Clockwork Prince (Page 8)

Clockwork Prince(8)
Author: Cassandra Clare

And indeed Will was on it, like a spider leaping onto a particularly tasty fly.

"Mr. Herondale?" he demanded. "Tessa, I thought . . . ?"

"You thought what?" Her tone was glacial.

"That we could at least talk about books."

"We did," she said. "You insulted my taste. And you should know, The Wide, Wide World is not my favorite book. It is simply a story I enjoyed, like The Hidden Hand, or-You know, perhaps you should suggest something to me, so I can judge your taste. It’s hardly fair otherwise."

Will hopped up onto the nearest table and sat, swinging his legs, obviously giving the question some thought. "The Castle of Otranto-"

"Isn’t that the book in which the hero’s son is crushed to death by a gigantic helmet that fal s from the sky? And you said A Tale of Two Cities was sil y!" said Tessa, who would have died rather than admit she had read Otranto and loved it.

"A Tale of Two Cities ," echoed Will. "I read it again, you know, because we had talked about it. You were right. It isn’t sil y at all."

"No?"

"No," he said. "There is too much of despair in it."

She met his gaze. His eyes were as blue as lakes; she felt as if she were fal ing into them. "Despair?"

Steadily he said, "There is no future for Sydney, is there, with or without love? He knows he cannot save himself without Lucie, but to let her near him would be to degrade her."

She shook her head. "That is not how I recal it. His sacrifice is noble-"

"It is what is left to him," said Will. "Do you not recal what he says to Lucie? ‘If it had been possible . . . that you could have returned the love of the man you see before yourself-flung away, wasted, drunken, poor creature of misuse as you know him to be-he would have been conscious this day and hour, in spite of his happiness, that he would bring you to misery, bring you to sorrow and repentance, blight you, disgrace you, pul you down with him-‘"

A log fell in the fireplace, sending up a shower of sparks and startling them both and silencing Will ; Tessa’s heart leaped, and she tore her eyes away from Will. Stupid, she told herself angrily. So stupid. She remembered how he had treated her, the things he had said, and now she was letting her knees turn to jel y at the drop of a line from Dickens.

"Well," she said. "You have certainly memorized a great deal of it. That was impressive."

Will pulled aside the neck of his shirt, revealing the graceful curve of his col arbone. It took her a moment to realize he was showing her a Mark a few inches above his heart. "Mnemosyne," he said. "The Memory rune. It’s permanent."

Tessa looked away quickly. "It is late. I must retire-I am exhausted." She stepped past him, and moved toward the door. She wondered if he looked hurt, then pushed the thought from her mind. This was Will ; however mercurial and passing his moods, however charming he was when he was in a good one, he was poison for her, for anyone.

"Vathek," he said, sliding off the table.

She paused in the doorway, realizing she was still clutching the Coleridge book, but then decided she might as well take it. It would be a pleasant diversion from the Codex. "What was that?"

"Vathek," he said again. "By William Beckford. If you found Otranto to your liking"-though, she thought, she had not admitted she did-"I think you Will enjoy it."

"Oh," she said. "Well. Thank you. I Will remember that."

He did not answer; he was still standing where she had left him, near the table. He was looking at the ground, his dark hair hiding his face. A little bit of her heart softened, and before she could stop herself, she said, "And good night, Will."

He looked up. "Good night, Tessa." He sounded wistful again, but not as bleak as he had before. He reached out to stroke Church, who had slept through their entire conversation and the sound of the fal ing log in the fireplace, and was still stretched out on the book stand, paws in the air.

"Wil -," Tessa began, but it was too late. Church made a yowling noise at being woken, and lashed out with his claws. Will began to swear. Tessa left, unable to hide the slightest of smiles as she went.

Chapter 4: A Journey

Friendship is one mind in two bodies.

-Meng-tzu

Charlotte slammed the paper down onto her desk with an exclamation of rage. "Aloysius Starkweather is the most stubborn, hypocritical, obstinate, degenerate-" She broke off, clearly fighting for control of her temper. Tessa had never seen Charlotte’s mouth so firmly set into a hard line.

"Would you like a thesaurus?" Will inquired. He was sprawled in one of the wing-back armchairs near the fireplace in the drawing room, his boots up on the ottoman. They were caked with mud, and now so was the ottoman.

Normal y Charlotte would have been taking him to task for it, but the letter from Aloysius that she had received that morning, and that she had called them all into the drawing room to discuss, seemed to have absorbed all her attention. "You seem to be running out of words."

"And is he really degenerate?" Jem asked equably from the depths of the other armchair. "I mean, the old codger’s almost ninety-surely past real deviancy."

"I don’t know," said Will. "You’d be surprised at what some of the old fel ows over at the Devil Tavern get up to."

"Nothing anyone you know might get up to would surprise us, Will," said Jessamine, who was lying on the chaise longue, a damp cloth over her forehead. She still had not gotten over her headache.

"Darling," said Henry anxiously, coming around the desk to where his wife was sitting, "are you quite all right? You look a bit-splotchy."

He wasn’t wrong. Red patches of rage had broken out over Charlotte’s face and throat.

"I think it’s charming," said Will. "I’ve heard polka dots are the last word in fashion this season."

Henry patted Charlotte’s shoulder anxiously. "Would you like a cool cloth? What can I do to help?"

"You could ride up to Yorkshire and chop that old goat’s head off."

Charlotte sounded mutinous.

"Won’t that make things rather awkward with the Clave?" asked Henry.

"They’re not general y very receptive about, you know, beheadings and things."

"Oh!" said Charlotte in despair. "It’s all my fault, isn’t it? I don’t know why I thought I could win him over. The man’s a nightmare."

"What did he say exactly?" said Will. "In the letter, I mean."

"He refuses to see me, or Henry," said Charlotte. "He says he’l never forgive my family for what my father did. My father . . ." She sighed. "He was a difficult man. Absolutely faithful to the letter of the Law, and the Starkweathers have always interpreted the Law more loosely. My father thought they lived wild up there in the north, like savages, and he wasn’t shy about saying so. I don’t know what else he did, but old Aloysius seems personal y insulted still.

Not to mention that he also said if I really cared what he thought about anything, I would have invited him to the last Council meeting. As if I’m in charge of that sort of thing!"

"Why wasn’t he invited?" inquired Jem.

"He’s too old-not meant to be running an Institute at all. He just refuses to step down, and so far Consul Wayland hasn’t made him, but the Consul won’t invite him to Councils either. I think he hopes Aloysius Will either take the hint or simply die of old age. But Aloysius’s father lived to be a hundred and four. We could be in for another fifteen years of him." Charlotte shook her head in despair.

"Well, if he won’t see you or Henry, can’t you send someone else?" asked Jessamine in a bored voice. "You run the Institute; the Enclave members are supposed to do whatever you say."

"But so many of them are on Benedict’s side," said Charlotte. "They want to see me fail. I just don’t know who I can trust."

"You can trust us," said Will. "Send me. And Jem."

"What about me?" said Jessamine indignantly.

"What about you? You don’t really want to go, do you?"

Jessamine lifted a corner of the damp cloth off her eyes to glare. "On some smel y train all the way up to deadly dull Yorkshire? No, of course not. I just wanted Charlotte to say she could trust me."

"I can trust you, Jessie, but you’re clearly not well enough to go. Which is unfortunate, since Aloysius always had a weakness for a pretty face."

"Even more reason why I should go," said Will.

"Will, Jem . . ." Charlotte bit her lip. "Are you sure? The Council was hardly best pleased by the independent actions you took in the matter of Mrs.

Dark."

"Well, they ought to be. We kil ed a dangerous demon!" Will protested.

"And we saved Church," said Jem.

"Somehow I doubt that counts in our favor," said Will. "That cat bit me three times the other night."

"That probably does count in your favor," said Tessa. "Or Jem’s, at least."

Will made a face at her, but didn’t seem angry; it was the sort of face he might have made at Jem had the other boy mock insulted him. Perhaps they real y could be civil to each other, Tessa thought. He had been quite kind to her in the library the night before last.

"It seems a fool’s errand," said Charlotte. The red splotches on her skin were beginning to fade, but she looked miserable. "He isn’t likely to tell you anything if he knows I sent you. If only-"

"Charlotte," Tessa said, "there is a way we could make him tell us."

Charlotte looked at her in puzzlement. "Tessa, what do you-" She broke off then, light dawning in her eyes. "Oh, I see. Tessa, what an excel ent idea."

"Oh, what?" demanded Jessamine from the chaise. "What idea?"

"If something of his could be retrieved," said Tessa, "and given to me, I could use it to Change into him. And perhaps access his memories. I could tel you what he recol ects about Mortmain and the Shades, if anything at all."

"Then, you’l come with us to Yorkshire," said Jem.

Suddenly all eyes in the room were on Tessa. Thoroughly startled, for a moment she said nothing.

"She hardly needs to accompany us," said Will. "We can retrieve an object and bring it back to her here."

"But Tessa’s said before that she needs to use something that has strong associations for the wearer," said Jem. "If what we select turns out to be insufficient-"

"She also said she can use a nail clipping, or a strand of hair-"

"So you’re suggesting we take the train up to York, meet a ninety-year-old man, leap on him, and yank out his hair? I’m sure the Clave Will be ecstatic."

"They’l just say you’re mad," said Jessamine. "They already think it, so what’s the difference, real y?"

"It’s up to Tessa," said Charlotte. "It’s her power you’re asking to use; it should be her decision."

"Did you say we’d be taking the train?" Tessa asked, looking over at Jem.

He nodded, his silver eyes dancing. "The Great Northern runs trains out of Kings Cross all day long," he said. "It’s only a matter of hours."

"Then, I’ll come," said Tessa. "I’ve never been on a train."

Will threw up his hands. "That’s it? You’re coming because you’ve never been on a train before?"

"Yes," she said, knowing how much her calm demeanor drove him mad. "I should like to ride in one, very much."

"Trains are great dirty smoky things," said Will. "You won’t like it."

Tessa was unmoved. "I won’t know if I like it until I try it, Will I?"

"I’ve never swum nak*d in the Thames, but I know I wouldn’t like it."

"But think how entertaining for sightseers," said Tessa, and she saw Jem duck his head to hide the quick flash of his grin. "Anyway, it doesn’t matter. I wish to go, and I shall. When do we leave?"

Will rol ed his eyes, but Jem was still grinning. "Tomorrow morning. That way we’l arrive well before dark."

"I’ll have to send Aloysius a message saying to expect you," said Charlotte, picking up her pen. She paused, and looked up at them all. "Is this a dreadful idea? I-I feel as if I cannot be sure."

Tessa looked at her worriedly-seeing Charlotte like this, doubting her own instincts, made her hate Benedict Lightwood and his cohorts even more than she already did.

It was Henry who stepped up and put a gentle hand on his wife’s shoulder.

"The only alternative seems to be doing nothing, dearest Charlotte," he said.

"And doing nothing, I find, rarely accomplishes anything. Besides, what could go wrong?"

"Oh, by the Angel, I wish you hadn’t asked that," replied Charlotte with fervor, but she bent over the paper and began to write.

That afternoon was Tessa’s and Sophie’s second training session with the Lightwoods. Having changed into her gear, Tessa left her room to find Sophie waiting for her in the corridor. She was dressed to train as well, her hair knotted up expertly behind her head, and a dark expression on her face.

"Sophie, what is it?" Tessa inquired, fal ing into step beside the other girl.

"You look quite out of countenance."

"Well, if you must know . . ." Sophie dropped her voice. "It’s Bridget."

"Bridget?" The Irish girl had been nearly invisible in the kitchen since she’d arrived, unlike Cyril, who had been here and there about the house, doing errands like Sophie. The last memory Tessa had of Bridget involved her sitting atop Gabriel Lightwood with a knife. She let herself dwel on it pleasantly for a moment. "What’s she done?"

"She just . . ." Sophie let out a gusty sigh. "She isn’t very amiable. Agatha was my friend, but Bridget-well, we have a way of talking, among us servants, you know, usual y, but Bridget just won’t. Cyril’s friendly enough, but Bridget just keeps to herself in the kitchen, singing those awful Irish bal ads of hers. I’d wager she’s singing one now."