The Diatrymas Take Edward to the Dragon Caves

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Part Three

Edward lay still as a newborn fawn behind the granite rock where Mary had shoved him, until long after the only sounds to be heard were the leaves of grass stirring in the evening breeze. His stout little heart had shored up all it could manage and at last he gave way, crying out with whooping sobs through the sleeves of his sweater into roots of the grass in the pungent sod where he lay. After a time, with the last his tears drying on his face, something gently tugged at his collar and he looked up at the giant bird who had been standing vigil over him.

“Ceidwad! You stayed!”

“I expect your heart still wants to break,” said Ceidwad with a deep reedy rasp, as she delicately rattled her enormous beak along the length of a lock of his hair.

“You talk!”

“Only when we must. Edward, your mother needs your help. She needs you to be brave. Climb onto Lladdwr this minute. We must be off to the dragons.”

Lladdwr studied him with one eye for just a moment, then quickly stepped forth and settled onto his breastbone. Edward hurriedly clambered onto his saddle as best he could with legs too short for the stirrups.

“Let’s go,” said Edward as he looked back to see Ceidwad ready to follow. “I sure hope this takes me to the dragons.”

“We’re quite aware of the way,” said Lladdwr resonating in a voice like Ceidwad’s only much deeper.

“Let’s go fast!” cried Edward with startling exuberance, as he grabbed the cantle of his saddle and shook it back and forth.

“Say something if I frighten you.”

Edward hugged Lladdwr’s thick, fluffy neck for his kindly tone, and at once the gigantic bird surged forward and kept gathering speed until Edward checked the ground to see if they had not actually taken to the air. He clung to the saddle for dear life but refused to let on. He’d never hurt his wonderful big bird’s feelings.

Ch. 8, Stone HeartStone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

 

 

Carol & Tom Phipps

Arwr the Diatryma Bites Vyrpudi the Troll on the Buttock

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“Oooooooff…vooov…vooob!” boomed Lladdwr, flashing the red patches in his wings and tail, lowering his head and popping his beak as he pranced alongside another troll before 180px-Diatryma_reconstructionflattening him with a brutal sideways kick. Lukus ran through a third one, and was yanking out his claymore when Soraya put an arrow into the mouth of a fourth, who had just stepped up with his club, all ready to brain him. Ceidwad and Lladdwr had each just taken down another brute apiece when yet another troll grabbed away Soraya’s bow and started dragging her off into the timber.

“Soraya!” cried out Lukus as he dashed after them. “Stinking troll cachu!”

“Wooob…doooff…voooob!” boomed Arwr as he overtook Lukus with a half dozen springy strides to knock the troll flat and pin him fast to the ground with a scaly foot on each arm. He gave his feathers a thorough shake, pinched off the skin from the tip of the brute’s nose for good measure and turned his head to face Lukus with both eyes. “So what do you want me to do with this thing, Prince Lukus? Very well, I can wait. You need a moment,” he said as Soraya and Lukus grabbed each other into a frantic embrace.

“Here are these again, dear,” said Ceidwad, bringing forth a beak full of bow and arrows.

“Well he’s certainly earned his own death,” said Lukus, turning back with closed eyes to treasure Soraya with another quick squeeze.

“By all means,” said Arwr. “Well, I’d certainly do him in for you, but it would be understandable if either you or Soraya wanted to…or you might want to save him and
question him, first…”

“And then kill him,” said Lukus. “That might be just the thing…”

“And we may be killed, merely a-standing here,” said Lladdwr as his neck went fluffy, swinging his head up to his full height to peer over the thicket at the pandemonium of trolls and Elves all about the burning castle.

“Make for the Magic River,” said Ceidwad as she squatted onto her keel. “Please get on, Princess Soraya. You must be exhausted. And Lukus, you ride on Lladdwr.” At once they were underway, with Lladdwr and Arwr steering the whimpering troll by popping their ponderous ebony beaks at his ears and pinching him mercilessly when he dared to hesitate or to step wide of where they wanted him to go.

“I understood why we might not want to go straight there when we turned this way,” said Soraya, as Ceidwad lifted open a cellar door ringed by thick evergreen shrubbery at the far end of the arboretum, “but why are we hiding? It’s urgent that we get down to the caverns.”

“We are,” said Ceidwad, ducking to step inside as her voice took on echoes. “This is the secret way…”

“I’ll say!” said Soraya. “I’ve spent the last two hundred and forty years growing up here, and I knew nothing about this.”

“How did you know about it, Ceidwad?” said Lukus, reaching out to feel of the clammy stone ceiling. “I never knew you ever went inside until you came into the castle to warn us.”

“It’s not that we can’t, we just avoid it unless it’s a matter of life and death. I’ve been in and out of here five times, helping to see the enchanted creatures down to the river. It’s a long way too, maybe four league.”

Arwr closed the door behind them. When he discovered that the troll had defiantly planted his feet, he clamped onto a buttock and twisted his beak.

“Fnafo-dyrnyr-truf!” yelled the brute as he lurched forward. “Fnadyr-difarr ja! Fnadyr-difarr ja! Fnaphn-nty ntu!”

“Fnafo-dyrnyr-truf. Fnadyr-diffarr ja. Fnadyr-difarr ja. Fnaphn-nty ntu,” said Arwr.The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_Kindle

“You understand Trollish?” said Lukus.

“Not a single word of it,” said Arwr.

Ch. 18, The Burgeoning

 

 

Carol and Tom Phipps

Wizard Razzmorten takes Hubba Hubba to See the King and Queen

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Razzmorten cleared his throat. Hubba Hubba straightened up at once, giving himself a feather fluffing shake. “Well Queen, how could you possibly have known it was me?”

“Oh, Hubba Hubba! I’d know you anywhere.”Scan10074

Hubba Hubba drew back his head and thrust it forth in a gawk of bewilderment at Razzmorten. Razmorten gave a wide-eyed shrug. “I hate to dampen this merry reunion, but time may be pressing,” he said. “Hubba Hubba has a message from your sister, regarding Rose and Lukus.”

“Ugleeuh!” cried King Hebraun, springing to his feet. “She hasn’t harmed them, has she?”

“No, no. I wouldn’t think so,” said Razzmorten, handing Ugleeuh’s note to Hebraun. “She has decided to blackmail you. She plans to be set free from the Chokewood Forest. It seems she has Rose and Lukus at her cottage and plans to give their freedom for hers. See for yourself.”

King Hebraun quickly read the missive and handed it to Minuet. “Father!” she choked. “You said Ugleeuh could cause no more harm once she was exiled.”

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“Not outside of her part of the Chokewoods,” said Razzmorten, as he gently picked up her hand. “I can’t imagine that she had any way of abducting them. They had to have gone there on their own, and most likely to answer some of the questions which Rose was asking all around, right prior to their disappearance. No, Ugleeuh has not been any sort of hazard outside her boundaries from the time we sent her there until this very minute, but this extortion of hers is her design to change all that. Meanwhile, the children must be safe. Stop and think. Ugleeuh is evil, but she’s no fool. She’d hardly destroy the one and only chance she’s had to end her exile. She’ll not harm Rose and Lukus as long as there’s any chance she can use them to get free.”

“He’s right,” cawed Hubba Hubba. “In all the years I’ve spent with her, she never suggested harming a feather on my body until I refused to come here. Then she threatened
to cook me. And I have an idea. When I left, Ugleeuh gave me this scrying crystal so I’d
be able to see her and the forest any time I wanted. Here. Try it to check on Rose and
Lukus. I’ll bet that will make you feel better.”

Minuet suddenly looked hopeful but Razzmorten sadly shook his head. “Your offer is grand, Hubba Hubba, but I’m afraid your crystal is useless. She’s managed to divine an astonishing barrier around her part of the forest to prevent being watched by any sort of crystal gazing. I certainly have tried to often enough.”

Hubba Hubba was stunned. “So!” he squawked with a shake of his feathers. “She lied again. She said she’d drop the protections and keep them down until I returned. Fool
that I am, I told her not to because she’d leave herself vulnerable. She told me that her
protections had been in place so long that no one would bother to spy on her. No wonder
she wasn’t worried. She’d no intention of dropping her protections all along.”

“Whoa Hubba Hubba,” said Razzorten, as he shared raised eyebrows with Hebraun and Minuet. “There was talk of dropping her protections?”

Crow-0056-A01“Talk. Yea.”

“Where’s this scrying crystal Ugleeuh gave you?”

“Right here, actually,” he said, looking down at his breast. “The crystal is the brooch fixed on my flight harness. But what difference does that make if it’s useless?”

Razzmorten was already unbuckling the harness, shaking his head to be silent while he slipped it off him. The king and queen anxiously crowded around. Hubba Hubba peered at the stone from Razzmorten’s shoulder, and nearly lost his balance when the old man whooped with glee. “It works! I see the forest. And look at this. There’s Ugleeuh flying above the trees on a broom. That’s a right novel talent. She certainly never did that before her exile. I suppose it’s no surprise that she’d develop her powers to while away the time there.”

“I despise the idea of her having any powers,” said Minuet. “Where do you suppose Rose and Lukus are?”

“I’d bet in her cottage,” said Hubba Hubba. “They haven’t been much for going outdoors, all summer. Mostly they stayed around the house and you know, ate, slept, those kinds o’ things…” He trailed off uncomfortably, seeing everyone looking straight at him. “Well when I was there, they joked around with me and we talked and stuff, don’t you know,” he stammered, glancing from one person to the next as he resumed. “Sometimes they did go outside and take me for my exercise flights. And once Lukus and I even went for a hike. Now that was really fun, except when the log rolled over on me and broke my toe, of course.” He fluffed up and ran his beak along several flight feathers, letting each go with a snap before he continued. “Anyway, try the cottage.”

Razzmorten was scarcely listening as he brought his concentration to bear upon scrying with the crystal. At last, Rose and Lukus appeared, wearing their stripped cloaks, hurrying to keep up with Fuzz.

“Wow!” said Hubba Hubba. “Ugleeuh and Fuzz are definitely not on friendly terms. I can’t imagine her letting them talk to him, let alone run off with him somewhere.”

“Looks like those stripped cloaks are camouflage,” said Razzmorten with a grave nod, “at least I’d say so from the appearance of the surrounding trees. They certainly don’t appear to be out for a hunt, and if they’ve gone to this kind of trouble to hide, they very
likely are attempting to flee, rather than waiting for us to respond to her extortion demands. So this bear ‘Fuzz,’ Ugleeuh doesn’t like him, you say?”

“Not much…”

“Speaks well of him.”

“Oh Hebraun!” said Minuet. “Their faces are so pale and pasty. They don’t look well. What has she done to them?”

“Remember that I can’t scry,” said Hebraun, as he shared a look with Razzmorten, “but it sounds like they’ve been eating your sister’s food. They’ll surely snap out of it as soon as we get them home.”

“And remember that they’re young and strong, Minuet,” said Razzmorten. “Neither one has ever been sick. They’re going to be just fine.”

“But how are we going to get them home, now?” said Minuet. “And what if Ugleeuh catches them? They’ve defied her and escaped. I can’t imagine her fury. No one who thwarts her is ever safe. You can count on her saying that they owe her for having been at her cottage, even though they were her prisoners. She’d make them pay mercilessly for that. But stand in the way of her freedom? I can’t picture her controlling herself.”

Razzmorten sucked in a deep breath between his teeth. “I’m sure Ugleeuh is mortally angry,” he said, “but it still behooves her to handle Rose and Lukus with care. I can’t imagine her forgetting that they are her only chance to leave the forest, short of dying. I’d say that if she does catch them, it’s this Fuzz, whoever he is, who won’t survive her vengeance.”

“You got it.” said Hubba Hubba. “She wants out and Fuzz is a goner. Oh, absolutely.” He hesitated, seeing that he was being taken very seriously by everyone. “She
threatened to slaughter and eat me, just because I told her I wouldn’t deliver her ransom
note. And she claims she loves me. She doesn’t even like Fuzz.”

“Pray that they’re not caught,” said Minuet, looking pale and drawn, as she sat down on her throne. “I grew up struggling with her getting even with everyone under the sun.”

“How do you suppose this Fuzz plans to help Rose and Lukus escape?” said Hebraun.

“Until some clue turns up,” said Razzmorten, rubbing his temples gingerly before gazing The_Collector_Witch_Cover_for_Kindleback into the crystal, “I have utterly no idea at all, except that they most likely are indeed attempting some sort of escape, right now.”

“What happens if Ugleeuh intercepts them, Father?” said Minuet. “What then?”

“Then I shall have to face her myself.” said Razzmorten calmly enough to cause Hubba Hubba to gape in astonishment. “Please don’t be afraid, Minuet. I swear that no harm shall come to my grandchildren. I swear it on my life.”

Ch. 20, The Collector Witch

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Wizard Razzmorten Visits Demonica

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Razzmorten appeared in the moonlight amongst the tall basaltic rocks of Demonica’s keep on Head (or Pennvro). He clambered about with his staff, listening to the pounding surf far below as he paused here and there to feel for the presence of magical wards and protections set by Demonica. “Well, Razzorbauch’s not here,” he said. He removed his hat, and for a time stood with his face fixed into the breeze, feeling the air. At last he found a place amongst a tumbled colonnade of stones and went to sleep until morning. Just before the sun, he awoke to find himself in the midst a colony of very agitated puffins. He was on his feet at once, clambering up the rocks.

The towers of her castle rose behind the crown of the great barren prominence as he climbed. There was no drawbridge. Her portcullis was up, in fact it was unlikely to have been closed that night. He could definitely detect magical wards, but none laid for someone afoot. He walked right in. He found her reading a letter as she sat in her great
scarlet and white chair on the dais, legs crossed, having egg in a hole and tea. She looked up with a gasp.

“Good morning,” he said.

“Good thing you explained that,” she said. “I’d never have considered any morning ‘good’ which had you standing in the middle of it. Now how would you like for me to arrange your death?”

“Oh go on, Dee! We both know better. I’m not here to arrest you. You made that more difficult than it would ever be worth years ago. And besides, I stepped in here fully prepared to turn your head into a cinder at the first sign of trouble. I’m only here for a
brief chat.”

“You went to a good deal of trouble.”

“Well, yes. Years ago, you told me that you knew of a tribe of heathens (as I believe you called them) who were supposed to have gotten through the plague which killed the First Wizard without any deaths at all. Do you remember anything about that?”

“Well no, dear. It’s very difficult indeed to recall anything at all for the likes of you or Niarg. Does anyone there have the plague?”

“I have,” said Razzmorten as though he were merely speaking of tickets in his pocketbook, and now you have it as well. So if you wish me to come back and cure you, it might be best if your memory returned.”

With a yowl, the snow white cat sitting in Demonica’s lap shot across the throne room and white-female-persianvanished. Demonica stared off into the distance for a moment. “Ngop,” she said, heaving out a sigh. “The Ngop, ‘way down the west coast, here. The plague simply decimated everyone throughout the continent, everyone except the Ngop. It’s said that
they came out of it completely untouched. Down the coast. Talk to their shaman. I think
he goes by Ngerrk-ga. And talk to their chief, Dort-da.”

“Ngerrk-ga!” cried Razzmorten. “I know him. He and Dort-da were the Aboriginals I once met at the Hanter Koadou. They mightn’t have worn clothes, but they were well respected.”

“Well, you’ve managed to disarm me, Razzmorten. You always did have your skilled moments. Do me a favor. If you were indeed telling the truth, would you be so kind as to return with the cure? My cat needs someone to feed her.”Good_Sister,_Bad_Sis_Cover_for_Kindle

Ch. 1, Good Sister, Bad Sister

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Laora the Little Dragon Shares a Vole with Ceidwad the Diatryma

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“I think this is what you don’t grasp,” she said with polite patience. “Most of nature is profoundly logical without consciousness. Just being conscious does not make one profound. All of dragondom is not big enough. Now, I hate to be rude but Mary is in
peril. Have we discussed this enough that…?”

“Absolutely,” said Spark, springing to his feet. “I’m off to the council. I’m guessing that they’ll agree at once to Mary’s request. Meanwhile, please feel free to enjoy our hospitality and make yourselves at home. I’ll be back immediately as soon as I know.”

Ceidwad and Lladwr gave dignified nods as he dashed away, leaving them with sitting withPhororhacos Lipperella. At once Laora and Edward scurried forth and plopped down directly in front of them. Lipperella looked at Laora and raised an eyebrow. Laora looked at the grass. Bit by bit she began studying Ceidwad with rapt admiration. It was quite something to be recognized as ‘pretty’ by such a large and important bird. She saw something in the grass. “Got ‘im!” she said, snapping up a vole. “Would you like half, Ceidwad? I’ll split ‘im with you.”

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“Oh, thank you sweetheart. Don’t mind if I do.” she said, neatly snipping off and swallowing the squeaking end. “They’re delicious.”

“Edward doesn’t like them, so I guess I get to share one with somebody.”

“Well, he wouldn’t dear. Humans like things like this cooked…don’t you, Edward?”

Edward looked up from his piece of stick with a wary nod.

“And you’re very lucky, since you’re able to do things I couldn’t possibly manage…”

“Like what?” said Laora with astonishment.

“Well, you have hands on the wrists of your wings for one thing,” said Ceidwad. “so that means you could cook Edward a nice, fat vole…with your momma’s help, of course. And not only that, you’re going to be coming into your flame soon, and then you can toast ’em on the spot.”

“Your…” hollered Spark, as he lunged into view, out of the cavern entrance, “Your request has been granted!” Everyone looked up as he hurried over to the grassy spot. “However, the council feels that it can spare none other than Tors and Kast and me, and that’s only two thirds as good as you might think, since I can’t spout fire!”

“We’re certainly most grateful for all the help we can get,” said Ceidwad, “but why are so few of you able to come?”

“The clan’s preparing to move us to the Black Desert and since our survival seems to be at stake, they’re afraid to let go of very many,” he said, pulling a grass stem to chew on.

“But you’ve been here above three hundred year,” said Ceidwad with wide eyes. “What has caused this?”

“I reckon you and the White Witch haven’t heard from Elves nor Niarg since your return, aye?”

“Oh, oh!” said Ceidwad. “This has to do with Demonica in some way, doesn’t it?”

“Well, Spitemorta, to be exact…”

“Actually,” said Lladdwr, “Mary had hoped you’d ‘ave heard from the Elves, since the only safe place she could think to flee to with her enchanted ones was Jutwood Forest.”

“I see,” said Spark. “Well, according to the Elves, Spitemorta and Demonica have convinced the people of Loxmere-Goll that we dragons carried out plans laid by Niarg and the Elves to set fire to all their sukere fields. Right now they’re preparing for war with
Niarg and the Elves. When you showed up Tors, Kast and I were getting ready to leave
for Niarg to see if taking the entire clan to the Black Desert is warranted. Meanwhile, the
whole clan is being made ready for an immediate flight the moment we return. So, the
council is sending the three of us to your aid before we go to Niarg, provided we set out
immediately.”

“Things are deteriorating far faster than we’d expected,” said Ceidwad.

“They only approve if we can be gone within the hour,” said Spark. “Are you two right ready for a return journey?”

Ceidwad and Lladdwr nodded in unison. “Let’s go,” said Ceidwad as they sprang to their feet and gave their feathers a thorough shake.

Spark drew aside for a farewell with Lipperella, Laora and Edward and the Mob that they knew would end the moment Tors and Kast appeared up the stairs. They had scarcely had hugs all ’round when the pair came bounding out into the open with bags and gear. Spark gave Lipperella an extra squeeze and started off.

Ch. 42, Stone Heart

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Carol and Tom Phipps

Heart of the Staff Box

Abaddon Meets Longbark

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Abaddon went quite speechless as he studied the looming tree, only looking down here and there as he stepped along behind Lance in the thick dry grass. Like some spreading burr oak in a pasture, Longbark was scarcely fifty feet tall with great long horizontal limbs reaching out from a trunk that was better than twelve feet thick above the buttressing roots. “But Lance, it’s got its leaves in the middle of winter.”

“Some kinds of oak are like that. The mothers told me that evergreen oaks used to be right common in the Forest Primeval…”

“Lance!” he whispered frantically. “They’re mad! They’re crazy! They’re petting it like it was a dog or a cow or something.”

“You’ll see,” said Lance with a grin and a shake of his head as he took him by the hand and led him forth to stand before Celeste.

“Ther be no thyng heere at al for to fere, yonge Abaddon,” said Celeste with a kindly smile. “This beth Longbark, and she the moost eld of yere and wyseste beynge a-lyve in Glan Da ybe. Hit nis ne evene possible hir for to harme thee in the leste.” She took him by the hand and drew him up to a branch that stuck down from a limb low enough for him to walk up to. “Come. Takest hold of this heere lowe braunche and lette hir thee yfele.”

“Why, this is frightening him,” thought Lance, as Abaddon turned to him with wide eyes. “You can manage all right, Abby,” he said with a smile and a nod of reassurance. “Celeste would never, ever do anything to hurt you, and that old tree won’t even give you a rash.” He watched Abaddon give in and reach for the branch. “Ah, for all his meanness, he’s just a little boy after all,” he thought.

“So what?” said Abaddon with his customary brashness. “It’s just a plain ol’ stupid tree…”

“Juste myndest that thou halt fast for a tyme if thou wouldest,” said Celeste as she keenly eyed the branch.

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Without warning, Abaddon felt as though someone who did not approve was looking all through him. At the very same time, each glossy green leaf in turn folded shut like a book, as its respective petiole went utterly limp, collapsing like a row of dominoes, all the way up and all the way down the branch away from his hand, except for the leaves on one small twig, which remained open and up. “Not fair!” he shouted. “That was no fun at all!” He yanked off a twig with a loud snap, flung it at Lance, picked up a stone the size of a grapefruit and heaved it at Longbark to bounce off with a deep resonant thud. “It’s just a stupid ol’ tree! Why are you idiots all staring at me? You think you’re smart? You’re going to die for trying to make a fool of me by having me touch it! It’s just a dumb stupid tree!” With that, he dashed away through the weeds and vanished into the lava tube.

Ch.7, The Burgeoning

 

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Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Spotlight Author Blog Tour for Gwendolyn M. Plano

Portrait photo of Gwen

Excerpt from Chapter Nine

Our torments eventually bring us to a place of trust—in the divine, in the universe, in the unnamed One, in Life. This trust is not the naive notion that we will be spared hardships and disappointments. Rather, it is the hard-earned trust that comes from glimpsing the consecrated journey for which we were created.

Most of us have photos of ourselves as happy babies, much like the one of my toddler self smiling with my new dolly in front of the Christmas tree. As infants, we didn’t think about love; we simply knew it. Then, as we began to walk life’s craggy terrain, our knowing of love slipped into the shadows of our experience . . . and fear emerged.

Much of our life journey is about searching for this early love, this Perfect Love. More often than not, our most effective guides are those that figuratively and literally push us up against the wall. Health crises and sometimes devastating circumstances provide us with opportunity after opportunity to address our fear through the choices before us—freedom or enslavement, self-value or self-depreciation, love or hate, trust or despair.

Our unlikely and unwanted teachers goad us to make decisions that ultimately help us rediscover the love that has always awaited us. This love is not the transient love nurtured with flowers and layered in sweet dreams. It is the phoenix love that arises from the ashes of our struggles to free our hearts and give us glee. This powerful love overshadows storybook fantasies and late-night reveries. It casts out all fear and walks with us through the maze of our misperceptions to a place of compassion and reconciliation. Though it may take a lifetime, we relearn what it means to bask in the love we knew when we were just toddlers.

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Author Bio:

Gwendolyn M Plano spent her professional life in higher education. She taught and served as an administrator in colleges in New York, Connecticut and California. She has multiple academic degrees, including one in Theology and one in Counseling. Recently Gwen retired, and she now devotes herself to writing, travel, volunteer work, and her beautiful grandchildren.

 

Book Link:

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Find Gwen online!

Twitter: @gmplano:
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Elves In Search of Bond Mates

Excerpted from ELF KILLERS

 

 

It was still dark when the dour Elf woman gathered up the skirt of her leine and stepped into the wet big bluestem grass. “Would someone tell me why we have to be out in the elves-1Strah before the crack of dawn?” she said. “Isn’t this when the shawkyn spooghey begin their daily hunts?”

“You volunteered with the rest of us, Brede,” said Vorona, as she waded through the grass behind her, “so it’s our turn first. And as for the chosen hour, I’m sorry to say, but the strike falcons determine that. Olloo says that the only time both birds leave the nest is right at sunrise. One of them goes out to hunt and the other one comes back right away to sit on the eggs all morning.”

Brede fell silent and made a childish face which was ugly even in the dark, but filed into the tall grass with everyone else.

“The wild strike falcons make grass nests a foot and a half across in the middle of big mounds of grass and sticks, maybe three feet high by about ten feet across,” said Olloo as he walked, looking from side to side at Vorona, Roseen, Kieran, Oisin and Doona, Brede, Nessa, Markus, Donachan and Martyn to see if everyone was hearing him. “They place these in loose colonies, ten to twenty rods away from each other in all directions. I’ve been watching an especially large colony not quite a league north of here, so that’s where we’re going. I just hope we’re not too late getting started.”

images“So what do we do when we get there?” said Oisin as he held Doona’s hand and tramped along beside him.

“I want to leave everyone in a group,” said Olloo, “armed and ready and out of sight of the colony while I scout about the nests to see if the birds are away. If they are, I’ll gather eggs and fetch them out, two or three at a time.”

 

They fell silent right away as they struggled through the grass, trying to keep up with him, since he was quite afraid that they were late. Just before the sun peeped over the Eternal Mountains, he made them kneel in the grass back to back with their bows ready and then he disappeared into the waving grass. A redwing blackbird circled overhead, scolding. He was back in short order with four eggs, which he handed to Vorona, Roseen, Nessie and Markus before vanishing once more. Right away he returned, catching his breath as he handed out eggs to Brede (who beamed with delight in spite of herself), Donachan and Martyn.

“Hey!” whispered out Kieran as he pointed away through the grass. “Isn’t that a nest, yonder?”

“That’s dangerous!” whispered Olloo, suddenly wide-eyed. “We’re not outside the colony at all.”

Kieran jogged over to the nest at once, held up an egg and dashed back with it. “I hope it’s alive. You think so?” he said, handing it to Olloo.

 

“It’s warm and dry. I’ll bet it is.” he said, as Nessie and Markus trotted out of sight.

Suddenly, there was a shrill screeching. Olloo sprinted through the grass to find Nessie and Markus at the edge of a nearby nest with two baby strike falcons shrieking with all their might as they stood in their shell fragments. “They’re going to get us killed if I don’t do them in…” he said, grabbing for his knife.

“No!” cried Nessie as she lunged at the babies and scooped them into her shawl, golden-girl-photographyquietingthem at once.

“They stopped screaming, all right,” said Olloo, but they might not bond with you if you take them. Either way, they’ve already made their noise, so we’d better get out of here, now.”

“My egg’s in the nest, Markus. Would you get it for me?”

“We have to go, or the parents will kill us,” said Olloo. “Come on!”

“I’m calling her Cronney. I want to give my egg to…”

“We can figure it out at home. Let’s beat it, kids!”

Glimpse into the Home life of an Elf Killer Family

Fnarry-irrny was Dyr’s sow, which allowed her to choose the best place in the biggest cave to spread out her things, rear her children and to attend to Dyr’s whims and needs. She chose an airy alcove just inside the mouth of the Hooter Cave, well out of the weather, which allowed her the most convenient access to the fire just outside and the best place to flaunt her wealth of beads, shells and skins to all the envious sows who were forced to pass by her on the way to their respective spots further back in the cave. One troll evening (which is just before dawn), she rolled her bushy red head from side to side, gnawing and tugging on an Elf leg as she watched her family eat.
            “Boof!” cried her eldest son as he spat out a great cud of chewed Elf onto the ground. “Gnydy hee-hee-grabbed my grab-up-squeaker rump. Everytime, I get shin-bone-meat! I eat rump.”
            “You think like rump,” said his younger brother. “You snuff-snuff  like rump…”
            “Gnydy juicy-champs my rump, Da, and you let him,” said the eldest, as two wolf-dogs squeezed in to bristle at each other and snatch up his cud of Elf. “You be easy-let, Da. Gnydy will head-smash you, then he’ll be Thunder-man. And if Gnydy be Thunder-man, then I’ll no be Thunder-man. I’ll be hoo-hoo-crawl-animal.” He turned to the younger. “But you’d be hum-dee-dumdle with that, Fnana-fnyr. You already be crawl-animal for yuck-champs. Poofy-letter Da grand-showed you…”
            “Rump-jaws, Fnanar!” roared Fnana-fnyr as he shot to his feet to run at Fnanar’s head with a furious kick.
            Fnanar ducked as the kick flew by his ear, flinging Fnana-fnyr onto his back, the arm of Elf he was eating smeared all up one hip.
            Dyr stopped chewing and glowered at his sons from under his bony brows.
             “Ooot-ooot! ooot-ooot! ooot-ooot!” cried Fnanar as he flailed his chest with his fists. “That be proud-show rump-trick!” He wheeled ’round to leave the alcove and stepped right into Dyr’s stony fist which put him flat on his back, seeing stars. 
            Dyr was a-straddle him immediately, furiously strangling him. 
            “Duda! Nyr-vyr-nirr-trad!” screamed Fnarry-irrny, ropes of beads and greasy breasts flying about as she sprang at Dyr to claw at his gnarly hateful fingers. “No! Stop!” 
            “He’s begged for-this ever-since he wet-held Fnana-fnyr under the fast-water,” he said, growling spit between his teeth as he gave an extra shove and stood up. He tramped out of the Hooter Cave and past the glowing fires.
            Dyr paused to glance at some kids who were poking sticks and giggling at an Elf child who was well beyond utterances of any kind, tethered and trembling uncontrollably as she awaited her turn over the coals. “No be Fnanar and Fnana-fnyr,” he sighed. “Never-once have Fnanar and Fnana-fnyr giggle-romped that well-together. I can’t even hunt with them-together.”   
            He shook his head and walked out under the stars. A shivering owl called. “One-thing I know-be with all head-nod,” he said. “Fnanar has-had his last greedy-champ in the Hooter Cave. Let him yank-bite squeaker-rump from Gnydy. He got his hairy-face new-name cold-time, cold-time, cold-time, cold-time ago.
            “But I have-to slip-let Fnarry-irrny pincher-twist me so Fnanar gets-to stay until he’s giggle-grabbed a sow. But he grabby-wants the biggest milksow. Mudful hollow-head! He drool-dreams the wrong end. Hoof! He has sly-kids in every-other cave but the Hooter Cave and diggy-fingers his nose at me.
            “Ooot!” he bellowed into the echoes, silencing the owl. He gave his chest a good three thump drum. “And let Gnydy come at me for a good head-smash. He needs his thunder-stamp, too.”  
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Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Razzmorten Finds Ngerrk-ga

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Razzmorten appeared on a lonely beach amongst the cries of terns, just as a wave soaked his feet, sending small snails vanishing into the sand as it rushed back to sea. A beached jellyfish glistened in the mid-morning sun. He stepped away from the water and scooped up a double handful of shells to admire for a moment before squinting under his hand at the arid hills of white limestone dotted with grey shrubs which lay inland. He pulled out his scrying ball from his shoulder bag and squatted in the sand to stare into it, shaded by the brim of his pointed hat. At once he was underway through the marram grass, making straight for the hills.

By the time the sun was overhead, he had crossed over three great ridges of hills. A savannah sparrow called nearby. He paused to mop his brow and look about as he felt of the ball in his bag. “Maybe I need another peek,” he said. Suddenly he held his breath.
“Could that be children?” A pebble skittered across the rocks at his feet, just as he spied a
curly haired head slipping behind some rocks. He heard hushed giggling. “Hello?’ he
hollered.

There was dead silence.

“Hello? Is someone there?”

“Mamin!” cried a brave naked boy, prancing into view.

“Mamin! Mamin!” shouted another, “Dirdawung, mamin lamang gahan!”

“Menuny mamin mawu ga-yu-ma wutjjurrh-ma!” cried a girl, taller than the others, leaping to her feet.

Soon there were eight naked children dancing around him, just out of reach, chanting sing-song: “Ma-min…ma-min…ma-min…” After a bit of this, they took turns crying: “Mamin!” as they leaped forth to tug at his clothes and jump back as if he would bite.

“I say,” cried Razzmorten, looking ’round about, “would you all be Ngop?”

The children broke out in such laughter that they could scarcely stay on their feet.

“If you all are Ngop, could you take me to Dort-da?” he said, nodding with wide eyes of encouragement. At this, a middle-sized girl with the merriest eyes of all dashed up and began yanking and pulling on his arm. He followed her at once.

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Up through the next ridge of hills they led him, pattering through the dust and rocks, until they came to a wide dusty valley. The merry eyed girl kept a relentlessly tight grip on his hand, pulling him along through the dust and shrubs as they came to scattered acacia trees with ruminating cows bedded down everywhere in the shade. He could see low domed mud huts in the thickest of the trees. At the far end of them against the rocks of a limestone bluff was a whitewashed hut, larger than all the others. They hurried with
him, straight up to it. “Dort-da! Dort-da!” they shouted. And the next thing he knew, he
was standing in front of the hut’s triangular door without a child in sight. As he was
glancing here and there at the paintings of animals chasing each other across the breadth
of the whitewash, trying to gather his thoughts, Dort-da stepped into the light, adjusting
his long gourd cod piece. For a moment he looked as though he had been asleep.
Suddenly he smiled. “Razzmorten!” he cried. “It’s been ages since Hanter Koadou. Come
inside.”

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Razzmorten removed his hat and followed Dort-da inside, finding that ducking was scarcely enough to navigate a triangular doorway. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust. “Why, it’s as cool as a cellar in here,” he said.

“Sit here,” said Dort-da, giving a slap to one of several fat rolls of blankets on the floor in front of a great chair made of cow bones. He sat in the chair and crossed his legs. He clapped his hands and a girl clad only in a skirt appeared with a jug of water and two large cow horns. He took the first drink and nodded at Razzmorten. “What brings you
here?”

“It wasn’t too many years before our meeting at Hanter Koadou that there was a great plague which swept through the Dark Continent…”

“Douar-Noz might be better,” said Dort-da. “The house of Dark hadn’t taken over yet.”

“Certainly,” said Razzmorten carefully. “So, when the plague swept through Douar-Noz, of course, it killed thousands upon untold thousands of people, including my progenitor, the First Wizard, who was visiting here at the time. It killed half the people living here as well as half the people on the Northern Continent. Well, I’ve just heard that when the plague came, not a single Ngop died from it. Is that true?”

“Has the plague returned after all this time to Norz-Meurzouar?”

“Yes. One and by now, maybe two have died at Castle Niarg.”

“Who brought it?” said Dort-da as he studied the backs of his hands. “Do you know where it came from?”

“Far,” said Razzmorten, keenly aware that Dort-da was being careful. “The one who died just before I left was a retainer of Princess Branwen of the House of Far. I have no idea how many have died there.”

“I’ve only heard of them a time or two. Do you know if they trade with the Gwaels of Gwaremm?”

“The last I knew, the Gwaels made them uneasy…”

“We have a lot to lose Razzmorten, but you convinced me years ago at Hanter Koadou that you have a true heart. You need to see Ngerrk-ga. His dreams are strong. If he doesn’t want to help you, you are not to return here until seven years after this new plague has run its course.” Dort-da studied Razzmorten carefully for a moment, then clapped once more. The young woman appeared with more water. “Nu-jabing-nga,” he said. “Razzmorten-ga-ndi lahan Ngerrk-ga.”

“Nu-jabing-nga quickly set down her jug. “Di-nya,” she said, motioning to Razzmorten with a nod. “Di-nya.” Waving him on, she disappeared out the door.

Razzmorten bowed to Dort-da, thanked him and hurried out into the heat and blinding light to find Nu-jabing-nga. He saw her at once, but found her even more difficult to keep up with than the children. He had to jog to catch her before she disappeared beyond the huts along the meandering path in the thorny wait-a-bit bushes that the Ngop used for fences which ran along the limestone bluff from acacia tree to acacia tree for a very long way, sticking up in the roasting heat like great parasols which gave shade to the resting cattle who languidly chewed their cuds and swished at flies, watching them pass.

At last the path rose into a break in the bluff which led to an isolated mud hut, whitewashed and covered with red ochre hand prints in the shade of a pair of especiallyboiling-cauldron
large acacias. Ngerrk-ga was out front with his back to them on his knees feeding the fire under a large kettle that he was stirring. Nu-jabing-nga held her finger to her lips and motioned for Razzmorten to sit on the ground at Ngerrk-ga’s back before grabbing her nose and dashing away, back down the path. Ngerrk-ga went right on stirring as if no one had arrived at all, chanting quietly: “Nja-min-ah… nja-min-ah… nja-min-ah… nja-min-ah…”

“Fates forbid!” thought Razzmorten. “I hope he notices me before I pass out from the

Good_Sister,_Bad_Sis_Cover_for_Kindlesmell!”

Ch. 2, Good Sister, Bad Sister

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps