Death from Below
(Swords & Salt, Tale 3)
by Lindsay Buroker
Copyright 2013 Lindsay Buroker
Yanko dumped his five or six thousandth shovel of salt into the cart, hoping the dull ache in his back signified that he neared the end of his shift. If not, his work here might be aging him more than “hardening” him, the term his father had used when sending him to the mines to prepare for his warrior-mage tests. He imagined showing up before the pedagogues on the committee hunchbacked and with gray threading his black hair.
“You’re muttering,” the woman on the other side of the cart said as she dumped a shovelful of her own. Clad in a fur vest that left her muscular arms bare, Lakeo had doubtlessly never had a sore back or any other type of frailty in her life. Her frizzy hair nearly brushed the grayish-white tunnel ceiling when she stood straight, which wasn’t often. She kept shoveling, toiling away without breaks. “It’s not about that girl again, is it?”
“No.” Aware of the miners working farther down the tunnel, cracking their pickaxes into the marble-hard walls of salt, Yanko did not stop shoveling to talk. “Though she’s older than you, so it’d be appropriate to call her a woman, don’t you think?”
“How do you know?”