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Return of the Golden Age
[Book III of the Fisherman?s Son trilogy]
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ISBN-10: 1-55404-251-8
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy/SF
eBook Length: 151 Pages
Published: May 2005
OUT OF PRINT

From inside the flap

Return of the Golden Age is the final book in The Fisherman’s Son Trilogy.

In Return of the Golden Age, Wiley O?Mara travels with six boys from the magnificent ancient city submerged beneath the ocean to his own impoverished island. The boys, having been protected for thousands of years by a magical air bubble, must now adjust to life in a poor village at the turn of the nineteenth century. Wiley must help them to survive. He must also help the villagers to understand their heritage ? that they are descendants of a rich and powerful people. This book is filled with magical beings and places, including golden rings and a mysterious cave.


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Return of the Golden Age (Excerpt)


Chapter 1

Beneath the ocean surface, Wiley slid from the back of Elden the dolphin and placed his feet as firmly as he could on the ocean floor. He worked to steady himself in the moving current. With one hand on Elden’s smooth gray back, Wiley surveyed the others in his caravan.

Keegan, the son of King Reginauld from the ancient city under the ocean, sat, with Arthur Bragon close behind him, on top of Beluga the white whale. Keegan’s long, golden hair floated out behind him. Dressed once again in his royal clothing from The City of the Golden Sun, Keegan wore an oatmeal-colored tunic and toga, both trimmed in gold and purple stripes along the edges. On his feet, Keegan wore brown leather sandals trimmed in gold. Twelve-year-old Arthur wore a light brown tunic with a dark brown belt and brown leather sandals. His dark black hair floated in all directions around his serious, intelligent face.

On top of Colt the dolphin, rode ten-year-old Nevin and his younger brother, six-year-old Neil. Nevin wore a gray tunic and bare feet. With his light brown hair bobbing up and down around his face, Nevin wrapped his arms tightly around his younger brother’s waist. Golden-haired Neil wore his favorite outfit: an oatmeal-colored tunic and toga, both trimmed in bright red stripes, with red closed shoes that looked like slippers.

Eleven-year-old Calder Torannen, with his vibrant red hair and pale, freckle-splashed face, sat atop Gladwin the dolphin. He wore a light brown tunic without a belt and brown leather sandals. Behind him sat twelve-year-old Kingston Ivers with dark brown hair, deep brown eyes and ruddy cheeks. Kingston wore a dark gray tunic tied at the waist with a brown leather belt and brown leather sandals.

Wiley thought about what he himself was wearing: a plain oatmeal-colored tunic and brown leather sandals. He realized that his outfit would hurt his chances to slip, unnoticed, back into his early nineteenth century, poverty-stricken village. He would have to change his clothes first chance he got.

As he stood, observing his friends, Wiley patted Elden’s side fin. He did not want to see him go. As he looked from one friend to another, trying to find the courage to say goodbye to Elden and Beluga, and also to Colt and Gladwin, and to call the boys from the safety of their rides to the unknown of the ocean depths and their futures ahead, Wiley’s attention was captured by a school of bright red fish suddenly swimming around Calder and Kingston. They swam briefly around the boys, then flicked their tail fins, and took off for another place. As Wiley watched the fish depart into the blue-green water thick with salt and seaweed, he noticed that a large sea turtle had come up behind Keegan, Arthur, and Beluga. With large, sleepy eyes, the turtle looked at the boys, as though waiting to see what they would do. Apparently bored, he turned and swam off when nothing interesting happened.

Wiley jumped when the sand a few yards from his feet exploded outward to release the head of a gray-and-black spotted eel. Even after all this time beneath the ocean, Wiley still startled when something moved from beneath the sand.

Wiley turned to Elden. "Well, what now?"

Elden looked at his friend with a warm gaze. "You must go back to your village with these boys. Don?t introduce them right away. Wait until the time is right. Then introduce them; and, eventually, tell your people about The City of the Golden Sun. The people of your village need to know about the rich, ancient city submerged beneath the ocean. They need to know the story about their own village’s incredible past. You and the boys must tell them."

Wiley looked into the watery distance, vaguely aware of humpback whales singing in the distance. He watched, without really seeing, a school of turquoise fish with golden scales like netting over the top sides of their bodies swim into the midst of their group. He looked down at the wet, darkened, solid sand beneath his feet and mumbled to Elden, " No one will believe us."

Elden looked into Wiley’s deep brown eyes. "Do you think that I won?t help you?"

"What do you mean? How can you help us? We?ll be on land."

"But you can contact me, or Beluga, or Lucinda when you need help. We may not hear you the first time you call; but we?ll be listening for you. Here, I have some things for you ?"

Elden unfolded his top fin that he had kept tightly curled during the trip from the ancient city. Wiley had wondered why he had done that. He had thought that perhaps Elden had tried to make a pommel for him, so that he could hold on more easily.

"Catch them!"

Wiley noticed that two golden boxes fell from Elden’s fin. One was small, square, and engraved. The other was large and round. Wiley quickly caught them with cupped hands.

Elden seemed to smile. "Open them."

Wiley opened the small square box as the other boys looked on. This box was engraved with the same words that decorated the golden goblet and the golden gate leading into the ancient city: "Drink deeply by land or sea. Earth comes only once." Inside the box were seven golden rings. Each ring held a different gemstone. Into the outside of each ring band, the same words had been engraved: "Drink deeply by land or sea. Earth comes only once."

Wiley looked up at Elden. "What are these?"

"Seven rings. One for each of you. If any of you dip your hand into the ocean while wearing your ring, Beluga and I will hear the song that it creates. If you do the same in the forest lake, Lucinda will hear a different song."

"Amazing. Who gets which ring?"

"You should have the diamond, and Keegan the ruby. The moonstone is for Kingston. The emerald is for Nevin; and the onyx is for his brother, Neil. Calder gets the amethyst; and Arthur gets the opal."

The boys hopped off the backs of the marine animals in order to inspect their rings. Wiley closed the lid to the box. "I don?t want to lose these in the ocean. Let’s wait until we get back on land. Then I?ll hand them out."

Arthur Bragon’s mouth took on the shape of a hard, straight line. He said nothing.

Neil piped up, "Wiley, what’s in the second box?"

Wiley smiled at the small boy. "I recognize this box. Let’s see ?" Wiley’s pale, freckled face took on a blush of color as he opened the round, golden container. "Yes! It is!"

Neil tried to jump up and down, but fell sideways when the current jostled against him. He giggled as he tucked his knees beneath himself, grabbed onto Nevin, and slowly righted himself. He placed his red-slippered feet carefully onto the shadowy, saturated sand. Neil’s hazel eyes sparkled with a variety of colors - green, brown, blue, gray ? as he breathlessly asked Wiley, "It is what? What?"

"There’s a black metal disk inside this box. It’s engraved with the pattern of a maze."

The boys stared at Wiley.

Wiley looked from one boy to the other, as he rubbed the edge of the disk between his fingers. "I had to use this like a key to get into the library where I found all of you at the bottom of the ocean. It fit inside a circular, black metal disk, also engraved with a maze pattern, on the middle of the library door. I had to insert this key into the disk and then turn the key three times in a clockwise direction. Then the door unlocked and I pushed it open!"

Keegan looked intently at Wiley. "? And then you found all of us ?"

"Yes."

Wiley turned to Elden. "What should I do with this now?"

"Do you remember what I told you about the connection between that key and the forest lake?"

As Wiley searched his memory, he noticed that a long, thin, snakelike fish, deep red with blue bands circling around its body, wove in and out of the tall grasses waving in the liquid around them. "Oh. That you had placed the disk at the bottom of the lake during the great flood when the lake was part of the ocean."

"Yes. And do you remember what I told you that did for the lake?"

Wiley watched the red snaking fish thread its way around a thick clump of green grass.

"Oh, you had said it was the disk that gave the lake its magical properties."

"Yes. If you want the lake to stay that way, you must return the key in its box to the bottom of the lake where you found it. Then Lucinda and the purple fish will guard it, as they?ve done for centuries."

Wiley looked into Elden’s deep black eyes. "I?ll be happy to do that!"

As Wiley placed the disk back into its container, a shadow passed over the group. When Wiley looked up, he saw an oval object, pale yellow, about three feet in length, blocking out the sun’s rays that normally penetrated the water at this depth. As he looked more closely, he saw four dark brown flippers propelling the animal forward. As the creature circled back around, Wiley recognized the peaceful, smiling face of a loggerhead turtle.

Neil screamed.

"Don?t worry," Wiley said, "This is a loggerhead turtle. I remember them from the days when I went fishing with my father. They love people! Let’s go meet him!"

As the other boys watched, Wiley swam over to the large turtle. The bottom of its shell was pale yellow. Its top shell was a mosaic of reddish-brown plates separated by yellow lines, with the outer rim edged in yellow. The turtle’s head and neck were yellow, with a mosaic pattern on the top of its head that matched the upper shell.

The turtle had deep black eyes set behind protective eyelids, and a large wavy mouth resembling a smile that failed to suggest its magnificent crushing strength. Two small claws decorated each of the four flippers.

Wiley rubbed the turtle’s top shell and said to the other boys, "Look how calm he is. These turtles love people."

As Wiley spoke, three more loggerheads swam into view. The first to see them, Neil pointed into the distance. "Look, more turtles!"

As the boys watched them, the turtles swam slowly over to the group. As they came closer, Wiley noticed that the loggerheads had different color heads, in the same way that humans have different color hair. One head was reddish-olive brown; another was light brown; the third was a dark reddish-brown. All of the loggerheads had a reddish-brown top shell edged in yellow; and all wore a peaceful, contented smile.

When the turtles reached the group, Elden spoke to them in a language that the human boys did not understand. It reminded Wiley of the time when Elden had spoken to Beluga in a language that Wiley couldn?t understand.

Then Elden turned to the boys. "We have a treat for you. The turtles will take all of you up on land. You can ride on their backs. They?ll walk you up onto the sand. That’s something Beluga and I can?t do."

Wiley held onto the edge of the first loggerhead’s large shell and moved his feet like flippers in the thick ocean water. "What, Elden? Are you saying goodbye to us here?"

Elden looked at Wiley. "Yes, it’s time for all of you to return to land. Wiley, when you get to a safe place, give each boy his ring. Remember you can call on me whenever you need to. We?ll work together again."

The boys hugged the marine animal that had carried them this far. All of the boys hugged Elden and Beluga. Then, with a glimmering of light falling through the water and dancing from their sleek bodies, Elden and Beluga flipped their tails quickly and disappeared into the dark sea.

The boys continued to travel with their same partners. Wiley climbed up alone on the back of the first loggerhead. Keegan and Arthur chose the turtle with the reddish-olive brown head. Nevin and Neil scrambled up onto the back of the turtle with the light brown head. And Calder and Kingston climbed atop the hard, solid shell of the turtle with the dark reddish-brown head.

When the boys were all settled, the turtles propelled themselves toward the beach with their large flippers. As the boys felt the water move slowly around them to let them pass through it, they witnessed many creatures going about their business under the sea.

Four shining silver fish, almost completely square except for rounding at each corner edge, splashed with various highlights - gold, purple, blue, and green - across their silver bodies, swam around the caravan. A triangular-shaped fish, with a top feathery fin making up the high point of the triangle, swam by. It had a white belly, a yellow back, blue and yellow fins, and two deep black eyes surrounded by thick blue circles inside thin black outlines. It pointed a yellow and white snout in the direction of the boys, as though thinking about intruding in their business.

As the turtles paddled slowly through the thick, salty, blue-green water, a white fish with emerald green eyes entered their space and swam beside them. The fish’s green eyes were outlined by circles of color: first, a ring of bright yellow; then dark brown; then all of the rings surrounded by a golden ring which was actually the edge of a pocket that protruded from the body and protected the eye. Gold lines snaked across the pure white body and gave it a marbled appearance. Spikes, gold on top of the body, white underneath, poked out in all directions, sometimes from dark brown spots. White spikes, sticking out from underneath the thick white lips, resembled a beard.

The fish opened and closed its mouth several times, as though speaking in silence, and then turned and swam off to a different part of the ocean. The creature reminded Wiley of a white sock puppet with eyes made from green glass buttons.

As the turtles carried the boys closer to land, Nevin pointed to the ocean floor. Neil laughed as he noticed a white and brown mosaic fish with protruding eyes and a large grin, half buried in the sand, staring and smiling at the boys.

Wiley pointed to a brown fish, the color of rock, moving along the ocean floor on fins that resembled feet. With a down-turned mouth and a horn sticking out from between two bulging eyes, it looked like it was spoiling for a fight.

As the boys entered shallow water, they noticed that the light had faded. As they emerged from the ocean on the backs of the turtles, they saw the sun like hot, red, melted candle wax dripping down the sky. Exploding upward, flames of red, orange, pink and yellow leapt from the cool midnight blue earth to lick the ice cold light blue of fading day. In a short while, the fire of day would be extinguished.

The turtles climbed slowly onto shore. Bobbing up and down and sideways, very slowly, as though riding on old, tired horses, the boys arrived on the sand. As the turtles collapsed on the beach, they allowed their passengers to jump down off their backs. The boys hugged the turtles and rubbed their shells. The large creatures smiled; then laid their heads down on the sand to rest.

Wiley looked past the beach to figure out where they were. "This isn?t my side of the island!" With a racing heart, Wiley turned back toward the turtles only to discover that they had vanished, suddenly and silently, back into the sea.

Kingston spoke between his teeth with a tight jaw, "What do you mean: this isn?t your side of the island?"

"It isn?t! This is the other side, a different village." Wiley pointed. "See those two trails of smoke? They?re coming from the two chimneys on the orphanage I told you about."

Kingston let his gaze wander up the sandy incline covered with long grasses, then climb into the sky above the tall, dark, shadowy trees. There, two plumes of gray smoke joined the feathering of fire colors against a darkening canvas.

"That’s the orphanage?"

Wiley followed Kingston’s line of sight. "Yes."

Kicking at the sand under his brown leather sandals, allowing the cool, wet clump of gritty substance to slither into the space between his feet and shoes, Wiley studied the ground as though looking for a solution among the long strings of beached seaweed. Suddenly, he looked up at Kingston.

"I?ve got it! I know what we should do, in order to introduce all of you gradually and slowly to my village."

The six young citizens of the ancient city stared at Wiley. Neil hung tightly onto Nevin’s gray tunic, then wrapped his small arms around his older brother’s right arm.

Wiley continued, "I think that all of you should go to the orphanage. Say that you were shipwrecked. Just wear the clothes you?re wearing. If anyone asks about them, say that that’s what they wear in your country."

Arthur’s mouth opened and stayed that way for a time before he spoke. "What if they ask where we?re from?"

Wiley looked past Arthur’s head, out to the sea where waves grew like black mountains, and thought. When he returned his gaze to Arthur’s blue eyes, he had an answer. "Tell them that you were all knocked around rather badly in the storm and that none of you remember much at all from your past."

Calder stepped forward. His red hair framed his pale, freckled face. When he spoke, his voice quivered for a moment. "What do you mean? We all lost our memory? Is that even possible?"

Wiley answered, "I think it’s definitely possible. It could happen. And, anyway, we need a story; and that one works. Even if they don?t believe you, what’s anyone going to do about it? Torture you?"

Neil’s hazel eyes grew large, reflecting the dancing glow of the setting sun. He wrapped his arms more tightly around his older brother’s arm.

Wiley looked at Neil. "Don?t worry, Neil. I?m just kidding. No one tortures anyone here. Actually, I just remembered: There’s a cute little kitten at the orphanage, gray-striped with blue eyes. And there’s really good food at this orphanage." Wiley looked at all the boys. "I mean really good food. When I was there, I had a lunch that included a thick beef soup, the most delicious freshly baked bread I?ve ever tasted, with butter, cheese, and milk. For breakfast, I had fried eggs, fried potatoes, bread and butter, and apple juice."

Neil licked his lips. Without thinking about it, most of the other boys did also. Wiley realized that he had everyone’s complete attention.

"There’s a very nice boy at the orphanage named Peter. I washed dishes with him ? you have to do chores at the orphanage, to help out ? and I actually enjoyed myself. He likes to tell stories. He’s ten years old ? well, unless he’s had a birthday since I was last there ? he has red hair, green eyes, pale, freckled skin like mine. You should look for him. I?d like to see him again myself."

Neil spoke up, timidly, "Where are you going, Wiley?"

"I should go home to my own village. I don?t have a reason to explain to the orphanage why I shouldn?t be in my own village. Don?t worry. I?ll contact you. We?ll figure out what to do, little by little." Wiley paused; then suddenly remembered something. "Oh, here ? I need to give these to you ?"

Wiley reached deeply into a pocket in his tunic. He pulled out the square golden box that Elden had given him. He briefly noticed the engraved words with which he had now become so familiar: "Drink deeply by land or sea. Earth comes only once." Then he opened the box. Seven brilliant rings reflected the last glowing rays of the sun.

Following Elden’s instructions, Wiley slid the diamond ring from the box and placed it on his finger. Then he handed the remaining rings to the other boys: the ruby to Keegan, the moonstone to Kingston, the emerald to Nevin, the onyx to Neil, the amethyst to Calder, and the opal to Arthur. All of the boys, following Wiley’s example, slipped their ring onto the ring finger of their left hand. All of the rings fit their owners exactly.

As Wiley studied the boys more closely, something dawned on him. "Keegan, I just realized that we?re going to have a problem if we go marching onto the island wearing these rings. No one on either side of this island could ever afford such rings. No one here wears gemstones. We can?t wear the rings."

Wavy lines formed on Keegan’s forehead and his eyebrows took on the shape of inchworms. "No one here wears gems? In our city, we decorated everywhere with gems: on our city gate, on our goblets, on statues ?"

Wiley’s cheeks flushed red. "I know. I?ve been there. Remember? But that’s not how things work here. In my village, people consider themselves lucky when they have enough to eat!"

Kingston opened and closed fists in both of his hands. Muscles grew and shrank in his upper arms. "So what? I?m tired of this! We can?t do this, we can?t do that, because of the poverty and ignorance of your villagers!"

Wiley’s face burned bright red, as though he had been slapped across the face by Kingston’s strong hands. For a moment, he had no reply. Arthur stepped in.

"That wasn?t very nice, Kingston. Do you want to survive or not? Our city is gone. Gone! I don?t really know where we?re at. I have no idea about our future or our fate. We need to listen to Wiley. We need to adapt. We?ll figure out our places here eventually; but I don?t want to start out with trouble that makes life difficult for us!"

Kingston turned around abruptly. He slapped the sandy ground as hard as he could with his brown leather sandals as he stomped away toward the ocean.

As Kingston stared at the rolling, frothy surf, the other boys continued the discussion that Wiley had started. Keegan spoke first, replying to Wiley as though nothing had happened after Wiley’s last statement. "I agree with you. The rings would create problems for us here. But we need them in order to contact Elden, or Beluga, or Lucinda."

Wiley looked away briefly at a bat circling around the top of a tree as the branches passed from dark green into complete black shadow. Then he returned his gaze to Keegan’s darkening eyes.

"I think what we need to do is to sew the rings into our clothing, into a piece of clothing that we?ll always wear - maybe a shirt that we wear under our other clothes, or to the inside of a belt, or something like that. My mother did a lot of sewing. Her needles and thread are at my house. We should hide the rings for now in a pocket of our clothing and sew them into new clothes when we get them."

Keegan suggested, "Why don?t we return the rings to you temporarily? You could keep them in the ring box until we get our new clothes."

Wiley responded quietly, "Because I?m not going to be with you."

Neil grabbed tightly onto Nevin’s hand and pressed his face into his older brother’s gray tunic. He cried softly, his small chest heaving.

Wiley looked at Neil and sighed. "I can?t go with you to the orphanage. They know me there. They know I?m from the other village, on the other side of the island. They know that I have a home." Wiley paused. "They also know that my mother died and that my father’s away drinking much of the time. Either they would take me away from my home completely and commit me to the orphanage permanently; or, more likely, they would create a huge fuss on my side of the island, insisting that someone take me in. We can?t risk me losing my freedom or having a large amount of attention brought to us." Wiley slowly drew in breath. "Trust me, you?re all going to draw enough attention with your story about a shipwreck and no memory of where you came from." A light sparkled in Wiley’s eyes. "Actually, that’s one way I could reunite with all of you! I could simply wander over to the orphanage, curious about the shipwrecked children. After that, everyone would think that’s when I first met all of you."

Kingston turned around and yelled over his shoulder, "What about Mrs. Bannon?"

Wiley remembered how they had all been surprised by Mrs. Bannon when they had returned from the forest during the boys? previous visit to the island. "Don?t worry about it. Mrs. Bannon’s eyesight is very bad. She probably won?t recognize you as the same boys she encountered before. Also, she’s very kind. She would never make things bad for anyone. Don?t worry about it. But, really, we should hide our rings now, before we forget."

All of the boys, including Kingston, slid the rings from their fingers and placed them deep within the pockets of their tunics.