The Great Stone Tree

The Great Stone Tree Glossopteris titanodendrum-dactylophyllum W. was discovered as a 52 foot diameter fossilized tree stump by the First Wizard, who chiseled out zthe Heart of the Staff from its center. In search of what he believed to be Meri Greenwood the Fairy’s source of commanding renewal power, the Heart of the Forests or Calon Fforydd, he found it standing upright, exactly where it had grown, surrounded by sections of its trunk and a layer of its own fossilized fallen leaves, in the middle of the exposed Permian deposit, known as the Koad Karreg or Stone Forest on the south edge of the Mammvro on the Dark Continent. It differs from other glossopterids by virtue of its immense size and by its deeply lobed leaves. Sections of its trunk add up to a tree which could not have been any less than 530 feet tall, and with the size of its stump, it remains the largest individual tree ever discovered. The Koad Karreg is the Permian location of the South Pole, which shifted to its present position with the multiple impacts of asteroids which closed the Age of Fishes. Compasses do not work reliably in the forest, and under its perpetual cloud cover, many a traveler has vanished.  

 

Since the Great Stone Tree is where the Heart of the Staff came from, there are indirect references to it in each book of The Heart of the Staff, but particularly so in

The Burgeoning.

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Elf in the Night

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Good_Sister,_Bad_Sis_Cover_for_KindleOn the eve of Neron becoming king (ri) of the Jutland Elves in Good Sister, Bad Sister, he discovers to his horror that his wife Nessa has the plague. He goes in search of Wizard Razzmorten…

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“Trafferth!” muttered old white haired Peredur as he yanked tight the sash of his robe. “I’m doing ye a favor here, unless ye want to be scared clean away from the door.” He glanced in the direction of the knocking as he stooped to pick up a flame on the wick of his 221028294183064616_NBVKNTHb_bcandle before stumping the length of the house to the door. “Dod i mewn, dod i mewn,” he said, fumbling to lift the latch with an empty sconce in one hand and a dribbling candle in the other. He threw open the door and looked the stranger up and down.

“Gabhaim pardun agat…” said Neron.

“Prince Neron!” said Peredur with a wide eyed gasp as he twisted the candle into the sconce at last. “Do come in! My word, I’m hardly dressed fit for a prince.”

“I’m so very sorry to be bothering you in the middle of the night…”

1859_021Peredur was already shaking his head. “Razzmorten’s not here,” he said. “It’s something terrible, isn’t it?”

Neron gave a nod.

“I simply don’t know where he is, Your Highness. He’s like that sometimes, and I never know what to do. But I can certainly wake Mistress Dewin for you…”

“Forgive me, but please do.”

Peredur’s eyes got very wide at this. He thrust his sconce into Neron’s hands and vanished into the blackness of the house, leaving a trail of hurried footfalls. He crept past Ugleeuh’s room andimages knocked softly on Minuet’s door. The door came open immediately, causing him to gasp and step backward.

” Peredur!” said Minuet. “I thought you were Leeuh.”

“I suppose my tiptoeing woke you. I’m sorry. Prince Neron is down at the door. Something awful has happened and he wanted to see your father. I told him you’d speak with him.”       

“Very well. Thank you. Just go on back to bed. I’ll take care of it.”

Minuet found Neron still dutifully holding the flickering candle. She curtsied and relieved him of it image018as she lit every candle in the room with a wave of her hand and saw that his face looked haunted. “The plague?” she thought. “You’re trying to find Father?” she said.

“Desperately, I’m afraid. My wife may be dying.”

“That’s terrible! I don’t know where he is.”

Neron’s eyes fell shut for a moment.

“Is she ill, injured?”

“I’m very sorry,” said Neron, getting hold of himself. “It would be irresponsible of me to disclose that. Please. It’s just that…”

“Is it the plague?”Medieval-Home-Decor

“Oh Fates, yes!” he said, squeezing shut his eyes with a silent sob.

“Forgive me Prince Neron,” she said. “I’ve not quite told you the truth. Please excuse me. I’ll be right back.” She turned at once and vanished into the hallway. By the time he had found a chair and had taken a weary seat, she was back. “This,” she said as she handed him her vial and pipette, “is oil of oregano. Put six drops under her tongue, six times a day.”

“This is the very cure?” he cried, springing to his feet.oil-of-oregano

“Yes it is. Does she have buboes?”

“My dear sweet child,” said Neron as he reached out, intending to give her a firm hug. “Thank the very Fates for you! Oh!” he said, stopping short and stepping back away from her. “I mustn’t expose you. No. She has the hepatic kind.”

“Good. Then that will give you more oil for under her tongue. Make sure she takes every last oreganodrop of it. And again, I’m sorry for my not telling you the truth. Father gave me strict orders that no one was to know his whereabouts. He’s getting a hay load of oregano plants along the south shore of the Gulf of Orrin. I’ll tell him that I told you, but please tell no one else.”

“You have my word. Niarg has the plague, too? remote_image_1331653487

“Several have died at Castle Niarg,” she said with a nod. “The first death was a young courier from Far, so it’s there, too.”

Neron paused to shake his head grimly. “I must go,” he said as he hurriedly stepped to the door and opened it. “Thank you, thank you! You’ve saved my whole world.”

“Six drops under her tongue, six times a day…” she called after him, but he had already vanished into the night air.

“Nessa,” he said softly the moment he appeared by her side, “I have the most wonderful news.” He gently brushed aside her hair. Her forehead was cold. For a moment he couldn’t breathe. He frantically grabbed up her cold hand and held it to his cheek as a horror of icy fire flooded his chest. “Oh…! No!” he cried out, echoing through every hall in the palace as his legs buckled and gave way.

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

 

 

The Real Hubba Hubba

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The nest in this tree is the very raven nest in this story.

 

Several years ago, when we were teaching on the Navajo Nation and living in a trailer on the Twin Lakes (Ext - Back BEST)campus of Twin Lakes ElementaryTwin Lakes (Int - Hallway2-5) School, a violent thunderstorm blew down a nest of baby ravens from the top of a hackberry tree. Carol grabbed up two of them, walking home from school. The neighbor’s dog killed the other two.

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Carol put them in an open box on the davenport and named the big one Hubba-Hubba, after our character in The Collector Witch, and named the little one Quoth. They were young enough that they were only about three fourths feathered out and Carol had to feed them baby parrot porridge with a teaspoon. And as it was when we raised our Amazon parrot, Carol’s background in psychology and mine in ethology made us careful not to read human motivation into their behavior. However we were interested in their inclination toward language, so we began at once treating them as though they harbored the same sort of undeveloped intelligence as a baby human.

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We made no attempt to teach them to talk. That is, we did not endlessly repeat phrases over and over to them nor drill them in any sort of way. What Carol has done every single evening since, before switching off the lights for the night, is spend some time scratching their heads and talking to them.

ravenL0405_468x312It was soon impossible to keep them in the box, so we transferred them to a large plastic P12307407pet carrier with a welded wire door. We kept them on the kitchen table. We handled them frequently and talked to them, but outside of squawks and groans, we heard nothing out of them for better than two months. Soon they began picking out large pieces of their cedar bedding, trimming them and using them as wedges and levers to force open the door of their carrier. Just as we were recovering from the shock of their doing this, one of them declared, “Fuck you!” as they scratched about in their new bed of cedar chips. The other one replied, “Ass hole! Ass hole!”

This certainly stunned us. We had not once heard a single word nor any single attempted word out of either of them prior to this. And neither one of us had ever used language like ravens1this around them. What they could have heard on an isolated occasion or two was one of us telling the other about our day at school, including (we assume) the foul speech of our students. In a few days we were astounded once more when we heard Hubba Hubba say, “Help me get this door open.”

This was not at all like parrots. Not only was there no endless practice leading up to the utterance of this sentence, it was as perfectly enunciated as if it were spoken by some human. We began keeping them in a chicken wire pen outside in the daytime. The next time I heard “Help me get this door open,” I rushed to the window to find Quoth watching  Hubba Hubba as he pecked in the dirt under the wire gate.

One day I was very upset, tramping about the trailer, raving. As I was calming down, Quothe said, “Tom! What’s wrong?”

196570606_fd127bc7eaOver the next very few months, they developed nearly all of the words and sentences given below. However, during the last couple of years we were out west, we seldom heard anything new out of them. During our first year in Kentucky, we discovered Hubba Hubba 15327478giving deliveries where he not only spoke in his own voice, but also talked in Quoth’s voice to make replies. Had Quoth quit talking? We were trying to find out when she vanished for good from their pen outside.

Since then, Hubba Hubba takes spells in the late afternoon saying over and over, “Hello. Hello. Hello. Hello…” or, “What’s your problem? What’s your problem? What’s your problem…?” which he articulates as well as ever. He has begun using our names, but they are very difficult to understand, with “Carol” coming out as “Coah” or “Hoh,” and “Tom” sounding like “Hom,” though “Quoth,” which he has said from the beginning, comes out quite well. He asks for food by saying, “Want some,” and when we ask him what he wants, he may occasionally reply, “Want some food,” or “Want some water.”

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Perhaps ravens are best at learning to articulate during some period of readiness, late in their development and any later verbal learning is not something that they’re genetically programmed to do as easily. Who’s to say? We only have the one bird, and there is very little written on the subject, since any hint that some non-human could possibly have any degree of natural use of true language is still largely regarded as heretical.

Brush Fire, Navajo Estates, Twin Lakes

Here are the words Hub uses. They are not listed in nice columns because of the contrary behavior of this website: a, all, am, are, ass, awk (spoken), boy, Carol (very poorly pronounced), door, food, fuck, get, go, going, good, hello, help, here, hmmm, hole, how, Hub, I, is, matter, me, open, out, problem, Quoth, right, some, that, the, this, to, Tom (very poorly pronounced), want, water, what, you, your.

Here are his phrases: All right.   Awk! Awk! (spoken, as humans would 24OBOX1-articleLargepronounce it)   Carol! (very poorly pronounced)   Hello.   Hello how are you? Hello Quoth.   Help me get this door open.   Here’s one.  Where are you?  Hey Quoth.   Hmmm?   How are you?   How’r’you how are you? (run together)   Hub.   I’m a good boy. Hmmm?   I’m going to go out the door.   That’s a good boy. Hmmm?   Tom. (very poorly pronounced)   Want some.   Want some?   Want some food!   Want some water.   What’s the matter?   What’s your problem?

Our character Hubba Hubba in Good Sister, Bad Sister, The Collector Witch, Stone Heart and The Burgeoning is no raven at all, but a double yellow head Amazon parrot with enchanted interludes as a crow, not a raven.

If you’ve ever had the good fortune to keep a raven or a crow, we’d love to hear about it.

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Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

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

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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

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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?  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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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?