Euclidia was the only Geometer brave enough to go to the obsidian mine. The problem was simple, as such problems went: The obsidian golems had gone on a strike.
“Knock, knock,” she said lamely when she reached the mine’s entrance. It was simply a cave that had been dug out properly, with the added supports to keep the roof up. It was on the side of the island that met on a path with the shipping pier.
“What do you want?” the black voice of the obsidian golem came. It was like speaking inside a glass box.
“I’m Euclidia,” she said, braving another timid step inside. “I’ve come to negotiate.”
“Do what?” the golem asked.
She all but slapped herself. She knew that golems could converse and could sometimes appear as if they were intelligent, but really all they could do was some basic back and forth in correspondence.
So, no big words, really.
“I’ve come to talk. You’re angry about something?” she added.
“Yes…” the golem said.
“Okay. About what?”
“About how you Geometers treat us. It’s not black at all.”
“Okay, that’s good. I mean, that’s black. I get it, you want to be treated blacker. Right?”
“Yes,” was the simple reply from the golem.
Euclidia dared another step inside. She couldn’t see inside the mine, as it was dark, and the golems needed no miner’s lamps. “Black. We can talk about that. Can I see you, face to face?”
“Well, that’s how people talk.” Her eyes darted around the dark interior, trying to see the golem.
There was a pause, then a shuffle, then some stones cracked as it shifted. It finally appeared, reflecting some of the sunlight on its glossy surface, vanishing like a visual illusion into the darkness. Keeping her gaze on it was a dizzying experience, but she kept doing it.
“Oh, hi there. Black to meet you.”
“Sharp,” the golem replied as they sometimes did, with obsidian qualities that they considered good. It was part of their vocabulary, and the weird thing was that none of the Geometers claimed to have put that in their magical programming.
“What’s your name?”
“I don’t have one,” the golem said.
Euclidia touched her chin. “Well, we can’t have that. It’s not black at all. Let me see…” she looked around. The island of Gyali wasn’t much to look at, the northeastern part being almost entirely made of obsidian, their precious ore. The continuous mining of that ore was of the utmost importance, but no one was crazy enough to go and pressure the obsidian golems to keep working. “I got it! I’ll call you, Tria. Is that black?” she asked, calling him the Greek number for 3.
She perked up, having made some headway. “Black! So, Tria, tell me. We need the mines working. What can I do?”
Tria shuffled a bit in place, making the darkness move. “Mining is black.”
“Yes! Mining is black. Let’s all go back to mining!” she exclaimed, her arms forward.
“But the Geometers come in ships.”
“Yes, to carry the obsidian. By the harbour, over there,” Euclidia pointed.
A brief pause. “We want a ship,” Tria said simply.
Euclidia exhaled sharply. She wasn’t sure if the others would agree to that. She wasn’t sure if the others should. “What if that’s not black?”
“Then no mining,” Tria shrugged, and he was large enough for Euclidia to notice. Really notice. The golem was four times her height and she was but a twig of a girl.
But she wouldn’t take no for an answer. And not even a ‘not black,’ dammit! She was a Geometer, a mistress of the black.
“Tria, that makes me angry,” she said, summoning all the menace a tiny girl could muster against a rock formation that talked.
“You leave me no choice…” she said, starting to gesture with her hands in specific, practised motions.
Tria shrugged again.
Euclidia ripped out obsidian from the ground, making the rocks float from the island around her. They hovered over her hands, but they were dirty, rocks really. She slashed the air with her delicate hands, and entire bits of the obsidian were cut away. With each gesture, the obsidian got closer to its final shape.
A rhombus that was sharper than any blade.
She carved out more obsidian in the air, her weapons of destruction spinning around her with menace.
“Tria!” she shouted with authority. Sure, she had come to talk, but she wouldn’t back down from a fight. This was just her obsidian, her birthright, talking back at her. Now sorry it would be. “I want you to start mining again!”
Tria stepped out of the cave for one last shrug, and he was exactly as the scrolls described them, but she had never seen one up close. She gulped audibly, looking up.
Okay, this was why the other Geometers chickened out in coming here to chat.
Euclidia couldn’t back down now. She raised her hands in a threatening gesture and her obsidian rhombuses flew very quickly towards the golem. They smashed on its body, making deep cuts and breaks. It groaned in pain, a cry that sounded as if it was coming from a deep, glassy well.
“I don’t feel black doing this, Tria!” she said, trying to reason with the golem. “But I won’t accept you not mining.” She raised ten more obsidian ores from the ground and slashed them in the air, now warmed up. She readied the new projectiles in an instant.
Tria ran up to her before she could blink and raised its massive arm. He brought it down next to her, being physically unable to harm her directly. But this entire part of Gyali island was made of obsidian, so the powerful slam broke off pieces that flew in all directions.
Tiny shards of obsidian with edges three nanometres thick flew and slashed Euclidia’s body. She cried out in pain and ironically, raised more obsidian rocks as a shield to help her. She quickly slashed a rectangle shield out of the hovering rocks and kept it there to protect her. Blood poured out of her torso, she had gotten a deep cut over her belly button. Wincing, she said, “Tria, that wasn’t black at all.”
“Yes, sharp, dammit!” she said through gritted teeth, holding her stomach. “Fine, you’ll get your ship.”
Tria didn’t seem to respond with any body movements. He was, after all, a pile of obsidian ore.
“Did you hear me?” she repeated, now actually worried about the blood gushing out of her.
“Yes. Where is the ship?”
“Well, I didn’t bring it yet! Obviously,” she snapped back. She realised this wasn’t getting her anywhere. “Black. You can take my ship.”
Tria turned towards the harbour, which was just a sturdy pier really, and then turned back to her. “That’s black.”
“Sharp,” Euclidia said, sucking in air. She checked her stomach, this was going to leave a nasty scar. She didn’t mind, she thought it would look badass.
Tria said nothing. He then turned around and went back inside the mine. Euclidia kept the shield around her just in case, and waited for a while. At some point, she heard the familiar slamming of the golem’s arms on the mine’s walls.
She sighed in relief. “Mining resumed. So black…” she said to herself.
Then she turned around, frowning. Hmm. How was she gonna get off the island if she was going to leave the ship here to the golems?
It must have been the blood-loss, because she felt silly for not thinking of it immediately. She had all the material she needed all around her! She raised large blocks of obsidian ore and slashed them, wincing in pain as she gestured the arcane movements. She cut the obsidian into a half-diamond shape, elongated. It was basically a canoe, big enough to hold her small weight.
She sent it to the pier and painfully hopped inside.
On her way home, bleeding, but victorious, she understood why the Geometers always send the youngest of them to negotiate.