On the Bridge
It was past midnight, and London was as quiet as she ever was: the sound of carriages never stopped completely, nor the cries and calls of the dwellers in the city, or the lively chatter of the mudlarks at the side of the river, picking through the detritus the Thames coughed up for any items of value. Will Herondale and James Carstairs sat on the edge of the Victoria Embankment, their legs dangling down over the side. To the left of them, they could see Cleopatra’s Needle, piercing the sky, to their right, Hungerford Bridge.
Will yawned and stretched his arms back. A short-sword, unsheathed, gleamed in his lap. “You know, James, I’ve started to believe this Leviathan demon doesn’t exist. Or if it does, it’s long swum out to sea by now.”
“Well, it won’t be the first time we’ve sat up all night for nothing, nor the last, I’d wager,” said Jem agreeable. His dragon-headed cane was balanced across his shoulders, his arms draped over either end. His bright hair shone as the moon dodged in and out between clouds. “Are you still pursuing that investigation? The dead girls in the East End?”
“It has led me to some quite interesting places,” said Will. “I won sixty pounds off Ragnor Fell at faro the other night. When you join me again—”
“I do not much like those clubs. Fleecing mundanes, setting them at games they cannot possible win, mocking and drugging even Downworlders, it all leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. And you know what Charlotte would say if she caught you gambling.”
“Charlotte worries too much. She is not —” Will broke off, and looked up at the stars, or what could be seen of them at least between smoke and cloud. They lit his eyes, so you could see the blue of them even in the dimness, ameliorated only by the Embankment’s characteristic dolphin lamps.
My mother, Jem knew he had been about to say. It was a way of Will’s, to cut himself off carefully before he ever revealed too much.
“You told you your father used to gamble,” he said with deliberate casualness, tapping his fingers on the head of his cane.
For a moment, Will looked as far away as the stars he was gazing at. “Just the occasional flutter at cards. My mother discouraged anything else. She did not like gambling. And he was never one of those madmen who used to bet on anything — when the sun would go down that day, or whether old Henderson could climb Minith Mawr drunk.”
Jem did not know what Minith Mawr was, and did not ask. Instead he said, “Your father must have loved your mother very much, to give up being a Shadowhunter for her.”
Will winced, almost imperceptibly, but his tone was surprisingly calm as he said, “He did. I asked him once if he was ever sorry, but he said he never was. He said there are thousands of Shadowhunters, but great love comes once in a lifetime if one is lucky, and one would be a fool to let it go.”
“And do you believe that?” Jem spoke with enormous care; talking to Will about anything personal was like trying not to startle away a wild animal.
“I suppose I do,” said Will, after a pause. “Not that it matters for me, but —” He shrugged. “If love is great, then it is worth fighting for.”
“What if it is immoral somehow? Forbidden?”
“Forbidden? But my father’s love for my mother was forbidden, or at least against the law. Or do mean if she is married, or a vampire?”
“Or a married vampire.”
“Well, nevertheless,” Will said, with a grin. “One should fight on. Love conquers all.”
“I shall warn the vampire husbands of the neighborhood,” said Jem dryly.
“And you, Carstairs? You’ve been very quiet with your views.”
Jem unhitched his arms from his cane and sighed. “You know I believe we are reborn,” he said quietly. “I think if two souls are meant to be together, they will remain together on the Wheel and be together again in the life after this one, whatever happens to us now.”
“Is that an official teaching or something you invented yourself?” Will asked.
Jem laughed. “Does it matter?”
Will looked at him curiously. “Do you think you will see me again?” At the change in Jem’s expression, he added, “I mean, is there a chance for me? To have another life after this, a better one?”
As Jem opened his mouth to answer, a rustling came from beneath their feet. Just as they both looked down, a tentacle shot from the surface of the river, wrapped itself around Jem’s ankle, and yanked him beneath the surface of the water. Will bolted to his feet with his blade in hand; the water was still boiling where the creature’s tentacles were thrashing wildly, indicating that Jem was getting some good blows in. Will’s heart pounded, firing blood and the call of battle through his veins.
“Hell,” he said. “Just when it was getting interesting, too,” and he leaped into the water after his friend.