Spark the Dragon Loses His Feathers

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A shadow passed over them. Ugleeuh looked up with a start to see a deep green dragon with a turquoise crest, the size of a cow, gliding majestically for a row of openings into lava tubes running up the nearby dome. “It’s a bird with teeth!” she cried, springing to her feet to shade her eyes. “And I swear I saw claws in its wings…”

“You did, dear,” said Demonica. “And I trust you realize that this is one of the very dragons that we came for…”

“I knew what it was.”

Demonica was not listening. “Here comes another,” she said, touching Razzorbauch’s arm.

“Good,” he said, “I knew that this was the place, but until the first one swooped in, I hadn’t quite spotted their caves. I was a bit further down, the time before. I spent all day,
and I allowed that there was above two hundred dragon a-coming and going. That ought
to suit my needs…”

“Yes,” said Demonica. “They should suit us quite nicely.”

“What if it saw us?” said Ugleeuh.

“I doubt if it did,” said Demonica. “Had it seen us, it would be trying to set us alight, this minute. The pines hid us. That’s why I changed into this terrible green kirtle before we left Head.”

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“I’ve not seen a one, yet,” said Demonica to Razzorbauch as she gave an impatient head to toe glance at Ugleeuh.

“You will,” he said.

At that very moment, an echoing bellow from the caves got their attention in time for them to see a dozen dragons charging out abreast into the open air, blinded by the stinging fiery nightshade fumes, snorting and gasping, flapping their wings and stumbling
about.

“Keep them blind!” shouted Razzorbauch as he ran toward the dragons with his staff leveled. “Don’t let them spit flames! Freeze any that try to fly!”

Demonica set to work at once, hurling crackling lavender bolts from her staff into the faces of beast after beast as they thundered from the caves, while Razzorbauch sent out a pounding hail of flashes from his, causing the plumage to fall free from the dragons’ wings and bodies in cascading bundles and wads, as the terrified animals flapped
themselves to nakedness, and the air filled with the stench of singeing feathers. More and
more came in a frantic rush for fresh air only to be undressed in their bewildered frenzy,
until at last the wash in front of the caves was filled with a milling herd of better than two
hundred naked dragons, fenced in by a corralling spell cast by Demonica.

Razzorbauch climbed a large red rock to stand above their heads. “Peoc’h!” he roared, addressing them in Headlandish. “Silence!”

At once, the only sounds to be heard were the rattling of cottonwood leaves and the nearby calls of laughing quail. As he stood there counting them, a young male who happened to be outside of Demonica’s spell, was carefully inching away. Suddenly he
broke into a run for the caves. Razzorbauch jerked his staff aloft at the sight of him,
shooting him with a brilliant beam of ruby light from the Heart in its end, blowing him
apart with a thundering concussion which left a hole in the ground big enough to bury
several dragons, as a peppering of dirt and flecks of flesh rained down through the leaves
of the cottonwoods.

“N’eus ket tu da,” said Razzorbauch, speaking out over the hushed herd. “There’s no way to. There’s no way anyone else could possibly break away and run. But you see what would happen if he could. From this moment on, for as long as you live, you are each my chattel. Now. I’m going to walk to the sea and you’re going to follow me. It will be a few days to get there and a few more to wait for ships which will take you to my plantation.” He paused to look over their numbers for a moment before clambering down from his rock. “Poent eo mont kuit!” he cried with a wave of his staff. “It’s time to leave!” And with that, he began walking.

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The dragon multitude formed a lumbering queue as they followed, utterly beaten, as Demonica set out in their wake with her staff. Ugleeuh picked up one of the great green feathers littering the ground, every bit as long as she was tall and was astonished at how very light it was. “My!” she said. “These are light as a feather.”

“One does expect that with feathers, dear,” said Demonica.

Ugleeuh thought it would make quite a souvenir, but tossed it aside at the thought of the long walk ahead. “So,” she said, catching up. “‘Mammvro.’ Wouldn’t that be Headlandish for ‘Motherland?'”

“It is. It’s the dragon word for it, really. I call it that because of the dragons. The rest of the continent calls these the Red Lands or the Red Desert…”

“Dragon word? They can talk?”Good_Sister,_Bad_Sis_Cover_for_Kindle

Good Sister, Bad Sister, Ch. 11

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Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Wizard Razzmorten takes Hubba Hubba to See the King and Queen

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Razzmorten cleared his throat. Hubba Hubba straightened up at once, giving himself a feather fluffing shake. “Well Queen, how could you possibly have known it was me?”

“Oh, Hubba Hubba! I’d know you anywhere.”Scan10074

Hubba Hubba drew back his head and thrust it forth in a gawk of bewilderment at Razzmorten. Razmorten gave a wide-eyed shrug. “I hate to dampen this merry reunion, but time may be pressing,” he said. “Hubba Hubba has a message from your sister, regarding Rose and Lukus.”

“Ugleeuh!” cried King Hebraun, springing to his feet. “She hasn’t harmed them, has she?”

“No, no. I wouldn’t think so,” said Razzmorten, handing Ugleeuh’s note to Hebraun. “She has decided to blackmail you. She plans to be set free from the Chokewood Forest. It seems she has Rose and Lukus at her cottage and plans to give their freedom for hers. See for yourself.”

King Hebraun quickly read the missive and handed it to Minuet. “Father!” she choked. “You said Ugleeuh could cause no more harm once she was exiled.”

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“Not outside of her part of the Chokewoods,” said Razzmorten, as he gently picked up her hand. “I can’t imagine that she had any way of abducting them. They had to have gone there on their own, and most likely to answer some of the questions which Rose was asking all around, right prior to their disappearance. No, Ugleeuh has not been any sort of hazard outside her boundaries from the time we sent her there until this very minute, but this extortion of hers is her design to change all that. Meanwhile, the children must be safe. Stop and think. Ugleeuh is evil, but she’s no fool. She’d hardly destroy the one and only chance she’s had to end her exile. She’ll not harm Rose and Lukus as long as there’s any chance she can use them to get free.”

“He’s right,” cawed Hubba Hubba. “In all the years I’ve spent with her, she never suggested harming a feather on my body until I refused to come here. Then she threatened
to cook me. And I have an idea. When I left, Ugleeuh gave me this scrying crystal so I’d
be able to see her and the forest any time I wanted. Here. Try it to check on Rose and
Lukus. I’ll bet that will make you feel better.”

Minuet suddenly looked hopeful but Razzmorten sadly shook his head. “Your offer is grand, Hubba Hubba, but I’m afraid your crystal is useless. She’s managed to divine an astonishing barrier around her part of the forest to prevent being watched by any sort of crystal gazing. I certainly have tried to often enough.”

Hubba Hubba was stunned. “So!” he squawked with a shake of his feathers. “She lied again. She said she’d drop the protections and keep them down until I returned. Fool
that I am, I told her not to because she’d leave herself vulnerable. She told me that her
protections had been in place so long that no one would bother to spy on her. No wonder
she wasn’t worried. She’d no intention of dropping her protections all along.”

“Whoa Hubba Hubba,” said Razzorten, as he shared raised eyebrows with Hebraun and Minuet. “There was talk of dropping her protections?”

Crow-0056-A01“Talk. Yea.”

“Where’s this scrying crystal Ugleeuh gave you?”

“Right here, actually,” he said, looking down at his breast. “The crystal is the brooch fixed on my flight harness. But what difference does that make if it’s useless?”

Razzmorten was already unbuckling the harness, shaking his head to be silent while he slipped it off him. The king and queen anxiously crowded around. Hubba Hubba peered at the stone from Razzmorten’s shoulder, and nearly lost his balance when the old man whooped with glee. “It works! I see the forest. And look at this. There’s Ugleeuh flying above the trees on a broom. That’s a right novel talent. She certainly never did that before her exile. I suppose it’s no surprise that she’d develop her powers to while away the time there.”

“I despise the idea of her having any powers,” said Minuet. “Where do you suppose Rose and Lukus are?”

“I’d bet in her cottage,” said Hubba Hubba. “They haven’t been much for going outdoors, all summer. Mostly they stayed around the house and you know, ate, slept, those kinds o’ things…” He trailed off uncomfortably, seeing everyone looking straight at him. “Well when I was there, they joked around with me and we talked and stuff, don’t you know,” he stammered, glancing from one person to the next as he resumed. “Sometimes they did go outside and take me for my exercise flights. And once Lukus and I even went for a hike. Now that was really fun, except when the log rolled over on me and broke my toe, of course.” He fluffed up and ran his beak along several flight feathers, letting each go with a snap before he continued. “Anyway, try the cottage.”

Razzmorten was scarcely listening as he brought his concentration to bear upon scrying with the crystal. At last, Rose and Lukus appeared, wearing their stripped cloaks, hurrying to keep up with Fuzz.

“Wow!” said Hubba Hubba. “Ugleeuh and Fuzz are definitely not on friendly terms. I can’t imagine her letting them talk to him, let alone run off with him somewhere.”

“Looks like those stripped cloaks are camouflage,” said Razzmorten with a grave nod, “at least I’d say so from the appearance of the surrounding trees. They certainly don’t appear to be out for a hunt, and if they’ve gone to this kind of trouble to hide, they very
likely are attempting to flee, rather than waiting for us to respond to her extortion demands. So this bear ‘Fuzz,’ Ugleeuh doesn’t like him, you say?”

“Not much…”

“Speaks well of him.”

“Oh Hebraun!” said Minuet. “Their faces are so pale and pasty. They don’t look well. What has she done to them?”

“Remember that I can’t scry,” said Hebraun, as he shared a look with Razzmorten, “but it sounds like they’ve been eating your sister’s food. They’ll surely snap out of it as soon as we get them home.”

“And remember that they’re young and strong, Minuet,” said Razzmorten. “Neither one has ever been sick. They’re going to be just fine.”

“But how are we going to get them home, now?” said Minuet. “And what if Ugleeuh catches them? They’ve defied her and escaped. I can’t imagine her fury. No one who thwarts her is ever safe. You can count on her saying that they owe her for having been at her cottage, even though they were her prisoners. She’d make them pay mercilessly for that. But stand in the way of her freedom? I can’t picture her controlling herself.”

Razzmorten sucked in a deep breath between his teeth. “I’m sure Ugleeuh is mortally angry,” he said, “but it still behooves her to handle Rose and Lukus with care. I can’t imagine her forgetting that they are her only chance to leave the forest, short of dying. I’d say that if she does catch them, it’s this Fuzz, whoever he is, who won’t survive her vengeance.”

“You got it.” said Hubba Hubba. “She wants out and Fuzz is a goner. Oh, absolutely.” He hesitated, seeing that he was being taken very seriously by everyone. “She
threatened to slaughter and eat me, just because I told her I wouldn’t deliver her ransom
note. And she claims she loves me. She doesn’t even like Fuzz.”

“Pray that they’re not caught,” said Minuet, looking pale and drawn, as she sat down on her throne. “I grew up struggling with her getting even with everyone under the sun.”

“How do you suppose this Fuzz plans to help Rose and Lukus escape?” said Hebraun.

“Until some clue turns up,” said Razzmorten, rubbing his temples gingerly before gazing The_Collector_Witch_Cover_for_Kindleback into the crystal, “I have utterly no idea at all, except that they most likely are indeed attempting some sort of escape, right now.”

“What happens if Ugleeuh intercepts them, Father?” said Minuet. “What then?”

“Then I shall have to face her myself.” said Razzmorten calmly enough to cause Hubba Hubba to gape in astonishment. “Please don’t be afraid, Minuet. I swear that no harm shall come to my grandchildren. I swear it on my life.”

Ch. 20, The Collector Witch

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Spitemorta Nurses a Hangover

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The thicket of roses in the pasture that once crowned the gentle hill overlooking all of the town of Niarg was enclosed for the first time by the circular stockade of the old wooden Castell Niarg. In time, it became the rose garden in the back ward of the great stone castle which followed, where Prince Hebraun courted Minuet under a late summer moon and where Princess Rose played with her kitten in the warm June sun.

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Spitemorta cleared away all of that for her amphitheatre which faced across its broad and barren arena to the great stage for her public presentations which made up a corner of the back ward of her massive black castle. Here was the focus of her week long celebration. She raised her chalice to the drunken crowd as she sat back on her throne to watch her soldiers set alight the final wicker man, packed squirming tight with the very last survivors of Bernard’s Bane at Jut Ford. Pissant scurried over with his jug to top up her vessel. As screams and yodeling wails of agony burst out from the flames, she shot to her feet with cheer after cheer of triumph for the roaring multitude. As glowing cinders began to tumble, orderlies scurried into the arena and onto the streets surrounding the castle to set up trestles and boards for the feasting that was to last all night.

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When daylight came, Spitemorta banged into the doorpost on her way into the bedroom of her bower and bounced when she found that the seat of the stool before her dressing table was a bit lower than it should have been. She ballooned her cheeks with a huff as she found her face in the looking-glass. She picked up a brush. “My,” she said as she tugged at her whirling head with her brush strokes. “I’m not up for much of that…” She looked up to see Demonica standing behind her in the mirror and tossed down her brush with a clatter. “And none of you, Grandmother. I’m going to bed right now.”

“Well,” said Demonica. “Fine celebration, I thought. Just wanted to tell you. And dear, you really want to see to your trolls, don’t you think?”

“Did you see how the Niarg townies joined in? They were having such a good time, I know I’ve got them. I’ve really got them. Lots of them even danced and cheered when Minuet’s soldiers were burning…”

imagesdemonica“At least when the cider and sukee are flowing. We brought in three shiploads of sukee from Gwael for this. Stout stuff. You do need to keep that in mind. Some of them can actually count their own fingers when they’re sober. And your trolls, dear…”

“Fine, Grandmother. After I’ve slept, come back and we shall both go.”

“I’ll do that dear. Just don’t delay our departure with your handsome general. It would be best to appear just when they’re waking for the night, before they’re already doing other things, don’t you know. And it doesn’t hurt for us to still have enough light to see by.”

“And just how would I let him delay us?”

“Well,” she said, as she sat on the bed and gave the coverlet a knowing pat. “You did have a rather more, shall we say, sustained and amorous meeting during the celebration than typical…”

“No, damn it! There was nothing amorous about it…”images (3)x

“Well I certainly find that easy to agree with, having been there, but does the general?”

“That’s his problem, not mine.”

“If you say so dear. Well then. To bed with you and I’ll see you before sunset.”

***

The evening sun was just lighting the far wall of Spitemorta’s chamber when she was awakened by voices below her window. “Damn you!” she cried, explosively ripping aside her covers. She grabbed up the full water pitcher from her night stand and heaved it out the window to land with a distant pop six storeys down. The talking stopped short. No one was there when she propped her arms on the sill and peered out. The bell in Argentowre rang. When she couldn’t sort out whether it was four or five o’clock, she covered her ears and turned away from the window.

“Oh!” she cried when the stool at her dressing table turned out to be just as unexpectedly low as before. With a squeal, she threw her brush across the room to smack the back of a chair and spin away somewhere on the floor. She labored to her feet and went hunting for it. When stooping to look under a wardrobe sent pains through her head, she went back to her table without the brush and peered into the mirror with the slits of her swollen eyes to find her hair hopelessly matted on one side, “As if I’d spent the month sleeping alongside a dead mouse.” And with that, she cast a glamourie on herself to look radiantly rested and groomed. After a spell of jerking dresses from side to side in one wardrobe after another, she gave up and cast another glamourie to make the kirtle she was wearing appear as though she had not slept all day in it. “And where’s my duck?” she shouted.

“And here you led me to believe that there was not one thing amorous going on between the two of you,” said Demonica with a gasp of surprise as she appeared.

“Damn you! Not him. My breakfast!”

“Now did you indeed tell anyone before you went to bed?”

“What are you doing with that childish halo and wings, Grandmother? You’ve been telling me all these years that no one but me sees you.”

“Who knows? Veyfnaryr has enough power that he just might.”

“Do you seriously believe he’s more powerful than Razzmorten?”

“Believe? Dear, he was every bit as powerful as Razzmorten the moment I put him in the arms of Fnayooph, the bathless fmoo who raised him. If you didn’t have the Heart and the Staff, he’d make a grease spot of you if you vexed him enough.”

“Ha!” said Spitemorta, feeling for her stool before sitting, this time. “Good medicine for the Beaks. And those four Elves. He could make grease spots out of them, too. Pooh on breakfast, Grandmother. Let’s go.”

“Good for you, dear…” said Demonica, looking up suddenly at the knock on the door of the parlour of the bower.

Spitemorta tramped to the door. “What!” she shouted as she grabbed the latch. She threw it open to find Coel. “Familiar enough all at once to wave aside proper deferential announcements by the help, are we?”

“Because of our indiscretion?” said Coel calmly, as he stepped in without the slightest bob of a bow.

“Ah!” said Demonica. “Here’s your duck after all…”

“Shut up!”

“You don’t like it referred to that way?” said Coel.

“You ought to be able recognize Grandmother by now…”

“I don’t see a soul.”

“And you bet it was indiscrete! You ought to be in the dungeon.”

“Because you invited me…?”

“I did not!”

“Well, sukee’s like that,” he said, drawing in a breath. “And had I not had some of it myself, I’d have easily deflected your tugging at me.”

Spitemorta sucked in a furious breath.

“And I reckon it’s having to recover from it that has me doing the knocking on your door instead of your service, in order to speed the delivery of the tidings you  demanded I convey immediately…”

 

Ch. 7, Doom, book six of Heart of the Staff: The Complete Series

Doom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Heart of the Staff Complete Series Box (1)

 

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 

Spitemorta Has a Tantrum

 

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

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

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

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

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

“Anything else, Your Omnipotence?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Now!” hollered Spitemorta.

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

“So? Send him in.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Your Omnipotence?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Osulf. So?”

“Well, Osulf claims the throne.”

“What?”

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

“Shut up!” screeched Spitemorta.

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

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

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

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

Irmen jerked back from his skinweler and rubbed his temples.

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

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

“I’ll be right there…”

 

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

Doom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Heart of the Staff Complete Series Box (1)

 

Spitemorta takes over her Mother’s House

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 Spitemorta lay in Demonica’s bed, listening to the cries of gulls out her window as the first rays of sunlight lit the wall behind her. She threw back her covers, sat on the side of the bed and nearly fell when she tried to stand up. She hobbled to the tea table and ate some of the cheese and corned beef she had found in one of the larders while hunting skinwelerioù. She had forgotten all about eating for some time and discovered that she was quite hungry. At last she decided to get dressed. The broadening daylight made her want to hurry.

“Well, it’s back west to Niarg before rejoining Coel and Cunneda,” she said as she stepped into her black kirtle, “but I’ll never be able to straddle the Staff for the entire way across the Orin Ocean. I’ll just have to pick a place where I can vomit when I get there.”

She laced up her bodice, grabbed up the Staff and turned her dress deep vermilion. She put the strap of her bag across her shoulder and sat on the bed with her skinweler. “Now just where is it?” she said as the swirling colors in the skinweler gave way to images. “Show me the manor house at Peach Knob. So that’s where Mother grew up with Auntie Min and Grandfather Razzmorten. Why would it be so dark? Very well, let’s find some place out of the way, around back.”

Suddenly she was on her hands and knees in a pandemonium of terrified chickens, B0002242squawking and flapping dust and old feathers all about her in the dim light of dawn as she retched and heaved her breakfast onto the floor between her hands. “Aangh!” she cried, catching her breath and sitting back on her heels as the chickens crowded round to snap up tidbits of her cheese and corned beef.

She grabbed up the Staff and sprang to her feet to pound with her fist along the chicken house wall until she found the door and threw it open. “My dress!” she wailed, waltzing intochickens2-1 the pigweed with her arms held wide. Just then it occurred to her that she was holding the Staff and she quickly used it to make herself as clean as she was when she was first dressed. Suddenly she stopped short with a scald of alarm at the sight of her second sunrise in one day. “No!” She shook her head. “No way it’s Demonica. It can’t be anything but the traveling spell.

 

“There’s the house,” she said, looking uphill beyond the big orchard. “And that was my very last traveling spell ever, ever, ever, I swear.” She started walking up the grassy lane between the rows of peach trees. An oriole gave a bawdy whistle. Up the lane, a kingbird chased away a pair of grackles. She could hear a tinkling of bells as sheep came running.

“Hoy!” she thought she heard someone holler. She looked back beyond the sheep to see a stooped old man wave. She turned away and made for the house. The summer kitchen reared up before her as she came out of the trees. She got a whiff of steak and eggs as she heard someone bang a skillet. She stopped and looked up at the manor house behind the kitchen. “Good for gentry,” she said. “At lest it’s temporary.”

 

A heavy set woman appeared in the doorway of the summer kitchen, wiping her hands on her apron. “Good morning to you, mistress,” she called out with a smile. “You look bewildered, a-coming up on us out o’ the orchard, that a-way. I’ve just fixed breakfast and I already set out an extra…”

“Oh I know exactly where I am.”

“Well now I’m Bethan, but should I know who you be?”

“It makes no difference who you are. But it’s always best to know your new queen, particularly when you work on her manor.”

“Peredur,” said Bethan as the old man appeared behind Spitemorta. “did you hear what she just said to me?”

“No, but I can’t begin to imagine what she was doing in the chicken house.”

Bethan folded her arms and looked Spitemorta in the eye. “Well since I can’t begin to believe what you just told me, dear, why don’t you be so kind as to tell him what it was?”

“It’s quite simple. I’m queen and you’re in my house.”

“Minuet is queen, and I’m queen mother. I raised the queen and her two children. This is my house. Razzmorten and the crown gave it to me.”

Spitemorta let out a whoop of laughter and stopped. “Minuet is dead, dead, dead and you may be lucky enough to be the hired help in my house, if you don’t get carried away,” she said with a satiny rustle as she stepped into the doorway and pushed past Bethan.

“Now look ‘ee here, child! Queen Minuet and Razzmorten saw us just days ago, and she certainly was queen then…”

“Yea? My soldiers found them dead of the plague when we destroyed Castle Niarg, what, yesterday? And my mother grew up in this house, so it’s mine.”

Bethan went apoplectically wide eyed. “You’re Queen Spitemorta!” she gasped.

“It is Bethan’s house,” said Peredur as he steadied himself, stepping inside, “and I’m to live out my days here, too.”

“Which could be up any moment from what I see,” said Spitemorta as she picked up a piece of steak and took a bite.

“That won’t hold up before the Bench,” said Peredur.

“Queen’s Bench,” said Spitemorta with a cherubic smile and another bite.

Bethan caught his eye and shook her head.

“If you’re a willing part of my loyal service, you’ll be alive to wait on me when I come back to stay.”

“At your service, Your Majesty,” said Bethan with a heavy curtsey.

“At your service,” said Peredur with a bow.

Spitemorta stepped out into the grass and mounted the Staff. “Ta-Ta,” she said and flew away into the morning sky.

“My word!” said Peredur as they watched from the doorway. “That witch! What have we got into?”

“Something you and I are going to live through, that’s what.”

 

Ch. 5, The Reaper Witch, book five of Heart of the Staff: The Complete Series

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Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Heart of the Staff Complete Series Box (1)

 

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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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

 

Rose Reveals a Secret

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A throb of lightning lit up the countryside, revealing the arrival of a roaring wall of rain. The crash of thunder and the deluge arrived together in the next instant, like a douse from a colossal bucket, dashed at once into every crack on the porch. Rose and Lukus stumbled through the front door, only to find that the parlour wouldn’t do at all. They groped from room to room between flickers and flashes until they found some cover against the inside wall of the kitchen where most of the thatched roof remained.

They sat on the floor with their backs to the wall, combing their bedraggled hair from their faces with their fingers. Rose nudged him with the striker from her knapsack. Without a word between them, he spent the next several minutes struggling to light the lantern. At last it came to, a wee sputtering yellow seed atop the dirty stub of candle. Pale shadows leaped and waved, dancing above rivulets of water finding their way out through holes in the floor. He started to speak, but his voice vanished in the din. He studied the room, listening to the storm. “Oh, Rose?” he said, speaking out louder this time. “Wouldn’t you say we’ve lived something of a sheltered life in the castle, all these years?”

“Yes, yes. Quite.”

“So you decided that to cultivate your new maturity, you should go out into the world for some exposure, aye what?”

“I didn’t plan the rain.”Scan10059

“If we just bed down along the wall here, I think it’ll stay dry enough to sleep. And boy, am I ever hungry.”

“Sounds fine to me, Lukus,” she said, “except…”

“Except what?

“Except you seem to have left your pack in the barn,” she said, kneeling to open her own bag.

“Oh, great!” he said. “Couldn’t you just…? I mean I’ll just run out after the rain and pay you back, all right?”

“Be neat for once, would you?” she said, handing him things out of her bag.

They ate ravenously, listening to the steady downpour. “Dried apricots and cheese make one strange meal,” he said between thoughtful chews, “but you know? I think it’s pretty near the best supper I ever ate.”

He finished eating to discover that no pack also meant no bed roll for him, but Rose was willing to let him use one end of her bedding as a pillow. “So Rose,” he said, settling himself onto his back, stirring the empty space over his head as though it were an orchestra. “You were telling me…”

“Telling you what?”

“You know. As you were saying back in the woods before we got off the road and came here. I mean you weren’t done were you? Isn’t there some sort of reason for our going to the Chokewood Forest?”

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For a long spell, the rain was the only sound he heard. “Lukus,” she said at last, “I may not be your sister at all. If there be any truth to what I was told at my awful birthday party, you and I are only cousins.”

“Oh go on,” he said with a laugh. “Surely you don’t mean first cousins? That would make one of us Ugleeuh’s child.”

“Ugleeuh? My word. You made that up.”

“No I didn’t.”

“But no one would ever name a… So who on earth is Ugleeuh?”

“Mother’s sister, Rose. Didn’t you know her name?”

“Something else I wasn’t to find out until I was sixteen, no doubt. How come they told you, anyway?”

“No one made a point of telling me. I don’t even remember how I found out, but you weren’t singled out. Good grief. It’s not as though anyone in the family was exactly proud of her.”

“But Lukus, I can’t believe Grandfather Razzmorten would name one of his daughters such a thing.”

“Well he didn’t. Mother said that Grandfather was away when the baby was born, and she said that the baby’s mother, Mother’s stepmother, named it before he returned. I guess she wasn’t very happy to have a child and took it out on the baby.”

“How awful. No wonder she grew up with such a chip on her shoulder.”

“Yeap. Probably had a lot to do with it, all right,” he said, rolling onto his haunches to stare into her face. “But good grief. She surely can’t be your mother. No way.”

“Yea? Well maybe Lukus, but somehow nobody, absolutely nobody back at the castle would be completely straight with me when I asked them, so I intend to find out for certain, one way or the other. So please don’t ask me any more questions right now. We need to get some rest. We have a long way to travel, yet.”

“But I want to know more about this, once we’re…”

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“Fine. On the road. Please, let’s go to sleep.”

The Collector Witch Render(Ch. 2, The Collector Witch)

 

 

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