Actions

Work Header

Into The Mist

Chapter Text

Little boy with fairy wings watch where you go,

Dark things lurk in the shadows below.

Little boy with a cleverly wicked smile,

Good things will come from something so vile.

Fairy boy, fairy boy, see how you grow,

Creatures promise temptations that you don’t know.

Demons lurk in the dark of night,

Fate has a wicked plan that’ll come to light.

 

Ever since he was a little boy Alexander Gedion Lightwood had wondered why his mother never let him near the pond. To him it’s like he never noticed it before. It wasn’t there, then one day it was. It was there and perfectly clear, he remembered sticking his feet in the water and giggling, his sister Isabelle holding on to his hand tightly. The boy was only seven and he never understood why after that day he was no longer allowed near the pond.

He remembered them laughing as he splashed her with the water, he found it strange that there were no fish in the water. No fish, no frogs, no flowers. It didn’t seem void of life because it was nestled in the area between where two big trees were— that had flowers growing, ivy vines curling around the branches, and birds sung in their nests— still nothing grew around the pond.

One day, he recalled, how his family had packed all their belongings in suitcases and chests and loaded it all up. They took the horses and carriages away from his home, away from the pond. He thought of that pond until it vanished from memory, one minute it was there to him and then suddenly not, like a shroud was cast around him and he couldn’t see it anymore— or remember it in detail.

With each notch on a post by the kitchen— there was another one added on a day of every year— it marked his birth. And just like that day that he was to stand it came too quickly and lasted to slow. Celebrations and parties he didn’t like. Hair combed back and a suit with pearl buttons, shoes that squeaked on the marble floor. Each year that notch got higher so did the boy.

Then the day had finally started to arrive, the last notch that would be placed on that post, adulthood was coming and it was close. Alec stared at that little spot, the spot where that final notch would be. There were to be twenty perfect notches some not to far apart when he stopped growing. But twenty marked the age that everyone stopped growing. Stopped growing and stopped aging instantly. What seemed like a year for a mundane would be more to them. But the longer Alec started waiting for that notch the more the pit in his stomach opened up. There was something he was supposed to remember, something there itching at the back of his skull and he couldn’t recall what it was.

Every day he passed by that post and stared, counting down the days. A letter came one day when he was eighteen addressed to his father, a letter with tiny cursive and a flower stamped in wax. Alec was pulled aside and sitting in his father’s office on his couch, his mother sitting next to him hand in hand. Alec didn’t get why her eyes were glassy and why she was angry, impatiens knotted in the bun of her pulled back hair.

Robert Lightwood was a man of stature, respected as all kings were, and as his first born and heir Alec had expectations. “It is a marriage proposal from the Branwells. I will not turn them down.” Alec had listened to them from the stairs after his mother had dismissed him, the office door open just a crack. He took a moment to wonder if they knew it wasn’t closed all the way.

His parents rarely fought where anyone could hear, Jace and Isabelle sat next to him on the stairs. Max curled up in Alec’s lap, hands covering his ears. Their parents fighting rarely fought but when they did it was always over Alec. Of what was expected of him and while Robert tried to make demands— and dictate with an iron fist— Maryse had a bear inside her that would fight for all her children until her last breath.

“Robert, you do not know that which you are doing. You don’t know how this will affect our family. Our lives.” Maryse had warned him, she paced from what Alec’s ears could pick up, and much like his mother’s pacing Alec’s nervous tick was to mess with the earrings in his pointed ears.

“Maryse, just listen. Whatever you think happened won’t happen, he is to be married. You always were too active with your imagination.”

A sigh from his father and an incredulous laugh followed, “Robert, we moved like you requested. We haven’t let the boy into town alone. He is never alone. He rarely leaves the grounds. You can’t stop this, time will take back what it is owed. You anger this any more and not just our children will be unsafe.”

A thud echoed through the house and Alec tensed, was that his father’s hand on the desk— or his mother being struck to the floor again. “You are a foolish woman, Maryse, Alec will marry Lydia Branwell when he is at his twentieth year. I don’t care for your superstitions. I moved us so you’d stop going on about that damn pond. It was a normal pond that our children loved to play in, I loved that house! We loved that house and you wouldn’t stop until I agreed to move.” Alec had never heard his father yell so much, not like this.

“Robert, you requested us to move. To be closer to the village. I just wanted away from that house, we could have gone down the road. And you know that wasn’t a normal pond.” Maryse is pleading to make her husband see, “you know what I saw. I know you saw it too.”

Robert raised his voice even more it had even Alec flinching, Isabelle tucked into his side. Jace with a hand on his back. It said a lot, Alec knew, if his siblings that were only two years younger were shaken. He’d never seen Jace so pale. But unlike Alec they didn’t know that their father regularly struck their mother. “Maryse, there was nothing there. I plucked you out of that godforsaken swamp you called a town. I gave you a better life than ‘spells and potions’ that your parents taught you. There are only a few things to be afraid of, and they are on our plane of existence— our immortal lives ending and iron. And for you, do not forget that it’s by magic of this earth you are standing on that you get to live like you do. You have your mundanes who stay in their parts of the forest, their towns. You should know that, I found you there. Your family exiled, every last member. Exiled for who your father chose to lay with. And then there are us, your mother, the realm of faeries and our creatures. What you think you saw doesn’t exist.” His chair scraped as he pulled it out to sit in it, the eldest Lightwood boy thought. “If you don’t put these silly stories you feed our children and your silly mundane spells I will toss you back where you came from.”

“Robert,” Maryse’s voice went cold. Colder than any of the Lightwoods have ever heard, a voice that didn’t belong to their mother but someone who was wise beyond all years. “If you do this, and our family is put in danger because you marry Alec off, I will only protect my children and myself. I don’t care about this home, I know what you do while you are in town. And living in the villages won’t be as desparing as this home with you.” The office door slammed shut with her words.

The Lightwood children all ducked behind the banister, Max shaking while Alec still held him. Maryse’s heels clacked on the floor before they stopped, “oh, my children come here. I’m so sorry,” she stroked Isabelle’s hair. Touched Jace’s shoulder. She ran a hand through Max’s hair. She turned to her eldest and cupped his cheek, “I am sorry, Alexander. I am trying, you may not understand now, like any of the other times, but you will one day. I am sorry for what I’ve done, and I am sorry for what your father has said.”

All Alec could do was smile. Smile because she was right, he didn’t know what was going on, nor did he understand why it was her fault.

She gathered them up and whispered the nursery rhymes she would tell them all at bed. But as time went on Alec realized there was one she would no longer tell, of a little faerie prince who was whisked away to the land of shadows.

He was a child, Max had just been born, a squealing pale blue thing that got more periwinkle as he grew. He was tucked into his big bed with Jace and Isabelle next to him. On story nights they’d all climb into the too big bed of his— Alec was always on the outside, always . Isabelle was always pressed to the wall, and Jace was in the middle. Max’s bassinet was pulled up to the bed as he slept, the wood sprouting nasturtiums along the edges. Alec even at ten was amazed by his mother’s knowledge of flowers, a long pale finger tapped his nose and his face split into a wide smile.

“Okay this is the story of the fae boy and the demon king.” Maryse settled into an over plushed chair, Robert wanted her to rest and stay hidden, but she would not neglect her own children. Not for her husband’s ideas of how frail female bodies were. “Long ago when demons walked the lands there was a demon king. But like any demon king was he, cruel and cunning, when the war between the humans and demons raged on the king whisked his kind back to the mountains. They stayed there but the king still came out to spread the lands with these shadows. One night while out he saw a beautiful maiden bathing and had grown infatuated with her, with how her skin looked in the moonlight. The king knew he must have her, he slowly wooed her with gifts and at first she denied every single necklace and gown. Then one night a beautiful man had appeared and she was enchanted. Under some spell it had seemed but the demon king wasn’t the cause, the man was from the other side of the sea where the merpeople sleep. He was everything to her and they were quickly wed, the demon king was jealous and after the wedding night he stole the young woman from her marriage bed. Her husband had awoken and the demon king had stabbed him so he could not follow.

“He whisked her away to the mountains of demon and she was held his prisoner. See time moved differently there, every day could have been weeks even months or years. She was forced to spend every day below the ground and every night she was allowed out with her captor. Then one day when she had realized that a years have passed she decided to escape the king. She had run along the rocky ground and waded across the river towards her village. When she walked in clothes ragged the village folk stared at her. She cried because in a rush her husband had run to her, she thought he had passed and was told of the star blooms that were fed to him to save his life. He hadn’t aged twenty years but was now in the middle of his life, she didn’t care he was still handsome and she loved him. He had waited and looked for her all those years. A celebration was held but soon the woman found in the middle that her husband had remarried and had a child. A child that the flowers had affected, for he looked more sickly than the normal children. Longer limbed and pale but just as enchanting.”

Maryse paused then and Alec frowned because this story was much different than the last, but he couldn’t remember how exactly. “The demon king came back and wanted his bride, but when he found the child he believed it was his and in rage killed the maid servants and his bride and whisked the child away to the mountains. The husband followed him and fought to get his child back but the demon king had disappeared in the mountain there was only left a mirror. A possession of his now slain bride the trim was golden flowers.” With a small smile she kissed each of her children’s heads— jace and Isabelle fast asleep— Alec wide awake.

“That’s not the story, mama.” He shuffled farther down into the covers. “But it’s okay mama, not all of us remember things all the time.” He was asleep instantly and Maryse frowned out the window before lifting Max from his spot and leaving the room.

After that the story of the demon king and faerie boy completely stopped, and Alec for the life of him couldn’t remember what was so important about the poem turned story.

Alec at decided one thing though, the Branwells were boring, Alec knew as much, they came to visit the summer before Alec turned eighteen. It was something he knew, knew before he even met them, from the letters that Lydia Branwell had written him maybe penned by her mother herself. While their daughter was pretty, he wasn’t inclined to the idea of marriage, let alone to a young woman. It was something he only whispered behind closed doors to himself, his mother had cupped his face and begged for his forgiveness if she had ever upset him or made him think that he wouldn’t be loved for wanting to live that way. While Alec did worry about how his mother would take it, it was a relief to know that she loved him as any mother should their child. She fought every step against Robert and his idea of marriage for Alec every time it was brought up.

And time was running out, Alec would be twenty soon, and with that he would be at the age Robert thought any son should marry. At twenty Alec was to marry Lydia Branwell, so lost in the act of duty and service to please his father, and to be normal. He ignored the heartbreak it caused his mother to see him hide who he was, he ignored anything that wasn’t expected of him. The sky was gray on the day that had come, Alec bathed and dressed and made his way down to the kitchen. Hodge was there waiting with the little whittling knife they used for this, Isabelle hugged her brother, three years older than she was, Alec was the protector from all the monsters in her closet and under her bed. Alec stands even with the pole and waits for that twentieth notch that Hodge hacks into the wood. Once done and his father had clapped him on the shoulder before leaving to his office, his mother took the pole and tied a bundle around it, A small bundle of foliage. A few sprigs of rosemary, a few holly berry branches, and some fennel with a clump of witch hazel. Robert always thought Maryse was strange, he grew up with a crown on his head and a spoon in his mouth. Maryse grew up in the darkest parts of the forest, raised by parents who knew the creatures that lived there, protected the people with herbs and spells. His mother was magic, while they all could stop aging, Maryse had true magic that Robert’s blood had long diluted and forgotten. Her ears were more pointed that Robert’s small points, her fingers longer and thinner— perfect for tying small knots in the stems of her flowers— and she was far fairer than any woman in town. He admired his mother even as she wound stems together on her side kitchen table.

It made Alec smile when he would see a cluster of touch-me-not on his pillow. chamomile tied around his bed frame after an upsetting day. And one day he had walked in after an evening in the library, after a fight with Robert over courting a young woman in the village, to a bundle of lilac, larkspur, with a strip of bark from an aspen tree, and a few twigs with oak leaves on them. It took Alec a little while to figure out what the strange little bouquet meant, he knew that larkspur meant protection or was used for health, it took a bit of reading to understand that it meant open mindedness. He knew from how often his mother had used oak and aspen that together they meant you are brave enough to overcome your fears. He froze over the meaning of lilac in the bundle it meant acceptance.

He had dropped the book and went to the sitting room his mother was in, teaching Max the keys on the piano after Jace’s lesson. He looked at her, unshed tears in his eyes and hugged her letting the tears finally spill over onto the purple silk of her dress.

“Thank you.” He repeated over and over as she stroked his hair. 

That night as she mended one of the straps on Isabelle’s dress Alec smiled at her from his seat on the floor, a book in his hands. “I like males.” With that word there was no discrimination agaisnt mundanes or their kind— the fairfolk. It was also the first time he had said it out loud to anyone even himself. It made a difference when the words were spoken it made him feel lighter like the chains holding him down were loosened from their hold on him.

“I know,” he watched as she put down the dress and motioned for him to come close. Alec was only seventeen at the time, but even at that age he loved the feeling of laying his head against his mother’s knee. It was so she could run her hand through his hair like she did to calm him down as a child.

Though as Alec had gotten older and tried to work up the courage to come out to his father he knew deep in his bones that his father wouldn’t have any of it. He wanted to as he sat in the main sitting room and saw the carriage arrive. He should have been astonished when Lydia stepped out. Her yellow dress stopped at her ankles, and her blonde hair was pinned in artificial curls on top of her head. She had a parasol in her hands as she walked to the stairs, her parents were right behind her. Their slightly pointed ears the same as Robert’s— as Jace’s— and a golden circlet that looked like birds in flight on top of her head.

Alec was dressed in breeches and a white ruffled hunting shirt tucked into the waistband. The sleeves were buttoned closed around his wrists and the neck was tied around the throat with a black cravat. The boots he wore were laced and tied, the Lightwood ring on his right forefinger. Robert had thrown a fit, but Alec was delighted, when Maryse had crafted a crown of holly leaves and berries. Poinsettias were also woven in, and while Robert had thought it wasn’t something Alec should wear during the celebration, he conceded when it made his eldest’s face light up— and when Maryse had threatened to make a potion and slip it into Mr. Branwells drink.

His mother hugged him close, resting her head on his shoulder. “You’ve grown so much,” she cupped his face, a private moment between son and mother as guests flowed into the ballroom. “Do not be afraid tonight. Remember everything will be okay, he won’t let you be taken away from him, dear sweet boy.”

Alec was perplexed as she tucked a lock of his hair behind a pointed ear. She turned and her glittering silver dress pooled around her as she walked like starlight. Alec followed her in, stopping to greet anyone who stopped to wish him happy birthday or congratulations. He laughed with Jace and Isabelle as he sipped from a goblet of wine, they laughed about Max running around wanting to dance with their mother only, trying to avoid the prodding fingers waiting to pinch his cheeks. Jace laughed at his own jokes and then they laughed as he jumped when a guest with a duck model adorned in her hair passed by, his brother’s fear of ducks was hilarious if not unusual. Their mother joked that in a past life his downfall must have been because of a duck.

“Your fear of ducks is irrational.” Isabelle giggled out and Jace pulled her close with a one armed hug. “It’s okay brother when Alec is gone I will protect you from the monster ducks.”

Lydia eventually made her way over, gloved hands clasped in front of her, the small point of her ears decorated with clasp on jewelry, only her bottom lobes were really pierced, unlike the piercings Alec had along the shell of one pointed ear, the other only had the lobe area and the very tip pierced. His father had been adamant about his children not being demeaned with such unseemly things, Maryse didn’t care and took Alec to get them done the first time. The metal reflected in the light and she held a hand out. “Dance with me, dear.”

Alec was expected to, even as he balked at the term of endearment.

It was what he was supposed to do with his betrothed.

Robert cast a look at him from where he stood talking to the Pangborns, a look that said that he was to be the perfect fiance to her. The gentleman that Lydia needed him to be during their marriage. So doing what any man engaged to a beautiful woman would do, he took her hand and led her into the bodies that were spinning around. He held on to her waist as he took her hand in his. He was to show her off, even if it was just that a show.

Her blue eyes lit up as she followed his lead to spin around the room, the soft smile that pulled the corners of her mouth up. Her yellow dress had jewels that reflected onto his white shirt, he was sure that they made the best pairing to everyone in that room, of course they all thought like their father. He could do it, marry her. They danced through a few songs played from the band in the corner, he was painfully aware of how many minutes it took, and as he started to pull away Lydia took his arm.

“I would like to stroll through the gardens if you’d like to escort me,” she turned him towards the glass arch doors that lead to the gardens. He looked around briefly, looking for any way out, his eyes caught his mother’s— her sorrowful ones. He was always confused why his mother got sadder and sadder as this day quickly approached, if it was her worry about him being unhappy for having to hide who he was, it was worth not making her or his siblings look foolish. Even then that was no reason for the great unhappiness that followed her like a cloud, a small smile shared between them his mother turned back to her guest, a fiery haired woman in a long red dress. She cast a look towards Alec, and with a slight tilt of her head he imagined, she turned back towards his mother, he noted the more pointed and fairer aspects of her own body. More fae than most of the people here— more than his own mother. But feeling her from where he was there wasn’t the pull and thrum of magic like his mother had.

“It would be my pleasure to show you.” he plastered a smile on and laid a hand on hers as he led her out the doors. He led her to the fountain down the pathway. “Thank you for attending, this celebration my father is pleased you came..”

She puts a hand to her mouth to hide her laugh. “Why wouldn’t I come to my own fiance’s birthday celebration? Plus your father made it very clear we were to marry if not in the next couple of days then the next week no later. You are also pleased I came, correct?”

Alec tried to hide his flinch at the words, he did agree to do this. Even though the thought of their marriage night made him sick to his stomach.

“But promise me you won’t wear those silly flowers and herbs your mother is obsessed with. I am delighted to take on the Lightwood family name especially from the heir.” She giggled again, “I can’t do with the flowers and superstitions, please tell me you are like your father and don’t believe in such frivolous things like your mother.”

Alec wanted to be a good son. The good heir, he was supposed to be, but the more he looked at Lydia the more that pit opened up until it became too much. He dropped her arm as he took a step back, his face had gone pale. Lydia reached up to take hold of his face, eyes full of worry. Her mouth was moving, forming the letters and syllables of his name. He couldn’t hear anything other than the ringing in his ears, the world started spinning and he was breathing too fast. He couldn’t marry her and he couldn’t give up a part of him so ingrained to his blood, his bones, his very being of who he was and what made him. Regardless if it was liking males or the spark of magic in his blood.

With one last look at her, he abruptly turned and ran down the steps only stumbling on the last two. His hands hit the cobblestone pathway, the rocks scratched him as he scrambled up. She called after him, her shoes clinking against the stone as she tried to follow him. He blindly ran through the garden maze to the stables, getting caught at a few dead ends and full of panic he pushed through the hedges. Branches snagging his clothes and hair, by luck the holly crown stayed on and there were no cuts on him from any thorns of the few rose bushes there were.

When Alec was younger he would hide out in the stables, no one really looked for him there. He didn’t know why, he mused stroking the nose of a white dappled brown horse, “I have a feeling—” a shaky breath of air was sucked between his lips. “A place I need to go and you’ll take me there. I don’t know where it is exactly, but you do. I just know it exists.”

What Alec hadn’t been truthful with his mother about was that he remembered their old house just enough, and like her stories that changed so did the house after he and his sister were playing outside one day. What were they playing? Where were they playing? In the gardens? The forests? He had no time for harnesses and saddles and just swung his leg over the back of the mare and led her down the dirt road leaving the Lightwood manor. He didn’t know where it was, but it’s like the house called to him, only getting worse as the days got closer to this one. He ignored the pull to go but it didn’t matter, he had to go, and with barely any guidance the horse started galloping away from the grounds— away from the village.

He let the moon guide him as he followed the hair raising feeling and soon the manor from his memories loomed over him. He let her graze in the fields as he made his way to the door and everything felt wrong, his body felt wrong. A hand on the doorknob and when he turned it, he honestly was surprised it was locked. He studied the door and realized it was pristine condition, if it wasn’t lived in for so long it shouldn’t have been in such a new state to him. He expected the windows to be boarded up and the door barely off the hinges. It had been thirteen years since he set foot in that house and he did so again with another turn of the knob and he was shocked to find it now unlocked.

Alexander.

He whipped around from where he was in the foyer, his name was whispered down the halls and in the moon lit dark he made his way from room to room. Nothing sparked any semblance of a memory in his mind, not the chair by the fireplace or the dining room tables. Every bit of furniture was left even some of his own toys, and his mother’s dresses. Alec came to a halt because there in the kitchen was bunches of flowers— his mother’s from the look of it— the strange eerie feeling returned as the flowers looked as if they had just been plucked. There were herbs— rosemary and sage— and the flowers were honeysuckle and stephanotis and bunches of purple lilac mixed in with holly. It confused him, because other than the holly and small twigs of the rowan tree, it looked like a wedding bouquet.

He fingers traced some of the petals in his other hand as he circled the kitchen, Alexander.

He jumped and for a second he thought he saw eyes peering at him from the tree line when he stood next to the window. Yellow eyes and a grin. It made his skin crawl but also prickle from that invisible string pulling him towards the trees. He shook it off and headed upstairs, Alexander. He pushed open the door where his name was being called from and it was just a normal bedroom— his normal bedroom— nothing in there but the furniture and—

Alec’s pulse rushed and his heart hammered as a figure in the chair turned to him, Alexander. The voice called and he realized it wasn’t coming from this room, let alone the creature. The long limbed woman became longer fingers turning into claws and her hair fell out. Her maw opened wide to show jagged rows of teeth, and he feared what the creature before him would do.

And with the little bit of him that could still function he turned on his heels and ran. Flying down the steps he stumbled and heard the creature follow him with a sick wet thud probably from it salivating too much, he threw himself over the railing to get down the second flight of stairs. As it appeared over the top he took a chance— a possibly injured ankle would be better than being dead— he grabbed the bannister and leaped over it, landing on his feet on the hardwood floor of the main area. With a wince he pulled himself up and limped to the kitchen as the creature slithered behind him, he curled himself into a space that made up half the china cabinet and closed the doors. Placing a hand over his mouth Alec hoped his breathing would slow and then he could get to his horse.

Alexander.

A chill went up his spine and it was like the voice wanted him to come out of hiding and he wasn’t ready to die, especially with the slithering of the creature’s tongue as it lapped the floor. Thankful to whatever gods there were that had granted something to fall from the fireplace in the sitting room had the creature leave, and he took his chance. Crawling out from under the cabinet he ran— ignoring his injured ankle— to the back door and he could hear it as he opened it and the wind blew into the house. It blew his scent towards the creature as Alec was down the porch steps, where was his horse?

He briefly stopped and it was all the time needed as a sharp slicing pain tore threw him, the creature had launched itself down the steps and sunk its teeth into his shoulder— severing tendons in his shoulder.

As blood soaked his white shirt he was lifted up by the grip of the jaws that held him. His mother’s protection meant nothing as he hung there, then there was a noise much like a wounded animal and he was shocked to find that it came from his own mouth where it opened in a gasp as claws burst through his chest, piercing a lung as they went. Alec weakly grasped the sharp points as he coughed up blood, it spilled from him now.

Alexander.

The calling felt angry— dangerously angry— and he swore as his vision went white that those yellow eyes and wide smile surrounded by the shadows moved and formed into a person.

He gasped awake, mind seeming thick with smoke as if he had been trapped in a burning building. He sat up and he heard the whinnying of the mare not to far off, he felt bad for a new horse this must have been a bit much for the poor thing.

“I’m sorry, I must’ve fallen asleep.” He frowned and looked, where was he? Why had he stopped in an empty field to rest? As he mounted the animal and turned it back to the road he swore he saw a shadow detach itself from the distant treeline.

The ride back was full of wistful musing he meant to go to the house but it seemed to be much farther than he remembered it to be. Alec needed answers and the only person he could ask was his mother that wouldn’t truthfully answer him. Isabelle was too young to remember what it was that they did to make their mother so fearful of that house.

“Alec,” his father was angry as he led his companion into the stall closest to him. “Tell me why Ms. Branwell had burst into the ballroom to inform your mother and I that you had run off from her leaving her in the hedge maze alone?” His father’s hand reached out to grab the back of his pristine— if not a bit wrinkled from sleep— shirt to yank him the rest of the way off the mare. “You will march in there and apologize to your bride-to-be and make up to her this offense you have done on our name.”

Alec was wide eyed as he was lead from the stables to the house by his shirt, Alexander. His head snapped up to the stables and he swore he saw a man patting the flank of his horse. Snowdrop.

Snowdrop was a wonderful name for the horse.

Alec was unceremoniously dropped on the floor where he remained kneeling as Lydia openly wept the kohl around her eyes now streaking her cheeks as she would wipe her face to see him better. He felt bad for hurting her feelings but not bad enough to be moved into marrying her.

“I’m sorry, Lydia.” He didn’t know what to say in all honesty, what was there to say? “But, I—”

His father chose then to interrupt, “got wedding jitters. My son has always been a bit timorous.” The room tittered and he felt his face flush in anger and embarrassment. His mother was staring at him wide eyed and in horror. “Look at how embarrassed your mother is for you.”

Maryse shook her head and took her eldest’s hand, “he looks like he is going to faint.” And with that thrown over her shoulder she drug him out of the room to her little area in the kitchen. “Well?”

Alec only stared, well what?

“Where is your crown? I told you to never take it off, especially if you leave the grounds.” She started quickly working on a necklace with rowan berries for him.

He didn’t know he had removed his crown and with a jolt of shock it must’ve been when he had fallen asleep. Alexander. The voice called to him then full of longing and he wanted to find it once more. His head whipped towards the window and he wanted to go, what was going on. Alexa—

“Mother, do you hear that?” He stepped to the window.

As his eyes scanned the tree line did she finally answer, “what do you hear, Alexander?”

He was quiet for so long, there he realized as he saw the moon reflect off something yellow in the dark, a wide sharp toothed grin and yellow slit eyes. It was like he saw in his dream, and with a shake he cleared his head to turn back to the woman in the room. “I keep hearing my name, and I didn’t take my crown off— mother please.” He ducked as she went to put the necklace on him. “Lydia wants this to not be part of our marriage. This obsession with flowers and herbs, and spells. When we are married I can not be the prince with the ‘village crazy’ mother.” An intake of air as he watched her mouth quiver, “don’t cry, I’m sorry.”

It was too late as tears spilled down her cheeks and she set the necklace down and turned on her heels to leave the room pausing by the door. With a hand on the wooden pole there— his wooden pole bound with her bundle of herbs— she answered low and in a tone so unlike her, harsh and gritty. “You will think back to this and be apologetic. But you did this, you shouldn’t have gone to the manor.”

The manor? How did she know where he was running to before he got lost and tired? He opened his mouth to ask and watched in almost horror as she untied her little cloth bundle and took it with her. In following he saw her toss it into the fireplace the cooks used in the main kitchen, it went up instantly.

“Enough,” he grabbed her arm, “please. I’m sorry—”

Maryse tapped his chest before pulling away. At her touch something burned his chest, when he was alone in the middle of the kitchen he quickly opened every button on his shirt. And he fingered the angry puckered healing holes on his chest. He swallowed audibly as his eyes scanned the room, Alexander.

Enough.

He had enough and used the back entrance the servants used to bring in the eggs and milk. With a deep breath of air he set off for the tree line, blue eyes scanning the shadows, “I know someone— something is out there. And if what I—” what did he know? The marks could be just bites there were no exit wounds on him, that he could feel. “Listen, Alec you’re being paranoid, your mother’s superstitions and weird behavior is getting to you. She’s doing this so Lydia’s parents deny the wedding so they don’t have their family name tied to the witch.” He smiled, probably looking just as crazy as he spoke out loud to a forest. “She’s brilliant.”

His eyes moved to the windows of the ballroom as the guest spun in circles with the style of dance and music. With a sigh he gave one last look to the trees and jumped, heart hammering.

A figure leaned against the tree, dark eyes on him. Something about the figure drew him closer and Alec wanted to go and that scared him so instead he took three shaky steps back before running away.

“You’ve been a bit jumpy.” Blue eyes watched as golden hair lifted in the wind, the gentle breeze caressed his face, it had been only a few days since the ball and the marks on his chest weren’t getting better. His brother sighed and repeated himself, “you’ve been a bit jumpy, Alec. This was something you agreed to, if you’re getting cold feet let the poor girl know the reason even if you can’t say the full truth.”

Alec wrung his hands together, “did you see the red-headed woman mother was talking to at the party?” Speaking of his mother made something inside him ache, his mother had been avoiding him. There was no better term for it he had decided when he walked into a room that she was sitting in and Maryse had put down her book and gotten up to leave. She ignored him at dinner and even more hurtful to him, she stopped leaving flowers.

Even now his head felt naked without it’s normal holly and rowan crown. “Does mother seem strange?”

His brother laughs, “mother has always been strange.”

Alec only shook his head and stood up, tired of watching his father and Lydia’s mother demand where the Lightwood servants should put the decorations of gossamer ribbons. His nose wrinkled as he walked through the rows of white roses, flowers his mother had no hand in picking or arranging. It made his stomach churn, this was becoming more for show of a political alliance than an actual union. He maneuvered around the bodies holding the large vases and passed by Lydia’s window in the side sitting room where he could see her getting fitted for her dress, any last touches being done. He wasn’t supposed to see her until tomorrow, their wedding was only a few hours away, and Alec was running out of hope that he wouldn’t live a false life.

Isabelle had found him an hour later staring at the line of trees, he swore he saw a man looking at him last night. Her small hand tentatively touched his shoulder, dark eyes so full of worry, “Alec, you don’t have to do this. You will be unhappy.”

“I have to, if I don’t father will think mother had something to do with it and,” he flicked the dangling crystal on one of his ears, it made his head seem off balance. “I don’t want to lose her because father is an egomaniac.”

“Me either,” she frowned harder at the line of trees, gnarled branches twisting to the sky. “Why are you suddenly so invested in the forest, dear sweet brother?”

He wrapped an arm around her shoulders, “remember when we were children?”

“And we played in that pond our parents threw a fit over and then we moved. That pond was amazing. Including the lilies that grew in the water.” That shocked Alec he didn’t remember the details of the pond like she did. “You splashed me with the water.”

He smiled though, “you did like that pond, we would be ankle deep splashing—”

“Alec,” Isabelle was suddenly very grave, “you were the only one that would go into the pond. Do you not remember? You would go out there in the middle of the night and be standing in the middle of the water. It would only happen every now and then, but soon it started happening every night. I would watch mother rush out of the house in a panic because you weren’t in bed— anywhere inside— and you would be standing in that pond. You really don’t remember the pond?”

He shook his head, “no. I had a dream I was attacked and that I went to the old manor and I woke up in a field. Now I noticed I have scars on my chest that aren’t healing but they’re not getting worse. Look!” He pulls the neck of his shirt down enough to show his sister. “And I swear I saw someone the night of the ball and that someone was saying my name.”

“I’d ask mother—”

“Oh, Isabelle, all she says is ‘he’ll be angry if you’re not his.’ or she’ll say ‘they’ll take back what they are owed.’ it’s all nonsense. And now she won’t talk to me because I asked,” he crossed his arms, taking up a defensive posture. “I asked her not to do her flower thing when I married Lydia.” The smack was sharp as his cheek stung.

“How dare you, Alexander Gideon, our mother loves flowers and her spells. You love her flowers and spells, us as her children do and you—”

They are quiet and he watches his sister turn back to the manor then around to the trees, “I wonder what is beyond. I too would like to leave and I would marry anyone to leave. But, Alec, that’s no reason to marry you’ll just end up even more stuck and— I wonder what would have happened if we stayed where the pond was. Do not go back there alone, take me and Jace if not just Jace, please.” She kissed his cheek and before turning frowned, “you need to get mother to make you another crown.”

Alec watched his sister leave and he looked back at the trees, “listen I don’t know what is going on but thank you with what ever happened the other day. Thank you.”

His mother had made him a new crown and it was resting on his pillow, with little clusters of creeping jennie wound into the rowan twigs. That night for the dinner reception to celebrate the morning of the wedding he was placed into a dark billowing shirt tucked into dark breeches, a double breasted black jacket with two rows of buttons and dark blue embroidery was buttoned. His boots were laced and the crown on his head was silver and his mother went through the liberties of rebuilding his rowan and holly crown into his actual one. The earrings in his ears gleamed including the double pointed opal that hung from one hoop, when he turned his head it would hit his jaw. Little hoops made their way up the shell of the rest of the ear and the other had a silver vine like cuff that went through the three holes there and clipped to the top most tip where a black onyx stone glittered matching the smaller dangling teardrop of onyx that hung from black beads attached to the hoop.

He normally hated having so much exquisites done to himself but it was a special occasion and his mother had handpicked the outfit. To top it off his mother had gifted him a dried datura bud in a small glass vial and told him to never take it off. He could remove everything else if he so wished but that one on her life he had to leave on. She begged with tears streaming down her face.

Alexander.

He froze a chill going up his spine.

And then as if standing outside of his body, he watched as he began to move towards the stairs and down them to the other side of the manor away from the guests. He was out the back door thoughts of the pond in his mind until he was at the edge of the forest and without any thought or care he took the outstretched pale hand into his own.