The Reaper Witch
Chimney swifts twittered and darted about in the air above the blackened walls of Castle Goll. With a duet of plummeting screams, Demonica and Spitemorta suddenly tumbled out of the air where Spitemorta’s bower should have been, landing with arm-flailing rag doll bounces in an explosion of deep soot and terrified chickens at the bottom of the castle’s gonne powder crater.
“Aagh! Aagh!” cried out Spitemorta in anguished gasps, struggling to pull away from her legs on her elbows. “Damn it! Grandmother! Help!”
Demonica opened her eyes. When she had recovered enough to breathe again, she lifted her ears out of the feather bed of lampblack ash.
“Please, Grandmother!” wailed Spitemorta. “I hurt!”
Demonica sat up, suddenly feeling about herself for the Heart. “Ha!” she cried. “Splendid! We just might be in good shape.”
“No we’re not!” whimpered Spitemorta. “My legs! I hurt!”
Demonica got onto her knees and stumped over for a look. “Well I should say,” she said, whisking at herself. “Your legs are certainly bent in places that never have knees. And that crumpled armor simply complicated your fall, didn’t it?”
“Please, damn you! Use the Heart!”
Demonica got to her feet, straightened her skirts and continued whisking. “You’ll just have to be patient, dear,” she said as if Spitemorta were merely waiting for a spoon of icing from a mixing bowl. She pulled out a pouch from her panniers and fiddled with its strings. She removed the Heart, studied it for a moment, then knelt with it and began running it along the length of Spitemorta’s broken legs.
“Well,” she said at last, as she stood up and put away the fading red crystal, “I can’t imagine why you need to go on caterwauling, dear. You can stand up now.” She turned aside at once and began studying the castle walls, standing charred before the deep blue sky without any remains of floors or roof.
Spitemorta thrust out her chin in bug-eyed silence. She grabbed up the Staff with trembling hands and thrust it at Demonica, blowing her apart with a concussion that fogged the entire crater with a blinding cloud of soot. “Witch!” she screamed in the echoes. “That’s for the rough landing, you know-it-all filth! That’s for my monster twins!
That’s for Abaddon and James getting away! That’s for Castle Goll!” She stopped shortand listened.
“Grandmother?” she hollered. “You can quit playing games, witch! Demonica?”
“Oh!” she said, going quiet at the sight of the Heart glowing from the ashes where Demonica had just been standing. She snatched it up at once and smiled, carefully fitting it into its socket on the end of the Staff.
Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps
Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps
Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps spent twenty years writing together and teaching on the Navajo, Apache, Hualapai and Paiute reservations in the Southwest before returning to their farm in Southern Illinois, where they now write epic fantasy full time. They have independently published seven books with more to come.
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