Clockwork Princess (Page 37)

Clockwork Princess(37)
Author: Cassandra Clare

Tessa thought back-the way her angel had flown at the automaton choking her, had fended off the blades of the creature that had attacked her near Ravenscar Manor, had kept her from being dashed to pieces on the rocks of the ravine. "But it did not save me from torture, nor injury."

"No. For those are part of the human condition."

"So is death," said Tessa. "I am not human, and you let the Dark Sisters torture me. I could never forgive you for that. Even if you convinced me my brother’s death was his fault, that Thomas’s death was justified, that your hatred was reasonable, I could never forgive you for that."

Mortmain lifted the box at his feet and upended it. There was a rattling crash as cogs fell from it-cogs and cams and gears, sheared-off bits of metal smeared with black fluid, and lastly, bouncing atop the rest of the rubbish like a child’s red rubber ball, a severed head.

Mrs. Black’s.

"I destroyed her," he said. "For you. I wished to show you I am sincere, Miss Gray."

"Sincere in what?" Tessa demanded. "Why did you do all this? Why did you create me?"

His lips twitched slightly; it was not a smile, not really. "For two purposes. The first is so that you could bear children."

"But warlocks cannot …"

"No," said Mortmain. "But you are no ordinary warlock. In you the blood of demons and the blood of angels has fought its own war in Heaven, and the angels have been victorious. You are not a Shadowhunter, but you are not a warlock, either. You are something new, something entirely other. Shadowhunters," he spat. "All Shadowhunter and demon hybrids die, and the Nephilim are proud of it, glad that their blood will never be filthied, their lineage tainted by magic. But you. You can do magic. You can have children like any other woman. Not for some years yet, but when you reach your full maturity. The greatest warlocks alive have assured me of it. Together we will start a new race, with the Shadowhunters’ beauty and with no warlock mark. It will be a race that will break the Shadowhunters’ arrogance by replacing them on this earth."

Tessa’s legs gave out. She slumped to the floor, her dressing gown pooling around her like black water. "You-you want to use me to breed your children?"

Now he did grin. "I am not a man without honor," he said. "I offer you marriage. I always planned that." He gestured at the pitiful pile of ragged metal and flesh that had been Mrs. Black. "If I can have your willing participation, I would prefer it. And I can promise I shall deal thus with all your enemies."

My enemies. She thought of Nate, his hand closing on hers as he died, bloody, in her lap. She thought of Jem again, the way he never railed against his fate but faced it down bravely; she thought of Charlotte, who wept over Jessamine’s death, though Jessie had betrayed her; and she thought of Will, who had laid down his heart for her and Jem to walk upon because he loved them more than he loved himself.

There was human goodness in the world, she thought-all caught up with desires and dreams, regrets and bitterness, resentments and powers, but it was there, and Mortmain would never see it.

"You will never understand," she said. "You say that you build, that you invent, but I know an inventor-Henry Branwell-and you are nothing like him. He brings things to life; you just destroy. And now you bring me another dead demon, as if it were flowers rather than more death. You have no feelings, Mr. Mortmain, no empathy for anyone. If I had not known it before, it would have been made abundantly clear when you tried to use James Carstairs’s illness to force me to come here. Though he is dying because of you, he wouldn’t allow me to come-wouldn’t take your yin fen. That’s how good people behave."

She saw the look on his face. Disappointment. It was only there for a moment, though, before it was wiped away with a shrewd look. "Wouldn’t allow you to come?" he said. "So I did not misjudge you; you would have done it. Would have come to me, here, out of love."

"Not love for you."

"No," he said thoughtfully, "not for me," and he drew from his pocket an object that Tessa recognized immediately.

She stared at the watch he held out to her, dangling on its gold chain. It was clearly unwound. The hands had long ago stopped spinning, the time seemingly frozen at midnight. The initials J.T.S. were carved on the back in elegant script.

"I said there were two reasons I created you," he said. "This is the second. There are shape-shifters in the world: demons and magicians who can take on the appearance of others. But only you can truly become someone else. This watch was my father’s. John Thaddeus Shade. I beg of you to take this watch and Change into my father so I may speak with him one more time. If you do that, I will send all the yin fen I have in my possession-and it is a considerable amount-to James Carstairs."

"He will not take it," Tessa said immediately.

"Why not?" His tone was reasonable. "You are no longer a condition of the drug. It is a gift, freely given. It would be foolish to throw it away, and avail nothing. Whereas by doing this small thing for me, you may well save his life. What do you say to that, Tessa Gray?"

Will. Will, wake up.

It was Tessa’s voice, unmistakably, and it brought Will bolt upright in the saddle. He caught at Balios’s mane to steady himself and looked around blearily.

Green, gray, blue. The vista of Welsh countryside spread out before him. He had passed Welshpool and the England-Wales border sometime around dawn. He remembered little of his journey, only a continuous, tortuous progression of places: Norton, Atcham, Emstrey, Weeping Cross, diverting himself and his horse around Shrewsbury, and finally, finally the border and Welsh hills in the distance. They had been ghostly in the morning light, everything shrouded in mist that had burned off slowly as the sun had risen overhead.

He guessed he was somewhere near Llangadfan. It was a pretty road, laid over an old Roman byway, but almost empty of habitation apart from the occasional farm, and it seemed endlessly long, longer than the gray sky stretching overhead. At the Cann Office Hotel he had forced himself to stop and take some food, but only for moments. The journey was what mattered.

Now that he was in Wales, he could feel it-the draw in his blood toward the place where he had been born. Despite all Cecily’s words, he had not felt the connection in him until now-breathing Welsh air, seeing the Welsh colors: the green of hills, gray of slate and sky, the pallor of whitewashed stone houses, the ivory dots of sheep against the grass. Pine and oak trees were dark emerald in the distance, higher up, but closer to the road the vegetation grew green-gray and ochre.

As he moved farther into the heart of the country, the soft green rolling hills grew starker, the road steeper, and the sun began to sink toward the rim of the distant mountains. He knew where he was now, knew when he passed into the Dyfi Valley, and the mountains in front of him thrust up, stark and ragged. The peak of Car Afron was on his left, a tumble of gray slate and shingle like broken gray spiderweb across its side. The road was steep and long, and as Will urged Balios up it, he slumped in the saddle and, against his will, drifted out of consciousness. He dreamed of Cecily and Ella running up and down hills not unlike these, calling after him, Will! Come and run with us, Will! And he dreamed of Tessa and her hands held out for him, and he knew he could not stop, could not stop until he reached her. Even if she never looked at him like that in waking life, even if that softness in her eyes was for someone else. And sometimes, as now, his hand would slip into his pocket and close around the jade pendant there.

Something struck him hard from the side; he released the pendant as he fell, jarringly, onto the rocky grass by the side of the road. Pain shot up his arm, and he rolled to the side just in time to avoid Balios crumpling to the earth beside him. It took him a moment, gasping, to realize that they had not been attacked. His horse, too exhausted to take another step, had collapsed beneath him.

Will heaved himself up to his knees and crawled to Balios’s side. The black horse lay lathered in foam, his eyes rolling upward pitifully toward Will as Will neared him and flung an arm around his neck. To his relief the horse’s pulse was steady and strong. "Balios, Balios," he whispered, stroking the animal’s mane. "I am sorry. I should not have ridden you like that."

He remembered when Henry had bought the horses and was trying to decide what to name them. Will had been the one to suggest their names: Balios and Xanthos, after the immortal horses of Achilles. We two can fly as swiftly as Zephyrus, who they say is the fleetest of all winds.

But those horses had been immortal, and Balios was not. Stronger than an ordinary horse, and faster, but every creature had its limits. Will lay down, his head spinning, and stared up at the sky-like a gray sheet pulled tight, touched here and there with streaks of black cloud.

He had thought, once, in the brief moments between the lifting of the "curse" and the knowledge that Jem and Tessa were engaged, of bringing Tessa here to Wales, to show her the places he had been as a child. He had thought to take her down to Pembrokeshire, to walk around Saint David’s Head and see the cliff-top flowers there, to see the blue sea from Tenby and find seashells at the tide lines. These all seemed the distant fancies of a child now. There was only the road ahead, more riding and more exhaustion, and probable death at the end of it.

With another reassuring pat on his horse’s neck, Will heaved himself to his knees and then his feet. Fighting dizziness, he limped to the crest of the hill, and looked down.

A small valley lay below him, and within it was cradled a diminutive stone village, little bigger than a hamlet. He took his stele from his belt and wearily carved a Vision rune into his left wrist. It lent him enough power to see that the village had a square, and a small church. It would almost certainly have some sort of public house where he could rest for the night.

Everything in his heart screamed to go on, to finish this-he could not be more than twenty miles from his goal-but to go on would be to kill his horse and, he knew, to arrive at Cadair Idris himself in no fit state to do battle with anyone. He turned back toward Balios and with a measured application of coaxing and handfuls of oats managed to get the horse to its feet. Gathering the reins in his hand and squinting into the sunset, he began to lead Balios down the hill toward the village.

The chair Tessa sat in had a high, carved wooden back, hammered through with massive nails, the dull ends of which poked into her back. In front of her was a wide desk, weighed down by books on one end. Before her on the desk was a clean tablet of paper, a jar of ink, and a quill. Beside the paper sat John Shade’s pocket watch.

On either side of her stood two massive automatons. Little effort had been expended to make them resemble humans. Each was nearly triangular, with thick arms protruding from either side of their bodies, each arm ending in a razor-sharp blade. They were frightening enough, but Tessa could not help but feel that if Will were there, he would have commented that they looked like turnips, and perhaps made up a song about it.

"Take up the watch," said Mortmain. "And Change."

He sat across from her, in a chair much like hers, with the same high curving back. They were in another cave room, which she had been led to by automatons; the only light in the room came from an enormous fireplace, large enough to roast an entire cow in. Mortmain’s face was cast into shadows, his fingers steepled below his chin.

Tessa lifted the watch. It felt heavy and cool in her hands. She closed her eyes.

She had only Mortmain’s word that he had sent the yin fen, and yet she believed him. He had no reason not to do it, after all. What difference did it make to him whether Jem Carstairs lived a little longer? It had only ever been a bargaining tool to get her into his hands, and here she was, yin fen or not.

She heard Mortmain’s breath hiss out between his teeth, and she tightened her fingers’ grip on the watch. It seemed to throb suddenly in her grasp, the way the clockwork angel sometimes did, as if it had its own life within it. She felt her hand jerk, and then suddenly the Change was on her-without her having to will it or reach for it as she usually did. She gave a little gasp as she felt the Change take her like a harsh wind, pushing her down and under. John Shade was suddenly all around her, his presence enveloping hers. Pain drove up her arm, and she let go of the watch. It thumped to the desk, but the Change was unstoppable. Her shoulders broadened under the dressing gown, her fingers turning green, the color spreading up her body like verdigris over copper.

Her head jerked upright. She felt heavy, as if an enormous weight were pressing on her. Looking down, she saw that she had a man’s heavy arms, the skin a dark, textured green, the hands large and curved. A feeling of panic rose in her, but it was tiny, a small spark within an immense gulf of darkness. She had never been so lost inside a Change before.

Mortmain had sat upright. He was staring at her fixedly, his firm lips compressed, his eyes shining with a hard dark light. "Father," he said.

Tessa did not answer. Could not answer. The voice that rose within her was not hers; it was Shade’s. "My clockwork prince," Shade said.

The light in Mortmain’s eyes grew. He leaned forward, pushing the papers eagerly across the table toward Tessa. "Father," he said. "I need your help, and quickly. I have a Pyxis. I have the means to open it. I have the automaton bodies. I need only the spell you created, the binding spell. Write it down for me, and I will have the last piece of the puzzle."

The tiny flare of panic inside Tessa was growing and spreading. This was no touching reunion between father and son. This was something Mortmain wanted, needed from the warlock John Shade. She began to struggle, to try to extricate herself from the Change, but it held her with a grip like iron. Not since the Dark Sisters had trained her had she been unable to extricate herself from a Change, but though John Shade was dead, she could feel the steely hold of his will on her, keeping her prisoned in his body and forcing that body into action. In horror she saw her own hand reach for the pen, dip the nib in the ink, and begin to write.