Who is Minuet?

Queen Minuet

Minuet is born to the good wizard Razzmorten and his first wife Blodeuwedd who dies giving birth to her. Blodeuwedd, who was the most beautiful woman Razzmorten had ever seen in all his 329 years before he married her, was known to all as the maiden of flowers.

Millais_John_Everett_A_Souvenir_of_VelasquezRazzmorten is most taken with his new wee Minuet and quickly sees that she could well exceed his own powers someday. He hires a magically endowed woman called Demonica to be her nanny. Demonica is also beautiful and is an engaging companion, so he marries her. Soon she is pregnant. When she bears the child Ugleeuh, she vanishes with the crystal Heart of the Staff from Niarg’s royal treasury, leaving him to care for Minuet and Ugleeuh.

Minuet spends her childhood being a nurturing Good_Sister,_Bad_Sis_Cover_for_Kindleand precociously responsible older sister. For years she is Ugleuh’s staunch defender and champion, but after a time Ugleeuh’s play becomes a string of increasingly reprehensible pranks, forcing Minuet to endlessly undo her mischief. In Good Sister, Bad Sister, Ugleeuh plots to have Hebraun, the prince of Niarg for herself.

The plague comes to Niarg and Razzmorten finds the cure. When Minuet goes to tend plague victims at Fates’ Hospital for the Sick, she is nearly beaten to death by a superstitious crowd. Whilst recuperating, The_Collector_Witch_Cover_for_Kindleshe finds out that Hebraun wants to marry her. Ugleeuh vanishes from sight.

Minuet does indeed marry Hebraun in time for him to become king of Niarg. When their firstborn Rose is three, Ugleeuh appears and tries to murder Minuet and Hebraun.

In The Collector Witch, Rose hears a damning rumor at her sixteenth birthday party that has her running away to far off lands with her younger brother Lukus to find answers. When word reaches Niarg that Ugleeuh is holding them captive, Minuet prepares to Stone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindledeal with Ugleeuh accordingly.

In Stone Heart, word comes to Niarg that Demonica and Queen Spitemorta of Goll are now in possession of the Great Staff and the much more potent Crystal Heart and plan to use them to conquer the entire world. Demonica declares that their first step should be to destroy all Elfkind. Minuet knits, waiting for the Elf Soraya, Lukus’s wife, to give birth. She comforts Hebraun who feels old and tired after finding Niarg’s The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_Kindlegrain ruined by a curse. Fuzz asks for Rose’s hand in marriage. Minuet fits her old wedding gown to Rose and helps her prepare for her wedding. She sees Hebraun off to fight the Golls when they burn Ash Fork to the ground.

In The Burgeoning, she rides forth leading her army, determined to cut out Spitemorta’s black heart and feed it to the hogs. And her tale continues in The The Reaper Witch 01 copyReaper Witch Doom.Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00028]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

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

Minuet Sends a Surprise to Spitemorta

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Captain Bernard peered about at the landscape of Cwm Eryr, wincing here and there at recollections as his massive march streiciwr brenhinol stepped carefully amongst the tumbled armor and bones, staying abreast of Queen Minuet on hers. “I can’t believe her grit,” he thought, pretending not to glance aside at her. “She’s almost serene, all decked out in her gleaming armor astride Vindicator’s snow-white twin sister.”

“Captain,” said Minuet. “look yonder, by the dead tree. Could that possibly be…?”

“Ol’ Brutus?” he said with a grunt, as he dismounted to go see. “Oh, you got that one right first try, Your Majesty. Has to be, head and all. Right where King Hebraun left him, though someone’s been along in the last day or two and smashed him up pretty good. And that someone probably knew him, don’t you reckon? Well, I mean Brutus was one of those as never could get beat up enough to match what he had a-coming to him…”

Minuet dismounted and removed her helm, letting fly her fiery red hair in the breeze. “Did you think to pick out a bivouac on the way down here, Captain?” she said as she thoughtfully rocked back and forth Brutus’s smashed hauberk, gorget and breastplate with her toe. “I realize it’s early.”

“I’m afraid not, Your Majesty, for as you said…”

“Well what I need for you to do is to position them out of sight over that rise, yonder and come right back here without them. It doesn’t matter how you do it.”

Bernard left her where she was and set about at once getting the troop beyond the rise. Presently he returned to find her carefully examining the smashed skull and helm.

“Well,” she said, standing up and brushing her hands as he dismounted, “guess what? There are some person’s tracks all over, which I think you already noticed, but did you see the bird tracks? Big ones and little ones. Come look. Couldn’t they be crow and sparrow? And here’s a nice big black feather.”

“Oh, that’s them. I’m surprised that this amount of smashing up Brutus’s remains is all…” Suddenly he had lost track and was gaping at what Minuet was doing.

She knelt and slapped the helm, leaving her coronary seal glowing and smoking in the metal. She set it beside the rest of the armor and smacked breastplate as well, leaving her seal to glow and turn blue as it cooled.

“My!” said Bernard, shifting to his other foot. “That’s…”

“Ffwrdd a ni!” she roared, springing to her feet with a fling of her arms, sending the armor leaping into the sky to shoot away south beyond the horizon.

Bernard looked wide eyed and pale.

“I didn’t mean to alarm you, Captain. I just thought Brutus should return to his queen. Do you think she will be pleased?”

“You sent those bones and armor clean back to Castle Goll?”

“They’re already there.”

“Oh!” he said with a spreading grin. “I think that was a right noble gesture, Your Majesty.”

“Yes. And it’s between us. That’s why you moved the troop.”

“I always knew you were Razzmorten’s daughter, but I swear I never knew…”

“I vowed not to use my powers as queen, Captain, but their time has come, and I don’t The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_Kindlewant it known, yet. Did you give the order to bivouac?”

“No.”

“Then let’s go. This is no place for us to be. We might actually have enough light to stop at Ash Fork and pay our respects to Hebraun.”

Ch. 22, The Burgeoning

 

Carol and Tom Phipps

Niarg’s Longbow

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

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

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

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

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

 

 Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

 

Rose Marries Fuzz

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

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

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

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

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

(Ch. 42, Stone Heart)Stone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Rose is Three

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Robins scolded in the growing shadows of the rose garden beneath the balcony, as a little girl held her breath and carefully tickled the red crown feathers offered by the newly fledged parrot. “Mamma!” she gasped, drawing back with dancing eyes. “She likes me.” She clapped her hands with a bounce of her curls of tow. “See? She’s still holding out her head feathers. Can I hold her now?”

20130213-043355“Of course,” said Minuet. “Just hold out your finger as I showed you, Rose, and wait for Pebbles to step on.”

Rose nodded and held out her finger, giving Minuet and Hebraun each a very solemn look before offering it to Pebbles, who carefully stepped on.

“Very good,” said Minuet with a glance at the door. “Bethan’s here, I see. It’s time to let her get you ready for bed.”

“Can I put Pebbles on her perch, Mamma?”

“As long as you’re real easy, sweetheart.”

Rose crept to the perch with all of the sober reserve of some great ceremony.

Pebbles looked quickly here and there at her feet, not knowing quite what was expected as theygreen-cheeked-amazon-parrot-01 arrived.

“A bird is not posed to be dilatory in a castle,” said Rose as Pebbles took an uncertain step onto the perch. “You have to set an essample.”

Minuet looked up to share her amusement and found that the butler already had Hebraun’s attention. “Now go straightaway with Bethan, Rose,” she said. “We’ll be along directly to tuck you in.”          

(Chapter 19, Good Sister, Bad Sister)

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“So,” she said. “She’s undoubtedly got her baggy eyes from the sukere. And she stands a very good chance of being deeply involved with some evil design involving sukere with Razzorbauch and Demonica.” She leant aside to see to Rose. “Oh sweetheart. You’ve got cherries all down your front.”

“They still taste good that way, Mamma. See? Here’s a really good one.”

“I’ll take care of her,” said Bethan. “You’ve got things to discuss.”

4ud2“Mamma? When Grandma Bethan gets me cleaned up, can she take me to show Real Grandma how I can sit on Mystique?”

“You just got your new unicorn, dear. I want to be there with you until you’ve had some real experience riding.”

“I understand,” said Rose as Bethan led her away. “Grandma? You’ll have to learn to be patient. Mamma’s just being a queen like you used to be.” 

(Chapter 20, Good Sister, Bad Sister)Good_Sister,_Bad_Sis_Cover_for_Kindle

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They found Hebraun and Minuet already well into a breakfast of boiled eggs and hot rye bread. As Razzmorten seated her, Ugleeuh saw Bethan leading out a striking and immaculately polite little tow-headed girl. “That’s their little shit,” she thought, as an orderly rushed to the board with plates and another bowl of boiled eggs. “Too bad, little shit!”   

(Chapter 23, Good Sister, Bad Sister)

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Herio Comes to Niarg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Herio looked but made no reply.

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

“Herio nodded ever so slightly.tumblr_lmcbi1gKi31qjci0fo1_500

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Ch. 47, Stone HeartStone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

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

News of Daniel and Ariel’s Birth Arrives by Elven Message Globe

 

Minuet looked up with a start from her knitting as Hebraun burst into their parlor with a small globe and a huge grin. He held out the tiny orb.

“Here! Talk to it,” he said, parking it in her outstretched palm. “Ask it to play your Scan10075message.”

Minuet hesitated, having not actually seen such a thing before. “Please deliver your message,” she said.

The ball lit from within and directly Lukus appeared with a huge grin. “Congratulations,” he declared. “You are the grandparents of a fine healthy grandson. Soraya and I have named him Daniel. You are also the very fortunate grandparents of the most beautiful baby girl that has ever been born. We have named her Ariel.” He stepped aside for them to see Soraya sitting up in bed, radiantly holding forth first one baby then the other so they could have a good look. Lukus stepped back into view. “Grandfather and Rose will be home before long. They’ve much news to bring you. Soraya and I will not be returning to Niarg for a bit yet. We’ll let you know when we do. In the meantime, I’ll say that you have yet another happy surprise coming, though I’m not at liberty to tell you what it is. We love 84526848you and miss you. And you must set down this globe so that it can fly back to King Neron. Goodbye.” The image in the globe vanished. Its glow faded out and Minuet set it down, still astonished by it, as it rose and flew like a shot out the window.

“Twins Hebraun! A boy and a girl!”

Hebraun smiled and put his arm around her. “Guess you’ll be needing both the pink and the blue layettes after all, dearest.”

“Of course,” she said as she spun ’round to look up into his face. “What do you reckon Lukus meant by, ‘at least one more happy surprise?'”

“Can’t imagine,” said Hebraun. “But at least it’s going to be pleasant, and we can use all the joy we can rake in. I think it may be a good long time before we have much more.”

“I know,” she said. “We’ve got bad times ahead.”

“We knew this was coming,” he said, squeezing her hand.

“Yes, but I kept hoping that somehow the Elves were wrong, for once.”

“I’d hoped it, too,” said Hebraun, hugging her as they stood at the window, gazing into the starlit night as the newborn hope for their world slept in their mother’s arms across the miles in the Jutwoods.

Ch 30, Stone Heart

 

 

 

 

 
Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Minuet is a Lucky Woman

Stone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle

 

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