The Bronze Key (Magisterium #3)(5)

by Holly Black, Cassandra Clare

“Thank you,” the man whispered before letting him go. “Thank you for killing Constantine.”

I didn’t. Call stumbled on as hands reached out of the crowd. He shook some, avoided others, gave one a high five and then felt stupid.

“Is this what it’s like for you all the time?” he asked Aaron.

“Not before last summer,” Aaron said. “Anyway, I thought you wanted to be a hero.”

I guess it’s better than being a villain, Call thought, but let the words die on his tongue.

Finally they came to where the Assembly was waiting, separated from the rest of the room by floating silver ropes. Anastasia Tarquin, one of the most powerful members of the Assembly, was talking to Tamara’s mother. Tarquin was an extremely tall, older woman with masses of upswept, bright silver hair, and Tamara’s mother had to crane her neck to look at her.

Tamara was standing with Celia and Jasper, all three of them laughing about something. It was the first time Call had seen Tamara since the start of summer. She was wearing a bright yellow dress that made her brown skin glow. Her hair fell in heavy, dark waves around her face and down her back. Celia had done something weird and elegant and complicated with her blond hair. She was in a seafoam-green gauzy thing that seemed to waft around her.

Both the girls turned toward Call and Aaron. Tamara’s face lit up and Celia smiled. Call felt a little bit like someone had kicked him in the chest. Weirdly, it wasn’t an unpleasant feeling.

Tamara ran over to Aaron, giving him a quick hug. Celia hung back as though struck with sudden shyness. It was Jasper who came up to Call, clapping him on the shoulder, which was a relief, as nothing about Jasper made Call feel as if his world was tilting. Jasper just looked like his usual smug self, his dark hair sticking up with hair gel.

“So, how’s the ole E-o-D, himself?” Jasper whispered, making Call flinch. “You’re the star of the show.”

Call hated that Jasper knew the truth about him. Even if he was fairly sure Jasper would never reveal his secret, it didn’t stop Jasper from making comments and needling him every chance he got.

“Come,” Master Rufus said. “Time is wasting. We have a ceremony to attend, whether we want to or not.”

With that, Call, Aaron, Tamara, Jasper, Master Rufus, Master Milagros, and Alastair were herded up onto a raised dais. Celia waved good-bye as they went.

Call knew they were in trouble when he saw there were chairs up on the dais. Chairs meant a long ceremony. He wasn’t wrong. The ceremony went by in a blur, but it was an extended and boring blur. Various Assembly members made speeches about how integral they personally had been to the mission. “They couldn’t have done it without me,” said a blond Assembly member Call had never seen before. Master Rufus and Master Milagros were praised for having such fine apprentices. The Rajavis were praised for having raised such a brave daughter. Alastair was praised for his diligence in leading their expedition. The kids themselves were credited with being the greatest heroes of their time.

They were applauded and kissed on their cheeks and patted on their backs. Alastair was given a heavy medal that swung on his neck. He began to look a little wild-eyed after they stood up for the sixth round of applause.

No one mentioned severed heads or the whole misunderstanding where they had thought Alastair was in league with the Enemy or how no one at the Magisterium had even known that the kids were going on the mission. Everyone acted like this had been the plan all along.

They were all given their Bronze Year wristbands and stones of glimmering red beryl to show the worth of their accomplishment. Call wondered what the red stone meant exactly — every stone color had a meaning: yellow for healing, orange for bravery, and so on.

Call stepped up to have Master Rufus place the stone in his wristband. The red beryl went in with a click, like a lock being shut. “Callum Hunt, Makar!” someone in the room shouted. Someone else stood up and cried out Aaron’s name. Call let the shouts wash over him like a bewildering tide. “Call and Aaron! Makaris, Makaris, Makaris!”

Call felt a hand brush his shoulder. It was Anastasia Tarquin. “In Europe,” she said, “when they discover someone is a chaos mage, they don’t celebrate them. They kill them.”

Call turned to stare at her in shock, but she was already moving away through the crowd of Assembly members. Master Rufus, who clearly hadn’t heard her — no one had but Call — came forward toward Aaron and Call. “Makars,” he said. “This isn’t just a celebration. We have something to discuss.”

“Right here?” Aaron asked, clearly startled.

Rufus shook his head. “It’s time for you to see something very few apprentices ever see. The War Room. Come with me.”

Tamara looked after Aaron and Call worriedly as they were led away through the crowd. “The War Room?” Aaron muttered. “What’s that?”

“I don’t know,” Call whispered back. “I thought the war was over.”

Master Rufus led them expertly behind the floating ropes, avoiding the eyes of the crowd, until they reached a door set into the far wall. It was a bronze door, carved with the shapes of tall ships sailing, cannons, and explosions over the sea.

Rufus pushed the door open, and they entered the War Room. Call’s words about why there were no windows echoed in his own head — because there were plenty of windows here. There was a marble floor, but every other surface was glass, and the glass glowed with enchanted light. Beyond the glass Call could see sea creatures swimming by: fish with brightly colored stripes, sharks with coal-black eyes, graceful flapping rays.

“Whoa,” said Aaron, craning his neck. “Look up.”

Call did and saw the water above them, glowing with the light of the surface. A school of silvery fish shot by and then pivoted according to some unseen signal, all of them racing off in the new direction.

“Sit,” Assemblyman Graves — old, grumpy, and mean — said. “We realize this is a celebration, but there are things we must discuss. Master Rufus, you and your two apprentices should sit here.” He indicated chairs beside him.

Call and Aaron exchanged a reluctant glance before shuffling over to take their seats. The rest of the Assembly members were arranging themselves around the table, making small talk. Above them, visible beyond the glass, an eel ribboned its way through the sea and snapped up a slow-moving fish. Call wondered if it was an ominous sign.