Here's the next installment of our Hundred Halls Metallum Nocturne story. If you need to catch up, all of the previous episodes can be found here.

Episode Thirteen

The house wasn't quite a log cabin, but it wasn't modern building techniques either.  A stone chimney trickled smoke into the air, putting off the comforting smell of a wood burning fire.  A shed towards the back was next to a chicken coop.  Furs hung from wire lines, stretched out near the back of the porch.  Claire had a good idea that Grayson had built the place with his sturdy hands.  Whether he was a survivalist or a man with few options, she hadn't decided. 

The interior, however, wasn't as rugged as the outside suggested.  A wide fireplace was ringed by chairs that Claire could imagine herself curled up, reading a book.  She spotted a few tomes on the table, but Grayson slipped them into a wooden box near the couch before leaning down to tend to the fire.

"Grab a drink in the kitchen, or the bathroom if you need it.  You can pretty much see the entire layout from here.  My bedroom's in back, but the bathroom is the door right before it."

"Oh thank you," said Dawn.  "I've had to go for the last thirty minutes."

While her friend hurried to the bathroom, Claire entered the kitchen for a glass of water. 

"It's well water, but has a touch of sulfur smell.  Have a pitcher with a filter in the fridge, if it bothers you," said Grayson as he threw more wood into the fire. 

The big dog Carl had already claimed a spot in front of the fireplace, curling up behind Grayson as he worked.  A snort slipped out as the creature slumbered.

Claire did as he suggested, pulling out the pitcher, not because the sulfur bothered her as she'd grown up on well water, but she wanted to see what kind of food he ate.  The refrigerator was filled with brown eggs from his chickens, and other foods he'd gotten from the forest, but it also contained a number of items like yogurt or cheese found at the big box supermarkets.  Seeing that he made regular trips into Charleston made her feel a little better about Grayson.

"Cozy place you've got here," she said after taking a drink of water.  She'd poured three glasses, leaving the other two on the counter. 

Grayson shot her a covert glance as he poked the fire, saying nothing.  Then he stood up suddenly.

"I'll see if I can find that downy."

Dawn returned about the time he'd left.  Her eyes were rounded. 

"I don't like this place," she whispered. 

"It's fine."

"No, it's not fine.  There was another door next to his.  Boarded up and runes painted onto the frame.  Something weird's going on."

Claire opened her mouth to refute Dawn, thinking it was classism rather than concern, but then she remembered the warding at the entrance to his property. 

"Fine.  Stay alert, but don't cause trouble.  As soon as we get the downy, we can leave."

Dawn flared her nostrils.  "The sooner we leave the better."

The fire was warm on approach.  Claire set the glass on the little table and while scratching Carl's enormous head, she peeked into the box to see what Grayson had been reading.  The titles immediately put a stone in her gut.  Demons of the Deep ForestA Warlock's Guide to Charms and ElixirsBeyond the Veil: One Man's Ill-Advised Trip

Dawn gave her a look after she silently closed the box, but Claire didn't want to risk saying their names out loud in case Grayson could hear. 

"I need to use the bathroom," she said.

At the end of the hall, she found the door that Dawn had spoke about.  Metallum Nocturne, unlike many of the other Halls, taught a narrow specialty that didn't have uses outside of its practices, or overlapped with other disciplines.  One of the few areas was runic magic.  Runes, unlike charms or enchantments, were meant to be permanent.  At least until they were damaged or destroyed.  Claire recognized at least a couple of the runes etched into the door frame around the mystery door.  They were wards related to the Veil.  Enthralled by her examination, she missed the footsteps of Grayson approaching and his door swung wide before she could throw herself into the bathroom.

 "What are you doing?"

Read Episode Fourteen


Thomas K. Carpenter

Thomas K. Carpenter is a full time contemporary fantasy author with over 50 independently published titles. His bestselling, multi-series universe, The Hundred Halls, has over 25 books and counting. His stories focus on fantastic families, magical academies, and epic adventures.

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