The next day I wake up feeling very relaxed, until a Dwarf pops his head through the door and shouts “Wake up, you lazy louts! Yer missing Breakfast!”
This causes a giant scramble for the door with everyone tripping over their blankets and the other Dwarves, which isn’t relaxing at all.
During breakfast, which I get very little of because I’m late, I decide to start gathering the materials for my plan. They’ll probably still come in handy even if I don’t know any passages yet. Who knows? I might run into one while I’m exploring sometime. After I’m done eating I deposit my bowl and spoon to be washed and head to Bakken to get today’s assignment.
“Today you lot of newbies aren’t running anymore.” Bakken starts out, but then has to stop as an eager cheer erupts from his tiny crowd of listeners. “You each will be having individual assignments with your oldie. Same as last time, they show you the ropes for a day, you get a couple days to practice on your own, then we switch to something different.
“So without further ado, I’ll be announcing each new group’s jobs. Enit, your group will be mining in the B sector, ask the leader there for more instructions. Derik, yours will be sector K subsection 3. Faulk, you are on for depth deliveries with your group, have fun with that. Wicket, your group will still be running messages,” Groans rise from the three Dwarves in that group and Bakken sighs, “I’m sorry but it was either that or the Carts, and I thought you really didn’t want to do the Carts.” I didn’t really mind the running messages, in fact I kinda liked it. But I suppose Dwarves who haven’t gone through the Elf army training regime would find it a lot more difficult. My mind snaps back to Bakken as he finishes. “Vol, Faladel, you’re on for dishes duty.”
“Dishes? Did I hear him right?” I mutter to Vol, who is standing beside me.
“Yep, dishes.” Vol looks rather pleased. “I guess there are some perks to finding Murdenblum, eh Faladel?”
“I’d much rather still be running.” I tell him, wondering how exactly I’m supposed to find a path to the surface now.
“Oh come on!” Vol chides me as everyone disperses. He starts going in a direction that I assume leads to a washing area and I follow him. “Washing the dishes is one of the easiest, but most time consuming jobs here! It’s the job that everyone wants, but very few get! Yet you want to go back to running?”
“Yep.” I say unapologetically. “It helps me relax my mind and explore the caves down here.”
“Hmph. Strange Elf.” Vol mutters, mostly to himself I think.
When we arrive at the cleaning station, the dirty dishes are already there. I suppose someone must have delivered them. As Vol goes about showing me the best way to clean them of the dried-on-gruel, I consider how to broach the topic of the Black Market. He covers where the rags that we use to clean them are stored, the fastest way to soak them so the gruel comes off, and how to dry them, and I still can’t think of a clever way to talk about it without actually saying anything incriminating. About halfway through our giant pile of dishes I give up. I’ll just say it outright, it’s not like there is anyone around to overhear me anyway.
“Vol, how much does the powder that is used to explode the rocks and get past cave-ins cost? How much Murdenblum would I have to get? I know people sell it, I saw it in one of the tools tents.” Vol looks at me surprised.
“Depends on how much you need.” He answers, seemingly automatically.
“Well that depends on how strong it is.” I reply.
“Well let’s say I want one of those bags, how much would that cost me?”
“Faladel,” Vol puts down the pot he was scouring. “A chunk of Murdenblum the size you had at current prices is worth ten of those bags at least. But what are you planning to use all that powder for? Don’t tell me you’re so idiotic you want to blow up the Murdenblum cave?”
I open my mouth to give him a non-answer, but then inspiration hits me like a bolt of lightning. Why don’t I just tell him the truth and invite him along? He’s smart enough to guess it without me telling him, so he’ll eventually figure it out anyway. Surely he wants to get out as well, and he might even be able to help me find a passage to the surface. He might even know of one already! After all, he has been here a lot longer than I have.
So instead of blowing off his question I answer it honestly.
“I want to blow up a section of the mine in Thravic’s domain. I’m thinking of trying to escape in the chaos. You want to come along?” I suppose this is a day of me being really blunt.
Vol freezes, stunned. His mouth opens and closes for a bit as he tries to organize his thoughts and come up with an appropriate response.
“Of course!” He says after his mouth has finished acting like a fish’s. “But what exactly -I mean how exactly are you planning to escape? And what about the casualties? I’ve heard elves are soft hearted, and you certainly don’t seem like the type to not care about how many you kill.”
“That’s where I need your help. You have been here longer than me Vol. You know people, you know the mines. I need you to find a passage leading to the surface, either that, or help me secretly create one that we can get out of.” I say, finalizing my plan as I go along. “With the powder, I can sneak out at night and set off my explosion. Doing it at night means less people die. Everyone will be confused, slightly panicked, and groggy when they wake up, so it will be easy for you to slip out in the confusion and join me. Then we can escape together and go our separate ways. What do you think?” I finish, pleased with myself. Vol gapes at me.
“It’s brilliant. Mad, but brilliant. Only an Elf would think of something like that.” Vol shakes his head at me. “It will be rather difficult for me to find a time to get away though. Yesterday Bakken pulled me aside above ground and told me I was assigned to help with the evacuation next time so we don’t lose as many Dwarves.”
“Then I’ll backtrack to get you after I set off the explosion.” I reason, “We can meet at a certain area, and then we’ll get out together.”
“Right, right, but how did you know I wouldn’t just report you?”
“I didn’t really.” I admit. “But you seem like a smart Dwarf who isn’t too loyal to any of the higher ups, after all you run around making deals on the black market. Also, who else would I be able to ask for help?”
Vol nods at my reasoning. “Nobody, really.” He replies. “You don’t have a close relationship with anyone else here. Most either are jealous of you, hate you because you’re an Elf, or both.” He finishes with a smirk.
“That was meant to be rhetorical.” I say, grinning at him.
Vol smiles back, but then his bearded face sobers. “The powder should be easy enough, although the quantities you’ll need might be difficult to procure, especially if you want to test run this plan.”
“Best not to then,” I say, “besides, they might get nervous if there is one explosion late at night and suspect sabotage. If they post guards or something this would get a lot more difficult. No, we either succeed without practice, or we fail and maybe die for it.”
Vol nods in agreement. “I also might be able to procure information on a tunnel leading to the surface. That will cost you more though. I assume you want one outside of the compound?”
“Yes, but it doesn’t really matter if it is close by. All the guards will be either helping with the evacuation, or watching the giant group of panicked slaves in the center of the compound. There will be no one looking outside.”
“True, but it will still be expensive. There are only a few places I can get such information, and they charge high prices. I suppose your secret stash of Murdenblum isn’t going to run out anytime soon.”
“Probably not.” I say, remembering the giant shiny cave. “I don’t really know how much I have. And I’ll need some time to bring it to you.”
“Of course.” Vol says, watching me again. “We’re nearly done here, but it is also nearly lunchtime. You can go get some more Murdenblum while I wash the lunch dishes. I’ll tell anyone who asks for you that you’re taking a dump, and during the supper dishes you can hand it over to me. Over the next couple of days I’ll trade it for the powder and information. When it’s all ready, I’ll get it to you.”
After lunch I do as Vol suggested and go with him to the dishes cleaning area, but then almost immediately leave again to go to the murdenblum cave, grabbing extra torches on my way, just in case. I arrive there quickly, having made only a few wrong turns. The stress I had gone through the last time I had traversed these tunnels had engraved them onto my brain. A lot of objects look different now that I’m going the opposite direction, but the echoes continue to be the same, and sometimes it almost sounds like my footsteps keep on going for a few seconds after I’ve stopped moving.
After I arrive at the cave I assess my tools. Most of them I don’t really know how to use. Despite being at a mine for over a week, I haven’t actually done any mining. I’ve seen Dwarves use these tools of course, but seeing and doing are very different things. I pick up a chisel and a pickaxe, then put down the pickaxe and pick up a hammer.
An afternoon of experimentation passes by very quickly, leaving me with sore, dirty hands with quite a few nicks on them and probably a couple blisters forming as well. But I also ended up with quite a few usable pebbles of Murdenblum, and two medium chunks. I stick all of these in my pockets, and, casting one last glance at the cave, hurry out to meet up with Vol before supper. When I arrive Vol is sitting among a pile of clean dishes.
“What took you so long?” He complained. “I had to do all the work myself.”
“Sorry. I had to dig some out of the walls.” I say, emptying my pockets and giving him the shiny silver stones. “Is this enough, or will I have to get more?”
“This should be good.” Vol glances at me, “But your hands give away that you haven’t been washing at all. Rinse them off.”
I oblige him, and then we head to supper, carrying the newly cleaned dishes with us. We don’t speak again until all the supper dishes are nearly cleaned. Vol does most of the work to spare my raw hands the silty water and the sand.
“When will you have the powder and the information by?” I ask him as we finish up.
“Give me two days.” He replies, staring at his pot. “Nevermind, make that three, I need to spread the purchases out and make it look like they’re not all coming from the same source. Otherwise someone might wise up, and then we’ll never get out.”
“Three days, that shouldn’t be a problem.” I say, smiling.
Only three more days till I can head home.