Thanksgiving Surprise, Part 2

Thanksgiving Surprise 3

Thanksgiving Surprise, Part 2
By
Carol Marrs Phipps

Illustrated By:
Lana Dobbins Cramer

“Let’s stop here for just a bit, Gobbler,” Krista said as she planted herself down on a large, flat-topped tree stump and motioned that he should draw near for his usual session of scratching, petting and being told him how extremely magnificent he was.

He went to her at once and leant blissfully into her hand. As she began her deft ministrations, he gobbled a sigh of utter contentment.

“I have a surprise for you Gobbler. Today is a very special day, my sweet,” Krista crooned as she wove her nimble fingers through Gobbler’s satiny feathers. “It is a holiday we humans call Thanksgiving. It is a time when we gather together with our loved ones and give thanks for our bounty. This year, dear one, you will be the guest of honor and from then on you will forever be a part of me. How does that sound?”

ACEO - Turkey Dinner, Thanksgiving

In answer Gobbler simply pushed his head further into her soothing fingers and closed his eyes dreamily. He didn’t see farmer Stanz coming up from behind his wife to hand her the freshly sharpened hatchet and then step back by the rail fence to observe Gobbler’s execution at the hands of the woman he adored.

Suddenly, Krista’s fingers tightened painfully in Gobbler’s neck feathers and his eyes flew open in shock. He stared up into Krista’s beautiful green eyes imploring her to tell him what he had done for her to suddenly treat him in this manner. The odd gleam in her eyes and the humorless grin she gave him in return frightened him nearly senseless. He began to struggle frantically to get away from her.

“Oh no, my pet, it is much too late for that,” Krista said as she grabbed him by the throat and stood, putting her hatchet down on the stump she had just vacated. With her other hand now free, she grabbed his beak and held it shut so he couldn’t bite her. “I’ve been feeding you up for months in anticipation of the fine meal you would make for my family on Thanksgiving and I’m not about to let you get away…” With those fateful words she twisted Gobbler’s neck and he went limp at once. She smiled broadly in satisfaction and laid him carefully out with his head and neck draped over the stump. She studied him for just a moment to make certain he was dead or at the very least, safely unconscious. She picked up her hatchet and raised it to chop off his magnificent head. Just at that moment Gobbler opened his eyes which were now glowing an eerily blood-red color. He stared straight at Krista with such hatred she gasped and backed away trembling.

Farmer Stanz at once sprang towards his wife. “What are you doing, Krista? Chop the damn bird’s head off!” he commanded as she took another step back and stumbled over the bucket her husband had put there to throw Gobbler’s severed head into. Her arms instantly began to pinwheel backwards and she lost her grip on the hatchet. It spun end over end through the air then lodged deeply into the middle of the farmer’s forehead, splittting it open. Krista landed smack on her backside just in time to sprayed with blood and brains and gore from her husband’s split skull as he, too, crumpled to the ground. She let out an unearthly shriek then stumbled to her feet and tried to jerk the hatchet from her dead husband’s head. It took her three mighty attempts before she freed the instrument from where it had lodged, deep within Ben’s skull. Wildly she spun back to where Gobbler had been draped across the tree stump, but he was no longer there. He was on his feet staring at her with those unearthly glowing eyes.

“But you can’t still be alive!” she rasped. “I wrung your neck…what are you?”

Gobbler continued to stare at her as he silently advanced toward her.

Krista’s eyes bulged in terror, she raised her trembling hand with the hatchet held in her white-knuckled grip. “Stop now or I swear I’ll kill you!” she warned. But when Gobbler continued to advance she spun around and fled. Running in blind fear she tripped over her husband’s body and fell forward. Instinctively she flung her hands out before her to break her fall. Her only sound a sharp, “umph!” as she hit the ground and lay still, her life’s blood flowed from her chest and seeped away into the dirt. Krista’s chest had been ripped open when she landed on the upturned hatchet blade. It had cleaved her breastbone and sliced clean through her heart.

Thanksgiving Surprise 4

Gobbler surveyed the morbid scene for several long minutes as his glowing eyes slowly returned to their usual beady dark brown. “What do you think of your Thanksgiving surprise, now?” he asked, then slowly strutted back to his barnyard home.

Thanksgiving Surprise, Part 1

Thanksgiving Surprise 1

Thanksgiving Surprise, Part 1
By
Carol Marrs Phipps

Illustrated By:
Lana Dobbins Cramer 

“Just look at him, Sid,” Sybil Fantail gasped in dismay as she paused on the porch to the beautiful home she shared with her mate and their only son, Gobbler…and the rest of the turkey flock, of course. “He’s watching for her again…I just know it.”

Sid nodded as he turned back to look at his beloved. “I expect you’re right. He’s got the ridiculous faraway look in his eyes he always gets when he is expecting her to show up.”

Sybil hurried down the few steps to stand by her mate. “He’ll come to a bad end if he keeps this up. He needs to start showing some interest in one of his own kind, rather than moping after that…strange hussy. I hear tell that Rodney and Alvira Strut’s young hen, Fancy, is looking for a mate.”

Sid pecked at a few grains of corn by his feet and chewed thoughtfully. “I heard that too dear, but I expect that Gobbler already knows, just as he knew about Sassey, Mandy and Peeps. No, all he can think about is that alien human thing.” He shook his head and continued. “The boy just ain’t right, darlin’…I’m sorry, but he just ain’t, and never has been. You remember, I told you back before he hatched, right after that big blow when we found his egg rolled out of the nest all the way across the floor in that dark dusty corner of the house. I told you then that we should leave him right there and try for another clutch, but you wouldn’t have it.”

Sybil eyed her spouse in irritation. “And you remember what I told you then, too,” she retorted. “I wasn’t about to abandon my very first fertile egg and I’ve no regrets that I didn’t, Sid. He’s been a good boy…until now. Well, he’s not actually bad now, either, just…a bit confused.”

“Have it your way, darlin’,” Sid soothed, “I don’t want you to get your feathers all in a knot. Maybe you’re right and he’s just going through a phase. Though, I kinda think it’s because she doesn’t miss a day coming to see him and giving him all the extra feed he wants, scratching his head and making over him like he’s somethin’ really special.”

“You may have the right of it Sid,” Sybil agreed after a moment, “but what I don’t understand is why. Why has she singled out our boy when there are dozens of others she could have chosen?”

Sid glanced at his mate, uncertain whether he should share the dire warning he had recently been given by Widow Pluckly.

Sybil, however, noticed the odd look in her mates eye and leaned close to him with an inquiring look. “I know that look, Sid,” she said with certainty, “so whatever it is you aren’t telling me you had better just do so right now!”

Thanksgiving Surprise 2

“You might wish I hadn’t, love,” he replied softly.
“Now!” she insisted.

“All right, I expect you should know this, anyway,” he conceded with a sad shake of his head. “I was out grazing on the south side of the house yesterday when Widow Pluckly strutted right up to me and told me she’d been noticing our boy had taken up with that human siren. Well…what could I say? I mean, I expect just about everyone has noticed by now, darlin’…so I just nodded. Then she went on to say that her Tom had been enchanted by that very woman before he disappeared, never to be seen or heard from again…and that he vanished just about this time of year, too, so we should be keeping an extra keen eye on Gobbler.”

Sybil reared her head back and glared at her mate.. “What? How does Gladys even know that she is a widow then, if no one has ever seen or heard from her Tom again? Perhaps he just…left her for another. There are wild turkeys about in these parts, you know…and I’ve heard lots of tales about some of those hens, let me tell you!”

Sid sighed. “I know, darlin’, we’ve all heard those stories, but this is something quite different.”

“Oh?” Sybil asked. “What do you mean?”

“Darlin’ have you ever heard that at this time of year humans have a big feast they call Thanksgiving?”

“Why no, but it sounds lovely. But what do humans give thanks for?”

“I’m not exactly sure, beloved, but the point is that their feast supposedly is made up of certain traditional foods with the main course usually being a plump, juicy stuffed and roasted…turkey.”

Sybil’s beady eyes bulged in alarm. “That’s why that tramp has been feeding our Gobbler with all that extra corn and grain! We have to save him, Sid…”

Sid nodded in agreement, but when he and Sybil looked over where Gobbler had been standing for the past hour awaiting the farmer’s wife, Krista, they discovered to their utter horror he was nowhere in sight.

Hubba Hubba Versus the Stinky Beefy Boy

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Part One

The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_KindleHubba Hubba, Chirp, Tweet and Squeak were returning from a reconnaissance mission for Herio in The Burgeoning when…

“There are a slew of farmsteads, though,” squeaked Chirp as he bounced along in a madAerial Ballet flutter to keep up. “One of them might put us up…”

“That’s ground work,” chirped Tweet. “We can’t ask around from the air.”

“Let’s just go back now,” said Hubba Hubba. “If that’s all that’s left, we’re wasting time. I hate to think of another night of Herio’s scorched beans, or nothing at all like last night.”

“Couldn’t be that bad,” tweeted Squeak. “Those folks down there look pretty hard up. A little money would surely get us what we want…”

“Yea?” said Hubba Hubba. “And it could be right risky if they thought Herio was well-to-do. A young fellow by himself?” He clacked shut his beak with a shake of his head. “Someone might try to rob him…or worse!”

“Worse, master?” squeaked Chirp.

“Hey, I remember arrows and meat cleavers and ugly manners of all sorts out of people on the ground who weren’t even penniless and desperate. And don’t you dare call me master! Aren’t we chums these days?”

“Oh I forgot, you being a crow and all…”

“Crow! Well, I can’t hide from that, but reminders of the Ugleeuh days give me a headache…” And with that, he collapsed into a headlong fall.

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“Hubba Hubba!” squeaked Chirp, diving madly after him. “What’s wrong? Tweet! Squeak! Help!”

***

crows_japanHubba Hubba opened his eyes to find the ground shooting up to meet him. He began flapping furiously. “Help! Help! Help!” he cawed. “It’s too late! Pebbles, I’m sorry!”

Without warning, something strange was under each of his wings. Suddenly he was seeing stars, bouncing and rolling to a rumpled stop in tall new grass.

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“Oh, I hate being dead,” he rattled. “Throb. Throb. Throb. That’s my stinking head, but why are my wingpits doing it, too? Say! Why am I thinking?”

“It’s not thinking, Hubba Hubba,” squeaked Chirp, “It’s just you. Now could you please lift your wing? Squeak and Tweet are under here!”

“So you ones are dead too, aye?” he said, letting out a yelp from moving his head to peer under his wing.

“Good grief no!” chirped Tweet, with a ruffle of his feathers. “We’re not dead and neither are you!” He gave Hubba Hubba two or three one eyed inspections. “You sure have a knot on your knitty box. What the ding-dong blazes did you fly into up there?”

“I have no idea at all, but for some crazy reason it made me think of Ugleeuh…” And at that very instant he was yanked out of the grass by his neck.

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“Hey!” crowed a stinky beefy boy with a hateful grip, as he sprang into a dancing pell-mell run through the grass. “I got him! I got him! I got him! I got him!”

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***

Chirp, Tweet and Squeak shot into the air from where Hubba Hubba had fallen and watched in shock from the top of a big walnut tree as the stinky beefy boy made off with him through the grass. “They’ll get away if we don’t get moving!” squeaked Chirp as they all dove into the air.

“He’d never let someone make off with us!” tweeted Squeak.

“Let’s keep up!” chirped Tweet.

“Hey!” squeaked Chirp. “Somebody tell me how we’re going to save him from a grabby boy a thousand times bigger than we are. He’ll pull our heads off!”

“Go for help!” chirped Tweet.

“And somebody still has to follow,” tweeted Squeak.

“Someone needs to find Herio and bring him here, while the other two of us follow Hubba Hubba,” squeaked Chirp. “When we see where the boy takes him, one of us comes back here and the other stays and watches…

“Yea,” chirped Tweet. “And hope to the Pit he doesn’t get et while we’re at it!”

“Don’t even think that!” tweeted Squeak.sparrow12

“Just for that, you go find Herio,” squeaked Chirp.

Tweet gave a wide-eyed nod and shot away with a bouncing blur of wings.

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Demonica and Ugleeuh Enjoy Supper by the Sea

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Demonica’s keep had two great towers at opposite ends of the front wall of the castle proper. One of them housed Razzorbauch’s great library. The other one served as her private lookout over the vast Orin Ocean to the far off horizons in three directions. In good weather she was fond of having supper on its uppermost storey under a tile roof heldimg_08701
aloft by open Gothic arches on all sides. On this particular evening, she and Ugleeuh sat
across from each other in their crimson dresses, listening to the booming of the surf as the breeze ran ripples along the skirt of their linen tablecloth. She forked two more steaming slices of duck roast onto her plate of sour cabbage from the duck’s cavity and looked up at Ugleeuh. “Is something the matter, dear?” she said as she licked her fingertips.

“How do you eat like that after…?” said Ugleeuh, waving aside her own comment with a shake of her head. “Oh, never mind.”

“You don’t find that a good torture session increases your appetite?”

“Well, Minuet and Bethan were the one who always dressed the chickens…”

“Well. You do look right peaked, now that you call my attention to it, dear. Do Minuet and Bethan lose their appetites for chicken on the days they cut up fryers?”

“Well no…”

“Of course not. They’ve learnt that what’s in the skillet is important enough that gory feathers are of no consequence at all. And the blood on a torture table doesn’t matter, either. What counts is that heady sense of power. Madog was on his way to see to your undoing. Now Leeuh, surely you’re not about to tell me that the mess in the dungeon overshadowed the orchestration of his deserving end, are you?”

stock-footage-downward-pan-of-arches-over-mediterranean“No Mother,” she said with an especially pale swallow. “I rather enjoyed myself. It’s quite something how long he lasted…”

“And that’s the entertaining part,” she said with a happy wave of her knife. “What good would it be if he died first thing?”

“I did enjoy myself, Mother,” she said as she picked up her bread to butter. “Could you pass the duck? I’d like some cabbage and some more bird.”

“Splendid,” she said, picking up the platter. “I believe your appetite is better already.”Stone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle

“Oh it is. And I did have fun. But what does torture have to do with sorcery?”

“Oh, not so much with sorcery as it has to do with power. One must enjoy power in order to wield it.”

“So now that we’re relaxed and powerful, when will you teach me to be a sorceress?”

“Well sorcery does include power,” said Demonica as she spread some cabbage onto her bread. “But no more today, dear. Let’s just talk and get to know each other.”

“Fine. What do you want to know?”

“Well, what did Princess Branwen do to make you go to all that trouble to get rid of her?”

Ugleeuh laughed, rocking back and forth to swallow. “Not a thing,” she said. “She was just Ugleeuh_rub_880683_c_medieval_scarlett_red_hooded_dress_costume_adult_ain the way.”

“Of what?”

“She was betrothed to Prince Hebraun.”

“So?”

“So I’ve my own plans for Hebraun, if you must,” said Ugleeuh with a sullen toss of her raven mane.

“Why you look vexed. I’m only curious about you.”

“Yea? Well it would be easier to take, had you any curiosity about me while I was growing up,” she said, glaring as she wiped her mouth. “So here you be after skipping my life entirely up to now, pushing at me for a cozy little chat. My appetite’s gone. I’m going to bed.” And with that, she threw her napkin onto her plate and stood up.

“Touchy, are we?” said Demonica as Ugleeuh reached the stairs.

Ugleeuh slowed as her back stiffened, taking the first step down.

***

Good_Sister,_Bad_Sis_Cover_for_KindleIn Chapter 17 of Good Sister, Bad Sister, Demonica takes Ugleeuh to see Madog, the one who delivered the cat to Princess Branwen. It quickly becomes clear that not only did Ugleeuh murder Princess Branwen of Far, she also caused the outbreak of the plague.

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

 

 

 

 

 

What Was the Plague?

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yersinia-pestis-is-found-most-commonly-in-rats-rome-italy+1152_12960809970-tpfil02aw-5920The plague which occurred in Good yersinia-enterocolitica-CSister, Bad Sister and was referred to in each of the other books of the epic series The Heart of Good_Sister,_Bad_Sis_Cover_for_Kindlethe Staff was caused by Ugleeuh. Ugleeuh had designs on Prince Hebraun of Niarg, who was betrothed to Princess Branwen of Far. remote_image_1331653487She fancied herself such a raging beauty that Hebraun would surely fall for her in spite of her having no peerage, if only she could eliminate Branwen. And she went to a great deal of trouble to do so. She followed the instructions that she found in a grimoire which had long been hidden for everyone’s safety.

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She had to find a young girl infected with Yersinia enterocolitica, with a high fever and plague-doctorrats02_img01bloody diarrhea and pains in her right lower belly and in her joints. It took her some time because the girl also had to have a pet kitten with lice. She put a spell on herself for protection, took the kitten and put it into a basket 514_400x400_NoPeelwith a tight lid lined with linen and said a long incantation which caused a gene substitution that changed the Yersinia enterocolitica to Flea_infected_with_yersinia_pestisYersinia pestis, the dreaded plague. She then arranged for a courier to deliver the kitten to Branwen as a present from Hebraun. Branwen fell ill at once, releasing the pestilence into the countryside.

oil-of-oreganoUgleeuh’s Father Razzmorten (who knew none of this) learnt of a cure oreganocalled worrobobo from Ngerrk-ga, an Ngop shaman on the Dark Continent, and set about making it, stopping the plague.

 

Tom Phipps

The Real Hubba Hubba

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The nest in this tree is the very raven nest in this story.

 

Several years ago, when we were teaching on the Navajo Nation and living in a trailer on the Twin Lakes (Ext - Back BEST)campus of Twin Lakes ElementaryTwin Lakes (Int - Hallway2-5) School, a violent thunderstorm blew down a nest of baby ravens from the top of a hackberry tree. Carol grabbed up two of them, walking home from school. The neighbor’s dog killed the other two.

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Carol put them in an open box on the davenport and named the big one Hubba-Hubba, after our character in The Collector Witch, and named the little one Quoth. They were young enough that they were only about three fourths feathered out and Carol had to feed them baby parrot porridge with a teaspoon. And as it was when we raised our Amazon parrot, Carol’s background in psychology and mine in ethology made us careful not to read human motivation into their behavior. However we were interested in their inclination toward language, so we began at once treating them as though they harbored the same sort of undeveloped intelligence as a baby human.

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We made no attempt to teach them to talk. That is, we did not endlessly repeat phrases over and over to them nor drill them in any sort of way. What Carol has done every single evening since, before switching off the lights for the night, is spend some time scratching their heads and talking to them.

ravenL0405_468x312It was soon impossible to keep them in the box, so we transferred them to a large plastic P12307407pet carrier with a welded wire door. We kept them on the kitchen table. We handled them frequently and talked to them, but outside of squawks and groans, we heard nothing out of them for better than two months. Soon they began picking out large pieces of their cedar bedding, trimming them and using them as wedges and levers to force open the door of their carrier. Just as we were recovering from the shock of their doing this, one of them declared, “Fuck you!” as they scratched about in their new bed of cedar chips. The other one replied, “Ass hole! Ass hole!”

This certainly stunned us. We had not once heard a single word nor any single attempted word out of either of them prior to this. And neither one of us had ever used language like ravens1this around them. What they could have heard on an isolated occasion or two was one of us telling the other about our day at school, including (we assume) the foul speech of our students. In a few days we were astounded once more when we heard Hubba Hubba say, “Help me get this door open.”

This was not at all like parrots. Not only was there no endless practice leading up to the utterance of this sentence, it was as perfectly enunciated as if it were spoken by some human. We began keeping them in a chicken wire pen outside in the daytime. The next time I heard “Help me get this door open,” I rushed to the window to find Quoth watching  Hubba Hubba as he pecked in the dirt under the wire gate.

One day I was very upset, tramping about the trailer, raving. As I was calming down, Quothe said, “Tom! What’s wrong?”

196570606_fd127bc7eaOver the next very few months, they developed nearly all of the words and sentences given below. However, during the last couple of years we were out west, we seldom heard anything new out of them. During our first year in Kentucky, we discovered Hubba Hubba 15327478giving deliveries where he not only spoke in his own voice, but also talked in Quoth’s voice to make replies. Had Quoth quit talking? We were trying to find out when she vanished for good from their pen outside.

Since then, Hubba Hubba takes spells in the late afternoon saying over and over, “Hello. Hello. Hello. Hello…” or, “What’s your problem? What’s your problem? What’s your problem…?” which he articulates as well as ever. He has begun using our names, but they are very difficult to understand, with “Carol” coming out as “Coah” or “Hoh,” and “Tom” sounding like “Hom,” though “Quoth,” which he has said from the beginning, comes out quite well. He asks for food by saying, “Want some,” and when we ask him what he wants, he may occasionally reply, “Want some food,” or “Want some water.”

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Perhaps ravens are best at learning to articulate during some period of readiness, late in their development and any later verbal learning is not something that they’re genetically programmed to do as easily. Who’s to say? We only have the one bird, and there is very little written on the subject, since any hint that some non-human could possibly have any degree of natural use of true language is still largely regarded as heretical.

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Here are the words Hub uses. They are not listed in nice columns because of the contrary behavior of this website: a, all, am, are, ass, awk (spoken), boy, Carol (very poorly pronounced), door, food, fuck, get, go, going, good, hello, help, here, hmmm, hole, how, Hub, I, is, matter, me, open, out, problem, Quoth, right, some, that, the, this, to, Tom (very poorly pronounced), want, water, what, you, your.

Here are his phrases: All right.   Ass hole!   Awk! Awk! (spoken, as humans would 24OBOX1-articleLargepronounce it)   Carol! (very poorly pronounced)   Fuck you!   Hello.   Hello how are you? Hello Quoth.   Help me get this door open.   Here’s one.   Hey Quoth.   Hmmm?   How are you?   How’r’you how are you? (run together)   Hub.   I’m a good boy. Hmmm?   I’m going to go out the door.   That’s a good boy. Hmmm?   Tom. (very poorly pronounced)   Want some.   Want some?   Want some food!   Want some water.   What’s the matter?   What’s your problem?

Our character Hubba Hubba in Good Sister, Bad Sister, The Collector Witch, Stone Heart and The Burgeoning is no raven at all, but a double yellow head Amazon parrot with enchanted interludes as a crow, not a raven.

If you’ve ever had the good fortune to keep a raven or a crow, we’d love to hear about it.

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Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Yann-Ber Meets Rotten Mouth

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Yann-Ber awoke stiff and cold amongst a forest of rotted barrel staves beside the middenstead of a tavern. He was surprised that he had fallen asleep whiling away the afternoon. Moving around was arduous, so when he had felt that he was where it would be convenient to be after dark, he had sat down to spend his time until nightfall. It was now fully dark and the waning moon gave very little light, but that was to his liking. He struggled painfully to his feet and slowly found his way around to the front of the tavern where he hoped to find leads to the wizard.

He stood in the shadows near enough to the street that he could make out the name, DSC03671.JPG.opt388x631o0,0s388x631“Black Dragon” on the sign bearing a relief carving of a dragon that hung out over the street in front of the door.In a short time that seemed like a small eternity to him, one of the patrons staggered out into the street. There was no doubt that the man was quite drunk.

“Good sir!” called out Yann-Ber, as he limped out of the shadows. “I was wondering if you could tell me where I might be able find this fellow I’m a-looking for?”

The drunk stopped short and swayed as he squinted into the darkness. “Well, doggone it!” he called out, as he jerked at his own posture. “Who the ding-dong blazes is there? Show yourself and maybe I can.”

“Sir,” said Yann-Ber, coming closer. “There’s a fellow, maybe you could help me find…”

“Well, damn!” declared the drunk in a tone that sounded like recognition. “Damned if you don’t sound like someone who just got off the boat from Head. Now Head! You don’t say. So, you’re from Head?”

“Actually I am. You’re quite observant.” Yann-Ber had started to hide his face with his hood, but now he could see that the fellow was in such a condition that he wouldn’t be having problems with appearances. “My name is John. John James. I’m right sorry to trouble…”

“Hey. Now tell me. Are you from Head?”

“Yes, as I said…”

“Really? You’re from Head? Well damn.”

“Yes, I just…”

“You got a funny name for a Headlander. John?” The drunk was now steadying himself with a fist full of Yann-Ber’s sleeve. “Hunh! John James. Ought to be Padrig or Remont. Hey, how come you ain’t Jakez?”

“Very well, you’re right, I could be called Yann Jakez in Head, but right now I’m searching for a wizard by the name of Razzmorten…”

“Whoa! Now you don’t fool around…Jakez. Now you just go right to the top.”

“Well, I’d certainly like to. I understand Razzmorten lives in Niarg, but I have no idea where. Have you any idea, good sir?”

The drunk grabbed Yann-Berr’s other sleeve as well. “Hain’t nobody here ’bouts who don’t know whoRazzmorten be,” he cackled through rotten teeth with breath that would have scared the old sow.

“Then,” said Yann-Berr, when he dared breathe again, “you know where I might find him?”A_005_34_Tavern

“Ah! Well sir,” said the drunk, reaching under his filthy shirt to scratch his sallow melon of a belly, “been having a hard time thinking straight without a dram or a pint, you know. Scarcely knew which way home was when I came out here…”

“That’s not hard to imagine, Rotten Mouth,” thought Yann-Ber. “So then,” he said, speaking out grandly. “How would a pint inside suit your memory?” He glanced at the door of the Black Dragon and wondered if they could make it in to a dark corner without the clean and proper going crazy at the sight of them. Rotten Mouth was already happily staggering his way back into the tavern.

Rotten Mouth found a table in a far corner at once. Directly an obese tavern maid came by, squinting at them as though she’d prefer dealing with the pair of them at the end of a old_medieval_wino_metal_star_by_duster132-d4il9yemanure fork, but she took their order adroitly and returned right away with two pints of light dry mead. Rotten Mouth seized his and guzzled it half down before wiping his mouth on his sleeve and speaking: “Razzmorten is the king’s father-in-law. He lives in the tallest tower of Castle Niarg.”

Yann-Ber immediately slid his mead across the table to Rotten Mouth and stood up, carefully adjusting his hood before wending his way out. Outside the doorway, the wind had picked up, rocking the tavern’s sign. Dry leaves skittered along the street. He remembered seeing the castle due west in the daylight. He made straight for it in the darkness, determined not to let his tortured legs so much as pause until he got there.

Yann-Ber meets Rotten Mouth in Ch 8 of Stone Heart, third book of The Heart of the Staff.Stone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Who is Yann-Ber?

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Yann-Ber is born a prince, the eldest son of Azenor of the House of Dark, the emperor of Head (Pennvro) and the Dark Empire. He is a bright and prodigal child, doted upon by hisMeeting-Place-Nov03-D4267sAR father and destined to sit on the throne. He grows into a dashing and handsome young man who marries Princess Yuna of the House of Egg (Vi), who by astonishing luck happens to be his childhood sweetheart. Mere weeks into his marriage, the sorceress Demonica casts a spell on him, taking him away from her.

castles_fortress_rock_the_hill_castle_on_10_desktop_1920x1080_hd-wallpaper-489720Demonica is shrewd and ruthless, an heiress of a vast fortune in mines. For generations, she has manipulated the throne of the Dark Empire from the shadows by providing ships, arms or mercenary armies at opportune moments, keeping it perpetually indebted to her. She marries Yann-Ber hoping to eventually sit on the throne.

In spite of his dependency upon her, Azenor fears Demonica and disinherits Yann-Ber. Demonica regards Yann-Ber with cruel disdain from that moment on. She eventually catches him with another woman and casts a crippling spell of boils upon him, and sends him out on desperate forays to find the Great Staff of Power. He eventually locates it in Stone Heart, only to have her reward him by promising that he will die after another year of horrible torment from the spell.

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Yann-Ber sets out for Niarg at once to find the wizard Razzmorten. Perhaps he can undo her curse.

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Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Part Demonica and Queen Spitemorta have Lunch: Part 2

“That was fun, Grandmother,” said Spitemorta, pausing to count the severed fingers and toes which she was picking up from the floor of the rocking coach, all about the mutilated body lying between their feet. “It was particularly entertaining, freezing his throat and jaws. He never peeped, but do you suppose Merfyn noticed his kicking?” She flung a toe out the window and bounced with glee when she saw it land in a woman’s bread basket. “I can just see her now: ‘My word! I have a toe in my bread basket!'” She rocked back and forth with laughter, slapping her knee.

“I didn’t know you had a sense of humor, dear…”

“Here!” shouted Spitemorta as she leant out the window, launching her double handful of digits at a woman who caught them in her apron, only to collapse in a faint.

“I see we are at least managing to pass the time,” said Demonica.

“Well, I had to throw out the fingers,” she said, sitting back into the seat with a bounce. “And what shall we do with the body, Grandmother, leave it on King Theran’s doorstep on our way out of town?” 

“Hmm…crude and pointless, I think,” she said as she began studying the blood soaking her clothes. “No, let’s just pitch it out alongside the road once we’re out of town.Theran wouldn’t know who left it, unless you went to the trouble to make it plain to him somehow. But I can’t imagine wanting Theran so upset by our visit that he forms an alliance with Niarg for protection, can you?”

“He wouldn’t dare! Oh, all right. I see how he might.”

“Say. Be a good girl and clean up, would you?”

“What?”

“You’ve got the Staff. Everything’s positively soaked. We wouldn’t want Merfyn to open the door for us and run away.”

“Oh,” said Spitemorta as she took hold of the Staff. “Say no more Grandmother.” At once the blood was gone from their clothes and from the inside of the coach.

Demonica leant out the window. “Merfyn!” she hollered. “This is far enough. Get down from there and help us throw out this carcass!”

“Whoa!” called out Merfyn with a jingle of harness and a squeal of brakes. They listened to him scuffle down and hop onto the gravel with a crunch and click the latch. He threw wide the door and drew a breath, catching himself at the sight of the body and the two of them studying him from head to toe to see how he was managing. “Why he’s the one I helped in a few hours ago, isn’t he?” he said in in a polished and dutiful tone as his hands trembled. “Uh, was he any trouble?”

“Not in the least,” said Demonica. “In fact we found him surprisingly entertaining, considering his condition when we picked him up.”

“Well. I’ll declare. That’s a…” he stammered, utterly at a loss for bearings.

“Well Merfyn?” said Spitemorta.

“I see you did indeed say carcass,” he said, pausing to take a couple of furtive glances out and about. “So I reckon you also said…”

“Yes, Merfyn, throw him out. And ‘help’ actually means you do it.”

“Oh yes, Your Majesty. I certainly shall. It’s just that there are still houses, if ye know what I mean, and this being a foreign place and all…”

Demonica stepped out of the coach. “There’s not a soul in sight, Merfyn,” she said, as if she were coaxing a wary child to relieve himself in the bushes. “Now, get this kaoc’h ki du out of the coach, and drive straight back to Goll.”

He grabbed the body by an ankle and a wrist and drug it out into the ditch to return at once to hold the door for Demonica to climb aboard.

Demonica motioned for Spitemorta to step out with the Staff. “We’re staying, Merfyn. You drive straight back to Goll, this minute.”

Merfyn blinked in confusion. “Yes, but…”

“Go!” barked Spitemorta.

 ***

Excerpt from Ch 37, The Burgeoning    

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps   

Demonica and Queen Spitemorta have Lunch

Part 1

 

Demonica pushed away her plate and studied the sour look on Spitemorta’s face. “Did your meal not agree with you, dear?” she said sweetly.

“The meal was inferior, of course, but bearable, Grandmother. You seemed to enjoy yours, so why do you even bother me about my opinion?”

“Oh, I don’t know, dear. For some reason I keep thinking that time might pass more quickly if we didn’t just sit here and glare at one another. Perhaps I’m mistaken.”

“It’s still a long time ’til dark, Grandmother. I can’t imagine that you and I could possibly have that much to say to each other.”

“You’re undoubtedly right, but as you have already pointed out, this little place has nothing worth visiting, so we seem to be stuck with merely passing the time until it’s dark enough to leave on the Staff for Gwael. Unless, of course, you’re ready to endure a traveling spell, this one time.”

“Spare me…”

“Hey!” said a reeling man as he bumped the table, slopping mead out of Spitemorta and Demonica’s goblets. “Wings of the Heavens One and Wings of the Heavens Two. Now, we don’t get lovelies like you ones, come down to this house, just any old day.”

“See?” said Demonica, leaning aside with dancing eyes. “It shows. I told you I was natural for the part when you demanded that I be Fnadi-yaphn.”

Spitemorta flung her a very dark glower before sharing it with their company. “Back off, you stinking sot!”

“Now that’s ire-knee,” he said, bumping the table again, “Wings of the Heavens One, is it? “Or are you Wings of the Heavens Two? Why is it, Wings of the Heavens whatever the number you are, why is it that all the pretty skirts from the heavens are such mistresses…?” he paused for a lewd hoot and snort. “How come all you pretty skirts are such stinking mistresses of ire-knee? Did I say ‘stinking?’ Or did you say ‘stinking’…?”

“Beat it!” growled Spitemorta.

“Now Wings of the Heavens whatever you are,” he said as he thrust his bristly face into hers, “that’s a right smart amount of ire-knee for someone wants to be your mistress…”

“Yea! Chat her up, Crafiad!” cried someone amongst the grinning group who were filing over from the bar.

Spitemorta furiously shoved back from Crafiad’s face and grabbed the Staff.

Demonica grabbed her wrist. “Let’s leave now, dear,” she said as calmly as if they were going strolling. “Your uncle, King Theran, will be worried if we’re not back soon, and no doubt I shall be chastised for having brought you into this common house.”

Spitemorta hesitated, suddenly seeing how it all was and played along. She nodded and stood. “Yes, you’re quite correct, Demonica,” she said haughtily. “Uncle will be most put out with both of us.” She took Demonica’s arm and started for the door. 

“Pretty skirts of ire-knee!” cried Crafiad, stumbling after them to grab Spitemorta by the arm. “If you Wings of Mistrosity are royal skirts, where’s your guard…?”

“Here,” said Spitemorta, as she jabbed the Staff into his face, blowing his head apart like a bomb, breaking glasses across the room. The entire tavern froze in shocked silence as she and Demonica resumed their unhurried departure.

“Well that taught him, I should say,” said Demonica as they settled once more into the coach. “You do realize that rumors are already spreading here in this sleepy place?”

“So? A little fear will do them good, and give King Theran something to wake up about, crazy old fool.”

“I don’t think he is the doddering old idiot you take him for, Spitemorta.”

“Really? You think it was an act, then? But you seemed completely taken in by his control of his person nonsense he was spreading all over, thick as butter.”

“Sure. I wanted to see how far he’d go with it. But, I get the idea that he has all his faculties, mind and body. No, he’s playing at something else, though it could merely be that he fears our power.”

“Or he is more like his daughter than I thought. Well, if that’s so, Grandmother, I shall simply deal with him as I did with her, when the time comes.”

“I’m sure you will, dear. Now, what shall we do until dark?”

Suddenly a patron came stumbling and flailing his arms out of the Buck and Doe to sprawl into the street in front their coach.

“He was egging on Crafiad, back inside,” said Spitemorta as she looked down with a frown to whisk away a fleck of scalp and hair sticking to her bodice. “Let’s sharpen our skills of persuasion, shall we Grandmother?”

Demonica’s eyes lit with an immediate fire. “Merfyn!” she hollered. “Stop and help aboard that poor fellow in the road, please!”     

“Up with me?”

“No, no. Inside with us.”

 ***

 

Excerpt from Ch 36, The Burgeoning

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps