Of all the novels we have published to date, The Missionaries by Owen Stanley is without question one of the best. It is almost disturbingly funny. It’s also available in both hardcover and paperback from Castalia Direct.
Laripa was distinguished among the settlements of the Moroks by the presence of the greatest orator, Malek; the greatest sorcerer, Macardit; and the greatest philosopher, Garang, a twisted, hairless little man with a squint. It was thus a kind of Florence or Paris, a cultural centre where the aspiring young intellectuals of the Moroks came to learn the secrets of their fathers, and, more hidden still, the dark revelations of the Before-Men who, led by Tikame himself, had roamed the mountains when Time itself was not.
As befitted its status as the cultural capital of the Moroks, its men’s house was the largest, the best-ornamented, and the most smoke-blackened in all the island. Raised on piles, its rear was low, but the roof-ridge rose into the sky, so that, being more than a hundred feet long, the top of its front end, the formal end, was nearly forty feet above the ground. The boards covering the front of the house were brilliantly painted in the form of a great face, whose mouth was also the entrance. The teeth of this mouth were provided by two rows of bleached skulls, as the boiling and preparation of skulls was one of the arts for which Laripa was celebrated.
Below the men’s house, the hovels of the women formed two parallel lines for a couple of hundred yards down the crest of the spur. At the end of these two lines, a second, smaller, men’s house faced up the yard between the huts of the women, looking directly at the great face of the principal men’s house. The yard was steep and slippery, of shiny red clay, and all around the village ran a high stockade of timbers, whose tops were carved into replicas of simian faces, or barbed to resemble spear points, or hacked and pruned into stranger, even more lethal shapes, curved and twisted like instruments of torture.
The interior of the great men’s house was lit only by those rays that penetrated the narrow entrance, and its natural obscurity was rendered the more impenetrable by the smoke which filled it, rising from the smouldering logs on the hearth of ashes running the entire length of the building. Inside the entrance, in the ashes, smoking his bamboo pipe, sat Nyikang, once the most renowned of the Laripa warriors, now little more than an old bag of bones looking out over his beloved mountains, waiting to die.
Smoking was the last of this world’s pleasures left to him; the government had stopped most of the axe murders at which he had been so proficient, and he had never been much good at sorcery. He’d always muddled the spells at the critical moment. Sex, well, that had been fun, and at least the government hadn’t stopped that yet, but it was a long time since he had felt up to it. The last time, that had been a long time ago, when the great landslide swept away some of his pandanus trees, but all he got for his trouble was a splitting headache, and he had given it up as a bad job ever since. Not that he was missing much as far as Teopo, his last surviving wife, was concerned. She was almost as decrepit as him and never bothered to wash anymore; she was usually covered in dust, like an old gourd abandoned in the corner of a hut.
It was ages, too, since he had led the killing of the pigs at a great dance. His teeth had mostly gone now, and he couldn’t even chew a pig, let alone kill one. Soon he would be a spirit, roaming the forests of the high ranges with his ancestors, without fire, or food, or hope. He still clung to life, not out of love of this world, or fear of that to come, but from habit.
His attention wandered back to Macardit and Malek, who were sitting outside on the verandah, talking.
“A bat’s wing without fresh dog’s blood will blight naught,” said Macardit. “Some say that a frog’s head, crushed with ginger root, giveth more power than the blood of any creature, but that is folly.”
Malek nodded wisely.
“Dog’s blood, thou sayest. I will mind it well.” His fourth and most recent wife had been seduced by his cousin, so he had come to Macardit for a little private tuition in sorcery. The receipt for smiting an enemy’s genitals with gonorrhea cost only a small pig; a larger one, of course, was required if the Master himself recited the spells. Since this enemy was a cousin, the handier and cheaper remedy of the axe was denied him, but a good dose of the clap would suffice to put the fellow in his place.
“Fresh blood, fresh blood,” reiterated Macardit. “If thou but usest fresh blood, the bat’s wing, and the words of power which I have given thee, and well besmear his codpiece with the remedy, there will be one pig that will not root in thy garden for a while.” Macardit drew on his bamboo pipe, but found that in the long interval of conversation it had died.