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The Moonstone Heiress- Chapter Five: A Quarry to Mine

Carlone had hoped to be a part of mining quartz, one of her favorite stones, however, it was limestone that was used mostly for steel and buildings all over the world. As for her, she was immediately placed as a spalls hauler. This task involved her picking up spalls (broken-up rocks) and putting them into bins to be used to be sold for construction supplies. She had hoped to be a knapper to shape limestone bricks, but that was a job for even smaller orphans to do than her. The schedule was to work from sun up to sundown, with a break at high noon. Carlone found the work exhausting, but more and more bearable as the season pressed on and her body adjusted to the workload. She had wondered if the fever had slowed the quarry work as it had all the rest of the known world that she had encountered. However, the quarry folks were too disposable for the fever to have mattered in the grand scheme of things. It was the place for those with no plans for a long life to go to get ahead. She soon realized it was the perfect fit for a nomad like herself. The innkeeper boys may have had a place to go home for the winter, but Carlone was a body to move rocks, nothing more as far as the world cared. She decided she liked this social arrangement. She would not have to explain to a soul about her fever background, which was good enough for her.

Arrival at the site was a quick filing into the places they would be working. A foreman gave them the rundown of things, that the boys did not need, but Carlone appreciated all the same. When that was complete, the innkeeper's sons set up on the campgrounds with the other men, while Carlone went off with the other orphans to their tent area. Carlone came to prefer this because the men would go to the tavern at night, spending their earnings loudly on the cheapest of things. Carlone on the other hand was thoroughly out of energy by nightfall and gladly ate her stew in peace before turning in. She couldn't fathom doing this sort of work after a night of drinking. In passing, she did see Viktor and Buloke from time to time, especially around the chow line. They would nod their heads and give a brief smile, to which Carlone returned. She did not know if she would go back with them when the winter came. She did not know if the invitation would be extended to do so or if she would carry on there. It was too soon to tell. Carlone did know she liked it there much more than she ever anticipated. Initially, she was scared to go. Fearful of being crushed by a massive stone or in the least, embarrassing herself by getting fired right off. Once she learned the ropes of the place though, the routine became second nature to her. The work never ran out, the workers never spoke of fever, and there were no hierarchies only more valuable levels of skill and knowledge. This was her place and she liked that.

It was well into spring before she bumped into a former farmhand her uncle had once hired for a harvest years ago. His name was Mox. He had been morose when he was let go from the farm. Carlone remembered her aunt had taken issue with him for going into her kitchen for a drink of water when their outdoor pump was broken. Carlone nearly hid when she saw him, worried he would have hard feelings against her over the matter despite years passing between the events. Looking for a table to crawl under during mealtime, Carlone was stuck in plain sight when Mox walked up to her. He put his hand on her back with a big thud, causing her to have to balance herself against being knocked forward. "Little Carlone! I remember you. I see your aunt put you out to pasture too. Good to see you, my girl." Carlone was relieved that her aunt's inability to garner personal relationships was beneficial to her after all. They caught up for a little. Mox had been working odd jobs while moving closer to the coast until one day he stumbled into working at the quarry out of coincidence. Carlone decided not to tell him about the fever that had ravaged her family's farm but said that her mother had died and she had no place to go after. "I believe it. That aunt of yours had a heart of stone. It's probably for the best you hightailed it out of there." Carlone agreed with him. They parted ways but saw one another here and there. Mox had mentioned that he was going to go back north to the farms when the planting season began again. He offered to take her too if she would like to go along with him along with some of the other seasonal workers. As Mox put it, "The quarry will always be here, but it can break the back if you don't take some time away from it."

Carlone thought about his offer often. The trip would be much easier with a group. She knew that Mox would not go back to her family's old farm, they were known for being a small operation she came to understand. Now and then when she had a minute to think alone, she found herself feeling achingly guilty for leaving her surviving relatives behind, but she could not face her aunt without feelings of boiling rage. Carlone knew the farm was done for since they had not made the needed money to hold them over from the previous harvest. Without those funds, they would not be able to buy the needed planting seeds. She was truly torn between going back to the farm once the planting season had begun or staying on at the quarry during the highest-paying time of year. The decision it had seemed, was made for her when she found out second-hand by way of another orphan working that Mox, along with a group of men left in the early morning without so much as a word to any of the foremen, causing the day's plans to have to switch over to another task until the needed bodies were replaced. Carlone wondered if her aunt had been at least slightly correct in assuming that Mox was not the most ideal of employees. Carlone took it as a sign to stay behind and keep working, which she did year after year, not even bothering to return with the innkeeper boys for some time.

It was not until she was in her late teens that she was faced with Viktor's company once more. He was assigned to work next to her after another quarry worker dropped a boulder on his foot, breaking his toes. Carlone felt sympathy for Viktor, knowing it was an injury that could have happened to anyone. Viktor trying to remain humble would always talk about how it could have been worse, but that did not camouflage his grimace when he tried putting his weight on it. It was a few days before Carlone could take it anymore and she asked the prideful Viktor if he would like her to take him back to the inn to visit his family. Viktor though confided in her that Buloke had gotten married recently and he would feel lesser if he went home so soon from the quarry. Carlone taking this as her opportunity to make right on two fronts asked if he would go with her to the farm she was from. It was only after he had accepted that she realized that she may never be able to return to the quarry again if the word got out that she had survived the fever. However, before she could rescind her offer, Viktor already cashed out his earnings which were recorded and held by the quarry's clerk's office. Carlone could have made up a story to get herself out of this, yet there was a point that she had reached in herself in which she found she was no longer getting stronger, but simply more tired. This change was a feeling of being worn down, something she remembered Mox had warned her about. When Viktor limped back to her she sighed knowing it was time to go back, she had to set many things right. Carlone had debts to pay, none of them monetary.


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