A muffled noise pulled Morgan slowly back to consciousness. The right side of his head and face throbbed with aching pain. The sound buzzed again in his ears, too garbled to make out.
“Morgan!” a muddled voice called out a little clearer, his senses slowly returning. His eyes were black, but his recollection swelled, prompting a flood of fear.
“Morgan!” the voice called again with panicked urgency, this time it was familiar and comforting.
“Andalynn?” he replied through great strain which flared the pain in his head and created dizziness.
“Morgan, thank goodness! Where are you?” she cried, almost in tears with relief. She started crawling toward his voice.
“You alright Morgan?” Mr. Adams’ deep voice sounded in the darkness. “We’ve been calling you for a while.”
“I’m not sure where I am.” Morgan’s voice was taxed. “I think I’m okay, I must have hit my head pretty hard.” He put his hand against the ache radiating from his forehead. It felt wet and sticky. The smell of blood carried from his hands. “I think my head is bleeding.”
“Is it bad?” Andalynn asked sounding closer to him than before and more concerned.
“No, I’m sure it’s fine,” he presumed. In the darkness, he could hear a soft whimpering from Amy, and quiet reassurance from Mrs. Adams somewhere in the distance. “Is everyone else okay?” Morgan asked, remembering the brief terrifying moments before he was knocked out.
“When we all came to, we were a little scraped and bruised, but seem to be well enough,” Mr. Adams answered. “Morgan, all the flashlights are still broken. We’re completely blind in here. I tried lighting matches, but they won’t even spark.” His tone sounded frustrated. The shuffling sound of Andalynn neared. Morgan felt her grasp his leg. He reached out and took her hand pulling her toward him. She rushed into his arms.
“I was so worried,” she whispered, her face buried in his chest. He pressed his hand against her head feeling the soft curly hair matted and tangled.
“I’m sorry…. don’t worry, I’m alright,” he reassured. Her warmth lifted his heart and eased his pain. “Are you hurt at all?” he asked her softly.
“No, I’m doing better now…. but we have no light, and none of us can find our way in the dark.” She spoke through the blackness only inches away.
“Well, let’s see what we have to work with.” He reached behind for his backpack; it was missing. “My pack, it must have fallen off. Can any of you feel for it over there?” Morgan spoke louder. He could hear jostling a little way away.
“Hey, I think I found it,” Mr. Adams boomed.
“Awesome! Inside there should be a bunch of glow sticks,” Morgan instructed, followed by the sound of the zipper.
“Got em!” Mr. Adams shouted with excitement. The sound of rustling plastic preceded a crack. Then like a beacon of hope, greenish yellow light broke through the darkness of their eyes.
“Ha Ha! And let there be light.” Mr. Adams laughed with glee. Their sense of relief grew with the brightening glow, which revealed his heavy frame reaching into the backpack for another stick. Pulling one out, he turned to Amy and Mrs. Adams who were sitting against the cave wall. Amy’s exhausted face carried a meager smile. Her father handed her his illuminated plastic.
“Here you go Amy, this one is yours.” He smiled at her warmly. She eagerly took the precious light, feeling empowered in some way. He gave another to his wife then opened and cracked another one for himself.
He made his way over to Morgan and Andalynn who were about twenty feet away near a large column. The light of the small rod began to illuminate them; Mr. Adams could see dark lines running down the side of Morgan’s face. Andalynn looked at him, desperate to finally see him again.
“Oh Morgan, you’re head…. it looks pretty bad!” The sight of the blood filled her with distress.
“Let’s take a look.” Mr. Adams knelt down holding the light alongside Morgan’s head. Above his eyebrow a noticeable lump had formed where the skin was scratched and cut in two places. A slow drip of blood oozed from the two small lacerations. “Something gotcha pretty good,” Mr. Adams commented pulling slightly on the skin of his forehead to assess the depth of the cuts. “Are you dizzy at all?” he asked looking closely at Morgan’s eyes.
“I was at first, but not so much now,” Morgan answered looking at Andalynn’s worried face in the faint light.
“You probably have a mild concussion, so don’t get up too quick. We’re going to need to bandage up those cuts too.” Mr. Adams spoke with the professional tone of an experienced paramedic.
“I’ve put a nice new first aid kit in your pack; although, I didn’t plan on being the first to need it.” Morgan laughed pointing to the wall.
“Way to step up there Morgan. Now we’ll probably never need it again.” Mr. Adams smiled walking toward the supplies. The dull green light illuminated the wall revealing a large black void just to the left of their packs.
“Whoa, good thing we sat over there, the wall caved in…. and smashed all the food.” Mr. Adams held the stick out over a massive pile of boulders. Under the rubble, the remains of canned food and water drained out across the floor.
“No…. the food!” Morgan exclaimed in frustration, then winced from the pain in his head.
“Is it all ruined?” Mrs. Adams asked standing up.
“It looks like it,” he answered somberly.
“What are we going to do now?” Andalynn asked Morgan in a soft pleading voice.
“Don’t worry; this just makes it a bit more difficult.” He forced a grin.
“Well, first things first,” Mr. Adams sighed turning his attention to the packs. “Which one is mine?” he asked looking back at Morgan.
“The big one, second from the end,” he answered.
Mr. Adams unlaced the gray material. “Morgan, why are there guns tied to these two packs?” he asked surprised.
“I figured it was best to be safe, just in case we need them. But I hope you know how to use ‘em, cause I have no clue,” Morgan confessed.
“You’ve never shot before? Then where did you get them?” he answered with surprised amusement.
“They were my dad’s, and he really never used them either,” Morgan said.
“I know enough, but I really hope we don’t have to use them…. I guess it’s best to be prepared though.” He pulled out the large first aid kit and a canteen then returned to Morgan.
Handing the glow stick to Andalynn he opened the extensive kit and pulled out some gauze. With the canteen, he moistened it and carefully cleaned the wound and the dried blood running down Morgan’s face. He applied a small amount of antibiotic and sealed the cuts skillfully with a butterfly bandage.
“There you go Morgan. Now I recommend you not head-butt anything for a little while.” Mr. Adams chuckled reaching into the pack and pulled out another glow stick.
“Thanks.” Morgan nodded. He and Andalynn stood up. Mr. Adams opened the new stick and gave it to Morgan, who activated the light.
“I don’t know about you, but I am ready to get out of this cave.” Mr. Adams looked at Morgan who nodded vehemently. Morgan held his light out and panned around the area to evaluate what had changed from the violent shaking. Several stalactites had fallen from the ceiling and one large column had broken in the middle. The clear pool of water was gone.
“What are those?” Amy’s quiet voice surprised everyone. They turned to look where she was pointing. Sitting conspicuously beside each of their large framed packs were two green acorn shaped objects. The cone like items were about ten inches long with one end pointed and the other rounded. On the wider side, a cut stem protruded from the top. They were six inches thick and entirely covered in narrow pointed scales, sealed tightly.
“I have no idea.” Morgan picked up one of the strange items. It weighed maybe two pounds but was hard and firm. He examined it curiously and noticed an aroma wafting from the cut stem. It smelled sweet and rich, but not quite like a fruit. It was spicy sweet, like vanilla or cinnamon, only softer and more desirable.
“Wow, that smells good,” he said inhaling it.
“What does it smell like?” Andalynn asked curiously, picking one up and smelling it. “Whoa, it really does!”
“I wonder where they came from.” Morgan puzzled, looking around. He handed the unusual plant to Mr. Adams now standing beside him. He smelled it raising his eyebrows and nodding with approval.
He glanced back at Morgan. “Why are there two by each of our packs? They couldn’t have gotten there on their own.”
“Yeah, that’s weird.” Morgan turned and walked back peering into the new gaping hole in the wall. The dull light of his stick illuminated only a portion of the expansive room. A wide round sloping surface rose upward just to the right of his view and stalagmites stood like tree trunks in groupings that continued into the darkness.
“See anything?” Andalynn approached sticking her head into the space.
“It looks like another big cavern… but nothing to explain how those things ended up here.”
“Morgan, I think you and I should take a quick look outside, maybe come up with a game plan.” Mr. Adams put his large hand on his shoulder. Andalynn looked at him, but before she could speak, Mr. Adams rebutted.
“Andy, you stay here with Amy and your mother, we’ll be right back.” He looked at Morgan with a serious glance. Andalynn nodded. Morgan smiled reassuringly at her and followed Mr. Adams toward the entrance of the cavern.
They made their way down the corridor leading to the narrow gap. The ground was cluttered with debris; remnant pieces of cave formations unable to withstand the terrible earthquakes. With the soft greenish light of the glow sticks, they finally reached the narrow entrance. The sliver of sunlight usually pouring from the crack was notably absent, filling them with a fear that the world outside remained in darkness. Morgan stepped forward and stretched his arm into the gap illuminating the passage. It was now filled top to bottom with small packed rocks and shale.
“The entrance has been blocked.” Morgan spoke with his head still in the small space.
“How bad?” Mr. Adams asked disconcerted.
Morgan pulled himself out. “See for yourself.”
Mr. Adams peered into the space and sighed with irritation. “Great! Now what?”
Morgan stood in the darkness for a moment thinking. “Well, somehow those green things ended up by our packs after all the earthquakes, I know they were not there before, and it doesn’t look like they came through here. Whoever or whatever brought them in, probably entered through that new hole in the wall. We should see if it leads to another way out.” Morgan’s logic seemed to make sense to Mr. Adams.
“I hope you’re right…. and I don’t like the idea that there is a someone or something else in here with us…. any ideas?” Mr. Adams looked at Morgan apprehensively.
“Not a clue…. But I don’t think there would be anything in the mountain that would hurt us…. I think.” Morgan tried to sound confident.
“I’ll let you be the optimistic one.” Mr. Adams nudged Morgan’s arm with this shoulder. “Let’s go.” They both headed back to the rest of the group.
“Well?” Mrs. Adams asked anxiously.
“We’re not getting out that way,” Mr. Adams answered frankly.
“What do you mean?” She looked at him angrily.
“The way we came in is blocked, but we think there is another way out through the hole there.” Mr. Adams tried to sound comforting, but the fear of being trapped already took hold. Amy slumped back down against the wall staring into her glowing little stick. Andalynn put her arm around her mother.
“Don’t worry Mom; there’s bound to be another way out.” She looked at Morgan trying to draw some boost of confidence. He nodded optimistically.
Armed with their miniscule light, he and Mr. Adams entered the adjoining cavern. Walking into the space, they could tell it was considerably larger than the previous room. The ceiling hung more than forty feet up. Directly to their right, was a massive dome shaped stalagmite reaching about halfway to the ceiling. Its surface glistened with wetness giving it a glossy polished look. Several enormous columns supported the ceiling which was heavily laden with pointed shapes of varying size. It was a spectacular setting that astounded the two of them, despite their stressed condition. Pressing on for more than a hundred yards through the massive space, Morgan wondered at how there was so little damage to the formations. The other room, where they had endured the cataclysm, clearly had sustained more damage.
At last, a dark void along the wall marked a possible exit. Entering the triangular tunnel, it had a nearly vertical wall on one side and a downward slanting surface on the other which was covered with a sugar white crystalline coating. It went on for several hundred feet and gave way to a shallow passage filled with conical forms in every shade of brown and crimson.
They walked on observantly for a considerable distance, when an odd sound shattered the pervasive silence. At first impression, it sounded like a laughing child. The noise bounced around in echoes concealing any notion of where it came from. Morgan and Mr. Adams froze. The sound came again a little louder, like a two-year-old being tickled, then it tapered off with a very animal sounding, “hi hi hiooooooah”. The echoes died down and the two of them stood motionless and silent for several minutes with hearts pounding audibly.
“Please tell me you know what that was?” Mr. Adams whispered to Morgan.
“I don’t know of any animals that lives in these caves, let alone something that sounds like that,” Morgan responded quietly.
He walked on slowly with Mr. Adams following very close behind, clinging to what little security the dim light of the glow sticks offered. Morgan gradually swept his light back and forth scanning the walls for openings. Alongside, columns connected the floor and ceiling of the passage like structural beams in a mine. The green glow of his stick shined past a thick pillar revealing two big round greenish blue eyes. He whipped back in a double take as a boisterous sound ripped through the silence.
“Beeeooouppp…Hehehehe….” Freaked out, the two stumbled backward. Hanging on the column, was a small furry creature. It was about a foot tall with a long bushy tail. It suddenly leapt into the air bounding erratically like a little bush baby down the tunnel. A short distance ahead, it darted to the right, disappearing into an opening in the wall.
“What in heaven’s name was that?” Mr. Adams gasped trying to catch his breath.
“I honestly couldn’t tell you.” Morgan laughed, amused at being scared by such a little thing, and at the crazy way it bounced all over the place. He started after it.
“Where are you going?” Mr. Adams asked emphatically.
“I’m going to follow it. Don’t worry…. I don’t think it is going to hurt us. Besides, it might know the way out.” Morgan continued, with Mr. Adams following reluctantly behind. Rounding the corner through the opening, a faint light shone in the darkness. The small cavern had a low flat ceiling nearly seven feet from the floor. There were no stalactites or stalagmites anywhere, only smooth flat surfaces. In the center of the room, there stood a single pure white “V” shaped column connected by a narrow neck just above the floor. Against it were several objects that could not be made out in the darkness, but a faint white light emanated from within them. There was no sign of the creature. Morgan approached the central column.
Leaning conspicuously against it, were three bows and three quivers. A pale light radiated from within the quivers as though a flashlight had been dropped inside them. He grasped an arrow, noticing the feathers were white and stiff. Its thin shaft was handcrafted from a smooth white wood. He lifted it out, and to his amazement, the sharply pointed head of the arrow glowed white, like brushed aluminum under a bright lamp. The brilliance outshined the dismal glow sticks with a pure white illumination that reflected off Mr. Adams’ shocked face. Morgan handed him the glowing arrow.
“What do you make of that?” Morgan finally managed to ask in a hushed tone, Mr. Adams shook his head examining the arrow. Morgan’s attention shifted to the other items leaning against the stone structure. Beside the bows and arrows stood two swords, sheathed in ornate leather encasements. Their scabbards featured metal tips resembling a sun inlayed with metal rays of light streaming toward the handle and two long leather straps hanging loosely from brass rings. The hand grips were carved from a strange black wood with bands of silver intersecting it in three places. On the rounded hilt and on the center plate of the hand guards, were exquisite five-point stars made of iridescent stone.
Morgan lifted one of the swords and pulled it from its sheath; it was remarkably light for its long thick proportions. Like the arrows, the long straight blade released a brilliant white glow that illuminated the shock in his hazel eyes. The blade had an elegant shape with a subtle curvature along its edge, widening to its thickest proportions at two thirds up its length, then tapering to a sharp point. At the widest section, three oval holes were situated in each side of the blade’s bevel.
“Wow!” Mr. Adams marveled at the unearthly glow of the long sweeping blade. He returned the arrow to the quiver, then Morgan handed him the sword.
“It’s surprisingly light,” Mr. Adams commented gripping the long handle with both hands.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought.” Morgan gazed in amazement at the glistening blade, appearing as if it reflected a warm sunlight that only it could see. He bent down to pick up the other sword, when he noticed a long object leaning against the back of the pillar.
“What’s this?” He picked up the long rod which had a braided leather handle just above the midpoint. Along the shaft, it was round and mostly straight, except for a few small knots in the polished snow-white wood. Along the length of it were inlayed ornate silver metal spirals giving it an elegant texture. The tip was covered by a leather sheath with a sun-like pattern similar to the scabbards for the swords. Holding it by the handle Morgan could feel the perfect balance, like a javelin, only many times heavier.
Pulling off the sheath, the long silvery blade burst forth with bright white light like the others. The head of it was an oblong two-sided blade similar to the swords, and like them, it featured six oval holes; three on each side of the beveling. It was around eighteen inches long and balanced by a metal cap on the opposite end of the rod which tapered to a dull point. “I think these were made for us.” Morgan placed the sheath back over the tip of the spear and glanced at Mr. Adams nervously.
“Made for us?” Mr. Adams looked back at him uneasily. “By whom… and for what?”
“I don’t know, but look; three bows, two swords, and—”
“Oooo Ooo Ooha ha ha hiii.” Morgan was interrupted by the little creature hooting and laughing from behind the column. It peered playfully at the glowing sword in Mr. Adams’ hand.
“Whoa, hey!” Mr. Adams stammered, backing away with the sword held out between him and the little furry animal.
Its big eyes blinked curiously tilting its head trying to figure out the shiny object. On its pear-shaped head were massive triangular shaped ears which moved constantly. With an expressive mouth and a protruding lower lip, it contemplated the glistening object. The creature’s tail was longer than its body and the fluffy tip flipped and wagged while it clung to the surface with its kangaroo like feet; each with five distinct fingers. In the white light, the coloration was visible. Its soft fur was mostly golden brown, with a white chest and stomach, though its back featured irregular crisscrossed black lines.
“Relax; I don’t think this thing is out to get you.” Morgan laughed at the animal’s playful demeanor and Mr. Adams’ fear of it. “Hey there, where’d you come from?” Morgan reached out his hand toward it. Its little nose sniffed vigorously in the direction of his hand. With the tail flopping erratically, it let out a loud amusing call that genuinely sounded like a child’s laughter. It eyed him curiously as he slowly lowered closer to it; then with a single leap it jumped onto his shoulder.
“Well hello!” He chuckled. The little animal started to pick through his blonde hair, giggling and inspecting.
“It’s like a crazy little monkey or something.” Mr. Adams snickered still a little unsure of it. The animal climbed onto Morgan’s head and looked at him upside down making a little cooing sound. It leapt from his head flying across the room and hopped out through the dark entrance of the cavern, laughing continuously.
“I guess we should follow it,” Morgan said, straightening his ruffled hair.
Mr. Adams nodded. “Why don’t you grab the other sword, they work a lot better than the glow sticks.”
“Good thinking.” Morgan picked up the other sword and pulled it from its sheath. The clear colorless light brought out the dark slate color of the walls and the white veins of crystal running through it. The white column extended from the lowest point of the ceiling and sat amidst a large swath of white crystalline stone, seemingly the source of its mineral composition.
Morgan followed the sound of laughter through the entrance and back into the corridor. They had to move quickly to keep up with the little animal which hopped and leapt with great proficiency through the dark passageways beyond the reach of their light. They tried not to be distracted by the elegant formations illuminated in the nooks and spaces along the way.
After a while, the sound of falling water filled the air. They came to a subterranean stream flowing toward them alongside the passage, then down a steep incline. At the base of the incline, the water disappeared into a deep vertical shaft just to their left. The creek flowed from some origin ahead, and the happy little creature followed up the slope along the stream into the darkness.
Morgan and Mr. Adams peered nervously into the dark hole where the stream fell.
“Don’t want to fall down there,” Morgan commented.
They continued along the flow of water for a ways until the passageway began to expand. Rounding a corner, the darkness ahead of them was displaced by misty beams of sunlight. Warmed to the soul by the shafts of sweet natural light, they both sighed.
“Now that is a beautiful sight,” Mr. Adams mused with great relief, taking in the remarkable scenery. To their left the stream flowed into the cavern as a delicate waterfall falling from a sun filled crack in the ceiling. To the right, the crack gaped open with beams of light shining like ribbons through the small droplets of water rising from the waterfall. Their eyes took a moment to adjust to the intense light. Anxiously, they sheathed their swords and climbed up and out of the earth.
They emerged from the base of a small cliff, surrounded by a strange sight. From a clear blue sky, the sun shined down onto a forest of foreign trees. All around them were tall, impossibly skinny trees topped with round clumps of small pointed leaves perched at the ends of string-like branches. The smooth silvery gray trunks were no more than four inches in diameter and rose upwards of fifty feet before branching off into miniscule one inch to half inch diameter twig like boughs. A gentle breeze rustled through the clusters of small quivering leaves seventy feet from the ground. Oddly, the branches and trunks remained rigid and motionless against the passing wind.
“These are weird trees. Have you seen anything like them before?” Mr. Adams asked. Morgan stood puzzling at the forest surrounding them like a thicket of twigs.
“I know every tree that grows in this canyon, and I have never seen a tree like these,” he answered examining the strange plants. In the high branches, he noticed a couple of leaf clusters with odd shapes hanging from them. “Look up there. Those things we found by our packs…. I think we found where they came from.” He pointed to several upside-down teardrop shaped fruits hanging like pinecones from the top of a nearby tree.
“How did they get from clear up there all the way to our packs?” Mr. Adams asked eying the fruits hanging more than sixty feet above them.
“I think our furry little friend might have had something to do with that.” Morgan smiled scanning around for their little companion. “I wonder where he went.” Looking for the little critter amid the strange landscape, he became curious about where they were on the mountain, or if they were still on the mountain.
“I’m sure the freaky thing is around here somewhere,” Mr. Adams replied turning his focus back to the cave. “It looks pretty good out here; we should get back to everyone.”
“I agree, let me quickly get our bearings from that rise up there.” Morgan pointed to a ridge several hundred yards away, above the small cliff.
“Fine, but we shouldn’t take too long,” Mr. Adams replied, worried about the others. Morgan nodded and ran quickly up the hill through the small bushes and grass. From atop the ridge Morgan gazed up at the familiar summit of Lone Peak towering in the distance. It was a great relief seeing the familiar outline, and even more comforting knowing their location. They were on the eastern most shoulders of the mountain, several miles from the slopes of the canyon where they entered. The terrain around him appeared unchanged, but the trees and vegetation were nothing that he had ever seen before. Fascinated by the unknown fauna, but desperate to retrieve Andalynn, he ran back down to Mr. Adams who was again examining his sword. In the bright sunlight, the light-colored metal showed no signs of inherent light.
“I know where we are.” Morgan smiled confidently. “The canyon is over that way.” He pointed toward the northwest.
“Thank goodness!” Mr. Adams sighed. “I figured out how to attach the sheath,” he added, showing Morgan how he had wrapped the two leather straps around his waist and secured them using the brass rings. “Nifty, huh?” Mr. Adams smiled proudly under his thick mustache.
“That’s pretty cool,” Morgan answered doing the same with his while they walked toward the cave entrance. “Any sign of our little friend?” He looked around again then pulled his sword from the newly secured sheath.
“No, it’s like the little guy just disappeared,” Mr. Adams said somewhat glad to be rid of the little animal.
They made their way down into the mist-filled cavern where the light of day slowly gave way to the darkness. Gradually the remarkable blades began to shine again, white and clear, making it just a little easier to return to the darkness. Walking quickly and purposefully they made their way back along the passages. Morgan’s mind was filled with concern for Andalynn. She was still sitting in the cold darkness surrounded by uncertainty and doubt. He desperately wanted her to know that the sun still shined in a calm blue sky and that the darkness had passed. They walked by the entrance to the small cavern where they acquired their special weapons and could see the light glowing from within the quivers. Anxious to get to the rest of them, they did not slow.
After what felt like a great distance, they entered the massive cavern leading to the hole they started through.
“Hey Gwen!” Mr. Adams yelled. “We’re back, we found a way out.” His deep booming voice echoed in the great expanse of the room beyond the light of their swords.
“Dad…. Morgan!” Andalynn yelled faintly from the darkness at the far side of the chamber.
“Brock!” Mrs. Adams called with a sound of great relief in her voice. In the distance a meager green light shone from behind the massive pillars and stalagmites. It was Andalynn making her way toward them.
“We were getting worried, we thought….” She paused noticing the white light accompanying Morgan and her father, then realized the source of it. “What in the world?” Her voice was quieter and filled with amazement staring at the two glowing swords.
“Andalynn!” Morgan was outwardly excited seeing her face light up in the heavenly glow of the swords. “We found a way out…. and a couple of other things along the way.” He raised his sword higher, showing it off.
“Where did you get those?” Andalynn gawked in astonishment.
“Well, a little furry…. something, led us to them… and kindly showed us the way out.” Morgan laughed realizing the strangeness of the circumstances.
“What?” Andalynn questioned with amused confusion.
“This little monkey-like thing that laughed all the time showed up and pointed the way.” Mr. Adams shrugged his large shoulders. Andalynn looked at him like he was crazy then smiled peering at the illuminated metal.
“Where on earth did you get those?” Mrs. Adams appeared with Amy in tow. Amy’s eyes widened catching sight of the light source.
“That is so cool!” She ran up beside Andalynn who was now holding Morgan’s sword.
“We’ll show you where we found them, along with a few other things you might like,” Mr. Adams answered with a suggestive smile embracing his wife.
“Other things?” Andalynn looked at her father excited.
“But first, let’s grab everything we can carry and get out of here. We’ll grab the other stuff on our way out,” Mr. Adams directed.
“Sweet!” Amy exclaimed smiling for the first time in a while. “I am so ready to not be in a cave.”
“Definitely! You’ll be happy to know, outside the sun is shining, the sky is blue, and there are some very interesting trees you have got to see.” Morgan beamed following them all back toward their gear.
“You are such a dork.” Amy laughed.
“Amy…” Mrs. Adams started with a stern voice.
“I’m just kidding,” Amy corrected quickly, “I’m glad he’s a dork, that’s a good thing.”
“Thanks…. I think,” Morgan responded.
“You know Amy, I’m carrying a huge glowing sword, you might want to be careful what you say about my boyfriend,” Andalynn said looking at her sister raising one eyebrow. Amy rolled her eyes. Morgan blushed hearing Andalynn refer to him as her boyfriend. Mr. and Mrs. Adams looked at each other surprised to hear it as well.
Back in the space where they rode out the terrifying events, they were quiet. Morgan pointed out which packs belonged to whom and assisted them in stowing their gear. He and Mrs. Adams then picked through the rubble to see what food could be salvaged. Unfortunately, all that remained was a box of granola bars, a bag of potatoes, and some spices. At Mrs. Adams request, it was placed in her pack; she instinctively took ownership of everyone’s nourishment.
“What do you want to do with these?” Mr. Adams asked holding up the green objects.
“We should definitely take them,” Morgan replied. “I have a feeling that little creature left us those for food and given our limited rations; I’ll take what we can get.”
“How are we supposed to eat them, their rock hard, and look impossible to open?” Mr. Adams tapped it against the wall, it sounded like a hard wood bat rapped against concrete.
“I don’t know. All I can say is that little fur ball guided us to these,” Morgan motioned to the swords, “then led us out. I trust there is some reason he left those things for us as well.”
Mr. Adams raised his thick eyebrows conceding to the request and loaded them up.
With two fruits stored in each of their packs, they were finally ready. Morgan lifted Andalynn’s pack so she could wrap the shoulder straps around and secure the waist belt. Then he did the same for Amy and her parents. It was a challenge for them adjusting to the heavy weight and burden of the packs, being they had never worn such an apparatus. They all stretched and fidgeted, struggling to adapt. Morgan watched in amusement. He expertly pulled his pack up in a smooth movement flinging it around his shoulder and securing it skillfully in a matter of seconds. They all watched his proficiency and how he carried the weight so effortlessly.
“You suck,” Amy commented, evidently smothered by her meager load.
“It’s not my first time.” Morgan said with a grin.
Mr. Adams picked up the sword that Andalynn had set against the wall and handed it to Morgan. “You want to lead us out?”
“Absolutely.” Morgan nodded taking the glimmering blade.
“I’ll be at the back of the line,” Mr. Adams added. “Let’s stay together, there are some dangerous spots and I don’t want anyone falling down the bottomless pits.”
“Pits?” Amy asked looking to Morgan with concern.
“There was one hole, and it’s pretty obvious,” Morgan whispered quietly to her and Andalynn. “In fact, your Dad is kind of a chicken, you should’ve seen how freaked out he got when he saw the cute little animal we ran into.” They both laughed.
“Hey, it was dark, and the thing was bouncing all crazy,” Mr. Adams retorted loudly. “For all I know it could’ve had rabies or something.”
“Yes, it was terrifying with its big sweet eyes, soft fur, and fluffy tail,” Morgan scoffed.
“Awe, it sounds cute,” Amy lamented obviously wanting to see it.
“I hope it comes back,” Andalynn added as her father rolled his eyes.
Through the hole in the wall they departed the fateful cave; the first steps of a long and uncertain journey. While they passed through the expansive cavern, Morgan couldn’t help but take every opportunity to highlight the magnificence of the surrounding mineral deposits. Andalynn and Amy were particularly engaged in his every word and marveled at the beauty. Before long they were near the entrance to the chamber where they found the weapons.
“This is where we first saw it.” He pointed to the small pillars along the wall. It hopped into the small room up there where we found these swords. Come check out what else is in there.” He smiled eagerly and sped up, leading the two beaming girls into the room. In the small cavern, the bows and quivers still sat aglow against the mighty white column.
“Whoa, are those bows…. and arrows? Andalynn exclaimed.
“Check this out.” Morgan pulled an arrow from the quiver revealing the glowing tip.
“Holy cow, it’s like the swords.” Amy beamed with amazement. Andalynn picked up one of the bows by the handle and pulled lightly on the taut silken cord.
“It’s pretty light and has a tight string.” She looked impressed.
“I don’t know anything about bows, but they look like really good ones; and notice there are three of them.” Morgan picked up the other two giving one to Amy and one to Mrs. Adams who, was staring in awe.
“One for each of us Mom.” Amy smiled pulling on the string of her bow.
“And why do we need bows and arrows?” Mrs. Adams asked looking nervously at her husband.
“That was my question.” Mr. Adams’ blue eyes looked from beneath his furrowed brow.
“Morgan, show them the other thing.”
“Oh yeah.” He pulled from behind the column the long-bladed spear and removed the cover to reveal the brightly shining double edged point. Seeing Morgan with the javelin like weapon, Andalynn smiled.
“That one is definitely yours.”
“Pretty cool, huh?” Morgan gazed at the remarkable piece of weaponry, following the silver spirals up the shaft with his finger.
“Morgan, where do you think all these came from? It’s like they were left for us, but who could have known how many of us there were, or that we would end up here. And another thing I don’t get….” Mr. Adams remarked directing his comments to the artifacts. “I can see using bows and arrows for hunting or something, and swords are cool if only slightly useful, but what on earth do you need a big ol’ spear like that for?”
“I’ve been wondering the same thing. These certainly aren’t relics from any local Indian tribe. I have a theory on their origin…. but it’s a bit too complicated to explain now…. once we are out of this cave and situated, I’ll try to lay it all out.” Morgan attempted to appease Mr. Adams’ confusion. “As far as why swords and bows…. I’m guessing time will tell.”
“I seriously hope we are never going to answer that question Brock.” Mrs. Adams focused on the bright pointed blade of the spear with great nervousness. The question brought to mind Fin, and world from which he came, the world in which they were now a part. Holding the spear, he suddenly felt very anxious considering the possibility of actually needing it. Perceiving his nervousness Andalynn touched his arm.
“What is it?” Her smile faded seeing his serious face.
“I hope I will know how to use this if the need arises.” He looked into her deep eyes reflecting the gentle white light.
“Morgan, if anyone knows how to use that thing, it’s you.” She smiled at him. Amy pulled back on the string of her bow and accidentally released causing it to smack her forearm.
“Owe!” She rubbed her arm irritated. Everyone else chuckled, prompting the familiar scowl on Amy’s face. “Just wait, I am going to be awesome with this.”
“I am sure you will,” Mr. Adams mused. “Now grab your arrows girls and let’s get out of here.”
A little more prepared, they departed the small room and resumed their trek to the cave opening. Morgan thought while they walked about all that had happened and contemplated how the weapons came to be there. From their brief meeting, Aelvi seemed to be aware and prepared for what was to come. Maybe somehow, he placed them there knowing that they would be needed at some point along the way. The sound of water pulled him from his thoughts, the exit was near.
“We are almost there.” He turned to see Andalynn and Amy walking quietly behind. Both were obviously winded by carrying their heavy packs on the uneven surfaces of the cave and were conscious of Morgan’s distracted mind.
Like a beacon of hope, the soft amber brilliance of daylight peeked from around a bend in the passage. At long last, the magnificent view of the waterfall and glistening pool presented before them. The sunlight seemed to fill them, displacing the cold darkness that had settled over them amidst the trauma.
“That is a beautiful sight!” Andalynn sighed as she spoke.
“Thank heavens!” Mrs. Adams squeezed Amy’s arm with a smile of reassurance. Amy nodded with relief.
Excited and eager, they helped each other maneuver awkwardly up the rocky wall leading to the beautiful afternoon beyond. Escaping from the damp cold darkness, a warm dry breeze greeted them with clean air and a clear blue sky. Mr. Adams pulled his family together and wrapped his arms awkwardly around their packs. One at a time he kissed them on their foreheads.
“We made it…. it’s over.” He sighed heavily with the doubt and strain escaping from his countenance. They all celebrated in their freedom and the joy of standing together at last under the warm light of a peaceful day.
Mrs. Adams separated herself and went to Morgan who was standing nearby taking in the relief of their family. She warmly embraced him then put her hand on his face with a sincere expression. “Morgan…. I want you to know, from this point on, you are a part of this family. Thank you so much for everything you have done to get us through this.”
He blushed and glanced down, answering softly, “Thanks Mrs. Adams, that means a lot.”
“She’s right Morgan, thank you!” Mr. Adams squeezed firmly on his shoulder. Morgan nodded, surprised by such sentiment coming from him.
Andalynn wrapped her arms around him lovingly. “You keep saving my life…. I promise you; someday I will return the favor.” She gazed into his eyes filling his heart with a swelling of love and appreciation. Morgan was overwhelmed; for the first time in his life, he was surrounded by a family that cared for him and appreciated him for who he was. It was a good feeling.
Amy looked at him, then at the rest of them.
“Don’t look at me; I’m not gonna hug him.” Her family stared at her intensely. “Fine…. I guess, thanks for not letting us get killed and for getting this stuff,” she said feigning great effort and pointing to her pack. “Seriously though, I do like my shoes.” She grinned brightly twisting her feet to show off her new boots.
“When did you have time to change out your boots?” Mr. Adams questioned with a laugh.
“Well, she had to do something to occupy her time while you were gone, so I let her go through her pack a bit,” Mrs. Adams admitted looking at her husband. He shook his head.
“Not to sound ungrateful, but c’mon Morgan, have you ever heard of purple? All the greens and browns, I thought the forest threw up in my bag or something,” Amy chided and slugged him in the arm playfully.
“My gosh Amy!” Andalynn exclaimed.
“Consider yourself lucky, I was going to go with full camo for everything, but you’re so loud and obnoxious and all, I figured what’s the point?” Morgan replied casually with a subtle grin.
“Ugh, see if I’m ever nice to you again,” Amy huffed.
“I don’t know about you guys, but I am ready to find a place to rest and have a long talk, so Morgan can finally tell us everything we refused to hear earlier. I am darn sure ready to listen now,” Mr. Adams said to Morgan emphatically.
“I agree,” Mrs. Adams added.
“I saw a great spot just over that hill.” Morgan pointed up the slope.
“Lead on.” Mr. Adams motioned forward.
Morgan nodded and headed up the hillside adjacent to the small cliff.
As they walked, the newly freed members of the group now began to notice their surroundings.
“What odd trees,” Andalynn commented reaching out and touching the tall slender trunks. “Have these trees always been here?” She turned to Morgan.
“Definitely not…. they have never existed in this canyon before, in fact, I don’t know of trees like this anywhere in the world. Take a look,” Morgan motioned upward. “we found where the weird fruits came from.”
“I see why you thought that little animal brought them to us, they are impossible to reach.” Her pack made it hard for her to look straight up so she had to lean to the side and turn her head. “Where do you think it went?” she asked wishing she could have seen it.
“I don’t know, it just showed up in the cave, and then vanished when we came out.”
With the sun beginning to sink into the west, they could feel the troubles of the day taking their toll and were ready to rest. A tough half mile later, they arrived in a perfect flat clearing. It was the ideal location, offering large stones for sitting and grassy areas for the tents. Morgan wasted no time and immediately walked each of them through the process of setting up their shelters. Of course, Andalynn and Amy’s was situated adjacent to their parents’, while Morgan’s was set on the opposite side of the camp a small distance away. Mr. Adams kindly suggested that there would be no funny business. Morgan was amused by his over protective nature and was happy to respect it.
While the rest of them cleaned up and readied their sleeping gear, Morgan constructed a rock lined fire pit in the middle of the camp. With that finished, he set out to collect firewood. That proved to be the most difficult challenge, given that the strange trees never seemed to break for fall. Everywhere he searched; there were no sticks or logs to be found. Finally, in desperation Morgan collected a massive bundle of small twigs and stubby branches from the shrubs and bushes around the area. With sufficient fuel to burn well into the night, he began the process of starting a fire.
He soon discovered that the matches and lighters were entirely dysfunctional; all incendiary capability was lost. His last resort proved successful. Mr. Allen had shown him years ago how to make a fire-starting material from old jeans burned in a metal tin. Using two round stones he picked from the ground, he cracked them together to create a spark which he directed onto the blackened fabric. In a slow rolling smolder, it began to burn. Placing dry grass and twigs over the glowing piece, flames began bursting from the clumped kindling. At last the fire was going strong. They all watched in curious fascination his intricate efforts and could not help but be impressed.
Mrs. Adams prepared some baked potatoes, even though strangely, no one was at all hungry. She insisted everyone needed to eat anyway, simply because it had been too long since they had last eaten. With food being cooked and everyone now entirely free to rest, they sat around the fire, warm and relaxed. Above them an orange blanket settled across the evening sky mirroring the warm glow of their campfire.