Kaylene leaned in closer; Deman rocked back, stunned. Altman ran his fingers along blades of grass near the faint blue glow; they were darker, sickly-looking, and a bit stunted. “Electrite?” Deman’s voice was tight. “That … But that’s incredible! Are you certain? The Conclave would pay a fortune for it!”
“I am certain, but I doubt this would make us rich,” Altman said conclusively. “Even as rare as it is, there’s not nearly enough. It just seems to be this one spot. If there were more in the area, the signs should be visible, and …” He looked around, deeper into the woods, back up the slopes of the hill, “I just don’t see any signs of it.”
Kaylene was puzzled. “Electrite? What is it? Why is it so valuable?”
Altman straightened and brushed dirt and leaves from his cloak. “It’s a rare mineral with some unusual properties that make it very useful in scientific pursuits. The Conclave values it highly, and they own all the mines at every major deposit of electrite that I’ve ever heard of. If we’d discovered a sizable new deposit, well, we could have sold the knowledge of its existence and the claims to it for more wealth than you’d ever dream of. None of us would ever have had to work again.”
“You’re certain there’s no more of it here?” Deman gazed at the small dark spot with disappointment radiating from him in waves.
“I’m afraid I am. Tiny amounts like that aren’t so unusual, but on their own they aren’t terribly useful since they require special handling to avoid harming the carrier. Larger amounts would leave visible marks in the area around them, and I’d certainly know the damage to spot it.” He remounted his horse; Kaylene did likewise. Deman lingered a moment longer, looking back at the near-invisible spot on the rocks.
“Such a shame … So close to such wealth, for want of a little ore.” He remounted and followed after.
The rest of the trip took little enough time. The animal trails through the woods were faint and rough, as though not used often, but were easy enough to follow. Finally a building came into view in the distance, just barely visible through gaps in the trees ahead. It was a large house of an old design, stone-walled, with several wings and multiple storeys.
Altman nudged his horse to pace Kaylene’s. “That’s it there? Why would my uncle choose to live in such a place? Why does a house even exist here?”
“You’ll have to ask him why he chooses to live here. I never asked him. As for the ‘ouse, it’s been here far longer than your uncle. My family’s known of it for years. The way I hear it told, it once belonged to a young lord who thought to win favor by expanding the borders of the kingdom into these unsettled lands, but his ambition outreached his brains and his purse, and after building the house he found he could do no more. He never attracted settlers, never even lived in the house.”