Crossed Swords

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"Good morning, Princess Clarissa," Sophie announced cheerfully, throwing back the heavy curtains in the princess' chambers. Clary groaned and hid her eyes from the sunlight. Sophie took one long sweep of the messy room and sighed, setting out to pick up the dirty clothes. She threw them into a basket and stared at the lump in the bed disapprovingly.

"You really must arise, my lady; the King requests your presence at breakfast," she informed Clary, who tumbled out of the bed, bleary eyed. Her hair was a mess and her eyes stung as she yawned.

"I'll run you a bath," Sophie decided, and went to fetch a few pails of hot water. She arrived back at her mistress' quarters to find the young woman already fast asleep on top of the bed. Sophie clucked disapprovingly.

"This is what happens when you make late night visits to the town," she reminded her. Clary shot up.

"I didn't go anywhere-" she began but faltered at Sophie's disapproving look. "Okay, fine, I might have left for a teeny tiny short time last night."

Sophie sighed.

"Tired or not, you are to wash and get dressed ready to meet your father for breakfast," she ordered and went on searching through the closet for suitable dresses.

Clary huffed but went into the washroom and set about scrubbing off all the grime from the previous night. She had to pay meticulous attention to her nails, making sure to eradicate all evidence of the fight last night. Her father would know otherwise. The water worked wonders for her aching muscles and she lay back in blissful relaxation. Sophie marched in with a long green dress draped in her arms and hurried her out of the bath, cutting her reprieve short. She set about dressing Clary, forcing her into the corset and lacing it tight – not as tight as to be unbearable, but still tight. She fixed the silky dress over the top of the undergarments and expertly laced up the back. It was a beautiful dress with leaves embroidered into the material – a compliment to the autumn festival. In no time she was forcing Clary into the vanity seat and fixing her tangled hair, brushing out the knots and encouraging the hair to curl better into perfect ringlets.

"Do you have any idea what the King has to say?" Clary asked Sophie as she set about plaiting her hair behind her head. Sophie looked up into the mirror, glancing at the princess' unguarded face.

"I suspect it is to do with the celebrations tonight," Sophie supplied, giving her an honest answer.

Clary glanced in the mirror at her maid's face as she set about working on her hair. The scar stood out on the side of her face, which even now set the blood boiling underneath her skin. Sophie was one of her closest friends in the castle and thought of anyone hurting her was a bad one. Sophie was honest and kind, a trait many of the residents in castle lacked.

"It is probably that," Clary agreed as Sophie stepped back to admire her work. Her hair was left loose in ringlets aside from the two braids drawing her hair back at the front.

"It's wonderful," Clary complimented.

"Thank you," Sophie answered and smiled, going to fetch some shoes for Clary, who stepped into them and straightened up. She carefully arranged her features into a blank but pleasant mask and strolled out of her chambers.

The click of the heels announced her coming as she walked along to the great double oak doors, which were opened for her by the guards upon her arrival. Back ram rod straight, she entered the great dining hall, all sorts of cuisine laid out on the long Oakwood table. Her father sat at the end of the table, in the place of honour, seated in an elaborate chair. Even as he ate he kept his crown firmly on his head. Her brother was to his right, his platinum hair ringed by his circlet of silver. They both turned as the door opened, announcing her arrival. She curtsied lowly out of courtesy and straightened, walking to her place on the King's left. She felt as if perhaps she too should be wearing her own crown, though it was usually only a formal requirement.

"Good morning, Clarissa," her father greeted her as she took her seat as gracefully as possible.

"Good morning, Father," she replied and nodded towards her brother, "Jonathon."

He nodded and she set about buttering herself some fresh bread. The silence stretched out for a long length of time as each of the royalty ate their fill.

"May I be excused, father?" Clary asked politely once she was finished and realised that nothing further would happen. The King looked at her fully, his gaze raking across her in thoughtful scrutiny. Clary fought the urge to squirm. His eyes had a habit of piercing through her and making her feel as though he could read into her very soul.

"Not yet, Clarissa. There is a matter of importance of which I wish to speak with you first," he said, voice as calm and commanding as always. Jonathon's head snapped up from where he had been tracing the wineglass with his fingers, interest evident in his eyes. Both siblings subconsciously leant forward, anticipating what their father had to say.

"You are of sixteen years of age and it is appropriate that we address the matter of your marital status," he announced, eyes challenging anyone to speak otherwise.

Clary tensed, balling her fingers into fists in her lap. She knew it was only a matter of time. Jonathon raised an eyebrow, an entertained look in his eyes.

"Have you found a suitable match, father?" he asked, eyes flitting between the other two at the table.

"I do believe I have," the King answered, surveying his daughter to gauge her reaction. He knew she would not take the news lightly and was prone to irrational behaviour. Such was the reason of most of her disciplining as a child.

Clary fought hard not to burst into a fit of protests, biting her tongue with great effort. Fruitless bouts of defiance would only lead to painful lashes.

"Am I to meet with him?" she asked, her voice surprisingly level for the amount of panic and outrage festering inside her.

"I am almost certain you will meet him, as he is arriving today to join us in our celebration," he informed her. She digested the information, as it would mean he would most certainly be a man of great power.

"Do you intend to tell me who this man is?" she asked anxiously, knowing already what his answer will be.

"No," he said, "I will announce your engagement on the third night of festivities."

Clary knew why he would delay it too, as keeping her in the dark relinquished her power over the situation and made sure he had control. She glanced over to Jonathon, who was smirking to himself. She fought the urge to hurl a steak knife at his head.

"No matter whether you know your suitor or not," the King continued, "you are to behave with the utmost grace and respect to every individual you converse with in these upcoming days. I will not tolerate any behaviour that is out of line and if I hear of it you will see yourself chained in the dungeons without hesitation. Do not think that I would not, engaged or otherwise," he warned, shooting Clary a sharp look.

"Jonathon," he addressed his son, "you are not to stray from your position. The festivals are not an excuse to abandon your duty to the Shadowhunters. Training in the daytime is still mandatory."

Jonathon looked put out, causing Clary to smirk, which did not go unnoticed by their father.

"Neither of you are to leave the castle grounds. The guards will be notified," he announced, to their utmost dismay.

"But father, there are demons to be killed-" Jonathon protested at the same time that Clary burst out, this being the last straw.

"You can't do that! I have friends outside the castle. If I am going to be married off than I need to say goodbye-"

"SILENCE!" the King roared, banging a fist onto the table with a clutter of cutlery, causing both of them to stop immediately. He had risen to his feet and now towered over the two. "You dare to speak against my decisions!" he shouted. "I am the King and you two had better start respecting that or do I need to beat it into you?" He glared at the pair of them. "Jonathon, when was the last time you actually killed a demon?"

Jonathon looked uncomfortable. They all knew that he neglected his duties for the town, drinking and having fun in the pubs instead.

"And Clarissa," he said, rounding on her, "You are marrying a very powerful man who is of the upmost importance to this kingdom. You must learn to hold your tongue or I will cut it out for you."

"Surely my husband would want to converse with me?" she shot back, fired up now. His jaw clenched and she instantly regretted speaking.

"There are other ways I could silence you," he said, twirling his stele between his fingers. "Don't make me use them on you,"

She nodded and dipped her head in submissal. A silence rune was not what she needed.

"My apologies father. I was acting irrationally," she apologised, conscious of his aggressive demeanour. He grunted.

"Regardless, let this be a lesson for you to learn. Your future husband will be no more lenient than me," he said, and then composed himself. "Make good use of the day and I shall see you two tonight at the dance," he announced and made his leave.

***

"ARGHH!" Clary screamed, kicking a bale of hay out of her way in the stable loft. "I can't believe he'd do that!"

She paced back and forth before tiring and flopping back down into a soft pile of hay in exasperation. She glared up at the wooden beams in the ceiling, glaring at the pretty swirling dust motes. The wooden ladder creaked as Simon climbed up it. Clary turned to look up at him and huffed, turning away.

"Bad news?" Simon guessed, cautiously perching next to her.

"You have no idea," Clary muttered.

"Would you care to enlighten me?" he replied, picking at a piece of straw. Clary sighed.

"The King has announced that I am to be betrothed," she said quietly.

Simon sucked in a sharp breath.

"So soon?" he asked, the hurt threatening to take over his voice.

"It's hardly a surprise, and as my brother was so keen to tell me, 'sixteen is the ripe age for bride'."

"If doesn't make it any better, is there any way-"

"No Simon, do you really believe my father would let me out of this?"

Simon huffed.

"This new man could really hurt you. You'd have to live with him, give him heirs-"

"You think I haven't thought of that? I don't want this any more than you do," she snapped back.

"I'm sorry, I just don't want to lose a friend," Simon apologised, moving to sit side by side with her.

"Neither do I. I could be living anywhere. I'll be away from you, Izzy, Tess… everyone I love," she said, "and what makes it even worse is that I am not even allowed to leave the castle!"

Simon sighed.

"Do you know when the wedding is to be?" he asked.

"No, and I suspect my father will leave it until the night before to tell me," she replied, pulling apart pieces of straw.

The sound of hooves on cobblestones floated through the open hay door and they both sat up, looking through to see who had arrived. Simon immediately scrambled to his feet and almost fell down the ladder. Clary watched from the high window as Simon ran out to take the reins of the two horses. It was unfortunately the blonde prince and his advisor, although Clary laughed to herself thinking about the fight.

They were both still striking, even when observed from afar. Both were heavily decked in noble attire, the prince wearing an elaborate crown. A carriage trundled in behind them, coming to an abrupt halt behind the two on horseback. By this time Clary was leaning so far out the hatch that she almost fell, catching herself on the ledge. The movement caused the prince to look up in her direction and upon seeing her he smirked, a clear gleam in his eye. He nodded his head to her. She ducked away as soon as he made eye contact, avoiding the attention of the whole procession. Her heart was beating erratically and she jumped as a commotion erupted downstairs as the stablehands dealt with each horse. She rushed down to help, glancing out to where her father was busy greeting King Stephen and Queen Celine, along with their pretentious son, of course.

"Gah! I can't hold him!" someone yelled and she whipped around to see a mighty black horse rearing up and kicking out at Cyril who was struggling to keep him tethered. He was clearly powerful and poor Cyril was caught by one of the hoofs and was sent flying. Simon and Thomas rushed to control the horse before it bolted, but seemed to be having no better luck and the horse tossed its head, causing the reins to slip from their grasp. Clary recklessly ran at the horse, leaping up onto the saddle and grabbing the reins. It reared up but she held on fast and blinded it with her hand. It ceased its fretting and calmed. Breathlessly she looked up to find all three stable hands gaping at her.

"It's a Shadowhunter thing," Simon declared and returned to the task of unsaddling the other horse. Clary smiled and slid off the horse, petting its muzzle.

"He's a gentle giant really," she cooed and they all scoffed.

"You can handle him if he's so gentle then," Cyril said and set about mucking out an empty stall for the new arrivals.

"It responds to dominancy, which you guys obviously lack," she teased and set about unsaddling the beast.

"No," Cyril disagreed, "It responds to Nephilim, which we are not."

Clary sighed."I suppose so," she agreed and heaved the heavy saddle onto a saddle hook. She then began scrubbing the horse down, a pretty big task considering the sheer size of the animal.

"Shouldn't you be busying yourself elsewhere?" Thomas asked as he walked past her.

"Probably," she replied honestly, "but I prefer it here."

"Whether it be your preference or not, you'll ruin your dress," he shot back and she looked down at the dress, which was indeed already dirty.

"To hell with the dress," she said confidently. They laughed.

"In case you haven't noticed darling you're a princess," he informed her, amusement coating his voice and she threw the thoroughly wet sponge in his face. Her training coming into use as it landed perfectly.

"In case you haven't noticed, I don't care," she said and began brushing out its mane. Thomas grunted and they all laughed, but he made sure to knock her playfully round the head when he next past her.

***

"Clary! For goodness sake! Stop!" Charlotte urged, although her tone was light and her eyes held only fondness for the girl.

"Charlotte, you are up to your neck in work," she pointed out, continuing to scrub the massive pan in her hands. "It's the least I can do,"

Charlotte sighed, wiping her hands against her greasy apron. Clary turned her attention to the pot with increased vigour, before reaching out to grab a second one. Charlotte stopped her before she could continue. Clary had been labouring away in the stuffy confines of the kitchen for a good few hours.

"Clary," she said, this time softly, but yet more stern. Clary huffed and looked up into Charlotte's eyes, leaning back against the wood counter. Charlotte instinctively tucked a stray piece of Clary's hair behind her ear. It was a loving motherly gesture and Clary closed her eyes.

"Is this really to do with the work?" Charlotte asked gently. Clary looked down, but Charlotte could see the tears brimming in her eyes. Without even a second thought she hugged the princess to her chest, stroking her hair as the royal girl cried.

"I am to be betrothed," Clary said, hugging onto her only motherly figure tightly. Jocelyn had been in her coma for a good seven years now.

"Oh, Clary." Charlotte soothed her, and pulled back to hold her at arm's length. Her hand went to cup her cheek and wipe away the tears.

"You are strong, independent and tough. You can give this new man a run for his money that's for sure," she said and Clary laughed quietly. "It will be fine, Clary. You'll be fine,"

Clary fidgeted with the skirts of her very much ruined dress nervously.

"I'm just…scared," she admitted. Charlotte smiled and squeezed her cheek before dropping her hand.

"And that is perfectly understandable," she reassured her.

"Clarissa!" Sophie called, she looked flustered and relieved when she came up to them. "We have to get you ready for the dance and-" she faltered, taking in Clary's attire. "What on earth have you been doing!?"

"I…just," Clary said, not willing to explain herself. Charlotte smiled and pulled Clary in for one last hug and kissed her forehead.

"Go," she urged her. Clary nodded and obediently followed Sophie out of the kitchens and up to her chambers.

***

Clary sucked a breath sharply as Sophie tugged harshly on the corset laces, lashing them incredibly tight.

"I'm still going to have to breathe!" Clary gasped out, reminding Sophie. Sophie smiled apologetically but didn't loosen them any further, instead finishing and stepping back to force Clary back into the vanity seat for the second time that day. Clary stared glumly at the mirror and waited patiently as Sophie poked, prodded, brushed, tugged and powdered her face and hair to oblivion. After centuries Sophie was finally finished and Clary reached for her favourite boots, but of course Sophie presented her with dreaded heels instead. She sighed, but put them on without a fuss.

"There, see?" Sophie tried to encourage her, turning her around to face the long mirror. Her face was immaculate, her hair gorgeously curled. The dress itself even she had to admit was a beauty, it had a neckline of embroidered leaves and flowed out from her waist in a myriad of deep autumn colours – looking as if it were a bed of fallen leaves. Sophie smiled and set the royal circlet upon her head carefully, it was a twisted thread of stars and leaves, the combination of both Morgenstern and Fairchild symbols. The relationship between the two families being age old. Clary often wondered how many other young girls had worn it before her, although she really ought to know considering the arduous history lessons she should have paid attention to.

"I am certain you will be the most beautiful girl at the dance," Sophie assured her, beaming brightly. She smiled back but her heart wasn't in it. What was the point in appearing beautiful when she felt like she was dying inside?

"Perhaps," she replied instead and rummaged around in her nearby desk, shifting sheets and sheets of sketches. Her fingers made contact with the cylindrical shape of her stele and she smiled in relief, pulling it out of the pile before carefully sinking onto her four poster bed. Sophie watched in silence and awe as she sketched runes of Agility, Strength, Stamina, Flexibility and even a Calming rune, such as was the extent of Clary's anxiety. Once she was done her arms were illustrated with the swirling patterns and Sophie thought she looked more ready for battle than a dance. The princess did look noticeably calmer and she stood up, thanking Sophie for her work before leaving to find her brother.

She found him lurking close by to her chambers, he nodded at her in greeting as his eyes examining her attire.

"Exquisite," he complimented and she couldn't help the small smile.

"You clean up pretty well too," she replied, it was true of course. He looked quite handsome, although she doubted he was suffering the same suffocation as she was. He laughed.

"I see you have not changed much," he commented, before presenting arms with her so that he could escort.

"Why? Should I have?" she retorted. He raised an eyebrow at her.

"Why? Because you are a woman now, Clary. A soon to be married one at that," he answered, drawing her a little closer to his side as they walked down the winding corridors of the castle. She huffed – trust Jonathon to bring up her engagement.

"I do not want to discuss that matter," she told him. He smirked.

"You cannot spend the entire night avoiding any male that you come across," he informed her, "In fact, I forbid it. I suspect father will to. Remember Clary, he'll be watching you like a hawk,"

"Well then he can spectate as I avoid them all," she retorted. Jonathon pinched her arm discreetly, still nodding to the few guests that they passed. She recoiled, but he tugged her arm back into his.

"No, Clary." He scolded her, "You will be the most beautiful woman at the dance and as the daughter of the host it is your duty to converse and entertain the guests. Every single one."

"Surely, I can't dance with them all?" she replied smartly. He growled and she flinched slightly, edging away from him but he pulled her back.

"Have it as you wish," he told her, "but don't come running to me when father punishes you for it,"

She shivered involuntarily and he smirked.

"I see that you have made up your mind," he observed smugly. She huffed and he drew them to a stop as they arrived at the entrance of the great dance hall.

***

The dance was in full swing and Clary was fighting to keep up with the rapid pace of the music as she danced with the large man in front of her. He crushed her small hand in his and she was relieved when the dance ended. The man kissed her hand and she smiled falsely before moving away to search for a drink. Alas, someone grabbed her hand and elegantly turned her round to face them. Her hand was in the grip of a dark, handsome man. His hair was as dark as night and his eyes were even darker, the artist in her could appreciate his beauty but there something about him that made her want to cringe away.

"May I have this dance?" he asked, lifting her hand to his lips. She wanted to refuse but dutifully agreed. He smiled widely and led her back onto the dance floor, her hand possessively in his. He drew them closer than any of the other men had and his hand felt incredibly intrusive on her hip.

"I must say, you do look beautiful," he said as he spun them around the floor, drawing her flush against him. His possessiveness made her wonder whether he was her suitor. She shivered in disgust at the thought and he smirked, taking it the wrong way. The dance seemed to last forever and when it finally did finish he leaned down towards her. She panicked, thinking he was about to kiss her, but instead he tucked a stray curl behind her ear and drew back. She let out as deep a sigh of relief as her restrictive corset allowed. His eyes found something else in the room and Clary almost ran to the buffet table in her haste to get away from him.

Charlotte had really outdone herself and Clary wondered what food she could eat first. She took a glass of water to quench her growing thirst and then reached out to the chocolate swirls. It tasted so good that it wouldn't do any harm to have anymore would it? At the fifth one she knew she should stop but it tastes so good! She reached out for another when someone cleared their throat from behind her. She whirled around and was a little startled when she laid eyes on blonde Prince Jonathon the arrogant. She smiled in recollection.

"Ah, Clarissa," he said. He looked thoroughly amused, she wanted to punch the infuriating smirk of his face. "It appears to me that you have managed to dance with every other male but me. I feel left out," he commented. I bet you do, she thought.

"Oh," she replied, "well I assure you it is unintentional, Prince…."

"Jonathon," he supplied, "but you can call me Jace," he added with a wink. I have a few other words I'd call you: arrogant, asshat, loser…

"Well okay, Jace." She said instead. He smiled broadly and took her hand.

"May I have the privilege of a dance?" he asked and she nodded. He smiled impossibly wider and led her back to the floor. He drew her in for the dance, but thankfully kept a little more distance than the other man did. They were still a little too close though. As he twirled her, she noticed his left eye looked slightly bruised and tender as if it were the fading's of a black eye. She couldn't help but laugh a little. Jace cocked an eyebrow at her in question.

"Is there something you find amusing?" He asked, voice as pure as liquid gold and as annoying as hell.

"Nothing," she replied, flashing him an innocent smile. His hand tightened fractionally on her hip to draw her a little closer.

"I am certain it was something," he said and leant down closer to her ear, "You can tell me,"

"Of course I can," she replied back, "but it depends whether I want to,"

He laughed and lifted her up in time with dance, twirling her close to him as soon as her feet touched the ground. She hated ball room dancing, it meant that you had to get so close to your partner. Tavern dancing was much less intimate and much more fun.

"You look far away," Jace commented, "something on your mind?"

She only rolled her eyes. He raised an eyebrow.

"That's rude for a princess," he remarked.

"Who are you?" she argued back, "My brother?"

"No, I am evidently not," he said, and there was a little gleam in his eye that told her he knew something she didn't. It unsettled her. Did he have some conspiracy with her brother? She huffed.

"So, aren't you meant to be asking me questions about myself? Getting to your guests? Welcoming me into your kingdom?"

"I'm sure you've already made yourself welcome," she muttered, although due to their close proximity, he heard. He narrowed his eyes.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing," she answered brightly. He raised another eyebrow at her – unconvinced.

"I just meant that I'm sure my father has already done all that." She covered.

Jace nodded.

"He has, but I wished to hear it from a beautiful young girl such as yourself," he said, obviously flirting with her. She resisted another eye roll just as the song came to an end. He bent down to kiss her hand in passing. It was seen as rude to dance with the same person for more than one dance-that is if you were not married of course.

"I hope to speak with you again, Clarissa," he said, although she was certain they would meet at some point. He didn't seem like the type to leave her alone.

"And I you," she replied, merely out of courtesy as she could feel her father's eyes one her. Jace smiled and left to speak with the other guests. She turned to catch eyes with the King who studied her before turning back to King Stephen at his side. She sighed and waited for the next male to come and sweep her off her feet.

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