Clockwork Prince (Page 41)

Clockwork Prince(41)
Author: Cassandra Clare

Jessamine’s hal was the same hal that led to the steps to the training room. She had seen Sophie and Gideon disappear down it minutes ago.

Only, they had not disappeared; they were still there. The light was low, and they were only shadows in the dimness, but Tessa could see them plainly: Sophie, standing against the wall, and Gideon pressing her hand.

Tessa took a step backward, her heart jerking inside her chest. Neither of them saw her. They seemed entirely concentrated on each other. Gideon leaned in then, murmuring something to Sophie; gently he brushed a stray strand of hair from her face. Tessa’s stomach tensed, and she turned and crept away, as soundlessly as she could.

The sky had turned a shade darker when she came back out onto the steps. Cyril was there, whistling off-key; he broke off abruptly when he saw Tessa’s expression. "Is everything all right, miss? Did you get what you wanted?"

Tessa thought of Gideon moving Sophie’s hair away from her face. She remembered Will ‘s hands gentle on her waist and the softness of Jem’s kiss on her cheek, and felt as if her mind were whirling. Who was she to tel Sophie to be careful, even silently, when she was so lost herself?

"Yes," she lied. "I got what I wanted. Thank you, Cyril."

The warehouse was a great limestone building surrounded by a black wrought iron fence. The windows had been boarded over, and a stout iron padlock held closed the front gates, over which the blackening name of Mortmain and Co. could barely be seen below layers of soot.

The Shadowhunters left the carriage drawn up to the curb, with a glamour on it to prevent it from being stolen or molested by passing mundanes, at least until Cyril arrived to wait with it. A closer inspection of the padlock showed Will that it had been oiled recently and opened; a rune took care of the lack of a key, and he and the others slipped inside, closing the gate behind them.

Another rune unlocked the front door, leading them into a suite of offices.

Only one was still furnished, with a desk, a green-shaded lamp, and a floral sofa with a high carved back. "Doubtless where Jessamine and Nate accomplished the majority of their courtship," Will observed cheerful y.

Jem made a noise of disgust and poked at the couch with his cane.

Charlotte was bending over the desk, hastily going through the drawers.

"I didn’t realize you’d taken up such a strong anti-courtship stance," Will observed to Jem.

"Not on principle. The thought of Nate Gray touching anyone-" Jem made a face. "And Jessamine is so convinced he loves her. If you could see her, I think even you might pity her, Will."

"I would not," said Will. "Unrequited love is a ridiculous state, and it makes those in it behave ridiculously." He tugged at the bandage on his arm as if it were paining him. "Charlotte? The desk?"

"Nothing." She slid the drawers shut. "Some papers listing the prices of tea and the times of tea auctions, but other than that, nothing but dead spiders."

"How romantic," murmured Will. He ducked behind Jem, who had already wandered ahead into the adjacent office, using his cane to sweep away cobwebs as he went. The next few rooms were empty, and the last opened out onto what had once been a warehouse floor. It was a great shadowy cavernous space, its ceiling disappearing up into darkness. Rickety wooden steps led up to a second-floor gal ery. Burlap bags were propped against the wal s on the first floor, looking for all the world, in the shadows, like slumped bodies. Will raised his witchlight rune-stone in one hand, sending out spokes of light through the room as Henry went to investigate one of the sacks. He was back in a moment, shrugging his shoulders.

"Broken bits of loose-leaf tea," he said. "Orange pekoe, from the looks of it."

But Jem was shaking his head, glancing about. "I am perfectly Will ing to accept that this was an active tea-trading office at one point, but it’s clearly been shuttered for years, ever since Mortmain decided to interest himself in mechanisms instead. And yet the floor is clear of dust." He took Will ‘s wrist, guiding the beam of witchlight over the smooth wooden floor. "There has been activity here-more than simply Jessamine and Nate’s meeting in a disused office."

"There are more offices that way," said Henry, pointing to the far end of the room. "Charlotte and I Will search them. Will, Jem, you examine the second floor."

It was a rare and novel thril when Henry gave orders; Will looked at Jem and grinned, and commenced making his way up the rickety wooden stairs.

The steps creaked under the pressure, and under Jem’s slighter weight behind Will. The witchlight stone in Will ‘s hand threw sharp patterns of light against the wal as he reached the top step.

He found himself on a gal ery, a platform where perhaps trunks of tea had been stored, or a foreman had watched the floor below. It was empty now, save for a single figure, lying on the ground. The body of a man, slim and youthful, and as Will came closer, his heart began to pound crazily, because he had seen this before-had had this vision before-the limp body, the silver hair and dark clothes, the closed bruised-looking eyes, fringed with silver lashes.

"Wil ?" It was Jem, behind him. He looked from Will ‘s silent, stunned face to the body on the floor and pushed past him to kneel down. He took the man by the wrist just as Charlotte reached the top of the steps. Will looked at her in surprise for a moment; her face was sheened with sweat and she looked slightly ill. Jem said, "He has a pulse. Will ?"

Will came closer, and knelt down beside his friend. At this distance it was easy to see that the man on the floor was not Jem. He was older, and Caucasian; he had a growth of silver stubble on his chin and cheeks, and his features were broader and less defined. Will ‘s heartbeat slowed as the man’s eyes fluttered open.

They were silver discs, like Jem’s. And in that moment Will recognized him. He smelled the sweet-sour tang of burning warlock drugs, felt the heat of them in his veins, and knew that he had seen this man before, and knew where.

"You’re a werewolf," he said. "One of the packless ones, buying yin fen off the ifrits down the Chapel. Aren’t you?"

The werewolf’s eyes roamed over them both, and fastened on Jem. His lids narrowed, and his hand shot out, grabbing Jem by the lapels. "You," he wheezed. "You’re one of us. ‘ave you got any of it on you-any of the stuff-"

Jem recoiled. Will seized the werewolf by the wrist and yanked his hand free. It wasn’t difficult; there was very little strength in his nerveless fingers.

"Don’t touch him." Will heard his own voice as if from a distance, clipped and cold. "He doesn’t have any of your filthy powder. It doesn’t work on us Nephilim like it does on you."

"Will." There was a plea in Jem’s voice: Be kinder.

"You work for Mortmain," said Will. "Tel us what you do for him. tell us where he is."

The werewolf laughed. Blood splashed up over his lips and dribbled down his chin. Some of it splattered onto Jem’s gear. "As if-I’d know-where the Magister was," he wheezed. "Bloody fools, the pair of you. Bloody useless Nephilim. If I ‘ad-me strength-I’d chop yer into bloody rags-"

"But you don’t." Will was remorseless. "And maybe we do have some yin fen."

"You don’t. You think-I don’t know?" The werewolf’s eyes wandered.

"When ‘e gave it to me first, I saw things-such things as yer can’t imagine- the great crystal city-the towers of Heaven-" Another spasming cough racked him. More blood splattered. It had a silvery sheen to it, like mercury.

Will exchanged a look with Jem. The crystal city. He couldn’t help thinking of Alicante, though he had never been there. "I thought I were going ter live forever-work all night, all day, never get tired. Then we started dying off, one by one. The drug, it kil s ya, but ‘e never said. I came back here to see if maybe there was still any of it stashed somewhere. But there’s none. No point leavin’. I’m dyin’ now. Might as well die ‘ere as anywhere."

"He knew what he was doing when he gave you that drug," said Jem. "He knew it would kil you. He doesn’t deserve your secrecy. tell us what he was doing-what he was keeping you working on all night and day."

"Putting those things together-those metal men. They don’t ‘arf give you the Will ies, but the money were good and the drugs were better-"

"And a great deal of good that money Will do you now," said Jem, his voice uncharacteristical y bitter. "How often did he make you take it? The silver powder?"

"Six, seven times a day."

"No wonder they’re running out of it down the Chapel," Will muttered.

"Mortmain’s control ing the supply."

"You’re not supposed to take it like that," said Jem. "The more you take, the faster you die."

The werewolf fixed his gaze on Jem. His eyes were shot through with red veins. "And you," he said. " ‘Ow much longer ‘ave you got left?"

Will turned his head. Charlotte was motionless behind him at the top of the stairs, staring. He raised a hand to gesture her over. "Charlotte, if we can get him downstairs, perhaps the Silent Brothers can do something to help him. If you could-"

But Charlotte, to Will ‘s surprise, had turned a pale shade of green. She clapped her hand over her mouth and dashed downstairs.

"Charlotte!" Will hissed; he didn’t dare shout. "Oh, bloody hell. all right, Jem. You take his legs, I’ll take his shoulders-"

"There’s no point, Will." Jem’s voice was soft. "He’s dead."

Will turned back. Indeed, the silver eyes were wide open, glassy, fixed on the ceiling; the chest had ceased to rise and fall. Jem reached to close his eyelids, but Will caught his friend by the wrist.

"Don’t."

"I wasn’t going to give him the blessing, Will. Just close his eyes."

"He doesn’t deserve that. He was working with the Magister!" Will ‘s whisper was rising to a shout.

"He is like me," said Jem simply. "An addict."

Will looked at him over their joined hands. "He is not like you. And you Will not die like that."

Jem’s lips parted in surprise. "Will. . ."

They both heard the sound of a door opening, and a voice call ing out Jessamine’s name. Will released Jem’s wrist, and both of them dropped flat to the ground, inching to the edge of the gal ery to see what was happening on the warehouse floor.

Chapter 16: Mortal Rage

When I have seen by Time’s fell hand defac’d

The rich-proud cost of outworn buried age;

When sometime lofty towers I see down-raz’d,

And brass eternal slave to mortal rage

-Shakespeare, "Sonnet 64"

It was a peculiar experience walking the streets of London as a boy, Tessa thought as she made her way along the crowded pavement of Eastcheap.

The men who crossed her path spared her barely a glance, just pushed past her toward the doors of public houses or the next turn in the street. As a girl, walking alone through these streets at night in her fine clothes, she would have been the object of stares and jeers. As a boy she was-invisible. She had never realized what it was like to be invisible before. How light and free she felt-or would have felt, had she not felt like an aristocrat from A Tale of Two Cities on his way to the guil otine in a tumbrel.

She caught sight of Cyril only once, slipping between two buildings across the road from 32 Mincing Lane. It was a great stone building, and the black iron fence surrounding it, in the vanishing twilight, looked like rows of jagged black teeth. From the front gates dangled a padlock, but it had been left open; she slipped through, and then up the dusty steps to the front door, which was also unlocked.

Inside she found that the empty offices, their windows looking out onto Mincing Lane, were still and dead; a fly buzzed in one, hurling itself over and over against the plated glass panes until it fell, exhausted, to the sill. Tessa shuddered and hurried on.

In each room she walked into, she tensed, expecting to see Nate; in each room, he was not there. The final room had a door that opened out onto the floor of a warehouse. Dim blue light filtered in through the cracks in the boarded-up windows. She looked around uncertainly. "Nate?" she whispered.

He stepped out of the shadows between two flaking plaster pil ars. His blond hair shone in the bluish light, under a silk top hat. He wore a blue tweed frock coat, black trousers, and black boots, but his usual y immaculate appearance was disheveled. His hair hung lankly in his eyes, and there was a smear of dirt across his cheek. His clothes were wrinkled and creased as if he had slept in them. "Jessamine," he said, relief evident in his tone. "My darling." He opened his arms.

She came forward slowly, her whole body tensed. She did not want Nate touching her, but she could see no way to avoid his embrace. His arms went around her. His hand caught the brim of her hat and pulled it free, letting her fair curls tumble down her back. She thought of Will pul ing the pins from her hair, and her stomach involuntarily tightened.

"I need to know where the Magister is," she began in a shaking voice. "It’s terribly important. I overheard some of the Shadowhunters’ plans, you see. I know you didn’t wish to tell me, but . . ."

He pushed her hair back, ignoring her words. "I see," he said, and his voice was deep and husky. "But first-" He tipped her head up with a finger under her chin. "Come and kiss me, sweet-and-twenty."

Tessa wished he wouldn’t quote Shakespeare. She’d never be able to hear that sonnet again without wanting to be sick. Every nerve in her body wanted to leap screaming through her skin in revulsion as he leaned toward her. She prayed for the others to burst in as she let him tilt her head up, up- Nate began to laugh. With a jerk of his wrist, he sent her hat sailing into the shadows; his fingers tightened on her chin, the nails digging in. "My apologies for my impetuous behavior," he said. "I couldn’t help but be curious to see how far you’d go to protect your Shadowhunter friends . . . little sister."

"Nate." Tessa tried to jerk backward, out of his grasp, but his grip on her was too strong. His other hand shot out like a snake, spinning her around, pinning her against him with his forearm across her throat. His breath was hot against her ear. He smelled sour, like old gin and sweat.