Chain of Iron Page 1



You will soon hear of me with my funny little games. I saved some of the proper red stuff in a ginger beer bottle over the last job to write with but it went thick like glue and I cant use it. Red ink is fit enough I hope.

—Jack the Ripper


It was strange and novel to have a human body again. To feel the wind stirring his hair and the cold particles of snow stinging his face as he made his way along the cobblestones. To swing his arms and measure the new length of his stride.

It was just after dawn, and the streets were mostly deserted. Every now and again he caught sight of a costermonger pushing his cart through the snowy street, or a charwoman in her apron and shawl hurrying to the drudgery of her work.

As he skirted a heap of snow, he stumbled and frowned to himself. His body was so weak. He needed strength desperately. He could not go on without it.

A dark shadow passed in front of him. An old man in worker’s coveralls, cap pulled down low over his head, slipping into an alley off the main thoroughfare. As he watched, the man settled himself on a crate, leaning back against the brick wall. Reaching into his threadbare jacket, the man drew forth a bottle of gin and unscrewed it.

He stepped soundlessly into the alley. The walls rose on both sides, cutting off the weak sunlight. The man looked up at him out of bleary eyes. “Wot d’ye want?”

The adamas knife flashed in the dim light. It plunged into the man’s chest again and again. Blood rose, a fine spray of red particles dyeing the filthy snow scarlet.

The killer sat back on his heels, breathing in. The energy of the man’s death, the only useful thing the mortal creature had to offer, flowed into him through the knife. He rose and smiled up at the milky white sky. Already he was feeling better. Stronger.

Soon he would be strong enough to take on his true enemies. As he turned to leave the alley, he whispered their names under his breath.

James Herondale.

Cordelia Carstairs.



And still she sits, young while the earth is old,

And, subtly of herself contemplative,

Draws men to watch the bright web she can weave,

Till heart and body and life are in its hold.

The rose and poppy are her flower; for where

Is he not found, O Lilith, whom shed scent

And soft-shed kisses and soft sleep shall snare?

—Dante Gabriel Rossetti, “Body’s Beauty”

A smoky winter fog had settled atop the city of London, reaching its pale tendrils across the streets, wreathing the buildings in dull tinsel. It cast a gray pallor over ruined trees as Lucie Herondale drove her carriage up the long, neglected drive toward Chiswick House, its roof rising from the fog like the top of a Himalayan peak above clouds.

With a kiss on the nose and a blanket over his withers, she left her horse, Balios, at the foot of the front steps and set off through the remains of the terraced garden. She passed the cracked and ruined statues of Virgil and Sophocles, now overgrown by long tendrils of vines, their limbs broken off and lying among the weeds. Other statues were partially hidden by overhanging trees and unpruned hedges, as if they were being devoured by the dense foliage.

Picking her way over a toppled rose arbor, Lucie finally reached the old brick shed in the garden. Its roof was long since gone; Lucie felt a bit as if she’d come across an abandoned shepherd’s hut on the moors. A thin finger of gray smoke was even rising from within. If this were The Beautiful Cordelia, a mad but handsome duke would come staggering across the heath, but nothing ever happened as it did in books.

All around the shed she could see small mounds of earth where, over the past four months, she and Grace had buried the unsuccessful results of their experimentation—the unfortunate bodies of fallen birds or cat-slain rats and mice that they had tried over and over to bring back to life.

Nothing had worked yet. And Grace didn’t even know all of it. She remained unaware of Lucie’s power to command the dead. She did not know that Lucie had tried ordering the small bodies to come back to life, had tried reaching within them to catch at something she could draw into the world of the living. But it had never worked. Whatever part of them Lucie might have been able to command had fled with their deaths.

She had mentioned none of that to Grace.

Lucie gave a philosophic shrug and went up to the massive wooden slab of a door—she did sometimes question what the point was of having a door on a building that didn’t have any roof—and tapped a coded pattern: one two, one two.

Instantly she heard someone crossing the floor and turning the bolt, and the door swung open. Grace Blackthorn stood in the doorway, her face set and serious. Even in the foggy weather, her hair, loose around her shoulders, glinted silvery bright. “You’ve come,” she said, sounding more surprised than pleased.

“I said I would.” Lucie pushed past Grace. The shed had a single room inside with a floor of packed earth, now partly frozen.

A table had been pushed against the wall under the Blackthorn family sword, which hung from coarsely forged iron hooks. On the table a makeshift laboratory had been constructed: there were rows of alembics and glass bottles, a mortar and pestle, and dozens of test tubes. An assortment of packets and tins took up the rest of the table, some lying open, others emptied and collected in a pile.

Next to the table was a fire that had been laid directly on the ground, the source of the smoke escaping from the missing roof. The fire was unnaturally silent, emanating not from wood logs but from a mound of stones, its greenish flames licking greedily upward as though seeking to consume the iron cauldron suspended from a hook above it. The cauldron held a simmering black brew that smelled earthy and chemical at the same time.

Lucie approached a second, larger table slowly. On it rested a coffin. Through its glass lid she could see Jesse, exactly as he’d appeared when they were last together—white shirt, black hair lying soft against the nape of his neck. His eyelids were pale half-moons.

She had not confined herself to birds and bats and mice. She had tried commanding Jesse to come back to life too, though she had been able to do it only during the short periods when Grace had gone to fetch something and left her alone with Jesse’s body. She had fared even worse with that than she had with the animals. Jesse was not empty, as the animals were—she could feel something inside him: a life, a force, a soul. But whatever it was, it was anchored in the space between life and death, and she could not shift it. Even trying made her feel ill and weak, as if she were doing something wrong.

“I wasn’t sure if you were still coming,” Grace said crossly. “I’ve been waiting forever. Did you get the thorn-apple?”

Lucie reached in her pocket for the tiny packet. “It was hard to get away. And I can’t stay long. I’m meeting Cordelia tonight.”

Grace took the packet and tore it open. “Because the wedding’s tomorrow? But what’s it got to do with you?”

Lucie looked at Grace hard, but the other girl seemed genuinely not to understand. Often Grace didn’t seem to grasp why people did things if the answer was because that’s how friends behave or because that’s what you do for someone you’re fond of. “I’m Cordelia’s suggenes,” she said. “I walk her down the aisle, but I also provide help and support before the ceremony. Tonight I’m going out with her to—”