The Curse of the Orthana by Nick Tamboia

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The figure at the center of the group of wolves was a small old hag. An old woman who was no bigger than a child, dressed in tattered rags. She had long, coils of dark gray hair, streaked through with lighter gray, framing an aged face, the skin of which had an unusual light gray color. Her eyes were closed, and the hag had long, pointy ears like most Narnian’s. The hag’s most interesting feature where two small lumps to each side of her forehead, as if she had something growing beneath the ashen gray skin, something like horns.

With a disgusted look on her face, Jadis stood upright, before asking, “What are you?” She wasn’t sure what type of Narnian the small old hag was.

The small old woman looked up at her, and opened up her eyes, revealing them to be sold black in color. “I move forward and I move backwards,” the old hag finally answered in her aged voice.

“She keeps repeating that,” the dire wolf commented.

Ignoring him, Jadis said to the hag, “you are blind.” Obviously those solid black eyes were sightless.

“Indeed I am, Queen of the North,” the old hag replied, and then giggled for a moment, sounding much like a girl.

Jadis frowned at that as she turned and went back to sit on her throne. “A blind spy. Now that is something.”

“I am blind, but my Third Eye sees much,” said the old hag. “I move forwards and I move backwards. Many things I have seen happen, and many more that will happen.”

“You have the gift of vision?” Jadis asked as she studied the small figure ringed by her wolves. “The gift of Second Sight?”

The old blind hag nodded her head. “I know you seek to be Queen of all Narnia, and the destruction of the Tree of Protection.”

Jadis laughed loudly at that. “That is no vision. All here in the North know that.”

“Seen you as Queen of all Narnia and the Endless Winter,” the hag went on speaking. “And the stone table.” She ended that by starting to hum, humming a tone for a moment before singing in a soft tone, “Do-Re-Mi.” Then she giggled in that odd and eerie childish voice.

Jadis frowned at that. “I believe you are quite mad. Explain what you mean.”

“I move forwards. I move backwards,” answered the hag.

Jadis stood up once again, this time lifting her wand up. “I have no time for foolishness, old lady. Nor riddles.”

“No games or riddles,” the old hag told Jadis. “Ask a question and I will answer what I see.”

Jadis studied the old woman for a long moment, lowering her wand as she thought. “How can I destroy the Tree of Protection so I may become Queen of all Narnia?”

“Only two things will destroy the Tree of Protection,” the blind old hag replied. “Time or the Orthana.”

Jadis frowned at that. “The Orthana? Who or what is that?”

“Orthana the Black Ax, made from the scales of the Dragon of Darkness,” the old hag answered.

The witch thought that over for a long moment. “There is no such weapon. If there was I would know about it.” That was true. If such a weapon did exist, Jadis would not only already have it, but would have long ago used it to destroy the tree.

“No,” replied the hag. “It has yet to be made. By you. You must go to the Lonely Island in the Gray Ice Sea in the north, and there get several black scales from the Dragon of Darkness. Those you will use to make the weapon you need to destroy the Silver Tree. The Black Ax.”

Jadis was silent for a long moment, sitting down on her throne as she thought, and thought. Finally she spoke aloud. “Take this old hag and put her in the dungeon for safe keeping,” she ordered her guards, and then to the old hag she warned, “if you have lied to me, I will see that you pay for that deceit in a way you will not enjoy.”

“I move forward and I move backwards,” was the only thing the old woman said, and then allowed herself to be led out of the throne room by the Minotaur guards. As she went with them she looked up at the one to her left and remarked, “you should be careful where you stand when next you are on guard duty.”