News of Daniel and Ariel’s Birth Arrives by Elven Message Globe

 

Minuet looked up with a start from her knitting as Hebraun burst into their parlor with a small globe and a huge grin. He held out the tiny orb.

“Here! Talk to it,” he said, parking it in her outstretched palm. “Ask it to play your Scan10075message.”

Minuet hesitated, having not actually seen such a thing before. “Please deliver your message,” she said.

The ball lit from within and directly Lukus appeared with a huge grin. “Congratulations,” he declared. “You are the grandparents of a fine healthy grandson. Soraya and I have named him Daniel. You are also the very fortunate grandparents of the most beautiful baby girl that has ever been born. We have named her Ariel.” He stepped aside for them to see Soraya sitting up in bed, radiantly holding forth first one baby then the other so they could have a good look. Lukus stepped back into view. “Grandfather and Rose will be home before long. They’ve much news to bring you. Soraya and I will not be returning to Niarg for a bit yet. We’ll let you know when we do. In the meantime, I’ll say that you have yet another happy surprise coming, though I’m not at liberty to tell you what it is. We love 84526848you and miss you. And you must set down this globe so that it can fly back to King Neron. Goodbye.” The image in the globe vanished. Its glow faded out and Minuet set it down, still astonished by it, as it rose and flew like a shot out the window.

“Twins Hebraun! A boy and a girl!”

Hebraun smiled and put his arm around her. “Guess you’ll be needing both the pink and the blue layettes after all, dearest.”

“Of course,” she said as she spun ’round to look up into his face. “What do you reckon Lukus meant by, ‘at least one more happy surprise?'”

“Can’t imagine,” said Hebraun. “But at least it’s going to be pleasant, and we can use all the joy we can rake in. I think it may be a good long time before we have much more.”

“I know,” she said. “We’ve got bad times ahead.”

“We knew this was coming,” he said, squeezing her hand.

“Yes, but I kept hoping that somehow the Elves were wrong, for once.”

“I’d hoped it, too,” said Hebraun, hugging her as they stood at the window, gazing into the starlit night as the newborn hope for their world slept in their mother’s arms across the miles in the Jutwoods.

Ch 30, Stone Heart

 

 

 

 

 
Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Spitemorta Would Love to Give Coel the Ride She Gave to Cunneda

 

a mysterious lady in vintage style

Spitemorta could hear excited shouts far below her as she surged up into the deep blue sky over the ships Captain Jockford was sailing for General Coel. She squealed with glee as she threw herself into a grand backward loop and came plummeting back down to shoot out over the waves as she raced for the Morsarf, her kirtle fluttering and popping in the wind. “Niarg-Loxmere-Goll!” she cried as she overtook and scattered a flock of black skimmers. “Mine! Mine! Mine!”

The Morsarf and her sister ships reared up in full sail to meet her. A shudder ran through her at the recollection of vomiting over the side of the Flying Maiden. “Coel needs to earn the right to be so stinking comfortable in front of me,” she said between her clenched teeth, as she veered into great sweeping circles of the first ship, straining for a glimpse of General Cunneda. “There he is on the poop deck with Captain Bateman.” She circled the ship once more and landed before him, as if she had just stepped off the dais in her throne room.

Cunneda covered his sudden start with a deep and gracious bow.

“Get on,” she said, the moment he looked up. “We’re off to see General Coel.” She threw her leg over the hovering staff and waited.

“But you’re no pystryor, General,” said Captain Bateman.

“No,” said Cunneda, stepping over the Staff at once to hide his momentary paralysis, “but I’ve been given an order.”

The moment he had grabbed on, Spitemorta lunged into flight, nearly jerking the Staff from his hands. “So, pystryor is your word for what, General? Wizard? Sorcerer?”

“Either one, Your Majesty,” he said, blinded by her flying hair. Suddenly it was good that he could not see, for he knew that they were flying upside down. As a wincing pain shot through his head, they swooped from the heavens, hurtling for the poop deck, where Bateman stood transfixed, watching them come.

Spitemorta aimed the Staff, shooting out a ruby beam from the Heart, setting off Bateman’s head with a deep rolling boom like a cannon at sea, flinging his arms end over end into the water on either side of the ship. “Bateman’s mistake, losing his head like that,” she said as they went back aloft, “wouldn’t you say?”

“Yes yes, Your Majesty.”

“And you’re much too brave to lose yours.”

“Oh?”

“Why yes, General,” she said, slowing down as if they were on some sunny Sunday afternoon ride. “You got on behind me.”

“As I told Bateman, those were my orders.”

“Well going back to him, I’ve never once in my entire life got to watch a proper maritime keelhauling. And I so wanted to give him a good slow one first, don’t you know, but we just don’t have that kind of time this afternoon. So General?”

“Yes, Your Majesty?”

“Next time we’re at sea, would you be so kind as to have one of your more disappointing men demonstrate one for me?”

“Well if… Certainly. By all means, Your Majesty,” he said, dreading at once what he had undoubtedly committed himself to.

And with that, they shot away for the Flying Maiden. General Coel was on deck, watching them arrive.

Spitemorta stepped off the Staff in a triumph of smooth aplomb as Cunneda dashed to the railing to turn red and cough out a great spewing shower of white boiled milk which the wind blew back onto his hose and boots. “Perfect!” she thought, turning to Coel as though she had not noticed, “except that Cunneda is not Coel.”

“Your Majesty,” said Coel, rising from his bow. “Now you see why I stayed on deck.

“I do indeed,” she said with the icy sweetness of a school-marm, “since Cunneda had the fortitude and the sense of duty to get on behind me.”

Coel stood there with a look of bright eyed amusement.

“Damn him!” thought Spitemorta. “So if you’ve no objection, General Coel,” she said serenely, “please see us to your quarter.”

Ch 4, The Reaper Witch, book five of The Heart of the Staff, Now Only 99 cents

 

The Reaper Witch 1280x2000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps &Tom Phipps

 

Is Abaddon Putting her in Peril?

 

HenryCavill

Daniel and Ariel were brought up to have the most circumspect virtue and modesty. Even if they were to become the most powerful in the world amongst the magically endowed, they were never allowed to show it. It is not at all surprising then, that they kept many games and amusements to themselves. They routinely played a kind of invisible tag asshutterstock_89916550 they traveled by spell back and forth across the broad basin of obsidian sands between Spring ‘n’ Drain and Razzmorten’s great sink-hole “tower” at the Vaults of Niarg. Today, they arrived outside the Vaults playing a rough game of “spell jousting,” with Ariel getting there in time to knock Daniel a good fifty rods wide of where he meant to appear.

“Damn!” he cried, tumbling out of the air onto his hands and knees in the sand. “How’d you get here first?” He was on his feet at once, swatting his hat against his leg as he hurried over to where she stood. Suddenly he stopped short to watch a streak of lightning branch out across the heavens before a black shelf of lowering clouds. “What did you do to the sky?”

“Nothing!”

“Fiddlesticks!” he cried. “Here it comes!” And with that, they raced uphill for a gaping lava tube in time to be overtaken and thoroughly soaked by the arrival of a pelting wall of rain before they managed to get inside.

“How long’s it been?” she said, catching her breath as she squeezed water from her hair.

“Since the last rain?” he said, studying the deluge which was already tumbling in torrents down the folds in the hillside. “I was just thinking. I’d allow it’s been every bit of the seven years they say it’s supposed to be between rains, even if you did cause it…”

“I did not! And you know it. But I could sure feel the spirit of it in the air, right when we were spell jousting. I wondered why on earth it was so bloomin’ hard to heave you off to one side.”

“Maybe you thought so, but you sure sent me a-sprawling. You command a right smart amount of power these days, sister dear,” he said, pausing to squint at her face. “All right. What’s the matter?”

Ariel shook her head.

“Oh yes there is. I know my dear sister. What is it? Abaddon’s poisoning your well again? What’s he saying this time? The Prophecy’s just an old wives’ tale, or what?”

“He is not!” she said, biting her thumbnail as she looked out into the rain.

Daniel folded his arms and rolled his eyes.a9d58e6a220145c3376074ebc15e9f02

“Very well. He found out that the Prophecy actually came from the Fire Sprites of the Eastern Continent and not the Elves at all, so he’s begun using that.”

“He’s crazy.”

1e97d87cfb68e52a666665bdc0f45198“Yea…” she said as a crash of thunder made both of them jump. “About me, he is. The thought of losing me is starting to tear him up.”

“Damn him!”

“He doesn’t want anything to happen to you either, while you’re being all hard on him…”

“Hard on him?” he said, flinging a rock out into the storm. “Shit fire! I don’t care if you do have a heart bond. You keep listening to his drivel and you’ll lose what it takes at the last minute and get both of us killed.”

“I will not! No way! Not with everything Grandfather’s taught us over the years…”

Bede on his deathbed completing his translation of St. John’s Gospel, by James Doyle Penrose (1902)

“Now that’s giving me credit…” said Razzmorten from right behind them.

“Grandfather!” she gasped. “How long have you been there?”

“You mean how much did I hear?” he said, lunging out with a proper brown spit for the storm. “I heard enough to know that your taking this particular time to worry about your heart bond may be putting you in peril. I mean, if you’re daring to think of anything but the task ahead, then I may well have been remiss in my teaching…”

 

“Peril! What earthly peril could there be when neither witch has so much as flown across the desert within our lifetimes?”

Razzmorten stepped into her gaze and gently patted her cheek. “Then I have indeed been remiss,” he said, “And Neron will return any day now.”

 

Ch. 13, Doom

Doom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

 

 

It will Take Daniel and Ariel to Save the World from Spitemorta and Demonica

 

“Grandfather?” said Rose.

“Yes?”

“Do you and King Neron think war is unavoidable?”

Razzmorten sighed and looked at her with a grave face. “Without a miracle, yes indeed,” he answered.

“Thank you for being straight with me, Grandfather,” she said as she cast a worried look at Fuzz. “We’d feared it would be so, but we were hoping that, you know, with the Elves being Elves…”

“Sure. You’d hoped they’d have some magical and quick solution.”

“Yes.”

“Rose, I’m afraid that even though the solution will indeed be magical, it will not be at all quick.”

“Grandfather! It sounds as if you know how to stop this war.”

“Yes I do, Rose, but it is neither in my power nor that of the Elves.”

“Then, who can possibly do it?” she said, as Mystique traded places walking in the path with Abracadabra.

“Oh, Daniel or possibly Ariel, or perhaps both of them together…”

“But they’re babies!” she said with a gasp. “It’ll be years before they’re old enough to do such a thing. What’ll be left of the world?”

“Not much as we now know it, I fear,” he said, bearing the most haunted look she had ever seen come from his kindly and steadfastly optimistic old eyes, “not much at all.”

Ch 31, Stone Heart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

 

Abaddon Needs Pie

apples

 

 He found Abaddon playing quietly with the yarn dolls which he insisted were “soldiers.”

“So. You’ll be leaving now,” said Abaddon without looking up.

“I have no choice as you well know, Abbey,” he said, squatting beside him.

“Sure,” he said with a shrug and gravel in his throat, still refusing to look up. “He’s your friend. He’s your best friend, and he counts ‘way more ‘n I do!”

Lance went wide eyed at the resentment he heard in Abaddon’s voice. “These days, you’ve gotten to be my friend too, Abbey,” he said, putting his hand on the boy’s shoulder, “but you know as well as I do what’s going to happen to him if I don’t get him out…”

“Well go then!” he said, flinging away Lance’s hand. “But you’re too late!”

“How? Wait a minute! You say I’m too late?”

“If you’re so ready to leave, just go, but someone else rescued your friend James.”

“What?”

“I said somebody got him out…”

“Who?”

“I don’t know. Some stupid knaves. Boy, is my momma ever goin’ ‘o kill them bad if she catches them. They’d better never get caught.”

“How do I know you’re not making up all this so I’ll not leave?”

“You think I’d lie about something like this?” cried Abaddon with wounded fury.

“Yea. I’m sorry to say so, but from what I’ve seen, if it got you what you wanted, you sure might.”

Abaddon yanked his scrying crystal from his neck, flung it at Lance and dashed out of sight into the lava tube.

Lance glanced at the talisman in his hands. “He was scrying the very moment I walked in!” he gasped, riveting his gaze back upon it. “Fates! Is that James? It is! He looks like a bearded ghost. And I don’t know a one of those knaves, but each one of ’em looks familiar.” He gave the pendant a thoughtful heft before clenching it tight in his fist as he sprang to his feet to find Abaddon. “I sure hope my putting it straight to him hasn’t undone everything.”  

Ch. 21,

Lance found Abaddon lying belly down on his bed. “What do you want, stupid?” said Abaddon, looking up suddenly from his scrying crystal. “Didn’t your dumb Fairies ever teach you to knock to announce yourself to your betters when you enter their private quarters?” 

“I learnt it as a courtesy for anyone, and I learnt that it wasn’t the only courtesy one could use either…”

“Yea?”

“Yea. Like this pie. I could say, ‘Hey Abby, here’s the best pie in the world. Want some?'” He gave a beckoning nod.

“That’s vulgar clumsiness in place of proper respect for royals, but I’ve come to expect as much…”

“Well, better dig in while I’m being rude, so it won’t get cold.”

Abaddon scowled as he took the saucer, but his first delicate whiff of the pie arrested every urge he had in mind until he had wolfed down every bit of it. Lance sat on the bed and waited, looking at the backs of his hands.

“That was pretty good,” said Abaddon, handing back the saucer. “Thanks.”

“Why, you’re welcome,” he said, stumbling to recover from being completely thrown off by Abaddon’s polite remark. “So, you were scrying when I came in. Did you see anything interesting?”

“Nay, not much. Just James and his idiot knaves on some old road out in the grass.”

“Gollmoor? It’d have to be Gollmoor, but they could be anywhere out on it. Did you watch long enough to see anything else?”

“I didn’t get a chance to because of your clumsy entry.”

“Did you see a river…?”

“I just said I didn’t, stupid.”

Lance studied him for a moment. “Abbey, would you do me a huge favor and scry your dad again, long enough for me to tell where he is?”

“Why? So you can run off and leave me here with your crazy Fairies and Ratman and be where he is?” he said with gravel in his throat. “That’s really stupid, you know. Sooner or later Momma’s going find him and his knaves and they’re all going to die, screaming and kicking. No way she won’t do it, either. And if you’re with them, she’ll really kill you, ’cause you’re his friend and my kidnapper. She’ll figure out ways to kill you for an extra, extra long time.”

“Oh, I don’t doubt that for one moment, Abbey. That’s why I need your help, and that’s why your father needs it, too.”

“You and James need me?” he said, suddenly free of his sullen demeanor.

“Way more than you might imagine. Only you can save us from being killed by your mother and Demonica.”

Abaddon went altogether wide eyed. “Lance my magic is still little,” he said. “It’s not nearly big enough to stop my momma or Nana Demonica. They’d kill me, too!”

“Oh no Abbey. I’d never put you in that kind of danger. All I need is for you to scry your father again so I can figure out just where he is. I think I know of a way to protect him, if I can get to him quickly enough.”

Abaddon took on a sullen look at once.

“Look Abbey, you really wouldn’t think much of me if I let a good friend of mine die when I might’ve been able to save him, would you?”

Abaddon picked at a piece of lint on his bedspread, his mouth set tightly.

“So could you?” said Lance, carefully.

“Maybe,” he said, looking up from his piece of lint. “But you can’t leave me here with the old Fairies. You’re going to need me along with my crystal. You don’t think James and his knaves are going to just stay in one spot and wait for you to get there, do you?”

Lance drew a breath to speak but let it out. “Hmm…”

Abaddon’s eyes lit up. “Then you’ll do it?” he said with an excited bounce on the bed. “You’ll take me with you?”

Lance nodded slowly, stunned at himself for agreeing to Abaddon’s ruse. “Well then,” he said softly, “let’s look at your crystal.”

Abaddon already had it out, staring at the shapes of James and his companions appearing amongst its swirling colors.

Ch. 26, The Burgeoning

 

 The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

 

Tom Phipps

 

Minuet is Beaten Senseless

02-Medieval

The Yellow Rose Tavern was a huge three and a half storey wattle and daub house that had only been standing for three years, just down the street from Fates’ Hospital for the Sick and the Silver Dragon. Its upper storeys overhung the first floor nearly to the middle of the alleys on all sides. Minuet and Bethan rented a long room at the top under the roof in front, which opened onto a balcony far above the street between two great crucks under the gable, and which also peeped out from a tiny window under a thick blanket of thatch in the roof itself. They always ate breakfast and supper downstairs, but they usually ate their dinner at the Silver Dragon, since it was next to the hospital.

“So what was the reason Sergeant Bernard brought us down here to the inn?” said Bethan as she addressed her collards with bread and knife. “I didn’t quite catch what he was saying.”

“He didn’t say much,” said Minuet. “I guess that there was some sort of uproar at the Silver Dragon right after we left, yesterday. He thought we’d be safer down here.”

“Well, where’d he go?”

“He said he’d be right outside if we needed him,” said Minuet as she looked out across the tables under the low rows of timbers in the ceiling. “Is this all they’re bringing out for us to eat?”

“Probably. There do be pieces of ham in it. It’s just the taverner and his wife. Both cooks fled the plague, this morning.”

“I wondered why she was the one waiting on us,” said Minuet as she pressed a wad of collards onto her bread. “In here, you’d hardly think there was a plague. Everybody’s just eating peacefully.”

“They do be, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the taverner’s wife is more talkative when things are normal. She hardly spoke. I’d allow that she’s a little afraid of every soul who walks in here. It’s a wonder they haven’t shooed us out and flown the coop.”

“No doubt…”

Across the room, the front door slammed shut. “There’s the witch!” shouted the woman who stepped inside, silencing everyone at the tables. Minuet dropped her bread onto her plate and turned about on her chair in alarm.

“Martha please!” said the man coming in on her heels. “You’ve had too much to drink. Please think! She’s been wonderful to the kids…”

“You doubt me, Sammy boy?” she cried, wheeling ’round and planting her feet. “I saw what I saw…”

“We all saw the pardoner and the flax haired wench…” he said as he grabbed her wrist.

Martha immediately yanked out of his grasp. “Then you’re blind as well as thick!” she shouted, nearly stumbling as she forced her way between the tables. “Had ye seen past your nose, you’d ‘ave seen it was that wizard in league with the very Elf devils who caused the plague in the first place. It was none other than Wizard Razzmorten himself
and his witch daughter, Ugleeuh!” She staggered back a step with a glance about at her
audience of wide-eyed diners. “No wonder he came to town as a pardoner. He knew
they’d be run out if people recognized him.” Suddenly she took a tramp toward Minuet.
“In fact, maybe it’s time something was done about that entire family. Everyone knows
they practice the dark arts.”

Minuet shot to her feet. “Shame on you!” she shouted. “If it weren’t for my father, the queen herself would be dead this minute! Scores of people have caught the plague and are alive right now because of him…!”

“Yea!” she barked, peppering Minuet’s face with flecks of spit. “Like all the pointy eared foreigners who caused it!”

“Foreigners! How can you say such a thing! They were here a thousand years ago, before there ever was a Niarg…”

“A threat to us the whole time , Missy!” cried Martha, smiling with her hateful piggy eyes as an angry drone stirred through the diners.

“A threat?” cried Minuet, turning to the crowd. “How many of you are alive today because you were healed by the Elves? How many of you would have died in childbirth
had it not been for them? How is it wrong to keep them alive alongside us?”

Bethan could see that the grumbling diners were not making kind replies. She saw her moment at once and quietly slipped out to summon Sergeant Bernard.

“And as for you, Martha Benton,” said Minuet, “how come you call me a witch when only yesterday you said I was like unto an angel?”

“I didn’t know the truth!” she shouted for all to hear. “You held me under an enchantment and used your dark magicks on my dear children. For all we know, you’ve left us changlings under your spell!”

“That’s a lie, Martha! I used no magicks! Your children are still your children. And they’re going to live a long life, too, thanks to my father’s drops which I’ve been giving them every four hours!”

“Yea? And we’d never have let you get away with that, had we only known!”

Minuet was stunned, standing there alone. “I’ve no time for this,” she stammered, turning to leave as diners began pushing back their chairs throughout the room. “We’ve got drops to give and bedpans to haul. Come on, Bethan…”

“So where’s your hired woman, witch?” shouted Martha, blocking Minuet’s escape as the entire dining room crowded around. “Could it be that we’re onto the truth and she didn’t want to hang alongside you for your sorceries?”

“If I were a witch,” cried Minuet, standing her ground before the huge woman, “why have I not struck you down with a curse by now?”

Martha dropped her jaw at this and grabbed herself by the throat to sit down on the floor with a heavy plump and topple onto her side like a sack of corn. The crowd stepped back with wide-eyed gasps.

“Good show Martha!” cried Minuet. “But the only thing wrong with you is your vicious demeanor!”

“You killed my wife!” shouted Sam, falling to his knees beside her as shouts of “Rope! Rope!” erupted from the crowd.

“She’s no more dead than I am!” cried Minuet.

“How do we know you’re alive?” shouted Sam.

“Yea!” hollered someone. “Hang her and burn her!”

“Rope! Rope! Rope!” chanted the crowd, as two huge men grabbed her and threw her against the wall to pummel her face and break her wrist, causing her to black out and fall to the floor, where they began kicking her at once.

“Stop!” bellowed Sergeant Bernard as he flung open the door, sword drawn.

Bethan came in right on his heels, elbowing her way through the crowd in a fury. “My baby girl!” she shrieked as she grabbed one of the kicking men by the hair on the back of his head, yanking him off balance onto the floor.

“Why you old sow!” cried the other man as he wheeled and kicked Bethan in the thigh, knocking her onto the floor.

“My baby!” she cried as she flew to her feet to rip open his belly with her dirk0

The man on the floor rose to his knees, drawing his sword in time for Bernard to take off his head with a whistling swing of his saber.

By now the room had fallen to a hush as Minuet and Bethan’s other four bodyguards entered with swords drawn, followed by a dozen other royal guardsmen. Bethan knelt over Minuet, sobbing and smoothing her hair from her face.

“Seize that man trying to hide the rope!” shouted Bernard.

There was a brief scuffle as murmurs began stirring.

“Silence!” roared Bernard, punctuating the quiet which followed with the sound of his heels on the boards of the floor as he paced. “I am placing under arrest every one of you on this side of the room, from the man with the rope, clean to the wall, except for
Mistress Dewin and Bethan…”

“Why not the witch?” said Sam as he knelt by Martha. “If she’s not killed my wife, she at least has a spell on her.”

Bernard motioned to one of the guardsmen with a nod and whispered something in his ear. “We will hold you in the castle jail until you appear before the King’s Bench,” he said, continuing his speech as the guardsman slipped outside.

“What about the witch?” cried Sam as the guardsman returned with a hunting crop and handed it to Bernard.

Bernard made no reply as he took the crop and walked calmly over to Martha, smacking VA184her rump with a furious whistling crack, causing her to jerk away with a yodeling shriek, tumbling up onto her knees wide eyed as she dearly held her behind. “I’m right glad to see that Good_Sister,_Bad_Sis_Cover_for_Kindleyou’ll be awake for your hearing, dear,” he said as he handed the hunting crop back to the guardsman.

Ch. 11, Good Sister, Bad Sister

(Click on book title or book image to download  from Amazon)

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Next Time the Howlies Come for a Sheep, They’ll Bring a Skillet

bf51b063de7632b16cebd4ed2335a69e

 

The howlies certainly loved their breakfast of roasted fish. After they followed Herio and Philpott back to the cave, they sat crowded around the entrance, staring inside as if the pair of them were about to hatch. The prospects of escaping looked more dismal than ever. And it was most difficult to fall asleep that night in the heavy closeness of the musky reek with all of those eyes watching them.

gigatopithecus_closeupMILK

 

They were awakened not long before daylight by being hauled to their feet and marched to the river, where they found several of the giants already up to their waists in the water, grabbing at catfish. Blue Eye even found their water bags and followed. This time breakfast lasted into the early afternoon, since the fish were harder to catch and five more howlies had appeared.

The next morning, Herio was awakened by a busy commotion outside to find the giants on their haunches, patiently peering in at him with wriggling fish in their fists. “Philpott,” he said. “Do you see what’s out here?”

 

Philpott rolled off his dusty pallet onto his knees. “Say,” he said, giving his greasy head a good scratch, “we’ve got that little box of lard which we were starting to get hungry enough to nibble at. I’ve got it and my skillet.” He began finding stones to set it on over the flames of a fire as Blue Eye waddled over with a fish in each hand to look him up and down with the silvery rings of his eyes. As he set to the task of making the fire, Herio began cutting up the fish. When the first piece went into the sizzling fat, a chorus of gasps broke out and the howlies crowded in to see. This breakfast lasted until evening, with the giants traipsing back and forth to the river all day.

photo-5-8

“Damn!” said Herio as he lay down on his pallet after dark. “What are we going to do tomorrow? Aren’t we running out of lard?”

“Yeap,” said Philpott.

Herio might have heard, but he was already snoring.

Herio jerked wide awake in the first broad light of day to the hearty medley of calls from athrasher4 sunset thrasher in the gnarled twist of scrub oak, growing out of the rocks at the mouth of the cave. He was on his knees at once. “That mockingbird wouldn’t be there with a crowd of howlies,” he said, getting to his feet. “Philpott! I don’t see a single giant out here.”

“Hey!” cried Philpott as he stepped outside. “Where the ding-dong blazes is my skillet? And my lard box. Those stinkers are thieves!”

“No time,” said Herio.

“No there’s not,” said Philpott. And with that, they grabbed up their things and were out in the chilly mountain air at once, jogging as they buttoned and tied their clothes.

It was a long way down the length of the mountain ridge without the unicorns. Even so, they found themselves covering ground nearly as quickly as they had managed while mounted, following the howlie tracks uphill. By sunset, they reached the upper end of the great meadow above the dry wash where they had found signs in the sand made by the giants, the morning they set out. A mountain burrowing owl rasped and cackled from the rocks of the divide as they made their way out into the thin dry grass under the vault of deepening blue sky.

“Well we certainly had our adventure,” said Philpott, walking backward for a step or two. “And we ended up with one of the wildest tales we’ll ever have to tell, but we might not even have found out where they live, let alone doing anything to discourage them. We didn’t change a thing. They’ll just keep getting into our sheep.”

“Oh yes we did,” said Herio.

“My word, what?”

“And it’s mainly what you did.”

“I’d like to know what that was.”

“Next time they come for a sheep, they’ll bring a skillet.”  

“I can see that I’ve talked to you longer than any sane fellow would’ve.”

“That’s it!” said Hero, stopping short and setting down his panniers. “We can butcher hit for them…” He squatted to stretch his back.

“I knew it was too late when you commenced to howling like one of them.”

“No, wait,” said Herio. “Look ‘ee here. Weren’t we starting to talk and trade? Really. I mean, we told them we were thirsty and they took us to water. We said we were hungry and they gave us fish. Then we cooked the fish and they let us go. Right?”

“Yea. For my bloomin’ skillet.”

 

“Let’s say that we want to graze this pasture for a week,” he said, standing up with his bags and starting to walk again. “We pay them a sheep first.”

“What?”

“We take a wether up there…”

“You mean right back up to that stinking hole in the rocks?”

“Yea. We take a sheep up there and butcher and cook hit for them, and tell them hit’s for a week’s worth of pasture. They’d love it.”

“I’ll bet,” said Philpott with a wide-eyed nod. “And how in the ever loving blue eyed world are you going to get the notion of a week’s worth of future grazing across to those wooly bellied wizards?”

“I haven’t figured out that one yet. But you’d have to take them the sheep first, at least.”

“Well you kept wanting to draw pictures…”

“That’s it!” cried Herio, whirling about, mid stride. “What if we figured out what sort of picture, and put it on a parchment and took it with us?”

“We?” said Philpott. “Well, I reckon I can help butcher a sheep. But you’d better have one damned good picture with you, is all I can say.”

Ch. 10, Doom, The Heart of the Staff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

 

 

 

Why Fantasy?

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I grew up in the land of Eden, I swear, which I could not possibly appreciate until it was too late grazing-dairy-cattleto come back. I grew up on what was for its time, a large dairy farm, with a big pond, a huge woods and the third best creamchickens-in-apricot-orchards-permaculture producing dairy herd in the state. We also had sheep and occasional hogs. We had milk, home-made butter and cottage cheese out the ears. We butchered. We dressed chickens

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and made cider. We had a five acre apple orchard in its prime, put up every bit of our own produce from our garden and had irises and peonies, gladiolas

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and snapdragons growing everywhere. We had no pesticides yet. Barn swallows swooped after flies, herons nested by the pond and every species of bird imaginable filled the air with their calls on a June day.

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Mom and Dad were positively crazy about each other. They got giddy and sang as they worked herbGardentogether. The neighbors were like extended family and everyone, I mean everyone got along. We went to the church down the road and we would go to each other’s houses and have square July-6-8-040dances and big sings. Both sets of my grandparents were alive and well in their eighties, and the neighborhood was brimming with people born well before rosegardenthe twentieth century. I got taken to a lot of funerals, but I spent a lot of afternoons after Sunday dinner, rolling around on the floor, listening to old folksimages (3) tell about their parents breaking the first prairie sod with oxen or about what happened to them during the Civil War.

mckenzie_jersey_cowsSuddenly I found myself in college. I was going to come back home and farm, but Dad got Alzheimer’s and sold most of the farm before anyone was awake enough to stop him.

Carol and I went west and taught on the reservations. Some of Leaping Lamb Farm gardensthat was pretty rough, but I always reckoned we could manage to get through it, since I knew 1340897947_a76bcd560e5dthat sooner or later we were coming home to what was left of the farm.

The day came. I knew that the family were all gone before we ever started home. I knew that nobody waved anymore. I wasn’t surprised that everyone I knew had moved away, either. After all, we had to go west, ourselves. Due to the massive pesticide use with no-till farming, I didn’t Farm_Pond_With_Egret_fsimages (2)expect many birds. There has not been a single whip-poor-will call since we returned. And a thief took every last one of the tools which I grew up watching my family use to work the land.

My grandma said: “Time is a river. You can’t stick your foot into the same water twice.”images

medieval-fighterI don’t care. There still has to be an Eden to go back to. One’s mind has to be able to escape to some place enchanted. There has to be one good place. Carol opened a door. She invented the land of Niarg. And we’ve been visiting there ever since.

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 Tom Phipps

Spark the Dragon Meets Prince Abaddon

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Flame landed with a bound just beyond the shade from the noonday sun cast by the rock overhang of the kitchen and gave his feathers a good shake before making a hurried waddle inside. “We’ve got company!” he hollered before he could see.

“We’re right here, dear,” said Lipperella, standing up from the table to peek outside. “For dinner? Do you reckon I’ve fixed enough?”

“Who cares?” said Flame, grabbing up a dainty from the table. “Goody, good! Hot pickled kangaroo rats.”

“You’re terrible!” said Lipperella, giving him a good swat with a dish towel.

“Edward and Laora are leading them in right now,” he said, rubbing his belly where she got him. “Three diatrymas and two humans, looks like.”

“Diatrymas?” said Spark. “All the way from Niarg? Has to be trouble of some kind.”Sinornithosaurus_mag

“We’ll see. Here they are.”

“Momma! Papa!” cried Laora as she and Edward landed at a run. “Edward and I found Arwr and these new diatrymas, Mentrus and Gwawr. And they’ve got Súlacha and Lance, and Abaddon and Shot ‘n’ Stop. And they have news about the witches…”

The diatrymas came to a springy halt and dropped to their keels to unload their passengers. “I beg your pardon, Spark,” said Arwr, springing up to gingerly step about.
“Have you pans of water for us to stand in for a moment? We’ve had to travel at night
because of the black sands, but this morning was overcast. When the sun came out not
long ago, it about cooked our feet.”

“Well,” said Spark as he clattered about, hunting for basins, “good job you and Laora found them, aye Edward?”

“Súlacha here, is their tracker,” said Laora, “and when he says they’ve never been here before, they probably really would’ve got lost without us…”

“Oh poop!” scoffed Abaddon, whereupon Lance grabbed him by the sleeve and shook his head.

“Well we managed to get to where they found us,” said Lance, “but they undoubtedly spared us days of random searching for signs of you all.”

“Make yourselves at home and unwind while we arrange things,” said Spark. “Flame. Help me scoot the board into the doorway so that the diatrymas can eat with us, since they always stay outside.”

“They’ve been inside,” said Abaddon.

“Only in the halls of Fairies,” said Arwr from his two basins, just outside.

“Yess, yesss, unwind,” said Shot ‘n’ Stop as he slithered out of Abaddon’s bag.

Soon they were enjoying a grand meal with Spark and Lipperella and all their mob down the long board, laden with a half dozen steaming roast peccaries with agave stuffing, hot corn bread and prickly pear jam. Súlacha, Lance and Abaddon were delighted with the sumptuous bounty, though they did remain wary of the hog hair gravy, pickled peppered kangaroo rats, voles smothered in chocolate sauce and the cubed raw rabbit with hide and hair passing up and down the board.

When the small talk had died away, Spark parked his napkin by his plate. “So it’s the witches that brings you, is it?” he said.

“Oilean Gairdin has fallen to the witches and the Marfora Siofra,” said Lance. “Abaddon and I fled with the Elves into the Wilderlands and are staying with Meri Greenwood in Gerddi Teg, north of the Deadmoors. Niarg may have fallen by now, but we don’t yet know.”

At this, Edward quietly left the table and vanished. When Laroa found him in their room, he was pacing about in a very agitated state.

“Edward,” she said, quietly coming to his side. “You left at the beginning of the telling of the biggest tidings which have yet to come to the Black Desert. Are you all right?”

“I’m fine.”

“But you look upset…”

“I’m fine!”

“That doesn’t sound at all like it. And you were so excited at first. You’ve told me how you missed Shot ‘n’ Stop. Besides, Prince Abaddon is your age. I thought you’d want to get acquainted. He’s a prince and you’re a prince…”

“What do I need him for when I have you? Besides, you didn’t like the Fireheads, especially Trifin.”

“Yea? Well Abaddon isn’t here to breed you, Edward.”

“Yuck!”

“See?” she said. “So what’s your excuse?”

“All right,” he said, giving her a quick hug and sitting on the edge of the bed with a bounce. “Do you know who Prince Abaddon really is?”

“Sure. Just how he was introduced: the son of King James of Loxmere.”

“And, and son of Queen Spitemorta of Goll, the exact bad woman who killed Momma.”

“Oh,” she said, blinking a couple of times before scooting close and gently nibbling at the hair over his ear.

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Carol Marrs and Tom Phipps

Minuet is a Lucky Woman

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Hebraun collapsed onto the goose down settee beside Minuet in their private parlour. “I thought you’d already knitted a blanket, sweater, cap and booties for the baby,” he said, glancing aside at her.

“You’ve been paying attention,” said Minuet. “And I certainly did, but they were all blue.”

“So, you suddenly don’t like blue?”

“Oh Hebraun. You know that blue is for newborn boys. What if it turns out to be a girl?”

“Well, she’ll no doubt look cute as a button in blue.”

“Certainly, but the best dressed newborn baby girls wear pink.”

“Do they? Who says so?”

“Well everybody.”

“So, if you give Lukus and Soraya gifts that are blue and they have a girl, whom everyone must see in pink, then they won’t let us be grandparents?”

“Stop teasing me,” giggled Minuet.

“I’d never tease you, darling,” he said with twinkling eyes amidst his dead serious face.

She knew, of course. “I guess it does seem silly, but, this is our very first grandchild,” she said as she put aside her knitting. “It doesn’t seem possible. Just yesterday I was knitting for Lukus, Hebraun. And the day before that, Rose. I certainly don’t feel like a grandmother.”

“Nor do you look it my sweet,” he said, with admiration in his eyes, before looking away with a sigh. “On the other hand, I’m not only beginning to feel it, I’m beginning to look it. Grandfather that is. Old.”

“I’ve never heard you say such a thing before,” she said with wide eyes as she brushed back a strand of hair from his cheek. She knew that the talk flying ’round the kingdom was getting much worse, particularly since it was now fall and no cure had been found for the blight affecting the kingdom’s crops. She bit her lip. “Surely everyone knows that if it comes to it, the grain in the crown’s bins will be distributed to them to see them through the winter, right?”

“That was today’s discovery,” he said with a haunted look. “It’s all tainted. It has some kind of strange powdery mildew growing on it, every bushel of it.”

“That evil, evil woman!” she cried, springing to her feet. “Even Ugleeuh was never so vile.”

Hebraun rose and put his arm around her. “We’ve no proof that Spitemorta has done anything, Minuet. You know that.”

“And we’re not going to get any, either. Not for magic. There’ll be no physical traces at all. She’d had to have been caught in the act. This is a very dry year. There’s no way that any granaries could possibly spoil on their own. They checked the wheat?”

“Yes, right after the barley…”

“And the rye?”

“Yes…”

“Millet?”

“Yes. And the bean stores are the worst of all.”

“So, it’s been done.”

“It looks that way, said Hebraun. “The only option left to us is to purchase enough grain from our allies to survive the winter, it seems.”

“And hope that Spitemorta doesn’t get wind of it.”

“Well, someone with magical abilities could keep watch over the new stuff, now that we know.” He sank back onto the settee. “I hope your father returns soon, Minuet. I’m beginning to think Niarg won’t survive without his help.”

Minuet rubbed his shoulders. “You’ll manage, love, you always do. Everyone’s upset right now, but when it comes to it, they’ll remember how you’ve always stood by them and seen to their needs even above your own. You’ll see.”

Minuet always made him feel better. “You know,” he said, with a new twinkle in his eye, “you’d make some lucky fellow a mighty fine wife, my lady. Would you marry me?”

“Oh I would, sir,” she said with a laugh, “except that I’m already married to the finest man I’ve ever known.”

“Well, he’s a lucky fellow.”

“Yes, and I’m a lucky woman,” she said pulling him onto his feet. “Now, I think it’s time you got some rest, love.”

Hebraun did not argue. He followed her, certain that if left to his own devices he could sleep for a week.

Ch. 29, Stone Heart

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps