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Caverns of Golden FireBook Two: Socrates' Adventure Continues
By Thomas McGee
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 Thomas McGee
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe noonday sky had a sinister orange glow. Billowing black clouds were forming and the ocean was tossing from a ferocious windstorm. Suddenly, lightning bolts started blasting across the sky in every direction. Deafening thunderclaps exploded with such savagery that it sounded like the earth was ripping in half. Frightened by the magnitude and intensity of an angry sky, Socrates and Amaya huddled together. Neither of them had ever experienced an electrical storm of this magnitude. They sped away to seek out Uncle Gnarls in order to question him about this unusual atmospheric disturbance. Amaya led Socrates toward Gnarls' hidden refuge. As they approached, Amaya startled Socrates by abruptly stating, "Wait here!"
Socrates was surprised at Amaya's brusque command, as though there was a necessary obligation to keep the exact location of the cavern a secret. Socrates discreetly complied without a word. However, he started taking notice of the surrounding seascape. There was something oddly peculiar about it, as though there was hidden danger. The entire area was devoid of the customary sea creatures with the exception of unusually large kelp and shellfish. There had to be a good reason why Amaya had never mentioned this place.
A short time later, Amaya returned with her beloved mentor. Socrates envied her affection for Uncle Gnarls. Her glowing deportment in his presence was more reflective of a daughter with her father.
"So, what do you two have in mind today, nephew?"
"Amaya and I were hoping to have you accompany us on an inspection of the region today to see how things are going. Halfway here, though, this horrendous storm kicked up and we have never seen anything like it."
Uncle Gnarls emerged from the depths to examine the sky. "Oh, no, this is what is called a quick kill. There will be no moving around today. This is the deadliest of all storms. I have seen entire schools of fish taken out in a split second by one of those lightning bolts hitting the surface. The jolt from a strike can knock you for a loop even if you are quite a distance away. It would be better if we sought some deep cover until it passes. Hurry, follow me!"
They had barely turned to swim away when, suddenly, the ocean buckled from a violent bolt of lightning striking the surface. Socrates, Amaya, and Uncle Gnarls could not escape the effect. Their bodies instantly stiffened as the electricity raced through the water and locked them in its grip, mercilessly shocking the life out of them-leaving all three helplessly drifting with the current. The cruel storm continued on its vengeful path, tearing the heavens apart, seeking to destroy everything in its wake. When it finally passed, agitated waves were still slapping at a sky left choking in an evil haze.
It took some time before Socrates awoke and opened his eyes. He struggled to collect his thoughts. "Who am I? Where am I?" He sensed something bump into him; it was Amaya's lifeless body. Socrates fought to regain some mobility, his vision still cloudy. Now someone nudged him from his other side; it was Uncle Gnarls, who with every ounce of effort could only manage a faint whisper of, "Is ... Amaya ... okay?" Socrates could not even make a reply. He used what little strength he had to keep his blurry vision trained on her, his tail and fins barely moving, his entire body completely numb. His mind started torturing him with the possibility that Amaya was forever gone. "Oh please, please, let her be alive," he cried, fighting hard to stay close. Eventually, after drifting for several more miles, Amaya's eyes faintly blinked. She too had regained a slight degree of conscious thought. Socrates forced his speech and mumbled, "Fight, Amaya, fight. We are right here. You are not alone!" Their bodies winced from the pain of trying to shake off the gripping paralysis. Initially, attempts were limited to erratically swimming in small circles, the fluttering of their fins being their only propulsion. Eventually though, after hours of arduous struggling, the stiffness in their bodies subsided enough to begin a slow serpentine trek back to the area of Uncle Gnarls' cavern. The rest of the day was tough throughout the entire region. One of the whales in the area took a direct hit from the lightning, killing it instantly. Socrates' friends, Poker, Bondar, Serine, and Zippee had sought shelter in a protected area of one of the monoliths and managed to stay safe. Nevertheless, when the storm subsided, they wasted no time checking on everyone, doing what was necessary for anyone needing help to recover. All the underwater creatures were swimming around disoriented, trying to comprehend the severity of the effect the ominous storm had on their watery domain.
Poker realized after a careful search that Socrates and Amaya could not be located. "We have to find them!" he shouted to Serine. "They may be hurt or in trouble!"
He quickly organized a search party, sending groups out in every direction.
Chapter TwoHours later, Socrates, Amaya, and Uncle Gnarls arrived back at their original location, tired and hurting. None of them had uttered a single word during their return. Socrates, however, was plagued with questions racing through his mind about what seemed to shroud this area in mystery. Now, back in the safety of the reef, he could no longer hold it in.
"Uncle, I'm curious about your cavern. I will understand if you tell me it is none of my business. It is just that ... this whole area is so ... strange. What can possibly explain that storm, and why all of the sea life is so different? Everything here is so ... locked in secrets! Look, I am sorry. Please, forget that I mentioned it." Socrates felt embarrassed that, at a time like this, he had even opened his mouth.
Uncle Gnarls looked at Socrates and sighed. "I knew this day would come. The mystery of this area and my cavern would finally have to be shared with someone wise enough to understand my reason for keeping it protected."
Amaya, with her eyes opened wide and stunned at Socrates boldness in bringing this subject up, slowly positioned herself away from the ensuing conversation.
Uncle Gnarls looked at her and said, "Amaya, you too need to hear this. You only know a small part of the secret. Come back over next to Socrates, and I will relate to you two what I know. You see, generations of my ancestors have resided here and the stories passed down of the events that have cloaked this area in mystery are frightening to say the least."
Amaya swam in close to listen.
It took a moment for Uncle Gnarls to gather his thoughts before he began. "When I was young, an event happened that shook the ocean to its foundations. One day I decided to explore the mysterious depths of our cavern, alone. My dad called them the forbidden reaches. He warned me on numerous occasions about the danger of going past a certain point or the cavern would swallow me up. Nevertheless, I ignored his warnings and went exploring, deep into the cavern. The gloomy darkness eventually turned very black, and I felt a strange force pulling me in, deeper and deeper. Suddenly, shards of light started piercing the darkness and a major quaking started, shaking everything violently and scaring me half to death. I panicked and started swimming around in circles, desperately looking for a way out. The light kept building in intensity, shooting through the cavern from every direction, exposing beautiful walls and bathing everything in a golden hue. The brightness became so overwhelming that I felt it was strangling me. I spotted a large spiraled opening and quickly swam through it to escape, only to emerge above the water line and see a violent storm raging on the surface. The ocean currents pulled relentlessly from every direction. Looking up, an opening appeared in the storm clouds, and the sun broke through directly overhead. The interior of the cavern started glowing brighter and brighter when-BOOOM-a massive bolt of golden light exploded out of the cavern, right through me and into the sky. Golden fire started dancing wildly across the surface of the ocean, shooting hundreds of feet into the air! I cried and screamed, feeling I was burning alive! Then out of nowhere, a strange flying craft appeared from out of the fiery sky and hit the water, hard. Instinctively, I raced over to examine it. It floated for a few moments, and then started sinking into the depths. I swam closer and saw a horrified face peering out at me from inside. Our eyes locked on each other as the craft was sinking. I could tell from the bloody face, and the frightened stare, that the person inside was going to die. I followed the craft's descent; it floated down the inside ridge of a strange high mount and was amazingly sucked into and held fast against a vertical wall. There was no reason for it not to continue to descend to the bottom. It just clung to the wall, almost as an invisible, dynamic force was holding it. Then, in an instant, the phenomenon was over. The quaking stopped, the golden fire retreated, and everything settled back down almost as quickly as it started. When the currents subsided and the silt resettled, the cavern became obscure from view. I remained there for a while, shaking and listless. To this day, I cannot remember how I found my way back home. I dared not tell my dad what had happened, because he would be angry at my failure to heed his advice and how dangerous of a risk I had taken. However, I finally did tell him a couple of months later. He was very disappointed with me. He looked me straight in the eye and asked, 'Did you not think I had good reason for warning you of the danger? You know, I was your age once.' He then shared with me a similar event that he experienced when he was young and the fear it posed for him, including a barrage of stories that other creatures had passed down through the years. All related tales of caverns-caverns of mystery, caverns of golden fire. The stories related terrible tragedies including those of gigantic ships literally swallowed by the ocean, pulled down by some titanic force, and snuffing out thousands of lives. That is why I have continued to be so adamant about protecting this area, especially the entrance to my cavern. The phenomenon I experienced was terrifying and only resulted in disorientation and death! To this day, the memory that haunts me the most is the look of hopelessness in the eyes of that person inside the craft. The way I see it is that this area is nothing more than the entrance to a death trap! In addition, according to our careful calculations of the consistent timing of these occurrences and that quick kill we experienced today, we could be within days of it happening again!"
Socrates and Amaya's eyes opened as wide as the suckers on the tentacles of a giant octopus. Neither of them could begin to comprehend what could cause such an event, much less something having a fear effect on Uncle Gnarls. Socrates was the one who finally broke the prolonged silence.
"What do you mean by our calculations, Uncle?"
"Nothing gets by you, does it, nephew?"
Amaya shook her head to clear her thoughts. However, in an instant she caught on to the discussion and looked at Uncle Gnarls with a sad frown, knowing that their greatest secret was about to be shared.
"Socrates," Uncle Gnarls stated, "follow me. I want to introduce you to someone."
Slowly they made their way to and entered the mouth of his secret cavern. In an instant, a voice rang out. "Amaya how is my beautiful niece? How was your day?"
Socrates was stunned to see who was talking. Uncle Gnarls then started with the introductions. "Socrates, meet my beautiful wife, Noni. Sweetheart, this is Socrates."
"Oh, Socrates, I've heard so much about you. We are so proud to have you with us. Welcome to our home. You must stay awhile and share some of your adventures with us."
Uncle Gnarls looked at Socrates and said, "Like I was saying, according to our calculations, we could be close to another event."
Socrates was temporarily, speechless. Noni was intriguingly beautiful; never before had he seen a spotted moray eel. Looking around at the inside of the cavern made him gasp; nothing in the ocean he had ever seen could match the beauty of its surreal formations. He wondered, though, why Noni chose to remain here in total solitude, far away from the other sea creatures. Something must have happened to cause her to seek such isolation, but he was not going to be the one to ask.
The balance of the day was a welcome respite from the day's earlier events. The four of them spent the entire evening reminiscing about the electrical storm and sharing other stories of their life's adventures. They all laughed so hard at some of the stories Socrates shared of Poker's antics that Uncle Gnarls went into a stomach cramp. The story about dropping a fishing lure in the angler's pants and Poker's scaring the life out of him had them all in hysterics. Uncle Gnarls had not seen his wife enjoy an evening like this in many, many years.
"Noni, you should meet Poker," stated Socrates.
An awkward silence followed. Amazingly, to Uncle Gnarls' surprise, Noni responded with a positive nod and agreed. "I would love to meet him, and it would be good to get out. I fear though, that with the passing of so much time, I probably will not recognize anyone. However, with you and Amaya accompanying me, meeting everyone I have been hearing about would be fun." Then with her eyes glowing with excitement she added, "Why don't we go tomorrow?"
Uncle Gnarls was stunned at her reply. Amaya's face beamed. Finally, she would have the opportunity to show her auntie off to everyone in the kingdom.
Chapter ThreeAs daylight broke, Socrates and Amaya took advantage of an opportunity to eat. A school of mackerel had strayed unusually close to Uncle Gnarls' cavern. There was enough to supply Uncle Gnarls and Auntie Noni with an early morning delicacy without their having to leave the privacy of the cavern. A warm smile came to both of their faces. Never in their lives had anyone catered to them. However, once the meal was over, Uncle Gnarls could read the anxiety on Socrates' face. It was obvious that a serious conversation was going to ensue.
"Uncle, before we start our tour with Auntie Noni today, would you mind me asking some questions about this area?"
The look on Socrates face as he asked this question was not one of fear but rather of the possibility of adventure. There was also a tone of excitement in his voice.
"I don't see any reason to hold back now," Gnarls' replied. "What is it you want to know?"
Socrates then motioned that they take the conversation out of earshot of Noni. He was concerned that something they talked about might spoil her day.
"Uncle, has anyone ever determined how big the overall area is that is effected by the event you described yesterday? By that, I mean the stories that have been passed down through your generations; have any of them been shared by fish that do not live in this region, or are the storms and quaking relatively local phenomena?"
"Nephew, you have to understand something. We spend our entire lives within the immediate area of this domain. Other than our family and a few others, we really have not been that inquisitive about these happenings. Our only concern has been to keep everyone here as safe as possible. When the event happened that I mentioned last night, it was so frightful that I never really questioned anything, nor did I share the experience with anyone I knew except my father. However, I sense something in you that will probably bring us all a deeper understanding about it. Am I right?"
Socrates, with a grin on his face and his eyes fixed on the thought of unraveling a mystery, looked at Uncle Gnarls and said, "Let's get to work."
"Not so fast," came back Uncle Gnarls. "We have to escort some beautiful ladies on a tour today, and I am not going to let anything interfere with my showing Noni off to everyone we see."
"Of course, Uncle, forgive me for being a little over excited. I'm also looking forward to everyone's reaction to Auntie Noni's beauty."
Excerpted from Caverns of Golden Fire by Thomas McGee Copyright © 2010 by Thomas McGee. Excerpted by permission.
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