Why Fantasy?

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I grew up in the land of Eden, I swear, which I could not possibly appreciate until it was too late grazing-dairy-cattleto come back. I grew up on what was for its time, a large dairy farm, with a big pond, a huge woods and the third best creamchickens-in-apricot-orchards-permaculture producing dairy herd in the state. We also had sheep and occasional hogs. We had milk, home-made butter and cottage cheese out the ears. We butchered. We dressed chickens

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and made cider. We had a five acre apple orchard in its prime, put up every bit of our own produce from our garden and had irises and peonies, gladiolas

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and snapdragons growing everywhere. We had no pesticides yet. Barn swallows swooped after flies, herons nested by the pond and every species of bird imaginable filled the air with their calls on a June day.

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Mom and Dad were positively crazy about each other. They got giddy and sang as they worked herbGardentogether. The neighbors were like extended family and everyone, I mean everyone got along. We went to the church down the road and we would go to each other’s houses and have square July-6-8-040dances and big sings. Both sets of my grandparents were alive and well in their eighties, and the neighborhood was brimming with people born well before rosegardenthe twentieth century. I got taken to a lot of funerals, but I spent a lot of afternoons after Sunday dinner, rolling around on the floor, listening to old folksimages (3) tell about their parents breaking the first prairie sod with oxen or about what happened to them during the Civil War.

mckenzie_jersey_cowsSuddenly I found myself in college. I was going to come back home and farm, but Dad got Alzheimer’s and sold most of the farm before anyone was awake enough to stop him.

Carol and I went west and taught on the reservations. Some of Leaping Lamb Farm gardensthat was pretty rough, but I always reckoned we could manage to get through it, since I knew 1340897947_a76bcd560e5dthat sooner or later we were coming home to what was left of the farm.

The day came. I knew that the family were all gone before we ever started home. I knew that nobody waved anymore. I wasn’t surprised that everyone I knew had moved away, either. After all, we had to go west, ourselves. Due to the massive pesticide use with no-till farming, I didn’t Farm_Pond_With_Egret_fsimages (2)expect many birds. There has not been a single whip-poor-will call since we returned. And a thief took every last one of the tools which I grew up watching my family use to work the land.

My grandma said: “Time is a river. You can’t stick your foot into the same water twice.”images

medieval-fighterI don’t care. There still has to be an Eden to go back to. One’s mind has to be able to escape to some place enchanted. There has to be one good place. Carol opened a door. She invented the land of Niarg. And we’ve been visiting there ever since.

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 Tom Phipps

It’s Either Kill Trolls or Pack for Home

 

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The breeze rattled the cottonwood leaves overhead as it chased through the tall big bluestem grass beyond the butt and died away. Rose drew her bowstring to her cheek,
hesitated and planted her eighth arrow in the target. A warbling vireo went back to its
meandering medley from the crown of the cottonwood. Rose nocked her next arrow and
found the target with her eyes.

“My word!” said Fuzz as he walked up behind her. “That’s a whole bouquet of arrows in the bull’s eye. That looks like forty yard.”

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Rose nodded and lowered her bow. “Father always had us practice,” she said.

“I remember seeing that light longbow of yours back home, but we were in such a rush that I never once saw you use it,” he said with a nod at the target. “You’re just plain good, particularly with this breeze. Have you missed any at all?”

“I’ve not yet been to the target.”

Fuzz whistled. “Well what do you think of Olloo’s spare bow? I’m all done feeding the birds, by the way.”

Rose raised her bow and quickly put another arrow in the bull’s eye. “I like it,” she said, letting the breeze blow a strand of hair out of her face as she turned to look at him. “But it’s not at all like the one Soraya had. This thing’s longer and shoots almost like a proper 9204cacfb3a66323628d914d5330f62clongbow.”

“Well that makes sense, out here in the open in the Strah,” he said, giving her a quick peck on the cheek. “I knew Inney had got it for you, but I never asked you why. Are you wanting to be ready for Spitemorta or Demonica sometime after we get home?”

“I was thinking trolls.”

“The raid…”

“Damned right!” she said with a fiery look. “Those were the sweetest three little kids I think I ever saw. That little towhead Aalin trotted up with her ringlets just a-bouncing and gave me a fistful of asters the very afternoon before the trolls came. I still see her face.” she thrust out her chin and picked up another arrow. “You know, that makes four men, three young ladies, one of them about to be wed, and six little scoots like Aalin since we got here. They’re going to get wiped out at this rate.”

“Probably not. They’ve been out here doing this for the last thousand years.”

Rose turned to face the target to find an old ewe and her pair of lambs in the way. “Yea?” Ewe and lambsshe said. “Well what about our wee baban on the way, aye? One of those trolls gets too close to our little girl to be, and I’ll want to puncture the curse.”

“So that’s what this is about,” said Fuzz. “Have you forgotten that trolls don’t eat humans?”

“You think they’ll look at her ears after they grab her up? And can you imagine any trolls raiding Balley Cheerey who’d check each little girl for pointed ears before stealing her away? They’d just grab her up, right? And if they saw their mistake, do you reckon they’d dutifully fetch her back here? They’d either eat her for dessert or kick her out in the woods with the wolves.”

“Well, you’re right,” he said, squatting beside her and pulling a timothy head. “So what do you want to do?”

“Fight back!” she said, dropping to her knees beside him. “Or at least be able to. You Warbling Vireo, singing_6444know, I don’t really understand why the Elves haven’t wiped them out by now, Fuzz. Inney told me once about when they almost did. They tracked the monsters to their
stinking caves and killed nearly every one of the curses where they slept before the
handful which survived got away. And when they can do nearly everything just a little
better than we can, why didn’t they ever hunt down those survivors and end the menace?
When I think of little Aalin, it makes me want to cry.”

“Tramman was telling me about that, once,” he said as he watched the ewe graze bite by bite to the foot of the target. “He said that they did indeed hunt down the trolls that got away and they were right certain they’d got all of them, too. So when the next troll raid occurred years and years later, they were completely unprepared and lost eleven children all in one night. Can you imagine?”

“Oh Fuzz, what are we going to do? It’s a true paradise here without the troll raids. I’ve never in my life been around such wonderful, wonderful people. Inney’s the sweetest kid I’ve ever known. And I really did want to have the baby right here. But the trolls scare me. And I find myself missing Niarg more, day by day. I keep thinking we should be there for the birth. It’s where we really belong.”

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Fuzz scooted closer, picked up her hand and closed his eyes as he kissed her wrist. “Then maybe we should go home, dear,” he said. “The Elves have told Karl-Veur and me that we might well hire a fishing boat from Gwael to take us across the sea.” He paused to look at her. “And there’s nothing to stop us from doing it right now if we were to buy our
passage with some of the jewelry that washed up on the beach in your trunk. Now believe
me, I’d never just up and tell you to do such a thing…”

“I’ll give every blooming jewel I thought was long lost if it takes it,” she said. “Well, not the emerald necklace from Mother nor your earrings that match. Well. You know, I’d almost give those to go home.”

“Then it sounds as though you might be serious. Well if you think it over and…”

“That would just waste time. I’m ready to go pack.”

“Then I’ll go talk to Tramman right now.”

“Fuzz,” she said, putting her hand on his arm before he got to his feet. “I will stay if you want.”

“You really would, wouldn’t you?”

“Of course I would.”

“That’s why I’m crazy about you, Rose,” said Fuzz. “But I miss Edward. I mean, what must he think after all this time?”

Suddenly two half grown strike falcons appeared out of the grass and came dashing up to them across the butts with a rabbit apiece, startling the sheep.

“Carrey and Sidoor!” she said, shooting to her feet to hug Carrey’s fluffy neck. “How’d Phororhacosthey get out?”

“Sidoor kept putting images of fat rabbits in my head, so I thought about you out here and turned them out.”

“So what about our birds, Fuzz? We can’t leave them behind.”

“Of course not,” he said as he watched the birds drop their rabbits and rip them into pieces small enough to swallow. “They go with us, and that’s all there is to it. Now, I think we should find Karl-Veur and see if he wants to go with us or stay here.”

“Or go back to the Dark Continent. After all, you know he misses Yuna and young Yann-Ber. I think we should let him know that it’s all right with us if he changes his mind about trying to get into Demonica’s good graces.”

“Oh sure. But I’ve got a feeling he’s set on doing what he came with us to do, in spite of the price he has to pay.”

“Let’s go,” said Rose as she unstrung her bow and picked up her quiver.

“Then we talk to Tramman and Obbree about hiring a fishing boat,” he said, taking her by The Reaper Witch 01 copythe hand.

“I’m for that,” she said, squeezing his arm.

Ch. 20, The Reaper Witch

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Ocker Teaches Blodwen

 

The moment Blodwen leant aside for more apples for her pan of water, Ocker and Urr-Urr rushed at her other pan and snapped up several apple slices apiece.”Hey fowl!” she cried, hoplessly too late as they buoyed themselves above the reach of her swat with a couple of flaps and settled at the far end of the board.

bn_raven“Yea?” said Ocker as he gobbled down his slices. “Ravens is the kind we happen to be, if ye want to sound like you know things, dear. And by the way, nice apples.”

“Thieving vermin is what,” she growled. “Ye’re damned well told, nice apples! I sliced ’em.”

“Good for you, sweetheart,” he said as he lunged into the air to hover over her shoulder. “You owe us.”

“Just how in all the chiming bells of Golltowre is that?” she said, turning square
about on her seat in time for Urr-Urr to grab out more slices from her pan and lungeimages
into the air.

“Damn you varmints!” she cried, wheeling back to her pan.

“Listen quiente,” he said, hovering at her ear, “you owe us because Meri Greenwood would never have got here without us. And if you had any sense you’d see hit. And while you’re a-wising up, shouldn’t someone be looking after Meri?”

“What?” she said.

“What’s going to keep him from going all crazy and beating up the old hag,anyway?” he said, settling onto the table by Urr-Urr to take one of her slices. “If she’s as
confounded ugly as these two, he might.”

Closeup_North_Amer_Crow_t700“Look ‘ee here!” cried Hubba Hubba. “These old ladies are nice!”

“Yea?” rattled Ocker. “What do you know about it, fraud? You ain’t even a bird.”

“I’ll have you know I’m a double yellow-head Amazon…”

“Popinjays never made it all the way to birddom, hole!”

“And nobody owes you the time o’ day…”

“Well Hubba Hubba,” said Minuet, “I do owe him my life…”

“He’s that very Ocker?”

Minuet and Razzmorten both nodded with twinkling eyes.

“Well maybe if he just watched his mouth…”

“Hey, I’m just distracted, Yellow Crow,” said Ocker with wide-eyed smacks of his beak, gobbling down another slice of apple. “I mean, we brought Meri all the way here,and now his whole world just caved in on him, don’t ye know…”

il_570xN.408687206_rfku“Whosoes woreld hath juste kaaved in?” said Meri as everyone in the room stopped short at the sight of the radiantly gorgeous Celeste on his arm.

“You fixed her,” awked Ocker. “You going to pretty up the other Fairies, too?”

“Ich didde nat,” he said as he and Celeste knelt before a speechless Minuet. “My gracious Queene. Wolt thou us to marye this verray howre? In dede, wolt thou plesebeauty-blue-hair-emo-green-hair-Favim.com-1014236
marye us byforn weo risen fro oure knees?”

“Why, there’s nothing I’d enjoy more!”

“Thanne byforn weo to risen, plese do,” said Meri.

“But you need a bouquet,” said Nacea.

“And shulden nat weo for this to reherse?” said Alvita.long-blue-green-hair

“Swyven off, you two!” said Ocker. “They want to nest.”

“Plese,” said Celeste. “Byforn my lokes dekay. Everych oon plese stant with us. Ocker, perchestow on Meri, if thou woldest. Every brid on a shulder. Ceidwad and Lladdwr, my derre children, plese yeve me awey.”

The room hushed at once to hear the joyous vows.

Ch. 15, The Reaper Witch

***

They heard wings in time for Ocker to land on the board in front of Blodwen. “Hello, Apple-Slice,” he said, running his beak down a flight feather.

162767579_a-basket-of-apples-giclee-print-by-august-laux“No!” snapped Blodwen, covering her pan with her arms. “Beat it!”

“Hey Apple-Slice,” he croaked, walking right up to her pan with a cock of his head. “Better look out for Urr-Urr.”

At the sound of wings behind her, she threw her chin to her shoulder to see.Quarter-the-Apples

Ocker grabbed up a huge beakful of slices and flew to the mantle.

“Look out Blodwen!” cawed Hubba Hubba, right before Urr-Urr grabbed a slice from the other side of the pan.

“Shut up Two-Head,” said Ocker, setting his mouthful at his feet.

“You’re in on it too, Hubba-Hubba?” said Blodwen as she watched Urr-Urr fly away with her prize.

“No!” cawed Hubba-Hubba. “I was only trying…”

“Thanks Two-Head,” said Ocker. “Urr-Urr would never ‘ave got hers without yourhelp.”

“Hey! I was not trying to help Urr-Urr.”

“Don’t you birds ever learn?” said Blodwen as she covered her pan with a bread board.

“You’re the one who won’t learn, quiente,” said Ocker. “We had you figured out the The Reaper Witch 01 copymoment we saw you. That’s why we’re still having to give you lessons.”

Ch. 17, The Reaper Witch

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

You Were a Bear?

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They had their unicorns completely laden and packed before the first light. With the first rusty calls of the seaside sparrows as the sky turned deep blue, they wended between tussocks of marram grass into a landscape of sandburs and rolling sand dunes with CapeSableSeasideSparrow_2Tramman, Obbree and Karl-Veur leading the way while Rose, Fuzz and Inney followed a rod or two behind. After tramping a good long way with no talking, Rose paused to shift her pack and to study the horizon.

“Young ladies were never meant to be pack animals, Rose,” said Fuzz. “I could take your bag for a bit.”

“And I suppose old bespelled bears are,” she said with her eyes dancing.

“Absolutely!” said Fuzz. “Going to find Gastro. That is indeed what it reminds me of, too.”

“What are you two talking about?” said Inney.

“We were once in a place like this when Fuzz was a bear,” said Rose, stopping short to images 2share wide-eyed looks with Fuzz at what she had just said.”

“You were a bear?” said Inney. “Mister Fuzz! You’re not a skin walker, are you?”

“You mean, could I change myself into a bear? Not at all. I could not begin to do something like that, even if I had forever and seven days. I was trapped as a bear with no
hair until the witch who did it to me was killed and her evil faded away some years later.”

Everyone ahead had turned about to listen. “She must’ve been one powerful witch if it took zzzDicksissel9so long for all of her magic to fade,” said Tramman.

“She was powerful, all right,” said Fuzz, “and made all the more so by having in her possession what we know as the Great Staff of Power. Your long lost brethren once called it Bata Millteanach. And it’s a very long tale that I can see needs to be told when we get to Balley Cheerey.”

“That’s a story I can’t wait to hear,” said Tramman, turning square about in the sand. “Let’s get on to Balley Cheerey.” And with that, the party resumed their tramp through the sand.

As the sun rose, the sand became unbearably hot, and since Rose, Fuzz and Karl-Veur sandduneshad lost their shoes in the sea when the ship sank, they were forced to make emergency footwear out of a ripped kelp sack and strips of the skirt of Rose’s kirtle. By the time the628x471 sun was high enough for the sand to blister bare feet, they were underway again, listening to the endless calls of cicadas.

Grass was now covering most of the sand. Dickcissels called from the taller tussocks. Redwing blackbirds scolded from the air above their heads. “When the grass is all taller OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAthan we are, we’ll finally be in the Strah,” said Tramman. “Keep your eyes open for snakes.”

As Rose studied a particularly tall bunch of grass, she stumbled across a mound of sticks and grass. “Fuzz!” she cried, “Look! Huge eggs. The size of a baby’s head. Fuzz! This one’s hatched.” At once all three imagesstrike falcons dashed through the grass to peer closely at what she had found. “Are these strike falcon eggs, Inney?”

“Yea,” she said, picking up an egg. “These aren’t suppose to be out here, are they Tramman?”

“Not at all,” he said, letting go of his handful of reins to pick up an egg with both hands, “We thought we’d shot the last wild one maybe seven hundred years ago.”

images 1“What’s wrong with wild ones?” said Rose. “What would happen if I picked up this one just hatched?”

“She’ll be your bond mate, if you want one,” said Tramman. “And wild ones? Really, really dangerous. They can take you out with one slashing kick. See Obbree a-stringing his bow? That’s what I’m going to do right now.”

“So what do I do if I want a bond mate?”6f9fde723ee52483fa2689890dee578c_1_orig

“Take her with you. Inney’ll tell you what to do,” he said as he strung his bow. “Fuzz? Take my sword. I see Karl-Veur has Obbree’s. And everybody pick up an egg. Put it inside your shirt. We have to go. Now! Those parents could show up and kill someone in the blink of an eye. Somebody will have to come all the way back down here and hunt them down and kill them.”The Reaper Witch 01 copy

Ch. 2, The Reaper Witch

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps