The alchemist in the quarries north of here was nothing short of a genius, that much was made clear today. I’ve seen various alchemical combinations used to create explosions on command, but I’ve never seen anything as elegant as this man’s devices.
We made the trek north at dawn. Gorung and ClickClick stayed with us on our rooftop last night so that we could leave as early as possible today. The quarry was divided into two sections, one of limestone and the other of granite. To the west of both was the ore mine that reddens the river that runs through all three. It is the iron ore, Gorung said, that normally bars the passage of the Lost Children.
There is a fourth mine to the south, he said, where Senida’s name derives yet another source. The Klotians never did take all the gold, he said. He hoped they’d never come back to try.
Down near the bottom of the granite quarry stood a series of small buildings within which we found the alchemist’s workshop. It was left largely untouched, or at least so it appeared upon entering. There was a thick dust covering most everything, but there was a clear organization to the room and its contents. It didn’t take long to find the explosive devices he had created and left behind.
Each was roughly the size of a large book, and they all had different capabilities built into them so that the uninitiated could use them with certainty. The caps at the center of their broad side were numbered like dials, and once twisted would ignite the device in the amount of time corresponding to the number desired. They also had slides on the top that dictated the direction and overall strength of the explosion.
I have never seen such precision in alchemy. It concerns me on a greater sense of scale that the Klotians have alchemists that are talented enough to come up with things such as this. It makes me wonder if this man was unique in his abilities, or if he belongs to an expression that we know nothing about. Gods save the Old Empire if the Klotians can turn such men into engineers of war.
What was even more concerning was how well the devices worked. We brought four with us just in case any malfunctioned or were insufficient on their own. We only needed two, one for each remaining vault door.
The devices were created to blast rock loose on a large scale, so we dropped the first one to its minimum strength and set it against the massive hinge of the vault. We twisted the dial to three minutes and then ran for the surface.
After the blast we returned to find the vault door on the ground and its interior untouched. There was an abundance of treasure, yet again, and a varied selection of weapons unlike anything one would find in the Old Empire. We each took a gilded Klotian dagger for ourselves, the blades jagged and the hilts curved to fit comfortably in the hand. They were magnificently balanced, and the edge of each blade was sharp enough to slide into wood under its own weight.
The second vault opened much as the first, but this time there was something wrong with the concussion. Whether it was the shape of the vault itself, or some other misunderstood alteration in the device we used, we may never know. It torched much of the inside of the vault, which was the tragedy of the day as it contained a large quantity of books and scrolls.
We were able to salvage some maps, and a few books that might be useful, but most of what was untouched were state ledgers and tax surveys. I hope we have not destroyed the very clues we have been searching for this entire time.
One of the books that survived was an original copy of the Hierarchies of Power. Its binding was masterful, something hailing back to the days of the Golden Era. I take it as a small consolation to the day’s unfortunate outcome, and will be searching it for clues to the Deadwood as we continue our search.