For the few who dared continue to delve and dig, competition was fierce. With no legal needs to draw lines and no tenements written to council scrolls, the operations had quickly become unstable and anarchistic. Securing sites deep within black seaside walls required constant vigil. The placement of devious “consequences” shall we say, was commonplace. An argument over a shared tunnel’s use and delays in night-enshrouded extraction might lead to heavy words. A scuffle. A clashing of teams in a blood soaked, ugly, tribal and all too primitive altercation.
The Kalarian Precipice - Chapter Four
Some time ago...
The Kalarian Precipice - Chapter Four
Some time ago...
Many unlucky, unprepared, outnumbered and greedy of these souls found their way to the oceans below. A salty, ever-shifting and boiling final rest for those that knowingly broke the law. Kalair’s guards didn’t even bother patrolling the site anymore. It was too dangerous and the violators seemed helpfully bent on self-destruction anyway. Let natural attrition deal with them.
A stubby hand grasped for the next oaken rod, a shaft with holes cut to both sides where hemp rope was tidily knotted. Another rung in the ladder. Around him the night was cool and still. Above, his fellow prospector continued the laborious movements upwards.
They were tied together, literally, with both rope as a last resort and also in spirit. Rinkab and his brother had their own special spot. A small cavern with tiny glittering prizes, like shimmering crustaceans upon a ship’s pitch black hull. The job was dangerous, nobody would proclaim otherwise, but they had their reasons; an appreciative and suitably powerful master, the thrill of secrets, and a good bag full of perks. Rinkab and Bolof lived well, Arrank their father too, the latter having a knack for wheeling and dealing, but preferring not to do the dirty work. Let the young ones, more sound of body take care of such tasks.
Moments later, Rinkab, the lower of the two dwarves screamed.
This was no accident. Someone had sabotaged their most important tool! Why, oh why hadn’t they checked it? Probably because they never saw someone rummage in their packs whilst their attention lay elsewhere. Black walls. Beautiful stones. Prospector’s excitement....
By the time Bolof felt the not-so-safe safety line tighten around his waist, it was too late. A brother’s weight yanked at him, pulling his grip free and clear of the only way up. He plummeted, cutting through the air like a tumbling boulder.
Below him, Rinkab’s fingers grated against rough stone, reaching out, grabbing and praying for something to act as saviour. Like any dwarf, his upper body strength was formidable, thick arms of stocky muscle went hard at work. A small ledge! He got one hand on it. The weight on the safety line disappeared as it went slack. Then his friend whistled past in a blur. Bolof’s trajectory would see no chances to avoid fate. He was too far out, lost in the air, the kiss of the sea was inevitable.
Rinkab had mere seconds to make his choice. Wisdom and ethics, tossed to the side when only one instinct screams from within. Survive! With his free hand, he whipped out a short-handled blade and cut the lifeline. His soul was severed equally with the slash. There was a splash far below many seconds later, just as he crawled up onto a narrow protrusion of stone.
He wasn’t alone. A messy circlet of sticks and shells was occupied by a roosting seabird. It fluttered wings and threateningly pecked in his direction, cawwww!
Wrapped in shock, sorrow and bursting with adrenaline fueled despair, Rinkab paid the local wildlife no heed. He slid himself tighter against the ledge. Somehow, between night’s shadow, black stone and a bitter heart, something even darker caught his eye. Behind the nest. A black hole like a pupil within an obsidian eye, it started at him. A cavity? Did he have the strength and will to slide inside? If anyone wished to find him, they need only follow the trail of tears.
Having rejuvenated their spirits, purpose, bodies and minds, our brave explorers make their way through the next section of crevice. This one is long and viscous as a bat's claws in the way it sharply twists. This is no miner’s doing. Something in the shadows of the past caused great earth movement here.
You proceed warily forwards, eventually breathing a sigh of relief as the wall’s grip on you loosens. Is that the most horrid smell of bat guano? Must be, but mixed with an aroma of old salt too. Peeking into what must be a massive open space ahead, you are stunned at what lays before you. This cavern is some fifty feet in radius, so wide in fact that your flames and magical lights fail to reach the other side. A good sized ledge runs to your left and right, a rim around what appears to be an exceptionally wide… and deep… hole. Just on the edge of your light, you might spot roughly assembled steps leading downwards. These aren’t carved stone, no, they are merely large boulders and chunks of basalt that have been arranged into a precarious-looking way down.
Those with the gift of darkvision can see two other ways ahead. A walk around the perimeter of the ledge would lead to two dark shaded breaks in the wall.
Above you, many tens of feet beyond your reach, bats cling to ragged craggy stone and click, flutter and squeak. With their earlier attempt to go somewhere foiled, they seem happy enough to keep you at a distance. Their clicking reflects your presence back to them, but with no manners, the occasional fall of poop from high above seems uncomfortably likely.