Clockwork Princess (Page 8)

Clockwork Princess(8)
Author: Cassandra Clare

How can I explain the decision I made, how I arrived at it? It seems, even now, like madness. Each day in fact is madder than the one before it. You did not lie, Dad, when you said the life of a Shadowhunter was like a feverish dream-

Cecily drew the nib of the pen viciously through the lines she had written, then crumpled up the paper in one hand and rested her head on the desk.

She had started this letter so many times, and had yet to arrive at any satisfactory version. Perhaps she should not be attempting it now, she thought, not when she had been trying to calm her nerves since they had returned to the Institute. Everyone had been swarming about Jem, and Will, after roughly checking her for injuries in the garden, had barely spoken to her again. Henry had gone running for Charlotte, Gideon had drawn Gabriel aside, and Cecily had found herself climbing the Institute stairs alone.

She had slipped into her bedroom, not bothering to divest herself of her gear, and curled up on the soft four-poster bed. As she’d lain among the shadows, hearing the faint sounds of London passing by outside, her heart had clenched with sudden, painful homesickness. She’d thought of the green hills of Wales, and of her mother and father, and had bolted out of the bed as if she had been pushed, stumbling to the desk and taking up pen and paper, the ink staining her fingers in her haste. And yet the right words would not come. She felt as if she bled her regret and her loneliness from her very pores, and yet she could not shape those feelings into any sentiment she could imagine her parents could bear reading.

At that moment there was a knock on the door. Cecily reached for a book she had left resting on the desk, propped it up as if she had been reading, and called: "Come in."

The door swung open; it was Tessa, standing hesitantly in the doorway. She was no longer wearing her destroyed wedding dress but a simple gown of blue muslin with her two necklaces glittering at her throat: the clockwork angel and the jade pendant that had been her bridal gift from Jem. Cecily looked at Tessa curiously. Though the two girls were friendly, they were not close. Tessa had a certain wariness around her that Cecily suspected the source of without ever being able to prove it; on top of that there was something fey and strange about her. Cecily knew she could shape-shift, could transform herself into the likeness of any person, and Cecily could not rid herself of the sense that it was unnatural. How could you know someone’s true face if they could change it as easily as someone else might change a gown?

"Yes?" Cecily said. "Miss Gray?"

"Please call me Tessa," said the other girl, shutting the door behind her. It was not the first time she had asked Cecily to call her by her given name, but habit and perversity kept Cecily from doing it. "I came to see if you were all right and if you needed anything."

"Ah." Cecily felt a slight pang of disappointment. "I am quite all right."

Tessa moved forward slightly. "Is that Great Expectations?"

"Yes." Cecily did not say that she had seen Will reading it, and had picked it up to try to gain insight into what he was thinking. So far she was woefully lost. Pip was morbid, and Estella so awful that Cecily wanted to shake her.

"’Estella,’" Tessa said softly. "’To the last hour of my life, you cannot choose but remain part of my character, part of the little good in me, part of the evil.’"

"So you memorize passages of books, just like Will? Or is this a favorite?"

"I don’t have Will’s memory," said Tessa, coming forward slightly. "Or his mnemosyne rune. But I do love that book." Her gray eyes searched Cecily’s face. "Why are you still in your gear?"

"I was thinking of going up to the training room," Cecily said. "I find I can think well there, and it isn’t as if anyone minds one way or the other what I do."

"More training? Cecily, you’ve just been in a battle!" Tessa protested. "I know it can sometimes take more than one application of runes to entirely heal- Before you start training again, I should call someone to you: Charlotte, or-"

"Or Will?" Cecily snapped. "If either of them cared, they would have come already."

Tessa paused by the bedside. "You cannot think Will doesn’t care about you."

"He isn’t here, is he?"

"He sent me," Tessa said, "because he is with Jem," as if that explained everything. Cecily supposed that in a way it did. She knew that Will and Jem were close friends, but also that it was more than that. She had read of parabatai in the Codex, and knew that the bond was one that did not exist among mundanes, something closer than brothers and better than blood. "Jem is his parabatai. He has made a vow to be there in times like this."

"He would be there, vow or not. He would be there for any of you. But he has not so much as come by to see if I needed another iratze."

"Cecy …," Tessa began. "Will’s curse-"

"It wasn’t a real curse!"

"You know," Tessa said thoughtfully, "in its way, it was. He believed no one could love him, and that if he allowed them to, it would result in their death. That is why he left you all. He left you to keep you safe, and here you are now-the very definition, to him, of not safe. He cannot bear to come and look at your injuries, because to him it is as if he had put them there himself."

"I chose this. Shadowhunting. And not only because I wanted to be with Will."

"I know that," Tessa said. "But I also sat with Will while he was delirious from exposure to vampire blood, choking on holy water, and I know the name he called out. It was yours."

Cecily looked up in surprise. "Will called out for me?"

"Oh, yes." A small smile touched the edge of Tessa’s mouth. "He wouldn’t tell me who you were, of course, when I asked him, and it drove me half-mad-" She broke off, and looked away.

"Why?"

"Curiosity," said Tessa with a shrug, though there was a flush on her cheekbones. "It’s my besetting sin. In any event, he loves you. I know that with Will everything is backward and upside down, but the fact that he isn’t here is only further proof to me of how precious you are to him. He is used to pushing away everyone he loves, and the more he loves you, the more he will violently try not to show it."

"But there is no curse-"

"The habits of years are not unlearned so quickly," Tessa said, and her eyes were sad. "Do not make the mistake of believing that he does not love you because he plays at not caring, Cecily. Confront him if you must and demand the truth, but do not make the mistake of turning away because you believe that he is a lost cause. Do not cast him from your heart. For if you do, you will regret it."

To: Members of the Council

From: Consul Josiah Wayland

Forgive the delay in my reply, gentlemen. I wished to be sure that I was not giving you my opinions in any spirit of precipitate haste, but rather that my words were the sound and well-reasoned results of patient thought.

I am afraid I cannot second your recommendation of Charlotte Branwell as my successor. Though possessed of a good heart, she is altogether too flighty, emotional, passionate, and disobedient to have the making of a Consul. As we know, the fair sex has its weaknesses that men are not heir to, and sadly she is prey to all of them. No, I cannot recommend her. I urge you to consider another-my own nephew, George Penhallow, who will be twenty-five this November and is a fine Shadowhunter and an upstanding young man. I believe he has the moral certainty and strength of character to lead the Shadowhunters into a new decade.

In Raziel’s name,

Consul Josiah Wayland

Chapter 4 To Be Wise and Love

For to be wise and love

Exceeds man’s might.

-Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida

"I thought you’d at least make a song out of it," said Jem.

Will looked at his parabatai curiously. Jem, though he had asked for Will, did not seem in a forthcoming mood. He was sitting quietly on the edge of his bed in a clean shirt and trousers, though the shirt was loose and made him look thinner than ever. There were still flecks of dried blood around his collarbones, a sort of brutal necklace. "Make a song out of what?"

Jem’s mouth quirked. "Our defeat of the worm?" he said. "After all those jokes you made …"

"I have not been in a joking mood, these past few hours," Will said, his eyes flicking to the bloody rags that covered the nightstand by the bed, the bowl half-full of pinkish fluid.

"Don’t fuss, Will," Jem said. "Everyone’s been fussing over me and I can’t abide it; I wanted you because-because you wouldn’t. You make me laugh."

Will threw his arms up. "Oh, all right," he said. "How’s this?

"Forsooth, I no longer toil in vain,

To prove that demon pox warps the brain.

So though ’tis pity, it’s not in vain

That the pox-ridden worm was slain:

For to believe in me, you all must deign."

Jem burst out laughing. "Well, that was awful."

"It was impromptu!"

"Will, there is such a thing as scansion-" Between one moment and the next Jem’s laughter turned into a fit of coughing. Will darted forward as Jem doubled up, his thin shoulders heaving. Blood splattered the bed’s white coverlet.

"Jem -"

With a hand, Jem gestured toward the box on his nightstand. Will reached for it; the delicately drawn woman on the lid, pouring water from a jug, was intimately familiar to him. He hated the sight of her.

He snapped the box open-and froze. What looked like a light dusting of silvery powdered sugar barely covered the wooden bottom. Perhaps there had been a greater quantity before the Silent Brothers had treated Jem; Will did not know. What he did know was that there should have remained much, much more. "Jem," he said in a strangled voice, "how is this all there is?"

Jem had stopped coughing. There was blood on his lips, and as Will watched, too shocked to move, Jem raised his arm and scrubbed the blood from his face with his sleeve. The linen was instantly scarlet. He looked feverish, his pale skin glowing, though he showed no other outward sign of agitation.

"Will," he said softly.

"Two months ago," Will began, realized his voice was rising, and forced it down again with an effort. "Two months ago I purchased enough yin fen that it should have lasted a year."

There was a mixture of challenge and sadness in Jem’s glance. "I have accelerated the process of taking it."

"Accelerated it? By how much?"

Now Jem did not meet his gaze. "I have been taking twice, perhaps three times, as much."

"But the rate at which you take the drug is tied to the deterioration of your health," Will said, and when Jem said nothing back, his voice rose and cracked on a single word: "Why?"

"I do not want to live half a life-"

"At this rate you won’t even live a fifth of one!" shouted Will, and he sucked in his breath. Jem’s expression had changed, and Will had to slam the box he was holding back onto the nightstand to keep himself from punching the wall.

Jem was sitting up straight, his eyes blazing. "There is more to living than not dying," he said. "Look at the way you live, Will. You burn as bright as a star. I had been taking only enough of the drug to keep me alive but not enough to keep me well. A little extra of the drug before battles, perhaps, to give me energy, but otherwise, a half life, a gray twilight of a life-"

"But you have changed your dosage now? Has this been since the engagement?" Will demanded. "Is this because of Tessa?"

"You cannot blame her for this. This was my decision. She has no knowledge of it."

"She would want you to live, James-"

"I am not going to live!" And Jem was on his feet, his cheeks flushed; it was the angriest, Will thought, that he had ever seen him. "I am not going to live, and I can choose to be as much for her as I can be, to burn as brightly for her as I wish, and for a shorter time, than to burden her with someone only half-alive for a longer time. It is my choice, William, and you cannot make it for me."

"Maybe I can. I have always been the one to buy your yin fen for you-"

The color went in Jem’s face. "If you refuse to do it, I will buy it on my own. I have always been willing. You said you wished to be the one who bought it. And as to that-" He pulled the Carstairs family ring from his finger and held it out to Will. "Take it."

Will let his eyes drift down toward it, and then up to Jem’s face. A dozen awful things he could say, or do, went through his mind. One did not slough off a persona so quickly, he had found. He had pretended to be cruel for so many years that the pretense was still what he reached for first, as a man might absently turn his carriage toward the home he had lived in for all his life, despite the fact that he had recently moved. "You wish to marry me now?" he said, at last.

"Sell the ring," Jem said. "For the money. I told you, you should not have to pay for my drugs; I paid for yours, once, you know, and I recall the feeling. It was unpleasant."

Will winced, then looked down at the Carstairs family symbol glittering in Jem’s pale, scarred palm. He reached out and took his friend’s hand gently, closing his fingers over the ring. "When did you become reckless and I cautious? Since when have I had to guard you from yourself? It is always you who has guarded me." His eyes searched Jem’s face. "Help me to understand you."

Jem stood very still. Then he said, "In the beginning, when I first realized I loved Tessa, I did think that perhaps love was making me well. I had not had an attack in so long. And when I asked her to marry me, I told her that. That love was healing me. So the first time I was-the first time it happened again, after that, I could not bear to tell her, lest she think it meant a lessening of my love for her. I took more of the drug, to fend off another illness. Soon it was taking more of the drug to simply keep me on my feet than it used to take to keep me going for a week. I don’t have years, Will. I might not even have months. And I don’t want Tessa to know. Please don’t tell her. Not just for her sake but for mine."