Leafy almost stumbled forward as her boot collided with something hidden beneath the dirt. Suspicion briefly filled her chest as she contemplated the fact that she had been very lucky on this expedition already. She buried the feeling deep within her mind and bent down to discover what had tried to trip her. Snap scurried over to help, his small feet gliding smoothly across the cavern floor. As Leafy pushed away more dirt, she could vaguely begin to make out the shapes of some gems hidden beneath the dirt.
Snap leaned forward and sniffed curiously at the treasure. Leafy could identify the one stone as silver ore. That was a particularly nice find since it could be used as the base for many types of jewelry. The other gem was not one that Leafy was super familiar with. She would have to use a book to identify it after she had returned home.
She stuffed both treasures into her backpack. It was a little less ceremonial than usual, but the girl wanted to keep moving. Snap turned his attention back to the path ahead. He seemed intrigued by their find and he wanted to find more cool things. Leafy wondered what caused this innate desire to gather gemstones that persisted within mining familiars. Her backpack was steadily growing heavier with each find, but Leafy was confident that she could keep going long enough to fill her pack at least halfway. Snap stopped suddenly, his ears pricked forward as his eyes caught the movement of something scuttling through the tunnel. It was likely an insect, but Leafy was unsure of how many the small halfbreed had seen before. With his attention focused on figuring out what the sound was, Leafy knew it would be a while before they made further progress. She moved forward to join him.
Snap appeared tense with his fur standing up stiffer than usual. Leafy laid a comforting hand on the top of his head, trying to reassure him that she was right there as backup. They could defeat a nasty bug together. She took the flashlight and used it to help illuminate the area around Snap. The halfbreed added his own glow to the area, but her flashlight was quite a lot brighter than Snap’s natural bioluminescence. Snap squinted as the light filled his vision. For a moment Leafy swore that she was experiencing the same blinding sensation, but the flashlight was directed away from her eyes.
“We’re likely looking for a cockroach or something equally disgusting,” she commented to her companion.
Snap tilted his head as though trying to tell her that the names she gave bugs were meaningless to him. Leafy was pretty sure he wouldn’t have known what a cockroach was anyways.
Snap swished his tail up and down as he carefully considered his surroundings. There were tiny track marks in the dirt which made Leafy suddenly certain that they were dealing with a rodent rather than an insect. There was a sudden flash of movement just out of range of the flashlight and Snap immediately darted closer to it. Snap pawed at the ground, trying to gain some stability as the dirt shifted underneath his feet. If he could growl, Leafy was certain that he would pick this moment to do so.
“Rats can get pretty nasty so hopefully were dealing with something like a mouse,” she murmured to herself.
She pictured Snap trying to fight a rat. His inability to bleed would likely be an advantage, but she was pretty sure that a rat would be stronger than him. Besides, he was untrained and unlikely to listen to any battle strategy.
There was more movement to their right and Leafy was quick to direct her flashlight into the area. Her flashlight illuminated a pair of bright, red eyes and she couldn’t stop the shudder that ran down her spine. They were dealing with a rat after all. Snap pressed close to her legs, relying on the girl to protect him from the ghastly rodent.
“Shoo! Get out of here!” Leafy began to wave her arms back and forth in an effort to make the rat flee in fear.
It seemed unperturbed. Its white fur stood stark against the dark cavern walls. It looked more like a lab rat than the usual cave dwelling rodents. Perhaps someone had released it down here? She felt briefly sorry for the creature, but its presence was agitating Snap so she needed it to go away. Leafy picked up a nearby chunk of granite and chucked it at the rat.
The rat scurried away, not at all pleased with the sudden assault of flying rocks. Snap was suddenly less interested in the rat and a lot more interested in the small pile of gems that the rat had been guarding. The bright red gem was easy enough to identify as a ruby. The other looked to be some kind of ore, but Leafy had never seen it before. She carefully picked up both treasures while Snap watched out for danger.
“We should be able to make quite a bit of money from all the gems we’ve found today.”
Snap didn’t have any concept of money to get excited about the prospect of making lots. The rat disappeared into the darkness of the tunnel, leaving the duo alone once again. She preferred it this way since rodents were rather unpredictable and could bite with ferocity. She didn’t think Snap would handle getting bitten very well.
Snap’s tail appeared to be good at helping to light up the tunnel. It became more apparent as the tunnel grew darker and Leafy’s flashlight less effective. It certainly allowed the small halfbreed to see quite clearly in the darkness. The tunnel itself remained the same width, making it easy for the duo to navigate through it. The girl was hoping that her trip would become the slightest bit more exciting, but she knew that safer was better for Snap.
“You know if we came across some super tiny gaps, you could probably squeeze through and look for treasure,” Leafy told Snap.
They would need more trust built between the two of them before they attempted to work something like that out. It would certainly be useful for future endeavors. Snap climbed up onto the top of a large rock that blocked their path. He paused for a moment, using his newfound perch to scout ahead.
Snap appeared to enjoy his newfound height. Maybe if he grew bored of scouting out on the ground, she could put him on her shoulder. The halfbreed was certainly lighter than her backpack and Leafy had enough experience lugging baby Felusine around. Snap’s gaze fixed on a point further into the tunnel. Had he seen something or was he simply searching for something? Leafy felt herself grow worried at the thought of something lurking ahead. She was very vulnerable without a skilled fighter by her side. She had her mining equipment which could fit in a good hit if she grew completely desperate. But Leafy wasn’t that strong and her tools might break against thick skin. Maybe Snap would turn out to be a mighty fighter and save the day. She didn’t need to focus on an attack that might not even happen. Negative thoughts would only make her afraid and fear would make her sloppy.
“I swear to God if there’s more rats up ahead, I’ll be very angry,” Leafy muttered.
Under different circumstances, Leafy might even like rats. They were the perfect mix between cute and grotesque and they made people very uncomfortable. However, they were also disease riddled creatures and Leafy really hated the kind of bugs that made her sick. Besides, she was fairly certain that a particularly large rat would be able to eat Snap if it tried hard enough. Not that he would be much nutritional value. But rats liked to eat garbage and plaster and lots of stuff that wasn’t healthy.
“Rats, rats go away. I don’t want to play today!” Leafy sang a simple tune.
Could rats understand her song? They seemed intelligent enough and lots of Leafy’s creatures could understand her words. Rats should at least be able to understand when she wanted them to leave her alone.
“Rats are fats and they get eaten by cats. If a rat tagged me I would tag it back. Chew, chew, chew through a nail. Chew, chew, chew through your own tail,” Leafy continued to sing.
Snap’s ears twisted around to hear her more clearly. He listened closely, as though trying to make out her nonsensical phrasing. Singing made Leafy feel more at ease. It made the rats seem silly like they were characters in a puppet show. Snap seemed to grow bored of her song and he pressed forward ahead of her.
“Rats eat cheese but then it makes them sneeze. Rats eat poison but nothing rhymes with poison,” Leafy trailed off as her song became more muddled.
Snap’s tail flicked up and down, as though feeling the air for something. She didn’t know too much about his biology. Could he detect things using his tail? That sort of thing seemed rather silly. Leafy couldn’t detect gems by waving her hands in the air.
Leafy’s nose wrinkled as Snap sniffed at a mushroom growing within the damp dirt of the tunnel. This probably meant that there was stagnant water within the tunnel. She listened for the sound of running water, but she could only hear the soft scuffling of shifting rocks. If she listened close enough, she wondered if she could hear the sound of wind rushing in from open tunnels, but the air remained eerily silent. Snap drew away from the fungus, wary of its safety. Leafy didn’t need to worry about Snap eating anything strange since she was fairly certain that he didn’t eat at all. Sometimes he seemed more like an inanimate object than he did a real creature. Snap decided to flop down against the ground, taking a break. Leafy decided she deserved a break as well. It would be pointless to continue if Snap was tired after all. They could afford to rest.
Leafy sat on the dirt, not minding if her clothes got filthy. It wasn’t like it was possible to stay clean in the mines. Snap’s glossy fur was covered in a thick coating of dirt. He made no effort to clean it off, instead allowing it to coat his body and mask his scent from any predators.
“It’s probably an evolutionary advantage,” she commented out loud.
She rubbed at the dirt patches that coated her arms. She didn’t even remember doing anything to get herself particularly filthy, but here she was covered in dirt as usual. It certainly was an inevitability of the mines. Snap curled up into a tiny ball and tucked his head underneath his tail. Leafy wondered if he was going to take a nap, but she couldn’t tell if his eyes were shut or not. Leafy decided to keep watch, just in case he really was asleep.
It felt like an hour had passed before Snap raised his head with his energy restored. Leafy leaned forward and pressed her palm against his back and began to pet him slowly. It was good to become more familiar with her companion. His fur was soft to touch but it was also unnaturally cold. Leafy didn’t think Snap had any body heat at all. Perhaps he was cold blooded, or perhaps he didn’t even have blood in the first place. Leafy wouldn’t be able to confirm either way until Snap got hurt. She really preferred for that not to happen. She wasn’t that desperate to have her question answered.
“Are you ready to go?” Leafy questioned the mining familiar.
At the sound of her voice, Snap pushed himself into a standing position and stretched. He shook his fur out, sending a spray of dust scattering into the air. It made Leafy sneeze.