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-Six

Claire woke to darkness.  Everything hurt.  Her tongue worked at the sharp edge of a chipped tooth.  The dark metal striations had made them focus their beatings on her head. 


She wondered if he was still in the room until she turned her head.  A faint slumped outline in her vision looked suspiciously like Terrance, but she couldn't understand how she was seeing him.  The room was in complete darkness and she had a hood over her head.  Claire reviewed the room, seeing a cart with jagged knives, ice picks, and other implements of torture.  They must have wheeled it in while they were unconscious. 

"Terrance?  You awake?" she whispered intently, not wanting to give away that she wasn't out in case a guard was outside the door.

"Huh?  What?"

His head lolled around his neck.  He coughed a few times, groaning with pain.

"I think I have a few broken ribs."

Pressing her shoes against the concrete, Claire pushed herself backwards towards the cart.  The scrape of wood echoed in her ears, but no one came in to check on them.

"What are you doing?"

"There's a cart with knives and other stuff on it.  Maybe I can get one and cut through the zip-ties."

"Cart?  How can you see that?  Did they take your hood off?"

"Just be quiet and listen for anyone coming."

Claire didn't bother explaining why she knew the cart was there because she didn't understand.  She wasn't entirely sure her vision was correct.  It was possible that she'd suffered brain damage during the beatings, but she wasn't about to give up.  When her arm bumped into the cool metal of the stainless steel cart, she exhaled with relief that it was real. 

Her hands were bound to the back of the chair and her ankles to the legs.  The top of the cart where the knives rested was higher than she could reach, so she leaned forward and balanced on her toes, angling herself.  The maneuver put all the weight on her calves, but years of work in the gym left her ready for this moment. 

She managed to get a fingertip against a blade, then slowly pulled it towards her hand until she could get a full grip.  The awkward angle required to cut the zip-ties was like doing wrist curls.  When her hands were free, she quickly cut the ones around her ankles and then ripped the hood off.  Releasing Terrance took a few seconds.

"You look like shit," she told him when he pulled the hood off.

"How are you seeing me?  I can't see."

"Your head's rattled." 

Claire opened the door a crack to see two guards at the far end of the hallway looking at their phone and laughing.  They each had handguns and it was too far to reach them before they could pull their weapons and shoot.

"Can't go that way."

Claire craned her neck, seeing a big vent.  It appeared they were in an old office inside a warehouse.  She managed to reach the vent on the first jump, pulling herself up and removing the metal screen. 

"Come over here, I'll boost you into the vent."

She lifted Terrance into the vent and then grabbing the cover with one hand, jumped up and pulled herself in, then pressed the grating back over the opening.  Claire realized she'd left the knives in the room, but decided they weren't going to be killing their way out. 

The sheet metal in the vent made noises as they crawled, but Claire decided she'd rather be filled with bullets than cut to pieces in the room behind her.  They worked their way through the office, hearing voices grow louder and quieter at moments, but never near enough she thought they might get caught.  The biggest danger would be when the empty room was discovered. 

The vent led into the abandoned warehouse.  Terrance quietly popped the cover off and they dropped into the corner behind a row of shelves.  The crates and other boxes had stamps from various corporations including D'Agastine Industries.  Stolen goods, she presumed. 

In the light of the warehouse, she could see how messed up Terrance was.  His nose was bent and his left eye puffed up enough he could barely see through it. 

"What now?" he mouthed. 

At the other end of the warehouse, she could hear voices including the rough one that had been their integrator.  The bright light from a single door spread out onto the concrete floor, but it was on the opposite side, near the gang members.  The only windows were high near the ceiling, putting them out of reach.  She was growing discouraged when Terrance tapped on her shoulder and pointed to a window above them.  She didn't understand until he gestured towards the shelves and made climbing motions. 

Claire went first, using the end structure crossbeams to work her way upward.  The wood creaked, but no one came to investigate.  When she reached the top of the shelves, thirty feet above the floor, Claire helped Terrance with the final section.  He grimaced when she hauled him up, clearly hurting from the broken ribs.

The huge window was slightly open, tilted at the center, but it was about five feet across from the shelf.  Further than she could easily reach, meaning they'd have to jump and pull themselves through.  She wasn't worried about herself, but wondered if Terrance could manage given his physical state.  He seemed to sense her reluctance and tapped on her shoulder and pointed at the window. 

Claire put her back against the crates and her shoes at the edge of the shelf.  She leapt across the gap, throwing her arms over the edge and landing against the wall.  It was a miracle her hands didn't go through the glass, but her legs hit the inner steel hard, ringing through the warehouse.  She scrambled over, finding nothing on the other side, but a sheer drop thirty feet down. 

Terrance made a noise and pointed frantically back towards the other end of the warehouse.  She heard voices approaching, but she was perched on the narrow window sill.  Before they came around the corner, she dropped her body outside and hung, hoping her fingers weren't easily visible. 

Pull ups had never been a strength for Claire, but the adrenaline and the strange improvements in conditioning she'd recently discovered kept her on the outside for longer than she could have expected.  When she could barely hold any longer, Claire pulled herself back onto the ledge, finding the guards no longer there.  She gestured to Terrance to make the jump.  He gave a heavy sigh and then made the leap.  She managed to grab him and cushion the impact with her legs so it didn’t make the noise she had.  He looked miserable from his ribs, but didn't complain.  It was enough they were alive. 

Balanced on the edge of the window, thirty feet up, Claire finally had a good look at where they were.  The empty, broken concrete, filled with tufts of old grass, and broken bottles, signaled they were in the thirteenth ward.   But further out, she spotted the row of apartment buildings next to a steepled church in the fourth ward.  She couldn't see the Spire, which was the enormous tower at the center of the city, but guessed once they were away they could spot it.  The sun was on the other side of the warehouse and at an angle, so she assumed it was getting closer to evening. 

"I can't drop that far.  I'll end up with a broken leg, or a rib puncturing my lung," he whispered.  "We need a rope."

She tapped on her pants, which brought an eyebrow raise. 

"Is this a bad time to remember I'm not wearing underwear?" he asked. 

Shimming out of their pants on the narrow ledge, thirty feet above the ground was challenging, but once they had them off—revealing Terrance was wearing gray boxer briefs—she tied the legs together.  It wouldn't get them down to the ground, but make the drop not as far. 

"I'll lower you down," she said.

"What about you?"

"I'll tie it and then climb down."

He nodded.  Claire straddled the window ledge for support, and helped Terrance slowly down the outer wall.  He was clearly in pain.  Holding onto the pant leg had to be excruciating, but he managed.  The alternatives were much worse.  When he got to the end, he dropped, landing with a muffled cry and then laying on the broken concrete in the fetal position while she tied the make-shift rope and began her own descent.  The drop was about twenty feet.  She landed into a roll, which dissipated some of the impact, but her limbs felt like a doll that had been hastily jammed back together.

"You okay?" she asked.

Terrance pointed to his ankle which was already turning purple. 

"I won't mention the ribs."  He held a hand out.  "Help me up.  I'll run on it if I have to."

They crept to the edge of the warehouse.  The edge of the fourth ward was about two blocks away.  The only buildings between were a row of houses on the west side of the ring road.  To reach them, they'd have to run across a hundred meters of open asphalt.

"I can't run that fast," said Terrance.

"Climb on.  With any luck no one will be watching."

With Terrance clinging to her back, she speed walked cautiously, saving her energy for a mad sprint and ignoring how ridiculous they looked without pants.  Terrance provided lookout, whispering what he could see as she crossed the empty expanse. 


She didn't wait for him to clarify his expletive and broke into a flat run. 

"They're getting into their cars."

Claire felt like she'd never run faster.  She hit the houses, dodging through their gated yards as tires squealed behind them.  The ring road was packed with cars moving at rush hour pace.  She dodged around them, honks signifying their displeasure.  A few people yelled out their windows.  She managed to reach the other side of the counterclockwise traffic when Terrance informed her the Terrors weren't far behind.  If she knew the area better she would have made a run for a train station, but she rarely made it out of the tenth ward. 

With her legs flagging, Claire headed into the church as a row of vehicles skidded to a stop on the street.  Inside, she heard the droning of ritual beyond the inner door.  She spotted a closet.

"Get in here.  I'll try to lead them away."

"Are you crazy?"

"I'm faster without you."

He searched her face, trying to come up with an alternative plan, but time was short, and he was clearly in no shape to outrun them himself.  Terrance jammed himself between the mop bucket and broom rack as she shut the door behind him.  After Claire burst into the nave, she skid to a stop.  Hundreds of faces turned towards her.  Men and women in black clothing frowned at her entrance.  At first she thought it was her state of attire, but then she realized that wasn't the only reason.  Near the front, an open casket was surrounded by dozens of enormous flower arrangements.

Read the next episode


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.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}