Clockwork Princess (Page 15)

Clockwork Princess(15)
Author: Cassandra Clare

Charlotte shook her head. "There is a need here for mercy and pity. Jessamine is not what she once was-as any of you would know if you had visited her in the Silent City."

"I have no wish to visit with traitors," said Will coldly. "Was she still gibbering about Mortmain being in Idris?"

"Yes-that is why the Silent Brothers finally gave up; they could get no sense out of her. She has no secrets, nothing of worth that she knows. And she understands that. She feels worthless. If you could but put yourself in her shoes-"

"Oh, I don’t doubt she’s putting on a show for you, Charlotte, weeping and rending her garments-"

"Well, if she’s rending her garments," said Jem, with a flick of a smile toward his parabatai. "You know how much Jessamine likes her garments."

Will’s smile back was grudging but real. Charlotte saw her opening and pressed the advantage. "You will not even know her when you see her, I promise you that," she said. "Give it a week, a week only, and if none of you can bear to have her here, I will arrange for her transport to Idris." She pushed her plate away. "And now to go through my copies of Benedict’s papers. Who will assist me?"

To: Consul Josiah Wayland

From: The Council

Dear Sir,

Until our receipt of your last letter, we had thought our difference in thought on the topic of Charlotte Branwell to be a matter of simple opinion. Though you may not have given express permission for the removal of Jessamine Lovelace to the Institute, the approval was granted by the Brotherhood, who are in charge of such things. It seemed to us the action of a generous heart to allow the girl back into the only home she has known, despite her wrongdoing. As for Woolsey Scott, he leads the Praetor Lupus, an organization we have long considered allies.

Your suggestion that Mrs. Branwell may have given her ear to those who do not have the Clave’s best interests at heart is deeply troubling. Without proof, however, we are reluctant to move forward with this as a basis of information.

In Raziel’s name,

The Members of the Nephilim Council

The Consul’s carriage was a shining red five-glass landau with the four Cs of the Clave on the side, drawn by a pair of impeccable gray stallions. It was a wet day, drizzling faintly; his driver sat slumped in the seat up front, almost entirely hidden by an oilskin hat and cloak. With a frown the Consul, who had said not a word since they had left the breakfast room of the Institute, ushered Gideon and Gabriel into the carriage, climbed up after, and latched the door behind them.

As the carriage lurched away from the church, Gabriel turned to stare out the window. There was a faint burning pressure behind his eyes and in his stomach. It had come and gone since the previous day, sometimes rolling over him so strongly that he thought he might be sick.

A gigantic worm … the last stages of astriola … the demon pox.

When Charlotte and the rest of them had first made their accusations against his father, he hadn’t wanted to believe it. Gideon’s defection had seemed like madness, a betrayal so monstrous it could be explained only by insanity. His father had promised that Gideon would rethink his actions, that he would return to help with the running of the house and the business of being a Lightwood. But he had not come back, and as the days had grown shorter and darker, and Gabriel had seen less and less of his father, he had first begun to wonder and then to be afraid.

Benedict was hunted down and killed.

Hunted and killed. Gabriel rolled the words around in his mind, but they made no sense. He had killed a monster, as he had grown up being trained to do, but that monster had not been his father. His father was still alive somewhere, and any moment Gabriel would look out the window of the house and see him striding up the walk, his long gray coat flapping in the wind, the clean sharp lines of his profile outlined against the sky.

"Gabriel." It was his brother’s voice, cutting through the fog of memory and daydream. "Gabriel, the Consul asked you a question."

Gabriel looked up. The Consul was regarding him, his dark eyes expectant. The carriage was rolling through Fleet Street, journalists and barristers and costermongers all hurrying to and fro in the traffic.

"I asked you," the Consul said, "how you were enjoying the hospitality of the Institute."

Gabriel blinked at him. Little stood out for him among the fog of the past few days. Charlotte, putting her arms around him. Gideon, washing the blood off his hands. Cecily’s face, like a bright, angry flower. "It is all right, I suppose," he said in a rusty voice. "It is not my home."

"Well, Lightwood House is magnificent," said the Consul. "Built on blood and spoils, of course."

Gabriel stared at him, uncomprehending. Gideon was looking out the window, his expression faintly sick. "I thought you wished to speak to us about Tatiana," he said.

"I know Tatiana," said the Consul. "None of your father’s sense and none of your mother’s kindness. Rather a bad bargain for her, I’m afraid. Her request for reparations will be dismissed, of course."

Gideon twisted about in his seat and looked at the Consul incredulously. "If you credit her account so little, why are we here?"

"So I could speak with you alone," the Consul said. "You understand, when I first turned over the Institute to Charlotte, I had some thought that a woman’s touch would be good for the place. Granville Fairchild was one of the strictest men I’ve known, and though he ran the Institute according to the Law, it was a cold, unwelcoming place. Here, in London, the greatest city in the world, and a Shadowhunter could not feel at home." He shrugged fluidly. "I thought giving over administration of the place to Charlotte might help."

"Charlotte and Henry," Gideon corrected.

"Henry was a cipher," said the Consul. "We all know, as the saying goes, that the gray mare is the better horse in that marriage. Henry was never meant to interfere, and indeed he does not. But neither was Charlotte. She was meant to be docile and obey my wishes. In that she has disappointed me deeply."

"You backed her against our father," Gabriel blurted, and was immediately sorry he had. Gideon shot him a quelling glare, and Gabriel folded his gloved hands tightly in his lap, pressing his lips together.

The Consul’s eyebrows went up. "Because your father would have been docile?" he said. "There were two bad ends, and I chose the best of them. I still had hopes of controlling her. But now …"

"Sir," Gideon cut in, in his best polite voice. "Why are you telling us this?"

"Ah," said the Consul, glancing out the rain-streaked window. "Here we are." He rapped on the carriage window. "Richard! Stop the carriage at the Argent Rooms."

Gabriel flicked his eyes toward his brother, who shrugged in bafflement. The Argent Rooms were a notorious music hall and gentleman’s club in Piccadilly Circus. Ladies of ill repute frequented the place, and there were rumors that the business was owned by Downworlders, and that on some evenings the "magic shows" featured real magic.

"I used to come here with your father," said the Consul, once all three of them were on the pavement. Gideon and Gabriel were staring up through the drizzle at the rather tasteless Italianate theater front that had clearly been grafted onto the more modest buildings that had stood there before. It featured a triple loggia and some rather loud blue paint. "Once the police revoked the Alhambra’s license because the management had allowed the cancan to be danced upon their premises. But then, the Alhambra is run by mundanes. This is much more satisfactory. Shall we go in?"

His tone left no room for disagreement. Gabriel followed the Consul through the arcaded entrance, where money changed hands and a ticket was purchased for each of them. Gabriel looked at his ticket with some puzzlement. It was in the form of an advertisement, promising the best entertainment in london!

"Feats of strength," he read off to Gideon as they made their way down a long corridor. "Trained animals, strongwomen, acrobats, circus acts, and comic singers."

Gideon was muttering under his breath.

"And contortionists," Gabriel added brightly. "It looks like there’s a woman here who can put her foot on top of her-"

"By the Angel, this place is barely better than a penny gaff," Gideon said. "Gabriel, don’t look at anything unless I tell you it’s all right."

Gabriel rolled his eyes as his brother took firm hold of his elbow and propelled him into what was clearly the grand salon-a massive room whose ceiling was painted with reproductions of the Italian Great Masters, including Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, now rather smoke-stained and the worse for wear. Gasoliers hung from gilded mounds of plaster, filling the room with a yellowish light.

The walls were lined with velvet benches, on which dark figures huddled-gentlemen, surrounded by ladies whose dresses were too bright and whose laughter was too loud. Music poured from the stage at the front of the room. The Consul moved toward it, grinning. A woman in a top hat and tails was slinking up and down the stage, singing a song entitled "It’s Naughty, but It’s Nice." As she turned, her eyes flashed out green beneath the light of the gasolier.

Werewolf, Gabriel thought.

"Wait here for me a moment, boys," said the Consul, and he disappeared into the crowd.

"Lovely," Gideon muttered, and pulled Gabriel closer toward him as a woman in a tight-bodiced satin dress swayed by them. She smelled of gin and something else beneath it, something dark and sweet, a bit like James Carstairs’s scent of burned sugar.

"Who knew the Consul was such a ramper?" Gabriel said. "Couldn’t this have waited until after he took us to the Silent City?"

"He’s not taking us to the Silent City." Gideon’s mouth was tight.

"He’s not?"

"Don’t be a half-wit, Gabriel. Of course not. He wants something else from us. I don’t know what yet. He took us here to unsettle us-and he wouldn’t have done it if he weren’t fairly sure he has something over us that will prevent us from telling Charlotte or anyone else where we’ve been."

"Maybe he did used to come here with Father."

"Maybe, but that’s not why we’re here now," Gideon said with finality. He tightened his grip on his brother’s arm as the Consul reappeared, carrying with him a small bottle of what looked like soda water but what Gabriel guessed likely had at least a tuppence worth of spirit in it.

"What, nothing for us?" Gabriel inquired, and was met with a glare from his brother and a sour smile from the Consul. Gabriel realized he had no idea if the Consul himself had a family, or children. He was just the Consul. "Do you boys have any idea," he said, "what kind of peril you’re in?"

"Peril? From who, Charlotte?" Gideon sounded incredulous.

"Not from Charlotte." The Consul returned his gaze to them. "Your father did not just break the Law; he blasphemed it. He did not just deal with demons; he lay down among them. You are the Lightwoods-you are all that is left of the Lightwoods. You have no cousins, no aunts and uncles. I could have your whole family stricken off the registers of the Nephilim and turn you and your sister out into the street to starve or beg a living amid the mundanes, and I would be within the rights of Clave and Council to do it. And who do you think would stand up for you? Who would speak in your defense?"

Gideon had gone very pale, and his knuckles, where he gripped Gabriel’s arm, were white. "That is not fair," he said. "We did not know. My brother trusted my father. He cannot be held responsible-"

"Trusted him? He delivered the deathblow, didn’t he?" said the Consul. "Oh, you all contributed, but his was the coup de grace that slew your father-which rather indicates that he knew exactly what your father was."

Gabriel was aware of Gideon looking at him with concern. The air in the Argent Rooms was hot and close, stealing his breath. The woman onstage was now singing a song called "All Through Obliging a Lady" and striding up and down, hitting the stage over and over with the end of a walking stick, which made the floor shudder.

"The sins of the fathers, children. You can and will be punished for his crimes if I desire it. What will you do, Gideon, while your brother and Tatiana have their runes burned off? Will you stand and watch?"

Gabriel’s right hand twitched; he felt sure he would have reached out and seized the Consul by the throat if Gideon hadn’t caught hold of him first and held his wrist. "What do you want from us?" Gideon asked, his voice controlled. "You didn’t bring us here just to threaten us, not unless you want something in return. And if it was something you could ask easily or legally, you would have done it in the Silent City."

"Clever boy," the Consul said. "I want you to do something for me. Do it, and I will see to it that, though Lightwood House may be confiscated, you retain your honor and your name, your lands in Idris, and your place as Shadowhunters."

"What do you want us to do?"

"I wish you to observe Charlotte. Most specifically her correspondence. Tell me what letters she receives and sends, especially to and from Idris."

"You want us to spy on her." Gideon’s voice was flat.

"I don’t want any more surprises like the one about your father," said Consul. "She should never have kept his disease a secret from me."

"She had to," Gideon said. "It was a condition of the agreement they made-"

The Consul’s lips tightened. "Charlotte Branwell has no right to make agreements of such scope without consulting me. I am her superior. She should not and cannot go over my head in that manner. She and that group in the Institute behave as if they are their own country that exists under its own laws. Look what happened with Jessamine Lovelace. She betrayed us all, nearly to our destruction. James Carstairs is a dying drug addict. That Gray girl is a changeling or a warlock and has no place in an Institute, ridiculous engagement be damned. And Will Herondale-Will Herondale is a liar and a spoiled brat who will grow up to be a criminal, if he grows up at all." The Consul paused, breathing hard. "Charlotte may run that place like a fiefdom, but it is not. It is an Institute and reports to the Consul. And so will you."