I hope you will forgive the delay in this blog, if you didn’t see my instagram post @jrmanawa, then you’ll never know why ^_~
Our penultimate topic is the one you have all been waiting for. Thank you Sam, for the topic of love.
(If you are joining Emmeline’s story today, welcome! It might help for you to begin here.)
The daughter of sacrifice. J R Manawa.
Loss was a familiar sensation, one that burned within Emmeline’s chest and destroyed her hope like a wildfire. In her short life she had known it too well.
She felt it clearly as she stared up the shaft of the long knife, gleaming under the moonlight, and looked straight into her father’s eyes. She would not break his gaze. She would not let him feel the victory he had won.
Out of the corner of her eye she could see Poppy and Gulliver, still unconscious and bound to the standing stone. A few feet away from them, Thomas’ body lay in the grass, unmoving.
And Charon was gone.
Emmeline closed her eyes and waited for the end.
Four hours and fifty three minutes ago, Emmeline and Thomas had given up their vigil of waiting for Charon to return. It had been over thirteen hours since they last saw him by the time they finally left Emmeline’s house, just after midnight. Without the aid of Charon’s cab driver, the journey to Highgate took much longer than either of them would have liked. A night bus to Camden, and then another up towards Highgate and Hampstead Heath.
Emmeline could already feel the magic in the air when they got off the bus and approached the entrance to the heath off Highgate road. After dark Hampstead Heath was a disturbing place of wilderness within the heart of the city. An eerie, howling wasteland of sparse wood and open heath, exposed to the elements. The heavy rainfall that evening had washed most of the snow over London away, leaving only clumps in the shadows, and dirty pools of sludge underfoot. It was through these over grown puddles that Thomas and Emmeline waded as they journeyed into the darkness.
Making a very long list of assumptions in the hours they’d had to plan while they waited for Charon to return, they had decided to head straight for the highest and most central point of the heath, Parliament Hill. Without Charon, Emmeline would not have been able to find the Highgate mansion belonging to her father again, but Gulliver’s hidden message had convinced her that he and Poppy were being kept somewhere on the nearby heath instead. With only two hours until the moon was full and at her highest in the sky, Emmeline and Thomas both agreed that Melek was likely to go to the point where Charon would open the gate for him to cross back to the otherworld. They also agreed that Hampstead Heath had to be that place. It was one of the biggest open spaces in London, with Parliament Hill being its highest point above sea level.
The walk through the darkness to the hill took them some time. It was not easy going with the mud and leftover snow, the howling wind around them, and the long grass that they were forced to creep through when they had to leave the path to avoid some of London’s less-savoury after dark characters. An exchange of some form of illegal goods for money was taking place outside the closed public toilets, and two teenage girls were swearing loudly and smoking as they sat on the swings in the children’s playground. They also avoided a man with a hood pulled down over his head who stumbled about in the dark, too drunk to know where he was going, and a group of young men sitting on a decaying log in one of the woodland clearings where they were drinking to excess from cheap cans of beer.
The churning in the pit of Emmeline’s stomach only grew greater as they began to ascend the hill. There was magic here like when she had been at the Highgate mansion, and Angula’s club in Soho, the cottage on the edge of the cemetery, and in the tunnels beneath the necropolis railway. But this magic felt different. It was ancient and old, and it weighed heavy like an hourglass with sand trapped in the centre.
Emmeline was sure they had found the gateway. As they reached the top, she took hold of Thomas’ hand and clutched it tight. “I don’t want to lose you in the dark,” she whispered.
He gave her hand a squeeze back.
At the crown of the hill, they suddenly entered a ring of standing stones. From the outside it could not been seen. Emmeline had been to Parliament hill in the daylight many times, especially in summer, and she knew there was no ring of standing stones there.
But there was. In the darkness on the night of a full moon, once the boundary had been crossed the circle could be seen. And so too could Poppy and Gulliver now be seen, tidied back to back against one of the ancient stones.
Emmeline sprinted towards them, dropping Thomas’ hand as she went.
Behind her came the almighty crack of a thunder bolt, and she slipped on the grass, tumbling to her knees as she turned to see Thomas struck down by the blast, his body thrown head first against the stone nearest to her. With a horrid crack, his head made contact and his body dropped to the ground, broken and twisted.
Emmeline screamed bitterly as she crawled through the wet grass to his side and reached out to touch his head.
She was snatched up by the wrist of her outstretched arm before she could reach him, and she didn’t have to look to know who it was. Melek dragged her in silence across the ring to the centre, where a stone hand been laid down flat on its side.
In the centre of that stone, something tiny and fierce was glowing, but Emmeline did not have time to see what it was before Melek let her go and turned to face her.
“I’m glad you could join me tonight.” He said, simply and coolly, though his eyes were still warm with the same delight she had seen in them when they first met. “You have caused me no end of trouble these last few nights.” He pointed a blackened finger at her, and his beautiful face leered into hers, “Who would have thought a pathetic little half-breed monster, an anomaly of creation that should simply not exist, was capable of melting hearts of stone, and capable of causing so much trouble?”
“I don’t know what you mean,” Emmeline spat the words out of her mouth, and turned back towards Thomas. She didn’t even see the slap coming, but when it did, her face was wrenched back around to face him.
“You look at me when I am talking to you.” Melek growled.
“I didn’t realise I made you feel so passionately,” she snarled back at him, and then pushed her face into a smile for good measure, though she could already feel blood in her mouth.
“However, despite the hassle, you have made my task much easier in the end. Every time one of my kind dies, the power of those who remain grows stronger. In your short time on this planet you have managed to kill Erebus, Geras and Pythia, Angula–”
“That is a lie.” Emmeline glared. “And Angula is not dead,”
He laughed at her, “She could not tell me what I needed to know fast enough to stay alive.”
“So you killed them all.”
“Yes, while you have been marauding around London searching for the answers to secrets you will never know, all the while learning far more than you ever should have, thanks to the traitor ferryman.”
Emmeline stopped breathing at the mention of Charon.
“I suppose you have been wondering where he is? Hoping your knight in shining armour will be coming along to turn his coat and rescue you again?”
“I told him to leave,” Emmeline lied, “I told him to go as far away as possible, so even though you’ve caught me, you won’t be able to go home.” Melek watched her thoughtfully, and she took strength to continue, “You can kill me if you like, but I won’t let you have what you want.”
The look on his face softened, and the terrible beauty in him began to work on Emmeline. She could feel her inhibition falling away as he reached out and touched her cheek where he had hit her. She pulled away from him, but it was not enough. He stroked her face gently, and then drew her in toward him, wrapping his arm around her shoulder as he turned her to face the flat stone.
“My love,” he whispered, and his voice carried easily over the wind, “I can be nothing but proud that I have produced an offspring with such resilience and strength.” He pointed to the two tiny, shimmering orbs that floated in the air just above the stone as he said, “But you are a terrible liar,”
Emmeline could not respond. She was staring with horror at the orbs.
“You see, dear Emmeline, Charon is a character that both you and I completely underestimated in this tale. Firstly, for one who claimed to hate you and his father so much, I must admit I was let down when he turned on me so quickly to save you. Secondly, here you were this whole time thinking he had finally run off and left you to your fate. But he did love you Emmeline. He came straight to my doorstep to face me, and he truly believed that he was strong enough to defeat me alone in order to save you.” He laughed and added, “Not even his father could do that.”
The wind in the world beyond the stone ring began to pick up and the clouds were cleared from the dark sky to reveal the full moon. Emmeline was frozen where she stood, her hand to her lips in shock as she stared at the sacrifice stone. Within the two tiny orbs there was a storm, burning violently and turning, growing bigger and brighter than the eyes which had contained them.
She cried out in anguish and turned away, but Melek caught her in his arms. “Look at them,” he said, his voice encouraging and demanding, “look at them and see all that you hoped in die.”
Emmeline stumbled as she fought him off, and he pick her up easily. No effort or power within her was strong enough or organised enough to fight him off.
“If you behave, I won’t be here when your friends wake up,” he said, as he raised a long silver knife over Emmeline’s head and pointed it at Poppy and Gulliver.
Emmeline had no strength, and no hope left to fight for. At least it was true that if he passed through the gap between worlds and left their world behind, then Poppy and Gulliver would be safe. “You think you can open the gate with Charon’s eyes?” she asked the question, though her voice was filled with pity and disbelief.
He hugged her close and kissed her forehead, “I know it, my love. Have you never been told that your eyes are a window to your soul? It was Charon’s soul that I needed, his pure and primal power. He was simply never going to cooperate, but all is well, his eyes still live.”
Emmeline tried to gather the same strength and fury she had felt when she faced the eater, but nothing came. She was dead and empty, and she knew she could not defeat him. Everyone she loved was gone, and those that remained would be safer if she accepted her fate.
An alarm went off. It was Thomas’ phone, fallen beside his body in the wet grass, the alarm set for 4.54am.