Clockwork Prince (Page 38)

Clockwork Prince(38)
Author: Cassandra Clare

"I didn’t-I assumed they were demon playthings of some sort-"

"They can only have come from Mortmain," said Sophie. "You haven’t seen his automatons before, but Mr. Herondale and Miss Gray, they have, and they were sure."

"But why would my father have anything of Mortmain’s?"

Sophie shook her head. "It may be that you should not ask me questions you don’t want the answer to, Mr. Lightwood."

"Miss Col ins." His hair fell forward over his eyes; he tossed it back with an impatient gesture. "Miss Col ins, I know that whatever you tell me, it Will be the truth. In many ways, of all those I have met in London, I find you the most trustworthy-more so than my own family."

"That seems to me a great misfortune, Mr. Lightwood, for we have known each other only a little time indeed."

"I hope to change that. At least walk to the park with me, Soph-Miss Col ins. tell me this truth of which you speak. If then you still desire no further connection with me, I Will respect your wishes. I ask only for an hour or so of your time." His eyes pleaded with her. "Please?"

Sophie felt, almost against her will, a rush of sympathy for this boy with his sea-storm eyes, who seemed so alone. "Very well," she said. "I Will come to the park with you."

An entire carriage ride alone with Jem, Tessa thought, her stomach clenching as she drew on her gloves and cast a last glance at herself in the pier glass in her bedroom. Just two nights ago the prospect had precipitated in her no new or unusual feelings; she had been worried about Will, and curious about Whitechapel, and Jem had gently distracted her as they’d rol ed along, speaking of Latin and Greek and parabatai.

And now? Now she felt like a net of butterflies was loose in her stomach at the prospect of being shut up in a small, close space alone with him. She glanced at her pale face in the mirror, pinched her cheeks and bit her lips to bring color into them, and reached for her hat on the stand beside the vanity.

Settling it on her brown hair, she caught herself wishing she had golden curls like Jessamine, and thought-Could I? Would it be possible to Change just that one smal part of herself, give herself shimmering hair, or perhaps a slimmer waist or full er lips?

She whirled away from the glass, shaking her head. How had she not thought of that before? And yet the mere idea seemed like a betrayal of her own face. Her hunger to know what she was still burned inside her; if even her own features were no longer the ones she’d been born with, how could she justify this demand, this need to know her own nature? Don’t you know there is no Tessa Gray? Mortmain had said to her. If she used her power to turn her eyes sky blue or to darken her lashes, wouldn’t she be proving him right?

She shook her head, trying to cast the thoughts off as she hurried from her room and down the steps to the Institute’s entryway. Waiting in the courtyard was a black carriage, unmarked by any coat of arms and driven by a pair of matched horses the color of smoke. In the driver’s seat sat a Silent Brother; it was not Brother Enoch but another of his brethren that she didn’t recognize.

His face was not as scarred as Enoch’s, from what she could see beneath the hood.

She started down the steps just as the door opened behind her and Jem came out; it was chil y, and he wore a light gray coat that made his hair and eyes look more silver than ever. He looked up at the equal y gray sky, heavy with black-edged clouds, and said, "We’d better get into the carriage before it starts to rain."

It was a perfectly ordinary thing to say, but Tessa was struck speechless all the same. She fol owed Jem silently to the carriage and all owed him to help her in. As he climbed in after her, and swung the door shut behind them, she noticed he was not carrying his sword-cane.

The carriage started forward with a lurch. Tessa, her hand at the window, gave a cry. "The gates-they’re locked! The carriage-"

"Hush." Jem put his hand on her arm. She couldn’t help a gasp as the carriage rumbled up to the padlocked iron gates-and passed through them, as if they had been made of no more substance than air. She felt the breath go out of her in a whoosh of surprise. "The Silent Brothers have strange magic," said Jem, and dropped his hand.

At that moment it began to rain, the sky opening up like a punctured hot water bottle. Through the sheets of silver Tessa stared as the carriage rol ed through pedestrians as if they were ghosts, slipped into the narrowest cracks between buildings, rattled through a courtyard and then a warehouse, boxes all about them, and emerged finally on the Embankment, itself slick and wet with rain beside the heaving gray water of the Thames.

"Oh, dear God," Tessa said, and drew the curtain shut. "Tel me we aren’t going to rol into the river."

Jem laughed. Even through her shock, it was a welcome sound. "No. The carriages of the Silent City travel only on land, as far as I know, though that travel is peculiar. It’s a bit sickening the first time or two, but you get used to it."

"Do you?" She looked at him directly. This was the moment. She had to say it, before their friendship suffered further. Before there could be more awkwardness. "Jem," she said.

"Yes?"

"I-you must know-how very much your friendship means to me," she began, awkwardly. "And-"

A look of pain flashed across his face. "Please don’t."

Thrown off her stride, Tessa could only blink. "What do you mean?"

"Every time you say that word, ‘friendship,’ it goes into me like a knife," he said. "To be friends is a beautiful thing, Tessa, and I do not scorn it, but I have hoped for a long time now that we might be more than friends. And then I had thought after the other night that perhaps my hopes were not in vain. But now-"

"Now I have ruined everything," she whispered. "I am so sorry."

He looked toward the window; she could sense that he was fighting some strong emotion. "You should not have to apologize for not returning my feelings."

"But Jem." She was bewildered, and could think only of taking his pain away, of making him feel less hurt. "I was apologizing for my behavior that other night. It was forward and inexcusable. What you must think of me . . ."

He looked up in surprise. "Tessa, you can’t think that, can you? It is I who have behaved inexcusably. I have barely been able to look at you since, thinking how much you must despise me-"

"I could never despise you," she said. "I have never met anyone as kind and good as you are. I thought it was you who were dismayed by me. That you despised me."

Jem looked shocked. "How could I despise you when it was my own distraction that led to what happened between us? If I had not been in such a desperate state, I would have shown more restraint."

He means he would have had enough restraint to stop me, Tessa thought. He does not expect propriety of me. He assumes it would not be in my nature. She stared fixedly at the window again, or the bit of it she could see. The river was visible, black boats bobbing on the tide, the rain mixing with the river.

"Tessa." He scrambled across the carriage so that he was sitting beside her rather than across from her, his anxious, beautiful face close to hers. "I know that mundane girls are taught that it is their responsibility not to tempt men. That men are weak and women must restrain them. I assure you, Shadowhunter mores are different. More equal. It was our equal choice to do -what we did."

She stared at him. He was so kind, she thought. He seemed to read the fears in her heart and move to dispel them before she could speak them aloud.

She thought then of Will. Of what had transpired between them the previous evening. She pushed away the memory of the cold air all around them, the heat between their bodies as they clung together. She had been drugged, as had he. Nothing they had said or done meant anything more than an opium addict’s babbling. There was no need to tell anyone; it had meant nothing. Nothing.

"Say something, Tessa." Jem’s voice shook. "I fear that you think that I regret that night. I do not." His thumb brushed over her wrist, the bare skin between the cuff of her dress and her glove. "I only regret that it came too soon. I-I would have wanted to-to court you first. To take you driving, with a chaperon."

"A chaperon?" Tessa laughed despite herself.

He went on determinedly. "To tell you of my feelings first, before I showed them. To write poetry for you-"

"You don’t even like poetry," Tessa said, her voice catching on a half laugh of relief.

"No. But you make me want to write it. Does that not count for anything?"

Tessa’s lips curled into a smile. She leaned forward and looked up into his face, so close to hers that she could make out each individual silvery eyelash on his lids, the faint white scars on his pale throat where once there had been Marks. "That sounds almost practiced, James Carstairs. How many girls have you made swoon with that observation?"

"There is only one girl I care to make swoon," he said. "The question is, does she?"

She smiled at him. "She does."

A moment later-she did not know how it had happened-he was kissing her, his lips soft on hers, his hand rising to cup her cheek and chin, holding her face steady. Tessa heard a light crinkling and realized it was the sound of the silk flowers on her hat being crushed against the side of the carriage as his body pressed hers back. She clutched at his coat lapels, as much to keep him close as to stop herself from fal ing over.

The carriage came to a jerking halt. Jem drew back from her, looking dazed. "By the Angel," he said. "Perhaps we do need a chaperon."

Tessa shook her head. "Jem, I . . ."

Jem still looked stunned. "I think I’d better sit over here," he said, and moved to the seat across from hers. Tessa glanced toward the window.

Through the gap in the curtains she saw that the Houses of Parliament loomed above them, towers framed darkly against the lightening sky. It had stopped raining. She was not sure why the carriage had stopped; indeed, it rumbled into life a moment later, rol ing directly into what seemed a pit of black shadow that had opened up before them. She knew enough not to gasp in surprise this time; there was darkness, and then they rol ed out into the great room of black basalt lit with torches that she remembered from the Council meeting.

The carriage stopped and the door flew open. Several Silent Brothers stood on the other side. Brother Enoch was at their head. Two Brothers flanked him, each holding a burning torch. Their hoods were back. Both were blind, though only one, like Enoch, seemed to have missing eyes; the others had eyes that were shut, with runes scrawled blackly across them. all had their lips stitched shut.

Welcome again to the Silent City, Daughter of Lilith, said Brother Enoch.

For a moment Tessa wanted to reach behind herself for the warm pressure of Jem’s hand on hers, let him help her out of the carriage. She thought of Charlotte then. Charlotte, so smal and strong, who leaned on no one.

She emerged from the carriage on her own, the heels of her boots ringing on the basalt floor. "Thank you, Brother Enoch," she said. "We are here to see Jessamine Lovelace. Will you take us to her?"

The prisons of the Silent City were beneath its first level, past the pavilion of the Speaking Stars. A dark staircase led down. The Silent Brothers went first, fol owed by Jem and Tessa, who had not spoken to each other since they’d left the carriage. It was not an awkward silence, though. There was something about the haunting grandeur of the City of Bones, with its great mausoleums and soaring arches, that made her feel as if she were in a museum or a church, where hushed voices were required.

At the bottom of the stairs, a corridor snaked in two directions; the Silent Brothers turned to the left, and led Jem and Tessa nearly to the end of the hall. As they went, they passed row after row of smal chambers, each with a barred, padlocked door. Each contained a bed and washstand, and nothing else. The wal s were stone, and the smel was of water and dampness.

Tessa wondered if they were under the Thames, or somewhere else altogether.

At last the Brothers stopped at a door, the second to the last on the hall, and Brother Enoch touched the padlock. It clicked open, and the chains holding the door shut fell away.

You are welcome to enter, said Enoch, stepping back. We will be waiting for you outside.

Jem put his hand to the door handle and hesitated, looking at Tessa.

"Perhaps you should talk to her for a moment alone. Woman to woman."

Tessa was startled. "Are you sure? You know her better than I do-"

"But you know Nate," said Jem, and his eyes flicked away from her briefly.

Tessa had the feeling there was something he was not tell ing her. It was such an unusual feeling when it came to Jem that she was not sure how to react. "I Will join you in a moment, once you have put her at ease."

Slowly Tessa nodded. Brother Enoch swung the door open, and she walked inside, flinching a little as the heavy door crashed to behind her.

It was a smal room, like the others, stone-bound. There was a washstand and what had probably once been a ceramic jug of water; now it was in pieces on the floor, as if someone had thrown it with great force against the wall. On the narrow bed sat Jessamine in a plain white gown, a rough blanket wrapped around her. Her hair fell around her shoulders in tangled snakes, and her eyes were red.

"Welcome. Nice place to live out of, isn’t this?" Jessamine said. Her voice sounded rough, as if her throat were swol en from crying. She looked at Tessa, and her lower lip began to tremble. "Did-did Charlotte send you to bring me back?"

Tessa shook her head. "No."

"But-" Jessamine’s eyes began to fill. "She can’t leave me here. I can hear them, all night." She shuddered, pul ing the blanket closer around her.

"You can hear what?"

"The dead," she said. "Whispering in their tombs. If I stay down here long enough, I Will join them. I know it."

Tessa sat down on the edge of the bed and careful y touched Jessamine’s hair, stroking the snarls lightly. "That won’t happen," she said, and Jessamine began to sob. Her shoulders shook. Helplessly Tessa looked around the room, as if something in the miserable cel might give her inspiration.