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-Four

Pawning Power was in a strip mall on the outer edge of the sixth ward.  A kid wearing headphones held up a sign along the street reading: "Cash for Trinkets!"  The warm late spring day made the walk from the nearest train station uncomfortable.  Clarie was covered in a sheen of sweat by the time she reached the shop.

The brisk cool air inside Pawning Power brought refreshment.  Standing behind the long glass case was the owner of the store, Terrance, looking bored by the arguments of the older woman with a fabric purse and the loose jowls of a bulldog.

"Ma'am.  That's a replica of arcane enhancer.  It's a kid’s toy without an ounce of magic in it."

"Well how am I supposed to know that?  And how do I know you're not trying to rip me off, huh?  You mages with your special sauce, flaunting it in everyone's faces.  Not everyone was born lucky like you."

Terrance grimaced as he pumped his eyebrows in Claire's direction.  Clearly he'd been speaking with the woman longer than he wanted.

"I'm not making you an offer, ma'am, so how is it that I'm ripping you off?  What I'm telling you is that's a kid’s toy.  You can look it up on the internet."

The older woman shoved the object into her fabric purse and stuck her knobby finger in his face. 

"You just wait.  One day us normal people will rise up and show you mages who really runs this city.  Down with the Halls!"

She held up her fist as she strode out the door.  Claire almost laughed when she couldn't quite push outside and had to pull down her arm. 

"That was...interesting."

Terrance sighed heavily.  He had mellow brown skin and kind eyes, but his outward appearance didn't fool her.

"Been getting more of that lately.  I miss when people tried to kill me with kindness.  This gaslighting, abuse schtick is wearing on me."  He came around the glass counter and gave her a hug.  "How are you?  Surviving this lawsuit business?"

"I'm hoping she gets elected and ends the lawsuit," said Claire.

"I doubt it.  That bullshit you just heard is coming straight from Annette Block.  She's got the city on edge, promising vengeance for all the poor kids that have died in the Halls."


"Right.  Sorry.  You know already."  He arched an eyebrow playfully.  "I assume this isn't a social visit?  You don't ever visit me except when you want something."

"Isn't that the nature of your business?"

"You know what I mean, Claire."

"And I've told you, you're not my type."

He ran his fingers across his tight hair.  "I'm a fool for a girl who can kick my ass.  You're not looking for more night metal are you?  I said that was a one time thing.  The favors I had to trade to get it don't exist anymore."

"I'm here for something else.  Faeila dust."

Terrance crossed his arms.  "You think I have a connection to the Eternal City?  Are you crazy?"

"I don't know, but I know you're a guy who can get things.  You found the night metal.  I figure faeila dust should be simple after that."

He grabbed the folder on the counter and put it on a shelf behind him.  "Assuming I can find some faeila dust, it won't be cheap.  Or easy.  Can you pay?  You barely scraped together enough trade for last time."

"How do future favors sound?"

"From a girl being sued by potentially the future mayor of the most significant city in the world and possibly the realms?  It's not a winning argument."

"You know her suit is bullshit."

He reacted as if he'd been insulted.  "Of course I do.  But it's not about who's right or wrong, it's who has the power.  People like the Blocks, they don't care about us.  They just found an issue that people react to and they're going to beat that drum until it no longer makes a sound and then they'll find a new one.  I'm sorry, Claire.  This sucks that you're their drum, but I have a business to run.  If you were looking for some ochaei dust, or ghosteye stalks, I'd give 'em to you in a heartbeat, but faeila dust ain't cheap."  Terrance sighed heavily.  "Look, if you can find something to trade.  I don't know, maybe make something at your Hall.  You're brilliant.  I'm sure you could come up with something I could sell.  Bring whatever that is back and we can talk."

She didn't want to point out that making him an item to sell had the same issues as the faeila dust.  She needed the reagents to make the item, which she couldn't afford. 

"Thanks, Terrance.  It was good seeing you."

"Come by anytime.  Good luck avoiding getting caught in the gears of power."

"Too late."

The brutal sun beat down on her outside of Pawning Power.  She wanted to put her fist through a car window.  She had all the knowledge in the realms to be a world class artificer, but lacked the resources to climb from her station. 

The slamming of a car door turned her around.  A long, dark Buick with tinted windows was sitting outside of Pawned Power.  Two guys and one girl in heavy jackets were headed into the shop.  The coats stuck out due to the heat.  By the neck tattoos and gold chains, Claire assumed they were gang members.  While they might have legitimate reasons to visit Terrance, the way they marched into the store as if they were going to dismantle him with a bone saw left her guts in a twist.  She didn't owe him anything, but he had stretched his neck to find the night metal.

Claire jogged to the store nearest, and crept forward until she could peek around the edge of the window.  One of the gang members had a gun pointed at Terrance who looked like he was talking faster than a mage trying to bargain with a demon.  The lead gang member slammed a fist into the counter, cracking the glass.  Claire knew it was going to be bad, but she was no match for three people with guns.  Even if she managed to get a spell off, the other two could fill her with lead.  Metallum Nocturne had never prepared her to stop a robbery. 

She reached into her pocket to dial 911 when she heard the heavy click of a gun.  Claire turned her head to see a fourth member pointing an enormous handgun at her head. 

"I wouldn't do that, Missy."

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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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