Clockwork Princess (Page 18)

Clockwork Princess(18)
Author: Cassandra Clare

"No," Jem said finally, rising to his feet. "Tessa, you cannot."

She followed his motion, rising as well. "I can. You are my fiance. I cannot allow you to die when I might help you, and Mortmain does not mean me physical harm-"

"We do not know what he means! He cannot be trusted!" Will said suddenly, and then he put his head down, his hand gripping the mantel so hard that his fingers were white. Cecily could tell he was forcing himself to be silent.

"If it were you Mortmain wanted, Will, you would go," said Tessa, looking at Cecily’s brother with a meaning in her eyes that brooked no contradiction. Will flinched at her words.

"No," said Jem. "I would forbid him as well."

Tessa turned to Jem with the first expression of anger toward him Cecily had ever seen on her face. "You cannot forbid me-any more than you could Will-"

"I can," Jem said. "For a very simple reason. The drug is not a cure, Tessa. It only extends my living. I will not allow you to throw away your own life for a remnant of mine. If you go to Mortmain, it will be for nothing. I still won’t take the drug."

Will lifted his head. "James-"

But Tessa and Jem were staring at each other, eyes locked. "You would not," Tessa breathed. "You would not insult me by hurling a sacrifice I made for you back in my face like that."

Jem strode across the room and seized the packet-and the letter-off Charlotte’s desk. "I would rather insult you than lose you," he said, and before any of them could make a move to stop him, he cast both items into the fire.

The room erupted in shouts. Henry dashed forward, but Will had already dropped to his knees before the grate and thrust both his hands into the flames.

Cecily bolted out of her chair. "Will!" she shouted, and darted over to her brother. She seized him by the shoulders of his jacket and pulled him away from the fire. He tumbled backward, the still-burning packet falling from his hands. Gideon was there a moment later, stamping out the small flames with his feet, leaving a mess of burned paper and silvery powder on the rug.

Cecily stared into the grate. The letter with the instructions telling how to summon Mortmain’s automaton was gone, burned into ashes.

"Will," Jem said. He looked sick. He fell to his knees next to Cecily, still holding her brother’s shoulders, and drew a stele from his jacket. Will’s hands were scarlet, livid white where blisters were already forming on the skin, and patched black with soot. His breath was hitching and harsh in Cecily’s ear-gasps of pain, the way he had sounded when he’d fallen off the roof of their house when he was nine and had shattered the bones in his left arm. "Byddwch yn iawn, Will," she said as Jem put the stele to her brother’s forearm and drew quickly. "You’ll be all right."

"Will," Jem said, half under his breath. "Will, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry. Will-"

Will’s hitching breaths were slowing as the iratze took effect, his skin paling back to its normal color. "There’s still some yin fen that can be preserved," Will said, slumping back against Cecily. He smelled like smoke and iron. She could feel his heart pounding through his back. "It had better be gathered up before anything else-"

"Here." It was Tessa, kneeling down; Cecily was dimly aware that all the others were standing, Charlotte with one hand over her mouth in shock. In Tessa’s right hand was a handkerchief, in which was perhaps half a handful of yin fen, all that Will had saved from the fire. "Take this," she said, and put it in Jem’s free hand, the one that did not hold the stele. He looked as if he were about to speak to her, but she had already straightened up. Looking utterly shattered, Jem watched as she walked from the room.

"Oh, Will. Whatever are we going to do with you?"

Will sat, feeling rather incongruous in the flowered armchair in the drawing room, letting Charlotte, perched on a small stool before him, smear salve on his hands. They no longer hurt much, after three iratzes, and they had returned to their normal color, but Charlotte insisted on treating them anyway.

The others had gone, save for Cecily and Jem; Cecily sat beside him, perched on the arm of his chair, and Jem knelt on the burned rug, his stele still in his hands, not touching Will but close. They had refused to leave, even after the others had drifted away and Charlotte had sent Henry back to the cellar to work. There was nothing more to be done, after all. The instructions on how to contact Mortmain were gone, burned to ash, and there was no more decision to be made.

Charlotte had insisted that Will stay and have his hands salved, and Cecily and Jem had refused to leave him. And Will had to admit he liked it, liked having his sister there on the arm of his chair, liked the fiercely protective glares she shot at anyone who came near him, even Charlotte, sweet and harmless with her salve and her motherly clucking. And Jem, at his feet, leaning a bit against his chair, as he had so many times when Will was being bandaged up from fights or iratzed because of wounds he’d gotten in battle.

"Do you remember the time Meliorn tried to knock your teeth out for calling him a pointy-eared layabout?" Jem said. He had taken some of the yin fen Mortmain had sent, and there was color in his cheeks again.

Will smiled, despite everything; he couldn’t help it. It had been the one thing in the past few years that had made him feel fortunate: that he had someone in his life who knew him, knew what he was thinking before he said it out loud. "I would have knocked his teeth out in return," he said, "but when I went to find him again, he had emigrated to America. To avoid my wrath, no doubt."

"Hmph," said Charlotte, the way she always did when she thought Will was getting above himself. "He had many enemies in London, to my understanding."

"Dydw I ddim yn gwybod pwy yw unrhyw un o’r bobl yr ydych yn siarad amdano," said Cecily plaintively.

"You may not know who we are talking about, but no one else knows what you are saying," said Will, though his tone held no real reproof. He could hear the exhaustion in his own voice. The lack of sleep of the night before was taking its toll. "Speak English, Cecy."

Charlotte rose, returned to her desk, and set the jar of salve down. Cecily tugged on a lock of Will’s hair. "Let me see your hands."

He held them up. He remembered the fire, the white-hot agony of it, and more than anything else Tessa’s shocked face. He knew she would understand why he had done what he had done, why he had not thought twice about it, but the look in her eyes-as if her heart had broken for him.

He only wished that she were still here. It was good to be here with Jem and Cecily and Charlotte, to be surrounded by their affection, but without her there would always be something missing, a Tessa-shaped part chiseled out of his heart that he would never get back.

Cecily touched his fingers, which looked quite normal now, aside from the soot under his fingernails. "It is quite astonishing," she said, then patted his hands lightly, careful not to smear the salve. "Will has always been prone to damaging himself," she added, with fondness in her tone. "I cannot count the broken limbs he sustained when we were children-the scratches, the scars."

Jem leaned closer against the chair, staring into the fire. "Better it were my hands," he said.

Will shook his head. Exhaustion was muting the edges of everything in the room, blurring the flocked wallpaper into a single mass of dark color. "No. Not your hands. You need your hands for the violin. What do I need mine for?"

"I should have known what you would do," Jem said in a low voice. "I always know what you will do. I should have known you would put your hands into the fire."

"And I should have known you would throw that packet away," said Will, without rancor. "It was-it was a madly noble thing to do. I understand why you did it."

"I was thinking of Tessa." Jem drew his knees up and rested his chin on them, then laughed softly. "Madly noble. Isn’t that meant to be your area of expertise? Suddenly I am the one who does ridiculous things and you tell me to stop?"

"God," said Will. "When did we change places?"

The firelight played over Jem’s face and hair as he shook his head. "It is a very strange thing, to be in love," he said. "It changes you."

Will looked down at Jem, and what he felt, more than jealousy, more than anything else, was a wistful desire to commiserate with his best friend, to speak of the feelings he held in his heart. For were they not the same feelings? Did they not love the same way, the same person? But, "I wish you wouldn’t risk yourself," was all he said.

Jem stood up. "I have always wished that about you."

Will raised his eyes, so drowsy with sleep and the tiredness that came with healing runes that he could see Jem only as a haloed figure of light. "Are you going?"

"Yes, to sleep." Jem touched his fingers lightly to Will’s healing hands. "Let yourself rest, Will."

Will’s eyes were already drifting closed, even as Jem turned to go. He did not hear the door close behind Jem. Somewhere down the corridor Bridget was singing, her voice rising above the crackle of the fire. Will did not find it as annoying as he usually did, but rather more like a lullaby that his mother would once have sung him, to guide him to sleep.

"Oh, what is brighter than the light?

What is darker than the night?

What is keener than an axe?

What is softer than melting wax?

Truth is brighter than the light,

Falsehood darker than the night.

Revenge is keener than an axe,

And love is softer than melting wax."

"A riddle song," Cecily said, her voice drowsy and half-awake. "I’ve always liked those. Do you remember when Mam used to sing to us?"

"A little," Will admitted. If he were not so tired, he might not have admitted it at all. His mother had always been singing, music filling the corners of the manor house, singing while she walked beside the waters in the Mawddach estuary, or among the daffodils in the gardens. Llawn yw’r coed o ddail a blode, llawn o goriad merch wyf inne.

"Do you remember the sea?" he said, exhaustion making his voice heavy. "The lake at Tal-y-Llyn? There is nothing so blue here in London as either of those things."

He heard Cecily take a sharp breath. "Of course I remember. I thought you did not."

Images from dreams painted themselves on the inside of Will’s eyelids, sleep reaching for him like a current, pulling him away from the lighted shore. "I don’t think I can get up out of this chair, Cecy," he murmured. "I shall rest here tonight."

Her hand came up, felt for his, and circled it in a loose clasp. "Then I will stay with you," she said, and her voice became part of the current of dreams and sleep that caught him finally and drew him down and over and under.

To: Gabriel and Gideon Lightwood

From: Consul Josiah Wayland

I was most surprised to receive your missive. I fail to perceive how I could possibly have made myself more clear. I wish for you to relay the details of Mrs. Branwell’s correspondence with her relatives and well-wishers in Idris. I did not request any persiflage about the woman’s milliner. I care neither about her manner of dress nor about your daily menu.

Pray write back to me a letter containing relevant information. I devoutly hope such a letter will also be one more befitting Shadowhunters and less Bedlamites.

In Raziel’s name,

Consul Wayland

Chapter 8 That Fire of Fire

You call it hope-that fire of fire!

It is but agony of desire.

-Edgar Allan Poe, "Tamerlane"

Tessa sat at her vanity table methodically brushing out her hair. The air outside was cool but humid, seeming to trap the water of the Thames, scented with iron and city dirt. It was the sort of weather that made her normally thick, wavy hair tangle at the ends. Not that her mind was on her hair; it was simply a repetitive motion, the brushing, that allowed her to keep a sort of forcible calm.

Over and over in her mind she saw Jem’s shock as Charlotte read out Mortmain’s letter, and Will’s burned hands, and the tiny bit of yin fen she had managed to gather up off the floor. She saw Cecily’s arms about Will, and Jem’s anguish as he apologized to Will, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.

She hadn’t been able to bear it. They had been in agony, both of them, and she loved them both. Their pain had been because of her-she was what Mortmain wanted. She was the cause of Jem’s yin fen being gone, and Will’s misery. When she had whirled and run out of the room, it had been because she could not stand it any longer. How could three people who cared for one another so much cause one another so much pain?

She set the hairbrush down and looked at herself in the mirror. She looked tired, with shadowed eyes, as Will had looked all day as he’d sat with her in the library and helped Charlotte with Benedict’s papers, translating some of the passages that were in Greek or Latin or Purgatic, his quill pen moving swiftly over paper, his dark head bent. It was odd to look at Will in the daylight and remember the boy who had held her as if she were a life raft in a storm on the steps of Woolsey’s house. Will’s daylight face was not untroubled, but it was not open or giving either. He had not been unfriendly or cold, but neither had he looked up, or smiled over the library table at her, or acknowledged in any way the events of the previous night.

She had wanted to pull him aside and ask him if he had heard from Magnus, to say to him: No one understands what you feel but me, and no one understands what I feel but you, so can we not feel together? But if Magnus had contacted him, Will would have told her; he was honorable. They were all honorable. If they had not been, she thought, looking down at her hands, perhaps everything would not be so awful.

It had been foolish to offer to go to Mortmain-she knew that now-but the thought had seized her as fiercely as a passion. She could not be the cause of all this unhappiness and not do something to alleviate it. If she gave herself up to Mortmain, Jem would live longer, and Jem and Will would have each other, and it would be as if she had never come to the Institute.