IDRIS AND THE MODERN WORLD
Idris’s unspoiled nature is maintained in part by its wards, but strict Law also prevents the country from becoming modernized. This is partly because such improvements would be unworkable: magic easily disrupts modern technology. The wards that prevent mundanes from being able to enter or even detect Idris cause the whole country to exist in a “magical cage” that prevents machinery from working reliably within its borders. (This is similar to the disruption that prevents Marked firearms from functioning, and indeed, no firearm can be successfully fired within Idris.) As such, Alicante is lit and powered primarily by witchlight, as are those rare roads that have been illuminated.
IDRIS AND DOWNWORLDERS
Idris is home to a number of Downworlder groups—faerie courts, werewolf packs in the forests, vampire clans in caves or in dark rocky valleys. For these Downworlders, Idris provides a space where they can live freely without having to disguise their identities, and where they can have land of their own, under their control. Those who live in Idris tend to be among the wildest of Downworlders, since they are the ones most willing to renounce the human world and live entirely away from mundanes. (This is even true for faeries, who, despite their prickliness, have a real affinity for humans and usually prefer to live among them.)
On the rare occasion when it has been necessary to bring an individual mundane into Idris for a moment of collaboration, or as part of Ascension proceedings, a Portal has proved the only method of circumventing the wards.
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Other than Alicante the most sacred site for Shadowhunters in Idris is Lake Lyn, sometimes called the Lake of Dreams. It is the location where the Angel Raziel first appeared to Jonathan Shadowhunter, rising out of the waters and bearing the Cup, Sword, and Mirror that birthed our warrior race. Though the lake is sacred, its waters are in some way cursed: While Downworlders can drink from it safely, Shadowhunters who do so will suffer fevers, hallucinations, and sometimes, in severe cases, permanent madness. A Shadowhunter who has drunk from Lake Lyn can be healed with the use of healing Marks and other interventions, but they must be treated quickly, before the water has been absorbed fully into the system and cannot be drawn out again.
The shores of Lake Lyn give way to Brocelind Plain, a flat terrain of high grasses, which leads, as one heads toward Alicante, to Brocelind Forest. Writings tell us that the forest used to be much larger and covered the majority of the lowlands of Idris. Much of it was cleared as Alicante grew from being a small settlement in the center of a ring of demon towers to a large, bustling city. More of the forest was cleared to keep an easily patrolled border of open land around the city; Brocelind Forest has for hundreds of years been a favorite hiding place for vampire nests and werewolf packs. IT’S THE MIRROR, EVERYONE. Seriously, how did it take hundreds of years to figure this out?
Never came up.
Alicante, the Glass City. The holy city of the Nephilim. For Shadowhunters, Alicante is Jerusalem and Rome and Mecca and Shamballa and Bodh Gaya all in one. This must never be forgotten: While daily life goes on in the city as in any other, full of routine human needs and exchanges, it is the Forbidden City, the place given only to Nephilim as our base of operations and our haven on Earth.
To that end its towers protect it from demons, who cannot pass through the wards. Downworlders are able to pass through the wards without difficulty (a common argument for many years in favor of Downworlders’ status as humans with souls, rather than demons), but they may not enter Alicante without permission. They are allowed to enter only as an invited guest of a Shadowhunter, and must either be accompanied by the Shadowhunter or carry with them the appropriate enchanted signed paperwork. (It is possible that you yourself have been through this process, if you were lucky enough to visit Alicante prior to your Ascension.) By tradition Downworlders are permitted to enter the city only through its north gate, which is guarded night and day.
In addition, for security reasons new Portals may not be opened directly into Alicante. Despite the partially demonic origin of the Portal, Shadowhunters have grown used to its convenience, and so typically Portals are opened to the outskirts of Alicante, outside the walls. The only exception is the permanent Portal in the Gard. Shadowhunters often grumble about it, but the prohibition remains: Portals are created by warlocks, and while we are allied with warlocks as a group, we could not leave a hole in our defenses that would allow any possible rogue to open a Portal directly into our sanctum sanctorum.
FEATURES OF ALICANTE
The city is found in a shallow valley and divided by its river. The construction is mostly in gold- and honey-colored stone, with red tile roofs. Alicante rises up the side of a steep hill on one side, and its houses pile atop one another. From the river, canals have been dug, of which the largest is Princewater Canal. The new Shadowhunter is encouraged to stroll down Princewater Street and stand upon Oldcastle Bridge, from which the sound of the lapping water of the canal will accompany your excellent view of both the Gard and the Great Hall.
Apart from its unusual demon towers, Alicante is a city of canals. Since wells must be kept shallow to avoid piercing the adamas veins below the city, and the adamas provides a similar problem for Roman-style aqueducts, for many hundreds of years most fresh water was brought into the city by a series of artificial canals, crossed by Alicante’s distinctive arched stone bridges. Today a network of underground pipes allows for running water in most Alicante homes, and its canals remain as reminders of an older age and as a charming feature of the city.
THE DEMON TOWERS
The demon towers of Alicante are Idris’s most dramatic physical feature, a true wonder of the world. With the towers soaring into the sky like the finials of a heavenly crown, formed of pure adamas, it seems impossible that they could have been made by human hands. And in fact our history teaches us that they were not: The accounts of Jonathan Shadowhunter that have come down to us suggest that they were brought into being by Raziel, and that they grow out of a thick vein of adamas placed by Raziel under the earth to be mined for our Nephilim weapons and tools.
Raziel’s words to Jonathan Shadowhunter include, in addition to the discussion of the Mortal Instruments, a mention of “a gift I bring to you upon the Earth.” It’s been often thought that this refers to the carving (and warding) of Idris out of the wilderness in the southern part of the Holy Roman Empire, but others have argued that it refers to the demon towers.
All Shadowhunters should look to the demon towers to remind themselves of their appointed station. These warded spires are a constant reminder that we are chosen and protected by the Angel, and that we are not entirely alone in our mission.
The demon towers have stood unchanged since the time of the very first Shadowhunters. Unlike with all other examples of worked adamas, their glow does not diminish with use, and their power has no need of being refreshed. Scholars have worked to determine why this might be, and whether the towers behave like normal adamas in other ways—whether they could be disabled by a dark ritual, whether they could be Marked, and so on. The towers remain the greatest lasting mystery of Raziel, and one that those in Alicante will find themselves contemplating as they pass under the towers’ shadows. Next Codex revision—demon towers less majestic and mysterious. More reminder of bad stuff.
Yeah, this part seems a little naive now.
The Gard is the official meeting place of the Clave. It is the home of the Consul and Inquisitor and their families, and it is where the Law is made and debated. When the Clave is officially in session, only adult Shadowhunters are allowed onto its grounds.
The building is of dark stone and is basic in its architecture—a simple fortress, built for safety and supported on all sides by undecorated pillars. (Undecorated by architectural features, that is; the pillars are of course extensively inscribed with protective Marks.) Four demon towers, smaller than the ones that guard the city, rise from the four cardinal points of the building. Legend tells us that it was to the center of these demon towers that Raziel brought Jonathan Shadowhunter before telling him, “This is where your work shall begin.” The Gard is thus believed to be on the site of the original small settlement that became Alicante, although the original structures are long gone; earlier generations did not have the reverence for history that we do now.
The gates of the Gard are among its most dramatic features; several times taller than a man, they are wrought from a combination of silver and cold iron, and are covered in calligraphic interpretations of Marks. On either side of the gates stand the stone statues, known colloquially as the Guardians. Each is a warrior-angel holding a carved sword and standing above a dying creature meant to represent the demonic enemies of the Nephilim—a reminder that angels are beautiful, but also terrible, and that just as we are in part angel, so are we warriors.
There is only one Portal open in Alicante, and it is in the Gard, for the use of the Clave in times of emergency. The potential danger of this “back door” is mitigated by this Portal’s being “reverse-warded” in the manner of an Institute’s Sanctuary. That is, Marks block it off as a place outside the protection of wards. The demonic magic involved in Portal construction can function inside this one room of the Gard, much as a vampire could stand safely in the Sanctuary of an Institute. This of course represents a large potential security risk, and so the exact location of the Portal is a closely guarded secret.
ANGEL SQUARE AND THE GREAT HALL
One of Alicante’s most picturesque and historically relevant spots is the plaza located at the city’s center, Angel Square, known for the bronze statue of the Angel Raziel that stands at the heart of the square. It is the largest statue of Raziel in the world, although one can find many smaller copies of it in Institutes around the globe. (Many of these claim to be recasts of the original sculpture, and some are, but others are definitely not; this distinction is, however, of interest only to historians of Shadowhunter art and thus will not be addressed in detail here.)
At the northern end of the square stands the Great Hall of the Angel, built in the eighteenth century as a general meeting hall for all Shadowhunters. This neoclassical edifice, with its long marble staircase and its magnificent pillared arcade, is a symbol of the enduring strength and integrity of the Nephilim.
In 1872 the Great Hall was used as the location for the historic signing of the First Accords, since Downworlders are not being permitted to enter the Gard. This signing marked the first occasion when Downworlders were permitted into Alicante in large groups; they entered the city through the north gate as is traditional. Since the signing, the building has been commonly referred to as the Accords Hall, and it continues to be used every fifteen years for the revising and signing of the Accords. In other times it is the site of celebrations, ceremonies, weddings, and festivals.
The majority of the interior of the Hall is taken up by a single large room, the site of these ceremonies; its walls are pale white and its ceiling high, with a large glass skylight that allows natural sunlight in. In the center of the room stands a large fountain in the shape of a mermaid, commissioned and sculpted in 1902 to celebrate the Third Accords, the first of the new century.
The Armory is an imposing stone stronghold on the eastern side of Alicante, part storehouse, part museum, part research center. It represents the only presence of the Iron Sisters within Idris proper, although visitors rarely see them, since the Sisters spend most of their time below ground level, working on new weapon designs, performing repairs, and the like. The Armory serves the same function for Alicante as the weapons room does for an Institute. The Clave has the authority to take whatever weaponry they need from it to outfit Shadowhunters for conflict within Idris. Those who are not Clave members are restricted to the south wing, which serves as a museum of antiquated weapons no longer in use, and showcases a small collection of weapons made famous in Shadowhunter legend.
The building was constructed in a medieval style, echoing fortress imagery, with its high stone walls lined in turrets. However, it dates only from the early 1800s and was built in a self-consciously antiquated style. The interior is not at all laid out like a fortress, and the impression that it gives of being able to withstand artillery fire is mostly a surface affectation. The Iron Sisters are protected instead by doing their work in its extensive and labyrinthine basement levels. A passage somewhere in those basement levels is said to lead directly to the Adamant Citadel.
THE SILENT CITY
For many Shadowhunters the Silent City is something taken for granted, a home for the Silent Brothers and a complex city of levels and chambers that has always been there, that has been inhabited for eternity. In truth the Silent City constitutes one of the great engineering feats of its millennium, on par with the building of the greatest of mundane cathedrals and temples.
THE BUILDING OF THE SILENT CITY
The actual construction of the Silent City was undertaken by the Silent Brothers, and it took roughly four hundred years for the City to attain its current size and reach. It began as a cavern of worked stone in the mysterious non-geographical space beneath Idris, no more than a small council chamber, a small area used as living quarters, and the earliest Shadowhunter graveyard. That is how David the Silent described it. At that point, of course, it would not have been described as a city. It became known to Shadowhunters as the Silent Cloister and was slowly expanded over the first hundred years or so of the Shadowhunters. Although it had become much larger than its original state, it was still more like a great underground manor house than like a city. Residences for the earliest Silent Brothers had been moved to a separate level; the area for gravesites had been, inevitably, expanded; and the Sword-Chamber, as it was then known, was larger and more imposing.
THE CITY EXPANDS
In roughly 1300 the first two entrances to the Silent Cloister were built outside Idris: one in what is now the city of Bangalore, in southern India, and one in the city of Heidelberg, in what is now southern Germany. Both were created to allow Silent Brothers much easier access to the extensive research materials those cities contained; the Silent Brothers also began to recruit for their ranks among the mundane monks and scholars who either lived in or traveled to those cities for wisdom.