One Hundred and One Mortal Stories

The Great Wide Somewhere

‘I’m sorry’

Magnus expected everything from his sister – yelling, lectures, accusations, sneering, snapping, even a punch – but he did not expect an apology.

‘W-what?’ He stammered, looking at his sister. He realised she looked better than he remembered. The last time he saw Catarina before she ran away she had been racked by grief; there were shadows under her eyes; she was always hunched over and her eyes always seemed damp. Now her dark hair was piled high in a majestic hair style, and despite her apology she sat straight and majestic. Her cheeks were red and her face seemed more alive. Magnus recognised that face. He had it on ever since he married Alec. She is in love, he thought.

‘I’m sorry I left’ Catarina repeated and to Magnus’ further surprise, she took his hand in both of hers. ‘I couldn’t deal with Ragnor’s death. You two were – are – my little brothers, and I failed to protect you. When Ragnor died, you were so angry…I’m not blaming you. We were both grieving. But I was terrified. You changed. I couldn’t deal with that. And one day I realised that I couldn’t rule the country in my broken state, and I couldn’t fix you either. I thought that perhaps it would be better if I left, so you could start your life anew, without your sister reminding you of the pain of the past.’

‘I found a small town far away in which no one recognised me as Princess Catarina. I managed to settle down and I slowly rebuilt myself. But… I met someone. And suddenly I was incapable of leaving, of even thinking about leaving.’

Magnus knew how she felt.

‘Under my happiness and love for the town and the people in it, I was guilty. I knew I should return to you. I didn’t know how you were coping, if you needed a family member there for you. But then the news came about…’ Catarina hesitated. ‘You and your many husband…how you executed them. And for one single moment I thought you were a monster, and it was enough to stop me from returning here. No matter how many times I tried to go, I couldn’t.’

‘I understand,’ Magnus said quietly, squeezing Catarina’s hand. ‘I was a monster…and even though my sins cannot be forgiven, I believe that now I am no longer one.’ He smiled thinly. Catarina’s eyes glistened with tears as she threw her arms around her brother’s neck.

‘I will never forgive myself for leaving you all alone, Magnus.’ She whispered. He brushed his hand through her hair gently. He didn’t know what to tell her, so he was silent for a while.

‘I’m sorry, too’ he said eventually. ‘I should have kept us together instead of pushing you away.’

Catarina didn’t respond to that either, but her arms tightened around him. After what seemed like hours they pulled away.

‘Okay, let me fill you in on that story.’

|||*|||

Alec opened the doors to his and Magnus’ chamber with a knowing smirk.

‘Shut up’ Magnus said to Alec, who smiled smugly.

‘Please, sit down.’ He gestured to the bed. Catarina smiled, her eyes still slightly damp, and settled herself among the pillows. Magnus sat next to her, and Alec wiggled himself next to the pair. Magnus laced his cinnamon coloured fingers through Alec’s pale ones. Appearance wise, Alec was more similar to Catarina than Magnus was.

‘You’re quite the story teller,’ Catarina said with a kind smile. ‘You managed to make us make up in less than one hour, when I thought we would never speak again.’

‘Ah, you’re exaggerating,’ Alec laughed. ‘Anyway, you have been good, so, as promised, here’s the story…’

|||*|||

‘So…heavy…’ Alec heaved the blond prince through the waves. The knowledge that a large proportion of the weight was the prince’s muscles made Alec blush. He nearly dropped him with relief when he saw the golden outline of the beach, glistening in the rising sun. Nearly there.

The prince stirred in his arms just when Alec reached the bay. He pulled the prince onto the wooden board that served as a dock for fishermen boats. He watched in awe as the prince opened his eyes, equally golden and startling as his hair. He imiediatly squeezed them shut when the sun penetrated them, and coughed up some water.

‘Wha…what’s going on?’ he whispered, his eyes still closed.

‘Don’t worry, you’re safe. Don’t open your eyes,’ Alec said gently.

The boy smiled. His voice sounded weak, but amused. ‘A boy. Tell me, are you my saviour?’

Alec bit his lip. ‘Yes’

‘What’s your name?’

‘Alec’

Alec,’ the boy repeated, stretching out his hand towards the general direction the merman was at. Alec took his hand gently in his, lacing their fingers together. The boy smiled. ‘I’m Jace’

‘Jace’ Alec repeated, with a smile.

‘Can I see you?’ Jace asked. Alec quickly pulled his hand away.

‘No!’ he said, panicking. Jace quickly sat up, wincing, but staying upright.

‘Hey, I’m sorry. Don’t worry; I won’t open my eyes’

Alec calmed down a little. Jace extended his hand towards Alec once more, and Alec took it again, wondering if he was making a grave mistake. But the feel of the prince’s skin against his was enough to make his head go blank. And Jace didn’t seem evil like his father always told him humans were.

Jace drew Alec closer through the water, pressing his lips lightly against his knuckles.

‘Thank you for saving my life,’ he whispered. Alec’s heart thumped loudly, and he squeezed his eyes shut, glad Jace couldn’t see him blush. Or that he couldn’t see his tail. Alec realised with a jolt that Jace still thought that Alec was a human boy, and if he found out he was a merman…

‘Why don’t you come to my palace for a while? I’ll get you some food and…’

‘No, I need to get home’ Alec gave an uneasy laugh.

‘Alec, please’ there was surprising emotion in Jace’s voice.

‘I cannot’

Jace’s shoulder slumped.

‘I have to go,’

‘Will I see you again?’ Jace asked desperately, gripping Alec’s hand. From down the beach came shouting – Alec recognised some people from the ship. His heart fell when he realised what his answer was going to be. He took his hand out of Jace’s and braced both his fists on the wooden board, pulling himself upwards and pressing a quick, soft kiss to Jace’s lips.

‘No.’ he whispered and pushed himself away from the dock just as the first figures spotted the prince. Jace opened his eyes in time to see Alec’s dark blue tail swish through the waves and disappear down below.

Alec swam as fast as he could down towards the sandy bottom of the ocean. The water got darker, but he could see with no problem. Half way to the sea palace, where his father served the king as his advisor, he was hit with a hurtling object of green and red.

‘ALEXANDER IMMA KILL YOU!’ The object yelled, while hugging Alec closer.

‘Ouch, Clary, I can’t breathe’ Alec rasped out. Clary pulled away, gripping his arms tightly. He could tell by the nervous swish of her tail and the wild look in her eyes that she had wanted to go looking for him – after all he was gone all night – but she couldn’t. Duties as the princess came before duties of a friend, at least in her father’s, the king’s, eyes.

‘Alec, I was so worried! You were gone so long! I thought you were dead! And your father…’

‘ALEXANDER’

Alec and Clary flinched, and moved apart as Robert, the Kings’ advisor, came through. In many ways Robert was more intimidating than the king, Luke. He wore a steely expression as he neared his second youngest son. Behind him trekked Alec’s brothers – Gideon, Gabriel and Max. They were looking sourly at their swishing tails.

‘Where were you?’ Robert growled.

‘The surface’ there was no point lying to his father. Alec knew that. The slap came, a sharp but not surprising pain across his cheek. Alec’ head jerked to the side, his dark eyes covering his eyes.

‘This is the last time you will be going there. I will assign a tutor to look after you. I am tired of watching you all the time.’ Robert snapped, swimming away fast. Gideon and Gabriel cast Alec sad looks, but followed their father. Max quickly hugged Alec around the waist.

‘I’m glad you’re okay’ he whispered, before swimming after his brothers. Clary gently took Alec’s hand, and the gesture reminded his painfully of Jace.

‘Let’s have my sisters look at that cheek.’

Isabelle, Maya and Clary all slept together in a huge room in the palace. The walls were made from pale white and pink shells, and there were exotic sea plants swaying lightly in the draft of their room. Isabelle sat on her bed, her tail swishing gently through her water. She was filing her nails. Maya was lying on her bed, her hand outstretched, hitting a ball against the floor, letting it float back up to her hand just to let it drop again. When the two saw Clary and Alec enter, they shot to their feet.

‘Alec!’ They ignored their sister and quickly pulled him onto the bed. Isabelle took out medicines from under her bed.

‘We have been so worried! Everyone has!’ Maia told him.

‘We need to look at that, or it’ll get infected’ Isabelle said, gently tilting Alec’s face in her direction and dabbing at the cut that Robert had left across his cheek. Alec said nothing as Isabelle plastered it and placed a small kiss against the bandage. Isabelle was the heir to the throne. Clary was her little sister. Maia was an adopted mermaid that King Luke took under his wing, and she was a princess but could never take over the throne. The three princesses and Alec had grown up together, playing games, while his brothers studied and practiced sword fighting. They were like siblings. Maia stroked Alec’s dark hair as Clary sat down on the bed.

‘How was the world?’ Maia asked.

Alec smiled despite himself. ‘Wonderful,’ he said. But he said no more.

|||*|||

‘Alexander,’ that voice stopped Alec dead in his tracks. He turned to face James, the silver haired, silver eyed servant of his father. ‘What are you doing?’

Alec slung the bag across his shoulder and swam up to the doors, which James stood in front of. It has been days since his encounter with the prince, and it was all he could think about. Staying at the castle was pointless.

‘I’m leaving, Jem’ Alec said quietly.

Jem looked at him sadly, but he said nothing. He moved away from the doorway. ‘You’ll be back’ he said softly, although Alec wandered is he had said anything at all.

Getting out of the castle wasn’t hard. Re tracing his path to the beach wasn’t hard. Breaking the surface of the sea and looking at the world in the pale moonlight wasn’t hard. But facing the scene on the beach…that was hard. Prince Jace – his beloved, golden haired Jace – was kissing a dark haired girl. Alec’s heart thumped painfully. He hid behind a large rock, so Jace wouldn’t notice him. Alec doubted Jace would notice him even if he was standing right in front of him, doing the Macarena, because he was so fixated with the girl in his arms.

‘I love you Aline,’ Jace said. ‘Marry me, please.’

Alec didn’t stay to hear the girl’s reply. He ducked beneath the surface of the sea and he swam…fast, and long, and hard, not knowing where he was going. He felt the tears spill over the edge of his blue eyes, but they were unseen by anyone, and they dissolved into the ocean within milliseconds. Alec didn’t know where to go – he didn’t want to return to the castle. Going back to the surface was not an option. He swam forward, deeper into the sea. The ocean grew dark and cold.

The cavern startled Alec. He blinked a few times to make sure it wasn’t an illusion. It jutted out of the sand and it looked completely out of place. The rock itself was ragged and weird, as if a few random blocks were thrown together. The enterance was obscured by pink and purple shawls, billowing gently in the draft coming from inside the cavern. It seemed as if someone had spilled a huge basket of glitter on top of the rocks. They glistened faintly. As strange as the cavern was, Alec felt drawn towards it. With a few quick swishes on his tail he was at the enterance. He ran his hand through one of the soft shawls. Would he dare?

Gritting his teeth, Alec swam inside, unannounced. There was a long rock corridor and at the end another enterance was hidden behind a curtain of flowing blue satin. Without hesitation Alec pulled the curtain to the side, entering a circular cave stacked with…everything. Books and potions, jars of glitter and pots of colourful boiling mixtures stood on top of desks and cupboards. A bed that looked like it belonged in a sultan’s palace was pushed to the side. Alec realised he was intruding into someone’s home and turned to leave, only to scream when he came face to face with a person.

‘I-I-I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to intrude’ he managed. The man in front of him glared at him. He looked strange, but not in a bad way – he had tan skin and spiky black hair. There was glitter in his hair and on his arms, and his eyes, which were golden and cat-like, were narrowed. He crossed his arms over his chest, his purple tail swishing in annoyance.

‘Well, obviously you did mean to intrude since you intruded’ the man said. Alec felt a pang of fear. The man was so tall Alec barely reached his chin and his arms were well muscled. He could probably fling Alec across the room and break his neck in 2.5 seconds. But instead the man sighted and flicked his wrist lazily towards the table.

‘Sit down,’ he said, swiping his arm across the counter to make space. Multiple objects fell to the ground. Alec was hesitant between the exit and the table, but deciding not to anger the scary merman further, he sat down at the table in the corner.

‘It’s been a long time since I had a customer,’ the man’s tone implied he’d preferred if it stayed that way. He poured some kind of liquid into cups and came to sit opposite Alec, sliding him a cup. Alec took a tentative sip. ‘Okay, what’s it to be? Fortune telling? Communing with the spirits?’

‘Spirits?’ Alec squeaked. The man frowned and then realisation dawned on him.

‘Oh. You’re heartsick.’

It was Alec’s turn to frown. He felt a surge of anger at being so easy to read. ‘Who are you anyway?’

The man sighted again. ‘Magnus Bane, the Great Warlock of the Sea, my friends would call me a diva, probably, if I had any friends, but no one comes here anymore thus I have no friends.’ Magnus said. ‘Now, about your problem…’ he gestured. Alec blinked at him in confusion. ‘Well, tell me about her.’

‘Him’

‘Him’ Magnus didn’t even flinch.

‘Well,’ Alec fidgeted. Talking to a stranger about his problems couldn’t make things worse. ‘I, uh, met this guy. Well, I didn’t exactly meet him. I saved his life, but…he’s human,’

Magnus sipped his liquid. ‘Go on’

‘He didn’t see me, but I saw him and…’ Alec averted his eyes. ‘I just…I couldn’t stop thinking about him. So I went to see him. But…’ Alec felt another sharp tug of pain. ‘He has someone else.’

Magnus set his cup down. ‘Okay, Alec, I understand.’

‘How did you know my na-’

‘Are you a virgin, Alec?’ Magnus asked casually.

Alec blushed. ‘Of course!’

‘Mmmh’ Magnus said, as if it was all clear. ‘Ever been kissed? Anyone ever hold your hand?’

‘O-only him’ Alec stammered. Magnus nodded, and scooted closer to Alec. Without a warning he drew his fingers up from Alec’s wrist to his arm.

Alec snatched his arm back. ‘What are you doing!?’

‘What is your heart doing right now?’ Magnus answered the question with a question.

‘Nothing’ Alec said defensively.

‘Then put your hand down’

Alec gently put his hand down. Magnus laced their fingers together and pulled his hand towards his lips, kissing each knuckle like Jace had. His lips lingered on the last knuckle and he raised his eyes to Alec’s, who was blushing madly. Magnus dropped his hand.

‘What’s your heart doing now?’

‘It’s beating really fast,’ Alec’s voice was barely audible. Magnus smiled.

‘And how did you react when this boy of yours touched you?’

Alec looked close to tears. ‘I felt the exact same way. But what does it mean?’

Magnus ruffled Alec’s dark hair. ‘Good news. You’re not in love with him.’

Alec’s eyes shot up to meet Magnus’s. ‘But I feel like I’m gonna die without him!’

‘We’ll see about that’

Magnus got up and grabbed Alec’s wrist, pulling him up. He put one warm arm around his waist and pressed the other one to his cheek. Then he kissed him. Alec’s eyes widened. Magnus let his lips move lightly against Alec’s before pulling away.

‘What’s your boys name again?’

‘Jace’ Alec said. ‘But what does it have to do wi-’

Magnus pulled him towards him again, sliding their mouths together, their bare chests pressed together. Alec gasped, and Magnus slipped his tongue into his mouth. Alec squirmed until Magnus pulled away.

‘What’s his name?’

‘Jace! Now sto-’

Magnus kissed him again, drawing his hands roughly up Alec’s hips.

‘What’s his name?’

‘J-Jace…Magnus I-’

Alec couldn’t stop a moan escaping his lips when Magnus trailed his hot mouth down his neck, sucking at a sensitive spot at his collarbone. Alec yelped, his hands curling into fists on Magnus’s shoulders.

‘What’s his name?’

‘Jac- Magnus! Stop it!’ Alec cried out when Magnus pulled him even closer, sealing his mouth with hot kisses. The fight went right out of Alec and he let his hands rest on Magnus’s chest.

‘What’s his name?’ Magnus whispered, pulling on Alec’s lower lip.

‘Hah…what?’ Alec’s mind tumbled. Magnus pulled away and grinned victoriously.

‘See, if you were in love with this Jace person, then you would have been able to say his name for much longer. Trust me; I’d had real heart sick people in here.’ Magnus put one hand on his hip, his tail flapping. ‘Therefore, you are not in love with him.’

Alec blinked, and then suddenly he started crying. His sobs racked his body.

‘But I…I thought…’

Magnus panicked. ‘I’m sorry! This therapy usually works! People even thank me! Oh gosh, please don’t cry!’

Alec slumped down on the floor, sobbing. Not knowing what else to do, Magnus slid down next to him and put his hand on his arm awkwardly.

‘Come on. It’s okay. I know it hurts but…I’ll help you get over him. Okay?’

Alec didn’t reply, but he took Magnus’s hand in his and gripped it tightly.

Magnus smiled.

And for the first time in year his heart thumped loudly and a barely audible blush spread over his cheeks.

|||*|||

‘The end.’ Alec said.

‘What!?’ Catarina cried.

‘No!’ Magnus yelled at the same time.

Alec put his hands up in defense. ‘Don’t worry, this may not be the last time we hear about those two.’

‘Get on with the next story then!’ Magnus demanded. Alec looked to Catarina for help, but she fixed him with a steely look.

‘Do it.’

|||*|||

Once upon a time in a kingdom far, far away, in a land of inventions and closed minded people there lived a beautiful peasant girl. He name was Charlotte, and when other ladies like her wandered around looking at beautiful material dresses and delicious baked goods, she walked around in greasy suspenders and helped her ‘crazy’ father out with his inventions. Everyone thought Lottie to be beautiful as the rising sun, with her black curls and clear grey eyes, but she had no declarations of love because everyone though she was strange. She had no suitors…except for one. His name was Jonathan Herondale and he was the most handsome, popular person in the village. And he loved Lottie for her beauty, while she despised him. She rejected him on many occasions, spending as much time as she could with her father in the workshop. But then her father fell sick and died, and she had nowhere to go. The villagers stopped coming to her household to have things fixed because they thoughts he was incapable as a woman, and her money soon ran out. On the day when her house was taken away, as she couldn’t pay the bill, and she was left with only her sad, withered horse, Jonathan Herondale came and asked her for her hand in marriage.

Lottie had no money. She had no house. She had no family or friends. This was her ticked to safety and to a luxurious life.

But she hated Jace, and she said no. He went into a rage that terrified her. She hopped onto her horse and sped into the snow covered forest.

‘Think Lottie, think’ Charlotte whispered to herself, huffing into her frozen hands. They were pale and she couldn’t feel her fingers. Her old horse whined underneath her. Frost covered his eyelashes. Lottie didn’t know exactly what she was supposed to think about. Was she supposed to find a new home? Was she supposed to put as much distance between herself and Jace as possible? She couldn’t think. Her mind had gone as numb as her fingers. ‘Let’s…just go straight’ she whispered, her breath materialising as a cloud of white in front of her. The horse whined in agreement and they started forward at an agonizing pace. The snow shimmered white on everything – the gnarly trees, the frozen, close cropped grass…even a thin layer of snow covered Lottie’s shoulders. She didn’t even notice when night fell around her or when she stopped shaking… When she began to think that perhaps lying down next to a tree and taking a nap wasn’t so bad she noticed a castle. The thought of a castle in the middle of a forest didn’t even surprise her. She just wanted to sleep, but she forced herself and her horse to the gate of the castle.

The gate opened with a soft creak by itself and Lottie didn’t question that either. The horse slowly walked down the short path towards the front doors of the massive castle. Those opened too, and imiediatly she was blasted with warm air. Charlotte sunk onto the floor, on her knees, and breathed the warm air. She began to shiver again. The horse sped past her, skittering on the marble floor, and stopped in front of the fire place, making soft noises of content. Lottie couldn’t move…she didn’t know if anyone inhabited the castle or not, and she didn’t care. She couldn’t even force herself to stand up and shut the doors. The snow fluttered inside, settling around her. She knew she wasn’t doing herself any good by sitting at the open doors, but she just couldn’t move!

And then she heard voices.

‘Oh lords, it’s a girl!’

‘And she’s freezing to death! Shut the doors!’

Lottie was dimly aware of the doors being shut but her vision was blurry. She couldn’t see who the voices belonged to, and yet more came.

‘Get her out of sight before he sees her!’

‘Too late’ the first voice yelped, and the next thing Lottie heard was loud footsteps and an annoyed, angry shout.

‘What is she doing here!? Get her outside this instant’

‘But sir, she’ll freeze!’ The second voice protested.

‘Do I look like I care?’

‘Sir…’

‘Please,’ Lottie somehow found her voice. ‘Please, don’t throw me out. I have nowhere to go…’ if she had the energy, she would have cried. The atmosphere seemed to soften.

‘Get out, and take the horse to the stables’ the ‘sir’ voice said, quieter this time, and the remaining owners of the three voices shuffled out. The footsteps came her way and warm hands grasped Lottie underneath her knees and around her arms. The last thing she remembered before she passed out was the heavy footsteps of the stranger and his warm hands, holding her.

|||*|||

The supper bell rang.

‘Fantastic! I’m starving’ Alec said brightly, but Catarina and Magnus whined.

‘Tomorrow’ Alec promised with a smile.

‘Yeah, okay’ Magnus replied.


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