Chapter 1: The Announcement
Magnus looks up from the surface of the finicky potion he’s brewing for a client, still scowling slightly as the potion’s hue stubbornly remains a rather verdant leaf-green instead of the soft mint of the completed brew.
“Alec?” Magnus calls uncertainly, listening for the sound of Alec’s weapons being placed in the rack Magnus has long since installed for his partner. He’d felt the Shadowhunter pass through his wards a few minutes earlier and Magnus can normally set his watch by the exact amount of time it takes for Alec to shed his weapons and come greet Magnus with a gentle kiss.
This afternoon, however, the loft is silent (and Magnus himself is sadly unkissed).
When Alec fails to respond to his call, Magnus casts a quick preservation charm on his cauldron, flicking his fingers nimbly to remove the various protective charms on his person as he hastens from the apothecary to the living room.
“Alec?” Magnus calls again, worried at the continued silence.
Magnus stops in his tracks. Alec is standing in their entryway, still fully dressed in his formal blacks from the meeting he’d been summoned to in Alicante that morning.
His bow is hidden from sight, glamoured as it usually is when Alec isn’t on patrol, but his quiver is still on his back and his seraph blade is prominent in the holster on his thigh.
“Darling?” Magnus prompts, stepping carefully towards his Shadowhunter, suddenly unsure.
There’s an expression on Alec’s face that Magnus has never seen before, and Magnus’ heart speeds up in sudden worry. As High Warlock, Magnus generally hears of any major goings-on of the local Shadow World, which very much includes the Institute, even without the benefit of being the partner of the Institute’s Acting Head.
Today has been unusually quiet with the exception of Alec’s early morning summons, but perhaps something happened with his siblings? Alec’s expression is far too close to shock, far too close to frozen disbelief, for Magnus’ comfort.
When Alec finally looks up from where he’s been staring blankly at the weapons rack in front of him, he meets Magnus’ eyes and opens his mouth to speak, but nothing comes out.
Alec swallows harshly, still staring helplessly at Magnus, and Magnus’ worry increases exponentially. He steps closer slowly, feeling oddly as though he’s attempting not to spook a wild animal.
Alec doesn’t move for a long, terrible minute before he abruptly jolts forward, closing the distance between he and Magnus in three loping strides. Magnus is suddenly enfolded in Alec’s arms, and he automatically brings up his own to wrap them around his partner, alarmed by the strength with which Alec is clinging to him.
Alec unceremoniously buries his head in Magnus’ shoulder and the warlock presses a gentle kiss to Alec’s dark locks, worry rising in his throat.
“Darling, please,” he entreats softly, drumming his fingers almost without thought against the tense muscles bordering Alec’s spine. “What’s wrong?”
It takes far longer than Magnus would like to feel Alec’s lips mumble an answer against his neck. Magnus smooths a hand down Alec’s back, having to slide carefully underneath the quiver that Alec has yet to remove.
“Alexander,” he whispers into Alec’s hair, pleading. He’s uncertain if Alec actually put breath to his words, so faint was the momentary sound.
Finally, Alec turns his head to the side, moving just enough so that his next words are spoken into the small gap of air between Alec’s lips and Magnus’ throat.
“They’ve-” Alec stops, swallowing again before he can continue, his voice soft enough Magnus has to strain to hear him. “Magnus, the Clave is calling me as Head.”
For the barest moment, Magnus blanks, wholly confused. Alec has been acting as Head for years.
And then realization floods through him in a tsunami of understanding.
He jerks backwards, pushing Alec’s shoulders lightly with his hands and tugging him away to meet his boyfriend’s slightly reddened eyes.
“You’re serious?” Magnus demands, taking down his glamour and using the sudden change in his vision to analyze the face before him. “They’re calling you?”
Alec blinks, nodding wordlessly in response.
There’s a liquid shimmer in his eyes and Magnus is fairly certain that shimmer is echoed in his own.
“Alexander,” he breathes, nearly speechless in surprise.
Almost as though that single confirmation has suddenly made it real, made it tangible that this is actually happening, Alec releases a breathless peal of laughter and Magnus can’t do anything but join in with the sudden exclamation of joy.
Alec swings forward to catch Magnus right back in his arms, lifting him up off his feet in his elation and euphoria, spinning them around, his excitement contagious as he twirls Magnus in a nearly complete circle.
The moment Magnus’ feet return to the ground, he leans forward into his boyfriend’s chest, squeezing him in a hug tight enough to leave bruises on a mundane, still laughing in disbelieving elation.
Alec is returning the hug every bit as tight and he closes his eyes, pressing his forehead to Magnus’s own.
“I never, not for a single moment, thought it possible the Clave would call me,” Alec whispers. “I thought the next Lightwood to be called may be from the coming generation, more probably the one after that.”
Alec sounds incredulous and Magnus doesn’t blame him. He doesn’t say anything, but he had definitely thought the same.
The idea of the Clave cutting short and declaring a formal end to Maryse and Robert’s punishment should be easy to believe, but it isn’t quite that simple. It was clear to everyone that the Clave had never intended to truly punish the elder Lightwoods for what they’d done to the Downworlders nominally under their protection. The punishment given had always been a result of them embarrassing the Clave. It was punishment for getting caught, for defying Clave authority to follow Valentine, not for the murder and torture of the dozens of warlocks and vampires and wolves they’d tortured and slaughtered.
The Clave had decreed the New York Institute the Lightwood’s to govern, yes, a move that had absolutely infuriated the Downworld, but they’d placed an enormous caveat on what would have been an honor in any other situation.
When Shadowhunters are called by their people and named as Head by the Consul, they are formally vested with the power and authority needed to lead their people as absolute ruler. Institute Heads govern their given lands with all the independence of fiefdoms of old.
The Heads may bow to the Clave in name, but the Clave’s soul is in Idris and Idris alone, existing to form the body of law that governs Shadowhunter society and to ensure the Covenant and the Accords remain unbroken. They are far too removed from the rigors of constant patrols and the disparate needs of hundreds of territories spanning the globe, from the ten-man Institute on the Andamar Islands to the sprawling five-thousand Shadowhunter Institute in Beijing.
When the Clave dumped the New York Institute on Robert and Maryse’s lap, they’d refused to name them as Heads, refused to vest them with that power. Instead, the Lightwoods were Acting Heads alone, all of their authority deriving solely from the permission and beneficence of the Clave.
Alec doesn’t know how Maryse and Robert had managed to keep the Institute functioning when he was younger, but he knows all too well of their pride. He knows from bitter and personal experience what it takes to keep the New York Institute running- the weapons, the technology, the intelligence reports, the personnel, and, more than anything, the miserable and utterly unending slog of paperwork and the all but begging on bended knee it takes to get that paperwork approved by the Clave.
The lives of the New York Shadowhunters are his to command and Alec has been their Head in truth, if not in name, since he was fourteen and Maryse and Robert moved their home to Idris. They’ve been his since his parents decided that clawing their way up Idris’ political circles would be better for their ‘society reputations’ than the backbreaking grind of running the third largest Institute in the world. They’ve been his since his parents were too proud to beg, even as they watched their Institute come to have the highest casualty count on the globe.
That work they were content to leave to Alec.
It’s Alec who has quietly led the hundreds of Shadowhunters under his command for the better part of the last decade, leaning heavily on his seconds during that first, terrible year. Those first few months he was desperate and floundering, petrified to fail in taking up the duty his parents had abandoned without a thought.
It took time he didn’t have to learn how to work within the bounds of his limited authority, not even truly Acting Head, but only Deputy Head until he came of age. He had no authority to requisition the myriad necessities his Institute had been without for far too long, and every Shadowhunter that died while he was learning how to work the Clave, learning how to convince and wheedle and beseech every extra dime of support he could manage, was a burning drop of acid-bright pain under his skin.
Alec remembers every name his parents’ refusal to do their fucking job had added to their death list. (Alec remembers being fourteen years old and making kin-calls, his second Isaiah a shadow at his back.)
The past few years as Acting Head have been almost unimaginably difficult and Magnus has often joked that Alec spends more time in Alicante, justifying his actions before the Clave, than he spends in New York.
It's a joke far too close to truth.
As Acting Head, every decision Alec makes requires Clave approval. Alec walks a careful tightrope daily, balancing the dual problems of his absolute refusal to cater to Idris’ preference towards Downworld discrimination and his unfortunate need to have nearly every action gold-stamped by the Clave.
Alec had come far too close to losing his position when he’d first requested the formation of a Downworld Cabinet. However, for all that he has no true power as an uncalled Head, he is still one of the most influential Shadowhunters in the Clave and the Acting Head of the third largest Institute in the world. Alec hasn’t thrived in Alicante’s highest circles as he has, openly gay and in support of full Downworld equality, by being anything other than brilliantly cunning. He got his Cabinet, if only barely.
It’s all too easy to forget (though Alec never forgets), that he is only one vote away from losing everything.
With all his centuries of experience, Magnus never thought that the Clave would allow Alec Lightwood, lover to the High Warlock of Brooklyn, founder of the Downworld Cabinet, and close friend of half the New York Downworld, to slip their leash.
“Alexander,” Magnus repeats, pulling back from where he’s holding onto Alec so he can look him in the eyes, “how is this even possible?”
Alec shakes his head, still looking as though he believes he’ll wake up to find this all a dream, “After, well, after everything, Isaiah petitioned the Clave to formally call me as Head.”
Magnus knew he liked Alec’s grizzled old second for a reason. The man had taken an overwhelmed fourteen year old, far too much responsibility dumped on his thin shoulders far too soon, and taught Alec more about leadership and family than his parents had managed in fourteen years.
The stories Alec tells about him are few and far between, but Magnus cherishes each peek into Alec’s life before they met and Isaiah is one of the few consistently good points Alec has mentioned.
“You know as well as I do,” Alec continues, “how difficult it was fighting the Clave each step of the last months.”
Magnus does. There’d been times the Clave had refused permission or refused resources, ones they desperately needed, and Alec wouldn’t come home for days at a time, leading his Institute by day and arguing in Idris each night, catching hours of sleep as he could on the couch in his office. Several times, Magnus had truly thought the Clave’s need to be kow-towed to before they would allow Alec to do as he must would cost lives, Shadowhunter and Downworlder alike.
“He- he argued that the changes I’ve made since I’ve been Acting Head have made New York the most effective it’s ever been- cited our casualty counts, death counts, all of it - and then went further and told them that if I hadn’t had to modify some of my plans to get Clave approval, our numbers would be even better.” Alec swallows. “Magnus, every single member of my officer’s corps co-signed that letter.”
Magnus hears the wonder mingled with awe in Alec’s voice and wishes deeply that Alec would understand how much his people love him.
“And Magnus,” Alec breathes, “the Consul agreed.” He sounds stunned. “Jia Penhallow just summoned me to her office and informed me that tomorrow morning she will accept my Institute’s call and name me as Head.”
He grins, the reality suddenly sinking in as he says it out loud, and Magnus is helpless but to beam right back.
“Magnus, once I’m installed as Head the Clave will have no authority in New York.” Alec’s mind is clearly already racing. “Those ideas I had, making the Downworld Cabinet a real power? Enacting programs to exchange ideas and culture?” Alec is near breathless with excitement. “As long as the Covenant is upheld and the Accords are unbroken, the Clave can’t stop me .”
Chapter 2: The Cabinet Meeting
Magnus can’t conceal the delight pulling the corners of his lips up and he doesn’t care in the slightest.
It’s rare that Magnus sees Alec so overtly brimming with excitement and even rarer that he gets to see his partner so brilliantly happy at a Cabinet meeting. It’s far too common for their typical agenda to cover a myriad of assaults and trespasses, often worse, and rarely are the topics the five of them bring up pleasant. For anyone.
This morning however, Alec had requested an urgent meeting of the Cabinet, the announcement of his coming ascension as the named Head of the New York Institute far too politically significant to delay.
Raphael and Maia are chatting in a corner as they await Meliorn’s arrival and Magnus can overhear bits and pieces about a liquor delivery gone awry from Maia’s exasperated retelling. Both of them are glancing periodically at Alec, his darling barely able to contain his visible delight, before sending puzzled glances in Magnus’ direction. Magnus just fights back a grin and shakes his head.
It’s rare that Alexander has a good announcement to make and Magnus refuses to spoil his fun.
It’s only a few moments later when Andrew knocks perfunctorily on the meeting room door, Meliorn striding past him without waiting for an invitation. They’ve long since passed the days where the escort was anything other than rote politeness.
Andrew sends a quick nod at Alec, his blue eyes gleaming with badly concealed pleasure, and Magnus remembers that, as Head of Security, Andrew would have been one of the officers signing the petition to the Clave. It’s not been announced openly yet, but Magnus imagines everyone who signed that document and has seen Alec since he returned from Idris last night knows exactly what’s coming.
Magnus can feel Raphael and Maia’s stares turning from Alec to Andrew to him, burning into the back of his neck. They know he knows too.
Alec clears his throat and they begin to gather around the large granite table, Alec placing his back to the door as has been his custom since the early days when none of the Cabinet members were willing to do so, and Magnus sits at his right. They’d debated initially if it would be seen as either of them favoring the other in their decision to sit together before realizing how stupid seat placement was in that particular consideration. Magnus just likes being close enough to play footsie and watch his uncooperative boyfriend’s blush grow darker and darker. (Alec never does tell him to stop though.)
It’s the work of moments for everyone to settle in and Alec can’t even start with the opening formalities before Maia lifts a perfectly sculpted brow.
“Out with it, Lightwood,” she smiles, leaning back in her chair. “The last time you looked this happy, you’d just watched Simon fall off the stage during karaoke.”
Magnus snorts involuntarily, remembering that particular evening likely far better than the absolutely plasma-sloshed Daylighter in question.
Alec sends a quelling glance at the two of them, but it’s easy to see he doesn’t really mean it. Alec tries to keep at least a veneer of formality at these meetings, however, and refuses to join in even though it’s Simon they’re mocking. (Magnus can practically see how hard Alec has to bite his tongue to hold back.)
“I apologize for calling all of you on such short notice,” Alec begins, not bothering to hide his excitement, “but, as you may have guessed, I do have some good news to share for once.”
And Alec pauses for a moment, a slight flush rising on his pale cheeks, and Magnus’ heart pangs softly, wishing that his partner could feel just how proud Magnus is of him in this moment.
Raphael leans forward, propping his chin on a loosely curled fist. “The Clave have pulled their heads from their asses for once then, Lightwood?”
Alec quirks a brow. “You do recall that I am a member of the Clave, correct?”
Raphael smirks, not responding, but Magnus notices Alec’s flush is gone as he keeps going and sends a gentle side-eye to an unrepentant Raphael.
“Jia Penhallow summoned me to her office yesterday.” The Consul’s name rarely heralds good tidings and it’s gratifying for Magnus to see a small spark of worry for Alec in the way all present suddenly tense in their seats.
Alec pauses again, searching for words in a way he very rarely does, before continuing. “Several days ago, the officer’s corps of my Institute put together a petition and sent it to the Consul, calling for her to name me as Head of the Institute.”
The pleased, and still vaguely disbelieving, awe in Alec’s voice is so very easy for Magnus to hear.
“In light of the actions of this Institute, and, in particular, our role in the death of Valentine and the destruction of Lilith and Edom, Consul Penhallow elected to overturn the decision to prohibit my installation as the vested Head of this Institute and formally named me in accordance with my people’s petition.”
Alec swallows harshly, the decision still so clearly a massive shock and an immense honor, and Meliorn and Raphael both sit up sharply, suddenly paying keen attention in a way they very rarely display so overtly. Maia glances over at the two’s sudden movement and frowns lightly.
“The formal proclamation will be published in Alicante later today, and, per our traditions, nailed on the Institute doors shortly thereafter.”
Raphael swears lightly under his breath in Spanish. “Ay, dios mío,” he breathes, clearly just as astonished as Alec had been the night before.
Maia’s frown grows more pronounced. “I don’t understand,” she says, and it’s evident in her tone just how much she hates the feeling. She gestures towards Alec with one of her hands. “You’ve been Head of the Institute for as long as I’ve known you. Why is this news?”
“No,” Meliorn interjects, staring unblinking at Alec. “He has been the Acting Head of the Institute, and there is an entire realm of difference between those two titles.”
Raphael leans back, turning to glance at a beaming Magnus before speaking. “I still remember Marian and Adam Whitelaw.” He looks to Maia, adding for her benefit, “They were the last vested Heads of the New York Institute, but that was nearly three decades ago now.”
Maia doesn’t look any less bemused after Meliorn and Raphael’s comments. She turns to Alec, voice cutting. “And for those of us who don’t remember the 80s, perhaps you can recap why this is a thing?”
Alec tilts his head, having honestly forgotten that there was no reason for Maia to already be familiar with the implications of his announcement. The Institute had already been under his parents’ control, or, as much control as the Clave would allow at least, when Maia was born. Later, there would have been no reason for the newly turned werewolf to have learned the intricacies of nephilim law, especially a set of laws that had been essentially obsolete in New York for over a decade at that point.
Magnus cuts in before he can answer. “Would you mind if I gave some of the history first, Alexander?”
Alec never lets himself forget the terrible history that Magnus has with the Circle, with his parents in particular, but it still catches him off guard occasionally, and the visceral reality of how Magnus must have come to have the knowledge he does of what it means to be the named Head is one such time.
Alec nods in invitation nevertheless, always hungry to hear more of Magnus’ life.
Magnus turns slightly in his chair to better face Maia, although he makes sure to include Raphael in his gaze as well. The vampire may remember the Whitelaws’ reign, but he wouldn’t have been involved in inter-faction politics thirty years ago.
Meliorn sits quietly to the side, hands folded in his lap, still staring unblinkingly at Alec. This recap is most definitely not for the knight’s benefit.
“To start with,” Magnus begins, “until Marian and Adam Whitelaw and their children were killed by the Circle, the New York Institute was under the rule of the Whitelaw family, not the Lightwoods. They weren’t particularly fond of Downworlders, but they were strict and they were fair, keeping the New York Shadowhunters to the Accords just as equally as us.”
The ‘unlike Maryse and Robert Lightwood’ goes unsaid, but is most definitely heard. More than that, the Accords have never been a truly equal document and keeping to their letter would only have stopped the worst of the abuses against the Downworld.
“They were murdered at the height of Valentine’s first rise, just a few days before the sudden avalanche of betrayals that sent Valentine into hiding.” Once again it goes unspoken that Alec’s parents were part of that group of Circle members turned (theoretical) traitors. “By the time the Clave began to think about replacing them,” Magnus continues, “they were already deep in the midst of the Circle trials. The thing is,” Magnus emphasizes, “with the Whitelaws gone, the Clave had an unprecedented level of control over the New York territory.”
Magnus turns his head to glance at Alec, “I’m going to keep going, darling, but please interrupt if you feel I’m treading on your toes, so to speak.”
“You know better than I do what’s common knowledge among the Downworld," Alec smiles at Magnus. "It may be better if you do the rest of the explanation and I jump in when we get to the part about the installation,” he admits frankly, inflecting his voice up slightly at the end to check if Magnus is okay with that.
Magnus smiles back, tilting his head briefly in wordless acquiescence before continuing, speaking almost directly to Maia. “The Whitelaws had been the formally named and vested Heads of the New York Institute, which means that they ruled this territory with almost no oversight from the Clave.”
Maia startles, glancing back and forth between Magnus and Alec. “How is that possible? The Clave has to approve almost everything Alec does.”
Alec’s lips quirk up bitterly, not quite a smile. “Because I’m only Acting Head.”
“And therein lies the critical piece,” Magnus carries forward without pause. “Without a formally named and vested Head, the overall authority in a territory is the Clave. Acting Heads have almost no true power. The Clave has to approve everything they do. They approve any change in rules of engagement or operational procedure, they determine who holds each role within the Institute, they can change any territorial law they please; they even have to approve budgets and personnel requests from the Acting Head.”
Alec can’t even begin to count how many hours he has stood before Imogen or Jia or, on one memorable occasion, before the entire body of the Clave, fighting tooth and nail for every scrap of funding he can finagle from Idris’ coffers, each win another seraph blade in his people’s hands or another bandage in their infirmary.
“The New York territory isn’t the largest under the Clave’s control, but because of the triple ley line convergence at the center of the city, the New York Institute itself is the third largest in the world,” Magnus reminds Maia. “The amount of gold and the number of Shadowhunters that flow through this Institute puts whoever is in charge of that flow in a position of immense power.”
“And the Clave,” Raphael interjects sardonically, “has never been a fan of giving up power.”
“That,” and Magnus’ voice is heavy with centuries of experience, “is an understatement of immense proportion, dearest.”
“Hence the Clave’s decision to punish my parents by giving the Lightwoods acting control of the New York Institute,” Alec finally speaks.
“Wait,” Maia jerks her head up, “giving the Lightwoods control of the New York Institute was their punishment for being in the Circle and murdering and torturing a literally untold number of Downworlders?”
Alec waits a moment to see if Magnus wants to take back over, but he remains silent and Alec locks his eyes with Maia. “No.”
Alec will own the history of his people, of his family, no matter how painful it is. “The Clave couldn’t have cared less about the death of Downworlders,” he acknowledges flatly. “Their punishment was for treason against the Clave, no matter how many people agreed with the actions they took in Valentine’s name. Their punishment was for the embarrassment they caused the Clave by being stupid enough to get caught.”
Alec has to pause for a second to bring his temper under control, still furious at the actions his parents have yet to express any true regret for. At his side, there is a vicious gleam of satisfaction and pride in Magnus’ eyes, so very pleased that Alec fails to dance along the political tightrope of verbal niceties and doublespeak the Clave prefers, openly admitting to his people’s bigotry.
In the slight pause Alec’s cool-down leaves, Magnus takes over again. “While the Clave may have named them Acting Heads, they also forbid any Lightwood from being named and vested as the true Head. While they may have given Maryse and Robert what was technically a position of power and a reward, in keeping them from being vested there was no other position in which they would have been under such direct oversight and control.”
Maia’s eyes sharpen as she seamlessly shifts her gaze back to Alec. She may not have lived through the Whitelaws’ reign, may not have known this bit of Shadowhunter law, but she is nothing if not brilliantly shrewd. The Alpha of New York can’t afford to be anything less. “And that control has carried over to you.”
It’s not a question, but Alec answers nevertheless. “The level of power that the Clave has in New York is unprecedented and unreplicated. There has never been a territory held under an Acting Head’s rule for more than three months. New York, in contrast,” he says, “hasn’t had a named Head in twenty-five years.”
The magnitude of Alec’s announcement is somehow even greater than it was last night, having listened to Alec paint that picture so starkly. Magnus is unbearably proud of his boyfriend for what he’s accomplished and he can’t make himself stay silent. “Last week the entirety of Alec’s officer corps signed a letter to the Clave, petitioning them to remove the injunction prohibiting a Lightwood from being installed as Head and formally requesting that the Consul name Alexander as such.”
Alec ducks his head, embarrassed as much as he’s pleased. Magnus knows Alec would never have so much as hinted at asking his people to do what they’ve just done for him.
Magnus places a hand on Alec’s thigh under the table in silent support. “Alexander has already been called by his people and will be formally approved, formally named, by the Consul this afternoon.”
“And, by tradition,” Alec finishes, “I will be fully vested as Head at a ceremony in three days’ time.” He sits back in his chair, meeting the gaze of his full Cabinet. “Once I’m given that authority, the Clave will have no power in New York so long as the Covenant and the Accords remain unbroken.”
Magnus just grins at his side, beaming.
The Cabinet room is silent for a long moment before Maia slouches in her chair and lets out a huff of a laugh. “Well, congratulations then Lightwood.” She smirks. “If you fuck up now I guess we’ll only have you to blame.”
Alec’s smile in response shows far too many teeth for politeness. “True enough.”
And Magnus knows exactly how much Alec is looking forward to the inevitable hard choices being his decision and his alone.
Meliorn folds his hands on the surface of the table. “As much as this will change New York’s political landscape, I assume there is a reason beyond notification alone that you have gathered us here in person?”
Alec nods. “There is, yes,” and he takes a second to gather his thoughts. “It’s not specifically disallowed, but, so far as I can tell, no Downworlders have been present at an installation ceremony for well over a thousand years.” Alec pauses, meeting the Seelie’s eyes. “I plan to change that.”
Meliorn’s lips quirk in response. “I had hoped that’s where this conversation was leading.”
“Over the months that we’ve been meeting as a Cabinet, I hope it’s evident that I have come to respect you all not just as the leaders of your people, but also as my friends. With only one exception, this will be the most important ceremony I will ever take part in,” and Alec raises the hand he has clasped with Magnus up between them, turning slightly to press a gentle kiss to Magnus’ knuckles. Magnus is helpless but to smile back, blinking quickly at the sudden warmth in his eyes.
They may not have spoken about it in terms of whens and hows yet, but Magnus knows that one day he will wear Alec’s ring on his finger and have the same true in turn. It’s gratifying to know that not even this would rise above that day in Alexander’s head.
With one more gentle squeeze of affection, Alec brings their hands down to rest on the table, still entwined, and continues speaking, bringing his gaze up to the other Cabinet members. “If for no other reason than that, I would want you all to be there. However,” and a hint of Alec’s rebellious nature shines through in his grin, “that is far from the only reason I’ve called this meeting to request your presence at the ceremony.”
Maia’s smirk is entirely too pleased. “You want to shake things up?”
Alec meets her gaze, his expression viciously satisfied. “I plan to make a statement the Clave will never forget. I plan to throw open the doors of this Institute and invite everyone in the New York Shadow World. We nail the papers naming each Head on the doors of our Institutes because these ceremonies didn’t start as nephilim only. Heads may lead only Shadowhunters, but we are responsible for the protection of everyone in our territory, and I think it’s been far too long since my people have been reminded of that.”
Magnus can barely breathe for how proud he is of the man whose hand he still holds.
Meliorn looks just as pleased as Magnus, and Raphael and Maia are both equally obvious in their delight. “I look forward to informing my Queen of your intentions. I have no doubt that she will give leave to the many of her people that will wish to attend.”
Which is as close as Magnus knows Meliorn will come to speaking for his Queen. Raphael sits forward next.
“With the exception of a few of our fledglings that lack the necessary control, you may expect my entire Coven to be in attendance, Lightwood.”
Maia doesn’t wait for Alec to respond to Raphael before she speaks up too. “The New York Pack will be there.” She smirks. “You better have a big enough room for all of us somewhere in this place.”
Alec nods silently, and if he has to take a second before continuing, clearly not having expected such full-throated and immediate support, no one mentions it.
There’s a moment's pause while Alec gathers himself, but he sits forward in his chair a moment later and shuffles through the small folder of documents he has before him. Pulling out the top sheets, he passes a thin sheaf of papers to each of the Cabinet members.
“Since it’s been so long since New York has had a named Head, I thought it would be beneficial to provide a summation of the major changes that will affect the Downworld, primarily the additional rights afforded to any Downworlders accused or suspected of crimes against the Clave. After I'm invested the Clave will have no right to so much as question a resident of New York without my permission.”
Alec looks at Meliorn, his fiercely satisfied expression a perfect match for the Seelie’s. The ‘never again’ doesn’t need to be said to be heard.
“I’ve also included a general timeline for the ceremony itself,” Alec continues, turning to the next page in the copy of the documents he had kept for himself.
“Traditionally, the incoming Head names three nephilim as ceremonial witnesses, one each from the Institute and the Clave, and one from an Institute with which they are closely allied. I’ve studied the canons however, and the only true requirement is that there must be at least one witness from the Clave. The number and representation of the others are tradition, not doctrine.”
Magnus turns to look at Alec, realization dawning. “You want the other witnesses to be from each Downworld faction.” Alec hadn’t mentioned it to him, but even as he says it Magnus knows he’s correct.
Alec raises his brow at him. “Would you like to make all my other announcements for me too?” He asks dryly.
And Magnus just grins back because he knows Alec’s amused voice when he hears it.
“Oh no, my sweet gazelle, please, do continue,” he gestures grandly, leaning back in his chair.
“Gazelle?” Maia mouths, delighted, and Magnus knows Alec is going to extract payment from him for that later. (He rather looks forward to it actually.)
Alec lets out a not too displeased sigh, a smile tugging at the corner of his lips.
“As Magnus guessed, I don’t plan to follow tradition for this part of the ceremony. I’d like to have two nephilim witnesses, one from the Clave witness and one from my Institute, and then I’d like to have one additional witness from each of the factions. I’ve included the exact wording for what is requested of a ceremonial witness on the sheet, so please feel free to read and consider it before giving me your answer.”
Meliorn inclines his head after glancing down at the document. “I will ask my Queen as soon as I return.”
Alec nods in thanks.
Maia looks up from her copy. “I’m a bartender - this is literally my job description," she laughs. "Of course I’ll do it, Lightwood.”
Raphael reads his more carefully, but he agrees too and everyone’s heads automatically turn to Magnus.
“Do you even need to ask, darling?” Magnus accepts, smiling.
And Magnus pauses, suddenly uncertain, as something complicated and unreadable flashes across Alec’s face.
“Actually, Magnus,” and Alec looks extraordinarily uncomfortable in a way that he so rarely is when dealing with the Cabinet. “I was, uh, planning on discussing this with you tonight first, but I was wondering if you would be able to ask Catarina or another warlock to stand in your stead as a representative for the warlocks?”
The focus of everyone in the room snaps from Magnus to Alec, and Magnus blinks before holding himself carefully still in his seat, face void of any expression at the implications of that statement.
Raphael is barely holding back a snarl across the table from Magnus, succeeding only because the past years have given him some small measure of trust in the Shadowhunter before him.
Alec frowns in confusion at the sharp and obvious anger in the gaze of all the other representatives in the room before he sucks in a breath, eyes wide with sudden realization. “No!” He turns to Magnus, leaning towards him as if pulled by a magnet. “I’m not asking you not to be witness, Magnus- I mean, I am, but-“ and Alec stops abruptly.
Magnus knows how much Alec hates it when he starts babbling in front of anyone but Magnus himself, hates the lack of control, the lack of diplomacy, but he can’t make himself speak up, frozen. Alec cannot be excluding Magnus from this ceremony. There is no possibility Alec would do that to him. There isn’t.
Alec ducks his head down and runs one of his hands over his face, shoulders curling inward for a moment. The Shadowhunter takes a deep breath, obviously steeling himself before bringing his gaze back up to meet the eyes of those around the table.
“I’m sorry- I got out of order and messed this up. I presume no one here is familiar with how the Triune Seal is inscribed during an Institute Head’s Investiture?” Alec asks quietly.
Maia’s voice is cool as ice, her humor gone and her earlier dislike of being the only one needing an explanation still evident. “Of course, Shadowhunter, because we Downworlders are always welcome to the Clave’s sacred customs.”
Alec winces at the dry scorn. “Fair.” Maia hasn’t addressed him by race instead of name in months.
Alec clasps his hands on the table in front of him and drops his gaze down to stare at his interlocked fingers before continuing somewhat haltingly.
“There’s a lot of fairly dry ritual involved, but the last custom before taking the Head’s Oath is the inscribing of the Triune Seal, the only part that must be performed, even in transfers of power during times of war. It’s also the only part of the ritual that, if failed, can halt the ceremony.”
“And what exactly is this seal?” Maia asks, each word tight and annoyed.
Alec looks up for a moment, startled. It had clearly never occurred to him that anyone wouldn’t be aware of the Triune Seal itself.
“Uh,” Alec fumbles, still not having regained his equilibrium, eyes darting back to Magnus’ frozen form almost involuntarily. “Institute Heads are each branded with a three rune seal during their investment, each seal unique to the Head in question and never repeated.” Alec pauses again, eyes still only on Magnus even as he’s speaking to Maia.
“The Triune Seal isn’t just a signature- it’s the symbol of Raziel’s authority passed down to Earth and it's what actually allows invested Heads to rule their territory in place of the Clave. Anything signed by the Head with the Triune Seal is bound with force of law, and any who bear that seal on their skin in the Head’s hand can act with their complete authority.”
Alec’s gaze is still locked on Magnus. “As I’m only Acting Head, I can’t issue orders under the authority of the Triune Seal, which is why nearly every order I give has to be approved by the Clave.”
Magnus’ voice is quiet, oddly fragile, as he interrupts when Alec falters and pauses for a too-long moment. “And what exactly is the inscription of the seal?”
Magnus had obviously noticed Alec’s earlier differentiation between knowing about the seal itself and the inscribing thereof.
“The Seal isn’t chosen by the Head,” Alec hurries to answer Magnus’ question. “Before the installation, the incoming Head chooses three persons that utterly and truly know them, their suggeneia, the three who they trust most to pass judgement on them. During the ceremonial inscription, each of those three are asked to brand the Head with one of the runes that will form their seal.”
Unlike the explanation a moment ago to Maia, this is clearly new information to all present.
“The rune each suggenes chooses represents a trait that embodies the new Head’s actions in the past and is accompanied by a judgement of how they believe that trait will be carried out during the new Head’s tenure.” Alec’s fingers tighten their grip around themselves momentarily.
“Any of the three can also refuse to gift a rune, signifying that the Head-elect has no qualities that the suggenes believes is worthy to lead the Institute. In that case, the ceremony is stopped and the Head-elect will no longer be considered a candidate for the Headship of an Institute.”
Alec takes a breath, “I’m certain no one will be surprised that I’ve asked Jace and Izzy if they will do me the honor of standing as two of my suggeneia.”
And here Alec pauses yet again. His eyes have yet to leave Magnus, but something in them sharpens perceptibly as Alec draws himself back up, shoulders straightening where they’d been hunched. “Those standing as suggeneia, however, cannot hold any other role during the ceremony. I wanted to ask you if you would consider having a second stand in your place with the Cabinet, Magnus, because I had hoped to request that you would do me the honor of standing as my final suggenes.”
Magnus blinks, aware that his glamour has fallen in his utter shock. Downworlders haven't even been allowed to attend Shadowhunter ceremonies for the past millennia, and Alec wants him to stand as one of his suggeneia?
The concept of suggeneia is one of the very few Shadowhunter customs that has filtered out of their carefully secretive society and Magnus knows exactly what it means to be asked this question. Legally, suggeneia are considered closer even than blood kin. If Magnus stands as such in this ceremony, he will have rights to Alec that supersede even those of Maryse and Robert, only Jace, as his parabatai, and Isabelle, as his other suggenes, would even have the possibility of gainsaying him.
“I,” and Magnus is suddenly lost for words and the rest of the Cabinet appears to have followed him in his shock. Every time Magnus thinks he has a handle on how far Alec is willing to go against the Clave, he still manages to surprise him.
“Warlocks cannot handle stele to give runes,” Raphael suddenly says when it becomes obvious that Magnus still can’t find the words to respond.
Alec shakes his head immediately in response. “Warlocks can’t draw on internal angelic magic to activate the stele, true, but the Seal is one of three runes that doesn’t draw on internal power when given. The Wedded Union rune, the Parabatai rune, and the Triune Seal are all drawn after activating the stele from a piece of the Angelic Core Stone that powers the Institute. I already asked Brother Zechariah to ensure it wouldn’t be a problem. The Silent Brother officiating the Ceremony can provide a stele for Magnus and, once activated, there’s no need for the wielder to have Shadowhunter blood in order to draw power from the stone or to inscribe the rune on me.”
Alec’s eyes are still locked on Magnus, waiting for a response. When one doesn’t come, Magnus still staring at him mutely, Alec stammers, a deep flush forming on his cheeks. “You, uh, don’t need to respond now of course. I meant to talk with you tonight to give you a chance to consider it- I know that you will, you'll have other considerations as High Warlock than just whether you’re willing stand as-”
“Alec,” Magnus interrupts, swallowing past some deep emotion rising in his chest. “I don’t have the words to tell you how honored I’d be to stand as your suggenes.”
Alec breathes in sharply, quietly, his hand sneaking across the table to meet Magnus’ while he searches for words. "Mag-"
The door to the room bangs open and everyone inside jumps at the unexpected intrusion.
“Sir!” Erin Ashborne’s blonde hair peeks through the door. “I’m sorry to interrupt, but you’re needed immediately on the Ops floor.”
“Ashborne?” Alec asks, already standing.
“One of our patrol teams is currently trying to evade a mundane detective that appears to have the Sight.”
Alec winces automatically. Sighted mundanes were rare, but they had a nasty habit of popping up every now and again at the worst possible times.
“If you’ll excuse me,” Alec directs to the room apologetically. “I hate to cut the meeting short, but I believe Jace is planning to meet with you to go over the ceremony in more depth tomorrow night and he can cover the rest of the agenda then.”
Alec turns back to Erin and moves through the door after seeing a chorus of agreeing nods from the room. “What exactly did the detective see?” He asks, door swinging shut behind them.
There’s a long moment of silence amidst the assembled Cabinet.
Raphael speaks first. “Your Shadowhunter never ceases to surprise me.”
Magnus is unusually still, staring into the middle distance, not loosening up in response to Raphael’s comment. The warlock breathes quietly for another moment before turning his attention back to the group.
“I’ll need to report this to the Council of the Spiral Labyrinth. Tonight.” He looks over at Raphael finally, his smile a pale attempt at normalcy. “I trust you won’t mind me rescheduling our dinner this evening?”
Raphael and the others pause, suddenly tense at Magnus’ unexpected pronouncement. Reports to the Labyrinth were rarely done for pleasant reasons.
“Magnus?” Raphael questions.
Magnus shakes his head. “I sometimes forget how piecemeal the bits of shadowhunter custom known to most of the Downworld are. I assume I don’t need to explain the concept of suggeneia in general?”
Maia speaks up. “I know suggenes are legally considered next of kin, but I thought that was just for weddings?”
Magnus nods, gaze still far away. “True, and that alone is certainly enough for the Clave and the Council both to be shocked at Alec’s choice. However, I think perhaps the most important piece has been forgotten as it’s been so many years since New York has had a permanent Head in which this would be relevant.”
Magnus pauses, glancing at Meliorn, but it appears even the Seelie Knight is unaware why this particular request has shocked Magnus so much.
“I knew each Head chose three suggeneia when they were installed, but I didn’t know their role in the inscription of the seal. However, and this only applies to the three suggeneia chosen for a Head’s investiture, of course, not for the one chosen for a wedding, but the three suggeneia don't just have a ceremonial role.” Magnus licks his lips before he continues. “In times of war, if the Head falls, whether that be to death or to serious injury, their command falls to their three suggeneia, who act in concert until such time as the Head is able to resume command or the Clave appoints another to take their place.”
And judging by the sudden stillness of those around the table, they are beginning to understand Magnus’s shock.
“It would only be true in extraordinarily bad circumstances, but if I stand as Alexander’s suggenes during this ceremony, then he is deliberately creating the possibility of a warlock in a position to legally give orders and hold rank over the Shadowhunters of the New York Institute.”
Chapter 3: Jace Tells Everyone What's What
This is, by far and above, the heaviest world building I've ever done for any story I've ever written. It's a lot, so apologies in advance for the deluge of information in this chapter. I'd love to hear what y'all think about the Triune Seal though! ❤️
Jace seats himself quickly once Magnus waves him towards an overstuffed armchair, perching on the very edge of the seat and looking distinctly out of place in the elegant room still dressed as he is in patrol leathers with the hilts of two seraph blades strapped to either thigh.
The living area of the loft has clearly been rearranged to more comfortably accommodate the mix of Downworlders that have gathered at Jace’s request to go over the Order of Ceremony for Alec’s installation in two days.
“Drink?” Magnus questions, dropping down to sprawl across the corner of his couch, a heavy tumbler of colorful liquid appearing suddenly in hand.
Jace eyes the smoke curling in geometrically perfect spirals from the drink’s surface and decides it better not to ask. “Thanks, but not tonight,” he answers dryly.
“Suit yourself,” Magnus shrugs, taking a healthy sip from his glass and letting out a frankly indecent moan.
Maia’s eye-roll from the loveseat between Jace’s chair and the sofa is so pronounced it’s nearly audible and even Meliorn, looking bizarrely out of place in his Seelie armor, appears less than perfectly sanguine. Raphael sighs deeply in long-suffering resignation from his seat on the other end of the sofa at their antics.
“Are we just waiting for Oberon?” Jace asks, curious to meet Magnus’ European counterpart. The only non-New Yorker coming to this meeting, Magnus had requested permission from the Spiral Labyrinth to have Oberon stand in his stead as witness. Alec had been clearly pleased at the news when Magnus had called to let him know.
“He portalled in a few hours ago.” Magnus raises his voice, teasing as he calls out, “and he’s still primping, the vain little peacock!”
“You say that as though it’s a bad thing, darling,” Oberon sniffs, swanning into the living room from the direction of Magnus and Alec’s bedroom and draping himself teasingly next to Magnus on the couch. Jace pointedly refuses to think any further of the possible implications of where the warlock has just come from.
“It is when you’re delaying this potentially fascinating exchange of information,” Magnus pouts, immediately snapping up another of his spiral-smoking drinks for the horned warlock and toasting their glasses together with a crisp ring of crystal.
“Jace,” and Magnus gestures from the Shadowhunter to the warlock next to him, “meet Oberon, High Warlock of Vienna and Consular High Warlock of Europe. Oberon,” and Magnus reverses the gesture, “meet Jace of the Rotating Last Name, Alexander’s parabatai and the New York Institute’s Head of Field Operations.”
It’s clear which of those two titles is most intriguing to the older man and Oberon eyes Jace interestedly. “We’ll have to get to know each other better later, dear-heart,” he winks.
“We’ll make a pretty pair at least,” Jace smirks, slowly drawing his eyes up and down Oberon’s form. Jace loves this type of fun flirtation, no true interest on either side.
The noise of irritation that comes from Raphael’s throat, however, defies description, even as Magnus laughs in response.
“Apologies, dearest,” Magnus directs at the vampire. “I suppose we do need to discuss what’s actually brought us here this evening.” He turns again towards the blond. “Jace?”
Jace breathes in momentarily, centering himself and getting back to some semblance of formality. He’s here representing the Institute and, more importantly, Alec.
“Thank you all for agreeing to meet with me on such short notice this evening,” Jace begins. “I’m aware that this is likely to be a lot of detail, but since you’ll all be either acting as witnesses or directly participating in the ceremony, I want to make sure you’re aware of what exactly is happening.”
Jace’s demeanor is visibly uncomfortable at the sharp attention the others present suddenly pay him. Normally, the blond Shadowhunter has no problems with every eye being on him, but it’s obvious he’s uncertain at how to explain the intricacies of Shadowhunter culture to a group of people it’s been used to systematically oppress for the past thousand years.
“I have to admit,” Oberon says, leaning back in his armchair and steepling his fingers over his chest, flirtation temporarily curtailed, “I was surprised by your request. First, I had the impression that Alec typically handles most of the,” and he pauses momentarily, lips quirking, “shall we say, the administrative tasks between the two of you?” ‘Administrative’ clearly being code for anything not related to fieldwork.
Jace shifts in his seat as Maia snorts inelegantly from Meliorn’s left side. “Understatement,” she murmurs sotto voice.
(Given Jace knows that Maia and Alec meet up pretty close to weekly after some of Alec’s graveyard patrol for a Beer and Bitch session once Maia’s closed up Hunter’s Moon, he feels that she may be unfairly biased.)
“Alec generally does,” Jace acknowledges. He runs his palms across his thighs, unsure how to continue. “But, this isn’t going to be me just explaining the Order of Ceremony to you. There are some details and history you all should know before the installation, and Alec would never get into that with you.”
Oberon frowns, eyes narrowing. “Are you implying that your parabatai wouldn’t be honest with us if he were leading this meeting?”
He looks offended at the implication and Jace grins, instantly much more at ease. He knows how much Alec respects Oberon and he’s glad that respect seems to be returned. ”Of course not,” he assures. “However, while Alec would tell you everything necessary for you to understand and participate in the Order of Ceremony tomorrow, what he wouldn’t tell you is everything else.”
Oberon raises a single, perfectly arched brow. “Oh?”
“Alec has been fighting to make what may seem like a few very minor changes to the wording of the ceremony, but,” and here Jace trails off, searching for words. He’d volunteered to take this meeting in Alec’s place, much to his brother’s bemusement, but he hadn’t planned what to actually say once he was here.
Thankfully, Magnus rescues him a moment later, leaning forward to lock gazes with Jace. “The changes aren’t minor at all, are they?”
“The changes aren’t minor in the slightest,” the blond Shadowhunter confirms. Jace rubs his palms over his thighs again. “They may not be as obvious as requesting you as his suggenes, Magnus, but they have the potential to be much more revolutionary in terms of actual impact.”
Oberon cocks his head, intrigued enough to snap away his drink, and Raphael and Maia sit up straighter in their seats.
Magnus purses his lips, keeping his eyes on Jace. “Alexander has spent an unusual amount of time in Alicante between yesterday and today, but I had assumed it was standard preparation for the investiture.”
It’s a leading statement for all that it isn’t a question and Jace smiles grimly. “It’s been preparation for the investiture alright, but it’s not anything close to standard for a typical Head-Elect. There’s been some pushback from members of the Clave regarding the changes Alec wants made to the wording of his mandate and oaths. They insisted they would only agree to a compromise version, and,” Jace’s lips twitch, “Alec doesn’t exactly care for compromise at the best of times, let alone on things of this nature.”
“This nature?” Raphael inquires cooly, speaking up for the first time this evening.
Jace takes a deep breath. “Given that Downworlders have never been allowed at investiture ceremonies for Institute Heads, at least as far as our records go back, I’ll need to explain the history of the ceremony first. Magnus, has Alec ever talked with you about our, about nephilim history before?” Jace asks quietly.
Magnus breathes out slowly. “Not in any detail. I’ve never asked, and it’s never come up beyond vague generalities in conversation so far.” Magnus turns to the eldest being in the room. “Oberon?”
The warlock shakes his head, the little charms decorating his horns tinkling softly. “Shadowhunters have never been interested in sharing their history, their culture, with us, even before the first of the men Valentine would later look back to gained power. And, to my knowledge, while our wards may protect the entirety of your nephilim Institutes, no Downworlder has ever set foot in any of the sacred places while they were in ceremonial use.”
Jace nods slowly. “That makes sense, actually.”
Magnus cocks his head in question.
“The formal investiture of an Institute Head, or, more specifically,” Jace corrects himself, “the inscribing of the Triune Seal, is probably the closest thing to a true religious ceremony that we have.”
Raphael doesn’t say anything, but the sudden wrinkle in his forehead indicates his interest. For all that the Clave had been founded in parallel with the Roman Catholic Church and shares many key figures, they are still distinctly separate entities. But, where and how their respective histories and missions diverge is shrouded in mystery to all but the nephilim themselves.
Jace breathes in slowly before settling back in his seat. “Our history isn’t meant to be a secret exactly, but-” he trails off.
“Shadowhunters aren’t usually lining up to explain their culture to the Downworld?” Maia finishes for him dryly.
Jace nods, quirking a brow in acknowledgement. When he continues speaking, his words have the distinct intonation of someone relaying a story they’ve learned by rote. Magnus can almost picture a classroom of tiny Shadowhunters listening to the same words Jace is speaking to them.
“According to our histories, Raziel appeared nearly three thousand years ago to a perfectly righteous mundane, Jonathon Shadowhunter, to command him to dedicate his life in service to the world. He was to defend all peoples from the demons of the infernal realms that had made it into this plain, as the kings of the realms of Hell had grown in power and the angels could no longer fully block them from opening rifts in the fabric of reality. However, Raziel knew that no mere human had the ability to keep to this command. So, to ensure that the first of us could accomplish His will, Raziel gave Jonathon Shadowhunter the gifts which became the foundation of the nephilim race.”
Magnus is fascinated and he can see Oberon’s focus is keenly on Jace, his gaze sharper than he usually pretends in front of the nephilim. This is likely the first time the myths and history of the Clave have been shared with any member of the Downworld.
Jace continues, the words flowing from memory, clear and practiced. “First, Raziel brought forth a chalice and filled it with his blood. He bade Jonathon Shadowhunter to drink from this mortal cup that now held the Divine. In so doing, his mortal blood was mixed with the Divine, and so the first of the nephilim was born. Second, the Angel brought forth a stylus made of adamas from his robes. He took the wrist of Jonathon Shadowhunter and drew on him the enkeli, the rune which grants us the ability to bear all other runes and which grants us the Sight, that we may see the world as the angels do.”
Jace pauses, glancing at Magnus. “You saw Max’s rune after his ceremony?”
Magnus nods. (That night is one he doesn’t think he’ll ever quite manage to forget.)
“This history is the reason that every nephilim that swears themselves to the Clave receives the enkeli rune during their ceremony, and it’s also the reason we all receive it on our wrists.” Jace pulls back the sleeve on his jacket to gesture at his own before covering it again.
Magnus frowns and Jace laughs, clearly knowing immediately where the warlock’s mind is going. “It’s not uncommon to bear it twice,” he explains quickly, “especially for those whose specialties rely on variations of clear sight or observation. I think every pathologist I’ve ever met has more than one enkeli, though Izzy’s the only one I know who put it so... prominently,” Jace smirks.
Oberon looks intrigued and Jace makes a somewhat crude gesture indicating cleavage. Maia tosses a pillow at him, and Jace sobers up quickly, returning to his recitation.
“Finally, Raziel bid Jonathon Shadowhunter to kneel before Him in judgement. When he did, the Angel moved behind him and laid His hand on the nape of Jonathon Shadowhunter’s neck, speaking to him three times. First, He commended Jonathon Shadowhunter for his greatness among men, and, as He spoke, the Angel’s hand burned and His judgement of Jonathon Shadowhunter’s past was burned as a rune to the left of his spine. Next, the Angel commended Jonathon Shadowhunter for his glory in battle, and, as He spoke, His judgement of Jonathon Shadowhunter’s present was burned to the right of the spine. And, finally, Raziel commanded him to continue in righteousness as he led the eternal fight against the demons from Hell. This command was branded in between the other runes, directly over the spine, and Greatness-Glory-Righteousness became the first triune seal.”
Jace pauses. “Those three runes have been forbidden for use ever since,” he notes, glancing at Magnus. “It would be considered a symbol of immeasurable pride and vanity, placing oneself on the same level as Jonathon Shadowhunter to ever use one of the three.“
Magnus nods in acknowledgement. He’s been thinking long and hard about the rune he will be bestowing on Alec as part of his seal.
“Raziel bade the new nephilim, the First, to stand once more before Him. Raziel told him that this Triune Seal was a symbol of Raziel’s entrustment to him of His commands. He made it known that this Triune Seal is what granted Jonathon Shadowhunter authority over all who would be made nephilim through the powers of the Mortal Cup and would be sworn to service of the world. The Angel then laid hands upon Jonathon Shadowhunter one last time, imparting upon him both the knowledge that would later become the Grey Book and the skills to purify and craft adamas.”
“For the rest of his long and blessed life, Jonathon Shadowhunter worked to uphold Raziel’s commands and called others to the service of the Angel, bidding the worthy to drink from the Mortal Cup and gifting them their first rune. As their ranks grew larger and began spreading across the earth, Jonathan Shadowhunter created the first twelve Institutes to become home to the nephilim who would dedicate their lives to protecting all those who lived within their chosen territory.”
“He called forth twelve nephilim, those who were most steadfast in their loyalty and most fervent in upholding the commands of Raziel and in defending their brother and sister nephilim. He bid them each swear before all present that they would uphold the Covenant and, with their lives, serve as guardian, steward, and leader for all those who placed themselves under their command.”
“Is the New York Institute one of the original twelve?” Raphael interrupts to ask.
Jace blinks and nods, a little startled at being interrupted from his recitation. “Uh- yes,” Jace answers quickly. “Almost none of the Institute building is original to that time of course, but our area of protection is essentially unchanged and the line of succession for our Heads is unbroken from the Twelve.”
Raphael appears to contemplate something, but when no further questions come, Jace goes ahead with the history.
“As no one person could grant the same level of authority as the Angel, each of the twelve were bid to call upon two of their closest companions to assist in their formal installation as Heads of their new Institutes. The two companions were known as suggenes, the Head-elect’s closest kin and most trusted advisors. The first of the two would inscribe the rune of the past on the right hand of the Head-elect’s spine, symbolizing a trait embodied by the nominated nephilim that made them worthy to serve as Head. The second suggenes would inscribe the rune of the present to the left of the spine, symbolizing the underlying drive behind the Head-elect’s actions in leading the nephilim who would soon be sworn to them. The third rune, the rune of the future, the hope and commitment and promise for how the Head’s reign would be known, was chosen to be inscribed by Jonathon Shadowhunter himself, the deepest mark of respect the twelve could pay, placing him in the footsteps of the Angel to pass his judgement upon them.”
“The twelve, their authority now bound in the sacramental blessing of the Triune Seal, formed the first body of the Clave, vowing to uphold the Covenant of Raziel and to preside over the sacrament of the Seal so to ensure that all who received it, and were given authority to wield through it, would be worthy of standing in the unbroken line from Raziel, to Jonathon Shadowhunter, to the twelve, and to all those who would follow.”
Magnus' throat tightens slightly, beginning to understand even more why Alec was so overcome at being told he’d been named as Head-elect.
“After Jonathon Shadowhunter passed away,” Jace continues, “the Clave grew as new Institutes were called to service. Without Jonathon Shadowhunter to decree who was worthy to bear the Triune Seal, the nephilim in each territory came together in council to choose and call the person they trusted most to lead them, sending their choice to the Clave for the High Consul to agree and formally name their choice as Head-elect in written mandate.”
“Without Jonathon Shadowhunter to preside over the investiture of the new Heads, however, it was unclear who would inscribe the final rune of the Triune Seal and stand in the Angel’s place during the ceremonial inscription. It was eventually decided that this honor could not be given to a single individual that would preside over all investitures. Instead, it would be given to a third chosen suggenes, the one that the new Head respected before all others, the one that they would look to first for guidance and support if they ever faltered.”
Jace looks up and locks eyes with Magnus.
Magnus wets his lips, eyes suddenly wide and chest tight. “Alec requested me as his third suggenes,” he whispers.
Jace nods, voice gentling slightly from the practiced rise and fall of memorized story-telling. “Yeah, he did.”
And Jace looks nothing but pleased at his parabatai’s choice, something infinitely proud in his eyes as he speaks only to Magnus, not looking at any other occupants of the crowded room around them.
“During the ceremony, Izzy and I will stand behind Alec on the dais to draw the first two runes on his back. He’ll hand each of us the two weapons he’ll enter the ceremony with; me, his bow, symbolizing his ability to protect others, and Izzy his blade, symbolizing his ability to protect himself. Alec won’t stand before you though, Magnus. He’ll come before you completely unarmed, kneeling before the one he trusts to stand in place of the Angel.”
Magnus swallows harshly, unblinking.
“When Alec kneels before you on that dais, Magnus,” Jace keeps going, “he’s telling every person present that it is your judgement, your respect, that he places before all others. In you placing that rune on his neck, Alec is publicly proclaiming that it’s your blessing and your judgement on him and on his reign that gives him the right and the authority to uphold the Covenant.”
Magnus' throat is too tight to speak, but there’s a distinct shimmer visible in his suddenly unglamoured eyes.
Oberon is unmoving at his side, but the elder warlock swells his magic in mute comfort that only Magnus can feel. Magnus pulses his own in silent thanks, before nodding at Jace to continue.
The blond keeps going, drawing the other’s attention back to him and letting Magnus regain his equilibrium.
“Over the years, the Clave grew larger,” Jace continues, “As those who originally drank from the Cup began to have nephilim children, we separated ourselves from mundane society, created Idris and Alicante, and adapted the name Shadowhunters for all those older than twelve who had passed their trainings and sworn themselves to uphold the Covenant.” Jace bites his lip. “It’s also when we began moving away from the Covenant as it was given to us by Raziel, our original mandate, and towards the monstrosity of the early Accords.”
Magnus knows that he and Oberon both remember those days vividly, Oberon likely even more than himself. Magnus remembers when the Shadowhunters could care less if the Downworld actually signed the Accords, when they were hunted without mercy, their bodies mutilated and their marks displayed in gruesome collections. Young Downworlders were targeted by demons while the Shadowhunters turned a blind eye unless, or until, a mundane was involved.
The Seelie had largely kept to their realm to escape the hunts, but it was only after the first rise of the Circle that the Clave had made even the barest of attempts to keep their people to the provisions of the Accords. Even Raphael is older than the tentative peace their people have reached in recent years.
Jace swallows heavily. “And all it took was changing three words in our laws.”
Magnus leans forward, Oberon doing the same beside him. In eight hundred years, Magnus knows the Labyrinth has never guessed that there was a reason the Clave became what they did. They’d never guessed that this history existed; a change in law that the Clave used to justify the oppression, torture, murder, and eventually, the attempted genocide of his people.
“Three words?” Oberon questions, his voice suddenly dangerous, muscles tensed in remembered pain.
Jace meets the warlock’s eyes, unflinching. “Three words,” he affirms, solemn in a way he rarely is. “First, the mandates that our Heads were sworn to uphold changed the words of the Covenant from protection against the ‘demons of Hell’ to the ‘forces of Hell.’”
Raphael breathes in sharply, the human response a measure of his distinct shock. “Which could be interpreted to include all those of demonic blood or connection.” It isn’t a question.
Jace shakes his head nevertheless. “Yes.”
Oberon’s eyes are hooded. It’s clear that this is new information to him as well. “And the second change?” He asks quietly.
“Instead of acting to defend all in their territory, they were charged to defend all without sight. ”
Maia curses softly from the armchair next to Meliorn and Raphael remains coldly, perfectly silent.
Oberon’s voice is ice, each word diamond-cut in a reminder that this being had been alive before Pompeii was buried. Magnus may beat him in raw power, but Oberon is far more dangerous in cunning and guile. “May I assume we will not be attending an installation of a Head under the same mandate that has been used to justify the systematic oppression and murder of every individual in the room except for you?”
Jace lifts his head, not responding to the overt threat in Oberon’s tone. His expression isn’t happy precisely, but he’s smiling in vicious satisfaction, far too many teeth showing for polite society
“In two days’ time,” he swears, pride in his parabatai abundantly evident, “you will all be witness to the first time in a thousand years that an Institute Head will be installed under the mandates of the original Covenant.”
It isn't a promise; it’s an oath and every word is heavy.
Oberon turns to Magnus, a fiercely satisfied twist to his lips.
“The High Mage has given me permission to stand as witness not just as Consular High Warlock, but as representative of the Spiral Labyrinth if I deem it appropriate.”
Magnus swallows, immeasurable pride in his partner welling up in his chest.
“I take it you deem it so?”
Oberon doesn’t even bother affirming his obvious choice. “I know you’ll want to stay in New York, Magnus, so I’ll take care of the notifications on behalf of the Labyrinth, but,” and he turns to Jace, including him in the next announcement “please inform the Institute that you may expect all of the Consular High Warlocks to be in attendance at the ceremony in our official capacities.”
Jace’s resultant grin is half-feral in glee.
Magnus waves Maia through a portal, tightening the wards around the loft again as soon as his magic closes the portal behind her.
Maia was the last of the other Cabinet members to leave, wanting to ask Magnus a quick question about Pandemonium’s blood supplier. Taki’s had tripled their price on plasma in the last few months and Magnus had offered to give her a recommendation for a few alternatives at their last regular Cabinet meeting.
When Magnus turns around, Jace is leaning against the back of the couch, arms crossed over his chest.
Magnus raises a brow even as he crosses the room to the drink cart, pouring himself a tumbler of amber liquid. “Alexander already told me he won’t be home for a few more hours if he’s what you’re waiting for, blondie.”
“Nah,” Jace slouches a bit, relaxing now that it’s just he and Magnus in the apartment. “I wanted to let you know a few more decisions we’ve made about the ceremony details.”
“And you didn’t want to mention these details while the others were still here?”
“They’re not a secret or anything,” Jace shrugs. “Just- most of them only apply to you as one of his suggeneia, and, well-” Jace pauses, voice suddenly uncertain.
Magnus strolls back into the living room, glass in hand, to sink down on the couch, gesturing for the other man to join him.
“And?” He prompts.
Jace comes around from behind the couch to drop down on the cushion next to Magnus, squirming a bit until the sheaths of his blades aren’t digging into skin. “It’s not ceremony details precisely,” he starts, “but I wanted to let you know about a few customs.”
Magnus takes a sip of his drink, wondering if he’s going to need to prompt Alec’s parabatai yet again. Jace has already spoken more tonight than he usually did in three weeks, Magnus supposes.
At the continued silence Magnus arches a brow and sighs. “Customs?”
Jace turns slightly so he’s facing Magnus instead of the rest of the living room. “Usually Head-elects are married,” he starts, “and I thought you’d want to know the customs for the spouse.”
Magnus freezes, eyes wide. He and Alec have broached the topic before, they both know where their relationship is heading, but it’s entirely different to have Alec’s brother casually throw that idea into conversation.
“I- I would definitely like to know those customs, thank you,” Magnus eventually manages.
“I thought you might,” Jace smiles, softer than his usual want. “The first thing I should let you know, however, is about the ceremony itself. Brother Zachariah did offer to provide a stele for you to use during the inscription of the seal, which I know is what Alec talked about during the Cabinet meeting last night.”
“He did mention that, yes.”
Jace fidgeted slightly before continuing. “I’d like to offer an alternative. I assume you know the importance we place on our steles?”
“I do,” Magnus nods in affirmation. “Alec explained it to me when he started keeping his spare at the loft instead of the Institute.”
It had all been new information to Magnus, Alec and he constantly learning more about each other’s culture the longer they were together. Steles are deeply personal to the nephilim, individualized and bonded to their sole bearer, though Alec swore it wasn’t through magic. Using another’s stele was a mark of deepest trust and intimacy.
“Brother Zacharia will have the spare stele on him whatever you decide, but I’d like to offer you the choice to use my stele as well.”
“Jace?” Magnus blinks, startled.
“Alec is making his own statement in two days, Magnus, and I’d like to make mine. Alec is my brother and my parabatai and you’ve made him happier than he’s ever been, given him the courage to live for himself and choose love over duty to the Clave.” Jace reached over to lay his hand on Magnus’ arm. “You know as well as I do that we’ll be brothers-in-law sooner rather than later, Magnus, and I’d like to make sure the world knows that Alec isn’t the only one in this family to love you.”
Magnus lowers his glass to the coffee table, bringing his own hand up to cover Jace’s. “I’d be honored to use your stele. Thank you.”
Jace ducks his head a little, never hugely comfortable with overt displays of emotion, and Magnus lets his hand fall.
Jace clears his throat before continuing. “The other thing I wanted to mention is related to your choice for the final rune in Alec’s seal. Your rune is the rune of the future, and it’s entirely up to you what rune you decide on. However, that does mean you’ll need access to a copy of the Grey Book.”
Jace is very carefully not looking in the direction of Magnus’ apothecary where a battered copy of said book has been tucked into Magnus’ bookcase for the past six centuries.
“As you know, the Clave has deemed it illegal for a Downworlder to possess a published copy of the Grey Book.” And Jace smiles, something in his eyes heralding the nephilim’s favorite brand of chaos as he reaches into one of his jacket’s inside pockets and brings out a thick, leather-bound journal.
The journal is clearly hand-written and well-used, nearly two inches of cream parchment.
“Alec always says the Law is the Law,” Jace’s tone is good-naturedly mocking, “and the law very clearly specifies it being illegal to own a published copy.”
Magnus’ gaze falls momentarily to the journal in Jace’s lap, not certain at the connection.
“When Alec and I were being tutored in runes as a kid, Alec, being Alec, decided to transcribe the entire Grey Book by hand, adding in his own personal notes and some additional information from other references.”
Magnus breathes in sharply, eyes dropping hungrily to the journal as he imagines a younger Alec meticulously transcribing page after page in his neat script. He wonders what of his own personal experiences Alec had deemed important enough to mark down forever.
His fingers twitch and he forces down an eager spark of magic that would have transported the book from Jace’s lap to his.
Jace catches the hint of blue and smiles, moving his hands to offer the journal directly to Magnus. “Alec wanted to give this to you himself, but I thought you may want it sooner rather than later.”
Magnus has to force himself to lay the book down on the coffee table and not start reading it immediately. Jace’s gaze is empathetic, he of all people would know exactly how rare it was to be given an unfettered view into Alec’s thoughts like this, especially on a topic so fundamental to his being.
“If you want to dive in as soon as I leave Magnus, page 87 would be a good place to start.”
Magnus raises a brow in question.
“He wrote an entire chapter on the deflect rune.”
“An entire chapter ?” Magnus asks, startled. He’s long since memorized the single, all-too-short page that the Grey Book devoted to what’s become Magnus’ favorite rune.
“There’s four and half pages of footnotes,” Jace laughs.
Magnus would like Jace to leave now, please and thank you.
“As the look you’re currently giving that book means I doubt you want me to stay much longer,” Jace stands up and Magnus tries to be sorry, but he very much is not, “I’ll go ahead and tell you the last thing I’d planned to mention.”
Magnus tears his gaze away from Alec’s journal to look up to Jace.
“The day of the ceremony, Alec will take a final patrol of the city with Izzy and I, ensuring that it’s safe to leave everything to the skeleton crew that will be on duty during the installation. The three of us will come directly from patrol to the cathedral, officially beginning the ceremony when Alec enters the main doors to formally take possession of the Institute as Head.”
Jace heads for the door, having already told Magnus he’d planned to run back to the Institute to burn some energy. “It’s custom for the Head-elect’s spouse to provide a more formal set of patrol gear since that’s what’ll be worn during the ceremony itself, a symbol of their ability to protect and provide for their partner as much as their partner will do the same for them in turn.”
Magnus grins, delighted.
Chapter 4: Keeping Vigil
I thought I'd post this tonight instead of tomorrow so I can wake up to some happiness in my inbox. ❤️ (I've got a meeting with a collaborator that is my literal arch-enemy in the afternoon and could use some joy beforehand lol)
This chapter is fluff overload- hope y'all like it!
When Magnus blinks his eyes open the morning before the installation, the rosy hues of false dawn are just beginning to filter through his gauzy window hangings. Alec is sprawled out mostly on top of him, already awake and tracing the lines of Magnus’ face with his eyes.
A sudden warmth surges in Magnus’ chest and he brings his arms up to wrap them around Alec’s back in a loose hug.
“Good morning, darling,” he whispers into the quiet, his face close enough to Alec’s that he almost has to cross his eyes to focus.
Alec smiles back, clearly unbothered at having been caught out at watching Magnus sleep, his chin digging loosely into Magnus’ sternum for a moment at the sudden movement.
“Good morning, Magnus,” Alec whispers in return, dipping his head to nuzzle Magnus’ throat gently with his nose.
Magnus hums in contentment, closing his eyes again and relaxing into the dual warmth of his covers beneath him and his boyfriend on top of him. Alec eventually stops moving to press his forehead into Magnus’ shoulder and the two of them stay silent, relaxing in the calm stillness of their bedroom.
Magnus can’t remember the last time he was so content to just lay still and be, and he wishes futilely that he and Alec could put the day on pause and stay in this moment for as long as possible. Alas, Magnus’ Shadowhunter is never one to forsake his duties and magic alone knows how long Alec’s to do list must be on today of all days.
Speaking of, “Petal?” Magnus questions, stroking a hand down Alec’s spine. “What time do you have to be at the Institute this morning?”
Alec shivers at the movement of the hand on his back and Magnus imagines he can feel the warmth of Alec’s blush on his chest, his boyfriend undoubtedly a pleasing shade of pink at the use of one of Magnus’ favorite sobriquets.
Alec doesn’t move when he answers, his breath tickling over Magnus’ skin.
“I don’t have to be in until noon today.”
Magnus blinks, surprised. “Really?”
Alec nods, still refusing to lift up his head, and it’s Magnus’ turn to shiver as Alec realizes he’s in the perfect position to lay down a warm line of kisses on the warlock’s collarbone.
“It’s tradition.” Another set of kisses. “Long night coming up.”
Magnus quirks a single brow in question before remembering that Alec can’t see his face. “Oh?”
“Yes.” And Alec stills again, pressing his forehead tighter against Magnus’ shoulder.
“Petal?” Magnus won’t press him, but Alec often hides against Magnus like this when he needs to ask Magnus a question and he’s unsure of the answer. Magnus rubs his hand down Alec’s back in encouragement.
Alec takes in a breath against his skin. “Tonight is my vigil.” His voice is low, barely audible even in the silence of their pre-dawn bedroom.
Magnus stays quiet, hoping it will encourage Alec to keep speaking, his hand still steadily moving up and down his boyfriend’s muscled back.
Alec breathes again and continues, slightly louder this time. “There’s a small chapel beneath the Institute, directly underneath the oldest part of the main cathedral.” Alec pauses for a moment, the words obviously not coming easily, and Magnus wishes Alec would lift his head so he could garner some clues from his expression.
“When Jonathon Shadowhunter named and sanctified the first Institutes,” Alec continues, “each of the nephilim he called as their Heads laid the cornerstones of a chapel on the spot chosen to construct the main outpost in their territory. They built the chapels by hand and each one asked Jonathan Shadowhunter to bless them there before the gaze of Raziel the night before they accepted leadership.”
Magnus turns that over in his head, finding himself not unsurprised at this additional bit of ritual. Warlocks, both High Warlocks and Consular High Warlocks alike, are tied to their oaths of leadership in blood and in magic, but nephilim aren’t capable of swearing with such binding means. Every step of a Head-elect’s installation is designed to impress upon both the new leader and those they would soon be sworn to protect the seriousness of the commitment being made. Alec was about to swear his life to the protection and guidance of the New York Institute, and it made sense that there would be a time set aside to consider the depth of allegiance being given and to ask for Raziel’s blessing in keeping to their oaths.
Magnus nods, knowing that Alec can feel his movement even though he still hasn’t moved from his spot on Magnus’ chest.
“All of our Institutes are built with these chapels under their foundations, even now, but New York is one of only five remaining where Jonathon Shadowhunter himself kept vigil with the named Head before he died.” Alec presses another gentle kiss to Magnus’ skin. “In all of our history, no nephilim other than Jonathon Shadowhunter and the unbroken line of Heads for each Institute has stepped foot in those chapels. They’re reserved solely for the named Heads and their spouses, for the remembrance of our history and for the contemplation of the decisions we make that will guide our Institutes for decades.” Alec pauses briefly. “And- and tonight is my vigil.”
Magnus can feel Alec’s quiet awe at the thought of joining that ancient and storied line of nephilim and Magnus’ heart clenches in pride at the thought of the changes Alec will no doubt bring to their world in the coming years through decisions made in that very chapel.
Magnus swallows heavily and brings up a hand to sweep it through Alec’s dark hair, fingernails scratching lightly on Alec’s scalp. “I am so unbearably proud of you, sayang,” he murmurs, ducking his head to lay his own kiss on Alec’s crown. “You may be the first Shadowhunter in centuries to deserve Raziel’s blessing before your installation.”
Alec’s breath shudders through his chest and Magnus just holds him until his boyfriend is content to move again.
Alec, however, isn’t finished speaking. “I want you to be there with me.”
The words are soft, barely audible, and Magnus can feel Alec tense, frozen into stillness above him.
Magnus can barely breathe through the sudden longing filling his throat because he knows exactly what Alec is implying with that sentence. Nephilim aren’t like warlocks, where oaths are sworn individually. Shadowhunters rule together, spouses treated as one.
If Magnus were nephilim, he and Alec would likely already be married, engaged at the very least, and the Institute wouldn’t be going tomorrow to Alec alone.
“ Alexander,” Magnus whispers, voice hushed, warmth welling up in his eyes. His hand involuntarily tightens where it’s resting in Alec’s hair. “I- I’m honored by your trust in me.”
Magnus has to swallow past an unexpected lump in his throat. There could be no greater statement of trust from his Alexander than Alec outright saying that he would trust Magnus to lead his people at his side, that he would trust Magnus to guard his Institute and protect his people in his stead.
“Darling,” Magnus manages, “I wish I had the words to tell you how much that trust is returned, how much I would trust you to guide and guard my own people if I was ever unable.”
Alec doesn’t move for a long moment, eyes closing slowly enough Magnus can feel Alec’s eyelashes brushing his skin before they open again.
Finally, Alec shifts, bringing his head up to rest his chin on Magnus’ sternum once more, meeting the warlock’s gaze with an expression in his eyes that Magnus can’t quite parse.
He waits for Alec to speak.
“Magnus,” Alec says. “Will you look at me?”
And Magnus has to smile at that request, Alec’s gentle way to ask Magnus to look at him as Magnus truly is. It’s the barest twist of magic for him to wipe away the glamour that’s become so automatic over the centuries that he still wakes up with it on.
Magnus doesn’t think he’ll ever tire of the little quirk of absolute pleasure that tilts Alec’s lips whenever his real eyes are revealed. No one has ever looked at him like that before, in complete love and acceptance, and Magnus is helpless but to press a tiny kiss to the tip of Alec’s nose.
Alec blinks, but his eyes crinkle as his smile grows, fondness for the gesture evident even as a flush grows on his cheeks.
“Yes, sweet one?” Magnus asks, for no other reason than to see that flush grow even darker.
Alec doesn’t hesitate though. “Magnus,” he repeats. “I- I want you to be there with me.”
Magnus pauses, suddenly uncertain because Alec cannot mean what Magnus thinks he’s implying. He cannot be doing anything other than repeating a wish, cannot be truly asking what he is.
Alec must be able to read whatever emotion is on Magnus’ face though because he sits himself up slightly, reaching out to cradle Magnus’ cheek in a broad palm before he speaks again.
“Tonight, I’m supposed to keep vigil to contemplate how I mean to lead the New York Institute, what my reign as Head will be known for in our histories.” Alec’s hand caresses his cheek, infinitely tender. “I don't know how to do that without you there beside me and I don’t want to try.”
Magnus’ breath hitches.
“You are my inspiration and my guiding light,” Alec continues softly. “You taught me how to be true to myself and to my beliefs when I thought that it was only by hiding every part of me that meant anything that I would ever be able to protect my people and my Institute in the way that they deserve.” Alec swallows and his hand is a brand on Magnus’ skin.
“I know you will never be by my side as co-Head in name,” Alec says, “but you are the only person that I know, fully and completely, will always be by my side in truth.”
Alec’s thumb gently wipes a stray tear from Magnus’ cheek. “So, Magnus Bane,” and Alec is wholly serious even for the small smile on his face, “It would be one of the greatest honors in my life if you would keep vigil with me tonight in the Head’s chapel.” Alec swallows and Magnus can see the liquid welling briefly in his eyes. “I would hold your blessing of my reign higher even than I would hold Raziel’s.”
Magnus can’t speak through the tightness of his throat, but he knows that Alec can read the answer in his eyes.
Magnus knocks lightly on the door to Alec’s office, stepping through and closing the door behind him as soon as he hears Alec’s acknowledgement from inside.
Alec’s office is lovely in the evenings, lit solely by a massive fireplace and the candelabras ensconced on the walls. Between the warm radiance of firelight gleaming off ancient wood, the neat piles of cloth-bound texts on Alec’s desk, and the richly decorated carpets under his feet, Magnus has always thought the Head’s office belongs in a different time.
As cold and clinical as Magnus finds many of the functional spaces in the Institute, Alexander keeps his office a haven of warmth and comfort, strange in comparison to the bare, militaristic bedroom that Alec had kept for himself.
Magnus had asked about it once, a few months after they’d started dating, and Alec had fumbled around the words, embarrassed, until Magnus had drawn out the explanation. Alec wanted his office to be a reminder that Shadowhunters weren’t merely soldiers, mercenaries for the Clave. He had wanted to remind them that their mission was older even than Idris, that it had been given to them by Raziel himself. For all that ‘protect and serve’ had been twisted in the years between, it was that that was their Angel-given mission.
Alexander is clearly still working, signing off his name on the document in front of him even as Magnus strolls up to the desk. As soon as he’s done though, Alec moves the paperwork to what Magnus knows is his outbox and looks up, a heart-meltingly warm smile gracing Alec’s face the moment his gaze lands on Magnus.
“You look beautiful,” Alec whispers, his voice just barely louder than the crackles coming from the massive birch log in the fireplace at his left.
Magnus can’t help but laugh, meeting Alec in a loose hug beside his desk as his partner stands up to greet him. “This old thing?” He murmurs teasingly, wondering if Alec will catch the joke even as his hands slide around Alec’s waist to rest at his back.
Alec’s arms come up to mirror Magnus’ own automatically as Alec leans down to press his forehead against Magnus’. Magnus closes his eyes in contentment as Alec hums happily, the two of them swaying gently in place.
This is the last full day before Alec’s installation and it’s been furiously busy for both of them, Magnus quietly organizing the Downworld and Alec dealing with the thousands of details for both the ceremony itself and its immediate aftermath. Isabelle and Jace have been enormously helpful between Jace meeting with Magnus and the other faction heads yesterday and Isabelle taking all the minutia she can off Alec’s plate, but there’s still only so much they can do. Most of the decisions can only be made by Alec.
It’s quiet in the office, just the two of them resting in each other’s embrace, and Magnus can sense the tension leaching out of Alec’s spine minute by minute.
Eventually, Magnus feels a calloused hand slip up underneath the loose, long-sleeved tunic he’d put on before coming to the Institute, fingers caressing bare skin and drawing goosebumps in their path. Magnus shivers.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you this casual outside of the loft,” Alec murmurs in his ear, still stroking his back.
Magnus breathes slowly, not answering for a long minute and just enjoying Alec’s soft movements. He’d been dressed to the nines when Alec had left the loft this morning, eyeliner as sharp as the shoulders on his embroidered brocade jacket.
For tonight though, Magnus has changed into something more suitable for an overnight vigil in a stone chapel, one he is near certain will be unheated even in this chill fall weather. A soft wool tunic and vest in muted forest green is on top, finished by black leggings tucked into simple leather ankle boots.
Alec always enjoys it when Magnus wears his softer clothing instead of the rougher brocades and leathers, so he’s unsurprised when Alec’s head slips from his forehead to his shoulder, cheek resting on fabric and nose tucking into the crease of skin just above his collarbone.
Magnus chuckles lightly when Alec rubs his head against Magnus’ shoulder, sighing happily.
“You’re a giant kitten, Alexander,” he whispers, a fond smile on his face at Alec’s near-automatic grumble. Alec doesn’t protest though when Magnus obligingly tilts his head to one side, giving Alec better access.
Magnus isn’t certain how it started, but Alec has delighted in soft textures as long as they’ve known each other. Magnus adores watching Alec bask in the softer linens he puts on his bed, luxuriating in stretching out and rubbing his cheek like a human cat against the silk pillowcases or the satin sheets or the velvet bedspread Magnus uses in the winter. At his most tired, Alec will sprawl on Magnus’ lap and trail his fingers back and forth across the softest part of Magnus’ clothing for hours.
“I thought it might be a decent idea to-“ Magnus pauses, searching for the right words, “-to dress down a bit,” he offers hesitantly in response to Alec’s original remark.
He can feel Alec frown a bit against his shoulder before drawing himself away slightly to meet Magnus’ glamoured gaze.
“Magnus?” Alec questions, unsure. Magnus doesn’t just ‘dress down.’ Magnus may dress more comfortably at home, but that isn’t the same as dressing down and even Alec knows it.
Magnus wavers, wishing he’d thought of a different way to phrase it.
For all the changes Alec has wrought to his Institute, for all the progress on the path to full inter-faction equality, Magnus knows that there are still those who hesitate. Those who still believe Downworlders are lesser even if Alec can and will force them to treat everyone equally under the law.
Alec will be installed as Head tomorrow in his people’s most sacred ceremony and Alec has asked Magnus, has asked a warlock and the son of a greater demon, to keep vigil with him tonight in a part of the Institute so hallowed and sanctified that only the Heads and their spouses and Jonathon Shadowhunter himself have ever been within it.
Magnus, in his gelled hair and his copious jewelry and ornate clothing, stands out in a way Magnus, in simple, dark clothing and skin largely covered, does not. Alec’s installation is tomorrow and Magnus doesn’t want him to have to fight another battle, to risk what he’s been working towards his entire life with no hope of achieving. Not for him.
Magnus can leave his armor, his tiger stripes, at home for once to make it less likely anyone will notice Magnus Bane, High Warlock of Brooklyn, accompanying Alec to the Head’s chapel.
Magnus doesn’t know how to say that though, not without insulting Alec because he knows, he truly knows without doubt that Alec wouldn’t even consider it, would never allow someone else’s prejudice to sway the decision that he’s made to have Magnus at his side. Magnus loves him for that, but he would spare Alec that fight if he can, especially tonight of all nights.
The New York Shadowhunters as a whole may be moving more quickly than anyone had thought possible towards Alec’s ‘radical’ views on equality, but this, Magnus knows, would be a step too far.
For all that Magnus can’t find the words though, the sharp downturn in Alec’s mouth and the slowly darkening expression in his eyes means he’s figured out what Magnus intended. He’s figured out why Magnus has toned down his dress in public for the first time since Alec has known him and he clearly doesn’t like it.
Alec opens his mouth to argue, but a sharp knock sounds on the heavy office door before he can manage. Alec looks up askance, clearly about to dismiss whoever is on the other side before Magnus interrupts whatever he’s about to say.
“Come in!” Magnus calls, loud enough to be heard.
Alec glares at him and Magnus returns his glare, unrepentant. (Alec can’t be too mad though because he hasn’t drawn back from the loose hug they’ve been in since Magnus arrived.)
The door opens and Isaiah Brownfoot, Alec’s Deputy Head and second-in-command steps through, not so much as raising a brow at finding the Acting Head of the Institute entangled in his boyfriend’s arms.
“Isaiah,” Alec acknowledges, sighing as he finally loosens his hold on Magnus and steps to the side to face the other Shadowhunter.
Isaiah’s lips curve up in a small smile, crinkling the thin scar twisting from temple to chin across his face. The injury had taken one of his eyes with it, just weeks before Maryse and Robert had left the Institute to a fourteen year old Alec and moved back to Idris.
Isaiah had already been old for a Shadowhunter then, a deft hand at field work and Clave politics alike. Having lost his depth perception because of the injury, Isaiah would never be cleared for field work again and Alec had leapt at the chance to name him as his second.
Magnus knows that Brownfoot had been a godsend those first few desperate months and Isaiah had absolutely thrived in the near decade since. The wily (and absurdly efficient) nephilim had helped Alec build up the Institute to its current levels, an astounding feat given the enormous restrictions he and Alec had had to contend with since Alec was Acting Head alone.
“Alec. Magnus,” Isaiah greets them both in turn and Magnus smiles back, shifting quietly to lean against Alec’s desk while the two nephilim take care of whatever business brought Isaiah here in the first place.
Brownfoot turns to Alec, striding forward to hand over a thick folder. “I’m glad I was able to catch you before the vigil tonight. The Clave just responded to your request regarding the witnesses, and the Sub-Counsel of Liturgical Affairs agreed to your suggestion.”
Alec flips through the papers in the folder, stopping at what Magnus briefly recognizes as a roll call vote for the Clave forum in question.
“Unhappily so, it seems,” he comments dryly.
Isaiah shrugs, clearly pleased with the result nevertheless. “I’m fairly certain they knew you were going to do it anyways and voted yes to keep up the veneer you wouldn’t have done it without their consent.”
Magnus snorts. Alec had already laid out plans for if the vote had gone against his request for official recognition of Downworld witnesses and Isaiah wasn’t exactly wrong.
Alec quirks a quelling brow at the both of them. “I’m certain I have no idea why either of you might believe I would defy the will of the Clave,” he deadpans.
Isaiah grins in response. “Certainly not, sir.”
Magnus listens absentmindedly to the last few details Isaiah goes over from the Clave report, strolling over to the bookshelf behind Alec’s desk to see what all’s been pulled from the main library recently. There are few new treatises on Kray demons since the last time Magnus was in Alec’s office and he makes a mental note to find out whether that’s purely out of interest or if there have been sightings. Standard healing potions don’t do well with Kray venom and he’s not sure if the Institute has enough of the correct sort on hand in case of a serious injury.
The conversation seems to be wrapping up, and Magnus pulls his attention back to focus on their words.
Isaiah is holding the stack of signed papers from Alec’s outbox to distribute, a few of them clearly urgent since those are usually dealt with by a secretary in the morning.
“If you’re about to head to your vigil, Alec, I’d be happy to walk Magnus out for you.”
Isaiah turns to Magnus, “Not that you need the escort or anything,” he smiles, “but I’ve been meaning to ask you about etiquette for the vampire’s arrival tomorrow since it’ll be so close to sunset.”
Magnus freezes, breath catching in his throat for a second before he smiles weakly. He’ll just walk out with Brownfoot and portal back inside afterwards. It’s not a big deal.
“That won’t be necessary, Isaiah,” Alec interrupts, and Magnus swings his head around to stare, sucking in a startled breath as Alec walks back over to him, turning his back to the other Shadowhunter.
Alec takes one of Magnus’ hands in his and leans forward to whisper in Magnus’ ear, voice achingly gentle and just loud enough for him to hear, “You aren’t a secret, Magnus. I’ll never ask you to hide or to change anything about yourself for me.”
Alec doesn’t give Magnus time to respond, just turns back to Isaiah, still holding Magnus’ hand, a silent declaration. “I’ve asked Magnus to keep vigil with me tonight in the chapel.”
And Magnus is frozen, without words for a second time in a day. Alec may have asked him to be there tonight, but there is a world of difference between Magnus quietly accompanying him to the chapel and Alec announcing his intentions aloud.
Magnus swallows harshly, eyes moving slowly from Alec to Isaiah, not wanting to see the inevitable disappointment, the flash of distaste he knows is coming, from one so close to Alec’s heart.
But Isaiah isn’t frowning, isn’t saying anything in fact, just staring at Alec, glancing down momentarily to their joined hands. Magnus can’t read the expression on his face and his stomach tightens.
“I don’t know why I’m surprised.”
Magnus inhales sharply, but Isaiah still isn’t frowning; he’s breaking out into a jovial smile and loosening his stance, eyes crinkling in genuine pleasure.
Alec doesn’t look surprised at the big man’s easy acceptance, but Magnus is still, waiting for the catch.
“I’ll ask Isabelle about the vampires then,” Brownfoot changes his plans simply enough and pivots to leave, clearly not wanting to keep them given the late hour and how soon Alec, how soon they, need to be heading towards the chapel.
Right before he exits though, Isaiah turns around, something imperceptible softening the man’s grizzled expression.
“Congratulations, Alec,” he says gently, and it’s so clear on Alec’s face that this is the man who raised him, far more so than Robert Lightwood. The hint of relief in the lowering of shoulders that Magnus hadn’t even fully realized were tensed belying how much this man’s approval truly means to him.
Alec’s voice is equally gentle when he replies and he squeezes Magnus’ hand. “I couldn’t imagine keeping vigil tonight without him.”
“I’ll leave you two alone then,” Isaiah says softly. “Good night.”
Isaiah leaves before either of them can return the sentiment and Magnus is helpless to do anything but continue staring at Alec, throat tight.
Alec’s thumb strokes a soothing path across the back of Magnus’ palm.
“I love you, Magnus Bane. You may not be named and installed as my co-Head tomorrow, but I refuse to treat you as any less than my full partner.”
Magnus is wrapped in Alec’s arms before he even knows he’s moving.
Chapter 5: Ambergris
This is a little bit of a shorter chapter than usual, but I felt it deserved its own posting.
Also, this is the first art chapter!! There are a few images in here to give you an idea of what I picture the Institute's cathedral to look like. However, the piéce de rèsistance is the staggeringly beautiful drawing by Corvus Cloudburst. Corvus actually drew it before she read this chapter (well, to be specific, before this chapter existed lol) and it was so stunningly gorgeous that I ended up revamping the entire planned scene because of her inspiration. Part of that inspiration is the verse that Alec quotes to Magnus (Isaiah 60:3), which is what Corvus chose to title her stunning work (although she was fancy and used Latin).
Two final notes:
1) There is a major callback to the most commented on (by far) scene in this fic's prequel, A Man Never Stands Taller. Hope y'all catch it and love it!
2) Please, please, please give all your love to Corvus for her art! In the author's note for this fic, I've included the link to this piece on her actual site where you can see both of her works, including a speed paint of the piece for the final chapter. This 23 minute video (which is mesmerizing) shows the 23 HOURS it took to create this image. Any love you leave for her in my comments, I will copy and paste to her inbox. ❤️
Alec keeps his hold on Magnus’ hand as they leave his office to walk down to the Head’s chapel, quietly greeting the Shadowhunters they pass as they go.
There are more people in the hallways than Magnus had expected given the late hour, and he halfway suspects that Alec has purposefully chosen to take them the long way around after the conversation they’d had before Isaiah’s interruption.
“Heading to the chapel, sirs?” Erin Ashborne asks, coming around the corner, her smile soft and pleased as she glances down to their joined hands.
“We are indeed,” Magnus answers, still somewhat shocked to see the approving nods and acknowledgements from everyone they pass.
Erin tucks the folder she’s carrying closer to her chest. “Blessed vigil,” she wishes them both, eyes crinkling in happiness, before turning down the corridor leading to the Ops floor.
Alec squeezes Magnus’ hand gently, leaning in closer as they continue walking so his words don’t carry beyond the two of them. “Sometimes I think you don’t realize how much of an impact you’ve had on this Institute, Magnus. The Clave may not be pleased tomorrow when they find out you’re my final suggenes, but every Shadowhunter under my command will be nothing but happy that you’ll be standing at my side.”
Magnus squeezes Alec’s hand back in return, not finding the right words to respond before Alec brings them to a stop in front of an enormous set of ancient wooden doors, iron fittings crawling over its surface in decorative relief.
“You’ve never seen the inside of the Institute’s cathedral, have you?”
Magnus shakes his head, reaching out to lay a curious hand on the decorative inlay around the lock. “No, I haven’t.” He grimaces slightly. “The previous Heads, not just your parents, barely allowed Downworlders on the Ops floor to perform maintenance on the wards.”
Alec looks aggrieved, but he doesn’t belabor the point.
“This was my favorite place to hide as a kid,” he reminisces, pushing open the door as rare nostalgia softens his tone.
Magnus glances at him curiously and Alec keeps going. “I used to hide up in the triforium when things got to be too - too much in the main Institute. I loved being so high up, seeing the carvings on the vaulted ceiling and being eye level with the rose window. It always felt like I was just a step away from flying.”
“I’m glad you had a place like that,” Magnus murmurs, following Alec through the small space between the cracked open doors. Stepping inside, curious to see the place that Alec holds such fond memories of, Magnus comes to an abrupt halt, gasping softly in amazement.
Shadowhunter architecture, as a rule, values function over form. Their gradual integration of technology with the long-time staples of magic and runic power may look aesthetically interesting sometimes, but Magnus wouldn’t go so far as to call it beautiful. This, however, is absolutely sublime.
The cathedral nave is immense, the vaulted ceilings stretching into obscurity above them with marble angels perched on gallery walls so high their outstretched wings are shape alone. Candles light the space in a glowing radiance, light dripping softly from the flickering flames of hanging candelabras.
The last few fading streaks of sunlight are illuminating the massive stained glass panels surrounding them as Magnus takes a single step forward, entranced, tilting his head back to take in the sheer scale and splendor of the space.
The pews, row upon row of dark polished wood, firelight bouncing off rounded corners, are easily enough for thousands, and the slabs of slate tile Magnus stands on have been worn mirror smooth with time.
In place of where the altar would be in a mundane cathedral, the nephilim have built a raised dais with an imposing marble statue of an avenging Raziel, sword thrusting downward in vengeance. He appears almost double-winged, the outspread feathers of the statue just above those formed in the stained glass angel behind him.
“This is incredible,” Magnus breathes, stunned, turning on his heels to take in a complete circle.
Alec draws up to his side from where he’d stayed behind, smile soft and eyes on Magnus alone. “I thought you may like it.”
“I really, really do.”
Alec hums lightly, turning his gaze from Magnus to see the cathedral with new eyes. His voice is hushed when he speaks, not wanting to disturb the still, almost sacred, atmosphere.“It’s the only place in the Institute built to remind us why we’re really here, not to oppress and abuse, but to serve.”
Magnus turns to look at his partner, bemused as always at the way his usually taciturn boyfriend perpetually finds the most perfect words. “I can see why you like it too,” he says.
Alec slips his hand into Magnus’ again, tugging him gently forwards and heading towards the main dais, their steps echoing in the empty room. “The Head’s chapel is beneath the main statue of Raziel,” he explains, and Magnus can see a small door tucked into the shadows on the left side of the dais, just out of view of anyone sitting in the pews.
Alec stops before they reach the door though, steps hesitant until he finally pauses the moment they step up onto the dais. He turns his gaze to Magnus, looking at him uncertainly, consideringly, for a moment before seemingly making a decision.
Magnus tilts his head, curious, and follows Alec easily as his boyfriend moves them further up the dais until they stand just between the back of the statue of Raziel and the stained glass angel behind him, the last lights of sunset dappling the slate floor with a rainbow of muted hues.
The air is still and Magnus smiles as he absentmindedly raises his free hand to brush it through the dust motes swirling in the air currents, watching them tumble and glint through the amber air in the path of Raziel’s wings, colored glass burning a molten gold and tinting the air beside them.
Magnus is caught off guard when Alec’s hand suddenly comes up to cradle one side of his face, a single blade-callused thumb stroking gently across his cheekbone. Magnus brings his head up and his breath catches in his throat at the look in Alec’s eyes, something infinitely tender softening his gaze.
“Alexander?” Magnus manages to breathe out on a shaky breath.
Alec is silent for a long moment, just staring at Magnus with that same unreadable look in his eyes, fingers light on the skin behind his ear as though Magnus is something precious and fragile.
When Alec finally speaks, he never takes his eyes from Magnus’, voice the barest whisper of sounds, words hushed. Reverent.
“Nations will come to your light," he recites, words clearly familiar, "and kings to your dawning radiance.” Each phrase of the ancient verse drops from his lips as a promise.
Magnus blinks, eyes warm at the sheer devotion in Alec’s tone even if he doesn’t understand. “Darling?” He pushes, bringing his own hand up to cover Alec’s softly where he’s still cradling Magnus’ face.
“And even shall the Heavens declare His glory,” Alec whispers instead, nudging Magnus with the tips of his fingers ever so gently, turning him towards the stained glass to their side.
The dark saffron feathers on the angel’s wings have turned ambergris in the warm streaks of the fading sunset and Magnus blinks at the halo of color he sees reflected on his skin.
“Even the Angel himself is crowning you,” Alec breathes in muted explanation, turning Magnus again so they stand face to face in front of the window, close enough that their breaths mingle between them. Standing where Alec has positioned him, Magnus can see the radiant nimbus around himself, the crown of light streaking from the edges of his shadow.
Magnus feels his glamour drop from the sheer unveiled awe and devotion and love he sees in Alec’s gaze as he drops his hand from Magnus’ cheek. He opens his mouth, working to find the words to respond, to make sure Alec knows just how much his love is returned in its full measure, but then Alec takes a single step back, widening the distance between them.
He drops to a single knee and the world goes still around them, even the dust frozen in its spiraling fractals.
“I love you, Magnus Bane,” Alec pledges. “More fiercely and more deeply than I knew it was possible for one person to love another.”
Magnus can’t breathe.
“I- I wasn’t planning to do this tonight, but I saw you standing there before Raziel, radiant, beautiful, illuminated in gold,” Alec breathes and his voice is longing, “and I - I just can’t. I don't want to wait a moment longer.”
Alec reaches up to tug a necklace from under his shirt, unclasping it from behind his neck to slide a ring down into one waiting palm.
Magnus sucks in a shaky breath even as Alec takes one of Magnus’ hands in his own.
“I- I had a speech planned, but I should have known I’d never be able to remember it while looking at you.” Magnus is incapable of responding, but he huffs out a breath of a laugh involuntarily.
“You are everything to me, Magnus,” Alec promises, swears, “and you will always be first in my life, no matter what may come to pass.” Alec lifts up his other hand, the ring clasped in offering. “Magnus Bane,” and Alec has to pause, blinking away moisture from his eyes, “will you marry me?”
Magnus brings the hand not grasped in Alec’s own to cover his mouth, overcome. The ring in Alec’s hand is - it’s perfect, a thick golden band with the wedded union rune delicately inlaid in the deepest blue lapis lazuli Magnus has ever seen.
Nephilim and warlock perfectly blended, the lapis practically sings with embedded power. Magnus cannot even imagine how much energy Alec has poured into this stone for it to be so drenched in his strength, an equal offering and claim for Magnus to accept or reject.
Magnus swallows hard, having to force the breath through his suddenly tight throat.
“Alexander,” he has to pause before continuing. “How?” He breathes, trembling.
How could Alec possibly know? How could he even guess as to the meaning of the symbol he offers up to Magnus so freely in his hand, the ring a perfect match and counterpoint to the magic Alec himself is constantly wreathed in?
“After I asked him about what it meant that you were Consular Warlock, Magnus, did you think I never talked to Ragnor again?”
And Magnus huffs out a wet laugh between the fingers still covering his mouth. Ragnor, that meddling old cabbage.
“You know what this means then?” He asks tentatively because he can’t accept that ring from Alec until he is sure, absolutely certain, that Alec knows what it means. (It might break him if he doesn’t.)
“Of course I do, Magnus,” Alec whispers softly. A warm flush rises on pale cheeks. “Do- do you think I am any less possessive of you than you are of me?”
And Magnus shakes his head mutely because Alec knows. He knows and doesn’t mind; he knows and welcomes it. He can feel a single tear streak down his cheek.
The magic coiled in and around Alec, the seed he’s carried since the moment they first shared strength, that has grown with every spell of protection, every night under his wards, every unthinking press of magic to reassure or to heal, is shivering in echoed glee and joy.
“Magnus Bane,” Alec repeats, voice tender as the silence stretches, “will you accept this ring and marry me?”
Magnus is shaking, magic surging in his chest before he manages to nod. “Of course. Of course I will, Alexander.”
Alec slips his ring on Magnus’ finger and Magnus inhales sharply, eyes flashing as the magic in the ring links intrinsically with his core, bounding between the deep well of power in his center and the loops and swirls and coils of his magic that are draped over Alec until the bands of power almost visibly shimmer between them.
Magnus is helpless but to stand motionless, breath hitching, as Alec stands to wrap him in his arms because, for the first time in Magnus’ life, he’s home.
Chapter 6: The Ceremony (and some Lion King crack)
It's finally done!!
1. The text of the mandate and the Inquisitor's Call are heavily cribbed from Catholic writings, specifically letters from the Pope calling bishops. I have, unfortunately, lost the specific links I used for research, but I can probably find them again if anyone is just super-interested lol.
2. There is MUSIC for this chapter! I've included clicky-links in the fic itself for where a particular song is actually happening, but I have a playlist for my writing music too. The delightful Morgan helped me make a Dona Nobis Pacem Music Playlist on her channel (because I am Youtube challenged lol).
3. Please, please, please give all your love to Corvus for her art! Her piece, Lux Mea, was created for this fic as part of the Malec Discord Server Mini-Bang, including a speed paint, a 23 minute video at the link above (which is mesmerizing) showing the 23 HOURS it took to create this image. Also, any love you leave for her in my comments, I will copy and paste to her inbox. ❤️
Magnus stands in the shadow of one of the enormous pillars forming a colonnade down either side of the nave, chest tight with pride for what his partner, what his fiancé, has managed to accomplish.
It’s still nearly half an hour to the scheduled starting time and the nave of the cathedral is standing room only, what must be easily five thousand Shadowhunters filling into any gap they can find in the waiting pews. Some have already given up the search for an empty seat and are forming small throngs in the back and to either side of the two main rows of seating, careful to leave the central aisle clear.
Several Institutes had sent lone Shadowhunters in the early hours of the morning to reserve entire blocks of seating for the ceremony. The Mumbai Institute where Max is currently rotating had claimed almost ten rows on the front of the right-hand aisle. Max is already seated there with a small contingent of trainees and Magnus can see the young boy practically bouncing in his seat.
Many of those present are clearly fresh off patrol from various Institutes, blood humming in their veins and leftover adrenaline still surging in their excitement to be there, leather tactical jackets hastily cleaned before arriving and weapons freshly polished in their holsters.
On his way into the cathedral from talking with Isaiah in Alec’s office, his fiancé’s office (and Magnus doesn’t know if he’ll ever get past the little tickle of joy at getting to use that title), Magnus had passed a squadron of nephilim, freshly portalled in from the Tokyo Institute. The group had been clustered in a hallway off the Ops floor hastily brushing off ichor and blood with the help of a frazzled under-assistant from the New York Institute’s armory.
One, clearly the commander, was attempting to place an iratze near an injury on his back and Magnus had raised a single hand in wordless offer, magic jumping at the man’s thankful nod. These were Alec’s guests, his fiancé’s guests, so they were his too.
Alec had been shocked at the sheer number of attendance requests the Institute had fielded the afternoon his coming ascension as Head had been announced in Idris. Magnus can’t even count the number of portals that had to be carefully scheduled and individually allowed through the ward matrix for the guests tonight.
(Ragnor had taken one glance at the ring on Magnus’ finger and the sheer power still bounding back and forth between them after emerging from the vigil chapel and sneezed. “If you’re going to claim each other so thoroughly, you could at least have the decency to take a honeymoon period before showing back up in public,” he had announced tartly. He had also, however, promptly informed Magnus that he could consider Ragnor taking over the portals for the day his wedding present, so Magnus knew his darling cabbage was secretly pleased.)
The New York Downworld has also turned out in force, and Magnus never thought he’d live to see the day that warlocks and vampires and werewolves and Seelies all sit, mingled together shoulder to shoulder with nephilim. The factions are still mostly sticking together, yet the mixing is clear.
The vampires are in a reserved section Alec had made sure would be there since true night had fallen so close to the beginning of the ceremony, less than ten minutes ago in fact, but there are two young nephilim Magnus recognizes as Izzy’s assistants quietly chatting with some of the Dumort fledglings. Several of Alec’s security forces are talking shop with the members of the New York Pack still involved in the NYPD in the area mostly populated by wolves, and Maia herself looks to be deep in conversation with Vivian Sureblade, the vibrant magenta hair of Alec’s youngest field team member making her easy to spot in the crowded space.
(Magnus also spies Andrew Underhill sitting cozily next to a certain Lorenzo Rey. He makes a note to quiz Alec later for anything he may know about that particular situation.)
The first row on the right hand aisle is reserved for the Consular High Warlocks and their partners. Oberon and Qinemru are dressed spectacularly in shades of emerald and charcoal, an open tribute to the nephilim symbolism of green for joy that Magnus knows Alec will understand the moment he lays eyes on the pair.
Tosa Inoka and her partner Yuan, the only other Consular High Warlock pairing that has met Alexander in person, both have subtle sprigs of greenery accenting their outfits.
It’s not just Shadowhunters who have portalled in from all over the world either. Aside from the Consular Warlocks, and Magnus is fairly certain that this is the first time in over a century the ten of them have all been in one place at the same time outside of Council business, High Warlocks from every continent are interspersed throughout the room. Some have come alone, a few have brought what are clearly partners or friends, and several have actually accompanied the contingents from their local Institutes.
The entire Shadow World has evidently agreed that this is the event of the century, and Magnus is decidedly gleeful.
Outside of the Cabinet and a few select others, Magnus’ role as Alec’s suggenes has yet to be made public knowledge. Unlike the ceremonial witnesses, the three suggenes are not subject to Clave notification and approval, and even then, only who the witnesses are representing, not their names, had needed to be certified.
Nearly everyone present expects him to be witness for the Spiral Labyrinth. The Downworld is here because the Cabinet spread far and wide what it means that Alec will be sworn in under the wording of the original Covenant and not the bastardization of it that the Clave has used in the centuries past. They’re here to support Alec, to support the changes he’s already made and the changes he will make in the years to come and they don’t even know that Alec has already surpassed every thought, every hint, of what they might expect from him by asking Magnus to stand in the place of the Angel and brand him with the rune of the future.
Magnus takes a single moment more to just soak in the sheer impossibility of this moment before moving fluidly through the crowd to take the seat that’s been reserved for him next to Oberon. It takes Magnus longer than he’d thought possible to travel the short distance, everyone he crosses paths with wanting to exchange a short greeting.
Magnus and Alec haven’t announced their engagement yet, but it’s no few number of eyes that linger on his ring as he walks. It’s the only one that Magnus is wearing on his left hand, and the brilliant lapis rune is certainly difficult to misunderstand.
The choir, and hadn’t Magnus been surprised this morning to learn Shadowhunters did choirs, is already standing up in preparation when Magnus sinks down next to Oberon.
“Running late, my friend?” Oberon murmurs, the charms on his horns chiming as he leans towards Magnus from where he’s pressed up against Qinemru on his other side.
Magnus hums lightly, not bothering to respond verbally as the noise levels increase, some invisible signal telling the last stragglers to hurry to their seats. As silently as Shadowhunters can move in the field, they can be the noisiest bunch Magnus has ever worked with outside of it.
“Magnus Bane,” Qinemru hisses suddenly, leaning all the way across their partner’s lap and nearly shoving Oberon into the back of the pew to grab Magnus’ left hand. Oberon sucks in a startled breath and his horn-chimes clink so loudly at the sudden movement that the rest of the pew turns to eye them.
Magnus’ lips quirk in sanguine non-reaction. The magical link embedded in the ring would be impossible for a half-blind mundane to miss if they had even the most basic knowledge of magical claim, and the beings on this row are most certainly not mundanes. The sheer amount of power that Alec has sunk into it, a matching claim to the amount of power that Magnus has sunk into Alec, is practically singing through the air.
“Yes, dear?” Magnus murmurs, looking straight ahead at the dais.
“Magnus Bane,” Oberon and Qinemru chorus in unison.
Magnus can’t stop the smile even with his best effort. “I assume you like the ring my fiancé,” and Magnus savors the happy joy-tickle, “gave me last night?”
There are smiles blooming all down the row and Tosa’s partner Yuan actually grins in glee.
Oberon hisses like a scalded cat at the non-answer, but his words are cut short as the bells of the cathedral ring to announce the service’s imminent start.
“I want details, Bane,” Oberon demands, and Magnus looks forward to getting wine-drunk with his favorite couple sometime soon and sighing over every detail of his fiancé’s proposal.
The low murmur of voices in the soaring nave falls abruptly silent as Imogen Herondale steps through the door on the right of the dais, entering the platform from a small antechamber Alec had shown him the night before.
The small nephilim choir interspersed throughout the triforium above them begins singing softly as Imogen, the hem on her robes of office trailing behind her, processes forward until she is standing in front of the marble statue of Raziel that dominates the dais, facing the angel with her back to the audience.
She makes a small genuflection, bending a single knee in ceremonial reverence, before turning to face the assembled crowd.
“I welcome you all to the New York Institute this evening as we await the arrival of Alexander Gideon Lightwood,” she calls, voice echoing through the nave loudly enough for even those standing at the back to hear plainly. “He returns shortly from his final patrol as a soldier of the Clave before being raised before us as the called and named Head of this Institute.”
Imogen falls silent for a bare moment, the timing of Alec’s arrival having been carefully coordinated in advance and confirmed with a text message when they were a few minutes out. (Magnus knows Izzy had personally vowed vengeance on any demons that dared interfere with their plans this evening.)
It’s a count of thirty at most, the choir’s vocals echoing serenely in the silence, before a heavy knock rings out from the main cathedral doors, a heavy bronze pair that face the dais and lead directly out to the streets of New York.
The massive doors, easily twenty feet high, have been closed the entire day, the Shadowhunters and other guests arriving through either the Institute itself or a small series of side doors on the northern wall. The reverberations die out quickly and, for a second time, the hilt of Alec’s seraph blade raps heavily on the ancient timber.
The Inquisitor remains unmoving.
For a third and final time Alec knocks and the echoes ring through the candle-lit cathedral.
Imogen raises a single hand, gesturing to a pair of armed Shadowhunters standing at attention, on guard before the doors.
Moving as one, the two draw up heavy metal bars, the ancient locks every bit as functional now as they were six hundred years ago when they guarded not the soaring nave of the Institute’s ceremonial hall, but the very foundations of the Institute itself.
The mammoth doors slowly groan open at the guard’s behest, their labors leaving Alec framed in the opening, Jace and Izzy flanked on either side behind him. The sun has already fully set, but the mingled lights of New York backlight Alec’s proud form. He is fully armed, bow and quiver resting across his back and seraph blade sheathed in the holster at his thigh, hands locked behind his back in formal parade rest.
Magnus’ breath catches sharply in his throat at the sight of his fiancé, resplendent in the patrol leathers Magnus had quietly laid out for him this morning after their post-vigil nap. The leathers are dark and supple, subtle markings at the wrists and collar tracing out charms for protection and defense. They don’t look much different than those the Institute normally provides for his partner, but it’s clear that these have been made and tailored for Alec alone.
When he first saw them Alec had inhaled sharply, staring at them for a moment so long that Magnus had briefly wondered if Jace had played a terrible prank on him when he’d mentioned this tradition.
But Alec had turned around and wrapped Magnus in a hug so tight it would have left a bruise on a mundane. (“You know what this means?” Alec had double-checked, not quite daring to touch the clothing on the bed until Magnus had affirmed he knew. This was a spouse’s role and it would be obvious to every nephilim present that it wasn’t Alec who had chosen this outfit.)
Alec stands in the doorway, patrol gear sharply tailored, the subtle decorations just obvious enough to make it clear who chose them, and, more importantly, absolutely drenched in Magnus’ magic.
Magnus has soaked every thread, every stitch of fabric Alec is wearing, in his love and protection, his magic weaving through in an unequivocal claim to any who choose to look and see. Every piece of this ceremony tonight has been calculated to make a statement, and Alec’s dress is no different.
Every warlock here will be able to feel Magnus’ magic coiling around Alec’s form in an overt declaration of his absolute trust in Magnus. Shadowhunters do not allow the weapons or gear they patrol with to be touched by magic.
It is still near inconceivable to the warlocks in Magnus’ court that Alec disarms himself when he comes in off duty, almost more staggering in its implied trust than Alec being happy to sit at Magnus’ feet when his court is still in session. This, however, is a different level of declaration altogether. Magnus’ magic is on a Shadowhunter, on the Head of the Institute, his weapons, and that magic is all linked back to the prominently worn ring on Magnus’ finger, anchoring and returning the bonds between them.
Magnus’ magic writhes gleefully within him in pleased satisfaction.
“Who seeks entrance to this Institute?” Imogen calls, her voice carrying easily across the enormous space.
Alec meets Imogen’s gaze across the distance, waiting for the two guardsmen to return to their posts on either side of the massive doors.
“I, Alec Lightwood, a soldier of the Clave, seek entrance to this Institute.”
“And for what purpose do you seek entrance?”
“I have come to take possession of this Institute as its Head.”
“And who do you bring with you to take possession of this Institute?”
“I bring with me Jace Herondale, a soldier of the Clave, my parabatai and one whom I trust.”
Magnus watches as Jace, standing at Alec’s right, comes briefly to formal attention before relaxing back to parade rest. Alec pauses momentarily to allow this before continuing. “I also bring with me Isabelle Lightwood, a soldier of the Clave, my Master of Arms and one whom I trust.”
Isabelle comes briefly to attention as well.
Imogen acknowledges her before meeting Alec’s gaze a final time. “Soldier of the Clave, is your city at peace?”
Alec’s voice is firm and sure. “My city is free of demons and rests easy this night, Madame Inquisitor. My blade and the blades of those I trust have ensured it to be so.”
“Then be welcomed inside.”
Alec strides forward down the aisle, his feet falling silently even in their heavy boots, and Jace and Izzy fall into twin-step a few paces behind him.
Alec stops first, standing centered at the base of the steps that lead up to the raised dais on which the ceremony will be performed. His siblings array themselves on either side, Jace to the right and Izzy at his left.
Imogen looks again to Alec. “Do you have witnesses that all may know the oaths you swear to uphold this night?”
“Then call them forward and charge them so to speak.”
Alec nods in acquiescence and pivots sharply on his heel to face the gathered audience. Jace and Izzy turn in perfect unison with him and Magnus has the sudden absurd image of the three of them practicing in front of a mirror to make that movement so perfect.
Alec surveys the enormous crowd in front of him, the thousands of Shadowhunters and Downworlders who have come to witness his installation as Head.
“Isaiah Brownfoot, soldier of the Clave and Deputy Head of the New York Institute,” Alec calls.
Magnus watches as Isaiah stands, the pride on his face clearly visible to everyone present.
“Will you witness all I swear to this night, tell any who ask what I have sworn, and hold me to account if I act against my sworn word?”
Isaiah lifts his chin, voice clear and strong. “I so swear.”
He remains standing as Alec turns his head slightly to his left. “Lydia Branwell, soldier of the Clave and Senior Consul to the Office of the Inquisitor.”
Lydia stands, blonde hair plaited down her back in striking contrast to her navy suit. Her smile is wide, clear pleasure for her friend evident in her eyes.
“Will you witness all I swear to this night, tell any who ask what I have sworn, and hold me to account if I act against my sworn word?”
“I so swear.”
Until now, the ceremony has been unchanged from the installations of every Head for the past millennia, but Magnus takes in a gleeful breath when Alec turns to the section of the pews on the right where most of the Downworld has concentrated.
“Maia Roberts, Alpha of the New York Pack,” Alec calls.
Maia stands, dressed more formally than Magnus has ever seen her, her strength clearly displayed. There’s a light murmur from many of the Shadowhunters, but nothing overtly disproving. This change had to be approved by the Clave; it isn’t the real surprise of the evening.
“Will you witness all I swear to this night, tell any who ask what I have sworn, and hold me to account if I act against my sworn word?”
“I so swear,” Maia promises, smiling in a way that makes it clear she has no problems calling anyone out for going against their word.
Alec nods in thanks, shifting slightly towards the Seelie contingent.
“Meliorn, Knight of the Queen, representing the Seelie Court.”
“I so swear.”
Alec nods again in acknowledgement.
“Raphael Santiago, Leader of the New York Vampire Clan.”
Raphael stands and Magnus is so proud of how far his son has come, how far he’s brought his clan from the ruins Camille had left them in.
“I so swear.”
Alec turns once more, facing the row with all the Consular Warlocks and Magnus fights back a smile as nearly every eye in the room turns to him.
Magnus doesn’t think he’s imagining the slight pause Alec takes before continuing and he fully plans to bring this up the next time Alec says that Magnus is the one with a flair for dramatics. The cathedral waits.
“Oberon,” Alec finally says, “High Warlock of Vienna, representing the Spiral Labyrinth.”
The elder warlock stands and every eye that wasn’t on Magnus before snaps immediately to his unmoving form.
Magnus simply stares ahead with a Mona Lisa smile, not offering so much as a hint of whether he had known Alec requested Oberon and not himself to serve as witness. The silver cuff he wears on his ear gleams in the candlelight.
The nave is suddenly buzzing with the hushed murmurs that erupt as those present try to determine if Magnus has just been slighted or if Oberon is honoring the Institute by attending as witness. Or, perhaps, if Magnus had refused to participate in a nephilim ceremony.
Alec waits for the murmurs to die down, face not giving a hint as to which of the possibilities may be correct. He keeps his eyes on Oberon.
Oberon looks every bit as ancient as he truly is, ethereal and otherworldly in the candlelit nave. “I so swear.”
Alec turns back to center, encompassing all of the standing witnesses in his gaze.
“I give you thanks for your oaths and promises,” Alec nods, dismissing them with gratitude to regain their seats.
The witnesses sit down and, once more in perfect unison, Alec and his siblings perform a neat about-face to turn back to Imogen.
“The witnesses have been publicly named and sworn,” Alec tells Imogen, the phrase falling easily from his lips.
Imogen folds her hands in front of her, waiting.
It’s only a moment later that Jace moves forward from his place at Alec’s right side, angling himself out to partially face both the assembled crowd and the main pairing of Imogen and Alec.
Jace is serious in a way he seldom chooses to be, and, when he speaks, his voice is carefully modulated so that it rings clearly throughout the entire room, the ceremonial words carefully practiced.
“Madame Inquisitor, by the will of the Clave, the Shadowhunters of New York present before you a soldier of our ranks, Alexander Lightwood, duly called and nominated, and ask you to appoint him for service as the Head of the New York Institute.”
“Have you a mandate from the Consul?”
“Then let it be read.”
Isabelle steps forward, positioning herself in mirror symmetry to Jace at Alec’s left shoulder, and presents a heavy envelope for inspection, only breaking the wax seal of the Clave with a thin blade to remove the contents at the Inquisitor’s nod.
When she unfolds the parchment within, her smile is proud and her voice clear and unstumbling over the antiquated ceremonial wording.
“To our brother in the blood of Raziel, Alexander Lightwood, until now Acting Head of the New York Institute, appointed as Head-Elect of the same New York Institute, greetings.
"Nothing except the mercy of the Angel, by which He consecrated the nephilim to service and gave us His runes, compels us to protect those under our care with the same ardor which Raziel demanded of Jonathon Shadowhunter.
"Accordingly, among the responsibilities which we, who follow in the footsteps of our same ancestor, fulfill without delay as members of the body of the Clave, and judge to be of no small importance, is that of providing Heads for each and every Institute, so that the nephilim under Raziel’s Covenant may rely on their Head for strength and guidance in the fight against the demons of Hell and that all in his territory may keep peaceful rest under his watch.
"For this reason, it is only with merciful care that at this time we direct our attention to the City of New York and her surrounding areas, which are in need of a duly appointed Institute Head, owing to the reclamation of said titles by the Clave from those who previously held them. Indeed, brother, holding before our eyes your merits and considering the experience you have already acquired through your work as Acting Head carried out in this City, we judge it to be beneficial if you, who has already held in his mind the security and peace of all her residents, without regard to blood, were to continue doing so.
"Therefore, upon consultation with the full body of the Clave, we name and appoint you the Head of the New York Institute, conferring upon you the rights thereof and imposing the obligations therein demanded.
"Finally, brother, as you devote yourself to those righteous who answer your commands against the demons of Hell and to all others who place their trust and security in you, we commend you to the intercession of Jonathon Shadowhunter, that, led by his example, you may keep your faith in the Law.
"Given at Idris, at the city of Alicante, on the twelfth day of the month of October, five thousand one hundred and eight years after our call to service as a people by the Angel Raziel.
"Jia Penhallow, High Consul of the Clave.”
Falling silent, Isabelle carefully turns to present the letter to those sitting, holding it in front of her so that Jia’s embossed seal is visible at the bottom. It’s the same announcement that had been nailed on the doors of the Institute the day of the Cabinet meeting.
Magnus knows just how hard Alec fought to get the phrase “without regard to blood” in his written mandate, and he can feel the pleased hum in the magic of those sitting near him.
When Isabelle finally folds the parchment and returns it to the envelope, she and Jace take quarter turns so that they are standing fully facing the crowd. A half beat later Alec himself turns fully on his heels, all the participants on the dais now facing the same direction.
There’s a moment of silence, the three standing in partial attention, gazes focused out into the middle distance over the heads of those seated, before Imogen spreads her arms wide in call and invitation alike.
Her voice carries when she speaks, echoing off the stones in sharp command. “Nephilim of the New York Institute.”
And, to a person, every Shadowhunter of the New York Institute stands in unison from their seats to join Alec, Jace, and Izzy at attention. Most of Alec’s people are seated together, but Magnus can see Max stand up in the middle of Mumbai’s rows and Vivian and the others rise from where they’re seated with the wolves and vampires. Andrew comes to attention next to Lorenzo.
Most of the Downworlders look around in surprise at the sudden, coordinated movement, many of the youngest with widened eyes, unable to keep their expressions even. Rarely is it so evident that the nephilim society is martial, that every last man, woman, and child is trained for war, as it is right now.
Imogen doesn’t pause once they’re all standing.
“Who among you, being of free will and sound mind, echoes the call for Alexander Gideon Lightwood to serve as your Head?”
The standing Shadowhunters speak with one voice. “We do.”
She continues. “Do any here object to the Clave’s appointment?”
The silence of the crowd is total.
Alec doesn’t break the formality of his stance to smile, but Magnus can read the happiness and pride in his eyes. The officer corps may have led the call, but everyone present has just affirmed it, not one of his people speaking against him. With all the changes Alec has made and has made it clear he intends to make, Magnus knows that Alec hadn’t dared to hope for a unanimous agreement.
Imogen waits for a moment, giving time for anyone to speak, before she raises her hands, palms uplifted. At that signal the standing Shadowhunters sit back down in unnerving unison. Imogen sweeps her gaze over the interspersed Shadowhunters and Downworlders before her and lowers her arms, tucking them into the voluminous sleeves of the Inquisitor’s ceremonial robes.
Imogen waits for the slight rustle of movement to cease before she addresses the crowd, using the same words that had been inscribed thousands of years prior.
“Consider carefully the position in the Clave to which our brother is about to be raised. Jonathon Shadowhunter, who was sent by the Angel to defend the human race, in turn raised the nephilim as soldiers in the righteous war against the demons of Hell. These nephilim were consumed with their purpose, to defend all who required defense and to gather into service all nephilim into a single body to be guided and governed in the way of righteousness through our calling.
"Because this service was to continue to the end of time, the chosen of the Angel and the first of the Shadowhunters formed a body of Law, our Covenant with the Angel, and a body of government to enforce that Law, the Clave.
"By the laying on of the Triune Seal, which confers the sacrament of authority in its fullness, Jonathon Shadowhunter passed on the gift of the Angel which he himself had received from Raziel. In that way, by the succession of Heads and unbroken from one generation to the next, the powers conferred in the beginning to interpret and enforce the Covenant were handed down, and the will of the Angel lives and grows in our time.
"In the persons of the Heads, with their fellow sworn soldiers of the Clave around them, Jonathon Shadowhunter is present among us. Through the faithful service of the Heads, the mercy of the Angel continues and the demons of Hell are denied dominion over this Realm. Through the Head’s wisdom and prudence, the Angel guides our blades and our hands in defense of self, in defense of our brothers and sisters, and in defense of all those who dwell within our protection.
"Gladly and gratefully, therefore, receive our brother whom we are about to name and appoint as Head of the New York Institute by the inscribing of the Triune Seal. Respect him as a Hand of Jonathon Shadowhunter in the unbroken line of those whom the Angel has called as stewards of the Covenant with which we are charged. He has been entrusted with the task of commanding those in willing service to the Covenant and under the authority of the Clave.
"Remember the words of Raziel spoken to the One who came first: “The descent into Hell is easy, but the path of the Covenant is that to which I Call you.”
Imogen pauses and all the nephilim assembled, those of the New York Institute, those visiting as witnesses, and those participating in the ceremony, chorus together.
“We are but dust and shadows.”
And here Imogen turns her gaze to Alec, addressing him directly.
Magnus waits with bated breath. This was the only part of the ceremony that Alec hadn’t been able to confirm beforehand. The written mandate had been changed to move into accordance with the original Covenant, but Imogen’s pronouncement, the Inquisitor’s Call, wasn’t something that could be bargained with.
Imogen has always been fiercely against the Circle and their teachings, but there is a world of difference between being against an open call to genocide and being for true equality. Since discovering her grandson alive, since discovering he was parabatai to the most progressive Acting Head, now Head-elect, in a thousand years, she’d come a long way from her previous stance on the Downworld.
However, her quiet support in Alicante towards a return to tradition in Jia using the wording of the ancient mandates is one thing. Her choice to alter the words of the Inquisitor’s Call, the charge to service issued to all Head-elects, a change that can’t be ascribed to returning to orthodoxy of praxis? That would be the second most powerful individual in the Clave, the Head of the oldest family in its ranks, throwing her full weight behind what the unhappy malcontents whispered was radical nonsense and treason.
Magnus forces himself to breathe and to trust.
“Alexander Lightwood,” Imogen begins, voice impassive, “you have been chosen by the Consul of the Clave in accord with the precepts that bind us in service. Remember that you are chosen from among the ranks of soldiers and appointed to act for all Shadowhunters that serve under your command and all nephilim who live within your Institute.
"The title of Head is not one of honor but of function, and therefore a Head should strive to serve rather than to rule. Such is the counsel of Jonathon Shadowhunter: the greater should behave as if he were the least, and the leader as if he were the one who serves.
"Defend and preserve the precepts of the Covenant whether it is welcome or unwelcome; correct error with unfailing patience and teaching. Offer sacrifice for those committed to your care and so sanctify the peace in your territory that those whose blood has been shed in keeping to the call of the Angel are forever honored.
"As the steward of the soldiers sworn to you and as the protector of the inhabitants of the territory entrusted to you, be a faithful overseer and guardian. Since you are being raised by the Angel, in the authority of the Clave, to guide his children, always be mindful of the First Chosen, who knew His people and was known by them and who did not hesitate to lay down His life for them.”
And Magnus knows what’s coming next if Imogen isn’t willing to take that step. Jace had shared the traditional text with the Cabinet the night he’d explained what everything being said tonight meant . The original text of the Call is post-Covenant, echoing the tenants of the Accords alone.
(Alec had also shared with Magnus, privately, later, what he’s planned to do if Imogen utters those words.)
“As a brother in the Blood of the Angel, care for all those whom the Angel has placed in your care. Defend the soldiers who share with you in the Covenant of Raziel. Protect the sightless and mundanes, and,” and Imogen pauses here at the sudden murmur of noise. There isn’t supposed to be an ‘and'.
Imogen’s voice rises above the noise, strong and clear. “And all those of the Downworld.” Magnus’ grin is exultant. Imogen has just declared her side. Loudly.
Imogen pays no mind to the audience, speaking to Alec alone. “Encourage all nephilim to share equally in your commanded task; listen willingly to what they have to say. Never relax your concern for those who have not sworn themselves to the Clave; they too are commended to you for protection and defense.
"Never forget that in the Clave, which is made one by the bond of Covenantal service, you are now incorporated into our body of government and law. You should therefore have a constant concern for all Institutes and gladly come to the aid and support of those in need.
"Attend to the whole nation for which you are appointed as a watchman and a shield -- in the name of the Covenant, the teachings of which you personify in the Clave -- and in the name of the First, Jonathon Shadowhunter, whose role of Teacher, Soldier, and Defender you undertake -- and in the name of the Angel, who gave being to the nephilim and commanded us to service.”
Alec is facing his people, shoulders back and chin level, entirely pleased. These are the oaths and promises he intends to keep. These are the oaths and promises he will be proud to keep.
“Do you promise to honor and keep these charges and duties, even unto death?”
Alec breathes in deeply. “I so swear.”
Imogen nods once.
“Then let you be marked with the symbol of your service.”
At that signal, the door on the right side of the dais opens to reveal Brother Zachariah, resplendent in his robes of office and holding in both hands before him a brilliantly glowing shard of an angelic core stone.
The Shadowhunters in the audience hush immediately. This stone is their most sacred relic beyond the mortal instruments themselves, the fragment the only surviving remnant of the first Institute, the ancient building that had once housed Jonathon Shadowhunter himself.
The Silent Brother processes forward, holding the diamond-bright stone in outstretched hands until he can place it down to rest on the chest-high base of the statue, the shard resting easily between Raziel’s striding feet.
With a simple sidestep, Brother Zachariah and Imogen stand on either side of the Angel, bracketing the stone between them.
Zachariah looks to Alec. “The first of your suggenes stand at your right and left hand. In front of the Angel call forward the one whom you have chosen to inscribe the rune of the past upon you.”
Magnus watches, pride thrumming in his chest as Alec turns to his sister.
“Isabelle Lightwood, step forward.”
Isabelle steps closer towards her brother and stands silent, beaming, as Alec fluidly slips his quiver and bow from his back, passing them to her.
From Jace’s explanation the day before, Magnus knows that the ceremonial disarming is a symbol of Alec’s trust in his first two suggenes. Passing his bow to Isabelle, Alec is symbolically handing over his ability to protect his people, and later, passing his blade to Jace, handing over his ability to protect himself.
His shirt is removed next, baring his back and shoulders for the inscription of the first rune of the seal.
“Isabelle, my sister and my counsel, I trust you to hold my life under your hands as you shall trust me to hold yours. I trust that your knowledge of me is complete and that you shall make it known to those gathered here both in truth and in full this day.”
For all the pretty words and ceremonial text, nephilim ceremonies are quick, meant to be performed in times of war and battle if needed, and Alec turns his back to Isabelle even as she draws her stele.
She touches the crystal at the tip to the shard of angelic core stone and power flares through the cathedral, several warlocks around Magnus breathing in the sharply at the near-tangible wave of power. Even a few of the High Warlocks Magnus knows to have worked around angelic cores in the past, Institute wards necessarily being tied to them, air-up in surprise. The level of power in this relic is immense.
Isabelle’s stele is glowing as she brings it to Alec’s back, just to the left of his spine at the base of his neck. Her voice rings out clearly.
“It is with full knowledge of your past that I give you my judgement.” The stele meets skin and Alec doesn’t flinch as he is branded with the first of the three runes he will receive this evening.
She brings the stele away, the rune still glowing ember-hot, not fading just yet to the matte black of a finished rune.
Jace had warned them, but Magnus still blinks, something otherworldly and ethereal in the continuous glimmer of power on Alec’s back. Linked to the magic of the angelic core, the Triune Seal won’t be complete until Magnus himself draws the last stroke of the third rune.
“The rune of the past,” Isabelle pronounces. “Protection.”
Alec doesn’t outwardly react, but Magnus can see his slow, pleased blink at Isabelle’s choice. Magnus agrees too; there could be no greater honor for Alexander than his sister choosing to name him as a protector for his first rune.
Isabelle steps back to her earlier position and Brother Zachariah speaks again. “In front of the Angel, call forward the one whom you have chosen to inscribe upon you the rune of the present.”
Alec turns to his brother.
Jace steps forward and accepts the seraph blade from Alec’s thigh holster, placing it in the empty sheath he’d worn on his left side specifically for this moment. The blond swallows lightly, barely noticeable, but Magnus is aware that for all Alec is still perfectly capable of protecting himself without his blade and bow, Jace knows that Alec means it, that Alec would entrust his safety and that of his people to Jace without question if needed.
Alec’s trust is a heady thing to have.
“Jace, my brother and my parabatai, I trust you to hold my life under your hands as you shall trust me to hold yours. I trust that your knowledge of me is complete and that you shall make it known to those gathered here both in truth and in full this day.”
Once more, Alec turns his back to his sibling. Jace lights his stele on the angelic core and brings it to the right of his brother’s spine, a mirror image to where Isabelle had left the first rune.
“It is with full knowledge of your actions that I give you my judgement.”
Jace hand moves swiftly, confidently, and he steps away.
“The rune of the present,” he calls, pausing a moment before continuing. “Equality.”
Alec’s chin lifts just slightly, hard-won pride evident at his parabatai’s judgement. There’s an equally pleased murmur sweeping through the Downworlders present, even without the primer that Jace had given to those participating in the ceremony, they know how historic it is for that rune, for equality, to be branded onto Alec’s back as part of the Triune Seal.
Jace steps back to his earlier position, and Alec pivots to face the crowd once more, no sign on his face to indicate the certain pain of the runes that are still twin paths of iron-bright heat on his back.
Brother Zachariah steps forward. “Your right and left hand have made known their judgement upon you. Call forward now the one whom you trust to stand in the place of the Angel and grant you the final mark of your authority.”
Magnus waits, barely breathing. The choice of the last suggenes is the most personal decision a Head-Elect will make, almost always their future spouse and co-Head. With that role filled by a Downworlder for Alec, Magnus knows that nearly everyone present expects Isaiah, the closest thing Alec has to a true father-figure, to come forward next. Already, the eyes of many of the Shadowhunters are turning to where he sits, placid and still.
The pronouncement made, Imogen and Isabelle step off the stage, sitting down in a reserved pew on the front row. By tradition, no other participant in the ceremony will share the dais with Alec and the one he calls to stand for the Angel. Jace, instead of joining them however, moves up one step to stand shoulder to shoulder with Brother Zachariah. Isabelle stares at Jace, confused, and Magnus can see that even Alec is startled.
Alec trusts his brother though and continues as though this departure from protocol had been planned.
He takes a single breath, pausing, waiting for absolute silence to fall before speaking, his voice certain and proud. “Magnus Bane.”
There’s a single moment, a crystalline second of perfect shock, before Magnus stands and the nave erupts into noise. There is no precedent, none, for a Downworlder participating in a nephilim ceremony. The change in ceremonial witnesses had been a close enough vote within the Clave, but this, Magnus Bane, a warlock, the son of a demon, the son of a Prince of Hell, standing in the place of Raziel as a suggenes for a Head-Elect? Even those who had grinned because of course Alec would invite the Downworld, would ask them to stand as witness, even they hadn’t expected this.
Most of the Downworld hadn’t known this part in advance. The Cabinet had spread word far and wide about Alec swearing to the vows of the original Covenant, had spread word far and wide about what that meant. They’d made it known that Alec had asked them each to stand as witness, but they hadn’t dared spread word outside of a few select individuals that Alec had chosen Magnus as his final suggenes.
Alec had checked, had made absolutely certain, that the Clave couldn’t gainsay his choice mid-ceremony. This role was sacred to the nephilim and in over a millennia no one had dared put into writing anything that would restrict a Head-Elect’s choice. It was legal, if only from lack of forethought, for Alec to choose Magnus. The Clave couldn’t stop him on those grounds, but if it was widely known in advance, there was a lot they could do to stop the ceremony entirely.
Magnus stood and the noise escalated even higher somehow and he waited, locking eyes with Alexander. He could tell the moment Alec first laid eyes on him and saw the change he’d made to his appearance from the last time Alec had seen him.
The ceremony itself had demanded Alec’s full attention up to that moment, but Alec’s breath visibly catches in his throat, smile wide and involuntary. Magnus’s hair is streaked with gold and his left hand is bare but for a single ring.
Alec swallows and the noise slowly begins to abate. Magnus can tell a few of the old-guard, the Clave members in the section from Alicante especially, are furious, eyes fixed upon him with loathing and disgust. However, the rest of those present are pleased, shocked yes, but far more happy than Alec and Magnus had dared to hope for.
Magnus slowly steps from the pew and walks up the aisle towards Alec, gaze never leaving his fiance’s face. Alec stands at the base of Raziel, Jace and Brother Zachariah shoulder to shoulder slightly to the side.
Magnus angles himself slightly before he reaches Alec, facing the pair instead of his fiancé.
Alec doesn’t turn, but Magnus can tell he is paying close attention, unsure why his parabatai has broken protocol and remained on the dais.
Alec had arranged for Brother Zachariah to bring a spare stele from the Silent City, but Magnus turns to Jace instead when he comes to a stop.
The blond smiles widely and draws his stele once more from his holster, spinning it on his hand to present it to Magnus hilt first. Alec draws in a sharp breath in front of them both, understanding dawning.
“Magnus Bane,” Jace begins, the words formal. “A Shadowhunter’s stele is their life. As I would entrust my life to you, so to do I entrust my stele to your hands.”
Having been prepared in advance, Magnus inclines his head in thanks and completes the ritual phrase. “I am honored by your trust. I accept your stele and will guard it as I would your life.”
Jace reaches out and Magnus takes the adamas in his hands, heart warm in gratitude at this display of unyielding trust from the normally taciturn nephilim.
Carefully, hands steady, Magnus turns and lights the stele from the angelic core.The moment his stele is lit, Brother Zachariah takes the core in his hands and disappears back through the door at the side of the dais, his role complete. Jace joins Isabelle and Imogen in the pews, leaving Alec and Magnus alone on the platform.
(Magnus sees Isabelle elbow Jace as soon he sits down and bites back a grin. Isabelle has never been fond of secrets unless she’s in on them.)
Magnus stands at the base of Raziel, lit stele in his hand and Alec facing him from a few steps lower on the dais, shirtless and unarmed. There are thousands of eyes on them, hundreds of candles flickering and throwing the shadows into sharp relief, but Magnus has to stop and breathe for just a moment, the world feeling on pause, strangely distant as his focus narrows onto Alec alone.
Alec’s smile is small, fragile, as he swallows, and while the words he speaks are those of the ritual, it’s so very clear how much he means them.
“Magnus Bane,” Alec breathes, voice strong and sure, “my heart, my strength, and my beloved.”
“I come before you bare of everything that marks me as a Shadowhunter, as a soldier of the Clave, and as a warrior attempting to keep to the Covenant of Raziel.”
Holding Magnus’s gaze, Alec slowly slips to both knees and Magnus’ breath catches in his throat, overcome with emotion. He blinks sharply, eyes stinging with love and devotion.
“I trust that you know me as I am, without artifice, without pretense, without my duty as a shield. I trust that you will make your judgement upon me known to all in truth and in full this day, and by that judgement I swear to abide, faithfully and completely.”
The nave is silent as Magnus moves down the steps to stand behind Alec’s kneeling form. He brings the stele to his fiancé’s spine, just between the two marks that are still glowing ember-hot on either side.
Magnus has practiced this with ink and brush a hundred times in the last few days and his hand moves swift and sure.
At the last curl of the mark, there’s a sharp flash from Alec’s back, the three runes joining as one in a blinding flare before fading to the deep ebony of a permanent rune.
Magnus blinks shortly to clear his gaze as he turns to face the assembled crowd, Alec remaining kneeling at his side. “The rune of the future,” Magnus announces, smile infinitely proud. “Justice!”
Alec stands and Imogen and Magnus both ascend to the dais, Magnus on the left of the Angel and Imogen to the right.
“Alexander Lightwood,” Imogen calls, “your people have called you and the Clave has named you. You have sworn yourself unto service and been granted the mark and Seal of your authority: Protection, Equality, and Justice. The New York Institute is yours. You have the watch.”
Alec turns to face his people and the crowd erupts into cheers as music resounds.
The after-party, Shadowhunters and Downworlders elbow-to-elbow, goes long into the night, a raucous celebration that Alec and Magnus both hope will help usher in the changes Alec is already planning to put into place.
The Clave officials that disapproved of Alec’s ceremony, far fewer than Alec had expected, left almost the moment the ceremony was complete, but everyone else had poured from the cathedral nave to the massive hall that Isabelle had taken charge of (with a few suggestions from Magnus) to eat and drink and celebrate.
By the time Magnus and Alec are able to portal back to the loft, the sun is already rising and Magnus tugs Alec out onto the balcony to watch it come fully over the horizon before they fall into bed. Leaning on the balcony rail, Alec pressing into him from behind, the past three days are almost a dream. So much has changed and so much will change that Magnus is hard pressed to believe it’s real.
Magnus leans backwards into the circle of Alec’s strong arms, pressing his back into Alec’s chest and resting his hands, still cradling a misbegotten cup of coffee he’d stolen from Isaiah a few hours ago, on the balcony ledge in front of him.
The sun is just peeping up over the horizon, and Magnus rubs his cheek contentedly against Alec’s shoulder as his coffee steams gently in the chill morning air, warmed with a small spark of magic. The dim shadows of false dawn are slowly leaching into the brilliant corals and carmines of sunrise and Magnus can barely breathe with the warmth of the joy suffusing his chest.
Alec kneeling before his people and pledging himself to the protection of his territory and all her inhabitants is an image that Magnus will never forget for all his years. His fiancé has just turned the Clave on its head; with three words he’s just started a revolution.
Magnus has to swallow past a roughness in his throat before he can take another sip of his slowly cooling coffee.
The two of them are silent, reflecting, and the sun is a molten semi-circle above the horizon when Magnus suddenly grins. “Just think, darling,” Magnus murmurs, tilting his head to look up at Alec coyly, almost cross-eyed from the awkward position. “Everything the light touches is yours.”
Alec snorts in amused surprise, tightening his arms around Magnus’ waist in reaction. He dips his chin down to press a short kiss onto Magnus’ forehead. Magnus scrunches his face as Alec’s hair tickles his nose and Alec meets Magnus’ cross-eyed gaze a few inches from his own.
“If you start singing Circle of Life, I’m taking Chairman Meow and hiding in the bathroom,” Alec threatens wryly, a laugh threatening to break through his somber demeanor.
“Don’t be ludicrous, Alexander,” Magnus grins, something light and fizzy, almost disbelieving, bubbling up in his stomach as he stands in the circle of Alec’s strong arms, their territory lighting up below them in sun-drenched swathes. “There are plenty of visiting cats on this balcony that would be delighted to be crowned our feline successor.”
Alec eyes the stray cats as they nip from the gilded saucers of tuna that Magnus had laid out for them the previous evening. The cats eye him back.
Alec decides discretion is the better part of valor and doesn’t comment, simply pulling Magnus back further into his arms so Alec can nuzzle happily into Magnus’ still-gelled, still golden, hair.
He curves his cheek around to whisper in his fiancé’s ear. “No, everything the light touches is ours, Consular High Warlock Magnus Bane.”