Episode 73

March 5th, 2016 Posted 9:06 pm


The Pirate and the Apple Thief – part 8


We had a new goal – finding a pirate’s cave. Jade took the lead and walked ahead of us in the sand. Ethere fell into step behind her. Beljack, though, caught my arm. “Joey, are you sure?”

I blinked. “About what?”

“Jade.” He watched his brother hurry after the other two. “Do you really think that we can trust her?”

“Why wouldn’t we?”

“We don’t know what she was up to all day. She’s barely told us anything about herself, or about anything at all really.”

I tilted my head slightly. “You trust me though? Even though I was the one who ended up in jail?”

“I thought that was a misunderstanding,” he said carefully.

“Only if you believe me when I say it was.”

“I don’t know,” Beljack shrugged. “You just seem different somehow. In a good way.”

“Thanks. I think.” I shook my head. “But as for Jade – she said that she’s looking for something that was stolen too. I don’t think she’d be helping us if she was the real thief.”

 

As we went along the beach, the strip of sand narrowed and became more cluttered with pebbles, until it finally disappeared entirely into a rocky surface. The fog became more dense as well now that we were down by the shore, until the waves were only a shapeless sound to our left, and the bluffs leading up to the forest vanished into the gray itself. We had to pick our way more carefully, and more than once, one of our group had tripped and fallen. Only Jade was still able to make her way deftly around the larger boulders, seeming without effort to find the quickest ways between them. More than once she had to pause and wait for us to catch up.

Watching her, I couldn’t help but wonder if there was something after all to what Beljack had asked me. When we had first met in the morning, it had been clear too that she was a stranger to town. And yet here she was stepping around rocks like it was written into her muscle memory.

“Here.” She finally stopped by a gap in the rock. At first, I couldn’t even see what she was looking at. But as I came around the craggy edge, I saw what had seemed a narrow crack now opened into a gap large enough to stand within.

“You’re sure this is it?” I asked.

“Yes.” There was no room in her voice for challenge.

“Really?” Beljack came up behind me and was peering around the rounded entrance of the cave and into the darkness inside. He sounded skeptical.

“If she says so, we probably should check it out,” I said, not feeling nearly so enthused anymore.

Kabel sounded even less excited than myself. “Does anybody have a light?”

Beljack dug in his pockets. “I don’t think so.”

Jade gave Kabel a look that said he was clearly crazy for wanting such a thing.

I bit my lip, then turned back to Ethere. “Eth?” Everybody else turned to look at my muse.

He looked surprised. (If you want me to.)

(It’s fine.)

(It won’t worry the others?)

(We’ll need light somehow.)

“Did you bring a lantern or something?” Beljack asked. He seemed to be looking Eth over for any sign of a backpack.

“He knows a few tricks,” I said, by way of an explanation.

Obediently, Ethere raised one hand with his palm open and facing up. And as I had seen happen once before, light began to collect – to congeal – from out of the air around us. Even in the dark night, there was still enough glow from the moon and stars by which to see. When Ethere held out his hand, the invisible passage of the light through the air began to take form, and all around him we could see the rays of soft radiance begin to appear in very openness around him. It shimmered in a way that the light almost seemed to greet him. And his palm became an invisible basket to collect the falling pieces and put them together into a sphere that shined.

“Wow…” Kabel breathed in awe.

“How does he…” Beljack stammered; his eyes were wide.

Even Jade looked surprised by what had just happened.

I grinned in the hope of setting them a little more at ease. “Just magic.” I clapped my hands together once. “Well, time’s a wasting.” I opened my hands and with one, gestured toward the cave entrance. “After you, Eth.”

My muse nodded and stepped forward. He kept his hand up and out in front of him so that the light could cast its glow all around. I let Jade go next, since she was the one who actually seemed to know the lay of where we were. The brothers followed, and I took up the rear. I glanced once more around the beach again, but there was no sign of anybody else who might be watching.

 

For a while, we followed the course of the natural fissure in the rock – at times wide enough for two of us to walk side-by-side, and at other times more narrow and taking odd twists up and around and between the larger rocks that jutted out into our way. All the while though, I could sense that we were slowly, steadily moving upward. The sound of the ocean behind us disappeared. We tried a couple times to talk – Beljack and Kabel shared a bit more of their readings about pirates, and I gave them as best a description as I could of Azalea and Jah – but after that, there wasn’t much left to say. The boys were hesitant to speak more about themselves; and likewise, there was little that I felt I wanted – or could – say about myself. Jade was noncommittal as always. And so, most of our walking and crawling and creeping was done in near-silence.

We had progressed for a while, and I was starting to hear a pattern in the yawns from Kabel. I had no idea what odd hour of the night it might have been, but it made me wonder if it had been so wise for all of us to come along. After all, we had no idea of how far the cave went or whether we would even find anything at the other end at all.

I was thankful, at least, for Eth’s light. Much better than a flashlight or other directed beam, it produced a glow in all directions that, while not as bright as perhaps daylight would have been, was still enough to show the whole of the space around us in a soft lavender hue. It was comforting and kept the space from closing in too much.

Finally though, there was a change. “I see something ahead,” Beljack pointed. The light was glinting off something set in between the rocks ahead. Beljack moved forward to stand next to Ethere. Directly behind them, Jade nodded. Kabel looked about to rush forward himself, but stopped when his older brother held up a hand. “Let’s be careful,” he warned.

We moved forward as a group, and all together relaxed when we got a better view of what had been reflecting the light. It was a chest, left rather haphazardly between two of the rocks and almost identical in appearance to the one we had found on the beach with one exception – the wood on one corner had split. It was the metal bindings though, that had been reflecting the light. I picked up the chest and shook it, and again there wasn’t a sound from inside. I tried to peer into it through the crack in the wood, but I couldn’t make out anything more than what I guessed.

I set the chest aside and looked ahead to see what was next. From where we stood, the natural path through the cave widened and went up sharply. We followed it, clambering over the rocks as best we could, and finally reached a ledge that we pulled ourselves up and onto. The ledge opened up into a wide room within the cave. Against the far wall was a table with two large oil lamps – unlit for now – set on either end. On the table itself was a scattering of what looked like metal tools – none of them recognizable. And beside the table was a stack of chests, all identical to the two we had found before.

As each of us came up into the room, we all spread out to look around. The boys immediately made for the collection of chests. Jade wandered father in the opposite direction and I followed. Just beyond where the room was and around a couple more turns in the rock, we came to the entrance of the cave itself. With the night still deep outside, there hadn’t been any light coming in that would have led us to it. What surprised us though, was the set of long bars that closed off the entrance almost completely. A door was cut into the bars, but that was held tightly shut with a heavy chain and lock.

“…wasn’t here before…” I heard Jade mumble as she moved closer to examine it. I frowned.

(Eth,) I called silently to my muse. I focused mentally on the image of the door. (Look familiar?)

(It’s like where Pierre went before,) came the surprised answer.

(I thought so. This is his cave then.) I sighed and gave a little tug on the door. It stayed secure. “Doesn’t look like we’re getting out this way,” I said to Jade. “Come on, let’s go back.” She hesitated, and for a moment looked like she wanted to disagree, but didn’t say more and followed me back to the main room that we had found.

“What did you find?” Beljack was the first to ask.

I shook my head. “Just a dead end.”

“Really?” Beljack’s expression drooped.

“Yeah. The cave only goes a little farther, and then it’s sealed off.”

“Sealed off how?”

“As in, we can’t get through?”

“Then how—”

But Kabel interrupted his older brother. “Joey? What do you think all this stuff is anyway?” He was poking around at the items on the table, and I went to get a closer look. None of it was familiar to me, but I could guess well enough.

“Something for making locks, I think,” I said.

“But why?”

I shrugged. “Some people do that sort of thing.”

“Do you think they’re valuable?” Kabel asked.

“Not really. And they’re not really ours,” I pointed out. I put a hand on his shoulder. “Sorry, I know you were hoping for treasure.”

“Joey,” Beljack broke back in. “How are we going to get back?”

I wished I didn’t have to answer. “Back the way we came.”

“There’s no other option?” I could hear the disappointment in his voice.

“Not likely. Unless you want to try one of those side-tunnels that we passed on the way. But they all looked a little tight.”

Beljack shook his head.

“Maybe we should go then?” Ethere asked.

“Yeah.” There really didn’t seem to be much else to see.

One by one, we climbed back down from the ledge to the lower set of rocks beneath, and then from there continued on back down through the cave.

Within minutes, the smell of salt grew quickly stronger, and the roar of the waves echoed in ways that it hadn’t before. First, I was surprised but thankful. Apparently the going down was going to be much quicker, or so I figured. But when Beljack, who had taken the lead, jumped down from a particularly large rock and landed with a splash, I realized the truth of it.

The tide was coming in.


~ ~ ~


Go to the first episode.Go to the previous episode.Go to the next episode.Go to the most recent episode.