"No fewer than four of my esteemed elders told me I was on no account to ever converse with you, so I vowed that I would know you. My name is Edmund Herondale. May I ask your name? They referred to you only as 'that disgraceful one-warlock show.'"
"I am deeply moved by that tribute," Magnus told Edmund, and made his own bow. "Magnus Bane, at your service."
"Now we are acquainted," Edmund said. "Capital! Do you frequent any low dens of sin and debauchery?"
"Oh, now and then."
"The Morgensterns said you did, while they were throwing away the plates," Edmund said, with every sign of enthusiasm. "Shall we go?"
Throwing away the plates? It took Magnus a moment to comprehend, and when he did, he felt cold inside. The Shadowhunters had thrown away the very plates Downworlders had touched, afraid their china would be corrupted.
On the other hand, that was not Edmund's fault. The only other place Magnus had to go was the mansion he had perhaps rashly purchased in Grosvenor Square. A recent adventure had caused him to become temporarily wealthy (a state he despised; he usually tried to get rid of his money as soon as he had it), so he had decided to live in style. The ton of London were referring to him, he believed, as "Bane the nabob." This meant a great many people in London were anxious to make his acquaintance, and a great many of them seemed tiresome. Edmund, at least, did not.
"Why not?" Magnus decided.
Edmund glowed. "Excellent. Very few people are willing to have real adventures. Haven't you found that out, Bane? Isn't it sad?"
"I have very few rules in life, but one of them is to never decline an adventure. The others are: to avoid becoming romantically entangled with sea creatures; to always ask for what you want, because the worst thing that can happen is embarrassment but the best thing that can happen is nudity; to demand ready money up front; and to never play cards with Catarina Loss."
"She cheats," Magnus explained. "Never mind that one."
"I would like to meet a lady who cheats at cards," Edmund said wistfully. "Aside from Granville's aunt Millicent, who is a terror at piquet."
Magnus had never truly considered that the high-and-mighty Shadowhunters ever played cards, let alone cheated at them. He supposed he had imagined that their leisure activities consisted of weapons training and having discussions about their infinite superiority over everyone else.
Magnus ventured to give Edmund a hint. "Mundane clubs do generally frown upon patrons who have, purely for random example, an abundance of weaponry about their person. So that might be an impediment."
"Absolutely not," Edmund promised him. "Why, I have the most paltry assortment of weapons on me. Only a few miserable daggers, a single stiletto knife, a couple of whips-"
Magnus blinked. "Hardly an armory," he said. "Though, it sounds like a most amusing Saturday."
"Capital!" said Edmund Herondale, apparently taking this for approval of his company on Magnus's excursion. He looked delighted.
White's club, on St. James's Street, had not changed outwardly at all. Magnus regarded the pale stone facade with pleasure: the Greek columns and the arched frames to the higher windows, as if each window were a chapel unto itself; the cast-iron balcony, which bore an intricate swirling pattern that had always made Magnus think of a procession of snail shells; the bow window out of which a famous man had once looked, and bet on a race between raindrops. The club had been established by an Italian, had been the haunt of criminals, and had been the irresistible bane of English aristocrats for more than a hundred years.
Whenever Magnus heard anything described as a "bane," he felt sure he would like it. It was why he had chosen that particular last name for himself, and also why he had joined White's several years before on a noindentying visit to London, in the main because his friend Catarina Loss had bet him that he could not do it.
Edmund swung around one of the black cast-iron lamps set before the door. The leaping noindentame behind the glass was dim compared to his eyes.
"This used to be a place where highwaymen drank hot chocolate," Magnus told Edmund carelessly as they walked inside. "The hot chocolate was very good. Being a highwayman is chilly work."
"Did you ever ask someone to stand and deliver?"
"I'll just say this," said Magnus. "I look dashing in a tasteful mask and a large hat."
Edmund laughed again-he had an easy and delighted laugh, like a child. His gaze was roving all over the room, from the ceiling-constructed to look as if they stood in a vast stone barrel-to the chandelier dripping glittering jewels like a duchess; to the green baize-covered tables that clustered on the right side of the room, where men were playing cards and losing fortunes.
Edmund's quality of bright wonder and surprise made him seem younger than he was; it lent a fragile air to his beauty. Magnus did not wonder why he, one of the Nephilim, was not warier of a Downworlder. He doubted Edmund Herondale was wary of anything in life. He was eager to be entertained, ready to be thrilled, essentially trusting of the world.
Edmund pointed to where two men stood, one making an entry in a large book with a defiant noindentourish of his pen.
"What's afoot there?"
"I presume they are recording a wager. There is a betting book here in White's that is quite celebrated. All sorts of bets are taken-whether a gentleman could manage to ravish a lady in a balloon a thousand feet off the ground, whether a man could live underwater for a day."
Magnus found them a pair of chairs near a fire, and made a gesture indicating that he and his companion were sorely in need of a drink. Their thirst was supplied the next instant. There were advantages to a truly excellent gentlemen's club.
"Do you think one could?" Edmund inquired. "Not live underwater; I know mundanes cannot. The other thing."
"My experiences in a balloon with a lady were not very pleasant," Magnus said, wincing at the memory. Queen Marie Antoinette had been an exciting but not comfortable traveling companion. "I would be disinclined to indulge in carnal delights in a balloon with a lady or a gentleman. No matter how delightful they were."
Edmund Herondale did not seem in the least surprised by the mention of a gentleman in Magnus's romantic speculations.
"It would be a lady in the balloon for me," he said.
"Ah," said Magnus, who had suspected as much.
"But I am always noindentattered to be admired," said Edmund, with an engaging grin. "And I am always admired."
He said it with that easy smile and another golden noindentutter of eyelashes, in the same way he had wound Amalia Morgenstern around his finger. It was clear he knew he was outrageous, and he expected people to like it. Magnus suspected they all did.
"Ah, well," Magnus said, giving up the matter gracefully. "Any particular lady?"
"I am not perfectly certain I believe in marriage. Why have just one bonbon when you can have the box?"
Magnus raised his eyebrows and took a swallow of his excellent brandy. The young man had a way with words and the naive delight of someone who had never had his heart broken.
"No one's ever really hurt you, have they?" said Magnus, who saw no point in beating about the bush.
Edmund looked alarmed. "Why, are you about to?"
"With all those whips on your person? Hardly. I merely meant that you seem like someone who has never had his heart broken."
"I lost my parents as a child," said Edmund candidly. "But rare is the Shadowhunter with an intact family. I was taken in by the Fairchilds and raised in the Institute. Its halls have ever been my home. And if you mean love, then no, my heart has never been broken. Nor do I foresee that it will be."
"Don't you believe in love?"
"Love, marriage, the whole business is extremely overrated. For instance, this chap I know called Benedict Lightwood recently got leg-shackled, and the affair is hideous-"
"Your friends moving forward into a different era of their lives can be difficult," Magnus said sympathetically.
Edmund made a face. "Benedict is not my friend. It's the poor young lady I feel sorry for. The man is peculiar in his habits, if you see what I'm trying to say."
"I don't," Magnus said noindentatly.
"Bit of a deviant, is what I'm getting at."
Magnus regarded him with a cold air.
"Bad News Benedict, we call him," said Edmund. "Mostly due to his habit of consorting with demons. The more tentacles, the better, if you catch my meaning."
"Oh," Magnus said, enlightened. "I know who you mean. I have a friend from whom he bought some most unusual woodcuts. Also a couple of engravings. Said friend is simply an honest tradesman, and I have never bought anything from him myself, mind you."
"Also Benedict Lightworm. And Bestial Benedict," Edmund continued bitterly. "But he sneaks about while the rest of us get up to honest larks, and the Clave all think that he's superlatively well behaved. Poor Barbara. I'm afraid she acted hastily because of her broken heart."
Magnus leaned back in his chair. "And who broke her heart, might I ask?" he asked, amused.
"Ladies' hearts are like bits of china on a mantelpiece. There are so many of them, and it is so easy to break them without noticing." Edmund shrugged, a little rueful but mostly amused, and then a man in an unfortunate waistcoat walked into his armchair.
"I beg your pardon," said the gentleman. "I believe I am somewhat foxed!"
"I am prepared to charitably believe you were drunk when you got dressed," Magnus said under his breath.
"Eh?" said the man. "The name's Alvanley. You ain't one of those Indian nabobs, are you?"
Though he never much felt like explaining his origins to white-skinned Europeans who didn't care to know the difference between Shanghai and Rangoon, given the troubles in India, it was not actually a good idea for Magnus to be taken for Indian. He sighed and disclaimed, made his introduction and his bow.
"Herondale," said Edmund, bowing too. Edmund's golden assurance and open smile did their work.
"New to the club?" Alvanley asked, suddenly benevolent. "Well, well. It's a celebration. May I offer you both another drink?"
Alvanley's friends, some at the card table and some milling about, raised a discreet cheer. Queen Victoria had, so the happy report went, risen safe from childbed, and both mother and daughter were doing admirably.
"Drink to the health of our new Princess Beatrice, and to the queen!"
"Doesn't the poor woman have nine children?" asked Magnus. "By the ninth I would think she would be too exhausted to think of a new name, and certainly too fatigued to rule a country. I will drink to her health by all means."
Edmund was very ready to be plied with more drinks, though at one point he slipped up and referred to the queen as Vanessa rather than Victoria.
"Ahahaha," said Magnus. "He is on the ran-tan, and no mistake!"
Edmund was noindentushed with drink and almost immediately got absorbed in a card game. Magnus joined in playing Macao as well, but he found himself observing the Shadowhunter with some concern. People who blithely believed that the world owed them good luck could be dangerous at the gaming table. Add to that the fact that Edmund clearly craved excitement, and his kind of temperament was the very one most suited for disaster at play. There was something unsettling about the glitter of the boy's eyes suddenly, changed by the light of the club's wax candles, from being like a sky to being like a sea an instant before a storm.
Edmund, Magnus decided, put him in mind of nothing so much as a boat-a shining beautiful thing, buffeted by the whims of the water and winds. Only time would tell if he would find anchor and harbor, or if all that beauty and charm would be reduced to a wreck.
All imaginings aside, there was no need for Magnus to play nursemaid to Shadowhunters. Edmund was a man full-grown and able to care for himself. It was Magnus who grew bored in the end, and coaxed Edmund out of White's for a sobering walk in the night air.
They had not wandered far from St. James's Street when Magnus paused in his retelling of a certain incident in Peru because he felt Edmund come to attention next to him, every line of that angelic athlete's body suddenly tensed. He brought to mind forcibly a pointer dog hearing an animal in the undergrowth.
Magnus followed the line of Edmund's sight until he saw what the Shadowhunter was seeing: a man in a bowler hat, his hand set firmly on a carriage door, having what appeared to be an altercation with the occupants of the carriage.
It was shockingly uncivil, and but a moment later it became worse. The man had hold of a woman's arm, Magnus saw. She was dressed plainly, as befit an abigail or lady's maid. The man tried to wrench her from the carriage by main force.
He would have succeeded but for the interference of the other occupant of the carriage, a small dark lady, this one in a gown that rustled like silk as her voice rang out like thunder.
"Unhand her, you wretch!" said the lady, and she belabored the man about the head with her bonnet.
The man started at the unexpected onslaught and let go of the woman, but turned his attention to the lady and grasped the hand holding the bonnet instead. The woman gave a shout that seemed more outrage than terror, and struck him in the nose. The man's face turned slightly at the blow, and Magnus and Edmund were both able to see his eyes.
There was no mistaking the void behind those brilliant poison-green eyes. Demon, Magnus thought. A demon, and a hungry one, to be trying to abduct women from carriages in a London street.
A demon, and a very unlucky one, to do so in front of a Shadowhunter.
It did occur to Magnus that Shadowhunters generally hunted in groups, and that Edmund Herondale was inebriated.
"Very well," Magnus said. "Let us pause for a moment and consider- Oh, you have already run off. Splendid."
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