Word of Honour

Word of Honour by Michael Pryor

Book: Word of Honour by Michael Pryor Read Free Book Online
Authors: Michael Pryor
broad-brimmed hat.
Underneath, his hair was fine, and so blond as to be
almost white. It was straight, thick and surprisingly
luxurious.
    'Mysterious?' he said. 'It goes with the job, rather.' He
paused and took an envelope from the pocket of his long
black coat.
    Craddock, as head of the Magisterium, had responsibility
for policing all magical affairs. It was a brief
he interpreted broadly and Aubrey was convinced that
he enjoyed the clandestine nature of his activities.
    'I can't imagine this is a social visit,' he said.
    'Quite right. I'll get to the nub of the matter.' He drew
the curtains. Thin as they were, the room was plunged
into half-light. 'I want to formalise your relationship with
the Magisterium. I want you as an irregular operative.'
    Aubrey almost smiled. Entering the service of the
Magisterium had been one of the possibilities he'd
considered for this year. He'd wondered how to do it –
without having to ask his father for assistance. He'd put
it aside, deciding instead to concentrate on his studies,
and now here the opportunity was presenting itself.
'I can't. I'm studying.'
    'That's one of the reasons I want you on board. You're
at Greythorn, a legitimate student, studying magic. I need
someone in that department and none of my operatives
have been able to get in.'
    'They've tried?'
    'Tried, failed, been reassigned. I need you.'
    'Surely I don't have the training, the skills.'
    'The Magisterium takes all kinds, as long as they
have magical ability. We can teach you the rest. As
needed.'
    It was tempting. 'What does my father say about this?'
    'I haven't asked him. I'm asking you.'
    That was enough. Aubrey put out his hand. 'I'm happy
to help.'
    'Good man. I'll be in touch, soon. Here.'
    He held out the envelope he'd been cradling. 'It's from
the Rector of your college. I took it from your letterbox
on the way up.'
    A bumping noise came from outside. Craddock
opened the door to find a red-faced George battling with
a huge steamer trunk. 'And here's your friend, just in time
to hear about the invitation.'
    George leaned on the trunk. 'Invitation?' he panted.
'That's quick. No-one knows we're here.'
    Aubrey flapped the card. 'We've been invited to a
ceremony, tomorrow. The awarding of degrees.'
    'Ah,' Craddock said. 'The Rector likes it when the son
of the Prime Minister is part of his college. Expect more
of these invitations.'
    Aubrey groaned and George chuckled. 'Don't laugh,
George,' Aubrey said. 'Your name's on this invitation, too,
you know.'
    George's groan was even louder than Aubrey's.

    T HE NEXT DAY WAS A WHIRL OF FACES, NAMES, PLACES AND timetables. Aubrey didn't see George until the late afternoon,
a bare few hours before the ceremony was to begin.
    They hurriedly dressed in their evening dress, full
white tie and then their undergraduate gowns. 'Astounding
stuff,' George said as he struggled with his braces.
'The Dean of History himself interviewed me, asked
what sort of history I was interested in.'
    'A fair question, the past being as huge as it is. It helps
to narrow it down,' Aubrey said. 'Have you seen my collar
studs?'
    'Over there, in that box by the door. You're right, it
was a fair question, on reflection, but at the time it rather
took me by surprise. You see, I'm in favour of history in
general, if you like. The concept of it.'
    'You're saying history is a good thing. Your shoes need
a shine.'
    'So do yours. Cleaning kit is in that case, I think.'
    'Ah, excellent.'
    'Now, I didn't think I'd be getting off on the right foot
if I told the Dean of History that history was a good
thing. It's the sort of stuff he knows, I'd say. So I said I was
interested in Classical history.'
    'Why?'
    'My line of reasoning is this. The further ago the
period is, the less we know about it.'
    'True. Mostly.'
    'And the less we know about it, the more I can make
up. I didn't put it exactly in those terms, you understand.'
    'I'm glad.'
    'So it looks like I'm studying Roman history, which
I'm not altogether

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