Soft light trickled through the thin white curtains. Outside, a light breeze drifted through the grass creating a faint but constant shuffle. Every now and then a bird would chirp or a voice far off in the distance could be heard. It was peaceful. Too peaceful, the small redhead thought.
The girl lay in her bed, luxuriously stretching her thin limbs, and watched the scenery. Fingers trailed through daylight dust and lashes fought for clarity. She couldn’t say why but despite the seemingly calm demeanor of the day something felt off. In the distance a light rumble sounded, suggesting a coming storm. I wonder if that will be the only storm today, she thought. Clarissa Morgenstern slowly sat up on her forearms, arching her back her neck fell, allowing her crimson locks to float gently down her back. Friends and family had often told the girl that she was quite striking, though she didn’t see this herself. “So modest” her parents had chuckled. After a long and laborious stretch, Clary, as she liked to be called, finally sat up in full taking in her surroundings. Across the room there sat a full-length mirror, positioned just so that she could see her reflection.
The first thing one would notice about her would be the thick curling flame she called hair. It rested in smooth waves down past her waist. It had once been frizzy and wild but had been tamed in a gradual slop of time. Thank goodness for that she mused. Clary’s personal favorite feature was that of her eyes, resembling a set of wide-set emeralds, almost too big for her face. She looked like a fragile porcelain doll, too delicate to be handled by even the most delicate of touches. In fact everything about her seemed small and childlike. From her 5ft height to her tiny waist, barely there chest and rose bud lips. More like an overgrown child…perhaps not so overgrown…She trailed off. An urgent knocking interrupted her thoughts as her brother entered.
Jonathan Morgenstern was considered beautiful, resembling their father. Where she was soft, he was all hard angles and white gold features. He was a stoic figure capable of the cruelest of punishments. The only hint of the hidden monster resided within his eyes. On more than one occasion he had lost his temper with Clary’s stubbornness and lashed out. She possessed the marks to prove it, though she hid it well.
“Darling sister…” his voice cooed, “…taking your precious time rising I see. It’s nearly noon and father grows impatient, you see-” a slow smirk spread across his features, “-we have quite the news.” He leaned against her bed, his breath ghosting across her face in a silent whisper, waiting for a reaction. When he saw the questioning look in her eye he chuckled lightly and kissed her on the forehead, his lips lingering a little too long. “I know that look, but I’m afraid father wanted to speak with you personally. Best hurry up and get dressed before you anger him further.” With that Jonathan swept out of her room with not but a sound, leaving a bewildered Clary in his wake.
Not long after, two maids came bustling into her room carrying a pale blue gown. They quickly shooed her from the bed and set to work. The first maid, an elderly woman by the name of Amatis combed through Clary’s hair non-too gently, and swiftly braided it into a bun, resting at the back of her head. By this time Clary had been stripped and re-clothed in a corset and bodice. Slipping the rest of the dress over head, Clary appraised the outcome, hoping that no marks were visible on her frail skin. The dress was simple yet flattering. Pale pinstripes descended down her torso to form a long skirt. Clary pulled out several pieces of hair to keep from looking too formal in her own house before pulling back satisfied. As she worked a few final corrections into her appearance she heard the familiar booming voice of her father, beckoning her down from the confines of her room.
As she descended the stairs she heard the voice of her father, “Ah, Clarissa at last. I was beginning to think you had passed away in the night.” His tone was soft to her relief; she had not angered him.
“Father-” she greeted, “-you know how I love my sleep. It keeps me nice and calm-” Not to mention kind, she though silently.
“How silly of me to assume you would grace us with your presence” he joked “Now, down to business.”
He walked briskly and with purpose to his study, expecting Clarissa to follow. She did just that, though she secretly longed for a bite to eat. Upon entering his study she spoke “Yes, what is this mysterious business that Jonathan was all riled up about. I do hope it meets my expectation as I would hate to have gotten out of bed only to realize it was all for nothing.” Her father paused where he was and looked out across the land.
Her father was poised man coming from a good family. Although he was a high-ranking lord of Allicante, titles tended not to have much meaning ever since the conflict had broken out. When he was a young man, several of the other nobles had become power hungry and rose up. Ever since then it had been every man for himself. Because of her family’s immense wealth, they had faired quite well, protecting the lands from harms way. She knew that parts of the kingdom were so ravaged from battle that fearsome and powerful warlords had risen, destroying much of the old power families. Her thoughts briefly flitted to the one they called Shadowhunter. She gave an involuntary shiver as she thought of the rumors: entire cities overrun, people enslaved, they said he was covered in strange markings and fought with glowing blades. So much violence and pain…
“Clarissa,” a sharp voice pulled her out of her thoughts, “keep your head out of the clouds and focused when I speak to you.” She quickly apologized with a downcast gaze. “Look at me.” She complied. “Much to my disappointment, our troops have failed us. One of our enemies has managed to break through our line of defense.” He waited for her reaction and was satisfied with the surprised look on her face.
“No, let me finish. This individual has sworn to leave our land, money and army intact if we could find something to give him. Your brother Jonathan thought of a rather marvelous solution. In return for the safety of our kingdom, you are to be wed to him as soon as possible.”
Clary froze, ice crept into her chest and her body was raked with dread. She quickly sucked in a breath, unable to think of a response. When she thought she had control over her voice again she asked, “What do you mean? You are selling me, your only daughter to some violent, disgusting, greasy mongrel?” Her voice was far more panicked than she intended. “What about me? Have I got any say in the matter? You didn’t even think to ask before making this decision!”
The look on her fathers face silenced her.
“I had hoped you would understand the benefit to your people.” His voice was deadly calm as he continued, “This would also allow for an alliance between us… The most powerful of alliances.”
Clary was nearly shaking with anger. “You would treat me as a slave, your own flesh and blood, and yet you still wonder why your wife left you all those years ag-“ Clary was silenced by a flash of pain on her face. Her father had struck her, grabbing by the shoulders and pulling her up to his face. Her toes could barely reach the ground as he pressed her back into the corner of the table. Deep in his eyes she could see the dark storm within; it reminded her of the power and violence he held. She wondered to herself why she would be so afraid of her future husband when she had already been raised by Valentine Morgenstern.
“I you have any ounce of intelligence in that tiny nut you call a head, you will make note of this and you’re tongue. I should have known that Jocelyn’s daughter would be just as useless and selfish as she was. I find myself glad to be rid of you.” As the words left his mouth he backhanded her, smacking her face into the window, effectively cracking it and leaving a thin trickle of blood on her face. He moved as though to attack her again but was caught by another hand.
Jonathan stood with a strange look on his face. Enraged, Valentine roared, “You dare to defy me! You, whom I would call my son, would challenge me? Both my children such disloyal, ungrateful-“ No doubt he would have continued but was cut off by her brothers voice.
“I simply mean to keep her intact for her husband. I doubt he would be happy to learn that he had given up our kingdom for a piece of bloody meat.” Instead of responding, Valentine turned and stalked off leaving Clary on the ground. He had never been a very good father, never offering comfort or protection to her. His words still stung though. Almost as an afterthought, Clary rushed passed calling to her father, “At least tell my his name.”
Without turning to face her he replied “the Shadowhunter” and was gone.