Monday, October 20, 2014

Who is Queen Spitemorta?


Queen Spitemorta of Goll is the beautiful raven haired daughter of the witch known as Ugleeuh, the granddaughter of the evil sorceress Demonica and the mother of Abaddon. She is secretly given by Ugleeuh to King Brutelee and Queen Bee of Goll to raise. As soon as she is grown, she poisons Brutlee and Bee, assumes the throne of Goll and marries King James of Loxmere. 
When the news reaches Pennvro on the Dark Continent that Spitemorta is on the throne and has the First Wizard's Great Staff, in Stone Heart, Demonica kills and replaces Abaddon's nanny and begins plying Spitemorta with a strategy of world conquest, which requires finding the Crystal Heart of the Staff in order to have the needed power. In time they do find the Heart and set out to conquer Niarg and the rest of the world, thereby fulfilling the first part of the Elven Prophecy.  

Discovering that Spitemorta is a dangerous sorceress when she destroys her own nation's main cash crop and begins addressing her subjects with crystal skinwelerioù to incite them to go to war with their peaceful neighbors, in The Burgeoning, James hides Abaddon from her and tries to flee Castle Goll. She captures and tortures him and throws him into the dungeon.
Years before, when Spitemorta is still a princess in The Collector Witch, it is she whose vicious rumor sends Rose into the perils of the Chokewoods in search of her identity, and she who takes away the Staff from Ugleeuh's frantic grasp. And in spite of her lifelong reputation for cold bloodedness, she is assumed to be the granddaughter of the benevolent wizard Razzmorten, until far away in the volcanic cauldron of Mount Bed, the great oak tree Longbark touches Abaddon and determines that he is actually the great-grandson of the evil sorcerer Razzorbauch.

As her power grows, Spitemorta's fits of wanton destruction and murder soon have the Jutland Elves calling her Baineor Buile Cailli, The Reaper Witch, as they, James,  Abaddon and the diatrymas flee her for their very lives into the Wilderlands.




Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Friday, October 17, 2014

Fire Sprites and Glow Lichens




Fire Sprites Homo sapiens luciferestris L. a diminutive and highly luminescent human whose melanin has been replaced by luciferin, the light producing pigment in fireflies. Fire Sprites glow with such intensity that many who have gotten fleeting glimpses of  them have mistakenly reckoned them to be engulfed in flames, though in daylight their skin is an almost translucent alabaster white. They inhabit the utterly lightless lava tubes of the volcanic formations in the Eternal Mountains of the Eastern Continent. They communicate with one another and with other races of humans almost exclusively with thought projection and extra sensory perception (ESP), reserving their arcane and mysterious language for their singing of eerie aeolian chorals in the echoes of their caverns.
  
In Elf Killers Oísín and Doona and their party escape the marauding trolls by hiding in the tunnels of Ubh Ollmhór, where they are rescued by the Sprites and led through the maze of inky black volcanic passages to the grasslands of the Great Strah on the far side of the mountains. 
The Fire Sprites are actually the ones who originally made what becomes known as the Elven Prophecy about the rise of an evil which will seek to take over the world. This prophecy has a part in The Collector WitchStone Heart, The Burgeoning and The Reaper Witch (to be released early in 2013) and Doom (to be released late in 2013).
  
Glow lichen Cladonia antrolucidus R., is a close relative of the reindeer lichen (reindeer moss) and lives in moist underground caverns. Its fungal symbiont takes up nutrients saprophyticly from the moist cave walls and emits a strong bioluminescence, using the pigment luciferin, which allows its plant symbiont to photosynthesize in turn, releasing sugars to the saprophyte. Glow lichen is common throughout lava tubes in the Pitmaster's Kettles and in deep cavern systems throughout the southern half of the Northern Continent. Luxuriant growths can light up caverns with their greenish yellow ambience at least as bright as artificially lighted rooms.

Glow lichen lights the caverns of the Magic River in The Collector Witch and the volcanic tunnels of Mount Bed in The Burgeoning. It also illuminates the Fairy underground in The BurgeoningThe Reaper Witch and Doom.
 
Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Hualapai Indian Baby


Years ago when we started teaching at Peach Springs, the teachers in the lounge began at once filling me in about what terrible students the obstreperous, gasoline sniffing, hairspray drinking Hualapai were, with horror stories of drunken mothers backing over their own children and kids watching their stumbling drunk father bleed to death from stepping on a whiskey bottle.
What I found were lots of damned good artists. Where there might be one or two kids who draw well in a class of twenty to twenty-five Anglo students, fully one third of these Hualapai kids were good at drawing, complete with a sense of perspective and depth. And I'm sorry, but I can't imagine slow wits doing that well with a pencil.
One day, I had a particularly quiet Zoology class. I walked all through the classroom, handing out papers, lecturing and answering questions. They nearly all were taking notes. When we finished up, perhaps five minutes before the hour and I suddenly realized that the class of sober faces sparkled with eyes of merriment, the room erupted with a roar of laughter, for they had kept a baby absolutely quiet all hour, passing it from student to student behind my back!   
Tom Phipps

Monday, October 13, 2014

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 the 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








Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Real Pebbles


Years ago, I bought Carol a female baby green cheeked Amazon (Amazona viridigenalis C.) which she immediately named Pebbles. She was so young that she was all pin-feathers and Carol had to feed her with an eye dropper. Since Carol had a background in psychology and I in ethology, neither one of us was inclined to read human motivation into the bird's behavior. However we were interested in her inclination toward language, so Carol decided to treat her as if she harbored the same sort of undeveloped intelligence as a baby human.
Carol made no attempt to teach her to talk. That is, she did not endlessly repeat phrases over and over to her nor drill her in any sort of way. What she has done since, every single evening before covering her cage for the night, is spend some time scratching her head and talking to her.
Within a few months, Pebbles began calling out to Carol by name, and not long after that began calling out to us when she wanted things, such as, "I want out!" In time, she was telling us about how she felt about things such as, "I don't like it!" She began asking us questions such as, "How are you?" and, "Am I coming?" After a few years, she was not only asking questions, but talking about things removed in place and time, such as, "Is Carol at work?" and, "You'll be all right."
Pebbles also has a sense of self. She always correctly refers to herself as the subject, "I," and she calls herself a "bird." She loves to watch films and shortly after watching The Dinosaurs, said, "I'm a dinosaur." To say that she uses her words in the proper context is an understatement. Her contextual usage is every bit as correct as that of a typical two year old human. What she is not is fluently conversant. Only now, after living with her for decades, are we managing to converse with her. After saying things back and forth two or three times, the conversation usually stops.
Here is a list of her words that we are certain of. She may have a repertoire of as many as a hundred words, but frequency and clarity limit us to these seventy. They are not listed in nice columns because of the contrary behavior of this website.
a, about, all, almonds, am, are, at, baby, bad, bad dord (bastard?), be, bear, bird, bye, care, Carol, come, coming, dinosaur, do, doing, duck, fair, for, girl, going, good, got, has, he, hello, here, how, I, it, is, know, like, look, love, nightmare not, now, okay, out, Pebbles, ready, right, rubber, school, sorry, talking, thank, that, the, they, to, up, wake, want, weird, well, what, where, will, work, wrong, yea (yow), yeap (yip), you.
And her phrases:
All right. All right! All right? Almonds. Am I coming? Am I going? Am I going to school? Are you coming? Are you going to school? Bad! Bad dord! (bastard?) Bad girl!
Bear! Bye. Come here. Carol! Hello. How are you? How are you are you all right? How are you are you okay? I don't care! I don't like it. I know it. I know what you're talking about. I like it. I look all right. I love you. I'm a bird. I'm a dinosaur. I'm a good, good, good, good bird. I'm a good, good, good, good girl. I'm all right. I'm ready. I'm sorry. I'm the baby. I'm the Pebbles. Is Carol at work? I want out. Okay. Okay? Right now! Rubber duck! Thank you. That's not fair! That's right. Wake up. Well come here. What is that? What is wrong? What's he doing? What's he got? What's that? What's that for? What's wrong? What's you doing? Where are you going? Where are they at? Yea!(yow) Yeap! (yip) You coming? You going to come here? You'll be all right. You're all right.
We did not by any means teach her to talk. Her ability to talk is a capacity that comes from her own DNA. She can communicate using a code of arbitrary sounds about things removed in place and time because it has survival value for her species. Providence only knows what sort of languages she might be using had she stayed in the Mexican wilds.
Our character Pebbles, Hubba Hubba's wife, behaves like an Amazon, but is fluently conversant, and appears Good Sister, Bad SisterThe Collector WitchStone Heart and The Burgeoning.

Tom Phipps

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Elven Trees of the Maidenhair Woods


The Maidenhair Woods of the Eternal Mountains of the Eastern Continent has the following indigenous tree and fern species of essential importance to the Gwaelic Elves who still live there (Stone Heart and Elf Killers )and to the Jutish Elves who fled to the Northern Continent with starts of each of them one thousand years ago
 blue maidenhair Ginkgo cyanophyllum R. is a twenty to sixty foot tall broad leaved 
evergreen gymnosperm with chalky blue-green leaves, living on the mountain tops up to the tree line of the Eternal Mountains of the Eastern Continent. It is amongst the oldest living things, with some trees having been found with over 16,000 annual rings. The wood is so dense that trees felled next to water have been known to sink as though their trunks were made of stone. The dried leaves, which are drunk as a tea by the Elves, contain ginkeine, an alkaloid complex which includes caffeine and other phytochemicals, some of which may induce DNA repair.

fringed maidenhair Ginkgo fimbriflabella R., is a deciduous gymnosperm that lives in waste and burnt over areas where woods meets grassland. It seldom grows taller than 35 to forty feet. Its leaves are deeply lobed with closely spaced fingers, scarcely broader than one mm, giving the tree its name. Its wood is almost white and very soft, and it seldom lives more than 65 to 75 years. Along with plums, crabapples and hawthorns, it is amongst the first woody species of trees to invade after a section of forest is completely burnt off by fire.
maidenhair tree Ginkgo biloba ingentissima R. (The Sacred Maidenhair of Oilean Gairdin is a G. biloba ingentissima) are broad leaved deciduous gymnosperms. These are the tallest living trees on earth with mature specimens towering from 375 to over 400 feet. The largest individual known, living near the bottom of the slopes of the 
Pitmaster Gorge in the Maidenhair Woods, measures 427 feet and is estimated to be well over 7000 years old. They are indigenous to the Maidenhair Woods of the western Eastern Continent where they are the dominant tree, forming the canopies in the deep valleys and steep slopes of the Eternal Mountains up to about 6500 feet. They are amongst the oldest living things on earth with some trees having nearly 10,000 annual rings, though the record for age is held by the very much smaller blue maidenhair, Ginkgo cyanophyllum R., of the mountain tops and tree line.

red maidenhair Ginkgo erythrofolium R. is a deciduous broadleaved gymnosperm living throughout the Maidenhair Woods in the Eternal Mountains of the Eastern Continent where it overwhelmingly predominates at elevations below 8000 feet. It ranges in height from sixty to ninety feet, the taller trees occurring in low places. It has the interesting ability to thrive under the canopy of the maidenhair trees, Ginko biloba ingentissima R. where the two species overlap. The red bottom surfaces of        its leaves are thought to enable it to thrive in low light conditions. Its dried leaves bear alkaloids, which when chewed by the Elves like tobacco, steadies their nerves.

silver maidenhair Ginko genetrex-argenteus R. also called "mother tree" by the Fairies and Gwaelic Elves, its leaves and stems are covered with a silver colored cuticle, hence its name. It lives in symbiotic association with the mycelia of Fairy ring mushrooms, and whilst its leaves, stems, fruit, bark and roots are each said to have potent medicinal properties, the tree's great rarity has prevented substantial empirical study.    

maidenhair fern Adiantum capillus-veneris R. is the commonest of all species of fern occurring in the Maidenhair Woods of the Eternal Mountains of the west coast of the Eastern Continent, where it forms rank growths along streams, in deep loamy gorges and blankets the north-facing slopes of hills and sandstone bluffs. Its fan shaped leaves resemble the leaves of the maidenhair tree. It grows from six to eighteen inches in height from creeping rhizomes, six inches to six yards long. It is a major part of the diet of the maidenhair red deer, Odocoileus rufi-ginkgus R., and is the likely reason for the animal's meat having its renowned woodsy flavor.
 
Tom Phipps