From The Witch’s Hand, Chapter 12, “A Leap in the Dark”

        Deep in the night, long after Matins, Malaxia entered her sanctum with a candle and went all the way to the rear, the candle dancing splinters of light over and amidst the amethyst. Setting it down, she regarded the skull in its niche.

        “Are you there, you charlatan?”

        There was no answer. Malaxia waited briefly, and was about to close the sliding door over it, when a noise like sparks snapping in a fire came from the dark hollows of the eyes. Slowly the skull grew possessed with life, though it made no discernible motion.

        “‘Charlatan?’ To what do I owe this unmannerly summons?” The faux insulted voice from within held the sound of dry leaves in the wind.

        “It is one that you have earned.”

        “Ah, but would you keep me around if I told the truth all the time? How dull.” Smugly the head continued, “Want to know about your new apprentice, hmm?”

        “I do not. I already know she has the gift, more than anyone else. She will be my masterpiece.”

        “So?”

        “So what I wish from you, you regrettable excuse of a miserable son of an abscessed mother, is what she may accomplish. That I cannot see.” Malaxia was tight-lipped.

        “Cost you a lot to say that, didn’t it? Ho-ho, ho-ho, what would you have done without me?”

        “I don’t want to hear.”

        “Wish you had my cognitive powers, hm? The Sight. The one indispensable tool in a witch’s bag of tricks, and yours is sadly lacking.”

        “I taught you what cognition meant. I taught you how to use the Sight—”

        “Think so?” the skull cackled. “Do you know who else is on this side with me?

        “I happen to know you have very few companions, where you are—”

        “Because I said so? You should know better than that.”

        “—Few companions that have impressed you at all with the importance of proper communication,” Malaxia snapped.

        “Oh, too bad,” the head mocked.

        “I could put you back where I found you—”

        “But you won’t.”

        “—Draw your brains through your ears—” Malaxia’s fury was unfurling like an oriflamme.

        “How? I haven’t any. Ears or brains. Anymore.”

        “I’ll plaster your mouth shut.”

        “But I don’t need it to speak. Isn’t that enervating?” The skull’s death grin was positively smirking, and Malaxia whirled away. “Want to know what I see?” it called.

        Malaxia turned back. “I can see further than you in this case.”

        “Think so?”

        “This time I see further.” Malaxia was now deathly calm.

        “But not everything.”

        “I’ll boil you in hog fat and get another skull.

        “Ho-ho.”

        “Enough! You are here at my discretion.”

        The head sing-songed, “I can see what you can’t, I can see what

you can’t—”

        Malaxia slammed the sliding door shut.

        From within, the skull continued, “Somebody’s coming, somebody’s coming—”

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