Read Chain of Gold Online

Authors: Cassandra Clare

Chain of Gold (3 page)

BOOK: Chain of Gold

She felt a little thump of excitement as their carriage pulled up at 102 Cornwall Gardens, one of a row of grand white Victorian houses with the number painted in austere black on the rightmost pillar. There were several figures standing atop the front steps,
beneath the portico. Cordelia instantly recognized Lucie Herondale, a little taller now than she had been the last time Cordelia had seen her. Her light brown hair was caught up under her hat, and her pale blue jacket and skirt matched her eyes.

Beside her stood two figures. One was Lucie's mother, Tessa Herondale, the famous—among Shadowhunters, at any rate—wife of Will Herondale, who ran the London Institute. She looked only a little older than her daughter. Tessa was immortal, a warlock and a shape-shifter, and she did not age.

Next to Tessa was James.

Cordelia remembered, once, when she'd been a small girl, reaching to pet a swan in the pond by her house. The bird had launched itself at her, barreling into her midsection and knocking her down. For several minutes she had lain on the grass, choking and trying to get her breath back, terrified she'd never suck air into her lungs again.

She supposed it was not the most romantic thing in the world to say that every time she saw James Herondale she felt as if she'd been attacked by a waterfowl, but it was true.

He was beautiful, so beautiful that she forgot to breathe when she looked at him. He had wild, tumbled black hair that looked as if it would be soft to touch, and his long, dark lashes fringed eyes the color of honey or amber. Now that he was seventeen, he had grown out of his gawky younger self and was sleek and lovely all over, perfectly put together, like a marvelous bit of architecture.

“Oof!” Her feet hit the ground and she nearly stumbled. Somehow she'd wrenched the carriage door open and was now standing on the pavement—well, wobbling really, as she struggled to keep her balance on legs that had gone to sleep after hours of disuse.

James was there instantly, his hand on her arm, steadying her. “Daisy?” he said. “Are you all right?”

His nickname for her. He hadn't forgotten.

“Just clumsy.” She looked around ruefully. “I was hoping for a more gracious arrival.”

“Nothing to worry about.” He smiled, and her heart turned over. “The pavements of South Kensington are vicious. I've been attacked by them more than once myself.”

Make a clever response,
she told herself.
Say something witty.

But he had already turned away, inclining his head toward Alastair. James and Alastair had not liked each other at school, Cordelia knew, though her mother did not. Sona thought Alastair had been very popular.

“I see you're here, Alastair.” James's voice was curiously flat. “And you look—”

He eyed Alastair's bright yellow-white hair with some astonishment. Cordelia waited for him to continue, with great hope that he would say
you look like a turnip
, but he didn't.

“You look well,” he finished.

The boys looked at each other in silence as Lucie raced down the steps and threw her arms around Cordelia. “I am so very, very delighted to see you!” she said, in her breathless way. For Lucie, everything was always very, very, very something, be it beautiful or exciting or horrid. “Darling Cordelia, we shall have so much fun—”

“Lucie, Cordelia and her family have come to London so that you and Cordelia can train together,” said Tessa in her gentle voice. “It will be a great deal of work and responsibility.”

Cordelia glanced down at her shoes. Tessa was being kind in repeating the story that the Carstairs had come to London in a hurry because of Cordelia and Lucie needing to be
, but that wasn't the truth.

“Well, you must remember being sixteen yourself, Mrs. Herondale,” said Sona. “Young girls adore dances and dresses. I certainly did when I was their age, and I imagine you did as well.”

Cordelia knew this was entirely not true about her mother but
kept her mouth shut. Tessa arched her eyebrows. “I do recall attending a vampire frolic once. And some sort of party at Benedict Lightwood's house, before he got demon pox and turned into a worm, of course—”

“Mother!” Lucie said, scandalized.

“Well, he did turn into a worm,” said James. “Really more of a vicious, giant serpent. It was entirely one of the most interesting parts of history class.”

Tessa was saved further comment by the arrival of the removers' vans carrying the Carstairs' belongings. Several large men leaped down from one of the vans and went to pull back the canvas covering the various furniture pieces, which had been fastidiously roped down.

One of the men assisted Risa, Sona's lady's maid and cook, down from the first of the vans. Risa had worked for the Jahanshah family when Sona was in her teens and had been with her ever since. She was a mundane who had the Sight, and thus a valuable companion for a Shadowhunter. Risa spoke only Persian; Cordelia wondered whether the men in the van had tried to make conversation with her. Risa understood English perfectly, but she liked her silence.

“Please thank Cecily Lightwood for me, for the loan of her domestic help,” Cordelia's mother was saying to Tessa.

“Oh, indeed! They will come on Tuesdays and Thursdays to do the rough, until you can find suitable servants of your own,” Tessa replied.

“The rough” was everything Risa—who cooked, shopped, and helped Sona and Cordelia with their clothes—would not be expected to do, like scrubbing the floors or caring for the horses. The idea that the Carstairs were planning to hire their own servants soon was another polite fiction, Cordelia knew. When they left Devon, Sona had let all the servants go, save for Risa, as they were
trying to conserve as much money as possible while Elias Carstairs was awaiting trial.

A large shape on one of the vans caught Cordelia's eye. “Mama!” she exclaimed. “You brought the piano?”

Her mother shrugged. “I like a bit of music about.” She gestured imperiously toward the workmen. “Cordelia, it's going to be messy and noisy. Perhaps if you and Lucie would go take a turn about the neighborhood? And Alastair, you stay here and help direct the servants.”

Cordelia was delighted at the prospect of time alone with Lucie. Alastair meanwhile looked caught between sourness at having to remain behind with his mother, and pomposity at being trusted with the responsibilities of the man of the house.

Tessa Herondale looked amused. “James, go with the girls. Perhaps Kensington Gardens? It's a short walk and a lovely day.”

“Kensington Gardens does seem safe,” James said gravely.

Lucie rolled her eyes and seized Cordelia's hand. “Come along, then,” she said, and pulled her down the steps and onto the pavement.

James, with his long legs, matched them easily. “There's no need to bolt, Lucie,” he said. “Mother isn't going to haul you back and demand that you drag a piano into the house.”

Cordelia cast a sideways look at him. The wind was ruffling his black hair. Even her own mother's hair was not so dark: it had undertones of red and gold. James's hair was like spilled ink.

He smiled at her easily, as if he hadn't just caught her staring at him. Then again, he was doubtless used to being stared at when with other Shadowhunters. Not just because of his looks, but for other reasons as well.

Lucie squeezed her arm. “I'm so happy you're here,” she declared. “I never thought it would really happen.”

“Why not?” said James. “The Law demands you train together
before you can become
, and besides, Father adores Daisy, and he does make the rules.…”

“Your father adores any Carstairs,” said Cordelia. “I'm not sure it's to my particular credit. He may even like Alastair.”

“I think he has convinced himself Alastair has hidden depths,” said James.

“So does quicksand,” said Cordelia.

James laughed.

“That's quite enough,” said Lucie, reaching over to smack James on the shoulder with a gloved hand. “Daisy is my friend, and you're monopolizing her. Do go off somewhere else.”

They were walking up Queen's Gate toward Kensington Road, the clatter of omnibus traffic all around them. Cordelia imagined James wandering off into the crowd, where surely he would find something more interesting to do, or perhaps be kidnapped by a beautiful heiress who would fall in love with him instantly. These sort of things happened in London.

“I will walk ten paces behind you like a train-bearer,” said James. “But I must keep you within sight, otherwise Mother will kill me, and then I will miss tomorrow's ball and Matthew will kill me, and I will be dead twice.”

Cordelia smiled, but James was already dropping back as promised. He ambled along behind them, giving the girls space to talk; Cordelia tried to hide her disappointment at the lack of his presence. She lived in London now, after all, and sightings of James were no longer rare glimpses but would hopefully become part of her everyday life.

She glanced back at him; he had already taken out a book and was reading it while walking and whistling under his breath.

“What ball did he mean?” she asked, turning to Lucie. They passed under the black wrought-iron gates of Kensington Park and into leafy shade. The public garden was full of nannies pushing
babies in prams and young couples walking together under the trees. Two little girls were making daisy chains, and a boy in a blue sailor suit was running along with a hoop, shrieking with laughter. He ran to a tall man, who picked him up and swung him into the air as he laughed. Cordelia squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, thinking of her own father, of the way he had tossed her into the air when she was very small, making her laugh and laugh even as he caught her on her way down.

“The one tomorrow night,” Lucie said, linking her arm with Cordelia's. “We're throwing it to welcome you to London. All the Enclave will be there, and there will be dancing, and Mother will have a chance to show off the new ballroom. And I will have a chance to show off you.”

Cordelia felt a chill go over her—part excitement, part fear. The Enclave was the official name for the Shadowhunters of London: every city had an Enclave, who answered to their local Institute as well as the superior authority of the Clave and the Consul. She knew it was foolish, but the thought of so many people prickled her skin with anxiety. The life she had lived with her family—constantly traveling save when they were at Cirenworth in Devon—had been devoid of crowds.

And yet this was what she had to do—what they had all come to London to do. She thought of her mother.

It was not a ball, she told herself. It was the first skirmish in a war.

She lowered her voice. “Will everyone there—does everyone know about my father?”

“Oh, no. Very few people have heard any details, and those are being quite closemouthed about it.” Lucie eyed her speculatively. “Would you be willing—if you told me what happened, I swear I would not share it with a soul, not even James.”

Cordelia's chest hurt, as it always did when she thought about her father. But she must tell this to Lucie nevertheless, and she
would need to tell it to others, too. She would not be able to help her father unless she was straightforward in demanding what she wanted. “About a month ago, my father went to Idris,” she said. “It was all very secret, but a nest of Kravya¯d demons had been discovered just outside the border of Idris.”

“Really?” said Lucie. “They're nasty ones, aren't they? Man-eaters?”

Cordelia nodded. “They had wiped out nearly a whole pack of werewolves. It was the wolves, actually, who brought the news to Alicante. The Consul put together an expeditionary force of Nephilim and called in my father because of his expertise with rare demons. Along with two of the Downworlders, he helped plan the expedition to slay the Kravya¯ds.”

“That sounds very exciting,” said Lucie. “And how wonderful, to be working with Downworlders like that.”

“It ought to have been,” said Cordelia. She glanced back; James was a good distance away, still reading. He couldn't possibly hear them. “The expedition went wrong. The Kravya¯dād demons had gone—and the Nephilim had trespassed onto land that a vampire clan believed was theirs. There was a fight—a bad one.”

Lucie paled. “By the Angel. Was anyone killed?”

“Several Nephilim were injured,” said Cordelia. “And the vampire clan believed that we—that the Shadowhunters—had allied with the werewolves to attack them. It was a terrible mess, something that could have undone the Accords.”

Lucie looked horrified. Cordelia didn't blame her. The Accords were a peace agreement between Shadowhunters and Downworlders that helped maintain order. If they were broken, bloody chaos could ensue.

“The Clave launched an investigation,” Cordelia said. “All right and proper. We thought my father was meant to be a witness, but he was arrested instead. They are blaming him for the expedition having gone wrong. But it was not his fault. He couldn't have known—”
She closed her eyes. “It nearly killed him, having let down the Clave so badly. He will have to live with the guilt all his life. But none of us expected them to end the investigation and arrest him instead.” Her hands were shaking; she laced them tightly together. “He sent me one note, but nothing after that: they forbid it. He is being held under house arrest in Alicante until his trial can take place.”

“A trial?”
said Lucie. “Just for him? But there were others in charge of the expedition as well, weren't there?”

others, but my father is being made the scapegoat. Everything has been blamed on him. My mother wanted to go to Idris to see him, but he forbid it,” Cordelia added. “He said we must go to London instead—that if he is convicted, the shame that will fall on our family will be immense, and that we must move quickly to stave it off.”

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