Nicoli grasped the Heartstone tightly as he pushed his feet against the dirt walls of the cavern. Slowly; painfully the Heartstone slid forward into the small alcove Nicoli had found in the back of the cavern.
After Nicoli had woken up next to the Heartstone, he had fluctuated between panicking and crying. Multiple times he had numbly tried to swim away from the Heartstone searching for an exit to the cavern, but only to find that beyond the reach of the ruby-red light there was nothing but darkness and freezing cold water.
After what seemed like hours, Nicoli found the small alcove which was situated a bit above and to the left of the Heartstone. With the last of his remaining strength, Nicoli shoved and dug the Heartstone over to the alcove, where he collapsed with a strangled sob while still tightly hugging the stone. Finally out and above the rushing water, Nicoli could feel the full warmth of the Heartstone as its surface radiated enough heat to begin pins and needles in his arms and legs as they warmed up.
Exhaustion took over and Nicoli fell into a deep sleep, all the while clinging to the Heartstone.
As the warning of Sargon’s return and the awakening of the Heartstone shook the very foundations of the world, not all were concerned with the advancement of the final days. In fact, one particular shifty looking man named Arun who was dressed in the garb of a huntsman and carrying a large backpack with numerous smaller bags attached to it, was having a rather pleasant day. He had heard the warning the day before about Sargon’s arrival, but while others were panicking, Arun was hatching a plan. A plan to not only profit, but also to secure his place of safety during the dark times ahead.
As he walked among the trees alongside a rushing river, he carefully plucked and collected leaves from the golden oaks and placed them into a satchel. While the leaves themselves gleamed like gold, they had no value like the actual ore and were merely just beautiful to look at. Yet, Arun had devised a method of melting the leaves down and creating what he liked to call, Dummy Gold. If mixed with the right amount of clay, quartz, and Arun’s secret ingredient, the leaves could be pawned off as real gold.
Arun grinned to himself, inwardly praising himself for his ingenuity and resourcefulness. As he continued to collect the leaves, he stopped to take a break and knock the snow off of a particularly well-laden golden oak tree branch, when he noticed something floating in the river. Leaning out over the water while clinging to the tree branch, Arun saw that the item in question was a child’s shoe.
Deep within the earth, Nicoli had awoken again. His stomach ached and growled at him as he felt around in near darkness for any exit to the underground cavern. Nicoli tried to ignore his stomach’s cries by drinking water, but this only caused his stomach to ache even more. At one point, Nicoli dove into the dark rushing river water, hoping to find an exit, but only succeeding in losing one of his shoes to the strong undercurrent of the river. In desperation, Nicoli cried out over and over again for someone to help him, until his voice grew horse and tears streamed down his face. Slumping against the Heartstone, Nicoli stared into its ruby depths inwardly praying that someone would find him.
Unbeknownst to him, a man named Arun had heard his cries and intrigued, had begun to look for the source of the noise.