Clockwork Princess (Page 36)

Clockwork Princess(36)
Author: Cassandra Clare

Gabriel bit his lip and forced himself not to think of Cecily; instead he thought of Lightwood House, his birthright; the good name of the Lightwoods restored; the safety of his brother and sister. He was not really harming Charlotte. It was only a question of her position, not her safety. The Consul had no dark plans for her. Surely she would be happier in Idris, or in some country house, watching her children run over green lawns and not worrying constantly about the fate of all Shadowhunters.

Though Mrs. Branwell exhorts you to send a force of Shadowhunters to Cadair Idris, anyone who makes the opinions of madmen and hysterics the cornerstone of their policies lacks the objectivity to be trusted.

If necessary, I shall swear by the Mortal Sword that all this is true.

Yours in Raziel’s name,

Gabriel Lightwood

Chapter 16 The Clockwork Princess

O Love! who bewailest

The frailty of all things here,

Why choose you the frailest

For your cradle, your home, and your bier?

-Percy Bysshe Shelley,

"Lines: When the Lamp Is Shattered"

To: Consul Josiah Wayland

From: Charlotte Branwell

Dear Consul Wayland,

I have but this moment received tidings of the gravest import, which I hasten to impart to you. An informant, whose name I cannot at this time disclose but whom I vouch for as reliable, has relayed to me details that suggest to me that Miss Gray is no mere passing fancy of Mortmain’s but a key to his main objective: to wit, the utter destruction of us all.

He plots to construct devices of greater power than any we have yet before seen, and I deeply fear that Miss Gray’s unique abilities will aid him in this endeavor. She would never intend harm to us, but we do not know what threats or indignities Mortmain will offer her. It is imperative that she be rescued at once, as much to save us all as to aid her.

In light of this new information, I once more implore you to gather what forces you may and march upon Cadair Idris.

Yours sincerely, and in sincere distress,

Charlotte Branwell

Tessa woke slowly, as if consciousness were at the end of a long, dark corridor and she were walking toward it at a snail’s pace, her hand outstretched. Finally she reached it, and swung the door open to reveal-

Blinding light. It was golden light, not pale like witchlight. She sat up and looked around her.

She was in a simple brass bed, with a deep feather tick spread over a second mattress, and a heavy eiderdown quilt on top. The room she was in looked as if it had been hollowed out of a cave. There was a tall dresser, and a washstand with a blue jug on it; there was also a wardrobe, its door hanging open just enough that Tessa could see that garments hung inside. There were no windows in the room, though there was a fireplace in which a cheerful blaze burned. On either side of the fireplace were hung portraits.

She slid from the bed and winced as her bare feet encountered cold stone. It was not as painful as she would have expected, though, given her battered state. Glancing down, she had two quick shocks: the first was that she was wearing nothing but an oversize black silk dressing gown. The second was that her cuts and bruises seemed to have largely disappeared. She still felt slightly sore, but her skin, pale against the black silk, was unmarked. Touching her hair, she felt that it was clean and loose around her shoulders, no longer matted with mud and blood.

That did leave the question of who had cleaned her, healed her, and put her in this bed. Tessa remembered nothing beyond struggling with the automatons in the small farmhouse while Mrs. Black laughed. Eventually one of them had choked her into unconsciousness and a merciful darkness had come. Still, the idea of Mrs. Black undressing and bathing her was horrible, though not perhaps as horrible as the idea of Mortmain doing it.

Most of the furniture in the room was grouped on one side of the cave. The other side was largely bare, though she could see the black rectangle of a doorway cut into the far wall. After a brief glance around she made her way toward it-

Only to find herself, halfway across the room, brought up bruisingly short. She staggered back, gathering her dressing gown more tightly about her, her forehead stinging where she had smacked it on something. Gingerly she reached out, tracing the air in front of her.

And she felt solid hardness in front of her, as if a perfectly clear glass wall stood between her and the other side of the room. She flattened her hands against it. Invisible it might be, but it was as hard as adamant. She moved her hands up, wondering how high it could possibly go-

"I wouldn’t bother," said a cold, familiar voice from the door. "The configuration stretches all the way across the cave, from wall to wall, from roof to ceiling. You are completely immured behind it."

Tessa had been stretching upward; at that, she dropped to her feet and backed up a step.

Mortmain.

He was exactly as she recalled him. A wiry man, not tall, with a weathered face and a neatly clipped beard. Extraordinarily ordinary, save for his eyes, as cold and gray as a winter snowstorm. He wore a dove-colored suit, not overly formal, the sort of thing a gentleman might wear to an afternoon at the club. His shoes were polished to a high shine.

Tessa said nothing, only drew the black dressing gown closer about her. It was voluminous, and concealed her whole body, but without the underpinnings of chemise and corset, stockings and bustle, she felt nak*d and exposed.

"Do not panic yourself," Mortmain went on. "You cannot reach me through the wall, but neither can I reach you. Not without dissolving the spell itself, and that would take time." He paused. "I wished for you to feel safer."

"If you wished me to be safe, you would have left me at the Institute." Tessa’s tone was bone-chillingly cold.

Mortmain said nothing to that, only cocked his head and squinted at her, like a sailor squinting at the horizon. "My condolences on the death of your brother. I never meant for that to happen."

Tessa felt her mouth twist into a terrible shape. It had been two months since Nate had died in her arms, but she had not forgotten, or forgiven. "I don’t want your pity. Or your good wishes. You made him a tool of yours, and then he died. It was your fault, as surely as if you had shot him in the street."

"I suppose it would avail little to point out that he was the one who sought me out."

"He was just a boy," Tessa said. She wanted to sink to her knees, wanted to pound against the invisible barrier with her fists, but she held herself upright and cold. "He was not even twenty."

Mortmain slid his hands into his pockets. "Do you know what it was like for me, when I was a boy?" he said, in as calm a tone as if he had been seated beside her at a dinner party and forced to make conversation.

Tessa thought of the images she had seen in Aloysius Starkweather’s mind.

The man was tall, broad-shouldered-and as green-skinned as a lizard. His hair was black. The child he held by the hand, by contrast, seemed as normal as a child could be-small, chubby-fisted, pink-skinned.

Tessa knew the man’s name, because Starkweather knew it.

John Shade.

Shade hoisted the child up onto his shoulders as through the door of the house spilled a number of odd-looking metal creatures, like a child’s jointed dolls, but human-size, and with skin made of shining metal. The creatures were featureless. Though, oddly, they wore clothes-the rough workman’s coveralls of a Yorkshire farmer on some, and on others plain muslin dresses. The automatons joined hands and began to sway as if they were at a country dance. The child laughed and clapped his hands.

"Look well on this, my son," said the green-skinned man, "for one day I shall rule a clockwork kingdom of such beings, and you shall be its prince."

"I know your adoptive parents were warlocks," she said. "I know that they cared for you. I know that your father invented the clockwork creatures with which you are so enamored."

"And you know what happened to them."

-a room torn apart, cogs and cams and gears and ripped metal everywhere, fluid leaking as black as blood, and the green-skinned man and blue-haired woman lying dead among the ruins-

Tessa looked away.

"Let me tell you about my childhood," Mortmain said. "Adoptive parents, you call them, but they were as much my parents as any amount of blood could make them. They raised me up with care and love, just as yours did you." He gestured toward the fireplace, and Tessa realized with a dull shock that the portraits that hung on either side were portraits of her own parents: her fair-haired mother, and her thoughtful-looking father with his brown eyes and tie askew. "And then they were killed by Shadowhunters. My father wanted to create these beautiful automatons, these clockwork creatures, as you call them. They would be the greatest machines ever invented, he dreamed, and they would protect Downworlders against the Shadowhunters who routinely murdered and stole from them. You saw the spoils in Starkweather’s Institute." He spat the last words. "You saw pieces of my parents. He kept my mother’s blood in a jar."

And the remains of warlocks. Mummified taloned hands, like Mrs. Black’s. A stripped skull, utterly de-fleshed, human-looking save that it had tusks instead of teeth. Vials of sludgy-looking blood.

Tessa swallowed. My mother’s blood in a jar. She could not say she did not understand his rage. And yet-she thought of Jem, his parents dying in front of him, his own life destroyed, and yet he had never sought revenge. "Yes, that was horrible," Tessa said. "But it does not excuse the things you’ve done."

A flicker of something deep in his eyes: rage, quickly tamped down. "Let me tell you what I’ve done," he said. "I have created an army. An army that, once the final piece of the puzzle is in place, will be invincible."

"And the final piece of the puzzle-"

"Is you," said Mortmain.

"You say that over and over, and yet you refuse to explain it," Tessa said. "You demand my cooperation and yet you tell me nothing. You have me imprisoned here, sir, but you cannot force my speech with you, or my willingness if I choose not to give it-"

"You are half-Shadowhunter, half-demon," Mortmain said. "That is the first thing you should know."

Tessa, already half-turned away from him, froze. "That is not possible. The offspring of Shadowhunters and demons are stillborn."

"Yes, they are," he said. "They are. The blood of a Shadowhunter, the runes on the body of a Shadowhunter, are death to a warlock child in the womb. But your mother was not Marked."

"My mother was not a Shadowhunter!" Tessa looked wildly to the portrait of Elizabeth Gray over the fireplace. "Or are you saying she lied to my father, lied to everyone all her life-"

"She did not know," said Mortmain. "The Shadowhunters did not know it. There was no one to tell her. My father built your clockwork angel, you know. It was meant to be a gift for my mother. It contains within it a bit of the spirit of an angel, a rare thing, something he had carried with him since the Crusades. The mechanism itself was meant to be tuned to her life, so that every time her life was threatened the angel would intervene to protect her. However, my father never had a chance to finish it. He was murdered first." Mortmain began to pace. "My parents were not singled out for murder, of course. Starkweather and his kind delighted in slaughtering Downworlders-they grew rich off the spoils-and would take the slightest excuse to bring violence against them. For that he was hated by the Downworlder community. It was the faeries of the countryside who helped me escape when my parents were killed, and who hid me until the Shadowhunters stopped looking for me." He took a shuddering breath. "Years later, when they decided to have their revenge, I helped them. Institutes are protected against the ingress of Downworlders, but not against mundanes, and not, of course, against automatons."

He smiled a terrible smile.

"It was I, with the help of one of my father’s inventions, who crept into the York Institute and switched the baby in the crib there for one of mundane descent. Starkweather’s granddaughter, Adele."

"Adele," Tessa whispered. "I saw a portrait of her." A very young girl with long, fair hair, dressed in an old-fashioned child’s dress, a great ribbon surmounting her small head. Her face was thin and pale and sickly, but her eyes were bright.

"She died when the first runes were put on her," said Mortmain with relish. "Died screaming, as so many Downworlders had before at the hands of Shadowhunters. Now they had killed one they had come to love. A fitting retribution."

Tessa stared at him in horror. How could anyone think that to die in agony was fitting retribution for an innocent child? She thought of Jem again, his hands gentle on his violin.

"Elizabeth, your mother, grew up not knowing she was a Shadowhunter. No runes were given to her. I followed her progress, of course, and when she married Richard Gray, I made sure I employed him. I believed that the lack of runes on your mother meant that she could conceive a child who was half-demon, half-Shadowhunter, and to test that theory I sent a demon to her in the shape of your father. She never knew the difference."

Only the emptiness in Tessa’s stomach kept her from being sick. "You-did what-to my mother? A demon? I am half-demon?"

"He was a Greater Demon, if that comforts you. Most of them were angels once. He was fair enough in his own aspect." Mortmain smirked. "Before your mother became pregnant, I had worked for years to finish my father’s clockwork angel. I finished it, and after you were conceived, tuned it to your life. My greatest invention."

"But why would my mother be willing to wear it?"

"To save you," said Mortmain. "Your mother realized that something was wrong when she became pregnant. To carry a warlock child is not like carrying a human child. I came to her then and gave her the clockwork angel. I told her that wearing it would save her child’s life. She believed me. I was not lying. You are immortal, girl, but you are not invulnerable. You can be killed. The angel is tuned to your life; it is designed to save you if you are dying. It may have saved you a hundred times before you were ever born, and it’s saved you since. Think of the times you have been close to death. Think of the way it intervened."