its thin blankets. In the winter the windows, il -seated, would rattle in their frames when the wind blew.

A soft knock on the door drew her out of her reverie, and she turned, flinging it open to find Jem on the threshold. He was full y dressed in Shadowhunter gear-the tough leather-looking black coat and trousers, the heavy boots. He put a finger to his lips and gestured for her to fol ow him.

It was probably ten o’clock at night, Tessa guessed, and the witchlight was burning low. They took a curious, winding path through the corridors, not the one she was used to taking to get to the front doors. Her confusion was answered when they reached a door set at the end of a long corridor. There was a rounded look to the space they stood in, and Tessa guessed they were probably inside one of the Gothic towers that stood at each corner of the Institute.

Jem pushed the door open and ushered her in after him; he closed the door firmly behind them, slipping the key he had used back into his pocket.

"This," he said, "is Will ‘s room."

"Gracious," Tessa said. "I’ve never been in here. I was starting to imagine he slept upside down, like a bat."

Jem laughed and went past her, over to a wooden bureau, and began to rummage through the contents on top of it as Tessa glanced around. Her heart was beating fast, as if she were seeing something she wasn’t meant to see-some secret, hidden part of Will. She told herself not to be sil y, it was just a room, with the same heavy dark furniture as all the other Institute rooms. It was a mess, too-covers kicked down to the foot of the bed; clothes draped over the backs of chairs, teacups half-ful of liquid not yet cleared away, balanced precariously on the nightstand. And everywhere books-books on the side tables, books on the bed, books in stacks on the floor, books double-lined in shelves along the wal s. As Jem rummaged, Tessa wandered to the shelves and looked curiously at the titles.

She was not surprised to find that they were almost all fiction and poetry.

Some were titles in languages she couldn’t read. She recognized Latin and the Greek alphabet. There were also books of fairy tales, The A rabian Nights, James Payn’s work, Anthony Trol ope’s Vicar of Bullhampton, Thomas Hardy’s Desperate Remedies, a pile of Wilkie Col ins-The New Magdalen, The Law and the Lady, The Two Destinies , and a new Jules Verne novel titled Child of the Cavern that she itched to get her hands on.

And then, there it was-A Tale of Two Cities. With a rueful smile she reached to take it from the shelf. As she lifted it, several scrawled-on papers that had been pressed between the covers fluttered to the floor. She knelt to pick them up-and froze. She recognized the handwriting instantly. It was her own.

Her throat tightened as she thumbed through the pages. Dear Nate, she read. I tried to Change today, and failed. It was a coin they gave me, and I could get nothing from it. Either it was never owned by a person, or my power is weakening. I would not care, but that they whipped me-have you ever been whipped before? No, a silly question. Of course you haven’t. It feels like fire being laid in lines across your skin. I am ashamed to say I cried, and you know how I hate to cry . . . And Dear Nate, I missed you so much today, I thought I would die. If you are gone, there is no one in the world who cares if I am dead or alive. I feel myself dissolving, vanishing into nothingness, for if there is no one in the world who cares for you, do you really exist at all?

These were the letters she had written her brother from the Dark House, not expecting Nate to read them-not expecting anyone to read them. They were more of a diary than letters, the only place where she could pour forth her horror, her sadness, and her fear. She knew that they had been found, that Charlotte had read them, but what were they doing here in Will’s room, of all places, hidden between the pages of a book?

"Tessa." It was Jem. She turned quickly, slipping the letters into the pocket of her coat as she did so. Jem stood by the bureau, holding a silver knife in his hand. "By the Angel, this place is such a tip, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to find it." He turned it over in his hands. "Wil didn’t bring much from home when he came here, but he did bring this. It’s a dagger his father gave him. It has the Herondale bird markings on the blade. It should have a strong enough imprint of him for us to track him with it."

Despite the encouraging words, he was frowning.

"What’s wrong?" Tessa asked, crossing the room to him.

"I found something else," he said. "Wil has always been the one to buy my -my medicine for me. He knew I despised the whole transaction, finding Downworlders Will ing to sel it, paying for the stuff . . ." His chest rose and fel quickly, as if merely talking about it sickened him. "I would give him money, and off he would go. I found a bill, though, for the last transaction. It appears the drugs-the medicine-does not cost what I thought it did."

"You mean Will ‘s been cheating you out of money?" Tessa was surprised.

Will could be awful and cruel, she thought, but somehow she had thought his cruelty of a more refined order than that. Less petty. And to do that to Jem, of all people . . .

"Quite the opposite. The drugs cost much more than he said they did. He must have been making up the difference somehow." still frowning, he slid the dagger into his belt. "I know him better than anyone else in the world," he said matter-of-factly. "And yet still I find that Will has secrets that surprise me."

Tessa thought of the letters stuffed into the Dickens book, and what she intended to say to Will about it when she saw him again. "Indeed," she said.

"Though it is not so much a mystery, is it? Will would do anything for you-"

"I’m not sure I would take it quite that far." Jem’s tone was wry.

"Of course he would," said Tessa. "Anyone would. You’re so kind and so good-"

She broke off, but Jem’s eyes had already widened. He looked surprised, as if he were not used to such praise, but surely he must be, Tessa thought in confusion. Surely everyone who knew him knew how lucky they were. She felt her cheeks begin to warm again, and cursed herself. What was going on?

A faint rattle came from the window; Jem turned after a moment’s pause.

"That Will be Cyril," he said, and there was a slight, rough undercurrent to his voice. "I-I asked him to bring the carriage around. We had better go."

Tessa nodded, wordless, and fol owed him from the room.

When Jem and Tessa emerged from the Institute, the wind was still gusting into the courtyard, sending dried leaves skittering in circles like faerie dancers. The sky was heavy with a yel ow fog, the moon a gold disk behind it. The Latin words over the Institute’s gates seemed to glow, picked out by the moonlight: We are dust and shadows.

Cyril, waiting with the carriage and the two horses, Balios and Xanthos, looked relieved to see them; he helped Tessa up into the carriage, Jem fol owing her, and then swung himself up into the driver’s seat. Tessa, sitting opposite Jem, watched with fascination as he drew both the dagger and the stele from his belt; holding the dagger in his right hand, he drew a rune on the back of that hand with the tip of his stele. It looked to Tessa like all Marks looked, a ripple of unreadable waving lines, circling around to connect with one another in bold black patterns.

He gazed down at his hand for a long moment, then shut his eyes, his face stil with intense concentration. Just as Tessa’s nerves began to sing with impatience, his eyes flew open. "Brick Lane, near Whitechapel High Street,"

he said, half to himself; returning the dagger and stele to his belt, he leaned out the window, and she heard him repeat the words to Cyril. A moment later Jem was back in the carriage, shutting the window against the cold air, and they were sliding and bumping forward over the cobblestones.

Tessa took a deep breath. She had been eager to look for Will all day, worried about him, wondering where he was-but now that they were rol ing into the dark heart of London, all she could feel was dread.

Chapter 9: Fierce Midnight

Fierce midnights and famishing morrows,

And the loves that complete and control

A ll the joys of the flesh, all the sorrows

That wear out the soul.

-Algernon Charles Swinburne, "Dolores"

Tessa kept the curtain on her side of the carriage pulled back, her eyes on the glass of the window, as they rol ed along Fleet Street toward Ludgate Hill.

The yel ow fog had thickened, and she could make out little through it-the dark shapes of people hurrying to and fro, the hazy words of advertising signs painted on the sides of buildings. Every once in a while the fog would part and she would get a clear glimpse of something-a little girl carrying bunches of wilting lavender, leaning against a wall, exhausted; a knife grinder rol ing his cart wearily homeward; a sign for Bryant and May’s Lucifer Matches looming suddenly out of the gloom.

"Chuckaways," said Jem. He was leaning back against the seat across from her, his eyes bright in the dimness. She wondered if he had taken some of the drug before they left, and if so, how much.

"Pardon?"

He mimed the act of striking a match, blowing it out, and tossing the remainder over his shoulder. "That’s what they call matches here- chuckaways, because you toss them aside after one use. It’s also what they call the girls who work at the match factories."

Tessa thought of Sophie, who could easily have become one of those "chuckaways," if Charlotte hadn’t found her. "That’s cruel."

"It’s a cruel part of the city we’re going into. The East End. The slums." He sat forward. "I want you to be careful, and to stay close by me."

"Do you know what Will ‘s doing there?" Tessa asked, half-afraid of the answer. They were passing by the great bulk of St. Paul’s now, looming up above them like a giant’s glimmering marble tombstone.

Jem shook his head. "I don’t. I only got a sense-a fleeting image of the street-from the tracking spell. I Will say, though, that there are few harmless reasons for a gentleman to go ‘down to Chapel’ after dark."

"He could be gambling . . ."

"He could be," Jem agreed, sounding as if he doubted it.

"You said you would sense it. Here." Tessa touched herself over the heart.

"If something had happened to him. Is that because you’re parabatai?"

"Yes."

"So there’s more to being parabatai than just swearing to look out for each other. There’s something-mystical about it."

Jem smiled at her, that smile that was like a light suddenly being turned on in every room of a house. "We’re Nephilim. Every one of our life’s passages has some mystical component-our births, our deaths, our marriages, everything has a ceremony. There is one as well if you wish to become someone’s parabatai. First you must ask them, of course. It’s no smal commitment-"

"You asked Will," Tessa guessed.

Jem shook his head, still smiling. "He asked me," he said. "Or rather he told me. We were training, up in the training room, with longswords. He asked me and I said no, he deserved someone who was going to live, who could look out for him all his life. He bet me he could get the sword away from me, and if he succeeded, I’d have to agree to be his blood brother."

"And he got it away from you?"

"In nine seconds flat." Jem laughed. "Pinned me to the wall. He must have been training without my knowing about it, because I’d never have agreed if I’d thought he was that good with a longsword. Throwing daggers have always been his weapons." He shrugged. "We were thirteen. They did the ceremony when we were fourteen. Now it’s been three years and I can’t imagine not having a parabatai."

"Why didn’t you want to do it?" Tessa asked a little hesitantly. "When he first asked you."

Jem ran a hand through his silvery hair. "The ceremony binds you," he said. "It makes you stronger. You have each other’s strength to draw on. It makes you more aware of where the other one is, so you can work seamlessly together in a fight. There are runes you can use if you are part of a pair of parabatai that you can’t use otherwise. But . . . you can choose only one parabatai in your life. You can’t have a second, even if the first one dies. I didn’t think I was a very good bet, considering."

"That seems a harsh rule."

Jem said something then, in a language she didn’t understand. It sounded like "khalepa ta kala."

She frowned at him. "That isn’t Latin?"

"Greek," he said. "It has two meanings. It means that that which is worth having-the good, fine, honorable, and noble things-are difficult to attain."

He leaned forward, closer to her. She could smel the sweet scent of the drug on him, and the tang of his skin underneath. "It means something else as well."

Tessa swal owed. "What’s that?"

"It means ‘beauty is harsh.’"