Roku couldn’t have known that he was providing such a peculiar service to San, and San wasn’t about to share that fact with the cat either. But still, San felt thankful for it, in his own way.
“Come with me,” San said to the Equillion, though given that he was the one holding the lead, he probably didn’t need to. And there was always the question of whether the creature even understood Common to begin with. If their humanoid companions didn’t speak much to them, then there really wasn’t much opportunity for them to absorb it and learn.
Still, if they did know Common, it would have been more strange to go on in silence, wouldn’t it? And perhaps exposure to the dominant language here was an implicit part of the… enrichment, or the acclimation, that San’s time with them was supposed to give them.
Even getting used to the sound of human voices, without comprehending the words, was probably a little useful. He wouldn’t force himself to chatter on the way he did when he was working the jobs where he had to interface with more humanoids, but it wasn’t like he was going to stay utterly silent and reticent either.
The Equillion didn’t start at his voice, but it did prick its ears forward at him, as if it were paying a little more attention now. It was a large beast, maybe not so much in height but definitely in bulk. In fact, he had thought it might be another variant of Murp at first until its species had been explained to him. It did look rather bull-like, with strong shoulders and a stocky, barrel-like body. The neck was thick with muscle, and the legs were sturdy, not at all the delicate lines of a racehorse.
Even to San's relatively untrained eye, this was a creature built for strength and endurance. The blue coloring was a little odd, and he heard that this breed had some sort of special affinity with water… But if that was the case, he didn’t see any sign of it just yet.
But then, considering his lack of experience and knowledge, San thought it was for the best. He didn’t know what he would do if the Equillion suddenly began conjuring water out of nowhere. For now it was simpler for him to treat it as just an oddly colored, six legged horse.
The two of them were inside the same cavern that he had entered with the Murp the other day, because San knew there would be room enough inside for them both. That, and he hadn’t adequately explored this place the last time he was here.
The elemental crystal he had found had indeed fetched a handsome price, which was maybe a bigger part of why Ichaival no longer protested his going to these places. Seveth had managed, at last, to be of some use, using his more intricate knowledge of magic and its components to secure them a better deal than San likely would have gotten.
So it wasn’t as if Seveth was wholly without talent. In fact, if San was being honest, even he could tell that Seveth had some real potential, and generally in places where San himself had little. Seveth was the one who knew how to utilize the full breadth of the magic that they had access to now, while San himself was limited to sporadic discharges of electricity, and occasionally managing something more. It wasn’t anything to be relied upon, so he didn’t try to incorporate it into his fighting style or his daily life.
It was probably just as well that he went rogue if that was how it would have turned out. What the Watchful Ones would have made of such a dull-witted elemental agent, he didn’t know. But it wasn’t as if he would ever have a chance to find out.
And in the meantime, despite Seveth’s talent and potential, he had no interest in applying himself towards anything that didn’t immediately appeal to him. And so for the moment San was left cleaning up after Seveth’s messes in between trying to sort out his own life, with half the time he should have had to do it.
He sighed. The Equillion stared at him, and he was forced to smile for it and shake his head. “It’s nothing,” he said. He ought to have been paying closer attention to the Equillion, come to that, rather than stewing in his own thoughts.
It was just that the Equillion didn’t seem so interested in causing trouble the way the Murp had done, and there was little enough else to distract him on a slow, meandering walk through a cave. He sensed no more creatures, and no immediate danger; and he was finding as of late that his mind had a tendency to stray if he wasn’t careful.
It had never been quite so bad when he had still been Watchful. But then, at the time there had been too much else going on.
It was funny, wasn’t it? This was what he had wanted back then, more or less - to be free of being Watchful, to be able to do as he liked within the normal confines of a normal life, without the threat of death hanging over him like a shroud. To live without having to take any more lives.
And yet, now that he was here, he found that he almost couldn’t stand it, and he no longer knew what to do with himself. He couldn’t think, couldn’t sleep - the quiet moments were always the worst. If the him of even two years ago could have met him now, he was sure that his past self would have punched him in the face for squandering what he had been given.
But maybe being Watchful had taken more from him than even he had thought. Maybe once you had become tainted that way, there was no going back.
… He was thinking himself in circles. He didn’t like it. He had to have something in the way of distraction. He came to a spot in the cave where the rock face was unmarred by recent digging, and on an impulse he retrieved the tools from the pack he was carrying.
Some digging, something to do with his hands, to give his muscles some work and drum the thoughts out of his mind… That might help. “It’ll be loud for a bit, so please bear with it,” he said to the Equillion, who inclined its head at him.
And then he struck the pick to the rock.
It wasn’t actually that loud. He wasn’t striking as hard as he could, since he had no desire to cause another landslide, or to cause the Equillion to panic and try to bolt, for that matter. Besides which, he didn’t want to tie the Equillion to one of those stalagmites like some sort of sad dog, and so he held onto the lead with one hand, which left him only one other hand to work with in terms of using the pick.
And the relatively muted noise meant that the Equillion was only startled, rather than well and truly frightened.
It was funny, if he really thought about it, how a creature so much bigger than himself could have such a delicate temperament. But then, as big as they were, they were still technically prey animals. A predator of that size, he thought, would have been different. That first reptile, the Laredo, had been different. It had hissed at things that it thought were a threat, but San hadn’t been quite so concerned about it trying to bolt in a panic.
It didn’t take long for his arm to start aching, at which point he swapped hands and set to work with his left. That was harder; he wasn’t ambidextrous, and his strikes became much less accurate, much more awkward. But slowly he was making some headway into the rock.
Not that he was digging towards a particular goal, so it didn’t really matter, he thought. But then the flashlight revealed a glimmer of something as the next chip of rock fell away, and San frowned, leaning in closer to inspect it. Was that… something pink beneath the dark stone he had been cutting through?
It was; pink and translucent, and strangely vibrant for a raw stone. Curiosity overtook him for a moment, and he set to work digging it out, occasionally checking on the Equillion to make sure it was still doing alright. But the Equillion gave him no trouble, and it didn’t take him long to unearth the strange pink stone that he had found. It came away from the surrounding rock surprisingly easily, and when he held it in his hands, he felt a… a voice, very faintly, emanating from it.
… He was beginning to wish he hadn’t unearthed it.
It didn’t feel the way the elemental crystal had, but even this much similarity was unsettling to him. He kept it only because it was strange and had the potential to be valuable to someone, somewhere; but as for that, he would leave it to Seveth once again. Even if it wasn’t magic related, the man seemed like the sort of person with an interest in precious stones, if only because he cared about how they would look on him.
It was time for them to leave. “That’s enough for today,” he said to the Equillion. “We’ll go back out to the entrance now and head home.”
With those words, San led the Equillion back along the wall of the cavern, back the way that they had come. It took a little time, but they walked faster now than they had coming in, and eventually they came to the entrance.