The Price of Independence - Rough - Day 18

The ground was scarred, plant life stunted and dead where the ground lay undisturbed, but a large portion of the depression had been excavated, leaving only bare earth and a rock face that stretched meters back toward the hills. Altman’s eye followed the line of dead and dying plant life but found he couldn’t find the end; the visible sign of the electrite lying not so far under the ground followed ran right back along the exposed ridge and beyond, ending somewhere in the hills ahead. He felt his eyes grow wide, his breathing quicken.

“All of this … it’s all electrite?” The deposit was enormous, containing far more than he’d ever heard of in one location, and there was no telling how much lay hidden deeper under ground where the damage couldn’t be seen.

The excavation showed the site was being worked, as did areas where the rock had obviously been broken relatively recently. “You’ve done all this yourself?”

“Yes, and I’ve barely scratched the surface, if you’ll pardon my choice of words.

Altman looked at the exposed earth and broken stone, then at the frail, elderly body of his uncle. “And you’ve had nobody to help you in all this time?”

“I wasn’t always this weak, Altman. I’ve gotten worse the last few months, and I fear this winter will be the end of me. That’s why I sent for you. I needed you to know of this, and of my work. I won’t be here much longer to work on it, this you know. And you must decide whether to continue that work here, or inform the Conclave of this and continue the work under them. Soon enough all of this,” he waved his hand at the woods, the scarred earth, the electrite that showed the faintest of blue glows where the shadows gathered deep enough, “will be of no concern to me at all.”

Altman’s mouth twisted in thought as he stared into the serious, nearly sightless eyes of his uncle.

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Deman shifted uncomfortably where he knelt in the dirt inside one of the ramshackle buildings that obscured the electrite deposit from sight. The old man was slow, and hard to hear; it was frustrating beyond belief. Altman was little easier; the poor lad had never had the strongest of voices, but he was just close enough that he could make out what they were saying.

Electrite! Deman had never studied the geosciences as Altman had, but he was well familiar with the rare mineral. It was a subject of great interest to the administrators of the Conclave for its incredible value. Careers had been made over deposits a fraction the size of this monster, and he almost lost track of the conversation he was trying so eagerly to hear as his mind went over calculation after calculation.

Once the old man knocks off this mortal plane, Altman will be rich! And with me to guide him, help him through the process, the bureaucratic nightmare that awaits him when others recognize the value of what he’s reporting, I will be rich too. Maybe even more rich.

Deman’s mouth widened in a predatory grin he wasn’t consciously aware of as the vision spread itself before his mind’s eye.