Clockwork angel, p.33
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       Clockwork Angel, p.33

         Part #1 of The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare
 
Page 33

 

  And among the candelabras moved vampires, their faces as white as clouds, their movements graceful and liquid and strange. Tessa could see their similarities to Camille, the features they shared—the poreless skin, the jewel-colored eyes, the pale cheeks splotched with artificial rouge. Some looked more human than others; many were dressed in the fashions of bygone ages—knee breeches and cravats, skirts as full as Marie Antoinette’s or gathered into trains at the back, lace cuffs and linen frills. Tessa’s gaze scanned the room frantically, searching for a familiar fair-haired figure, but Nathaniel was nowhere to be seen. Instead she found herself trying not to stare at a tall skeletal woman, dressed in the heavily wigged and powdered fashion of a hundred years ago. Her face was stark and dreadful, whiter than the white powder dusting her hair. Her name was Lady Delilah, Camille’s voice whispered in Tessa’s mind. Lady Delilah held a slight figure by the hand, and Tessa’s mind recoiled—a child, in this place?—but when the figure turned, she saw that it was a vampire as well, sunken dark eyes like pits in its rounded childish face. It smiled at Tessa, showing bared fangs.

  “We must look for Magnus Bane,” Will said under his breath. “He is meant to guide us through this mess. I shall point him out if I see him. ”

  She was about to tell Will that Camille would recognize Magnus for her, when she caught sight of a slender man with a shock of fair hair, wearing a black swallowtail coat. Tessa felt her heart leap—and then fall in bitter disappointment as he turned. It was not Nathaniel. This man was a vampire, with a pale, angular face. His hair was not yellow like Nate’s but was almost colorless under the candlelight. He dropped Tessa a wink and began to move toward her, pushing through the crowd. There were not only vampires among them, Tessa saw, but human subjugates as well. They carried gleaming serving trays, and on the trays were sets of empty glasses. Beside the glasses lay an array of silver utensils, all sharp-pointed. Knives, of course, and thin tools like the awls shoemakers used to punch holes in leather.

  As Tessa stared in confusion, one of the subjugates was stopped by the woman in the white powdered wig. She snapped her fingers imperiously, and the darkling—a pale boy in a gray jacket and trousers—turned his head to the side obediently. After plucking a thin awl from the tray with her skinny fingers, the vampire drew the sharp tip across the skin of the boy’s throat, just below his jaw. The glasses rattled on the tray as his hand shook, but he didn’t drop the tray, not even when the woman lifted a glass and pressed it against his throat so that the blood ran down into it in a thin stream.

  Tessa’s stomach tightened with a sudden mixture of revulsion—and hunger; she could not deny the hunger, even though it belonged to Camille and not her. Stronger than the thirst, though, was her horror. She watched as the vampire woman lifted the glass to her lips, the human boy beside her standing gray-faced and trembling as she drank.

  She wanted to reach for Will’s hand, but a vampire baroness would never hold the hand of her human subjugate. She straightened her spine, and beckoned Will to her side with a quick snap of her fingers. He looked up in surprise, then moved to join her, clearly fighting to hide his annoyance. But hide it he must. “Now, don’t go wandering off, William,” she said with a meaningful glance. “I don’t want to lose you in the crowd. ”

  Will’s jaw set. “I’m getting the oddest feeling that you’re enjoying this,” he said under his breath.

  “Nothing odd about it. ” Feeling unbelievably bold, Tessa chucked him under the chin with the tip of her lace fan. “Simply behave yourself. ”

  “They are so hard to train, aren’t they?” The man with the colorless hair emerged out of the crowd, inclining his head toward Tessa. “Human subjugates, that is,” he added, mistaking her startled expression for confusion. “And then once you have them properly trained, they die of something or other. Delicate creatures, humans. All the longevity of butterflies. ”

  He smiled. The smile showed teeth. His skin had the bluish paleness of hardened ice. His hair was nearly white and hung arrow-straight to his shoulders, just brushing the collar of his elegant dark coat. His waistcoat was gray silk, figured with a pattern of twisting silver symbols. He looked like a Russian prince out of a book. “It’s good to see you, Lady Belcourt,” he said, and there was an accent to his voice too, not French—more Slavic. “Did I catch a glimpse of a new carriage through the window?”

  This is de Quincey, Camille’s voice breathed in Tessa’s mind. Images rose up suddenly in her brain, like a fountain turned on, pouring fourth visions instead of water. She saw herself dancing with de Quincey, her hands on his shoulders; she stood by a black stream under the white sky of a northern night, watching as he fed on something pale and sprawled in the grass; she sat motionless at a long table of other vampires, de Quincey at the head of it, as he shouted and screamed at her and brought his fist down so hard that the marble top of the table shivered into cracks. He was shouting at her, something about a werewolf and a relationship she would live to regret. Then she was sitting alone in a room, in the dark, and weeping, and de Quincey came in and knelt by her chair and took her hand, wanting to comfort her, though he had been the one to cause her pain. Vampires can weep? Tessa thought first, and then, They have known each other a long time, Alexei de Quincey and Camille Belcourt. They were friends once, and he thinks they are friends still.

  “Indeed, Alexei,” she said, and as she said it, she knew this was the name she had been trying to recall at the dinner table the other night—the foreign name the Dark Sisters had spoken. Alexei. “I wanted something a bit … roomier. ” She held her hand out, and stood still while he kissed it, his lips cold on her skin.

  De Quincey’s eyes slid past Tessa to Will, and he licked his lips. “And a new subjugate as well, I see. This one is quite fetching. ” He reached out a thin pale hand, and drew his forefinger down the side of Will’s cheek to his jaw. “Such unusual coloring,” he mused. “And these eyes. ”

  “Thank you,” said Tessa, in the manner of one being complimented on an especially tasteful choice of wallpaper. She watched nervously as de Quincey moved even closer to Will, who looked pale and strained. She wondered if he was having trouble holding himself back when surely every one of his nerves was screaming Enemy! Enemy!

  De Quincey trailed his finger from Will’s jaw to his throat, to the point at his collarbone where his pulse beat. “There,” he said, and this time when he smiled, his white fangs were visible. They were sharp and fine at the points, like needles. His eyelids drooped, languorous and heavy, and his voice when he spoke was thick. “You wouldn’t mind, Camille, would you, if I just had a little bite… . ”

  Tessa’s vision went white. She saw de Quincey again, the front of his white shirt scarlet with blood—and she saw a body hanging upside down from a tree at the dark stream’s edge, pale fingers dangling in the black water… .

  Her hand whipped out, faster than she’d ever imagined she could have moved, and caught de Quincey’s wrist. “My darling, no,” she said, a wheedling tone in her voice. “I’d so like to keep him to myself for just a little while. You know how your appetite runs away with you sometimes. ” She lowered her eyelids.

  De Quincey chuckled. “For you, Camille, I will exercise my restraint. ” He drew his wrist away, and for a moment, under the flirtatious poise, Tessa thought she saw a flash of anger in his eyes, quickly masked. “In honor of our long acquaintance. ”

  “Thank you, Alexei. ”

  “Have you given any further thought, my dear,” he said, “to my offer of a membership in the Pandemonium Club? I know the mundanes bore you, but they are a source of funds, nothing more. Those of us on the board are on the verge of some very … exciting discoveries. Power beyond your wildest dreams, Camille. ”

  Tessa waited, but Camille’s inner voice was silent. Why? She fought down panic and managed to smile at de Quincey. “My dreams,” she said, and hoped he would think the hoarseness in her voice was from amusement and not fear,
“may be more wild already than you imagine. ”

  Beside her, she could tell that Will had shot her a surprised look; he quickly schooled his features to blandness, though, and glanced away. De Quincey, his eyes gleaming, only smiled.

  “I ask only that you consider my offer, Camille. And now I must attend to my other guests. I trust I will see you at the ceremony?”

  Dazed, she simply nodded. “Of course. ”

  De Quincey bowed, turned, and vanished into the crowd. Tessa let her breath out. She hadn’t realized she’d been holding it.

  “Don’t,” said Will softly at her side. “Vampires don’t need to breathe, remember. ”

  “My God, Will. ” Tessa realized she was shaking. “He would have bitten you. ”

  Will’s eyes were dark with rage. “I would have killed him first. ”

  A voice spoke at Tessa’s elbow. “And then you would both be dead. ”

  She whirled and saw that a tall man had appeared just behind her, as soundlessly as if he had drifted there like smoke. He wore an elaborate brocade jacket, like something out of the previous century, with a riot of white lace at his collar and cuffs. Below the long jacket Tessa glimpsed knee breeches, and high buckled shoes. His hair was like rough black silk, so dark it had a bluish sheen to it; his skin was brown, the cast of his features like Jem’s. She wondered if perhaps, like Jem, he was of foreign extraction. In one ear he sported a silver loop from which dangled a diamond pendant the size of a finger, which sparkled brilliantly under the lights, and there were diamonds set into the head of his silver walking stick. He seemed to gleam all over, like witchlight. Tessa stared; she had never seen anyone dressed in such a mad fashion.

  “This is Magnus,” said Will quietly, sounding relieved. “Magnus Bane. ”

  “My darling Camille,” Magnus said, bending to kiss her gloved hand. “We have been parted too long. ”

  The moment he touched her, Camille’s memories came rushing up in a flood—memories of Magnus holding her, kissing her, touching her in a distinctly intimate and personal manner. Tessa jerked her hand back with a squeak. And now you reappear, she thought resentfully in Camille’s direction.

  “I see,” he murmured, straightening. His eyes, when he raised them to Tessa’s, nearly made her lose her composure: They were gold-green with slit pupils, the eyes of a cat set in a distinctly human face. They were full of shimmering amusement. Unlike Will, whose eyes held a trace of sadness even when he was amused, Magnus’s eyes were full of a surprising joy. They darted sideways, and he jerked his chin toward the far side of the room, indicating that Tessa should follow him. “Come along, then. There’s a private room where we can talk. ”

  In a daze Tessa followed him, Will at her side. Was she imagining it, or did the white faces of the vampires turn to follow her as she passed? A redheaded female vampire in an elaborate blue dress glared at her as she went; Camille’s voice whispered that the woman was jealous of de Quincey’s regard for her. Tessa was grateful when Magnus finally reached a door—so cleverly set into the paneled wall that she didn’t realize it was a door until the warlock had produced a key. He slid the door open with a soft click. Will and Tessa followed him inside.

 

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