Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1962293-Fiore--Chapter-two
by Twitch
Rated: 13+ · Chapter · Fantasy · #1962293
Working in the mine, something unexpected happens.

The light had just begun to cast its first golden rays through the broken shutters of Twitch’s house when he woke up suddenly from a bad dream. He had dreamed that he was a prisoner of Fauxmir, chains on his arms and ankles clanging as he was forced to serve as a servant for the dark king. In the dream, he had experienced being flogged for dropping a single plate, sleeping on a dirty mat with an old sack as a blanket that hardly kept out the bitter cold. He would lay there shivering, his skin a pale blue. Everyday, he would be woken up by a sharp kick from the servant master, a large and gruesome man who smelt like rotting fish. He would go down to the kitchen and take a steaming plate of pork and bread dripping with the clearest honey he had ever saw down to Fauxmir’s chambers. His breakfast would always be whatever the king had left for him, which was usually just a small corner of bread. After what had felt like weeks of torcher and pain, he knew enough about the workings of the castle to form an escape plan. In the morning after the servant had served their masters, the guards would go into the mess hall, leaving the servants to clean up the kitchen. The kitchen had a small door that was locked from the inside and the only key was kept by the head cook who, every morning, would leave it in the hands of the servant master while he went to replenish the supplies. It wasn’t long before he had worked out that the servant master would without fail fall into a sleepy stupor after a few drinks and he had managed one day to take the key from him. Before he had the chance to even turn the key in in the brass lock, the door swung open to reveal a firey pit and the dark face of Fauxmir staring down at him, chuckling menacingly.
Twitch had never had a dream like this before, even when he had once stayed up all night listening to Gurren’s stories. “It’s only a dream, don’t let it get to you”. Twitch had to spend a few moments to reassure himself of this before he made it out of bed. This was difficult though as at some point during his erratic dreaming of dark faces, he had twisted himself in the bed sheet. After a few twists and turns, some rather un-polite language under his breath, he had managed to break free and swing his legs over the bed; his bare feet touching the cold stone underneath them. Walking over to the small vanity that sat in the corner, he splashed a handful of water over his face, looked in the dirty mirror, and sighed. The same face that he had seen every morning stared back at him, the water dripping coolly down his eyebrow and falling off his cheek. Twitch would often stare at his reflection in the morning, noting any changes in his appearance. Today, there wasn’t any change except for the fact that he looked more tired than usual; dark circles threatened to make their way down his face like a growing, black bruise. “Shouldn’t have stayed up so late”, he thought to himself. He would regret that decision later. He patted down the water on his face with a rough moss-green towel that probably hadn’t been washed in a year. What was the point, he’d just get dirty as soon as he got into the mine. He practically spent his whole life in the dirt, any one else would think he was from the Tarne region by looking at him after a hard day’s work.
His uniform, crinkled from weeks of use, and tools lay stretched out on top of his small oak dining table that was littered with papers, socks, black shirts and a few broken things that he had once thought of fixing. The table itself was pretty old; It was once the floor of the machinery factory in the city of Éyre before they rebuilt it. It was a wonder it still stood at all, let alone hold all the junk it now had on it. Some of the papers on it were from years ago when he had started learning to read. He remembered clearly the day he had begun, both he and Jasper sat at the table shuffling through old books, drawing the strange symbols that made up words across flimsy parchment. Every now and then Jasper would wave a finger saying “Is that ow’ yer gonna dot the I’s? Is that a ‘b’ or a ‘d’?” It was frustrating for Twitch every time he made a remark about his grammar or spelling, after all he did just only learn to write simple sentences, but then  Jasper would give a good-hearted chuckle and run his hand through Twitch’s hair. “Never mind young Twitch, you’ll soon get it. Heck, you’ve ‘eard me! I can ‘ardely talk me’self! HAHAHA!” His big laugh would echo through the room and make Twitch smile. It was much different these days, with all the mining they had to do Twitch hardly had enough time to practice and was sure they he had forgotten. “When I get time off I must ask Jasper to teach me again.”
Twitch pulled on his black mining gear, slipping his arms into the sleeves and buttoning the front so that the whole outfit was one piece. Grabbing his miner’s hat off the top shelf of the makeshift wardrobe in the far corner, he clipped the tool belt around his thin waist and secured it tightly with a few tugs as he headed towards the door, pausing for a moment to sigh. It was going to be a long day.

Jasper was waiting for him when he finally stepped outside, his hair out of place as if he had only just gotten out of bed himself. Jasper was also in his mining gear but his uniform was bright orange to signify that he was a head digger. The colour choice was made due to the mine claiming the lives of head diggers because they couldn’t be seen. A head digger communicates with his diggers by hand signals. More than once, the diggers had been unable to see the signal for danger and, when the head digger was forced to make their way to where the others were, they often fell into danger themselves. It was a dangerous job, but someone had to do it. Jasper gave a quick nod and began walking slowly. Twitch followed without making a sound, adjusting the hard hat onto his head and drumming his fingers against his leg. Although it was early, the sun had already begun to heat up the earth and a warm breeze blew from the north.
The mine was located just a few minutes’ walk east from the town’s entrance, and they had to do this while pushing a long, square cart along the tracks that led out of the old Town Hall and into the mine. The sun beat down harshly on them as they made the journey to the mine, nothing said between them he entire way as they pushed the cart from behind with gaping strides. The mine’s entrance was covered by a large, black tarp that was taped to all sides of the rectangular opening. A small sign sat in the ground next to it, warning those who were nearing the mine that it was a dangerous place. A larger, more lavish sign that hung over the mine’s entrance made sure that everyone knew they were entering ‘his majesty’s property’. Twitch couldn’t help but snicker every time he entered the mine, it was as if the king of Fioré was there himself reminding them that he owns them. More than once one of the miners had…relieved themselves on this sign. Then again, it was actually the requirement if you wanted to go into the mines to work. Sergio had come up with the idea and it just stuck.
Once in the mine, they made their way down thousands of metres below the earth’s surface. The tunnels that were made long ago still stood, and the wooden structures that held up the earth, now darkened and cracked with age, were as sturdy as the day they were first put in place; bright fluorescent lights line the roof of the tunnel and provide beams of light that seemed to disappear into blackness. As the mine continues, the older cracked wood fades as newer structures from recent digging hold up the earth. Every time Twitch made the journey down into the earth he couldn’t help but to look at the memories of thousands of diggers before him; pickaxes and tools buried in the soft dirt from miners who either left and never came back or who died doing what they did best. It was the city’s fault that those men had died, that they even had to dig at all. Twitch remembered Jasper telling him that the officials made them dig because there was no place for them within the city’s walls. Twitch couldn’t think what was worse; living privileged in the city, or being sent to your death out in the plains because there simply wasn’t room for a lower class.
They finally approached the end of the tunnel where yesterday’s diggers had left off and began unloading the cart. Twitch pulled on his gloves and joined Jasper at the end of the tunnel to start digging. He heaved his pickaxe and brought it down on the rough compacted dirt, pieces of large rock bursting from the impact. They both took turns hitting one point and as they went on the point diminished until a fresh new metre-long corridor had been dug up. They worked methodically while humming an old mining song used to pass the time.

One, two, one, two
See the dirt go flying.
One, two, one, two
To feed the children who are crying.

One, two, one, two
Every man and his axe.
One, two, one, two
Until it is done, we can’t relax.

Twitch stood against one of the wooden structures, taking in a few breaths while Jasper went back to get the day crew; they would need more than two people to put up the wooden posts. He shrugged out of the top of his mining gear and tied the arms around his waist; cold sweat dripping past Twitch’s brow and down to his chin. He wiped it away and rubbed his right hand gently. It had begun to twitch a little harder than usual. He didn’t think anything of it, only from working hard today. As he stood there, resting, he noticed the tunnel was eerily quiet this morning. Usually it would make a few noises as dirt shifted around on the surface and small creatures like bats would rustle around after finding shelter from the heat. Not today. Today it was totally quiet and unsettling, the kind of unsettling where you can’t help but to think that something is about to happen. Even the breeze that would normally be blowing gently through the corridors had stopped. Twitch thought back to yesterday when Gurren was telling him about Fauxmir. Vanished. The word again echoed in his mind leaving a sour taste on his tongue. In the cart that they brought with them, Jasper had left a few bottles of moderately cool water, which Twitch helped himself to. As the cool liquid ran down his throat he felt his exhaustion fade away and that he could continue working as soon a Jasper came back.
         While he was waiting, he noticed that a small patch of dirt hadn’t been dug up in the upper-left corner. It was a little darker than the rest of the tunnel, but it’d save him time doing it now while waiting for everyone else to arrive. “How did I miss that?” It’d be a while before anyone would show up from the town, it took nearly half an hour to travel to the mine, so he would easily be able to have the rest of the digging done by then. Wiping his hands, he set to work on the forgotten patch. It was harder than all the other dirt in the area as if it was compacted and mixed with stones to form a cement-like clump. As he dug at it, the patch let out a wailing ‘ping’ and a small round metallic object fell out of the hole he had made. It fell to the ground and circled around his feet, twirling a few times before finally hitting his boot and resting on the freshly dug-up soil. Twitch put down his axe and bent down to pick up the object. It felt cool to the touch and was made using some sort of metal he had not seen before. Turning it around in his hands a few times to shake off the dirt he inspected both sides of the round object. It was golden, well at least it was when it was new, and had a single symbol ornamented in the centre of it. It was exactly like the coin he had at home in a box, except for the symbol in the centre. While the one he had found years ago, this one had a blue ring with a single line in the middle that circled back on itself, as if it were a wave. It definitely meant that the coin he had found and this one were both from different places. Gurren’s stories filed his mind as he thought about the possible meaning of the symbols. A flame and a wave. Red and blue. Fir and Mar.

“Ne’er thought I’d catch you slackin’ off young Twitch!” He looked up to see that Jasper had returned with Sergio, Hedda and a few others; along with some of the kids that weren’t old enough to mine yet. “Brought you a couple of youngsters like yer’self.” He clapped his hand solidly on the young boy next to him who happened to be Bo, Sergio’s son. “Young Bo here’s been lookin’ forward to seeing ye work.” He gave a broad smile and nudged him forward. Bo clearly hadn’t been looking forward to it; his arms were crossed and he pouted sourly as he walked towards Twitch. He talked low and out of the side of his mouth.

“I don’t want him te teach me.” Twitch wouldn’t be surprised if Bo started to throw a tantrum. He had once before when Hedda asked Twitch to help him with basic counting skills. He had thrown himself on the floor shouting “But I know how to count, why do I ‘ave to? He can’t even read and write. I don’t want to! I don’t want to! I don’t want to!” After a few minutes of this Hedda gave up and sent Twitch home with a few bread rolls as payment for at least turning up and trying. Needless to say, they didn’t like each other very much.

“Now listen ere Bo, you’ll do as young Twitch says or else.” Bo, looking dejected, realised he couldn’t win. He sighed and agreed, but not before muttering under his breath. “What’s that?” Hedda was looming over him again. She waited for him to lower his head and give in before moving on. “That’s what I thought.” Bo went to stand next to Twitch and looked at him with a bored expression, clearly meaning “Get on with it so I can go”. Twitch took him through the ins and outs of mining, not that Bo was paying much attention, showing him how to hold the axe, where to look when digging and how to read the signals from the head digger whilst Hedda, Jasper and the others cut and pieced together the wooden posts.
The other kids seemed interested in learning about all the kinds of things Twitch had found while digging, when Jasper held up his right hand, the three middle fingers open while his thumb and little finger were crossed in front of his palm. Everyone stopped, this was the signal for silence. Jasper made his way over to the new hole that Twitch had dug while he was getting everyone else, put his hand up against the earth and rubbed it between his fingers before turning towards Twitch.

“Was this earth harder than the rest?” He continued to pat the earth but turned his head. “Like it was mixed with rock?” Twitch nodded and was frightened by the expression that suddenly crossed Jasper’s face as his eyes grew wide. “Everyone we’re leaving!” No one moved, too shocked to understand what he was saying. “I said leave!” This time he began herding people out of the mine as fast as possible. Hedda and the other adults grabbed the hands of the children and began to quickly exit the mine tunnels, all the while Jasper was repeating nonsense. “Not now, not here.” Caleb, who had turned seven only yesterday, stumbled on a pile of rocks and fell hard onto the earth floor. Twitch, who was behind him, quickly scooped him up in his arms and kept running. Once they were out, Hedda began counting, ensuring everyone who went down the mine had come out safely. Jasper led Twitch to the side and informed him of what he had discovered.

“I should ‘ave noticed it sooner. When he wind died down and I couldn’t hear nothin’ I should ‘ave known. This has happened once before, when I was in my younger years. We were down in the mine, working away and we noticed the wind die down. Of course we though nothin’ of it, it wasn’t that uncommon. Then, we discovered a hard patch of dirt, rock-like. It’s when we dug that up that the trouble started. Do you know what used to be above this mine Twitch?” Twitch thought for a second but couldn’t remember anyone telling him what used to lie above the mines. Now it was just the same barren plains as everywhere else. “Back when the earth was young and war raged on, the city placed rocks that they had filled with an unscented gas under the topsoil. These mines, as they called em’, would release an explosion if stepped on, due to the gas rapidly expanding. Once the war was over, they tried to dig up every mine but some had sunk down into the earth.” Twitch finally understood what was going on. He had unwillingly uncovered one of the old mines and put everyone at risk.

“Someone’s still down there!” Hedda’s shout stopped everyone in their tracks as she began to burst into tears, wailing mournfully. “Bo’s still down there!” She collapsed onto the ground and wailed again, her screams filling the air while everyone stood, lost for words. Without thinking, Twitch started running into the mine, Jasper’s warning shouts behind him. As soon as he entered it, a foul smell hit him like a thick poison hanging in the air. This was not good Twitch thought. If the air was this poisonous at the entrance, there was no way Bo would survive for long near the dig site. The smell continued to get stronger as he went down, remnants of tools that were scattered in the hurry to leave littered the ground and made it hard to run without tripping over. Just as he jumped and narrowly avoided falling over a pile of abandoned wooden poles, he saw something huddled to the side of the tunnel, rolled into a ball and whimpering. He called out and a small, pale face appeared; streaming with tears and making audible sobs.

“T-Twitch.” Bo was shaking but he looked relieved to see Twitch. His voice had become small and gruff as he struggled to breath in the thick air. Twitch was right, it definitely was worse here than at the entrance, it was a wonder he managed to stay conscious so far. Twitch quickly ran over to Bo and helped him to his feet. Bo was struggling to stand up so he threw his arms around him desperately and sobbed into his shirt. “You…came—”

“—Try not to talk ok?” Twitch didn’t want him to inhale any more air than he needed to survive. Bo’s limp arm gripped surprisingly tightly around his neck, supporting Bo and allowing him to stand and walk. The poisonous air was getting to Twitch. He hadn’t noticed it at first because of the adrenaline, but now he was noticing that his movements were slow and his senses dull. His head throbbed with a growing ache that had begun to spread down his right arm and to his now painful throbbing hand. “Alright, can you walk? Bo gave a slight nod and despite him looking overcome by the poison he began to struggle forward with the Twitch’s help. They made the journey step by step, the pain soon becoming agony and every breath harder than the last, all the while Twitch kept reassuring Bo. “Not much farther. You ok?” Bo would always nod and keep going. Since they had started, Bo’s breathing had become shallow and his movements slower than before. If they didn’t get out soon then they would both die.
         Bo had begun to faint when a loud crack and a hiss came from further in the tunnels. Twitch helped Bo onto his shoulders and looked back into the long corridor they had walked. A flash of light emanated from the tunnel’s end, moving along the walls and closing the distance between it and them. The air rippled with heat as the light approached and within a second Twitch realised what had happened. The mine had cracked from the pressure of the compacted dirt, turning the poisonous air into fuel for the flame. He had no choice. As the churning ball of fire approached, Twitch wrapped his arms behind him to secure Bo’s frail body to his back, and ran.
© Copyright 2013 Twitch (daisukeeniwaa at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
Writing.Com, its affiliates and syndicates have been granted non-exclusive rights to display this work.
Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1962293-Fiore--Chapter-two