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Aunt Harriet had been right, of course. No man she would ever want to marry would have arranged to have her treated like a prisoner and a slave, imprisoned her brother, and had her tortured in the name of her “talent.” It was a travesty and a joke. Heaven only knew what the Magister wanted to do with her once he had his hands on her. If it was something she could survive, she imagined she would soon enough wish she hadn’t.
God, what a useless talent she had! The power to change her appearance? If only she had the power to set things on fire, or shatter metal, or cause knives to grow out of her fingers! Or if she only had the power to make herself invisible, or shrink herself to the size of a mouse—
She went suddenly still, so still that she could hear the ticking of the clockwork angel against her chest. She didn’t have to shrink herself down to the size of a mouse, did she? All she had to do was make herself small enough that the ties around her wrists would be loose.
It was possible for her to Change into someone a second time, without touching something that had belonged to them—as long as she’d done it before. The Sisters had made her memorize how to do it. For the first time, she was glad of something they’d forced her to learn.
She pressed herself back against the hard mattress and made herself remember. The street, the kitchen, the movement of the needle, the glow of the gaslight. She willed it on, willed the Change to come. What’s your name? Emma. Emma Bayliss …
The Change bore down on her like a train, almost knocking the breath out of her—reshaping her skin, reforming her bones. She choked back her screams and arched her back—
And it was done. Blinking, Tessa stared up at the ceiling, then glanced sideways, staring at her wrist, at the rope around it. There were her hands—Emma’s hands—thin and frail, the circle of the rope loose around her small wrists. Triumphantly Tessa jerked her hands free and sat up, rubbing at the red marks where the rope had burned her skin.
Her ankles were still tied. She leaned forward, her fingers working quickly at the knots. Mrs. Black, it turned out, could tie knots like a sailor. Tessa’s fingers were bloodied and sore by the time the rope fell away and she sprang to her feet.
Emma’s hair was so thin and fine that it had slipped free of the clips holding Tessa’s own hair back. Tessa pushed her hair back impatiently over her shoulders and shook herself free of Emma, letting the Change wash away from her until her hair slid through her fingers, thick and familiar to the touch. Glancing at the mirror across the room, she saw that little Emma Bayliss was gone and she was herself again.
A noise behind her made her whirl. The knob of the bedroom door was turning, twisting back and forth as if the person on the other side were having difficulty getting it open.
Mrs. Dark, she thought. The woman was back, to whip her until she was bloody. Back, to take her to the Magister. Tessa hurried across the room, seized the porcelain jug from the washstand, and then scuttled to the side of the door, the jug gripped hard in her whitened fist.
The knob turned; the door opened. In the dimness all Tessa could see was shadows as someone stepped into the room. She lunged forward, swinging the jug with all her strength—
The shadowy figure moved, as quick as a whip, but not quite quick enough; the jug slammed into the figure’s outstretched arm before flying from Tessa’s grasp to crash into the far wall. Broken crockery rained down onto the floor as the stranger yelled.
The yell was undeniably a masculine one. So was the flood of cursing that followed.
She backed away, then dashed for the door—but it had slammed shut, and tug as she would on the knob, it wouldn’t budge. Bright light blazed through the room as if the sun had risen. Tessa spun, blinking away the tears in her eyes—and stared.
There was a boy standing in front of her. He couldn’t have been much older than she was—seventeen or possibly eighteen. He was dressed in what looked like workman’s clothes—a frayed black jacket, trousers, and tough-looking boots. He wore no waistcoat, and thick leather straps crisscrossed his waist and chest. Attached to the straps were weapons—daggers and folding knives and things that looked like blades of ice. In his right hand he held a sort of glowing stone—it was shining, providing the light in the room that had nearly blinded Tessa. His other hand—slim and long-fingered—was bleeding where she had gashed the back of it with her pitcher.
But that wasn’t what made her stare. He had the most beautiful face she had ever seen. Tangled black hair and eyes like blue glass. Elegant cheekbones, a full mouth, and long, thick lashes. Even the curve of his throat was perfect. He looked like every fictional hero she’d ever conjured up in her head. Although she’d never imagined one of them cursing at her while shaking his bleeding hand in an accusing fashion.
He seemed to realize she was staring at him, because the cursing stopped. “You cut me,” he said. His voice was pleasant. British. Very ordinary. He looked at his hand with critical interest. “It might be fatal.”
Tessa looked at him with wide eyes. “Are you the Magister?”
He tilted his hand to the side. Blood ran down it, spattering the floor. “Dear me, massive blood loss. Death could be imminent.”
“Are you the Magister?”
“Magister?” He looked mildly surprised by her vehemence. “That means ‘master’ in Latin, doesn’t it?”
“I …” Tessa was feeling increasingly as if she were trapped in a strange dream. “I suppose it does.”
“I’ve mastered many things in my life. Navigating the streets of London, dancing the quadrille, the Japanese art of flower arranging, lying at charades, concealing a highly intoxicated state, delighting young women with my charms …”
“Alas,” he went on, “no one has ever actually referred to me as ‘the master,’ or ‘the magister,’ either. More’s the pity …”
“Are you highly intoxicated at the moment?” Tessa meant the question in all seriousness, but realized the moment the words were out of her mouth that she must have sounded awfully rude—or worse, flirtatious. He seemed too steady on his feet to really be drunk, anyway. She’d seen Nate intoxicated enough times to know the difference. Perhaps he was merely insane.
“How very direct, but I suppose all you Americans are, aren’t you?” The boy looked amused. “Yes, your accent gives you away. What’s your name, then?”
Tessa looked at him in disbelief. “What’s my name?”
“Don’t you know it?”
“You—you’ve come bursting into my room, scared me nearly to death, and now you demand to know my name? What on earth’s your name? And who are you, anyway?”
“My name is Herondale,” the boy said cheerfully. “William Herondale, but everyone calls me Will. Is this really your room? Not very nice, is it?” He wandered toward the window, pausing to examine the stacks of books on her bedside table, and then the bed itself. He waved a hand at the ropes. “Do you often sleep tied to the bed?”
Tessa felt her cheeks flame and was amazed, under the circumstances, that she still had the capacity to be embarrassed. Should she tell him the truth? Was it at all possible that he was the Magister? Though anyone who looked like that wouldn’t need to tie girls up and imprison them in order to get them to marry him.
“Here. Hold this.” He handed her the glowing stone. Tessa took it, half-expecting it to burn her fingers, but it was cool to the touch. The moment it struck her palm, its light dimmed to a shimmering flicker. She looked toward him in dismay, but he had made his way to the window and was looking out, seemingly unconcerned. “Pity we’re on the third floor. I could manage the jump, but it would probably kill you. No, we must go through the door and take our chances in the house.”
“Go through the— What?” Tessa, feeling mired in a semi-permanent state of confusion, shook her head. “I don’t understand.”
“How can you not understand?” He pointed at her books. “You read novels. Obviously, I’m here to rescue you. Don’t I look like Sir Galahad?” He raised his arms dramatically. “‘My strength is as the strength of ten, Because my heart is pure—’”
Something echoed, far away inside the house—the sound of a door slamming.
Will said a word Sir Galahad would never have said, and sprang away from the window. He landed with a wince, and glanced ruefully down at his injured hand. “I’ll need to take care of this later. Come along …” He looked at her pointedly, a question in his eyes.
“Miss Gray,” she said faintly. “Miss Theresa Gray.”
“Miss Gray,” he repeated. “Come along, then, Miss Gray.” He sprang past her, moved toward the door, found the knob, turned it, yanked—
“It won’t work,” she said. “The door cannot be opened from the inside.”
Will grinned ferociously. “Can’t it?” He reached for his belt, for one of the objects that hung on it. He chose what looked like a long, slender twig, picked clean of smaller branches, and made of a whitish-silver material. He placed the end of it against the door and drew. Thick black lines spiraled out from the tip of the flexible cylinder, making an audible hissing noise as they spread across the wooden surface like a directed spill of ink.
“You’re drawing?” Tessa demanded. “I don’t really see how that can possibly—”
There was a noise like cracking glass. The doorknob, untouched, spun—fast, then faster, and the door sprang open, a faint puff of smoke rising from the hinges.
“Now you do,” Will said, and, pocketing the strange object, gestured for Tessa to follow him. “Let’s go.”
Inexplicably, she hesitated, looking back toward the room that had been her prison for nearly two months. “My books—”
“I’ll get you more books.” He urged her into the corridor ahead of him, and pulled the door shut behind them. After catching hold of her wrist, he drew her down the hallway and around a corner. Here were the stairs that she had descended so many times with Miranda. Will took them two at a time, pulling her after him.
From above them Tessa heard a scream. It was unmistakably Mrs. Dark’s.
“They’ve found you missing,” Will said. They had reached the first landing, and Tessa slowed her pace—only to be jerked ahead by Will, who seemed disinclined to stop.
“Aren’t we going out the front door?” she demanded.
“We can’t. The building’s surrounded. There’s a line of carriages pulled up out front. I appear to have arrived at an unexpectedly exciting time.” He started down the stairs again, and Tessa followed. “Do you know what the Dark Sisters had planned for this evening?”
“But you were expecting someone called the Magister?” They were in the cellar now, where the plaster walls gave way suddenly to damp stone. Without Miranda’s lantern it was quite dark. Heat rose to meet them like a wave. “By the Angel, it’s like the ninth circle of Hell down here—”