Clockwork Princess (Page 11)

Clockwork Princess(11)
Author: Cassandra Clare

The bedroom door opened; Tessa turned round in her chair and saw Will standing on the threshold, still in his coat and gloves. One look at his stark, distraught face had her rising to her feet and following Will out into the corridor.

Will was already striding down the corridor with the haste of a man with the devil at his heels. Tessa closed the bedroom door carefully behind her and hurried after him. "What is it, Will? What’s happened?"

"I just came back from the East End," Will said. There was pain in his voice, pain she had not heard the likes of since that day in the drawing room when she had told him she was engaged to Jem. "I had gone to look for more yin fen. But there is no more."

Tessa nearly stumbled as they reached the steps. "What do you mean, there’s no more? Jem has a supply, does he not?"

Will turned to face her, walking backward down the stairs. "It’s gone," he said curtly. "He did not want you to know, but there is no way to hide it. It is gone, and I cannot find more. I have always been the one to buy it. I had suppliers-but they have either vanished or come up empty-handed. I went first to that place-that place where you came and found me, you and Jem, together. They had no yin fen."

"Then another place-"

"I went everywhere," Will said, spinning back around. They emerged into the corridor on the second level of the Institute; the library and the drawing room were here. Both their doors were open, spilling yellow light into the hall. "Everywhere. In the last place I went, someone told me that it had all been deliberately bought up in the last few weeks. There is nothing."

"But Jem," Tessa said, shock buzzing through her like fire. "Without the yin fen …"

"He’ll die." Will paused for a moment in front of the library door; his eyes met hers. "Just this afternoon he gave me permission to seek a cure for him. To search. And now he will die because I cannot keep him alive long enough to find it."

"No," Tessa said. "He will not die; we will not let him."

Will moved into the library, Tessa beside him, his gaze roaming over the familiar room, the lamplit tables, the shelves of old volumes. "There were books," he said, as if she hadn’t spoken. "Books I was consulting, volumes about rare poisons." He moved away from her, toward a nearby shelf, his gloved hands running feverishly over the tomes that rested there. "It was years ago, before Jem forbade any more research. I have forgotten-"

Tessa moved to join him, her skirts swishing about her ankles. "Will, stop."

"But I have to remember." He moved to another shelf, and then another, his long, slender body casting an angled shadow across the floor. "I have to find-"

"Will, you can’t read every book in the library in time. Stop." She had moved behind him, close enough to see where the collar of his jacket was damp from the rain. "This will not help Jem."

"Then what will? What will?" He reached for another book, stared at it, and threw it to the floor; Tessa jumped.

"Stop," she said again, and caught at his sleeve, turning him to face her. He was flushed, breathless, his arm as tense as iron beneath her grip. "When you searched for the cure before, you did not know what you know now. You did not have the allies you have now. We will go and we will ask Magnus Bane. He has eyes and ears in Downworld; he knows of all kinds of magic. He helped you with your curse; he can help us with this as well."

"There was no curse," said Will, as if he were reciting the lines of a play; his eyes were glassy.

"Will-listen to me. Please. Let us go to Magnus. He can help."

He closed his eyes and drew a deep breath. Tessa stared. She could not help watching him when she knew he could not see her-the fine spidering dark lashes against his cheekbones, the faint blue tint to his eyelids. "Yes," he said finally. "Yes. Of course. Tessa-thank you. I did not think."

"You were grieved," she said, suddenly aware that she was still holding his arm, and that they were close enough that she could have pressed a kiss to his cheek, or wrapped her arms about his neck to comfort him. She stepped back, releasing him. His eyes opened. "And you had thought he would always forbid you from searching for a cure. You know I have never been at peace with that. I had thought of Magnus before."

His eyes searched her face. "But you have never asked him?"

She shook her head. "Jem did not wish it. But now- All is changed now."

"Yes." He drew back from her, his eyes lingering on her face. "I will go down and call Cyril to fetch the carriage. Meet me in the courtyard."

To: Consul Josiah Wayland

From: Members of the Council

Dear Sir,

We can but express our great distress at receiving your letter. It was our impression that Charlotte Branwell was a choice you wholeheartedly embraced, and that she had proven herself a fit leader of the London Institute. Our own Inquisitor Whitelaw speaks highly of her and the manner in which she managed the challenge laid against her authority by Benedict Lightwood.

It is our opinion as a body that George Penhallow is not a fit successor to the place of Consul. Unlike Mrs. Branwell, he has not proven himself as a leader of others. It is true Mrs. Branwell is young and passionate, but the role of Consul is one that requires passion. We urge you to put aside thoughts of Mr. Penhallow, who is too young and green for the position, and take time to consider again the possibility of Mrs. Branwell.

Yours in Raziel’s name,

Members of the Council

Chapter 5 A Heart Divided

Yea, though God search it warily enough,

There is not one sound thing in all thereof;

Though he search all my veins through, searching them

He shall find nothing whole therein but love.

-Algernon Charles Swinburne, "Laus Veneris"

To: Members of the Council

From: Josiah Wayland, Consul

It is with a weighted heart that I take up my pen to write to you, gentlemen. Many of you have known me for a good number of years, and for many of those I have led you in the position of Consul. I believe I have led you well, and have served the Angel as best I could. It is, however, human to err, and I believe I have done such in appointing Charlotte Branwell head of the London Institute.

When I granted her the position, I believed that she would follow in the footsteps of her father and prove a faithful leader, obedient to the rule of the Clave. I also believed that her husband would stem her natural feminine tendencies toward impulsivity and thoughtlessness. Unfortunately, this has not proved to be the case. Henry Branwell lacks the strength of character to restrain his wife, and, unfettered by womanly duty, she has left the virtues of obedience far behind. Only the other day I discovered that Charlotte had given orders to have the spy Jessamine Lovelace recalled to the Institute upon her release from the Silent City, despite my express wishes that she be sent to Idris. I also suspect she lends an ear to those who are not friendly to the cause of the Nephilim and may in fact even be in league with Mortmain, such as the werewolf Woolsey Scott.

The Council does not serve the Consul; it has always been the other way around. I am a symbol of the power of the Council and the Clave. When my authority is undermined by disobedience, it undermines the authority of us all. Better a dutiful boy like my nephew, whose worth is untested, than one whose worth has been tested and found wanting.

In the Angel’s name,

Consul Josiah Wayland

Will remembered.

Another day, months ago, in Jem’s bedroom. Rain pounding against the windows of the Institute, streaking the glass with clear lines.

"And that is all?" Jem had asked. "That is the whole of it? The truth?" He’d been sitting at his desk, one of his legs bent up on the chair beneath him; he’d looked very young. His violin had been propped against the side of the chair. He had been playing it when Will had come in and, without preamble, announced that it was the end of pretense-he had a confession to make, and he meant to make it now.

That had ended the Bach. Jem had put the violin away, his eyes on Will’s face the whole time, anxiety blooming behind his silver eyes as Will had paced and spoken, paced and spoken, until he had run out of words.

"That is all of it," Will had said finally when he was done. "And I do not blame you if you hate me. I could understand it."

There’d been a long pause. Jem’s gaze had been steady on his face, steady and silver in the wavering light of the fire. "I could never hate you, William."

Will’s guts contracted now as he saw another face, a pair of steady blue-gray eyes looking up at his. "I tried to hate you, Will, but I could never manage it," she had said. In that moment Will had been painfully aware that what he had told Jem was not "the whole of it." There was more truth. There was his love for Tessa. But it was his burden to bear, not Jem’s. It was something that must be hidden for Jem to be happy. "I deserve your hatred," Will had said to Jem, his voice cracking. "I put you in danger. I believed I was cursed and that all who cared for me would die; I let myself care for you, and let you be a brother to me, risking the danger to you-"

"There was no danger."

"But I believed there was. If I held a revolver to your head, James, and pulled the trigger, would it really matter if I did not know that there were no bullets in the chambers?"

Jem’s eyes had widened, and then he’d laughed, a soft laugh. "Did you think I did not know you had a secret?" he’d said. "Did you think I walked into my friendship with you with my eyes shut? I did not know the nature of the burden you carried. But I knew there was a burden." He’d stood up. "I knew you thought yourself poison to all those around you," he’d added. "I knew you thought there to be some corruptive force about you that would break me. I meant to show you that I would not break, that love was not so fragile. Did I do that?"

Will had shrugged once, helplessly. He had almost wished Jem would be angry with him. It would have been easier. He’d never felt so small within himself as he did when he faced Jem’s expansive kindness. He thought of Milton’s Satan. Abashed the Devil stood, / And felt how awful goodness is. "You saved my life," Will had said.

A smile had spread across Jem’s face, as brilliant as the sunrise breaking over the Thames. "That is all I ever wanted."

"Will?" A soft voice broke him from his reverie. Tessa, sitting across from him inside the carriage, her gray eyes the color of rain in the dim light. "What are you thinking of?"

With an effort he pulled himself out of memory, his eyes fixing on her face. Tessa’s face. She wore no hat, and the hood of her brocade cloak had fallen back. Her face was pale-wider across the cheekbones, slightly pointed at the chin. He thought he had never seen a face that had such a power of expression: Her every smile divided his heart as lightning might split a blackened tree, as did her every look of sorrow. At the moment she was gazing at him with a wistful concern that caught his heart. "Jem," he said, with perfect honesty. "I was thinking of his reaction when I told him of Marbas’s curse."

"He felt only sorrow for you," she said immediately. "I know he did; he told me as much."

"Sorrow but not pity," said Will. "Jem has always given me exactly what I needed in the way that I needed it, even when I did not know myself what I required. All parabatai are devoted. We must be, to give so much of ourselves to each other, even if we gain in strength by doing so. But with Jem it is different. For so many years I needed him to live, and he kept me alive. I thought he did not know that he was doing it, but maybe he did."

"Perhaps," Tessa said. "He would never have counted a moment of such effort as wasted."

"He has never said anything to you of it?"

She shook her head. Her small hands, in their white gloves, were in fists in her lap. "He speaks of you only with the greatest pride, Will," she said. "He admires you more than you could ever know. When he learned of the curse, he was heartbroken for you, but there was also, almost, a sort of …"

"Vindication?"

She nodded. "He had always believed you were good," she said. "And then it was proven."

"Oh, I don’t know," he said bitterly. "To be good and to be cursed, it is not the same thing."

She leaned forward and caught at his hand, pressing it between her own. The touch was like white fire through his veins. He could not feel her skin, only the cloth of the gloves, and yet it did not matter. You kindled me, heap of ashes that I am, into fire. He had wondered once why love was always phrased in terms of burning. The conflagration in his own veins, now, gave the answer. "You are good, Will," she said. "There is no one better placed than I am to be able to say with perfect confidence how good you really are."

He said slowly, not wanting her to move her hands away, "You know, when we were fifteen years old, Yanluo, the demon who murdered Jem’s parents, was finally slain. Jem’s uncle determined to relocate himself from China to Idris and invited Jem to come and live with him there. Jem refused-for me. He said you do not leave your parabatai. That it was part of the words of the oath. ‘Thy people shall be my people.’ I wonder, if I had had the chance to return to my family, would I have done the same for him?"

"You are doing it," Tessa said. "Do not think I do not know that Cecily wants you to return home with her. And do not think I do not know that you remain for Jem’s sake."

"And yours," he said before he could stop himself. She withdrew her hands from his, and he cursed himself silently and savagely: How could you have been so foolish? How could you, after two months? You’ve been so careful. Your love for her is only a burden she endures out of politeness. Remember that.

But Tessa was only pulling aside the curtain as the carriage came to a stop. They were rolling into a mews, from whose entry hung a sign: all drivers of vehicles are directed to walk their horses while passing under this archway. "We are here," she said, as if he had not said a word. Perhaps he had not, Will thought. Perhaps he had not spoken aloud. Perhaps he was only losing his mind. Certainly it was not unimaginable, under the circumstances.