Hoarse from crying out for so long, Nicoli could only gasp when the cavern around him began to shift and collapse. The entire cavern shook violently as if the small cavern was the epicenter of a violent earthquake. Still desperately clinging to the Heartstone, Nicoli watched as large chunks of dirt and clay fell all around him and the stone. A slurping noise began to grow louder and louder throughout the cavern and Nicoli watched in horror as a large stone, the size of his head, fell into the rushing water. Very quickly, the rushing water was rising towards Nicoli as it tore at the cavern’s floor and walls, adding to the collapsing mud and dirt.
Another vicious heave of the earth and Nicoli and the Heartstone were pressed against the ceiling with no space for Nicoli to turn his head. Closing his eyes, Nicoli waited to be suffocated by the collapsing cavern. His final tears mixing with the dirt covering his face.
But all of a sudden, everything grew quiet and Nicoli had the strangest sensation that he was moving upwards while still pinned to the ceiling of the cavern. Then Nicoli heard a voice coming from somewhere below him.
“What did you find Griimy? Put it down over there so I can take a look at it.”
Nicoli and the Heartstone shifted again and then were unceremoniously dropped out of the sky, landing in a large snow pile.
“No Griimy! I said over there.” A voice shouted.
The sudden arrival of sunlight blinded Nicoli and he rubbed his eyes only to have them burn from the dirt on his hands. Through watering eyes, Nicoli stared at a very large humanoid looking creature standing in front of him, its rocky hand held open above Nicoli’s head. This creature stood taller than any human Nicoli had ever seen and it seemed to be made entirely out of rocks and stone.
“What if it broke Griimy? I will take it out of your wages.” The voice shouted again from behind Nicoli. The giant stone creature seemed to slump a bit at being yelled at and reached down to pick up Nicoli and the Heartstone again.
“No! Just leave it there. I don’t want you possibly damaging it more.” Nicoli watched as a red-headed man, who looked to be in his early thirties appeared over the top of the snowbank. The man himself was shorter than the rock creature, his head only reaching to the creature’s torso.
When the red-haired man saw Nicoli and the Heartstone, which was now slowly melting the snow around it, he exclaimed, “Who in Turmac’s good name are you?” He glanced at Nicoli and then at the glowing Heartstone.
“Hello.” Nicoli croaked out. “I am Nicoli.”
After staring at the Heartstone and Nicoli bit longer, the red-haired man seemed to wake up from his surprise and announced, “By golly Griimy, you fished a living boy and a glowing stone out of the earth. Extra pay for you tonight!”
The stone creature began shaking up and down in delight clapping its hands together. The ground shook again and chunks of dirt hit the red-haired man on the head. “OH! Go celebrate over there Griimy,” the red-haired man chided, “you are scaring the boy and throwing dirt on my head.”