I find that I am often drawn to the crystal speckled caves known colloquially as 'the mines'. Many people travel here, with good reason. There are treasures hidden within - if one knows how to find them. As luck would have it, I happen to know a great deal about finding precious gems among the rocks. It is unfortunate that there is a considerable effort involved in prying them loose, but I am willing to make such a sacrifice to add to my collection. Plus, I have brought with me a small gemstone creature who is meant to help with such matters.
The tools I was able to trade for are clearly meant for human hands, but many of them benefit me in some way or the other. I think the helmet looks good on my head, even if it doesn't cover much. I tip it in such a way that it covers the gem on my forehead. I don't want any strange creatures thinking I am a part of the sparkling landscape, after all.
Before I ever went inside, I observed many human travelers make trips into the dark caverns. As most of them returned alive, I determined that it was probably fine to try it for myself. One thing I noticed was that nearly all of them that were successful had a little creature with them. People in this city often had strange creatures with them, but these ones I could tell were different in some way.
The day I first found Sapphire, I knew I had to have it. Its skin sparkled like it was made entirely of gemstone, and in a dark blue color not unlike my own scales. At first I mistook it for the largest sapphire I had ever seen, hence its name. There was something about the curious little face of the creature that endeared me to immediately. I made a deal on the spot that could simply not be refused. Ever since, I have brought Sapphire with me when I return.
It came as a surprise to me that in addition to being beautiful, Sapphire was also intelligent. I expected a creature who appeared to be made of rock to have the brains of one, but it is in fact quite clever. Without any formal training, it is able to help guide me around the mines and even seek out gemstones to give me. I am not sure why it does this, but I am certainly pleased.
I was running out of things to trade for jewels and other necessities, so I prepared myself for a long excursion to the caverns. While I would prefer Sapphire to fly on its own, it is slower and more clunky than I am, so I clutch it in a free claw as I make the trip. We both arrive unharmed and are ready to get started. I stare down at Sapphire waiting for it to chose the direction we travel in. I am not sure if it knows the best way or is just lucky, but I will follow its lead.
Sapphire is not an indecisive creature so it flies off down a large tunnel right away. I follow closely behind so that I don't miss anything that is happening. I want to be nearby if it finds something valuable. The tunnels near the entrance are rarely exciting. They have been smoothed away by many years of travelers picking away at the walls and wearing down the floor with their boots. I trust that Sapphire will be able to find a less traveled pathway for us to slip down soon.
I sometimes wonder what it was that drove the humans here in the first place, and why there was such an abundance of gemstones. Were there other places like this in the world? Was there something unique about this landscape that made it perfect for this sort of thing? Was it merely the accessibility that made it popular? I will keep researching to see if I can find an answer. If another such place exists, I would very much like to visit some day.
After some time of quietly flying through the tunnel, Sapphire stops to land. My ears perk up because I think it might have found something interesting. I am disappointed when it only stretches its wings, scratches at the ground, then keeps going. I guess I was a little premature in my excitement. There is unlikely to be anything this close to the surface.
I carefully observe the rocks as we walk past. The changes in color and texture can indicate a vein of rich ore that amateurs might overlook. There are many chips and chisel marks in the walls where people have no doubt pried gemstones loose. I want to know what they found here, and if any more are hidden away just out of view. Some of the marks are clearly made by the claws of a huge creature, maybe one even larger than myself. I place my claws in the space where the marks are and consider what sort of creature might have made them.
While observing the claw marks left behind by the unknown creature, I nearly missed the faint color change in the rock above. This must be what the mark-leaver was after. Either it was unsuccessful, or it was unable to take everything. A faint sparkle rests in the wall where I just barely saw it. A less well studied or poorly sighted creature would have walked right past it.
I whistled to Sapphire so it wouldn't stray too far and puzzled out how I could remove the gem from the wall. I was not sure from what I could see how durable a stone it might be, so I took the careful approach. First I used my claws to see if I could pry some of the surrounding rock lose, but that didn't work very well. I looked over Sapphire's claws as well to see if I thought they would work, but that seemed like more effort to organize than it was worth.
All of these tools I brought along can't be completely useless, even if the hat sort of is. I empty my side bag of its contents and sort through the tools. The hammer definitely seems too grotesque for such a delicate operation, and while the rock is tough, I am not sure a pick axe is subtle enough either. The light was of course completely pointless for someone who could see as well in the dark as I could, so the only other options were the brush and tweezers and the chisel.
For that matter, the mallet might not be that bad of an idea after all. I just have to hold it gently so that it taps the back of the chisel. That should give me enough force to remove the stone from the rock without completely destroying either. As I put together the plan in my head, I can see Sapphire staring up at the sparkle, too. If I were more lucky, he would jump up and grab the gem, saving us both the trouble.
I waited for a bit to see if Sapphire would help me, but it didn't move much so I went ahead with my plan. I held the chisel carefully at just the right angle to pry the gemstone loose. Then I used the mallet to give it a few hardy taps with increasing vigor. Chunks of the rock fell free and tumbled to the floor where they made a faint clattering sound. It is certainly a noisy endeavor, breaking stones loose.
Sapphire was on the lookout for anything that might be drawn in by the noise. I am not sure how something so small thinks it could protect me, but I do think it is cute. I feel like it is protective of me in a way. It is always standing upright and looking around like it is being defensive of me. It makes me wonder what it thinks it is protecting us from, exactly. Did it know about something particularly dangerous that I should be aware of?
My quickly thought out plan worked beautifully. A single brilliant red stone came loose and tumbled toward the floor, but I swiftly caught it before it made contact with the ground. It was a bright red and orange carnelian that reminded me of fire. A worthy find, indeed. I quickly dusted it off with my brush set and sorted it into a hidden pocket in my bag. I was the only one here that I know of, but I wanted to be certain that nobody else could find it even if they were somehow watching. One by one I put the rest of the tools away so that they don't get tangled or tear the lining of my bag.
Sapphire had relaxed a little now that the gem was out of sight. I whistled again to call it over and we continued our adventure down the tunnel. Hopefully the next nice find will be sitting a little more close to the surface where it doesn't require so much work to acquire.
I often thought about Sapphire's relationship to the gemstones and the caverns themselves. It was made of gemstone, so far as I can tell, but it also likes other gemstones. It was as if it wanted to collect them, or it wanted to help me collect them. I was not sure why it does such a thing without trying to keep them all for itself. Unsurprisingly, it was hard to find literature about gem dragons and their hoarding tenancies, so I had no choice but to observe it directly if I wanted to find the answer. If I ever see another human with a gem creature, I will have to ask them what they think. Not that I particularly care what humans think or anything.
I casually watched the walls and ceiling for more gemstones peeking out of the walls, but I do not see many as I travel. Perhaps it was just a fluke that I found one at all. We would have to continue on down the tunnels in order to find anything truly exceptional. I kept reminding myself that it is not always easy. Patience was a virtue and one I could use practice refining.
Every time I was down there I wondered why there are so many gemstones hidden in the rocks. It was something I often thought about in between dry spells of not seeing much worth noting. I found it so strange when I didn't see any crystals or gems that I could only ponder on why the area was so rich with them in the first place. I speculated that the gemstone creatures like Sapphire and the rich rocks were somehow related. There was a kind of magic here that I had become used to that either caused these things to happen or was caused by them. Exactly what their relationship was, I might not ever know.
Sapphire was a more clever creature than I often gave it credit for. Surely there was no brain inside that crystal skull, however. How could both things be true, I wondered. I would probably not ever find out the answer to that question unless I were to ask someone who already knew.
Speaking of being clever, I watched as Sapphire flew down the tunnel. I picked up my pace to keep up with it, hoping that it had found something to stifle my boredom. It stopped and started to scratch at the walls. I couldn't see what it was doing until I got closer. Once I did, I saw that it was scratching at some soft dirt breaking up the stiff stone walls.
I was pleased to see something different than long stretches of uninteresting rock, so I was willing to help out. I used my much larger claws to scratch away at the dirt and soon enough there was a hole large enough for me to stick my head into. Unfortunately, there was only more dirt behind it. Whether or not the cave in here was recent, it might be worth excavating. I decided to keep digging, pushing dirt behind me as I stretched out my long body in order to fit deeper and deeper into the tunnel.