She comes to him in gold. Every time, without fail. He understands the significance, the symbolism. He appreciates it. But she doesn't know that. He responds in kind, with a frost rose. Every time, without fail. And waits for the day she understands.
It is Magnus, that makes her consider. Isabelle had thought nothing of it, of the flowers Meliorn used to give her. They sit in a crystal vase on her nightstand still. When she first ended their… arrangement, she had considered throwing them out. But when she tried to, she couldn't bring herself to follow through. And so they have remained on her nightstand, the last thing she'd see before sleep and the first after waking, filling the room with their gentle fragrance.
They are peculiar, her flowers, resembling a Christmas rose in blossom size and general form. But they have more petals, are more delicate too, almost resembling a tea rose, though there are not quite enough petals for that. The leaves on the stem are long and narrow, with the serrated edges typical for roses. The roses, for that is what they are, have, like a rose is wont to do, sharp thorns along its stem, though even without giving it any thought Isabelle has never pricked herself.
The fragrance is unique. It reminds the shadowhunter of the mulled wine Meliorn has given her after she got caught in a snowstorm in a light coat only that one time (she had been running late after a surprise demon attack and not checked the weather). It smelled (and tasted) of spices, warmth and comfort, hints of honey and tea with an underlying wintery crispness rounding it out. It had warmed her up quite thoroughly, as had Meliorn's arms around her. That is how these roses smell, except not quite so spicy. Warmth and comfort, safety, winter and honey and a fire in the hearth, a dash of tea and spices. The scent always makes her smile.
The last thing that differentiates her roses from normal flowers is the color, the last one is of a deep purple somewhere between violet and lavender, the the one before greenish blue. Now they sit there in her room, bringing in all the colors of the Northern Lights.
And so it is Magnus that makes her think. They sit in her room, awaiting her trial, preparing as best they can. Magnus turns with a flourish and spots the vase. “My, Isabelle, what Seelie did you sell your first born child to for such a princely gift?” He's only semi-joking. The shadowhunter looks at him bewildered. “What are you talking about?” He gestures towards the flowers. “The frost roses. The Seelie part not lightly with them. Actually, they usually don't part with them at all, they have a hard enough time getting them as it is. The Unseelie hold them in high regard.” The warlock explains. Isabelle raises an eyebrow but shrugs.” Meliorn gave them to me. They don't wilt. That's why I kept them.” That is a lie. Sort of. She kept them because she can't bring herself to toss them out, wilting or not. But they truly do not wilt. Meliorn has been giving her a single frost rose, as Magnus calls them, every time she has met him. Only in that time between her ending her
arrangement relationship with Meliorn and saving him from her brother and his bloody fiancée had a single rose lost a single petal. She has given it no thought at the time, after all, she’s had a trial to prepare for. Which is exactly what she should be doing right now and she tells Magnus such. They get back to work and her roses fade into obscurity.
After the trial is done and Isabelle is back in her room, she can't get Magnus's words out of her mind. What Seelie did you sell your first born child to for such a princely gift? Her glance lingers on her roses. The Seelie part not lightly with them. If they are so precious, why would Meliorn give them to her so frequently? But who can she ask? Magnus is unlikely to know much more, or if he did, she doubts he would tell her. Her family is out of the question. She can almost hear her mother's lecture just by considering it. But who else would know? She can't ask the Silent Brothers, they would question her intentions. She doesn't know any trustworthy warlocks other than Magnus. And asking Meliorn is not exactly an option. Seelie cannot lie, but they are masterful in evading the truth, he would lead her in circles until she forgot her question. Who to turn to then? There's no one she can ask, especially if she doesn't want her parents to know. Isabelle considers it for a moment. But where would be the harm in asking a source that cannot tell anyone? Time for a visit to the library.
It takes Isabelle the better part of a fortnight to locate the right shelf and another ten days to find the right tome. It's dusty and likely hasn't been opened - let alone consulted - since the New York Institute's founding, if ever. And it is written in something that's decidedly not English. It might be a type of Latin, archaic or medieval maybe, or possibly Gaelic? She's really not sure, parts of it are faded almost beyond recognition and it's uncertain if it's all even written in the same language. This is going to take some time.
By the time Isabelle has transcribed everything to make it legible and figured out that most of it is in fact some type of medieval Latin with intermittent Old English and occasional bouts of medieval Scottish Gaelic her trial is two months past. She has yet to translate it but what little she could understand from transcribing sounds promising. She hasn't seen Meliorn since she helped him escape. She's not sure she wants to. She equally longs for and dreads a reunion. She should not have sent that fire message. But as they say, hindsight is always 20/20.
Translating medieval Latin, Old English and medieval Gaelic is a pain, even with a rune for speaking in tongues (which does little for reading as it is), ones for mental excellence (to speed her learning and working) and knowledge and another for eidetic memory. She's almost to the point of considering a good luck rune when she finally gets to the interesting part. On the bright side, she now knows the language of flowers as used in 19th century England and the one used by the Seelie, as well as more about medieval gardening than she ever cared to.
But after a long essay on the language of the flowers and an extensively detailed account of medieval gardening the book finally becomes relevant. There is an obvious transition, the handwriting changes. The essay of a 19th century downworlder florist is replaced by the accounts of a medieval shadowhunter with an ardent passion for gardening. Only to be itself replaced by a neat, somewhat loopy, very elegant script. So does the tone.
»The Fae folk are by nature a very secretive people. It took years of trust for my love to share with me but some of their vast knowledge, to this very day I know not all about their natures. I look at the flowers on my escritoire and I am reminded of a particularly fond memory concerning the Seelie nature.
My love presented me with morning-glories every time we met for a year before I worked up the courage to ask him about it. It was more than I had ever expected.
The Seelie place a great weight on the personal flower of an individual. Every Seelie is tied to a plant and to present someone with blossoms of that plant is a symbol of trust and love and devotion. It offers their version of marriage, a lifelong bond that doesn't end even when one dies. It is rare for an immortal race like the Seelie to bind themselves so completely and lastingly, but it occurs. As long as our love would last, the morning-glories he gave me would bloom, my love explained. This flower can even indicate the social standing of a Seelie. The rarest, my love claims, is the Frost Rose, because it is the personal flower of the prince of the Unseelie Court…«
The account is cut off and the text goes back to the pros and cons of planting roses over forget-me-nots beneath chapel windows. Isabelle rolls her eyes. At least the book has been helpful. She feels like she needs a drink. And time to process everything she has just learned. But mostly a drink. The implications of what she has just read… No. Drink first, life changing, world tilting revelations later.
She comes to him in gold. At first, he doesn't pay it any mind, she has always done so. Then he sees the crown of roses on her dark hair. He knows the symbolism of her dress. It seems now she understands the significance of the roses too. He holds out his hand. She takes it with not a moment's hesitation. He smiles.