Clockwork Princess (Page 35)

Clockwork Princess(35)
Author: Cassandra Clare

Yours truly,

Josiah Wayland, Consul

"There’s a man here to see you, Mrs. Branwell."

Charlotte glanced up wearily to see Sophie standing in the doorway. She looked tired, as they all did; the unmistakable traces of weeping were beneath her eyes. Charlotte knew the signs-she had seen them in her own mirror that morning.

She sat behind the desk in the drawing room, staring down at the letter in her hand. She had not expected Consul Wayland to be pleased by her news, but neither had she expected this blank contempt and refusal. I command the armies of the Shadowhunters, madam, not yourself. Fix your mind instead on an attempt to better keep your Shadowhunters in check.

Keep them in check. She fumed. As if they were all children and she no better than their governess or nursemaid, parading them in front of the Consul when they were washed and dressed, and hiding them in the playroom the rest of the time that he not be disturbed. They were Shadowhunters, and so was she. And if he did not think that Will was reliable, he was a fool. He knew of the curse; she had told him herself. Will’s madness had always been like Hamlet’s, half play and half wildness, and all driving toward a certain end.

The fire crackled in the grate; outside, the rain sheeted down, painting the windowpanes in silver lines. That morning she had passed Jem’s bedroom, the door open, the bed divested of its linens, the possessions cleared away. It could have been anyone’s room. All the evidence of his years with them, gone with the wave of a hand. She had leaned against the wall of the corridor, sweat beading on her brow, her eyes burning. Raziel, did I do the right thing?

She passed her hand over her eyes now. "Now, of all times? It isn’t Consul Wayland, is it?"

"No, ma’am." Sophie shook her dark head. "It’s Aloysius Starkweather. He says it is a matter of the greatest urgency."

"Aloysius Starkweather?" Charlotte sighed. Some days simply piled horror on horror. "Well, let him in, then."

She folded the letter she had written as a response to the Consul, and had just sealed it when Sophie returned and ushered Aloysius Starkweather into the room, before excusing herself. Charlotte did not rise from her desk. Starkweather looked much as he had the last time she had seen him. He seemed to have calcified, as if while he was getting no younger, he could get no older either. His face was a map of wrinkled lines, framed with a white beard and white hair. His clothes were dry; Sophie must have hung his overcoat downstairs. The suit he wore was at least ten years out of fashion, and he smelled faintly of old mothballs.

"Please be seated, Mr. Starkweather," said Charlotte as courteously as she could to someone who she knew disliked her, and had hated her father.

But he did not sit down. His hands were locked behind his back, and as he turned, surveying the room around him, Charlotte saw with a flash of alarm that one of the cuffs of his jacket was splattered with blood.

"Mr. Starkweather," she said, and now she did rise. "Are you hurt? Should I summon the Brothers?"

"Hurt?" he barked out. "Why would I be hurt?"

"Your sleeve." She pointed.

He drew his arm away and gazed at it before huffing out a laugh. "Not my blood," he said. "I was in a fight, earlier. He took objection …"

"Took objection to what?"

"To my cutting off all his fingers and then slitting his throat," said Starkweather, meeting her eyes. His own were gray-black, the color of stone.

"Aloysius." Charlotte forgot to be polite. "The Accords forbid unproved attacks on Downworlders."

"Unprovoked? I’d say this was provoked. His folk murdered my granddaughter. My daughter nearly died of grief. The house of Starkweather destroyed-"

"Aloysius!" Charlotte was seriously alarmed now. "Your house is not destroyed. There are still Starkweathers in Idris. I do not say that to minimize your sorrow, for some losses are with us always." Jem, she thought, unbidden, and the pain of the thought pushed her back into the chair. She rested her elbows on the table, her face in her hands. "I do not know why you came to tell me this now," she murmured. "Did you not see the runes upon the door of the Institute? This is a time of great sorrow for us-"

"I came to tell you because it’s important!" Aloysius flared up. "It regards Mortmain, and Tessa Gray."

Charlotte lowered her hands. "What do you know of Tessa Gray?"

Aloysius had turned away. He stood facing the fire, his long shadow cast across the Persian rug on the floor. "I am not a man who thinks much of the Accords," he said. "You know it; you have been in Councils with me. I was brought up to believe that everything touched by demons was foul and corrupt. That it was the blood right of a Shadowhunter to kill these creatures and to take what they had as spoils and treasure. The spoils room of the Institute in York was left in my charge, and I kept it filled until the day the new Laws were passed." He scowled.

"Let me guess," said Charlotte. "You did not stop there."

"Of course not," said the old man. "What are man’s Laws to the Angel’s? I know the right way of doing things. I kept a lower profile, but I did not cease taking spoils, or destroying those Downworlders who crossed my path. One of those was John Shade."

"Mortmain’s father."

"Warlocks cannot have children," snarled Starkweather. "Some human boy they found and trained up. Shade taught him his unholy tinkering ways. Won his trust."

"It’s unlikely the Shades stole Mortmain from his parents," said Charlotte. "He was probably a boy who would have died in a workhouse otherwise."

"It was unnatural. Warlocks should not have human children to raise." Aloysius stared deep within the red embers of the fire. "That is why we raided Shade’s house. We killed him and his wife. The boy escaped. Shade’s clockwork prince." He snorted. "We took several of his items back with us to the Institute, but none of us could make head or tail of them. That was all there was to it-a routine raid. Everything according to plan. That is, until my granddaughter was born. Adele."

"I know that she died at her first rune ceremony," said Charlotte, her hand unconsciously going to her own belly. "I am sorry. It is a great sorrow to have a sickly child-"

"She was not born sickly!" he barked. "She was a healthy infant. Beautiful, with my son’s eyes. Everyone doted on her, until one morning my daughter-in-law woke us with a scream. She insisted that the child in her cradle was not her daughter, though they looked exactly alike. She swore she knew her own child and this was not it. We thought she had gone mad. Even when the baby’s eyes changed from blue to gray-well, that happens often with infants. It wasn’t until we tried to apply her first Marks that I began to realize my daughter-in-law had been right. Adele-the pain was excruciating for her. She screamed and screamed and writhed. Her skin burned where the stele touched her. The Silent Brothers did all they could, but by the next morning she was dead."

Aloysius paused and was silent for a long time, gazing, as if fascinated, into the fire.

"My daughter-in-law nearly went mad. She could not bear to remain in the Institute. I stayed. I knew she had been correct-Adele was not my granddaughter. I heard rumors of faeries and other Downworlders who boasted that they had had their revenge on the Starkweathers, had taken one of their children from them and replaced her with a sickly human. None of my investigations yielded anything concrete, but I was determined to find out where my granddaughter had gone." He leaned on the mantel. "I had nearly given up when Tessa Gray came to my Institute in the company of your two Shadowhunters. She could have been the ghost of my daughter-in-law, so similar did they look. But she did not appear to have any Shadowhunter blood. It was a mystery, but one I pursued.

"The faerie I interrogated today gave me the last bits of the puzzle. In her infancy my granddaughter was replaced with a kidnapped human child, a sickly creature who died when the Marks were applied, because she was not Nephilim." There was a hard crack in his voice now, a fissure in the flint. "My granddaughter was left with a mundane family to raise her, their sickly Elizabeth-chosen because of her superficial resemblance to Adele-replaced with our healthy girl. That was the Court’s revenge on me. They believed I had killed their own, so they would kill mine." His eyes were cold as they rested on Charlotte. "Adele-Elizabeth-grew to womanhood in that mundane family, never knowing what she was. And then she married. A mundane man. His name was Richard. Richard Gray."

"Your granddaughter," Charlotte said slowly, "was Tessa’s mother? Elizabeth Gray? Tessa’s mother was a Shadowhunter?"

"Yes."

"These are crimes, Aloysius. You should go to the Council with this-"

"They do not care about Tessa Gray," said Starkweather roughly. "But you do. You will listen to my story because of it, and you may help me because of it."

"I may," said Charlotte, "if it is the right thing to do. I do not yet understand how Mortmain comes into this story."

Aloysius moved restlessly. "Mortmain learned of what had happened and determined that he would make use of Elizabeth Gray, a Shadowhunter who did not know she was a Shadowhunter. I believe that Mortmain courted Richard Gray as an employee in order to grant himself access to Elizabeth. I believe that he loosed an Eidolon demon upon her-my granddaughter-in the shape of her husband, and that he did it in order to get Tessa on her. Tessa was always the goal. The child of a Shadowhunter and a demon."

"But the offspring of demons and Shadowhunters are stillborn," Charlotte said automatically.

"Even if the Shadowhunter does not know they are a Shadowhunter?" said Starkweather. "Even if they carry no runes?"

"I …" Charlotte closed her mouth. She had no idea what the answer was; as far as she knew, the situation had never occurred. Shadowhunters were marked when children, male and female, all of them.

But Elizabeth Gray had not been.

"I know the girl is a shape-shifter," said Starkweather. "But I do not believe that is why he wants her. There is something else he wants her to do. Something only she can do. She is the key."

"The key to what?"

"It was the last words the faerie spoke to me this afternoon." Starkweather glanced at the blood on his sleeve. "He said, ‘She is to be our vengeance for all your wasteful death. She will bring ruin to the Nephilim, and London will burn, and when the Magister rules over all, you will be no more to him than cattle in a pen.’ Even if the Consul does not wish to go after Tessa for her own sake, they ought to go after her to prevent that."

"If they believe it," said Charlotte.

"Coming from your lips, they must," said Starkweather. "If it came from me, they would laugh me off as a mad old man, as they have done for years."

"Oh, Aloysius. You far overestimate the trust the Consul has in me. He will say I am a foolish, credulous woman. He will say the faerie lied to you-well, they cannot lie, but twisted the truth, or repeated the truth as he believed it."

The old man looked away, his mouth working. "Tessa Gray is the key to Mortmain’s plan," he said. "I do not know how, but she is. I have come to you because I do not trust the Council with Tessa. She is part demon. I remember what in the past I have done to things that were part demon or supernatural."

"Tessa is not a thing," Charlotte said. "She is a girl, and she has been kidnapped and is probably terrified. Don’t you think if I could have thought of a way to save her already, I would have done it?"

"I have done wrong," said Aloysius. "I want to make this right. My blood runs in that girl’s veins, even if demon blood does as well. She is my great-granddaughter." He raised his chin, his watery, pale eyes rimmed with red. "I ask only one thing of you, Charlotte. When you find Tessa Gray, and you will find her, tell her she is welcome to the name of Starkweather."

Do not make me regret that I have trusted you, Gabriel Lightwood.

Gabriel sat at the desk in his room, writing paper spread out before him, pen in hand. The lamps in the room were not lit, and the shadows were dark in the corners, and long across the floors.

To: Consul Josiah Wayland

From: Gabriel Lightwood

Most Honored Consul,

I write to you today at last with the news that you requested of me. I had expected it to come from Idris, but as chance would have it, its source is much closer to home. Today Aloysius Starkweather, head of the York Institute, came to call upon Mrs. Branwell.

He set the pen down and took a deep breath. He had heard the bell of the Institute ring earlier, had watched from the stairs as Sophie had ushered Starkweather into the house and up to the drawing room. It was easy enough after that to station himself at the door and listen to everything that passed within the room.

Charlotte did not, after all, expect to be spied on.

He is an old man gone mad with grief, and as such he has created an elaborate set of fabrications with which he explains to himself his great loss. He is certainly to be pitied, but not to be taken seriously, nor should the policy of the Council rest upon the words of the untrustworthy and the mad.

The floorboards creaked; Gabriel’s head jerked up. His heart was pounding. If it was Gideon-Gideon would be horrified to discover what he was doing. They all would. He thought of the look of betrayal that would bloom across Charlotte’s small face if she knew. Henry’s bewildered anger. Most of all he thought of a pair of blue eyes in a heart-shaped face, looking at him with disappointment. Maybe I have faith in you, Gabriel Lightwood.

When he set the pen back to the letter, he did so with such ferocity that the pen nearly tore through the paper.

I regret to report this, but they spoke together of both Council and Consul with great disrespect. It is clear that Mrs. Branwell resents what she sees as unnecessary interference in her plans. She met Mr. Starkweather’s wild claims, such as that Mortmain has bred demons and Shadowhunters together, a clear impossibility, with sheer credulousness. It appears that you were correct, and that she is far too headstrong and easily influenced to head an Institute properly.