You Were a Bear?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ch. 2, The Reaper Witch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

It’s Either Kill Trolls or Pack for Home

 

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

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

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

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

“I’ve not yet been to the target.”

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

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

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

“I was thinking trolls.”

“The raid…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You really would, wouldn’t you?”

“Of course I would.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Then we talk to Tramman and Obbree about hiring a fishing boat,” he said, taking her by the hand.

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

Ch. 20,The Reaper Witch

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Ocker Teaches Blodwen

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?” she said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He’s that very Ocker?”

Minuet and Razzmorten both nodded with twinkling eyes.

“Well maybe if he just watched his mouth…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But you need a bouquet,” said Nacea.

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

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

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

The room hushed at once to hear the joyous vows.

Ch. 15, The Reaper Witch

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ch. 17, The Reaper Witch

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Rose and Fuzz Reach Dragonsport

 

 

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“Right there,” said Rose, looking out from under the flat of her hand. “That’s where we have to go. As you can see, the snow white cliffs are turning out to be a whole forest of limestone pillars which we could never begin to sail between, if we haven’t improved since Oyster Cove.”

“Remember when I took Edward to explore all the abandoned buildings of Dragonsport?” said Fuzz. “I had no idea about this side.”

“You’ve not seen anything,” she said. “Wait until we start in.”

“Those leaning trees on top of the pillars are spectacular,” said Olloo.

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“You can see those?” said Rose.

“Well, I can’t decide if they’re oaks…”

“My word!” said Fuzz. “Leaning oaks is indeed what they are. Derwen pwysaf is the old 269495336_32314966dcname. I only know that from discussions, ‘way back when I was here. But I can’t see whether the vegetation on top is trees or not.”

Before long, they had furled their sails and dropped anchor. They decided to row ashore, leaving their unicorns and their strike falcons by themselves on board, except for Olloo’s bird, Baase. Rose had indeed been correct about where to go, for they found themselves rowing ashore along a broad corridor between the gigantic columns of limestone, making for the break in the sheer cliffs behind, which formed a narrow canal where teams of dragons once hauled ships inland to the lagoon and the quays of Dragonsport.

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At the quays, Baase hopped out with a splash and dashed after a lizard. They stepped out as he gobbled it down and hauled their boat ashore in a pulsing sea of cicada calls in the noonday sun and made their way past the abandoned barns and warehouses and up the blinding white dirt lane beyond, which wended up a great flat topped hill covered with leaning oaks.

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“They seldom brought in ships when we were here, so no signs of anyone didn’t bother me,” said Rose, pausing to look back the way they had come. “But the only tracks up this entire lane are ours. Well. If they’re not here, it’s off to the Black Desert, then.”

“I don’t know,” said Fuzz. “The Black Desert is a huge wasteland.”

“Yea, but we’re going to find them.”

“You know that? If it were any one but you a-saying such a thing, I’d not be paying attention.”Shuanghe-Dongqun

Before long, they came to the broad hole in the ground with its great stairway, which was the entrance to the Dragon Caves. By the time they had reached the enormous fountain and statuary of dragons being driven by Razzorbauch at the bottom of the stairs, the caves seemed abandoned to everyone. The Elves begged for an explanation about the towering sculpture from Rose, and held their breaths in rapt attention as her tale echoed from the empty reaches of the vast gallery. There was not a soul.

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Soon they found themselves in Spark and Lipperella’s cavern, respectfully turning over this and that of their remaining flotsam. Rose stepped into Edward and Laora’s room. “Fuzz,” she said, pulling out a wooden stick from under Edward’s mattress. “Look ‘ee here.”Sextantio-Le-Grotte-Della-Civita_11

“My word!” he said, looking it over. “That’s the very sword I was not finished carving for his sixth birthday. I reckon he missed it, under the bed like that. My. Now I never once had the slightest amorous urge for Myrtlebell, as I’ve said many times, but Edward actually grew up as a son to me. Did I ever tell you that he was even born in my old den?”

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“Why no.”

“Oh my. I’m no midwife. I just ran back and forth, fetching clean rags and pans of water. But it had me worried. I mean, I hadn’t so much as pulled a calf nor helped an old ewe in my life, so I dashed out and found Rotundra.”

Rose laughed out. “You didn’t need her.”

“At least I quit dropping and spilling things when she came. And I even managed to pour Myrtlebell’s shot of whisky for Edward’s crowning without spilling a drop. But mercy, did I ever regret it.”

“Why?”

“Have you any idea how many cozy little romantic suppers I ended up obliged to share with Rotundra after that?”

“Very many?”

“Oh my land yes. An entire eternity of them. At least two, as I remember.”

“Aw!” laughed Rose. “Rotundra was sweet, Fuzz. But I was glad her pursuit of you ended when she became Mary the White. I mean, she’s beautiful and things might have turned out different.”

“Go on! Not after we’d met. I’ve actually been in love with you since we were first acquainted.”

“Fiddlesticks! I was a child.”

“Yea. Sixteen and heart stopping gorgeous. And I was a bear with no hair. I could only yearn. Just remember that there’s a lot behind it when I tell you that you are a dream come true.”

“I love you Fuzz,” she said giving him a dear hug. “Say. You just said something. You said that he must have missed it, you know, the sword. I don’t see how he could have. It was down here, sticking half way out from under his mattress like this, see? Hey look! This paper was right here with it.”

“Why that’s a map,” he said.

“Titled, ‘New Dragon Caves!'” she gasped. “And look. A letter to us both. He says he copied this from a map in dragon’s council room. Thank the Fates the witches never found this.”

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“If Spark or any of the other adults had known Edward had this, they’d have snapped it up The Reaper Witch 01 copyfor just that reason.”

“Edward undoubtedly thought that this was his only way of leaving it behind.”

“He just isn’t old enough to grasp how dangerous something like this could be,” he said. “Hey! You were right. I bet we do find them.”

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Rose and Fuzz Decide to see Balley Cheerey

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Rose washes up on the beach alone in The Burgeoning, the morning after their ship went down. When she starts a frantic search for him, she ends up lost in a mangrove swamp inimages The Reaper Witch. As evening approaches, she is at last discovered by Inney and Fuzz. The next morning, she wakes up beside him on the beach in Chapter 2…

The sudden cries of a tern directly overhead woke Rose. She opened her eyes to see a tiny hermit crab dragging a striped whelk shell toward her face through the white sand and found herself warm and snug against Fuzz under a silky feather-light Elven quilt. “I’ve never felt so wonderful in my??????????????????????????????????????????????? life, waking up next to you,” she thought as she gently put her arm across him, “even if I’ve never been so stiff and sore.”

“Mmmp?” he said, rolling onto his back. “Rose?” He grabbed up her hand and kissed it as he opened his eyes.

“Fuzz, look at this little creature,” she said, holding the crab over his face.”Augh!” he said, sitting up at once to grind his fists into his eyes. “My word, that salty sand stings.”

“Augh!” he said, sitting up at once to grind his fists into his eyes. “My word, that salty sand stings.”

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“Oh no! I’m so sorry.”

“Fiddlesticks!” he said, wincing and blinking as he grabbed her into a hug. “You can put sand in my eyes any ol’ day you want, just as long as I get to wake up beside you.”

“You can’t imagine how relieved I am to see the pair of you together this morning,” said Karl-Veur, coming up behind them with a strange Elf.

“Oh yes I can,” said Rose, looking up with delight. “Can you imagine our having to tell Yuna that we’d lost you? And here we are, putting you at Demonica’s mercy at the very least. Did you just get here?”

“We’ve been here since just after you two fell asleep, last night,” he said. “Rose, this is Obbree.”

Obbree gave a shy bow and a toothless smile.

“Obbree’s an austringa, just like Tramman and me,” said Inney, rushing over from where she and Tramman were fixing breakfast. “He’s bondmates with Aalid. Aalid’s the shawk efad3c05cd_37875437_uspoogh ‘way down the beach, hunting crabs.” And with that, she dashed back to the fire.

“And Rose,” said Karl-Veur, taking her hand and giving it a squeeze, “You sound a bit like Yann-Ber at times. Please remember that this is entirely my doing. This risk with Demonica I gladly take for the House of Dark and for the House of Niarg.”

“Well there may be nothing come of it anyway,” said Fuzz as he got to his feet and stared out over the water, “depending on just how marooned we happen to be.”

“Why are we marooned?” said Rose as Fuzz helped her up. “Gwael is on the east coast, right? How far is that?”

Obbree nodded then immediately shook his head.

“I don’t know about Gwael,” said Fuzz. “I suppose we need to keep it in mind…”

“They have the only ports, right?” said Rose, “so what’s the problem?”

“Maybe Demonica herself,” said Karl-Veur. “King Vortigern and Demonica have a connection that comes up frequently when dealing with either one of them. If we leave
here by one of their ports, it will take some wary planning at the very least. Right, Fuzz?”

“Sounds like you know more than I do, but I was aware of Demonica having some sort of connection in Gwael which went back to the Razzorbauch days. If she and Spitemorta are trying to start a war with Niarg, I don’t know where that would put us when we try to get passage on a ship.”

“You’ll at least need breakfast first,” said Tramman as he tapped on the lip of the pan hefb922c856d2901db85685fca52e2daed was stirring.

“Inney,” said Rose, “just what is that tasty aroma?”

“Wild rice and a big mess of crabs.”

“If you’re considering following the coast to Gwael from here, I wouldn’t,” said Tramman. “You’d at least need preparations you won’t have, and going by way of Balley Cheerey is almost as close. And besides, I know some elders who’d give an argid mooar to trade tales with you ones. And you’re more than quite welcome to come.”

Fuzz, Rose and Karl-Veur traded looks. “If we’re not too much of a burden, we’d certainly appreciate being able to tag along,” said Fuzz.The Reaper Witch 01 copy

Obbree smiled grandly at this and at once gave a little sprint across the sand, ending in a cartwheel.

The Reaper Witch

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Spitemorta’s Troll Baby has the Strongest Magical Aura She’s Ever Seen

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After her address, Spitemorta tied up her skinweler in its pouch and dropped it into her bag. She missed the awed multitudes beyond the balcony of her throne room at Castle Goll. “A little trollish supplication might be just the thing,” she said as she picked up theimages (3)x Staff. She stepped into the hall, trotted downstairs and out into the glory of dandelions, wren chatter and bright sunshine. Bethan was on her knees, picking strawberries and didn’t see her set the Staff in the air, mount it and lean forward to shoot away into the deep blue sky.

She didn’t know exactly where Oilean Gairdin was beyond its being somewhere in the Jut of Niarg. But after some time, hurtling along the length of the Jut, she spied the remains of stone walls standing in a tumble of pink quartz rubble, surrounded by abandoned orchards and formal gardens on an island in the middle of Jutland Lake. “This has to be it,” she said as she settled her feet into the knee-deep grass and sat on her hovering stick, looking about. Grackles scolded, mobbing something in the crown of an apple tree. She dismounted and waded through the grass toward the ruins, pausing at an arbor to eat grapes. She saw no sure signs of trolls at all, but there were getting to be paths tramped flat in the grass as she neared the rubble. A striped blue lizard as big around as a pitchfork handle, vanished into the cracks of a stone fence. She stood, looking all about from under her hand. Over near a wall she saw bones. “Ha!” She hurried up her wallow through the grass to find a collapsed bedroom, overflowing the window sills with bones. Outside the broken walls, she now saw a good score of stone circles for campfires, most of them with live coals, scattered randomly about a courtyard littered with gnawed pieces of animal carcass and barefoot prints in the ankle deep dust. Presently she was hearing deep rumbling snores coming from every hole and recess that might protect from rain.

“Oh yes,” she said, stopping short. “I very nearly forgot. I’ll have to change to Fnadiyaphn’s throat. At least Fnadi-phnig-nyd and Dyr-jinyr-yy will know who I am as a human. It’s still hard to swallow from the last time.” She held the Heart to her throat. It began glowing at once. “Gaah-hoof!” she bellowed, jerking the Heart away. “Aah-hoof-aah-hoof!”

She could hear trolls mumbling and stirring as she stood there with pains shooting through her head, working her jaw. She began quietly peering into holes, wincing each time she bent over for a look. By the time she was wondering if she could bear any more bending over, she found Dyr-jinyr-yy sound asleep on his back not far away from a huge breasted sow, asleep against a wall under her snarled bush of fiery red hair, snoring away like a giant bullfrog with a grimy toddler in her arms. “Maybe I’m getting lucky,” she thought as she tiptoed close to peer at the baby. “He actually looks like James, except he’s a troll. Well we’ll see.” She went back to stand over Dyr-jinyr-yy. “Jy-oyf-ny-oyd-fif, Dyr- jinyr-yy,” she rumbled as she gave him a sharp poke with the Staff. “Ni!”

images (18)“Zawk-skok…” he smacked, suddenly sitting up with wide-eyed urgency.

“Jyrp-dyoy-dyn-yoy-oyr,” said Spitemorta with a phosphorescent flicker in her eyes. “You’ll live.”

With a squeal, he pitched forward and flattened himself at her feet. “Fnadiyaphn!” he whimpered into the foul dirt. “Goddess come-give Veyfnaryr big-head-nod looky-look?”

“And you’re going to show me,” she said with a cherubic nod.

Dyr-jinyr-yy was on his feet at once, dashing over to Fnayooph to give her hair a good yank.

Fnayooph gave an explosive swing of her fist, barely missing Dyr-jinyr-yy, who sat backwards with a bounce in the dirt. She gasped in shock at the sudden sight of 503-700w163251Spitemorta and grabbed up a club, giving it a furious fling right by her ear.

Spitemorta gave a crackling jab with the Staff, setting aglow a patch of earth in front of Fnayooph which immediately exploded, blinding everyone with dirt and making Veyfnaryr howl.

“Fnayooph!” cried Dyr-jinyr-yy. “She-be Goddess Fnadiyaphn! Fnadiyaphn play human queen.”

Veyfnaryr wiggled out of her arms and stood up with his fists in his eyes, wailing at the topneanderthal-baby of his lungs. Fnayooph grabbed him into her lap and silenced him with a teat as she ground at her eyes with the heel of her other hand.

“Good job that you took care of my baby before you even tried to see,” said Spitemorta, “otherwise, you would be dead right now. Does he bite?”

Fnayooph looked up with one confused eye, shook her head and held out Veyfnaryr for Spitemorta to take.

Spitemorta got a whiff of him and held up a pious hand. “I don’t need to take him,” she said. “I can see that he is getting the best of care.” She pursed her lips as a look of awe flickered across her face. “My word!” she thought. “He simply glows with magical power.”

She turned to Dyr-jinyr-yy. “I shall not keep you awake any longer,” she said. “You all are doing quite well indeed. I’ll simply be back from time to time to see how he’s doing.” And with that, she took to the air on her staff and vanished over the trees.

Well beyond Jutland lake, she landed and used the Heart to return her human throat and end her pounding headache. “My word!” she said as she climbed into the sky once more. “Nobody I’ve ever been around has that strong an aura…”

“See?” came a voice in her ear. “What did I try to tell you?”

“Shut up!” she screamed as she shook the Staff. “Shut up! Shut up Demonica!”

“Well I’m glad to see that you didn’t completely lose control of the Staff this time, dear,” came the voice again.

“Shut up!” she screamed. “Leave me alone!”

“Now just what kind of respect for the dead is that, Rouanez Bras?”

“Why can’t you leave me alone?”

“Believe me,” said the voice, “I most certainly would if it weren’t for your endless need of guidance. But since you clearly resent even the slightest inclination which I might have to help…”

“All right!” cried Spitemorta. “If I let you help me, will you go away?”

imagesdemonica“Mission accomplished, dear.”

“Very well, what do I need help with then, Grandmother?”

“Didn’t I tell you that your troll baby was going to be more powerful than the great Razzmorten himself?”

“I don’t remember.”

“Of course not,” said the voice. “I couldn’t get you to hold off your demands to have him killed long enough to notice what I was saying, as I recall.”

“And I can see that you’re just as tedious to listen to as ever.”

“Well let’s try again, dear. Did you notice what I said this time?”

“What?”

“Veyfnaryr. Razzmorten…”

“What? Being stronger? Get out of here, Demonica! I know very well what all that means.”

“Do you then? What does all this mean? This should be good.”

“Why go through telling you?” said Spitemorta. “You already have all the answers. But if you must, it means that even if the Elves do manage to raise some dangerously powerful wizard, your ugly little troll monster just might destroy him. Right?”

“Bravo!” cheered the voice with the sound of clapping. “But the ‘ugly little troll monster’ as you put it, is yours, dear.”

“My monster? It was your turning me into Fnadiyaphn, Grandmother.”

There did not seem to be an answer.

“Grandmother?” said Spitemorta, frantically looking all about. “Demonica? Damn you! Where’d you go? Hey Demonica!”

 

Ch. 12, The Reaper Witch, book five of Heart of the Staff: The Complete Series

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Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

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Spitemorta takes over her Mother’s House

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 Spitemorta lay in Demonica’s bed, listening to the cries of gulls out her window as the first rays of sunlight lit the wall behind her. She threw back her covers, sat on the side of the bed and nearly fell when she tried to stand up. She hobbled to the tea table and ate some of the cheese and corned beef she had found in one of the larders while hunting skinwelerioù. She had forgotten all about eating for some time and discovered that she was quite hungry. At last she decided to get dressed. The broadening daylight made her want to hurry.

“Well, it’s back west to Niarg before rejoining Coel and Cunneda,” she said as she stepped into her black kirtle, “but I’ll never be able to straddle the Staff for the entire way across the Orin Ocean. I’ll just have to pick a place where I can vomit when I get there.”

She laced up her bodice, grabbed up the Staff and turned her dress deep vermilion. She put the strap of her bag across her shoulder and sat on the bed with her skinweler. “Now just where is it?” she said as the swirling colors in the skinweler gave way to images. “Show me the manor house at Peach Knob. So that’s where Mother grew up with Auntie Min and Grandfather Razzmorten. Why would it be so dark? Very well, let’s find some place out of the way, around back.”

Suddenly she was on her hands and knees in a pandemonium of terrified chickens, B0002242squawking and flapping dust and old feathers all about her in the dim light of dawn as she retched and heaved her breakfast onto the floor between her hands. “Aangh!” she cried, catching her breath and sitting back on her heels as the chickens crowded round to snap up tidbits of her cheese and corned beef.

She grabbed up the Staff and sprang to her feet to pound with her fist along the chicken house wall until she found the door and threw it open. “My dress!” she wailed, waltzing intochickens2-1 the pigweed with her arms held wide. Just then it occurred to her that she was holding the Staff and she quickly used it to make herself as clean as she was when she was first dressed. Suddenly she stopped short with a scald of alarm at the sight of her second sunrise in one day. “No!” She shook her head. “No way it’s Demonica. It can’t be anything but the traveling spell.

 

“There’s the house,” she said, looking uphill beyond the big orchard. “And that was my very last traveling spell ever, ever, ever, I swear.” She started walking up the grassy lane between the rows of peach trees. An oriole gave a bawdy whistle. Up the lane, a kingbird chased away a pair of grackles. She could hear a tinkling of bells as sheep came running.

“Hoy!” she thought she heard someone holler. She looked back beyond the sheep to see a stooped old man wave. She turned away and made for the house. The summer kitchen reared up before her as she came out of the trees. She got a whiff of steak and eggs as she heard someone bang a skillet. She stopped and looked up at the manor house behind the kitchen. “Good for gentry,” she said. “At lest it’s temporary.”

 

A heavy set woman appeared in the doorway of the summer kitchen, wiping her hands on her apron. “Good morning to you, mistress,” she called out with a smile. “You look bewildered, a-coming up on us out o’ the orchard, that a-way. I’ve just fixed breakfast and I already set out an extra…”

“Oh I know exactly where I am.”

“Well now I’m Bethan, but should I know who you be?”

“It makes no difference who you are. But it’s always best to know your new queen, particularly when you work on her manor.”

“Peredur,” said Bethan as the old man appeared behind Spitemorta. “did you hear what she just said to me?”

“No, but I can’t begin to imagine what she was doing in the chicken house.”

Bethan folded her arms and looked Spitemorta in the eye. “Well since I can’t begin to believe what you just told me, dear, why don’t you be so kind as to tell him what it was?”

“It’s quite simple. I’m queen and you’re in my house.”

“Minuet is queen, and I’m queen mother. I raised the queen and her two children. This is my house. Razzmorten and the crown gave it to me.”

Spitemorta let out a whoop of laughter and stopped. “Minuet is dead, dead, dead and you may be lucky enough to be the hired help in my house, if you don’t get carried away,” she said with a satiny rustle as she stepped into the doorway and pushed past Bethan.

“Now look ‘ee here, child! Queen Minuet and Razzmorten saw us just days ago, and she certainly was queen then…”

“Yea? My soldiers found them dead of the plague when we destroyed Castle Niarg, what, yesterday? And my mother grew up in this house, so it’s mine.”

Bethan went apoplectically wide eyed. “You’re Queen Spitemorta!” she gasped.

“It is Bethan’s house,” said Peredur as he steadied himself, stepping inside, “and I’m to live out my days here, too.”

“Which could be up any moment from what I see,” said Spitemorta as she picked up a piece of steak and took a bite.

“That won’t hold up before the Bench,” said Peredur.

“Queen’s Bench,” said Spitemorta with a cherubic smile and another bite.

Bethan caught his eye and shook her head.

“If you’re a willing part of my loyal service, you’ll be alive to wait on me when I come back to stay.”

“At your service, Your Majesty,” said Bethan with a heavy curtsey.

“At your service,” said Peredur with a bow.

Spitemorta stepped out into the grass and mounted the Staff. “Ta-Ta,” she said and flew away into the morning sky.

“My word!” said Peredur as they watched from the doorway. “That witch! What have we got into?”

“Something you and I are going to live through, that’s what.”

 

Ch. 5, The Reaper Witch, book five of Heart of the Staff: The Complete Series

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Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

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Who is Meri Greenwood?


Meri Greenwood (Dyn Gwyrdd in Old Niarg Standard) was the oldest of all Fairies. He became the husband of Celeste after aeons of courting her, and though he may not actually be Talking Father himself, he was unquestionably tramping about a good ten thousand years before Spitemorta’s time, paying visits to images (2)Calon Fforydd, the Heart of the Forests in the Great Stone Tree, which the First Wizard chiseled out and took away from the world of trees for his own as the Heart of the Staff.

In Good Sister, Bad Sister he gives a magic stick to Ocker the raven and brings tidings to the wizard Razzmorten that the evil sorcerer Razorbauch has changed the entire Forest Primeval into the Chokewoods. In The Burgeoning, he leads King Neron and his Elves ?????????????????????????????????????????????through his ring of mushrooms to safety in his underground village, Gerddi Teg. He marries Celeste in The Reaper Witch,  and readies Ariel and Daniel to fulfill the Elven Prophesy in Doom.

 

 

Meri returns in WHAM! as Kellen Greenwood’s father and grandfather to his two children, Tess and Nia, when first Tess, and then Tess, her father and friends enter the Fairy Ring and travel the Fairy Paths to the past.

 

 

 

 

 

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Ariel and Abaddon have a Heart Bond

 

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Lukus paused to listen to the rain of clicks and squawks from the oilbirds in the countless chinks and ledges throughout the gargantuan vault of cave ceiling over Gerddi Teg, kept daylight bright by glow lichens. He threw his panniers across Starfire’s rump, checked Shimmer’s girth and went back inside the cottage he and Soraya had spent the summer in.

“Your bags ready?” he said, hefting Soraya’s tightly packed panniers.”

“Tied tight and buckled,” she said from the next room.

“I guess I’m asking if we’re forgetting anything,” he said.

“We can’t be,” she said, walking in. “We’re still here, and nothing’s ever forgot until you get down the road and remember.”

“Yea. like one of the kids, or something.”

“No worry then,” she said with her serious face. “Grandfather would send us right back.”

“And not wait for us to catch up again.”

“Nope!” she said, erupting with laughter. “Not after we forget our own babaí.”

“You are the most gorgeous thing I’ve ever seen when you laugh,” he said, scooping her into a sound hug. “And you’ve been mighty sober lately.”

“Yea,” she said, standing arm in arm with him as they looked out the open door. “It’s kind of hard to leave a peaceful place after what we’ve been through. And the thought of being out in the open with Daniel and Ariel makes me feel, well, exposed.”

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Lukus watched Abaddon in the yard, playing dragon and giving rides to Daniel and Ariel. “You know, they could really get hurt,” he said.

“From piggyback rides?” she said. “His piggyback rides? He is the gentlest boy I ever saw play with little kids, especially with Ariel.”

“They could still get hurt.”

“What is this?” she said. “The worst that would happen from some unlikely stupidity of his would be nothing more than a scrape or a knot on the head of one of them. And you’re not stupid, so why is this bothering you?”

“I know he has been good with them, but he is Spitemorta’s son…”

“And King James’s. And I’ve not heard you say anything but good about James.”

“And Abaddon is very magically gifted. He’s been good all summer, but what if he surprises us and turns out like the rest of his line back through Demonica? That’s a dark lineage.”

“Daniel and Ariel trust him…”

“So what?” he said, as he quietly pushed the door most of the way closed. “Children don’t have the experience and judgment to keep from being taken in by some…”

“Human children. And ours are half Elf, actually better than half, since you have Elf behind you…”

“But lately he finds a way to be here every single day. For a boy his age, isn’t that…?”

Soraya put her finger to his lips, kissed him on the cheek and closed the door. “I just became certain of something this very day,” she said, turning back to him.

“My word, what?”

“Ariel and Abaddon have a heart bond.”

“Fates! What if he’s evil?”

“I suppose it’s possible, but I’ve never ever heard of a heart bond between Elf and an evil…”

“When did it happen? Are you certain?”

“No one knows when a heart bond actually begins, Lukus,” she said as she took his hand. “I mean, when did ours begin? But it is completely out of anyone’s control, as you well know. And I’m so very sorry you’re troubled by this. I think Abaddon’s simply wonderful and I can’t imagine that he would ever harm either one of them.”

“I hope you are right. Because if he ever does, I swear I’ll fix him.”

“And with my help, dear,” she said.

“There goes Arwr,” said Lukus.

Abaddon shot to his feet at once, whistling and waving his arms.

Arwr came to a springy halt some distance away and jogged back.

Abaddon wheeled about and scooped Ariel off the ground, giving her a grand giggly hug before setting her back down. “Bye Ariel!” he cried before dashing through the gate. “Bye Daniel!”

“Abaddon!” cried Ariel, trotting to the gate.

Abaddon stopped and turned back. “We’ll be together before the day’s over!” he hollered with a wave.

“See you!” she cried with a great bounce of her curls as he dashed away and sprang astride Arwr. She stood waving until Abaddon and Arwr had vanished between the cottages across the common.

Soraya squeezed Lukus’s arm as she put her head against his shoulder.

Ch 24, The Reaper Witch

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Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

 

What is the Chokewoods?

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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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