Minuet is a Lucky Woman

 

Hebraun collapsed onto the goose down settee beside Minuet in their private parlour. “I thought you’d already knitted a blanket, sweater, cap and booties for the baby,” he said, glancing aside at her.

“You’ve been paying attention,” said Minuet. “And I certainly did, but they were all blue.”

“So, you suddenly don’t like blue?”

“Oh Hebraun. You know that blue is for newborn boys. What if it turns out to be a girl?”

“Well, she’ll no doubt look cute as a button in blue.”

“Certainly, but the best dressed newborn baby girls wear pink.”

“Do they? Who says so?”

“Well everybody.”

“So, if you give Lukus and Soraya gifts that are blue and they have a girl, whom everyone must see in pink, then they won’t let us be grandparents?”

“Stop teasing me,” giggled Minuet.

“I’d never tease you, darling,” he said with twinkling eyes amidst his dead serious face.

She knew, of course. “I guess it does seem silly, but, this is our very first grandchild,” she said as she put aside her knitting. “It doesn’t seem possible. Just yesterday I was knitting for Lukus, Hebraun. And the day before that, Rose. I certainly don’t feel like a grandmother.”

“Nor do you look it my sweet,” he said, with admiration in his eyes, before looking away with a sigh. “On the other hand, I’m not only beginning to feel it, I’m beginning to look it. Grandfather that is. Old.”

“I’ve never heard you say such a thing before,” she said with wide eyes as she brushed back a strand of hair from his cheek. She knew that the talk flying ’round the kingdom was getting much worse, particularly since it was now fall and no cure had been found for the blight affecting the kingdom’s crops. She bit her lip. “Surely everyone knows that if it comes to it, the grain in the crown’s bins will be distributed to them to see them through the winter, right?”

“That was today’s discovery,” he said with a haunted look. “It’s all tainted. It has some kind of strange powdery mildew growing on it, every bushel of it.”

“That evil, evil woman!” she cried, springing to her feet. “Even Ugleeuh was never so vile.”

Hebraun rose and put his arm around her. “We’ve no proof that Spitemorta has done anything, Minuet. You know that.”

“And we’re not going to get any, either. Not for magic. There’ll be no physical traces at all. She’d had to have been caught in the act. This is a very dry year. There’s no way that any granaries could possibly spoil on their own. They checked the wheat?”

“Yes, right after the barley…”

“And the rye?”

“Yes…”

“Millet?”

“Yes. And the bean stores are the worst of all.”

“So, it’s been done.”

“It looks that way, said Hebraun. “The only option left to us is to purchase enough grain from our allies to survive the winter, it seems.”

“And hope that Spitemorta doesn’t get wind of it.”

“Well, someone with magical abilities could keep watch over the new stuff, now that we know.” He sank back onto the settee. “I hope your father returns soon, Minuet. I’m beginning to think Niarg won’t survive without his help.”

Minuet rubbed his shoulders. “You’ll manage, love, you always do. Everyone’s upset right now, but when it comes to it, they’ll remember how you’ve always stood by them and seen to their needs even above your own. You’ll see.”

Minuet always made him feel better. “You know,” he said, with a new twinkle in his eye, “you’d make some lucky fellow a mighty fine wife, my lady. Would you marry me?”

“Oh I would, sir,” she said with a laugh, “except that I’m already married to the finest man I’ve ever known.”

“Well, he’s a lucky fellow.”

“Yes, and I’m a lucky woman,” she said pulling him onto his feet. “Now, I think it’s time you got some rest, love.”

Hebraun did not argue. He followed her, certain that if left to his own devices he could sleep for a week.

Ch. 29, Stone Heart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

 

 

Spark the Father

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What have you asked Edward?”

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

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

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

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

“Oh?”

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

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

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

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

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

 Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

 

Who is Abaddon?

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Abaddon is the son of King James of Loxmere and the witch queen Spitemorta of Goll. He is also the great-grandson of the fearsome Demonica, the most powerful sorceress of all time. 

Stone_Heart_Cover_for_KindleDemonica abandoned Spitemorta’s mother Ugleeuh at birth and returned to her keep across the sea in Head to continue her pursuit of power through her fortune in mines and arms. She has long dreamed of ruling the world, but she knows that in order to do that, she will need the Great The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_KindleStaff of Power and its Crystal Heart. When she hears that her very granddaughter has the Staff in Stone Heart, she becomes Abaddon’s nanny. In time, she and Spitemorta leave Abaddon in the care of King James and go off on a hunt to find the Heart. Whilst120904655645652 they are away, James discovers that Spitemorta is a witch and that her influence over Abaddon is evil. In an effort to save him in The Burgeoning, he has his steward Lance hide Abaddon. When The Reaper Witch 01 copySpitemorta finds out, she tortures James and puts him in the dungeon.       

Lance takes Abaddon to his childhood home in Mount Bedd to see the Fairy sisters who raised him. They find Abaddon to be dark and troubled and in the sway of the Pitmaster, but under their influence he decides to help Lance find King James and get him to safety, out of Spitemorta’s reach and thereby begins a transformation which continues throughout The Reaper Witch and eventually turns him into a hero.

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Who is Spark?

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 Spark is a fireless, featherless and flightless dragon, the husband of Lipperella and the father of Good_Sister,_Bad_Sis_Cover_for_KindleLaora. Spark and Lipperella were rendered featherless by the wizard Razzorbauch and the sorceress Demonica when they rounded up most of the dragons in the Mammvro of the Dark Continent and hauled them across the sea to harvest sukere on Razzorbauch’s vast plantation on the Northern Continent in Good Sister, Bad Sister.

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Spark’s firelessness was considered contemptible by the other dragons for a time and he was exiled to the Peppermint Forest prior to The Collector Witch. After the death of Razzorbauch, he returned and marriedStone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle the dragon clan’s Truth Teller, Lipperella. By a fortunate accident, neither Spark nor Lipperella were rendered sterile when they lost their feathers, as were the rest of the dragons, so they were able to produce the only offspring possible for the entire clan, in Stone Heart. And without Razzorbauch’s terrible spells, these offspring had feathers and could fly.

The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_KindleSpark and Lipperella became instrumental in coaxing the dragons to give up hating humans and to become important allies of the The Reaper Witch 01 copyKingdom of Niarg and formidable foes of Queen Spitemorta in The BurgeoningThe Reaper Witch and in Doomthe final book of the Heart of the Staff series.

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Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Ceidwad the Diatryma Reads Wizard Razzmorten’s Comatose Mind

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Without a word, Arwr, Lladdwr and Ceidwad sped away, pat, pat, patting over the leaves with Tors galloping furiously to keep up. Arwr lead them single file along the beginnings of a creek that was soon flanked with rock outcroppings which before long formed a deep hollow. Without the slightest hesitation to puzzle over landmarks, he took them directly to the foot of a huge sheer faced bluff of slate grey rocks which formed an overhang several rods long. At the back of the overhang a small cave ran in under the rock. In short order they had Razzmorten and Mary laid out on pallets of leaves.

Lukus knelt by Razzmorten and laid his hand on the old fellow’s forehead. He closed his eyes and quickly set about calming himself as he had been taught in order to readyFotolia_74796694_Subscription_Monthly_M CROPHEAD his magical energies to flow into his grandfather. He let these drain away until he began feeling the inevitable exhaustion which signaled where he must stop. He had no choice now but to rest before going any further. He opened his eyes and studied Razzmorten for any sign of success. He shook his head in weary dismay as he looked up at the hopeful faces gathered ’round him.

“I see no change at all,” he said. “I’ll have to eat and rest a bit, before I can try again.” He stood up on wobbly legs and clenched his teeth. “I can find nothing wrong with him at all. I wish I could read his mind. Then he could tell me what’s wrong.”

“I can do that for you,” said Ceidwad, lowering her head to peer into the cave.

“You diatrymas read minds?” he said, suddenly thinking about what she was saying.

“Yes.”

“But why didn’t you say so long before now?” he said before realizing that he just might sound as though he were making accusations.

“It wasn’t possible with us fleeing for our lives,” she said solemnly. “Mind to mind contact 4F14BB4B9with one who is unconscious is delicate business. It takes time and it’s always best
to see if the unconsciousness one will come around on his own.”

“Why? said Lukus. “Is it dangerous?”

“Not done right, no.”

“So you have a certain expertise?” he said, glancing at Rose.

“I’d not attempt such a thing without being confident. Of course, I’ll only proceed if you wish.”

Lukus looked at Rose. She turned aside to Fuzz and Myrtlbell who each nodded encouragingly.

“Please do, Ceidwad,” said Lukus. “We’ll never know unless you do.”

“Then please carry him to the mouth of the cave,” she said, “we never go inside.”

As soon as they got him moved, she slowly settled onto her keel, fluffed her feathers and gently laid her huge ebony beak across his forehead. After shifting her head a little, this way and that, she blinked a couple of times and then closed her eyes. Hubba Hubba leant so far forward on Rose’s shoulder while watching that he tumbled off and landed on the cave floor with a feathery plop. Pebbles flew down beside him as he picked himself up and gave a shake of his feathers. Taflu snickered, but sobered at once at a look from Fuzz.

images“Do all diatrymas read minds, Lladdwr?” whispered Rose.

“Generally only the hens amongst us,” he said softly. “They listen in on the dreams of our eggs and thereafter they keep track of the chicks in dead silence in the face of danger and while they forage.”

“Then her mind reading won’t heal?”

“I’m afraid it doesn’t, at least nothing beyond the reassurance it gives. But Ceidwad will be able to tell you what ails them and find out what needs to be done.”

At last, Ceidwad stood up and turned to face everyone, singling out Rose and Lukus.

“Your grandfather will survive and will indeed wake up in due time,” she said, “but I’ve no idea at all how long that will be. Those bolts from the sorceresses were much like lightening. If one is struck by lightening, he either dies right then and there or he’s left in a coma for who knows how long. Could be just a few hours; could be days. They got big jolts. Your Grandfather believes that they are both very lucky to have survived. They should be dead. In fact, he wonders if Demonica and Spitemorta deliberately let them live for some reason. So there’s no damage, but I’d allow that he’ll be asleep for some time to come.”

“Oh thank you!” said Rose, as she hugged Ceidwad, muffling a sob in her fluffy neck feathers “You’ve spared us so much worry.”

Ceidwad rattled her beak through Rose’s hair as Hubba Hubba hopped onto Razzmorten’s chest and walked up his beard to point one eye at his face. He stood there for a moment, then trotted back down his beard and flew to Lukus’s shoulder. “He doesn’t look any different at all, Lukus.”

“I’m not worried now,” said Lukus as he scratched Hubba Hubba’s head. “Two very wise birds have just told us he’ll recover, so I know he will.”Stone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle

“Righty-o!” he said with a proud flap of his wings and a whistle. He shook his feathers. “Now you’re catching on.”

“Absolutely,” said Lukus.

Ch. 19, Stone Heart 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

 

Hubba Hubba and Pebbles Find Unicorns

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“I know you tried Wiz, but this is disgusting,” said Hubba Hubba, jerking back with a drool-flinging shake of his beak and ruffled feathers. “What are you eating, giant stinking sow bugs or what?”

Shelled-Fresh-Shrimps

“That’s shrimp, Hubba Hubba,” said Razzmorten.

“It’s out of the sea, you silly bird, not out from under some old rotting board in a barn lot,” said Lukus with a laugh, as everyone else broke out with titters.

“All right, all right,” said Hubba Hubba, as Pebbles stepped back from hers with watery eyes andamazon_sammy wiped her beak. “Dogs gobble up much worse, and they don’t know any better than to offer you ones the same rot they eat. I’m sorry Wiz, you’ve just got me gagging, here.”

“What did you find?” said Razzmorten quickly to spare Hubba Hubba’s feelings.

“That old Elf has four unicorns in a large paddock near the wharf where his fishing boat is docked. He’d just come in with his catch and was at the fence giving them a scratch, when we lit and asked him if he was Kie. He answered to it, but we sure gave him a start. It might have been dangerous to do but it was quick. Anyway, he does have unicorns to sell and he’ll be there if we don’t fool around.”

“Very good, you two,” said Razzmorten, as he gave them each a scratch.

In short order they were on their way to Fen, on a sand swept lane meandering along the coast just inland from the furthest reaches of the high tide. Rose and Fuzz rode Mystique through the saw grass to follow along on the beach for a spell. Sandpipers trotted ahead. Crabs scuttled sideways into holes. Rose rested her head against Fuzz’s shoulders and gave him a squeeze. Soon they were dismounting in front of a cottage that smelt vaguely of rotting fish, where Hubba Hubba and Pebbles circled overhead.

They found the Elf feeding his unicorns. “Hoy there, Kie!” called Razzmorten. We are travelers on our way to see King Neron, and we’d like very much to purchase two of your unicorns to speed us over the mountains, if you’ve any for sale.”

امازون دبل يلو“How is it that you and your green birds know my name and I know not yours?” said Kie, pushing back his floppy hat with a squint as he spit across the fence.

“A young fellow by the name of Galor told us about you, sir,” said Fuzz.

“Good lad,” said Kie, shifting his chew into his other cheek as he put his foot on the fence. “Well folks, I really hadn’t planned on selling these unicorns. You know they’re my pets, I’m afraid. I’ve had these here since they were colts.”

“Oh she’s darling,” said Rose as she scratched a short-legged one who had just come to investigate. “We’ll take good care of them, sir.”

Ch. 29, Stone Heart  Stone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

 

 

Who is Yann-Ber?

 

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Yann-Ber is born a prince, the eldest son of Azenor of the House of Dark, the emperor of Head (Pennvro) and the Dark Empire. He is a bright and prodigal child, doted upon by hisMeeting-Place-Nov03-D4267sAR father and destined to sit on the throne. He grows into a dashing and handsome young man who marries Princess Yuna of the House of Egg (Vi), who by astonishing luck happens to be his childhood sweetheart. Mere weeks into his marriage, the sorceress Demonica casts a spell on him, taking him away from her.

castles_fortress_rock_the_hill_castle_on_10_desktop_1920x1080_hd-wallpaper-489720Demonica is shrewd and ruthless, an heiress of a vast fortune in mines. For generations, she has manipulated the throne of the Dark Empire from the shadows by providing ships, arms or mercenary armies at opportune moments, keeping it perpetually indebted to her. She marries Yann-Ber hoping to eventually sit on the throne.

In spite of his dependency upon her, Azenor fears Demonica and disinherits Yann-Ber. Demonica regards Yann-Ber with cruel disdain from that moment on. She eventually catches him with another woman and casts a crippling spell of boils upon him, and sends him out on desperate forays to find the Great Staff of Power. He eventually locates it in Stone Heart, only to have her reward him by promising that he will die after another year of horrible torment from the spell.

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Yann-Ber sets out for Niarg at once to find the wizard Razzmorten. Perhaps he can undo her curse.

 

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Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Minuet Sees King Hebraun off to Battle

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“Begging your pardon, sire,” said Dunvel as he shifted from foot to foot, “but shouldn’t we be on our way?”

“Polite all at once are we?” said Hebraun without bothering to look at him. Presently Minuet swept back into the room with Herio, who was now completely composed and wearing some of Lukus’s old clothes. She took her seat immediately as she guided Herio to stand right beside her. She took up Hebraun’s hand and squeezed it. They held each other’s eyes for several heartbeats of understanding and then turned as one to look at Dunvel.

Hebraun rose from his throne without a word and drew Minuet up to stand beside him. He nodded ever so slightly at his guards before fixing his eyes on Dunvel.

“See him to the courtyard and wait for me there,” he said as they stepped up to surround Dunvel.

Dunvel shamelessly flung a conceited look at Herio as he turned to go.

giphyHebraun spared a kindly glance at Herio and then took both of Minuet’s hands and looked into her eyes. “I love you more than words can tell,” he said.

“And I love you,” she said as they squeezed hands.

Hebraun stepped smartly from the dais with her, as Herio scrambled to follow, out into the courtyard where the guards waited with Dunvel.

He paused by Vindicator, his huge white march streiciwr brenhinol stallion unicorn and kissed Minuet farewell. He quickly found his stirrup, threw his leg over his mount and looked down at Herio. “I need you to stay here to protect the queen.”

Herio drew himself up and nodded fiercely as Minuet drew him to her side.

“Besides,” said Hebraun as he gave a beady-eyed nod at Dunvel, “You might want to testify when that thing has its trial.”

Herio’s eyes flashed as he nodded and stood proudly beside his queen.

Hebraun shared one last gaze with Minuet then urged his great white unicorn to the

Queen Minuet

gate and vanished. Herio turned aside to see Minuet’s eyes brimming with tears as she stood tall and proud, making her way back to her duties. He trailed along beside her after pausing to see Dunvel being led away to some place fitting. Herio’s face firmed in resolve. That goblin would share his brother’s fate if he had any say in the matter.

Ch. 47, Stone Heart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Yann-Ber Meets Rotten Mouth

 

Yann-Ber awoke stiff and cold amongst a forest of rotted barrel staves beside the middenstead of a tavern. He was surprised that he had fallen asleep whiling away the afternoon. Moving around was arduous, so when he had felt that he was where it would be convenient to be after dark, he had sat down to spend his time until nightfall. It was now fully dark and the waning moon gave very little light, but that was to his liking. He struggled painfully to his feet and slowly found his way around to the front of the tavern where he hoped to find leads to the wizard.

He stood in the shadows near enough to the street that he could make out the name, “Black Dragon” on the sign bearing a relief carving of a dragon that hung out over the street in front of the door.In a short time that seemed like a small eternity to him, one of the patrons staggered out into the street. There was no doubt that the man was quite drunk.

“Good sir!” called out Yann-Ber, as he limped out of the shadows. “I was wondering if you could tell me where I might be able find this fellow I’m a-looking for?”

The drunk stopped short and swayed as he squinted into the darkness. “Well, doggone it!” he called out, as he jerked at his own posture. “Who the ding-dong blazes is there? Show yourself and maybe I can.”

“Sir,” said Yann-Ber, coming closer. “There’s a fellow, maybe you could help me find…”

“Well, damn!” declared the drunk in a tone that sounded like recognition. “Damned if you don’t sound like someone who just got off the boat from Head. Now Head! You don’t say. So, you’re from Head?”

“Actually I am. You’re quite observant.” Yann-Ber had started to hide his face with his hood, but now he could see that the fellow was in such a condition that he wouldn’t be having problems with appearances. “My name is John. John James. I’m right sorry to trouble…”

“Hey. Now tell me. Are you from Head?”

“Yes, as I said…”

“Really? You’re from Head? Well damn.”

“Yes, I just…”

“You got a funny name for a Headlander. John?” The drunk was now steadying himself with a fist full of Yann-Ber’s sleeve. “Hunh! John James. Ought to be Padrig or Remont. Hey, how come you ain’t Jakez?”

“Very well, you’re right, I could be called Yann Jakez in Head, but right now I’m searching for a wizard by the name of Razzmorten…”

“Whoa! Now you don’t fool around…Jakez. Now you just go right to the top.”

“Well, I’d certainly like to. I understand Razzmorten lives in Niarg, but I have no idea where. Have you any idea, good sir?”

The drunk grabbed Yann-Berr’s other sleeve as well. “Hain’t nobody here ’bouts who don’t know whoRazzmorten be,” he cackled through rotten teeth with breath that would have scared the old sow.

“Then,” said Yann-Berr, when he dared breathe again, “you know where I might find him?”A_005_34_Tavern

“Ah! Well sir,” said the drunk, reaching under his filthy shirt to scratch his sallow melon of a belly, “been having a hard time thinking straight without a dram or a pint, you know. Scarcely knew which way home was when I came out here…”

“That’s not hard to imagine, Rotten Mouth,” thought Yann-Ber. “So then,” he said, speaking out grandly. “How would a pint inside suit your memory?” He glanced at the door of the Black Dragon and wondered if they could make it in to a dark corner without the clean and proper going crazy at the sight of them. Rotten Mouth was already happily staggering his way back into the tavern.

Rotten Mouth found a table in a far corner at once. Directly an obese tavern maid came old_medieval_wino_metal_star_by_duster132-d4il9yeby, squinting at them as though she’d prefer dealing with the pair of them at the end of a manure fork, but she took their order adroitly and returned right away with two pints of light dry mead. Rotten Mouth seized his and guzzled it half down before wiping his mouth on his sleeve and speaking: “Razzmorten is the king’s father-in-law. He lives in the tallest tower of Castle Niarg.”

Yann-Ber immediately slid his mead across the table to Rotten Mouth and stood up, carefully adjusting his hood before wending his way out. Outside the doorway, the wind had picked up, rocking the tavern’s sign. Dry leaves skittered along the street. He remembered seeing the castle due west in the daylight. He made straight for it in the darkness, determined not to let his tortured legs so much as pause until he got there.

Yann-Ber meets Rotten Mouth in Ch 8 of Stone Heart, third book of The Heart of the Staff.

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Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps