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

Fuzz Reveals Himself

Fuzz Small

Fuzz the Bear reveals himself to Rose and Lukus in The Collector Witch

“Hello there my friends!” he called out as they approached. “Looks like rotten old Ugleeuh was right!”   

Rose and Lukus were astonished at the sight of him. He had an apt name all right, for his skin was indeed covered with a thin nearly velveteen chestnut fuzz, but that fact didn’t prepare them for the shock of his looks. He was scrawny, long necked and huge headed, with stubby limbs and a ponderous melon for a paunch that scarcely cleared the ground when he stood.   (Ch 16)

 They had been back in Fuzz’s den for some time before he limped in, bedraggled and winded. Still with his full pails of precious booty, he stumbled onto the floor at Rose and Lukus’s feet without spilling a bit.

 “Oh my!” said Rose as she fell to her knees beside him. “You’ve been stung from head to toe! You must be in terrible pain.” “Actually no,” he said, managing a feeble grin. “Woozy to beat the band. Dizzy, dizzy! Pain didn’t last long, though. Never does, but a bear with no hair does get nailed a lot. Makes me wonder if I’m even really fuzzy. No need for a fuss. I’m used to dealing with those old bees. I’ll be fine once I catch my breath.”

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“Well,” said Rose, “you certainly don’t look fine. You’re soaked to the bone and covered with stingers.” She turned to Lukus. “I think you should get a fire started so we can get him dried out.”

Lukus set to work at once, impressing Rose with a nice crackling fire in short order. (Ch 17)

 ****

“Fuzz,” said Rose, giving him a squint, “you certainly know a lot about Gastro, Ugleeuh and Niarg. Why is that?”

Fuzz was quiet for so long that she was not certain if he had heard her, or if she had hurt his feelings in some way, but at last he met her eyes and cleared his throat.

“Yes, I do know a good deal about those things,” he said, as he slowly rubbed the scar on his face. “You see I was, or am, perhaps Gastro’s best friend. I was there when all of this happened. Now I see by the looks of both of you, that you have dozens of questions, and before you start in with all of that, let me say that it is getting quite late and we need to get up very early to start on our journey in the morning. Perhaps you could grant an old bear a bit of a reprieve until tomorrow? We can then take up this tale once more as we travel, if it pleases the two of you to do so. And I will indeed answer anything you ask.”

“We’d love it,” said Lukus. “Just one teensy short little question and then we will fly straight to bed.” 

Fuzz nodded with a sigh.

“You aren’t really a bear, are you?”

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“No I’m not, Lukus. Gastro and I grew up together in Niarg and we’ve been close friends for as long as I can remember. When he vanished, I surmised that Ugleeuh’d had something to do with it and set out to discover just what. Eventually I came here in search of answers and found him, a sea monster. By then however, Ugleeuh had been banished here too, and she had no intention of letting me leave to tell the tale.” He drew a deep breath as a bristly shudder swept through him. “It amused her mightily to turn me into…this. And so, I remain a bear to this day, and probably for all the rest of my days, as well. Now please, no more questions until we are underway tomorrow.”

Rose and Lukus each quietly hugged poor old Fuzz and went straightaway to bed as their heads reeled with a veritable avalanche of questions.   (Ch 17)

 ****

“They arrested her and called for me, and I sent for Razzmorten while she still held the incriminating vial in her hand…”

“You?” said Rose. “Just who were you, anyway? Gastro’s friend, sure, but you know so much. What was your connection with Niarg Castle?”

images (1)“Captain of the Royal Guard, if you must. Sir Karlton Strong. And I remember the very day you were born, Rose.”

“So when did you come?”

“Here? Well, I was Fuzz the Bear well before Lukus came along, I should think. But as I was saying, Ugleeuh still had the vial in her hand when we got there. The dishes were set on the floor before two good hounds which fell dead, gobbling them up.” By now Fuzz had found a rock to sit on beside the path. He shook his head as if to clear away the memories. “That’s the main reason for Ugleeuh’s exile,” he said as he clapped his forepaws onto both knees at once, launching himself onto his feet. “We’ve got to move. It’s a long, dangerous way, yet.”   (Ch 19)

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Hubba Hubba Versus the Stinky Beefy Boy, Part 2

Quilt Stone Mountain NC SP 4021

5469802698_278de1b2e3_zthe-brixton-ona-bags-2-560x379The stinky beefy boy slowed to a walk with a skip and happily patted his game bag full of Hubba Hubba. Whistling a giddy tune fit for the tone deaf, he left the path through a gap in the hedge to cut across a freshly ploughed field. Chirp and Squeak followed ’round the outside in the tops of trees grown up in the hedge. The boy scampered through new oats, a meadow and a fresh cow pile, pausing to rinse his feet in a gurgling creek before dashing triumphantly across an orchard to a fiery haired woman and two boys, hoeing in a broad vegetable garden.

504_slingrocks“Mom!” hollered the stinky boy as she bent to pull a weed. “Get wood on the fire! I bagged fresh meat for supper!”

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

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

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

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

nVrhp1e“Well Frankin, someone without your sharp eye would certainly have an empty bag right now…”

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

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

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

***

tver_angry-crow_7219“Help!” cawed Hubba Hubba, coming to in total blackness. “I’m dead again! I can’t see!” He hysterically thrashed and flogged his wings against the insides of the cramped box they had him in, pausing to go light in the head, gasping for want of air.

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

Bartolomé_Esteban_Perez_Murillo_004Both boys squealed and yanked back, dropping the lid on Hubba Hubba.

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

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

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

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

primitive-vintage-wood-box-original-old-paper-fruit-crate-label-Placerville-Maid-Laurel-Leaf-Farm-item-no-b912117-7“Hey you little gwrteithiau!” yelled Frankin as he threw open the door. “What’d I tell you about my game bag? And why weren’t you out helping us drive in the six sheep which just now got out in the garden? Which one of you left the gate open anyway…?”

“It’s loose!” cried Kink.

“Close the door!” cried Dink.

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

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

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

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

3021358_1_l (1)“Kawk!” cried Hubba Hubba, as he crouched to hang on

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

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

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

“No!” cried Kink and Dink together.

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

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

“No!” cried Dink. “Hit’s magic…!”

images“Hit talks!” cried Kink.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But I didn’t…”

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

“Mercy!” she gasped. “You do talk!”

crow“Hit’s a trick, Mom, said Frankin.

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

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

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

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

“But he’ll get away!”

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

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




Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Hubba Hubba Versus the Stinky Beefy Boy

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Worse, master?” squeaked Chirp.

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

***

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

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

“Let’s keep up!” chirped Tweet.

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

“Go for help!” chirped Tweet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Fuzz Can’t Imagine

Fuzz the Bear sets out across the countryside in a frantic effort to keep the Heart out of the hands of the evil sorceresses Demonica and Spitemorta in Stone Heart. Along the way, he stumbles into a magical ward set by Demonica and is restored to his human form. He has not yet gotten used to being a human when Wizard Razzmorten and his party with Rose and Lukus find him and decide to help him recover the Heart…

“It’s really great to see you, Fuzz,” said Lukus, as Tors bore him alongside. “Maybe we can talk, now that we don’t have to go single file. How long have you been changed back?” He realized that this might be an awkward question in the midst of asking it. “You’ve no idea how much Rose and I have missed you.”

“Actually,” said Fuzz as he stretched his neck, “my transformation is right recent and I’m not sure I’ve completely adjusted to the change. I was a bear for a lot of years, but I’ve no reason not to expect that things will all come back to me in time.” He nodded at Rose.  “You know I’m finally beginning to question whether she’s missed me or not. This change of mine still has me feeling awkward all over, but have I done something to offend her?”

“Don’t you see?” said Lukus with an amused look.

“See what?”    

“Rose is eaten up with jealousy.”

“Just how?” sputtered Fuzz. “Me? Surely not.”

“Absolutely,” said Lukus rocking forward with a chuckle.

“But my word. What could Rose possibly see in the likes of an old bear like me?”medieval-woman-with-long-hair

“You’re not a bear for one thing.”

“Well, I suppose not, but that is all she’s known me as, Lukus, and I’m old enough to be her grandfather. She can’t possibly think of me in any other way.”

“Ha! I don’t remember a looking glass in your den, Fuzz, but if there is one, I’d lay great odds you’ve not peeped in it. You may be old as the hills in years, but you don’t look much older than Rose. It looks like you stopped aging when Ugleeuh turned you into a bear. Why, you’re downright handsome.”

“Well, yes, I guess that’s what they used to say,” said Fuzz, with an uncomfortable blush, “but I’d still think that would be unlikely quick for Rose to…”

“Wrong again,” said Lukus, bouncing with glee on Tors’s back, as Tors swung a sympathetic look in Fuzz’s direction. “Remember Spark’s glamourie in the Grog Meadows?”

“Oh, you’re right,” said Fuzz with very wide eyes. “She saw me as I was when I was still Captain of the Guard at Castle Niarg, when we were trying to deceive the Grogs.”

“Yea. And she’s had a thing for you ever since that she refuses to admit…just like you’ve had for her. Ah…ah…ah, don’t deny it. Don’t you dare deny it, ’cause it was written all over your face back then, just as it is this very minute.”

“You seem to have turned into an Elf, Lukus, reading me like that.”

Lukus threw back his head with a vigorous laugh. “I’m married to one, actually.”

“My word. Could it possibly be the very one Rose would pester you about those years ago when we were fleeing together?” said Fuzz, as Taflu suddenly fluttered into the air, escaping his notice altogether.

“Indeed. She’s my utter ecstasy. And we expect a son.”

“Oh, wonderful. I’m so very happy for you…”

“Yea, thank you. And you’re dodging, Fuzz. I can’t believe you didn’t know Rose felt the same way about you.”

“I…”images

“That’s all right, Fuzz,” said Lukus with a merry smile. “I’m not trying to give you a hard time. Rose is doing that. And don’t worry, she’ll come right around as soon as you convince her that there’s nothing between you and Myrtlebell.”

“Myrtlebell!” gasped Fuzz. “Of course there’s nothing between Myrtlebell and me. She and Edward were in dire need and I took her in. I’m her friend, but only in a patronly sort of way, don’t you know. Nothing more. Is that what she thinks, that Myrtlebell and I are lovers? Good word! I was beginning to think this was about Rotundra.”

Lukus threw back his head for another laugh as Fuzz peered at Rose in shock. “That’s what’s got her all huffed up. But it’ll work out, Fuzz. You’ll see,” he said, on the verge of another eruption of laughter.

“I swear,” said Fuzz. “You’ve become more of an Elf than you may realize.”

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & 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.

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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

 

 

 

It’s Either Kill Trolls or Pack for Home

 

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

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

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

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

“I’ve not yet been to the target.”

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

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

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

“I was thinking trolls.”

“The raid…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You really would, wouldn’t you?”

“Of course I would.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ch. 20, The Reaper Witch

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

You Were a Bear?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ch. 2, The Reaper Witch

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Minuet has a Strange Light in Her Eye

 

 


Rose stood stiffly on the stool as a pair of seamstresses pinned the hem of Minuet’s wedding gown. Minuet stood watching, radiant with happiness at her decision to wed as well as at her decision to wear her gown. “I’m more certain than ever that Mother and Father never expected me to marry,” she thought with a smile. “Mother,” she said, “I

suppose you understand that Fuzz and I want to wait for Lukus and Soraya to arrive
before we have the wedding?”

 “That’s what your father and I assumed,” said Minuet as she stooped to examine just how her hem was pinned in a certain place, “but Lukus and his family should be arriving in a few short weeks, which really only gives us scarcely enough time for all the arrangements.”

“We have plenty of time if we keep it small enough, Mother,” said Rose with a smile.

Minuet opened her mouth to protest, but closed it with a grin. “It is your wedding, Rose. And I suppose you’re right, all things considered.”

 “Yes,” said Rose, as she thought: “After calling off the extravagant affair with James, who knows how it would go? Besides, these are bad times upon us.” She stepped off the stool and out of the gown as the seamstresses carried it away for alterations. “Mother,” she said, picking up her robe from across a chair. “I’ve come to a decision. I want you to do something for me, if you will.”

 “My word. Is something wrong?”

 “Very wrong, actually. But to put you at ease, this has nothing to do with the wedding.”

“By all means dear, if I possibly can. What is it?”

 “Could you teach me to use my powers?”

 “Why, I thought you’d decided that you wanted nothing to do with becoming a sorceress, Rose,” she said with an astonished look.

 “No, by no means. I never did. But I suppose I was doing little more than following in your footsteps, all these years. I think that under the current circumstances it would be irresponsible to have such an ability and not use it for the good of all.”

Minuet’s eyes flashed.

“Oh, my! I didn’t mean it to sound that way. I was only referring to me. Our circumstances are altogether different. I’m not queen of anywhere. Fuzz is a military man and will undoubtedly be in the thick of what’s coming, and I’ve every intention of being right beside him, so will you teach me?”

 “Have you discussed this with Fuzz, dear? It would not be right to keep something like this to yourself.”

 “Not yet,” said Rose with a sigh, “but rest assured, he’ll abide by whatever I…”

“Of course Rose, I’d not expect otherwise. But it would put me at ease, knowing that you’d discussed it with him.”

 “You’re so provincial, Mother.”

 “‘Considerate’ is what we once called it, I believe.”

 “I’ll go speak with him this minute, but I suggest you go dig out your wand.”

 “All right,” said Minuet, as a strange light kindled in her eye. “You’ve a bargain.”

 

Ch. 35, Stone Heart

Stone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

 

 

Who is Fuzz?

 

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images (1)Fuzz is Sir Karlton Strong, captain of the Niarg Royal Guard, when the future queen of Niarg

Good_Sister,_Bad_Sis_Cover_for_KindleMinuet Dewin, is still a young lady at home at Peach Knob Manor in Good Sister, Bad Sister. When his lifelong friend Gastro vanishes, Captain Strong goes in search of him and finds that he has been turned into a sea serpent by Ugleeuh and left to patrol the waters off the coast of the Chokewood Forest for the rest of his days. Ugleeuh is not about to allow Strong to return to Niarg with the news of this, so she casts a spell on him, turning him into a bear with no hair, hopelessly addicted to sukere and confined to her part of the Chokewoods.

 

Minuet marries Hebraun, the future king of Niarg. When their daughter, Princess Rose, is sixteen,Fuzz Small The_Collector_Witch_Cover_for_Kindleshe sets out with her brother, Prince Lukus, in The Collector Witch to find Ugleeuh in order to discover what her true relationship to the House of Niarg happens to be. Ugleeuh holds them captive in her cottage all summer. At last they escape and end up in Fuzz’s den as they flee. Fuzz sets out on a harrowing trek to the sea with them to find Gastro in hopes that he would take them to safety.

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Five years later, Rose and Lukus return to the Chokewoods to find Fuzz freshly released from Stone_Heart_Cover_for_KindleThe_Burgeoning_Cover_for_KindleUgleeuh’s spell, a handsome young man in his prime who falls in love with Rose in Stone Heart and marries her. Instead of having a honeymoon, they sail to the Dark Continent on an urgent mission and are lost at sea in The Burgeoning.

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps