Jutland Mountain, Gade-Grand
I get a whole planet to more or less myself and I still can’t find anything, Soren Grand thinks to himself with a soft chuckle. Shaking his head, he looks down at the old gold pan in his hands.
The pan, like a lot of the things that Soren owned, came from those who came before him. His boots came from his father. His grandfather was the one who first wore his watch. The gold pan? That came from some great grandfather back quite a few generations. It is one of the steel pans that were used in the American West back four hundred or so years.
But, if Soren learned anything from his family, it was that things lasted a whole lot longer when they were treated well.
Sighing, Soren looks past his pan at his bare feet. In the effort to help his boots, he never wore them in the water. Turning to his left, Soren confirms that the boots are still laying on a boulder along the side of the river right beside his balled up woolen socks.
“Maybe it’s high time my family found a new line of work,” Soren mutters to himself as he looks back at his pan and continues swirling around the materials in his pan.
Through all the generations, his family had likely gathered no more than a few kilos of gold.
That much gold might sound like a lot to someone who didn’t know much about gold prospecting but stretched over nearly half a millennium and that figure seemed quite depressing.
At this point, Soren can’t help but feel like his family continued their prospecting out of nothing but spite.
Either that, or they knew that it was impossible to try forever and come up with absolutely nothing this long.
At some point, something would have to give. Either there wouldn’t be an heir to the Grand family, or they would strike it rich. There was no in between.
So, they waited.
Sure, they found some gold, but any oaf who tried their hand at prospecting could find gold. Everyone knows that there’s gold everywhere.
The only trouble is finding a place that has enough gold to make it worthwhile to invest your whole life digging.
“Please, God, let me be the one,” Soren whispers a prayer as he walks off some of the larger and lighter stones out of his pan, “If you let me be the one, I’ll do anything. I’ll build hospitals. Churches. I’ll pay for a cathedral to be built! Just give me this!”
A few more seconds pass and Soren is walking off the final bit of ‘blondes’, as prospectors called them. Most people would just acknowledge this sand as light brown.
Walking back to the shore of the river he is on with the remaining black sands that he had been panning out, Soren purses his lips and offers up a few more pleading prayers. And, when those prayers finish out, he squats down in a spot on the river where the water is a little calmer.
Taking his time, he swirls the materials around in his pan, he taps away at the pan’s sides and top, and he eventually looks at the results of his work.
Three? Really? Is this some kind of joke? Soren thinks bitterly as he carefully gathers his very meagre findings. Even though it wasn’t much, Soren knew enough to save everything he could get his hands on.
Everything added up to something.
Shaking his head, Soren quickly pans through the concentrates in his pan once more and he finds one more flake of gold and a speck of silver as well.
Shaking his head, he rinses out his pan and tosses it to the shore.
Chuckling, Soren looks up at the sky and lets out a joking prayer, “Well, I guess that’s a hard no, then. Huh, God?”
Smirking, Soren shakes his head and looks back own to his feet. If it weren’t for everything else that he had been through in life, he would have given up on a lot of things by now.
The colonizing of this planet.
His little homestead.
His long-distance relationship with his sweetheart back home.
If it weren’t for what he had already seen, heard, and felt, he wouldn’t have anything to live for.
“I know, I know, keep going,” Soren nods along as he feels a little God-nudge. That same nudge had saved his life on more than one occasion, and it had guided him to this particular world when he was given the opportunity to colonize a planet for the Dawn Royals.
Soren starts walking back to his boots when he freezes.
Something, namely that God-nudge that he had grown used to, was making him second guess quitting on this particular spot.
Looking around, Soren rakes his memory for any reason why this spot might look familiar.
A good three minutes pass before an inkling of a memory of a vision from decades ago comes to the surface. The memory is foggy from its age, but it seems to fit this particular scene.
The only issue is that there was a mineshaft in the vision.
A mineshaft located right near where Soren had tossed his pan.
His brows furrowed, Soren carefully picks his way over the boulders in the river over to where the pan had landed. As he makes his way over, he takes in the stones around him.
As far as he can tell, there is nothing about the geology that should indicate that there is gold, or anything else, in the mountainside he is approaching, but he had been surprised many times before.
Shrugging, Soren reminds himself that he had very little to lose at this point.
So what if he wasted a month poking around at a potentially barren rock? He had already wasted at least a year and had all of a few dozen grams of gold to show for it. This river was the best producing one he had come across to date.
Swallowing, Soren reaches the beach of the river, and he removes his hat. Something about everything around him made him feel like it wasn’t proper to wear a hat here.
Running a wet hand through his greasy hair, Soren lets out a long, low whistle.
“Well, there’s no use standing here, might as well figure out what’s the big deal,” Soren says, reminding himself of why he was here. Approaching his pan, he continues scanning the stones for any signs of anything of value.
Nothing, as per the usual, Soren thinks.
When people heard about his intention to search for gold on this planet, they mocked him. Those that knew his family’s history were some of the harshest mockers.
They all told him that he wouldn’t find gold.
Those who didn’t know him told him that there wasn’t any gold here based upon charts, maps, and old data about where gold-bearing asteroids had crashed.
Those who knew him reminded him of his track record.
But the shining star through all of this was his special little lady back home.
She reminded him time and time again that King David from the Bible had never seen a victory against a giant before he faced Goliath. She reminded him that King David was the least cut out to do the job and that people doubted him.
And then David went out and made history.
Looking up at the sky once more, Soren whispers the same prayer he had offered up several times every day since he had arrived here, “Let’s make history, God.”
Bending down, Soren picks up his pan.
And there is a grand total of nothing beneath it.
Dropping to his haunches, Soren shakes his head and continues his prayer, “I don’t get it. I really don’t get it.”
Letting out a disgruntled sigh, he lays down and looks up the sheer cliff that his pan had landed at the base of.
Still shaking his head, his eyes eventually lock onto a tree.
The tree, like most of the vegetation on this world, is young. Nothing on the planet is older than maybe fifteen years, which was around when the seeders and spreadships that the Dawns sent out arrived in this system to try and make the planets around here more hospitable to humans.
However, what is sticking out to Soren about the tree isn’t its age.
It’s the fact that it is hanging precariously to the cliff’s face. All that Soren can see holding it up is a handful of slim roots, none larger than his finger or thumb.
There is an outcropping of stone hanging over most of the roots, which Soren notes must block out a lot of the rainwater that the tree might hope to ever receive.
And yet, somehow, the tree hung in there.
It stuck to the dream of living its life in the place where it was planted.
As Soren looks at the tree, he begins to wonder where it got its water, since the stone outcropping clearly blocked the rains. As he wonders, Soren’s eyes look back to the roots and he sees a slight glimmer.
Narrowing his eyes, Soren sees that there is a tiny spring of water that is burbling out of the cliff’s face providing water for the tree.
“Almost like that stream exists entirely for that tree,” Soren mutters with a soft chuckle. Looking back up to the heavens, he whispers, “Well, where’s my stream? Where’s the little crack that You set up just for me?” As those thoughts pass through Soren’s mind, he briefly recalls a scripture that said outright that if God took care of animals and plants then He’d take care of people. Rolling his eyes, Soren tries to convince himself that this was a sign that he’d find his gold.
Eventually, at least.
As if on cue, Soren’s little God-nudge speaks up and instructs him to walk over to where the tiny rivulet from the tree’s stream meets the base of the mountain. Looking at the bushes at the base of the stone face, he briefly considers ignoring the thought, but he eventually relents.
Shrugging, Soren thinks, What do I have to lose? No one’s watching me anyways.
Soren spends the next half hour chopping through and removing the bushes and he stops once he can see the damp area from the stream.
Sitting squarely at the base of it is a small, polished nugget of gold.
A nugget that wouldn’t be quite so dazzling were it not for the years of the water gently rolling over it.
Smirking, Soren can’t help but say, “Alright, I get it. I complain too much. But really? A nugget? That’s not about to cover any bills.”
Shrugging one more time, Soren crouches down and he grabs the nugget.
And he proceeds to tip over when he gives it a tug.
Surprised, Soren scrambles back to his feet and he clears a few stones from around the nugget.
Then a few more stones.
Then a few large rocks.
And some sand.
All the while, the gently flowing stream from about him washes the gold nugget clean, reminding Soren oh so vividly of what he was working for.
With every handful of gravel and rocks, the nugget seems to grow. Already it is many times larger and heavier than all the gold his family had ever dug up.
After an hour or so of digging, Soren’s stomach growls and his hunger pulls him away from his work. He mechanically reaches into his jacket, and he pulls out his bag of jerky. Reaching into the bag, he quickly rips it back out and he peers into it, looking for whatever had bitten him.
Confused when he doesn’t see anything other than blood, Soren looks down to his fingertips.
Staring back at him are some mangled fingers without fingernails.
In all of his excitement, he had gotten ahead of himself and gotten hurt in to process.
Chuckling, Soren reminds himself that he had forgotten to thank God for all of this as well.
Dropping to a kneeling position, Soren looks up to the sky once more and he offers God a sly smile, “So, what kind of cathedral you want me to build You, then?”
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