Spy Glass Page 94

When I reached the lower level, I encountered two men. They argued, but ceased their discussion as soon as I appeared. They both wore yellow helmets and orange coveralls. No dirt stained the one on the left, but mud spattered the other man’s.

“I’m Opal.”

Mud-spattered man said, “He’ll be out soon.” They entered the mines.

With nothing else to do, I explored the area, searching for another entrance. Eventually, a lanky man slipped out from behind the mirror. His black hair hung in greasy clumps to his shoulders and his skin looked as if it hadn’t seen the sun in years. He wore oversize dark glasses.

“I’m Galen,” he said. Instead of shaking my outstretched hand, he handed me a clean pair of orange coveralls and pointed to a privacy screen. “Regulations. Leave your backpack on the shelf. No one will bother it.”

I changed. The durable material chafed against my skin, but the fabric blocked the chilly air. When I stepped out, he gave me a helmet for safety.

“Shall we?” He swept his arm out toward the large tunnel.

I glanced around. The other men were gone. “I thought you’d—”

“You’re our special guest.” He grinned. Black grit discolored his teeth. “I would be remiss in my duties if I assigned just anyone to show you around. Besides, you want to visit a highly restricted area.”

His bulky glasses blocked his expression, but there was something…off about him. Creepy seemed mild. Why the dark lenses? Perhaps this tour wasn’t a good idea, but it was too late to change my mind. I followed Galen into the mines.

At first the walls of the tunnel rose high above my head. Lanterns hung every couple of feet and a nice breeze fanned my face. The damp smell of earth alternated with the sharp tang of rock.

As we traveled, I noticed scratches and deep grooves marred the walls. The passageway shrank and the light dimmed. When the ground angled down, I imagined the dark corridor before us as the gullet of a large beast, swallowing us.

My guide grabbed one of the lanterns to carry with us. He paused every so often and pointed out an interesting rock formation or geological feature.

If it wasn’t for the current of air, I might have panicked. The tunnel zigzagged and we passed so many other branches and caverns that I was soon lost. The distant sound of machinery echoed off the hard walls. I spotted a few miners, but soon we were alone with the darkness being held back by that one lantern.

I felt the pressure of the mountain on my shoulders, reminding me about all that weight hanging over us. I asked Galen about cave-ins.

“Unlikely. This section is new. We haven’t opened it up yet.”

“What about along the way out?”

He chuckled without humor. “Down here, anything can happen.”

I decided to quit asking questions. We entered a narrow shaft. My arms brushed the walls and Galen hunched over. The moist smell intensified as the airflow died. I moved closer to him and almost bumped into him when he stopped without warning. Another dry chuckle.

He held the lantern up, illuminating the end of the shaft. It widened slightly like a head on the end of a match. I moved closer as he tapped the black wall in front of us. The pock-marked surface appeared porous.

Galen pulled a small metal tool from his pocket and scraped at the black stone. A few pieces broke off and clattered to the floor.

After a few minutes, he handed me a smooth black rock. “A diamond hidden in the lava.”

Magic radiated from the stone so I ran my hand along the bumpy wall of lava, but didn’t feel any power. I suspected he planted this diamond here.

Pretending to be awed, I asked him how he could see it with his glasses on.

“My eyes are sensitive to the light.” He tried a smile, but it failed.

The slight catch in his voice meant he lied. A person could change his hair color and style, grow a beard, add putty to his face, put lifts in his shoes, or stuff his clothes with cotton. But one thing that was impossible to do without magic was change his eye color. Seeking a disguise, I asked if I could dig for a diamond.

He handed me the scraper. I opened up a small hole, but didn’t find anything. He swept his fingers inside and pulled another stone free, using sleight of hand. Before my training with Valek I would have missed the subtle motion. That and the fact the stone pulsed with magic.

I kept quiet as we started back to the surface. Why would Vasko set up this elaborate ruse? Perhaps he didn’t want anyone to know where he mined the diamonds. Then why not refuse to give me a tour? Because he wanted me to back up his claims. It would have worked if Vasko knew I could feel the magic.

Another realization hit me. Galen wouldn’t have used charged diamonds if he had been warned about my immunity. Which meant Finn hadn’t been here since our encounter in Hubal. No Finn. No blood.

I pulled my morose thoughts back to Vasko. Nothing illegal about hiding the source of the black diamonds. No one had reported them stolen. Unless he imported them illegally from Ixia? The Commander and Valek hadn’t known about the other diamond pit in the Northern Ice Sheet at first. Why would this be different?

A rumble shook the ground under my feet. Galen cursed.

“What was that?” I asked, coughing on dust.

“An explosion or a cave-in…or both.” He handed me the lantern and jabbed a finger toward the ground. “Stay here. Don’t move. I’ll return for you.”

The panic must have shown on my face because Galen gave me the two diamonds. “Here’s more incentive for me to return.” He disappeared into the blackness.

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