“Welcome to the garden of Ogmios,” said Merlin, his words whispered by ghostly voices till they faded into silence. “Here he tends the roots of the mountain and grows his home from living rock. Look well, Heart of Earth, for you will not see its like again.” Rhea was spellbound by the beauty of the place and could well believe that this spectacular hall had been wrought by art and not mere chance. All the colours of a pigeon’s breast glowed on the graceful curves of the rock, catching and reflecting the golden witch-light.
Rhea had seen the show caves of Cheddar and the deep, silent caverns at Chislehurst, neither of which possessed the vibrancy and vigour of this place. Cheddar’s wedding cake loveliness was as nothing compared to the living filigree of stone through which she now walked.
In the centre of the cave, a large central space held a great slab of millstone grit, shaped like a couch with a raised pillar at one end. It reminded Rhea of the altar on the moor which she had touched that first day, save only that this was much larger and had not suffered the erosion of wind and rain.
“Ogmios’ couch,” Merlin explained. “Here he spends the centuries dreaming the shape of his garden and growing his crystals from seed.” He indicated that she should look to her right and she saw a small field of crystal and semi-precious stones laid out in a spiral pattern on the floor. There were huge clusters of amethyst and quartz, glittering pyrites and all the varied hues of agate. One large stone, polished by the dripping moisture from the stalactites above, looked like black glass, frozen around a snowstorm. Rhea was bewitched by its soft sheen and reached out a hand to touch the surface.
“What is this, Merlin? I’ve never seen it before.”
“The world calls it snowflake obsidian. You can see why.”
“It is lovely.”
“Ogmios would be pleased by your appreciation. He grew this as a memento of the first time he saw snow falling. It was at night, beneath a full moon at the dawn of life as we know it today. He thought it too beautiful to allow it to melt away forgotten so he caught the flakes in a stone the colour of midnight and preserved it for eternity.
“Geologists don’t have all the answers,” he chuckled. “They may understand the physical conditions required to produce these crystals, but they will never understand that they were first created to encapsulate a moment of beauty which touched the soul of a grotesque giant whose very existence they would deny. Rose quartz was the light of the first dawn, amethyst the clouds of a summer sunset. Agates are all the colours of the autumn earth.”
“And diamond?” asked Rhea, holding out the ancient ring on her finger, which seemed to have woken to life in this place.
“Starlight in frost,” he smiled. Rhea nodded her understanding, humbled and grateful for the deeper understanding of the forces of the world that guided her. She had begun to see the life innate in her surroundings and with that privilege had come a renewal of wonder and respect. “Come, child, the others will be worried although Ogmios may have told them that you are safe.” His face lit with unholy glee,” In fact, if they have met my friend, they will probably be more concerned that they were before! This way!”
Merlin led Rhea through the scintillating garden of living rock towards a shadowy opening at the end of an avenue of slender columns ablaze with mica. Rhea turned before entering the tunnel to take one last look.
“I could never have imagined that so much beauty lay hidden in the earth beneath my feet. It feels right, though, somehow. I can feel the life in the stone. If I knew how to listen, I think I could hear them whispering all the secrets of the underworld.” She turned away. Another unforgettable memory adding one more reason for reverence of the earth upon which she walked.
Extract from Sword of Destiny