Clockwork Princess (Page 32)

Clockwork Princess(32)
Author: Cassandra Clare

Her right hand idly worried at the red pendant around her throat. She could not help but think of her brother. Part of her mind was there in the Institute, but the rest was with Will: on the back of a horse, leaning into the wind, riding hell-for-leather over the roads that separated London from Dolgellau. She wondered if he was frightened. She wondered if she would see him again.

So deep in thought was she that she started at the creak of the door as it opened. A long shadow was cast across the floor, and she looked up to see Gabriel Lightwood blinking at her in surprise.

"Hiding here, are you?" he said. "That’s-awkward."

"Why?" She was surprised at how ordinary her voice sounded, even calm.

"Because I had intended to hide here myself."

Cecily was silent for a moment. Gabriel actually looked a little uncertain-it hung strangely on him; he was usually so confident. Though it was a more fragile confidence than his brother’s. It was too dark for her to see the color of his eyes or hair, and for the first time she could actually see the resemblance between him and Gideon. They had the same determined set to their chins, the same wide-spaced eyes and careful stance. "You may hide here with me," she said, "if you wish."

He nodded, and crossed the room to where she sat, but instead of joining her he moved to the window and glanced outside. "The Silent Brothers’ carriage is here," he said.

"Yes," said Cecily. She knew from her reading of the Codex that the Silent Brothers were both the doctors and the priests of the Shadowhunter world; one might expect to find them at deathbeds and sickbeds and childbed alike. "I thought I should see Jem. For Will. But I could-I could not bring myself. I am a coward," she added as an afterthought. It was not something she had ever thought about herself before.

"Then I am too," he replied. The moonlight fell across one side of his face, making him look as if he were wearing a half mask. "I had come up here to be alone and, frankly, to be away from the Brothers, for they give me the chills. I thought I might play solitaire. We could, if you’d like, have a game of Beggar My Neighbor."

"Like Pip and Estella in Great Expectations," said Cecily, with a flash of amusement. "But, no-I do not know how to play cards. My mother tried to keep cards out of the house, as my father … had a weakness for them." She looked up at Gabriel. "You know, in some ways we are the same. Our brothers left and we were alone without brother or sister, with a father who was deteriorating. Mine went a bit mad for a while after Will left and Ella died. It took him years to recover himself, and in the meantime we lost our home. Just as you lost Chiswick."

"Chiswick was taken from us," said Gabriel with an acidic flash of bitterness. "And to be quite honest, I am both sorry and not. My memories of the place-" He shuddered. "My father locked himself in his study a fortnight before I came here for help. I should have come earlier, but I was too proud. I did not want to admit that I had been wrong about Father. For that two weeks I barely slept. I banged on the door of the study and begged my father to come out, to speak to me, but I heard only inhuman noises. I turned the lock on my door at night and in the morning there would be blood on the stairs. I told myself the servants had fled. I knew better. So no, we are not the same, Cecily, because you left. You were brave. I stayed until there was no choice but to leave. I stayed even though I knew it was wrong."

"You are a Lightwood," Cecily said. "You stayed because you were loyal to your family name. It is not cowardice."

"Wasn’t it? Is loyalty still a commendable quality when it is misdirected?"

Cecily opened her mouth, and then closed it again. Gabriel was looking at her, his eyes shining in the moonlight. He seemed genuinely desperate to hear her answer. She wondered if he had anyone else to talk to. She could see how it might be terrifying to take one’s moral qualms to Gideon; he seemed so staunch, as if he had never questioned himself in his life and would not understand those who did.

"I think," she said, choosing her words with care, "that any good impulse can be twisted into something evil. Look at the Magister. He does what he does because he hates the Shadowhunters, out of loyalty to his parents, who cared for him, and who were killed. It is not beyond the realm of understanding. And yet nothing excuses the result. I think when we make choices-for each choice is individual of the choices we have made before-we must examine not only our reasons for making them but what result they will have, and whether good people will be hurt by our decisions."

There was a pause. Then, "You are very wise, Cecily Herondale," he said.

"Do not regret too much the choices you have made in the past, Gabriel," she said, aware that she was using his Christian name, but not able to help it. "Only make the right ones in future. We are ever capable of change and ever capable of being our better selves."

"That," said Gabriel, "would not be the self my father wanted me to be, and despite everything, I find myself reluctant to dismiss the hope of his approval."

Cecily sighed. "We can do our best, Gabriel. I tried to be the child my parents wanted, the lady they wished me to be. I left to bring Will back to them because I thought it was the right thing to do. I knew they were grieved he had chosen a different path-and it is the right one for him, for all that he came to it strangely. It is his path. Do not choose the path your father would have chosen or the path your brother would choose. Be the Shadowhunter you want to be."

He sounded very young when he replied. "How do you know that I will make the right choice?"

Outside the window horses’ hooves sounded on the flagstones of the courtyard. The Silent Brothers, leaving. Jem, Cecily thought, with a pang in her heart. Her brother had always looked to him as a kind of North Star, a compass that would ever point him toward the right decision. She had never quite thought of her brother as lucky before, and certainly would not have expected to do so today, and yet-and yet in a way he had been. To always have someone to turn to like that, and not to worry constantly that one was looking to the wrong stars.

She tried to make her voice as firm and strong as it could be, for herself as much as for the boy at the window. "Perhaps, Gabriel Lightwood, I have faith in you."

Chapter 14 Parabatai

Peace, peace! he is not dead, he doth not sleep,

He hath awaken’d from the dream of life;

‘Tis we, who lost in stormy visions, keep

With phantoms an unprofitable strife,

And in mad trance, strike with our spirit’s knife

Invulnerable nothings. We decay

Like corpses in a charnel; fear and grief

Convulse us and consume us day by day,

And cold hopes swarm like worms within our living clay.

– Percy Bysshe Shelley,

"Adonais: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats"

The courtyard of the Green Man Inn was a churned mess of mud by the time Will drew up his spent horse and slid down from Balios’s broad back. He was weary, stiff, and saddle-sore, and with the bad condition of the roads and the exhaustion of himself and his horse, he had made the last few hours in very bad time. It was already quite dark, and he was relieved to see a stable-boy hurrying toward him, boots splashed with mud to the knee and carrying a lantern that gave off a warm yellow glow.

"Oi, but it’s a wet evening, sir," said the boy cheerfully as he grew nearer. He looked like an ordinary enough human boy, but there was something mischievous and a bit spritelike about him-faerie blood, sometimes, handed down over generations, could express itself in humans and even Shadowhunters with the curve of an eye or the bright shine of a pupil. Of course the boy had the Sight. The Green Man was a well-known Downworld way station. Will had been hoping to reach it by nightfall. He was tired of pretending in front of mundanes, tired of being glamoured, tired of hiding.

"Wet? You think?" Will muttered as water ran off his hair and into his eyelashes. He had his eyes on the front door of the inn, through which welcoming yellow light poured. Overhead almost all light had drained from the sky. Ponderous black clouds loomed overhead, heavy with the promise of more rain.

The boy took Balios by the bridle. "You’ve got one of them magic horses," he exclaimed.

"Yes." Will patted the horse’s lathered side. "He needs a rubdown, and special care."

The boy nodded. "You a Shadowhunter, then? We don’t get many of them around these parts. One a little while ago, but ‘e were old an’ disagreeable-"

"Listen," Will asked, "are there rooms available?"

"Not sure if there are any private ones, sir."

"Well, I’ll be wanting a private one, so there’d better be. And a stable for the horse for the night, and a bath and a meal. Run along and get the horse put away, and I’ll see what your landlord says."

The landlord was utterly obliging and, unlike the boy, made no comments on the Marks on Will’s hands or at his throat, only asked the very usual sort of questions: "Do you want your meal in a private parlor or to take it in the common room, sir? And will you be wanting a bath before your supper, or after?"

Will, who felt encased in mud, opted for the bath first, though agreed to take dinner in the common room. He had brought a good amount of mundane money with him, but a private parlor for dining in was an unnecessary expense, especially when one did not care what one was eating. Food was fuel for the journey, and that was all.

Though the landlord had taken little notice of the fact that Will was Nephilim, there were others in the common area of the inn who did. As Will leaned against the counter, a group of young werewolves by the large fireplace, who had been indulging in cheap beer for most of the day, muttered among themselves. Will attempted not to notice them as he ordered hot water bottles for himself and a bran mash for his horse, like any high-handed young gentleman, but their sharp eyes on him were avid, taking in every detail from his dripping wet hair and muddy boots to the heavy coat that showed no sign of whether he wore the Nephilim’s customary weapons belt beneath.

"Easy, boys," said the tallest of the group. He sat well back toward the fire, casting his face in heavy shadow, though the fire outlined his long fingers as he took out a fine majolica cigar box and tapped thoughtfully at the lock. "I know him."

"You know him?" one of the younger wolves asked in disbelief. "That Nephilim? A friend of yours, Scott?"

"Oh, not a friend. Not exactly." Woolsey Scott lit the tip of his cigar with a match and regarded the boy across the room over the small flame, a smile playing about his mouth. "But it’s very interesting that he’s here. Very interesting indeed."

"Tessa!" The voice echoed in her ear, a ragged shout. She sat bolt upright on the riverbank, her body trembling.

"Will?" She scrambled to her feet and looked around. The moon had passed behind a cloud. The sky above was like dark gray marble, shot through with veins of black. The river ran before her, dark gray in the poor light, and glancing around, she saw only gnarled trees, the steep cliff down which she had fallen, a broad swatch of countryside stretching away in the other direction-fields and stone fences, the occasionally distant dotting of a farmhouse or habitation. She could see nothing like a city or a town, not even a cluster of lights that might have indicated a tiny hamlet.

"Will," she whispered again, drawing her arms about herself. She was sure it had been his voice she had heard calling her name. No one else’s voice sounded like his. But it was ridiculous. He was not here. He could not be. Perhaps, like Jane Eyre, who had heard Rochester’s voice calling for her on the moors, she was half-dreaming.

At least it was a dream that had driven her out of her unconsciousness. The wind was like a knife of cold, cutting through her clothes-she wore only a thin dress, meant for indoors, and no coat or hat-and into her skin. Her skirts were still wet with river water, her dress and stocking ripped and stained with blood. The angel had saved her life, it seemed, but it had not protected her from injury.

She touched it now, hoping for guidance, but it was as still and mute as ever. As she took her hand away from her throat, though, she heard Will’s voice in her head: Sometimes, when I have to do something I don’t want to do, I pretend I’m a character from a book. It’s easier to know what they would do.

A character from a book, Tessa thought, a good, sensible one, would follow the stream. A character from a book would know that human habitations and towns are often built by water, and would seek out help, rather than blundering into the woods. Resolutely she wrapped her arms about herself and began to trudge downstream.

By the time Will-well-bathed, shaved, and wearing a clean shirt and collar-returned to the common room for supper, the room was half-full of people.

Well, not exactly people. As he was shown to a table, he passed tables where trolls sat hunched together over pints of beer, looking like gnarled old men save for the tusks that protruded from their lower jaws. A thin warlock with a mop of brown hair and a third eye in the center of his forehead was sawing into a veal cutlet. A group sat huddled at a table by the fire-werewolves, Will sensed, from their packlike demeanor. The room smelled of damp and embers and cooking, and Will’s stomach rumbled; he hadn’t realized how hungry he was.

Will studied a map of Wales as he drank his wine (sour, vinegary) and ate the food he was brought (a tough cut of venison with potatoes) and did his best to try to ignore the stares of the other customers. He supposed the stable-boy had been right; they didn’t get many Nephilim here. He felt as if his Marks were glowing like brands. When the plates were cleared away, he took out paper and composed a letter:

Charlotte:

I am sorry for leaving the Institute without your permission. I ask for your forgiveness; I felt I had no other choice.

That, however, is not why I am sending this letter. By the side of the road I have found evidence of Tessa’s passage. Somehow she had managed to cast her jade necklace from the carriage window, I believe so that we might trace her by it. I have it with me now. It is proof undeniable that we were correct in our supposition about Mortmain’s whereabouts. He must be in Cadair Idris. You must write to the Consul and demand that he send a full force to the mountain.