The Sad Fate of a Book Character

 

Heart of the Staff Complete Series Box (1)

Writing The Heart of the Staff series has been a grand adventure, but now that it is over I find myself missing many of the characters from the epic who had become a part of my daily life, my thoughts, and even my dreams, and wondering what of them now? The following is what one obsolete character had to say about that.

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So you writers think you have it tough? You ought to try living the life of one of the characters you create. I mean, really, how would you like being the figment of some writer’s bizarre imagination? If that isn’t bad enough all by itself, consider all the things you writers dream up for us characters to do. Not to mention the dangerous situations you get us into, the problems you make us solve and the many humiliating, provocative and sometimes ridiculous predicaments you drag us through! Could you, mere flesh and bone, survive it all? I think not!

And I haven’t even mentioned the fact that we have absolutely no choice in all of this. From the moment of our creation we are forced to live out our entire lives in whatever image you have dreamed up for us. We aren’t allowed to choose the way we dress, talk, act or feel! Why, some of us are forced to emerge as villains, monsters, aliens, fairy tale creatures and even some of the undead, just to mention a few of the lives you choose for us.

Take me for example. I was innocently drifting along amongst the synapses in my creator’s (totally demented) brain one moment and rudely thrust into this narrative the next, without so much as the dignity of a name or brief description of my appearance. And for what? My entire existence, now that The Heart of the Staff series is written, has been reduced to simply educate you writers and readers about the fate of a book character. Once that task is completed, my own fate is sealed. I will live as a nameless, faceless character who is only brought to life when someone reads the series or worse,  this blog. I am doomed to repeat the same words over and over, without change, until one magic day when the series is old news and this piece becomes worn out enough that, it, and I, will be deleted.

Sometimes you writers decide one of us hasn’t exactly lived up to your expectations, often without really ever giving us a chance to reach our true potential, and you just start making changes out of hand, leaving us to adapt…or not…and we all know what happens if we don’t adapt. Don’t we?

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By now I’m sure many of you are in denial. You want to point out that book characters have exciting adventures, fantastic quests and memorable romances. To that I say…sometimes. But, it seems to me, a fair share of adventurers and questers end up dead. As for the romance…well the heartache very often off- sets the thrill of it all. No! Don’t point out the sensual delights of a good erotic tale. Have you ever considered being the hero or heroine in one of those? Do you know how stressful that can be? You have to always look your best while performing sexual feats that would often challenge any contortionist. And do all of that while you have an audience of thousands…perhaps millions! I ask you, would you, mere humans, be up to it? (no pun intended)

I will conclude by simply asking that all of you at least consider the fate of the characters you create once in awhile. Maybe you could even wish us well or thank us for helping you on occasion.. After all, if not for us, what stories would ever be told?

Carol Marrs Phipps

The Brown Recluse and the Old Woman Who Knows

 

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Ten years ago, Carol and I lived in an aging trailer on the Navajo Nation in the sagebrush BrownRecluseSpideroutside Twin Lakes, New Mexico. One evening after a rough day of teaching, I came home to be reminded that Carol would be at a teacher’s meeting until dark. Since I had the time, I took a hot shower and found that I had crushed a brown recluse spider in my towel. I didn’t have a bite anywhere that I could tell, so I gave a shrug and started to get dressed.

By the time I had my clothes on, I had a fiery pain in my left knee. I dropped my breeches and had a look. I saw no sign of a bite, Exif_JPEG_420but my kneecap itched and felt fevered, and the pain in my knee was quickly becoming hard to bear. I filled the tub with hot water and sat in it for a good long while. When I walked Carol home after her meeting, I was in such pain that the best I could do was hobble. When we got home, I remembered that Microhydrin had completely eliminated the pain and swelling from a bark scorpion sting, so I took six of them.

turquoise02The next day I was greatly improved, but I limped all day. My principal, a Navajo lady who had spent her life Red Rocks NM 11-30-09_1around such spiders, told me to try a poultice of Chee dirt, the reddest dirt to be found in the bluff faces in those parts. “If that doesn’t do it,” she said, “try the flea market.”

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indicators-fleaI was much better by the weekend, but my knee joint was still painful to use, and I now had a half ping-pong ball sort of pocket full of fluid, right on the face of my knee cap, so Carol dee8f15d78c08a6e54ac1d55d0cad72aand I went wandering about inquiring at the Saturday morning Gallup flea market. We were quickly directed to “the old woman who knows,” who turned out GallupFleaMarketto be an old blind woman sitting at a table, who knew not one word of English. With the help of onlookers to translate, she sold us a bundle of herbs and told us how to make poultices from it to keep wrapped to my knee.

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My dichotomous keys were all back in Illinois, so I was never certain, but I think she may have sold us a generous wad of sage and lavender, which I dutifully applied. By the next weekend, her herbs had indeed done away with the pain, but I still have the pocket of fluid on my knee cap to this day.

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A few months later, I was bitten on the elbow. This time, I immediately commenced taking six Microhydrin every twelve hours for four days and keeping strong magnets wrapped SONY DSCabout the joint with elastic bandage to keep the capillary beds open. It started out every bit as painful as my knee had been. In four days though, there was no trace of anything at all, not even a pocket of fluid.

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So please tell us what adventures you’ve had with venomous spiders and the like.

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Tom Phipps

There was no Vowel Shift Separating us from Middle English

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Back in the monkey days, when I was studying to be a botanist, I became intrigued with Middle English. Here was a version of our own tongue which our civilization just up and quit reading. What a loss. After all of the graduate school I could stomach, I stumbled across a hot-shot English student who gave me a copy of Chaucer’s Poetry, an Anthology for the Modern Reader by E. T. Donaldson at Indiana University. I began at once studying it from cover to cover and saw why we moderns no longer had access to the language.

One barrier which had arisen over the centuries since its use was a change in vocabulary. One third of modern English consists of words never heard by people six hundred years ago, and one third of Middle English is vocabulary no longer used at all. When I set about memorizing these obsolete words, another problem appeared. Wanting to get it right, I paid close attention to the rules of pronunciation insisted upon by Professor Donaldson, which assigned completely different sounds to virtually every vowel, long and short, because of the occurrence of what he called a vowel shift (making As sound like Os and Is sound like Es) which turned Middle English into a virtual foreign language.

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I put more effort into getting his pronunciations right than I did at the vocabulary. And the harder I worked, the less satisfactory it all seemed to me. As far as I was concerned, he gave no satisfactory proof for there ever having been any sort of vowel shift at all. He claimed that the way that Chaucer rhymed his verses was proof enough, but he weakened his own argument by also claiming that Chaucer and his contemporaries were sloppy rhymers. I simply could not accept such a thing out of an age of addressing court in rhyming verse.

Meanwhile, Middle English grammar kept reminding me of the Appalachian speech I grew up immersed in. Both Chaucer and the old man hoeing corn across the hedge could talk about “when he come to town.” They both would say, “They was all there.” But it went further than the grammar. Old timers used to say that they “was out huntin’ mushyroons,” and Middle English for mushrooms was musserounes. And if there had been a vowel shift, I can’t imagine how it would have been possible to hang onto such a pronunciation.

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In fact, how could any of these ever have existed, had there been a vowel shift? Sowynge was Middle English for sewing. Trustid was Middle English for trusted. In Chaucer’s day, a thyng was a thing, just as my little girl used to be called a sweet thaing. Chaucer got fyssh out of a cryke, just like we always got feesh out of a crik. And when we chomped (champed) on these morsels, Chaucer chaumped. Het was Middle English for heated. And indeed, someone furious around home was said to be all het up, just as someone might have gotten six centuries ago over eny goode cawse. Chaucer had blewe for blue, dowte for doubt and reskew for rescue. And I swear that his verses rhyme ‘way better with Appalachian vowels than with Donaldson’s shifted ones.

Tom Phipps

Who are Daniel and Ariel?

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Daniel and Ariel are fabled twins of Elven prophesy, the children of Soraya and Lukus, destined to bring down the terrible witches who wield the Heart and Staff to rule the world… if you hold with Elven lore.

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The witches certainly do. Empress Spitemorta so fears the very possibility of any Elf ever having children by a human that she has decreed that every living Elf shall be found andStone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle slain. And indeed the twins have the lineage, with Soraya an Elven princess and Lukus the descendant of the great First Wizard. Spitemorta’s grandmother Demonica destroys the Elven Castle at Oilean Gairdin, sending the Elves fleeing into the wilderness with Soraya and Lukus and the twins for years to come.

DoomIn the midst of their exodus, Ariel forms a heart bond with Abaddon, Spitemorta’s very son. Will the Prophesy not come to pass?

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

The Chokewoods and the Peppermint Forest are not the Same

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Lukus heaved a large peppermint limb into the fire. “If Ugleeuh doesn’t find us right soon,” he said, “I’ll go back into the woods and see if I can find some nuts and berries for
supper. I saw some when I was gathering wood.”

“Well why didn’t you just gather them in the first place? You just made more work for yourself.”

“Yea? Maybe, but the last time I ate berries in this forest I nearly strangled to death, so RowanI had to think about it.”

“You tried to eat a choke oak fruit? What kind of crazy are you? Doesn’t matter, though. Things like that don’t grow here anymore. This is the Peppermint Forest and it’s different than the Chokewood Forest, or haven’t you noticed?”

“I could see that at once. But just what’s what, I need some time to sort out. So tell me, did Ugleeuh actually create all of this?” He gave a wide wave.

“She didn’t create it so much as change it, though perhaps whether she did or not Scan10067depends on just what a person considers creation to be. But, you’re right if you think that all this forest was once identical to the Chokewoods. When Ugleeuh and I first arrived here it was really awful. We battled with the smallies and dorchadas and other awful things almost every day before she was through with all of her wonderful transformations of the
place.”

“Rose and I had the idea that she made this place out of part of the Chokewoods, but I’m surprised to hear about the dorchadas actually attacking you. Rose and I saw the chief
of the dorchadas and his heathens trembling with fear in front of her.”

“You have utterly no clue at all about the kind of sadistic wrath that Ugleeuh is capable of,” Scan30001said Hubba Hubba, breaking into his first laughter of the outing. “The smallies are so terrified of her now that they’ll tramp each other to death, trying to hide if they see her. Same thing with the dorchadas. Hoo-wee! She taught them. Nasty, nasty old lady!”

“So, why were you so worried that the smallies might get you, if I left you to go for help?”

“Do I really look like Ugleeuh to you? Had she ever worked you over once, you’d never confuse us. Besides, if the smallies got me, there’d be no trace. No feathers. No nothing. They’d have a free bit of revenge on her and she wouldn’t be able to prove it at all.”

“You got that right, Birdo. Rose and I saw them take down a deer. It just vanished before our eyes. It gave out a good dying snort, and the next moment it was gone without any sign that it had ever been.”

“Yes, yes. I’ve seen it. It’s been years, but I’ve seen it.” he said with a shudder. “Let’s build up the fire some more, Lukus, just to be sure Ugleeuh doesn’t miss it. Let me come with8138228_7122_1024x2000 you for the wood. I hope that hearing the mint owl doesn’t mean that the smallies are in this neighborhood.”

“Yea,” said Lukus, glancing about. “I think it might be good to stoke the fire a bit, at that, but I’ll hunt for fuel where you can see me from here. You stay off that foot unless we have no other choice but to move on.” And with that, he went to picking up sticks.

Hubba Hubba’s head spun as he trembled and inched closer to the fire, hoping that whatever might be in the forest would fear the crackling flames.
Ch. 12, The Collector Witch

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Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Big Bang Fantasy

Big Bang Cosmos Explosion
Albert Einstein’s mathematics profoundly changed physics. No one questions this. He is universally recognized as a mathematical titan, and though he might well have been an epochal physicist, it might be a mistake to call him a scientist.

Science is a body of knowledge acquired through observation. Einstein used his math to express his profound imagination, but instead of setting up experiments in order to observe his discoveries at work in the real world as would an empirical scientist, he chose instead to test his ideas with his well documented “thought experiments.” The reason no one noticed this is probably the day and time that it was. Great minds in physics were all a-fever, trying to pry open the atom. What was inside? Waves? Particles?

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In 1927, Niels Bohr came up with an “uncertainty principle” which said that the infinitesimally teensy atom was fundamentally unknowable from observation and could only be understood in terms of mathematics. Perhaps. Maybe this is the best we can ever do inside the atom, but what is derailed here is the observing of the need for palpable evidence in order to establish scientific discoveries. Meanwhile, since everything is made up of atoms, people found it easy to accept math in place of verifiable observations for a growing range of things needing an explanation.

So nobody questioned Einstein until NASA found his math to be worthless for sending instrument packages to the moon and to Mars and had to fall back on the four hundred year old math of Isaac Newton to get them there. And Newton was an actual scientist who went to observe the real world for verification. Remember the apple that thumped him on the head?

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The Big Bang is not only the profound math which it happens to be, it is also magic. There may well be a whole football field’s space surrounding the golf ball which represents the nucleus of a hydrogen atom, but the entire universe was never the size of the head of a pin. There never was a Big Bang and the universe is not expanding.

In all the years since Einstein’s math created it, the only substantial evidence for an expanding universe is the red shift in the spectrum of light, the supposed Doppler effect from everything in the universe speeding away from us. Yeap. Red shift in all directions, which puts us in the exact center of the universe, for one thing, which is most suspicious in a universe so endlessly vast as ours. The other problem is that the Doppler effect is not the only possible way for light from the furthest reaches of space to arrive here, redder than it should be.

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When light passes through anything such as glass, higher frequency shorter wavelengths get converted into longer wavelengths from collisions with atoms, causing a shift to the red end of the spectrum. Ultraviolet light coming into a greenhouse becomes heat. So, what do you suppose happens to light passing through all those zillions of miles of space from the most distant objects which we are able to see? Space is full of dust and stray atoms for light to collide with over its vast distances. Light will arrive redder than it started out, simply because of all the distance that it had to travel, without any need for everything we see in the heavens to be racing away from us.

So the Big Bang is nothing but Einstein’s magic, is all I’m saying. And I ought to know, because Carol and I write about magic all the time.Magician wand

Tom Phipps

As if You can Hear the Trees Scream

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They arrived at the edge of Chokewoods just after sunset, feeling relief and dread at the sight of the looming trees. Everyone hesitated, not wanting to enter. Lukus slid off Spark, grabbing his head with a grimace when he lit. Rose dismounted and stood by his side, Sinornithosaurus_magsaying nothing. Lukus turned wide eyes to meet Rose’s barely perceptible nod. This was like it was the first time they arrived, in spite of it being a different part of the woods and a different time of day. “Well,” she said, jostling everyone by speaking. “Let’s get on with it, shall we?” She gave Lukus an abrupt shove and followed him through an opening in the tangle of brush and matted vines. Fuzz, Spark, and Lipperella came immediately behind.

In they went, straining from side to side in hopes of spying some sort of clearing or cave for a place to camp. “If you listen, it’s almost as if you can hear the trees scream,” said
Lipperella, in a whisper tinged with awe.

“We thought so the first time,” said Lukus. “It’s so eerie.”

images 2“Indeed,” said Fuzz, “But the trees are in fact not screaming, and when their trunks look so grotesque, one’s imagination would understandably be thrall to suggestibility.”

“So you don’t hear anything then?” said Spark.

“I didn’t say that, “said Fuzz. “It sounds like far away moans and murmurs in some giant hall, but that must be the wind ‘way up in the trees, rather than the trees themselves.”2004_1024chapel0005

“Are you sure?” said Spark. “I’m not.”

“Well no, but it’s the simplest explanation, isn’t it?”

“Perhaps, but ‘simple’ doesn’t take Razzorbauch’s perversion of the place into account.”

“Good point,” said Fuzz, as everyone fell into a nervous silence.

“Hey,” said Lipperella. “Look up ahead. That could be a clearing.” It was. They made a hasty camp by doing little more than spreading out their blankets and deciding how
they would keep watch. Rose heard no owls at all, only the ghostly murmur and sighs
echoing from unimaginable reaches off in the timber.
Ch. 29, The Collector Witch

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Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Lukus Strangles on a Choke Oak Fruit

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Lukus bounced in his saddle and renewed his interest in their surroundings. There were ironwood and gnarled muscled hornbeam trees all over the flat of the creek bottom near 2004_1024chapel0005the banks, but as he looked, he saw that there imagesbwasn’t a single tree of any kind, not even a sapling, that was not bent and twisted into some horribly unnatural pose. “I’ll declare,” he thought. “How could trees give me the creeps?” He kept seeing ordinary looking leaves on the ground, much like the white oak leaves in Niarg. When he looked overhead to find where they came from, he saw that they weren’t sorbus-decora-fruitoaks at all, but bore brilliantly colored succulent fruits in bunches, each bunch a different bright color. “Fresh fruit and lots of it, just hanging there for the taking. And I think I will,” he said as he steeredSORBUSJOSEPHROCKv2 Starfire toward the nearest tree. Directly he had a handful of the irresistible smelling treats. “Hey Rose!” he hollered. “Come back here and try some of this fruit! They’re better than your old figs! And they’re all different colors!”

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Rose turned Mystique about at the word fruit and came galloping back for his first bite.

sorbus-maderensis-fruit“Wow Rose! This is good,” he said, champing away. “Strange, but real good. It’s got milky white juice which is real bitter but really, really sweet at the same time.” He popped11684990965_4bd7dfdd98_b another one into his mouth and savored his prize. Suddenly his eyes bulged open with strained urgency. He turned frighteningly red as his veins stood out. He wheezed in a gasping panic as though he might explode. And now he was gagging convulsively.

Rose fought down her horror. She sprang from Mystique and mounted Starfire behind TR0000004742_card_lgLukus, who by this time was bent over, turning purple and nearly unconscious. She wrapped her arms around him, mxsa7ep4GuMMZ6APQ6Beb-Agrabbed her fist and yanked, making him cough out chewed fruit all down his front. He slid to the ground and sat there gasping and coughing as tears streamed down his face. Rose knelt beside him, and saw that the inside of his mouth and throat were still swelling. Once she had rinsed out his mouth, he croaked a hoarse thanks for saving him.

1279287337-53793900“Needles! It felt like needles,” he said as he mounted Starfire. “I don’t understand what happened. Those berries weren’t even big enough to get stuck in my throat like that, not to mention fill up my mouth the way they did. My throat hurts.”

“Lukus,” said Rose, “I just remembered something that Grandfather once told me. Sorry I didn’t think of this before now, but I reckon I’d no reason to. He said the berries here were all the different colors of the rainbow. I think the pits can be roasted, but anyone who eats the fruit strangles to death while his windpipe swellsThe_Collector_Witch_Cover_for_Kindle shut. That’s why they’re called chokeberries and this place is called the Chokewood Forest. Those trees are called choke trees or choke oaks, though they aren’t true oaks at all. I guess they grow all over here.”

Ch. 8, The Collector Witch

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Meri Greenwood Catches Wizard Razzmorten

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It sounded as though the leaves had crunched just a heartbeat after his final footfall, but Razzmorten shook his head and went on.

“Good wizard…!” said a man with green hair, alabaster skin and pointed ears as he stepped directly into his path with a knapsack covered with leaves.

“Hoy!” cried Razzmorten, freezing in his tracks at once. “Meri Greenwood?” He steadied himself against a tree.

“By your aura I have you finally caught,” said Greenwood with a flicker of fury in his emerald eyes. “You know that you can not hide that from me. Now tell me at last, wizard, where have you my lover Celeste done hid? Where did you put the Guardians of the Woods?”

????????????????“You’ve given me a terrible start, but aren’t you indeed Meri Greenwood, Dyn Gwyrdd, as we once knew you?”

“As if you did not know…”

“Well I should of course, but I’d expect you to know me every bit as well…”

“And what deceit would you be now a-trying?”

“Well if you once knew me, I doubt that you’d think I had put the Guardians any place at all. I daresay that like most mortals, I’ve never so much as had the chance to meet them. Would this have something to do with my twin, Razzorbauch?”

Meri took a step forward in the leaves and looked closely at Razzmorten’s eyes. He took a step back and chewed for a moment. “Now, you are Razzmorten, ain’t ye?” he said, turning aside for a spit.

“Yes…”

“And you can certainly mark ye my word to be Meri Greenwood. And so you are here for to covet your brother’s handiwork?”

“Do you actually mean this woods? This was the Forest Primeval? Razzorbauch didn’t have nearly enough power to make such a change, the last I knew.”

“Then as hit thinks me, sitting over here you will need to be before to you the rest of hit I can for to tell,” said Meri as he sat on a nearby fallen tree and gave the trunk beside him a pat.

“Well these blue and yellow creatures,” said Razzmorten, taking his seat, “they shot me with a dart and brought me in here unconscious, or I wouldn’t be here at all…”

“Dorchadas, my good man, one of your dear brother’s enchantments they be, along with smallies and other such things.”

“Dorchadas? Are they indeed what they look like? Could they possibly be the giant lyoths from the Dark Continent?

“All but the great daggers for fangs they did have as cats.”

“Razzorbauch never had this kind of power. Are you sure Demonica had nothing to do with this?”

“Oh, but the power he now does have,” said Meri, “particularly since he not only to get his hands on the First Wizard’s Great Staff was able, but indeed on the very crystalimages (1)x Heart of the Great Stone Tree, which the First Wizard with the Staff did use.”

“So that’s where the Heart came from,” said Razzmorten as he stroked his beard. “And in the process, he’s kidnapped the Guardians?”

“Nacea, Alvita and Celeste, who was my very lover,” said Meri, looking very haunted.

“So you think he’s brought them here into the part of the woods which he’s changed?”

“I am sorry, but you do not quite see. Hit not just be this part of the woods. He has the whole Forest a-changed. And I must my lover for to find.”

“Oh my!” said Razzmorten. A breeze chased through the leaves up in the canopy, though not a breath stirred down where they were sitting. A great grey owl wailed, far, far away through the trees, though this time, he was not entirely convinced that it was an owl at all. “I swear I’d help you if I could,” but I’m in a desperate struggle to come up with a cure for the plague which is loose in Niarg and Far.”

“Alack!” said Meri.

oregano“I was cutting Elven hyssop by the southernmost part of the Gulf of Orrin when I was taken by the Dorchadas. Do you know where that would be from here?”

“I do,” said Meri, springing to his feet, “and I would delighted to see ye there be, if you do not mind me for to have along.”

“Why, I’d be honored,” said Razzmorten as he rose and followed him at a brisk pace through the musty leaves. “Now, you’ve mentioned Celeste, Alvita and Nacea. Wasn’t there also supposed to be a Rodon amongst the Guardians?”

“Their brother…”

“Wasn’t he one of the Guardians?”

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“Yep, save there be a good chance the smallies got him…”

“Smallies?”

“Oh yea. Of them I did mention. More of your brother’s work. Bright red nightmares that in the woods in swarms do run…”

Ch 4, Good Sister, Bad Sister

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Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps