Spine-Tingling final snippet for Betrayal of Magic! Out Today!
Padron made his way to the mines in Chatwick. He was determined to figure out what on Irth could have been so important down there it would have caused all this turmoil. His friend Sariah’s life was in chaos, and fer what? A worthless medallion at the bottom of some mineshaft in a hopeless town in the middle of the Alpenwood.
He shook his head. No, that didn’t make no sense. People don’t kill and destroy fer nothing. There had ta be a reason. Something else was going on in this town, and he had every intention of getting to the bottom of it, and that meant going back into the mines.
The rearick pushed on his mine cart and headed for the entrance to the shaft. The cart held his battle-ax and a handful of low-grade explosives, covered by a couple of blankets and some pickaxes. The hefty weapon would help him get past any human guards who might block his path, and the explosives should take care of anything more stationary.
On his left, the mine foreman sat in a watchtower, inspecting all of the miners as they came into work. Most were waved through without incident, though the occasional man would be stopped and frisked by a nearby guard.
“Bah,” Padron grumbled. “Some lousy policy this is,” he added under his breath.
Supposedly, it was for their safety, but that word and the way the foreman wielded it like a deadly weapon to do whatever he pleased made Padron feel sick to his stomach and bile rise into the back of his throat, which he managed to gulp back down.
The line stopped as someone two places in front of him was flagged down and pulled off to the side. Padron shook his head slightly from side to side. Looked like the poor soul was in for one of those intensive searches. He shuddered to think of what that would even mean.
A few more feet forward and he’d be cleared to go into the mines.
He wiped a small bead of sweat off his brow. He was more nervous than he thought.
The person in front of him was waved on through without incident. Now it was his turn to follow. He gave his cart a hefty push forward. As he walked, the mine foreman stared at him and the two of them locked eyes for just a moment. The look the foreman gave him sent a chill down his spine.
Padron smiled and gave the foreman a quick wave of the hand, then set his eyes out in front and went back to pushing his cart.
“Hold,” a voice came from his side. It was the foreman. He was coming down from his little tower.
The hair on Padron’s neck stood on end. Blast it all, he thought. Was his cover blown already?
The foreman approached slowly. He cocked his head to the side and smiled. “Padron?” the man said in a gentle tone. “I didn’t expect to see you back to work so soon.”
Padron gave him a weak smile and made a broad sweeping motion with his hands. “Oh well, ya know how it goes, Jeffrey,” he answered. “Even a man like me needs money ta eat.” He patted his belly a few times for good measure.
Jeffrey chuckled and clapped him on the back. The motion was a little too sudden and Padron almost fell forward. He used the cart to steady himself and keep from falling. “Ain’t that the truth,” Jeffry replied.
The rearick nodded. “Aye, now if ye will let me, I’d like ta get on with me day.”
“Of course.” The foreman waved to a nearby guard. “Just have to inspect the cart first. Regulation and all.”
“Of course,” Padron answered with a weak smile. Inside, his mind was reeling as he tried to think of a way out of his current predicament.
One of the guards came over and glanced inside the cart. He picked up a pickaxe and shuffled the blanket around slightly, then set the tool back down and nodded to the foreman.
“All good,” the guard said.
Phew. Thank tha Patriarch he didn’t check no further.
Jeffrey beamed at him. In the sunlight, his smile looked fake. Padron began to wonder if he was going to leave this checkpoint alive. He felt another bead of sweat form at his brow and wanted to wipe it away but was afraid it would look suspicious, so he let it dangle.
“Well wouldn’t expect any less from our Padron, now would we?” Jeffrey offered at last.
Padron smiled at him again and chuckled. “Ya know me all too well, Jeffrey.”
The foreman waved him onward. Padron pushed the cart forward with a great heave and got out of their gazes as quickly as he could.
Once he was safely within the shadows of the mineshaft, he stopped for a moment and took in a deep breath to steady himself. He’d managed to get past the gate guards without anyone suspecting a thing. That was the easy part. The hard part came next.
He wiped the sweat from his brow with one of his massive hands and headed for the elevator to take him and his goods down to the bottom of the mine.
It didn’t take long before he was deep within the bowels of Irth once more. Fortunately, there was no one down on this level today he could see.
The rearick breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe he’d get lucky. Maybe he’d be able to pull off his little mission without running into anyone and return to the surface safe and sound.
Smiling, Padron pushed the minecart off the elevator and made his way forward, quietly whistling an old tune all the while. He dared not make too much noise lest anyone noticed, but he couldn’t help but whistle a little.
His smile quickly faded as he rounded a bend and almost smashed head-first into a guard. He darted backward quickly, hoping the guard hadn’t seen him.
They have a guard posted all the way down here, too? he thought incredulously.
There was no doubting it now. They were hiding something down here for sure. It was one thing to board off a tunnel because of bad juju, but you didn’t post a guard there, too.
Padron took a few deep breaths to steady himself and waited for the guard in the hallway to make a move, but nothing happened. He waited for a count of ten, but still the guard didn’t come. He let out a sigh. It appeared he was safe for the moment.
There was still time to formulate a plan for getting past the guy without any fuss. He just had to think of something.
Rummaging around in the cart, he tried to come up with something original but kept going back to his ax. He shrugged his broad shoulders. Ain’t nothin’ to it, I suppose, he thought. He picked up the weapon and strode forward into the mineshaft with a broad grin on his face.
The guard in the tunnel saw him coming and stood up straighter. “Sorry, sir. No one’s allowed down here. Foreman’s orders.”
Padron smiled at him. “Oh, I’m sorry, sonny. I dinnae know that.”
“Sorry again. Now if you’ll just be on your way.” He made a shooing motion toward the rearick, but Padron kept walking forward anyway.
Padron caught a hint of fear in the guard’s eyes as he kept heading straight for him.
“I’m sorry, sir, but please go,” the guard insisted. He grabbed onto the sword he was holding just a little tighter.
“I’m sorry, too, lad,” Padron said.
When the first blow from the guard came, Padron almost wasn’t ready for it. The guard made a high sweeping motion and he had to duck backward to get out of the way.
“Blast it all!” he grunted. He swung his ax at the guardsman as hard as he could, but with the cramped hallway, he wasn’t able to get a lot of power behind it and the guard parried easily.
Padron eyed the guard. He had a wicked smile on his face, and he was looking more at his weapon than him.
Another swipe came then, this one a bit lower. The rearick brought his own weapon up to parry the blow with ease, then swung his weapon in a vertical motion to try to get past his opponent’s guard.
The guard blocked the blow, but he was forced back into the wall.
Padron smiled, but he didn’t have long to enjoy the moment. The guard came at him with a fury of desperate blows, each one short and quick. This forced Padron back into the hallway and allowed the guard to regain his position.
He felt something wet on his arm and looked down to see a fresh cut on his left arm. He hadn’t been as good at blocking that onslaught as he’d thought.
Pain shot up his arm, but Padron pushed it aside and redoubled his offensive. He made a wild slash with his ax at his opponent’s sword arm.
The guard brought his weapon up to defend against it, but this time the blade shattered against the might of Padron’s attack.
A squeal of fear erupted from the guard as he realized what that meant.
Padron made another wild slash and scored a cut on the guard across his midsection. The guard muttered something he couldn’t make out, then clutched his stomach and fell to the ground.
He swung his ax once more, severing the guard’s head from his body so he couldn’t let out a scream to warn any others who might be waiting, then the battle was over.
The rearick slunk up against the nearby wall and checked his arm again. The fresh wound was slick with blood, so he wiped at it with cloth from his shirt. Once the blood had been wiped away and he could see the wound clearly, he could tell it was little more than superficial.
Padron breathed a sigh of relief and wiped the sweat off his brow. Thank tha Patriarch it ain’t more serious.
He made his way back to the cart and tore a piece of cloth off the blanket and used it to wrap his wound. The blanket wasn’t sterile, but it wasn’t overly stained, either so it should do the trick, at least in the short term.
He went back to the guard’s body and shoved it out of the way, then took in his next obstacle.
Before him stood a barrier made of solid wood that blocked the passage forward. He tapped on it in a few places. The construction looked hasty but was made of decent quality materials. He might end up needing those explosives, after all.
He spared another glance at the dead guard. Surely, someone would miss him. It wouldn’t be hard for a person to put two and two together. It was Padron’s first trip back into the mine in weeks, and the guard magically ended up dead. That didn’t bode well for him.
Padron shrugged. There was no use worrying about it now. The deed was done. He’d figure out how to deal with it later.
Returning his attention to the wall, he hefted his ax in his hands and smiled. “I’ll have ya down in a jiffy,” he told the inanimate structure. “Don’t ya worry much. This’ll only hurt a wee bit.”
He hefted his arms back and came down with a massive strike at the barrier. He could feel the wood start to give way almost immediately as his blade hit. A few swings later, and he’d made a decent hole in the wood.
Padron smiled, thankful the explosives would not be necessary. They would have made an awful racket and sent someone after him right away.
The rearick took out a lantern and swung it into the opening he’d made like he was warding off evil spirits. For all he knew, he was but nothing answered him. The corridor beyond the wall was just as empty as it was on his side. More so, even, as his side had a dead body in it.
He cracked his neck and stretched out his shoulders, then got to work. There was quite a bit of barrier to go yet before even someone of his diminutive size could squeeze through.
About ten minutes of swinging later, he’d made himself an entrance. He had to duck to fit, but it was big enough, and he’d spent enough time making the hole as it was. He wasn’t sure how long it would be until someone came to relieve the guard, and he didn’t want to be here when that happened.
Once he was on the other side, he swung his lantern around in a wide arc. It lit up the walls of the corridor beyond but didn’t glint off anything in particular.
Padron took in his surroundings. The small crevasse Sariah had described was not far in front of him, only it didn’t look nearly as tight as the girl had described it. He crept forward slowly to inspect it, half-expecting something to jump out and get him, but nothing did. The area was well and truly deserted.
He started his way through the cramped corridor, noting it seemed to be broad enough for him to make it through without too much fuss. It was a tight fit, but Sariah would have had no problem with a corridor of this size. What had the girl been complaining about?
Then he noticed the tool markings, even in the low light. Someone had been through here recently, and they’d used pickaxes to widen the gap. There was no mistaking it. His suspicions were confirmed. They were hiding something down here. Now he just had to figure out what it was.
With his teeth partially clenched in anticipation of another fight, he pushed forward, heading deeper into the corridor.
Before long, the space opened up. He looked around at the walls and was amazed. There were strange markings all over. They didn’t look like tool markings, but they didn’t look very natural, either. This was it. This must be the mysterious room Sariah had spoken of in those fateful days after the attack.
Going slowly so as not to miss anything, he inspected the walls carefully. He didn’t know what he was looking for exactly, only he was pretty sure he’d know it when he saw it.
It didn’t take him very long to find something out of the ordinary. Anyone else would have gone right past and dismissed it like it was nothing, but not Padron. With his specific history, he knew better. Embedded in the walls of the room were a bunch of tiny white-colored gems. They didn’t look like much to the untrained eye, but Padron had a hunch as to what they might be and what they would mean.
The wheels in his head turned quickly as the pieces started to fall into place. If he was right about the gems, then it would all make sense – the secrecy, the cover-up, the attacks – all of it.
But I have ta be sure.
Working quickly and with deft hands, he used the tip of his pickaxe to work a couple of the gemstones free. He wouldn’t need to take many of them to confirm his suspicions. Just a few would suffice.
He didn’t want more than that, anyway. If he was right and these gems meant what he thought they did, he wanted as little to do with them as possible.
A moment later, he had what he needed. He placed the glinting stones into one of the pockets of his pants and made his way back out of the corridor, walking fast.
He wasn’t sure how long he’d spent in there, but he knew it had been long enough someone could have stumbled across the opening, or the downed guard, quite easily in his absence. He had to get out now and get to safety.
The Matriarch and Patriarch must have been smiling on him though, for when he came back to the entrance, he found it just as devoid of life as he’d left it.
Padron took a deep breath and went back to his minecart. He pushed it and headed back toward the elevator, humming an old tune and acting like nothing out of the ordinary had happened. It wasn’t much longer before he’d get out to freedom.
His trip up the elevator was equally uneventful, but he knew someone would find the mess he’d left behind soon enough.
Once he reached the surface level, he heard the sound of boots crunching against the dirt and some sort of conversation. He couldn’t quite make out what they were saying.
Padron’s mind raced. Had he been found out already? There was really no way to know. He decided to duck behind the mine cart and hope no one noticed him.
“Can you believe old Jim?” one of the guards was saying as they got closer.
“Pfft. Probably fell asleep again. That poor sop is always noddin’ off,” another guard said.
Padron’s blood froze. They were talking about the guard he’d killed. He just knew it. He stood still, unsure of what to do. He could probably take the guards, but then what? There was no way he could take on all the guards at the mine, nor did he want to.
He decided to wait it out. Sweat poured over his brow anew as he sat there, cramped behind the cart, and waited for the sounds of boots on dirt to diminish. Within a few moments, the noise was gone.
Padron mopped his forehead with his shirt, then made a beeline for the mine entrance. He had precious little time to make it out now before someone came running back up the mine shaft.
Once he reached the entrance, he spotted the foreman, Jeffrey, sitting on his little perch and acting like nothing had gone on a thousand feet below him.
He tried to pay the man no heed and looked straight forward as he pushed his cart, trying not to act suspicious.
“Wait!” Jeffrey cried. Padron froze. He knew the man was talking to him. “Heading back home so soon?”
Padron turned slowly. He shrugged once, then smiled. “Oh, ye know how tired these old bones can get,” he replied with a forced grin. As if to emphasize the point, he rubbed his back a few times and groaned. “I have ta get some rest, methinks.” He hoped it would be enough to ward off suspicion.
Jeffrey laughed and waved him onward. “You go rest those weary bones of yours, then. But don’t expect to get paid for half a days’ work.”
Padron chuckled. “Course not, sir.” He gave the man a salute for good measure.
Once he was well past the mine, he abandoned the mine cart and took a few deep breaths to calm himself. He had gotten away with his deception, but not for too much longer.
His mind went back to the gemstones jingling around in his pocket. He needed answers about the stones, and there was only one place he could think of to get them. Unfortunately, it wasn’t close by. He’d have to make quite the voyage over the mountains to his old hometown to be certain.
The rearick checked behind him, certain guards would rush him any moment, but none came.
Maybe this trip would be a good thing, he thought. It would give time for the current situation in Chatwick to die down, and he liked being off on his own, anyway. He’d be gone for at least a month. Likely even longer. He might even miss Sariah coming home if she ever did.
A big sigh escaped his lips. He would just have to take the risk. If not, then who knew what kind of place Sariah might come back to. Besides, she deserved answers. They all did.
I suppose I could use a vacation after all.
Ok, will they suspect Padron? And if so, what happens when he returns to town? Find out today in Betrayal of Magic!