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“Please forgive the interruption, Sorceress,” said Budog, as he and the other guard hove their captive onto the slippery stone floor, “but he’s back again.”
“You and Mazhev had better…” said Demonica, turning aside from her prisoner on the torture table, writhing in his irons. “This had better be important.” Her ageless face seethed with fury in the wavering torchlight.
“This thing says he has some real information for you, this time,” said Budog, nodding at his captive.
“Oh, yes, yes!” pleaded the captive, as he sat up on his haunches. “This time I do have. This time I truly have what you want to know, Demonica, my love.”
“Never address me in that manner again!” she shrieked, as she kicked him in the gut, doubling him over to lie straining, cheek down on the clammy floor.
“Forgive me, Mistress!” he shouted, heaving in his first breath with a gasp. “Please! I quite forgot myself! I meant no disrespect! I swear!”
“Very well, Yann-Ber!” she barked, as she lunged at his face and spat. “What do you think you have to tell me?” She stood back to study her saliva, glistening on the mass of boils swelling his face. “You’d do well to hope you aren’t wasting my time, dearest.”
An agonized moan from the man on the table caught Yann-Ber’s eye. He shuddered at the sight of him, envying the wretched fellow’s nearness to death. Soon he’ll be free of this, he thought, and maybe I shall be free as well, if what I bring suffices…
“Out with it, you vile kaoc’h ki du!” she screamed, flinging her knee into his face to crush his nose with a resounding pop.
Yann-Ber wailed out in pain and clapped his hands over his face, his eyes still bearing the strength to give his wife a look of hatred. “Your daughter is dead,” he sputtered from between his bloody hands. “And your granddaughter has ascended the throne of Goll…” He closed his eyes for a moment and reeled, coming to grips with his pain. “They say she’s got her hands on the Great Staff, you know, the Staff of Power, though no one seems to think that she uses it.”
“Just how sure are you?”
“I wouldn’t dare aggravate you with anything I was unsure of, Demonica.”
“So how do you know, Yann-kaoc’h?” she said, suddenly lifting her knee as though she were going to strike him again. He winced and fell sideways, catching himself on his elbow. She threw back her head and made the halls of the dungeon ring with her laughter. “You stinking pomander of pustules, just how is it that you manage to know this?”
“A few still deny that she has the Great Staff at all,” he said, pulling himselfupright, “but she certainly had no staff of any kind when she came to the throne, and then she suddenly had one, right when her mother died. Too many reliable people have seen it. And you said…”
“This time you’ve actually learnt something, Yann-Ber,” she said, suddenly brandishing a high spirited gloat. “So. Back to Norz-meurzouar it is again.”
She turned to Budog and Mazhev. “And you two finish up this mess for me,” she said, waving her manicured hand at the man on the torture table. “I have far more important business waiting on the Northern Continent.” She swept past Yann-Ber without a glance, heading for the door.
“Wait! Demonica, please!” cried Yann-Ber, lunging after her on knees swollen huge from boils, only to tumble forward onto his hands from the pain.
Demonica stopped in the doorway. “I don’t have time for this, Yann-Ber.”
“The curse!” he shouted through the blood on his face, as he rocked back and forth, coming to grasp with the pain in his knees. “You promised me! You gave me your word that if I found out the whereabouts of the Staff, then you’d end this curse. And she does have it. You’ll see. Please, Demonica! Have mercy! I’m your husband! You cared for me once. Please!”
“Are you certain you want that, Yann-Ber?” she said with a light in her eyes, as a ruby lipped smile spread across her face.
“What else could I want?” he rasped.
“So be it,” she said, making several signs in the air before turning crisply and walking out of sight.
“Demonica!” he shouted. “Nothing has changed! I still live! What treachery is this?”
The stony echo of her footsteps halted, then began again and stopped as she came back into view. “On the contrary, Yann-Ber, your death has been irrevocably scheduled, in spite of how slow and agonizing you may think it.” She threw her head back with a peal of laughter. “You see, dear heart, I always keep my promises.”
“But, so do I.”
“Ah! Ah! Ah! But not to me. Remember that it was your faithlessness to me that earned you your nightmare spell of boils. So, as I was saying, I do keep mine, and you will most assuredly be dead within the year, though it will seem such a long time to someone with your lack of patience,” she said, glancing at the crimson toes of her shoes as she adjusted the pleats down the front of her gown.
“I’ll kill myself.”
“You can try, Yann-Ber,” she said with a demure smile, “but unfortunately it will never work.” At once she turned and strode into the hallway, here and there erupting into laughter as her reverberating footfalls passed beyond hearing.
“You witch!” he screamed as he tottered onto his feet, only to be seized by the hair and thrown flat onto the floor by Budog who pinned him mercilessly with both knees, yanking his arm around backward until it snapped, making him wail out in pain.
“Hurt your little armsie, stinkfish?” he hissed through his rotten teeth. “Too bad that’s all I broke.” He yanked Yann-Ber to his feet by the hair and pointed him toward the torture table. “Thing is, you stink so much, I can’t concentrate on my work here.” He shoved him flailing for balance towards the door. “Now. If Mazhev or I even see you again, we’ll play with you awhile like that fellow on the table.”