Here's the next installment of our Metallum Nocturne story.  If you need to catch up on any of the previous episodes, click here.

Episode Twenty-Three

Claire was sitting on her bed staring at the copy of the safety sheet for the foundry with Dawn looking over her shoulder.  The paper was a crisp, almost realistic reproduction.

"It certainly looks like my signature next to Mara's name."

"But it can't be yours, right?" asked Dawn.

"It's not mine.  I didn't sign the sheet, but it looks like mine.  Whoever did it is either a really good forger, or they used some other method." 

"There's gotta be a dozen spells that can copy a signature."

"If I'd been able to get a hold of the original, I might have been able to figure it out, but it's in evidence now."

"Did you tell your creepy lawyer?"

"He's not creepy," said Claire with a sigh.  "He just needs to trim his nose hair."

"All those dead animals in his apartment was really weird."

"Unless you're going to lend me some stupid amount of money to pay for another, I think I'll be keeping Lamar.  He hates the Blocks, remember."  Claire jabbed her finger into the paper.  "Right now I need to figure out who did this."

"Who else was in the building that day?"

"There aren't any cameras on site," said Claire.

"Ask the professors.  Everyone keeps attendance.  We can at least narrow it down to a smaller set of people."

"It's probably not a first year, or second year," mused Claire.  "They can't sign anyone into the foundry and fifth years don't have to sign in at all."

"Why would that matter?"

Claire absently rubbed the spot between her breasts where the night metal itched.  "Why forge it in the first place?  Either Mara copied my signature from somewhere else because she wanted to work without bothering me, and since I was there, it was easiest to put my signature.  Or she'd gotten someone else, who hadn't stayed around to supervise like they were supposed and switched my name after the accident."

Dawn straightened so fast her brown curls bounced.  She grabbed the sheet. 

"Look.  Yours is the only name on it.  That practically guarantees someone had switched it out.  Do you remember?"

"I don't know.  I was working late morning.  It's possible no one else had been in the foundry yet."  She rubbed her temples with her forefingers.  "It's hard to remember.  Everything about that day is a blur."

"That's the trauma from the accident."

"It's more than that."  She lifted her shirt, showing the striations.  "They're growing and weird stuff has been happening to me.  I can lift more than ever before, and when the lights are out, I swear I can see things in the room."

"Maybe it's the light coming from under the door." 


"Have you seen a doctor about it?"

"And pay for it with what money?  I'm already staring down the barrel of a lawsuit that will make me their indentured servant for the next fifty years," said Claire.

"It's not right, what they're doing to you."

"I'm their heel.  They need me so she can get elected mayor."

Dawn visibly shuddered.  "Gross."  Her forehead furrowed.  "What's a heel?"

Claire gave her the rundown based on what she'd learned from Elle. 

"Do you trust that reporter?"

"Can't hurt.  But she seemed sympathetic."

"She's not sympathetic, she's looking for a big scoop.  Look how many reporters hound you when you leave the Hall," said Dawn.

Claire thought about Elle's meticulous handwriting in her notebook and the way ever detail of her outfit had been carefully considered.

"She won't be sloppy, that's for sure."  Claire caught the clock out of the corner of her eye.  "Shit.  I have to go.  I have a meeting across the city."

"What for?"

"Talking to the guy who got me the night metal before to see if he can supply it again.  Not that I have the cash for it.  I also have some ideas on the mineral for my ring, and I'm hoping he has connections."

Dawn grabbed the copy of the sign in sheet.  "I'll ask around with the professors about their attendance records."

"Thanks, Dawn," said Claire as she ran out of the room.

***Click here for the next installment***


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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