Want backstory? Here you go.
The wilds of Hyperborea are desolate enough, what with serpent people during the day and unspeakable nightmares at night, but the rare ambers found at the foot of Mount Voormithadreth keep bringing us all back. Voorish Signs and incense are little help when the beast that just clawed its way from the thick volcanic ash stands taller than your entire mining party combined, and amber mining requires one of two strategies. The cautious bring out as many archers and crossbowmen as miners, which slows down movement to and from Voormithadreth and guarantees that bloodwamps and soul-ticks will track them all down that much sooner. The smart and the fast come in with tools that double as weapons, so you don’t have to drop your shovel to grab a sword. When doing that sort of double duty, the Garrett Retriever may not be the perfect hand tool for amber mining, but it has several advantages over its contemporaries.
Forged by smiths that know the needs of treasure hunters, the Retriever combines one curved chopping face on one side of the head with a straight rake on the other. The curved face is remarkably good at chopping large chunks from soil, wood, and bloodwamp, but that curve might get in the way of landing the perfect killing stroke. The rake, on the other hand, sinks in and bites, allowing the user to bring in a dagger blade for a swift slide under a rock-lizard’s jaw. That rake is also remarkably good at scraping away ash and dust from smaller items, exposing amber deposits without tearing up larger pieces or scattering the fine dusts on the wind. When mining time can be measured in minutes, especially when the serpent people are attempting to gather subjects for their arcane and unholy alchemistic experiments, that distinction is important.
As a side-note, sharpening the curved edge may not add much to digging and hewing, but it improves the Retriever’s use as a brush clearing tool. One good solid thwack against the stem, and even the toughest thorn tree saplings go flying. Grass, fungi, toadmoss…anything that clears both vegetation and overburden saves valuable minutes, and those minutes are sometimes the only defense an amber miner has.
A note of caution: while the Retriever does its job well, amber miners should always remember that this is a tool first and a weapon second. The wooden handle has a stout rivet to keep the head attached, but that rivet will eventually fail if used to parry moon-dwarf blades for too long. Stick to using it for digging, with the intent of working quickly and quietly before escaping the notice of worse things.
Ah, but then there’s the surprise at the butt. Speaking of moon-dwarves, most go into complete shuddering spasms the first time they feel the magnet embedded in the butt of the Retriever catching their blades and thus preventing one of their famed belly-stabs. The magnet also comes in handy for pulling out chunks of ferrous metal in dig sites, such as the belt buckles and scabbards comprising the last remains of the previous party, but the real joy is in watching serpent man and moon-dwarf alike stare in disbelief as their carefully plotted attack goes awry. Sometimes, it’s worth throwing a Retriever at one from a long distance, just to see that magnet home in and impact on sword or shield. It’s even more effective than spraying them with redfooted wamp lymph.
All told, the Garrett Retriever is an honorable and impressive tool, and should be an essential item in the pack of any amber miner with more than a teaspoon of brain in his head. Keep it right next to your canteen, because you WILL need both before you finish a dig.