Minuet Sends Herio with Bernard

edmund-blair

The castle barn owl flew in like a ghost from under the ridge pole to pause on a truss, staring at the echoing voices below before giving a couple of circular bobs with his head and lunging into a glide to his nest with his mouse.

“I don’t understand, Your Majesty,” said Herio, looking anxiously from Razzmorten and Captain Bernard to Minuet. “I’m sworn to protect you. Why must I evacuate? Haven’t I proven myself?”

“Oh, Herio,” said Minuet, her voice full of admiration as she sat beside him and took up his hand, “a most worthy knight of this house you be, but truth to tell, you’re far more than that. Since you are now my adopted son and a potential heir to the throne, you cannot be risked. Besides, I need you to go with Captain Bernard and help protect our people.”

“But, King Hebraun charged me to protect you, my Queen…uh, Minuet,” he said, casting a hopeful look at Hubba Hubba, who was carefully following everything from Razzmorten’s shoulder, “and since you’re now my mother, hit’s even a family matter.”

Hubba Hubba let go of a black feather with a silky snap as he eyed the owl gliding from timber to timber on his way back out. “Queen’s got the right of it,” he rattled. “We’ve lost track of Lukus. We reckon he’s alive, but we don’t know that for sure, and Rose already says she won’t sit on the throne. You’re ‘way more important than just a knight, now that you’re part of the House of Niarg, Prince Herio. Got ‘o do what she wants this time. Besides, I’d feel better having you with me.”

Herio nodded resolutely at Minuet and squared his shoulders.

“You’ll do right well, Prince of Niarg,” she said with a look of fierce pride. “Go now and keep our people safe.” She gave him a quick hug and then took Razzmorten’s arm as they rose and filed outdoors, with Hubba Hubba, Pebbles and both their broods, each one of them now in crow form, fluttering along overhead.

Gwynt was waiting beside Captain Bernard as the mounted throng surrounding them fell to a hush. Herio found his stirrup, threw his leg over the cantle and as soon as the crows had all found their places, nodded at Bernard. At a grand and silent wave from Bernard, the The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_Kindlemultitude began ambling toward the gate. Herio did not look back, but he could feel Minuet’s eyes on him for a very long time.

Ch. 38, The Burgeoning

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Herio Smashes Brutus

8503337-elements-of-arms-of-the-medieval-soldier-at-festival-of-historical-reconstruction

“What are we looking for?” said Hubba Hubba, as Herio dismounted and took up a keen search amongst the remains of the fallen.

Herio made no reply.

A_dead_elm_tree_on_Skelston_Moor_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1725919“That’s north, Herio,” said Hubba Hubba, gliding along beside him as he remounted and trotted away. “Don’t we need to go south?”DSC_0003staresparrows

“It shouldn’t be far off,” said Herio, galloping a zigzag from helm to helm along the ground.

Hubba Hubba shared looks with Chirp, Tweet and Squeak as they followed along. Near a great naked dead elm, ringed with fallen sheets of bark and branches, Hero leaped to the ground to straddle a headless skeleton clad in a hauberk with a particularly ornate breastplate and gorget.

Jan 07 History-Art ROCHE 029

He rolled it over once in the faded tatters of it’s black and crimson cape and doublet, looking at 335px-Russian_helmet_13-14centit. “Pen cachu!” he snarled between his teeth as he came down as hard as he could with his heel on the breastplate. “Not good enough!” He looked about quickly and spied a large rock. He grabbed it at once, rocking it out of its depression in the ground. It took three good tries with his veins standing out, grunting and straining to get it shoulder high. Then with a stagger or two, he ran forth with everything he had to heave it at the breastplate which flattened to wrinkles, crushing the ribs. He stood back a moment, getting his breath. “Y pen! ‘Na fargen!” he cried, suddenly dashing over to a silver helm resting in the weeds. As he grabbed it up, a skull fell out onto the12418547305X4hiX ground. “Pen cachu!” he cried out at the top of his lungs as he smashed it with the heel of his boot. “Llofrudd! You hanged my little brother! You hanged poor little Cefnogi Rhywun!” Taking a hatchet from behind Gwynt’s saddle, he knocked out the eye teeth from the broken pieces and then chopped off the golden spike from the top of the helm. He wrapped all of them in a cloth and without a word mounted Gwynt.

Hubba Hubba, Chirp, Tweet and Squeak traded speechless looks from their perches high up in the dead elm before dropping into the air to follow.

3D digital render of a beautiful fairy tale prince isolated on white background

   

“Bernard said Hebraun himself took off the varmint’s head,” said Hubba Hubba as he landed on Herio’s shoulder.

“And I am forever grateful, featherhead. I only regret not getting to see it happen.”

“So what’s going to happen to the spike and the teeth?”

“They’re a-goin’ deep into the mire in the stinkin’est privy that I happen to sit on in Goll, at least. article-1351054-0CEFC9EE000005DC-286_468x476Something good. I’m not sure yet.”

Hubba Hubba gave a quick nod and clacked shut his beak.

 

 

 

 

 

Ch. 17, The BurgeoningThe_Burgeoning_Cover_for_Kindle

(Click on Title or Book Cover to Purchase at Amazon.)

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

 

Razzmorten Meets the Diatrymas

Diatryma_by_ministerart1

“Myrtlebell!” stammered Rose. “No, you can’t mean… It can’t be. I mean Fuzz just wouldn’t… He knows how I feel about…well, I mean…he knows what she…”

“Rose,” said Razzmorten with quiet firmness, as he gave her a steely eyed look from beneath his hoary brows. “I think it would be best to see Edward off to bed. He’s been through a great lot these past few days and he truly needs your kind support. I believe we have quite enough information to begin a search for his mother and Fuzz, don’t you?”

Rose gave a blank look before suddenly seeing how it all was. Just before she had grasped exactly how horrible she should feel, Edward tugged at her skirts with wide eyes.
“I didn’t know you knew my momma. Why don’t you like her, Rose? Momma is the bestest person in the whole world.”

Razzmorten saw the frantically helpless expression on Rose’s face. Satisfied that she appreciated the hole she had just dug herself, he came to her rescue. “Edward,” he said as he knelt down to look him in the eye, “you may not realize it, but there are many women in the world named Myrtlebell. I don’t think the Myrtlebell Rose knows is your momma or you know she would like her.”

Edward knitted his brow as he considered, then he looked up at Rose.

“That’s right, Edward,” she said, brightened with relief. “Why, the Myrtlebell I knew could never have a child as bright and sweet as you.” She knelt before him. “I’m sorry I upset you. Your mother couldn’t be the Myrtlebell I knew.”

Edward nodded wisely. “I wonder how somebody named Momma’s name could be bad,” he said, giving Rose a forgiving smile, “but somebody called Angel could be mean and awful.” Then with a huge yawn, he lunged for her with a hug. “I’m really, really tired now.”

“Right,” said Rose, as she turned to Spark and Lipperella, who had been keenly watching everything as they dropped endless chunks of sukere down dragonet gullets. “Is there some place where Edward could sleep?”

Lipperella nodded and surprised Razzmorten by handing him her dish of sukere as she passed. “Gweltaz, could you do this for me?” he said. “I think it’s urgent that I speak with the diatrymas. Kast, you say they refuse to come inside…?”

“They never do. They won’t.”

“You know about them. You spoke with them, would you take me up there right now andFotolia_74796694_Subscription_Monthly_M CROPHEAD introduce me to them?”

Kast was on his feet immediately, heading for a cramped passage, scarcely larger than the dragon himself, hurrying along so quickly that Razzmorten nearly had to jog to keep up. Presently they came to a spiral stair, carved out of the limestone of the cavern, that led directly overhead to where the diatrymas had bedded down, side by side in the leaves beneath the leaning oaks. At their approach, the diatrymas raised their heads high in unison, but remained resting on their keel bones.

Meanwhile, Lipperella lead Rose and Edward to a small passage opening into a grotto with several pallets. “Guest quarters for our human friends,” she said as she neatly lit a candle with a wee spurt of blue flame from between her lips, revealing the attractive suite.

“My!” said Rose in astonishment that at once made her feel awkward.

“I’ll just leave you to tuck him in, then,” said Lipperella graciously, as she turned to go back.

“Thank you,” called out Rose belatedly.

Edward wasted no time sliding into the most inviting strange bed he had ever seen. Rose found a basin and full pitcher and washed his face and hands. He gave Rose one last smile. He needed another hug. Rose was simply too much like Myrtlebell not to be his chosen nanny. He began to snore softly even before Rose pulled the coverlet over him. She smiled at him in wonder then silently left his side, returning to the nursery to find the company waiting for Razzmorten to return from his visit to the diatrymas.

After some time they returned. Razzmorten sat down at once, rubbing the bridge of his nose.

“What did you find, Grandfather?” said Lukus.

“Stunning…absolutely stunning creatures, that’s what.”

“Comes with the feathers, Wiz,” said Hubba Hubba, looking up suddenly from a serious preen.

“They could well be the most intelligent beings I’ve ever addressed. I truly believe they were making sure that I had all the information I needed to come to a decision, but they were exhausted from their long run, and once they saw that I had what I needed, they politely persuaded me to leave so they could sleep. They also plan on helping us.”

“In my dealings with them, I’ve not known them to forget even the very most minor detail of anything,” said Kast. “I daresay you’ll be right thankful for their aid.”

“They are almost certainly the adar taranus which Razzorbauch released from the rocks when he created the fudge volcano,” said Razmorten. “If they be, then they are the ones he is said to have regretted turning loose.”

“Certainly,” said Lipperella. “As Truth-Bearer, I’ve had several occasions when I sought them out in secret. Razzorbauch was never comfortable with the truth. Unfortunately they keep to themselves, so that over the years I’ve seldom seen them.”Stone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle

“Well, we seem to have no choice but to leave at once,” said Razzmorten.

Ch. 10, Stone Heart

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Minuet has a Strange Light in Her Eye

Rose stood stiffly on the stool as a pair of seamstresses pinned the hem of Minuet’s wedding gown. Minuet stood watching, radiant with happiness at her decision to wed as well as at her decision to wear her gown. “I’m more certain than ever that Mother and Father never expected me to marry,” she thought with a smile. “Mother,” she said, “I
suppose you understand that Fuzz and I want to wait for Lukus and Soraya to arrive
before we have the wedding?”

“That’s what your father and I assumed,” said Minuet as she stooped to examine just how her hem was pinned in a certain place, “but Lukus and his family should be arriving in a few short weeks, which really only gives us scarcely enough time for all the arrangements.”

“We have plenty of time if we keep it small enough, Mother,” said Rose with a smile.

Minuet opened her mouth to protest, but closed it with a grin. “It is your wedding, Rose. And I suppose you’re right, all things considered.”

“Yes,” said Rose, as she thought: “After calling off the extravagant affair with James, who knows how it would go? Besides, these are bad times upon us.” She stepped off the stool and out of the gown as the seamstresses carried it away for alterations. “Mother,” she said, picking up her robe from across a chair. “I’ve come to a decision. I want you to do something for me, if you will.”

“My word. Is something wrong?”

“Very wrong, actually. But to put you at ease, this has nothing to do with the wedding.”

“By all means dear, if I possibly can. What is it?”

“Could you teach me to use my powers?”

“Why, I thought you’d decided that you wanted nothing to do with becoming a sorceress, Rose,” she said with an astonished look.

“No, by no means. I never did. But I suppose I was doing little more than following in your footsteps, all these years. I think that under the current circumstances it would be irresponsible to have such an ability and not use it for the good of all.”

Minuet’s eyes flashed.

“Oh, my! I didn’t mean it to sound that way. I was only referring to me. Our circumstances are altogether different. I’m not queen of anywhere. Fuzz is a military man and will undoubtedly be in the thick of what’s coming, and I’ve every intention of being right beside him, so will you teach me?”

“Have you discussed this with Fuzz, dear? It would not be right to keep something like this to yourself.”

“Not yet,” said Rose with a sigh, “but rest assured, he’ll abide by whatever I…”

“Of course Rose, I’d not expect otherwise. But it would put me at ease, knowing that you’d discussed it with him.”

“You’re so provincial, Mother.”

“‘Considerate’ is what we once called it, I believe.”

“I’ll go speak with him this minute, but I suggest you go dig out your wand.”

“All right,” said Minuet, as a strange light kindled in her eye. “You’ve a bargain.”

Ch. 35, Stone Heart

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Meri Greenwood gives Ocker a Powerful Stick

article-2259232-16A1EDFC000005DC-642_634x359

As the shadows were growing long, Ocker buried his marble before flying to the whispering branches of a tall spruce to study a green haired man picking up sticks on the ground below. Titmice and chickadees called nearby, hidden by the boughs. Ocker shook himself and sorted through the feathers of each wing while he kept an eye on the man. “That’s Greenwood, all right,” he thought.

Without warning, Meri Greenwood stood up and looked straight at him. “Hoy, Ocker!” he hollered. “Ain’t eighteen rod a pretty far piece for to visit?”

Ocker was so startled by this that he had to flap his way into the air to hide his having lost his grip on his perch. “Damn him!” he rattled as he swooped down to a tree much closer.

“Do you not trust me?” said Meri.

“Not much,” said Ocker. “Do you trust me?”

“I trust you to be the shrewdest thing I know of with feathers, but if you want to do business, you are going to have to come down here with me,” said Meri as he squatted at once and patted the ground.

“Business hit is,” said Ocker, landing on the carpet of needles before him, “but your flattery won’t lessen my price. I have information dear to you.”

“Celeste!” cried Meri. “Where is she? She my whole life do be.”

“Then she’s worth my price…”

“Well what is hit?”

“I’ve had some especially valuable tidings to sell, lately,” said Ocker as he ran his beak down a flight feather with a silky zip. “And one of my customers came to consider my services so indispensable that she gave me the powers of a hedge wizard and taught me a traveling spell to get me quickly to her castle to keep her up on matters of keen interest to her…”

“Demonica?”

Ocker stopped short, quite wide eyed at this. “How could you possibly figure that out?”

“Two and two make Demonica. But now, I interrupted your tale.”

Ocker felt very exposed. “Well, the traveling spell only takes me to her keep and back,” he said, bristling up like a pine cone and sleeking down. “And hit took me all day to fly here…”

“I can not never her spell for to change, nor can I change the magic of any Elf or Human,” said Meri, falling silent to eye him with his keen emerald eyes for so long that Ocker nearly sprang into the air in a panic. Suddenly Greenwood rose and went to his knapsack, pulling out a small polished stick. “But I this here do have…”

“A stick?” cried Ocker. “You must not think me as shrewd as you were saying.”

“Some of my trees the magic fire from any one can to store,” said Meri, holding out the stick. “This be one of Longbark’s twigs. She be the eldest being in the Forest Ancient and has magic and she very wise do be. This here twig a good deal of fire does store. Maybe you can yourself a way to change Demonica’s spell to divine, if you first a quantity of your magic fire in the twig to store. So will you take the twig?”

This was not nearly certain enough to suit Ocker, but there was an unmistakable desperation in Meri’s tone that made him snatch away the twig at once and stand on it.
“Celeste and her sisters and that swyving rat brother of theirs are seeking sanctuary with the Elves in the Jutwoods,” he said with a snap of first one wing and then the other. “They were camped about ten league south-east of my nest two days ago.”

“Rat brother? They a brother do have, but he’s not no rat.”zack__s_face_on_a_rat__s_body_by_gginstereo-d3gu6tu_edited-1

“Yea? Well he is now. Somebody got him good. He’s all rat except for his face, and he’s counting on the Elves undoing his curse, though the three quientes… I mean three ladies, hope they don’t manage.”

“How could you possibly know something like unto that?”

“I listen from the treetops,” said Ocker as he took a couple of careful pecks at his new stick. “I heard them say hit, that’s how. Say. How about the hindquarters off one of those squirrels you have draped across that log?”

igp1965_1“They are both yours,” said Meri, grabbing up his bag. He set off at once into the timber and ran through the deepening shadows until he reached a mossy glade. Across the glade he came to a large ring of mushrooms. As a whip-poor-will gave its first call of the evening, he stepped into the ring and disappeared up to his knees in the moss before
jogging down out of sight, vanishing altogether.

Country Diary archive : A large fairy ring of toadstools in the woodland floor

 

Ch. 9, Good Sister, Bad Sister

Good_Sister,_Bad_Sis_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Spark the Dragon Loses His Feathers

archpaint

A shadow passed over them. Ugleeuh looked up with a start to see a deep green dragon with a turquoise crest, the size of a cow, gliding majestically for a row of openings into lava tubes running up the nearby dome. “It’s a bird with teeth!” she cried, springing to her feet to shade her eyes. “And I swear I saw claws in its wings…”

“You did, dear,” said Demonica. “And I trust you realize that this is one of the very dragons that we came for…”

“I knew what it was.”

Demonica was not listening. “Here comes another,” she said, touching Razzorbauch’s arm.

“Good,” he said, “I knew that this was the place, but until the first one swooped in, I hadn’t quite spotted their caves. I was a bit further down, the time before. I spent all day,
and I allowed that there was above two hundred dragon a-coming and going. That ought
to suit my needs…”

“Yes,” said Demonica. “They should suit us quite nicely.”

“What if it saw us?” said Ugleeuh.

“I doubt if it did,” said Demonica. “Had it seen us, it would be trying to set us alight, this minute. The pines hid us. That’s why I changed into this terrible green kirtle before we left Head.”

Sinornithosaurus_mag

“I’ve not seen a one, yet,” said Demonica to Razzorbauch as she gave an impatient head to toe glance at Ugleeuh.

“You will,” he said.

At that very moment, an echoing bellow from the caves got their attention in time for them to see a dozen dragons charging out abreast into the open air, blinded by the stinging fiery nightshade fumes, snorting and gasping, flapping their wings and stumbling
about.

“Keep them blind!” shouted Razzorbauch as he ran toward the dragons with his staff leveled. “Don’t let them spit flames! Freeze any that try to fly!”

Demonica set to work at once, hurling crackling lavender bolts from her staff into the faces of beast after beast as they thundered from the caves, while Razzorbauch sent out a pounding hail of flashes from his, causing the plumage to fall free from the dragons’ wings and bodies in cascading bundles and wads, as the terrified animals flapped
themselves to nakedness, and the air filled with the stench of singeing feathers. More and
more came in a frantic rush for fresh air only to be undressed in their bewildered frenzy,
until at last the wash in front of the caves was filled with a milling herd of better than two
hundred naked dragons, fenced in by a corralling spell cast by Demonica.

Razzorbauch climbed a large red rock to stand above their heads. “Peoc’h!” he roared, addressing them in Headlandish. “Silence!”

At once, the only sounds to be heard were the rattling of cottonwood leaves and the nearby calls of laughing quail. As he stood there counting them, a young male who happened to be outside of Demonica’s spell, was carefully inching away. Suddenly he
broke into a run for the caves. Razzorbauch jerked his staff aloft at the sight of him,
shooting him with a brilliant beam of ruby light from the Heart in its end, blowing him
apart with a thundering concussion which left a hole in the ground big enough to bury
several dragons, as a peppering of dirt and flecks of flesh rained down through the leaves
of the cottonwoods.

“N’eus ket tu da,” said Razzorbauch, speaking out over the hushed herd. “There’s no way to. There’s no way anyone else could possibly break away and run. But you see what would happen if he could. From this moment on, for as long as you live, you are each my chattel. Now. I’m going to walk to the sea and you’re going to follow me. It will be a few days to get there and a few more to wait for ships which will take you to my plantation.” He paused to look over their numbers for a moment before clambering down from his rock. “Poent eo mont kuit!” he cried with a wave of his staff. “It’s time to leave!” And with that, he began walking.

images (4)

The dragon multitude formed a lumbering queue as they followed, utterly beaten, as Demonica set out in their wake with her staff. Ugleeuh picked up one of the great green feathers littering the ground, every bit as long as she was tall and was astonished at how very light it was. “My!” she said. “These are light as a feather.”

“One does expect that with feathers, dear,” said Demonica.

Ugleeuh thought it would make quite a souvenir, but tossed it aside at the thought of the long walk ahead. “So,” she said, catching up. “‘Mammvro.’ Wouldn’t that be Headlandish for ‘Motherland?'”

“It is. It’s the dragon word for it, really. I call it that because of the dragons. The rest of the continent calls these the Red Lands or the Red Desert…”

“Dragon word? They can talk?”Good_Sister,_Bad_Sis_Cover_for_Kindle

Good Sister, Bad Sister, Ch. 11

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Homer’s Head

blackboys-inn

When Lukus takes his Elven wife and her family into The Suds and Steer in Sweetpea  to enjoy a Stone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindlenice supper in Chapter 40 of Stone Heart, they run into trouble…

Lukus was disappointed that the waitress did not recognize him in the least, though he clearly knew better. It merely made her like nearly everyone else on earth. Soon she was back, huffing and shuffling and sidling between tables as she brought forth the stew. She labored to breathe as she strained to set out the steaming bowls beyond the reaches of her girth without tottering. As she straightened up, Soraya lowered her hood and unbuttoned her cloak in order to eat. The elephantine serving woman stopped wide eyed and rigid, jowls a-jiggle. As a look of hatred swept across her lardy face, she furiously snapped up both bowls at once, slinging stew onto both Soraya and Lukus. “We don’t serve y’r stinkin’ kind in here!” she screeched as she wheeled away to the kitchen with their meal.

640_crown-bell-pewter

Lukus sprang up, knocking his chair flat as he started after her.

“Hey,” said Danneth, intercepting him. “Perhaps it would be wise if we just left quietly.”

“No,” said Lukus between his teeth. “Not until that sow gives me a better reason than she just did.”

“I’d say there’s a very good chance she’ll not,” said Danneth with a sigh as he stepped aside.

Lukus zigzagged between the tables, catching up to the waitress just as she put her shoulder to black-patina-platesthe swinging door to the kitchen. “Please excuse my abruptness ma’am,” he said as polite as he could manage, “but I’d truly like to know why you refused to serve my wife and me the meal we just ordered. Our money’s as good as anyone’s.”

“I’m s’prised you’ns even ‘ave the nerve t’ come in here a-flauntin’ y’selves amongst decent folks,” she huffed in a thin falsetto, as her eyes turned to hot slits in her red face. “Ye think we don’t know what you’re all about? Ha! The queen told us ‘erse’f, she did.”

“She what? So just what did the queen say about the Elves?”

“You ain’t no Elf!” she screeched.

“No, I’m not. Now, will you please be kind enough to answer my question? Just what on earth ANT02102did Spitemorta say about the Elves?”

She looked across the room at Soraya. “Why are ye traveling with an Elf?” she said defiantly. “Don’t y’ know they’re dangerous?”

“What makes them dangerous, then?”

“They’re after our land. They’re out t’ kill us all for it, too,” she said with wild piggy eyes. “Y’ best get shed o’ that Elf right now! She’ll sooner slit y’r throat as look at ye, young fool!” And with that, she shoved past him through the door with a shriek and a yank of her tray, sending the bowls skittering across the kitchen floor on the other side.

Lukus looked up from his shocked disbelief to find the entire room astir like a kicked hive, every single eye on him. Across the room Soraya and her kin bore emphatically urgent looks. Things were well on their way to getting ugly and they needed to get out.

Lukus tramped across the dining room, put the bail of one traveling basket in the crook of his arm antique-pewter-plate-olivier-le-queinecand the other one in his left hand as he grabbed Soraya with his right, pulling her to her feet and heading for the hall to the stairs, surrounded by Neron, Danneth, Strom and Jerund.

“Just get our belongings and go?” he said, bounding up the steps.

“You mean there’s a choice?” said Neron.

“Is there a way out up here?” said Danneth.

“Everyone grab up your things!” cried Jerund as he hurried ahead. “Good job no one unpacked. I’ll go see.” As everyone raced to his respective door, Jerund reached the window at the end of the hall. “Cac! Léan air! A leithéid de chac!” he cried. Suddenly he broke out the glass and waved out the window. “Hey! Get the coach and the unicorns around front! Now!” He dashed back, by the rooms as everyone came out. “No way out We got ‘o go back the way we came in! If we’re lucky the coach will be somewhere…!”

20-SW665_1

Lukus fumbled with buckles, strapping the claymore to his back for the first time. He grabbed up the twins, put his arm around Soraya and was ready. “It’s a mercy no one chased up here after us,” he said. Down they went, plunging into the dining room full of glares, angry jeers and shaking fists. They shoved their way through the jostling and spitting, but miraculously got to the front door. Soraya, Strom and the twins got shoved outside, stumbling onto the steps before the door got slammed painfully on Danneth’s arm.

“Get ’em, Homer!” came cries all around, as a hateful face stepped forth and ran a rapier through Jerund’s shoulder.

Lukus went instantly white hot, lunging forward with a furious two handed swing. Gearr Téigh Síós rang with a sharp ping and Homer’s head rolled away across the plates on the floor with a kristeva-severed-topbloody bounce under dancing feet as the crowd gasped, taken by surprise. Suddenly a rotten toothed man with a tar tail charged up with a cutlass to be impaled by Neron, who yanked out his claymore from the fellow and neatly cleaved two heads, while Lukus took off another’s arm. When the crowd hesitated, Danneth pulled Jerund outside, as Neron and Lukus backed out and slammed the door.

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Wizard Razzmorten takes Hubba Hubba to See the King and Queen

Scan10069

Razzmorten cleared his throat. Hubba Hubba straightened up at once, giving himself a feather fluffing shake. “Well Queen, how could you possibly have known it was me?”

“Oh, Hubba Hubba! I’d know you anywhere.”Scan10074

Hubba Hubba drew back his head and thrust it forth in a gawk of bewilderment at Razzmorten. Razmorten gave a wide-eyed shrug. “I hate to dampen this merry reunion, but time may be pressing,” he said. “Hubba Hubba has a message from your sister, regarding Rose and Lukus.”

“Ugleeuh!” cried King Hebraun, springing to his feet. “She hasn’t harmed them, has she?”

“No, no. I wouldn’t think so,” said Razzmorten, handing Ugleeuh’s note to Hebraun. “She has decided to blackmail you. She plans to be set free from the Chokewood Forest. It seems she has Rose and Lukus at her cottage and plans to give their freedom for hers. See for yourself.”

King Hebraun quickly read the missive and handed it to Minuet. “Father!” she choked. “You said Ugleeuh could cause no more harm once she was exiled.”

Scan10075

“Not outside of her part of the Chokewoods,” said Razzmorten, as he gently picked up her hand. “I can’t imagine that she had any way of abducting them. They had to have gone there on their own, and most likely to answer some of the questions which Rose was asking all around, right prior to their disappearance. No, Ugleeuh has not been any sort of hazard outside her boundaries from the time we sent her there until this very minute, but this extortion of hers is her design to change all that. Meanwhile, the children must be safe. Stop and think. Ugleeuh is evil, but she’s no fool. She’d hardly destroy the one and only chance she’s had to end her exile. She’ll not harm Rose and Lukus as long as there’s any chance she can use them to get free.”

“He’s right,” cawed Hubba Hubba. “In all the years I’ve spent with her, she never suggested harming a feather on my body until I refused to come here. Then she threatened
to cook me. And I have an idea. When I left, Ugleeuh gave me this scrying crystal so I’d
be able to see her and the forest any time I wanted. Here. Try it to check on Rose and
Lukus. I’ll bet that will make you feel better.”

Minuet suddenly looked hopeful but Razzmorten sadly shook his head. “Your offer is grand, Hubba Hubba, but I’m afraid your crystal is useless. She’s managed to divine an astonishing barrier around her part of the forest to prevent being watched by any sort of crystal gazing. I certainly have tried to often enough.”

Hubba Hubba was stunned. “So!” he squawked with a shake of his feathers. “She lied again. She said she’d drop the protections and keep them down until I returned. Fool
that I am, I told her not to because she’d leave herself vulnerable. She told me that her
protections had been in place so long that no one would bother to spy on her. No wonder
she wasn’t worried. She’d no intention of dropping her protections all along.”

“Whoa Hubba Hubba,” said Razzorten, as he shared raised eyebrows with Hebraun and Minuet. “There was talk of dropping her protections?”

Crow-0056-A01“Talk. Yea.”

“Where’s this scrying crystal Ugleeuh gave you?”

“Right here, actually,” he said, looking down at his breast. “The crystal is the brooch fixed on my flight harness. But what difference does that make if it’s useless?”

Razzmorten was already unbuckling the harness, shaking his head to be silent while he slipped it off him. The king and queen anxiously crowded around. Hubba Hubba peered at the stone from Razzmorten’s shoulder, and nearly lost his balance when the old man whooped with glee. “It works! I see the forest. And look at this. There’s Ugleeuh flying above the trees on a broom. That’s a right novel talent. She certainly never did that before her exile. I suppose it’s no surprise that she’d develop her powers to while away the time there.”

“I despise the idea of her having any powers,” said Minuet. “Where do you suppose Rose and Lukus are?”

“I’d bet in her cottage,” said Hubba Hubba. “They haven’t been much for going outdoors, all summer. Mostly they stayed around the house and you know, ate, slept, those kinds o’ things…” He trailed off uncomfortably, seeing everyone looking straight at him. “Well when I was there, they joked around with me and we talked and stuff, don’t you know,” he stammered, glancing from one person to the next as he resumed. “Sometimes they did go outside and take me for my exercise flights. And once Lukus and I even went for a hike. Now that was really fun, except when the log rolled over on me and broke my toe, of course.” He fluffed up and ran his beak along several flight feathers, letting each go with a snap before he continued. “Anyway, try the cottage.”

Razzmorten was scarcely listening as he brought his concentration to bear upon scrying with the crystal. At last, Rose and Lukus appeared, wearing their stripped cloaks, hurrying to keep up with Fuzz.

“Wow!” said Hubba Hubba. “Ugleeuh and Fuzz are definitely not on friendly terms. I can’t imagine her letting them talk to him, let alone run off with him somewhere.”

“Looks like those stripped cloaks are camouflage,” said Razzmorten with a grave nod, “at least I’d say so from the appearance of the surrounding trees. They certainly don’t appear to be out for a hunt, and if they’ve gone to this kind of trouble to hide, they very
likely are attempting to flee, rather than waiting for us to respond to her extortion demands. So this bear ‘Fuzz,’ Ugleeuh doesn’t like him, you say?”

“Not much…”

“Speaks well of him.”

“Oh Hebraun!” said Minuet. “Their faces are so pale and pasty. They don’t look well. What has she done to them?”

“Remember that I can’t scry,” said Hebraun, as he shared a look with Razzmorten, “but it sounds like they’ve been eating your sister’s food. They’ll surely snap out of it as soon as we get them home.”

“And remember that they’re young and strong, Minuet,” said Razzmorten. “Neither one has ever been sick. They’re going to be just fine.”

“But how are we going to get them home, now?” said Minuet. “And what if Ugleeuh catches them? They’ve defied her and escaped. I can’t imagine her fury. No one who thwarts her is ever safe. You can count on her saying that they owe her for having been at her cottage, even though they were her prisoners. She’d make them pay mercilessly for that. But stand in the way of her freedom? I can’t picture her controlling herself.”

Razzmorten sucked in a deep breath between his teeth. “I’m sure Ugleeuh is mortally angry,” he said, “but it still behooves her to handle Rose and Lukus with care. I can’t imagine her forgetting that they are her only chance to leave the forest, short of dying. I’d say that if she does catch them, it’s this Fuzz, whoever he is, who won’t survive her vengeance.”

“You got it.” said Hubba Hubba. “She wants out and Fuzz is a goner. Oh, absolutely.” He hesitated, seeing that he was being taken very seriously by everyone. “She
threatened to slaughter and eat me, just because I told her I wouldn’t deliver her ransom
note. And she claims she loves me. She doesn’t even like Fuzz.”

“Pray that they’re not caught,” said Minuet, looking pale and drawn, as she sat down on her throne. “I grew up struggling with her getting even with everyone under the sun.”

“How do you suppose this Fuzz plans to help Rose and Lukus escape?” said Hebraun.

“Until some clue turns up,” said Razzmorten, rubbing his temples gingerly before gazing The_Collector_Witch_Cover_for_Kindleback into the crystal, “I have utterly no idea at all, except that they most likely are indeed attempting some sort of escape, right now.”

“What happens if Ugleeuh intercepts them, Father?” said Minuet. “What then?”

“Then I shall have to face her myself.” said Razzmorten calmly enough to cause Hubba Hubba to gape in astonishment. “Please don’t be afraid, Minuet. I swear that no harm shall come to my grandchildren. I swear it on my life.”

Ch. 20, The Collector Witch

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

The Diatrymas Take Edward to the Dragon Caves

devils_den_sinkhole

Edward lay still as a newborn fawn behind the granite rock where Mary had shoved him, until long after the only sounds to be heard were the leaves of grass stirring in the evening breeze. His stout little heart had shored up all it could manage and at last he gave way, crying out with whooping sobs through the sleeves of his sweater into roots of the grass in the pungent sod where he lay. After a time, with the last his tears drying on his face, something gently tugged at his collar and he looked up at the giant bird who had been standing vigil over him.

“Ceidwad! You stayed!”6f9fde723ee52483fa2689890dee578c_1_orig

“I expect your heart still wants to break,” said Ceidwad with a deep reedy rasp, as she delicately rattled her enormous beak along the length of a lock of his hair.

“You talk!”

“Only when we must. Edward, your mother needs your help. She needs you to be brave. Climb onto Lladdwr this minute. We must be off to the dragons.”

Lladdwr studied him with one eye for just a moment, then quickly stepped forth and settled onto his breastbone. Edward hurriedly clambered onto his saddle as best he could with legs too short for the stirrups.

“Let’s go,” said Edward as he looked back to see Ceidwad ready to follow. “I sure hope this takes me to the dragons.”

“We’re quite aware of the way,” said Lladdwr resonating in a voice like Ceidwad’s only much deeper.

“Let’s go fast!” cried Edward with startling exuberance, as he grabbed the cantle of his saddle and shook it back and forth.

“Say something if I frighten you.”

Edward hugged Lladdwr’s thick, fluffy neck for his kindly tone, and at once the gigantic bird surged forward and kept gathering speed until Edward checked the ground to see if they had not actually taken to the air. He clung to the saddle for dear life but refused to let on. He’d never hurt his wonderful big bird’s feelings.

Ch. 8, Stone HeartStone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

 

 

Carol & Tom Phipps

Laora the Little Dragon Shares a Vole with Ceidwad the Diatryma

black0001

“I think this is what you don’t grasp,” she said with polite patience. “Most of nature is profoundly logical without consciousness. Just being conscious does not make one profound. All of dragondom is not big enough. Now, I hate to be rude but Mary is in
peril. Have we discussed this enough that…?”

“Absolutely,” said Spark, springing to his feet. “I’m off to the council. I’m guessing that they’ll agree at once to Mary’s request. Meanwhile, please feel free to enjoy our hospitality and make yourselves at home. I’ll be back immediately as soon as I know.”

Ceidwad and Lladwr gave dignified nods as he dashed away, leaving them with sitting withPhororhacos Lipperella. At once Laora and Edward scurried forth and plopped down directly in front of them. Lipperella looked at Laora and raised an eyebrow. Laora looked at the grass. Bit by bit she began studying Ceidwad with rapt admiration. It was quite something to be recognized as ‘pretty’ by such a large and important bird. She saw something in the grass. “Got ‘im!” she said, snapping up a vole. “Would you like half, Ceidwad? I’ll split ‘im with you.”

022210-Vole-Diggin.jpg_full_600

“Oh, thank you sweetheart. Don’t mind if I do.” she said, neatly snipping off and swallowing the squeaking end. “They’re delicious.”

“Edward doesn’t like them, so I guess I get to share one with somebody.”

“Well, he wouldn’t dear. Humans like things like this cooked…don’t you, Edward?”

Edward looked up from his piece of stick with a wary nod.

“And you’re very lucky, since you’re able to do things I couldn’t possibly manage…”

“Like what?” said Laora with astonishment.

“Well, you have hands on the wrists of your wings for one thing,” said Ceidwad. “so that means you could cook Edward a nice, fat vole…with your momma’s help, of course. And not only that, you’re going to be coming into your flame soon, and then you can toast ’em on the spot.”

“Your…” hollered Spark, as he lunged into view, out of the cavern entrance, “Your request has been granted!” Everyone looked up as he hurried over to the grassy spot. “However, the council feels that it can spare none other than Tors and Kast and me, and that’s only two thirds as good as you might think, since I can’t spout fire!”

“We’re certainly most grateful for all the help we can get,” said Ceidwad, “but why are so few of you able to come?”

“The clan’s preparing to move us to the Black Desert and since our survival seems to be at stake, they’re afraid to let go of very many,” he said, pulling a grass stem to chew on.

“But you’ve been here above three hundred year,” said Ceidwad with wide eyes. “What has caused this?”

“I reckon you and the White Witch haven’t heard from Elves nor Niarg since your return, aye?”

“Oh, oh!” said Ceidwad. “This has to do with Demonica in some way, doesn’t it?”

“Well, Spitemorta, to be exact…”

“Actually,” said Lladdwr, “Mary had hoped you’d ‘ave heard from the Elves, since the only safe place she could think to flee to with her enchanted ones was Jutwood Forest.”

“I see,” said Spark. “Well, according to the Elves, Spitemorta and Demonica have convinced the people of Loxmere-Goll that we dragons carried out plans laid by Niarg and the Elves to set fire to all their sukere fields. Right now they’re preparing for war with
Niarg and the Elves. When you showed up Tors, Kast and I were getting ready to leave
for Niarg to see if taking the entire clan to the Black Desert is warranted. Meanwhile, the
whole clan is being made ready for an immediate flight the moment we return. So, the
council is sending the three of us to your aid before we go to Niarg, provided we set out
immediately.”

“Things are deteriorating far faster than we’d expected,” said Ceidwad.

“They only approve if we can be gone within the hour,” said Spark. “Are you two right ready for a return journey?”

Ceidwad and Lladdwr nodded in unison. “Let’s go,” said Ceidwad as they sprang to their feet and gave their feathers a thorough shake.

Spark drew aside for a farewell with Lipperella, Laora and Edward and the Mob that they knew would end the moment Tors and Kast appeared up the stairs. They had scarcely had hugs all ’round when the pair came bounding out into the open with bags and gear. Spark gave Lipperella an extra squeeze and started off.

Ch. 42, Stone Heart

Stone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol and Tom Phipps

Heart of the Staff Complete Series Box (1)