Chain of Iron – Cassandra Clare

A smoky winter fog had settled atop the city of London, reaching its pale tendrils across the streets, wreathing the buildings in dull tinsel. It cast a gray pallor over ruined trees as Lucie Herondale drove her carriage up the long, neglected drive toward Chiswick House, its roof rising from the fog like the top of a Himalayan peak above clouds. With a kiss on the nose and a blanket over his withers, she left her horse, Balios, at the foot of the front steps and set off through the remains of the terraced garden. She passed the cracked and ruined statues of Virgil and Sophocles, now overgrown by long tendrils of vines, their limbs broken off and lying among the weeds. Other statues were partially hidden by overhanging trees and unpruned hedges, as if they were being devoured by the dense foliage. Picking her way over a toppled rose arbor, Lucie finally reached the old brick shed in the garden. Its roof was long since gone; Lucie felt a bit as if she’d come across an abandoned shepherd’s hut on the moors. A thin finger of gray smoke was even rising from within. If this were The Beautiful Cordelia, a mad but handsome duke would come staggering across the heath, but nothing ever happened as it did in books. All around the shed she could see small mounds of earth where, over the past four months, she and Grace had buried the unsuccessful results of their experimentation—the unfortunate bodies of fallen birds or cat-slain rats and mice that they had tried over and over to bring back to life. Nothing had worked yet. And Grace didn’t even know all of it. She remained unaware of Lucie’s power to command the dead. She did not know that Lucie had tried ordering the small bodies to come back to life, had tried reaching within them to catch at something she could draw into the world of the living. But it had never worked.

Whatever part of them Lucie might have been able to command had fled with their deaths. She had mentioned none of that to Grace. Lucie gave a philosophic shrug and went up to the massive wooden slab of a door—she did sometimes question what the point was of having a door on a building that didn’t have any roof—and tapped a coded pattern: one two, one two. Instantly she heard someone crossing the floor and turning the bolt, and the door swung open. Grace Blackthorn stood in the doorway, her face set and serious. Even in the foggy weather, her hair, loose around her shoulders, glinted silvery bright. “You’ve come,” she said, sounding more surprised than pleased. “I said I would.” Lucie pushed past Grace. The shed had a single room inside with a floor of packed earth, now partly frozen.

A table had been pushed against the wall under the Blackthorn family sword, which hung from coarsely forged iron hooks. On the table a makeshift laboratory had been constructed: there were rows of alembics and glass bottles, a mortar and pestle, and dozens of test tubes. An assortment of packets and tins took up the rest of the table, some lying open, others emptied and collected in a pile. Next to the table was a fire that had been laid directly on the ground, the source of the smoke escaping from the missing roof. The fire was unnaturally silent, emanating not from wood logs but from a mound of stones, its greenish flames licking greedily upward as though seeking to consume the iron cauldron suspended from a hook above it. The cauldron held a simmering black brew that smelled earthy and chemical at the same time. Lucie approached a second, larger table slowly. On it rested a coffin. Through its glass lid she could see Jesse, exactly as he’d appeared when they were last together—white shirt, black hair lying soft against the nape of his neck. His eyelids were pale half-moons.

She had not confined herself to birds and bats and mice. She had tried commanding Jesse to come back to life too, though she had been able to do it only during the short periods when Grace had gone to fetch something and left her alone with Jesse’s body. She had fared even worse with that than she had with the animals. Jesse was not empty, as the animals were—she could feel something inside him: a life, a force, a soul. But whatever it was, it was anchored in the space between life and death, and she could not shift it. Even trying made her feel ill and weak, as if she were doing something wrong. “I wasn’t sure if you were still coming,” Grace said crossly. “I’ve been waiting forever. Did you get the thorn-apple?” Lucie reached in her pocket for the tiny packet. “It was hard to get away.

And I can’t stay long. I’m meeting Cordelia tonight.” Grace took the packet and tore it open. “Because the wedding’s tomorrow? But what’s it got to do with you?” Lucie looked at Grace hard, but the other girl seemed genuinely not to understand. Often Grace didn’t seem to grasp why people did things if the answer was because that’s how friends behave or because that’s what you do for someone you’re fond of . “I’m Cordelia’s suggenes,” she said. “I walk her down the aisle, but I also provide help and support before the ceremony. Tonight I’m going out with her to—” Whoosh. Grace had upended the packet into the cauldron. A flash of flame licked toward the ceiling, then a puff of smoke.

It smelled of vinegar. “You don’t have to tell me. I’m sure Cordelia is not fond of me.” “I’m not going to discuss Cordelia with you,” said Lucie, coughing a little. “Well, I wouldn’t like me, if I were her,” said Grace. “But we don’t have to discuss anything. I didn’t ask you here for chitchat.” She gazed down at the cauldron. Fog and smoke collided together in the little room, surrounding Grace with a nebulous halo. Lucie rubbed her own gloved hands together, her heart beating quickly as Grace began to speak: “Hic mortui vivunt.

Igni ferroque, ex silentio, ex animo. Ex silentio, ex animo! Resurget!” As Grace chanted, the concoction began to boil more rapidly, the flames beginning to hiss, rising higher and higher, reaching the cauldron. A bit of the mixture bubbled over the side of the cauldron, splattering onto the ground. Lucie instinctively jumped back as green stalks burst out of the ground, growing stems and leaves and buds as they shot up almost as high as her knees. “It’s working!” she gasped. “It’s really working!” A quick spasm of delight passed over Grace’s normally expressionless face. She started toward the coffin, and Jesse— As quickly as they had sprung up, the blooms withered and dropped from the stems. It was like seeing time itself speed faster. Lucie watched helplessly as the leaves fell away, and the stalks dried and crackled and snapped under their own weight. Grace stood frozen, staring down at the dead flowers lying in the dirt.

She glanced at the coffin— but Jesse had not moved. Of course he had not moved. Grace’s shoulders were stiff with disappointment. “I’ll ask Christopher for fresher samples next time,” Lucie said. “Or more powerful reagents. There has to be something we’re not getting right.” Grace went to stand over her brother’s coffin. She placed the palm of her hand against the glass. Her lips moved, as if she were whispering something; Lucie could not tell what. “The problem isn’t the quality of the ingredients,” she said in a cold, small voice.

“The problem is that we’re relying too much on science. Activators, reagents—science is woefully limited when it comes to feats like the one we are attempting.” “How would you know?” Grace looked at her coldly. “I know you think I’m stupid because I never had any tutoring,” she said, “but I did manage to read a few books while I was in Idris. In fact, I made it through most of the library.” Lucie had to admit that Grace was at least partially right—she’d had no idea Grace was interested in reading, or in anything really besides torturing men and raising Jesse from the dead. “If we don’t rely on science, what are you proposing?” “The obvious. Magic.” Grace spoke as if she were instructing a child. “Not this—this child’s play, working spells we got from a book my mother didn’t even bother to keep hidden.

” She practically spat the words with contempt. “We must draw power from the only place it can be found.” Lucie swallowed. “You mean necromancy. Taking power from death and using it to work magic on the dead.” “Some would consider that kind of magic evil. But I call it necessary.” “Well, I would call it evil,” Lucie said, unable to keep her frustration from her voice. Grace seemed to have come to a decision without her, which was definitely not in the spirit of their partnership. “And I don’t want to do evil things.

” Grace shook her head dismissively, as though Lucie was making a fuss over nothing. “We must speak to a necromancer about this.” Lucie hugged her elbows. “A necromancer? Surely not. The Clave would forbid it even if we could find one.” “And there’s a reason for that,” Grace retorted sharply, gathering up her skirts. She seemed ready to stalk out of the shed. “What we have to do is not altogether good. Not … the way most people think of good, at any rate. But you already knew that, Lucie, so you can stop pretending to be so much better than me.

” “Grace, no.” Lucie moved to block the door. “I don’t want that, and I don’t think Jesse would want that either. Could we not speak to a warlock? Someone the Clave trusts?” “The Clave may trust them, but I do not.” Grace’s eyes burned. “I decided we should work together because Jesse seemed to like you. But you have known my brother very little time, and never when he was alive. You are hardly an expert. I am his sister, and I will bring him back—whatever I need to do, and however I need to do it. Do you understand, Lucie?” Grace took a deep breath.

“It is time to decide whether you care more about the precious sanctity of your own life than you care about giving my brother back his.” * * * Cordelia Carstairs winced as Risa fixed the tortoiseshell comb more tightly in place. It anchored a heavy coil of dark red hair, which the lady’s maid had convinced her to put up in an elaborate style she promised was very popular. “You needn’t go to all this trouble tonight,” Cordelia had protested. “It’s just a sledding party. My hair’s going to end up a mess no matter how many pins and combs you poke into it.” Risa’s disapproving look had prevailed. Cordelia assumed she felt that her charge should be making an effort to look good for her fiancé. After all, Cordelia was marrying James Herondale, a catch by any standards of society, Shadowhunter or mundane—handsome, rich, well-connected, and kind. There was no point in saying that it didn’t matter how she looked.

James wouldn’t care if she showed up in an opera gown, or stark naked for that matter. But there was nothing to be gained in trying to explain that to Risa. In fact, it was much too risky to explain it to anyone. “Dokhtare zibaye man, tou ayeneh khodet ra negah kon,” said Risa, holding up a silver hand mirror for Cordelia. My beautiful daughter, look in the glass. “It looks lovely, Risa,” Cordelia had to admit. The pearl combs were striking against her dark ruby hair. “But how will you ever top this tomorrow?” Risa just winked. At least someone was looking forward to the next day, Cordelia thought. Every time she thought about her wedding, she wanted to jump out of the window.

Tomorrow she would sit for the last time in this room, while her mother and Risa wove silk flowers into her long, heavy hair. Tomorrow she would have to appear as happy a bride as she was an elaborately dressed one. Tomorrow, if Cordelia was very lucky, most of her wedding guests would be distracted by her clothes. One could always hope. Risa smacked her lightly on the shoulder. Cordelia rose obediently, taking one last deep breath before Risa tightened the laces of her corset, pushing her breasts up and straightening her spine. The nature of the corset, Cordelia thought irritably, was to make a woman aware of every minute way that her shape differed from society’s impossible ideal. “Enough!” she protested as the whalebone stays cut into her skin. “I did hope to eat at the party, you know.” Risa rolled her eyes.

She held up a green velvet dress and Cordelia stepped into it. Risa guided the long, fitted sleeves up her arms, adjusting the frothy white lace at the cuffs and neckline. Then came the process of fastening each of the tiny buttons that ran up the back of the dress. The fit was snug; without the corset Cordelia would never have managed it. The Herondale ring, the visible sign of her engagement, gleamed on her left hand as she lifted her arm so that Risa could arrange Cortana across her back. “I should hurry down,” Cordelia said as Risa handed her a small silk handbag and a muff to warm her hands. “James is hardly ever late.” Risa nodded briskly, which for her was the equivalent of a warm hug goodbye. It was true, Cordelia thought, as she rustled down the stairway. James was hardly ever late.

It was the duty of a fiancé to escort a lady to parties and dinners, fetch lemonade and fans, and generally dance attendance. James had played his part to perfection. All season long he had faithfully partnered her at all sorts of eye-wateringly boring Enclave events, but outside of those occasions, she barely saw him. Sometimes he would join her and the rest of his friends for excursions that were actually enjoyable—afternoons in the Devil Tavern, tea at Anna’s—but even then he seemed distracted and preoccupied. There was little chance to talk about their future, and Cordelia wasn’t sure precisely what she’d say if there was. “Layla?” Cordelia had reached the sword-and-stars-tiled entryway of the house, and at first saw no one there. She realized a moment later that her mother, Sona, stood by the front window, having drawn back one of the curtains with a narrow hand. Her other hand rested on her rounded belly. “It is you,” Sona said. Cordelia couldn’t help noticing that the dark shadows under her mother’s eyes seemed to have deepened.

“Where are you off to, again?” “The Pouncebys’ sledding party on Parliament Hill,” Cordelia said. “They’re dreadful, really, but Alastair’s going and I thought I might as well keep my mind off tomorrow.” Sona’s lips curved into a smile. “It’s quite normal to be nervous before a wedding, Layla joon. I was terrified the night before I married your father. I nearly escaped on a milk train to Constantinople.” Cordelia took a short, sharp breath, and her mother’s smile faltered. Oh, dear, Cordelia thought. It had been a week since her father, Elias Carstairs, had been released from his confinement at the Basilias, the Shadowhunter hospital in Idris. He’d been there for months—much longer than they’d first expected—to cure him of his trouble with alcohol, a fact that all three other members of the Carstairs family knew but never mentioned.

They had expected him home five days ago. But there had been no word save a terse letter sent from France. No promise that he would return by the day of Cordelia’s wedding. It was a wretched situation, made more wretched by the fact that neither Cordelia’s mother nor her brother, Alastair, was willing to discuss it. Cordelia took a deep breath. “Mâmân. I know you’re still hoping Father might arrive in time for the wedding—” “I do not hope; I know,” Sona said. “No matter what has waylaid him, he will not miss his only daughter’s wedding.” Cordelia almost shook her head in wonderment. How could her mother have such faith? Her father had missed so many birthdays, even Cordelia’s first rune, because of his “sickness.

” It was a sickness that had gotten him arrested in the end and sent to the Basilias in Idris. He was meant to be cured now, but his absence so far was not promising. Boots clattered down the stairs, and Alastair appeared in the entrance hall, dark hair flying. He looked handsome in a new tweed winter coat, though he was scowling. “Alastair,” Sona said. “Are you going to this sledding party as well?” “I wasn’t invited.” “That isn’t true,” Cordelia said. “Alastair, I was only going to go because you were!” “I have decided that my invitation was sadly lost in the post,” Alastair said, with a dismissive wave of his hand. “I can entertain myself, Mother. Some of us have things to do and cannot be out cavorting at all hours.

” “Honestly, the two of you,” Sona scolded, shaking her head. This seemed to Cordelia to be highly unfair. She had only corrected Alastair’s untruth. Sona placed her hands in the small of her back and sighed. “I ought to speak to Risa about tomorrow. There’s still so much to be done.” “You should be resting,” Alastair called, as his mother headed down the corridor toward the kitchen. The moment she was out of sight, he turned to Cordelia, his expression stormy. “Was she waiting for Father?” he demanded in a low whisper. “Still? Why must she torment herself?” Cordelia shrugged helplessly.

“She loves him.” Alastair made an inelegant sound. “Chi! Khodah margam bedeh,” he said, which Cordelia thought was very rude. “Love doesn’t always make sense,” she said, and at that, Alastair looked quickly away. He had not mentioned Charles in Cordelia’s presence for some months, and though he’d received letters in Charles’s careful handwriting, Cordelia had found more than one tossed unopened into the dustbin. After a moment, she added, “Still, I wish he would send word that he’s all right, at least—for Mother’s sake.” “He’ll come back in his own time. At the worst possible moment, if I know him.” Cordelia stroked the soft lambswool of her muff with one finger. “Do you not want him to come back, Alastair?” Alastair’s look was opaque.

He had spent years protecting Cordelia from the truth, making excuses for their father’s “bouts of illness” and frequent absences. Some months ago Cordelia had learned the emotional cost of Alastair’s interventions, the invisible scars he worked so diligently to conceal. He seemed about to reply when outside the window, the sound of a horse’s hooves echoed, their tromping muffled by the still-falling snow. The dark shape of a carriage came to a stop by the lamppost in front of the house. Alastair twitched the curtain aside and frowned. “That’s the Fairchilds’ carriage,” he observed. “James couldn’t be bothered to pick you up, so he sent his parabatai to do his job?” “That is not fair,” Cordelia said sharply. “And you know it.” Alastair hesitated. “I suppose.

Herondale has been dutiful enough.” Cordelia watched as Matthew Fairchild leaped lightly down from the carriage outside. She couldn’t stop a flash of fear—what if James had panicked and sent Matthew to break things off with her the night before the wedding? Don’t be ridiculous, she told herself firmly. Matthew was whistling as he came up the front steps. The ground was white with snow, tramped down here and there with boot prints. Flakes had already come to rest on the shoulders of Matthew’s fur-collared greatcoat. Crystals glittered in his blond hair, and his high cheekbones were flushed with cold. He looked like an angel painted by Caravaggio and sugar-dusted with snow. Surely he wouldn’t be whistling if he had bad news to deliver? Cordelia opened the door and found Matthew on the front step, stamping snow from his balmoral boots. “Hello, my dear,” he said to Cordelia.

“I’ve come to bring you to a large hill, which we will both hurtle down on rickety, out-of-control bits of wood.” Cordelia smiled. “Sounds marvelous. What will we do after that?” “Unaccountably,” Matthew said, “we will climb back to the top of the hill in order to do it again. It is some kind of snow-related mania, they say.” “Where’s James?” Alastair interrupted. “You know, the one of you that was supposed to be here.” Matthew regarded Alastair with dislike. Cordelia felt a familiar sinking of her heart. This was how it always went now, when Alastair interacted with any of the Merry Thieves.

Suddenly, a few months ago, they had all become enormously angrier at Alastair, and she had no idea why. She couldn’t bring herself to ask. “James was called away on important business.” “What business?” said Alastair. “No business of yours,” Matthew said, clearly pleased with himself. “Rather walked into that one, eh?” Alastair’s black eyes glittered. “You had best not lead my sister into trouble, Fairchild,” he said. “I know the kind of company you keep.” “Alastair, stop it,” Cordelia said. “Now, are you really skipping out on the Pouncebys’ party or were you just needling Mother? And if the latter, do you wish to accompany Matthew and myself in the carriage?” Alastair’s gaze flicked to Matthew.

“Why,” he said, “are you not even wearing a hat?” “And cover up this hair?” Matthew indicated his golden locks with a flourish. “Would you blot out the sun?” Alastair wore the sort of expression that indicated that no amount of eye rolling would be enough. “I,” he said, “am going for a walk.” He stalked out into the snowy night without another word, the effect of his exit dampened by the snow swallowing up the tread of his boots.

.

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