1973 – New York
It was moments like these that made Magnus question whether he still wanted to be High Warlock of Brooklyn.
He shouldered the burden of ensuring the safety of his people without complaint. It was his privilege to protect those who could not protect themselves, perhaps the greatest pinnacle his magic could reach. And though the seemingly incessant whining of the warlocks of the city or the perpetual inability of the Downworld to unite itself for its own betterment was occasionally frustrating, he bore all of that with a smile and a cocktail. He pretended to himself that the hardest part of his job was dealing with the Shadowhunters.
And usually, that was true.
Today it was not. Presiding over this trial, giving the guilty verdict…
New York had been, for decades upon decades, the home base for a ‘secret’ warlock society, which was not particularly special because most major cities had at least a couple of secret warlock societies. The only thing warlocks enjoyed more than founding secret clubs was revealing them. They called themselves something ridiculous, The Society of the Red Planets, or something like that. It didn’t particularly matter, because they were mostly a joke. Yes, they created some new spell a few times a century but very few of them were particularly worthwhile or useful. Mostly, they got drunk together and had a good time. Magnus himself had been to a few meetings as a guest of one of his friends, Bartok. Very little spell theory had been discussed. Last he had gone, about seventy years ago, he had spent most of his evening smoking a rather spectacular pipe.
They were also famous for stringing along new potential members with elaborate and embarrassing initiation challenges that virtually never resulted in membership. They were a bit cruel about it but they had done it long enough that most older warlocks could intercede before the younger fools got much more than their pride injured.
Until now, of course.
Magnus still wasn’t entirely sure what had happened. All he knew was that seven members of the society were dead and it was a spurned young warlock to blame.
Nearly all the worthwhile testimony was through the murderess’ memories that Magnus had been able to access. Her mind was a whirlwind of paranoia, smug satisfaction and little to no remorse. She was justified, she felt, for the way they had treated her. For them trying to deny her entry. For making others think she was just a child.
The warlock, Anna Rău, had gone too far to be granted mercy. He had calls for her death coming from every corner.
During his last converasation with her, he had been desperate to find some sort of shred of understanding or remorse in her. Anything that he could use to ease her sentence.
There was none. Literally nothing. Her arrogance and pride knew no bounds.
He did not relish ordering her death. He did not wish to pass such judgment on another of his own kind.
He wanted it even less when he realized that her lover was an old friend of his. An old friend who begged him to spare her.
An old friend who was glaring at him with hate in his eyes now.
“You cannot do this, Magnus.” Claudio Raze spat out.
“I must,” Magnus said as gently as he was capable, “I can’t give mercy when none has been earned. She’s still pleased with herself. She’s not sorry at all. She’s not said even once that it was a heat of the moment decision that she regrets. Anna planned this, Claudio. She had a hundred chances to turn back and she didn’t.”
“Then send her to the Spiral Labyrinth! Imprison her. Imprison her forever if you must!” Claudio had made these suggestions before, at Magnus’ knees.
Then his eyes were filled with tears as he appealed to Magnus, not like now. Not with this fiery rage filling every cell of his body. His grief had taken him beyond reason and it was only because of Magnus’ affection for him and that long ago night they had caroused Venice as little more than children that kept him trying.
“How can I ask these families to accept anything less than her blood in penance when she’s bragging to them when they go to ask her why she did this?” Magnus tried to drive home how utterly unrepentant Claudio’s Anna was being but that didn’t dial down any of his pain.
“I will speak to her.” Claudio said at once, “I will make her understand. Give me more time.”
“I’ve given you days.” Magnus turned away from him then, back towards the friends of the dead who were comforting each other in this awful time. “And at this point, if you do manage to make her understand and she does come around, I won’t believe it sincere. All you will accomplish is coaching her to say she’s sorry and that lie would be worse than if she kept on telling everyone that they got what was coming to them.”
Claudio pulled in a deep, wavering breath. “I love her.”
“Then I am even more sorry.” Magnus answered softly.
“If you do this…” Claudio stepped closer to Magnus and gripped his shoulder, turning him around to face him. Magnus allowed it, even though in this context Claudio was manhandling the High Warlock and Magnus would be well within his rights to respond with force. He didn’t, he couldn’t, not when Claudio was in such pain. “If you do this to her, to me, I will return this pain ten-fold to the one you love most.”
There wasn’t anyone and there hadn’t been in a very long time.
Seeing Claudio so undone only reaffirmed his decision to lock his heart away. The pain of loving was too much.
“There won’t be any pain, my friend.” Magnus patted the hand that Claudio was bruising his shoulder with. “I will give her a potion that will make it very fast and painless. More merciful than what she did to her victims. Then I will return her body to you for burial.”
He was supposed to burn it, so that none could glorify her. He could at least give Claudio that bit of closure.
Claudio nearly flung his arm away instead of just letting him go. He took two staggering steps back, eyes trained on Magnus’ and filled with equal measures horror and wrath.
“I’ll make you pay for this.” He said again, like his threat meant much of anything to a man determined to never love again.
“I am sorry.” Magnus said again.
“You will be.”
Twenty-one hours ago, Alec slipped out of their bed, got dressed, pressed a kiss to Magnus’ forehead and went to start his day at the Institute.
Nineteen hours ago, Jace had called Magnus because he was getting something strange down their bond and he wanted to know why his brother still hadn’t come to work.
Eighteen hours ago, the search for Alec had begun.
Eight hours ago, CCTV footage led Magnus, with Alec’s siblings at his heels, to the apartment where his former friend Claudio Raze was living.
Seven hours ago, the interrogations had begun.
And now, almost a full day since Alec had been taken from them, they still had no idea what Claudio had done to Alec or where he was.
The why was the easy part.
Forty years ago Magnus had sentenced his lover to death for her role in the murder of seven other warlocks, one of the largest warlock-on-warlock attacks in recent memory. He hadn’t wavered in his decision, not even when Claudio swore revenge on the one Magnus loved most. There hadn’t been a person that he really and truly loved in so long, it hardly seemed like a problem. If Claudio wanted to work his way through Magnus’ long list of lovers to find the one he had loved the most then the winner would probably have been Camille and if Claudio wanted to bark up that particular tree then he was welcome to it. Camille would enjoy the attempt, at the very least. Magnus hadn’t been the slightest bit concerned.
In fact, until Isabelle had managed to isolate a split second clip of CCTV footage of Alec’s attacker, he hadn’t even considered the idea that this might be revenge against him. They had all – Magnus, Alec’s siblings, Underhill and the Clave – assumed Alec was attacked because of who he was personally, not because of who loved him.
The screen with the image on it shattered when Magnus had finally realized what was happening.
Finding Claudio hadn’t taken too long but at the same time had taken an eternity. Every minute they couldn’t find Alec was a moment Magnus’ blood was frozen in his veins. Yesterday morning had replayed in his head over and over again. What if he had gotten up and portalled Alec to the Institute instead of lazing around in bed? What if he had pulled Alec down for a proper kiss instead of letting him press one to his forehead and go? What if he had decided to take Alec out for breakfast at a little café they liked that was about halfway to the Institute? So many ways that he could have been there or ruined Claudio’s plan.
He tried to tell himself that there had been no reason to think that anything would happen to Alec once he was out of the safety of Magnus’ loft. That Alec went to great effort not to wake Magnus up in the mornings. That Claudio would have just tried to take him some other time. After all, the man had waited forty years for revenge – by now, patience was well within his arsenal of skills. He might have snatched Alec after a mission or when he stepped out to pick something up from some store or while he was on a run.
All those thoughts were so reasonable. Even hotheaded and freaked out Jace had tried to comfort him and tell him it wasn’t his fault.
All Magnus felt was the bitter sting of the knowledge that this was entirely his fault.
And now, with Claudio finally in their custody, they still had no idea where Alec was. The warlock was refusing to speak no matter what they did to him.
Isabelle had threatened the full force of the Clave. Clary had tried a good cop approach, appealing to Claudio sweetly. Magnus had gone in there and threatened at length, giving him all the opportunity in the world to reveal the truth to Magnus personally and watch his pain. Jace was violent and angry, using pain to break the warlock keeping his parabatai hidden.
If it weren’t for that rune, Magnus would have been torturing himself with visions of Alec’s corpse.
As it was, Jace could only say that Alec had been injured before he had abruptly gone so far away that Jace could only tell that he still existed, nothing else. It hadn’t done loads for Jace’s stability or Magnus’.
Where could Claudio have hidden Alec away? Why did no tracking spell work?
Not long ago, Magnus had given Alec a ring. Not that kind of ring, in fact he had presented it to Alec on chain to hang around his neck, but an important one all the same. He had infused that ring with as many spells as the metal could handle. Anything to protect Alec when he could not be there to do it himself. One element was to enhance tracking spells. With a tendril of his magic in the ring waiting to be called forward by any tracking spell, Alec should have been easy to find even if something was concealing him from Magnus.
With Magnus’ power, that spell around Alec’s neck and Alec’s parabatai by his side, there was no reason why the tracking should have failed.
Except the spells had failed, again and again, and each attempt left Magnus cold to his core.
He almost jerked in his seat as the door to Alec’s office, where Magnus had set up shop to watch the interrogation, creaked open and Isabelle came in with the same barely holding it together expression on her face as she had been wearing for hours and a glass of water in her hands. Without a word, she came to lean against his side and set the water down in front of him. She had been pushing food and drinks on him at regular intervals with increasingly effective methods for forcing him to ingest them. Without fuss, he lifted the glass and drained half of it in one go. He was too tired to fight the Lightwood will at the moment.
“Anything?” Izzy asked softly. She had only been gone from his side for less than fifteen minutes but she still needed to make sure.
He understood the impulse perfectly. “Nothing yet.” His eyes studied the scene before him as he added, “Jace is almost frighteningly good at this.”
It was true. Magnus had never seen more of Valentine’s upbringing in him than now. By order of the Clave, Jace wasn’t authorized to give Claudio any major wounds. The Clave did not engage in torture, after all. That said, he still had valuable information about the whereabouts of a Head of Institute, the eldest son of one of the oldest lines of Shadowhunter families and a Herondale’s parabatai.
Magnus had never been so happy for the Clave’s hypocrisy and lax definition of what could be considered torture.
Jace couldn’t do any major damage but he could still cause major pain.
On the screen now, Alec’s parabatai had a blade and a lit torch.
Any warlock who dared speak out against what Jace was doing – and none would, not unless they wanted to invoke the wrath of Magnus Bane – couldn’t even say that Jace had spilt much blood at all. Not with the way the wounds were being instantly cauterized.
Magnus might have expected the Shadowhunters to be a little bit more squeamish about it. Or that he would see some hesitance in Jace.
There was none.
The entire Institute was watching the interrogation so avidly Magnus was surprised there weren’t bowls of popcorn being distributed. If anything, Jace seemed frustrated by the Clave’s restrictions on him. Izzy watched her brother committing these acts with almost clinical detachment. Even Clary seemed grimly unbothered.
Magnus had underestimated them.
“Are you getting off on this? Torturing Downworlders? That’s all this is, isn’t it? An excuse.”
Claudio hadn’t begged yet. He had screamed and cried. He had even whimpered a few times. But not once had he begged Jace to just stop. Not once had he wavered.
Magnus almost respected it.
“I’d set the world on fire if I had to, to get Alec back. Think that over.”
Jace hadn’t wavered yet either. He wouldn’t, not until the rune on his hip faded into nothing.
The Angel have mercy on Claudio then.
“Clary and I were thinking we could send her in after Jace. Let her bandage him up, try that angle again.” Izzy explained with a tight voice that told Magnus all he needed to know about how she felt about giving any kindness to this despicable creature keeping her from her big brother’s side. There was a reason why Clary was the one playing good cop. She was the only one who could stomach it.
Magnus burned just as brightly at the mere thought of it. “I want to go in after Jace.”
“He’s made it clear he won’t say a word to you. Not after he told you why he did this.” Izzy argued. It was true. After that first conversation between them, Claudio had said not one single word to him, no matter what Magnus had said or done.
Magnus was almost too empty for fury. They were grasping at air and he was finding it harder and harder to ignore that fact, “There’s got to be something he wants to say to me.”
“I honestly don’t think there is.” Izzy squeezed his shoulder and though her hand was so much smaller than Alec’s, Magnus felt some of the tension drain at the gentle but fierce touch.
“There has to be anything else we can try. Clary won’t be able to appeal to his mercy because he has none.” Claudio had more than proven that, doing this to Alec when he had done nothing wrong.
“Maybe some time alone?” Izzy suggested. “That room is equipped with speakers. We can keep him from sleeping, at least.”
That wasn’t a small thing, Magnus knew. Sleep deprivation, especially for someone already wounded, was awful. He nodded, “That’s a good idea. You can pull Jace out of there yourself, though.”
“That’s what we have Clary for.” Izzy tried to joke but it fell immediately flat in no small part because it had been Alec’s job for so much longer than Clary had been around to help. Alec had been pulling Jace back from the brink for years.
Izzy silently pulled out her phone, probably to text Clary and update her on the plan.
Izzy and Magnus froze. Even Jace did. He held the burning red blade a mere centimeter from the bare skin of Claudio’s shoulders.
“Something you want to say?” Jace’s voice was deceptively soft. He didn’t pull the blade back but nor did he connect it to Claudio’s flesh.
“Bane… I want to talk to Magnus Bane.”
Jace’s eyes rose up to stare into the camera. There was a long moment of silence in the cell before he stepped back from Claudio and went straight out the door, blade in his hand and torch still lit.
“Magnus,” Izzy’s voice almost broke Magnus’ heart. There was a thread of hope in it now that there hadn’t been before.
Magnus kept his eyes on the screen unblinkingly. Claudio was panting and his shoulders were slumped. There were raised burns littering his skin and Magnus knew from experience that the smell in that room had to be horrific.
Thundering footsteps in the hall caught their attention and in seconds the door was thrown open, Jace, Clary and Underhill came flying into the room.
“Did you hear that, Magnus?” Jace was panting. He must have taken the stairs from the cells downstairs, unwilling to wait for the slower elevator.
Magnus didn’t answer.
“It worked!” Clary kissed Jace and pressed her hand to his cheek.
“Magnus?” Izzy asked.
Magnus stared woodenly at the screen. “Not five minutes ago he was taunting you, Jace.”
“You didn’t break him. You weren’t even close yet.” Magnus said, though he hated to.
There was a beat of silence that felt awful.
“Then why does he want to talk to you now?” Izzy asked softly.
“Because there’s something else going on.” Magnus shut his eyes tightly and didn’t bother ignoring the way they burned. He was more scared now than he had been only a few moments ago. “He’s still playing a game with me and for whatever reason now is the time to go to the next round.”
Underhill’s voice was steadier than anyone else’s but even he seemed affected. “Are you going down there?”
Magnus opened his eyes again and saw Claudio had twisted in his chair and was looking up at the camera. There was no smirk on his face but there didn’t need to be. He was still winning and he knew it. Magnus was watching and he knew that too.
“What other choice do I have?”