by Lindsay Buroker
Copyright 2013 Lindsay Buroker
(Swords & Salt, Tale 1)
The bamboo cage rattled as it descended into the depths of the earth, the cool stale air laced with the scent of old sweat. Pressed into the corner by far too many bodies for such a small space, Yanko struggled to keep his breathing slow and even, to loosen the tightness clutching his chest.
It’s a lift going into a mine, not a cage being hurled down a dragon’s throat. People do this every day. Perfectly normal people who suffer no ill effects because they toil in the darkness from dawn to dusk, never spending time under the sun.
The man next to Yanko inhaled deeply and coughed, a moist throaty cough. In the darkness, he didn’t see the phlegmy spittle fly from the miner’s mouth, but a gooey gob spattered against his cheek.
All right, maybe not no ill effects…
This wasn’t the first miner who had coughed or sneezed on Yanko that morning. Of course, that might have more to do with being related to the controller than any true medical issues. His uncle must have mentioned his impending arrival, for several of the bleary-eyed men, reporting for work before dawn, had given him dark looks. Someone had thrust a pickaxe against his chest hard enough that it might have broken ribs if Yanko hadn’t anticipated the blow and tensed his muscles. Though he had loathed the hours of combat training he had endured in the last few years, they had inculcated useful instincts.