Wizard Razzmorten takes Hubba Hubba to See the King and Queen

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Razzmorten cleared his throat. Hubba Hubba straightened up at once, giving himself a feather fluffing shake. “Well Queen, how could you possibly have known it was me?”

“Oh, Hubba Hubba! I’d know you anywhere.”Scan10074

Hubba Hubba drew back his head and thrust it forth in a gawk of bewilderment at Razzmorten. Razmorten gave a wide-eyed shrug. “I hate to dampen this merry reunion, but time may be pressing,” he said. “Hubba Hubba has a message from your sister, regarding Rose and Lukus.”

“Ugleeuh!” cried King Hebraun, springing to his feet. “She hasn’t harmed them, has she?”

“No, no. I wouldn’t think so,” said Razzmorten, handing Ugleeuh’s note to Hebraun. “She has decided to blackmail you. She plans to be set free from the Chokewood Forest. It seems she has Rose and Lukus at her cottage and plans to give their freedom for hers. See for yourself.”

King Hebraun quickly read the missive and handed it to Minuet. “Father!” she choked. “You said Ugleeuh could cause no more harm once she was exiled.”

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“Not outside of her part of the Chokewoods,” said Razzmorten, as he gently picked up her hand. “I can’t imagine that she had any way of abducting them. They had to have gone there on their own, and most likely to answer some of the questions which Rose was asking all around, right prior to their disappearance. No, Ugleeuh has not been any sort of hazard outside her boundaries from the time we sent her there until this very minute, but this extortion of hers is her design to change all that. Meanwhile, the children must be safe. Stop and think. Ugleeuh is evil, but she’s no fool. She’d hardly destroy the one and only chance she’s had to end her exile. She’ll not harm Rose and Lukus as long as there’s any chance she can use them to get free.”

“He’s right,” cawed Hubba Hubba. “In all the years I’ve spent with her, she never suggested harming a feather on my body until I refused to come here. Then she threatened
to cook me. And I have an idea. When I left, Ugleeuh gave me this scrying crystal so I’d
be able to see her and the forest any time I wanted. Here. Try it to check on Rose and
Lukus. I’ll bet that will make you feel better.”

Minuet suddenly looked hopeful but Razzmorten sadly shook his head. “Your offer is grand, Hubba Hubba, but I’m afraid your crystal is useless. She’s managed to divine an astonishing barrier around her part of the forest to prevent being watched by any sort of crystal gazing. I certainly have tried to often enough.”

Hubba Hubba was stunned. “So!” he squawked with a shake of his feathers. “She lied again. She said she’d drop the protections and keep them down until I returned. Fool
that I am, I told her not to because she’d leave herself vulnerable. She told me that her
protections had been in place so long that no one would bother to spy on her. No wonder
she wasn’t worried. She’d no intention of dropping her protections all along.”

“Whoa Hubba Hubba,” said Razzorten, as he shared raised eyebrows with Hebraun and Minuet. “There was talk of dropping her protections?”

Crow-0056-A01“Talk. Yea.”

“Where’s this scrying crystal Ugleeuh gave you?”

“Right here, actually,” he said, looking down at his breast. “The crystal is the brooch fixed on my flight harness. But what difference does that make if it’s useless?”

Razzmorten was already unbuckling the harness, shaking his head to be silent while he slipped it off him. The king and queen anxiously crowded around. Hubba Hubba peered at the stone from Razzmorten’s shoulder, and nearly lost his balance when the old man whooped with glee. “It works! I see the forest. And look at this. There’s Ugleeuh flying above the trees on a broom. That’s a right novel talent. She certainly never did that before her exile. I suppose it’s no surprise that she’d develop her powers to while away the time there.”

“I despise the idea of her having any powers,” said Minuet. “Where do you suppose Rose and Lukus are?”

“I’d bet in her cottage,” said Hubba Hubba. “They haven’t been much for going outdoors, all summer. Mostly they stayed around the house and you know, ate, slept, those kinds o’ things…” He trailed off uncomfortably, seeing everyone looking straight at him. “Well when I was there, they joked around with me and we talked and stuff, don’t you know,” he stammered, glancing from one person to the next as he resumed. “Sometimes they did go outside and take me for my exercise flights. And once Lukus and I even went for a hike. Now that was really fun, except when the log rolled over on me and broke my toe, of course.” He fluffed up and ran his beak along several flight feathers, letting each go with a snap before he continued. “Anyway, try the cottage.”

Razzmorten was scarcely listening as he brought his concentration to bear upon scrying with the crystal. At last, Rose and Lukus appeared, wearing their stripped cloaks, hurrying to keep up with Fuzz.

“Wow!” said Hubba Hubba. “Ugleeuh and Fuzz are definitely not on friendly terms. I can’t imagine her letting them talk to him, let alone run off with him somewhere.”

“Looks like those stripped cloaks are camouflage,” said Razzmorten with a grave nod, “at least I’d say so from the appearance of the surrounding trees. They certainly don’t appear to be out for a hunt, and if they’ve gone to this kind of trouble to hide, they very
likely are attempting to flee, rather than waiting for us to respond to her extortion demands. So this bear ‘Fuzz,’ Ugleeuh doesn’t like him, you say?”

“Not much…”

“Speaks well of him.”

“Oh Hebraun!” said Minuet. “Their faces are so pale and pasty. They don’t look well. What has she done to them?”

“Remember that I can’t scry,” said Hebraun, as he shared a look with Razzmorten, “but it sounds like they’ve been eating your sister’s food. They’ll surely snap out of it as soon as we get them home.”

“And remember that they’re young and strong, Minuet,” said Razzmorten. “Neither one has ever been sick. They’re going to be just fine.”

“But how are we going to get them home, now?” said Minuet. “And what if Ugleeuh catches them? They’ve defied her and escaped. I can’t imagine her fury. No one who thwarts her is ever safe. You can count on her saying that they owe her for having been at her cottage, even though they were her prisoners. She’d make them pay mercilessly for that. But stand in the way of her freedom? I can’t picture her controlling herself.”

Razzmorten sucked in a deep breath between his teeth. “I’m sure Ugleeuh is mortally angry,” he said, “but it still behooves her to handle Rose and Lukus with care. I can’t imagine her forgetting that they are her only chance to leave the forest, short of dying. I’d say that if she does catch them, it’s this Fuzz, whoever he is, who won’t survive her vengeance.”

“You got it.” said Hubba Hubba. “She wants out and Fuzz is a goner. Oh, absolutely.” He hesitated, seeing that he was being taken very seriously by everyone. “She
threatened to slaughter and eat me, just because I told her I wouldn’t deliver her ransom
note. And she claims she loves me. She doesn’t even like Fuzz.”

“Pray that they’re not caught,” said Minuet, looking pale and drawn, as she sat down on her throne. “I grew up struggling with her getting even with everyone under the sun.”

“How do you suppose this Fuzz plans to help Rose and Lukus escape?” said Hebraun.

“Until some clue turns up,” said Razzmorten, rubbing his temples gingerly before gazing The_Collector_Witch_Cover_for_Kindleback into the crystal, “I have utterly no idea at all, except that they most likely are indeed attempting some sort of escape, right now.”

“What happens if Ugleeuh intercepts them, Father?” said Minuet. “What then?”

“Then I shall have to face her myself.” said Razzmorten calmly enough to cause Hubba Hubba to gape in astonishment. “Please don’t be afraid, Minuet. I swear that no harm shall come to my grandchildren. I swear it on my life.”

Ch. 20, The Collector Witch

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Arwr the Diatryma Bites Vyrpudi the Troll on the Buttock

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“Oooooooff…vooov…vooob!” boomed Lladdwr, flashing the red patches in his wings and tail, lowering his head and popping his beak as he pranced alongside another troll before 180px-Diatryma_reconstructionflattening him with a brutal sideways kick. Lukus ran through a third one, and was yanking out his claymore when Soraya put an arrow into the mouth of a fourth, who had just stepped up with his club, all ready to brain him. Ceidwad and Lladdwr had each just taken down another brute apiece when yet another troll grabbed away Soraya’s bow and started dragging her off into the timber.

“Soraya!” cried out Lukus as he dashed after them. “Stinking troll cachu!”

“Wooob…doooff…voooob!” boomed Arwr as he overtook Lukus with a half dozen springy strides to knock the troll flat and pin him fast to the ground with a scaly foot on each arm. He gave his feathers a thorough shake, pinched off the skin from the tip of the brute’s nose for good measure and turned his head to face Lukus with both eyes. “So what do you want me to do with this thing, Prince Lukus? Very well, I can wait. You need a moment,” he said as Soraya and Lukus grabbed each other into a frantic embrace.

“Here are these again, dear,” said Ceidwad, bringing forth a beak full of bow and arrows.

“Well he’s certainly earned his own death,” said Lukus, turning back with closed eyes to treasure Soraya with another quick squeeze.

“By all means,” said Arwr. “Well, I’d certainly do him in for you, but it would be understandable if either you or Soraya wanted to…or you might want to save him and
question him, first…”

“And then kill him,” said Lukus. “That might be just the thing…”

“And we may be killed, merely a-standing here,” said Lladdwr as his neck went fluffy, swinging his head up to his full height to peer over the thicket at the pandemonium of trolls and Elves all about the burning castle.

“Make for the Magic River,” said Ceidwad as she squatted onto her keel. “Please get on, Princess Soraya. You must be exhausted. And Lukus, you ride on Lladdwr.” At once they were underway, with Lladdwr and Arwr steering the whimpering troll by popping their ponderous ebony beaks at his ears and pinching him mercilessly when he dared to hesitate or to step wide of where they wanted him to go.

“I understood why we might not want to go straight there when we turned this way,” said Soraya, as Ceidwad lifted open a cellar door ringed by thick evergreen shrubbery at the far end of the arboretum, “but why are we hiding? It’s urgent that we get down to the caverns.”

“We are,” said Ceidwad, ducking to step inside as her voice took on echoes. “This is the secret way…”

“I’ll say!” said Soraya. “I’ve spent the last two hundred and forty years growing up here, and I knew nothing about this.”

“How did you know about it, Ceidwad?” said Lukus, reaching out to feel of the clammy stone ceiling. “I never knew you ever went inside until you came into the castle to warn us.”

“It’s not that we can’t, we just avoid it unless it’s a matter of life and death. I’ve been in and out of here five times, helping to see the enchanted creatures down to the river. It’s a long way too, maybe four league.”

Arwr closed the door behind them. When he discovered that the troll had defiantly planted his feet, he clamped onto a buttock and twisted his beak.

“Fnafo-dyrnyr-truf!” yelled the brute as he lurched forward. “Fnadyr-difarr ja! Fnadyr-difarr ja! Fnaphn-nty ntu!”

“Fnafo-dyrnyr-truf. Fnadyr-diffarr ja. Fnadyr-difarr ja. Fnaphn-nty ntu,” said Arwr.The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_Kindle

“You understand Trollish?” said Lukus.

“Not a single word of it,” said Arwr.

Ch. 18, The Burgeoning

 

 

Carol and Tom Phipps