Flame landed with a bound just beyond the shade from the noonday sun cast by the rock overhang of the kitchen and gave his feathers a good shake before making a hurried waddle inside. “We’ve got company!” he hollered before he could see.
“We’re right here, dear,” said Lipperella, standing up from the table to peek outside. “For dinner? Do you reckon I’ve fixed enough?”
“Who cares?” said Flame, grabbing up a dainty from the table. “Goody, good! Hot pickled kangaroo rats.”
“You’re terrible!” said Lipperella, giving him a good swat with a dish towel.
“Edward and Laora are leading them in right now,” he said, rubbing his belly where she got him. “Three diatrymas and two humans, looks like.”
“Diatrymas?” said Spark. “All the way from Niarg? Has to be trouble of some kind.”
“We’ll see. Here they are.”
“Momma! Papa!” cried Laora as she and Edward landed at a run. “Edward and I found Arwr and these new diatrymas, Mentrus and Gwawr. And they’ve got Súlacha and Lance, and Abaddon and Shot ‘n’ Stop. And they have news about the witches…”
The diatrymas came to a springy halt and dropped to their keels to unload their passengers. “I beg your pardon, Spark,” said Arwr, springing up to gingerly step about.
“Have you pans of water for us to stand in for a moment? We’ve had to travel at night
because of the black sands, but this morning was overcast. When the sun came out not
long ago, it about cooked our feet.”
“Well,” said Spark as he clattered about, hunting for basins, “good job you and Laora found them, aye Edward?”
“Súlacha here, is their tracker,” said Laora, “and when he says they’ve never been here before, they probably really would’ve got lost without us…”
“Oh poop!” scoffed Abaddon, whereupon Lance grabbed him by the sleeve and shook his head.
“Well we managed to get to where they found us,” said Lance, “but they undoubtedly spared us days of random searching for signs of you all.”
“Make yourselves at home and unwind while we arrange things,” said Spark. “Flame. Help me scoot the board into the doorway so that the diatrymas can eat with us, since they always stay outside.”
“They’ve been inside,” said Abaddon.
“Only in the halls of Fairies,” said Arwr from his two basins, just outside.
“Yess, yesss, unwind,” said Shot ‘n’ Stop as he slithered out of Abaddon’s bag.
Soon they were enjoying a grand meal with Spark and Lipperella and all their mob down the long board, laden with a half dozen steaming roast peccaries with agave stuffing, hot corn bread and prickly pear jam. Súlacha, Lance and Abaddon were delighted with the sumptuous bounty, though they did remain wary of the hog hair gravy, pickled peppered kangaroo rats, voles smothered in chocolate sauce and the cubed raw rabbit with hide and hair passing up and down the board.
When the small talk had died away, Spark parked his napkin by his plate. “So it’s the witches that brings you, is it?” he said.
“Oilean Gairdin has fallen to the witches and the Marfora Siofra,” said Lance. “Abaddon and I fled with the Elves into the Wilderlands and are staying with Meri Greenwood in Gerddi Teg, north of the Deadmoors. Niarg may have fallen by now, but we don’t yet know.”
At this, Edward quietly left the table and vanished. When Laroa found him in their room, he was pacing about in a very agitated state.
“Edward,” she said, quietly coming to his side. “You left at the beginning of the telling of the biggest tidings which have yet to come to the Black Desert. Are you all right?”
“But you look upset…”
“That doesn’t sound at all like it. And you were so excited at first. You’ve told me how you missed Shot ‘n’ Stop. Besides, Prince Abaddon is your age. I thought you’d want to get acquainted. He’s a prince and you’re a prince…”
“What do I need him for when I have you? Besides, you didn’t like the Fireheads, especially Trifin.”
“Yea? Well Abaddon isn’t here to breed you, Edward.”
“See?” she said. “So what’s your excuse?”
“All right,” he said, giving her a quick hug and sitting on the edge of the bed with a bounce. “Do you know who Prince Abaddon really is?”
“Sure. Just how he was introduced: the son of King James of Loxmere.”
“And, and son of Queen Spitemorta of Goll, the exact bad woman who killed Momma.”
“Oh,” she said, blinking a couple of times before scooting close and gently nibbling at the hair over his ear.
The Reaper Witch, Ch. 14
Carol Marrs and Tom Phipps