She stole away like a thief in the night, her dark cloak billowing about her as she crept into the stables where her horse was awaiting her. She threw the stable boy a wink as she led Wayfarer out of his stall and down out of the stable into the courtyard. He followed his friend dutifully.
"Thanks, Simon," she acknowledged him, nimbly mounting the horse, grateful that her attire allowed for more movement. Tunics, leather boots and trousers were far more practical than the heavy dresses required of her daily. Riding a horse in a dress was no mean feat. He beamed back up at her.
"Stay safe, princess," he cautioned teasingly. She scoffed, rather inappropriate for a lady of royal calibre. Not that neither her nor Simon cared for such propriety.
"You know me," she called back, setting off in a trot out of the stable.
"That's an 'I might be attacked by a horde of demons on the way, or kidnapped by a vile pillock, but whatever I'm a Shadowhunter with a big sword'" he corrected, rolling his eyes up at her as he walked alongside her to the courtyard gates. Clary need only to ask and the guards would open the gates for her - that is of course if the King had not instructed the guards otherwise (as was awfully common). Once the gates were open he saw her eyes light up as she gazed upon the village bellow, which was bathed in the light of the festival, great bonfires illuminating the night sky.
"Say hello to your friend for me," Simon asked her and she smiled.
"Her name is Isabelle, Simon, and don't pretend you don't know that," she teased. "I've seen the way you look at her."
"Alright, fine, say hello to Isabelle for me."
"I'll tell her you send your love," she agreed and fled away before he could complain. Wayfarer sped towards the village, reaching speeds higher than any mundane horse, the gift of the angel flowing through his veins. She smiled genuinely as the wind whipped through her hair, the adrenalin of such speeds pumping through her, awaking her Nephilim instincts. She reigned him in when she was closer to the village, slowing to etch in a disguise rune on her wrist. It would not do to have the townsfolk aware of her presence, not that she minded, but the King would surely hear of it and have her head. If she was lucky.
She dismounted and led Wayfarer into the town by the reins. Townsfolk greeted her as she travelled along with the same respect as if she were one of their own - for she was unrecognisable as the princess they all knew. She did not even carry the marks of nobility, as did the others who flaunted the runes which only they had been blessed with. Weaving her way through the crowded town, she basked in light and jovial mood that always accompanied the town and was amplified tenfold by the Fall Festival celebrations.
Decorated with thousands of lanterns, the town was transformed into a sight of humble splendour, exciting everyone and leaving no townsman untouched by the community spirit. Music filled the air as children and adults alike danced in the pathways, on the hills, in the town square, around the massive bonfire and even in at the market place which was still bustling with business at this late hour. Autumn colours could be found in every corner: gold, magenta, brown and orange all adorned the town.
The princess sighed, home at last. Passing a nearby inn, she tossed the stable hands a few coins and left Wayfarer with them as she journeyed toward the town centre. She planned to stay for a while, maybe join in with the dancing and then seek out Isabelle. As whilst the Fall Festival was a joyous, busy event, it also attracted all sorts of demons and it was her duty to protect the town in favour of entertainment. Although, once she had been pulled into the circles of dancers, it proved impossible to leave.
Besides, it was her last night of freedom before she would be shut up in the castle for the royal version of the Fall Festival. Which, sadly, mostly involved dreary feasts and drunken men, not to mention that all the other kingdom's monarchs were always invited. As a result, it became impossible to have any time alone. She shrugged off the gloomy thoughts for now, though, and smiled at the man who had just held out his hand to her. The music was all around, the dance impossible to break.
"Come on, Clary," someone urged her, dragging her back out of the circle. She whirled around to come face to face with Isabelle, who was looking very intimidating in her tough fighting gear accompanied with her steely expression.
"Sorry, Izzy. I was just-" she apologised.
"Enjoying yourself, I know, but I just saw a demon steal a young girl away," she informed her, pointing down a darkened pathway behind a tavern. She nodded and followed Izzy, hand on the hilt of her seraph blade. The stench hit them as soon as they came to the entrance of the alley, the pungent odour of an eidolon demon alerting the princess to the danger at hand as she drew her dagger. It was dark and they had to squint to see the two figures in the middle. A feminine voice cried out and both Shadowhunters became rigid.
"I'm going in," Clary whispered, moving forward, but Isabelle caught her arm.
"Clary. We need to think rationally, have the element of surprise."
"But, there's a girl down there-" she protested, wrenching her arm out of her grip and striding towards the two, hidden under the cloak of darkness.
"Get off me!" The woman protested, feebly pushing back against the stronger demon.
"I don't think so…" it hissed, pressing her further back against the cobblestone house.
"I think you heard her," Clary spoke up, seraph blade poised in front of her. The demon laughed, turning to face her.
"And what are you going to do about it?" he hissed patronisingly, the glamour shimmering in front of him. Clary saw glimpses of horns and tails.
"Michael," she whispered, and the seraph blade lit up with heavenly fire as she lunged for the demon. He danced out of her reach, letting the girl he held fall to turn his full attention on her. As soon as she was released the young girl fled, her footsteps echoing in her wake.
"Shadowhunter," the eidolon hissed, realisation dawning on its now vaguely humanoid face, its true being flickering underneath like a candle flame.
It attacked her left, grazing her side with its talon. She winced as she felt it slice through the thin material of her tunic. Wasting no time, she struck back with her blade, aiming for where she supposed its heart was. It moved faster, causing her to stumble and merely wound it. While it was still off guard she lunged forward and hacked at its head, swinging out of the way of an oncoming talon. The blade dug into the foul creatures' neck joint but the creature twisted, wrenching the blade out of her hand. It rounded on her, its sharp, long talons aimed towards her. It swung and she ducked, rolling to the side.
The ichor was dripping down its neck, splattering onto the cobblestones below with a sizzle. She scrambled to her feet, hand reaching for her dagger. Suddenly it toppled forward, a blade stabbed clean through its disfigured chest. It folded in on itself, spluttering demon ichor in its wake onto Clary below, who hissed as it burned into her skin. She looked up, out of breath, to see Isabelle cleaning her blade with disgust before sheathing it. Demon hunting was no glamourous job. She held her hand out to Clary with a smile and Clary accepted it gratefully, heaving herself up onto her shaking legs. What was left of the adrenaline now dissipating, leaving only tiredness and relief.
"You look awful," Izzy commented, gesturing to Clary's torn attire, the acidic demon ichor eating away at the thin material.
"Yes, perhaps in hindsight, proper gear would have been better," she agreed, whipping out her stele to draw an iratze to soothe her injured skin. "Do you need an iratze?"
"No I'm fine. I'm sorry it took me so long, but the girl was in absolute hysterics and it took a while to get away," Izzy apologised.
"No worries," Clary forgave her, taking off down the alleyway towards her favourite inn, in need of a good drink or two. "I could've handled it myself."
"Whatever you say, my lady," Isabelle quipped back, giving her a low, mocking curtsy. Clary merely laughed and rolled her eyes. They walked in comfortable silence, Clary finding solace in the generally uplifting atmosphere. Izzy broke it first.
"I've been thinking," she said.
"Really? That's new," Clary jibed, causing her friend to hit her hard on the shoulder. "Ow," she muttered under her breath, much to Izzy's delight.
"But seriously, what's on your mind?" she enquired.
"Well, it's just that, well- this whole business with shadow hunting-"
"You're not looking to quit?" Clary questioned, astonished.
"No, no. Nothing like that. Well, at least not until you're on the throne,"
"Like that'll ever happen,"
"Well, we can all hope…" Izzy sighed thoughtfully, but then snapped back. "I mean to say that I'm been thinking about how impossible it is that I can do it. I can see demons, I can take runes. Surely that means I must be a Nephilim. I must be half angel. Alec and Max too."
"I have entertained that thought myself," Clary agreed. "It seems highly likely... although there have been stories of mundanes with the Sight. You could just be a rare enigma…?" She faltered, seeing Izzy's doubtful face. "Okay then, let's say you are… well are you sure you are aware of what it means to be a Nephilim?"
"Of course. Everyone knows, it's not like they don't flaunt their power."
"Would you be willing to accept it? I've lived my whole life cooped up in a castle; I've had so much expected of me. I do not wish that kind of life upon you."
"I don't know..." Izzy said. "It would mean that we could find out who our parents are. Be a proper family."
"You are a proper family. Much more proper than my family at least."
"That's different," Izzy argued.
"How so? If you truly are royalty, than my life would become yours too."
"I suppose so," Izzy sighed, defeated. "But, but- it would also mean that Max would get the help. I'm sure they could afford a warlock and he would no longer be so ill-"
"I thought he had gotten better?"
"Well he had, but I fear it won't last very long- he's still got a nasty fever. I'm only letting him out today because I couldn't leave him out of the fun,"
"Well, I understand your troubles, Isabelle. I'm doing whatever I can to help; I just don't think this is the best way to solve them."
"Of course, you're right."
"But I think Magnus Bane is paying a visit to my mother. I will do my best to persuade him to see to Max."
"Thank you, it means so much to us."
"He's my little brother too and I would hate for his condition to get any worse," she said, just as they reached the entrance to the tavern. The raucous noise could've been heard from miles away. Clary shot Izzy a reassuring smile and entered the inn.
Inside the noise was even louder; festive and merry, yes, but loud. There were even more dancers swinging each other around in the space left after almost all the tables and chairs had been moved out of the way. She could see one of her friends Jem, who was also the joint owner of the Carstairs Inn, entertaining them on his fiddle. Knowing her friend, Izzy dragged Clary by the arm before she could join in the fun towards the bar. Tessa, the bar maid, beamed at them when they came up to order, despite having full hands.
"What can I get you two today?" she asked cheerfully.
"Ale, I think," Izzy answered, eyebrows raised to Clary in question. She nodded.
"That would be great. Thanks, Tess," she agreed. Tessa hurriedly got their drinks made on the counter for them in the hopes of a little respite.
"My, my Clary," she said, eyes raking over Clary's state of clothing, "you really must be more careful."
Clary rolled her eyes.
"I'm fine. It's just a bit of blood, is all," she shrugged. "Besides, I'm a Shadowhunter," she muttered. Tessa sighed.
"And a very good one at that. The kingdom would be a far better place if all of 'em were as good as you,"
"They're all very skilled," Clary amended. "It's where their hearts lie that is the real problem."
"The King needs to go and I know just who I want to replace him," she conspired, winking at the princess. Yes, she was one of the few who would recognise the girl before her, even if her red hair and green eyes were disguised. She wasn't going to tell anyone though; she herself had her own secrets.
"So how've Jem and the kids been doing?" Izzy asked.
"Great actually. See, Matt is already helping out," she said, pointing to where her eldest was serving them drinks. "Elijah too, he's on the lute. Takes after his dad in that respect," she smiled, observing them with pride.
"That's great-" Clary started but was interrupted by someone who had taken a seat next to her.
"Where can I get a drink around here?" he asked loud and rather rudely. Tessa snapped to attention, turning to the man at the same time as Clary did. There were, in fact, two of them, both very obviously royal. You could see their runes like the light of day, and their very fine clothes too.
"How may I help you?" Tessa asked politely. The darker haired of the two of them smirked.
"I know a lot of things you'd be good for, darling," he quipped, eyeing her. Clary could already feel her blood boiling. She turned back to Izzy but she was already gone, stuck in the middle of the dancing circle. Clary rolled her eyes and stared at her drink instead, attempting to not start a fight.
"Hurry up, love," the man hollered as Tessa busied herself with their orders. Clary clenched her fist around her mug. When Tessa set the drink down in front of him, he grabbed her hand, before kissing it.
"Alright, whey face, she's married. Leave her alone," she rounded on him, snarl on her lips. He raised an eyebrow, turning to her fully. He was rather attractive, what with his blue eyes and black hair that curled at the nape of his neck. It didn't faze her though. She was far too angry.
"Calm down, girl. I was just ordering a drink." His voice was thick with the posher royal accent. When Clary next spoke she made a conscious effort to adopt the town accent.
"Do you always harass the bar maid when doing so?" she challenged.
"Only if she is pleasing to the eye, such as her," he said, gesturing to Tessa, who was looking flustered, and who kept shooting furtive glances their way as she worked.
"Oh, I'm sorry. Does the word 'married' mean nothing to you?"
He shrugged, although his eyes screamed challenging arrogance.
"She didn't exactly tell me that."
"Did the ring on the hand you so flirtatiously kissed not give you a clue?" she hounded him, not letting this arrogant man walk over her friends. He merely smirked.
"That thing was a ring? The angel only knows what poor lives this unfortunates must live," he commented, nastily. Clary was really getting fired up now.
"Listen here, you-" she almost yelled, jabbing a finger at him. He merely laughed.
"Cute," he said patronisingly and turned to his partner, who was looking on, amused. "See this cousin? Are you witnessing the same thing? A mundane girl so brave as to speak to us?" he drawled to the other one who was equally as stunning. He laughed.
"What makes you so special?" she seethed.
"Little girl, I would advise you to get up and leave now," the blonde said, a hint of threat in his sugar coated voice.
"I have as much right to be here as your royal asses do."
As soon as the words were out of her mouth she knew she had perhaps gone too far. Both their faces turned to steel.
"I am Prince Jonathon Christopher Herondale of England, and this is my advisor William Herondale. I strongly suggest you leave our presence."
"Titles mean nothing to me."
The Prince of England raised an eyebrow.
"They should, girl. You are going to get into a lot of trouble carrying on the way you are."
Clary rolled her eyes, infuriating them. She could tell she was outstaying her welcome but was comfortable to do just that.
"She looks like trouble anyway. See the state of her men's clothes," his advisor commented, eyeing her.
"Did you run into a demon little girl? Is that why you're so bitter? Do you need a few brave Shadowhunters to kiss your wounds?" the prince patronised her.
"I am just as good a fighter as any of you," she said confidently, taking a long swig of her drink.
"You really should not have said that," his advisor said as Prince Jonathon grabbed the mug away from her, mid drink.
"Alright then, mundie. Fight me," he challenged her, on his feet now. Aggression clear on every line of his face.
"Okay then," she agreed to both their immense surprise, "we'll do it outside in the mud ring. Swords belonging to this inn only."
"You are an idiot," Isabelle chastised her matter-of-factly as she passed her the simple long sword. Clary smiled devilishly and twirled it, feeling its weight. It was pretty decent. "Honestly, what on earth were you thinking?" Izzy continued. "You know he's royal. He could have you executed. Not to mention he's probably here for the feasts the King holds! He'll be staying with you. You'll have to see him every day!"
"I didn't think of that."
"Too right you didn't-"
"It'll be very amusing to watch him with the knowledge that I defeated him," she clarified, smirking. She glanced at where his advisor was giving him a similar pep talk.
"And what if you lose?"
"I won't. If I can beat Jonathon, I can beat him."
"You can sometimes beat Jonathon. I even had to save you from that demon!"
"Demons are different. This is sparring. He will be as predictable as they all are. His weakness is his blatant arrogance."
"Fine, fine," Isabelle said, giving up. "Just don't blame me when this completely backfires."
"If it does I'll just disappear. He won't see this version of me again." she said with a wink. "He can look all he likes, I'll just use another rune."
The crowd that had gathered to view the entertainment was getting restless.
"Good luck," Izzy said, clapping her friend on the back before hopping over the fence. Upon seeing her brother Alec's face in the crowd, she made her way over to him, standing beside him as she watched Clary turn to face her opponent. The attractive prince almost exuded cockiness and arrogance as he sized her up. She was a great deal shorter than he.
"This wasn't one of her brightest ideas was it?" Alec commented, watching as they began circling.
"No, it wasn't," Isabelle agreed.
"Come on then, fight me!" Clary antagonised him, "or are you too scared because I'm a girl?"
He raised an eyebrow. Neither of them broke eye contact.
"Don't worry, little mundane, I'll go easy on you," he said and swung his sword menacingly. She danced out of his reach.
"Afraid you'll lose your reputation?" she taunted, he snarled slightly.
"Afraid to lose yours?"
"Nothing to lose," she said and launched at him, swinging her sword in a wide arc. He met it with his with a grunt, knocking hers out of the way before stabbing at her. She swung to the side, using his imbalance to kick at his ankles, causing him to stumble forward. He recovered quickly and faced her again, wasting no time in delivering a succession of quick attacks. She blocked each blow, but found herself being driven back against the fence. She hit back, swiftly driving him back as she aimed at his chest and arms. She managed to slice through his shirt as both of them were unarmoured. His eyes flashed and he picked up the pace of the fight, realising he had a chance of losing. She had to heighten her attention, noticing where his eyes flickered to right before he attacked. He swung at her legs and she nimbly hopped over the swinging sword. She found his strength rune and slashed at it. She saw his expression change immediately.
"That was the wrong move," he said and barrelled into her. She dove out of the way, rolling to the side before launching straight up again. The next attacks that rained down where swift, accurate and precise. She soon began to see that his movements were very similar to her brother's and defended accordingly. The prince drove his sword hard down onto hers, forcing her to bend backwards to block it. She jumped back upright again. Both opponents attacked at every angle, creating a whirlpool of human exertion as each avoided another fatal blow. Without the aid of his strength rune, the prince was slowly tiring, but finally managed to bash the girl's sword out of her hand with the hilt of the blade. She felt her wrist crack as the blade fell.
"Going to concede?" he asked, blade pointed at her neck. Both of their chests heaving.
"Never," she said and lunged for the sword, gritting her teeth as she held it with her broken wrist. She almost dropped the sword but quickly switched hands to the left. He laughed at her.
"Little girl, you are decent at best with your right hand."
"Well then, it's a good thing I'm ambidextrous," she quipped and launched at him. She was slower as predicted and he cockily made it easy for her. He took the defence and then struck out hitting her in the stomach with the hilt. She hit the ground, but kicked mud into his face before he could pin her down. Whilst he was distracted she swiped at his legs causing him to fall down heavily. As quick as a flash she was on top of him, her sword underneath his neck.
"We have a winner!" Alec announced as the crowd clapped and cheered. Clary got off of him, and offered him a hand. He shrugged it off, but then seemed to have a change of heart and accepted it. Once he was standing he gripped her wrist tight, and she saw him move to flip her over, so dropped her weight to the floor. He stumbled forward and she flipped him over her instead.
"Nice try, prince," she said, and left the ring, hopping over the fence and into the crowd. They crowd laughed heartily at the prince in the mud. Admiring the mundane girl brave and skilled enough to beat a Shadowhunter. She was brave and skilled… just not exactly mundane
"Congratulations," Isabelle said as she drew an iratze on Clary's wrist back at her humble house, away from prying eyes. They were on top of the one of two of the beds in the room, this one being Isabelle's. Their little house was quaint and humble, the fire burning in the grate, reflecting onto the oak floors and furniture.
"… On breaking your wrist." she amended. "Was it really worth it?"
"Of course it was. Now I can laugh behind his back at the feasts. It'll be my only source of entertainment."
"I bet it hurt you though; he managed to beat you up pretty well to." she said, concern undertoning her voice.
"Not really," she said, shrugging it off.
"A broken wrist? Come on, Clary-"
"I've had worse," Clary said, her tone serious. Isabelle's face softened and she drew back, having finished the healing rune.
"I know," she said softly. "It worries me."
Clary sighed, taking her friend's hand in hers.
"Whatever is going to happen will happen, whether we worry or not. My life has always been precarious and I do not foresee the future as being any less so."
"It shouldn't be. You're the damn princess. You should have a life full of parties, glamour and grace."
"What we wish for is not, unfortunately, what we always get. You can wish for a hot summer's day and get a storm. You can wish for a good king and get my father."
Isabelle was about to reply when Max came running in, the front door swinging shut behind him. Mud coated his adorable little face.
"Clary! Clary! You're here!" he exclaimed excitedly, rushing to give her a hug. Clary hugged him back just as warmly, both covering each other in mud. Isabelle tutted.
"Max, I told you not to tread mud in here! You're meant to wash outback," she scolded him, although her tone was light. Max coughed twice.
"But Clary is muddy!" he pointed out. It was true.
"That's different, Max,"
"It's not!" he protested. Izzy rolled her eyes.
"Wash and then I think it's time for bed. It's late and we don't want your fever getting any worse," Izzy said to Max, before moving over to the stove. "A hot drink, Clary?" she asked. Clary considered it but had to decline.
"Sorry, Izzy but I really must head back. I'll have a long day tomorrow."
"Of course, you take care of yourself," Izzy warned, giving her a hug before she left.
"Yes, mother," Clary teased before whisking her cloak off the back of the chair. She paused in the doorway, almost forgetting.
"Oh and Simon sends his love," she said with a wink and closed the door gently behind her. The town was still in festive spirit at this very late hour, the drunkards having had their fill, no doubt. She hastily made her way back towards the stables where she had left Wayfarer.
"This is one fine 'orse, miss," the stable boy told her as she took the reins back.
"Costs me an arm and a leg too," she told him to his amusement as she swung up to mount.
"Have a good day," he bid her farewell, raising his cap. She smiled.
"You too," she said, and kicked Wayfarer to a start. She was soon out of the town and pelting it back to the castle, stripping herself of her disguise as she went. There was so little time before she was back inside the inhospitable walls of the castle. Back under the control of the King.