"Why bother dear?" said Demonica, glancing at General Coel, on his way up the black carpet. "He can no more see nor hear me than he could at any time after you and I fell from the sky together."
Coel planted his feet and nodded at Spitemorta.
"Twenty year and you still fail at showing proper deference to a sovereign," she said. "And what a failure it is, too, when you happen to be the very first person in all history to present himself to the absolute ruler of the entire world."
Coel heaved a sigh. "I have some news, I believe..."
"You've already arranged everything for my week of celebration, I suppose?" she said as if they were discussing the delivery of this week's milk.
"I'm afraid I assumed King Artamus was alive and well when I walked in, Your Majesty..."
"Your Omnipotence, General," she said, clicking her fingernails on the glassy arm of her throne.
"I must not have gotten that..."
"Your Omnipotence. That would be a fitting way to address the very first person ever to manage ruling the entire world, don't you think?"
"Why indeed, but your position may still have its problems. There seem to be Elves walking about in town."
"Elves?" she said, sitting up at once.
"Yea..." he said, interrupted by a pink flash of lightning and an immediate deafening boom that startled both of them. "Yes. Four of them with glamouries of human ears. Well, their company numbers four. Two local gaffers working with one of Captain Pennoyer's men insist that one of them is the Elven king Neron from the plague days of King Henry, and another one is an expert mercenary tracker by the name of Sulacha, whom he says was with King Hebraun at Cwm Eryr and Ash Fork. And the other two could be Humans for all they know..."
"Get them," she said.
"Certainly, Your...Omnipotence, once I know just what you mean by that."
"Kill them. Absolutely. But first I want to know every single thing you can find out before you do. And just why have you allowed them to remain out and about, General?"
"Now I've paid close attention over the years when you've told me to watch for Elves," he said, taking the liberty of scratching behind his ear, "but I might be able to do the right thing if I knew why I'm watching. Why are they important, Your Omnipotence?"
"What have they been doing?"
"They've merely been seen out and about as far as I know. They've not violated anything..."
"Go and arrest them," she said, lifting her chin. "And I want them interrogated."
Coel bowed without a word and turned about for the door.
"Now!" she barked at his back.
"He has to be impressed, " said Demonica, appearing where Coel had been standing.
"Well, you have him addressing you as 'Your Omnipotence,' for one thing."
Spitemorta rolled her eyes and heaved a sigh as she slumped back into the cushions of her throne and stared out the window at the rain.
"And I'd say he does have a point, dear. Your exalted position may still have its problems."
"Well I see that you are indeed going after your Elves, but if a single one of them survives, their prophesy will be a terminal problem for everything we've taken these years to accomplish."
"And that's all that concerns you, isn't it, Grandmother?"
"What else should I be concerned about, dear?"
"How about the life of your granddaughter?" she shouted, bolting from her great chair to thrust her livid face at Demonica. Doesn't the prophecy say that the one who wields the Heart and Staff will be destroyed? That's me. Aren't you one bit concerned about me?"
"Put that way, not at all," said Demonica as she ambled up to the throne and had a seat. "Now I could've been before you took my life, but I'm afraid your murdering me simply ruined my concern for your life. And you know very well that you'd feel the same way if we traded places, dear, so there's not much point in your scalded look." And with that, she vanished.
"Very well!" shouted Spitemorta in the echoes from the polished reaches of her hall. "Every last Elf first. And when I'm done, I will find the very spell that rids me of you." She stopped short and held her breath, listening for laughter in the echoes.
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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