Posted by: Kathryn Hulick | March 12, 2011

The Cave Whisperer

Deep in a cave of ice and stone, the dragon slept. Her name was Intet, and from head to tail she had once stretched the length of a small city. Her open mouth had swallowed herds of antelope whole and engulfed forests in flame. But now she slumbered, unaware of the tap, tap, tap echoing down the halls of ice.

“You really think there’s gold behind a wall of ice?” whispered one voice.

“There’s something.” The second voice was less cautious. A deep breath, and the owner struck the ice again with an axe. A green light flashed from his belt, his GPS charting their location.

“Something…” The first voice said no more, but he was thinking hard. Trying to remember the stories told by his grandmother that she learned from her grandmother all the way back to a time before history.

He remembered tales of fairies and gods, of times of the year good for adventure, and times of year to stay home. And a niggling memory in the back of his mind whispered something about a cave of ice, and a warning.

You shall not disturb her slumber. The ice cave is alive, and breathing with a throat full of flame. To enter there is to unlock hell itself.

That was the memory trying to break through, but like the dragon it was buried, sleeping in the back of the man’s mind, unaware of his dogged search.

He had been prospecting for years, seeking coal strains and diamonds and much stranger ores for anyone who would pay him. He seemed to have a knack for finding things hidden beneath the Earth. It was as if the stones spoke to him, so they called him the Cave Whisperer.

And for every cache he revealed for pay, there were two more he let rest. For he understood that his gift came from the Earth, and to steal too much of her bounty was to destroy Her, and betray the old gods.

His grandmother hadn’t taught him that, but the law had persisted unspoked through the generations anyway, as if it were an expression of his genetics.

This job was the strangest by far. The Cave Whisperer looked hard at his companion, his employer. He had a thick white beard and a shaved head. The muscles in his back and arms bulged under writhing tattoos of mythical beasts–three-headed snakes, gryphons, dragons, and others the Cave Whisperer couldn’t name. Mr. Delphus had asked for gold at first, but he refused to look in the regular places.

“I know the spot,” he insisted. “I just need to know where to dig.”

So they came to this place, this beautiful, pristine womb of the mother Earth, and the Cave Whisperer knew at once there was no gold. He said as much to Mr. Delphus, who only shrugged.

“Just tell me where it is.”

“Where what is?”

“The power. Don’t tell me you can’t feel it.” Then his cell phone chirped and he spoke in a foreign language for ten minutes.

Yes, the Cave Whisperer felt it. He’d felt it the minute they stepped into this alien world, and had known, deep down, that they should leave. It wasn’t gold or diamonds, it was older than that. It was some treasure of the Earth man had yet to uncover.

His grandmother had known what it was, and if she were still alive, she would have warned him, “Best to leave this one to the Earth.”

But Mr. Delphus went on ahead and the Cave Whisperer followed. When he felt the pull the strongest, he kept walking, hoping Mr. Delphus wouldn’t notice. They were quite a distance away when he said it was a good spot to dig.

A long distance, but only as long as two or three city blocks, not a whole city.

Tap, tap, TAP, TAP!

Inside the ice, a single golden eye snapped open. Intet was waking, and she was hungry.

The images that inspired this story can be found here.

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Responses

  1. enjoyed reading it! short and tense.

  2. Nicely done. Now write more. You have the beginnings of a novel here.


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