Spitemorta Has Another Tantrum

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When Spitemorta returned to her bower in Castle Niarg just before midnight, she changed back her throat with the Heart and sent orders to the kitchen for roast duck with sour cabbage, dripping pudding and cider, even if she had to stay up until nearly sunrise to eat it. She did not mind. She could use the time to get rid of that offensive quart of sukee which reminded her of Coel, left over from her coronation. She had begun to find it odd that Demonica had not gotten in her way with her comments as she sauntered about, dangling her bottle, gloating about what she had set in motion.

She soon discovered that cider on top of the sukee nearly had her vomiting on her steaming plate of duck and pudding, so she daubed at the corners of her mouth, threw herself across the bed and slept until the middle of the afternoon. She rose, had half of a toad in the hole and a pinch of cold duck breast and sour cabbage and went back to bed until the following morning. She spent the next two days in her quarters, very busy with ordering about pages and hired help as she oversaw the clearing away of Minuet’s sheep shed and apple orchard for a jousting field and hand gonne range. She was beginning to think that she might have managed to leave Demonica behind at Oilean Gairdin. “Good! If that be the case,” she said, but she felt oddly anxious.

When she caught herself wishing that she had her grandmother to talk to, she grabbed up 2lflaggonthe empty sukee flagon and hurled it at the wall with a grating squeal. Instead, the contrary bottle went whirling out over the balcony to go bouncing end over end along the paving stones, six storeys down. When she heard no breaking glass, the rushed to the balustrade hoping to find that she had hit someone on the head. “Damn you Grandmother!” she shouted when she saw no one about. “You won’t let me have any fun…”

“Well it is nice to see you giving me the credit, dear,” said Demonica from right beside her, peering down at the bottle.

“Why did you have to show up, Grandmother? It was a relief having you gone for three days.”

“Odd that you kept seeming anxious for someone to talk to, or am I mistaken?”

“Yes you are.”

imagesdemonica“Or am I merely the wrong party? Perhaps you were hoping for your handsome general…”

“No!” shouted Spitemorta. Suddenly she smiled. “But I do have a thing or two he needs to find out,” she said quietly. “I mean, I think my trolls are going to be right useful, ‘way more than the stupid heathens from Gwael. Don’t you?”

Mindful of how Spitemorta’s voice carried, Demonica meandered back inside and sat on the bed. “It may have been unwise to leave Oilean Gairdin without appearing before the Dyrney as you agreed, dear,“ she said. “And you probably don’t want General Coel knowing what you make of his army, either.”

Spitemorta cast her a slit-eyed stare. “Poop!” she said, taking a chair by the bed that faced away from her. “The stupid trolls won’t even notice once they’ve had an Elf roast or two. And you know as well as I do that the Gwaels have been nothing but inferior. Let’s see how they like having my brute son and his trolls wipe out both the Elves and the Beaks when they’ve utterly failed to do so after all this time. I think I’ll quite enjoy rubbing Veyfnaryr’s victories in the good general’s arrogant face.”

“If you say so.”

“I certainly do say so. Coel needs to be put in his place. A bit of humiliation is just the thingimages (3)x for him.”

“That does sound like fun,” said Demonica with a deep and speculative nod. “But are you quite sure that you want to risk the father of your child losing face in front of all who might enjoy his lesson?”

“What utter nonsense are you going on about?” cried Spitemorta, springing to her feet at once to begin pacing. “You know very well that Coel’s not related in any way at all to my children.”

“Well certainly not to any of your grown children…”

“Nor to any future children, believe me…”

“Too late,” said Demonica. And with that she vanished.

hyacinths-fresh-cut-garden-lattelisa-blog-02“Damn you!” shrieked Spitemorta, grabbing up and flinging a vase of hyacinths, soaking the corner of the bed where Demonica had been sitting.

A peal of Demonica’s laughter rose and died away in the air across the room.

Spitemorta grabbed a footstool and hove it after the sound, only to have it fly as wide as the bottle had, knocking her new marble bust of herself off its pedestal and breaking off its head. With a rasping sob, she fell to her knees and covered her face. A mourning dove called from somewhere just beyond her balcony as she rocked and shuddered.

Running footsteps tramped to a halt outside her door and threw it open. “Your Omnipotence!” cried her page when he saw her on the floor. “Are you in peril?”

“Why not at all, Pissant,” she said with all the smiling radiance of a lady getting to her feet Pearsons-renaissance-shoppe-childs-costume-300x300in a sunny garden of daffodils. “Go to the kitchen, if you would, and tell old hefty

Bethan that I want hot cinnamon rolls with today’s churned butter and a nice hot pot o’ tea. And when you’re done with that, go find General Coel and send him here immediately. Then, return to the kitchen and see that my tea gets to me hot.

“And now…” she said soothingly as she unfastened the Heart from the Staff and gently passed it over his lips, erasing his mouth from his face. “This is for daring to walk in on the very empress of all the known world. You’ll have to think about it as you run your errand.” She turned him to face the mirror with his eyes of horror. “Now. If General Coel comes at once and the tea arrives hot, you may earn back the mouth you need to eat your next meal. Understood? Now go.”

 

Ch. 10, Doom, book six of Heart of the Staff: The Complete SeriesDoom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Heart of the Staff Complete Series Box (1)

 

Rose and Fuzz Decide to see Balley Cheerey

hermit crab Laurel 6-11-12

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

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

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

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

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

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“Oh no! I’m so sorry.”

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

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

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

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

Obbree gave a shy bow and a toothless smile.

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

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

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

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

Obbree nodded then immediately shook his head.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Wild rice and a big mess of crabs.”

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

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

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

The Reaper Witch

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Spark the Dragon Loses His Feathers

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A shadow passed over them. Ugleeuh looked up with a start to see a deep green dragon with a turquoise crest, the size of a cow, gliding majestically for a row of openings into lava tubes running up the nearby dome. “It’s a bird with teeth!” she cried, springing to her feet to shade her eyes. “And I swear I saw claws in its wings…”

“You did, dear,” said Demonica. “And I trust you realize that this is one of the very dragons that we came for…”

“I knew what it was.”

Demonica was not listening. “Here comes another,” she said, touching Razzorbauch’s arm.

“Good,” he said, “I knew that this was the place, but until the first one swooped in, I hadn’t quite spotted their caves. I was a bit further down, the time before. I spent all day,
and I allowed that there was above two hundred dragon a-coming and going. That ought
to suit my needs…”

“Yes,” said Demonica. “They should suit us quite nicely.”

“What if it saw us?” said Ugleeuh.

“I doubt if it did,” said Demonica. “Had it seen us, it would be trying to set us alight, this minute. The pines hid us. That’s why I changed into this terrible green kirtle before we left Head.”

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“I’ve not seen a one, yet,” said Demonica to Razzorbauch as she gave an impatient head to toe glance at Ugleeuh.

“You will,” he said.

At that very moment, an echoing bellow from the caves got their attention in time for them to see a dozen dragons charging out abreast into the open air, blinded by the stinging fiery nightshade fumes, snorting and gasping, flapping their wings and stumbling
about.

“Keep them blind!” shouted Razzorbauch as he ran toward the dragons with his staff leveled. “Don’t let them spit flames! Freeze any that try to fly!”

Demonica set to work at once, hurling crackling lavender bolts from her staff into the faces of beast after beast as they thundered from the caves, while Razzorbauch sent out a pounding hail of flashes from his, causing the plumage to fall free from the dragons’ wings and bodies in cascading bundles and wads, as the terrified animals flapped
themselves to nakedness, and the air filled with the stench of singeing feathers. More and
more came in a frantic rush for fresh air only to be undressed in their bewildered frenzy,
until at last the wash in front of the caves was filled with a milling herd of better than two
hundred naked dragons, fenced in by a corralling spell cast by Demonica.

Razzorbauch climbed a large red rock to stand above their heads. “Peoc’h!” he roared, addressing them in Headlandish. “Silence!”

At once, the only sounds to be heard were the rattling of cottonwood leaves and the nearby calls of laughing quail. As he stood there counting them, a young male who happened to be outside of Demonica’s spell, was carefully inching away. Suddenly he
broke into a run for the caves. Razzorbauch jerked his staff aloft at the sight of him,
shooting him with a brilliant beam of ruby light from the Heart in its end, blowing him
apart with a thundering concussion which left a hole in the ground big enough to bury
several dragons, as a peppering of dirt and flecks of flesh rained down through the leaves
of the cottonwoods.

“N’eus ket tu da,” said Razzorbauch, speaking out over the hushed herd. “There’s no way to. There’s no way anyone else could possibly break away and run. But you see what would happen if he could. From this moment on, for as long as you live, you are each my chattel. Now. I’m going to walk to the sea and you’re going to follow me. It will be a few days to get there and a few more to wait for ships which will take you to my plantation.” He paused to look over their numbers for a moment before clambering down from his rock. “Poent eo mont kuit!” he cried with a wave of his staff. “It’s time to leave!” And with that, he began walking.

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The dragon multitude formed a lumbering queue as they followed, utterly beaten, as Demonica set out in their wake with her staff. Ugleeuh picked up one of the great green feathers littering the ground, every bit as long as she was tall and was astonished at how very light it was. “My!” she said. “These are light as a feather.”

“One does expect that with feathers, dear,” said Demonica.

Ugleeuh thought it would make quite a souvenir, but tossed it aside at the thought of the long walk ahead. “So,” she said, catching up. “‘Mammvro.’ Wouldn’t that be Headlandish for ‘Motherland?'”

“It is. It’s the dragon word for it, really. I call it that because of the dragons. The rest of the continent calls these the Red Lands or the Red Desert…”

“Dragon word? They can talk?”Good_Sister,_Bad_Sis_Cover_for_Kindle

Good Sister, Bad Sister, Ch. 11

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Homer’s Head

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When Lukus takes his Elven wife and her family into The Suds and Steer in Sweetpea  to enjoy a Stone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindlenice supper in Chapter 40 of Stone Heart, they run into trouble…

Lukus was disappointed that the waitress did not recognize him in the least, though he clearly knew better. It merely made her like nearly everyone else on earth. Soon she was back, huffing and shuffling and sidling between tables as she brought forth the stew. She labored to breathe as she strained to set out the steaming bowls beyond the reaches of her girth without tottering. As she straightened up, Soraya lowered her hood and unbuttoned her cloak in order to eat. The elephantine serving woman stopped wide eyed and rigid, jowls a-jiggle. As a look of hatred swept across her lardy face, she furiously snapped up both bowls at once, slinging stew onto both Soraya and Lukus. “We don’t serve y’r stinkin’ kind in here!” she screeched as she wheeled away to the kitchen with their meal.

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Lukus sprang up, knocking his chair flat as he started after her.

“Hey,” said Danneth, intercepting him. “Perhaps it would be wise if we just left quietly.”

“No,” said Lukus between his teeth. “Not until that sow gives me a better reason than she just did.”

“I’d say there’s a very good chance she’ll not,” said Danneth with a sigh as he stepped aside.

Lukus zigzagged between the tables, catching up to the waitress just as she put her shoulder to black-patina-platesthe swinging door to the kitchen. “Please excuse my abruptness ma’am,” he said as polite as he could manage, “but I’d truly like to know why you refused to serve my wife and me the meal we just ordered. Our money’s as good as anyone’s.”

“I’m s’prised you’ns even ‘ave the nerve t’ come in here a-flauntin’ y’selves amongst decent folks,” she huffed in a thin falsetto, as her eyes turned to hot slits in her red face. “Ye think we don’t know what you’re all about? Ha! The queen told us ‘erse’f, she did.”

“She what? So just what did the queen say about the Elves?”

“You ain’t no Elf!” she screeched.

“No, I’m not. Now, will you please be kind enough to answer my question? Just what on earth ANT02102did Spitemorta say about the Elves?”

She looked across the room at Soraya. “Why are ye traveling with an Elf?” she said defiantly. “Don’t y’ know they’re dangerous?”

“What makes them dangerous, then?”

“They’re after our land. They’re out t’ kill us all for it, too,” she said with wild piggy eyes. “Y’ best get shed o’ that Elf right now! She’ll sooner slit y’r throat as look at ye, young fool!” And with that, she shoved past him through the door with a shriek and a yank of her tray, sending the bowls skittering across the kitchen floor on the other side.

Lukus looked up from his shocked disbelief to find the entire room astir like a kicked hive, every single eye on him. Across the room Soraya and her kin bore emphatically urgent looks. Things were well on their way to getting ugly and they needed to get out.

Lukus tramped across the dining room, put the bail of one traveling basket in the crook of his arm antique-pewter-plate-olivier-le-queinecand the other one in his left hand as he grabbed Soraya with his right, pulling her to her feet and heading for the hall to the stairs, surrounded by Neron, Danneth, Strom and Jerund.

“Just get our belongings and go?” he said, bounding up the steps.

“You mean there’s a choice?” said Neron.

“Is there a way out up here?” said Danneth.

“Everyone grab up your things!” cried Jerund as he hurried ahead. “Good job no one unpacked. I’ll go see.” As everyone raced to his respective door, Jerund reached the window at the end of the hall. “Cac! Léan air! A leithéid de chac!” he cried. Suddenly he broke out the glass and waved out the window. “Hey! Get the coach and the unicorns around front! Now!” He dashed back, by the rooms as everyone came out. “No way out We got ‘o go back the way we came in! If we’re lucky the coach will be somewhere…!”

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Lukus fumbled with buckles, strapping the claymore to his back for the first time. He grabbed up the twins, put his arm around Soraya and was ready. “It’s a mercy no one chased up here after us,” he said. Down they went, plunging into the dining room full of glares, angry jeers and shaking fists. They shoved their way through the jostling and spitting, but miraculously got to the front door. Soraya, Strom and the twins got shoved outside, stumbling onto the steps before the door got slammed painfully on Danneth’s arm.

“Get ’em, Homer!” came cries all around, as a hateful face stepped forth and ran a rapier through Jerund’s shoulder.

Lukus went instantly white hot, lunging forward with a furious two handed swing. Gearr Téigh Síós rang with a sharp ping and Homer’s head rolled away across the plates on the floor with a kristeva-severed-topbloody bounce under dancing feet as the crowd gasped, taken by surprise. Suddenly a rotten toothed man with a tar tail charged up with a cutlass to be impaled by Neron, who yanked out his claymore from the fellow and neatly cleaved two heads, while Lukus took off another’s arm. When the crowd hesitated, Danneth pulled Jerund outside, as Neron and Lukus backed out and slammed the door.

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Hubba Hubba Versus the Stinky Beefy Boy, Part 2

Quilt Stone Mountain NC SP 4021The stinky beefy boy slowed to a walk with a skip and happily patted his game bag full of the-brixton-ona-bags-2-560x379Hubba Hubba. Whistling a giddy tune fit for the tone deaf, he left the path through a gap in the hedge to cut across a freshly ploughed field. Chirp and Squeak followed ’round the 5469802698_278de1b2e3_zoutside in the tops of trees grown up in the hedge. The boy scampered through new oats, a meadow and a fresh cow pile, pausing to rinse his feet in a gurgling creek before dashing triumphantly across an orchard to a fiery haired woman and two boys, hoeing in a broad vegetable garden.

“Mom!” hollered the stinky boy as she bent to pull a weed. “Get wood on the fire! I bagged fresh meat for supper!”

She stood up, brushing the dirt from her skirts and hands.504_slingrocks

“Look Mom! I got him with my sling! I knocked ‘im clean out of the air! I’m gettin’ good, aye?”

“I’ll say Frankin,” she said, peering into his bag. “I’ve been watching you get better day by day. This is game to remember, all right, particularly when you may go the rest of your life and not get another on the wing like that.”

images (14)“So all you think is I just got lucky, isn’t hit?”

“Well Frankin, someone without your sharp eye would certainly have an empty bag right now…”

“Ha!” he crowed with a leap. “I’m really somethin’ with my sling, and you know it.”

nVrhp1e“I’ve just hung the tea-kettle over the fire,” she said, ruffling up his hair. “You could wash up for a nice cup o’ tea before you dress your bird, if you don’t dally.”

Frankin raced to the back door, hung Hubba Hubba on the latch and wheeled ’round to go to the well in time to find his little brothers following. “Hey Poopkink!” he snarled. “If you and Poopdink have to sneak along behind me, don’t you dare touch the game bag.”

***

“Help!” cawed Hubba Hubba, coming to in total blackness. “I’m dead again! I can’t see!” He hysterically thrashed and flogged his wings against the insides of the cramped box thetver_angry-crow_7219y had him in, pausing to go light in the head, gasping for want of air.

Someone heard his cries and threw open the box. “Kawk!” he cried as four chubby hands crowded in after him. “Have some respect! Can’t you idiots tell I’m wounded here?”

Both boys squealed and yanked back, dropping the lid on Hubba Hubba.

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“Hey! I object! This is abuse! Here I am, smashed in the head…”

“Hit does talk!” they cried in wide-eyed chorus.

“You got it!” shouted Hubba Hubba. “And do you ones listen? Here I am smashed in the head, some drooling gnoff strangles me ’till I black out, maybe die, and here you ones whack me in the head again… Is this the stinkin’ Pit, or what? Well?”

Suddenly they lunged at the box. Hubba Hubba exploded into frantic flight about the room, landing on a quilting frame drawn up by twine to the overhead beams. “All right,” he rattled. “At least I can see this is some rotten old kitchen, somewhere, and not the Pit. And whatever you two are, I am not some kind of ‘it!’ I’m one right proud crow and I’m traveling with a young man who ought to here directly to cut off your stinkin’ heads for doing this to me…!”

“Hey you little gwrteithiau!” yelled Frankin as he threw open the door. “What’d I tell you about my game bag? And why weren’t you out helping us drive in the six sheep which just now got out in the garden? Which one of you left the gate open anyway…?”

“It’s loose!” cried Kink.primitive-vintage-wood-box-original-old-paper-fruit-crate-label-Placerville-Maid-Laurel-Leaf-Farm-item-no-b912117-7

“Close the door!” cried Dink.

“I am not an ‘it,'” rattled Hubba Hubba.

“Taran!” shouted Frankin as he slammed the door and began glancing about. “So you not only let the sheep out, you got into my bag and turned the crow loose! If he gets clean away, you’ll not only be cachu, images (1)I’ll find something really disgusting and make you each eat its cachu!”

“He’s right over your head,” said Dink.

Frankin wheeled ’round and looked up. “Mom!” he bellowed, “Come in here and see what they did now!” He lunged and missed Hubba Hubba, whacking the quilting frame madly about on the ends of its short twines.

“Kawk!” cried Hubba Hubba, as he crouched to hang on3021358_1_l (1)

Frankin leaped again, snapping a twine and knocking down the frame to smash a 17-cottage-cheesehuge crock of soupy cottage cheese onto the floor.

“You bloated idiot!” cawed Hubba Hubba, springing into flight about the room. He spied a board nailed across the timbers and landed on that with his back to the ceiling. “You stinking armpit maggot…”

“So you’re some kind of magic crow, aye?” he said, taking out his sling. “Well it doesn’t matter, bird-o. You’ll never get out of this room, ’cause when I knock you down, I’m goin’ ‘o jerk your ugly head out o’ your shoulders!”

“No!” cried Kink and Dink together.

“Frankin!” cried their mom as she stepped in the door to go apoplectically wide eyed. “My stars! That’s fifteen gallons of cottage cheese, all over!”

“They did it!” wailed Frankin. “They got into my bag when I told them not to and turned loose the crow. I’ve got to kill it quick…”

“No!” cried Dink. “Hit’s magic…!”

“Hit talks!” cried Kink.

“And they’ve gotten windy as kites in the process, too, I see. Well you two, what have I told you about making up things…?”

“But it’s true!” wailed Kink. “Frankin knows it, too!”images

“I think you two need to take this stack of bowls and scoop up as much clean cheese as you can get off the floor for your next several meals. Then, you need to mop up every bit of what’s left.”

“But we aren’t making it up!” wailed Dink, as his mom thrust a stack of bowls into his arms and steered him toward the slumping mound of cheese and crock chards.

“Now, freak bird, hit’s your turn,” said Frankin, fitting a stone into his sling.

“Kawk!” cried Hubba Hubba. “Lady, lady! Please listen to your little fellows!”

“That’s not the least bit amusing, Frankin,” she said, wheeling ’round to glare at him.

“But I didn’t…”

“No, no, no, no!” cawed Hubba Hubba. “I did! I’m not some game animal to be beaned and chucked in the kettle. Hey! I’ve got brains here.”

“Mercy!” she gasped. “You do talk!”

“Hit’s a trick, Mom, said Frankin.

“Right. So where’s the minstrel puppeteer?”

“Come on, Mom! Somebody taught him to talk…”

crow“Absolutely!” rattled Hubba Hubba. “Just like they did you, only I didn’t need to be taught how to think, and you’ve yet to manage.”

“Don’t touch the bird,” she said, snatching away his sling. “Do not harm him, understand?”

“But he’ll get away!”

“We’re going to be real good to him ’till we figure him out,” she said. “Now go fetch me a good sized box to put him in, and make sure there are a right smart amount of air holes in it.”

“Air holes?” cried Hubba Hubba. “What kind of ‘real good’ to me is that? No wonder you The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_Kindlehaven’t taught maggot boy here how to think, yet! And I don’t care what he brings back, you’re going to have to come up here and get me!”

The Burgeoning

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Our Theropod Dragons

Our dragon, Harpi tyrannus. R., is a relative of  Archaeopteryx and Deinonychus, which survived the Mwyaf Fawr Llosg or Greatest Burning and is traditionally classified as an Adar Drwg (“bad bird” in Old Niarg Standard) by such Niarg naturalists as Razzmorten Dewin. It is an eight to twenty foot long (six to thirteen foot tall) feathered flying Jurassic bird with teeth, fingered claws on the wrists of its wings and a long un-fused (non-pygostylic) bony tail. Long ago it developed the ability to produce, store and ignite large volumes of methane gas which enabled it to toast and make palatable the naturally occurring sukere cana in its original habitat on the Dark Continent.                      

Dragons’ brains are about a third of the volume of human brains, however dragon brains are mostly cerebellum, where ours are mostly cerebrum. Since the tissue of the cerebrum is far more fatty and has fewer neurons in it per given volume, dragons have about as many synaptic junctions as we have, giving them an equivalent intelligence to ours. Indeed, they have true speech and they write and produce graphic art and sculpture. In spite of this, their behavior can seem strange and bird-like to us at times, since it consists of far more fixed-action patterns than does our behavior.  

Dragons arose in the southern mountains of the Dark Continent in the Age of Birds before the worldwide conflagration known as the Mwyaf Fawr Llosg. Beginning in early recorded times, they lived within a territory at the southern end of those mountains known as the Mammvro (Homeland in Headlandish). One of the emperors of the House of Dark sold the Mammvro to the sorceress Demonica as partial payment for arms. When the evil Wizard Razzorbauch turned the Forest Primeval into a vast sukre canna plantation, he needed a labor force capable of burning off the canna for harvesting the lucrative and seriously addictive sukere. Dragons were ideal for this, so Demonica invested in his enterprise by turning over the entire Mammvro dragon population to him, helping him render them featherless to keep them docile and by providing the ships to haul them to his plantation on the Northern Continent. In time, the dragons were freed and became fast allies of the kingdom of Niarg.                   

Did you ever imagine that dragons were a kind of primeval bird, an airborne dinosaur? What sort of dragons intrigue you? What sort of dragons do you fear?

 

Wizard Razzmorten takes Hubba Hubba to See the King and Queen

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Razzmorten cleared his throat. Hubba Hubba straightened up at once, giving himself a feather fluffing shake. “Well Queen, how could you possibly have known it was me?”

“Oh, Hubba Hubba! I’d know you anywhere.”Scan10074

Hubba Hubba drew back his head and thrust it forth in a gawk of bewilderment at Razzmorten. Razmorten gave a wide-eyed shrug. “I hate to dampen this merry reunion, but time may be pressing,” he said. “Hubba Hubba has a message from your sister, regarding Rose and Lukus.”

“Ugleeuh!” cried King Hebraun, springing to his feet. “She hasn’t harmed them, has she?”

“No, no. I wouldn’t think so,” said Razzmorten, handing Ugleeuh’s note to Hebraun. “She has decided to blackmail you. She plans to be set free from the Chokewood Forest. It seems she has Rose and Lukus at her cottage and plans to give their freedom for hers. See for yourself.”

King Hebraun quickly read the missive and handed it to Minuet. “Father!” she choked. “You said Ugleeuh could cause no more harm once she was exiled.”

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“Not outside of her part of the Chokewoods,” said Razzmorten, as he gently picked up her hand. “I can’t imagine that she had any way of abducting them. They had to have gone there on their own, and most likely to answer some of the questions which Rose was asking all around, right prior to their disappearance. No, Ugleeuh has not been any sort of hazard outside her boundaries from the time we sent her there until this very minute, but this extortion of hers is her design to change all that. Meanwhile, the children must be safe. Stop and think. Ugleeuh is evil, but she’s no fool. She’d hardly destroy the one and only chance she’s had to end her exile. She’ll not harm Rose and Lukus as long as there’s any chance she can use them to get free.”

“He’s right,” cawed Hubba Hubba. “In all the years I’ve spent with her, she never suggested harming a feather on my body until I refused to come here. Then she threatened
to cook me. And I have an idea. When I left, Ugleeuh gave me this scrying crystal so I’d
be able to see her and the forest any time I wanted. Here. Try it to check on Rose and
Lukus. I’ll bet that will make you feel better.”

Minuet suddenly looked hopeful but Razzmorten sadly shook his head. “Your offer is grand, Hubba Hubba, but I’m afraid your crystal is useless. She’s managed to divine an astonishing barrier around her part of the forest to prevent being watched by any sort of crystal gazing. I certainly have tried to often enough.”

Hubba Hubba was stunned. “So!” he squawked with a shake of his feathers. “She lied again. She said she’d drop the protections and keep them down until I returned. Fool
that I am, I told her not to because she’d leave herself vulnerable. She told me that her
protections had been in place so long that no one would bother to spy on her. No wonder
she wasn’t worried. She’d no intention of dropping her protections all along.”

“Whoa Hubba Hubba,” said Razzorten, as he shared raised eyebrows with Hebraun and Minuet. “There was talk of dropping her protections?”

Crow-0056-A01“Talk. Yea.”

“Where’s this scrying crystal Ugleeuh gave you?”

“Right here, actually,” he said, looking down at his breast. “The crystal is the brooch fixed on my flight harness. But what difference does that make if it’s useless?”

Razzmorten was already unbuckling the harness, shaking his head to be silent while he slipped it off him. The king and queen anxiously crowded around. Hubba Hubba peered at the stone from Razzmorten’s shoulder, and nearly lost his balance when the old man whooped with glee. “It works! I see the forest. And look at this. There’s Ugleeuh flying above the trees on a broom. That’s a right novel talent. She certainly never did that before her exile. I suppose it’s no surprise that she’d develop her powers to while away the time there.”

“I despise the idea of her having any powers,” said Minuet. “Where do you suppose Rose and Lukus are?”

“I’d bet in her cottage,” said Hubba Hubba. “They haven’t been much for going outdoors, all summer. Mostly they stayed around the house and you know, ate, slept, those kinds o’ things…” He trailed off uncomfortably, seeing everyone looking straight at him. “Well when I was there, they joked around with me and we talked and stuff, don’t you know,” he stammered, glancing from one person to the next as he resumed. “Sometimes they did go outside and take me for my exercise flights. And once Lukus and I even went for a hike. Now that was really fun, except when the log rolled over on me and broke my toe, of course.” He fluffed up and ran his beak along several flight feathers, letting each go with a snap before he continued. “Anyway, try the cottage.”

Razzmorten was scarcely listening as he brought his concentration to bear upon scrying with the crystal. At last, Rose and Lukus appeared, wearing their stripped cloaks, hurrying to keep up with Fuzz.

“Wow!” said Hubba Hubba. “Ugleeuh and Fuzz are definitely not on friendly terms. I can’t imagine her letting them talk to him, let alone run off with him somewhere.”

“Looks like those stripped cloaks are camouflage,” said Razzmorten with a grave nod, “at least I’d say so from the appearance of the surrounding trees. They certainly don’t appear to be out for a hunt, and if they’ve gone to this kind of trouble to hide, they very
likely are attempting to flee, rather than waiting for us to respond to her extortion demands. So this bear ‘Fuzz,’ Ugleeuh doesn’t like him, you say?”

“Not much…”

“Speaks well of him.”

“Oh Hebraun!” said Minuet. “Their faces are so pale and pasty. They don’t look well. What has she done to them?”

“Remember that I can’t scry,” said Hebraun, as he shared a look with Razzmorten, “but it sounds like they’ve been eating your sister’s food. They’ll surely snap out of it as soon as we get them home.”

“And remember that they’re young and strong, Minuet,” said Razzmorten. “Neither one has ever been sick. They’re going to be just fine.”

“But how are we going to get them home, now?” said Minuet. “And what if Ugleeuh catches them? They’ve defied her and escaped. I can’t imagine her fury. No one who thwarts her is ever safe. You can count on her saying that they owe her for having been at her cottage, even though they were her prisoners. She’d make them pay mercilessly for that. But stand in the way of her freedom? I can’t picture her controlling herself.”

Razzmorten sucked in a deep breath between his teeth. “I’m sure Ugleeuh is mortally angry,” he said, “but it still behooves her to handle Rose and Lukus with care. I can’t imagine her forgetting that they are her only chance to leave the forest, short of dying. I’d say that if she does catch them, it’s this Fuzz, whoever he is, who won’t survive her vengeance.”

“You got it.” said Hubba Hubba. “She wants out and Fuzz is a goner. Oh, absolutely.” He hesitated, seeing that he was being taken very seriously by everyone. “She
threatened to slaughter and eat me, just because I told her I wouldn’t deliver her ransom
note. And she claims she loves me. She doesn’t even like Fuzz.”

“Pray that they’re not caught,” said Minuet, looking pale and drawn, as she sat down on her throne. “I grew up struggling with her getting even with everyone under the sun.”

“How do you suppose this Fuzz plans to help Rose and Lukus escape?” said Hebraun.

“Until some clue turns up,” said Razzmorten, rubbing his temples gingerly before gazing The_Collector_Witch_Cover_for_Kindleback into the crystal, “I have utterly no idea at all, except that they most likely are indeed attempting some sort of escape, right now.”

“What happens if Ugleeuh intercepts them, Father?” said Minuet. “What then?”

“Then I shall have to face her myself.” said Razzmorten calmly enough to cause Hubba Hubba to gape in astonishment. “Please don’t be afraid, Minuet. I swear that no harm shall come to my grandchildren. I swear it on my life.”

Ch. 20, The Collector Witch

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Spitemorta Nurses a Hangover

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The thicket of roses in the pasture that once crowned the gentle hill overlooking all of the town of Niarg was enclosed for the first time by the circular stockade of the old wooden Castell Niarg. In time, it became the rose garden in the back ward of the great stone castle which followed, where Prince Hebraun courted Minuet under a late summer moon and where Princess Rose played with her kitten in the warm June sun.

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Spitemorta cleared away all of that for her amphitheatre which faced across its broad and barren arena to the great stage for her public presentations which made up a corner of the back ward of her massive black castle. Here was the focus of her week long celebration. She raised her chalice to the drunken crowd as she sat back on her throne to watch her soldiers set alight the final wicker man, packed squirming tight with the very last survivors of Bernard’s Bane at Jut Ford. Pissant scurried over with his jug to top up her vessel. As screams and yodeling wails of agony burst out from the flames, she shot to her feet with cheer after cheer of triumph for the roaring multitude. As glowing cinders began to tumble, orderlies scurried into the arena and onto the streets surrounding the castle to set up trestles and boards for the feasting that was to last all night.

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When daylight came, Spitemorta banged into the doorpost on her way into the bedroom of her bower and bounced when she found that the seat of the stool before her dressing table was a bit lower than it should have been. She ballooned her cheeks with a huff as she found her face in the looking-glass. She picked up a brush. “My,” she said as she tugged at her whirling head with her brush strokes. “I’m not up for much of that…” She looked up to see Demonica standing behind her in the mirror and tossed down her brush with a clatter. “And none of you, Grandmother. I’m going to bed right now.”

“Well,” said Demonica. “Fine celebration, I thought. Just wanted to tell you. And dear, you really want to see to your trolls, don’t you think?”

“Did you see how the Niarg townies joined in? They were having such a good time, I know I’ve got them. I’ve really got them. Lots of them even danced and cheered when Minuet’s soldiers were burning…”

imagesdemonica“At least when the cider and sukee are flowing. We brought in three shiploads of sukee from Gwael for this. Stout stuff. You do need to keep that in mind. Some of them can actually count their own fingers when they’re sober. And your trolls, dear…”

“Fine, Grandmother. After I’ve slept, come back and we shall both go.”

“I’ll do that dear. Just don’t delay our departure with your handsome general. It would be best to appear just when they’re waking for the night, before they’re already doing other things, don’t you know. And it doesn’t hurt for us to still have enough light to see by.”

“And just how would I let him delay us?”

“Well,” she said, as she sat on the bed and gave the coverlet a knowing pat. “You did have a rather more, shall we say, sustained and amorous meeting during the celebration than typical…”

“No, damn it! There was nothing amorous about it…”images (3)x

“Well I certainly find that easy to agree with, having been there, but does the general?”

“That’s his problem, not mine.”

“If you say so dear. Well then. To bed with you and I’ll see you before sunset.”

***

The evening sun was just lighting the far wall of Spitemorta’s chamber when she was awakened by voices below her window. “Damn you!” she cried, explosively ripping aside her covers. She grabbed up the full water pitcher from her night stand and heaved it out the window to land with a distant pop six storeys down. The talking stopped short. No one was there when she propped her arms on the sill and peered out. The bell in Argentowre rang. When she couldn’t sort out whether it was four or five o’clock, she covered her ears and turned away from the window.

“Oh!” she cried when the stool at her dressing table turned out to be just as unexpectedly low as before. With a squeal, she threw her brush across the room to smack the back of a chair and spin away somewhere on the floor. She labored to her feet and went hunting for it. When stooping to look under a wardrobe sent pains through her head, she went back to her table without the brush and peered into the mirror with the slits of her swollen eyes to find her hair hopelessly matted on one side, “As if I’d spent the month sleeping alongside a dead mouse.” And with that, she cast a glamourie on herself to look radiantly rested and groomed. After a spell of jerking dresses from side to side in one wardrobe after another, she gave up and cast another glamourie to make the kirtle she was wearing appear as though she had not slept all day in it. “And where’s my duck?” she shouted.

“And here you led me to believe that there was not one thing amorous going on between the two of you,” said Demonica with a gasp of surprise as she appeared.

“Damn you! Not him. My breakfast!”

“Now did you indeed tell anyone before you went to bed?”

“What are you doing with that childish halo and wings, Grandmother? You’ve been telling me all these years that no one but me sees you.”

“Who knows? Veyfnaryr has enough power that he just might.”

“Do you seriously believe he’s more powerful than Razzmorten?”

“Believe? Dear, he was every bit as powerful as Razzmorten the moment I put him in the arms of Fnayooph, the bathless fmoo who raised him. If you didn’t have the Heart and the Staff, he’d make a grease spot of you if you vexed him enough.”

“Ha!” said Spitemorta, feeling for her stool before sitting, this time. “Good medicine for the Beaks. And those four Elves. He could make grease spots out of them, too. Pooh on breakfast, Grandmother. Let’s go.”

“Good for you, dear…” said Demonica, looking up suddenly at the knock on the door of the parlour of the bower.

Spitemorta tramped to the door. “What!” she shouted as she grabbed the latch. She threw it open to find Coel. “Familiar enough all at once to wave aside proper deferential announcements by the help, are we?”

“Because of our indiscretion?” said Coel calmly, as he stepped in without the slightest bob of a bow.

“Ah!” said Demonica. “Here’s your duck after all…”

“Shut up!”

“You don’t like it referred to that way?” said Coel.

“You ought to be able recognize Grandmother by now…”

“I don’t see a soul.”

“And you bet it was indiscrete! You ought to be in the dungeon.”

“Because you invited me…?”

“I did not!”

“Well, sukee’s like that,” he said, drawing in a breath. “And had I not had some of it myself, I’d have easily deflected your tugging at me.”

Spitemorta sucked in a furious breath.

“And I reckon it’s having to recover from it that has me doing the knocking on your door instead of your service, in order to speed the delivery of the tidings you  demanded I convey immediately…”

 

Ch. 7, Doom, book six of Heart of the Staff: The Complete Series

Doom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Heart of the Staff Complete Series Box (1)

 

The Diatrymas Take Edward to the Dragon Caves

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Edward lay still as a newborn fawn behind the granite rock where Mary had shoved him, until long after the only sounds to be heard were the leaves of grass stirring in the evening breeze. His stout little heart had shored up all it could manage and at last he gave way, crying out with whooping sobs through the sleeves of his sweater into roots of the grass in the pungent sod where he lay. After a time, with the last his tears drying on his face, something gently tugged at his collar and he looked up at the giant bird who had been standing vigil over him.

“Ceidwad! You stayed!”6f9fde723ee52483fa2689890dee578c_1_orig

“I expect your heart still wants to break,” said Ceidwad with a deep reedy rasp, as she delicately rattled her enormous beak along the length of a lock of his hair.

“You talk!”

“Only when we must. Edward, your mother needs your help. She needs you to be brave. Climb onto Lladdwr this minute. We must be off to the dragons.”

Lladdwr studied him with one eye for just a moment, then quickly stepped forth and settled onto his breastbone. Edward hurriedly clambered onto his saddle as best he could with legs too short for the stirrups.

“Let’s go,” said Edward as he looked back to see Ceidwad ready to follow. “I sure hope this takes me to the dragons.”

“We’re quite aware of the way,” said Lladdwr resonating in a voice like Ceidwad’s only much deeper.

“Let’s go fast!” cried Edward with startling exuberance, as he grabbed the cantle of his saddle and shook it back and forth.

“Say something if I frighten you.”

Edward hugged Lladdwr’s thick, fluffy neck for his kindly tone, and at once the gigantic bird surged forward and kept gathering speed until Edward checked the ground to see if they had not actually taken to the air. He clung to the saddle for dear life but refused to let on. He’d never hurt his wonderful big bird’s feelings.

Ch. 8, Stone HeartStone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

 

 

Carol & Tom Phipps

Laora the Little Dragon Shares a Vole with Ceidwad the Diatryma

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“I think this is what you don’t grasp,” she said with polite patience. “Most of nature is profoundly logical without consciousness. Just being conscious does not make one profound. All of dragondom is not big enough. Now, I hate to be rude but Mary is in
peril. Have we discussed this enough that…?”

“Absolutely,” said Spark, springing to his feet. “I’m off to the council. I’m guessing that they’ll agree at once to Mary’s request. Meanwhile, please feel free to enjoy our hospitality and make yourselves at home. I’ll be back immediately as soon as I know.”

Ceidwad and Lladwr gave dignified nods as he dashed away, leaving them with sitting withPhororhacos Lipperella. At once Laora and Edward scurried forth and plopped down directly in front of them. Lipperella looked at Laora and raised an eyebrow. Laora looked at the grass. Bit by bit she began studying Ceidwad with rapt admiration. It was quite something to be recognized as ‘pretty’ by such a large and important bird. She saw something in the grass. “Got ‘im!” she said, snapping up a vole. “Would you like half, Ceidwad? I’ll split ‘im with you.”

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“Oh, thank you sweetheart. Don’t mind if I do.” she said, neatly snipping off and swallowing the squeaking end. “They’re delicious.”

“Edward doesn’t like them, so I guess I get to share one with somebody.”

“Well, he wouldn’t dear. Humans like things like this cooked…don’t you, Edward?”

Edward looked up from his piece of stick with a wary nod.

“And you’re very lucky, since you’re able to do things I couldn’t possibly manage…”

“Like what?” said Laora with astonishment.

“Well, you have hands on the wrists of your wings for one thing,” said Ceidwad. “so that means you could cook Edward a nice, fat vole…with your momma’s help, of course. And not only that, you’re going to be coming into your flame soon, and then you can toast ’em on the spot.”

“Your…” hollered Spark, as he lunged into view, out of the cavern entrance, “Your request has been granted!” Everyone looked up as he hurried over to the grassy spot. “However, the council feels that it can spare none other than Tors and Kast and me, and that’s only two thirds as good as you might think, since I can’t spout fire!”

“We’re certainly most grateful for all the help we can get,” said Ceidwad, “but why are so few of you able to come?”

“The clan’s preparing to move us to the Black Desert and since our survival seems to be at stake, they’re afraid to let go of very many,” he said, pulling a grass stem to chew on.

“But you’ve been here above three hundred year,” said Ceidwad with wide eyes. “What has caused this?”

“I reckon you and the White Witch haven’t heard from Elves nor Niarg since your return, aye?”

“Oh, oh!” said Ceidwad. “This has to do with Demonica in some way, doesn’t it?”

“Well, Spitemorta, to be exact…”

“Actually,” said Lladdwr, “Mary had hoped you’d ‘ave heard from the Elves, since the only safe place she could think to flee to with her enchanted ones was Jutwood Forest.”

“I see,” said Spark. “Well, according to the Elves, Spitemorta and Demonica have convinced the people of Loxmere-Goll that we dragons carried out plans laid by Niarg and the Elves to set fire to all their sukere fields. Right now they’re preparing for war with
Niarg and the Elves. When you showed up Tors, Kast and I were getting ready to leave
for Niarg to see if taking the entire clan to the Black Desert is warranted. Meanwhile, the
whole clan is being made ready for an immediate flight the moment we return. So, the
council is sending the three of us to your aid before we go to Niarg, provided we set out
immediately.”

“Things are deteriorating far faster than we’d expected,” said Ceidwad.

“They only approve if we can be gone within the hour,” said Spark. “Are you two right ready for a return journey?”

Ceidwad and Lladdwr nodded in unison. “Let’s go,” said Ceidwad as they sprang to their feet and gave their feathers a thorough shake.

Spark drew aside for a farewell with Lipperella, Laora and Edward and the Mob that they knew would end the moment Tors and Kast appeared up the stairs. They had scarcely had hugs all ’round when the pair came bounding out into the open with bags and gear. Spark gave Lipperella an extra squeeze and started off.

Ch. 42, Stone Heart

Stone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol and Tom Phipps

Heart of the Staff Complete Series Box (1)