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Ermingard vs. The Cow (May He Moo Forever)

by on April 30, 2012

Last time,in the Catrina Chronicles, Ermingard had wandered off all by herself in the woods, and had naturally run into a spot of peril. And now, the adventure continues!

She had been having a very pleasant dream. At least, she thought she had; it was hard to tell. It wasn’t like the dreams one reads about it books where everything is crystal clear, it was all very muddy and blurred. There was a walrus in somewhere, and someone started to quote from Jane Eyre, which was especially peculiar since that book hadn’t even been written in Ermingard’s proper time period, but in the 42nd century where she was now, it hadn’t been read for a good long time. She might have stayed in the dream a while longer to puzzle out the temporal mechanics, but then all of a sudden she came awake. And it wasn’t exactly a fun awakening, either.

The first thing she noticed was that it was dark. Not quite pitch-black dark, no, this was a smoky reddish darkness, lit only by the dull flares of guttering torches. The second thing she noticed was that she was on her knees, scraping against a hard stone floor. She tried to move, and found she couldn’t, as she was tied rather securely with her hands behind her back, which was naturally a bit distressing. Ermingard didn’t lose her head, though; she immediately began feeling about to see if there was some rock or sharp metal object she could use to cut through the ropes, because that was what everyone did in the books. There didn’t seem to be a rock, handy, though, and in the meantime, Ermingard was distracted by a few other things. For example, the smell. It smelled partly of smoke and ash, and partly of something she couldn’t quite identify, but which oddly reminded her of a summer she’d spent with her cousin Millicent on a farm mucking out stalls.

All this time, as she’d been noticing the dark and the floor and the smell, there had been a low chanting going on in the background. She hadn’t quite paid attention to it till now, what with all the other things she was trying to process, but now she did. She couldn’t make it out at first, but then she began to understand a few syllables. It was slow, sonorous, and strangely bleating.

Em…ta….LA. Em….ta….LA.

As she listened, it began to grow louder and more insistent, punctuated by the ominous thunder of unseen drums. 

EM….ta….LA! EM….ta….LA!  

Then the drums rose to a crescendo, and the chant reached fever pitch.

EM-ta-LA! EM-ta-LA!

All at once it stopped. A dead silence fell. Ermingard began to feel a bit awkward. “Um.” she said, her voice echoing in the dark. “I say. Is anyone out there?”

“Silence!” screeched a high, bleating voice. “Wretched witless worm!”

“Alliteration, very good,” Ermingard mumbled under her breath. The speaker apparently didn’t hear her.

“You are in the presence of the Emperor of all Emtala, the undistressable, the indefatigable, the Cow!”

“May he moo forever!” a chorus of voices responded.

“You,” continued the original voice, “have trespassed upon the sovereign territory of Emtala, and displayed weaponry which declares your allegiance to the sworn enemies of…the Cow!”

“May he moo forever!” the chorus repeated again.

“Do you have any words of remorse before we pass sentence?” the first voice demanded.

Ermingard wasn’t an expert on criminal justice, but she did rather think all this was going a bit fast. “Excuse me,” she said politely, “but I don’t even know what Emtala is, much less the Cow.”

“May he moo forever!” came the response.

“Right. Exactly. I don’t even know who’s talking right now. I’m, er, not from here.” Ermingard considered whether she ought to explain about the time-traveling hovercraft, but decided against it.

“You are not familiar with Emtala?” the voice said. “Then we shall explain, so that you will know the full power of the Empire you have so defiantly flaunted!”

“Flouted,” Ermingard corrected, but the voice didn’t pay any attention to her grammatical wisdom.

“Emtala comes from our sacred text, which we found in the rubble of a civilization perished thousands of years before our time. It was a mystic book, adorned with much highlightings and scribblings, and speaking of strange concepts such as negligence and res ipsa loquitur, which we know not. But then, on one page, we found a single word written in bold: EMTALA! And so we named our empire!”

Of course, neither Ermingard nor the speaker knew that EMTALA is actually an acronym for the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, which requires a hospital that has an emergency room to give anyone who presents themselves  an appropriate screening to see if they have an emergency condition, and then to stabilize that condition before they’re transferred elsewhere. But then Ermingard didn’t know that the empire she had fallen into had mistaken a casebook on Tort law for a sacred text.  There were other clans in the 42nd century that were worse off then Emtala; one unfortunate sect had decided to follow the God of Promissory Estoppel, who is not exactly the most inspirational deity ever. But all this was beside the point. Because at that moment a sudden blinding white flash lit the darkness. Ermingard blinked very hard. Evidently someone had decided to turn on the lights. She looked about the moment her vision cleared. The princess’s mouth fell open in shock.

All about her, carrying little short swords and staring menacingly at her, were….sheep. Intelligent sheep, yes, talking sheep, yes, but…sheep. She looked towards the front of the chamber, where two figures stood on a little dais, surrounded by flaring torches. At their feet lay Ermingard’s bow and quiver full of spork-arrows, but Ermingard wasn’t really looking at them, her stunned gaze was fixed on the two figures on the dais. One was a particularly self-important-looking sheep who had, it seemed, but the one speaking to her. And the other….all this time Ermingard had assumed that “the Cow” was a metaphorical title, something like “the Great” or “the Lion”. Why anyone would want to call themselves the Cow was a puzzling question, but to each his own, was Ermingard’s philosophy. She had never expected that it would be an actual cow.  The cow gazed rather stupidly at her, opened its mouth, and gave a gentle moo.

“The Cow has spoken!” cried the sheep standing by it. “May he moo forever!”

“May he moo forever!” the other sheep repeated.

Ermingard began to get an odd sort of feeling. Her mouth twitched. She had rarely had this feeling before, she’d always been a serious sort of person, what with her depressing family motto (“Splat is coming”) and her history of having been in a two-hundred-year sleep due to an enchanted chamber pot, and a lot of other things. But now, surrounded by an empire of very fluffy yet stern sheep, chanting the praises of their glorious leader the Cow (may he moo forever)…Ermingard, in the terminology of the 21st century, lost it. She dissolved into a torrent of giggles. The spokessheep appeared nonplussed. “How dare you laugh at me!” it protested. “I am Floss Anita, grand viziersheep of The Cow, may he-”

But Floss Anita was interrupted, as Ermingard’s giggles intensified into veritable howling gales. “Fl-Fl-Floss Anita?” she gasped, near tears. “The Cow? The Cow! Bahahahahaha!”

And then something very wonderful happened. All at once Ermingard felt as if she were part of something mystical, something very much bigger and wackier than herself. Her eyes were drawn to her spork arrows again, only now she felt….she felt as if she understood them. As if she and they were part of some great….Sporky Force. Something clicked inside Ermingard’s brain, and from then it was only a simple mental push, and the spork arrow flipped out of its quiver, and sliced right through the ropes tying her hands. Next moment she was on her feet, bow in hand, string drawn tight, a spork-arrow aimed directly at Floss Anita’s head. This time she didn’t think she’d miss and hit the sheep kitchen instead, assuming they had one.  “Right,” she said, working hard to stiffle a snicker,  “You were saying?”

“Ah!” Floss Anita shrieked. “We cannot repel silverware of such magnitude!” The Cow mooed querulously beside her,

“You bet your fluffy white tail you can’t,” Ermingard said, unconsciously sounding very Catrina-like. “Now then. I’m looking for the museum where the Golden Spleen is. I wonder if you could direct me?”

“You will pay for this!” Floss Anita said, trembling with all the rage a sheep like her could muster. “You will soon feel the Cow’s wra-”

Zip-twang. The spork sliced neatly past Floss Anita’s head, giving just the tiniest nick to her ear. Quick as something that’s really quick Ermingard had another spork on the string. Floss Anita gulped. “You go out the door, up the steps, and two miles west, towards the big rock on the horizon. Turn left at the tree with “Emtala” carved into it. The museum’s straight south from there, near the lake shaped like a koala. You can’t miss it.”

“Thanks ever so much,” Ermingard said. Slowly she backed out of the chamber, keeping the spork trained on Floss Anita. She kicked at the door as she went through, and it swung slowly shut. As it closed, just before it blocked out the sight of the sheep empire, she heard the Cow give one final placidmoooooo.

Stay tuned for our next episode, as Ermingard heads for the museum with the Golden Spleen, and runs into yet another random and wacky antagonist. You can find previous episodes of the Catrina Chronicles here. To have new episodes and other random writings delivered to your email inbox where they can take up space alongside Netflix notifications and the latest email forward about an urban legend involving headlights or some such, click the button that says “Sign Me Up!” on the right. It’ll say something more clever later on, probably; I haven’t decided that yet. To read Catrina’s NanoWriMo 2011 adventure “Catrina IN SPACE”, go here.  And that’s about all the shameless plugging for this episode, I think. Thanks for reading!




  1. I haven’t read this yet, but I just wanna say I LOVE the title 🙂 I have a thing for cows, especially the mooing kind! hehe

    • Cows are inherently funny, I think. Even the word “moo”. You just can’t say the word “moo” and be serious. 😛

  2. MOOOOOO! I finally read it 🙂 i love it.

    Great line here: “It was slow, sonorous, and strangely bleating.” hahaha

    I love cows 🙂 but Floss Anita?? Where the heck do you come up with this stuff? 😛 (Yes, I love it!)

    • On Star Wars, the right-hand alien of Emperor Palpatine is named Mos Amedda. I just finagled with the syllables a bit. 🙂

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