“Is it from being in the caverns too long or is the tunnel narrowing?” asked Rucksack.
The unicorn nodded.
Unexpectedly, the magician slipped into knee deep water. Sloshing through the shallows he saw large egg sacks pasted to the walls in brown slime. They pulsated and squirmed. Rucksack realized they inadvertently wandered into the colony’s nursery. Overweight termites inspected the eggs.
You might think nurturing insects would be harmless, but they are about as safe as the fourth grade teacher who made you write your spelling words repeatedly while other children played at recess. They are strict, grumpy, and as a result, always hungry.
The larvae were coddled and comforted in a corner playpen. Some of them were playing catch with one of their relatives’ remains. “Let’s get out of here,” whispered Rucksack. They moved in the direction of the fastest moving current.
Sensing intruders, the nurses screamed. Rucksack was so disoriented he lost his balance and fell into the current. It was all he could do to hold onto the enormous top hat on his head. The wide tunnel narrowed into a tube, sucking them into a drain where there was no longer any air to breathe.
“Better hold your breath and hope this medallion is lucky because we may get flushed to the center of the earth!” yelled Rucksack. It’s an unforgettable experience to be sucked through underwater tubes at high speed. The magician thought he would panic in the first few seconds and swallow a mouthful of water. Remarkably, he didn’t and suddenly he had the sensation of falling. He hit the lake before he realized what happened. Everything went dark as he pumped his legs and pushed his feet to reach the surface.
Rucksack broke out of the water, smelling fresh air. He saw Nuptial swim to the basaltic shore and shake its silvery mane. His soggy cloak made him invisible in the darkness as he reached the lake’s edge, climbing over the sedimentary rocks skirting the volcanic dome.
“We’ll have to find a way out,” muttered Rucksack.
Echoing shrieks and multiple splashes caused the magician to hesitate before entering the crevice in the wall. The noise spurred him to move faster through the passage. The magician desperately looked for a way out, but couldn’t find one.
He remembered the medallion around his neck. It was his last desperate thought as he closed his eyes and turned the dial clockwise. An inscription blazed on the metal. Use the Thunder Stick. He had completely forgotten his wand meticulously tucked inside his cloak. He pulled it out and braced himself for combat, but the enemy didn’t come. He stood dripping water in the sandy tunnel. The quiet was unnerving.
All of a sudden, a large pool of saliva trickled onto his shoulder. He raised his wand above his head and closed his eyes, praying beyond hope something would happen. The magician felt the stick charge in his hands and a blinding light shot from the tip in an infinitesimal second. Several bolts erupted from the wand, striking the insects with electricity. All five termites lay smoking in the sand as a sound of thunder deafened the air.
An avalanche of rocks fell around Nuptial and Rucksack with nowhere to run. The ceiling opened and torrents of water flowed over them. They were protected by something; almost as if they were inside a fish bowl watching the total destruction of the cave from a safe distance. The magician didn’t realize he still held the wand directly above his head, generating an invisible shield.
After a few moments, the chaos from the reverberating thunder died away and the ceiling vanished, revealing a clear skylight where tons of earth was displaced. A rocky slope of debris led into an enormous crater. They found themselves in a wide-open cavern. The floor was coated with mud and the rim looked like the jaws of a monster where stalactites and stalagmites grew over thousands of years. Nuptial kept getting stuck as it pushed to get a view of the wide world beneath them where a vast river flowed and a deep green forest grew. It was long past time to return home.