We’re trying something new and fun here on the blog. Every other Tuesday I will post part of a story that everyone can read for free. My newsletter subscribers voted last month on which hall the story would be from and they overwhelmingly chose Metallum Nocturne. So here is the first installment of a much longer story about a student creating their fifth year project in the Metallum Nocturne Hall.
The hammer would be a masterpiece. Claire dumped the last of the powdered mystdrakon bone into the crucible, producing sparkles above the liquid metal. The deep orangish-red glow pumped nearly twenty-seven hundred degrees Fahrenheit into the foundry. Even the silvery protective coat, and layered enchantments couldn’t keep the heat from seeping into her flesh, draining the energy from her limbs. It’d been thirteen hours of constant effort to get the bath of liquid metal to the state she needed for the final pour. The end was near. Claire had only to wait for the metal to turn a patina of green, which would signal it was ready.
Claire stepped away from the crucible. The hum of electricity in the induction melter made her teeth hurt. She lifted her reflective face shield and grabbed the squeeze bottle of water, spraying it down her throat. After she was finished, she made sure there was no moisture on her thick gloves or the jacket. Steam explosions were extremely dangerous. Constant vigilance was required to make sure that a simple pour didn’t turn catastrophic when water got beneath the surface of the metal causing an explosion.
Three months. In three months she’d graduate from Metallum Nocturne, and if everything went as expected with her fifth-year project, she’d have her pick of job opportunities. Claire didn’t want to get ahead of herself, but she was confident enough in her weapon crafting that she thought the hammer would qualify as a minor artifact, and at worst, a masterpiece. Most fifth-years were lucky enough to finish with a grading of high quality.
As she leaned against the railing, watching for the tale tell signs of tarnishing, Claire mused about her project, so close to completion. The making of weapons seemed a little outdated in the modern world filled with guns, and skyscrapers, and complex electronics like the smart phone in her pocket. But that was what had made the prospect of creating it alluring. It’d taken eight months of preparation to reach this point. She’d had to design the weapon, collect the reagents—some of which had required risky missions into other realms—and convince Patron Canterbury that her hammer was worthy of making. He’d suggested a simpler final project, one that wouldn’t collapse under its own audacious weight, but she’d never been so sure of something in her life.
She even had a name for the hammer: Ascension. When it was complete, the wielder would be able to run above the ground, fast as a lightning bolt. Made of night metal, the hammer would be near indestructible.
She turned to find Mara, a first-year, in an oversized protective coat. The induction melter next to her station hummed with energy. Claire could see silvery metal in the crucible. Aluminum. It was the first metal that new students learned how to use in the foundry due to the simplicity of melting and pouring it. Claire hadn’t realized the first years had earned their foundry privileges, but she’d been too busy with her project to pay attention.
The excitement and nervousness broke across Mara’s face. “Yeah. I don’t want to screw it up.”
“I’m sure you won’t, just make sure you follow all the safety rules.”
There was a lot of Mara that reminded Claire of herself when she first started in Metallum Nocturne, especially the pink hair sticking out from the hardhat. Clearly Mara had been working out, it took a lot of strength to work in the foundry, but she was still a waif of a girl.
“I wanted to, uhm.” Mara swallowed, glanced away. “Make sure that it was okay that I worked over here.”
Claire wanted to tell her that it looked like she’d already started working, and that she wasn’t in charge of the foundry, but if the roles had been reversed, she probably would have asked as well. The dangers their studies required led to the informal hierarchy that sat outside of the Hall’s rules. She winked at the first year.
“You got this.”
Mara hung her head. “I’m afraid I’ll screw it up.”
Claire nodded to the foundry’s motto, which had been forged into metal letters and hung above the doorway.
May the seeds of your mistakes bear fruit tomorrow.
The hesitant smile before Mara returned to her station left Claire feeling good about her encouragement. The upper classmen when she’d been a first year had been less accommodating. They’d doubled down on the I-was-miserable-so-you-have-to-be-too school of thought.
A crackle of sparkles above her pot of liquid night metal signaled that pouring time was near. The mold made of packed black sand and coated with a thin layer of wax to provide a smooth finish sat near the crucible. She could use the tilting mechanism for the pour, but planned to do it by hand. Claire had been working out for months in preparation. The ladle held a hundred pounds of liquid metal which she would carefully dump into the mold spout in one, smooth pour. By doing it by hand, she could maintain a smooth flow, allowing the gases trapped inside to escape at a constant rate, and make sure the final hammer had no flaws.
A last drink of water was tempting, but she didn’t have enough time for another safety check. Claire donned her hardhat, reapplied the enchantment that protected her from the worst of the heat, and slipped the thick yellow gloves over her hands.
Claire checked across the barrier to Mara’s work area to see the first year strolling towards the crucible of liquid aluminum with a ladle over her shoulder. So intent on her own challenges, it wasn’t until Mara was swinging the ladle from her shoulder that Claire recognized the problem. The ladle had been hanging on a hook in the central tool area, which meant it hadn’t been preheated to ensure no moisture remained on the surface of the metal. If Mara shoved the damp ladle beneath the bath of liquid aluminum, the water would turn to steam, expanding a thousand-fold and exploding nearly thirteen-hundred degree Fahrenheit metal across the foundry.
The shout could barely be heard over the hum of induction melters. When the first year made no indication that she’d heard, Claire abandoned her project, hoping over the barrier to stop Mara before it was too late. The first year paused before the metal bath, the ladle poised above it. She took a deep breath as Claire shouted a second time, but Mara’s arms were in motion shoving the ladle beneath the searing metal. Claire made it halfway to Mara before the world erupted. Claire was thrown across the room, slamming into the wall. The last thing she remembered—besides the pain cascading through her broken body—was the vision of her crucible of liquid night metal, cracked and leaking onto the floor, steam rising, the pops of concrete punctuating the destruction like fireworks.
The next episode of Forging a Legacy will be published on Tuesday, October 18, but there are currently 25 books and many short stories published in The Hundred Halls Universe if you can’t wait for more. A good place to start your adventure is with The Hundred Halls series which is on sale in my direct store.
Update: Read Episode 2