Languages in The Heart of the Staff

Modern English is the language spoken throughout Elf Killers and the epic series, Heart of the Staff.  Fairies speak Middle English without most of its obsolete words in The Burgeoning, Reaper Witch (February, 2013) and Doom (Summer, 2013). The rest of the languages used appear as isolated words and sentences chosen to give realism and color to various characters. Most of these are explained by context and all can be found translated in the respective glossaries in the books where they appear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Language:                              What it is:                               Who speaks it:

 

Niarg Standard                       current Modern English          Kingdom of Niarg

                                                                                                Kingdom of Loxmere

                                                                                                Kingdom of Goll

                                                                                                Kingdom of Bratin Brute

                                                                                                Jutish Elves

                                                                                                naked dragons

                                                                                                Cyclopsia

 

Archaic Modern Niarg            Middle English                       all Fairies

                                                                                            all profanities uttered by

                                                                                                  Ocker the raven

                                                                                            Niarg (600 yrs prior)

 

Old Niarg Standard                Welsh                                     Kingdom of Niarg

                                                                                             Kingdom of Loxmere

                                                                                             Kingdom of Goll

                                                                                             Kingdom of Bratin Brute

                                                                                             Cyclopsia

 

Jutish Elven                             Irish                                        Jutish Elves

 

Old Gwaelic Elven                 Irish                                         Gwaelic Elves (1M yrs prior)

 

Gwaelic Elven                         Manx                                      Gwaelic Elves

 

Gwaelic                                   Cornish                                   Gwael

 

Headlandish                            Breton                                     Penvro (Head)

                                                                                              Dark Empire

                                                                                              Mammvro

 

Goblish-Beakish                      Pictish                                     Kingdom of Marr (Beaks)

                                                Doric

                                                Scots

 

Ngop                                       Wagiman                                 the Ngop

 

Wagiman is almost extinct. The last I knew, only ten Australian Aboriginals still speak it.

 

Trollish                                    transposition of an                    trolls

                                               aboriginal language


 

 

Trollish is a very nasal sounding language, the transposition of an aboriginal New World language, where each letter in the original tongue is replaced with a different letter. In particular, the sounds most frequently used by the aboriginal speakers are replaced with the sounds which are the very most difficult for them to pronounce. Trollish uses such non European peculiarities as noun-verbs, which we originally tried to represent in English by running nouns and verbs together (as they are in the aboriginal) in words such as, headsmash, juicychamp, cantgoback, rollybottomhohoslap and grabupsqueakers, which we soon changed to head-smash, juicy-champ, can’t-go-back, rolly-bottom-ho-ho-slap and grab-up-squeakers in order to be easy to read.

And as always, please let us know what you think,

 

Ariel says she Could Die

 

“We’re done Grandfather,” said Daniel.

 

“So I see.” he said, fitting his spectacles onto his face.

“How did we do?” said Ariel as she and Daniel sat beside him.

“A question like that has been nothing but a respectful formality for some time, my dear,” he said.

“Perfect then?” said Daniel.

“Absolutely,” he said with a deep nod. “And this completes anything which I might contribute until Neron has worked with you for a time and we get you ready to go study with Meri Greenwood. And it is he who will prepare you for your staves and take you to see Longbark in Mount Bed.”

“And then?” said Ariel. “Are we…?”

“Oh,” he said with a smile. “I expect we’ll have you back here again for one final inspection and a little practice.”

“And then we get her…” said Daniel.

“When the moment falls exactly right,” said Razzmorten as everyone went silent, listening to the swallows and the trickling water and the river pounding in the deep reaches, drawing away the echoes from the sink.

Daniel dug at the rocks with a twig.

“Abaddon ought to be back with Toast, directly,” said Razzmorten, looking at Ariel with sudden innocence.

“Great-Grandfather Razzmorten is naught but a matchmaker,” said Arial, giving him a peck on his cheek.

“Not at all. You’ve had your heart bond for all these years.”

“Are we done?” said Daniel.

“With magic, anyway. Go enjoy the day.”

“Thanks Grandfather,” he said, tossing aside his twig.

“Father keeps saying that in spite of the bond, I might eventually be safer away from Abby,” said Ariel.

“Yea? Is that what you want?”

“Maybe it’s best for Abby. I mean I could die…”

“No you’re not. And worse than that, you’re guessing. How’s that fit for a young and powerful sorceress? What do you want to do with your guesses, anyway, break his heart and then go die? Maybe you’d better do what your heart wants.”

“You’re right as usual,” she said as she stood and brushed the seat of her skirt. “I shall indeed follow my heart.”

“And you’re not going to say another word about dieing,” he called out after her as she stepped into the lava tube. “Ye hear?”

Ch 2, Doom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Howlies Might not Like Herio’s Talking with Rocks

gigatopithecus_closeupMILK

 

Not being let out of the cave by the great silvery blue eyed howlie was startling enough for Herio and Philpott, but being held captive by the giants for well over a week was an ordeal. At first it was just the pair whose tracks they had followed, who squatted outside in the pouring rain, keeping them from running away, but in the moonlight of the following nights, they heard eerie howls echoing away over the rocky countryside, and each morning they would see giants which they had not seen before, milling about or squatted on the rocks, just outside.

This morning, when Herio awoke to the calls of a sunset thrasher, he realized that they were awfully close to the mouth of cave and sat up at once. When he saw that no big creature was sitting just outside, he sprang to his feet and peered out to find the biggest collection of howlies he had yet seen. “Damn!” he muttered quietly as he began counting.

“How many this time?” said Philpott, sitting up on his pallet.

“I’m not sure whether I see fifteen or sixteen. One of them is half grown and three or four of them are carrying babies. I’m not counting the babies.”

“Any sign of the unicorns?”

Herio stepped back inside, shaking his head as he squatted to pick up his leather water bottle before flinging it aside.

“After eight days, I’m surprised you even picked it up.”

“Yea? Well after eight days, I don’t see how a fellow could keep from it.”

“So how far away from the cave are they?” said Philpott. “Any chance that we could make a run for it?”

“They’d get us. There are just too many, and they’ve got us blocked every direction you want to look. Besides, this is pretty open country, even with all of the rocks. We’d have to know our unicorns were waiting for us or they’d just run us down. They’ve probably eaten them by now, anyway.”

“I doubt it, truth to tell,” said Philpott, picking up the bottle for a look of his own. “I mean, if they were going to eat them, don’t you reckon they’d just sit out there where they could keep an eye on us and champ away?”

“All right. So why did they bother to run off our unicorns, and why are they keeping us here in the first place?”

“To teach us a lesson, maybe. They’ve already made it clear as a bell that they don’t want us grazing that pasture.”

“You reckon they’re actually enough like us to try teaching us by holding us captive?”

“They just might be, Herio. I swear that they spend as much time shaking their hands at each other as people do a-talking. They just might have something in mind for us.”

“Starvation, I’d say. Do you have any idea about what they’re saying with their hands?”

“You can go a good while without victuals. Forty days or better. But they’re going to have to let us drink. It won’t take too many days to kill us. And no, I don’t understand a bit of it. I notice when they repeat some things, but I don’t understand any of it. However, we understood their drawings ‘way back at the sheep shed. What are you doing?”

“Smoothing out a place to draw a picture.”

“Very well…”

Herio waited until one of the giants looked their way and waved his arms. “Hey!” he hollered.

The giant shook his fist.

“That doesn’t look good at all,” said Philpott. “You might want to try something else.”

“This ought to do it,” said Herio, picking up a rock.

“Whoa! I wouldn’t risk a lesson in manners from one of those curses. They might not like our talking with rocks. Why not do it their way? If they’re too far away for pictures and fingers, they howl, don’t they?”

Herio put down his rock and thought about it for a moment. Suddenly cupped his hands to the sides of his mouth, drew a great breath and bellowed out a tenor version of the howlies’ moonlit night wail. It sounded much more like a wolf than a howlie, but by the time he had put down his hands, all sixteen giants had converged on him, huffing and stinking of sulphury musk. “Aah!” he said, patting his stomach and pointing into his mouth as he made gulping noises. But before he could drop to his knees with his stick to draw, they had Philpott and him by the arms, ushering them down the hillside at a jog, hiking them up and over rocks as if they were toddlers. And a long way it was, too, stumbling to keep up with their great hairy-legged strides.

Far down the slope was a wooded ravine. When they came to the bank of a fast stream, the howlies let go of them at the water’s edge, where they fell to their hands and knees at once and drank. The moment Herio sat up on his haunches and wiped his mouth on his arm, the blue eyed howlie threw down their water bottles with a grunt. “Philpott, look!” said Herio. “I’d never dream that old Blue Eye would know what those are for.”

“Yea,” said Philpott. “Makes ye wonder what else they’ve figured out.”

“I hope they figure out that we’re hungry.”

“Well you’re good at this. Tell them.”

Blue eye squatted behind Herio and studied him.

“Well Blue Eye,” said Herio as he carefully turned about to face the giant. “I wish I knew how to thank you for the water, but maybe I can show you that we’re hungry.” He gave a moan and rubbed his belly.

“Hmmmp,” rumbled Blue Eye as he waddled closer to look him up and down.

“Mmm!” said Herio as he pantomimed  grabbing up something and chewing on it with lots of exaggerated champing.

Blue Eye knitted his brow and sat back on his rump as he thought this over. “Hmmmp,” he rumbled as he picked his nose and resumed looking Herio over with studious consideration.

Herio rubbed his belly again and champed his teeth.

Suddenly, Blue Eye was on his feet, jostling a couple of other howlies and making signs with his hands.

ac3a7ad3cbcb“Did you see that?” said Philpott with a nod at the howlies as he bunged his water bag.

“What?” said Herio as he watched Blue Eye and the other giants wade into the water.

“Oh never mind.”

The howlies waded slowly about in the water for some time, pausing here and there to grab at things along the bottom. By now, Herio and Philpott and all of the howlies not fishing were sitting on the bank, watching Blue Eye and listening to a water thrush singing in the willows. A grebe surfaced just beyond the bank, saw that it had an audience and ducked back under water.

so-cal-bigfoot“He was!” said Philpott, the moment he saw for certain that the howlies were fishing. “I’d have sworn Blue Eye was making hand signs for ‘fish’ before they waded in. They just got one. That is what they’re doing.”

Presently Blue Eye stepped out of the water with a wriggling catfish in each hand, giving one to Herio and the other one to Philpott. They were trying figure out how to show that they were properly pleased when the other two howlies climbed out and shared a fish with Blue Eye. The howlies each bit the heads of their respective fish to kill them, and then wolfed down hungry bites, watching to see how Herio and Philpott liked theirs.

“You said you were hungry,” said Philpott, “but are you ready for raw fish, innards and all?”

“I’ve got my flint and striker,” said Herio. “What do you reckon they’ll do if I try to use them?”

“Try it.”

Herio handed his fish to Philpott and scraped up a little pile of dry cottonwood leaves, crumbled up some of them and began striking his flint. At once all sixteen howlies crowded in close to watch every single move he made. He blew a faint stream of his breath where his sparks were landing.

Suddenly the howlies gasped and backed away wide eyed at the first curl of smoke. Herio kept striking and huffing as they crept back close to see. Directly he was feeding twigs into the first wee flame. Philpot took his knife and cleaned the fish. He paused at the sight of a female with a toddler on her hip, eyeing where the fish head and entrails had just dropped into the leaves. When he held them out to her, she snatched them away at once, shared them with her child and hunkered back to the fire, licking her fingers. Herio impaled the first fish and held it into the flames. Blue Eye waddled in close, craning to behold in wonder the fish in the flames and then Herio’s face, then his hands and then the sizzling fish again.

“Mmm!” said Herio, sampling the fish. He held out a pinch of it to Blue Eye.

Blue Eye gaped in awe and put the fish into his mouth for a thoughtful moment. “Vooove!” he boomed. “Oooooh!”

Herio and Philpott had no sooner divvied out all their catfish than they found themselves being plied with more wriggling fish. After an unexpectedly long meal, Herio and Philpott caught each other’s eye, rose without a word and made their way back to their cave with all sixteen howlies following reverently on their heels.

Ch. 9, Doom in  Heart of the Staff: the complete series

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Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

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Time does not Exist

multiverse

My how time flies. Isn’t it something how twenty years ago seems like only yesterday, yet back when you were four, a summer lasted for a small eternity? Not only have we all heard this sort of thing, but every last one of us experiences time exactly this way. Meanwhile, we have the clock ticking away at exactly the same rate today that it ticked forty years ago. The reason that this can happen is because there is no real time which exists in nature at all. And since it doesn’t exist, there is no way one could ever run it backwards, change its rate or travel in it.

article-2636397-1E1DB20500000578-944_634x460

All that happens in nature is the progressive occurrence of natural phenomena. Cells divide at the speed which they happen to divide, the granite cliff face crumbles onto the talus pile below as fast as it crumbles, and the earth rotates on and on, independent of any sort of time.

Time is our abstraction. We invented it, just as we came up with the inch and the foot and the mile. We began keeping track of the earth’s rotations and invented time based upon a rotation’s subdivision, hours at first with sundials, then minutes, once we had managed a reliable clock escapement and eventually nanoseconds. As soon as we had invented these hour and second pieces of a rotation of the earth, we could measure the duration of all sorts of things in terms of them.

And from beginning to end, we remain biological beings. We do not innately look at things from the perspective of a ticking mechanism. Events fly by more as we get older simply because our only natural way of sensing them is by contrasting their duration with how long our life has been so far. A summer for a four year old is a far more noticeable percentage of his life than it is of the life of an eighty year old.

stock-footage-a-network-tunnel-computer-generated-animation-seconds

There is indeed a progression of natural events that we are swept along with. And we can call this progression “time” if we must, but our label gives us no mastery at all. We only progress at the rate nature allows. We might someday leap into space faster than light and turn about to see earlier events brought to us by the light we outran, but this is not time travel. We are only fooling ourselves. If we are ever to go rollicking about in the distant past or future, we shall simply have to use magic.

Tom Phipps

 

Who are the Giants?

 

 

gigatopithecus_closeupMILK.306_cover

The giants who capture Herio and Philpott in Doom are described below as they are in Doom‘s Glossary and in Heart of the Staff, the Complete Appendix.

Sasquatch - Bigfoot - Yeti on snowy mountain peaks

 

GiantsGigantopithecus blacki R., also known as howlers or howlies or tall men, gigantic secretive nocturnal hominids that walk upright and live just below the tree line of the Sunset Mountains and in other isolated areas of the Northern Continent. Males range from eight to ten feet tall and can weigh more than eleven hundred pounds. Females range fromproduct-1862-main-main-big-1416589130 seven to eight and a half feet tall and weigh half that of the males. Both sexes are entirely covered with a shaggy, nearly black dark brown hair, except for the palms of their hands, the soles of their feet and the forehead and cheeks of the males, and the entire faces of females. The irises of their eyes can be brown or bright blue, whilst the whites of their eyes are black. Their faces are broad and flat in a manner suggestive of the orangutanjaw. Their jaws are V-shaped like those of humans, allowing a bipedal upright carriage of the skull, setting them apart from the great apes. Their molars are far heavier in proportion than those of humans, making them able to masticate whole nuts and other roughage impossible for humans to chew. Their jaw muscles cover the sides of their heads and are anchored to a prominent boney sagittal crest running along the top of their skulls, rather than merely being anchored around the temples as in modern humans. Not only do they walk fully erect in the manner that we do, but their leg bones are similarly proportioned to ours and their toes point forward and are not used for grasping as in the great apes. Additionally, their hands have the prominent thumbs of human hands, further setting them apart from the apes. And whilst their arms are enough longer in proportion to their bodies than humans’ to suggest those of the great apes, they are not long enough to facilitate their knuckle walking quad-ambulation. Both sexes produce an intensely musky pungence that hangs in the air after their passage. It is claimed that the sex of the individual who released a given odor can be reliably determined by human observers who have been around them long enough to become familiar with the creatures. It is not known whether yetiscalethey have voluntary control over the scent. The females ovulate every twenty-eight days like humans rather than having a seasonal estrus as do the apes, and they form life long pair bonds. It is evident that the young are dependent upon their parents throughout their development and take a long time to reach maturity, though just what that length of time happens to be is unknown. They seem not to have a verbal language, though they utter groans and much grunting in close proximity to other individuals, and they make loud long wails (described as hair raising) which can be heard for miles on still nights. What they do have instead of speech is an astonishing and articulate system of sign language, able to ask questions and to convey detail about specific conditions and entities removed in space and time. They also scratch hieroglyphs and crude drawings in the dirt and on rocks and tree trunks. Though they never have been known to shape stone tools, they are quite handy at using un-worked stones and well chosen sticks as tools. They have never been known to use fire. However, they have the incessant habit of stripping fibers from all sorts of plants and scattering about occasional twists of them where they have been. They also tie up bundles of such fibers into pallets and effigies which observers captured by them have seen being used as dolls for the female young.

 

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Carol Marrs Phipps &Tom Phipps

 

 

The Last Time I Ever Saw Mom

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen Mom was a little girl growing up in Moonshine Prairie, her folks would stop the buggy on the way home from church to let her pick sweet williams. And from the time I heard her tell the story when I was a kid, I made sure that she had a nice big bouquet of the phlox she called sweet williams, every single Mother’s Day.

When the day came that Carol and I had to go west to spend our5970678010_27968bcfe6_m time teaching on the reservations, I was no longer able to give Mom her flowers. We climbed Peacock Peak one Mother’s Day, and near the top in a grove of Piñon Pine, we found some kind of white phlox growing which was much smaller than sweet williams. I wanted to pick them and somehow send them to Mom, but there was no way we would ever have been able to climb back down the mountain with them.

One summer when we were back home, Mom’s hip broke and she fell. After a spell in the hospital, we took her out to my sister Joan’s in North Carolina and got teaching jobs. The teaching jobs didn’t work very well. My school decided to teach all year, which would have crippled our writing, and Carol had a childish buffoon for a principal who was determined to nursing home falls-thumb-300x199-40655make life hell for anyone with the nerve to come from Arizona. We made it until December and then found jobs on the Navajo res in New Mexico.

We had just announced our decision to move back west, and were going to leave in the morning. Joan and I were sitting at the kitchen table, playing our fiddles. Mom announced that it was her bedtime and began shuffling out with her walker. Just after she had navigated between Joan and the refrigerator, she paused and turned to me. “Well, I guess this the last I’ll ever see you,” she said serenely.DSC_0348

“Mom!” I said. “Don’t be ridiculous. We’ll be back this next summer.”

We had just gotten moved when Joan rang us with the news that Mom was gone. The thing that came to mind when I hung up the phone was remembering Mom taking the time out of her hectic spring day to walk a mile down into the woods with me to see an ovenbird’s nest. This May will be the first chance I’ve had in all these years to go to the woods for sweet williams. I reckon I’ll leave a handful on her grave.SweetWilliam1024

 

Tom Phipps

 

Abaddon Thinks Ariel is the Prettiest Little Girl He has Ever Seen

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The sudden cry of an infant across the camp caught Abaddon’s attention. “That must be one of Lukus and Soraya’s twins,” he said, turning to James. “Have you seen them, yet? Ariel, the little girl is the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen. It’s a good job that Momma and Nanna Demonica don’t know about them, don’t you know?”

elf child 2

“Why’s that?”

“You really don’t know?” said Abaddon with a flicker of his old scorn. “They think Lukus and Soraya are dead. The last thing they want is for them to live and have a baby ’cause of the proper scene. You know, the proper scene. It’s real important, but what is it?”

For a moment he had everyone.

“Prophecy?” said Owain with a respectfully knitted brow as he stepped forth to spit in the fire.

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“Oh,” said James. “Well. It’s when some great seer predicts that something is going to happen in the future. The prophesy that I think you must have heard your momma and nana talking about was made years ago by the Elves.”

“So, what is it?”

“It says that the child born of a Human and an Elf will destroy the Heart and the Staff and the evil foe who tried to wield them.”

Abaddon stared away in awe at Soraya soothing Ariel. “No wonder,” he murmured.

Ch 34, The Burgeoning

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Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

 

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

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“Grandfather?” said Rose.medieval-woman-with-long-hair

“Yes?”

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

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

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

“Sure. You’d hoped they’d have some magical and quick solution.”tumblr_mc7pq21lbC1qmtdyso1_500

“Yes.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Ch 31, Stone Heart

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Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

 

The Albino Troll Kid and the Elves

 Excerpt From Elf Killers

“Isbal! Reina! Strangers!” bellowed the troll as he wheeled and vanished into the adjoining room.

“It talks!” cried Kieran, springing after to let fly an arrow which glanced off a long polished table top and stuck in the far wall.

“Stop!” shrieked a woman, suddenly appearing from the hallway.

“Aunt Isbal!” cried Oisin, letting down his bow. “You’re alive!”

“Yes I am. Now don’t shoot our troll…!”

“‘Our’ troll? Who else made it through the massacre? And how would you ever have a troll?”

“Your aunt Reina is who else. Now you heard me about not shooting him, right?”

“How does one not shoot a troll?” said Kieran.

Beautiful male elf in the magic forest. Fantasy. Fairy tale, magic.

“By being polite enough not to, Kieran!” said Isbal.

“I’m sorry, Isbal. I just saw them kill…”

“Yes. So did I. But this one won’t. Come on out Darragh. Come on now.”

After a pause, a chair scooted away from the long polished table with a screech on the stone floor as Darragh lumbered out from under it and slowly stood up.

“Now this is Darragh, and I swear he’ll not harm a single hair on your head…”

“What’s the matter with it?” said Olloo. “I’ve never seen one with snow white hair before. And what’s wrong with the thing’s eyes?”

“Shake their hands, Darragh,” she said as she gently took him by the wrist and held his hand toward Kieran.

Kieran stepped back as Oisin came forth in his place and took Darragh by the hand.

“How do you?” rumbled Darragh with a beetle browed nod as he pumped out a couple of giant handshakes.

“Carefully, sport,” said Oisin with a wary look as he stepped back.

“Meanie. And he meanie, too,” said Darragh, wrinkling his nose with a sneer and pointing at Kieran and Olloo

“Well shake his hand, Kieran,” said Olloo.

“No!” said Darragh, shaking his head from shoulder to shoulder. “He big big meanie. He dirtybutt stinkerman.”

“Well,” said Olloo, “there’ve been moments on the way here when we’ve thought so ourselves, Darragh.”

Kieran bit his lip and kicked Olloo in the ankle.

“See?” said Darragh. “Meanie!”

“So how did you come by him?” said Oisin. “And where’s Aunt Reina?”

“Back through the house,” said Isbal. “I can see that this will require some refreshments. Let me take you to the sitting room. Come along, Darragh.”

Soon they had exchanged greetings with Reina and were all seated comfortably around a tea table in a small parlour. Isbal and Reina disappeared into the kitchen and returned shortly with hot blackberry tarts and tea. “We harvested the blue maidenhair you’re about to drink last year right after the massacre,” said Reina as she set down the tray with the steaming pot.

“Why do you have it so dark in here?” said Oisin.

“The light hurts Darragh’s eyes,” said Isbal. “If we don’t keep it dark, he’ll sleep all day and keep us awake all night…”

“Drum and hoot-hoot, Isbal?” said Darragh as he tumbled onto the floor in front of her and pressed his cheek to her foot. “Please hoot-hoot?”

“That’s probably a good idea. Go get the instruments,” she said as he sprang to his feet and raced out.

He was back in short order with a field drum and two clay jugs. He set the drum on its side with a bang and reverently nestled the smaller jug in Isbal’s lap before plumping down cross legged on the floor with the larger jug. He scooted the drum about until he could touch its head with the ball of one foot. Like a conductor tapping his baton, he shifted about for a moment and got still. Presently he began a brisk tapping of the drum with his foot: pum, pum, pum, pum, pum, pum, pum, pum..

Isbal joined him in time with her jug: foof…foof…foof…foof…

Darragh in turn added a commanding: toofa…toofa…toofa…toofa… so that together they went: foof toofa, foof toofa, foof toofa, foof toofa, foof toofa, foof toofa, foof toofa, foof toofa… for a very long time. After a spell, it became quite mesmerizing indeed. Suddenly he stopped his jug with a loud thump of his drum: bam!

Isbal continued: foof…foof…foof…foof… until Darragh went: wham! on his drum, sprang to his feet and gave a dignified bow. For a moment, there was not a sound in the room.

At last, Oisin set down his teacup with a clink. “Why, I’ve never heard the like,” he said. “That was quite impressive, Darragh.”

Darragh grinned hugely and bowed again and again.

“Darragh,” said Isbal, holding out her jug, “why don’t you go out and play for a while? I promise that as soon as Reina has the next pies out of the oven, we’ll call you in.”

“Oh good, good!” he said with a bounce as he gave her a squeeze and took her jug. He scurried out at once with the jugs. He was back immediately for the drum, pausing to stick out his tongue at Kieran. “Bad meanie stinky privy seat!” he rumbled. He gave his chest two good thumps with his fists and tramped out.

“Just what does he have against me?” said Kieran.

“I expect he takes exception to being shot at,” said Isbal.

“Nay. He’s just a good judge of character, is all…” said Olloo.

Kieran leant aside with a frown and gave Olloo a smack on the back of the head.

“Well, speaking of fighting and dying, if you know what I mean, how ever did you come by Darragh?” said Oisin. “Do you really trust him?”

“So the dear child scares you, does he?”

“Not as much as on first sight. Child? I can see that he sort of acts like one, but he’s a good head taller than me and might weigh as much as all three of us.”

“He’s not an Elf Killer,” said Isbal, looking up as Reina returned with another pot, “Well troll he be, but he is indeed innocent.”

“How can you call any sort of troll a ‘dear child,'” said Kieran, “or innocent?”

“Because that’s what he is, Kieran,” said Isbal. “Darragh wouldn’t harm so much as an insect unless it bit him first.

a9d58e6a220145c3376074ebc15e9f02“You say he’s actually a child?” said Olloo.

“Aye,” said Reina as she poured tea all ’round. “We reckon that trolls are grown enough to start pestering sows at about eleven. You’d have to bathe him, but you’d see he’s not near there yet.

“Eleven!”

“They’re pretty short lived. When did you first get giddy over girls, two hundred and ten or two hundred and twenty, perhaps?”

“But trolls are monsters, Reina,” said Kieran.

Reina sighed and carefully set the teapot on the marble tea table. “Monsters they be, Kieran,” she said. “We were captured, don’t you know, along with who knows how many others.” She turned a haunted look to Isbal and licked her lips. Isbal took up her hand and squeezed it, but neither of them smiled.

Everyone sat for a moment, stunned by this. “How did you ever…?” said Oisin.

“Oh, as far as we know, we were the only ones to escape their horrible fires. They had so many captives, and were all gone wild with their hellish carousal that they seemed to have no interest in a couple of dried up old gammers. They never even bothered tying us up. They just threw us down in the dirt outside where everyone could see us. We were so terrified that we just stayed right where they put us, doing everything we could not to watch what was going on. We still wake up in the night with horrible dreams…”

“Then a scrap broke out right in front of us,” said Isbal. “The big old trollbrutes tore Darragh away from his mother. The moment they took out their sharp flints, fixing to cut him open, she stopped kicking at them and began licking their feet…”

“With her tongue?” said Olloo.

“Yes indeed, all over the tops of them and between their toes, and it stopped the curses from cutting him open. They yanked him up onto his feet by his hair and shoved him at his poor mother…”

“And the instant they did that,” said Reina, “I grabbed Isbal and we ran for the brush as hard as we could go. Just after we’d got well out of sight of the fires, the mother grabbed us by the hair and yanked us onto our backs. As we were a-struggling to get up, she shoved Darragh at us and got on her hands and knees and went to whimpering and licking at our feet. Poor Darragh was crying and carrying on too, and she bit him good a couple of times and made him go with us.

“We ran for what seemed like hours, and Darragh stayed right with us, hanging onto us for dear life. When we got back here, we found no one alive and we spent the next several days, burying bodies. We just kept running into them. Darragh kept trying to help us, so long as we didn’t go out in the bright sun. He also started in right away, trying to use our words. He won’t use trollish…”

“How can you be sure he won’t turn on you sometime?” said Kieran.

Reina heaved a sigh. “Well he’s not about to,” she said. “A few weeks ago, maybe fifty trollbrutes came back here late in the evening and nosed around through building after building for long enough, we thought they’d never leave. Darragh hid us in a passage in the palace that he’d found. He was playing outside when they showed up and the very sight of them terrified him. He was trembling all over and he kept calling them ‘monsters,’ and we couldn’t begin to coax him out of the passage until long after they were gone. He won’t ever talk about living with the other trolls, but over time we have managed to piece together that he was tormented by them day and night, and that they were continually threatening to eat him.” She clapped her knees with sudden resolution and stood up. “I think the pies must be ready by now.”

“Yea,” said Isbal. “It might do you some good, Kieran, if you went out and got Darragh. My guess is that he’s out in the stable. He won’t be far. He’s crazy about blackberry tarts…”

“Me?”

“Just go out through the kitchen.”

Seeing that no one was about to come to his aid, Kieran sheepishly rose and followed Reina. Beyond a long roofed breezeway, he stepped into an enormous barn like a rough hewed cathedral. “Darragh?” he called. There was no answer. He went from stall to stall along both walls, standing empty in the cobwebs. “Darragh?” Not finding him, he climbed into the mow. Pigeons cooed and strutted along a great timber, high up the far wall. “Darragh? Darragh! Come on! They’ve got pie!”

“No!” cried Darragh, standing up in the hay. “You dirtybutt meanie!”

“Come on, Darragh! I came out to get you for pie!”cherry_pie_case_for_the_ipad_mini-rf252931f447246c89e9010b93c82d7d7_w9wmu_8byvr_324

Darragh shook his head from shoulder to shoulder. Without warning, he threw a fist sized rock, taking off Kieran’s hat, making him see stars and setting him down hard upon the mow floor. Darragh was standing over him at once. “We even, Dirtybutt!” he cried as he gave his chest a good drumming with his fists. He held out his hand. “Now maybe you no more be meanie.”

Kieran took his hand and stood up.

“Now. Any more meanie?”

“No. I came out here to get you for pie.”

“Good, good! I like pie.”

“Even better than what you ate when you lived with the Marfora Siofra?”

“Boof! Dyrney no eat good things. Dyrney say they’ll eat me and say they’ll eat me and say they’ll eat me. Dyrney even want Fmoo to eat me.”

“Are Dyrney the Marfora Siofra? Who’s Fmoo?”

Darragh clenched his teeth and his fists and gave an angry shudder as he nodded and hissed through his nose. “‘Dyrney’ be troll talk for ‘people,’ but Dyrney no be people. Dyrney be awful, awful, awful, awful monsters.”

“Who’s Fmoo?”

“Fmoo be my real momma. But ‘fmoo’ and ‘Dyrney’ be troll words. I hate troll words. Just Elf words, please? I be Elf now.”

“You’ve got a deal, Darragh.”

“Good, good!” cried Darragh, with a thundering leap on the mow floor. “We eat pie.”

The heady aroma of blackberry tarts met them as they returned to the parlour beyond the kitchen. “Kieran no more be dirty butt meanie,” said Darragh as he scurried up to sit on the floor before the tea table.

“Why, that’s remarkable,” said Olloo, earning another smack on the back of the head as Kieran took his seat. “We never quite managed.”

 

Elf Killers

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps 

There was no Vowel Shift Separating us from Middle English

Medieval20Town

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.

hangleton cottage

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