Vampires, Scones, and Edmund Herondale
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He heard the creak of a carriage door being opened and saw the lady who had punched the demon essaying to emerge from relative safety to the demon-haunted street.
"Ma'am," Magnus said, advancing. "I must counsel you not to exit the carriage while a demon-slaying is in progress."
She looked him full in the face. She had large dark blue eyes, the color of the sky immediately before night turned it black, and the hair slipping from her elaborate coiffure was black, as if night had come with no stars. Though her beautiful eyes were very wide, she did not look frightened, and the hand that had struck the demon was still clenched in a fist.
Magnus made a silent vow to come to London far more often in the future. He was meeting the most delightful people.
"We must render assistance to that young man," said the lady, in a lilting musical accent.
Magnus glanced over to Edmund, who was at present being thrown against a wall and who was bleeding rather profusely, but grinning and sliding a dagger from his boot with one hand as he choked the demon with the other.
"Do not be alarmed, dear lady. He has the matter well in hand," he said as Edmund slid the dagger home. "So to speak."
The demon gurgled and thrashed in its death throes. Magnus made the decision to ignore the furor behind him, and made the two women a superb bow. It did not seem to console the maidservant, who shrank into the shadowed recesses of the carriage and attempted to crawl into a pocket handkerchief, face foremost.
The lady of the shining ebony hair and pansy eyes let go her hold on the carriage door and gave Magnus her hand instead. Her hand was small, soft, and warm; she was not even trembling.
"I am Magnus Bane," said Magnus. "Call on me for aid at any time of mortal danger, or if in urgent need of an escort to a noindentower show."
"Linette Owens," said the lady, and dimpled. She had delicious dimples. "I heard the capital held many dangers, but this seems excessive."
"I am aware that all this must seem very strange and frightening to you."
"Is that man an evil faerie?" Miss Owens inquired. She met Magnus's startled look with her own steady gaze. "I am from Wales," she said. "We still believe in the old ways and the fey folk there."
She tipped her head back to scrutinize Magnus. Her crown of midnight-colored plaits seemed like it had to be too massive for such a small head, on such a slender neck.
"Your eyes . . . ," she said slowly. "I believe you must be a good faerie, sir. What your companion is, I cannot tell."
Magnus glanced over his shoulder at his companion, who he had almost forgotten was there. The demon was darkness and dust at Edmund's feet, and with his foe well and truly vanquished, Edmund had turned his attention to the carriage. Magnus observed the spark of Edmund's golden charm kindle at the sight of Linette, blooming from candle to sun in an instant.
"What am I?" he asked. "I am Edmund Herondale, and, my lady, I am always and forever at your service. If you will have me."
He smiled, and the smile was slow and devastating. In the dark narrow street long past midnight, his eyes were high summer.
"I do not mean to seem indelicate or ungrateful," said Linette Owens, "but are you a dangerous lunatic?"
"I fear I must point out that you are walking the streets armed to the teeth. Did you expect to do battle with a monstrous creature this night?"
"Not 'expect' exactly," said Edmund.
"Then are you an assassin?" asked Linette. "Are you an overzealous soldier?"
"Madam," said Edmund. "I am a Shadowhunter."
"I am not familiar with the word. Can you do magic?" Linette asked, and placed her hand on Magnus's sleeve. "This gentleman can do magic."
She bestowed an approving smile on Magnus. Magnus was extremely gratified.
"Honored to be of assistance, Miss Owens," he murmured.
Edmund looked as if he had been struck about the face with a fish.
"Of course-of course I can't do magic!" he managed to splutter out, sounding in true Shadowhunter fashion appalled by the very idea.
"Oh, well," said Linette, clearly rather disappointed. "That is not your fault. We all make do with what we have. I am indebted to you, sir, for saving me and my friend from an unspeakable fate."
Edmund preened, and in his pleasure spoke incautiously. "Think nothing of it. It would be my honor to escort you to your home, Miss Owens. The streets about Mall Pall can be very treacherous for women at night."
There was a silence.
"Do you mean Pall Mall?" Linette asked, and smiled slightly. "I am not the one overset by strong liquor. Should you like me to escort you home instead, Mr. Herondale?"
Edmund Herondale was left at a loss for words. Magnus suspected it was a novel experience, and one that would probably be good for him.
Miss Owens turned slightly from Edmund back to Magnus.
"My abigail, Angharad, and I were traveling from my estate in Wales," she explained. "We are to spend the London season with a distant relative of mine. We have had a long and tiring journey, and I wished to believe that we might reach London before nightfall. It was very stupid and reckless of me, and it has caused Angharad great distress. Your aid was invaluable."
Magnus could discern a great deal more from what Linette Owens had told him than what the lady had actually said. She had referred not to her papa's estate but to her own, in a casual manner, as one accustomed to ownership. That combined with the costly material of her dress and a certain something about her bearing confirmed it for Magnus-the lady was an heiress, and not simply the heiress of a fortune but of an estate. The way she spoke of Wales made Magnus think the lady would not wish to have her lands cared for by some steward at a remove. Society would think it a scandal and a shame for an estate to be in the hands of a woman, especially one so young and so pretty. Society would expect her to contract a marriage so that her husband could administer the estate, take possession of both the land and the lady.
She must have come to London because she'd found the suitors available in Wales not to her taste, and was on a quest to find a husband to take back to Wales with her.
She had come to London in search of love.
Magnus could sympathize with that. He was aware that love was not always part of the bargain in high-society marriages, but Linette Owens seemed to have a mind of her own. He thought it likely she had a purpose-the right marriage, to the right man-and that she would accomplish it.
"Welcome to London," Magnus told her.
Linette dropped a small curtsy in the open carriage. Her eyes traveled over Magnus's shoulder and softened. Magnus looked around, and Edmund was standing there, one whip curled around his wrist as if he were comforting himself with it. Magnus had to admit it was a feat to look so gloriously handsome and yet so woebegone.
Linette visibly yielded to a charitable impulse and stepped out of the carriage. She made her way across the cobblestones and stood before the forlorn young Shadowhunter.
"I am sorry if I was uncivil, or if I in any way implied I thought you were a . . . twpsyn," said Linette, tactfully not translating the word.
She put her hand out, and Edmund offered his, palm up and whip still curled around his shirt-sleeved wrist. There was a sudden hungry openness to his face; the moment had a sudden weight. Linette hesitated and then placed her hand in his.
"I am very much obliged to you for saving me and Angharad from a dreadful fate. Truly I am," said Linette. "Again, I apologize if I was ungracious."
"I will give you leave to be as ungracious as you choose," Edmund said. "If I can see you again."
He looked down at her, not making play with his eyelashes. His face was na*ed and open.
The moment turned. Edmund's serious, humble honesty did what eyelashes and swagger had not, and made Linette Owens hesitate.
"You can pay a call at 26 Eaton Square, at Lady Caroline Harcourt's," she said. "If you still wish to in the morning."
She drew her hand away, and after a single uncertain instant, Edmund let her.
Linette touched Magnus's arm before she ascended into the carriage. She was just as pretty and amiable as before, but something in her manner had changed. "Please come pay a call on me as well, if you care to, Mr. Bane."
He took her hand and helped her into the carriage, giving her away in one light graceful movement.
"Oh, and Mr. Herondale," said Miss Owens, putting her lovely laughing head through the carriage window. "Please leave your whips at home."
Magnus made a small shooing gesture, minuscule cerulean sparks dancing between his fingers. The carriage set off driverless in the dark, down the London streets.
It was some time before Magnus attended another meeting about the proposed Accords, in the main because there had been disagreements about the choice of venue. Magnus himself had voted that they meet somewhere other than the section of the Institute that had been built off sacrosanct ground. He felt that the place had the air of the servants' quarters. Mainly because Amalia Morgenstern had mentioned that the area used to be the Fairchilds' servants' quarters.
The Shadowhunters had resisted the idea of frequenting any low den of Downworlders (direct quote from Granville Fairchild), and the suggestion of staying outdoors and going to the park was vetoed because it was felt that the dignity of a conclave would be much impaired if some oblivious mundanes had a picnic in their midst.
Magnus did not believe a word of it.
After weeks of wrangling, their group finally capitulated and trailed dispiritedly back to the London Institute. The only bright spot was a literal bright spot-Camille was wearing an extremely fascinating red hat, and dainty red lace gloves.
"You look foolish and frivolous," said de Quincey under his breath as the Shadowhunters found their places around the table in the large dim room.
"De Quincey is quite right," said Magnus. "You look foolish, frivolous, and fabulous."
Camille preened, and Magnus found it delightful and sympathetic, the way a small compliment could please a woman who had been beautiful for centuries.
"Exactly the effect I was attempting to produce," said Camille. "Shall I tell you a secret?"
"Pray do." Magnus leaned in toward her, and she inclined toward him.
"I wore it for you," Camille whispered.
The dim, stately room, its walls cloaked in tapestries emblazoned with swords, stars, and the runes the Nephilim wore on their own skin, brightened suddenly. All of London seemed to brighten.
Magnus had been alive hundreds of years himself, and yet the simplest things could turn a day into a jewel, and a succession of days into a glittering chain that went on and on. Here was the simplest thing: a pretty girl liked him, and the day shone.
Ralf Scott's thin pale face turned paler still, and was set in lines of pain now, but Magnus did not know the boy and was not bound to care overmuch for his broken heart. If the lady preferred Magnus, Magnus was not inclined to argue with her.
"How pleased we are to receive you all here again," said Granville Fairchild, as stern as ever. He folded his hands before him on the table. "At long last."
"How pleased we are that we could come to an agreement," said Magnus. "At long last."
"I believe Roderick Morgenstern has prepared a few words," said Fairchild. His face was set, and his deep voice rang hollow. There was a slight suggestion of a kitten crying all alone in a large cave.
"I believe I have heard enough from Shadowhunters," said Ralf Scott. "We have already heard the terms of the Nephilim for the preservation of peace between our kind and yours-"
"The list of our requirements was by no means complete," interrupted a man called Silas Pangborn.
"Indeed it was not," said the woman at his side, as stern and beautiful as one of the Nephilim's statues. Pangborn had introduced her as "Eloisa Ravenscar, my parabatai" with the same proprietary air as he might have said "my wife."
Evidently, they stood united against Downworlders.
"We have terms of our own," said Ralf Scott.
There was utter silence from the Shadowhunters. From their faces, Magnus did not think they were preparing themselves to listen attentively. Instead they seemed stunned by Downworlder impudence.
Ralf persisted, despite the utter lack of encouragement for him to do so. The boy was valiant even in a lost cause, Magnus thought, and despite himself he felt a little pang.
"We will want guarantees that no Downworlder whose hands are clean of mundane blood will be slaughtered. We want a law that states that any Shadowhunter who does strike down an innocent Downworlder will be punished." Ralf bore the outbreak of protest, and shouted it down. "You people live by laws! They are all you understand!"
"Yes, our laws, passed down to us by the Angel!" thundered Fairchild.
"Not rules that demon scum try to impose on us," sneered Starkweather.
"Is it too much to ask, to have laws to defend us as well as laws to defend the mundanes and the Nephilim?" Ralf demanded. "My parents were slain by Shadowhunters because of a terrible misunderstanding, because my parents were in the wrong place at the wrong time and presumed guilty because they were werewolves. I am raising my young brother alone. I want my people to be protected, to be strong, and not to be driven into corners until they either become killers or are killed!"
Magnus looked over to Camille, to share the spark of sympathy and indignation for Ralf Scott, so terribly young and terribly hurt and terribly in love with her. Camille's face was untouched, more like a porcelain doll's face than a person's, her skin porcelain that could not redden or pale, her eyes cold glass.
He felt a qualm and dismissed it out of hand. It was a vampire's face, that was all-no renoindentection of how she actually felt. There were many who could not read anything but evil in Magnus's own eyes.
"What a terrible shame," said Starkweather. "I would have thought you might have more siblings to share the burden. You people generally have litters, do you not?"
Ralf Scott jumped up and hit the table with an open palm. His fingers grew claws and scored the surface of the table.