Clockwork Prince (Page 3)

Clockwork Prince(3)
Author: Cassandra Clare

"There have already been a number of complaints lodged through Reparations," rumbled the Consul. "But those Will be dealt with as the Law sees fit. Reparations isn’t really your concern, Benedict-"

"A nd," Benedict went on, his voice rising, "worst of all, she has let a dangerous criminal with plans to harm and destroy Shadowhunters escape, and we have no idea where he might be. Nor is the responsibility for finding him being laid where it should be, on the shoulders of those who lost him!"

His voice rose. In fact, the whole room was in an uproar; Charlotte looked dismayed, Henry confused, and Will furious. The Consul, whose eyes had darkened alarmingly when Benedict had mentioned the Fairchilds-they must have been Charlotte’s family, Tessa realized-remained silent as the noise died down. Then he said, "Your hostility toward the leader of your Enclave does not do you credit, Benedict."

"My apologies, Consul. I do not believe that keeping Charlotte Branwel as the head of the Institute-for we all know that Henry Branwel ‘s involvement is nominal at most-is in the best interests of the Clave. I believe a woman cannot run an Institute; women do not think with logic and discretion but with the emotions of the heart. I have no doubt that Charlotte is a good and decent woman, but a man would not have been fooled by a flimsy spy like Nathaniel Gray-"

"I was fooled." Will had leaped to his feet and swung around, eyes blazing.

"We all were. What insinuations are you making about myself and Jem and Henry, Mr. Lightwood?"

"You and Jem are children," said Benedict cuttingly. "And Henry never looks up from his worktable."

Will started to climb over the back of his chair; Jem tugged him back into his seat with main force, hissing under his breath. Jessamine clapped her hands together, her brown eyes bright.

"This is finally exciting," she exclaimed.

Tessa looked at her in disgust. "Are you hearing any of this? He’s insulting Charlotte!" she whispered, but Jessamine brushed her off with a gesture.

"And who would you suggest run the Institute instead?" the Consul demanded of Benedict, his voice dripping sarcasm. "Yourself, perhaps?"

Benedict spread his hands wide self-deprecatingly. "If you say so, Consull…"

Before he could finish speaking, three other figures had risen of their own accord; two Tessa recognized as members of the London Enclave, though she did not know their names; the third was Lilian Highsmith.

Benedict smiled. Everyone was staring at him now; beside him sat his youngest son Gabriel, who was looking up at his father with unreadable green eyes. His slim fingers gripped the back of the chair in front of him.

"Three to support my claim," Benedict said. "That’s what the Law requires for me to formal y chal enge Charlotte Branwel for the position of head of the London Enclave."

Charlotte gave a little gasp but sat motionless in her seat, refusing to turn around. Jem still had Will by the wrist. And Jessamine continued to look as if she were watching an exciting play.

"No," said the Consul.

"You cannot prevent me from chal enging-"

"Benedict, you chal enged my appointment of Charlotte the moment I made it. You’ve always wanted the Institute. Now, when the Enclave needs to work together more than ever, you bring division and contention to the proceedings of the Council."

"Change is not always accomplished peaceful y, but that does not make it disadvantageous. My chal enge stands." Benedict’s hands gripped each other.

The Consul drummed his fingers on the lectern. Beside him the Inquisitor stood, cold-eyed. finally the Consul said, "You suggest, Benedict, that the responsibility of finding Mortmain should be laid upon the shoulders of those who you claim ‘lost him.’ You would agree, I believe, that finding Mortmain is our first priority?"

Benedict nodded curtly.

"Then, my proposal is this: Let Charlotte and Henry Branwel have charge of the investigation into Mortmain’s whereabouts. If by the end of two weeks they have not located him, or at least some strong evidence pointing to his location, then the chal enge may go forward."

Charlotte shot forward in her seat. "Find Mortmain?" she said. "Alone, just Henry and I-with no help from the rest of the Enclave?"

The Consul’s eyes when they rested on her were not unfriendly, but neither were they entirely forgiving. "You may call upon other members of the Clave if you have some specific need, and of course the Silent Brothers and Iron Sisters are at your disposal," he said. "But as for the investigation, yes, that is for you to accomplish on your own."

"I don’t like this," complained Lilian Highsmith. "You’re turning the search for a madman into a game of power-"

"Do you wish to withdraw your support for Benedict, then?" asked the Consul. "His chal enge would be ended and there would be no need for the Branwel s to prove themselves."

Lilian opened her mouth-and then, at a look from Benedict, closed it. She shook her head.

"We have just lost our servants," said Charlotte in a strained voice.

"Without them-"

"New servants Will be provided to you, as is standard," said the Consul.

"Your late servant Thomas’s brother, Cyril, is traveling here from Brighton to join your household, and the Dublin Institute has given up its second cook for you. Both are well -trained fighters-which, I must say, Charlotte, yours should have been as well."

"Both Thomas and Agatha were trained," Henry protested.

"But you have several in your house who are not," said Benedict. "Not only is Miss Lovelace woeful y behind in her training, but your parlor girl, Sophie, and that Downworlder there-" He pointed at Tessa. "Well, since you seem bent on making her a permanent addition to your household, it would hardly hurt if she-and the maid-were trained in the basics of defense."

Tessa looked sideways at Jem in astonishment. "He means me?"

Jem nodded. His expression was somber.

"I can’t-I’ll chop off my own foot!"

"If you’re going to chop off anyone’s foot, chop off Benedict’s," Will muttered.

"You’l be fine, Tessa. It’s nothing you can’t do," Jem began, but the rest of his words were drowned out by Benedict.

"In fact," Benedict said, "since the two of you Will be so busy investigating Mortmain’s whereabouts, I suggest I lend you my sons-Gabriel, and Gideon, who returns from Spain tonight-as trainers. Both are excel ent fighters and could use the teaching experience."

"Father!" Gabriel protested. He looked horrified; clearly this was not something Benedict had discussed with him in advance.

"We can train our own servants," Charlotte snapped, but the Consul shook his head at her.

"Benedict Lightwood is offering you a generous gift. Accept it."

Charlotte was crimson in the face. After a long moment she bent her head, acknowledging the Consul’s words. Tessa felt dizzy. She was going to be trained? Trained to fight, to throw knives and swing a sword? Of course, one of her favorite her**nes had always been Capitola in The Hidden Hand, who could fight as well as a man-and dressed like one. But that didn’t mean she wanted to be her.

"Very well," said the Consul. "This session of the Council is ended, to be reconvened here, in the same location, in a fortnight. You are all dismissed."

Of course, everyone did not depart immediately. There was a sudden clamor of voices as people began to rise from their seats and chatter eagerly with their neighbors. Charlotte sat still ; Henry beside her, looked as if he wanted desperately to say something comforting but could think of nothing. His hand hovered uncertainly over his wife’s shoulder. Will was glaring across the room at Gabriel Lightwood, who looked coldly in their direction.

Slowly Charlotte rose to her feet. Henry had his hand on her back now, murmuring. Jessamine was already standing, twirling her new white lace parasol. Henry had replaced the old one that had been destroyed in battle with Mortmain’s automatons. Her hair was done up in tight bunches over her ears like grapes. Tessa got quickly to her feet, and the group of them headed up the center aisle of the Council room. Tessa caught whispers on each side of her, bits of the same words, over and over: "Charlotte,"

"Benedict," "never find the Magister," "two weeks,"

"challenge," "Consul," "Mortmain," "Enclave," "humiliating."

Charlotte walked with her back straight, her cheeks red, and her eyes gazing straight ahead as if she couldn’t hear the gossip. Will seemed about to lunge off toward the whisperers to administer rough justice, but Jem had a firm grip on the back of his parabatai’s coat. Being Jem, Tessa reflected, must be a great deal like being the owner of a thoroughbred dog that liked to bite your guests. You had to have a hand on his col ar constantly. Jessamine merely looked bored again. She wasn’t terribly interested in what the Enclave thought of her, or any of them.

By the time they had reached the doors of the Council chamber, they were nearly running. Charlotte paused a moment to let the rest of their group catch up. Most of the crowd was streaming off to the left, where Tessa, Jem, and Will had come from, but Charlotte turned right, marched several paces down the hall, spun around a corner, and abruptly stopped.

"Charlotte?" Henry, catching up to her, sounded worried. "Darling-"

Without warning Charlotte drew her foot back and kicked the wall, as hard as she could. As the wal was stone, this did little damage, though Charlotte let out a low shriek.

"Oh, my," said Jessamine, twirling her parasol.

"If I might make a suggestion," said Will. "About twenty paces behind us, in the Council room, is Benedict. If you’d like to go back in there and try kicking him, I recommend aiming upward and a bit to the left-"

"Charlotte." The deep, gravel y voice was instantly recognizable. Charlotte spun around, her brown eyes widening.

It was the Consul. The runes picked out in silver thread on the hem and sleeves of his cloak glittered as he moved toward the little group from the Institute, his gaze on Charlotte. One hand against the wall, she didn’t move.

"Charlotte," Consul Wayland said again, "you know what your father always said about losing your temper."

"He did say that. He also said that he should have had a son," Charlotte replied bitterly. "If he had-if I were a man-would you have treated me as you just did?"

Henry put his hand on his wife’s shoulder, murmuring something, but she shook it off. Her large, hurt brown eyes were on the Consul.

"And how did I just treat you?" he asked.

"As if I were a child, a little girl who needed scolding."

"Charlotte, I am the one who named you as head of the Institute and the Enclave." The Consul sounded exasperated. "I did it not just because I was fond of Granvil e Fairchild and knew he wanted his daughter to succeed him, but because I thought you would accomplish the job well."

"You named Henry, too," she said. "And you even told us when you did it that it was because the Enclave would accept a married couple as their leader, but not a woman alone."

"Well, congratulations, Charlotte. I do not think any members of the London Enclave are under the impression that they are in any way being led by Henry."

"It’s true," Henry said, looking at his shoes. "They all know I’m rather useless. It’s my fault all this happened, Consul-"

"It isn’t," said Consul Wayland. "It is a combination of a generalized complacency on the part of the Clave, bad luck and bad timing, and some poor decisions on your part, Charlotte. Yes, I am holding you accountable for them-"

"So you agree with Benedict!" Charlotte cried.

"Benedict Lightwood is a blackguard and a hypocrite," said the Consul wearily. "Everyone knows that. But he is political y powerful, and it is better to placate him with this show than it would be to antagonize him further by ignoring him."

"A show? Is that what you call this?" Charlotte demanded bitterly. "You have set me an impossible task."

"I have set you the task of locating the Magister," said Consul Wayland.

"The man who broke into the Institute, kil ed your servants, took your Pyxis, and plans to build an army of clockwork monsters to destroy us all -in short, a man who must be stopped. As head of the Enclave, Charlotte, stopping him is your task. If you consider it impossible, then perhaps you should ask yourself why you want the job so badly in the first place."

Chapter 2: Reparations

Then share thy pain, allow that sad relief;

A h, more than share it! give me all thy grief.

-Alexander Pope, "Eloisa to Abelard"

The witchlight that il uminated the Great Library seemed to be flickering low, like a candle guttering down in its holder, though Tessa knew that was just her imagination. Witchlight, unlike fire or gas, never seemed to fade or burn away.

Her eyes, on the other hand, were beginning to tire, and from the looks of her companions, she wasn’t the only one. They were all gathered around one of the long tables, Charlotte at its head, Henry at Tessa’s right. Will and Jem sat farther down, beside each other; only Jessamine had retreated to the very far end of the table, separated from the others. The surface of the table was liberal y covered with papers of all sorts-old newspaper articles, books, sheets of parchment covered with fine spidery writing. There were genealogies of various Mortmain families, histories of automatons, endless books of spel s of summoning and binding, and every bit of research on the Pandemonium Club that the Silent Brothers had managed to scrape out of their archives.

Tessa had been tasked with the job of reading through the newspaper articles, looking for stories about Mortmain and his shipping company, and her eyes were beginning to blur, the words dancing on the pages. She was relieved when Jessamine at last broke the silence, pushing away the book she had been reading-On the Engines of Sorcery-and said, "Charlotte, I think we’re wasting our time."