The Ink Chase Serial appears below, after In the Shadow of Emoh
In the Shadow of Emoh
by Melanie Rees
Iridi turned towards her fellow comrades. The smell of the impending battle was strong in the air as the army rushed in frenzied patterns across the plateau. There was no uniformity, no direction and no one to calm the troops. Except her.
“Ladies of the plateau,” she shouted. “I stand before you without fear.”
The crowd turned to her, despite the obvious lie.
“For generations we have defended our keep, protected our queen and carried our white bound children to safety. We fought bravely to protect the rain messengers with their silver gifts and we sent the giants running from our land. But now, with the ominous force of Elas Rof, we must ensure that no giant ever returns. No longer shall we live in the shadow of the Emoh Giants. I was there when the Great War began, journeyed with the oracle to steal the jade stones. Sacrifices were made, but we endured. We prevailed. And we can succeed again.”
“Will you tell us about the Great War?” asked one of the younger females from amongst the crowd.
Iridi looked up at the sun, trying to judge what the giants might be thinking. “Tales will take long and the power of Elas Rof is at its greatest when the sun reaches the zenith. We do not have time to delay.”
“Please,” a chorus of requests echoed from the army.
Many had heard the stories or witnessed events firsthand, but they never grew tired of them.
“Okay.” Iridi sighed. “I will tell you about the time we first crossed the forbidden forest. The start of the Great War.”
The women crowded around Iridi.
“Darkness had encroached upon the land,” she began. “Clouds cast shadows across the plateau. It was one of those days where the overground world was barely brighter than below. A storm was close, but we had no warning. The rain messengers had not sent word of the impending downpour. There was no time to fortify the entrance to our underground cities. Water scoured the castles above ground and flooded the chambers below. We scurried to save the children, but thousands did not escape the deluge.
“Scouts searched across the plateau and forest for the rain messengers, but they had vanished without a trace. The oracle, Vespa, travelled further than any had done before, right into the heart of the giant’s territory. She discovered the words Emoh Emoclew at the gateway to the giant’s evil lair and heard them threaten to rid the forests of the rain messengers forever.”
The crowd gasped in unison and the frenzied running around resumed.
“But we retaliated,” Iridi continued, calming the masses. “Led by Vespa, we began a perilous journey through the dense forest to protect the rain messengers. I remember glimpsing the colossal doorway of Emoh through the bright green forest. The huge wooden entrance towered in the distance. We marched on, but the giants must have heard of our quest for they sent out a monstrous creature to retaliate. Pushed along on wheels by the giants, the new creature cut swathes through the forest, decimating everything in its path. And the creature roared like thunder and sent vibrations through the ground. Hundreds of our sisters emerged from the city to defend against the foul beast. In their attempts to thwart it, many were squashed by the beast and the giant’s own feet.
“I continued marching towards the giant’s lair, only to stumble upon Vespa at the front of the procession. She clasped a gigantic box, hundreds of times her own size. Her legs were mangled, her abdomen squashed, but still she tried to drag the curious object.
“Vespa nodded towards the package. ‘Do you see it?’ she asked.
“On the front was a picture of the rain messengers with their silver trails and inside were hundreds of stones of jade.
“She let go of the box. The energy was beginning to drain from her. ‘It is Tiab Lians,’ she said. ‘This is the evil we have been searching for. We must take these jade stones so that they can never harm the rain messengers again.’
“Vespa craned her head towards me and whispered. ‘It is the Emoh’s scripture. On the right there is a marking the giant’s call a ‘t’. Learn their symbols. You must pass on this knowledge, for one day it may be needed again.’
“With those words, Vespa, took her last breath, her crumpled body beyond repair.”
There was a gasp from the army and Iridi felt her abdomen grown heavy with grief, but she continued her tale.
“With our guide and mentor gone, the survivors struggled to continue. But we rallied together, and although it took us hundreds of trips, we carted all of the jade stones to our underground caverns. Vespa had been right. With Tiab Lians gone, the rain messengers emerged once more, leaving silver trails across the forest floor and along the leaves as drops of rain glistened in the morning light.
“That was the start of the Great War. For months, the Emoh giants dispensed the black magic of the jade stones on the land; and for months, we hid them. They tried to trample us, but we learnt to walk in single file to reduce our losses. They tried to wash us away with floods that came from the green serpent, but we fortified our homes and expanded across the forest. They tried and every time they failed.
The army were hushed, listening intently to Iridi’s tale.
“We defeated the threat of Tiab Lians and scared the Emoh giants from their lair, but the witch craft of Elas Rof still lingers over us like an approaching storm cloud. Let us now march in single file, but united. A million bodies, six million legs will walk through the temple of the giants and send fear to the soul of those beings. Let us join forces this hour and unite as one. To war!”
“To war!” shouted a million voices in union. And they marched across the plateau, through forbidden forest and into the very depths of Emoh Emoclew.
* * *
“And through here we have the kitchen. Very spacious. Perfect for a large family.” The real estate agent smiled like a used car salesman at the pregnant buyer.
She smiled back and glanced at her husband, raising her eyebrows “What do you think, dear?”
“Can we see the backyard?” he asked.
“Oh,” hesitated the real estate agent. “You can see the paving and the perfectly manicured grass from the window here. Perfect place for kids to run around under the sprinkler on a hot summer’s day.
“I think its perfect honey,” said the pregnant woman.
“Fantastic” said the agent leaning on the kitchen bench to cover up a stain. “Shall I draw up the paperw……ahhhhk! What the heck.” The real estate agent wiped his arms frantically and brushed his ankles, flicking little black ants to the ground.
“I think we should go,” said the husband. The pregnant woman followed him out of the house.
“No wait! I’m sure we can work out a deal.”
◊ ◊ ◊
Melanie Rees is an Australian author. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in venues such as Apex, Cosmos, The School Magazine and Daily Science Fiction. More information can be found at www.flexirees.wordpress.com or on Twitter @FlexiRees.
The Ink Chase
A Serial in eight parts
Previous Episode 1
But it was nice and calm when later I sat out in the verandah, with Diane and a tall scotch and ice. The lambent moonbeams braided the shadows with their silver thread, while the stars above weaved a shiny web against a clear sky. No inky phantasmagoria there, just a plain rustling in the leaves and the simple smell of rain in the winds coming in from the Andaman Sea.
“How was the run today,” she asked, moving her hand in slow circles over her belly.
“How is the baby?” I leaned in and briefly placed my head in her lap. The bairn was up and kicking.
“Another three months…why don’t we move into the islands till it comes? It’s a lot healthier, and the infirmary and doctors are all there,” she said, swatting a whining mosquito off her pointy knee.
“Maybe.” I tilted my cane chair, and placing my feet up on the bamboo railing, rocked lazily. “A lot easier for me to manage things here on the mainland. The monsoons are here, the seas are very rough – I don’t want to risk a sea journey in your condition.”
“I hear the prisoners work the gardens and get you the best fish.”
“Why, isn’t the long line of servants here quite enough?”
“Yeah…but there is no one for miles around – just this grand, Governor David Barry’s Bungalow, its high walls, and its silence. Out there you have rows of quaint cottages up on the cliff with their bright flower gardens and…the women’s gossip.”
“I could ask the officers to send in their wives to visit you. And fill you in on the natter.”
“That would be so colonial, David…and obvious!” she swung her fair mane and looked away.
“I am sorry – I’ll try to stay more at home then – keep you company. I’ll even try to keep an ear out for tidbits – we have a fair amount of scandals going on all the while. And the prisoners in the cellular jail lead a pretty colorful life themselves! Oh, I could even ask mamma to sail down from Largs.”
“No thank you, she doesn’t keep so well herself – the journey would kill her. I am fine – I’ll manage.”
I smiled at her. “I know.” I clasped her hand and her fingers wound tightly around mine.
“It’s a bit loud today, unquiet,” she observed suddenly.
“Why, I haven’t noticed anything at all.”
She cocked her head. “Listen – the birds are still wakeful at this hour. Uneasy – calling out to each other.”
“There must be a leopard prowling – or a python climbing up to warm eggs in a hornbill’s nest.”
“No – then it would be one tree, or two. It’s like the whole jungle stirring – and the shadows – look they’re longer – it’s so dark all of a sudden!”
I peered into the dark; a whirling mist, like black hair floating in the rain-tossed wind, loomed above the treetops, and then climbing down to the grey parks it smothered the white jasmine swathe, strangling it of its sweet perfume. Misty blue ink suffused the trembling dew on the grass blades and like a fast spreading oil-swill it gathered together and headed towards us.
“What is this vile mass that marches onward? Is it a locust swarm?” Diane grabbed my hand and pulled me inside the house. She watched with baited breath through the door’s wire mesh. The mist curled up like a black cat at the staircase, lingered awhile and then swept away in a flurry of flying black fur.
The moonlight glowed through once again; the stars shimmered in relief, and the wailful choir of the redbreast ceased, while the fragrance thankfully returned to the night.
“What was that?”
“Black storm clouds…playing on our mind probably!” I draped my arm around Diane’s waist, and kissing her in the hollow of her neck, steered her away to the bedroom.
To be continued