Clockwork Princess (Page 42)

Clockwork Princess(42)
Author: Cassandra Clare

Iron though the poker was, it burst into metallic powder, a cloud of shining filaments that sifted to the floor, dusting the surface of the clockwork angel, which lay, untouched and undamaged, on the ground before her knees.

And then the angel began to shift and change. Its wings trembled, and its closed eyelids opened on bits of whitish quartz. From them poured thin beams of whitish light. Like in paintings of the star over Bethlehem, the light rose and rose, radiating spikes of light. Slowly it began to coalesce into a shape-the form of an angel.

It was a shimmering blur of light so bright, it was difficult to look at directly. Tessa could see, through the light, the faint outline of something like a man. She could see eyes that were without iris or pupil-inset bits of crystal that gleamed in the firelight. The angel’s wings were broad, spreading out from its shoulders, each feather tipped with gleaming metal. Its hands were folded over the hilt of a graceful sword.

Its blank shining eyes rested on her. Why do you try to destroy me? Its voice was sweet, echoing in her mind like music. I protect you.

She thought of Jem suddenly, propped on his bed of pillows, his face pale and gleaming. There is more to life than living. "It is not you I seek to destroy, but myself."

But why would you do that? Life is a gift.

"I seek to do right," she said. "In keeping me alive you are allowing great evil to exist."

Evil. The musical voice was thoughtful. I have been so long in my clockwork prison that I have forgotten good and evil.

"Clockwork prison?" Tessa whispered. "But how can an angel be prisoned?"

It was John Thaddeus Shade who imprisoned me. He caught my soul inside a spell and trapped it within this mechanical body.

"Like the Pyxis," Tessa said. "Only entrapping an angel instead of a demon."

I am an angel of the divine, said the angel, hovering before her. I am brother to the Sijil, Kurabi, and the Zurah, the Fravashis and Dakinis.

"And-is this your true form? Is this what you look like?"

You see here only a fraction of what I am. In my true form I am deadly glory. Mine was the freedom of Heaven, before I was trapped and bound to you.

"I am sorry," she whispered.

You are not the one to blame. You did not imprison me. Our spirits are bound, it is true, but even as I protected you in the womb, I knew you were blameless.

"My guardian angel."

Few can claim a single angel who guards them. But you can.

"I don’t want to claim you," Tessa said. "I want to die on my own terms, not be forced to live on Mortmain’s."

I cannot let you die. The angel’s voice was full of grief. Tessa was reminded of Jem’s violin, playing out the music of his heart. It is my mandate.

Tessa raised her head. The firelight struck through the angel like sunlight through crystal, casting a radiance of color against the walls of the cave. This was no foul contraption; this was goodness, twisted and bent to Mortmain’s will, but in its nature divine. "When you were an angel," she said, "what was your name?"

My name, said the angel, was Ithuriel.

"Ithuriel," Tessa whispered, and held out her hand to the angel, as if she could reach him, comfort him somehow. But her fingers met only empty air. The angel shimmered and faded, leaving behind only a glow, a starburst of light against the inside of her eyelids.

A wave of cold struck Tessa, and she jerked upright, her eyes flying open. She was half-lying on the cold stone floor in front of the nearly dead fire. The room was dark, barely lit by the reddish embers in the grate. The poker was where it had been before. Her hand flew to her throat-and found the clockwork angel there.

A dream. Tessa’s heart fell. It had all been a dream. There was no angel to bathe her in its light. There was only this cold room, the encroaching darkness, and the clockwork angel steadily ticking down the minutes to the end of everything in the world.

Will stood atop Cadair Idris, the reins of his horse in his hand.

As he had ridden toward Dolgellau, he had seen the massive wall of Cadair Idris towering above the Mawddach estuary, and the breath had gone out of him in a gasp-he was here. He had climbed this mountain before, as a child, with his father, and those memories stayed with him as he left the Dinas Mawddwy road and pounded toward the mountain on the back of Balios, who seemed still to be fleeing the flames of the village they had left behind them. They had continued through a weedy tarn-the silvery sea could be seen in one direction, and the peak of Snowdon in the other-up to the Nant Cadair valley. The village of Dolgellau below, sparkling with occasional light, made a pretty picture, but Will was not admiring the view. The Night Vision rune he had given himself allowed him to track the footsteps of the clockwork creatures. There were enough of them that the ground was torn where they had walked down the mountain, and he followed with a pounding heart the path of ruination toward the peak of the mountain.

Their tracks led up past a tumble of massive boulders Will remembered were called the moraine. They formed a partial wall that protected Cwm Cau, a small valley atop the mountain in whose heart rested Llyn Cau, a clear glacial lake. The tracks of the clockwork army led from the edge of the lake-

And vanished.

Will stood, looking down at the cold, clear waters. In the daylight, he recalled, this view was magnificent: Llyn Cau pure blue, surrounded by green grass, and the sun touching the razor-sharp edges of Mynydd Pencoed, the cliffs surrounding the lake. He felt a million miles from London.

The reflection of the moon gleamed up at him from the water. He sighed. The water lapped gently at the edge of the lake, but it could not erase the marks of the automatons’ tracks. It was clear where they had come from. He reached back and patted Balios’s neck.

"Wait for me here," he said. "And if I do not return, take yourself back to the Institute. They will be glad to see you again, old boy."

The horse whickered gently and bit at his sleeve, but Will only drew in his breath and waded into Llyn Cau. The cold liquid lapped up over his boots and hit his trousers, soaking through to freeze his skin. He gasped with the shock of it.

"Wet again," he said glumly, and plunged forward into the icy waters of the lake. They seemed to pull him in, like quicksand-he barely had time to gasp in a breath before the freezing water dragged him down into darkness.

To: Charlotte Branwell

From: Consul Wayland

Mrs. Branwell,

You are relieved of your position as head of the Institute. I could speak of my disappointment with you, or the broken faith that exists between us now. But words, in the face of a betrayal of the magnitude of that which you have offered me, are futile. On my arrival in London tomorrow, I will expect you and your husband to have already departed the Institute and removed your belongings. Failure to comply with this request will be met with the harshest penalties available under the Law.

Josiah Wayland, Consul of the Clave

Chapter 19 To Lie and Burn

Now I will burn you back, I will burn you through,

Though I am damned for it we two will lie

And burn.

-Charlotte Mew, "In Nunhead Cemetery"

It was dark for only moments. The icy water sucked Will down, and then he was falling-he curled in on himself just as the ground rose up to slam into him, knocking the breath from his body.

He choked and rolled over onto his stomach, pulling himself to a kneeling position, his hair and clothes streaming water. He reached for his witchlight, then dropped his hand; he didn’t want to illuminate anything if that might call attention to him. The Night Vision rune would have to do.

It was enough to show him that he was in a rocky cavern. If he looked above him, he could see the swirling waters of the lake, held in abeyance as if by glass, and a blurred bit of moonlight. Tunnels led off the cavern, with no markings to show where they might lead. He rose to his feet and blindly chose the leftmost tunnel, moving carefully ahead into the shadowy darkness.

The tunnels were wide, with smooth floors that showed no mark where the clockwork creatures might have passed. The sides were rough volcanic rock. He remembered climbing Cadair Idris with his father, years ago. There were many legends about the mountain: that it had been a chair for a giant, who had sat upon it and regarded the stars; that King Arthur and his knights slept beneath the hill, waiting for the time when Britain would awake and need them again; that anyone who spent the night on the mountainside would awake a poet or a madman.

If only it was known, Will thought as he turned through the curve of a tunnel and emerged into a larger cave, how strange the truth of the matter was.

The cave was wide, opening out to a greater space at the far end of the room, where a dim light gleamed. Here and there Will caught a silvery glint that he thought was water running in streams down the black walls, but on closer examination it turned out to be veins of crystalline quartz.

Will moved toward the dim light. He found that his heart was beating rapidly inside his chest, and he tried to breathe steadily to quell it. He knew what was speeding his pulse. Tessa. If Mortmain had her, then she was here-close. Somewhere in this honeycomb of tunnels he might find her.

He heard Jem’s voice in his head, as if his parabatai stood at his side, advising him. He had always said that Will rushed toward the end of a mission rather than proceeding in a measured manner, and that one must look at the next step on the path ahead, rather than the mountain in the distance, or one would never reach one’s goal. Will closed his eyes for a moment. He knew that Jem was right, but it was hard to remember, when the goal that he sought was the girl that he loved.

He opened his eyes and moved toward the dim light at the far end of the cavern. The ground beneath him was smooth, without rocks or pebbles, and veined like marble. The light ahead flared up-and Will came to a dead stop, only his years of Shadowhunter training keeping him from tumbling forward to his death.

For the rock floor ended in a sheer drop. He was standing on an outcropping, looking down at a round amphitheater. It was full of automatons. They were silent, unmoving and still, like mechanical toys that had wound down. They were dressed, as those in the village had been, in scraps of military uniforms, lined up one by one, for all the world like life-size lead soldiers.

In the center of the room was a raised stone platform, and on the table lay another automaton, like a corpse on an autopsy table. Its head was bare metal, but there was pale human skin stretched taut over the rest of its body-and on that skin was inked runes.

As he stared, Will recognized them, one after another: Memory, Agility, Speed, Night Vision. They would never work, of course, not on a contraption made of metal and human skin. It might fool Shadowhunters from a distance, but …

But what if he used Shadowhunter skin? a voice in Will’s mind whispered. What could he create then? How mad is he, and when will he stop? The thought, and the sight of the runes of Heaven inscribed on such a monstrous creature, twisted Will’s stomach; he jerked away from the edge of the outcropping and stumbled back, fetching up against a cold rock wall, his hands clammy with sweat.

He saw the village again in his mind, the dead bodies in the streets, heard the mechanical hiss of the clockwork demon as it spoke to him:

All these years you have driven us from this world with your runed blades. Now we have bodies that your weapons will not work on, and this world will be ours.

Rage poured through Will like fire in his veins. He tore himself away from the wall and plunged headlong down a narrow tunnel, away from the cavern room. As he went, he thought he heard a sound behind him-a whirring, as if the mechanism of a great watch were starting up-but when he turned, he saw nothing, only the smooth walls of the cave, and the unmoving shadows.

The tunnel he was following narrowed as he walked, until eventually he was squeezing sideways past an outcropping of quartz-laden rock. If it narrowed further, he knew, he would have to turn around and go back to the cavern; the thought made him push himself forward with renewed vigor, and he slid forward, almost falling, as the passage suddenly opened into a wider corridor.

It was almost like a hallway at the Institute, only made all of smoothed stone, with torches at intervals set into metal brackets. Beside each torch was an arched door, also of stone. The first two stood open on empty dark rooms.

Beyond the third door was Tessa.

Will did not see her immediately when he walked into the room. The stone door swung partly shut behind him, but he found that he was not in darkness. There was a flickering light-the dimming flames of a blaze in a stone fireplace at the far end of the room. To his astonishment it was furnished like a room in an inn, with a bed and washstand, rugs on the ground, even curtains on the walls, though they hung over bare stone, not windows.

In front of the fire was a slim shadow, crouched on the ground. Will’s hand went automatically to the hilt of the dagger at his waist-and then the shadow turned, hair slipping over her shoulder, and he saw her face.

Tessa.

His hand fell away from the dagger as his heart lurched inside his chest with an impossible, painful force. He saw her expression change: curiosity, astonishment, disbelief. She rose to her feet, her skirts tumbling around her as she straightened, and he saw her hold her hand out.

"Will?" she said.

It was like a key turning the lock of a door, releasing him; he started forward. There had never been a greater distance than the distance that separated him from Tessa at that moment. It was a large room; at the moment, the distance between London and Cadair Idris seemed nothing to the distance across it. He felt a shudder, as of some sort of resistance, as he crossed the room. He saw Tessa hold out her hand, her mouth shaping words-and then she was in his arms, the breath half-knocked out of both of them as they collided with each other.

She was up on her toes, her arms around his shoulders, whispering his name: "Will, Will, Will-" He buried his face against her neck, where her thick hair curled; she smelled of smoke and violet water. He clutched her even more tightly as her fingers curled against the back of his collar, and they clung together. For just that moment the grief that had clenched him like an iron fist since Jem’s death seemed to relax and he could breathe.