Authors: Cassandra Clare
A moment later Will and Tessa had joined Cordelia and the others. As Sona thanked them for a delightful evening, Cordelia's attention was arrested by the Fairchilds. Matthew was standing beside a thin man with faded ginger hair who was confined to a Bath chair. Matthew leaned over the back of it, saying something to make the older man smile: Cordelia realized this must be Henry
Fairchild, Matthew's father. She had nearly forgotten he was a veteran of the Clockwork War, in which he had lost the use of his legs.
“Oh, dear,” Tessa was saying. “We will try again, Mrs. Carstairs, truly. You deserve a real welcome to the London Enclave.”
Sona smiled. “I am sure if we put our heads together, we can think of something.”
“Thank you for rushing to help Barbara, Cordelia,” said Tessa. “You will make quite an excellent
Cordelia looked over at Lucie, who smiled at her. It was a slightly shaky smile. There were shadows in Lucie's eyes, as if something was bothering her. When she didn't reply to Tessa, James moved a step closer to his sister, as though to put a barrier between her and further attention. “Cordelia was a great help to Barbara,” he said. “She was the one who had the idea to cut her corset away.”
Sona looked slightly horrified. “Cordelia has a tendency to throw herself into every situation headlong,” she said to Tessa and Will. “I'm sure you understand.”
“Oh, we do,” said Will. “We're always speaking very sternly to our children about that very thing. âIf you don't throw yourself into situations headlong, James and Lucie, you can expect bread and water for supper again.'ââ”
Alastair choked on a laugh. Sona stared at Will as if he were a lizard with feathers. “Good night, Mr. Herondale,” she said, turning both herself and her offspring toward the door. “This has certainly been a most interesting evening.”
It was long past midnight. Tessa Herondale sat in front of the mirror in the bedroom she had shared with her husband for twenty-three years, and brushed her hair. The windows were closed, but soft summer air seeped in under the sill.
She recognized Will's step in the hallway before he came into the bedroom. More than twenty years of marriage did that.
He shut the door behind him and came to lean against one of the bedposts, watching her at the vanity table. He had shrugged off his jacket and undone his tie. His dark hair was mussed, and in the slightly blurred mirror, he looked no different to Tessa than he had when he was seventeen.
She quirked a smile at him.
“What is it?” he said.
“You're posing,” she said. “It makes me want to paint a portrait of you. I'd call it
“You can't paint a line, Tess,” he said, and came over to her, putting his hands on her shoulders. Now that he was close up, she could see the silver in his dark hair. “Much less capture my glorious handsomeness, which, I hardly need to point out, has only grown with age.”
She didn't disagreeâhe was as handsome as ever, his eyes still the same startling blueâbut there was no need to encourage Will. Instead she reached up and tugged on one of the more silvered locks of his hair. “I'm well aware of that. I saw Penelope Mayhew flirting with you tonight. Shamelessly!”
He bent his head to kiss her neck. “I hadn't noticed.”
She smiled at him in the mirror. “I take it from your insouciant manner that all went well in Seven Dials. Did you hear from Gideon? Or”âshe made a faceâ“Bridgestock?”
“Charles, actually. It was a nest of Shax demons. Quite a few more than they've been used to dealing with lately, but nothing they couldn't manage. Charles was very insistent that there was nothing to worry about.” Will rolled his eyes. “I have a feeling he was fretting in case I suggested the picnic at Regent's Park lake tomorrow be canceled. All the young ones are going.”
There was a very faint lilt at the end of Will's speech, which
sometimes came when he was tired. The faintest remnants of an accent, sanded away by time and distance. Still, when he was exhausted or grieved, it came back, and his voice would roll softly like the green hills of Wales.
“Do you worry?” he said, meeting her eyes in the mirror. “I do, sometimes. About Lucie and James.”
She set down her hairbrush and turned around, concerned. “Worry about the children? Why?”
“All thisâ” He waved his hand vaguely. “The boating parties, the regattas and cricket matches and fairs and dances, it's soâ¦ mundane.”
“You're worried they're turning into mundanes? Really, Will, that's a bit prejudiced of you.”
“No, I'm not worried about that. It's just thatâit's been years since there's been anything but minimal demonic activity in London. The children have grown up training, but barely needing to patrol.”
Tessa rose from her chair, her hair tumbling down her back. It was one of the oddities of being a warlock: her hair had stopped growing when she stopped aging, rather unexpectedly, at nineteen. It remained the same length, halfway to her waist.
“Isn't that good?” she said. “We don't want our children in danger from demons, do we?”
Will sat down on the bed, kicking off his shoes. “We don't want them unprepared, either,” he said. “I remember what we had to do when we were their age. I don't know if they could face the same thing. Picnics don't ready you for war.”
“Will.” Tessa sank down beside him on the bed. “There is no war.”
She knew why he worried. For them, there had been war, and loss. Tessa's brother, Nate. Thomas Tanner. Agatha Grant. Jessamine Lovelace, their friend, who now guarded the London Institute in ghostly form. And Jem, who they had both lost and kept.
“I know.” Will reached out to stroke her hair. “Tess, Tess. Do you think when you stopped growing older, you stopped aging in your heart? You never became cynical and fearful? Is it old age catching up with me, that I am so fretful and disquieted over nothing?”
She seized him by the chin, turning his face to hers. “You are not old,” she said fiercely. “Even when you are eighty, you will be my beautiful Will.”
She kissed him. He made a pleased, startled noise, and his arms came up about her. “My Tess,” he said. “My lovely wife.”
“There is nothing to be afraid of,” she said, drawing her lips across his cheek. His hands tightened in her hair. “We have been through so much. We deserve this happiness.”
“There are others who deserve happiness who have not gotten it.”
“I know.” A sob caught in her throat; they were both talking about the same person, and she did not know if the tears she held back were for him or for Will and herself. “I know.” She kissed his eyes as he laid her back onto the pillows, his hand finding the knot holding her dressing gown closed. His lean body pressed hers into the mattress. Her fingers found their way into his hair, twining among the thick curls. “I love you,” she gasped as the dressing gown fell away. “I love you, Will.”
He did not answer, but his lips on hers said more than any words.
Standing on the roof of the Institute, James watched Charles Fairchild's carriage as it rattled out of the Institute's courtyard, under the great black iron gates.
James often came to the roof when he could not sleep, and tonight insomnia had descended with a vengeance. He could not stop thinking of what he had seen in the ballroomâand the night before last, in the dark alley near the Devil Tavern.
The shadow realm.
That was what he had always called it in his head, that black and gray place that opened up in front of him sometimes like a vision of Hell. He had first seen it when he was thirteen, and the visions had come repeatedly after that, usually when he lost control of his emotions. The world would go gray, and later those who had been with himâhis family or friendsâwould report that his body had turned half-transparent, like gray smoke.
Once when he had done it on purpose, at Grace's request, he had nearly been unable to come back. The horror of that experience had left him with screaming nightmares. His parents, at their wits' end, had sought out help from Uncle Jem. James had woken up one morning with Jem sitting at the foot of his bed in an armchair, gazing at him through closed eyelids.
Jem had said.
You know, of course, that our universe contains many worlds.
James had nodded.
Think of the universe then as like a honeycomb, each of its chambers a different realm. So some chambers lie next to one another. I believe that the walls between our own world and this world that you are seeing, this world of shadows, have grown thin. You see this realm and you find yourself drawn into it.
“Is it dangerous?” James said.
It could be. Demon realms are unstable places, and this power of yours is not something we know much about. It is possible that you could be drawn into the shadow realm and find yourself unable to come back.
James had been silent for a moment. Finally he said, “So more is at stake than just my sleeping through the night.”
Potentially much more,
You must build a fortress of control around yourself. You must come to know this power, so that you may master it.
“Was this how it was for my mother?” James had said quietly. “Before she learned to control her shape-shifting?”
Your mother had brutal teachers. They held her against her will and forced her to Change. It must have been terrifying, and painful.
James was silent.
You know that your mother has not used her power since the end of the Clockwork War. Since then the act of shape-shifting has beenâ¦ difficult for her. Painful. She has chosen not to do it.
“Is this all because of my grandfather?” James had demanded. “My mother's demon father? Is this his gift to us? I would have been perfectly satisfied with a new pair of socks on my birthday.”
The question of your grandfather's identity,
Jem had said
, is one that I've concerned myself with since before you were born. It may well cast some light on your power, and your mother's as well. But that identity has been well hiddenâso well hidden as to be suspicious in itself. Beyond the fact that he was a Greater Demon, I have no other insight yet to share.
As far as James could tell, Jem made no progress over the next year in determining his grandfather's identity, or at least no progress worth sharing. But in that year, James learned to prevent himself from being drawn into the shadow realm, under Jem's instruction. On a cold night in winter, with a bitter wind blowing, Jem took him to the top of Hampstead Heath, and he resisted the pull even when shivering so hard his teeth seemed to shake. They sparred in the training room, Jem surprisingly spry for a Silent Brother, and talked through the feelings that triggered the powerâhow to control them and breathe through them, even in the middle of a fight. On one memorable occasion, Jem borrowed Matthew's dog, Oscar Wilde, riled him up, and released him on an unsuspecting James during breakfast.
James thought some of Jem's training ideas were deliberate pranksâSilent Brothers had the best poker faces he could imagine, after all. His father assured him that it wasn't in Jem's nature, and that however odd the training, he was sure it was intended sincerely. And James had to admit that the strange regimen did seem to work.
Gradually his sleep became more restful, his mind less constantly watchful. The shadow realm receded from the corners of his vision, and he felt its influence retreat from him, a weight he'd had no awareness of until it lifted. Soon he was losing himself to shadow less and less. It had not happened even once in this past year, until two nights previously, when they'd fought the Deumas demon.
He had thought it might not happen again at all, until tonight.
Nobody had noticed, he told himself now. Well, perhaps Matthew, but that was the bond of
: to some extent, Matthew could feel what James felt. Still, Matthew could not see what he saw. He had not seen the dancers turn sinister, the blasted room, or Barbara being pulled down into shadow.
And a few moments later, Barbara had collapsed.
James did not know what to think of it. The visions he saw in the shadow realm had never been echoed in the real world: they were sights of horror, but not of premonition. And Barbara was wellâit was only a dizzy spell, she'd saidâso perhaps it was a coincidence?
And yet. He distrusted coincidence. He wanted to talk to Jem. Jem was the one he confided in about the world of shadows: Jem was a Silent Brother, a keeper of all the wisdom the Shadowhunters had accrued through the ages. Jem would know what to do.
He took a box of matches from his pocket. It was a rather unusual item, the cover printed with a sketch of Hermes, the messenger god of the Greeks. Jem had given it to him some months ago, with strict instructions as to its use.
James struck one of the matches against the iron rail that ran around the roof. As it burned, he thought unexpectedly of one more person who he suspected had noticed something odd about his behavior: Cordelia. It was in the way she'd looked at him when he'd come up to her and asked her to take his stele.
It wasn't as if Cordelia didn't know about his world of shadows.
Their families were close, and she had been with him when he had had the scalding fever at Cirenworth and had passed in and out of the shadow realm. He thought perhaps she had even read out loud to him then. It was difficult to recall: he had been very ill at the time.
The match had burned down to his fingertips: he flicked the burnt stub aside and tipped his head back to look at the moon, a milky crescent in the sky. He was glad Cordelia was in London, he realized. Not just for Lucie, but for himself. It was odd, he thoughtâalmost as if he had forgotten what a steady light her presence could be when the world went dark.