Leafy licked her finger and held it up. It was a tactic used to figure out if there was fresh air entering a tunnel. She didn’t feel any telltale tickle of a breeze which meant that the tunnel they were in was completely closed off.
“That also means it won’t be so simple to get out of here when we need to,” Leafy told Snap.
It meant that they needed to go deeper or turn around. Leafy didn’t really like turning around if there wasn’t a real reason to. Snap seemed eager to venture onwards anyways and she didn’t want to disappoint him. Leafy found that her eyes had adjusted to the darkness which would make it easier for her to navigate the tunnels. Her flashlight was always trusted to get her through the darkest of places, but its range was limited. It was much safer for her when her eyes were used to the dark.
“We’re pretty lucky that we haven’t run into any hostile critters yet. Rats aren’t super vicious when they don’t have rabies and rabies isn’t all that common, I don’t think,” Leafy said.
Snap flicked one of his ears which was the only indication that he gave that he had heard her. He wasn’t much for conversation.
“Most of the wild creatures won’t like us because we steal their gems. We must protect the backpack at all costs! Well except not at the cost of our lives. I’d much prefer to stay alive. Money is pretty pointless if we’re too dead to go collect it.”
Snap scraped at the ground with one of his feet. Was there something buried underneath or was the mining familiar just acting silly? Most of their finds had been lucky so far. None had been guarded by mean creatures and nothing had broken her tools yet. Fungus was her worst find so far, but it didn’t pose much danger to them.
Snap was taking quite a while fiddling with the dirt. Leafy stepped closer to him to see if he needed a hand. Pretty literally since he didn’t have hands himself. She realized that he was busy trying to dig up something round and orange. Leafy knew it was a gemstone, but she couldn’t quite place what it was. She wanted to call it a sunstone, but she knew that wasn’t what it was called. It was simply a nickname that she had wanted to give it.
“I can help you if you’d like!” Leafy exclaimed.
She leaned down, making sure that Snap could see her clearly as she leaned past him. Her arm brushed against his fur as she began to scoop the dirt away with her hands. It didn’t take long for the gemstone to become completely uncovered. Snap stepped back once Leafy cradled the gem safely in her hands.
She wiped the gem against her shirt and placed it in her backpack with the rest of them. Snap watched intently until he was satisfied that the gem was safe out of harm’s way. He scurried forward, waving his tail up and down the entire time. Again, Leafy was left to ponder over whether his tail did something or not. She liked to think that it did, but she wasn’t smart enough to figure out what it was exactly. Tails were normally meant for balance, so perhaps that’s what it was.
“If you slowed down, you’d probably stay a lot safer!” Leafy advised.
Snap didn’t pay her much attention, instead opting to throw his body on top of one of the many large rocks that adorned the tunnel. Leafy followed him swiftly, leaping over the rock instead, taking care not to accidentally land on the small halfbreed. He regarded her warily for a moment before following.
The tunnel began to slope downwards which forced both Leafy and Snap to slow down. The girl held her arms spread outwards as she fought to keep her balance. The terrain was filled with loose rocks which made it difficult to navigate. Snap was lucky he was close to the ground. If he tripped he wouldn’t have far to fall at all. Leafy on the other hand risked getting her palms scraped up or her knees skinned if she had the misfortune of tripping.
“It’s all downhill form here,” Leafy joked.
Snap didn’t acknowledge her joke and Leafy didn’t blame him for it. It had been pretty terrible. She rolled her hands outwards, remembering all the times she had needed to bandage them after some unfortunate falls in the mines. Luckily, she had yet to experience any broken bones. Mostly her injuries had been minor and had healed within a few days.
The sloping tunnel was slightly unnerving to Leafy. Venturing deep into the mines was always an unstable experience when it wasn’t so simple to leave. A good mining adventurer always kept an eye out for a way out.
“Make sure not to go too fast,” she told Snap.
The small creature stopped briefly to acknowledge that she had spoken, even if he didn’t quite understand what she had said yet. Snap seemed to slow down when he realized that Leafy was struggling a bit to keep up with his pace as they headed downhill. Leafy kept her gaze fixed on the ground ahead. It wouldn’t help her if she was caught of guard by a stray rock. She needed to keep herself focused on the terrain. Snap trotted along diligently, wanting to keep a good pace even if they were going slower than they had before. He was eager to see the rest of the mines.
The tunnel began to slope further down, and the path grew more jagged. Not as many people had travelled down here. Snap seemed more comfortable in the wilder parts of the mines than Leafy felt. The sloping path made Leafy feel like she was hiking rather than mining. She wondered if Snap would feel at home on a mountain since the terrain was quite similar to what was found in the mines. Dirt filled her hiking boots as she struggled to keep her footing.
“I wouldn’t want to turn back, but this is getting rather difficult to navigate. Hopefully it evens out soon enough,” Leafy said.
Snap climbed carefully over a tangle of vines that had somehow managed to grow in the rocky dirt. Leafy kicked at the tendrils as they tugged at her boots, but the vines held strong. Leafy wished she could chew through the vines, but she didn’t think her teeth were strong enough for that.
Leafy stumbled as a sudden gust of wind filled the tunnel. She had been almost certain that there were no exits leading from this tunnel. Was the wind supernatural in origin? Perhaps it was a sign of ghosts. Snap didn’t seem bothered by the sudden gust of wind. His fur prickled slightly in the breeze, but that was more from the motion of the wind rather than any agitation on the part of the creature.
“Should we investigate?” the girl questioned.
It didn’t seem like there was much to investigate though. The breeze had come from up ahead and that was where they were already headed. If there was a divide she could see if there was a tunnel that the wind was coming from, but she would need to get lucky and feel another breeze at exactly the right moment. And she would also need to convince Snap to head down the correct tunnel.
Snap tapped his front feet against the tunnel walls as though he was searching for something. Was he simply looking for gems or was he instead searching for a hidden passage? The girl drew closer and began to press against the tunnel walls as well. She scraped her fingernails through the dirt, trying to see if there was anything to grab ahold of. When nothing happened, she began to press the palms of her hands against the walls, trying to see if it would give way beneath the pressure. Snap regarded her curiously for a moment before continuing to press his front feet against the dirt. Leafy tried to match his positioning, though her hands were pressed higher up. After a few moments of working like this, the dirt began to uniformly crumble beneath her hands. The girl coughed as dirt filled the air as it settled to the ground.
The newly revealed tunnel was a lot smaller than the one they were currently in. On the plus side, the tunnel path looked level. Snap ventured forward, eager for a change in scenery. The smaller space was likely more comfortable for him. He bounced forward, moving quickly to emerge his body fully within the new area. Dust rolled off his back, leaving a cloud in its wake. Leafy brushed dirt from her own shoulders, though it made little difference. The new tunnel was brighter than the last one had been. Her flashlight was almost unnecessary. Snap’s glow would probably be enough to light the tunnel, but she risked missing out on treasure if she didn’t maintain optimal vision.
“I hope this tunnel doesn’t narrow further. I’d prefer not to crawl.”
Snap kept his face close to the ground as he scented for anything of interest. The tunnel just smelled of dirt to Leafy.
Leafy was aware that creatures had a stronger sense of smell than she did. She couldn’t really imagine what that would be like though. She thought the dirt would simply smell stronger and mask all the other scents one could smell. That’s what happened to her when she smelled something particularly strong. Snap seemed focused intently on something he could scent. His head raised and he began to scuttle forward. He moved silently, his feet not making any noise even as they met with stone. It was quite impressive since he managed to keep the crystals on his toes from scraping against the rocks underfoot.
“I’ve heard that some types of dirt smell and taste differently,” Leafy murmured.
She couldn’t really imagine how dirt could taste differently from other dirt. She wouldn’t call the fact wrong just because she couldn’t understand it. Leafy was not nearly as silent as snap was with her hiking boots.
Snap lead them through the tunnel. He raised his head and sniffed at the air cautiously. Did that mean that he had caught the scent of another animal? Leafy placed one of her hands on the strap of her backpack for extra security. Sometimes wild gem familiars would attack her in an attempt to steal her horde of treasure.
“We should be careful now. I swear some of those familiars can sense a gem from miles away,” she commented.
Snap paused momentarily as the girl spoke. He glanced at her briefly before darting ahead once more. Leafy followed, keeping an eye out for any of the signs she could actually recognize that would indicate the presence of wildlife. Most of the tunnels were void of life or filled with something simple like bugs or bats. Sometimes she would stumble across creatures that were far larger than the typical vermin. Some of the tunnel worms could get rather massive.