Minuet Sees King Hebraun off to Battle

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“Begging your pardon, sire,” said Dunvel as he shifted from foot to foot, “but shouldn’t we be on our way?”

“Polite all at once are we?” said Hebraun without bothering to look at him. Presently Minuet swept back into the room with Herio, who was now completely composed and wearing some of Lukus’s old clothes. She took her seat immediately as she guided Herio to stand right beside her. She took up Hebraun’s hand and squeezed it. They held each other’s eyes for several heartbeats of understanding and then turned as one to look at Dunvel.

Hebraun rose from his throne without a word and drew Minuet up to stand beside him. He nodded ever so slightly at his guards before fixing his eyes on Dunvel.

“See him to the courtyard and wait for me there,” he said as they stepped up to surround Dunvel.

Dunvel shamelessly flung a conceited look at Herio as he turned to go.

giphyHebraun spared a kindly glance at Herio and then took both of Minuet’s hands and looked into her eyes. “I love you more than words can tell,” he said.

“And I love you,” she said as they squeezed hands.

Hebraun stepped smartly from the dais with her, as Herio scrambled to follow, out into the courtyard where the guards waited with Dunvel.

He paused by Vindicator, his huge white march streiciwr brenhinol stallion unicorn and kissed Minuet farewell. He quickly found his stirrup, threw his leg over his mount and looked down at Herio. “I need you to stay here to protect the queen.”

Herio drew himself up and nodded fiercely as Minuet drew him to her side.

“Besides,” said Hebraun as he gave a beady-eyed nod at Dunvel, “You might want to testify when that thing has its trial.”

Herio’s eyes flashed as he nodded and stood proudly beside his queen.

Hebraun shared one last gaze with Minuet then urged his great white unicorn to the

Queen Minuet

gate and vanished. Herio turned aside to see Minuet’s eyes brimming with tears as she stood tall and proud, making her way back to her duties. He trailed along beside her after pausing to see Dunvel being led away to some place fitting. Herio’s face firmed in resolve. That goblin would share his brother’s fate if he had any say in the matter.

Ch. 47, Stone Heart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Who are the Elves?

 

Elf woman in a magical forest

Elf woman in a magical forest

Elves, Homo sapiens ginkgoliberiensis R., area race of humans indigenous to the Maidenhair Woods of the Eternal Mountains of the Eastern Continent, characterized

Beautiful male elf in the magic forest. Fantasy. Fairy tale, magic.

by ivory colored skin, eyes with various colors of irises highlighted with opalescent flashesAn Elf who is 240 years old has the biological maturity of a Human [In our writing, ‘Human’ is a race of human] of about seventeen. therefore, one can multiply the equivalent number of Human years by (240/17) to find how old he would be as an Elf. Elves have Darkness, 3d CGannual birthdays as we do, but they also celebrate their “naming day” every 14.1 years. An Elf’s seventh naming day has particular importance and is celebrated on his 99th birthday.

 

Up until a millennium ago all Elves spoke Old Gwaelic Elven and lived on the western forestneanderthal_660pxslopes of the Eternal Mountains, with most of them living in or near the village of Baile Gairdin. At that time, nocturnal raids by Gwaelic trolls, Homo neanderthalensis gwaelii R., known to them as Marfora Siofra, drove nearly all of them across the Orin Ocean to the Jutland Woods of the Northern Continent where they live to this day, speaking a nearly unchanged version of their ancestral tongue called Jutish Elven. A handful of Elves stayed behind on the Eastern Continent to flee across the mountains, far out into the table flat grasslands of the Great Strah to a greatULURU rock they named Carraig Faire, which kept them out of the reach of the great predatory strike falcons living there. In time, their way of speaking changed entirely into

beautiful elf girl. fantasy young woman in woods

a new language known today as Gwaelic Elven.

Elves play an important role in each of the books of The Heart of the Staff which are now Elf_Killers_Cover_for_Kindlein print: Good Sister, Bad Sister, The Collector WitchStone Heart,  The Burgeoning and The Reaper Witch They remain important in the final book of the series, Doom. The Elven exodus occurs a millennium earlier in Elf Killers.

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Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Who is Razzmorten?

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Razzmorten Dewin, the good wizard who is an important player throughout our epic series Heart of the Staff, is born to the First Wizard and his mistress Gwenyth, three hundred and fifty years before his grandchildren, Rose and Lukus of the House of Niarg. The First Wizard wielded enormous magical power because his father was an Elf and his mother was a Human (a race of human in our use). Razzmorten’s twin brother is the evil wizard Razzorbauch, who turns the Forest Primeval into the Chokewoods and himself into a crop burning dragon in Good Sister, Bad Sister.

Razzmorten marries the good lady Blodeuwedd, who dies giving birth to his first daughter Minuet. He hires Demonica to be Minuet’s nanny. After a time, he marries her. She gives birth to Ugleeuh whilst he is away and vanishes with the crystal Heart from Castle Niarg, leaving him to raise his two daughters by himself.

When a great plague comes to Niarg in Good Sister, Bad Sister, he discovers and produces a cure. Ugleeuh has designs on Niarg’s Prince Hebraun. However, HebraunJosephWright-Alchemist-Cropped takes an interest in Minuet. When King Henry announces their betrothal, he makes Razzmorten the Wizard to the Crown for his saving Niarg from the pestilence. Ugleeuh vanishes for a few years. When she returns to Niarg with her powers dangerously well developed to find Minuet and Hebraun married and attempts to murder them, Razzmorten creates powerful magical wards to protect Niarg from her, confining her to the Chokewoods.

When Minuet’s children, Rose and Lukus are in their teens in The Collector Witch, they stumble onto Ugleeuh in in her part of the Chokewoods, amusing herself by flying about on a broom. She holds them captive at once and tries to use them to buy her freedom by sending her crow to Razzmorten with an extortion note for the Crown. Razzmorten promises Minuet that he will do what ever it takes to protect them. When Ugleeuh catches them attempting to flee, her own daughter Spitemorta appears at the scene to make off with her broom.

Spitemorta murders her adoptive parents in order to assume the throne of Goll. The handle of her new broom turns out to be the Great Staff of Power which was taken from the great everwaking oak Longbark by the First Wizard. When word of the Staff in Spitemorta’s hands reaches Demonica, across the sea on Head in Stone Heart, she goes to Goll to be the new nanny of Spitemorta’s son. Soon she and Spitemorta are off on a hunt for the great crystal Heart of the Staff. Meanwhile Razzmorten, Rose and Lukus go back to the Chokewoods see just how much Ugleeuh’s magic has faded to find Fuzz the bear trying frantically to keep the Heart out of Spitemorta and Demonica’s hands. When Razzmorten’s party and Fuzz begin traveling together, they are waylaid by Spitemorta and Demonica who blow the head off of one of the party, put Razzmorten into a coma, crippling his powers, and grab up the Heart from the ground where it has fallen. With the Heart and the Staff, Spitemorta and Demonica at last have tools powerful enough to plan the conquest of the world.

The Last ChapterWhen Razzmorten comes out of his coma, he believes that since Spitemorta and Demonica are likely to fear being stopped by another half Elf-half Human like the First Wizard, they will seek to destroy every Elf alive before turning on Niarg. He sets about searching for ways to stop them whilst his powers slowly return.

Demonica introduces to Spitemorta the skinweler, a sphere of catoptrolite crystal, so that she can control the minds of her subjects. She at once distributes Skinwelerioù far and wide. In The Burgeoning they destroy Oilean Gairdin, sending the Elves fleeing into the Wilderlands before bringing down Castle Niarg and sending Razzmorten and Minuet into the Pitmaster’s Kettles to seek refuge under the mountains with the three Fairy sisters.

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Razzmorten continues to be instrumental in The Reaper Witch and Doom.

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Tom Phipps

Arwr the Diatryma Smashes a Smallie

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It took all of Fuzz’s concentration to just hang on and to adjust to the speed at first, but soon he could see that Arwr was far more agile than any unicorn, sprinting between the trees without coming close to a single one of them. Somehow Arwr managed to anticipate imagestheir trunks as they came, so that he and Taflu were not thrown from side to side. Soon he could plainly see that even though he had never traveled through the woods so fast in his life, it was quite safe to not hang on tight anymore. As he relaxed, he saw that he was not being whipped by the twigs and branches of the underbrush, as he would be if he were astride a unicorn. Instead of rocking endlessly above a pounding gallop, Arwr seemed to glide, disconnected from the ground, as he kept up a steady, pat… pat… pat… pat… pat… pat… pat… over the leaves on the forest floor. “For a bird confined to the ground, he sure knows how to fly,” he thought.

Bounding along creeks and ridges and over hogbacks, the woods flew quickly by. They were not far into the afternoon when Fuzz realized to his astonishment that they were passing through Mary’s part of the woods. He wondered if she were still in her cavern with Myrtlebell and Edward, or if they had already started for the Dragon Caves. He was quite tempted to stop and see, but the need to reach the Heart before the Gobblers or Demonica’s spies found it would have to come first. He said nothing as he studied the trees, watching the countryside pass by. Suddenly he recognized that they had entered the Chokewoods. “The change isn’t so sudden anymore,” he thought. “In fact, there’s hardly any change at all. This is Chokewood, because I know the lay of the land. I didn’t even notice when we ran out of peppermint trees.” He gave a huge sigh, thinking of the changes taking place in the Peppermint. He doubted if there would be any difference at all between the Peppermint and Chokewood by the end of the year. In spite of all his years of despair from being held prisoner there, he felt a profound sadness.

Scan30001Without warning, they were ringed by a chattering carpet of vermilion, pouring round them from the feet of the trees. Taflu took flight. “Smallies!” cried Fuzz at the very moment that Arwr came to a rigid halt.

“Ooo…ooo…oob!” boomed Arwr as he suddenly flashed the brilliant red and yellow which had been hidden in the flight feathers of his wings and tail. The smallies froze. “Oooooooff…vooov…vooob!” he boomed, snatching up the nearest smallie with his beak. With a furious swing, he dashed out its brains against the root of a choke oak, and with three violent gulps swallowed it whole as every one of his feathers stood out straight. With the sound of windy popping sheets, he flashed his fiery crimson wings as he lowered his head and glowered, snapping his beak.

For a moment, the smallies drew back and stood transfixed in utter silence. In short order, a rustling wave spread out through their numbers and the entire hoard surged toward them. “Fates!” cried Fuzz. “This is it!”

Ch. 12, Stone Heart  (Click on Title or Book Image to Download from Amazon)Stone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

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

Who is Queen Spitemorta?

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Queen Spitemorta of Goll is the beautiful raven haired daughter of the witch known as Ugleeuh, the granddaughter of the evil sorceress Demonica and the mother of Abaddon. She is secretly given by Ugleeuh to King Brutelee and Queen Bee of Goll to raise. As soon as she is grown, she poisons Brutlee and Bee, assumes the throne of Goll and marries King James of Loxmere. 

When the news reaches Pennvro on the Dark Continent that Spitemorta is on the throne and has the First Wizard’s Great Staff, in Stone Heart, Demonica kills and replaces Abaddon’s nanny and begins plying Spitemorta with a strategy of world conquest, which requires finding the Crystal Heart of the Staff in order to have the needed power. In time they do find the Heart and set out to conquer Niarg and the rest of the world, thereby fulfilling the first part of the Elven Prophecy.  

 

Discovering that Spitemorta is a dangerous sorceress when she destroys her own nation’s main cash crop and begins addressing her subjects with crystal skinwelerioù to incite them to go to war with their peaceful neighbors, in The Burgeoning, James hides Abaddon from her and tries to flee Castle Goll. She captures and tortures him and throws him into the dungeon.

Years before, when Spitemorta is still a princess in The Collector Witch, it is she whose vicious rumor sends Rose into the perils of the Chokewoods in search of her identity, and she who takes away the Staff from Ugleeuh’s frantic grasp. And in spite of her lifelong reputation for cold bloodedness, she is assumed to be the granddaughter of the benevolent wizard Razzmorten, until far away in the volcanic cauldron of Mount Bed, the great oak tree Longbark touches Abaddon and determines that he is actually the great-grandson of the evil sorcerer Razzorbauch.

The Reaper Witch 01 copyAs her power grows, Spitemorta’s fits of wanton destruction and murder soon have the Jutland Elves calling her Baineor Buile Cailli, The Reaper Witch, as they, James,  Abaddon and the diatrymas flee her for their very lives into the Wilderlands.

 

DoomWith the murder of her husband, King Artamus of Gwael, Queen Spitemorta at last rules the known world. She declares herself Omnipotent Empress and moves into her monstrous new castle in Niarg. And with her tools of power, the Great Staff and Crystal Heart, she believes she is invincible in Doom, the final book in the series.

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

The White Witch Rides a Diatryma

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Diatryma – Diatryma gigantia R., ten foot tall, flightless birds, members of the Thunderbird (Adar Taranus) Dynasty which originally escaped extinction by the Mwyaf Fawr Llosg ordiatryma Greatest Burning, when the rest of the Dynasty was exterminated, only to mysteriously become extinct a few million years later. They were accidentally revived from fine Eocene shales by the wizard Razzorbauch when he penetrated the Earth’s crust while forming the magma chamber for the Fudge Volcano. They are omnivorous, opportunistic feeders that are capable of downing and dismembering small ungulates. They are covered with deep iridescent green plumage. Their tail feathers and imagesprimary flight feathers have brilliant red and yellow patches on each feather’s trailing blade that remain completely hidden unless the bird is displaying. Their bony tails are not entirely fused into a pygostyle as in modern birds, but rather consist of a pygostylic terminus at the end of ten un-fused vertebrae, giving the birds a fan of feathers that can be waved about on the end of a flexible tail. There is nearly no sexual dimorphism, though males tend to be a few percent heavier and have deeper voices than the females. They are exceptionally intelligent, having a brain cavity of about 650cc, or roughly half the volume of modern humans. However, being far less fatty than a mammalian brain, this is a very respectable computer. Possibly due to natural selection pressures favoring the keeping track of stashes of food morsels, diatrymas seem to have little or no barrier between the conscious and subconscious minds and have instantaneous recall of all the details that they once observed during any previous experience.Diatryma_by_ministerart

The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_KindleMary the White Witch’s mounts and closest friends are Ceidwad the female diatryma, whoStone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle is the wife of Lladdwr and the mother of Arwr, their cockerel. Razzmorten describes these three as the most intelligent beings he has ever been in the presence of, and they become key characters in the tale of The Heart of the Staff, (books three through six, Stone Heart, The Burgeoning, Reaper Witch and Doom). Ceidwad and Lladder were brought back to life by accident by the evil Wizard Razzorbauch and were raised by the Fairy sisters in The Reaper Witch 01 copyPageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00028]Mount Bed before their association with Mary. Perhaps their most stunning talent is being able to listen to a language for a short while and then suddenly start speaking it fluently.

What sorts of birds tower in your imagination? Do they play a role in your dreams?

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Laora the Little Dragon Shares a Vole with Ceidwad the Diatryma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Like what?” said Laora with astonishment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Well, Spitemorta, to be exact…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ch. 42, Stone Heart

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Carol and Tom Phipps

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Who are the Beaks?

The Beaks are the nation of humans who live in the Kingdom of Mar, a territory that takes in the extensive fens within the Chokewood Forest known as the Beakmore (Beakmoor). The Beakmore surrounds a raised and well drained pastoral area known as Caistealbeak which supports the town of Caistealbeak that in turn surrounds the Beak castle, known as Caisteal-Beak, an early Iron Age style circular stockade within a moat, which encloses a massive earthworks crowned by a rambling wooden castle proper that overlooks the surrounding countryside.

The Beak nation is widely regarded as dangerous and barbaric and takes extended spells of making raiding forays against neighboring communities. Troops of naked tattooed soldiers, their bodies smeared with a blue stain known as woad, are led by captains who in turn are commanded by the king who is addressed by either the title “ru” or “brude.” In Stone Heart, book three of The Heart of the Staff, Brude Taylorg, Ru of Mar, governs every bit as naked and even more tattooed and stained with woad than his soldiers and believes himself to be the direct descendent of the deity Eochaid, the fastest luathas unicorn who ever lived, and also believes that he is watched over and protected by the mighty wolf deity, Madadh-Allaidh Neartmhor. Taylorg’s daughter, the beautiful Princess Tramae, is half-sister to Queen Myrtlebell. When Myrtlebell is murdered by Queen Spitemorta of Goll, Taylorg seeks vengeance by sending Tramae to arrange an alliance with Myrtlebell’s father, King Theran of Bratin Brute.

 In the days when Ugleeuh created the Peppermint Forest from part of the Chokewoods, Brude Taylorg refused to be cowed by her threats. To force matters, she cast a spell on the Beaks to keep them in perpetual submission and humiliation by turning them into a nation of pot-bellied, marshmallow suckers, known as the Gobblers. So in The Collector Witchbook two of The Heart of the Staff, Taylorg was known as Greedygut, Caisteal-Beak was the Gobbler Castle and the Beakmore was known as the Gobbler Marsh.

 

Are there fearsome blue meanies that you know about? Please let us know.

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & 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