The Sword of Paracelsus: The Green Island, Part 3

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Morgan shook himself and blinked.  His currach was drifting down a rapidly flowing subterranean stream, through a cavern of rubies and diamonds, under the glow of an inverted forest of sparkling stalactites.  Gone was the all-engulfing darkness.  Gone was the smothering abyss.  Through an opening at the end of the passage, an opening that drew nearer by the moment, he could see splotches of sunlight dancing on the surface of a sparkling sea.

“Morgan!” he heard Eny call from the other boat, which was dashing after Lia Fail some fifty feet ahead of his own.  “Do you see it?”

“See what?” he shouted back.

Eagerly she turned and pointed out through the door at the end of the tunnel.  “The Island!  The Green Island in the West!”

Beyond the mouth of the cave rolled the wide expanse of the ocean.  He leaned forward and stared at it hard, searching its rippling ridges for the object Eny was so anxious to show him.  And as he did, it suddenly dawned upon him:  he knew those blue waters.  He had seen them before.

He wasn’t sure how he knew this.  He just knew that he did.  The ceiling above his head might be studded with Faerie gems, but it was as plain as day that the light outside the cavern was not the light of Faerie at all.  It was the brave yellow light of September in California.  It belonged not to the world of the Tuatha De Danann and Baile Daoine Sidhe, but to the world of La Punta Lira and Santa Piedra Middle School.  And far away, at the very edge of that world, gleaming through a hole in a veil of mist, was the thing Eny was trying to make him see:  a bright speck of green; an island on the horizon, green as the first buds of early spring; a fresh, green land beyond the extremity of the sun’s going.

He turned.  The brave light of the Pacific Ocean was shining clear and strong on his father’s deeply lined face.  It lay like a mantle on the shoulder of old John Dee, whose crinkly eyes were glowing like Christmas morning.  It shone red-gold on Baxter Knowles’s ruddy complexion and rumpled blond hair.  It glinted blue in the corner of Eny’s eye.

He could see her there, standing in the stern of Simon’s currach, waving at him just as she had waved on the day when she moved away to Los Angeles.  He remembered that day with a pang.  He got to his feet and waved back.  But then, without warning, he stumbled and fell as his little boat struck an obstacle and grated to an unexpected halt.

“What was that?” said Baxter.

Morgan glanced over the side.  They had run aground on a shallow bank of sand and gravel not twenty feet from the tunnel’s end.  There was something on the wall beside the cavern door—neither gems nor jewels, but hands.  Hands painted in red ochre.  Morgan knew them, too:  hundreds of waving hands, red hands reaching and sweeping upward towards the ceiling like a chorus of living flame.

He jumped out of the currach.  The sand beneath his feet was cool and dry.  Gone was every trace of the underground stream that had carried their boat to this point.  The Cave of the Hands—for indeed it was La Cueva de los Manos—looked exactly as he remembered it: the sloping ceiling, the dripping gray walls, the pair of squat boulders at the rear of the shadowy chamber.

Sick with a sudden dread, he ran to the door and looked out.  Far across the rolling swells of the Pacific two tiny specks were racing towards the window in the shifting bank of silver-gray fog.  He recognized them at once.  The one was the Stone of Destiny.  He knew this, for he could see the sun sparkling brightly on the broken blade of the Sword of Paracelsus.  The other was Simon’s currach with Eochy and Eny aboard.  Already they were more than halfway to the spot where Green Island gleamed like an emerald through the oscillating hole in the swirling mist.

While he watched, the two specks merged.  As one, they slipped through the aperture on the horizon just as its swirling edges drew together like the mouth of a drawstring bag.  Then the green spark died and the fog bank collapsed.  The mist streamed shoreward like a sheet of bubbling foam.

Morgan crumpled against the wall with his head in his hands.

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