top of page
Lodestone book 1 cover

Excerpt from Lodestone: Book 1

In the gloom of the cavern, far below where sunlight ever shone, a lone figure hopped from a boulder to a crag, ducked around a rocky outcrop and strode across a crevice.

In one hand the figure held a metal-tipped stave which it used as a crutch as well as to tap and prod a way through the darkness.

Over the other shoulder, the figure hauled a sack of rocks, which swayed about and clattered with each movement. The figure grumbled a worker’s shanty under its breath as it went.

‘I am a jovial mining lad, and blithe as blithe can be,
For let the times be good or bad they're all the same to me’

The song’s tones were not delivered with any sense of blitheness.

The sack of rocks swung about, knocked a stalagmite and scuffed the figure’s leg. It drew muffled cursing.  There was then a splash as the figure stepped in a puddle, which drew more cursing still.

Bracing itself, the figure scrambled up to the top of a loose pile of scree and looked about from the peak. From there, the cavern opened out to view. It was deep and wide enough to fit a cathedral inside. Pillars of stalagmites and stalactites that were majestic in their sheer size, reached from the cavern floor up into the impenetrable dark way above.

Water trickled down the cavern walls, gushed in underground streams and fell in a pattering, soft rain from high above. It ran around blooming patches of lichen, moss and fungus and the wiry, sprouting knots of plant life that made their home here, deep underground.

The cavern was illuminated by an ethereal band of light. It hung in the air and was a glacial blue, or white at its brightest parts. The band of light gave a gentle pulse as star-like particles flowed along it, as though they were borne along a current. It was wide as the breadth of a river and reached off into the cavern, both far and yonder; further than the eye could see.

The figure, illuminated by this spectral light, could now be seen to wear crude, ill-shaped plates of iron armour, over a ragged and altogether filthy layer of sacking cloth that covered all, from head to grime-blackened foot.

The figure walked to a wooden crane that reached up into the stream of light, then tied its sack on to a pulley-rope and began to haul it up.

The muttered lyrics of the song were continued as the figure toiled:

'Tis little of the world I know and care less for its ways,
For where the dog star never glows, I wear away my…’

The figure was evidently a male, judging by the gruff and toneless singing voice. He struggled and heaved until the sack was brought to rest in the ghostly, shimmering light before he tied off the rope to hold it in place.

He patted down his hands and looked up at the crane, the light and the gloom far above that hid the cavern ceiling. From inside the helmet could be heard a sigh. Perhaps his thoughts were with memories of the world above, or the sky with all its stars.

The figure gathered up its stave and made to leave. A distant sound echoed from high above on the cavern ceiling. A set of trap doors gave a metallic clash as they swung open, which was followed by the rattle of chains. The noise reverberated on the hard stone all around.

‘Is it that time again already?’ The figure’s voice was a hoarse whisper from inside his roughly-forged helmet.

Through a slit in the visor, all that could be seen of the face within was a damp gleam of eyes. A speck of orange light appeared far above and a brightly-lit personnel lift descended like a falling star in the blackness.

The figure slid down the scree pile and hastened to where the lift made its descent.

Leaning on the stave like a third leg, the figure lurched and hopped with motions that were awkward and uneven. The route he took led back to a crumbled, ivy-choked ruin of a chapel. Once inside, he tipped out a bubbling pot of turnip stew over the hearth fire that heated it, which snuffed out the coals.

Instalments of this story shall appear on Royalroad.com at

https://www.royalroad.com/profile/401189/fictions

bottom of page