After her address, Spitemorta tied up her skinweler in its pouch and dropped it into her bag. She missed the awed multitudes beyond the balcony of her throne room at Castle Goll. “A little trollish supplication might be just the thing,” she said as she picked up the Staff. She stepped into the hall, trotted downstairs and out into the glory of dandelions, wren chatter and bright sunshine. Bethan was on her knees, picking strawberries and didn’t see her set the Staff in the air, mount it and lean forward to shoot away into the deep blue sky.
She didn’t know exactly where Oilean Gairdin was beyond its being somewhere in the Jut of Niarg. But after some time, hurtling along the length of the Jut, she spied the remains of stone walls standing in a tumble of pink quartz rubble, surrounded by abandoned orchards and formal gardens on an island in the middle of Jutland Lake. “This has to be it,” she said as she settled her feet into the knee-deep grass and sat on her hovering stick, looking about. Grackles scolded, mobbing something in the crown of an apple tree. She dismounted and waded through the grass toward the ruins, pausing at an arbor to eat grapes. She saw no sure signs of trolls at all, but there were getting to be paths tramped flat in the grass as she neared the rubble. A striped blue lizard as big around as a pitchfork handle, vanished into the cracks of a stone fence. She stood, looking all about from under her hand. Over near a wall she saw bones. “Ha!” She hurried up her wallow through the grass to find a collapsed bedroom, overflowing the window sills with bones. Outside the broken walls, she now saw a good score of stone circles for campfires, most of them with live coals, scattered randomly about a courtyard littered with gnawed pieces of animal carcass and barefoot prints in the ankle deep dust. Presently she was hearing deep rumbling snores coming from every hole and recess that might protect from rain.
“Oh yes,” she said, stopping short. “I very nearly forgot. I’ll have to change to Fnadiyaphn’s throat. At least Fnadi-phnig-nyd and Dyr-jinyr-yy will know who I am as a human. It’s still hard to swallow from the last time.” She held the Heart to her throat. It began glowing at once. “Gaah-hoof!” she bellowed, jerking the Heart away. “Aah-hoof-aah-hoof!”
She could hear trolls mumbling and stirring as she stood there with pains shooting through her head, working her jaw. She began quietly peering into holes, wincing each time she bent over for a look. By the time she was wondering if she could bear any more bending over, she found Dyr-jinyr-yy sound asleep on his back not far away from a huge breasted sow, asleep against a wall under her snarled bush of fiery red hair, snoring away like a giant bullfrog with a grimy toddler in her arms. “Maybe I’m getting lucky,” she thought as she tiptoed close to peer at the baby. “He actually looks like James, except he’s a troll. Well we’ll see.” She went back to stand over Dyr-jinyr-yy. “Jy-oyf-ny-oyd-fif, Dyr- jinyr-yy,” she rumbled as she gave him a sharp poke with the Staff. “Ni!”
“Zawk-skok…” he smacked, suddenly sitting up with wide-eyed urgency.
“Jyrp-dyoy-dyn-yoy-oyr,” said Spitemorta with a phosphorescent flicker in her eyes. “You’ll live.”
With a squeal, he pitched forward and flattened himself at her feet. “Fnadiyaphn!” he whimpered into the foul dirt. “Goddess come-give Veyfnaryr big-head-nod looky-look?”
“And you’re going to show me,” she said with a cherubic nod.
Dyr-jinyr-yy was on his feet at once, dashing over to Fnayooph to give her hair a good yank.
Fnayooph gave an explosive swing of her fist, barely missing Dyr-jinyr-yy, who sat backwards with a bounce in the dirt. She gasped in shock at the sudden sight of Spitemorta and grabbed up a club, giving it a furious fling right by her ear.
Spitemorta gave a crackling jab with the Staff, setting aglow a patch of earth in front of Fnayooph which immediately exploded, blinding everyone with dirt and making Veyfnaryr howl.
“Fnayooph!” cried Dyr-jinyr-yy. “She-be Goddess Fnadiyaphn! Fnadiyaphn play human queen.”
Veyfnaryr wiggled out of her arms and stood up with his fists in his eyes, wailing at the top of his lungs. Fnayooph grabbed him into her lap and silenced him with a teat as she ground at her eyes with the heel of her other hand.
“Good job that you took care of my baby before you even tried to see,” said Spitemorta, “otherwise, you would be dead right now. Does he bite?”
Fnayooph looked up with one confused eye, shook her head and held out Veyfnaryr for Spitemorta to take.
Spitemorta got a whiff of him and held up a pious hand. “I don’t need to take him,” she said. “I can see that he is getting the best of care.” She pursed her lips as a look of awe flickered across her face. “My word!” she thought. “He simply glows with magical power.”
She turned to Dyr-jinyr-yy. “I shall not keep you awake any longer,” she said. “You all are doing quite well indeed. I’ll simply be back from time to time to see how he’s doing.” And with that, she took to the air on her staff and vanished over the trees.
Well beyond Jutland lake, she landed and used the Heart to return her human throat and end her pounding headache. “My word!” she said as she climbed into the sky once more. “Nobody I’ve ever been around has that strong an aura…”
“See?” came a voice in her ear. “What did I try to tell you?”
“Shut up!” she screamed as she shook the Staff. “Shut up! Shut up Demonica!”
“Well I’m glad to see that you didn’t completely lose control of the Staff this time, dear,” came the voice again.
“Shut up!” she screamed. “Leave me alone!”
“Now just what kind of respect for the dead is that, Rouanez Bras?”
“Why can’t you leave me alone?”
“Believe me,” said the voice, “I most certainly would if it weren’t for your endless need of guidance. But since you clearly resent even the slightest inclination which I might have to help…”
“All right!” cried Spitemorta. “If I let you help me, will you go away?”
“Very well, what do I need help with then, Grandmother?”
“Didn’t I tell you that your troll baby was going to be more powerful than the great Razzmorten himself?”
“I don’t remember.”
“Of course not,” said the voice. “I couldn’t get you to hold off your demands to have him killed long enough to notice what I was saying, as I recall.”
“And I can see that you’re just as tedious to listen to as ever.”
“Well let’s try again, dear. Did you notice what I said this time?”
“What? Being stronger? Get out of here, Demonica! I know very well what all that means.”
“Do you then? What does all this mean? This should be good.”
“Why go through telling you?” said Spitemorta. “You already have all the answers. But if you must, it means that even if the Elves do manage to raise some dangerously powerful wizard, your ugly little troll monster just might destroy him. Right?”
“Bravo!” cheered the voice with the sound of clapping. “But the ‘ugly little troll monster’ as you put it, is yours, dear.”
“My monster? It was your turning me into Fnadiyaphn, Grandmother.”
There did not seem to be an answer.
“Grandmother?” said Spitemorta, frantically looking all about. “Demonica? Damn you! Where’d you go? Hey Demonica!”
Ch. 12, The Reaper Witch, book five of Heart of the Staff: The Complete Series
Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps