Herio is Knighted

chivalry

Minuet fought back the urge to take Herio into her arms and beg him to change his mind. “You, my valiant guardian, are to come back to me unharmed,” she said fiercely.

“I will, my Queen,” said Herio solemnly as he bowed low.

When he stood, Minuet embraced him and kissed him on both cheeks. “You are a right brave young man, but you sally forth on a knight’s errand,” she said. “Therefore, you must bear with you a knight’s title. Kneel before me, Herio.”

Astonishment flickered in his eyes as he knelt at once.

Minuet drew Hebraun’s sword, raised it before her and kissed the blade. She smiled, eyes brimming with tears as she placed the blade on first one, then the other of his shoulders. “Ymladd yn erbyn drwg…Ymladd dros Niarg…Ymladd dros rhinwedd, marchog,” she proclaimed. “Thou a royal knight of Niarg ybeoth. Ryst up, Sir Herio.”

Herio stood at once. “You have honored me beyond my wildest dreams,” he said, looking at her in wonder. “I will not disappoint you.”

“I know,” she said as she took Razzmorten’s arm. “Now Father, please change Hubba Hubba so that these two brave souls may be on their way.”

“Are you ready, Hubba Hubba?” he said.

“You got it, Wiz,” said the satin crow looking up from amidst the scrambling brood and Pebbles. Suddenly all eyes went wide as Hubba Hubba ran his ebony beak down some flight feathers and gave himself a thorough shake. “Thanks, Wiz. Ready Sir Herio?”

“Not without us!” squeaked Chirp, winging into the room with Tweet and Squeak in a flurry of wings.

“At least for as far as we can make it by this evening,” tweeted Squeak.

“Why that makes my morning!” cawed Hubba Hubba with a shake of his black ruff. “Let’s go, shall we boys?” 

“Just a moment before you leave,” said Razzmorten. “Herio, Hubba Hubba, Chirp, Tweet and Squeak, this is a little something to bear in mind for the sake of everyone while you’re off on this mission: no matter what happens, no matter how tempting, never ever peer into a skinweler.”

Ch. 9, The Burgeoning 

 

(Click on Title or Cover to 

The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_KindlePurchase at Amazon)

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Valentine’s Sale: Heart of the Staff, the Complete Series is 99 Cents & 99 Pence Thru 2/28/17

Happy Valentine’s Day!

This is an entire epic fantasy, not an anthology!

Heart of the Staff, the Complete Appendix is free

 

Books one through six of the series are available individually at Amazon for:

Good Sister, Bad Sister $2.99

Good_Sister,_Bad_Sis_Cover_for_Kindle

 

The Collector Witch        $3.99

The_Collector_Witch_Cover_for_Kindle

 

Stone Heart                    $ 4.99

Stone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle

 

The Burgeoning             $ 5.99

The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_Kindle

The Reaper Witch          $6.99

The Reaper Witch 1280x2000

Doom                             $7.99

Doom

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

 

Rose is Three

Sudeley-Castle-web1

Robins scolded in the growing shadows of the rose garden beneath the balcony, as a little girl held her breath and carefully tickled the red crown feathers offered by the newly fledged parrot. “Mamma!” she gasped, drawing back with dancing eyes. “She likes me.” She clapped her hands with a bounce of her curls of tow. “See? She’s still holding out her head feathers. Can I hold her now?”

20130213-043355“Of course,” said Minuet. “Just hold out your finger as I showed you, Rose, and wait for Pebbles to step on.”

Rose nodded and held out her finger, giving Minuet and Hebraun each a very solemn look before offering it to Pebbles, who carefully stepped on.

“Very good,” said Minuet with a glance at the door. “Bethan’s here, I see. It’s time to let her get you ready for bed.”

“Can I put Pebbles on her perch, Mamma?”

“As long as you’re real easy, sweetheart.”

Rose crept to the perch with all of the sober reserve of some great ceremony.

Pebbles looked quickly here and there at her feet, not knowing quite what was expected as theygreen-cheeked-amazon-parrot-01 arrived.

“A bird is not posed to be dilatory in a castle,” said Rose as Pebbles took an uncertain step onto the perch. “You have to set an essample.”

Minuet looked up to share her amusement and found that the butler already had Hebraun’s attention. “Now go straightaway with Bethan, Rose,” she said. “We’ll be along directly to tuck you in.”          

(Chapter 19, Good Sister, Bad Sister)

 ****

“So,” she said. “She’s undoubtedly got her baggy eyes from the sukere. And she stands a very good chance of being deeply involved with some evil design involving sukere with Razzorbauch and Demonica.” She leant aside to see to Rose. “Oh sweetheart. You’ve got cherries all down your front.”

“They still taste good that way, Mamma. See? Here’s a really good one.”

“I’ll take care of her,” said Bethan. “You’ve got things to discuss.”

4ud2“Mamma? When Grandma Bethan gets me cleaned up, can she take me to show Real Grandma how I can sit on Mystique?”

“You just got your new unicorn, dear. I want to be there with you until you’ve had some real experience riding.”

“I understand,” said Rose as Bethan led her away. “Grandma? You’ll have to learn to be patient. Mamma’s just being a queen like you used to be.” 

(Chapter 20, Good Sister, Bad Sister)Good_Sister,_Bad_Sis_Cover_for_Kindle

 ****

They found Hebraun and Minuet already well into a breakfast of boiled eggs and hot rye bread. As Razzmorten seated her, Ugleeuh saw Bethan leading out a striking and immaculately polite little tow-headed girl. “That’s their little shit,” she thought, as an orderly rushed to the board with plates and another bowl of boiled eggs. “Too bad, little shit!”   

(Chapter 23, Good Sister, Bad Sister)

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Herio Comes to Niarg

imagesHerio awoke to the sound of busy wee toenails scuffling along a corky ridge of bark overhead as a tiny chickadee searched for hibernating grubs. The cloudless dawn sky above was already Black-Capped-Chickadee-Photosturning blue. At the sound of a metallic clink from a link of his shackles, the bird chipped and flitted away. He jerked, giving a furious scratch at the fleas which infested the tattered unicorn blanket which Sergeant Dunvel had resentfully shoved at him. It was still far too cold to do without it. Jays called.

“Wake up cachu ci!” barked Dunvel as he kicked him in the ribs hard enough to knock the wind out of him.

He cried out in pain as he struggled to get his breath. He sat up, drawing his shackles tight around the trunk of the small maple he had straddled all night.

cuff2

At once, Dunvel had a knife at his throat. “There, cachu ci,” he said, tossing the keys into the leaves by his shackles. “Undo ’em. And if ye do anything quick at all, I’ll haul your stinkin’ red head to Niarg in a bag.”

Herio stretched out his arms, mindful of the blade at his Adam’s apple. He had to try several times to unlock the shackles, since his hands were trembling convulsively and Dunvel simply refused to let him lean forward. The blade stank fiercely of raw egg and foul spit. Wave after fff9888wave of white-hot fear surged through him as he fumbled. He could picture his own throat being cut. He could picture himself somehow grappling away the knife and running Dunvel through. Somehow he would manage to stay alive because someday he would get Dunvel for this, after he got Brutus for killing his little brother.

At last he was astride his unicorn, a small dappled cyflymder-Dúlish cross. The thought of spurring it and dashing away through the timber had died the moment he saw how both mounts were already tethered together. He watched Dunvel champing open-mouthed at the last of the travel rations like some kind of dog. His stomach gnawed and he looked away.

“Hey cachu ci!” barked Dunvel. “Want some? Hey! Don’t you look away! Do you want some?”

Herio looked but made no reply.

“You’d better answer me ‘fore I come over there an’ make you. Are you hungry?”

“Herio nodded ever so slightly.tumblr_lmcbi1gKi31qjci0fo1_500

“Well, ye ain’t gettin’ any ’cause this is the last, last little bit,” he said with beady-eyed merriment as he came up close to chew. He wiped his hands first on his breeches and then in the leaves, as he belched loud enough for it to echo amongst the trees. He began untying reins. “We’ll reach Castle Niarg in less than an hour, I’d reckon,” he said with a grunt, as he threw his leg over his ponderous ceffyl arfog unicorn. “Now, ye’d best be rememberin’ what the captain said, or else a lot more of your stinkin’ Ash Forkers are goin’ ‘o swing.” He roared with laughter and smacked Herio’s unicorn on the rump, making it rear and roll its eyes before spurring his own mount off through the leaves.

Herio stared straight ahead, tears streaming down his cheeks, watching his unicorn’s ears turn this way and that, as Dunvel went to great lengths to describe how his little red-haired brother had kicked and kicked and turned blue as he died. At last the castle loomed before them, ending the ordeal.

Dunvel smoothed and straightened his black sash with its embroidered blood red hourglass and grinned a toothy grin as they rode up to the gate. “You remember why you’re here, cachu ci,” he said.

Herio kept his eyes forward and gave a curt nod only to show that he had heard.

“Halt, right there!” hollered the guard from the embrasure above the portcullis. 

“Ha,” thought Herio at the sight of the look which flickered across Dunvel’s face, though not a twitch of expression managed to surface on his own.

“What business has one bearing an escutcheon such as yours doing here, sir?” echoed the guard.

“We have an urgent message for your king!” hollered Dunvel.

“Urgent? And who might this urgent message be from?”

“Are you blind, man?” cried Dunvel. “It ought to be obvious!”

“We are right well credited by this tottering sack of hog dung, wearing the black sash and red hourglass of sorcery and treachery, if by the mere sight of him he fancies that we can read his mind!” called out Captain Bernard as he stepped beside the guard. “Unfortunately, since he’s so frightfully ugly that it would be impossible to read his mind, we must assume that his bloated head merely makes him forget his place in a country not his own! So be it! I’ll let His Majesty know at once! In the meantime, though, you’d best stay exactly where you are, since I’ve ordered a score of long bowmen to loose arrows if they see you move at all!”

 Ch. 47, Stone HeartStone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Ugleeuh Hates Hubba Hubba

 footnote-12

“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

 

Guest Post by Award Winning Author Christie M. Stenzel of The Occulti Series

Christie M. Stenzel

Multiple award-winning independent author Christie M. Stenzel has published five books thus far, with another nearing publication in the near future. Writing and reading are her passions and she primarily writes fantasy stories with an emphasis on the supernatural. As she has diverse interests, she has also written a suspense/thriller short story and plans future books in other genres as well. She holds multiple degrees, her current “day job” is as an ultrasound technologist, and in her spare time enjoys physical activities like yoga, running and weight lifting

Blurb

Have you ever received shocking news that turned your life upside down?

Would you love to have magical powers based upon the color of your eyes?

Imagine the shock of being eighteen year old Remy Verbetta and finding out that you are not only not “human”, but also are not from this “world”.  Remy’s life is turned upside down when she suddenly finds out her entire life has been a lie.  Another “world” is living and breathing along-side our own, a kind of alternate dimension.  On her eighteenth birthday, Remy finds out that she is not “human”, but rather a member of an ancient and almost extinct race called the Occuli.  Each Occuli has different magical powers based solely their eye color.

A multiple award-winning supernatural, fantasy novel, The Grey Eyed Storm: The Occuli, Book One, follows Remy on a journey of self-discovery, magic, mystery, romance and betrayal, as she tries to figure out a way to not only survive, but find a way back to her true home and save the Occuli from extinction!

Excerpt

The night of my eighteenth birthday, I also began sleep walking yet again.  This time, I couldn’t find a way to joke about it or even rationalize it.  Who sleep walks to their own mother’s grave?   Mama’s grave was decorated, which was strange unless dad traveled all the way back here.  I wasn’t even sure how I walked all the way here in pajamas in the middle of the night.  My stomach turned and I ran from my mother’s grave and lost the small piece of birthday cake I had consumed.  Violets, all over Mama’s grave.  Why not, jasmine, I wondered?  They were her favorite.  Why did they have to be the flower I saw in my vision?   I heard a ringing noise and it roused me from my queries; it was my cell phone.  Had I jammed it in my pocket before I left?
“Rubes,” I said, not even looking at the caller ID.
“I am so glad you answered!   What the hell happened?” she demanded.
I felt dazed and my stomach began to turn again.
“What?” I asked slowly, my voice sounding tight and far away.
“Where are you?”
I closed my eyes and I let the crystal tears fall.  Dad said Mama began to act unusual around her eighteenth birthday and he had joked that I would adhere to the family curse.  He couldn’t be more right.  I was a crazy person too.
“I’m at my mother’s grave,” I squeaked.
“How did you make it all the way there?!”  she demanded fearfully.
“I don’t know!  I just….”I sobbed.
Twigs and branches cracked behind me and I felt another wave of nausea wash over me.  I smelled a foul odor and I saw the trees wiggling as if something or someone was advancing.
“There’s somebody here…” I whispered.
“I’m coming!  Don’t worry.  I’m running out the door right now, okay?  Just hang tight, love.”  I could hear a thrashing around and I knew Ruby was grabbing her purse and keys and fumbling out the door.
I heard a low growl, then I saw a pair of yellow eyes, and the pungent odor became stronger, nauseatingly so.  “Ruby, hurry!”
I backed up towards my mother’s grave, accidentally crushing the violets beneath my bare, bloody feet.  What had I done?  Had I crawled here?  My hands and feet were gashed open and gushing blood.  I was covered in mud and leaves, head to toe.  I began to cry harder from confusion and fear.  What kind of person sleep walks miles in the middle of the night and awakens to find themselves bloody and dirty in front of their own mother’s grave?  I waited for Ruby as I watched the yellow eyes watching me.  Seconds passed by with my heart thumping so loudly I felt it was audible as it resounded in my own ears.
“Ruby!  Hurry!”
“I’m driving like ninety sweetie, just relax!!”
“I’m serious, there’s something here and it’s watching me-“
The next sentence died in my throat before I could even utter it.  The yellow eyes shifted and were somehow much higher in the trees, as if whatever was watching me was initially crouched down and was now fully standing up.  The sound of tires squealing alerted me to Ruby’s Ford Ranger pulling up.
“How did you get here so quickly?” I mumbled.
“Zias!”  she screamed into the forest as she jumped out of the truck.  I looked at her, eyes wide.  She stomped forward angrily.  “Zias!  Dammit!  You’re scaring her half to death!  Get out here now!”
Ruby then whirled around to face me.

“Happy 18th, sweets!  You’re now worthy of some to die for secrets….”

Other Books In The Occulti Series

LINKS

Twitter

Facebook

  Facebook Fan Page

Goodreads

Author Central

Occuli series website

Author Website

Thank you, Christie, for sharing with my readers here on our blog today, it was such a pleasure to have you! Best wishes for you and your wonderful series and hopefully, many more books to come.  -Carol & Tom 

Rose Reveals a Secret

The_Collector_Witch_Cover_for_Kindle

A throb of lightning lit up the countryside, revealing the arrival of a roaring wall of rain. The crash of thunder and the deluge arrived together in the next instant, like a douse from a colossal bucket, dashed at once into every crack on the porch. Rose and Lukus stumbled through the front door, only to find that the parlour wouldn’t do at all. They groped from room to room between flickers and flashes until they found some cover against the inside wall of the kitchen where most of the thatched roof remained.

They sat on the floor with their backs to the wall, combing their bedraggled hair from their faces with their fingers. Rose nudged him with the striker from her knapsack. Without a word between them, he spent the next several minutes struggling to light the lantern. At last it came to, a wee sputtering yellow seed atop the dirty stub of candle. Pale shadows leaped and waved, dancing above rivulets of water finding their way out through holes in the floor. He started to speak, but his voice vanished in the din. He studied the room, listening to the storm. “Oh, Rose?” he said, speaking out louder this time. “Wouldn’t you say we’ve lived something of a sheltered life in the castle, all these years?”

“Yes, yes. Quite.”

“So you decided that to cultivate your new maturity, you should go out into the world for some exposure, aye what?”

“I didn’t plan the rain.”Scan10059

“If we just bed down along the wall here, I think it’ll stay dry enough to sleep. And boy, am I ever hungry.”

“Sounds fine to me, Lukus,” she said, “except…”

“Except what?

“Except you seem to have left your pack in the barn,” she said, kneeling to open her own bag.

“Oh, great!” he said. “Couldn’t you just…? I mean I’ll just run out after the rain and pay you back, all right?”

“Be neat for once, would you?” she said, handing him things out of her bag.

They ate ravenously, listening to the steady downpour. “Dried apricots and cheese make one strange meal,” he said between thoughtful chews, “but you know? I think it’s pretty near the best supper I ever ate.”

He finished eating to discover that no pack also meant no bed roll for him, but Rose was willing to let him use one end of her bedding as a pillow. “So Rose,” he said, settling himself onto his back, stirring the empty space over his head as though it were an orchestra. “You were telling me…”

“Telling you what?”

“You know. As you were saying back in the woods before we got off the road and came here. I mean you weren’t done were you? Isn’t there some sort of reason for our going to the Chokewood Forest?”

Scan10060

For a long spell, the rain was the only sound he heard. “Lukus,” she said at last, “I may not be your sister at all. If there be any truth to what I was told at my awful birthday party, you and I are only cousins.”

“Oh go on,” he said with a laugh. “Surely you don’t mean first cousins? That would make one of us Ugleeuh’s child.”

“Ugleeuh? My word. You made that up.”

“No I didn’t.”

“But no one would ever name a… So who on earth is Ugleeuh?”

“Mother’s sister, Rose. Didn’t you know her name?”

“Something else I wasn’t to find out until I was sixteen, no doubt. How come they told you, anyway?”

“No one made a point of telling me. I don’t even remember how I found out, but you weren’t singled out. Good grief. It’s not as though anyone in the family was exactly proud of her.”

“But Lukus, I can’t believe Grandfather Razzmorten would name one of his daughters such a thing.”

“Well he didn’t. Mother said that Grandfather was away when the baby was born, and she said that the baby’s mother, Mother’s stepmother, named it before he returned. I guess she wasn’t very happy to have a child and took it out on the baby.”

“How awful. No wonder she grew up with such a chip on her shoulder.”

“Yeap. Probably had a lot to do with it, all right,” he said, rolling onto his haunches to stare into her face. “But good grief. She surely can’t be your mother. No way.”

“Yea? Well maybe Lukus, but somehow nobody, absolutely nobody back at the castle would be completely straight with me when I asked them, so I intend to find out for certain, one way or the other. So please don’t ask me any more questions right now. We need to get some rest. We have a long way to travel, yet.”

“But I want to know more about this, once we’re…”

Scan10061

“Fine. On the road. Please, let’s go to sleep.”

The Collector Witch Render(Ch. 2, The Collector Witch)

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

 

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

 ****

crow

“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

 

 ***

Scan10068

“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

Mary the White Witch Departs for the Dragon Caves with Myrtlebell and Edward on the Diatrymas

Scan10005

“This is our moment,” said Mary. “I’m sure Fuzz would say the same thing.”

Myrtlebell’s lips thinned as she pressed them together. She knew Mary was right, but she couldn’t help feeling uneasy. She grabbed up their cloaks and took Edward’s hand, and with a nod to Mary, followed her from the cavern.

Edward laughed in delight, the moment they stepped through the wet vines over the mouth of Mary’s cave.

Myrtlebell’s mouth and eyes dropped agape. “Mary!” she cried, shushing herself in wonder. “Those aren’t unicorns, they’re enormous birds. Are we flying on them?”

“Oh no,” said Mary. “Look at their tiny wings. These birds don’t fly, but they do run, and far faster than you’ve ever ridden before.”

“What kind of bird can’t fly?” said Myrtlebell.

“I assume you mean, ‘What are they called?'”

“Why, yes.”

“These are diatrymas,” she said, as she reached up to stroke the neck of one of them. “Diatrymas are a sort of adar taranus. They are far more than just tame, they’re my personal friends. They’re exceedingly intelligent.”

“Adar taranus. Old Niarg for thunderbirds? I thought not a one of those survived the Greatest Burning.”

“None did.”

“I don’t understand…”

“Have you ever heard of the terrible wizard, Razzorbauch?”

“Wasn’t he the one who brought the dragons here? Fuzz was…”

“Well, we had best make haste, Myrtlebell. I’ll tell you all about it once we’re underway.” Mary turned at once to the birds. “Lladdwr, Ceidwad, kneel, if you would.” The two ten foot tall fowl obligingly folded their thick scaly legs and waited patiently on their breastbones in the leaves to be mounted.

“It would probably be best if I took Edward, while you get used to riding,” said Mary, as she helped Myrtlebell onto the smaller of the two birds. “This is Ceidwad. Just keep your legs ahead of her wings. You can put your arms around her neck, but don’t squeeze her windpipe.”

“Where are her reins?” said Myrtlebell, as her balance gave way and she sat suddenly onto the thickly padded saddle with a plump.

“She needs none,” she said, taking Edward onto her lap as she deftly swung round Lladdwr’s neck to sit on his saddle. “She’s too intelligent to need them. I’ve already
discussed where we’re going with Lladdwr and her.”

Once they were settled, the diatrymas rose together without being told to do so, and in a half dozen fluid strides, had sailed completely down the side of the tall hogback, with Edward waving happily at Myrtlebell as she hung on for dear life. Across the branch and effortlessly up the far side they went, until they reached the long ridge that they followed out of the timber to the thickets along the broad creek which they had crossed the day before, when they were fleeing Spitmorta and Demonica. Without the slightest hesitation, the giant birds ran straightaway into the water, stepping over its surface and plunging to the bottom with each stride, making astonishingly little splashing or disturbance. At once they were across, fluidly zigzagging through the brush. Soon the thickets opened into grassland which lay between them and the great marshlands of the Gobblers. Here the diatrymas sped up astoundingly, running abreast.

“So,” shouted Mary above the wind, “How are you doing?”

“This is indeed very much faster than I ever imagined possible.”

“Whee!” squealed Edward.

“Oh my, sweetheart,” said Mary, giving Edward a hug. “You mustn’t kick Lladdwr in the crop.”

“This is not only fast as the very wind,” called Myrtlebell through the hair she was dragging out of her eyes, “but ‘way more comfortable than galloping unicorns.”

They fell silent to the tireless pounding rustle of huge feathers as they sped out across the sea of grass which stretched before them to the horizon. Without endless obstacles for the diatrymas to leap, dodge and run around, Myrtlebell was able to relax and truly enjoy her fast ride for the first time. On they ran in a straight line without any letup or hesitation, under a cloudless blue sky.

By noon, the horizon was starting to change and Myrtlebell began to feel exhausted and looked across to see Edward’s head nodding in Mary’s lap. “Mary,” she called, “do you supposed it would wise to pause for a bite to eat?”

“I don’t see why not. We’re making good time and Edward’s getting heavy. See that hillock yonder, rising out of the grass? Let’s make for that.”

“Is that the marsh showing up on the horizon?”

“Certainly is.”

Ch. 7, Heart of the StaffStone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle

Carol and Tom Phipps

https://www.amazon.com/Heart-Staff-Carol-Marrs-Phipps-ebook/dp/B00VKQE9F0/

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