BNN: Blood from a Stone

Credil the Cook Aug 11 2000 7:27PM

Some folk say I just had an unlucky day, some say I'm crazy, and a few have even whispered hints of magic to me. Unlucky, insane, or cursed - after what happened to me in the mines of Minoc, after what I saw, I'll never get near a mine again!

I had been a miner for 37 years. Something of an expert you may have called me. Occasionally I would give in and take on an apprentice, teach him the tricks of the trade, where to sniff out the best ore. Even the successful miners would tell you I knew more about the trade than they had ever forgotten! In a nutshell, if you needed to know about mining, you came to old Master Credil.

One day quite like any other I was wandering, as I often did, looking for new places to dig for ore. Some of the younger miners like to stick with one spot to avoid monsters, but I still did things they way we did before all this Minax business. After walking all night to find the purest valorite more than one apprentice has left my side thinking the rabbit skittering by is Jou'nar himself.

Well I didn't run into any undead that day, but I did happen upon something I can't forget. Lying in a patch of tall grass was a Gargoyle, and the fellow had more gruesome injuries than I care to recall. Something had beaten him until it either became bored or thought he was dead. I've got no love for the Gargoyles, even seen one kill a man years ago. I knew if this one was healthy, he would have tried to kill me but it didn't take a healer to see that death was the only thing left for him. Maybe it was curiosity, maybe Compassion but I kneeled down for a closer look.

The creature noticed me as I drew closer and his face, so different from a human face, clearly spread into a look of fear and pain.

I have no love for Gargoyles. But I also have no love for cruelty and I couldn't watch this creature die in any more pain than it was already in.

"I... I can't heal you... I don't know a speck of magery..." I looked through my pack for anything that may help soothe him. I always packed light for these trips, but I never was without enough water for a day and I've heard warrior’s tales that the dying experience a strong thirst. I lifted the water skin to his mouth.

After a few weak sips the fear in his eyes was calming, although the pain was not. Rarely I would toss a potion into the bottom of my pack, so I started rummaging again but this time, the Gargoyle moved. Slowly his hand drifted to my pack on the ground and finally stopped at my pick axes. His small black claw tapped on the metal and he grumbled something in a voice like gravel in a barrel and smiled at me.

I wasn't quite sure what he meant, after all you don't need to be fluent in Gargoyle to mine iron, but he kept tapping on the picks.

"Those... I use those to mine ore..." I picked up a small stone from the ground and tapped at it with one of the picks to demonstrate.

He grinned and produced from a bag, to my surprise, a pick-axe of his own! His grin spread as he weakly tapped his own pick at the ground before moving to my pack and letting go of it.

Again his voice, smaller and quieter this time, but still deep and rough said something between wheezing coughs. His eyes widened suddenly and he gasped. I haven't seen a great many things die, but you know the look when you see it. I couldn't help shake the feeling that I had just said goodbye to a fellow miner.

I was still a bit shaken and in more of a daze than anything when I moved his body under a few larger rocks so that it would be reasonably undisturbed. Another odd feeling of camaraderie hit me as I opened his sack. A few pick axes and general supplies which I added to my own. He came here to mine, just like I did.

And not very long ago something beat him to death.

Had I listened to that voice in my head I might still be a miner today.

It wasn't much longer before I came across a scraggly opening in the rocks and could smell the ore. Inhaling, I lit a torch and walked slowly into the cave mouth. After 37 years of mining, you can smell it in the air and no mistake. Any truly great miner can do that. It was the experts like me that can tell you what kind of ore it was. And this time it was bronze. A good bronze vein wasn’t going to make me wealthy, but I could still make a decent profit.

I hefted a pickaxe and after a few good swings to both my delight and disgust, a few beautiful chunks of gold glistened up at me from a huge vein of the ore. Delight because, well gold is gold and disgust because I had smelled bronze. First time I had been wrong in years. I didn't think one dead Gargoyle could have distracted me so much. I laughed despite myself. Old fool! Here I am upset because I had found enough gold to buy a good sized shop when I thought I was going home with bronze!

Then why do I still smell the bronze? Why do I care? I can almost retire with this much gold!

I continued to chip away at the rock, losing myself in the rhythm of the axe swings and letting my miners instincts take over. After an hour or so I had built up a handsome pile of gold and decided to rest and have a drink. So embedding my pick axe into the vein of gold, I lifted my water skin and strolled toward the early evening sunlight.

It wasn't until I was almost out of the shadows that I heard it. Someone... something had been in the cave and it was following me! All I had was my water skin, I had left my pack in the cave thinking it was deserted. Spinning on my heels I peered into the cave and looked in the direction of the heavy footsteps I heard just in time for a fist the size of a trolls head to send me sailing into the daylight.

Still stunned from the blow and the landing I opened my eyes and was almost blinded by a huge figure. It was human looking, that is to say it had arms and legs and a head of sorts, but glistened brightly in the late sun beaming down on it. If I hadn't known any better I would have said it was an earth elemental, but no elemental I had ever seen shone so golden.

I didn't see much more other than the ground moving very fast in front of me as I ran away from the cave. Was it my own gold attacking me? Did I wake some old evil that should have stayed buried in that cave? Was this the abomination that killed the Gargoyle miner? Or am I just crazy?

Frankly I don't know. What I do know is that I haven't been back to a mine since then. There are things left in this ancient world of ours that we don't know about and I'm not going to be the one to find any more of them! Mining was a good living for me but there are other ways to earn ones daily bread. I now bake it. So if you'll excuse me I have a wedding cake to prepare!

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