This was, by far, the dumbest thing I had ever met. It was a strange creature that at first could be mistaken for a rock. When I first accepted the egg, I was assured that it would be a powerful elemental, but it was just some kind of weird grey blob with eyes. I spent a whole week hatching them by carefully cultivating their element, and this was my reward.
I wasn't about to give up that quickly, however. The instructions I was given with the egg suggested that more exposure to its element would cause it to grow stronger. I could not think of a more 'earthy' place than the sprawling gem mines, so I packed him into a backpack and headed down. As much as wrestling with two odd creatures seemed like a bad idea, I knew that Sapphire was fairly capable without much instruction, so I brought it along as well. I hoped that Sapphire could pick up a few gems for me while I looked after the strange thing, or maybe it could even watch him for me and I could do the gem hunting myself. Whatever the case, it did look eager to get out of the lair for a bit.
The elemental didn't put up much resistance as I moved it around and even shoved it into a backpack. Normally, creatures resisted being handled until they were used to it, but this one didn't seem to mind at all. As dumb as it was, I was starting to like it already. I could deal with something too simple to make decisions for itself as long as it did what I wanted.
When we arrived at the mines, I landed softly into the dirt and took out the backpack where I was keeping 11. I opened it up and attempted to tip him out of it gently, but he wasn't responding. I shook the bag a little more vigorously, and finally he rolled out into the dirt. He quickly righted himself and looked up at me expectantly.
Now that we were here, I was a little uncertain about what to do next. For some reason, I had assumed that the next step would make itself obvious, but it didn't. Sapphire landed next to me and tilted its head at 11. It seemed curious about him, so I let it look him over. I wondered if it might have seen a creature like this in the mines when it lived here.
While Sapphire was inspecting 11, I decided to do the same. The odd appendages coming out of the bottom seemed to be some kind of tail, or maybe limbs since there were more than one of them. There was a seam down his center between his eyes. I suspected that was a mouth, but I had no way to confirm that theory as of yet. To the best of my knowledge, he was like a little head-seed with wiggly little arms to right itself in case it got tipped over.
Overall, one thing was abundantly clear: I would have to take care of this thing until it was stronger. That is, if it ever even got stronger. I supposed I would have to test my theories about how to care for it and make it grow. That was the only way to figure it out - aside from asking someone with experience, which I doubted I would be able to find even if I wanted to. We were off to a good start, I thought. Bringing it down here to the mines would expose it to many more kinds of dirt and rock than were available on the surface. If I fed it gems, maybe it would even become more like a crystal, but I was not sure I could part with them in order to test that theory.
There was only one problem. I hadn't yet decided what to call him. I had picked up twelve of the elemental eggs, and this was the eleventh. I had just been referring to them by the order I picked them up in until now, which seemed to suit until he grew eyes. I put the idea of thinking of a name for it in the back of my mind. There wasn't much of a hurry to figure it out; I wasn't even sure that he had any ears to hear what I said in the first place.
Finally, after studying him for a while, Sapphire reached out to touch one of the squishy appendages coming out of 11. To my surprise, 11 reacted harshly, flailing its tentacles and lashing out at Sapphire. "Woah, maybe... don't do that," I said, stepping in. I used my claw to separate the two and pulled Sapphire away from him. Sapphire looked startled, but unharmed.
I was curious about what made him react that way. He had never done such a thing when I was around, even when I was grabbing him and moving him around. I reached out to touch him gently with my claw, to see how he would react.
No reaction. He simply looked up at me as if nothing had just happened. I stroked him with my claw to see if that had any effect. Again, no response. From what I could see of his eyes, 11 was watching me, but he was not making much of a reaction at all to anything I did to him. That was just another piece of the puzzle that was this odd creature. For now, I would just have to keep Sapphire and 11 apart, in case it was something Sapphire had done to set him off.
There was also the matter of the elements. Earth, that meant dirt and rocks, of which there were plenty around here. I wandered over to the wall nearby and scratched away a clawful of dirt. Then I sprinkled it on top of 11, who again barely reacted. Some of the dirt fell to the ground without any fanfare, but a bit of it disappeared. I could only assume that 11 had absorbed it somehow, or eaten it. I wouldn't put anything past him at this point.
Sapphire seemed curious about 11, even if he attacked it. It went over to the wall and scratched at it, just as I had. Perhaps it thought that it, too, had to 'feed' 11 before they could get along.
Sapphire continued to scratch away at the dirt until it had accumulated a little pile, then it scooped up the dirt and awkwardly carried it over to 11. It sprinkled the dirt over the top of 11 and looked rather proud of its accomplishment. 11 snapped its jaws shut and rolled away toward me. Sapphire frowned and decided not to try again, it seemed. It went over to another spot in the wall and started to inspect the stone as it often did.
The mysteries surrounding 11 were numerous, and the only way I could think to unlock them was to spend more time with him. Once I had a decent idea how he worked, I would be able to discover more about his siblings as well. Was it fair to call them siblings? It only seemed appropriate, as they had hatched together. I started to think that I should have brought one of them along as well. Two of them interacting with one another could provide more clues about them. That theory would prove troublesome to test, since the other elements were not exactly as 'simple' as earth was. The mines were absolutely full of rocks and dirt to feed 11 with, but his fiery sister would require a more complex approach.
Sapphire was bored of the mystery, so it went back to scratching at the walls. It looked like it wanted to explore more down a particular tunnel, but it kept looking back at 11 and I to make sure that it didn't wander too far from us. I figured that this was as good a time as any to take 11 exploring. He would probably be fine.
I rolled 11 into one of my claws and headed toward Sapphire. Sapphire had a good instinct when it game to the mines, so I trusted it to find something interesting. I began to think of the riches it might lead us to, and how gemstones might affect 11's growth. Could he become more gem-like if fed a large quantity of gemstone? I liked the idea of having a beautiful golem to protect my hoard, but I also balked at the amount gems I might have to give up for it to work.
I was still surprised by how little 11 reacted to anything that was going on around him. When I lifted him up and carried him away, he didn't move or even blink. Those things were his eyes, weren't they? I was secretly hoping that the mini adventure spur him into motion.
After spending some time with 11, I was starting to appreciate Sapphire's company more. Even though they were both (more or less) living rocks, Sapphire was considerably more expressive and clever than 11 was. I still wasn't sure what 11 would be like as he grew, but for now, I preferred Sapphire's company. Not only because it often led me to riches in the underground tunnels, either.
Sapphire wandered down the tunnel and looked at the walls and ceiling as if it were studying them. I wondered what it might be thinking about. Was it familiar with this location, or did it simply follow some kind of unknown instinct? Was it so familiar with the kinds of rocks that existed down here that it could predict what might come next by studying what was around? I did not think I would ever really know what it was thinking, as it was not an easy creature to communicate with on that level.
11, of course, was continuing to lay around not doing much of anything. I stopped briefly to scoop up a small pile of dirt and dust 11 with it. I could only hope that he appreciated the gesture, as he didn't have much of a reaction to speak of.
Sapphire stopped abruptly, which I began to recognize as a good sign. Most of the time, that meant it found something worth stopping for. It scratched at the wall a bit, then moved on. I sighed, since it didn't seem like it had found anything after all. Out of habit, I scooped up the loose dirt that it had scratched free and dumped it on 11. It was the least I could do for the stupid thing. I was secretly hoping that I could accelerate his growth by dumping more and more earth on him.
As much as I liked hunting for gemstones with Sapphire, my mind was elsewhere. I began to wonder what I could do to stimulate 11 more. Little was known about the odd creatures known as golems other than some notes scribbled down by an eccentric old scientist. Or was it a mage? Whatever the case, they rambled on and on, but only some of what they said was actually useful. The conclusion I came to was that I would have to figure out most of it by myself. Other than the need to feed the golems their element, I also learned that they were able to connect to other elements and fuse into more powerful and complex forms.
What would it be like to expose 11 to another element? It would be an easy experiment to carry out. I could just grab another element, plop them down, and see what happened. I wasn't expecting much considering what I had seen so far, but I supposed that it might help to strengthen their bond with each other. At the very least, I thought it could make him more interesting to be around if he had some kind of reaction to another element. I knew that they couldn't be fused when they were seedlings, but I was still interested in introducing them early.
"Sapphire," I called out. Sapphire had not been formally trained, but it usually responded to its name. "Let us go back to the lair," I said. I wasn't sure why I felt the need to say that aloud, as if Sapphire understood me.
Sapphire watched me leave and followed along without much fuss. It looked back a few times as if it wanted to continue exploring the tunnel. I would be happy to let it search for gems on its own if I weren't so afraid of someone else snatching it (and my gems!) up. I scribbled down a note on my map so that we could return to this location later. I was not sure if the note was more for Sapphire or myself.
This was proving more difficult than I had first anticipated. Keeping 11 alive and well was easy; he was more or less just a rock. When I returned to my lair and looked at the other potential elements, however, I realized that not all of them would be as easy to carry around. In the end, I chose to work with 6, a water seedling. Water was an abundant resource, even in the mines. It was also fairly easy to carry, at least compared to fire. I filled up a water canister with fresh water from my lair and scooped up 6 with a free claw.
Sapphire was looking tired by the time we flew back to the mines, so I decided to give it a bit of rest. I could use that time to get to know 6 a little better. I wanted to know how she differed from 11, if she did at all. So far all I had was that they were different colors, and that 6 needed water instead of earth to grow. I set her down gently on the stone floor of a large cavern to examine her. She blinked uselessly at me but otherwise sat still. What a brilliant start.
The odd little thing might as well be an egg for as useful as it was. She even still looked like one. It was hard to imagine the little egg with eyes and tentacles becoming a powerful beast some day. Perhaps the prolonged helpless stage was all just a part of the process. If it spared energy to such an extreme, then it could use all of its resources to grow. I thought about whether this was an intentional part of the creature's creation or more of an oversight. How were they created exactly, anyway? Well, best not to think about that too much. 6 was my responsibility now and where she came from didn't really matter.
Sapphire had learned its lesson last time with 11, so it did not make an attempt to make friends with 6. It seemed annoyed, but I was not too worried about that. I was sure that it would sort itself out given enough time to relax. Sapphire noticed when I glanced over to see how it was doing, and it responded by turned away in a huff. It might have been more upset than I realized, so I decided to make an attempt to make peace.