Saturday, March 23, 2013

An Empire's Bearing: (Post 659)


Reign of Fifteenth Kurkas Joras Boras Idiesas Aan 111 Year of the Present Age

The young men’s voices echoed in the caves, the alcohol in the glasses of their lamps sloshing and making the tiny flames dance in their pierced housing.  “We’ll be rich, I tell you!  Both of us rich enough to marry.”

The other one snorted. “Our fathers and grandfathers and great grandfathers dug out all’a good stuff years and years ago, Tob.”

“So why did you come with me when I said I was gonna prospect again?”

“’Cause I found a fork once’t.”

“Yeah and you were with me when I found that broken spoon.”

Their talking stopped as the one belayed for the other around a tooth of rock, as they followed the old ways down into the mountain.  The fancy rooms up above, with the paint still showing on peeling, ancient, poured stone walls, had been picked clean a hand of centuries before. Some of the hallways had fallen in, with the ancient’s stone now powdered and crushed under tons of natural stone.

The water came and went, some years more than others. Rocks moved. The mountain breathed, crushing the tiny polyps that men had dug into it, as though scratching an itch.  

A flock of bats boomed through crevasse where the boys stood.  Used to it from years of prospecting and mining the ancient site with their fathers and uncles, they put their heads down, pressing gloved hands on their hardened leather hats until the air-shuddering swarm had passed.  “Must be dark out,” Ras said.  Tob nodded, unconcerned.

“We’re deeper than anybody’s ever been I guess.”

“Deeper than where your grand-da found that metal basin.”

“Hey, the factor for the Marble Palace bought that.  P’raps He Whose Will is the World’s is using it even now!”

“Who knows?  There’s a metal basin I heard they use to bath the new Spark’s butt.”

“Gods bless the new Spark o’ t’ Sun.”

“Yeah.  Maybe the Ten sent ‘im to make things better.”

“Hmph.  I’m more likely to make things better than 16th Kurkas, still wailin’ and squallin’ in his gold shit-britches.  Mind yer head, Tob.” They crawled through a narrow crack, their breaths booming and echoing before them, before dropping down to a whole new level.

The water had risen and fallen a ten of hundreds of times here since the old facility was abandoned, and any sign of square-edged walls was long lost under bands and swaths of stone, grown layer by undulating layer.  Except for the corner of something at the edge of a bright green and orange puddle.

“Mikas!  Lookit that!  It’s a...” Tob scrabbled at what looked like a rock and his gloves rubbed off more of the stone that had grown around the box.  It was small.  Perhaps three hand lengths long and one wide and one tall.  It had once been a dark green and black and the rock flaked away the last of what either Tob or Ras would have recognized as something they called a ‘curse mark’.  The last of the ancient biohazard symbol crumbled off with the stone as they chipped and rubbed it away.

“We ARE rich!  A whole metal box!” Ras shook it, once it came free of the crust where it had been buried.  “Anything inside?  That’d be sweet if there’s treasure too!”

“Don’t be stupid.  The box is worth more than any treasure.  Sounds like there’s just broken glass inside.” He checked it over carefully for any curse marks or other signs that the miners knew, but it was bare.

A dozen blows of their shovels finally popped the frozen latch and hinges and they emptied the shattered glass out onto the rock at their feet.  “Eh, some water got in, it looks like.”

“We’ll be able to marry!  Dang, the Marble Palace Factor will buy this I bet.”

They laughed, drunk with the thought of the wealth they’d found, rinsing their find in the puddle it had stood next to.  “We’re about half-through our lamps, Ras.”

“Tis enough.  We’ll remember how we got here, Tob.  Maybe there’s more.”

“If we need.  Yeah.  Hey, first one to the top proposes to the miller's daughter!”

“Hayel, I’d gather give my split-ring to their sow!”

As they left, with their treasure, they took with them their light and part of what had actually been in the box, floating unseen in the air, and in the water where they'd washed their find.

The box had kept its secret, sealed away for long millennia and that secret, washed into a puddle, flowed out of the mountain at the men's heels and rode in their lungs, and clung to their hair and clothing.


  1. Ohhh craaaap. And am I correct in thinking that the Spark mentioned is one *seventeeth* Kurkas Aan?

    1. Actually it is Sixteenth Kurkas Aan... whom we met originally in Philospher in Arms. Seventeenth... there was no 17th. Never was. Even if you remember him, there was no 17th Kurkas, by decree. 16th Kurkas said so.

  2. Why, yes... It's too bad the 'curse mark' was rubbed off, since it's really quite pretty with the curves.

  3. No, of course you are too excited to look for 'curse marks' *BEFORE* you move the treasure....ARGH...

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. YAY! I have been jonesing for more EC!!! I cannot wait to see where this new novel goes - THANKS!