Clockwork Princess (Page 25)

Clockwork Princess(25)
Author: Cassandra Clare

"I did summon him," Will said, feeling as if he were waking up. "Thank you, Charlotte."

Charlotte gave him a look that mixed sympathy with the unspoken message Be it on your head, Will Herondale, and went out of the room, closing the door conspicuously behind her.

"You came," Will said, aware that he sounded stupid. He never liked it when people observed the obvious aloud, and here he was doing just that. He could not shake his feeling of discombobulation. Seeing Magnus here, in the middle of Jem’s bedroom, was like seeing a faerie knight seated among the white-wigged barristers of the Old Bailey.

Magnus dropped his gloves on top of a table and moved toward the bed. He put out a hand to brace himself against one of the posts as he looked down at Jem, so still and white that he could have been carved on top of a tomb. "James Carstairs," he said, murmuring the words under his voice as if they had some incantatory power.

"He’s dying," Will said.

"That much is evident." It could have sounded cold, but there were worlds of sadness in Magnus’s voice, a sadness that Will felt with a jolt of familiarity. "I thought you believed he had a few days, a week perhaps."

"It is not just the lack of the drug." Will’s voice sounded rusty; he cleared his throat. "In fact, we have a little of that, and have administered it. But there was a fight this afternoon, and he lost blood and was weakened. He is not strong enough, we fear, to recover himself."

Magnus reached out and with great gentleness lifted Jem’s hand. There were bruises on his pale fingers, and the blue veins ran like a map of rivers under the skin of his wrist. "Is he suffering?"

"I don’t know."

"Perhaps it would be better to let him die." Magnus looked at Will, his eyes dark gold-green. "Every life is finite, Will. And you knew, when you chose him, that he would die before you did."

Will stared ahead of him. He felt as if he were hurtling down a dark tunnel, one that had no end, no sides to grip to slow his fall. "If you think that would be the best thing for him."

"Will." Magnus’s voice was gentle but urgent. "Did you bring me here because you hoped I could help him?"

Will looked up blindly. "I don’t know why I summoned you," he said. "I don’t think it was because I believed there was anything you could do. I think rather I thought you were the only one who might understand."

Magnus looked surprised. "The only one who might understand?"

"You have lived so long," Will said. "You must have seen so many die, so many that you loved. And yet you survive and you go on."

Magnus continued to look astonished. "You summoned me here-a warlock to the Institute, just after a battle in which you were nearly all killed-to talk?"

"I find you easy to talk to," Will said. "I cannot say why."

Magnus shook his head slowly, and leaned against the post of the bed. "You are so young," he murmured. "But then again, I do not think a Shadowhunter has ever called upon me before simply to pass the watches of the night with him."

"I don’t know what to do," Will said. "Mortmain has taken Tessa, and I believe now I know where she might be. There is a part of me that wants nothing more than to go after her. But I cannot leave Jem. I swore an oath. And what if he wakes in the night and finds I am not here?" He looked as lost as a child. "He will think I left him willingly, not caring that he was dying. He will not know. And yet if he could speak, would he not tell me to go after Tessa? Is that not what he would want?" Will dropped his face into his hands. "I cannot say, and it is tearing me in half."

Magnus looked at him silently for a long moment. "Does he know you are in love with Tessa?"

"No." Will lifted his face, shocked. "No. I have never said a word. It was not his burden to bear."

Magnus took a deep breath and spoke gently. "Will. You asked me for my wisdom, as someone who has lived many lifetimes and buried many loves. I can tell you that the end of a life is the sum of the love that was lived in it, that whatever you think you have sworn, being here at the end of Jem’s life is not what is important. It was being here for every other moment. Since you met him, you have never left him and never not loved him. That is what matters."

"You really mean that," Will said wonderingly, and then, "Why are you being so kind to me? I owe you a favor still, don’t I? I remember that, you know, though you have never called it in."

"Haven’t I?" Magnus said, and then smiled at him. "Will, you treat me as a human being, a person like yourself; rare is the Shadowhunter who treats a warlock like that. I am not so heartless that I would call in a favor from a brokenhearted boy. One who I think, by the way, will be a very good man someday. So I will tell you this. I will stay here when you go, and I will watch over your Jem for you, and if he wakes, I will tell him where you went, and that it was for him. And I will do what I can to preserve his life: I do not have yin fen, but I do have magic, and perhaps there is something in an old spell book I might find that can help him."

"I would count it a great favor," Will said.

Magnus stood looking down at Jem. There was sadness etched on his face, that face that was usually so merry or sardonic or uncaring, a sadness that surprised Will. "’For whence had that former sorrow so easily penetrated to the quick, but that I had poured out my soul upon the dust, in loving one who must die?’" Magnus said.

Will looked up at him. "What was that?"

"Confessions of Saint Augustine," said Magnus. "You asked me how I, being immortal, survive so many deaths. There is no great secret. You endure what is unbearable, and you bear it. That is all." He drew away from the bed. "I will give you a moment alone with him, to say good-bye as you need. You can find me in the library."

Will nodded, speechless, as Magnus went to retrieve his gloves, then turned and left the room. Will’s mind was spinning.

He looked again at Jem, motionless in the bed. I must accept that this is the end, he thought, and even his thoughts felt hollow and distant. I must accept that Jem will never look at me, never speak to me again. You endure what is unbearable, and you bear it. That is all.

And yet it still did not seem real to him, as if it were a dream. He stood up and leaned over Jem’s still form. He touched his parabatai’s cheek lightly. It was cold.

"Atque in pepetuum, frater, ave atque vale," he whispered. The words of the poem had never seemed so fitting: Forever and ever, my brother, hail and farewell.

Will began to straighten up, to turn away from the bed. And as he did, he felt something wrap tightly around his wrist. He glanced down and saw Jem’s hand braceleting his own. For a moment he was too shocked to do anything but stare.

"I am not dead yet, Will," Jem said in a soft voice, thin but as strong as wire. "What did Magnus mean by asking you if I knew you were in love with Tessa?"

Chapter 11 Fearful of the Night

Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light;

I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.

-Sarah Williams, "The Old Astronomer"

"Will?"

After so much time of silence, of only Jem’s breaths, raggedly in and out, Will thought for a moment he was imagining it, his best friend’s voice speaking to him out of the dimness. As Jem released his grip on Will’s wrist, Will sank into the armchair beside the bed. His heart was pounding, half with relief and half with a sickly dread.

Jem turned his head toward him, against the pillow. His eyes were dark, their silver swallowed up by black. For a moment the two young men just stared at each other. It was like the calm just as one engaged in a battle, Will thought, when thought fled and inevitability took over.

"Will," Jem said again, and coughed, pressing his hand to his mouth. When he took it away, there was blood on his fingers. "Did I-have I been dreaming?"

Will started upright. Jem had sounded so clear, so sure-What did Magnus mean by asking you if I knew you were in love with Tessa?-but it was as if that burst of strength had fled from him, and now he sounded dizzy and bewildered.

Had Jem really heard what Magnus had said to him? And if he had, was there any chance it could be passed off as a dream, a feverish hallucination? The thought filled Will with a mixture of relief and disappointment. "Dream what?"

Jem looked down at his bloody hand, and slowly closed it into a fist. "The fight in the courtyard. Jessamine’s death. And they took her, didn’t they? Tessa?"

"Yes," Will whispered, and he repeated the words Charlotte had said to him earlier. They had brought him no comfort, but perhaps they would to Jem. "Yes, but I don’t think they’ll hurt her. Remember, Mortmain desired her unhurt."

"We must find her. You know that, Will. We must-" Jem struggled into a sitting position, and immediately began to cough again. Blood spattered the white coverlet. Will held Jem’s frail and shaking shoulders until the coughing ceased to rack his frame, then took one of the damp cloths from the bedside table and began to clean Jem’s hands. When he reached to wipe the blood from his parabatai’s face, Jem took the cloth gently from his grasp and looked at him gravely. "I am not a child, Will."

"I know." Will drew his hands back. He had not cleaned them since the fight in the courtyard, and Jessamine’s dried blood mixed with Jem’s fresh blood on his fingers.

Jem took a deep breath. Both he and Will waited to see if it would produce another spasm of coughing, and when it did not, Jem spoke. "Magnus said you were in love with Tessa. Is it true?"

"Yes," Will said, with the feeling that he was falling off a cliff. "Yes, it’s true."

Jem’s eyes were wide and luminous in the darkness. "Does she love you?"

"No." Will’s voice cracked. "I told her I loved her, and she never wavered from you. It is you she loves."

Jem’s death grip on the cloth in his hands relaxed slightly. "You told her," he said. "That you were in love with her."

"Jem-"

"When was this, and what excess of desperation could have driven you?"

"It was before I knew you were engaged. It was the day I discovered there was no curse on me." Will spoke haltingly. "I went to Tessa and told her that I loved her. She was as kind as she could be in telling me that she loved you and not me, and that you two were engaged." Will dropped his gaze. "I do not know if this will make any difference to you, James. But I truly had no idea that you cared for her. I was entirely obsessed with my own emotions."

Jem bit his lower lip, bringing color to the white skin. "And-forgive me for asking this-it is not a passing fancy, a transient regard …?" He broke off, looking at Will’s face. "No," he murmured. "I can see that it is not."

"I love her enough that when she assured me that she would be happy with you, I swore to myself I would never speak of my desires again, never indicate my regard by word or by gesture, never by action or speech violate her happiness. My feelings have not changed, and yet I care enough for her and for you that I would not say a word to threaten what you have found." The words spilled from Will’s lips; there seemed no reason to keep them back. If Jem was going to hate him, he would hate him for the truth and not a lie.

Jem looked stricken. "I am so sorry, Will. So very, very sorry. I wish that I had known-"

Will slumped down in the chair. "What could you have done?"

"I could have called off the engagement-"

"And broken both your hearts? How would that have benefited me? You are as dear to me as another half of my soul, Jem. I could not be happy while you were unhappy. And Tessa-she loves you. What sort of awful monster would I be, delighting in causing the two people I love the most in the world agony simply that I might have the satisfaction of knowing that if Tessa could not be mine, she could not be anybody’s?"

"But you are my parabatai. If you are in pain, I wish to lessen it-"

"This," Will said, "is the one thing you cannot give me comfort for."

Jem shook his head. "But how could I not have noticed? I told you, I saw that the walls about your heart were coming down. I thought-I thought I knew why; I told you I always knew you carried a burden, and I knew you had gone to see Magnus. I had thought that perhaps you had made some use of his magic, to free yourself from some imaginary guilt. If I had ever known it was because of Tessa, you must know, Will, I would never have made my feelings known to her."

"How could you have guessed?" Miserable though Will was, he felt free, as if a heavy burden had been displaced from him. "I did all I could to hide and deny it. You-you never hid your feelings. Looking back, it was clear and plain, and yet I never saw it. I was astonished when Tessa told me that you were engaged. You’ve always been the source in my life of such good things, James. I never thought you would be the source of pain, and so, wrongly, I never thought of your feelings at all. And that is why I was so blind."

Jem closed his eyes. The lids were blue-shadowed, parchmentlike. "I am grieved for your pain," he said. "But I am glad that you love her."

"You are glad?"

"It makes it easier," Jem said. "To ask you to do what I wish you to do: leave me, and go after Tessa."

"Now? Like this?"

Jem, incredibly, smiled. "Is that not what you were doing when I caught at your hand?"

"But-I did not believe you would regain consciousness. This is different. I cannot leave you like this, not to face alone whatever you must face-"

Jem’s hand came up, and for a moment Will thought he was going to reach for Will’s hand, but he knotted his fingers in the material of his friend’s sleeve instead. "You are my parabatai," he said. "You have said I could ask anything of you."

"But I swore to stay with you. ‘If aught but death part thee and me-‘"