Chapter Thirty-four: Sieg’s Story
Sieg ever the storyteller, waited until he had their complete attention before continuing. “I was just like you, you know. Just like now, the leader of our party, the geomancer did not reveal the exact purpose of our mission until we got to this point. It was only then that I found out that the guardian was like me, a hire. We both protested, loudly. Just like you are doing now.”
“Come on!” he suddenly exclaimed. “The Galronde and the Battlehammers? That the definition of a death zone right there. No sensible person would take the risk if they could help it. But he convinced us, the geomancer I mean. Once he started talking, we saw this clearer. Can you imagine if he had told us what the mission was back in Anham? The arguing alone would have set people onto us.”
“Hell, if we had someone like Ryan there, the dwarves and city guards would be all over us like flies on shit”, Sieg teased slightly.
“So, we let the geomancer convince us to follow him on his fool’s errand so long as we were only going to skirt the two no-gos and pick up the gems. Of course, it helped that he promised us three times the amount he was contracted to pay us”, he added with a roguish grin. A few in his audience sniggered. Suddenly sombre again, the ranger continued. “Now I don’t know about you guys but it was a lot, far too much to resist. With what he was offering I could decide to sit back and take it easy for a few months. No more busting my arse for merchants so I could rub two silvers together. So in the end, I accepted. I went along with the dumb plan. Don’t think I didn’t think it was stupid. I just figured that I could hightail it back to town if things got rough. I mean it is just the outskirts, right? It is not like we were going into the danger zones, now is it? The real threats are in there.”
Coenbert watched the adventurers nod along to his cousin’s story, even at the part about abandoning the mission and running for his life. Not for the first time, Coenbert marvelled at his cousin’s ability to spin a yarn., Honestly, Sieg should have been a bard. The ranger had yet to lie. True, he was spicing it up quite a bit but it was working. With just a few words, he had the adventurers thinking about the mission with a new perspective. They were eighteen, what were they scared off. The other party had only three members and they made it out alright. There was the potential for a big payday here. Who did not need the money? Even the line about the merchants had provoked a near perfect response.
Anham was mining town close to the border with caravans rolling through it on a constant basis. Most if not all of the adventurers in the area were there to work the trade route. If they were not guarding minerals or putting down infestations they were playing bodyguard or escort to prickly merchants who paid little. The sad part. Despite the poor pay, the merchants were the steady and popular supply of work. It was safe too as there were always many adventurers working such missions. The really sad part, the merchants knew it too. That was why they could beat down wages to that extent. They knew that there were many other sellswords in need of work. Sieh clearly knew this and he played their fears by giving them a way out. They could always run away if things got too hairy to handle.
“Now, obviously, the geomancer knew what he was about”, Sieg was saying. “He had a map he consulted constantly. The only reason he hired us was so I could help scout the way and to have the guardian bodyguard him. Following his direction, we did exactly what I suggested just now, we skirted the forest and kept to the hills. That’s all we did. However, every so often the geomancer would make us stop and then using his magic he would draw to the surface precious stones and ores buried in the rock. Rubies, sapphires, azurite, malachite, gold and more, the guardian and I watched in awe as he pulled them straight out of the ground and into his bag of holding like it was nothing.”
The entire party leaned forward. Even the dwarves who were hearing the story for the fifth time. Coenbert smiled, his initial fears fading away. The wily ranger and his silver tongue had them hooked.
“Obviously, he was using his magic to find where the stuff was before doing that but how did he know that there was stuff to find here of all places?” Sieg was saying. The adventurers nodded, similar thoughts running through their minds. “So I cosied up to him. It took a lot but in the end, he spilt the beans and you know what he told me?”
The adventurer right across from the ranger, the one he stared at the most during his delivery shook his head at the question, spellbound. Sieg hesitated as if scared someone might overhear before leaning forward. They all leaned forward as well, eager for the answer.
“The mage said that it was a secret only a few knew”, the cunning ranger revealed. “I mean, we Basileans mine and export rubies all the time. The mine next to Anham is proof of that. The dwarves in the Battlehammers are the same. They have even more than we do. We also have mines further south, closer to the mountains there. Truth be told, the mountains are chock full of precious stones. We just never think of coming this way. We stick to the old mines. In fact, we never consider that precious materials don’t just exist in the depths of the earth but on the surface as well. Maybe not on the surface proper but just a few metres beneath us. Surface mining doesn’t take much. All you need to do is know where the stuff is and then you can take it out. You don’t even need magic to do it.”
He waited a few seconds to let this sink in. The sudden lull allowed the muttering to build. Seeing them mull it over, he quickly jumped back to it, saying, “This got me thinking. The geomancer had his magic and his map but if I could locate the lodes myself then even I can do what he did. The moment I got back I rushed to my cousin and told him everything. He was the one who assembled this team. We couldn’t get a geomancer but we’ve got some dwarves. They have the skills that let them identify and find minerals. Plus, no one knows more about mining than dwarves. With them on our side, it will be a breeze.”
Not giving them time to think, he kept the heat on, “This place is dangerous, no doubt about it but we are going to stay on the outskirts. Surely, we have enough men for that. Also, once the dwarves find surface lodes we can get the extraction done quick and easy. Some will help protect and others will help with the mining. I can’t promise you three times the contract like the geomancer did. But I can promise you that if we do this, we’ll be rich as lords when we return!”
“I don’t buy it!” Ryan exclaimed loudly. He too could see the winds change. His teammates were considering the proposal and even he was tempted. However, something ate at his gut. he had been an adventurer nearly all his life, seen more than many and he knew, it could not possibly be that easy.
“You say secret but if that mage knew and you know then there will be others as well. You are telling us, right? The Guardian, hell even the mage and whoever told him could be telling others. There’s no way that people will know that there is so much to gain here and no one has claimed it or built a mine. There is no way the crown will let this place just waste away. You’re lying!”
The swordsman’s words caught the ears of his companions but all Sieg did was grin. “Of course there are people who know about it. The geomancer revealed that he came to this place at least twice a year. Others do as well. But you’re forgetting something, Ryan. This place is the Galronde. How many people do you think are willing to come mine out here? As for the crown?”
“Pah!”, he spat. “Why would they bother with the expense when there are already active mines just a little ways South? Any mines here would eventually tunnel into dwarven territory.”
Even Ryan as unwilling as he was could see the logic there. There was no need to open a new mine until whilst there were perfectly good one in operation. Also, the dangers surrounding the deposits made it impossible for normal people to get to. Powerful, connected individuals in the know like the geomancer from the ranger’s story, on the other hand, could simply pop over whenever they needed more minerals.
“Hey, Ryan!” Sieg called. “I’m willing to bet the entire reason the crown opened the mines near Antham was to tap into the deposits without offending the dwarves or getting too close to The Galronde.”
Pulling something from a pouch at his belt, he added, “But hey, if that isn’t enough to convince you, take a look at my share from the last expedition.”
Sure enough within the ranger’s hand was a pouch filled with a small handful of gold nuggets and uncut gems.
“Look,” the ranger entreated. “I can’t promise you three times the pay like the geomancer did me but I can tell you that there is a lot more of this stuff out here and any one of you that comes with us will definitely get a share.
Coenbert took that chance to jump in. Staring around the undecisive men he forced them to make a choice. “The question here is, are you coming with us or not?”
Ryan hung his head. He did not need to look around to know the outcome.
Trivia Question Five: The current Guardian Spirit of Steelborns, the Stormhawk, was originally a daemon from the….?
That’s it, five questions. If you’ve got all the answers so far, congratulations! You just won a free epub of HoGW BK I, Hatchling. Only two more questions to go. Both of them in HoGW chapters this time. Get them as well and you’ll get a beta copy of HoGW BK II, Nestling.