Who is Abaddon?

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Abaddon is the son of King James of Loxmere and the witch queen Spitemorta of Goll. He is also the great-grandson of the fearsome Demonica, the most powerful sorceress of all time. 

Stone_Heart_Cover_for_KindleDemonica abandoned Spitemorta’s mother Ugleeuh at birth and returned to her keep across the sea in Head to continue her pursuit of power through her fortune in mines and arms. She has long dreamed of ruling the world, but she knows that in order to do that, she will need the Great The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_KindleStaff of Power and its Crystal Heart. When she hears that her very granddaughter has the Staff in Stone Heart, she becomes Abaddon’s nanny. In time, she and Spitemorta leave Abaddon in the care of King James and go off on a hunt to find the Heart. Whilst120904655645652 they are away, James discovers that Spitemorta is a witch and that her influence over Abaddon is evil. In an effort to save him in The Burgeoning, he has his steward Lance hide Abaddon. When The Reaper Witch 01 copySpitemorta finds out, she tortures James and puts him in the dungeon.       

Lance takes Abaddon to his childhood home in Mount Bedd to see the Fairy sisters who raised him. They find Abaddon to be dark and troubled and in the sway of the Pitmaster, but under their influence he decides to help Lance find King James and get him to safety, out of Spitemorta’s reach and thereby begins a transformation which continues throughout The Reaper Witch and eventually turns him into a hero.

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

The Great Stone Tree

The Great Stone Tree Glossopteris titanodendrum-dactylophyllum W. was discovered as a 52 foot diameter fossilized tree stump by the First Wizard, who chiseled out zthe Heart of the Staff from its center. In search of what he believed to be Meri Greenwood the Fairy’s source of commanding renewal power, the Heart of the Forests or Calon Fforydd, he found it standing upright, exactly where it had grown, surrounded by sections of its trunk and a layer of its own fossilized fallen leaves, in the middle of the exposed Permian deposit, known as the Koad Karreg or Stone Forest on the south edge of the Mammvro on the Dark Continent. It differs from other glossopterids by virtue of its immense size and by its deeply lobed leaves. Sections of its trunk add up to a tree which could not have been any less than 530 feet tall, and with the size of its stump, it remains the largest individual tree ever discovered. The Koad Karreg is the Permian location of the South Pole, which shifted to its present position with the multiple impacts of asteroids which closed the Age of Fishes. Compasses do not work reliably in the forest, and under its perpetual cloud cover, many a traveler has vanished.  

 

Since the Great Stone Tree is where the Heart of the Staff came from, there are indirect references to it in each book of The Heart of the Staff, but particularly so in

The Burgeoning.

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Elf in the Night

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Good_Sister,_Bad_Sis_Cover_for_KindleOn the eve of Neron becoming king (ri) of the Jutland Elves in Good Sister, Bad Sister, he discovers to his horror that his wife Nessa has the plague. He goes in search of Wizard Razzmorten…

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“Trafferth!” muttered old white haired Peredur as he yanked tight the sash of his robe. “I’m doing ye a favor here, unless ye want to be scared clean away from the door.” He glanced in the direction of the knocking as he stooped to pick up a flame on the wick of his 221028294183064616_NBVKNTHb_bcandle before stumping the length of the house to the door. “Dod i mewn, dod i mewn,” he said, fumbling to lift the latch with an empty sconce in one hand and a dribbling candle in the other. He threw open the door and looked the stranger up and down.

“Gabhaim pardun agat…” said Neron.

“Prince Neron!” said Peredur with a wide eyed gasp as he twisted the candle into the sconce at last. “Do come in! My word, I’m hardly dressed fit for a prince.”

“I’m so very sorry to be bothering you in the middle of the night…”

1859_021Peredur was already shaking his head. “Razzmorten’s not here,” he said. “It’s something terrible, isn’t it?”

Neron gave a nod.

“I simply don’t know where he is, Your Highness. He’s like that sometimes, and I never know what to do. But I can certainly wake Mistress Dewin for you…”

“Forgive me, but please do.”

Peredur’s eyes got very wide at this. He thrust his sconce into Neron’s hands and vanished into the blackness of the house, leaving a trail of hurried footfalls. He crept past Ugleeuh’s room andimages knocked softly on Minuet’s door. The door came open immediately, causing him to gasp and step backward.

” Peredur!” said Minuet. “I thought you were Leeuh.”

“I suppose my tiptoeing woke you. I’m sorry. Prince Neron is down at the door. Something awful has happened and he wanted to see your father. I told him you’d speak with him.”       

“Very well. Thank you. Just go on back to bed. I’ll take care of it.”

Minuet found Neron still dutifully holding the flickering candle. She curtsied and relieved him of it image018as she lit every candle in the room with a wave of her hand and saw that his face looked haunted. “The plague?” she thought. “You’re trying to find Father?” she said.

“Desperately, I’m afraid. My wife may be dying.”

“That’s terrible! I don’t know where he is.”

Neron’s eyes fell shut for a moment.

“Is she ill, injured?”

“I’m very sorry,” said Neron, getting hold of himself. “It would be irresponsible of me to disclose that. Please. It’s just that…”

“Is it the plague?”Medieval-Home-Decor

“Oh Fates, yes!” he said, squeezing shut his eyes with a silent sob.

“Forgive me Prince Neron,” she said. “I’ve not quite told you the truth. Please excuse me. I’ll be right back.” She turned at once and vanished into the hallway. By the time he had found a chair and had taken a weary seat, she was back. “This,” she said as she handed him her vial and pipette, “is oil of oregano. Put six drops under her tongue, six times a day.”

“This is the very cure?” he cried, springing to his feet.oil-of-oregano

“Yes it is. Does she have buboes?”

“My dear sweet child,” said Neron as he reached out, intending to give her a firm hug. “Thank the very Fates for you! Oh!” he said, stopping short and stepping back away from her. “I mustn’t expose you. No. She has the hepatic kind.”

“Good. Then that will give you more oil for under her tongue. Make sure she takes every last oreganodrop of it. And again, I’m sorry for my not telling you the truth. Father gave me strict orders that no one was to know his whereabouts. He’s getting a hay load of oregano plants along the south shore of the Gulf of Orrin. I’ll tell him that I told you, but please tell no one else.”

“You have my word. Niarg has the plague, too? remote_image_1331653487

“Several have died at Castle Niarg,” she said with a nod. “The first death was a young courier from Far, so it’s there, too.”

Neron paused to shake his head grimly. “I must go,” he said as he hurriedly stepped to the door and opened it. “Thank you, thank you! You’ve saved my whole world.”

“Six drops under her tongue, six times a day…” she called after him, but he had already vanished into the night air.

“Nessa,” he said softly the moment he appeared by her side, “I have the most wonderful news.” He gently brushed aside her hair. Her forehead was cold. For a moment he couldn’t breathe. He frantically grabbed up her cold hand and held it to his cheek as a horror of icy fire flooded his chest. “Oh…! No!” he cried out, echoing through every hall in the palace as his legs buckled and gave way.

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

 

 

The Real Hubba Hubba

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The nest in this tree is the very raven nest in this story.

 

Several years ago, when we were teaching on the Navajo Nation and living in a trailer on the Twin Lakes (Ext - Back BEST)campus of Twin Lakes ElementaryTwin Lakes (Int - Hallway2-5) School, a violent thunderstorm blew down a nest of baby ravens from the top of a hackberry tree. Carol grabbed up two of them, walking home from school. The neighbor’s dog killed the other two.

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Carol put them in an open box on the davenport and named the big one Hubba-Hubba, after our character in The Collector Witch, and named the little one Quoth. They were young enough that they were only about three fourths feathered out and Carol had to feed them baby parrot porridge with a teaspoon. And as it was when we raised our Amazon parrot, Carol’s background in psychology and mine in ethology made us careful not to read human motivation into their behavior. However we were interested in their inclination toward language, so we began at once treating them as though they harbored the same sort of undeveloped intelligence as a baby human.

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We made no attempt to teach them to talk. That is, we did not endlessly repeat phrases over and over to them nor drill them in any sort of way. What Carol has done every single evening since, before switching off the lights for the night, is spend some time scratching their heads and talking to them.

ravenL0405_468x312It was soon impossible to keep them in the box, so we transferred them to a large plastic P12307407pet carrier with a welded wire door. We kept them on the kitchen table. We handled them frequently and talked to them, but outside of squawks and groans, we heard nothing out of them for better than two months. Soon they began picking out large pieces of their cedar bedding, trimming them and using them as wedges and levers to force open the door of their carrier. Just as we were recovering from the shock of their doing this, one of them declared, “Fuck you!” as they scratched about in their new bed of cedar chips. The other one replied, “Ass hole! Ass hole!”

This certainly stunned us. We had not once heard a single word nor any single attempted word out of either of them prior to this. And neither one of us had ever used language like ravens1this around them. What they could have heard on an isolated occasion or two was one of us telling the other about our day at school, including (we assume) the foul speech of our students. In a few days we were astounded once more when we heard Hubba Hubba say, “Help me get this door open.”

This was not at all like parrots. Not only was there no endless practice leading up to the utterance of this sentence, it was as perfectly enunciated as if it were spoken by some human. We began keeping them in a chicken wire pen outside in the daytime. The next time I heard “Help me get this door open,” I rushed to the window to find Quoth watching  Hubba Hubba as he pecked in the dirt under the wire gate.

One day I was very upset, tramping about the trailer, raving. As I was calming down, Quothe said, “Tom! What’s wrong?”

196570606_fd127bc7eaOver the next very few months, they developed nearly all of the words and sentences given below. However, during the last couple of years we were out west, we seldom heard anything new out of them. During our first year in Kentucky, we discovered Hubba Hubba 15327478giving deliveries where he not only spoke in his own voice, but also talked in Quoth’s voice to make replies. Had Quoth quit talking? We were trying to find out when she vanished for good from their pen outside.

Since then, Hubba Hubba takes spells in the late afternoon saying over and over, “Hello. Hello. Hello. Hello…” or, “What’s your problem? What’s your problem? What’s your problem…?” which he articulates as well as ever. He has begun using our names, but they are very difficult to understand, with “Carol” coming out as “Coah” or “Hoh,” and “Tom” sounding like “Hom,” though “Quoth,” which he has said from the beginning, comes out quite well. He asks for food by saying, “Want some,” and when we ask him what he wants, he may occasionally reply, “Want some food,” or “Want some water.”

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Perhaps ravens are best at learning to articulate during some period of readiness, late in their development and any later verbal learning is not something that they’re genetically programmed to do as easily. Who’s to say? We only have the one bird, and there is very little written on the subject, since any hint that some non-human could possibly have any degree of natural use of true language is still largely regarded as heretical.

Brush Fire, Navajo Estates, Twin Lakes

Here are the words Hub uses. They are not listed in nice columns because of the contrary behavior of this website: a, all, am, are, ass, awk (spoken), boy, Carol (very poorly pronounced), door, food, fuck, get, go, going, good, hello, help, here, hmmm, hole, how, Hub, I, is, matter, me, open, out, problem, Quoth, right, some, that, the, this, to, Tom (very poorly pronounced), want, water, what, you, your.

Here are his phrases: All right.   Awk! Awk! (spoken, as humans would 24OBOX1-articleLargepronounce it)   Carol! (very poorly pronounced)   Hello.   Hello how are you? Hello Quoth.   Help me get this door open.   Here’s one.  Where are you?  Hey Quoth.   Hmmm?   How are you?   How’r’you how are you? (run together)   Hub.   I’m a good boy. Hmmm?   I’m going to go out the door.   That’s a good boy. Hmmm?   Tom. (very poorly pronounced)   Want some.   Want some?   Want some food!   Want some water.   What’s the matter?   What’s your problem?

Our character Hubba Hubba in Good Sister, Bad Sister, The Collector Witch, Stone Heart and The Burgeoning is no raven at all, but a double yellow head Amazon parrot with enchanted interludes as a crow, not a raven.

If you’ve ever had the good fortune to keep a raven or a crow, we’d love to hear about it.

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Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Demonica and Queen Spitemorta have Lunch

Part 1

 

Demonica pushed away her plate and studied the sour look on Spitemorta’s face. “Did your meal not agree with you, dear?” she said sweetly.

“The meal was inferior, of course, but bearable, Grandmother. You seemed to enjoy yours, so why do you even bother me about my opinion?”

“Oh, I don’t know, dear. For some reason I keep thinking that time might pass more quickly if we didn’t just sit here and glare at one another. Perhaps I’m mistaken.”

“It’s still a long time ’til dark, Grandmother. I can’t imagine that you and I could possibly have that much to say to each other.”

“You’re undoubtedly right, but as you have already pointed out, this little place has nothing worth visiting, so we seem to be stuck with merely passing the time until it’s dark enough to leave on the Staff for Gwael. Unless, of course, you’re ready to endure a traveling spell, this one time.”

“Spare me…”

“Hey!” said a reeling man as he bumped the table, slopping mead out of Spitemorta and Demonica’s goblets. “Wings of the Heavens One and Wings of the Heavens Two. Now, we don’t get lovelies like you ones, come down to this house, just any old day.”

“See?” said Demonica, leaning aside with dancing eyes. “It shows. I told you I was natural for the part when you demanded that I be Fnadi-yaphn.”

Spitemorta flung her a very dark glower before sharing it with their company. “Back off, you stinking sot!”

“Now that’s ire-knee,” he said, bumping the table again, “Wings of the Heavens One, is it? “Or are you Wings of the Heavens Two? Why is it, Wings of the Heavens whatever the number you are, why is it that all the pretty skirts from the heavens are such mistresses…?” he paused for a lewd hoot and snort. “How come all you pretty skirts are such stinking mistresses of ire-knee? Did I say ‘stinking?’ Or did you say ‘stinking’…?”

“Beat it!” growled Spitemorta.

“Now Wings of the Heavens whatever you are,” he said as he thrust his bristly face into hers, “that’s a right smart amount of ire-knee for someone wants to be your mistress…”

“Yea! Chat her up, Crafiad!” cried someone amongst the grinning group who were filing over from the bar.

Spitemorta furiously shoved back from Crafiad’s face and grabbed the Staff.

Demonica grabbed her wrist. “Let’s leave now, dear,” she said as calmly as if they were going strolling. “Your uncle, King Theran, will be worried if we’re not back soon, and no doubt I shall be chastised for having brought you into this common house.”

Spitemorta hesitated, suddenly seeing how it all was and played along. She nodded and stood. “Yes, you’re quite correct, Demonica,” she said haughtily. “Uncle will be most put out with both of us.” She took Demonica’s arm and started for the door. 

“Pretty skirts of ire-knee!” cried Crafiad, stumbling after them to grab Spitemorta by the arm. “If you Wings of Mistrosity are royal skirts, where’s your guard…?”

“Here,” said Spitemorta, as she jabbed the Staff into his face, blowing his head apart like a bomb, breaking glasses across the room. The entire tavern froze in shocked silence as she and Demonica resumed their unhurried departure.

“Well that taught him, I should say,” said Demonica as they settled once more into the coach. “You do realize that rumors are already spreading here in this sleepy place?”

“So? A little fear will do them good, and give King Theran something to wake up about, crazy old fool.”

“I don’t think he is the doddering old idiot you take him for, Spitemorta.”

“Really? You think it was an act, then? But you seemed completely taken in by his control of his person nonsense he was spreading all over, thick as butter.”

“Sure. I wanted to see how far he’d go with it. But, I get the idea that he has all his faculties, mind and body. No, he’s playing at something else, though it could merely be that he fears our power.”

“Or he is more like his daughter than I thought. Well, if that’s so, Grandmother, I shall simply deal with him as I did with her, when the time comes.”

“I’m sure you will, dear. Now, what shall we do until dark?”

Suddenly a patron came stumbling and flailing his arms out of the Buck and Doe to sprawl into the street in front their coach.

“He was egging on Crafiad, back inside,” said Spitemorta as she looked down with a frown to whisk away a fleck of scalp and hair sticking to her bodice. “Let’s sharpen our skills of persuasion, shall we Grandmother?”

Demonica’s eyes lit with an immediate fire. “Merfyn!” she hollered. “Stop and help aboard that poor fellow in the road, please!”     

“Up with me?”

“No, no. Inside with us.”

 ***

 

Excerpt from Ch 36, The Burgeoning

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Who is Yann-Ber?

 

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Yann-Ber is born a prince, the eldest son of Azenor of the House of Dark, the emperor of Head (Pennvro) and the Dark Empire. He is a bright and prodigal child, doted upon by hisMeeting-Place-Nov03-D4267sAR father and destined to sit on the throne. He grows into a dashing and handsome young man who marries Princess Yuna of the House of Egg (Vi), who by astonishing luck happens to be his childhood sweetheart. Mere weeks into his marriage, the sorceress Demonica casts a spell on him, taking him away from her.

castles_fortress_rock_the_hill_castle_on_10_desktop_1920x1080_hd-wallpaper-489720Demonica is shrewd and ruthless, an heiress of a vast fortune in mines. For generations, she has manipulated the throne of the Dark Empire from the shadows by providing ships, arms or mercenary armies at opportune moments, keeping it perpetually indebted to her. She marries Yann-Ber hoping to eventually sit on the throne.

In spite of his dependency upon her, Azenor fears Demonica and disinherits Yann-Ber. Demonica regards Yann-Ber with cruel disdain from that moment on. She eventually catches him with another woman and casts a crippling spell of boils upon him, and sends him out on desperate forays to find the Great Staff of Power. He eventually locates it in Stone Heart, only to have her reward him by promising that he will die after another year of horrible torment from the spell.

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Yann-Ber sets out for Niarg at once to find the wizard Razzmorten. Perhaps he can undo her curse.

 

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Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Yann-Ber Meets Rotten Mouth

 

Yann-Ber awoke stiff and cold amongst a forest of rotted barrel staves beside the middenstead of a tavern. He was surprised that he had fallen asleep whiling away the afternoon. Moving around was arduous, so when he had felt that he was where it would be convenient to be after dark, he had sat down to spend his time until nightfall. It was now fully dark and the waning moon gave very little light, but that was to his liking. He struggled painfully to his feet and slowly found his way around to the front of the tavern where he hoped to find leads to the wizard.

He stood in the shadows near enough to the street that he could make out the name, “Black Dragon” on the sign bearing a relief carving of a dragon that hung out over the street in front of the door.In a short time that seemed like a small eternity to him, one of the patrons staggered out into the street. There was no doubt that the man was quite drunk.

“Good sir!” called out Yann-Ber, as he limped out of the shadows. “I was wondering if you could tell me where I might be able find this fellow I’m a-looking for?”

The drunk stopped short and swayed as he squinted into the darkness. “Well, doggone it!” he called out, as he jerked at his own posture. “Who the ding-dong blazes is there? Show yourself and maybe I can.”

“Sir,” said Yann-Ber, coming closer. “There’s a fellow, maybe you could help me find…”

“Well, damn!” declared the drunk in a tone that sounded like recognition. “Damned if you don’t sound like someone who just got off the boat from Head. Now Head! You don’t say. So, you’re from Head?”

“Actually I am. You’re quite observant.” Yann-Ber had started to hide his face with his hood, but now he could see that the fellow was in such a condition that he wouldn’t be having problems with appearances. “My name is John. John James. I’m right sorry to trouble…”

“Hey. Now tell me. Are you from Head?”

“Yes, as I said…”

“Really? You’re from Head? Well damn.”

“Yes, I just…”

“You got a funny name for a Headlander. John?” The drunk was now steadying himself with a fist full of Yann-Ber’s sleeve. “Hunh! John James. Ought to be Padrig or Remont. Hey, how come you ain’t Jakez?”

“Very well, you’re right, I could be called Yann Jakez in Head, but right now I’m searching for a wizard by the name of Razzmorten…”

“Whoa! Now you don’t fool around…Jakez. Now you just go right to the top.”

“Well, I’d certainly like to. I understand Razzmorten lives in Niarg, but I have no idea where. Have you any idea, good sir?”

The drunk grabbed Yann-Berr’s other sleeve as well. “Hain’t nobody here ’bouts who don’t know whoRazzmorten be,” he cackled through rotten teeth with breath that would have scared the old sow.

“Then,” said Yann-Berr, when he dared breathe again, “you know where I might find him?”A_005_34_Tavern

“Ah! Well sir,” said the drunk, reaching under his filthy shirt to scratch his sallow melon of a belly, “been having a hard time thinking straight without a dram or a pint, you know. Scarcely knew which way home was when I came out here…”

“That’s not hard to imagine, Rotten Mouth,” thought Yann-Ber. “So then,” he said, speaking out grandly. “How would a pint inside suit your memory?” He glanced at the door of the Black Dragon and wondered if they could make it in to a dark corner without the clean and proper going crazy at the sight of them. Rotten Mouth was already happily staggering his way back into the tavern.

Rotten Mouth found a table in a far corner at once. Directly an obese tavern maid came old_medieval_wino_metal_star_by_duster132-d4il9yeby, squinting at them as though she’d prefer dealing with the pair of them at the end of a manure fork, but she took their order adroitly and returned right away with two pints of light dry mead. Rotten Mouth seized his and guzzled it half down before wiping his mouth on his sleeve and speaking: “Razzmorten is the king’s father-in-law. He lives in the tallest tower of Castle Niarg.”

Yann-Ber immediately slid his mead across the table to Rotten Mouth and stood up, carefully adjusting his hood before wending his way out. Outside the doorway, the wind had picked up, rocking the tavern’s sign. Dry leaves skittered along the street. He remembered seeing the castle due west in the daylight. He made straight for it in the darkness, determined not to let his tortured legs so much as pause until he got there.

Yann-Ber meets Rotten Mouth in Ch 8 of Stone Heart, third book of The Heart of the Staff.

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Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

King James’s Escape

“Fates! What was that?” said James with a moan, as he sat bolt upright. “Oh bell tolls from the Pit! Probably something going off in my stupid, stinking head. Why sit up, anyway? There’s not a thing I can ever see, even when I bump into it.” He reached for the familiar itchy place on his scalp, which had just lately gotten gooey, and found it unexpectedly painful. He lay back with his hand over the spot to keep the filthy straws from poking it. “Mmmm! It throbs just lying down. Why, oh why doesn’t Spitemorta just execute me…?”

“Mercy no, King James! Fates forbid it…!”

“Damn!” cried James with a wail, not knowing in the least whether he was delirious or whether some speaking something had gotten into his cell with him. 

“Sire! Your eyes are mattered shut,” said the young soldier, nodding at another to come forth with a torch, as he knelt to peer into James’s face. “I’m Owain, I was…”

“Yes!” cried James as he accidentally broke into sobs. “You brought me that nice supper, didn’t you! You’re the one, right? You’ve got to be…!”

“I am! I said I’d be back. I’m terrible sorry hit took so long…”

“Yes. I see you do have a light…I mean through my lids…”

“Well we had a delay, ye might say. We found one amongst us who was a stinker, a traitor, if ye know what I mean, a loyalist to the queen. We had to carry on very careful Hit took us a right smart number of days to be safe. Here sire, let me help you up.”

“You’ve come for me then?”

“Why absolutely. I gave ye my word, sire.”

“Certainly…” he said, breaking into sobs all over again. “Oh forgive me! I’m not acting like much of a sovereign…”

“Why, you’ve run clean out of hope, is what. Anybody would, slow as I am, if ye know what I mean, sire.”

“I’m just so very, very grateful.”

“Easy, Your Majesty…Here. Take his other arm, Llewyrch. He’s right wobbledy.

“Well as I was saying, there was one amongst us who was a-spying for Spitemorta. She never did find out that he was, but he was fixing for to wheedle his way into her good graces, the best he could.”

“He’s as big a fool as I was,” said James, trying to steady himself. “Spitemorta has no good graces.”

“You’re no fool sire, but she certainly has no good graces,” said Owain as he and Llewyrch carefully helped James to the door. “Anyway, as I was a-saying, we caught him attempting to take her news of our plans to get you out of this dungeon. Well. We pinned him down last night and the varmint confessed everything. There’s ‘way more to the story than that , but…”

“What will keep him from going to her behind your backs if you already can’t trust him?” said James.

“Oh he won’t have a chance. Ol’ Culwch (that’s his name, by the way) won’t be bothering a soul.”

“You killed him?”

“Nay. Not yet. I guess you don’t have your eyes open yet…”

“I haven’t tried. They’ve felt like they had sand in them and I couldn’t see anything anyway, so…”

“Well, we got Culwch standing right before ye, all blindfolded, gagged and tied up. There are five more of us here to keep him pointed the right way, and we’re going to make him nice and comfortable in your old cell. Won’t take but a minute.”

James heard some scuffling and a muffled yell before the groan of hinges, a heavy bang and the rattle and jingle of hasp, lock and keys behind him. He felt light and giddy, but there was no way he could stay on his feet. As his knees buckled, he felt Owain, Llewyrch and the others grab him up to haul him hurriedly down the corridor, up several flights of gritty stone steps and outside for a good way in the gloriously fresh air of early dawn. A rooster crowed. He could smell unicorn manure and hay. Somebody was cooking breakfast, maybe egg in a hole. He felt like singing. “I’ll thank the Fates for the privilege of being allowed to enjoy this world, every single day,” he thought.

“Oh, that’s right good advice for each and every one of us, Your Majesty,” said Owain with a grunt, right at his ear.

“My word! Have I lost track of when I’m speaking?”

“You’re a-having your first joy in quite a spell, sire. I’d speak out too, and that’s a fact.”  

At last they carefully stepped through a narrow door with him into some other building. They set him down. “Here sire.” said Owain as he carefully took James’s hand and put his fingertips into some warm water. “What do you think of that? If that’s about right, we’ll get those filthy rags off you and Pryderi here will give ye a proper bath. He’s a barber and a healer, and he’s right good.”

“Oh, it’s perfect…”

“Now, there ain’t no women around sire,” said Llewyrch. “Let’s get your shirt.”

Soon James was in bath water up to his chin. “Do you object to Elf medicine, Your Majesty?” said Pryderi as he carefully examined James’s head.

“Not in the least. It was Spitemorta who tried to pin the sukere burning on the Elves, not I.”

“Well I have something that’ll put you right quicker than anything I know of, but it’s the bitterest thing you’ll ever have in your mouth. You need to chew it up real fine and swallow every bit,” said Pryderi as he put a black twist of leaves to James’s lips.

“Mercy! I’ll say!” said James after a couple of thoughtful chews. “It makes my tongue and mouth feel like old dry wood.”

“Oh, it’s just got started, sire. Just keep a-chewing. Try not to bite your tongue. It’s called aquilaria. It’s very difficult to come by. My grandfather found out about it from an Elf called Talamh Coille Graham, right before he was murdered by a witch known to the Elves as Bailitheoir Cailli. Ever hear of her?”

“I’m afraid so. She was Spitemorta’s real mother. I had no idea when I married her.”

“My word!” said Pryderi, falling silent for a time before resuming: “Well, the Elves’s name for aquilaria is sláinte ollmhór. How’s it doing?”

“Makes wormwood seem like something sweet. You’re sure that I’m not turning into some kind of stump?”

“You don’t have to worry about that, but I’m going to have to cut your hair. It’s nothing but a filthy mat of snarls and nits. Now before I do, lay your head back here so that I can put a poultice of aquilaria, eyebright, goldenseal root, rue and fennel on your eyes. When I get your hair cut, I’m going to put burdock root and dandelion root on this awful festered sore on your head. If it doesn’t dry up in a few days, someone will have to put a hot iron to it.”

After a while, James found himself dressed in fresh plain wool and linen clothes, and able to partly open one eye as he sat in a chair, pressing a poultice against his face. “Do I smell food?” he said as he took down the sopping wet muslin and tried to use his eyes.

“The board is set for you in the next room,” said Owain as he peered into his face. “Can you see to get there, or do you need help?”

“Let me try,” he said as he stood and slowly shuffled to the next room, navigating with the flaming red slit of one eye. He paused as Llewyrch drew back his chair. “My! This is wonderful!” He took his place at the head of a sumptuous table of plain fare: roast chickens, cabbage and carrots, buttered squash, hot brown bread and heaping saucers of cottage cheese and honey. A dainty old lady whisked up and poured him a cup o’ tea. “My word! Each of you, please, please have a seat and eat with me. And please don’t be so formal. You will always be my friends.” He spread wide his arms and bowed his head.

Never had a meal tasted so heavenly to James. At last he wiped his mouth and sat back. Just as he picked up his poultice to daub his eyes again, in came the little old lady with a steaming hot apple pie. She set it down before him and cut him a big piece. Suddenly he grabbed her by the waist and gave her a squeeze as tears ran down his cheeks. “My wonderful, wonderful friends!” he said.

“We are right honored to serve you, Your Majesty,” said Owain.

“I am indeed grateful beyond anything I’m capable of putting into words,” said James, “but you all are taking an unbelievable risk. The longer I’m here, the more peril you’ll be in. I should be getting away immediately, but I’ve no idea how that would even be possible with Spitemorta and Demonica and their spies everywhere.”

“This be the perfect time, sire,” said Owain as he shared a look with Pryderi. “They’ve got all their attention on the birth of the new babe… Oh my stars! I apologize, sire! We neglected to tell ye that your queen bore a baby girl.”

“Wasn’t there another child?”

“There certainly was,” said Owain with an anxious glance each way, “but he was stillborn, much as I hate bearing you such news. And worse yet, Spitemorta was so blithering furious over it all that she up and killed the midwife and all the attending help cleaning up the birth.”

By now James had both eyes open.

“They keep saying she used some kind of witch’s power to stop all their hearts,” said Llewyrch. “And lots of folks reckon that she did indeed do it from different things people have seen. Do you suppose she actually did, sire?”

“Oh very possibly. Did you hear me tell Pryderi that she is Bailitheor Cailli’s own daughter? Brutelee and Bee secretly adopted her.”

“Well, we’re right sorry we had to be the ones to tell ye, Your Majesty,” said Owain. “But now, that’s a piece of news about Spitemorta’s dam.”

“I appreciate your courage,” said James.

“Thank you, sire,” said Owain. “Anyway, we figure tonight’s the night to get ye out of here. The servants think Spitemorta will be laid up for at least a week, and not only that, Demonica seems to have quite vanished, and no one has the slightest idea where she’s gone off to.”

“Then tonight’s the night,” said James. “But I’ll say this: you need to keep a right sharp eye out for Demonica every single moment, because she reappears just as suddenly as she vanishes.”

“We’ve heard the like,” said Owain with a solemn nod. “We’ll be as careful as we can be. And if ye don’t mind my saying so sire, nobody’s ever seen you with a beard. Maybe you should keep it for a while.”

“Suits me, my dear fellows,” said James as he stretched wide a bushy red-eyed grin.

 ***

On the eve of Queen Spitemorta’s campaign to take over the world, King James is caught by her and her grandmother Demonica, tortured and imprisoned in the fetid blackness of Castle Goll’s dungeon. He and his rescuers flee into the Gollmore countryside to join the Elves in their flight to the Wilderlands in Chapter 19 of The Burgeoning.

Have you ever experienced sudden hope after all was lost? Please tell us about it.

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Spark Finds Fuzz

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Fuzz was exhausted. He had struggled futilely for hours against the sinews the Gobblers had bound him with. His wrists and ankles had been quite raw for a good long while. He was desperately worried for Rose and Lukus, and in spite of his years as a decorated soldier, he was in a losing battle with panic. At last, weariness came on him in such a way that he had no grasp of his passage into a fitful slumber.

He was writhing and rolling about in the throes of a nightmare about the Gobblers returning to enslave him. They wrestled and kicked him and cut him up with jabs from their spear points, loading him into one of their carts. As the terror became unbearable, Fuzz heard someone amongst them call out his name over and over. “How do Gobblers know my name?” he bellowed, rolling face up as he opened his eyes. “I can’t see!”

“That’s because it’s after dark, Fuzz.”

“Who…?”

“I’m Spark, Fuzz. You know, Spark!”

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“Oh! Thanks be! We’re delivered! Could you be so kind as to…?”

“Loosen your bindings? Absolutely. Pardon me, it’s so dark, I’ll have to…” said Spark as he conjured a bright green mage light between the palms of his hands. He set to at once, gnawing and picking at Fuzz’s sinews. “Ah. Got that one. You’ll have to roll over.”

“You know Spark, it’s been so long, I’d nearly forgotten that you could do that sort of thing,” said Fuzz, as he licked at a freed wrist.

“Oh, it languishes. I was born with it, but I’m so feebly endowed, I don’t fool with it for much of anything. Actually I don’t remember having done anything with it in front of youSinornithosaurus_mag before. Say. How’d you end up out here? Gobblers, I’d reckon, but I can’t imagine you allowing yourself to get caught. Can you stand?”

“Whoa!” said Fuzz, pitching forward onto his knees. “Like a round bottomed bucket. I don’t have any feeling in ’em yet, either. Yea, Gobblers! I…”

“‘Scuse Fuzz, there’s a little chocolate creek right here. Let’s get you a drink. So. You were saying about the Gobblers? What were you doing out here?”

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“Taking care of unfinished business in the service of the crown as Captain of the Royal Guard of Niarg, would you believe. And I still don’t have it taken care of.”

“What?”

“I was escorting the very prince and princess of Niarg to the sea to escape Ugleeuh, when we were waylaid by the sticky little curses.”

“And they captured the prince and princess?”

“Almost certainly, but we were separated by my trying to divert them. They got me too quick. Rose and Lukus couldn’t have had enough time to escape.”

“Rose and Lukus. I’ll bet they’re the two Ugleeuh had with her this last spring when the Chocolate Volcano blew. She brought them along when she came up the mountain to insult and threaten me.”

“They’re her niece and nephew, would you believe?”

“No kidding. Why, they’re nice looking kids.”

“Well Queen Minuet, who’s quite lovely, is Ugleeuh’s half sister. And I’ve lost her kids for her, unless I come up with something immediately,” said Fuzz as he rolled off his haunches and picked up an ankle to lick. “And I surely don’t know how I’m going to do that. A thousand to one, they’ve taken them straight to the Gobbler castle, and that place is a fortress, quite a bastion indeed, bristly with little pike men all over, and a moat full of chocodiles. I couldn’t have managed by myself back when I was a man at arms, let alone now that I’m a bear without arms. I’ve nothing with me, not even my miserable little dress dirk which is in a trunk in my den.”

“Gobblers are nasty critters, all right,” said Spark as he carefully enlarged a mage light and set it upon the ground between them to glow like a campfire. “Their young highnesses will never escape without help.”

“So, will you help me rescue them? It’s either the two of us or nobody.”

“I hate Gobblers. They’ve taken over all the very best chocolate licks. I’ve always got bruises all over from their slings and rock candy.”

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“Then let’s get ’em!” said Fuzz with a crackle of unexpected ferocity, as he smacked his paw with his fist. “Let’s fix ’em! Let’s get ’em back for the rock candy and for my awful nap, all tied up. And most of all, help out two splendid young people.”

“She stood up to Ugleeuh for me, the princess. ‘Rose,’ you say she is? Oh, it was nothing really, but right nice of her all the same.”

“Then you certainly wouldn’t stand to have her abused by those sticky varmints.”

“Never!” declared Spark, suddenly straightening upright.

“So what about this magic you never use? What can you do with it in a pinch?”

“I just really don’t much.”

“Yea, but could you get into the castle with it? Shot ‘n’ Stop said you’re good. He said you disguised yourself as a tree, once. You might disguise yourself as a minstrel or a trader of some sort.”

“Well thank you, but you need to keep in mind that my magical ability is quite small, scarcely more than that of a hedge wizard. I could go into the castle under cover of a glamourie, but I’ve not the power to maintain it for long. It would be risky.”

“Can you think of any other way at all?”

“Well no Fuzz, but whatever it is, it’s got to be good enough that I don’t have to maintain it very long at all. I’ll be lucky to manage going straight in and straight out. If I were just a minstrel, I’d have to take forever and seven days to argue my way in and back out.” He paced back and forth for several long moments. “You have an awful lot of confidence in me to think I could actually get away with this.”

“Ugleeuh!” woofed Fuzz. 

Spark looked up with a jerk and rolled away into the brush, as his mage light went out with a pop.

“No, no! Good grief, Spark. I didn’t mean that she’s here. I mean, what about you making yourself look like Ugleeuh? That would cause the Gobblers to let you in and out right smart. Don’t you think?”

Spark eased back to where he’d been sitting and let another large mage light come to life from between his cupped hands.

Fuzz saw that his hands were trembling. “You all right?

“Do you have any idea what Ugleeuh will do to me if she discovers this little ruse?” said Spark, holding his hands still by clamping them between his knees. “I’ll be lucky if she seals me up inside my cave until I rot.”

“Sure thing. And me with you, no doubt. But we can’t just leave Rose and Lukus in the hands of those marshmallow suckers. You know how Gobblers treat captives, Spark.”

“I know you’re absolutely right,” said Spark with a great shudder. “Yeap, yip! Me as Ugleeuh. That’s the best we’re going to get. Just give me a bit to get used to the idea. I don’t suppose you’ve ever heard of Lizzie? She was one of my clan and had a passion for marshmallows. Greedigut had his fat little slugs capture her and then he killed her slowly by forcing her to slave endlessly on next to no food while they made a routine of beating her senseless. No one should be thrall to a Gobbler,” he said, as his voice went shrill and rasping. 

Fuzz jerked back with a gasp. Before him stood Ugleeuh. “Wow! Mercy! My very word! Excellent, Spark. If I didn’t know it was you, I’d know old Dungbag was standing right where you are. The Gobblers will never know it’s you.”

“I was hoping you’d say that.” he said, and with an odd wavering of the air about him, he resumed his normal visage. “Being Ugleeuh really saps my zip. I’ll have to get as close as I possibly can to the Gobbler castle before casting my illusion. Then, maybe I can keep it up long enough. Besides, that way there’ll be less chance that the real Ugleeuh will soar overhead and see me. Well. I see no reason why I shouldn’t be underway.”

“Good thinking. Hey, thank you. And good luck. I’ll be right here until you’re back.”

“Ta-ta!” said Spark with a flutter of eyelashes, as he flashed Ugleeuh’s Face for his own, before vanishing into the dark in the direction of the Gobbler’s fortified keep.

Ch. 22, The Collector Witch (Click on Title or Image to Download From Amazon)The_Collector_Witch_Cover_for_Kindle

Carol Marrs Phipps and 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