Clockwork Prince (Page 9)

Clockwork Prince(9)
Author: Cassandra Clare

They were passing not far from the scul ery door; Sophie gestured for Tessa to fol ow her, and together they crept close and peered inside. The scul ery was quite large, with doors leading off to the kitchen and pantry. The sideboard was piled with food meant for dinner-fish and vegetables, lately cleaned and prepared. Bridget stood at the sink, her hair standing out around her head in wild red curls, made frizzy by the humidity of the water.

She was singing too; Sophie had been quite right about that. Her voice drifting over the sound of the water was high and sweet.

"Oh, her father led her down the stair, Her mother combed her yellow hair.

Her sister A nn led her to the cross, And her brother John set her on her horse.

‘Now you are high and I am low, Give me a kiss before ye go.’ She leaned down to give him a kiss, He gave her a deep wound and did not miss.

And with a knife as sharp as a dart, Her brother stabbed her to the heart."

Nate’s face flashed in front of Tessa’s eyes, and she shuddered. Sophie, looking past her, didn’t seem to notice. "That’s all she sings about," she whispered. "Murder and betrayal. Blood and pain. It’s horrid."

Merciful y Sophie’s voice covered the end of the song. Bridget had begun drying dishes and started up with a new bal ad, the tune even more melancholy than the first.

"Why does your sword so drip with blood,

Edward, Edward?

Why does your sword so drip with blood?

And why so sad are ye?"

"Enough of this." Sophie turned and began hurrying down the hal ; Tessa fol owed. "You do see what I meant, though? She’s so dreadful y morbid, and it’s awful sharing a room with her. She never says a word in the morning or at night, just moans-"

"You share a room with her?" Tessa was astonished. "But the Institute has so many rooms-"

"For visiting Shadowhunters," Sophie said. "Not for servants." She spoke matter-of-factly, as if it would never have occurred to her to question or complain about the fact that dozens of grand rooms stood empty while she shared a room with Bridget, singer of murderous bal ads.

"I could talk to Charlotte-," Tessa began.

"Oh, no. Please don’t." They had reached the door to the training room.

Sophie turned to her, all distress. "I wouldn’t want her to think I’d been complaining about the other servants. I really wouldn’t, Miss Tessa."

Tessa was about to assure the other girl that she would say nothing to Charlotte if that was what Sophie really wanted, when she heard raised voices from the other side of the training room door. Gesturing at Sophie to be quiet, she leaned in and listened.

The voices were quite clearly those of the Lightwood brothers. She recognized Gideon’s lower, rougher tones as he said, "There Will be a moment of reckoning, Gabriel. You can depend upon it. What Will matter is where we stand when it comes."

Gabriel replied, his voice tense, "We Will stand with Father, of course.

Where else?"

There was a pause. Then, "You don’t know everything about him, Gabriel.

You don’t know all that he has done."

"I know that we are Lightwoods and that he is our father. I know he full y expected to be named head of the Institute when Granvil e Fairchild died-"

"Maybe the Consul knows more about him than you do. And more about Charlotte Branwell. She isn’t the fool you think she is."

"Real y?" Gabriel’s voice was a sneer. "Letting us come here to train her precious girls, doesn’t that make her a fool? Shouldn’t she have assumed we’d be spying for our father?"

Sophie and Tessa looked at each other with round eyes.

"She agreed to it because the Consul forced her hand. And besides, we are met at the door here, escorted to this room, and escorted out. And Miss Col ins and Miss Gray know nothing of import. What damage is our presence here really doing her, would you say?"

There was a silence through which Tessa could almost hear Gabriel sulking. At last he said, "If you despise Father so much, why did you ever come back from Spain?"

Gideon replied, sounding exasperated, "I came back for you-"

Sophie and Tessa had been leaning against the door, ears pressed to the wood. At that moment the door gave way and swung open. Both straightened hastily, Tessa hoping that no evidence of their eavesdropping appeared on their faces.

Gabriel and Gideon were standing in a patch of light at the center of the room, facing off against each other. Tessa noticed something she had not noticed before: Gabriel, despite being the younger brother, was lankily tal er than Gideon by some inches. Gideon was more muscular, broader through the shoulders. He swept a hand through his sandy hair, nodding curtly to the girls as they appeared in the doorway. "Good day."

Gabriel Lightwood strode across the room to meet them. He really was quite tall, Tessa thought, craning her neck to look up at him. As a tal girl herself, she didn’t often find herself bending her head back to look up at men, though both Will and Jem were tal er than she was.

"Miss Lovelace still regrettably absent?" he inquired without bothering to greet them. His face was calm, the only sign of his earlier agitation a pulse hammering just beneath a Courage in Combat rune inked upon his throat.

"She continues to have the headache," said Tessa, following him into the training room. "We don’t know how long she’l be indisposed."

"Until these training sessions are over, I suspect," said Gideon, so dryly that Tessa was surprised when Sophie laughed. Sophie immediately composed her features again, but not before Gideon had given her a surprised, almost appreciative glance, as if he weren’t used to having his jokes laughed at.

With a sigh Gabriel reached up and freed two long sticks from their holsters on the wall. He handed one to Tessa. "Today," he began, "we shal be working on parrying and blocking . . ."

As usual, Tessa lay awake a long time that night before sleep began to come. Nightmares had plagued her recently-usual y of Mortmain, his cold gray eyes, and his colder voice saying measuredly that he had made her, that There is no Tessa Gray.

She had come face-to-face with him, the man they sought, and still she did not really know what he wanted from her. To marry her, but why? To claim her power, but to what end? The thought of his cold lizardlike eyes on her made her shiver; the thought that he might have had something to do with her birth was even worse. She did not think anyone-not even Jem, wonderful understanding Jem-quite understood her burning need to know what she was, or the fear that she was some sort of monster, a fear that woke her in the middle of the night, leaving her gasping and clawing at her own skin, as if she could peel it away to reveal a devil’s hide beneath.

Just then she heard a rustle at her door, and the faint scratch of something being gently pushed against it. After a moment’s pause she slid off the bed and padded across the room.

She eased the door open to find an empty corridor, the faint sound of violin music drifting from Jem’s room across the hall. At her feet was a smal green book. She picked it up and gazed at the words stamped in gold on its spine: "Vathek, by William Beckford."

She shut the door behind her and carried the book over to her bed, sitting down so she could examine it. Will must have left it for her. Obviously it could have been no one else. But why? Why these odd, smal kindnesses in the dark, the talk about books, and the coldness the rest of the time?

She opened the book to its title page. Will had scrawled a note for her there-not just a note, in fact. A poem.

For Tessa Gray, on the occasion of being given a copy of Vathek to read: Caliph Vathek and his dark horde A re bound for Hell, you won’t be bored!

Your faith in me will be restored- Unless this token you find untoward And my poor gift you have ignored.

-Wil Tessa burst out laughing, then clapped a hand over her mouth. Drat Will, for always being able to make her laugh, even when she didn’t want to, even when she knew that opening her heart to him even an inch was like taking a pinch of some deadly addictive drug. She dropped the copy of Vathek, complete with Will ‘s deliberately terrible poem, onto her nightstand and rol ed onto the bed, burying her face in the pil ows. She could still hear Jem’s violin music, sweetly sad, drifting beneath her door. As hard as she could, she tried to push thoughts of Will out of her mind; and indeed, when she fel asleep at last and dreamed, for once he made no appearance.

It rained the next day, and despite her umbrel a Tessa could feel the fine hat she had borrowed from Jessamine beginning to sag like a waterlogged bird around her ears as they-she, Jem, Will, and Cyril, carrying their luggage- hurried from the coach into Kings Cross Station. Through the sheets of gray rain she was conscious only of a tall, imposing building, a great clock tower rising from the front. It was topped with a weathercock that showed that the wind was blowing due north-and not gently, spattering drops of cold rain into her face.

Inside, the station was chaos: people hurrying hither and thither, newspaper boys hawking their wares, men striding up and down with sandwich boards strapped to their chests, advertising everything from hair tonic to soap. A little boy in a Norfolk jacket dashed to and fro, his mother in hot pursuit. With a word to Jem, Will vanished immediately into the crowd.

"Gone off and left us, has he?" said Tessa, struggling with her umbrel a, which was refusing to close.

"Let me do that." Deftly Jem reached over and flicked at the mechanism; the umbrel a shut with a decided snap. Pushing her damp hair out of her eyes, Tessa smiled at him, just as Will returned with an aggrieved-looking porter who relieved Cyril of the baggage and snapped at them to hurry up, the train wouldn’t wait all day.

Will looked from the porter to Jem’s cane, and back. His blue eyes narrowed. "It Will wait for us," Will said with a deadly smile.

The porter looked bewildered but said "Sir" in a decidedly less aggressive tone and proceeded to lead them toward the departure platform. People-so many people!-streamed about Tessa as she made her way through the crowd, clutching at Jem with one hand and Jessamine’s hat with the other.

Far at the end of the station, where the tracks ran out into open ground, she could see the steel gray sky, smudged with soot.

Jem helped her up into their compartment; there was much bustling about the luggage, and Will tipping the porter in among shouts and whistling as the train prepared to depart. The door swung shut behind them just as the train pul ed forward, steam rushing past the windows in white drifts, wheels clacking merrily.

"Did you bring anything to read on the journey?" asked Will, settling into the seat opposite Tessa; Jem was beside her, his cane leaning up against the wall.

She thought of the copy of Vathek and his poem in it; she had left it at the Institute to avoid temptation, the way you might leave behind a box of candies if you were banting and didn’t want to put on weight. "No," she said.

"I haven’t come across anything I particularly wanted to read lately."

Will ‘s jaw set, but he said nothing.

"There is always something so exciting about the start of a journey, don’t you think?" Tessa went on, nose to the window, though she could see little but smoke and soot and hurtling gray rain; London was a dim shadow in the mist.

"No," said Will as he sat back and pulled his hat down over his eyes.

Tessa kept her face against the glass as the gray of London began to fal away behind them, and with it the rain. Soon they were rol ing through green fields dotted with white sheep, with here and there the point of a vil age steeple in the distance. The sky had turned from steel to a damp, misty blue, and smal black clouds scudded overhead. Tessa watched it all with fascination.

"Haven’t you ever been in the countryside before?" asked Jem, though unlike Will ‘s, his question had the flavor of actual curiosity.

Tessa shook her head. "I don’t remember ever leaving New York, except to go to Coney Island, and that isn’t really countryside. I suppose I must have passed through some of it when I came from Southampton with the Dark Sisters, but it was dark, and they kept the curtains across the windows, besides." She took off her hat, which was dripping water, and laid it on the seat between them to dry. "But I feel as if I have seen it before. In books. I keep imagining I’ll see Thornfield Hal rising up beyond the trees, or Wuthering Heights perched on a stony crag-"

"Wuthering Heights is in Yorkshire," said Will, from under his hat, "and we’re nowhere near Yorkshire yet. We haven’t even reached Grantham. And there’s nothing that impressive about Yorkshire. Hil s and dales, no proper mountains like we have in Wales."

"Do you miss Wales?" Tessa inquired. She wasn’t sure why she did it; she knew asking Will about his past was like poking a dog with a sore tail, but she couldn’t seem to help it.

Will shrugged lightly. "What’s to miss? Sheep and singing," he said. "And the ridiculous language. Fe hoffwn i fod mor feddw, fyddai ddim yn cofio fy enw."

"What does that mean?"

"It means ‘I wish to get so drunk I no longer remember my own name,’ Quite useful."

"You don’t sound very patriotic," observed Tessa. "Weren’t you just reminiscing about the mountains?"

"Patriotic?" Will looked smug. "I’ll tell you what’s patriotic," he said. "In honor of my birthplace, I’ve the dragon of Wales tattooed on my-"

"You’re in a charming temper, aren’t you, William?" interrupted Jem, though there was no edge to his voice. Still, having observed them now for some time, together and apart, Tessa knew it meant something when they call ed each other by their full first names instead of the familiar shortened forms. "Remember, Starkweather can’t stand Charlotte, so if this is the mood you’re in-"

"I promise to charm the dickens out of him," said Will, sitting up and readjusting his crushed hat. "I shall charm him with such force that when I am done, he Will be left lying limply on the ground, trying to remember his own name."

"The man’s eighty-nine," muttered Jem. "He may well have that problem anyway."