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.

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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

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

Ocker the Raven

“Now look!” cried Demonica. “You knocked my flowers into the syrup, fowl!”

“So? Stop waving your swyving arms, then. Besides, I want you to do something for me…”

“What, then?”

“I want you to make hit so that I can travel anywhere I want by spell, instead of just to here and back,” he said as he wiped off his beak and gave himself a thorough shake.

“For what? What’s your news?”

“I already gave hit to you when you said you gave me the powers of a swyving hedge wizard…”

“So you suddenly think I should pay you twice, aye?”

“Listen, queinte!” he squawked, thrusting himself up to bristle like a pine cone. “I’ve learnt from a right true source that magic powers can’t be given. You’re either born with them, or you’re not. And I was, so you knew hit when you tricked me.”

“I’ll pay you well for the name of who told you.”

Ocker is the only raven known who is able to use magic. In Good Sister, Bad Sister, he lives with his wife Urr-Urr at their nest atop the great bluff overlooking the keep of the evil wizard Razzorbauch. Based on the behavioral studies of ravens by ethologist Bernd Heinrich and the folklore of Native Americans and Celts, Ocker is a profane, amoral huckster, who is forever wheedling things he wants from powerful people in exchange for tidbits of choice information. He does routine business with Demonica the sorceress as well as Razzorbauch, but he also has occasional dealings with Meri Greenwood the Fairy and the Jutland Elves. When Ocker sells the whereabouts of Greenwood’s lover to Razzorbauch as well as to Greenwood, the lover and her sisters are doomed to live in Mount Bed forever. Even so, it is Ocker who ends up saving the day.

We seldom use profanities in our writing, but Ocker is a most profane character, so we have him swearing exclusively with obsolete English words. The above passage is as foul and graphic as any swearing you’ll ever hear on the street.

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps  

Ariel says she Could Die

 

“We’re done Grandfather,” said Daniel.

 

“So I see.” he said, fitting his spectacles onto his face.

“How did we do?” said Ariel as she and Daniel sat beside him.

“A question like that has been nothing but a respectful formality for some time, my dear,” he said.

“Perfect then?” said Daniel.

“Absolutely,” he said with a deep nod. “And this completes anything which I might contribute until Neron has worked with you for a time and we get you ready to go study with Meri Greenwood. And it is he who will prepare you for your staves and take you to see Longbark in Mount Bed.”

“And then?” said Ariel. “Are we…?”

“Oh,” he said with a smile. “I expect we’ll have you back here again for one final inspection and a little practice.”

“And then we get her…” said Daniel.

“When the moment falls exactly right,” said Razzmorten as everyone went silent, listening to the swallows and the trickling water and the river pounding in the deep reaches, drawing away the echoes from the sink.

Daniel dug at the rocks with a twig.

“Abaddon ought to be back with Toast, directly,” said Razzmorten, looking at Ariel with sudden innocence.

“Great-Grandfather Razzmorten is naught but a matchmaker,” said Arial, giving him a peck on his cheek.

“Not at all. You’ve had your heart bond for all these years.”

“Are we done?” said Daniel.

“With magic, anyway. Go enjoy the day.”

“Thanks Grandfather,” he said, tossing aside his twig.

“Father keeps saying that in spite of the bond, I might eventually be safer away from Abby,” said Ariel.

“Yea? Is that what you want?”

“Maybe it’s best for Abby. I mean I could die…”

“No you’re not. And worse than that, you’re guessing. How’s that fit for a young and powerful sorceress? What do you want to do with your guesses, anyway, break his heart and then go die? Maybe you’d better do what your heart wants.”

“You’re right as usual,” she said as she stood and brushed the seat of her skirt. “I shall indeed follow my heart.”

“And you’re not going to say another word about dieing,” he called out after her as she stepped into the lava tube. “Ye hear?”

Ch 2, Doom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Neron Knew all Along

 

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“Wizards. You’re joking,” said Lukus as he stared in disbelief across the table at King Neron. “Daniel and Ariel are just babies.”84526848

“At the moment, they are not yet wizards,” said Neron, “for as you say, they are babies. But as they grow up, they will indeed become wizards. When they’re older, they’ll come into their magic, and it’s absolutely vital that they begin learning to use and control it the moment you realize it has appeared. They will be more powerful than anyone has ever been before, even more powerful than the First Wizard.”

“Because there are two of them?”

“No, because you aren’t an ordinary Human, Lukus. You’re becoming a strong wizard in your own right, even if you’ve only begun your training. All Human wizards descend from the First Wizard, as you know. Your having children by an Elf, particularly one with a lineage as exceptionally endowed with magical ability as Soraya’s, means that those medievalmenswear13children cannot help but be the most magically gifted beings who’ve ever been born. They will be a favorable match for the evil that has recently been loosed upon the Continent.”

“But, Spitemorta and Demonica have the Great Staff and the Heart,” said Lukus.

“Yes,” said Neron, “right powerful objects indeed, created by the First Wizard, who was the most powerful until now…”

“You knew this,” said Lukus. “You knew this back when Rose and I first came to these woods. Danneth said something back then that stayed with me. He said: ‘then it is time.’ This is what he was talking about, isn’t it? Does Soraya know this, too? Is that why she married me, so that we could breed wizards for this evil age?”

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Neron’s eyes flashed. “I see why you say this, Lukus,” he said, at once letting go of what had just flared as he sagged with a heavy sigh. “Would I do that to my own kin? I make mistakes, but have you truly seen me do things that would lead you to such an accusation? Things have come to pass due entirely to the Fates and to circumstance. We saw it coming, Lukus. That much is true, but we manipulated nothing. We had nothing, absolutely nothing to do with you and Soraya meeting and forming a heart bond. This I swear unto you: she loves you freely and unconditionally. Please, never mistake that. It article-2528305-1A43A85C00000578-700_306x423istrue that when the bond between you was certain, we knew that things which could not bechanged had been set into motion on this path, but knowing it is not the same as causing it. You must understand that. I’m only telling you this now because you have to be told.Would you have had me tell you early on and risk injuring the love which was unfolding between you and Soraya?”

“I’m sorry,” said Lukus, slumping back against his chair. “I am indeed very sorry. Please do forgive me. You’ve been nothing but fair and wonderful the entire time I’ve known you. I’d not have had you do anything different than what you’ve done. It’s what you have to say that scares me. I fear for my children. They’re in danger, aren’t they?”

“From the moment they were conceived,” said Neron. “Until the evil ones and the Heart and the Staff are destroyed, Daniel and Ariel will live in the shadow of peril. Our single most important mission of all is to keep them safe.”

Ch 34, Stone Heart

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Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

 

Who are Daniel and Ariel?

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Daniel and Ariel are fabled twins of Elven prophesy, the children of Soraya and Lukus, destined to bring down the terrible witches who wield the Heart and Staff to rule the world… if you hold with Elven lore.

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The witches certainly do. Empress Spitemorta so fears the very possibility of any Elf ever having children by a human that she has decreed that every living Elf shall be found andStone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle slain. And indeed the twins have the lineage, with Soraya an Elven princess and Lukus the descendant of the great First Wizard. Spitemorta’s grandmother Demonica destroys the Elven Castle at Oilean Gairdin, sending the Elves fleeing into the wilderness with Soraya and Lukus and the twins for years to come.

DoomIn the midst of their exodus, Ariel forms a heart bond with Abaddon, Spitemorta’s very son. Will the Prophesy not come to pass?

 

 

 

 

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

 

Is Abaddon Putting her in Peril?

 

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Daniel and Ariel were brought up to have the most circumspect virtue and modesty. Even if they were to become the most powerful in the world amongst the magically endowed, they were never allowed to show it. It is not at all surprising then, that they kept many games and amusements to themselves. They routinely played a kind of invisible tag asshutterstock_89916550 they traveled by spell back and forth across the broad basin of obsidian sands between Spring ‘n’ Drain and Razzmorten’s great sink-hole “tower” at the Vaults of Niarg. Today, they arrived outside the Vaults playing a rough game of “spell jousting,” with Ariel getting there in time to knock Daniel a good fifty rods wide of where he meant to appear.

“Damn!” he cried, tumbling out of the air onto his hands and knees in the sand. “How’d you get here first?” He was on his feet at once, swatting his hat against his leg as he hurried over to where she stood. Suddenly he stopped short to watch a streak of lightning branch out across the heavens before a black shelf of lowering clouds. “What did you do to the sky?”

“Nothing!”

“Fiddlesticks!” he cried. “Here it comes!” And with that, they raced uphill for a gaping lava tube in time to be overtaken and thoroughly soaked by the arrival of a pelting wall of rain before they managed to get inside.

“How long’s it been?” she said, catching her breath as she squeezed water from her hair.

“Since the last rain?” he said, studying the deluge which was already tumbling in torrents down the folds in the hillside. “I was just thinking. I’d allow it’s been every bit of the seven years they say it’s supposed to be between rains, even if you did cause it…”

“I did not! And you know it. But I could sure feel the spirit of it in the air, right when we were spell jousting. I wondered why on earth it was so bloomin’ hard to heave you off to one side.”

“Maybe you thought so, but you sure sent me a-sprawling. You command a right smart amount of power these days, sister dear,” he said, pausing to squint at her face. “All right. What’s the matter?”

Ariel shook her head.

“Oh yes there is. I know my dear sister. What is it? Abaddon’s poisoning your well again? What’s he saying this time? The Prophecy’s just an old wives’ tale, or what?”

“He is not!” she said, biting her thumbnail as she looked out into the rain.

Daniel folded his arms and rolled his eyes.a9d58e6a220145c3376074ebc15e9f02

“Very well. He found out that the Prophecy actually came from the Fire Sprites of the Eastern Continent and not the Elves at all, so he’s begun using that.”

“He’s crazy.”

1e97d87cfb68e52a666665bdc0f45198“Yea…” she said as a crash of thunder made both of them jump. “About me, he is. The thought of losing me is starting to tear him up.”

“Damn him!”

“He doesn’t want anything to happen to you either, while you’re being all hard on him…”

“Hard on him?” he said, flinging a rock out into the storm. “Shit fire! I don’t care if you do have a heart bond. You keep listening to his drivel and you’ll lose what it takes at the last minute and get both of us killed.”

“I will not! No way! Not with everything Grandfather’s taught us over the years…”

Bede on his deathbed completing his translation of St. John’s Gospel, by James Doyle Penrose (1902)

“Now that’s giving me credit…” said Razzmorten from right behind them.

“Grandfather!” she gasped. “How long have you been there?”

“You mean how much did I hear?” he said, lunging out with a proper brown spit for the storm. “I heard enough to know that your taking this particular time to worry about your heart bond may be putting you in peril. I mean, if you’re daring to think of anything but the task ahead, then I may well have been remiss in my teaching…”

 

“Peril! What earthly peril could there be when neither witch has so much as flown across the desert within our lifetimes?”

Razzmorten stepped into her gaze and gently patted her cheek. “Then I have indeed been remiss,” he said, “And Neron will return any day now.”

 

Ch. 13, Doom

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Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

 

 

Fuzz Reveals Himself

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Fuzz the Bear reveals himself to Rose and Lukus in The Collector Witch

“Hello there my friends!” he called out as they approached. “Looks like rotten old Ugleeuh was right!”   

Rose and Lukus were astonished at the sight of him. He had an apt name all right, for his skin was indeed covered with a thin nearly velveteen chestnut fuzz, but that fact didn’t prepare them for the shock of his looks. He was scrawny, long necked and huge headed, with stubby limbs and a ponderous melon for a paunch that scarcely cleared the ground when he stood.   (Ch 16)

 They had been back in Fuzz’s den for some time before he limped in, bedraggled and winded. Still with his full pails of precious booty, he stumbled onto the floor at Rose and Lukus’s feet without spilling a bit.

 “Oh my!” said Rose as she fell to her knees beside him. “You’ve been stung from head to toe! You must be in terrible pain.” “Actually no,” he said, managing a feeble grin. “Woozy to beat the band. Dizzy, dizzy! Pain didn’t last long, though. Never does, but a bear with no hair does get nailed a lot. Makes me wonder if I’m even really fuzzy. No need for a fuss. I’m used to dealing with those old bees. I’ll be fine once I catch my breath.”

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“Well,” said Rose, “you certainly don’t look fine. You’re soaked to the bone and covered with stingers.” She turned to Lukus. “I think you should get a fire started so we can get him dried out.”

Lukus set to work at once, impressing Rose with a nice crackling fire in short order. (Ch 17)

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“Fuzz,” said Rose, giving him a squint, “you certainly know a lot about Gastro, Ugleeuh and Niarg. Why is that?”

Fuzz was quiet for so long that she was not certain if he had heard her, or if she had hurt his feelings in some way, but at last he met her eyes and cleared his throat.

“Yes, I do know a good deal about those things,” he said, as he slowly rubbed the scar on his face. “You see I was, or am, perhaps Gastro’s best friend. I was there when all of this happened. Now I see by the looks of both of you, that you have dozens of questions, and before you start in with all of that, let me say that it is getting quite late and we need to get up very early to start on our journey in the morning. Perhaps you could grant an old bear a bit of a reprieve until tomorrow? We can then take up this tale once more as we travel, if it pleases the two of you to do so. And I will indeed answer anything you ask.”

“We’d love it,” said Lukus. “Just one teensy short little question and then we will fly straight to bed.” 

Fuzz nodded with a sigh.

“You aren’t really a bear, are you?”

The_Collector_Witch_Cover_for_Kindle

“No I’m not, Lukus. Gastro and I grew up together in Niarg and we’ve been close friends for as long as I can remember. When he vanished, I surmised that Ugleeuh’d had something to do with it and set out to discover just what. Eventually I came here in search of answers and found him, a sea monster. By then however, Ugleeuh had been banished here too, and she had no intention of letting me leave to tell the tale.” He drew a deep breath as a bristly shudder swept through him. “It amused her mightily to turn me into…this. And so, I remain a bear to this day, and probably for all the rest of my days, as well. Now please, no more questions until we are underway tomorrow.”

Rose and Lukus each quietly hugged poor old Fuzz and went straightaway to bed as their heads reeled with a veritable avalanche of questions.   (Ch 17)

 ****

“They arrested her and called for me, and I sent for Razzmorten while she still held the incriminating vial in her hand…”

“You?” said Rose. “Just who were you, anyway? Gastro’s friend, sure, but you know so much. What was your connection with Niarg Castle?”

images (1)“Captain of the Royal Guard, if you must. Sir Karlton Strong. And I remember the very day you were born, Rose.”

“So when did you come?”

“Here? Well, I was Fuzz the Bear well before Lukus came along, I should think. But as I was saying, Ugleeuh still had the vial in her hand when we got there. The dishes were set on the floor before two good hounds which fell dead, gobbling them up.” By now Fuzz had found a rock to sit on beside the path. He shook his head as if to clear away the memories. “That’s the main reason for Ugleeuh’s exile,” he said as he clapped his forepaws onto both knees at once, launching himself onto his feet. “We’ve got to move. It’s a long, dangerous way, yet.”   (Ch 19)

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps