Lukus Strangles on a Choke Oak Fruit

Rowan

Lukus bounced in his saddle and renewed his interest in their surroundings. There were ironwood and gnarled muscled hornbeam trees all over the flat of the creek bottom near 2004_1024chapel0005the banks, but as he looked, he saw that there imagesbwasn’t a single tree of any kind, not even a sapling, that was not bent and twisted into some horribly unnatural pose. “I’ll declare,” he thought. “How could trees give me the creeps?” He kept seeing ordinary looking leaves on the ground, much like the white oak leaves in Niarg. When he looked overhead to find where they came from, he saw that they weren’t sorbus-decora-fruitoaks at all, but bore brilliantly colored succulent fruits in bunches, each bunch a different bright color. “Fresh fruit and lots of it, just hanging there for the taking. And I think I will,” he said as he steeredSORBUSJOSEPHROCKv2 Starfire toward the nearest tree. Directly he had a handful of the irresistible smelling treats. “Hey Rose!” he hollered. “Come back here and try some of this fruit! They’re better than your old figs! And they’re all different colors!”

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Rose turned Mystique about at the word fruit and came galloping back for his first bite.

sorbus-maderensis-fruit“Wow Rose! This is good,” he said, champing away. “Strange, but real good. It’s got milky white juice which is real bitter but really, really sweet at the same time.” He popped11684990965_4bd7dfdd98_b another one into his mouth and savored his prize. Suddenly his eyes bulged open with strained urgency. He turned frighteningly red as his veins stood out. He wheezed in a gasping panic as though he might explode. And now he was gagging convulsively.

Rose fought down her horror. She sprang from Mystique and mounted Starfire behind TR0000004742_card_lgLukus, who by this time was bent over, turning purple and nearly unconscious. She wrapped her arms around him, mxsa7ep4GuMMZ6APQ6Beb-Agrabbed her fist and yanked, making him cough out chewed fruit all down his front. He slid to the ground and sat there gasping and coughing as tears streamed down his face. Rose knelt beside him, and saw that the inside of his mouth and throat were still swelling. Once she had rinsed out his mouth, he croaked a hoarse thanks for saving him.

1279287337-53793900“Needles! It felt like needles,” he said as he mounted Starfire. “I don’t understand what happened. Those berries weren’t even big enough to get stuck in my throat like that, not to mention fill up my mouth the way they did. My throat hurts.”

“Lukus,” said Rose, “I just remembered something that Grandfather once told me. Sorry I didn’t think of this before now, but I reckon I’d no reason to. He said the berries here were all the different colors of the rainbow. I think the pits can be roasted, but anyone who eats the fruit strangles to death while his windpipe swellsThe_Collector_Witch_Cover_for_Kindle shut. That’s why they’re called chokeberries and this place is called the Chokewood Forest. Those trees are called choke trees or choke oaks, though they aren’t true oaks at all. I guess they grow all over here.”

Ch. 8, The Collector Witch

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

What is the Chokewoods?

Taranaki-Goblin-Forest-1-

The Chokewood Forest is an important part of the setting in each of the books of The Heart of the Staff, Good Sister, Bad Sister, The Collector Witch, Stone Heart

SORBUSJOSEPHROCKv211684990965_4bd7dfdd98_bThe Burgeoning, The Reaper Witch and Doom. It lies south of Goll and Cyclopsia on the Northern Continent. It was created from the vast Forest Primeval by the 3994775_origwizard Razzorbauch when he used the Crystal Heart and the Great Staff to permanently change all of the forest’s black and red oaks images(Quercus velutina L. and Quercus coccinea M.) to the deadly, twisted and gnarled choke oaks (Pseudoquercus horridus R.) to discourage trespass onto his great sukere plantation.6a00e554d7b8278833013485e6499b970c-500wi

Later, the witch Ugleeuh was banished to a small portion of the Chokewoods which she

Scan10021 turned into the Peppermint Forest by magically altering the choke oaks to become peppermint trees (Mentha lignumpiperita R.).

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As if You can Hear the Trees Scream

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The_Collector_Witch_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Minuet Tells Rose to Let Her Heart Decide

Rose and Lukus had been home less than a week, when a page knocked on her door and announced the arrival of Prince James. Rose’s heart fell at this. “I shall meet him directly, in the second drawing room off the dining hall,” she said with a quiver to her voice that she didn’t expect.

“Very good, Your Highness,” said the page. “I shall convey this at once.”

Just as she was about to go out the door, Minuet arrived with an encouraging smile. “Rose, your Father and I have discussed your marriage at length since your return. We’ve decided that if you still find James objectionable after you’ve seen him, we’ll make some sort of reparation to King Edmond and cancel the wedding.”

“But…you said that such an action might start a war.”

“Anything’s possible, but we think that war is very unlikely for the time being. King Edmond would fare very badly in a war and frankly, a tidy windfall might be exceedingly beneficial to him.”

“Why Mother, what’s happened in Loxmere?”

“It’s a right lengthy tale, I’m afraid,” said Minuet as she put her arm around Rose and walked her out the door and down the stairs. “There’s no time now. James awaits. Go to him, and let your heart and nothing else decide, Rose.”

Rose hugged her and hurried through the dining hall to the drawing room, relieved to be able to make short work of her childhood nightmare. She entered softly. There was James, standing with his back to her, warming his hands at the fireplace. She studied him
for a moment. “He’s certainly not the short, pudgy thing he used to be,” she thought. “James?” she said.

Ch. 30, The Collector Witch    

“O-ooh! That arrogant, dimwitted pig boy!” said Rose between breaths, at the top of the spiraled staircase. “How could I ever have believed he’d changed?”

“Rose?” said King Hebraun softly, making her gasp and jump.

She’d not seen Minuet and him following her all the way up. She turned to face them and panicked. What could she say to them? She began at once in trembling dismay, telling them everything as they carefully listened.

“…And so,” she said with a tremulous heave, “I told him I’d not marry him now, or ever.” She looked at their faces with tears filling her eyes and added a squeaky: “I’m so sorry!”

“Rose,” said Hebraun. “it sounds to me as though you handled the situation in the only responsible and sensible way possible. Your Mother and I stand behind your decision completely. The timing might be a bit awkward, considering the large numbers of guests who’ve already arrived…”

“Hebraun!” said Minuet, as Rose’s tears brimmed over and ran down her cheeks.

Hebraun went wide eyed and quickly gave Rose a shoulder to cry on.

“Hey!” cried Lukus, charging to the top of the stairs, full of dash from having just been with Soraya. “How come you all are up here? Oh!” He saw Rose’s reddened eyes. “So what’s going on?”

“I told James I’m not going to marry him, Lukus,” she said over her handkerchief. “The wedding’s off.”

“No! It’s…no! Rose, you’re making this up, right?” he said. Of course he could see that she was not. “Whoa! So what happened? Is James the same old pea-slinging gwrtaith he always was, Rose?”

“Lukus!” cried Minuet. “Walls have ears.”

Hebraun jerked his finger to his lips.

Rose nodded. “Lukus is right!”

“I am? You mean to say he actually shot peas at you? If he did, do you want me to…?”

“Lukus! If you’re not teasing, don’t be so dim. If you are, I’ve just been through too much. You’re about to become betrothed yourself, so I’d think that you’d…”

“That’s it!” cried Hebraun, giving Minuet a jubilant nod of resolution. “Where did anyone last see King Neron?”

“I left Soraya at his chamber, just now,” said Lukus. “I think they might be taking a stroll out by the big fountain.”

Ch. 31, The Collector Witch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Who is Spark?

Sinornithosaurus_mag

 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

Wizard Razzmorten sets out to Ease Hubba Hubba’s Mind

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Razzmorten drew back the tall heavy curtain and tied it before stepping off the stool with a bound. Hubba Hubba winced at the sudden light. Razzmorten drug the screeching stool across the stone floor to the far side of the window before lunging onto it with one leg to grab for the other drape and tie it back. Hubba Hubba ruffled and shook off some of his stupor to glare resentfully at Razzmorten’s cheery endeavors. He vastly preferred his wonderful dream about Pebbles to this blinding sunlight. “Thank you, old fart,” he thought, settling his beak into his breast feathers with a shake of his head.

“What a beautiful day,” declared Razzmorten as he peered out the window and took a deep breath.

“Yea. It will be when you close the drapes again,” thought Hubba Hubba, as he wiggled his beak further into his breast feathers to close his eyes.

“What would you like for breakfast, fruit or vegetables?” said Razmorten. “Maybe some whole grain porridge?”

“I’m not hungry,” rattled Hubba Hubba from beneath his ruffled crown feathers.

“I see. Are you not feeling well? Perhaps if you tell me just how it is that you feel poorly, I could mix up something for you.”

By this time all the sparrows had come closer to listen. Hubba Hubba shook his feathers, flinging dander into the sunlight. Suddenly he sleeked down, pointing himself at them. “Now there are six nosey pests, rather than three. Do I need this? Well, I’ll tell ye: no, I do not. And if you want to know what I do want, I’d just like to be left alone for a change. Peace and quiet. Is that too much? Go build your nests. Beat it!”

“Wrong side of his perch this morning, wouldn’t you say?” said Razzmorten, sharing wide eyes with the sparrows. “I doubt that he’ll be very proud of his outburst after he’s had two shakes to consider things. Let’s just leave him to himself for a bit.” The sparrows flitted back to what they had been doing at their nests, while Razzmorten went to his bedroom to read, leaving Hubba Hubba to mumble by himself.

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“Lot o’ ‘preciation he has,” he rattled from the very most guttural reaches of his crop. “Here I make my sacrifices, bringing messages about his grandchildren. And respect. I mean, what kind of respect is it to blind me with light and sadistic cheer, and six bouncy
goody-goody little slaves to rub it in? Six instead of three. I’m not getting twice as much
respect and service, here.” With a huff and an especially thorough shake of feathers, he
turned his back on the brilliant morning and closed his eyes in search of his dream about
Pebbles.

“This isn’t working,” he thought. “Why don’t those bean brained sparrows shut up? ‘Tweety, tweety, tweet…!’ Great boundless Joy! The local twitterpates are jabbering all over outside. This is not working.” He turned back to point himself at the window. “I’ll go tell them!” He paused, straightening up to shuffle from side to side. “Whoa! Too far to the sill.” But now he was making lunging thrusts at the window at each end of his perch, and he was starting to flap his wings. Now he was flapping furiously. At the fleeting thought of Razzmorten’s suggestion of exercise, he let go. Before he could quite appreciate that he was truly aloft, his feet were planting themselves upon the warm stone window sill. He’d made it, and he wasn’t even breathing hard. He forgot all about sleep. He looked to see if the sparrows had seen. They had. Six heads, each gawking broadside, had stopped in astonishment to take in his unexpected feat. They ducked out of sight into their nests at once.

“Hey! You ones!” he called out. “It’s all right! I’m not upset. In fact, I’m sorry about the things I said earlier. Really. Aw come on! Can’t a fellow have a bad mood once in a while?”

Head by head they reappeared in shocked wonder. “That’s the first time that you’ve ever apologized for your nasty tongue,” chirped Tweet.

“Yea? Maybe so. Think there’s some hope for me after all?”

“May be,” tweeted Squeak, “but you still have a huge way to go.”

“Maybe you’re right, but old habits die hard, don’t you know. Give me some slack. I’m working on it.”

“Hey, the master’s developing humility,” squeaked Chirp. “And by the way, nice flight.”

Hubba Hubba made an aloof about-face hop on the window sill, but he was beaming at the compliment. He fluffed up and preened here and there and then gave himself a thorough 5238538447_ef45b254a9shake. When he smoothed down his plumage, he discovered that his black feathers had already gotten quite warm in the sun. He basked, letting his mind wander to pleasant images of Pebbles. After a good long spell in the mesmerizing warmth, he even fancied he saw her in a nearby apple tree. It was almost as though he heard her say: “I love you. C’mere.” It was so real that he found himself out the window, winging towards the apple tree. “My!” he said, coming to his wits. “I guess there’s nothing for it but to see if I can actually make it to that tree.” It was nearly a furlong away, but it was a downhill glide from Razzmorten’s tower, and he dutifully flapped his wings the whole distance. The next thing he knew, he was landing on a broad limb right beside the very love of his life. This was no daydream at all.

Pebbles however, was not charmed by his arrival. She fluffed up as huge as possible and shrank her pupils to pinholes, making her eyes fiery red. “Bad boy! Bad boy!” she called out, madly wheeling and strutting back and forth. “Minuet! Minuet! Please get rid of this bad boy!”

“Hubba Hubba!” cried Minuet, as she looked up from her chair in the shade. “You can fly again. Wonderful! Come down here and see me. Pay no mind to Pebbles. She’s just being a brat.”

Just then, he looked beyond Minuet into the courtyard and saw a personage who made him go apoplectically faint. She was sitting calmly with two strangers and King Hebraun. “What are you doing here, Ugleeuh?” he croaked, as his heart pounded in his chest. By now everyone was looking right at him, and he shrank back into the leaves.

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“Is this filthy bird yours?” cried Ugleeuh, spitting with scorn as she sprang to her feet. “And how dare he call me ugly! You should have him destroyed this minute.” The two strangers rushed to her at once, attempting to soothe her.

This was too much for Hubba Hubba. “Help! Help! Help!” he cawed as he leaped into the air, flapping madly for Razzmorten’s tower. He had no problem making straight for the window, but loft was a poser. He thought his heart and lungs were both going to burst before he got far enough up to fly in. He banged his keel painfully on the sill, sending him inside in a tumble of feathers to smack into his perch, knocking it over with a crash before skittering to a sliding halt on the tabletop. Razzmorten burst into the room, quite wide eyed.

“Sorry for the mess, Wiz,” croaked Hubba Hubba, as he heaved and gasped for wind. “But Ugleeuh’s down there in the garden with the king and queen and a couple of strangers. There’s no telling what she came here for, but you know it ain’t good. And now
that she’s seen me, she wants me destroyed. That’s what chased me back in through the
window. Man! My keel bone hurts. Can’t you get her with some kind of wizard fire from
the window here ‘fore she does something terrible?”

Razzmorten scratched his head thoughtfully, then ambled over to the window and gazed out for long enough to exasperate Hubba Hubba. When he turned around, he was smiling. Hubba Hubba felt a scald of fear rush through this chest, convinced for the moment that Razzmorten had been smitten with a bewitchment by his evil daughter. As the urge seized him to fly back out the window and escape into the countryside, a meaty thump from Fifi’s tail on the floor beside the table completely shattered his resolve. He looked from dog to window and back again, utterly befuddled. At the sight of Razzmorten mildly taking a seat at the table to patiently wait for the arrival of his composure, he opened up his feathers completely, hesitated, then shook himself resolutely and sleeked down. “All right, all right, Wiz!” he said. “I’m ready. End my confusion. Hey! This is real anxiety I’m suffering from, don’t you know.”

“The young woman out there does indeed look like the very picture of Ugleeuh, years ago,” said Razzmorten, not smiling at Hubba Hubba’s consternation. “She looks enough like Ugleeuh to be her twin, removed in time. Even her behavior, they act alike. In fact, I was so taken by this that I went to great pains to determine if she wasn’t under some divination, some spell to condemn her to a life as Ugleeuh’s echo, but I found no such spell. She truly seems to be one of those once in a millennium coincidences. She’s Princess Spitemorta of Goll. She’s come here with her parents in hopes of making an alliance marriage with Lukus to unite Niarg and their realm. You’ve no reason to fear anything.”

“Maybe we have another coincidence here, Wiz. This girl said she wanted me destroyed, remember? Why would some total stranger do that? Hey, I’m a bird! Threats to my life leave a lasting impression, and her impression feels just like Ugleeuh. That’s my reason.”

“You don’t deserve to be so upset. Why don’t I just go down there and see what’s going on? Would that ease your mind?”The_Collector_Witch_Cover_for_Kindle

Hubba Hubba looked very doubtful, but Razzmorten was already on his way out the door. “Wiz!” he cawed out. “Be careful! And hey, take Miss Toothyface, here, why don’t you?”

“I’m sure I can handle it myself,” said Razzmorten, tossing back a wide-eyed smile as the door went closed.

Ch. 23, The Collector Witch

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Who is Razzmorten?

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Razzmorten Dewin, the good wizard who is an important player throughout our epic series Heart of the Staff, is born to the First Wizard and his mistress Gwenyth, three hundred and fifty years before his grandchildren, Rose and Lukus of the House of Niarg. The First Wizard wielded enormous magical power because his father was an Elf and his mother was a Human (a race of human in our use). Razzmorten’s twin brother is the evil wizard Razzorbauch, who turns the Forest Primeval into the Chokewoods and himself into a crop burning dragon in Good Sister, Bad Sister.

Razzmorten marries the good lady Blodeuwedd, who dies giving birth to his first daughter Minuet. He hires Demonica to be Minuet’s nanny. After a time, he marries her. She gives birth to Ugleeuh whilst he is away and vanishes with the crystal Heart from Castle Niarg, leaving him to raise his two daughters by himself.

When a great plague comes to Niarg in Good Sister, Bad Sister, he discovers and produces a cure. Ugleeuh has designs on Niarg’s Prince Hebraun. However, HebraunJosephWright-Alchemist-Cropped takes an interest in Minuet. When King Henry announces their betrothal, he makes Razzmorten the Wizard to the Crown for his saving Niarg from the pestilence. Ugleeuh vanishes for a few years. When she returns to Niarg with her powers dangerously well developed to find Minuet and Hebraun married and attempts to murder them, Razzmorten creates powerful magical wards to protect Niarg from her, confining her to the Chokewoods.

When Minuet’s children, Rose and Lukus are in their teens in The Collector Witch, they stumble onto Ugleeuh in in her part of the Chokewoods, amusing herself by flying about on a broom. She holds them captive at once and tries to use them to buy her freedom by sending her crow to Razzmorten with an extortion note for the Crown. Razzmorten promises Minuet that he will do what ever it takes to protect them. When Ugleeuh catches them attempting to flee, her own daughter Spitemorta appears at the scene to make off with her broom.

Spitemorta murders her adoptive parents in order to assume the throne of Goll. The handle of her new broom turns out to be the Great Staff of Power which was taken from the great everwaking oak Longbark by the First Wizard. When word of the Staff in Spitemorta’s hands reaches Demonica, across the sea on Head in Stone Heart, she goes to Goll to be the new nanny of Spitemorta’s son. Soon she and Spitemorta are off on a hunt for the great crystal Heart of the Staff. Meanwhile Razzmorten, Rose and Lukus go back to the Chokewoods see just how much Ugleeuh’s magic has faded to find Fuzz the bear trying frantically to keep the Heart out of Spitemorta and Demonica’s hands. When Razzmorten’s party and Fuzz begin traveling together, they are waylaid by Spitemorta and Demonica who blow the head off of one of the party, put Razzmorten into a coma, crippling his powers, and grab up the Heart from the ground where it has fallen. With the Heart and the Staff, Spitemorta and Demonica at last have tools powerful enough to plan the conquest of the world.

The Last ChapterWhen Razzmorten comes out of his coma, he believes that since Spitemorta and Demonica are likely to fear being stopped by another half Elf-half Human like the First Wizard, they will seek to destroy every Elf alive before turning on Niarg. He sets about searching for ways to stop them whilst his powers slowly return.

Demonica introduces to Spitemorta the skinweler, a sphere of catoptrolite crystal, so that she can control the minds of her subjects. She at once distributes Skinwelerioù far and wide. In The Burgeoning they destroy Oilean Gairdin, sending the Elves fleeing into the Wilderlands before bringing down Castle Niarg and sending Razzmorten and Minuet into the Pitmaster’s Kettles to seek refuge under the mountains with the three Fairy sisters.

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Razzmorten continues to be instrumental in The Reaper Witch and Doom.

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Tom Phipps

Who is Minuet?

Queen Minuet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In The Burgeoning, she rides forth leading her army, determined to cut out Spitemorta’s black heart and feed it to the hogs. And her tale continues in The The Reaper Witch 01 copyReaper Witch Doom.Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00028]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Spark Finds Fuzz

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

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

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

“Who…?”

“I’m Spark, Fuzz. You know, Spark!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?”

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

“And they captured the prince and princess?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Never!” declared Spark, suddenly straightening upright.

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

“I just really don’t much.”

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

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

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

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

“Ugleeuh!” woofed Fuzz. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

 

 

The White Witch Rides a Diatryma

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Diatryma – Diatryma gigantia R., ten foot tall, flightless birds, members of the Thunderbird (Adar Taranus) Dynasty which originally escaped extinction by the Mwyaf Fawr Llosg ordiatryma Greatest Burning, when the rest of the Dynasty was exterminated, only to mysteriously become extinct a few million years later. They were accidentally revived from fine Eocene shales by the wizard Razzorbauch when he penetrated the Earth’s crust while forming the magma chamber for the Fudge Volcano. They are omnivorous, opportunistic feeders that are capable of downing and dismembering small ungulates. They are covered with deep iridescent green plumage. Their tail feathers and imagesprimary flight feathers have brilliant red and yellow patches on each feather’s trailing blade that remain completely hidden unless the bird is displaying. Their bony tails are not entirely fused into a pygostyle as in modern birds, but rather consist of a pygostylic terminus at the end of ten un-fused vertebrae, giving the birds a fan of feathers that can be waved about on the end of a flexible tail. There is nearly no sexual dimorphism, though males tend to be a few percent heavier and have deeper voices than the females. They are exceptionally intelligent, having a brain cavity of about 650cc, or roughly half the volume of modern humans. However, being far less fatty than a mammalian brain, this is a very respectable computer. Possibly due to natural selection pressures favoring the keeping track of stashes of food morsels, diatrymas seem to have little or no barrier between the conscious and subconscious minds and have instantaneous recall of all the details that they once observed during any previous experience.Diatryma_by_ministerart

The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_KindleMary the White Witch’s mounts and closest friends are Ceidwad the female diatryma, whoStone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle is the wife of Lladdwr and the mother of Arwr, their cockerel. Razzmorten describes these three as the most intelligent beings he has ever been in the presence of, and they become key characters in the tale of The Heart of the Staff, (books three through six, Stone Heart, The Burgeoning, Reaper Witch and Doom). Ceidwad and Lladder were brought back to life by accident by the evil Wizard Razzorbauch and were raised by the Fairy sisters in The Reaper Witch 01 copyPageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00028]Mount Bed before their association with Mary. Perhaps their most stunning talent is being able to listen to a language for a short while and then suddenly start speaking it fluently.

What sorts of birds tower in your imagination? Do they play a role in your dreams?

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps