Clockwork Princess (Page 23)

Clockwork Princess(23)
Author: Cassandra Clare

Will found that his hands had tightened, quite unconsciously, on Jessamine’s arms, leaving livid marks in the skin. "Someone take Jessamine from me," he said raggedly. "I must go after them."

"Will, no-," Charlotte began.

"Charlotte." The word tore out of his throat. "I must go-"

There was a clang-the sound of the Institute gates slamming shut. Will’s head jerked up, and he saw Jem.

The gates had just closed behind him, and he was walking toward them. He was moving slowly, as if drunk or injured, and as he drew closer, Will saw that he was covered in blood. The coal-black blood of the automatons, but a great deal of red blood as well-on his shirt, streaking his face and hands, and in his hair.

He neared them, and stopped dead. He looked the way Thomas had looked when Will had found him on the steps of the Institute, bleeding out and nearly dead.

"James?" Will said.

There was a world of questions in that one word.

"She’s gone," Jem said in a flat, uninflected voice. "I ran after the carriage-but it was gaining speed and I could not run fast enough. I lost them near Temple Bar." His eyes flicked toward Jessamine, but he did not even seem to see her body, or Will holding her, or anything at all. "If I could have run faster-," he said, and then he doubled up as if he had been struck, a cough ripping through him. He hit the ground on his knees and elbows, blood spattering the ground at his feet. His fingers clawed at the stone. Then he rolled onto his back and was still.

Chapter 10 Like Water upon Sand

For I wondered that others, subject to death, did live, since he whom I loved, as if he should never die, was dead; and I wondered yet more that myself, who was to him a second self, could live, he being dead. Well said one of his friends, "Thou half of my soul"; for I felt that my soul and his soul were "one soul in two bodies": and therefore was my life a horror to me, because I would not live halved. And therefore perchance I feared to die, lest he whom I had much loved should die wholly.

-Saint Augustine, Confessions, Book IV

Cecily pushed open the door of Jem’s bedroom with the tips of her fingers, and stared inside.

The room was quiet but aflutter with movement. Two Silent Brothers stood by the side of Jem’s bed, with Charlotte between them. Her face was grave and tearstained. Will knelt by the side of the bed, still in his bloodstained clothes from the courtyard fight. His head was down on his crossed arms, and he looked as if he was praying. He seemed young and vulnerable and despairing, and despite her conflicted feelings, some part of Cecily longed to go into the room and comfort him.

The rest of her saw the still, white figure lying in the bed, and quailed. She had been here such a short time; she could feel nothing but that she was intruding on the inhabitants of the Institute-their grief, their sorrow.

But she must talk to Will. She had to. She moved forward-

And felt a hand on her shoulder, pulling her away. Her back hit the wall of the corridor, and Gabriel Lightwood immediately released her.

She looked up at him in surprise. He looked exhausted, his green eyes shadowed, flecks of blood in his hair and on the cuffs of his shirt. His collar was damp. He had clearly come from his brother’s room. Gideon had been wounded badly in the leg by an automaton’s blade, and though the iratzes had helped, it seemed there was a limit to what they could cure. Both Sophie and Gabriel had assisted him to his room, though he had protested the whole way that all available attention should go to Jem.

"Do not go in there," Gabriel said in a low voice. "They are trying to save Jem. Your brother needs to be there for him."

"Be there for him? What can he do? Will is not a doctor."

"Even unconscious, James will draw strength from his parabatai."

"I need to talk to Will for only a moment."

Gabriel ran his hands through his mop of tousled hair. "You have not been with the Shadowhunters very long," he said. "You may not understand. To lose your parabatai-it is no small thing. We take it as seriously as losing a husband or wife, or a brother or sister. It is as if it were you lying in that bed."

"Will would not care so much if I were lying in that bed."

Gabriel snorted. "Your brother would not have taken so much trouble to warn me off you if he did not care about you, Miss Herondale."

"No, he does not like you much. Why is that? And why are you giving me advice about him now? You do not like him, either."

"No," Gabriel said. "It is not quite like that. I do not like Will Herondale. We have disliked each other for years. In fact, he broke my arm once."

"Did he?" Cecily’s eyebrows shot up despite herself.

"And yet I am beginning to come to see that many things that I had always thought were certain, are not certain. And Will is one of those things. I was certain he was a scoundrel, but Gideon has told me more about him, and I begin to understand he has a very peculiar sense of honor."

"And you respect that."

"I wish to respect it. I wish to understand it. And James Carstairs is one of the best of us; even if I hated Will, I would want him spared now, for Jem’s sake."

"The thing I must tell my brother," Cecily said. "Jem would want me to tell him. It is important enough. And it will take but a moment."

Gabriel rubbed the skin at his temples. He was so very tall-he seemed to tower above Cecily, for all that he was very slender. He had a sharply planed face, not quite pretty, but elegant, his lower lip shaped nearly exactly like a bow. "All right," he said. "I will go in and send him out."

"Why you? And not me?"

"If he is angry, if he is grief-stricken, it is better I see it, and that he be furious with me than with you," Gabriel said matter-of-factly. "I am trusting you, Miss Herondale, that this is important. I hope you won’t disappoint me."

Cecily said nothing, just watched as Gabriel pushed the door of the sickroom open and went in. She leaned against a wall, her heart pounding, as a murmur of voices came from within. She could hear Charlotte say something about blood replacement runes, which were apparently dangerous-and then the door opened and Gabriel came out.

She stood up straight. "Is Will-"

Gabriel’s eyes flashed at her, and a moment later Will appeared, on Gabriel’s heels, reaching around to shut the door firmly behind him. Gabriel nodded at Cecily and set off down the hall, leaving her alone with her brother.

She had always wondered how you could be alone with someone else, really. If you were with them, weren’t you by definition not alone? But she felt entirely alone now, for Will seemed to be somewhere else completely. He did not even seem to be angry. He leaned against the wall by the door, beside her, and yet he seemed as insubstantial as a ghost.

"Will," she said.

He did not seem to hear her. He was trembling, his hands shaking with strain and tension.

"Gwilym Owain," she said again, more softly.

He turned his head to look at her at least, though his eyes were as blue and cold as the water of Llyn Mwyngil in the lee of the mountains. "I first came here when I was twelve," he said.

"I know," Cecily said, bewildered. Did he think she could have forgotten? Losing Ella, and then her Will, her beloved older brother, in only a matter of days? But Will did not even seem to hear her.

"It was, to be precise, the tenth of November of that year. And every year after, on the anniversary of that day, I would fall into a black mood of despair. That was the day-that and my birthday-when I was most strongly reminded of Mam and Dad, and of you. I knew you were alive, that you were out there, that you wanted me back, and I could not go, could not even send you a letter. I wrote dozens, of course, and burned them. You had to hate me and blame me for Ella’s death."

"We never blamed you-"

"After the first year, even though I still dreaded the day’s approach, I began to find that there was something Jem simply had to do every November tenth, some training exercise or some search that would take us to the far end of the city in the cold, wet winter weather. And I would abuse him bitterly for it, of course. Sometimes the damp chill made him ill, or he would forget his drugs and become ill on the day, coughing blood and confined to bed, and that would be a distraction too. And only after it had happened three times-for I am very stupid, Cecy, and think only of myself-did I realize that of course he was doing it for me. He had noticed the date and was doing all he could to draw me from my melancholy."

Cecily stood stock-still, staring at him. Despite the words that pounded in her head to be spoken, she could say nothing, for it was as if the veil of years had fallen away and she was seeing her brother at last, as he had been as a child, petting her clumsily when she was hurt, falling asleep on the rug in front of the fire with a book open on his chest, climbing out of the pond laughing and shaking water out of his black hair. Will, with no wall between himself and the world outside.

He put his arms about himself as if he were cold. "I do not know who to be without him," he said. "Tessa is gone, and every moment she is gone is a knife ripping me apart from the inside. She is gone, and they cannot track her, and I have no idea where to go or what to do next, and the only person I can imagine speaking my agony to is the one person who cannot know. Even if he were not dying."

"Will. Will." She put her hand on his arm. "Please listen to me. This is about finding Tessa. I believe I know where Mortmain is."

His eyes snapped wide at that. "How could you know?"

"I was close enough to you to hear what Jessamine said when she was dying," Cecily said, feeling the blood pounding in him under his skin. His heart was hammering. "She said you were a terrible Welshman."

"Jessamine?" He sounded bewildered, but she saw the slight narrowing of his eyes. Perhaps, unconsciously, he was beginning to follow the same line of thought that she had.

"She kept saying Mortmain was in Idris. But the Clave knows he is not," said Cecily rapidly. "You did not know Mortmain when he lived in Wales, but I did. He knows it well. And once you did too. We grew up in the shadow of the mountain, Will. Think."

He stared at her. "You don’t imagine-Cadair Idris?"

"He knows those mountains, Will," she said. "And he would find it all funny, a great joke on you and all the Nephilim. He has taken her exactly where you fled from. He has taken her to our home."

"A posset?" said Gideon, taking the steaming mug from Sophie. "I feel like a child again."

"It has spice and wine in it. It will do you good. Build up your blood." Sophie fussed about, not looking at Gideon directly as she set the tray she had been carrying down on the nightstand beside his bed. He was sitting up, one of the legs of his trousers cut away below the knee and the leg itself wrapped in bandages. His hair was still disarrayed from the fight, and though he had been given clean clothes to wear, he still smelled slightly of blood and sweat.

"These build up my blood," he said, holding out an arm on which two blood-replacement runes, sangliers, had been inked.

"Is that supposed to mean that you don’t like possets, either?" she demanded, her hands on her hips. She could still recall how annoyed she’d been with him about the scones, but she had forgiven him completely the night before, while reading his letter to the Consul (which she had not had a chance to post yet-it was still in the pocket of her bloodstained apron). And today, when the automaton had sliced at his leg on the Institute steps and he’d fallen, blood pouring from the open wound, her heart had seized up with a terror that had surprised her.

"No one likes possets," he said with a faint but charming smile.

"Do I have to stay and make sure you drink it, or are you going to throw it under the bed? Because then we’ll have mice."

He had the grace to look sheepish; Sophie rather wished she had been there when Bridget had swept into his room and announced that she was there to clean the scones out from under the bed. "Sophie," he said, and when she gave him a stern look, he took a hasty swig of the posset. "Miss Collins. I have not yet had a chance to properly apologize to you, so let me take it now. Please forgive me for the trick I played on you with the scones. I did not mean to show you disrespect. I hope you do not imagine I think any less of you for your position in the household, for you are one of the finest and bravest ladies I have ever had the pleasure of knowing."

Sophie took her hands off her hips. "Well," she said. It was not many gentlemen who would apologize to a servant. "That is a very pretty apology."

"And I am sure the scones are very good," he added hastily. "I just don’t like scones. I never have liked scones. It’s not your scones."

"Do please stop saying the word ‘scone,’ Mr. Lightwood."

"All right."

"And they are not my scones; Bridget made them."

"All right."

"And you are not drinking your posset."

He opened his mouth, then shut it hastily and lifted the mug. When he was looking at her over the rim, she relented, and smiled. His eyes lit up.

"Very well," she said. "You do not like scones. How do you feel about sponge cake?"

It was midafternoon and the sun was high and weak in the sky. A dozen or so of the Enclave Shadowhunters, and several Silent Brothers, were spread out across the property of the Institute. They had taken away Jessamine earlier, and the body of the dead Silent Brother, whose name Cecily had not known. She could hear voices from the courtyard, and the clank of metal, as the Enclave sifted through remnants of the automaton attack.

In the drawing room, however, the loudest noise was the ticking of the grandfather clock in the corner. The curtains were drawn back, and in the pale sunlight the Consul stood scowling, his thick arms crossed over his chest. "This is madness, Charlotte," he said. "Utter madness, and based on the fancy of a child."

"I am not a child," Cecily snapped. She was seated in a chair by the fireplace, the same one Will had fallen asleep in the night before-had it been such a short time ago? Will stood beside her, glowering. He had not changed his clothes. Henry was in Jem’s room with the Silent Brothers; Jem had still not regained consciousness, and only the arrival of the Consul had dragged Charlotte and Will from his side. "And my parents knew Mortmain, as you well know. He befriended my family, my father. He gave us Ravenscar Manor when my father had-when we lost our house near Dolgellau."