Clockwork Prince (Page 53)

Clockwork Prince(53)
Author: Cassandra Clare

For the sweet last sound of her feet, her breath,

For gifts she gave you, gracious and few,

Tears and kisses, that lady of yours.

-Algernon Charles Swinburne,

"The Triumph of Time"

Music poured out from under Jem’s door, which was partly cracked open.

Will stood with his hand on the knob, his shoulder against the wall. He felt profoundly exhausted, more tired than he ever had in his life. A terrible burning energy had kept him alert since he had left Cheyne Walk, but it was gone now, drained away, and there was only an exhausted darkness.

He had waited for Tessa to call after him once he had slammed the drawing room door, but she had not. He could still see her, looking at him, with her eyes like great gray storm clouds. Jem has proposed to me, and I have said yes.

Do you love him?

I love him.

And yet here he was, standing in front of Jem’s door. He did not know if he had come here to try to talk Jem out of Tessa-if such a thing could be accomplished-or, more likely, if this was where he had learned to go for comfort and he could not unlearn the habit of years. He pushed the door open; witchlight poured out into the hal way, and he stepped into Jem’s room.

Jem was sitting on the trunk at the foot of his bed, his violin balanced on his shoulder. His eyes were closed as the bow sawed over the string, but the corners of his lips quirked up as his parabatai came into the room, and he said: "Wil ? Is that you, Will ?"

"Yes," Will said. He was standing just inside the room, feeling as if he could go no farther.

Jem stopped playing and opened his eyes. "Telemann," he said. "Fantasia in E-flat major." He set the violin and bow down. "Well, come in, then. You’re making me nervous, standing there."

Will took a few more steps inside. He had spent so much time in this room, he knew it as well as his own. Jem’s col ection of music books; the case in which his violin lived when he was not playing it; the windows that let in square patches of sunlight. The trunk that had come all the way from Shanghai. The cane with its jade top, leaning against the wall. The box with Kwan Yin on it, that held Jem’s drugs. The armchair in which Will had spent countless nights, watching Jem sleep, counting his breaths and praying.

Jem looked up at him. His eyes were luminous; no suspicion colored them, only a simple happiness at seeing his friend. "I am glad you’re here."

"So am I," said Will gruffly. He felt awkward, and wondered if Jem could sense it. He had never felt awkward around his parabatai before. It was the words, he thought, there on the tip of his tongue, pleading to be said.

You see it, don’t you, James? Without Tessa there is nothing for me- no joy, no light, no life. If you loved me, you would let me have her. You can’t love her as I do. No one could. If you are truly my brother, you would do this for me.

But the words remained unspoken, and Jem leaned forward, his voice low and confiding. "Will. There was something I wanted to say to you, and not when everyone else was around."

Will braced himself. This was it. Jem was going to tell him about the engagement, and he was going to have to pretend to be happy, and not be sick out the window, which he desperately wanted to be. He stuffed his hands into his pockets. "And what’s that?"

The sun glittered off Jem’s hair as he ducked his head. "I should have talked to you before. But we never have discussed the subject of love, have we, and with you being such a cynic . . ." He grinned. "I thought you’d mock me for it. And besides, I never thought there was a chance she’d return my feelings."

"Tessa," said Will. Her name was like knives in his mouth.

Jem’s smile was luminous, lighting his whole face, and any hope that Will had harbored in some secret chamber of his heart that perhaps Jem did not real y love her, was gone, blown away like mist before a hard wind. "You have never shirked your duties," Jem said. "And I know that you would have done what you could to save Tessa in the tea warehouse, whoever she was. But I could not help thinking that perhaps the reason you were so determined to save her was because you knew what she meant to me." He tipped his head back, his smile incandescent. "Did I guess correctly, or am I a thickheaded idiot?"

"You’re an idiot," said Will, and swal owed hard, past his dry throat. "But- you are correct. I know what she means to you."

Jem grinned. His happiness was printed all over his face, his eyes, Will thought; he had never seen him look like this. He had always thought of Jem as a calm and peaceful presence, always thought that joy, like anger, was too extreme and human an emotion for him. He realized now that he had been quite wrong; Jem had simply not been happy like this before. Not since his parents had died, Will imagined. But Will had never considered it. He had dwel ed on whether Jem was safe, whether he was surviving, but not if he was happy.

Jem is my great sin.

Tessa had been right, he thought. He had wanted her to break things off with Jem, whatever the cost; now he realized he did not, could not. You might at least believe I know honor-honor, and debt, he had said to Jem, and he had meant it. He owed Jem his life. He could not take from him the one thing Jem wanted more than anything else. Even if it meant Will ‘s own happiness, for Jem was not only someone to whom he owed a debt that could never be repaid, but, as the covenant said, someone he loved as he loved his own soul.

Jem looked not just happier, but stronger, Will thought, with healthy color in his cheeks, his back straight. "I ought to apologize," Jem said. "I was too severe regarding the ifrits’ den. I know you were merely seeking solace."

"No, you were right to have-"

"I wasn’t." Jem stood up. "If I was harsh with you, it was because I cannot bear to see you treat yourself as if you are worth nothing. Whatever part you might act to the contrary, I see you as you really are, my blood brother. Not just better than you pretend to be, but better than most people could hope to be." He placed a hand on Will ‘s shoulder, gently. "You are worth everything, Will."

Will closed his eyes. He saw the black basalt Council room, the two circles burning on the ground. Jem stepping from his circle to Will ‘s, so they inhabited the same space, circumscribed by fire. His eyes had still been black then, wide in his pale face. Will remembered the words of the parabatai oath. Whither thou goest, I will go; where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the A ngel do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me. That same voice spoke again to him now.

"Thank you for what you did for Tessa," said Jem.

Will could not look at Jem; he looked instead toward the wall, where their shadows blended together in relief, so that one could not tell where one boy ended and the other began. "Thank you for watching Brother Enoch pul shards of metal out of my back afterward," he said.

Jem laughed. "What else are parabatai for?"

The Council chamber was draped with red banners slashed with black runes; Jem whispered to Tessa that they were runes of decision and judgment.

They took their seats toward the front, in a row that also contained Henry, Gideon, Charlotte, and Will. Tessa had not spoken to Will since the day before; he had not been at breakfast, and had joined them in the courtyard late, still buttoning his coat as he ran down the stairs. His dark hair was disheveled, and he looked as if he had not slept. He seemed to be trying to avoid looking at Tessa, and she, in turn, avoided returning his gaze, though she could feel it flicking over her from time to time, like hot flecks of ash landing on her skin.

Jem was a perfect gentleman; their engagement was still secret, and other than smiling at her every time she looked at him, he behaved in no way out of the ordinary. As they settled themselves in their seats at the Council, she felt him brush her arm with the knuckles of his right hand, gently, before moving his hand away.

She could feel Will watching them, from the end of the row they sat in. She did not look toward him.

In seats on the raised platform at the chamber’s center sat Benedict Lightwood, his eagle profile turned away from the mass of the Council, his jaw set. Beside him sat Gabriel, who, like Will, looked exhausted and unshaven. He glanced once at his brother as Gideon entered the room, and then away as Gideon took his seat, deliberately, among the Shadowhunters of the Institute. Gabriel bit his lip and looked down at his shoes, but did not move from where he sat.

She recognized a few more faces in the audience. Charlotte’s aunt call ida was there, as was gaunt Aloysius Starkweather-despite, as he had complained, doubtless not being invited. His eyes narrowed as they fell on Tessa, and she turned back quickly to the front of the room.

"We are here," said Consul Wayland when he had taken his place before the lectern with the Inquisitor seated to his left, "to determine to what extent Charlotte and Henry Branwel have been of assistance to the Clave during the past fortnight in the matter of Axel Mortmain, and whether, as Benedict Lightwood has put in a claim, the London Institute would be better off in other hands."

The Inquisitor rose. He was holding something that gleamed silver and black in his hands. "Charlotte Branwell, please come up to the lectern."

Charlotte got to her feet, and climbed up the stairs to the stage. The Inquisitor lowered the Mortal Sword, and Charlotte wrapped her hands around the blade. In a quiet voice she recounted the events of the past two weeks-searching for Mortmain in newspaper clippings and historical accounts, the visit to Yorkshire, the threat against the Herondales, discovering Jessie’s betrayal, the fight at the warehouse, Nate’s death. She never lied, though Tessa was conscious of when she left out a detail here or there. Apparently the Mortal Sword could be gotten around, if only slightly.

There were several moments during Charlotte’s speech when the Council members reacted audibly: breathing in sharply, shuffling their feet, most notably to the revelation of Jessamine’s role in the proceedings. "I knew her parents," Tessa heard Charlotte’s aunt call ida saying from the back of the room. "Terrible business-terrible!"

"And the girl is where now?" the Inquisitor demanded.

"She is in the cel s of the Silent City," said Charlotte, "awaiting punishment for her crime. I informed the Consul of her whereabouts."

The Inquisitor, who had been pacing up and down the platform, stopped and looked Charlotte keenly in the face. "You say this girl was like a daughter to you," he said, "and yet you handed her over to the Brothers Will ingly? Why would you do something like that?"

"The Law is hard," said Charlotte, "but it is the Law."

Consul Wayland’s mouth flicked up at the corner. "And here you said she’d be too soft on wrongdoers, Benedict," he said. "Any comment?"

Benedict rose to his feet; he had clearly decided to shoot his cuffs today, and they protruded, snowy white, from the sleeves of his tailored dark tweed jacket. "I do have a comment," he said. "I wholeheartedly support Charlotte Branwel in her leadership of the Institute, and renounce my claim on a position there."

A murmur of disbelief ran through the crowd.

Benedict smiled pleasantly.

The Inquisitor turned and looked at him in disbelief. "So you are saying,"

he echoed, "that despite the fact that these Shadowhunters kil ed Nathaniel Gray-or were responsible for his death-our only link to Mortmain, despite the fact that once again they harbored a spy beneath their roof, despite the fact that they still don’t know where Mortmain is, you would recommend Charlotte and Henry Branwel to run this Institute?"

"They may not know where Mortmain is," said Benedict, "but they know who he is. As the great mundane military strategist Sun Tzu said in The A rt of War, ‘If you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss.’ We know now who Mortmain really is-a mortal man, not a supernatural being; a man afraid of death; a man bent on revenge for what he considers the undeserved murder of his family. Nor does he have compassion for Downworlders. He utilized werewolves to help him build his clockwork army swiftly, feeding them drugs to keep them working around the clock, knowing the drugs would kil the wolves and ensure their silence.

Judging by the size of the warehouse he used and the number of workers he employed, his clockwork army Will be sizeable. And judging by his motivations and the years over which he has refined his strategies for revenge, he is a man who cannot be reasoned with, cannot be dissuaded, cannot be stopped. We must prepare for a war. And that we did not know before."

The Inquisitor looked at Benedict, thin-lipped, as if he suspected that something untoward was going on but could not imagine what it might be.

"Prepare for a war? And how do you suggest we do that-building, of course, on all this supposedly valuable information the Branwel s have acquired?"

Benedict shrugged. "Well, that of course Will be for the Council to decide over time. But Mortmain has tried to recruit powerful Downworlders such as Woolsey Scott and Camil e Belcourt to his cause. We may not know where he is, but we now know his ways, and we can trap him in that manner.

Perhaps by all ying ourselves with some of Downworld’s more powerful leaders. Charlotte seems to have them all well in hand, don’t you think?"

A faint laugh ran around the Council, but they were not laughing at Charlotte; they were smiling with Benedict. Gabriel was watching his father, his green eyes burning.

"And the spy in the Institute? Would you not call that an example of her carelessness?" said the Inquisitor.

"Not at all," said Benedict. "She dealt with the matter swiftly and without compassion." He smiled at Charlotte, a smile like a razor. "I retract my earlier statement about her softheartedness. Clearly she is as able to deal justice without pity as any man."

Charlotte paled, but said nothing. Her smal hands were very still on the Sword.

Consul Wayland sighed gustily. "I wish you had come to this conclusion a fortnight ago, Benedict, and saved us all this trouble."

Benedict shrugged elegantly. "I thought she needed to be tested," he said.