Who is Herio?

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Herio is a plucky youth from the pastures of Ashmore, living just outside the village of Ash Fork with his mother and his little brother Cefnogi Rhywun, when Queen Spitemorta of Goll destroysStone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle everything he has ever known, in Stone Heart. She sets out to incite war with Niarg by sending Brutus, her captain of the royal guard, across the Loxmere river with her army to burn Ash Fork to the ground. She demands that he get a retaliation led by Niarg’s King Hebraun himself by any means necessary.

Brutus chooses to hang Cefnogi Rhywun in front of Herio and to have Sergeant Dunvel  take Herio to Castle Niarg to report the invasion to King Hebraun and to tell him that someone would hang for each day it takes for him to arrive at Ash Fork. Hebraun does indeed retaliate after he takes Dunvel into custody and leaves Herio with Queen Minuet as her protector. He kills Brutus, destroys Goll’s army and discovers that everyone in Ash Fork has been slain. 

As Herio gets used to living in Castle Niarg, in The Burgeoning, The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_KindleQueen Spitemorta and her grandmother Demonica become a perilous threat to Niarg, which might be relieved if they were to place a spy in Castle Goll. Herio volunteers to go there with Hubba Hubba and do just that. Before they set out, Minuet knights Herio. When they return with news of Spitemorta’s plan to attack Niarg, she also adopts him, turning him into a prince and making him a possible heir to the throne. In time, he manages to return to Goll with a major shock for The Reaper Witch 01 copySpitemorta, which turns him into target for her in The Reaper Witch.

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & 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

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Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

 

 

Who is Rose?

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Princess (Tywysoges) Rose of the House of Niarg is the eldest child of King Hebraun and Queen Minuet of Niarg and the sister of Prince Lukus. Her grandfather, Queen Minuet’s

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father is the powerful Razzmorten Dewin of Peach Knob Manor, Wizard to the Crown of Niarg.

Rose merely appears as a precocious three year old in Good Sister, Bad Sister, but is the main protagonist in The Collector Witch, which opens on her sixteenth birthday, when it is to be announced that she is to marry Prince James of Loxmere. At her party, a rumor is circulated that she is not the Good_Sister,_Bad_Sis_Cover_for_Kindledaughter of Hebraun and Minuet, but merely their niece, and that her real mother, the queen’s sister, was banished from the kingdom for something vile, immediately after giving birth. Upon a visit to the family grave yard, where she finds the stone of an “Infant Rose,” she goes to her parents for an explanation. When they give her an The_Collector_Witch_Cover_for_Kindleunsatisfactory answer, she saddles her unicorn in the in the middle of the night, hoping to find her mother’s sister in the Chokewood Forest to get and some real answers. Before she gets out of the stable, Lukus forces her to take him along.

The sister turns out to be Ugleeuh, a dangerous sorceress (witch, if you must), eccentric and Scan10028bitter from her solitary exile. Rose and Lukus become convinced that she is indeed Rose’s mother and end up being her prisoners for the entire summer. At last, they find out that Ugleeuh is not Rose’s mother at all, and that she gave birth to Princess Spitemorta of Goll. At this discovery, Ugleeuh tries to use them as ransom, hoping to extort her release from the Chokewoods. Rose and Lukus see their moment to escape, and with the help of Fuzz the bear, flee to the coast. Rose and Lukus safely return home to Niarg.

Years later, in Stone Heart, Rose, Lukus and their Stone_Heart_Cover_for_KindleGrandfather Razzmorten return to the Chokewoods to see what had become of Ugleeuh’s part of the forest to find to their horror that Spitemorta and her grandmother Demonica not only have managed to get their hands on the fearsome Great Staff of Power, but they also have the Heart of the Staff, an even more dangerously powerful artifact, and are determined to use them to take over the world. They cross paths with Fuzz, who has just been accidentally restored to human form by stumbling through a magical ward left by Demonica, and is out making a frantic attempt to recover the Heart. They join forces and soon find themselves being pursued  through the wilderness by Spitemorta and Demonica. Rose and Fuzz fall in love along the way, and when they finally return to Niarg with dire warnings for all of civilization, Fuzz asks Hebraun and Minuet for Rose’s hand in marriage.

image_fadeThey are married at once, but instead of a nice honeymoon, they find themselves sailing The_Burgeoning_Cover_for_Kindleacross the Orin Ocean, in The Burgeoning, to the Dark Empire in hopes of getting help with a strategy to undo Demonica. On the way back, their ship goes down and Rose finds herself alone, washed ashore in a strange land. What happens to her can be discovered in book five: The Reaper Witch.

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Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

 

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

Ugly Company for Minuet

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Minuet sat in the sunshine of the upstairs sewing room, between the tall wool wheel and the loom, embroidering a sketch which she had made of her ewe and lambs grazing by the hollyhocks she had planted by the house. A breeze came and went as a vireo called fromfantasy-minuet the crown of the maple just outside the window. She hummed ever so faintly, turning her hoop this way and that. Suddenly she sat upright with a gasp at the screech of a chair to return immediately to her work, determined to ignore that Ugleeuh was now sitting directly across from her.

Hubba-Hubba finished preening his stubble of pinfeathers and gave himself a thorough shake, nearly losing his balance on the edge of his box of rags. Ugleeuh champed awayfootnote-12 at the fistful of hazelnuts she had brought in with her and crossed her legs. She dangled a slipper from her toe. Hubba-Hubba hopped onto the rags in his box and peered out over the edge with one eye. Ugleeuh heaved a sigh and crossed her legs the other way as she dug at the cud in her cheek with her tongue. She popped another hazelnut into her mouth, rubbing her nose as she chewed.

“Do you actually want something?” said Minuet as she cut her thread and began hunting for another color.

“Well why else would I be sitting here?”

“Hard telling…”

“I was sitting here because you’ve gotten ‘way too-too…”obm006473

“You could have spoken, first thing, and I would have answered,” said Minuet asshe threaded her needle on the first try and picked up her hoop. “But you didn’t, and since I was enjoying myself before you sat down, I was hoping that you just might let me go on
with it.”

“No, no Minnie-Min. You’re just full of yourself since your victory in our little tug o’ war, aren’t you?”

“Look Lee-Lee. If that’s all you want, I’ve no time for it. Think whatever you must, but just go somewhere else and do something nice.

“Well. Since you were polite enough to ask me, I came in here to find out when Father will get back, since he never tells me anything anymore.”

“I can’t imagine why not,” said Minuet as she turned her hoop over and cut a thread, “but in this case, you could have seen him off just as easily as I did. Besides, he told you he’d take you with him, the first chance he gets. Surely your birthday present isn’t more important than saving everyone from the plague.”

“I don’t suppose it ever occurred to you that I might be concerned about him, did it Miss Perfect?”

“No. That would be a shock.”

Ugleeuh gave a whooping sob and sprang from her chair, smacking Minuet’s embroidery Ugleeuh_rub_880683_c_medieval_scarlett_red_hooded_dress_costume_adult_ahoop out of her lap as she tramped across the room. “You used to be my best friend!” she wailed as she yanked open the door and wheeled about. “You used to be my champion! You were the one person in this world I could always count on and trust! Now you’ve turned awful and I’ll never, ever forgive you!”

“I sure was, sweetheart,” said Minuet to the closed door as she knelt to pick up her broken hoop, “but then I woke up to find that no matter what I did for you, every third thing you ever said was a lie.”

“Do some-thing nice… do some-thing nice… just go some-where else and do some-thing nice…” said Ugleeuh in a giddy sing-song as she whirled and skipped down the hallway. At the head of the stairs she stopped short and leant out the window, straining to hear a couple of hands who were singing grandly as they rode a wagon load of timothy hay to theGood_Sister,_Bad_Sis_Cover_for_Kindle barn. “Oh my!” she said with a sweet little bounce as she clasped her hands under her chin. “You two are so tone deaf. I need to do something nice to each one of you. Big sister says so…” And with that, she floated down the stairs and skipped outside.

Ch. 4, Good Sister, Bad Sister

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Ceidwad the Diatryma Reads Wizard Razzmorten’s Comatose Mind

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Without a word, Arwr, Lladdwr and Ceidwad sped away, pat, pat, patting over the leaves with Tors galloping furiously to keep up. Arwr lead them single file along the beginnings of a creek that was soon flanked with rock outcroppings which before long formed a deep hollow. Without the slightest hesitation to puzzle over landmarks, he took them directly to the foot of a huge sheer faced bluff of slate grey rocks which formed an overhang several rods long. At the back of the overhang a small cave ran in under the rock. In short order they had Razzmorten and Mary laid out on pallets of leaves.

Lukus knelt by Razzmorten and laid his hand on the old fellow’s forehead. He closed his eyes and quickly set about calming himself as he had been taught in order to readyFotolia_74796694_Subscription_Monthly_M CROPHEAD his magical energies to flow into his grandfather. He let these drain away until he began feeling the inevitable exhaustion which signaled where he must stop. He had no choice now but to rest before going any further. He opened his eyes and studied Razzmorten for any sign of success. He shook his head in weary dismay as he looked up at the hopeful faces gathered ’round him.

“I see no change at all,” he said. “I’ll have to eat and rest a bit, before I can try again.” He stood up on wobbly legs and clenched his teeth. “I can find nothing wrong with him at all. I wish I could read his mind. Then he could tell me what’s wrong.”

“I can do that for you,” said Ceidwad, lowering her head to peer into the cave.

“You diatrymas read minds?” he said, suddenly thinking about what she was saying.

“Yes.”

“But why didn’t you say so long before now?” he said before realizing that he just might sound as though he were making accusations.

“It wasn’t possible with us fleeing for our lives,” she said solemnly. “Mind to mind contact 4F14BB4B9with one who is unconscious is delicate business. It takes time and it’s always best
to see if the unconsciousness one will come around on his own.”

“Why? said Lukus. “Is it dangerous?”

“Not done right, no.”

“So you have a certain expertise?” he said, glancing at Rose.

“I’d not attempt such a thing without being confident. Of course, I’ll only proceed if you wish.”

Lukus looked at Rose. She turned aside to Fuzz and Myrtlbell who each nodded encouragingly.

“Please do, Ceidwad,” said Lukus. “We’ll never know unless you do.”

“Then please carry him to the mouth of the cave,” she said, “we never go inside.”

As soon as they got him moved, she slowly settled onto her keel, fluffed her feathers and gently laid her huge ebony beak across his forehead. After shifting her head a little, this way and that, she blinked a couple of times and then closed her eyes. Hubba Hubba leant so far forward on Rose’s shoulder while watching that he tumbled off and landed on the cave floor with a feathery plop. Pebbles flew down beside him as he picked himself up and gave a shake of his feathers. Taflu snickered, but sobered at once at a look from Fuzz.

images“Do all diatrymas read minds, Lladdwr?” whispered Rose.

“Generally only the hens amongst us,” he said softly. “They listen in on the dreams of our eggs and thereafter they keep track of the chicks in dead silence in the face of danger and while they forage.”

“Then her mind reading won’t heal?”

“I’m afraid it doesn’t, at least nothing beyond the reassurance it gives. But Ceidwad will be able to tell you what ails them and find out what needs to be done.”

At last, Ceidwad stood up and turned to face everyone, singling out Rose and Lukus.

“Your grandfather will survive and will indeed wake up in due time,” she said, “but I’ve no idea at all how long that will be. Those bolts from the sorceresses were much like lightening. If one is struck by lightening, he either dies right then and there or he’s left in a coma for who knows how long. Could be just a few hours; could be days. They got big jolts. Your Grandfather believes that they are both very lucky to have survived. They should be dead. In fact, he wonders if Demonica and Spitemorta deliberately let them live for some reason. So there’s no damage, but I’d allow that he’ll be asleep for some time to come.”

“Oh thank you!” said Rose, as she hugged Ceidwad, muffling a sob in her fluffy neck feathers “You’ve spared us so much worry.”

Ceidwad rattled her beak through Rose’s hair as Hubba Hubba hopped onto Razzmorten’s chest and walked up his beard to point one eye at his face. He stood there for a moment, then trotted back down his beard and flew to Lukus’s shoulder. “He doesn’t look any different at all, Lukus.”

“I’m not worried now,” said Lukus as he scratched Hubba Hubba’s head. “Two very wise birds have just told us he’ll recover, so I know he will.”Stone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle

“Righty-o!” he said with a proud flap of his wings and a whistle. He shook his feathers. “Now you’re catching on.”

“Absolutely,” said Lukus.

Ch. 19, Stone Heart 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

 

The Real Hubba Hubba

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brush Fire, Navajo Estates, Twin Lakes

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

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

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

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

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Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Hubba Hubba and Pebbles Find Unicorns

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“I know you tried Wiz, but this is disgusting,” said Hubba Hubba, jerking back with a drool-flinging shake of his beak and ruffled feathers. “What are you eating, giant stinking sow bugs or what?”

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“That’s shrimp, Hubba Hubba,” said Razzmorten.

“It’s out of the sea, you silly bird, not out from under some old rotting board in a barn lot,” said Lukus with a laugh, as everyone else broke out with titters.

“All right, all right,” said Hubba Hubba, as Pebbles stepped back from hers with watery eyes andamazon_sammy wiped her beak. “Dogs gobble up much worse, and they don’t know any better than to offer you ones the same rot they eat. I’m sorry Wiz, you’ve just got me gagging, here.”

“What did you find?” said Razzmorten quickly to spare Hubba Hubba’s feelings.

“That old Elf has four unicorns in a large paddock near the wharf where his fishing boat is docked. He’d just come in with his catch and was at the fence giving them a scratch, when we lit and asked him if he was Kie. He answered to it, but we sure gave him a start. It might have been dangerous to do but it was quick. Anyway, he does have unicorns to sell and he’ll be there if we don’t fool around.”

“Very good, you two,” said Razzmorten, as he gave them each a scratch.

In short order they were on their way to Fen, on a sand swept lane meandering along the coast just inland from the furthest reaches of the high tide. Rose and Fuzz rode Mystique through the saw grass to follow along on the beach for a spell. Sandpipers trotted ahead. Crabs scuttled sideways into holes. Rose rested her head against Fuzz’s shoulders and gave him a squeeze. Soon they were dismounting in front of a cottage that smelt vaguely of rotting fish, where Hubba Hubba and Pebbles circled overhead.

They found the Elf feeding his unicorns. “Hoy there, Kie!” called Razzmorten. We are travelers on our way to see King Neron, and we’d like very much to purchase two of your unicorns to speed us over the mountains, if you’ve any for sale.”

امازون دبل يلو“How is it that you and your green birds know my name and I know not yours?” said Kie, pushing back his floppy hat with a squint as he spit across the fence.

“A young fellow by the name of Galor told us about you, sir,” said Fuzz.

“Good lad,” said Kie, shifting his chew into his other cheek as he put his foot on the fence. “Well folks, I really hadn’t planned on selling these unicorns. You know they’re my pets, I’m afraid. I’ve had these here since they were colts.”

“Oh she’s darling,” said Rose as she scratched a short-legged one who had just come to investigate. “We’ll take good care of them, sir.”

Ch. 29, Stone Heart  Stone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

 

 

Wizard Razzmorten sets out to Ease Hubba Hubba’s Mind

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Razzmorten drew back the tall heavy curtain and tied it before stepping off the stool with a bound. Hubba Hubba winced at the sudden light. Razzmorten drug the screeching stool across the stone floor to the far side of the window before lunging onto it with one leg to grab for the other drape and tie it back. Hubba Hubba ruffled and shook off some of his stupor to glare resentfully at Razzmorten’s cheery endeavors. He vastly preferred his wonderful dream about Pebbles to this blinding sunlight. “Thank you, old fart,” he thought, settling his beak into his breast feathers with a shake of his head.

“What a beautiful day,” declared Razzmorten as he peered out the window and took a deep breath.

“Yea. It will be when you close the drapes again,” thought Hubba Hubba, as he wiggled his beak further into his breast feathers to close his eyes.

“What would you like for breakfast, fruit or vegetables?” said Razmorten. “Maybe some whole grain porridge?”

“I’m not hungry,” rattled Hubba Hubba from beneath his ruffled crown feathers.

“I see. Are you not feeling well? Perhaps if you tell me just how it is that you feel poorly, I could mix up something for you.”

By this time all the sparrows had come closer to listen. Hubba Hubba shook his feathers, flinging dander into the sunlight. Suddenly he sleeked down, pointing himself at them. “Now there are six nosey pests, rather than three. Do I need this? Well, I’ll tell ye: no, I do not. And if you want to know what I do want, I’d just like to be left alone for a change. Peace and quiet. Is that too much? Go build your nests. Beat it!”

“Wrong side of his perch this morning, wouldn’t you say?” said Razzmorten, sharing wide eyes with the sparrows. “I doubt that he’ll be very proud of his outburst after he’s had two shakes to consider things. Let’s just leave him to himself for a bit.” The sparrows flitted back to what they had been doing at their nests, while Razzmorten went to his bedroom to read, leaving Hubba Hubba to mumble by himself.

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“Lot o’ ‘preciation he has,” he rattled from the very most guttural reaches of his crop. “Here I make my sacrifices, bringing messages about his grandchildren. And respect. I mean, what kind of respect is it to blind me with light and sadistic cheer, and six bouncy
goody-goody little slaves to rub it in? Six instead of three. I’m not getting twice as much
respect and service, here.” With a huff and an especially thorough shake of feathers, he
turned his back on the brilliant morning and closed his eyes in search of his dream about
Pebbles.

“This isn’t working,” he thought. “Why don’t those bean brained sparrows shut up? ‘Tweety, tweety, tweet…!’ Great boundless Joy! The local twitterpates are jabbering all over outside. This is not working.” He turned back to point himself at the window. “I’ll go tell them!” He paused, straightening up to shuffle from side to side. “Whoa! Too far to the sill.” But now he was making lunging thrusts at the window at each end of his perch, and he was starting to flap his wings. Now he was flapping furiously. At the fleeting thought of Razzmorten’s suggestion of exercise, he let go. Before he could quite appreciate that he was truly aloft, his feet were planting themselves upon the warm stone window sill. He’d made it, and he wasn’t even breathing hard. He forgot all about sleep. He looked to see if the sparrows had seen. They had. Six heads, each gawking broadside, had stopped in astonishment to take in his unexpected feat. They ducked out of sight into their nests at once.

“Hey! You ones!” he called out. “It’s all right! I’m not upset. In fact, I’m sorry about the things I said earlier. Really. Aw come on! Can’t a fellow have a bad mood once in a while?”

Head by head they reappeared in shocked wonder. “That’s the first time that you’ve ever apologized for your nasty tongue,” chirped Tweet.

“Yea? Maybe so. Think there’s some hope for me after all?”

“May be,” tweeted Squeak, “but you still have a huge way to go.”

“Maybe you’re right, but old habits die hard, don’t you know. Give me some slack. I’m working on it.”

“Hey, the master’s developing humility,” squeaked Chirp. “And by the way, nice flight.”

Hubba Hubba made an aloof about-face hop on the window sill, but he was beaming at the compliment. He fluffed up and preened here and there and then gave himself a thorough 5238538447_ef45b254a9shake. When he smoothed down his plumage, he discovered that his black feathers had already gotten quite warm in the sun. He basked, letting his mind wander to pleasant images of Pebbles. After a good long spell in the mesmerizing warmth, he even fancied he saw her in a nearby apple tree. It was almost as though he heard her say: “I love you. C’mere.” It was so real that he found himself out the window, winging towards the apple tree. “My!” he said, coming to his wits. “I guess there’s nothing for it but to see if I can actually make it to that tree.” It was nearly a furlong away, but it was a downhill glide from Razzmorten’s tower, and he dutifully flapped his wings the whole distance. The next thing he knew, he was landing on a broad limb right beside the very love of his life. This was no daydream at all.

Pebbles however, was not charmed by his arrival. She fluffed up as huge as possible and shrank her pupils to pinholes, making her eyes fiery red. “Bad boy! Bad boy!” she called out, madly wheeling and strutting back and forth. “Minuet! Minuet! Please get rid of this bad boy!”

“Hubba Hubba!” cried Minuet, as she looked up from her chair in the shade. “You can fly again. Wonderful! Come down here and see me. Pay no mind to Pebbles. She’s just being a brat.”

Just then, he looked beyond Minuet into the courtyard and saw a personage who made him go apoplectically faint. She was sitting calmly with two strangers and King Hebraun. “What are you doing here, Ugleeuh?” he croaked, as his heart pounded in his chest. By now everyone was looking right at him, and he shrank back into the leaves.

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“Is this filthy bird yours?” cried Ugleeuh, spitting with scorn as she sprang to her feet. “And how dare he call me ugly! You should have him destroyed this minute.” The two strangers rushed to her at once, attempting to soothe her.

This was too much for Hubba Hubba. “Help! Help! Help!” he cawed as he leaped into the air, flapping madly for Razzmorten’s tower. He had no problem making straight for the window, but loft was a poser. He thought his heart and lungs were both going to burst before he got far enough up to fly in. He banged his keel painfully on the sill, sending him inside in a tumble of feathers to smack into his perch, knocking it over with a crash before skittering to a sliding halt on the tabletop. Razzmorten burst into the room, quite wide eyed.

“Sorry for the mess, Wiz,” croaked Hubba Hubba, as he heaved and gasped for wind. “But Ugleeuh’s down there in the garden with the king and queen and a couple of strangers. There’s no telling what she came here for, but you know it ain’t good. And now
that she’s seen me, she wants me destroyed. That’s what chased me back in through the
window. Man! My keel bone hurts. Can’t you get her with some kind of wizard fire from
the window here ‘fore she does something terrible?”

Razzmorten scratched his head thoughtfully, then ambled over to the window and gazed out for long enough to exasperate Hubba Hubba. When he turned around, he was smiling. Hubba Hubba felt a scald of fear rush through this chest, convinced for the moment that Razzmorten had been smitten with a bewitchment by his evil daughter. As the urge seized him to fly back out the window and escape into the countryside, a meaty thump from Fifi’s tail on the floor beside the table completely shattered his resolve. He looked from dog to window and back again, utterly befuddled. At the sight of Razzmorten mildly taking a seat at the table to patiently wait for the arrival of his composure, he opened up his feathers completely, hesitated, then shook himself resolutely and sleeked down. “All right, all right, Wiz!” he said. “I’m ready. End my confusion. Hey! This is real anxiety I’m suffering from, don’t you know.”

“The young woman out there does indeed look like the very picture of Ugleeuh, years ago,” said Razzmorten, not smiling at Hubba Hubba’s consternation. “She looks enough like Ugleeuh to be her twin, removed in time. Even her behavior, they act alike. In fact, I was so taken by this that I went to great pains to determine if she wasn’t under some divination, some spell to condemn her to a life as Ugleeuh’s echo, but I found no such spell. She truly seems to be one of those once in a millennium coincidences. She’s Princess Spitemorta of Goll. She’s come here with her parents in hopes of making an alliance marriage with Lukus to unite Niarg and their realm. You’ve no reason to fear anything.”

“Maybe we have another coincidence here, Wiz. This girl said she wanted me destroyed, remember? Why would some total stranger do that? Hey, I’m a bird! Threats to my life leave a lasting impression, and her impression feels just like Ugleeuh. That’s my reason.”

“You don’t deserve to be so upset. Why don’t I just go down there and see what’s going on? Would that ease your mind?”The_Collector_Witch_Cover_for_Kindle

Hubba Hubba looked very doubtful, but Razzmorten was already on his way out the door. “Wiz!” he cawed out. “Be careful! And hey, take Miss Toothyface, here, why don’t you?”

“I’m sure I can handle it myself,” said Razzmorten, tossing back a wide-eyed smile as the door went closed.

Ch. 23, The Collector Witch

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

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