Clockwork Prince (Page 5)

Clockwork Prince(5)
Author: Cassandra Clare

Magnus rol ed his eyes. "You’re just determined not to be any help at all, aren’t you?"

The demon shrugged, a peculiarly human gesture. "You forced me to tell the truth. I told it."

"Well, then, have you ever heard of a demon like the one I was describing?" Will broke in, a tinge of desperation in his voice. "Dark blue, with a raspy sort of voice, like sandpaper-and he had a long, barbed tail."

The demon regarded him with a bored expression. "Do you have any idea how many kinds of demons there are in the Void, Nephilim? Hundreds upon hundreds of millions. The great demon city of Pandemonium makes your London look like a village. Demons of all shapes and sizes and colors. Some can change their appearance at will-"

"Oh, be quiet, then, if you’re not going to be of any use," Magnus said, and slammed the book shut. Instantly the candles went out, the demon vanishing with a startled cry, leaving behind only a wisp of foul-smel ing smoke.

The warlock turned to Will. "I was so sure I had the right one this time."

"It’s not your fault." Will flung himself onto one of the divans shoved up against the wall. He felt hot and cold at the same time, his nerves prickling with a disappointment he was trying to force back without much success. He pul ed his gloves off restlessly and shoved them into the pockets of his stil buttoned coat. "You’re trying. Thammuz was right. I haven’t given you very much to go on."

"I assume," Magnus said quietly, "that you have told me all you remember.

You opened a Pyxis and released a demon. It cursed you. You want me to find that demon and see if it Will remove the curse. And that is all you can tel me?"

"It is all I can tell you," said Will. "It would hardly benefit me to hold anything back unnecessarily, when I know what I’m asking. For you to find a needle in -God, not even a haystack. A needle in a tower full of other needles."

"Plunge your hand into a tower of needles," said Magnus, "and you are likely to cut yourself badly. Are you really sure this is what you want?"

"I am sure that the alternative is worse," said Will, staring at the blackened place on the floor where the demon had crouched. He was exhausted. The energy rune he’d given himself that morning before leaving for the Council meeting had worn off by noon, and his head throbbed. "I have had five years to live with it. The idea of living with it for even one more frightens me more than the idea of death."

"You are a Shadowhunter; you are not afraid of death."

"Of course I am," said Will. "Everyone is afraid of death. We may be born of angels, but we have no more knowledge of what comes after death than you do."

Magnus moved closer to him and sat down on the opposite side of the divan. His green-gold eyes shone like a cat’s in the dimness. "You don’t know that there is only oblivion after death."

"You don’t know that there isn’t, do you? Jem believes we are all reborn, that life is a wheel. We die, we turn, we are reborn as we deserve to be reborn, based on our doings in this world." Will looked down at his bitten nails. "I Will probably be reborn as a slug that someone salts."

"The Wheel of Transmigration," said Magnus. His lips twitched into a smile. "Well, think of it this way. You must have done something right in your last life, to be reborn as you were. Nephilim."

"Oh, yes," said Will in a dead tone. "I’ve been very lucky." He leaned his head back against the divan, exhausted. "I take it you’l be needing more . . .

ingredients? I think Old Mol over at Cross Bones is getting sick of the sight of me."

"I have other connections," said Magnus, clearly taking pity on him, "and I need to do more research first. If you could tell me the nature of the curse-"

"No." Will sat up. "I can’t. I told you before, I took a great risk even in tell ing you of its existence. If I told you any more-"

"Then what? Let me guess. You don’t know, but you’re sure it would be bad."

"Don’t start making me think coming to you was a mistake-"

"This has something to do with Tessa, doesn’t it?"

Over the past five years Will had trained himself well not to show emotion -surprise, affection, hopefulness, joy. He was fairly sure his expression didn’t change, but he heard the strain in his voice when he said, "Tessa?"

"It’s been five years," said Magnus. "Yet somehow you have managed all this time, tell ing no one. What desperation drove you to me, in the middle of the night, in a rainstorm? What has changed at the Institute? I can think of only one thing-and quite a pretty one, with big gray eyes-"

Will got to his feet so abruptly, he nearly tipped the divan over. "There are other things," he said, struggling to keep his voice even. "Jem is dying."

Magnus looked at him, a cool, even stare. "He has been dying for years,"

he said. "No curse laid on you could cause or repair his condition."

Will realized his hands were shaking; he tightened them into fists. "You don’t understand-"

"I know you are parabatai," said Magnus. "I know that his death Will be a great loss for you. But what I don’t know-"

"You know what you need to know." Will felt cold all over, though the room was warm and he still wore his coat. "I can pay you more, if it Will make you stop asking me questions."

Magnus put his feet up on the divan. "Nothing Will make me stop asking you questions," he said. "But I Will do my best to respect your reticence."

Relief loosened Will ‘s hands. "Then, you Will still help me."

"I Will still help you." Magnus put his hands behind his head and leaned back, looking at Will through half-lowered lids. "Though I could help you better if you told me the truth, I Will do what I can. You interest me oddly, Will Herondale."

Will shrugged. "That Will do well enough as a reason. When do you plan to try again?"

Magnus yawned. "Probably this weekend. I shall send you a message by Saturday if there are . . . developments."

Developments. Curse. Truth. Jem. Dying. Tessa. Tessa, Tessa, Tessa.

Her name rang in Will ‘s mind like the chime of a bel ; he wondered if any other name on earth had such an inescapable resonance to it. She couldn’t have been named something awful, could she, like Mildred. He couldn’t imagine lying awake at night, staring up at the ceiling while invisible voices whispered "Mildred" in his ears. But Tessa- "Thank you," he said abruptly. He had gone from being too cold to being too warm; it was stifling in the room, still smel ing of burned candle wax. "I Will look forward to hearing from you, then."

"Yes, do," said Magnus, and he closed his eyes. Will couldn’t tell whether he was actual y asleep or simply waiting for Will to leave; either way, it was clearly a hint that he expected Will to depart. Will, not entirely without relief, took it.

Sophie was on her way to Miss Jessamine’s room, to sweep the ashes and clean the grate of the fireplace, when she heard voices in the hall. In her old place of employment she had been taught to "give room"-to turn and look at the wal s while her employers passed by, and do her best to resemble a piece of furniture, something inanimate that they could ignore.

She had been shocked on coming to the Institute to find that things were not managed that way here. First, for such a large house to have so few servants had surprised her. She had not realized at first that the Shadowhunters did much for themselves that a typical family of good breeding would find beneath them-started their own fires, did some of their own shopping, kept rooms like the training area and the weapons room cleaned and neat. She had been shocked at the familiarity with which Agatha and Thomas had treated their employers, not realizing that her fell ow servants had come from families that had served Shadowhunters through the generations-or that they’d had magic of their own.

She herself had come from a poor family, and had been called "stupid"

and been slapped often when she’d first begun working as a maid- because she hadn’t been used to delicate furniture or real silver, or china so thin you could see the darkness of the tea through the sides. But she had learned, and when it had become clear that she was going to be very pretty, she had been promoted to parlor maid. A parlor maid’s lot was a precarious one. She was meant to look beautiful for the household, and therefore her salary had begun to go down each year that she’d aged, once she had turned eighteen.

It had been such a relief, coming to work at the Institute-where no one minded that she was nearly twenty, or demanded that she stare at the wal s, or cared whether she spoke before she was spoken to-that she had almost thought it worth the mutilation of her pretty face at the hands of her last employer. She still avoided looking at herself in mirrors if she could, but the dreadful horror of loss had faded. Jessamine mocked her for the long scar that disfigured her cheek, but the others seemed not to notice, save Will, who occasional y said something unpleasant, but in an almost perfunctory way, as if it were expected of him but his heart were not in it.

But that was all before she had fal en in love with Jem.

She recognized his voice now as he came down the hall, raised in laughter, and answering him was Miss Tessa. Sophie felt an odd little pressure against her chest. Jealousy. She despised herself for it, but it could not be stopped. Miss Tessa was always kind to her, and there was such enormous vulnerability in her wide gray eyes-such a need for a friend-that it was impossible to dislike her. And yet, the way Master Jem looked at her . . . and Tessa did not even seem to notice.

No. Sophie just couldn’t bear to encounter the two of them in the hall, with Jem looking at Tessa the way he had been lately. Clutching the sweeping brush and bucket to her chest, Sophie opened the nearest door and ducked inside, closing it most of the way behind her. It was, like most of the rooms in the Institute, an unused bedroom, meant for visiting Shadowhunters. She would give the rooms a turn once a fortnight or so, unless someone was using them; otherwise they stood undisturbed. This one was quite dusty; motes danced in the light from the windows, and Sophie fought the urge to sneeze as she pressed her eye to the crack in the door.

She had been right. It was Jem and Tessa, coming toward her down the hall. They appeared entirely engaged with each other. Jem was carrying something-folded gear, it looked like-and Tessa was laughing at something he had said. She was looking a little down and away from him, and he was gazing at her, the way one did when one felt one was unobserved. He had that look on his face, that look he usual y got only when he was playing the violin, as if he were completely caught up and entranced.

Her heart hurt. He was so beautiful. She had always thought so. Most people went on about Will, how handsome he was, but she thought that Jem was a thousand times better-looking. He had the ethereal look of angels in paintings, and though she knew that the silvery color of his hair and skin was a result of the medicine he took for his il ness, she couldn’t help finding it lovely too. And he was gentle, firm, and kind. The thought of his hands in her hair, stroking it back from her face, made her feel comforted, whereas usual y the thought of a man, even a boy, touching her made her feel vulnerable and ill. He had the most careful, beautiful y constructed hands. . . .

"I can’t quite believe they’re coming tomorrow," Tessa was saying, turning her gaze back to Jem. "I feel as if Sophie and I are being tossed to Benedict Lightwood to appease him, like a dog with a bone. He can’t really mind if we’re trained or not. He just wants his sons in the house to bother Charlotte."

"That’s true," Jem acknowledged. "But why not take advantage of the training when it’s offered? That’s why Charlotte is trying to encourage Jessamine to take part. As for you, given your talent, even if-I should say, when-Mortmain is no longer a threat, there Will be others attracted to your power. You might do well to learn how to fend them off."

Tessa’s hand went to the angel necklace at her throat, a habitual gesture Sophie suspected she was not even aware of. "I know what Jessie Will say.

She’l say the only thing she needs assistance fending off is handsome suitors."

"Wouldn’t she rather have help fending off the unattractive ones?"

"Not if they’re mundanes." Tessa grinned. "She’d rather an ugly mundane than a handsome Shadowhunter any day."

"That does put me right out of the running, doesn’t it?" said Jem with mock chagrin, and Tessa laughed again.

"It is too bad," she said. "Someone as pretty as Jessamine ought to have her pick, but she’s so determined that a Shadowhunter won’t do-"

"You are much prettier," said Jem.

Tessa looked at him in surprise, her cheeks coloring. Sophie felt the twist of jealousy in her chest again, though she agreed with Jem. Jessamine was quite traditional y pretty, a pocket Venus if ever there was one, but her habitual sour expression spoiled her charms. Tessa, though, had a warm appeal, with her rich, dark, waving hair and sea gray eyes, that grew on you the longer you knew her. There was intel igence in her face, and humor, which Jessamine did not have, or at least did not display.

Jem paused in front of Miss Jessamine’s door, and knocked upon it.

When there was no answer, he shrugged, bent down, and placed a stack of dark fabric-gear-in front of the door.

"She’l never wear it." Tessa’s face dimpled.

Jem straightened up. "I never agreed to wrestle her into the clothes, just deliver them."

He started off down the hal way again, Tessa beside him. "I don’t know how Charlotte can bear to talk to Brother Enoch so often. He gives me the horrors," she said.

"Oh, I don’t know. I prefer to think that when they’re at home, the Silent Brothers are much like us. Playing practical jokes in the Silent City, making toasted cheese-"

"I hope they play charades," said Tessa dryly. "It would seem to take advantage of their natural talents."

Jem burst out laughing, and then they were around the corner and out of sight. Sophie sagged against the door frame. She did not think she had ever made Jem laugh like that; she didn’t think anyone had, except for Will. You had to know someone very well to make them laugh like that. She had loved him for such a long time, she thought. How was it that she did not know him at all?