Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A Question of Power

A Short Story which Alec and Camille talk about Magnus

“Tell me more,” Alec said, pacing up and down the concrete floor of the abandoned subway station at City Hall. “I need to know.”

Camille looked at the boy in front of her. She was lounging on the scarlet divan she had furnished the small space with; it had a soft velvet nap, though was worn in places. Not the finest furnishing she had ever known; and a transit station below Manhattan hardly matched up to her studio in Paris, her townhouse in Amsterdam, or the great manor house by the river near St Petersburg that she recalled now only as a dim memory. “Know more about what?” she demanded, though she knew perfectly well the answer.

“About Magnus,” said Alec. He held a witchlight stone in his hand, carelessly, as if he had forgotten it was there. So typical of the Nephilim, who took for granted their angel-granted powers and the magic that ran in their blood. The stone cast its light upward, showing clearly the planes and angles of Alec’s face. “He won’t speak to me about his past, and I can’t stand it. I can’t stand not knowing.”

She looked at the boy. He was pale as milk, his blue eyes startling against so much white skin and the darkness of his hair and eyelashes. He was long-legged, slender as a willow branch, but strong: a very pretty boy, even to her, who looked at human beings and saw mortality and rot.

“You may have to stand it,” she said, trying to keep the boredom out of her voice. “If Magnus has not shared his secrets with you yet, he may choose never to do so. So you have have him and his secrets, or not have him at all.”

Alec whirled. “But he shared his secrets with you.”

She shrugged lightly. “We knew each other a long time. I had a long time to give.” She smiled, feeling the sharp kiss of her fang teeth against her lower lip. She was hungry. She thought about the boy, the pulse in his neck that beat more quickly as he spoke, the widening of his eyes. She wondered if he would cry. Human tears were salt, like their blood.

But he didn’t cry. His expression hardened, and she saw a flicker of his ancestors in the set of his jaw. “Who is his father?”

She let her head fall back against the divan. “And why should I tell you?”

“Because you want me to kill Raphael,” he said. “And because I could make life very unpleasant for you if I want to.” He raised the witchlight, and its cold white rays spread through the room. So he had remembered it after all.

She straightened up, pushing her hair back. “This is the last time, Alexander. After this I will not say another word until you come to me with Raphael’s blood on your hands and his heart strung on a chain for me to wear.”

Alec swallowed. “Tell me. Where he was born. Who his father is.”

“You would call it Indonesia,” said Camille, “but to us it was the Dutch East Indies. Magnus’ mother was of mixed blood — a white father and an Indonesian mother. His father was a Prince of Hell. You know the Princes of Hell, angel boy?”

Alec’s winter-pale skin went even paler. “Of course I do,” he said, stiffly. “I am a Shadowhunter. But they are … mythic. The greatest angels of Heaven became the greatest princes in Hell. And the greatest of them all is … Lucifer.” He sucked in a breath. “You aren’t saying …”

Camille pealed with laughter. “That Magnus’ father is the Light-Bringer? The Morning Star? Certainly not!”

“But he is a Prince of Hell.”

“You will have to ask Magnus that yourself,” said Camille, playing with a tassel on the end of the couch arm.

“Maybe he never told you,” Alec said. “Did he love you enough to tell you? Did you love him?”a

“He loved me,” said Camille, thoughtfully. “I did not love him. I was fond of him. But I never loved him. Not like that.” She shifted irritably. “I grow tired of telling you things, little Shadowhunter, especially when you have been of so little use to me.”

Alec’s cheeks flushed the color of pale carnations. Camille could tell by the tension in his slender body that he was holding back both anger and shame: he needed her, she thought with satisfaction, needed her to satisfy the curiosity that consumed him, fed by fear. His need of her was like blood.

“One last thing,” he said, in a low voice. “One last thing, and I will leave you alone.”

She raised her eyebrows.

“Am I different?” Alec said. “Is there any way he loves me that is different than the ways he’s loved before?”

She let her lips curl into a slow smile. “The answer to that question, Alexander, will cost you.”

“Cost me what? What more?”

There was pain in his voice.

“Blood,” she said.

A long silence stretched between them. Finally, in an incredulous tone, he said: “You want to drink my blood?”

She chuckled. “Do you know how long it has been since I drank from a willing human? And Shadowhunter blood has a special quality. Not all of you are like your Jace, of course, carrying daylight in your veins. But still — a vintage of unusual quality.”

The flush in his cheeks deepened. He stared at her as she lay back against the velvet, half-closing her eyes. She knew her beauty could not warm or tempt him, but it did not matter. Beauty was power, but there were other kinds of power.

This close to Alec, she could smell his scent: sandalwood cologne, winter chill, the salt tang of human fear. And they were human, Shadowhunters. Underneath it all, still human, prey to human emotions, human weaknesses, and human fears, for all that they believed that they were special.

“Very well,” he said. “Just this once.”

She watched through half-lidded eyes that hid her triumph, the slight trembling in his fingers as he reached for the button that fastened the shirt cuff at his left wrist and flicked it open, then offered her his bare and unprotected skin.


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