Sunday Snippet #94

Posted March 4, 2012 by Jen in Sunday Snippet Tags: ,

Clockwork Prince

Author: Cassandra Clare

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

6 December 2011


“Look.” Jem raised the hand that wasn’t gripping Will’s shirt, and pointed. “There. Look.”

Tessa looked where he was pointing – and felt her insides freeze. They were nearly halfway down the hill above the manor house, and there, above them, standing like a sort of sentry on the ridge at the hill’s top, was an automaton. She knew immediately what it was, though it did not look like the automatons that Mortmain had sent against them before. Those had made some surface pretense of being human. This was a tall, spindly metal creature, with long hinged legs, a twisted metallic torso, and sawlike arms.

It was utterly still, not moving, somehow more frightening for its stillness and silence. Tessa could not even tell if it was watching them. It seemed to be turned toward them, but though it had a head, that head was featureless but for the slash of a mouth; metal teeth gleamed within. It seemed to have no eyes.

Tessa quelled the scream rising in her throat. It was an automaton. She had faced them before. She would not scream. Will, propped on his elbow, was staring. “By the Angel – “

“That thing’s been following us; I’m sure of it,” said Jem in a low, urgent voice. “I saw a flash of metal earlier, from the carriage, but I wasn’t sure. Now I am. If you go tearing off down the hill, you risk leading that thing right to your family’s door.”

“I see,” Will said. The half-hysterical tone had gone from his voice. “I won’t go near the house. Let me up.”

Jem hesitated.

“I swear on Raziel’s name,” Will ground out, between his teeth. “Now let me up.”

Jem rolled away and onto his feet; Will leaped up, pushing Jem aside, and, without a glance at Tessa, took off running – not toward the house but away from it, toward the mechanical creature on the ridge. Jem staggered for a moment, openmouthed, swore, and darted after him.

Jem!” Tessa cried. But he was nearly out of earshot already, racing after Will. The automaton had vanished from view. Tessa said an unladylike word, hiked up her skirts, and gave chase.

It was not easy, running up a wet Yorkshire hill in heavy skirts, brambles tearing at her as she went. Practicing in her training clothes had given Tessa a new appreciation for why it was that men could move so quickly and cleanly, and could run so fast. The material of her dress weighed a ton, the heels on her boots caught on rocks as she ran, and her corset left her uncomfortably short of breath.

By the time she reached the top of the ridge, she was only just in time to see Jem, far ahead of her, disappear into a dark copse of trees. She looked around wildly but could see neither the road nor the Starkweathers’ carriage. With her heart pounding, she dashed after him.

The copse was wide, spreading along the ridgeline. The moment Tessa ducked in among the trees, the light vanished; thick tree branches interweaving above her blocked out the sun. Feeling like Snow White fleeing into the forest, she looked around helplessly for a sign of where the boys had gone – broken branches, trodden leaves – and caught a shimmer of light on metal as the automaton surged out of the dark space between two trees and lunged for her.