The pen scratched across the paper. Mortmain leaned forward. He was breathing hard, as if running. Behind him the fire crackled, high and orange in the grate. "That is it," he said, his tongue licking over his bottom lip. "I can see how that would work, yes. Finally. That’s it exactly."
Tessa stared. What was coming from her pen seemed a stream of gibberish to her: numbers, signs, and symbols she could not comprehend. Again she tried to struggle, succeeding only in blotting the page. There went the pen again-ink, paper, more scratching. The hand that held the pen was shaking violently, but the symbols continued to flow. Tessa began to bite her lip: hard, then harder. She tasted blood in her mouth. Some of the blood dripped onto the page. The pen continued to write through it, smearing scarlet fluid across the page.
"That is it," Mortmain said. "Father-"
The nib of the pen snapped, as loud as a gunshot, echoing off the walls of the cave. The pen fell broken from Tessa’s hand, and she slumped back against the chair, exhausted. The green was draining from her skin, her body was shrinking, her own brown hair was tumbling loose over her shoulders. She could still taste blood in her mouth. "No," she gasped, and reached for the papers. "No-"
But her movements were made slow by pain and the Change, and Mortmain was faster. Laughing, he snatched the papers out from under her hand and rose to his feet. "Very good," he said. "Thank you, my little warlock girl. You have given me everything I need. Automatons, escort Miss Gray back to her room."
A metal hand closed on the back of Tessa’s gown and lifted her to her feet. The world seemed to swing dizzily in front of her. She saw Mortmain reach down and lift up the gold watch that had fallen on the table.
He smiled at it, a feral, vicious smile. "I will make you proud, Father," he said. "Never doubt it."
Tessa, no longer able to bear watching, closed her eyes. What have I done? she thought as the automaton began to push her from the room. My God, what have I done?
Chapter 17 Only Noble To Be Good
Howe’er it be, it seems to me,
‘Tis only noble to be good.
Kind hearts are more than coronets,
And simple faith than Norman blood.
-Alfred, Lord Tennyson, "Lady Clara Vere de Vere"
Charlotte’s dark head was bent over a letter when Gabriel came into the drawing room. It was chilly in the room, the fire dead in the grate. Gabriel wondered why Sophie had not built it up-too much time spent training. His father wouldn’t have had patience with that. He liked servants who were trained to fight, but he preferred them to acquire that knowledge before they entered his service.
Charlotte looked up. "Gabriel," she said.
"You wanted to see me?" Gabriel did his best to keep his voice even. He couldn’t help the feeling that Charlotte’s dark eyes could see through him, as if he were made of glass. His eyes flicked toward the paper on her desk. "What is that?"
She hesitated. "A letter from the Consul." Her mouth was twisted into a tight, unhappy line. She glanced down again and sighed. "All I ever wanted was to run this Institute as my father had. I never thought it would be quite so hard. I shall write to him again, but-" She broke off then, with a tight, false smile. "But I did not ask you here to talk about myself," she said. "Gabriel, you have looked tired these past few days, and tense. I know we are all distressed, and I fear that in that distress your-situation-may have been forgotten."
"Your father," she clarified, rising from her chair and approaching him. "You must be grieving him."
"What of Gideon?" he said. "He was his father too."
"Gideon grieved your father some time ago," she said, and to his surprise she was standing at his elbow. "For you it must be new and raw. I did not want you to think I had forgotten."
"After everything that’s happened," he said, his throat starting to close with bewilderment-and something else, something he did not want to identify too closely-"after Jem, and Will, and Jessamine, and Tessa, after your household has been very nearly cut in half, you do not wish me to believe that you have forgotten me?"
She laid a hand on his arm. "Those losses do not make your loss nothing-"
"That cannot be it," he said. "You cannot want to comfort me. You asked me to find out if my loyalty is still to my father, or to the Institute-"
"Gabriel, no. Nothing like that."
"I can’t give you the answer you want," Gabriel said. "I cannot forget that he stayed with me. My mother died-and Gideon left-and Tatiana is a useless fool-and there was never anyone else, never anyone else to bring me up, and I had nothing, just my father, just the two of us, and now you, you and Gideon, you expect me to despise him, but I can’t. He was my father, and I-" His voice broke.
"Loved him," she said gently. "You know, I remember you when you were just a little boy, and I remember your mother. And I remember your brother, always standing next to you. And your father’s hand on your shoulder. If it matters, I do believe he loved you, too."
"It doesn’t matter. Because I killed my father," Gabriel said in a shaking voice. "I put an arrow through his eye-I spilled his blood. Patricide-"
"It was not patricide. He wasn’t your father anymore."
"If that was not my father, if I did not end my father’s life, then where is he?" Gabriel whispered "Where is my father?" and felt Charlotte reach up to draw him down, to embrace him as a mother would, holding him as he choked dryly against her shoulder, tasting tears in his throat but unable to shed them. "Where is my father?" he said again, and when she tightened her hold on him, he felt the iron in her grip, the strength of her holding him up, and wondered how he had ever thought this small woman was weak.
To: Charlotte Branwell
From: Consul Josiah Wayland
My Dear Mrs. Branwell,
An informant whose name you cannot at this time disclose? I would venture a guess that there is no informant, and that this is all your own invention, a ploy to convince me of your rightness.
Pray cease your impression of a parrot witlessly repeating "March upon Cadair Idris at once" at all the hours of the day, and show me instead that you are performing your duties as leader of the London Institute. Otherwise I fear I must suppose that you are unfit to do so, and will be forced to relieve you of them at once.
As a token of your compliance, I must ask that you cease speaking of this matter entirely, and implore no members of the Enclave to join you in your fruitless quest. If I hear that you have brought this matter before any other Nephilim, I shall consider it the gravest disobedience and act accordingly.
Josiah Wayland, Consul of the Clave
Sophie had brought Charlotte the letter at the breakfast table. Charlotte pried it open with her butter knife, breaking through the Wayland seal (a horseshoe with the C of the Consul below it), and fairly tore it open in her eagerness to read.
The rest of them watched her, Henry with concern on his bright, open face as two dark red spots bloomed slowly over Charlotte’s cheekbones while her eyes scanned the lines. The others sat still, arrested over their meals, and Cecily could not help but think how it was strange in a way to see a group of men hanging upon the reaction of a woman.
Though a smaller group of men than it should have been. The absence of Will and Jem felt like a new wound, a clean white slice not yet filled in with blood, the shock almost too fresh for pain.
"What is it?" Henry said anxiously. "Charlotte, dear …"
Charlotte read the words of the message out with the emotionless beats of a metronome. When she was done, she pushed the letter away, still staring at it. "I simply cannot …" She began. "I do not understand."
Henry had flushed red beneath his freckles. "How dare he write to you like that," he said, with unexpected ferocity. "How dare he address you in that manner, dismiss your concerns-"
"Perhaps he is correct. Perhaps he is mad. Perhaps we all are," Charlotte said.
"We are not!" Cecily exclaimed, and she saw Gabriel look sideways at her. His expression was difficult to read. He had been pale since he had come into the dining room, and had barely spoken or eaten, staring instead at the tablecloth as if it held the answers to all the questions in the universe. "The Magister is in Cadair Idris. I am sure of it."
Gideon was frowning. "I believe you," he said. "We all do, but without the ear of the Consul, the matter cannot be placed before the Council, and without a Council there can be no assistance for us."
"The portal is nearly ready for use," said Henry. "When it works, we should be able to transport as many Shadowhunters as needed to Cadair Idris in a matter of moments."
"But there will be no Shadowhunters to transport," said Charlotte. "Look, here, the Consul forbids me to speak of this matter to the Enclave. Its authority supersedes mine. To overstep his command like that-we could lose the Institute."
"And?" Cecily demanded heatedly. "Do you care more for your position than you care for Will and Tessa?"
"Miss Herondale," Henry began, but Charlotte silenced him with a gesture. She looked very tired.
"No, Cecily, it is not that, but the Institute provides us protection. Without it our ability to help Will and Tessa is severely compromised. As the head of the Institute, I can provide them assistance that a single Shadowhunter could not-"
"No," Gabriel said. He had pushed away his plate, and his slim fingers were tense and white as he gestured. "You cannot."
"Gabriel?" said Gideon in a questioning tone.
"I will not stay silent," Gabriel said, and rose to his feet, as if he intended to either make a speech or sprint away from the table, Cecily was not sure. He turned a haunted green gaze on Charlotte. "The day that the Consul came here, when he brought me and my brother away for questioning, he threatened us until we promised to spy on you for him."
Charlotte paled. Henry began to stand up from the table. Gideon threw a hand out pleadingly.
"Charlotte," he said. "We never did it. We never told him a word. Nothing that was true, anyway," he amended, looking around as the rest of the occupants of the room stared at him. "Some lies. Misdirection. He stopped asking after only two letters. He knew there was no use in it."
"It’s true, ma’am," came a small voice from the corner of the room. Sophie. Cecily almost hadn’t noticed her there, pale under her white mobcap.
"Sophie!" Henry sounded utterly shocked. "You knew about this?"
"Yes, but-" Sophie’s voice shook. "He threatened Gideon and Gabriel awfully, Mr. Branwell. He told them he would have the Lightwoods stricken off the Shadowhunter records, that he would have Tatiana turned out in the street. And still they didn’t tell him anything. When he stopped asking, I thought he’d realized there was nothing to find out and given up. I’m so sorry. I just-"
"She didn’t want to hurt you," Gideon said desperately. "Please, Mrs. Branwell. Do not blame Sophie for this."
"I don’t," said Charlotte, her eyes dark and quick, moving from Gabriel to Gideon to Sophie, and back again. "But I rather imagine there is more to this story. Isn’t there?"
"That is all there is, truly-," Gideon began.
"No," Gabriel said. "It isn’t. When I came to you, Gideon, and told you that the Consul no longer wanted us to report to him about Charlotte, that was a lie."
"What?" Gideon looked horrified.
"He brought me aside on my own, the day of the attack on the Institute," Gabriel said. "He told me that if I helped him discover some wrongdoing on Charlotte’s part, he would give back the Lightwood estate to us, restore the honor to our name, cover up what our father did …" He took a deep breath. "And I told him I would do it."
"Gabriel," Gideon groaned, and buried his face in his hands. Gabriel looked as if he were about to be sick, half-wavering on his feet. Cecily was torn between pity and horror, remembering that night in the training room, how she had told him she had faith in him that he would make the right choices.
"That is why you looked so frightened when I called you to speak with me earlier today," Charlotte said, her gaze steady on Gabriel. "You thought I had found you out."
Henry began to rise to his feet, his pleasant, open face darkening with the first real anger Cecily thought she had ever seen on it. "Gabriel Lightwood," he said. "My wife has shown you nothing but kindness, and this is how you repay it?"
Charlotte put a restraining hand on her husband’s arm. "Henry, wait," she said. "Gabriel. What did you do?"
"I listened to your conversation with Aloysius Starkweather," Gabriel said in an empty voice. "I wrote a letter to the Consul afterward, telling him that you were basing your requests that he march on Wales on the words of a madman, that you were credulous, too headstrong …"
Charlotte’s eyes seemed to pierce through Gabriel like nails; Cecily thought she would never want that gaze on her, not in her life. "You wrote it," she said. "Did you send it?"
Gabriel took a long, gasping breath. "No," he said, and reached into his sleeve. He drew out a folded paper and threw it down onto the table. Cecily stared at it. It was smudged with fingerprints and soft at the edges, as if it had been folded and unfolded many times. "I could not do it. I did not tell him anything at all."
Cecily let out a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding.
Sophie made a soft noise; she started toward Gideon, who was looking as if he were recovering from being punched in the stomach. Charlotte remained as calm as she had been throughout. She reached out, picked up the letter, glanced over it, and then placed it back on the table.
"Why didn’t you send it?" she said.
He looked at her, an odd shared look that passed between them, and said, "I had my reasons to reconsider."