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Authors: Cassandra Clare

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

Clockwork Princess (6 page)

BOOK: Clockwork Princess
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THE INFERNAL DEVICES ARE WITHOUT PITY.
THE INFERNAL DEVICES ARE WITHOUT REGRET.
THE INFERNAL DEVICES ARE WITHOUT NUMBER.
THE INFERNAL DEVICES WILL NEVER STOP COMING.

And there, beneath the scrawls, a last sentence, barely readable, as if whoever had written it had been losing the use of his hands. She pictured Benedict locked in this room, going slowly mad as he transformed, smearing the words on the wall with his own ichor-ridden blood.

MAY GOD HAVE MERCY ON OUR SOULS.

The worm lunged—and Will dived forward into a roll, narrowly missing its snapping jaws. He came up into a crouch, then to his feet, and raced along the length of the creature until he reached its thrashing tail. He whirled around and saw the demon looming like a cobra over Gideon and Gabriel—though, to his surprise, it seemed to have frozen, hissing but not attacking. Did it recognize its children? Feel anything for them? It was impossible to tell.

Cecily was halfway up the yew tree, clinging to a branch. Hoping that she would see sense and stay there, Will spun toward Jem and held up a hand so his
parabatai
could see him. They had long ago worked out a series of gestures they used to communicate what they needed in the midst of battle, in case they could not hear each other’s voices. Jem’s eyes lit with understanding, and he tossed his cane toward Will. In a perfect throw it sailed end over end till Will caught it in one hand and clicked the handle. The blade shot out, and Will brought it down swift and hard, cleaving straight through the creature’s thick skin. The worm jerked back and howled as Will struck again, parting its tail from its body. Benedict thrashed at both ends, and ichor gushed forth in a sticky blast, coating Will. He ducked away with a shout, his skin burning.

“Will!”
Jem darted toward him. Gideon and Gabriel were slashing at the worm’s head, doing their best to keep its attention focused on them. As Will wiped burning ichor from his eyes with his free hand, Cecily dropped from the yew tree and landed squarely on the worm’s back.

Will dropped the sword-cane in shock. He had never done that before, never dropped a weapon in the middle of a battle, but there was his little sister, clinging with grim determination to the back of a massive demon worm, like a tiny flea clinging to the fur of a dog. As he stared in horror, Cecily yanked a dagger from her belt and drove it viciously into the demon’s flesh.

What does she think she’s doing? As if that tiny dagger could kill a thing that size!
“Will, Will,” Jem was saying in his ear, his voice urgent, and Will realized he had spoken aloud, and, name of the Angel, the worm’s head was swinging around toward Cecily, its mouth open and vast and lined with teeth—

Cecily let go of the dagger’s handle and rolled sideways, off the body of the worm. Its jaws missed her by a hairsbreadth and snapped viciously shut on its own body. Black ichor gushed and the worm jerked its head back, a howl like the wail of a banshee erupting from its throat. A massive wound gaped in its side, and gobbets of its own flesh hung from its jaws. As Will stared, Gabriel raised his bow and let an arrow fly.

It sang home to its target and buried itself in one of the worm’s lidless black eyes. The creature reared back—and then its head sagged forward and it crumpled in on itself, folding up, disappearing as demons did when the life left them.

Gabriel’s bow fell to the ground with a clatter that Will barely heard. The trampled ground was soaked with blood from the worm’s savaged body. In the midst of it all, Cecy was rising slowly to her feet, wincing, her right wrist twisted at an odd angle.

Will did not even feel himself begin to run toward her—he realized it only when he was brought up short by Jem’s restraining hand. He turned on his
parabatai
wildly. “
My
sister—

“Your
face
,” replied Jem, with remarkable calm, considering the situation. “You are covered in demon blood, William, and it is burning you. I must give you an
iratze
before the damage cannot be undone.”

“Let me go,” Will insisted, and tried to pull away, but Jem’s cool hand was cupping the back of his neck, and then there was the burn of a stele on his wrist, and the pain he had not even known he was feeling began to ebb. Jem let go of him with a small hiss of pain of his own; he had gotten some of the ichor on his fingers. Will paused, irresolute—but Jem waved him away, already applying his own stele to his hand.

It was only a moment’s delay, but by the time Will reached his sister’s side, Gabriel had gotten there first. Gabriel had his hand under her chin, his green eyes flicking over her face. She was looking up at him with astonishment, when Will arrived and caught her by the shoulder.

“Get
away
from my sister,” he barked, and Gabriel stepped back, his mouth thinning into a hard line. Gideon was hard on his heels, and they swarmed around Cecily as Will held her fast with one hand, drawing his stele with the other. She looked at him with flashing blue eyes as he carved a black
iratze
against one side of her throat, and a
mendelin
on the other. Her black hair had escaped from its braid, and she looked like the wild girl he remembered, fierce and unafraid of anything.

“Are you hurt,
cariad
?” The word slipped out before he could stop it—a childhood endearment he had almost forgotten.

“Cariad?”
she echoed, her eyes flashing disbelief. “I am quite unhurt.”

“Not quite,” Will said, indicating her injured wrist and gashes on her face and hands, which had begun to close up as the
iratze
did its work. Anger swirled up inside him, so much that he did not hear Jem, behind him, begin to cough—usually a sound that would have lit him to action like a spark thrown into dry tinder. “Cecily, what could you possibly have been—”

“That was one of the bravest things I’ve seen a Shadowhunter do,” interrupted Gabriel. He was not looking at Will but at Cecily, with a mixture of surprise and something else in his expression. There was mud and blood in his hair, as there was on all of them, but his green eyes were very bright.

Cecily flushed. “I was only—”

She broke off, her eyes widening as she looked past Will. Jem coughed again, and this time Will heard it; he turned just in time to see his
parabatai
slump to his knees on the ground.

3
T
O THE
L
AST
H
OUR

Not, I’ll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee;
Not untwist—slack they may be—these last strands of man
In me or, most weary, cry
I can no more.
I can;
Can something, hope, wish day come, not choose not to be
.

—Gerard Manley Hopkins, “Carrion Comfort”

Jem was leaning against the side of the Institute’s carriage, his eyes closed, his face as pale as paper. Will stood beside him, his hand tightly gripping Jem’s shoulder. Tessa knew as she hurried toward them that it was not just a brotherly gesture. His grip would be much of what was keeping Jem upright.

She and Henry had heard the dying scream of the worm. Gabriel had found them, what felt like moments later, racing down the front steps. He had told them breathlessly of the death of the creature, and then of what had happened to Jem, and everything for Tessa had gone white, as if she had been struck suddenly and hard across the face.

They were words she had not heard in a long time, but half-expected always, and dreamed of sometimes in nightmares that left her bolting upright, fighting for air—“Jem,” “collapse,” “breathing,” “blood,” “Will,” “Will is with him,” “Will—”

Of course Will was with him.

The others were swarming about, the Lightwood brothers with their sister, and even Tatiana was quiet, or perhaps Tessa simply could not hear her hysterics. Tessa was aware of Cecily nearby as well, and Henry standing awkwardly beside her, as if he wished to comfort her but did not know how to begin.

Will’s eyes met Tessa’s as she came closer, almost tripping again over her torn gown. For a moment they were in perfect understanding. Jem was what they could still look each other straight in the eye about. On the topic of Jem they were both fierce and unyielding. Tessa saw Will’s hand tighten on Jem’s sleeve. “She’s here,” he said.

Jem’s eyes opened slowly. Tessa fought to keep the look of shock from her face. His pupils were blown out, his irises a thin ring of silver around the black.
“Ni shou shang le ma, quin ai de?”
he whispered.

Jem had been teaching Tessa Mandarin, at her insistence. She understood
“quin ai de,”
at least, if not the rest.
My dear, my darling
. She reached for his hand, squeezed it. “Jem …”

“Are you hurt, my love?” Will said. His voice was as level as his eyes, and for a moment the blood came up in Tessa’s cheeks and she glanced down at her hand where it held Jem’s; his fingers were paler than hers, like a doll’s hands, made of porcelain. How had she not seen he was so ill?

“Thank you for the translation, Will,” she answered, not looking away from her fiancé. Jem and Will were both splattered with black ichor, but Jem’s chin and throat were also stained with flecks of red blood. His own blood.

“I am not hurt,” Tessa whispered, and then she thought,
No, this will not do, not at all. Be strong for him
. She straightened her shoulders, keeping her grip on Jem’s hand. “Where is his medicine?” she demanded of Will. “Did he not take it before we left the Institute?”

“Do not talk about me as if I am not here,” Jem said, but there was no anger in it. He turned his head to the side and said something, softly, under his breath to Will, who nodded and let go of his shoulder. Tessa could sense the tension in Will’s posture; he was poised, catlike, to seize Jem again if the other boy should slip or fall, but Jem remained standing. “I am stronger when Tessa is here, you see. I told it to you,” said Jem, still in the same soft voice.

At that, Will did duck his head so that Tessa could not see his eyes. “I see it,” he said. “Tessa, there is none of his medicine here. I believe he left the Institute without taking enough of it, though he will not admit it. Ride back to the Institute with him in the carriage, and watch over him—someone must.”

Jem took a rough breath. “The others—”

“I will drive for you. It will be little trouble; Balios and Xanthos know the way. Henry can drive the Lightwoods.” Will was brisk and efficient, too brisk and efficient to even be thanked; he did not seem as if he wanted it. He helped Tessa get Jem into the carriage, very careful not to brush her shoulder or touch her hand as he did. He moved to tell the others what was happening. She caught a bit of Henry explaining that he needed to remove Benedict’s record books from the house, before she reached to swing the carriage door closed, shutting herself and Jem into a welcome silence.

“What was inside the house?” Jem asked as they rattled through the open gate bordering the Lightwoods’ property. He still looked ghastly, his head back against the cushions of the carriage, his eyes at half-mast, his cheekbones shining with fever. “I heard Henry speaking of Benedict’s study …”

“He had gone mad in there,” she said, chafing his cold hands between hers. “In the days before he transformed, when Gabriel said he would not leave the room, his mind must have gone. He had scrawled on the wall in what looked like blood, sentences about ‘the Infernal Devices.’ That they had no pity, that they would never stop coming—”

“He must have meant the automaton army.”

“He must have.” Tessa shivered slightly, and moved closer to Jem. “I suppose it was foolish of me—but it has been so peaceful for these past two months—”

“You had forgotten about Mortmain?”

“No. Never forgotten.” She glanced toward the window, though she could not see out; she had drawn the curtains when the light had seemed to be hurting Jem’s eyes. “Hoped, perhaps, that he might have turned his mind elsewhere.”

“We do not know that he hasn’t.” Jem’s fingers wrapped around hers. “Benedict’s death is a tragedy perhaps, but those wheels were set in motion long ago. This has nothing to do with you.”

“There were other items in the library. Notes and books of Benedict’s. Journals. Henry is bringing them back to the Institute to study. My name was in them.” Tessa stopped herself; how could she trouble Jem with these things when he was so unwell?

As if Jem were reading her mind, his finger moved over her wrist, resting lightly on her pulse point. “Tessa, it is only a passing attack. It will not last. I would rather you told me the truth, all the truth, whether it is bitter or frightening, that I might share it with you. I would never let harm come to you, nor would any in the Institute.” He smiled. “Your pulse is quickening.”

The truth, all the truth, whether it is bitter or frightening
. “I love you,” she said.

He looked at her with a light in his thin face that made it more beautiful.
“Wo xi wang ni ming tian ke yi jia gei wo.”

“You …” She drew her brows together. “You want to get married? But we are already engaged. I do not think one can get engaged twice.”

He laughed, which turned into a cough; Tessa’s whole body tightened, but the cough was slight, and there was no blood. “I said I would marry you tomorrow if I could.”

Tessa pretended to toss her head. “Tomorrow is not convenient for me, sir.”

“But you are already appropriately attired,” he said with a smile.

Tessa looked down at the ruined gold of her wedding dress. “If I were getting married in a slaughterhouse,” she allowed. “Ah, well. I did not like this one very much as it was. Much too gaudy.”

“I thought you looked beautiful.” His voice was soft.

Tessa laid her head against his shoulder. “There will be another time,” she said. “Another day, another dress. A time when you are well and everything is perfect.”

His voice was still gentle, but it held a terrible weariness. “There is no such thing as perfect, Tessa.”

Sophie was standing at the window of her small bedroom, the curtain drawn back, her eyes fixed on the courtyard. It had been hours since the carriages had gone rattling away, and she was meant to be sweeping out the grates, but the brush and bucket were motionless at her feet.

BOOK: Clockwork Princess
11.56Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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