"You can’t mean there’s truly a Six-Fingered Nigel?"
"Of course there is-," Will began with a grin, which suddenly faded; he was looking past Tessa, out at the ballroom. She turned to follow his gaze and saw the same tall, fair-haired man who had been talking to Charlotte earlier shouldering his way through the crowd toward them.
He was stocky, perhaps in his late thirties, with a scar that ran along his jaw. Tousled, fairish hair, and blue eyes, and skin tanned by the sun. It looked even darker against his starched white shirtfront. There was something familiar about him, something that teased at the edges of Tessa’s memories.
He came to a stop in front of them. His eyes flicked to Will. They were a paler blue than Will’s, almost the color of cornflowers. The skin around them was tanned and lined with faint crow’s-feet. He said, "You are William Herondale?"
Will nodded without speaking.
"I am Elias Carstairs," the man said. "Jem Carstairs was my nephew."
Will turned white, and Tessa realized what it was about the man that seemed familiar-there was something about him, something about the way he carried himself and the shape of his hands, that reminded her of Jem. Since Will seemed unable to speak, Tessa said:
"Yes, this is Will Herondale. And I am Theresa Gray."
"The shape-changer girl," said the man-Elias, Tessa reminded herself; Shadowhunters used each other’s given names. "You were engaged to James before he became a Silent Brother."
"I was," Tessa said quietly. "I love him very much."
He gave her a look-not hostile or challenging, only curious. Then he turned his gaze to Will. "You were his parabatai?"
Will found his voice. "I am still," he said, and set his jaw stubbornly.
"James spoke of you," said Elias. "After I left China, when I returned to Idris, I asked if he would come and live with me. We had sent him away from Shanghai, considering it unsafe for him there while Yanluo’s minions ran free, still seeking vengeance. But when I asked him if he would come to me in Idris, he said no, he could not. I asked him to reconsider. Told him I was his family, his blood. But he said he could not leave his parabatai, that there were some things more important than blood." Elias’s light blue eyes were steady. "I have brought you a gift, Will Herondale. Something I intended to give to him, when he was of age, because his father no longer lived to give it to him. But I cannot give it to him now."
Will was tense all over, a bowstring strung too tight. He said: "I have not done anything to deserve a gift."
"I think you have." Elias drew from the belt at his waist a short sword in an intricate scabbard. He held it out to Will, who, after a moment, took it. The scabbard was covered in intricate designs of leaves and runes, carefully worked, gleaming under the golden light. With a decisive gesture Will pulled the sword free and held it up in front of his face.
The hilt was covered with the same pattern of runes and leaves, but the blade itself was simple and bare, save for a line of words that ran down its center. Tessa leaned in to read the words upon the metal.
I am Cortana, of the same steel and temper as Joyeuse and Durendal.
"Joyeuse was Charlemagne’s sword," said Will, his voice still stiff in that way that Tessa knew now meant that he was forcing down emotion. "Durendal was Roland’s. This sword is-it is of legend born."
"Forged by the first Shadowhunter weapons maker, Wayland the Smith. It has a feather from the wing of the Angel in its hilt," said Elias. "It has been in the Carstairs family for hundreds of years. I was instructed by Jem’s father to give it to him when he reached eighteen. But the Silent Brothers cannot accept gifts." He looked at Will. "You were his parabatai. You should have it."
Will slammed the sword back into its scabbard. "I cannot take it. I will not."
Elias looked stunned. "But you must," he said. "You were his parabatai, and he loved you-"
Will held the sword back out toward Elias Carstairs, hilt-first. After a moment Elias took it, and Will turned and walked away, vanishing into the crowd.
Elias looked after him in bewilderment. "I did not intend to cause offense."
"You spoke of Jem in the past tense," said Tessa. "Jem is not with us, but he is not dead. Will-he cannot bear that Jem be thought of as lost, or forgotten."
"I did not mean to forget him," said Elias. "I meant simply that the Silent Brothers do not have emotions like we do. They do not feel as we do. If they love-"
"Jem still loves Will," Tessa said. "Whether he is a Silent Brother or not. There are things no magic can destroy, for they are magic in themselves. You never saw them together, but I did."
"I meant to give him Cortana," Elias said. "I cannot give it to James, so I thought his parabatai ought to have it."
"You mean well," Tessa said. "But, forgive my impertinence, Mr. Carstairs-do you never mean to have any children of your own?"
His eyes widened. "I had not thought-"
Tessa looked at the shimmering blade, and then at the man holding it. She could see Jem in him a little, as if she were looking at the reflection of what she loved in rippling water. That love, remembered and present, made her voice gentle when she spoke. "If you are not sure," she said, "then keep it. Keep it for your own heirs. Will would prefer that. For he does not need a sword to remember Jem by. However illustrious its lineage."
It was cold on the Institute steps, cold where Will stood without a coat or hat, looking out into the frost-dusted night. The wind blew tiny drifts of snow against his cheeks, his bare hands, and he heard, as he always did, Jem’s voice in the back of his head, telling him not to be ridiculous, to get back inside before he gave himself the flu.
Winter had always seemed the purest season to Will-even the smoke and dirt of London caught by the chill, frozen hard and clean. That morning he had broken a layer of ice that had formed on his water jug, before splashing the icy fluid onto his face and shivering as he looked in the mirror, his wet hair painting his face in black stripes. First Christmas morning without Jem in six years. The purest cold, bringing the purest pain.
"Will." The voice was a whisper, of a very familiar kind. He turned his head, an image of Old Molly rising in his mind-but ghosts so rarely strayed from where they had died or were buried, and besides, what would she want with him now?
A gaze met his, level and dark. The rest of her was not so much transparent as edged by silver: the blond hair, the doll-pretty face, the white gown she had died in. Blood, red like a flower, on her chest.
"Jessamine," he said.
"Merry Christmas, Will."
His heart, which had stopped for a moment, began to beat again, the blood running fast in his veins. "Jessamine, why-what are you doing here?"
She pouted a little. "I am here because I died here," she said, her voice growing in strength. It was not unusual for a ghost to achieve a greater solidity and auditory power when they were close to a human, especially one who could hear them. She indicated the courtyard at their feet, where Will had held her in her dying moments, her blood running onto the flagstones. "Are you not pleased to see me, Will?"
"Should I be?" he said. "Jessie, usually when I see ghosts, it is because there is some unfinished business or some sorrow that holds them to this world."
She raised her head, looking up at the snow. Though it fell all around her, she was as untouched by it as if she stood under glass. "And if I had a sorrow, would you help me cure it? You never cared for me much in life."
"I did," Will said. "And I am truly sorry if I gave the impression that I cared nothing for you, or hated you, Jessamine. I think you reminded me more of myself than I wished to admit, and therefore I judged you with the same harshness I would have judged myself."
At that, she did look at him. "Why, was that straightforward honesty, Will? How you have changed." She took a step back, and he saw that her feet made no impression in the dusting of snow on the steps. "I am here because in life I did not wish to be a Shadowhunter, to guard the Nephilim. I am charged now with the guard of the Institute, for as long as it needs guarding."
"And you do not mind?" he asked. "Being here, with us, when you could have passed over …"
She wrinkled her nose. "I did not care to pass over. So much was demanded of me in life, the Angel knows what it might be like afterward. No, I am happy here, watching you all, quiet and drifting and unseen." Her silvery hair shone in the moonlight as she inclined her head toward him. "Though you are near to driving me mad."
"Indeed. I always said you would be a dreadful suitor, Will, and you are nigh on proving it."
"Truly?" Will said. "You have come back from death like the ghost of Old Marley, but to nag me about my romantic prospects?"
"What prospects? You’ve taken Tessa on so many carriage rides, I’d wager she could draw a map of London from memory, but have you proposed to her? You have not. A lady cannot propose to herself, William, and she cannot tell you she loves you if you do not state your intentions!"
Will shook his head. "Jessamine, you are incorrigible."
"I am also right," she pointed out. "What is it you are afraid of?"
"That if I do state my intentions, she will say she does not love me back, not the way she loved Jem."
"She will not love you as she loved Jem. She will love you as she loves you, Will, an entirely different person. Do you wish she had not loved Jem?"
"No, but neither do I wish to marry someone who does not love me."
"You must ask her to find that out," said Jessamine. "Life is full of risks. Death is much simpler."
"Why have I not seen you before tonight, when you have been here all this time?" he asked.
"I cannot enter the Institute yet, and when you are out in the courtyard, you are always with someone else. I have tried to go through the doors, but a sort of force prevents me. It is better than it was. At first I could go only a few steps. Now I am as you see me." She indicated her position on the stairs. "One day I shall be able to go inside."
"And when you do, you shall find that your room is as it ever was, and your dolls as well," said Will.
Jessamine smiled a smile that made Will wonder if she had always been so sad, or if death had changed her more than he had thought ghosts could be changed. Before he could speak again, though, a look of alarm crossed her face, and she vanished within a swirl of snow.
Will turned to see what had frightened her off. The doors of the Institute had opened, and Magnus had emerged. He wore an astrakhan wool greatcoat, and his tall silk hat was already being spotted by the falling snowflakes.
"I should have known I’d find you out here, doing your best to turn yourself into an icicle," Magnus said, descending the steps until he stood beside Will, looking out at the courtyard.
Will did not feel like mentioning Jessamine. Somehow he thought she would not have wanted him to. "Were you leaving the party? Or just looking for me?"
"Both," Magnus said, pulling on a pair of white gloves. "In fact, I am leaving London."
"Leaving London?" Will said in dismay. "You can’t mean that."
"Why wouldn’t I?" Magnus flicked a finger at an errant snowflake. It sparked blue and vanished. "I am not a Londoner, Will. I have been stopping with Woolsey for some time, but his home is not my home, and Woolsey and I wear out each other’s company after not much duration."
"Where will you go?"
"New York. The New World! A new life, a new continent." Magnus threw his hands up. "I may even take your cat with me. Charlotte says he has been mourning since Jem left."
"Well, he bites everyone. You’re welcome to him. Do you think he’ll like New York?"
"Who knows? We will find out together. The unexpected is what keeps me from stagnating."
"Those of us who do not live forever do not like change perhaps as much as those of you who do. I am tired of losing people," Will said.
"So am I," Magnus said. "But it is as I said, isn’t it? You learn to bear it."
"I have heard sometimes that men who lose an arm or a leg still feel the pain in those limbs, though they are gone," said Will. "It is like that sometimes. I can feel Jem with me, though he is gone, and it is like I am missing a part of myself."
"But you are not," Magnus said. "He is not dead, Will. He lives because you let him go. He would have stayed with you and died, if you had asked it, but you loved him enough to prefer that he live, even if that life is separate from yours. And that above all things proves that you are not Sydney Carton, Will, that yours is not the kind of love that can be redeemed only through destruction. It is what I saw in you, what I have always seen in you, what made me want to help you. That you are not despairing. That you have in you an infinite capacity for joy." He put one gloved hand under Will’s chin and lifted Will’s face. There were not many people Will had to raise his head to look in the eye, but Magnus was one. "Bright star," Magnus said, and his eyes were thoughtful, as if he were remembering something, or someone. "Those of you who are mortal, you burn so fiercely. And you fiercer than most, Will. I will not ever forget you."
"Nor I you," said Will. "I owe you a great deal. You broke my curse."
"You were not cursed."
"Yes, I was," Will said. "I was. Thank you, Magnus, for all you did for me. If I did not say it before, I am saying it now. Thank you."
Magnus dropped his hand. "I don’t think a Shadowhunter has ever thanked me before."
Will smiled crookedly. "I would try not to become too accustomed to it. We are not a thankful sort."
"No." Magnus laughed. "No, I won’t." His bright cat’s eyes narrowed. "I leave you in good hands, I think, Will Herondale."