Friday, July 25, 2014

Razzmorten Meets the Diatrymas

Diatryma_by_ministerart1
Part Six
"Myrtlebell!" stammered Rose. "No, you can't mean... It can't be. I mean Fuzz just wouldn't... He knows how I feel about...well, I mean...he knows what she..."
"Rose," said Razzmorten with quiet firmness, as he gave her a steely eyed look from beneath his hoary brows. "I think it would be best to see Edward off to bed. He's been through a great lot these past few days and he truly needs your kind support. I believe we have quite enough information to begin a search for his mother and Fuzz, don't you?"
Rose gave a blank look before suddenly seeing how it all was. Just before she had grasped exactly how horrible she should feel, Edward tugged at her skirts with wide eyes.
"I didn't know you knew my momma. Why don't you like her, Rose? Momma is the bestest person in the whole world."
Razzmorten saw the frantically helpless expression on Rose's face. Satisfied that she appreciated the hole she had just dug herself, he came to her rescue. "Edward," he said as he knelt down to look him in the eye, "you may not realize it, but there are many women in the world named Myrtlebell. I don't think the Myrtlebell Rose knows is your momma or you know she would like her."
Edward knitted his brow as he considered, then he looked up at Rose.
"That's right, Edward," she said, brightened with relief. "Why, the Myrtlebell I knew could never have a child as bright and sweet as you." She knelt before him. "I'm sorry I upset you. Your mother couldn't be the Myrtlebell I knew."
Edward nodded wisely. "I wonder how somebody named Momma's name could be bad," he said, giving Rose a forgiving smile, "but somebody called Angel could be mean and awful." Then with a huge yawn, he lunged for her with a hug. "I'm really, really tired now."
"Right," said Rose, as she turned to Spark and Lipperella, who had been keenly watching everything as they dropped endless chunks of sukere down dragonet gullets. "Is there some place where Edward could sleep?"
Lipperella nodded and surprised Razzmorten by handing him her dish of sukere as she passed. "Gweltaz, could you do this for me?" he said. "I think it's urgent that I speak with the diatrymas. Kast, you say they refuse to come inside...?"
"They never do. They won't."
"You know about them. You spoke with them, would you take me up there right now andjohndee introduce me to them?"
Kast was on his feet immediately, heading for a cramped passage, scarcely larger than the dragon himself, hurrying along so quickly that Razzmorten nearly had to jog to keep up. Presently they came to a spiral stair, carved out of the limestone of the cavern, that led directly overhead to where the diatrymas had bedded down, side by side in the leaves beneath the leaning oaks. At their approach, the diatrymas raised their heads high in unison, but remained resting on their keel bones.
Meanwhile, Lipperella lead Rose and Edward to a small passage opening into a grotto with several pallets. "Guest quarters for our human friends," she said as she neatly lit a candle with a wee spurt of blue flame from between her lips, revealing the attractive suite.
"My!" said Rose in astonishment that at once made her feel awkward.
"I'll just leave you to tuck him in, then," said Lipperella graciously, as she turned to go back.
"Thank you," called out Rose belatedly.
Edward wasted no time sliding into the most inviting strange bed he had ever seen. Rose found a basin and full pitcher and washed his face and hands. He gave Rose one last smile. He needed another hug. Rose was simply too much like Myrtlebell not to be his chosen nanny. He began to snore softly even before Rose pulled the coverlet over him. She smiled at him in wonder then silently left his side, returning to the nursery to find the company waiting for Razzmorten to return from his visit to the diatrymas.
After some time they returned. Razzmorten sat down at once, rubbing the bridge of his nose.
"What did you find, Grandfather?" said Lukus.
"Stunning...absolutely stunning creatures, that's what."
"Comes with the feathers, Wiz," said Hubba Hubba, looking up suddenly from a serious preen.
"They could well be the most intelligent beings I've ever addressed. I truly believe they were making sure that I had all the information I needed to come to a decision, but they were exhausted from their long run, and once they saw that I had what I needed, they politely persuaded me to leave so they could sleep. They also plan on helping us."
"In my dealings with them, I've not known them to forget even the very most minor detail of anything," said Kast. "I daresay you'll be right thankful for their aid."
"They are almost certainly the adar taranus which Razzorbauch released from the rocks when he created the fudge volcano," said Razmorten. "If they be, then they are the ones he is said to have regretted turning loose."
"Certainly," said Lipperella. "As Truth-Bearer, I've had several occasions when I sought Stone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindlethem out in secret. Razzorbauch was never comfortable with the truth. Unfortunately they keep to themselves, so that over the years I've seldom seen them."
"Well, we seem to have no choice but to leave at once," said Razzmorten.
Ch. 10, Stone Heart

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Razzmorten sets out to Ease Hubba Hubba's Mind

the-alchemist
Part Five
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.
Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Monday, July 21, 2014

Do We Have a Smoking Dragon?


            I used to teach at Ch'ooshgai Community School, a boarding school on the top of a mesa on the Navajo Nation. One spring morning when the students were in the hallway changing classes, one of the older boys began calling out: "Herald! Herald?" Soon there were others calling out to Herald, and in short order it became a daily routine during class changes. "Herald! Herald? Oh, Herald!"

            I had the older boy in one of my classes. "So, who's Herald?" I said, looking up from my attendance sheet.

            He shrugged his shoulders and grinned, trading glances with other kids in the room, but he had nothing to say.

            I got the same response from other students when I asked, but the calling out to Herald was to last until the end of school. I kept my ears open. One day whilst the students were visiting quietly as they finished up an assignment, one of them said to another, "When he lands on the roof of the school, you'll cry, Jerome."

            "No way," said Jerome. "You'll cry when it thunders and you get all your stupid hair singed off, dumb ass."

            "Who's he?" I said, ignoring the profanity. "Are you two talking about Herald?"

            All I got were cherubic grins and shrugs. 

            I had repeated instances like this. Nobody would answer my questions, but I was beginning to piece together a great dragon of a beast with a twenty foot wingspan, able to set fire to things from the air. Could this be the fabled Thunderbird? No wonder no one would tell me. Outsiders were always making fun of their legends, and they weren't about to give me the chance to.

            There were certain old people who swore that there was indeed a gigantic bird which flew up and down the Rockies before storms. Ornithologists scoffed at this of course, saying that somebody with binoculars would have seen it long before now. But could there ever have been? I well remember the bobcat that Dad shot in the chicken house which the Zoology professors insisted could not possibly have been there. I started doing some research. Soon I discovered Argentavis magnificens, a late Miocene monster of a bird with a 23 foot wingspan that weighed between 150 to 175 pounds, which flew the skies of Argentina, six million years ago.

            I finished my maté and went outside to a rock to eat my fry bread and mutton stew and to look out over the dry grass of the countryside. My head spun at the thought of it, as I sped south in my mind's eye into a never-never age of pristine wonder, past the tall trees of the White Mountains, past meadows and upland hills, long before there ever was a Nogales, and on down the great mountain chain, all the way to the slopes of the Andes Mountains in Argentina, where the great Argentavis soared on the updraughts of a gathering storm, just like the dragons in Good Sister, Bad Sister, except that our dragons are rather more Jurassic, with bony tails and mouths full of teeth.     

Tom Phipps
 



Friday, July 18, 2014

Blog Tour: John Priest, Author of The Curse of the Sea Shell Cave

Author Pic
I've been a children's author since 1985, with books traditionally and independently published.
I am one of seven children (three girls, four boys) and live with my wife and family in the West Midlands, UK (two daughters, their hubbies and three great grandkids).
I have written many different types of books and scripts over the years and besides children's books I have written adult horror, sci-fi and comedy thriller scripts.
I was invited to Pinewood Studios, UK, in the late 1980's after a Director had read my script and thought it showed great promise.  He sent it to the USA for another reading but unfortunately nothing ever came of it. I keep meaning to change the script into book form but other new ideas always take over.
Book Cover
My latest children's book is The Curse of Sea Shell Cave, a detective/whodunit for children.  Inside you will find the Jay-Pea-Eyes aka Junior Private Investigators searching for clues to solve another mystery.  It's the second book in the JPIs series and is available in paperback and various e-book formats.


John Priest is always pleased to hear from readers. Simply use the contact form at: http://www.johnpriest.co.uk

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Razzmorten takes Hubba Hubba to See the King and Queen

Scan10069
Part Four
Razzmorten cleared his throat. Hubba Hubba straightened up at once, giving himself a feather fluffing shake. "Well Queen, how could you possibly have known it was me?"
"Oh, Hubba Hubba! I'd know you anywhere."Scan10074
Hubba Hubba drew back his head and thrust it forth in a gawk of bewilderment at Razzmorten. Razmorten gave a wide-eyed shrug. "I hate to dampen this merry reunion, but time may be pressing," he said. "Hubba Hubba has a message from your sister, regarding Rose and Lukus."
"Ugleeuh!" cried King Hebraun, springing to his feet. "She hasn't harmed them, has she?"
"No, no. I wouldn't think so," said Razzmorten, handing Ugleeuh's note to Hebraun. "She has decided to blackmail you. She plans to be set free from the Chokewood Forest. It seems she has Rose and Lukus at her cottage and plans to give their freedom for hers. See for yourself."
King Hebraun quickly read the missive and handed it to Minuet. "Father!" she choked. "You said Ugleeuh could cause no more harm once she was exiled."
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"Not outside of her part of the Chokewoods," said Razzmorten, as he gently picked up her hand. "I can't imagine that she had any way of abducting them. They had to have gone there on their own, and most likely to answer some of the questions which Rose was asking all around, right prior to their disappearance. No, Ugleeuh has not been any sort of hazard outside her boundaries from the time we sent her there until this very minute, but this extortion of hers is her design to change all that. Meanwhile, the children must be safe. Stop and think. Ugleeuh is evil, but she's no fool. She'd hardly destroy the one and only chance she's had to end her exile. She'll not harm Rose and Lukus as long as there's any chance she can use them to get free."
"He's right," cawed Hubba Hubba. "In all the years I've spent with her, she never suggested harming a feather on my body until I refused to come here. Then she threatened
to cook me. And I have an idea. When I left, Ugleeuh gave me this scrying crystal so I'd
be able to see her and the forest any time I wanted. Here. Try it to check on Rose and
Lukus. I'll bet that will make you feel better."
Minuet suddenly looked hopeful but Razzmorten sadly shook his head. "Your offer is grand, Hubba Hubba, but I'm afraid your crystal is useless. She's managed to divine an astonishing barrier around her part of the forest to prevent being watched by any sort of crystal gazing. I certainly have tried to often enough."
Hubba Hubba was stunned. "So!" he squawked with a shake of his feathers. "She lied again. She said she'd drop the protections and keep them down until I returned. Fool
that I am, I told her not to because she'd leave herself vulnerable. She told me that her
protections had been in place so long that no one would bother to spy on her. No wonder
she wasn't worried. She'd no intention of dropping her protections all along."
"Whoa Hubba Hubba," said Razzorten, as he shared raised eyebrows with Hebraun and Minuet. "There was talk of dropping her protections?"
Crow-0056-A01"Talk. Yea."
"Where's this scrying crystal Ugleeuh gave you?"
"Right here, actually," he said, looking down at his breast. "The crystal is the brooch fixed on my flight harness. But what difference does that make if it's useless?"
Razzmorten was already unbuckling the harness, shaking his head to be silent while he slipped it off him. The king and queen anxiously crowded around. Hubba Hubba peered at the stone from Razzmorten's shoulder, and nearly lost his balance when the old man whooped with glee. "It works! I see the forest. And look at this. There's Ugleeuh flying above the trees on a broom. That's a right novel talent. She certainly never did that before her exile. I suppose it's no surprise that she'd develop her powers to while away the time there."
"I despise the idea of her having any powers," said Minuet. "Where do you suppose Rose and Lukus are?"
"I'd bet in her cottage," said Hubba Hubba. "They haven't been much for going outdoors, all summer. Mostly they stayed around the house and you know, ate, slept, those kinds o' things..." He trailed off uncomfortably, seeing everyone looking straight at him. "Well when I was there, they joked around with me and we talked and stuff, don't you know," he stammered, glancing from one person to the next as he resumed. "Sometimes they did go outside and take me for my exercise flights. And once Lukus and I even went for a hike. Now that was really fun, except when the log rolled over on me and broke my toe, of course." He fluffed up and ran his beak along several flight feathers, letting each go with a snap before he continued. "Anyway, try the cottage."
Razzmorten was scarcely listening as he brought his concentration to bear upon scrying with the crystal. At last, Rose and Lukus appeared, wearing their stripped cloaks, hurrying to keep up with Fuzz.
"Wow!" said Hubba Hubba. "Ugleeuh and Fuzz are definitely not on friendly terms. I can't imagine her letting them talk to him, let alone run off with him somewhere."
"Looks like those stripped cloaks are camouflage," said Razzmorten with a grave nod, "at least I'd say so from the appearance of the surrounding trees. They certainly don't appear to be out for a hunt, and if they've gone to this kind of trouble to hide, they very
likely are attempting to flee, rather than waiting for us to respond to her extortion demands. So this bear 'Fuzz,' Ugleeuh doesn't like him, you say?"
"Not much..."
"Speaks well of him."
"Oh Hebraun!" said Minuet. "Their faces are so pale and pasty. They don't look well. What has she done to them?"
"Remember that I can't scry," said Hebraun, as he shared a look with Razzmorten, "but it sounds like they've been eating your sister's food. They'll surely snap out of it as soon as we get them home."
"And remember that they're young and strong, Minuet," said Razzmorten. "Neither one has ever been sick. They're going to be just fine."
"But how are we going to get them home, now?" said Minuet. "And what if Ugleeuh catches them? They've defied her and escaped. I can't imagine her fury. No one who thwarts her is ever safe. You can count on her saying that they owe her for having been at her cottage, even though they were her prisoners. She'd make them pay mercilessly for that. But stand in the way of her freedom? I can't picture her controlling herself."
Razzmorten sucked in a deep breath between his teeth. "I'm sure Ugleeuh is mortally angry," he said, "but it still behooves her to handle Rose and Lukus with care. I can't imagine her forgetting that they are her only chance to leave the forest, short of dying. I'd say that if she does catch them, it's this Fuzz, whoever he is, who won't survive her vengeance."
"You got it." said Hubba Hubba. "She wants out and Fuzz is a goner. Oh, absolutely." He hesitated, seeing that he was being taken very seriously by everyone. "She
threatened to slaughter and eat me, just because I told her I wouldn't deliver her ransom
note. And she claims she loves me. She doesn't even like Fuzz."
"Pray that they're not caught," said Minuet, looking pale and drawn, as she sat down on her throne. "I grew up struggling with her getting even with everyone under the sun."
"How do you suppose this Fuzz plans to help Rose and Lukus escape?" said Hebraun.
"Until some clue turns up," said Razzmorten, rubbing his temples gingerly before gazing The_Collector_Witch_Cover_for_Kindleback into the crystal, "I have utterly no idea at all, except that they most likely are indeed attempting some sort of escape, right now."
"What happens if Ugleeuh intercepts them, Father?" said Minuet. "What then?"
"Then I shall have to face her myself." said Razzmorten calmly enough to cause Hubba Hubba to gape in astonishment. "Please don't be afraid, Minuet. I swear that no harm shall come to my grandchildren. I swear it on my life."
Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Monday, July 14, 2014

Razzmorten Finds Ngerrk-ga

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Part Three
Razzmorten appeared on a lonely beach amongst the cries of terns, just as a wave soaked his feet, sending small snails vanishing into the sand as it rushed back to sea. A beached jellyfish glistened in the mid-morning sun. He stepped away from the water and scooped up a double handful of shells to admire for a moment before squinting under his hand at the arid hills of white limestone dotted with grey shrubs which lay inland. He pulled out his scrying ball from his shoulder bag and squatted in the sand to stare into it, shaded by the brim of his pointed hat. At once he was underway through the marram grass, making straight for the hills.
By the time the sun was overhead, he had crossed over three great ridges of hills. A savannah sparrow called nearby. He paused to mop his brow and look about as he felt of the ball in his bag. "Maybe I need another peek," he said. Suddenly he held his breath.
"Could that be children?" A pebble skittered across the rocks at his feet, just as he spied a
curly haired head slipping behind some rocks. He heard hushed giggling. "Hello?' he
hollered.
There was dead silence.
"Hello? Is someone there?"
"Mamin!" cried a brave naked boy, prancing into view.
"Mamin! Mamin!" shouted another, "Dirdawung, mamin lamang gahan!"
"Menuny mamin mawu ga-yu-ma wutjjurrh-ma!" cried a girl, taller than the others, leaping to her feet.
Soon there were eight naked children dancing around him, just out of reach, chanting sing-song: "Ma-min...ma-min...ma-min..." After a bit of this, they took turns crying: "Mamin!" as they leaped forth to tug at his clothes and jump back as if he would bite.
"I say," cried Razzmorten, looking 'round about, "would you all be Ngop?"
The children broke out in such laughter that they could scarcely stay on their feet.
"If you all are Ngop, could you take me to Dort-da?" he said, nodding with wide eyes of encouragement. At this, a middle-sized girl with the merriest eyes of all dashed up and began yanking and pulling on his arm. He followed her at once.
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Up through the next ridge of hills they led him, pattering through the dust and rocks, until they came to a wide dusty valley. The merry eyed girl kept a relentlessly tight grip on his hand, pulling him along through the dust and shrubs as they came to scattered acacia trees with ruminating cows bedded down everywhere in the shade. He could see low domed mud huts in the thickest of the trees. At the far end of them against the rocks of a limestone bluff was a whitewashed hut, larger than all the others. They hurried with
him, straight up to it. "Dort-da! Dort-da!" they shouted. And the next thing he knew, he
was standing in front of the hut's triangular door without a child in sight. As he was
glancing here and there at the paintings of animals chasing each other across the breadth
of the whitewash, trying to gather his thoughts, Dort-da stepped into the light, adjusting
his long gourd cod piece. For a moment he looked as though he had been asleep.
Suddenly he smiled. "Razzmorten!" he cried. "It's been ages since Hanter Koadou. Come
inside."
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Razzmorten removed his hat and followed Dort-da inside, finding that ducking was scarcely enough to navigate a triangular doorway. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust. "Why, it's as cool as a cellar in here," he said.
"Sit here," said Dort-da, giving a slap to one of several fat rolls of blankets on the floor in front of a great chair made of cow bones. He sat in the chair and crossed his legs. He clapped his hands and a girl clad only in a skirt appeared with a jug of water and two large cow horns. He took the first drink and nodded at Razzmorten. "What brings you
here?"
"It wasn't too many years before our meeting at Hanter Koadou that there was a great plague which swept through the Dark Continent..."
"Douar-Noz might be better," said Dort-da. "The house of Dark hadn't taken over yet."
"Certainly," said Razzmorten carefully. "So, when the plague swept through Douar-Noz, of course, it killed thousands upon untold thousands of people, including my progenitor, the First Wizard, who was visiting here at the time. It killed half the people living here as well as half the people on the Northern Continent. Well, I've just heard that when the plague came, not a single Ngop died from it. Is that true?"
"Has the plague returned after all this time to Norz-Meurzouar?"
"Yes. One and by now, maybe two have died at Castle Niarg."
"Who brought it?" said Dort-da as he studied the backs of his hands. "Do you know where it came from?"
"Far," said Razzmorten, keenly aware that Dort-da was being careful. "The one who died just before I left was a retainer of Princess Branwen of the House of Far. I have no idea how many have died there."
"I've only heard of them a time or two. Do you know if they trade with the Gwaels of Gwaremm?"
"The last I knew, the Gwaels made them uneasy..."
"We have a lot to lose Razzmorten, but you convinced me years ago at Hanter Koadou that you have a true heart. You need to see Ngerrk-ga. His dreams are strong. If he doesn't want to help you, you are not to return here until seven years after this new plague has run its course." Dort-da studied Razzmorten carefully for a moment, then clapped once more. The young woman appeared with more water. "Nu-jabing-nga," he said. "Razzmorten-ga-ndi lahan Ngerrk-ga."
"Nu-jabing-nga quickly set down her jug. "Di-nya," she said, motioning to Razzmorten with a nod. "Di-nya." Waving him on, she disappeared out the door.
Razzmorten bowed to Dort-da, thanked him and hurried out into the heat and blinding light to find Nu-jabing-nga. He saw her at once, but found her even more difficult to keep up with than the children. He had to jog to catch her before she disappeared beyond the huts along the meandering path in the thorny wait-a-bit bushes that the Ngop used for fences which ran along the limestone bluff from acacia tree to acacia tree for a very long way, sticking up in the roasting heat like great parasols which gave shade to the resting cattle who languidly chewed their cuds and swished at flies, watching them pass.
At last the path rose into a break in the bluff which led to an isolated mud hut, whitewashed and covered with red ochre hand prints in the shade of a pair of especiallyboiling-cauldron
large acacias. Ngerrk-ga was out front with his back to them on his knees feeding the fire under a large kettle that he was stirring. Nu-jabing-nga held her finger to her lips and motioned for Razzmorten to sit on the ground at Ngerrk-ga's back before grabbing her nose and dashing away, back down the path. Ngerrk-ga went right on stirring as if no one had arrived at all, chanting quietly: "Nja-min-ah... nja-min-ah... nja-min-ah... nja-min-ah..."
"Fates forbid!" thought Razzmorten. "I hope he notices me before I pass out from the
Good_Sister,_Bad_Sis_Cover_for_Kindlesmell!"



Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps




Friday, July 11, 2014

Pappy Taylor's 93rd Birthday

 Taylor_video
One evening on the first of October, better than twenty years ago, Gary Harrison and I drove down to Effingham to call on Pappy Taylor for his ninety-third birthday.
"Yea!" he hollered at our knock. "Come on in! "Grab 'ee a ch'ir!" He was sitting on his davenport, his ankles swollen with dropsy, coffee can cuspidor at his feet, when we stepped through the door. "Hand me that there fiddle, would ye, Gary?" He fingered its strings and tightened a peg as we hauled out our instruments and the evening began. "What do you ones want to play?" He leant forward and took a spit.
"What ever you feel like, Pappy," said Gary.
Pappy sawed haltingly for a bit, rummaging about through fragments of tunes. "I know all kinds," he said, "if I can just think of them. Here's one. Lonesome Indian." He commenced playing with a flourish as Gary and I followed along on guitar and banjo. With a scarcely a pause, he started another tune with the verve and abandon of a long lifetime of playing.
"Man!" I thought. "He must have been something in his prime."
"You know that one, don't ye Gary?" he said as he finished.
"King's Head, ain't it?"
"Yeap. Now this here's one," he said, striking up another piece.
"Now what was that?" said Gary.pappy02
"Six Pound 'o Feathers in a Cuckoo's Nest."
"I don't recall ever hearing that one."
"Yea.
"Theah was an old woman, wanted a new feather bed,
And an old man, white hairs upon his head,
Old man he come from the west,
Old woman, wouldn't have any but the best...
"Oh hell, I've clean forgot, but anyway he found six pound o' feathers in a cuckoo's nest," he said, raising his fiddle again. "This here 'n's pret' near my favorite." For a long spell he played an elaborate version of Turkey in the Straw.
"Now what was that?" said Gary.
"That there was the piece that Turkey in the Straw was wrote off of. It's called Natchez Under the Hill. Theah's fellows ask what that is, and I say: 'Ain't ye ever heard of Nachez Indians?' It was written 'way back in George Washington's time. See, the White man got to cheating them, and one thing and another, so they danced all night, a-getting ready for a big Indian war the next day. That's what that there tune is."
"Say Gary," he said, nodding at me, "what's his name?"
"Why, that's Tom Phipps."
"Well I know that, you fellows know what I mean, but I couldn't think of his name to save my neck," he said, leaning to one side of his fiddle for a spit. "Now here's one..." He put his fiddle to his collarbone and played Paddyin' on the Turnpike, a tune about the Irish who laid the first railroad tracks across Illinois. Then he played Flop Eared MulePicking Cotton Down South, Bear Pen Hollow and Devil in the Haystack. He played Sugar Foot Rag and West Coast Rag and somehow ended up talking about Buffalo Bill. "He was an Indian fighter," he said as he picked at some small something on the side of his bow. "Now that's the part that wasn't right. The White man wanted their land, and the damned government come in and killed women and children, by God, and old men. And they hadn't done nothing, nothing at all except to try to live peaceful. They killed women and children! That son of a bitch Custer got what was a-coming to him, by God!
"You know, the United States Government stole this universe from the Indian. No use a-saying they didn't 'cause they did, and now they're a-starting to acknowledge it. They stole it! A fellow asked if I wanted to see the monument out there, ye know, at Wounded Knee, and I said no, I ain't going to. That ornery cu'se Custer had it a-coming.
"You fellows got any Indian in ye?"
"Both sides, I think," said Gary.
"The Walkers," I said.
"Well I have," he said. "My dad was part Iroquois. He used to tell that they'd trade an old pappy01gun for as much land as a man could walk in a day. But then the White man went to cheating, and directly it was all gone." he raised his fiddle. "Here ye go. You ones know this one."
We played Cumberland Gap for quite a good long time. When we finished, Pappy stared off into days long gone. "Got married when I was twenty-four," he said to no one in particular as Gary and I refined the tuning of our instruments. "I married her in Arkansas, when I crossed the Mississippi to work on the railroad. She was awful pretty, and she was sure my wife. She was full blooded Osage. She died of tularemia when I was twenty-eight.
"She took a notion for to eat some rabbit, so I went out and shot her a couple. Now I don't eat no raw meat, but she did. In three days she took sick and died."
He raised his fiddle and played Payroll, then Hell Amongst the Yearlings, then Mockingbird, then Arkansas Traveler and Old Molly Hare. On and on, picking up momentum, keeping us on the edge of our seats away into the night. At somewhere between one and two in the morning, we rose to leave.
"No need to be rushed off," he said. "I can play all night if you fellows want to."
A train whistle blew, off in the night, as we stepped outside.
"You've still got trains a-running through here," I said. "We're losing everything these days, trains, middles of towns. And all the small farms..."
"Why them's the Hundred Cries," he said as he steadied himself against the doorway.
"Hundred Cries?"
"Yea. My Indian father-in-law used to tell about that. The Hundred Cries is the voices of the multitude, never to be heard, as they're driven from the wilderness for good."
The next February, Gary and I were pall bearers at Pappy's funeral. We rode in silence most of the way back to Effingham from the grave yard. "He was the last one wasn't he, Gary?" I said at last.
"Yeap. Sure was."
If Pappy (Harvey) Taylor was not the absolute last who had learnt his tunes from older mqdefaultfiddlers instead of from the media, he was without a doubt amongst the last. Pappy had tunes in his repertoire several hundred years old. King's Head, which he had learnt from his dad, was about the execution of King Charles I in 1649.
I cannot help but feel that the passage of people like him leaves us all impoverished. Tunes imitated from the media are not the same. However, the passage of the old fiddlers isn't the half of it. I grew up with regular square dances. The neighbors got together and had big sings. Dad sang with a barbershop quartet. We sang in church, a mile away. All this is gone. So what? We all know that the rural neighborhoods are gone, wiped out by centralization. But that's not all. We used to sing every day in music class at school. We looked forward to the traditional carols we practiced at Christmas. Several years ago, the music teachers replaced the old songs with shallow parodies of them from the media. Soon the schools stopped having music classes. Soon the grade schools gave up recess. This is 'way better for us, all sped up and modern, right?
Tom Phipps