The Seven Caves
Lucia is a small seaside town perched on the cliffs of central California. Discovered by Don Gaspar de Portola and his soldiers late in the 18th century, the town is named after the day of its discovery––December 14, Santa Lucia Day.
On a day not too long ago, a local caretaker of an estate just to the south of Lucia, known only as Point 16, received a visitor. The stranger said he was from The Vatican and inquired as to seven caves that The Vatican had listed in its archives from the manifest of the town’s discovery centuries ago. As he further stated that the caves were sure to be located off the coast of Point 16, the caretaker dismissed the man’s strange way of talking but became obsessed by his manner of dress which included a spectacular sword with rubies inlaid in its handle.
The caretaker scratched his head. He’d kayaked up to the caves a time or two and had paddled inside a little ways. The only person the caretaker knew that ever sailed inside the caves any distance at all, and at that only a quarter of a mile, was long dead. Rumor was that the seven caves all met up in the very center of The Santa Lucia Mountains. The mysterious visitor surprised the caretaker when he knew that the caves were the color of blood and shocked him when he spoke of a great temple with treasure inside.
The caretaker told the stranger that the caves were real enough, but that no one he knew had ever been able to sail deep into the caves to discover any temples or treasure.
The stranger thanked the caretaker and went on his way. The caretaker, uneasy about the stranger, decided to follow. The stranger rode his horse to the beach beside the caves and climbed into a simple dugout canoe. Primitive by any standards. Its oars like branches.
The stranger paddled and paddled. The caretaker could only watch from shore. As the surf drew out to sea more of the cave entrances became exposed. When the great swells crashed into the cliffs the waves churned powerfully in the caves and splashed back out to the open sea. Yet, the stranger didn’t veer from his course, one that would soon place him inside the nearest cave.
The caretaker began to sweat. The stranger had paddled his small canoe in an angry sea yet his navigation, indeed the boat itself, seemed unaffected by it. The caretaker searched the coast close by for a kayak sometimes hidden in the brush by the owner of Point 16.
He longed to paddle into the caves. Make that discovery. For, he knew the sea better than most around these parts. Certainly, he would be able to keep up with the stranger. As luck would have it, he found an abandoned canoe. And so he too paddled out to sea.
The sun disappeared behind a cloud and the chill of the fog invaded the caretaker’s bones. A great cloud river of fog moved from north to south over the Pacific, inching to shore. Upon a great break of an early evening wave the stranger disappeared into the first cave.
The caretaker followed.
The next thing the caretaker remembered was fading in and out of consciousness as Search and Rescue revived him. The caretaker asked about the stranger but was told no other body and no other boat was found, not unusual in the rugged depths of the central coast.
The caretaker’s dreams were filled with the stranger and endless trips into the caves, alive with treasure.
When the caretaker came to he was quite inconsolable. Gone mad with a fear of the sea. He tossed back and forth in the sandy soil trying to get away from those that had saved him when he spotted the stranger’s sword, stuck in the sagebrush. The caretaker wrapped his hands around the rubies and pulled the sword out of the brush. Don Gaspar de Portola was engraved in the silver blade, dripping with blood.
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