Haix no longer even glanced back at the wall as she cleaned the stone, now gently grinding its edges against the rough though moist ground. Though now she was silent, her heart raced as she considered the implications of such a find, of what this meant for this tiny cave full of mostly worthless stones. For a moment, the stone she held in her hands could have been flesh, the earth itself wounded by the striking of metal tools upon its hide. A sign perhaps, one for which she knew exactly what was called for, what gift would be given in return. She looked at the gem drake with a crooked smile, torn between being glad that such a useful rock-hunter would be useless in dealings such as this, and disappointed that she could not act upon the sign immediately.
Never mind that, the offering would take a little time to properly prepare anyways. Until then, as a declaration of intent and gratitude, she nipped at a finger, watching as a tiny bead of blood welled up.
Such a small amount would do, and she quietly said the proper words of gratitude and intent, running the bloodied finger across one of the stone teeth jutting up from the floor. With that done, she laid the stone reverently with the rest of the tools and the other finds. It was just a stone now, and she could accept that, but her spirit soared as she looked at it one last time, the possibilities swirling in her mind. She would enjoy acting out one of them when the time came.
Until then, she reached for one of the wrapped bundles of food, unwrapping it to reveal the meat and vegetables entwined within. Her hunger was more than a slight rumbling in her stomach now, and she intended to eat. Walker no doubt already had, although she hoped it had not been upon anything of value. She had done her best to train him out of consuming any gems he found.
The meal was delicious, the vegetables crisp and the meat still mostly fresh. The bleeding had stopped by the time the last scrap of meat disappeared down her gullet, though she barely noticed how tasty the food was as the possibilities she had in mind began to narrow down. She would have to scout the cave further and hope for an entrance larger and more accessible than the tiny tunnel she had crawled in through, or that would severely limit her options in what she would be able to do. Standing up to stretch, she looked over the rubble that had spilled out from the wall, noticing something different from the grayish stone of the walls.
Scooping the black gemstone from the ground, she looked it over one time before carelessly dropping it in the slowly growing pile of things that had been found in the mines. Funny that, had she found the gemstone first, she might have left without ever seeing the flesh of stone. What was less funny was that she had been the one to find it, but she did not care if Walker only brought her rubble at that moment. Which was what he appeared to be rapidly collecting.
Walker looked out his hole one time as he heard the crunch of rubble underfoot. Seeing the lizard staring at him, holding the gaze for a second, he quickly resumed his dig with greater fervor. He could feel them now, like a prickling his his hide, a call strong enough that he could almost taste them. He dug slower rather than faster as the call strengthened, mot wanting to scratch even slightly whatever gem he was about to find.
He slowed down even further as he found the first, a hint of blue revealed with a scrape of his claws. Carefully, but oh so eagerly, he began the work of freeing his prize from the stone that held it in place, that had hidden it away for so long. It was his, and he intended to spend not one more second away from his prize than absolutely necessary.
So intent he was on his prize that he failed to notice the lizard had begun to pack up the tools and other stones.
The stones and metal were set aside in a small pouch to be hooked to her belt, even the white rock that had been Walker's offering to her. The pink one was added to the bag last, her claws tracing the fake blood trails that ran across it longingly before it too was dropped into the pouch. The tools were a bit more difficult, needing to be retrieved from the various places she had left them, then laid out on the fabric so that they might be rolled up and stored in such a a way as to avoid damaging the thick fabric. The little snare, lonely and unmoving in the still air of the underground was untied and placed with the rest of the supplies. Even the sight of the empty snare had failed to dampen her spirits, although it had given her a few more ideas of how to stage the offering properly.
Supplies and stones stowed away, the sack over her back and the pouch on her belt, she called for Walker as she picked up the light, expecting him to quickly scurry over from his useless pit.
He did not leave the pit. Haix almost did not realize he had failed to follow her before stepping into one of the two unexplored tunnels, stopping at the last second to play the beam of the light across the room for one last time. She saw the glint of purple, the tip of his tail waving madly above the lip of the pit as he frenziedly claws at something out of site, the sound of his claws digging into rock unmistakable. She called to him again, and the sounds merely increased, the gem drake not even bothering to look at her.
Was he perhaps unhappy that she had found so much more than him? Or did he realize how much of his worth depended upon finding something of value for her? She was not going to shatter him into crystals for one bad trip, especially not when when it was possibly the greatest trip she had ever had in the mines.
He wanted to leave. He heard her call, and he wanted to respond to the lizard, to the one who protected his findings and would carry them out. The gem was almost free though, its blue shine striking in the light that was steadily growing more intense.He heard the lizard and she kicked away some of the rubble, her inquiring chirp that hinted at her impatience, and grasped the gem firmly in his jaws, pulling it free just as the lizard crouched down beside him. He dropped it a second later, lunging at another glint of blue in one of the pit walls, jerking free a gem that he had somehow missed as he widened the pit.
The gem drake sat in front of her, tail wagging a few times for balance or joy as he lifted his second prize to her, though he did not drop this one immediately. Instead, after Haix reached around him to snatch up the first gem, she forced his mouth open by applying pressure to the hinges of his mouth, standing up with both gems in hand.
She repeated the order for him to follow her as he watched the two gems disappear into the pouch, and this time he did.
The last find made in that room was accidental as they left, the gem drake misjudging the depth of the stream as he hurried to keep up with Haix. When she turned around to see the source of the loud splash, she witnessed him squirming underneath the surface, appearing to be dragged towards the hole that the water was rapidly flowing into. Dropping the sack of supplies once again, and setting down the flashlight with a bit more care, she grabbed for him, hooking her hands under his legs and pulling him up from the water with a grunt of effort.
Somehow, during all of that, a new gem had found its way into his mouth, poking out the side like a vulticus carrying a stick. This one she let him carry,shaking the water off of her arms before picking up the supply sack once more. The water on her arms made the choice of which tunnel to take surprisingly easy, a faint but chill breeze cooling her arms coming from one of them.
This tunnel was fairly regular in size, never shrinking down so far that she so much as had to duck her head, but never growing much larger either. It twisted and turned at rather abrupt points, though she saw no other tunnels breaking through the monotony of the blank rock walls. After a few minutes of traveling through it though, the tunnel opened up into another cave, echoes of what she was sure was the wind faintly drifting though it. They would soon be out, and as this path was much easier to use, she planned to take note of where it opened from.
The only problem was the cave. The walls, the ceiling were all fairly normal, the tunnel mouth on the opposite side looked large enough to accommodate a pair of full grown Equillion, but the primary issue was the floor. The floor that, rather than be a simple level walk to the other tunnel mouth, looked to be roughly ten feet below either tunnel. A drop that she was rather glad to have noticed before stepping out into thin air.
She pointed the light at the floor of the pit, noticing the pale glint of a few bones nearest her edge, but no sign of anything still rotting nor any living occupant of the pit. She climbed down with ease, the jagged rock providing slight but usable handholds as she lowered herself carefully down. When she looked back at the tunnel from which she came, she could see Walker staring back, his head peering out from the lip of the pit. Almost calling to him, then imagining what would happen if thirty pounds of stone should happen to fall on her, she instead dumped out her supplies and climbed back up to him. He was forced into the sack in less than a minute, his protests little more than a bit of wiggling, and Haix carried him back down to the bottom of the pit.
She let him out to scratch around the walls of the pit as she examined the bones of some small creature that had apparently been unable to climb back out as she had. After all, the fragile bones appeared free of any tooth marks, a fact that made her a little sad. Perhaps there were no predators in the mines. Or perhaps they were smart enough not to trap themselves in the pit.
She wanders the pit, gathering up what bones she found, tossing them in the middle to form a pile. All were from some sort of small creature, one not of stone like Walker, but something that could not eat stone, that could not burrow through it to escape such a pit, nor climb the steep walls. One set of bones might have been from sort of bird, but the majority reminded her of grubbles, the live food treats the labs had put out a while ago.
Walker too strolled about the pit, though he had no interest in the bones, crushing several small brittle skeletons to dust as he patrolled the pit. Haix had been much more careful as she walked around the pit a second time to grab any she missed, the dismissal amount making it obvious dying in the pit was a rarity. Grabbing her mallet from the collection of tools and a piece of fabric, she looked over the bones one last time.
She gathered the bones int he fabric, and folded it up, tying the top with her bit of rope to ensure it stayed shut. The grubbles and others were likely too simple-minded to understand what was happening, but it did not take a higher level of intelligence to feel pain or fear. Even the grubbles, though they were meant to be nothing more than a treat for meat-eating creatures, were unlikely to take starving to death placidly. They might have even gnawed at the long dead bones or more recent corpses of other creatures that shared the same fate, trying to stave off the pain of hunger that twisted through their gut if nothing else. Then again, there was no obvious water in the pit either. Dying of thirst with that small cavern with a fresh water stream only a few minutes away, well, that was just perfect.
Walker caught sight of something on one of the walls, a glint hidden from larger creatures sight by a small overhang of stone. From his angle, he could see it perfectly.
The bones were brittle and old, and she could hear the satisfying crush as she struck at the bag with the mallet several times. The knot held as she hit it a few more times, then began to hold to mallet heat against the make-shift bag. Pressing down on the mallet with the other hand, she started making little circle motions, rocking the wooden head of the mallet over the bag of bones. The grinding would take a little time, though she did not need to make it into a completely fine powder for what she had in mind. She hummed a small tune as she worked, grateful that the day had gone so well.
The gem drake might have had similar thoughts, finally spitting out the shard of a gem he had been carrying by the lizard, watching her take it into the pouch before returning to the hidden stone. He was not sure how he could reach it.