Spitemorta sat forward and grabbed up a hot cinnamon bun from the tea table just set before her, tore it open and dropped it onto a saucer to steam as she found the fresh butter and honey. “Oh,” she said, licking her fingers and leaning aside to give the bell pull a yank. She went right back to her bun and took a huge bite, closing her eyes with a delirious moan.
A young page came and stood at quiet attention beyond the table.
“Hey Piffant,” she said through her mouthful of flying crumbs, when she finally noticed him.
“Your Omnipotence,” he said with a deep and gracious bow.
Spitemorta took an eye-rolling moment to chew. “Listen Pissant,” she said with a strained swallow, “go find General Coel and have him here this very hour.”
“Anything else, Your Omnipotence?”
Spitemorta dug at the wad of bread in her cheek with her tongue and shook her head.
“I live to serve you, Your Omnipotence,” he said with a parting bow.
“As long as you see that you do,” she said. She wanted to see Coel at once, but it made no difference to her in the least whether or not Pissant managed to live. All that really mattered was her coming coronation and public executions of Queen Minuet’s army.
“Your Omnipotence…?” said her skinweler in a wee voice from it’s hollow on the arm of her throne.
She put milk into her cup, slipped off the cozy and picked up the teapot. “Damn you, Pissant!” she bellowed into the echoes, hurling it across the room to smash on the marble floor. “Thanks to you, it’s gone stone cold. Or maybe I need to boil somebody’s stinking head in the kitchen…”
“Uh, Your Omnipotence…?” said the skinweler as a hired woman peeked in from a side door.
“Hey!” cried Spitemorta, “Get me a fresh pot!”
“This looks exciting and all, dear, but shouldn’t you be showing some interest in the rest of your empire?” said Demonica, appearing with her fists on her hips by the shattered teapot.
“Now!” hollered Spitemorta.
“My word!” said Demonica, walking right up to her. “Your first steward is waiting for an audience as we speak.”
“So? Send him in.”
“It is indeed nice to find you taking me seriously for once, dear,” she said, cocking her head to look her over closely, “but you seem to be forgetting that you’re the only one who sees me. Besides it’s your skinweler. Your steward in Gwael…”
“Oh poop! How would I have time for those heathens with my coronation almost upon us? What would be as important as that? After all, I am the first one in history to rule the entire world.”
Demonica drew a wide-eyed breath. “It might not hurt to ask him,” she said with a nod at the skinweler. “I mean, he’s no further away than the arm of your chair, and convenient as it is, it would be an act of actually ruling the world, don’t you think?”
“You do it. I’m busy. And Coel will be here directly.”
“Well I would, dear,” she said with another nod at the skinweler,” but you’re forgetting that I’m dead.”
“What!” said Spitemorta, thrusting her face at the skinweler.
“Aah!” said the steward, jerking back from his ball. “Forgive me Your Omnipotence, I wasn’t quite…”
“Well? What is it? I’m right busy here, and you’re not likely to have anything important.”
“I beg your pardon for my asking you to indulge me over this trifle,” he said, pausing for a breath as he thrust out his chin, “but we’ve a situation here that’s plainly on it’s way out of control.”
“What are you talking about, Irmen? What is going on there?”
“King Vortigern had a brother, Catigern, Prince of Pow Jyantylesk, who had a son before he died…”
“Well, Osulf claims the throne.”
“Now that sounds like something I remember talking about,” said Demonica. “Or weren’t you listening when I was…?”
“Shut up!” screeched Spitemorta.
“I beg your pardon, Your Omnipotence. I’m not sure I heard right…”
“What’s he thinking?” she said, grabbing up the skinweler and pressing her face into it. “He can’t do that. Artie died, which made me queen. I’m still queen. I may be empress of the world, but I’m still queen. And I left you on the throne.”
“Yea. But he says that you never ruled Gwael before you became empress. According to him, you never once sat on the throne, and that left him next in line to rule after Artamus. In fact, he’s sitting on the throne right now. And his coronation is tomorrow…”
“Horse shit!” she shouted, flinging the skinweler well beyond the tea table to hit the carpet with a muffled crack and go rolling away toward the entrance.
Irmen jerked back from his skinweler and rubbed his temples.
Spitemorta heaved herself to her feet, ran after her ball and grabbed it up. “So what kind of steward allows someone to come in and take the throne?” she said, catching her breath.
“One who’s in his chamber, free to use his skinweler to reach you, if you don’t mind my putting it that a-way. They took me by surprise. Had I not cooperated, I’d be dead or sitting in the dungeon and you’d not know a thing about it.”
“I’ll be right there…”
Ch 6, Doom, book six of Heart of the Staff: The Complete Series
Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps