Today’s Feature...Stone Heart
A little bit about the story
A great evil awakens to shatter Niarg's peaceful world.
In her remote island keep off the shores of Head, the fearsome sorceress Demonica at last learns from her unfaithful husband Yann-Ber the whereabouts of the long lost Staff of Power. He crawls before her to tell her that it has turned up in the hands of her granddaughter Spitemorta, the new queen of Goll, hoping to buy his release from her horrid curse of boils. She is ecstatic about the Staff, but will never forgive his faithlessness. He will be released, all right. He will get to die in one year, after the most excruciating boils yet to come.
Demonica leaves for Goll at once. She arranges an accident for the nanny of Spitemorta's son, becomes the new nanny herself and offers to teach Spitemorta how to develop her considerable powers. Spitemorta accepts at once, thereby uniting the two most dangerous sorceresses of the age, determined to conquer the world. Their first step is to find the First Wizard's Stone Heart which would make the Staff the most powerful tool of all time.
A little bit from the story
Excerpt from Stone Heart
"They're in the trees, aren't they?" said Queen Spitemorta, straining to see aloft as she drew her raven-black unicorn to a stop. "Easy, Nightshade." She patted his withers and stroked his silver mane.
"Yes, that's supposed to be their habit, all right," said the older woman, on a brindled grey unicorn in the deer path behind her. She lowered the hood of her cloak and looked about overhead before giving a shrug. "So?"
"So I don't like them watching us. I still say we should've used a traveling spell to come here. We'd be spending our morning back in Goll instead of here in the Chokewoods being spied on by cannibals."
"You're as skittish as Nightshade, there," said the elder with a calmness that Spitemorta found nettling. "I don't understand why you people up here waste your patience on cyflymder unicorns. Roudennegs like Gwenole, here, are as steady as the rock my keep is built on. I'm right glad you managed to find her for me. Now listen: I wouldn't worry so much if I were you. You look altogether like your mother did when she first arrived here, so I can't imagine the dorchadas being anything short of terrified by you. Besides, malicious parties can make good allies. You never know when they might be useful."
"I am indeed out here in this place on the strength of what you've said, Demonica. But there are times when I can see that I'm being advised by my son's nanny. You seem to forget that I'm queen and that I have this..." she said, suddenly drawing forth the staff from across the tops of her panniers and shooting out a lavender flame from the end of it, sending a dorchadas plummeting to the ground in a ball of flame. The dorchadas kicked a time or two before the flame went out.
Spitemorta rode forward and prodded his crumbling cinder with the staff. "This is my forest! I am queen!" she called out, addressing the huts and the dangling skulls in the treetops. "Many of you must fancy yourselves brave. So if anyone amongst you wishes to contest this, come forth!"
The forest canopy was quite silent as scores of obsidian eyes stared out from the late summer leaves with indigo-black cat faces bearing lemon-yellow manes. "Good!" cried Spitemorta. "Then you'll come to my service at my bidding, knowing that you will die if you refuse!" Joy surged through her. She could see their helplessness. She rode forward, head held high.
They rode in silence along the deer path under the twisted boughs of the choke oaks until they seemed well beyond the outlying grounds of the dorchadas. "Well done, dear. Everyone was quite impressed," said Demonica at last, "but it was unwise for you to leave your back open to attack."
"Oh come now, Grandmother," she said, wheeling 'round to ride alongside her. "Just as you said, those heathens were terrified. They thought Ugleeuh had risen right up out of the Pit and returned to reclaim her perverted realm."
"No doubt. But the dog most likely to bite you from behind is the one who's too afraid to come at you head-on."
"You forget that I've been queen of two realms for better than five years. I've had no problems. What have you done to learn to command others besides be a governess?"
"Not much. I've only been the most powerful sorceress in the world for something just short of three centuries..."
"Well, as I said before,'' said Spitemorta, interrupting to hide her faltering aplomb, "a traveling spell would have saved us from all this...this inconvenience."
"You chose to ride the high-strung cyflymder, dear. As for traveling spells, those are another problem altogether. It seems that when my daughter gave you the staff, she must have led you to believe that they are appropriate for any sort of traveling."
"She didn't give me the staff..."
"How'd you come by it?"
"...I took it."
"Well. That's my granddaughter," said Demonica, stopping Gwenole in the path and leaning aside to look squarely into Spitemorta's face. "By that, I gather that she showed you nothing at all about traveling spells, aye?"
"Yes she did. How else would I know how to cast them? Ugleeuh showed me weeks before I ever got my hands on the staff."
Demonica's eyes shot open at this. "So, she was obviously with you when you first used a spell..."
"And that, of course, was the only time you traveled before you got your hands on the staff..."
"Oh, no. I used a spell to go from Castle Goll to find her at her candied cottage, here in the Chokewoods. She wasn't there, so I used another spell to travel from the cottage to where she was on the beach with Gastro."
Demonica dropped a rein. An apoplectic look came and went on her face. The unicorns sauntered on, side by side, erratically trading turns walking in the narrow path.
"Well?" said Spitemorta. "Weren't you asking me something?"
"I was about to say," said Demonica, snapping to as if jostled out of a dream, "that even the most powerful and experienced use that mode of transportation only with the
"Pooh, Demonica. I've been using dear Mother's traveling spells for the past five years and have never had a problem. Perhaps you're not quite the sorceress you claim to be if you've had problems."
Suddenly, Spitemorta found herself trapped in the hollow trunk of an enormous choke oak. She could not move her arms or her legs. She could move her head around easily and she could see out through a hole in the trunk well enough to peer down the
outside of the tree to see one of her legs sticking out through another hole below.
Demonica and the two unicorns were nowhere to be seen. She drew a breath to cry out to her grandmother only to give a wail of terror at the sight of the ground below as it becamea swarming vermilion carpet of hundreds upon hundreds of smallies, surging forth to close around her tree. Now she could see their indigo eyes full of hunger. Hair rose on her neck and forearms. "They really do look like wee devils," she gasped. "But how can they have mouths so very full of teeth? No wonder they eat their pray alive in moments." Her heart hammered in her ears and pounded in her chest as the nearest smallie ran up to her deerskin riding boot. "Where are you, Demonica?" she screamed. "Demonica! I'm sorry!"
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