Here is the third installment of Forging a Legacy. The first episode is here if you need to start at the beginning.
The Metallum Nocturne Hall towered over the surrounding buildings. The sharp tint of metals burned the interior of Claire’s nose. No smoke rose from the roof, but there was no avoiding the smell, which had become something of a comfort during her years in the Hall.
Claire limped up the stairs to the wide metal doors resplendent with scenes of olden foundries cast onto their exteriors. Shirtless men leaned over a sand mold, pouring hot metal into the spouts. The lack of safety in those days often shocked newcomers to the Hall, but even the protections they enjoyed now weren’t enough to protect against all accidents.
She hesitated before heading inside. The interior displayed a life-sized statue of Stephen Adolphus, the original Patron of the Hall. He held a ladle in his hand while staring into the distance. The joke that the students told each other when they passed the statue was that he should have been paying attention to his pour, not staring at the outside. The joke didn’t seem funny to Claire now.
A beefy guy with a green mohawk was headed a different direction until he spotted her. His expression brightened, then fell, followed by squeezed flat lips as he approached.
“Claire. Good to see you’re out of the hospital. We were all worried about you.” He grimaced. “I was the first one in the foundry after the accident. I’m shocked you’re even walking right now.”
“Thanks, Mark.” Claire glanced to the side. “Was there anything left?”
Mark’s eyebrows raised. “The hammer project? I’m sorry. No. The foundry just got finished being repaired. The spilled night metal did a number on the concrete.”
“It’s okay. I shouldn’t be worried about that, not after what happened to Mara.”
He scratched the back of his head. “She was a good kid. Sloppy, but a good kid.” Mark screwed up his face. “Why’d you approve her work?”
“I didn’t. I was so busy I didn’t even notice she’d set up for an aluminum pour until she came over to ask if it was okay. I never signed her paper.”
Mark opened and closed his mouth before checking his watch. “Materials lab.” He grimaced. “I hope everything works out.”
His hesitation worried her. Claire found her way to her room in the residential wing. She found a manilla envelope taped to her door. The return address was Apothecary Law. The firm worked out of the third ward. She pushed into her spacious room. As a fifth year she had a small kitchen and private bath and shower, a luxury after the first four years of shared spaces.
Claire plopped onto her bed between the plushies of a mystdrakon and a hydra. The envelope contained a letter with the law firm’s letterhead. Her hands shook as she started and got worse the further she read. She was being sued by Mara’s parents—Andrew and Annette Block. There was something familiar about their names like she’d read them before but she couldn’t place it.
She’d thought the ruined project was the worst that would happen to her, but now she was being blamed for Mara’s death? Guilt rose up like black tar, coating her thoughts as she sobbed into her palms. A knock on the door had her cleaning up with a leftover napkin from order out Chinese.
A girl with auburn hair and brown skin that always made Claire think of autumn stuck her head through the gap. Dawn Elias was her best friend in Metallum Nocturne.
“Hey! I didn’t know you were coming back today until I just ran into Mark.”
The tears that she’d finally gotten to stop came freely flowing as Dawn opened her arms. Claire fell into them, burying her head on her friend’s shoulder. After a few minutes of sobbing, she pulled away to see an embarrassing wetness on Dawn’s shoulder.
“I’m sorry. I just messed up your shirt.”
“Claire. I don’t give a crap about my shirt. I’d ask how you’re doing, but I know it ain’t good. I’m just happy you’re alive. They didn’t think you should have survived that kind of explosion. It’s a miracle you’re even back.” Dawn screwed up her face. “For the record, I know no way in hell you would have approved Mara’s project while you were in the middle of prepping your hammer pour,” said Dawn.
“Thanks Dawn. I appreciate that. I wish her parents believed me.”
Claire held out the notice, which Dawn quickly read.
“Oh no. What are you going to do?”
“I don’t know. I can’t afford a lawyer. I needed my fifth year project to get a job, and now I don’t even know if I’ll graduate. Patron Canterbury said he’d cut me some slack on the requirements, but what’s the point if I get a shit grade on the final project? No one will want to hire me and with this lawsuit, and I don’t know how I’ll be able to concentrate.”
Dawn motioned for her to sit. She complied, and Dawn joined her on the bed after closing the door.
“It’s worse than that.”
A quick search typed into Dawn’s phone brought up the front page of the Herald of the Halls. The online edition of the newspaper had a well-dressed couple standing before a podium. Their expressions were a mix of tears and rage. The headline read: Mayoral Candidate Annette Block Demands Investigation into Safety in the Hundred Halls!