The Curse of the Orthana by Nick Tamboia

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Just as Jadis was about to walk down the hill to this tree, Noctis the dire wolf gave her a warning. “There is danger here, Queen Jadis.”

Jadis paused and glared at him, but said nothing.

“If you have ever seen a tree felled by a woodsman,” the dire wolf went on explaining, “you know the tree may fall in half as the shard works, and the top half could fall down and crush whoever is below it.”

Jadis stood there a moment, running her tongue on the inside of her left cheek as she thought. “Yes I am aware of that,” she then said, although to most observers it would be obvious this thought had not in fact, occurred to her. “You there!” she then shouted at a small, floppy eared hobgoblin. “Come!”

The small hobgoblin glanced around nervous and then pointed at his chest, asking “me?”

“Yes you, come!”

The small hobgoblin bowed and then trotted over to Jadis, his floppy ears bouncing up and down on the sides of his head as he went. Kneeling before Jadis he then said, “I am-”

“I don’t care who you are,” Jadis said in a harsh tone, interrupting the small hobgoblin. “Take this down to the tree and use it.”

The nameless hobgoblin stood up, looking at the odd shard of what looked like hardened thick black leather held between the metal ends of the blacksmiths tongs. Taking it carefully, he glanced from the dire wolf to the witch, swallowing hard before he asked, “how?”

“What are you an idiot?” Noctis growled. “Stick the pointy end in the trunk.”

“Oh,” was all that the floppy eared hobgoblin said and then, holding up the tongs, he slowly walked down the frosty hillside to the tree. As he went he constantly glanced back at Jadis and the dire wolf, most likely wondering what was going to happen to him.

When he reached the tree, the hobgoblin paused for a moment, and looked doubtfully up the hill at the others watching him. Turing back to the tree he hitched his shoulders up and down in a helpless gesture and then in one quick motion, using the tongs he jabbed the pointy end of the shard into the tree trunk as hard as he could.

There was a dull, thunk-like sound, followed by a sound like water rapidly freezing to ice, which was followed by a groaning and cracking sound that grew louder and louder. At the same time the area around the shard stuck in the tree’s bark turned black, as if black mold was growing out from it. This only lasted for a moment, and then the entire tree trunk right before the hobgoblin’s face exploded into a hissing black cloud of soot and ash.

The tree trunk continued to disintegrate into smoke and ash, moving rapidly upwards and downwards from the shard. At the same time the top half of the tree, as Noctis had predicted, began to fall over with a loud cracking and groaning of wood. Even as it began to fall over, it was turning into a billowing cloud of gray-black smoke and soot, raining ash down on the ground below.

This happened so fast that the hobgoblin hardly had any time to turn and run, when the billowing cloud of ash and smoke that fell from the dissolving tree, swallowed him up.

In moments the entire tree vanished into a swirling mass of black smoke and ash which filled the air and fell to the ground, rolling like the black smoke from a burning coal fire.

Jadis and many of her followers took a few steps back as they watched the rolling dark cloud slowly settle down.

When it finally ended and the air began to clear, all that was left was a very large mound of sandy looking gray-black ash that covered over the thickest area just where the tree had once stood.

There was no sign of the hobgoblin.

“Well,” Jadis said, allowing herself a satisfied smile. “That’s perfect.” Looking around at those of her followers who had witnessed this she shouted, “I will destroy the Tree of Protection the way you just saw me destroy this tree, and become Queen of all Narnia. And we all will have our revenge on Aslan!”

All those present cheered her, and as they did so, Jadis looked to Noctis, saying, “retrieve the shard. See to it yourself. I don’t trust half these people here.” She glanced around for a moment before nodding her head towards large Ettin giants, one who had two heads; the other had only one head but four arms. “I don’t even know those two over there. Make sure no one takes the shard. When it’s found, bring it directly to me.”

“Yes, My Queen,” Noctis rumbled.

Under Noctis’s watchful eye, workers shifted through the ash that had once been the tree, but a shard of the dragon scale was never found. The body of the hobgoblin was, only it had been petrified by the ash, looking much like the stone statues Jadis turned people into, only when they tried to move it, the hobgoblins body disintegrated into sandy soot. Also they found the blacksmith tongs used to hold the shard, undamaged, but no shard.

The dragon scale was gone.

Of course this outraged Jadis, but not to the point that she punished any of her subjects. She took it upon herself, seeing it as her own fault. She also guessed that using the shard, which had not been very big, on the huge tree had probably caused it to spend all its energy, after which it most likely shattered or disintegrated as the tree had. After all, not all weapons could be used over and over, she knew. Arrows and other projectiles often could only be used once, and daggers often broke, and even swords and ax blades, if not cared for properly dulled or broke. This was also probably true of the dragon scale.

And besides, from what Iron Boot had told her, he had found the chip of the dragon scale in a tunnel. There was no telling how long it had been lying in there or how old it was. A fresh one, a full sized one would probably be more powerful and last longer, but how to get it?

The old blind hag was the answer that came to her, and Jadis went to see her once again.

As Jadis and the dire wolf, along with two guards approached the old hag’s prison cell they became aware of music playing. Jadis paused and cocked her head to one side, listening. It was flute music, playing a repetitive tune, the same six notes over and over, only they were strange and eerie to hear.
Do re mi, it sounded like the music was playing, then a pause and, fa so la. Jadis frowned at that as she looked down at Noctis, wondering. A moment later from the old hag’s cell, which was around the corner just out of sight, they heard what sounded like a child’s voice sing ever so softly, “Ah-gah A. Ah-gah.”

“Huh,” was all Jadis said to that and rushed around the corner, demanding of the guards who stood outside the old woman’s cell, “where was that music coming from?”

The huge bull-head guard simply nodded his head toward the iron bars on the prison cell, while the tall, dark furred rat beside him remarked. “We searched her, my lady. Several times and found nothing. Yet she constantly plays flute music and sings that annoying song. We do not know how she does it.”

Jadis glanced in through the bars at the old woman sitting in the corner, curled up in a ball with her dark brown shawl wrapped around her shoulders like a blanket. “Let me in,” she told the huge guard.

“Ah, the future queen of the winter wonderland,” the old woman remarked as Jadis entered her cell. “Although it will be winter, but not wonderful, not even to you. I would have set out refreshments for us, perhaps baked a pie, but as you can see,” the old, mysterious woman remarked as she held her hands up and offered Jadis a smile, one that outraged the witch, but others might have found cute to see.

Instead of yelling or raging at the old woman, Jadis simply huffed loudly as her eyes noticed a drawing the old woman had scratched into the wall just above her head, one that looked very much like an hourglass. Looking back down at the old hag, she next asked, “Where is the flute you were playing?”


“Gone?” Jadis was doubtful of that.