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 Thirty

Claire took a different way back to Metallum Nocturne after the interview.  Her mind raced from the crash of questions.  Elle had asked about events that she'd completely forgotten about including the days after the accident when she'd gotten into a fight with a boy in her grade who'd made car skidding noises behind her in the cafeteria.  She'd bloodied his nose and then he nearly knocked her out with a right hook.  Until she was explaining it to Elle, she hadn't realized how much the accident had changed who she was.  She'd never thrown a punch in her life before.  After that, she found herself in the patron’s office on a regular basis. 

Waiting for the light to change at the crosswalk a block into the tenth ward, Claire didn't sense the person coming up behind her until they grabbed her arm.  She froze, fearing that if she spun around to punch her assailant that they'd shoot her in the back. 

"Follow me," whispered Terrance.

She let her chest heave with relief.  Claire hurried down the street, heading into a chain trinket shop that catered to starry-eyed kids after a limping Terrance.  He was waiting for her in the back near the sugary fake-potions with his hood pulled back.  He looked like he hadn't slept in days.

"You okay?"

"No," he said.  "I've been sleeping on couches and trying to salvage what's left of my life.  But that's beside the point."  He squeezed his eyes closed.  "I wanted to thank you for saving my life.  You got caught up in my mess.  I'm sorry about that."

Part of her wondered if it was her mess he'd gotten caught up in.  The idea that she was cursed by the dark metal kept swirling around in her brain. 

"What happened after the church?"

Terrance chuckled.  "After Simon left, the cops arrived and I was stuck.  I was in that damn closet for hours.  When it was finally safe to get out, the church was locked down tight and I was still in my boxers.  I stole some robes and crept out a window."  He grew serious.  "Saw on a video you got shot?  Or did it just graze you?"

"Missed me completely.  I guess I flinched and that's why everyone thought I got shot," she said.

"Glad to hear it.  Be a shame to escape from that warehouse only to get gunned down in a church."

"What's happening with the Terrors?"

He rubbed the back of his neck, pausing as a couple of kids burst into the potion area, only to see them and hurry the other way.

"They're looking for me.  Haven't been able to touch the shop because the Invictus PD has been watching it.  I've heard they've been wanting to take down the Terrors for a long time and catching an attempted murder in a church was pretty fortunate."

"For the cops."

"Yeah.  I'm sure they'd still put us in the ground if they had the choice."  He craned his neck, making sure no one was around.  "I didn't find you because I wanted to catch up.  Best the two of us aren't in the same place, giving Simon and his boys a chance to finish us at the same time.  But I wanted to give you this.  Cashed in a few rainy day favors."

He handed over a small ornate box with ivory inlay on the top.  When she made a face, he added, "The ivory is fake, but what's inside isn't."

She lifted the lid, finding colored dust.  "Is it?"

"Faeila.  I hope it helps with your project."

Claire resisted the urge to poke her finger into the dust.  The creatures came from the Eternal City, the home of the maetrie.  The faeila were living glass, butterfly-like insects that roamed the streets in large clouds, searching for prey that they would reduce to a bloody ball with their sharp-edged wings.  No one knew how or why they existed, but the Eternal City was a realm of high faez and operated on different rules.  After closing the lid, she hugged it to her chest. 

"Thank you, Terrance.  What will it cost me?"

"Nothing.  You already paid the price.  As far as I'm concerned, it was a cheap debt considering what happened."

Claire swallowed as she remembered the conversation she'd just finished having with Elle Dark.

"I need to warn you about something."  He tilted his head.  "Before you found me, I was talking to a reporter from the Invictus Times.  She promised not to print anything about you, but given that I'm the mayoral candidate’s heel, there's a good chance that others will dig up stuff."

"I figured as much.  But it's okay.  I'm headed out of town after this.  I cashed in my remaining favors.  I'll surface again once the Terrors have forgotten about me, which should be in a hundred or so years," he said with a smirk.

"Good luck."

"I think you should hold onto that.  You need it more than I do.  Most of my issues are my own fault."  He checked over his shoulder.  "I'm going to head out.  Wait a minute and then you can leave."

Before Terrance could leave, she grabbed him by the shoulders and gave him a long hug.  When she released him, his eyes looked watery.

"Take care of yourself and thanks for the faeila dust."

Claire waited longer than the minute he suggested.  She was working through the idea that Terrance, after having his life ruined and nearly tortured for his remaining valuables, thought she needed luck more. 

***Come back in two weeks 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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