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

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Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Lukus Strangles on a Choke Oak Fruit

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ch. 8, The Collector Witch

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

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 

 

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Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Meri Greenwood Catches Wizard Razzmorten

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It sounded as though the leaves had crunched just a heartbeat after his final footfall, but Razzmorten shook his head and went on.

“Good wizard…!” said a man with green hair, alabaster skin and pointed ears as he stepped directly into his path with a knapsack covered with leaves.

“Hoy!” cried Razzmorten, freezing in his tracks at once. “Meri Greenwood?” He steadied himself against a tree.

“By your aura I have you finally caught,” said Greenwood with a flicker of fury in his emerald eyes. “You know that you can not hide that from me. Now tell me at last, wizard, where have you my lover Celeste done hid? Where did you put the Guardians of the Woods?”

????????????????“You’ve given me a terrible start, but aren’t you indeed Meri Greenwood, Dyn Gwyrdd, as we once knew you?”

“As if you did not know…”

“Well I should of course, but I’d expect you to know me every bit as well…”

“And what deceit would you be now a-trying?”

“Well if you once knew me, I doubt that you’d think I had put the Guardians any place at all. I daresay that like most mortals, I’ve never so much as had the chance to meet them. Would this have something to do with my twin, Razzorbauch?”

Meri took a step forward in the leaves and looked closely at Razzmorten’s eyes. He took a step back and chewed for a moment. “Now, you are Razzmorten, ain’t ye?” he said, turning aside for a spit.

“Yes…”

“And you can certainly mark ye my word to be Meri Greenwood. And so you are here for to covet your brother’s handiwork?”

“Do you actually mean this woods? This was the Forest Primeval? Razzorbauch didn’t have nearly enough power to make such a change, the last I knew.”

“Then as hit thinks me, sitting over here you will need to be before to you the rest of hit I can for to tell,” said Meri as he sat on a nearby fallen tree and gave the trunk beside him a pat.

“Well these blue and yellow creatures,” said Razzmorten, taking his seat, “they shot me with a dart and brought me in here unconscious, or I wouldn’t be here at all…”

“Dorchadas, my good man, one of your dear brother’s enchantments they be, along with smallies and other such things.”

“Dorchadas? Are they indeed what they look like? Could they possibly be the giant lyoths from the Dark Continent?

“All but the great daggers for fangs they did have as cats.”

“Razzorbauch never had this kind of power. Are you sure Demonica had nothing to do with this?”

“Oh, but the power he now does have,” said Meri, “particularly since he not only to get his hands on the First Wizard’s Great Staff was able, but indeed on the very crystalimages (1)x Heart of the Great Stone Tree, which the First Wizard with the Staff did use.”

“So that’s where the Heart came from,” said Razzmorten as he stroked his beard. “And in the process, he’s kidnapped the Guardians?”

“Nacea, Alvita and Celeste, who was my very lover,” said Meri, looking very haunted.

“So you think he’s brought them here into the part of the woods which he’s changed?”

“I am sorry, but you do not quite see. Hit not just be this part of the woods. He has the whole Forest a-changed. And I must my lover for to find.”

“Oh my!” said Razzmorten. A breeze chased through the leaves up in the canopy, though not a breath stirred down where they were sitting. A great grey owl wailed, far, far away through the trees, though this time, he was not entirely convinced that it was an owl at all. “I swear I’d help you if I could,” but I’m in a desperate struggle to come up with a cure for the plague which is loose in Niarg and Far.”

“Alack!” said Meri.

oregano“I was cutting Elven hyssop by the southernmost part of the Gulf of Orrin when I was taken by the Dorchadas. Do you know where that would be from here?”

“I do,” said Meri, springing to his feet, “and I would delighted to see ye there be, if you do not mind me for to have along.”

“Why, I’d be honored,” said Razzmorten as he rose and followed him at a brisk pace through the musty leaves. “Now, you’ve mentioned Celeste, Alvita and Nacea. Wasn’t there also supposed to be a Rodon amongst the Guardians?”

“Their brother…”

“Wasn’t he one of the Guardians?”

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“Yep, save there be a good chance the smallies got him…”

“Smallies?”

“Oh yea. Of them I did mention. More of your brother’s work. Bright red nightmares that in the woods in swarms do run…”

Ch 4, Good Sister, Bad Sister

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Carol Marrs Phipps and 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 intensiy 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

Meri shows Everyone Through the Fairy Ring

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The caravan of Elves trudged through the hot red sand in determined silence, following Ceidwad, Lladdwr and Arwr with Abaddon and Shot ‘n’ Stop as they accompanied Diatryma_by_ministerartMentrus, Meinir and Gwawr. By afternoon, they had begun bearing to the north-west, away from the feet of the Great Barrier Mountains, and at once found themselves in rolling countryside, dotted with scrubby junipers. By late afternoon it had become quite hilly, and soon they came to a vast forest of great tall pines. “They’ve stopped yonder, sire,” said Owain with a nod ahead.

“So I see,” said James, staring under the flat of his hand.Scan10041

“And I do believe that I recognize this Fairy,” said Neron.

“Halloo!” cried the Fairy with a grand wave from where he stood amongst the diatrymas.

“Would you be Meri Greenwood?” said Neron as he dismounted and held out his hand. “Dyn Gwyrdd was your name back when we first met, if I’m right.”

“Not mochel aboven a thousent yere a-go, Neron Ri.” said Meri with a grin as he took his hand and gave it a good shake.

“And just after that, you visited us when we hung the great front door at Oilean Gairdin, and I’ve not seen you since. And this handsome young man here is James, King of Loxmere-Goll.”

“And thou the Queene of Goll ymaried, whom yow al yfled?”

“You can’t imagine how I regret having to admit that, but yes.”

“And thy partye righte soor for water ybe, ey?”

James and Neron both nodded.

“Thanne alowe me for to wolcome hem to the village of Gerddi Teg, the Fayr Gardens of the Grete North Wodes. Weo konnen for to contynue oure introducciones as they hira thurst to slake.”

“Forgive me sire,” said James as he quickly looked about, “but for the life of me, I see no village at all.”

“Thanne by rightes thou the ffirst to seen schuldest bethe,” said Meri as he turned andFairyRing pointed to a great circle of mushrooms, growing in the mat of pine needles behind him.

“I guess I’m lost…” said James, looking utterly confused.

“Thou nedith na buen,” said Meri with a hearty laugh. “Juste stepe wythinne the cercle. Llewyrch, Danneth and Súlacha awayten thee doun the steyres. Thou nedith carefull to bene to stapen over the musserounes. Mentrus? Plese to lede the way for hym.”

At once Mentrus stepped within the ring and jogged airily down through the dirt and pine needles to vanish altogether, followed by Meinir, Gwawr and then Ceidwad, Lladdwr and finally Arwr. Abaddon looked panicky as his ears sank into the needles of the forest floor, but he was still bravely astride Arwr when he vanished. James gave a wide-eyed look about at everyone and then stepped over the mushrooms to plunge his ankle out of sight as he felt for the top step. “Ah! There it is,” he said grandly as he too trotted down out of sight.

Ch. 41, The Burgeoning

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Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Fairy Tongue

Elvian queen standing in the enchanted forest

Fairy Ring

Our green haired Fairies including Meri Greenwood speak what the people of Niarg know as Archaic Modern Niarg, the ancestor of what they were speaking at the time of our epic tale. It sounds like some sort of Germanic or Nordic language, yet it is quite easy to understand and it makes the Fairies come to life.

 

What Archaic Modern Niarg happens to be is Middle English with most of the obsolete words eliminated so that the uninitiated modern reader can read it without difficulty. It is no harder to read than a note full of misspellings passed by grammar school kids, yet it would be understood at once by people in the London area, six hundred years ago, since we have based its spelling, grammar and word order on the writings of John Wycliffe and Geoffrey Chaucer. 

 

Thirty years ago, I learnt to read Middle English using the rules of pronunciation based on a vowel shift which was thought to have occurred by the widely respected E. T. Donaldson and others, which made the language patently incomprehensible to the ear, and made Chaucer’s poetry not rhyme very well. As a Botany major, I had no stake in revering his work and I didn’t think he supported his claim very well. So, I started reading it with Appalachian vowels and found that it not only rhymed much better, it was now easy to understand when one listened to it.

 

When I read some Middle English to my Navajo students, they thought it was eerie because it sounded like a foreign language except that they could understand it perfectlywell.

 Carol & Tom Phipps

 


Heart of the Staff Complete Series Box (1)

Teeuh the Winged Fairy Hatches

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Celeste scooped her up and set out for Longbark. Alvita and Nacea were already there with two great baskets of silk. Before long, Nastea the Damned Baby was hanging fromCeleste one of Longbark’s great limbs in a snug cocoon covered over with leaves. And so began the long communion between the oldest and wisest magical tree and the three most powerful mother Fairies alive. After seven days and seven nights they went to their beds.
There was nothing more for to done. The unmaking of Nasteuh had begun.

Ch. 28, The Reaper Witch

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Snow melted, trickling everywhere in the bright February sun. Far above, a raven 2140060120_5b3e9e0159croaked. Jays and chickadees called. Bound to one of Longbark’s great branches, a leafy cocoon larger than any hornet’s nest began having twitches. Soon, it was rocking from side to side as a lime green split suddenly ran down its side. A pair of titmice flit away to a nearby tree, as a young woman pushed out of the cocoon like a wad of wet lettuce.

She climbed onto the outside and held fast throughout the afternoon as her wings unfolded and her thigh length cascades of dark green hair dried and fell free to stir in the hushed air. As the sun westered to the far rim of the crater, her great luna moth wings now felt flat and firm and she opened her emerald eyes and bb62e7a28ba656264ee9d6b85c970b01_edited-1slipped to the ground.

Celeste, Nacea, Alvita and Rodon were sitting at the board having salsify soup when she appeared. Celeste looked up with a gasp at the only winged Fairy she had ever seen and dropped her spoon into her soup. “A!” chorused everyone, “the Dampned Babi!”

The gorgeous Fairy held out her arms. “Mamas,” she said with her smile of wee shark teeth.

Ch. 31, The Reaper Witch

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***

Teeuh is a character from our Heart of the Staff, epic fantasy series, which takes place in medieval times. Since fairies are eternal beings, this is no problem. Wham! is set in the same fictional world the Heart of the Staff series inhabited, albeit in the 21st century. The above excerpt was taken from The Reaper Witch, Book 5, Heart of the Staff series.

In Wham! Teeuh travels the fairy paths with Daniel, the young elf wizard, to take Tess Greenwood back into the past at the request of her grandfather, Meri Greenwood. Teeuh and Daniel both become major supporting characters from this time onward, and aid Tess in her quest to save the future of her world.

 

 

 

 

Herio Comes to Niarg

imagesHerio awoke to the sound of busy wee toenails scuffling along a corky ridge of bark overhead as a tiny chickadee searched for hibernating grubs. The cloudless dawn sky above was already Black-Capped-Chickadee-Photosturning blue. At the sound of a metallic clink from a link of his shackles, the bird chipped and flitted away. He jerked, giving a furious scratch at the fleas which infested the tattered unicorn blanket which Sergeant Dunvel had resentfully shoved at him. It was still far too cold to do without it. Jays called.

“Wake up cachu ci!” barked Dunvel as he kicked him in the ribs hard enough to knock the wind out of him.

He cried out in pain as he struggled to get his breath. He sat up, drawing his shackles tight around the trunk of the small maple he had straddled all night.

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At once, Dunvel had a knife at his throat. “There, cachu ci,” he said, tossing the keys into the leaves by his shackles. “Undo ’em. And if ye do anything quick at all, I’ll haul your stinkin’ red head to Niarg in a bag.”

Herio stretched out his arms, mindful of the blade at his Adam’s apple. He had to try several times to unlock the shackles, since his hands were trembling convulsively and Dunvel simply refused to let him lean forward. The blade stank fiercely of raw egg and foul spit. Wave after fff9888wave of white-hot fear surged through him as he fumbled. He could picture his own throat being cut. He could picture himself somehow grappling away the knife and running Dunvel through. Somehow he would manage to stay alive because someday he would get Dunvel for this, after he got Brutus for killing his little brother.

At last he was astride his unicorn, a small dappled cyflymder-Dúlish cross. The thought of spurring it and dashing away through the timber had died the moment he saw how both mounts were already tethered together. He watched Dunvel champing open-mouthed at the last of the travel rations like some kind of dog. His stomach gnawed and he looked away.

“Hey cachu ci!” barked Dunvel. “Want some? Hey! Don’t you look away! Do you want some?”

Herio looked but made no reply.

“You’d better answer me ‘fore I come over there an’ make you. Are you hungry?”

“Herio nodded ever so slightly.tumblr_lmcbi1gKi31qjci0fo1_500

“Well, ye ain’t gettin’ any ’cause this is the last, last little bit,” he said with beady-eyed merriment as he came up close to chew. He wiped his hands first on his breeches and then in the leaves, as he belched loud enough for it to echo amongst the trees. He began untying reins. “We’ll reach Castle Niarg in less than an hour, I’d reckon,” he said with a grunt, as he threw his leg over his ponderous ceffyl arfog unicorn. “Now, ye’d best be rememberin’ what the captain said, or else a lot more of your stinkin’ Ash Forkers are goin’ ‘o swing.” He roared with laughter and smacked Herio’s unicorn on the rump, making it rear and roll its eyes before spurring his own mount off through the leaves.

Herio stared straight ahead, tears streaming down his cheeks, watching his unicorn’s ears turn this way and that, as Dunvel went to great lengths to describe how his little red-haired brother had kicked and kicked and turned blue as he died. At last the castle loomed before them, ending the ordeal.

Dunvel smoothed and straightened his black sash with its embroidered blood red hourglass and grinned a toothy grin as they rode up to the gate. “You remember why you’re here, cachu ci,” he said.

Herio kept his eyes forward and gave a curt nod only to show that he had heard.

“Halt, right there!” hollered the guard from the embrasure above the portcullis. 

“Ha,” thought Herio at the sight of the look which flickered across Dunvel’s face, though not a twitch of expression managed to surface on his own.

“What business has one bearing an escutcheon such as yours doing here, sir?” echoed the guard.

“We have an urgent message for your king!” hollered Dunvel.

“Urgent? And who might this urgent message be from?”

“Are you blind, man?” cried Dunvel. “It ought to be obvious!”

“We are right well credited by this tottering sack of hog dung, wearing the black sash and red hourglass of sorcery and treachery, if by the mere sight of him he fancies that we can read his mind!” called out Captain Bernard as he stepped beside the guard. “Unfortunately, since he’s so frightfully ugly that it would be impossible to read his mind, we must assume that his bloated head merely makes him forget his place in a country not his own! So be it! I’ll let His Majesty know at once! In the meantime, though, you’d best stay exactly where you are, since I’ve ordered a score of long bowmen to loose arrows if they see you move at all!”

 Ch. 47, Stone HeartStone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps