Margaret K. McElderry Book
August 31, 2010
Magic is dangerous — but love is more dangerous still.
When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London’s Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, Nephilim warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.
Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called the Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What’s more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa’s power for his own.
Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by and torn between two best friends: Jem, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm’s length…everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world… and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.
“Steampunk is hot, and Clare conquered it! Methodically researched, her Victorian London is dark and romantic, and the strong-willed Tessa is an unexpected hero readers will love. Her love interest, Will, is the bad boy only Tessa can understand, while the sweet Jem is a possibility, too. At completion, the reader has more questions than answers, but the clarity of writing and quick plot turns will ensure its popularity.”
— VOYA (starred review)
It was past midnight, and London was as quiet as she ever was: the sound of carriages never stopped completely, nor the cries and calls of the dwellers in the city, or the lively chatter of the mudlarks at the side of the river, picking through the detritus the Thames coughed up for any items of value. Will Herondale and James Carstairs sat on the edge of the Victoria Embankment, their legs dangling down over the side. To the left of them, they could see Cleopatra’s Needle, piercing the sky, to their right, Hungerford Bridge.
Will yawned and stretched his arms back. A short-sword, unsheathed, gleamed in his lap. “You know, James, I’ve started to believe this Leviathan demon doesn’t exist. Or if it does, it’s long swum out to sea by now.”
“Well, it won’t be the first time we’ve sat up all night for nothing, nor the last, I’d wager,” said Jem agreeable. His dragon-headed cane was balanced across his shoulders; his arms draped over either end. His bright hair shone as the moon dodged in and out between clouds. “Are you still pursuing that investigation? The dead girls in the East End?”
“It has led me to some quite interesting places,” said Will. “I won sixty pounds off Ragnor Fell at faro the other night. When you join me again—” “I do not much like those clubs. Fleecing mundanes, setting them at games they cannot possible win, mocking and drugging even Downworlders, it all leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. And you know what Charlotte would say if she caught you gambling.”
“Charlotte worries too much. She is not—” Will broke off, and looked up at the stars, or what could be seen of them at least between smoke and cloud. They lit his eyes, so you could see the blue of them even in the dimness, ameliorated only by the Embankment’s characteristic dolphin lamps.
My mother, Jem knew he had been about to say. It was a way of Will’s, to cut himself off carefully before he ever revealed too much.
“You told me your father used to gamble,” he said with deliberate casualness, tapping his fingers on the head of his cane.
For a moment, Will looked as far away as the stars he was gazing at. “Just the occasional flutter at cards. My mother discouraged anything else. She did not like gambling. And he was never one of those madmen who used to bet on anything — when the sun would go down that day, or whether old Henderson could climb Minith Mawr drunk.”
Jem did not know what Minith Mawr was, and did not ask. Instead he said, “Your father must have loved your mother very much, to give up being a Shadowhunter for her.”
Will winced, almost imperceptibly, but his tone was surprisingly calm as he said, “He did. I asked him once if he was ever sorry, but he said he never was. He said there are thousands of Shadowhunters, but great love comes once in a lifetime if one is lucky, and one would be a fool to let it go.”
“And do you believe that?” Jem spoke with enormous care; talking to Will about anything personal was like trying not to startle away a wild animal.
“I suppose I do,” said Will, after a pause. “Not that it matters for me, but —” He shrugged. “If love is great, then it is worth fighting for.”
“What if it is immoral somehow? Forbidden?”
“Forbidden? But my father’s love for my mother was forbidden, or at least against the law. Or do mean if she is married, or a vampire?”
“Or a married vampire.”
“Well, nevertheless,” Will said, with a grin, “one should fight on. Love conquers all.”
“I shall warn the vampire husbands of the neighborhood,” said Jem dryly. “And you, Carstairs? You’ve been very quiet with your views.”
Jem unhitched his arms from his cane and sighed. “You know I believe we are reborn,” he said quietly. “I think if two souls are meant to be together, they will remain together on the Wheel and be together again in the life after this one, whatever happens to us now.”
“Is that an official teaching or something you invented yourself?” Will asked. Jem laughed. “Does it matter?”
Will looked at him curiously. “Do you think you will see me again?” At the change in Jem’s expression, he added, “I mean, is there a chance for me? To have another life after this, a better one?”
As Jem opened his mouth to answer, a rustling came from beneath their feet. Just as they both looked down, a tentacle shot from the surface of the river, wrapped itself around Jem’s ankle, and yanked him beneath the surface of the water. Will bolted to his feet with his blade in hand; the water was still boiling where the creature’s tentacles were thrashing wildly, indicating that Jem was getting some good blows in. Will’s heart pounded, firing blood and the call of battle through his veins.
“Hell,” he said. “Just when it was getting interesting, too,” and he leaped into the water after his friend.
Jem’s father’s violin had been made for him by the luthier Guarnerni, who had made violins for musicians as famous as Paganini. In fact Jem sometimes thought his father might have been a sort of Paganini himself, famous all over the world for his playing, if he had not been a Shadowhunter. Shadowhunters might dabble in music or painting or poetry, especially after retirement from active duty, but they were always Shadowhunters first and foremost.
Jem knew his talent for the violin was not as great as his father’s — who had taught him how to play when he was still young enough to have trouble balancing the heavy instrument — but he played it for reasons that went far beyond art alone.
This evening he had felt too unwell to join the others at dinner — pain in his bones and a creeping lassitude in his limbs — until he had finally given in and taken just enough yin fen to quell the pain and spark a bit of energy. Then had come the annoyance at his own dependence, and when he had gone looking for Will, always his first line of defense against the addiction, his parabatai had —of course — not been there. Out again, Jem thought, walking the streets like Diogenes, though with a less noble purpose.
So Jem had retreated to his room and to his violin. He was playing Chopin now, a piece originally for piano that his father had adapted for violin. The music began with softness and built to a crescendo, one that would wring every ounce of energy, sweat and concentration out of him, leaving him too exhausted to feel the yearning for the drug that plucked at his nerve endings like fire.
It was, in fact, one of the pieces his father had wooed his mother with, before they were married. Jem’s father was the romantic, his mother more practical, but the music had moved her nonetheless. His father had insisted Jem learn it — “I played it for my bride, and one day, you will play it for yours.”
But I will never have a bride. He did not think it in a self-pitying way. Jem was like his mother: practical about most things, even his own death. He was able to hold the fact of it at arm’s length and examine it. Every one of the children of the Institute was peculiar, he thought: Jessamine with her bitterness and her dollhouse, Will with his lies and secrets, and Jem — his dying was only another sort of peculiarity.
He paused for a moment, gasping for breath. He was playing by the window, where it was cooler: he had cracked it slightly open, and the bitter London air touched his cheeks and hair like fingertips as the bow in his hand stilled. He stood in a patch of moonlight, silver as yin fen powder . . .
He clamped his eyes shut and threw himself, again, into the music, the bow sawing against the strings like a cry. Sometimes the desire for the drug was almost overpowering, stronger than the desire for food, for water or air, for love . . .
I played it for my bride, and one day, you will play it for yours. Jem held to that thought resolutely. Sometimes he wondered what it would be like to look at girls as Will did, with his dark blue eyes raking them, offering insults and compliments loud enough to get him slapped at nearly every Christmas party. He wanted casual companionship, sometimes, when a pretty girl flirted with him, or when he was especially lonely.
But Jem did not, could not, think of girls that casually: he supposed an affair might be possible, but it was not what he wanted. He wanted what his father had had — the sort of love poets wrote about. The way his parents had looked at each other, the peace that had wrapped them when they were together. The facsimile of love would not bring him that, and were he to waste time on it, he might miss his opportunity for the real thing — and he would not have many.
A twinge went through him as his need for the drug increased, and he sped up his playing. He tried not to look at the box on his nightstand. It was times like this when he asked himself why he did not just take handfuls of the stuff at a time. Most who were addicted to yin fen took it unceasingly until they died for the euphoric feeling of being untiring and indomitable, of having the force and power of a star. It was that euphoria that killed them in the end, burning out their nerves, crushing their lungs and exhausting their hearts.
Sometimes Jem felt as if he wanted to burn. Sometimes he did not know why he struggled against it, why he valued a longer life of suffering over a shorter life without pain. But then he reminded himself that the lack of pain would only be another illusion: like Jessamine’s dollhouse, like Will’s stories of brothels and gin palaces.
And, if he were truly honest, he knew it would end his chances to find the kind of love his parents had once had. For that was what love was, wasn’t it — to burn bright in someone else’s eyes?
He continued to play. The music had risen to a crescendo. He was breathing hard, sweat standing out on his forehead and collarbones despite the chill of the evening air. He heard the click of his bedroom door as it opened behind him and relief spilled through him, though he did not stop playing. “Will,” he said, after a moment. “Will, is that you?”
There was only silence, uncharacteristic of Will. Perhaps Will was annoyed about something. Jem lowered his bow and turned, frowning. “Will —” he began.
But it wasn’t Will at all. A girl stood hesitantly in the doorway of his room. A girl in a white nightgown with a dressing-gown thrown over it. Her gray eyes were pale in the moonlight, but calm, as if nothing about his appearance startled her. She was the warlock girl, he realized suddenly; the one Will had told him about earlier, but Will had not mentioned the quality of stillness about her that made Jem feel calm despite his longing for the drug, or the small smile on her lips that lit her face. She must have been there for quite a few moments, listening to him play: the evidence that she had enjoyed it was in her expression, in the dreamy tilt of her head.
“You’re not Will,” he said, and immediately realized that this was a terrifically stupid thing to say. As she began to smile, he felt an answering smile beginning on his own lips — for such a long time Will had always been the person he wanted most to see when he was like this, and now, for the first time, he found himself glad not to see his parabatai, but someone else instead.
A very early conversation between Will and Tessa in which the nature of their escape was much different, and in which the Dark House was actually a working brothel of clockwork prostitutes.
Will handed Tessa up into the carriage, then swung himself up after her, shouting “Thomas! Go! Go!” at the driver, who cracked the reins. The carriage lurched forward as Will yanked the door shut, sending Tessa tumbling again him.
“Steady on,” he said, and reached for her, but Tessa had already pulled away, settling into the seat opposite his. She yanked the curtain back from the window and stared out—there was the dirty street, the shabby buildings crowding in on either side. As the carriage whipped forward, they passed the alley she had spent so many days staring at—it was there, and then gone as they careened around a corner, nearly knocking over a costermonger pushing a donkey cart piled high with new potatoes. Tessa screamed.
Will reached past her and yanked the curtain shut. “It’s better if you don’t look,” he told her pleasantly.
“He’s going to kill someone. Or get us killed.”
“No, he won’t. Thomas is an excellent driver.”
Tessa glared at him. “Clearly the word excellent means something else on this side of the Atlantic.” The carriage lurched again, and Tessa clutched at the seat, squeezing her eyes shut. Her head was spinning, and not just from the movement of the carriage: it was the first time she had been outside the Red Room in over a month, and the sounds of the street outside, even filtered through the closed windows, seemed to echo inside her head like the booming of a drum. She heard Will, distantly, calling something out to the driver; the carriage slowed, and Tessa’s grip on the seat relaxed slightly, the dizziness abating. She opened her eyes, and saw Will looking at her curiously. “Did you tell him where we were going?” she croaked.
“Yes,” he said, “although I can’t help finding it odd that someone like you would have a brother with an address in Mayfair.”
Tessa blinked at him. “Someone like me?”
“A prostitute,” said Will.
Tessa’s mouth dropped open. “I am not a—a—”
“A prostitute?” Will said again, raising his eyebrows.
Tessa shut her mouth with a snap. “What a horrible thing to say. If that’s your idea of a joking way to insult me—”
“I never joke,” said Will, “or at least, I only joke when the occasion truly warrants it, which this one does not. I assumed you were a prostitute due to your presence in what can only be termed a brothel.”
Tessa stared at him.
“You can’t expect me to believe you were entirely ignorant of the Darke House’s function?” Will inquired. “You must have seen what was going on.”
“I told you, I was never allowed out of that room.”
“I didn’t realize that meant no one else was ever allowed in,” Will said.
“What—oh, ugh. Ugh. There’s something horribly wrong with you, isn’t there? It’s like you can’t stop saying awful things.”
Will’s eyebrows went up; despite her anger, confusion, and horror, somehow Tessa couldn’t stop herself from noticing that they made perfect dark half-circles above his eyes. “Now you sound like Jem.”
“Never mind that,” said Will. “I’m trying to figure out how someone could live in a brothel for a month and not notice. You must be terribly dull-witted.”
“If it helps at all, it seemed to be quite a high-class establishment. Nicely furnished, fairly clean…”
“Sounds as if you’ve visited your fair share of brothels,” Tessa said, sourly. “Making a study of them?”
“More of a hobby,” said Will, and smiled like a bad angel. Before Tessa could say anything in return, the carriage jerked to a stop. “Seems that we’re here,” Will announced, and Tessa reached past him to pull back the curtain across the window; she stared out and saw that the carriage had drawn up in front of a tall Georgian townhouse in a pretty square lined with trees and other, similar houses. There was a iron-railed fence around the house, the number 89 marked prominently in silver numbers on the gate.
Will’s perspective on his kiss with Tess in Clockwork Angel, pages 285-292.
Will Herondale was burning.
This was not the first time he had consumed vampire blood, and he knew the pattern of the sickness. First there was a feeling of giddiness and euphoria, as if one had drunk too much gin — the brief period of pleasant drunkenness before the morbs set in. Then pain, starting at the toes and fingertips, working its way up as if lines of gunpowder had been laid across his body and were burning their way toward his heart.
He had heard the pain was not so great for humans: that their blood, thinner and weaker than Shadowhunter blood, did not fight the demon disease as Nephilim blood did. He was vaguely aware when Sophie came in with the holy water, splashing him with the cool stuff as she set the buckets down and went out again. Sophie’s hatred of him was as reliable as fog in London; he could feel it coming off her whenever she got near him. The force of it lifted him up onto his elbows now. He pulled a bucket close to him and upended it over his head, opening his mouth to swallow what he could.
For a moment, it doused the fire burning through his veins entirely. The pain receded, except for the throbbing in his head. He lay back down carefully, crooking an arm over his face to block the dim illumination coming from the low windows. His fingers seemed to trail light as they moved. He heard’s Jem’s voice in his head, scolding him for risking himself. But the face he saw against his eyelids wasn’t Jem.
She was looking at him. The very darkest voice of his conscience, the reminder that he could protect no one, and last of all himself. Looking the way he had the last time he had seen her; she never changed, which was how he knew she was a figment of his imagination.
“Cecily,” he whispered. “Cecy, for the love of God, let me be.”
“Will?” That startled him; she appeared to him often, but rarely spoke. She reached her hand out, and he would have reached for her, too, had not the clang and clatter of metal brought him out of his reverie. He cleared his throat.
“Back, are you, Sophie?” Will said. “I told you if you brought me another one of those infernal pails, I’d—”
“It’s not Sophie,” came the reply. “It’s me. Tessa.”
The hammering of his own pulse filled his ears. Cecily’s image faded and vanished against his eyelids. Tessa. Why had they sent her? Did Charlotte hate him as much as all that? Was this meant to be a sort of object lesson to her in the indignities and dangers of Downworld? When he opened his eyes he saw her standing in front of him, still in her velvet dress and gloves. Her dark curls were startling against her pale skin and her cheekbone was freckled, lightly, with blood, probably Nathaniel’s.
Your brother, he knew he should say. How is he? It must have been a shock to see him. There is nothing worse than seeing someone you love in danger.
But it had been years, and he had learned to swallow the words he wanted to say, transform them. Somehow they were talking about vampires, about the virus and how it was transmitted. She gave him the pail with a grimace — good, she should be disgusted by him — and he used it again to quench the fire, to still the burning in his veins and throat and chest.
“Does that help?” she asked, watching him with her clear gray eyes. “Pouring it over your head like that?”
Will imagined how he must look to her, sitting on the floor with a bucket over his head, and made a strangled noise, almost a laugh. Oh, the glamour of Shadowhunting! The warrior life he had dreamed of as a child!
“The questions you ask . . .” he began. Someone else, someone not Tessa, might have perhaps apologized for asking but she only stood still, watching him like a curious bird. He did not think he had ever seen someone with eyes the color of hers before: it was the color of gray mist blowing in from the sea in Wales.
You could not lie to someone with eyes that reminded you of your childhood.
“The blood makes me feverish, makes my skin burn,” he admitted. “I can’t get cool. But, yes, the water helps.”
“Will,” Tessa said. When he looked up again, she seemed to be haloed by light like an angel, though he knew it was the vampire blood blurring his vision. Suddenly she was moving toward him, gathering her skirts out of the way to sit by him on the floor. He wondered why she was doing that, and realized to his own horror that he had asked her to. He imagined the vampire disease in his body, breaking down his blood, weakening his will. He knew, intellectually, that he had drunk enough holy water to kill the disease before it could burrow into his bones, and that he could not put his lack of control down to the sickness. And yet — she was so close to him, close enough that he could feel the heat radiating from her body.
“You never laugh,” she was saying. “You behave as if everything is funny to you, but you never laugh. Sometimes you smile when you think no one is paying attention.”
He wanted to close his eyes. Her words went through him like the clean slice of a seraph blade, lighting his nerves on fire. He’d had no idea she had observed him so closely, or so accurately. “You,” he replied. “You make me laugh. From the moment you hit me with that bottle. Not to mention the way that you always correct me. With that funny look on your face when you do it. And the way you shouted at Gabriel Lightwood. And even the way you talked back to de Quincey. You make me . . .”
His voice trailed off. He could feel the cold water trickling down his back, over his chest, against his heated skin. Tessa sat only inches from him, smelling of powder and perfume and perspiration. Her damp curls curled against her cheeks, and her eyes were wide on him, her pale pink lips slightly parted. She reached up to push back a lock of her hair, and, feeling like he was drowning, he reached out for her hand. “There’s still blood,” he said, inarticulately. “On your gloves.”
She began to draw away, but Will would not let her go; he was drowning, still, drowning, and he could not release her. He turned her small right hand over. He had the strongest desire to reach for her entirely, to pull her against him and fold her in his arms, to encompass her slim, strong body with his. He bent his head, glad she could not see his face as the blood rushed up into it. Her gloves were ragged, torn where she had clawed at her brother’s manacles. With a flick of his fingers, he opened the pearl buttons that kept her glove closed, baring her wrist.
He could hear himself breathing. Heat spread through his body — not the unnatural heat of vampire sickness, but the more ordinary flush of desire. The skin of her wrist was translucently pale, the blue veins visible beneath. He could see the flutter of her pulse, feel the warmth of her breath against his cheek. He stroked the softness of her wrist with the tips of his fingers and half-closed his eyes, imagining his hands on her body, the smooth skin of her upper arms, the silkiness of the legs hidden beneath her voluminous skirts. “Tessa,” he said, as if she had the slightest idea the effect she was having on him. There were women who might have, but Tessa was not one of them. “What do you want from me?”
“I—I want to understand you,” she whispered.
The thought was quite horrifying. “Is that really necessary?”
“I’m not sure anyone does understand you,” she breathed, “except possibly Jem.”
Jem. Jem had given up on understanding him long ago, Will thought. Jem was a study in how you could love someone entirely without understanding them at all. But most people were not Jem.
“But perhaps he only wants to know that there is a reason,” she was saying. Her gaze was fierce. Nothing stopped her arguing, he thought, or caring: in that way, she was like Jem: loss did not make her bitter, and betrayal did not beat down her faith. Unconsciously, she moved to draw her hand back, to gesture passionately, and he caught at it, slipping the glove off her hand. She gasped as if he had put his hands on her body, blood rising to stain her cheeks. Her bare, small hand, which curled like a dove inside his, went still. He lifted it to his mouth, his cheek, kissing her skin: brushing his lips across her knuckles, down to her wrist. He heard her cry out in a low voice, and lifted his head to see her sitting perfectly still, her hand held out, her eyes closed and her lips half-open.
He had kissed girls, other girls, when basic physical desire overcame common sense, in dark corners at parties or under the mistletoe. Quick, hurried kisses, most of them, although some surprisingly expert — where had Elspeth Mayburn learned how to do what she did with her teeth, and why had no one ever told her it wasn’t a good idea? — but this was different.
Before there had been controlled tension, a deliberate decision to give into what his body asked for, divorced from any other feeling. Cut free of any emotion at all. But this — this was heat flowering through his chest, shortening his breath, sending a tide of goosebumps over his skin. This was a feeling of pain when he let her hand go, a sickness of loss cured only when he pulled her toward him across the splintery wooden floor, his hands cupping the back of her neck as his lips descended on hers with equal parts tenderness and fierceness.
Her mouth opened under his, hesitant, and some corner of his mind cried out to him to slow his pace, that by any reasonable guess this was her first kiss. He forced his hands to slow down, to gently unclasp the fastenings in her hair and smooth the curls down over her shoulders and back, his fingertips tracing light patterns on her soft cheekbones, her bare shoulders. Her hair felt like warm silk running through his fingers and her body, pressed against his, was all softness. Her hands were light as feathers on the back of his neck, in his hair; when he drew her closer, she made a low sound against his mouth that nearly drove every last thought from his head. He began to bend her back toward the floor, moving his body over hers —
And froze. Panic rushed through his blood in a boiling flood as he saw the whole fragile structure he had built up around himself shatter, all because of this, this girl, who broke his control like nothing else ever had. He tore his mouth from her, pushing her away, the force of his terror nearly knocking her over. She stared at him through the tangled curtain of her hair, her face pale with shock.
“God in Heaven,” he whispered. “What was that?”
Her bewilderment was plain on her face. His heart contracted, pumping self-loathing through his veins. The one time, he thought. The only time —
“Tessa,” he said. “I think you had better go.”
“Go?” Her lips parted; they were swollen from his kisses. It was like looking at a wound he had inflicted, and at the same time, he wanted nothing more than to kiss her again. “I should not have been so forward. I’m sorry —”
“God.” The word surprised him; he had stopped believing in God a long time ago, and now he had invoked him twice. The pain on her face was almost more than he could bear, and not least because he had not intended to hurt her. So often, he intended to hurt and to wound, and this time he had not — not in the least — and he had caused more hurt than he could imagine. He wanted nothing more than to reach out and take her in his arms, not even to satisfy his desire but to impart tenderness. But doing so would only worsen the situation beyond imagining. “ Just leave me alone now,” he heard himself say. “Tessa. I’m begging you. Do you understand? I’m begging you. Please, please leave.”
Her reply came, finally, stiff with hurt and anger. “Very well,” she said, though it was clearly not. He chanced a look at her out of the corner of his eye: she was proud, she would not cry. She did not bother to gather up the hair clips he had scattered; she only rose to her feet and turned her back on him.
He deserved no better, he knew. He he had thrown himself at her with no regard for her reputation or the indecorousness of his passion. Jem would have thought of it. Jem would have been more careful of her feelings. And once upon a time, he thought, as her footsteps receded, so would he. But he no longer knew how to be that person. He had covered up that Will for so long with pretense that it was the pretense he reached for first, and not the reality. He dug his nails into the floorboards, welcoming the pain, for it was little compared to the pain of knowing that he had lost more than Tessa’s good opinion this evening. He had lost Will Herondale. And he did not know if he could ever get him back.
Takes place at the beginning of Chapter 9, “The Enclave”.
Will kicked his heels impatiently against the legs of the library table. If Charlotte were there, she would have told him to stop damaging the furniture, though half the furniture in the library already bore the marks of years of abuse — chips in the pillars where he and Jem had been practicing swordplay outside the training room, scuffed shoe-prints on the windowseats where he’d sat for hours reading. Books with turned-down pages and broken spines, fingerprints on the walls. Of course if Charlotte were there, they wouldn’t be doing what they were currently doing, either, which was watching Tessa Change form from herself to Camille and back again. Jem sat beside Will on the library table, occasionally calling out encouragement or advice. Will, leaning back on his hands with an apple he had stolen from the kitchen beside him, was pretending to be barely paying attention. But paying attention he was. Tessa was pacing up and down the room, her hands clenched at her sides in concentration. It was fascinating to watch her Change: there was a ripple, as of the smooth water of a pond disturbed by a thrown pebble, and her dark hair would thread through with blond, her body curving and changing in such a way that Will found it impossible to pull his eyes away. It was not usually considered polite to stare at a lady in such a direct way, and yet he was glad of the chance . . .
He was, wasn’t he? He blinked his eyes as if meaning to clear his head. Camille was beautiful — one of the most beautiful women he’d ever seen. But her beauty left him cold. It was, as he had said to Jem, like a dead flower pressed under glass. If his heart was beating hard and his gaze was caught, it was by Tessa herself. He told himself it was the fascination of such unusual magic, not the rather adorable scowl that twisted her features when she had difficulty capturing Camille’s gliding walk — or the way her dress slipped away from her collarbones and down her shoulder when she turned back into herself, or the way her dark hair, coming unpinned, clung to her cheeks and neck as she shook her head in frustration — He picked up the apple by his side and began ostentatiously polishing it on his shirtfront, hoping it would hide the sudden shaking in his hands. Feelings for Tessa Gray were not acceptable. Feelings for anyone were dangerous, but feelings for a girl who was actually living in the Institute — someone who had become an intricate part of their plans, who he could not avoid — were especially so.
He knew what he had to do in such a circumstance. Drive her away; hurt her; make her hate him. And yet everything in him rebelled against the idea. It was because she was alone, vulnerable, he told himself. It would be such a great cruelty to do it . . .
She stopped where she was, throwing her arms up, and making a noise of frustration. “I simply cannot walk in that manner!” she exclaimed. “The way Camille simply seems to glide . . .”
“You point your feet out too much when you walk,” Will said, though it wasn’t strictly true. It was as cruel as he felt he could be, and Tessa rewarded him with a sharp look of reproof.. “Camille walks delicately. Like a faun in the woods. Not like a duck.”
“I do not walk like a duck.”
“I like ducks,” Jem said. “Especially the ones in Hyde Park.” He grinned sideways at Will, and Will knew what he was remembering: he was remembering the same thing. “Remember when you tried to convince me to feed a poultry pie to the mallards in the park to see if you could breed a race of cannibal ducks?”
He felt Jem shake with laughter beside him. What Jem did not know was that Will’s feelings about ducks — and yes, he knew it was ridiculous to have complicated feelings about waterfowl, but he could not help it — were caught up with his memories of his childhood. In Wales, there had been a duck pond in front of the manor. As a child, Will had often gone out to throw bits of stale bread to the ducks. It amused him to watch them quacking and fighting over the remains of his breakfast toast. Or it did, until one of the ducks — a particularly large mallard – upon realizing that Will had no more bread in his pockets, raced at the boy and bit him sharply on the finger.
Will had only been six years old, and had retreated posthaste to the house, where Ella, already eight and immeasurably superior, had burst out laughing at his story and then bandaged up his finger. Will would have thought no more about it had it not been that on the next morning, upon leaving the house through the kitchen door, meaning to play the back garden, he had been arrested by the sight of the same black mallard, its beady eyes fixed on him. Before Will could move, it had darted at him and bitten him viciously on his other hand; by the time he had an opportunity to yell, the offending bird had vanished into the shrubbery.
This time, when Ella bandaged his finger, she said, “What did you do to the poor creature, Will? I’ve never heard of a duck planning revenge before.”
“Nothing!” Will protested indignantly. “I just didn’t have any more bread for it, so it bit me.”
Ella gave him a doubting look. But that night, before Will went to bed, he drew back the curtains of his bedroom to look out on the stars — and saw, motionless in the middle of the courtyard, the small black figure of a duck, eyes fixed on his bedroom window.
His yell brought Ella running. Together they stared out the window at the duck, which appeared ready to remain there all night. Finally, Ella shook her head. “I shall manage this,” she said, and with a toss of her black braids, she stalked downstairs.
Through the window, Will saw her come out of the house. She marched up to the duck and bent down over it. For a moment, they appeared to be in intense conversation. After a few minutes, she straightened up, and the duck spun round, and with a final shake of its tailfeathers, strode out of the courtyard. Ella turned and came back inside.
When she returned to Will’s room, he was sitting on the bed and looking up at her with enormous eyes. “What did you do?”
She smiled smugly. “We came to an agreement, the duck and I.”
“What kind of agreement?”
Ella bent down and, brushing aside his thick black curls, kissed his forehead. “Nothing you need to worry about, cariad. Go to sleep.”
Will did, and the duck never bothered him again. For years afterward he would ask Ella what she had done to get rid of the blasted thing, and she would only shake with silent laughter and say nothing. When he had fled from his house after her death, and was halfway to London, he had remembered her kissing him on the forehead — an unusual gesture for Ella, who was not as openly affectionate as Cecily, who he could never seen to detach from clinging on to his sleeves — and the memory had been like a hot knife going into him; he had curled up around the pain and cried.
Throwing poultry pies at the ducks in the park had been helpful, oddly; he had thought Ella, Ella, at first, but Jem’s laughter had blown away some of the pain of the memory, and he had only thought how glad his sister would have been to have seen him laughing there in that green space, and how he had once had people who loved him, and still did now, even if it was only one.
“They ate it too,” Will said, taking a bite of his apple. He was practiced enough now that he knew none of what he had been thinking showed on his face. “Bloodthirsty little beasts. Never trust a duck.”
Tessa looked at him sideways, and for a single moment, Will had the unnerving feeling that perhaps she saw through him better than he had imagined. She was Tessa then; her eyes were gray as the sea, and for a long pause all he could do was look at her, all else forgotten — apples, vampires, ducks, and everything else in the world that was not Tessa Gray.
“Ducks,” Jem muttered beside him, too low for Tessa to hear. “You are mad, you know that?”
Will dropped his eyes from Tessa’s. “Oh, I know.”
A deleted bit of the conversation between Jem and Tessa on Blackfriars Bridge in which Jem talks more about his heritage and the state of relations between Britain and China during and after the Opium Wars.
“There was a place in China,” said Jem, “called the Yuánmíng Yuán. The Gardens of Perfect Brightness. It was an Imperial residence. My mother went there to visit the Emperor once, a sort of ambassadorial visit from the Nephilim. She said it was the most beautiful place she had ever been. There were exquisite gardens, paintings, music, beautiful pavilions. They called it ‘the Garden of gardens.'” He looked out over the water. “Fifteen years ago the British tore it to the ground. Reprisals for something that happened during the Arrow War. They killed the guards, stole anything they thought they could sell, and set the palace on fire. It took three days to burn. There’s nothing left of all that beauty now but silent stones and scorched earth.”
“I’m sorry,” Tessa told him, having no idea what else she could possibly say.
“No one here cares, of course,” said Jem. “They have never heard of the Gardens. Lord Elgin was the one who ordered the Gardens burned; for that, they made him viceroy of India. He is a celebrated man now. For what he did in my country I should hate him and all the Englishmen like him.”
His voice was cool and clear, and sent a shiver up Tessa’s spine. Across the bridge from them, the strolling couple had paused at a parapet; the man seemed to be pointing down at something at the water, the woman nodding as he spoke. “And do you? Hate them?”
“It does not matter,” said Jem. “I am more than anything else a Shadowhunter. I am a brother to the Nephilim of England more than I am a brother to any mundane of the land where I was born. And when Nephilim look at me, they see only a Shadowhunter. It is the mundanes who look at me and see something they do not understand—a boy who is not quite white and not quite foreign either.”
“Just as I am not human, and not demon either,” Tessa said softly.
His eyes softened. “You are human,” he said. “Never think you are not. I have seen you with your brother; I know how you care for him. If you can feel hope, guilt, sorrow, love—then you are human.”
“You know,” said Nate, “I’m feeling rather parched—I think I’d like some tea. If we could ring for a servant?”
“Oh, dear, you must be parched. I’m afraid I’ve been a most negligent hostess.” Jessamine rose, all distress. “There are no bells in the library, but I’ll get Sophie and have her ask Agnes to make up a tray for you.”
She hurried from the room, smoothing her skirts down as she went. Nate watched her go with an appreciative glance before turning back to Tessa, who shot him a dubious look.
“You don’t really want tea,” she said. “You hate tea.”
“I do, but I love my little sister.” He grinned at her. “You were looking miserable. I take it you don’t like Jessamine much? Why not? She seems delightful to me.”
“She is delightful to you. Not so much to the rest of us.” Tessa thought of Jessamine clinging to her in Hyde Park and hesitated. “It’s just—she’s like a child. Cruel sometimes and kind other times, at a whim. Other people aren’t real to her. Of course she likes you—you’re not a Shadowhunter. She despises Shadowhunters.”
“Does she?” Nate’s voice deepened the way it did when he was genuinely interested in something.
Many strange things have happened to me since I last wrote you. I was rescued most unexpectedly from the Dark House by a cross young man named Will. He is very vexing. His manners are rude, his speech is ungentlemanly. He does not have the most genteel sympathies, and his eyes are an irritating shade of blue. However, he does seem dedicated to helping me find you, and so for the first time in a long while I have a belief that with the help of my new friends you and I may be reunited…