I’m not sure how long I’d been in the mine but the faint light on the horizon indicated that dawn approached. I asked the horse to stop half a street from the mine entrance, and it did. I got off to tighten the saddle’s cinch, place my satchel and PPE in the saddle bag, and let the scared beast – almost as scared as I – rest.
A deafening boom and a flare of light came from the mine’s opening. The horse and I jumped as one. I hoped all the animals managed to escape – and people, I amended, as a stream of them started to come toward me, fleeing the mine.
I heard a guard whistle and before I could mount and escape, a group of guardsmen surrounded me. I held up my hands in surrender, but they weren’t interested. They questioned some of the fleeing miners and the guard leader directed one guardsman to fetch more help.
I got on my horse and followed him, figuring that people would assume I helped – and I could slip off to the gate, which might not be guarded. He didn’t get that far. He stopped abruptly at the sight of a group of sentinels riding our way – lead by Sentinel Vytar. I turned my horse but he spotted me and called out. I controlled my urge to run only after realizing my fire elemental had gone invisible.
“My lord,” Sentinel Vytar said as he approached. “I’ve been looking for you.” He looked me up and down, noting my dusty appearance.
“Are you well? Were you in the mine?”
To say yes implied some sort of responsibility, to say no would be lying. My delay in responding caused the sentinel’s eyes to narrow.
“Brethren, help the guard. I’ll return as quickly as possible.” The other sentinels nodded and rode off toward the mine. More than one gave me speculating looks.
“Come, I’ll get you situated.” He wheeled his horcine, which now that I could see, also had a solid red crystal in its body instead of the bright multicolored spark that inhabited Vytar’s, and lead me toward the center of town to a fortified tower.
“This is the Trommel Sentinel Station house and communications center,” he said as he dismounted.
I followed but did not release my horse to the attendant.
“What is it?”
“Do you know what you ride?” I asked the sentinel. He made a gesture to the horcine and raised an eyebrow in question.
“It’s filthy. I’m not having my horse taken by those butchers.”
“Nothing will happen to your horse, I promise.” He moved as though to put an arm around my shoulders but my invisible fire elemental friend shot sparks and he flinched. He gestured for me to proceed him into the building.
Inside, he lead me to a room with large table and a wooden desk with gems embedded in the top and a free-standing picture frame. He had me sit and poured me a mug of water. A woman rushed in, saying “Captain – what happened?”
“Ah, Elenosa, I’m glad you’re here. Something exploded at the mine and I have to go back.”
“Are there casualties?” The answer to that question I wanted to know also.
“I’m not sure. Could you sit with this man and take his statement?” She looked between my dirty self and the sentinel and then nodded.
“Good.” Captain? Vytar turned to me. “Elenosa will take good care of you. I’ll see you when I return.” He gestured for the woman to follow him as he left – no doubt giving her instructions.
Was Vytar friend or foe? Was I under arrest? I drank my water and took comfort in the fact that my fire elemental friend had been saved.