Mary the White Witch Departs for the Dragon Caves with Myrtlebell and Edward on the Diatrymas

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“This is our moment,” said Mary. “I’m sure Fuzz would say the same thing.”

Myrtlebell’s lips thinned as she pressed them together. She knew Mary was right, but she couldn’t help feeling uneasy. She grabbed up their cloaks and took Edward’s hand, and with a nod to Mary, followed her from the cavern.

Edward laughed in delight, the moment they stepped through the wet vines over the mouth of Mary’s cave.

Myrtlebell’s mouth and eyes dropped agape. “Mary!” she cried, shushing herself in wonder. “Those aren’t unicorns, they’re enormous birds. Are we flying on them?”

“Oh no,” said Mary. “Look at their tiny wings. These birds don’t fly, but they do run, and far faster than you’ve ever ridden before.”

“What kind of bird can’t fly?” said Myrtlebell.

“I assume you mean, ‘What are they called?'”

“Why, yes.”

“These are diatrymas,” she said, as she reached up to stroke the neck of one of them. “Diatrymas are a sort of adar taranus. They are far more than just tame, they’re my personal friends. They’re exceedingly intelligent.”

“Adar taranus. Old Niarg for thunderbirds? I thought not a one of those survived the Greatest Burning.”

“None did.”

“I don’t understand…”

“Have you ever heard of the terrible wizard, Razzorbauch?”

“Wasn’t he the one who brought the dragons here? Fuzz was…”

“Well, we had best make haste, Myrtlebell. I’ll tell you all about it once we’re underway.” Mary turned at once to the birds. “Lladdwr, Ceidwad, kneel, if you would.” The two ten foot tall fowl obligingly folded their thick scaly legs and waited patiently on their breastbones in the leaves to be mounted.

“It would probably be best if I took Edward, while you get used to riding,” said Mary, as she helped Myrtlebell onto the smaller of the two birds. “This is Ceidwad. Just keep your legs ahead of her wings. You can put your arms around her neck, but don’t squeeze her windpipe.”

“Where are her reins?” said Myrtlebell, as her balance gave way and she sat suddenly onto the thickly padded saddle with a plump.

“She needs none,” she said, taking Edward onto her lap as she deftly swung round Lladdwr’s neck to sit on his saddle. “She’s too intelligent to need them. I’ve already
discussed where we’re going with Lladdwr and her.”

Once they were settled, the diatrymas rose together without being told to do so, and in a half dozen fluid strides, had sailed completely down the side of the tall hogback, with Edward waving happily at Myrtlebell as she hung on for dear life. Across the branch and effortlessly up the far side they went, until they reached the long ridge that they followed out of the timber to the thickets along the broad creek which they had crossed the day before, when they were fleeing Spitmorta and Demonica. Without the slightest hesitation, the giant birds ran straightaway into the water, stepping over its surface and plunging to the bottom with each stride, making astonishingly little splashing or disturbance. At once they were across, fluidly zigzagging through the brush. Soon the thickets opened into grassland which lay between them and the great marshlands of the Gobblers. Here the diatrymas sped up astoundingly, running abreast.

“So,” shouted Mary above the wind, “How are you doing?”

“This is indeed very much faster than I ever imagined possible.”

“Whee!” squealed Edward.

“Oh my, sweetheart,” said Mary, giving Edward a hug. “You mustn’t kick Lladdwr in the crop.”

“This is not only fast as the very wind,” called Myrtlebell through the hair she was dragging out of her eyes, “but ‘way more comfortable than galloping unicorns.”

They fell silent to the tireless pounding rustle of huge feathers as they sped out across the sea of grass which stretched before them to the horizon. Without endless obstacles for the diatrymas to leap, dodge and run around, Myrtlebell was able to relax and truly enjoy her fast ride for the first time. On they ran in a straight line without any letup or hesitation, under a cloudless blue sky.

By noon, the horizon was starting to change and Myrtlebell began to feel exhausted and looked across to see Edward’s head nodding in Mary’s lap. “Mary,” she called, “do you supposed it would wise to pause for a bite to eat?”

“I don’t see why not. We’re making good time and Edward’s getting heavy. See that hillock yonder, rising out of the grass? Let’s make for that.”

“Is that the marsh showing up on the horizon?”

“Certainly is.”

Ch. 7, Heart of the StaffStone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle

Carol and Tom Phipps

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Spark the Dragon Meets Prince Abaddon

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Flame landed with a bound just beyond the shade from the noonday sun cast by the rock overhang of the kitchen and gave his feathers a good shake before making a hurried waddle inside. “We’ve got company!” he hollered before he could see.

“We’re right here, dear,” said Lipperella, standing up from the table to peek outside. “For dinner? Do you reckon I’ve fixed enough?”

“Who cares?” said Flame, grabbing up a dainty from the table. “Goody, good! Hot pickled kangaroo rats.”

“You’re terrible!” said Lipperella, giving him a good swat with a dish towel.

“Edward and Laora are leading them in right now,” he said, rubbing his belly where she got him. “Three diatrymas and two humans, looks like.”

“Diatrymas?” said Spark. “All the way from Niarg? Has to be trouble of some kind.”Sinornithosaurus_mag

“We’ll see. Here they are.”

“Momma! Papa!” cried Laora as she and Edward landed at a run. “Edward and I found Arwr and these new diatrymas, Mentrus and Gwawr. And they’ve got Súlacha and Lance, and Abaddon and Shot ‘n’ Stop. And they have news about the witches…”

The diatrymas came to a springy halt and dropped to their keels to unload their passengers. “I beg your pardon, Spark,” said Arwr, springing up to gingerly step about.
“Have you pans of water for us to stand in for a moment? We’ve had to travel at night
because of the black sands, but this morning was overcast. When the sun came out not
long ago, it about cooked our feet.”

“Well,” said Spark as he clattered about, hunting for basins, “good job you and Laora found them, aye Edward?”

“Súlacha here, is their tracker,” said Laora, “and when he says they’ve never been here before, they probably really would’ve got lost without us…”

“Oh poop!” scoffed Abaddon, whereupon Lance grabbed him by the sleeve and shook his head.

“Well we managed to get to where they found us,” said Lance, “but they undoubtedly spared us days of random searching for signs of you all.”

“Make yourselves at home and unwind while we arrange things,” said Spark. “Flame. Help me scoot the board into the doorway so that the diatrymas can eat with us, since they always stay outside.”

“They’ve been inside,” said Abaddon.

“Only in the halls of Fairies,” said Arwr from his two basins, just outside.

“Yess, yesss, unwind,” said Shot ‘n’ Stop as he slithered out of Abaddon’s bag.

Soon they were enjoying a grand meal with Spark and Lipperella and all their mob down the long board, laden with a half dozen steaming roast peccaries with agave stuffing, hot corn bread and prickly pear jam. Súlacha, Lance and Abaddon were delighted with the sumptuous bounty, though they did remain wary of the hog hair gravy, pickled peppered kangaroo rats, voles smothered in chocolate sauce and the cubed raw rabbit with hide and hair passing up and down the board.

When the small talk had died away, Spark parked his napkin by his plate. “So it’s the witches that brings you, is it?” he said.

“Oilean Gairdin has fallen to the witches and the Marfora Siofra,” said Lance. “Abaddon and I fled with the Elves into the Wilderlands and are staying with Meri Greenwood in Gerddi Teg, north of the Deadmoors. Niarg may have fallen by now, but we don’t yet know.”

At this, Edward quietly left the table and vanished. When Laroa found him in their room, he was pacing about in a very agitated state.

“Edward,” she said, quietly coming to his side. “You left at the beginning of the telling of the biggest tidings which have yet to come to the Black Desert. Are you all right?”

“I’m fine.”

“But you look upset…”

“I’m fine!”

“That doesn’t sound at all like it. And you were so excited at first. You’ve told me how you missed Shot ‘n’ Stop. Besides, Prince Abaddon is your age. I thought you’d want to get acquainted. He’s a prince and you’re a prince…”

“What do I need him for when I have you? Besides, you didn’t like the Fireheads, especially Trifin.”

“Yea? Well Abaddon isn’t here to breed you, Edward.”

“Yuck!”

“See?” she said. “So what’s your excuse?”

“All right,” he said, giving her a quick hug and sitting on the edge of the bed with a bounce. “Do you know who Prince Abaddon really is?”

“Sure. Just how he was introduced: the son of King James of Loxmere.”

“And, and son of Queen Spitemorta of Goll, the exact bad woman who killed Momma.”

“Oh,” she said, blinking a couple of times before scooting close and gently nibbling at the hair over his ear.

The Reaper Witch, Ch. 14The Reaper Witch 01 copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs and Tom Phipps

DOOM: The Heart of the Staff, book 6 Now Available

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The Final Book of The Heart of the Staff series

With the murder of her husband, King Artamus of Gwael, Queen Spitemorta at last rules the known world. She declares herself Omnipotent Empress and moves into her monstrous new castle in Niarg. And with her tools of power, the Great Staff and Crystal Heart, she believes she is invincible.

But then, General Coel, commander of all of her armies, brings tidings that four Elves have appeared in Niarg. These Elves should have been killed and eaten by her trolls, twenty years ago. And with these Elves returns the threat that the ancient Elven Prophecy predicting her downfall and death could still come to pass.

And somewhere far away, Ariel and Daniel, the very twins foretold in the Prophecy have become more powerful than any sorceress or wizard ever known. Together they could be invincible.

But can they destroy Spitemorta and her great tools of power? The time has come and one thing is certain. Either the twins and the rebellion will meet their doom, or Spitemorta and her minions will.

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Live What You Write

Back when I was an aspiring botany major, a heavyweight English student I knew showed up at my flat with a fifth of Jack Daniels to live the life of a writer, as he put it. He mentioned Faulkner. He made Hemingway watching a bullfight in Spain or sitting outdoors in a cafe along the Seine River, sipping wine with a crowd timthumbof angry young writers sound like a good thing. I don’t know what became of him. I turned out to be a writer. Maybe he’s counting tree rings.

If he understood what he was telling me, he did have a point. You do need to be familiar enough with what you are discussing in order to do a good job of writing about it. One would think that paris4your words will be best chosen when you are discussing elephants if you have ridden one. And it is much easier to make walking across freshly ploughed ground in your bare feet amongst the scattered blackbirds come to life for your readers if you’ve actually done it.

So how do you do such a thing if you are writing fantasy? How do you make unicorns, Elves and dragons come to life? Well, unicorns are very much like horses, except for the narwhal-like horn, so we can talk about them in terms of the horses which we’ve ridden. We can talk about their horn waving about above their feed boxes as they nibble up the last of their oats. We can talk about the Elf with his insides shaken to a jelly of soreness, from an afternoon’s frantic ride. And we can talk about a mob of dragons settling onto a sandbar in the dusk, as each one pauses to sort through the feathers of his wings before giving himself a thorough shake, if we have walked along a river’s sands at sunset and have indeed spent an afternoon in the desert mountains, watching a flock of buzzards come circling in to land on their customary rocks.

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Just how would you make an imaginary creature come to life for the readers you are trying to engage and entertain? Wouldn’t you need to draw upon similar things which you’ve actually seen? What do you think? We’d like to know.

 

Tom Phipps  

 

Books by Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

It is the very worst time to be in the woods.
Oisin’s plan is to come with his bow to help Aedan and Doona lead a party of children into the forest to gather the maidenhair seedlings his people would take across the sea as they flee the trolls who hunt them as prey. Maybe he can be back in time for supper.           
Dyr’s plan is an early evening head smash for the foolish Elves who think they can steal away to the sands of the endless eye sting water and build their strange float huts. They will make a glorious feast.
But on the way, Dyr’s brutes stumble across Oisin’s gathering party and attack, leaving Aedan mortally wounded and scattering Doona and the children to flee in terror into the dark mountain woods, only to be run down and captured by the bloodthirsty trolls.
Can Oisin find the bonfires of the trolls and rescue them before it’s too late? And what then? Will any of them live long enough to reach safety?
Minuet Dewin, eldest daughter of the wizard Razzmorten, practically raised her half sister Leeuh, who was abandoned by her mother. For many years, Minuet is Leeuh’s passionate champion. As time passes, Leeuh becomes increasingly hard to defend as she grows determined to be awful at every turn. Whilst undoing her dangerous pranks, Minuet finds herself the target of her hatred and jealousy. And when they fall for the same prince, it looks like war.
Suddenly Leeuh vanishes. She returns years later, compliant and sweet as she always should have been. Minuet is stunned. Should she trust her, or will it be the very death of her?  
Rose is not inclined to believe idle gossip, but as she ruminates on the way her  parents acted when she confronted them with what she’d heard she becomes convinced they didn’t tell her everything. But why? Determined to uncover the entire truth for herself and learn if she is really the daughter of an evil sorceress she sets out on a desperate quest to a forbidden forest that has the unsettling reputation of swallowing up those foolish enough to enter.
           
From the beginning Rose’s journey is beset with pitfalls and challenges. She doesn’t get beyond the stables before her younger brother appears and blackmails his way into becoming her self-appointed protector and traveling companion. Together they evade the Royal Niargian Guard, survive a cyclone, escape from the castle of Rose’s betrothed, discover Elves really do exist, as do werebeasts, cyclopses and centaurs, then negotiate the perils of the Valley of Illusions.
           
When they reach the Chokewood Forest they encounter a horde of miniature devils, choking fruit, and cannibals who take them captive. However, before the cannibals can turn Rose and Lucas into their next feast, a bizarre hag crashes the cannibal’s party and rescues them only to lead them into a mad fantasy forest that appears very like a dream world, where nothing is as it seems. The crone announces that they are now her prisoners and they ‘owe her’ for saving them. She takes them to her cabin where they discover the hag is the very sorceress they seek. And then things really get strange.
A great evil awakens to shatter Niarg’s peaceful world.

In her remote island keep off the shores of Head, the fearsome sorceress Demonica at last learns from her unfaithful husband Yann-Ber the whereabouts of the long lost Staff of Power. He crawls before her to tell her that it has turned up in the hands of her granddaughter Spitemorta, the new queen of Goll, hoping to buy his release from her horrid curse of boils. She is ecstatic about the Staff, but will never forgive his faithlessness. He will be released, all right. He will get to die in one year, after the most excruciating boils yet to come.

Demonica leaves for Goll at once. She arranges an accident for the nanny of Spitemorta’s son, becomes the new nanny herself and offers to teach Spitemorta how to develop her considerable powers. Spitemorta accepts at once, thereby uniting the two most dangerous sorceresses of the age, determined to conquer the world. Their first step is to find the First Wizard’s Stone Heart which would make the Staff the most powerful tool of all time.

The Burgeoning

With both the Great Staff of Power and the Stone Heart in their hands at last, it seems that nothing can stop Demonica and Queen Spitemorta from crushing Niarg and conquering the entire world. King Hebraun of Niarg is dead and not a single Elf is left alive in the Jutwoods.

 Spitemorta’s husband, King James, tries to ride out of Castle Goll with her Great Staff of Power, but is tortured by Demonica and her and locked away to die in the fleas and fetid straw of the dungeon. He manages to escape across the Great Barrier Mountains, just as the army and people of Niarg are sent out into the countryside by Queen Minuet and Wizard Razzmorten, who flee to the Pitmaster’s Kettles in time for Spitemorta and Demonica to effortlessly destroy Castle Niarg. Is this the end of everything?

The Reaper Witch

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Niarg has fallen to the dark sorceresses Demonica and Queen Spitemorta. The dragons have fled from their caves. Confident that Queen Minuet and Wizard Razzmorten are dead, and that the trolls have eaten every breathing Elf, Spitemorta brings down the last hamlets of the Northern Continent as she prepares to conquer the rest of the world.

But Queen Minuet and Wizard Razzmorten do live and are hiding in the crater of Mount Bedd with the Fairy guardians of the Forest Primeval, where they wait for what remains of their army before fleeing to the Black Desert to live beneath its burning sands with the dragons and all of the Elves who escaped Demonica’s great troll raid, down their hidden river.

Is this truly the end of Niarg and freedom everywhere in world? Can Elves, dragons and men live outside her bondage, or will the Reaper Witch find them and enslave them once and for all? 

DoomDoomComing in 2014: The final book in the Heart of the Staff series

Review: A TALE OF TWO WORLDS by Susan Waterwyk

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Blurb:

A Tale of Two Worlds

“The Earth, once asleep, has awakened, from deep in her belly come cries; her mountains interview 007 (3)1Waterwykand valleys are shaken and seas rise up to the skies.”

The ancient Keepers of Akosh can do nothing to prevent the catastrophes. They have known since the sinking of Atlantis that the living world of Earth would awaken. Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis threaten the people of the Earth so the Keepers spent thousands of years terraforming the primitive world of Lantamyra to serve as a sanctuary for the refugees from Earth. Now the Gathering begins.

The dragons that rule the three Great Houses of Lantamyra need the giant myra crystals from Atlantis to strengthen the large array in the House of Gaia Jade to be able to return to their homeworld, Lanluong. The Keepers of Akosh authorize a mission to Earth to locate and retrieve the crystals before the earthquakes bury them deeper in the abysmal depths of the Atlantic Ocean.

Recently arrived from Earth, Tylya Lansing has been trained in the Secrets of the Ways and knows how to use the powerful myra crystals. She is now a keeper of dragons in the House of Gaia Jade, and her first-hand knowledge of modern Earth makes her the best candidate to command the mission to find and retrieve the lost crystals of Atlantis.

Tylya’s lover, Josh Hamilton is also from Earth and trained in the Ways but chose not to serve the dragons. He is a crystalseeker working in the mine at Queen’s Heart located near an active volcano. The job is extremely dangerous since long exposure to myra crystals causes crystal sickness, and worst of all, ghosts of seekers are hungry for living energy and they wait in the myra crystals to feed on him.

Tale of Two Worlds, Review

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I was enthralled from the very opening paragraph of a Tale of Two Worlds by Susan Waterwyk. This author artfully weaves together just the right balance of descriptive prose and dialogue. She creates a world so vivid and tangible the reader soon feels like a participant in the tale, rather than a mere observer.

A Tale of Two Worlds is the second book of Waterwyk’s planned trilogy about the fantastic world of Lantamyra where dragons rule fairly and justly over the humans that share that world with them. But, Lantamyra’s history is tied to two other “living worlds”, the dragon homeworld, Lanluong, and the human’s homeworld, Earth.

Long ago when the Keepers of Akosh learned to travel between the stars in their fantastic spaceships powered by giant myra crystals, they searched far and wide for other “living worlds” like their own. In time they found a number of these “living worlds” and used their great myra crystals to open portals to travel between them. Unwittingly, the keepers upset the balance of the dragon homeworld causing great upheavals which threatened the very existence of the dragons by the constant use of the portals.

As soon as the Keepers of Akosh realized what they had done they set about rescuing as many of the dragons as they could, relocating them to the safety of Lantamyra where the dragons ruled and lived in peace with the Keepers of Akosh and humans who had come there from Earth to serve dragonkind.

But the dragons longed for the day they might return to their own world of Lanluong and the Keepers felt honor bound to fulfill the dragon’s wish as soon as it was feasible. First however, they had to recover some of the giant myra crystals from the ancient site of Atlantis where the crystals had been submerged under the sea since the isle’s untimely demise.

Once the myra crystals were recovered there was one problem. There would be repercussions for using the crystals on such a massive scale again, only this time it would be planet Earth that would undergo horrendous upheavals that could entirely wipe out the human population. So the Keepers of Akosh had trained a number of chosen humans to aid in the “gathering” of a select number of the human race in order to prevent their extinction from the coming disaster and transport them to Lantamyra where they would be safe. In A Tale of Two Worlds this destined time is at hand.

A Tale of Two Worlds is a highly imaginative and enchanting tale surely destined to become a classic that the reader will remember long after the final page. It is time for “the gathering”. Read A Tale of two Worlds and hope you won’t be left behind.

Review by:
Carol Marrs Phipps

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PROLOGUE

“Please forgive the interruption, Sorceress,” said Budog, as he and the other guard hove their captive onto the slippery stone floor, “but he’s back again.”

“You and Mazhev had better…” said Demonica, turning aside from her prisoner on the torture table, writhing in his irons. “This had better be important.” Her ageless face seethed with fury in the wavering torchlight.

“This thing says he has some real information for you, this time,” said Budog, nodding at his captive.

“Oh, yes, yes!” pleaded the captive, as he sat up on his haunches. “This time I do have. This time I truly have what you want to know, Demonica, my love.”

“Never address me in that manner again!” she shrieked, as she kicked him in the gut, doubling him over to lie straining, cheek down on the clammy floor.

“Forgive me, Mistress!” he shouted, heaving in his first breath with a gasp. “Please! I quite forgot myself! I meant no disrespect! I swear!”

“Very well, Yann-Ber!” she barked, as she lunged at his face and spat. “What do you think you have to tell me?” She stood back to study her saliva, glistening on the mass of boils swelling his face. “You’d do well to hope you aren’t wasting my time, dearest.”

An agonized moan from the man on the table caught Yann-Ber’s eye. He shuddered at the sight of him, envying the wretched fellow’s nearness to death. Soon he’ll be free of this, he thought, and maybe I shall be free as well, if what I bring suffices…

“Out with it, you vile kaoc’h ki du!” she screamed, flinging her knee into his face to crush his nose with a resounding pop.

 Yann-Ber wailed out in pain and clapped his hands over his face, his eyes still bearing the strength to give his wife a look of hatred. “Your daughter is dead,” he sputtered from between his bloody hands. “And your granddaughter has ascended the throne of Goll…” He closed his eyes for a moment and reeled, coming to grips with his pain. “They say she’s got her hands on the Great Staff, you know, the Staff of Power, though no one seems to think that she uses it.”

“Just how sure are you?”

“I wouldn’t dare aggravate you with anything I was unsure of, Demonica.”

“So how do you know, Yann-kaoc’h?” she said, suddenly lifting her knee as though she were going to strike him again. He winced and fell sideways, catching himself on his elbow. She threw back her head and made the halls of the dungeon ring with her laughter. “You stinking pomander of pustules, just how is it that you manage to know this?”

“A few still deny that she has the Great Staff at all,” he said, pulling himselfupright, “but she certainly had no staff of any kind when she came to the throne, and then she suddenly had one, right when her mother died. Too many reliable people have seen it. And you said…”

“This time you’ve actually learnt something, Yann-Ber,” she said, suddenly brandishing a high spirited gloat. “So. Back to Norz-meurzouar it is again.”

She turned to Budog and Mazhev. “And you two finish up this mess for me,” she said, waving her manicured hand at the man on the torture table. “I have far more important business waiting on the Northern Continent.” She swept past Yann-Ber without a glance, heading for the door.

“Wait! Demonica, please!” cried Yann-Ber, lunging after her on knees swollen huge from boils, only to tumble forward onto his hands from the pain.

Demonica stopped in the doorway. “I don’t have time for this, Yann-Ber.”

“The curse!” he shouted through the blood on his face, as he rocked back and forth, coming to grasp with the pain in his knees. “You promised me! You gave me your word that if I found out the whereabouts of the Staff, then you’d end this curse. And she does have it. You’ll see. Please, Demonica! Have mercy! I’m your husband! You cared for me once. Please!”

“Are you certain you want that, Yann-Ber?” she said with a light in her eyes, as a ruby lipped smile spread across her face.

“What else could I want?” he rasped.

“So be it,” she said, making several signs in the air before turning crisply and walking out of sight.

“Demonica!” he shouted. “Nothing has changed! I still live! What treachery is this?”

The stony echo of her footsteps halted, then began again and stopped as she came back into view. “On the contrary, Yann-Ber, your death has been irrevocably scheduled, in spite of how slow and agonizing you may think it.” She threw her head back with a peal of laughter. “You see, dear heart, I always keep my promises.”

“But, so do I.”

“Ah! Ah! Ah! But not to me. Remember that it was your faithlessness to me that earned you your nightmare spell of boils. So, as I was saying, I do keep mine, and you will most assuredly be dead within the year, though it will seem such a long time to someone with your lack of patience,” she said, glancing at the crimson toes of her shoes as she adjusted the pleats down the front of her gown.

“I’ll kill myself.”

“You can try, Yann-Ber,” she said with a demure smile, “but unfortunately it will never work.” At once she turned and strode into the hallway, here and there erupting into laughter as her reverberating footfalls passed beyond hearing.

“You witch!” he screamed as he tottered onto his feet, only to be seized by the hair and thrown flat onto the floor by Budog who pinned him mercilessly with both knees, yanking his arm around backward until it snapped, making him wail out in pain.

“Hurt your little armsie, stinkfish?” he hissed through his rotten teeth. “Too bad that’s all I broke.” He yanked Yann-Ber to his feet by the hair and pointed him toward the torture table. “Thing is, you stink so much, I can’t concentrate on my work here.” He shoved him flailing for balance towards the door. “Now. If Mazhev or I even see you again, we’ll play with you awhile like that fellow on the table.”

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With both the Great Staff of Power and the Stone Heart in their hands at last, it seems that nothing can stop Demonica and Queen Spitemorta from crushing Niarg and conquering the entire world. King Hebraun of Niarg is dead and not a single Elf is left alive in the Jutwoods.

 Spitemorta’s husband, King James, tries to ride out of Castle Goll with her Great Staff of Power, but is tortured by Demonica and her and locked away to die in the fleas and fetid straw of the dungeon. He manages to escape across the Great Barrier Mountains, just as the army and people of Niarg are sent out into the countryside by Queen Minuet and Wizard Razzmorten, who flee to the Pitmaster’s Kettles in time for Spitemorta and Demonica to effortlessly destroy Castle Niarg. Is this the end of everything?

EXCERPT

Lance shifted on his saddle in the thick whirling snow and gathered his collar over his muffler as he peered from under his hat at the top of the mountain. “Well Abaddon,”he called out cheerfully over the wind, “we’ll be over the top directly and we’ll be getting out of this weather!”

 “My momma’s goin’ ‘o kill you for stealing me away from her,” said Abaddon with a baleful snarl. “And when I tell her all about it, she’ll hurt you a whole lot for a long, long time before she stops your heart.”

“Oh, she’ll have to catch us first,” said Lance buoyantly, as a shudder ran through him.

“She’ll catch you, all right! Oh, yes she will! And it’ll be a lot of fun!”

After five long days in the cold, it’s a mercy we won’t have to sleep out in this, thought Lance with another shudder as the unicorns stepped their way up, crunching loose shards of stone through the new layer of snow. Having grown up here, he was familiar with the sudden fierce winter storms up in the Pitmaster’s Kettles. He glanced aside at Abaddon. In spite of how good he’d always been with children, the boy unnerved him.

I’ll do it for James, he thought, wishing he did not have to. Abaddon looked up at himwith a red-eyed glower, as if he knew exactly what he had just been thinking, giving hima sudden bristle of goose flesh. He quickly turned away. Surely he doesn’t read thoughts. I’ve never heard that Spitemorta does. He looked back again to suddenly feel guilty for thinking all of this at the sight of Abaddon looking right at him with the innocent smile of a boy on an adventure. He smiled back and began searching for the path over the top.

“Here we go!” he called out. “Right yonder! Just keep Sheba close to Stepper and we’ll soon be out of the weather in the heart of this ol’ mountain!”

“What do you mean? You don’t mean we’re going clean inside it, do you?”

“Sure do,” said Lance with a nod. “This is a vulcan mountain. Its top was once a cauldron of melted red-hot rock. If it weren’t for the snow, you’d see frozen rivers of rock running down it’s sides from long ago. That’s what all the black rock between the trees was, ‘way back down below, before we ever started up here. The top of each one of these mountains for miles and miles is a deep pit. that’s why they’re called the Pitmaster’s Kettles. And here we are.” He slapped his hand onto his hat in the furious wind at the very top of the slope as his unicorn hesitated between a pair of boulders on the rim, stepping restlessly from side to side before finding his first steps of the steep decent beyond. “See out yonder? the whole top of this mountain is naught but a giant deep hole. And here we go, on the path right down into the mountain, but you watch out and keep Sheba close behind. I don’t want you falling off the side. It’s a long way down.”

 “I better not fall. My momma would kill you even worse if I did.”

 “Yea, and your dad wouldn’t be too happy either.”

 Abaddon gave a contemptuous snort, but quickly donned a look of excited expectancy in spite of himself. Soon they were below the wind, carefully finding their way down the narrow path, knocking loose rocks to go skittering and bounding off into the depths. He anxiously peered down into the crater, but strain as he might, he could not see the bottom. “Hey,” he demanded. “It’s gettin’ darker and darker. How are we going to see? In fact, what’s going to keep us from falling off?”

 “Stepper and Sheba. The unicorns see a lot better in the dark than we do and they’re completely sure-footed if you don’t rush them. They’ll find their way. Besides, it’ll get lighter before long.”

 “You’re crazy. It’s been getting darker and darker.”

 “Well, when you get down far enough, there’s quite a lot of glow lichen growing, though we’re not far enough to tell it yet. Have you noticed it getting warmer?”

 “The wind’s died down is all. It’s not any warmer.”

 “Well, what do you suppose happened to all the snow, Abby?”

 “You’re not allowed to say things like that! You’re supposed to call me ‘Your Highness!'”

 “Well, maybe when you earn it…”

 Abaddon drew a breath for a furious shout, but fell silent with a gasp at the sudden sight of a faint glow, far below in the blackness.

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Rose’s parents couldn’t be telling her everything. Frantic to find out if she really is the daughter of an evil sorceress, she makes a rash departure on a quest to the Chokewoods, a forest of horrors which no one in her kingdom dares to enter.

Her journey is beset with challenges. Her brother Lukus accosts her in the stables and blackmails her into traveling with him. Together they evade royal authorities, survive a cyclone, escape from the castle of her betrothed, and discover that trolls, Elves and cyclopses really do exist as do the perilous visions which they struggle with in the Valley of Illusions.

In the Chokewoods, they narrowly survive a horde of flesh eating devils, the fruit of the choke oak and a village of beasts who take them captive. As the beasts prepare to make a feast of them, a hag crashes through the treetops and rescues them, leading them away into a mad forest of her own where she turns them into thralls and taunts them with threats, telling them that they owe her.

Rose and Lukus soon find that life everywhere has become a desperate struggle with an evil seeking to conquer the world as liberty, privacy and fundamental human dignity become forbidden.