A couple of half-tracks rumbled down the unpaved road, along with a scenic route of the ocean, ferrying miners to their destination at the Sea Cliff mining facility. Irisval Von Aston sat nervously on the padded seat, staring wide-eyed at the moving scenery flying past her window.

When she woke up from the healer tent, she found herself questioned by a strange short-eared male, wearing some kind of uniform, after which the healer came in and told her that she collapsed due to magic exhaustion and minor blood loss.

The next few days, the same strange male calling himself as Tavor, made her answer strange questions and look at weird pictures, and she later found out that a truth stone was used on her while she questioned the strange hooman questions.

She told them everything she knows, and what they wanted to know. Like how her Aston family was from a conquered nation and her family held the bloodline of Elementalist which when the holder of the Aston bloodline awakens, has the power to control an element type. The Empire was greatly interested in using their bloodline to wage war against the whole world.

In exchange for the lives of her family, she forced herself to fight the Empire wars. At the start she resisted, but when the fingers of her younger siblings were given to her for each day of her refusal, she caved in. Now she hopes that the Empire thinks she had died here at the edge of civilization.

Her belief in these hoomans was raising with each day as she saw the way things happen and magical things work here. She firmly believes that if one day her family could be saved, it will be with the help of the hoomans.

Now she sat in an unadorned form-fitting and unfamiliar uniform in light grey tones and a scandalous skirt that ended at her knees, showing off her calves. She looked at the piece of paper in her hand, which had perfectly printed letters in Common and Eng-ish, telling her to appear at the mining station with directions and information.

She folded the precious piece of paper carefully and slipped it into her only bag issued by the 'government' with a few possessions. Finally after over an hour of traveling, both the vehicles pulled up before a heavily fortified compound. The metal grill gates rolled open, as guards in black armor waved the vehicles in, before shutting the gates.

Irisval followed the group of burly and friendly miners down the vehicle and did a slow turn as she took in the view. Squat buildings laid tidily on the side, surrounded by a grey wall with towers at fixed intervals. Several arcane machines sat under a shed and what looks like a pair of metal strips on the ground exited from a huge barn-like building with several tall round chimneys that gave off clouds of smoke.

Her eyes followed the thin metal strips, as they lead into the side of the sea cliffs, and into a gaping hole in the cliffs. The compound walls ended next to the cliffs with those metal wires she remembered seeing during the battle at the Pass. Four large strange looking windmills spun rapidly against the sea breeze and she wondered why they need mills here.

"Miss Aston?" Somebody called out to her as she looked around the compound. She turned and saw a mid-aged suntanned male in a red jacket waving at her, "I am Petty Officer Letts, in charge of construction and mining." He put out his hand for her to shake.

"Please call me Irisval," She gripped his hand in greeting, learning that is a form of greeting from observing the hoomans in the past week. "I was told come here to help with some construction and mining?"

"Yes, yes," Letts smiled, warming up to the pretty lass. "I was told to welcome you here, come I'll show you to your room first then a quick tour of the facilities."

The room assigned to her was overlooking the seaside, large enough for a single bed, a desk and chair at the side, and cupboard. A simple bathroom was also included, she had learned how to use the bath facilities while she was under the healer's care.

Letts waited patiently the room while she looked over her new lodgings, and next showed her the communal canteen, kitchens and the recreational room. Following that, he brought her to the offices, saying that she will be stationed at the office next to his during office hours, unless she was on site. Work hours are starts from nine in the morning and end at seven in the evening, while a mid-day break for an hour and a half for lunch.

Next, Letts led her to a place which he called the 'Locker room', where he said equipment for going into the mines are stored. He looked at her uniform and said, "Hmm, we need to get you some work clothes, don't wanna dirty your uniform if you wear that into the mines."

She was given a pair of slightly oversized overalls and work boots which she took a few minutes figuring out how to wear it in the changing room. After which Letts assigned her a locker and told her to place her uniform and other things that she didn't want to bring into the mines.

She was also given a safety helmet with a magical device that can light up an area, a handheld magical communication tool, and a face mask. These hoomans must be very rich, she thought as she carefully clipped the communication tool onto her belt, mimicking Letts.

Letts taught her how to operate the communication tool and lamp on her helmet. After certain she is proficient enough, he led her out from the building and towards the barn-like structure.

Inside, dozens of workers were pouring cartloads of soil into large vats, the smell of shit and urine overpowering in the workspace. Remembering her face mask, she put it on and breath deeply, then noticed that Letts was already wearing his mask and grinning at her through it.

"Come, this is where we process the soil they dig out for nitrates." Letts explained, "We dig the soil out and transport it down with carts on those rails tracks than we pour them into those vats and pour water in."

"We leave them for several days for the nitrates to get into the water, before pouring that water out and boiling them," He points to a few of the workers dressed in white frocks and masks, stirring the vats with sticks. "We add in wood ash to the mixture and boil off the water. The remaining mixture will then be sent off to the gunpowder mills to be further processed."

"I see," Irisval replied, only understanding half of what Letts said.

"Haha, don't worry about all the technical stuff yet," Letts good naturally laughed, "You will learn it all in time!"

Next, Letts led her out towards the mining cave, where several carts rumbled down the tracks towards the processing plant. "Remember to not walk within the yellow line," Letts pointed to the ground were lines painted in yellow next to the tracks. "Keep out of the yellow line and walk along the designated path, because those carts may just come out of the caves at any time." Just as he finished saying that, a cart came barreling out, filled to the brim with soil and rolled down towards the plant.

As they entered the mines, Irisval immediately found that the caves were brightly lit, which is different from what she knew of, as she had some experience helping out in mining and tunneling with her magic when she was in the Empire service.

Dozens of lamps giving off white light hang from the ceiling with cables and wires secured to the walls of the cave. Something like music was echoing down the tunnels and voices of the workers could be heard singing and laughing as they worked. "Now this way, walk your step!"

They headed downward, for almost 30 minutes as Letts pointed out details and gave explanations along the way before coming to a dead end. There was a fissure in the walls and Letts kneeled down and shone his handheld light into the crack, letting Irisval see what was inside.

"Look, can you see that?" Letts's face looked eerie as the light cast shadows on his features.

Irisval lowered her self down and peer into the crack, and saw a passageway inside, the walls of the passage glowed red as fist-sized crystals reflected the light from Letts's magical torch. "Oh my, are those Dragonite crystals?"

"Ah huh, they sure are beautiful," Letts replied, "Now here's where we need your help. You know earth magic yes? We need you to help expand the hole here for us to mine the crystals."

Irisval stood up and patted her hands and knees, and turned on her headlamp, walking in a circle around the area as she looked around the cave. "Hmm, it shouldn't be a problem."

"You know we can't use tools to widen the passageway, as they might explode from a spark," Letts asked, "So we need you to do this nice and safe."

"I understand," Irisval said, "I do it now?"

"Now?" Letts looked startled, "Don't you need to prepare or something?"

Irisval laughed, her laughter echoing down the tunnel, "No no, it's very simple, you just want to widen the hole large enough for people to enter and also those carts of yours, yes?"

"If possible of course!" Letts nodded excitedly, "You can do that?"

"It's easy," Irisval smiled and placed her palm against the rock wall, and started to chant softly. A brownish hued magic circle appeared over her palm and the flickered as the spell completes.

The wall slowly crumbled, like falling ashes, onto the floor and an opening large enough for a jeep to pass through appeared. Soft red glow shone through the small mound of crumbled rock dust. Irisval gently swept away the dust and picked up a Dragonite crystal the size of an egg and held it out towards Letts who looked with an open mouth expression of surprise.

She giggled, "You hoomans had never see magic before?" She teased. "I weathered the rock into dust so there will not be any damages to the surrounding area."

Speechless, Letts shooked his head, "Seriously, not till we came to this planet. You really broke down the rocks to soil?" He blurted out.

Irisval raised her eyebrows, and kept the tiny nugget of information in her mind, "Yes, so is this good enough?" she asked.

"Oh yes! YES!" Letts yelled, "Oh my god! You are wonderful!" He grabbed Irisval and hugged her, spinning her around in joy. "This is so amazing! Thank you!"

Irisval was very surprised by the manhandling but she felt warm inside, it was the first time since she sided with the Empire that someone praised and thanked her sincerely. She quickly looked away, hiding her tears forming in her eyes and quickly said, "Let's see what is inside?"

"Oh yes, wait, I need to report this first!" Letts quickly pulled out his walkie and started to communicate with the mining control team.

Irisval stepped over the pile of rock dust and looked around with the help of her headlamp. The passageway stretched out far into the distance with several other tunnels branching away. She found fossilized bones edged with crystals, jagging out from the rock surfaces and even the ground she walked on was covered with Dragonite crystals.

The passageway ended at a huge cavern where the sight shocked her, as hundreds and hundreds of bones of dragons laid all over the cavern floor, her lamp lighting up the Dragonite crystals formed over the bones and surfaces of the cavern, casting an eerie red hue to the entire area.

But what shocked her the most was not the Dragonite crystals or the bones of the dragons, it was a door. A plain simple looking door set at the end of the cavern, her headlamp shone directly on it.

"Oh my, a dungeon!"

A note from neo Koh

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