If you’ve not been following along, you really ought to start at Part 1 and catch up. It won’t take long, and we’ll wait until you’ve finished.
All done? Excellent. On to Part 6 of The Legend of Intaglio…
When we last left our hero, Intaglio the walking, talking, writing puppet, he was fleeing the evil Coachman, the true ruler of Total Freedom Island, who had made himself filthy rich by exploiting naïve young writers and turning them into wombats when he was through with them. There was, once upon a time, a thriving and lucrative market along the Mediterranean rim for both bad fiction and exotic wildlife. Who knew?
Anyhow, Intaglio had just taken a backward glance, only to see a large net wielded by a large lunatic coming down on him.
“Now I have you!”
As the net descended, Intaglio lost his balance, stumbled, and fell. The net whistled past, a scant inch beyond his head, and clattered onto the cobblestones.
The Coachman, burdened with about fifty excess pounds, a surfeit of kinetic energy, and a villain’s characteristic disregard for laws of any sort, including the laws of physics, couldn’t check his momentum and went hurtling over Intaglio. The stone wall bordering the plaza brought him to an abrupt halt, depriving him of both consciousness and five teeth, including the gold one.
Intaglio struggled to his feet and stumbled toward the harbor as quickly as he could manage. He considered turning back to release the caged wombats, but decided it was best to keep moving. There was no telling how long the Coachman would stay down, and the wombats would remain wombats, caged or not. There was nothing he could do for them now.
What about Marge? No, the cricket as much as said she’d made it to the harbor. His best chance of finding her was to go there. Perhaps she hadn’t left yet.
Though the ever-present mist hung low over the waterfront, Intaglio could see more of his surroundings now as dawn approached. The ferryman and his long black boat weren’t parked at the end of the dock, but neither was there any sign of Marge or her raft. A smattering of flotsam knocked rhythmically against the pilings, driftwood and broken boards, nothing substantial enough to support a swimmer. Fortunately, Intaglio was eminently buoyant, though he expected immersion in saltwater for the amount of time it would take to paddle across the strait to the mainland would only worsen the warping of his limbs and joints.
What was happening to him? The Writing Fairy’s words echoed between his ears: “I have filled your little oaken head with stories, but you must tell them truly, or you will never become anything more than a multijointed talking doll.” It all made sense now. He had betrayed the Fairy’s trust, and this was his punishment. The Coachman was right. The spark of life within him was fading, and he was slowly turning back into an inanimate object.
He could hear a commotion from the direction of town, sounds of bellowing and squealing. The Coachman was awake and in pursuit. There was nothing for it now but to leap into the ocean and hope for the best. He threw himself from the end of the dock and began to windmill his arms and legs, though the movement was slow, awkward, and painful. To his surprise, he made decent progress. The harbor was reasonably calm, and it seemed the tide was going out. Then he noticed an odd sound.
Clack, clack, clack…
There was something in the water ahead, but the fog obscured it. It was enormous, and the clacking sound was like huge mandibles snapping at the air.
The cricket had said something about a monster guarding the harbor, Intaglio remembered, too late.
There was no place to hide, and he couldn’t outswim whatever it was with the tide working against him. All he could do was tread water and hope it would pass by without seeing him.
Clack, clack, clack…
The shadow grew larger, blacker than night, more impenetrable than the fog, filling Intaglio’s vision until there was nothing but a giant, jagged void that lifted up into the air and plunged down to engulf him, pulling him down, down, down into a maelstrom of darkness.
Next week, the conclusion of The Legend of Intaglio.
No, really, I mean it this time.