Ugly Company for Minuet

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Minuet sat in the sunshine of the upstairs sewing room, between the tall wool wheel and the loom, embroidering a sketch which she had made of her ewe and lambs grazing by the hollyhocks she had planted by the house. A breeze came and went as a vireo called fromfantasy-minuet the crown of the maple just outside the window. She hummed ever so faintly, turning her hoop this way and that. Suddenly she sat upright with a gasp at the screech of a chair to return immediately to her work, determined to ignore that Ugleeuh was now sitting directly across from her.

Hubba-Hubba finished preening his stubble of pinfeathers and gave himself a thorough shake, nearly losing his balance on the edge of his box of rags. Ugleeuh champed awayfootnote-12 at the fistful of hazelnuts she had brought in with her and crossed her legs. She dangled a slipper from her toe. Hubba-Hubba hopped onto the rags in his box and peered out over the edge with one eye. Ugleeuh heaved a sigh and crossed her legs the other way as she dug at the cud in her cheek with her tongue. She popped another hazelnut into her mouth, rubbing her nose as she chewed.

“Do you actually want something?” said Minuet as she cut her thread and began hunting for another color.

“Well why else would I be sitting here?”

“Hard telling…”

“I was sitting here because you’ve gotten ‘way too-too…”obm006473

“You could have spoken, first thing, and I would have answered,” said Minuet asshe threaded her needle on the first try and picked up her hoop. “But you didn’t, and since I was enjoying myself before you sat down, I was hoping that you just might let me go on
with it.”

“No, no Minnie-Min. You’re just full of yourself since your victory in our little tug o’ war, aren’t you?”

“Look Lee-Lee. If that’s all you want, I’ve no time for it. Think whatever you must, but just go somewhere else and do something nice.

“Well. Since you were polite enough to ask me, I came in here to find out when Father will get back, since he never tells me anything anymore.”

“I can’t imagine why not,” said Minuet as she turned her hoop over and cut a thread, “but in this case, you could have seen him off just as easily as I did. Besides, he told you he’d take you with him, the first chance he gets. Surely your birthday present isn’t more important than saving everyone from the plague.”

“I don’t suppose it ever occurred to you that I might be concerned about him, did it Miss Perfect?”

“No. That would be a shock.”

Ugleeuh gave a whooping sob and sprang from her chair, smacking Minuet’s embroidery Ugleeuh_rub_880683_c_medieval_scarlett_red_hooded_dress_costume_adult_ahoop out of her lap as she tramped across the room. “You used to be my best friend!” she wailed as she yanked open the door and wheeled about. “You used to be my champion! You were the one person in this world I could always count on and trust! Now you’ve turned awful and I’ll never, ever forgive you!”

“I sure was, sweetheart,” said Minuet to the closed door as she knelt to pick up her broken hoop, “but then I woke up to find that no matter what I did for you, every third thing you ever said was a lie.”

“Do some-thing nice… do some-thing nice… just go some-where else and do some-thing nice…” said Ugleeuh in a giddy sing-song as she whirled and skipped down the hallway. At the head of the stairs she stopped short and leant out the window, straining to hear a couple of hands who were singing grandly as they rode a wagon load of timothy hay to theGood_Sister,_Bad_Sis_Cover_for_Kindle barn. “Oh my!” she said with a sweet little bounce as she clasped her hands under her chin. “You two are so tone deaf. I need to do something nice to each one of you. Big sister says so…” And with that, she floated down the stairs and skipped outside.

Ch. 4, Good Sister, Bad Sister



Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

The Great Stone Tree

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


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

The Burgeoning.





Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

The Real Pebbles

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

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

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

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

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

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

And her phrases:

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

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

Our character Pebbles, Hubba Hubba’s wife, behaves like an Amazon, but is fluently conversant, and appears in each of the books in the Heart of the Staff: Complete Series:  Good Sister, Bad Sister, The Collector Witch, Stone HeartThe Burgeoning, The Reaper Witch, and Doom.

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Tom Phipps

Minuet has a Strange Light in Her Eye


B0001782 Minuet

Rose stood stiffly on the stool as a pair of seamstresses pinned the hem of Minuet’s wedding gown. Minuet stood watching, radiant with happiness at her decision to wed as well as at her decision to wear her gown. “I’m more certain than ever that Mother and Father never expected me to marry,” she thought with a smile. “Mother,” she said, “I

suppose you understand that Fuzz and I want to wait for Lukus and Soraya to arrive
before we have the wedding?”

 “That’s what your father and I assumed,” said Minuet as she stooped to examine just how her hem was pinned in a certain place, “but Lukus and his family should be arriving in a few short weeks, which really only gives us scarcely enough time for all the arrangements.”

“We have plenty of time if we keep it small enough, Mother,” said Rose with a smile.

Minuet opened her mouth to protest, but closed it with a grin. “It is your wedding, Rose. And I suppose you’re right, all things considered.”

 “Yes,” said Rose, as she thought: “After calling off the extravagant affair with James, who knows how it would go? Besides, these are bad times upon us.” She stepped off the stool and out of the gown as the seamstresses carried it away for alterations. “Mother,” she said, picking up her robe from across a chair. “I’ve come to a decision. I want you to do something for me, if you will.”

 “My word. Is something wrong?”

 “Very wrong, actually. But to put you at ease, this has nothing to do with the wedding.”

“By all means dear, if I possibly can. What is it?”

 “Could you teach me to use my powers?”

 “Why, I thought you’d decided that you wanted nothing to do with becoming a sorceress, Rose,” she said with an astonished look.

 “No, by no means. I never did. But I suppose I was doing little more than following in your footsteps, all these years. I think that under the current circumstances it would be irresponsible to have such an ability and not use it for the good of all.”

Minuet’s eyes flashed.

“Oh, my! I didn’t mean it to sound that way. I was only referring to me. Our circumstances are altogether different. I’m not queen of anywhere. Fuzz is a military man and will undoubtedly be in the thick of what’s coming, and I’ve every intention of being right beside him, so will you teach me?”

 “Have you discussed this with Fuzz, dear? It would not be right to keep something like this to yourself.”

 “Not yet,” said Rose with a sigh, “but rest assured, he’ll abide by whatever I…”

“Of course Rose, I’d not expect otherwise. But it would put me at ease, knowing that you’d discussed it with him.”

 “You’re so provincial, Mother.”

 “‘Considerate’ is what we once called it, I believe.”

 “I’ll go speak with him this minute, but I suggest you go dig out your wand.”

 “All right,” said Minuet, as a strange light kindled in her eye. “You’ve a bargain.”


Ch. 35, Stone Heart



Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps



Hubba Hubba and Pebbles Find Unicorns


“I know you tried Wiz, but this is disgusting,” said Hubba Hubba, jerking back with a drool-flinging shake of his beak and ruffled feathers. “What are you eating, giant stinking sow bugs or what?”


“That’s shrimp, Hubba Hubba,” said Razzmorten.

“It’s out of the sea, you silly bird, not out from under some old rotting board in a barn lot,” said Lukus with a laugh, as everyone else broke out with titters.

“All right, all right,” said Hubba Hubba, as Pebbles stepped back from hers with watery eyes andamazon_sammy wiped her beak. “Dogs gobble up much worse, and they don’t know any better than to offer you ones the same rot they eat. I’m sorry Wiz, you’ve just got me gagging, here.”

“What did you find?” said Razzmorten quickly to spare Hubba Hubba’s feelings.

“That old Elf has four unicorns in a large paddock near the wharf where his fishing boat is docked. He’d just come in with his catch and was at the fence giving them a scratch, when we lit and asked him if he was Kie. He answered to it, but we sure gave him a start. It might have been dangerous to do but it was quick. Anyway, he does have unicorns to sell and he’ll be there if we don’t fool around.”

“Very good, you two,” said Razzmorten, as he gave them each a scratch.

In short order they were on their way to Fen, on a sand swept lane meandering along the coast just inland from the furthest reaches of the high tide. Rose and Fuzz rode Mystique through the saw grass to follow along on the beach for a spell. Sandpipers trotted ahead. Crabs scuttled sideways into holes. Rose rested her head against Fuzz’s shoulders and gave him a squeeze. Soon they were dismounting in front of a cottage that smelt vaguely of rotting fish, where Hubba Hubba and Pebbles circled overhead.

They found the Elf feeding his unicorns. “Hoy there, Kie!” called Razzmorten. We are travelers on our way to see King Neron, and we’d like very much to purchase two of your unicorns to speed us over the mountains, if you’ve any for sale.”

امازون دبل يلو“How is it that you and your green birds know my name and I know not yours?” said Kie, pushing back his floppy hat with a squint as he spit across the fence.

“A young fellow by the name of Galor told us about you, sir,” said Fuzz.

“Good lad,” said Kie, shifting his chew into his other cheek as he put his foot on the fence. “Well folks, I really hadn’t planned on selling these unicorns. You know they’re my pets, I’m afraid. I’ve had these here since they were colts.”

“Oh she’s darling,” said Rose as she scratched a short-legged one who had just come to investigate. “We’ll take good care of them, sir.”

Ch. 29, Stone Heart  Stone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle







Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps



Razzmorten sets out to Ease Hubba Hubba’s Mind


Razzmorten drew back the tall heavy curtain and tied it before stepping off the stool with a bound. Hubba Hubba winced at the sudden light. Razzmorten drug the screeching stool across the stone floor to the far side of the window before lunging onto it with one leg to grab for the other drape and tie it back. Hubba Hubba ruffled and shook off some of his stupor to glare resentfully at Razzmorten’s cheery endeavors. He vastly preferred his wonderful dream about Pebbles to this blinding sunlight. “Thank you, old fart,” he thought, settling his beak into his breast feathers with a shake of his head.

“What a beautiful day,” declared Razzmorten as he peered out the window and took a deep breath.

“Yea. It will be when you close the drapes again,” thought Hubba Hubba, as he wiggled his beak further into his breast feathers to close his eyes.

“What would you like for breakfast, fruit or vegetables?” said Razmorten. “Maybe some whole grain porridge?”

“I’m not hungry,” rattled Hubba Hubba from beneath his ruffled crown feathers.

“I see. Are you not feeling well? Perhaps if you tell me just how it is that you feel poorly, I could mix up something for you.”

By this time all the sparrows had come closer to listen. Hubba Hubba shook his feathers, flinging dander into the sunlight. Suddenly he sleeked down, pointing himself at them. “Now there are six nosey pests, rather than three. Do I need this? Well, I’ll tell ye: no, I do not. And if you want to know what I do want, I’d just like to be left alone for a change. Peace and quiet. Is that too much? Go build your nests. Beat it!”

“Wrong side of his perch this morning, wouldn’t you say?” said Razzmorten, sharing wide eyes with the sparrows. “I doubt that he’ll be very proud of his outburst after he’s had two shakes to consider things. Let’s just leave him to himself for a bit.” The sparrows flitted back to what they had been doing at their nests, while Razzmorten went to his bedroom to read, leaving Hubba Hubba to mumble by himself.


“Lot o’ ‘preciation he has,” he rattled from the very most guttural reaches of his crop. “Here I make my sacrifices, bringing messages about his grandchildren. And respect. I mean, what kind of respect is it to blind me with light and sadistic cheer, and six bouncy
goody-goody little slaves to rub it in? Six instead of three. I’m not getting twice as much
respect and service, here.” With a huff and an especially thorough shake of feathers, he
turned his back on the brilliant morning and closed his eyes in search of his dream about

“This isn’t working,” he thought. “Why don’t those bean brained sparrows shut up? ‘Tweety, tweety, tweet…!’ Great boundless Joy! The local twitterpates are jabbering all over outside. This is not working.” He turned back to point himself at the window. “I’ll go tell them!” He paused, straightening up to shuffle from side to side. “Whoa! Too far to the sill.” But now he was making lunging thrusts at the window at each end of his perch, and he was starting to flap his wings. Now he was flapping furiously. At the fleeting thought of Razzmorten’s suggestion of exercise, he let go. Before he could quite appreciate that he was truly aloft, his feet were planting themselves upon the warm stone window sill. He’d made it, and he wasn’t even breathing hard. He forgot all about sleep. He looked to see if the sparrows had seen. They had. Six heads, each gawking broadside, had stopped in astonishment to take in his unexpected feat. They ducked out of sight into their nests at once.

“Hey! You ones!” he called out. “It’s all right! I’m not upset. In fact, I’m sorry about the things I said earlier. Really. Aw come on! Can’t a fellow have a bad mood once in a while?”

Head by head they reappeared in shocked wonder. “That’s the first time that you’ve ever apologized for your nasty tongue,” chirped Tweet.

“Yea? Maybe so. Think there’s some hope for me after all?”

“May be,” tweeted Squeak, “but you still have a huge way to go.”

“Maybe you’re right, but old habits die hard, don’t you know. Give me some slack. I’m working on it.”

“Hey, the master’s developing humility,” squeaked Chirp. “And by the way, nice flight.”

Hubba Hubba made an aloof about-face hop on the window sill, but he was beaming at the compliment. He fluffed up and preened here and there and then gave himself a thorough 5238538447_ef45b254a9shake. When he smoothed down his plumage, he discovered that his black feathers had already gotten quite warm in the sun. He basked, letting his mind wander to pleasant images of Pebbles. After a good long spell in the mesmerizing warmth, he even fancied he saw her in a nearby apple tree. It was almost as though he heard her say: “I love you. C’mere.” It was so real that he found himself out the window, winging towards the apple tree. “My!” he said, coming to his wits. “I guess there’s nothing for it but to see if I can actually make it to that tree.” It was nearly a furlong away, but it was a downhill glide from Razzmorten’s tower, and he dutifully flapped his wings the whole distance. The next thing he knew, he was landing on a broad limb right beside the very love of his life. This was no daydream at all.

Pebbles however, was not charmed by his arrival. She fluffed up as huge as possible and shrank her pupils to pinholes, making her eyes fiery red. “Bad boy! Bad boy!” she called out, madly wheeling and strutting back and forth. “Minuet! Minuet! Please get rid of this bad boy!”

“Hubba Hubba!” cried Minuet, as she looked up from her chair in the shade. “You can fly again. Wonderful! Come down here and see me. Pay no mind to Pebbles. She’s just being a brat.”

Just then, he looked beyond Minuet into the courtyard and saw a personage who made him go apoplectically faint. She was sitting calmly with two strangers and King Hebraun. “What are you doing here, Ugleeuh?” he croaked, as his heart pounded in his chest. By now everyone was looking right at him, and he shrank back into the leaves.


“Is this filthy bird yours?” cried Ugleeuh, spitting with scorn as she sprang to her feet. “And how dare he call me ugly! You should have him destroyed this minute.” The two strangers rushed to her at once, attempting to soothe her.

This was too much for Hubba Hubba. “Help! Help! Help!” he cawed as he leaped into the air, flapping madly for Razzmorten’s tower. He had no problem making straight for the window, but loft was a poser. He thought his heart and lungs were both going to burst before he got far enough up to fly in. He banged his keel painfully on the sill, sending him inside in a tumble of feathers to smack into his perch, knocking it over with a crash before skittering to a sliding halt on the tabletop. Razzmorten burst into the room, quite wide eyed.

“Sorry for the mess, Wiz,” croaked Hubba Hubba, as he heaved and gasped for wind. “But Ugleeuh’s down there in the garden with the king and queen and a couple of strangers. There’s no telling what she came here for, but you know it ain’t good. And now
that she’s seen me, she wants me destroyed. That’s what chased me back in through the
window. Man! My keel bone hurts. Can’t you get her with some kind of wizard fire from
the window here ‘fore she does something terrible?”

Razzmorten scratched his head thoughtfully, then ambled over to the window and gazed out for long enough to exasperate Hubba Hubba. When he turned around, he was smiling. Hubba Hubba felt a scald of fear rush through this chest, convinced for the moment that Razzmorten had been smitten with a bewitchment by his evil daughter. As the urge seized him to fly back out the window and escape into the countryside, a meaty thump from Fifi’s tail on the floor beside the table completely shattered his resolve. He looked from dog to window and back again, utterly befuddled. At the sight of Razzmorten mildly taking a seat at the table to patiently wait for the arrival of his composure, he opened up his feathers completely, hesitated, then shook himself resolutely and sleeked down. “All right, all right, Wiz!” he said. “I’m ready. End my confusion. Hey! This is real anxiety I’m suffering from, don’t you know.”

“The young woman out there does indeed look like the very picture of Ugleeuh, years ago,” said Razzmorten, not smiling at Hubba Hubba’s consternation. “She looks enough like Ugleeuh to be her twin, removed in time. Even her behavior, they act alike. In fact, I was so taken by this that I went to great pains to determine if she wasn’t under some divination, some spell to condemn her to a life as Ugleeuh’s echo, but I found no such spell. She truly seems to be one of those once in a millennium coincidences. She’s Princess Spitemorta of Goll. She’s come here with her parents in hopes of making an alliance marriage with Lukus to unite Niarg and their realm. You’ve no reason to fear anything.”

“Maybe we have another coincidence here, Wiz. This girl said she wanted me destroyed, remember? Why would some total stranger do that? Hey, I’m a bird! Threats to my life leave a lasting impression, and her impression feels just like Ugleeuh. That’s my reason.”

“You don’t deserve to be so upset. Why don’t I just go down there and see what’s going on? Would that ease your mind?”The_Collector_Witch_Cover_for_Kindle

Hubba Hubba looked very doubtful, but Razzmorten was already on his way out the door. “Wiz!” he cawed out. “Be careful! And hey, take Miss Toothyface, here, why don’t you?”

“I’m sure I can handle it myself,” said Razzmorten, tossing back a wide-eyed smile as the door went closed.

Ch. 23, The Collector Witch

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Ceidwad the Diatryma Reads Wizard Razzmorten’s Comatose Mind



Without a word, Arwr, Lladdwr and Ceidwad sped away, pat, pat, patting over the leaves with Tors galloping furiously to keep up. Arwr lead them single file along the beginnings of a creek that was soon flanked with rock outcroppings which before long formed a deep hollow. Without the slightest hesitation to puzzle over landmarks, he took them directly to the foot of a huge sheer faced bluff of slate grey rocks which formed an overhang several rods long. At the back of the overhang a small cave ran in under the rock. In short order they had Razzmorten and Mary laid out on pallets of leaves.

Lukus knelt by Razzmorten and laid his hand on the old fellow’s forehead. He closed his eyes and quickly set about calming himself as he had been taught in order to readyFotolia_74796694_Subscription_Monthly_M CROPHEAD his magical energies to flow into his grandfather. He let these drain away until he began feeling the inevitable exhaustion which signaled where he must stop. He had no choice now but to rest before going any further. He opened his eyes and studied Razzmorten for any sign of success. He shook his head in weary dismay as he looked up at the hopeful faces gathered ’round him.

“I see no change at all,” he said. “I’ll have to eat and rest a bit, before I can try again.” He stood up on wobbly legs and clenched his teeth. “I can find nothing wrong with him at all. I wish I could read his mind. Then he could tell me what’s wrong.”

“I can do that for you,” said Ceidwad, lowering her head to peer into the cave.

“You diatrymas read minds?” he said, suddenly thinking about what she was saying.


“But why didn’t you say so long before now?” he said before realizing that he just might sound as though he were making accusations.

“It wasn’t possible with us fleeing for our lives,” she said solemnly. “Mind to mind contact 4F14BB4B9with one who is unconscious is delicate business. It takes time and it’s always best
to see if the unconsciousness one will come around on his own.”

“Why? said Lukus. “Is it dangerous?”

“Not done right, no.”

“So you have a certain expertise?” he said, glancing at Rose.

“I’d not attempt such a thing without being confident. Of course, I’ll only proceed if you wish.”

Lukus looked at Rose. She turned aside to Fuzz and Myrtlbell who each nodded encouragingly.

“Please do, Ceidwad,” said Lukus. “We’ll never know unless you do.”

“Then please carry him to the mouth of the cave,” she said, “we never go inside.”

As soon as they got him moved, she slowly settled onto her keel, fluffed her feathers and gently laid her huge ebony beak across his forehead. After shifting her head a little, this way and that, she blinked a couple of times and then closed her eyes. Hubba Hubba leant so far forward on Rose’s shoulder while watching that he tumbled off and landed on the cave floor with a feathery plop. Pebbles flew down beside him as he picked himself up and gave a shake of his feathers. Taflu snickered, but sobered at once at a look from Fuzz.

images“Do all diatrymas read minds, Lladdwr?” whispered Rose.

“Generally only the hens amongst us,” he said softly. “They listen in on the dreams of our eggs and thereafter they keep track of the chicks in dead silence in the face of danger and while they forage.”

“Then her mind reading won’t heal?”

“I’m afraid it doesn’t, at least nothing beyond the reassurance it gives. But Ceidwad will be able to tell you what ails them and find out what needs to be done.”

At last, Ceidwad stood up and turned to face everyone, singling out Rose and Lukus.

“Your grandfather will survive and will indeed wake up in due time,” she said, “but I’ve no idea at all how long that will be. Those bolts from the sorceresses were much like lightening. If one is struck by lightening, he either dies right then and there or he’s left in a coma for who knows how long. Could be just a few hours; could be days. They got big jolts. Your Grandfather believes that they are both very lucky to have survived. They should be dead. In fact, he wonders if Demonica and Spitemorta deliberately let them live for some reason. So there’s no damage, but I’d allow that he’ll be asleep for some time to come.”

“Oh thank you!” said Rose, as she hugged Ceidwad, muffling a sob in her fluffy neck feathers “You’ve spared us so much worry.”

Ceidwad rattled her beak through Rose’s hair as Hubba Hubba hopped onto Razzmorten’s chest and walked up his beard to point one eye at his face. He stood there for a moment, then trotted back down his beard and flew to Lukus’s shoulder. “He doesn’t look any different at all, Lukus.”

“I’m not worried now,” said Lukus as he scratched Hubba Hubba’s head. “Two very wise birds have just told us he’ll recover, so I know he will.”Stone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle

“Righty-o!” he said with a proud flap of his wings and a whistle. He shook his feathers. “Now you’re catching on.”

“Absolutely,” said Lukus.

Ch. 19, Stone Heart 


Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps


Elven Trees of the Maidenhair Woods

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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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


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

 Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps


Demonica and Queen Spitemorta have Lunch: Part 2


“That was fun, Grandmother,” said Spitemorta, pausing to count the severed fingers and toes which she was picking up from the floor of the rocking coach, all about the mutilated body lying between their feet. “It was particularly entertaining, freezing his throat and jaws. He never peeped, but do you suppose Merfyn noticed his kicking?” She flung a toe out the window and bounced with glee when she saw it land in a woman’s bread basket. “I can just see her now: ‘My word! I have a toe in my bread basket!'” She rocked back and forth with laughter, slapping her knee.

“I didn’t know you had a sense of humor, dear…”

“Here!” shouted Spitemorta as she leant out the window, launching her double handful of digits at a woman who caught them in her apron, only to collapse in a faint.

“I see we are at least managing to pass the time,” said Demonica.

“Well, I had to throw out the fingers,” she said, sitting back into the seat with a bounce. “And what shall we do with the body, Grandmother, leave it on King Theran’s doorstep on our way out of town?” 

“Hmm…crude and pointless, I think,” she said as she began studying the blood soaking her clothes. “No, let’s just pitch it out alongside the road once we’re out of town.Theran wouldn’t know who left it, unless you went to the trouble to make it plain to him somehow. But I can’t imagine wanting Theran so upset by our visit that he forms an alliance with Niarg for protection, can you?”

“He wouldn’t dare! Oh, all right. I see how he might.”

“Say. Be a good girl and clean up, would you?”


“You’ve got the Staff. Everything’s positively soaked. We wouldn’t want Merfyn to open the door for us and run away.”

“Oh,” said Spitemorta as she took hold of the Staff. “Say no more Grandmother.” At once the blood was gone from their clothes and from the inside of the coach.

Demonica leant out the window. “Merfyn!” she hollered. “This is far enough. Get down from there and help us throw out this carcass!”

“Whoa!” called out Merfyn with a jingle of harness and a squeal of brakes. They listened to him scuffle down and hop onto the gravel with a crunch and click the latch. He threw wide the door and drew a breath, catching himself at the sight of the body and the two of them studying him from head to toe to see how he was managing. “Why he’s the one I helped in a few hours ago, isn’t he?” he said in in a polished and dutiful tone as his hands trembled. “Uh, was he any trouble?”

“Not in the least,” said Demonica. “In fact we found him surprisingly entertaining, considering his condition when we picked him up.”

“Well. I’ll declare. That’s a…” he stammered, utterly at a loss for bearings.

“Well Merfyn?” said Spitemorta.

“I see you did indeed say carcass,” he said, pausing to take a couple of furtive glances out and about. “So I reckon you also said…”

“Yes, Merfyn, throw him out. And ‘help’ actually means you do it.”

“Oh yes, Your Majesty. I certainly shall. It’s just that there are still houses, if ye know what I mean, and this being a foreign place and all…”

Demonica stepped out of the coach. “There’s not a soul in sight, Merfyn,” she said, as if she were coaxing a wary child to relieve himself in the bushes. “Now, get this kaoc’h ki du out of the coach, and drive straight back to Goll.”

He grabbed the body by an ankle and a wrist and drug it out into the ditch to return at once to hold the door for Demonica to climb aboard.

Demonica motioned for Spitemorta to step out with the Staff. “We’re staying, Merfyn. You drive straight back to Goll, this minute.”

Merfyn blinked in confusion. “Yes, but…”

“Go!” barked Spitemorta.


Excerpt from Ch 37, The Burgeoning    






Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps   

Demonica and Queen Spitemorta have Lunch

Part 1


Demonica pushed away her plate and studied the sour look on Spitemorta’s face. “Did your meal not agree with you, dear?” she said sweetly.

“The meal was inferior, of course, but bearable, Grandmother. You seemed to enjoy yours, so why do you even bother me about my opinion?”

“Oh, I don’t know, dear. For some reason I keep thinking that time might pass more quickly if we didn’t just sit here and glare at one another. Perhaps I’m mistaken.”

“It’s still a long time ’til dark, Grandmother. I can’t imagine that you and I could possibly have that much to say to each other.”

“You’re undoubtedly right, but as you have already pointed out, this little place has nothing worth visiting, so we seem to be stuck with merely passing the time until it’s dark enough to leave on the Staff for Gwael. Unless, of course, you’re ready to endure a traveling spell, this one time.”

“Spare me…”

“Hey!” said a reeling man as he bumped the table, slopping mead out of Spitemorta and Demonica’s goblets. “Wings of the Heavens One and Wings of the Heavens Two. Now, we don’t get lovelies like you ones, come down to this house, just any old day.”

“See?” said Demonica, leaning aside with dancing eyes. “It shows. I told you I was natural for the part when you demanded that I be Fnadi-yaphn.”

Spitemorta flung her a very dark glower before sharing it with their company. “Back off, you stinking sot!”

“Now that’s ire-knee,” he said, bumping the table again, “Wings of the Heavens One, is it? “Or are you Wings of the Heavens Two? Why is it, Wings of the Heavens whatever the number you are, why is it that all the pretty skirts from the heavens are such mistresses…?” he paused for a lewd hoot and snort. “How come all you pretty skirts are such stinking mistresses of ire-knee? Did I say ‘stinking?’ Or did you say ‘stinking’…?”

“Beat it!” growled Spitemorta.

“Now Wings of the Heavens whatever you are,” he said as he thrust his bristly face into hers, “that’s a right smart amount of ire-knee for someone wants to be your mistress…”

“Yea! Chat her up, Crafiad!” cried someone amongst the grinning group who were filing over from the bar.

Spitemorta furiously shoved back from Crafiad’s face and grabbed the Staff.

Demonica grabbed her wrist. “Let’s leave now, dear,” she said as calmly as if they were going strolling. “Your uncle, King Theran, will be worried if we’re not back soon, and no doubt I shall be chastised for having brought you into this common house.”

Spitemorta hesitated, suddenly seeing how it all was and played along. She nodded and stood. “Yes, you’re quite correct, Demonica,” she said haughtily. “Uncle will be most put out with both of us.” She took Demonica’s arm and started for the door. 

“Pretty skirts of ire-knee!” cried Crafiad, stumbling after them to grab Spitemorta by the arm. “If you Wings of Mistrosity are royal skirts, where’s your guard…?”

“Here,” said Spitemorta, as she jabbed the Staff into his face, blowing his head apart like a bomb, breaking glasses across the room. The entire tavern froze in shocked silence as she and Demonica resumed their unhurried departure.

“Well that taught him, I should say,” said Demonica as they settled once more into the coach. “You do realize that rumors are already spreading here in this sleepy place?”

“So? A little fear will do them good, and give King Theran something to wake up about, crazy old fool.”

“I don’t think he is the doddering old idiot you take him for, Spitemorta.”

“Really? You think it was an act, then? But you seemed completely taken in by his control of his person nonsense he was spreading all over, thick as butter.”

“Sure. I wanted to see how far he’d go with it. But, I get the idea that he has all his faculties, mind and body. No, he’s playing at something else, though it could merely be that he fears our power.”

“Or he is more like his daughter than I thought. Well, if that’s so, Grandmother, I shall simply deal with him as I did with her, when the time comes.”

“I’m sure you will, dear. Now, what shall we do until dark?”

Suddenly a patron came stumbling and flailing his arms out of the Buck and Doe to sprawl into the street in front their coach.

“He was egging on Crafiad, back inside,” said Spitemorta as she looked down with a frown to whisk away a fleck of scalp and hair sticking to her bodice. “Let’s sharpen our skills of persuasion, shall we Grandmother?”

Demonica’s eyes lit with an immediate fire. “Merfyn!” she hollered. “Stop and help aboard that poor fellow in the road, please!”     

“Up with me?”

“No, no. Inside with us.”



Excerpt from Ch 36, The Burgeoning



Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps