Ken reached the greatest of the old mines of the Iron Range—the Mesabi Range—ruined by the Coming of the Azure Flames that destroyed the Old World, well north of the Great Necropolis of the Necromancer. Ken looked down at the open pit before him, where once great machines sifted through earth rent asunder by means now lost to those yet living- but not to the dead. An army of the dead, working without rest or reason, now to the work of those now-destroyed machines and their lifeless flesh produces the same results in the same time.
“This is it.” Ken thought, “But why? What need does the Necromancer have with these old mines?”
The stench of rotting flesh came over him with a shift of the wind. Ken grinned. He knew that being downwind of them would make it difficult for the Necromancer to detect him. From the smells, Ken deduced that some of these zombies weren’t recent. Even for the Necromancer, one can arrest the decay of dead flesh only so long.
“So,” Ken thought, “those old trappers weren’t wrong. The dead dig for iron.”
Ken’s eyes, no less keen than his nose, picked out an oddity amongst the undead horde of diggers below. He focused upon a trio of man-like figures, working around a tripod-mounted device of some sort, one out-of-place for a mining operation. Even for his eyes, this was too great a distance to be certain of what he saw, so he produced a pair of binoculars and again looked at the odd things and their apparatus.
“This is no hunt for iron.” Ken thought, now seeing in detail who they are and what they’re doing.
Below, though clearly long-dead and half-rotted, he recognized that these three minions were not overseers of a mine. The map, the tripod and their discussions—which Ken, too distant, could not hear—made Ken think of another intensive pursuit that often involved massive digging and careful map consultation: archaeology.
“They’re looking for something. The iron is a bonus, something to make this dig seem reasonable to onlookers. What they’re looking for is something else, something that no one but those long dead could know.”
Ken felt a shiver.
“Something is down there. The Necromancer is after something precious, something valuable, something older than known history- something from before the last Ice Age. I need to know more.”
Ken took off, circling around the pit until he spied a hapless zombie digger all by his lonesome. He rigged up a rappel line, pounced down upon the corpse-thing, cracked its skull open with a hatchet and severed it from the body with a machete. With severed head in hand, Ken quickly climbed back up and out of the pit. He ran out of sight, and then he devoured the brain of the slain zombie, satisfying his hunger for all things unnatural as he sought useful information.
“There!” Ken thought, “I knew it! You bastard.”