Thanks to a confluence of atmospheric lows and troughs, the rain front marched across the continent in a steady, soaking line. Out on the black grass plains, where the road builders had not yet ventured, the tracks used by the bullock teams to deliver goods to the fledgling towns of the farm settlers turned to axle-deep, thick, red mud. In the hills that previous, long gone inhabitants had called the Sharp Hills, water filled the crevasses and seeped downwards or ran off over rocks, filling the streams that ran down into the watercourses that were normally strings of lazy waterholes winding across the plains.
Tiny pink shrimp hatched in the rock-bound puddles of the hills and, down in the growing waterholes that were beginning to be joined by flowing trickles of water, the sharp toothed bunyips were preparing to mate. Wise farmer settlers moved their livestock and stockmen to higher ground, away from the homes of those increasingly bold ambush predators of the plain’s rivers, and the little towns built their baby levees a few feet higher. The few land singers left on plains went up onto the old safe places that the farmer settlers had not yet taken, and sang the songs of Diragool and Murrumbudge so that they would not be forgotten.
Water shapes the land. Water has always shaped the land, just as water and the lack of it has shaped the use of the land. Given time, water can get anywhere and change anything. Water is why the Sharp Hills are no longer sharp, and water is what opened what had been the deepest crevasse in the Sharp Hills into a gully. The water cascaded down the orange-brown rock face of the gully’s side at the height of the rain, and scoured out the silt and rubbish that had accumulated at the bottom. It was water that carried old bones, small stones, and the Gift of Tethwandue out of the gully and down into the first of the rush-edged waterholes at the foot of the hills.
And there the Gift lay in plain sight, which had been put away from reach and vision of all by the dream walkers, long before the land singers had come to the plains. Its fact, reason, and fate forgotten, the Gift sat in shallow water waiting for the sun to emerge from the clouds and give it back its natural sparkle. The sparkle that trapped, enslaved, and doomed.
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