The Real Hubba Hubba

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brush Fire, Navajo Estates, Twin Lakes

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

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

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

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

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Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Demonica and Queen Spitemorta have Lunch

Part 1

 

Demonica pushed away her plate and studied the sour look on Spitemorta’s face. “Did your meal not agree with you, dear?” she said sweetly.

“The meal was inferior, of course, but bearable, Grandmother. You seemed to enjoy yours, so why do you even bother me about my opinion?”

“Oh, I don’t know, dear. For some reason I keep thinking that time might pass more quickly if we didn’t just sit here and glare at one another. Perhaps I’m mistaken.”

“It’s still a long time ’til dark, Grandmother. I can’t imagine that you and I could possibly have that much to say to each other.”

“You’re undoubtedly right, but as you have already pointed out, this little place has nothing worth visiting, so we seem to be stuck with merely passing the time until it’s dark enough to leave on the Staff for Gwael. Unless, of course, you’re ready to endure a traveling spell, this one time.”

“Spare me…”

“Hey!” said a reeling man as he bumped the table, slopping mead out of Spitemorta and Demonica’s goblets. “Wings of the Heavens One and Wings of the Heavens Two. Now, we don’t get lovelies like you ones, come down to this house, just any old day.”

“See?” said Demonica, leaning aside with dancing eyes. “It shows. I told you I was natural for the part when you demanded that I be Fnadi-yaphn.”

Spitemorta flung her a very dark glower before sharing it with their company. “Back off, you stinking sot!”

“Now that’s ire-knee,” he said, bumping the table again, “Wings of the Heavens One, is it? “Or are you Wings of the Heavens Two? Why is it, Wings of the Heavens whatever the number you are, why is it that all the pretty skirts from the heavens are such mistresses…?” he paused for a lewd hoot and snort. “How come all you pretty skirts are such stinking mistresses of ire-knee? Did I say ‘stinking?’ Or did you say ‘stinking’…?”

“Beat it!” growled Spitemorta.

“Now Wings of the Heavens whatever you are,” he said as he thrust his bristly face into hers, “that’s a right smart amount of ire-knee for someone wants to be your mistress…”

“Yea! Chat her up, Crafiad!” cried someone amongst the grinning group who were filing over from the bar.

Spitemorta furiously shoved back from Crafiad’s face and grabbed the Staff.

Demonica grabbed her wrist. “Let’s leave now, dear,” she said as calmly as if they were going strolling. “Your uncle, King Theran, will be worried if we’re not back soon, and no doubt I shall be chastised for having brought you into this common house.”

Spitemorta hesitated, suddenly seeing how it all was and played along. She nodded and stood. “Yes, you’re quite correct, Demonica,” she said haughtily. “Uncle will be most put out with both of us.” She took Demonica’s arm and started for the door. 

“Pretty skirts of ire-knee!” cried Crafiad, stumbling after them to grab Spitemorta by the arm. “If you Wings of Mistrosity are royal skirts, where’s your guard…?”

“Here,” said Spitemorta, as she jabbed the Staff into his face, blowing his head apart like a bomb, breaking glasses across the room. The entire tavern froze in shocked silence as she and Demonica resumed their unhurried departure.

“Well that taught him, I should say,” said Demonica as they settled once more into the coach. “You do realize that rumors are already spreading here in this sleepy place?”

“So? A little fear will do them good, and give King Theran something to wake up about, crazy old fool.”

“I don’t think he is the doddering old idiot you take him for, Spitemorta.”

“Really? You think it was an act, then? But you seemed completely taken in by his control of his person nonsense he was spreading all over, thick as butter.”

“Sure. I wanted to see how far he’d go with it. But, I get the idea that he has all his faculties, mind and body. No, he’s playing at something else, though it could merely be that he fears our power.”

“Or he is more like his daughter than I thought. Well, if that’s so, Grandmother, I shall simply deal with him as I did with her, when the time comes.”

“I’m sure you will, dear. Now, what shall we do until dark?”

Suddenly a patron came stumbling and flailing his arms out of the Buck and Doe to sprawl into the street in front their coach.

“He was egging on Crafiad, back inside,” said Spitemorta as she looked down with a frown to whisk away a fleck of scalp and hair sticking to her bodice. “Let’s sharpen our skills of persuasion, shall we Grandmother?”

Demonica’s eyes lit with an immediate fire. “Merfyn!” she hollered. “Stop and help aboard that poor fellow in the road, please!”     

“Up with me?”

“No, no. Inside with us.”

 ***

 

Excerpt from Ch 36, The Burgeoning

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Yann-Ber Meets Rotten Mouth

 

Yann-Ber awoke stiff and cold amongst a forest of rotted barrel staves beside the middenstead of a tavern. He was surprised that he had fallen asleep whiling away the afternoon. Moving around was arduous, so when he had felt that he was where it would be convenient to be after dark, he had sat down to spend his time until nightfall. It was now fully dark and the waning moon gave very little light, but that was to his liking. He struggled painfully to his feet and slowly found his way around to the front of the tavern where he hoped to find leads to the wizard.

He stood in the shadows near enough to the street that he could make out the name, “Black Dragon” on the sign bearing a relief carving of a dragon that hung out over the street in front of the door.In a short time that seemed like a small eternity to him, one of the patrons staggered out into the street. There was no doubt that the man was quite drunk.

“Good sir!” called out Yann-Ber, as he limped out of the shadows. “I was wondering if you could tell me where I might be able find this fellow I’m a-looking for?”

The drunk stopped short and swayed as he squinted into the darkness. “Well, doggone it!” he called out, as he jerked at his own posture. “Who the ding-dong blazes is there? Show yourself and maybe I can.”

“Sir,” said Yann-Ber, coming closer. “There’s a fellow, maybe you could help me find…”

“Well, damn!” declared the drunk in a tone that sounded like recognition. “Damned if you don’t sound like someone who just got off the boat from Head. Now Head! You don’t say. So, you’re from Head?”

“Actually I am. You’re quite observant.” Yann-Ber had started to hide his face with his hood, but now he could see that the fellow was in such a condition that he wouldn’t be having problems with appearances. “My name is John. John James. I’m right sorry to trouble…”

“Hey. Now tell me. Are you from Head?”

“Yes, as I said…”

“Really? You’re from Head? Well damn.”

“Yes, I just…”

“You got a funny name for a Headlander. John?” The drunk was now steadying himself with a fist full of Yann-Ber’s sleeve. “Hunh! John James. Ought to be Padrig or Remont. Hey, how come you ain’t Jakez?”

“Very well, you’re right, I could be called Yann Jakez in Head, but right now I’m searching for a wizard by the name of Razzmorten…”

“Whoa! Now you don’t fool around…Jakez. Now you just go right to the top.”

“Well, I’d certainly like to. I understand Razzmorten lives in Niarg, but I have no idea where. Have you any idea, good sir?”

The drunk grabbed Yann-Berr’s other sleeve as well. “Hain’t nobody here ’bouts who don’t know whoRazzmorten be,” he cackled through rotten teeth with breath that would have scared the old sow.

“Then,” said Yann-Berr, when he dared breathe again, “you know where I might find him?”A_005_34_Tavern

“Ah! Well sir,” said the drunk, reaching under his filthy shirt to scratch his sallow melon of a belly, “been having a hard time thinking straight without a dram or a pint, you know. Scarcely knew which way home was when I came out here…”

“That’s not hard to imagine, Rotten Mouth,” thought Yann-Ber. “So then,” he said, speaking out grandly. “How would a pint inside suit your memory?” He glanced at the door of the Black Dragon and wondered if they could make it in to a dark corner without the clean and proper going crazy at the sight of them. Rotten Mouth was already happily staggering his way back into the tavern.

Rotten Mouth found a table in a far corner at once. Directly an obese tavern maid came old_medieval_wino_metal_star_by_duster132-d4il9yeby, squinting at them as though she’d prefer dealing with the pair of them at the end of a manure fork, but she took their order adroitly and returned right away with two pints of light dry mead. Rotten Mouth seized his and guzzled it half down before wiping his mouth on his sleeve and speaking: “Razzmorten is the king’s father-in-law. He lives in the tallest tower of Castle Niarg.”

Yann-Ber immediately slid his mead across the table to Rotten Mouth and stood up, carefully adjusting his hood before wending his way out. Outside the doorway, the wind had picked up, rocking the tavern’s sign. Dry leaves skittered along the street. He remembered seeing the castle due west in the daylight. He made straight for it in the darkness, determined not to let his tortured legs so much as pause until he got there.

Yann-Ber meets Rotten Mouth in Ch 8 of Stone Heart, third book of The Heart of the Staff.

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Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

King James’s Escape

“Fates! What was that?” said James with a moan, as he sat bolt upright. “Oh bell tolls from the Pit! Probably something going off in my stupid, stinking head. Why sit up, anyway? There’s not a thing I can ever see, even when I bump into it.” He reached for the familiar itchy place on his scalp, which had just lately gotten gooey, and found it unexpectedly painful. He lay back with his hand over the spot to keep the filthy straws from poking it. “Mmmm! It throbs just lying down. Why, oh why doesn’t Spitemorta just execute me…?”

“Mercy no, King James! Fates forbid it…!”

“Damn!” cried James with a wail, not knowing in the least whether he was delirious or whether some speaking something had gotten into his cell with him. 

“Sire! Your eyes are mattered shut,” said the young soldier, nodding at another to come forth with a torch, as he knelt to peer into James’s face. “I’m Owain, I was…”

“Yes!” cried James as he accidentally broke into sobs. “You brought me that nice supper, didn’t you! You’re the one, right? You’ve got to be…!”

“I am! I said I’d be back. I’m terrible sorry hit took so long…”

“Yes. I see you do have a light…I mean through my lids…”

“Well we had a delay, ye might say. We found one amongst us who was a stinker, a traitor, if ye know what I mean, a loyalist to the queen. We had to carry on very careful Hit took us a right smart number of days to be safe. Here sire, let me help you up.”

“You’ve come for me then?”

“Why absolutely. I gave ye my word, sire.”

“Certainly…” he said, breaking into sobs all over again. “Oh forgive me! I’m not acting like much of a sovereign…”

“Why, you’ve run clean out of hope, is what. Anybody would, slow as I am, if ye know what I mean, sire.”

“I’m just so very, very grateful.”

“Easy, Your Majesty…Here. Take his other arm, Llewyrch. He’s right wobbledy.

“Well as I was saying, there was one amongst us who was a-spying for Spitemorta. She never did find out that he was, but he was fixing for to wheedle his way into her good graces, the best he could.”

“He’s as big a fool as I was,” said James, trying to steady himself. “Spitemorta has no good graces.”

“You’re no fool sire, but she certainly has no good graces,” said Owain as he and Llewyrch carefully helped James to the door. “Anyway, as I was a-saying, we caught him attempting to take her news of our plans to get you out of this dungeon. Well. We pinned him down last night and the varmint confessed everything. There’s ‘way more to the story than that , but…”

“What will keep him from going to her behind your backs if you already can’t trust him?” said James.

“Oh he won’t have a chance. Ol’ Culwch (that’s his name, by the way) won’t be bothering a soul.”

“You killed him?”

“Nay. Not yet. I guess you don’t have your eyes open yet…”

“I haven’t tried. They’ve felt like they had sand in them and I couldn’t see anything anyway, so…”

“Well, we got Culwch standing right before ye, all blindfolded, gagged and tied up. There are five more of us here to keep him pointed the right way, and we’re going to make him nice and comfortable in your old cell. Won’t take but a minute.”

James heard some scuffling and a muffled yell before the groan of hinges, a heavy bang and the rattle and jingle of hasp, lock and keys behind him. He felt light and giddy, but there was no way he could stay on his feet. As his knees buckled, he felt Owain, Llewyrch and the others grab him up to haul him hurriedly down the corridor, up several flights of gritty stone steps and outside for a good way in the gloriously fresh air of early dawn. A rooster crowed. He could smell unicorn manure and hay. Somebody was cooking breakfast, maybe egg in a hole. He felt like singing. “I’ll thank the Fates for the privilege of being allowed to enjoy this world, every single day,” he thought.

“Oh, that’s right good advice for each and every one of us, Your Majesty,” said Owain with a grunt, right at his ear.

“My word! Have I lost track of when I’m speaking?”

“You’re a-having your first joy in quite a spell, sire. I’d speak out too, and that’s a fact.”  

At last they carefully stepped through a narrow door with him into some other building. They set him down. “Here sire.” said Owain as he carefully took James’s hand and put his fingertips into some warm water. “What do you think of that? If that’s about right, we’ll get those filthy rags off you and Pryderi here will give ye a proper bath. He’s a barber and a healer, and he’s right good.”

“Oh, it’s perfect…”

“Now, there ain’t no women around sire,” said Llewyrch. “Let’s get your shirt.”

Soon James was in bath water up to his chin. “Do you object to Elf medicine, Your Majesty?” said Pryderi as he carefully examined James’s head.

“Not in the least. It was Spitemorta who tried to pin the sukere burning on the Elves, not I.”

“Well I have something that’ll put you right quicker than anything I know of, but it’s the bitterest thing you’ll ever have in your mouth. You need to chew it up real fine and swallow every bit,” said Pryderi as he put a black twist of leaves to James’s lips.

“Mercy! I’ll say!” said James after a couple of thoughtful chews. “It makes my tongue and mouth feel like old dry wood.”

“Oh, it’s just got started, sire. Just keep a-chewing. Try not to bite your tongue. It’s called aquilaria. It’s very difficult to come by. My grandfather found out about it from an Elf called Talamh Coille Graham, right before he was murdered by a witch known to the Elves as Bailitheoir Cailli. Ever hear of her?”

“I’m afraid so. She was Spitemorta’s real mother. I had no idea when I married her.”

“My word!” said Pryderi, falling silent for a time before resuming: “Well, the Elves’s name for aquilaria is sláinte ollmhór. How’s it doing?”

“Makes wormwood seem like something sweet. You’re sure that I’m not turning into some kind of stump?”

“You don’t have to worry about that, but I’m going to have to cut your hair. It’s nothing but a filthy mat of snarls and nits. Now before I do, lay your head back here so that I can put a poultice of aquilaria, eyebright, goldenseal root, rue and fennel on your eyes. When I get your hair cut, I’m going to put burdock root and dandelion root on this awful festered sore on your head. If it doesn’t dry up in a few days, someone will have to put a hot iron to it.”

After a while, James found himself dressed in fresh plain wool and linen clothes, and able to partly open one eye as he sat in a chair, pressing a poultice against his face. “Do I smell food?” he said as he took down the sopping wet muslin and tried to use his eyes.

“The board is set for you in the next room,” said Owain as he peered into his face. “Can you see to get there, or do you need help?”

“Let me try,” he said as he stood and slowly shuffled to the next room, navigating with the flaming red slit of one eye. He paused as Llewyrch drew back his chair. “My! This is wonderful!” He took his place at the head of a sumptuous table of plain fare: roast chickens, cabbage and carrots, buttered squash, hot brown bread and heaping saucers of cottage cheese and honey. A dainty old lady whisked up and poured him a cup o’ tea. “My word! Each of you, please, please have a seat and eat with me. And please don’t be so formal. You will always be my friends.” He spread wide his arms and bowed his head.

Never had a meal tasted so heavenly to James. At last he wiped his mouth and sat back. Just as he picked up his poultice to daub his eyes again, in came the little old lady with a steaming hot apple pie. She set it down before him and cut him a big piece. Suddenly he grabbed her by the waist and gave her a squeeze as tears ran down his cheeks. “My wonderful, wonderful friends!” he said.

“We are right honored to serve you, Your Majesty,” said Owain.

“I am indeed grateful beyond anything I’m capable of putting into words,” said James, “but you all are taking an unbelievable risk. The longer I’m here, the more peril you’ll be in. I should be getting away immediately, but I’ve no idea how that would even be possible with Spitemorta and Demonica and their spies everywhere.”

“This be the perfect time, sire,” said Owain as he shared a look with Pryderi. “They’ve got all their attention on the birth of the new babe… Oh my stars! I apologize, sire! We neglected to tell ye that your queen bore a baby girl.”

“Wasn’t there another child?”

“There certainly was,” said Owain with an anxious glance each way, “but he was stillborn, much as I hate bearing you such news. And worse yet, Spitemorta was so blithering furious over it all that she up and killed the midwife and all the attending help cleaning up the birth.”

By now James had both eyes open.

“They keep saying she used some kind of witch’s power to stop all their hearts,” said Llewyrch. “And lots of folks reckon that she did indeed do it from different things people have seen. Do you suppose she actually did, sire?”

“Oh very possibly. Did you hear me tell Pryderi that she is Bailitheor Cailli’s own daughter? Brutelee and Bee secretly adopted her.”

“Well, we’re right sorry we had to be the ones to tell ye, Your Majesty,” said Owain. “But now, that’s a piece of news about Spitemorta’s dam.”

“I appreciate your courage,” said James.

“Thank you, sire,” said Owain. “Anyway, we figure tonight’s the night to get ye out of here. The servants think Spitemorta will be laid up for at least a week, and not only that, Demonica seems to have quite vanished, and no one has the slightest idea where she’s gone off to.”

“Then tonight’s the night,” said James. “But I’ll say this: you need to keep a right sharp eye out for Demonica every single moment, because she reappears just as suddenly as she vanishes.”

“We’ve heard the like,” said Owain with a solemn nod. “We’ll be as careful as we can be. And if ye don’t mind my saying so sire, nobody’s ever seen you with a beard. Maybe you should keep it for a while.”

“Suits me, my dear fellows,” said James as he stretched wide a bushy red-eyed grin.

 ***

On the eve of Queen Spitemorta’s campaign to take over the world, King James is caught by her and her grandmother Demonica, tortured and imprisoned in the fetid blackness of Castle Goll’s dungeon. He and his rescuers flee into the Gollmore countryside to join the Elves in their flight to the Wilderlands in Chapter 19 of The Burgeoning.

Have you ever experienced sudden hope after all was lost? Please tell us about it.

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Ugleeuh’s Mad Peppermint World

 Ugleeuh is a beautiful raven haired young woman who is the half sister of Queen Minuet of the kingdom of Niarg. She is raised by the good wizard Razzmorten Dewin, and throughout her life is thought to be his daughter by a brief marriage to the evil sorceress Demonica. In Good Sister, Bad Sister, she falls under the influence of her wicked uncle Razzorbauch, who makes her a partner of sorts in his sukere enterprise.

Razzorbauch appropriates the Forest Primeval, a vast virgin oak wilderness and burns off a substantial part of the middle of it to establish a great plantation in order to produce the seriously addicting sweetener, sukere. He allows the un-burnt forest surrounding his plantation to remain standing, but he magically alters all of the oak (Quercus) trees, turning them into deadly choke oaks (Pseudoquercus horridus R.) to discourage visitors.

 

Ugleeuh becomes hopelessly addicted to sukere, and though she remains an active sukere peddler to promote their enterprise, she tires of Razzorbauch’s overbearing influence and takes to living by herself in a cottage in her own part of the forest. When she tries to poison Queen Minuet and her husband King Hebraun, the crown banishes her to her cottage and has Razzmorten keep her there by putting up magical barriers.

Ugleeuh spends the rest of her life alone, turning into a sallow hag from the ravages of her sukere 

addiction. To keep from going mad from loneliness, she begins magically altering her surroundings at once. She turns all of the choke oaks into peppermint trees (Mentha lignumpiperita R.), with ludicrous red and white barber pole striped trunks. And by the time that Rose and Lukus find her in The Collector Witch, she is more dangerous than ever, living with a bloated crow, too obese to fly and a palsied cow with colored teats which give flavored milk, and she has managed to turn most of the remaining animals of the woods into talking enchantments, all addicted to sukere. 

 Carol Marrs Phipps &Tom Phipps

Rose Reveals a Secret

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A throb of lightning lit up the countryside, revealing the arrival of a roaring wall of rain. The crash of thunder and the deluge arrived together in the next instant, like a douse from a colossal bucket, dashed at once into every crack on the porch. Rose and Lukus stumbled through the front door, only to find that the parlour wouldn’t do at all. They groped from room to room between flickers and flashes until they found some cover against the inside wall of the kitchen where most of the thatched roof remained.

They sat on the floor with their backs to the wall, combing their bedraggled hair from their faces with their fingers. Rose nudged him with the striker from her knapsack. Without a word between them, he spent the next several minutes struggling to light the lantern. At last it came to, a wee sputtering yellow seed atop the dirty stub of candle. Pale shadows leaped and waved, dancing above rivulets of water finding their way out through holes in the floor. He started to speak, but his voice vanished in the din. He studied the room, listening to the storm. “Oh, Rose?” he said, speaking out louder this time. “Wouldn’t you say we’ve lived something of a sheltered life in the castle, all these years?”

“Yes, yes. Quite.”

“So you decided that to cultivate your new maturity, you should go out into the world for some exposure, aye what?”

“I didn’t plan the rain.”Scan10059

“If we just bed down along the wall here, I think it’ll stay dry enough to sleep. And boy, am I ever hungry.”

“Sounds fine to me, Lukus,” she said, “except…”

“Except what?

“Except you seem to have left your pack in the barn,” she said, kneeling to open her own bag.

“Oh, great!” he said. “Couldn’t you just…? I mean I’ll just run out after the rain and pay you back, all right?”

“Be neat for once, would you?” she said, handing him things out of her bag.

They ate ravenously, listening to the steady downpour. “Dried apricots and cheese make one strange meal,” he said between thoughtful chews, “but you know? I think it’s pretty near the best supper I ever ate.”

He finished eating to discover that no pack also meant no bed roll for him, but Rose was willing to let him use one end of her bedding as a pillow. “So Rose,” he said, settling himself onto his back, stirring the empty space over his head as though it were an orchestra. “You were telling me…”

“Telling you what?”

“You know. As you were saying back in the woods before we got off the road and came here. I mean you weren’t done were you? Isn’t there some sort of reason for our going to the Chokewood Forest?”

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For a long spell, the rain was the only sound he heard. “Lukus,” she said at last, “I may not be your sister at all. If there be any truth to what I was told at my awful birthday party, you and I are only cousins.”

“Oh go on,” he said with a laugh. “Surely you don’t mean first cousins? That would make one of us Ugleeuh’s child.”

“Ugleeuh? My word. You made that up.”

“No I didn’t.”

“But no one would ever name a… So who on earth is Ugleeuh?”

“Mother’s sister, Rose. Didn’t you know her name?”

“Something else I wasn’t to find out until I was sixteen, no doubt. How come they told you, anyway?”

“No one made a point of telling me. I don’t even remember how I found out, but you weren’t singled out. Good grief. It’s not as though anyone in the family was exactly proud of her.”

“But Lukus, I can’t believe Grandfather Razzmorten would name one of his daughters such a thing.”

“Well he didn’t. Mother said that Grandfather was away when the baby was born, and she said that the baby’s mother, Mother’s stepmother, named it before he returned. I guess she wasn’t very happy to have a child and took it out on the baby.”

“How awful. No wonder she grew up with such a chip on her shoulder.”

“Yeap. Probably had a lot to do with it, all right,” he said, rolling onto his haunches to stare into her face. “But good grief. She surely can’t be your mother. No way.”

“Yea? Well maybe Lukus, but somehow nobody, absolutely nobody back at the castle would be completely straight with me when I asked them, so I intend to find out for certain, one way or the other. So please don’t ask me any more questions right now. We need to get some rest. We have a long way to travel, yet.”

“But I want to know more about this, once we’re…”

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“Fine. On the road. Please, let’s go to sleep.”

The Collector Witch Render(Ch. 2, The Collector Witch)

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

 

Spark Worries with Edward and Laora out Late

Part Five

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“I’m quite sure they’ll be along any minute with a completely sensible explanation of why they’re so late,” said Spark, trading anxious looks with Lipperella.

“I’ll go out and look for them right after this cake!” said Flash, champing and fuffing out crumbs from his mouthful.

“Don’t, or we’ll have to come looking for you, too,” said Lipperella. “Now all of you help me clean up before you go out for your evening flight.”

“I knew it,” declared Tors as he stepped into the kitchen with Gweltaz. “Please tell us we aren’t too late.”

“Too late for Edward and Laora, Uncle Tors?” said Flame.

“We meant your mother’s delicious cake,” said Tors, grabbing up a piece with an appreciative glance at Lipperella. “What about Edward and Laora?”

“Oh nothing. They’re just missing is all,” said Flash.

“Well, not really,” said Spark, “just a little late. They’ll be here directly, I’m sure.”

“I’d have thought so long before now,” said Lipperella, “particularly since Laora knew we were50313_327693446601_8122729_n going to have this kangaroo rat pie. She and the rest of the Mob spent hours chasing down all the rats for it. Oh here, Gweltaz. Have some. There’s plenty of that left, as well as the cake. You too, Tors. And here’s some rat hair gravy to go over it. Want me to warm it up?”

“No need,” said Gweltaz, as he and Tors gobbled down their pie, watching the Mob file out for their evening flight. “This is delicious, Lipperella. Have you tried pickling them? I sure miss the pickled voles you used to make.”

“Yea I have, but I just can’t get the pimentos to stay in their eye sockets like the voles.  

“Hmm,” said Tors, “‘late’ and ‘missing,’ you say. Is that really the same as, ‘Oh nothing?'”

“Yea,” said Gweltaz. “No reason we can’t help you go find them. I mean, we hear what you’re saying, Spark, but you and Lipperella both look worried.”Sinornithosaurus_mag

“Well,” said Spark, sharing his worried looks with Lipperella, “we’ve been letting them explore where they like so long as they return when we say, and until this evening they’ve never been late…”

“Then it’s not long ’till dusk, so…” said Tors, swallowing his last bite of pie.

“So let’s round up the Mob and get cracking,” said Lipperella, tossing aside her apron.

 

The Burgeoning, Ch. 30The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_Kindle

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps