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“Lost?” inquired a voice behind her. A slow, arrogant voice, immediately familiar.
Tessa turned and saw that he was leaning carelessly against the wall behind her, as if he were lounging in a doorway, his feet in their scuffed boots crossed in front of him. He held something in his hand: his glowing stone. He pocketed it as she looked at him, dousing its light.
“You ought to let me show you around the Institute a bit, Miss Gray,” he suggested. “You know, so you don’t get lost again.”
Tessa narrowed her eyes at him.
“Of course, you can simply continue wandering about on your own if you really wish to,” he added. “I ought to warn you, though, that there are at least three or four doors in the Institute that you really shouldn’t open. There’s the one that leads to the room where we keep trapped demons, for instance. They can get a bit nasty. Then there is the weapons room. Some of the weapons have a mind of their own, and they are sharp. Then there are the rooms that open onto empty air. They’re meant to confuse intruders, but when you’re as high as the top of a church, you don’t want to accidentally slip and—”
“I don’t believe you,” Tessa said. “You’re an awful liar, Mr. Herondale. Still—” She bit her lip. “I don’t like wandering about. You can show me around if you promise no tricks.”
Will promised. And, to Tessa’s surprise, he was true to his word. He guided her down a succession of identical-looking corridors, talking as they walked. He told her how many rooms the Institute had (more than you could count), told her how many Shadowhunters could live in it at once (hundreds), and displayed for her the vast ballroom in which was held an annual Christmas party for the Enclave—which, Will explained, was their term for the group of Shadowhunters who lived in London. (In New York, he added, the term was “Conclave.” American Shadowhunters, it seemed, had their own lexicon.)
After the ballroom came the kitchen, where the middle-aged woman Tessa had seen in the dining room was introduced as Agatha, the cook. She sat sewing in front of a massive kitchen range and was, to Tessa’s intense mystification, also smoking an enormous pipe. She smiled indulgently around it as Will took several chocolate tarts from the plate where they had been left to cool on the table. Will offered one to Tessa.
She shuddered. “Oh, no. I hate chocolate.”
Will looked horrified. “What kind of monster could possibly hate chocolate?”
“He eats everything,” Agatha told Tessa with a placid smile. “Since he was twelve, he has. I suppose it’s all the training that keeps him from getting fat.”
Tessa, amused at the idea of a fat Will, complimented the pipe-puffing Agatha on her mastery of the enormous kitchen. It looked like a place you could cook for hundreds, with row upon row of jarred preserves and soups, spice tins, and a huge haunch of beef roasting on a hook over the open fireplace.
“Well done,” Will said after they’d left the kitchen. “Complimenting Agatha like that. Now she’ll like you. It’s no good if Agatha doesn’t like you. She’ll put stones in your porridge.”
“Oh, dear,” Tessa said, but she couldn’t hide the fact that she was entertained. They went from the kitchen to the music room, where there were harps and a great old piano, gathering dust. Down a set of stairs was the drawing room, a pleasant place where the walls, instead of being bare stone, were papered with a bright print of leaves and lilies. A fire was going in a large grate, and several comfortable armchairs were pulled up near it. There was a great wooden desk in the room too, which Will explained was the place where Charlotte did much of the work of running the Institute. Tessa couldn’t help wondering what it was that Henry Branwell did, and where he did it.
After that there was the weapons room, finer than anything Tessa imagined you might see in a museum. Hundreds of maces, axes, daggers, swords, knives, and even a few pistols hung on the walls, as well as a collection of different kinds of armor, from greaves worn to protect the shins to full suits of chain mail. A solid-looking young man with dark brown hair sat at a high table, polishing a set of short daggers. He grinned when they came in. “Evenin’, Master Will.”
“Good evening, Thomas. You know Miss Gray.” He indicated Tessa.
“You were at the Dark House!” Tessa exclaimed, looking more closely at Thomas. “You came in with Mr. Branwell. I thought—”
“That I was a Shadowhunter?” Thomas grinned. He had a sweet, pleasant, open sort of face, and a lot of curling hair. His shirt was open at the neck, showing a strong throat. Despite his obvious youth, he was extremely tall and muscular, the width of his arms straining against his sleeves. “I’m not, miss—only trained like one.”
Will leaned back against the wall. “Did that order of misericord blades come in, Thomas? I’ve been running into a certain amount of Shax demons lately, and I need something narrow that can pierce armored carapaces.”
Thomas started to say something to Will about shipping being delayed due to weather in Idris, but Tessa’s attention had been distracted by something else. It was a tall box of golden wood, polished to a high shine, with a pattern burned into the front—a snake, swallowing its own tail.
“Isn’t that the Dark Sisters’ symbol?” she demanded. “What’s it doing here?”
“Not quite,” said Will. “The box is a Pyxis. Demons don’t have souls; their consciousness comes from a sort of energy, which can sometimes be trapped and stored. The Pyxis contains them safely—oh, and the design is an ouroboros—the ‘tail devourer.’ It’s an ancient alchemical symbol meant to represent the different dimensions—our world, inside the serpent, and the rest of existence, outside.” He shrugged. “The Sisters’ symbol is the first time I’ve seen anyone draw an ouroboros with two snakes— Oh, no you don’t,” he added as Tessa reached for the box. He deftly stepped in front of her. “The Pyxis can’t be touched by anyone who isn’t a Shadowhunter. Nasty things will happen. Now let’s go. We’ve taken up enough of Thomas’s time.”
“I don’t mind,” Thomas protested, but Will was already on his way out. Tessa glanced back at Thomas from the doorway. He’d gone back to polishing the weaponry, but there was something about the set of his shoulders that made Tessa think he seemed a little bit lonely.
“I didn’t realize you let mundanes fight with you,” she said to Will after they’d left the weapons room behind. “Is Thomas a servant, or—”
“Thomas has been with the Institute for almost his entire life,” Will said, guiding Tessa around a sharp turn in the corridor. “There are families who have the Sight in their veins, families who have always served Shadowhunters. Thomas’s parents served Charlotte’s parents in the Institute, and now Thomas serves Charlotte and Henry. And his children will serve theirs. Thomas does everything—drives, cares for Balios and Xanthos—those are our horses—and helps with the weapons. Sophie and Agatha manage the rest, though Thomas assists them on occasion. I suspect he’s sweet on Sophie and doesn’t like to see her work too hard.”
Tessa was glad to hear it. She’d felt awful about her reaction to Sophie’s scar, and the thought that Sophie had a male admirer—and a handsome one at that—eased her conscience slightly. “Perhaps he’s in love with Agatha,” she said.
“I hope not. I intend to marry Agatha myself. She may be a thousand years old, but she makes an incomparable jam tart. Beauty fades, but cooking is eternal.” He paused in front of a door—big and oak, with thick brass hinges. “Here we are, now,” he said, and the door swung open at his touch.
The room they entered was bigger even than the ballroom she had seen before. It was longer than it was wide, with rectangular oak tables set down the middle of it, vanishing up to the far wall, which was painted with an image of an angel. Each table was illuminated by a glass lamp that flickered white. Halfway up the walls was an interior gallery with a wooden railing running around it that could be reached by means of spiral staircases on either side of the room. Rows upon rows of bookshelves stood at intervals, like sentries forming alcoves on either side of the room. There were more bookshelves upstairs as well; the books inside were hidden behind screens of fretted metal, each screen stamped with a pattern of four Cs. Huge, outward-curving stained-glass windows, lined with worn stone benches, were set at intervals between the shelves.
A vast tome had been left out on a stand, its pages open and inviting; Tessa moved toward it, thinking it must be a dictionary, only to find that its pages were scrawled with illegible, illuminated script and etched with unfamiliar-looking maps.
“This is the Great Library,” said Will. “Every Institute has a library, but this one is the largest of them all—the largest in the West, at any rate.” He leaned against the door, his arms crossed over his chest. “I said I would get you more books, didn’t I?”
Tessa was so startled that he remembered what he had said, that it took her several seconds to respond. “But the books are all behind bars!” she said. “Like a literary sort of prison!”
Will grinned. “Some of these books are dangerous,” he said. “It’s wise to be careful.”
“One must always be careful of books,” said Tessa, “and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us.”
“I’m not sure a book has ever changed me,” said Will. “Well, there is one volume that promises to teach one how to turn oneself into an entire flock of sheep—”
“Only the very weak-minded refuse to be influenced by literature and poetry,” said Tessa, determined not to let him run wildly off with the conversation.
“Of course, why one would want to be an entire flock of sheep is another matter entirely,” Will finished. “Is there something you want to read here, Miss Gray, or is there not? Name it, and I shall attempt to free it from its prison for you.”
“Do you think the library has The Wide, Wide World? Or Little Women?”
“Never heard of either of them,” said Will. “We haven’t many novels.”
“Well, I want novels,” said Tessa. “Or poetry. Books are for reading, not for turning oneself into livestock.”
Will’s eyes glittered. “I think we may have a copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland about somewhere.”
Tessa wrinkled her nose. “Oh, that’s for little children, isn’t it?” she said. “I never liked it much—seemed like so much nonsense.”
Will’s eyes were very blue. “There’s plenty of sense in nonsense sometimes, if you wish to look for it.”
But Tessa had already spied a familiar volume on a shelf and went over to greet it like an old friend. “Oliver Twist!” she cried. “Have you any other of Mr. Dickens’s novels?” She clasped her hands together. “Oh! Do you have A Tale of Two Cities?”