The Bronze Key (Magisterium #3)(3)

by Holly Black, Cassandra Clare

He looked like a stranger, which meant Call started to actually think about what was soon to happen.

All summer he’d been feeling pretty smug over the Enemy of Death’s demise. Constantine Madden had been dead for years, preserved in a creepy tomb, waiting to have his soul returned to his body. But since no one had known that, the whole mage world had been waiting for Constantine to start up the Third Mage War again. When Callum had brought the Enemy’s severed head back to the Magisterium, proof that he was incontrovertibly dead, the whole mage world had breathed a sigh of relief.

What they didn’t know was that Constantine’s soul lived on — in Call. Tonight the world of mages was going to be honoring the actual Enemy of Death.

Even though Call had no desire to hurt anyone, the threat of a Third Mage War was far from over. Constantine’s second-in-command, Master Joseph, had control of Constantine’s Chaos-ridden army. He had the powerful Alkahest, which could destroy chaos wielders like Aaron — and Call. If he got tired waiting for Call to come over to his side, then he might attack all on his own.

Call slumped down at the kitchen table. Havoc, who’d been sleeping under the table, looked up with his disturbing coruscating eyes, as if sensing Call’s distress. Although it should have made Call feel better, it actually made him feel a little worse.

He could almost hear Master Joseph’s voice: Good job getting the whole mage world to lower their guard, Call. You can’t escape your nature.

He pushed the thought back firmly. All summer he’d worked on not constantly checking himself to see if he was showing signs of maybe turning out evil. All summer he’d been telling himself that he was Callum Hunt, who had been raised by Alastair Hunt, and he wasn’t going to make the same mistakes Constantine Madden had made. He was a different person. He was.

A few minutes later, Aaron came out of Call’s room, looking dapper in his cream-colored suit. His blond hair was brushed back and even his cuff links shone. He looked just as happy as he ever had in the designer suits that Tamara’s family had given him.

Or at least he looked happy until he saw Call and did a double take.

“You okay?” Aaron asked. “You look a little green around the gills. You don’t have stage fright, do you?”

“Maybe,” Call said. “I’m not used to people looking at me a lot. I mean, people look at me because of my leg sometimes, but it’s not a good kind of looking.”

“Try to think of it as the end scene in Star Wars where everyone cheers and Princess Leia puts medals on Han and Luke.”

Call raised an eyebrow. “Who’s Princess Leia in this visual? Master Rufus?”

Master Rufus was the teacher of their apprentice group at the Magisterium. He was craggy, gruff, and wise, and had a lot more gray hairs than Princess Leia.

“Later,” said Aaron solemnly, “he will wear the gold bikini.”

Havoc barked. Alastair held up his car keys, triumphant. “Would it help you boys if I promised that tonight is going to be boring and uneventful? The party is supposed to honor us, but I guarantee that it’s mostly for the Assembly to congratulate itself.”

“You sound like you’ve been to one of these before,” said Call, standing up from the table. He smoothed his suit anxiously — linen wrinkled fast. Already he couldn’t wait to get back into jeans and a T-shirt.

“You’ve seen the wristband Constantine wore when he was a student with me at the Magisterium,” said Alastair. “He won a lot of awards and prizes. Our whole apprentice group did.”

It was true that Call had seen the wristband. Alastair had sent it to Master Rufus the first year Call had been at the Magisterium. All students were issued wristbands of leather and metal: The metal changed whenever the student entered a new year at the school, and the wristband was also studded with stones, each one representing an accomplishment or talent. Constantine’s had more stones than Call had ever seen before.

Call reached to touch his own wristband. It still showed the metal of a second-year Copper student. Like Aaron’s, Call’s gleamed with the black stone of the Makar. Call’s eyes met Aaron’s as he dropped his hand, and he could tell Aaron knew what he was thinking — here he was, getting an award, being honored for doing good, and it was still something that made him just like Constantine Madden.

Alastair shook his car keys, jangling Call out of his reverie. “Come on,” Alastair said. “The Assembly doesn’t like it when its honorees are late.”

Havoc tailed them to the door, then sat with a thump and a thin whine. “Can he come?” Call asked his father as they walked out the door. “He’ll be good. And he deserves an award, too.”

“Absolutely not,” said Alastair.

“Is it because you don’t trust him around the Assembly?” Call asked, though once he did, he wasn’t sure he wanted the answer.

“It’s because I don’t trust the Assembly around him,” Alastair replied with a stern look. Then he headed out the door, leaving Call no choice but to follow.

THE COLLEGIUM, LIKE the Magisterium, was built in such a way that it was concealed from non-mages. It rested beneath the Virginia coastline, its corridors spiraling deep below the water. Call had heard of its location, but still wasn’t prepared for Alastair to stop them as they were walking along a jetty and indicate a grate at their feet, partially concealed under leaves and dirt.

“If you put your ear close to that, you can usually hear an incredibly dull lecture. But tonight, you might actually be able to hear music.” Although Alastair’s words weren’t particularly complimentary to the Collegium, he spoke in a wistful way.

“You never went here, though, right?” Call asked.

“Not as a student,” Alastair said. “There was a whole generation of us that mostly didn’t go. We were too busy dying in the war.”

Sometimes Call thought, uncharitably, that everyone should have left Constantine Madden alone. Sure, he’d done terrible experiments, putting chaos into the souls of animals and creating the Chaos-ridden. Sure, he’d reanimated the dead, looking for a way to cure death itself and bring back his brother. Sure, he was breaking mage law. But maybe if everyone had left him alone, so many people would still be alive. Call’s mother would still be alive.

The real Call would still be alive, too, he couldn’t help thinking.