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Authors: Cassandra Clare,Holly Black

The Iron Trial (18 page)

BOOK: The Iron Trial
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A
S SOON AS
Aaron disappeared, the rest of the Masters began herding the remaining apprentices into rows of lines, with the Iron Years at the center and the older students toward the outside. Tamara and Call stood a little distance away, watching everyone else rush around. Call wondered if she was feeling the same way he was — the idea of ever finding the Makar everyone was looking for had seemed like a distant, impossible thing, and now Aaron, their friend Aaron, was the one. Call looked back toward where the wolves had been before Aaron had sent them spinning into the void, but the only sign of them was the prints of their huge paws in the snow. The marks still glowed with a faint, discrete light, as if each print had been made with fire and still kept some of that fire deep inside it.

While Call stared, something small darted between the trees like a shifting shadow. He scowled, trying to see better, but there were no more movements. Whatever it was had either gone or never been there. He shuddered, remembering the huge
something
he had felt brush by him while was running to Drew. Recent events had made him hyperaware of every stray breeze. Maybe he was imagining things.

Master Milagros detached herself from the group of apprentices, now herded into something approximating order, and walked over to Tamara and Call, her expression kind. “We need to start back now. It’s unlikely that there are more Chaos-ridden out there, but we can’t be sure. It’s best if we hurry.”

Tamara nodded, looking more subdued than Call could remember seeing her, and began trudging through the snow. Joining the other Iron Year apprentices at the group’s center, they began the trek back to the Magisterium. The Masters had taken up posts around the very outside of the group, their glowing orbs casting shards of light through the dawn. Celia, Gwenda, and Jasper were walking along with Rafe and Kai. Jasper had placed his fur-lined coat over Drew when he was lying on the ground, an uncharacteristically nice gesture on his part, and one that had left him shivering in the icy morning air.

“Did Drew say why he left?” Celia asked Call. “You were down there with him before Alex got there. What did he say to you?”

Call shook his head. He wasn’t sure if it was a secret.

“You can tell us,” said Celia. “We won’t laugh at him or be jerks.”

Gwenda glanced at Jasper and raised her eyebrows. “Most of us won’t, anyway.”

Jasper cut his eyes toward Tamara, but she didn’t say a thing.

Even though Jasper was almost always a jerk, in that moment, remembering what good friends Tamara and Jasper had been at the Iron Trial, Call felt bad for him. He thought of the time he’d seen Jasper in the Library, straining to make a flame spark, and the way Jasper had snapped at him to leave. Call wondered if Jasper had thought of running away like Drew had.

He remembered Jasper’s words:
Only cowards leave the Magisterium
. Then he stopped feeling bad.

“He told me that Master Lemuel was too hard on him,” Call said. “That he performed better under stress, so Lemuel was always trying to scare him into being better.”

“Master Lemuel does that kind of thing to all of us — jumping out from behind walls, shouting things, and doing middle-of-the-night training,” Rafe said. “He isn’t trying to be mean. He’s trying to prepare us.”

“Right,” said Call, thinking of Drew’s bitten nails and haunted eyes. “Drew ran away for no reason. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be chased through the snow by packs of Chaos-ridden wolves if they got the chance?”

“Maybe you didn’t know how bad it was, Rafe,” said Tamara, looking troubled. “Since Master Lemuel isn’t that way with you.”

“Drew’s
lying
,” Rafe insisted.

“He said that Master Lemuel wouldn’t let him eat,” Call told them. “And he does look skinnier.”

“What?” Rafe demanded. “That didn’t happen. You saw him in the Refectory with the rest of us. And anyway, Drew never told me any of this. He would have said something.”

Call shrugged. “Maybe he didn’t think you’d believe him. It looks like he was right.”

“I wouldn’t — I don’t —” Rafe glanced around at the others, but they looked away uncomfortably.

“Master Lemuel isn’t nice,” Gwenda said. “Maybe Drew didn’t think he had any choice but running away.”

“That’s not how Masters are supposed to act,” Celia said. “He should have told Master North. Or someone.”

“Maybe he thinks that
is
how Masters are supposed to act,” Call said. “Considering no one’s ever exactly explained to us how they
are
supposed to act.”

No one had anything to say to that. For a while, they walked in silence, boots crunching through the snow. Out of the corner of Call’s eye, he kept noticing the small shadow keeping pace with them, slipping from tree to tree. He almost pointed it out to Tamara, except that she hadn’t said a word since the Masters had taken Aaron back to the Magisterium. She seemed lost in her own thoughts.

What was it? It didn’t look large enough to be threatening. Maybe it was a small elemental like Warren, one that was nervous to reveal itself. Maybe it
was
Warren, too scared to apologize. Whatever it was, Call couldn’t seem to get the thought of it out of his head. He let himself fall back, until he was walking behind the rest of the group. The others were tired and distracted enough that, a few moments later, he was able to move toward the trees without anyone noticing.

The woods were hushed, the golden light of the rising sun making the snow bright.

“Who’s there?” Call called softly.

A furry snout peeked out from one of the trees. Something fuzzy and pointy-eared bobbed up, peering at Call with the eyes of the Chaos-ridden.

A wolf pup.

The creature whined a little and slunk back, out of sight. Call’s heart thudded in his chest. He took a half step forward, wincing when his boot snapped a twig. The wolf pup hadn’t moved far. Call could see it as he got closer, huddled against the tree, its pale brown fur ruffled by the morning breeze. It scented the air with a wet black nose.

It didn’t look menacing. It looked like a dog. A puppy, really.

“It’s okay,” Call said, trying to make his voice soothing. “Come on out. Nobody’s going to hurt you.”

The wolf’s small, fuzzy tail began to wag. It wobbled toward Call across the dead leaves and snow on not completely steady feet.

“Hey, little wolf,” Call said, dropping his voice. He’d always wanted a dog, wanted one desperately, but his father had never let him have any pets. Unable to help himself, Call reached out and petted the wolf’s head, his fingers sinking into its ruff. It wagged its tail faster, and whined.

“Call!” Someone — Celia, he thought — called from up ahead. “What are you doing? Where did you go?”

Call’s arms moved without his volition, as if he were a puppet on strings, reaching out to grab the wolf and tuck it inside his jacket. It whuffled and hung on, digging small claws into his shirt as he zipped the jacket up over it. He looked down at himself — you couldn’t really tell anything was off, he told himself. He looked as if he had a small potbelly, as if he’d been at the lichen.

“Call!” Celia called again.

Call hesitated. He was absolutely, totally sure that bringing a Chaos-ridden animal into the Magisterium was an expellable offense. Maybe even a magic-binding one. It was an insane thing to do.

Then the wolf pup craned up and licked the bottom of his chin. He remembered the wolves disappearing into the darkness that Aaron had conjured. Had one of them been this puppy’s mother? Was this wolf now motherless … just like Call?

He took a deep breath and, zipping the jacket up the rest of the way, limped after the others.

“Where were you?” Tamara asked him. She had snapped out of her stunned state and now looked annoyed. “We were starting to worry.”

“I got my foot stuck on a root,” Call said.

“Next time yell or something.” Tamara seemed too tired and distracted to consider his story closely. Jasper, looking back at him, had an odd expression on his face.

“We were just talking about Aaron,” Rafe said. “About how weird it is that he didn’t know he could use chaos magic. I would have never figured him for being a Makar.”

“It must be scary,” Kai said. “Using the kind of magic the Enemy of Death uses. I mean, that can’t feel good, right?”

“It’s just
power
,” said Jasper in a superior tone. “It’s not chaos magic that makes the Enemy the monster he is. He became that way because he was corrupted by Master Joseph and went totally crazy.”

“What do you mean he was corrupted by Joseph? Was that his Master?” Rafe asked, sounding worried, like maybe he thought Master Lemuel being awful could make him into a villain, too.

“Oh, just tell the story, Jasper,” said Tamara wearily.

“Okay,” Jasper said, sounding grateful that she was speaking to him. “For those of you who don’t know anything, which is embarrassing, by the way, the Enemy of Death’s real name is Constantine Madden.”

“Nice start,” Celia said. “Not everyone’s a legacy, Jasper.”

Underneath Call’s jacket, the wolf squirmed. Call crossed his arms over his chest and hoped no one noticed his coat was moving.

“You okay?” Celia asked him. “You look a little —”

“I’m
fine
,” Call insisted.

Jasper went on. “Constantine had a twin brother named Jericho, and, like all mages who are good enough in the Trial, they came to the Magisterium when they were twelve. Back in those days, there was a lot more focus on experiments. Master Joseph, Jericho’s Master, was super into chaos magic. But to do all the experiments he hoped to try, he needed a Makar to access the void. He couldn’t do it himself.”

Jasper’s voice dropped low and creepy. “Imagine how happy he was when Constantine turned out to be a Makar. Jericho didn’t need much convincing to agree to be his brother’s counterweight, and the other Masters didn’t need much convincing to let Master Joseph work with the two brothers outside of their regular teaching. He was an expert on chaos magic, even though he couldn’t perform any, and Constantine had a lot to learn….”

“This doesn’t sound good,” Call said, trying to ignore that underneath his jacket, the wolf pup was chewing on one of his buttons, which tickled like crazy.

“Yeah, it’s not,” Tamara put in. “Jasper, it’s not a ghost story. You don’t have to tell it that way.”

“I’m not telling it any way but the way it happened. Constantine and Master Joseph got more and more obsessed with what could be done with the void. They took out bits of the void and put them inside animals, making them Chaos-ridden, like those wolves up there. They looked like regular animals from a distance, but they were more aggressive and their brains were all scrambled up. Pure chaos in your brain will make you crazy. The void — it’s like everything and nothing all at once. No one can keep that in their head for long without going insane. Certainly not a chipmunk.”

“There are Chaos-ridden chipmunks?” Rafe asked.

Jasper didn’t answer. He was on a roll. “Maybe that’s why Constantine did what he did. Maybe the void made him crazy. We don’t really know. We just know he tried an experiment that nobody had ever tried before. It was too difficult. It almost killed him, and it destroyed his counterweight.”

“You mean his brother,” said Call. His voice went a little weird at the end of the sentence, but the wolf had picked that moment to stop biting and start licking his chest. He was also pretty sure it was drooling on him.

“Yeah. He died on the floor of the experiment room. They say his ghost —”

“Shut up, Jasper,” said Tamara. She had her arm around another Iron Year girl, whose lip was wobbling.

“Well, anyway, Jericho was killed. And maybe you’d think that would have stopped Constantine, but it only made him worse. He became obsessed with finding a way to bring back his brother. To use chaos magic to bring back the dead.”

Celia nodded. “Necromancy. That’s completely forbidden.”

“He couldn’t do it. But he did manage to push chaos magic into living humans, which made the first Chaos-ridden. Seemed to drive out their souls so that they didn’t know who they were anymore. They obeyed him mindlessly. It wasn’t what he wanted and maybe he hadn’t meant to do it, but he didn’t stop his experiments then either. Finally, the other Masters discovered what he was doing. They were trying to figure out some way to strip him of his magic, but they didn’t know Master Joseph was still loyal to him. Master Joseph got him out — he blasted through one of the walls of the Magisterium and took Constantine with him. A lot of people say the blast nearly killed them both and that Constantine was horribly scarred. He wears a silver mask now, to cover up the scars. The surviving Chaos-ridden animals he’d created fled through the explosion, too, which is why there are so many of them in the woods around here.”

“So what you’re saying is that the Enemy of Death is the way he is because of the Magisterium,” Call said.

“No,” Jasper said. “That’s not what I —”

The Mission Gate came into sight, distracting Call with the promise that if he made it back to his room, it would be a million times easier to hide the wolf. At least it would be easier to hide it from all the people who weren’t his roommates. He’d get the wolf some water and food and then — and then he’d figure it out from there.

BOOK: The Iron Trial
9.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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