Friday, October 21, 2016

The Great Stone Tree

The Great Stone Tree Glossopteris titanodendrum-dactylophyllum W. was discovered as a 52 foot diameter fossilized tree stump by the First Wizard, who chiseled out zthe Heart of the Staff from its center. In search of what he believed to be Meri Greenwood the Fairy's source of commanding renewal power, the Heart of the Forests or Calon Fforydd, he found it standing upright, exactly where it had grown, surrounded by sections of its trunk and a layer of its own fossilized fallen leaves, in the middle of the exposed Permian deposit, known as the Koad Karreg or Stone Forest on the south edge of the Mammvro on the Dark Continent. It differs from other glossopterids by virtue of its immense size and by its deeply lobed leaves. Sections of its trunk add up to a tree which could not have been any less than 530 feet tall, and with the size of its stump, it remains the largest individual tree ever discovered. The Koad Karreg is the Permian location of the South Pole, which shifted to its present position with the multiple impacts of asteroids which closed the Age of Fishes. Compasses do not work reliably in the forest, and under its perpetual cloud cover, many a traveler has vanished.  

Since the Great Stone Tree is where the Heart of the Staff came from, there are indirect references to it in each book of The Heart of the Staff, but particularly so in
                                   The Burgeoning.

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

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 in each of the books in the Heart of the Staff: Complete Series:  Good Sister, Bad SisterThe Collector WitchStone HeartThe BurgeoningThe Reaper Witch, and Doom.
Box 1600x2500 (1)

Tom Phipps

Monday, October 17, 2016

Minuet has a Strange Light in Her Eye

Rose stood stiffly on the stool as a pair of seamstresses pinned the hem of Minuet's wedding gown. Minuet stood watching, radiant with happiness at her decision to wed as well as at her decision to wear her gown. "I'm more certain than ever that Mother and Father never expected me to marry," she thought with a smile. "Mother," she said, "I
suppose you understand that Fuzz and I want to wait for Lukus and Soraya to arrive
before we have the wedding?"
"That's what your father and I assumed," said Minuet as she stooped to examine just how her hem was pinned in a certain place, "but Lukus and his family should be arriving in a few short weeks, which really only gives us scarcely enough time for all the arrangements."
"We have plenty of time if we keep it small enough, Mother," said Rose with a smile.
Minuet opened her mouth to protest, but closed it with a grin. "It is your wedding, Rose. And I suppose you're right, all things considered."
"Yes," said Rose, as she thought: "After calling off the extravagant affair with James, who knows how it would go? Besides, these are bad times upon us." She stepped off the stool and out of the gown as the seamstresses carried it away for alterations. "Mother," she said, picking up her robe from across a chair. "I've come to a decision. I want you to do something for me, if you will."
"My word. Is something wrong?"
"Very wrong, actually. But to put you at ease, this has nothing to do with the wedding."
"By all means dear, if I possibly can. What is it?"
"Could you teach me to use my powers?"
"Why, I thought you'd decided that you wanted nothing to do with becoming a sorceress, Rose," she said with an astonished look.
"No, by no means. I never did. But I suppose I was doing little more than following in your footsteps, all these years. I think that under the current circumstances it would be irresponsible to have such an ability and not use it for the good of all."
Minuet's eyes flashed.
"Oh, my! I didn't mean it to sound that way. I was only referring to me. Our circumstances are altogether different. I'm not queen of anywhere. Fuzz is a military man
and will undoubtedly be in the thick of what's coming, and I've every intention of being
right beside him, so will you teach me?"
"Have you discussed this with Fuzz, dear? It would not be right to keep something like this to yourself."
"Not yet," said Rose with a sigh, "but rest assured, he'll abide by whatever I..."
"Of course Rose, I'd not expect otherwise. But it would put me at ease, knowing that you'd discussed it with him."
"You're so provincial, Mother."
"'Considerate' is what we once called it, I believe."
"I'll go speak with him this minute, but I suggest you go dig out your wand."
"All right," said Minuet, as a strange light kindled in her eye. "You've a bargain."
Ch. 35, Stone Heart

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Friday, October 14, 2016

Hubba Hubba and Pebbles Find Unicorns

"I know you tried Wiz, but this is disgusting," said Hubba Hubba, jerking back with a drool-flinging shake of his beak and ruffled feathers. "What are you eating, giant stinking sow bugs or what?"
"That's shrimp, Hubba Hubba," said Razzmorten.
"It's out of the sea, you silly bird, not out from under some old rotting board in a barn lot," said Lukus with a laugh, as everyone else broke out with titters.
"All right, all right," said Hubba Hubba, as Pebbles stepped back from hers with watery eyes andamazon_sammy wiped her beak. "Dogs gobble up much worse, and they don't know any better than to offer you ones the same rot they eat. I'm sorry Wiz, you've just got me gagging, here."
"What did you find?" said Razzmorten quickly to spare Hubba Hubba's feelings.
"That old Elf has four unicorns in a large paddock near the wharf where his fishing boat is docked. He'd just come in with his catch and was at the fence giving them a scratch, when we lit and asked him if he was Kie. He answered to it, but we sure gave him a start. It might have been dangerous to do but it was quick. Anyway, he does have unicorns to sell and he'll be there if we don't fool around."
"Very good, you two," said Razzmorten, as he gave them each a scratch.
In short order they were on their way to Fen, on a sand swept lane meandering along the coast just inland from the furthest reaches of the high tide. Rose and Fuzz rode Mystique through the saw grass to follow along on the beach for a spell. Sandpipers trotted ahead. Crabs scuttled sideways into holes. Rose rested her head against Fuzz's shoulders and gave him a squeeze. Soon they were dismounting in front of a cottage that smelt vaguely of rotting fish, where Hubba Hubba and Pebbles circled overhead.
They found the Elf feeding his unicorns. "Hoy there, Kie!" called Razzmorten. We are travelers on our way to see King Neron, and we'd like very much to purchase two of your unicorns to speed us over the mountains, if you've any for sale."
امازون دبل يلو"How is it that you and your green birds know my name and I know not yours?" said Kie, pushing back his floppy hat with a squint as he spit across the fence.
"A young fellow by the name of Galor told us about you, sir," said Fuzz.
"Good lad," said Kie, shifting his chew into his other cheek as he put his foot on the fence. "Well folks, I really hadn't planned on selling these unicorns. You know they're my pets, I'm afraid. I've had these here since they were colts."
"Oh she's darling," said Rose as she scratched a short-legged one who had just come to investigate. "We'll take good care of them, sir."
Ch. 29, Stone HeartStone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Razzmorten sets out to Ease Hubba Hubba's Mind

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.
"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
"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.
"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.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Ceidwad the Diatryma Reads Wizard Razzmorten's Comatose Mind


Without a word, Arwr, Lladdwr and Ceidwad sped away, pat, pat, patting over the leaves with Tors galloping furiously to keep up. Arwr lead them single file along the beginnings of a creek that was soon flanked with rock outcroppings which before long formed a deep hollow. Without the slightest hesitation to puzzle over landmarks, he took them directly to the foot of a huge sheer faced bluff of slate grey rocks which formed an overhang several rods long. At the back of the overhang a small cave ran in under the rock. In short order they had Razzmorten and Mary laid out on pallets of leaves.
Lukus knelt by Razzmorten and laid his hand on the old fellow's forehead. He closed his eyes and quickly set about calming himself as he had been taught in order to readyFotolia_74796694_Subscription_Monthly_M CROPHEAD his magical energies to flow into his grandfather. He let these drain away until he began feeling the inevitable exhaustion which signaled where he must stop. He had no choice now but to rest before going any further. He opened his eyes and studied Razzmorten for any sign of success. He shook his head in weary dismay as he looked up at the hopeful faces gathered 'round him.
"I see no change at all," he said. "I'll have to eat and rest a bit, before I can try again." He stood up on wobbly legs and clenched his teeth. "I can find nothing wrong with him at all. I wish I could read his mind. Then he could tell me what's wrong."
"I can do that for you," said Ceidwad, lowering her head to peer into the cave.
"You diatrymas read minds?" he said, suddenly thinking about what she was saying.
"But why didn't you say so long before now?" he said before realizing that he just might sound as though he were making accusations.
"It wasn't possible with us fleeing for our lives," she said solemnly. "Mind to mind contact 4F14BB4B9with one who is unconscious is delicate business. It takes time and it's always best
to see if the unconsciousness one will come around on his own."
"Why? said Lukus. "Is it dangerous?"
"Not done right, no."
"So you have a certain expertise?" he said, glancing at Rose.
"I'd not attempt such a thing without being confident. Of course, I'll only proceed if you wish."
Lukus looked at Rose. She turned aside to Fuzz and Myrtlbell who each nodded encouragingly.
"Please do, Ceidwad," said Lukus. "We'll never know unless you do."
"Then please carry him to the mouth of the cave," she said, "we never go inside."
As soon as they got him moved, she slowly settled onto her keel, fluffed her feathers and gently laid her huge ebony beak across his forehead. After shifting her head a little, this way and that, she blinked a couple of times and then closed her eyes. Hubba Hubba leant so far forward on Rose's shoulder while watching that he tumbled off and landed on the cave floor with a feathery plop. Pebbles flew down beside him as he picked himself up and gave a shake of his feathers. Taflu snickered, but sobered at once at a look from Fuzz.
images"Do all diatrymas read minds, Lladdwr?" whispered Rose.
"Generally only the hens amongst us," he said softly. "They listen in on the dreams of our eggs and thereafter they keep track of the chicks in dead silence in the face of danger and while they forage."
"Then her mind reading won't heal?"
"I'm afraid it doesn't, at least nothing beyond the reassurance it gives. But Ceidwad will be able to tell you what ails them and find out what needs to be done."
At last, Ceidwad stood up and turned to face everyone, singling out Rose and Lukus.
"Your grandfather will survive and will indeed wake up in due time," she said, "but I've no idea at all how long that will be. Those bolts from the sorceresses were much like lightening. If one is struck by lightening, he either dies right then and there or he's left in a coma for who knows how long. Could be just a few hours; could be days. They got big jolts. Your Grandfather believes that they are both very lucky to have survived. They should be dead. In fact, he wonders if Demonica and Spitemorta deliberately let them live for some reason. So there's no damage, but I'd allow that he'll be asleep for some time to come."
"Oh thank you!" said Rose, as she hugged Ceidwad, muffling a sob in her fluffy neck feathers "You've spared us so much worry."
Ceidwad rattled her beak through Rose's hair as Hubba Hubba hopped onto Razzmorten's chest and walked up his beard to point one eye at his face. He stood there for a moment, then trotted back down his beard and flew to Lukus's shoulder. "He doesn't look any different at all, Lukus."
"I'm not worried now," said Lukus as he scratched Hubba Hubba's head. "Two very wise birds have just told us he'll recover, so I know he will."Stone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle
"Righty-o!" he said with a proud flap of his wings and a whistle. He shook his feathers. "Now you're catching on."
"Absolutely," said Lukus.
Ch. 19, Stone Heart 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps