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Diamonds are Forever: Section Eight

       Last updated: Tuesday, June 15, 2004 22:59 EDT



8. Assault of the Earth

    "Ours," began Rokhaset, "is not the only city of the Nowëthada in the Earth."

    We were seated in another set of chairs, which were slowly adjusting to become more comfortable in their creepy way, in a smaller and obviously more private room, a circular cave about thirty feet across and twenty high, hung with hundreds of delicate straw stalactites dripping water on most of the area; we'd pointedly stood near the two dry spots in the room and waited for the Nomes to move the chairs for us. While we were getting seated, I'd finally asked Rokhaset why he was excluding the other Nomes, which seemed to amuse him.

    "Few of my subjects can hear what the makatdireskovi sings to me, Clint. It was designed for me alone. Therefore, any with us cannot understand you, nor speak to you, and would thus be of little use in our deliberations. The only reason they understood some of what we discussed while dining is that one of those who can, somewhat, hear the makatdireskovi was summarizing what he heard, something as one of your reporters or sports announcers. This would be somewhere between clumsy and useless at this point in our discussion. Now that it has become clear that the signals involved are important we shall have to make something which will speak to-or perhaps to be more accurate, translate for-all our people as the makatdireskovi does to me. But that is a project far more complex than simply making you lights." This relieved me to some extent. Rokhaset didn't seem to be the tyrant type, although military leader still seemed likely.

    "Yes," Jodi said, returning to the subject, "I wouldn't expect you were the only city."

    "The problem is that the Nowëthada are no longer the unified race we were. Those who survived the Makurada Demagon...all of us changed. But some changed more than others. Our task was always one of balancing the way of the Earth with the way of the life on its surface. But as we became less like you, and the powers of Nowë faded, the old senses which used to tell us how to perform this duty also weakened and faded." He rubbed his hands, a gesture which seemed like a slow shaking of the head. "To allow your form of life to survive and prosper, of course, it was always important that the world remain overall peaceful. But changes must happen to the world as well, and so it was our job to ensure that these changes were sufficient for the world's purposes, and to minimize the injury to people such as yourself. This task we continue to this day."

    I could not help but be tremendously impressed by the makatdireskovi's work. Oh, now I could understand how it was possible; the thing was a living construct, probably with the brainpower of a hundred Nomes but all focused on the single task of translating. Still, the way it was taking two separate languages and even apparently conveying accurate nuances of emotion... hell, there are career actors who can't handle that job in their own language!

    "Like all spirits, however, we had our opposites, those charged with the release of destructive impulses from the Earth, the eradication of other life through disasters, and so on. While Nowë was active, both sides had the great Senses that told us when each approach was correct or incorrect. And so we cooperated with each other and with your people in ensuring that the great dance of Nowë was carried out properly. Over the span of millennia, however, that was lost, and the Lisharithada were changed horribly by the Makurada Demagon into a race of creatures who enjoyed the destruction they could create and sought ways to make it worse, if possible."

    "So you're at war with them, then?" I asked.

    Rokhaset began another of those sudden shrieks, but cut it off. His voice was heavy with sadness when he continued. "War? By Nowë's heart, never! We try to negate their efforts. We are made to cooperate, to assist, Clinton Slade. Killing and fighting is tremendously hard for us. We have warriors, yes, and they are formidable in their own way. But they do not kill except in self-defense or by accident, even such creatures as yourself. Kill our own people? It is not even to be imagined easily."

    "So you try to sabotage their efforts, sorta undoing their work, but you can't fight them directly?"

    "In most cases, yes. We can directly fight them, in small numbers, under very specific circumstances-when what they are trying to do is of sufficient destructive scale that it is not merely our lives, but those of countless others involved. It is then that we truly need the H'adamant."

    "For...?" Jodi prompted.

    "In your language, I suppose the best term would be 'potion' or 'elixir.' Your own people understand certain symbolisms with H'adamant, now that I realize you call them by the name 'diamond.' The basic symbolism is not far from correct. If the Earth wills it, we can extract the essence of H'adamant and preserve it in an elixir which will make us stronger in virtually all ways-more capable of withstanding injury, quicker, physically and mentally more capable. In this way we are able to utilize small numbers of our people to oppose their vastly larger forces, to cut through their defenses, and to neutralize the rituals in which they invoke such massive powers of destruction."

    "They can fight you, right?"

    Rokhaset nodded deliberately. "Oh, yes, Jodi Goldman. Enough of our old instinctive accord survives that even they will not attack us for no reason-there will be no genocide here, despite our opposition. But if we are actually intruding on their territory and interfering with their work, they most assuredly will fight us, and can and will kill our people. As you can see, this places us at a grave disadvantage without H'adamant. "

    "Okay, I get you. And right now they're planning one of their big parties, right?"

    "One which, if you will pardon the use of one of your own idioms, will assuredly bring down the house." Rokhaset seemed grim. "And for the second time, your people, Clinton Slade, have made it impossible for us to stop it... and both your people and mine will pay the price."

    "Second time?" Now, I was getting really nervous, as I started to get a glimmer of the horror that was waiting behind Rokhaset's account.

    "Second time, Clinton Slade. When your ancestor first entered our caverns and stole our entire cache, cloaked by the H'kuraden he carried, he did so at the worst possible moment; the times and powers had aligned so that the Lisharithada could carry out one of their greatest destructive rituals, and suddenly we were powerless to stop it. For a time we believed that somehow they had found a way to bypass the mystical defenses that surrounded our most secure caches. It was almost a relief when the next theft's source was traced to your forefather. But that did not repair the damage from the first theft. For a while, we had convinced them to moderate their behavior, but then your people truly began your intrusions upon the Earth, and their anger grew. Now the same forces have aligned once more, and the Lisharithada prepare to unleash them with even more fury than they did a short time after your ancestor had robbed us for the first time."

    "Holy Mother of God." I heard myself whisper, unable to stop myself. "You're talking about the New Madrid Earthquakes!"



    What Jodi said at that point I can't repeat. Rokhaset simply bowed his head.

    "Look, Rokhaset, we gotta try to stop 'em at least! We'll head topside and you guys will help us get the road back, so's we can get you the diamonds that're left. We could try to buy some more back."

    Rokhaset nodded. "We shall try, Clinton Slade. We shall hope the H'adamant you still have shall suffice, but I have grave doubts. We do not have the time for you to buy some more, I am afraid. To make the elixir will take two and a half days, as you measure time. They will strike in four days, as that is when the forces will be at their peak of alignment. Do you truly believe you shall be able to locate so many H'adamant, arrange for their purchase, and deliver them to us, in time for us to make the elixir and then carry the battle to them? Even as things are, it will be difficult, leaving aside the fact that, as your people do not know or respect H'adamant for what it is, there would be no way of telling whether the ones you purchased retained their true virtue until they had actually arrived."

    There wasn't any arguing that. Four days...

    I tried not to think about it, but anyone in my profession has already visualized the consequences of a Richter 8+ quake east of the Mississippi, and the New Madrid fault has always been the chief suspect. The area of effect of a major quake in this area would be monstrous: ten, fifteen times that of a comparable quake on the west coast. It would level almost everything manmade in at least three or four states, cause heavy damage in adjoining ones, and be felt from the Rockies all the way to Vermont, maybe even Maine.

    "Waitaminnit!" I said, suddenly thinking of something. "These Lisharithada, they live underground like you do, right? Well, if they set off a Richter 8 quake right here, what's gonna keep 'em-and you, for all of that-from being squished when the quake brings the caverns down?"

    "We are spirits of the Earth, Clint. We have our ways of preventing our own homes from breaking. Unfortunately, this is not true of your homes, or of caverns which we no longer inhabit."

    I stood up. "Well, sir, seems to me we've both got work to do. We need to get topside so's we can get the H'adamant back, and you'll need to get your people to rebuild our road."

    "Indeed." He stood as well and after a moment offered his hand, another gesture he had clearly been shown by the makatdireskovi. I took it; the skin was cool and hard, like shaking the hand of a rough-hewn statue, but no statue ever squeezed back that way. "Clinton Slade, Jodi Goldman, it has been a pleasure, truly. I regret we have met in these circumstances, yet perhaps Nowë shall smile upon us and somehow we shall stop the coming disaster." He shook Jodi's hand as well. "Shall I send an escort with you?"

    "No offense, sir, but you people don't seem to be the fastest sorts. I remember the route, and I think me and Jodi can make it back a lot quicker on our own."

    Jodi nodded. The route was long, but it was actually pretty direct, and we had blazed our way with more than just dropped relays whenever there was a doubtful intersection.

    "As you will. My people can move quickly, but not for long distances. There you have the advantage of us."

    We left the Throne Room with hundreds of Nomes lining our path, holding their weapons in a very different manner. Clearly the word had spread that there was now an accord between us, and they were expressing their understanding as clearly as they could without their ruler's peculiar advantage.

    Once out of the Throne Room, we made time, pushing as fast as safety would allow. "Father, I don't know if anyone's listening, but we're on our way out."

    "Clint!" came Jonah's voice. "Y'all okay?"

    "We're fine, and the Nomes are right nice folks, but we've got ourselves a powerful lot of trouble. Tell you about it once we're up."

    Jonah said he'd get the family, so I signed off. The next four days were sure going to be interesting, but like in the old Chinese proverb way.

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