Clockwork Princess (Page 12)

Clockwork Princess(12)
Author: Cassandra Clare

When the carriage door opened, it brought with it a blast of cool Chelsea air. He saw Tessa raise her head as Cyril helped her down. He joined Tessa on the cobblestones. The place smelled of the Thames. Before the Embankment had been built, the river had come much closer to these rows of houses, their edges softened by gaslight in the darkness. Now the river was separated by a greater distance, but one could still smell the salt-dirt-iron tang of water.

The front of No. 16 was Georgian, made of plain red brickwork, with a bay window that jutted out over the front door. There was a small paved court and a garden behind an elegant fence with a great deal of delicate scrolling ironwork. The gate was already open. Tessa pushed through and marched up the front steps to knock upon the door, Will only a few steps behind her.

The door was opened by Woolsey Scott, wearing a canary-yellow brocaded silk dressing gown over trousers and a shirt. He had a gold monocle perched in one eye socket, and regarded them both through it with some distaste. "Bother," he said. "I would have had the footman answer and send you away, but I thought you were somebody else."

"Who?" Tessa inquired, which did not seem to Will to be germane to the issue, but it was Tessa’s way-she was forever asking questions; leave her alone in a room, and she’d begin asking questions of the furniture and plants.

"Someone with absinthe."

"Swallow enough of that stuff and you’ll think you’re somebody else," said Will. "We’re seeking Magnus Bane; if he isn’t here, just tell us and we’ll not take up more of your time."

Woolsey sighed as if greatly prevailed upon. "Magnus," he called. "It’s your blue-eyed boy."

There were footsteps in the corridor behind Woolsey, and Magnus appeared in full evening dress, as if he had just come from a ball. Starched white shirtfront and cuffs, swallowtail black coat, and hair like a ragged fringe of dark silk. His eyes flicked from Will to Tessa. "And to what do I owe the honor, at such a late hour?"

"A favor," Will said, and amended himself when Magnus’s eyebrows went up. "A question."

Woolsey sighed and stepped back from the door. "Very well. Come into the drawing room."

No one offered to take their hats or coats, and once they reached the drawing room, Tessa stripped off her gloves and stood with her hands close to the fire, shivering slightly. Her hair was a damp mass of curls at the back of her neck, and Will looked away from her before he could remember what it felt like to put his hands through that hair and feel the strands wind about his fingers. It was easier at the Institute, with Jem and the others to distract him, to remember that Tessa was not his to recall that way. Here, feeling as if he were facing the world with her by his side-feeling that she was here for him instead of, quite sensibly, for the health of her own fiance-it was nearly impossible.

Woolsey threw himself into a flower-patterned armchair. He had plucked the monocle from his eye and was swinging it around his fingers on its long gold chain. "I simply cannot wait to hear what this is about."

Magnus moved toward the fireplace and leaned against the mantel, the very picture of a young gentleman at leisure. The room was painted a pale blue, and decorated with paintings that featured vast fields of granite, gleaming blue seas, and men and women in classical dress. Will thought he recognized a reproduction of an Alma-Tadema-or at least it must have been a reproduction, mustn’t it?

"Don’t gape at the walls, Will," said Magnus. "You have been all but absent for months. What brings you here now?"

"I did not want to trouble you," Will muttered. It was only partly the truth. Once the curse Will had believed he was under had been proved, by Magnus, to be false, he had avoided Magnus-not because he was angry with the warlock, or had no more need of him, but because the sight of Magnus caused him pain. He had written him a short letter, telling him what had happened and that his secret was a secret no more. He had spoken of Jem’s engagement to Tessa. He had asked that Magnus not reply. "But this-this is a crisis."

Magnus’s cat eyes widened. "What sort of crisis?"

"It is about yin fen," said Will.

"Gracious," Woolsey said. "Don’t tell me my pack is taking the stuff again?"

"No," Will said. "There is none of it to take." He saw dawning comprehension on Magnus’s face and went on to explain the situation, as best he could. Magnus didn’t change expression as Will spoke, any more than Church did when someone spoke to him. Magnus only watched out of his gold-green eyes until Will was done.

"And without the yin fen?" Magnus said at last.

"He will die," said Tessa, turning from the fireplace. Her cheeks were flushed carnation pink, whether from the heat of the fire or from the stress of the situation, Will could not tell. "Not immediately, but-within the week. His body cannot sustain itself without the powder."

"How does he take it?" Woolsey inquired.

"Dissolved in water, or inhaled- What has that got to do with anything?" Will demanded.

"Nothing," Woolsey said. "I was only wondering. Demon drugs are a curious thing."

"For us, who love him, it is a sight more than curious," Tessa said. Her chin was up, and Will remembered what he had said to her once, about being like Boadicea. She was brave, and he adored her for it, even as it was employed in the defense of her love for someone else.

"Why have you come to me with this?" Magnus’s voice was quiet.

"You helped us before," Tessa said. "We thought perhaps you could help again. You helped with de Quincey-and Will, with his curse-"

"I am not at your beck and call," Magnus said. "I helped with de Quincey because Camille requested it of me, and Will, once, because he offered me a favor in return. I am a warlock. And I do not serve Shadowhunters for free."

"And I am not a Shadowhunter," said Tessa.

There was a silence. Then: "Hmm," Magnus said, and turned away from the fire. "I understand, Tessa, that you are to be congratulated?"

"I …"

"On your engagement to James Carstairs."

"Oh." She flushed, and her hand went to her throat, where she always wore Jem’s mother’s necklace, his gift to her. "Yes. Thank you."

Will felt rather than saw Woolsey’s eyes on all three of them-Magnus, Tessa, and himself-sliding from one to the other, the mind behind the eyes examining, deducing, enjoying.

Will’s shoulders tightened. "I would be happy to offer anything," he said. "This time. Another favor, or whatever you wanted, for the yin fen. If it’s payment, I could arrange-that is, I could try-"

"I may have helped you before," Magnus said. "But this-" He sighed. "Think, the pair of you. If someone is buying up all the yin fen in the country, then it is someone who has a reason. And who has a reason to do that?"

"Mortmain," Tessa whispered before Will could say it. He could still remember his own voice:

"Mortmain’s minions have been buying up the yin fen supply in the East End. I confirmed it. If you had run out and he was the only one with a supply …"

"We would have been put in his power," said Jem. "Unless you were willing to let me die, of course, which would be the sensible course of action."

But with enough yin fen to last them twelve months, Will had thought there was no danger. Had thought that Mortmain would find some other way to harry and torment them, for surely he would see this plan could not work. Will had not expected a year’s worth of the drug to be gone in eight weeks.

"You do not want to help us," Will said. "You do not want to position yourself as an enemy of Mortmain’s."

"Well, can you blame him?" Woolsey rose in a whirl of yellow silk. "What could you possibly have to offer that would make the risk worth it to him?"

"I will give you anything," said Tessa in a low voice that Will felt in his bones. "Anything at all, if you can help us help Jem."

Magnus gripped a handful of his black hair. "God, the two of you. I can make inquiries. Track down some of the more unusual shipping routes. Old Molly-"

"I’ve been to her," Will said. "Something’s frightened her so badly, she won’t even crawl out of her grave."

Woolsey snorted. "And that doesn’t tell you anything, little Shadowhunter? Is it really worth all this, just to stretch your friend’s life out another few months, another year? He will die anyway. And the sooner he dies, the sooner you can have his fiancee, the one you’re in love with." He cut his amused gaze toward Tessa. "Really you ought to be counting with great eagerness the days till he expires."

Will did not know what happened after that; everything went suddenly white, and Woolsey’s monocle was flying across the room. Will’s head hit something painfully, and the werewolf was under him, kicking and swearing, and they were rolling across the rug, and there was a sharp pain in his wrist, where Woolsey had clawed him. The pain cleared his head, and he was aware that Woolsey was pinning him to the ground, his eyes gone yellow and his teeth bared and as sharp as daggers, ready to bite.

"Stop it. Stop it!" Tessa, by the fire, had seized up a poker; Will choked and put his hand against Woolsey’s face, pushing him away. Woolsey yelled, and suddenly the weight was off Will’s chest; Magnus had lifted the werewolf and shoved him away. Then Magnus’s hands were fisted in the back of Will’s jacket, and Will found himself being dragged from the room, Woolsey staring after him, one hand to his face where Will’s silver ring had burned his cheekbone.

"Let me go. Let me go!" Will struggled, but Magnus’s grip was like iron. He marched Will down the corridor and into a half-lit library. Will pulled free just as Magnus let go of him, resulting in an inelegant stumble that fetched him up against the back of a red velvet sofa. "I cannot leave Tessa alone with Woolsey-"

"Her virtue is hardly in danger from him," Magnus said dryly. "Woolsey will behave himself, which is more than I can say for you."

Will turned around slowly, wiping blood from his face. "You’re glaring at me," he said to Magnus. "You look like Church before he bites someone."

"Picking a fight with the head of the Praetor Lupus," Magnus said bitterly. "You know what his pack would do to you if they had an excuse. You want to die, don’t you?"

"I don’t," Will said, surprising even himself a little.

"I don’t know why I ever helped you."

"You like broken things."

Magnus took two strides across the room and seized Will’s face in his long fingers, forcing his chin up. "You are not Sydney Carton," he said. "What good will it do you to die for James Carstairs, when he is dying anyway?"

"Because if I save him, then it is worth it-"

"God!" Magnus’s eyes narrowed. "What is worth it? What could possibly be worth it?"

"Everything I have lost!" Will shouted. "Tessa!"

Magnus dropped his hand from Will’s face. He took several paces backward and breathed in and out slowly, as if mentally counting to ten. "I’m sorry," he said finally. "About what Woolsey said."

"If Jem dies, I cannot be with Tessa," said Will. "Because it will be as if I were waiting for him to die, or took some joy in his death, if it let me have her. And I will not be that person. I will not profit from his death. So he must live." He lowered his arm, his sleeve bloody. "It is the only way any of this can ever mean anything. Otherwise it is only-"

"Pointless, needless suffering and pain? I don’t suppose it would help if I told you that is the way life is. The good suffer, the evil flourish, and all that is mortal passes away."

"I want more than that," said Will. "You made me want more than that. You showed me I was only ever cursed because I had chosen to believe myself so. You told me there was possibility, meaning. And now you would turn your back on what you created."

Magnus laughed shortly. "You are incorrigible."

"I’ve heard that." Will pulled himself away from the sofa, wincing. "You’ll help me, then?"

"I’ll help you." Magnus reached down his shirtfront and drew out something that dangled on a chain, something that glowed with a soft red light. A square red stone. "Take this."

He folded it into Will’s hand.

Will looked at him in confusion. "This was Camille’s."

"I gave it to her as a gift," said Magnus, a bitter quirk to the side of his mouth. "She returned all my gifts to me last month. You might as well take it. It warns when demons are close. It might work on those clockwork creations of Mortmain’s."

"’True love cannot die,’" Will said, translating the inscription on the back in the light from the corridor. "I can’t wear this, Magnus. It’s too pretty for a man."

"So are you. Go home and clean yourself up. I will call upon you as soon as I have information." He looked at Will keenly. "In the meantime do your best to be worthy of my assistance."

"If you come near me, I shall bash in your head with this poker," Tessa said, brandishing the fireplace instrument between herself and Woolsey Scott as if it were a sword.

"I’ve no doubt you would too," he said, looking at her with a grudging sort of respect as he mopped the blood from his chin with a monogrammed handkerchief. Will had been bloody too, his own blood and Woolsey’s; he was doubtless in another room with Magnus now, getting more blood smeared everywhere. Will was never overconcerned with neatness, and even less so when he was emotional. "I see you’ve begun to be like them, the Shadowhunters you seem to adore so much. Whatever possessed you to engage yourself to one of them? And a dying one at that."

Rage flared up in Tessa, and she considered smacking Woolsey with the poker whether he came near her or not. He had moved awfully quickly while fighting Will, though, and she didn’t fancy her chances. "You don’t know James Carstairs. Don’t speak about him."