Clockwork Prince (Page 6)

Clockwork Prince(6)
Author: Cassandra Clare

With a sigh of resignation she made ready to depart her hiding place- when the door to Miss Jessamine’s room opened, and its resident emerged.

Sophie shrank bank into the dimness. Miss Jessamine was dressed in a long velvet traveling cloak that concealed most of her body, from her neck to her feet. Her hair was bound tightly behind her head, and she carried a gentleman’s hat in one hand. Sophie froze in surprise as Jessamine looked down, saw the gear at her feet, and made a face. She kicked it swiftly into the room-giving Sophie a view of her foot, which seemed to be clad in a man’s boot-and closed the door soundlessly behind her. Glancing up and down the corridor, she placed the hat on her head, dropped her chin low into the cloak, and slunk off into the shadows, leaving Sophie staring, mystified, after her.

Chapter 3: Unjustifiable Death

A las! they had been friends in youth;

But whispering tongues can poison truth;

And constancy lives in realms above;

And life is thorny; and youth is vain;

And to be wroth with one we love

Doth work like madness in the brain.

-Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "Christabel"

After breakfast the next day Charlotte instructed Tessa and Sophie to return to their rooms, dress in their newly acquired gear, and meet Jem in the training room, where they would wait for the Lightwood brothers. Jessamine had not come to breakfast, claiming a headache, and Will, likewise, was nowhere to be found. Tessa suspected he was hiding, in an attempt to avoid being forced to be polite to Gabriel Lightwood and his brother. She could only partly blame him.

Back in her room, picking up the gear, she felt a flutter of nerves in her stomach; it was so very much unlike anything she’d ever worn before. Sophie was not there to help her with the new clothes. Part of the training, of course, was being able to dress and to familiarize oneself with the gear: flat-soled shoes; a loose pair of trousers made of thick black material; and a long, belted tunic that reached nearly to her knees. They were the same clothes she had seen Charlotte fight in before, and had seen il ustrated in the Codex; she had thought them strange then, but the act of actual y wearing them was even stranger. If Aunt Harriet could have seen her now, Tessa thought, she would likely have fainted.

She met Sophie at the foot of the steps that led up to the Institute’s training room. Neither she nor the other girl exchanged a word, just encouraging smiles. After a moment Tessa went first up the steps, a narrow wooden flight with banisters so old that the wood had begun to splinter. It was strange, Tessa thought, going up a flight of stairs and not having to worry about pul ing in your skirts or tripping on the hem. Though her body was completely covered, she felt peculiarly nak*d in her training gear.

It helped to have Sophie with her, obviously equal y uncomfortable in her own Shadowhunter gear. When they reached the top of the stairs, Sophie swung the door open and they made their way into the training room in silence, together.

They were obviously at the top of the Institute, in a room adjacent to the attic, Tessa thought, and nearly twice the size. The floor was polished wood with various patterns drawn here and there in black ink-circles and squares, some of them numbered. Long, flexible ropes hung from great raftered beams overhead, half-invisible in the shadows. Witchlight torches burned along the wal s, interspersed with hanging weapons-maces and axes and all sorts of other deadly-looking objects.

"Ugh," said Sophie, looking at them with a shudder. "Don’t they look too horrible by half?"

"I actual y recognize a few from the Codex," said Tessa, pointing. "That one there’s a longsword, and there’s a rapier, and a fencing foil, and that one that looks like you’d need two hands to hold it is a claymore, I think."

"Close," came a voice, very disconcertingly, from above their heads. "It’s an executioner’s sword. Mostly for decapitations. You can tell because it doesn’t have a sharp point."

Sophie gave a little yelp of surprise and backed up as one of the dangling ropes began to sway and a dark shape appeared over their heads. It was Jem, clambering down the rope with the graceful agility of a bird. He landed lightly in front of them, and smiled. "My apologies. I didn’t mean to startle you."

He was dressed in gear as well, though instead of a tunic he wore a shirt that reached only to his waist. A single leather strap went across his chest, and the hilt of a sword protruded from behind one shoulder. The darkness of the gear made his skin look even paler, his hair and eyes more silver than ever.

"Yes, you did," said Tessa with a little smile, "but it’s all right. I was beginning to worry Sophie and I were going to be left here to train each other."

"Oh, the Lightwoods Will be here," said Jem. "They’re simply being late to make a point. They don’t have to do what we say, or what their father says either."

"I wish you were the one training us," Tessa said impulsively.

Jem looked surprised. "I couldn’t-I haven’t completed my own training yet." But their eyes met, and in another moment of wordless communication, Tessa heard what he was really saying: I’m not well enough often enough to train you reliably. Her throat hurt suddenly, and she locked eyes with Jem, hoping he could read her silent sympathy in them. She did not want to look away, and found herself wondering if the way that she had scraped her hair back, careful y pinning it into a bun from which no stray strands escaped, looked horribly unflattering. Not that it mattered, of course. It was just Jem, after all.

"We won’t be going through a full course of training, Will we?" Sophie said, her worried voice breaking into Tessa’s thoughts. "The Council only said that we needed to know how to defend ourselves a bit. . . ."

Jem looked away from Tessa; the connection broke with a snap. "There’s nothing to be frightened of, Sophie," he said in his gentle voice. "And you’l be glad of it; it’s always useful for a beautiful girl to be able to fend off the unwanted attentions of gentlemen."

Sophie’s face tightened, the livid scar on her cheek standing out as red as if it had been painted there. "Don’t make fun," she said. "It isn’t kind."

Jem looked startled. "Sophie, I wasn’t-"

The door to the training room opened. Tessa turned as Gabriel Lightwood strode into the room, fol owed by a boy she didn’t know. Where Gabriel was slender and dark-haired, the other boy was muscular, with thick sandy-blond hair. They were both dressed in gear, with expensive-looking dark gloves studded with metal across the knuckles. Each wore silver bands around each wrist-knife sheaths, Tessa knew-and had the same elaborate white pattern of runes woven into their sleeves. It was clear not just from the similarity of their clothes but from the shape of their faces and the pale, luminous green of their eyes that they were related, so Tessa was not in the least surprised when Gabriel said, in his abrupt manner: "Well, we’re here as we said we would be. James, I assume you remember my brother, Gideon. Miss Gray, Miss Col ins-"

"Pleased to make your acquaintance," Gideon muttered, meeting neither of their eyes with his. Bad moods seemed to run in the family, Tessa thought, remembering that Will had said that next to his brother, Gabriel seemed a sweetheart.

"Don’t worry. Will ‘s not here," Jem said to Gabriel, who was glancing around the room. Gabriel frowned at him, but Jem had already turned to Gideon. "When did you get back from Madrid?" he asked politely.

"Father called me back home a short while ago." Gideon’s tone was neutral. "Family business."

"I do hope everything’s all right-"

"Everything is quite all right, thank you, James," said Gabriel, his tone clipped. "Now, before we move to the training portion of this visit, there are two people you should probably meet." He turned his head and called out, "Mr. Tanner, Miss Daly! Please come up."

There were footfal s on the steps, and two strangers entered, neither in gear. Both wore servants’ clothes. One was a young woman who was the very definition of "rawboned"-her bones seemed too big for her skinny, awkward frame. Her hair was a bright scarlet, drawn back into a chignon under a modest hat. Her bare hands were red and scrubbed-looking. Tessa guessed she was about twenty. Beside her stood a young man with dark brown curling hair, tal and muscular- Sophie took a sharp indrawn breath. She had gone pale. "Thomas . . ."

The young man looked terribly awkward. "I’m Thomas’s brother, miss.

Cyril. Cyril Tanner."

"These are the replacements the Council promised you for your lost servants," said Gabriel. "Cyril Tanner and Bridget Daly. The Consul asked us if we would bring them from Kings Cross here, and natural y we obliged. Cyril Will replace Thomas, and Bridget Will replace your lost cook, Agatha. They were both trained in fine Shadowhunter households and come soundly recommended."

Red spots had begun to burn on Sophie’s cheeks. Before she could say anything, Jem said quickly, "No one could replace Agatha or Thomas for us, Gabriel. They were friends as well as servants." He nodded toward Bridget and Cyril. "No offense intended."

Bridget only blinked her brown eyes, but, "None taken," said Cyril. Even his voice was like Thomas’s, almost eerily so. "Thomas was my brother. No one can replace him for me, either."

An awkward silence descended on the room. Gideon leaned back against one of the wal s, his arms crossed, a slight scowl on his face. He was quite good-looking, like his brother, Tessa thought, but the scowl rather spoiled it.

"Very well," Gabriel said finally into the silence. "Charlotte had asked us to bring them up so you could meet them. Jem, if you’d like to escort them back to the drawing room, Charlotte’s waiting with instructions-"

"So neither of them needs any extra training?" Jem said. "Since you’l be training Tessa and Sophie regardless, if Bridget or Cyril-"

"As the Consul said, they have been quite effectively trained in their previous households," said Gideon. "Would you like a demonstration?"

"I don’t think that’s necessary," Jem said.

Gabriel grinned. "Come along, Carstairs. The girls might as well see that a mundane can fight almost like a Shadow-hunter, with the right kind of instruction. Cyril?" He stalked over to the wall, selected two longswords, and threw one toward Cyril, who caught it out of the air handily and advanced toward the center of the room, where a circle was painted on the floorboards.

"We already know that," muttered Sophie, in a voice low enough that only Tessa could hear. "Thomas and Agatha were both trained."

"Gabriel is only trying to annoy you," said Tessa, also in a whisper. "Do not let him see that he bothers you."

Sophie set her jaw as Gabriel and Cyril met in the center of the room, swords flashing.

Tessa had to admit there was something rather beautiful about it, the way they circled each other, blades singing through the air, a blur of black and silver. The ringing sound of metal on metal, the way they moved, so fast her vision could barely fol ow. And yet, Gabriel was better; that was clear even to the untrained eye. His reflexes were faster, his movements more graceful. It was not a fair fight; Cyril, his hair pasted to his forehead with sweat, was clearly giving everything he had, while Gabriel was simply marking time. In the end, when Gabriel swiftly disarmed Cyril with a neat flicking motion of his wrist, sending the other boy’s sword rattling to the floor, Tessa couldn’t help but feel almost indignant on Cyril’s behalf. No human could best a Shadowhunter. Wasn’t that the point?

The point of Gabriel’s blade rested an inch from Cyril’s throat. Cyril raised his hands in surrender, a smile, much like his brother’s easy grin, spreading across his face. "I yield-"

There was a blur of movement. Gabriel yelped and went down, his sword skittering from his hand. His body hit the ground, Bridget kneeling atop his chest, her teeth bared. She had slipped up behind him and tripped him while no one was looking. Now she whipped a smal dagger from the inside of her bodice and held it against his throat. Gabriel looked up at her for a moment, dazed, blinking his green eyes. Then he began to laugh.

Tessa liked him more in that moment than she ever had before. Not that that was saying much.

"Very impressive," drawled a familiar voice from the doorway. Tessa turned. It was Will, looking, as her aunt would have said, as if he’d been dragged through a hedge backward. His shirt was torn, his hair was mussed, and his blue eyes were rimmed with red. He bent down, picked up Gabriel’s fal en sword, and leveled it in Bridget’s direction with an amused expression.

"But can she cook?"

Bridget scrambled to her feet, her cheeks flushing dark red. She was looking at Will the way girls always did-a little openmouthed, as if she couldn’t quite believe the vision that had materialized in front of her. Tessa wanted to tell her that Will looked better when less bedraggled, and that being fascinated by his beauty was like being fascinated by a razor-sharp piece of steel-dangerous and unwise. But what was the point? She’d learn it herself soon enough. "I am a fine cook, sir," she said in a lilting Irish accent.

"My previous employers had no complaints."

"Lord, you’re Irish," said Will. "Can you make things that don’t have potatoes in them? We had an Irish cook once when I was a boy. Potato pie, potato custard, potatoes with potato sauce . . ."

Bridget looked baffled. Meanwhile, somehow Jem had crossed the room and seized Will ‘s arm. "Charlotte wants to see Cyril and Bridget in the drawing room. shall we show them where it is?"

Will wavered. He was looking at Tessa now. She swal owed against her dry throat. He looked as if there were something he wanted to say to her.

Gabriel, glancing between them, smirked. Will ‘s eyes darkened, and he turned, Jem’s hand guiding him toward the stairway, and stalked out. After a startled moment Bridget and Cyril fol owed.

When Tessa turned back to the center of the room, she saw that Gabriel had taken one of the blades and handed it to his brother. "Now," he said. "It’s about time to start training, wouldn’t you say, ladies?"