Rose and Fuzz Reach Dragonsport

 

 

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“Right there,” said Rose, looking out from under the flat of her hand. “That’s where we have to go. As you can see, the snow white cliffs are turning out to be a whole forest of limestone pillars which we could never begin to sail between, if we haven’t improved since Oyster Cove.”

“Remember when I took Edward to explore all the abandoned buildings of Dragonsport?” said Fuzz. “I had no idea about this side.”

“You’ve not seen anything,” she said. “Wait until we start in.”

“Those leaning trees on top of the pillars are spectacular,” said Olloo.

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“You can see those?” said Rose.

“Well, I can’t decide if they’re oaks…”

“My word!” said Fuzz. “Leaning oaks is indeed what they are. Derwen pwysaf is the old 269495336_32314966dcname. I only know that from discussions, ‘way back when I was here. But I can’t see whether the vegetation on top is trees or not.”

Before long, they had furled their sails and dropped anchor. They decided to row ashore, leaving their unicorns and their strike falcons by themselves on board, except for Olloo’s bird, Baase. Rose had indeed been correct about where to go, for they found themselves rowing ashore along a broad corridor between the gigantic columns of limestone, making for the break in the sheer cliffs behind, which formed a narrow canal where teams of dragons once hauled ships inland to the lagoon and the quays of Dragonsport.

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At the quays, Baase hopped out with a splash and dashed after a lizard. They stepped out as he gobbled it down and hauled their boat ashore in a pulsing sea of cicada calls in the noonday sun and made their way past the abandoned barns and warehouses and up the blinding white dirt lane beyond, which wended up a great flat topped hill covered with leaning oaks.

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“They seldom brought in ships when we were here, so no signs of anyone didn’t bother me,” said Rose, pausing to look back the way they had come. “But the only tracks up this entire lane are ours. Well. If they’re not here, it’s off to the Black Desert, then.”

“I don’t know,” said Fuzz. “The Black Desert is a huge wasteland.”

“Yea, but we’re going to find them.”

“You know that? If it were any one but you a-saying such a thing, I’d not be paying attention.”Shuanghe-Dongqun

Before long, they came to the broad hole in the ground with its great stairway, which was the entrance to the Dragon Caves. By the time they had reached the enormous fountain and statuary of dragons being driven by Razzorbauch at the bottom of the stairs, the caves seemed abandoned to everyone. The Elves begged for an explanation about the towering sculpture from Rose, and held their breaths in rapt attention as her tale echoed from the empty reaches of the vast gallery. There was not a soul.

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Soon they found themselves in Spark and Lipperella’s cavern, respectfully turning over this and that of their remaining flotsam. Rose stepped into Edward and Laora’s room. “Fuzz,” she said, pulling out a wooden stick from under Edward’s mattress. “Look ‘ee here.”Sextantio-Le-Grotte-Della-Civita_11

“My word!” he said, looking it over. “That’s the very sword I was not finished carving for his sixth birthday. I reckon he missed it, under the bed like that. My. Now I never once had the slightest amorous urge for Myrtlebell, as I’ve said many times, but Edward actually grew up as a son to me. Did I ever tell you that he was even born in my old den?”

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“Why no.”

“Oh my. I’m no midwife. I just ran back and forth, fetching clean rags and pans of water. But it had me worried. I mean, I hadn’t so much as pulled a calf nor helped an old ewe in my life, so I dashed out and found Rotundra.”

Rose laughed out. “You didn’t need her.”

“At least I quit dropping and spilling things when she came. And I even managed to pour Myrtlebell’s shot of whisky for Edward’s crowning without spilling a drop. But mercy, did I ever regret it.”

“Why?”

“Have you any idea how many cozy little romantic suppers I ended up obliged to share with Rotundra after that?”

“Very many?”

“Oh my land yes. An entire eternity of them. At least two, as I remember.”

“Aw!” laughed Rose. “Rotundra was sweet, Fuzz. But I was glad her pursuit of you ended when she became Mary the White. I mean, she’s beautiful and things might have turned out different.”

“Go on! Not after we’d met. I’ve actually been in love with you since we were first acquainted.”

“Fiddlesticks! I was a child.”

“Yea. Sixteen and heart stopping gorgeous. And I was a bear with no hair. I could only yearn. Just remember that there’s a lot behind it when I tell you that you are a dream come true.”

“I love you Fuzz,” she said giving him a dear hug. “Say. You just said something. You said that he must have missed it, you know, the sword. I don’t see how he could have. It was down here, sticking half way out from under his mattress like this, see? Hey look! This paper was right here with it.”

“Why that’s a map,” he said.

“Titled, ‘New Dragon Caves!'” she gasped. “And look. A letter to us both. He says he copied this from a map in dragon’s council room. Thank the Fates the witches never found this.”

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“If Spark or any of the other adults had known Edward had this, they’d have snapped it up The Reaper Witch 01 copyfor just that reason.”

“Edward undoubtedly thought that this was his only way of leaving it behind.”

“He just isn’t old enough to grasp how dangerous something like this could be,” he said. “Hey! You were right. I bet we do find them.”

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Hubba Hubba Versus the Stinky Beefy Boy, Part 2

Quilt Stone Mountain NC SP 4021The stinky beefy boy slowed to a walk with a skip and happily patted his game bag full of the-brixton-ona-bags-2-560x379Hubba Hubba. Whistling a giddy tune fit for the tone deaf, he left the path through a gap in the hedge to cut across a freshly ploughed field. Chirp and Squeak followed ’round the 5469802698_278de1b2e3_zoutside in the tops of trees grown up in the hedge. The boy scampered through new oats, a meadow and a fresh cow pile, pausing to rinse his feet in a gurgling creek before dashing triumphantly across an orchard to a fiery haired woman and two boys, hoeing in a broad vegetable garden.

“Mom!” hollered the stinky boy as she bent to pull a weed. “Get wood on the fire! I bagged fresh meat for supper!”

She stood up, brushing the dirt from her skirts and hands.504_slingrocks

“Look Mom! I got him with my sling! I knocked ‘im clean out of the air! I’m gettin’ good, aye?”

“I’ll say Frankin,” she said, peering into his bag. “I’ve been watching you get better day by day. This is game to remember, all right, particularly when you may go the rest of your life and not get another on the wing like that.”

images (14)“So all you think is I just got lucky, isn’t hit?”

“Well Frankin, someone without your sharp eye would certainly have an empty bag right now…”

“Ha!” he crowed with a leap. “I’m really somethin’ with my sling, and you know it.”

nVrhp1e“I’ve just hung the tea-kettle over the fire,” she said, ruffling up his hair. “You could wash up for a nice cup o’ tea before you dress your bird, if you don’t dally.”

Frankin raced to the back door, hung Hubba Hubba on the latch and wheeled ’round to go to the well in time to find his little brothers following. “Hey Poopkink!” he snarled. “If you and Poopdink have to sneak along behind me, don’t you dare touch the game bag.”

***

“Help!” cawed Hubba Hubba, coming to in total blackness. “I’m dead again! I can’t see!” He hysterically thrashed and flogged his wings against the insides of the cramped box thetver_angry-crow_7219y had him in, pausing to go light in the head, gasping for want of air.

Someone heard his cries and threw open the box. “Kawk!” he cried as four chubby hands crowded in after him. “Have some respect! Can’t you idiots tell I’m wounded here?”

Both boys squealed and yanked back, dropping the lid on Hubba Hubba.

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“Hey! I object! This is abuse! Here I am, smashed in the head…”

“Hit does talk!” they cried in wide-eyed chorus.

“You got it!” shouted Hubba Hubba. “And do you ones listen? Here I am smashed in the head, some drooling gnoff strangles me ’till I black out, maybe die, and here you ones whack me in the head again… Is this the stinkin’ Pit, or what? Well?”

Suddenly they lunged at the box. Hubba Hubba exploded into frantic flight about the room, landing on a quilting frame drawn up by twine to the overhead beams. “All right,” he rattled. “At least I can see this is some rotten old kitchen, somewhere, and not the Pit. And whatever you two are, I am not some kind of ‘it!’ I’m one right proud crow and I’m traveling with a young man who ought to here directly to cut off your stinkin’ heads for doing this to me…!”

“Hey you little gwrteithiau!” yelled Frankin as he threw open the door. “What’d I tell you about my game bag? And why weren’t you out helping us drive in the six sheep which just now got out in the garden? Which one of you left the gate open anyway…?”

“It’s loose!” cried Kink.primitive-vintage-wood-box-original-old-paper-fruit-crate-label-Placerville-Maid-Laurel-Leaf-Farm-item-no-b912117-7

“Close the door!” cried Dink.

“I am not an ‘it,'” rattled Hubba Hubba.

“Taran!” shouted Frankin as he slammed the door and began glancing about. “So you not only let the sheep out, you got into my bag and turned the crow loose! If he gets clean away, you’ll not only be cachu, images (1)I’ll find something really disgusting and make you each eat its cachu!”

“He’s right over your head,” said Dink.

Frankin wheeled ’round and looked up. “Mom!” he bellowed, “Come in here and see what they did now!” He lunged and missed Hubba Hubba, whacking the quilting frame madly about on the ends of its short twines.

“Kawk!” cried Hubba Hubba, as he crouched to hang on3021358_1_l (1)

Frankin leaped again, snapping a twine and knocking down the frame to smash a 17-cottage-cheesehuge crock of soupy cottage cheese onto the floor.

“You bloated idiot!” cawed Hubba Hubba, springing into flight about the room. He spied a board nailed across the timbers and landed on that with his back to the ceiling. “You stinking armpit maggot…”

“So you’re some kind of magic crow, aye?” he said, taking out his sling. “Well it doesn’t matter, bird-o. You’ll never get out of this room, ’cause when I knock you down, I’m goin’ ‘o jerk your ugly head out o’ your shoulders!”

“No!” cried Kink and Dink together.

“Frankin!” cried their mom as she stepped in the door to go apoplectically wide eyed. “My stars! That’s fifteen gallons of cottage cheese, all over!”

“They did it!” wailed Frankin. “They got into my bag when I told them not to and turned loose the crow. I’ve got to kill it quick…”

“No!” cried Dink. “Hit’s magic…!”

“Hit talks!” cried Kink.

“And they’ve gotten windy as kites in the process, too, I see. Well you two, what have I told you about making up things…?”

“But it’s true!” wailed Kink. “Frankin knows it, too!”images

“I think you two need to take this stack of bowls and scoop up as much clean cheese as you can get off the floor for your next several meals. Then, you need to mop up every bit of what’s left.”

“But we aren’t making it up!” wailed Dink, as his mom thrust a stack of bowls into his arms and steered him toward the slumping mound of cheese and crock chards.

“Now, freak bird, hit’s your turn,” said Frankin, fitting a stone into his sling.

“Kawk!” cried Hubba Hubba. “Lady, lady! Please listen to your little fellows!”

“That’s not the least bit amusing, Frankin,” she said, wheeling ’round to glare at him.

“But I didn’t…”

“No, no, no, no!” cawed Hubba Hubba. “I did! I’m not some game animal to be beaned and chucked in the kettle. Hey! I’ve got brains here.”

“Mercy!” she gasped. “You do talk!”

“Hit’s a trick, Mom, said Frankin.

“Right. So where’s the minstrel puppeteer?”

“Come on, Mom! Somebody taught him to talk…”

crow“Absolutely!” rattled Hubba Hubba. “Just like they did you, only I didn’t need to be taught how to think, and you’ve yet to manage.”

“Don’t touch the bird,” she said, snatching away his sling. “Do not harm him, understand?”

“But he’ll get away!”

“We’re going to be real good to him ’till we figure him out,” she said. “Now go fetch me a good sized box to put him in, and make sure there are a right smart amount of air holes in it.”

“Air holes?” cried Hubba Hubba. “What kind of ‘real good’ to me is that? No wonder you The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_Kindlehaven’t taught maggot boy here how to think, yet! And I don’t care what he brings back, you’re going to have to come up here and get me!”

The Burgeoning

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Hubba Hubba Versus the Stinky Beefy Boy

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The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_KindleHubba Hubba, Chirp, Tweet and Squeak were returning from a reconnaissance mission for Herio in The Burgeoning when…

“There are a slew of farmsteads, though,” squeaked Chirp as he bounced along in a madAerial Ballet flutter to keep up. “One of them might put us up…”

“That’s ground work,” chirped Tweet. “We can’t ask around from the air.”

“Let’s just go back now,” said Hubba Hubba. “If that’s all that’s left, we’re wasting time. I hate to think of another night of Herio’s scorched beans, or nothing at all like last night.”

“Couldn’t be that bad,” tweeted Squeak. “Those folks down there look pretty hard up. A little money would surely get us what we want…”

“Yea?” said Hubba Hubba. “And it could be right risky if they thought Herio was well-to-do. A young fellow by himself?” He clacked shut his beak with a shake of his head. “Someone might try to rob him…or worse!”

“Worse, master?” squeaked Chirp.

“Hey, I remember arrows and meat cleavers and ugly manners of all sorts out of people on the ground who weren’t even penniless and desperate. And don’t you dare call me master! Aren’t we chums these days?”

“Oh I forgot, you being a crow and all…”

“Crow! Well, I can’t hide from that, but reminders of the Ugleeuh days give me a headache…” And with that, he collapsed into a headlong fall.

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“Hubba Hubba!” squeaked Chirp, diving madly after him. “What’s wrong? Tweet! Squeak! Help!”

***

crows_japanHubba Hubba opened his eyes to find the ground shooting up to meet him. He began flapping furiously. “Help! Help! Help!” he cawed. “It’s too late! Pebbles, I’m sorry!”

Without warning, something strange was under each of his wings. Suddenly he was seeing stars, bouncing and rolling to a rumpled stop in tall new grass.

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“Oh, I hate being dead,” he rattled. “Throb. Throb. Throb. That’s my stinking head, but why are my wingpits doing it, too? Say! Why am I thinking?”

“It’s not thinking, Hubba Hubba,” squeaked Chirp, “It’s just you. Now could you please lift your wing? Squeak and Tweet are under here!”

“So you ones are dead too, aye?” he said, letting out a yelp from moving his head to peer under his wing.

“Good grief no!” chirped Tweet, with a ruffle of his feathers. “We’re not dead and neither are you!” He gave Hubba Hubba two or three one eyed inspections. “You sure have a knot on your knitty box. What the ding-dong blazes did you fly into up there?”

“I have no idea at all, but for some crazy reason it made me think of Ugleeuh…” And at that very instant he was yanked out of the grass by his neck.

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“Hey!” crowed a stinky beefy boy with a hateful grip, as he sprang into a dancing pell-mell run through the grass. “I got him! I got him! I got him! I got him!”

 

***

Chirp, Tweet and Squeak shot into the air from where Hubba Hubba had fallen and watched in shock from the top of a big walnut tree as the stinky beefy boy made off with him through the grass. “They’ll get away if we don’t get moving!” squeaked Chirp as they all dove into the air.

“He’d never let someone make off with us!” tweeted Squeak.

“Let’s keep up!” chirped Tweet.

“Hey!” squeaked Chirp. “Somebody tell me how we’re going to save him from a grabby boy a thousand times bigger than we are. He’ll pull our heads off!”

“Go for help!” chirped Tweet.

“And somebody still has to follow,” tweeted Squeak.

“Someone needs to find Herio and bring him here, while the other two of us follow Hubba Hubba,” squeaked Chirp. “When we see where the boy takes him, one of us comes back here and the other stays and watches…

“Yea,” chirped Tweet. “And hope to the Pit he doesn’t get et while we’re at it!”

“Don’t even think that!” tweeted Squeak.sparrow12

“Just for that, you go find Herio,” squeaked Chirp.

Tweet gave a wide-eyed nod and shot away with a bouncing blur of wings.

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Hubba Hubba Versus the Stinky Beefy Boy: Part Two

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Part Two

Herio could scarcely take his eyes off the sky long enough to find his stirrup as he thanked Mrs. Gweld for the pie and said his goodbyes. “I wonder if they passed by while Icherry_pie_case_for_the_ipad_mini-rf252931f447246c89e9010b93c82d7d7_w9wmu_8byvr_324
was inside,” he said once he had Gwynt underway, following Sophie on her unicorn to
Castlegoll Road.

“Well, this is it,” she said, hesitating as he doffed his hat and yellow-peasant-costume-skirtsteered Gwynt onto the road.

“She’s pretty,” he thought. He looked back to see her disappear around the corner. “Actually, she’s very pretty. And now that I think about it, she must have been interested
in me. My! Could that be why she came with her unicorn instead of her brothers?” He
gave a deep sigh and resumed combing the heavens.

Suddenly something was fluttering in his ear, giving him a start. “Herio!” chirped Tweet, landing on his shoulder and springing into flight again. “You’ve got to hurry! Hubba OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHubba’s been shot and the evil boy’s going to eat him!”

“No! Is he dead?”

“He was alive last I knew, but…”

“Good! Show me. Let’s go Gwynt!”

“It was actually on this very road, just two farms south of here, where he was shot. We have to wait there for either Chirp or Squeak to show up when they find where the boy took him.”

At once, Herio had Gwynt pounding away at a full gallop. Soon his side was cramping from all the bouncing pie.

“Herio! Tweet! Hoy!” came a wee tweet from up ahead.

housesparrow-seedeater-004“Squeak!” chirped Tweet. “Is Hubba Hubba still alive?”

“Hurry! I’ll show you!”

Away they raced, down the road and through the very same fields crossed by Frankin and Hubba Hubba. At last they splashed through the creek and had zigzagged nearly across the orchard. “You’re here!” squeaked Chirp, dropping down from the sky, halting them at once. “See that house through the trees? They took him inside in a game bag, but I think they have him in a box. He’s cape-cod-crowXXhurt, Herio. I don’t know how bad. The biggest boy right yonder, see? He beaned him on the head and knocked him right out of the sky. They were going to dress him for supper…”

“And they haven’t yet?” said Herio.

“I don’t think so, ’cause the lady and the boys got to fussing something awful.”

“How do you reckon they’d take my walking up and asking for their supper?”

“Not very well. They’ve been shouting at each other the whole time I’ve been here.”

“Maybe I could offer them some money for Hubba,” he said, glancing away at the house. “They look kind of hard up.”

“They look like they might rob you…” squeaked Chirp.

“Oh surely not, but if it eases your mind, I’ll dump out most of our money in the rotted out place in this old peach tree.” He poured out his coins, put away his bag and threw his leg over Gwynt. “Well, let’s go get Hubba, boys.”

images (2)Frankin trotted out several rods to meet them. “You better hold it right there, fellow!” he hollered as he wrapped a stone in the patch of his sling. “We don’t know you at all, so that makes you ones a trespasser…”

“Frankin!” echoed the cry from the house. “How’d you get that sling? You bring it back right now! You hear? And don’t you dare talk to strangers that a-way unless tunic-in-the-middle-agesthere’s a good reason!”

“I’m right sorry,” said Herio. “I certainly didn’t mean to make you think I was trespassing. I’m just passing through on my way to Castle Goll, but I got separated from my crow…”

“Crow?” said Frankin without so much as glancing back at his mother. “No crow here, fellow, so just turn around. Go!” He swung his rock back and forth like he might fling it around and throw it.

“Frankin! You heard me!” came the cry from the house.

Frankin did not bat an eye nor turn around, but the shouting woman must have had his attention, for suddenly Kink dashed out of the bushes and yanked away the sling.

“You stinking cachu face, Poopkink!” shouted Frankin, grabbing his fingers. “That hurt!”

Bartolomé_Esteban_Perez_Murillo_004“We got a crow shut up in the house, mister!” cried Kink, dancing about warily, well out of Frankin’s reach.

“Yea!” cried Dink, running up. “He talks and Mom’s afraid of him!”

“This time you gwrteithiau have really gone and done it!” cried Frankin, going red in the face. “I’m going to pound you…”

“Not while I’m alive!” howled the Mother, grabbing him by the arm. “And you’re done with slings for a good while, buster!”

Frankin tried to wrench free, but she gave him a shake.

“I’m man of the house now that Dad and Alwin’s gone!” he wailed. “You said so!”

“Yea? Well, when you can’t live up to it, then you’re just a little boy, aren’t you? And if that makes you disappointed, kid-o, hit makes me doubly so. Now let’s work you back up to woodpile2being a man again. You get yourself around back and chop me a proper rick o’ wood!”

“But there’s a whole pile of wood ’round…Aaaah!”

“And there’s a proper red welt acrost the back o’ your leg, too!” she hissed as she got him good with a whistling switch. She watched him scuttle out of sight. When she heard chopping commence, she retied her apron. “Now I’m right sorry for that, young man. He’s turned mean since his daddy was kilt at Ash Fork. Now he didn’t even give you ones the chance to give your name, ‘fore he started in, did he? He’s Frankin, I’m Mrs. Simms and these two be Wilmer and Jake…”

“I’m Herio, ma’am,” he said, thinking to remove his hat.gty_black_crow_jt_130504_wg

“Well, we’ve been kind o’ afraid of your bird. We didn’t know what to think. He bit me good every time I tried to get him down, and he was swearing like a sailor…”

“Sounds like Hubba Hubba, all right…”

“That’s his name?”

Herio nodded.

“And you taught him to curse like that?”

“No, but I’ve learnt a bunch from him…”

“You know, that’s one lie I think I believe,” she said with a laugh as she turned to Kink and Dink. “You ones run inside and bring this nice young fellow his bird.”

They raced to the door and darted inside. Immediately they were back outside again, with xococava-broken-platesthe door slammed fast behind them. They looked up at Herio with wide eyes.

“He’s deliberately knocking things off shelves…” said Kink.

“And he said when you get here you’re going to cut off our heads,” said Dink with an uneasy swallow.

Herio put his ear to the door.

“And when he does show up, “cawed Hubba Hubba amidst the crash of dishes, “you all will wish you were far, far, away! He’ll make you pay! He’ll cut off your grubby little fingers! He’ll…!”

“He’ll come and take you with him!” hollered Herio as he threw open the door.

“Herio!” cawed Hubba Hubba, swooping down from some shelves to walk up the front of his shirt as he madly beat his wings. “You did it! You saved me! They were going to eat me!” He flapped his way up onto Herio’s shoulder to drop open his beak and go quite skinny. “You mean you didn’t kill them?”

“Well, no, Hubba, they returned you in one piece… In fact, ma’am?” he said, taking out his purse and dumping out some crowns onto the bench by the door. “This is for your dishes.”

“Why you ones don’t have to…”

“Have you seen how many he broke?”

“Every bloomin’ one I could reach,” rattled Hubba Hubba as he bristled all over. “And ‘one crow (1)piece,’ I dispute that. Have you seen the knot on my head?”

“Then you’ve gained from the experience,” said Herio, rolling his eyes for Mrs. Simms.

She nodded and herded her boys back towards the house. “Looks like we both got our hands full,” she called with a nod, as she shooed Kink and Dink into the house. “Good luck, you hear?”

“Thank you ma’am, for being good to my bird,” said Herio as he got astride Gwynt with Hubba Hubba gaping aghast and three merrily twittering sparrows. They sauntered back through the orchard, pausing long enough to scrape his crowns out of the rotted out hollow in the old tree.

“‘Good to my bird?’ ‘Good to my bird?’ You think a knot on my very knitty box, big as my eye, is good to your bird? And what righteous damage, may I ask, did you do in order to be The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_Kindlegood unto them…?”

The Burgeoning

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Really Big Egg Causes Flashback

           

             Carol decided to make one of her fabulous omelets from the freshly laid ostrich egg that was given to us by someone who just didn’t know what sort of treasure she had. One egg fills our big iron skillet. We always save the shell, which leaves me with the task of putting a hole in each end without getting shell fragments into the egg white. I found the right bit for my Dremmel tool. As I rolled the egg about in my lap, thinking about Olloo and the strike falcons, I had a flashback.

           Not so very long ago, Carol and I taught at Peach Springs on the Hualapai Reservation. We lived in a trailer with our son Will in the rocks beyond where the buzzards gathered in the morning to sun, far above the mailboxes in front of the Bureau of Indian Affairs building and the half dozen other houses called Valentine, Arizona. To avoid going crazy from teaching, we’d spend our weekends having adventures, wandering in the vacant lands round about.
            One morning, we started out at sunrise with Will in order to find a way up to “Car Top,” the tallest peak in the Peacock Mountains, some miles away across the valley. Gamble’s quail called from the scrub oaks in the wash as the first breezes came up the slope. We put our backpacks into our weathered Ford Festiva and set out along the roads, graded out of the sand of the valley floor, its wheels hammering along the endless washboard as we swerved here and there to avoid the worst of it.  
            Eventually we came to a cattle guard on the far side, swamped with sand and piled up on one end with tumbleweed. We could just make out the white of a house up in the feet of the mountains, beyond the mesquite and scrub oak as we began to climb, speeding through patches of deep sand and straddling gullies in the lane. Presently the lane reached  the house, windowless and forlorn, across from a grey barn and its fences, still able to hold cattle, but never to be part of a ranch again. On we went, lurching and climbing into the piñon pine, over a series of ridges, eventually finding ourselves churning our way up the sand of a dry wash for a very long time, until the thought of getting stuck made us turn about and park. We stepped out into the silence and mounted our backpacks. A canyon wren called. We sat on a glistening schist outcrop, tied our tennis shoes and set out, trudging through the sand of the wash.
            When the sun was overhead, a narrow lane left the wash to climb through the piñons and agave to a gravelly clearing with a squeaking windmill, still pumping water, and a stunning view of nearby Car Top. We spread out a picnic and studied the vista. It would be another day yet to reach its peak, if we were to go this way. It was past time to start back. Supper would probably be late.
            When we reached the car, I strained out from under the straps of my pack and set it in the sand. Undoubtedly was a waste of time, locking the car, I thought. We’re at least a good six or seven miles from the nearest human being. Still… I reached into my pocket. “Oh no!” I cried, as I frantically grabbed at every sort of pocket I had. “Keys! I’ve lost the car keys!”
            Will started back up the wash, retracing our steps. He was gone a long time. We were sitting by the car in despair when he reappeared, shaking his head. What would we do, just walk home? It would take all night, at the very least. We were already nearly out of water, and there were a lot more hours of afternoon sun. This was the Mohave Desert, after all. Could we make it? Suddenly he stopped short. cover.jpg EK“Here!” he hollered, snatching up the keys out of the sand. “I found ’em!”
            Just like Olloo, I thought as I turned up one end of the egg and switched on the Dremmel, ‘way out in the middle of the Great Strah in Elf Killers, finding the impossible one thing that saves everything.
Tom Phipps

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It is the very worst time to be in the woods.

 

Oisin’s plan is to come with his bow to help Aedan and Doona lead a party of children into the forest to gather the maidenhair seedlings his people would take across the sea as they flee the trolls who hunt them as prey. Maybe he can be back in time for supper. And if he only dares to dream, he might also be back in time to speak with Doona alone.

Dyr’s plan is an early evening head smash for the foolish Elves who think they can steal away to the sands of the endless eye sting water and build their strange float huts. They will make a glorious feast.

But on the way, Dyr’s brutes stumble across Oisin’s gathering party and attack, leaving Aedan mortally wounded and scattering Doona and the children to flee in terror into the dark mountain woods, only to be run down and captured by the bloodthirsty trolls.

Can Oisin find the bonfires of the trolls and rescue them before it’s too late? And what then? Will any of them live long enough to reach safety?

 

           

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It is the very worst time to be in the woods.

 Oisin’s plan is to come with his bow to help Aedan and Doona lead a party of children into the forest to gather the maidenhair seedlings his people would take across the sea as they flee the trolls who hunt them as prey. Maybe he can be back in time for supper. And if he only dares to dream, he might also be back in time to speak with Doona alone.

Dyr’s plan is an early evening head smash for the foolish Elves who think they can steal away to the sands of the endless eye sting water and build their strange float huts. They will make a glorious feast.

But on the way, Dyr’s brutes stumble across Oisin’s gathering party and attack, leaving Aedan mortally wounded and scattering Doona and the children to flee in terror into the dark mountain woods, only to be run down and captured by the bloodthirsty trolls.

Can Oisin find the bonfires of the trolls and rescue them before it’s too late? And what then? Will any of them live long enough to reach safety?

           

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Rose’s parents couldn’t be telling her everything. Frantic to find out if she really is the daughter of an evil sorceress, she makes a rash departure on a quest to the Chokewoods, a forest of horrors which no one in her kingdom dares to enter.

Her journey is beset with challenges. Her brother Lukus accosts her in the stables and blackmails her into traveling with him. Together they evade royal authorities, survive a cyclone, escape from the castle of her betrothed, and discover that trolls, Elves and cyclopses really do exist as do the perilous visions which they struggle with in the Valley of Illusions.

In the Chokewoods, they narrowly survive a horde of flesh eating devils, the fruit of the choke oak and a village of beasts who take them captive. As the beasts prepare to make a feast of them, a hag crashes through the treetops and rescues them, leading them away into a mad forest of her own where she turns them into thralls and taunts them with threats, telling them that they owe her.

Rose and Lukus soon find that life everywhere has become a desperate struggle with an evil seeking to conquer the world as liberty, privacy and fundamental human dignity become forbidden.