Spark Finds Fuzz

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Fuzz was exhausted. He had struggled futilely for hours against the sinews the Gobblers had bound him with. His wrists and ankles had been quite raw for a good long while. He was desperately worried for Rose and Lukus, and in spite of his years as a decorated soldier, he was in a losing battle with panic. At last, weariness came on him in such a way that he had no grasp of his passage into a fitful slumber.

He was writhing and rolling about in the throes of a nightmare about the Gobblers returning to enslave him. They wrestled and kicked him and cut him up with jabs from their spear points, loading him into one of their carts. As the terror became unbearable, Fuzz heard someone amongst them call out his name over and over. “How do Gobblers know my name?” he bellowed, rolling face up as he opened his eyes. “I can’t see!”

“That’s because it’s after dark, Fuzz.”

“Who…?”

“I’m Spark, Fuzz. You know, Spark!”

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“Oh! Thanks be! We’re delivered! Could you be so kind as to…?”

“Loosen your bindings? Absolutely. Pardon me, it’s so dark, I’ll have to…” said Spark as he conjured a bright green mage light between the palms of his hands. He set to at once, gnawing and picking at Fuzz’s sinews. “Ah. Got that one. You’ll have to roll over.”

“You know Spark, it’s been so long, I’d nearly forgotten that you could do that sort of thing,” said Fuzz, as he licked at a freed wrist.

“Oh, it languishes. I was born with it, but I’m so feebly endowed, I don’t fool with it for much of anything. Actually I don’t remember having done anything with it in front of youSinornithosaurus_mag before. Say. How’d you end up out here? Gobblers, I’d reckon, but I can’t imagine you allowing yourself to get caught. Can you stand?”

“Whoa!” said Fuzz, pitching forward onto his knees. “Like a round bottomed bucket. I don’t have any feeling in ’em yet, either. Yea, Gobblers! I…”

“‘Scuse Fuzz, there’s a little chocolate creek right here. Let’s get you a drink. So. You were saying about the Gobblers? What were you doing out here?”

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“Taking care of unfinished business in the service of the crown as Captain of the Royal Guard of Niarg, would you believe. And I still don’t have it taken care of.”

“What?”

“I was escorting the very prince and princess of Niarg to the sea to escape Ugleeuh, when we were waylaid by the sticky little curses.”

“And they captured the prince and princess?”

“Almost certainly, but we were separated by my trying to divert them. They got me too quick. Rose and Lukus couldn’t have had enough time to escape.”

“Rose and Lukus. I’ll bet they’re the two Ugleeuh had with her this last spring when the Chocolate Volcano blew. She brought them along when she came up the mountain to insult and threaten me.”

“They’re her niece and nephew, would you believe?”

“No kidding. Why, they’re nice looking kids.”

“Well Queen Minuet, who’s quite lovely, is Ugleeuh’s half sister. And I’ve lost her kids for her, unless I come up with something immediately,” said Fuzz as he rolled off his haunches and picked up an ankle to lick. “And I surely don’t know how I’m going to do that. A thousand to one, they’ve taken them straight to the Gobbler castle, and that place is a fortress, quite a bastion indeed, bristly with little pike men all over, and a moat full of chocodiles. I couldn’t have managed by myself back when I was a man at arms, let alone now that I’m a bear without arms. I’ve nothing with me, not even my miserable little dress dirk which is in a trunk in my den.”

“Gobblers are nasty critters, all right,” said Spark as he carefully enlarged a mage light and set it upon the ground between them to glow like a campfire. “Their young highnesses will never escape without help.”

“So, will you help me rescue them? It’s either the two of us or nobody.”

“I hate Gobblers. They’ve taken over all the very best chocolate licks. I’ve always got bruises all over from their slings and rock candy.”

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“Then let’s get ’em!” said Fuzz with a crackle of unexpected ferocity, as he smacked his paw with his fist. “Let’s fix ’em! Let’s get ’em back for the rock candy and for my awful nap, all tied up. And most of all, help out two splendid young people.”

“She stood up to Ugleeuh for me, the princess. ‘Rose,’ you say she is? Oh, it was nothing really, but right nice of her all the same.”

“Then you certainly wouldn’t stand to have her abused by those sticky varmints.”

“Never!” declared Spark, suddenly straightening upright.

“So what about this magic you never use? What can you do with it in a pinch?”

“I just really don’t much.”

“Yea, but could you get into the castle with it? Shot ‘n’ Stop said you’re good. He said you disguised yourself as a tree, once. You might disguise yourself as a minstrel or a trader of some sort.”

“Well thank you, but you need to keep in mind that my magical ability is quite small, scarcely more than that of a hedge wizard. I could go into the castle under cover of a glamourie, but I’ve not the power to maintain it for long. It would be risky.”

“Can you think of any other way at all?”

“Well no Fuzz, but whatever it is, it’s got to be good enough that I don’t have to maintain it very long at all. I’ll be lucky to manage going straight in and straight out. If I were just a minstrel, I’d have to take forever and seven days to argue my way in and back out.” He paced back and forth for several long moments. “You have an awful lot of confidence in me to think I could actually get away with this.”

“Ugleeuh!” woofed Fuzz. 

Spark looked up with a jerk and rolled away into the brush, as his mage light went out with a pop.

“No, no! Good grief, Spark. I didn’t mean that she’s here. I mean, what about you making yourself look like Ugleeuh? That would cause the Gobblers to let you in and out right smart. Don’t you think?”

Spark eased back to where he’d been sitting and let another large mage light come to life from between his cupped hands.

Fuzz saw that his hands were trembling. “You all right?

“Do you have any idea what Ugleeuh will do to me if she discovers this little ruse?” said Spark, holding his hands still by clamping them between his knees. “I’ll be lucky if she seals me up inside my cave until I rot.”

“Sure thing. And me with you, no doubt. But we can’t just leave Rose and Lukus in the hands of those marshmallow suckers. You know how Gobblers treat captives, Spark.”

“I know you’re absolutely right,” said Spark with a great shudder. “Yeap, yip! Me as Ugleeuh. That’s the best we’re going to get. Just give me a bit to get used to the idea. I don’t suppose you’ve ever heard of Lizzie? She was one of my clan and had a passion for marshmallows. Greedigut had his fat little slugs capture her and then he killed her slowly by forcing her to slave endlessly on next to no food while they made a routine of beating her senseless. No one should be thrall to a Gobbler,” he said, as his voice went shrill and rasping. 

Fuzz jerked back with a gasp. Before him stood Ugleeuh. “Wow! Mercy! My very word! Excellent, Spark. If I didn’t know it was you, I’d know old Dungbag was standing right where you are. The Gobblers will never know it’s you.”

“I was hoping you’d say that.” he said, and with an odd wavering of the air about him, he resumed his normal visage. “Being Ugleeuh really saps my zip. I’ll have to get as close as I possibly can to the Gobbler castle before casting my illusion. Then, maybe I can keep it up long enough. Besides, that way there’ll be less chance that the real Ugleeuh will soar overhead and see me. Well. I see no reason why I shouldn’t be underway.”

“Good thinking. Hey, thank you. And good luck. I’ll be right here until you’re back.”

“Ta-ta!” said Spark with a flutter of eyelashes, as he flashed Ugleeuh’s Face for his own, before vanishing into the dark in the direction of the Gobbler’s fortified keep.

Ch. 22, The Collector Witch (Click on Title or Image to Download From Amazon)The_Collector_Witch_Cover_for_Kindle

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

 

 

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

Spark the Dragon Loses His Feathers

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A shadow passed over them. Ugleeuh looked up with a start to see a deep green dragon with a turquoise crest, the size of a cow, gliding majestically for a row of openings into lava tubes running up the nearby dome. “It’s a bird with teeth!” she cried, springing to her feet to shade her eyes. “And I swear I saw claws in its wings…”

“You did, dear,” said Demonica. “And I trust you realize that this is one of the very dragons that we came for…”

“I knew what it was.”

Demonica was not listening. “Here comes another,” she said, touching Razzorbauch’s arm.

“Good,” he said, “I knew that this was the place, but until the first one swooped in, I hadn’t quite spotted their caves. I was a bit further down, the time before. I spent all day,
and I allowed that there was above two hundred dragon a-coming and going. That ought
to suit my needs…”

“Yes,” said Demonica. “They should suit us quite nicely.”

“What if it saw us?” said Ugleeuh.

“I doubt if it did,” said Demonica. “Had it seen us, it would be trying to set us alight, this minute. The pines hid us. That’s why I changed into this terrible green kirtle before we left Head.”

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“I’ve not seen a one, yet,” said Demonica to Razzorbauch as she gave an impatient head to toe glance at Ugleeuh.

“You will,” he said.

At that very moment, an echoing bellow from the caves got their attention in time for them to see a dozen dragons charging out abreast into the open air, blinded by the stinging fiery nightshade fumes, snorting and gasping, flapping their wings and stumbling
about.

“Keep them blind!” shouted Razzorbauch as he ran toward the dragons with his staff leveled. “Don’t let them spit flames! Freeze any that try to fly!”

Demonica set to work at once, hurling crackling lavender bolts from her staff into the faces of beast after beast as they thundered from the caves, while Razzorbauch sent out a pounding hail of flashes from his, causing the plumage to fall free from the dragons’ wings and bodies in cascading bundles and wads, as the terrified animals flapped
themselves to nakedness, and the air filled with the stench of singeing feathers. More and
more came in a frantic rush for fresh air only to be undressed in their bewildered frenzy,
until at last the wash in front of the caves was filled with a milling herd of better than two
hundred naked dragons, fenced in by a corralling spell cast by Demonica.

Razzorbauch climbed a large red rock to stand above their heads. “Peoc’h!” he roared, addressing them in Headlandish. “Silence!”

At once, the only sounds to be heard were the rattling of cottonwood leaves and the nearby calls of laughing quail. As he stood there counting them, a young male who happened to be outside of Demonica’s spell, was carefully inching away. Suddenly he
broke into a run for the caves. Razzorbauch jerked his staff aloft at the sight of him,
shooting him with a brilliant beam of ruby light from the Heart in its end, blowing him
apart with a thundering concussion which left a hole in the ground big enough to bury
several dragons, as a peppering of dirt and flecks of flesh rained down through the leaves
of the cottonwoods.

“N’eus ket tu da,” said Razzorbauch, speaking out over the hushed herd. “There’s no way to. There’s no way anyone else could possibly break away and run. But you see what would happen if he could. From this moment on, for as long as you live, you are each my chattel. Now. I’m going to walk to the sea and you’re going to follow me. It will be a few days to get there and a few more to wait for ships which will take you to my plantation.” He paused to look over their numbers for a moment before clambering down from his rock. “Poent eo mont kuit!” he cried with a wave of his staff. “It’s time to leave!” And with that, he began walking.

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The dragon multitude formed a lumbering queue as they followed, utterly beaten, as Demonica set out in their wake with her staff. Ugleeuh picked up one of the great green feathers littering the ground, every bit as long as she was tall and was astonished at how very light it was. “My!” she said. “These are light as a feather.”

“One does expect that with feathers, dear,” said Demonica.

Ugleeuh thought it would make quite a souvenir, but tossed it aside at the thought of the long walk ahead. “So,” she said, catching up. “‘Mammvro.’ Wouldn’t that be Headlandish for ‘Motherland?'”

“It is. It’s the dragon word for it, really. I call it that because of the dragons. The rest of the continent calls these the Red Lands or the Red Desert…”

“Dragon word? They can talk?”Good_Sister,_Bad_Sis_Cover_for_Kindle

Good Sister, Bad Sister, Ch. 11

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Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Our Theropod Dragons

Our dragon, Harpi tyrannus. R., is a relative of  Archaeopteryx and Deinonychus, which survived the Mwyaf Fawr Llosg or Greatest Burning and is traditionally classified as an Adar Drwg (“bad bird” in Old Niarg Standard) by such Niarg naturalists as Razzmorten Dewin. It is an eight to twenty foot long (six to thirteen foot tall) feathered flying Jurassic bird with teeth, fingered claws on the wrists of its wings and a long un-fused (non-pygostylic) bony tail. Long ago it developed the ability to produce, store and ignite large volumes of methane gas which enabled it to toast and make palatable the naturally occurring sukere cana in its original habitat on the Dark Continent.                      

Dragons’ brains are about a third of the volume of human brains, however dragon brains are mostly cerebellum, where ours are mostly cerebrum. Since the tissue of the cerebrum is far more fatty and has fewer neurons in it per given volume, dragons have about as many synaptic junctions as we have, giving them an equivalent intelligence to ours. Indeed, they have true speech and they write and produce graphic art and sculpture. In spite of this, their behavior can seem strange and bird-like to us at times, since it consists of far more fixed-action patterns than does our behavior.  

Dragons arose in the southern mountains of the Dark Continent in the Age of Birds before the worldwide conflagration known as the Mwyaf Fawr Llosg. Beginning in early recorded times, they lived within a territory at the southern end of those mountains known as the Mammvro (Homeland in Headlandish). One of the emperors of the House of Dark sold the Mammvro to the sorceress Demonica as partial payment for arms. When the evil Wizard Razzorbauch turned the Forest Primeval into a vast sukre canna plantation, he needed a labor force capable of burning off the canna for harvesting the lucrative and seriously addictive sukere. Dragons were ideal for this, so Demonica invested in his enterprise by turning over the entire Mammvro dragon population to him, helping him render them featherless to keep them docile and by providing the ships to haul them to his plantation on the Northern Continent. In time, the dragons were freed and became fast allies of the kingdom of Niarg.                   

Did you ever imagine that dragons were a kind of primeval bird, an airborne dinosaur? What sort of dragons intrigue you? What sort of dragons do you fear?

 

The Diatrymas Take Edward to the Dragon Caves

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Edward lay still as a newborn fawn behind the granite rock where Mary had shoved him, until long after the only sounds to be heard were the leaves of grass stirring in the evening breeze. His stout little heart had shored up all it could manage and at last he gave way, crying out with whooping sobs through the sleeves of his sweater into roots of the grass in the pungent sod where he lay. After a time, with the last his tears drying on his face, something gently tugged at his collar and he looked up at the giant bird who had been standing vigil over him.

“Ceidwad! You stayed!”6f9fde723ee52483fa2689890dee578c_1_orig

“I expect your heart still wants to break,” said Ceidwad with a deep reedy rasp, as she delicately rattled her enormous beak along the length of a lock of his hair.

“You talk!”

“Only when we must. Edward, your mother needs your help. She needs you to be brave. Climb onto Lladdwr this minute. We must be off to the dragons.”

Lladdwr studied him with one eye for just a moment, then quickly stepped forth and settled onto his breastbone. Edward hurriedly clambered onto his saddle as best he could with legs too short for the stirrups.

“Let’s go,” said Edward as he looked back to see Ceidwad ready to follow. “I sure hope this takes me to the dragons.”

“We’re quite aware of the way,” said Lladdwr resonating in a voice like Ceidwad’s only much deeper.

“Let’s go fast!” cried Edward with startling exuberance, as he grabbed the cantle of his saddle and shook it back and forth.

“Say something if I frighten you.”

Edward hugged Lladdwr’s thick, fluffy neck for his kindly tone, and at once the gigantic bird surged forward and kept gathering speed until Edward checked the ground to see if they had not actually taken to the air. He clung to the saddle for dear life but refused to let on. He’d never hurt his wonderful big bird’s feelings.

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Carol & Tom Phipps

Laora the Little Dragon Shares a Vole with Ceidwad the Diatryma

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“I think this is what you don’t grasp,” she said with polite patience. “Most of nature is profoundly logical without consciousness. Just being conscious does not make one profound. All of dragondom is not big enough. Now, I hate to be rude but Mary is in
peril. Have we discussed this enough that…?”

“Absolutely,” said Spark, springing to his feet. “I’m off to the council. I’m guessing that they’ll agree at once to Mary’s request. Meanwhile, please feel free to enjoy our hospitality and make yourselves at home. I’ll be back immediately as soon as I know.”

Ceidwad and Lladwr gave dignified nods as he dashed away, leaving them with sitting withPhororhacos Lipperella. At once Laora and Edward scurried forth and plopped down directly in front of them. Lipperella looked at Laora and raised an eyebrow. Laora looked at the grass. Bit by bit she began studying Ceidwad with rapt admiration. It was quite something to be recognized as ‘pretty’ by such a large and important bird. She saw something in the grass. “Got ‘im!” she said, snapping up a vole. “Would you like half, Ceidwad? I’ll split ‘im with you.”

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“Oh, thank you sweetheart. Don’t mind if I do.” she said, neatly snipping off and swallowing the squeaking end. “They’re delicious.”

“Edward doesn’t like them, so I guess I get to share one with somebody.”

“Well, he wouldn’t dear. Humans like things like this cooked…don’t you, Edward?”

Edward looked up from his piece of stick with a wary nod.

“And you’re very lucky, since you’re able to do things I couldn’t possibly manage…”

“Like what?” said Laora with astonishment.

“Well, you have hands on the wrists of your wings for one thing,” said Ceidwad. “so that means you could cook Edward a nice, fat vole…with your momma’s help, of course. And not only that, you’re going to be coming into your flame soon, and then you can toast ’em on the spot.”

“Your…” hollered Spark, as he lunged into view, out of the cavern entrance, “Your request has been granted!” Everyone looked up as he hurried over to the grassy spot. “However, the council feels that it can spare none other than Tors and Kast and me, and that’s only two thirds as good as you might think, since I can’t spout fire!”

“We’re certainly most grateful for all the help we can get,” said Ceidwad, “but why are so few of you able to come?”

“The clan’s preparing to move us to the Black Desert and since our survival seems to be at stake, they’re afraid to let go of very many,” he said, pulling a grass stem to chew on.

“But you’ve been here above three hundred year,” said Ceidwad with wide eyes. “What has caused this?”

“I reckon you and the White Witch haven’t heard from Elves nor Niarg since your return, aye?”

“Oh, oh!” said Ceidwad. “This has to do with Demonica in some way, doesn’t it?”

“Well, Spitemorta, to be exact…”

“Actually,” said Lladdwr, “Mary had hoped you’d ‘ave heard from the Elves, since the only safe place she could think to flee to with her enchanted ones was Jutwood Forest.”

“I see,” said Spark. “Well, according to the Elves, Spitemorta and Demonica have convinced the people of Loxmere-Goll that we dragons carried out plans laid by Niarg and the Elves to set fire to all their sukere fields. Right now they’re preparing for war with
Niarg and the Elves. When you showed up Tors, Kast and I were getting ready to leave
for Niarg to see if taking the entire clan to the Black Desert is warranted. Meanwhile, the
whole clan is being made ready for an immediate flight the moment we return. So, the
council is sending the three of us to your aid before we go to Niarg, provided we set out
immediately.”

“Things are deteriorating far faster than we’d expected,” said Ceidwad.

“They only approve if we can be gone within the hour,” said Spark. “Are you two right ready for a return journey?”

Ceidwad and Lladdwr nodded in unison. “Let’s go,” said Ceidwad as they sprang to their feet and gave their feathers a thorough shake.

Spark drew aside for a farewell with Lipperella, Laora and Edward and the Mob that they knew would end the moment Tors and Kast appeared up the stairs. They had scarcely had hugs all ’round when the pair came bounding out into the open with bags and gear. Spark gave Lipperella an extra squeeze and started off.

Ch. 42, Stone Heart

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Carol and Tom Phipps

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As if You can Hear the Trees Scream

 

They arrived at the edge of Chokewoods just after sunset, feeling relief and dread at the sight of the looming trees. Everyone hesitated, not wanting to enter. Lukus slid off Spark, grabbing his head with a grimace when he lit. Rose dismounted and stood by his side, Sinornithosaurus_magsaying nothing. Lukus turned wide eyes to meet Rose’s barely perceptible nod. This was like it was the first time they arrived, in spite of it being a different part of the woods and a different time of day. “Well,” she said, jostling everyone by speaking. “Let’s get on with it, shall we?” She gave Lukus an abrupt shove and followed him through an opening in the tangle of brush and matted vines. Fuzz, Spark, and Lipperella came immediately behind.

In they went, straining from side to side in hopes of spying some sort of clearing or cave for a place to camp. “If you listen, it’s almost as if you can hear the trees scream,” said
Lipperella, in a whisper tinged with awe.

“We thought so the first time,” said Lukus. “It’s so eerie.”

images 2“Indeed,” said Fuzz, “But the trees are in fact not screaming, and when their trunks look so grotesque, one’s imagination would understandably be thrall to suggestibility.”

“So you don’t hear anything then?” said Spark.

“I didn’t say that, “said Fuzz. “It sounds like far away moans and murmurs in some giant hall, but that must be the wind ‘way up in the trees, rather than the trees themselves.”2004_1024chapel0005

“Are you sure?” said Spark. “I’m not.”

“Well no, but it’s the simplest explanation, isn’t it?”

“Perhaps, but ‘simple’ doesn’t take Razzorbauch’s perversion of the place into account.”

“Good point,” said Fuzz, as everyone fell into a nervous silence.

“Hey,” said Lipperella. “Look up ahead. That could be a clearing.” It was. They made a hasty camp by doing little more than spreading out their blankets and deciding how
they would keep watch. Rose heard no owls at all, only the ghostly murmur and sighs
echoing from unimaginable reaches off in the timber.
Ch. 29, The Collector Witch

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Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Mary the White Witch Departs for the Dragon Caves with Myrtlebell and Edward on the Diatrymas

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“This is our moment,” said Mary. “I’m sure Fuzz would say the same thing.”

Myrtlebell’s lips thinned as she pressed them together. She knew Mary was right, but she couldn’t help feeling uneasy. She grabbed up their cloaks and took Edward’s hand, and with a nod to Mary, followed her from the cavern.

Edward laughed in delight, the moment they stepped through the wet vines over the mouth of Mary’s cave.

Myrtlebell’s mouth and eyes dropped agape. “Mary!” she cried, shushing herself in wonder. “Those aren’t unicorns, they’re enormous birds. Are we flying on them?”

“Oh no,” said Mary. “Look at their tiny wings. These birds don’t fly, but they do run, and far faster than you’ve ever ridden before.”

“What kind of bird can’t fly?” said Myrtlebell.

“I assume you mean, ‘What are they called?'”

“Why, yes.”

“These are diatrymas,” she said, as she reached up to stroke the neck of one of them. “Diatrymas are a sort of adar taranus. They are far more than just tame, they’re my personal friends. They’re exceedingly intelligent.”

“Adar taranus. Old Niarg for thunderbirds? I thought not a one of those survived the Greatest Burning.”

“None did.”

“I don’t understand…”

“Have you ever heard of the terrible wizard, Razzorbauch?”

“Wasn’t he the one who brought the dragons here? Fuzz was…”

“Well, we had best make haste, Myrtlebell. I’ll tell you all about it once we’re underway.” Mary turned at once to the birds. “Lladdwr, Ceidwad, kneel, if you would.” The two ten foot tall fowl obligingly folded their thick scaly legs and waited patiently on their breastbones in the leaves to be mounted.

“It would probably be best if I took Edward, while you get used to riding,” said Mary, as she helped Myrtlebell onto the smaller of the two birds. “This is Ceidwad. Just keep your legs ahead of her wings. You can put your arms around her neck, but don’t squeeze her windpipe.”

“Where are her reins?” said Myrtlebell, as her balance gave way and she sat suddenly onto the thickly padded saddle with a plump.

“She needs none,” she said, taking Edward onto her lap as she deftly swung round Lladdwr’s neck to sit on his saddle. “She’s too intelligent to need them. I’ve already
discussed where we’re going with Lladdwr and her.”

Once they were settled, the diatrymas rose together without being told to do so, and in a half dozen fluid strides, had sailed completely down the side of the tall hogback, with Edward waving happily at Myrtlebell as she hung on for dear life. Across the branch and effortlessly up the far side they went, until they reached the long ridge that they followed out of the timber to the thickets along the broad creek which they had crossed the day before, when they were fleeing Spitmorta and Demonica. Without the slightest hesitation, the giant birds ran straightaway into the water, stepping over its surface and plunging to the bottom with each stride, making astonishingly little splashing or disturbance. At once they were across, fluidly zigzagging through the brush. Soon the thickets opened into grassland which lay between them and the great marshlands of the Gobblers. Here the diatrymas sped up astoundingly, running abreast.

“So,” shouted Mary above the wind, “How are you doing?”

“This is indeed very much faster than I ever imagined possible.”

“Whee!” squealed Edward.

“Oh my, sweetheart,” said Mary, giving Edward a hug. “You mustn’t kick Lladdwr in the crop.”

“This is not only fast as the very wind,” called Myrtlebell through the hair she was dragging out of her eyes, “but ‘way more comfortable than galloping unicorns.”

They fell silent to the tireless pounding rustle of huge feathers as they sped out across the sea of grass which stretched before them to the horizon. Without endless obstacles for the diatrymas to leap, dodge and run around, Myrtlebell was able to relax and truly enjoy her fast ride for the first time. On they ran in a straight line without any letup or hesitation, under a cloudless blue sky.

By noon, the horizon was starting to change and Myrtlebell began to feel exhausted and looked across to see Edward’s head nodding in Mary’s lap. “Mary,” she called, “do you supposed it would wise to pause for a bite to eat?”

“I don’t see why not. We’re making good time and Edward’s getting heavy. See that hillock yonder, rising out of the grass? Let’s make for that.”

“Is that the marsh showing up on the horizon?”

“Certainly is.”

Ch. 7, Heart of the StaffStone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle

Carol and Tom Phipps

https://www.amazon.com/Heart-Staff-Carol-Marrs-Phipps-ebook/dp/B00VKQE9F0/

Spark the Dragon Meets Prince Abaddon

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Flame landed with a bound just beyond the shade from the noonday sun cast by the rock overhang of the kitchen and gave his feathers a good shake before making a hurried waddle inside. “We’ve got company!” he hollered before he could see.

“We’re right here, dear,” said Lipperella, standing up from the table to peek outside. “For dinner? Do you reckon I’ve fixed enough?”

“Who cares?” said Flame, grabbing up a dainty from the table. “Goody, good! Hot pickled kangaroo rats.”

“You’re terrible!” said Lipperella, giving him a good swat with a dish towel.

“Edward and Laora are leading them in right now,” he said, rubbing his belly where she got him. “Three diatrymas and two humans, looks like.”

“Diatrymas?” said Spark. “All the way from Niarg? Has to be trouble of some kind.”Sinornithosaurus_mag

“We’ll see. Here they are.”

“Momma! Papa!” cried Laora as she and Edward landed at a run. “Edward and I found Arwr and these new diatrymas, Mentrus and Gwawr. And they’ve got Súlacha and Lance, and Abaddon and Shot ‘n’ Stop. And they have news about the witches…”

The diatrymas came to a springy halt and dropped to their keels to unload their passengers. “I beg your pardon, Spark,” said Arwr, springing up to gingerly step about.
“Have you pans of water for us to stand in for a moment? We’ve had to travel at night
because of the black sands, but this morning was overcast. When the sun came out not
long ago, it about cooked our feet.”

“Well,” said Spark as he clattered about, hunting for basins, “good job you and Laora found them, aye Edward?”

“Súlacha here, is their tracker,” said Laora, “and when he says they’ve never been here before, they probably really would’ve got lost without us…”

“Oh poop!” scoffed Abaddon, whereupon Lance grabbed him by the sleeve and shook his head.

“Well we managed to get to where they found us,” said Lance, “but they undoubtedly spared us days of random searching for signs of you all.”

“Make yourselves at home and unwind while we arrange things,” said Spark. “Flame. Help me scoot the board into the doorway so that the diatrymas can eat with us, since they always stay outside.”

“They’ve been inside,” said Abaddon.

“Only in the halls of Fairies,” said Arwr from his two basins, just outside.

“Yess, yesss, unwind,” said Shot ‘n’ Stop as he slithered out of Abaddon’s bag.

Soon they were enjoying a grand meal with Spark and Lipperella and all their mob down the long board, laden with a half dozen steaming roast peccaries with agave stuffing, hot corn bread and prickly pear jam. Súlacha, Lance and Abaddon were delighted with the sumptuous bounty, though they did remain wary of the hog hair gravy, pickled peppered kangaroo rats, voles smothered in chocolate sauce and the cubed raw rabbit with hide and hair passing up and down the board.

When the small talk had died away, Spark parked his napkin by his plate. “So it’s the witches that brings you, is it?” he said.

“Oilean Gairdin has fallen to the witches and the Marfora Siofra,” said Lance. “Abaddon and I fled with the Elves into the Wilderlands and are staying with Meri Greenwood in Gerddi Teg, north of the Deadmoors. Niarg may have fallen by now, but we don’t yet know.”

At this, Edward quietly left the table and vanished. When Laroa found him in their room, he was pacing about in a very agitated state.

“Edward,” she said, quietly coming to his side. “You left at the beginning of the telling of the biggest tidings which have yet to come to the Black Desert. Are you all right?”

“I’m fine.”

“But you look upset…”

“I’m fine!”

“That doesn’t sound at all like it. And you were so excited at first. You’ve told me how you missed Shot ‘n’ Stop. Besides, Prince Abaddon is your age. I thought you’d want to get acquainted. He’s a prince and you’re a prince…”

“What do I need him for when I have you? Besides, you didn’t like the Fireheads, especially Trifin.”

“Yea? Well Abaddon isn’t here to breed you, Edward.”

“Yuck!”

“See?” she said. “So what’s your excuse?”

“All right,” he said, giving her a quick hug and sitting on the edge of the bed with a bounce. “Do you know who Prince Abaddon really is?”

“Sure. Just how he was introduced: the son of King James of Loxmere.”

“And, and son of Queen Spitemorta of Goll, the exact bad woman who killed Momma.”

“Oh,” she said, blinking a couple of times before scooting close and gently nibbling at the hair over his ear.

The Reaper Witch, Ch. 14The Reaper Witch 01 copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs and Tom Phipps

Spark the Father

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“The council has relented, Lipperella,” said Spark as he plopped onto the huge feather cushion in the parlour. “They’ve agreed to send three envoys to Niarg to consult with Razzmorten and King Hebraun before doing anything so rash as evacuating the Dragon Caves.”

“That’s wonderful news, Spark,” she said, taking him by the hand. “If anyone knows the danger posed to the clan by a war, it will be Razzmorten. I hope it turns out that we’re worrying needlessly.”

“Perhaps,” he said, putting his arm around her and staring through the doorway into the nursery. “It would be wonderful if our young ones could grow up and live in these caves without fear and slavery.” His eyes narrowed with memories of Razzorbauch. “I’d rather that they had to survive the smallies and the dorchadas in the Chokewoods than to have them live in slavery,” he said fiercely.i-2e7-7d9-a-1f

Lipperella sat upright and studied his vehement look. “I understand,” she said as she leant against him and joined him, staring into the nursery at the first clutch of dragonets born in the caves the clan had lived in for nearly three hundred years.

Presently Laora blinked her big eyes and stretched, then sat up flapping her wings. At once Edward rushed into the nursery and up to her side. He patted and whispered to her, but neither Lipperella nor Spark could tell what he said, not that it mattered. Laora calmed at once, meeping contentedly as Edward gave her chunks of sukere while he patted and scratched her. In short order Laora was asleep again as Edward slipped out of the nursery without disturbing any of the other dragonets.

“That was amazing,” said Lipperella. “Edward and Laora are so bonded now that he seems aware of what state she’s in from any other part of the Dragon Caves.”

“Right unusual, isn’t it?” said Spark.

“I’ve never heard of such a bond between one of us and a Human. Perhaps some of the elders have, though. When I get the chance, I certainly intend to ask them.”

“What have you asked Edward?”

“He told me that he gets a certain feeling inside and he knows that Laora wants him to come.”

“That’s certainly how it looks,” said Spark.

“I wonder if they’ll actually be able to communicate with just their minds when Laora starts talking?”

“They are already, dear. Laora’s got it behind her…”

“Oh?”

“Absolutely, dearest Truth-Bearer. And if Edward has even a dash of your skills, then they’re going ‘o be. And Lipperella, I just saw you stirring even before I caught sight of  Flame, Brand and Blaise starting to move, and I was watching all of you the whole time. I see this happen every day.”

Lipperella smiled a secret smile as she ambled into the nursery and turned around to hand Spark an arm load of raw sukere bundles. “Don’t despair, love,” she said. “They’re feathered out. We could take them flying tomorrow, I’ll bet.”dinosaur-nest

“Lipperella! Have you forgotten we can’t fly? Who’s going to keep an eye on them in the air?”

“We’re just going to have to trust them, aren’t we?” she said as she patted his arm.

Stone Heart, Ch. 33 (Click on Book Title or Book Image to Download from Amazon)Stone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle

 Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps