Minuet Tells Rose to Let Her Heart Decide

Rose and Lukus had been home less than a week, when a page knocked on her door and announced the arrival of Prince James. Rose’s heart fell at this. “I shall meet him directly, in the second drawing room off the dining hall,” she said with a quiver to her voice that she didn’t expect.

“Very good, Your Highness,” said the page. “I shall convey this at once.”

Just as she was about to go out the door, Minuet arrived with an encouraging smile. “Rose, your Father and I have discussed your marriage at length since your return. We’ve decided that if you still find James objectionable after you’ve seen him, we’ll make some sort of reparation to King Edmond and cancel the wedding.”

“But…you said that such an action might start a war.”

“Anything’s possible, but we think that war is very unlikely for the time being. King Edmond would fare very badly in a war and frankly, a tidy windfall might be exceedingly beneficial to him.”

“Why Mother, what’s happened in Loxmere?”

“It’s a right lengthy tale, I’m afraid,” said Minuet as she put her arm around Rose and walked her out the door and down the stairs. “There’s no time now. James awaits. Go to him, and let your heart and nothing else decide, Rose.”

Rose hugged her and hurried through the dining hall to the drawing room, relieved to be able to make short work of her childhood nightmare. She entered softly. There was James, standing with his back to her, warming his hands at the fireplace. She studied him
for a moment. “He’s certainly not the short, pudgy thing he used to be,” she thought. “James?” she said.

Ch. 30, The Collector Witch    

“O-ooh! That arrogant, dimwitted pig boy!” said Rose between breaths, at the top of the spiraled staircase. “How could I ever have believed he’d changed?”

“Rose?” said King Hebraun softly, making her gasp and jump.

She’d not seen Minuet and him following her all the way up. She turned to face them and panicked. What could she say to them? She began at once in trembling dismay, telling them everything as they carefully listened.

“…And so,” she said with a tremulous heave, “I told him I’d not marry him now, or ever.” She looked at their faces with tears filling her eyes and added a squeaky: “I’m so sorry!”

“Rose,” said Hebraun. “it sounds to me as though you handled the situation in the only responsible and sensible way possible. Your Mother and I stand behind your decision completely. The timing might be a bit awkward, considering the large numbers of guests who’ve already arrived…”

“Hebraun!” said Minuet, as Rose’s tears brimmed over and ran down her cheeks.

Hebraun went wide eyed and quickly gave Rose a shoulder to cry on.

“Hey!” cried Lukus, charging to the top of the stairs, full of dash from having just been with Soraya. “How come you all are up here? Oh!” He saw Rose’s reddened eyes. “So what’s going on?”

“I told James I’m not going to marry him, Lukus,” she said over her handkerchief. “The wedding’s off.”

“No! It’s…no! Rose, you’re making this up, right?” he said. Of course he could see that she was not. “Whoa! So what happened? Is James the same old pea-slinging gwrtaith he always was, Rose?”

“Lukus!” cried Minuet. “Walls have ears.”

Hebraun jerked his finger to his lips.

Rose nodded. “Lukus is right!”

“I am? You mean to say he actually shot peas at you? If he did, do you want me to…?”

“Lukus! If you’re not teasing, don’t be so dim. If you are, I’ve just been through too much. You’re about to become betrothed yourself, so I’d think that you’d…”

“That’s it!” cried Hebraun, giving Minuet a jubilant nod of resolution. “Where did anyone last see King Neron?”

“I left Soraya at his chamber, just now,” said Lukus. “I think they might be taking a stroll out by the big fountain.”

Ch. 31, The Collector Witch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Who is Herio?

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Herio is a plucky youth from the pastures of Ashmore, living just outside the village of Ash Fork with his mother and his little brother Cefnogi Rhywun, when Queen Spitemorta of Goll destroysStone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle everything he has ever known, in Stone Heart. She sets out to incite war with Niarg by sending Brutus, her captain of the royal guard, across the Loxmere river with her army to burn Ash Fork to the ground. She demands that he get a retaliation led by Niarg’s King Hebraun himself by any means necessary.

Brutus chooses to hang Cefnogi Rhywun in front of Herio and to have Sergeant Dunvel  take Herio to Castle Niarg to report the invasion to King Hebraun and to tell him that someone would hang for each day it takes for him to arrive at Ash Fork. Hebraun does indeed retaliate after he takes Dunvel into custody and leaves Herio with Queen Minuet as her protector. He kills Brutus, destroys Goll’s army and discovers that everyone in Ash Fork has been slain. 

As Herio gets used to living in Castle Niarg, in The Burgeoning, The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_KindleQueen Spitemorta and her grandmother Demonica become a perilous threat to Niarg, which might be relieved if they were to place a spy in Castle Goll. Herio volunteers to go there with Hubba Hubba and do just that. Before they set out, Minuet knights Herio. When they return with news of Spitemorta’s plan to attack Niarg, she also adopts him, turning him into a prince and making him a possible heir to the throne. In time, he manages to return to Goll with a major shock for The Reaper Witch 01 copySpitemorta, which turns him into target for her in The Reaper Witch.

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

 

Minuet is a Lucky Woman

 

Hebraun collapsed onto the goose down settee beside Minuet in their private parlour. “I thought you’d already knitted a blanket, sweater, cap and booties for the baby,” he said, glancing aside at her.

“You’ve been paying attention,” said Minuet. “And I certainly did, but they were all blue.”

“So, you suddenly don’t like blue?”

“Oh Hebraun. You know that blue is for newborn boys. What if it turns out to be a girl?”

“Well, she’ll no doubt look cute as a button in blue.”

“Certainly, but the best dressed newborn baby girls wear pink.”

“Do they? Who says so?”

“Well everybody.”

“So, if you give Lukus and Soraya gifts that are blue and they have a girl, whom everyone must see in pink, then they won’t let us be grandparents?”

“Stop teasing me,” giggled Minuet.

“I’d never tease you, darling,” he said with twinkling eyes amidst his dead serious face.

She knew, of course. “I guess it does seem silly, but, this is our very first grandchild,” she said as she put aside her knitting. “It doesn’t seem possible. Just yesterday I was knitting for Lukus, Hebraun. And the day before that, Rose. I certainly don’t feel like a grandmother.”

“Nor do you look it my sweet,” he said, with admiration in his eyes, before looking away with a sigh. “On the other hand, I’m not only beginning to feel it, I’m beginning to look it. Grandfather that is. Old.”

“I’ve never heard you say such a thing before,” she said with wide eyes as she brushed back a strand of hair from his cheek. She knew that the talk flying ’round the kingdom was getting much worse, particularly since it was now fall and no cure had been found for the blight affecting the kingdom’s crops. She bit her lip. “Surely everyone knows that if it comes to it, the grain in the crown’s bins will be distributed to them to see them through the winter, right?”

“That was today’s discovery,” he said with a haunted look. “It’s all tainted. It has some kind of strange powdery mildew growing on it, every bushel of it.”

“That evil, evil woman!” she cried, springing to her feet. “Even Ugleeuh was never so vile.”

Hebraun rose and put his arm around her. “We’ve no proof that Spitemorta has done anything, Minuet. You know that.”

“And we’re not going to get any, either. Not for magic. There’ll be no physical traces at all. She’d had to have been caught in the act. This is a very dry year. There’s no way that any granaries could possibly spoil on their own. They checked the wheat?”

“Yes, right after the barley…”

“And the rye?”

“Yes…”

“Millet?”

“Yes. And the bean stores are the worst of all.”

“So, it’s been done.”

“It looks that way, said Hebraun. “The only option left to us is to purchase enough grain from our allies to survive the winter, it seems.”

“And hope that Spitemorta doesn’t get wind of it.”

“Well, someone with magical abilities could keep watch over the new stuff, now that we know.” He sank back onto the settee. “I hope your father returns soon, Minuet. I’m beginning to think Niarg won’t survive without his help.”

Minuet rubbed his shoulders. “You’ll manage, love, you always do. Everyone’s upset right now, but when it comes to it, they’ll remember how you’ve always stood by them and seen to their needs even above your own. You’ll see.”

Minuet always made him feel better. “You know,” he said, with a new twinkle in his eye, “you’d make some lucky fellow a mighty fine wife, my lady. Would you marry me?”

“Oh I would, sir,” she said with a laugh, “except that I’m already married to the finest man I’ve ever known.”

“Well, he’s a lucky fellow.”

“Yes, and I’m a lucky woman,” she said pulling him onto his feet. “Now, I think it’s time you got some rest, love.”

Hebraun did not argue. He followed her, certain that if left to his own devices he could sleep for a week.

Ch. 29, Stone Heart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Fuzz Reveals Himself

Fuzz Small

Fuzz the Bear reveals himself to Rose and Lukus in The Collector Witch

“Hello there my friends!” he called out as they approached. “Looks like rotten old Ugleeuh was right!”   

Rose and Lukus were astonished at the sight of him. He had an apt name all right, for his skin was indeed covered with a thin nearly velveteen chestnut fuzz, but that fact didn’t prepare them for the shock of his looks. He was scrawny, long necked and huge headed, with stubby limbs and a ponderous melon for a paunch that scarcely cleared the ground when he stood.   (Ch 16)

 They had been back in Fuzz’s den for some time before he limped in, bedraggled and winded. Still with his full pails of precious booty, he stumbled onto the floor at Rose and Lukus’s feet without spilling a bit.

 “Oh my!” said Rose as she fell to her knees beside him. “You’ve been stung from head to toe! You must be in terrible pain.” “Actually no,” he said, managing a feeble grin. “Woozy to beat the band. Dizzy, dizzy! Pain didn’t last long, though. Never does, but a bear with no hair does get nailed a lot. Makes me wonder if I’m even really fuzzy. No need for a fuss. I’m used to dealing with those old bees. I’ll be fine once I catch my breath.”

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“Well,” said Rose, “you certainly don’t look fine. You’re soaked to the bone and covered with stingers.” She turned to Lukus. “I think you should get a fire started so we can get him dried out.”

Lukus set to work at once, impressing Rose with a nice crackling fire in short order. (Ch 17)

 ****

“Fuzz,” said Rose, giving him a squint, “you certainly know a lot about Gastro, Ugleeuh and Niarg. Why is that?”

Fuzz was quiet for so long that she was not certain if he had heard her, or if she had hurt his feelings in some way, but at last he met her eyes and cleared his throat.

“Yes, I do know a good deal about those things,” he said, as he slowly rubbed the scar on his face. “You see I was, or am, perhaps Gastro’s best friend. I was there when all of this happened. Now I see by the looks of both of you, that you have dozens of questions, and before you start in with all of that, let me say that it is getting quite late and we need to get up very early to start on our journey in the morning. Perhaps you could grant an old bear a bit of a reprieve until tomorrow? We can then take up this tale once more as we travel, if it pleases the two of you to do so. And I will indeed answer anything you ask.”

“We’d love it,” said Lukus. “Just one teensy short little question and then we will fly straight to bed.” 

Fuzz nodded with a sigh.

“You aren’t really a bear, are you?”

The_Collector_Witch_Cover_for_Kindle

“No I’m not, Lukus. Gastro and I grew up together in Niarg and we’ve been close friends for as long as I can remember. When he vanished, I surmised that Ugleeuh’d had something to do with it and set out to discover just what. Eventually I came here in search of answers and found him, a sea monster. By then however, Ugleeuh had been banished here too, and she had no intention of letting me leave to tell the tale.” He drew a deep breath as a bristly shudder swept through him. “It amused her mightily to turn me into…this. And so, I remain a bear to this day, and probably for all the rest of my days, as well. Now please, no more questions until we are underway tomorrow.”

Rose and Lukus each quietly hugged poor old Fuzz and went straightaway to bed as their heads reeled with a veritable avalanche of questions.   (Ch 17)

 ****

“They arrested her and called for me, and I sent for Razzmorten while she still held the incriminating vial in her hand…”

“You?” said Rose. “Just who were you, anyway? Gastro’s friend, sure, but you know so much. What was your connection with Niarg Castle?”

images (1)“Captain of the Royal Guard, if you must. Sir Karlton Strong. And I remember the very day you were born, Rose.”

“So when did you come?”

“Here? Well, I was Fuzz the Bear well before Lukus came along, I should think. But as I was saying, Ugleeuh still had the vial in her hand when we got there. The dishes were set on the floor before two good hounds which fell dead, gobbling them up.” By now Fuzz had found a rock to sit on beside the path. He shook his head as if to clear away the memories. “That’s the main reason for Ugleeuh’s exile,” he said as he clapped his forepaws onto both knees at once, launching himself onto his feet. “We’ve got to move. It’s a long, dangerous way, yet.”   (Ch 19)

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Hubba Hubba Versus the Stinky Beefy Boy Part Three

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Part Three

Herio could scarcely take his eyes off the sky long enough to find his stirrup as he thanked Mrs. Gweld for the pie and said his goodbyes. “I wonder if they passed by while Icherry_pie_case_for_the_ipad_mini-rf252931f447246c89e9010b93c82d7d7_w9wmu_8byvr_324
was inside,” he said once he had Gwynt underway, following Sophie on her unicorn to
Castlegoll Road.

“Well, this is it,” she said, hesitating as he doffed his hat and yellow-peasant-costume-skirtsteered Gwynt onto the road.

“She’s pretty,” he thought. He looked back to see her disappear around the corner. “Actually, she’s very pretty. And now that I think about it, she must have been interested
in me. My! Could that be why she came with her unicorn instead of her brothers?” He
gave a deep sigh and resumed combing the heavens.

Suddenly something was fluttering in his ear, giving him a start. “Herio!” chirped Tweet, landing on his shoulder and springing into flight again. “You’ve got to hurry! Hubba OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHubba’s been shot and the evil boy’s going to eat him!”

“No! Is he dead?”

“He was alive last I knew, but…”

“Good! Show me. Let’s go Gwynt!”

“It was actually on this very road, just two farms south of here, where he was shot. We have to wait there for either Chirp or Squeak to show up when they find where the boy took him.”

At once, Herio had Gwynt pounding away at a full gallop. Soon his side was cramping from all the bouncing pie.

“Herio! Tweet! Hoy!” came a wee tweet from up ahead.

housesparrow-seedeater-004“Squeak!” chirped Tweet. “Is Hubba Hubba still alive?”

“Hurry! I’ll show you!”

Away they raced, down the road and through the very same fields crossed by Frankin and Hubba Hubba. At last they splashed through the creek and had zigzagged nearly across the orchard. “You’re here!” squeaked Chirp, dropping down from the sky, halting them at once. “See that house through the trees? They took him inside in a game bag, but I think they have him in a box. He’s cape-cod-crowXXhurt, Herio. I don’t know how bad. The biggest boy right yonder, see? He beaned him on the head and knocked him right out of the sky. They were going to dress him for supper…”

“And they haven’t yet?” said Herio.

“I don’t think so, ’cause the lady and the boys got to fussing something awful.”

“How do you reckon they’d take my walking up and asking for their supper?”

“Not very well. They’ve been shouting at each other the whole time I’ve been here.”

“Maybe I could offer them some money for Hubba,” he said, glancing away at the house. “They look kind of hard up.”

“They look like they might rob you…” squeaked Chirp.

“Oh surely not, but if it eases your mind, I’ll dump out most of our money in the rotted out place in this old peach tree.” He poured out his coins, put away his bag and threw his leg over Gwynt. “Well, let’s go get Hubba, boys.”

images (2)Frankin trotted out several rods to meet them. “You better hold it right there, fellow!” he hollered as he wrapped a stone in the patch of his sling. “We don’t know you at all, so that makes you ones a trespasser…”

“Frankin!” echoed the cry from the house. “How’d you get that sling? You bring it back right now! You hear? And don’t you dare talk to strangers that a-way unless tunic-in-the-middle-agesthere’s a good reason!”

“I’m right sorry,” said Herio. “I certainly didn’t mean to make you think I was trespassing. I’m just passing through on my way to Castle Goll, but I got separated from my crow…”

“Crow?” said Frankin without so much as glancing back at his mother. “No crow here, fellow, so just turn around. Go!” He swung his rock back and forth like he might fling it around and throw it.

“Frankin! You heard me!” came the cry from the house.

Frankin did not bat an eye nor turn around, but the shouting woman must have had his attention, for suddenly Kink dashed out of the bushes and yanked away the sling.

“You stinking cachu face, Poopkink!” shouted Frankin, grabbing his fingers. “That hurt!”

Bartolomé_Esteban_Perez_Murillo_004“We got a crow shut up in the house, mister!” cried Kink, dancing about warily, well out of Frankin’s reach.

“Yea!” cried Dink, running up. “He talks and Mom’s afraid of him!”

“This time you gwrteithiau have really gone and done it!” cried Frankin, going red in the face. “I’m going to pound you…”

“Not while I’m alive!” howled the Mother, grabbing him by the arm. “And you’re done with slings for a good while, buster!”

Frankin tried to wrench free, but she gave him a shake.

“I’m man of the house now that Dad and Alwin’s gone!” he wailed. “You said so!”

“Yea? Well, when you can’t live up to it, then you’re just a little boy, aren’t you? And if that makes you disappointed, kid-o, hit makes me doubly so. Now let’s work you back up to woodpile2being a man again. You get yourself around back and chop me a proper rick o’ wood!”

“But there’s a whole pile of wood ’round…Aaaah!”

“And there’s a proper red welt acrost the back o’ your leg, too!” she hissed as she got him good with a whistling switch. She watched him scuttle out of sight. When she heard chopping commence, she retied her apron. “Now I’m right sorry for that, young man. He’s turned mean since his daddy was kilt at Ash Fork. Now he didn’t even give you ones the chance to give your name, ‘fore he started in, did he? He’s Frankin, I’m Mrs. Simms and these two be Wilmer and Jake…”

“I’m Herio, ma’am,” he said, thinking to remove his hat.gty_black_crow_jt_130504_wg

“Well, we’ve been kind o’ afraid of your bird. We didn’t know what to think. He bit me good every time I tried to get him down, and he was swearing like a sailor…”

“Sounds like Hubba Hubba, all right…”

“That’s his name?”

Herio nodded.

“And you taught him to curse like that?”

“No, but I’ve learnt a bunch from him…”

“You know, that’s one lie I think I believe,” she said with a laugh as she turned to Kink and Dink. “You ones run inside and bring this nice young fellow his bird.”

They raced to the door and darted inside. Immediately they were back outside again, with xococava-broken-platesthe door slammed fast behind them. They looked up at Herio with wide eyes.

“He’s deliberately knocking things off shelves…” said Kink.

“And he said when you get here you’re going to cut off our heads,” said Dink with an uneasy swallow.

Herio put his ear to the door.

“And when he does show up, “cawed Hubba Hubba amidst the crash of dishes, “you all will wish you were far, far, away! He’ll make you pay! He’ll cut off your grubby little fingers! He’ll…!”

“He’ll come and take you with him!” hollered Herio as he threw open the door.

“Herio!” cawed Hubba Hubba, swooping down from some shelves to walk up the front of his shirt as he madly beat his wings. “You did it! You saved me! They were going to eat me!” He flapped his way up onto Herio’s shoulder to drop open his beak and go quite skinny. “You mean you didn’t kill them?”

“Well, no, Hubba, they returned you in one piece… In fact, ma’am?” he said, taking out his purse and dumping out some crowns onto the bench by the door. “This is for your dishes.”

“Why you ones don’t have to…”

“Have you seen how many he broke?”

“Every bloomin’ one I could reach,” rattled Hubba Hubba as he bristled all over. “And ‘one crow (1)piece,’ I dispute that. Have you seen the knot on my head?”

“Then you’ve gained from the experience,” said Herio, rolling his eyes for Mrs. Simms.

She nodded and herded her boys back towards the house. “Looks like we both got our hands full,” she called with a nod, as she shooed Kink and Dink into the house. “Good luck, you hear?”

“Thank you ma’am, for being good to my bird,” said Herio as he got astride Gwynt with Hubba Hubba gaping aghast and three merrily twittering sparrows. They sauntered back through the orchard, pausing long enough to scrape his crowns out of the rotted out hollow in the old tree.

“‘Good to my bird?’ ‘Good to my bird?’ You think a knot on my very knitty box, big as my eye, is good to your bird? And what righteous damage, may I ask, did you do in order to be The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_Kindlegood unto them…?”

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Hubba Hubba Versus the Stinky Beefy Boy, Part 2

Quilt Stone Mountain NC SP 4021

5469802698_278de1b2e3_zthe-brixton-ona-bags-2-560x379The stinky beefy boy slowed to a walk with a skip and happily patted his game bag full of Hubba 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 outside 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.

504_slingrocks“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.

“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.”

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

nVrhp1e“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.”

“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.”

***

tver_angry-crow_7219“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 they 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?”

Bartolomé_Esteban_Perez_Murillo_004Both boys squealed and yanked back, dropping the lid on Hubba Hubba.

“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…!”

primitive-vintage-wood-box-original-old-paper-fruit-crate-label-Placerville-Maid-Laurel-Leaf-Farm-item-no-b912117-7“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.

“Close the door!” cried Dink.

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

images (1)“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, 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.

3021358_1_l (1)“Kawk!” cried Hubba Hubba, as he crouched to hang on

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…!”

images“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!”

“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!”

crow“Hit’s a trick, Mom, said Frankin.

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

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

“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 haven’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!”




Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Hubba Hubba Versus the Stinky Beefy Boy

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The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_KindleHubba Hubba, Chirp, Tweet and Squeak were returning from a reconnaissance mission for Herio in The Burgeoning when…

“There are a slew of farmsteads, though,” squeaked Chirp as he bounced along in a madAerial Ballet flutter to keep up. “One of them might put us up…”

“That’s ground work,” chirped Tweet. “We can’t ask around from the air.”

“Let’s just go back now,” said Hubba Hubba. “If that’s all that’s left, we’re wasting time. I hate to think of another night of Herio’s scorched beans, or nothing at all like last night.”

“Couldn’t be that bad,” tweeted Squeak. “Those folks down there look pretty hard up. A little money would surely get us what we want…”

“Yea?” said Hubba Hubba. “And it could be right risky if they thought Herio was well-to-do. A young fellow by himself?” He clacked shut his beak with a shake of his head. “Someone might try to rob him…or worse!”

“Worse, master?” squeaked Chirp.

“Hey, I remember arrows and meat cleavers and ugly manners of all sorts out of people on the ground who weren’t even penniless and desperate. And don’t you dare call me master! Aren’t we chums these days?”

“Oh I forgot, you being a crow and all…”

“Crow! Well, I can’t hide from that, but reminders of the Ugleeuh days give me a headache…” And with that, he collapsed into a headlong fall.

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“Hubba Hubba!” squeaked Chirp, diving madly after him. “What’s wrong? Tweet! Squeak! Help!”

***

crows_japanHubba Hubba opened his eyes to find the ground shooting up to meet him. He began flapping furiously. “Help! Help! Help!” he cawed. “It’s too late! Pebbles, I’m sorry!”

Without warning, something strange was under each of his wings. Suddenly he was seeing stars, bouncing and rolling to a rumpled stop in tall new grass.

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“Oh, I hate being dead,” he rattled. “Throb. Throb. Throb. That’s my stinking head, but why are my wingpits doing it, too? Say! Why am I thinking?”

“It’s not thinking, Hubba Hubba,” squeaked Chirp, “It’s just you. Now could you please lift your wing? Squeak and Tweet are under here!”

“So you ones are dead too, aye?” he said, letting out a yelp from moving his head to peer under his wing.

“Good grief no!” chirped Tweet, with a ruffle of his feathers. “We’re not dead and neither are you!” He gave Hubba Hubba two or three one eyed inspections. “You sure have a knot on your knitty box. What the ding-dong blazes did you fly into up there?”

“I have no idea at all, but for some crazy reason it made me think of Ugleeuh…” And at that very instant he was yanked out of the grass by his neck.

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“Hey!” crowed a stinky beefy boy with a hateful grip, as he sprang into a dancing pell-mell run through the grass. “I got him! I got him! I got him! I got him!”

 

***

Chirp, Tweet and Squeak shot into the air from where Hubba Hubba had fallen and watched in shock from the top of a big walnut tree as the stinky beefy boy made off with him through the grass. “They’ll get away if we don’t get moving!” squeaked Chirp as they all dove into the air.

“He’d never let someone make off with us!” tweeted Squeak.

“Let’s keep up!” chirped Tweet.

“Hey!” squeaked Chirp. “Somebody tell me how we’re going to save him from a grabby boy a thousand times bigger than we are. He’ll pull our heads off!”

“Go for help!” chirped Tweet.

“And somebody still has to follow,” tweeted Squeak.

“Someone needs to find Herio and bring him here, while the other two of us follow Hubba Hubba,” squeaked Chirp. “When we see where the boy takes him, one of us comes back here and the other stays and watches…

“Yea,” chirped Tweet. “And hope to the Pit he doesn’t get et while we’re at it!”

“Don’t even think that!” tweeted Squeak.sparrow12

“Just for that, you go find Herio,” squeaked Chirp.

Tweet gave a wide-eyed nod and shot away with a bouncing blur of wings.

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Fuzz Can’t Imagine

Fuzz the Bear sets out across the countryside in a frantic effort to keep the Heart out of the hands of the evil sorceresses Demonica and Spitemorta in Stone Heart. Along the way, he stumbles into a magical ward set by Demonica and is restored to his human form. He has not yet gotten used to being a human when Wizard Razzmorten and his party with Rose and Lukus find him and decide to help him recover the Heart…

“It’s really great to see you, Fuzz,” said Lukus, as Tors bore him alongside. “Maybe we can talk, now that we don’t have to go single file. How long have you been changed back?” He realized that this might be an awkward question in the midst of asking it. “You’ve no idea how much Rose and I have missed you.”

“Actually,” said Fuzz as he stretched his neck, “my transformation is right recent and I’m not sure I’ve completely adjusted to the change. I was a bear for a lot of years, but I’ve no reason not to expect that things will all come back to me in time.” He nodded at Rose.  “You know I’m finally beginning to question whether she’s missed me or not. This change of mine still has me feeling awkward all over, but have I done something to offend her?”

“Don’t you see?” said Lukus with an amused look.

“See what?”    

“Rose is eaten up with jealousy.”

“Just how?” sputtered Fuzz. “Me? Surely not.”

“Absolutely,” said Lukus rocking forward with a chuckle.

“But my word. What could Rose possibly see in the likes of an old bear like me?”medieval-woman-with-long-hair

“You’re not a bear for one thing.”

“Well, I suppose not, but that is all she’s known me as, Lukus, and I’m old enough to be her grandfather. She can’t possibly think of me in any other way.”

“Ha! I don’t remember a looking glass in your den, Fuzz, but if there is one, I’d lay great odds you’ve not peeped in it. You may be old as the hills in years, but you don’t look much older than Rose. It looks like you stopped aging when Ugleeuh turned you into a bear. Why, you’re downright handsome.”

“Well, yes, I guess that’s what they used to say,” said Fuzz, with an uncomfortable blush, “but I’d still think that would be unlikely quick for Rose to…”

“Wrong again,” said Lukus, bouncing with glee on Tors’s back, as Tors swung a sympathetic look in Fuzz’s direction. “Remember Spark’s glamourie in the Grog Meadows?”

“Oh, you’re right,” said Fuzz with very wide eyes. “She saw me as I was when I was still Captain of the Guard at Castle Niarg, when we were trying to deceive the Grogs.”

“Yea. And she’s had a thing for you ever since that she refuses to admit…just like you’ve had for her. Ah…ah…ah, don’t deny it. Don’t you dare deny it, ’cause it was written all over your face back then, just as it is this very minute.”

“You seem to have turned into an Elf, Lukus, reading me like that.”

Lukus threw back his head with a vigorous laugh. “I’m married to one, actually.”

“My word. Could it possibly be the very one Rose would pester you about those years ago when we were fleeing together?” said Fuzz, as Taflu suddenly fluttered into the air, escaping his notice altogether.

“Indeed. She’s my utter ecstasy. And we expect a son.”

“Oh, wonderful. I’m so very happy for you…”

“Yea, thank you. And you’re dodging, Fuzz. I can’t believe you didn’t know Rose felt the same way about you.”

“I…”images

“That’s all right, Fuzz,” said Lukus with a merry smile. “I’m not trying to give you a hard time. Rose is doing that. And don’t worry, she’ll come right around as soon as you convince her that there’s nothing between you and Myrtlebell.”

“Myrtlebell!” gasped Fuzz. “Of course there’s nothing between Myrtlebell and me. She and Edward were in dire need and I took her in. I’m her friend, but only in a patronly sort of way, don’t you know. Nothing more. Is that what she thinks, that Myrtlebell and I are lovers? Good word! I was beginning to think this was about Rotundra.”

Lukus threw back his head for another laugh as Fuzz peered at Rose in shock. “That’s what’s got her all huffed up. But it’ll work out, Fuzz. You’ll see,” he said, on the verge of another eruption of laughter.

“I swear,” said Fuzz. “You’ve become more of an Elf than you may realize.”

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Why Fantasy?

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I grew up in the land of Eden, I swear, which I could not possibly appreciate until it was too late grazing-dairy-cattleto come back. I grew up on what was for its time, a large dairy farm, with a big pond, a huge woods and the third best creamchickens-in-apricot-orchards-permaculture producing dairy herd in the state. We also had sheep and occasional hogs. We had milk, home-made butter and cottage cheese out the ears. We butchered. We dressed chickens

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and made cider. We had a five acre apple orchard in its prime, put up every bit of our own produce from our garden and had irises and peonies, gladiolas

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and snapdragons growing everywhere. We had no pesticides yet. Barn swallows swooped after flies, herons nested by the pond and every species of bird imaginable filled the air with their calls on a June day.

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Mom and Dad were positively crazy about each other. They got giddy and sang as they worked herbGardentogether. The neighbors were like extended family and everyone, I mean everyone got along. We went to the church down the road and we would go to each other’s houses and have square July-6-8-040dances and big sings. Both sets of my grandparents were alive and well in their eighties, and the neighborhood was brimming with people born well before rosegardenthe twentieth century. I got taken to a lot of funerals, but I spent a lot of afternoons after Sunday dinner, rolling around on the floor, listening to old folksimages (3) tell about their parents breaking the first prairie sod with oxen or about what happened to them during the Civil War.

mckenzie_jersey_cowsSuddenly I found myself in college. I was going to come back home and farm, but Dad got Alzheimer’s and sold most of the farm before anyone was awake enough to stop him.

Carol and I went west and taught on the reservations. Some of Leaping Lamb Farm gardensthat was pretty rough, but I always reckoned we could manage to get through it, since I knew 1340897947_a76bcd560e5dthat sooner or later we were coming home to what was left of the farm.

The day came. I knew that the family were all gone before we ever started home. I knew that nobody waved anymore. I wasn’t surprised that everyone I knew had moved away, either. After all, we had to go west, ourselves. Due to the massive pesticide use with no-till farming, I didn’t Farm_Pond_With_Egret_fsimages (2)expect many birds. There has not been a single whip-poor-will call since we returned. And a thief took every last one of the tools which I grew up watching my family use to work the land.

My grandma said: “Time is a river. You can’t stick your foot into the same water twice.”images

medieval-fighterI don’t care. There still has to be an Eden to go back to. One’s mind has to be able to escape to some place enchanted. There has to be one good place. Carol opened a door. She invented the land of Niarg. And we’ve been visiting there ever since.

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 Tom Phipps

It’s Either Kill Trolls or Pack for Home

 

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The breeze rattled the cottonwood leaves overhead as it chased through the tall big bluestem grass beyond the butt and died away. Rose drew her bowstring to her cheek,
hesitated and planted her eighth arrow in the target. A warbling vireo went back to its
meandering medley from the crown of the cottonwood. Rose nocked her next arrow and
found the target with her eyes.

“My word!” said Fuzz as he walked up behind her. “That’s a whole bouquet of arrows in the bull’s eye. That looks like forty yard.”

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Rose nodded and lowered her bow. “Father always had us practice,” she said.

“I remember seeing that light longbow of yours back home, but we were in such a rush that I never once saw you use it,” he said with a nod at the target. “You’re just plain good, particularly with this breeze. Have you missed any at all?”

“I’ve not yet been to the target.”

Fuzz whistled. “Well what do you think of Olloo’s spare bow? I’m all done feeding the birds, by the way.”

Rose raised her bow and quickly put another arrow in the bull’s eye. “I like it,” she said, letting the breeze blow a strand of hair out of her face as she turned to look at him. “But it’s not at all like the one Soraya had. This thing’s longer and shoots almost like a proper 9204cacfb3a66323628d914d5330f62clongbow.”

“Well that makes sense, out here in the open in the Strah,” he said, giving her a quick peck on the cheek. “I knew Inney had got it for you, but I never asked you why. Are you wanting to be ready for Spitemorta or Demonica sometime after we get home?”

“I was thinking trolls.”

“The raid…”

“Damned right!” she said with a fiery look. “Those were the sweetest three little kids I think I ever saw. That little towhead Aalin trotted up with her ringlets just a-bouncing and gave me a fistful of asters the very afternoon before the trolls came. I still see her face.” she thrust out her chin and picked up another arrow. “You know, that makes four men, three young ladies, one of them about to be wed, and six little scoots like Aalin since we got here. They’re going to get wiped out at this rate.”

“Probably not. They’ve been out here doing this for the last thousand years.”

Rose turned to face the target to find an old ewe and her pair of lambs in the way. “Yea?” Ewe and lambsshe said. “Well what about our wee baban on the way, aye? One of those trolls gets too close to our little girl to be, and I’ll want to puncture the curse.”

“So that’s what this is about,” said Fuzz. “Have you forgotten that trolls don’t eat humans?”

“You think they’ll look at her ears after they grab her up? And can you imagine any trolls raiding Balley Cheerey who’d check each little girl for pointed ears before stealing her away? They’d just grab her up, right? And if they saw their mistake, do you reckon they’d dutifully fetch her back here? They’d either eat her for dessert or kick her out in the woods with the wolves.”

“Well, you’re right,” he said, squatting beside her and pulling a timothy head. “So what do you want to do?”

“Fight back!” she said, dropping to her knees beside him. “Or at least be able to. You Warbling Vireo, singing_6444know, I don’t really understand why the Elves haven’t wiped them out by now, Fuzz. Inney told me once about when they almost did. They tracked the monsters to their
stinking caves and killed nearly every one of the curses where they slept before the
handful which survived got away. And when they can do nearly everything just a little
better than we can, why didn’t they ever hunt down those survivors and end the menace?
When I think of little Aalin, it makes me want to cry.”

“Tramman was telling me about that, once,” he said as he watched the ewe graze bite by bite to the foot of the target. “He said that they did indeed hunt down the trolls that got away and they were right certain they’d got all of them, too. So when the next troll raid occurred years and years later, they were completely unprepared and lost eleven children all in one night. Can you imagine?”

“Oh Fuzz, what are we going to do? It’s a true paradise here without the troll raids. I’ve never in my life been around such wonderful, wonderful people. Inney’s the sweetest kid I’ve ever known. And I really did want to have the baby right here. But the trolls scare me. And I find myself missing Niarg more, day by day. I keep thinking we should be there for the birth. It’s where we really belong.”

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Fuzz scooted closer, picked up her hand and closed his eyes as he kissed her wrist. “Then maybe we should go home, dear,” he said. “The Elves have told Karl-Veur and me that we might well hire a fishing boat from Gwael to take us across the sea.” He paused to look at her. “And there’s nothing to stop us from doing it right now if we were to buy our
passage with some of the jewelry that washed up on the beach in your trunk. Now believe
me, I’d never just up and tell you to do such a thing…”

“I’ll give every blooming jewel I thought was long lost if it takes it,” she said. “Well, not the emerald necklace from Mother nor your earrings that match. Well. You know, I’d almost give those to go home.”

“Then it sounds as though you might be serious. Well if you think it over and…”

“That would just waste time. I’m ready to go pack.”

“Then I’ll go talk to Tramman right now.”

“Fuzz,” she said, putting her hand on his arm before he got to his feet. “I will stay if you want.”

“You really would, wouldn’t you?”

“Of course I would.”

“That’s why I’m crazy about you, Rose,” said Fuzz. “But I miss Edward. I mean, what must he think after all this time?”

Suddenly two half grown strike falcons appeared out of the grass and came dashing up to them across the butts with a rabbit apiece, startling the sheep.

“Carrey and Sidoor!” she said, shooting to her feet to hug Carrey’s fluffy neck. “How’d Phororhacosthey get out?”

“Sidoor kept putting images of fat rabbits in my head, so I thought about you out here and turned them out.”

“So what about our birds, Fuzz? We can’t leave them behind.”

“Of course not,” he said as he watched the birds drop their rabbits and rip them into pieces small enough to swallow. “They go with us, and that’s all there is to it. Now, I think we should find Karl-Veur and see if he wants to go with us or stay here.”

“Or go back to the Dark Continent. After all, you know he misses Yuna and young Yann-Ber. I think we should let him know that it’s all right with us if he changes his mind about trying to get into Demonica’s good graces.”

“Oh sure. But I’ve got a feeling he’s set on doing what he came with us to do, in spite of the price he has to pay.”

“Let’s go,” said Rose as she unstrung her bow and picked up her quiver.

“Then we talk to Tramman and Obbree about hiring a fishing boat,” he said, taking her by The Reaper Witch 01 copythe hand.

“I’m for that,” she said, squeezing his arm.

Ch. 20, The Reaper Witch

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps