Thengill remembered the words of his father.
“Mountains do not move. They do not breathe the air, or ask for food. As guardians of watchful eye, all things pass under them, fortuitous and calamitous. It is a good thing to be a mountain, for they are never alone and their feet spread out over all creation, giving life to all. Nothing can hurt a Mountain, whose hides are rich in iron. For ages past and ages on no ill will come to them”
Face covered in coal and ferrite, Thengill raised his arm, giving the signal. Light flared in the distance, then thunder. Thengill held his ears, buckling under the blast, turning his face away from the snowy peaks in the distance and into his chest. Then the ringing began, a cacophony warped, oscillating between his ears.
When Thengill could raise his head again, he saw the mountain falling. Like a rift, cutting through a great valley, what once stood before him some kilometers away had vanished into a scalding rift. In his hands he expanded a chambered monocular and raised it to his eye. He squinted, then smiled.
“Well boys,” he said over the rabble behind him. He turned around and looked into the eyes of the miner assembly before him. “Grab your shovels, lifters, and picks! We found it.”
The mob cried out in victory before him and charged down the narrow road along the fjord. A sea of men and women charged over the blast shield sectioning off the ruined highway. Many took their gear, strapped to them in packs slung over their shoulders. It would be a long trek. Now, he could think. Thengill looked back to his office, perched on the hill.
“I’m sorry,” he said, wiping the sweat from his forehead.
Thengill’s mobile lab stunk of sulfur. Bubbling cauldrons of acid and bases were sequestered off within a fume hood. The paint was curled away, disturbed by corrosion and chemical scarring. A neatly organized desk was situated in the middle of the room, covered with blueprints and quotes. A lump of gold ore, the size of his head, lay elevated on a construct display pad, floating placidly in the soft pink light that emanated from the disk. It was his payment for desecrating a mountain.
He plopped down in his desk like a heap of linens. Paralyzed with fatigue, Thengill searched with his eyes around the room trying his best not to move his head.
Thengill’s hand stirred, inching towards a red intercom switch on his office chair. Pressing it, a chime rung out behind his ears from the embedded speakers.
A pause stilled the room, interrupted intermittently by crackling squawks.
“Beda?” a disembodied voice echoed in his head. “He left early this morning.”
“Oh,” Thengill replied, dejected. “His patron gone too?”
Thengill’s finger stayed on the switch, a moment. He released it when he heard no reply. Thengill rose up in a huff, pounding his hands on the desk.
“Fine!” he cried out in frustration. “More Iridium for me! Prick...” Thengill shook his head, disappointed. “I’m fine. It was worth it. I’m rich…”
Before him, a pink window lifted from the surface of his desk, hardened light twinkling like a constellation. It’s borders flashed magenta, interlaced with red stripes.
“Incoming transmission,” read the alert.
Thengill walked around his desk towards the fume hood. The beakers percolated softly, casting off vaporous fumes that swirled upwards like petals caught in an updraft. Thengill programmed the console on the fume hood and raised the heat threshold. The alert behind him grew lounder.
“Yeah? Whaddya want?” Thengill answered, turning back to his desk. A crudely constructed mesh stared back at him, a woman made of polygons and tubes.
“Beda’s gone,” she said.
“I heard,” Thengill replied, folding his arms.
“And he paid?”
Thengill walked through the projection and stood before the gold piece. He reached out and picked up the soft stone. It was heavy in his hand, at least 2 kilograms. His thumb pressed against a patch of dirt, and watched it crumble away. Underneath was a saphire fused into the side of the ore.
“Did he pay?” the voice entreated.
“Yeah,” Thengill replied, raising his voice, “paid like a champ. Why do you want to know?"
“Just curious,” the woman said, reemerging from the wall. Her form flickered and sputtered, a choking AI.
“No you're not Kay,” said Thengill. His eyes fixed to the ore in his hand, he pulled out his chair and took a seat.
“What do you- ”
“Beda is one of those cloistered bastards,” Thengill began, setting down the ore on the corner of his desk. “He’s a ghost from the old world, from the Order of Sacred Refutation. They like to make you betray what you love to teach a lesson about yourself. I guess I learned I was greedy.” Thengill kicked his feet up, and reclined in his chair. Turning his body, Thengill lifted one leg and kicked the ore onto the ground in frustration.
“Yeah,” he said morosely, “I betrayed by father’s legacy for gold. ‘Been worse things I’ve done. So why do I feel so rotten?”
Thengill heaved a hard sigh, shaking his head.
“Wherever he is… I hope he dies. Yeah…”