Homer’s Head

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When Lukus takes his Elven wife and her family into The Suds and Steer in Sweetpea  to enjoy a Stone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindlenice supper in Chapter 40 of Stone Heart, they run into trouble…

Lukus was disappointed that the waitress did not recognize him in the least, though he clearly knew better. It merely made her like nearly everyone else on earth. Soon she was back, huffing and shuffling and sidling between tables as she brought forth the stew. She labored to breathe as she strained to set out the steaming bowls beyond the reaches of her girth without tottering. As she straightened up, Soraya lowered her hood and unbuttoned her cloak in order to eat. The elephantine serving woman stopped wide eyed and rigid, jowls a-jiggle. As a look of hatred swept across her lardy face, she furiously snapped up both bowls at once, slinging stew onto both Soraya and Lukus. “We don’t serve y’r stinkin’ kind in here!” she screeched as she wheeled away to the kitchen with their meal.

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Lukus sprang up, knocking his chair flat as he started after her.

“Hey,” said Danneth, intercepting him. “Perhaps it would be wise if we just left quietly.”

“No,” said Lukus between his teeth. “Not until that sow gives me a better reason than she just did.”

“I’d say there’s a very good chance she’ll not,” said Danneth with a sigh as he stepped aside.

Lukus zigzagged between the tables, catching up to the waitress just as she put her shoulder to black-patina-platesthe swinging door to the kitchen. “Please excuse my abruptness ma’am,” he said as polite as he could manage, “but I’d truly like to know why you refused to serve my wife and me the meal we just ordered. Our money’s as good as anyone’s.”

“I’m s’prised you’ns even ‘ave the nerve t’ come in here a-flauntin’ y’selves amongst decent folks,” she huffed in a thin falsetto, as her eyes turned to hot slits in her red face. “Ye think we don’t know what you’re all about? Ha! The queen told us ‘erse’f, she did.”

“She what? So just what did the queen say about the Elves?”

“You ain’t no Elf!” she screeched.

“No, I’m not. Now, will you please be kind enough to answer my question? Just what on earth ANT02102did Spitemorta say about the Elves?”

She looked across the room at Soraya. “Why are ye traveling with an Elf?” she said defiantly. “Don’t y’ know they’re dangerous?”

“What makes them dangerous, then?”

“They’re after our land. They’re out t’ kill us all for it, too,” she said with wild piggy eyes. “Y’ best get shed o’ that Elf right now! She’ll sooner slit y’r throat as look at ye, young fool!” And with that, she shoved past him through the door with a shriek and a yank of her tray, sending the bowls skittering across the kitchen floor on the other side.

Lukus looked up from his shocked disbelief to find the entire room astir like a kicked hive, every single eye on him. Across the room Soraya and her kin bore emphatically urgent looks. Things were well on their way to getting ugly and they needed to get out.

Lukus tramped across the dining room, put the bail of one traveling basket in the crook of his arm antique-pewter-plate-olivier-le-queinecand the other one in his left hand as he grabbed Soraya with his right, pulling her to her feet and heading for the hall to the stairs, surrounded by Neron, Danneth, Strom and Jerund.

“Just get our belongings and go?” he said, bounding up the steps.

“You mean there’s a choice?” said Neron.

“Is there a way out up here?” said Danneth.

“Everyone grab up your things!” cried Jerund as he hurried ahead. “Good job no one unpacked. I’ll go see.” As everyone raced to his respective door, Jerund reached the window at the end of the hall. “Cac! Léan air! A leithéid de chac!” he cried. Suddenly he broke out the glass and waved out the window. “Hey! Get the coach and the unicorns around front! Now!” He dashed back, by the rooms as everyone came out. “No way out We got ‘o go back the way we came in! If we’re lucky the coach will be somewhere…!”

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Lukus fumbled with buckles, strapping the claymore to his back for the first time. He grabbed up the twins, put his arm around Soraya and was ready. “It’s a mercy no one chased up here after us,” he said. Down they went, plunging into the dining room full of glares, angry jeers and shaking fists. They shoved their way through the jostling and spitting, but miraculously got to the front door. Soraya, Strom and the twins got shoved outside, stumbling onto the steps before the door got slammed painfully on Danneth’s arm.

“Get ’em, Homer!” came cries all around, as a hateful face stepped forth and ran a rapier through Jerund’s shoulder.

Lukus went instantly white hot, lunging forward with a furious two handed swing. Gearr Téigh Síós rang with a sharp ping and Homer’s head rolled away across the plates on the floor with a kristeva-severed-topbloody bounce under dancing feet as the crowd gasped, taken by surprise. Suddenly a rotten toothed man with a tar tail charged up with a cutlass to be impaled by Neron, who yanked out his claymore from the fellow and neatly cleaved two heads, while Lukus took off another’s arm. When the crowd hesitated, Danneth pulled Jerund outside, as Neron and Lukus backed out and slammed the door.

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

Heart of the Staff Complete Series Box (1)

 

Who is Hubba Hubba?

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Hubba Hubba is a double yellow head Amazon parrot who is given as a baby by the wizard Good_Sister,_Bad_Sis_Cover_for_KindleRazzmorten to his daughter Ugleeuh for her birthday in Good Sister, Bad Sister. Ugleeuh is offended by the very sight of her gift and threatens to drown him. Her sister Minuet protests at once, so Ugleeuh lets her have him. Throughout her remaining time at home, Ugleeuh makes repeated impulsive attempts to do in poor Hubba Hubba. At last she casts a spell on him, turning him into a crow and vanishes with him.

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Years later in The Collector Witch, Minuet is now the queen of Niarg. Her children Rose and The_Collector_Witch_Cover_for_KindleLukus find Ugleeuh living in exile in the Chokewood Forest with Hubba Hubba, who is still a crow and by now has grown obese and flightless. Ugleeuh holds them captive at once, but as soon as she learns who they are, she sends Hubba Hubba with an 800px-Corvus_corone_Rabenkrähe_1extortion note to Niarg, demanding her freedom in exchange for their release. When he reaches Niarg, he refuses to return to the Chokewoods and is eventually turned back into a parrot. In time he sires two clutches by Pebbles, Minuet’s green cheeked Amazon.

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Hubba Hubba becomes an important member of the House of Niarg in Stone Heart. He andStone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle Pebbles are indispensable to Wizard Razzmorten when his trip to The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_Kindlesee the dragons and have a look at the Chokewoods turns into a race to warn the Elves that Queen Spitemorta and Demonica are now a peril to the entire world. In The Burgeoning, he becomes a crow again in order to help Herio spy on Spitemorta in Castle Goll, and continues playing his part inThe Reaper Witch 01 copy the thick of Niarg’s struggle for survival in The Reaper Witch.

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

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 

Niarg’s Longbow

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

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

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

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

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

 

 Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

 

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?”

Heart of the Staff Complete Series Box (1)

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

“Twins Hebraun! A boy and a girl!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ch 30, Stone Heart

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Herio Comes to Niarg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Herio looked but made no reply.

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

“Herio nodded ever so slightly.tumblr_lmcbi1gKi31qjci0fo1_500

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Ch. 47, Stone HeartStone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Who is Herio?

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

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

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

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

 

Minuet is a Lucky Woman

 

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

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

“So, you suddenly don’t like blue?”

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

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

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

“Do they? Who says so?”

“Well everybody.”

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

“Stop teasing me,” giggled Minuet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, right after the barley…”

“And the rye?”

“Yes…”

“Millet?”

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

“So, it’s been done.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Well, he’s a lucky fellow.”

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

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

Ch. 29, Stone Heart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps