Phaedra was far from the abode of gods. She was no longer seated on her sister Lara's immortal throne, but was sprawled instead upon a divan of brimstone and cinder in her sweltering abyss, leagues beneath the sacred peaks of the Highshires.
There was no adoring throng of exalted gods and luminaries courtside. Rather, she was courted and fawned over by a retinue of unsavory castoffs: Olaf, a bumbling, nearsighted buzzard; an irritating stone cat with worms for hair, called Medusa; and Grimwood, a rotting tree hulk that smelled worse than death. The only one of this revolting menagerie Phaedra knew by name was a little stinker called, Beezle. She remembered him, only because this devil was the most bumbling, irritating and repulsive one of the bunch.
With skin like slate, Phaedra lay there smoldering on her brimstone like one swollen ember. Long flowing tresses swirled around her like plumes of red smoke. “Beezle! Don't just stand there like a scullion watching me boil—I'm in need of cheer. Is there a fool among you? … A jester, that is. Or an acrobat perhaps?”
“Yes, Mum. Of course, Mum.” The little demon's head bobbed up and down, and he immediately poked Olaf in the tail with his pitchfork. The nearsighted buzzard vaulted right out of the shadows, flitting and dancing, and promptly tripping all over himself. He tumbled across the chamber in an extraordinary sequence of rolls, tucks and cartwheels. Whereupon, he somersaulted onto his feet before bounding into the thick air with a flourish … plowing smack into a rock piling. The acrobatics ended with the lanky bird keeling over in a dizzy stupor.
While this buffoon's string of pratfalls and miscues had the others hooting and snorting, Phaedra wasn't laughing. “I don't know if that loathsome moron was performing, or trying to kill himself. Watching that was more painful than any torture I've ever inflicted on my underlings.
“You!” she screamed and pointed at Grimwood. “Can you do anything besides rot?"
This seemed to offend the massive decaying thing. Its tangle of limbs writhed to life, uncoiling like a dragon stirring from its long season's slumber.