No farts today. Today was serious business.
After a long, tense journey that took most of the night – Doc’s shambling assistants are danged slow, and a bit ripe of their own accord – we reached the mountain dig site Libby’s been chewing away at for the past few months.
Despite having visited a few times, I’ve not really looked the place over since my first trip with my dad and Pagan. Libby’s crew has made remarkable progress: there are a few semi-permanent wood- and-stone structures, the tents are more for supplies than bodies, and the workshops for processing ore are well-established. Libby’s gone to a lot of work to get this place up and running. It even has a name, now, on a massive sign over the main road into the camp: ‘Pubtwon.’ I think it’s a play on Pubton. And the number two. And the fact that it’s… the second… Pubton.
Yeah. Not very clever. Accurate, though. Like the Pubton of old, the only thing really still standing is the sign. Everything else is falling apart.
The signs of distress were obvious the moment we set foot in camp. Most of the buildings I mentioned earlier are partially collapsed or outright demolished, the tents are shredded, and there’s evidence of cave-ins. Like, a lot of cave-ins. The mouth of the primary mine is taller than the Matriarch in working condition because the rock face that forms it keeps collapsing.
And the workers. Lords, the workers. These poor people are ragged beyond belief, their clothes torn and dirty, their bodies covered in shallow scars from hundreds of small accidents. A report from Grylock, now Libby’s second-in-command, told me all I needed to know: their luck has been horrible. They managed to clean up when visiting Pubton the week before last, but every little act in Pubtwon has been marred by misfortune. I blame Grayson, because I blame most everything on Grayson.
I’m also wondering if I can blame the rat symbol that brought me out here on the damned kid. Turns out that he, Libby, and June have all gone missing. June’s been largely a no-show the last two months, Grylock will admit, but Libby and Grayson… worrisome.
“It was the light,” Grylock admitted as we stood in front of the main mine shift, peering into a tunnel less than fifty feet long. I’m sure it would have been much longer if there hadn’t been so many cave-ins. “As soon as that damned thing appeared o’er the peak, your wife ‘n ‘er brat went missing. Everybody figures they’re dead or trapped under rubble or worse.”
I bit my lip, peering into the cave and imagining a brown work glove sticking out of the rubble. “What do you think?”
“Me? I dunno. They’ve only been gone a day. I ain’t picturing my boss’s legs twitching away under a thousand pounds of rock just yet.”
I grimaced. “You’re great for cheering people up, Grylock.”
He bared a row of small, wicked teeth. “I’m an optimist, Mr. Mayor.”
Most everyone in Pubtwon is too freaked to head up the mountain to search for Libby and Grayson. Hell, most believe they’re either dead or gone. Why bother looking? They all wanna abandon the dig anyway. Hasn’t been what they’ve expected, and I’m sure more than a few of them blame Libby for that. Her speeches about Pubton’s inevitable prosperity probably gave ‘em more hope than they shoulda harboured.
My band isn’t among the disenchanted, thank the gods, so they’ve split up into teams of three and begun searching the mountainside for signs of Libby, Grayson, or, hell, even June, assuming she’s still here. (I bet she is.) Doc seems particularly keen on tracking down Grayson, for some reason, though why is beyond me. He was also unusually adamant that I remain in Pubtwon, claiming it was ‘for my safety, yesss, mayors must be safe’. Or something like that. I managed to bargain him down to having his right-heavy mute companion follow me around. A bit creepy, but better than Doc himself.
He reminds me too much of the smell.
Not much to say on today’s search. It’s a big mountain, and we’ve turned up nothing. I’ll write more when I’ve something to report.
Dragomir the Mayor