The Seahorse Cavern
by, 03-25-2009 at 05:30 AM (5374 Views)
And with that they were off! They hurried along the path back to the school and entered the Great Hall. It was quiet, except for the sound of a lone smurfling galloping to his class. “Pitter-patter pitter-patter pitter-patter,” it echoed down the hall. Then a door shut. From both sides of the hallway, prismatic rays of light shone from the classroom windows, staggered like the fingers of folded hands off into the distance.
“Hurry,” whispered Garvey, “run to the other end of this hall. I’ll meet ya yonder.” Gordan galloped away. Rainbows of light slapped his face like a stick over a picket fence. He spun his legs faster and faster, smacking his bare feet upon the marble floor. On and on he ran down the wavy corridor.
‘How long is this hall?’ Gordan asked himself. He saw no end to it. Eventually, Gordan slowed down, gasping for air. By the time he reached the end, he was doubled over, leaning against a pillar.
“Bravo,” said a smurf, waddling out from behind the white pillar with a clap. Gordan jumped backwards with fright. Amazed, he saw it was Garvey, cheery and calm as ever.
“How, how,” Gordan gasped, “You get here before me?”
“Now lad, no time fer questions,” Garvey said. He then rattled his key chain, caught a bronze key, and unlocked a round door to his right. Garvey slowly opened the door. It moaned loudly. Thick cobwebs stretched across the opening. A breeze of cold air rushed out into the hall, bellying the webs. Garvey glanced back up the hall then whispered, “Quickly, inside!” Gordan leaped through the door.
Garvey followed, closed the door, and bolted it. Gordan wiggled loose earth beneath his toes. A dim tunnel, the size of the door, extended about twenty paces in front of him, vanishing into darkness. “No lights in the ole wings,” said Garvey, “so we’ll have to make due with smurf sense.” Gordan understood. Smurfs could see in the dark, but only dimly. It was a sense the smurf race obtained long ago, having strained their eyesight in the dark for many lives.
Garvey then walked through a maze of tunnels. Gordan followed close behind. A huge map of their track was growing in Gordan’s mind. ‘I’ve never walked in a labyrinth this big before,’ he thought to himself. A tinge of fear crept into his thoughts.
“Well, it be mighty creepy down here Gordan. Not fit fer any smurf, especially a smurfling. We gotta keep this a secret! I’m not even supposed to be this friendly with smurflings, much less takin em on forbidden paths. But if Garvey got any sense, he knows ya be the ception. I’d hazard to say ya’ve seen more dreary places than this, by the looks of ya. Wisdom be knowin when to break the rules, not knowin em. And I would get these roots by myself. But my old smarfer showed me the freezer long ago, travelin together to make our hearts stronger. So let’s continue, if ya will, and lighten the burden with talk,” said Garvey.
“Of course I’ll continue,” said Gordan. “You are wise in your perceptions, Garvey. But I’m afraid you will be doing most of the talking and I’ll be doing most of the listening in this conversation.”
“There be no other way, lad,” said Garvey, “lest ya be Morvil. And well—I learned much younger than he that his ways don’t work. Fer I have the beard, growing hard of hearing, and ya have the ears, growing hard the beard,” he paused. Then asked, “And if ya don’t mind, I don’t feel too much comfort bein as ole Garvey down here. Neither did my ole smarfer. You mind if I throw on another form more fitting?”
“I don’t mind at all! In fact, you’re the most generous smurf I’ve ever chanced to meet, much less befriend. Wear what’s comfortable by all means,” said Gordan.
With these words, Garvey felt a love he never felt before. He thought to himself, ‘I be bettin I were born for this very moment—a father to the fatherless—seein I ain't ever had me own smurflings.’ “Hold me keys then lad,” he bellowed. And then with a pop, Garvey became a spider. A small one.
“Wow!” Gordan yelled aloud to himself, “I have never witnessed a trick like this before!”
“Not many have in these times, Gordan. But it ain’t no trick. But ya’ll learn soon enough by the graces of Ms. Wormwas,” said the spider.
“And you can talk!” Gordan screamed even louder.
“Shhhh!” he laughed, “Gotta be quieter. But yes, Old Garvey does got that trick. I can talk smurfish of course, but not spiderish. Nobody gots that trick. Follow me! We gotta do this before the next bell toll!”
Gordan followed the spider, which now scampered along on the ceiling. It twitched its head side to side, peering down corridors as they passed. Suddenly, it slipped and swung like a pendulum on a strand of web. Dust swirled around it. Its spindly legs clawed the air. Finally, it wriggled back to the ceiling and coughed, “I’d walk on the ground, but me belly drags. And it rubs mighty raw.” Gordan giggled. His heart lightened. He skipped with merriment after the spider.
After a while, they stumbled upon an orange door with an animal etched onto the lock. Gordan had never seen a creature like this one before. It had the head of a horse and the body of a snake. “That be the seahorse key, ya gotta catch it on the key ring,” declared Garvey. Gordan fumbled the huge keychain in his hands. He finally spotted a copper key shaped like the seahorse. Its tail wrapped around the key ring. But behold! When Gordan reached for its head, the key animated! The seahorse ducked away from his grasp and wriggled under the stack of keys.
‘I suppose I should grab it by the tail instead,’ thought Gordan. Within a few minutes, Gordan spotted the seahorse again and successfully caught the creature by the tail. The slimy tail squirmed in his hand. He then attempted to slip the creature headlong into the keyhole. But it wiggled and its head missed the hole, hitting the faceplate of the lock instead. The seahorse let out a whimper. “I’m sorry seahorse,” cried Gordan. He then cradled the seahorse in the palm of his hand and stroked its spine to ease its pain. And the seahorse slowly settled down, hardening into a stiff copper key once again.
Gordan quickly slipped the seahorse headlong into the keyhole. As he turned it, he felt the spin of huge gears inside the round door. They ratcheted and the bolt slid back with a ‘thunk’. Gordan opened the door and Garvey scuttled inside on the ceiling. “No need to close the door, lad. We’ll be makin our way back soon,” said Garvey.
Inside, moist air bristled the hairs of Gordan’s limbs. It was dreadfully cold. Slimy stone slipped beneath his feet. Randomly shaped pits pocked the walls and floors. As he slid his way forward, a huge stalagmite rose into view from the ground, trickling with water across its tan surface. Loud water drops echoed from far away. Garvey was now just a dim speck on the ceiling, scuttling across craggy earth. “Where are we, Garvey? This is otherworldly to me,” yelled Gordan. His question echoed a few times.
“We be in the seahorse cavern, under the Great Hall of Chiselers. This stone bed be discovered by the chief archie-tec when the school was expandin,” Garvey echoed back.
“Hall of Chiselers?” echoed Gordan.
“Ya know, where the great ring be made, having to do with that festival next week. The chiselers be the dwarves who helped make a secret room to hide our workings of it,” Garvey echoed rather matter of factly. He looked at Gordan. Gordan seemed to be in a dream. “Don’t be tellin me ya ain’t never heard of the great ring now?”
“No. I haven’t heard many stories in my life,” moaned Gordan.
“Well now, the greatest story of the smurfs, and ya ain’t heard it yet at bedtime? That be the shamefulest thing I ever heard. Who be raisin’ ya boy? No smurf that’s fer sure. But that be a story to long fer the telling now and too deep fer ole Garvey to do justice anytime. But say, Gordan, ya should go to the festival and hear all about it. I dare say ya deserve one good bedtime story! Smurfs all over go to celebrate and try their hand at the ring. And ya be of age now to at least try yer own hand. Every smurf should at least touch the ring once in their lifetime. But ya be young, and the story be better than the ring itself. Come along!”
Down and down they descended into the cavern. Garvey joined Gordan on the floor. The ceiling was no longer visible. “How high is the ceiling Garvey?” asked Gordan.
“Higher than comfort, me lad,” responded Garvey. No walls could be seen—only the floor now beneath their feet. Soon, even that dwindled. The pits deepened into chasms on both sides. Gordan now crawled on all four limbs to avoid slipping.
‘Now is a good time to have eight legs,’ Gordan thought to himself. Finally the path leveled out.
“Behold!” announced Garvey, “The Great Pool of Seahorses!” Gordan rose to his legs awestruck. The path stretched out before him, dreamily illuminated by glowing crystals while floating on a pool of water. The mammoth crystals were leagues underwater, clinging like corals to the worn walls and casting diffuse light of all colors. On both sides, clear water lapped the path. Currents disturbed the surface of the water as huge shadows darted underneath the path. Loud splashes echoed from far away, mingled with nearby water drips. Gordan walked out over the water.
To his right, a shadow poked above the water to investigate the smurfling. “It’s a seahorse!” yelled Gordan, pointing at it. Startled, the seahorse dashed away. Then another seahorse poked its head out on Gordan’s left side, rippling the water with huge circular swells. Its body, as big as Gordan, undulated beneath the surface. It blinked its huge black eyes. Then five baby seahorses, the size of Gordan’s hand, swam out from behind their mother and poked their heads out of the water near Gordan’s feet. Gordan bent down. One baby seahorse smiled, sucked water into its snout, and sprayed Gordan in the face with cool water. Then all the babies dashed back to the mother and giggled with high pitch noises. The mother smiled then twittered a short bird-like song. Then at once, they all plopped their heads into the water and darted away, joining the frolic of the shadows.
“The freezer be on the other side of this pond, Gordan. Come along, time be ticking,” Garvey said, while scurrying passed him. Gordan skipped after the spider across the bridge. Shadows swarmed underneath his feet.