Clockwork Prince (Page 33)

Clockwork Prince(33)
Author: Cassandra Clare

"Let me guess," Magnus said, exhaling smoke. It made a white cloud in the shape of a heart that distorted as it drifted away from his mouth, expanding and twisting until it was no longer recognizable. "You had the lemonade."

Tessa and Will, now standing side by side, glanced at each other. It was Tessa who spoke first. "I-yes. Nate brought me some."

"It has a bit of a warlock powder mixed into it," said Magnus. He was wearing all black, with no other ornamentation save on his hands. Each finger bore a ring set with a huge stone of a different color-lemon yel ow citrine, green jade, red ruby, blue topaz. "The kind that lowers your inhibitions and makes you do things you would"-he coughed delicately-"not otherwise do."

"Oh," said Will. And then: "Oh." His voice was low. He turned away, leaning his hands on the balustrade. Tessa felt her face begin to burn.

"Gracious, that’s a lot of bosom you’re showing," Magnus went on blithely, gesturing toward Tessa with the burning tip of his cigar. " Tout le monde sur le balcon, as they say in French," he added, miming a vast terrace jutting out from his chest. "Especial y apt, as we are now, in fact, on a balcony."

"Let her alone," said Will. Tessa couldn’t see his face; he had his head down. "She didn’t know what she was drinking."

Tessa crossed her arms, realized this only intensified the severity of the bosom problem, and dropped them. "This is Jessamine’s dress, and she’s half my size," she snapped. "I would never go out like this under ordinary circumstances."

Magnus raised his eyebrows. "Changed back into yourself, did you? When the lemonade took effect?"

Tessa scowled. She felt obscurely humiliated-to have been caught kissing Will ; to be standing in front of Magnus in something her aunt would have dropped dead to see her in-yet part of her wished Magnus would go away so she could kiss Will again. "What are you doing here, yourself, if I might ask?" she snapped ungraciously. "How did you know we were here?"

"I have sources," said Magnus, trailing smoke airily. "I thought you two might be up against it. Benedict Lightwood’s parties have a reputation for danger. When I heard you were here-"

"We’re well equipped to handle danger," Tessa said.

Magnus eyed her bosom openly. "I can see that," he said. "Armed to the teeth, as it were." Done with his cigar, he flicked it over the balcony railing.

"One of Camil e’s human subjugates was here and recognized Will. He got a message to me, but if one of you was recognized already, what’s the chance it could happen again? It’s time to make yourselves scarce."

"What do you care if we get out or not?" It was Will, his head still down, his voice muffled.

"You owe me," Magnus said, his voice steely. "I mean to col ect."

Will turned on him. Tessa was startled to see the expression on his face.

He looked sick and ill. "I should have known that was it."

"You may choose your friends, but not your unlikely saviors," Magnus said cheerful y. "Shal we go, then? Or would you rather stay here and take your chances? You can start up with the kissing where you left off when you get back to the Institute."

Will scowled. "Get us out of here."

Magnus’s cat eyes gleamed. He snapped his fingers, and a shower of blue sparks fell around them in a sudden, startling rain. Tessa tensed, expecting them to burn her skin, but she felt only wind rushing past her face.

Her hair lifted as a strange energy crackled through her nerves. She heard Will gasp-and then they were standing on one of the stone paths in the garden, near the ornamental pond, the great Lightwood manor rising, silent and dark, above them.

"There," said Magnus in a bored tone. "That wasn’t so difficult, was it?"

Will looked at him with no gratitude. "Magic," he muttered.

Magnus threw his hands up. They still crackled with blue energy, like heat lightning. "And just what do you think your precious runes are? Not magic?"

"Shush," Tessa said. She was bone-weary suddenly. She ached where the corset crushed her ribs, and her feet, in Jessamine’s too-smal shoes, were in agony. "Stop spouting off, the both of you. I think someone’s coming."

They all paused, just as a chattering group rounded the corner of the house. Tessa froze. Even in the cloudy moonlight, she could see they were not human. They were not Downworlders, either. It was a group of demons- one a shambling corpse-like figure with black holes for eyes; another half again the size of a man, blue-skinned and dressed in a waistcoat and trousers, but with a barbed tail, lizard’s features, and a flat snakelike snout; and another that seemed to be a spinning wheel covered in wet red mouths.

Several things happened at once.

Tessa jammed the back of her hand against her mouth before she could scream. There was no point in running. The demons had already seen them and had come to a dead stop on the path. The smel of rot wafted from them, blotting out the scent of the trees.

Magnus raised his hand, blue fire circling his fingers. He was muttering words under his breath. He looked as discomposed as Tessa had ever seen him.

And Will -Will, whom Tessa had expected to reach for his seraph blades -did something entirely unexpected. He raised a trembling finger, pointed at the blue-skinned demon, and breathed, "You."

The blue-skinned demon blinked. all the demons stood stock-still, looking at one another. There must have been some agreement in place, Tessa thought, to keep them from attacking the humans at the party, but she did not like the way the wet red mouths were licking their lips. "Er," the demon Will had addressed said, in a surprisingly ordinary voice. "I don’t recal -That is, I don’t think I’ve had the pleasure of your acquaintance?"

"Liar!" Will staggered forward and charged; as Tessa watched in amazement, he barreled past the other demons and threw himself onto the blue demon. It let out a high-pitched shriek. Magnus was watching what was going on with his mouth open. Tessa cried, "Will! Will!" but he was rol ing over and over on the grass with the blue-skinned creature, which was surprisingly nimble. He had it by the back of its waistcoat, but it tore free and dashed away, streaking across the gardens, Will in hot pursuit.

Tessa took a few steps after them, but her feet were a white-hot agony.

Kicking off Jessamine’s shoes, she was about to race after Will when she realized the remaining demons were making an angry buzzing noise. They seemed to be addressing Magnus.

"Ah, well, you know," he said, having regained his composure, and he gestured in the direction Will had disappeared in. "Disagreement. Over a woman. It happens."

The buzzing noise increased. It was clear the demons did not believe him.

"Gambling debt?" Magnus suggested. He snapped his fingers, and flame burst up from his palm, bathing the garden in a stark glow. "I suggest you not concern yourselves over-much with it, gentlemen. Festivities and merriment await you inside." He gestured toward the narrow door that led to the bal room. "Much more pleasant than what Will await you out here if you continue to linger."

That seemed to convince them. The demons moved off, buzzing and muttering, taking their stench of garbage with them.

Tessa spun around. "Quickly, we have to go after them-"

Magnus reached down and scooped her shoes up off the path. Holding them by their satin ribbons, he said, "Not so quickly, Cinderel a. Will ‘s a Shadowhunter. He runs fast. You’l never catch him."

"But you-there must be some magic-"

"Magic," Magnus said, mimicking Will ‘s disgusted tone. "Wil ‘s where he has to be, doing what he has to do. His purpose is kil ing demons, Tessa."

"Do you-not like him?" Tessa asked; it was an odd question, perhaps, but there was something in the way Magnus looked at Will, spoke to Will, that she could not put her finger on.

To her surprise, Magnus took the question seriously. "I do like him," he said, "though rather despite myself. I thought him a pretty bit of poison to start with, but I have come around. There is a soul under all that bravado. And he is really alive, one of the most alive people I have ever met. When he feels something, it is as bright and sharp as lightning."

"We all feel," Tessa said, thoroughly surprised. Will, feeling more strongly than everyone else? Madder than everyone else, perhaps.

"Not like that," said Magnus. "Trust me, I have lived a long time, and I do know." His look was not without sympathy. "And you Will find that feelings fade too, the longer you live. The oldest warlock I ever met had been alive nearly a thousand years and told me he could no longer even remember what love felt like, or hatred, either. I asked him why he did not end his life, and he said he still felt one thing, and that was fear-fear of what lies after death.

‘The undiscover’d country from whose bourne no travel er returns.’"

"Hamlet," said Tessa automatical y. She was trying to push back thoughts of her own possible immortality. The concept of it was too grand and terrifying to truly encompass, and besides . . . it might not even be true.

"We who are immortal, we are chained to this life by a chain of gold, and we dare not sever it for fear of what lies beyond the drop," said Magnus.

"Now come along, and don’t begrudge Will his moral duties." He started off down the path, Tessa limping quickly after him in an effort to keep up.

"But he behaved as if he knew that demon-"

"Probably tried to kil it before," said Magnus. "Sometimes they get away."

"But how Will he get back to the Institute?" Tessa wailed.

"He’s a clever boy. He’l find a way. I’m more concerned with getting you back to the Institute before someone notices you’re missing and there’s the devil of a row." They’d reached the front gates, where the carriage awaited, Cyril resting peaceful y in the driver’s seat, his hat pulled down over his eyes.

She glared mutinously at Magnus as he swung the carriage door open and reached out a hand to help her up into it. "How do you know Will and I didn’t have Charlotte’s permission to be here tonight?"

"Do give me more credit than that, darling," he said, and grinned in such an infectious manner that Tessa, with a sigh, gave him her hand. "Now," he said, "I’ll take you back to the Institute, and on the way you can tell me all about it."

Chapter 13: The Mortal Sword

"Take my share of a fickle heart,

Mine of a paltry love:

Take it or leave it as you will,

I wash my hands thereof."

-Christina Rosetti, "Maude Clare"

"Oh, my dear merciful heavens!" said Sophie, starting up from her chair as Tessa opened the door to Jessamine’s bedroom. "Miss Tessa, what happened?"

"Sophie! Shh!" Tessa waved a warning hand as she shut the door behind her. The room was as she had left it. Her nightgown and dressing gown were folded neatly on a chair, the cracked silver mirror was on the vanity table, and Jessamine-Jessamine was still soundly unconscious, her wrists rope- bound to the posts of the bed. Sophie, seated in a chair by the wardrobe, had clearly been there since Will and Tessa had left; she clutched a hairbrush in one hand (to hit Jessamine with, should she awaken again, Tessa wondered?), and her hazel eyes were huge.

"But miss . . ." Sophie’s voice trailed off as Tessa’s gaze went to her reflection in the looking glass. Tessa could not help but stare. Her hair had come down, of course, in a tangled mess all over her shoulders, Jessamine’s pearl pins gone where Will had flung them; she was shoeless and limping, her white stockings filthy, her gloves gone, and her dress obviously nearly choking her to death. "Was it very dreadful?"

Tessa’s mind went suddenly back to the balcony, and Will ‘s arms around her. Oh, God. She pushed the thought away and glanced over at Jessamine, stil sleeping peaceful y. "Sophie, we are going to have to wake Charlotte.

We have no choice."

Sophie looked at her with round eyes. Tessa could not blame her; she dreaded rousing Charlotte. Tessa had even pleaded with Magnus to come in with her to help break the news, but he had refused, on the grounds that internecine Shadowhunter dramas had nothing to do with him, and he had a novel to get back to besides.

"Miss-," Sophie protested.

"We must." As quickly as she could, Tessa told Sophie the gist of what had happened that night, leaving out the part with Will on the balcony. No one needed to know about that. "This is beyond us now. We cannot come in over Charlotte’s head any longer."

Sophie made no more sound of protest. She laid the hair-brush down on the vanity, stood up, smoothed her skirts, and said, "I Will fetch Mrs. Branwell, miss."

Tessa sank into the chair by the bed, wincing as Jessamine’s dress pinched her. "I wish you would call me Tessa."

"I know, miss." Sophie left, closing the door quietly behind her.

Magnus was lying on the sofa in the drawing room with his boots up when he heard the commotion. He grinned without moving at the sound of Archer protesting, and Will protesting. Footsteps neared the door. Magnus flipped a page in his poetry book as the door swung open and Will stalked in.

He was barely recognizable. His elegant evening clothes were torn and stained with mud, his coat ripped lengthwise, his boots encrusted with mud.

His hair stood up wildly, and his face was raked by dozens of scratches, as if he had been attacked by a dozen cats simultaneously.

"I’m sorry, sir," said Archer despairingly. "He pushed past me."

"Magnus," Will said. He was grinning. Magnus had seen him grin before, but there was real joy in it this time. It transformed Will ‘s face, took it from beautiful but cold to incandescent. "Tel him to let me in."

Magnus waved a hand. "Let him in, Archer."

The human subjugate’s gray face twisted, and the door slammed behind Will. "Magnus!" He half-staggered, half-stalked over to the fireplace, where he leaned against the mantel. "You won’t believe-"