Nicoli’s eyes were wide as he watched the rock monster, not really walk, but shift himself through the ground away from the red-haired man and stop a few feet away, where it continued its celebration even adding in a few moments of tossing a rock up into the air and catching it.
“Don’t mind Griimy, he won’t harm you. He may not be the most brilliant golem in the world, but he makes up for it in strength.” The red-haired man announced to Nicoli. “Now let’s get you out of that snowbank,” he paused, looking at the Heartstone, “along with that beautiful glowing ruby.” He held his hand out for Nicoli to grab and Nicoli was hefted out of the snowbank.
The red-haired man set down his large backpack and then unclipped a canteen from the side, handing it to Nicoli. “Well Nicoli, I don’t suppose you would like to share how you ended up underground with a glowing stone?”
Nicoli gulped down the water while nodding his head.
“Take it easy boy, don’t drink it so fast. I suppose you might be hungry too? Here I have some bread and cheese I was saving for later. Don’t eat it too fast.” The red-haired man reached into his backpack and handed the food to Nicoli.
“Thank you for saving me,” Nicoli finally croaked out putting down the canteen, his voice still hoarse from shouting and crying underground. “Who are you?”
The red-haired man answered, “I am Arun of Locksford, although I have not been to my hometown in quite a long time.” Arun gave a small bow and then looked over at Griimy who was still celebrating. “Griimy is my familiar or summoned servant, as they are known in some parts of the world. I prefer to think of him as my,” Arun paused, searching for a word, “business partner. He helps me locate precious stones, and I keep him well fed.”
Griimy overheard Arun’s words and he nodded and pointed to where Nicoli assumed a mouth would be on his blank rock face. Then Griimy went back to clapping, dirt building into a mound below his hands.
“Overall,” Arun covered the side of his mouth with his hand to block his words from reaching Griimy, “Griimy has not found too many precious stones until today. I was beginning to lose hope.”
Arun walked over to the Heartstone which had now melted a large section of the snow around it, “But with him finding this ruby stone and you, I now have more hope for the future.” Arun reached down to touch the Heartstone.
There was a brilliant red flash and the air heated up around the Heartstone. Arun, cried out in pain and pulled his hand back quickly from the stone, waving it up and down. He stuck his hand into the remaining part of the snowbank.
“What in Turmac’s good name,” Arun glared at the Heartstone, “The air around the stone just burned my hand like it was on fire.” He looked at Nicoli, who was eating the bread and cheese and shivering from the cold air around him, “Boy, how were you able to sit right next to it? Your whole body should be burned.”
Arun pulled his hand out of the snowbank and looked at it. The skin on his palm was blistered and bright red, his fingertips were so singed they were beginning to bleed.
Gulping down the bread, Nicoli answered, “I don’t know. I sat next to the stone the whole time I was underground. It never burned me.”
Arun glared at the Heartstone and then went back to his bag rummaging around in it with his good hand until he pulled out bandages and started tenderly wrapping his injured hand.
“Griimy,” Arun barked out, “Go pick up the ruby stone. You handled it before, so you should be fine.”
Griimy shifted through the earth over to the Heartstone. Instead of reaching down to pick up the stone, the earth formed a hand around the Heartstone and lifted a large chunk of earth and the stone to attach to Griimy’s arm.
The moment the wad of earth containing the Heartstone connected with Griimy’s arm, the air suddenly grew intensely warm. Arun and Nicoli watched in amazement as the earth around Griimy’s hand was suddenly superheated and began to burn or melt rapidly. Griimy did not react in pain or surprise, rather, the golem just watched as the Heartstone melted through its hand and fell back to the ground.
As Griimy tried to reach for the Heartstone again, Arun frantically cried out, “No Griimy, leave it alone. Don’t touch it again!”
Griimy stopped moving and there was a moment of silence as all eyes, and rock face, were focused on the Heartstone, waiting to see if anything else was going to happen.