You Were a Bear?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ch. 2, The Reaper Witch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Next Time the Howlies Come for a Sheep, They’ll Bring a Skillet

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The howlies certainly loved their breakfast of roasted fish. After they followed Herio and Philpott back to the cave, they sat crowded around the entrance, staring inside as if the pair of them were about to hatch. The prospects of escaping looked more dismal than ever. And it was most difficult to fall asleep that night in the heavy closeness of the musky reek with all of those eyes watching them.

gigatopithecus_closeupMILK

 

They were awakened not long before daylight by being hauled to their feet and marched to the river, where they found several of the giants already up to their waists in the water, grabbing at catfish. Blue Eye even found their water bags and followed. This time breakfast lasted into the early afternoon, since the fish were harder to catch and five more howlies had appeared.

The next morning, Herio was awakened by a busy commotion outside to find the giants on their haunches, patiently peering in at him with wriggling fish in their fists. “Philpott,” he said. “Do you see what’s out here?”

 

Philpott rolled off his dusty pallet onto his knees. “Say,” he said, giving his greasy head a good scratch, “we’ve got that little box of lard which we were starting to get hungry enough to nibble at. I’ve got it and my skillet.” He began finding stones to set it on over the flames of a fire as Blue Eye waddled over with a fish in each hand to look him up and down with the silvery rings of his eyes. As he set to the task of making the fire, Herio began cutting up the fish. When the first piece went into the sizzling fat, a chorus of gasps broke out and the howlies crowded in to see. This breakfast lasted until evening, with the giants traipsing back and forth to the river all day.

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“Damn!” said Herio as he lay down on his pallet after dark. “What are we going to do tomorrow? Aren’t we running out of lard?”

“Yeap,” said Philpott.

Herio might have heard, but he was already snoring.

Herio jerked wide awake in the first broad light of day to the hearty medley of calls from athrasher4 sunset thrasher in the gnarled twist of scrub oak, growing out of the rocks at the mouth of the cave. He was on his knees at once. “That mockingbird wouldn’t be there with a crowd of howlies,” he said, getting to his feet. “Philpott! I don’t see a single giant out here.”

“Hey!” cried Philpott as he stepped outside. “Where the ding-dong blazes is my skillet? And my lard box. Those stinkers are thieves!”

“No time,” said Herio.

“No there’s not,” said Philpott. And with that, they grabbed up their things and were out in the chilly mountain air at once, jogging as they buttoned and tied their clothes.

It was a long way down the length of the mountain ridge without the unicorns. Even so, they found themselves covering ground nearly as quickly as they had managed while mounted, following the howlie tracks uphill. By sunset, they reached the upper end of the great meadow above the dry wash where they had found signs in the sand made by the giants, the morning they set out. A mountain burrowing owl rasped and cackled from the rocks of the divide as they made their way out into the thin dry grass under the vault of deepening blue sky.

“Well we certainly had our adventure,” said Philpott, walking backward for a step or two. “And we ended up with one of the wildest tales we’ll ever have to tell, but we might not even have found out where they live, let alone doing anything to discourage them. We didn’t change a thing. They’ll just keep getting into our sheep.”

“Oh yes we did,” said Herio.

“My word, what?”

“And it’s mainly what you did.”

“I’d like to know what that was.”

“Next time they come for a sheep, they’ll bring a skillet.”  

“I can see that I’ve talked to you longer than any sane fellow would’ve.”

“That’s it!” said Hero, stopping short and setting down his panniers. “We can butcher hit for them…” He squatted to stretch his back.

“I knew it was too late when you commenced to howling like one of them.”

“No, wait,” said Herio. “Look ‘ee here. Weren’t we starting to talk and trade? Really. I mean, we told them we were thirsty and they took us to water. We said we were hungry and they gave us fish. Then we cooked the fish and they let us go. Right?”

“Yea. For my bloomin’ skillet.”

 

“Let’s say that we want to graze this pasture for a week,” he said, standing up with his bags and starting to walk again. “We pay them a sheep first.”

“What?”

“We take a wether up there…”

“You mean right back up to that stinking hole in the rocks?”

“Yea. We take a sheep up there and butcher and cook hit for them, and tell them hit’s for a week’s worth of pasture. They’d love it.”

“I’ll bet,” said Philpott with a wide-eyed nod. “And how in the ever loving blue eyed world are you going to get the notion of a week’s worth of future grazing across to those wooly bellied wizards?”

“I haven’t figured out that one yet. But you’d have to take them the sheep first, at least.”

“Well you kept wanting to draw pictures…”

“That’s it!” cried Herio, whirling about, mid stride. “What if we figured out what sort of picture, and put it on a parchment and took it with us?”

“We?” said Philpott. “Well, I reckon I can help butcher a sheep. But you’d better have one damned good picture with you, is all I can say.”

Ch. 10, Doom, The Heart of the Staff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

 

 

 

Wizard Razzmorten Fears for Minuet’s Life

fantasy-minuet

Hubba Hubba slowly ran his beak along the length of the back of a chair in the empty parlour and turned square about to run it all the way back. “All right, all right,” he said, Buddy_3985_Warningpausing to give his feathers a shake before strutting on. “I said I would, I said I would. I did, I did. But now that it comes to it, I don’t know what I think about being a crow again. And what if something goes wrong? What if Razzmorten is so weak that he can’t handle the spell and turns me into a roach or a maggot? What if his spell gives out just as I fly in to spy on Spitemorta and Demonica? They’ll kill me, is what. Pull out my feathers and wring my neck.”

Without warning a long blade sliced the air near his head. “Help!” he quacked as he tumbled into a gasping heap of feathers on the floor. “Hey Queen! What is this, a test of my mortality or what? As you can see, I can handle apoplexy but my head would come
right off with that thing.”

queen-with-sword“Hubba Hubba!” she cried, stopping amidst her next swing. “I didn’t see you!”

Hubba Hubba quacked again and backed under the chair.

“I’m so sorry! I just had Hebraun’s claymore and…!”

“Minuet, what is all of this?” said Razzmorten, appearing as much without warning as she had.

“Why must these big missions always threaten to take off my head?” said Hubba Hubba, bristling and panting from the shadows.

“I’ll learn this now, Father,” said Minuet. “When Niarg goes to battle, they’ll still have the crown to lead them forth.”

“No!” said Razzmorten with a look of shock “Niarg needs you here. It can’t afford to lose both Hebraun and you. If Spitemorta…”

“Ha!” barked Minuet bitterly, echoing in the arches of the ceiling. “Spitemorta! Yes! Let her come! When she does, I will cut out her black heart and feed it to the hogs. She took the light of my life and she’ll meet her doom if she dares come at me.”

“I will not cooperate with sweet and sour parrot. Traumatized, yes. Compliant? No. I refuse, I refuse. Queen, you and your awful sister…”

“What?” said Minuet as she stopped short to peer under the chair.

“I’ll have you know that I’m not being dilatory,” said Hubba Hubba with his tail fanned wide as he marched out from under the chair, running his beak along the floor as he came. “I’m right ready to set out on this mission without hesitation. I will not be threatened further…”

“Minuet please,” said Razzmorten. “Hebraun would never have you do such a thing. ForFotolia_74796694_Subscription_Monthly_M CROPHEAD the love of the Fates, daughter, it’s the very thing that got him killed.”

“Yes, I know,” she said, turning to face him, “and she did it. And that’s exactly why I have to do this. You love me and don’t want to lose me, so you want to stop me. Please know that I would never cause you grief. I own that I’m being vengeful, but you can rest assured that I’m not being rash. I’m set! You could ease my burden enormously by supporting my decision. If you can’t, I’ll not be resentful, but I’ll not stray from my path.”

“I’m going, I’m going!” said Hubba Hubba, pushing his beak around in circles on the floor. “You don’t have to threaten me…”

“Hubba Hubba,” said Minuet, “What makes you think I’m threatening you?”

“Right. Ugleeuh wasn’t threatening me either. She was merely distraught. And you’re just what, vengeful did you say?”

“Hubba Hubba! Here I’ve gone and had a grand packet of food made up for you…”

“What? With all my favorite treats?”

“Well yes…”

“See? Runs in the family. Put away your blade. I’m ready! I’m ready!”

green-cheek-amazon-tracy-starr“And what are you doing down there?” said Pebbles as she and the chicks alighted on the back of the chair.

“Here’s Herio,” said Minuet as she scooped up Hubba Hubba and gave him a scratch before letting him step off onto the chair. “Looks like he’s ready.”

“Well, so am I,” said Hubba Hubba with a confused look as Pebbles rattled her beak through his cheek feathers.

“Ready enough for me to change you into a crow?” said Razzmorten.

“Just give me a flash Wiz, and I’ll be right as rain.”

“You’ve prepared your family?”

“Yea. Go ahead…uh, I mean if there’s no problem with maggots…”

“What?”

“Well, with lesser stuff like roaches. Hey Wiz, how’s the strength o’ your magic these carrion_tcm9-137380days, anyway?”

“Does this help?” said Razzmorten as he held up a hand mirror.

 

 

 

Ch. 9, The Burgeoning (Click on Title or Book Cover Image to Download from Amazon)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Elf in the Night

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On the eve of Neron becoming king (ri) of the Jutland Elves in Good Sister, Bad Sister, he discovers to his horror that his wife Nessa has the plague. He goes in search of Wizard Razzmorten…

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“Trafferth!” muttered old white haired Peredur as he yanked tight the sash of his robe. “I’m doing ye a favor here, unless ye want to be scared clean away from the door.” He glanced in the direction of the knocking as he stooped to pick up a flame on the wick of his 221028294183064616_NBVKNTHb_bcandle before stumping the length of the house to the door. “Dod i mewn, dod i mewn,” he said, fumbling to lift the latch with an empty sconce in one hand and a dribbling candle in the other. He threw open the door and looked the stranger up and down.

“Gabhaim pardun agat…” said Neron.

“Prince Neron!” said Peredur with a wide eyed gasp as he twisted the candle into the sconce at last. “Do come in! My word, I’m hardly dressed fit for a prince.”

“I’m so very sorry to be bothering you in the middle of the night…”

1859_021Peredur was already shaking his head. “Razzmorten’s not here,” he said. “It’s something terrible, isn’t it?”

Neron gave a nod.

“I simply don’t know where he is, Your Highness. He’s like that sometimes, and I never know what to do. But I can certainly wake Mistress Dewin for you…”

“Forgive me, but please do.”

Peredur’s eyes got very wide at this. He thrust his sconce into Neron’s hands and vanished into the blackness of the house, leaving a trail of hurried footfalls. He crept past Ugleeuh’s room andimages knocked softly on Minuet’s door. The door came open immediately, causing him to gasp and step backward.

” Peredur!” said Minuet. “I thought you were Leeuh.”

“I suppose my tiptoeing woke you. I’m sorry. Prince Neron is down at the door. Something awful has happened and he wanted to see your father. I told him you’d speak with him.”       

“Very well. Thank you. Just go on back to bed. I’ll take care of it.”

Minuet found Neron still dutifully holding the flickering candle. She curtsied and relieved him of it image018as she lit every candle in the room with a wave of her hand and saw that his face looked haunted. “The plague?” she thought. “You’re trying to find Father?” she said.

“Desperately, I’m afraid. My wife may be dying.”

“That’s terrible! I don’t know where he is.”

Neron’s eyes fell shut for a moment.

“Is she ill, injured?”

“I’m very sorry,” said Neron, getting hold of himself. “It would be irresponsible of me to disclose that. Please. It’s just that…”

“Is it the plague?”Medieval-Home-Decor

“Oh Fates, yes!” he said, squeezing shut his eyes with a silent sob.

“Forgive me Prince Neron,” she said. “I’ve not quite told you the truth. Please excuse me. I’ll be right back.” She turned at once and vanished into the hallway. By the time he had found a chair and had taken a weary seat, she was back. “This,” she said as she handed him her vial and pipette, “is oil of oregano. Put six drops under her tongue, six times a day.”

“This is the very cure?” he cried, springing to his feet.oil-of-oregano

“Yes it is. Does she have buboes?”

“My dear sweet child,” said Neron as he reached out, intending to give her a firm hug. “Thank the very Fates for you! Oh!” he said, stopping short and stepping back away from her. “I mustn’t expose you. No. She has the hepatic kind.”

“Good. Then that will give you more oil for under her tongue. Make sure she takes every last oreganodrop of it. And again, I’m sorry for my not telling you the truth. Father gave me strict orders that no one was to know his whereabouts. He’s getting a hay load of oregano plants along the south shore of the Gulf of Orrin. I’ll tell him that I told you, but please tell no one else.”

“You have my word. Niarg has the plague, too? remote_image_1331653487

“Several have died at Castle Niarg,” she said with a nod. “The first death was a young courier from Far, so it’s there, too.”

Neron paused to shake his head grimly. “I must go,” he said as he hurriedly stepped to the door and opened it. “Thank you, thank you! You’ve saved my whole world.”

“Six drops under her tongue, six times a day…” she called after him, but he had already vanished into the night air.

“Nessa,” he said softly the moment he appeared by her side, “I have the most wonderful news.” He gently brushed aside her hair. Her forehead was cold. For a moment he couldn’t breathe. He frantically grabbed up her cold hand and held it to his cheek as a horror of icy fire flooded his chest. “Oh…! No!” he cried out, echoing through every hall in the palace as his legs buckled and gave way.

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

 

 

Ocker Teaches Blodwen

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?” she said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He’s that very Ocker?”

Minuet and Razzmorten both nodded with twinkling eyes.

“Well maybe if he just watched his mouth…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But you need a bouquet,” said Nacea.

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

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

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

The room hushed at once to hear the joyous vows.

Ch. 15, The Reaper Witch

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ch. 17, The Reaper Witch

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Who is Minuet?

Minuet is born to the good wizard Razzmorten and his first wife Blodeuwedd who dies giving birth to her. Blodeuwedd, who was the most beautiful woman Razzmorten had ever seen in all his 329 years before he married her, was known to all as the maiden of flowers.

Millais_John_Everett_A_Souvenir_of_VelasquezRazzmorten is most taken with his new wee Minuet and quickly sees that she could well exceed his own powers someday. He hires a magically endowed woman called Demonica to be her nanny. Demonica is also beautiful and is an engaging companion, so he marries her. Soon she is pregnant. When she bears the child Ugleeuh, she vanishes with the crystal Heart of the Staff from Niarg’s royal treasury, leaving him to care for Minuet and Ugleeuh.

Minuet spends her childhood being a nurturing and precociously responsible older sister. For years she is Ugleuh’s staunch defender and champion, but after a time Ugleeuh’s play becomes a string of increasingly reprehensible pranks, forcing Minuet to endlessly undo her mischief. In Good Sister, Bad Sister, Ugleeuh plots to have Hebraun, the prince of Niarg for herself.

The plague comes to Niarg and Razzmorten finds the cure. When Minuet goes to tend plague victims at Fates’ Hospital for the Sick, she is nearly beaten to death by a superstitious crowd. Whilst recuperating, she finds out that Hebraun wants to marry her. Ugleeuh vanishes from sight.

Minuet does indeed marry Hebraun in time for him to become king of Niarg. When their firstborn Rose is three, Ugleeuh appears and tries to murder Minuet and Hebraun.

In The Collector Witch, Rose hears a damning rumor at her sixteenth birthday party that has her running away to far off lands with her younger brother Lukus to find answers. When word reaches Niarg that Ugleeuh is holding them captive, Minuet prepares to deal with Ugleeuh accordingly.

In Stone Heart, word comes to Niarg that Demonica and Queen Spitemorta of Goll are now in possession of the Great Staff and the much more potent Crystal Heart and plan to use them to conquer the entire world. Demonica declares that their first step should be to destroy all Elfkind. Minuet knits, waiting for the Elf Soraya, Lukus’s wife, to give birth. She comforts Hebraun who feels old and tired after finding Niarg’s grain ruined by a curse. Fuzz asks for Rose’s hand in marriage. Minuet fits her old wedding gown to Rose and helps her prepare for her wedding. She sees Hebraun off to fight the Golls when they burn Ash Fork to the ground.

In The Burgeoning, she rides forth leading her army, determined to cut out Spitemorta’s black heart and feed it to the hogs. And her tale continues in The Reaper WitchDoom.

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Abaddon Needs Pie

apples

 

 He found Abaddon playing quietly with the yarn dolls which he insisted were “soldiers.”

“So. You’ll be leaving now,” said Abaddon without looking up.

“I have no choice as you well know, Abbey,” he said, squatting beside him.

“Sure,” he said with a shrug and gravel in his throat, still refusing to look up. “He’s your friend. He’s your best friend, and he counts ‘way more ‘n I do!”

Lance went wide eyed at the resentment he heard in Abaddon’s voice. “These days, you’ve gotten to be my friend too, Abbey,” he said, putting his hand on the boy’s shoulder, “but you know as well as I do what’s going to happen to him if I don’t get him out…”

“Well go then!” he said, flinging away Lance’s hand. “But you’re too late!”

“How? Wait a minute! You say I’m too late?”

“If you’re so ready to leave, just go, but someone else rescued your friend James.”

“What?”

“I said somebody got him out…”

“Who?”

“I don’t know. Some stupid knaves. Boy, is my momma ever goin’ ‘o kill them bad if she catches them. They’d better never get caught.”

“How do I know you’re not making up all this so I’ll not leave?”

“You think I’d lie about something like this?” cried Abaddon with wounded fury.

“Yea. I’m sorry to say so, but from what I’ve seen, if it got you what you wanted, you sure might.”

Abaddon yanked his scrying crystal from his neck, flung it at Lance and dashed out of sight into the lava tube.

Lance glanced at the talisman in his hands. “He was scrying the very moment I walked in!” he gasped, riveting his gaze back upon it. “Fates! Is that James? It is! He looks like a bearded ghost. And I don’t know a one of those knaves, but each one of ’em looks familiar.” He gave the pendant a thoughtful heft before clenching it tight in his fist as he sprang to his feet to find Abaddon. “I sure hope my putting it straight to him hasn’t undone everything.”  

Ch. 21,

Lance found Abaddon lying belly down on his bed. “What do you want, stupid?” said Abaddon, looking up suddenly from his scrying crystal. “Didn’t your dumb Fairies ever teach you to knock to announce yourself to your betters when you enter their private quarters?” 

“I learnt it as a courtesy for anyone, and I learnt that it wasn’t the only courtesy one could use either…”

“Yea?”

“Yea. Like this pie. I could say, ‘Hey Abby, here’s the best pie in the world. Want some?'” He gave a beckoning nod.

“That’s vulgar clumsiness in place of proper respect for royals, but I’ve come to expect as much…”

“Well, better dig in while I’m being rude, so it won’t get cold.”

Abaddon scowled as he took the saucer, but his first delicate whiff of the pie arrested every urge he had in mind until he had wolfed down every bit of it. Lance sat on the bed and waited, looking at the backs of his hands.

“That was pretty good,” said Abaddon, handing back the saucer. “Thanks.”

“Why, you’re welcome,” he said, stumbling to recover from being completely thrown off by Abaddon’s polite remark. “So, you were scrying when I came in. Did you see anything interesting?”

“Nay, not much. Just James and his idiot knaves on some old road out in the grass.”

“Gollmoor? It’d have to be Gollmoor, but they could be anywhere out on it. Did you watch long enough to see anything else?”

“I didn’t get a chance to because of your clumsy entry.”

“Did you see a river…?”

“I just said I didn’t, stupid.”

Lance studied him for a moment. “Abbey, would you do me a huge favor and scry your dad again, long enough for me to tell where he is?”

“Why? So you can run off and leave me here with your crazy Fairies and Ratman and be where he is?” he said with gravel in his throat. “That’s really stupid, you know. Sooner or later Momma’s going find him and his knaves and they’re all going to die, screaming and kicking. No way she won’t do it, either. And if you’re with them, she’ll really kill you, ’cause you’re his friend and my kidnapper. She’ll figure out ways to kill you for an extra, extra long time.”

“Oh, I don’t doubt that for one moment, Abbey. That’s why I need your help, and that’s why your father needs it, too.”

“You and James need me?” he said, suddenly free of his sullen demeanor.

“Way more than you might imagine. Only you can save us from being killed by your mother and Demonica.”

Abaddon went altogether wide eyed. “Lance my magic is still little,” he said. “It’s not nearly big enough to stop my momma or Nana Demonica. They’d kill me, too!”

“Oh no Abbey. I’d never put you in that kind of danger. All I need is for you to scry your father again so I can figure out just where he is. I think I know of a way to protect him, if I can get to him quickly enough.”

Abaddon took on a sullen look at once.

“Look Abbey, you really wouldn’t think much of me if I let a good friend of mine die when I might’ve been able to save him, would you?”

Abaddon picked at a piece of lint on his bedspread, his mouth set tightly.

“So could you?” said Lance, carefully.

“Maybe,” he said, looking up from his piece of lint. “But you can’t leave me here with the old Fairies. You’re going to need me along with my crystal. You don’t think James and his knaves are going to just stay in one spot and wait for you to get there, do you?”

Lance drew a breath to speak but let it out. “Hmm…”

Abaddon’s eyes lit up. “Then you’ll do it?” he said with an excited bounce on the bed. “You’ll take me with you?”

Lance nodded slowly, stunned at himself for agreeing to Abaddon’s ruse. “Well then,” he said softly, “let’s look at your crystal.”

Abaddon already had it out, staring at the shapes of James and his companions appearing amongst its swirling colors.

Ch. 26, The Burgeoning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

 

Tom Phipps

 

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)

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

 

 

Who is Queen Spitemorta?

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Queen Spitemorta of Goll is the beautiful raven haired daughter of the witch known as Ugleeuh, the granddaughter of the evil sorceress Demonica and the mother of Abaddon. She is secretly given by Ugleeuh to King Brutelee and Queen Bee of Goll to raise. As soon as she is grown, she poisons Brutlee and Bee, assumes the throne of Goll and marries King James of Loxmere. 

When the news reaches Pennvro on the Dark Continent that Spitemorta is on the throne and has the First Wizard’s Great Staff, in Stone Heart, Demonica kills and replaces Abaddon’s nanny and begins plying Spitemorta with a strategy of world conquest, which requires finding the Crystal Heart of the Staff in order to have the needed power. In time they do find the Heart and set out to conquer Niarg and the rest of the world, thereby fulfilling the first part of the Elven Prophecy.  

 

Discovering that Spitemorta is a dangerous sorceress when she destroys her own nation’s main cash crop and begins addressing her subjects with crystal skinwelerioù to incite them to go to war with their peaceful neighbors, in The Burgeoning, James hides Abaddon from her and tries to flee Castle Goll. She captures and tortures him and throws him into the dungeon.

Years before, when Spitemorta is still a princess in The Collector Witch, it is she whose vicious rumor sends Rose into the perils of the Chokewoods in search of her identity, and she who takes away the Staff from Ugleeuh’s frantic grasp. And in spite of her lifelong reputation for cold bloodedness, she is assumed to be the granddaughter of the benevolent wizard Razzmorten, until far away in the volcanic cauldron of Mount Bed, the great oak tree Longbark touches Abaddon and determines that he is actually the great-grandson of the evil sorcerer Razzorbauch.

The Reaper Witch 01 copyAs her power grows, Spitemorta’s fits of wanton destruction and murder soon have the Jutland Elves calling her Baineor Buile Cailli, The Reaper Witch, as they, James,  Abaddon and the diatrymas flee her for their very lives into the Wilderlands.

 

DoomWith 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 in Doom, the final book in the series.

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Rose Loses Fuzz

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Rose awoke beneath the cries of gulls swooping over the waves rolling ashore along a snow herring_gull_semipalmated_sandpiper_and_ploverwhite beach. She ran her fingers through her sand matted hair, squinting into the bright blue sky as she struggled up onto an elbow. A pair of sandpipers took a fluttering hop at the sight of her andi-d8817a76f8ec8d302ecaea6802bc4921-sandpipers-shorebirds scurried away to peck here and there amongst the shells. “Where on earth is this?” she murmured as she looked up and down the beach to find that she was utterly alone. “And my word, just how did I get here? Oh my! The storm. Oh dear Fates, the ship went down!”

 

images (2)She sprang to her feet in a panic. “Fuzz!” she wailed as she looked this way and that. “Fuzz!” she cried out with every bit of her might. She ran madly after something down the beach only halt in despair when she saw that it was an uprooted stump, washed ashore long ago. “Fuzz, Fuzz!” she sobbed. “You have to be here, somewhere!” She started up a hurried walk along the sand, looking everywhere. “We went into the sea together. I remember now. We were holding hands. You and

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I and Karl-Veur.” She turned about to walk backwards for a few strides. Fuzz!” she hollered out. “Karl-Veur!” At last she dropped to the sand. “Anyone?” she said with a whimper as she put her head on her knees and closed her eyes to the sounds of gulls, sandpipers and surf.The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_Kindle

 

(Ch. 42, The Burgeoning)

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps