The Copper Gauntlet

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CALL REMOVED A small circle of oily pepperoni from his slice of pizza and slid his hand under the table. Immediately, he felt a wash of Havoc’s wet tongue as the Chaos-ridden wolf inhaled the food.

“Don’t feed that thing,” his father said gruffly. “It’s going to bite your hand clean off one of these days.”

Call petted Havoc’s head, ignoring his dad. Lately, Alastair wasn’t happy with Call. He didn’t want to hear about his time at the Magisterium. He hated that Call had been picked as an apprentice by Rufus, Alastair’s former master. And he’d been ready to tear out his hair ever since Call had come home with a Chaos-ridden wolf.

For Call’s whole life, it had been just him and his father, and his father’s stories about how evil his former school was — the same school that Call now attended, despite Call’s hardest efforts to not get admitted. Call expected his father to be angry when he had gotten back from his first year of the Magisterium, but he hadn’t anticipated how it would feel to have his father so angry. They used to get along so effortlessly. Now everything felt … strained.

Call hoped this was just because of the Magisterium. Because the other option was that Alastair knew Call was secretly evil.

The whole being-secretly-evil thing distressed Call, too. A lot. He’d started making a list in his head — any evidence of him being an Evil Overlord went into one column and any evidence against it went into another. He’d taken to referring to the list before making any and all decisions. Would an Evil Overlord drink the last cup of coffee in the pot? Which book would an Evil Overlord take out from the library? Was dressing in all black a definite Evil Overlord move, or a legitimate choice on laundry day? The worst part was that he was pretty sure his father was playing the same game, totaling and retotaling Call’s Evil Overlord Points whenever he looked in Call’s direction.

But Alastair could merely suspect. He couldn’t be sure. There were some things only Call knew.

Call couldn’t stop thinking about what Master Joseph had told him: that he, Callum Hunt, possessed the soul of the Enemy of Death. That he was the Enemy of Death, destined for evil. Even in the cozy yellow-painted kitchen where he and his dad had eaten thousands of meals together, the words rang in Call’s ears.

The soul of Callum Hunt is dead. Forced from your body, that soul shriveled up and died. Constantine Madden’s soul has taken root and grown, newborn and intact. Since then, his followers have labored to make it seem like he wasn’t gone from the world, so that you would be safe.

“Call?” his father asked, staring at him oddly.

Don’t look at me, Call wanted to say. And at the same time he wanted to ask, What do you see when you look?

He and Alastair were splitting Call’s favorite pizza, pepperoni and pineapple, and ordinarily they would have been chatting about Call’s latest escapade in town or whatever fix-it project Alastair was currently working on in his garage, but Alastair wasn’t talking now and Call couldn’t think of anything to say. He missed his best friends, Aaron and Tamara, but he couldn’t talk about them in front of his father because they were part of the world of magic that Alastair hated.

Call slid off his chair. “Can I go out in the backyard with Havoc?”

Alastair frowned down at the wolf, a once-adorable pup that had now grown into a rangy teenage monster, taking up a lot of the real estate underneath the table. The wolf looked up at Call’s dad with Chaos-ridden eyes, tongue lolling from his mouth. He whined gently.

“Very well,” said Alastair with a long-suffering sigh. “But don’t be long. And keep away from people. Our best bet of keeping the neighbors from making a fuss is to control the circumstances under which Havoc is seen.”

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