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Chapter 1

Someone shouted in the kitchen. Tess Greenwood sat right up in the blackness. “Dad?” she gasped.

Someone screamed.

“Mom!” cried Tess as she stumbled onto the floor in a panic of pillow and sheets, in time for her door to fling wide with blinding light and a bang that shattered things on her dresser.

“Hey!” barked the silhouette in the doorway. “No way you’re running by me!” And with that, he tramped right in, jabbing her in the throat with the end of his e- truncheon.

“Aah!” she wailed with the throb of its electric jolt as she sat down hard on the floor.

“Like that, little witch?” he hissed through the mask of his plastic helm. “Now you’re going into the kitchen on your hands and knees, real careful or I’ll hold my stick against your stinking throat ’til y’ pass out. Move!”

As Tess rolled onto her knees, she could hear her sister’s squeals of defiance as she kicked at the pair of cops who had hold of her in the kitchen.

“Nia!” shouted her mother before crying out in pain.

“You vile bastards!” roared her father.

Tess leaped through the doorway in time to see two of the police from Children and Family Assistance squirt his mouth full of thick polymer from their gob stopper gun, as he gagged, bouncing and jerking against his restraints in red-faced fury.

“I told you!” bellowed Silhouette, grabbing Tess by the arm and yanking her onto the floor.

“Tess!” cried her mother. “Stop! They’ll kill you if y’ don’t quit!”

“That’s right!” shouted Silhouette.

“Nia!” cried Tess at the sight of the police kicking her.

“Hey!” shouted Silhouette. “That little whore’s going to the capitol. And they won’t take her all beat up! But this one,” he grunted, giving Tess a furious kick, “has earned it!”

“Tess!” screamed her mother in time to be silenced with a kick in the head.

Her father sprang from the floor in spite of his restraints, slamming into Silhouette in a rage that knocked over the refrigerator behind them. Suddenly police were everywhere, beating him senseless, dragging him and his dear wife out the door into the early light of dawn.

“Mom! Dad!” screamed Tess as car doors slammed outside.

Now they had Nia by the arms. “I’ll love Drake forever!” she wailed as they forced her outside.

Tess bit the hand that grabbed her mouth and dashed outside to leap down the steps as two of the police cars lurched into the roadway with a chirp of tires.

“Bite me again, little witch!” roared Silhouette as his truncheon came down behind her ear.

***

Beyond the front steps, the sun rose well into the morning, glinting on a green bottle in the bare red dirt of the yard. Sparrows cheeped everywhere in the noise of the traffic from the roadway. Tess sat up just long enough to see that she was in her room, caught herself on her elbow to keep from toppling out of bed and lay right back down with a groan.

At the bounce of her bed springs, an elderly woman pushed back a chair and stood up in the kitchen. “Whoa there, deary-do!” she called, stumping right in to look at her this way and that. “That might be a bit quick. You got two black eyes. And the nurse said the copper only whacked y’ one good one on the back of the head. And what I want to know is, can y’ even see out of either one?”

“Kind of…”

“I’m Maud, sweetheart,” she said, giving Tess’s hand a squeeze. “Maud Baxter. How ’bout some tea? So far, the only pot I’ve found has half the spout gone…”

“It pours. We’ve been using it… Please!” she said with a scald of fear as she sat right up. “Where’s Mom and Dad? And Nia?”

Maud stopped short with wide eyes. “Why Children and Family Assistance,” she said, scarcely shaking her head. “And I’m to be in here for a few days to help y’ adjust…”

“When are they coming back?”

Maud shook her head as if she were about to cry.

“No!” shouted Tess in a great wail of despair.

Old Maud had her in her arms at once, rocking her and smoothing her hair for a good long time. At last, she gave her a pat and sat up. “I’m going to go fix that tea,” she said.

Tess lay back with shooting pains in her head, in spite of the sedatives given to her by the nurse.

Maud was back in short order, finding a chair for the tea. “I hope you’re not too old for animal crackers,” she said. “I found this nice box. And it only had one teensy little maggot and some web. All I had to do was shake it out and put the crackers back in.”

Tess drew in a deep, shuddery breath. “Where do you live, Maud?”

“Up at the north end with Mort and Bart. That’s my husband and m’ crow…”

“I don’t feel so good,” said Tess handing back her half full cup.

“I should say! You’re white as a sheet. The nurse said that you’re to be sleeping. Just lie back and I’ll be right out here in the kitchen.”

Tess lay back more quickly than she had meant to. “Your husband and who did y’ say?” she said, wincing at the whirling ceiling. “I swore you said Crow somebody…”

“My pet bird is a crow…” said Maud from the doorway.

“And Mom and Dad really, really aren’t coming back?”

Maud shook her head and was back at Tess’s bedside at once, smoothing her hair away from the tears she was squeezing from her swollen eyes. It was not long until Maud could see that she was sound asleep. She stood, propping her hands on her knees for a moment before straightening up the rest of the way and shuffled quietly into the kitchen.

Beside the toaster under the cupboards rested a polished stone ball. The moment Maud stepped in, it gave a faint flash. “Yeh?” she said, looking right at the face which was appearing in it. “I know my place well enough not to discuss her family. I’m professional. Besides, I know very well that you saw the whole thing. Now, I want to talk to Mort.” She picked up the ball and sat with it at the table. “Mort?”

Mort was already peering out of the “skinny,” as everyone called these things. “I’ve got the rest of the day, Maudy,” he said. “They don’t have me spraying until tomorrow, first thing.”

“As you might’ve overheard before I left, I’m at the south end of the far south barrack, facing the road. I’ve got to scratch around before I know what I’m fixing, but I’m starting on dinner, right now.” And with that, she parked the skinny in a storage jar lid, so that it wouldn’t roll off the table, and set about to see what might be fixed to eat. There certainly was no meat of any sort. “I don’t know why I’m even bothering to look,” she was careful not to say aloud. It was rare for anyone to get his hands on meat except for the day before one of the world holidays. All of the world holidays were mandatory to observe. Disarmament Day commemorated the destruction of the last private firearm. Emancipation Day marked the outlawing of all religions. And Unity Day was the day when the World Alliance began its tyrannical rule everywhere. She found a few pounds of limp carrots in the bottom of the refrigerator which she and the nurses had managed to set upright, some black pepper and a box of very old-smelling milk powder.

While she was searching for a kettle without a hole in it, Mort was up at the north end, wheeling his bicycle out the door. He fiddled with the cuff of his breeches as the breezy whistles of the starling overhead gave way to a bubbling chatter. After a couple of tries, he was mounted. With Bart digging in his toenails and swaying ponderously on his shoulder, he gave a wild swing to the left, an immediate weave to the right, and with a rattle of fenders was underway with all the aplomb of a cyclist in his prime.

“We’re going to have carrots,” said Maud as Mort hauled his watermelon of a belly up the last step. “I just now put them on.”

“Smells like old refrigerator,” he said, backing stiffly up to a chair by the table, “but I expect it will be good…” He sat down with a sudden plump and let Bart shuffle down his arm to the back of the nearby chair to begin at once, sorting through his feathers.

“Maud?” called Tess from the bedroom. “Are you still here?”

“I’m on my way with just a cup this time, dearie-do.”

“I don’t think I can,” said Tess. “I feel like vomiting.”

“I hope y’ get over that. I’ve got carrots starting to boil.”

“I’m ‘way too sick. Is someone here?”

“Mort and Bart.”

“Well please go on and eat without me. I’ll just puke. But Maud, please stay.”

Maud gave Tess’s hand a squeeze. “I’ll be right here as long as y’ need me, sweetheart,” she said. And with that she returned to the kitchen.

“Just the girl?” said Mort, looking up.

Maud nodded.

“Well how is she?”

Maud went straight to the cupboards as if she had not heard him, unplugged the toaster and parked it directly in front of the skinny as she took a chair at the table.

“I said how is the young lady?”

“Oh she’s doing just fine. A nice long nap and she’ll be right as rain,” she said as she leant across the table with a roll of her eyes and an ear-to-ear shake of her head. “I think she’ll be ready to start her new life in no time.” She was still shaking her head as she glanced at the toaster to make sure that no one on the skinny had seen.

“And she understands what happened?” he said, ignoring the stone ball, since he had no toaster to hide behind.

“I think she’s anxious enough to get going in her new direction,” she said, closing her eyes with an even bigger shake of her head. “But I’d not know for sure, since it’s never our place to discuss such things. That’s for the councilors at Children and Family Assistance. But I think most young clients are quite ready for a change, long before it comes.”

Bart ruffled up his feathers and gave himself a thorough shake.

“Maud!” wailed Tess from the bedroom. “The wash basin! Got ‘o puke!”

“Oh my stars!” said Maud. “Where do you reckon they keep it?”

Tess thumped across her bedroom floor to the toilet in the bathroom with an explosive cough of yellow fluid.

“Oh deary-do!” said Maud as she stumped in. “I’m so sorry I couldn’t find the pan. Why you don’t have a thing in your stomach to throw up, do you…?”

“Gawf…angk…awmff…!” hooted Tess, nodding her dribbling chin over the iron stained porcelain of the toilet bowl.

Maud saw at once that there was no skinny in the bathroom and pushed the door to. “Those rotten coppers!” she said in a low voice as she daubed at Tess with a towel.

“I’ve cleaned up their work every blooming day now, for years. And I swear. I just don’t begin to know how they can do that to families.”

“I thought you worked for…” moaned Tess.

“For Children and Family Assistance? I do, but my job’s cleaning up after them.

And you didn’t hear one word I said, either. Now. If I help y’ up, can you make it back to bed, or do you need to steady y’ self a bit longer?”

“Unng…!” said Tess, leaning back over the water.

“Seems y’ do…” said Maud, looking up at the sudden pounding on the kitchen door. “Mort!” she hollered “Let me get it!”

Tess had a look of blanched terror as Maud got to her feet. “Oh deary-do,” she said, “that can’t be the coppers, unless you’ve had a skinny ball in here with us. You don’t, eh?”

Tess gave a rigid shake of her head, and Maud stumped right out past Mort and Bart. She hooked the chain and opened the kitchen door against it to peer out at two teenagers. She closed the door, undid the chain and opened it wide. “Yeh?” she said with her fists on her hips.

The young man dug the gum out of his cheek with his tongue and looked her up and down from under the tattoos of his shaved head. “You’re not Tess, lady,” he said, as his sister craned this way and that in her nose rings and Mohawk hair-do, trying to peer inside.

“Took y’ long enough to figure it out, but I’m glad y’ finally managed,” said Maud. “Now. Tess isn’t up to company, so you two are going to have to leave.” And with that, she closed the door and turned the lock.

“Hey!” shouted the pair outside as they pounded on the door. “You can’t do that! Children and Family Assistance sent us! We’re Trent and Jasmine Warren, her new roomies!”

Maud hooked the chain and turned away. She found Tess still kneeling by the toilet. “What’s wrong, dearie-do?” she said, when she saw that her nausea had been replaced by a look of dread.

“That was the Warrens?” said Tess. “They hate me.”

“Why on earth?”

“Well…they made me take my shots at school,” she said, frowning at her thumbnails. “But I’m just not at all ready for that. Trent knew about my shots and was after me all the time. Everybody always knows when a girl gets her shots. And I wouldn’t have anything to do with him, in spite of how pushy he got. And Jasmine? She calls me ‘earhole’ all the time and makes ugly faces, but I think she hates everyone at school.”

“Aw dearie-do,” said Maud with a grunt, as she strained to kneel beside her with a brush. “I hate what’s become of the schools. Y’ know, they actually taught me to read, when I was in school.”

“Mom and Dad taught me,” said Tess, stifling a sob.

“You didn’t let the school find out, did you? Something like that could very well have been what brought in the Children and Family Assistance.”

“Oh, they always told me that I had to keep my reading a secret.”

Maud nodded. “Well back to those two, I locked the door,” she said. “But if they do have orders, they’ll be back and we’ll have no choice but to let them in. Meanwhile, I can at least get a delay order in place until you’ve recovered enough to deal with them. Now if I can just get back on my feet, I’ll help y’ back to bed if you’re ready.”

Once Tess was back in bed, she closed her eyes and wondered if there was any way to flee. “But where would I ever flee to?” she thought as she drifted into a deep sleep.

She had not been asleep very long when Maud opened the kitchen door against the chain and peered out the crack at a blond young man in denim, whom she recognized at once to be Drake Evans, but knowing better than to give him away to the stone ball on the table, merely said: “Yes?”

“Maud Baxter!” he said in wide-eyed alarm. “Why are you…? Nia! She’s here, isn’t she?”

Maud closed her eyes with a quiet shake of her head.

“No!” cried Drake.

Maud immediately closed the door. She would not have him overheard, blurting out something that would bring the police. There was not another sound from outside the door. She squeezed shut her eyes for a moment, and with a totter, shuffled to the table to sit with a tired sigh across from Mort and Bart.

***

Tess awoke to the smell of bread toasting on the griddle and talking in the kitchen.

“Would you mind if I waited until she’s awake? I promise I won’t stay too long or upset her.”

“That depends on how she wakes up,” said Maud. “She’s been having quite a time with her medicine…”

“Maud!” cried Tess as she sat up. “I’ve got to puke and I’ve got the whirlies bad! Could Drake help me to the toilet?”

Drake was at her bedside at once, helping her to her feet. The moment he had her kneeling by the toilet, he let the door swing quietly to. He had long known that the bathroom had no skinny, but he waited for Tess to speak in case that they had just been forced by the authorities to add one.

“I heard one of the cops say that Nia was going to the capitol,” said Tess with an unexpected sob. “And the last thing she said was, she’ll always love you. And poor Mom and Dad! It doesn’t look like I’ll ever, ever know…” And with that, she threw back her head and wailed with despair.

Drake had her in his arms at once, tears streaming down his cheeks. He looked away, struggling to hide a sob of his own. After a time, he turned to study her. “What on earth did they do to you?” he said. “You’ve got two black eyes that I can see…”

“Oh, one of the coppers whacked me on the back of the head with his e-stick…”

“The back of your head! Not your eyes? He must’ve damned near killed you…”

“I don’t know,” she said, closing the lid and sitting on the toilet. “But they’ve got my middle all wrapped up tight. Do you suppose they broke a rib or two? That same cop was kicking me. Nobody’s said a thing.”

“Do you know where the capitol is?”

“I don’t think anyone knows,” she said, feeling of her middle. “Well, I reckon the coppers would have to know, wouldn’t they?”

“Yeh, but they aren’t people. Nobody ever talks to them, especially not the ones working for Children and Family Assistance. No one ever talks to any of those things…”

“And what I can’t figure out is why that old lady out there in the kitchen is so nice. She’s working for them. She said so.”

“I know why,” said Drake. “She and old Mort out there lost a daughter who’d be our age, had she lived. And they’ve not been able to have any more. They’re ‘way younger than they look, but they were living out in the country with all the spray for quite a while after the World Alliance took over.”

“How do you know all this?”

“Maud and Mort knew us. When Children and Family Assistance took Mom and Dad, Maud got assigned to me, so they helped me through my transition, just like they’re doing for you. And I don’t understand them taking Nia. Children and Family issued the license for us to be married in two more months and everything…” he said, coughing out a great sob in spite of himself.

He was dragging an eye down his sleeve when Maud pushed open the door. “If Tess is over being sick, it’s time we got her back to bed,” she said as she shuffled in with a towel.

When they had gotten Tess settled in bed, Maud saw Drake to the door and stepped outside with him. “I’m afraid Children and Family Assistance is only giving her a week before she has to let those Warren kids move in,” she said as she pulled the door to behind her. “And if I read her right, I can’t picture her managing with a pair like them, particularly not with the boy after her skirt.”

“That wouldn’t be Jasmine and Trent Warren, would it?” said Drake, turning about on the bottom step and looking up at her.

“It was Jasmine. I wasn’t sure about his name.”

“Oh I’ve got medicine for them,” he said. “Just a chat if you need me to.”

“Right away would be good.”

Drake gave a nod, came back up the steps, pecked her on the cheek and hurried on his way to supper, unaware that Trent and Jasmine were right above them in the spreading branches of the great burr oak by the steps.

As Tess got settled, the skinny on her dresser turned bright blue. “Tess?” it said.wham-glass-ball_gyotkfb__edited-2-_edited-1-a-lg

“Give me a moment,” she said as she labored to sit up and throw aside her covers.

She rose and came back to bed with the glowing stone ball. It took a bit of uncomfortable shifting about, but soon she was sitting with it between her knees as its swirling colors gave way to a dour bald man in hospital garb.

“How are you Tess?” said the man.

“I’m not sure I feel like talking…” she said.

“You were well enough for time with Drake.”

“So he could help me in to puke. It’s a lot of fun, vomiting for company…”

“Tess,” said the man. “Have you any idea why it was necessary to resettle your parents?”

“I can’t imagine how anything like that could ever be necessary…”

“They’ve allowed you to become sarcastic and defiant when you should be expressing your respect and gratitude. The teachers and counselors at your school have been concerned. Your parents weren’t managing…”

“No!” she cried out in hoarse anguish, “No! No! No!”

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Who is Fuzz?

 

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images (1)Fuzz is Sir Karlton Strong, captain of the Niarg Royal Guard, when the future queen of Niarg

Good_Sister,_Bad_Sis_Cover_for_KindleMinuet Dewin, is still a young lady at home at Peach Knob Manor in Good Sister, Bad Sister. When his lifelong friend Gastro vanishes, Captain Strong goes in search of him and finds that he has been turned into a sea serpent by Ugleeuh and left to patrol the waters off the coast of the Chokewood Forest for the rest of his days. Ugleeuh is not about to allow Strong to return to Niarg with the news of this, so she casts a spell on him, turning him into a bear with no hair, hopelessly addicted to sukere and confined to her part of the Chokewoods.

 

Minuet marries Hebraun, the future king of Niarg. When their daughter, Princess Rose, is sixteen,Fuzz Small The_Collector_Witch_Cover_for_Kindleshe sets out with her brother, Prince Lukus, in The Collector Witch to find Ugleeuh in order to discover what her true relationship to the House of Niarg happens to be. Ugleeuh holds them captive in her cottage all summer. At last they escape and end up in Fuzz’s den as they flee. Fuzz sets out on a harrowing trek to the sea with them to find Gastro in hopes that he would take them to safety.

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Five years later, Rose and Lukus return to the Chokewoods to find Fuzz freshly released from Stone_Heart_Cover_for_KindleThe_Burgeoning_Cover_for_KindleUgleeuh’s spell, a handsome young man in his prime who falls in love with Rose in Stone Heart and marries her. Instead of having a honeymoon, they sail to the Dark Continent on an urgent mission and are lost at sea in The Burgeoning.

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Wizard Razzmorten Fears for Minuet’s Life

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Hubba Hubba slowly ran his beak along the length of the back of a chair in the empty parlour and turned square about to run it all the way back. “All right, all right,” he said, Buddy_3985_Warningpausing to give his feathers a shake before strutting on. “I said I would, I said I would. I did, I did. But now that it comes to it, I don’t know what I think about being a crow again. And what if something goes wrong? What if Razzmorten is so weak that he can’t handle the spell and turns me into a roach or a maggot? What if his spell gives out just as I fly in to spy on Spitemorta and Demonica? They’ll kill me, is what. Pull out my feathers and wring my neck.”

Without warning a long blade sliced the air near his head. “Help!” he quacked as he tumbled into a gasping heap of feathers on the floor. “Hey Queen! What is this, a test of my mortality or what? As you can see, I can handle apoplexy but my head would come
right off with that thing.”

queen-with-sword“Hubba Hubba!” she cried, stopping amidst her next swing. “I didn’t see you!”

Hubba Hubba quacked again and backed under the chair.

“I’m so sorry! I just had Hebraun’s claymore and…!”

“Minuet, what is all of this?” said Razzmorten, appearing as much without warning as she had.

“Why must these big missions always threaten to take off my head?” said Hubba Hubba, bristling and panting from the shadows.

“I’ll learn this now, Father,” said Minuet. “When Niarg goes to battle, they’ll still have the crown to lead them forth.”

“No!” said Razzmorten with a look of shock “Niarg needs you here. It can’t afford to lose both Hebraun and you. If Spitemorta…”

“Ha!” barked Minuet bitterly, echoing in the arches of the ceiling. “Spitemorta! Yes! Let her come! When she does, I will cut out her black heart and feed it to the hogs. She took the light of my life and she’ll meet her doom if she dares come at me.”

“I will not cooperate with sweet and sour parrot. Traumatized, yes. Compliant? No. I refuse, I refuse. Queen, you and your awful sister…”

“What?” said Minuet as she stopped short to peer under the chair.

“I’ll have you know that I’m not being dilatory,” said Hubba Hubba with his tail fanned wide as he marched out from under the chair, running his beak along the floor as he came. “I’m right ready to set out on this mission without hesitation. I will not be threatened further…”

“Minuet please,” said Razzmorten. “Hebraun would never have you do such a thing. ForFotolia_74796694_Subscription_Monthly_M CROPHEAD the love of the Fates, daughter, it’s the very thing that got him killed.”

“Yes, I know,” she said, turning to face him, “and she did it. And that’s exactly why I have to do this. You love me and don’t want to lose me, so you want to stop me. Please know that I would never cause you grief. I own that I’m being vengeful, but you can rest assured that I’m not being rash. I’m set! You could ease my burden enormously by supporting my decision. If you can’t, I’ll not be resentful, but I’ll not stray from my path.”

“I’m going, I’m going!” said Hubba Hubba, pushing his beak around in circles on the floor. “You don’t have to threaten me…”

“Hubba Hubba,” said Minuet, “What makes you think I’m threatening you?”

“Right. Ugleeuh wasn’t threatening me either. She was merely distraught. And you’re just what, vengeful did you say?”

“Hubba Hubba! Here I’ve gone and had a grand packet of food made up for you…”

“What? With all my favorite treats?”

“Well yes…”

“See? Runs in the family. Put away your blade. I’m ready! I’m ready!”

green-cheek-amazon-tracy-starr“And what are you doing down there?” said Pebbles as she and the chicks alighted on the back of the chair.

“Here’s Herio,” said Minuet as she scooped up Hubba Hubba and gave him a scratch before letting him step off onto the chair. “Looks like he’s ready.”

“Well, so am I,” said Hubba Hubba with a confused look as Pebbles rattled her beak through his cheek feathers.

“Ready enough for me to change you into a crow?” said Razzmorten.

“Just give me a flash Wiz, and I’ll be right as rain.”

“You’ve prepared your family?”

“Yea. Go ahead…uh, I mean if there’s no problem with maggots…”

“What?”

“Well, with lesser stuff like roaches. Hey Wiz, how’s the strength o’ your magic these carrion_tcm9-137380days, anyway?”

“Does this help?” said Razzmorten as he held up a hand mirror.

 

 

 

Ch. 9, The Burgeoning (Click on Title or Book Cover Image to Download from Amazon)The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Abbey Sees Like an Elf

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Prince Abaddon of Loxmere-Goll sees someone in the distance as he rides into the great desert of the Wilderlands with Shot ‘n’ Stop the python on the back of Arwr the diatryma in Chapter 39 of The Burgeoning…

The sun still hadn’t come over the mountains by the time they had set out again, taking a diagonal path down the face of the long steep slope. By the time it was bearing down on them making the day hot, they had gone a good league beyond the shelf, and Abaddon began to make out great tree trunks strewn about everywhere, sticking out of the colored dirt and sand as far as the eye could see.

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Shot ‘n’ Stop had noticed too. “If thosse bare trunksses are ssuppossed to be a forresst, I don’t think we’ll ssee any sshade,” he said as he slithered across Abaddon’s leg to rise up between his arms for a look. “I jusst don’t ssee any leavesses, kiddo.”

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“I don’t either,” said Abaddon. “Maybe there was a big fire or something.”

“I believe it’s a stone forest,” said Arwr, “though I’d not heard that such a thing existed outside the Dark Continent.”

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“Stone forest?” said Abbey.

“We’ll see soon enough. I do know that this is called the Red Desert…”

“Red? It looks tan and white and purple and black.”

“Indeed,” said Arwr, “but Súlacha said that just beyond the horizon it looks bright brick red, and redder still should we happen to get a rain.”

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“Rain?” said Abaddon. “It doesn’t look as if it ever rains here.”

“Oh but it does. Look at all the deep gullies running down the slopes. I’d allow that it seldom rains.”

“Hey!” cried Abaddon, straining to see from under the flat of his hand. “See that, Arwr? I swear I saw someone dart between a couple of stone trees down yonder. I think he had a bright green hood on. I thought nobody lived in the Wilderlands.”

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Arwr shared a look with Shot ‘n’ Stop. “If you’re certain, Abby, perhaps we should point him out to King Neron.”

“Oh, I saw him.”

“Then hang on,” said Arwr as he flew down the slope at a light, easy jog.

“Arwr?”

“Yes?”

“Grown-ups never thought I had anything important to say back in Castle Goll.”

“Well this could be important,” said Arwr, “and try to keep your eye on the spot where you saw him.”

Abaddon just hugged Arwr’s big fluffy neck.

 ***

“Can ye point him out Prince Abaddon?” said Súlacha as he shaded his eyes to look about.

“‘Way out yonder, I think.”

Súlacha kept looking. “Ansin,” he said with a sharp nod as he stared. “I do indeed see prints in the sand which look to be human, but I see nothing astir down there now but a couple of lizards.”

“I don’t see any of that,” said Abaddon. “You’ve sure got good eyes.”

“But you’re not an Elf yet, Prince Abaddon,” said Súlacha with a serious face.

“You mean all Elves can see faraway like that?”The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_Kindle

“No. Just the aons with eyes,” he said, studying the footprints. “Sire! Look yonder. There’s a man down there amongst the stone trees and he has green hair.”

“A Fairy!” cried Abaddon with an excited bounce on Arwr, as Neron strained to see just where.

“Well, Prince Abaddon,” said Súlacha. “Perhaps you’ve been a-seeing like an Elf all along, since you were the first to spot him.”

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Who is Abaddon?

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Abaddon is the son of King James of Loxmere and the witch queen Spitemorta of Goll. He is also the great-grandson of the fearsome Demonica, the most powerful sorceress of all time. 

Stone_Heart_Cover_for_KindleDemonica abandoned Spitemorta’s mother Ugleeuh at birth and returned to her keep across the sea in Head to continue her pursuit of power through her fortune in mines and arms. She has long dreamed of ruling the world, but she knows that in order to do that, she will need the Great The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_KindleStaff of Power and its Crystal Heart. When she hears that her very granddaughter has the Staff in Stone Heart, she becomes Abaddon’s nanny. In time, she and Spitemorta leave Abaddon in the care of King James and go off on a hunt to find the Heart. Whilst120904655645652 they are away, James discovers that Spitemorta is a witch and that her influence over Abaddon is evil. In an effort to save him in The Burgeoning, he has his steward Lance hide Abaddon. When The Reaper Witch 01 copySpitemorta finds out, she tortures James and puts him in the dungeon.       

Lance takes Abaddon to his childhood home in Mount Bedd to see the Fairy sisters who raised him. They find Abaddon to be dark and troubled and in the sway of the Pitmaster, but under their influence he decides to help Lance find King James and get him to safety, out of Spitemorta’s reach and thereby begins a transformation which continues throughout The Reaper Witch and eventually turns him into a hero.

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Razzmorten Meets the Diatrymas

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“Myrtlebell!” stammered Rose. “No, you can’t mean… It can’t be. I mean Fuzz just wouldn’t… He knows how I feel about…well, I mean…he knows what she…”

“Rose,” said Razzmorten with quiet firmness, as he gave her a steely eyed look from beneath his hoary brows. “I think it would be best to see Edward off to bed. He’s been through a great lot these past few days and he truly needs your kind support. I believe we have quite enough information to begin a search for his mother and Fuzz, don’t you?”

Rose gave a blank look before suddenly seeing how it all was. Just before she had grasped exactly how horrible she should feel, Edward tugged at her skirts with wide eyes.
“I didn’t know you knew my momma. Why don’t you like her, Rose? Momma is the bestest person in the whole world.”

Razzmorten saw the frantically helpless expression on Rose’s face. Satisfied that she appreciated the hole she had just dug herself, he came to her rescue. “Edward,” he said as he knelt down to look him in the eye, “you may not realize it, but there are many women in the world named Myrtlebell. I don’t think the Myrtlebell Rose knows is your momma or you know she would like her.”

Edward knitted his brow as he considered, then he looked up at Rose.

“That’s right, Edward,” she said, brightened with relief. “Why, the Myrtlebell I knew could never have a child as bright and sweet as you.” She knelt before him. “I’m sorry I upset you. Your mother couldn’t be the Myrtlebell I knew.”

Edward nodded wisely. “I wonder how somebody named Momma’s name could be bad,” he said, giving Rose a forgiving smile, “but somebody called Angel could be mean and awful.” Then with a huge yawn, he lunged for her with a hug. “I’m really, really tired now.”

“Right,” said Rose, as she turned to Spark and Lipperella, who had been keenly watching everything as they dropped endless chunks of sukere down dragonet gullets. “Is there some place where Edward could sleep?”

Lipperella nodded and surprised Razzmorten by handing him her dish of sukere as she passed. “Gweltaz, could you do this for me?” he said. “I think it’s urgent that I speak with the diatrymas. Kast, you say they refuse to come inside…?”

“They never do. They won’t.”

“You know about them. You spoke with them, would you take me up there right now andFotolia_74796694_Subscription_Monthly_M CROPHEAD introduce me to them?”

Kast was on his feet immediately, heading for a cramped passage, scarcely larger than the dragon himself, hurrying along so quickly that Razzmorten nearly had to jog to keep up. Presently they came to a spiral stair, carved out of the limestone of the cavern, that led directly overhead to where the diatrymas had bedded down, side by side in the leaves beneath the leaning oaks. At their approach, the diatrymas raised their heads high in unison, but remained resting on their keel bones.

Meanwhile, Lipperella lead Rose and Edward to a small passage opening into a grotto with several pallets. “Guest quarters for our human friends,” she said as she neatly lit a candle with a wee spurt of blue flame from between her lips, revealing the attractive suite.

“My!” said Rose in astonishment that at once made her feel awkward.

“I’ll just leave you to tuck him in, then,” said Lipperella graciously, as she turned to go back.

“Thank you,” called out Rose belatedly.

Edward wasted no time sliding into the most inviting strange bed he had ever seen. Rose found a basin and full pitcher and washed his face and hands. He gave Rose one last smile. He needed another hug. Rose was simply too much like Myrtlebell not to be his chosen nanny. He began to snore softly even before Rose pulled the coverlet over him. She smiled at him in wonder then silently left his side, returning to the nursery to find the company waiting for Razzmorten to return from his visit to the diatrymas.

After some time they returned. Razzmorten sat down at once, rubbing the bridge of his nose.

“What did you find, Grandfather?” said Lukus.

“Stunning…absolutely stunning creatures, that’s what.”

“Comes with the feathers, Wiz,” said Hubba Hubba, looking up suddenly from a serious preen.

“They could well be the most intelligent beings I’ve ever addressed. I truly believe they were making sure that I had all the information I needed to come to a decision, but they were exhausted from their long run, and once they saw that I had what I needed, they politely persuaded me to leave so they could sleep. They also plan on helping us.”

“In my dealings with them, I’ve not known them to forget even the very most minor detail of anything,” said Kast. “I daresay you’ll be right thankful for their aid.”

“They are almost certainly the adar taranus which Razzorbauch released from the rocks when he created the fudge volcano,” said Razmorten. “If they be, then they are the ones he is said to have regretted turning loose.”

“Certainly,” said Lipperella. “As Truth-Bearer, I’ve had several occasions when I sought them out in secret. Razzorbauch was never comfortable with the truth. Unfortunately they keep to themselves, so that over the years I’ve seldom seen them.”Stone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle

“Well, we seem to have no choice but to leave at once,” said Razzmorten.

Ch. 10, Stone Heart

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Waylaid by Elves

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The_Collector_Witch_Cover_for_KindleAfter a nice supper in the Suds and Steer in The Collector Witch, Rose and Lukus find themselves on a dark road in the woods…

Before them lay the border of Loxmere, beyond which lay the Jut of Niarg, a southern arm of their own country, filled with a dense forest known as the Jutwoods. They crossed the border in the broad moonlight by leaving the road in order to avoid the guard houses. When they had found their way back onto the road, they were nearly three leagues beyond Loxmere in very dense woods. Suddenly Rose halted Mystique so abruptly that Lukus ran his knee into the skirt of her saddle. “Hey! Rose, call your shot next time.”

“Hush!” she said. “We’re being watched.”

“How do you know?”

“I swear I saw movement.”

“It must be the robbers from the inn. I told you they were up to no good.”

“Can you see them, Lukus?”

180291 “It’s ‘way too dark. I can’t see anything. They could hide anywhere. They could be right there in the rocks along the cliff, for all I can tell. I think they’re rocks. Maybe they’re pacing us through the woods, just off the road.”

“What are we going to do?”

“Run or hide. We’d better choose one right quick, ’cause I just heard something. We can make out the road by the gap in the trees.”

“Then let’s ride like the wind. They’ll not have mounts even close to ours.”

At once three figures stepped into the roadway. 

“Lukus!” she cried, wheeling square about and frantically digging her heels into Mystique’s flanks 4ud2to charge back the way they’d come. Lukus tried to follow, but Starfire reared and bolted off the road and through the brush to throw him sprawling in the briars. Two hooded figures rushed out of nowhere and grabbed Starfire’s reins. Lukus scrambled to his feet and fell in time to be pounced on and rolled up in a blanket.

Rose was too far away by now to hear him over Mystique’s pounding hooves, but she looked over her shoulder to see if he was behind her. “Lukus!” she cried. The moment she turned about, three hooded figures stepped into her way, spooking Mystique off the road to go crashing through a thicket while she hung onto her neck for dear life. As they raced under the limb of an oak, somebody dropped onto Mystique’s back to grab her as she lost her grip. She gave out a throat shredding scream.

“Hush!” cried the somebody, clapping his hand over her mouth. “You’ll scare lean air out of Lukus, and cac too, Princess!”

Directly, she was helped off Mystique by the one who had caught her and by two other hooded men who set to work at once, unwrapping Lukus. “Good for you!” she shouted. “You have us! Now what are you going to do to us? And just how did you know  Lukus’s name?”

The three calmed the unicorns and stood quietly before them, faceless as wraiths.

“You’re not from the inn,” she said as they pushed back their hoods.    

The middle one smiled at her. 

“You’re Elves!” she gasped at their pointed ears. “But you don’t exist. You must be an enchantment.”

“Nope,” said the middle one with a bow. “We’re as real as you are. And enchantment would be beyond you, I’m afraid. I’m Danneth and these are my brothers, Strom and Jarund, and we most certainly mean you no harm in the least. In fact, we’re here at your service.”

“Yea?” said Lukus. “And how is stamping on us and rolling us in the blackberry briars the same as serving us?”

“Yes, that was awkward,” said Danneth. “You have lots of energy. It took quite a bit to get you to hold still.”

“Just how many of you are there? Nine? Twelve?” said Rose. 

“We are three only,” said Danneth.

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“Now you’re playing us for fools,” she said.

“Not at all,” said Jerund. “We merely move quickly when we must.”

“Rose, they don’t have to let us find out. It’s pointless,” said Lukus, turning to Danneth. “Though it would only be fair if you all at least told us what you stopped us for and just what you are.”

“But Rose saw at once that we are Elves,” said Danneth.

Danneth looked like his brothers to Rose, but where his hair was silvery, Strom’s was metallic golden and Jarund’s was iridescent and black as pitch, far blacker than any black hair she had seen in her life. “They have to be what they claim, Lukus,” she said, turning to the Elves. “I’m convinced that you’re Elves, but telling us that you’re at our service is no explanation at all for your waylaying us.”

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

 

 

Demonica and Ugleeuh Enjoy Supper by the Sea

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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 heldimg_08701
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?”

“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