Clockwork Princess (Page 49)

Clockwork Princess(49)
Author: Cassandra Clare

And Changed.

White fire blasted through her veins. She shot upward, her gear ripping and tearing and falling away, light blazing all around her. She was fire. She was a falling star. Armaros’s arms were torn from her body-soundlessly he melted and dissolved, scorched by the heavenly fire that blazed through Tessa.

She was flying-flying upward. No, she was rising, growing. Her bones stretched and elongated, a lattice being pulled outward and upward as she grew impossibly. Her skin had turned gold, and it stretched and tore as she hurtled upward like the bean stalk from the old fairy tale, and where her skin tore, golden ichor leaked from the wounds. Curls like shavings of hot white metal sprang from her head, surrounding her face. And from her back burst wings-massive wings, greater than any bird’s.

She supposed that she should be terrified. Glancing down, she saw the Shadowhunters staring up at her, their mouths open. The whole room was filled with blinding light, light that poured from her. She had become Ithuriel. The divine fire of angels was blazing through her, scorching her bones, searing her eyes. But she felt only a steely calm.

She stood twenty feet high now. She was eye to eye with Mortmain, who was frozen with terror, his hands gripping the railing of the balcony. The clockwork angel, after all, had been his gift to her mother. He must never have imagined that it would ever be put to this use.

"It’s not possible," he said hoarsely. "Not possible-"

You have entrapped an angel of Heaven, Tessa said, though it was not her voice speaking but Ithuriel’s speaking through her. His voice echoed through her body like the ringing of a gong. Distantly she wondered if her heart was beating-did angels have hearts? Would this kill her? If it did, it was worth it. You have tried to create life. Life is the province of Heaven. And Heaven does not take kindly to usurpers.

Mortmain turned to run. But he was slow, as all humans were slow. Tessa reached out her hand, Ithuriel’s hand, and closed it about him as he ran, lifting him off his feet. He screamed as the angel’s grip scorched him. He was writhing, already burning, as Tessa tightened her grip, crushing his body to a jelly of scarlet blood and white bones.

She opened her fingers. Mortmain’s crushed body fell, crashing to the ground among his own automatons. There was a shuddering, a great creaking scream of metal as of a building collapsing, and the automatons began to fall, one by one, crumpling to the ground, lifeless without their Magister to animate them. A garden of metal flowers, withering and dying one by one, and the Shadowhunters stood in the center of them, looking about themselves in wonder.

And then Tessa realized that she did still have a heart, for it leaped in joy to see them alive and safe. Yet even as she reached for them with her golden hands-one stained with scarlet now, Mortmain’s blood mixing with Ithuriel’s golden ichor-they shrank back from the blaze of light around her. No, no, she wanted to say, I would never hurt you, but the words would not come. She could not speak; the burning was too great. She struggled to find her way back to herself, to Change into Tessa again, but she was lost in the blaze of the fire, as if she had fallen into the heart of the sun. An agony of flames exploded through her, and she felt herself begin to fall, the clockwork angel a red-hot lariat about her throat. Please, she thought, but everything was fire and burning, and she fell, senseless, into the light.

Chapter 22 Thunder in the Trumpet

For till the thunder in the trumpet be,

Soul may divide from body, but not we

One from another

-Algernon Charles Swinburne, "Laus Veneris"

Clockwork creatures clawed at Tessa out of black mists. Fire ran through her veins, and when she looked down, her skin was cracked and blistering, golden ichor running in sheets down her arms. She saw the endless fields of Heaven, saw a sky constantly on fire with a blaze that would have blinded any human. She saw silver clouds with edges like razors, and felt the icy emptiness that hollowed the hearts of angels.

"Tessa." It was Will; she would have known his speech anywhere. "Tessa, wake up, wake up. Tessa, please."

She could hear the pain in his voice and wanted to reach out for him, but as she lifted her arms, the flames rose and charred her fingers. Her hands turned to ash and blew away on the hot wind.

Tessa tossed on her bed in a delirium of fever and nightmares. The sheets, twisted around her, were soaked with sweat, her hair plastered to her temples. Her skin, always pale, was near-translucent, showing the mapping of veins beneath her skin, the shape of her bones. Her clockwork angel was at her throat; every once in a while she would catch at it, and then cry out in a lost voice, as if the touch pained her.

"She’s in so much agony." Charlotte dipped a cloth in cool water and pressed it to Tessa’s burning forehead. The girl made a soft protesting sound at the touch but didn’t move to bat Charlotte’s hand away. Charlotte would have liked to think it was because the cool cloths were helping, but she knew that it was more likely that Tessa was simply becoming too exhausted. "Isn’t there anything more we can do?"

The angel’s fire is leaving her body. Brother Enoch, standing at Charlotte’s side, spoke in his eerie omnidirectional whisper. It will take the time it takes. She will be free of pain when it is gone.

"But she will live?"

She has survived thus far. The Silent Brother sounded grim. The fire should have killed her. It would have killed any normal human. But she is part Shadowhunter and part demon, and she was protected by the angel whose fire she drew on. It shielded her even in those last moments as it blazed up and burned away its own corporeal form.

Charlotte could not help but remember the circular room under Cadair Idris, Tessa stepping forward and transforming from girl into flame, blazing up like a column of fire, her hair turning to tendrils of sparks, the light of it blinding and terrifying. Crouched on the floor by Henry’s body, Charlotte had wondered how even angels could burn like that and live.

When the angel had left Tessa, she had collapsed, her clothes hanging in tatters and her skin covered in marks as if she had been scorched. Several Shadowhunters had rushed to her side between the crumpling automatons, though it had been something of a blur to Charlotte-scenes viewed through the wavering lens of her terror over Henry: Will lifting Tessa in his arms; the Magister’s stronghold beginning to close itself up behind them, doors slamming closed as they raced through the corridors, Magnus’s blue fire lighting them a path to escape. The creation of a second Portal. More Silent Brothers waiting for them at the Institute, scarred hands and scarred faces, shutting out even Charlotte as they closed themselves in with Henry and Tessa. Will turning to Jem, his expression stricken. He had reached out for his parabatai.

"James," he had said. "You can find out-what they’re doing to her-if she’ll live-"

But Brother Enoch had stepped between them. His name is not James Carstairs, he had said. It is Zachariah now.

Will’s look, the way he had lowered his hand. "Let him speak for himself."

But Jem had only turned, turned and walked away from all of them, out of the Institute, Will watching him go in disbelief, and Charlotte had remembered the first time they had ever met: Are you really dying? I am sorry.

It was Will, still looking stunned and disbelieving, who had explained to them all, haltingly, Tessa’s story: the function of the clockwork angel, the tale of the ill-fated Starkweathers, and the unorthodox manner of Tessa’s conception. Aloysius had been right, Charlotte reflected. Tessa was his great-granddaughter. A descendant he would never know, for he had been slain in the Council massacre.

Charlotte couldn’t stop herself from imagining what it must have been like when the doors of the Council room had opened and the automatons had poured in. Councils were not required to be unarmed, but they were not prepared to fight. Nor had most Shadowhunters ever faced an automaton. Even to imagine the slaughter chilled her. She was overwhelmed by the enormity of the loss to the Shadowhunter world, though it would have been much greater had Tessa not made the sacrifice she did. All the automatons had fallen with Mortmain’s death, even the ones in the Council rooms, and the majority of the Shadowhunters had survived, though there had been heavy losses-including the Consul.

"Part demon and part Shadowhunter," Charlotte murmured now, gazing down at Tessa. "What does that make her?"

Nephilim blood is dominant. A new kind of Shadowhunter. New is not always a bad thing, Charlotte.

It was because of that Nephilim blood that they had gone so far as to try healing runes upon Tessa, but the runes had simply sunk into her skin and vanished, like words written in water. Charlotte reached out now to touch Tessa’s collarbone, where the rune had been inked. Her skin was hot to the touch.

"Her clockwork angel," Charlotte observed. "It has stopped its ticking."

The angel’s presence has left it. Ithuriel is free, and Tessa unprotected, though with the Magister dead, and as a Nephilim herself, she will likely be safe. As long as she does not attempt to transform herself into an angel a second time. It would certainly kill her.

"There are other dangers."

We all must face dangers, said Brother Enoch. It was the same cool, unruffled mental voice he had used when he had told her that though Henry would live, he would never walk again.

On the bed Tessa stirred, crying out in a dry voice. In her sleep, since the battle, she had called out names. She had called for Nate, and for her aunt, and for Charlotte. "Jem," she whispered now, clutching fitfully at her coverlet.

Charlotte turned away from Enoch as she reached for the cool cloth again and laid it across Tessa’s forehead. She knew she should not ask, and yet-

"How is he? Our Jem? Is he-adjusting to the Brotherhood?"

She felt Enoch’s reproach. You know I cannot tell you that. He is no longer your Jem. He is Brother Zachariah now. You must forget him.

"Forget him? I cannot forget him," Charlotte said. "He is not as your other Brothers, Enoch; you know that."

The rituals that make a Silent Brother are our deepest secrets.

"I am not asking to know of your rituals," Charlotte said. "Yet I know that most Silent Brothers sever their ties to their mortal lives before they enter the Brotherhood. But James could not do that. He still has that which tethers him to this world." She looked down at Tessa, her eyelids fluttering as she breathed harshly. "It is a cord that ties each of them to the other, and unless it is dissolved properly, I fear it may harm them both."

"’She is coming, my own, my sweet;

Were it ever so airy a tread,

My heart would hear her and beat,

Were it earth in an earthy bed;

My dust would hear her and beat,

Had I lain for a century dead;

Would start and tremble under her feet,

And blossom in purple and red.’"

"Oh, for goodness’ sake," Henry said irritably, pushing up the ink-stained sleeves of his dressing gown. "Can’t you read something less depressing? Something with a good battle in it."

"It’s Tennyson," said Will, sliding his feet off the ottoman near the fire. They were in the drawing room, Henry’s chair pulled up near the fire, a sketchbook open on his lap. He was still pale, as he had been since the battle at Cadair Idris, though he was beginning to get his color back. "It will improve your mind."

Before Henry could reply, the door opened, and Charlotte came in, looking tired, the lace-edged sleeves of her sack dress stained with water. Will immediately set his book down, and Henry, too, looked up inquiringly from his sketchbook.

Charlotte glanced from one of them to the other, noting the book on the side table beside the silver tea service. "Have you been reading to Henry, Will?"

"Yes, some dreadful thing, all full of poetry." Henry had a pen in one hand and papers scattered all over the lap rug drawn up around his knees.

Henry had met with his usual fortitude the news that even the Silent Brothers’ healing would not let him walk again. And a conviction that he must build himself a chair, like a sort of Bath chair but better, with self-propelling wheels and all manner of other accoutrements. He was determined that it be able to go up and down stairs, so that he could still get to his inventions in the crypt. He had been scribbling designs for the chair the whole hour that Will had been reading to him from "Maud," but then poetry had never been Henry’s area of interest.

"Well, you are released from your duties, Will, and, Henry, you are released from further poetry," said Charlotte. "If you like, darling, I can help you gather your notes-" She slipped around behind her husband’s chair and reached over his shoulders, helping scoop his scattered papers into a neat pile. He took her wrist as she moved, and looked up at her-a gaze of such trust and adoration that it made Will feel as if tiny knives were cutting at his skin.

It was not as if he begrudged Charlotte and Henry their happiness-far from it. But he could not help but think of Tessa. Of the hopes he had cherished once and repressed later. He wondered if she had ever looked at him like that. He did not think so. He had worked so hard to destroy her trust, and though all he wanted was a true chance to rebuild it for her, he could not help but fear-

He pushed the dark thoughts back and rose to his feet, about to explain that he intended to go see Tessa. Before he could speak, there was a knock at the door, and Sophie came in, looking unaccountably anxious. The anxiety was explained a moment later when the Inquisitor followed her into the room.

Will, used to seeing him in his ceremonial robes at Council meetings, almost didn’t recognize the stern-looking man in the gray morning coat and dark trousers. There was a livid scar on his cheek that had not been there before.

"Inquisitor Whitelaw." Charlotte straightened up, her expression suddenly serious. "To what do we owe the honor of your visit?"

"Charlotte," said the Inquisitor, and he held out his hand. There was a letter, sealed with the seal of the Council. "I have brought a message for you."

Charlotte looked at him in bewilderment. "You could not simply have sent it through the post?"

"This letter is of grave importance. It is imperative that you read it now."