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White Eyes

By Zelda48

Fantasy / Adventure

The Unknowable Name

“Steve! It’s nearly eight. Darkness is at nine you know!”

“I know grandfather!”  A sharp voice replied. That voice belonged to Steve, who was currently outdoors tending to a garden box.

“I’m glad you know Steven! I expect you inside in ten minutes, and not a second later!” Steve smiled as he lowered his hoe and glanced towards his grandfather. He was standing on the porch of the nearby house, his arms crossed in annoyance.

“Yes grandfather!” he called. “I’m coming.” His grandfather snorted and walked back inside the house.  “Five minutes!”

Steve sighed as he paused and took a look at his handiwork. He had been cleaning out the garden boxes for the last two hours, as they had had been infested with weeds. Steve was proud of his work. The row of six garden boxes ahead of him “Well that’s done.” Steve said, as he started going about picking up his supplies. He collected the weeds and threw them into a little gray tin bucket, which he called the ‘weed bucket’ as it was the one he always dumped the weeds into after gardening. With his free hand Steve grabbed the stone hoe and carried them over towards the house.  

 

The house was a two story mini mansion, which overlooked the farm that Steve had just finished tilling. It was his grandfather’s house, and Steve had lived there since he was two when his parents mysteriously disappeared. Steve was twenty; he was stocky, of middling height, brown haired and had bright blue eyes which reminded people he met of the clear blue sky. Steve was dressed in a teal blue shirt, one of several that he owned, and worn dark blue trousers. He had rarely worn any other colors.

Steve trudged up the steps to the landing and placed the weed bucket near a flower pot on the landing, and leaned the hoe up against the side of the house. Steve had done this many times, so many in fact that he had memorized where to put almost all of his gardening tools once he was done with them.

Having finished with this chore Steve glanced once more at the farm, checking if everything was in due order. The fields were well lit with torches, as was customary for plants required plenty of sunlight and little was to be found in the snowy regions of Asnor. Both gates were shut tight as well, and all the tools were put away. Steve ran a hand through his hair as he sat down in a nearby armchair and observed the days end. The sun was dying in the sky, casting dim reddish rays on their farm and the surrounding hillside. A balmy crisp air gently caressed Steve’s face. It was springtime; they would be planting soon- after all spring was generally when everything started to grow thanks to the heavy rains that fell during the season. Steve glanced up at the sky, there were dark clouds gathering on the horizon. Such a sight could only mean that it would rain later that evening. That was good, he surmised as he had just planted some seeds and any rain was welcome, especially so early in the planting season.

“Steve!” a grumpy voice called. It was his grandfather. “Steve!” the voice called again. Suddenly the door burst open and a burly man with a ruddy complexion and a somewhat enlarged stomach stepped onto the patio. Steve’s grandfather looked almost nothing like his grandson aside from the same blue eyes that most members of their family shared. His grandfather was named Horace, a name which suited the old man well. Horace was chubby, kindhearted and had a very strong opinion on nearly everything from the proper usage of flint and steel to the Mayor of the little town near the farm.

“Steve!” Horace exclaimed, looking at his grandson. Steve merely turned and looked back at him. “Oh thank Notch…” the old man clutched his chest “I’d thought you were still out there…Good gracious, it’s past nine! Didn’t you hear it’s going to rain tonight? For the love of Notch boy…come inside!” Steve looked at him lazily.

“I know grandfather. I was just looking at the field.”

“Yes, yes. Well you’ve seen it enough times to know what it looks like. “ Horace grumbled. Steve shrugged and continued to sit in his chair.

“Steve.”

“Yes grandfather?” Horace was glaring at him.

“Didn’t you hear me?”
“Yeah I heard.”

“Good. Come inside.” Horace grunted. Steve slowly got out of the chair and followed his disgruntled grandfather inside, carefully clicking the lock in the door behind him.

“In Notches name Steve, I must say you gave me quite a turn.” Horace said fretfully as he disappeared inside the kitchen.

“It’s alright grandfather. I know I’m not supposed to go out into the woods at night.”

“You should know that by now.” Steve heard his grandfather rumble from the kitchen. “You know what happened to the last people who did that…the ignorant fools.”

“Yeah…you’ve told me that- how many times again?” Steve said scratching the back of his head. There was a pause in the conversation as Steve heard his grandfather’s heavy steps pace around the kitchen.

“I only tell you that story Steven, to instill discipline in you. You cannot just go diddling about, and not give a single chunk about anything!” Horace often called his grandson Steven instead of Steve whenever he was giving a lecture or a punishment of some sorts to the boy.  “The woods are a dangerous place Steven! I for one wouldn’t go in there myself for all the gold in Arathor.”

“It’s okay grandfather. I didn’t exactly plan on going into the woods, I mean I was just sitting on the porch.” Steve said. “Can we please drop it?” he pleaded. Horace was always fretting over him; it would have annoyed him if he didn’t have a good reason for doing so. There was another silence. Steve could hear his grandfather’s heavy footfalls coming into the living room where he currently was.

“Of course Steven.” Horace said. “I just want you to be okay. After what happened to your parents I feel it’s my responsibility to ensure your safety…”

“I know.” Steve said, feeling extremely awkward about the entire conversation. Steve’s parents had abruptly disappeared, it was not known what had happened to them but they had been presumed dead for eighteen years. Steve had wondered for a while what happened to his parents, but anyone he asked just shrugged and changed the conversation. Even his grandfather didn’t know what happened to them. “I’m twenty, I can take care of myself grandfather.”

“Well…” Horace grumbled, “Just be in on time. Now, I’m making some a wee bit of a dinner snack, a spot tea and a few muffins. Would you care for any?” Steve grinned, his grandfather was a very good cook- he had won the last three baking contests in the village fair.

“Definitely.” he said, wiping his brow. There was a small ornate plate in the center of the kitchen counter with several small muffins atop of it. There were also two teacups on both sides of the plate, which his grandfather was currently filling. Steve bounded forwards, his hunger getting the best of him and he reached for the nearest muffin before he caught Horace’s indignant eye.

“Oi-! Don’t touch that with your filthy hands!”

“Sorry.” Steve said meekly, retracting his hand. He walked over to the sink and washed them several times, making sure to scrub off all the dirt that had accumulated on his fingers. A second later, he showed Horace his cleaned palms.

“They’re okay?” Horace gave the tiniest of nods in assent. Steve smiled and reached for a biscuit. Several seconds later Steve was on his second and then his third.

“Steve. Steve!”

“Hm? Whazzat?” Steve said through the muffin he was currently eating. Horace was looking at him sternly, his arms crossed.

“Good heavens Steve don’t eat them that fast! Save some for me!”

“Oh.” Steve said, his cheeks flushing. He paused and swallowed the rest of the muffin before continuing. “Sorry grandfather.”

Horace chuckled, “Looks like we’ll have to work on those manners boy. Always, always remember to clean your hands before eating anything. Now-” He paused, picking a muffin off the tray “How is the gardening coming?”

“It’s good.” Steve said “I got another garden bed done today- and the seeds planted. Oh and I hoed the rest of them.”

“Keep it up. I’m proud of you Steve.” His grandfather said pompously, taking a sip of his tea. “I’ve seen your work, the garden beds look magnificent- and that’s coming from an old farmer mind you.”

“Thanks.” Steve replied “I know they do.”

“You could get a job in town if you wanted too, with work like yours.” Horace pointed out. Steve sighed in annoyance at this,

“I don’t want to grandfather! There aren’t any good jobs in town.”

“Oh yes there are boy.” Horace rumbled, taking another indulgent sip of his tea. Steve leaned on the counter, he hated these conversations. He would get a job but nothing seemed to catch his interest for very long. “You had a good job as – what was it again? An apprentice to that blacksmith?” Steve especially remembered that job, it was exceedingly unpleasant. He still had burn marks from the difficult work.

“Yeah but…I don’t want to work in a smithy! It’s all dark in there and besides it’s too warm!” Steve protested “I want to be out in the air, doing things! Like here.”

“You can’t work on the farm forever Steven.” Horace said simply.

“Maybe I can.”

“You must try to find a job that suits you Steve. Tomorrow I will take you into the town, I’m sure we can find something for you to do. Ah! No buts...” Horace said raising his finger. Steve opened his mouth as if to reply but his grandfather continued with his speech “I will find you a job. Living on the farm will not provide a living for you I’m afraid. How do you think I’ve made it the last thirty five years? I used to work at the bakery!” Steve had heard the story many times before. Since he had turned sixteen his grandfather had been nagging him about getting a job and staking out on his own. This was largely due to the fact that in his time, Horace had served in at least forty six different jobs and apparently expected Steve to do the same.

“Yeah, but you love baking!” Steve countered.

“My dear boy, that’s not the point!”

“Well you clearly did well for yourself at the bakery. So why can’t I be a farmer and sell crops at the market? You did what you liked. Why can’t I?” Steve asked with a light smirk.

“Because it isn’t profitable boy.” Horace growled “There’s ten other farmers around Darton who sell the same thing and grow even more than all the food grown here combined!”

“So I should do something I hate because it’s profitable.”

“It doesn’t have to be something you hate Steven...” Horace replied.

“Alright, alright you’ve made your point.” Steve admitted, throwing his hands up in surrender. “I’ll go into town tomorrow.”

“Good. That’s the way my dear boy!” he said jovially, clearly pleased he had managed to persuade Steve to see his way about it. It didn’t really matter to Steve, after all it was about the fifteenth time they had this particular conversation in the past three weeks. Horace was on to something and Steve could sense it.

“What have you been up too grandfather? You were inside all day.”

“Oh a bit of cleaning…it’s gotten a bit dusty...However I have been working on this map, of the area. I’m quite proud of it if I do say so myself.” Horace explained.

“Oh?” Steve said interestedly. “Can I see it?”

“Oh- um well- it’s not really finished.” Horace flushed. “But oh – I suppose a look wouldn’t do any harm. Besides, you ought to see it if you go into a medicinal trade.”

Steve rolled his eyes at this medicine bored him. However that wasn’t his only problem with the subject. Steve had taken introductory lessons from a medicine man in town a year before. The results of this apprenticeship had been disastrous. Steve ended up brewing a potion, which made the test patient sick and in addition to that had caused him to break out in painful warts. After that experience discussion on whether or not he would make a good medicine man had largely ceased.

Steve got up and followed his grandfather back through the kitchen, through the living room and up the stairs to the bedrooms.

“I’ve been working on it for some time- had to go and explore the surrounding region for three weeks to map everything properly!” Horace said as they climbed the staircase to the upper level of the house.

“I bet its interesting grandfather.” Steve said, interjecting as much enthusiasm as he could into his words for good measure.

“Yes, yes it is.” Horace said absentmindedly as he strode down the dim hallway to his study. Steve followed him and stopped at his grandfather’s room. “It’s not in here?” he asked in puzzlement.

“No, no in there. In here Steve! On the desk- come along…”

“Oh, right!” Steve said, pulling his head out back into the hallway, narrowly bumping his head against the wall as he did so.

“This,” Horace started, gesturing grandly to an enormous unfurled parchment lying on the table in front of him “is the map of the surrounding regions and the herbs, gardens and all that rot around it. Come Steve! Here, get into the light...” His grandfather said, gesturing for him to come forward as he moved a lit torch closer to the map for Steve to see it better. Steve paced across the room towards the map and sat down at the desk and stared at it.

“What do you think of it?” Horace asked, looking at his map with exceeding pride.  Steve looked at the map for a long time. So this was what his grandfather had been doing, all those nights for the past few months when he shut himself in his study.

The map was enormous. It spanned the entire length of the desk and was longer than two fully grown men stacked atop one anther. In the center of the map was their farm, which was drawn in surprisingly accurate detail. A key was written in the corner, which mapped an inch to be about three miles. The map depicted the woodlands around their farm, to the south and west which Horace had labeled the ‘Baer Woods’. Steve had to admit the woods were aptly named. Baer meant dreadful, and the woodlands were dank during the daytime and pitch black at night, which made them quite a dreadful place indeed. Steve finally tore his gaze form the woods to the other parts of the map. Just a short distance south of their farm he saw a neatly drawn little town near a small black dot. It was Darton. And near it was the river that ran by the town, the Golgath River. To the far east of their farm there was a large black dot with a river encircling it.

“What’s this?” Steve asked, pointing at the dot.

“Oh? That, my boy would be… Slithar Aemon, the capital of Asnor.” Horace paused “Yes I know it’s not finished- like I said before the map is still a bit of a work in progress...”

“What’s this?” Steve asked pointing to another dot nearby. Horace peeked over his shoulder for a moment.

“Brookhaven. You don’t know where Brookhaven is Steven? Good gracious boy! We must brush up on your history sometime.”

“Oh well I didn’t really know the exact bearing…”

“Well when this is done you can have a more proper look over at it.”

“I think it’s amazing.” Steve said truthfully. Everything he recognized was accurately labeled, there was even a miniature drawing of their farm.

“Good. I want you to have it when you go to Arathor next week.”

“Arathor? What? Hang on- what are we talking about?” Steve asked, whirling about and nearly falling out of the chair at the same time. Horace sighed,

“Arathor Steven. See that dot over there?” Horace said, gesturing with a pudgy finger to a smaller black dot also east of their farm but closer to it than Slithar Aemon.

“I’m going…there?” Steve asked, still in some disbelief as to what his grandfather was talking about. Steve had been sent on numerous errands before but had rarely gone much farther than Darton. “It looks like it’s hundreds of kilometers from here!”

“No, about seventy actually.”

“Seventy!”

“You won’t be traveling alone.” Horace said.

“Oh that’s wonderful.” Steve said sarcastically “That’ll make a fat lot of difference when I get sent back here in a wooden box.”

“A wooden box? No Steve you aren’t going to die. Do you think I would send you on such a journey without adequate preparation and transport?” Horace said with visible irritation.

“Maybe.” Steve retorted crossing his arms. “Besides why am I going there? You haven’t explained that bit.”

“An apprenticeship Steven.” Steve rolled his eyes. Not again. “Don’t roll your eyes at me. I am your grandfather and I know what is best for you. Surely you want to know what you’re going to do before you immediately judge it?”

“Yeah I guess. Just…honestly… I wasn’t expecting that- at all.” Horace chuckled,

“I thought not. You will be an apprentice in a mine Steven.” Steve nearly choked up his muffins at this,

“A mine?! I’m going to be a miner?” he asked incredulously “I’ve never mined anything before!”

“Perhaps not but there’s always a first time for something.” Steve opened his mouth in protest but Horace raised a finger “Don’t worry- it is an iron mine and you will be supervised by a friend – an old chum of mine come to think of it. He’s got a mine in Arathor and needs a bit of help. I told him you’d be the perfect volunteer.”

At this revelation, Steve got up out of the chair and paced around the room. It was something he always did when struggling with a difficult decision or before doing something he disliked.

“I wish you’d asked me first…I’d have told your ‘friend’ to stuff it…”

“Steven! Our manners!” Horace said angrily, “Like I said, I am your grandfather and I have your best interests,” he paused to place a hand over his chest, “at heart.”

“Yeah okay- but I don’t have a pickaxe or anything. Grandfather, I don’t even know how to mine- well anything at all! You’re just going to send me out there like that? I’d be worse than useless in a mine!”

“Why do you think I would suggest becoming a mining apprentice without giving you the means to learn anything? Steve you’re assuming the worst far too often.” Horace said irately “You won’t be useless after I will teach you the basics here.”

“But we don’t have a mine, or a pickaxe.” Steve protested. “Unless we’re just going to blow something up and call it good...”

“As I recall… the blacksmith sells any mining equipment you need. And- there is a small strip mine nearby, we will practice there.” Horace interrupted.

“Aren’t mines dangerous though?”

“No – well yes some of them are but small mines are perfectly harmless.” His grandfather said. This information did not increase Steve’s confidence. He had heard stories about how dark mines were and how the ground could collapse beneath your feet or above your heard with a single misstep. Or how the men had fallen into lava traps and died horrible deaths.

 “Oh? So if mines are so safe then what of all those horror stories from Darton?”

“They weren’t ‘horror stories’ Steven.” Horace said calmly, “That mine has been closed for years, besides most are not like that.”

“How do you know?” Steve asked blithely. “Was mining one of your forty six jobs too?”

“Of course it was!” Horace said indignantly “Steven, do you really send you off to an iron mine without at least being able to teach you the know how first?”

“Yes.” Steve said flatly, remembering his apprenticeship with the blacksmith.

“Yes of course, that was one time Steven!” Steve wiped his face with his hands before looking back up at his now-exasperated grandfather. “I can teach you what you need to know. I know you’re afraid of the mines, and rightfully so! They can be frightening places at first, but as I said before this experience will only help you grow Steven.”

“Yeah… yeah I bet it will…” Steve muttered, “I just feel a little nervous about the whole mining thing.”

“So did I when I was learning how to do it. But…” Horace paused and gestured to a nearby torch “there’s nothing to fear as long as you bring the right equipment.” He gave Steve a brief smile. “Well you’d better be off to bed. It’s almost ten.”

“Just one more question. When are you going to start teaching me?”

“I suggest you get plenty of rest Steven. We start tomorrow.” Steve gaped at him for a moment before he slowly turned and exited the room.

“Right.” Was all Steve managed to get out before he walked down the hallway towards his bedroom.

“Good night Steve.” Horace called. Steve didn’t respond, his jaw muscles didn’t seem to be working at the moment. He was going into a mine, tomorrow. It was ironic; he had agreed to go to town when Horace asked him too, only to find that he would be going there anyway! Steve found it hard to believe that just a few hours earlier he had been in such a good mood, after all the garden had been coming along so well… But after realizing his grandfather’s plans for him Steve just wanted to hide in his bed as long as he could. He had nightmares of the mines, they were black holes to Steve. The mines, just like the woods seemed to speak of something terrible lying in the darkness inside them. Steve wanted to tell Horace his fears but he knew his grandfather wouldn’t listen to him. He remembered the last time he had similar fears, the first time he went to buy meat from the butcher when he was eleven…

“I won’t!” Steve yelled, his small feet racing down the stairs. His grandfather followed him down the staircase, panting.

“Steven!” he yelled. Steve panicked, his grandfather was angry. He looked around wildly for somewhere to hide and spotted the dining table which was currently covered by a tablecloth. Just as his grandfather reached the bottom step Steve dived under the table and waited. All he could hear was the sound of his grandfather’s panting.

“Steve!” he yelled again “Come back here! It’s okay!” Steve whimpered quietly, hugging his legs close to the rest of his body. He wouldn’t go to the Butcher’s…the Butcher was scary…he kept staring at him with those eyes…those horrible red eyes…

“Steve!”

I’m not going….I’m not going….I’m not going! Steve thought to himself, his eyes shut tight.

“STEVE!” His grandfather was really angry now. Steve sniffled and backed into the center of the table.

I’m sorry grandfather…I don’t want to go…I don’t want to go…I don’t want…

“Steve? Are you okay?” his grandfather’s voice asked. Suddenly his grandfather’s face appeared from under the tablecloth. Concern was etched onto his weathered face. Steve just stared at him, whimpering quietly. His grandfather sighed.

“Come here.” He said gently, reaching out a hand. Steve looked at his grandfather for a long time. 

“A-are you taking me there?”

“Yes Steve.”

“I don’t want to go.” Steve said averting his gaze.

“What’s wrong?”

“H-he has r-red eyes…it’s scary…” his grandfather chuckled at this.

“No he doesn’t Steve. It’s okay, but if it really bothers you we’ll go together eh? How does that sound?” Steve looked down for several moments before responding.

“T-the entire time?”

“Yes Steve, the entire time. Now do you want to come out?”

“Okay…” he said, unclutching his legs. But Steve didn’t move, he was afraid. What if his grandfather was wrong?

“You’re not coming out Steve.”

“I’m scared grandfather.” Steve said. Suddenly there was a loud thump and a moment later his grandfather had joined him under the table.

“You weren’t planning on staying under here the entire time were you?” he asked. “Not very roomy.” Steve looked at the floor again.

“I’ll be with you the entire time.” His grandfather said, with a light pat on Steve’s back.

“Promise?” Steve asked, looking up at his grandfather’s face. He cracked a small smile and ruffled Steve’s dark brown hair.

“I promise.” He said. And with that Steve slowly crawled out from under the table. His grandfather picked him up gently and held him in the crutch of his arm, patting him gently on the back. Steve smiled weakly; he didn’t feel so nervous anymore with his grandfather to protect him.

Steve had gone to the butcher’s that day, and he managed to get over his fear. Steve wasn’t about to hide like he had done when he was eleven. He was braver than that. Regardless, the prospect of delving into a pitch black mine wasn’t appealing to him whatsoever. Steve felt like he had spent virtually his entire life doing things he hated. He knew it was selfish of him to think he could farm his entire life, but the appeal of it never ceased in his mind. Some part of Steve was always telling him to ignore what his father said about getting a job and just do what he liked. More than once Steve had planned to run away from home, but this had always been sullied by his ignorance of where to go.

Steve sighed and walked over to the bed where he speedily undressed and collapsed on the mattress. He spreading out his arms to give the rest of his body ample breathing room and stared at the ceiling for several minutes, lost in thought. Steve was curious and apprehensive about what the next day brought for him. He had gone through this process multiple times before after the multiple apprentices Horace had arranged for him in the past. Steve had tried almost everything from a blacksmith’s apprentice to the assistant to the man who cleaned the town ditches. That job had been a punishment from his grandfather when he had misbehaved. It went so badly that he avoided the blacksmith whenever he visited Darton. It was also the last time Steve had ever misbehaved in his grandfather’s presence. 

However, there was use dwelling on it. He had to get some sleep and not stay up too late otherwise he’d just have more trouble focusing on his tasks tomorrow. Besides, he had to go mining and regardless of how safe his grandfather said mines were Steve planned to be very careful. He checked the clock by his bedside for a moment; the yellow sundial had mostly faded away to be replaced by a glowing white moon. That meant it was virtually dark outside. By Steve’s reckoning it was probably around ten.

Steve flopped over on the other side of the bed and looked at the wall for several minutes before flipping on his front and staring at the bed. He couldn’t get to sleep. Steve closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He was nervous, and the sooner he calmed down then he would finally get to sleep. Several minutes passed as Steve shifted from one position to another, trying to get comfortable. Nearly an hour passed before Steve’s breathing gradually began to slow and he gradually began to settle into a deep sleep. 

“Oi! Steve! Get up- get up.” A gruff voice called. Steve mumbled a reply. A rough hand grabbed his shoulder and shook him lightly. “Steve, come on get up. You’re not planning on sleeping all day are you?”

“I was thinking about giving it a try…” he muttered as he shifted upright.

“Good morning Steven.” The voice said.

“Whazzat..?” Steve replied, now sitting up and rubbing his eyes. Horace stood at his bedside, his arms crossed and an irritated expression on his face. His beard was frizzled, as it usually was when he was annoyed about something.

“Oh! Did I oversleep?” Steve asked, scrambling for his clock.

“No. Not quite. We’re going into town in fifteen minutes, get dressed and ready. I’ll be waiting by the door.” Horace said, as he turned and departed – shutting the door with a slam.

“Yes grandfather.” Steve said as he slowly ambled out of bed. The one thing he would not miss about home was getting up when someone else told him too.

 Steve shuffled through his chest and pulled out his best leather jerkin and pants and put them on. After several more minutes, he found his socks and put those on too. Then he walked over to his bedside and checked his clock. A golden, vibrant sun had largely replaced the white moon on the dial. Steve watched the dial for a moment, the sun was getting brighter and the moon was disappearing. Steve smiled and pocketed the watch. Next he grabbed a belt from his hangar and laced it around his waist. There were two open loops on the belt, where he usually stored extra tools he was carrying. One loop was used to carry a torch, especially at night- and the other was for small tools such as a spade. Having finished dressing, Steve put on his boots- making sure to tie the laces extra tight before he opened the door and ambled into the hallway.

“All ready to go Steven?” his grandfather called.

“Yes grandfather.” Steve replied, walking down the steps into the living room. His grandfather was sitting in a chair by the door; he was holding a tool in his hand. The tool had a short, stout wooden handle and a curved half-moon appendage attached on top, which appeared to be made out of stone.

“Whoa- is that a pickaxe?” Steve asked. He had seen a few carried by miners in Darton.

“Ah! Dressed and ready I see!” Horace said with a small smile. His grandfather hefted himself out of his chair and opened the door with his free hand.

“Grandfather- is that a pickaxe?”

“Yes it is. This is my old pick, I found it by the shed while I was digging around a bit this morning. I almost forgot I had it but it was there the whole time.” Horace explained, exiting the door with Steve in tow.

“Will I be using that?” Steve asked.

“This? Oh no- you will need proper tools. This is a relic.” Horace admitted with a small smile “You see the crack here?” he said gesturing with a pudgy finger to a long crack in the pick. “It doesn’t have a lot of uses left.”

“What’ll I be using then?” Horace appeared thoughtful for a moment

“Lots of questions, good. Keep asking boy. The more you ask the more you know. Questions, always ask plenty of questions!” Horace paused to open the gate, “An iron pick. Actually, while we’re walking I might as well tell you as much as I can. This,” he continued, hoisting up his pick to the light, “is a stone pickaxe as you have probably been able to deduce. They’re a bit heavy, but useful. There are five types of picks, just as there are five types of hoes, swords and shovels. The lowest grade is a wooden pick, the second grade is this one- a stone pick, the second best is an iron pick and the very best is a diamond pick. The fifth is the gold pickaxe, and they’re in their own category.”

“A diamond pickaxe?” Steve asked with wonderment. Diamonds were sharper than anything, he had heard they could cut through the toughest of substances with ease.

“Oh yes. Very valuable, and viciously difficult to craft. I’ve never met a man fortunate enough to own one, but I’d love to get my hands on one… oh yes that would make everything quite a bit easier…” Horace said dreamily before shaking his head and returning his attention to his pupil “Now, each pickaxe can mine certain ores. Wooden ones can only mine coal, stone and gravel- all very slowly. They’re complete rubbish in my opinion. Not even worth the effort to craft them. With a stone pick you can mine iron and all the ores wood picks can mine at a much speedier rate. Stone picks are useful, but a bit burdensome. Here,” Horace thrust the pick at him, “you should feel it for yourself. In the mine you and the pick are one. Thus, the first thing you want to know is to get a good feel for the tool you’re using.” Steve took the stone pick by the handle and almost at once his hands drooped. Steve struggled to hold the thing aloft for a few moments before he speedily handed it back to his grandfather.

“They are a bit heavy aren’t they?” Horace said with a smile.

“A ‘bit’? That thing weighed more than a load of bricks!” Steve exclaimed, wondering why anyone would want to craft a tool that hefty.

“Precisely, and that my boy is why most craftsmen tend to lean towards iron pickaxes, not as burdensome and quite a bit sturdier than stone picks. Aside from that, with an iron pick you can mine nearly anything- from diamonds to redstone, to lapis lazuli and at a speedy rate. Diamond picks can mine faster than any of them- as you have likely guessed- and can mine one thing that the others cannot, obsidian.”

“Obsidian?” Steve asked. He had heard of it, and even seen pictures of it before. It was a purple block but he had never been able to figure out what it was used for. “Why would you want to mine that?”

“Not for any practical purpose boy, I can tell you that.” Horace said darkly, “Obsidian’s a mysterious ore. A strange block. It’s used for odd things…creations that unleash a terrible power… You needn’t learn about that Steven. You probably will never come across the stuff; it only forms under extreme circumstances.”

“Okay…” Steve replied, scratching his head. Horace seemed very reluctant to tell him anything about the strange purple block. “Then why,”

“You don’t need to know anything else about it.” Horace interrupted, “Is that understood?”

“Yes grandfather.” Steve replied, unsatisfied with his grandfather’s explanation. He was now more curios than ever to find out about the mysterious purple block. Why had it unnerved his grandfather so much? What ‘terrible power’ could those blocks unleash? Steve looked at his grandfather; he was staring at Steve in an odd way. Did his grandfather know what he was thinking?

“I mean I won’t go looking for it if that’s what you mean.”

“Yes, yes good, you’d be ruddy fool to do it and you aren’t a fool are you Steven? Let’s see…now I didn’t tell you about gold pickaxes did I?” Steve shook his head, “Ah! Yes, gold pickaxes last about as long as wooden picks since gold is a soft metal and isn’t very durable. Gold picks can mine through anything except diamond and obsidian and exceptionally quickly, quicker than even a diamond pick. But they’re hardly worth the effort to craft. An enormous sum of gold is required for a solid gold pickaxe- as you can imagine! And for a pick that only lasts thirty three uses, well let’s just say they’re a waste of hard earned gold. Now after listening to me talking I suppose you’re a bit hungry. Come to think of it you haven’t had breakfast have you Steven?” Horace rumbled.

“Uh- no.” Steve said. He was already starting to feel a dull pang of hunger in his belly.

“Here.” Horace said, pausing in the middle of the road to reach into his knapsack. After a moment of shuffling he handed Steve a stale loaf of bread. “There’s no sense mining on an empty stomach.”

“Thanks.” Steve said, tearing the loaf in two. He raised a piece to his mouth and ate it quickly. “It’s good.”

“Excellent, excellent. Not feeling under the weather or anything Steven? All ready for this new excavation into mining?”

“I’m not too excited.” Steve replied, “I keep getting this image of a big, gaping, bottomless, dark hole in my mind. To be honest it frightens me a little.”

“Understandable.” Horace nodded. “Try not to worry Steven. In the mine we are going to practice in there is nothing that can harm you.” 

“Alright, but if I get injured I’m going to hold you to that.” Steve retorted. Horace chuckled.

“Well as long as you don’t act like a fool or journey off into some ravine when you’re not prepared you shouldn’t be harmed.”

“I wasn’t planning on being reckless if that’s what you mean.”

“I should hope not.” Horace replied. Suddenly their solace was broken by the sound of hooves on the path behind them.

“Horace!” a voice called. “Horace!” they turned around to see a large wooden cart pulled by two ponies come to a stop behind them. A thin man with a wisp of white hair dropped the reins and jumped to the ground. He was smiling.

“Nate? By Notch it’s been…nearly a year!” Horace exclaimed, breaking into a wide smile himself. Nate, Steve thought for a moment trying to register the name while the two friends chatted rapidly near the wagon.

“Fancy meeting you out on the road like this Horace…”

“It’s wonderful to see you too, as always Nate.”

“Of course, of course! But I didn’t expect to meet you by chance. In fact I was planning to drop by tomorrow, but since I met you today…”

Nate looked at Steve and smiled again.

“Steven! Long time no see! Do you remember me?”

“Uh…” Steve paused for a moment, before feigning a smile of his own “Yeah- I remember you. You used to give me rides in your cart right?”

“He remembers!” Nate laughed.

Nate was a tall man who had tanned skin and wore a weathered white shirt with brown pants that went to his ankles. His eyes were twinkling and his face never seemed to stop smiling. Nate was the type of man who looked funny in both manner and dress.

“Oh yes, that was quite a time. And how you’ve grown!” he said ruffling Steve’s thin hair. Steve flushed with embarrassment at this. Nate was also one of those old people who treated him like he was still twelve. “You look like a man now.”

“Yeah- I guess I do.” Steve replied. “What have you been up to for the past year?”

“Business Steven, plenty of business.” Nate said brusquely. “Has Horace been keeping you busy all this time?”

“Oh- yeah, definitely.” Steve replied. Nathan laughed,

“And it shows! You’ve filled out quite a bit…” Nate paused “I went by your house Horace, that’s a beautiful house- and an excellent garden to boot.”

“You can credit Steve for that.” Horace said proudly.

“Yeah I did it.” Steve said.

“It’s a beautiful piece of gardening.” Nate agreed.

“Yes well – I was taking him to the mine in town. We can’t stop for very long Nate.” Horace interjected.

“Ah- I understand.” Nate replied. “The local mine eh? That’s still a ways from here.”

“Maybe you can take us?” Steve suggested.

“Certainly.” Nate smiled “There’s plenty of room in my cart, so by all means, climb aboard!” he said, gesturing to the cart.

“Thanks!” Steve said gratefully as they climbed into the cart and took a seat on a bench. Steve hesitated from wrinkling his nose, the smell of cow dung in the cart was nearly overpowering.

“Now then- to the mine eh?” Nate said as he took his place on top and grabbed the reins. After a moment the cart jolted forwards, causing Steve and Horace to tumble off their seats onto the floor with a loud thump. “Alright back there?” Nate called.

“Yes! Yes we’re fine. Just had a bit of a fall.” Horace said, giving Nate a small smile.

“Sorry about that…” Nate said glancing back. “The ponies…they’re always a bit fast at the start really.”

“Is that so?” Steve asked with heavy sarcasm. Horace gave him a look before returning to his seat.

“So- Nate, where have you been all this time?” Horace asked.

“Out in the world Horace!” Nate called back, pausing again to crack the reins. The cart gave another jolt, Steve gripped his seat tightly. He had already bumped his head from the first time. “All over the world. Yes- I’ve been to Messalla, Teirm, even to Auckland. But I didn’t stay there long; it was a bit too cold for me.”

“You’ve been to Auckland? Good gracious Nate what in the name of Notch possessed you to go there?” Horace asked incredulously.

“Trade Horace, trade. You wouldn’t believe what the people there will pay for a decent pelt! I made a fortune there, very open market.”

“What’s Auckland?” Steve asked.

“Auckland is an enormous northern kingdom, far north of here. It’s sparsely inhabited and unbelievably cold!” Nathan explained. “I don’t know how they live up there. But I wasn’t surprised they bought my firs…gods the weather!”

“Is it like winter here?” Steve asked. Nate laughed

“Like here? Oh no, no, no Steve. Is it alright if I call you Steve or would you prefer Mr. Steve?”

“Steve’s fine.” He said. Horace and Nate laughed.

“Alright, Steve. Mr. Steve sounds a bit silly, I’ll grant you that.” Nate said. “So you’re going to be a miner eh?”

“Yes.” Steve said without enthusiasm.

“Yes he is!” Horace boomed, clapping Steve on the shoulder. “I’m sending him off for an apprenticeship in Arathor in a week from now.”

“Is that so?” Nate said with interest. “Well I wish you well Steve. That’s very brave of you, I couldn’t go down in the mines myself, and personally I prefer to stay aboveground.”

“Yes, but Steve’s made of sterner stuff.” Horace retorted.

“Yeah- yeah that’s me. You won’t find a tougher guy around.” Steve said with a weak smile. He felt sick to his stomach and Nate’s aversion to the mines hadn’t helped his nervousness one bit. Steve wished they could just drop the conversation and travel in peace.

“Is this is first apprenticeship Horace?” Nate asked.

“Oh no…he’s had several before this one…” Horace said absentmindedly as the two adults drifted off in conversation.

Steve leaned against the side of the cart, watching their progress. A warm breeze brushed lightly against his face as he listened to the adults chatter. But Steve wasn’t paying much attention to their conversation but instead to the surrounding woodlands. The sunlight penetrated the trees in several places, scattering sunlight across the ground. As the cart slowly moved by he saw a squirrel dash up a tree, at the same time several crows took flight, cawing loudly. Steve glanced upwards, the tops of the pine trees swayed in the wind. Was the wind blowing harder? Steve looked back at his grandfather; his beard was swaying in the wind. So it was blowing harder after all.

Steve looked back at the forest. His skin felt slightly cooler than before. The sun wasn’t shining anymore either. Steve stared at the ground, was it getting darker? Steve thought he saw a shadow spreading from the forest, slowly spreading across the sunlit patches of moss. It was getting closer and closer. A chill ran down his spine, but he didn’t know why. Steve shook his head, a low buzzing filled his ears. Etihw seye, Etihw seye, Etihw seye…a snakelike voice whispered Etihw seye, Etihw seye… ETIHW SEYE! The voice chanted over and over again. Suddenly a pair of glowing white eyes appeared in a hundred places out of the forest, they were staring at him. Etihw Seye! Etihw Seye! Steve felt nervous; he didn’t know what was going on. “Stop it, stop it, stop it!” Steve yelled. The buzzing slowly faded and Steve fell to the floor, the last thing he saw was a strange white cloud floating above him.

“Steve! Steve!” a familiar voice yelled. Steve opened his eyes weakly; he was sprawled on the floor of the cart. His chest hurt, his throat hurt, his whole body hurt. People were standing around him on a background of the purest white. Steve briefly wondered if he was in the Aether before his vision cleared up and the world came back into view.

“Steve! Are you okay?” the shape of Nate had appeared. Why was Nate there? Steve wondered. Had they stopped? The cart wasn’t moving anymore. Why had they stopped?

“I-I don’t know…did we stop? W-wh- what did we stop for?” 

“We stopped a while ago Steve. We’ve been waiting twenty minutes for you to wake up.”

“W-wake up? Twenty minutes?”

“You were yelling your head off boy.” Horace said, extending a burly hand, hoisting Steve upright.

“I-I was?” Steve asked shakily.

“Yes and it scared the life out me. What happened to you?” Horace asked, looking very concerned.

“I saw this darkness…it was really weird. This voice…it sounded like a snake- it kept repeating the same thing over and over, Etiwh Seye.” Horace looked at him quizzically.

“Etiwh Seye? I think you’d better sit down Steve.” he asked, guiding Steve over to his seat. Steve sat down without complaint. “You’re just a bit nervous that’s all.”

“Right I’m just a bit nervous…that was weird...” Steve murmured as he lay back on his seat.

“Worried are you?” Nate asked, giving Steve a worried look. “When I’m worried about something I whistle a bit, or maybe a bit of a drink.” Nate disappeared for a moment as Steve glanced around.

“No- Nate, oh really!” Horace sighed in anguish “He’s going to get some spirits…the drunken fool.”

“I was out for twenty minutes?” Steve asked incredulously.

“Yes you were and it scared the life out of me. What’s wrong with you boy? You’ve never been this frightened before. What’s this Etihw Seyah?”

“Etihw Seye.” Steve corrected him. “I don’t know where it came from. I was a little nervous last night…you know I’ve never been in the mines before and all that. No I was just sitting here, listening to you and Nate and looking at the forest…before I heard this buzzing in my ears. It was like I was in a trance or something, and these voices- they were snakelike- kept whispering in my ears ‘Etihw Seye, Etihw Seye’…Oh and yeah there were like a million white eyes staring at me from the trees. It was strange.” Horace looked at Steve for a moment before turning to the side and shaking his head.

“I don’t know where you come up with these stories boy but there’s no Etihw Seye that I know of.”

“Maybe Nate knows.” Steve suggested.

“Perhaps, why don’t you ask him when he gets back? But please don’t ask for any spirits. His brews are a bit…strong shall we say?”

“I won’t.” Steve said obediently.

“Good. The last thing I need on my hands is a stone drunk grandson.”

Steve could almost picture the image now. Him, lying on the porch of his grandfather’s house laughing for no reason and a bunch of bottles clenched in his hands. And then to his side would be Horace, his arms crossed, giving his disapproving stare. Steve smiled mischievously at the thought of it. He was almost tempted to go on a drunken binge just to see his grandfather’s indignant face.

“So you saw a bunch of glowing white eyes eh?” Horace grunted.

“Yep.” Steve replied. The sight had shaken his nerves. The white eyes were creepy enough but the strange glow that came from them, it seemed to hide something much more sinister.

“If you were anyone else I’d wonder if you’d had a bit too much of Hock’s liquor.” Horace grunted. Steve smiled at this. Hock owned a tavern in Darton; he was always friendly to Steve and ran the most profitable business around. The number of people looking to drown their sorrows in a pint of Darton ale was never a small number.

“We can go to the mine tomorrow Steve, if you’re not up to it.” Horace continued.

“How about never?”

“No.”

“Fine, I can still do it.” Steve conceded “It was just an illusion, I’m okay. I’m not going crazy like Aunt Gwen.”

“That nutty woman…well good, the last thing this family needs is another one of her. Horace briefly patted him on the back “Always see your goals through Steven. Always! Maintain your diligence; it’s the sign of a good worker- or perhaps in your case a good miner.”

“Well it wasn’t really my goal or anything…” Steve said.

“You know what I mean.” Horace responded, in a final way which indicated that the subject of whether or not Steve was going to be a mining apprentice was closed. “Just don’t go crazy on me or I’ll have your head examined.”

“I’ll try not to.” Steve smiled.

Suddenly Nate bounded up towards them with two bottles, one in each hand. Both of the bottles were dusty and bore the evidence of a very long travel. Steve could glimpse the label of one of the bottles; it read Artemis’ Breathtaking Brew: Guaranteed to induce lasting Happiness.

“Oh, Steve are you feeling better? I brought some…”

“Yeah I’m feeling better,” Steve started.

“I – really! No drinks today! Steve is supposed to be completely alert for his first foray into mining.”

“It can’t hurt him that much Horace. Besides it’ll do his nerves some good. Burn me, if I had a hallucination I’d need a little tonic for the nerves myself!”

“Tonic?! This is alcohol Nate! Give Steve some of this and he’ll be seeing things alright!” Horace roared, getting on his feet and angrily snatching a bottle away from Nate.

“Alright, alright. Can I have my bottle back now?” Horace sighed and reluctantly gave him his bottle back. “Alright there Steve?” Nate asked, holding both bottles close to his chest.

“Yep.” Steve replied. “Oh – Mr. Nate?”

“You can call me Nate.” Nate said, flashing a smile.

“Uh- right well do you know what Etihw Seye is?” Steve asked. Nate looked at him in confusion at this,

“Etihw Seye? No, I haven’t heard of any Etihw Seye… This new generation, the things they come up with eh Horace?” He said to Horace with a laugh.

“Yes Nate… the things they come up with.”

“Right well…still a little ways to go to Darton. I’d uh suggest you hold on to your seats because of the ponies, well you know.”

“We know!” Steve said, not forgetting the tumble he had taken earlier. Hardly any sooner had Steve said this before the wagon gave a sudden lurch and Steve and Horace tumbled onto the floor with a muffled crash.

“Sorry!”

“This is the last time…”Horace mumbled under his breath, as he slowly lifted his hefty form off the floorboards. Steve silently agreed with his grandfather. He did not fancy more rides in Nate’s cart either.

They traveled in silence for fifteen minutes or so at a slow pace. Steve resumed his place at the far right corner of the cart listening to his grandfather and Nate chat amiably about various subjects. Steve thought about the strange sight he had earlier. Etihw Seye… Steve wondered what it was. Steve couldn’t even figure out what the dream had meant and made a mental note to visit Madame Isae as soon as possible. Madame Isae was a wise-woman and a dream interpreter. Most towns had one of them according to Horace. Maybe, Steve reckoned, she could tell him what his sight had meant after all, he nor anyone else had any idea who Eithw Seye was. Steve paused in his thoughts for a moment; maybe someone did know who the white eyed thing was. Steve remembered seeing Nate’s eyes darken at the mention of Eithw Seye. Was it recognition? Maybe it was just a trick of the light. In either case, Steve had a feeling Nate was keeping something from him. The way his face darkened – it was unmistakable; Eithw Seye couldn’t mean anything good.

Suddenly the cart lurched to a stop, jolting Steve out of his thoughts. He heard a loud thud, followed by what sounded like a muffled curse. His grandfather had fallen onto the floorboards of the cart again. Steve wondered for a moment how he hadn’t fallen himself before he got out of his seat and helped his grandfather up.

“Whew…” Horace exhaled deeply. “That was exciting.”

“Alright there Horace?” Nate’s wheezy voice called.

“Yes, yes I’m fine Nate, sixty-eight years old but still as strong as an ox.” Horace said brusquely “In fact, I’m still strong enough to ride in this cart without doing myself an injury…” he continued under his breath. Steve smiled.

“What was that Horace?”

“Nothing! Thank you for the ride.” Horace responded with a strained smile.

“Good, good it was the least I could do for an old friend…Ah!” Nate smiled, appearing at the side of their cart. He paused for a moment and folded down a collapsible ladder to the earth and motioned them to it. “Come on, one at a time. Mind you- it’s a bit of a squeeze…”

Steve easily descended the ladder and made it onto the ground. Horace on the other hand took several minutes and after a great deal of huffing and puffing and coaxing from Nate he joined Steve beside the wagon.

“Ah, here we are.” Horace said with relief. Steve glanced around him. There were several houses, some with straw thatched or wooden roofs. Curving between the houses was a winding cobblestone road. Three children played with a ball in the street, bouncing it high up into the air and then catching it. On the porch of one of the nearby houses a woman in a dour brown dress was sweeping her porch. Behind her a man was tilling his small garden-box.

The town in front of them was Darton. It was a tiny town of about two hundred people, many of whom lived on farms or small houses. Darton was the kind of town that never seemed to change either for the positive or the negative. In Steve’s opinion it was both one of the most pleasant and the most boring places to live.

“Well, we’ll be off Nate.” Horace said, shaking Nate’s hand momentarily.

“Sure, good to see you Horace. I’ll be staying at the inn of the Lonely Dragon if you want to talk about anything.”

“Yes, I’ve wanted to talk to you about that cart of yours. I fell off three times during the trip-“ Horace started.

“I fell of twice.” Steve added.

“Oh? Sorry I got a bit preoccupied, I didn’t notice.” Nate said apologetically. “Perhaps we can discuss that another time Horace? I know you’re busy –“

“Yes, yes of course. I just wanted to let you know- it was a bit of a bumpy ride.” Horace said, scratching the back of his head momentarily “Farewell Nate. I’ll stop by later this evening.”

“Certainly Horace. And by all means, bring Steve with you.” Nate replied as he climbed back into his cart. “How does that sound Steve?”

“Yeah- great.” Steve said with a weak smile. Nate laughed and cracked his whip. The cart gave another great jolt and plodded ahead.

“Farewell Horace!” Nate called, waving briefly. Horace raised his hand in return and with that Nate and his cart disappeared along the cobblestone street ahead of them.

“Alright, so where’s the mine?” Steve asked. Horace studied his pickaxe for a moment before responding.

“I’ll show you.”

And so the two walked for several minutes, largely in silence broken on occasion by a greeting or a brief chat with someone Horace knew. Steve hoped that he might see Nick, a woodcutter for the local mill and his friend since childhood. He glanced towards the nearby woods occasionally as if he was expecting to see his friend there but no one came.

Steve had no idea where they were going. He had been around most of Darton in his visits there with his grandfather but the path they were taking led outside the town. Steve quickened his pace for a moment to keep up with his grandfather who was walking quickly despite his burdensome pickaxe.

“Slow down!” Steve panted, as he narrowly avoided tripping on a nearby log.

“Slow down? Am I going too fast for you?” Horace called back with obvious amusement.

“Yes!”

“Then walk faster my dear boy!” Horace laughed. Steve cursed, although quietly so Horace wouldn’t hear him and sped up his pace. After several more minutes Horace stopped and looked down. Steve hadn’t seen him and nearly crashed into the old man before he looked up, tripped and fell over into space. There was muted crunch as Steve crashed into the soft turf of what could only have been dirt.

“Well it looks like you’ve found the mine.” Horace observed dryly. A mine? What mine? Steve whirled around and looked up. His grandfather was standing a few feet above him, an unimpressed look on his face. Steve was in a pit.

“Gah!” Steve yelled, as he slowly righted himself and took a moment to brush the light brown dirt off his shirt, leaving a brownish stain on it. “Yeah I did.”

“You had what some would call a bit of a crash landing.” Horace chortled softly. He had suddenly appeared beside Steve in the mine. “No matter, the important thing is you’re not harmed.”

“Um, I thought I was supposed to get a pick too.” Steve asked.

“Yes… well before we spend our money you should at least know how to use one.”

“It’s your money.” Steve retorted.

“Precisely, and I’m not about to buy a pickaxe for someone who doesn’t know how to mine a single block yet so pay attention.” Horace said irritably. “Now-“ he continued hoisting the stone pick “watch.”

Steve stepped back as Horace raised the pick over his head. He fully expected the stone to smash into hundreds of bits cut him in a million different places if he was too close. But it didn’t happen.

Horace brought the pick down, and all Steve heard was a small thump. Steve peered closer and saw there was a small crack in the stone where Horace had smashed it. Steve wasn’t sure what surprised him more, the fact that there wasn’t a single chink of stone anywhere or the fact that the stone pick hadn’t broken. After a brief pause Horace raised the pick again and smashed it into the stone, and did so three more times in quicker succession before he stopped. He took a breath for a moment and motioned Steve forward.

“Your turn Steven.” Horace said, handing him the pick. The block Horace had been mining had been smashed into several small chunks.

“Uh- right.” Steve replied, taking the heavy pick.

“Four hits Steven, that’s all it takes with regular stone. Five for coal, and seven for iron.” Horace said, standing to his side. Steve thought for a moment and chose his spot, on the block next to the one Horace had mined.

“Alright…I got this…” he murmured, raising the pick and smashing it into the stone. A dull pain shot up his arm, and he stumbled dropping the pick. “Aaah!” he cried, grasping his arm. His grandfather sighed, moved towards him and picked up the fallen pickaxe.

“Well that wasn’t that bad for a first try.”

“I’m sorry.” Steve muttered. He was embarrassed by his poor performance.

“Don’t be. I hit myself in the foot in my first foray into mining- couldn’t walk for a week.”

“Yeah well I might have pulled something.” Steve said feeling his arm. There was a slight pain, which continued from his wrist all the way up to his shoulder.

“Try it again.” Horace replied. Steve opened his mouth as if to say something but decided against it. He took his grandfather’s pick and raised it over his head again. But before Steve could bring the pick down he felt his grandfather’s hand gently grasp his arm.

“You’ll do yourself an injury like that boy.” He growled softly. “Here.”  Horace guided Steve’s arms to his side. “Swing it like that. Don’t swing it over your head or you stretch your arms too much.”

“Oh okay.” Steve nodded.

“Got it?”

“Yeah, thanks.” Steve replied. He took his stance again; raised the pick to his side and slammed it down into the stone. This time Steve felt almost nothing except for a small jolt. He looked at the stone again; the crack in it had gotten larger.

“Did it hurt that time?” Horace asked.

“No! No- I didn’t feel a thing.” Steve smiled as he swung the pick again onto the ground, and again in an increasingly fluid motion. He did not feel any more pain save for a gentle bump every time he swung the pick. Suddenly, almost silently, the stone broke in two leaving four even pieces where the block was. Steve paused and looked at his handiwork and then at the stone pick. There was a small crack in it but to Steve’s wonder the pick had stayed in one piece.

“Very good Steven, very good.” He heard his grandfather say. “Got the motion eh? That’s excellent, perfect. Let’s see you mine a few more!”

“Do you know how many uses this has left?” Steve asked, looking slightly worriedly at the crack in the pickaxe. The last thing Steve wanted to do was to break his grandfather’s pickaxe on his first day using it!

“Oh that old thing should be able to mine about fifteen more blocks or so. How many were you planning to do?”

“Not that many.” Steve replied. Horace chuckled, “Then by all means mine away Steven.”

Steve smiled and took his stance at the block next to the two he and his grandfather had just mined. Taking care to lift his pick to the side he slammed it down on the stone in four quick motions, hitting the same place on the stone every time. A few minutes later Steve had broken through five blocks with little trouble and no pain. Evenly split stone shards lay in the spots where he had mined them.

“Done!” Steve called. He looked around for his grandfather who was currently sitting on a nearby boulder, eating a sandwich.

“Hm?” his grandfather responded. “Ah! One-mumnt Stve…” Horace fought out the words. Steve smiled proudly as his grandfather walked over and briefly passed over his mining.

“Good, very good! I think you’ve almost earned that pickaxe Steve.” Horace said proudly. “The iron one of course. Now, first, show me again how to swing a pick…”


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