Elven Trees of the Maidenhair Woods

The Maidenhair Woods of the Eternal Mountains of the Eastern Continent has the following indigenous tree and fern species of essential importance to the Gwaelic Elves who still live there (Stone Heart and Elf Killers) and to the Jutish Elves who fled to the Northern Continent with starts of each of them one thousand years ago

 blue maidenhair Ginkgo cyanophyllum R. is a twenty to sixty foot tall broad leaved 

evergreen gymnosperm with chalky blue-green leaves, living on the mountain tops up to the tree line of the Eternal Mountains of the Eastern Continent. It is amongst the oldest living things, with some trees having been found with over 16,000 annual rings. The wood is so dense that trees felled next to water have been known to sink as though their trunks were made of stone. The dried leaves, which are drunk as a tea by the Elves, contain ginkeine, an alkaloid complex which includes caffeine and other phytochemicals, some of which may induce DNA repair.

 

fringed maidenhair Ginkgo fimbriflabella R., is a deciduous gymnosperm that lives in waste and burnt over areas where woods meets grassland. It seldom grows taller than 35 to forty feet. Its leaves are deeply lobed with closely spaced fingers, scarcely broader than one mm, giving the tree its name. Its wood is almost white and very soft, and it seldom lives more than 65 to 75 years. Along with plums, crabapples and hawthorns, it is amongst the first woody species of trees to invade after a section of forest is completely burnt off by fire.

maidenhair tree Ginkgo biloba ingentissima R. (The Sacred Maidenhair of Oilean Gairdin is a G. biloba ingentissima) are broad leaved deciduous gymnosperms. These are the tallest living trees on earth with mature specimens towering from 375 to over 400 feet. The largest individual known, living near the bottom of the slopes of the 

Pitmaster Gorge in the Maidenhair Woods, measures 427 feet and is estimated to be well over 7000 years old. They are indigenous to the Maidenhair Woods of the western Eastern Continent where they are the dominant tree, forming the canopies in the deep valleys and steep slopes of the Eternal Mountains up to about 6500 feet. They are amongst the oldest living things on earth with some trees having nearly 10,000 annual rings, though the record for age is held by the very much smaller blue maidenhair, Ginkgo cyanophyllum R., of the mountain tops and tree line.

 

red maidenhair Ginkgo erythrofolium R. is a deciduous broadleaved gymnosperm living throughout the Maidenhair Woods in the Eternal Mountains of the Eastern Continent where it overwhelmingly predominates at elevations below 8000 feet. It ranges in height from sixty to ninety feet, the taller trees occurring in low places. It has the interesting ability to thrive under the canopy of the maidenhair trees, Ginko biloba ingentissima R. where the two species overlap. The red bottom surfaces of        its leaves are thought to enable it to thrive in low light conditions. Its dried leaves bear alkaloids, which when chewed by the Elves like tobacco, steadies their nerves.

 

silver maidenhair Ginko genetrex-argenteus R. also called “mother tree” by the Fairies and Gwaelic Elves, its leaves and stems are covered with a silver colored cuticle, hence its name. It lives in symbiotic association with the mycelia of Fairy ring mushrooms, and whilst its leaves, stems, fruit, bark and roots are each said to have potent medicinal properties, the tree’s great rarity has prevented substantial empirical study.    

 

maidenhair fern Adiantum capillus-veneris R. is the commonest of all species of fern occurring in the Maidenhair Woods of the Eternal Mountains of the west coast of the Eastern Continent, where it forms rank growths along streams, in deep loamy gorges and blankets the north-facing slopes of hills and sandstone bluffs. Its fan shaped leaves resemble the leaves of the maidenhair tree. It grows from six to eighteen inches in height from creeping rhizomes, six inches to six yards long. It is a major part of the diet of the maidenhair red deer, Odocoileus rufi-ginkgus R., and is the likely reason for the animal’s meat having its renowned woodsy flavor.maiden

 Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

 

Strike Falcons

 

Strike falcon – shawk spoogh, shawkyn spooghey, pl. (Gwaelic Elven), Phororhacos longissimus R., an 8-9 foot tall, flightless gruiform raptor, a member of the True Bird (Adar Gwir) Dynasty, indigenous to the open tall grass strah of the Eastern Continent, where it was the top predator of the biome, a strict carnivore capable of bringing down mammals weighing up to 450 pounds or more. Though it usually hunted singly or in pairs, it was known to form into formidable foraging packs on rare occasions. Human habitation and livestock grazing remained utterly 250px-phorusrhacoslongissimus-skull-backgroundknockedout-rom-dec29-07impossible on the Great Strah until all strike falcons were exterminated in the wild, only three Elven generations ago (1000 yrs.). Today all known strike falcons live symbiotically with the Gwaelic Elves, where each bird is assigned upon hatching to its personal, life-long Elven trainer called an austringa. The falcon iscassowary-eggs-c-wtma placed at hatching with the austringa within mere hours of the austringa’s seventh naming day (99th birthday), and they remain in perpetual contact with one another until the death of one of them. Strike falcon and austringa form a deadly military assault unit for the defense of the Gwaelic Elves, particularly from the ravages of the Elf Killers, Homo neanderthalinsis gwaelii R., also known as social trolls.

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Olloo was the one who first hatched and raised a strike falcon when the Elves fled the trolls to take up a new life, far out in the Great Strah. He named his fuzzy new pet “Baase” which meant “death” in Gwaelic Elven. Baase impressed Olloo with his alertness and loyalty, ardently following him on his heels everywhere he went. By the time Baase wasimages half grown, he was communicating with Olloo by exchanging mental pictures. When the trolls found where the Elves were living in the Strah and attacked, Baase and the other strike falcons astonished everyone by killing every single troll.

 

Are you fortunate enough to live in partnership with a bird of some sort? What sort of experience is it? Do you hunt with it?    

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Who are the Elves?

 

Elf woman in a magical forest

Elf woman in a magical forest

Elves, Homo sapiens ginkgoliberiensis R., area race of humans indigenous to the Maidenhair Woods of the Eternal Mountains of the Eastern Continent, characterized

Beautiful male elf in the magic forest. Fantasy. Fairy tale, magic.

by ivory colored skin, eyes with various colors of irises highlighted with opalescent flashesAn Elf who is 240 years old has the biological maturity of a Human [In our writing, ‘Human’ is a race of human] of about seventeen. therefore, one can multiply the equivalent number of Human years by (240/17) to find how old he would be as an Elf. Elves have Darkness, 3d CGannual birthdays as we do, but they also celebrate their “naming day” every 14.1 years. An Elf’s seventh naming day has particular importance and is celebrated on his 99th birthday.

 

Up until a millennium ago all Elves spoke Old Gwaelic Elven and lived on the western forestneanderthal_660pxslopes of the Eternal Mountains, with most of them living in or near the village of Baile Gairdin. At that time, nocturnal raids by Gwaelic trolls, Homo neanderthalensis gwaelii R., known to them as Marfora Siofra, drove nearly all of them across the Orin Ocean to the Jutland Woods of the Northern Continent where they live to this day, speaking a nearly unchanged version of their ancestral tongue called Jutish Elven. A handful of Elves stayed behind on the Eastern Continent to flee across the mountains, far out into the table flat grasslands of the Great Strah to a greatULURU rock they named Carraig Faire, which kept them out of the reach of the great predatory strike falcons living there. In time, their way of speaking changed entirely into

beautiful elf girl. fantasy young woman in woods

a new language known today as Gwaelic Elven.

Elves play an important role in each of the books of The Heart of the Staff which are now Elf_Killers_Cover_for_Kindlein print: Good Sister, Bad Sister, The Collector WitchStone Heart,  The Burgeoning and The Reaper Witch They remain important in the final book of the series, Doom. The Elven exodus occurs a millennium earlier in Elf Killers.

Heart of the Staff Complete Series Box (1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Troll Attack!

NNeanderthal

On the eve of their exodus from the Eastern Continent in Elf Killers, a party of young Elves is ambushed…

imagesAedan glanced up the tall trunks as a breeze chased through the treetops and died away amongst the echoes of the bellbirds. “Make sure that each one of the kids has a nice wet ball of sphagnum on the seedlings, if you would, Oísín,” he said as he sank into the ferns to sit on his heels. He watched as each young Elf dutifully opened his vasculum in turn for Oísín’s inspection.

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“All that’s left of the sunlight is ‘way up in the treetops,” said Oísín with a nod. “You reckon it’s still safe to try for the blue maidenhair at the summit?”download, Daniel

“I was hoping for all four kinds,” said Aedan, as he ran his hands through his hair. “Looks like I let the time slip away. Listen! Hear that purple-rib, yonder?”

“Sure do…”

“Well, he thinks it’s a-getting dark…” he said, suddenly looking about for a muffled snap in the leaves.

Neanderthal“Oouyuyf!” bellowed a troll covered with black and red ochre hand prints, as he took a sudden tramp out of the pawpaw leaves to run a spear under Aedan’s collarbone and out his back.

“Run!” cried Oísín as he loosed an arrow into the troll, sending it staggering about to stumble and fall as the wide-eyed young Elves scrambled to their feet and vanished into the woods. Trolls were starting to appear everywhere. As quick as he could manage, he loosed four or five more arrows, striking one of them and scattering the others. He dropped to his knees where Aedan lay on his side in the ferns.

“Go!” grunted Aedan, blowing blood off his lips.cos3

“Here…” said Oísín, starting to scoop him up.

“No!” coughed Aedan. “They’ll get you if you even try. I’m gone. Go! Save the kids! Damn it! Do it!”

Oísín jerked up at a waft of wind by his ear in time to see a huge rock land and roll throughgall7a the leaves beyond him. He was on his feet at once, wheeling ’round with his drawn bow to find two trolls about to run him through with a spear. He loosed his arrow
at once, killing the one with the spear as the other one fled out of sight. “I can still carry
you, Aedan!” he cried.

“Get out of here! Please!”

Oísín was immediately underway, batting aside branches. “We’ll never forget you!” he hollered as he hurtled out of the brush to take huge bounding strides down the side of a steep hogback.

The troll tramped to a halt beside Aedan and pummeled his chest with his fists. “Ooot-neanderthal-615ooot, ooot-ooot, ooot-ooot,” he cried with a look of crazed triumph, slinging spittle from the black and red ochre paint on his face. “Gnydy!”

“Ay-ooo,” sang out Gnydy, planting his spear with a fierce nod of his cap of mud caked hair as he appeared on the far side of Aedan. He jabbed the point of his spear into Aedan’s thigh, drawing blood. “Should-we hair-drag the grabup-squeaker, Dyr?” he said as he licked the blood off his spearpoint.

whippoorwill00“You-want to haul-meat both-ways?” said Dyr with a beetle-browed glare, as a purple-rib took up calling nearby. “We’ll-quarter him on the way-back.

“Should-we stamp-him to heads-mash?”

“Nobe mudful hollowhead. Let-him gurgle-bleed to cold-meat. There-go all-the Dyrny-brutes. Let’sgo.”

Aedan listened to the trolls tramp away through the leaves. “Damn this!” he thought as he squeezed shut his eyes. “I loved my life…” Suddenly he opened his eyes at the sound of light four footed walking in the leaves, making straight for him. “Niall!”

The deer like unicorn slowed to hesitant steps and lowered his head for a careful sniff.

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“I may be out of time, but I have this minute,” he said, wincing with pain at his attempt to pat Niall’s muzzle. “If I can get up onto your back, we’re going back to camp to show them what the Marfora Siofra did to me and to have them try to find Oísín and the children. And even if I don’t make it, you’ll get me there.”

Though Niall understood not one word of this, he would soon know what to do, for he was a terraing pictiúr, a picture catcher unicorn. Difficult as it was with all his pain, Aedan managed to clear his mind enough to picture Niall lying down in order for him to
Elf_Killers_Cover_for_Kindlemount. At once, Niall lay down before him, patiently waiting for him to get on. Crying
out from the horrible pain, Aedan heaved himself onto his knees, where he steadied
himself long enough to cough blood down his front before throwing his leg across him.
He had a long struggle to keep from passing out before he could manage to picture Niall
rising to his feet. Niall got up at once, but it was an eternity of fighting down the pain
from the jostling before Aedan could manage to picture the camp. At last they were
underway.

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Fire Sprites and Glow Lichens

 

Fire Sprites Homo sapiens luciferestris L. a diminutive and highly luminescent human whose melanin has been replaced by luciferin, the light producing pigment in fireflies. Fire Sprites glow with such intensity that many who have gotten fleeting glimpses of  them have mistakenly reckoned them to be engulfed in flames, though in daylight their skin is an almost translucent alabaster white. They inhabit the utterly lightless lava tubes of the volcanic formations in the Eternal Mountains of the Eastern Continent. They communicate with one another and with other races of humans almost exclusively with thought projection and extra sensory perception (ESP), reserving their arcane and mysterious language for their singing of eerie aeolian chorals in the echoes of their caverns.

  

In Elf Killers, Oísín and Doona and their party escape the marauding trolls by hiding in the tunnels of Ubh Ollmhór, where they are rescued by the Sprites and led through the maze of inky black volcanic passages to the grasslands of the Great Strah on the far side of the mountains. 

The Fire Sprites are actually the ones who originally made what becomes known as the Elven Prophecy about the rise of an evil which will seek to take over the world. This prophecy has a part in The Collector Witch, Stone Heart, The Burgeoning, The Reaper Witch  and Doom. 

  

Glow lichen Cladonia antrolucidus R., is a close relative of the reindeer lichen (reindeer moss) and lives in moist underground caverns. Its fungal symbiont takes up nutrients saprophyticly from the moist cave walls and emits a strong bioluminescence, using the pigment luciferin, which allows its plant symbiont to photosynthesize in turn, releasing sugars to the saprophyte. Glow lichen is common throughout lava tubes in the Pitmaster’s Kettles and in deep cavern systems throughout the southern half of the Northern Continent. Luxuriant growths can light up caverns with their greenish yellow ambience at least as bright as artificially lighted rooms.

 

Glow lichen lights the caverns of the Magic River in The Collector Witch and the volcanic tunnels of Mount Bed in The Burgeoning. It also illuminates the Fairy underground in The Burgeoning, The Reaper Witch and Doom.

 

Carol Phipps & Tom Phipps

Arwr the Diatryma Bites Vyrpudi the Troll on the Buttock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You understand Trollish?” said Lukus.

“Not a single word of it,” said Arwr.

Ch. 18, The Burgeoning

 

 

Carol and Tom Phipps

Glimpse into the Home life of an Elf Killer Family

Fnarry-irrny was Dyr’s sow, which allowed her to choose the best place in the biggest cave to spread out her things, rear her children and to attend to Dyr’s whims and needs. She chose an airy alcove just inside the mouth of the Hooter Cave, well out of the weather, which allowed her the most convenient access to the fire just outside and the best place to flaunt her wealth of beads, shells and skins to all the envious sows who were forced to pass by her on the way to their respective spots further back in the cave. One troll evening (which is just before dawn), she rolled her bushy red head from side to side, gnawing and tugging on an Elf leg as she watched her family eat.
            “Boof!” cried her eldest son as he spat out a great cud of chewed Elf onto the ground. “Gnydy hee-hee-grabbed my grab-up-squeaker rump. Everytime, I get shin-bone-meat! I eat rump.”
            “You think like rump,” said his younger brother. “You snuff-snuff  like rump…”
            “Gnydy juicy-champs my rump, Da, and you let him,” said the eldest, as two wolf-dogs squeezed in to bristle at each other and snatch up his cud of Elf. “You be easy-let, Da. Gnydy will head-smash you, then he’ll be Thunder-man. And if Gnydy be Thunder-man, then I’ll no be Thunder-man. I’ll be hoo-hoo-crawl-animal.” He turned to the younger. “But you’d be hum-dee-dumdle with that, Fnana-fnyr. You already be crawl-animal for yuck-champs. Poofy-letter Da grand-showed you…”
            “Rump-jaws, Fnanar!” roared Fnana-fnyr as he shot to his feet to run at Fnanar’s head with a furious kick.
            Fnanar ducked as the kick flew by his ear, flinging Fnana-fnyr onto his back, the arm of Elf he was eating smeared all up one hip.
            Dyr stopped chewing and glowered at his sons from under his bony brows.
             “Ooot-ooot! ooot-ooot! ooot-ooot!” cried Fnanar as he flailed his chest with his fists. “That be proud-show rump-trick!” He wheeled ’round to leave the alcove and stepped right into Dyr’s stony fist which put him flat on his back, seeing stars. 
            Dyr was a-straddle him immediately, furiously strangling him. 
            “Duda! Nyr-vyr-nirr-trad!” screamed Fnarry-irrny, ropes of beads and greasy breasts flying about as she sprang at Dyr to claw at his gnarly hateful fingers. “No! Stop!” 
            “He’s begged for-this ever-since he wet-held Fnana-fnyr under the fast-water,” he said, growling spit between his teeth as he gave an extra shove and stood up. He tramped out of the Hooter Cave and past the glowing fires.
            Dyr paused to glance at some kids who were poking sticks and giggling at an Elf child who was well beyond utterances of any kind, tethered and trembling uncontrollably as she awaited her turn over the coals. “No be Fnanar and Fnana-fnyr,” he sighed. “Never-once have Fnanar and Fnana-fnyr giggle-romped that well-together. I can’t even hunt with them-together.”   
            He shook his head and walked out under the stars. A shivering owl called. “One-thing I know-be with all head-nod,” he said. “Fnanar has-had his last greedy-champ in the Hooter Cave. Let him yank-bite squeaker-rump from Gnydy. He got his hairy-face new-name cold-time, cold-time, cold-time, cold-time ago.
            “But I have-to slip-let Fnarry-irrny pincher-twist me so Fnanar gets-to stay until he’s giggle-grabbed a sow. But he grabby-wants the biggest milksow. Mudful hollow-head! He drool-dreams the wrong end. Hoof! He has sly-kids in every-other cave but the Hooter Cave and diggy-fingers his nose at me.
            “Ooot!” he bellowed into the echoes, silencing the owl. He gave his chest a good three thump drum. “And let Gnydy come at me for a good head-smash. He needs his thunder-stamp, too.”  
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Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Arwr the Diatryma Finds Humanity in Vyrpudi the Troll

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“Mary,” said Arwr softly from beneath the lone scrubby pine.

“Does your leg hurt, Arwr?” she said. “I’ve some herbs that might stop the pain without putting you to sleep.”

“No Mary. My leg is merely bruised and the pain is bearable,” he said, nodding to where800px-nyndrtly Vyr-pudi was chained, beyond the fire. “Did you know that Vyr-pudi saved my life? He saved Abaddon’s, too.”

“That’s his name, Vyr-pudi? Have you learnt any more of his language?”

“Yes actually, but what I did not expect is that he’s beginning to understand ours.”

“How do you know?”

“He called out my name quite clearly, just in time for me to dodge the lyoth which brought me down. I have no doubt that he saved my life and Abaddon’s, too. Abaddon got
thrown off my back while I was kicking at the Lyoth. Vyrpudi caught him. And when he
saw his moment, he jumped the Lyoth and strangled it with his chain. No one has even
thanked him.” He gave the side of his beak a thoughtful saw across a fallen pine trunk and
thoroughly shook his feathers.

Mary sat speechless for a moment, listening to the owl as a pop in the fire sent sparks dashing into the starry sky. “Oh my,” she said. “I see your point Arwr, but he is a troll surrounded by Elves. He undoubtedly had some part in feasting on the Elves in two Jutish villages, and you know better than I do what you caught him in the act of doing at Oilean Gairdin.” She peered at Vyr-pudi, sitting in his chains. “You’re right, Arwr. We’re no better at all if we can’t show humanity when it’s needed.” She stood and brushed off her skirts. “Do you know the Trollish words for thank you?”

Arwr nodded his head. “Afey-fira.”

“Afey-fira…afey-fira,” she said as she started over to Vyrpudi, who sat up quite straight at her approach. “Well. Arwr says your name is Vyr-pudi.”

Vyr-pudi became very wide eyed at this.

“Anyway we,” she said, pointing to herself and then back to Arwr, “want to tell you afey-fira.”

Vyrpudi’s eyes bugged out and his jaw dropped open as she squatted before him and carefully reached out her hand. At once he drew back from her touch as if she were about to strike him. “Well I guess that wasn’t a good idea,” she said as she stood up and let her arms fall to her sides. She smiled at him and walked back to the fire.

“I believe he thought I was about to hit him,” she said as she found her spot on the rock.

Arwr glanced over at Vyr-pudi who was now watching them with undisguised curiosity. “Yes I saw,” he said, “but you didn’t hit him and he can plainly see that you didn’t intend to. He’ll figure it all out. Where it will all go, though, I can’t guess. You do remember that when I captured him, the plan was to learn what we could from him and then kill him, don’t you?”

“I remember,” she said, shaking her head. “Even with his valiant deeds today, after so many long years of attacks on Elves…”

“I know,” he said as he snapped each wing and settled himself, closing his eyes. “We shall simply have to take things as they come.”The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_Kindle

 

Ch. 38, The Burgeoning

 

 

Carol & Tom Phipps

 

 

 

 

Rose Marries Fuzz

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“How do I look, Mother?” said Rose as she anxiously peered again at her reflection in the great oval mirror.

“Absolutely, stunningly beautiful dear. You couldn’t possibly be more gorgeous,” said Minuet with a smile of wistful joy. “I think it’s almost time. Why don’t I just pop out into the garden and see if they are ready for you yet? And isn’t it wonderful that we had this one warm, sunny day come along so it could actually be out there as you used to wish when you were little.”

144131-fall-colors-wedding-bouquets-3Rose nodded gratefully and heaved a tight-buttoned sigh as Minuet stepped out of sight. “Well yes,” she thought, as the handmaiden came at her train to whisk and fluff and straighten, “except that there are no roses, and that this has grown into a full-blown wedding. The citizens of Niarg had other ideas, but at least they’re not making me marry Pea Slinger Pig Boy. But I do get Fuzz. I just wish this would be over.”

She looked up at the sound of determined footfalls in the corridor. A wail of  bagpipes sounded, three steps before Minuet appeared round the corner. Minuet smiled radiantly and motioned in grand rhythm with the wedding march for her to come. She took a deep trembling breath, stepped through the doorway, took Hebraun’s strong arm and floated down the crunching path to join Fuzz at the great white trellis, laced with naked vines, where he waited with Lukus, Razzmorten, Yann-Ber and Hubba Hubba, who stood at parade attention on Razzmorten’s shoulder with her wedding ring clamped tightly in his beak.

Hebraun carefully parked her beside Soraya, Violet and Pebbles and stepped back with watery eyes. The ceremony swept over her like a dream and before she quite grasped it all, she and Fuzz were man and wife and immersed in a pandemonium of well-wishers. She met the joy and sadness in her mother’s tearful eyes and felt oddly calmed. She turned to her husband and felt herself ignite with a glow of euphoric joy. This is truly what she had always wanted.

(Ch. 42, Stone Heart)Stone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Neanderthal Under the Bridge

 

In spite of what some people insisted twenty years ago, Neanderthals are not members of our species. They are Homo neanderthalensis and we are Homo sapiens. We are closely related but different species, not different races of the same species. Thousands of years in chilly overcast Europe selected for lots of Neanderthal characteristics similar to those of modern White humans, but now that we are able to compare actual Neanderthal DNA to ours, we find that these similarities are derived altogether differently. Neanderthals used entirely different DNA for their red hair than we use for ours.

Neanderthals’ DNA differs from ours by 27.2 gene substitutions. Chimpanzees’ DNA differs from ours by 55.0 gene substitutions. This means that Neanderthals were half as distantly related to us as chimpanzees. In spite of how much graphic representations such as Popeye look like humans to us, we would not have been inclined to breed with the Neanderthals we chanced upon, because they were simply too different.

Neanderthal vs modern human

If one is lucky enough to compare actual Neanderthal skulls to those of humans, he sees that Neanderthals had brow ridges and rounded chins, all right, but he also sees that Neanderthals had huge eye sockets and a ballooned-out cranium in back, called an occipital bun. Casual observers seem to miss this, but to me this strongly suggests that Neanderthals were nocturnal. Nocturnal animals have larger eyes and enlarged visual areas of the brain which the bun would have housed.

Neanderthal fossils have an exceptional amount of healed fractures. When I was a crazy kid, we had a sport. We’d go out into the pasture where the cattle were bedded down in the moonlight to pick out a cow, jump astride her and see how long we could hang on when she got to her feet. Is this how Neanderthals hunted woolly mammoths?

Neanderthals showed up in Europe about 200,000 years ago and persisted until 28,000-24,000 years ago. We showed up about 35,000 years ago and warily shared the same habitat with them, for anywhere from 7,000 to 11,000 years. That’s a long time to avoid running into them in the shadows. We’ve only farmed and had towns for what, 8,000 years?

24,000 years is an awfully long time ago, but do you reckon that the troll under the bridge is some sort of ancient cultural memory? Is that why trolls are supposed to turn to stone in daylight? What do you think?