Demonica and Ugleeuh Enjoy Supper by the Sea

Demonica’s keep had two great towers at opposite ends of the front wall of the castle proper. One of them housed Razzorbauch’s great library. The other one served as her private lookout over the vast Orin Ocean to the far off horizons in three directions. In good weather she was fond of having supper on its uppermost storey under a tile roof held
aloft by open Gothic arches on all sides. On this particular evening, she and Ugleeuh sat
across from each other in their crimson dresses, listening to the booming of the surf as the breeze ran ripples along the skirt of their linen tablecloth. She forked two more steaming slices of duck roast onto her plate of sour cabbage from the duck’s cavity and looked up at Ugleeuh. “Is something the matter, dear?” she said as she licked her fingertips.

“How do you eat like that after…?” said Ugleeuh, waving aside her own comment with a shake of her head. “Oh, never mind.”

“You don’t find that a good torture session increases your appetite?”

“Well, Minuet and Bethan were the one who always dressed the chickens…”

“Well. You do look right peaked, now that you call my attention to it, dear. Do Minuet and Bethan lose their appetites for chicken on the days they cut up fryers?”

“Well no…”

“Of course not. They’ve learnt that what’s in the skillet is important enough that gory feathers are of no consequence at all. And the blood on a torture table doesn’t matter, either. What counts is that heady sense of power. Madog was on his way to see to your undoing. Now Leeuh, surely you’re not about to tell me that the mess in the dungeon overshadowed the orchestration of his deserving end, are you?”

stock-footage-downward-pan-of-arches-over-mediterranean“No Mother,” she said with an especially pale swallow. “I rather enjoyed myself. It’s quite something how long he lasted…”

“And that’s the entertaining part,” she said with a happy wave of her knife. “What good would it be if he died first thing?”

“I did enjoy myself, Mother,” she said as she picked up her bread to butter. “Could you pass the duck? I’d like some cabbage and some more bird.”

“Splendid,” she said, picking up the platter. “I believe your appetite is better already.”Stone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle

“Oh it is. And I did have fun. But what does torture have to do with sorcery?”

“Oh, not so much with sorcery as it has to do with power. One must enjoy power in order to wield it.”

“So now that we’re relaxed and powerful, when will you teach me to be a sorceress?”

“Well sorcery does include power,” said Demonica as she spread some cabbage onto her bread. “But no more today, dear. Let’s just talk and get to know each other.”

“Fine. What do you want to know?”

“Well, what did Princess Branwen do to make you go to all that trouble to get rid of her?”

Ugleeuh laughed, rocking back and forth to swallow. “Not a thing,” she said. “She was just Ugleeuh_rub_880683_c_medieval_scarlett_red_hooded_dress_costume_adult_ain the way.”

“Of what?”

“She was betrothed to Prince Hebraun.”


“So I’ve my own plans for Hebraun, if you must,” said Ugleeuh with a sullen toss of her raven mane.

“Why you look vexed. I’m only curious about you.”

“Yea? Well it would be easier to take, had you any curiosity about me while I was growing up,” she said, glaring as she wiped her mouth. “So here you be after skipping my life entirely up to now, pushing at me for a cozy little chat. My appetite’s gone. I’m going to bed.” And with that, she threw her napkin onto her plate and stood up.

“Touchy, are we?” said Demonica as Ugleeuh reached the stairs.

Ugleeuh slowed as her back stiffened, taking the first step down.


Good_Sister,_Bad_Sis_Cover_for_KindleIn Chapter 17 of Good Sister, Bad Sister, Demonica takes Ugleeuh to see Madog, the one who delivered the cat to Princess Branwen. It quickly becomes clear that not only did Ugleeuh murder Princess Branwen of Far, she also caused the outbreak of the plague.




Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps






My Review for AHNN by T.E. Mark


In the early 21st century, in an effort to increase human productivity, science granted mankind wearable AI headsets.

By 2016, these early versions were cast aside and replaced with more reliable, Nano-sized, implantable devices tuned to human thought.

Infants received their implants at birth. Total human connectivity was achieved in March of 2201.

Governments, militaries and schools were abolished, and the world was handed over to a network of intelligent computers called AHNN.

Now in the 31st century, or 9th, depending on who you talk to, AHNN has pretty much had it with running the world and has decided to give it back.

This is AHNN’s story.


My Review of AHNN by T.E. Mark

Imagination or vision? I couldn’t help but ponder this question while reading this multi-layered tale. In this scifi/dystopian novel the entire world has been transformed and is ruled by a vast A.I. (artificial intelligence) known as AHNN. This plot at first glance might appear to be just another tale on a familiar theme, but AHNN deviates from the norm almost instantly.

AHNN is a clever, highly imaginative, and well-written original story with a god deal of humor. The plot flows smoothly and quickly, and the characters are as diverse as they are interesting. For these things alone, AHNN is worth a read. Though personally, I feel it would be a shame to dismiss this book as mere entertainment, and not give it some deep thought. On close inspection the story reveals a world with technology and social issues reminiscent of our own, such as A.I.’s taking over jobs that were previously filled by human workers, racial discrimination, and unrest due to border and immigration disputes, to name but a few. Does this suggest we are on the verge of becoming a dystopian society, or have we already taken the first initial steps to that end?

In AHNN, the all-powerful A.I. resolves all the issues which face the population under its rule. The irony is that once the people become totally reliant on AHNN and the new technology which runs their world, they lose all the things which make them unique, and well, human. Meanwhile, AHNN, the great technological guide and deity in orbit above the earth, appears to gain at least the rudiments (if not more) of humanity itself, when it realizes that all its efforts to improve his people’s lives have not yielded quite the results it envisioned

I believe that the way the book ends is a warning about human complacency, and the fact that down through the ages humankind has never been able to fully resolve its in-group, out-group issues satisfactorily. Instead, we seem to resort to the same old tactics and behaviors we always have used in the past, even though our knowledge and technology continues to increase. It appears that our advanced knowledge and technology only serve to make us more dangerous, and vulnerable, and ultimately the probable facilitators of our own eventual demise. Or could it simply be that the only way humankind will actually grow and thrive is on chaos and conflict?

I highly recommend this brilliant scifi/dystopian tale to all who enjoy this genre, and especially to all who want a book that makes them think.


Ugleeuh Hates Hubba Hubba


“Happy birthday!” cried Wizard Razzmorten with a grand whirl of his cape, leaving a round wooden box with a gawking baby parrot sitting on the board by the cake.

Ugleeuh 3“What is that thing, Father?”

“Why a popinjay, dear. They’re almost impossible to come by…”

“It’s all pinfeathers. You surely don’t intend for it to actually be my gift, do you?”

“Well it’s right young, Leeuh,” he said. “When you start with them at that age, they can actually be talking to you before they’re quite a year old.”

“Not if I drown it first…”

“Lee-Lee!” cried her sister. “You don’t mean that! What an awful way to treat your Father…”

“Oh go on! He surely knows better. Here I am, still waiting for you to serve me, and he runs up and plops down this dirty box full of muslin, fowl and green poop, right where I was expecting my cake. And by the way, dearest Minuet, just how long are you going to stand there with my saucer in your hand? It is my birthday, don’t you know. And since that thing in the box is my birthday gift, I certainly get to drown it.”

“Don’t you dare!” said Minuet. “I’ll take it if you don’t want it…”

“Please!” said Razzmorten, throwing up his hands. “Let’s you and I take the morning tomorrow and find you something special in the market, or if you know of something better just…”

Ugleeuh wasn’t listening. “You can have the stinking popinjay, Minuet, if you give me my cake before it slides off the saucer.”

“You mean it?”

“Sure sister dear. The cake now, and it’s yours, but you’ll still owe me.”

Ch. 1, Good Sister, Bad Sister


Ugleeuh came to Razzmorten’s door and opened it. A pungent smell of old paper whirled through the room on a rush of air from the window, bright with yellow maple leaves. “Oh, he’s busy with his stupid still,” she said. She skipped down the hallway to Minuet’s room and peered in. “No Minny-Min,” she said, clasping her hands together. “She’s off somewhere, busy at being just too, too.” She stopped short at the sight of Hubba Hubba on his perch by the bed. “But the stinking popinjay’s sure here.”

Hubba Hubba went skinny as she crossed the room.

“Hold still, popinjay,” she said as she crept up to the perch. “It’s high time we drowned you, don’t you think?”

He stood upright with wide orange eyes, leaning back away from her as she drew near. The magna10-5-99moment she grabbed for him, he bit the web of her hand and flew away into the hallway, screaming: “Minuet! Minuet! Minuet!”

“I’m not done with you, stinker!” shouted Ugleeuh as she grabbed her bleeding hand. “How about spending eternity as a crow?”

Suddenly Minuet stepped into the doorway, out of breath.

“Minny-Min!” cried Ugleeuh, as if she’d just stepped out of a coach. “I’m home!”

Ch 17, Good Sister, Bad Sister


Minuet stood inside the doorway catching her breath, as a whir of wings flew ’round the corner from the hallway. She held up her finger to collect the landing flurry of feathers without taking her eyes off Ugleeuh.

“Minuet!” shrieked Hubba Hubba between pants. “Bad bear witch!”

“Well you certainly excited Hubba Hubba, Leeuh,” said Minuet. “What happened? Did Uncle Razzorbauch disappoint you, or did you disappoint him?”

“Bad!” growled Hubba Hubba.

“No, no sweetness,” said Ugleeuh with a pampered tone. “You disappoint me. You failed as big sister. I’ve tried and tried so hard as little sister, but you’re just too, too.”

“Bad witch!” growled Hubba Hubba. 

“Do you really expect a warm welcome after the way you left? You didn’t even tell Father.”

“Right!” she scoffed as she brushed passed Minuet on her way to the door. “As if I owed him. He’s hardly been a father. What would he care? Always trying to make me to fit the goody-goody mold, just like big sister. He’s the one who owes me.”

Ch. 18, Good Sister, Bad SisterGood_Sister,_Bad_Sis_Cover_for_Kindle






 Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps


People Have the Right to Know What They’re Breathing





Posted below is a recent letter I wrote to my congressmen:


Dear Senator Largesse:

For years, big chemical outfits such as Monsanto have paid for a substantial amount of the research at the University of Illinois and other land grant colleges. As a result, the farmers in this area have almost entirely abandoned conventional tillage for no-till farming. This means that farmers are using sprays instead of controlling weeds and pests by mechanical means such as disking and cultivating.

The problem with this is that pests and weeds have a high rate of reproduction and consequently a high probability of adaptive mutation. That is, they quickly develop 16079-a-man-spraying-a-pesticide-on-some-plants-in-his-garden-pvresistance to the sprays, requiring the farmers to use ever greater quantities of spray to keep the weeds and pests under control. Eventually sprays will cease to be effective against the new resistant strains of weeds and pests, but by that time, spray use will have increased to levels disastrous to the environment and human health.

Years ago, when I was getting my degrees in botany and zoology, I was quite taken by how very similar human cell machinery was to that of all other organisms. Our cells’ structure and chemistry are not very different from those of agricultural pests and weeds.


Already, we have resistant strains appearing, such as a resistant pigweed in beans, and spray use is increasing astronomically. So to hide this from the public, someone has allowed the chemical companies to sell sprays without the distinctive safety odor which has until now warned people that they were breathing something toxic. Now, the public no longer has a choice about whether they have to breath toxic fumes. The sprays are odorless and being sprayed with impunity.

After a career of teaching, my wife and I came back home to the farm I grew up on, PesticideSprayerlooking forward to enjoying being out of doors. And up until now, if we got a whiff of spray, we simply avoided it. This year, the bean fields have been inundated with odorless spray. Ditches everywhere have been turned brown with spray instead of being mowed. And before we know it, we find ourselves breathing the sprays long enough to be caught up in the throes of asthma attacks and convulsive coughing seizures and migraine after migraine. After waiting all year for warm weather, we now can not ride our tandem bicycle without getting migraines, strangling and chest pains. We have been forced to give up riding our bike, and now we scarcely dare to go outdoors.


This has to stop! It is bad enough to base a new agriculture on a toxic and unsustainable chemistry in the first place, but it is utter insanity to allow greedy chemical companies to take away people’s right to avoid exposure to their poisons. Please, PLEASE do something to make it illegal to sell or to apply odorless pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. Please legislate it to be mandatory for all sprays to have a vile and easily recognized safety scent in order to allow their use.


Thank you for your time,

Tom Phipps

Please feel free to copy and use this letter to send to your Congressmen.


Ugleeuh Loves her Bloated Hubba Hubba

Lukus swelled up with a rejoinder, but dropped it at the sight of ol’ Ma’am returning with an Scan10067armload of blankets. On her shoulder perched a huge smug crow. “What a conceited fowl,” he thought.

“Here’s my dearest,” she said grandly. “His name is Hubba Hubba and he is such a darling, but I’m afraid he enjoys eating more than he does flying. He’s just a bit too plump to get off the ground these days…”

Ch. 10, The Collector Witch 


“Yea,” said Hubba Hubba with pompous arrogance. “Time to eat.” 

Rose bolted upright, wide eyed. “It talks!” she said, flinging back her covers. “I thought only parrots could do that, and not even all of them.”

Ugleeuh and Hubba Hubba turned to glare at her with one icy accord, reminding her so much of a pair of glaciers, that without thinking she pulled her blankets back over her legs.

“My name is Hubba Hubba,” he said with a flash of his eyes, as he straightened his heft beneath his bristling mantle of feathers. “I am not a thing. Do not refer to me as ‘It!’” 

Ugleeuh swelled up with a hiss through her nose to glower down at Rose.

Rose shrank back into her bed roll.

“I don’t like parrots,” she snarled. “I would never have one, and I prefer not to discuss the vile creatures. Crows, particularly this one, have far greater command of language than any parrot. And from now on, if either of you talks about or speaks to my dearest, you’ll call him Hubba Hubba. Is that perfectly clear?”

Ch. 10, The Collector Witch



“So,” said Hubba Hubba with a rasp like a rusty hinge as he leveled a derisive squint. “Just how much of the time which you just spent outside was actually taken up by deciding if your unicorns were indeed gone? At this rate, I’ll be lucky to get into the air before Ugleeuh gets back. Why, she might not even see me up there and crash into me. Chaos and mayhem. I’d be dead and you two would be to blame. She’d never get over it. She’d never forgive you. Never let you go if she even let you live.”

“Don’t you dare threaten us with that old sow witch of yours, Lard Ball!” shouted Lukus, lunging at him with a stamp. “What I want to know is what the old bat’s done with our unicorns. She has no right to take them! She could hang for it, don’t you know. Where are they? She has no…”

“Careful there snot,” he said as he leant forward, following Lukus’s movements minutely. “You’re repeating yourself. And I’d also advise you to be cautious about how you speak to me and how you treat me, because Ugleeuh will hear of it. In fact, she’s told me to give her a complete report of your entire behavior upon her return, and I must say that it’s not very favorable, so far.”

Ch. 11, The Collector Witch




“Good,” she said. “Then I suppose we have no choice for our next step but to hitch up the sparrows.” She shuddered as she looked about and found them, shackled to their iron balls, pecking at crumbs on the floor. “So then, Hubba Hubba, just how does one wrangle venomous little birds into harnesses and make them do your bidding without getting poisoned in the process?”

He made no reply, but Rose’s comment stopped all three sparrows at once. They gazed up at her, keenly absorbed in what she was up to. He leant forward, clacked his beak and leered at them, but the grumpy gesture caused them to break out in a titter. He ruffled up with a heavy shake and hoisted himself into an aloof posture.                   

Rose turned to Lukus. He shrugged, making it quite clear that he knew no more about the matter than she.

“Well,” said Hubba Hubba from under a half opened eye, “they might not be quite as deadly as Ugleeuh led you to believe.”

“Just how much risk is there to handling them?” said Rose.

“Practically none,” he said, almost meekly.

“Practically!” yelped Lukus. “What does that mean? Either the birds are dangerous or they aren’t, Tubbo!”

“Name calling is very childish and rude,” said Hubba Hubba as he drew himself up on his perch, obviously stung by Lukus’s taunts about his corpulence. “It was not I, dear impetuous one, who told you that tale about the slaves, you know.”

“No, but you’re the one who’s refused to be clear about it, yet.”

“Lukus! None of this is getting us anywhere,” said Rose. “Hubba Hubba, are the sparrows poisonous or not?” 

“Not in the least,” he sighed. “Chirp, Tweet and Squeak merely have small minds.”

Ch. 11, The Collector WitchThe_Collector_Witch_Cover_for_Kindle





Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

RRBC Spotlight Author, Flossie Benton Rogers


Writing Interview:

Describe the books you like to write.

The stories I am called to write are adventurous, quick moving, sensual, spicy, and flush with surprising twists and turns.  Many of the heroes and heroines are otherworldly–ghosts, guardians, goddesses, witches, fairies, angels, and demons, while some are human but with special insight. The otherworldly ones also possess humanlike attributes and personalities, while exploring the depths of their unique abilities and powers.  My characters must deal with challenges on the human earth world and other realities. Their lives don’t always unfold like a blossom opening to the sun. Sometimes a solar flare erupts and fries the pristine bud. Sometimes the flower morphs into a breathtaking, witchy siren. My characters seek beauty in the midst of darkness and devotion in the midst of bedlam. Simmering below it all is the immutable flame of eternal love.

What is the most important thing writers can do for themselves?

The most important thing a writer can do is write, write, and write some more. Instead of obsessing over getting your first book published if you are not going the indie route or finding an agent, write a second book, and a third.

What writers have influenced you?

Other than author Loretta C. Rogers, who convinced me that I could write a novel and get it published, I am drawn to the clarity, brevity, and action of vintage romance author Dorothy Cork and icon Rex Stout, author of the Nero Wolfe mysteries.

What literature do you find particularly compelling?

I love the novels of Hermann Hesse, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Franz Kafka, and Thomas Hardy; the plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Shakespeare; and the poetry of Yeats and Keats, just to name a few.

Favorite quotes:

John Keats: “Real are the dreams of gods and soothly  pass their pleasures in a long immortal dream.”

Julian of Norwich: “All is well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.”

How does your writing process work?

I like to plan, plot, and measure where the turning points should go and then allow the characters or chaos muse to take the story in unanticipated directions. As a writer, the initial planning provides a tether so that I’m not always floating in the stratosphere, while the openness to change gives color and liveliness to the project. New beings flutter forth from the fae dimension. I like a good surprise.

What message do you most want your writing to convey to readers?

Experience, enjoy, and esteem the magic of life.


Mind Your Goddess, Witchfae 3


Minuet Tells Rose to Let Her Heart Decide

Rose and Lukus had been home less than a week, when a page knocked on her door and announced the arrival of Prince James. Rose’s heart fell at this. “I shall meet him directly, in the second drawing room off the dining hall,” she said with a quiver to her voice that she didn’t expect.

“Very good, Your Highness,” said the page. “I shall convey this at once.”

Just as she was about to go out the door, Minuet arrived with an encouraging smile. “Rose, your Father and I have discussed your marriage at length since your return. We’ve decided that if you still find James objectionable after you’ve seen him, we’ll make some sort of reparation to King Edmond and cancel the wedding.”

“But…you said that such an action might start a war.”

“Anything’s possible, but we think that war is very unlikely for the time being. King Edmond would fare very badly in a war and frankly, a tidy windfall might be exceedingly beneficial to him.”

“Why Mother, what’s happened in Loxmere?”

“It’s a right lengthy tale, I’m afraid,” said Minuet as she put her arm around Rose and walked her out the door and down the stairs. “There’s no time now. James awaits. Go to him, and let your heart and nothing else decide, Rose.”

Rose hugged her and hurried through the dining hall to the drawing room, relieved to be able to make short work of her childhood nightmare. She entered softly. There was James, standing with his back to her, warming his hands at the fireplace. She studied him
for a moment. “He’s certainly not the short, pudgy thing he used to be,” she thought. “James?” she said.

Ch. 30, The Collector Witch    

“O-ooh! That arrogant, dimwitted pig boy!” said Rose between breaths, at the top of the spiraled staircase. “How could I ever have believed he’d changed?”

“Rose?” said King Hebraun softly, making her gasp and jump.

She’d not seen Minuet and him following her all the way up. She turned to face them and panicked. What could she say to them? She began at once in trembling dismay, telling them everything as they carefully listened.

“…And so,” she said with a tremulous heave, “I told him I’d not marry him now, or ever.” She looked at their faces with tears filling her eyes and added a squeaky: “I’m so sorry!”

“Rose,” said Hebraun. “it sounds to me as though you handled the situation in the only responsible and sensible way possible. Your Mother and I stand behind your decision completely. The timing might be a bit awkward, considering the large numbers of guests who’ve already arrived…”

“Hebraun!” said Minuet, as Rose’s tears brimmed over and ran down her cheeks.

Hebraun went wide eyed and quickly gave Rose a shoulder to cry on.

“Hey!” cried Lukus, charging to the top of the stairs, full of dash from having just been with Soraya. “How come you all are up here? Oh!” He saw Rose’s reddened eyes. “So what’s going on?”

“I told James I’m not going to marry him, Lukus,” she said over her handkerchief. “The wedding’s off.”

“No! It’s…no! Rose, you’re making this up, right?” he said. Of course he could see that she was not. “Whoa! So what happened? Is James the same old pea-slinging gwrtaith he always was, Rose?”

“Lukus!” cried Minuet. “Walls have ears.”

Hebraun jerked his finger to his lips.

Rose nodded. “Lukus is right!”

“I am? You mean to say he actually shot peas at you? If he did, do you want me to…?”

“Lukus! If you’re not teasing, don’t be so dim. If you are, I’ve just been through too much. You’re about to become betrothed yourself, so I’d think that you’d…”

“That’s it!” cried Hebraun, giving Minuet a jubilant nod of resolution. “Where did anyone last see King Neron?”

“I left Soraya at his chamber, just now,” said Lukus. “I think they might be taking a stroll out by the big fountain.”

Ch. 31, The Collector Witch









Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Who is Herio?


Herio is a plucky youth from the pastures of Ashmore, living just outside the village of Ash Fork with his mother and his little brother Cefnogi Rhywun, when Queen Spitemorta of Goll destroysStone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle everything he has ever known, in Stone Heart. She sets out to incite war with Niarg by sending Brutus, her captain of the royal guard, across the Loxmere river with her army to burn Ash Fork to the ground. She demands that he get a retaliation led by Niarg’s King Hebraun himself by any means necessary.

Brutus chooses to hang Cefnogi Rhywun in front of Herio and to have Sergeant Dunvel  take Herio to Castle Niarg to report the invasion to King Hebraun and to tell him that someone would hang for each day it takes for him to arrive at Ash Fork. Hebraun does indeed retaliate after he takes Dunvel into custody and leaves Herio with Queen Minuet as her protector. He kills Brutus, destroys Goll’s army and discovers that everyone in Ash Fork has been slain. 

As Herio gets used to living in Castle Niarg, in The Burgeoning, The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_KindleQueen Spitemorta and her grandmother Demonica become a perilous threat to Niarg, which might be relieved if they were to place a spy in Castle Goll. Herio volunteers to go there with Hubba Hubba and do just that. Before they set out, Minuet knights Herio. When they return with news of Spitemorta’s plan to attack Niarg, she also adopts him, turning him into a prince and making him a possible heir to the throne. In time, he manages to return to Goll with a major shock for The Reaper Witch 01 copySpitemorta, which turns him into target for her in The Reaper Witch.



Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps


Minuet is a Lucky Woman


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

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

“So, you suddenly don’t like blue?”

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

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

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

“Do they? Who says so?”

“Well everybody.”

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

“Stop teasing me,” giggled Minuet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, right after the barley…”

“And the rye?”



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

“So, it’s been done.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Well, he’s a lucky fellow.”

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

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

Ch. 29, Stone Heart









Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

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


a mysterious lady in vintage style

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes yes, Your Majesty.”

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


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

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

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

“Yes, Your Majesty?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coel stood there with a look of bright eyed amusement.

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

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


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Carol Marrs Phipps &Tom Phipps