Monday, May 23, 2016

Wham! Print Book Now Available (Read 1st chapter FREE)

3D Book Preview (1)
We are excited to announce that Wham! Book 1 Timewalker is now available to purchase from Amazon as a print book. Read the first chapter below Free.
Chapter 1
Someone shouted in the kitchen. Tess Greenwood sat right up in the blackness. “Dad?” she gasped.
Someone screamed.
“Mom!” cried Tess as she stumbled onto the floor in a panic of pillow and sheets, in time for her door to fling wide with blinding light and a bang that shattered things on her dresser.
“Hey!” barked the silhouette in the doorway. “No way you're running by me!” And with that, he tramped right in, jabbing her in the throat with the end of his e- truncheon.
“Aah!” she wailed with the throb of its electric jolt as she sat down hard on the floor.
“Like that, little witch?” he hissed through the mask of his plastic helm. “Now you're going into the kitchen on your hands and knees, real careful or I'll hold my stick against your stinking throat 'til y' pass out. Move!”
As Tess rolled onto her knees, she could hear her sister's squeals of defiance as she kicked at the pair of cops who had hold of her in the kitchen.
“Nia!” shouted her mother before crying out in pain.
“You vile bastards!” roared her father.
Tess leaped through the doorway in time to see two of the police from Children and Family Assistance squirt his mouth full of thick polymer from their gob stopper gun, as he gagged, bouncing and jerking against his restraints in red-faced fury.
“I told you!” bellowed Silhouette, grabbing Tess by the arm and yanking her onto the floor.
“Tess!” cried her mother. “Stop! They'll kill you if y' don't quit!”
“That's right!” shouted Silhouette.
“Nia!” cried Tess at the sight of the police kicking her.
“Hey!” shouted Silhouette. “That little whore's going to the capitol. And they won't take her all beat up! But this one,” he grunted, giving Tess a furious kick, “has earned it!”
“Tess!” screamed her mother in time to be silenced with a kick in the head.
Her father sprang from the floor in spite of his restraints, slamming into Silhouette in a rage that knocked over the refrigerator behind them. Suddenly police were everywhere, beating him senseless, dragging him and his dear wife out the door into the early light of dawn.
“Mom! Dad!” screamed Tess as car doors slammed outside.
Now they had Nia by the arms. “I'll love Drake forever!” she wailed as they forced her outside.
Tess bit the hand that grabbed her mouth and dashed outside to leap down the steps as two of the police cars lurched into the roadway with a chirp of tires.
“Bite me again, little witch!” roared Silhouette as his truncheon came down behind her ear.
***
Beyond the front steps, the sun rose well into the morning, glinting on a green bottle in the bare red dirt of the yard. Sparrows cheeped everywhere in the noise of the traffic from the roadway. Tess sat up just long enough to see that she was in her room, caught herself on her elbow to keep from toppling out of bed and lay right back down with a groan.
At the bounce of her bed springs, an elderly woman pushed back a chair and stood up in the kitchen. “Whoa there, deary-do!” she called, stumping right in to look at her this way and that. “That might be a bit quick. You got two black eyes. And the nurse said the copper only whacked y' one good one on the back of the head. And what I want to know is, can y' even see out of either one?”
“Kind of...”
“I'm Maud, sweetheart,” she said, giving Tess's hand a squeeze. “Maud Baxter. How 'bout some tea? So far, the only pot I've found has half the spout gone...”
“It pours. We've been using it... Please!” she said with a scald of fear as she sat right up. “Where's Mom and Dad? And Nia?”
Maud stopped short with wide eyes. “Why Children and Family Assistance,” she said, scarcely shaking her head. “And I'm to be in here for a few days to help y' adjust...”
“When are they coming back?”
Maud shook her head as if she were about to cry.
“No!” shouted Tess in a great wail of despair.
Old Maud had her in her arms at once, rocking her and smoothing her hair for a good long time. At last, she gave her a pat and sat up. “I'm going to go fix that tea,” she said.
Tess lay back with shooting pains in her head, in spite of the sedatives given to her by the nurse.
Maud was back in short order, finding a chair for the tea. “I hope you're not too old for animal crackers,” she said. “I found this nice box. And it only had one teensy little maggot and some web. All I had to do was shake it out and put the crackers back in.”
Tess drew in a deep, shuddery breath. “Where do you live, Maud?”
“Up at the north end with Mort and Bart. That's my husband and m' crow...”
“I don't feel so good,” said Tess handing back her half full cup.
“I should say! You're white as a sheet. The nurse said that you're to be sleeping. Just lie back and I'll be right out here in the kitchen.”
Tess lay back more quickly than she had meant to. “Your husband and who did y' say?” she said, wincing at the whirling ceiling. “I swore you said Crow somebody...”
“My pet bird is a crow...” said Maud from the doorway.
“And Mom and Dad really, really aren't coming back?”
Maud shook her head and was back at Tess's bedside at once, smoothing her hair away from the tears she was squeezing from her swollen eyes. It was not long until Maud could see that she was sound asleep. She stood, propping her hands on her knees for a moment before straightening up the rest of the way and shuffled quietly into the kitchen.
Beside the toaster under the cupboards rested a polished stone ball. The moment Maud stepped in, it gave a faint flash. “Yeh?” she said, looking right at the face which was appearing in it. “I know my place well enough not to discuss her family. I'm professional. Besides, I know very well that you saw the whole thing. Now, I want to talk to Mort.” She picked up the ball and sat with it at the table. “Mort?”
Mort was already peering out of the “skinny,” as everyone called these things. “I've got the rest of the day, Maudy,” he said. “They don't have me spraying until tomorrow, first thing.”
“As you might've overheard before I left, I'm at the south end of the far south barrack, facing the road. I've got to scratch around before I know what I'm fixing, but I'm starting on dinner, right now.” And with that, she parked the skinny in a storage jar lid, so that it wouldn't roll off the table, and set about to see what might be fixed to eat. There certainly was no meat of any sort. “I don't know why I'm even bothering to look,” she was careful not to say aloud. It was rare for anyone to get his hands on meat except for the day before one of the world holidays. All of the world holidays were mandatory to observe. Disarmament Day commemorated the destruction of the last private firearm. Emancipation Day marked the outlawing of all religions. And Unity Day was the day when the World Alliance began its tyrannical rule everywhere. She found a few pounds of limp carrots in the bottom of the refrigerator which she and the nurses had managed to set upright, some black pepper and a box of very old-smelling milk powder.
While she was searching for a kettle without a hole in it, Mort was up at the north end, wheeling his bicycle out the door. He fiddled with the cuff of his breeches as the breezy whistles of the starling overhead gave way to a bubbling chatter. After a couple of tries, he was mounted. With Bart digging in his toenails and swaying ponderously on his shoulder, he gave a wild swing to the left, an immediate weave to the right, and with a rattle of fenders was underway with all the aplomb of a cyclist in his prime.
“We're going to have carrots,” said Maud as Mort hauled his watermelon of a belly up the last step. “I just now put them on.”
“Smells like old refrigerator,” he said, backing stiffly up to a chair by the table, “but I expect it will be good...” He sat down with a sudden plump and let Bart shuffle down his arm to the back of the nearby chair to begin at once, sorting through his feathers.
“Maud?” called Tess from the bedroom. “Are you still here?”
“I'm on my way with just a cup this time, dearie-do.”
“I don't think I can,” said Tess. “I feel like vomiting.”
“I hope y' get over that. I've got carrots starting to boil.”
“I'm 'way too sick. Is someone here?”
“Mort and Bart.”
“Well please go on and eat without me. I'll just puke. But Maud, please stay.”
Maud gave Tess's hand a squeeze. “I'll be right here as long as y' need me, sweetheart,” she said. And with that she returned to the kitchen.
“Just the girl?” said Mort, looking up.
Maud nodded.
“Well how is she?”
Maud went straight to the cupboards as if she had not heard him, unplugged the toaster and parked it directly in front of the skinny as she took a chair at the table.
“I said how is the young lady?”
“Oh she's doing just fine. A nice long nap and she'll be right as rain,” she said as she leant across the table with a roll of her eyes and an ear-to-ear shake of her head. “I think she'll be ready to start her new life in no time.” She was still shaking her head as she glanced at the toaster to make sure that no one on the skinny had seen.
“And she understands what happened?” he said, ignoring the stone ball, since he had no toaster to hide behind.
“I think she's anxious enough to get going in her new direction,” she said, closing her eyes with an even bigger shake of her head. “But I'd not know for sure, since it's never our place to discuss such things. That's for the councilors at Children and Family Assistance. But I think most young clients are quite ready for a change, long before it comes.”
Bart ruffled up his feathers and gave himself a thorough shake.
“Maud!” wailed Tess from the bedroom. “The wash basin! Got 'o puke!”
“Oh my stars!” said Maud. “Where do you reckon they keep it?”
Tess thumped across her bedroom floor to the toilet in the bathroom with an explosive cough of yellow fluid.
“Oh deary-do!” said Maud as she stumped in. “I'm so sorry I couldn't find the pan. Why you don't have a thing in your stomach to throw up, do you...?”
“Gawf...angk...awmff...!” hooted Tess, nodding her dribbling chin over the iron stained porcelain of the toilet bowl.
Maud saw at once that there was no skinny in the bathroom and pushed the door to. “Those rotten coppers!” she said in a low voice as she daubed at Tess with a towel.
“I've cleaned up their work every blooming day now, for years. And I swear. I just don't begin to know how they can do that to families.”
“I thought you worked for...” moaned Tess.
“For Children and Family Assistance? I do, but my job's cleaning up after them.
And you didn't hear one word I said, either. Now. If I help y' up, can you make it back to bed, or do you need to steady y' self a bit longer?”
“Unng...!” said Tess, leaning back over the water.
“Seems y' do...” said Maud, looking up at the sudden pounding on the kitchen door. “Mort!” she hollered “Let me get it!”
Tess had a look of blanched terror as Maud got to her feet. “Oh deary-do,” she said, “that can't be the coppers, unless you've had a skinny ball in here with us. You don't, eh?”
Tess gave a rigid shake of her head, and Maud stumped right out past Mort and Bart. She hooked the chain and opened the kitchen door against it to peer out at two teenagers. She closed the door, undid the chain and opened it wide. “Yeh?” she said with her fists on her hips.
The young man dug the gum out of his cheek with his tongue and looked her up and down from under the tattoos of his shaved head. “You're not Tess, lady,” he said, as his sister craned this way and that in her nose rings and Mohawk hair-do, trying to peer inside.
“Took y' long enough to figure it out, but I'm glad y' finally managed,” said Maud. “Now. Tess isn't up to company, so you two are going to have to leave.” And with that, she closed the door and turned the lock.
“Hey!” shouted the pair outside as they pounded on the door. “You can't do that! Children and Family Assistance sent us! We're Trent and Jasmine Warren, her new roomies!”
Maud hooked the chain and turned away. She found Tess still kneeling by the toilet. “What's wrong, dearie-do?” she said, when she saw that her nausea had been replaced by a look of dread.
“That was the Warrens?” said Tess. “They hate me.”
“Why on earth?”
“Well...they made me take my shots at school,” she said, frowning at her thumbnails. “But I'm just not at all ready for that. Trent knew about my shots and was after me all the time. Everybody always knows when a girl gets her shots. And I wouldn't have anything to do with him, in spite of how pushy he got. And Jasmine? She calls me 'earhole' all the time and makes ugly faces, but I think she hates everyone at school.”
“Aw dearie-do,” said Maud with a grunt, as she strained to kneel beside her with a brush. “I hate what's become of the schools. Y' know, they actually taught me to read, when I was in school.”
“Mom and Dad taught me,” said Tess, stifling a sob.
“You didn't let the school find out, did you? Something like that could very well have been what brought in the Children and Family Assistance.”
“Oh, they always told me that I had to keep my reading a secret.”
Maud nodded. “Well back to those two, I locked the door,” she said. “But if they do have orders, they'll be back and we'll have no choice but to let them in. Meanwhile, I can at least get a delay order in place until you've recovered enough to deal with them. Now if I can just get back on my feet, I'll help y' back to bed if you're ready.”
Once Tess was back in bed, she closed her eyes and wondered if there was any way to flee. “But where would I ever flee to?” she thought as she drifted into a deep sleep.
She had not been asleep very long when Maud opened the kitchen door against the chain and peered out the crack at a blond young man in denim, whom she recognized at once to be Drake Evans, but knowing better than to give him away to the stone ball on the table, merely said: “Yes?”
“Maud Baxter!” he said in wide-eyed alarm. “Why are you...? Nia! She's here, isn't she?”
Maud closed her eyes with a quiet shake of her head.
“No!” cried Drake.
Maud immediately closed the door. She would not have him overheard, blurting out something that would bring the police. There was not another sound from outside the door. She squeezed shut her eyes for a moment, and with a totter, shuffled to the table to sit with a tired sigh across from Mort and Bart.
***
Tess awoke to the smell of bread toasting on the griddle and talking in the kitchen.
“Would you mind if I waited until she's awake? I promise I won't stay too long or upset her.”
“That depends on how she wakes up,” said Maud. “She's been having quite a time with her medicine...”
“Maud!” cried Tess as she sat up. “I've got to puke and I've got the whirlies bad! Could Drake help me to the toilet?”
Drake was at her bedside at once, helping her to her feet. The moment he had her kneeling by the toilet, he let the door swing quietly to. He had long known that the bathroom had no skinny, but he waited for Tess to speak in case that they had just been forced by the authorities to add one.
“I heard one of the cops say that Nia was going to the capitol,” said Tess with an unexpected sob. “And the last thing she said was, she'll always love you. And poor Mom and Dad! It doesn't look like I'll ever, ever know...” And with that, she threw back her head and wailed with despair.
Drake had her in his arms at once, tears streaming down his cheeks. He looked away, struggling to hide a sob of his own. After a time, he turned to study her. “What on earth did they do to you?” he said. “You've got two black eyes that I can see...”
“Oh, one of the coppers whacked me on the back of the head with his e-stick...”
“The back of your head! Not your eyes? He must've damned near killed you...”
“I don't know,” she said, closing the lid and sitting on the toilet. “But they've got my middle all wrapped up tight. Do you suppose they broke a rib or two? That same cop was kicking me. Nobody's said a thing.”
“Do you know where the capitol is?”
“I don't think anyone knows,” she said, feeling of her middle. “Well, I reckon the coppers would have to know, wouldn't they?”
“Yeh, but they aren't people. Nobody ever talks to them, especially not the ones working for Children and Family Assistance. No one ever talks to any of those things...”
“And what I can't figure out is why that old lady out there in the kitchen is so nice. She's working for them. She said so.”
“I know why,” said Drake. “She and old Mort out there lost a daughter who'd be our age, had she lived. And they've not been able to have any more. They're 'way younger than they look, but they were living out in the country with all the spray for quite a while after the World Alliance took over.”
“How do you know all this?”
“Maud and Mort knew us. When Children and Family Assistance took Mom and Dad, Maud got assigned to me, so they helped me through my transition, just like they're doing for you. And I don't understand them taking Nia. Children and Family issued the license for us to be married in two more months and everything...” he said, coughing out a great sob in spite of himself.
He was dragging an eye down his sleeve when Maud pushed open the door. “If Tess is over being sick, it's time we got her back to bed,” she said as she shuffled in with a towel.
When they had gotten Tess settled in bed, Maud saw Drake to the door and stepped outside with him. “I'm afraid Children and Family Assistance is only giving her a week before she has to let those Warren kids move in,” she said as she pulled the door to behind her. “And if I read her right, I can't picture her managing with a pair like them, particularly not with the boy after her skirt.”
“That wouldn't be Jasmine and Trent Warren, would it?” said Drake, turning about on the bottom step and looking up at her.
“It was Jasmine. I wasn't sure about his name.”
“Oh I've got medicine for them,” he said. “Just a chat if you need me to.”
“Right away would be good.”
Drake gave a nod, came back up the steps, pecked her on the cheek and hurried on his way to supper, unaware that Trent and Jasmine were right above them in the spreading branches of the great burr oak by the steps.
As Tess got settled, the skinny on her dresser turned bright blue. “Tess?” it said.
“Give me a moment,” she said as she labored to sit up and throw aside her covers.
She rose and came back to bed with the glowing stone ball. It took a bit of uncomfortable shifting about, but soon she was sitting with it between her knees as its swirling colors gave way to a dour bald man in hospital garb.
“How are you Tess?” said the man.
“I'm not sure I feel like talking...” she said.
“You were well enough for time with Drake.”
“So he could help me in to puke. It's a lot of fun, vomiting for company...”
“Tess,” said the man. “Have you any idea why it was necessary to resettle your parents?”
“I can't imagine how anything like that could ever be necessary...”
“They've allowed you to become sarcastic and defiant when you should be expressing your respect and gratitude. The teachers and counselors at your school have been concerned. Your parents weren't managing...”


“No!” she cried out in hoarse anguish, “No! No! No!”

Friday, May 20, 2016

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Time does not Exist








My how time flies. Isn't it something how twenty years ago seems like only yesterday, yet back when you were four, a summer lasted for a small eternity? Not only have we all heard this sort of thing, but every last one of us experiences time exactly this way. Meanwhile, we have the clock ticking away at exactly the same rate today that it ticked forty years ago. The reason that this can happen is because there is no real time which exists in nature at all. And since it doesn't exist, there is no way one could ever run it backwards, change its rate or travel in it.

All that happens in nature is the progressive occurrence of natural phenomena. Cells divide at the speed which they happen to divide, the granite cliff face crumbles onto the talus pile below as fast as it crumbles, and the earth rotates on and on, independent of any sort of time.




Time is our abstraction. We invented it, just as we came up with the inch and the foot and the mile. We began keeping track of the earth's rotations and invented time based upon a rotation's subdivision, hours at first with sundials, then minutes, once we had managed a reliable clock escapement and eventually nanoseconds. As soon as we had invented these hour and second pieces of a rotation of the earth, we could measure the duration of all sorts of things in terms of them.

And from beginning to end, we remain biological beings. We do not innately look at things from the perspective of a ticking mechanism. Events fly by more as we get older simply because our only natural way of sensing them is by contrasting their duration with how long our life has been so far. A summer for a four year old is a far more noticeable percentage of his life than it is of the life of an eighty year old.




There is indeed a progression of natural events that we are swept along with. And we can call this progression "time" if we must, but our label gives us no mastery at all. We only progress at the rate nature allows. We might someday leap into space faster than light and turn about to see earlier events brought to us by the light we outran, but this is not time travel. We are only fooling ourselves. If we are ever to go rollicking about in the distant past or future, we shall simply have to use magic.


Tom Phipps


Monday, May 16, 2016

Cover Reveal for WHAM!

1280x2000 (3)
We are happy to announce the release of Wham! book 1 of our new series, Timewalker. It is a dystopian fantasy time-travel novel , and we hope our readers will enjoy it as much as they have our epic fantasy books. getBook.at/8ba
Blurb:
When the World Alliance seized power from all the governments of the world, they said it was for the greater good. They said it was necessary to unite all the nations of the globe under one banner in order to bring universal peace, equality and prosperity to the world.
To most families throughout the world, the rise of the Alliance and their grandiose promises meant little. They had long grown weary of the lies of the corrupt law-makers and heads of state and were far more concerned with their day-to-day struggles to survive.
The Greenwood family was no exception, and for a time life went on much as it had before the rise of the Alliance. In time, individual cultural and racial identity were outlawed. They said it was for the greater good. They said it was necessary to create a more harmonious, homogenous world community. The Greenwood family adapted.
But then they took away freedom. They made it mandatory for all households and public buildings to have skinwelers, crystal spying balls in every room, in order to watch the people’s every move. They said it was for the greater good. They said it was necessary for public safety and civil order. And the Greenwood family adapted.
But then the state took their family farm and lands and moved them to Gollsport where they had built barracks for all the displaced citizens. They said it was for the greater good. They said the countryside had become contaminated by farm chemicals and the relocation was for their continued health and safety. Once again, the Greenwood family adapted.
But then they came in the night and took away seventeen year-old Tess Greenwood’s entire family. They said it was for the greater good. They said Tess would adapt and in time she would be far better for it.
But Tess cared not for the Alliance’s greater good. She did not adapt. She wanted her family back and vowed to do whatever she must in order to see them again. Little did she know, that to keep her vow, she would have to become a timewalker.
Excerpt:
Chapter 1
Someone shouted in the kitchen. Tess Greenwood sat right up in the blackness.
"Dad?" she gasped.
Someone screamed.
"Mom!" cried Tess as she stumbled onto the floor in a panic of pillow and sheets,in time for her door to fling wide with blinding light and a bang that shattered things on her dresser.
"Hey!" barked the silhouette in the doorway. "No way you're running by me!"
And with that, he tramped right in, jabbing her in the throat with the end of his e-truncheon.
"Aah!" she wailed with the throb of its electric jolt as she sat down hard on the floor.
"Like that, little witch?" he hissed through the mask of his plastic helm. "Now you're going into the kitchen on your hands and knees, real careful or I'll hold my stick against your stinking throat 'til y' pass out. Move!"
As Tess rolled onto her knees, she could hear her sister's squeals of defiance as she kicked at the pair of cops who had hold of her in the kitchen.
"Nia!" shouted her mother before crying out in pain.
"You vile bastards!" roared her father.
Tess leaped through the doorway in time to see two of the police from Children and Family Assistance squirt his mouth full of thick polymer from their gob stopper gun, as he gagged, bouncing and jerking against his restraints in red-faced fury.
"I told you!" bellowed Silhouette, grabbing Tess by the arm and yanking her onto the floor.
"Tess!" cried her mother. "Stop! They'll kill you if y' don't quit!"
"That's right!" shouted Silhouette.
"Nia!" cried Tess at the sight of the police kicking her.
"Hey!" shouted Silhouette. "That little whore's going to the capitol. And they won't take her all beat up! But this one," he grunted, giving Tess a furious kick, "has earned it!"
"Tess!" screamed her mother in time to be silenced with a kick in the head.
Her father sprang from the floor in spite of his restraints, slamming into Silhouette in a rage that knocked over the refrigerator behind them. Suddenly police were everywhere, beating him senseless, dragging him and his dear wife out the door into the early light of dawn.
"Mom! Dad!" screamed Tess as car doors slammed outside.
Now they had Nia by the arms. "I'll love Drake forever!" she wailed as they forced her outside.
Tess bit the hand that grabbed her mouth and dashed outside to leap down the steps as two of the police cars lurched into the roadway with a chirp of tires.
"Bite me again, little witch!" roared Silhouette as his truncheon came down behind her ear.
Fotolia_1311429_Subscription_Monthly_M XLG

Friday, May 13, 2016

Abaddon Thinks Ariel is the Prettiest Little Girl He has Ever Seen



The sudden cry of an infant across the camp caught Abaddon's attention. "That must be one of Lukus and Soraya's twins," he said, turning to James. "Have you seen them, yet? Ariel, the little girl is the prettiest thing I've ever seen. It's a good job that Momma and Nanna Demonica don't know about them, don't you know?"
elf child 2
"Why's that?"
"You really don't know?" said Abaddon with a flicker of his old scorn. "They think Lukus and Soraya are dead. The last thing they want is for them to live and have a baby 'cause of the proper scene. You know, the proper scene. It's real important, but what is it?"
For a moment he had everyone.
"Prophecy?" said Owain with a respectfully knitted brow as he stepped forth to spit in the fire.


"Oh," said James. "Well. It's when some great seer predicts that something is going to happen in the future. The prophesy that I think you must have heard your momma and nana talking about was made years ago by the Elves."
"So, what is it?"
"It says that the child born of a Human and an Elf will destroy the Heart and the Staff and the evil foe who tried to wield them."
Abaddon stared away in awe at Soraya soothing Ariel. "No wonder," he murmured.








Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Albino Troll Kid and the Elves

 Excerpt From Elf Killers
"Isbal! Reina! Strangers!" bellowed the troll as he wheeled and vanished into the adjoining room.
"It talks!" cried Kieran, springing after to let fly an arrow which glanced off a long polished table top and stuck in the far wall.
"Stop!" shrieked a woman, suddenly appearing from the hallway.
"Aunt Isbal!" cried Oisin, letting down his bow. "You're alive!"
"Yes I am. Now don't shoot our troll...!"
"'Our' troll? Who else made it through the massacre? And how would you ever have a troll?"
"Your aunt Reina is who else. Now you heard me about not shooting him, right?"
"How does one not shoot a troll?" said Kieran.
"By being polite enough not to, Kieran!" said Isbal.
"I'm sorry, Isbal. I just saw them kill..."
"Yes. So did I. But this one won't. Come on out Darragh. Come on now."
After a pause, a chair scooted away from the long polished table with a screech on the stone floor as Darragh lumbered out from under it and slowly stood up.
"Now this is Darragh, and I swear he'll not harm a single hair on your head..."
"What's the matter with it?" said Olloo. "I've never seen one with snow white hair before. And what's wrong with the thing's eyes?"
"Shake their hands, Darragh," she said as she gently took him by the wrist and held his hand toward Kieran.
Kieran stepped back as Oisin came forth in his place and took Darragh by the hand.
"How do you?" rumbled Darragh with a beetle browed nod as he pumped out a couple of giant handshakes.
"Carefully, sport," said Oisin with a wary look as he stepped back.
"Meanie. And he meanie, too," said Darragh, wrinkling his nose with a sneer and pointing at Kieran and Olloo
"Well shake his hand, Kieran," said Olloo.
"No!" said Darragh, shaking his head from shoulder to shoulder. "He big big meanie. He dirtybutt stinkerman."
"Well," said Olloo, "there've been moments on the way here when we've thought so ourselves, Darragh."
Kieran bit his lip and kicked Olloo in the ankle.
"See?" said Darragh. "Meanie!"
"So how did you come by him?" said Oisin. "And where's Aunt Reina?"
"Back through the house," said Isbal. "I can see that this will require some refreshments. Let me take you to the sitting room. Come along, Darragh."
Soon they had exchanged greetings with Reina and were all seated comfortably around a tea table in a small parlour. Isbal and Reina disappeared into the kitchen and returned shortly with hot blackberry tarts and tea. "We harvested the blue maidenhair you're about to drink last year right after the massacre," said Reina as she set down the tray with the steaming pot.
"Why do you have it so dark in here?" said Oisin.
"The light hurts Darragh's eyes," said Isbal. "If we don't keep it dark, he'll sleep all day and keep us awake all night..."
"Drum and hoot-hoot, Isbal?" said Darragh as he tumbled onto the floor in front of her and pressed his cheek to her foot. "Please hoot-hoot?"
"That's probably a good idea. Go get the instruments," she said as he sprang to his feet and raced out.
He was back in short order with a field drum and two clay jugs. He set the drum on its side with a bang and reverently nestled the smaller jug in Isbal's lap before plumping down cross legged on the floor with the larger jug. He scooted the drum about until he could touch its head with the ball of one foot. Like a conductor tapping his baton, he shifted about for a moment and got still. Presently he began a brisk tapping of the drum with his foot: pum, pum, pum, pum, pum, pum, pum, pum..
Isbal joined him in time with her jug: foof...foof...foof...foof...
Darragh in turn added a commanding: toofa...toofa...toofa...toofa... so that together they went: foof toofa, foof toofa, foof toofa, foof toofa, foof toofa, foof toofa, foof toofa, foof toofa... for a very long time. After a spell, it became quite mesmerizing indeed. Suddenly he stopped his jug with a loud thump of his drum: bam!
Isbal continued: foof...foof...foof...foof... until Darragh went: wham! on his drum, sprang to his feet and gave a dignified bow. For a moment, there was not a sound in the room.
At last, Oisin set down his teacup with a clink. "Why, I've never heard the like," he said. "That was quite impressive, Darragh."
Darragh grinned hugely and bowed again and again.
"Darragh," said Isbal, holding out her jug, "why don't you go out and play for a while? I promise that as soon as Reina has the next pies out of the oven, we'll call you in."
"Oh good, good!" he said with a bounce as he gave her a squeeze and took her jug. He scurried out at once with the jugs. He was back immediately for the drum, pausing to stick out his tongue at Kieran. "Bad meanie stinky privy seat!" he rumbled. He gave his chest two good thumps with his fists and tramped out.
"Just what does he have against me?" said Kieran.
"I expect he takes exception to being shot at," said Isbal.
"Nay. He's just a good judge of character, is all..." said Olloo.
Kieran leant aside with a frown and gave Olloo a smack on the back of the head.
"Well, speaking of fighting and dying, if you know what I mean, how ever did you come by Darragh?" said Oisin. "Do you really trust him?"
"So the dear child scares you, does he?"
"Not as much as on first sight. Child? I can see that he sort of acts like one, but he's a good head taller than me and might weigh as much as all three of us."
"He's not an Elf Killer," said Isbal, looking up as Reina returned with another pot, "Well troll he be, but he is indeed innocent."
"How can you call any sort of troll a 'dear child,'" said Kieran, "or innocent?"
"Because that's what he is, Kieran," said Isbal. "Darragh wouldn't harm so much as an insect unless it bit him first.
"You say he's actually a child?" said Olloo.
"Aye," said Reina as she poured tea all 'round. "We reckon that trolls are grown enough to start pestering sows at about eleven. You'd have to bathe him, but you'd see he's not near there yet.
"Eleven!"
"They're pretty short lived. When did you first get giddy over girls, two hundred and ten or two hundred and twenty, perhaps?"
"But trolls are monsters, Reina," said Kieran.
Reina sighed and carefully set the teapot on the marble tea table. "Monsters they be, Kieran," she said. "We were captured, don't you know, along with who knows how many others." She turned a haunted look to Isbal and licked her lips. Isbal took up her hand and squeezed it, but neither of them smiled.
Everyone sat for a moment, stunned by this. "How did you ever...?" said Oisin.
"Oh, as far as we know, we were the only ones to escape their horrible fires. They had so many captives, and were all gone wild with their hellish carousal that they seemed to have no interest in a couple of dried up old gammers. They never even bothered tying us up. They just threw us down in the dirt outside where everyone could see us. We were so terrified that we just stayed right where they put us, doing everything we could not to watch what was going on. We still wake up in the night with horrible dreams..."
"Then a scrap broke out right in front of us," said Isbal. "The big old trollbrutes tore Darragh away from his mother. The moment they took out their sharp flints, fixing to cut him open, she stopped kicking at them and began licking their feet..."
"With her tongue?" said Olloo.
"Yes indeed, all over the tops of them and between their toes, and it stopped the curses from cutting him open. They yanked him up onto his feet by his hair and shoved him at his poor mother..."
"And the instant they did that," said Reina, "I grabbed Isbal and we ran for the brush as hard as we could go. Just after we'd got well out of sight of the fires, the mother grabbed us by the hair and yanked us onto our backs. As we were a-struggling to get up, she shoved Darragh at us and got on her hands and knees and went to whimpering and licking at our feet. Poor Darragh was crying and carrying on too, and she bit him good a couple of times and made him go with us.
"We ran for what seemed like hours, and Darragh stayed right with us, hanging onto us for dear life. When we got back here, we found no one alive and we spent the next several days, burying bodies. We just kept running into them. Darragh kept trying to help us, so long as we didn't go out in the bright sun. He also started in right away, trying to use our words. He won't use trollish..."
"How can you be sure he won't turn on you sometime?" said Kieran.
Reina heaved a sigh. "Well he's not about to," she said. "A few weeks ago, maybe fifty trollbrutes came back here late in the evening and nosed around through building after building for long enough, we thought they'd never leave. Darragh hid us in a passage in the palace that he'd found. He was playing outside when they showed up and the very sight of them terrified him. He was trembling all over and he kept calling them 'monsters,' and we couldn't begin to coax him out of the passage until long after they were gone. He won't ever talk about living with the other trolls, but over time we have managed to piece together that he was tormented by them day and night, and that they were continually threatening to eat him." She clapped her knees with sudden resolution and stood up. "I think the pies must be ready by now."
"Yea," said Isbal. "It might do you some good, Kieran, if you went out and got Darragh. My guess is that he's out in the stable. He won't be far. He's crazy about blackberry tarts..."
"Me?"
"Just go out through the kitchen."
Seeing that no one was about to come to his aid, Kieran sheepishly rose and followed Reina. Beyond a long roofed breezeway, he stepped into an enormous barn like a rough hewed cathedral. "Darragh?" he called. There was no answer. He went from stall to stall along both walls, standing empty in the cobwebs. "Darragh?" Not finding him, he climbed into the mow. Pigeons cooed and strutted along a great timber, high up the far wall. "Darragh? Darragh! Come on! They've got pie!"
"No!" cried Darragh, standing up in the hay. "You dirtybutt meanie!"
"Come on, Darragh! I came out to get you for pie!"
Darragh shook his head from shoulder to shoulder. Without warning, he threw a fist sized rock, taking off Kieran's hat, making him see stars and setting him down hard upon the mow floor. Darragh was standing over him at once. "We even, Dirtybutt!" he cried as he gave his chest a good drumming with his fists. He held out his hand. "Now maybe you no more be meanie."
Kieran took his hand and stood up.
"Now. Any more meanie?"
"No. I came out here to get you for pie."
"Good, good! I like pie."
"Even better than what you ate when you lived with the Marfora Siofra?"
"Boof! Dyrney no eat good things. Dyrney say they'll eat me and say they'll eat me and say they'll eat me. Dyrney even want Fmoo to eat me."
"Are Dyrney the Marfora Siofra? Who's Fmoo?"
Darragh clenched his teeth and his fists and gave an angry shudder as he nodded and hissed through his nose. "'Dyrney' be troll talk for 'people,' but Dyrney no be people. Dyrney be awful, awful, awful, awful monsters."
"Who's Fmoo?"
"Fmoo be my real momma. But 'fmoo' and 'Dyrney' be troll words. I hate troll words. Just Elf words, please? I be Elf now."
"You've got a deal, Darragh."
"Good, good!" cried Darragh, with a thundering leap on the mow floor. "We eat pie."
The heady aroma of blackberry tarts met them as they returned to the parlour beyond the kitchen. "Kieran no more be dirty butt meanie," said Darragh as he scurried up to sit on the floor before the tea table.
"Why, that's remarkable," said Olloo, earning another smack on the back of the head as Kieran took his seat. "We never quite managed."


Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps