Ceidwad the Diatryma Reads Wizard Razzmorten’s Comatose Mind

Diatryma_by_Christoferson

Without a word, Arwr, Lladdwr and Ceidwad sped away, pat, pat, patting over the leaves with Tors galloping furiously to keep up. Arwr lead them single file along the beginnings of a creek that was soon flanked with rock outcroppings which before long formed a deep hollow. Without the slightest hesitation to puzzle over landmarks, he took them directly to the foot of a huge sheer faced bluff of slate grey rocks which formed an overhang several rods long. At the back of the overhang a small cave ran in under the rock. In short order they had Razzmorten and Mary laid out on pallets of leaves.

Lukus knelt by Razzmorten and laid his hand on the old fellow’s forehead. He closed his eyes and quickly set about calming himself as he had been taught in order to readyFotolia_74796694_Subscription_Monthly_M CROPHEAD his magical energies to flow into his grandfather. He let these drain away until he began feeling the inevitable exhaustion which signaled where he must stop. He had no choice now but to rest before going any further. He opened his eyes and studied Razzmorten for any sign of success. He shook his head in weary dismay as he looked up at the hopeful faces gathered ’round him.

“I see no change at all,” he said. “I’ll have to eat and rest a bit, before I can try again.” He stood up on wobbly legs and clenched his teeth. “I can find nothing wrong with him at all. I wish I could read his mind. Then he could tell me what’s wrong.”

“I can do that for you,” said Ceidwad, lowering her head to peer into the cave.

“You diatrymas read minds?” he said, suddenly thinking about what she was saying.

“Yes.”

“But why didn’t you say so long before now?” he said before realizing that he just might sound as though he were making accusations.

“It wasn’t possible with us fleeing for our lives,” she said solemnly. “Mind to mind contact 4F14BB4B9with one who is unconscious is delicate business. It takes time and it’s always best
to see if the unconsciousness one will come around on his own.”

“Why? said Lukus. “Is it dangerous?”

“Not done right, no.”

“So you have a certain expertise?” he said, glancing at Rose.

“I’d not attempt such a thing without being confident. Of course, I’ll only proceed if you wish.”

Lukus looked at Rose. She turned aside to Fuzz and Myrtlbell who each nodded encouragingly.

“Please do, Ceidwad,” said Lukus. “We’ll never know unless you do.”

“Then please carry him to the mouth of the cave,” she said, “we never go inside.”

As soon as they got him moved, she slowly settled onto her keel, fluffed her feathers and gently laid her huge ebony beak across his forehead. After shifting her head a little, this way and that, she blinked a couple of times and then closed her eyes. Hubba Hubba leant so far forward on Rose’s shoulder while watching that he tumbled off and landed on the cave floor with a feathery plop. Pebbles flew down beside him as he picked himself up and gave a shake of his feathers. Taflu snickered, but sobered at once at a look from Fuzz.

images“Do all diatrymas read minds, Lladdwr?” whispered Rose.

“Generally only the hens amongst us,” he said softly. “They listen in on the dreams of our eggs and thereafter they keep track of the chicks in dead silence in the face of danger and while they forage.”

“Then her mind reading won’t heal?”

“I’m afraid it doesn’t, at least nothing beyond the reassurance it gives. But Ceidwad will be able to tell you what ails them and find out what needs to be done.”

At last, Ceidwad stood up and turned to face everyone, singling out Rose and Lukus.

“Your grandfather will survive and will indeed wake up in due time,” she said, “but I’ve no idea at all how long that will be. Those bolts from the sorceresses were much like lightening. If one is struck by lightening, he either dies right then and there or he’s left in a coma for who knows how long. Could be just a few hours; could be days. They got big jolts. Your Grandfather believes that they are both very lucky to have survived. They should be dead. In fact, he wonders if Demonica and Spitemorta deliberately let them live for some reason. So there’s no damage, but I’d allow that he’ll be asleep for some time to come.”

“Oh thank you!” said Rose, as she hugged Ceidwad, muffling a sob in her fluffy neck feathers “You’ve spared us so much worry.”

Ceidwad rattled her beak through Rose’s hair as Hubba Hubba hopped onto Razzmorten’s chest and walked up his beard to point one eye at his face. He stood there for a moment, then trotted back down his beard and flew to Lukus’s shoulder. “He doesn’t look any different at all, Lukus.”

“I’m not worried now,” said Lukus as he scratched Hubba Hubba’s head. “Two very wise birds have just told us he’ll recover, so I know he will.”Stone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle

“Righty-o!” he said with a proud flap of his wings and a whistle. He shook his feathers. “Now you’re catching on.”

“Absolutely,” said Lukus.

Ch. 19, Stone Heart 

Carol Marrs Phipps and 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

Demonica and Queen Spitemorta have Lunch: Part 2

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“That was fun, Grandmother,” said Spitemorta, pausing to count the severed fingers and toes which she was picking up from the floor of the rocking coach, all about the mutilated body lying between their feet. “It was particularly entertaining, freezing his throat and jaws. He never peeped, but do you suppose Merfyn noticed his kicking?” She flung a toe out the window and bounced with glee when she saw it land in a woman’s bread basket. “I can just see her now: ‘My word! I have a toe in my bread basket!'” She rocked back and forth with laughter, slapping her knee.

“I didn’t know you had a sense of humor, dear…”

“Here!” shouted Spitemorta as she leant out the window, launching her double handful of digits at a woman who caught them in her apron, only to collapse in a faint.

“I see we are at least managing to pass the time,” said Demonica.

“Well, I had to throw out the fingers,” she said, sitting back into the seat with a bounce. “And what shall we do with the body, Grandmother, leave it on King Theran’s doorstep on our way out of town?” 

“Hmm…crude and pointless, I think,” she said as she began studying the blood soaking her clothes. “No, let’s just pitch it out alongside the road once we’re out of town.Theran wouldn’t know who left it, unless you went to the trouble to make it plain to him somehow. But I can’t imagine wanting Theran so upset by our visit that he forms an alliance with Niarg for protection, can you?”

“He wouldn’t dare! Oh, all right. I see how he might.”

“Say. Be a good girl and clean up, would you?”

“What?”

“You’ve got the Staff. Everything’s positively soaked. We wouldn’t want Merfyn to open the door for us and run away.”

“Oh,” said Spitemorta as she took hold of the Staff. “Say no more Grandmother.” At once the blood was gone from their clothes and from the inside of the coach.

Demonica leant out the window. “Merfyn!” she hollered. “This is far enough. Get down from there and help us throw out this carcass!”

“Whoa!” called out Merfyn with a jingle of harness and a squeal of brakes. They listened to him scuffle down and hop onto the gravel with a crunch and click the latch. He threw wide the door and drew a breath, catching himself at the sight of the body and the two of them studying him from head to toe to see how he was managing. “Why he’s the one I helped in a few hours ago, isn’t he?” he said in in a polished and dutiful tone as his hands trembled. “Uh, was he any trouble?”

“Not in the least,” said Demonica. “In fact we found him surprisingly entertaining, considering his condition when we picked him up.”

“Well. I’ll declare. That’s a…” he stammered, utterly at a loss for bearings.

“Well Merfyn?” said Spitemorta.

“I see you did indeed say carcass,” he said, pausing to take a couple of furtive glances out and about. “So I reckon you also said…”

“Yes, Merfyn, throw him out. And ‘help’ actually means you do it.”

“Oh yes, Your Majesty. I certainly shall. It’s just that there are still houses, if ye know what I mean, and this being a foreign place and all…”

Demonica stepped out of the coach. “There’s not a soul in sight, Merfyn,” she said, as if she were coaxing a wary child to relieve himself in the bushes. “Now, get this kaoc’h ki du out of the coach, and drive straight back to Goll.”

He grabbed the body by an ankle and a wrist and drug it out into the ditch to return at once to hold the door for Demonica to climb aboard.

Demonica motioned for Spitemorta to step out with the Staff. “We’re staying, Merfyn. You drive straight back to Goll, this minute.”

Merfyn blinked in confusion. “Yes, but…”

“Go!” barked Spitemorta.

 ***

Excerpt from Ch 37, The Burgeoning    

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

Spitemorta Has Another Tantrum

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When Spitemorta returned to her bower in Castle Niarg just before midnight, she changed back her throat with the Heart and sent orders to the kitchen for roast duck with sour cabbage, dripping pudding and cider, even if she had to stay up until nearly sunrise to eat it. She did not mind. She could use the time to get rid of that offensive quart of sukee which reminded her of Coel, left over from her coronation. She had begun to find it odd that Demonica had not gotten in her way with her comments as she sauntered about, dangling her bottle, gloating about what she had set in motion.

She soon discovered that cider on top of the sukee nearly had her vomiting on her steaming plate of duck and pudding, so she daubed at the corners of her mouth, threw herself across the bed and slept until the middle of the afternoon. She rose, had half of a toad in the hole and a pinch of cold duck breast and sour cabbage and went back to bed until the following morning. She spent the next two days in her quarters, very busy with ordering about pages and hired help as she oversaw the clearing away of Minuet’s sheep shed and apple orchard for a jousting field and hand gonne range. She was beginning to think that she might have managed to leave Demonica behind at Oilean Gairdin. “Good! If that be the case,” she said, but she felt oddly anxious.

When she caught herself wishing that she had her grandmother to talk to, she grabbed up 2lflaggonthe empty sukee flagon and hurled it at the wall with a grating squeal. Instead, the contrary bottle went whirling out over the balcony to go bouncing end over end along the paving stones, six storeys down. When she heard no breaking glass, the rushed to the balustrade hoping to find that she had hit someone on the head. “Damn you Grandmother!” she shouted when she saw no one about. “You won’t let me have any fun…”

“Well it is nice to see you giving me the credit, dear,” said Demonica from right beside her, peering down at the bottle.

“Why did you have to show up, Grandmother? It was a relief having you gone for three days.”

“Odd that you kept seeming anxious for someone to talk to, or am I mistaken?”

“Yes you are.”

imagesdemonica“Or am I merely the wrong party? Perhaps you were hoping for your handsome general…”

“No!” shouted Spitemorta. Suddenly she smiled. “But I do have a thing or two he needs to find out,” she said quietly. “I mean, I think my trolls are going to be right useful, ‘way more than the stupid heathens from Gwael. Don’t you?”

Mindful of how Spitemorta’s voice carried, Demonica meandered back inside and sat on the bed. “It may have been unwise to leave Oilean Gairdin without appearing before the Dyrney as you agreed, dear,“ she said. “And you probably don’t want General Coel knowing what you make of his army, either.”

Spitemorta cast her a slit-eyed stare. “Poop!” she said, taking a chair by the bed that faced away from her. “The stupid trolls won’t even notice once they’ve had an Elf roast or two. And you know as well as I do that the Gwaels have been nothing but inferior. Let’s see how they like having my brute son and his trolls wipe out both the Elves and the Beaks when they’ve utterly failed to do so after all this time. I think I’ll quite enjoy rubbing Veyfnaryr’s victories in the good general’s arrogant face.”

“If you say so.”

“I certainly do say so. Coel needs to be put in his place. A bit of humiliation is just the thingimages (3)x for him.”

“That does sound like fun,” said Demonica with a deep and speculative nod. “But are you quite sure that you want to risk the father of your child losing face in front of all who might enjoy his lesson?”

“What utter nonsense are you going on about?” cried Spitemorta, springing to her feet at once to begin pacing. “You know very well that Coel’s not related in any way at all to my children.”

“Well certainly not to any of your grown children…”

“Nor to any future children, believe me…”

“Too late,” said Demonica. And with that she vanished.

hyacinths-fresh-cut-garden-lattelisa-blog-02“Damn you!” shrieked Spitemorta, grabbing up and flinging a vase of hyacinths, soaking the corner of the bed where Demonica had been sitting.

A peal of Demonica’s laughter rose and died away in the air across the room.

Spitemorta grabbed a footstool and hove it after the sound, only to have it fly as wide as the bottle had, knocking her new marble bust of herself off its pedestal and breaking off its head. With a rasping sob, she fell to her knees and covered her face. A mourning dove called from somewhere just beyond her balcony as she rocked and shuddered.

Running footsteps tramped to a halt outside her door and threw it open. “Your Omnipotence!” cried her page when he saw her on the floor. “Are you in peril?”

“Why not at all, Pissant,” she said with all the smiling radiance of a lady getting to her feet Pearsons-renaissance-shoppe-childs-costume-300x300in a sunny garden of daffodils. “Go to the kitchen, if you would, and tell old hefty

Bethan that I want hot cinnamon rolls with today’s churned butter and a nice hot pot o’ tea. And when you’re done with that, go find General Coel and send him here immediately. Then, return to the kitchen and see that my tea gets to me hot.

“And now…” she said soothingly as she unfastened the Heart from the Staff and gently passed it over his lips, erasing his mouth from his face. “This is for daring to walk in on the very empress of all the known world. You’ll have to think about it as you run your errand.” She turned him to face the mirror with his eyes of horror. “Now. If General Coel comes at once and the tea arrives hot, you may earn back the mouth you need to eat your next meal. Understood? Now go.”

 

Ch. 10, Doom, book six of Heart of the Staff: The Complete SeriesDoom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Heart of the Staff Complete Series Box (1)

 

Spitemorta Lands in the Fish Heads

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“Magic indeed!” huffed Spitemorta as she drummed her fingers on the arm of her great chair. “This aggravation of pinions and cogs mocks my patience. I swear. It does nothing for the fool watching its pointer but stop time. The only way you can ever see it move is by not looking at it for a while.” She snapped shut its lid with a sigh. “But I do like hand gonnes. I like them a lot.” She thoughtfully rolled her ebony egg about in her lap for a imagesdemonicamoment before opening its lid to stare at its dial of mother of pearl, inlayed with gold numerals. “The best thing about Gwaelian magic is that it can be practiced right out in front of the superstitious without getting them all upset. Honestly. I’m sick to death of peasants and fools.”

“Well then,” said Demonica, suddenly appearing out of a traveling spell with a skinweler in her hand, “you’re right ready to enjoy a little sortie to the coast to get away from them, aren’t you?”

“Don’t do that Grandmother!”

 “Don’t do what, dear? Don’t ask you to go on a sortie or don’t use traveling spells? You know such spells don’t bother me at all the way they do you…”

“You know what I mean, Grandmother. How dare you pop up in my face whenever the fancy strikes you.”

“Much better dear. You’re getting so that you’re nearly able to express what you mean the first time you try. Well, you won’t mind my sudden appearance in the least when you hear what I have to say.”

“Oh really? Then what?”

“You know, I think it would be in your best interest if you found out for yourself,” she said as she vanished.

 “Damn you, Demonica!” she snarled as she set aside her wind-up egg. “One of these days you’ll wish you’d never left Head.” She picked up her skinweler. “Very well, let’s see what’s at the coast, as if I can’t guess.” She paused, waiting for the swirling colors to clear. “Ha! The army. Their boats are just now arriving at the delta of the Bay of Gollsport. I suppose you win enough this time to have me feeling like puking, Grandmother.” She shifted the skinweler’s image to Demonica’s apartment and reached for the Staff.

“Ah. There you are dear,” said Demonica, with a canvas bag of skinwelerioù at her feet, obviously awaiting her arrival. “Here’s your cloak. I suppose you saw that it was raining on the coast?”

“No, I didn’t,” said Spitemorta, looking vexed and nauseated at the same time. “But since images (3)you seem to have thought of everything, did you make arrangements for Nasteuh, or must we waste time while I do?”

“All taken care of dear. So shall we be off then?”

“On the Staff? It is the middle of the day…”

“Well certainly, but with your being anxious enough to come to my room by spell… Very well. The weather is ideal for travel over the roads, that is if you overlook the rain on the coast.”

“No Grandmother. Let’s try a traveling spell. Let’s get there in time to meet them. Let’s just appear somewhere altogether out of sight.”

“My! We are anxious, aren’t we? With your nausea, that’s a right good piece to go, dear. But if you must, I know just the place to make for. Take my hand.”

Spitemorta paused long enough for a dry swallow and a deep breath before holding out her hand. Colors whirled madly in her head, making shooting pains in her eyeballs. “Aangh!” she cried as she tumbled onto her hands and knees in the edge of a great squishy pile of Brendan-McGarry-101102-00042rotting fish heads. “Aargh! Unngh!” she woofed as she belched and coughed up every bit of what she had eaten with her late morning tea. “Gracious sakes Grandmother!” She rolled back onto her haunches and staggered to her feet, flinging fetid fish juice from her fingers as she looked down the front of her kirtle. “Couldn’t you have picked a better place than this?”

“Well,” said Demonica as she took a quick step back, “I’d considered the grave yard, but since they’re having a funeral, scaring the mourners out of their wits is a bit self-centered, don’t you think? Anyway as you can see, it’s still raining. But before you clean up enough to put on this cloak, you’ve dropped the Staff in the fish heads…”

“You pick it up!”

“Ah, ah, ah! Your staff, your responsibility, dear.”

 

Ch.41, The Burgeoning, book four of Heart of the Staff: The Complete Series

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Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Heart of the Staff Box

 

DOOM: The Heart of the Staff, book 6 Now Available

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The Final Book of The Heart of the Staff series

With 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.

But then, General Coel, commander of all of her armies, brings tidings that four Elves have appeared in Niarg. These Elves should have been killed and eaten by her trolls, twenty years ago. And with these Elves returns the threat that the ancient Elven Prophecy predicting her downfall and death could still come to pass.

And somewhere far away, Ariel and Daniel, the very twins foretold in the Prophecy have become more powerful than any sorceress or wizard ever known. Together they could be invincible.

But can they destroy Spitemorta and her great tools of power? The time has come and one thing is certain. Either the twins and the rebellion will meet their doom, or Spitemorta and her minions will.

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Spark Worries with Edward and Laora out Late

Part Five

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“I’m quite sure they’ll be along any minute with a completely sensible explanation of why they’re so late,” said Spark, trading anxious looks with Lipperella.

“I’ll go out and look for them right after this cake!” said Flash, champing and fuffing out crumbs from his mouthful.

“Don’t, or we’ll have to come looking for you, too,” said Lipperella. “Now all of you help me clean up before you go out for your evening flight.”

“I knew it,” declared Tors as he stepped into the kitchen with Gweltaz. “Please tell us we aren’t too late.”

“Too late for Edward and Laora, Uncle Tors?” said Flame.

“We meant your mother’s delicious cake,” said Tors, grabbing up a piece with an appreciative glance at Lipperella. “What about Edward and Laora?”

“Oh nothing. They’re just missing is all,” said Flash.

“Well, not really,” said Spark, “just a little late. They’ll be here directly, I’m sure.”

“I’d have thought so long before now,” said Lipperella, “particularly since Laora knew we were50313_327693446601_8122729_n going to have this kangaroo rat pie. She and the rest of the Mob spent hours chasing down all the rats for it. Oh here, Gweltaz. Have some. There’s plenty of that left, as well as the cake. You too, Tors. And here’s some rat hair gravy to go over it. Want me to warm it up?”

“No need,” said Gweltaz, as he and Tors gobbled down their pie, watching the Mob file out for their evening flight. “This is delicious, Lipperella. Have you tried pickling them? I sure miss the pickled voles you used to make.”

“Yea I have, but I just can’t get the pimentos to stay in their eye sockets like the voles.  

“Hmm,” said Tors, “‘late’ and ‘missing,’ you say. Is that really the same as, ‘Oh nothing?'”

“Yea,” said Gweltaz. “No reason we can’t help you go find them. I mean, we hear what you’re saying, Spark, but you and Lipperella both look worried.”Sinornithosaurus_mag

“Well,” said Spark, sharing his worried looks with Lipperella, “we’ve been letting them explore where they like so long as they return when we say, and until this evening they’ve never been late…”

“Then it’s not long ’till dusk, so…” said Tors, swallowing his last bite of pie.

“So let’s round up the Mob and get cracking,” said Lipperella, tossing aside her apron.

 

The Burgeoning, Ch. 30The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_Kindle

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps