What is the Chokewoods?

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The Chokewood Forest is an important part of the setting in each of the books of The Heart of the Staff, Good Sister, Bad Sister, The Collector Witch, Stone Heart

SORBUSJOSEPHROCKv211684990965_4bd7dfdd98_bThe Burgeoning, The Reaper Witch and Doom. It lies south of Goll and Cyclopsia on the Northern Continent. It was created from the vast Forest Primeval by the 3994775_origwizard Razzorbauch when he used the Crystal Heart and the Great Staff to permanently change all of the forest’s black and red oaks images(Quercus velutina L. and Quercus coccinea M.) to the deadly, twisted and gnarled choke oaks (Pseudoquercus horridus R.) to discourage trespass onto his great sukere plantation.6a00e554d7b8278833013485e6499b970c-500wi

Later, the witch Ugleeuh was banished to a small portion of the Chokewoods which she

Scan10021 turned into the Peppermint Forest by magically altering the choke oaks to become peppermint trees (Mentha lignumpiperita R.).

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Demonica and Ugleeuh Enjoy Supper by the Sea


Demonica’s keep had two great towers at opposite ends of the front wall of the castle proper. One of them housed Razzorbauch’s great library. The other one served as her private lookout over the vast Orin Ocean to the far off horizons in three directions. In good weather she was fond of having supper on its uppermost storey under a tile roof held
aloft by open Gothic arches on all sides. On this particular evening, she and Ugleeuh sat
across from each other in their crimson dresses, listening to the booming of the surf as the breeze ran ripples along the skirt of their linen tablecloth. She forked two more steaming slices of duck roast onto her plate of sour cabbage from the duck’s cavity and looked up at Ugleeuh. “Is something the matter, dear?” she said as she licked her fingertips.

“How do you eat like that after…?” said Ugleeuh, waving aside her own comment with a shake of her head. “Oh, never mind.”

“You don’t find that a good torture session increases your appetite?”

“Well, Minuet and Bethan were the one who always dressed the chickens…”

“Well. You do look right peaked, now that you call my attention to it, dear. Do Minuet and Bethan lose their appetites for chicken on the days they cut up fryers?”

“Well no…”

“Of course not. They’ve learnt that what’s in the skillet is important enough that gory feathers are of no consequence at all. And the blood on a torture table doesn’t matter, either. What counts is that heady sense of power. Madog was on his way to see to your undoing. Now Leeuh, surely you’re not about to tell me that the mess in the dungeon overshadowed the orchestration of his deserving end, are you?”

stock-footage-downward-pan-of-arches-over-mediterranean“No Mother,” she said with an especially pale swallow. “I rather enjoyed myself. It’s quite something how long he lasted…”

“And that’s the entertaining part,” she said with a happy wave of her knife. “What good would it be if he died first thing?”

“I did enjoy myself, Mother,” she said as she picked up her bread to butter. “Could you pass the duck? I’d like some cabbage and some more bird.”

“Splendid,” she said, picking up the platter. “I believe your appetite is better already.”Stone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle

“Oh it is. And I did have fun. But what does torture have to do with sorcery?”

“Oh, not so much with sorcery as it has to do with power. One must enjoy power in order to wield it.”

“So now that we’re relaxed and powerful, when will you teach me to be a sorceress?”

“Well sorcery does include power,” said Demonica as she spread some cabbage onto her bread. “But no more today, dear. Let’s just talk and get to know each other.”

“Fine. What do you want to know?”

“Well, what did Princess Branwen do to make you go to all that trouble to get rid of her?”

Ugleeuh laughed, rocking back and forth to swallow. “Not a thing,” she said. “She was just Ugleeuh_rub_880683_c_medieval_scarlett_red_hooded_dress_costume_adult_ain the way.”

“Of what?”

“She was betrothed to Prince Hebraun.”

“So?”

“So I’ve my own plans for Hebraun, if you must,” said Ugleeuh with a sullen toss of her raven mane.

“Why you look vexed. I’m only curious about you.”

“Yea? Well it would be easier to take, had you any curiosity about me while I was growing up,” she said, glaring as she wiped her mouth. “So here you be after skipping my life entirely up to now, pushing at me for a cozy little chat. My appetite’s gone. I’m going to bed.” And with that, she threw her napkin onto her plate and stood up.

“Touchy, are we?” said Demonica as Ugleeuh reached the stairs.

Ugleeuh slowed as her back stiffened, taking the first step down.

***

Good_Sister,_Bad_Sis_Cover_for_KindleIn Chapter 17 of Good Sister, Bad Sister, Demonica takes Ugleeuh to see Madog, the one who delivered the cat to Princess Branwen. It quickly becomes clear that not only did Ugleeuh murder Princess Branwen of Far, she also caused the outbreak of the plague.

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

 

 

 

 

 

Ugleeuh Hates Hubba Hubba

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

Ugleeuh 3“What is that thing, Father?”

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

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

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

“Not if I drown it first…”

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

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

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

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

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

“You mean it?”

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

Ch. 1, Good Sister, Bad Sister

 ***

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

Hubba Hubba went skinny as she crossed the room.

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

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

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

Suddenly Minuet stepped into the doorway, out of breath.

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

Ch 17, Good Sister, Bad Sister

 ****

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

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

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

“Bad!” growled Hubba Hubba.

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

“Bad witch!” growled Hubba Hubba. 

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

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

Ch. 18, Good Sister, Bad SisterGood_Sister,_Bad_Sis_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

 

 

 

 Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

 

Who is Herio?

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

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

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

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

 

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

 

a mysterious lady in vintage style

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes yes, Your Majesty.”

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

“Oh?”

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

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

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

“Yes, Your Majesty?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coel stood there with a look of bright eyed amusement.

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

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

 

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Carol Marrs Phipps &Tom Phipps

 

Who is Rose?

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Princess (Tywysoges) Rose of the House of Niarg is the eldest child of King Hebraun and Queen Minuet of Niarg and the sister of Prince Lukus. Her grandfather, Queen Minuet’s

Rose

father is the powerful Razzmorten Dewin of Peach Knob Manor, Wizard to the Crown of Niarg.

Rose merely appears as a precocious three year old in Good Sister, Bad Sister, but is the main protagonist in The Collector Witch, which opens on her sixteenth birthday, when it is to be announced that she is to marry Prince James of Loxmere. At her party, a rumor is circulated that she is not the Good_Sister,_Bad_Sis_Cover_for_Kindledaughter of Hebraun and Minuet, but merely their niece, and that her real mother, the queen’s sister, was banished from the kingdom for something vile, immediately after giving birth. Upon a visit to the family grave yard, where she finds the stone of an “Infant Rose,” she goes to her parents for an explanation. When they give her an The_Collector_Witch_Cover_for_Kindleunsatisfactory answer, she saddles her unicorn in the in the middle of the night, hoping to find her mother’s sister in the Chokewood Forest to get and some real answers. Before she gets out of the stable, Lukus forces her to take him along.

The sister turns out to be Ugleeuh, a dangerous sorceress (witch, if you must), eccentric and Scan10028bitter from her solitary exile. Rose and Lukus become convinced that she is indeed Rose’s mother and end up being her prisoners for the entire summer. At last, they find out that Ugleeuh is not Rose’s mother at all, and that she gave birth to Princess Spitemorta of Goll. At this discovery, Ugleeuh tries to use them as ransom, hoping to extort her release from the Chokewoods. Rose and Lukus see their moment to escape, and with the help of Fuzz the bear, flee to the coast. Rose and Lukus safely return home to Niarg.

Years later, in Stone Heart, Rose, Lukus and their Stone_Heart_Cover_for_KindleGrandfather Razzmorten return to the Chokewoods to see what had become of Ugleeuh’s part of the forest to find to their horror that Spitemorta and her grandmother Demonica not only have managed to get their hands on the fearsome Great Staff of Power, but they also have the Heart of the Staff, an even more dangerously powerful artifact, and are determined to use them to take over the world. They cross paths with Fuzz, who has just been accidentally restored to human form by stumbling through a magical ward left by Demonica, and is out making a frantic attempt to recover the Heart. They join forces and soon find themselves being pursued  through the wilderness by Spitemorta and Demonica. Rose and Fuzz fall in love along the way, and when they finally return to Niarg with dire warnings for all of civilization, Fuzz asks Hebraun and Minuet for Rose’s hand in marriage.

image_fadeThey are married at once, but instead of a nice honeymoon, they find themselves sailing The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_Kindleacross the Orin Ocean, in The Burgeoning, to the Dark Empire in hopes of getting help with a strategy to undo Demonica. On the way back, their ship goes down and Rose finds herself alone, washed ashore in a strange land. What happens to her can be discovered in book five: The Reaper Witch.

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Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

 

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