Today's excerpt is from Forging Mettle by Michael Siciliano, part of the Braving the Elements anthology! We hope you enjoy today's tease!
My father’s head jerked up. “In the back. Quick!” he whispered. He grabbed the lantern and shoved me ahead of him.
The storeroom was cluttered with even more junk. We picked our way to the back door, only to find it dead bolted. A key was needed to pull it back.
The front door swung open hard, the bell jingling again. The door hit the wall with a crash. After a moment’s pause, an elderly man shouted, “Light in the backroom! I knew I heard something! Thieves. Stop them!”
Three Black Moon thugs pushed their way past the elderly owner.
My father cursed and shoved his set of lock picks into my hand. “Get it open,” he said, “I trust you.”
He slammed the backroom door shut and started to prop everything he could in front of it. The door shuddered as the thugs tried to pummel their way through.
I did my best to block out the noise and concentrate on the lock. It wasn’t complex. Tumblers pressed in the right order and depth. I felt it through the lock pick. But the pounding and the shouting intruded, shattering my calm. My hands shook, one of the worst ways to try and pick a lock. A steady hand was critical.
I couldn’t do it. I tried again and again. My heart raced and tears gathered at the corners of my eyes.
The Black Moons didn’t mess around, and certainly not the bruisers on the other side of that door. If they caught us, our corpses would sink to the bottom of the Haffle River.
An axe blade shattered the thin planking of the door with three blows, and one of the thugs began to push his way through the hole he’d made.
My father glanced back at me. By the dim light of our lantern, I saw a contradiction on his face. Fear and resolution. He mouthed something, but I hadn’t learned to lip-read yet.
Panicked, I returned to the lock.
My mind spun. I reached down deep, trying to calm myself, and felt something there. Something new. It was pure, warm, and full of potential. I sank myself into it and let it flow from my heart, through my chest and arms, to my hands.
The lock began to melt. Without heat. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Liquid metal dripped, sliding over my bare hands, and, to my surprise, it didn’t burn.
I heard the fight behind me but didn’t see it. I was glad for that. My father was tough. Strong and slim, but not a brawler. He took on three thugs at once and kept them from me.
I pressed my hands harder and harder against the lock, afraid I’d lose the magic if I eased up. I immersed myself in the warm flow, letting the magic stream outward. Tears slid down my cheeks, mirroring the deadbolt’s dissolving metal.
The ruined lock fell away and the door swung open.
“Get the little rat!” one of the thugs shouted.
I sprang to my feet, leaving everything behind, and dashed out into the dark.