Hubba Hubba Versus the Stinky Beefy Boy, Part Three

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Part Three

Herio could scarcely take his eyes off the sky long enough to find his stirrup as he thanked Mrs. Gweld for the pie and said his goodbyes. “I wonder if they passed by while Icherry_pie_case_for_the_ipad_mini-rf252931f447246c89e9010b93c82d7d7_w9wmu_8byvr_324
was inside,” he said once he had Gwynt underway, following Sophie on her unicorn to
Castlegoll Road.

“Well, this is it,” she said, hesitating as he doffed his hat and yellow-peasant-costume-skirtsteered Gwynt onto the road.

“She’s pretty,” he thought. He looked back to see her disappear around the corner. “Actually, she’s very pretty. And now that I think about it, she must have been interested
in me. My! Could that be why she came with her unicorn instead of her brothers?” He
gave a deep sigh and resumed combing the heavens.

Suddenly something was fluttering in his ear, giving him a start. “Herio!” chirped Tweet, landing on his shoulder and springing into flight again. “You’ve got to hurry! Hubba OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHubba’s been shot and the evil boy’s going to eat him!”

“No! Is he dead?”

“He was alive last I knew, but…”

“Good! Show me. Let’s go Gwynt!”

“It was actually on this very road, just two farms south of here, where he was shot. We have to wait there for either Chirp or Squeak to show up when they find where the boy took him.”

At once, Herio had Gwynt pounding away at a full gallop. Soon his side was cramping from all the bouncing pie.

“Herio! Tweet! Hoy!” came a wee tweet from up ahead.

housesparrow-seedeater-004“Squeak!” chirped Tweet. “Is Hubba Hubba still alive?”

“Hurry! I’ll show you!”

Away they raced, down the road and through the very same fields crossed by Frankin and Hubba Hubba. At last they splashed through the creek and had zigzagged nearly across the orchard. “You’re here!” squeaked Chirp, dropping down from the sky, halting them at once. “See that house through the trees? They took him inside in a game bag, but I think they have him in a box. He’s cape-cod-crowXXhurt, Herio. I don’t know how bad. The biggest boy right yonder, see? He beaned him on the head and knocked him right out of the sky. They were going to dress him for supper…”

“And they haven’t yet?” said Herio.

“I don’t think so, ’cause the lady and the boys got to fussing something awful.”

“How do you reckon they’d take my walking up and asking for their supper?”

“Not very well. They’ve been shouting at each other the whole time I’ve been here.”

“Maybe I could offer them some money for Hubba,” he said, glancing away at the house. “They look kind of hard up.”

“They look like they might rob you…” squeaked Chirp.

“Oh surely not, but if it eases your mind, I’ll dump out most of our money in the rotted out place in this old peach tree.” He poured out his coins, put away his bag and threw his leg over Gwynt. “Well, let’s go get Hubba, boys.”

images (2)Frankin trotted out several rods to meet them. “You better hold it right there, fellow!” he hollered as he wrapped a stone in the patch of his sling. “We don’t know you at all, so that makes you ones a trespasser…”

“Frankin!” echoed the cry from the house. “How’d you get that sling? You bring it back right now! You hear? And don’t you dare talk to strangers that a-way unless tunic-in-the-middle-agesthere’s a good reason!”

“I’m right sorry,” said Herio. “I certainly didn’t mean to make you think I was trespassing. I’m just passing through on my way to Castle Goll, but I got separated from my crow…”

“Crow?” said Frankin without so much as glancing back at his mother. “No crow here, fellow, so just turn around. Go!” He swung his rock back and forth like he might fling it around and throw it.

“Frankin! You heard me!” came the cry from the house.

Frankin did not bat an eye nor turn around, but the shouting woman must have had his attention, for suddenly Kink dashed out of the bushes and yanked away the sling.

“You stinking cachu face, Poopkink!” shouted Frankin, grabbing his fingers. “That hurt!”

Bartolomé_Esteban_Perez_Murillo_004“We got a crow shut up in the house, mister!” cried Kink, dancing about warily, well out of Frankin’s reach.

“Yea!” cried Dink, running up. “He talks and Mom’s afraid of him!”

“This time you gwrteithiau have really gone and done it!” cried Frankin, going red in the face. “I’m going to pound you…”

“Not while I’m alive!” howled the Mother, grabbing him by the arm. “And you’re done with slings for a good while, buster!”

Frankin tried to wrench free, but she gave him a shake.

“I’m man of the house now that Dad and Alwin’s gone!” he wailed. “You said so!”

“Yea? Well, when you can’t live up to it, then you’re just a little boy, aren’t you? And if that makes you disappointed, kid-o, hit makes me doubly so. Now let’s work you back up to woodpile2being a man again. You get yourself around back and chop me a proper rick o’ wood!”

“But there’s a whole pile of wood ’round…Aaaah!”

“And there’s a proper red welt acrost the back o’ your leg, too!” she hissed as she got him good with a whistling switch. She watched him scuttle out of sight. When she heard chopping commence, she retied her apron. “Now I’m right sorry for that, young man. He’s turned mean since his daddy was kilt at Ash Fork. Now he didn’t even give you ones the chance to give your name, ‘fore he started in, did he? He’s Frankin, I’m Mrs. Simms and these two be Wilmer and Jake…”

“I’m Herio, ma’am,” he said, thinking to remove his hat.gty_black_crow_jt_130504_wg

“Well, we’ve been kind o’ afraid of your bird. We didn’t know what to think. He bit me good every time I tried to get him down, and he was swearing like a sailor…”

“Sounds like Hubba Hubba, all right…”

“That’s his name?”

Herio nodded.

“And you taught him to curse like that?”

“No, but I’ve learnt a bunch from him…”

“You know, that’s one lie I think I believe,” she said with a laugh as she turned to Kink and Dink. “You ones run inside and bring this nice young fellow his bird.”

They raced to the door and darted inside. Immediately they were back outside again, with xococava-broken-platesthe door slammed fast behind them. They looked up at Herio with wide eyes.

“He’s deliberately knocking things off shelves…” said Kink.

“And he said when you get here you’re going to cut off our heads,” said Dink with an uneasy swallow.

Herio put his ear to the door.

“And when he does show up, “cawed Hubba Hubba amidst the crash of dishes, “you all will wish you were far, far, away! He’ll make you pay! He’ll cut off your grubby little fingers! He’ll…!”

“He’ll come and take you with him!” hollered Herio as he threw open the door.

“Herio!” cawed Hubba Hubba, swooping down from some shelves to walk up the front of his shirt as he madly beat his wings. “You did it! You saved me! They were going to eat me!” He flapped his way up onto Herio’s shoulder to drop open his beak and go quite skinny. “You mean you didn’t kill them?”

“Well, no, Hubba, they returned you in one piece… In fact, ma’am?” he said, taking out his purse and dumping out some crowns onto the bench by the door. “This is for your dishes.”

“Why you ones don’t have to…”

“Have you seen how many he broke?”

“Every bloomin’ one I could reach,” rattled Hubba Hubba as he bristled all over. “And ‘one crow (1)piece,’ I dispute that. Have you seen the knot on my head?”

“Then you’ve gained from the experience,” said Herio, rolling his eyes for Mrs. Simms.

She nodded and herded her boys back towards the house. “Looks like we both got our hands full,” she called with a nod, as she shooed Kink and Dink into the house. “Good luck, you hear?”

“Thank you ma’am, for being good to my bird,” said Herio as he got astride Gwynt with Hubba Hubba gaping aghast and three merrily twittering sparrows. They sauntered back through the orchard, pausing long enough to scrape his crowns out of the rotted out hollow in the old tree.

“‘Good to my bird?’ ‘Good to my bird?’ You think a knot on my very knitty box, big as my eye, is good to your bird? And what righteous damage, may I ask, did you do in order to be good unto them…?”

The Burgeoning

Hubba Hubba Versus the Stinky Beefy Boy, Part 2

Quilt Stone Mountain NC SP 4021The stinky beefy boy slowed to a walk with a skip and happily patted his game bag full of the-brixton-ona-bags-2-560x379Hubba Hubba. Whistling a giddy tune fit for the tone deaf, he left the path through a gap in the hedge to cut across a freshly ploughed field. Chirp and Squeak followed ’round the 5469802698_278de1b2e3_zoutside in the tops of trees grown up in the hedge. The boy scampered through new oats, a meadow and a fresh cow pile, pausing to rinse his feet in a gurgling creek before dashing triumphantly across an orchard to a fiery haired woman and two boys, hoeing in a broad vegetable garden.

“Mom!” hollered the stinky boy as she bent to pull a weed. “Get wood on the fire! I bagged fresh meat for supper!”

She stood up, brushing the dirt from her skirts and hands.504_slingrocks

“Look Mom! I got him with my sling! I knocked ‘im clean out of the air! I’m gettin’ good, aye?”

“I’ll say Frankin,” she said, peering into his bag. “I’ve been watching you get better day by day. This is game to remember, all right, particularly when you may go the rest of your life and not get another on the wing like that.”

images (14)“So all you think is I just got lucky, isn’t hit?”

“Well Frankin, someone without your sharp eye would certainly have an empty bag right now…”

“Ha!” he crowed with a leap. “I’m really somethin’ with my sling, and you know it.”

nVrhp1e“I’ve just hung the tea-kettle over the fire,” she said, ruffling up his hair. “You could wash up for a nice cup o’ tea before you dress your bird, if you don’t dally.”

Frankin raced to the back door, hung Hubba Hubba on the latch and wheeled ’round to go to the well in time to find his little brothers following. “Hey Poopkink!” he snarled. “If you and Poopdink have to sneak along behind me, don’t you dare touch the game bag.”

***

“Help!” cawed Hubba Hubba, coming to in total blackness. “I’m dead again! I can’t see!” He hysterically thrashed and flogged his wings against the insides of the cramped box thetver_angry-crow_7219y had him in, pausing to go light in the head, gasping for want of air.

Someone heard his cries and threw open the box. “Kawk!” he cried as four chubby hands crowded in after him. “Have some respect! Can’t you idiots tell I’m wounded here?”

Both boys squealed and yanked back, dropping the lid on Hubba Hubba.

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“Hey! I object! This is abuse! Here I am, smashed in the head…”

“Hit does talk!” they cried in wide-eyed chorus.

“You got it!” shouted Hubba Hubba. “And do you ones listen? Here I am smashed in the head, some drooling gnoff strangles me ’till I black out, maybe die, and here you ones whack me in the head again… Is this the stinkin’ Pit, or what? Well?”

Suddenly they lunged at the box. Hubba Hubba exploded into frantic flight about the room, landing on a quilting frame drawn up by twine to the overhead beams. “All right,” he rattled. “At least I can see this is some rotten old kitchen, somewhere, and not the Pit. And whatever you two are, I am not some kind of ‘it!’ I’m one right proud crow and I’m traveling with a young man who ought to here directly to cut off your stinkin’ heads for doing this to me…!”

“Hey you little gwrteithiau!” yelled Frankin as he threw open the door. “What’d I tell you about my game bag? And why weren’t you out helping us drive in the six sheep which just now got out in the garden? Which one of you left the gate open anyway…?”

“It’s loose!” cried Kink.primitive-vintage-wood-box-original-old-paper-fruit-crate-label-Placerville-Maid-Laurel-Leaf-Farm-item-no-b912117-7

“Close the door!” cried Dink.

“I am not an ‘it,'” rattled Hubba Hubba.

“Taran!” shouted Frankin as he slammed the door and began glancing about. “So you not only let the sheep out, you got into my bag and turned the crow loose! If he gets clean away, you’ll not only be cachu, images (1)I’ll find something really disgusting and make you each eat its cachu!”

“He’s right over your head,” said Dink.

Frankin wheeled ’round and looked up. “Mom!” he bellowed, “Come in here and see what they did now!” He lunged and missed Hubba Hubba, whacking the quilting frame madly about on the ends of its short twines.

“Kawk!” cried Hubba Hubba, as he crouched to hang on3021358_1_l (1)

Frankin leaped again, snapping a twine and knocking down the frame to smash a 17-cottage-cheesehuge crock of soupy cottage cheese onto the floor.

“You bloated idiot!” cawed Hubba Hubba, springing into flight about the room. He spied a board nailed across the timbers and landed on that with his back to the ceiling. “You stinking armpit maggot…”

“So you’re some kind of magic crow, aye?” he said, taking out his sling. “Well it doesn’t matter, bird-o. You’ll never get out of this room, ’cause when I knock you down, I’m goin’ ‘o jerk your ugly head out o’ your shoulders!”

“No!” cried Kink and Dink together.

“Frankin!” cried their mom as she stepped in the door to go apoplectically wide eyed. “My stars! That’s fifteen gallons of cottage cheese, all over!”

“They did it!” wailed Frankin. “They got into my bag when I told them not to and turned loose the crow. I’ve got to kill it quick…”

“No!” cried Dink. “Hit’s magic…!”

“Hit talks!” cried Kink.

“And they’ve gotten windy as kites in the process, too, I see. Well you two, what have I told you about making up things…?”

“But it’s true!” wailed Kink. “Frankin knows it, too!”images

“I think you two need to take this stack of bowls and scoop up as much clean cheese as you can get off the floor for your next several meals. Then, you need to mop up every bit of what’s left.”

“But we aren’t making it up!” wailed Dink, as his mom thrust a stack of bowls into his arms and steered him toward the slumping mound of cheese and crock chards.

“Now, freak bird, hit’s your turn,” said Frankin, fitting a stone into his sling.

“Kawk!” cried Hubba Hubba. “Lady, lady! Please listen to your little fellows!”

“That’s not the least bit amusing, Frankin,” she said, wheeling ’round to glare at him.

“But I didn’t…”

“No, no, no, no!” cawed Hubba Hubba. “I did! I’m not some game animal to be beaned and chucked in the kettle. Hey! I’ve got brains here.”

“Mercy!” she gasped. “You do talk!”

“Hit’s a trick, Mom, said Frankin.

“Right. So where’s the minstrel puppeteer?”

“Come on, Mom! Somebody taught him to talk…”

crow“Absolutely!” rattled Hubba Hubba. “Just like they did you, only I didn’t need to be taught how to think, and you’ve yet to manage.”

“Don’t touch the bird,” she said, snatching away his sling. “Do not harm him, understand?”

“But he’ll get away!”

“We’re going to be real good to him ’till we figure him out,” she said. “Now go fetch me a good sized box to put him in, and make sure there are a right smart amount of air holes in it.”

“Air holes?” cried Hubba Hubba. “What kind of ‘real good’ to me is that? No wonder you haven’t taught maggot boy here how to think, yet! And I don’t care what he brings back, you’re going to have to come up here and get me!”

The Burgeoning

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Hubba Hubba Versus the Stinky Beefy Boy

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Hubba Hubba, Chirp, Tweet and Squeak were returning from a reconnaissance mission for Herio in The Burgeoning when…

“There are a slew of farmsteads, though,” squeaked Chirp as he bounced along in a madAerial Ballet flutter to keep up. “One of them might put us up…”

“That’s ground work,” chirped Tweet. “We can’t ask around from the air.”

“Let’s just go back now,” said Hubba Hubba. “If that’s all that’s left, we’re wasting time. I hate to think of another night of Herio’s scorched beans, or nothing at all like last night.”

“Couldn’t be that bad,” tweeted Squeak. “Those folks down there look pretty hard up. A little money would surely get us what we want…”

“Yea?” said Hubba Hubba. “And it could be right risky if they thought Herio was well-to-do. A young fellow by himself?” He clacked shut his beak with a shake of his head. “Someone might try to rob him…or worse!”

“Worse, master?” squeaked Chirp.

“Hey, I remember arrows and meat cleavers and ugly manners of all sorts out of people on the ground who weren’t even penniless and desperate. And don’t you dare call me master! Aren’t we chums these days?”

“Oh I forgot, you being a crow and all…”

“Crow! Well, I can’t hide from that, but reminders of the Ugleeuh days give me a headache…” And with that, he collapsed into a headlong fall.

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“Hubba Hubba!” squeaked Chirp, diving madly after him. “What’s wrong? Tweet! Squeak! Help!”

***

crows_japanHubba Hubba opened his eyes to find the ground shooting up to meet him. He began flapping furiously. “Help! Help! Help!” he cawed. “It’s too late! Pebbles, I’m sorry!”

Without warning, something strange was under each of his wings. Suddenly he was seeing stars, bouncing and rolling to a rumpled stop in tall new grass.

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“Oh, I hate being dead,” he rattled. “Throb. Throb. Throb. That’s my stinking head, but why are my wingpits doing it, too? Say! Why am I thinking?”

“It’s not thinking, Hubba Hubba,” squeaked Chirp, “It’s just you. Now could you please lift your wing? Squeak and Tweet are under here!”

“So you ones are dead too, aye?” he said, letting out a yelp from moving his head to peer under his wing.

“Good grief no!” chirped Tweet, with a ruffle of his feathers. “We’re not dead and neither are you!” He gave Hubba Hubba two or three one eyed inspections. “You sure have a knot on your knitty box. What the ding-dong blazes did you fly into up there?”

“I have no idea at all, but for some crazy reason it made me think of Ugleeuh…” And at that very instant he was yanked out of the grass by his neck.

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“Hey!” crowed a stinky beefy boy with a hateful grip, as he sprang into a dancing pell-mell run through the grass. “I got him! I got him! I got him! I got him!”

***

Chirp, Tweet and Squeak shot into the air from where Hubba Hubba had fallen and watched in shock from the top of a big walnut tree as the stinky beefy boy made off with him through the grass. “They’ll get away if we don’t get moving!” squeaked Chirp as they all dove into the air.

“He’d never let someone make off with us!” tweeted Squeak.

“Let’s keep up!” chirped Tweet.

“Hey!” squeaked Chirp. “Somebody tell me how we’re going to save him from a grabby boy a thousand times bigger than we are. He’ll pull our heads off!”

“Go for help!” chirped Tweet.

“And somebody still has to follow,” tweeted Squeak.

“Someone needs to find Herio and bring him here, while the other two of us follow Hubba Hubba,” squeaked Chirp. “When we see where the boy takes him, one of us comes back here and the other stays and watches…

“Yea,” chirped Tweet. “And hope to the Pit he doesn’t get et while we’re at it!”

“Don’t even think that!” tweeted Squeak.sparrow12

“Just for that, you go find Herio,” squeaked Chirp.

Tweet gave a wide-eyed nod and shot away with a bouncing blur of wings.

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom 

Our Theropod Dragons

Our dragon, Harpi tyrannus. R., is a relative of  Archaeopteryx and Deinonychus, which survived the Mwyaf Fawr Llosg or Greatest Burning and is traditionally classified as an Adar Drwg (“bad bird” in Old Niarg Standard) by such Niarg naturalists as Razzmorten Dewin. It is an eight to twenty foot long (six to thirteen foot tall) feathered flying Jurassic bird with teeth, fingered claws on the wrists of its wings and a long un-fused (non-pygostylic) bony tail. Long ago it developed the ability to produce, store and ignite large volumes of methane gas which enabled it to toast and make palatable the naturally occurring sukere cana in its original habitat on the Dark Continent.                      

Dragons’ brains are about a third of the volume of human brains, however dragon brains are mostly cerebellum, where ours are mostly cerebrum. Since the tissue of the cerebrum is far more fatty and has fewer neurons in it per given volume, dragons have about as many synaptic junctions as we have, giving them an equivalent intelligence to ours. Indeed, they have true speech and they write and produce graphic art and sculpture. In spite of this, their behavior can seem strange and bird-like to us at times, since it consists of far more fixed-action patterns than does our behavior.  

Dragons arose in the southern mountains of the Dark Continent in the Age of Birds before the worldwide conflagration known as the Mwyaf Fawr Llosg. Beginning in early recorded times, they lived within a territory at the southern end of those mountains known as the Mammvro (Homeland in Headlandish). One of the emperors of the House of Dark sold the Mammvro to the sorceress Demonica as partial payment for arms. When the evil Wizard Razzorbauch turned the Forest Primeval into a vast sukre canna plantation, he needed a labor force capable of burning off the canna for harvesting the lucrative and seriously addictive sukere. Dragons were ideal for this, so Demonica invested in his enterprise by turning over the entire Mammvro dragon population to him, helping him render them featherless to keep them docile and by providing the ships to haul them to his plantation on the Northern Continent. In time, the dragons were freed and became fast allies of the kingdom of Niarg.                   

Did you ever imagine that dragons were a kind of primeval bird, an airborne dinosaur? What sort of dragons intrigue you? What sort of dragons do you fear?

 

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  

Who is Yann-Ber?

 

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Yann-Ber is born a prince, the eldest son of Azenor of the House of Dark, the emperor of Head (Pennvro) and the Dark Empire. He is a bright and prodigal child, doted upon by hisMeeting-Place-Nov03-D4267sAR father and destined to sit on the throne. He grows into a dashing and handsome young man who marries Princess Yuna of the House of Egg (Vi), who by astonishing luck happens to be his childhood sweetheart. Mere weeks into his marriage, the sorceress Demonica casts a spell on him, taking him away from her.

castles_fortress_rock_the_hill_castle_on_10_desktop_1920x1080_hd-wallpaper-489720Demonica is shrewd and ruthless, an heiress of a vast fortune in mines. For generations, she has manipulated the throne of the Dark Empire from the shadows by providing ships, arms or mercenary armies at opportune moments, keeping it perpetually indebted to her. She marries Yann-Ber hoping to eventually sit on the throne.

In spite of his dependency upon her, Azenor fears Demonica and disinherits Yann-Ber. Demonica regards Yann-Ber with cruel disdain from that moment on. She eventually catches him with another woman and casts a crippling spell of boils upon him, and sends him out on desperate forays to find the Great Staff of Power. He eventually locates it in Stone Heart, only to have her reward him by promising that he will die after another year of horrible torment from the spell.

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Yann-Ber sets out for Niarg at once to find the wizard Razzmorten. Perhaps he can undo her curse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Waylaid by Elves

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After a nice supper in the Suds and Steer in The Collector Witch, Rose and Lukus find themselves on a dark road in the woods…

Before them lay the border of Loxmere, beyond which lay the Jut of Niarg, a southern arm of their own country, filled with a dense forest known as the Jutwoods. They crossed the border in the broad moonlight by leaving the road in order to avoid the guard houses. When they had found their way back onto the road, they were nearly three leagues beyond Loxmere in very dense woods. Suddenly Rose halted Mystique so abruptly that Lukus ran his knee into the skirt of her saddle. “Hey! Rose, call your shot next time.”

“Hush!” she said. “We’re being watched.”

“How do you know?”

“I swear I saw movement.”

“It must be the robbers from the inn. I told you they were up to no good.”

“Can you see them, Lukus?”

180291 “It’s ‘way too dark. I can’t see anything. They could hide anywhere. They could be right there in the rocks along the cliff, for all I can tell. I think they’re rocks. Maybe they’re pacing us through the woods, just off the road.”

“What are we going to do?”

“Run or hide. We’d better choose one right quick, ’cause I just heard something. We can make out the road by the gap in the trees.”

“Then let’s ride like the wind. They’ll not have mounts even close to ours.”

At once three figures stepped into the roadway. 

“Lukus!” she cried, wheeling square about and frantically digging her heels into Mystique’s flanks 4ud2to charge back the way they’d come. Lukus tried to follow, but Starfire reared and bolted off the road and through the brush to throw him sprawling in the briars. Two hooded figures rushed out of nowhere and grabbed Starfire’s reins. Lukus scrambled to his feet and fell in time to be pounced on and rolled up in a blanket.

Rose was too far away by now to hear him over Mystique’s pounding hooves, but she looked over her shoulder to see if he was behind her. “Lukus!” she cried. The moment she turned about, three hooded figures stepped into her way, spooking Mystique off the road to go crashing through a thicket while she hung onto her neck for dear life. As they raced under the limb of an oak, somebody dropped onto Mystique’s back to grab her as she lost her grip. She gave out a throat shredding scream.

“Hush!” cried the somebody, clapping his hand over her mouth. “You’ll scare lean air out of Lukus, and cac too, Princess!”

Directly, she was helped off Mystique by the one who had caught her and by two other hooded men who set to work at once, unwrapping Lukus. “Good for you!” she shouted. “You have us! Now what are you going to do to us? And just how did you know  Lukus’s name?”

The three calmed the unicorns and stood quietly before them, faceless as wraiths.

“You’re not from the inn,” she said as they pushed back their hoods.    

The middle one smiled at her. 

“You’re Elves!” she gasped at their pointed ears. “But you don’t exist. You must be an enchantment.”

“Nope,” said the middle one with a bow. “We’re as real as you are. And enchantment would be beyond you, I’m afraid. I’m Danneth and these are my brothers, Strom and Jarund, and we most certainly mean you no harm in the least. In fact, we’re here at your service.”

“Yea?” said Lukus. “And how is stamping on us and rolling us in the blackberry briars the same as serving us?”

“Yes, that was awkward,” said Danneth. “You have lots of energy. It took quite a bit to get you to hold still.”

“Just how many of you are there? Nine? Twelve?” said Rose. 

“We are three only,” said Danneth.

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“Now you’re playing us for fools,” she said.

“Not at all,” said Jerund. “We merely move quickly when we must.”

“Rose, they don’t have to let us find out. It’s pointless,” said Lukus, turning to Danneth. “Though it would only be fair if you all at least told us what you stopped us for and just what you are.”

“But Rose saw at once that we are Elves,” said Danneth.

Danneth looked like his brothers to Rose, but where his hair was silvery, Strom’s was metallic golden and Jarund’s was iridescent and black as pitch, far blacker than any black hair she had seen in her life. “They have to be what they claim, Lukus,” she said, turning to the Elves. “I’m convinced that you’re Elves, but telling us that you’re at our service is no explanation at all for your waylaying us.”

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

 

 

Arwr the Diatryma Finds Humanity in Vyrpudi the Troll

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“Mary,” said Arwr softly from beneath the lone scrubby pine.

“Does your leg hurt, Arwr?” she said. “I’ve some herbs that might stop the pain without putting you to sleep.”

“No Mary. My leg is merely bruised and the pain is bearable,” he said, nodding to where800px-nyndrtly Vyr-pudi was chained, beyond the fire. “Did you know that Vyr-pudi saved my life? He saved Abaddon’s, too.”

“That’s his name, Vyr-pudi? Have you learnt any more of his language?”

“Yes actually, but what I did not expect is that he’s beginning to understand ours.”

“How do you know?”

“He called out my name quite clearly, just in time for me to dodge the lyoth which brought me down. I have no doubt that he saved my life and Abaddon’s, too. Abaddon got
thrown off my back while I was kicking at the Lyoth. Vyrpudi caught him. And when he
saw his moment, he jumped the Lyoth and strangled it with his chain. No one has even
thanked him.” He gave the side of his beak a thoughtful saw across a fallen pine trunk and
thoroughly shook his feathers.

Mary sat speechless for a moment, listening to the owl as a pop in the fire sent sparks dashing into the starry sky. “Oh my,” she said. “I see your point Arwr, but he is a troll surrounded by Elves. He undoubtedly had some part in feasting on the Elves in two Jutish villages, and you know better than I do what you caught him in the act of doing at Oilean Gairdin.” She peered at Vyr-pudi, sitting in his chains. “You’re right, Arwr. We’re no better at all if we can’t show humanity when it’s needed.” She stood and brushed off her skirts. “Do you know the Trollish words for thank you?”

Arwr nodded his head. “Afey-fira.”

“Afey-fira…afey-fira,” she said as she started over to Vyrpudi, who sat up quite straight at her approach. “Well. Arwr says your name is Vyr-pudi.”

Vyr-pudi became very wide eyed at this.

“Anyway we,” she said, pointing to herself and then back to Arwr, “want to tell you afey-fira.”

Vyrpudi’s eyes bugged out and his jaw dropped open as she squatted before him and carefully reached out her hand. At once he drew back from her touch as if she were about to strike him. “Well I guess that wasn’t a good idea,” she said as she stood up and let her arms fall to her sides. She smiled at him and walked back to the fire.

“I believe he thought I was about to hit him,” she said as she found her spot on the rock.

Arwr glanced over at Vyr-pudi who was now watching them with undisguised curiosity. “Yes I saw,” he said, “but you didn’t hit him and he can plainly see that you didn’t intend to. He’ll figure it all out. Where it will all go, though, I can’t guess. You do remember that when I captured him, the plan was to learn what we could from him and then kill him, don’t you?”

“I remember,” she said, shaking her head. “Even with his valiant deeds today, after so many long years of attacks on Elves…”

“I know,” he said as he snapped each wing and settled himself, closing his eyes. “We shall simply have to take things as they come.”

 

Ch. 38, The Burgeoning

 

 

Carol & Tom Phipps

 

 

 

 

Meri shows Everyone Through the Fairy Ring

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The caravan of Elves trudged through the hot red sand in determined silence, following Ceidwad, Lladdwr and Arwr with Abaddon and Shot ‘n’ Stop as they accompanied Diatryma_by_ministerartMentrus, Meinir and Gwawr. By afternoon, they had begun bearing to the north-west, away from the feet of the Great Barrier Mountains, and at once found themselves in rolling countryside, dotted with scrubby junipers. By late afternoon it had become quite hilly, and soon they came to a vast forest of great tall pines. “They’ve stopped yonder, sire,” said Owain with a nod ahead.

“So I see,” said James, staring under the flat of his hand.Scan10041

“And I do believe that I recognize this Fairy,” said Neron.

“Halloo!” cried the Fairy with a grand wave from where he stood amongst the diatrymas.

“Would you be Meri Greenwood?” said Neron as he dismounted and held out his hand. “Dyn Gwyrdd was your name back when we first met, if I’m right.”

“Not mochel aboven a thousent yere a-go, Neron Ri.” said Meri with a grin as he took his hand and gave it a good shake.

“And just after that, you visited us when we hung the great front door at Oilean Gairdin, and I’ve not seen you since. And this handsome young man here is James, King of Loxmere-Goll.”

“And thou the Queene of Goll ymaried, whom yow al yfled?”

“You can’t imagine how I regret having to admit that, but yes.”

“And thy partye righte soor for water ybe, ey?”

James and Neron both nodded.

“Thanne alowe me for to wolcome hem to the village of Gerddi Teg, the Fayr Gardens of the Grete North Wodes. Weo konnen for to contynue oure introducciones as they hira thurst to slake.”

“Forgive me sire,” said James as he quickly looked about, “but for the life of me, I see no village at all.”

“Thanne by rightes thou the ffirst to seen schuldest bethe,” said Meri as he turned andFairyRing pointed to a great circle of mushrooms, growing in the mat of pine needles behind him.

“I guess I’m lost…” said James, looking utterly confused.

“Thou nedith na buen,” said Meri with a hearty laugh. “Juste stepe wythinne the cercle. Llewyrch, Danneth and Súlacha awayten thee doun the steyres. Thou nedith carefull to bene to stapen over the musserounes. Mentrus? Plese to lede the way for hym.”

At once Mentrus stepped within the ring and jogged airily down through the dirt and pine needles to vanish altogether, followed by Meinir, Gwawr and then Ceidwad, Lladdwr and finally Arwr. Abaddon looked panicky as his ears sank into the needles of the forest floor, but he was still bravely astride Arwr when he vanished. James gave a wide-eyed look about at everyone and then stepped over the mushrooms to plunge his ankle out of sight as he felt for the top step. “Ah! There it is,” he said grandly as he too trotted down out of sight.

Ch. 41, The Burgeoning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

You Were a Bear?

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They had their unicorns completely laden and packed before the first light. With the first rusty calls of the seaside sparrows as the sky turned deep blue, they wended between tussocks of marram grass into a landscape of sandburs and rolling sand dunes with CapeSableSeasideSparrow_2Tramman, Obbree and Karl-Veur leading the way while Rose, Fuzz and Inney followed a rod or two behind. After tramping a good long way with no talking, Rose paused to shift her pack and to study the horizon.

“Young ladies were never meant to be pack animals, Rose,” said Fuzz. “I could take your bag for a bit.”

“And I suppose old bespelled bears are,” she said with her eyes dancing.

“Absolutely!” said Fuzz. “Going to find Gastro. That is indeed what it reminds me of, too.”

“What are you two talking about?” said Inney.

“We were once in a place like this when Fuzz was a bear,” said Rose, stopping short to images 2share wide-eyed looks with Fuzz at what she had just said.”

“You were a bear?” said Inney. “Mister Fuzz! You’re not a skin walker, are you?”

“You mean, could I change myself into a bear? Not at all. I could not begin to do something like that, even if I had forever and seven days. I was trapped as a bear with no
hair until the witch who did it to me was killed and her evil faded away some years later.”

Everyone ahead had turned about to listen. “She must’ve been one powerful witch if it took zzzDicksissel9so long for all of her magic to fade,” said Tramman.

“She was powerful, all right,” said Fuzz, “and made all the more so by having in her possession what we know as the Great Staff of Power. Your long lost brethren once called it Bata Millteanach. And it’s a very long tale that I can see needs to be told when we get to Balley Cheerey.”

“That’s a story I can’t wait to hear,” said Tramman, turning square about in the sand. “Let’s get on to Balley Cheerey.” And with that, the party resumed their tramp through the sand.

As the sun rose, the sand became unbearably hot, and since Rose, Fuzz and Karl-Veur sandduneshad lost their shoes in the sea when the ship sank, they were forced to make emergency footwear out of a ripped kelp sack and strips of the skirt of Rose’s kirtle. By the time the628x471 sun was high enough for the sand to blister bare feet, they were underway again, listening to the endless calls of cicadas.

Grass was now covering most of the sand. Dickcissels called from the taller tussocks. Redwing blackbirds scolded from the air above their heads. “When the grass is all taller OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAthan we are, we’ll finally be in the Strah,” said Tramman. “Keep your eyes open for snakes.”

As Rose studied a particularly tall bunch of grass, she stumbled across a mound of sticks and grass. “Fuzz!” she cried, “Look! Huge eggs. The size of a baby’s head. Fuzz! This one’s hatched.” At once all three imagesstrike falcons dashed through the grass to peer closely at what she had found. “Are these strike falcon eggs, Inney?”

“Yea,” she said, picking up an egg. “These aren’t suppose to be out here, are they Tramman?”

“Not at all,” he said, letting go of his handful of reins to pick up an egg with both hands, “We thought we’d shot the last wild one maybe seven hundred years ago.”

images 1“What’s wrong with wild ones?” said Rose. “What would happen if I picked up this one just hatched?”

“She’ll be your bond mate, if you want one,” said Tramman. “And wild ones? Really, really dangerous. They can take you out with one slashing kick. See Obbree a-stringing his bow? That’s what I’m going to do right now.”

“So what do I do if I want a bond mate?”6f9fde723ee52483fa2689890dee578c_1_orig

“Take her with you. Inney’ll tell you what to do,” he said as he strung his bow. “Fuzz? Take my sword. I see Karl-Veur has Obbree’s. And everybody pick up an egg. Put it inside your shirt. We have to go. Now! Those parents could show up and kill someone in the blink of an eye. Somebody will have to come all the way back down here and hunt them down and kill them.”

Ch. 2, The Reaper Witch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps