Narrow tunnels, thin air, and cave creatures are not the only dangers…
The young adventurers made their way back up to the surface. The sun was higher in the sky than they expected. Someone was sure to be missing them.
Levon’s stomach growled noisily and he looked embarrassed. “Sorry, I probably shouldn’t have skipped breakfast.”
As Tanivel dusted himself off and began packing up his gear, he heard a low groan from Levon.
Tanivel knew it was bad before he looked up.
“Where’s the ‘meter?” Levon asked, patting his belt with both hands while turning in a small circle. There was nothing attached to the belt loop.
Tanivel felt the color drain out of his face. “It’s lost?” he said, his voice coming out in a squeak.
Levon’s alarmed expression twisted as the corners of his mouth pulled up, despite his best efforts to maintain the charade. Suddenly, he burst into laughter.
“No, it’s fine, it’s fine! But you should see the look on your face!”, Levon teased before laughing again.
The hike back to the hold was pleasant once Tanivel calmed down. As they reached the foot of the main road, Levon opened his backpack and gave his samples to Tanivel.
“I need to return the ‘meter and you’re going to help. Take our finds to Beldon and keep him distracted as long as you can. I’ll put the ‘meter with his tools. He’s a forgetful old codger, he’ll probably think he borrowed it,” Levon explained with complete confidence.
[Attribute check: IQ 9, rolled 12.]
Beldon was ancient, almost sixty Turns old. He probably forgot a lot of things, these days. He was also in charge of copper mining in the area and likely to know what they found. It was a good plan.
Sea Cliff hold was built into a massive plateau of stone. It had two faces, one seaside and one land. The northwestern face looked over a wide beach, a safe harbor, and the ocean. The southeastern face was an escarpment that dropped sharply into the forest below. A long road with a gentle slope had been cut into stone so that wagons could be pulled inside through the hold’s wide gates.
The Miner’s Courtyard was impressive, built on a massive ledge of the escarpment with a commanding view. Several doorways and many windows looked out over the courtyard. The windows were bordered by rusty metal shutters. They were probably meant to be decorative, but now they were just an eye sore.
Tanivel followed his friend up to a terrace adjacent to the Miner’s Courtyard. Levon winked and slipped into the hold quietly through a side door. Tanivel continued to the Courtyard, doing his best to look innocent.
He passed several miners socializing in the common room but didn’t stop to chat. The room was always dusty and full of strange smells.
When he reached Beldon’s office, he stopped outside the door and called out for the miner. It wasn’t polite to barge in, after all. His patience was rewarded a moment later.
“Who is it?“
Beldon’s voice was deep and rough, even more gravely than the other miner’s. It made him a bit intimidating.
“Tanivel, sir!” the boy called out, remembering his friend’s recent advice to be respectful.
He heard heavy, booted footballs approaching and Beldon appeared before him. The old miner was bald, with deep-set brown eyes and an impressive handlebar mustache beneath his bulbous nose. He was a mountain of a man. Not tall, but muscular and two stones overweight.
He was also missing the smallest two fingers on his left hand, Tanivel noticed as the miner leaned against the doorway.
“What d’ya want?” was the gruff reply.
Tanivel pulled the carefully wrapped samples out of his pack and did his best to sweet-talk Beldon into examining them.
[Attribute check: Will 8, rolled 8.]
Beldon looked slightly annoyed. “Fetch me a mug of klah and we’ll see. Not that old pot in the common room, fresh from the kitchens…”
Tanivel ran down the hall without a moment’s hesitation.
“Strong and dark!” he heard the miner shout behind him.
Levon caught up with him before he reached the kitchens. “You weren’t in there long enough,” he complained quietly.
“Klah, have to hurry, right back,” Tanivel answered without stopping.
The miners quarters were a long way from the Living Cavern and the kitchens, which was undoubtedly why Beldon was disinclined to fetch it himself. Tanivel had to slow down once he reached the lower caverns, as running was not tolerated.
Eventually, Tanivel returned triumphantly with a mug, steaming hot and not a drop spilled.
Beldon drank a long pull of klah and sighed contentedly. “Alright,” he finally said. “C’mon in, let’s have a look.”
Beldon’s office was ridiculously cramped but clean and well ordered. There were simply too many tools and boxes and books for such a small space. The miner had to clear a stool before Tanivel could sit down. He pulled a jeweler’s loupe and other small tools out of a desk drawer. First, they examined the peridot samples.
“Milky inclusions, light hue, not valuable but it would make nice beads. Did you know peridot is a tracer mineral used to search for diamondiferous lamproite?” Beldon asked, not expecting an answer.
Tanivel was forced to inquire about igneous environments, crystal systems, and refractive indexes to buy time for Levon to stash the anemometer. His attention started to drift.
“It’s also called the Evening Emerald. Let’s see the next sample. Boy, next sample!“
Tanivel’s focus snapped back and he revealed the blue and green crystals. He watched Beldon begin to examine them, his excitement building.
The miner’s face fell. “Copper flower,” he said, dropping his tools. “Come with me, now.”
Beldon grabbed Tanivel by the wrist and all but dragged him to the nearest utility room. He thrust the boys hands under the water in the wash fountain and then squirted them liberally with lye solution.
“Wash, here, like this,” the miner insisted, washing his own large and scarred hands in the adjacent continuous stream of water. Beldon made him wash his arms, head, and neck thoroughly. He only had a minute to dry his hair with a towel before the miner hauled him off again.
Before Tanivel knew it, he was sitting outside the Mining Master’s office, trying to listen to Beldon, Master Haelan, and his father conferring inside. Something had definitely gone wrong.