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 City of Idumea, Capital of Edom

Magnus Bane strode through the Idumea Castle in a brisk pace. None of his inner turmoil nor hurry was apparent on his face. On the contrary, his countenance was of practiced temperament as he made his way to the throne room. He smiled amicably to the servers whom he met on the way, stopped to pay respect to a handful of nobles, and presented himself in the most admirable manner. It was all despite himself for he was not overly fond of attending court.

"Sire" one of the door guards greeted Magnus with a bow, just like other have before him. He was a tall scrawny thing with pale olive skin a large branch-like antlers on his head. He wore medieval amour of metal and chain but his hooves were bare.

"Welcome to back to Idumea. Shall I announce your presence to the court?"

Magnus raised his head inquisitively. "Is the King speaking with the Council?"

"Yes, sire" the man replied with a nod. "They have been so since the breaking of the fast."

"Very well" Magnus gestured his consent. "Announce me so that I may address the court." The servant obeyed as was commanded. The massive double doors of the hall were opened with the help of two hefty demons part-bull and part-demon who stood up on its hind legs.

Inside, the Council spoke with hushed seriousness and immediately grew quiet as he entered.

"Your Majesty" he greeted his father with a formal bow, kneeling on one knee at the address. When he stood, he acknowledge the rest of the Council with a mere inclination of his head. "Gentlemen" Then he turned back to the man sitting on the throne. "You've summoned me father now I am here. What business is so grave that a letter cannot suffice?"

Hushed whispers erupted. Clearly, the Council failed to be discreet. They were not adverse to show their aversion to the youngest Prince of Hell. It was widely known throughout Hell that he was a half-breed, the son of a mundane, a mix of human and demon blood. Not many in court approved of his acceptance and granted legitimacy. It is rumored that he was the King's most favored child but he highly doubts this.

"War breaks beyond the Shadow Realm." The King spoke in a loud booming voice. He demanded respect from sheer volume alone.

Magnus had the audacity to rub one of his ears but his a wince. He remained steady. "I do not see why the problems of another realm are any of our concern" he said with an air of indifference. "…sire" he added as an after-thought. He did not have the breeding nor training of his other siblings and it showed. He was born of the human world and raised as one during his childhood---that was many, many years ago.

Asmodeus responded. "Mundanes are brash fickle creatures. They are barbaric in nature. They have summoned many of our kin to be killed, to be slaughtered, to do their dirty bidding… Treating our brethren like mindless beasts."

Magnus bit the inside of his cheek. Demons were supposed to be intelligent creatures and they responded based on the astuteness of the summoner.  There was a price, often of greater value, for every favor granted. But his father's words were right. Even he was not blind to the dwindling number of demons in the outer villages. The Mundane conflicts was affecting them. Without resolution, the spoils of war would eventually bleed into their realm.

"I am your most humble servant." He repeated the words instilled in him from his very first day in Edom. He continued, "What must I do to please my King?"

"The Council had proposed that we fight this threat directly."

Magnus' cat-eyes, the only demons marks which he processed, widened. "But you cannot do that! If we fight in the human war, it will disrupt the whole balance of light and dark---it will lead us to utter distraction along with the Mundanes! Surely, father, my King, there must be another way!" He protested. "Light and Darkness were two parts of a whole, one could not exist without the other."

"The boy is preposterous, your Majesty!" one of the elder demons, skin like tree bark and gassy eyes. He stood up in objection to the young Prince's remarks. "A boy like him, a half-breed, one of them, harbors sympathies to the enemy's plight. His own mother is Mundane! Surely, your Majesty, you cannot take his counsel into consideration."

Magnus' eyes flared golden and bright. His magic, in blue sparks, lashed out to the outspoken dissenter and formed a rope-like flame. It scorched and burned the wood-like surface, making the other scream in agony. "The boy," he spat out "is right here. Need I remind you who holds the King of Hell's blood in his veins?" He bend his fingers like a claw and the demon sputtered. "Or perhaps a demonstration is required?" His flames followed his fist as he clenched, cutting off the demon's airway.

"Magnus!" The King bellowed. "That is enough! You've demonstrated your superiority amidst the Council members. Release him."

Magnus snapped his finger and sneered at the fool. Then, he turned and bowed obediently to his father. "As you wish, sire." The Council member was released, choking on the renewed breath of air, falling haplessly on the chair.

"Rulers of this Realm, we may be, but the fragile balance of the world we cannot sway." Asmodeus announced with confidence. "We must therefore act in the interest of this Kingdom above all else. Although we cannot tip the scales in our favor, we can nudge it in the direction we want."

Chapter Text



 

City of Alicante, Capital of Idris

The royal letter was written on the finest thick parchment with writing as black as though it was burned with flames. The unfamiliar seal was made of dark bronze beeswax. Instead of bows or ribbons, it was tied together with pieces of thin forest vines. Its arrival caused an upheaval within the court of Alicante and news of it spread like wildfire within the citadel.

Isabelle was in the markets when she first heard the gossip. For as long as she remembered, Idris was a blessed land. The news threatened everything she believed to be true.

"It is time." One of the merchants whispered to another. "The price for our realm's long fruitful prosperity has finally been called upon."

"May the angel's blessing guide the poor soul," the second merchant agreed in a low voice.

"I beg pardon," Isabelle interjected into the conversation. She wore her peasant’s clothes today which were remarkable for keeping her identity. The pair looked at her with inhospitable glares until she picked a ripe round fruit from the pile and smiled sweetly. "How much for these peaches?"

"Two coins give you three peaches," the female merchant replied in a much kinder tone. "How about some apples or dragonfruit? It's a fresh haul from the mundane world and protected by angel's blessings to keep from spoiling. Only a coin for the apples and three for a pair of dragonfruits." She said, gesturing to her bountiful cart of fruits.

"Perfect. How about a dozen fruits for ten coins…" Isabelle offered with a sweet smile. She watched as the merchant's eyes widened with interest. "… but you'll also have to tell me about the Devil's Bride. I haven't had the pleasure to hear such folklore as a child."

Both merchants froze at the question. The second one, whom she did not inquire from, immediately shut down the stall with a bolt and lock. "Never!" the much older female snorted. "Never will you ask of such a foul thing again! It is a disgrace amongst us Nephilim, our race, our origin, our birthright as Children of Raziel! It marks the end of our peace, do you not know? Foolish child!" She spat, stomping off with her small pouch of earning jangling by her hip.

Isabelle was motionless in shock. Never in her life had she been treated with such disrespect. Even her tutors in the castle, or her mother, or the King had conversed with in such a despicable manner. She wanted to bring out her serpentine whip and haul the old woman's struggling body in the middle of the square. She pushed all those unbecoming thoughts away.

"Child…" a voice broke her from her reverie. It was her chosen merchant. She stared upon Isabelle with pitiful eyes and shook her head. "Forgive her, you must be a child of the inner circle. The Clave has outlawed for this to be spoken within the Gard." She smiled pitifully at Isabelle as if the position and rank was more of a curse than a privilege.

"I beg you, please, kind woman," Isabelle said, still holding onto the fruit which she had intended to purchase. "I am in no need of fruit more than I am in need of answers. I speak only the truth. This folklore of which you whisper about, I have never heard it from any of my tutor's lips. Pray, tell me what the castle has hidden from me."

And so, the woman did.

"So the devil seeks a bride for to be the queen of hell?" Isabelle asked, unsteadily. She refused to believe that such a tale of the utmost treachery could be true. They were the Children of Raziel, Children of the Angel, blessed by the most heavenly god. To create such a contract with heaven's betrayers would be to betray heaven itself. They would---they should have been cursed.

This time, the merchant bowed her head. "Oh dear, no! Hell already has its queen."

"Then why?"

"A consort, a bedfellow," the woman brashly explained, making even Isabelle's cheeks tint pink. "For his Harem, of course! Have you not been taught about the Incubus and Succubus? Those vile creatures of sex and carnal desire! They were all borne from the King of Hell's seed."

Isabelle swallowed a lungful of air. "Pray tell, kind woman, who does he wish to take?"

This time the woman laughed. "He would seek the most precious maiden of all this realm, our own royalty, a daughter from the house of the ruling family."

Isabelle dropped her piece of fruit. She gathered her long heavy skirts and ran.


 

Alec was inside the Great Hall when the letter appeared in the middle of the expansive oval table. As the Inquisitor's son, and a pledged Shadowhunter of age, he was allowed to observe the Council's meetings. His father, quick to react, immediately ordered everyone to leave the room. When protests arose from the older council members, Robert released an uncharacteristically large amount of angelic powers to hasten the evacuation.

"Father?" Alec spoke, breaking the spell of silence which befell the hall. His blood became cold like the frost of winter, freezing inside his veins. Dread washed over him, followed shortly by concern for his family above all else. He had heard about this taboo folklore---the one outlawed by the Inquisitor from being spoken about. The myths and legends after the Dark War were rampant inside the castle after the last glow of witchlight.

The Devil's Bride is no more folklore than a tale used to tell one's children at night, at least that's what Alec had thought. It spoke of the pact made between the Nephilim and the Shadows. In order to return the balance, to bring peace and prosperity to the land, one of Raziel's children must be sacrificed---a bride for one of hell's seven princes. An alliance forged in blood which cannot be broken except for death. Only then will they be ridden of the curse which has loomed over the years of bounty.

"My dear boy, Alec, my son," He spoke with a stricken expression. "I have made a grave error in my youth. I was not… always the level-headed man who I am today…" he stopped, seemingly unable to continue. "When I was but a boy, I made a deal with the King of Hell."

Alec's eyes grew wide. "You what?! Father, I beg, refute it as a falsehood. Tell me you did not do what you've warned us against our entire lives. It's the very first, the highest decree, which we were taught as Children of Raziel! We must not associate ourselves with such vile creatures of the Darkness. Deny it, Father, please, deny your own words. It can't be true. They are the sworn enemy!"

"Yet, they are the reason we exist." Robert said. with his head bowed in shame.  "I cannot because I spoke of the truth. I fear that, by this letter, the King of Hell has come to collect."

"What is he to collect?" Alec questioned without emotion. The weight of it all felt too heavy on his shoulders. He sagged into the alcove of the window. Somehow, somewhere, he already knew the answer deep in the pit of his stomach. It made him sick. The silence that followed spoke volumes. "The Devil's Bride is true then? By pact, then tell me, Father, was it you who entered into the contract yourself?"

"Yes," Robert admitted. "I promised him my child in exchange for peace and prosperity to cover the realm. It was---it still is---a sacrifice necessary for our survival. Alec, I am sorry, I did not know. I was… I never thought… One child for the sake of our people, our kin, our community. A child for Idris. At the time," he turned away in guilt. "the price did not seem so grave."  

Alec steeled himself for the inevitable. The shame of his father's action, the betrayal, but most of all the pain, coursed through him like a thunderous river in the middle of a storm. He had but only witnessed the Great Rains once in his life before his father became High Inquisitor. He closed his hands into fists and called on his inner bravery to speak.

"Then, it is an obligation that only our family bloodline can fulfill, am I correct?" He guessed, secretly praying that he'd been wrong. He heard of the servant's tales before, of the price that the Nephilim must one day pay for the bountiful favors bestowed upon the land. He need not directly ask the reason for such a contract. They, even as the blessed angel's children, suffered far too grave damages after the Dark War. The letter was a symbol to the last precious few grains of sand in their hour glass.

"Yes," Robert finally admitted.

"I refuse!" Maryse shouted. "I refuse to give my child to the fallen, to be the Devil's bride, consort to a Prince of Hell. Such dishonor and disgrace, Robert, have brought upon the family name! A name which you sought so long to protect."

Robert remained unyielding. He held his wife's sobbing form to his chest, holding on despite her nails catching on his flesh and drawing blood. "We cannot refuse his claim nor his request. It was a deal done in blood, bound by the soul, mortgaged by Idris in itself. Will you, really, choose our own family's happiness for the sake of the Clave? Refuse and Idris will fall with our name. We shall be forever disgraced. All the realm's bounty will be stripped and reclaimed."

Maryse stared into her husband's dark blue eyes, the colour of skies without stars, the colour of darkness with no hope for light, and she saw the truth in them. She bitterly realized that she had already lost the battle. For the first time in her life, there was simply nothing she could do. If she chose her own kin before the people, the Clave will lynch her whole family alive. It was a decision she wished that she did not have to make.

"Isabelle must leave in five days time," Robert told them ruefully.

This is madness! Complete and utter madness! He cannot believe that his own father was capable of such a fault. Demons were the creatures which they were born and bred to kill. Now, it is his own sister's inevitable fate to be tied to one. The mere thought made his gut sink to his feet. She was too young, too innocent, to pure for such a fate to befall on her.

"Father, it cannot be her!" Alec protested. For an instant, he displayed the true calling of his blood, his inner angelic fury which he had been so keen to suppress. He nearly glowed with all the resonance that he was projecting. His power unfurled outwards like translucent wings of blue. "Please," he pleaded, folding onto his knees. "Do not send my sister to her death! Take me. Send me in Isabelle's place."

"Be silent, Alec. You are not who they want. They seek a bride to..." the Inquisitor addressed him. At the moment, the tall man who stood before them was not Robert, husband and father, but the High Inquisitor of the Clave. He spoke with emotionless coldness. "...reproduce. There is naught that we can do. Else, the King of Hell will send for her. Do you wish for a slaughter to befall Idris along with the downfall of all Nephilim?"

"So you would freely send Isabelle, your own daughter , to be a broodmare?!"

Robert lowered his head. "We cannot risk anything... not with the Accords about to take place... We must prepare her at once." His eyes pierced into Alec's core. "You are my heir. You will understand that this decision is for the Nephilim and for the Clave, not merely for our own family's affluence. The deal has been done, a pre-condition before your birth, you alone cannot stop it."

"This is preposterous! This is treachery!"

"NO!" Robert bellowed. "Your language is treachery. Even if you are my son, of my own flesh and my own blood, I will not have you speak to me in disrespect. You're dismissed. Go to your rooms. You are not to leave until Isabelle's carriage has left the citadel. I will have guards to ensure it." He flicked his wrists and gestured him to the door. "Do not be a fool, Alexander."

Chapter Text

Alec stood by the castle steps on the day of his sister's departure. He wished for this madness to be gone. It shouldn't have to be like this. For the last five days, he’d been desperately trying to find a solution. He'd gone to the Great Library, read their codex from cover to cover, and spoke to the Consul despite his father's orders. None of his attempts bore fruit.

Isabelle had been restless for the entire five days. She ceased attending meals and gradually became more and more withdraw from both the court and their family. She hasn't been seen by anyone save their cousin Aline for days. Still, all her endeavours at rebellion were useless for, in the end, she still was meant to be their human sacrifice.

Guilt ate at Alec's conscience. In his last ounce of desperation, he confided in his best friend Jace.

Jace was the son of their father's parabatai. After his father's passing, he came to the Lightwoods and was brought up alongside Alec and Isabelle. Two days ago, the blond volunteered to head the caravan to Edom. Robert thought nothing was peculiar about such a request. Jace had always been like a brother to her.

The blond now stood with Alec as the carriage came into view.

"Are you ready?" he asked lowly, giving Alec a meaningful glance. He fiddled with the latches of his pauldron while circling his arm for range-of-motion. He was wearing heavy  gear to be prepared for anything. Edom was a no-Nephilim's land. "This has got to be the worst idea ever. Worse than the time I tricked you into kissing Helen when we were kids!"

"Shut up, Jace, you think I don't know that?" Alec hissed back. He didn’t have time to be embarrassed about that memory. Not when the carriage that would send his sister to her death was rounding the corner. He glared at it as though, if he tried hard enough, it would burst into a ball of flames.

It didn’t work.

Jace failed to hold his tongue.

"I say that we just go their ourselves and kill the bastard prince," Jace suggests, "After the marriage, I can sneak in and kill him myself. We'll have fulfilled the pact by then through the marriage. There's not reason for them to put a curse on Alicante."

"Right," Alec replies sarcastically. He fights the urge to roll his eyes. "Because killing a member of the royal family isn't enough of a reason to go to war," he mutters under his breath, "as if mundanes hadn't gone to war for something far less. Tch." Because they already have and they've done so for selfish reasons.

"What was that?" Jace asked, jabbing an elbow into Alec's side.

Alec yelped. "Nothing," he grits out, hand rubbing his sides, "I didn't say anything."            

"Young ones," a voice says in their heads simultaneously, " I pray it is not trouble which you seek."

Their words died on their lips when the voice spoke to them. They froze, unwilling to give their plans away, when they realized that they were not the only two Shadowhunters in the small plaza. It came as more to their surprise that a Silent Brother had shown his presence without being summoned.

"Brother Jeremiah," Alec greeted with false casualness. He gave the hooded figure a small bow in respect. It also served to give them a few seconds more to compose themselves. "What brings you to the citadel this early morn?"

As the norm, nothing appeared on the man's disfigured face. " I am the keeper of our archives, young Nephilim, " he awed the pair with the ability to sound chiding. " I have read the texts. I know of what is to come of this day. I come at the Queen's request. "

A moment passed before either Alec or Jace understood him. Jeremiah spoke of Maryse. When the Clave changed its structure, the King's role and power were transitioned to the Inquisitor. As the Robert's wife, she would have been called the queen.

"Mother asked you to come?" Alec prodded skeptically. "Why?"

" Tis not my role to divulge, Alexander Lightwood, " came the reply. It was completely useless to their cause.

Alec loathed the way that the Silent Brothers continued to answer in riddles. Times have changed, he believed, and so must their cryptic messages. He struggled not to think of his sentiments aloud.

" A restless heart often beats the loudest ," Brother Jeremiah remains frozen like one of the plaza's statues despite his reminder. Alec doesn't even have to look in order to figure out that the warning was meant for him. He gave no inclination to respond. Jace, too, was silent beside him.

"Brother Jeremiah, a word, if you please," Maryse called out from the top of the steps. She had breezed past the five days of waiting with practiced ease. None of the frantic mother from the library was outwardly shown in public. But Alec, knowing better, saw through his mother's facade.

Robert exited the castle with a weary expression. "Alec, Jace," he greeted them both, "I am proud that you have come to your senses about this... arrangement . Alicante, Idris, and our people, will be grateful for our family's sacrifice."

"One we shouldn't have been forced to make, if not for you," Jace bitterly spat out without meaning to. He saved himself from further embarrassment by not covering his mouth with his hand. Instead, he bit the inside of his cheek.

"Shall I pull you off the caravan, Herondale?" Roberts threatened.

The boy's response was immediate: Jace lowered his head and whispered, "No, sir."

"Good," the Inquisitor nodded his approval of the carriage. "You will ride to the edge of the Brocelind Forest. I have received a letter of confirmation from Isabelle's intended. A welcoming party will meet you there. They will use the lake as a passageway into the demon realm. Your task is to deliver Isabelle safely. Tell me, boy, will this be a problem?"

"No, sir," Jace answered in submission.

"And what about you, Alec?" Roberts challenged, "Will you not try one last time to save your sister?"

Alec merely gritted his teeth in response. He proudly kept his face void of any expression.

"No? Well, apples do not fall far from trees. Open the trunks," Robert ordered to their dismay. "I will see for myself if you've concocted another of your foolish plans in an attempt to do what you believe is right. Like it or not, Alexander , I've been where you are and I know how that brain of yours works."

"Father, don't---" Alec tried to say but the man had shoved passed them and pried the trunks open. Dresses spilled to the floor, lengths far too long for Isabelle's short stature.

SMACK!

A slap echoed through the empty plaza. Alec held a hand to his face where the skin was blazing red.

"You fool ," Robert shouted in disdain. He pried the long black wig from the pile and threw it to Alec's feet. "Who were you going to replace her with? One of the guards? One of the townsfolk? Tell me," he demanded, hauling Alec by the collar, "tell me, boy, who you conspired with and I will have them burned at the stake! Did you take the demon king for an idiot?!"

"There was no one, father." Alec replied steely, "I intended to take her place."

Robert's face grew red. "You are a disgrace, Alec, " he made the name sound like a curse, "You would dress in a woman's dress and let him defile you? Preposterous! Lewd! Vile! What small honour you seek from taking your sister's place will be overcome by the shame of being intimate with a man. 'Tis the most foul thing."

"Robert!" Maryse came running from the castle doors, "Robert, come quick! Isabelle has locked herself in her room!"

"What in Raziel's name?!" Robert cursed, dropping Alec to the floor like a ragdoll, "Throw those rags away and get your sister's trunk." He paused, eye catching a servant by the door, "No, you do it." he orders to the unwitting girl. "You," he turned to Alec and Jace, "by the angel's name you will help me get Isabelle. NOW."

Alec wiped away the blood  from his lip and stood without speaking. He wanted to shout, to yell, to scream his frustrations over the whole fiasco. He wanted to stay right here and not help their father pry Isabelle from her chambers. However, there was no escaping the inevitable. He followed.

"You," his father's furious face met him at Isabelle's door, "tell me where she is hiding."

"I---I beg your pardon?" He stuttered in shock, blood draining from his face. He was speechless.

"Isabelle!" Robert bellowed in anger. "Tell me where you have hidden her! The appointed time is steadily nearing. Bring me to her at once!"

"I will not," Alec replied, for once in his life, grateful for their family's secretive nature. Else, he wouldn't have been able to hold his ground against the Inquisitor's wrath. A sword was unceremoniously forced into his hands and he jerked uncontrollably in pain. It felt like a hundred claws digging into his hand.

"Don't play the martyr, Alexander," Robert jeered coldly, "You have attempted to lie to me once already. I will not tolerate, not even my own son, undermining my authority. Tell me: WHERE. IS. ISABELLE?" He pushes the sword against Alec's torso and amplifies it with his resonance.

"Aaaaaaargh!" Alec screamed, "NEVER! I will never tell you where she is hiding!"

"Tell me!" Robert commanded and pushed again. The blade lit up with a pale white glow and Alec fell to the floor as he yelled his throat raw.

"Alec!" Jace cried out. His hand shot out to grab his parabatai but Robert's guards held him at bay. "Alec, no!" He screamed, "Stop it! He doesn't know anything! I swear! This wasn't part of our plan! Robert! I beg you! Listen to me! I'm not lying!"

Alec was unable to release the blade. The pain was strong and consistent. It shocked his whole body into stillness. He was powerless but to receive the Inquisitor's punishment. The claws dug under his skin, into his muscle, and seeping into his soul. They were marking him from the inside going out.

"Robert!" Maryse joined in the cries. "Give our son a chance to speak!" However, it too fell on Robert's deaf ears.

" He speaks the truth, Inquisitor ." Brother Jeremiah's voice echoed in all their minds. " The boy's resonance cannot be felt through the Princess' door. It is all her own."

"You're lying," Robert accused Jeremiah heatedly, "I have not summoned your kind and yet you are here. Did you believe that you would play me for a fool?"

" I receive no rewards for deceiving the Crown, my King," Jeremiah spoke into their minds. " I am a mere messenger." He bowed low, folding down to his knees. " My loyalty is to the Clave . I have sworn an oath to the covenant ."

Robert released Alec in shock.

"Alec!" Jace broke free of his capture and ran straight to his parabatai's side. "Alec, can you hear me? Can you move? Can you feel anything at all?" Alec remained violently shaking. He made no more to respond.

Robert lifted the heavy sword and struck the door. The wood splintered on impact and revealed Isabelle's empty chambers. She had taken nothing in her flight but her steele. Last night's food lay cold on the table. It seemed like she had left deep in the night, long before anyone had noticed her disappearance. She could be anywhere in Idris by now.

"Send out the patrols!" Robert barked at the guards, "Find her! Find her and bring her to me. Go, now!"

Maryse had covered her mouth with her hands. Her face was stricken and pale. "Robert," she looked at her husband now with immense worry, "Our daughter is gone. How will we find her? She won't make it alive beyond the Demon Towers!"

"Inquisitor," Hodge, one of the council advisors, spoke up, "Shall we fetch a girl from the lower towns? One that will not be missed in place of Isabelle? Sir, if we do not send a retrieval party now, we will not be able to meet the time agreed upon. Idris will fall."

A pregnant silence fell on Isabelle's old chambers.

"No," Robert said darkly, "If we send another Nephilim, she will not only die a painful death but she will bring the fall of Idris along with her. The King of Hell is no fool. He is the wittiest of them all..." He frowned deeply, allowing his words to sink in, "He will not accept another female without my bloodline."

"But, sir," Hodge protested, "You have no more daughters."

Robert closed his eyes. "I know," he choked out, "but I have a son."

Chapter Text

Alec awoke with his parabatai's hunched shoulders and lowered face looming over him. The protective stance did not go unnoticed. Above them, two voices could be heard arguing. Tensions were too thick and high; he felt the pinprick tingling of his arms and chest only secondary to the suffocation from the air.

“Alec!” Jace exclaimed, peering down, “You're awake… finally. ”The last word came out as a sigh. His eyes shone with immeasurable relief and his grip tightened on Alec's shoulder. “You’ve been out for nearly half the day!” He continued without prodding.

Alec's eye grew wide. “What?!” he yelled, head snapping to the side to see the window. The sun was high in the sky, on a hot unforgiving day. “But what about…?” He turned back to Jace in question. “Have they found…?”

He breathed in relief when Jace shook his head. “No,” he reassured Alec, voice low: “They haven't found Isabelle. Night hasn't fallen. She might still be alive. You’ll be taking her place.”

“Good,” Alec said, hoping, believing more for himself than anyone else, “Good, that's what I wanted.” Despite the brave words, things like fear, worry, and dread rushed under his skin and burrowed deep into his bones. He allowed none of it. Hand gripping the sheets he asked, “When do I leave?”

“Right now,” Jace replied in a bitter tone. “He’s awake,” he announced, breaking the ongoing argument between Robert and Maryse.

Immediately, Maryse fled to Alec's bedside, dropping down on her knees. “Alec.” She whispered his name like he was just a babe, filled with love and affection but laced with regret. “It is time. We must prepare you to be the devil's bride.”

***

The transformation itself wasn't difficult. Over the past five days of dread, Alec learned as much as he could with the layers upon layers upon layers of female clothes. All of it has been adjusted to hide his non-existent bosom. Strategic pockets were sewn in to pad his torso and the dress tailoring flaunted his naturally curvy frame.

Alec had to wear a wig to match Isabelle's waist length hair. He would do so until his has grown a reasonable length. Fortunately for him, he always preferred to keep it past the shoulder. They hadn't sent a previous portrait of Isabelle but their features were more or less aligned.

“There,” Maryse declared, after finishing with the last brush of powder. “My beautiful---“ she choked out a sob, hand over her mouth, “—daughter.”

Alec did not recognize his own reflection. He blinked, thinking he’d seen a ghost. He was dressed in the Lightwood family colors, dark royal blue with a sliver of silver. His now-long hair was done in a loose, cascading braid over his shoulder. The colors on his face made him appear softer. In short, he had stepped into the shoes of his sister.

The reality of it all came crashing down.

Anxiety, dread, and fear bubbled in his gut.

He caught Maryse’s icy blue eyes in the mirror. “Find her,” he told her, “I wouldn't have gone for any other reason. She might still be out there… alive.”

“Hush, dear,” she silenced the rest of his unsaid fears with a finger to his lips. “You do not have much time.” Her eyes held a fierce gleam. Maryse dug into a pocket hidden deep in the folds of her dress and pulled out a small silver thing. Alec barely saw it until she whispered the enchantment.

cito proferte stolam lux .

An angelic blade glowed and materialized.

“This,” she handed him the hilt of the blade, “was made to protect our family. The Iron Sisters forged it to protect us. Its alliance is to our family.”

He tested the object with a few well-practiced swishes. It was lighter than any of their armory’s daggers. The palm shaped curve was smaller than his hand. Clearly, it was crafted with a female's hand in mind but it felt, somehow, right in his fingers.

“Mother,” he said slow and carefully, sheathing the blade, “I do not understand.”

“It was made for Isabelle so that she can kill him before he beds her, keep her purity intact. Now, the task falls to you.”

“No!” Alec cried out harshly as he paled, dropping the blade like it burned. It clattered on the stone ground, angelic resonance dimming.

Maryse stopped it with her heeled foot. It was trapped beneath the arch. She picked it up. “There is no honor in sleeping with a demon. Alec, the sin is not yours. It is Robert's. It was his burden for conniving with the demon king.” She rubbed her fingers over the hilt of the blade and met Alec’s eyes.

“You must kill him before he takes you,” she pressed harshly, “Don’t you know what you are? Isabelle was courageous to leave, while you-” her voice choked into a sob, “—are a fool. Such a dishonor for a man to lay with another man. It is unnatural.” She shoved the blade at him. “Take it. None of my children deserve such a fate. I will not lose another child.”

With great reluctance, Alec accepted it. She could not hide her grief well from his trained eyes. He saw what others in the Clave would easily miss. He embraced her a last time. “Thank you, mother.”

***

Alec stared out the small open window. His gaze lingered on the cobblestone walls, the market stalls, the various houses which lined the inner city. He took one last look at his home. He etched it all in his memory. He stared until stones gave way to fields, until fields turned to grass, until he could see no more in the shadows of the forest.

The journey was long and rough on horseback; rougher still on Alec who was unused to the comforts of a cushioned carriage with no hand-reigns or feet-straps to hold onto. He jostled and jerked inside through the roughest patches of damp mud terrain.

Jace was at the head of their party. He couldn't make small talk even if his big mouth had wanted. It left Alec alone to his own devices. He fingered the Lightwood dagger hidden under the folds of his skirt; he could feel the adamas warm on his thigh. He recalled Jace's words: ‘ You must come back '. He clutched it over the fabric.

“HALT!” called Jace from the front. Immediately, horse hooves galloped close to the carriage. There was a flurry of activity outside.

“Jace!” Alec shouted, head craned out the window, “What’s happening?”

“Stay back,” Jace commanded while he trotted alongside. His teeth clicked together as they attempted to speed up. Howls echoed in the air. “Wolves,” he grit out. He pushed Alec back once more than galloped near the coachman.

“SWORDS!” He barked out the order, “Men, draw forth your swords and call on the angel!” He yelled at the top of his lungs.

Alec sat in agitation. He was unaccustomed to staying out of battle. His place was out there, with his Jace, with his parabatai, in battle. “Let me out!” he demanded to the coachman. “I need to help!”

“Sorry, Princess Izzy,” came the reply. “Girls aren't meant to fight.”

It was preposterous! Downright insane! He wanted to scream in frustration. Why? Every person had a right to defend themselves. Why should gender matter? As long as they are able to yield a weapon, it should be no consequence.

He could hear the battle outside grow fierce—wolf growls and the grunts of his brethren. There was a yell, a tumble, and then the carriage toppled to one side. Alec shot of his seat and hit the door. It flew open, throwing him out. When he opened his eyes, the sight punched the air out of him.

The coachman lay dead, headless, on the grounds, like it had been bitten off. His hands were still wrapped around the horse reigns.

Horses! The horses! Alec ran to the fallen horses' side. One was already dead, squishes by the other.

“Shhh,” he calmed it with a hand to the nuzzle, “Shhh. I'm going to take off these binds but you cannot run. Do you understand? You must not run. I will ride you.” He surveyed the area. It was a patch just off the path. He can still see the chaos behind the trees. He needed to fight.

Alec took a rock to the lock and grabbed the dead man's seraph sword. He tied his weapon to the flimsy entwined belt and led the horse free.

“Come on,” he said, saddling with difficulty because of the dress. He cursed the layers upon layers of thick fabric. He licked the horse's belly and they leapt into the action.

He called upon the blade.

Nothing happened.

“Zophiel!” he shouted again, louder, clutching the bloodied metal. Even with his resonance being courses through the adamas, he blade remained lifeless. He threw it to the ground with a curse.

Everything was in chaos—of the four, two shadowhunters lay dead on the forest ground, bodies mangled beyond recognition.

“Alec!” he heard Jace call and a flood of relief came knowing that the blond was alive. Relief was short lived when a wolf tackled his horse from behind, throwing him off. Alec avoided a head injury but rolling into the fall. Broken bits and pieces of his (thingy shape skirt) fell and so did his dagger. The wolf turned back to him.

“Go!” he yelled to the blond. “Bring them back to their families alive!” he turned just enough to see Jace scrambling to follow.

“Alec, don't!”

“GO!”

cito proferte stolam lux . ” he whispered and the seraph blade sprung to life. He plunged it up the wolf's head, spearing through the jaw, and held on until it died. Hot blood trickles down his arms, his neck, and his face. When the creature died, so did the blade.

Alec collapses under the weight. The wolf's body seemed to melt, the fur shedding off, to reveal the naked body of a man above him. He froze, unblinking, hypnotized by the sight of the man's skin. It was heavily scarred with layers upon layers of scabs. With deep scars, barely recognizable save for one—a rune.

Another growl came from above his head. He looked up, with dread, and saw another wolf on a prowl towards him. He struggled under the dead man's bulk but the body had began to harden. “No,” he mumbled as he fought for freedom, “No, no, no!”

The wolf leapt.

Alec closed his eyes, waiting for the jaw to strike.

Something like thunder boomed.

“Mutts,” something, someone, spat out in bitter taste. The sound came not to far away, a few paces at most. “Wretched little things, really.” The voice said again, the voice of a man, a young man with a hint of amusement.

Alec dared to open his eyes.

The wolf was suspended in mid-flight, jaw strained open a few inches above his head. He blinked in surprise. It's breath was rancid like rotten food was embedded between its crooked yellow teeth, puffing at Alec's face.

But that wasn't all he saw. There was a battle still on-going but the participants have changed. There were no shadowhunters standing. Instead, there was a man.

Only—he wasn't really a man.

Blue sparks flew from the man's fingers, binding, tackling, throwing-off a werewolf after another. His long majestic purple robes flowed around him like he was surrounded by water. It was frightening but beautiful at the same time. His feet were lifted a few feet off the ground with his arms outstretched.

Another burst of light and even the suspended wolf was blown away but the gust of strong wind.

Blue eyes met cat-like golden green.

“Oh hello,” a cheerful face came from above him. Alec's eyes darted from side to side. A pair of dark black leather-like boots was beside his head. His gaze moved up. “Why, aren't those the prettiest blue eyes I've seen in awhile.”

Blue eyes met cat-like golden green.

“I…” Alec tried to speak but words got caught in his throat.

The man smiled, light and brilliant, with a Cheshire grin. He waved his hand, levitating the corpse off Alec's frame like it weighed nothing more than a feather. He sent it flying to the side with a flick of his wrist.

“You must be my bride.”

Alec could not help but gape. His eye grew wide at the display.

For all that the man was lithe, he was also long and tall. His arms, outstretched, was longer than Alec's own. His legs looked slim but high tree trunks. He had dark earth-toned skin, not quite as dark as mud or dirt or trees. It was the color of damp desert sand after the rain.

The demon, if he was a demon, touched Alec with a surprisingly gentle hand. He was unlike anything drawn in the Nephilim scrolls or described in texts.

Alec flinched, just the same, with a gasp. The skin was warm and slightly damp. Or perhaps it was his own sweat.

“Silly Nephilim,” the demon said. His tone sounded teasing, shocking Alec further. “I’m not nearly as stupid as those mangy mutts. I will not hurt my bride. On the contrary, I'm here to welcome you… as well as save you from those dogs.” He spat out the last word like venom. “Oh, what a mess they've made of you.”

Alec glanced down at the bloody-caked skin and the blood-soaked dress and grimaced. The rest of him was dirtied with dirt and drying mud. He blushed at his haphazard state of dress.

“I…” he stammered, not really knowing what to say. Should he apologize? Or should he not? Will the demon even believe him?

“Here,” the demon said. A large purple cape was draped over his form. “That will cloak you in my scent. It should be enough to keep you safe until we reach the castle. Do you need help standing up? You were light on your feet just now.” He pointed to the fallen horse.

Alec blushed deeper but then froze. Had he… his gut twisted… had he already given himself away?

“N—no,” he answered shakily, “I can stand on my own.” He was proud that his voice came out as level as it did when he spoke. It was nothing like the topsy-turvy sensations crawling beneath his skin.

“Ahhh, good then,” the demon made a happy-sounding sigh, “I like a dame who can handle herself.” He had that grin again, stretching his lips and covering half his face. To be honest, he was not all that displeasing to look at. On the contrary, he possessed handsome features—for a downworlder.

It did things to Alec. He shakily stood up and brushed off his dress. He stared at the demon, a prince of hell, and was strangely not frightened at all.

“What?” the demon bit out in a harsher tone, “What are you staring at? Haven't you seen anything like me before?” He snapped at Alec, irritated and impatient. “Well…?”

“You’re the prince of hell,” Alec said, voice full of doubt.

“I’m A prince of hell, not THE prince of hell. There are seven of us.” He explained, annoyed, like this was common knowledge. For downworlders maybe, but not all Nephilim.

“It’s just… you just…” Alec was at a loss of words. “…not what I expected… Y-your eyes...”

The demon's face downturned. “What about my eyes? What did you expect?” he sneered, bending a bit so that his eyes pierced straight through the other boy.

Alec was mesmerized by the unique pair of orbs. He was speaking before he realized it, “… they're beautiful.”

The demon jumped back, as if it was stung. “You think I'm pretty?”

By this point, Alec was in half a daze. “No, just your eyes,” he blurted out, “They look like a cat's.”

Those same feline eyes narrowed. “Aren’t you a peculiar young thing,” he said, mostly to himself. He smirked and waves his hand towards Alec.

Alec moved back in surprise. “Wha--?” he voiced out as a tingling sensation went through his clothes from the bottom-up until the dancing blue lights twinkled in front of his eyes. Then, in a blink, their faces were mere inches apart.

“Ahh, there…” the demon cooed, “there’s that pretty face that the realm can't stop talking about. For what it's worth, you are pretty yourself. But, I'm prettier of course.” He said with a wink and moved away.

Alec blushed and wrapped the cloak tighter around his shoulders.

“I call myself Magnus Bane,” the demon, Magnus, bowed low, bent at the hip and torso nearly parallel to the ground. His hands were spread like wing, extended fully, to the sides. He took Alec's hand as he came up and kissed the back. “Enchantee, mademoiselle. But forgive me, I do not know your name.”

The words caught up in Alec's throat. Be it from the question or their connected fingers, he couldn't tell. He recoiled at the touch that tickled his calloused skin. He noisily swallowed the lump in his throat and, “Isabelle Lightwood,” he introduced himself.

“Isabelle,” Magnus tested the words on his lips, then frowned, “It doesn't suit you,” he pointed out as plain as day.

Alec fought down the urge to say his real name. “Izzy,” he answered, then quickly added, “My family calls me Izzy.”

Magnus still appeared unconvinced but eventually he nodded. “Izzy then,” he said, “Let’s come take you home.”

Despite the gentleness in his tone, just like that, the spell was broken.

 

Chapter Text

Edom, Realm of Asmodeus

Being held by a man was embarrassing. However, seeing as they had only one horse, Alec swallowed his pride and let himself be seated, side-saddle, in front of the demon Magnus Bane—his, Izzy’s intended fiancé—even the mere thought made bile rise up his throat.

“Are you unwell?” Magnus asked, surprisingly gentle for a demon. “Travelling from one dimension to the other is always difficult the first time.”

The entire journey, passed the watery Bridgeway and into the realm of the demon King, he had held Alec in a gentle but unyielding embrace. His arm was a possessive, constant weight around Alec’s middle.

“Yes,” Alec lied, “that must be what ails me.”

In reality, he was filled with trepidation of the upcoming union between them. He had no idea of demonic customs, of demonic ideas, or anything about demon kind at all! They were taught in the Academy only how to kill a demon, not cohabitate with one.

You must kill him before he takes you , his mother’s words ring inside his head. Could he really? He’d killed demons in Brocelind Plains, demons who dared cross into their sanctum and tried to feast on their animals and eat their grain. He had killed them without a second thought. But, all those demons were vile, hateful creatures with no higher thinking, not at all like the one behind him—a demon who saved his life.

Magnus froze as they exited the forest. His entire body a rigid line from hip to shoulder. Outwardly, there was nothing visibly different from his stance but Alec’s side was pressed firmly against his chest. The warm muscle underneath the demon’s clothes have become hard like rocks.

“Magnus?” Alec voiced out, uneasy with the sudden change in his companion’s demeanor, “Something wrong?”

Instead of an answer, Magnus grabbed firmly onto the coat which covered Alec with his free hand. “We’ve taken so much time. I can feel the restlessness even this far away. My father is not pleased that we have been delayed. We must hurry.” Even as he said it, something rumbled in the shadows.

“What is that?” Alec pointed out, eyes darting out on instinct. His view was partially obscured by Magnus’ width but he saw a flicker of movement from behind them. “There’s something moving!”

“Weres,” Magnus muttered under his breath, kicking the horse’s side, it lurched the animal from a slow trot to a bouncy-gallop. “They smell the blood of their kind on your clothes. They already think that you’ve betrayed us. They see you as a traitor.”

***

Inner City, Idumea

The castle of Idumea dwarfed that of Alicante. Magnus rode their horse hard, never slowing or stopping, until they reached the plaza, his rigidness intact. Alec was amazed at it all. The walls were made of dark, nearly black, stone with thin grey smoke filtering through the cracks.

“Mag—nus,” He wheezed, breathing hard. He gripped onto the arm along his mid-section with what fast-draining strength he could muster. He felt suffocated by it, by the translucent air, it was almost as if the smoke was clawing into his lungs.

The demon’s face was overcome with shock. Then, he narrowed his gold-green eyes. A curse, which Alec couldn’t hear, filtered through his lips. “I’m sorry, Izzy, I am unaware of Nephilim customs but I’m afraid that this is something I must do.”

“Wh—a?” Alec question is cut off by an abrupt kiss. Magnus’ lips were moist and fiery hot. Yet, he could not fight as they moved against his. It was searing, literally searing, like the smoke was being sucked out from inside his lungs and fresh air was being breathed into him. He felt like falling, tumbling but never crashing. He held on, torso twisted unnaturally, arms gripping the back of Magnus’ neck.

By the angel, it was his first kiss!

He wanted to struggle against Magnus’ hold. But he couldn’t, not with his head still in a daze and his vision still swimming. He lost contact with the world for a moment—just their lips moving together like they were sharing a single breathe.

Then, in an instant, it was gone.

“Magnus!” A voice called from somewhere above them. Chains, and metal, and heels hitting the pavement, sounded from the overhead stone path. It was a girl and she swooped down into the plaza in a blur of blue, white, and bronze. “Brother you’ve come back!”

Alec’s cheeks burned even as the chest beside him rumbled in laughter.

“Catarina!” Magnus said, joy hinted in his tone. He disembarked from the horse with a catlike grace, the same flowing motion that Alec has seen back in the forest, in time to greet the female. She collided with him like an uncontrolled carriage, forcing him to stumble a few steps back.

“Catarina! What did I tell you about running?!” Another voice called from behind them, followed by the figure of a green-skinned man-appearing demon with small horns. “You’re lucky Magnus was there to catch you again! Or else your face would have been acquainted with the gravel again .” His tone made it clear that this wasn’t her first offense.

Catarina lifted her head from Magnus’ chest, turned to him, and stuck out her tongue. “My actions are none of your business, Ragnor. I merely wished to greet Magnus on his safe return. You are here for the same reason, are you not?”

Ragnor rolled his eyes. “Perhaps a less conspicuous while in front of his bride.” At this, for the first time, the girl acknowledged Alec’s presence in the plaza. She did not look pleased by the statement.

“Fine,” She pouted. She pushed of Magnus and made a show of brushing the leaves and dirt from his tunic. “I forget that you are to marry one of them .” She sneered, looking over at Alec with disdain. “Is that her? The Nephilim tribute that they sent to appease, king father?”

Alec left the physical force of her despite against his skin. It crawled, like a million tiny legs, on his skin, making him shiver. He gulped a large breath and realized that he could breathe! “What the--? What did you do to me?” He asked accusingly to Magnus, “I can… I can’t feel the smoke anymore…”

“I’ve started with the initial stages of the bond,” Magnus explained, releasing Catarina so he can help Alec dismount. He offered his hand to his Nephilim bride but she brushed his hand away. “The kiss was no ordinary kiss, darling, it’s like a promise to be bound. Without it, you won’t survive a month in this realm. But its effect are merely temporary.”

“B—bound?” Alec repeated, confused. How was is this bond different from their marriage runes? It can’t be. There cannot be more powerful than their runes, can it? It’s impossible! “Explain this to me, demon.” He spat out, venomously. Immediately, the two new strangers adjusted their stance as if ready to fight.

“Demon?” Catarina spat out, as venomously, “You dare call us simple demons? You are nothing but a child!”

“I am no child,” Alec argued, gritting his teeth. He glared at her and she glared back. The intensity of it almost brought lighting between them. But the sparks were something else. The sparks were hers. “I am a Sha—a Nephilim of age. I am eighteen!” He cursed internally. He’d almost given himself away.

“Eighteen, you say!” She scoffed, “a mere sapling! Magnus is—s”

“Catarina, stop it!” Magnus bellowed, raising his hand and stopping the bolt of light mere inches from Alec’s face, stunning the Shadowhunter. Alec dropped onto his ass, speechless, as the lighting cracklec and snapped in front of him. He could smell its scent in the air and feel the prickle of its heat on his skin. It’s the second time that Magnus saved him.

Another snap, and the bolt was gone.

“Stop it!” Magnus yelled at the girl, “Catarina, behave! No matter what any of our feelings are about this matter, this girl is to be my wife. It’s the King’s command and I will not break it. Do you want the guards to tell the king that you threatened my future wife before she was presented to court?”

Catarina lowered her head. “No,” she said apologetically. She gritted her teeth together, eyes ablaze when she lifted her head. “This is unfair, Magnus.”

“Quiet,” He hissed, teeth showing, “You will not speak like that out in the open.” Then, he turned to the green-skinned man and ordered, “Take Catarina into the woods. Go practice again with what I’ve taught you. Now.”

“Aye, aye, Magnus!” Ragnor responded with a salute. He took Catarina by the hand and led her out of the citadel. But not before she can say, “That Nephilim isn’t very bright, is she?” with a sneer.

When they were alone, Magnus kneeled before a petrified Alec, with a frown on his face and a hardness on his jaw. “You will not call me a demon again. Do you understand?” He said, deathly serious. His cat-eyes were frighteningly dark. It lost all of its gentleness from earlier.

“W—why?” Alec could not help but ask, “Is that not what you are?” This time, his voice held no malice. It was just curiosity rather than accusation. “What is wrong with that?”

“I am no demon,” Magnus spat out the name like it burned, “You will not call me that. Demons are mindless pawns used by my father and to conquer weak mortal humans. They lack free will and ability to think beyond their instinct. I,” he said with pride, “am a Warlock and a prince. You will treat me like one.”

“Warlock?” the term was new to him, “What is a warlock?”

“Are you Nephilim simple or uneducated?” Magnus sighed, hand coming up to rub his temples, “Were you not taught anything about this realm? Given that you were sent here to form a union, you must have been told something ?”

“No,” Alec shook his head slowly, because truly, he was not. He wasn’t prepared for anything of this. He still does not know if he can trust this demon—warlock. “I was not informed until five days ago when the letter came. It’s not… it’s not something my people can talk about.”

At that, Magnus scoffed. “Typical Nephilim. You probably thought it a disgrace and were ashamed to be dealing with the likes of us , right? You and your elitist angelic beliefs. And you call yourselves children of God.” He rolled his eyes.

“We aren’t…” Alec found himself correcting the warlock, “We weren’t created by god. We were created by a creation of god. Children of Raziel, the angel. We are children of the angel.”

“Oh,” it made Magnus smile. The steel in his demeanor melted away and back was the man whom Alec men in the forest. He stood up and offered a hand to Alec, “I guess that makes us not so different after all, Izzy. Come, I will take you to our chambers.”

Alec bit back the wince at his sister’s name and followed.

***

Magnus led him into further into the castle.

Alec quickly came to realize that the first three personalities he’d met were, by far, the least strange of the demons in this realm. At least Magnus, Catarina, and Ragnor had a greater human likeness; the other things, the other demons , had distorted human-like parts be it a head, an arm, or a leg, but were mostly animal in resemblance.

Most of the demons droned about while a few stopped to bow and say a few greetings to Magnus. He noticed that those who did seemed younger than those he did not. It made him wonder. But alas, the wonder ceased to last when he was faced with a large double-doored chamber.

The door was made of bronze and glimmering with some kind of magic. Alec could feel it thrumming just beneath the metal’s surface. It was lined with many brass vines, covering it like a cage. The same vines seemed to grow from the wall’s cracks like it, in itself, was part of a single whole.

“This is my room,” Magnus told Alec, making the other’s eyes widen.

“We are… we are sharing a room? But we are not married!” Alec spluttered, blushing red again. “It’s… it’s improper!”

“Why?” Magnus turned around to face him, hands on either side of his head, trapping Alec against the wall. “Why is it improper because I have demon blood and you have an angel’s? Because you dread sleeping in the same bed as me? Of my kind? Don’t think yourself so high, Nephilim, your race means nothing here.”

“No!” Alec shouted, shoving Magnus back. “I’ve come here on my own full consent to be your wife. But it is not within our customs to share sleeping arrangements outside the sanctity of marriage! This is our custom. If I am to come to respect your traditions in this realm then you, as my husband, should also respect mine!”

“Very well,” Magnus answered, with only his voice calm. The rest of him, his magic, was crackling against his skin in fury.  “If you shan’t share my bed, then in the tower you will stay. There isn’t any other safe place for you if you refuse to stay in my chambers. You shall stay there tonight and the whole of tomorrow. Then, after we are bound, there will be no reason for you to refuse this kindness.”

Magnus waves his hand, making a ball of light blue flames appear. For a second, Alec was afraid that the same balls of blue would burn him alive, then and there. Instead, Magnus opened his palms and made it wider, and wider, and wider, until it enveloped all of them in clear blue light, everything else fading around them.

“What is this? What are you?”

“Shh,” came Magnus’ reply, “I am concentrating.  This isn’t an easy spell.”

Alec closed his eyes and let the light take him.

Chapter Text

Alec was startled with the realization that they were no longer in the bronze door. All the pent-up nausea from the whatever-just-happened caused him to get sick all over the floor.

The sensation had been unlike anything he experienced, a cross between the effects of Isabelle’s horrendous cooking and the anxiety he had felt the day before he received his first ruin—a leap, a curl, and a twist simultaneously happening in his stomach.

“Are you alright?” his soon-to-be husband asked, hand touching him on the shoulder.

Alec jerked away as another mouthful wrenched its way out of him. This morning’s breakfast, the missed midday meal, and the bread he had eaten on the journey, were now a messy goop on the stone floor. The nauseating smell made him even sicker. He curled into himself.

There was mutterings somewhere behind him, in a language he could not understand. The tone and intonation made it clear that it was no pleasantries.

“Oh, angels, what—what did you do to me?”

“Shit,” Magnus said. This time it was in a language that Alec understood. “I forgot how nasty portals can be the first time. Shit, shit, shit,” he said, bending down to Alec’s curled form, “are you alright? Shit, no, stupid question. It’s obvious that you’re not… I mean… uh… how are you feeling?”

“What in Raziel’s name did you do to me, d—warlock?” Alec stopped himself a second before he uttered the word ‘demon’. He glanced up, eyeing the hands hovering inches above his shoulder. Alec felt his legs wobble and his vision sway.

The other made indication that he heard it. “Can I …” Magnus sounded unsure, “May I touch you?” He asked, looking carefully at Alec.

“W-what?”

“I’m just going to help you to the bed, over there… see?” Magnus pointed with his eyes to the bed on the far right side. “I can either use my magic or use my hands… but it looks like you’re experiencing magical vertigo … it will be easier if I don’t use any more magic on you tonight.”

“Y—yes,” Alec replied, gritting his teeth, “Fine, but touch me wrong, Warlock, and I will dismember you. Pact or no pact with the Nephilim. Swear it!”

“Idiot Nephilim,” Magnus mumbled under his breath. “Fine, fine. I swear, princess . Now will you let me help you to the bed before you fall down and break your pretty face?”

Alec blushed at the compliment. His blush grew darker when Magnus immediately pressed against his side, arm curled around his hip, taking him in a one-arm carry. He could not help but notice the dark musky scent coming from the warlock. It was not the least bit revolting like he expected.

They wobbled to the bed with Magnus taking most of his weight because his knees had turned to jelly. Magnus lowered him to be with a surprising gentleness. There was nothing of the man whom Alec first met in the forest save for the intense golden-green eyes.

In the next instant, it was gone and a vial of something appeared in front of him.  

“Drink,” Magnus said, pushing the glass in his hands.

Alec glared at the white colored liquid with distrust. “No,” he replied, placing it back in Magnus’ palm, “I won’t drink any of your—your—”

“It’s a potion,” Magnus cut him off in irritation, “For Lucifer’s sake, just drink the damn potion! It’s not poison. I’m not going to kill you! Don’t give me a reason to do it. If you must know, you moronic Nephilim, it’s a calming draught to soothe the dizziness.”

“No,” Alec shook his head, making him only dizzier, “I don’t want it. This will…” he paused, holding in grimace as another wave hit him, “…this will go aw—” he was stopped by another dry heave.

“Stubborn idiot,” Magnus groused under his breath. He grabbed the vial from Alec’s hand and drank swallowed the contents in one gulp. Vanishing the vial, he seized Alec’s face, pressing his thumb and index on the side of Alec’s jaw. The other made a sound of protest and he used that opportunity to seal their lips together.

It wasn’t really a kiss.

Alec’s eyes shot open as Magnus’ warm mouth opened his. Unlike their first kiss in the plaza, which had been chaste, this one forced his lips apart. He nearly choked at the gush of warm liquid pouring down his throat, taste barely registering. The kiss finished with Alec swiping his tongue across Magnus’ lips.

“What in the heavens was that ?” Alec demanded, clutching Magnus by the collar.

Magnus smirked. “You feeling better, princess ?”

Alec blinked because, yes, he no longer felt the unsettled stomach and the migraine which had begun rioting in his skull. “Y—yes,” he answered, almost embarrassed, releasing the handful of cloth like it burned. “You—!” he was infuriated, “—you—you, you liar! You promised not to touch me!”

“Wrong,” Magnus said knowingly, “I promised not to touch you wrong . From where I stand, princess, I spared you from a very unpleasant evening. That kind of vertigo is the worst on the first time. If I hadn’t given you that potion, you would spend the night half-awake writhing in pain. You’ll wake half the castle and they’ll know you’re here.”

Free from his ailment, it was Alec’s first opportunity to survey his surroundings: the walls were made of the same dark stone material, the shape of the room was round with a bed on the side farthest from the large rectangular window, and the cone-shaped ceiling was supported by large wooden beams.

“Where are we?” Alec asked even if he already knew the answer. There was already a sinking feeling in his gut because the room lacked any personal items of a regular sleeping chambers—only a bed and a chamber pot.

“This is the seventh tower.” Magnus answered with a wince. “Is there… do you want… should I get… is this satisfactory for you?”

Alec’s eyes grew wide. “You’re locking me up because I refused to sleep with you?”

“No!” Magnus denied, waving his hands back and forth is wide arches, “Because you refused to sleep in my chambers.” He bit his lips the moment he said it. Knowing that it was the wrong thing to say, he immediately attempted to retract. “That’s not what I meant, I mean, urgh, the sleeping arrangements, just to sleep, it’s—”

“Stop,” Alec raised his hand with a sigh. “Just stop it. It’s… this is fine.” He breathed in, thinking in relief that he had taken his sister’s place. He would never have wanted to subject her to any of this torture. It was draining on a physical and mental level. “I know my place.”

“Isabelle…” Magnus tried to say but Alec would not hear him. He groaned, running his hands through his hair to hide their shaking. “That’s not…”

“Thank you,” Alec said, lowering his head, “I… I pray thee shall allow me some rest. This has been a trying day.”

“As you wish, my lady, I shall see you on the day of our binding.”

Alec kept his eyes on the floor, watching as Magnus’ boots disappeared from his field of vision. Strange as it was, he did not hear a door and, when he looked up, he realized that was because there was no door—the entire circular room was made of paved stone. There was no entry or exit except the four-cornered window.

Tomorrow, he decided, tomorrow he will try that window. Tonight, he wanted nothing more than to collapse and let the night take him. So, he did. Alec closed his eyes, spreading his arms wide like an eagle. The bed was nothing like his bed back in Alicante. It was lumpy and slightly hard in place, and the furs were of an animal he’d never seen before.

But this was to be his home now, if he didn’t do anything about it.

***

Alec knew, even without opening his eyes, that it was morning by the time he woke up. He also knew that he wasn’t alone. Another presence was lurking in the room with him, still and unmoving away from him. He was thankful for last night’s laziness because he was still in the dress and the hilt of the Lightwood Dagger on his thigh. He inched his hand inside his pocket.

“So you’re awake.”

Caught, he cracked his eyes open and saw the blue girl from yesterday seated on an ottoman that was not there yesterday. He blinked, debating whether or not his eyes were playing tricks of him. It wasn’t. He slipped in his hand, fingers wrapped instinctively around the hilt, as he sat up.

“Good morning…ehrm, Catarina…?” he greeted somewhat awkwardly, seeing if he remembered her name correctly and fighting back his blush. Under normal circumstances, she would not have been allowed in his chambers simply on propriety. But, as it was, Princess Isabelle’s room was completely appropriate.

“Ahh,” she said with a small grin on her face, “I see that you aren’t as dumb as you look if you remembered my name correctly, dear sister.”

Alec bit back the retort on his lips. He forcibly smiled, “What brings you to my chambers this morning?”

“I’ve come for your apology.” She told him simply, arms over her chest as she reclined, smirking. Her long hair was kept in a bun around her face and thin wispy strands framing her blue cheeks. Her dress was pale gray lined with burnt orange lining which contrasted to her skin.

“Well…?” she asked impatiently, tapping her foot, “Are you not going to apologize to me?”

“I peg your pardon?” Alec asked, confused.

Catarina groaned as if Alec’s words caused her a physical pain. “It was brought to my attention that you were not well yesterday. It seems that the travel here had ailed you more than it appeared. Magnus had told me about your… lack of education and therefore you are forgiven, Nephilim.”

Alec reeled back. “Is this because I called the Prince, ehrm, Magnus, a demon?”

She eyed him, nostrils flaring, accessing for an insult but Alec had simply meant it as a question. “Yes,” she said finally, with a sigh. “Yes, that . I believe Magnus has already corrected your wrong assumptions? We are not demons. We’re—”

“—warlocks,” he supplied. “He told me. You’re right. I apologize for yesterday. I wasn’t… the journey was tiring. I haven’t crossed between realms before.” He said, lowering his head in a submissive gesture. He needed her guard lowered if he were to have a chance at an escape. He also needed food, he realized when his stomach grumbled.

“Apology accepted, princess.” Catarina giggled. The steely façade melting away for, perhaps, a minute before settling back in place. “Then, it’s only proper that I apologize as well… for my outburst yesterday. I…”

Alec lifted up his head, his eyes meeting hers. “You feel protective of him,” he said with a smile, flashes of his sister in the back of his mind, “Believe me when I say that I know exactly how you feel. I left someone like that at home too when I came to be your brother’s bride.”

Something crossed Catarina’s face, so quick that Alec barely caught a glimpse of it, then it disappeared. She adjusted her stance on the chair like it was suddenly uncomfortable. “Well, ehrm, right. Yes, it would be a surprise that you have a brother. I suppose you miss him.”

Sister, technically, but Alec did not bother to correct her. “I think of what I’ve left often.”

“This Realm will be your home after the binding.” She told him with a thin veil of warmth. “I…”

Alec’s stomach growled, cutting her off. “I’m sorry,” he blushed.

Catarina’s eyes narrowed at him. “When was the last time you ate?”

Alec thought back and recalled nothing. “Yesterday morning, I think, and a draught Magnus gave me last night.”

A think furrow formed on her forehead. “What kind of draught?” she asked with utmost seriousness. “Did he make you drink a blue one? Pale blue? Like, uhm, smokey blue? White like my hair with a hint of blue?”

“No,” Alec shook his head, “it was white-grey like your hair.”

Catarina’s face twisted. “That idiot,” she cursed to the side, mumbling.

“Is something wrong?” Alec asked, fear spiking. That’s what he got for blindly letting the demon close. Her face told him volumes. He shouldn’t have drank anything from this realm. He shouldn’t have been so easily trusting even if it was the one who saved his life.

Seconds later, things started appearing in the chamber. It began with a table, large and circular, appearing in the middle of the room. Then, two chairs on opposite sides. Next came the silverware and goblets, and pitchers of drink. The last thing to appear was a feast—hams, fish, cheese, and bread were laid atop the table.

“Eat,” she gestured, pointing to the chair, “my idiot of a brother mixed up the potions again. He should have given you the one blue one because you haven’t eaten. Don’t worry. It’s nothing that a good meal cannot fix. I was sent to feed you anyway.”

Alec raised his eyebrow. “I thought you were here to get my apology?”

This time, Catarina’s cheeks tinted purple. “That too,” she muttered, avoiding his eyes.

“Oh, good.” He said, hiding his smile in the rim of a goblet, “I thought for a second there that you actually cared for your future sister-in-law.”

“I do not,” she sputtered, nearly tripping on the way to the table. She managed to reign in her composure and sit down with a bit of grace. “This is not me partaking in some kind of pre-ceremonial bonding activities—” which Alec understood as ‘getting to know my brother’s future wife’ in his mind’s ear, “—this is me eating what I’ve made an effort to summon here.”

“Thank you,” Alec said, nonetheless, offering her a goblet of what seemed like wine.

Catarina made a noise and shrugged, taking it.

After the meal, Catarina vanished the remaining food along with everything else with a wave of her hand. Her magic sparkled pink, leaving a trace of light pink-grey smoke in its wake. She frowned at the epicenter of the smoke. “That wasn’t supposed to happen.” She mumbled.

“The smoke?”

“Yea,” she replied, absently, rubbing the back of her neck.

“Is it… is it bad?” Alec asked, staring with fascination as the smoke disappeared.

“I may or may not have something burning to… somewhere.”

“You mean,” he said, bewildered, “—you don’t know where it goes when you, ehrm, vanish it?”

“Magnus does. So does Ragnor. Me… not so much really.” She told him with a wry smile. “I think I have to go find wherever I sent the burning table and food. Damnit, father is going to send me to Baba again.”

“Take me with you,” Alec insisted. They’d spent most of the meal in silence but it wasn’t awkward tense silence like he expected. He felt like he broke a few barriers after apologizing for yesterday and filling up her goblet. He hoped that it was enough.

“Please,” he said, giving her a hopeful expression, “Two heads make finding something easier.”  

“You’re right,” Catarina agreed with a nod, “Two heads will definitely make it easier.” She waved a hand over the wall, opening it. The stones began to move, sliding and clicking, until a small archway appeared. “Thanks for the suggestion, princess. I’ll see you soon.”  

Alec tried to peer beyond the chalky mist but couldn’t see beyond it. “Wait, what?” He gasped, running for the rapidly closing exit. “Aren’t you going to take me with you?”

“Can’t,” her voice called from the other side, “Magnus’ orders!” and with that, the paved stone was seamless again.

“Shit!” Alec yelled, banging his hand on the stone. He threw his head back in frustration as he collapsed onto his knees. He glared first at the wall like he could someone burn right through it. Nothing happened. “Shit, shit, shit!”

Was this meant to be his life? Was Isabelle’s?

He groaned, pushing forward until his head was pressed against the stone. They were beasts. Magnus was a beast for keeping him locked in here like some common animal! He physically tasted the bitterness on his tongue at the thought. He was such a fool for believing that warlocks were better than demons.

He was wrong.

No matter what shape they take, demons were demons, creatures of hell.

Chapter Text

Alec stared at the paved stone wall for what felt like ages, tapping at random rocks, fingers sliding in-between the creases, and praying, just praying, that something would free him from his prison. He had no such luck. When he finished, the rocks made his hand sore and the creases made his fingers bleed. He was trapped in a room with no doorway.

—but it had a window that he could fit in.

Making up his mind, Alec trudged to the tall rectangular window and peered outside. The view of the lands was breathtaking, planes of endless multicolored flora, an endless horizon, and the hustle of creatures down below. It was at least a hundred foot drop. He swallowed hard.

The sound of stone churning alerted him of another presence.

“I beg you, please don’t do it—” He whipped around at the sound of a female voice. “—wherever you come from, I assure you, being Magnus’ wife as bad as being marrying the pavement down below.”

“I wasn’t!” Alec sputtered, waving his hands in defense.

The female servant was shorter than him, probably shorter than the real Isabelle too, with hair the color of rubies and skin as white as snow. She had small white wings on the side of her head instead of ears. She wore a simple green tunic, a gray skirt, and black leathery work boots. A small golden bracelet was dangling from her wrist.

“Who are you?” He asked, eyeing her suspiciously, again he palmed the dagger inside his skirt again. It seemed to be his default whenever a new stranger comes into the room, the prison cell, without any warning. She hadn’t made a sound but the door was closing behind her.  “What are you doing here?”

“My name is Clary,” she replied with a bow, “I’ve come to bring you food from the kitchens.” It was only then that Alec noticed the large pack hanging low on her hip. She took the rummaged through the bag and carefully extracted one container then another filling the floor with nearly a dozen containers.

Alec’s mouth watered at the scents. He felt famished despite this morning’s heady breakfast. If felt like he hadn’t eaten in days instead of hours. He eyed the food greedily. “All those for me?”

“Yes,” she replied, nodding, “Catarina has asked these to be sent up. She’s… ehrm… indisposed at the moment.”

Alec remembered her incident with the burning furniture. “I see,” he said, fighting back the grin, “Then, you’ll tell her that I wish her the best of luck on her search.”

Clary covered her giggle with a hand. “I see that she likes you then, that’s good.” She said, filling a small plate with food. She offered it to Alec, “Here, I’m under strict instructions to feed you because you’re too skinny to be healthy. We need those child-bearing hips to grow to their full potential.”

Alec nearly dropped the plate. “I beg your pardon?”

“Those hips,” Clary pointed, “they are too thin like a man’s. It’s not fit for bearing children. That’s what you’re here for, are you not? What use will a marriage be without children?”

Alec felt his face flush. “I…”

Clary giggled again. “Of course they haven’t told you, have they? I cannot blame them, I suppose. Nephilim are not all that aware of what happens beyond their realm. There are many things that they do not understand. Move, please,” she shooed him off the bed in order to remake the bed. In response,

Alec stood up and walked towards the window, perched on the inner edge. She saw him. “No!” her eyes shot open, “not there!”

Alec jerked in surprise as a golden hand wrapped around his wrist to haul him inside.

“WHAT?!” he barked, voice rising in anger, “What did you do that for!?” His dress had small slices of fruit clinging to the front of his bodice. He frowned and began picking them off one by one with a disgusted expression. “I was merely sitting down! There is nowhere else to sit!”

“Oh you mustn’t sit there!” Clary cried, foregoing the bed and making Alec sit down. Her face was terrified. “Magnus is a kind master but I doubt he will forgive me if I let his bride die .” She told him seriously. “Neither will his father, the Demon King.”

“Why?” he asked her, face blank. “Why should it matter there are others who can be Magnus’ bride.” He took the new plate of food which she offered and began picking at it, not really in any mood to eat but his stomach was already protesting.

Clary looked down. She was kneeling on the floor, skirts bunched around her where she sat. “Surely, you must know,” she said, voice barely a whisper, “King Asmodeus does not do things out of will alone. There is a reason why he is marrying you off to his youngest son and not one of the others. Magnus is not the worst of the King’s children.”

For some reason, her voice gave Alec the shivers. He didn’t understand but he believed her. He lowered his plate, hunger gone. He felt as if a hole had replaced his stomach. “Are you saying that I am lucky to marry a demon? No—” he shook his head to correct himself, remembering Catarina and Magnus’ outbursts from before. “—a warlock, I mean.” He couldn’t know where Clary stood. She looked like a demon herself.

She gave him a rueful look, then lowered her head. “I really should not have said anything.”

“Then why did you?” Alec bit out harshly. He threw the plate on the floor by her knees. “This fate which I chose to take has already caused me enough. There is no need to remind me of what I have lost. Especially not by the likes of you. You don’t understand.”

Clary said nothing.

“Go!” He demanded, pointing vaguely to the direction of the wall. “Go before I do something that I might regret.” His hands were white on his thigh where he clutched at the skirts. He could just as easily take the dagger to her throat and force her to release him. But he didn’t. He didn’t want another person involved in his escape. He’d already experienced first-hand what powerful men did to traitors.

The girl was smart enough to listen. She gathered the containers quickly and disappeared in the hazy mist-like doorway on the wall.

Alec sagged down on the bed and stared at his only way out. Even with his Nephilim reflexes and a strength rune to match, he doubted if he could make the jump and live to tell the tale but perhaps he has a chance to survive if he scaled the wall instead. There was no way he would stay here and let those demons decide his fate.

***

Clary came back after dark with a bath. A steaming tub of hot water appeared in the middle of the room after she entered. She gave no indication to continue their earlier conversation and Alec let it slide.

“I thought a bath would help calm your nerves.”

Alec blushed at the realization of what she meant. He would have to get naked to step in the water. Turning away, red-faced, he stammered, “Look away,” he thought of the most virginal excuse that he could muster, “o—only my future husband must—must see my nakedness. ‘Tis the Nephilim way.”

Clary looked unconvinced but did no anyway. “I suppose that Nephilim serve themselves as well like barbarics, right?”

“Ye—yes!” Alec agreed, lighting up. As much as he hated being subjected to their hospitality, a bath sounded wonderful. His skin itched with caked blood, dried sweat, and dirt from yesterday’s encounter in the forest. His skin crawled when he remembered it—the dead Shadowhunters and the dead wolves, laying around on the forest ground.

Behind him, he heard Clary sigh. “I will be back in an hour. I will trust you enough not to drown yourself in the water.” She said, before leaving the room once more.

Alec turned again to face the bath. The water looked amazing. It was steamy, scented, and oils glistened with the torchlights. He gingerly removed his dress, layer by agonizing layer which stuck to his skin in odd places, until he was in his under-dress. He debated for a few seconds before climbing in with the thin white cloth clinging to his skin.

It felt good to have the hot water warming his chilled skin. He took off his wig so that he could wash his hair and his face. He scrubbed the rest of his pale skin raw until even the silvery scars of his runes turned pink.

Edom was very different from Alicante. The weather in the morning was hotter than Alicante’s hottest summer but the night was twice colder than winter. His saving grace from freezing at night was a wooden duvet which had materialized overnight. It was warm and thick and yellow which was weird considering the rest of the room was in dull colors.

When he was done, Alec dressed with great haste, fearing that someone might suddenly arrive unannounced and discover his secret. Thankfully, Clary came back just as he was tucking back his wig into place, looking as if he was merely fixing his hair.

She came bearing news. “Your wedding day is to be tomorrow.”

Alec scoffed “Am I supposed to rejoice with this news? I will be wed to a husband who chooses to lock me in a tower when a refuse to share his chambers.”

“At least you will be wed to one who knows mercy.”

Alec said no more. He waited until she was gone again before set his plan into motion.

He would have preferred the privacy of screens just in case there was more unannounced visitors in his ‘chambers’. Angels knew that it was a lie; he a prisoner in a tower awaiting his execution, this room was no more than a holding cell to hold him while he waited.

He took his stele and burned every single rune which he could remember on his skin until his whole body was covered in dark black markings. He gritted his teeth through the pain. Surprisingly, they did not immediately fade. The pain, however, was intensified, nearly blinding Alec as he forced back the tears.  

On a whim, he chose one of the lightest dresses with no under-skirt, or farthingale, or anything at all. It was simple dress with skin-tight long sleeves and a bodice with a built-in shaper, so simple that he could easily be mistaken for a peasant if not for his lack of demonic features, and a slightly thick overcoat.

Alec went to the window, taking in the view, as he drew the last rune. He drew the ‘unseen’ rune on his lower left arm before jumping out the window. He grabbed onto the sill with his hand, feet carefully finding purchase on a slab of rock. A rough gust of wind hit him from the side as he struggled to maintain his hold.

He took a deep breath and made his descent.

***

The citadel was covered in darkness by the time Alec reached solid ground. Jumping off, a meter from the ground, he landed soundlessly on the stone pavement in a crouch. It was surprisingly empty given the time of day. In the middle of the plaza, a square fountain of fire gave light but no warmth.

There was someone sitting by the fountain dressed much like he had seen yesterday, reminding him of the characters in the storybook that they were read as children. Light played along the warlock’s green skin while he sat at the fountain’s edge, playing with the fire, like it was water, that did not seem to burn.

“The promiscuous child has taken another one,” one the trio spoke. His voice is low, scratchy, like gravel against stone. Alec bit his lip to keep from gasping in pain as he listened.

“Another you say?” the second asked the first. “Does he not enough of his… strays in his Harlem? He brought with him such a strange party when he returned— halflings ,” The demon said the word like a curse.  “They dilute the realm with their foolish ideas.”

“I’ve had enough of him sullying the courts with his… friends.” The first added.

“But what can we do? There’s no doubt that the King wishes to make use of the halfling’s powers.” The second concluded. “It’s a pity that his talents are wasted on his foolish errands. He would do better in service of the first prince.”

“It is not fair, I say!” the first protested. “He should not even be eligible for the crown.”

“And yet, the King has chosen him as the seventh Prince.” The second demon added. “I do not dare question King Asmodeus.”

The third one finally spoke. “Lower your voices, fools. The King’s youngest has eyes and ears inside the court.” Alec froze from where he was hidden in the shadow, fearing that he was caught. But the last demon looked beyond him. “This court is full of those whom wish for his favor.”

“Most of his loyal companions don’t need to,” Ragnor stood up, green skin glowing with the flame light and his magic sparking on his fingertips.

“Is that what you are?” the first one sneered, rearing its ugly animal head in Ragnor’s direction. For the first time Alec noticed that the creature was holding up something in its claws—eyes, the demon’s eyes, being brought closer to Ragnor’s face.

The warlock did not flinch. “Of course I am,” Ragnor replied confidently, “Why ever would I be here then?”

“If it isn’t one of the youngest prince’s little friends!” the first of the trio spoke.

“Pleasant evening to you good, sirs,” Ragnor replied, lowering the fire carefully back in the marble before inclining his head. “I see that you’ve come to visit the fountain in the plaza this wonderful evening. How may I be of service?”

“Do a trick, then,” the second one prompted with a chuckle that sounded fake and mocking, “Do one of your feast tricks!”

Ragnor was unperturbed. “Very well,” he said with a nod, “and what do I get in exchange?”

“You live that’s what you’ll get,” the first one stated with a growl. “Do as you’re told boy and we will spare your life.”

“Tsk, tsk, tsk, and to think that I was prepared to do a few tricks that I’ve been working on,” Ragnor shook his head, clearly disappointed. “Aren’t the King’s knights serve to protect his citizens, and his charges all the more? How so can you so easily threaten to kill me?”

“Be silent, boy, and do as you’re told!” The second one piped.

“No one is going to come look for your body.” The first one added.

“That’s because no one will need to.” Another voice cut in. It was a voice that Alec recognized belonging to his future husband. He froze in place. He had not even noticed that Magnus had come from the other side of the plaza, in full royal regalia, eyes reflecting the flame light. The three demons seemed to cower for cover.

Magnus walked forward, a hand holding a large bag tentatively raised over his head and making him look a bit foolish. Less men would laugh him off as a joke but the sparks on the tips of his fingers demanded full attention. “Sir Conrad, did I hear you threatening my dear little cabbage with something as unrefined as death?” he asked, eyes flaring.

The first of the demons, the one holdings its eyes, visibly shrunk back, folding onto himself. “N—no, my prince. It was merely games.”

“Ahh—” Magnus tutted, unimpressed. He snapped his fingers and the flames of the fountain surged, forming a rope-like strand of light and encircling the demon Conrad. “It sounds real fun. Shall I join you? Is this how you play?” he asked, closing his fingers and the flame ropes kept tightening until the other demons appeared about to burst.

Alec turned away with his mind racing.

What had just happened ?

Chapter Text

Alec ran. His booted feet slapped against the stone, the wind bellowed at his skirts, and the Lightwood dagger jiggled inside his pockets. His hands, shoulders, and back all protested after the over-exhaustion of the climb down. It was tricky getting down with the skirts bunched around his hips but it pale in comparison to the blood-pumping fear inside his heart when he saw Magnus’ flames.

He knew that his husband-to-be was powerful, being a prince of hall and all, but it was nothing like he expected. He thought of smoke, of disfiguredness, of lightning fast agility, but not a grasp of the elements quite like that. He had never seen anything like it before. It was unheard of! Magnus, who had saved him in the forest, who had held him so tenderly on the journey here, can be effortlessly cruel.

How could hands which so easily wrap around a demon’s throat be the same hands which had helped him into bed the night before?

“Ompf!” Alec yelled in time with the creature he hit, hand automatically slipping into his skirts to grip the dagger hilt before he recognized the other person. It was Clary. Her hood, along with his, had fallen off at their collision to reveal their faces under the small moon light.

“Princess!” She exclaimed in surprise, eyes of jade green widening in surprise while her wing-ears fluttered up. “What in the hell are you doing here?! How did you get down! Did anyone else see you?” Then, after a pause she asked, “Why are you running?” Tracks were headed in their direction. The sound of feet, of hooves, and of metal dragging against the stone was deafening.

“Demons,” was all Alec could say when he caught his breath, “Knights in the plaza. They weren’t… they were…” he was unsure himself of how to describe the bizarre encounter.

Clary’s ears raised to the skies. “Knights? In the plaza.” She murmured, paling at the words. Her eyes immediately darted behind him like she was searching for a threat or waiting for something to suddenly pounce. She moved like water, unclasping one of her bracelets and fastening it on Alec’s wrists as footsteps came nearer.

It burned on his skin.

“Argh,” Alec hissed and tried to pull away, clawing to remove it but she held his hand away. He tracked the demons’ movements with his ears, listening as they drew near to their location.

“No, don’t.” She warned, forcing him to stop, eyes warning him. “It’s protection.”

“Protection from what?” He gritted his teeth as the pattern—made of repeated intricate little circles—was drawn on his hands like his runes. They burned hotter than his steele, deeper, firmer, like etching itself into his soul. The markings were dark, almost like ink, dark royal purple ink; it was different from his silvery white scarred runes.

“You’ll see.” She said, urging him up and pushing his cloak off. “Take this off.”

“Stop,” He spit at her while he clung to tighter, “What are you doing?”

“I’m trying to save you. Stop being difficult and trade robes with me.”

“Why?”

Clary gave him a determined look and a straight face, urging him to challenge her more. He didn’t. Alec was smart enough to choose his own battles and to pick his own fights. He felt it, deep inside, that at this very moment, he needed to trust her.

“Because your life is worth than mine.”

The answered surprised him.

“Fine,” He grumbled, untying the knot of his cape and letting it fall over his shoulders. He thanked all the heavenly angels that he chose to hide his weapons inside his clothes instead of his robes. His dress billowed with the smoky wind, heavy material resilient to being lifted, hiding his stockings and his leather boots.

She did the same to hers. “You will have questions and I will answer. But know this,” she told him in a deathly serious tone: “That my loyalties lie with Magnus above all else.” With that, she stripped her robe and pulled it away from her body. Her demonic features melted right before Alec’s eyes, catching him off guard.

She worked swiftly in placing the robes around him. “Head down. Hood up.” She ordered, pulling at Alec’s hood roughing over his hair and face. Then followed with Alec’s robes on her frame until nothing but her fiery red hair, less vibrant than before, and her pale but not-quite-white skin were showing. She looked—almost human.  

Alec had no time to say anything as the footsteps came closer to them.

“If it isn’t Magnus’ little whore.” A gravelly voice in a sickly sweet tone said. For a moment, Alec feared that he was caught, feared that in a day, in being selfish, he had destroyed any protection that this marriage afforded Idris and Alicante. But then, he heard hooves and tail feathers but did not dare raise his eyes. The demon stepped closer to Clary.

“Lord Adramelech,” Clary’s voice was respectful but cold, “It’s a surprise seeing you here. What brings you to the citadel, my Lord? Surely, the High Chancellor has more pressing matters in court than mingle amongst us lowly demons?”

“Ahhh,” the demon Aramelech cooed, “Your language is impressive as always hatchling. I can still taste the fire in your aura today. It’s almost as if it’s stronger somehow. It’s not often that I agree with your Prince’s taste. As a matter of fact, he is the reason I was sent here to fix a little squabble in the plaza.”

Clary said nothing and Alec could see hooves in his field of vision—four thundering hooves that were covered in fine cloths and of thin, intricate, golden chains.

“And who might this delicious smelling creature be? I have not scented such a fine aura in a long time since you, Clary. It’s as if you’re from the same blood.” He said, moving closer until Alec can feel the huffs of the demon’s breath just above his hood. He fought hard not to flinch under the scrutiny. “Show me your face, lovely.”

Alec froze when a dark, nearly charcoal colored, hands touched his chin. It was colder than his iciest winter with nails that felt like it could break skin at any moment. He complied, lifting his chin and staring at the demon defiantly.

Adramelech was a cross between a mule, a man, and a peacock. His lower half and head was of a mule, his torso and warms was of a man, and behind him sprung black feathers like a peacock with sharp razor blades with scorpion tips. He licked his lips lewdly when he saw Alec’s face.

“Such a lovely creature you are,” he said to Alec, hand moving down to Alec’s shoulder than to his arm. But then, he abruptly pulled back with a hiss. He flicked his tongue once before pulling back and glared intently on the golden band on Alec’s wrist with disdain, frowning. “I see the Prince has claimed another bedmate.”

Then he turned to Clary and smiled, “I should be careful, hatchling, too many eggs in the nest and one of you might fall out.”

Clary forced a smile. “I can assure you, my Lord, the Prince’ bed is yet to be over-crowded.”

“Very well. Then I see no fault in you, Clary, heading to the kitchens to help with preparations for wedding feast. After all, it seems that the Prince finds great joy in multiplying his bedmates. Go then! Do as you’re told, wrench.” With a huff, Aramelech turned and left, robes billowing behind him.

Clary visibly held her tongue.

“What in heavens was that about?” Alec asked, turning. He brought his wrist, now covered with a band of dark round runes, to eye-level and faced her. His eyes nearly bulged out when he what he saw was not his pale alabaster skin but a pale blue-grey color with his rune scars glittering in dark moving tattoos. “Tell we what this is. I demand to know! I’ve allowed demon marks to taint my skin. Explain this to me.”

She sneered at him, lips twitching. “Those demon marks saved your life as did I. You should be grateful, princess, that I did not throw you under his hooves! I have more loyalty than that.”

“If you’re as loyal as you say than why do you hide your true nature?” Alec shot back in fury. Clearly, his question caught her off-guard. He was angry and confused, heart beating after his hundred yard sprint into the darkness. He was breathing at an embarrassing rate like he was a weak Nephilim rather than a proud Shadowhunter. “Answer me!”

“Keep your voice down! You’ll draw attention!” She said in a low voice. She kept a white-knuckle grip at the edges on Alec’s robe, keeping it tightly to her face so as only her tattooed hands and fiery red hair were visible to most people.

“There is nobody here.”

“Then you are lucky,” she raised her head and glared at him, “A naïve Nephilim like you has yet to understand that in Edom, you can trust nothing, even the shadows sometimes have eyes and ears.” In an even lower voice, she muttered, “You are fortunate that your tower was warded.” But Alec did not hear.

Stubbornly, he asked again, grabbing her hand, “Explain this to me.” His voice was quieter than the first time.

“It’s a spell woven into the cloak which can hide your identity like it does mine. Because, as you know, humans can’t walk the realm of Edom freely. Only forsaken souls are allowed entry until they were risen again as demons. It’s true that I am different.”

Only then did Alec realize what she meant. She was, Clary was different because “You aren’t a demon,” Alec pointed out once all the puzzle pieces were in place, “If so, than why are you here? How are you alive ?”

In response, Clary took her pouch and produced a vial filled bubbling mustard yellow liquid. “This keeps me alive and lets me breathe the sulfuric air… That’s why the bag is so large. I need at least twelve vials a day in 2-hr stretches. Otherwise, I’ll die.”

“And your ears? Your skin!”

“Illusions,” Clary told him. “You have a vague idea of how you look. It’s a pity there are no reflection gems for me to show you.” Then, she rummage through her pouch once more like it was an endless void instead of a small ten-gallon satchel. “Aha!” She said in glee, pulling out an older looking robe. “It pays to be prepared.”

Clary donned the robe she pulled from her pack and once more her features transformed into the wing-eared demon that Alec met in the tower.

“What are you—u?”

“CLARISSA FRAY!” Magnus’ voice rumbled and echoed through the small side street, making them both jump in their skins. “What are you doing here?” He asked as if hearing Alec’s earlier question.

Alec’s blood ran cold.

“M—Magnus!” Clary exclaimed, body coming to half-hide Alec’s new form from his future husband. Alec muffled his gasp of surprise. “Wh—what are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be in the hunt? Everyone’s preparing for tomorrow’s feast. Even Catarina and I have been requested in the kitchens.” Venom laced in the word ‘requested’.

Magnus chuckled, a sound that Alec had not heard before. “Yes, yes,” he replied in a light voice, “Indeed I was. I’ve just returned to the castle fort and… settled some worrisome business in the plaza. You know how it is with the old religion extremists. Old coots, I say!” Then he stopped, abruptly, and chills ran up Clary and Alec’s spines. “Which leads me to ask again; what are you doing here?”

“I’m, uh…” Clary stammered, backing carefully into Alec’s space. “Like I said… everybody is busy-bodying for tomorrow’s feast. I’m on my way to the kitchen! With all the work that needs to be done, there’s more to be done for tonight and tomorrow’s meals as well.”

“You hate the kitchens,” he pointed out, in a matter-of-fact tone, peering behind her curiously. Alec shrunk back even further.

“I cannot disobey,” she said, lowering her head, “Adramelech has ordered me to the kitchens. I’m afraid that I was too slow to evade his direct order.

Magnus frowned. “You’re becoming careless, Clary. That will not do.”

“I’m sorry, my prince.” She bowed, “I will do better next time.”

Magnus made a noncommittal hum. This time, his gaze went beyond her and straight into Alec’s hooded eyes. “Hello, pretty creature.” He greeted with a slow-forming Cheshire smile. Alec’s breath caught because Magnus was handsome when he wanted to be and right now, it was clear, he was preening before Alec. “I don’t think I’ve had the pleasure of an introduction.”

Alec’s gut curled in disgust but Magnus spoke again.

“It’s a pity that I am already to be married. I’m sure that we would have had many adventures together.” He made a mournful sigh, hands draped theatrically over his chest, “Woe is me to be tied, to be married, to be bound, to a person who doesn’t even wish to see my face. Why do you think it is so, pretty thing?”

“Perhaps it’s because you have not tried getting to know them.” Alec dared to speak, moving away from Clary’s shadow. “It does not bode well to your future spouse if you lock her in a tower.”

Magnus raised his brows. “I see that news has already spread.” He mused, not-too-fondly eyeing Clary as if accusing her but she said nothing. Instead, she gave a minute nod in giving permission. “Alright. Clary seems to trust you and as will I. If you repeat this information to another, I will deny all I want and, heed my words, they will believe me .” His eyes rimmed in full-gold, losing all its green for a second.

“O—okay.”

“Good,” Magnus said, smiling again. “My future spouse, as you so have said, has rudely declined my kind gesture of offering my chambers as refuge. Hence, I see no other venue safer for her than the tower.”

“She is your prisoner then,” Alec argued, eyes bright and steel-cold.

“She is not.”

“Then why does she remain there while you walk free around the castle grounds?”

“Because…” Magnus stopped and looked away, “Unbound, she faces the highest threat in the castle itself.”

“Then put a guard on her!” Alec protested fiercely. “Something! Let her at least see what her life in this realm will be. Death is better than the uncertainty surrounding her while she waits in the tower!”

“I sent her there to keep her safe!”

“Yet she feels like she’s about to die!”

“BE QUIET!” Magnus bellowed, standing up to his full height in front of Alec, demonic fury rising like a halo around his head. “How dare you speak as if you know Princess Isabelle?” He turned his head to glare a Clary. “You! I said that no one else it to see her before the wedding. How does this… this… this creature speak in familiarity with my bride?”

Clary’s eyes widened with fear.

Alec stepped in front of her. “I beg pardon, my prince, I stepped out of line.” He said, shielding Clary with his body. “I have yet to meet the princess… it was wrong to speak of my mind on such personal matters.”

Magnus reeled in his magic. “Very well,” he nodded, visibly composing himself, “I did not think the princess would be interested in walking these grounds. I sensed as much during the journey here. What do you think, pretty thing? Shall a walk alleviate the princess’ fears of me?”

“She doesn’t fear you.”

“Ahh,” Magnus sighed, “But I her. I did wish for a union outside of duty.” He said returning to his casual gait, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively, all earlier visions of his rage-filled demeanor disappearing.

“Magnus…” Clary spoke in warning, shielding Alec once again. “You’ve already built a reputation with your flirty innuendos. Demons talk worse than mundanes.”

“I know. Let them talk.” Magnus said with an eye roll. “I care not for those demon’s judgements.”

“Magnus!” Clary bit out harshly, “Even the shadows are not safe. You told me this, remember?”

“Aye,” Magnus groaned, running his hands over his face. Burn marks on the cuffs were evidence of a fight, or a fire, or a struggle which the prince had evaded. “Fine. I’ll see you in my chambers tonight then, Clarissa. Then we will talk.” He shoots Alec one last flirty glance and walks away.

“You idiot!” was the first thing from Clary’s mouth when the demon was gone. “You could have been seen ! What are you doing outside of the tower? You were supposed to stay there until tomorrow! Didn’t I tell you this morning?”

“I am the Inquisitor’s daughter!” Alec said, fuming as he channeled his inner Isabelle, “I will not be locked up like some low-life criminal. Lest of all by the man—the warlock—who is to be my future spouse! Of course I had to get out! How else will I know what kind of life it to be my married life?”

“That’s it?” Clary asked, gaping at him like he was absurd, “You wanted to go exploring ? And you couldn’t have waited until after the wedding? Hell, you are more absurd than I initially believed! You could have asked me this afternoon!”

“I tried,” Alec gritted out, crossing his hands over his chest, “But Catarina did not want to.”

“Either way, you’re getting what you want. It might not be part of our customs but Magnus will be taking you out tomorrow before the feast.” Clary exasperated with a sigh. “It’s already a peculiar union, why not flourish it more with a peculiar courtship!”

“You don’t agree?”

“Magnus is a prince of hell. Apart from his duties as a royal, there is the matter of governing his territories. There are more burdens on his shoulder than we can possibly understand. It’s a constant struggle for territories even as King Asmodeus still rules. I suspect preparations for your bonding has thrust more on him.” She explained.

“Then why did he agree?” Alec asked, puzzled.

“Because…” Clary said, heaving her shoulders, “As you’ve been refusing to listen to, Magnus is not the worse prince you could have been promised to. Now. We’ve stalled in this narrow pathway long enough. I will take you to the tower before I go to the kitchens.”

Alec followed without a word, mind running a marathon.

He took his fill of the landscape as he listened. Idumea, like he had seen the day before, was different from Alicante. However, it was a completely different experience walking around with a servant rather than royalty. Unlike yesterday, there were more demons—in various shapes and sizes—some of them Alec knew while an overwhelming majority was not written in any of the Nephilim texts.

They treated Clary and him with a vary degree of intolerance or respect as they passed through the small passageways, the hidden doors, and the weird entrances into the castle. Most of the demons gave them a wide girth while they continued to do their menial tasks in wedding preparations.

“Why such a big ceremony?” Alec could not help but ask aloud, curious at all the work being done for a bride they’d bought from the Nephilim. Alicante had various attitudes on weddings but demons seemed particularly concerned about it. “I thought demons did not believe in marriage?”

“Marriage?” Clary scoffed as they entered the castle walls. The same sulfuric odor was pungent in the hall as it was yesterday, making Alec choke. “Is that you think is happening?” Alec nodded. “Then, clearly, you are ill-educated on the matter. Tomorrow you will be bound to Magnus.”

“I don’t understand.” Alec blinked. “To be bound is to be married, is it not?”

Clary stopped in her tracks. “Princess,” she said with utmost seriousness, “There will be no marriage in the sense which you understand. Tomorrow, your soul will be bound to the Magnus, the youngest Prince of Hell.”

Chapter Text

Bound, the word echoed in Alec’s head the whole night. He did not understand it. What did it mean to be bound rather than to be married? As Nephilim, they had marriage runes impressed on their intended spouse’s skin and a ceremony held in Alicante with the Consul as the presider. It bound the two Nephilim both physically and hear-and-soul, albeit the latter was always in a figurative manner.

He had participated in only one when he was a small child. He brought the steeles perched on a small cotton pillow and presented it to the altar. Isabelle had been but a small girl of five, still clutching behind their mother’s skirts. It was a fairly simply occasion with a feast in the great hall accompanied by festive dancing and merry drinking.

Times were much easier then. His father, Robert, had not been chosen as the Inquisitor yet. Those were the times when he was free to roam the fields of Idris with Jace, and Isabelle chasing behind them. They were inseparable, the three of them, often mistaken as siblings since Jace’s father passed away. He thought of those times and yearned for them—they were easier days.

There was dramatic change when Robert was elected. Alec and Jace had joined the Academy to train as Shadowhunters even if they were too young of an age. Isabelle was attached to their mother at the hip, going over the duties in the castle. They stole time at night, sneaking of in one of Alicante’s magnificent towers and make-up stories about the stars.

No stars were outside his window now. Only ashen smoke and cinder lights cast shadows on his window. It was hard to tell night from day in this foreign land. There was no sun nor stars. The changing hues in the sky was the only way of recognizing the passing of a day.

Will he be able to see all of them again someday?

Alec sighed. He wrapped the thin nightgown around his body and huddled underneath the soft pelts and furs. They were not as refined as the materials of his bedding back in Alicante but they provided far more warmth than he ever imagined. Even if he was restless with thought, the warmth of the linen lulled him into sleep.

***

He dreamed of his sister.

Isabelle Lightwood was exactly as he remembered her: long dark hair braided loosely over her shoulder, her gown was a pale blue with silver embroidery, a ruby-red gem hung around her neck, and her arms were fitted with bracelets—she looked like a bride.

She smiled.

She spoke to him but the words were burned and blurry, slurring like they were in a language that he did not understand. But he knew that she was speaking to him. Her lips were moving, painted a light pink, with no ounce of hardness like he’d last seen back in the library. No, this time, her lips were curving upward into a barely hidden smile.

Isabelle reached out. She touched his hand and caught his index finger between her own. It was a gesture that she had not done since they were children—back when she was too little to hold his wrist and his hands were too big for hers, she would hold on to a single finger like her life defended on it.

There was no intensity in her touch now because his hands, like the rest of his body, was numb. He opened his mouth to speak—

—and she was gone again.

***

Though his dream unsettled him, Alec woke up with a small round table at the foot of his bed. On top of it, a small cream-colored parchment was sealed in candlewax. The pattern was unlike that of the Royal Letter which summoned Isabelle to this land. He peered at it curiously thinking that the sigil looked familiar. This unsettled him more.

Opening the note, he read elegant purple script: I would like your companionship for breakfast. I shall fetch you from your chambers at first light. Please dress adequately and bring an overcoat. - Magnus

Alec blinked in shock. He remembered the encounter with his—Isabelle’s—betrothed yesterday.  He had spoken his mind again instead of remembering that he was pretending to be his sister and stupidly nearly revealed his guise to a Prince of Hell! His actions daunted him like a nightmare. How could he have been so foolish?

He readied for the day with his thought fliting over the purple words. He dressed quickly and efficiently, layering his clothes to his body, his steele, and his dagger. The last of his disguise was a long raven wig which made him appear more like Isabelle. His hair was still short, flopping limp to cover his ears and nape. He would grow it out eventually. The wig felt like it was roasting him in the middle of the day.

No sooner had he braided his fake hair did stones started moving behind him. He heard the grinding of stone against stone first before anything else. A tall figure appeared behind the mist, too tall to be Catarina or Clary, and Alec steeled himself for an attack. He unconsciously palmed the dagger hidden beneath his skirts until he recognized his visitor. It was only Magnus.

The tall olive-skinned warlock was dressed less formally than yesterday’s regalia. He still looked as handsome, though. He walked with an air of confidence into the room, frowning distastefully at the small round table.

“Good morning, Princess,” he greeted. With a wave of his want a bouquet of wild flowers appeared in his hand and he presented it to Alec with a Cheshire smile. “I humbly present you with flowers. Perhaps these would liven your bedroom.”

A burst of indignation bubbled up Alec’s chest. “This is no bedroom ‘tis a prison tower.” He spat in anger. “Of course it will dank and miserable. I am no better than a prisoner waiting execution!”

“Do you really believe that?” Hurt flashed across Magnus’ eyes.

“Of—of course I do! You caged me here on the night of my arrival!” He burst out, angelic resonance blaring. It was dim in this realm compared to Idris but his power flared like a buzz of electricity across his skin. Those gold-green eyes widened in surprise.

Magnus took a deliberate step back, hands raised in a submissive gesture. “I’m sorry,” he whispered quietly, the edge of the flowers being crushed in his grip. “That was never my intention… I just…”

“W—what, what is it?” Alec asked, lifting his eyes but the other was already shaking his head.

“I apologize for not seeing to you yesterday. I was… preoccupied with matters of the kingdom. Shall I give my full apologies over a bowl of fruit or perhaps some freshly baked bread? Food might make yo more amenable to my charms.” Magnus replied with a small wink. “What do you say, my lady? Shall we go out for some fresh air? Well, erhm, as fresh as it could get in Edom anyway.”

Alec stared between the demon-man—erhm, warlock—which he was about to marry and the open window. He tried and successfully scaled down the wall yesterday and his knees and elbows were still protesting from the strain. Perhaps he had another chance at escape today before his faith was sealed.

“Alright,” he said when he finally found his voice, “but you shan’t make me walk down the tower.”

Magnus took it as a challenge and smirked. “Would my fair lady like to travel by portal?”

Portal, it was how Alec was trapped in this infernal tower in the first place. He was tired from a day’s journey and fighting off the warewolves when he first encountered Magnus’ special mode of travel. All he can remember are blue balls of flame that licked across his skin before his entire body lurched into the abyss.

Steeling himself, Alec nodded. “Yes, a portal. That’s how you brought me here, right?”

“Pretty and with brains,” Magnus murmured lowly like he didn’t want Alec to hear, “I approve.”

“Excuse me!” Alec demanded with a blush, “What did you say?”

“Nothing, nothing,” Magnus answered with a chuckle. “Perhaps this time, you can step through with me together? It’ll be much easier with the spellcaster when you cross.” Alec did not look like he believed him. “Or you can go through it like that last time… it’s really your choice, darling. But I would much rather enjoy breakfast than watching you fill up another bucket.”

“F—fine!” Alec said irately “But if you touch me wrong warlock, I will—”

“You will dismember me, I know.” Magnus snorted in amusement. “I believe I’ve heard the threat before and, with what I’ve seen of you in the forest, I have no doubt believing it. As I’ve said before, darling, I like a dame who can handle herself.”

Magnus started his chanting, hushed words whispered into the empty room, a language that was familiar yet unknown to Alec’s ears, like an old tongue which was no longer spoken. The blue balls of flame appeared, forming a small circle before expanding to the size of the bed. Alec realized that the same enchantment covered the warlock’s door.

Seconds later, they were whipped away into a blue-grey storm and Alec felt like something was pulling uncomfortably on his gut, his body being pulled from his hairs to his toes, then in the next moment everything was gone. Alec was assaulted by the bright skies and open fields. In a quick movement, Magnus had pulled his hood over his face.

“You’re welcome” the warlock drawled sarcastically. “You can, uhm, let go of my arm now, princess, I’ll be needing it back. Thanks.”

Alec snapped to attention, releasing Magnus’ arm with a furious blush. “Don’t let it get to your head, Warlock.”

“Magnus,” the other man corrected, “I would prefer if you call me Magnus, or Prince, or just plain handsome will do. But do not call me warlock while we are in the city.” He leaned in close as if fixing Alec’s hood over his face but he whispered like his words were a secret. “You do not know who had eyes and ears within these walls, darling.”

“I don’t… I don’t understand…” Alec said when they parted.

Magnus responded with a wink, “It’s not easy being the youngest son. I’ve got a reputation to uphold, princess. Shall we eat? I’m starving.”

***

Everywhere they went demons gave them a wide girth. It was either that or there were few demons in the capital which was strange because yesterday afternoon there was a swarm of demons in the citadel. Alec looked around but not even Catarina, Clary, or Ragnor—the few demons he actually recalled by name—were roaming around.

“A spell for your thoughts?” Magnus asked, breaking the silence.

“It’s… it’s nothing,” Alec shied away, shaking his head. But Magnus had already stopped walking.

“You can speak, you know. I’m not going to bite you.” Said Magnus before his lips curled into a teasing grin, “unless you want me to, princess.” Alec stumbled on a loose stone before regaining his footing, making Magnus chuckle. “Relax, relax, it was merely a question. You can refuse to answer if you wish.”

“Demons,” Alec shared, “I was wondering why there are no demons when yesterday the city was brimming with them.”

“Oh!” Magnus burst into a thoughtful expression. “Well, aren’t you perceptive? It has more to do with the time of day rather than anything else. You do know that most creatures in Edom derive some form of power or energy from the moon or nightly being, right?”

Alec nodded.

“Good. It’s not like we’re all creatures of the night. Those are mostly vampires. Though, if you ask me, they’re faking it since there’s really no sun here. It’s more of a psychological thing rather than anything physical. But who am I to judge? I’m babbling aren’t I? I don’t I’ve even answered your question!” Magnus laughed. It was the first time Alec heard it and it wasn’t at all that unpleasant, if he were to be honest.

“It’s alright,” Alec admitted shyly. From their terse conversation on the journey here, he never imagined that Magnus could have so many things to say. It was unbelievable! He found himself wanting to hear more, if only just to listen to the smooth gravelly voice. “I… I don’t mind listening.”

“Well,” Magnus chuckled, “Most creatures here just prefer the darkness. It helps them train for nighttime when they’re summoned to the mundane world—”

“Your Highness,” the demon with hooves and tail-feathers greeted Magnus with a shallow bow, “This is highly inappropriate… displaying your… intended mate while she does not hold your scent. Your Highness must know that there are creatures lurking even in the light of the shadows.”

“I am aware.” Magnus replied rigidly. “But this is not a typical arrangement. I’m sure father will overlook my divergence from tradition. Princess Isabelle is a Nephilim.”

“As such, your highness, I merely wanted to be assured of her… safety.”

“I am with her.” Magnus said darkly, emphasizing his point with a few sparks of magic from his fingers. “Are you saying that I am not enough to be her chaperone?”

“N—no, your highness.” Adramelech folded his large frame.

“Then why are you interrupting my morning?!” Magnus demanded, his voice boomed, echoing in the small space. “I understand our realm’s customs and I fully abide by it which is why I have consented to this binding. Is there a problem with the bride my father chose?” And with that, the other demon slunk lower in fear.

A resounding clapping breaks the tense conversation.

“Father has finally found you a bride that you’ve accepted! Finally, Magnus, you used to be the Bane of our family’s existence but I see that will no longer be the case after tonight.” A deep voice which flows like silk comes from behind the demon.

Alec watched in awe as several strobes of light flitted into view and one by one took the shape of a human with pointed ears. At the very front of the parade, stood a creature with pearly pale flesh, long dark hair which flowed like a waterfall, and forest green eyes. He was, in a word, utterly beautiful. The flora woven into his hair and his armor served amplify his features.

“Look away,” Magnus whispered sternly at Alec.

“Huh, what?”

“I said,” he repeated more firmly, “Look. Away. Now, princess.” And Alec averted his eyes, turning instead to stare at the sparks of blue on Magnus’ fingers. “Merlion,” the warlock spoke with some indignation, “You’re early.”

“My youngest brother is getting bound, of course I am early.” Merlion replied nonchalantly. “Is that pretty little thing behind you, your bride? Isn’t she a beautiful little thing. She smells lovely too.” Then, to Adramelech, he said “Go away, make preparations for our arrival. We shall be taking the first tower for our stay.” The demon bowed its head and left.

Magnus growled from the back of his throat. “Be careful what you say, bother, Kieran is not fond of your generous praises.”

And, as if on cue, another faerie stepped forward.  The male of a slighter build but dressed in a similar fashion but in the color of bright yellow. There was a small crown of yellow rainflower intertwined with his smooth blue hair, bringing out the color of his wild blue and silver eyes.

“I cannot say that she is unworthy of the praise, Magnus,” Kieran commented in amusement. “She is a beauty but nowhere compared to ours. I think Merlion simply wishes to be cordial.”

“Well can you do it at a more opportune moment? I would like to take my future bride on one meal before the celebrations tonight and I’ve already wasted enough time making small talk with the villagers. You’ll understand if my patience if growing thin.”

Meliorn seemed to disregard Magnus’ statement completely.

“Introduce us, brother,” he ordered with no shame, “I shall like to know her name.”

“No,” Magnus declined, body shifting to shield Alec’s frame. “You shall be introduced tonight as custom dictates, along with the rest of our brothers. And that is final. Is that clear, brother?” he nearly spit out the last word. “Come on,” he said, turning to Alec, “We will eat somewhere else. The hall will be swarming with Meliorn’s party.”

***

They avoided further encounter on the way to a small clearing by the edge of the castle. Not far away, Alec could hear water flowing in a steady stream. Magnus brought them to sit underneath a strange looking tree that grew into a weird curving shape. It reminded Alec of round pumpkin-shaped carriages. Magnus spread his robes for them to sit on. Once they were settle, he snapped his fingers and plates of food appeared before them.

“Oh!” Alec cried in delight, “There’s bread and there’s pie!” He eyed the small oval-shaped mince pie that appeared freshly baked, steam still rising from the holes. A chuckle from beside him made him stop mid-way from reaching across to grab it.

“No, no, please do not let me ruin the moment for you.” Magnus jested lightly. “You should see me when they serve chocolate. I turn into an absolute beast.”

Alec was, at first, tempted to deny his fondness for pie but decided that a small luxury was not worth the lie. He gingerly took the warm pastry into his hands and dug in. Savory pigeon meat flooded into his mouth. An undertone of smokiness layered with the flavor of the bird unlike the pies he ate at home. But, for the first time, he found himself enjoying the meal.

Together, they ate their meal in peace with nothing but the sounds of the forest and the spring filling the air. Overhead, a swarm of large demons flocked into the castle with their ear-piercing shrieks cutting through the serene silence.

“Catarina told me that you have a brother. Is he older or is he younger?”

Alec nearly choked on his second pie. “I am, ehrm… why would you like to know? I don’t… I don’t think that has anything to do with our… our unique situation.”

Magnus made a face that Alec did not understand.

“Well, I suppose… it does not speak well of me that my younger sister knows more about you than I. It’s an embarrassment… and I… I suppose that I am curious to know.” He said, before stuffing a gigantic piece of meat into his mouth. He was glaring at the food like it had offended him.

Alec retreated to the corner of his own mind, uncertain about Magnus’ advances. The warlock had listened to yesterday’s qualms and made an effort to bring him out of the tower, and despite being scolded for it, Magnus had defended his choice to the High Councilor. It was odd for a stranger, a captor, to make such adjustments because of one measly comment. And, from a servant girl no less!  

Magnus was a conundrum to him, behaving unlike any of the texts have described demons. More startling than his human appearance was Magnus’ strange behavior—how he experienced emotions like worry, anger, and fondness. Seeing Magnus eat was just so human that he could not help the feeling of unfamiliar warmth which spread from his gut.

A part of him was struck with guilt at his deception.

Could it be possible to trust his future husband of his secret?

Chapter Text

Alec stared at the creature—warlock—that sat beside him. Why was Magnus so interested? It would have been so much easier if his spouse-to-be was evil, mean, or self-centered; if Magnus acted like this was the contract, that it was rather trying to befriend him because this was a duty-bound obligation and not a love match!  He was torn between being truthful to his spouse-to-be and loyal to his family house.

In the end, he voiced out his concern softly. “Why?” He hugged his knees and lowered his chin, a gesture he had not allowed himself to do since his father rose as Inquisitor. It made him feel like a child but a strange sense of comfort accompanied it.

“Have you been distracted by my pretty face?” Magnus looked at him as if the question was stupid. He waggled his eyebrows at Alec suggestively.

“No,” Alec coughed, fighting off his blush. “I meant… Why are you interrogating me? Asking me about family and si-siblings like it’s any of your business. First locking me up in that tower and now you’re acting like it’s a love match! You’re absurd!”

“I thought that was obvious,” Minutely, the warlock’s eyes softened. Then, his piercing golden-green cat-slit eyes focused on Alec.

“I am trying to get to know you. Isabelle, like it or not, we’re going to be bound to each other for the rest of our lives. Now… I don’t know about Nephilim, but for us it’s a very serious matter. We will be bound, in every sense of the word, body and soul. A part of my soul will be yours and yours will be mine. We will belong to each other. There will be no other person for me—or you...”

Alec was red with anger. “This isn’t a love match!” he yelled, thoughts of his sister flitting through his mind. “I am not a blushing bride! This is an arrangement , a forced arrangement because of pact my stupid father entered into with yours. This is a duty, not a choice. I am a captive, a prize—a payment for my father’s greed,” he spat, feeling the fury well-up in his chest so great that it caught Magnus by surprise.

Magnus lowered his head and whispered very quietly, “I sincerely apologize for your sleeping arrangements, princess. You see, in the same way that the Kingdom has gathered for my older brothers’ bindings, they have gathered for ours. By tonight, the capital will be overflowing with demons. This is the most number I’ve seen in all my stay. I only wished to protect you and since you decline to stay within my warded chambers, the heavily protected tower was the safest place for you.”

“But there was barely a demon in the citadel,” Alec scoffed.

“Yes,” Magnus nodded, “in the castle walls, perhaps, because only nobility and their parties are allowed to stay. In the outlying villages however, demons have already started to gather.”

“I don’t understand,” Alec confessed with a sigh, “I never thought that demons would be religious.”

“Religious?” Magnus parroted with a bewildered expression, “I believe you’re mistaken, princess. They gather not because they are religious. They gather because of my father and my brothers. They’ll use it as an excuse to feast for days—get drunk, act frivolous, and eat excessively. So much so that the merriments often overflow to the lower castes.”

Alec twisted his face in disgust at the implication. “Sloth. Gluttony. Envy. Greed. Lust. Pride. Wrath.”

“I believe mundanes call it ‘the seven deadly sins’,” concluded Magnus. “Used in the earliest Christian societies. Do the Nephilim believe the same beliefs?”

Alec allowed himself a little bit more of honesty. “Yes and no. Nephilim do not subscribe to religion as mundanes understand it. We believe in God but we do not praise and worship him. We are a race of warriors, borne from the blood of one of God’s soldiers, the Angel Raziel to… help balance the world.” He shook his head, “H—how do you even know that?”

Magnus pressed his lips together. It looked like he was about to say something but he closed it off at the last second. Instead, he heaved a heavy breath before confessing, “I read when I have the time and…” He boyishly lowered his head, rubbing his nape with a palm, “I have a lot of time. Thank you for your honesty. That must be the longest sentence you’ve spoken to me without shouting.”

Alec ducked his head in shame. “I—”

“Not that I can blame you,” Magnus muttered under his breath, avoiding looking at Alec’s direction completely. He ran a hand through his mussed hair, setting of blue sparks and a hint of purple hues. “In another life, in another time, perhaps you could have had the opportunity to find your own mate—as would I—and maybe, we could have met under different circumstances. I truly am sorry, Isabelle.”

Alec , the Nephilim wanted to correct. He could not be bothered if his lie was caught but at that very moment he wished nothing more than to hear his real name pass through the warlock’s lips—and not a name that he was pretending to own. Guilt tightened like claw marks, digging its long pointed grooves into his heart. He did not catch the flash of pain through Magnus’ eyes.

“And of all my father’s sons, you are going to be bound to me, ” Magnus said sullenly. Then, he smiled a smile that did not quite reach his eyes. “I had hoped that I would have won you over with my boyish charm by now.” He snorted at his own foolishness, “It’s much easier to be bound when you don’t hate the person you’re going to be bound to for the rest of your life.”

The statement caught Alec off-guard. “Why?” What’s wrong with you?

“Why what, princess?” Magnus snapped, eyes losing all its earlier warmth. A warmth that Alec had not noticed until it was gone. “Why me? Why am I trying so hard? Why is this all so difficult?!” The temperature around them dropped. Trees wailed along with the breeze. The warlock was all but vibrating with unleashed fury. “Haven’t I suffered enough?!”

For the first time, Alec realized that he might not be the only one being forced into the arrangement. He eyed the warlock carefully, studying him—despite his height, his size, and his demonic eyes, Magnus looked like he was human instead of a feared Prince of Hell. The way his long painted fingers dug into his arms like claws, how he was holding himself, curled into a shrinking ball. Everything was amiss and yet he sat frozen in the center.

“I’m sorry.”

Alec’s words seem to break Magnus from his stupor. “Pardon me? What did you just say?”

“I said,” Alec straightened his back and stared at Magnus intently, “I’m sorry.”

This time, it was Magnus who was confused. “Why are you apologizing?”

“I realize…” Alec swallowed more and more of his Nephilim pride as he spoke, “… that I have not been the most, erhm, cooperative, uhm, b—bride. I—” I’m not who you think I am.  

Magnus cut him off, “Don’t. This is already difficult as it is. It’s clear that we are both duty-bound by our designations to fulfill this purpose. It’s our obligation.”

“Warlock, I—” want to tell you who I am.

But the Prince was already standing up, shaking his head. “There is nothing to apologize for. We are in the same situation. I understand.” The ground beneath them seemed to move. “We must go,” he told Alec hastily before darkly announcing, “They are here.”

Alec stood up to ask, “Who?”

Magnus laughed, a strange sort of laugh that sounded nasally and theatrical. “You should really stop asking one-worded questions. It’s hard to respond otherwise.”  Already, Magnus was summoning his strange blue orbs and the familiar shape of a portal began to form. He was concentrated in his chanting.

Alec watched from where he stood, captivated by the magic performed in such a graceful way. Never before had he thought that sorcery could be used for something other than destruction. Then again, he was learning so many things from his husband-to-be that he was not expecting. What was the real reason he took his sister’s place? Seeing this warlock now, he thinks that maybe Isabelle could have had a chance at happiness.

“Warlock?”

“The rest of the King’s children have arrived.”

Then, with a wink, Magnus curled an arm around Alec’s waist and they were gone.

***

Smoke and fog have cleared when they reach the walled grounds. Magnus’ portal took them directly into the castle. Although the corridors were quiet, there was a buzz in the air that told them they were no longer so alone in the large city. A hundred—a thousand different voices flittered through the air, both drowning and deafening at the same time.

Alec stepped out of Magnus’ hold to press both hands to his ears, blushing. He had not noticed the warlock’s arm wrapped around his middle when they departed. The feeling of nausea that accompanied him through portal-travel decreased dramatically since that first night to the tower. He was steadier on his feet but the clamor was giving him a headache.

“What is all that noise?”

Magnus seemed unaffected by it. “That, my dear princess, is the sound of six, er, seven royal households gathering…” he pursed his lips, “It’s not often that we, uh, siblings get together. So when we do…” he guides Alec to the large open window. Outside, a colossal crowd gathered in the citadel. The empty plaza this morning was now filled to the brim with different kinds of creatures. Magnus coughs, looking embarrassed, “We tend to—show off.”

That’s… so human, Alec thought with a scoff. “So our wedding is supposed to be one large pissing contest for all of King’s children?” He surmised, crossing his arms. “Is that it?”

“Not all father’s children. No, no, that would fill the castle and the kingdom with complete chaos. We, erhm, tend to be protective of our… uhm… territories.” Magnus rubbed that back of his neck. “Only the first born sons of each race are recognized as Princes. The rest are part of the royal court but are given no right in the kingdom’s succession. Does that… does that make sense?”

“So a monarchy, huh?” Alec guessed. He read about them, and studied them, in his Mundane Studies back in the Academy. He was unaware that something similar was in effect in Edom. But Magnus appeared lost. “That is what the mundanes called the type of succession through members of the same bloodline. Is it not the same for you?”

“Err...” Magnus turned away.

“You are not dressed!” Catarina’s familiar voice made the pair jump apart. They maintained a respectable distance away but her presence pushed them even farther. Her cheeks were dark, a sheen of sweat on her forehead, and her lilac dress clung to her skin despite the sheerness of the fabric. Instead of Magnus, like the pair was expecting, she made a beeline towards Alec and tugged at his wrist.

“Let’s go back to the tower, quickly! You must get dressed- they’re here .” She emphasized by squeezing tightening her fingers. Turning to Magnus, she barked. “Why the hell did you wait so long to eat breakfast when you know what day it is! They’ve been asking for your bride since Gabriel’s arrival! Now quick! Make us a portal to the tower and wait outside it! I’ve stalled them long enough!”

“What—huh—” Alec was pushed into another portal before he could say another word. He was thrust back into the dreaded tower where he has been held for the past two days. It felt constricting compared to the vast open space where they took their breakfast. It felt like a punch to the gut to be back here again. Catarina was bustling about the room, going through his trunk.

“What in angels in going on here!” He demanded, pulling her away.

Her eyes grew wide. “Wow. You’re strong for a Nephilim.” She said, making Alec release her like she burned. He scowled at her and took a seat on top of the trunk. The wood felt cold through the layers of his dress while he felt sweat break across his skin. She would have almost seen the clothes he’s hidden at the bottom!

“Catarina,” Magnus’ warning voice came from behind them. “Stop being rude.”

“I’m not being rude!” Catarina stuck on her hip. “I’m trying to help! The consorts have already decided to assemble after the last of Gabe’s arrival. You know that it’s not a good idea to keep those entitled demons waiting. Isabelle’s already late . And she’s being uncooperative!”

“Well, how do can she be agreeable when you treat her like she’s ignorant? Isabelle has her own mind. I think she’ll be more accommodating if you explain to take a breath to tell her what’s happening.” He leaned against the wall, giving Catarina a warning look. “And to me for the matter. I have never heard of this being done before? What makes my bride so special?” He turned to wink at Alec, “Not that you aren’t special to me, princess.”

Catarina’s hands clenched and unclenched in front of her face before she resigned herself and sighed. With a huff, she snapped her fingers to summon a pink ottoman and collapsed on it. “The Princes’ consorts have assembled in the garden. They…” she glanced from Magnus to Alec, then back again “…seek an audience with the seventh prince’s bride.”

“Why?” Magnus growled, voicing exactly what was running through Alec’s mind. He pushed himself off the wall to step directly in front of Catarina. “What do they want with her?”

She could not meet his eye. “I don’t know.” She said, biting at her lip. “You know they wouldn’t tell me.” Bitterness was think in her voice. “Are you going to let her meet them?”

Magnus narrowed his eyes. “I will not let her do anything.” He stated in confidence. Turning around, he met Alec’s questioning blue eyes. “The princess has her own mind. You should ask her instead of forcing her to parade in front of—” his mouth twitched “—yes, them. What do you say, princess? Do you want to meet my brothers’… uhm, I believe the Nephilim term was ‘spouses’…?”

Alec’s jaw dropped to the ground. “You’re asking… me? I get a choice?” Catarina’s face mirrored his bewildered expression.

“Of course,” Magnus made a noise between a squeak and a cough, “I may have been… hasty in my decisions before but I’ve seen the error of my ways. You will have an opinion and we will talk about matters concerning… us. So, erhm, yes, Isabelle. I am asking you if you’d like to meet them or if you would rather not. I feel that need to tell you that what they are asking is not in accordance to regular customs.”

“Explain,” Alec asked, shifting on his uncomfortable perch. He eyed the two siblings with suspicion. He hated that he went into this whole thing clueless. He was taught to be a strategist, a planner, the leader of their small group but he had forgotten the first thing of any mission—research. Now, he was compelled to ask all these stupid questions. “What exactly do they want?”

Magnus and Catarina shared a look.

“We don’t know,” Magnus confessed, uncrossing his arms. “This has never happened before. Usually, the bride is presented to the entire royal family before the wedding but never in small groups. It—it is unorthodox… which is why I give you the choice. To be presented to them alone or to be presented together… as the couple we are meant to be.”

It might be the portal hopping or the dimly lit room but Alec thought he saw a blush painting Magnus’ cheeks. He hid his own blush behind his fingers. “Which would make our union appear stronger?”

“A united front is always ideal.” Magnus informed him without missing a beat. None of his flirty innuendos sneaking into his tone. It was the first time since the forest that Alec caught a glimpse of the ‘Prince’ instead of just Magnus. He was a man who reflected what Alec had been trying to do for his own people.

Alec felt a sense of pride at his future husband. “Together we shall go then,” he decided, standing up to his full height. Their eyes met with a wave of intensity—blue and golden green—shadowhunter and warlock. The tug of an unknown bond swirled around them, remnants of their first kiss two nights before. Magnus’ magic flared from his fingers in tiny uncontrolled sparks.

Catarina wrinkled her face. “Eww,” she muttered in annoyance, breaking the spell. “I would say get a chamber but you’re already in a chamber. So, no, Magnus, I would rather you not defile your precious little bride before the bonding. Even father has an unhealthy obsession with chastity—for a demon, that is… especially one with a Harem of his own.” She spat out the word in disgust.

The pair blushed at her language.

“Sister,” Alec spoke, surprising her. She snapped her head up, all traces of rumor fading. “I apologize. But, would you be so generous and inform them of our decision?”

“Wait, what?”

“We wish to be presented together.” Alec said, trying to be confident. “Would you tell them that I—” he unconsciously turned to Magnus and waited for a nod before answering. “— we ,” he corrected with a swell of something when he saw Magnus’ lips twitch into a half smile. “We decline their invitation for a private audience.”

“We will be granting one after the binding ceremony.” Magnus concluded, looking decidedly not-handsome in Alec’s eyes. “As per our custom.”

Catarina, despite her previous constitution, seemed pleased with their response. “Very well,” she nodded, snapping her fingers. She stood up just as the chair vanished, and dusted off her dress. “I’ve always wanted to decline them of something. Shame though that I am never worth their attentions.” She grinned. “Do you have a message, Magnus, or shall I get the pleasure?”

Magnus chortled at his sister. “As you wish, Catrina, but make it sound believably from me—” his eyes darted to Alec immediately before backtracking, “—us. From us.” Alec gave him a small smile in gratitude. Catarina curtly nodded before exiting through the door.

“You did not have to do that,” Alec said quietly when she left. “I know my place here.”

“Your place is by my side.” Magnus said firmly. “You are my bride and I am your husband. It will be easier, on both of us, if we do not hate each other for the rest of our lives. That will make you and I miserable. Not to mention, our children miserable. That… that would be a fate worse than death to live life in utter misery. Do you not agree?”

“Y—yeah,” Alec’s chest constricted and his heart rate rose. Magnus was a conundrum and he confused him. He did not understand where the Warlock stood. He was fearless one moment yet docile the next. He spoke of his own kind with hatred yet still obeyed orders like a good little soldier. He would speak of duty and obligation then speak of love and life. It did not make sense.

Sensing his uncertainty, Magnus moved away.

“I shall…” he raised his hand to touch Alec’s face but was stopped by the look of fear in those beautiful blue eyes. He dropped his hand, and clenched it into a tight fist by his side. “I shall take my leave, princess. I… I look forward to seeing you in your ceremonial robes. Do you wish me to call for a servant before I take my leave?”

While his ceremonial robes were easy to wear, the lacing at the back was impossible for him to reach. Alec nodded at the offer. “Clary,” he decided, “She helped me when Catarina was away.”

“As you wish,” said Magnus before turning around. His eyes lingered to Alec for a moment longer and Alec waited for him to speak. “I shall see you at the ceremony. I am sure that you will be beautiful, Isabelle.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 11:

 

Dawn was supposed to bring the light of the new day. In Idumea, however, there was no dawn but only the changing of color to signify the passing of time; from the blackest darkness of night, the pinkish hues of twilight, the warm colors of dawn, to the multitudes of colors in the day until hot streaks of red at day’s end—Alec never believed that Hell could be so colorful but he was wrong, and now the color fading into the shadows brought the beginning of his last day.

Alec stared out onto the open window, and he fretted at how accustomed he’d grown to the view. The sky, if he can call it a sky, was far and endless, stretching over the horizon and beyond before touching the edge of the land. He had a view of Edom—of the forest, and the river, and Idumea, the city below. It wasn’t Alicante or Idris but after tonight it would be home.

Back in Idris, his view was obscured by mountain ranges which bordered their territory, a land blessed by the angel and given warmth by the sun. There was no sun in Edom and yet it was habitable by vegetation. It had rivers, and fields, and forests, and mountains, but he saw no creatures which were not demons wandering about. It was a realm that he did not understand.

He missed the Brocelind fields, on the outskirts of the citadel, where they played as young Nephilim, free of the duties of becoming a Shadowhunter, before he weight of saving humanity was placed on their shoulders. He longed for a time which he can never get back because time existed in a certain order. What has come has come and what had passed had passed. There was no turning back time or going back in time.

The experience was like viewing everything from a far, an outsider to his own body.

The daunting task of getting dressed filled him with anticipation. He donned the flimsy cotton white chemise behind the privacy of a stand-alone kapiz canvass. Clary came to help him dress—to adorn him the wedding garments of gold and white. The meaning of its colors did not go unnoticed.

‘Gold and white—white and gold,’ he kept thinking as Clary wound white ribbon, secured with golden clasps, from behind. The corset was embroidered with twisting gold vines embedded with jewels which forced his narrow waist even narrower and created at impression of a more feminine figure. It was difficult to breathe but the lack of chest made him fearful of it falling.

As layer by layer went, so did the drum of his anxious heart.

Next came the skirt with precious white silk. It was pure white, some would say angelic white, but Alec understood it for what it was—melancholy for an offering, the Nephilim’s sacrifice to continue their bountiful harvest for years to come. He was a fool to ever believe that such barbaric customs were beyond them.

He was wrong.

Not half a millennia had passed since their race was created through the blessing of the Angel Raziel to Jonathan the first Shadowhunter, and yet over and over they’ve succumbed to the temptations of the devil’s works, his family especially. Their line was plagued by corruptibility; his father, and their ancestors before him, brought this upon their family name but it was not he who would have suffered to pay the price—it would have been one of his children.

For Isabelle, the single line gave Alec strength. He would do anything for Izzy, and he could never envision a scenario where they would be on opposite sides. He promised to protect her because she did not deserve to bear Robert’s punishment.

It was unnerving to admit that he was scared. Two days were not enough to prepare him for this fate—a fate that was not supposed to be his own. It was a cross which he was prepared to bear for the rest of his life if it meant that she could live hers freely. He hadn’t given up on believing that she was still alive.

Time passed in a blur of clothes, of pin, and of color.

To Alec, it felt like stepping into the pages of a story book—the kind he often teased his sister about when they were children; a thousand shimmering lights dotted the pale grey sky, illuminating the vast clearing; stones, twice his height and varying widths, were arranged in a perfect circle; and inside, the ceremonial ground laid with vines of Aralioideae evergreens.

His blood ran cold when he saw Magnus who waited at the center of it all; dressed in a somber deep purple, his spouse-to-be stood out against the plethora of warm natural colors. His radiant smile that lit up his entire face with an expression of affection that was directed straight at Alec. However, the illusion was broken when he spoke.

“You look beautiful, Isabelle.”

Reality came crashing down on Alec. He felt exposed despite golden silk mesh covering him in a veil. The bejeweled tiara on his head suddenly weighed infinitely heavier. His chest constricted in intricate golden vines of his jewel-encrusted corset. Guilt astringed his airway.

 “Are you ready?”

I am not Isabelle. Alec’s voice wavered, stomach in knots due to the intensity of Magnus’ gaze. “What’s—what’s going to happen?”

Magnus took their ink-covered hands together, brushing his fingers over the bright purple and blue ink on Alec’s knuckles.  

“Each ritual is directly connected to the Prince’s origin.” He whispered, repeating the action and sending shivers through Alec’s spine. “This is mine. It come from beyond the Shadow Realms. These are mine alone. When we bind, you will bear my name here—” his fingers brush the soft skin inside Alec’s wrist, “as I will yours.” He shows Alec the inside of his arm. Warmth seeped where they were connected.

“—then you will entrap me.” Alec surmised, pulling his hand away. “Don’t speak as if we are equals.”

“Because we are.” Magnus frowned. “You to me and I to you. Will you at least trust that I will do you no harm?”

“I—I can’t.” I’m sorry. Alec answers, lowing his head. “B—but, I am willing to be bound to you.” As the words are spoken, the Ivy Sprigs began to bloom with wild flowers. The small buds blossomed their petals and, in the middle of the breathtaking display, strobed of life sparked into life at the center of each flower.

“It’s already begun.” Magnus murmured quietly, eyes watching at the soft-glowing orbs.

The words cut through Alec like knife. “What?” It was done. It has started. It was something that he cannot take back or undo. Fear gripped him, clawed under his skin, because it was he who started it—the ceremony, the ritual, the binding, the tying of his life to another forever. He tried to step back but he could not move, invisible hands holding him in place.

“Your words,” Magnus explained, “Or rather, your intention to be bound has started the ritual.”

“You—” Alec stumbled back, knees growing weak but he fought to stand. He could not move beyond the circular platform where they stood not two feet apart. He felt caged, contained, trapped by Magnus’ gaze. He flung out his hands and hit Magnus as hard as he could. “You tricked me. You made me say it! You—you!”

Magnus caught his hands on the third try, cupping his wrists. “Why?” There was no malice in his voice, only open curiosity. “If you, Nephilim, despise the idea of being bound to someone who you think is lower than you, then why would you willingly agree?” He studied Alec with watchful unblinking eyes. Tiny specks of light glimmered in his irises as each rose higher, and higher. “Then why are you doing this?”

Alec bites his lip. For once, he allowed himself to answer honestly. “Because of my family. I came here for them. I came to protect them. You know deals with demons are! We could not refuse. Else, Alicante will fall into ruin. But I…” he choked on the memory of Isabelle in his dreams, “I volunteered.”

“Look at me,” A finger lifted his chin, and Magnus’ face was mere inches from his, silhouetted by the faint glow surrounding them. It should have been enchanting if not for the secret that burned inside him. “You indeed are very brave, Isabelle. Bravery is an admirable quality. I apologize, my dear, but we can no longer stop this.”

If Alec were listening, he would have heard the twinge of sadness in the tone. But, alas, he was not. “There’s no need to flattery.” He said, unable to keep his eyes on his soon-to-be husband, “Pray… instruct me on what is to be done.”

“First, the physical bond. We will need blood.” With a flick of his hand, Magnus produced a small blade, a narrow-bladed curved weapons resembling the claws of a large feline. One finger inserted in the small hole at the edge of the handle, Manus draws a straight on the inside of his arm where he indicated Alec’s name would appear. He hissed as the blade pulled away as blood rose to wound’s surface.

Then, he offers the blade, handle-first, to Alec.

“I assume that you would be more comfortable doing it yourself.”

With a huff, Alec grabbed the knife and sliced his own skin. He hissed as the red line began to spill with blood, blotching the dried ink. “To draw blood for a ritual is barbaric.”

“We are using blood magic. It is custom—the union of our bloodlines.” Magnus brought their hands over a bowl, waiting for the blood to drop. “For blood is a symbol of the soul, in this cup of union, we shall begin our bond.” One, two, three drops of blood—Alec counted—fizzled as they touched the cup’s copper center.

Alec flinched, pulling his hand back, but Magnus’ fingers were wrapped around his wrists. A quiet murmur and a prickle of magic later, he saw that his skin was healed without a scar nor any mark of the blade. He felt the magic tingle inside him, sinking into the patterns of ink written on his skin.

“Soon I will bear your name on my flesh, dear Isabelle,” Magnus whispered before dropping a small kiss on the intended flesh.  

The intensity of the gesture caused Alec to stumbled back. “Magnus, I—” ‘I am not Isabelle!’ he wanted to scream but words were caught in his throat. “I—” he couldn’t speak, not with those eyes pinning him in place.

They rose slowly, joining the hundreds of lights which shone like starlight in the sky. They were at the center of it all, shining like the moon trying to outshine the sun.  Magnus’ warm arms encircled his middle, but Alec felt his heart hammering in fear rather than desire. The coldness he felt wasn’t from the night breeze but from somewhere within him.

“My name—” he stuttered, is Alexander, but the words remained on his tongue. He scrambled to hold on, hands still clutching Magnus’ wrists like a lifeline. The smell of herbs, spice, and sugar filled his senses, a fresh breath of air in the fog. Then, he felt the burning sensation of Magnus’ name being carved into his flesh.

The ground, and the crowd, grew smaller beneath them. Everything else fell away, and all that he can see was Magnus. His eyes travelled along Magnus’s form; his face heated at the sight of Magnus’ exposed torso, the richly embroidered fabric of Magnus’ jacket, until he lifted his head to look at Magnus’ face. The connection between them flared into life, inching across the patterns on his skin.

“The first tie. Can you feel it—” A single second stretched for an eternity; Alec could only choke out a sob because in Magnus’ eyes he saw, for certain, the look of a man who would try to marry for love rather than duty. He wanted to scream. He wanted to yell. He wanted to confess his lie before everything else was too late.

Where their hands touched, it was warm, glowing aura spread from their fingers to their wrists. Like water, it flowed upstream, bringing to life the pattern of inks of their arms. It travels up their arms, to their shoulders, to their chests, and to their core. An instant later, it felt as if they were not two different people but one, a singular being, a singular soul.

“—Alexander?”

Alec’s eyes shot open, dreading his own discovery. “What did you say?”

“Alexander,” Magnus said again with equally surprised expression on his face before he contorted it into a frown. His voice darkened as he spoke, “It’s the second tie. can hear you. Alexander—it’s the name you’ve been screaming in your mind… is he—is he a lover?”

“Magnus, I—” Alec squirmed under Magnus’ gaze. Ice, ice, and ice were the only things he felt inside him, along the bong between them, crawling through his vein and making its way into his heart. “I’m sorry,” he said, not wanting to see the betrayal—his betrayal. “I’m—”

Magnus erupted in fury, “I thought Nephilim were loyal. You bind to me yet your heart belongs to another.” He pushed Alec away.

“M—Magnus! That’s not!” Alec panicked, “What are you doing? D—don’t let go. I’ll—I’ll fall!” Normally, he was by no means squeamish about heights but they were nearly as high as the tower; a fall from this height would certainly lead to death.

“Was it worth it, Isabelle?” Magnus spat, “Where is your precious Nephilim now, Isabelle? Was he the guard who brought you into the forest? The one you saved?” He sneered, blue wisps of magic prickling at the tips of his fingers. “Because you are mine, you are my bride, and I will put to death those foolish enough to claim you.”

“Magnus, stop!” Alec yelled, It’s me! I’m Alexander! He grabbed Magnus’ wrist but the warlock visibly recoiled. He saw it despite the quickness; this wasn’t the 7th Prince of Hell, no, it was the Magnus who sought his favor by the lake—with the look of a man deceived.

“I’m Alec.” He confessed quietly.

“What?!” Magnus’ voice boomed. “What did you say?”

Alec chose not to fight that fire with fire. This was his fault—his lie—his deception. He would do right even if it killed him because Magnus deserved this little bit of truth. He lowered his gaze to Magnus wrists, coaxing it gently towards him before turning it palm-sides up. “My name is Alexander Gideon Lightwood,” he declared with false confidence, thumb tracing his name of Magnus’ wrists, and feeling that it was right.

Their bond flared even stronger, like waves in the middle of a storm, forcing their inner walls to crumble, exposing them—exposing their souls to each other. Magnus’ pulled at Alec’s soul, or Alec’s pulled at Magnus’, at the moment it did not matter. The auras of their souls reached out, little tendrils like fingers that yearned to touch, and feel, and entwine with its other half.

If they were incompatible, this would start to hurt at any moment. Ribbons of light wrapped around where they touched, winding up their arms until their bodies, minds, and souls were encircled. Their souls enveloped them in a cocoon of only them. Alec gasped while Magnus’ eyes widened when, instead of pulling away, their souls opened, and spread out to touch the other, both demanding for more.

Their souls took the invitation and dove deep into each other’s hearts, making them gasp.

Alec’s angelic resonance reached deep into Magnus’ soul, caressing the seed of hurt as if to wish it away. It tried to pull at seed, no larger than a speck of dust, but Magnus’ soul held on, unwilling to let go, unwilling to forgive, making Alec’s presence reel back distress.

Then, something shifted inside him, and Alec just knew that it was Magnus’ soul seeking permission. He willing allowed it, baring his soul for Magnus’ to touch. There were no words to describe the intensity of the touch, more intimate than anything he’s ever felt before. He did not realize that his own soul was gripping tightly on to it.

Their union solidified as the swirl of colors changed into one; it was brilliant, and beautiful, and breathtaking like a galaxy filled with constellations against the backdrop of a clear midnight blue and purple sky—the third tie.

Alec watched as the tendrils of their souls receded back into their arms, baring their wrists which bore their names. Magnus did the same and the spell was broken.

“You lied to me?” The broken voice spoke barely above a whisper.

 “Yes.” Alec retracted his hands in shame. “I did.” Immediately something inside him called out, begging him to link their hands together again, demanding a physical link to their bond. After that, the floodgates opened. He could feel everything—rejection, sadness, and pain, so strong that it physically affected him, making him cry out in agony.

“Manus, what’s—what’s happening?” Eyes wide as sharp stab of pain shot straight through his heart, stronger than anything he had ever experienced before.

“The bond—” Magnus flinched, face grimacing in pain as if an echo of Alec’s.

The Shadowhunter moaned in distress, crumpling onto himself, trying to alleviate the pain but to no avail. It hurt, searing flames that were burning him on the inside, and the name of his wrist ebbed. His entire body was on fire. He did not understand how he could feel so hurt. But the bond answered it for him. The flames were not from him—they came from—

“Magnus,” he gasped. It hurts. It hurts so much, because he felt the flames scorching Magnus’ soul. The last thing he remembered was warm arms that felt so right but emptiness that he could not explain before he succumbed to the darkness.

Chapter Text

When he was a boy, Magnus foolishly believed that he would one-day be marrying for love. His mother had been a romantic. She believed in true love when she met the man she married. He remembered the story well.

She was a Javanese tea-farmer in the province of Priangan, and he was knight. They met during one of the crusades into her village. They came to protect the village from bandits. Her father offered him the house to sleep in. She served him ale on his first night. He saw her and she saw him, and then she smiled. The rest was history.

He wished for the same to happen to him, to have that spark at first sight, but that destiny wasn’t meant for someone like him—he was a half-demon and his father was the King of Hell. He knew his duty was to Edom when his father came to take him away on his two-hundredth birthday. Edom was to be his home and a part of it was to be his dominion. Still, he feebly hoped that one day he would meet someone to love so that he can share the home he made in his humble piece of Hell.

Isabelle Lightwood was unlike anything he ever expected in a woman. She was a fighter, and a strong one at that; her movements were graceful when she leapt off the horse’s back and effortlessly executed a full-body roll to avoid injury, and her motions efficient when wielding a weapon. She was like thunder in a storm, the wind in a hurricane, or Gaia herself in a quake. In short, she was a force to be reckoned with, different from the women in his life. She was a warrior who wore an angelic face.

She was also stubborn past the point of annoyance, opinionated, and brash. It was clear from her gait that the Nephilim wasn’t prepared for this union. He could smell the fear rolling off her body when they crossed the border but she held it in silence.  She didn’t understand the ways of demons, too blinded by their Nephilim ways which were skewed with old religion and distorted through one generation to the next.

He knew of Nephilim. He knew of Shadowhunters. He was there when Robert Lightwood made the pact with his father for peace and prosperity across their land. At the time, he was awed by the man’s bravery but now he saw for what it truly was—cowardice. He who chose an easier path instead of the right one. Now, his daughter reaps the benefits of his greed, and so will Edom.

How he yearned to learn to love her.

Created of human and demon, he was born a warlock and with it came abilities that he was still trying to understand even after two centuries of living. It was his duty as a Prince of Hell to marry for the interest of their Kingdom, and yet he believed that he had a duty to his heart to long for love. He thought that maybe, just maybe, he could find that in Isabelle Lightwood’s eyes but all he saw was scorn and hate.

She would never love him, not even think about considering it because he was a demon and she believed that a part of him was inherently evil. He could not say that she was wrong. Multiple times he had to prove himself worthy of wearing the royal crown and he did so through unspeakable means, things that he would rather keep buried at the end of his mind but they will forever haunt him. The foolish part of him desperately wants to believe that she will learn to love him.

Once, he fantasized about a traditional folk wedding with flowers and earth and color. The kind of ceremony which bound two-souls, albeit figuratively together. But as a warlock, he needed a ritual to bind his soul to Isabelle’s forever, as was his duty as Prince to forge the royal demonic lineage with the Nephilim.

In the end, he chose a combination of both worlds; he summoned temple stones from the mundane realm and arranged them in a circle, made fauna ivy sprigs grow and laced it with spells to make them react to the ritual magic, and finally he drew ink on his own skin as homage to where he came from. He called on fairy lights to illuminate the dark skies, and the rest of nature to be their stage.

His siblings and their consorts would be in front with their father. Each of the six—seven if he counted his father—royals at equal distance around the circle, and their followers behind them. His people were scattered around to secure the area. He did not care for where the council members sat but they were behind his father. There were hundreds and hundreds of demons whom gathered to witness the royal binding that comes rarer than a blue moon.

Most of the Council demons frowned upon his choices and vocally objected to the ritual which he chose. He wouldn’t listen. If he were to bind himself to another, it would be a mutual bond like that of older brothers chose for their own partners and not a slavery bond which the council insisted on. Even if she was Nephilim, even if she was from the enemy, she was to be his wife and that was all that mattered.

He thought that he had lost all illusion of a union for love.

But when she entered the forest, he was enthralled.

Isabelle Lightwood must have been handcrafted by the angels or touched by the hand of god. She was more enticing than any woman he’s ever laid eyes on. In her white ceremonial dress, her beauty would rival the goddesses of the heavens. Her long black hair was inlaid with flowers and gems, tied high like small curling nests. Her lips were the color of a bloody red rose. Her eyes shone with the lights which Magnus so carefully ignited.

She was glory.

She was elegance.

She held herself with so much pride that she rendered pride to be a blessing and not a sin.

Magnus watched the demons watch her. He saw the maliciousness in their eyes, their lusty stares, trying to consume as much of her beauty as they could. As if, they could stake their claim on her by mere sight alone. How it angered him. Magnus wanted to smite them all, each and every one, but such decorum was frowned upon by the King’s court. The demons were dealt with by Ragnor and Catarina, scorching the unlucky bastards who dared in green flames. His bonding was sullied by the smell of burning flesh.

All that paled in comparison to his bride. It all fell away when he was confronted by Isabelle Lightwood in all her beauty and glory.

“You look beautiful, Isabelle.” He smiled, offering a hand. “Are you ready?”

Her face fell and disappointment washed over him like a tidal wave. He tried to hide it. He had forgotten that she did not want this bond in the first place. He felt like such a coward, like such a fool, hiding behind his father’s promise. Isabelle Lightwood would never love someone like him beyond the bounds of Nephilim duty. He was a Downworlder and she was from the Angel. They were worlds apart.

“What’s—what’s going to happen?”

The first touch of their hands were cold as ice. Her fingers were frigid and he could not fault her, not with the skin-bearing nature of her ceremonial robes which revealed miles and miles of silvery-white scarred pale flesh. She was so bare while he was covered from shoulder to toe, her skin bare for all the demons to see. He hated sharing but the wedding marks on her skin sent guilty happiness through him.

Magnus explained the ritual. He wanted her to know that they were equals, that he would not treat her like his brother treated their consorts, that contrary to popular belief he was not a monster even if he knew he was—a monster, an abomination, an anomaly who fit nowhere else except in hell. He can see that even she believed that.

“I can’t.” She told him firmly and it hurt worse than a thousand arrows to the heart. “B—but, I am willing to be bound to you.”

His eyes shot open in surprise. The words, she said the words, words that she did not mean to say or said by mistake, words which she cannot take back. He felt the flow of magic radiate from their feet, spearing like a wildfire to the stones—connecting, joining, binding their innate magic, their cores. It gave life to the forest as their union would one day give life to their offspring.

A thrill, a guilty thrill rushed through him. Not all of his brothers were this lucky. The ritual only works if the two intended beings were compatible; that was the reason he was chosen for this—not only was he the one who wasn’t bound but he was also the more expendable. If he died during the ceremony, there would be no damage to Edom, just to his father’s pride. And yet, he was here with a literal angel who was willing to accept the bond.

But she was devastated. “You tricked me .” The accusation hurt because he didn’t. He was giving her an equal opportunity to be happy and yet she kept denying him. He did not force her to say the words to start the ritual. She said them on her own! Of her own free will! It wouldn’t have worked otherwise but he was confused. How could such words come out from an angelic face?

“If you, Nephilim, despise the idea of being bound to someone who you think is lower than you, then why would you willingly agree?” He needed—wanted—to know. “Why are you doing this?”

She looked back at him with fearful blue eyes, wide and open like she was as trapped as a cornered mouse. Her eyes flittered everywhere except to him. She didn’t want to look like she could not bear to see him. He has seen her brave face so many times in the past two days but this one was different. Isabelle seemed afraid . It didn’t suit her. No, not with the fairy lights glowing around them to celebrate the start of their bond. It felt wrong.

Family she answered and Idris, their homeland. That much he could understand, for he was no different. This bond—this union—was nothing more than his father’s scheme and he was a pawn to the greater plan. He respected that but was morose at the same time. At least, in that, they were the same. He only wished that he could tell her, that he could say, but those were against the rules and she should not bear his burden. She already looked at him like he would cause her destruction and, perhaps, in some ways he already had.

“Bravery is an admirable quality.” He told her in praise and he meant it.

Isabelle was vague about what the Nephilim expected of their bond. Yet, one thing was already certain; they had expected her to come to her death. A tie with a Downworlder like him would cause her to be shunned by the very people who sent her, the same people whom she came here to protect. It was despicable for a race bred from the angels. It made it like them .

They needed the physical bond. He summoned a knife and his kerambit , one he took from the mundane world, his own world, and brought here. It was symbolic and sentimental but he did not care. Demons blades, forged by the orcs and bathed in demon blood, should never touch her skin—not if he can stop it.

“I assume you would be more comfortable doing it yourself,” he said, offering her the handle. Brave she was, cutting a clean slice through her palm with only a small hiss of pain. She did not hesitate nor shake when blood marred the ink which decorated her skin. He knew, right then, that she was a hunter. He suspected it in the forest that his bride-to-be was trained for combat, and this confirmed it. Strange it was for Nephilim to be open-minded about women and weapons.

He felt pride because he wasn’t bonding to a weakling. Isabelle Lightwood was a conundrum to him. One minute sweet and open, the other harsh and bitter. He remembered her calling him pretty when they first met then angering Catarina with her stupid words the moment they arrived. Maybe, just maybe, if Magnus let her in his heart then something might come of this.

“Soon, I will bear your name on my flesh, dear Isabelle.” And when he said it, pride fluttered in his chest. He would be claimed. He kissed the soft pale skin on her wrist where his own name would appear, and she could be claimed as his . It would be different from his marks on Ragnor, Catarina, or Clary—on his people. This claim, this mark, would be theirs .

“Magnus, I—” Her voice strained and it felt wrong .

Magnus felt the magic working—weaving, trying, bonding their souls together. He felt it in his core, in his magic, in his soul reaching out and opening up. His magic awakened inside him. It ebbed and it glowed. “The first tie. Can you feel it—” He whispered in awe, in reverence, as he felt the first tie binding them together, binding their bodies, calling to his magic. It reached out into Isabelle’s heart and he read a single name.

“—Alexander.” The name of a boy, of a man, he wanted to reel back in disgust—at himself, at his father, at his station. This was the reason why she would never love him. A name, a single solitary name of the man she loved—Alexander.

“What did you say?”  

He wanted to scream. He wanted to yell. Because all of it wasn’t fair. All of it felt wrong like a bitter herb mixed with sweet tea. A single name that would forever separate them. Anger flashed in his eyes, it crashed like a typhoon wave on the shoreline—harsh, hard, and frigid. He was screaming words he couldn’t remember and his magic was whirling out of his control, stronger now that they were connected.

“I’m Alec.” He heard it like the calm after the storm. Finally, finally, the answer to the question that his heart was yelling for. It came to him like a moment of clarity. “My name is Alexander Gideon Lightwood.” He looked down and stared at the name in elegant script written on his wrist. He understood. It wasn’t Isabelle Lightwood standing in front of him ready to be bound—it was her brother.

Alexander Lightwood.

Alexander.

Alec.

A name.

The name of his bonded.

It opened the floodgates of their bond. Alexander’s soul mingled with his magic, to his soul. He could see it. He could feel it. He watched at Alexander’s walls slowly crumbled to finally, finally accept him. Alexander’s soul was beautiful and white and pure, unlike anything he ever laid eyes on. He has seen souls, countless souls, through his longevity but never like this—no soul called to him like this, drawing him near like he was in a trance.

In front of him was an Angel of the Lord, God’s warrior, a seraph in all his glory. He would bow down, get on his knees, sing praises in chorus with the angels.

Alexander’s soul welcomed him with open arms. This being was his intended, was his soulmate, was his mate. The auras of their souls reached out, little tendrils like fingers that yearned to touch, and feel, and entwine with its other half. They were compatible. They were destined. They were meant to be—fated, if that was the word.

Their union solidified as the swirl of colors changed into one; it was brilliant, and beautiful, and breathtaking like a galaxy filled with constellations against the backdrop of a clear midnight blue and purple sky—the third tie.

Their bond was complete. He can feel Alexander’s emotions flowing through him unfiltered like water. He could sense Alec’s guilt welling up, Alec’s pain, Alec’s sense of justice which led to here in the first place. Justice which pushed him to impersonate his sister, to take her place, because this fate was worse than death itself.

Isabelle was gone when he opened his eyes.

Instead, he can see Alec Lightwood staring up at him and he was beautiful.

The names on their wrists mirrored each other perfectly: Magnus Bane, Alexander Gideon Lightwood.

Alexander.

Alec.

“You lied to me?”

“Yes.”

And, it only made the pain worse. His heart lurched in his chest, caught in his throat, along with the acidic bile rising from his stomach. Isab— Alexander had lied to him. What hurt more was that Alexander did not trust him . His own bonded, the partner of his soul, did not trust him enough to share this. He was ashamed of Magnus and Alec had every right to be.

Magnus pulled back and started closing off his walls. He pictured his chambers in his mind—the firewalls, the stones, the archway to the den, his bedroom, the four-posted bed inlaid with deep red cloth lined in gold tassels. He lifted the cover and burrowed inside, hiding in the imagined darkness of his thick linen sheets, hiding from the world of hurt that was outside his chambers.

He can feel Alec’s soul knocking, calling, begging to be let inside but he wouldn’t allow it. He couldn’t. Not again. Not here. Not now. Not ever.

“Magnus,” How he loved the sound of his name of Alec’s lips. “What’s—what’s happening?”

That was him. It was his doing. He was closing off the walls between them despite their bond. He reeled back, pulling away, extracting his presence from Alec’s mind if not his soul. That would an appalling thing to do, to say where he wasn’t wanted.

‘Hush, love,’ he longed to say but the words were caught on his throat.

“Magnus…”

Alexander collapsed into his arms and he was ready to catch him. Closing off the bond to new, so early, was painful for both parties. Alec shivered in his arms. ‘I’m sorry,’ he whispered silently as he pressed two fingers on Alec’s forehead to take the pain away. ‘I’m sorry, Alexander—’

“—but it’s for the best that you don’t remember any of this.”

Chapter Text

There was nothing except an emptiness when Alec woke. He had a vague recollection of the ritual—the white and the gold, the lights dotting the sky, and the shining golden-green catlike eyes. After all that, he remembered nothing—not a word nor a deed but he knew, deep down, that it was finished, that he was a bride, that he was bonded to a Prince of Hell. He sat on a chair. ‘Sat’ being the more appropriate word for how he was half-sprawled and half-draped over the warm body beside him.

A flush crept up his cheeks.

Voices bickered over his head in tongues he could not comprehend. They sounded so far from English that he wouldn’t be able to tell if it was a single tongue or many. He listened to tone, sharp consonants and rounded vowels, stiff and rough, loud and angry. Of the voices, he recognized only one—the voice of his bonded, the voice of Magnus Bane. Strange that his was the meekest of them all.

“She is awake.” The voice cut Magnus off at mid-sentence. All of the rest stopped at once.

Alec froze. She, they called him, his secret was still safe for now. He opened his mouth to speak but closed it, feeling his throat parched like wilted greens. Husband tasted like sand and dirt inside his mouth even if he wasn’t speaking. It felt wrong. It felt empty. It felt like something inside betrayed him, or like he betrayed himself. Instead, he called a name.

“Magnus,” he rasped like metal ground against metal.

“So she is,” came Magnus’ cold and distant voice. Something in Alec broke, rebelling at the tone, rebelling at the thought of Magnus’ rejection. He opened his eyes in time to see the golden-green orbs that haunted his subconscious.

“Welcome to the land of the living, princess.” A deep voice spoke. It was Ragnor, dressed in a similar fashion to the British regalia except he wore a different crest. “Nice to see that you’ve finally graced us with your conscious presence.” He drawled, voice dripping in sarcasm. Behind him, more warlocks were present.

“Stay away from my wife, Ragnor.” Magnus barked, shielding Alec from the green-skinned warlock. “Stand down.” The order was strong and commanding, and the other man lowered his head submissively without a word. Magnus turned back to Alec, kneeling down.

“How’s your head?” He asked, brushing fingers through Alec’s bangs. The Nephilim leaned in instinctively to the touch. “You gave me quite a fright. How are you feeling, princess?” It felt wrong to hear the same endearment that Ragnor used for spite. It curled nauseatingly low in Alec’s gut.

“I’m… I’m fine.” Alec turned away from Magnus’ touch with the faintest hint of red on his cheeks, feeling just how close they truly were seated. Magnus was a solid wall beside him, keeping him upright on the stool with an arm draped across his back to provide some sort of makeshift backrest. He could feel the warmth despite the thick cotton layers of Magnus’ jacket over his shoulders. Suddenly, the calming scent which surrounded him made much more sense.

Magnus’ jacket was wrapped around him. He was wearing Magnus’ wedding—bonding—jacket from the ceremony like a blushing virgin!

“Magnus,” Ragnor’s tone made the prince’s grip tighten across Alec’s back, “Since your consort is awake. May I suggest that we return to the banquet… the guests… the King is awaiting an audience with your new bride. We shouldn’t delay the introductions…”

“No,” Magnus declined flatly. “Father can wait. Isabelle needs to rest.” The name punched Alec straight in the gut, he barely caught himself from doubling over. “Princess!” A hand pressed against his shoulder. On Magnus’ left hand was thick bejeweled bracelet made of pure gold. It contrasted perfectly to the dark purple cloth of the jacket. Alec caught himself staring and flushed in embarrassment.

There was a soft chuckle. “Here I thought this was going to be difficult. Are you a bracelet kind of woman rather than cloth?”

Alec immediately looked away. “N—no, that’s not…” he glanced down to his own hands, dark ink decorating his skin a swirl of patterns. They were untouched, unmoved, unscathed where something should be in place.

“Princess?” Magnus worried, his hand secure across Alec’s back. “Are you ready to be presented?” He asked, leaning down so their eyes would meet. Alec never felt more exposed in his life. Magnus sat beside him with an openly concern expression that his heart leapt inside his chest. It was like bearing his soul to a complete stranger but it felt right. It felt warm and comforting.

“Can I…” He wished not to leave the security which isolation provided. He tugged at the dark purple fabric over his shoulder, cheek brushing against the high collar. “May I keep wearing this?” Pure unadulterated joy blossomed on Magnus’ face.

“It will be the greatest honor, my princess.” Magnus said, with a bright smile. He gingerly stood up, careful not to jostle Alec too much, and offered a hand. “Shall we go?”

“Yes.”

Sparks tingled the moment their hands touched. Alec’s breath hitched as it travelled like wildfire up his arm, raising his goosebumps with a shiver. It was their first skin-on-skin contact since the ritual. Then, a flood of calm seemed to flow from their joined hands, shooing away his anxiety.

“We’re going to be fine,” Magnus reassured as if reading his mind. “Will you trust me?”

Despite his mind rebelling, Alec found himself replying with “I will.”

***

Catarina stood out amongst the demons still in the castle. She wore a midnight blue dress, several hues darker than her skin, and silver accessories. She embodied the night sky freckled by the starlight. Her long silver-shite hair cascaded down her back like a river of moonlight. She stood with her back to the terrace, amethyst eyes staring Alec down with a heated glare.

“Catarina…” Magnus’ voice was warning as he squeezed Alec’s hand. “I believe you’ve already made peace. Am I wrong?”

The female warlock was silent.

Alec touched Magnus gently on the shoulder. “Is something wrong?”

Magnus turned to his bride then to his sister, eyebrow arching. “Is there?” He asked, directing it to the other warlock like a challenge. Catarina stifled but shook her head.

“The crowds are waiting, brother.”

It was only then, up close, that Alec saw the wetness in her eyes, shocking him. The princess had unshed tears as she held her entire body stiffly. Alec could see Isabelle in her—strong, defiant, and brave. It meant that he could also see right through the façade on her face. Catarina was frightened, by what he cannot place, and her dread was nearly palpable in the air.

Magnus’ touched her face, fingers cupping her jaw and thumb over her cheek. “All is well. Rest your fears, Catarina.” A twinge of guilt burst in Alec’s chest because the scene was achingly familiar. In the same shoes, he would have done the same to his own sister and felt a flash of admiration for the half-demon man whom he married.

He took one of her hands in both of his. The clamminess matched his own. Her eyes widened as they turned to him. “It’s okay,” he comforted her, completely missing the reaction of Magnus’ face, “I will not take your brother away from you. He is my husband, yes, but he is your brother first. You won’t lose him. I promise.”

“Isabelle,” she said the wrong name for the first time. The frown on her face made it clear that the word left an after taste in her mouth. “Princess,” she amended with a small smile. “Our princess, consort to our prince, sister… I like that very much. Shall I call you sister instead?”

Alec smiled genuinely. “I would like that, yes.” He said, surprised that he meant it.

“Sister,” Catarina called him before turning to Magnus, “Brother.” She pulled away from them. She gestured to the open door and pulled back the curtains. From outside, the cheers of the crowds echoed into the castle walls, deafening in their might, boisterous like thunder.

The presentation was held in the vast gardens behind the castle.  Crowds of nobles, their parties, and demons of various castes were scattered across the greens. As per tradition, the King of Hell sat at the center of it all, flanked by his children, six on each side. The Princes of Hell gathered with their consorts, each trying to best the other in a show of dominance. It was childish and mundane, yet they participated with growing pride.

Light assaulted Alec from either side. It blinded him for more than a second. Fires, tall but cold, rose over the pillars. The colors of blue and purple flames that he had never seen before. It bathed them in bright light but dimmed the crowds. He could see different colored flames at the very front but the brightest of them all was at the center. White light illuminated the King of Hell.

“The Prince and the Princess of the seventh territory!” Catarina voice boomed, amplified by unseen magic. It hushed the crowds to a stunned silence, and in a snap everyone’s eyes were on the newly bonded couple.

“Relax,” Magnus whispered from beside him, hand still warm in his. “I am here.” His words were enough to calm the rapid beating of Alec’s heart. Together, they raised their joined hands to the demons of the realms, presenting their union to the King, to the court, and to the Princes. From behind them, Magnus’ followers cheered and chanted at the royal couple, many cat-called and many whistled.

The Prince and the Princess were ready for court. The journey to the gardens was quiet and tense. Magnus kept being a solid presence beside Alec the entire time, hand never leaving his. Soon, they re-emerged out of the castle to the garden grounds and faced the royal demon family.

“My son,” Asmodeus welcomed Magnus and Alec into the gardens. When he spoke, his voice was velvety smooth, deep and thunderous, that commanded respect despite the calm tone. He was frighteningly human with skin like Magnus’, a face like Magnus’, and blood-red thorns woven into his golden crown. It froze Alec to the core, as if all ounce of warmth was stolen from him. “Come and present your bride.”

Magnus led Alec to the elevated stones in front of the King. “My King, My Lord, My Father,” he bowed at the waist, bare-chested and all, his skirts swished at his bare feet. Then, he turned, hand releasing Alec’s and touching the shoulder of his ceremonial jacket. “My bride and my consort, of the Nephilim race, child of the Lightwoods.”

His hands whispered magic across Alec’s skin, tingling, tickling, buzzing above the surface. The fabric of the jacket warmed over his flesh as Magnus’ magic wove into the threads. Blue sparks danced around him in a cocoon of light. Alec didn’t have to see to know that his clothes were changing. His ceremonial robes disappeared and the cloth which took their place was feather-soft. When his eyes opened, he saw an ornate golden dress embellished perfectly with purple accepts.

“Magnus…” he whispered in surprise for it was the perfect combination of their colors. Around them, the crowds thundered with applause. He reached over his head and felt a thick crown resting on his hair with thick fabrics draped behind him. Magnus touched his cheek, and he grew speechless.

“You look beautiful, princess.” The words sounded so genuine and sincere. Golden-green eyes stared into his, waves and waves of emotions coursing through them but too fast for Alec to read. He felt so different at that instance, with him so bundled in layers upon layers of fabric but Magnus remained half-naked from the waist up.

He wanted to say nay because Magnus was the more beautiful one. “As do you, Magnus.”

The warlock prince smiled.  With a snap of his fingers, Magnus transformed his own clothes into the full regalia that Alec once saw before. Blue eyes widened when Alec realized that it copied the same details and patterns of his own dress. They matched—perfectly—as if stenciled from a single cloth. Gold and purple. Purple and gold.

“I think this is much better.” He said cheekily, making Alec blush.

“Are you two done?” Meliorn’s annoyed voice pulled them from their reverie. They sprung apart save for Magnus’ hand on Alec’s lower back. Both blushing like fools. The fairie prince smirked arrogantly from where he sat, under an alcove of branches and leaves, on moss pillows, with his prince consort by his side. He dressed in green, brown, and bronze regalia patterned with vines.

“Oh, let them have their moment,” Kieran, the prince consort, spoke with a laughing tone. “We took seasons for our bonding ceremony. If not for mother, they would have sent a search party to the forest! We all know—” he eyed the rest of the six royal couples in attendance, “—the effects of the bonding, yes?” To emphasize his point, he slipped off the moss and onto his prince’s lap, angling for a kiss. Soon, jeers and whistled filled the garden.

Alec heated with the brazen display. A sharp tug of want coursed through him. The two men were kissing. He watched their lips slide against one another’s before sneaking a glance at the pair of lips not an inch away. Magnus’ lips appeared dark and soft, the color deeper than his skin. His lips suddenly felt chapped, his mouth dry, and his throat parched.

“You are making my wife uncomfortable,” Magnus growled venomously, anger almost-palpable even in the darkness.

“No, Magnus, it’s fine… I really don’t…” Alec stammered, hands coming up defensively in front of his face, cheeks red in embarrassment. “If they want to… that is… if they…” he tore his gaze away, finding a swirl of gold on Magnus’ purple jacket rapidly becoming very interesting. Magnus’ fingers touched the fabric at the inside elbow of his dress for support. He blinked up to see warmth across the warlock’s features.

“Brothers,” and the single word explained everything that needed to be said.

Alec chuckled reflexively with half a nod. “Yes, siblings are quite troublesome.”

Magnus pulled on his arm gently to bring their bodies closer. “So you’ve met Meliorn, our eldest, the first born son to the King of Hell, so immensely old that I wonder why he hasn’t crumpled up into ashes with his old age… owww!” A twig whacked him behind the head and he glared daggers at his older brother with a frown. “Faerie, as you can see. His mother is of the Seelie court, the territory of faeries, more ancient than time itself.”

From his tent, Meliorn laughed. He still had Kerian on his lap with an arm draped over his shoulder. “I forget that you Nephilim had such delicate sensibilities. Kerian and I must apologize. There are no qualms about affection in Seelie court.” He gestured to his consort to step off but the other faerie hissed in indignation and Meliorn shushed his consort with a chaste kiss, a kiss of promise.

Raksasa was the next prince to speak. He too sat on the grass but without a canopy over his head. He was a Satyr, half-man with two hind legs of a horse. He had gigantic horns, the length from his fingers to his forearms which twisted towards the sky. It made a fearful image that did not coincide with his genial oval face and half-hidden smile. A long beard covered his chin and neck in the same shade of brown as his fur. He stood up, towering over them all by a solid two feet and bowed low towards Magnus and Alec.

“If I may speak freely?” He asked without rising from his bow. Magnus nodded his ascent. “Forgive my consort’s absence for your ceremony. She is nursing our new litter of offspring. They need a day or two to recover from the journey’s fatigue.” The demons applauded with the news.

“That is wonderful news, brother.” He waved a hand in forgiveness. “Princess, the second oldest, the first hybrid birth in Edom, Raksasa. He and his consort Helena rule the second territory.”

After Raksasa came Ayperos, who sat half-perched by the riverbanks and shallow waters, his long orange tail curled around one of the nearby rocks for purchase. His fins looked like sunshine on the water surface, and the same orange-yellow hue webbing between his spiny fingers. He had a pair of dorsal fins on his back which mimicked scaly fish-like wings, ventral fins on his forearms, and matching adipose fins for his ears and the sides of his tail. His caudal fin was forked, ending in two prongs.

The siren prince had bright red hair which hung loosely over one shoulder, corals and shells keeping it in place while green kelp wove around his head like a band. He waved a hand over the water and it rose, bearing his weight and bowing to the couple, water splashed under his fins.

“Yes, yes, enough with the waterworks, Ayperos. We all know how much you love to make a splash.” Magnus held out a hand and formed an invisible shield. It shone for half a second before water splattered an inch away from Alec’s face. The Nephilim stared at the clear barrier with interest. “Is Salacia not in attendance?”

“She is.” With another wave of his hand, Ayperos lifted a female mermaid from the riverbanks to float beside him. Salacia was beautiful like so many legends about sirens warned men. She had long blond hair and a brightly colored pink tail, her fins appeared like wings on her sides but her back was bare, and her breasts were on full-display. A hand of shells on kelp wound around her waist.

“Prince Magnus,” she lowered her head, “Princess Isabelle. The honor is ours.” She lifted her head and her bronze eyes glowed, but gone again in the blink of an eye. Her voice sounded like a chorus of the sea, captivating and thrilling, tempting to any man to chase. And yet, Alec remained unaffected by the timbre of her voice. It sounded wrong to his ears like a screech rather than a song. Her eyes widened at his reaction.

“Oh, this is peculiar.” She spoke, leaning forward as much as she can without falling off the water platform. She moved until they were but a breath away, Magnus’ invisible wall separating the two princesses. “Something about you is peculiar.” She told Alec straight to the face. “I smell it on you. A secret.”

Alec froze in place. Beside him, Magnus growled. “Enough, Salacia.” Immediately, the mermaid pulled away but her eyes never left the new princess even as they retreated to the riverbanks.

“Are you alright?”

It took a second longer for Alec to register that the question was directed to him. A hand laced their fingers together, squeezing in reassurance. Alec squeezed back.

“How many more?” He leaned into Magnus’ touch for comfort. He felt too stiff, too wrapped, too caged in the layers of his dress. Salacia’s words echoed in his mind—a secret she had said—something he knew he ought to hide.

“Three more,” Magnus tried to calm him with a hand running up and down Alec’s back. “Just Velnios, Louis, and Gabriel.”

“Those are names of Angels and Prophets.” Alec said in revelation.

Magnus chortled quietly. “Father has a sense of humor, I suppose. We may retire for the night and eat dinner in my chambers after this. You may meet them more casually at tomorrow’s meal. Are you amenable?”

Alec glanced at the rowdy crowd then back to his husband. “Yes, that would great. I… thank you, Magnus.”

Velnios had wings, large, beautiful, powerful wings made of webbing and scales and translucent material that Alec could not name. They were the expanse of his fully extended arms and almost the same height as his body. He wore loose clothes and light fabrics, tried securely by a thick golden belt and a hint of magic. His auburn hair was gathered high above his head like a messy bird’s nest. He rose to the skies to greet them with another male by his side.

“Velnios, Leonard,” Magnus greeted them. Alec watched in awe as they landed gracefully to the ground, wings flapping behind them. “Princess, my brother and his consort Leonard.”

Leonard was of stronger build than Velnios. He had a brawny frame, a few inches thicker than his prince and curly dark brown hair. His wings were dark green with dots of blue. He wore a similar fashion which landed above his knee and golden cuffs on both of his wrists. He had an earring on his ear that draped over his shoulder.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you.” He said with a bow, “I can hardly believe that you’ve finally been tied, Magnus. I fret that I’ve lost a bet.”

Velnios smiled and tipped to his toes for a kiss. “Hush, my love, you know we cannot speak of… our private activities outside of the chambers.” Alec felt his face heating at the implied meaning. “There is a proper princess among us!”

Leonard rolled his eyes. “Tis not my fault you chose a pauper warrior for a consort, my prince.”

Velnios lifted a hand to touch his cheek. “I will face Edom’s hellfire for you, Leonard.”

Magnus faked a cough to force the flirting couple apart. “My bride tires. Enough with the peacocking, brother. There are two whom I must present.” The winged prince winked before soaring to the skies once more. Alec kept his eyes on the two figures until they took their seats.

“He is the fourth prince, the most carefree of us all. He uses the skies as an escape whenever the meager happenings of land were beneath him.” Magnus intoned. With each prince, Alec heard a bit of fondness in the warlock’s tone. Magnus was smiling down at him and squeezed that hand which still tied them together. “Two more.” He tightened his hold as he saw the next prince approach. “Do not take anything he says to heart.”

“Magnus!” The thick accent reminded Alec of men from the seas.

“Louis,” Magnus nodded rigidly.

“Now, there, there, Magnus, is that any way to greet your older brother?” Louis spoke with a hard tongue, flicking over the consonants. Unlike the previous princes, he appeared completely human until he opened his mouth to speak. He peered close to Alec without any regard for personal space. “Hello, Isabelle. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” His fangs extended as he bowed to kiss his hand. The sharp tip grazed the skin over his knuckles.

Alec pulled his hand back as if it burned. Magnus hissed. “She is mine, Louis.” He snarled with an orb of magic floating above his palm. “Brother or not, I shall not think twice about smiting you with flames if you so much as touch my bride without her permission again.”

Louis raised his hands in mock surrender, head shaking. “Tsk. Tsk. Tsk. I would have thought your Nephilim bride would have been able to defend herself. What was it you said years ago, Magnus? Ahh! Oh, yes. That you didn’t like a damsel in distress, wasn’t it? Pity with what you have now.”

“Watch your words, Louis.” Magnus sneered, “You may come to regret them.”

“Now, now, Magnus dear, that’s no way to speak to my prince.” The shrill voice of a woman followed. She had long blonde hair reaching her waist, an inappropriate crimson dress that did nothing to hide her modesty nor her legs. She had blood red lips which contrasted against her pale white skin. She stood in every way, and in every angle, like an aristocrat from a noble family.

Magnus swallowed audibly. “Camille,” something in the way he said her name made Alec’s gut churn, “You’ve returned.”

Camille laughed with a hand covering her face, her nails long like claws painted in red. “I will always come back. Edom is where I belong.” She passed Louis and stepped in close to Magnus’ space. “Time has been kind to your face, my dear, still a prickly little boy from our time together.”

“Those days were like a blink of an eye to us Camille.” Magnus seethed warily.

“But that does not mean that we don’t remember.” Louis added, wrapping an arm around her waist. He turned to look at Alec straight in the eye. “Did you know? They used to be lovers.”

“What?” Alec chocked out, making Louis throw back his head and laugh.

“Lovers, naïve little Nephilim. They shared…” and his fingers gripped Camille tighter. “Carnal pleasures, so to speak. But in the end, Camille chose me, didn’t you darling?”

“Camille only chooses herself.” Magnus said in a low voice. “I have warned you before, brother, but your ears are deaf to reason.”

Louis snorted. “What you call reason, I call jealousy brother. Is it perhaps because you still have not forgotten your time together? Tsk. Tsk. Tsk. What will your new bride think? That you still lust for an old lover?”

“The past is the past.” Alec spoke up, surprising himself along with everyone else. “If you have no more words to speak, you may leave. I believe there is still one prince left which I am to meet.” He turned away, not bothering to dismiss them with a wave. Louis smirked but Camille looked furious. Magnus, on the other hand, appeared amused by his sudden outburst.

“Jealous, princess?” Magnus asked when the pair was a safe distance away.

“You haven’t…” Alec mumbled, none of his earlier courage in his tone, “…bedded her again, right? After?”

“No,” came Magnus’ flat response. “I do not covet what is not mine.”

The last of the princes came. He was a buff like Leonard but his skin was dark and tan. Strands of his curly platinum blonde hair touched his broad shoulders. He puffed out his bare chest and soft-looking puffy pants covered his lower half, feet bare. He appeared like a barbarian from the old story books that their mother used to read to them. Alec straightened up, dumbfounded.

“My pack wasn’t lying when they said you were beautiful.” Gabriel said in lieu of a greeting. He stood a respectable distance away, seemingly wary from the earlier interactions with the older siblings. “I’m the second youngest, only fifty years before Magnus was born. The name’s Gabriel.”

“Like the angel?” Alec caught himself saying.

Gabriel smiled. “I believe so, yes.” He beckoned one of his packmates to move forward. A man, taller and leaner, towered over the rest of the group. The air around her seemed to shift as he walked, both in slow motion and entirely too fast at the same time. Even the crowds quieted as he passed them to take his place beside his prince. “This is my mate and prince consort Adriel. He’s named after an angel too, I believe.”

“A man,” Alec blinked, incredulous. “A mundane?”

The pair laughed in unison.

“I’m flattered but, no, we aren’t mundane.” Adriel giggled then an odd distant stare flickered across his eyes. “I haven’t been for a long time… not since I was found by my mate.” At the words, Gabriel flushed red, making Adriel giggle again. He wrapped his long arms around the shorter man in a possessive gesture. Together, they bowed low before leaving.

Alec swayed with the effort to stand. How long had that taken? An hour? And entire day? The colors of Edom were beginning to change again and he felt faint. While he had taken bites in between getting dressed and the ceremony, he completely forewent dinner because he passed out. He nearly forgot the reason he blacked in the first place.

“Are you all right, Alexander?”

He snapped his head up in shock. “I’m, uh… what did you say?”

“Princess,” Magnus repeated in the same worried tone, “Are you feeling all right? Shall we return to our rooms for dinner? These festivities will last until the morrow night. There’s no shame in retreating for the evening to our chambers.”

Our chambers echoed in Alec’s ears but he nodded. “Portal us.” He requested, touching Magnus on the arm. “I am… I’m not well.” It wasn’t far from the truth. His legs ached like still pole dug through solid bedrock, stiff and numb from standing all night long. His neck had a crick from the weight of the headdress. He heard the snap of fingers, saw the movement flash before his eyes, and in the next instant they were inside the castle.

Reality came crashing down.

“We’re sharing a bed tonight, aren’t we?”

Chapter Text

There was but one space adequate for sleep in all the breadth of the chambers—a vast number of thick pelts spread down on an elevated plane, half-hidden underneath the alcove in one corner. It bore a resemblance to a small private cave. Stones made up the alcove, formed with the help of magic. Heavy drapes hung by the mouth which appeared to spill out from between the cracks. The shadows blanketed the plentiful plump pillows inside.

Alec realized the inevitability of this new challenge from the moment he uttered the words. Not a question really but a fact; they were, for all intents and purposes, married under all the eyes of the entire cosmos—bonded in heart, body, and soul. Half a day since the ritual and yet he strangely felt no different from before except for a low-lying tingle under his skin craving for the warlock. It was a sensation that he couldn’t understand.

“We will sleep as I see fit. These are our chambers. You should treat them as such.”

The words strung. He looked between the warlock and the bed, and shuddered at the thought.

We,” he burst out suddenly, voice surprisingly firm, “We shall sleep as we see fit. Did you not say—” He stopped as if changing his mind, “—Did we not agree that this… this thing that we have… this marriage—”

“—Bond.”

Alec blinked, taken aback. A swift reprimand as any, and he took it. “Y—yes, bond. We shall endeavor to face… to work on this bond together.” He said with a bravado that he did not possess. “So, it’s we. We have a stronger front together.”

Magnus held a calm and collected face, one he’d cultivated over the centuries of dealing with demon court yet he stood in front of his Nephilim consort and felt cracks in his resolve. He made sure Alec saw none of that. Still, Alexander confounded him.

“Very well,” he nodded. First, he snapped his fingers to summon a chair for him to sit down. “It has been a long day and I wish to sit down. Would you like to do the same?” Next, he gestured towards Alec as if offering an imaginary seat.

Alec took a half-step back like a physical blow had landed, open shock on his face. “Yes,” he swallowed hard, anticipating a rush of magic. Nothing happened, or, at least, nothing which he felt. A chair magically materialized behind him. “Thank you,” he said before sitting down. He let out an involuntary moan as he took his weight off his feet. It was heaven.

Magnus made an non-committal hum. “Will this take long? We’re been on our feet for far too long. Need it be, I can summon more comfortable chairs.”

“Not long.” Alec shook his head. “This is fine… Tha… this is fine.”  

With another snap of his fingers, a wine appeared in Magnus’ hand. “Then talk away, princess. Since you are adamant in, as you say, ‘a stronger front together’. What do you propose? I am all ears.” He gestured it to her direction. “You have my complete and undivided attention. You are welcome for the chair, by the way.”

Those last words rung through Alec’s head, making him suddenly very aware of the situation. Him and the warlock—his husband—in the privacy of their chambers all alone, and yet Magnus surrendered his power to lead the conversation. Should it be his first and final opportunity, he decided to take it.

“Arrangements.” He said, getting into his role. “I would like to… I would like to talk about arrangements... about… this.” Magnus didn’t answer. A second later, he jumped in his seat when a round table appeared between them. He stared back at the warlock in confusion. “What is this?” he asked pointedly to the new additions to the room.  

Magnus manually refilled his goblet of wine. “Why, my dear, have I withheld too much from you that you do not recognize the meal presented out before you?” He waved to table meticulously laid with food in bowls made of woods and silver. “Try the way that the lamb wellington. I had Ragor prepare that special for us. It was always his best dish to bring from his homeland.”

Alec gaped like a fish.

“It’s the puffy bread-looking things, sweetheart.”

“I—I know what wellington is!” Alec furrowed his brows before reaching for a piece. Still, his cheeks colored in embarrassment. “I meant… I thought we were going to talk?”

Magnus nodded absently, a piece of meat hanging off his lips. He licked it clean. “Yes. We are. Arrangements, I believe you said. It doesn’t sound like something we can talk about for ‘not long’. So, I changed my mind. Let’s talk about all these things over a nice meal, why don’t we? That will make us both more amendable to any and all changes we will agree upon.”

“That… is brilliant.” Alec couldn’t help but say.

Magnus flashes him a small Cheshire smile. “Why thank you, princess. So please,” he made a go on motion with his hand. “Talk away. Or ask away, if that is what you prefer.”

That made Alec dumbstruck, thrown off-balance by the openness now when everything before was kept a secret. Had everything changed so drastically in less than a day? He stared at the bite-size wellington on his plate, then to the table, and then to the man-like creature sitting in front of him.

“What… what precisely do you expect of me?” He tore his gaze off his husband and looked down at his hands. Suddenly, the sound of soft chuckling reached his ears. It angered him. He lifted his head to stare at the warlock, fire burning in his eyes. “What are you laughing at! You think this is a game? You—you--!” He grabbed the knife from the table and threw it will all his might.

“Magnus!” He shouted, realizing too late what he had done.

The knife flew true in the air, as efficient as an arrow.

Magnus simply turned. The blade rushed pass, slicing him just above his ear. A trail of blood trickled down but he made no move to strike back. “Tsk. And here I thought we were finally having a pleasant evening.” He gripped the hilt and pulled the cutlery free with a single swift motion. He sent it clattering to the ground.

“Magnus, I—”

“You lost your patience. I understand.” He said, touching his ear. His fingers came away stained with red. He wiped it on a table napkin. “Believe it or not, princess, I do understand exactly what you feel but I had hoped we wouldn’t rely on violence. I hate violence. Absolutely hate it. But for father, I endure. I’m sure you’ve done the same for your family. No?”

Alec did not answer.

“No? Very well, do not answer.” Magnus’ voice lowered in a menacing pitch even if he was smiling. “But surely, princess, you are no fool. We are soul-bonded. And it may escape your Nephilim understanding but if I die, so would you. And vise-versa.” Blood drained from Alec’s face. “There’s a reason we, Princes, are protective of our consorts. Do you understand now?”

Alec, very slowly, nodded but the apprehension remained. “Y—yes.” The realization to what he’d just done sunk like a fish in quicksand. He never thought of killing Magnus as a way out. It wasn’t in his nature to kill. And yet, hearing him being accused of such sent a bile rising from his stomach. He lowered his head, “I didn’t mean it. I swear that I didn’t mean it.”

“I believe you.” Magnus’ expression changed into something softer. “I apologize for appearing as if I took your question with little seriousness. I simply thought it would have been obvious, princess. You are to be my wife, which you have accomplished this afternoon, that is what’s expected of you.”

Alec’s heart sunk even lower. He was wreaked with guilt. To be forgiven so easily but someone who had yet ask something in return. He did not understand. A wife—“I do not even know what that means.” He said lowly, a guilty confession to himself. He came here without a plan nor any idea what it meant, and now he felt utterly at a loss.

Magnus pulled him from his doubts again. “Tomorrow, you will be given lessons about the customs of Edom since your knowledge is… sorely lacking.”

Alec bit his lip, hands gripping his knees. “But what about…” his face reddened, “…maritalduties?”

“Marital wha—oh!” Magnus dropped his pastry into his soup and it splashed all over him. “Blasted eclair!” He cried out, vanishing the offending dessert and liquid away. He frowned at the mess it made on his torso. Droplets remained, making his chest glisten in the candle light. Alec followed the wetness with his eyes. Without realizing, he stood up and closed the gap between them with a napkin in hand.

“What are you…?” Magnus’ question died on his lips when the first wipe of Alec’s cloth-covered fingers touched him. He couldn’t help but stare at the way Alec was completely focused on the task of cleaning him up. He bit his lips and clawed the armrests, trying not to make a sound until it was over and Alec returned to his seat.

Magnus stared as Alec folded the sullen napkin before placing it on the table. “You know, I could have spelled it away, right?” He asked saucily, unable to resist teasing.

“That… I… Was it something a proper wife should do?” Alec glared the discarded cloth like it had betrayed him. “Oh, will you just answer the question!”

“But, still, thank you, princess.” Magnus said, feeling down his freshly wiped chest. “How fortunate am I to have such a caring wife?” A small smile touched his lips. “Very well… as I’ve said, tomorrow your studies will begin. You will join Catarina. As for my expectations of you, I simply ask that you do not disrespect me in public. I do not wish to change who you are or any aspect of your personality. I like you as you are—warrior instincts.”

Alec nodded, agreeing. “But other things? Expectations aside, is there anything I need to know? Rules? Boundaries? Between us?” He faced away in embarrassment. “Children? Do you expect me…? That we…?”

Magnus’ face closed off. “No, at least not immediately.” He made an aborted noise. “We will… we will have children when we are ready, no sooner… Don’t tell me you’ve thought about it?”

“No! I—I—someone mentioned it.” Alec watched Magnus relax even if his own face was burning. He felt more courageous no that his biggest fear had been eliminated. “What about other things? Sharing a bed? Displays of affection? Will you… do you want me to… I’ve seen how other consorts interact with their husbands. They are…” He wrinkled his face, “…affectionate.”

It took Magnus a while to answer.

“Magnus?” He stared at the warlock’s face, watching for any tell that he could decipher but it remained guarded. “It will… it will make our union seem more legitimate,” he said with determination, and was rewarded by Magnus lighting up. “Should we… should we touch in public?”

Magnus took a shaky breath. “If we—” he cleared his throat, “Yes. I suppose we should—” he saw Alec stiffen through his lowered eyes, “But only if we must, and as much as you are comfortable with, princess. I will not push you where you are uncomfortable… I give you my word that I shall not touch you unless necessary.” He gave Alec a small smile then, “You see, I am perfectly happy keeping all my parts intact. I very much prefer to be alive rather than dismembered by my own bride.”

Alec couldn’t help but smile back, giddiness bubbling up his chest. “Yes, well, I suppose that would bring you an inconvenience.” He swallowed his nervousness with a chuckle. He let his eyes travel to the single bed, and tried to keep his voice steady. “And in private?”

“There are no prying eyes here, princess. I have wards which guard unauthorized entry to these chambers.” Just to make his case, Magnus flicked his fingers to make his wards gleam. “Wards which would hard even my father if he were to come unannounced. There is no need to put a front in private. So why bother? These are your chambers now and I refuse give you a cause to be uncomfortable.”

“Then where will I sleep?”

They circled back to the origin of their discussion.

“I see…” Something died in Magnus’ eyes. “Ahh, so that is the cause of your worries. Why did you not say so?” The deadness in his tone somehow stung. It filled Alec with an ache which he didn’t understand. He opened his mouth to comfort but Magnus spoke again. “I thought perhaps… when you helped me… ah, a fool, I was…” They were too soft to be meant for him but they were cold as ice.

Magnus stood up from the table and went to the sleeping corner of the room. He rubbed his hands together, entire body taunt, and wispy blue orbs formed. He extended his arms towards the wall. One by one, the rocks from within the cave began to shift. They rumbled and grumbled, striking at each other with a high-pitched wail until the next had a thin wall in the middle. The pillow and pelts rearranged with another wave of blue.

“I assume that the barrier will suffice.” He said without looking Alec, then pointed to archway concealed by thick red drapes. “You may freshen up in the wet room once you’ve finished your meal. If you’ll excuse me, I am taking my leave for the night.” He left without another word.

Alec watched his husband leave, feeling that the progress they’ve made in one night just crumbled into pieces. Should he have said something to make Magnus Stay? He stood up, appetite gone, and did as he was told. While he was grateful for the privacy to undress and bathe in public, it did nothing to quell the unwelcome feeling filling up his chest.

He stayed in the bath for a really long time. Even so, Magnus’ side was empty when he went to bed.

Chapter Text

Staying in Magnus’ chamber—their chambers now that they were married—reaped previously unknown benefits. True to his husband’s word and promise, no one entered this inner sanctum without explicit permission but it remained as cold and as lonesome as the tower.

Alec spent most of his days alone trapped in an lavish prison cell of his own personal hell. He woke up alone and went to bed alone. In the shadows of the night, sometimes he would sense Magnus come back into their room and crawl into their bed but Alec would never feel him. The barrier forbade that. Always, the warlock would come just after he’d fallen asleep like clockwork. It felt like Magnus knew when he could be asleep and it was safe to return.

He knew that it was partially his fault. He’d hurt the warlock with wounds deeper than he first realized. He hadn’t meant for his words to come off quite as cold. Some night he wanted to reach out over the small barrier just for some semblance of connection. But he wasn’t that brave. He was scared. He was scared of Magnus finding out the truth. His secret was the only thing keeping Idris from crumbling.

Today was different. A lone figure stood just outside their little cave.

“Magnus?” Alec poked his head out of the cave’s mouth, cloth held up at his chest. He wore several layers of nightshirt every night to hide his lack of curves. A tiny part of him hoped the warlock would vanish the wall between them. It was foolish and filled with naivety.

Magnus stood by the window wearing only night clothes. Light streamed from outside, silhouetting his figure through the thin fabric. They did little to hide his frame. He had a lithe build but strong like a runner. He didn’t bother turning around, face still closed-off.

“We have some business today. We’ve delayed the audiences for consorts long enough. It’s time to make our debut to the realm. Catarina will come by after I leave. She’ll take you to them.”

“Are we…” Alec bit his lip. “Are we not going together?”

Magnus’ head snapped in his direction, one of his thick brows arched. “Huh? Is that what you want, princess?”

Alec clutched pelts to his chest. “It’s just… did we not say we were stronger together?”

“Ahh yes…” A flicker of something in those golden-green eyes. Magnus leaned against the window sill, arms crossed over his chest. “I believe we did say that. I suppose I can take you there myself before I meet with my brothers.”

Alec’s eyes followed the lines of the warlock’s white bed clothes which folded and clung in lewd places. It put all of Magnus’ glorious dark skin on a lewd display with the warlock was clearly unaware of. Something bold and shadowed on Magnus’ forearm caught his eyes.

“See something you like, princess?”

“No!” The Nephilim blushed at the realization and looked away. “I was just wondering… is there anything in particular that I should wear? I’ve been going to my lessons but we haven’t reached the part about demonic customs of court. But those are only the written rules. I’m sure there are more that’s unwritten.”

Magnus found himself smiling fondly at that. “Yes, very good. I expected no less. Well spotted, princess. Since I’m bring you myself, it’s extra-special. That means we’ll have to match again. I’m not sure if you noticed but it is kind of a thing here in Edom...” He paused for a moment before snapping his fingers. “How do you like this one?”

A long dress made of light fabric and an assortment of colors magically appeared in front of the dresses. It came in several layers but nothing nearly as stifling as than most of the western dresses that Alec had worn over the past week, softer too.

“Your favorite purple.” Alec blurted out his first thought, shocking the other.

“You’d you…?” Magnus stared between Alec and the dress, changing his mind half-way. “That obvious, huh? Is that going to be a problem?”

Alec just cocked his head. “Of course not. Mine is blue. It that going to be a problem for you?” For the first time in a week, he heard his own husband laugh and his chest went a flutter.

“Blue matches your eyes.”

The sincerity behind those words caught the Nephilim by surprise. “I… Uhm, thank you. Do we have time for breakfast?” He offered the question as an olive branch because he can’t say the words directly. He hoped that Magnus could take it.

But the warlock shook his head. “Not today, princess. You’ve got breakfast scheduled with the other consorts and my sisters. It’ll be your first big challenge after Catarina. Be wary of what they say and what you say to them. They all have their agendas of getting to know you. I, on the other hand, have to meet my brothers at court.”

Alec lowered his head, heart sinking. “I understand but, Magnus, we need to talk about that other night.”

A heavy silence fell over them once more.

“I suppose you’re right but today isn’t ideal.” Magnus turned away from Alec, hands gripping his forearms. “I will try to accomplish by tonight.”

“Then, I’ll wait for you.” Alec said at the foot of Magnus’ sentence. “I don’t care how long it’ll take. I will wait for you tonight then we will talk.” He left no room for negotiations in his tone.

“Very well.” Magnus conceded. “You should go into the wet room and change quickly. I will change and wait for you right here.” With another snap, the dress disappeared from the tall dressed and must have been sent into the other room.

Alec shivered as he got out from the pelts. Less than a second later, a thick robe draped over his shoulders and Magnus’ heat radiated mere inches from behind him.

“I don’t like it when you’re cold. Now go, my brethren and their consorts are not fond of being kept waiting. Dress yourself quickly.”

Alec spared his husband one last glance before hiding behind the curtains—Magnus walked elegantly back to the window, tall and graceful like the way a cat prowls, with his thin night-cloths billowing with the breeze. At that very moment, he caught himself thinking that his husband truly was a handsome creature, warlock or not.

***

Magnus had surprised Alec by wearing similarly purple loose-fitting robes made of a single-piece of wrap-around fabric with a blue strip tied around his waist, and deep blue cloth-covered shoes. They ventured out of the chambers, together for the first time. The surprised squeaks from the servant demons weren’t overlooked.

“They are acting like we’re causing a scandal.” Alec fidgeted beside his bonded.

Magnus wove their fingers together and brought it to his lips. Alec didn’t pull away. After all, they had talked about public displays of affection before their falling out.

“That’s because we are.” He brushed his dark plum-colored lips against Alec’s knuckles as he spoke, hiding its movement from prying eyes. “Do try to relax, princess. I can see your tenseness from a mile away. It’s not a very good sign. The creatures of realm will pick you apart. Calm down.” With those words, he finished off the display with a kiss.

“Of course, I am nervous!” Alec fumed visibly. “I am not merely to be presented but I am to meet your family. Oh, angels,” he sighed, letting more of his jitters show. He hands began shaking at his sides and he was unable to control them. “What if—oh, angels—what if they don’t like me?”

At that, Magnus abruptly stopped and covered Alec’s shaking hands. “My princess, is that what’s bothering your pretty little head?” He brought their foreheads together and wrapped his arms around his wife’s waist, uncaring if they were in the middle of a crowded hall. “Silly, silly, Nephilim, I already knew what I was getting into when I married you.”

Alec didn’t understand but something happened. It came from the spots where they pressed together and became the source of warmth—but it was not only warmth. Comfort came as well, emanating from Magnus like cool waves of water in sweltering heat. It reminded him of summer times in Idris when they’d sneak off to the nearest lake and steal a few moments in the water. He smiled fondly at the memory.

“Feeling better?” Magnus pulled him from his reverie.

“I, uh…” Alec realized, with a start, that his previous dread had disappeared. “Yes, I am… How did you do that…?”

“Silly, princess.” Magnus said whilst keeping his hold. “I am your bonded, first and foremost. I will always endeavor to ease you discomforts. Try to remember that, okay?” He lifted his face to kiss Alec on the forehead. “Now, listen carefully, you may get the urge to want to kill them but I advise strongly against it. It should be another century or so before they irritate you that much.”

Alec snorted against Magnus’ jaw. “You’re saying they’re a bunch of snotty-faced consorts who haven’t seen the sun a day in their life like Catarina?”

“No,” Magnus chuckled, “I’m saying that not all them are just snotty-faced consorts. So, you better keep your guard up. They are much, much worse than Catarina.”

“That doesn’t sound comforting.”

“It wasn’t meant as such, princess. I mean it as a warning.” He growled right to Alec’s ear, glaring at someone lingering in the shadows. The Shadowhunter stiffened at the drastic change of tone.

“You wound me, Magnus.” Camille stepped out of her hiding spot, looking bored and insulted. “Aww, what a cute couple you two make. It’s sickening.” She sneered with an eye roll. “Get your newly bonded-ness away from my face.”

Alec had a similar reaction to her threats. “Why don’t you get your bitchy face away from ours? Can’t you see that my bonded and I were sharing a moment? Isn’t that right, Magnus?” He leaned into the warlock like it was the most natural thing in world. His hand rested dramatically over Magnus’ heart, the finger strap of his sleeves keeping it from falling.

Magnus immediately followed Alec’s lead, dropping his arms to his partner’s waist. “Rude,” he stage-whispered into Alec’s ear, and the shiver that the Nephilim gave made their little display all the more believable. “You promised me that you’ll behave…” He said loud enough for Camille to hear.

Somebody started clapping. All three royals surveyed the area for the origin of the noise. A figure swooped down from the windows, and a pair of hefty forest green wings fluttered into view. Leonard landed in the middle of group.

“Prince Magnus,” he bowed with one hand lifted to his back, wings folding down in submission. When he rose, he clapped again. “As entertaining as this cat-fight might turn out to be, the rest of the consorts are waiting for the newest member of our flock. Camille—” he glared at the female’s direction, “—was supposed to take him up and not instigate a fight.” She snarled back.

“If you insist on your impatience, take Camille. I’ll take my princess via portal.” Magnus nodded, fingers tightening over Alec’s free hand. His tone gave little room for discussion.

Leonard raised his hands in surrender. “Hey, whichever way gets Isabelle there faster. Let’s go, Cami.” He wrapped his arms around Camille’s middle and lifted off the air without waiting for her to speak. “Don’t take too long or we’re sending down Kerian!”

Magnus formed a portal with his other hand. “Ready, princess?”

Alec squeezed their connected hands. “Ready.”

They stepped into the portal together.

***

A handful of creatures were in the room. They clamored to stand as the newly bonded pair entered through the watery portal. It was clear from their faces that they did not expect for Magnus to make an appearance at breakfast. Adriel and Kerian were one of the first to react but in opposite manners; Adriel bowed respectfully while Keiran crossed his arms.

“Magnus, I didn’t expect you to come.” The faerie consort crossed his arms, the tips of his ears flicking in irritation. “Haven’t you monopolized your new bride enough? It’s time you share her with the rest of us.” He gestured to the others behind him. “Surely, don’t believe that we would do something to harm your precious Nephilim bride, right?”

Alec froze beside Magnus but the warlock didn’t miss a beat. “No, I hardly believe that’s necessary. I am certain that my princess can take care of herself. I’m simply feeling… a little attached to my consort at the moment. You understand don’t you? When you first bonded, I’m sure you all felt the same.” A chorus of affirmative echoed in the hall.

The pair reluctantly parted. Alec felt a dozen or more eyes eagerly watching them. He held onto Magnus’ hands, dipping his head shyly just for show. He saw his mother do it several times before whenever they addressed the Clave. He did the same now to show Magnus his support.

“Thank you for bringing me here.”

If he were shock, Magnus didn’t show it on his face. “Anything for you, princess.”

With those simple words, Alec knew that they had an understanding. He could feel it, somewhere and somehow, like a miniscule flicker of light in the shadows, a small glimpse of Magnus’ happiness in that moment. He couldn’t help but give his husband a real smile before they parted. He leaned up without thinking and whispered to Magnus’ ear.

“Don’t forget about tonight. I care not for the time. I will wait for you in our chambers.” Hearing his own words, he flushed slightly at his boldness but he kept his stance firm.

“I won’t.” Magnus promised before stepping into the portal. Alec held his hand until the very last second. Then, the portal vanished with a pop. The words ‘I won’t’ rung in his mind repeatedly. He held onto that promise and made one of his own—he would not bring shame to Magnus, not now nor ever.

Kerian looked unimpressed. “Funny. I didn’t think you’d be this smitten quite so fast. What a lucky pair you two turned out to be. Magnus never struck me as affectionate.”

Alec sensed an underlying smite in those words. He turned around and faked a smile, eyes surveying the room but Kerian blocked most of his view. “They say there’s a key to every lock. But I suppose we are. I remember you being affectionate to your prince as well during my bonding ceremony.”

“We both are very fortunate, then.” A small smile curled on Kerian’s lips. “As the first prince’s consort, it is my responsibility to make way with the formalities; welcome to the first formal greeting after the bonding ceremony. This is the only place that we, consorts, can speak about out neglectful husbands. Isn’t it fun?” He led Alec to the table laid out with food.

Taking his seat, Alec finally had full coverage of the room. The table stood near the ground. All of them sat on the floor arranged in a similar order as the bonding ceremony, from youngest to oldest. He sat between the Kerian and the Ariel with Leonard and Salacia in front of him. Camille filled in the last seat between Leonard and Adriel. He avoided looking in her direction and no one thought to mention it.

They left no empty space for Catarina.

Alec followed their motions mechanically and began to eat. Over the past weeks, he grew accustomed to the delicacies of Edom. He recognized most of the food as dishes from the mundane realm which could also be found in Idris or, at the least, a foreign country they’ve visited on Enclave visits with his parents. He often wondered if the true soul-eating folklore was true now that he had seen them eating food on several occasions.

“I apologize.” Alec lowered his gaze. “I am still getting used to this realm.”

“It’s alright. We’ve all experience protective bondmates at one time or another. It’s the nature of the bond. I hope you brought your appetite. The food this morning has been specially prepared.” Salacia, the mermaid, spoke up from her seat at the other end of the room. The lower half of her body disappeared into a small hole which shimmered around the edges.  

Alec gaped at her in shock. “Are you alright being out of water?” Salacia wore a thick kelp necklace of seaweed and pearls that covered most of her torso. A small shell trinket lay on top of it all.

The mermaid smiled and pointed to the golden shell. “Ayperos gave this to me at the culmination of our bonding ceremony. It allows me to join gatherings on dry land—gives me two-tails which I use on land. Would you like to see them? They aren’t as comfortable as my tale and something wet always lays between my legs—”

Alec chocked on his corn and blushed dark red.

“—No one wants to hear about your female human parts, Salacia.” Camille drawled from her seat, sounding disgusted. “Isabelle and I have the same thing between our legs. No need to boast. Next you’ll start talking about Ayperos sheath again! I’ve heard enough about fishy mating habits for one lifetime!”

 “Your just jealous ‘cause your dead body won’t be able to bear babies!” Salacia spat back.

From her side, Camille appeared to be ready to strike her sister down with the two-pronged fork between her fingers. “What did you say? Did you just call me a—”

Her words faded above Alec’s head. He stared between the two women arguing over… body parts at the table. He turned to Kerian for help but the faerie consort was aloof. On his other side, Adriel calmly ate his meal with ears tucked close to his head.

This had never happened to him before. Never. When he took this upon himself, he never imagined for this to be his life—smack in the middle of a sisters’ squabble like the puppet show for desperate wives (and consorts). He cannot believe this was his life now.

Chapter Text

Alec spent the morning frolicking with the other consorts. For their age, and supposed wisdom, Salacia and Camille bickered worse than small children. They argued over Leonard’s head, throwing piece of fruit or bite-sized foods at each other, and a series of outlandishly crude names that made Alec’s ears turn a nasty shade of red. Kerian watched it with unbridled glee while Adriel kept his head down.

Alec likened the consorts to his peers back in Idris. The prickle under his skin lessened as he spent more time in Edom. He used to feel suffocated by the sulfurous air. It wasn’t until Magnus kissed him that it stopped. Now, he barely noticed the smoke and fumes.

“Are they always like this?” He stole a glance at Adriel, cautious. Adriel was, by far, the quietest and reserved of the bunch. He couldn’t ask Kerian, not without risking the faerie’s taunts again. Ego came with being the first consort. Adriel, on the other hand, joined right before him to the circle.

Adriel looked up in disbelief, not expecting to be addressed. He smiled genially. “I suppose. It’s not often that we meet as so. The last time we gathered was centuries ago… I think Leonard was not in attendance then. Nursing their offspring, just as Hela isn’t present this year… Ahh, yes, I remember… Salacia and Camille sat together… they were much worse.”

“They don’t get along?”

“You could say that…”

Alec leaned in a bit closer. “And what do you say?”

Adriel seemed hesitant but eventually did the same. He lowering his voice as he spoke. “Salacia tends to be flamboyant about her offspring while Camille… let’s just say that cheating death has a price.” His eyes travelled to the pale female with a small frown on his lips. “I believe you know that vampires cannot reproduce. That would be an abomination even in this realm.”

“That’s it!” Leonard exploded with a roar, making everyone jerk. His massive wings flared behind him before flicking his flight feathers on his sister’s foreheads in annoyance. Salacia attempted to toss her final piece of pie at him but his wings cast it aside with a massive blow. Camille, on the other hand, grabbed the feather and pulled.

“Camille!” he hissed, retracting the wing from her. “How many times do I tell you that the inner wings are sensitive?”

Camille smirked, victorious. “Then don’t leave them vulnerable!”

Kerian started laughing. “Her advice is sound, dear brother. You leave yourself open.”

“Was I summoned here under false pretenses? I believe this is a social gathering, and not a strategy meeting. I thought I could lower my guard in a room full of consorts. Clearly, I was wrong.” Leonard lamented dramatically, with his wings folding closer to his frame.

“We all suffered when you were away.” Kerian shook his head, “Imagine those two beside each other. At least no there’s a solid wall of Djin between them.”

“Well, enough, with the fighting.” Leonard sighed. “I say that we gossip like the consorts that we are. This is supposed to be a time for festivities not squabbling. What news of the festivities? I missed the last one! I cannot believe Velnios and I didn’t compete in the sky dance! We would have so easily won!”

“A dance?” Alec quipped in astonishment.

Leonard grinned from ear-to-ear. “Why, of course! We must to something to entertain ourselves, else immortality would be such a bore. We don’t just go around terrorizing mundanes or wreaking havoc on the mundane world, you know. What has Catarina been teaching you?”

“It isn’t Catarina’s fault.” Camille stepped in. “She too is fairly young.”

“I agree. We should find Isabelle a better tutor.” Salacia concurred. She turned to Kerian, “Brother, as the oldest, perhaps you can give a suggestion. Perhaps Leonard or Camille's old tutors?”

Kerian contemplated this. “Tis not my place to interfere. You all know that the decision lies with Magnus for he is Isabelle's prince.”

“I do not understand…” said Alec, “I have not reached that far in my lessons.”

The consorts quieted. They turned expectantly to oldest.

“Kerian?”

“Very well,” Kerian nodded. “I suppose that the others would like to hear this as well, since it’s an ancient story for the little ones. Come closer and I shall tell you the story of the seven princes… Long, long ago…

The world was split into three. Father descended upon a barren realm to build his kingdom. From the fire and smoke, he brought the aurora lights which liken day and night. He pushed the sky off the ground. From ashes and rock, he pulled away the rivers and streams. He stole fertile soil from the world above to vegetate the forest and the ground. From the infinite evils of man, he sprouted demons to walk the realm as his creations. Then, he created his children to rule the land.

Each child, each prince, is given the power over their dominion. Seven territories of the realm for seven princes. Father instructed his princes to rule within the chaos. It started when Raksasa came to be, the first split of the realm to a second prince. Demons were divided. We, humble offspring, swore oaths of allegiance to one of the seven princes—our princes, our husbands, our mates, our partners, our bonded—the other half of our souls, we pledge our bodies and our minds—such is our roles as royal consorts.”  

Salacia took pity on Alec’s bewilderment. “In other words, we are ruled by different leaders under Father’s great command. Yours is Magnus, mine is Ayperos.” She glanced to her other side. “Leonard’s is Velnios, Camille’s is Louis, and Adriel’s is Grabriel. Do you understand?”

Alec carefully nodded. “It’s the creation… of hell. It’s different from what I’ve heard before.”

“Very good, Nephilim!” Leonard clapped his hands. “Now, see what you can accomplish when you start paying attention? See what I told you, Kerian, there are so many things outside the scrolls. There are a thousand things that Isabelle has yet to learn for court!” Everyone nodded their heads in agreement.

Morning bled into afternoon, and another visitor came.

Deep, rumbling, laughter reverberated in the circular room, loud and shrill and deafening. A black cloudy figure manifested by the window, enveloping them in darkness. Frost covered their goblets and their jars of wine. Cold seeped into Alec’s veins, goosebumps rose from his flesh, and the temperature inside the room dropped. He palmed the dagger by his thigh.

“Father!” Kerian rose, and then kneeled, before the figure melted into the likeness of a man. On bended knee, he bowed his head in submission. The other consorts did the same with their own murmured praises for the King of Hell. “Oh beloved, father, you grace us with your presence. What brings you to our humble gathering?”

Asmodeus let out another bark of amusement. He appeared, in very way, like only a man—a mundane—with the guise of bone and flesh that the other demons did not possess. “So polite, still, Kerian. Rise, there is no need for formality. We are, after all, part of family in this room. Rise, child, and come sit with me. I’ve come bearing great news for the festivities!”

Alec searched but he could find no demons marks on Admodeus’ smooth tan skin, devoid of any imperfections. Asmodeus dressed smartly in a crisp white formal suit, the kind Alec’s seen in royalty in the mundane realm. Of all the princes, he looked most similar to Magnus in height, in skin, and in features; except, his eyes were a dark shade of brown.

The King of Hell wasn’t blind to the scrutiny. “I see the new Princess had taken a liking to this form. This man was a chieftain from the native tribes. His soul has become one of our higher demons in court. He traded his body for his position. Do you like it?”

Alec froze at the king took a seat between Leonard and Camille, directly in front of him. He fought hard not to crumble in front of the demon king’s gaze. “It’s… it is a form which I am familiar with.”

“Ahh, good!” Asmodeus cheered, “I like this much better than the last one. Don’t you agree, Adriel?”

“Yes, Father, this form is much more… pleasing than the last.” Adriel answered.

Kerian rolled his eyes. “Father, you said you bring news?”

“Kerian, always the most serious. It seems that such an event would befitting to lift your spirits.” Asmodeus snaps his fingers and a golden goblet appears in his hand. He took a heady drink, wine slipping pas his lips, then wiped away the red stain with the back of his hand. “As tradition dictates, the council chooses on a series of competitions for each prince and consort to participate in. I have just come with their decision.”

The consorts all lean in with anticipation. Alec does so as well, trying to recall if he’s read this in the lesson with Catarina. One of the scrolls explained something similar. For every ceremonial bonding, Edom rejoices with a period of celebration for the newly bonded pair. Each feast would be different from the last.

“As Magnus is final prince to be bonded, the council has agreed to an expanded celebration for seven moons. You and your princes shall join in the tournaments, some alone and others as a pair, in hopes to bring forth a period of fertility over the land. We all know that more demons of the royal line will ensure stability of this realm. I’ve come to give you your first task.” Asmodeus smiled like a large feral wildcat, cheeks sharp but eyes sharper. “On the next full moon, the princes will participate in a tournament. Your task, as the royal consorts, will be to provide them with a token favor.”

“A token?” Leonard repeated, incredulous. “What would that entail?”

“It can be anything,” Asmodeus said, “It is completely between the two of you. It can be a leaf, a handkerchief, or something of your own creation—a simple of your devotion to your prince, so to speak. You have all the seven realms at your disposal. I’m sure you can think of something.”

“And Hela?” Salacia inquired about Raksasa’s consort. “Will she not be joining us? Just as Leonard wasn’t able to join Gabriel’s?”

Asmodeus pondered for a moment. “I suppose she must. If Raksasa did not bring her to the ceremony, they must have reason. Tsk. Tsk. Tsk. Such a pity, I would have liked to see Hela’s craft once more. Her wood carvings are blades are magnificent.” He inclines his head, ever so slightly, locking eye with Alec. “And how has Edom treated our Nephilim princess?”

“It is…unexpected.” Alec confessed. Something stopped him from looking away, unseen but potent. It jolted like a crack traveling through his skull. His mouth itched to speaks he wouldn’t not have dared say. He dug his nails to the meat of his thighs. He said nothing.

Asmodeus wouldn’t drop his gaze. The firey pits of gold appeared to move across his irises. He had eyes which bore so much hate, pity, and glory. Alec remembered it from tales he heard as a child growing up in Idris. They warned of the hell’s power and its wrath, of the fury which spurred demons from the ashes. He felt almost like he couldn’t breathe except something, at the back of his head, held him.

The king seemed tickled. “Ahh, so very like Magnus to keep you well-guarded.” He mused, eyes shifting away as if nothing happened.

Alec remained stuck in his seat, mind abuzz and unable to contribute to the rest of the conversation. He vaguely listened as the consorts gave traded suggestions and ideas like a bunch of princesses from old storybooks. Just then, he had felt like his mind was being pried open.  The feeling stayed with him.

***

Alec trailed idly behind Camille and Adriel as they walked. After Asmodeus’ announcement, they vibrated with excited energy for the new task. Kerian parted from them moments ago, and went to the corridor leading to the chambers he shared with Meliorn. Leonard, on the other hand, had taken the express route out of the window.  

Every so often, a demon would come to greet them either as a group or one individual. Alec was beginning to see a pattern about demon allegiances. They gravitated to their own. Demons of the King’s court didn’t show favor, at least not in any way that Alec noticed. The first time someone bowed to Alec directly, he was shocked. A warlock, he guessed from the horns on the side of the demon’s human head.

“Does this get easier?” He mumbled quietly.

“Getting recognized is only half the fun!” Salacia giggled from beside him. “Sometimes, they come bearing gifts!”

Alec stifled his groan because that also sounded embarrassing. His father might have been inquisitor but the attention was never on him. He could roam the streets of Alicante undetected. Now, after getting bonded at such a grand public ceremony, there was no way the demons wouldn’t be able to recognize him! Except, if he got a new face.

A tall woman stood before them, beautiful with the face of an angel. When she bowed, her thick wavy brown hair cascaded over her face, with small tiny flowers clinging to the stands. All the consorts sped past her without acknowledgement.

“Who was that?” Alec asked Salacia once they were a safe distance away.

Salacia’s jaw clenched and unclenched. “She isn’t of import, Isabelle. I suggest that you forget she even existed.”

“But…” The words died on his lips when he caught sight of the courtyard. “Magnus?” he greeted his husband in surprise, heart skipping a beat. “What—what are you doing here?”

Magnus merely smiled, offering a hand to help Alec down the steps. Alec blushed, familiar with the gestured that he often did with his mother and sister. It had never been done to him. “I thought you said you’d be busy until tonight?”

“I did,” replied Magnus before dropping a kiss atop of Alec’s knuckles, hand gliding up the silk covered forearm before resting on Alec’s elbow. “Ragnor pointed out that you may or may not be familiar with this area of the castle. I thought, perhaps, I could portal us to the chambers then after we can join the court for dinner… aww, what’s with the frown? Are you not happy to see me?”

Alec could feel the heat of his hand through the layers of the fabric. He drew comfort from the small touch, angling his arm so that he too could hold onto Magnus. Edom air felt chilly against his exposed skin, just like when Asmodeus appeared this afternoon. “That’s not it… I’m just… it’s been a long day. I… I’ve been curious about many things.”

Magnus frowned. “Would you like to have dinner in our chambers instead?”

“No,” Alec shook his head, “It’s fine…  It’s…” he steeled himself for the inevitable. “It’s about time that we come out together. I’ve eaten in our chambers the whole week and yet no one has questioned it. I—I don’t want to embarrass you in front of them any more than I already have.”

Magnus paused to look at Alec, eyes soft. “Princess,” he cooed, cupping Alec’s cheeks with his arms hands. “You haven’t embarrassed me at all. You’ve been perfect.”

Alec refused to listen. “But, Magnus, the other night…” he couldn’t bear to say it, “I know we said that we should talk about this tonight but I can’t hold it. I feel bad. I feel guilty for having done that to you—I’m—I’m not very good with words but it wasn’t—it wasn’t fair to you what I did. I didn’t—I didn’t mean to hurt you like that. It was a mistake and I—” He found himself wrapped up in Magnus’ arms before he could say more, a gentle murmur in his ear.

“I know you aren’t ready. I am not a… monster. I won’t force you against your will, princess.”

There it came again; a warm glow coming from the arms around his shoulder and even more from the chest in front of his face. Every time he inhaled, he breathed in Magnus and the scent was enough to calm down his agitated nerves. He could feel every inch of how they were pressed together. He didn’t ever want to leave it.

Magnus kept whispering to him, low like a secret that should be kept just between the two of them, something incredibly intimate, just like earlier. He didn’t know where it came from.

“I am here, princess, for whatever you need. You should remember that.”

Alec nodded into his chest. “Why are you being so nice to me? I’ve been nothing but mean to you.”

“Because, princess,” Magnus said softly, “I made a vow that I will always, always, protect you on the night we bonded and I do take my vows very seriously.” His arms wrapped tighter.

Instead of feeling trapped, Alec felt himself melting in the embrace. Magnus’ arms gave him a sense of security that he had missed in the past week. It was the touch he longed for while laid down in bed at night with stone barrier between them. He’d been stupid to ask for it but he couldn’t—he couldn’t risk Magnus finding out about his secret. The lie tasted bitter on his tongue.

“I—uhm,” Alec raised his head, only to realize that their faces were mere inches apart. “I do too—the vows… I am learning. There’s so much of this realm that I don’t understand yet… and I… I really just want to be…” a good wife to you, “…not an embarrassment.”

“Shhh,” Magnus rubbed hands over Alec’s back. “It’s alright. We’re here together, are we not?”

But it doesn’t feel like that, he wanted to say. He would never admit it aloud but he’d been lonely since the night that they fought, like a whole was etched into his soul that only Magnus could fill. He knew it was all his fault. Magnus had been patient and kind to him since he arrived. He’s done nothing to deserve that except steal his sister’s name and pretend to be someone else.

“Yeah.” He said weakly, letting his forehead fall of Magnus shoulder. He held tight, and let Magnus’ scent and heat encircle surround him like a protective layer. There were so many things he wanted to say but most of all— “I’m sorry.” He whispered into Magnus’ neck, “I’m just… I’m sorry, Magnus.”

A strange feeling rose from his chest, small and barely there but it lifted up burden he carried on his shoulder. He leaned further into Magnus’ touch without caring for the sight that they made. All the demons in Edom could watch them for all he cared; the only thing that mattered was that Magnus didn’t pull away.

“I’ll portal us back to our room. I think you need to rest.”