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Learn About Loss (Ghosts of the Shadow Market Book 4), Page 2

Cassandra Clare

  Sweethearts in their Sunday clothes strolled through the gates, arms around each other’s waists. Two boys pelted past, one with tousled black hair. They looked about the age that Will and Jem had been, a very long time ago, when they’d first met. But Will’s hair was white now, and Jem was no longer Jem. He was Brother Zachariah. A few nights ago, he had sat at Will Herondale’s bedside and watched his old friend struggle to draw a breath. Jem’s hand on the coverlet was the hand of a young man still, and Tessa, of course, would never grow old. How must it seem to Will, who loved them both, that he must go on so far ahead of them? But then, Jem had left Will first, and Will had had to let him go. It would only be fair when, soon, Jem would be the one left behind.

  Inside his head, Brother Enoch said, It will be hard. But you will be able to bear it. We will help you bear it.

  I will endure it because I must, Jem said.

  Sister Emilia had stopped, and he caught up with her. She was taking in the carnival, her hands on her hips. “What a thing!” she said. “Did you ever read Pinocchio?”

  “I don’t believe so,” Jem told her. Though he thought that once, when he’d been in the London Institute, he might have heard Tessa reading it to a young James.

  “A wooden puppet yearns to be a real boy,” Sister Emilia said. “And so a fairy gives him his wish, more or less, and he gets into all sorts of trouble at a place that I always thought would look rather like this.”

  Jem said, almost against his will, And does he?

  “Does he what?” Sister Emilia said.

  Does he become real?

  “Well, of course,” Sister Emilia said. Then, saucily, “What kind of story would it be if he only ever got to be a puppet? His father loves him, and that’s how he starts to become real, I guess. I always liked those stories the best, the ones where people could make things or carve things and make them come to life. Like Pygmalion.”

  In his head, Brother Enoch said, She’s quite lively, for an Iron Sister. He didn’t sound exactly disapproving, but neither was it a compliment.

  “Of course,” Sister Emilia said, “you’re something of a story yourself, Brother Zachariah.”

  What do you know of me? Jem said.

  She said, pertly, “That you fought Mortmain. That you once had a parabatai and he became the head of the London Institute. That his wife, the warlock Tessa Gray, wears a pendant that you gave her. But I know something of you that perhaps you do not know yourself.”

  That seems unlikely, Jem said. But go on. Tell me what I do not know about myself.

  “Give me your staff,” Sister Emilia said.

  He gave it to her, and she examined it carefully. “Yes,” she said. “I thought so. This was made by Sister Dayo, whose weapons were so exquisitely wrought that it was rumored an angel had touched her forge. Look. Her mark.”

  It has served me well enough, Jem said. Perhaps one day you too will find renown for the things that you make.

  “One day,” said Sister Emilia. She handed him back the staff. “Perhaps.” There was a formidable glint in her eyes. Jem thought it made her look very young. The world was its own sort of crucible, and in it all dreams were tempered and tested. Many crumbled away entirely, and then you went on without them. In his head his brothers murmured in agreement. After nearly seventy years, Jem was almost used to this. Instead of music, he had this stern brotherly chorus. Once upon a time, he had imagined each of the Silent Brothers as a musical instrument. Brother Enoch, he’d thought, would be a bassoon heard through the high-up window of a desolate lighthouse, the waves crashing down at the base. Yes, yes, Brother Enoch had said. Very poetic. And what are you, Brother Zachariah?

  Jem had tried not to think of his violin. But you couldn’t keep secrets from your Brothers. And that violin had lain silent and neglected for a very long time.

  He said, attempting to think of other things as they walked, Can you tell me if you know anything of an Annabel Blackthorn? An Iron Sister? She and a friend of mine, the warlock Malcom Fade, fell in love and made plans to run away together, but when her family discovered this, they forced her to join the Iron Sisterhood. It would ease his mind to know something of what her life has been in the Adamant Citadel.

  Sister Emilia said, “It’s clear that you know very little about the Iron Sisters! No one is ever forced to join against their will. Indeed, it is a great honor, and many who attempt the path are turned away. If this Annabel became an Iron Sister, she chose that for herself. I know nothing of her, although it’s true that most of us change our names when we are consecrated.”

  Jem said, If you come to know anything of her, my friend would be most grateful. He does not speak of her much, but I believe that she is always in his thoughts.

  When Jem and Sister Emilia passed through the gates of the carnival, the first strange thing they saw was a werewolf eating cotton candy out of a paper cone. Sticky pink strands were caught in his beard.

  “Full moon tonight,” Sister Emilia said. “The Praetor Lupus has sent down some of their people, but it’s said the werewolves here are a law to themselves. They run moonshine and ride roughshod in the mountains. These boys should be steering clear of mundanes this time of the month, not eating cotton candy and peddling rotgut.”

  The werewolf stuck out its tongue at them and sauntered away. “Sauce!” Sister Emilia said, and would have pursued the werewolf.

  Jem said, Hold. There are worse things here than Downworlders with terrible manners and sweet tooths. Can you smell that?

  Sister Emilia wrinkled her nose. “Demon,” she said.

  They followed the smell through the winding alleys of the carnival, through the strangest iteration of the Shadow Market that Jem had ever seen. The Market was, of course, much bigger than you would have expected a carnival, even one of this size, to encompass. Some of the vendors he recognized. Some watched warily as he and Sister Emilia passed. One or two, with looks of resignation, began to pack up their wares. The rules by which Shadow Markets existed were more the rules of long custom than those written down and codified, but everything about this Shadow Market felt wrong to Jem, and the Silent Brothers in his head were all debating how it might have come to be. Even if a Shadow Market had been right and proper in this place, there should not have been mundanes browsing and exclaiming over the strange goods on offer. Here went a man, looking pale and dreamy-eyed, blood still trickling from two neat punctures in his neck.

  “I’ve never actually been to a Shadow Market,” Sister Emilia said, slowing down. “My mother always said it was no place for Shadowhunters and insisted that my brothers and I stay away from it.” She seemed particularly interested in a booth that sold knives and weapons.

  Souvenirs later, Jem said, pushing on. Business first.

  They were suddenly out of the Shadow Market and in front of a stage where a magician was telling jokes as he turned a small shaggy dog into a green melon and then cut the melon in half with a playing card. Inside was a fiery sphere that rose up and hung in the air like a miniature sun. The magician (the sign above his head proclaimed him to be Roland the Astonishing) poured water out of his hat onto it, and the sphere became a mouse and ran off the stage into an audience that gasped and shrieked and then applauded.

  Sister Emilia had stopped to watch, and Jem stopped too.

  She said, “Real magic?”

  Real illusions at least, Jem said. He gestured at the woman who stood at the side of the stage watching the magician perform his tricks.

  The magician looked to be in his sixties, but his companion could have been any age at all. She was clearly of high Fey lineage, and there was a baby in her arms. The way that she watched the magician on the stage made Jem’s chest grow tight. He had seen Tessa look at Will the same way, with that rapt attention and love mingled with the knowledge of future sorrow that must, one day, be endured.

  Brother Enoch said, ag
ain, When the day comes, we will bear it with you.

  A thought came to Jem like an arrow, that when that day came and Will left the world, he did not wish to share his grief with his brothers. That others would be there with him when Will was not. And, too, there was Tessa. Who would stay to help her endure when Jem took the body that Will had left behind back to the Silent City?

  The faerie woman looked out over the crowd and then drew back suddenly behind a velvet curtain. When Jem tried to see what she had seen, he saw a goblin perched on a flag above the top of a nearby tent. It appeared to be sniffing the wind as if it smelled something particularly delicious. Mostly what Jem smelled now was demon.

  Sister Emilia craned her neck to see where Jem was looking and said, “Another faerie! It’s nice to be out in the world again. I’ll have such a lot to write about in my diary when I’m back in the Iron Citadel.”

  Do Iron Sisters keep diaries? Jem asked politely.

  “That was a joke,” Sister Emilia said. She actually looked disappointed in him. “Do Silent Brothers have any kind of a sense of humor, or do they stitch that up too?”

  We collect knock-knock jokes, Jem said.

  She perked up. “Really? Do you have any favorites?”

  No, Jem said. That was a joke. And if he could have, he would have smiled. Sister Emilia was so very human that he found it was waking up some of the humanity he’d put aside so long ago. That, too, must have been why he was thinking of Will and Tessa and the person he’d been before. His heart would ache slightly less, he was sure, once they’d completed their mission and Sister Emilia and he had been dispatched back to the places where they belonged. She had some of the same spark that Will had had, back when he and Jem had chosen to be parabatai. Jem had been drawn to that fire in Will, and he thought that he and Sister Emilia could have been friends too, under other circumstances.

  He was thinking this when a small boy tugged at his sleeve. “Are you part of the carnival?” the boy said. “Is that why you’re dressed like that? Is that why your face looks like that?”

  Jem looked down at the boy and then at the runes on his arms to make sure that they hadn’t somehow rubbed off.

  “You can see us?” Sister Emilia said to the boy.

  “Course I can,” the boy said. “Nothing wrong with my eyes. Although I think there must have been something wrong with them before. Because now I see all sorts of things that I never used to see.”

  How? Jem said, bending over to peer into the boy’s eyes. What’s your name? When did you start seeing things that you never used to see?

  “My name’s Bill,” the boy said. “I’m eight. Why are your eyes closed like that? And how can you talk when your mouth isn’t open?”

  “He’s a man of special talents,” said Sister Emilia. “You should taste his chicken pot pie. Where are your people, Bill?”

  The boy said, “I live down in St. Elmo’s, and I came up here on the Incline Railroad with my mother and today I ate a whole bag of salt-water taffy and didn’t have to share a piece with anyone else.”

  “Maybe the taffy had magical properties,” Sister Emilia said softly to Jem.

  “My mother said not to wander off,” the boy said, “but I never pay any attention to her unless she’s het up like a kettle. I went through the Maze of Mirrors all by myself, and I got all the way to the middle where the fancy lady is, and she said as a prize I could ask her for anything I wanted.”

  What did you ask her for? Jem said.

  “I thought about asking for a battle with real knights and real horses and real swords, like in King Arthur, but the lady said if what I wanted was real adventures, I should ask to see the world as it really was, and so I did. And after that she put a mask on me, and now everything’s strange and also she wasn’t a lady at all. She was something that I didn’t want to be around anymore, and so I ran away. I’ve seen all kinds of strange people, but I haven’t seen my mother. Have you seen her? She’s little but she’s ferocious. She has red hair like me, and she’s got an awful temper when she’s worried.”

  “I know all about that kind of mother,” Sister Emilia said. “She must be looking everywhere for you.”

  Bill said, “I am a constant trial to her. Or so she says.”

  Over there, Jem said. Is that her?

  A small woman standing by a tent advertising MYSTERIES OF THE WORM DEMONSTRATED THRICE DAILY was looking over in their direction. “Bill Doyle!” she said, advancing. “You are in a heap of trouble, my little man!”

  She had a carrying voice.

  “I see my fate is upon me,” Bill said in grave tones. “You should flee before you become a casualty of battle.”

  “Don’t worry for us, Bill,” Sister Emilia said. “Your mother can’t see us. And I wouldn’t mention us to her either. She’ll think you’re making it all up.”

  “It appears I have gotten myself into a real predicament,” Bill said. “Fortunately I am as good at getting out of tight spots as I am at getting into them. I’ve had lots of practice. A pleasure to have met both of you.”

  Then Mrs. Doyle was upon him. She seized her son’s arm and began to pull him back toward the exit of the carnival, scolding him as they went.

  Jem and Sister Emilia turned to watch them go in silence.

  Finally Sister Emilia said, “The Maze of Mirrors, then.”

  And even if they hadn’t encountered young Bill Doyle, they would have known they’d found the place they were looking for when they came to the Maze of Mirrors at last. It was a pointy structure, painted all over in glossy forbidding black, fissures of red running through the black paint, the red paint looking so fresh and wet that the building appeared to be seeping blood. Through the entrance, mirrors and lights dazzled. THE TRUE WORLD AND THE FALSE said the sign. YOU SHALL KNOW EVEN AS YOU ARE KNOWN. THOSE WHO SEEK ME WILL FIND THEMSELVES.

  The reek of demon malignance here was so strong that even Jem and Sister Emilia, wearing runes to keep from being overpowered by the stench, flinched.

  Be careful, the voices in Jem’s head warned. This is no ordinary Eidolon demon.

  Sister Emilia had drawn her sword.

  Jem said, We should be careful. There may be dangers here that we are not prepared for.

  Sister Emilia said, “I think we can be at least as brave as little Bill Doyle was, facing danger.”

  He didn’t know he was dealing with a demon, Jem said.

  “I meant his mother,” Sister Emilia said. “Come on.”

  And so Jem followed her into the Maze of Mirrors.

  They found themselves in a long, glittering corridor with many companions. Here was another Sister Emilia and another Brother Zachariah, stretched out monstrously thin and wavy. Here they were again, squashed and hideous. There they were, their reflections’ backs turned to them. In one mirror, they lay upon the shores of a shallow purple sea, dead and bloated and yet looking utterly content to be so, as if they had died of some great happiness. In another, they began to age rapidly and then to crumble away to bare bones, the bones to dust.

  Sister Emilia had never been fond of mirrors. But she had a craftwoman’s interest in these. When a mirror is made, it must be coated in some reflective metal. Silver could be used, though vampires were not fond of this kind. The mirrors in the Maze of Mirrors, she thought, must have been treated with some kind of demonic metal. You could smell it. Every breath she took in here coated her mouth, her tongue, her throat with a kind of greasy residue of despair and horror.

  She walked forward slowly, her sword held in front of her, and stumbled into a mirror where she had thought there was an open space.

  Careful, Brother Zachariah said.

  “You don’t come to the carnival to be careful,” she said. This was bluster, and perhaps he knew it. But bluster is a kind of armor too, as much as taking care is. Sister Emilia had appreciation for both.
  “If it’s a maze, then how are we to know which way to go?” she said. “I could shatter the mirrors with my sword. If I broke them all, we would find the center.”

  Hold your sword, Brother Zachariah said.

  He had paused in front of a mirror in which Sister Emilia was not present. Instead, there was a slender white-haired boy holding the hand of a tall girl with a solemn, beautiful face. They were on a city avenue.

  “That’s New York,” Sister Emilia said. “I thought you hadn’t been there!”

  Brother Zachariah advanced through the mirror, which allowed passage as if it had never been there at all. The image was gone like a popped soap bubble. Go toward the reflections that show you whatever thing you most long to see, Brother Zachariah said. But that you know to be impossible.

  “Oh,” Sister Emilia said, involuntarily. “Over there!”

  Over there was a mirror where a Sister much like her, but with silvery hair, held a glowing blade between tongs. She plunged it into a bath of cold water, and steam shot up in the shape of a dragon, writhing and splendid. All her brothers were there too, watching in admiration.

  They passed through that mirror too. They made their way through mirror after mirror, and Sister Emilia felt her chest grow tight with longing. Her cheeks burned red, too, that Brother Zachariah could see the vainest and most frivolous longings of her heart. But she saw the things that he longed for too. A man and a woman she thought must have been his parents, listening to their son play his violin in a great concert hall. A black-haired man with blue eyes and laugh lines around his mouth, building up a fire in a drawing room while the solemn girl, smiling now, perched on the lap of Brother Zachariah, no longer a Brother but a husband and a parabatai in the company of the ones he loved most.

  They came to a mirror where the black-haired man, now old and frail, lay in a bed. The girl sat curled up beside him, stroking his forehead. Suddenly Brother Zachariah came into the room, but when he threw back his hood, he had open, clear eyes and a smiling mouth. At this sight, the old man in the bed sat up and grew younger and younger, as if joy had renewed his youth. He sprang out of bed and embraced his parabatai.