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.

Ch. 8, Stone HeartStone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

 

 

Carol & Tom Phipps

No Feeble Magic for Hubba Hubba!

امازون دبل يلو

 

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, pausing 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 corvowrong? 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.”

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

Hubba Hubba quacked again and backed under the chair.Buddy_3985_Warning

“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.”

Fotolia_74796694_Subscription_Monthly_M CROPHEAD“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. For 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!”

300px-Amazona_-two_species_-captive_in_Mexico-8a“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 her2782516016_d92bbc36e2_o beak through his cheek feathers. 

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

Ch. 9, The BurgeoningThe_Burgeoning_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Arwr the Diatryma Bites Vyrpudi the Troll on the Buttock

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“Oooooooff…vooov…vooob!” boomed Lladdwr, flashing the red patches in his wings and tail, lowering his head and popping his beak as he pranced alongside another troll before 180px-Diatryma_reconstructionflattening him with a brutal sideways kick. Lukus ran through a third one, and was yanking out his claymore when Soraya put an arrow into the mouth of a fourth, who had just stepped up with his club, all ready to brain him. Ceidwad and Lladdwr had each just taken down another brute apiece when yet another troll grabbed away Soraya’s bow and started dragging her off into the timber.

“Soraya!” cried out Lukus as he dashed after them. “Stinking troll cachu!”

“Wooob…doooff…voooob!” boomed Arwr as he overtook Lukus with a half dozen springy strides to knock the troll flat and pin him fast to the ground with a scaly foot on each arm. He gave his feathers a thorough shake, pinched off the skin from the tip of the brute’s nose for good measure and turned his head to face Lukus with both eyes. “So what do you want me to do with this thing, Prince Lukus? Very well, I can wait. You need a moment,” he said as Soraya and Lukus grabbed each other into a frantic embrace.

“Here are these again, dear,” said Ceidwad, bringing forth a beak full of bow and arrows.

“Well he’s certainly earned his own death,” said Lukus, turning back with closed eyes to treasure Soraya with another quick squeeze.

“By all means,” said Arwr. “Well, I’d certainly do him in for you, but it would be understandable if either you or Soraya wanted to…or you might want to save him and
question him, first…”

“And then kill him,” said Lukus. “That might be just the thing…”

“And we may be killed, merely a-standing here,” said Lladdwr as his neck went fluffy, swinging his head up to his full height to peer over the thicket at the pandemonium of trolls and Elves all about the burning castle.

“Make for the Magic River,” said Ceidwad as she squatted onto her keel. “Please get on, Princess Soraya. You must be exhausted. And Lukus, you ride on Lladdwr.” At once they were underway, with Lladdwr and Arwr steering the whimpering troll by popping their ponderous ebony beaks at his ears and pinching him mercilessly when he dared to hesitate or to step wide of where they wanted him to go.

“I understood why we might not want to go straight there when we turned this way,” said Soraya, as Ceidwad lifted open a cellar door ringed by thick evergreen shrubbery at the far end of the arboretum, “but why are we hiding? It’s urgent that we get down to the caverns.”

“We are,” said Ceidwad, ducking to step inside as her voice took on echoes. “This is the secret way…”

“I’ll say!” said Soraya. “I’ve spent the last two hundred and forty years growing up here, and I knew nothing about this.”

“How did you know about it, Ceidwad?” said Lukus, reaching out to feel of the clammy stone ceiling. “I never knew you ever went inside until you came into the castle to warn us.”

“It’s not that we can’t, we just avoid it unless it’s a matter of life and death. I’ve been in and out of here five times, helping to see the enchanted creatures down to the river. It’s a long way too, maybe four league.”

Arwr closed the door behind them. When he discovered that the troll had defiantly planted his feet, he clamped onto a buttock and twisted his beak.

“Fnafo-dyrnyr-truf!” yelled the brute as he lurched forward. “Fnadyr-difarr ja! Fnadyr-difarr ja! Fnaphn-nty ntu!”

“Fnafo-dyrnyr-truf. Fnadyr-diffarr ja. Fnadyr-difarr ja. Fnaphn-nty ntu,” said Arwr.The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_Kindle

“You understand Trollish?” said Lukus.

“Not a single word of it,” said Arwr.

Ch. 18, The Burgeoning

 

 

Carol and Tom Phipps

Wizard Razzmorten Visits Demonica

Atlantic Puffins

Razzmorten appeared in the moonlight amongst the tall basaltic rocks of Demonica’s keep on Head (or Pennvro). He clambered about with his staff, listening to the pounding surf far below as he paused here and there to feel for the presence of magical wards and protections set by Demonica. “Well, Razzorbauch’s not here,” he said. He removed his hat, and for a time stood with his face fixed into the breeze, feeling the air. At last he found a place amongst a tumbled colonnade of stones and went to sleep until morning. Just before the sun, he awoke to find himself in the midst a colony of very agitated puffins. He was on his feet at once, clambering up the rocks.

The towers of her castle rose behind the crown of the great barren prominence as he climbed. There was no drawbridge. Her portcullis was up, in fact it was unlikely to have been closed that night. He could definitely detect magical wards, but none laid for someone afoot. He walked right in. He found her reading a letter as she sat in her great
scarlet and white chair on the dais, legs crossed, having egg in a hole and tea. She looked up with a gasp.

“Good morning,” he said.

“Good thing you explained that,” she said. “I’d never have considered any morning ‘good’ which had you standing in the middle of it. Now how would you like for me to arrange your death?”

“Oh go on, Dee! We both know better. I’m not here to arrest you. You made that more difficult than it would ever be worth years ago. And besides, I stepped in here fully prepared to turn your head into a cinder at the first sign of trouble. I’m only here for a
brief chat.”

“You went to a good deal of trouble.”

“Well, yes. Years ago, you told me that you knew of a tribe of heathens (as I believe you called them) who were supposed to have gotten through the plague which killed the First Wizard without any deaths at all. Do you remember anything about that?”

“Well no, dear. It’s very difficult indeed to recall anything at all for the likes of you or Niarg. Does anyone there have the plague?”

“I have,” said Razzmorten as though he were merely speaking of tickets in his pocketbook, and now you have it as well. So if you wish me to come back and cure you, it might be best if your memory returned.”

With a yowl, the snow white cat sitting in Demonica’s lap shot across the throne room and white-female-persianvanished. Demonica stared off into the distance for a moment. “Ngop,” she said, heaving out a sigh. “The Ngop, ‘way down the west coast, here. The plague simply decimated everyone throughout the continent, everyone except the Ngop. It’s said that
they came out of it completely untouched. Down the coast. Talk to their shaman. I think
he goes by Ngerrk-ga. And talk to their chief, Dort-da.”

“Ngerrk-ga!” cried Razzmorten. “I know him. He and Dort-da were the Aboriginals I once met at the Hanter Koadou. They mightn’t have worn clothes, but they were well respected.”

“Well, you’ve managed to disarm me, Razzmorten. You always did have your skilled moments. Do me a favor. If you were indeed telling the truth, would you be so kind as to return with the cure? My cat needs someone to feed her.”Good_Sister,_Bad_Sis_Cover_for_Kindle

Ch. 1, Good Sister, Bad Sister

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Who is Hubba Hubba?

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Hubba Hubba is a double yellow head Amazon parrot who is given as a baby by the wizard Good_Sister,_Bad_Sis_Cover_for_KindleRazzmorten to his daughter Ugleeuh for her birthday in Good Sister, Bad Sister. Ugleeuh is offended by the very sight of her gift and threatens to drown him. Her sister Minuet protests at once, so Ugleeuh lets her have him. Throughout her remaining time at home, Ugleeuh makes repeated impulsive attempts to do in poor Hubba Hubba. At last she casts a spell on him, turning him into a crow and vanishes with him.

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Years later in The Collector Witch, Minuet is now the queen of Niarg. Her children Rose and The_Collector_Witch_Cover_for_KindleLukus find Ugleeuh living in exile in the Chokewood Forest with Hubba Hubba, who is still a crow and by now has grown obese and flightless. Ugleeuh holds them captive at once, but as soon as she learns who they are, she sends Hubba Hubba with an 800px-Corvus_corone_Rabenkrähe_1extortion note to Niarg, demanding her freedom in exchange for their release. When he reaches Niarg, he refuses to return to the Chokewoods and is eventually turned back into a parrot. In time he sires two clutches by Pebbles, Minuet’s green cheeked Amazon.

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Hubba Hubba becomes an important member of the House of Niarg in Stone Heart. He andStone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle Pebbles are indispensable to Wizard Razzmorten when his trip to The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_Kindlesee the dragons and have a look at the Chokewoods turns into a race to warn the Elves that Queen Spitemorta and Demonica are now a peril to the entire world. In The Burgeoning, he becomes a crow again in order to help Herio spy on Spitemorta in Castle Goll, and continues playing his part inThe Reaper Witch 01 copy the thick of Niarg’s struggle for survival in The Reaper Witch.

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Ariel says she Could Die

 

“We’re done Grandfather,” said Daniel.

 

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

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

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

“Perfect then?” said Daniel.

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

“And then?” said Ariel. “Are we…?”

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

“And then we get her…” said Daniel.

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

Daniel dug at the rocks with a twig.

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

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

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

“Are we done?” said Daniel.

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

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

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

“Yea? Is that what you want?”

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

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

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

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

Ch 2, Doom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heart of the Staff: Complete Series NOW Just $0.99 on Amazon 

Abaddon Meets Longbark

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Abaddon went quite speechless as he studied the looming tree, only looking down here and there as he stepped along behind Lance in the thick dry grass. Like some spreading burr oak in a pasture, Longbark was scarcely fifty feet tall with great long horizontal limbs reaching out from a trunk that was better than twelve feet thick above the buttressing roots. “But Lance, it’s got its leaves in the middle of winter.”

“Some kinds of oak are like that. The mothers told me that evergreen oaks used to be right common in the Forest Primeval…”

“Lance!” he whispered frantically. “They’re mad! They’re crazy! They’re petting it like it was a dog or a cow or something.”

“You’ll see,” said Lance with a grin and a shake of his head as he took him by the hand and led him forth to stand before Celeste.

“Ther be no thyng heere at al for to fere, yonge Abaddon,” said Celeste with a kindly smile. “This beth Longbark, and she the moost eld of yere and wyseste beynge a-lyve in Glan Da ybe. Hit nis ne evene possible hir for to harme thee in the leste.” She took him by the hand and drew him up to a branch that stuck down from a limb low enough for him to walk up to. “Come. Takest hold of this heere lowe braunche and lette hir thee yfele.”

“Why, this is frightening him,” thought Lance, as Abaddon turned to him with wide eyes. “You can manage all right, Abby,” he said with a smile and a nod of reassurance. “Celeste would never, ever do anything to hurt you, and that old tree won’t even give you a rash.” He watched Abaddon give in and reach for the branch. “Ah, for all his meanness, he’s just a little boy after all,” he thought.

“So what?” said Abaddon with his customary brashness. “It’s just a plain ol’ stupid tree…”

“Juste myndest that thou halt fast for a tyme if thou wouldest,” said Celeste as she keenly eyed the branch.

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Without warning, Abaddon felt as though someone who did not approve was looking all through him. At the very same time, each glossy green leaf in turn folded shut like a book, as its respective petiole went utterly limp, collapsing like a row of dominoes, all the way up and all the way down the branch away from his hand, except for the leaves on one small twig, which remained open and up. “Not fair!” he shouted. “That was no fun at all!” He yanked off a twig with a loud snap, flung it at Lance, picked up a stone the size of a grapefruit and heaved it at Longbark to bounce off with a deep resonant thud. “It’s just a stupid ol’ tree! Why are you idiots all staring at me? You think you’re smart? You’re going to die for trying to make a fool of me by having me touch it! It’s just a dumb stupid tree!” With that, he dashed away through the weeds and vanished into the lava tube.

Ch.7, The Burgeoning

 

The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Minuet Sends a Surprise to Spitemorta

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Captain Bernard peered about at the landscape of Cwm Eryr, wincing here and there at recollections as his massive march streiciwr brenhinol stepped carefully amongst the tumbled armor and bones, staying abreast of Queen Minuet on hers. “I can’t believe her grit,” he thought, pretending not to glance aside at her. “She’s almost serene, all decked out in her gleaming armor astride Vindicator’s snow-white twin sister.”

“Captain,” said Minuet. “look yonder, by the dead tree. Could that possibly be…?”

“Ol’ Brutus?” he said with a grunt, as he dismounted to go see. “Oh, you got that one right first try, Your Majesty. Has to be, head and all. Right where King Hebraun left him, though someone’s been along in the last day or two and smashed him up pretty good. And that someone probably knew him, don’t you reckon? Well, I mean Brutus was one of those as never could get beat up enough to match what he had a-coming to him…”

Minuet dismounted and removed her helm, letting fly her fiery red hair in the breeze. “Did you think to pick out a bivouac on the way down here, Captain?” she said as she thoughtfully rocked back and forth Brutus’s smashed hauberk, gorget and breastplate with her toe. “I realize it’s early.”

“I’m afraid not, Your Majesty, for as you said…”

“Well what I need for you to do is to position them out of sight over that rise, yonder and come right back here without them. It doesn’t matter how you do it.”

Bernard left her where she was and set about at once getting the troop beyond the rise. Presently he returned to find her carefully examining the smashed skull and helm.

“Well,” she said, standing up and brushing her hands as he dismounted, “guess what? There are some person’s tracks all over, which I think you already noticed, but did you see the bird tracks? Big ones and little ones. Come look. Couldn’t they be crow and sparrow? And here’s a nice big black feather.”

“Oh, that’s them. I’m surprised that this amount of smashing up Brutus’s remains is all…” Suddenly he had lost track and was gaping at what Minuet was doing.

She knelt and slapped the helm, leaving her coronary seal glowing and smoking in the metal. She set it beside the rest of the armor and smacked breastplate as well, leaving her seal to glow and turn blue as it cooled.

“My!” said Bernard, shifting to his other foot. “That’s…”

“Ffwrdd a ni!” she roared, springing to her feet with a fling of her arms, sending the armor leaping into the sky to shoot away south beyond the horizon.

Bernard looked wide eyed and pale.

“I didn’t mean to alarm you, Captain. I just thought Brutus should return to his queen. Do you think she will be pleased?”

“You sent those bones and armor clean back to Castle Goll?”

“They’re already there.”

“Oh!” he said with a spreading grin. “I think that was a right noble gesture, Your Majesty.”

“Yes. And it’s between us. That’s why you moved the troop.”

“I always knew you were Razzmorten’s daughter, but I swear I never knew…”

“I vowed not to use my powers as queen, Captain, but their time has come, and I don’t The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_Kindlewant it known, yet. Did you give the order to bivouac?”

“No.”

“Then let’s go. This is no place for us to be. We might actually have enough light to stop at Ash Fork and pay our respects to Hebraun.”

Ch. 22, The Burgeoning

 

Carol and Tom Phipps

Spitemorta Has a Tantrum

 

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

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

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

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

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

“Anything else, Your Omnipotence?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Now!” hollered Spitemorta.

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

“So? Send him in.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Your Omnipotence?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Osulf. So?”

“Well, Osulf claims the throne.”

“What?”

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

“Shut up!” screeched Spitemorta.

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

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

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

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

Irmen jerked back from his skinweler and rubbed his temples.

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

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

“I’ll be right there…”

 

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

Doom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Heart of the Staff Complete Series Box (1)

 

Razzmorten Finds Ngerrk-ga

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Razzmorten appeared on a lonely beach amongst the cries of terns, just as a wave soaked his feet, sending small snails vanishing into the sand as it rushed back to sea. A beached jellyfish glistened in the mid-morning sun. He stepped away from the water and scooped up a double handful of shells to admire for a moment before squinting under his hand at the arid hills of white limestone dotted with grey shrubs which lay inland. He pulled out his scrying ball from his shoulder bag and squatted in the sand to stare into it, shaded by the brim of his pointed hat. At once he was underway through the marram grass, making straight for the hills.

By the time the sun was overhead, he had crossed over three great ridges of hills. A savannah sparrow called nearby. He paused to mop his brow and look about as he felt of the ball in his bag. “Maybe I need another peek,” he said. Suddenly he held his breath.
“Could that be children?” A pebble skittered across the rocks at his feet, just as he spied a
curly haired head slipping behind some rocks. He heard hushed giggling. “Hello?’ he
hollered.

There was dead silence.

“Hello? Is someone there?”

“Mamin!” cried a brave naked boy, prancing into view.

“Mamin! Mamin!” shouted another, “Dirdawung, mamin lamang gahan!”

“Menuny mamin mawu ga-yu-ma wutjjurrh-ma!” cried a girl, taller than the others, leaping to her feet.

Soon there were eight naked children dancing around him, just out of reach, chanting sing-song: “Ma-min…ma-min…ma-min…” After a bit of this, they took turns crying: “Mamin!” as they leaped forth to tug at his clothes and jump back as if he would bite.

“I say,” cried Razzmorten, looking ’round about, “would you all be Ngop?”

The children broke out in such laughter that they could scarcely stay on their feet.

“If you all are Ngop, could you take me to Dort-da?” he said, nodding with wide eyes of encouragement. At this, a middle-sized girl with the merriest eyes of all dashed up and began yanking and pulling on his arm. He followed her at once.

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Up through the next ridge of hills they led him, pattering through the dust and rocks, until they came to a wide dusty valley. The merry eyed girl kept a relentlessly tight grip on his hand, pulling him along through the dust and shrubs as they came to scattered acacia trees with ruminating cows bedded down everywhere in the shade. He could see low domed mud huts in the thickest of the trees. At the far end of them against the rocks of a limestone bluff was a whitewashed hut, larger than all the others. They hurried with
him, straight up to it. “Dort-da! Dort-da!” they shouted. And the next thing he knew, he
was standing in front of the hut’s triangular door without a child in sight. As he was
glancing here and there at the paintings of animals chasing each other across the breadth
of the whitewash, trying to gather his thoughts, Dort-da stepped into the light, adjusting
his long gourd cod piece. For a moment he looked as though he had been asleep.
Suddenly he smiled. “Razzmorten!” he cried. “It’s been ages since Hanter Koadou. Come
inside.”

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Razzmorten removed his hat and followed Dort-da inside, finding that ducking was scarcely enough to navigate a triangular doorway. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust. “Why, it’s as cool as a cellar in here,” he said.

“Sit here,” said Dort-da, giving a slap to one of several fat rolls of blankets on the floor in front of a great chair made of cow bones. He sat in the chair and crossed his legs. He clapped his hands and a girl clad only in a skirt appeared with a jug of water and two large cow horns. He took the first drink and nodded at Razzmorten. “What brings you
here?”

“It wasn’t too many years before our meeting at Hanter Koadou that there was a great plague which swept through the Dark Continent…”

“Douar-Noz might be better,” said Dort-da. “The house of Dark hadn’t taken over yet.”

“Certainly,” said Razzmorten carefully. “So, when the plague swept through Douar-Noz, of course, it killed thousands upon untold thousands of people, including my progenitor, the First Wizard, who was visiting here at the time. It killed half the people living here as well as half the people on the Northern Continent. Well, I’ve just heard that when the plague came, not a single Ngop died from it. Is that true?”

“Has the plague returned after all this time to Norz-Meurzouar?”

“Yes. One and by now, maybe two have died at Castle Niarg.”

“Who brought it?” said Dort-da as he studied the backs of his hands. “Do you know where it came from?”

“Far,” said Razzmorten, keenly aware that Dort-da was being careful. “The one who died just before I left was a retainer of Princess Branwen of the House of Far. I have no idea how many have died there.”

“I’ve only heard of them a time or two. Do you know if they trade with the Gwaels of Gwaremm?”

“The last I knew, the Gwaels made them uneasy…”

“We have a lot to lose Razzmorten, but you convinced me years ago at Hanter Koadou that you have a true heart. You need to see Ngerrk-ga. His dreams are strong. If he doesn’t want to help you, you are not to return here until seven years after this new plague has run its course.” Dort-da studied Razzmorten carefully for a moment, then clapped once more. The young woman appeared with more water. “Nu-jabing-nga,” he said. “Razzmorten-ga-ndi lahan Ngerrk-ga.”

“Nu-jabing-nga quickly set down her jug. “Di-nya,” she said, motioning to Razzmorten with a nod. “Di-nya.” Waving him on, she disappeared out the door.

Razzmorten bowed to Dort-da, thanked him and hurried out into the heat and blinding light to find Nu-jabing-nga. He saw her at once, but found her even more difficult to keep up with than the children. He had to jog to catch her before she disappeared beyond the huts along the meandering path in the thorny wait-a-bit bushes that the Ngop used for fences which ran along the limestone bluff from acacia tree to acacia tree for a very long way, sticking up in the roasting heat like great parasols which gave shade to the resting cattle who languidly chewed their cuds and swished at flies, watching them pass.

At last the path rose into a break in the bluff which led to an isolated mud hut, whitewashed and covered with red ochre hand prints in the shade of a pair of especiallyboiling-cauldron
large acacias. Ngerrk-ga was out front with his back to them on his knees feeding the fire under a large kettle that he was stirring. Nu-jabing-nga held her finger to her lips and motioned for Razzmorten to sit on the ground at Ngerrk-ga’s back before grabbing her nose and dashing away, back down the path. Ngerrk-ga went right on stirring as if no one had arrived at all, chanting quietly: “Nja-min-ah… nja-min-ah… nja-min-ah… nja-min-ah…”

“Fates forbid!” thought Razzmorten. “I hope he notices me before I pass out from the

Good_Sister,_Bad_Sis_Cover_for_Kindlesmell!”

Ch. 2, Good Sister, Bad Sister

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps