The White Witch Rides a Diatryma

Mary and the Diatrymas

DiatrymaDiatryma gigantia R., ten foot tall, flightless birds, members of the Thunderbird (Adar Taranus) Dynasty which originally escaped extinction by the Mwyaf Fawr Llosg or Greatest Burning, when the rest of the Dynasty was exterminated, only to mysteriously become extinct a few million years later. They were accidentally revived from fine Eocene shales by the wizard Razzorbauch when he penetrated the Earth’s crust while forming the magma chamber for the Fudge Volcano. They are omnivorous, opportunistic feeders that are capable of downing and dismembering small ungulates. They are covered with deep iridescent green plumage. Their tail feathers and primary flight feathers have brilliant red and yellow patches on each feather’s trailing blade that remain completely hidden unless the bird is displaying. Their bony tails are not entirely fused into a pygostyle as in modern birds, but rather consist of a pygostylic terminus at the end of ten un-fused vertebrae, giving the birds a fan of feathers that can be waved about on the end of a flexible tail. There is nearly no sexual dimorphism, though males tend to be a few percent heavier and have deeper voices than the females. They are exceptionally intelligent, having a brain cavity of about 650cc, or roughly half the volume of modern humans. However, being far less fatty than a mammalian brain, this is a very respectable computer. Possibly due to natural selection pressures favoring the keeping track of stashes of food morsels, diatrymas seem to have little or no barrier between the conscious and subconscious minds and have instantaneous recall of all the details that they once observed during any previous experience.

 

Mary the White Witch’s mounts and closest friends are Ceidwad the female diatryma, who is the wife of Lladdwr and the mother of Arwr, their cockerel. Razzmorten describes these three as the most intelligent beings he has ever been in the presence of, and they become key characters in the tale of The Heart of the Staff. Ceidwad and Lladder were brought back to life by accident by the evil Wizard Razzorbauch and were raised by the Fairy sisters in Mount Bed before their association with Mary. Perhaps their most stunning talent is being able to listen to a language for a short while and then suddenly start speaking it fluently.

 

What sorts of birds tower in your imagination? Do they play a role in your dreams?

 

Tom Phipps

Fairy Tongue

Fairy Ring

Our green haired Fairies including Meri Greenwood speak what the people of Niarg know as Archaic Modern Niarg, the ancestor of what they were speaking at the time of our epic tale. It sounds like some sort of Germanic or Nordic language, yet it is quite easy to understand and it makes the Fairies come to life.

 

What Archaic Modern Niarg happens to be is Middle English with most of the obsolete words eliminated so that the uninitiated modern reader can read it without difficulty. It is no harder to read than a note full of misspellings passed by grammar school kids, yet it would be understood at once by people in the London area, six hundred years ago, since we have based its spelling, grammar and word order on the writings of John Wycliffe and Geoffrey Chaucer. 

 

Thirty years ago, I learnt to read Middle English using the rules of pronunciation based on a vowel shift which was thought to have occurred by the widely respected E. T. Donaldson and others, which made the language patently incomprehensible to the ear, and made Chaucer’s poetry not rhyme very well. As a Botany major, I had no stake in revering his work and I didn’t think he supported his claim very well. So, I started reading it with Appalachian vowels and found that it not only rhymed much better, it was now easy to understand when one listened to it.

 

When I read some Middle English to my Navajo students, they thought it was eerie because it sounded like a foreign language except that they could understand it perfectly well.

 

Please have a look at some of the chapters in The Burgeoning and let us know what you think.

 Tom Phipps

Forever Four

I woke up four years old on a gorgeous June day alive with bird songs, and hollyhocks brushing the bottom of my window. I scampered out to the end of the sidewalk in the garden to meet Mom and Dad coming up the lane from the milking parlour on one of their Ford Fergusons to fix breakfast. “Good morning four year old!” called Mom from atop a fender. It was a most special day.

As we were eating breakfast, I remember them saying that I’d likely not remember a bit of the day when I got older, in spite of how very important it was to be four years old. What was I to do?

After breakfast I went outside and played amongst the snapdragons for a while. Suddenly I knew. I would perform a ritual that I would remember forever, or at least for as long as I would be able to. I ran to the rusty round bin we used for chicken feed and climbed half way up the ladder which was leaning against it. I paused, listening to the purple martins and the meadowlarks. Then I waved my leg in the air off the side of the ladder four deliberate times, one for each of my years. 

I do remember a much earlier sunny day. Perhaps I was two. I had my black and white teddy bear, wandering amongst honey bees tending the red clover, along the ditch of the South Road, a half mile away from the house.

 Mom heard a loon cry at the pond and thought it was me, so when the old black ’40 Ford which pinched the holy shit out of my finger suddenly stopped across the ditch, she boiled out in her apron with a face like a hornet and swept me off my feet with a hug.

So what happened when your memory came alive? Please let us know.

 

Tom Phipps

Our Theropod Dragons

Our dragon, Harpi tyrannus. R., is a relative of  Archaeopteryx and Deinonychus, which survived the Mwyaf Fawr Llosg or Greatest Burning and is traditionally classified as an Adar Drwg (“bad bird” in Old Niarg Standard) by such Niarg naturalists as Razzmorten Dewin. It is an eight to twenty foot long (six to thirteen foot tall) feathered flying Jurassic bird with teeth, fingered claws on the wrists of its wings and a long un-fused (non-pygostylic) bony tail. Long ago it developed the ability to produce, store and ignite large volumes of methane gas which enabled it to toast and make palatable the naturally occurring sukere cana in its original habitat on the Dark Continent.                      

Dragons’ brains are about a third of the volume of human brains, however dragon brains are mostly cerebellum, where ours are mostly cerebrum. Since the tissue of the cerebrum is far more fatty and has fewer neurons in it per given volume, dragons have about as many synaptic junctions as we have, giving them an equivalent intelligence to ours. Indeed, they have true speech and they write and produce graphic art and sculpture. In spite of this, their behavior can seem strange and bird-like to us at times, since it consists of far more fixed-action patterns than does our behavior.  

Dragons arose in the southern mountains of the Dark Continent in the Age of Birds before the worldwide conflagration known as the Mwyaf Fawr Llosg. Beginning in early recorded times, they lived within a territory at the southern end of those mountains known as the Mammvro (Homeland in Headlandish). One of the emperors of the House of Dark sold the Mammvro to the sorceress Demonica as partial payment for arms. When the evil Wizard Razzorbauch turned the Forest Primeval into a vast sukre canna plantation, he needed a labor force capable of burning off the canna for harvesting the lucrative and seriously addictive sukere. Dragons were ideal for this, so Demonica invested in his enterprise by turning over the entire Mammvro dragon population to him, helping him render them featherless to keep them docile and by providing the ships to haul them to his plantation on the Northern Continent. In time, the dragons were freed and became fast allies of the kingdom of Niarg.                   

Did you ever imagine that dragons were a kind of primeval bird, an airborne dinosaur? What sort of dragons intrigue you? What sort of dragons do you fear?

Tom Phipps 

Minuet Sends Herio with Bernard

edmund-blair
Part Nine

The castle barn owl flew in like a ghost from under the ridge pole to pause on a truss, staring at the echoing voices below before giving a couple of circular bobs with his head and lunging into a glide to his nest with his mouse.

“I don’t understand, Your Majesty,” said Herio, looking anxiously from Razzmorten and Captain Bernard to Minuet. “I’m sworn to protect you. Why must I evacuate? Haven’t I proven myself?”

“Oh, Herio,” said Minuet, her voice full of admiration as she sat beside him and took up his hand, “a most worthy knight of this house you be, but truth to tell, you’re far more than that. Since you are now my adopted son and a potential heir to the throne, you cannot be risked. Besides, I need you to go with Captain Bernard and help protect our people.”

“But, King Hebraun charged me to protect you, my Queen…uh, Minuet,” he said, casting a hopeful look at Hubba Hubba, who was carefully following everything from Razzmorten’s shoulder, “and since you’re now my mother, hit’s even a family matter.”

Hubba Hubba let go of a black feather with a silky snap as he eyed the owl gliding from timber to timber on his way back out. “Queen’s got the right of it,” he rattled. “We’ve lost track of Lukus. We reckon he’s alive, but we don’t know that for sure, and Rose already says she won’t sit on the throne. You’re ‘way more important than just a knight, now that you’re part of the House of Niarg, Prince Herio. Got ‘o do what she wants this time. Besides, I’d feel better having you with me.”

Herio nodded resolutely at Minuet and squared his shoulders.

“You’ll do right well, Prince of Niarg,” she said with a look of fierce pride. “Go now and keep our people safe.” She gave him a quick hug and then took Razzmorten’s arm as they rose and filed outdoors, with Hubba Hubba, Pebbles and both their broods, each one of them now in crow form, fluttering along overhead.

Gwynt was waiting beside Captain Bernard as the mounted throng surrounding them fell to a hush. Herio found his stirrup, threw his leg over the cantle and as soon as the crows had all found their places, nodded at Bernard. At a grand and silent wave from Bernard, the The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_Kindlemultitude began ambling toward the gate. Herio did not look back, but he could feel Minuet’s eyes on him for a very long time.

Ch. 38, The Burgeoning

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Minuet Sends a Surprise to Spitemorta

red-hair-babe-in-armor
Part Eight

Captain Bernard peered about at the landscape of Cwm Eryr, wincing here and there at recollections as his massive march streiciwr brenhinol stepped carefully amongst the tumbled armor and bones, staying abreast of Queen Minuet on hers. “I can’t believe her grit,” he thought, pretending not to glance aside at her. “She’s almost serene, all decked out in her gleaming armor astride Vindicator’s snow-white twin sister.”

“Captain,” said Minuet. “look yonder, by the dead tree. Could that possibly be…?”

“Ol’ Brutus?” he said with a grunt, as he dismounted to go see. “Oh, you got that one right first try, Your Majesty. Has to be, head and all. Right where King Hebraun left him, though someone’s been along in the last day or two and smashed him up pretty good. And that someone probably knew him, don’t you reckon? Well, I mean Brutus was one of those as never could get beat up enough to match what he had a-coming to him…”

Minuet dismounted and removed her helm, letting fly her fiery red hair in the breeze. “Did you think to pick out a bivouac on the way down here, Captain?” she said as she thoughtfully rocked back and forth Brutus’s smashed hauberk, gorget and breastplate with her toe. “I realize it’s early.”

“I’m afraid not, Your Majesty, for as you said…”

“Well what I need for you to do is to position them out of sight over that rise, yonder and come right back here without them. It doesn’t matter how you do it.”

Bernard left her where she was and set about at once getting the troop beyond the rise. Presently he returned to find her carefully examining the smashed skull and helm.

“Well,” she said, standing up and brushing her hands as he dismounted, “guess what? There are some person’s tracks all over, which I think you already noticed, but did you see the bird tracks? Big ones and little ones. Come look. Couldn’t they be crow and sparrow? And here’s a nice big black feather.”

“Oh, that’s them. I’m surprised that this amount of smashing up Brutus’s remains is all…” Suddenly he had lost track and was gaping at what Minuet was doing.

She knelt and slapped the helm, leaving her coronary seal glowing and smoking in the metal. She set it beside the rest of the armor and smacked breastplate as well, leaving her seal to glow and turn blue as it cooled.

“My!” said Bernard, shifting to his other foot. “That’s…”

“Ffwrdd a ni!” she roared, springing to her feet with a fling of her arms, sending the armor leaping into the sky to shoot away south beyond the horizon.

Bernard looked wide eyed and pale.

“I didn’t mean to alarm you, Captain. I just thought Brutus should return to his queen. Do you think she will be pleased?”

“You sent those bones and armor clean back to Castle Goll?”

“They’re already there.”

“Oh!” he said with a spreading grin. “I think that was a right noble gesture, Your Majesty.”

“Yes. And it’s between us. That’s why you moved the troop.”

“I always knew you were Razzmorten’s daughter, but I swear I never knew…”

“I vowed not to use my powers as queen, Captain, but their time has come, and I don’t The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_Kindlewant it known, yet. Did you give the order to bivouac?”

“No.”

“Then let’s go. This is no place for us to be. We might actually have enough light to stop at Ash Fork and pay our respects to Hebraun.”

Ch. 22, The Burgeoning

 

Carol and Tom Phipps

Zip the Cat

We used to live at the end of a long wooded lane between farms in Western Kentucky. Last fall, I returned home utterly exhausted from a day of teaching to find an unfamiliar cat waiting for me to get out of the car. When I came back out to go for a nice jog down the lane, I was surprised to find the cat trotting dutifully alongside me. “Well now, I’ve never seen the like,” I said to Carol as I peered out the screen door at the cat waiting patiently on the porch. I grew up with feral cats that showed up endlessly to live between the bales of hay in our barns and to drink the milk strippings which we poured into a pan for them on the milking parlour floor. They cleaned up the milk, kept down the mice and killed an endless succession of meadowlarks, brown thrashers, orchard orioles and cardinals. Nobody ever kept a cat in the house in my neck of the woods.

Carol was keenly interested in this cat on the porch. She had once raised hoity-toity pedigreed cats, Persian show cats actually, which she gave up in order to live with our parrot, our raven and me. She was impressed with the cat’s looks: a brindled grey with attractive splashes of white and hints of orange calico fur which was luxuriantly thick and silky, rivaling her best dressed Persians. When we went for our walk, the cat tagged right along. The next time we went to town, we bought a sack of feed. And by then, we were calling her Zip. Soon we determined that she was a Siberian Forest Cat.

Zip was a husky, able cat. She spent a lot of time in the trees ’round about, catching and eating squirrels. She also ate rabbits. And she was always on the roof of the house. I even found myself disappointed on the rare occasions that she was not around for our run. One day, I had to dash out of the kitchen to catch her when she was about to fall out of a rotted hole under the eaves. “Why, she’s pregnant,” said Carol. We fixed her a box with rags in a room all to herself in the back of the house away from the birds. This last spring, when I quit teaching for good to join Carol writing full time, we moved back to the family farm in Illinois and brought Zip and her kittens with us. When her kittens were getting big and still pestering her to nurse, she began deliberately losing them when we would go on walks. Shortly thereafter she vanished for good. I’m convinced that nothing got her. We found no carcass. Nor did we find her smashed on the road. So my question is, did Zip wean her kittens by taking off and having a new litter somewhere else, or did someone who knew the going rate for such animals see her and pick her up? Please let us know what you think. Tom Phipps

Minuet Sees King Hebraun off to Battle

tumblr_mq3l5e8CsV1sunb7yo1_500
Part Seven

“Begging your pardon, sire,” said Dunvel as he shifted from foot to foot, “but shouldn’t we be on our way?”

“Polite all at once are we?” said Hebraun without bothering to look at him. Presently Minuet swept back into the room with Herio, who was now completely composed and wearing some of Lukus’s old clothes. She took her seat immediately as she guided Herio to stand right beside her. She took up Hebraun’s hand and squeezed it. They held each other’s eyes for several heartbeats of understanding and then turned as one to look at Dunvel.

Hebraun rose from his throne without a word and drew Minuet up to stand beside him. He nodded ever so slightly at his guards before fixing his eyes on Dunvel.

“See him to the courtyard and wait for me there,” he said as they stepped up to surround Dunvel.

Dunvel shamelessly flung a conceited look at Herio as he turned to go.

Hebraun spared a kindly glance at Herio and then took both of Minuet’s hands and looked into her eyes. “I love you more than words can tell,” he said.

“And I love you,” she said as they squeezed hands.

Hebraun stepped smartly from the dais with her, as Herio scrambled to follow, out into the courtyard where the guards waited with Dunvel.

He paused by Vindicator, his huge white march streiciwr brenhinol stallion unicorn and kissed Minuet farewell. He quickly found his stirrup, threw his leg over his mount and looked down at Herio. “I need you to stay here to protect the queen.”

Herio drew himself up and nodded fiercely as Minuet drew him to her side.

“Besides,” said Hebraun as he gave a beady-eyed nod at Dunvel, “You might want to testify when that thing has its trial.”

Herio’s eyes flashed as he nodded and stood proudly beside his queen.

Hebraun shared one last gaze with Minuet then urged his great white unicorn to the gate and vanished. Herio turned aside to see Minuet’s eyes brimming with tears as she stood Stone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindletall and proud, making her way back to her duties. He trailed along beside her after pausing to see Dunvel being led away to some place fitting. Herio’s face firmed in resolve. That goblin would share his brother’s fate if he had any say in the matter.

Ch. 47, Stone Heart

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Minuet has a Strange Light in Her Eye

Stone Heart Render


Part Six

 

Rose stood stiffly on the stool as a pair of seamstresses pinned the hem of Minuet’s wedding gown. Minuet stood watching, radiant with happiness at her decision to wed as well as at her decision to wear her gown. “I’m more certain than ever that Mother and Father never expected me to marry,” she thought with a smile. “Mother,” she said, “I
suppose you understand that Fuzz and I want to wait for Lukus and Soraya to arrive
before we have the wedding?”

 

 “That’s what your father and I assumed,” said Minuet as she stooped to examine just how her hem was pinned in a certain place, “but Lukus and his family should be arriving in a few short weeks, which really only gives us scarcely enough time for all the arrangements.”

 

“We have plenty of time if we keep it small enough, Mother,” said Rose with a smile.

 

Minuet opened her mouth to protest, but closed it with a grin. “It is your wedding, Rose. And I suppose you’re right, all things considered.”

 

 “Yes,” said Rose, as she thought: “After calling off the extravagant affair with James, who knows how it would go? Besides, these are bad times upon us.” She stepped off the stool and out of the gown as the seamstresses carried it away for alterations. “Mother,” she said, picking up her robe from across a chair. “I’ve come to a decision. I want you to do something for me, if you will.”

 

 “My word. Is something wrong?”

 

 “Very wrong, actually. But to put you at ease, this has nothing to do with the wedding.”

 

“By all means dear, if I possibly can. What is it?”

 

 “Could you teach me to use my powers?”

 

 “Why, I thought you’d decided that you wanted nothing to do with becoming a sorceress, Rose,” she said with an astonished look.

 

 “No, by no means. I never did. But I suppose I was doing little more than following in your footsteps, all these years. I think that under the current circumstances it would be irresponsible to have such an ability and not use it for the good of all.”

 

Minuet’s eyes flashed.

 

“Oh, my! I didn’t mean it to sound that way. I was only referring to me. Our circumstances are altogether different. I’m not queen of anywhere. Fuzz is a military man and will undoubtedly be in the thick of what’s coming, and I’ve every intention of being
right beside him, so will you teach me?”

 

 “Have you discussed this with Fuzz, dear? It would not be right to keep something like this to yourself.”

 

 “Not yet,” said Rose with a sigh, “but rest assured, he’ll abide by whatever I…”

 

“Of course Rose, I’d not expect otherwise. But it would put me at ease, knowing that you’d discussed it with him.”

 

 “You’re so provincial, Mother.”

 

 “‘Considerate’ is what we once called it, I believe.”

 

 “I’ll go speak with him this minute, but I suggest you go dig out your wand.”

 

 “All right,” said Minuet, as a strange light kindled in her eye. “You’ve a bargain.”

 

 

Ch. 35, Stone Heart

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

 

 

Neanderthal Under the Bridge

BDG_Neanderthal_02

In spite of what some people insisted twenty years ago, Neanderthals are not members of our species. They are Homo neanderthalensis and we are Homo sapiens. We are closely related but different species, not different races of the same species. Thousands of years in chilly overcast Europe selected for lots of Neanderthal characteristics similar to those of modern White humans, but now that we are able to compare actual Neanderthal DNA to neandERTHALchildTours, we find that these similarities are derived altogether differently. Neanderthals used entirely different DNA for their red hair than we use for ours.

Neanderthals’ DNA differs from ours by 27.2 gene substitutions. Chimpanzees’ DNA differs from ours by 55.0 gene substitutions. This means that Neanderthals were half as distantly related to us as chimpanzees. In spite of how much graphic representations such as Popeye look like humans to us, we would not have been inclined to breed with the Neanderthals we chanced upon, because they were simply too different.

If one is lucky enough to compare actual Neanderthal skulls to those of humans, he sees that Neanderthals had brow ridges and rounded chins, all right, but he also sees that imagesNeanderthals had huge eye sockets and a ballooned-out cranium in back, called an occipital bun. Casual observers seem to miss this, but to me this strongly suggests that Neanderthals were nocturnal. Nocturnal animals have larger eyes and enlarged visual areas of the brain which the bun would have housed.

Neanderthal fossils have an exceptional amount of healed fractures. When I was a crazy kid, we had a sport. We’d go out into the pasture where the cattle were bedded down in the moonlight to pick out a cow, jump astride her and see how long we could hang on when she got to her feet. Is this how Neanderthals hunted wooly mammoths?

Neanderthals showed up in Europe about 200,000 years ago and persisted until 28,000-24,000 years ago. We showed up about 35,000 years ago and warily shared the same habitat with them, for anywhere from 7,000 to 11,000 years. That’s a long time to avoid neanderthal-615running into them in the shadows. We’ve only farmed and had towns for what, 8,000 years?

24,000 years is an awfully long time ago, but do you reckon that the troll under the bridge is some sort of ancient cultural memory? Is that why trolls are supposed to turn to stone in daylight? What do you think?

Tom Phipps