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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Is Abaddon Putting her in Peril?

 

HenryCavill

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

Doom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

 

 

Books by Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

It is the very worst time to be in the woods.
Oisin’s plan is to come with his bow to help Aedan and Doona lead a party of children into the forest to gather the maidenhair seedlings his people would take across the sea as they flee the trolls who hunt them as prey. Maybe he can be back in time for supper.           
Dyr’s plan is an early evening head smash for the foolish Elves who think they can steal away to the sands of the endless eye sting water and build their strange float huts. They will make a glorious feast.
But on the way, Dyr’s brutes stumble across Oisin’s gathering party and attack, leaving Aedan mortally wounded and scattering Doona and the children to flee in terror into the dark mountain woods, only to be run down and captured by the bloodthirsty trolls.
Can Oisin find the bonfires of the trolls and rescue them before it’s too late? And what then? Will any of them live long enough to reach safety?
Minuet Dewin, eldest daughter of the wizard Razzmorten, practically raised her half sister Leeuh, who was abandoned by her mother. For many years, Minuet is Leeuh’s passionate champion. As time passes, Leeuh becomes increasingly hard to defend as she grows determined to be awful at every turn. Whilst undoing her dangerous pranks, Minuet finds herself the target of her hatred and jealousy. And when they fall for the same prince, it looks like war.
Suddenly Leeuh vanishes. She returns years later, compliant and sweet as she always should have been. Minuet is stunned. Should she trust her, or will it be the very death of her?  
Rose is not inclined to believe idle gossip, but as she ruminates on the way her  parents acted when she confronted them with what she’d heard she becomes convinced they didn’t tell her everything. But why? Determined to uncover the entire truth for herself and learn if she is really the daughter of an evil sorceress she sets out on a desperate quest to a forbidden forest that has the unsettling reputation of swallowing up those foolish enough to enter.
           
From the beginning Rose’s journey is beset with pitfalls and challenges. She doesn’t get beyond the stables before her younger brother appears and blackmails his way into becoming her self-appointed protector and traveling companion. Together they evade the Royal Niargian Guard, survive a cyclone, escape from the castle of Rose’s betrothed, discover Elves really do exist, as do werebeasts, cyclopses and centaurs, then negotiate the perils of the Valley of Illusions.
           
When they reach the Chokewood Forest they encounter a horde of miniature devils, choking fruit, and cannibals who take them captive. However, before the cannibals can turn Rose and Lucas into their next feast, a bizarre hag crashes the cannibal’s party and rescues them only to lead them into a mad fantasy forest that appears very like a dream world, where nothing is as it seems. The crone announces that they are now her prisoners and they ‘owe her’ for saving them. She takes them to her cabin where they discover the hag is the very sorceress they seek. And then things really get strange.
A great evil awakens to shatter Niarg’s peaceful world.

In her remote island keep off the shores of Head, the fearsome sorceress Demonica at last learns from her unfaithful husband Yann-Ber the whereabouts of the long lost Staff of Power. He crawls before her to tell her that it has turned up in the hands of her granddaughter Spitemorta, the new queen of Goll, hoping to buy his release from her horrid curse of boils. She is ecstatic about the Staff, but will never forgive his faithlessness. He will be released, all right. He will get to die in one year, after the most excruciating boils yet to come.

Demonica leaves for Goll at once. She arranges an accident for the nanny of Spitemorta’s son, becomes the new nanny herself and offers to teach Spitemorta how to develop her considerable powers. Spitemorta accepts at once, thereby uniting the two most dangerous sorceresses of the age, determined to conquer the world. Their first step is to find the First Wizard’s Stone Heart which would make the Staff the most powerful tool of all time.

The Burgeoning

With both the Great Staff of Power and the Stone Heart in their hands at last, it seems that nothing can stop Demonica and Queen Spitemorta from crushing Niarg and conquering the entire world. King Hebraun of Niarg is dead and not a single Elf is left alive in the Jutwoods.

 Spitemorta’s husband, King James, tries to ride out of Castle Goll with her Great Staff of Power, but is tortured by Demonica and her and locked away to die in the fleas and fetid straw of the dungeon. He manages to escape across the Great Barrier Mountains, just as the army and people of Niarg are sent out into the countryside by Queen Minuet and Wizard Razzmorten, who flee to the Pitmaster’s Kettles in time for Spitemorta and Demonica to effortlessly destroy Castle Niarg. Is this the end of everything?

The Reaper Witch

The_Reaper_Witch_Cover_for_Kindle

Niarg has fallen to the dark sorceresses Demonica and Queen Spitemorta. The dragons have fled from their caves. Confident that Queen Minuet and Wizard Razzmorten are dead, and that the trolls have eaten every breathing Elf, Spitemorta brings down the last hamlets of the Northern Continent as she prepares to conquer the rest of the world.

But Queen Minuet and Wizard Razzmorten do live and are hiding in the crater of Mount Bedd with the Fairy guardians of the Forest Primeval, where they wait for what remains of their army before fleeing to the Black Desert to live beneath its burning sands with the dragons and all of the Elves who escaped Demonica’s great troll raid, down their hidden river.

Is this truly the end of Niarg and freedom everywhere in world? Can Elves, dragons and men live outside her bondage, or will the Reaper Witch find them and enslave them once and for all? 

DoomDoomComing in 2014: The final book in the Heart of the Staff series

GOOD SISTER, BAD SISTER Now FREE on Amazon

Good_Sister,_Bad_Sis_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

Minuet Dewin, eldest daughter of the wizard Razzmorten, practically raised her half sister Leeuh, who was abandoned by her mother. For many years, Minuet is Leeuh’s passionate champion. As time passes, Leeuh becomes increasingly hard to defend as she grows determined to be awful at every turn. Whilst undoing her dangerous pranks, Minuet finds herself the target of her hatred and jealousy. And when they fall for the same prince, it looks like war.

 

Suddenly Leeuh vanishes. She returns years later, compliant and sweet as she always should have been. Minuet is stunned. Should she trust her, or will it be the very death of her?  Good Sister, Bad Sister

 

 

 

 

 

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PROLOGUE

“Please forgive the interruption, Sorceress,” said Budog, as he and the other guard hove their captive onto the slippery stone floor, “but he’s back again.”

“You and Mazhev had better…” said Demonica, turning aside from her prisoner on the torture table, writhing in his irons. “This had better be important.” Her ageless face seethed with fury in the wavering torchlight.

“This thing says he has some real information for you, this time,” said Budog, nodding at his captive.

“Oh, yes, yes!” pleaded the captive, as he sat up on his haunches. “This time I do have. This time I truly have what you want to know, Demonica, my love.”

“Never address me in that manner again!” she shrieked, as she kicked him in the gut, doubling him over to lie straining, cheek down on the clammy floor.

“Forgive me, Mistress!” he shouted, heaving in his first breath with a gasp. “Please! I quite forgot myself! I meant no disrespect! I swear!”

“Very well, Yann-Ber!” she barked, as she lunged at his face and spat. “What do you think you have to tell me?” She stood back to study her saliva, glistening on the mass of boils swelling his face. “You’d do well to hope you aren’t wasting my time, dearest.”

An agonized moan from the man on the table caught Yann-Ber’s eye. He shuddered at the sight of him, envying the wretched fellow’s nearness to death. Soon he’ll be free of this, he thought, and maybe I shall be free as well, if what I bring suffices…

“Out with it, you vile kaoc’h ki du!” she screamed, flinging her knee into his face to crush his nose with a resounding pop.

 Yann-Ber wailed out in pain and clapped his hands over his face, his eyes still bearing the strength to give his wife a look of hatred. “Your daughter is dead,” he sputtered from between his bloody hands. “And your granddaughter has ascended the throne of Goll…” He closed his eyes for a moment and reeled, coming to grips with his pain. “They say she’s got her hands on the Great Staff, you know, the Staff of Power, though no one seems to think that she uses it.”

“Just how sure are you?”

“I wouldn’t dare aggravate you with anything I was unsure of, Demonica.”

“So how do you know, Yann-kaoc’h?” she said, suddenly lifting her knee as though she were going to strike him again. He winced and fell sideways, catching himself on his elbow. She threw back her head and made the halls of the dungeon ring with her laughter. “You stinking pomander of pustules, just how is it that you manage to know this?”

“A few still deny that she has the Great Staff at all,” he said, pulling himselfupright, “but she certainly had no staff of any kind when she came to the throne, and then she suddenly had one, right when her mother died. Too many reliable people have seen it. And you said…”

“This time you’ve actually learnt something, Yann-Ber,” she said, suddenly brandishing a high spirited gloat. “So. Back to Norz-meurzouar it is again.”

She turned to Budog and Mazhev. “And you two finish up this mess for me,” she said, waving her manicured hand at the man on the torture table. “I have far more important business waiting on the Northern Continent.” She swept past Yann-Ber without a glance, heading for the door.

“Wait! Demonica, please!” cried Yann-Ber, lunging after her on knees swollen huge from boils, only to tumble forward onto his hands from the pain.

Demonica stopped in the doorway. “I don’t have time for this, Yann-Ber.”

“The curse!” he shouted through the blood on his face, as he rocked back and forth, coming to grasp with the pain in his knees. “You promised me! You gave me your word that if I found out the whereabouts of the Staff, then you’d end this curse. And she does have it. You’ll see. Please, Demonica! Have mercy! I’m your husband! You cared for me once. Please!”

“Are you certain you want that, Yann-Ber?” she said with a light in her eyes, as a ruby lipped smile spread across her face.

“What else could I want?” he rasped.

“So be it,” she said, making several signs in the air before turning crisply and walking out of sight.

“Demonica!” he shouted. “Nothing has changed! I still live! What treachery is this?”

The stony echo of her footsteps halted, then began again and stopped as she came back into view. “On the contrary, Yann-Ber, your death has been irrevocably scheduled, in spite of how slow and agonizing you may think it.” She threw her head back with a peal of laughter. “You see, dear heart, I always keep my promises.”

“But, so do I.”

“Ah! Ah! Ah! But not to me. Remember that it was your faithlessness to me that earned you your nightmare spell of boils. So, as I was saying, I do keep mine, and you will most assuredly be dead within the year, though it will seem such a long time to someone with your lack of patience,” she said, glancing at the crimson toes of her shoes as she adjusted the pleats down the front of her gown.

“I’ll kill myself.”

“You can try, Yann-Ber,” she said with a demure smile, “but unfortunately it will never work.” At once she turned and strode into the hallway, here and there erupting into laughter as her reverberating footfalls passed beyond hearing.

“You witch!” he screamed as he tottered onto his feet, only to be seized by the hair and thrown flat onto the floor by Budog who pinned him mercilessly with both knees, yanking his arm around backward until it snapped, making him wail out in pain.

“Hurt your little armsie, stinkfish?” he hissed through his rotten teeth. “Too bad that’s all I broke.” He yanked Yann-Ber to his feet by the hair and pointed him toward the torture table. “Thing is, you stink so much, I can’t concentrate on my work here.” He shoved him flailing for balance towards the door. “Now. If Mazhev or I even see you again, we’ll play with you awhile like that fellow on the table.”

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With both the Great Staff of Power and the Stone Heart in their hands at last, it seems that nothing can stop Demonica and Queen Spitemorta from crushing Niarg and conquering the entire world. King Hebraun of Niarg is dead and not a single Elf is left alive in the Jutwoods.

 Spitemorta’s husband, King James, tries to ride out of Castle Goll with her Great Staff of Power, but is tortured by Demonica and her and locked away to die in the fleas and fetid straw of the dungeon. He manages to escape across the Great Barrier Mountains, just as the army and people of Niarg are sent out into the countryside by Queen Minuet and Wizard Razzmorten, who flee to the Pitmaster’s Kettles in time for Spitemorta and Demonica to effortlessly destroy Castle Niarg. Is this the end of everything?

EXCERPT

Lance shifted on his saddle in the thick whirling snow and gathered his collar over his muffler as he peered from under his hat at the top of the mountain. “Well Abaddon,”he called out cheerfully over the wind, “we’ll be over the top directly and we’ll be getting out of this weather!”

 “My momma’s goin’ ‘o kill you for stealing me away from her,” said Abaddon with a baleful snarl. “And when I tell her all about it, she’ll hurt you a whole lot for a long, long time before she stops your heart.”

“Oh, she’ll have to catch us first,” said Lance buoyantly, as a shudder ran through him.

“She’ll catch you, all right! Oh, yes she will! And it’ll be a lot of fun!”

After five long days in the cold, it’s a mercy we won’t have to sleep out in this, thought Lance with another shudder as the unicorns stepped their way up, crunching loose shards of stone through the new layer of snow. Having grown up here, he was familiar with the sudden fierce winter storms up in the Pitmaster’s Kettles. He glanced aside at Abaddon. In spite of how good he’d always been with children, the boy unnerved him.

I’ll do it for James, he thought, wishing he did not have to. Abaddon looked up at himwith a red-eyed glower, as if he knew exactly what he had just been thinking, giving hima sudden bristle of goose flesh. He quickly turned away. Surely he doesn’t read thoughts. I’ve never heard that Spitemorta does. He looked back again to suddenly feel guilty for thinking all of this at the sight of Abaddon looking right at him with the innocent smile of a boy on an adventure. He smiled back and began searching for the path over the top.

“Here we go!” he called out. “Right yonder! Just keep Sheba close to Stepper and we’ll soon be out of the weather in the heart of this ol’ mountain!”

“What do you mean? You don’t mean we’re going clean inside it, do you?”

“Sure do,” said Lance with a nod. “This is a vulcan mountain. Its top was once a cauldron of melted red-hot rock. If it weren’t for the snow, you’d see frozen rivers of rock running down it’s sides from long ago. That’s what all the black rock between the trees was, ‘way back down below, before we ever started up here. The top of each one of these mountains for miles and miles is a deep pit. that’s why they’re called the Pitmaster’s Kettles. And here we are.” He slapped his hand onto his hat in the furious wind at the very top of the slope as his unicorn hesitated between a pair of boulders on the rim, stepping restlessly from side to side before finding his first steps of the steep decent beyond. “See out yonder? the whole top of this mountain is naught but a giant deep hole. And here we go, on the path right down into the mountain, but you watch out and keep Sheba close behind. I don’t want you falling off the side. It’s a long way down.”

 “I better not fall. My momma would kill you even worse if I did.”

 “Yea, and your dad wouldn’t be too happy either.”

 Abaddon gave a contemptuous snort, but quickly donned a look of excited expectancy in spite of himself. Soon they were below the wind, carefully finding their way down the narrow path, knocking loose rocks to go skittering and bounding off into the depths. He anxiously peered down into the crater, but strain as he might, he could not see the bottom. “Hey,” he demanded. “It’s gettin’ darker and darker. How are we going to see? In fact, what’s going to keep us from falling off?”

 “Stepper and Sheba. The unicorns see a lot better in the dark than we do and they’re completely sure-footed if you don’t rush them. They’ll find their way. Besides, it’ll get lighter before long.”

 “You’re crazy. It’s been getting darker and darker.”

 “Well, when you get down far enough, there’s quite a lot of glow lichen growing, though we’re not far enough to tell it yet. Have you noticed it getting warmer?”

 “The wind’s died down is all. It’s not any warmer.”

 “Well, what do you suppose happened to all the snow, Abby?”

 “You’re not allowed to say things like that! You’re supposed to call me ‘Your Highness!'”

 “Well, maybe when you earn it…”

 Abaddon drew a breath for a furious shout, but fell silent with a gasp at the sudden sight of a faint glow, far below in the blackness.

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Rose’s parents couldn’t be telling her everything. Frantic to find out if she really is the daughter of an evil sorceress, she makes a rash departure on a quest to the Chokewoods, a forest of horrors which no one in her kingdom dares to enter.

Her journey is beset with challenges. Her brother Lukus accosts her in the stables and blackmails her into traveling with him. Together they evade royal authorities, survive a cyclone, escape from the castle of her betrothed, and discover that trolls, Elves and cyclopses really do exist as do the perilous visions which they struggle with in the Valley of Illusions.

In the Chokewoods, they narrowly survive a horde of flesh eating devils, the fruit of the choke oak and a village of beasts who take them captive. As the beasts prepare to make a feast of them, a hag crashes through the treetops and rescues them, leading them away into a mad forest of her own where she turns them into thralls and taunts them with threats, telling them that they owe her.

Rose and Lukus soon find that life everywhere has become a desperate struggle with an evil seeking to conquer the world as liberty, privacy and fundamental human dignity become forbidden.

 

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Good Sister, Bad Sister, book one of the Heart of the Staff series

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Minuet Dewin, eldest daughter of the wizard Razzmorten, practically raised her half sister Leeuh, who was abandoned by her mother. For many years, Minuet is Leeuh’s passionate champion. As time passes, Leeuh becomes increasingly hard to defend as she grows determined to be awful at every turn. Whilst undoing her dangerous pranks, Minuet finds herself the target of her hatred and jealousy. And when they fall for the same prince, it looks like war.

Suddenly Leeuh vanishes. She returns years later, compliant and sweet as she always should have been. Minuet is stunned. Should she trust her, or will it be the very death of her?