by Gordon Saunders
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Overview of the Verduran Pentology
A Light through the Cave is the first book of the Verduran Pentology. In 1836, in Barren County, Kentucky, the adventures of four teenaged kids – Joshua, Marie, Amanda, and Steven (who is a slave) – start in a wooden hotel by Mammoth Cave.
Their adventures continue a couple of earth-years later in the second book, The Lord Steward and the Servant King.
In Book 3, The Boatwright, we learn about Steven’s father, Sabal, and the events leading up to the earlier adventures.
In Book 4, The Founding of Denispri, Joshua and Marie return to a Verdura whose timeframe is millennia earlier than that of their first adventure. There they meet Verdura’s first citizens and discover how Verdura came to have the geography and ecosystem they experienced in their first adventure.
Book 5, The Kingdom of Light, brings Joshua and his young wife, child, and Chinese nanny, into a Verdura that is fighting and fading into its cataclysmic apocalypse – into a new way of being that none of the characters could ever have imagined.
Here are a couple of excerpts to give you a feel for A Light through the Cave.
From Chapter 8: Rock Music
“What?” said Amanda, twisting around. She looked at Marie, head cocked to one side, eyes aslant. “You didn’t say that, did you?”
Marie responded, speaking very slowly. “I don’t think it was exactly said.” She pointed to the cave entrance where the boulder was that she had leaned on. “But that’s where it came from.”
She started walking back toward the hole through which Joshua had fallen. Amanda followed as Steven pulled himself out of the sinkhole. When all three had arrived back to their starting point, Marie pointed to a boulder.
It was thin, shaped more like a stalagmite than your usual roundish boulder, about as tall as the height of the seat of a chair, a greenish-grey color. It looked more like a tulip with all its leaves folded into itself than a rock. But, otherwise, it was just a boulder. A rock.
Until, with a resounding crack, it began to split from top to bottom. Amanda screamed and grabbed Marie’s arm. The two of them jumped backwards, bumping into Steven. All three stared at it, transfixed.
Other stalagmite-like, pastel-colored rocks in their vicinity, and some of the gray-brown ones on nearby slopes, began to crack open similarly. The noise was deafening, so much so that the three covered their ears. As they watched, the boulder Marie had pointed out was transformed from its dull gray-greenness into something very like a gigantic, pale blue, transparent, tulip blossom wearing a gray-black robe. Between the robe and the pale blue blossom, red crystals, like gems – crimson and amber – pushed their facets upward. A thin gold circlet, looking for all the world like a crown, gradually formed at the top of the blossom. And even though the boulder was less than three feet tall,it gave the impression of being much larger, of a massive and majestic dignity.
Steven took off his hat, Amanda curtsied, and Marie stood with her mouth open, as all around them other rocks took similar forms in every color imaginable.
When the cracking and creaking stopped, Steven, Amanda, and Marie all felt in their minds, Welcome, little soft-ones. I am Cerus.
From Chapter 6: Lomel’s Cavern
Joshua moved to the right, feeling the wall as he went, until it seemed that he had turned completely around and the water sound was behind him. Then he sat against the wall, wearily, and dropped his hands into his lap. Dead end. But then where is the water sound coming from? He sat quietly for awhile, thinking in the dark, and began to get drowsy.
He didn’t quite get to sleep, however, when he heard a series of drips and gurgles and drops and plops growing steadily louder. He also felt, in growing volume, the same multitude of voices Marie had described in the large glowing cavern yesterday. They were trying to get his attention. This was important. He had to hurry. He placed his hands before his face and started to get up. Taking a few confused steps, he stumbled over something on the floor. He didn’t fall hard, but one of his hands went right through the floor. Or had it just fallen into another hole?
“Boy,” he said, “they’re right. I am clumsy!”
Even though you do not move quickly for a soft-one, the thought voice said, almost with a chuckle.
“What?” said Joshua. “Oh, it’s you again. Where are you, anyway?”
Come and see, the voice replied.
Joshua tried to see into the hole. He thought he detected the faintest glimmering of light, though he couldn’t tell its origin. Maybe my eyes are playing tricks on me like Marie thought, he said to himself.
No, the thought voice said, you are not deceived.
The sound of water was also coming from the hole, so Joshua put his feet into it, holding the edge, and tried lowering himself. He couldn’t reach the bottom even when he stretched himself as far as possible. But he decided he would take a chance, let himself down, and drop. The strange sense of peace that he had felt the night before was asserting itself once more. It seemed to him that someone had prepared for his coming and that everything would work out. He lowered himself and let go.
It wasn’t very far; only a six or seven feet drop. He picked himself up and looked for the light. It could be seen dimly in the same direction from which the now louder sound of water was coming. He began cautiously in that direction.
After he had gone quite a distance, he got the impression that the light was reflected off a smooth wall where this passage ended. He could see that it opened into a larger area where the light was to be found. Then, as he moved on, the floor of the passage began to slant steeply up toward the opening. He lay on his stomach and craned his neck to look through the opening past the end of the passage. He realized that he was seeing the ceiling of a huge cavern.
“Wow!” he exclaimed. “Talk about color! If Marie could only see this!” Joshua just lay on the floor of the passage, gazing. Before him was a huge stalactite hanging in a cavern far larger than any in Mammoth Cave. At the top of that cavern, gleaming and glittering, was a fantastic array of other stalactites of innumerable shapes, sizes, and textures. There were also clusters of brilliant crystals of deep blue-green, crimson, and amber. In one area, he saw what looked like a field of roses in amber and white, spiked here and there with a glowing icicle. In another area he saw beautifully delicate cones draped on cones, looking like little, upside-down pagodas. He was caught in a rapture, gazing.
Each stalactite and each gem or flower shimmered with continually changing colors which clearly came from a source moving about beneath them. And each one took its little flash of light and passed it on to a neighbor who, in turn, passed it on, and round and round.
By now, the sound of the water which Joshua had been following, was a jubilant chorus of drippings and droppings, gurgles, plops, splishes, splashes, and little watery sighs. Droplets fell constantly from stalactites; their dripping fall adding to the light show as each drop caught the light, glittering brilliantly as it fell. Joshua was caressed by the soft, rainbow reflections thrown from the cavern’s ceilings by ripples in a large lake below. Yet as the scene warmed its way into his heart, his reverie was gently broken by the sound of a voice within him.
This was a totally different voice than the one he had heard before. It conveyed a sense of terrible beauty and power. Joshua blinked, shook his head slightly, and began to climb the rise which separated him from the cavern.
It was not a difficult climb, this little rise, but Joshua could do it only with great effort. His body seemed reluctant to work. As he neared the top, the light did not grow brighter, but he felt it would blind him. The cave did not become warmer, but he felt the heat would scald him. He covered his face with his arm, and still something kept him back. The very air of the cavern pressed against him.
Still…he continued to feel the song he and Marie had felt the night before, along with the soothing call of the voice that had led him through the passage, so he went on. He had felt a little tingle of dread when he had first seen the cavern ceiling; nothing serious, in fact he had been barely aware of it. But now it swelled to near panic.
The comforting song swelled, too, but it could not put out the dread. Yet slowly, methodically, Joshua plodded up the rise. It ended in a sort of wall. Over this wall, feeling shame and great fear, his arm still in front of his face as if to fend off a blow, he raised his head, miserably, at length.
This is the end of me now, he thought.
He could not see what was below him, but even his arm in front of his eyes could not completely keep out the light thrust toward him. And the light was the least of it. Joshua was shaken to his very core with the swift realization that here was something vastly greater than himself; than anything he had ever known. Here was something before which all else was struck to utter insignificance; something to which he would go no matter what barred the way. Everything in him wanted to go to it. He fairly burst for love of it. But his body would not work at all.
Come down, Joshua, said the beautiful terrible voice. I have been waiting for you.