Waves washed foaming up the shore, the sound lulling Magnus into calm. Black, gritty sand clung to his palms where he'd rested his hands on the ground. Overhead, in a scorched sky, the shrill calls of lesser demons wheeling in distant circles, playing lookout for the King of Edom.
It reminded Magnus of Maui, back on Earth. Here, in Edom, this was one of the last islands in this realm. There was only one great ocean here, twice as large as the Pacific, and dreaded creatures of the deep reigned supreme.
The sun set the clouds aflame in gold and crimson before sinking below the horizon. The demons that had been flying above screeched once more and soared away, towards a different island not too far away. They knew better than to intrude.
Magnus stood up and dusted the sand off the backs of his thighs and calves, before he picked up the book he'd been reading: Pseudomonarchia Daemonum. On Earth, it was an appendix to De praestigiis daemonum, of which Magnus had a first edition and he even had Wierus sign it. This copy of the Pseudomonarchia Daemonum, however, was a lot more accurate, listing the hierarchies of demon princes and lords in excruciating detail, along with the feuds and alliances formed among them. This edition was written by Amon.
'Asmodeus is a Prince of Hell. He is also King of Edom, co-ruler with Lilith, though they are not allies of the other. Lilith longs to have her own children, and yet is barren; while Asmodeus has a multitude of offspring that he scorns, save for one, whom he named Kekasih, and has kept hidden from the eyes of Hell and Heaven. The enmity between Lilith and Asmodeus is unlikely to be resolved in the near future.'
With the tome tucked under his arm, Magnus walked back to the cottage. Built with volcanic rock and tiled with gray slate, it might have been charming in a lusher setting, but it just looked harsh and unforgiving, sitting alone on top of the barren slope.
At least the inside was cozy. The walls were cream-colored, and the furnishings were plain. Books dominated the space. Magnus set his book down on the chair by the foyer while he brushed off sand grains still clinging stubbornly to his clothes. When he looked up, he saw Asmodeus waiting in the entryway to the kitchen.
“Father,” Magnus said quietly.
Asmodeus smiled. As it had been since Magnus came with him to Edom, the smile was full of delight and warmth. “Magnus. How was the book?”
“It was informative.” The warlock inclined his head and avoided his father's fond gaze. “I'm going to make dinner. Is there anything in particular you'd like?”
“Perhaps Thai?” Asmodeus stepped closer and pressed a light kiss to Magnus' forehead. His hand was warm where he cupped his son's cheek. “I'd love to have some tod mun pla.”
Magnus unclenched his jaw and nodded tightly. “Thai fish cakes then, and green curry with rice also.”
“Sounds wonderful. I'll conjure up some takoh for dessert.” Asmodeus brushed his knuckles over Magnus' cheek. “I'll be in my study.”
It was all very domestic.
If not for the binding collar around his neck keeping him from using magic, it would have been like back when Magnus was young and ignorant. He took a deep, shaky breath to hold back his nausea and anger, before he headed for the kitchen.
One week down. Three more to go.
He hoped Alec had recovered.
Alec was allowed out of bed once all the tests showed that he wasn't suffering from any internal injuries. Jace appointed himself Alec's nurse for the day, just to make sure he wasn't about to keel over from some undetected wound. Alec, however, was an unappreciative patient.
“I'm fine, Jace, leave me alone,” said Alec, even as he nearly stumbled pulling on his jeans.
“You're barely able to walk under your own steam, jerk,” Jace snapped. He huffed angrily and stuck his hands into his pockets. “Look, I'm not saying you have to stay in the Institute, but for your own sake, will you at least eat something?”
“I'll grab something from Starbucks,” Alec said. He pulled on his jacket and checked that he had two steles on him. Then he rubbed the amber ring on his left hand. He was going to go to Magnus' loft, and he would find out somehow why everyone seemed to have forgotten the warlock. Magnus was centuries old; there was no way he left no trace of his existence.
Jace slapped a hand on Alec's chest when the taller shadowhunter tried to exit. “Alec. Steve's been cooking all morning. At least eat a serving of his fucking shrimp gumbo, okay? He said it was for everyone but we know it's for you.”
Alec wanted to say that he didn't care who made the food, but there was a plea in his parabatai's eyes that Alec had to give in. Following the blond to the kitchen, he saw a huge pot on the stove, and Underhill in a plain navy apron stirring it.
Underhill swiveled around when he saw Jace and Alec entering the kitchen. “Hey! Uh, hey. I've made-”
“Shrimp gumbo,” Alec supplied. The small smile on his face was forced, and from the tension around Underhill's eyes, the latter noticed. Alec made himself relax. “Thanks. It smells good.”
Jace all but shoved Alec into a chair, and then muttered something about having left his stele in Alec's room. It was obvious he wanted to leave Alec and Underhill to talk in private.
Underhill ladled gumbo over a plate of white rice, placing it with a quiet clink in front of Alec. “Here,” he said, handing over utensils.
“Thanks.” Alec looked down at his food. It looked good and his stomach, apparently having been deprived of solid food for a week, grumbled loudly.
Underhill smiled. “I held back on the spices. Didn't want to overload your digestive system your first real day out of bed.”
Not knowing how to respond, Alec dug in. It was savory and fulfilling, and within minutes he'd cleared the plate. Briefly, he debated if he should get a second serving, but Underhill was faster; he rose, filled the plate again, and set it down in front of Alec with practiced ease.
Alec stared at him, and then stared down at the food. “Th-thank you.”
The soft, almost pensive tone in Underhill's voice startled Alec into looking up and meeting the other shadowhunter's eyes. Underhill was looking at Alec like he was precious and impossible, and like he was holding at bay a storm of heartbreak.
Alec knew this look. He'd seen it on Magnus, back when the warlock chose to walk away from their relationship to align to the Seelie court. Back when Alec thought his heart would shatter into a million pieces, never to be put back together.
It was beyond jarring to see this exact look in another man's face.
Abruptly, he lost his appetite. He forced down another few mouthfuls and then set down his fork. “I... I don't think I can eat any more.”
Underhill seemed to shake himself. Nodding, he cleared away the food and went to the sink. “Yeah, best not to, um. Best not to overwhelm yourself so soon.”
His voice sounded strange, but Alec didn't want to discover why. He pushed away from the table, his chair scraping obnoxiously loudly, and fled the kitchen. He had gone barely two steps when Jace caught up to him.
“Hey. Did you two-”
“No.” Alec knew he sounded angry, but he wasn't. He was confused and bewildered, but not angry. Whatever had happened here wasn't Underhill's fault, and it wasn't Jace's fault. He stalked all the way down to the library, Jace on his heels, and went to the shelves on demons.
Jace helped him carry a stack to the nearest table. “What are you looking for?”
“I want to find a demon.” Alec opened the volume of De praestigiis daemonum. Johann Weyer had been a shadowhunter whose works went into the wider world. It was an accident that this volume had become popular among Mundane occultists, but only those with the Sight could read between the lines in the original volume. Alec was doing this right now, scanning the entries for princes of Hell to find Asmodeus' name.
The cover was slammed shut. Jace appeared uncharacteristically serious, his mismatched eyes glinting in the light. “Why are you looking for a demon, Alec?”
“Because Magnus is his son!” Alec hissed.
“Magnus isn't a real person, Alec!” Jace whispered harshly. “What the hell has gotten into you? Did Daji hypnotize you or something? The hell did she do to your head?”
“She didn't-” Alec bit off his retort. Taking a deep breath, he asked, “How did Daji die?”
Jace frowned. “You shot her. Your arrow, right through her heart, just as she fired that spell at you that knocked you into a coma.”
“I didn't do that.”
“Alec, I saw you. We all did.”
“No, you didn't, because it didn't happen.” Alec inhaled sharply. He was not delusional. Magnus' ring was on his finger, and he remembered everything Magnus had said before he became unconscious. Magnus was real. Magnus existed. This world – this world was wrong. “Daji collapsed half the tower, and you and Clary, and Izzy, Simon and Maia, all of you managed to escape back here, before you were crushed. Then Daji used her magic and dangled me off the side of the tower, she was going to let me fall straight to the ground, and it was-” Alec had to clench his fists and take another deep, shuddering breath before he could go on. “It was Magnus who saved me. He grabbed me, with magic, and threw Daji against a wall. I heard her spine and other bones crack, Jace. I heard it, and it's going to haunt me for ages. I offered her – I offered her a chance. No, listen. I offered her a chance if she'd submit to the Clave's authority, and in return she stabbed me. I was there, dying, Jace, I was dying, and Magnus... Magnus, he...”
Alec wasn't even aware that he was hyperventilating or crying, until he felt Jace making him bend forward so that his head was between his knees, counting from one to five, telling Alec to breathe together with him.
“I heard-” Alec gasped, voice wrecked, “I heard Magnus beating her to death. I heard him. He kept- He kept punching her. I wanted... I tried- I tried to tell him to stop. He kept hitting, and hitting, and hitting her. He kept hitting her, Jace, and I was- I was so cold. I was... I could feel myself dying. And then... and then Magnus was there, he was holding me, he was holding me, and crying, and begging his father to save me, he was there, Jace, he was, I can still hear him begging, I'm not imagining things I swear I'm not-”
Jace pulled Alec into an embrace, so firm that it was almost painful, and Alec clung to his parabatai. His fingers dug into Jace's shoulders as he tried to keep himself together.
Alec mumbled, “I don't know what happened to him. But everything is wrong, Jace. All of you are safe, and I'm glad you are all safe, and all of you are exactly who I remember you to be, but no-one remembers him. None of you remember him, and he's real, he is. I love him. How can I love him if he isn't real?”
Jace patted him on the back awkwardly. It was a long while before Alec finally regained his composure and straightened. If his face was blotchy and his nose stuffed up, neither of them mentioned it.
“I think,” Jace said solemnly, “that we should visit the High Warlock of Brooklyn. Maybe then we can find out what happened.”
Alec blinked at the blond in confusion. “What do you mean, High Warlock of Brooklyn? Lorenzo Rey? He's useless.”
“What? No!” Jace rolled his eyes. “By the Angel, that coma must have done a real good number on your head. No, Alec, the High Warlock of Brooklyn is Catarina Loss. I'd take you to her right now except she's still on shift, and she's made it clear we're not to bug her at the hospital.”
Dinner was a stilted affair, but Magnus made it through with minimal contribution to the conversation. Asmodeus was full of praise for the meal, as always.
When Magnus rose to clear away the dishes, Asmodeus stopped him. “Allow me.” With a languid wave of his heand, the rustic farmhouse table was clean again. Even the simple centerpiece of a vase of geraniums looked fresh and vibrant.
Magnus bit back a sharp retort. He missed his magic. He could sense it, but it was separate from him, as if all his magical power was a tiger locked behind a glass enclosure. Instead, he managed a smile. “Thank you, father. Washing up is so dull.”
“I can remove the collar if you'd just say yes, my dear,” Asmodeus drawled. He limped over to a maroon wing-back chair that sat in front of a fire that, contrary to all logic, helped to keep the cottage at a tolerable temperature, rather than the scorching dry heat that tortured the air outside.
Magnus sighed and found himself taking a seat in the other chair. “Vexilla regis prodeunt inferni?” Magnus quoted. Dante's Inferno was one of their favorite books, from before Magnus sealed his father away in Edom, from before Asmodeus stopped seeing Magnus as his child and started thinking of Magnus as his possession. Magnus reread Inferno every now and again. “No, father, I will not fight under your banner.”
Asmodeus summoned up a whiskey. Its deep golden shade glowed in the firelight. “Why not?”
Because Magnus knew what would happen if he did. The Prince of Cats, the one who never left Asmodeus – he was gone, leaving behind a welcome silence in Magnus' head. But that particular aspect of himself existed: the part of him that craved Asmodeus' affection and praise, that yearned to match his father's expectations of him, that demonic desire to subjugate and destroy.
“I will be here for only three more weeks. There is no way you and I can defeat Lilith in three weeks. Three decades, maybe.” Magnus exhaled. “But I don't want to be here for thirty years.”
Asmodeus took a sip of his drink. “I will never understand why you resist the call of your blood.”
“Because I am defined by more than my blood,” Magnus snapped. He licked his lips, suddenly wishing he could make himself a martini. “I'm tired. Goodnight, father.”
“Goodnight.” Somehow, Asmodeus could make a simple word sound ominous.