At this point construction and expansion of the Silent Cloisters accelerated rapidly. Already by 1402, Council records referred to “That Great City, whose levels we know not and whose secrets the Brothers keep in Silence.” The means by which the Silent Brothers were excavating their city, and even the location on Earth where this extensive city resided, was a closely guarded secret. It remains one of the mysteries that only Silent Brothers are permitted to know. (It’s widely believed that the Iron Sisters assisted in the construction presumably by building devices for digging and construction. The Iron Sisters, however, keep their secrets just as faultlessly as the Silent Brothers.) Specific historical details are few, but we do know that the prisons of the Nephilim were moved from an outbuilding of the Gard in Alicante (now long demolished) to the deepest levels of the City in 1471, and that the council chamber that most Shadowhunters who have visited the City have seen was completed and opened to Shadowhunters in 1536. Construction and expansion continued after that, however. In fact, we cannot say for sure that the Silent Brothers are not still expanding, building their City ever larger; we have no proof either way.
VISITING THE SILENT CITY
Most Shadowhunters only ever see the two upper levels of the City—its archives, and its council chamber, where the Soul-Sword resides. There are, however, levels upon levels, plunging deep into the earth. The vast majority of these levels are off-limits to anyone who is not a Silent Brother, and the details of the Silent Brothers’ living quarters, sustenance, laboratories, etc., remain a closely guarded secret. The exceptions are at the lowest depths of the city, where a series of levels holds the necropolis of the Shadowhunters and thousands and thousands of our people are laid to rest. And below these, on the very lowest levels, are the prisons.
The prisons of the Silent City can hold the living, the undead, and the dead; they are designed to constrain all creatures, however magical. (The exceptions here are demons, who may be powerful enough to break out of even the strongest cells.) Where those guilty of lesser violations may be incarcerated in Alicante, or in the keeps of Institutes, the cells of the Silent City are reserved only for the worst of Lawbreakers and the most dangerous of wrongdoers. Pray that you never need see them yourself.
* * *
SILENT CITY: NOT A TRANSIT HUB!
Since there are entrances to the Silent City all over the globe, one might reasonably ask whether the city provides Shadowhunters with a convenient route for travel. One could presumably travel quickly between distant places by, say, entering the Silent City in New York City and exiting in Tokyo. Indeed, Silent Brothers do use the Silent City’s entrances in this fashion, so that they can be rapidly deployed where they are needed. Iron Sisters, too, are permitted to use the City this way, although they are rarely seen outside their Citadel. Regular Shadowhunters are not permitted, by tradition and Law, to use the City as a glorified train station. The general consensus is that this would not be a good idea, as it would likely involve passing through parts of the Silent City that the Nephilim who are not Brothers would find too horrifying to experience without losing their minds. This may or may not be true, but the Silent Brothers have done nothing to deny the rumors.
THE ADAMANT CITADEL
As the Silent Brothers carefully keep the secrets of their City, most Shadowhunters know even less about the Adamant Citadel, the home of the Iron Sisters. In many ways it is simpler, of course, since it is a single fortress rather than an entire city. On the other hand its mysteries are such that, for all we know, it could extend as extensively and as deeply as the Silent City; its inner chambers may be walked by only the Sisters themselves.
The Adamant Citadel stands on a volcanic plain, a stretch of dried lava beds, black and forbidding; a narrow river of molten lava rings it like a moat. It is reached—like the Silent City—through one of a number of entrances scattered around the world, the oldest of which resides on the lowest floor of the Armory in Alicante. The volcanic activity serves as a convenient defense for the Citadel, of course, but the location was probably selected to provide the Sisters with the extreme heat that they require for their forges.
The Portals that lead to the Citadel will not take you directly into the fortress, but rather to the volcanic plain, outside the walls. A ring of smooth, unbroken adamas, many times taller than a person, surrounds the Citadel; this ring, which appears to be a single continuous band of adamas, with no signs of mortaring or structural engineering, is an imposing sight, a reminder that the Iron Sisters are not simple blacksmiths but rather are working with seraphic forces that we can barely comprehend. In the walls is set one gate, formed of two gigantic blades that cross each other to form a pointed arch. This gate is normally left open but can be closed and sealed in times of emergency.
Through the gate, however, the fortress is still well protected. The actual Citadel building can be reached only by crossing a drawbridge, which can be lowered only by a small sacrifice of blood from a female Shadowhunter. The bridge is strewn with knives, embedded blade-upward, which must be carefully avoided. It is therefore not possible to approach the Adamant Citadel in haste; its gates cannot be stormed and its walls cannot be laid siege to.
The fortress is a dramatic structure, soaring into the gray skies above the lava plain, with a ring of towers around it that call to mind the demon towers of Alicante, though these are more regular and less graceful, having been constructed by the hands of humans. The towers are tipped with glittering electrum, but otherwise the whole structure is of adamas, glowing gently with white-silver light.
Once in the fortress a visitor would find herself in the antechamber—and this is all of the Adamant Citadel that those other than Iron Sisters are permitted to see. The antechamber is a simple room; the walls glow with adamas, as does the floor and the ceiling far above. In the floor is a black circle in which is carved the sigil of the Iron Sisters: a heart pierced by a blade. There are no furnishings or comforts; the Iron Sisters do not appreciate visitors and will endeavor to complete their business as rapidly as possible.
The walls of the Adamant Citadel are like the lives of the Iron Sisters themselves: hard, unyielding, and strong. Their motto, and the motto of the Citadel, makes this clear: ignis aurum probat. “Fire tests gold.” The Iron Sisters seem pretty awesome.
If by “awesome” you mean “completely terrifying,” then yes, agreed.
INSTITUTES OF THE CLAVE
At first, there was no need for Institutes. For a few dozen years after the birth of the Nephilim, all the Shadowhunters in the world could reach the gates of Alicante in, at most, two or three days’ ride. But we were created to be a global organization, and it quickly became necessary for outposts to be built, places of angelic power where Shadowhunters could organize and remain safe. And so were created the Institutes, the local power bases of the Nephilim.
Never has the invention of the regional office been treated so melodramatically.
Institutes function like the embassies of mundane governments. They are Nephilim homes, as much as Idris itself is. Crossing the threshold into an Institute, you are no longer in the country or state or city that the Institute’s building stands in, but are rather in Nephilim land, where our Law is predominant.
The corollary to this is that Institutes are the responsibility of all Shadowhunters, not just the Shadowhunters who are stationed at a particular Institute or who are a part of the Conclave of that Institute’s region. The oaths we take to protect our lands extend to all Institutes, around the world.
There are some features common to all Institutes. They are built on hallowed ground and are heavily warded. They are constructed to repel demons and to prevent the unhallowed from entering. Their doors remain locked to anyone lacking Nephilim blood. (The reverse is also true: The doors are open to anyone possessing Nephilim blood.) The mortar for the buildings’ stones are mixed with the blood of Shadowhunters, the wooden beams are of rowan, and the nails are of silver, iron, or electrum.
Mmm delicious blood I eat your Institute nom nom nom
Very mature, Lewis.
Aside from these commonalities, one can find Institutes of all shapes and sizes, from the single-story sprawling villa of the Mexico City Instituto to the Eastern Carpathian Mountains fortress Institut high above Cluj in Romania. Each continent has an Institute that contains the Great Library for that region of the world; each of these is the largest Institute on its respective continent. These are: London, in Europe; Shanghai, in Asia; Manila, in Oceania (which region encompasses Australia and the Pacific Rim); Cairo, in Africa; São Paulo, in South America; and Los Angeles, in North America. Each of these larger Institutes has the capacity to house hundreds of Shadowhunters, although most Shadowhunters do not permanently live in an Institute. Normally, even the largest of Institutes has only a small number of permanent residents, who are responsible for maintaining the premises and equipment.
All local Shadowhunters will be called to their Institute for Enclave meetings, to discuss local affairs that need not involve the Clave or Council. In some parts of the world, the head of the local Enclave is always the head of the largest local Institute; in some places they are different persons. Local traditions and history dominate; the only requirement is that the region be adequately represented in the Clave, however the local organization is structured.
THE CONSTRUCTION OF INSTITUTES
Shadowhunter Institutes are built to serve as symbols of the power and sanctity of the Nephilim; they should stand as monuments to the Angel and glorifications of our mission. Often they include architectural elements meant to evoke well-known buildings in Alicante. There are many smaller copies of the Gard’s Council Hall wooden doors, for instance.
Typically, and especially in well-populated areas, Institutes are glamoured to blend in with their surroundings. This glamour is usually chosen to make the Institute look not only ordinary but unappealing to visitors. For instance, the Institute of New York City, though in truth a magnificent Gothic-style cathedral, is glamoured to appear as a broken-down, boarded-up church, a derelict awaiting demolition.
Although the wards of the demon towers of Alicante prevent electricity and similar power sources from working reliably inside its borders, the weaker wards of Institutes typically do not cause this problem. Most Institutes today are wired for electricity, or at worst gaslight, although witchlight is often used for atmospheric effect or as a backup in places where electrical supply may be unreliable. There are exceptions, of course—a few of the Institutes in more historically besieged areas, or more remote locations, are either too warded or too far from mundane civilization to use modern power sources.
Institutes do not have keyed locks, except out of historical preservation. Instead any Shadowhunter may gain entrance to any Institute by putting her hand to the door and requesting entrance in the name of the Clave and the Angel Raziel.
* * *
Most Institutes built before the 1960s contain Sanctuaries. Sanctuaries are meant to solve an obvious problem with the Nephilim practice of building Institutes on sanctified ground. While doing so prevents demons from entering an Institute, it also prevents all Downworlders from entering. There was a time when this policy was a wise one, but it creates the problem of preventing Institutes from holding a Downworlder temporarily—for example when there’s a need to interrogate one, and incarceration in the Silent City would be more complicated than the situation warranted. Then too, in this modern age the Nephilim maintain cordial relations with many Downworlders, who assist us with information. To solve this problem Sanctuaries—unsanctified spaces that connect directly to the sanctified spaces of Institutes—were attached to most Institutes. Here Downworlders may be held or, as the case may be, hosted. Sanctuaries are typically well-protected and warded, typically by mundane key and by Mark as well.
Projection magic was invented by an unnamed warlock (or team of warlocks, possibly) on the Indian subcontinent in 1958, and spread quickly through the world, mostly obviating the need for Sanctuaries. Most Institutes, however, predate that year, and their Sanctuaries have been maintained as contingencies and out of historical interest.
NYC Institute has one. I’ll show you sometime if you want.
It’s a date.
It is maybe the least romantic spot in the Institute, by the way.
You’ll make up for that, I’m sure.
Jeez, get a locked room on unsanctified ground, you two.
BEFORE THE NEPHILIM
We cannot say much about the origin of demons. All we can say for sure is that they were in our world well before humans came to be.
In the beginning was the world, and light, and humanity, and goodness, but in the beginning too were the demons, Sammael and Lilith, mother and father of evil to come, the paragons of corruption and sin. They were created when the world was created, and roamed freely, creating other, lesser demons, sowing chaos. They mated with humans and created warlocks. Their kind mated with angels, who in those times could be found on Earth, and created faeries. Sammael took the form of a great Serpent and tempted humanity into iniquity. Lilith, first wife of Adam, rejected the ways of mortals and cursed their children to torment. Or so say the oldest texts of the Nephilim. The newer ones say they were a song-and-dance team.
We get it, you don’t have a clue.
The history of demons is murky and mythological in nature. Within the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions there are dozens of variations on the story of these two ur-demons and their offspring, and in other major religious traditions there are tales that may or may not be discussing the same entities. All religions, after all, have a tradition of demonology. We can say only that at some time around the very beginnings of humanity, the demons grew too strong and too many, and Heaven declared war on them. Heaven won the war, but the angels were unable to eradicate demons from the world. They had to be satisfied with banishing demonkind to the Void, and they modified our world in some subtle way unknown to us, which made it dangerously toxic to demons, preventing their return.