Clockwork Princess (Page 46)

Clockwork Princess(46)
Author: Cassandra Clare

The Inquisitor jerked back, reaching for his staff, as blood sheeted across him; the Consul’s body fell, tumbling to the ground in two severed parts: his body slumping to the blood-wet floor of the podium while his severed head rolled away like a tennis ball. As he collapsed, revealed behind him was an automaton-as spindly as a human skeleton, dressed in the ragged remains of a red military tunic. It grinned like a skull as it retracted its scarlet-drenched blade and looked out upon the silent, stunned crowd of Shadowhunters.

The only other sound in the room came from Aloysius Starkweather, who was laughing, steadily and softly, apparently to himself. "She told you," he wheezed. "She told you what would happen-"

A moment later the automaton had moved forward, its clawed hand shooting out to close about Aloysius’s throat. Blood burst from the old man’s throat as the creature lifted him off his feet, still grinning. The Shadowhunters began to shout-and then the doors burst open and a flood of clockwork creatures poured into the room.

"Well," said a very amused voice. "This is unexpected."

Tessa sat bolt upright, pulling the heavy coverlet around her. Beside her, Will stirred, propping himself up on his elbows, eyelids fluttering open slowly. "What-"

The room was filled with bright light. The torches had come on at full strength, and it was like the place was lit with daylight. Tessa could see the wreck of the room that they had made: their clothes scattered across the floor and the bed, the rug before the fireplace rucked up, the bedclothes wound about them. On the other side of the invisible wall was lounging a familiar figure in an elegant dark suit, one thumb hooked into the waistband of his trousers. His cat-pupilled eyes glimmered with mirth.

Magnus Bane.

"You might want to get up," he said. "Everyone will be here quite soon to rescue you, and you may prefer to have clothes on when they arrive." He shrugged. "I would, at any rate, but then, I am well known to be remarkably shy."

Will swore in Welsh. He was sitting up now, the covers tucked about his waist, and had done his best to move his body to shield Tessa from Magnus’s gaze. He was without a shirt, of course, and in the brighter light Tessa could see where the tan on his hands and face faded into the paler white of his chest and shoulders. The white star mark on his shoulder gleamed out like a light, and she saw Magnus’s eyes go to it, and narrow.

"Interesting," he said.

Will made an incoherent noise of protest. "Interesting? By the Angel, Magnus-"

Magnus gave him a wry look. There was something in it-something that made Tessa feel as if Magnus knew something they didn’t. "If I were a different person, I would have a lot to say to you right now," he said.

"I appreciate your restraint."

"You won’t soon," said Magnus shortly. Then he reached up as if he were knocking on a door, and tapped the invisible wall between them. It was like watching someone plunge their hand into water-ripples spread out from the place where his fingers touched, and suddenly the wall slid away and was gone, in a shower of blue sparks. "Here," the warlock said, and tossed a tied leather sack onto the foot of the bed. "I brought gear. I thought you might be in need of clothing, but I didn’t realize quite how in need."

Tessa glared at him around Will’s shoulder. "How did you find us here? How did you know-which of the others are with you? Are they all right?"

"Yes. Quite a few of them are, hurrying through this place, looking for you. Now get dressed," he said, and turned his back, giving them privacy. Tessa, mortified, reached for the sack on the bed, scrabbled through it until she found her gear, and then stood up with the sheet wrapped around her body and dashed behind the tall Chinese screen in the corner of the room.

She did not look at Will as she went; she couldn’t bring herself to. How could she look at him without thinking of what they’d done? Wondering if he was horrified, if he couldn’t believe either of them would do such a thing after Jem-

Viciously she yanked on the gear. Thank goodness that gear, unlike dresses, could be assembled on the body without recourse to help from anyone else. Through the screen she heard Magnus explaining to Will that he and Henry had managed, through a combination of magic and invention, to create a Portal that would transport them from London to Cadair Idris. She could see them only in silhouette, but she saw Will nodding in relief as Magnus listed those who had come with him-Henry, Charlotte, the Lightwood brothers, Cyril, Sophie, Cecily, Bridget, and a group of the Silent Brothers.

At the mention of his sister’s name, Will began to pull on his clothes with even greater haste, and by the time Tessa stepped out from behind the screen, he was entirely dressed in gear, his boots laced up, his hands buckling on his weapons belt. As he saw her, his face broke into a tentative smile.

"The others have all spread out through the tunnels to find you," Magnus said. "We were meant to take a half hour to search and then meet up in a central chamber. I will give you two a moment to-collect yourselves." He smirked, and pointed to the door. "I shall be outside in the corridor."

The moment the door closed behind him, Tessa was in Will’s arms, her hands locked about his neck. "Oh, by the Angel," she said. "That was mortifying."

Will slid his hands into her hair and was kissing her, kissing her eyelids and her cheeks and then her mouth, quickly but with fervor and concentration, as if nothing could be more important. "Listen to you," he said. "You said ‘by the Angel.’ Like a Shadowhunter." He kissed the side of her mouth. "I love you. God, I love you. I waited so long to say it."

She curved her hands about the sides of his waist, holding him there, the material of his gear rough beneath her fingertips. "Will," she said hesitantly. "You’re not-sorry?"

"Sorry?" He looked at her in disbelief. "Nage ddim-you’re mad if you think I’m sorry, Tess." His knuckle brushed her cheek. "There is more, so much more I want to say to you-"

"No," she teased. "Will Herondale, with more to say?"

He ignored this. "But now is not the time-not with Mortmain breathing down our necks, most likely, and Magnus outside the door. Now is the time to finish this. But when it is over, Tess, I will say everything to you I have always wanted to say. As for now-" He kissed her temple, and released her, his eyes searching her face. "I need to know you believe me when I say I love you. That is all."

"I believe everything you say," Tessa said with a smile, her hands creeping down from his waist to his weapons belt. Her fingers closed on the hilt of a dagger, and she yanked it from the belt, smiling as he looked down at her in surprise. She kissed his cheek and stepped back. "After all," she said, "you weren’t lying about that tattoo of the dragon of Wales, were you?"

The room reminded Cecily of the inside of Saint Paul’s dome, which Will had taken her to see on one of his less disagreeable days, after she had first come to London. It was the grandest building she had ever been inside. They had tested the echo of their voices in the interior Whispering Gallery and read the inscription left by Christopher Wren: Si monumentum requiris, circumspice. "If you seek his monument, look about you."

Will had explained to her what it meant, that Wren preferred to be remembered by the works he had built rather than any tombstone. The whole of the cathedral was a monument to his craft-as, in a way, the whole of this labyrinth beneath the mountain, and this room especially, was a monument to Mortmain’s.

There was a domed ceiling here, too, though there were no windows, only an upward-reaching hollow in the stone. A circular gallery ran around the upper part of the dome, and there was a platform on it, from which, presumably, one could stand and look down at the floor, which was smooth stone.

There was an inscription on the wall here, too. Four sentences, cut into the wall in glittering quartz.

THE INFERNAL DEVICES ARE WITHOUT PITY.

THE INFERNAL DEVICES ARE WITHOUT REGRET.

THE INFERNAL DEVICES ARE WITHOUT NUMBER.

THE INFERNAL DEVICES WILL NEVER STOP COMING.

On the stone floor, lined up in rows, were hundreds of automatons. They wore a motley assortment of military uniforms and were deadly still, their metal eyes closed. Tin soldiers, Cecy thought, grown to human size. The Infernal Devices. Mortmain’s great creation-an army bred to be unstoppable, to slaughter Shadowhunters and to move onward without remorse.

Sophie had been the first to discover the room; she had screamed, and the others had all rushed to find out why. They had found Sophie standing, shaking, amid the unmoving mass of clockwork creatures. One of them lay at her feet; she had cut its legs out from under it with a sweep of her blade, and it had crumpled like a puppet whose strings had been cut. The others had not moved or awakened despite the fate of their associate, which had given the Shadowhunters the boldness to go forward among them.

Henry was on his knees now, beside the carapace of one of the still unmoving automatons; he had slit open its uniform and opened its metal chest and was studying what was within. The Silent Brothers stood about him, as did Charlotte, Sophie, and Bridget. Gideon and Gabriel had returned as well, their explorations having proved fruitless. Only Magnus and Cyril had not yet returned. Cecily could not fight down her mounting unease-not at the presence of the automatons but at the absence of her brother. No one had found him yet. Could it be that he was not here to be found? She said nothing, however. She had promised herself that as a Shadowhunter she would not fuss, or scream, whatever happened.

"Look at this," Henry murmured in a low voice. Inside the chest of the clockwork creature was a mess of wires and what looked to Cecily like a metal box, the kind that might hold tobacco. Carved onto the outside of the box was the symbol of a serpent swallowing its own tail. "The ourobouros. The symbol of the containment of demon energies."

"As on the Pyxis." Charlotte nodded.

"Which Mortmain stole from us," Henry confirmed. "It had concerned me that this was what Mortmain was attempting."

"That what was what he was attempting?" Gabriel demanded. He was flushed, his green eyes bright. Bless Gabriel, Cecily thought, for always asking exactly the question that was on his mind.

"Animating the automatons," Henry said absently, reaching for the box. "Giving them consciousness, even will-"

He broke off as his fingers touched the box and it flared suddenly into light. Light, like the illumination of a witchlight rune-stone, poured from the box and through the ourobouros. Henry jerked back with a cry, but it was already too late. The creature sat up, lightning fast, and seized hold of him. Charlotte shrieked and threw herself forward, but she was not fast enough. The automaton, its chest still hanging grotesquely open, caught Henry under the arms and cracked his body like a whip.

There was a terrible snapping sound, and Henry went limp. The automaton tossed Henry aside and turned to cuff Charlotte brutally across the face. She crumpled beside her husband’s body as the clockwork creature took a step forward, and seized hold of Brother Micah. The Silent Brother slammed his staff down on the automaton’s hand, but the creature did not even seem to notice. With a rumble of machinery that sounded like a laugh, it reached out and tore the Silent Brother’s throat open.

Blood sprayed across the room, and Cecily did exactly what she had promised herself she would not do, and screamed.

Chapter 21 Burning Gold

Bring me my bow of burning gold:

Bring me my arrows of desire:

Bring me my spear: O clouds unfold!

Bring me my chariot of fire!

-William Blake, "Jerusalem"

Tessa’s training at the Institute had never addressed how difficult it was to run with a weapon strapped to your side. With every stride she took, the dagger slapped against her leg, its point scratching her skin. She knew it ought to have been sheathed-and on Will’s belt, probably had been-but there was no use in hindsight now. Will and Magnus were running pell-mell down the rocky corridors inside Cadair Idris, and she was doing her level best to keep up.

It was Magnus who was leading the way, as he seemed to have the best idea where they were going. Tessa had gone nowhere inside the morass of twisty corridors without being blindfolded, and Will admitted he remembered little of his solitary journey of the night before.

The tunnels narrowed and widened again haphazardly as the three of them made their way through the labyrinth, with no seeming rhyme or reason to the pattern. At last, as they moved into a wider tunnel, they heard something-the sound of a distant cry of horror.

Magnus went tense all over. Will’s head jerked up. "Cecily," he said, and then he was running twice as fast as he had been, both Magnus and Tessa racing to keep up. They hurtled by strange chambers: one whose door seemed splashed with blood, another Tessa recognized as the room with the desk where Mortmain had forced her to Change, and another where a great lattice of metal and copper twisted in an invisible wind. As they raced forward, the sounds of cries and battle grew louder, until finally they burst into a massive circular chamber.

It was full of automatons. Row upon row of them, as many as had poured down on the village the night before while Tessa had watched helplessly. Most of them were still, but a group of them, in the center of the room, were moving-moving and engaged in a fierce battle. It was like seeing all over again what had happened on the steps of the Institute as she had been dragged away-the Lightwood brothers fighting side by side, Cecily swinging a shimmering seraph blade, the body of a Silent Brother crumpled on the floor. Tessa registered distantly that two other Silent Brothers were fighting alongside the Shadowhunters, anonymous in their hooded parchment robes, but her attention was not on them. It was on Henry, who lay, still and unmoving, on the floor. Charlotte, crumpled on her knees, had her arms about him as if she could shield him from the churning battle going on all around them, but Tessa guessed from the whiteness of his face and the stillness of his body that it was too late to shield Henry from anything.