Were all the dripped stalactites a disadvantage? It was possible they'd ended up covering the minerals that would otherwise be easy to spot in a layer of rock. That was were a mining familiar came in handy, he supposed, Ice should be able to scent out anything good under the rock, and seemed to be on the trail of something now. Nerius didn't see anything, but that didn't mean much, and she was scratching about like there might be something there.
He kept searching himself, and eventually, it paid off. Well, maybe. There was clearly a darker chunk of something that had been lightly covered by dripped rock, and embedded into a stalagmite, but it could turn out to just be a bit of rubble. It was worth checking out, at least, and digging into the stalagmite with the chisel, Nerius was happy to discover that the stone here was softer than what he'd (tried to) dig at before.
It took a minute of so of digging, but Nerius was able to free the mystery chunk without too much difficulty. And it was, in fact, an actual gem, lapis it looked like, judging by the deep blue, tan speckled color. Nerius put away the gem, and looked around for anything else. He didn't see any other off color patches in this stalagmite, but he hadn't really expected it to be that easy.
Ice was at least having more luck, she was digging into the floor in a way that suggested she'd found something. It didn't look terribly different from the surrounding stone to Nerius, a bit darker, but he didn't see anything that looked like an actual gem. Walking over for a closer look, and shining the flashlight directly at the area, which caused Ice to make an annoyed noise, it looked a bit purple. Ore, he realized, that was an unusual find, at least in his past mining experience.
There was a small vein of it, and Nerius likely wouldn't have noticed it himself in the dark of the mines. The gem dragon had located it much easier, and was efficiently digging away the surrounding stone, though Nerius expected it would still take her a while to fully expose the vein. He could try to help, but judging by his go at digging up the fossil, he'd probably just get in the way. Best to let Ice work at the ore, while he kept looking, ideally for something easier to extract.
Looking a bit more closely, now, shine wasn't a reliable method of spotting a gem in the cavern, off color spots were a much better indicator with all the damp, dripped rock. Unfortunately it also wasn't as eye catching, but at least now he knew what to look for. Of course, the uneven rock also cast shadows, and sometimes what looked like a darker color was just how the light fell.
Ironically, it wasn't even an off color patch that revealed the location of a gem. It was after he shone the flashlight back to Ice, checking on the mining familiar's progress, that he spotted something glimmering in the wall. At first, he half expected it just to be bit of damp rock, but it was red, and much too shiny.
It was also sticking out of a dripping of stalactites ten feet up the wall. Great. Still, it wasn't technically out of reach, the cascading drips weren't so far apart. It was like a very lumpy, probably slippery, staircase with very tall steps. It could, in theory, be climbed, although Nerius had to admit that wasn't his strong point. Really, he wasn't exactly the ideal miner, but he didn't let that stop him. Though, that didn't mean he particularly wanted to try to climb the stalactite mound, but Ice was still working on digging out the ore.
Nerius also wasn't sure he'd even be able to get her to retrieve the gem, she didn't have any proper training, or even a ribbon or telepathy, and he had no way of actually telling her what he wanted. He hadn't ever really considered being able to have a mining familiar dig on command would be helpful, it was generally something she did all on her own, as she was doing now with the ore.
So climbing trip it was. It would probably be (at least a little) easier without the heavy backpack, so he took that off and set it down next to a particularly large stalagmite. Walking over to the mound, it looked taller than it had from a distance. But the rock at least had some texture, and wouldn't be as slippery as he'd been concerned it might be. Climbing onto the first mound wasn't too difficult, it was wide, and relatively level, and he was able to get up there without any mishaps.
It was the next 'step' that would be a bit more challenging, it was higher, and also bit more narrow. Carefully, Nerius attempted to pull himself up to the next ledge. 'Attempted', and failed, lacking the upper body strength to actually do so, it was more of an awkward hop. Err, maybe try that again, and see if he could hook a foot or knee over the edge for some extra leverage. And that next attempt was a little more successful, key word being 'little'. Yes, he'd manged to hook onto the ledge with a knee as well, but he still hadn't manged to actually pull himself up on the ledge, and was hanging there rather awkwardly as he attempted to scramble the rest of the way up.
And all that flailing caught the attention of the gem dragon, Ice paused her digging for a moment to stare at him. She looked even less impressed than usual, and unsure what he was trying to do up there.
He was going to fall off, she was sure, but there really wasn't anything the gem dragon could do about that, so Ice went back to digging up the last of the ore. This all went unnoticed by Nerius, who was a bit busy scrambling his way up onto the ledge. It took a bit of work, more than he'd like to admit, but eventually he was able to successfully perch on the higher ledge. Unfortunately, as he took a moment to rest, Nerius realized he still couldn't quite reach the mystery gem. Ugh, he really needed to learn a decent levitation spell.
At least it was possible for him to reach it if he kept going, the mound of stalagmites still went a bit taller. The next ledge wouldn't even require any real climbing, and resembled more of a stair step. A very narrow, rounded, tall, slippery stair step. He could easily get up to it, the trick would be not falling off.
He'd made it this far, and he didn't feel like giving up this close to the prize, so slowly, carefully, Nerius climbed onto the higher ledge, holding onto the wall the best he could for support. There wasn't too much moss here, at least, though that did mean less light to see by. The 'step' was worse than he'd expected though, it was very damp and slippery, and he was glad he wore proper boots. Unsteady as it was, the ledge did give Nerius the last bit of height he needed to reach the gem. It was wedged rather loosely in the wall, clearly it hadn't formed there, and that was a good thing, there was no way he'd be able to swing a mallet at it up here.
Down below, Ice had finished her digging, and had a nice pile of ore waiting for the humanish and his many pockets. For now, she was content to stare at him, and not be remotely helpful.
Nerius tried to find the most stable spot he could, which wasn't very, before grabbing hold of the gem, and giving it a gentle tug. It wasn't that loosely attached, and didn't budge. It would take a little more force than that, and he tried again, giving it a harder pull. The red gem popped free of the wall, but he nearly lost his footing in the process. A frantic grab at the wall kept him from actually slipping off, and at that point he froze, not wanting to make the slightest movement that might actually result in a fall.
Ice made an alarmed cry as he slipped, she could be a grumpy thing, but she did care about him, really. Not that she could do anything to help, really, and landing on a gem dragon would probably be more painful than just hitting the ground. Not to mention could potentially injure the familiar.
After a few moments of stillness, it seemed he wasn't about to fall, and his heart rate started to return to normal. There was still the task of getting back down, however, which might end up being more difficult than the climb up. Ever so carefully, Nerius felt around for the middle ledge, it was narrow, but at least more stable than this one. It was still a bit nerve wracking to step down onto it, but he managed to do so without any incidents. It was the next ledge that would be particularly unpleasant. It was the higher one, that he'd had to scramble to climb up, and he wasn't sure how to get back down without it being, at best, a controlled fall.
Ice seemed to be having similar thoughts, making more concerned noises, and even walking over to the mound of stalagmites he was perched on, and stared up at him. Unfortunately, he had no way of asking her to dig some hand holds, or something, and staring was all she could do.
Ugh, yeah, he was definitely going to fall. He considered just jumping, but it was farther than he'd prefer to drop, and he really didn't want to slip, and land on a stalagmite. They probably weren't sharp enough to actually stab him, but it would certainly hurt. He'd brought a rope, yes, but there was nothing up here to tie it to, so that wouldn't do him any good. Hmm, the ledge wasn't that narrow, maybe he could sort of.. lie down on it, and wiggle his way down from there? It was the best idea he had (unfortunately), and it was worth a shot.
Nerius wasn't quite sure the best way to do this, but started by turning sideways on the ledge, one had holding on to the wall. Carefully, he knelt down, still anchoring himself against the wall. He could hear Ice making concerned noises, but he didn't dare let himself get distracted by the gem dragon.
Now he just had to actually lie down on the ledge, which was easier said than done, as the ledge really wasn't wide enough for him. He didn't have to stay perched up there long, at least. He wouldn't have wanted to anyway, the stone was damp, rough, and unpleasant to have his face on, and it was getting into his clothes. One leg was already threatening to slip off the ledge, and that was the first to be slowly slid over, while he attempted anchor his other knee on the ledge. It.. sort of worked. Nerius didn't immediately fall, but the rest of his lower body did slowly slip over the ledge, leaving him grabbing awkwardly at it with only his arms.
Ice was still watching him, but she'd noticed a brownish stone amid the stalagmites. She walked over to the stone, alternating between sniffing at it, and observing Nerius' awkward climb down the slippery ledges.
It was better than falling entirely, at least, and Nerius was able to get his footing back, and stood up properly. The last ledge was easy, at least, just a careful step off the wide, rounded mound. That had been unpleasant, but at least he had a shiny red gem for his troubles. Now safely back on sturdy ground, he took a closer look at it. It was one of those marquis crystals, from the look of it, their shape was distinctive. It was no use for node crafting, but could still come in useful, and it was a good find. Worth climbing up those horrible ledges? Maybe.
Now that he was off those ledges, Ice was also no longer concerned, and turned her attention fully to the brown gem half buried in a stalagmite. It was visibly very noticeable, but to a mining familiar, it had the scent of something tasty, and not just plain rock.
Nerius glanced over as Ice started to dig, slightly surprised by the sound of scraping stone. He hadn't expected her to find something so quickly. Then again, he hadn't been paying attention to her while climbing, so it was possible she'd spotted it before. He'd keep looking as well, even if he didn't have a nose for minerals the way the gem dragon did.
But Nerius did have another sense that she didn't, and as he walked to the far side of the cavern, he suddenly felt the distinctive buzz of magic. He recognized it as a magical crystal, rougher and more unrefined than a node. Weaker as well, or it would have been much easier to track them down. He focused a little more on it, shutting his eyes for a moment. Earth, it was definitely earth aligned, and it was somewhere to his right. That was away from the pool, which he was happy to learn, as he didn't really want to go for a swim.