Part 23: A visit to the Not-So-Free Mine
Chapter 21: A visit to the Not-So-Free Mine
When I awoke the following morning I prepared my things and met up with Gorn, who was stationed with Cord at the path to the free mine.
"You're just in time! Taking back the Free Mine is the first step." Gorn said as I walked up the hill toward him.
I gave a quick glance to the men guarding the pass. "You're planning to retake it with just four men? Where are all the mercenaries?"
Gorn shook his head. "A frontal attack is no good. Gomez' people are too well entrenched for that! But we could run a stealth mission, eliminating one man after another - that could work. Lee asked me to give you a message: As a Magician of the Circle of Water and an experienced fighter, you have been chosen to carry out this mission. I'll go with you. Together we can make it!"
If these were Lee's orders, it didn't look like I could refuse. Not that I would have. I needed to find Ur-Shak's friend. "What's the second step?" I asked.
"As soon as the mine is ours again, we'll start looking for the mountain pass that Gomez' people used in the raid. When the pass is closed, the situation will be under control again."
"Why me, of all people?" I asked. It seemed as though I was chosen for every difficult task.
"You've already proven more than once that you can be brave and clever at the same time. Besides, you know the Old Cap and the guards better than most of us. You are the best man for this difficult job!"
I shrugged. "Why not. I need to get into the mine anyway!"
Gorn patted me on the back. "Whatever YOUR reasons may be, I'm glad we're dealing with this thing together! Here, take this key. It opens the gatehouse in front of the entrance to the mine. Let's fight!"
I walked perhaps a dozen or so paces toward the mine when Gorn told me to stop. "Oh, I nearly forgot! The rogue Wolf wants to talk to your urgently before we leave for the mine."
I nodded. "Then I'd better go there now."
"You do that. I'll wait for you right here."
Wolf was outside his hut on the rogue side of the camp.
"Gorn said you wanted to talk to me urgently..."
"I'm glad you dropped by before you left!"
"Before I go where?"
"Before you go visit the Not-So-Free Mine.
"What's up?" I asked.
"I've had an idea how to produce a completely new armor."
"Oh, and how's that?"
"The minecrawlers' armor plates are the hardest material I know. I don't mean the small, harmless specimens found in Gomez' buried mine. Not them. There is a far more dangerous kind in our mine. The armor of these beasts is nearly impenetrable! If you could bring me some of these armor plates, I could try to make armor from them."
"How can I remove the plates from those beasts?"
"That's quite easy. The back plates are only joined to the body around the edges. Just take a razor blade and 'cut along the dotted line'"
"Okay. I get it! I'll see if I can find those armor plates."
I returned to Gorn and we once again set off to the mine. When we passed through the tunnel in the side of the mountain, Gorn suddenly grabbed my arm to stop me.
"Watch out! Razors! They hunt in packs like snappers, but they bite much harder! We should do away with them. You know me. I like to know what's at my back."
So we did. I utilized my magic to freeze several in place while Gorn engaged them in melee. Just like Gorn said, they were similar to snappers and shared much of the same behavior.
Just past the clearing with the razors was the mine. I climbed atop a rock to get a better view of the area. The exterior of the mine was littered with mercenary and scraper corpses.
Gorn arrived a few moments later and quickly informed me of the plan. "You go down to the entrance to the mine. I'll stay there and make sure that we don't get a nasty surprise thrown at us from behind. When you're down there, I'll follow." That sounded fair to me.
I encountered many corpses on my way down. Scrapers laid dead, picks still held in their hands. Mercenaries had fallen without even unsheathing their weapons. Gomez' men attacked quickly and offered no mercy. No one saw it coming.
I saw my first glimpse of the occupiers as I slowly worked my way down to the mine's entrance. Three guards were positioned in front of the gate.
Amazingly, they didn't attack me as I moved toward them. The one in charge greeted me . I recognized that face!
"Hey, look at that! It's that guy from the New Camp, the one that caused us all that trouble!" Jackal said. "If you'd shown a bit more sense back then, you could be on our side now - the side of the winners! You should have paid me when you still had the chance. "
I glowered at Jackal. "You've gone too far. It was a dumb idea to attack the mine."
The guard laughed harshly. "Seems to have worked, though! And you ain't gonna change that. Believe me!" Jackal exchanged glances with his two friends. "Hey guys. Let's take him out!"
A wave of ice flowed outward from my hands, encasing Jackal and his two buddies in ice. He had underestimated me. I was no longer the newcomer that they could push around. I brought my sword down into Jackal's chest and twisted it.
Gorn caught up with me just as I had entered the mine, and it was just in time! The entrance was heavily fortified with at least five guards in positions to defend the entrance. As soon as we were spotted bolts started flying in our direction.
I hurled balls of electricity at the archer on the right side of the cave. He succumbed to my magic and I moved to claim his position. Gorn also charged forward, using the head of his axe as a shield against incoming bolts. The guard blocking the passage forward was cut in two by Gorn, while I eliminated the other archer.
When we had finished in this chamber, we discussed what we would do next. Gorn would be waiting at the entrance to deal with any possible reinforcements while I would proceed through the mine.
I advanced to the next room. Unlike the entry hall, it only contained three guards. I hurled a ball of flame at the closest man. He died immediately upon impact. The obscured guard was taken out in a similar fashion.
When the two closest to me had fallen I unsheathed my sword and rushed at the last defender. A single bolt of his hit me, lodging itself into my calf.
As I brought my sword down upon the last guard I noticed movement below the platform. The conditions of the Free Mine were far worse than those of the Old Mine. Here the minecrawlers were but a stone's throw from the miners.
I removed the bolt from my leg and was in the midst of preparing a healing spell when I heard a shout from above. A digger threw his pick to the ground and ran as fast as he could in the other direction. If Gomez' men had brought diggers with them that meant that they must've expected to be here for quite some time.
I climbed down a nearby ladder and engaged the two crawlers below. From what Wolf had told me before I left, I'd expected it to be a far more difficult fight. I removed the plates as per Wolf's directions and stuffed them into a pack.
I returned to the mine's entrance to get Gorn. I informed him that he'd be required for the next part of the mission.
He grinned. "At last we're moving on! You go first, I'll follow."
I backtracked to the second chamber with Gorn in tow. The next portion of the mine would require us to climb down several sets of ladders while under enemy fire. I expected it would be easier with two of us.
Gorn reached the bottom first and I reach the floor just moments later. Before long, the three guards in this area laid at our feet. Gorn complimented me on my skill after the fight. We pushed forward toward the final occupied room.
We encountered two more guards in the tunnel but they were eliminated before they could even raise an alarm.
The next chamber was quite large and contained the mine's forge as well as a small common area for the workers. Old Camp shadows sat huddled around the table at the bottom. On the platforms above guards stood sentry while diggers mined.
Gorn charged just as my ball of flame exploded in the middle of the chamber, setting the shadows on fire. I stood watch at the exit while Gorn cleaned up the remaining guards.
A digger attempted to run past me but this time I was prepared. The Old Camp had given no mercy to our scrapers, and so I would give none to the diggers. A ball of fire extended outward from my hands and enveloped the miner.
When the room was cleared, Gorn informed me that the mine had been cleared. I told him that I had something else that I needed to do and that he should await me by the entrance.
I had not yet encountered the Orc that Ur-Shak spoke of. He was not in any of the major chambers, nor was he working the machinery. There was one more area I hadn't explored, however.
Past the forge chamber was a passage leading deeper into the mines. Like the Old Mine, the Free Mine had been forced to give up portions of the mine due to minecrawler infestation.
I walked a bit further through the crawler infested tunnels and breathed a sigh of relief. The Orc hadn't escaped nor had he been killed. Instead he'd hidden himself away atop a platform.
I climbed to the top of the platform. As soon as I did, the Orc cried out for aid.
"Tarrok need help! Tarrok hurt!" It said.
"What happened here?"
"Tarrok here captured by blue soldiers. Suddenly red soldiers everywhere. Red soldiers kill everything. Tarrok flee here. Red soldiers no go here. Red soldiers fear GACH LUG. Please help, Tarrok hurt."
"What does GACH LUG mean?" I asked.
"Be big animals, walk on many legs. GACH LUG dangerous! Eat Orcs and humans!"
I nodded. "You must mean the minecrawlers down here. Are you a friend of Ur-Shak, the shaman?"
"Ur-Shak be slave, like Tarrok. Ur-Shak run away! Be gone many winters ago!"
"Your friend said you could make an Ulu-Mulu for me!"
"Tarrok very weak. No medicine. Tarrok die. Stranger bring medicine, then Tarrok help!"
"What kind of medicine?"
"GACH LUG poison Tarrok. Tarrok need medicine! Tarrok have medicine, but Tarrok lost. Tarrok no find! Tarrok very weak. Stranger hurry, else Tarrok die! Tarrok flee GACH LUG! Tarrok hide when flee! Stranger search niches!"
The Orc wasn't going to help me while he was dying so I'd need to find this medicine for him. I turned around and proceeded to search the room. Unfortunately, it didn't seem that he dropped his medicine in this room. The only thing I encountered were two minecrawlers.
I moved onto the next room, entering through an opening above two wooden supports.
When the minecrawler was killed I carefully investigated the area. Eventually, I came across a ledge that seemed promising.
I'd found it! The Orc's medicine lay on the ground beside a book. I took both and placed them in a pack for safekeeping. I returned to the Orc.
"Here, I've found your medicine." I said, handing the bottle to Tarrok.
He quickly opened it and drank it all down. "Stranger no bad like other people! Stranger good! Tarrok owe thanks!"
"Can you give me an Ulu-Mulu now?"
"Stranger help Tarrok so Tarrok help stranger too! Stranger need KROTAHK, KHAZ-TAK, DWACHKARR, and ORTH-ANTAK. Stranger bring, then Tarrok make Ulu-Mulu."
"What are those?" I asked.
"Be tongue of fire lizard, horn of shadowbeast, teeth of swampshark, and tooth of troll!" Tarrok said. Only the troll tooth would be of any trouble.
"I need to move on." I told Tarrok.
"Stranger come again!" he replied.
I was finished with Tarrok until I'd gathered the items he required for the Ulu-mulu so I left the mine. Outside, Gorn was waiting for me.
"Oh, man. That was a really tough fight." I nodded. "I'd never have thought Gomez' guards would offer that much resistance."
"The main thing is that we've driven them out of our mine." I said.
"I'll stay here and make sure it stays that way!"
When I was back at the camp, I met up with Wolf. In the mine I'd managed to do what he said and gather a good deal of those minecrawler plates.
I gave him a pack containing fifteen of the things. "I've gathered lots of minecrawlers' armor plates!"
"Fantastic! I'll get to work immediately."
"How long will it take?"
"I haven't the faintest idea. This is a completely new development, man! Just drop by now and then when you're in the area!"
My next task would be to collect the parts required for the Ulu-mulu. I had a good idea of where I could find swamp sharks, fire lizards, and a troll. The shadowbeast was the only creature I was not sure of.
Before I left I arranged a deal with Wolf to sell the Old Camp's equipment for a little over 6000 ore.
Update 21 supplement: Not much for this update. "I've gathered lots of minecrawler's armor plates!"
A gift from the Gods