Thursday, June 21, 2012

Day Two-Thirty-Four: He'll be a main character some day

I'm still on the fence, diary. Stiiiiiiiill on the fence. I dunno what I should do about the hole, or whom I should talk to… so I did more digging today.

Not literal digging, of course. Not that I know of… though… what if I'm secretly brainwashed like everyone else?! That would explain the extra half-millimetre of muscle that I put on my right arm in the last month. (Yes, I keep track. When your wife's biceps are bigger than yours, you'll keep track too.) Anyway, no, in this case, I was digging for info. The Baron indoctrinated me into this shady world, and I might as well honour his memory by keeping it up.

King Jeffrey told everyone that the metal they've been excavatin' is gonna be used in war machines and arms and armour and stuff. I wanted to know if the ore they've been bringin' up to be processed by the blacksmiths is in any way abnormal. What if the metal's gonna 'cause some catastrophe, just 'cause it's bein' excavated? What if it's evil space metal?

Unlikely. But I still had to ask.

I waited for lunchtime, then hunted down the castle blacksmith I know best: Horace. He was munching on a sandwich in his smithy, as I figured he would. Horace doesn't like crowds staring at him when he eats, which, I find, is a weird-ass phobia. Eating in the Beefiary? Not likely.

"Hiya, Horace!" I called, leaning over the front counter of his stall. "How's it goin'? Your furnace treatin' ya well?"

"Well as it ever does," he said, nodding and smiling. "'ello, Dragomir. Been a while. Sorry, er, 'bout that civil disobedience business. Just strikin' for what's right, y'know?"

I nodded. Secretly, though, I wanted to clock him in the head with one of his hammers. He 'n his gang nearly got me trampled. "No hard feelings. Just passin' by, figured I'd see what was up. Like you said, been a while."

"Aye, been a while. How's that kid o' yours? Still bristlin' with muscle?"

I bit my lip. "Ohhh, you know Eve. Always… always murdering something new. Hard to keep track."

"Aye, I know the way." He scratched his head. "Not really I dun, but it's nice to say y'do. For comparison, and bondin', and all that. Y'know?"

"Sure." I forced a smile. "What's up with you, Horace? Any new business?"

He had new business. Too much new business. Horace is the kind of guy who will yammer on for hours about inane topics, and he didn't disappoint. But he was my best lead, and I listened intently as he rattled off every order his customers had placed for the next five months.

After he described a cast-iron bonnet he was supposed to make, I cut to the point. "How 'bout all that metal the king was talkin' about the other day? You got anything to do with that?"

Horace's eyes lit up, and he drew in close. His dirty brown teeth would have shone brightly in the afternoon sun had they not lost all of their glitter to a coating of grime. "Oh, yeah. Got lotsa that goin' on. Secret projects, kingly stuff. Very hush-hush."

"Hush hush," I agreed. "Wanna tell me about 'em?"


And he did. Unfortunately, the following conversation didn't prove fruitful at all. Horace produced a list of weapons and armour he'd been commissioned to create for the castle and rattled on and on about the quality of each piece. I only learned a bit about the kinds of metal being used, and though they were admittedly powerful and rare metals, they didn't expose anything sinister about the hole.

I was on the verge of giving up and going to get some grub when Horace caught my ear with a tidbit of info I bet he didn't want to let slip:

"Yeah, tons o' metal down there. Tons! We're gonna make a killin' off it all, I bet! Why, hell, if'n I didna know better, I'd say there was too much, from what I saw!"

I whipped around and latched my eyes onto his bleached white forehead. (Seriously, I hear he bleaches it.) "Whaddya mean by that, Horace?"

The blacksmith paused. He took a moment to wipe down one of his hammers. "Oh. Um. Nuthin', nuthin'. No biggie. Hey, don't you have work t'do, Dragomir? Best not -"

Too late. I swooped in for the kill, lowering my voice. "Have you seen the metal, Horace? Like, in person?"

Horace is an excitable man. He's not a person with whom you share secrets, as he's prone to pass them on in casual conversation. That might explain why he's not big on crowds: part of him knows that the entire room would know a secret in minutes if he started to gab. It only took a couple friendly suggestions, and an invitation to buy him some drinks later, before he spilled the whole story.

Turns out that Horace, along with three other smiths, were taken into the hole the previous evening. (Yes, the same day I went in to have a look.) They were led down the massive ramps (conveniently vacant of people) to the veeeeeery bottom of the hole by a squad of royal guards for an inspection of the raw metal deposits, to determine approximately how much could be mined and how long it would take. They were kept blindfolded most of the way, and told not to ask any questions of the guards.

What they found, according to Horace, was miraculous: a massive slab of metal ore, not far from the bottom, chewed all the way through by the workers. Horace said the metal vein must have been almost eighty feet thick from top to bottom, and it yielded enough ore to supply an army with weapons. He could see plenty more in the surrounding walls, as well, an indication that the slab was titanic.

I wasn't sure why that was so incredible, 'cause I know diddly-squat about mines, so Horace explained. (Apparently all blacksmiths are also miners. Go figure.) He told me that metal veins are typically rather small: they're inconsistently formed in the rock, and stretch a few hundred feet in any direction before drying up. You might find an extensive selection of similar veins in a given area, but they would never form a consistent wall of metal.

Y'know, like the kind they'd found in the hole.

That wasn't all. Horace told me two more important things:

a) They were ignoring the rest of the metal in the hole, and had kept digging; and

b) They'd found a similar slab of metal underneath the first, one composed of even denser ore. And on his way back up, Horace noticed evidence of other metal deposits, identical to the last, that had been hidden under dirt and tarps! Even peeking out from under his blindfold he could see 'em, plain as day!

I don't know what all this means, diary. Haven't a clue. It suggests to me, though, that these slabs… they ain't natural. Horace hinted at thinkin' the same way, though once he caught sight of a royal guard on patrol he immediately clammed up. So I could be right, or I could be wrong, or I could be… clueless.

Probably clueless.

Horace wouldn't talk about the metals again when we had a drink later that night. (I invited him over to the house. He wouldn't go to the Beefiary. Crowds, y'know.) I only managed to work one more important detail out of him, regarding something that had stumped me throughout his story: had he felt compelled to dig while he was in the hole?

He gave me a curious, wince-eyed glance when I asked. "What? Weird question, Dragomir. Nope, didna feel like grabbin' pick or shovel once. Hope they never ask me, either. How's about I tell ya 'bout my grandma instead?"

And he did. For a looooooong time. (She's dead. Depressing end to a boring story.)

Royal guards watch over the hole. Royal guards keep out interlopers. Royal guards lead inspections of the hole. And royal guards… can… apparently… turn off the digging compulsion.

Royal guards.


Dragomir the Flummoxed


  1. Sounds like Sealed Evil in a Can to me.

  2. Duuuude...they SOOOOO many spoons with that ore!

  3. Too bad sporks are considered weapons in most circles, else dragomir would be set.