Clockwork Princess (Page 31)

Clockwork Princess(31)
Author: Cassandra Clare

They were passing through disagreeable country now too, where the mud made the rocky pathway treacherous. A great cliff wall rose on one side of the road, blocking out the sky. On the other side of the path, the road fell away dramatically into a ravine full of sharp rocks. The distant water of a muddy stream glinted faintly at the ravine’s bottom. Will kept Balios’s head well pulled in, far from the drop-off, but the horse still seemed skittish and shy of the fall. Will’s own head was down, tucked into his collar to avoid the cold rain; it was only by chance that, glancing for a moment to the side, he caught a glimpse of bright green and gold amid the rocks at the edge of the road.

He had pulled up Balios in an instant and was down and off the horse so quickly that he almost slipped in the mud. The rain was coming down more heavily now as he approached and knelt to examine the golden chain that had become caught around the sharp outcrop of a rock. He picked it up carefully. It was a jade pendant, circular, with characters stamped upon the back. He knew well enough what they meant.

When two people are as one in their inmost hearts, they shatter even the strength of iron or bronze.

Jem’s bridal gift to Tessa. Will’s hand tightened about it as he stood. He remembered facing her in the stairwell-the chain of the jade pendant at her throat winking at him like a cruel reminder of Jem as she’d said, They say you cannot divide your heart, and yet-

"Tessa!" he cried out suddenly, his voice echoing off the rocks. "Tessa!"

He stood for a moment, shuddering, at the side of the road. He did not know what he had expected-an answer? It was hardly as if she could be here, hiding among the sparse rocks. There was only silence and the sound of the wind and rain. Still, he knew without a shadow of a doubt that this was Tessa’s necklace. Perhaps she had torn it from her throat and dropped it out the carriage window to mark the path for him, like Hansel and Gretel’s trail of bread crumbs. It was what a storybook her**ne would do, and therefore what his Tessa would do. Maybe there would be other markers too, if he kept on his way. For the first time hope flowed back into his veins.

With new resolve he strode toward Balios and swung himself up into the saddle. There would be no slowing down; they would make Staffordshire by evening. As he turned the horse’s head back toward the road, he slipped the pendant into his pocket, where its engraved words of love and commitment seemed to burn like a brand.

Charlotte had never felt so tired. The coming child had exhausted her more than she had thought it would at first, and she had been awake all night and racing about all day. There were stains on her dress from Henry’s crypt, and her ankles ached from going up and down the stairs and the ladders in the library. Nevertheless, when she opened the door of Jem’s bedroom and saw him not only awake but sitting up and talking to Sophie, she forgot her tiredness and felt her face break into a helpless smile of relief. "James!" she exclaimed. "I had wondered-that is, I am glad you are awake."

Sophie, who was looking oddly flushed, rose to her feet. "Should I go, Mrs. Branwell?"

"Oh, yes, please, Sophie. Bridget’s in one of her moods; she says she can’t find the Bang Mary, and I haven’t even the slightest what she’s talking about."

Sophie almost smiled-she would have, if her heart hadn’t been pounding with the knowledge that she might just have done something very dreadful. "The bain-marie," she said. "I will locate it for her." She moved toward the door, paused, and threw a peculiar look over her shoulder at Jem, who was resting back against his pillows, looking very pale but composed. Before Charlotte could say anything, Sophie was gone, and Jem was beckoning Charlotte forward with a tired smile.

"Charlotte, if you would not mind very much-could you bring me my violin?"

"Of course." Charlotte went over to the table by the window where the violin was stored in its square rosewood case, with its bow and small round box of rosin. She lifted the violin and brought it over to the bed, where Jem took it carefully from her arms, and she sank down gratefully in the chair beside him. "Oh-," she said a moment later. "I’m sorry. I forgot the bow. Did you want to play?"

"That’s all right." He plucked gently at the strings with his fingertips, which produced a soft, vibrant noise. "This is pizzicato-the first thing my father taught me how to do when he showed me the violin. It reminds me of being a child."

You are still a child, Charlotte wanted to say, but she did not. He was only a few weeks short of his eighteenth birthday, after all, when Shadowhunters became adults, and if when she looked at him she still saw the dark-haired little boy who had arrived from Shanghai clutching his violin, his eyes huge in his pale face, that did not mean he had not grown up.

She reached for the box of yin fen on his bedside table. There was only a pale scatter left at the bottom, barely a teaspoonful. She swallowed against her tight throat, and tapped the powder into the bottom of a glass, then poured water from the carafe into it, letting the yin fen dissolve like sugar. When she handed it to Jem, he put the violin aside and took the glass from her. He stared down into it, his pale eyes thoughtful.

"Is this the last of it?" he asked.

"Magnus is working on a cure," Charlotte said. "We all are. Gabriel and Cecily are out purchasing ingredients for medicine to keep you strong, and Sophie and Gideon and I have been researching. Everything is being done. Everything."

Jem looked a little surprised. "I did not realize."

"But of course it is," Charlotte said. "We are your family; we would do anything for you. Please do not lose hope, Jem. I need you to keep your strength."

"What strength I have is yours," he said cryptically. He downed the yin fen solution, handing her back the empty glass. "Charlotte?"

"Yes?"

"Have you won the fight about what to call the child yet?"

Charlotte gave a startled laugh. It seemed odd to think about her child now, but then why not? In death, we are in life. It was something to think about that was not illness, or Tessa’s disappearance, or Will’s dangerous mission. "Not yet," she said. "Henry is still insisting on Buford."

"You’ll win," Jem said. "You always do. You would make an excellent Consul, Charlotte."

Charlotte wrinkled her nose. "A woman Consul? After all the trouble I’ve had simply for running the Institute!"

"There must always be a first," said Jem. "It is not easy to be first, and it is not always rewarding, but it is important." He ducked his head. "You carry with you one of my few regrets."

Charlotte looked at him, puzzled.

"I would have liked to see the baby."

It was a very simple, wistful thing to say, but it lodged itself in Charlotte’s heart like a sliver of glass. She began to cry, the tears slipping silently down her face.

"Charlotte," Jem said, as if comforting her. "You’ve always taken care of me. You’ll take amazing care of this baby. You’ll be a wonderful mother."

"You cannot give up, Jem," she said in a choked voice. "When they brought you to me, at first they said you would live only a year or two. You’ve lived nearly six. Please just live a few more days. A few more days for me."

Jem gave her a softly measured look. "I lived for you," he said. "And I lived for Will, and then I lived for Tessa-and for myself, because I wanted to be with her. But I cannot live for other people forever. No one can say that death found in me a willing comrade, or that I went easily. If you say you need me, I will stay as long as I can for you. I will live for you and yours, and go down fighting death until I am worn away to bone and splinters. But it would not be my choice."

"Then …" Charlotte looked at him hesitantly. "What would be your choice?"

He swallowed, and his hand dropped to touch the violin by his side. "I made a decision," he said. "I made it when I told Will to go." He ducked his head, and then looked up at Charlotte, his pale, blue-shadowed eyes fixed on her face as if willing her to understand. "I want it to stop," he said. "Sophie says everyone is still searching for a cure for me. I know I gave Will my permission, but I want everyone to cease looking now, Charlotte. It is over."

It was growing dark by the time Cecily and Gabriel returned to the Institute. To be out and about in the city with someone besides Charlotte or her brother had been a unique experience for Cecily, and she was astonished at what good company Gabriel Lightwood had been. He had made her laugh, though she had done her best to hide it, and he had quite obligingly carried all the parcels, though she would have expected him to protest at being treated like a harried footman.

It was true that he probably should not have thrown that faerie through the shopwindow-or into the Limehouse canal afterward. But she could hardly blame him. She knew perfectly well that it was not the fact that the satyr had shown her improper images that had snapped his temper, but the reminder of his father.

It was odd, she thought as they mounted the Institute steps, how unlike his brother he was. She had liked Gideon perfectly well since she had arrived in London, but found him quiet and contained. He did not speak much, and though he sometimes helped Will with her training, he was distant and thoughtful with everyone but Sophie. With her it was possible to see flashes of humor in him. He could be quite dryly funny when he wished to be, and had a darkly observant nature alongside his calm soul.

In bits and pieces gleaned from Tessa, Will, and Charlotte, Cecily had pieced together the story of the Lightwoods and had begun to understand why Gideon was so quiet. In a way like Will and herself, he had turned his back on his family deliberately, and he carried the scars of that loss. Gabriel’s choice had been a different one. He had stayed by his father’s side and watched the slow deterioration of his body and mind. What had he thought, while it was happening? At what point had he realized the choice he had made had been the wrong one?

Gabriel opened the Institute door, and Cecily went through; they were greeted by Bridget’s voice floating down the steps.

"O see ye not yon narrow road,

So thick beset with thorns and briers?

That is the path of righteousness,

Tho after it but few enquires.

"And see not ye that broad, broad road

That lies across the lily leven?

That is the path of wickedness,

Tho some call it the road to Heaven."

"She’s singing," said Cecily, starting up the steps. "Again."

Gabriel, balancing the parcels nimbly, made an equable noise. "I’m famished. I wonder if she’ll scare me up some cold chicken and bread in the kitchen if I tell her I don’t mind the songs?"

"Everyone minds the songs." Cecily looked at him sideways; he had an awfully fine profile. Gideon was good-looking as well, but Gabriel was all sharp angles, chin, and cheekbones, which she thought altogether more elegant. "It isn’t your fault, you know," she said abruptly.

"What is not my fault?" They turned from the steps onto the corridor of the second floor. It seemed dark to Cecily, the witchlights turned down low. She could hear Bridget, still singing:

"It was dark, dark night, there was no starlight,

And they waded through red blood to the knee;

For all the blood that’s shed on earth

Runs through the springs of that country."

"Your father," Cecily said.

Gabriel’s face tightened. For a moment Cecily thought he was going to make an angry retort, but instead he said only: "It may or may not be my fault, but I chose to be blind to his crimes. I believed in him when it was wrong to do so, and he has disgraced the name of Lightwood."

Cecily was silent for a moment. "I came here because I believed Shadowhunters were monsters who had taken my brother. I believed it because my parents believed it. But they were wrong. We are not our parents, Gabriel. We do not have to carry the burden of their choices or their sins. You can make the Lightwood name shine again."

"That is the difference between you and me," he said, with not a little bitterness. "You chose to come here. I was driven out of my home-chased here by the monster that was once my father."

"Well," Cecily said kindly, "not chased all the way here. Only as far as Chiswick, I thought."

"What-"

She smiled at him. "I am Will Herondale’s sister. You can’t expect me to be serious all the time."

His expression at that was so comical that she giggled; she was still giggling when they pushed the library door open and entered-and both stopped dead in their tracks.

Charlotte, Henry, and Gideon were sitting around one of the long tables. Magnus stood a distance away, by the window, his hands clasped behind him. His back was rigid and straight. Henry looked wan and tired, Charlotte tearstained. Gideon’s face was a mask.

The laughter died on Cecily’s lips. "What is it? Has there been word? Is Will-"

"It is not Will," said Charlotte. "It is Jem." Cecily bit her lip, even as her heartbeat slowed with guilty relief. She had thought first of her brother, but of course it was his parabatai who was in more imminent peril.

"Jem?" she breathed.

"He is still alive," Henry said, in answer to her unspoken question.

"Well, then. We got everything," Gabriel said, putting the parcels down on the table. "Everything Magnus asked for-the damiana, the bat’s head root-"

"Thank you." Magnus spoke from the window, without turning.

"Yes, thank you," Charlotte said. "You did all I asked, and I am grateful. But I am afraid your errand was in vain." She looked down at the parcel, and then back up again. It was clear that it was taking her a great effort to speak. "Jem has made a decision," she said. "He wishes us to cease searching for a cure. He has had the last of the yin fen; there is no more, and it is a matter of hours now. I have summoned the Silent Brothers. It is time to say good-bye."

It was dark in the training room. The shadows lay long upon the floor, and moonlight came in through the high arched windows. Cecily sat on one of the worn benches and stared down at the patterns the moonlight made on the splintered wooden floor.