The Curse of the Orthana by Nick Tamboia

Spread the love

“Like me, it moves forwards and backwards or sideways,” the old hag remarked. “Here a flute, in another place a book. Same as me. Here I am an old hag, in another world, a person of power, and in still another, a boy who can fly but likes to ride. We move here and there, never the same.”

Jadis frowned at that as she looked again to the drawing of the hourglass on the wall beside the old woman. “And that you drew on the wall?”

“Time,” the old woman remarked.

“I know what it means,” Jadis remarked. “I am wondering why you drew it.” Actually she was wondering how a blind old woman could draw a perfect picture of an hourglass.

“It is what I am. All I am,” the old woman remarked. “The great unstoppable force of change, and the fire in which you all burn. Time is and will ever be, the only constant.”

“As you can see, she is quite insane, My Queen,” the large rat guard remarked.

“The prefect advisor,” Noctis grumbled.

Jadis frowned at that as she looked back at the dire wolf. “In a way that is true. The information she has given me, for the most part, has been real and honest, although not totally complete.” She then looked back down at the old woman and began pacing back and forth.

“What you have told me, thus far has not been a lie,” Jadis then said to the old woman. “The island is there, as you said it was, and was found just the way you said it would, but you failed to inform me of the true nature of the island and the dangers there, nor did you tell me that the Dragon of Darkness, is in fact the guardian of the gate to the Underworld.”

The old woman smiled at that. “And what else would it be?”

Jadis fell still, grinding her teeth together in an effort to control her anger. When she was sure she would keep control of herself she next asked, “tell me, completely, how can I acquire the scales from the dragon? Do not leave out any information this time, old hag. Tell me fully and completely how I can bring back several scales from the Dragon of Darkness here so I may use them.”

The old woman was a long time answering. “She is Leviathan,” the hag finally responded. “The Dragon of Darkness who guards the gate to the Underworld. No living being can approach her, not from this world. Not even you, great and powerful Jinn that you are. Seek you one who lives in the Underworld to do your bidding.”

Jadis thought that over for a moment. “And who or what might that be?”

The old hag puckered her lips up and her brow wrinkled in thought. “Narovis,” she finally answered. “The Shadow Lord. A commander of the Shadow Legions. He may easily approach the Dragon of Darkness. Use your dark magic to call upon him to get you your dragon skin, but be warned, White Queen, he will ask for payment in return.”

“Payment,” Jadis echoed as she thought. “What payment?”

“What do you imagine the Shadow Lord would want in return for his services?” the old woman wondered aloud.

Power, was the answer, Jadis knew. She would not share her power, but . . . she could let him believe she would. Looking back down at the old hag she next asked, “is there anything else you have left out? Anything else I need to be aware of in regards to this, Narovis, or in retrieving the dragon scales?”

The old woman sighed. “In regards to those things, no. I have told you all you need to know.”

It would be some time before Jadis realized her mistake in not questioning the old woman further on that. Instead she just stood there, as still as a stone statue as she thought for a long moment. “Fine,” she then said with a nod of her head. “So it will be done,” she said as she looked over to the guards and the dire wolf. “I will let you live a while longer,” she then remarked as she looked down at the old hag.

The small old woman smiled up at her, before remarking, “we will not talk again.”

Jadis frowned at that but didn’t think much about it, nor worry. The old woman was imprisoned in her dungeon; there was no way to escape and no place for her to hide. Quickly she spun around and marched out of the cell, remarking as she left, “I have work to do.”

Behind her, the old woman began to hum as she curled up; wrapping her shawl around her shoulders as she did so.

Watching the witch leave, Noctis glanced from her to the old hag before remarking to the guards, “watch her. There is something about her . . . something . . . other. Do not let her out of her cell. Do not falter on your watch of her. Understood?”

Both guards bowed to him, saying that they would do as commanded.