The path continued uneventfully for a while, but eventually made another sharp turn. It continued for a good distance, before widening out into a small chamber, and disappearing entirely. That was rather disappointing, but Nerius decided he'd explore the chamber before turning back around. It was still possible to find something decent there, even if he couldn't go any farther.
Though, as he reached the chamber, he realized the tunnel didn't truly end, just the above water portion did. The water continued to flow, though it did slow down and widen into a small pool, before running through a large opening in the rock. Only a little of the tunnel was above water, but he could see more of the tunnel on the other side. Not that he'd be able to get Ice to go through there, even if he felt like taking a dip. She still didn't want to be any closer to the water than she had to, and was taking advantage of the chamber to get further away from it.
Well, at least he could investigate the chamber, it wasn't nearly as large or interesting as the previous pool, all dull stone, which appeared to be worn away naturally. But that meant other people probably hadn't dug away at it yet, so it was a decent spot to check for gems. Ice was already investigating, starting as far from the water as she could, though he couldn't tell if she was on the scent of anything yet.
If she was going to check over there, Nerius decided see if he could spot anything in the water. He'd found stuff before, and this pool meant the floor was probably deeper here, which meant heavy stones being dragged along with the current might have gotten trapped here. But the depth was also a bit a disadvantage, it was difficult to see all the way down to the bottom, especially since his only light source was the handheld flashlight.
Nerius was still trying to look into the water, when Ice let out a happy scree. She must have found something good, for that kind of reaction. Or 'things', he realized, as he paused his searching to go see what the familiar had found. He could see at least two different colors shimmering from here, even with the excited gem dragon in the way. Ice was continuing to dig, enlarging a hole that had been dug into the wall.
The stones were just sitting in there, not actually in the stone of the wall, which made him think it was an old mining familiar stash. It wasn't a natural collection of gems, that was for sure; these little hordes were always an exciting find, and it was the first they'd come across this trip. It was likely thanks to the out of the way tunnel they were in that it hadn't been found by someone else already.
"What did you find there?" Nerius asked the gem dragon, as she finished enlarging the opening to the horde. Whatever had made it had been smaller than she was, and Ice hadn't been able to fit inside. She could now, and was taking out the gems inside, stacking them into a nice pile. There were three nice gems, including one that looked like a ruby, those didn't get dug up very often. Ice might not have known what stones were expensive or not, but she was very proud of her find, and looked very smug as she accepted a pet.
But there was something else besides the gems, that Ice hadn't been very interested in. It took Nerius a moment to realize what it was, the thin, pale prongs didn't look much like a gemstone. It was a fossil, he realized, remarkably well excavated, for having been done by a familiar. Carefully, he picked it up, it looked rather fragile.
He'd found fossils before, but nothing quite like this one, usually they were bulkier pieces of remains, often encased in stone. This, well, it reminded him of what he'd find in a roast chicken, except much larger. It looked about as delicate too, and getting it safely back home would be the challenge. It was too large to fit in the small pouches he had for valuable stones, it would have to go in his pack, but he'd need to wrap it up safely some how. Maybe he had something that would work, he'd have to look.
Or would, right after Ice quit nudging his arm to get him to take the gemstones. She was more excited about those than the fossil, and didn't want them to be left behind. Nerius didn't want to leave them either, and though he wasn't likely to forget, placed them in the carry pouch first, before taking off his backpack.
Nerius had brought an assortment of supplies, but really the only thing he found that would work was some old rags. Not ideal, but he decided to wrap them around the fossil, it wouldn't protect it from being dropped or something like that, but should keep it safe for the trip home. Once it was safely wrapped up, he took a peek inside the hole that had held the gem stash, just in case there was something Ice hadn't been interested in. It was empty, not surprising, she tended to grab anything she could get her little claws on.
She'd also moved off while Nerius had been wrapping the fossil, going back to searching for any other gems in the area. He rather doubted she'd find another horde like this one, but if a mining familiar had been in the area at one point, there was a good chance that there were mineral veins around.
He'd leave that to Ice, and decided he'd check the pool again, he knew the familiar wouldn't want anything to do with that, and she'd distracted Nerius with this last find before he'd really had a chance too look. And she might again, the gem dragon seemed to have a lead on something, and was sniffing along the floor like she was on to something. There wasn't anything obvious and exposed, so she'd probably have to do some digging in any case, so he let her continue and went back to the stream.
There was.. something at the bottom, and Nerius knelt down for a closer look. That didn't mean much, the stones at the bottom could have just been ordinary rock, loose stones would have gotten dragged along and stuck, just the same as gemstones. He tried to aim the flashlight at the rocks a little better, but the water gave everything an odd color, he might have to reach in and grab a handful to really tell.
Yes, there was something glimmery down there, though it was partially hidden beneath other dull stones. Between that and the poor lighting, Nerius couldn't tell what it was exactly, but it was something of interest at least. He'd have to reach in for it, and just dipping into the water revealed that it was very cold. Well, at least he didn't have to go all the way in. Nerius rolled his sleeve up to his shoulder, and reached in, hissing at the cold water.
He was able to grab the thing, it felt like a stone, and pull it out of the pool. Now his arm was dripping wet, and he regretted not bringing a towel, but at least he had the find. Ice wasn't paying any attention to this, and was still moving around, searching for whatever scent she'd caught. There was something in the floor, and every so often she'd scratch at it, before continuing on.
The stone was just as damp as his arm, and Nerius backed away from the water, so it wouldn't fall back in if he lost his grip on it. He shone the flashlight on it, revealing a splotchy pattern of pink and red. A crabfire agate, not the most spectacular stone, and not the first one he'd found this trip either. It wasn't nearly as exciting as the familiar horde Ice had found before, but it was something. It was also free of excess stone, likely tumbled away by the water, which meant he didn't have any cleanup to do before putting it away in his gem pouch.
Ice was still on the hunt, but seemed to have found a promising spot. The gem dragon had quit wandering around, and was doing the scratch and sniff in one specific location now. It was probably a mineral vein, and she was looking for the spot closest to the surface.
Was there anything else down there, that was the question. Nerius peered back down into the pool, it wasn't terribly large, and there probably wasn't that much at the bottom. Still, that didn't mean he wouldn't give it a thorough check. He didn't want to go swimming, but, maybe he could shift the rocks down below with his shovel? It was worth a shot, and he untied the tool from his backpack. It hadn't fit inside, so he'd strapped it to the exterior.
It was long enough to reach the bottom of the pool, or at least, the area where stones had been carried by the current and collected. Nerius had been planning on just shifting them around, but he supposed he could dig them out too. Ice was finally doing some digging of her own, she had settled on a spot, and was excavating away, resulting in a quickly accumulating pile of small pebbles.
Nerius poked around at the rocks with the shovel, they moved easy enough, but he still couldn't see very much. Removing them from the pool would be the best choice, though a bit more work. It was somewhat of an awkward angle, and he had to kneel to reach properly. The first few shovel fulls weren't too bad, but the rocks started to get heavy very quickly. His muscle strength wasn't the best, which was something that he'd been repeatedly reminded of during this trip. Maybe he should buy one of those Pit bracelets of strength, not for his creatures, but for himself. Okay yes working out was also an option, but that took time and he was already busy.
Speaking of busy, the mining familiar had been digging away, and something shiny was starting to become visible in the hole she was making. Nerius hadn't noticed yet, so he had no idea what it was, but Ice was thrilled.
Did he mention those rocks were starting to get heavy? Because they were feeling really heavy now, and Nerius paused to check just how much was left. Not too much, which unfortunately made him want to finish what he'd started. Well, after a short break, and after thirty seconds or so, he continued to dig. He was getting an impressive pile, at least, though if there was anything good in there was yet to be seen. He'd be very annoyed if all that work was for nothing, but that was a very real risk.
The familiar on the other hand had very little risk of her digging being for nothing, more and more shine was being revealed as she dug. She let out a happy little scree, not even paying attention to that fact that Nerius was poking around in that horrible water. That wasn't worth it even for gems, in her opinion.
Nerius' arms were shaking by the time he finished scooping up all the loose stones, though he had an impressive pile stacked next to the pool though. He was very happy to put the shovel down, and to sit down on the floor for a break. A well earned one, in his opinion, though he still had to go through the stack and look for anything worthwhile. He didn't see anything obvious from where he was sitting, but that didn't mean there wasn't something caked in dull stone buried in the pile. After all, he hadn't been checking them as he dug them up, having been more focused on the effort.
He did take the time to check on his mining familiar, and was surprised to see had her own pile of rocks. Though, it her case, those weren't the important part, Nerius had worked with Ice enough to recognize when she was on to something.