6b (Argentum’s Song – PG)

“Halt.”

Earl turned around and roughly pulled the blindfold from Martha’s face.

“We’re nearly there now, ye’ll become familiar with the clearings near the mine anyhow so ya needn’t wear this anymore. I’ll take the ropes off of ya too, but ya’ve to promise not to try to do anything stupid. Understand that my threat isn’t that I’d come after ya, it’s that I wouldn’t. Ye’d be dead within a day trying to wander ‘round these parts without knowing where ya were going.”

Martha nodded that she understood and Earl pulled the knots free.

“Well kids, welcome to yer new home.”

Franklin looked around and shivered. It looked remarkably like the clearing where the barbarians had left the caravan, only even less well travelled. It was rocky and snowy with a mixture of evergreen and deciduous vegetation. An old growth forested area, though not as densely wooded as it would have been in a valley. However, part of that could have been caused by humans. As they walked, it became more common to see stumps and small clearings felled by axe work. Soon they reached a large cleared area the size of a modest courtyard. It lay right in front of a cliff face, in the centre of which was a large single oak door, reinforced by two bronze straps.

Earl walked straight up to the door and removed a leather string from around his neck. Two heavy metal keys dangled from it as he did. He took the larger and used it to unlock the door, then scraped it inward and gave a sarcastic bow.

“After you.”

Franklin barely had to duck to get under the door, and the ceiling was high enough that he didn’t have to at all once he was inside. However, he found himself arching his neck none the less, as he wasn’t used to having a roughly carved rock surface quite so close to his head. Before closing the door, Earl lit a lantern and hung it from a bolt that had been driven into a small crack in the ceiling.

“Help me with this.”

Franklin dropped the large pack he’d been carrying on the floor and helped the foreman push a wooden chest up against the door. It too was reinforced with bronze straps, though it felt much lighter than it looked. Earl swore.

“This things nearly empty. What have the boys been up to while we were gone?”

Earl retrieved his lantern and marched to the far end of the cave. As he moved, Franklin realized that what he had thought was a solid back wall actually contained a large tunnel descending on a shallow grade.

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