Clockwork Princess (Page 34)

Clockwork Princess(34)
Author: Cassandra Clare

"Oh, God." The dagger fell out of Will’s hand and landed in the mud at his feet. "What do I do now?" he whispered.

He had no idea why he was asking Woolsey, except that there was no one else in the world to ask. Not even when he thought he was cursed had he felt so alone.

Woolsey looked at him coolly. "Do what your brother would have wanted," he said, then turned and stalked off back toward the inn.

Chapter 15 Stars, Hide Your Fires

Stars, hide your fires;

Let not light see my black and deep desires.

-Shakespeare, Macbeth

Consul Wayland,

I write to you on a matter of the gravest import. One of the Shadowhunters of my Institute, William Herondale, is upon the road to Cadair Idris even as I write. He has discovered along the way an unmistakable sign of Miss Gray’s passage. I enclose his letter for your perusal, but I am sure you will agree that the whereabouts of Mortmain are now established and that we must with all haste assemble what forces we can and march immediately upon Cadair Idris. Mortmain has shown in the past a remarkable ability to slip from the nets we cast. We must take advantage of this moment and strike with all possible haste and force. I await your speedy reply.

Charlotte Branwell

The room was cold. The fire had long burned down in the grate, and the wind outside was howling around the corners of the Institute, rattling the panes of the windows. The lamp on the nightstand was turned down low, and Tessa shivered in the armchair by the bed, despite the shawl wrapped tightly around her shoulders.

In the bed Jem was asleep, his head pillowed on his hand. He breathed just enough to move the blankets slightly, though his face was as pale as the pillows.

Tessa stood, letting the shawl slip from her shoulders. She was in her nightgown, the way she had been the first time she had ever met Jem, bursting into his room to find him playing the violin by the window. Will? he had said. Will, is that you?

He stirred and murmured now as she crawled into the bed with him, drawing the blankets over them both. She cupped her hands around his and held their joined hands between them. She tangled their feet together and kissed his cool cheek, warming his skin with her breath. Slowly she felt him stir against her, as if her presence were bringing him to life.

His eyes opened and looked into hers. They were blue, achingly blue, the blue of the sky where it meets the sea.

"Tessa?" Will said, and she realized it was Will in her arms, Will who was dying, Will breathing out his last breath-and there was blood on his shirt, just over his heart, a spreading red stain-

Tessa sat bolt upright, gasping. For a moment she stared about her, disoriented. The tiny, dark room, the musty blanket wrapped around her, her own damp clothes and bruised body, seemed foreign to her. Then memory came back in a flood, and with it a wave of nausea.

She missed the Institute piercingly, in a way she had never even missed her home in New York. She missed Charlotte’s bossy but caring voice, Sophie’s understanding touch, Henry’s puttering, and of course-she could not help it-she missed Jem and Will. She was terrified for Jem, for his health, but she was frightened for Will as well. The battle in the courtyard had been bloody, vicious. Any of them could have been hurt or killed. Was that the meaning of her dream, Jem turning into Will? Was Jem ill, was Will’s life in danger? Not either of them, she prayed silently. Please, let me die before harm comes to either of them.

A noise startled her out of her reverie-a sudden dry scraping that sent a brutal shiver down her spine. She froze. Surely it was just the scratching of a branch against the window. But, no-there it came again. A scraping, dragging noise.

Tessa was on her feet in a moment, the blanket still wrapped around her. Terror was like a live thing inside her. All the tales she had ever heard of monsters in the dark woods seemed to be fighting for space in her mind. She closed her eyes, drawing a deep breath, and saw the spindly automatons on the front steps of the Institute, their shadows long and grotesque, like human beings pulled out of shape.

She drew the blanket closer around herself, her fingers closing spasmodically on the material. The automatons had come for her on the Institute steps. But they were not very intelligent-able to follow simple commands, to recognize particular human beings. Still, they could not think for themselves. They were machines, and machines could be fooled.

The blanket was patchwork, the kind that would have been sewed by a woman, a woman who had lived in this house. Tessa drew in her breath and reached-reached into the blanket, searching for a flicker of ownership, the signature of whatever spirit had created and owned it. It was like plunging her hand into dark water and feeling around for an object. After what felt like an age of searching, she lit upon it-a flicker in the darkness, the solidity of a soul.

She concentrated on it, wrapping it around her like the blanket she clung to. The Change was easier now, less painful. She saw her fingers warp and change, becoming the clubbed, arthritic hands of an old woman. Liver spots rose on her skin, her back hunched, and her dress began to hang off her withered form. When her hair fell in front of her eyes, it was white.

The scraping sound came again. A voice echoed in the back of Tessa’s mind, a querulous old woman’s voice demanding to know who was in her house. Tessa stumbled for the door, her breath coming short, her heart fluttering in her chest, and made for the main room of the house.

For a moment she saw nothing. Her eyes were rheumy, filmed over; shapes looked blurred and distant. Then something rose from beside the fire, and Tessa bit back a scream.

It was an automaton. This one was built to look nearly human. It had a thick body, clothed in a dark gray suit, but the arms that protruded from beyond the cuffs were stick-thin, ending in spatulate hands, and the head that rose above the collar was smooth and egglike. Two bulbous eyes were set into the head, but the machine had no other features.

"Who are you?" Tessa demanded in the old woman’s voice, brandishing the sharp pick she had taken earlier. "What are you doing in my house, creature?"

The thing made a whirring, clicking noise, obviously confused. A moment later the front door opened and Mrs. Black swept in. She was wrapped in her dark cloak, her white face blazing under the hood. "What’s going on here?" she demanded. "Did you find-" She broke off, staring at Tessa.

"What’s going on?" Tessa demanded, her voice coming out in the old woman’s high whine. "I ought to ask you that-breaking into perfectly decent folks’ homes-" She blinked, as if to make it clear she couldn’t see very well. "Get out of here, and take your friend"-she jabbed the object she held (A frog pick, said the voice of the old woman in her mind; you use it for cleaning horse’s hooves, silly girl)-"with you. You’ll find nothing here worth stealing."

For a moment she thought it had worked. Mrs. Black’s face was expressionless. She took a step forward. "You haven’t seen a young girl in these parts, have you?" she asked. "Very finely dressed, brown hair, gray eyes. She would have looked lost. Her people are looking for her and offering a handsome reward."

"A likely story, looking for some lost girl." Tessa sounded as surly as she could; it wasn’t difficult. She had a feeling the old woman whose face she was wearing had been a naturally surly sort. "Get out I said!"

The automaton whirred. Mrs. Black’s lips pressed suddenly together, as if she were holding back laughter. "I see," she said. "Might I say that’s quite a fine necklace you’re wearing, old woman?"

Tessa’s hand flew to her chest, but it was already too late. The clockwork angel was there, clearly visible, ticking gently. "Take her," said Mrs. Black in a bored voice, and the automaton lurched forward, reaching for Tessa. She dropped the blanket and backed away, brandishing her frog pick. She managed to rake quite a long gash down the automaton’s front as it reached for her and knocked her arm aside. The frog pick clattered to the floor, and Tessa cried out in pain just as the front door burst open and a flood of automatons filled the room, their arms reaching for her, their mechanical hands closing on her flesh. Knowing she was overpowered, knowing it would not do a bit of good, she finally allowed herself to scream.

Sun on his face woke Will. He blinked, opening his eyes slowly.

Blue sky.

He rolled over and stretched stiffly into a sitting position. He was on the rise of a green hill, just out of sight of the Shrewsbury-Welshpool road. He could see nothing all around him but scattered farmhouses in the distance; he had passed only a few tiny hamlets on his frantic midnight ride away from the Green Man, riding until he literally slid from Balios’s back in exhaustion and hit the dirt with bone-jarring force. Half-walking and half-crawling, he had let his exhausted horse nose him off the road and into a slight dip in the ground, where he had curled up and fallen asleep, heedless of the drizzle of cold rain that had still been falling.

Sometime between then and now the sun had come up, drying his clothes and hair, though he was still dirty, his shirt a mess of caked mud and blood. He rose to his feet, his whole body aching. He hadn’t bothered with any kind of healing runes the previous night. He’d gone into the inn-tracking rain and mud behind him-only to retrieve his things, before returning to the stables to free Balios and hurtle off into the night. The injuries he’d sustained in his battle against Woolsey’s pack still hurt, as did the bruises from falling off the horse. He limped stiffly to where Balios was cropping grass near the shade of a spreading oak tree. A rummage through the saddlebags yielded a stele and a handful of dried fruit. He used the one to trace himself with painkilling and healing runes in between taking bites of the other.

The events of the night before seemed a thousand miles away. He remembered fighting the wolves, the splinter of bones and the taste of his own blood, the mud and the rain. He remembered the pain of the severance from Jem, though he could no longer feel it. Instead of pain he felt hollowness. As if some great hand had reached down and cut everything that made him human out of his insides, leaving him a shell.

When he was done with his breakfast, he returned his stele to his saddlebag, stripped off his ruined shirt, and changed into a clean one. As he did so, he could not help but glance down at the parabatai rune on his chest.

It was not black, but silver-white, like a long-faded scar. Will could hear Jem’s voice in his head, steady and serious and familiar: "And it came to pass … that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul…. Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul." They were two warriors, and their souls were knit together by Heaven, and out of that Jonathan Shadowhunter took the idea of parabatai, and encoded the ceremony into the Law.

For years now this Mark and Jem’s presence had been all Will had had in his life to assure him that he was loved by anybody. All that he’d had to know that he was real and existed. He traced his fingers over the edges of the faded parabatai rune. He had thought he would hate it, hate the sight of it in sunlight, but he found to his surprise that he didn’t. He was glad the parabatai rune had not simply vanished off his skin. A Mark that spoke of loss was still a Mark, a remembrance. You could not lose something you had never had.

Out of the saddlebag he took the knife Jem had given him: a narrow blade with the intricate silver handle. In the shadow of the oak tree, he cut the palm of his hand and watched as the blood ran onto the ground, soaking the earth. Then he knelt and plunged the blade into the bloody ground. Kneeling, he hesitated, one hand on the hilt.

"James Carstairs," he said, and swallowed. It was always this way; when he needed words the most, he could not find them. The words of the biblical parabatai oath came into his head: Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee-for whither thou goest, I will go, and where thou lodgest, I will lodge. Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried. The Angel do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me.

But no. That was what was said when you were joined, not when you were cut apart. David and Jonathan had been separated, too, by death. Separated but not divided.

"I told you before, Jem, that you would not leave me," Will said, his bloody hand on the hilt of the dagger. "And you are still with me. When I breathe, I will think of you, for without you I would have been dead years ago. When I wake up and when I sleep, when I lift up my hands to defend myself or when I lie down to die, you will be with me. You say we are born and born again. I say there is a river that divides the dead and the living. What I do know is that if we are born again, I will meet you in another life, and if there is a river, you will wait on the shores for me to come to you, so that we can cross together." Will took a deep breath and let go of the knife. He drew his hand back. The cut on his palm was already healing-the result of the half dozen iratzes on his skin. "You hear that, James Carstairs? We are bound, you and I, over the divide of death, down through whatever generations may come. Forever."

He rose to his feet and looked down at the knife. The knife was Jem’s, the blood was his. This spot of ground, whether he could ever find it again, whether he lived to try, would be theirs.

He turned to walk toward Balios, toward Wales and Tessa. He did not look back.

To: Charlotte Branwell

From: Consul Josiah Wayland

By footman

My Dear Mrs. Branwell,

I am not certain that I perfectly understood your missive. It seems incredible to me that a sensible woman such as yourself should place such reliance on the bare word of a boy as notoriously reckless and unreliable as William Herondale has time and again proven himself to be. I certainly will not do so. Mr. Herondale has, as shown by his own letter, raced away on a wild chase without your knowledge. He is absolutely capable of fabrication in order to aid his cause. I will not send a large force of my Shadowhunters on the whim and careless word of a boy.

Pray cease your peremptory rallying cries to Cadair Idris. Attempt to keep in mind that I am the Consul. I command the armies of the Shadowhunters, madam, not yourself. Fix your mind instead on an attempt to better keep your Shadowhunters in check.