“The time has come!” Morgana’s green eyes flashed. “Time for me to return to the surface and resume my rightful place as queen.”
Her maidservant dithered. “Um, Your Highness,” her fingers wrestled with each other as her tongue wrestled with words. “How can you be sure?”
“You question me!” Morgana’s nostrils flared. “How dare you! Do you think I am unable to count? Fifteen hundred years I have spent in this hellhole, this underground chamber, banished here by that fool Merlin. But even his magic has its limits. I have been patient, served my time, I have watched and I have waited. And now, the curse is lifted. Come, bring me my cloak of midnight.”
“Um,” the maid hesitated. “Right away, Your Highness.”
She scurried to the antechamber. She had been using the cloak of midnight as bedding. She shook it out, dislodging centuries of biscuit crumbs.
She carried it reverentially to Morgana and draped it over her narrow shoulders.
“Excellent! And now, my diadem of doom!”
“Um, at once, Your Highness.”
The maid darted away, to the rudimentary kitchen. She had been using the diadem of doom as a biscuit cutter for all these years. She blew away flour and wiped the crown on her apron. She carried it to Morgana, walking slowly, the way she had seen the Archbishop do, at Arthur’s coronation, oh so long ago.
Morgana lowered her head to receive the diadem of doom.
“Perfect!” she straightened. “And finally, my staff of discord.”
“Um…” the maid cast around. She couldn’t remember for the life of her what she had done with the staff of discord.
“Why are you dawdling?” Morgana roared with impatience. “Bring me the staff of discord.”
“Um, I am doing,” stammered the maid. She bit her lip, her mind racing. She dashed to the tiny bathroom. There was the staff of discord, being used to prop up a washing line. Greying, threadbare underwear dripped into the tub. The maid unhooked the staff of discord, letting her knickers drop to the floor.
She carried it back to Morgana, who snatched it from her grasp.
“How do I look?” the evil witch rotated slowly.
“Terrifying, Your Highness,” the maid had to admit.
“Excellent. Now, up we go.”
She bashed the staff of discord on the floor and shot up and through the stony ceiling. Up and up she went, through hundreds of feet of solid rock. At long last, she reached the surface and felt fresh air on her pale skin for the first time in a millennium and a half.
Down below, the maid did a bit of tidying up. She made a fresh batch of biscuits. She wrung out the washing. It would probably need doing again if she couldn’t get it thoroughly dry.
“Those biscuits smell nice.” Morgana’s voice startled her. The evil witch had returned. She sat and took off the diadem of doom and shrugged off her cloak of midnight.
“You’re back early,” the maid observed.
“Well,” said Morgana. “I went up there to wreak havoc, generate a bit of despair, generally fuck things up. But I found they’ve already done it.”
“What do you mean, Your Highness?” the maid inched closer. “Surely there is something you can do to cause a bit of misery.”
Morgana shook her head. “Like what? The whole world is in meltdown. It’s got ten years at most. And no one seems to care! They’re all fighting among themselves—honestly, the levels of hatred up there, you would not believe. The pettiness! The pollution! The corruption! And Merlin thought I was the danger! Summon him. Get that old wizard on the crystal. Tell him I want another five hundred—no, make it a full thousand—years down here. Give those morons another chance to build an earthly paradise. And then, oh, then! Then I’ll go up and ruin it for them.”
She threw back her head and attempted a cackle, but her heart wasn’t in it.
“I’ll put the kettle on,” the maid offered. “The biscuits will be ready soon.”