The wind blew hard and fast; Clary's hair flew out behind her in tangled waves. Below her, the sea crashed against the cliff and the gulls cried; this was her favorite place in the world to sit and think.
She'd been coming to the cliff tops since she was a little girl, mostly because they were close enough to the palace that she didn't require a guard, and far enough that it had some semblance of privacy.
Privacy. What a funny word. Honestly, it was something that was notably missing from the princess's life. A life that was about to change drastically.
In three days, she would be twenty years old and her father had gotten it into his head that it was a suitable age for marriage.
The problem with being from the royal line was that it left you no choice but to follow protocol. So, while Clary didn't necessarily agree with the decision, she did have to abide by it.
As the only child born to Prince Lucian and Crown Princess Jocelyn, Clary was required to marry well and carry on the family name.
Clary threw the little flat rock that she had been turning over in her fingers out into the water, and gathering her many layers of skirts she made her way back to her gilded courtyard knowing that tomorrow the suitors would begin to arrive.
The idea both thrilled and terrified her in equal measures. She wasn't ready to be a wife, she wasn't ready to leave the comfort of her childhood home, but she was ready to live.
That night, when Clary dreamed, it was of an angel-faced prince that would sweep her off her feet, and show her the world.
In a town not so far away, two banished brothers readied themselves for travel. They had caught word that Princess Clarissa was accepting suitors.
"Neither of us has seen the princess since we were children. What if she does not remember us?" Alec mused.
"I think the thing to worry about, brother, is if she does remember us. Or worse still, if Prince Lucian recognizes us. Banishment is a serious punishment, if he knew who our parents were there would be no chance he'd allow us within a foot of his daughter," Jace warned his brother.
"Nevertheless, we are from the royal line, and when he does find out, it will be far too late. Princess Clarissa will be mine." Jace felt very self-assured.
With the last of their belongings packed, they mounted their mares and set off toward Idris at a ground-eating pace.
Less than twenty-four hours later, Clary stood on her third story balcony, watching as two young men made their way into the palace grounds. She had dismissed five suitors already this week, and truthfully, she was in no mood to entertain anymore pompous, self-assured men.
She turned to her handmaiden and allowed her to place upon her head a garnet coronet. Sighing before she spoke out loud, "I guess I had better get down there." She knew her father was in a mood with her. He was rather distressed at her treatment of the last suitors, and Clary had a feeling that he would not tolerate more of her poor behavior. So, as she swept into the room, she plastered onto her face a look of complete serenity, and gracefully sat atop her golden throne.
Prince Lucian eyed her warily, but greeted her warmly all the same. "Daughter, you look radiant." The aging prince smiled.
"Thank you, Papa," Clary demurred, arranging herself neatly in her seat. She had hardly a chance to clear the look of boredom from her face before her father bellowed at the guards.
"Bring them forth!"
Clary hated having to sit in the throne room; she always felt so self-absorbed sitting on the oversized, golden chair. Today was no exception.
The two new suitors were shown into the grandiose room where they bowed deeply to her father, then dropped to a respectful kneel in front of her.
"Sire, I am Alexander, and this is my Brother, Jace. We come before you in the hope that you will allow Jace the honour of competing for the hand of your lovely daughter," The tall, dark haired man spoke.
Prince Lucian rubbed his weary head. "Young man, at this point I believe I may need to accept the suits of common men. No one seems to be able to please my daughter. So while I give my blessing for this young man to compete for her hand, I will not hold my breath that she will find him worthy."
Jace narrowed his eyes at this, but instead of addressing the aging prince, he addressed the flame haired beauty of whom he still knelt in front.
"The only person who need find me worthy of anything is my God. However, I promise you; I will win the hand of your princess."
"Okay, Firstly, I am right here! And secondly, who pray tell says that I am a possession that can be won?" Clary huffed, more than a little irritated that the man before her spoke as if she were not present at all. In a very uncharacteristic display of rudeness, she rose from her throne and fled from the room.
"Well now, that went well, did it not?" Princess Jocelyn asked the gathered men.
Later that evening the princess paced her balcony broodily contemplating the arrogant, self-possessed prince that was currently playing with one of the palace dogs on the sprawling lawn below her.
At least this one's was my age, she thought to herself.
The dog yapped as he raised his arm and threw a stick to the far side of the lawn. When it took off in chase, he happened to glance up to where she stood. Seeing the princess above him, he raised an arm and wiggled his fingers in a smug greeting.
Clary sneered, spun on her heel, and returned to her room, slamming the glass doors behind her.
Her ire grew the more she thought about the fact that these men actually believed that she was, essentially, a trophy to be won and placed on a mantle. What she wouldn't give for someone to actually just want to know her for the person she was—and not for the fortune that would come with her hand. Because she was sure that in the end that was all they wanted her for – her money.
"I need to get out of here," she spoke to no one in particular, pulling a pair of plain jeans and a hooded top from her large walk-in robe. With a small amount of difficulty, she unlaced the dress she still wore, and changed in to the nondescript clothing; pulling the hood of the jacket up and over her hair. She was thankful that it fell low, covering her right to her eyebrows.
Without another thought, she left her room and in a moment of true rebellion, she ran for the palace wall and hoisted herself up and over it.
She landed with a soft thud, before her a beautiful city, full of lights sprawled out for as far as the eye could see. Clary felt a surge of adrenaline; it was the first time she had stepped foot out of the palace grounds without some sort of escort. She drew in a deep breath; the air tasted of dirt and rain, and well… freedom. As she exhaled, she stepped out and onto the small dirt path that lead away from the wall. She didn't get far before she heard the steady rhythm of hoofs behind her, so she ran. She ran hard and fast, but still it was not enough, she should have known that someone would catch her.
It only took minutes and there was a large black horse snorting in front of her. The rider leaped from the saddle, and landed with more grace than she could have mustered in a thousand years.
"Going somewhere, Princess?"
It was the suitor, what was his name?
"Yes, I mean, no, I mean." She raised her eyes to his, a haughty look of defiance within them. "I have never so much as set foot out of that palace by myself, in just a few days I will be twenty years old and my father expects me to marry. I ask you, how can one be expected to marry, settle into a life they do not want, give up everything they know and not be allowed even a taste of freedom? Do you know what it is like to be watched twenty-four seven? To be treated as a fine piece of china that will break at any moment?"
Jace contemplated for a moment before shaking his head in a firm no.
"No, I don't suppose you do. You are a male and therefore allowed any freedom you wish. Well, I guess you may escort me back then."
She looked defeated, as though she could cry, and Jace felt terrible.
"Perhaps taking you back is not the answer then this evening. Would you like a tour of the city, Princess?" he offered, sincerity shining from his very core.
Clary was not expecting it, and stood looking confused for quite a few minutes.
"You aren't going to take me back in and tell my father?"
Jace smiled warmly and reached for her hand. "What if I make you a deal? I take you on a tour of the city, no guards, and no escorts. I won't tell your father, but the catch is this, you get to know me."
Clary reeled. She was elated and did not hesitate to step forward and grab hold of his saddle. In one mighty leap, she was astride the beautiful black mare, and in a few moments more, she had her arms around the beautiful prince, holding on securely as he galloped her off and into the night.
Jace showed her all of the sights; the markets and the port, the city's museum, the statue dedicated to her grandparents that stood in the middle of the city. They stopped to eat at a vendor's cart; a kebab on a stick that Clary thought she had never tasted anything so divine in her entire life. The colours mesmerized her, there were little rendered buildings—homes—that were painted in ocher, taupe, azure, and sage. Gardens over flowed with sweet smelling herbs, and flowers and of children playing, and animals grazing. Clary had never known that people lived this way. Without servants or clothes made of the finest silks, she found herself feeling humbled by their honest way of life; she wanted to be part of it.
"The people, they are so lucky," she thought aloud, as she and Jace wandered along a beach that she had never before stepped foot on.
"This is a prosperous city, Princess. It's ruled by a fair king and it shows," Jace told her honestly, before stopping and sitting on a fallen log.
Clary looked at it pointedly for a moment.
"Scared of getting dirty, Princess?" Jace raised an eyebrow, and not wanting to disturb the friendly feel of the evening, Clary joined him.
Behind them, the mare was munching on some seaside scrub, happily ignoring the pair as they chatted. Jace pulled a green apple from one of his pockets and a little flip knife from another.
"Want some?" he offered, turning the apple over in his hand seemingly inspecting it for something.
Clary looked at it warily, then took the piece he offered from his hand. It was cold, sweet, and a little bit tart.
"What made you come here?" she suddenly asked.
"Well, I thought you might like to see the beach," he answered, swiping at a bit of juice that had begun running down his chin.
"Not here as in the beach, silly." She laughed, bumping his shoulder with her own. "Here, as in Idris."
"Well, this really pompous guy told me that there was a ridiculously beautiful princess here that is looking for her Prince. Evidently she is being a bit picky, but shhh, don't tell her I said that."
"I am not picky!" Clary defended vehemently.
"Well that's not what that Lord Lightwood guy said when I passed him on the way in. I think he said something about 'Willful women who have no respect'."
She scoffed. "That guy was a douche. So was the one before him."
"Well, that's a relief!" He laughed at her. He stood then, ditched the apple core, and stuck the little flip knife back into his pocket. "Shall we?" He held a hand out to help her up, which she happily accepted.
When she was standing, she didn't release it; instead she slipped her fingers through his, and glanced at him shyly, waiting for him to react.
She didn't really know what to expect, but he smiled brightly and lead her back over to the horse. Once she was astride, he hoisted himself into the saddle and once again grabbed her hand.
Quietly Jace maneuvered his horse into the palace grounds. He wasn't particularly worried about being caught, but he knew it would mortify Clary if she were caught at this time of night. Once inside, they lead the mare over to the palace stable, and set her in her stall with a bag of oaten hay.
Clary emerged from hanging the bridle in the tack room, and Jace cautiously reached for her hand. He wasn't sure if the magic of their excursion would continue within the palace walls. For all he knew, she could go back to treating him indifferently. But she again laced her fingers though his and seemed happy to allow him to lead her back to her quarters.
"Thank you, for tonight. It meant a lot to me," she told him from her balcony, gazing deeply into his liquid gold eyes.
"It was my pleasure, Princess," he answered, lost in the green depths of Clary's own eyes.
"Perhaps tomorrow we can go on a daylight tour of the market place? Of course, you will have to have a guard, but still, I think we could have fun."
Clary grinned, and internally, her heart soared. "I'd like that," she told him honestly.
Clary had neither wanted nor expected to like the prince, but as he pulled their joined hands towards his lips, and placed a light kiss on her hand, she knew that she did. Instead of telling him this, she raised her eyebrow. When he released her hand and finally glanced up, he was confused.
"I'm sorry, did I over step my bounds?" he asked, genuinely perplexed.
Clary let out a soft giggle. "No, it was a perfectly fine kiss, for an eighty year old lady." And then she was laughing hard.
In response, Jace wrapped both of his arms around her waist, and pulled her in close to his own body. "Well then, Princess, allow me to rectify my error."
Then he lowered his mouth to her own. His lips were hard, and still tasted sweet and slightly sticky from their shared apple. He kissed her gently at first, and held her so softly, as if the slightest squeeze would break her. It was nice, but Clary had had enough of being treated like fine china, and when he released her lips, she caught his bottom one between her teeth, and bit gently down. That seemed to wake him up, and he pulled her in tighter, groaning as her body molded with his own. Clary's knees went weak, and her head began to spin.
Jace broke away just as she thought she could go on no more.
"Sweet dreams, Princess," his gravelly voice, thick with desire, whispered into her ear.
She raised a hand to her now swollen lips and smiled widely. "Good night, my Prince." And then she turned and walked into her room, leaving him standing on her balcony, staring after her like a love-sick fool.