The days slowly began to turn to weeks and the weeks to months. As time wore on, I settled into a routine, and from what I could tell, Elthinor and Nolan did the same. I would wake up, eat, go to work, go back to our rooms, bathe occasionally, then go to bed to do it again the next day…or night; I could not tell as we were underground. The first few nights we had experimented with our sleeping arrangements, as all of our supplies, including our bedrolls, were taken when we were captured and we all had to sleep on the one bed. We finally settled on me sleeping as I was supposed to in the middle of the bed with Nolan and Elthinor on either side of me turned with their feet towards the headboard. It worked as well as anything could.
True to his word, Korvict came to visit me while we worked every week or so and he seemed confused as to why I was not producing crystals. He could plainly see the progress we were making by how much different the tunnel looked every time he came, but still no crystals. I could tell he was becoming suspicious of what Valtrak had said about the dry vein, which he had once overheard.
Valtrak did not talk much during my work, for he still just sat and did nothing, and when he did speak, it usually pertained to some matter of importance in the Dwarven world, especially of gems and crystals. I slowly learned about how the crystals were cut and shaped to the magnificent shapes I saw in the houses. The information on cutting, chipping, and polishing of the stones fascinated me. It amazed me that they could take such raw material and make it into something beautiful.
I once told him of God, who I had been praying to about how being slaves tied into His plan for us and how we were supposed to escape and find the scroll, and the mission for the scrolls, but he did not react beyond grumbling and spinning his carving knife. Despite his obvious efforts to rebuff my attempts, I would always carry on a one-sided conversation with him when we took a break, talking about anything that came to mind. I could not tell if he was listening or not, and it made me upset, but I kept talking anyways.
About two and half months after we became slaves to the Dwarves, Firbrawn had finally had enough of his nephew’s lack of proof that he was working, even though every Dwarf knew he wasn’t.
“Nephew!” Firbrawn called from down the tunnel; the others all had their work areas closer to the city than Valtrak and I. We were the farthest down the tunnel.
Valtrak jumped up, grabbed his pickax, and started swinging at the wall. I paused in surprise for a moment before getting back to work. I saw Firbrawn approaching out of the corner of my eye and he stopped and looked around.
“Wow…I am impressed. It looks as if you have made impressive progress.” Firbrawn’s tone sounded a little strange and I realized he was upset. “On widening the tunnel,” he finished, as I stopped swinging. Valtrak, on the other hand, did not stop.
“We widened and heightened the tunnel for me. My knees were raw for the first couple weeks,” I said defensively. “We have been working on this tunnel for months and have found nothing!”
“You must be as bad as Valtrak,” Firbrawn said. “Even your Elf and Human companions have found crystals. I have given you a little leniency as you are of the fairer sex and you because you are my nephew, but no more. You two find crystals or I will send you to the coal mines!”
“You cannot do that!” Valtrak exclaimed suddenly, throwing his pickax down. “It is not our fault the vein is dry!”
“Why should I believe that?” Firbrawn demanded.
“Because it is the truth! They always give me the dry parts of the tunnels we go to!” Valtrak snapped loudly.
“Why would we do that?” Kirrak asked from where everybody was staring at the two fighting Dwarves.
“Because you despise me,” Valtrak snapped.
“Enough!” Firbrawn roared. “Now, you have one week to gather a bucketful of crystals between the two of you. If you do not, you are to be sent to the coal mines.”
He turned and stormed off. I looked at Elthinor desperately and he looked sad. He broke away from his Dwarf supervisor and walked over to me. Valtrak was silent and stared at the Elf, but other than a glance, Elthinor ignored him.
“The vein is really dry?”
“As far as I can tell. I have been digging every time we are down here,” I said bitterly.
“I am sorry, Fily. Maybe you can have some of-”
“No,” I said sternly. “I won’t do that. You need them to stay here. I’ll think of something. You just go get back to work, okay?”
“Alright,” he said. “How about we brainstorm tonight?”
I nodded and made a shooing motion with my hands. “Go on now. Go work.”
Over the next six days, there was no luck for me. Valtrak was not even trying. He had obviously resigned himself to his fate. His face was a little sadder than usual on our last day. He had told me on that second day what the coal mines were like and I was quite reluctant to go there. It sounded like horrid work. Besides, I was used to the mine I was in already.
“Valtrak?” I asked after a few hours on our last day. “Would you please dig a little? Who knows, maybe we will find something?”
“I see no reason to,” Valtrak replied.
“No,” Valtrak snapped.
“Why are you so against working here?”
“Because I never wanted to be down here in the mines. I wanted to cut and polish the crystals. Turn them into beautiful gemstones. To set them into jewelry. Digging for the crystals just does not appeal to me, but does my uncle care? No. All he cares about is how I am viewed by the other nobles. Each noble is required to have a job that has to do with crystals, and mining them is the most desired, so my uncle got me in here so that the other nobles would be jealous and think highly of me, but they don’t because I am a failure at it. Most of the common Dwarves do not really like nobles so they keep the mines full, and they give me the dry veins so I cannot get anything. So I lose both ways,” Valtrak finished.
I stared at him for a moment. That was the most he had ever said to me at one time; he always gave me information in little snippets then would go silent again, and even that little bit of information was never about him. That he would tell me this made me realize that I was probably the closest thing he had to a friend. I smiled at him and his eyes got that distrustful look in them again, but this time I did not mind.
“Who knows? Maybe you will get to work with crystals in that way?” I said, turning and raising my pickax again.
I brought it down and gasped as the wall seemed to crumble away. I stepped back with my jaw open in shock then I turned to look at Valtrak and began to laugh.
“What were you saying about it being no use?”
Valtrak looked at me for a moment then smiled for the first time since I had known him. His eyes darted back to the hollow that had been revealed by my blow and shook his head in wonder. Crystals of every kind decorated the wall and he stood and we began to dig out the crystals together, placing them one by one into the bucket of his that had never had even one crystal in it. Soon it was stacked full and there were more past the brim and we began working on filling mine.
We were so busy that we did not notice the group that was gathering until Kirrak spoke.
“How? We were sure there was nothing there!”
Valtrak shrugged and continued to dig out crystals. “I don’t know. It’s just here.”
“God really does provide,” Elthinor said with a smile.
Valtrak’s head jerked up and looked at me. “I thought it was just a story.”
“I told you that I believe it is true,” I replied, continuing my work.
He gave me a thoughtful look then shrugged and focused back on our task. We could feel them staring at us, but we ignored them. I saw a pair of hands with faint green and silver designs on them reaching forward and I slapped them away.
“Elthinor, go back to your own work,” I said sternly.
He paused and looked at me, frowning slightly. “Fine. Come Nolan, let’s get back to our buckets,” he said, sounding a little irritated.
I watched as the crowd dispersed only to reveal Firbrawn and I froze. Valtrak must have noticed me stiffen because I heard him stop his own movements. We stood there for a few minutes before Firbrawn walked forward and began picking crystals up from our buckets.
“I have heard tell of crystal pockets, but they are rare. You found one?”
“Yes,” I said immediately as Valtrak looked guilty. “It took us forever, but we finally found some crystals in this vein. Looks like it was not completely dry after all.”
Firbrawn looked as if he was about to speak when a blast of a horn sounded through the mine, this one deeper than the one that signaled the end of our shift. Valtrak and Firbrawn both looked alarmed and I heard a scramble from the Dwarves further up the tunnel.
“What is that one for?” I asked.
“Horsemen,” Valtrak whispered.