Navigator by Wendy Scott

 

Luke’s body whirled through the portal in a kaleidoscope of starlight and rainbows. Burnt ozone stung his nostrils, and his stomach roiled as if live dragonflies flitted inside. He clutched his grandfather’s palm tighter, the only connection anchoring them together while they spun into the void, guided by the compass in his grandfather’s other hand.

“We’re here.” His grandfather’s words whistled with wheeziness.

He released Luke and turned away, pocketing the compass, but his old man’s movements weren’t quick enough to hide the tremors or his shortness of breath.

A mountain breeze, tinged with smoke ruffled the tussock grasses underfoot. In the valley below, Luke pinpointed a chimney on a cluster of shacks beside fenced paddocks. Had the old man’s sense of direction faded and cast them adrift?

“Follow me.” His grandfather rolled his shoulders back, lifted his head high, and led the descent.

Mindful of their journey’s mission doubt dragged at Luke’s feet. At only twelve, would he be found worthy? He didn’t want to think about his grandfather’s declining health if their bid was rejected.

Metallic scent tainted the air as they skirted past the dwellings; a one-room cottage, barn, and a smithy. Orange coals smoldered on the forge, hammers, and tongs lined up in military precision, but the pockmarked leather apron hung empty from a hook on the open door.

Without pause, his grandfather guided Luke out the back to the horse corrals. A bear of a man with arms like anvils leaned against the fence. Leather pants and knee-high boots sheathed his legs, but his chest was bare except for a star patterned tattoo, staining his chest muscles indigo and cobalt. At their approach his head swiveled, snaring the pair with a deep ocean gaze. Dryness etched Luke’s throat.

“Navigator, so many years have passed, I feared you would not return.”

Luke’s grandfather bowed his head. “Farrier, events have been unkind, but I keep my promises. My grandson had agreed to assume the responsibility in the place of his father who died when he was a babe.”

The men spoke as if Luke were a phantom, but he remained silent, remembering his grandfather’s instructions only to speak when asked a direct question by the otherworld farrier.

Grass scented warmth huffed through Luke’s hair. A midnight coated horse towered above his head. A white star marked the stallion’s forehead.

Luke clambered up the railings, but he still had to stretch to trail his fingertips along the horse’s snout. His breath caught when he gazed into the depths of the creature’s starlight eyes.

Firm fingers clasped Luke’s shoulder, and the farrier bowed towards the steed.  “Kasper approves of you. Come inside.”

The temperature in the smithy scorched the hairs inside Luke’s nose, and sweat trickled beneath his tunic, but the farrier worked the bellows until the coals combusted into flames. Next, he sprinkled a handful of sand into the hearth, and the fire danced into violet and malachite hues.

“You understand, old friend, without the enchantment your life span will be reduced to mortal years?”

My grandfather nodded.”These old bones grow weary, and the pathways are becoming muddled. My time is past. Luke is young, but he is pure of heart. ”

The farrier studied his friend for a moment before he reached out with his palm. “Navigator, of your own free will do you relinquish your powers to your grandson?”

The old man answered by dropping his compass into the farrier’s outstretched hand. “I do.”

The farrier’s otherworld stare scrutinized the boy, and although the being didn’t touch him, a prickling sensation rippled up Luke’s spine. After several heartbeats, the farrier inclined his head. “Your soul is free of darkness, but perhaps you are too young yet for any temptations to have challenged your values.”

“He’s a good lad. I vouch for him and will guide his path.” His grandfather squeezed Luke’s shoulder.

Calloused fingers gripped Luke’s chin. “Are you sure you want this? It’s not too late to back out and live a normal life. Be warned, once you accept you are bound for life. Each time you enter here seeking my help a non-negotiable toll must be paid.”

Before crossing over doubts had plagued Luke’s thoughts, but after tasting magic, he couldn’t settle for a dull life on the farm when his world had been opened to the lure of other realms.

Luke moistened his lips. “Navigator blood runs in my veins. I’m young, but I’m ready.”

The farrier released him. “Do I have your solemn vow you will only guide your passengers by the way of the light?”

Heart thundering, Luke focused on the compass. “I swear I’ll follow the true pathways.”

Light glinted off the chain as the farrier dangled the compass into the sparking coals. “Hold out your hand.”

Luke flinched, expecting his skin to sizzle when it touched the metal, but the compass was cool. He didn’t feel any different. Had the transfer worked?

The farrier clasped forearms with the older man. “You owe me one last favour, but I will redeem what’s due at another time.”

“As always it will be an honour to serve.” Luke’s grandfather stepped away.

“Navigator, peer into the fire.”

Several moments passed before Luke responded to his new title. Within the flames, he spied a young woman’s face, whose striking features seared into his memory.

“One day she will seek your skills, and when she does you must bring her to me.” The farrier crossed his arms.

Questions burned in Luke’s mind, but he’d been schooled on the protocols, so he suppressed his curiosity, and lowered his eyes. “As you command.”

The farrier ushered them into the yard and bid them farewell. “Keep your promises, follow the light and your direction will always be true.”

Outside Luke paused, blinking. A glittering path lit the way up to the portal.

Unshed tears gathered in his grandfather’s eyes. “The navigator’s sight is now hidden from me.”

Grasping the compass in one hand, Luke held out his other hand. “Come grandfather, I will guide you home.”

***

(Navigator is a prelude and companion scene to Fire Hooves – yet to be released by Wendy Scott).

 

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Abaddon Meets Longbark

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Abaddon went quite speechless as he studied the looming tree, only looking down here and there as he stepped along behind Lance in the thick dry grass. Like some spreading burr oak in a pasture, Longbark was scarcely fifty feet tall with great long horizontal limbs reaching out from a trunk that was better than twelve feet thick above the buttressing roots. “But Lance, it’s got its leaves in the middle of winter.”

“Some kinds of oak are like that. The mothers told me that evergreen oaks used to be right common in the Forest Primeval…”

“Lance!” he whispered frantically. “They’re mad! They’re crazy! They’re petting it like it was a dog or a cow or something.”

“You’ll see,” said Lance with a grin and a shake of his head as he took him by the hand and led him forth to stand before Celeste.

“Ther be no thyng heere at al for to fere, yonge Abaddon,” said Celeste with a kindly smile. “This beth Longbark, and she the moost eld of yere and wyseste beynge a-lyve in Glan Da ybe. Hit nis ne evene possible hir for to harme thee in the leste.” She took him by the hand and drew him up to a branch that stuck down from a limb low enough for him to walk up to. “Come. Takest hold of this heere lowe braunche and lette hir thee yfele.”

“Why, this is frightening him,” thought Lance, as Abaddon turned to him with wide eyes. “You can manage all right, Abby,” he said with a smile and a nod of reassurance. “Celeste would never, ever do anything to hurt you, and that old tree won’t even give you a rash.” He watched Abaddon give in and reach for the branch. “Ah, for all his meanness, he’s just a little boy after all,” he thought.

“So what?” said Abaddon with his customary brashness. “It’s just a plain ol’ stupid tree…”

“Juste myndest that thou halt fast for a tyme if thou wouldest,” said Celeste as she keenly eyed the branch.

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Without warning, Abaddon felt as though someone who did not approve was looking all through him. At the very same time, each glossy green leaf in turn folded shut like a book, as its respective petiole went utterly limp, collapsing like a row of dominoes, all the way up and all the way down the branch away from his hand, except for the leaves on one small twig, which remained open and up. “Not fair!” he shouted. “That was no fun at all!” He yanked off a twig with a loud snap, flung it at Lance, picked up a stone the size of a grapefruit and heaved it at Longbark to bounce off with a deep resonant thud. “It’s just a stupid ol’ tree! Why are you idiots all staring at me? You think you’re smart? You’re going to die for trying to make a fool of me by having me touch it! It’s just a dumb stupid tree!” With that, he dashed away through the weeds and vanished into the lava tube.

Ch.7, The Burgeoning

 

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Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Abaddon goes into the Mountain

 

 

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Lance shifted on his saddle in the thick whirling snow and gathered his collar over his muffler as he peered from under his hat at the top of the mountain. “Well Abaddon,” he called out cheerfully over the wind, “we’ll be over the top directly and we’ll be getting out of this weather!”

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“My momma’s goin’ ‘o kill you for stealing me away from her,” said Abaddon with a baleful snarl. “And when I tell her all about it, she’ll hurt you a whole lot for a long, long time before she stops your heart.”

“Oh, she’ll have to catch us first,” said Lance buoyantly, as a shudder ran through him.

“She’ll catch you, all right! Oh, yes she will! And it’ll be a lot of fun!”

“After five long days in the cold, it’s a mercy we won’t have to sleep out in this,” thought Lance with another shudder as the unicorns stepped their way up, crunching loose shards of stone through the new layer of snow. Having grown up here, he was familiar with the sudden fierce winter storms up in the Pitmaster’s Kettles. He glanced aside at Abaddon. In spite of how good he’d always been with children, the boy unnerved him. “I’ll do it for James,” he thought, wishing he did not have to. Abaddon looked up at him with a red-eyed glower, as if he knew exactly what he had just been thinking, giving him a sudden bristle of goose flesh. He quickly turned away. “Surely he doesn’t read thoughts. I’ve never heard that Spitemorta does.” He looked back again to suddenly feel guilty for thinking all of this at the sight of Abaddon looking right at him with the innocent smile of a boy on an adventure. He smiled back and began searching for the path over the top. “Here we go!” he called out. “Right yonder! Just keep Sheba close to Stepper and we’ll soon be out of the weather in the heart of this ol’ mountain!”

“What do you mean? You don’t mean we’re going clean inside it, do you?”

“Sure do,” said Lance with a nod. “This is a vulcan mountain. Its top was once a cauldron of melted red-hot rock. If it weren’t for the snow, you’d see frozen rivers of rock running down it’s sides from long ago. That’s what all the black rock between the trees was, ‘way back down below, before we ever started up here. The top of each one of these mountains for miles and miles is a deep pit. that’s why they’re called the Pitmaster’s Kettles. And here we are.” He slapped his hand onto his hat in the furious wind at the very top of the slope as his unicorn hesitated between a pair of boulders on the rim, stepping restlessly from side to side before finding his first steps of the steep decent beyond. “See out yonder? the whole top of this mountain is naught but a giant deep hole. And here we go, on the path right down into the mountain, but you watch out and keep Sheba close behind. I don’t want you falling off the side. It’s a long way down.”Extinct-volcano-crater-Mo-013

“I better not fall. My momma would kill you even worse if I did.”

“Yea, and your dad wouldn’t be too happy either.”

Abaddon gave a contemptuous snort, but quickly donned a look of excited expectancy in spite of himself. Soon they were below the wind, carefully finding their way down the narrow path, knocking loose rocks to go skittering and bounding off into the depths. He anxiously peered down into the crater, but strain as he might, he could not see the bottom. “Hey,” he demanded. “It’s gettin’ darker and darker. How are we going to see? In fact, what’s going to keep us from falling off?”

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“Stepper and Sheba. The unicorns see a lot better in the dark than we do and they’re completely sure-footed if you don’t rush them. They’ll find their way. Besides, it’ll get lighter before long.”

“You’re crazy. It’s been getting darker and darker.”

“Well, when you get down far enough, there’s quite a lot of glow lichen growing, though we’re not far enough to tell it yet. Have you noticed it getting warmer?”

“The wind’s died down is all. It’s not any warmer.”

“Well, what do you suppose happened to all the snow, Abby?”

“You’re not allowed to say things like that! You’re supposed to call me ‘Your Highness!'”

“Well, maybe when you earn it…”

Abaddon drew a breath for a furious shout, but fell silent with a gasp at the sudden sight of a faint glow, far below in the blackness.

 

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Spitemorta’s Troll Baby has the Strongest Magical Aura She’s Ever Seen

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After her address, Spitemorta tied up her skinweler in its pouch and dropped it into her bag. She missed the awed multitudes beyond the balcony of her throne room at Castle Goll. “A little trollish supplication might be just the thing,” she said as she picked up theimages (3)x Staff. She stepped into the hall, trotted downstairs and out into the glory of dandelions, wren chatter and bright sunshine. Bethan was on her knees, picking strawberries and didn’t see her set the Staff in the air, mount it and lean forward to shoot away into the deep blue sky.

She didn’t know exactly where Oilean Gairdin was beyond its being somewhere in the Jut of Niarg. But after some time, hurtling along the length of the Jut, she spied the remains of stone walls standing in a tumble of pink quartz rubble, surrounded by abandoned orchards and formal gardens on an island in the middle of Jutland Lake. “This has to be it,” she said as she settled her feet into the knee-deep grass and sat on her hovering stick, looking about. Grackles scolded, mobbing something in the crown of an apple tree. She dismounted and waded through the grass toward the ruins, pausing at an arbor to eat grapes. She saw no sure signs of trolls at all, but there were getting to be paths tramped flat in the grass as she neared the rubble. A striped blue lizard as big around as a pitchfork handle, vanished into the cracks of a stone fence. She stood, looking all about from under her hand. Over near a wall she saw bones. “Ha!” She hurried up her wallow through the grass to find a collapsed bedroom, overflowing the window sills with bones. Outside the broken walls, she now saw a good score of stone circles for campfires, most of them with live coals, scattered randomly about a courtyard littered with gnawed pieces of animal carcass and barefoot prints in the ankle deep dust. Presently she was hearing deep rumbling snores coming from every hole and recess that might protect from rain.

“Oh yes,” she said, stopping short. “I very nearly forgot. I’ll have to change to Fnadiyaphn’s throat. At least Fnadi-phnig-nyd and Dyr-jinyr-yy will know who I am as a human. It’s still hard to swallow from the last time.” She held the Heart to her throat. It began glowing at once. “Gaah-hoof!” she bellowed, jerking the Heart away. “Aah-hoof-aah-hoof!”

She could hear trolls mumbling and stirring as she stood there with pains shooting through her head, working her jaw. She began quietly peering into holes, wincing each time she bent over for a look. By the time she was wondering if she could bear any more bending over, she found Dyr-jinyr-yy sound asleep on his back not far away from a huge breasted sow, asleep against a wall under her snarled bush of fiery red hair, snoring away like a giant bullfrog with a grimy toddler in her arms. “Maybe I’m getting lucky,” she thought as she tiptoed close to peer at the baby. “He actually looks like James, except he’s a troll. Well we’ll see.” She went back to stand over Dyr-jinyr-yy. “Jy-oyf-ny-oyd-fif, Dyr- jinyr-yy,” she rumbled as she gave him a sharp poke with the Staff. “Ni!”

images (18)“Zawk-skok…” he smacked, suddenly sitting up with wide-eyed urgency.

“Jyrp-dyoy-dyn-yoy-oyr,” said Spitemorta with a phosphorescent flicker in her eyes. “You’ll live.”

With a squeal, he pitched forward and flattened himself at her feet. “Fnadiyaphn!” he whimpered into the foul dirt. “Goddess come-give Veyfnaryr big-head-nod looky-look?”

“And you’re going to show me,” she said with a cherubic nod.

Dyr-jinyr-yy was on his feet at once, dashing over to Fnayooph to give her hair a good yank.

Fnayooph gave an explosive swing of her fist, barely missing Dyr-jinyr-yy, who sat backwards with a bounce in the dirt. She gasped in shock at the sudden sight of 503-700w163251Spitemorta and grabbed up a club, giving it a furious fling right by her ear.

Spitemorta gave a crackling jab with the Staff, setting aglow a patch of earth in front of Fnayooph which immediately exploded, blinding everyone with dirt and making Veyfnaryr howl.

“Fnayooph!” cried Dyr-jinyr-yy. “She-be Goddess Fnadiyaphn! Fnadiyaphn play human queen.”

Veyfnaryr wiggled out of her arms and stood up with his fists in his eyes, wailing at the topneanderthal-baby of his lungs. Fnayooph grabbed him into her lap and silenced him with a teat as she ground at her eyes with the heel of her other hand.

“Good job that you took care of my baby before you even tried to see,” said Spitemorta, “otherwise, you would be dead right now. Does he bite?”

Fnayooph looked up with one confused eye, shook her head and held out Veyfnaryr for Spitemorta to take.

Spitemorta got a whiff of him and held up a pious hand. “I don’t need to take him,” she said. “I can see that he is getting the best of care.” She pursed her lips as a look of awe flickered across her face. “My word!” she thought. “He simply glows with magical power.”

She turned to Dyr-jinyr-yy. “I shall not keep you awake any longer,” she said. “You all are doing quite well indeed. I’ll simply be back from time to time to see how he’s doing.” And with that, she took to the air on her staff and vanished over the trees.

Well beyond Jutland lake, she landed and used the Heart to return her human throat and end her pounding headache. “My word!” she said as she climbed into the sky once more. “Nobody I’ve ever been around has that strong an aura…”

“See?” came a voice in her ear. “What did I try to tell you?”

“Shut up!” she screamed as she shook the Staff. “Shut up! Shut up Demonica!”

“Well I’m glad to see that you didn’t completely lose control of the Staff this time, dear,” came the voice again.

“Shut up!” she screamed. “Leave me alone!”

“Now just what kind of respect for the dead is that, Rouanez Bras?”

“Why can’t you leave me alone?”

“Believe me,” said the voice, “I most certainly would if it weren’t for your endless need of guidance. But since you clearly resent even the slightest inclination which I might have to help…”

“All right!” cried Spitemorta. “If I let you help me, will you go away?”

imagesdemonica“Mission accomplished, dear.”

“Very well, what do I need help with then, Grandmother?”

“Didn’t I tell you that your troll baby was going to be more powerful than the great Razzmorten himself?”

“I don’t remember.”

“Of course not,” said the voice. “I couldn’t get you to hold off your demands to have him killed long enough to notice what I was saying, as I recall.”

“And I can see that you’re just as tedious to listen to as ever.”

“Well let’s try again, dear. Did you notice what I said this time?”

“What?”

“Veyfnaryr. Razzmorten…”

“What? Being stronger? Get out of here, Demonica! I know very well what all that means.”

“Do you then? What does all this mean? This should be good.”

“Why go through telling you?” said Spitemorta. “You already have all the answers. But if you must, it means that even if the Elves do manage to raise some dangerously powerful wizard, your ugly little troll monster just might destroy him. Right?”

“Bravo!” cheered the voice with the sound of clapping. “But the ‘ugly little troll monster’ as you put it, is yours, dear.”

“My monster? It was your turning me into Fnadiyaphn, Grandmother.”

There did not seem to be an answer.

“Grandmother?” said Spitemorta, frantically looking all about. “Demonica? Damn you! Where’d you go? Hey Demonica!”

 

Ch. 12, The Reaper Witch, book five of Heart of the Staff: The Complete Series

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Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

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Spitemorta takes over her Mother’s House

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 Spitemorta lay in Demonica’s bed, listening to the cries of gulls out her window as the first rays of sunlight lit the wall behind her. She threw back her covers, sat on the side of the bed and nearly fell when she tried to stand up. She hobbled to the tea table and ate some of the cheese and corned beef she had found in one of the larders while hunting skinwelerioù. She had forgotten all about eating for some time and discovered that she was quite hungry. At last she decided to get dressed. The broadening daylight made her want to hurry.

“Well, it’s back west to Niarg before rejoining Coel and Cunneda,” she said as she stepped into her black kirtle, “but I’ll never be able to straddle the Staff for the entire way across the Orin Ocean. I’ll just have to pick a place where I can vomit when I get there.”

She laced up her bodice, grabbed up the Staff and turned her dress deep vermilion. She put the strap of her bag across her shoulder and sat on the bed with her skinweler. “Now just where is it?” she said as the swirling colors in the skinweler gave way to images. “Show me the manor house at Peach Knob. So that’s where Mother grew up with Auntie Min and Grandfather Razzmorten. Why would it be so dark? Very well, let’s find some place out of the way, around back.”

Suddenly she was on her hands and knees in a pandemonium of terrified chickens, B0002242squawking and flapping dust and old feathers all about her in the dim light of dawn as she retched and heaved her breakfast onto the floor between her hands. “Aangh!” she cried, catching her breath and sitting back on her heels as the chickens crowded round to snap up tidbits of her cheese and corned beef.

She grabbed up the Staff and sprang to her feet to pound with her fist along the chicken house wall until she found the door and threw it open. “My dress!” she wailed, waltzing intochickens2-1 the pigweed with her arms held wide. Just then it occurred to her that she was holding the Staff and she quickly used it to make herself as clean as she was when she was first dressed. Suddenly she stopped short with a scald of alarm at the sight of her second sunrise in one day. “No!” She shook her head. “No way it’s Demonica. It can’t be anything but the traveling spell.

 

“There’s the house,” she said, looking uphill beyond the big orchard. “And that was my very last traveling spell ever, ever, ever, I swear.” She started walking up the grassy lane between the rows of peach trees. An oriole gave a bawdy whistle. Up the lane, a kingbird chased away a pair of grackles. She could hear a tinkling of bells as sheep came running.

“Hoy!” she thought she heard someone holler. She looked back beyond the sheep to see a stooped old man wave. She turned away and made for the house. The summer kitchen reared up before her as she came out of the trees. She got a whiff of steak and eggs as she heard someone bang a skillet. She stopped and looked up at the manor house behind the kitchen. “Good for gentry,” she said. “At lest it’s temporary.”

 

A heavy set woman appeared in the doorway of the summer kitchen, wiping her hands on her apron. “Good morning to you, mistress,” she called out with a smile. “You look bewildered, a-coming up on us out o’ the orchard, that a-way. I’ve just fixed breakfast and I already set out an extra…”

“Oh I know exactly where I am.”

“Well now I’m Bethan, but should I know who you be?”

“It makes no difference who you are. But it’s always best to know your new queen, particularly when you work on her manor.”

“Peredur,” said Bethan as the old man appeared behind Spitemorta. “did you hear what she just said to me?”

“No, but I can’t begin to imagine what she was doing in the chicken house.”

Bethan folded her arms and looked Spitemorta in the eye. “Well since I can’t begin to believe what you just told me, dear, why don’t you be so kind as to tell him what it was?”

“It’s quite simple. I’m queen and you’re in my house.”

“Minuet is queen, and I’m queen mother. I raised the queen and her two children. This is my house. Razzmorten and the crown gave it to me.”

Spitemorta let out a whoop of laughter and stopped. “Minuet is dead, dead, dead and you may be lucky enough to be the hired help in my house, if you don’t get carried away,” she said with a satiny rustle as she stepped into the doorway and pushed past Bethan.

“Now look ‘ee here, child! Queen Minuet and Razzmorten saw us just days ago, and she certainly was queen then…”

“Yea? My soldiers found them dead of the plague when we destroyed Castle Niarg, what, yesterday? And my mother grew up in this house, so it’s mine.”

Bethan went apoplectically wide eyed. “You’re Queen Spitemorta!” she gasped.

“It is Bethan’s house,” said Peredur as he steadied himself, stepping inside, “and I’m to live out my days here, too.”

“Which could be up any moment from what I see,” said Spitemorta as she picked up a piece of steak and took a bite.

“That won’t hold up before the Bench,” said Peredur.

“Queen’s Bench,” said Spitemorta with a cherubic smile and another bite.

Bethan caught his eye and shook her head.

“If you’re a willing part of my loyal service, you’ll be alive to wait on me when I come back to stay.”

“At your service, Your Majesty,” said Bethan with a heavy curtsey.

“At your service,” said Peredur with a bow.

Spitemorta stepped out into the grass and mounted the Staff. “Ta-Ta,” she said and flew away into the morning sky.

“My word!” said Peredur as they watched from the doorway. “That witch! What have we got into?”

“Something you and I are going to live through, that’s what.”

 

Ch. 5, The Reaper Witch, book five of Heart of the Staff: The Complete Series

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Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

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Ariel says she Could Die

 

“We’re done Grandfather,” said Daniel.

 

“So I see.” he said, fitting his spectacles onto his face.

“How did we do?” said Ariel as she and Daniel sat beside him.

“A question like that has been nothing but a respectful formality for some time, my dear,” he said.

“Perfect then?” said Daniel.

“Absolutely,” he said with a deep nod. “And this completes anything which I might contribute until Neron has worked with you for a time and we get you ready to go study with Meri Greenwood. And it is he who will prepare you for your staves and take you to see Longbark in Mount Bed.”

“And then?” said Ariel. “Are we…?”

“Oh,” he said with a smile. “I expect we’ll have you back here again for one final inspection and a little practice.”

“And then we get her…” said Daniel.

“When the moment falls exactly right,” said Razzmorten as everyone went silent, listening to the swallows and the trickling water and the river pounding in the deep reaches, drawing away the echoes from the sink.

Daniel dug at the rocks with a twig.

“Abaddon ought to be back with Toast, directly,” said Razzmorten, looking at Ariel with sudden innocence.

“Great-Grandfather Razzmorten is naught but a matchmaker,” said Arial, giving him a peck on his cheek.

“Not at all. You’ve had your heart bond for all these years.”

“Are we done?” said Daniel.

“With magic, anyway. Go enjoy the day.”

“Thanks Grandfather,” he said, tossing aside his twig.

“Father keeps saying that in spite of the bond, I might eventually be safer away from Abby,” said Ariel.

“Yea? Is that what you want?”

“Maybe it’s best for Abby. I mean I could die…”

“No you’re not. And worse than that, you’re guessing. How’s that fit for a young and powerful sorceress? What do you want to do with your guesses, anyway, break his heart and then go die? Maybe you’d better do what your heart wants.”

“You’re right as usual,” she said as she stood and brushed the seat of her skirt. “I shall indeed follow my heart.”

“And you’re not going to say another word about dieing,” he called out after her as she stepped into the lava tube. “Ye hear?”

Ch 2, Doom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It will Take Daniel and Ariel to Save the World from Spitemorta and Demonica

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“Grandfather?” said Rose.medieval-woman-with-long-hair

“Yes?”

“Do you and King Neron think war is unavoidable?”

Razzmorten sighed and looked at her with a grave face. “Without a miracle, yes indeed,” he answered.

“Thank you for being straight with me, Grandfather,” she said as she cast a worried look at Fuzz. “We’d feared it would be so, but we were hoping that, you know, with the Elves being Elves…”

“Sure. You’d hoped they’d have some magical and quick solution.”tumblr_mc7pq21lbC1qmtdyso1_500

“Yes.”

“Rose, I’m afraid that even though the solution will indeed be magical, it will not be at all quick.”

“Grandfather! It sounds as if you know how to stop this war.”

“Yes I do, Rose, but it is neither in my power nor that of the Elves.”

“Then, who can possibly do it?” she said, as Mystique traded places walking in the path with Abracadabra.

“Oh, Daniel or possibly Ariel, or perhaps both of them together…”img-thing

“But they’re babies!” she said with a gasp.  “It’ll be years before they’re old enough to do such a thing. What’ll be left of the world?”

Bede on his deathbed completing his translation of St. John’s Gospel, by James Doyle Penrose (1902)

“Not much as we now know it, I fear,” he said, bearing the most haunted look she had ever seen come from his kindly and steadfastly optimistic old eyes, “not much at all.”

 

 

Ch 31, Stone Heart

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Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

 

Neron Knew all Along

 

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“Wizards. You’re joking,” said Lukus as he stared in disbelief across the table at King Neron. “Daniel and Ariel are just babies.”84526848

“At the moment, they are not yet wizards,” said Neron, “for as you say, they are babies. But as they grow up, they will indeed become wizards. When they’re older, they’ll come into their magic, and it’s absolutely vital that they begin learning to use and control it the moment you realize it has appeared. They will be more powerful than anyone has ever been before, even more powerful than the First Wizard.”

“Because there are two of them?”

“No, because you aren’t an ordinary Human, Lukus. You’re becoming a strong wizard in your own right, even if you’ve only begun your training. All Human wizards descend from the First Wizard, as you know. Your having children by an Elf, particularly one with a lineage as exceptionally endowed with magical ability as Soraya’s, means that those medievalmenswear13children cannot help but be the most magically gifted beings who’ve ever been born. They will be a favorable match for the evil that has recently been loosed upon the Continent.”

“But, Spitemorta and Demonica have the Great Staff and the Heart,” said Lukus.

“Yes,” said Neron, “right powerful objects indeed, created by the First Wizard, who was the most powerful until now…”

“You knew this,” said Lukus. “You knew this back when Rose and I first came to these woods. Danneth said something back then that stayed with me. He said: ‘then it is time.’ This is what he was talking about, isn’t it? Does Soraya know this, too? Is that why she married me, so that we could breed wizards for this evil age?”

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Neron’s eyes flashed. “I see why you say this, Lukus,” he said, at once letting go of what had just flared as he sagged with a heavy sigh. “Would I do that to my own kin? I make mistakes, but have you truly seen me do things that would lead you to such an accusation? Things have come to pass due entirely to the Fates and to circumstance. We saw it coming, Lukus. That much is true, but we manipulated nothing. We had nothing, absolutely nothing to do with you and Soraya meeting and forming a heart bond. This I swear unto you: she loves you freely and unconditionally. Please, never mistake that. It article-2528305-1A43A85C00000578-700_306x423istrue that when the bond between you was certain, we knew that things which could not bechanged had been set into motion on this path, but knowing it is not the same as causing it. You must understand that. I’m only telling you this now because you have to be told.Would you have had me tell you early on and risk injuring the love which was unfolding between you and Soraya?”

“I’m sorry,” said Lukus, slumping back against his chair. “I am indeed very sorry. Please do forgive me. You’ve been nothing but fair and wonderful the entire time I’ve known you. I’d not have had you do anything different than what you’ve done. It’s what you have to say that scares me. I fear for my children. They’re in danger, aren’t they?”

“From the moment they were conceived,” said Neron. “Until the evil ones and the Heart and the Staff are destroyed, Daniel and Ariel will live in the shadow of peril. Our single most important mission of all is to keep them safe.”

Ch 34, Stone Heart

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Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

 

Ariel and Abaddon have a Heart Bond

 

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Lukus paused to listen to the rain of clicks and squawks from the oilbirds in the countless chinks and ledges throughout the gargantuan vault of cave ceiling over Gerddi Teg, kept daylight bright by glow lichens. He threw his panniers across Starfire’s rump, checked Shimmer’s girth and went back inside the cottage he and Soraya had spent the summer in.

“Your bags ready?” he said, hefting Soraya’s tightly packed panniers.”

“Tied tight and buckled,” she said from the next room.

“I guess I’m asking if we’re forgetting anything,” he said.

“We can’t be,” she said, walking in. “We’re still here, and nothing’s ever forgot until you get down the road and remember.”

“Yea. like one of the kids, or something.”

“No worry then,” she said with her serious face. “Grandfather would send us right back.”

“And not wait for us to catch up again.”

“Nope!” she said, erupting with laughter. “Not after we forget our own babaí.”

“You are the most gorgeous thing I’ve ever seen when you laugh,” he said, scooping her into a sound hug. “And you’ve been mighty sober lately.”

“Yea,” she said, standing arm in arm with him as they looked out the open door. “It’s kind of hard to leave a peaceful place after what we’ve been through. And the thought of being out in the open with Daniel and Ariel makes me feel, well, exposed.”

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Lukus watched Abaddon in the yard, playing dragon and giving rides to Daniel and Ariel. “You know, they could really get hurt,” he said.

“From piggyback rides?” she said. “His piggyback rides? He is the gentlest boy I ever saw play with little kids, especially with Ariel.”

“They could still get hurt.”

“What is this?” she said. “The worst that would happen from some unlikely stupidity of his would be nothing more than a scrape or a knot on the head of one of them. And you’re not stupid, so why is this bothering you?”

“I know he has been good with them, but he is Spitemorta’s son…”

“And King James’s. And I’ve not heard you say anything but good about James.”

“And Abaddon is very magically gifted. He’s been good all summer, but what if he surprises us and turns out like the rest of his line back through Demonica? That’s a dark lineage.”

“Daniel and Ariel trust him…”

“So what?” he said, as he quietly pushed the door most of the way closed. “Children don’t have the experience and judgment to keep from being taken in by some…”

“Human children. And ours are half Elf, actually better than half, since you have Elf behind you…”

“But lately he finds a way to be here every single day. For a boy his age, isn’t that…?”

Soraya put her finger to his lips, kissed him on the cheek and closed the door. “I just became certain of something this very day,” she said, turning back to him.

“My word, what?”

“Ariel and Abaddon have a heart bond.”

“Fates! What if he’s evil?”

“I suppose it’s possible, but I’ve never ever heard of a heart bond between Elf and an evil…”

“When did it happen? Are you certain?”

“No one knows when a heart bond actually begins, Lukus,” she said as she took his hand. “I mean, when did ours begin? But it is completely out of anyone’s control, as you well know. And I’m so very sorry you’re troubled by this. I think Abaddon’s simply wonderful and I can’t imagine that he would ever harm either one of them.”

“I hope you are right. Because if he ever does, I swear I’ll fix him.”

“And with my help, dear,” she said.

“There goes Arwr,” said Lukus.

Abaddon shot to his feet at once, whistling and waving his arms.

Arwr came to a springy halt some distance away and jogged back.

Abaddon wheeled about and scooped Ariel off the ground, giving her a grand giggly hug before setting her back down. “Bye Ariel!” he cried before dashing through the gate. “Bye Daniel!”

“Abaddon!” cried Ariel, trotting to the gate.

Abaddon stopped and turned back. “We’ll be together before the day’s over!” he hollered with a wave.

“See you!” she cried with a great bounce of her curls as he dashed away and sprang astride Arwr. She stood waving until Abaddon and Arwr had vanished between the cottages across the common.

Soraya squeezed Lukus’s arm as she put her head against his shoulder.

Ch 24, The Reaper Witch

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Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

 

Who are Daniel and Ariel?

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps