Clockwork Princess (Page 29)

Clockwork Princess(29)
Author: Cassandra Clare

"Mr. Lightwood," Cecily said in an impatient tone that indicated that this was not the first time she had tried to get Gabriel’s attention. "I do believe we have passed the shop already."

Gabriel cursed under his breath and turned back. They had indeed passed the number Magnus had given them; they retraced their steps until they found themselves standing before a dark, ill-favored shop with clouded windows. Through the murky glass he was able to see shelves on which sat a variety of peculiar items-jars in which dead serpents floated, their eyes white and open; dolls whose heads had been removed and replaced with small gold birdcages; and stacked bracelets made of human teeth.

"Oh, dear," said Cecily. "How decidedly unpleasant."

"Do you not wish to enter?" Gabriel turned to her. "I could go instead-"

"And leave me standing about on the cold pavement? How ungentlemanly. Certainly not." She reached for the knob and pushed the door open, setting a small bell somewhere in the shop tinkling. "After me, please, Mr. Lightwood."

Gabriel went blinking after her into the dim light of the shop. The inside was no more welcoming than the exterior. Long rows of dusty shelves led back toward a shadowy counter. The windows seemed to have been smeared with some dark unguent, blocking out much of the sunlight. The shelves themselves were a cluttered mass-brass bells with handles shaped like bones, fat candles whose wax was stuffed with insects and flowers, a lovely golden crown of such peculiar shape and diameter than it could never have fit a human head. There were shelves of knives, and copper and stone bowls whose basins were marked with peculiar brownish stains. There were stacks of gloves of all sizes, some with more than five fingers on each hand. An entire de-fleshed human skeleton hung from a thin cord toward the front of the shop, twisting in the air, though there was no breeze.

Gabriel looked quickly toward Cecily to see if she had quailed, but she had not. She looked irritated if anything. "Someone really ought to dust in here," she announced, and swept toward the back of the shop, the small flowers on her hat bouncing. Gabriel shook his head.

He caught up to Cecily just as she brought her gloved hand down on the brass bell on the counter, setting it to an impatient ringing. "Hello?" she called. "Is anyone here?"

"Directly in front of you, miss," said an irritable voice, downward and to the left. Both Cecily and Gabriel leaned over the counter. Just below the edge of it was the top of the head of a small man. No, not quite a man, thought Gabriel as the glamour peeled away-a satyr. He wore a waistcoat and trousers, though no shirt, and had the cloven feet and neatly curling horns of a goat. He also had a trimmed beard, a pointed jaw, and the rectangular-pupilled yellow eyes of a goat, half-hidden behind spectacles.

"Gracious," said Cecily. "You must be Mr. Sallows."

"Nephilim," observed the shop owner gloomily. "I detest Nephilim."

"Hmph," said Cecily. "Charmed, I’m sure."

Gabriel felt it was about time to intervene. "How did you know we were Shadowhunters?" he snapped.

Sallows raised his eyebrows. "Your Marks, sir, are clearly visible on your hands and throat," he said, as if talking to a child, "and as for the girl, she looks just like her brother."

"How would you know my brother?" Cecily demanded, her voice rising.

"We don’t get many of your kind in here," said Sallows. "It’s notable when we do. Your brother Will was in and out quite a bit about two months ago, running errands for that warlock Magnus Bane. He was down the Cross Bones too, bothering Old Mol. Will Herondale’s well-known in Downworld, though he mostly keeps himself out of trouble."

"That is astonishing news," said Gabriel.

Cecily gave Gabriel a dark look. "We are here on the authority of Charlotte Branwell," she said. "Head of the London Institute."

The satyr waved a hand. "I don’t care much for your Shadowhunter hierarchies, you know; none of the Fair Folk do. Just tell me what you want, and I’ll give you a fair price for it."

Gabriel unrolled the paper Magnus had given him. "Thieves’ vinegar, bat’s head root, belladonna, angelica, damiana leaf, powdered mermaid scales, and six nails from a virgin’s coffin."

"Well," said Sallows. "We don’t get much call for that sort of thing around here. I’ll have to look in the back."

"Well, if you don’t get much call for this sort of thing, what do you get call for?" asked Gabriel, losing his patience. "You’re hardly a florist’s shop."

"Mr. Lightwood," chided Cecily under her breath-but not quite enough under her breath, for Sallows heard her, and his spectacles bounced on his nose.

"Mr. Lightwood?" he said. "Benedict Lightwood’s son?"

Gabriel could feel the blood heating his cheeks. He had spoken to almost no one about his father since Benedict’s death-if one could even count the thing that had died in the Italian garden as his father. Once it had been he and his family against the world, the Lightwoods above all else, but now-now there was shame in the name of Lightwood as much as there had ever been pride, and Gabriel did not know how to speak of it.

"Yes," he said finally. "I am Benedict Lightwood’s son."

"Wonderful. I have some of your father’s orders here. I was beginning to wonder if he would ever come and pick them up." The satyr bustled into the back, and Gideon busied himself studying the wall. There were landscape sketches hung on it, and maps on it, but as he looked more closely, not sketches or maps of any place he knew. There was Idris, of course, with Brocelind Forest and Alicante on its hill, but another map showed continents he had never seen before-and what was the Silver Sea? The Thorn Mountains? What sort of country had a purple sky?

"Gabriel," said Cecily beside him, in a low voice. It was the first time she had used his Christian name in addressing him, and he began to turn toward her, just as Sallows emerged from the back of the shop. In one hand he carried a tied parcel, which he handed over to Gabriel. It was quite lumpy-clearly the bottles of Magnus’s ingredients. In the other hand Sallows clutched a stack of papers, which he set down on the counter.

"Your father’s order," he said with a smirk.

Gabriel lowered his eyes to the papers-and his jaw dropped in horror.

"Gracious," Cecily said. "Surely that isn’t possible?"

The satyr craned up to see what she was looking at. "Well, not with one person, but with a Vetis demon and a goat, most likely." He turned to Gabriel. "Now, have you got the money for these or not? Your father is behind on his payments, and he can’t buy on tick forever. What’s it going to be, Lightwood?"

"Has Charlotte ever asked you if you wanted to be a Shadowhunter?" Gideon asked.

Halfway down the ladder with a book in her hand, Sophie froze. Gideon was seated at one of the long library tables, near a bay window that looked out over the courtyard. Books and papers were spread out before him, and he and Sophie had passed several pleasant hours searching through them for lists and histories of spells, details about yin fen, and specifics of herb lore. Though Gideon’s leg was rapidly healing, it was propped up on two chairs in front of him, and Sophie had cheerfully offered to do all the climbing up and down ladders to reach the highest books. She was holding one now called the Pseudomonarchia Daemonum, which had a rather slimy-feeling cover and which she was eager to put down, though Gideon’s question had startled her enough to arrest her mid-descent. "What do you mean?" she said, resuming her climb down the ladder. "Why would Charlotte have asked me something like that?"

Gideon looked pale, or it might simply have been the cast of the witchlight on his face. "Miss Collins," he said. "You are one of the best fighters I have ever trained, Nephilim included. That is why I ask. It seems a shame to waste such talent. Though perhaps it is not something you would want?"

Sophie set the book down on the table, and sat down opposite Gideon. She knew she should hesitate, seem to think the question over, but the answer was on her lips before she could stop it. "To be a Shadowhunter is all I ever wanted."

He leaned forward, and the witchlight shone up into his eyes, washing out their color. "You are not worried about the danger? The older one is when one Ascends, the riskier the process. I have heard them speak about lowering the age of agreement to Ascension to fourteen or even twelve."

Sophie shook her head. "I have never feared the risk. I would take it gladly. It is only that I fear- I fear that if I applied for it, Mrs. Branwell would think I am ungrateful for all that she has done for me. She saved my life and raised me up. She gave me safety and a home. I would not repay her for all that by abandoning her service."

"No." Gideon shook his head. "Sophie-Miss Collins-you are a free servant in a Shadowhunter home. You have the Sight. You know all there is to know of Downworlders and the Nephilim already. You are the perfect candidate for Ascension." He placed his hand atop the demonology book. "I am a voice on the Council. I could speak for you."

"I can’t," Sophie said in a soft thread of a voice. Didn’t he understand what he was offering her, the temptation? "And certainly not now."

"No, not now, of course, with James so ill," Gideon said hurriedly. "But in the future? Perhaps?" His eyes searched her face, and she felt a blush begin to creep up from her collar. The most obvious and common way for a mundane to Ascend to Shadowhunter status was through marriage to a Shadowhunter. She wondered what it meant that he seemed very determined not to mention that. "But when I asked you, you spoke so strongly. You said that being a Shadowhunter was all you ever wanted. Why is that? It can be a brutal life."

"All life can be brutal," said Sophie. "My life before I came to the Institute was hardly sweet. I suppose in part I wish to be a Shadowhunter so that if another man ever comes at me with a knife in his hand, as my former employer did, I can kill him where he stands." She touched her cheek as she spoke, an unconscious gesture she could not help, feeling the ridged scar tissue under her fingertips.

She saw Gideon’s expression-shock mixed with discomfort-and dropped her hand. "I did not know that was how you had been scarred," he said.

She looked away. "Now you will say that it is not so ugly, or that you do not even see it, or something like that."

"I see it," Gideon said in a low voice. "I am not blind, and we are a people of many scars. I see it, but it is not ugly. It is just another beautiful part of the most beautiful girl I have ever seen."

Now Sophie did blush-she could feel her cheeks burn-and as Gideon leaned forward across the table, his eyes an intense, storm-washed green, she took a deep breath of resolution. He was not like her former employer. He was Gideon. She would not push him away this time.

The door of the library flew open. Charlotte stood on the threshold, looking exhausted; there were damp splotches on her pale blue dress, and her eyes were shadowed. Sophie sprang to her feet instantly. "Mrs. Branwell?"

"Oh, Sophie," Charlotte sighed. "I was hoping you could sit with Jem for a bit. He hasn’t woken up yet, but Bridget needs to make supper, and I think her dreadful singing is giving him nightmares in his sleep."

"Of course." Sophie hurried to the door, not looking at Gideon as she did so-although as the door closed behind her, she was fairly sure that she heard him swearing softly and with great frustration in Spanish.

"You know," Cecily said, "you really didn’t have to throw that man through the window."

"He wasn’t a man," Gideon said, scowling down at the heap of objects in his arms. He had taken the parcel of Magnus’s ingredients that Sallows had made up for them, and a few more useful-looking objects off the shelves besides. He had pointedly left all the papers his father had ordered on the counter where Sallows had put them-after Gabriel had tossed the satyr through one of the grimed-up windows. It had been very satisfying, with shattered glass everywhere. The force of it had even dislodged the hanging skeleton, which had come apart in a clatter of messy bones. "He was an Unseelie Court faerie. One of the nasty ones."

"Is that why you chased him down the street?"

"He had no business showing images like that to a lady," Gabriel muttered, though it had to be admitted that the lady in question had hardly turned a hair, and seemed more annoyed with Gabriel for his reaction than impressed by his chivalry.

"And I do think it was excessive to hurl him into the canal."

"He’ll float."

The corners of Cecily’s mouth twitched. "It was very wrong."

"You’re laughing," Gabriel said in surprise.

"I am not." Cecily raised her chin, turning her face away, but not before Gabriel saw the grin that spread over her face. Gabriel was baffled. After her displayed disdain for him, her cheek and back talk, he had been quite sure that this latest outburst of his would prompt her to tell tales to Charlotte as soon as they returned to the Institute, but instead she seemed amused. He shook his head as they turned onto Garnet Street. He would never understand the Herondales.

"Hand over that vial there on the shelf, would you, Mr. Bane?" asked Henry.

Magnus did so. He was standing in the center of Henry’s laboratory, looking around at the gleaming shapes on tables around him. "What are all these contraptions, if I might ask?"

Henry, who was wearing two pairs of goggles at the same time-one on his head and one over his eyes-looked both pleased and nervous to be asked. (Magnus presumed the two pairs of goggles was a fit of absentmindedness, but in case it was in pursuit of fashion, he decided not to ask.) Henry picked up a square brass object with multiple buttons. "Well, over here, this is a Sensor. It senses when demons are near." He moved toward Magnus, and the Sensor made a loud wailing noise.

"Impressive!" Magnus exclaimed, pleased. He lifted a construction of fabric with a large dead bird perched atop it. "And what is this?"