"Please step forward onto the circle of the Speaking Stars."
Magnus stepped on the black marble square embossed with a parabolic design of silver stars. The square was right in front of a long table where the members of the Shadowhunter Council were seated - a Silent Brother wrapped in parchment-coloured robes, Consul Anne Shade, Inquisitor Thaddeus Black, and as per custom, the Head of the Institute he was under, Thora Fell. Behind the table, against the dark wall, hung an enormous double-edged silver sword, point down, its hilt carved in the shape of outspread wings.
The Council greets you, Magnus Bane, said a voice inside his head. Do you agree to be tried by the Mortal Sword?
"Sure," Magnus shrugged.
The Silent Brother stood up and retrieved the Sword reverently, and moved to face Magnus, who held both his hands palms-up to receive the sword. As soon as the pure adamas blade touched his hands, Magnus could feel the cold weight of it digging into his flesh, a million tiny hooks that pulled at the very core of his soul. He gritted his teeth and repressed the shudder of pain.
"You stand before the Council now, charged to recount the events that transpired on Asmodeus Bane's ship after the rest of the shadowhunters were forced to Portal out to defend New York City. By the power of the Sword, do you swear tell the whole truth?"
"No argument from me on that," Magnus replied, fighting to keep his voice neutral. You couldn’t lie while you were holding the Mortal Sword, but it tore the truth out of you forcibly, even if it was a truth you wanted to tell. Magnus imagined this was how a fish felt when it was caught on the line, the fishhook digging in painfully as it was dragged forward.
"Why did you miss your previous appointment with the Council?"
"I had a date," Magnus shrugged.
"You had a- what?" The Inquisitor was staring at him like he had grown an extra head.
"A date. You know, where you go out to do something fun with someone so you can get to know them better?"
"You missed your trial by the Mortal Sword, under orders of the Council, because of a girl?" the Inquisitor asked incredulously.
"Well, a boy, this time. But you get the idea," Magnus tried not to smirk. Thora was glaring at him with exasperated fondness.
The Inquisitor looked like he had a lot more to say to that, but the Consul cut him off. "Please, Inquisitor, let's not waste everybody's time talking about the boy's love life," she said sharply. "Magnus Bane, please recount the events in a clear and concise manner."
Magnus shrugged and obliged. When he got to the part where Asmodeus had run him through with his sword, Thora gasped in shock.
The Inquisitor pounced on her reaction almost gleefully. "The boy has not mentioned this before?"
There was no use hiding her grief and shock, so Thora Fell just shook her head mutely.
"Why not?" the Inquisitor pressed, almost leaning off his seat now.
"Because it would just bring my adoptive mother needless sorrow?" Magnus shot back, clutching the Mortal Sword so hard that the blade was starting to slice into his fingers. "I got better, obviously. There have been no lasting side effects. But she would have been upset to hear that I had been seriously hurt."
"And how did you survive that?" the Inquisitor persisted. "The Hale boy can create new runes, and the Hale girl can move objects with her mind. What powers did your father's experiments bestow you?"
"It didn't give me the power to heal myself, if that's what you're suggesting. And I didn't manifest any powers when I was fighting Asmodeus," Magnus said, choosing his words carefully. "When I was hurt, the High Warlock of Brooklyn rescued me and healed me."
"Why would he do that? Warlocks don't provide their services for free!"
"Because we are friends? Well, actually we're sort of dating now..."
"You, an angel-blooded warrior chosen by the Angel Raziel, are whoring yourself out to demonspawn for magical favours?!" the Inquisitor roared. "Have you no shame!?"
"You know, you're sounding a lot like Asmodeus right now," Magnus observed. "Also, you and I have very different ideas of what constitutes 'dating'. I hope you're using protection, I hear demon pox is a real bitch. Oops, didn't mean to say that last bit out loud - I blame the Mortal Sword for removing my brain-to-mouth filter."
"Insolent boy! You're out of order!"
"No. This whole thing is out of order," Magnus said, his voice suddenly hard. "I risked my life to put the Mortal Cup out of Asmodeus' reach, and here I am, standing trial for - what, exactly? Being the son of an evil man?"
"This is not a trial," Thora said fiercely, glaring at the rest of the Council as if daring them to contradict her. "You have done nothing wrong. We are simply having your statement taken down, with the Mortal Sword as witness, to circumvent questioning from other unenlightened members of the Nephilim who are prejudiced against you because of your blood."
"You are blinded by your love for the boy!" the Inquisitor growled.
I disagree, the ponderous voice of the Silent Brother cut in, echoing in their minds. I do not know the boy, but even I do not feel that he is guilty of any wrongdoing. Magnus Bane has proven himself a strong warrior, and there is nothing in his testament that suggests he is in league with his father.
Thora Fell looked triumphantly at Inquisitor Black, and Consul Shade nodded her agreement.
"You are free to go, Magnus Bane."
"I would say it's been a pleasure, but I would be lying," Magnus said, placing the Mortal Sword in the waiting hands of the Silent Brother. He gave a sardonic nod in the Inquisitor's direction, and sauntered off into the waiting darkness of the City of Bones.
Alec pulled his jacket closer around him as he and Isabelle made their way through the winding, well-lit paths of Central Park. This was faerie territory, with one of the entrances to the Seelie Court set under Turtle Pond, but there was a reason why the Fair Folk had chosen to put the entrance to their Land here, and it wasn't just because parks and woodlands were generally affiliated with the faerie. There were a few places in New York where the ley lines - natural underground veins of energy and magic - formed an intersection, and one of these places was marked by Cleopatra’s Needle in Central Park.
The obelisk was an ancient Egyptian relic, one of a pair - the other one had been placed in Westminister, in London. Together with the other pair of obelisks placed at Paris and Luxor, the four obelisks formed the entrances to the Spiral Labyrinth, the great warlock library where all arcane knowledge was stored.
As a people, warlocks were generally loners, secretive about their own spells and counterspells. Unlike the vampires, who had complicated sire-fledgling connections, and had been fully human once and perhaps still craved the complexities and entanglements of human relationships, warlocks usually had no such compulsions. They had been born of a violent, traumatic event in the lives of their mothers; most did not survive infancy, especially those with prominent warlock marks. Warlock children were more often killed by the hands of someone who should have loved them unconditionally but could not. Those that did survive often found themselves bearing the brunt of the pain their mothers had gone through, as Alec and Isabelle had, and were eventually abandoned to make their own way in the world.
Even among warlocks who were friendly with each other, time was such a nebulous thing to a people who had an eternity ahead of them, that it wasn't uncommon for decades to go by without meeting or even thinking about each other. In their world, Alec and Isabelle were an oddity; Alec, Isabelle and Max, had been even more so.
Access to the Spiral Labyrinth was the birthright of every warlock. As disparate a people as they were, with no real allegiances to each other or to any true leader, the Spiral Labyrinth was the one place they had all agreed was precious and belonged fully to them. When Alec had received the fire message calling for the warlock meeting, he had immediately known the reason for it - Simon Lewis's sunlight rune had shaken the Downworld. Langford, he knew, had not survived the demon attack on New York City, so Raj must have broken his oath and told someone about Alec's involvement in the whole business. Alec did not blame him.
When Alec and Isabelle reached the foot of the obelisk, Alec took out a Swiss Army knife and made a cut on his palm just deep enough for the blood to flow in a steady stream. Izzy placed her hand in the crook of his elbow as he pressed his bleeding palm to the faint spiral carved in the rock - the sigil of the Spiral Labyrinth - and in the blink of an eye, the Lightwood siblings vanished from Central Park.
The Spiral Labyrinth was a sort of pocket dimension that existed outside of the mortal world. Only warlocks were allowed to enter, and anybody who thought it was a good idea to bring a non-warlock friend along would certainly die a horrible death. It had existed long before the Nephilim had existed, and would probably continue to exist even after the world was bereft of shadowhunters. Mostly, it looked like an enormous library, with shelves so high that they disappeared into the shadows of the never-ending ceiling, and an endless number of shelves went on in all directions for as far as the eye could see, and well beyond. One could most certainly get lost in this maze of knowledge, and perhaps that was how it had come to be named the Labyrinth.
A sort of seating area had been set up, with everyone summoning their own preferred chairs, such that the whole place was a mess of clashing aesthetics and time periods. The general chatter fell into a tense silence when Alec entered the room with Izzy.
"Raj Ablack claims you are helping the shadowhunters keep secrets that are detrimental to the safety of the Children of Lilith. What do you have to say in your defense, Alec Lightwood?" said a warlock named Victor Aldertree, who Alec knew to be the High Warlock of London.
"We did not know enough about what was going on when Warlock Ablack was on Asmodeus' ship with the back-up team requested by the Nephilim," Alec shrugged. "Now it appears that Asmodeus experimented on some Nephilim children 20 years ago, and recently he kidnapped some mundane children, turned them into shadowhunters, and experimented on them as well."
"The New York Institute has hired us to study the blood of these children, and work with them to test out the extent of their powers," Isabelle chimed in. "They have agreed, in good faith, to share the results with the Spiral Labyrinth, with the understanding that such knowledge may benefit future generations of shadowhunters and downworlders alike."
"That is reasonable," agreed a female warlock Alec knew as the High Warlock of Los Angeles, named Lydia Branwell. "With more information, we would better able to assess if they are a threat to the Downworld."
"I am sure all this panic has been caused by the shadowhunter who had the power to bring sunlight in the middle of the night," Isabelle said clearly, addressing all the gathered warlocks. "What you might not know, is that he had someone warn all the vampires who were fighting the demons to take cover, so that they would not be harmed. Surely those are not the actions of someone who means harm to the Downworld."
There was some murmuring at that.
"And what of Asmodeus' son?" Raj challenged.
"What of him?" Alec spoke sharply. "Are we going to be hypocrites, and judge him by the deeds of his father?"
"Is the zealot's son one of these special children? What are his abilities, and what would happen if he takes his father's side?" Victor asked.
"He has no loyalty to his father, and he does not know what his own abilities are yet," Alec said.
"Are you sure?" Lydia asked skeptically.
"I can vouch for him," Alec said.
"Do you really think it wise, to be working with the shadowhunters?" Victor asked.
"We are stronger together, downworlders and shadowhunters. I intend to keep working with the shadowhunters until we stop Asmodeus once and for all," Alec said firmly. "If you disagree with my methods, then feel free to appoint someone else as the High Warlock of Brooklyn."
"I want you to swear under a geas," Victor said. There were gasps at that - a geas was not an oath to be undertaken lightly. "Swear that he will not become a threat to the Downworld, or your life will be forfeit.
"Alec!" Izzy protested urgently, but he ignored her panic.
"I swear," Alec said easily.
His words were greeted with silence. Some people looked mollified, but others still looked like they wanted to go another round on this silly argument. Well, Alec didn't have time for this - literally.
"If anyone has anything else to say, I'm not interested. I am done here." He stalked away from the gathering, leaving Izzy to follow in his wake.