It had been a while since Nerius had been in the mines. But traversing the hazardous caves, and digging away at rock were physically demanding activities, and not the best choice when one had an illness. He had recovered, but, enough do be doing something like this? It was a risk he was willing to take, as the mines were the main source of magical crystals. Trading or buying options, but not reliable ones, stock varied, and often people wanted spoils from the mines in return. No, finding them himself was the best option, and seeking out sources of magic was something he was no stranger to.
And if he found some valuable gems on the side, Nerius wasn't complaining. That was mostly why he had brought the familiar, Ice was good at sniffing out gems, but didn't seem to have any affinity for magic. That, and assistance with digging, feats of strength had never been his strong point, and he wasn't in the best physical condition right now.
Maybe mining would help with that, or maybe he'd end up passed out in a tunnel somewhere from overexertion. His supplies were heavy enough, and Nerius hadn't even brought his mining buggy. It was well built, and useful, but it was also very heavy, and there was no way he was dragging that thing through what would likely be miles of tunnels. He wondered if Ice could be trained to pull the buggy, but gem dragons weren't very large, and the buggy might be too much. It also might distract her from sniffing out minerals, though she wasn't doing a whole lot of that now, this close to the entrance. Still, it might be worth it, he could put his gear in the buggy, instead of carrying everything in the backpack. Well, not everything, a hardhat and flashlight didn't do much good in a pack. Some of the things he was wearing, such as the utility belt, the amulet, and of course his node.
The node would never be unceremoniously shoved in a backpack, and was worn around his neck as it always was. Nerius was extremely protective over it (but then, weren't most node owners?), and never left it unattended. Not that it was often, if ever, visible, and was worn beneath his shirt. Today that was a simple tunic, black, like a large percentage of his wardrobe. There was no sunlight in the mines, and he didn't have to worry about being cooked alive. The mines were a nice escape from the horrendously hot weather that was summertime at the Labs. How some people actually enjoyed this weather he couldn't imagine.
Ice didn't seem to care one way or another about the weather, but then, she was made of rock. She enjoyed the mines of course, it was her natural habitat, and there was the opportunity to dig up some delicious gems. Not that she'd found any yet, and continued to lead Nerius through the tunnels.
He wasn't sure how far they'd have to go before they'd start to find anything. The entrance region was picked clean for the most part, but sometimes shifting rock brought up gems or such from deeper parts of the mines. Of course, since the entrance was also the most visited part of the mines, those were snapped up quickly. It would be best to go much deeper, and Ice seemed to agree. She hadn't even stopped to sniff at the ground yet, not finding even a hint of minerals, and continued to lead Nerius further into the mines. He allowed this, had planned on needing to delve far beyond the entrance zone for the really good finds.
And so their trip continued, further and further down, until the artificial shaft they were in crossed with a natural tunnel. Ice perked up at this, and chirped at Nerius, encouraging him to follow her into the large crack in the wall. It would be more hazardous than their current path, but also more likely to have better finds.
Climbing through the crack in the wall, Nerius was already glad he hadn't brought the buggy; it wouldn't have fit. The crack in the wall wasn't the largest, Nerius fit through it fine, but a larger human(oid) would have issues, and there was no way something the size of the buggy (or a minecart) would fit.
The tunnel beyond wasn't ideal either, the floor was smooth enough, but bits of rock jutted out from the walls, and would have caught on the buggy. It was easy enough to walk through, at least, even with having to watch out for the pokey bits on the walls. Ice seemed happier with this area as well, and had started to sniff and scratch at spots in the tunnel. It was awfully soon to find anything, but if the crack had only recently opened up, it was possible no one else had been down here yet. Nerius hadn't seen any pick marks on the walls, but that didn't mean they weren't there, he couldn't see in the dark, and the flashlight only gave a clear view of the closer walls.
After a few minutes of wandering down the tunnel, Ice became very interested in a particular spot in the wall. Had she found something? It clearly wasn't a crystal, Nerius couldn't sense so much as a hint of magic, but it was still worth stopping. He paused, allowing the gem dragon to dig without interruption. She was efficient at that, at least, and it was only a few moments before she pried something out of the wall, and offered the chunk to Nerius. She was defensive over her finds, but also trusted the humanish to be a good pack mule for her gems. There was also more tasty, mineral rich rock, nothing jewelry quality, but enough to be a tasty snack for a gem dragon. Ice went back to digging away at the rock, picking out the choice bits. Nerius was familiar enough with her behavior to realize she probably wouldn't find anything actually good (by his standards) in there, but at least he had... something.
What was it, was the question. Despite once being mistaken for a vampire (something about the pale skin, red eyes, and pointy teeth), Nerius couldn't actually see in the dark any better than a human. And right now all the light he had was a flashlight, and he couldn't quite make out exactly what the gem was. The dark grey green color blended into the surrounding rock with the poor lighting, though it was at least much shinier than the surrounding rock. He was missing the mining buggy's light right about now, but it couldn't be helped. But Ice generally knew what she was doing, so it had to be something. Maybe it would be prettier in some decent lighting?
Ice would have been offended, had she known. That was a beautiful stone she'd found for him, thank you very much! Though.. maybe not the tastiest one. She wasn't exactly impressed with the minerals she was digging out of the rock now, surely she could find something tastier.
While Ice had been digging away, Nerius had taken out one of the small pouches he'd brought along, stashing the mystery gem in the green one. Gem storage was the reason he'd brought them, putting small gems loose in a backpack seemed a good way to damage them, or worse, loose them entirely. Once it was safely stored, he flickered the beam of the flashlight along the cave walls, looking for the shiny reflections of any more gems. He didn't spot anything, and hadn't really expected to, but it was something to do while the familiar kept digging.
Which wasn't for much longer, Ice was soon done with the lackluster spot, and with a chirp to make sure Nerius was following, set off down the tunnel again. Considering he'd been waiting on the familiar, he wasn't going to just stay standing there. And, well, it was a tunnel, there wasn't really any other way he could go, unless he wanted to go completely in the other direction.
Which was an option, if they hit a dead end, or some other impasse. It was a natural tunnel, so there was no guarantee it actually went anywhere. And he couldn't see an end to it yet, even as Ice took him around a few corners. The tunnel felt like it was sloping down as well, not that this was a bad thing. It was usually better to go further down, though Nerius wasn't sure how deep they were. He wondered if any of the shops sold something to detect that, he'd heard that called an 'altimeter', if he remembered right.
His thoughts were interrupted as they rounded another corner, at arrived at what at first glance appeared to be a dead end. On closer inspection, he realized the tunnel didn't end, it just got very small. There was still a hole at the bottom of the wall, and it was large enough for a gem dragon to go right though. Which of course Ice did, stopping somewhere out of sight, chirping expectantly.
"Are you serious?" The gem dragon couldn't understand him, but that didn't stop Nerius from expressing his irritation at the creature. Would he even fit? Did it even open up further down? Also he didn't particularly want to crawl around on the ground. But, that part was pretty unavoidable, wasn't it. He knelt down, flashlight in hand, and peered through the small tunnel. He could see Ice's smug little face a few feet away, and from what he could tell, the tunnel did open up again after this cramped bit.
And yes, he'd fit. He might not have the most, ahem, sculpted body in existence, but he wasn't large. Ugh there was really no excuse other than 'he didn't want to'. "There'd better be something good past here you stupid rock." he grumbled, grudgingly following the gem dragon in what could best be described as an awkward army crawl. It was not a comfortable trip, Ice's "encouraging" noises weren't helping, and he was very glad to reach the end of the cramped tunnel and actually sit back up.
And sitting right in front of his nose was a pale, pink stone. Nerius blinked at the rock, sure he'd been hoping for a decent find, but hadn't expected it to be, literally, quite so 'in your face'.
"Okay, maybe you're not a stupid rock," he told the mining familiar, who made what Nerius could only describe as a smug noise, before returning to her earlier activity of sniffing about for gems. He'd have to dig out this one himself, it seemed. That was fine, it was pretty well exposed, and shouldn't take more than a chisel to remove. That he could do, it was the heavy digging that Nerius was hoping to avoid, though he was fully aware that wasn't the most realistic expectation to have for a mining trip. Shifting to as comfortable a sitting position as he could (which wasn't very well on the stone floor), he took off the backpack, and dug around for the chisel and mallet.
It only took a few seconds to find the proper tools... and then a few seconds more to remember how to use them properly. It had been a while since he'd done this, okay? The gem was already halfway sticking out of the wall, so Nerius figured the best way to go about it was to try to pry it the rest of the way out, rather than the dig a large chunk of rock out with it, that he'd later have to remove. Carefully, he chipped away at the surrounding rock, starting slow, as he wasn't sure how firm the surrounding rock was, and didn't want to accidentally chisel right into the gem.
The noise distracted Ice for a moment, but the familiar quickly went back to gem hunting, sniffing at different spots, and clawing a bit at places that seemed promising. She hadn't quite found the perfect spot yet, even if the whole area was promising.