“I see them coming…” rasped the Dead Man.
The Witch-Queen brushed a strand of his decaying hair behind his ear and smiled at him. He was seated in his favourite chair, his empty sockets looking up into the Witch-Queen’s face. The Dead Man wore nothing, his skin dry, shrivelled and drooping off of his skeleton. Curled marks were carved into his forehead and over his stomach. They glowed at the Witch-Queen’s touched. His cracked lips barely moved as he spoke, and he didn’t dare move any other part of his body, for fear he might come apart.
The Messenger stood off to a side with her head bowed and listened silently.
The Witch-Queen had power, yes. She had more power than any elf, being a human herself. But even she required a medium to wield such awesome power. Blood is one such a medium. Urine is another, weaker type.
But there is a third, cruder medium, and – of the three – it was the most powerful.
It was unheard-of: to have resurrected the dead or have it possessed by its departed spirit. But here, the Dead Man, Ethelred of Skye – the land’s former Lord and master – sat: speaking and living for a second time. And here, he gave the Witch-Queen more power than even the most powerful elf in the Grey Havens could have.
“How many of them are there, my love?” asked the Witch-Queen sweetly.
The Dead Man made a choked sound like a sigh, “Five centuries and four score. More than enough to overwhelm you, my mistress.”
The Witch-Queen frowned, “There weren’t that many in my prisons…”
“Humans,” croaked the Dead Man with evident distaste, “Humans have come to fight you.”
“Mariqah…” the Witch-Queen muttered with her lip curled, “I knew I should have killed her when I had the chance.”
“She comes for you, by sea. A great ship she is steering, mistress,” said the Dead Man.
“This is not useful news to me, Ethelred!” the Witch-Queen snapped, “I need… I need a weapon.”
“Someone of your might and power needs no weapon, mistress.”
“Well… Not I, perhaps. But…” she regarded the Messenger.
The Witch-Queen opened the drawer in her desk and found a small, curved dagger within. A smile crinkled her face as she raised it to the light. She lit her fire-place and threw the dagger into the flames.
“My weapon will need a weapon,” she grinned at the Messenger, then looked back at the Dead Man, “but I am in need of your service once more, Ethelred, former master of Skye – to make it so. Blood is powerful, but seed is more so,” she raised her long gown so that her thighs and loins showed.
A growl emerged from the Dead Man’s throat.
“Now, now, Ethelred,” laughed the Witch-Queen as she sat on his lap, “You are my servant. And you will serve me.”
“If I may request something, then, mistress,” he rasped, as she held his shoulders. The Witch-Queen’s lips parted in a soft gasp.
“Return my strength, so that I might fight for you as well.”
“Please me, Ethelred,” she replied softly, “and I might consider it.”