Clockwork Princess (Page 24)

Clockwork Princess(24)
Author: Cassandra Clare

"It is true," said Charlotte, who stood behind her desk, papers spread out before her on the surface. "I spoke to you of it this summer, of what Ragnor Fell had reported to me about the Herondales."

Will pulled his fists from his trouser pockets and faced the Consul angrily. "It was a joke to Mortmain, giving my family that house! He toyed with us. Why would he not extend the joke in this manner?"

"Here, Josiah," said Charlotte, indicating one of the papers on the desk in front of her. A map of Wales. "There is a Lake Lyn in Idris-and here, Tal-y-Llyn lake, at the foot of Cadair Idris-"

"’Llyn’ means ‘lake,’" said Cecily in an exasperated tone. "And we call it Llyn Mwyngil, though some call it Tal-y-Llyn-"

"And there are probably other locations in the world with the name of Idris," snapped the Consul, before he seemed to realize that he was arguing with a fifteen-year-old girl, and subsided.

"But this one means something," Will said. "They say the lakes around the mountain are bottomless-that the mountain itself is hollow, and inside it sleep the Cwn Annwn, the Hounds of the Underworld."

"The Wild Hunt," said Charlotte.

"Yes." Will raked his dark hair back. "We are Nephilim. We believe in legends, in myths. All the stories are true. Where better than a hollow mountain already associated with dark magic and portents of death to hide himself and his contraptions? No one would find it odd if strange noises came from the mountain, and no locals would investigate. Why else would he even be in the area? I always wondered why he took a particular interest in my family. Maybe it was simple proximity-the opportunity to devil a Nephilim family. He would have been unable to resist it."

The Consul was leaning against the desk, his eyes on the map beneath Charlotte’s hands. "It is not enough."

"Not enough? Not enough for what?" Cecily cried.

"To convince the Clave." The Consul stood. "Charlotte, you will understand. To launch a force against Mortmain on the assumption that he is in Wales, we will have to convene a Council meeting. We cannot take a small force and risk being outnumbered, especially by those creatures-how many of them were here this morning when you were attacked?"

"Six or seven, not counting the creature that seized Tessa," said Charlotte. "We believe they can fold in upon themselves and were therefore able to fit within the small confines of a brougham."

"And I believe that Mortmain did not realize that Gabriel and Gideon Lightwood would be with you, and thus underestimated the numbers he would need. Otherwise I suspect you might all be dead."

"Hang the Lightwoods," muttered Will. "I believe he underestimated Bridget. She carved those creatures up like a Christmas turkey."

The Consul threw his hands up. "We have read Benedict Lightwood’s papers. In them he states that Mortmain’s stronghold is just outside London, and that Mortmain intends to send a force against the London Enclave-"

"Benedict Lightwood was going rapidly insane when he wrote that," Charlotte interrupted. "Does it seem likely Mortmain would have shared with him his true plans?"

"What next and next?" The Consul’s voice was snappish, but also deadly cold. "Benedict had no reason to lie in his own journals, Charlotte, which you should not have read. If you were not so convinced that you should know more than the Council, you would have given them over immediately. Such displays of disobedience do not incline me to trust you. If you must, you can bring this issue of Wales up with the Council when we meet in a fortnight-"

"A fortnight?" Will’s voice rose; he was pale, with splotches of red standing out on his cheekbones. "Tessa was taken today. She does not have a fortnight."

"The Magister wanted her unharmed. You know that, Will," said Charlotte in a soft voice.

"He also wants to marry her! Do you not think she would hate becoming his plaything more than she would hate death? She could be married by tomorrow-"

"And to the devil with it if she is!" said the Consul. "One girl, who is not Nephilim, is not, cannot, be our priority!"

"She is my priority!" Will shouted.

There was a silence. Cecily could hear the sound of the damp wood popping in the grate. The fog that smeared the windows was dark yellow, and the Consul’s face was cast in shadow. Finally: "I thought she was your parabatai’s fiancee," he said tightly. "Not yours."

Will raised his chin. "If she is Jem’s fiancee, then I am duty bound to guard her as if she were my own. That is what it means to be parabatai."

"Oh, yes." The Consul’s voice dripped sarcasm. "Such loyalty is commendable." He shook his head. "Herondales. As stubborn as rocks. I remember when your father wanted to marry your mother. Nothing would dissuade him, though she was no candidate for Ascension. I had hoped for more amenability in his children."

"You’ll forgive my sister and myself if we do not agree," said Will, "considering that if my father had been more amenable, as you say, we would not exist."

The Consul shook his head. "This is a war," he said. "Not a rescue."

"And she is not just a girl," said Charlotte. "She is a weapon in the hands of the enemy. I am telling you, Mortmain intends to use her against us."

"Enough." The Consul lifted his overcoat from the back of a chair and shrugged himself into it. "This is a profitless conversation. Charlotte, see to your Shadowhunters." His gaze swept over Will and Cecily. "They seem … overexcited."

"I see that we cannot force your cooperation, Consul." Charlotte’s face was like thunder. "But remember that I will put it on record that we warned you of this situation. If in the end we were correct and disaster comes from this delay, all that results will be on your head."

Cecily expected the Consul to look angry, but he only flipped up his hood, hiding his features. "That is what it means to be Consul, Charlotte."

Blood. Blood on the flagstones of the courtyard. Blood staining the stairs of the house. Blood on the leaves of the garden, the remains of what had once been Gabriel’s brother-in-law lying in thick pools of drying blood, hot jets of blood splattering Gabriel’s gear as the arrow he had released drove into his father’s eye-

"Regretting your decision to remain at the Institute, Gabriel?" The cool, familiar voice cut through Gabriel’s feverish thoughts, and he looked up with a gasp.

The Consul stood over him, outlined by weak sunlight. He wore a heavy overcoat, gloves, and an expression as if Gabriel had done something to amuse him.

"I-" Gabriel caught his breath, forced the words to come out evenly. "No. Of course not."

The Consul quirked an eyebrow. "That must be why you are crouching here around the side of the church, in bloodstained clothes, looking as if you’re terrified someone might find you."

Gabriel scrambled to his feet, grateful for the hard stone wall behind him, bearing him up. He glared at the Consul. "Are you suggesting that I did not fight? That I ran away?"

"I am not suggesting any such thing," said the Consul mildly. "I know that you stayed. I know that your brother was injured-"

Gabriel took a sharp rattling breath, and the Consul’s eyes narrowed.

"Ah," he said. "So that is it, isn’t it? You saw your father die, and you thought you were going to see your brother die as well?"

Gabriel wanted to scrabble at the wall behind him. He wanted to hit the Consul in his unctuous, falsely sympathetic face. He wanted to run upstairs and throw himself down by his brother’s bed, refuse to leave, as Will had refused to leave Jem until Gabriel had forced him away. Will was a better brother to Jem than he himself was to Gideon, he had thought bitterly, and there was no blood shared between them. It was that in part that had driven him back out of the Institute, to this hiding space behind the stables. Surely no one would look for him here, he had told himself.

He had been wrong. But he was wrong so often, what was one more time?

"You saw your brother bleed," said the Consul, still in the same mild voice. "And you remembered-"

"I killed my father," Gabriel said. "I put an arrow through his eye-I spilled his blood. Do you think I don’t know what that means? His blood will cry to me from the ground, as Abel’s blood called to Cain. Everyone says he wasn’t my father anymore, but he was still all that remained of him. He was a Lightwood once. And Gideon could have been killed today. To lose him as well-"

"You see what I meant," said the Consul. "When I spoke of Charlotte and her refusal to obey the Law. The cost of life it engenders. It could have been your brother’s life sacrificed to her overweening pride."

"She does not seem proud."

"Is that why you wrote this?" The Consul drew from his coat pocket the first letter Gabriel and Gideon had sent him. He looked at it in contempt and let it flutter to the ground. "This ridiculous missive, calculated to annoy me?"

"Did it work?"

For a moment Gabriel thought the Consul was going to hit him. But the look of anger passed quickly from the older man’s eyes; when he spoke again, it was calmly. "I suppose I should not have expected a Lightwood to react well to being blackmailed. Your father would not have. I confess I thought you of weaker stuff."

"If you intend to try another avenue to persuade me, do not bother," Gabriel said. "There is no point in it."

"Really? You’re that loyal to Charlotte Branwell, after all her family did to yours? Gideon I might have expected this from-he takes after your mother. Too trusting in nature. But not you, Gabriel. From you I expected more pride in your blood."

Gabriel let his head fall back against the wall. "There was nothing," he said. "You understand? There was nothing in Charlotte’s correspondence to interest you, to interest anyone. You told us you would destroy us utterly if we did not report on her activities, but there was nothing to report on. You gave us no choice."

"You could have told me the truth."

"You did not want to hear it," said Gabriel. "I am not stupid, and neither is my brother. You want Charlotte removed as head of the Institute, but you do not want it to be too clear that it was your hand that removed her. You wished to discover her engaged in some sort of illegal dealing. But the truth is that there is nothing to be discovered."

"Truth is malleable. Truth can be uncovered, certainly, but it can also be created."

Gabriel’s gaze snapped to the Consul’s face. "You would rather I lied to you?"

"Oh, no," said the Consul. "Not to me." He put a hand on Gabriel’s shoulder. "The Lightwoods have always had honor. Your father made mistakes. You should not pay for them. Let me give you back what you have lost. Let me return to you Lightwood House, the good name of your family. You could live in the house with your brother and sister. You need no longer be dependent on the charity of the Enclave."

Charity. The word was bitter. Gabriel thought of his brother’s blood on the flagstones of the Institute. Had Charlotte not been so foolish, so determined to take the shape-changer girl into the bosom of the Institute against the objections of Clave and Consul, the Magister would not have sent his forces against the Institute. Gideon’s blood would not have been spilled.

In fact, whispered a small voice at the back of his mind, had it not been for Charlotte, my father’s secret would have remained a secret. Benedict would not have been forced to betray the Magister. He would not have lost the source of the drug that held off the astriola. He might never have transformed. His sons might never have learned of his sins. The Lightwoods could have continued in blissful ignorance.

"Gabriel," said the Consul. "This offer is for you only. It must be kept a secret from your brother. He is like your mother, too loyal. Loyal to Charlotte. His mistaken loyalty may do him credit, but it will not help us here. Tell him that I grew tired of your antics; tell him that I no longer desire any action from you. You are a good liar"-here he smiled sourly-"and I feel sure you can convince him. What do you say?"

Gabriel set his jaw. "What do you wish me to do?"

Will shifted in the armchair by the side of Jem’s bed. He had been here for hours now, and his back was growing stiff, but he refused to move. There was always the chance that Jem might wake, and expect him there.

At least it was not cold. Bridget had built up the fire in the grate; the damp wood popped and crackled, sending up the occasional blaze of sparks. The night outside the windows was dark without a hint of blue or clouds, only a flat black as if it had been painted on the glass.

Jem’s violin leaned against the foot of his bed, and his cane, still slicked with blood from the fight in the courtyard, lay beside it. Jem himself lay still, propped up on pillows, no color at all in his pale face. Will felt as if he were seeing him for the first time after a long absence, for that brief moment when you were apt to notice changes in familiar faces before they became part of the scenery of one’s life once again. Jem looked so thin-how had Will not noticed?-all extra flesh stripped away from the bones of cheek and jaw and forehead, so he was all hollows and angles. There was a faint bluish sheen to his closed eyelids, and to his mouth. His collarbones curved like the prow of a ship.

Will upbraided himself. How had he not realized all these months that Jem was dying-so quickly, so soon? How had he not seen the scythe and the shadow?

"Will." It was a whisper at the door. He looked up dully and saw Charlotte there, her head around the doorway. "There is … someone here to see you."

Will blinked as Charlotte moved out of the way and Magnus Bane stepped around her and into the room. For a moment Will could think of nothing to say.

"He says you summoned him," Charlotte said, sounding a little dubious. Magnus stood, looking indifferent, in a charcoal-gray suit. He was slowly rolling his gloves, dark gray kid, off his thin brown hands.