Who is Queen Spitemorta?

Queen Spitemorta of Goll is the beautiful raven haired daughter of the witch known as Ugleeuh, the granddaughter of the evil sorceress Demonica and the mother of Abaddon. She is secretly given by Ugleeuh to King Brutelee and Queen Bee of Goll to raise. As soon as she is grown, she poisons Brutlee and Bee, assumes the throne of Goll and marries King James of Loxmere. 

When the news reaches Pennvro on the Dark Continent that Spitemorta is on the throne and has the First Wizard’s Great Staff, in Stone Heart, Demonica kills and replaces Abaddon’s nanny and begins plying Spitemorta with a strategy of world conquest, which requires finding the Crystal Heart of the Staff in order to have the needed power. In time they do find the Heart and set out to conquer Niarg and the rest of the world, thereby fulfilling the first part of the Elven Prophecy.  

 

Discovering that Spitemorta is a dangerous sorceress when she destroys her own nation’s main cash crop and begins addressing her subjects with crystal skinwelerioù to incite them to go to war with their peaceful neighbors, in The Burgeoning, James hides Abaddon from her and tries to flee Castle Goll. She captures and tortures him and throws him into the dungeon.

Years before, when Spitemorta is still a princess in The Collector Witch, it is she whose vicious rumor sends Rose into the perils of the Chokewoods in search of her identity, and she who takes away the Staff from Ugleeuh’s frantic grasp. And in spite of her lifelong reputation for cold bloodedness, she is assumed to be the granddaughter of the benevolent wizard Razzmorten, until far away in the volcanic cauldron of Mount Bed, the great oak tree Longbark touches Abaddon and determines that he is actually the great-grandson of the evil sorcerer Razzorbauch.

The Reaper Witch 01 copyAs her power grows, Spitemorta’s fits of wanton destruction and murder soon have the Jutland Elves calling her Baineor Buile Cailli, The Reaper Witch, as they, James,  Abaddon and the diatrymas flee her for their very lives into the Wilderlands.

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Fire Sprites and Glow Lichens

 

Fire Sprites - Homo sapiens luciferestris L. a diminutive and highly luminescent human whose melanin has been replaced by luciferin, the light producing pigment in fireflies. Fire Sprites glow with such intensity that many who have gotten fleeting glimpses of  them have mistakenly reckoned them to be engulfed in flames, though in daylight their skin is an almost translucent alabaster white. They inhabit the utterly lightless lava tubes of the volcanic formations in the Eternal Mountains of the Eastern Continent. They communicate with one another and with other races of humans almost exclusively with thought projection and extra sensory perception (ESP), reserving their arcane and mysterious language for their singing of eerie aeolian chorals in the echoes of their caverns.

  

In Elf Killers, Oísín and Doona and their party escape the marauding trolls by hiding in the tunnels of Ubh Ollmhór, where they are rescued by the Sprites and led through the maze of inky black volcanic passages to the grasslands of the Great Strah on the far side of the mountains. 

The Fire Sprites are actually the ones who originally made what becomes known as the Elven Prophecy about the rise of an evil which will seek to take over the world. This prophecy has a part in The Collector Witch, Stone Heart, The Burgeoning and TheReaper Witch (to be released early in 2013) and Doom (to be released late in 2013).

  

Glow lichen - Cladonia antrolucidus R., is a close relative of the reindeer lichen (reindeer moss) and lives in moist underground caverns. Its fungal symbiont takes up nutrients saprophyticly from the moist cave walls and emits a strong bioluminescence, using the pigment luciferin, which allows its plant symbiont to photosynthesize in turn, releasing sugars to the saprophyte. Glow lichen is common throughout lava tubes in the Pitmaster’s Kettles and in deep cavern systems throughout the southern half of the Northern Continent. Luxuriant growths can light up caverns with their greenish yellow ambience at least as bright as artificially lighted rooms.

 

Glow lichen lights the caverns of the Magic River in The Collector Witch and the volcanic tunnels of Mount Bed in The Burgeoning. It also illuminates the Fairy underground in The Burgeoning, The Reaper Witch and Doom.

 

Carol Phipps & Tom Phipps

The Hualapai Indian Baby

Years ago when we started teaching at Peach Springs, the teachers in the lounge began at once filling me in about what terrible students the obstreperous, gasoline sniffing, hairspray drinking Hualapai were, with horror stories of drunken mothers backing over their own children and kids watching their stumbling drunk father bleed to death from stepping on a whiskey bottle.

What I found were lots of damned good artists. Where there might be one or two kids who draw well in a class of twenty to twenty-five Anglo students, fully one third of these Hualapai kids were good at drawing, complete with a sense of perspective and depth. And I’m sorry, but I can’t imagine slow wits doing that well with a pencil.

One day, I had a particularly quiet Zoology class. I walked all through the classroom, handing out papers, lecturing and answering questions. They nearly all were taking notes. When we finished up, perhaps five minutes before the hour and I suddenly realized that the class of sober faces sparkled with eyes of merriment, the room erupted with a roar of laughter, for they had kept a baby absolutely quiet all hour, passing it from student to student behind my back!   

Tom Phipps

The Great Stone Tree

The Great Stone Tree - Glossopteris titanodendrum-dactylophyllum W. was discovered as a 52 foot diameter fossilized tree stump by the First Wizard, who chiseled out the Heart of the Staff from its center. In search of what he believed to be Meri Greenwood the Fairy’s source of commanding renewal power, the Heart of the Forests or Calon Fforydd, he found it standing upright, exactly where it had grown, surrounded by sections of its trunk and a layer of its own fossilized fallen leaves, in the middle of the exposed Permian deposit, known as the Koad Karreg or Stone Forest on the south edge of the Mammvro on the Dark Continent. It differs from other glossopterids by virtue of its immense size and by its deeply lobed leaves. Sections of its trunk add up to a tree which could not have been any less than 530 feet tall, and with the size of its stump, it remains the largest individual tree ever discovered. The Koad Karreg is the Permian location of the South Pole, which shifted to its present position with the multiple impacts of asteroids which closed the Age of Fishes. Compasses do not work reliably in the forest, and under its perpetual cloud cover, many a traveler has vanished.  

 

Since the Great Stone Tree is where the Heart of the Staff came from, there are indirect references to it in each book of The Heart of the Staff, but particularly so in

The Burgeoning.

 

Tom Phipps

The Real Pebbles

Years ago, I bought Carol a female baby green cheeked Amazon (Amazona viridigenalis C.) which she immediately named Pebbles. She was so young that she was all pin-feathers and Carol had to feed her with an eye dropper. Since Carol had a background in psychology and I in ethology, neither one of us was inclined to read human motivation into the bird’s behavior. However we were interested in her inclination toward language, so Carol decided to treat her as if she harbored the same sort of undeveloped intelligence as a baby human.

Carol made no attempt to teach her to talk. That is, she did not endlessly repeat phrases over and over to her nor drill her in any sort of way. What she has done since, every single evening before covering her cage for the night, is spend some time scratching her head and talking to her.

Within a few months, Pebbles began calling out to Carol by name, and not long after that began calling out to us when she wanted things, such as, “I want out!” In time, she was telling us about how she felt about things such as, “I don’t like it!” She began asking us questions such as, “How are you?” and, “Am I coming?” After a few years, she was not only asking questions, but talking about things removed in place and time, such as, “Is Carol at work?” and, “You’ll be all right.”

Pebbles also has a sense of self. She always correctly refers to herself as the subject, “I,” and she calls herself a “bird.” She loves to watch films and shortly after watching The Dinosaurs, said, “I’m a dinosaur.” To say that she uses her words in the proper context is an understatement. Her contextual usage is every bit as correct as that of a typical two year old human. What she is not is fluently conversant. Only now, after living with her for decades, are we managing to converse with her. After saying things back and forth two or three times, the conversation usually stops.

Here is a list of her words that we are certain of. She may have a repertoire of as many as a hundred words, but frequency and clarity limit us to these seventy. They are not listed in nice columns because of the contrary behavior of this website.

a, about, all, almonds, am, are, at, baby, bad, bad dord (bastard?), be, bear, bird, bye, care, Carol, come, coming, dinosaur, do, doing, duck, fair, for, girl, going, good, got, has, he, hello, here, how, I, it, is, know, like, look, love, nightmare not, now, okay, out, Pebbles, ready, right, rubber, school, sorry, talking, thank, that, the, they, to, up, wake, want, weird, well, what, where, will, work, wrong, yea (yow), yeap (yip), you.

And her phrases:

All right. All right! All right? Almonds. Am I coming? Am I going? Am I going to school? Are you coming? Are you going to school? Bad! Bad dord! (bastard?) Bad girl!
Bear! Bye. Come here. Carol! Hello. How are you? How are you are you all right? How are you are you okay? I don’t care! I don’t like it. I know it. I know what you’re talking about. I like it. I look all right. I love you. I’m a bird. I’m a dinosaur. I’m a good, good, good, good bird. I’m a good, good, good, good girl. I’m all right. I’m ready. I’m sorry. I’m the baby. I’m the Pebbles. Is Carol at work? I want out. Okay. Okay? Right now! Rubber duck! Thank you. That’s not fair! That’s right. Wake up. Well come here. What is that? What is wrong? What’s he doing? What’s he got? What’s that? What’s that for? What’s wrong? What’s you doing? Where are you going? Where are they at? Yea!(yow) Yeap! (yip) You coming? You going to come here? You’ll be all right. You’re all right.

We did not by any means teach her to talk. Her ability to talk is a capacity that comes from her own DNA. She can communicate using a code of arbitrary sounds about things removed in place and time because it has survival value for her species. Providence only knows what sort of languages she might be using had she stayed in the Mexican wilds.

Our character Pebbles, Hubba Hubba’s wife, behaves like an Amazon, but is fluently conversant, and appears in Good Sister, Bad Sister, The Collector Witch, Stone Heart and The Burgeoning.

 

Tom Phipps

Elven Trees of the Maidenhair Woods

The Maidenhair Woods of the Eternal Mountains of the Eastern Continent has the following indigenous tree and fern species of essential importance to the Gwaelic Elves who still live there (Stone Heart and Elf Killers) and to the Jutish Elves who fled to the Northern Continent with starts of each of them one thousand years ago

 blue maidenhair - Ginkgo cyanophyllum R. is a twenty to sixty foot tall broad leaved 

evergreen gymnosperm with chalky blue-green leaves, living on the mountain tops up to the tree line of the Eternal Mountains of the Eastern Continent. It is amongst the oldest living things, with some trees having been found with over 16,000 annual rings. The wood is so dense that trees felled next to water have been known to sink as though their trunks were made of stone. The dried leaves, which are drunk as a tea by the Elves, contain ginkeine, an alkaloid complex which includes caffeine and other phytochemicals, some of which may induce DNA repair.

 

fringed maidenhair - Ginkgo fimbriflabella R., is a deciduous gymnosperm that lives in waste and burnt over areas where woods meets grassland. It seldom grows taller than 35 to forty feet. Its leaves are deeply lobed with closely spaced fingers, scarcely broader than one mm, giving the tree its name. Its wood is almost white and very soft, and it seldom lives more than 65 to 75 years. Along with plums, crabapples and hawthorns, it is amongst the first woody species of trees to invade after a section of forest is completely burnt off by fire.

maidenhair tree - Ginkgo biloba ingentissima R. (The Sacred Maidenhair of Oilean Gairdin is a G. biloba ingentissima) are broad leaved deciduous gymnosperms. These are the tallest living trees on earth with mature specimens towering from 375 to over 400 feet. The largest individual known, living near the bottom of the slopes of the 

Pitmaster Gorge in the Maidenhair Woods, measures 427 feet and is estimated to be well over 7000 years old. They are indigenous to the Maidenhair Woods of the western Eastern Continent where they are the dominant tree, forming the canopies in the deep valleys and steep slopes of the Eternal Mountains up to about 6500 feet. They are amongst the oldest living things on earth with some trees having nearly 10,000 annual rings, though the record for age is held by the very much smaller blue maidenhair, Ginkgo cyanophyllum R., of the mountain tops and tree line.

 

red maidenhair - Ginkgo erythrofolium R. is a deciduous broadleaved gymnosperm living throughout the Maidenhair Woods in the Eternal Mountains of the Eastern Continent where it overwhelmingly predominates at elevations below 8000 feet. It ranges in height from sixty to ninety feet, the taller trees occurring in low places. It has the interesting ability to thrive under the canopy of the maidenhair trees, Ginko biloba ingentissima R. where the two species overlap. The red bottom surfaces of        its leaves are thought to enable it to thrive in low light conditions. Its dried leaves bear alkaloids, which when chewed by the Elves like tobacco, steadies their nerves.

 

silver maidenhair - Ginko genetrex-argenteus R. also called “mother tree” by the Fairies and Gwaelic Elves, its leaves and stems are covered with a silver colored cuticle, hence its name. It lives in symbiotic association with the mycelia of Fairy ring mushrooms, and whilst its leaves, stems, fruit, bark and roots are each said to have potent medicinal properties, the tree’s great rarity has prevented substantial empirical study.    

 

maidenhair fern - Adiantum capillus-veneris R. is the commonest of all species of fern occurring in the Maidenhair Woods of the Eternal Mountains of the west coast of the Eastern Continent, where it forms rank growths along streams, in deep loamy gorges and blankets the north-facing slopes of hills and sandstone bluffs. Its fan shaped leaves resemble the leaves of the maidenhair tree. It grows from six to eighteen inches in height from creeping rhizomes, six inches to six yards long. It is a major part of the diet of the maidenhair red deer, Odocoileus rufi-ginkgus R., and is the likely reason for the animal’s meat having its renowned woodsy flavor.

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Ugleeuh’s Mad Peppermint World

 Ugleeuh is a beautiful raven haired young woman who is the half sister of Queen Minuet of the kingdom of Niarg. She is raised by the good wizard Razzmorten Dewin, and throughout her life is thought to be his daughter by a brief marriage to the evil sorceress Demonica. In Good Sister, Bad Sister, she falls under the influence of her wicked uncle Razzorbauch, who makes her a partner of sorts in his sukere enterprise.

Razzorbauch appropriates the Forest Primeval, a vast virgin oak wilderness and burns off a substantial part of the middle of it to establish a great plantation in order to produce the seriously addicting sweetener, sukere. He allows the un-burnt forest surrounding his plantation to remain standing, but he magically alters all of the oak (Quercus) trees, turning them into deadly choke oaks (Pseudoquercus horridus R.) to discourage visitors.

 

Ugleeuh becomes hopelessly addicted to sukere, and though she remains an active sukere peddler to promote their enterprise, she tires of Razzorbauch’s overbearing influence and takes to living by herself in a cottage in her own part of the forest. When she tries to poison Queen Minuet and her husband King Hebraun, the crown banishes her to her cottage and has Razzmorten keep her there by putting up magical barriers.

Ugleeuh spends the rest of her life alone, turning into a sallow hag from the ravages of her sukere 

addiction. To keep from going mad from loneliness, she begins magically altering her surroundings at once. She turns all of the choke oaks into peppermint trees (Mentha lignumpiperita R.), with ludicrous red and white barber pole striped trunks. And by the time that Rose and Lukus find her in The Collector Witch, she is more dangerous than ever, living with a bloated crow, too obese to fly and a palsied cow with colored teats which give flavored milk, and she has managed to turn most of the remaining animals of the woods into talking enchantments, all addicted to sukere. 

 Carol Marrs Phipps &Tom Phipps

Who are the Beaks?

The Beaks are the nation of humans who live in the Kingdom of Mar, a territory that takes in the extensive fens within the Chokewood Forest known as the Beakmore (Beakmoor). The Beakmore surrounds a raised and well drained pastoral area known as Caistealbeak which supports the town of Caistealbeak that in turn surrounds the Beak castle, known as Caisteal-Beak, an early Iron Age style circular stockade within a moat, which encloses a massive earthworks crowned by a rambling wooden castle proper that overlooks the surrounding countryside.

The Beak nation is widely regarded as dangerous and barbaric and takes extended spells of making raiding forays against neighboring communities. Troops of naked tattooed soldiers, their bodies smeared with a blue stain known as woad, are led by captains who in turn are commanded by the king who is addressed by either the title “ru” or “brude.” In Stone Heart, book three of The Heart of the Staff, Brude Taylorg, Ru of Mar, governs every bit as naked and even more tattooed and stained with woad than his soldiers and believes himself to be the direct descendent of the deity Eochaid, the fastest luathas unicorn who ever lived, and also believes that he is watched over and protected by the mighty wolf deity, Madadh-Allaidh Neartmhor. Taylorg’s daughter, the beautiful Princess Tramae, is half-sister to Queen Myrtlebell. When Myrtlebell is murdered by Queen Spitemorta of Goll, Taylorg seeks vengeance by sending Tramae to arrange an alliance with Myrtlebell’s father, King Theran of Bratin Brute.

 In the days when Ugleeuh created the Peppermint Forest from part of the Chokewoods, Brude Taylorg refused to be cowed by her threats. To force matters, she cast a spell on the Beaks to keep them in perpetual submission and humiliation by turning them into a nation of pot-bellied, marshmallow suckers, known as the Gobblers. So in The Collector Witchbook two of The Heart of the Staff, Taylorg was known as Greedygut, Caisteal-Beak was the Gobbler Castle and the Beakmore was known as the Gobbler Marsh.

 

Are there fearsome blue meanies that you know about? Please let us know.

 

Tom Phipps 

Ocker the Raven

“Now look!” cried Demonica. “You knocked my flowers into the syrup, fowl!”

“So? Stop waving your swyving arms, then. Besides, I want you to do something for me…”

“What, then?”

“I want you to make hit so that I can travel anywhere I want by spell, instead of just to here and back,” he said as he wiped off his beak and gave himself a thorough shake.

“For what? What’s your news?”

“I already gave hit to you when you said you gave me the powers of a swyving hedge wizard…”

“So you suddenly think I should pay you twice, aye?”

“Listen, queinte!” he squawked, thrusting himself up to bristle like a pine cone. “I’ve learnt from a right true source that magic powers can’t be given. You’re either born with them, or you’re not. And I was, so you knew hit when you tricked me.”

“I’ll pay you well for the name of who told you.”

Ocker is the only raven known who is able to use magic. In Good Sister, Bad Sister, he lives with his wife Urr-Urr at their nest atop the great bluff overlooking the keep of the evil wizard Razzorbauch. Based on the behavioral studies of ravens by ethologist Bernd Heinrich and the folklore of Native Americans and Celts, Ocker is a profane, amoral huckster, who is forever wheedling things he wants from powerful people in exchange for tidbits of choice information. He does routine business with Demonica the sorceress as well as Razzorbauch, but he also has occasional dealings with Meri Greenwood the Fairy and the Jutland Elves. When Ocker sells the whereabouts of Greenwood’s lover to Razzorbauch as well as to Greenwood, the lover and her sisters are doomed to live in Mount Bed forever. Even so, it is Ocker who ends up saving the day.

We seldom use profanities in our writing, but Ocker is a most profane character, so we have him swearing exclusively with obsolete English words. The above passage is as foul and graphic as any swearing you’ll ever hear on the street.

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps  

Tandem Bicycle as a Writing Tool

When I was really little, my mom told me that somewhere there was a little girl who was going to be my wife. When I was fifteen, I got carried away and drew her. Years later when I met Carol, I had this eerie feeling that I already knew her.

We were married at once. When I was helping her move her things in, I was stopped short by the sight of a photograph. “Who on earth is that?” I said.

“Why that’s me, when I was a senior in high school,” she said, looking puzzled.

“Well, the reason for my stupid remark is that the picture happens to be the very drawing I made once of the girl of my dreams, only it’s a photograph!”

We commemorated our wedding by buying the tandem bicycle which we still ride in the morning on the days when we do our best writing. Some things do indeed work better together than separate, don’t you think?

 Tom Phipps