Read Clockwork Princess Online

Authors: Cassandra Clare

Tags: #Social Issues, #Juvenile Fiction, #Fantasy & Magic, #General, #Other, #Historical

Clockwork Princess (5 page)

BOOK: Clockwork Princess
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“Halt!” Cecily cried. She held her blazing seraph blade out in front of her; she looked absolutely fearless. “Get back, damned creature!”

The worm lashed down toward her. She stood fast, her blade in hand, as its great jaws descended—and Will leaped at her, knocking her out of the way. They both rolled into a hedge as the worm’s head struck the ground where she had been standing, leaving a sizeable dent.

“Will!” Cecily pulled herself away from him, but not quite in time. Her seraph blade slashed across his forearm, leaving a red burn behind. Her eyes were blue fire. “That was unnecessary!”

“You’re not trained!” Will shouted, half out of his mind with fury and terror. “You’ll get yourself killed! Stay where you are!” He reached for her blade, but she twisted away from him and onto her feet. A moment later the worm was surging down again, its mouth open. Will had dropped his own blade diving for his sister; it was several feet away. He leaped to the side, avoiding the creature’s jaws by inches, and then Jem was there, sword-cane in hand. He drove the blade up, hard, into the side of the worm’s body. A hellish scream burst from its throat, and it whipped backward, spraying black blood. With a hiss it disappeared behind a hedgerow.

Will spun around. He could barely see Cecily; Jem had thrown himself between her and Benedict, and he was spattered in black blood and mud. Behind Jem, Tessa had dragged Tatiana into her lap; their skirts belled out together, Tatiana’s gaudy pink mixing with the ruined gold of Tessa’s wedding dress. Tessa had bent over her as if to protect her from the sight of her father, and much of the demon blood had splashed upon Tessa’s hair and clothes. She looked up, her face pale, and her eyes met Will’s.

For a moment the garden, the noise, the stench of blood and demon, vanished away, and he was alone in a soundless place with only Tessa. He wanted to run to her, wrap her in his arms. Protect her.

But it was Jem’s place to do those things, not his.
Not his
.

The moment passed, and Tessa was on her feet, pulling Tatiana up by main force, looping the other girl’s arm about her own shoulders even as Tatiana lolled against her, half-conscious.

“You must move her from here. She’ll be killed,” Will said, sweeping his gaze over the garden. “She has no training.”

Tessa’s mouth began to set in its familiar, stubborn line. “I don’t wish to leave you.”

Cecily looked horrified. “You don’t think … Wouldn’t the creature hold off? She’s his daughter. If it—if he—has any family feeling left—”

“He
consumed
his son-in-law, Cecy,” Will snapped. “Tessa, go with Tatiana if you want to save her life. And stay with her by the house. It would be a disaster if she came rushing back here.”

“Thank you, Will,” Jem murmured as Tessa drew the stumbling girl away as quickly as she could, and Will felt the words as three needle pricks inside his heart. Always when Will did something to protect Tessa, Jem thought it was for his sake, not for Will’s. Always Will wished Jem could be entirely right. Each needle prick had its own name.
Guilt. Shame. Love
.

Cecily screamed. A shadow blotted out the sun, and the hedgerow in front of Will burst apart. He found himself staring down the dark red gullet of the massive worm. Ropes of spittle hung between its enormous teeth. Will snatched for the sword at his belt, but the worm was already rearing back, a dagger protruding from the side of its neck. Will recognized it without turning. It was Jem’s. He heard his
parabatai
cry out a warning, and then the worm was hurtling toward Will again and he slammed his sword upward, through the underside of its jaw. Blood spurted through its teeth, splattering Will’s gear with a hissing noise. Something struck the back of his knees and, unprepared, he went over hard, his shoulders slamming into the turf.

He choked as the wind was knocked out of him. The worm’s thin, annulated tail was wrapped around his knees. He kicked out, seeing stars, Jem’s anxious face, blue sky above him—

Thunk
. An arrow embedded itself in the worm’s tail, just below Will’s knee. Benedict’s grip loosened, and Will rolled away across the dirt and struggled to his knees, just in time to see Gideon and Gabriel Lightwood pounding toward them across the dirt path. Gabriel held a bow. He was notching it again as he ran, and Will realized with a distant surprise that Gabriel Lightwood had just shot his father to save Will’s life.

The worm caromed backward, and there were hands under Will’s arms, hauling him to his feet.
Jem
. He released Will, who turned to see that his
parabatai
already had his sword-cane out and was glaring ahead. The demon worm appeared to be writhing in agony, undulating as it swept its great, blind head from side to side, uprooting shrubbery with its thrashings. Leaves filled the air, and the small group of Shadowhunters choked on dust. Will could hear Cecily coughing and longed to tell her to run back to the house, but he knew she wouldn’t do it.

Somehow the worm, by thrashing its jaws, had worked the sword free; the weapon clattered to the ground among the rosebushes, smeared with black ichor. The worm began to slide backward, leaving a trail of slime and blood. Gideon grimaced and dashed forward to seize up the fallen sword with a gloved hand.

Suddenly Benedict reared up like a cobra, his jaws apart and dripping. Gideon raised the sword, looking impossibly small against the creature’s vast bulk.

“Gideon!”
It was Gabriel, white-faced, raising his bow; Will spun aside as an arrow flew past him and buried itself in the worm’s body. The worm yelped and spun, humping its body away from them with incredible speed. As it slithered away, a flick of its tail caught the edge of a statue, and squeezed it tightly—the statue exploded into dust, showering into the dry ornamental pool.

“By the Angel, it just crushed Sophocles,” noted Will as the worm vanished behind a large structure shaped like a Greek temple. “Has no one respect for the classics these days?”

Gabriel, breathing hard, lowered his bow. “You
fool
,” he said savagely to his brother. “What were you thinking, rushing up to him like that?”

Gideon whirled, pointing his bloody sword at Gabriel. “Not ‘him.’
It
. That is not our father any longer, Gabriel. If you cannot countenance that fact—”

“I shot him with an arrow!” Gabriel shouted. “What more do you want of me, Gideon?”

Gideon shook his head as if disgusted with his brother; even Will, who did not like Gabriel, felt a twinge of sympathy for him. He
had
shot the beast.

“We must pursue it,” said Gideon. “It has gone behind the folly—”

“The
what
?” said Will.

“A folly, Will,” said Jem. “It is a decorative structure. I assume there is no real interior.”

Gideon shook his head. “It is merely plaster. If we two were to go around one side of it, and you and James the other—”

“Cecily,
what
are you doing?” Will demanded, interrupting Gideon; he knew he sounded like a distracted parent, but he didn’t care. Cecily had slid her blade into her belt and appeared to be trying to climb one of the small yew trees inside the first row of hedges. “Now is not the time for climbing trees!”

She looked toward him angrily, her black hair blowing across her face. She opened her mouth to answer, but before she could speak, there was a sound like an earthquake, and the folly burst apart in shards of plaster. The worm hurtled forth, heading straight toward them with the terrifying speed of an out-of-control train.

By the time they reached the front courtyard of Lightwood House, Tessa’s neck and back were aching. She was tightly laced into her corset beneath the heavy wedding dress, and the weight of the sobbing Tatiana dragged down her left shoulder painfully.

She was relieved to see the carriages come into view—relieved, and also startled. The scene in the courtyard was so peaceful—the carriages where they had left them, the horses cropping grass, the facade of the house undisturbed. After half-carrying, half-dragging Tatiana to the first carriage, Tessa wrenched the door open and helped her in, wincing when the other girl’s sharp nails dug into her shoulders as she heaved herself and her skirts into the space inside.

“Oh, God,” Tatiana moaned. “The shame of it, the terrible shame. That the Clave might know of what has befallen my father. For pity’s sake, could he not have thought of me, even for a moment?”

Tessa blinked. “That
thing
,” she said. “I do not think it was capable of thinking of anyone, Mrs. Blackthorn.”

Tatiana looked at her dizzily, and for a moment Tessa was ashamed of the resentment she had felt toward the other girl. She had not liked being sent away from the gardens, where she might perhaps have helped—but Tatiana had just seen her husband torn to pieces before her eyes by her own father. She was deserving of more sympathy than Tessa had been feeling.

Tessa made her voice more gentle. “I know you have had a bad shock. If you would lie down—”

“You are
very
tall,” Tatiana said. “Do gentlemen complain of it?”

Tessa stared.

“And you are dressed as a bride,” said Tatiana. “Is that not
very
odd? Would not gear suit the task better? I understand it is unflattering, and needs must as the devil drives, but—”

There was a sudden loud crash. Tessa detached herself from the carriage and glanced about; the sound had come from inside the house.
Henry
, Tessa thought. Henry had gone into the house, alone. Of course, the creature was out in the gardens, but nevertheless—it was Benedict’s house. She thought of the ballroom, full of demons the last time Tessa had been there, and she gathered up her skirts in both hands. “Remain here, Mrs. Blackthorn,” she said. “I must discover the cause of that noise.”

“No!” Tatiana sat bolt upright. “Do not leave me!”

“I am sorry.” Tessa backed away, shaking her head. “I must. Please stay inside the carriage!”

Tatiana cried something after her, but Tessa had already turned to dash up the steps. She pushed her way through the front doors and emerged in a grand entryway floored with alternating squares of black and white marble, like a checkerboard. A massive chandelier hung from the ceiling, though none of its tapers were lit; the only light in the place came from the daylight flooding in through the high windows. A curving staircase of great grandeur wound its way upward. “Henry!” Tessa cried. “Henry, where are you?”

An answering cry and another crash came from the floor above. Tessa dashed up the stairs, stumbling as her foot caught on the hem of her dress and ripped a seam wide open. She switched the skirt out of the way impatiently and continued running, down a long corridor whose walls were painted powder blue and were hung with dozens of gilt-framed etchings, through a pair of doors, and into another room.

It was most assuredly a man’s room, a library or an office: the curtains a heavy dark fabric, oil paintings of great ships of war hung on the walls. Rich green wallpaper covered the walls, though it appeared to be mottled with odd dark stains. There was a strange smell to the place—a smell like the one down by the banks of the Thames, where odd things rotted in the weak daylight. And laid over that, the coppery tang of blood. A bookcase had tipped over, a welter of smashed glass and broken wood, and on the Persian rug beside it was Henry, locked in a wrestling match with a
thing
with gray skin and an unnerving number of arms. Henry was yelling and kicking out with his long legs, and the thing—a demon, no doubt—was tearing at his gear with claws, its wolflike snout snapping at his face.

Tessa looked around wildly, seized up the poker that lay by the dormant fireplace, and charged. She tried to keep her training in mind—all those hours of Gideon’s careful talk of calibration and speed and grip—but in the end it seemed pure instinct to drive the long steel rod into the creature’s torso, where there would have been a rib cage if it had been a real, earthly animal.

She heard
something
crunch as the weapon went in. The demon gave a howl like a baying dog and rolled off Henry, and the poker clattered to the floor. Black ichor sprayed, filling the room with the stench of smoke and rot. Tessa stumbled back, her heel catching on the torn edge of her gown. She fell to the ground just as Henry heaved himself over and, with a muttered curse, slashed the demon across the throat with a daggerlike blade that glowed with runes. The demon gave a gurgling cry and folded up like paper.

Henry lurched to his feet, his gingery hair matted with blood and ichor. His gear was torn at the shoulder, scarlet fluid leaking from the wound. “Tessa,” he exclaimed, and then he was beside her, helping her to her feet. “By the Angel, we’re a pair,” he said in his rueful Henry way, looking at her worriedly. “You’re not hurt, are you?”

She glanced down at herself and saw what he meant: Her dress was soaked with a spray of ichor, and there was an ugly cut on her forearm where she had fallen on the broken glass. It didn’t hurt much, yet, but there was blood. “I am quite all right,” she said. “What happened, Henry? What was that thing and why was it in here?”

“A guardian demon. I was searching Benedict’s desk, and I must have moved or touched something that awoke it. A black smoke poured from the drawer, and became
that
. It lunged at me—”

“And clawed you,” Tessa said in concern. “You’re bleeding—”

“No, I did that myself. Fell on my dagger,” Henry said sheepishly, drawing a stele from his belt. “Don’t tell Charlotte.”

Tessa almost smiled; then, remembering, she dashed across the room and tugged open the curtains across one of the tall windows. She could see out across the gardens, but not, frustratingly, the Italian garden; they were on the wrong side of the house for that. Green box hedges and flat grass, beginning to brown with winter, stretched out before her. “I must go,” she said. “Will and Jem and Cecily—they were battling the creature. It has killed Tatiana Blackthorn’s husband. I had to convey her back to the carriage as she was near fainting.”

There was a silence. Then: “Tessa,” Henry said in an odd voice, and she turned to see him, arrested in the act of applying an
iratze
to his inner arm. He was staring at the wall across from him—the wall Tessa had thought earlier was oddly mottled and splotched with stains. She saw now that they were no accidental mess. Letters a foot tall each stretched across the wallpaper, written in what looked like dried black blood.

BOOK: Clockwork Princess
9.32Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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