Clockwork Princess (Page 48)

Clockwork Princess(48)
Author: Cassandra Clare

"No," Charlotte said. "I am telling you, I felt his pulse-do not speak of him as if he is gone already-"

Magnus dropped to his knees and reached a hand out to touch Henry’s eyelids. Cecily wondered if he planned to say " ave atque vale," the requisite farewell for Shadowhunters, but instead he jerked his hand back, his eyes narrowing. A moment later his fingers were against Henry’s throat. He muttered something in a language Cecily didn’t understand, then slid closer, his hand rising to cup Henry’s jaw. "Slow," he said, half to himself, "slow, but his heart is beating."

Charlotte took a ragged breath. "I told you."

Magnus’s eyes flicked up to her. "You did. I’m sorry for not listening." His gaze dropped back down to Henry. "Now be quiet, everyone." He raised the hand that was not pressed to Henry’s throat, and snapped his fingers. Instantly the air around them seemed to thicken and warp like old glass. A solid dome had appeared over them, trapping Henry, Charlotte, Cecily, and Magnus in a shimmering bubble of silence. Through it Cecily could still see the room around them, the battling automatons, Bridget laying waste right and left with her black-smeared blade. Inside, all was quiet.

She looked quickly at Magnus. "You’ve made a protective wall."

"Yes." His attention was on Henry. "Very good."

"Couldn’t you just make one around all of us and keep it that way? Keep us all protected?"

Magnus shook his head. "Magic takes energy, little one. I could hold such a protection together for only a short time, and when it fell apart, they would fall upon us." He leaned forward, murmuring something, and a spark of blue leaped from his fingertips to Henry’s skin. The pale blue fire seemed to burrow in, striking a sort of fire through Henry’s veins, for as if Magnus had touched a match to one end of a line of gunpowder, trails of fire burned up his arms, tracing his neck and face. Charlotte, holding him, gasped as his body spasmed, his head jerking forward.

Henry’s eyes flew open. They were tinted with the same blue fire that burned through his veins. "I-" His voice was rough. "What happened?"

Charlotte burst into tears. "Henry! Oh, my darling Henry." She clutched at him and kissed him frantically, and he threaded his fingers into her hair and held her there, and both Magnus and Cecily looked away.

When at last Charlotte let Henry go, still stroking his hair and murmuring, he struggled to sit up, and slumped back down. His eyes met Magnus’s. Magnus looked down and away, his eyelids drooping with exhaustion and something else. Something that made Cecily’s heart tighten.

"Henry," Charlotte said, sounding a little frightened, "is the pain bad? Can you stand?"

"There’s little pain," Henry said. "But I cannot stand. I cannot feel my legs at all."

Magnus was still staring at the floor. "I am sorry," he said. "There are some things magic cannot do, some injuries it cannot touch."

The look on Charlotte’s face was awful to see. "Henry-"

"I can still make a Portal," Henry interrupted. Blood trickled from the corner of his mouth; he wiped it away with his sleeve. "We can escape this place. We must retreat." He tried to turn, to look about him, and winced, whitening. "What is happening?"

"We are far outnumbered," said Cecily. "Everyone is fighting for their lives-"

"For their lives, but not to win?" Henry asked.

Magnus shook his head. "We cannot win. There is no hope. There are too many of them."

"And Tessa and Will?"

"Will found her," Cecily said. "They are here, in the room."

Henry closed his eyes, breathed in hard, then opened them again. The blue tinge had already begun to fade. "Then we must make a Portal. But first we must get everyone’s attention-separate them from the automatons so that we are not all sucked through the Portal to the Institute together. The last thing we need is any of those Infernal Devices winding up in London." He looked at Magnus. "Reach into the pocket of my coat."

As Magnus reached out, Cecily saw that his hand was trembling slightly. Clearly the effort of keeping the protective wall solid around them was beginning to take its toll on him.

He withdrew his hand from Henry’s pocket. In it was a small golden box, with no visible hinges or opening.

Henry’s words came with difficulty. "Cecily-take it, please. Take it, and throw it. As hard and far as you can."

Magnus handed over the box to Cecily with shaking fingers. It felt warm against her hand, though she could not tell if that was from some heat inside it or simply the result of its having been in Henry’s pocket.

She glanced down at Magnus. His face was drawn. "I’m letting the wall down now," he said. "Throw, Cecily."

He raised his hands. Sparks flew; the wall shimmered and vanished. Cecily drew her arm back and threw the box.

For a moment nothing happened. Then there was a dull implosion-a vanishing inward of sound, as if everything in the room were being sucked down an enormous drain. Cecily’s ears popped, and she sank to the ground, clapping her hands to the sides of her head. Magnus was also on his knees, and their small group huddled together as what seemed like a massive wind blew through the room.

The wind roared, and joining the sound of the wind was the sound of creaking, tearing metal as the clockwork creatures in the room began to stagger and stumble. Cecily saw Gabriel dart out of the way as an automaton fell at his feet and began spasming, its iron arms and legs flailing as if it were in the throes of a fit. Her eyes darted to Will and the Silent Brother he fought beside, whose hood had fallen back. Even among everything else that was happening, Cecily felt a shock go through her. Brother Zachariah was-Jem. She had known, they had all known, that Jem had gone to the Silent City to become a Silent Brother or die trying, but that he would be well enough to be here now, with them, fighting beside Will as he used to, that he would have the strength …

There was a crash as a clockwork monster crumpled to the ground between Will and Jem, forcing them to spring apart. The air smelled like the air just before a storm.

"Henry-" Charlotte’s hair blew about her face.

Henry’s face was tight with pain. "It’s-a sort of Pyxis. Meant to detach demon souls from their bodies. Before death. I haven’t had time-to perfect it. But it seemed worth trying."

Magnus staggered to his feet. His voice rose over the sound of crumpling metal and the high shrieks of demons. "Come here! All of you! Gather, Shadowhunters!"

Bridget stood her ground, still fighting two automatons whose movements had become jerky and uneven, but the others began to run toward them: Will, Jem, Gabriel … but Tessa, where was Tessa? Cecily saw Will realize Tessa’s absence at the same time that she did; he turned, his hand on Jem’s arm, his blue eyes scanning the room. She saw his lips form the word "Tessa," though she could hear nothing over the ever-louder shrieking of the wind, the shuddering of metal-

"Stop."

A bolt of silvery light shot down, like a fork of lightning, from the top of the dome, and exploded through the room like the sparks of a Catherine wheel. The wind stilled and stopped, leaving the room filled with a ringing silence.

Cecily looked up. On the gallery halfway up the dome stood a man in a well-cut dark suit, a man she recognized instantly.

It was Mortmain.

"Stop."

The voice echoed through the room, sending chills through Tessa’s veins. Mortmain. She knew his speech, his voice, even though she could see nothing past the stone pillar that hid the alcove Armaros had dragged her into. The demon automaton had kept a tight hold on her, even as a dull explosion had rocked the room, followed by a biting, vicious wind that had blown past their alcove, leaving them untouched.

Silence had fallen now, and Tessa wanted desperately to tear away from the metal arms that held her, to run into the room and see if any of her friends, those she loved, had been harmed, even killed. But struggling against him was like struggling against a wall. She kicked out anyway, just as Mortmain’s voice rang through the room again:

"Where is Miss Gray? Bring her to me."

Armaros made a rumbling noise, and lurched into motion. Lifting Tessa by the arms, he carried her from the alcove into the main room.

It was a scene of chaos. The automatons stood frozen, looking up at their master. Many were crumpled on the ground, or hacked into pieces. The floor was slippery with a mixture of blood and oil.

In the center of the room, in a circle, stood the Shadowhunters and their companions. Cyril was kneeling upon the ground, a torn piece of bloody bandage wrapped around his leg. Near him was Henry, half-sitting and half-lying down in Charlotte’s arms. He was pale, so pale…. Tessa’s eyes met Will’s as he raised his head and saw her. A look of dismay passed over his face, and he started forward. Jem seized his sleeve. His eyes were on Tessa too; they were wide and dark and full of horror.

She looked away from both of them, away and up at Mortmain. He stood at the railing of the gallery above them, like a preacher at a pulpit, and smirked down. "Miss Gray," he said. "So good of you to join us."

She spat, tasting blood in her mouth where the automaton’s fingers had raked her cheek.

Mortmain raised an eyebrow. "Set her down," he said to Armaros. "Keep your hands on her shoulders."

The demon obeyed with a low chuckle. As soon as Tessa’s boots touched the ground, she straightened her spine, raising her chin and glaring viciously at Mortmain. "It’s bad luck to see the bride before the wedding day," she said.

"Indeed," Mortmain said. "But bad luck for whom?"

Tessa did not look around. The sight of so many automatons, and the ragtag band of Shadowhunters who were all that stood before them, was too painful. "The Nephilim have already entered your fortress," she said. "There will be others behind them. They will swarm your automatons and destroy them. Surrender now, and perhaps you will keep your life."

Mortmain threw his head back and laughed. "Brava, madam," he said. "You stand there surrounded by defeat, and demand my surrender."

"We are not defeated-," Will began, and Mortmain hissed out a breath through his teeth, audible in the echoing room. As one, all the automatons in the room snapped their heads toward Will-a terrifying synchronicity.

"Not a word from you, Nephilim," Mortmain said. "The next time one of you speaks will be the last time you ever draw breath."

"Let them go," Tessa said. "This is nothing to do with them. Let them go, and keep me."

"You bargain with nothing in your hands," Mortmain said. "You are wrong if you think other Shadowhunters are coming to help you. At this very moment a significant part of my army is cutting your Council to pieces." Tessa heard Charlotte gasp, a short, stifled noise. "Clever of the Nephilim to handily assemble themselves all in one place, that I might wipe them out in one fell swoop."

"Please," Tessa said. "Turn your hand from them. Your grievances against the Nephilim are just. But if they are all dead, who will be lessoned by your vengeance? Who will atone? If there is no one to learn from the past, there is no one to carry on its lessons. Let them live. Let them carry your teachings into the future. They can be your legacy."

He nodded thoughtfully, as though he were weighing her words. "I will spare them-I will keep them here, as our prisoners. Their captivity will keep you pleasant, and it will keep you obedient"-his voice hardened-"because you love them, and if you ever even try to escape, I will kill them all." He paused. "What do you say, Miss Gray? I have been generous, and now I am owed thanks."

The only sound in the room was the creak of the automatons and Tessa’s own blood pounding in her ears. She realized now what Mrs. Black had meant by her words in the carriage. And the more knowledge of them you have, the more your sympathies lie with them, the more effective a weapon you will be to raze them to the ground. Tessa had become one of the Shadowhunters, if not entirely like them. She cared for them and loved them, and Mortmain would use that caring and that love to force her hand. In saving the few she loved, she would doom them all. And yet to condemn Will and Jem, Charlotte and Henry, Cecily and the others to death was unthinkable.

"Yes." She heard Jem-or was it Will-make a muffled sound. "Yes, I will take that bargain." She looked up. "Tell the demon to let me go, and I will come up to you."

She saw Mortmain’s eyes narrow. "No," he said. "Armaros, bring her to me."

The demon’s hands tightened on her arms; Tessa bit her lip with the pain. As if in sympathy, the clockwork angel at her throat twitched.

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

Her hand went to her throat. The angel seemed to thrum under her fingers, as if it were breathing, as if it were trying to communicate something to her. Her hand tightened on it, the points of the wings cutting into her palm. She thought of her dream.

Is this what you look like?

You see here only a fraction of what I am. In my true form I am deadly glory.

Armaros’s hands closed on Tessa’s arms.

Your clockwork angel contains within it a bit of the spirit of an angel, Mortmain had said. She thought of the white star mark the clockwork angel had left on Will’s shoulder. She thought of the smooth, beautiful, unmoving face of the angel, the cool hands that had held her as she had fallen from Mrs. Black’s carriage toward the churning water below.

The demon began to lift her.

Tessa thought of her dream.

She took a deep breath. She did not know if what she was about to do was even possible, or simply madness. As Armaros raised her with his hands, she closed her eyes, reaching out with her mind, reaching into the clockwork angel. She tumbled for a moment through dark space, and then a gray limbo, seeking that light, that spark of spirit, that life-

And there it was, a sudden blaze, a bonfire, brighter than any spark she had ever seen before. She reached for it, wrapping it about herself, coils of white fire that burned and scorched her skin. She screamed aloud-