Spitemorta Nurses a Hangover

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The thicket of roses in the pasture that once crowned the gentle hill overlooking all of the town of Niarg was enclosed for the first time by the circular stockade of the old wooden Castell Niarg. In time, it became the rose garden in the back ward of the great stone castle which followed, where Prince Hebraun courted Minuet under a late summer moon and where Princess Rose played with her kitten in the warm June sun.

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Spitemorta cleared away all of that for her amphitheatre which faced across its broad and barren arena to the great stage for her public presentations which made up a corner of the back ward of her massive black castle. Here was the focus of her week long celebration. She raised her chalice to the drunken crowd as she sat back on her throne to watch her soldiers set alight the final wicker man, packed squirming tight with the very last survivors of Bernard’s Bane at Jut Ford. Pissant scurried over with his jug to top up her vessel. As screams and yodeling wails of agony burst out from the flames, she shot to her feet with cheer after cheer of triumph for the roaring multitude. As glowing cinders began to tumble, orderlies scurried into the arena and onto the streets surrounding the castle to set up trestles and boards for the feasting that was to last all night.

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When daylight came, Spitemorta banged into the doorpost on her way into the bedroom of her bower and bounced when she found that the seat of the stool before her dressing table was a bit lower than it should have been. She ballooned her cheeks with a huff as she found her face in the looking-glass. She picked up a brush. “My,” she said as she tugged at her whirling head with her brush strokes. “I’m not up for much of that…” She looked up to see Demonica standing behind her in the mirror and tossed down her brush with a clatter. “And none of you, Grandmother. I’m going to bed right now.”

“Well,” said Demonica. “Fine celebration, I thought. Just wanted to tell you. And dear, you really want to see to your trolls, don’t you think?”

“Did you see how the Niarg townies joined in? They were having such a good time, I know I’ve got them. I’ve really got them. Lots of them even danced and cheered when Minuet’s soldiers were burning…”

imagesdemonica“At least when the cider and sukee are flowing. We brought in three shiploads of sukee from Gwael for this. Stout stuff. You do need to keep that in mind. Some of them can actually count their own fingers when they’re sober. And your trolls, dear…”

“Fine, Grandmother. After I’ve slept, come back and we shall both go.”

“I’ll do that dear. Just don’t delay our departure with your handsome general. It would be best to appear just when they’re waking for the night, before they’re already doing other things, don’t you know. And it doesn’t hurt for us to still have enough light to see by.”

“And just how would I let him delay us?”

“Well,” she said, as she sat on the bed and gave the coverlet a knowing pat. “You did have a rather more, shall we say, sustained and amorous meeting during the celebration than typical…”

“No, damn it! There was nothing amorous about it…”images (3)x

“Well I certainly find that easy to agree with, having been there, but does the general?”

“That’s his problem, not mine.”

“If you say so dear. Well then. To bed with you and I’ll see you before sunset.”

***

The evening sun was just lighting the far wall of Spitemorta’s chamber when she was awakened by voices below her window. “Damn you!” she cried, explosively ripping aside her covers. She grabbed up the full water pitcher from her night stand and heaved it out the window to land with a distant pop six storeys down. The talking stopped short. No one was there when she propped her arms on the sill and peered out. The bell in Argentowre rang. When she couldn’t sort out whether it was four or five o’clock, she covered her ears and turned away from the window.

“Oh!” she cried when the stool at her dressing table turned out to be just as unexpectedly low as before. With a squeal, she threw her brush across the room to smack the back of a chair and spin away somewhere on the floor. She labored to her feet and went hunting for it. When stooping to look under a wardrobe sent pains through her head, she went back to her table without the brush and peered into the mirror with the slits of her swollen eyes to find her hair hopelessly matted on one side, “As if I’d spent the month sleeping alongside a dead mouse.” And with that, she cast a glamourie on herself to look radiantly rested and groomed. After a spell of jerking dresses from side to side in one wardrobe after another, she gave up and cast another glamourie to make the kirtle she was wearing appear as though she had not slept all day in it. “And where’s my duck?” she shouted.

“And here you led me to believe that there was not one thing amorous going on between the two of you,” said Demonica with a gasp of surprise as she appeared.

“Damn you! Not him. My breakfast!”

“Now did you indeed tell anyone before you went to bed?”

“What are you doing with that childish halo and wings, Grandmother? You’ve been telling me all these years that no one but me sees you.”

“Who knows? Veyfnaryr has enough power that he just might.”

“Do you seriously believe he’s more powerful than Razzmorten?”

“Believe? Dear, he was every bit as powerful as Razzmorten the moment I put him in the arms of Fnayooph, the bathless fmoo who raised him. If you didn’t have the Heart and the Staff, he’d make a grease spot of you if you vexed him enough.”

“Ha!” said Spitemorta, feeling for her stool before sitting, this time. “Good medicine for the Beaks. And those four Elves. He could make grease spots out of them, too. Pooh on breakfast, Grandmother. Let’s go.”

“Good for you, dear…” said Demonica, looking up suddenly at the knock on the door of the parlour of the bower.

Spitemorta tramped to the door. “What!” she shouted as she grabbed the latch. She threw it open to find Coel. “Familiar enough all at once to wave aside proper deferential announcements by the help, are we?”

“Because of our indiscretion?” said Coel calmly, as he stepped in without the slightest bob of a bow.

“Ah!” said Demonica. “Here’s your duck after all…”

“Shut up!”

“You don’t like it referred to that way?” said Coel.

“You ought to be able recognize Grandmother by now…”

“I don’t see a soul.”

“And you bet it was indiscrete! You ought to be in the dungeon.”

“Because you invited me…?”

“I did not!”

“Well, sukee’s like that,” he said, drawing in a breath. “And had I not had some of it myself, I’d have easily deflected your tugging at me.”

Spitemorta sucked in a furious breath.

“And I reckon it’s having to recover from it that has me doing the knocking on your door instead of your service, in order to speed the delivery of the tidings you  demanded I convey immediately…”

 

Ch. 7, Doom, book six of Heart of the Staff: The Complete Series

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Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

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Spitemorta Has a Tantrum

 

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Spitemorta sat forward and grabbed up a hot cinnamon bun from the tea table just set before her, tore it open and dropped it onto a saucer to steam as she found the fresh butter and honey. “Oh,” she said, licking her fingers and leaning aside to give the bell pull a yank. She went right back to her bun and took a huge bite, closing her eyes with a images (3)xdelirious moan.

A young page came and stood at quiet attention beyond the table.

“Hey Piffant,” she said through her mouthful of flying crumbs, when she finally noticed him.

“Your Omnipotence,” he said with a deep and gracious bow.

Spitemorta took an eye-rolling moment to chew. “Listen Pissant,” she said with a strained swallow, “go find General Coel and have him here this very hour.”

“Anything else, Your Omnipotence?”

Spitemorta dug at the wad of bread in her cheek with her tongue and shook her head.

“I live to serve you, Your Omnipotence,” he said with a parting bow.Pearsons-renaissance-shoppe-childs-costume-300x300

“As long as you see that you do,” she said. She wanted to see Coel at once, but it made no difference to her in the least whether or not Pissant managed to live. All that really mattered was her coming coronation and public executions of Queen Minuet’s army.

“Your Omnipotence…?” said her skinweler in a wee voice from it’s hollow on the arm of her throne.

She put milk into her cup, slipped off the cozy and picked up the teapot. “Damn you, Pissant!” she bellowed into the echoes, hurling it across the room to smash on the marble floor. “Thanks to you, it’s gone stone cold. Or maybe I need to boil somebody’s stinking head in the kitchen…”

“Uh, Your Omnipotence…?” said the skinweler as a hired woman peeked in from a side door.

“Hey!” cried Spitemorta, “Get me a fresh pot!”

“This looks exciting and all, dear, but shouldn’t you be showing some interest in the rest of your empire?” said Demonica, appearing with her fists on her hips by the shattered teapot.

“Now!” hollered Spitemorta.

“My word!” said Demonica, walking right up to her. “Your first steward is waiting for an audience as we speak.”

“So? Send him in.”

“It is indeed nice to find you taking me seriously for once, dear,” she said, cocking her head to look her over closely, “but you seem to be forgetting that you’re the only one who sees me. Besides it’s your skinweler. Your steward in Gwael…”

“Oh poop! How would I have time for those heathens with my coronation almost upon us? What would be as important as that? After all, I am the first one in history to rule the entire world.”

Demonica drew a wide-eyed breath. “It might not hurt to ask him,” she said with a nod at the skinweler. “I mean, he’s no further away than the arm of your chair, and convenient as it is, it would be an act of actually ruling the world, don’t you think?”

“You do it. I’m busy. And Coel will be here directly.”

“Well I would, dear,” she said with another nod at the skinweler,” but you’re forgetting that I’m dead.”

“Your Omnipotence?”

“What!” said Spitemorta, thrusting her face at the skinweler.imagese

“Aah!” said the steward, jerking back from his ball. “Forgive me Your Omnipotence, I wasn’t quite…”

“Well? What is it? I’m right busy here, and you’re not likely to have anything important.”

“I beg your pardon for my asking you to indulge me over this trifle,” he said, pausing for a breath as he thrust out his chin, “but we’ve a situation here that’s plainly on it’s way out of control.”

“What are you talking about, Irmen? What is going on there?”

“King Vortigern had a brother, Catigern, Prince of Pow Jyantylesk, who had a son before he died…”

“Osulf. So?”

“Well, Osulf claims the throne.”

“What?”

“Now that sounds like something I remember talking about,” said Demonica. “Or weren’t imagesdemonicayou listening when I was…?”

“Shut up!” screeched Spitemorta.

“I beg your pardon, Your Omnipotence. I’m not sure I heard right…”

“What’s he thinking?” she said, grabbing up the skinweler and pressing her face into it. “He can’t do that. Artie died, which made me queen. I’m still queen. I may be empress of the world, but I’m still queen. And I left you on the throne.”

“Yea. But he says that you never ruled Gwael before you became empress. According to him, you never once sat on the throne, and that left him next in line to rule after Artamus. In fact, he’s sitting on the throne right now. And his coronation is tomorrow…”

“Horse shit!” she shouted, flinging the skinweler well beyond the tea table to hit the carpet with a muffled crack and go rolling away toward the entrance.

Irmen jerked back from his skinweler and rubbed his temples.

Spitemorta heaved herself to her feet, ran after her ball and grabbed it up. “So what kind of steward allows someone to come in and take the throne?” she said, catching her breath.

“One who’s in his chamber, free to use his skinweler to reach you, if you don’t mind my putting it that a-way. They took me by surprise. Had I not cooperated, I’d be dead or sitting in the dungeon and you’d not know a thing about it.”

“I’ll be right there…”

 

Ch 6, Doom, book six of Heart of the Staff: The Complete Series

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Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

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Ariel says she Could Die

 

“We’re done Grandfather,” said Daniel.

 

“So I see.” he said, fitting his spectacles onto his face.

“How did we do?” said Ariel as she and Daniel sat beside him.

“A question like that has been nothing but a respectful formality for some time, my dear,” he said.

“Perfect then?” said Daniel.

“Absolutely,” he said with a deep nod. “And this completes anything which I might contribute until Neron has worked with you for a time and we get you ready to go study with Meri Greenwood. And it is he who will prepare you for your staves and take you to see Longbark in Mount Bed.”

“And then?” said Ariel. “Are we…?”

“Oh,” he said with a smile. “I expect we’ll have you back here again for one final inspection and a little practice.”

“And then we get her…” said Daniel.

“When the moment falls exactly right,” said Razzmorten as everyone went silent, listening to the swallows and the trickling water and the river pounding in the deep reaches, drawing away the echoes from the sink.

Daniel dug at the rocks with a twig.

“Abaddon ought to be back with Toast, directly,” said Razzmorten, looking at Ariel with sudden innocence.

“Great-Grandfather Razzmorten is naught but a matchmaker,” said Arial, giving him a peck on his cheek.

“Not at all. You’ve had your heart bond for all these years.”

“Are we done?” said Daniel.

“With magic, anyway. Go enjoy the day.”

“Thanks Grandfather,” he said, tossing aside his twig.

“Father keeps saying that in spite of the bond, I might eventually be safer away from Abby,” said Ariel.

“Yea? Is that what you want?”

“Maybe it’s best for Abby. I mean I could die…”

“No you’re not. And worse than that, you’re guessing. How’s that fit for a young and powerful sorceress? What do you want to do with your guesses, anyway, break his heart and then go die? Maybe you’d better do what your heart wants.”

“You’re right as usual,” she said as she stood and brushed the seat of her skirt. “I shall indeed follow my heart.”

“And you’re not going to say another word about dieing,” he called out after her as she stepped into the lava tube. “Ye hear?”

Ch 2, Doom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Who is Meri Greenwood?

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Meri Greenwood (Dyn Gwyrdd in Old Niarg Standard) was the oldest of all Fairies. He became the husband of Celeste after aeons of courting her, and though he may not actually be Talking Father himself, he was unquestionably tramping about a good ten thousand years before Spitemorta’s time, paying visits to images (2)Calon Fforydd, the Heart of the Forests in the Great Stone Tree, which the First Wizard chiseled out and took away from the world of trees for his own as the Heart of the Staff.

In Good Sister, Bad Sister he gives a magic stick to Ocker the raven and brings tidings to the wizard Razzmorten that the evil sorcerer Razorbauch has changed the entire Forest Primeval into the Chokewoods. In The Burgeoning, he leads King Neron and his Elves ?????????????????????????????????????????????through his ring of mushrooms to safety in his underground village, Gerddi Teg. He marries Celeste in The Reaper Witch,  and readies Ariel and Daniel to fulfill the Elven Prophesy in Doom.

Meri returns in WHAM! as Kellen Greenwood’s father and grandfather to his two children, Tess and Nia, when first Tess, and then Tess, her father and friends enter the Fairy Ring and travel the Fairy Paths to the past.

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Is Abaddon Putting her in Peril?

 

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Daniel and Ariel were brought up to have the most circumspect virtue and modesty. Even if they were to become the most powerful in the world amongst the magically endowed, they were never allowed to show it. It is not at all surprising then, that they kept many games and amusements to themselves. They routinely played a kind of invisible tag asshutterstock_89916550 they traveled by spell back and forth across the broad basin of obsidian sands between Spring ‘n’ Drain and Razzmorten’s great sink-hole “tower” at the Vaults of Niarg. Today, they arrived outside the Vaults playing a rough game of “spell jousting,” with Ariel getting there in time to knock Daniel a good fifty rods wide of where he meant to appear.

“Damn!” he cried, tumbling out of the air onto his hands and knees in the sand. “How’d you get here first?” He was on his feet at once, swatting his hat against his leg as he hurried over to where she stood. Suddenly he stopped short to watch a streak of lightning branch out across the heavens before a black shelf of lowering clouds. “What did you do to the sky?”

“Nothing!”

“Fiddlesticks!” he cried. “Here it comes!” And with that, they raced uphill for a gaping lava tube in time to be overtaken and thoroughly soaked by the arrival of a pelting wall of rain before they managed to get inside.

“How long’s it been?” she said, catching her breath as she squeezed water from her hair.

“Since the last rain?” he said, studying the deluge which was already tumbling in torrents down the folds in the hillside. “I was just thinking. I’d allow it’s been every bit of the seven years they say it’s supposed to be between rains, even if you did cause it…”

“I did not! And you know it. But I could sure feel the spirit of it in the air, right when we were spell jousting. I wondered why on earth it was so bloomin’ hard to heave you off to one side.”

“Maybe you thought so, but you sure sent me a-sprawling. You command a right smart amount of power these days, sister dear,” he said, pausing to squint at her face. “All right. What’s the matter?”

Ariel shook her head.

“Oh yes there is. I know my dear sister. What is it? Abaddon’s poisoning your well again? What’s he saying this time? The Prophecy’s just an old wives’ tale, or what?”

“He is not!” she said, biting her thumbnail as she looked out into the rain.

Daniel folded his arms and rolled his eyes.a9d58e6a220145c3376074ebc15e9f02

“Very well. He found out that the Prophecy actually came from the Fire Sprites of the Eastern Continent and not the Elves at all, so he’s begun using that.”

“He’s crazy.”

1e97d87cfb68e52a666665bdc0f45198“Yea…” she said as a crash of thunder made both of them jump. “About me, he is. The thought of losing me is starting to tear him up.”

“Damn him!”

“He doesn’t want anything to happen to you either, while you’re being all hard on him…”

“Hard on him?” he said, flinging a rock out into the storm. “Shit fire! I don’t care if you do have a heart bond. You keep listening to his drivel and you’ll lose what it takes at the last minute and get both of us killed.”

“I will not! No way! Not with everything Grandfather’s taught us over the years…”

Bede on his deathbed completing his translation of St. John’s Gospel, by James Doyle Penrose (1902)

“Now that’s giving me credit…” said Razzmorten from right behind them.

“Grandfather!” she gasped. “How long have you been there?”

“You mean how much did I hear?” he said, lunging out with a proper brown spit for the storm. “I heard enough to know that your taking this particular time to worry about your heart bond may be putting you in peril. I mean, if you’re daring to think of anything but the task ahead, then I may well have been remiss in my teaching…”

 

“Peril! What earthly peril could there be when neither witch has so much as flown across the desert within our lifetimes?”

Razzmorten stepped into her gaze and gently patted her cheek. “Then I have indeed been remiss,” he said, “And Neron will return any day now.”

 

Ch. 13, Doom

Doom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

 

 

Spitemorta Has Another Tantrum

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When Spitemorta returned to her bower in Castle Niarg just before midnight, she changed back her throat with the Heart and sent orders to the kitchen for roast duck with sour cabbage, dripping pudding and cider, even if she had to stay up until nearly sunrise to eat it. She did not mind. She could use the time to get rid of that offensive quart of sukee which reminded her of Coel, left over from her coronation. She had begun to find it odd that Demonica had not gotten in her way with her comments as she sauntered about, dangling her bottle, gloating about what she had set in motion.

She soon discovered that cider on top of the sukee nearly had her vomiting on her steaming plate of duck and pudding, so she daubed at the corners of her mouth, threw herself across the bed and slept until the middle of the afternoon. She rose, had half of a toad in the hole and a pinch of cold duck breast and sour cabbage and went back to bed until the following morning. She spent the next two days in her quarters, very busy with ordering about pages and hired help as she oversaw the clearing away of Minuet’s sheep shed and apple orchard for a jousting field and hand gonne range. She was beginning to think that she might have managed to leave Demonica behind at Oilean Gairdin. “Good! If that be the case,” she said, but she felt oddly anxious.

When she caught herself wishing that she had her grandmother to talk to, she grabbed up 2lflaggonthe empty sukee flagon and hurled it at the wall with a grating squeal. Instead, the contrary bottle went whirling out over the balcony to go bouncing end over end along the paving stones, six storeys down. When she heard no breaking glass, the rushed to the balustrade hoping to find that she had hit someone on the head. “Damn you Grandmother!” she shouted when she saw no one about. “You won’t let me have any fun…”

“Well it is nice to see you giving me the credit, dear,” said Demonica from right beside her, peering down at the bottle.

“Why did you have to show up, Grandmother? It was a relief having you gone for three days.”

“Odd that you kept seeming anxious for someone to talk to, or am I mistaken?”

“Yes you are.”

imagesdemonica“Or am I merely the wrong party? Perhaps you were hoping for your handsome general…”

“No!” shouted Spitemorta. Suddenly she smiled. “But I do have a thing or two he needs to find out,” she said quietly. “I mean, I think my trolls are going to be right useful, ‘way more than the stupid heathens from Gwael. Don’t you?”

Mindful of how Spitemorta’s voice carried, Demonica meandered back inside and sat on the bed. “It may have been unwise to leave Oilean Gairdin without appearing before the Dyrney as you agreed, dear,“ she said. “And you probably don’t want General Coel knowing what you make of his army, either.”

Spitemorta cast her a slit-eyed stare. “Poop!” she said, taking a chair by the bed that faced away from her. “The stupid trolls won’t even notice once they’ve had an Elf roast or two. And you know as well as I do that the Gwaels have been nothing but inferior. Let’s see how they like having my brute son and his trolls wipe out both the Elves and the Beaks when they’ve utterly failed to do so after all this time. I think I’ll quite enjoy rubbing Veyfnaryr’s victories in the good general’s arrogant face.”

“If you say so.”

“I certainly do say so. Coel needs to be put in his place. A bit of humiliation is just the thingimages (3)x for him.”

“That does sound like fun,” said Demonica with a deep and speculative nod. “But are you quite sure that you want to risk the father of your child losing face in front of all who might enjoy his lesson?”

“What utter nonsense are you going on about?” cried Spitemorta, springing to her feet at once to begin pacing. “You know very well that Coel’s not related in any way at all to my children.”

“Well certainly not to any of your grown children…”

“Nor to any future children, believe me…”

“Too late,” said Demonica. And with that she vanished.

hyacinths-fresh-cut-garden-lattelisa-blog-02“Damn you!” shrieked Spitemorta, grabbing up and flinging a vase of hyacinths, soaking the corner of the bed where Demonica had been sitting.

A peal of Demonica’s laughter rose and died away in the air across the room.

Spitemorta grabbed a footstool and hove it after the sound, only to have it fly as wide as the bottle had, knocking her new marble bust of herself off its pedestal and breaking off its head. With a rasping sob, she fell to her knees and covered her face. A mourning dove called from somewhere just beyond her balcony as she rocked and shuddered.

Running footsteps tramped to a halt outside her door and threw it open. “Your Omnipotence!” cried her page when he saw her on the floor. “Are you in peril?”

“Why not at all, Pissant,” she said with all the smiling radiance of a lady getting to her feet Pearsons-renaissance-shoppe-childs-costume-300x300in a sunny garden of daffodils. “Go to the kitchen, if you would, and tell old hefty

Bethan that I want hot cinnamon rolls with today’s churned butter and a nice hot pot o’ tea. And when you’re done with that, go find General Coel and send him here immediately. Then, return to the kitchen and see that my tea gets to me hot.

“And now…” she said soothingly as she unfastened the Heart from the Staff and gently passed it over his lips, erasing his mouth from his face. “This is for daring to walk in on the very empress of all the known world. You’ll have to think about it as you run your errand.” She turned him to face the mirror with his eyes of horror. “Now. If General Coel comes at once and the tea arrives hot, you may earn back the mouth you need to eat your next meal. Understood? Now go.”

 

Ch. 10, Doom, book six of Heart of the Staff: The Complete SeriesDoom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

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DOOM: The Heart of the Staff, book 6 Now Available

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The Final Book of The Heart of the Staff series

With the murder of her husband, King Artamus of Gwael, Queen Spitemorta at last rules the known world. She declares herself Omnipotent Empress and moves into her monstrous new castle in Niarg. And with her tools of power, the Great Staff and Crystal Heart, she believes she is invincible.

But then, General Coel, commander of all of her armies, brings tidings that four Elves have appeared in Niarg. These Elves should have been killed and eaten by her trolls, twenty years ago. And with these Elves returns the threat that the ancient Elven Prophecy predicting her downfall and death could still come to pass.

And somewhere far away, Ariel and Daniel, the very twins foretold in the Prophecy have become more powerful than any sorceress or wizard ever known. Together they could be invincible.

But can they destroy Spitemorta and her great tools of power? The time has come and one thing is certain. Either the twins and the rebellion will meet their doom, or Spitemorta and her minions will.

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