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

Spitemorta Has a Tantrum

 

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Spitemorta sat forward and grabbed up a hot cinnamon bun from the tea table just set before her, tore it open and dropped it onto a saucer to steam as she found the fresh butter and honey. “Oh,” she said, licking her fingers and leaning aside to give the bell pull a yank. She went right back to her bun and took a huge bite, closing her eyes with a images (3)xdelirious moan.

A young page came and stood at quiet attention beyond the table.

“Hey Piffant,” she said through her mouthful of flying crumbs, when she finally noticed him.

“Your Omnipotence,” he said with a deep and gracious bow.

Spitemorta took an eye-rolling moment to chew. “Listen Pissant,” she said with a strained swallow, “go find General Coel and have him here this very hour.”

“Anything else, Your Omnipotence?”

Spitemorta dug at the wad of bread in her cheek with her tongue and shook her head.

“I live to serve you, Your Omnipotence,” he said with a parting bow.Pearsons-renaissance-shoppe-childs-costume-300x300

“As long as you see that you do,” she said. She wanted to see Coel at once, but it made no difference to her in the least whether or not Pissant managed to live. All that really mattered was her coming coronation and public executions of Queen Minuet’s army.

“Your Omnipotence…?” said her skinweler in a wee voice from it’s hollow on the arm of her throne.

She put milk into her cup, slipped off the cozy and picked up the teapot. “Damn you, Pissant!” she bellowed into the echoes, hurling it across the room to smash on the marble floor. “Thanks to you, it’s gone stone cold. Or maybe I need to boil somebody’s stinking head in the kitchen…”

“Uh, Your Omnipotence…?” said the skinweler as a hired woman peeked in from a side door.

“Hey!” cried Spitemorta, “Get me a fresh pot!”

“This looks exciting and all, dear, but shouldn’t you be showing some interest in the rest of your empire?” said Demonica, appearing with her fists on her hips by the shattered teapot.

“Now!” hollered Spitemorta.

“My word!” said Demonica, walking right up to her. “Your first steward is waiting for an audience as we speak.”

“So? Send him in.”

“It is indeed nice to find you taking me seriously for once, dear,” she said, cocking her head to look her over closely, “but you seem to be forgetting that you’re the only one who sees me. Besides it’s your skinweler. Your steward in Gwael…”

“Oh poop! How would I have time for those heathens with my coronation almost upon us? What would be as important as that? After all, I am the first one in history to rule the entire world.”

Demonica drew a wide-eyed breath. “It might not hurt to ask him,” she said with a nod at the skinweler. “I mean, he’s no further away than the arm of your chair, and convenient as it is, it would be an act of actually ruling the world, don’t you think?”

“You do it. I’m busy. And Coel will be here directly.”

“Well I would, dear,” she said with another nod at the skinweler,” but you’re forgetting that I’m dead.”

“Your Omnipotence?”

“What!” said Spitemorta, thrusting her face at the skinweler.imagese

“Aah!” said the steward, jerking back from his ball. “Forgive me Your Omnipotence, I wasn’t quite…”

“Well? What is it? I’m right busy here, and you’re not likely to have anything important.”

“I beg your pardon for my asking you to indulge me over this trifle,” he said, pausing for a breath as he thrust out his chin, “but we’ve a situation here that’s plainly on it’s way out of control.”

“What are you talking about, Irmen? What is going on there?”

“King Vortigern had a brother, Catigern, Prince of Pow Jyantylesk, who had a son before he died…”

“Osulf. So?”

“Well, Osulf claims the throne.”

“What?”

“Now that sounds like something I remember talking about,” said Demonica. “Or weren’t imagesdemonicayou listening when I was…?”

“Shut up!” screeched Spitemorta.

“I beg your pardon, Your Omnipotence. I’m not sure I heard right…”

“What’s he thinking?” she said, grabbing up the skinweler and pressing her face into it. “He can’t do that. Artie died, which made me queen. I’m still queen. I may be empress of the world, but I’m still queen. And I left you on the throne.”

“Yea. But he says that you never ruled Gwael before you became empress. According to him, you never once sat on the throne, and that left him next in line to rule after Artamus. In fact, he’s sitting on the throne right now. And his coronation is tomorrow…”

“Horse shit!” she shouted, flinging the skinweler well beyond the tea table to hit the carpet with a muffled crack and go rolling away toward the entrance.

Irmen jerked back from his skinweler and rubbed his temples.

Spitemorta heaved herself to her feet, ran after her ball and grabbed it up. “So what kind of steward allows someone to come in and take the throne?” she said, catching her breath.

“One who’s in his chamber, free to use his skinweler to reach you, if you don’t mind my putting it that a-way. They took me by surprise. Had I not cooperated, I’d be dead or sitting in the dungeon and you’d not know a thing about it.”

“I’ll be right there…”

 

Ch 6, Doom, book six of Heart of the Staff: The Complete Series

Doom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Heart of the Staff Complete Series Box (1)

 

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.

 

Ch 2, The BurgeoningThe_Burgeoning_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

 

 

 

 

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

The Reaper Witch 1280x2000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Heart of the Staff Complete Series Box (1)

 

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

The Reaper Witch 1280x2000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Heart of the Staff Complete Series Box (1)

 

Spitemorta Loves Gwaelian Hand Gonnes

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The great hall had smartly dressed military men standing about everywhere. Spitemorta was ushered past the grand dining table, steaming with roasted hogs and geese, to a chairimages (3) beside Demonica on the balcony, overlooking a broad jousting field below. Drummers and german_bagpipersbagpipers marched around the outside of the field. In the middle of the field stood a full suit of armor, stuffed with sacks of flour on a block of wood. Two rods in front of it stood twenty-one pairs of soldiers. Each pair were readying some sort of iron staff. At a command, the bagpipers stopped, and one from each pair of soldiers pointed his staff at the armor. At the imagescommand: “Loose!” the other one from each pair applied a smoldering match to the staff. Each of the twenty-one staves went off with a rolling boom, sending the armor tumbling off the block as thick clouds of blue-white smoke curled into the air.

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Spitemorta leant forward, enthralled. Directly, four soldiers tramped through the dining hall to the balcony bearing the armor and one of the iron staves. “What is this thing?” she said.images (1)

 “This, Your Majesty, is a hand gonne,” said Vortergern, beaming. “It casts these gonne stones, lead balls, six to the pound, faster than the eye can see. Please look at this breastplate, gorget, hauberk and back plate.” The soldiers turned the riddled armor all about so that she could clearly see that the balls had all gone clean through both sides.

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 “I assume by your demonstration, King Vortigern, that you will be supplying hand gonnes to the troops you are sending me?”

 “Your Majesty, all twenty-one hand gonnes are amongst the thirty-six going with your troops.”medieval_banquet_4

 Spitemorta gave a nonchalant nod and turned away to look out over the jousting field again. She was dancing inside. She loved this Gwaelic magic.

 

Ch 28, The Burgeoning.The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_Kindle3

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

 

 

Ugleeuh Hates Hubba Hubba

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“Happy birthday!” cried Wizard Razzmorten with a grand whirl of his cape, leaving a round wooden box with a gawking baby parrot sitting on the board by the cake.

Ugleeuh 3“What is that thing, Father?”

“Why a popinjay, dear. They’re almost impossible to come by…”

“It’s all pinfeathers. You surely don’t intend for it to actually be my gift, do you?”

“Well it’s right young, Leeuh,” he said. “When you start with them at that age, they can actually be talking to you before they’re quite a year old.”

“Not if I drown it first…”

“Lee-Lee!” cried her sister. “You don’t mean that! What an awful way to treat your Father…”

“Oh go on! He surely knows better. Here I am, still waiting for you to serve me, and he runs up and plops down this dirty box full of muslin, fowl and green poop, right where I was expecting my cake. And by the way, dearest Minuet, just how long are you going to stand there with my saucer in your hand? It is my birthday, don’t you know. And since that thing in the box is my birthday gift, I certainly get to drown it.”

“Don’t you dare!” said Minuet. “I’ll take it if you don’t want it…”

“Please!” said Razzmorten, throwing up his hands. “Let’s you and I take the morning tomorrow and find you something special in the market, or if you know of something better just…”

Ugleeuh wasn’t listening. “You can have the stinking popinjay, Minuet, if you give me my cake before it slides off the saucer.”

“You mean it?”

“Sure sister dear. The cake now, and it’s yours, but you’ll still owe me.”

Ch. 1, Good Sister, Bad Sister

 ***

Ugleeuh came to Razzmorten’s door and opened it. A pungent smell of old paper whirled through the room on a rush of air from the window, bright with yellow maple leaves. “Oh, he’s busy with his stupid still,” she said. She skipped down the hallway to Minuet’s room and peered in. “No Minny-Min,” she said, clasping her hands together. “She’s off somewhere, busy at being just too, too.” She stopped short at the sight of Hubba Hubba on his perch by the bed. “But the stinking popinjay’s sure here.”

Hubba Hubba went skinny as she crossed the room.

“Hold still, popinjay,” she said as she crept up to the perch. “It’s high time we drowned you, don’t you think?”

He stood upright with wide orange eyes, leaning back away from her as she drew near. The magna10-5-99moment she grabbed for him, he bit the web of her hand and flew away into the hallway, screaming: “Minuet! Minuet! Minuet!”

“I’m not done with you, stinker!” shouted Ugleeuh as she grabbed her bleeding hand. “How about spending eternity as a crow?”

Suddenly Minuet stepped into the doorway, out of breath.

“Minny-Min!” cried Ugleeuh, as if she’d just stepped out of a coach. “I’m home!”

Ch 17, Good Sister, Bad Sister

 ****

Minuet stood inside the doorway catching her breath, as a whir of wings flew ’round the corner from the hallway. She held up her finger to collect the landing flurry of feathers without taking her eyes off Ugleeuh.

“Minuet!” shrieked Hubba Hubba between pants. “Bad bear witch!”

“Well you certainly excited Hubba Hubba, Leeuh,” said Minuet. “What happened? Did Uncle Razzorbauch disappoint you, or did you disappoint him?”

“Bad!” growled Hubba Hubba.

“No, no sweetness,” said Ugleeuh with a pampered tone. “You disappoint me. You failed as big sister. I’ve tried and tried so hard as little sister, but you’re just too, too.”

“Bad witch!” growled Hubba Hubba. 

“Do you really expect a warm welcome after the way you left? You didn’t even tell Father.”

“Right!” she scoffed as she brushed passed Minuet on her way to the door. “As if I owed him. He’s hardly been a father. What would he care? Always trying to make me to fit the goody-goody mold, just like big sister. He’s the one who owes me.”

Ch. 18, Good Sister, Bad SisterGood_Sister,_Bad_Sis_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

 

 

 

 Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

 

Ugleeuh Loves her Bloated Hubba Hubba

Lukus swelled up with a rejoinder, but dropped it at the sight of ol’ Ma’am returning with an Scan10067armload of blankets. On her shoulder perched a huge smug crow. “What a conceited fowl,” he thought.

“Here’s my dearest,” she said grandly. “His name is Hubba Hubba and he is such a darling, but I’m afraid he enjoys eating more than he does flying. He’s just a bit too plump to get off the ground these days…”

Ch. 10, The Collector Witch 

***

“Yea,” said Hubba Hubba with pompous arrogance. “Time to eat.” 

Rose bolted upright, wide eyed. “It talks!” she said, flinging back her covers. “I thought only parrots could do that, and not even all of them.”

Ugleeuh and Hubba Hubba turned to glare at her with one icy accord, reminding her so much of a pair of glaciers, that without thinking she pulled her blankets back over her legs.

“My name is Hubba Hubba,” he said with a flash of his eyes, as he straightened his heft beneath his bristling mantle of feathers. “I am not a thing. Do not refer to me as ‘It!’” 

Ugleeuh swelled up with a hiss through her nose to glower down at Rose.

Rose shrank back into her bed roll.

“I don’t like parrots,” she snarled. “I would never have one, and I prefer not to discuss the vile creatures. Crows, particularly this one, have far greater command of language than any parrot. And from now on, if either of you talks about or speaks to my dearest, you’ll call him Hubba Hubba. Is that perfectly clear?”

Ch. 10, The Collector Witch

 ****

crow

“So,” said Hubba Hubba with a rasp like a rusty hinge as he leveled a derisive squint. “Just how much of the time which you just spent outside was actually taken up by deciding if your unicorns were indeed gone? At this rate, I’ll be lucky to get into the air before Ugleeuh gets back. Why, she might not even see me up there and crash into me. Chaos and mayhem. I’d be dead and you two would be to blame. She’d never get over it. She’d never forgive you. Never let you go if she even let you live.”

“Don’t you dare threaten us with that old sow witch of yours, Lard Ball!” shouted Lukus, lunging at him with a stamp. “What I want to know is what the old bat’s done with our unicorns. She has no right to take them! She could hang for it, don’t you know. Where are they? She has no…”

“Careful there snot,” he said as he leant forward, following Lukus’s movements minutely. “You’re repeating yourself. And I’d also advise you to be cautious about how you speak to me and how you treat me, because Ugleeuh will hear of it. In fact, she’s told me to give her a complete report of your entire behavior upon her return, and I must say that it’s not very favorable, so far.”

Ch. 11, The Collector Witch

 

 ***

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“Good,” she said. “Then I suppose we have no choice for our next step but to hitch up the sparrows.” She shuddered as she looked about and found them, shackled to their iron balls, pecking at crumbs on the floor. “So then, Hubba Hubba, just how does one wrangle venomous little birds into harnesses and make them do your bidding without getting poisoned in the process?”

He made no reply, but Rose’s comment stopped all three sparrows at once. They gazed up at her, keenly absorbed in what she was up to. He leant forward, clacked his beak and leered at them, but the grumpy gesture caused them to break out in a titter. He ruffled up with a heavy shake and hoisted himself into an aloof posture.                   

Rose turned to Lukus. He shrugged, making it quite clear that he knew no more about the matter than she.

“Well,” said Hubba Hubba from under a half opened eye, “they might not be quite as deadly as Ugleeuh led you to believe.”

“Just how much risk is there to handling them?” said Rose.

“Practically none,” he said, almost meekly.

“Practically!” yelped Lukus. “What does that mean? Either the birds are dangerous or they aren’t, Tubbo!”

“Name calling is very childish and rude,” said Hubba Hubba as he drew himself up on his perch, obviously stung by Lukus’s taunts about his corpulence. “It was not I, dear impetuous one, who told you that tale about the slaves, you know.”

“No, but you’re the one who’s refused to be clear about it, yet.”

“Lukus! None of this is getting us anywhere,” said Rose. “Hubba Hubba, are the sparrows poisonous or not?” 

“Not in the least,” he sighed. “Chirp, Tweet and Squeak merely have small minds.”

Ch. 11, The Collector WitchThe_Collector_Witch_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & 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

 

Spitemorta Would Love to Give Coel the Ride She Gave to Cunneda

 

a mysterious lady in vintage style

Spitemorta could hear excited shouts far below her as she surged up into the deep blue sky over the ships Captain Jockford was sailing for General Coel. She squealed with glee as she threw herself into a grand backward loop and came plummeting back down to shoot out over the waves as she raced for the Morsarf, her kirtle fluttering and popping in the wind. “Niarg-Loxmere-Goll!” she cried as she overtook and scattered a flock of black skimmers. “Mine! Mine! Mine!”

The Morsarf and her sister ships reared up in full sail to meet her. A shudder ran through her at the recollection of vomiting over the side of the Flying Maiden. “Coel needs to earn the right to be so stinking comfortable in front of me,” she said between her clenched teeth, as she veered into great sweeping circles of the first ship, straining for a glimpse of General Cunneda. “There he is on the poop deck with Captain Bateman.” She circled the ship once more and landed before him, as if she had just stepped off the dais in her throne room.

Cunneda covered his sudden start with a deep and gracious bow.

“Get on,” she said, the moment he looked up. “We’re off to see General Coel.” She threw her leg over the hovering staff and waited.

“But you’re no pystryor, General,” said Captain Bateman.

“No,” said Cunneda, stepping over the Staff at once to hide his momentary paralysis, “but I’ve been given an order.”

The moment he had grabbed on, Spitemorta lunged into flight, nearly jerking the Staff from his hands. “So, pystryor is your word for what, General? Wizard? Sorcerer?”

“Either one, Your Majesty,” he said, blinded by her flying hair. Suddenly it was good that he could not see, for he knew that they were flying upside down. As a wincing pain shot through his head, they swooped from the heavens, hurtling for the poop deck, where Bateman stood transfixed, watching them come.

Spitemorta aimed the Staff, shooting out a ruby beam from the Heart, setting off Bateman’s head with a deep rolling boom like a cannon at sea, flinging his arms end over end into the water on either side of the ship. “Bateman’s mistake, losing his head like that,” she said as they went back aloft, “wouldn’t you say?”

“Yes yes, Your Majesty.”

“And you’re much too brave to lose yours.”

“Oh?”

“Why yes, General,” she said, slowing down as if they were on some sunny Sunday afternoon ride. “You got on behind me.”

“As I told Bateman, those were my orders.”

“Well going back to him, I’ve never once in my entire life got to watch a proper maritime keelhauling. And I so wanted to give him a good slow one first, don’t you know, but we just don’t have that kind of time this afternoon. So General?”

“Yes, Your Majesty?”

“Next time we’re at sea, would you be so kind as to have one of your more disappointing men demonstrate one for me?”

“Well if… Certainly. By all means, Your Majesty,” he said, dreading at once what he had undoubtedly committed himself to.

And with that, they shot away for the Flying Maiden. General Coel was on deck, watching them arrive.

Spitemorta stepped off the Staff in a triumph of smooth aplomb as Cunneda dashed to the railing to turn red and cough out a great spewing shower of white boiled milk which the wind blew back onto his hose and boots. “Perfect!” she thought, turning to Coel as though she had not noticed, “except that Cunneda is not Coel.”

“Your Majesty,” said Coel, rising from his bow. “Now you see why I stayed on deck.

“I do indeed,” she said with the icy sweetness of a school-marm, “since Cunneda had the fortitude and the sense of duty to get on behind me.”

Coel stood there with a look of bright eyed amusement.

“Damn him!” thought Spitemorta. “So if you’ve no objection, General Coel,” she said serenely, “please see us to your quarter.”

Ch 4, The Reaper Witch, book five of The Heart of the Staff, Now Only 99 cents

 

The Reaper Witch 1280x2000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps &Tom Phipps