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

 

 

 

 

Abaddon goes into the Mountain

 

 

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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!”

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“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 him with a red-eyed glower, as if he knew exactly what he had just been thinking, giving him a 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.”Extinct-volcano-crater-Mo-013

“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?”

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“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.

 

Ch 2, The BurgeoningThe_Burgeoning_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

 

 

 

 

Ocker the Raven

“Now look!” cried Demonica. “You knocked my flowers into the syrup, fowl!”

“So? Stop waving your swyving arms, then. Besides, I want you to do something for me…”

“What, then?”

“I want you to make hit so that I can travel anywhere I want by spell, instead of just to here and back,” he said as he wiped off his beak and gave himself a thorough shake.

“For what? What’s your news?”

“I already gave hit to you when you said you gave me the powers of a swyving hedge wizard…”

“So you suddenly think I should pay you twice, aye?”

“Listen, queinte!” he squawked, thrusting himself up to bristle like a pine cone. “I’ve learnt from a right true source that magic powers can’t be given. You’re either born with them, or you’re not. And I was, so you knew hit when you tricked me.”

“I’ll pay you well for the name of who told you.”

Ocker is the only raven known who is able to use magic. In Good Sister, Bad Sister, he lives with his wife Urr-Urr at their nest atop the great bluff overlooking the keep of the evil wizard Razzorbauch. Based on the behavioral studies of ravens by ethologist Bernd Heinrich and the folklore of Native Americans and Celts, Ocker is a profane, amoral huckster, who is forever wheedling things he wants from powerful people in exchange for tidbits of choice information. He does routine business with Demonica the sorceress as well as Razzorbauch, but he also has occasional dealings with Meri Greenwood the Fairy and the Jutland Elves. When Ocker sells the whereabouts of Greenwood’s lover to Razzorbauch as well as to Greenwood, the lover and her sisters are doomed to live in Mount Bed forever. Even so, it is Ocker who ends up saving the day.

We seldom use profanities in our writing, but Ocker is a most profane character, so we have him swearing exclusively with obsolete English words. The above passage is as foul and graphic as any swearing you’ll ever hear on the street.

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps  

Niarg’s Longbow

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When King Hebraun of Niarg comes to the throne in Good Sister, Bad Sister  , he promisesGood_Sister,_Bad_Sis_Cover_for_KindleEuropean_Longbow_and_Arrows-600806-model that his subjects will have a say in the important matters of the kingdom, and he promises to lead them into battle himself if ever they are forced into war. To discourage that from ever happening, Hebraun decrees that every citizen keep a longbow in his house and practice with it at the public butts at least once a month. Anyone who participates in such practices is given the privilege of voting in public gatherings by raising his bow over his head to allow his vote to be counted. 

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Hebraun knows well that longbowmen can loose better than twice as many arrows in a given period of time than crossbowmen can shoot bolts, and are generally more able to hit targets atmerlin_soldiers long range. Meanwhile, kingdoms surrounding Niarg prefer crossbows for their own armies because crossbows require far less practice by soldiers who are denied the right to keep arms in their own homes.

The people of Niarg spend nearly the entire time Hebraun is on the throne living in a prosperous peace. And they take him and their right to vote very seriously indeed. 

longbow (1)Everyone practices at the butts, and everyone turns out to be counted when a vote is to be taken. Competitions and war games are soon part of the monthly practices, with parades and prizes to celebrate the winners. Before long, Niarg is known far and wide as a nation of keen archers. When word gets out about whole squads of them hitting targets at ranges well beyond the reach of crossbows, those with dark designs grumble and leave Niarg to its prosperity. 

The_Collector_Witch_Cover_for_KindleAfter a time, a new queen of Goll comes to the throne by murdering her parents, in The Collector Witch.  She is much too vain and drunk on the power shown to her byStone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle her sorceress grandmother to notice Niarg’s skills before sending her army to their doorstep to be slaughtered, in Stone Heart. In The Burgeoning, her grandmother replaces her army The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_Kindlewith a division of Gwaelic regulars and a division of Gwaelic mercenaries. In The Reaper Witch, she sends both Gwaelic armies to surprise the Niarg army, campedThe Reaper Witch 01 copy along the Loxmere River. The regulars accidently arrive before the mercenaries and are thoroughly decimated by Niarg’s longbowmen, in spite of Gwael’s advantage.

 

 Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

 

Languages in The Heart of the Staff

Modern English is the language spoken throughout Elf Killers and the epic series, Heart of the Staff.  Fairies speak Middle English without most of its obsolete words in The Burgeoning, Reaper Witch (February, 2013) and Doom (Summer, 2013). The rest of the languages used appear as isolated words and sentences chosen to give realism and color to various characters. Most of these are explained by context and all can be found translated in the respective glossaries in the books where they appear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Language:                              What it is:                               Who speaks it:

 

Niarg Standard                       current Modern English          Kingdom of Niarg

                                                                                                Kingdom of Loxmere

                                                                                                Kingdom of Goll

                                                                                                Kingdom of Bratin Brute

                                                                                                Jutish Elves

                                                                                                naked dragons

                                                                                                Cyclopsia

 

Archaic Modern Niarg            Middle English                       all Fairies

                                                                                            all profanities uttered by

                                                                                                  Ocker the raven

                                                                                            Niarg (600 yrs prior)

 

Old Niarg Standard                Welsh                                     Kingdom of Niarg

                                                                                             Kingdom of Loxmere

                                                                                             Kingdom of Goll

                                                                                             Kingdom of Bratin Brute

                                                                                             Cyclopsia

 

Jutish Elven                             Irish                                        Jutish Elves

 

Old Gwaelic Elven                 Irish                                         Gwaelic Elves (1M yrs prior)

 

Gwaelic Elven                         Manx                                      Gwaelic Elves

 

Gwaelic                                   Cornish                                   Gwael

 

Headlandish                            Breton                                     Penvro (Head)

                                                                                              Dark Empire

                                                                                              Mammvro

 

Goblish-Beakish                      Pictish                                     Kingdom of Marr (Beaks)

                                                Doric

                                                Scots

 

Ngop                                       Wagiman                                 the Ngop

 

Wagiman is almost extinct. The last I knew, only ten Australian Aboriginals still speak it.

 

Trollish                                    transposition of an                    trolls

                                               aboriginal language

 

 

 

Trollish is a very nasal sounding language, the transposition of an aboriginal New World language, where each letter in the original tongue is replaced with a different letter. In particular, the sounds most frequently used by the aboriginal speakers are replaced with the sounds which are the very most difficult for them to pronounce. Trollish uses such non European peculiarities as noun-verbs, which we originally tried to represent in English by running nouns and verbs together (as they are in the aboriginal) in words such as, headsmash, juicychamp, cantgoback, rollybottomhohoslap and grabupsqueakers, which we soon changed to head-smash, juicy-champ, can’t-go-back, rolly-bottom-ho-ho-slap and grab-up-squeakers in order to be easy to read.

And as always, please let us know what you think,

 

Meri Greenwood gives Ocker a Powerful Stick

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As the shadows were growing long, Ocker buried his marble before flying to the whispering branches of a tall spruce to study a green haired man picking up sticks on the ground below. Titmice and chickadees called nearby, hidden by the boughs. Ocker shook himself and sorted through the feathers of each wing while he kept an eye on the man. “That’s Greenwood, all right,” he thought.

Without warning, Meri Greenwood stood up and looked straight at him. “Hoy, Ocker!” he hollered. “Ain’t eighteen rod a pretty far piece for to visit?”

Ocker was so startled by this that he had to flap his way into the air to hide his having lost his grip on his perch. “Damn him!” he rattled as he swooped down to a tree much closer.

“Do you not trust me?” said Meri.

“Not much,” said Ocker. “Do you trust me?”

“I trust you to be the shrewdest thing I know of with feathers, but if you want to do business, you are going to have to come down here with me,” said Meri as he squatted at once and patted the ground.

“Business hit is,” said Ocker, landing on the carpet of needles before him, “but your flattery won’t lessen my price. I have information dear to you.”

“Celeste!” cried Meri. “Where is she? She my whole life do be.”

“Then she’s worth my price…”

“Well what is hit?”

“I’ve had some especially valuable tidings to sell, lately,” said Ocker as he ran his beak down a flight feather with a silky zip. “And one of my customers came to consider my services so indispensable that she gave me the powers of a hedge wizard and taught me a traveling spell to get me quickly to her castle to keep her up on matters of keen interest to her…”

“Demonica?”

Ocker stopped short, quite wide eyed at this. “How could you possibly figure that out?”

“Two and two make Demonica. But now, I interrupted your tale.”

Ocker felt very exposed. “Well, the traveling spell only takes me to her keep and back,” he said, bristling up like a pine cone and sleeking down. “And hit took me all day to fly here…”

“I can not never her spell for to change, nor can I change the magic of any Elf or Human,” said Meri, falling silent to eye him with his keen emerald eyes for so long that Ocker nearly sprang into the air in a panic. Suddenly Greenwood rose and went to his knapsack, pulling out a small polished stick. “But I this here do have…”

“A stick?” cried Ocker. “You must not think me as shrewd as you were saying.”

“Some of my trees the magic fire from any one can to store,” said Meri, holding out the stick. “This be one of Longbark’s twigs. She be the eldest being in the Forest Ancient and has magic and she very wise do be. This here twig a good deal of fire does store. Maybe you can yourself a way to change Demonica’s spell to divine, if you first a quantity of your magic fire in the twig to store. So will you take the twig?”

This was not nearly certain enough to suit Ocker, but there was an unmistakable desperation in Meri’s tone that made him snatch away the twig at once and stand on it.
“Celeste and her sisters and that swyving rat brother of theirs are seeking sanctuary with the Elves in the Jutwoods,” he said with a snap of first one wing and then the other. “They were camped about ten league south-east of my nest two days ago.”

“Rat brother? They a brother do have, but he’s not no rat.”zack__s_face_on_a_rat__s_body_by_gginstereo-d3gu6tu_edited-1

“Yea? Well he is now. Somebody got him good. He’s all rat except for his face, and he’s counting on the Elves undoing his curse, though the three quientes… I mean three ladies, hope they don’t manage.”

“How could you possibly know something like unto that?”

“I listen from the treetops,” said Ocker as he took a couple of careful pecks at his new stick. “I heard them say hit, that’s how. Say. How about the hindquarters off one of those squirrels you have draped across that log?”

igp1965_1“They are both yours,” said Meri, grabbing up his bag. He set off at once into the timber and ran through the deepening shadows until he reached a mossy glade. Across the glade he came to a large ring of mushrooms. As a whip-poor-will gave its first call of the evening, he stepped into the ring and disappeared up to his knees in the moss before
jogging down out of sight, vanishing altogether.

Country Diary archive : A large fairy ring of toadstools in the woodland floor

 

Ch. 9, Good Sister, Bad Sister

Good_Sister,_Bad_Sis_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Who are Daniel and Ariel?

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Daniel and Ariel are fabled twins of Elven prophesy, the children of Soraya and Lukus, destined to bring down the terrible witches who wield the Heart and Staff to rule the world… if you hold with Elven lore.

The witches certainly do. Empress Spitemorta so fears the very possibility of any Elf ever having children by a human that she has decreed that every living Elf shall be found andStone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle slain. And indeed the twins have the lineage, with Soraya an Elven princess and Lukus the descendant of the great First Wizard. Spitemorta’s grandmother Demonica destroys the Elven Castle at Oilean Gairdin, sending the Elves fleeing into the wilderness with Soraya and Lukus and the twins for years to come.

DoomIn the midst of their exodus, Ariel forms a heart bond with Abaddon, Spitemorta’s very son. Will the Prophesy not come to pass?

In WHAM! we see Daniel again when he travels the Fairy paths to the future, with Teeuh, the winged Fairy, to get Tess Greenwood and bring her back to their time at Meri Greenwood’s request. Daniel and Tess eventually become romantically involved, and later on in the Timewalker series, Ariel and Abaddon are reintroduced.

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Spitemorta Loves Gwaelian Hand Gonnes

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The great hall had smartly dressed military men standing about everywhere. Spitemorta was ushered past the grand dining table, steaming with roasted hogs and geese, to a chairimages (3) beside Demonica on the balcony, overlooking a broad jousting field below. Drummers and german_bagpipersbagpipers marched around the outside of the field. In the middle of the field stood a full suit of armor, stuffed with sacks of flour on a block of wood. Two rods in front of it stood twenty-one pairs of soldiers. Each pair were readying some sort of iron staff. At a command, the bagpipers stopped, and one from each pair of soldiers pointed his staff at the armor. At the imagescommand: “Loose!” the other one from each pair applied a smoldering match to the staff. Each of the twenty-one staves went off with a rolling boom, sending the armor tumbling off the block as thick clouds of blue-white smoke curled into the air.

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Spitemorta leant forward, enthralled. Directly, four soldiers tramped through the dining hall to the balcony bearing the armor and one of the iron staves. “What is this thing?” she said.images (1)

 “This, Your Majesty, is a hand gonne,” said Vortergern, beaming. “It casts these gonne stones, lead balls, six to the pound, faster than the eye can see. Please look at this breastplate, gorget, hauberk and back plate.” The soldiers turned the riddled armor all about so that she could clearly see that the balls had all gone clean through both sides.

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 “I assume by your demonstration, King Vortigern, that you will be supplying hand gonnes to the troops you are sending me?”

 “Your Majesty, all twenty-one hand gonnes are amongst the thirty-six going with your troops.”medieval_banquet_4

 Spitemorta gave a nonchalant nod and turned away to look out over the jousting field again. She was dancing inside. She loved this Gwaelic magic.

 

Ch 28, The Burgeoning.The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_Kindle3

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

 

 

Herio is Knighted

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Minuet fought back the urge to take Herio into her arms and beg him to change his mind. “You, my valiant guardian, are to come back to me unharmed,” she said fiercely.

“I will, my Queen,” said Herio solemnly as he bowed low.

When he stood, Minuet embraced him and kissed him on both cheeks. “You are a right brave young man, but you sally forth on a knight’s errand,” she said. “Therefore, you must bear with you a knight’s title. Kneel before me, Herio.”

Astonishment flickered in his eyes as he knelt at once.

Minuet drew Hebraun’s sword, raised it before her and kissed the blade. She smiled, eyes brimming with tears as she placed the blade on first one, then the other of his shoulders. “Ymladd yn erbyn drwg…Ymladd dros Niarg…Ymladd dros rhinwedd, marchog,” she proclaimed. “Thou a royal knight of Niarg ybeoth. Ryst up, Sir Herio.”

Herio stood at once. “You have honored me beyond my wildest dreams,” he said, looking at her in wonder. “I will not disappoint you.”

“I know,” she said as she took Razzmorten’s arm. “Now Father, please change Hubba Hubba so that these two brave souls may be on their way.”

“Are you ready, Hubba Hubba?” he said.

“You got it, Wiz,” said the satin crow looking up from amidst the scrambling brood and Pebbles. Suddenly all eyes went wide as Hubba Hubba ran his ebony beak down some flight feathers and gave himself a thorough shake. “Thanks, Wiz. Ready Sir Herio?”

“Not without us!” squeaked Chirp, winging into the room with Tweet and Squeak in a flurry of wings.

“At least for as far as we can make it by this evening,” tweeted Squeak.

“Why that makes my morning!” cawed Hubba Hubba with a shake of his black ruff. “Let’s go, shall we boys?” 

“Just a moment before you leave,” said Razzmorten. “Herio, Hubba Hubba, Chirp, Tweet and Squeak, this is a little something to bear in mind for the sake of everyone while you’re off on this mission: no matter what happens, no matter how tempting, never ever peer into a skinweler.”

Ch. 9, The Burgeoning 

 

(Click on Title or Cover to 

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Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

The Albino Troll Kid and the Elves

 Excerpt From Elf Killers

“Isbal! Reina! Strangers!” bellowed the troll as he wheeled and vanished into the adjoining room.

“It talks!” cried Kieran, springing after to let fly an arrow which glanced off a long polished table top and stuck in the far wall.

“Stop!” shrieked a woman, suddenly appearing from the hallway.

“Aunt Isbal!” cried Oisin, letting down his bow. “You’re alive!”

“Yes I am. Now don’t shoot our troll…!”

“‘Our’ troll? Who else made it through the massacre? And how would you ever have a troll?”

“Your aunt Reina is who else. Now you heard me about not shooting him, right?”

“How does one not shoot a troll?” said Kieran.

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

“By being polite enough not to, Kieran!” said Isbal.

“I’m sorry, Isbal. I just saw them kill…”

“Yes. So did I. But this one won’t. Come on out Darragh. Come on now.”

After a pause, a chair scooted away from the long polished table with a screech on the stone floor as Darragh lumbered out from under it and slowly stood up.

“Now this is Darragh, and I swear he’ll not harm a single hair on your head…”

“What’s the matter with it?” said Olloo. “I’ve never seen one with snow white hair before. And what’s wrong with the thing’s eyes?”

“Shake their hands, Darragh,” she said as she gently took him by the wrist and held his hand toward Kieran.

Kieran stepped back as Oisin came forth in his place and took Darragh by the hand.

“How do you?” rumbled Darragh with a beetle browed nod as he pumped out a couple of giant handshakes.

“Carefully, sport,” said Oisin with a wary look as he stepped back.

“Meanie. And he meanie, too,” said Darragh, wrinkling his nose with a sneer and pointing at Kieran and Olloo

“Well shake his hand, Kieran,” said Olloo.

“No!” said Darragh, shaking his head from shoulder to shoulder. “He big big meanie. He dirtybutt stinkerman.”

“Well,” said Olloo, “there’ve been moments on the way here when we’ve thought so ourselves, Darragh.”

Kieran bit his lip and kicked Olloo in the ankle.

“See?” said Darragh. “Meanie!”

“So how did you come by him?” said Oisin. “And where’s Aunt Reina?”

“Back through the house,” said Isbal. “I can see that this will require some refreshments. Let me take you to the sitting room. Come along, Darragh.”

Soon they had exchanged greetings with Reina and were all seated comfortably around a tea table in a small parlour. Isbal and Reina disappeared into the kitchen and returned shortly with hot blackberry tarts and tea. “We harvested the blue maidenhair you’re about to drink last year right after the massacre,” said Reina as she set down the tray with the steaming pot.

“Why do you have it so dark in here?” said Oisin.

“The light hurts Darragh’s eyes,” said Isbal. “If we don’t keep it dark, he’ll sleep all day and keep us awake all night…”

“Drum and hoot-hoot, Isbal?” said Darragh as he tumbled onto the floor in front of her and pressed his cheek to her foot. “Please hoot-hoot?”

“That’s probably a good idea. Go get the instruments,” she said as he sprang to his feet and raced out.

He was back in short order with a field drum and two clay jugs. He set the drum on its side with a bang and reverently nestled the smaller jug in Isbal’s lap before plumping down cross legged on the floor with the larger jug. He scooted the drum about until he could touch its head with the ball of one foot. Like a conductor tapping his baton, he shifted about for a moment and got still. Presently he began a brisk tapping of the drum with his foot: pum, pum, pum, pum, pum, pum, pum, pum..

Isbal joined him in time with her jug: foof…foof…foof…foof…

Darragh in turn added a commanding: toofa…toofa…toofa…toofa… so that together they went: foof toofa, foof toofa, foof toofa, foof toofa, foof toofa, foof toofa, foof toofa, foof toofa… for a very long time. After a spell, it became quite mesmerizing indeed. Suddenly he stopped his jug with a loud thump of his drum: bam!

Isbal continued: foof…foof…foof…foof… until Darragh went: wham! on his drum, sprang to his feet and gave a dignified bow. For a moment, there was not a sound in the room.

At last, Oisin set down his teacup with a clink. “Why, I’ve never heard the like,” he said. “That was quite impressive, Darragh.”

Darragh grinned hugely and bowed again and again.

“Darragh,” said Isbal, holding out her jug, “why don’t you go out and play for a while? I promise that as soon as Reina has the next pies out of the oven, we’ll call you in.”

“Oh good, good!” he said with a bounce as he gave her a squeeze and took her jug. He scurried out at once with the jugs. He was back immediately for the drum, pausing to stick out his tongue at Kieran. “Bad meanie stinky privy seat!” he rumbled. He gave his chest two good thumps with his fists and tramped out.

“Just what does he have against me?” said Kieran.

“I expect he takes exception to being shot at,” said Isbal.

“Nay. He’s just a good judge of character, is all…” said Olloo.

Kieran leant aside with a frown and gave Olloo a smack on the back of the head.

“Well, speaking of fighting and dying, if you know what I mean, how ever did you come by Darragh?” said Oisin. “Do you really trust him?”

“So the dear child scares you, does he?”

“Not as much as on first sight. Child? I can see that he sort of acts like one, but he’s a good head taller than me and might weigh as much as all three of us.”

“He’s not an Elf Killer,” said Isbal, looking up as Reina returned with another pot, “Well troll he be, but he is indeed innocent.”

“How can you call any sort of troll a ‘dear child,'” said Kieran, “or innocent?”

“Because that’s what he is, Kieran,” said Isbal. “Darragh wouldn’t harm so much as an insect unless it bit him first.

a9d58e6a220145c3376074ebc15e9f02“You say he’s actually a child?” said Olloo.

“Aye,” said Reina as she poured tea all ’round. “We reckon that trolls are grown enough to start pestering sows at about eleven. You’d have to bathe him, but you’d see he’s not near there yet.

“Eleven!”

“They’re pretty short lived. When did you first get giddy over girls, two hundred and ten or two hundred and twenty, perhaps?”

“But trolls are monsters, Reina,” said Kieran.

Reina sighed and carefully set the teapot on the marble tea table. “Monsters they be, Kieran,” she said. “We were captured, don’t you know, along with who knows how many others.” She turned a haunted look to Isbal and licked her lips. Isbal took up her hand and squeezed it, but neither of them smiled.

Everyone sat for a moment, stunned by this. “How did you ever…?” said Oisin.

“Oh, as far as we know, we were the only ones to escape their horrible fires. They had so many captives, and were all gone wild with their hellish carousal that they seemed to have no interest in a couple of dried up old gammers. They never even bothered tying us up. They just threw us down in the dirt outside where everyone could see us. We were so terrified that we just stayed right where they put us, doing everything we could not to watch what was going on. We still wake up in the night with horrible dreams…”

“Then a scrap broke out right in front of us,” said Isbal. “The big old trollbrutes tore Darragh away from his mother. The moment they took out their sharp flints, fixing to cut him open, she stopped kicking at them and began licking their feet…”

“With her tongue?” said Olloo.

“Yes indeed, all over the tops of them and between their toes, and it stopped the curses from cutting him open. They yanked him up onto his feet by his hair and shoved him at his poor mother…”

“And the instant they did that,” said Reina, “I grabbed Isbal and we ran for the brush as hard as we could go. Just after we’d got well out of sight of the fires, the mother grabbed us by the hair and yanked us onto our backs. As we were a-struggling to get up, she shoved Darragh at us and got on her hands and knees and went to whimpering and licking at our feet. Poor Darragh was crying and carrying on too, and she bit him good a couple of times and made him go with us.

“We ran for what seemed like hours, and Darragh stayed right with us, hanging onto us for dear life. When we got back here, we found no one alive and we spent the next several days, burying bodies. We just kept running into them. Darragh kept trying to help us, so long as we didn’t go out in the bright sun. He also started in right away, trying to use our words. He won’t use trollish…”

“How can you be sure he won’t turn on you sometime?” said Kieran.

Reina heaved a sigh. “Well he’s not about to,” she said. “A few weeks ago, maybe fifty trollbrutes came back here late in the evening and nosed around through building after building for long enough, we thought they’d never leave. Darragh hid us in a passage in the palace that he’d found. He was playing outside when they showed up and the very sight of them terrified him. He was trembling all over and he kept calling them ‘monsters,’ and we couldn’t begin to coax him out of the passage until long after they were gone. He won’t ever talk about living with the other trolls, but over time we have managed to piece together that he was tormented by them day and night, and that they were continually threatening to eat him.” She clapped her knees with sudden resolution and stood up. “I think the pies must be ready by now.”

“Yea,” said Isbal. “It might do you some good, Kieran, if you went out and got Darragh. My guess is that he’s out in the stable. He won’t be far. He’s crazy about blackberry tarts…”

“Me?”

“Just go out through the kitchen.”

Seeing that no one was about to come to his aid, Kieran sheepishly rose and followed Reina. Beyond a long roofed breezeway, he stepped into an enormous barn like a rough hewed cathedral. “Darragh?” he called. There was no answer. He went from stall to stall along both walls, standing empty in the cobwebs. “Darragh?” Not finding him, he climbed into the mow. Pigeons cooed and strutted along a great timber, high up the far wall. “Darragh? Darragh! Come on! They’ve got pie!”

“No!” cried Darragh, standing up in the hay. “You dirtybutt meanie!”

“Come on, Darragh! I came out to get you for pie!”cherry_pie_case_for_the_ipad_mini-rf252931f447246c89e9010b93c82d7d7_w9wmu_8byvr_324

Darragh shook his head from shoulder to shoulder. Without warning, he threw a fist sized rock, taking off Kieran’s hat, making him see stars and setting him down hard upon the mow floor. Darragh was standing over him at once. “We even, Dirtybutt!” he cried as he gave his chest a good drumming with his fists. He held out his hand. “Now maybe you no more be meanie.”

Kieran took his hand and stood up.

“Now. Any more meanie?”

“No. I came out here to get you for pie.”

“Good, good! I like pie.”

“Even better than what you ate when you lived with the Marfora Siofra?”

“Boof! Dyrney no eat good things. Dyrney say they’ll eat me and say they’ll eat me and say they’ll eat me. Dyrney even want Fmoo to eat me.”

“Are Dyrney the Marfora Siofra? Who’s Fmoo?”

Darragh clenched his teeth and his fists and gave an angry shudder as he nodded and hissed through his nose. “‘Dyrney’ be troll talk for ‘people,’ but Dyrney no be people. Dyrney be awful, awful, awful, awful monsters.”

“Who’s Fmoo?”

“Fmoo be my real momma. But ‘fmoo’ and ‘Dyrney’ be troll words. I hate troll words. Just Elf words, please? I be Elf now.”

“You’ve got a deal, Darragh.”

“Good, good!” cried Darragh, with a thundering leap on the mow floor. “We eat pie.”

The heady aroma of blackberry tarts met them as they returned to the parlour beyond the kitchen. “Kieran no more be dirty butt meanie,” said Darragh as he scurried up to sit on the floor before the tea table.

“Why, that’s remarkable,” said Olloo, earning another smack on the back of the head as Kieran took his seat. “We never quite managed.”

 

Elf Killers

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps