Prologue – #FlashFriday 4
Friday Dec 18 2009
Sercheti was a little town almost humble by comparison to its yearly influx of cash from the sale of the gemstones. The buildings were mostly wooden, and lined the river on both sides. The town itself was nestled quite snugly between the river and the cleft of trees behind it and sat at the very beginning of the river before its winding passage took it through the forest. The obvious trading traffic used one of the main roads that connected with the Glades somewhere North of Sercheti. Many of the other roads that connected the various towns were nothing more than dirt tracks used by foot travellers or people on horses or donkeys.
The poorer people might use a donkey to carry their goods, the more affluent or noble people had horses. But by far the most common was people on foot with backpacks which they could carry around with them to set up stall wherever they felt might bring business. In this area certainly the link for most of the foot roads was at the glade, the glade was the central hub for the area. The main paved road through the region was there. So more often than not there would be a makeshift markets there at various peak times during the week.
~~~ Matt started his day, pretty much the same as every other day in Sercheti, he was a miner and it was his duty to seek out the gemstones in the Crystal caverns behind the waterfall.
He usually worked in the evening, preferring that time of the day because the position of the sun leant the caves a very beautiful sparkle far more subtle than you would get at the peak of the day. The caves had various holes in the ceiling, some made deliberately by the miners and some were naturally formed. He liked the naturally formed areas the best because they had a way of bending the sun in so many directions that would not be possible for the man-made counterparts. In some places the sunlight hit crystals above and bounced around as if in a cascade from crystal to crystal to form the most exquisite light patterns and beams.
It was one such evening that Matt found the red crystal, that exceptionally rare crystal that was only found once in every five or six years. Any miner who found these crystals were paid an awful lot more money than the other miners, because of the expert skills required to locate and subsequently extract them. The trouble with Matt was that he wasn’t a very good miner, in fact he’d only just completed his four year apprenticeship and acquired the title and rights of a Journeyman miner. This was his first full shift.
Upon seeing the red glint, he was unsure of what he saw – surely he couldn’t be just that lucky? Before too long he saw the glint again. It was coming from the left hand side of the cavern, looked to be tucked in way at the top of the caverns sides. He was told about the red crystals and their infamous rarity and also about how dangerous they were to extract, something about highly unstable compounds in it. Matt just thought that was just a scare story to stop the younger miners getting their claws on such a coveted item. He wanted to get it and prove that the stories were rubbish and started to look for a way to climb up and get it, looking around for a while, he saw what he was looking for and began moving towards the side wall.
Aside from the lack of mining skill, Matt could climb – in fact he was the best climber in his family of three brothers. So rather than seeing an assortment of edges and jaggy crystals on the cavern walls, he saw opportunities for handholds and even a path up to the red glint. So carefully, one hand over the other, he bagan to climb the wall sometimes, he would imagine the thought of himself as a spider, placing his limbs out and up as if he had those eight legs and if you saw him mid-climb, you might just agree with him as hand over hand leg over leg, he began to slowly make his way up the edge of the cavern wall.
Eventually, Matt reached the red crystal – it was actually hidden behind various jagged white crystals that magnified the glint of the red one. Using a rope he tied himself around one of the larger crystals and slowly taking his pick out of his pack, began chipping away at the white crystals around the red one. He kept some of the larger chips that came off the white crystals and kept going until the last few surrounding the red one came away. One of the final blows he made glanced of the edge of the red crystal and caused a small crack, “Shit!”
If a crack was on a red crystal it would be devalued and seeing this crack he had to think of something, fast. While he was staring at the crack and pondering what to do, he noticed that the crack was black, almost like a gaping maw where his pick had glanced it. If he extracted it now, it’ll likely get a much lower value when he weighed it in. After a few moments, his face brightened up and he realised what he could do, “Why not break it in two?” he mused aloud.
The idea seemed so simple, break it in two, weigh in one of them and hold onto the other – keep it for another time. So, having made his decision Matt decided to bring the pick down and attempt to make the crack even larger of course the odd thing was, when he brought his pick down to the existing crack, it came back up covered in black. Not sure what to make of it, after wiping the goo off the pick he tried again. No such luck, it still came back up covered in black. It was like the red crystal was bleeding black, like blood. Looking closer at the blackness, he almost thought it was spreading, spilling out over the whole crystal but it was so slow, so very slow he couldn’t work it out. By now of course, he was getting a little bit nervous – he had no idea what he was dealing with. He soon began to regret being the arrogant sod who wanted to be famous for finding the rare red gem. The black still oozed out of the crevice that had appeared on the gem and minute by minute the ooze became a stream and then a torrent. There was very little of the red crystal to be seen now and the black was all over his hands, it felt icy cold, like pure dread seeping into his soul, something was badly wrong….
Frozen by fear, Matt was unable to move from where he was hanging, suspended from the larger white crystal and powerless to free himself, much less climb down the canyon walls. From the coldness in his chest, he felt a growing nausea emerging like a ball of grease building up his insides. It wasn’t too long before the nausea grew so intense he had to heave and wrench so hard that the rope holding him tight to the white crystal bit into his gut. The pressure built and built before he had projectile vomiting. The vomit itself was bubbling and black as it took flight in the air, travelling mere inches before gravity overcame the mass, bringing the vomit to the floor with a sickly splat and gurgle.
By now, his insides were in flames and Matt couldn’t hold a single thought but for the searing pain travelling through his body in shocking waves. His eyes rolled into his head and he convulsed before he let out a burble and he crumpled. Hanging limply from the rope, Matt was dead, leaving the cavern once again silent but for the eroding hiss from the black ooze