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

Who is Spark?

Sinornithosaurus_mag

 Spark is a fireless, featherless and flightless dragon, the husband of Lipperella and the father of Good_Sister,_Bad_Sis_Cover_for_KindleLaora. Spark and Lipperella were rendered featherless by the wizard Razzorbauch and the sorceress Demonica when they rounded up most of the dragons in the Mammvro of the Dark Continent and hauled them across the sea to harvest sukere on Razzorbauch’s vast plantation on the Northern Continent in Good Sister, Bad Sister.

The_Collector_Witch_Cover_for_Kindle

Spark’s firelessness was considered contemptible by the other dragons for a time and he was exiled to the Peppermint Forest prior to The Collector Witch. After the death of Razzorbauch, he returned and marriedStone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle the dragon clan’s Truth Teller, Lipperella. By a fortunate accident, neither Spark nor Lipperella were rendered sterile when they lost their feathers, as were the rest of the dragons, so they were able to produce the only offspring possible for the entire clan, in Stone Heart. And without Razzorbauch’s terrible spells, these offspring had feathers and could fly.

The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_KindleSpark and Lipperella became instrumental in coaxing the dragons to give up hating humans and to become important allies of the The Reaper Witch 01 copyKingdom of Niarg and formidable foes of Queen Spitemorta in The BurgeoningThe Reaper Witch and in Doomthe final book of the Heart of the Staff series.

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Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Who is Longbark?

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Longbark is a female everwaking oak who was the oldest known tree in the Forest Good_Sister,_Bad_Sis_Cover_for_KindleThe_Burgeoning_Cover_for_KindlePrimeval, possibly as old as Meri Greenwood himself. The evil sorcerer Razzorbauch feared her power, and so uprooted her and transplanted her in Bedd Chwiorydd Tair, or Tomb of the Three Sisters (Towmb of þe Three Susters), an extinct volcano with two craters in the southern Pitmaster’s Kettles, when he imprisoned the three Fairy sisters there at the time that he turned the forest into the Chokewoods in Good Sister, Bad The Reaper Witch 01 copySister. The very Great Staff of Power was made from one of her branches as was the powerful stick given to Ocker the raven by Meri Greenwood. It is Longbark to whom the Fairies turn for advice on Abaddon in The Burgeoning and the Damned Baby in The Reaper Witch.

everwaking oak – Quercus claudo-ilex R., derwin hollol effro (Old Niarg Standard) (wide coast_liveoak_rolled_leavesawake oak), a dioecious evergreen oak with holly-like elliptical 1″ x 2″ leaves with spiny toothed margins, glossy dark green above and whitish green below, which suddenly fold along the midrib and collapse at each end of the petiole when exposed to certain thigmatic and electromagnetic stimuli in a manner reminiscent of the mimosa’s response to touch. The narrowly oblong 1/4th” x 3/4th” acorns are enclosed by a shallow scaly cap, and are born singly on the end of a stalk. The trees are much the same stature as burr oaks, being thirty to fifty feet tall with a spreading crown somewhat broader than the tree is tall. They are indigenous to very restricted parts of the thinly forested, savanna-like rolling uplands of the Forest Primeval flanking the great Fairy Valley. A number of them, particularly the female known as OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALongbark, are claimed to possess a magical intelligence which the Fairies regard highly. A number of wizard’s staves and rods have been made from Longbark’s branches, including the Great Staff of Power. The Fairies make a slightly bitter tea from their leaves which is similar to yerba mate, except that its alkaloid concentration is four to five times as strong as that of mate and must be drunk with milk. The Fairies also make bread which can be kneaded from a glutinous flour made from their acorns.

 

Wizard Razzmorten Helps Lay Plans

Dave Sheldrake Photographer A3 Art

“King Neron’s message globe is stunning,” said Captain Bernard from under his bushy brow as he tossed a wide-eyed look at Razzmorten. “I’ve heard tell, but I’ve never before seen the like.”

Razzmorten gave a polite but sober nod.

“This is bad news for the Elves,” said Bernard as he began pacing about the room, “I mean, this is plain bad news altogether. There’ll be a lot more Elves die over this, sure
enough, but I can think of two things right now which are bad for us. Oilean Gairdin and
Jutland may be all Elves, but it’s on us. They’re part of Niarg, so if Spitemorta and
Demonica sent the trolls in there, they’ve just attacked us. And the other thing is, by
doing so they look like they could very well be trying to get us to divide our army in order
to make it easy for them to attack Niarg proper.” He paused to look at Minuet, who was
studying him keenly, smiling in a way that seemed to be covering up a smoldering flame.
Razzmorten was not letting on. Minuet ran the flat of her hand over the table top, then
looked up, ready to hear more.

“I’m sure that King Hebraun would have the same thing to say,” he said as he shifted the hilt of his saber and resumed pacing. “It is obvious, after all. And he’d waste no time sending out a strike force, particularly if Prince Lukus and his family are having to flee…”

“So is it your opinion then, Captain,” said Razzmorten, “that Spitemorta and Demonica are indeed doing this in order to strike Niarg?”

“Well sir, everything certainly looks that way. I’d even say so beyond any doubt whatsoever, except that I simply can’t imagine what they’re going to use for an army. My
word! We slew well neigh thirteen thousand of them at Ashmore, and you said yourself,
my Queen,” he said, turning to her with a nod, “that there was narrowly a man between
six ‘n’ ten and sixty to be seen out and about when you scryed Goll.”

“Yes,” said Minuet, standing up at once with a slap of the table top to begin pacing her own 220px-Woman_redhead_natural_portrait_1tight circle beside the one Bernard had been following. “It seems obvious that you are indeed onto something, Captain, and I can certainly guess what they’re going to use as an army. We may have slain theirs, but we have not done a single thing to cripple them magically. If we send troops to aid Oilean Gairdin, she’s very likely to make a magical strike against Niarg.”

“Oh, they could be all set to launch a magical attack if we send aid to the Elves,” said Razzmorten with a screech of his chair on the stone floor, “and it sure seems like they’d have to be, particularly if we’re thinking in terms of armies, but…”

“‘If we’re thinking in terms of armies?’ What else would we possibly be thinking in terms of?” said Minuet. “What better time would there be for a magical strike against Niarg than when we have sent away a substantial part of our army?”

“Oh, there would indeed be no better time if Goll were actually using an army,” he said asthe-alchemist he removed his spectacles and fogged their lenses with his breath. “But if they wanted to cripple Niarg with a magical strike, they would want to destroy as much of our army as they could with one blow, so they’d want us all right here.”

“But why wouldn’t they want to get us and the Elves together when we went to their aid?” said Minuet as she took a seat next to him.

“Because it would leave us able to launch a retaliatory strike with the troops which stayed here,” boomed Bernard as he found the chair across from the two of them and sat with a rattle of chain mail.

“Then we need to be moving!” said Minuet with a fiery tone.

Razzmorten nodded and looked over his spectacles at Bernard.

“I’ll call the troops and we’ll be underway before first light,” he said with a decisive nod, The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_Kindleslapping the table with his gauntlet as he rose and tramped out the door.

Ch. 12, The Burgeoning

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Demonica and Queen Spitemorta have Lunch: Part 2

Horse-And-Carriage-1825

“That was fun, Grandmother,” said Spitemorta, pausing to count the severed fingers and toes which she was picking up from the floor of the rocking coach, all about the mutilated body lying between their feet. “It was particularly entertaining, freezing his throat and jaws. He never peeped, but do you suppose Merfyn noticed his kicking?” She flung a toe out the window and bounced with glee when she saw it land in a woman’s bread basket. “I can just see her now: ‘My word! I have a toe in my bread basket!'” She rocked back and forth with laughter, slapping her knee.

“I didn’t know you had a sense of humor, dear…”

“Here!” shouted Spitemorta as she leant out the window, launching her double handful of digits at a woman who caught them in her apron, only to collapse in a faint.

“I see we are at least managing to pass the time,” said Demonica.

“Well, I had to throw out the fingers,” she said, sitting back into the seat with a bounce. “And what shall we do with the body, Grandmother, leave it on King Theran’s doorstep on our way out of town?” 

“Hmm…crude and pointless, I think,” she said as she began studying the blood soaking her clothes. “No, let’s just pitch it out alongside the road once we’re out of town.Theran wouldn’t know who left it, unless you went to the trouble to make it plain to him somehow. But I can’t imagine wanting Theran so upset by our visit that he forms an alliance with Niarg for protection, can you?”

“He wouldn’t dare! Oh, all right. I see how he might.”

“Say. Be a good girl and clean up, would you?”

“What?”

“You’ve got the Staff. Everything’s positively soaked. We wouldn’t want Merfyn to open the door for us and run away.”

“Oh,” said Spitemorta as she took hold of the Staff. “Say no more Grandmother.” At once the blood was gone from their clothes and from the inside of the coach.

Demonica leant out the window. “Merfyn!” she hollered. “This is far enough. Get down from there and help us throw out this carcass!”

“Whoa!” called out Merfyn with a jingle of harness and a squeal of brakes. They listened to him scuffle down and hop onto the gravel with a crunch and click the latch. He threw wide the door and drew a breath, catching himself at the sight of the body and the two of them studying him from head to toe to see how he was managing. “Why he’s the one I helped in a few hours ago, isn’t he?” he said in in a polished and dutiful tone as his hands trembled. “Uh, was he any trouble?”

“Not in the least,” said Demonica. “In fact we found him surprisingly entertaining, considering his condition when we picked him up.”

“Well. I’ll declare. That’s a…” he stammered, utterly at a loss for bearings.

“Well Merfyn?” said Spitemorta.

“I see you did indeed say carcass,” he said, pausing to take a couple of furtive glances out and about. “So I reckon you also said…”

“Yes, Merfyn, throw him out. And ‘help’ actually means you do it.”

“Oh yes, Your Majesty. I certainly shall. It’s just that there are still houses, if ye know what I mean, and this being a foreign place and all…”

Demonica stepped out of the coach. “There’s not a soul in sight, Merfyn,” she said, as if she were coaxing a wary child to relieve himself in the bushes. “Now, get this kaoc’h ki du out of the coach, and drive straight back to Goll.”

He grabbed the body by an ankle and a wrist and drug it out into the ditch to return at once to hold the door for Demonica to climb aboard.

Demonica motioned for Spitemorta to step out with the Staff. “We’re staying, Merfyn. You drive straight back to Goll, this minute.”

Merfyn blinked in confusion. “Yes, but…”

“Go!” barked Spitemorta.

 ***

Excerpt from Ch 37, The Burgeoning    

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps   

Lance Communes with Longbark

angeloak

“Wait, Lance!” hollered Celeste. “Ther nis no poynt! Hee can nat nowher ga, and hee 08-10-30thingsMedieval2wolden out heere a vexynge distourbaunce ybe. We need with Longbark for to speken, and quyet hit most ybe. Thou needist with us for to sytte.”

Lance jogged right back. “But, Mothers, Longbark has never spoken with me. Wouldn’t it be better for me to keep Abaddon out of mischief while the three of you find out what she has to say?”

“Na,” said Celeste. “Longbark spekith01_Memling to thos who konnen heere. Perchaunce now thou kanst if with us thou sittest and as weo do soo doeth. And if thou trewly to heere hir wysshest, in tyme thou certeynly shal.”

“Truly?” said Lance with wonder in his voice. He had always been awed by their speaking with the trees.

Celeste and Alvita took his hands as Nacea took Celeste’s other hand and all of them stood in silence memling1for a very long spell, facing Longbark’s trunk. Presently, Celeste bowed her head as she rested the palm of her hand on her bark. Lance also rested his hand against her trunk the moment he saw Alvita and Nacea doing likewise. Celeste slowly kneeled, dragging her hand down the trunk, followed by the rest of them. There they stayed for a very long time. Once in a while one of the mothers would rest her forehead against the trunk. “Na i drio ateb eich cwestiwn…” said Painting of a young woman by bartholomaeus bruyn the elderCeleste in Old Niarg, and then fell silent for a very, very long time. Much later, Lance heard her say: “Bydd angen cywiro’r camgymeriadau…”

For a much longer spell all was silent. Lance noticed that his legs, which had fallen asleep long ago, felt that they had somehow taken root into the earth and it felt quite good. Suddenly he was aware that a kindly and comforting presence had been within him for some time. One by one, various perplexing matters that had been taxing him were resolved and set aside at last. Far, far away he could hear Celeste murmuring: “Oes gynnoch chi rywbeth arbennig mewn golwg?” and after a long while: “Oedd y syniad ynun da, neu a fedrwch chi feddwl am un gwell?”

He had felt chilly for quite some time and was suddenly aware of Celeste taking him by the hand and slowly rising with him as he struggled to get onto his feet. Still holding hands, the four of them made their way without a word through the weeds back to the lava tube. Lance had the queer sensation that the sun was in the wrong place. “I swear it seems earlier than when we brought Abby out here,” he said, just before they entered the tunnel.

“Wel, thou canst righte certeyn be that hit trewly lattir than hit was erlyer ybe,” said Nacea.

“Longbark is so profoundly wise and understanding,” he said as he paused to have a last The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_Kindlebewildered look at the sun.

Celeste, Alvita and Nacea each nodded at him.

Ch. 7, The Burgeoning

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

The White Witch Rides a Diatryma

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Diatryma – Diatryma gigantia R., ten foot tall, flightless birds, members of the Thunderbird (Adar Taranus) Dynasty which originally escaped extinction by the Mwyaf Fawr Llosg ordiatryma Greatest Burning, when the rest of the Dynasty was exterminated, only to mysteriously become extinct a few million years later. They were accidentally revived from fine Eocene shales by the wizard Razzorbauch when he penetrated the Earth’s crust while forming the magma chamber for the Fudge Volcano. They are omnivorous, opportunistic feeders that are capable of downing and dismembering small ungulates. They are covered with deep iridescent green plumage. Their tail feathers and imagesprimary flight feathers have brilliant red and yellow patches on each feather’s trailing blade that remain completely hidden unless the bird is displaying. Their bony tails are not entirely fused into a pygostyle as in modern birds, but rather consist of a pygostylic terminus at the end of ten un-fused vertebrae, giving the birds a fan of feathers that can be waved about on the end of a flexible tail. There is nearly no sexual dimorphism, though males tend to be a few percent heavier and have deeper voices than the females. They are exceptionally intelligent, having a brain cavity of about 650cc, or roughly half the volume of modern humans. However, being far less fatty than a mammalian brain, this is a very respectable computer. Possibly due to natural selection pressures favoring the keeping track of stashes of food morsels, diatrymas seem to have little or no barrier between the conscious and subconscious minds and have instantaneous recall of all the details that they once observed during any previous experience.Diatryma_by_ministerart

The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_KindleMary the White Witch’s mounts and closest friends are Ceidwad the female diatryma, whoStone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle is the wife of Lladdwr and the mother of Arwr, their cockerel. Razzmorten describes these three as the most intelligent beings he has ever been in the presence of, and they become key characters in the tale of The Heart of the Staff, (books three through six, Stone Heart, The Burgeoning, Reaper Witch and Doom). Ceidwad and Lladder were brought back to life by accident by the evil Wizard Razzorbauch and were raised by the Fairy sisters in The Reaper Witch 01 copyPageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00028]Mount Bed before their association with Mary. Perhaps their most stunning talent is being able to listen to a language for a short while and then suddenly start speaking it fluently.

What sorts of birds tower in your imagination? Do they play a role in your dreams?

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Fuzz Loves Rose’s Rows of Buttons

matthew

The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_KindleFuzz and Rose are newly married in The Burgeoning, but instead of a proper honeymoon, they must make an urgent voyage instead. Even so…

The sound of the latch of the door of their berth woke Rose. She opened her eyes to see Fuzz coming quietly to the side of their bed. “It’s a perfect day, Rose,” he said with a smile as he knelt to put his arm around her and give her forehead a kiss. “Absolutely perfect. We may have had a storm last night, but it’s not at all cold as one would expect it to be. It’s plain balmy out, just like spring.”

“It probably means that there’s more storm on its way,” she said, sitting up with a yawn.

“Oh I expect so, particularly since the wind is in the very same direction that it was in yesterday evening…”

“Did I just hear birds outside?” she said, suddenly alert.8-11-IMG_1422

“Terns. We’ve been helping the cook fling slop to ’em. They showed up right after the sun. I saw gulls, too. We’re coming to land. The captain and Yann-Ber say that these winds will have us at Dark’s Cove by noon or even before. So come up on deck with me and enjoy this last lovely bit of air and sunshine over the water before we land.”

“I think you just want my company.”

“Oh I crave it.”

“Well then, just give me a moment or two and I’ll be right up.”

“Splendid,” he said as he sat on the edge of the bed. “I’ll just wait for you right here though, if you don’t mind. Yann-Ber’s up there pacing and champing at the bit and worrying to the point that it’s calmer here.”

doublet_buttons“Even with my buttons?”

“Oh, I look forward to your buttons.”

“Then I’ll have a row for you, directly,” she said, throwing aside her covers and putting her feet onto the floor. She felt the swell and fall of the sea through the boards as she always did the first time she stood up. She went to her great trunk, set on end and 156148312051794935_9bDzYXu3_bopened out like a folding wardrobe and fished amongst her dresses. “My,” she thought, “The same ones day in and day out.” She glanced aside at Fuzz, staring at the backs of his hands and grabbed out one at random. “I just can’t keep my mind on anything since

Lukus’s message globe came with news of Father…”

Fuzz was on his feet at once, putting his arms around her. They each gave a sigh. It had all been said. She turned aside and stepped into her dress. She could read his concern as she did so, even from the corner of her eye. She offered him her row of buttons. He was getting quick. When he fastened her top button, he gave her a quick hug and released her to brush her hair.

“Sorry I took so long,” she said, looking up with a cheerful smile to cover up her somber sigh. “Shall we go?”

He nodded, following her out and up the cramped stair.

“Oh, it is nice out,” she said, taking his hand and squeezing it, as she closed her eyes and turnedBlack-Terns-1-Tropical-Atlantic-Ocean-27-Sep-2012 her face into the wind and sun. “You always know just what I need.”

“And you my dear, give me far more credit than I deserve. Nevertheless, I shall shamelessly romp and wallow in your praise if you must.” 

Ch 5 The Burgeoning

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

The Real Pebbles

Years ago, I bought Carol a female baby green cheeked Amazon (Amazona viridigenalis C.) which she immediately named Pebbles. She was so young that she was all pin-feathers and Carol had to feed her with an eye dropper. Since Carol had a background in psychology and I in ethology, neither one of us was inclined to read human motivation into the bird’s behavior. However we were interested in her inclination toward language, so Carol decided to treat her as if she harbored the same sort of undeveloped intelligence as a baby human.

Carol made no attempt to teach her to talk. That is, she did not endlessly repeat phrases over and over to her nor drill her in any sort of way. What she has done since, every single evening before covering her cage for the night, is spend some time scratching her head and talking to her.

Within a few months, Pebbles began calling out to Carol by name, and not long after that began calling out to us when she wanted things, such as, “I want out!” In time, she was telling us about how she felt about things such as, “I don’t like it!” She began asking us questions such as, “How are you?” and, “Am I coming?” After a few years, she was not only asking questions, but talking about things removed in place and time, such as, “Is Carol at work?” and, “You’ll be all right.”

Pebbles also has a sense of self. She always correctly refers to herself as the subject, “I,” and she calls herself a “bird.” She loves to watch films and shortly after watching The Dinosaurs, said, “I’m a dinosaur.” To say that she uses her words in the proper context is an understatement. Her contextual usage is every bit as correct as that of a typical two year old human. What she is not is fluently conversant. Only now, after living with her for decades, are we managing to converse with her. After saying things back and forth two or three times, the conversation usually stops.

Here is a list of her words that we are certain of. She may have a repertoire of as many as a hundred words, but frequency and clarity limit us to these seventy. They are not listed in nice columns because of the contrary behavior of this website.

a, about, all, almonds, am, are, at, baby, bad, bad dord (bastard?), be, bear, bird, bye, care, Carol, come, coming, dinosaur, do, doing, duck, fair, for, girl, going, good, got, has, he, hello, here, how, I, it, is, know, like, look, love, nightmare not, now, okay, out, Pebbles, ready, right, rubber, school, sorry, talking, thank, that, the, they, to, up, wake, want, weird, well, what, where, will, work, wrong, yea (yow), yeap (yip), you.

And her phrases:

All right. All right! All right? Almonds. Am I coming? Am I going? Am I going to school? Are you coming? Are you going to school? Bad! Bad dord! (bastard?) Bad girl!
Bear! Bye. Come here. Carol! Hello. How are you? How are you are you all right? How are you are you okay? I don’t care! I don’t like it. I know it. I know what you’re talking about. I like it. I look all right. I love you. I’m a bird. I’m a dinosaur. I’m a good, good, good, good bird. I’m a good, good, good, good girl. I’m all right. I’m ready. I’m sorry. I’m the baby. I’m the Pebbles. Is Carol at work? I want out. Okay. Okay? Right now! Rubber duck! Thank you. That’s not fair! That’s right. Wake up. Well come here. What is that? What is wrong? What’s he doing? What’s he got? What’s that? What’s that for? What’s wrong? What’s you doing? Where are you going? Where are they at? Yea!(yow) Yeap! (yip) You coming? You going to come here? You’ll be all right. You’re all right.

We did not by any means teach her to talk. Her ability to talk is a capacity that comes from her own DNA. She can communicate using a code of arbitrary sounds about things removed in place and time because it has survival value for her species. Providence only knows what sort of languages she might be using had she stayed in the Mexican wilds.

Our character Pebbles, Hubba Hubba’s wife, behaves like an Amazon, but is fluently conversant, and appears in each of the books in the Heart of the Staff: Complete Series:  Good Sister, Bad Sister, The Collector Witch, Stone HeartThe Burgeoning, The Reaper Witch, and Doom.

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Tom Phipps

Hubba Hubba Versus the Stinky Beefy Boy: Part Two

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Part Two

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 The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_Kindlegood unto them…?”

The Burgeoning

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps