"MADZIE LOOK OUT!" Rafael shouted as he let loose an arrow. It lodged right into a shax demon's abdomen just as the young warlock dodged the shot.
"Godammit, there's too many of them!" Madzie cursed, purple sparks building at her fingertips.
"We should call for backup!" Max exclaimed as he and Alexandra synchronised and split a shax demon in two. They defaulted back-to-back and acted as a barrier between the demons and their team mates.
"Where are those damn hellhounds?" Rafael gritted his teeth in frustration, taking out yet another demon with his bow. "Asmodeus is crafty, don't let your guard down!" He warned, aware of Madzie pulling out her pistols, the demonic carvings glowing purple in the process. She didn't usually have to use them but the hellhounds were made by one of the most powerful greater demons.
"Magnus warned us that Asmodeus was looking for a way to undo us, whatever the hell that means." Alexandra groaned, seraph blade plunging into a demons throat as it approached Max.
"We can't let them get away." Max urged, summoning his own magic to conserve strength.
"To do that we need to find them first." Alexandra grumbled in annoyance and pulled Max back to regroup with the other two.
"I'm calling backup." Rafael sighed and started writing a fire message to the others at the institute.
"LOOK!" Madzie exclaimed, purple fingers directing everyone's gaze. Amber eyes glared from the shadows. A low growl seized the air and the hair rose on everyone's skin. The small group of remaining shax demons were the least of their problems. Hounds with hair as dark as night emerged from behind a cluster of trees. Their movements jerked and jaws snapped, spittle flying through the bitter air. They were truly things of nightmares - the bright yet soulless eyes capturing the soul and forcing all your deepest fears. They rushed to the mind, disrupting the calm like a stone in water. Rafael was the first to shake off the gripping fear that bled into him.
"Focus! We've got the spell to defeat them, we can't let them roam New York." He commanded and the others snapped out of their trance. Immediately Alexandra and Max were back to battling the shax demons, determination flaring. Rafael and Madzie didn't take their eyes off the hell hounds, stances ready. "Cover us!" Rafael stood strong, seraph blades in hand as the creatures weaved through the gravestones.
To their surprise, the hellhounds' attention was diverted from the shadowhunters and warlock. Rafael immediately switched out for his bow, aiming at the two dogs as they bounded away. "Where the hell are they going?" Madzie exclaimed in alarm. Max and Alexandra slayed the last shax demons before joining their friends.
"We have to go after them!" Max exclaimed in worry, already taking off.
"Max!" Rafael barked in anger, chasing his younger brother, the other two hot on his tail. Max felt a shiver of revulsion as he approached the bony and boiled backs covered in smatterings of dark hair. They truly were the objects of nightmares. He slowed to a stop as a blinding light appeared. Squinting, Max could make out the light pulsing and twisting until a familiar swirl of gold was visible.
"They're making a portal!" Max exclaimed in alarm. Rafael stopped by his side, confusion seeping into his features as the gold mixed with a bright amber not typical in simple portals. As the hellhounds stalked towards the light Max's hands tightened around his blades. "We can't let them escape!" Once again Max reacted before thinking and sprinted after the dark figures towards the portal.
"MAX WAIT!" Rafael called again, the worry clear in the strain of his voice. Determined not to miss the chance to keep his family safe from Asmodeus, Max started chanting the spell as he ran. White and scarlet flames sparked at his finger tips before gliding up his blades and made the adamas glow fiercely. Deaf to his brother's protest, Max charged forward - weapons raised to strike. Just as he was about to cut down the beasts, they leapt through the portal to god-knows-where.
"NO!" Max exclaimed in anger and without considering the danger, he stormed through the portal after them.
"MAX!" Rafael screamed as the girls made similar sounds of distress. As they approached the portal spluttered and started to shrink. "I'm going after him!" Rafael stated, focused solely on his brother's safety.
"But-" Alexandra began but Rafael cut back in with one last order.
"Tell dad what happened, I'll bring that idiot back!" and without another word Rafael jumped through the shrinking portal.
Max had been through portals before - hell, he made portals of his own - but it had never felt like this. He couldn't focus, he felt like he was looking in 5 different directions yet couldn't comprehend why he was there. He didn't know why he couldn't remember why he was there and felt distress as his body felt like it was being pulled t every angle. Colours blurred and his head pulsed. He felt sick and just as it was easing up and he could finally focus, he was suddenly horizontal. Pain flared in his joints and in his face where it contacted the ground. With a groan, he slowly pried his face from the damp grass. He blinked deliriously and was finally beginning to recover before being winded by a weight on his back.
"FUCK!" A familiar voice exclaimed and Max could only groan in reply. He let his body relax into the ground, his strength felt unpredictable after the acid trip he'd just experienced. He was vaguely aware of rustling beside him before he was ripped from the floor and forced to look into hazel eyes. "You complete knob! Who goes through a portal unprepared?! You know better than all of us how dangerous that is!" The angry voice rattled inside his skull but it finally clicked into place what had happened as the words sunk in. He winced when he felt the bruising grip of his brother on his shoulders and groaned when Rafael shook him whilst cursing.
"OK OK I'M SORRY. STOP. STOP I'M GOING TO BE SICK!" Max cried and shoved his brother away. Rafael growled in annoyance before looking around, seraph blade at the ready. When Max's wits finally returned to him, he grabbed a hold of his own seraph blades that were no longer glowing. Remembering why he suffered the experience in the first place, Max jumped to his feet and joined his brother in a defensive stance. His eyes darted round the cemetery for any signs of dark fur and scorched skin.
"Where the hell did they go?" Max frowned, inching towards his brother.
"I'm not sure, I can't hear or see anything. The atmosphere isn't malicious anymore." Rafael assessed, only vaguely aware and happy that his brother was subtly seeking comfort from him by standing close. After a few minutes of checking the perimeter and ensuring they were safe, the brothers finally relaxed.
"I can't believe they escaped!" Max exclaimed angrily, kicking at a gravestone. Rafael huffed a breath of annoyance.
"You shouldn't have been so reckless!" He chastised. Max rolled his eyes, swinging round to look at his older brother with a sarcastic grace he no doubt got from his papa. Max opened his mouth to retaliate but Rafael's brows furrowed. "Where are the girls?"
Max glanced around, just as confused. "Did they leave?"
"Maybe we moved location." Rafael speculated but Max shook his head.
"No it's definitely the same cemetery." Max assured, recognising the small church and surrounding graves they'd fought in only moments ago.
"Are you sure? Something feels off ... different." Rafael hesitated and surveyed the area with more scrutiny. "Maybe time passed differently in there. That portal was unlike any I'd seen." Rafael reasoned.
"Yeah ... yeah that's plausible. Sometimes my timing can get a bit off when I portal to the institute." Max swallowed before turning to his brother. "Rafa, what should we do? We're all alone, the hounds are out there and the girls are missing!" he panicked a little, looking for guidance. His brother was a born leader - the lightwood blood running strong in his veins. He was more like their father out of the two of them. Max was certain his dad would hand the institute over to his older brother some day soon.
"Maxie calm down. We'll figure this out, we just need to regroup and figure out a strategy to stop those demons from hurting any one else." Rafael reassured and clasped a large hand on his brother's shoulder. He felt his protectiveness flare when he felt his brother shaking a little. Max realised this too and swallowed before taking a calming breath. He smiled at Rafael.
"So, what then?" Max coaxed, trying to divert back to the situation at hand.
"Let's head back to the institute. If we're right about the time being off then our backup may have already headed back. They will be worried, let's head back." Rafael decided.
"But the hounds-"
"Are long gone. We can track them at the institute." Rafael cut off his brother's protests and looked sincere. "Don't beat yourself up about not catching them. They're the most difficult thing we've faced yet." Rafael sighed when he saw his brother's face scrunch up with conflict. "Come on. The sooner we get back, the sooner we catch them." This seemed to appease Max as he perked up and nodded.
Both brothers hastily left the cemetery, cutting through the park. The night air nipped at every exposed piece of skin on their bodies and Max couldn't suppress a shiver. He felt brief annoyance at his big brother's ability to ignore the cold but it was fleeting in his grand scheme of problems. Something else started to settle over him the further they got. Max couldn't help but feel uncomfortable - finally understanding what his brother said when things felt different. He looked around at the familiar surroundings and couldn't help but host this flicker of homesickness. He swallowed at the discomfort and tried to ignore how daunting the feeling was.
They finally made it onto the street and came to a halt. A car leisurely drove past - no where pressing to be at that time of night. "It's definitely later. It wasn't this abandoned when we got here." Rafael confirmed, feeling uneasy from the quietness of the street. Max nodded even though his brother couldn't see him and followed as Rafael headed in the direction of the institute.
It didn't take long for the building's towers to come into sight. However the closer they got, the slower Rafael found himself walking. Max frowned in confusion when his brother stopped in his tracks. "What are you doing? let's go!" Max urged. Rafael frowned, looking hesitant.
"Something's not right." Rafael tried to reason.
"All the more reason to investigate." Max rolled his eyes in annoyance. Rafael glared.
"Doesn't it feel different to you?" He insisted. Fighting the urge to retaliate, Max took a moment to take in the surroundings. He breathed in and focused on letting his magic feel the area around him. When it reached the institute, he jerked his head up and frowned. "What is it?"
Max turned to his curious brother. "The institute's warding has changed. It's not as secure as I remember and it doesn't recognise my magic." Max explained in alarm. Rafael looked just as concerned but couldn't offer any explanation. "The hell is going on?!" Max demanded, his runed hand running through his dark blue hair.
"Hey, hey it's alright. We'll figure this out." Rafael soothed and tucked a finger under Max's chin. Max's seeking blue eyes met his brother's warm hazel ones. "I won't let anything happen to us. It might be a misunderstanding." Once again his brother's reason always managed to calm Max down. He couldn't help his anxiety - he'd been anxious since he was a kid, terrified of his father's abandoning him. It didn't bother him so much now that he knew he was adopted but it planted some irrational fears from a young age despite the loving environment he grew up in. He was so grateful his brother was patient enough to help him through it and remind him that he was loved.
"Okay." Rafael smiled before turning his focus back on the institute. It was just in time to see a figure storm out of the front. Rafael tugged Max behind him and retreated into the shadows. As the figure got closer the brother's held their breath as they recognised who it was.
"Oh thank god." Max smiled and moved forward. "PA-" Suddenly he was tugged back and a hand was thrown over his mouth. Max froze as his brother shushed him, eyes narrowed in on their father. Magnus' face held an expression of rage as he stormed out the gate and threw a portal into existence. Max struggled in his brother's hold, not seeing the problem, and only managed to get free when Magnus disappeared. "What the hell?!" Max seethed.
"Didn't he seem different?" Rafael tried to explain.
"He's our father!" Max exclaimed angrily.
Rafael looked annoyed. "I know but ... he looked ... different." he hesitated, trying to find the right word.
"Different how?" Max snapped.
"I don't know ... he looked almost ... young?" Rafael offered.
Max looked at his brother incredulously. "He doesn't age!" he scoffed.
"I know but he somehow looks younger than when we last saw him. Look ... I know it sounds weird but trust me on this. I don't think anyone we know here is quite the same. I just have a bad feeling and we can't go charging up to someone without being prepared. Maybe something's happened." Rafael stressed, his cautious hackles rising. He couldn't explain it.
Max, although pissed, knew his brother had a good sense of judgement. That was one of the good qualities he had as a leader. "Fine." he huffed. "Then what do you suppose we do? Just wait for something to happen?" He proposed harshly.
"No I still think we should go investigate but ... just with more caution. My gut is telling me to be prepared for whatever's waiting for us in there." Rafael reasoned. Max's breath hitched, feeling a small stab of fear. His brother seemed pretty adamant that they keep an open mind.
"O-okay. How do we approach?"
Rafael looked thoughtful. "Keep your weapons ready but don't draw them. If there's a peaceful scenario I'd rather take it." Max nodded in agreement and slid his seraph blades into the holsters but keeping his magic buzzing beneath his fingers. The brothers shared a look of understanding and trust before approaching the institute doors. Immediately Max could feel the wards resist them and alert whoever was inside. They waited patiently but prepared for what would greet them.
Finally the door swung open and the boy's simultaneously tensed and breathed in relief when a familiar face greeted them. However, it was short-lived once hearing the words that came next.
"Who are you? State your intent."