Clockwork Princess (Page 28)

Clockwork Princess(28)
Author: Cassandra Clare

Charlotte slammed her hand down on the table with such force that the sound reverberated through the room. "All of you be silent," she said, in such a commanding tone that even Magnus looked alarmed. "Gabriel, Gideon, you are both correct. It is better for Will if we do not follow him, and we cannot allow one of our own to perish. It is also true that the Magister is beyond our reach; the Council will meet to decide on that matter. There is nothing we can do about that now. Therefore we must bend all our energies to saving Jem. He is dying, but not dead. Part of Will’s strength relies on him, and he is one of our own. He has finally given us permission to seek a cure for him, and therefore we must do that."

"But-," Gabriel began.

"Silence," Charlotte said. "I am the head of the Institute; you will remember who saved you from your father and show me respect."

"That’s putting Gideon in his place, all right," Magnus said with satisfaction.

Charlotte turned on him with blazing eyes. "And you, too, Warlock; Will may have summoned you here, but you remain on my sufferance. It is my understanding that, as you told me this morning, you promised Will that you would do all you could to help find a cure for Jem while Will was gone. You will be telling Gabriel and Cecily where the shop is from which they might procure the ingredients you need. Gideon, since you are wounded, you will remain in the library and seek out whatever books Magnus requires; if you need help, myself or Sophie will provide it. Henry, perhaps Magnus can use your crypt as a laboratory, unless there is a project you are engaged in that would forbid it?" She looked at Henry with her eyebrows raised.

"There is," Henry said a bit hesitantly, "but it might also be turned to helping Jem, and I would welcome Mr. Bane’s assistance. In return he can certainly make use of any of my scientific implements."

Magnus looked at him curiously. "What are you working on, exactly?"

"Well, you know that we do not perform magic, Mr. Bane," said Henry, looking delighted that anyone was taking an interest in his experiments, "but I am at work on a device a bit like the scientific version of a transportation spell. It would open a doorway into anyplace you wanted-"

"Including perhaps a storeroom full of yin fen in China?" Magnus said, with his eyes aglint. "That sounds very interesting, very interesting indeed."

"No, it doesn’t," muttered Gabriel.

Charlotte fixed him with a dagger gaze. "Mr. Lightwood, enough. I believe you have all been assigned your tasks. Go forth and perform them. I wish to hear no more from any of you until you bring me back a report of some progress made. I will be with Jem." And with that, she swept from the room.

"What a very satisfying response," said Mrs. Black.

Tessa glared. She was crouched in her corner of the carriage, as far as she could get from the horrible sight of the creature that had once been Mrs. Black. She had screamed at the first sight of her, and hastily clapped a hand over her mouth; but it was too late. Mrs. Black had been plainly delighted by her terrified reaction.

"You were beheaded," Tessa said. "How is it that you live? Like that?"

"Magic," said Mrs. Black. "It was your brother who suggested to Mortmain that in my current form I could be of use to him. It was your brother who spilled the blood that made my continued existence possible. Lives for my life."

She grinned horribly, and Tessa thought of her brother, dying in her arms. You don’t know everything I’ve done, Tessie. She swallowed back bile. After her brother was dead, she had tried to Change into him, to glean any information about Mortmain she could from his memories, but they had been only a gray swirl of anger and bitterness and ambition: she had found nothing solid within them. A fresh surge of hate welled in her for Mortmain, who had found her brother’s weaknesses and exploited them. Mortmain, who held Jem’s yin fen in a cruel attempt to make the Shadowhunters dance to his tune. Even Mrs. Black, in a way, was a prisoner of his manipulations.

"You are doing Mortmain’s bidding because you think he will give you a body," Tessa said now. "Not that-that thing you have, but some sort of real, human body."

"Human." Mrs. Black snorted. "I expect better than human. But better than this as well, something that will allow me to pass undetected among mundanes and practice my craft again. As for the Magister, I know he will have the power to do it, because of you. He will soon be all-powerful, and you will help him get there."

"You are a fool to trust him to reward you."

Mrs. Black’s gray lips wobbled with mirth. "Oh, but he will. He has sworn it, and I have done everything I promised. Here I am delivering his perfect bride-trained by me! By Azazel, I remember when you stepped off the boat from America. You seemed so purely mortal, so entirely useless, I despaired of ever training you to be any sort of use at all. But with enough brutality anything can be shaped. You will serve nicely now."

"Not all that is mortal is useless."

A snort. "You say that because of your association with the Nephilim. You have been with them rather than your own kind for far too long."

"What kind? I have no kind. Jessamine said my mother was a Shadowhunter-"

"She was a Shadowhunter," said Mrs. Black. "But your father was not."

Tessa’s heart skipped a beat. "He was a demon?"

"He was no angel." Mrs. Black smirked. "The Magister will explain it all to you, in time-what you are, and why you live, and what you were created for." She settled back with a creak of automated joints. "I have to say that I was almost impressed when you ran off with that Shadowhunter boy, you know. It showed you had spirit. In fact, it turned out to the Magister’s benefit that you have spent so much time with the Nephilim. You are acquainted with Downworld now, and you have shown yourself equal to it. You have been forced to use your gift in arduous circumstances. Tests that I might have created for you would not have been as challenging and would not have yielded the same learning and confidence. I can see the difference in you. You will make a fine bride for the Magister."

Tessa made a sound of disbelief. "Why? I am being forced to marry him. What difference does it make if I have spirit or learning? What could he possibly care?"

"Oh, you are to be more than his bride, Miss Gray. You are to be the ruin of the Nephilim. That is why you were created. And the more knowledge of them you have, the more your sympathies lie with them, the more effective a weapon you will be to raze them to the ground."

Tessa felt as if the air had been knocked out of her. "I don’t care what Mortmain does. I will not cooperate in harming the Shadowhunters. I would die or be tortured first."

"It does not matter what you want. You will find that there is no resistance you could mount against his will that would matter. Besides, there is nothing you need do to destroy the Nephilim other than be what you are. And be married to Mortmain, which requires no action on your part."

"I’m engaged to someone else," spat Tessa. "James Carstairs."

"Oh, dear," said Mrs. Black. "I’m afraid the Magister’s claim supersedes his. Besides, James Carstairs will be dead by Tuesday. Mortmain has bought up all the yin fen in England and blocked any new shipments. Perhaps you should have thought of this sort of thing before you fell in love with an addict. Although I did think it would be the blue-eyed one," she mused. "Don’t girls usually fall in love with their rescuers?"

Tessa felt the cloak of the surreal begin to descend. She could not believe that she was here, trapped in this carriage with Mrs. Black, and that the warlock woman seemed content to discuss Tessa’s romantic tribulations. She turned toward the window. The moon was up, and she could see that they were riding along a narrow road-there were shadows about the carriage, and below, a rocky ravine fell away into darkness. "There are all sorts of ways of being rescued."

"Well," said Mrs. Black, with a glint of teeth as she smiled. "You can be assured that no one will be coming to rescue you now."

You are to be the ruin of the Nephilim.

"Then I will have to rescue myself," Tessa said. Mrs. Black’s eyebrows drew together in puzzlement as she turned her head toward Tessa with a whir and a click. But Tessa was already gathering herself, gathering all her energy in her legs and body in the way that she had been taught, so that when she launched herself across the carriage at the door, it was with all the force she possessed.

She heard the lock on the door break and Mrs. Black scream, a high whine of rage. A metal arm raked Tessa’s back, seizing the collar of her dress, which tore away, and Tessa was falling, slamming down onto the rocks by the side of the road, falling and sliding and tumbling into the ravine as the carriage hurtled away down the road, Mrs. Black screaming at the driver to stop. Wind rushed into Tessa’s ears as she fell, her arms and hands windmilling wildly against the empty space all around her, and any hopes that the ravine was shallow or that the fall would be survivable were gone. As she fell, she glimpsed a narrow stream glinting far below her, twisting among jagged rocks, and she knew she would break against the ground like fragile china when she struck.

She closed her eyes and willed that the end be quick.

Will stood at the top of a high green hill and looked out over the sea. The sky and sea were both so intensely blue that they seemed to merge one into the other, so that there was no fixed point upon the horizon. Gulls and terns wheeled and shrieked above him, and the salt wind blew through his hair. It was as warm as summer, and his jacket lay discarded on the grass; he was in shirtsleeves and braces, and his hands were brown and tanned by the sun.

"Will!" He turned at the familiar voice and saw Tessa coming up the hill toward him. There was a small path cut along the side of the hill, lined with unfamiliar white flowers, and Tessa looked like a flower herself, in a white dress like the one she had worn to the ball the night he had kissed her on Benedict Lightwood’s balcony. Her long brown hair blew in the wind. She had taken off her bonnet and held it in one hand, waving it at him and smiling as if she were glad to see him. More than glad. As if seeing him were all the joy of her heart.

His own heart leaped up at the sight of her. "Tess," he called, and reached out a hand as if he could pull her toward him. But she was still such a distance away-she seemed both very near and very far suddenly and at the same time. He could see every detail of her pretty upturned face but could not touch her, and so he stood, waiting and desiring, and his heart beat like wings in his chest.

At last she was there, close enough that he could see where the grass and flowers bent beneath the tread of her shoes. He reached out for her, and she for him. Their hands closed on each other’s, and for a moment they stood smiling, and her fingers were warm in his.

"I’ve been waiting for you," Will said, and she looked up at him with a smile that vanished from her face as her feet slipped and she tilted toward the edge of the cliff. Her hands tore out of his, and suddenly he was reaching for air as she fell away from him, silently fell, a white blur against the blue horizon.

Will sat bolt upright in bed, his heart slamming against his ribs. His room at the White Horse was half-full of moonlight, which clearly outlined the unfamiliar shapes of the furniture: the washstand and side table with its unread copy of Fordyce’s Sermons to Young Women, the overstuffed chair by the fireplace, in which the flames had burned down to embers. The sheets of his bed were cold, but he was sweating; he swung his legs over the side and walked to the window.

There was a stiff bunch of arranged dried flowers in a vase on the sill. He pushed them out of the way and unlatched the pane with aching fingers. His whole body hurt. He had never ridden so far or so hard in his life before, and he was weary and saddle-sore. He would need iratzes before he started out on the road again tomorrow.

The window opened outward, and cold air blew against his face and hair, cooling his skin. There was an ache inside him, under his ribs, that had nothing to do with riding. Whether it was the separation from Jem or his anxiety over Tessa, he could not say. He kept seeing her falling away from him, their hands unclasping. He had never been one to believe in the prophetic meaning of dreams, and yet he could not undo the tight, cold knot inside his stomach, or regulate his harsh breathing.

In the dark pane of the window he could see the reflection of his face. He touched the window lightly, his fingertips leaving marks in the condensation on the glass. He wondered what he would say to Tessa when he found her, how he could tell her why it was that he was the one who had come after her, and not Jem. If there was grace in the world, perhaps at least they could grieve together. If she never truly believed he loved her, if she never returned his affection, at least mercy might grant that they be able to share their sadness. Nearly unable to bear the thought of how much he needed her quiet strength, he closed his eyes and leaned his forehead against the cold glass.

As they made their way through the East End’s winding lanes from Limehouse Station toward Gill Street, Gabriel could not help but be aware of Cecily by his side. They were glamoured, which was useful, as their appearance in this poorer part of London would otherwise doubtless have excited comment, and perhaps resulted in their being hauled into a broker’s shop willy-nilly to look at the goods on offer. As it was, Cecily was intensely curious, and paused often to gaze into shop-windows-not just milliners’ and bonnet-makers’, but shops selling everything from boot polish and books to toys and tin soldiers. Gabriel had to remind himself that she came from the countryside and had probably never seen a thriving market town, much less anything like London. He wished he could take her somewhere befitting a lady of her station-the shops of Burlington Arcade or Piccadilly, not these dark, close streets.

He did not know what he had expected from Will Herondale’s sister. That she would be just as unpleasant as Will? That she would not look so disconcertingly like him, and yet at the same time be extraordinarily pretty? He had rarely looked at Will’s face without wanting to hit it, but Cecily’s face was endlessly fascinating. He found himself wanting to write poetry about how her blue eyes were like starlight and her hair like night, because "night" and "starlight" rhymed, but he had a feeling the poem wouldn’t turn out that well, and Tatiana had rather frightened him off poetry as it was. Besides, there were things you couldn’t put in poetry anyway, like the way that when a certain girl curved her mouth in a certain way, you wanted very much to lean forward and-