Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Arwr the Diatryma Finds Humanity in Vyrpudi the Troll

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"Mary," said Arwr softly from beneath the lone scrubby pine.
"Does your leg hurt, Arwr?" she said. "I've some herbs that might stop the pain without putting you to sleep."
"No Mary. My leg is merely bruised and the pain is bearable," he said, nodding to where800px-nyndrtly

Vyr-pudi was chained, beyond the fire. "Did you know that Vyr-pudi saved my life? He saved Abaddon's, too."
"That's his name, Vyr-pudi? Have you learnt any more of his language?"
"Yes actually, but what I did not expect is that he's beginning to understand ours."
"How do you know?"
"He called out my name quite clearly, just in time for me to dodge the lyoth which brought me down. I have no doubt that he saved my life and Abaddon's, too. Abaddon got
thrown off my back while I was kicking at the Lyoth. Vyrpudi caught him. And when he
saw his moment, he jumped the Lyoth and strangled it with his chain. No one has even
thanked him." He gave the side of his beak a thoughtful saw across a fallen pine trunk and
thoroughly shook his feathers.
Mary sat speechless for a moment, listening to the owl as a pop in the fire sent sparks dashing into the starry sky. "Oh my," she said. "I see your point Arwr, but he is a troll surrounded by Elves. He undoubtedly had some part in feasting on the Elves in two Jutish villages, and you know better than I do what you caught him in the act of doing at Oilean Gairdin." She peered at Vyr-pudi, sitting in his chains. "You're right, Arwr. We're no better at all if we can't show humanity when it's needed." She stood and brushed off her skirts. "Do you know the Trollish words for thank you?"
Arwr nodded his head. "Afey-fira."
"Afey-fira...afey-fira," she said as she started over to Vyrpudi, who sat up quite straight at her approach. "Well. Arwr says your name is Vyr-pudi."
Vyr-pudi became very wide eyed at this.
"Anyway we," she said, pointing to herself and then back to Arwr, "want to tell you afey-fira."
Vyrpudi's eyes bugged out and his jaw dropped open as she squatted before him and carefully reached out her hand. At once he drew back from her touch as if she were about to strike him. "Well I guess that wasn't a good idea," she said as she stood up and let her arms fall to her sides. She smiled at him and walked back to the fire.
"I believe he thought I was about to hit him," she said as she found her spot on the rock.
Arwr glanced over at Vyr-pudi who was now watching them with undisguised curiosity. "Yes I saw," he said, "but you didn't hit him and he can plainly see that you didn't intend to. He'll figure it all out. Where it will all go, though, I can't guess. You do remember that when I captured him, the plan was to learn what we could from him and then kill him, don't you?"
"I remember," she said, shaking her head. "Even with his valiant deeds today, after so many long years of attacks on Elves..."
"I know," he said as he snapped each wing and settled himself, closing his eyes. "We shall simply have to take things as they come."
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Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps




Friday, June 26, 2015

Spitemorta Has Another Tantrum

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When Spitemorta returned to her bower in Castle Niarg just before midnight, she changed back her throat with the Heart and sent orders to the kitchen for roast duck with sour cabbage, dripping pudding and cider, even if she had to stay up until nearly sunrise to eat it. She did not mind. She could use the time to get rid of that offensive quart of sukee which reminded her of Coel, left over from her coronation. She had begun to find it odd that Demonica had not gotten in her way with her comments as she sauntered about, dangling her bottle, gloating about what she had set in motion.
She soon discovered that cider on top of the sukee nearly had her vomiting on her steaming plate of duck and pudding, so she daubed at the corners of her mouth, threw herself across the bed and slept until the middle of the afternoon. She rose, had half of a toad in the hole and a pinch of cold duck breast and sour cabbage and went back to bed until the following morning. She spent the next two days in her quarters, very busy with ordering about pages and hired help as she oversaw the clearing away of Minuet's sheep shed and apple orchard for a jousting field and hand gonne range. She was beginning to think that she might have managed to leave Demonica behind at Oilean Gairdin. "Good! If that be the case," she said, but she felt oddly anxious.    
When she caught herself wishing that she had her grandmother to talk to, she grabbed up 2lflaggonthe empty sukee flagon and hurled it at the wall with a grating squeal. Instead, the contrary bottle went whirling out over the balcony to go bouncing end over end along the paving stones, six storeys down. When she heard no breaking glass, the rushed to the balustrade hoping to find that she had hit someone on the head. "Damn you Grandmother!" she shouted when she saw no one about. "You won't let me have any fun..."
"Well it is nice to see you giving me the credit, dear," said Demonica from right beside her, peering down at the bottle.   
"Why did you have to show up, Grandmother? It was a relief having you gone for three days."
"Odd that you kept seeming anxious for someone to talk to, or am I mistaken?"
"Yes you are."
imagesdemonica"Or am I merely the wrong party? Perhaps you were hoping for your handsome general..."
"No!" shouted Spitemorta. Suddenly she smiled. "But I do have a thing or two he needs to find out," she said quietly. "I mean, I think my trolls are going to be right useful, 'way more than the stupid heathens from Gwael. Don't you?”
Mindful of how Spitemorta's voice carried, Demonica meandered back inside and sat on the bed. “It may have been unwise to leave Oilean Gairdin without appearing before the Dyrney as you agreed, dear,“ she said. "And you probably don’t want General Coel knowing what you make of his army, either.” 
Spitemorta cast her a slit-eyed stare. “Poop!" she said, taking a chair by the bed that faced away from her. "The stupid trolls won't even notice once they've had an Elf roast or two. And you know as well as I do that the Gwaels have been nothing but inferior. Let’s see how they like having my brute son and his trolls wipe out both the Elves and the Beaks when they've utterly failed to do so after all this time. I think I'll quite enjoy rubbing Veyfnaryr's victories in the good general’s arrogant face.”
“If you say so.”
“I certainly do say so. Coel needs to be put in his place. A bit of humiliation is just the thingimages (3)x for him.”
“That does sound like fun," said Demonica with a deep and speculative nod. "But are you quite sure that you want to risk the father of your child losing face in front of all who might enjoy his lesson?”
"What utter nonsense are you going on about?" cried Spitemorta, springing to her feet at once to begin pacing. "You know very well that Coel's not related in any way at all to my children."
“Well certainly not to any of your grown children…”
“Nor to any future children, believe me..."
“Too late,” said Demonica. And with that she vanished.
hyacinths-fresh-cut-garden-lattelisa-blog-02"Damn you!" shrieked Spitemorta, grabbing up and flinging a vase of hyacinths, soaking the corner of the bed where Demonica had been sitting.
A peal of Demonica's laughter rose and died away in the air across the room. 
Spitemorta grabbed a footstool and hove it after the sound, only to have it fly as wide as the bottle had, knocking her new marble bust of herself off its pedestal and breaking off its head. With a rasping sob, she fell to her knees and covered her face. A mourning dove called from somewhere just beyond her balcony as she rocked and shuddered.
Running footsteps tramped to a halt outside her door and threw it open. "Your Omnipotence!" cried her page when he saw her on the floor. "Are you in peril?"
"Why not at all, Pissant," she said with all the smiling radiance of a lady getting to her feet Pearsons-renaissance-shoppe-childs-costume-300x300in a sunny garden of daffodils. “Go to the kitchen, if you would, and tell old hefty
Bethan that I want hot cinnamon rolls with today's churned butter and a nice hot pot o' tea. And when you're done with that, go find General Coel and send him here immediately. Then, return to the kitchen and see that my tea gets to me hot.
"And now..." she said soothingly as she unfastened the Heart from the Staff and gently passed it over his lips, erasing his mouth from his face. "This is for daring to walk in on the very empress of all the known world. You'll have to think about it as you run your errand." She turned him to face the mirror with his eyes of horror. "Now. If General Coel comes at once and the tea arrives hot, you may earn back the mouth you need to eat your next meal. Understood? Now go."








Carol Marrrs Phipps & Tom Phipps
Heart of the Staff Box

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Spitemorta Nurses a Hangover

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The thicket of roses in the pasture that once crowned the gentle hill overlooking all of the town of Niarg was enclosed for the first time by the circular stockade of the old wooden Castell Niarg. In time, it became the rose garden in the back ward of the great stone castle which followed, where Prince Hebraun courted Minuet under a late summer moon and where Princess Rose played with her kitten in the warm June sun.
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Spitemorta cleared away all of that for her amphitheatre which faced across its broad and barren arena to the great stage for her public presentations which made up a corner of the back ward of her massive black castle. Here was the focus of her week long celebration. She raised her chalice to the drunken crowd as she sat back on her throne to watch her soldiers set alight the final wicker man, packed squirming tight with the very last survivors of Bernard's Bane at Jut Ford. Pissant scurried over with his jug to top up her vessel. As screams and yodeling wails of agony burst out from the flames, she shot to her feet with cheer after cheer of triumph for the roaring multitude. As glowing cinders began to tumble, orderlies scurried into the arena and onto the streets surrounding the castle to set up trestles and boards for the feasting that was to last all night.
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When daylight came, Spitemorta banged into the doorpost on her way into the bedroom of her bower and bounced when she found that the seat of the stool before her dressing table was a bit lower than it should have been. She ballooned her cheeks with a huff as she found her face in the looking-glass. She picked up a brush. "My," she said as she tugged at her whirling head with her brush strokes. "I'm not up for much of that..." She looked up to see Demonica standing behind her in the mirror and tossed down her brush with a clatter. "And none of you, Grandmother. I'm going to bed right now." 
"Well," said Demonica. "Fine celebration, I thought. Just wanted to tell you. And dear, you really want to see to your trolls, don't you think?"
"Did you see how the Niarg townies joined in? They were having such a good time, I know I've got them. I've really got them. Lots of them even danced and cheered when Minuet's soldiers were burning..."
imagesdemonica"At least when the cider and sukee are flowing. We brought in three shiploads of sukee from Gwael for this. Stout stuff. You do need to keep that in mind. Some of them can actually count their own fingers when they're sober. And your trolls, dear..."
"Fine, Grandmother. After I've slept, come back and we shall both go."
“I’ll do that dear. Just don't delay our departure with your handsome general. It would be best to appear just when they're waking for the night, before they’re already doing other things, don't you know. And it doesn't hurt for us to still have enough light to see by.”
"And just how would I let him delay us?"
"Well," she said, as she sat on the bed and gave the coverlet a knowing pat. "You did have a rather more, shall we say, sustained and amorous meeting during the celebration than typical..."
"No, damn it! There was nothing amorous about it..."images (3)x
"Well I certainly find that easy to agree with, having been there, but does the general?"
"That’s his problem, not mine.”
“If you say so dear. Well then. To bed with you and I’ll see you before sunset.”
***
The evening sun was just lighting the far wall of Spitemorta's chamber when she was awakened by voices below her window. "Damn you!" she cried, explosively ripping aside her covers. She grabbed up the full water pitcher from her night stand and heaved it out the window to land with a distant pop six storeys down. The talking stopped short. No one was there when she propped her arms on the sill and peered out. The bell in Argentowre rang. When she couldn't sort out whether it was four or five o'clock, she covered her ears and turned away from the window.
"Oh!" she cried when the stool at her dressing table turned out to be just as unexpectedly low as before. With a squeal, she threw her brush across the room to smack the back of a chair and spin away somewhere on the floor. She labored to her feet and went hunting for it. When stooping to look under a wardrobe sent pains through her head, she went back to her table without the brush and peered into the mirror with the slits of her swollen eyes to find her hair hopelessly matted on one side, "As if I'd spent the month sleeping alongside a dead mouse." And with that, she cast a glamourie on herself to look radiantly rested and groomed. After a spell of jerking dresses from side to side in one wardrobe after another, she gave up and cast another glamourie to make the kirtle she was wearing appear as though she had not slept all day in it. "And where's my duck?" she shouted.
"And here you led me to believe that there was not one thing amorous going on between the two of you," said Demonica with a gasp of surprise as she appeared.     
"Damn you! Not him. My breakfast!"
"Now did you indeed tell anyone before you went to bed?"
"What are you doing with that childish halo and wings, Grandmother? You've been telling me all these years that no one but me sees you."
“Who knows? Veyfnaryr has enough power that he just might.”
“Do you seriously believe he's more powerful than Razzmorten?”
"Believe? Dear, he was every bit as powerful as Razzmorten the moment I put him in the arms of Fnayooph, the bathless fmoo who raised him. If you didn't have the Heart and the Staff, he'd make a grease spot of you if you vexed him enough."
"Ha!" said Spitemorta, feeling for her stool before sitting, this time. "Good medicine for the Beaks. And those four Elves. He could make grease spots out of them, too. Pooh on breakfast, Grandmother. Let's go."
"Good for you, dear..." said Demonica, looking up suddenly at the knock on the door of the parlour of the bower.
Spitemorta tramped to the door. "What!" she shouted as she grabbed the latch. She threw it open to find Coel. "Familiar enough all at once to wave aside proper deferential announcements by the help, are we?"
"Because of our indiscretion?" said Coel calmly, as he stepped in without the slightest bob of a bow.
"Ah!" said Demonica. "Here's your duck after all..."
"Shut up!"
"You don't like it referred to that way?" said Coel.
"You ought to be able recognize Grandmother by now..."
"I don't see a soul."
"And you bet it was indiscrete! You ought to be in the dungeon."
"Because you invited me...?"
"I did not!"  
"Well, sukee's like that," he said, drawing in a breath. "And had I not had some of it myself, I'd have easily deflected your tugging at me."
Spitemorta sucked in a furious breath.
"And I reckon it's having to recover from it that has me doing the knocking on your door instead of your service, in order to speed the delivery of the tidings you  demanded I convey immediately..."

Doom








Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps
Heart of the Staff Box

Monday, June 22, 2015

Spitemorta Has a Tantrum

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Spitemorta sat forward and grabbed up a hot cinnamon bun from the tea table just set before her, tore it open and dropped it onto a saucer to steam as she found the fresh butter and honey. "Oh," she said, licking her fingers and leaning aside to give the bell pull a yank. She went right back to her bun and took a huge bite, closing her eyes with a images (3)xdelirious moan.  
A young page came and stood at quiet attention beyond the table.
"Hey Piffant," she said through her mouthful of flying crumbs, when she finally noticed him.
"Your Omnipotence," he said with a deep and gracious bow.
Spitemorta took an eye-rolling moment to chew. "Listen Pissant," she said with a strained swallow, "go find General Coel and have him here this very hour."
"Anything else, Your Omnipotence?"
Spitemorta dug at the wad of bread in her cheek with her tongue and shook her head. 
"I live to serve you, Your Omnipotence," he said with a parting bow.Pearsons-renaissance-shoppe-childs-costume-300x300
"As long as you see that you do," she said. She wanted to see Coel at once, but it made no difference to her in the least whether or not Pissant managed to live. All that really mattered was her coming coronation and public executions of Queen Minuet's army.  
"Your Omnipotence...?" said her skinweler in a wee voice from it's hollow on the arm of her throne.
She put milk into her cup, slipped off the cozy and picked up the teapot. "Damn you, Pissant!" she bellowed into the echoes, hurling it across the room to smash on the marble floor. "Thanks to you, it's gone stone cold. Or maybe I need to boil somebody's stinking head in the kitchen..."
"Uh, Your Omnipotence...?" said the skinweler as a hired woman peeked in from a side door.
"Hey!" cried Spitemorta, "Get me a fresh pot!"
“This looks exciting and all, dear, but shouldn't you be showing some interest in the rest of your empire?” said Demonica, appearing with her fists on her hips by the shattered teapot. 
"Now!" hollered Spitemorta.
"My word!" said Demonica, walking right up to her. "Your first steward is waiting for an audience as we speak."
"So? Send him in."
"It is indeed nice to find you taking me seriously for once, dear," she said, cocking her head to look her over closely, "but you seem to be forgetting that you're the only one who sees me. Besides it's your skinweler. Your steward in Gwael..."
"Oh poop! How would I have time for those heathens with my coronation almost upon us? What would be as important as that? After all, I am the first one in history to rule the entire world."
Demonica drew a wide-eyed breath. "It might not hurt to ask him," she said with a nod at the skinweler. "I mean, he's no further away than the arm of your chair, and convenient as it is, it would be an act of actually ruling the world, don't you think?"
"You do it. I'm busy. And Coel will be here directly."
"Well I would, dear," she said with another nod at the skinweler," but you're forgetting that I'm dead."
"Your Omnipotence?"
"What!" said Spitemorta, thrusting her face at the skinweler.imagese
"Aah!" said the steward, jerking back from his ball. "Forgive me Your Omnipotence, I wasn't quite..."
"Well? What is it? I'm right busy here, and you're not likely to have anything important."
"I beg your pardon for my asking you to indulge me over this trifle," he said, pausing for a breath as he thrust out his chin, "but we've a situation here that's plainly on it's way out of control."
“What are you talking about, Irmen? What is going on there?”
"King Vortigern had a brother, Catigern, Prince of Pow Jyantylesk, who had a son before he died..."
"Osulf. So?"
"Well, Osulf claims the throne."
"What?"
"Now that sounds like something I remember talking about," said Demonica. "Or weren't imagesdemonicayou listening when I was...?"
"Shut up!" screeched Spitemorta.
"I beg your pardon, Your Omnipotence. I'm not sure I heard right..."
"What's he thinking?" she said, grabbing up the skinweler and pressing her face into it. "He can't do that. Artie died, which made me queen. I'm still queen. I may be empress of the world, but I'm still queen. And I left you on the throne."
"Yea. But he says that you never ruled Gwael before you became empress. According to him, you never once sat on the throne, and that left him next in line to rule after Artamus. In fact, he's sitting on the throne right now. And his coronation is tomorrow..."
"Horse shit!" she shouted, flinging the skinweler well beyond the tea table to hit the carpet with a muffled crack and go rolling away toward the entrance.
Irmen jerked back from his skinweler and rubbed his temples.
Spitemorta heaved herself to her feet, ran after her ball and grabbed it up. "So what kind of steward allows someone to come in and take the throne?" she said, catching her breath.
"One who's in his chamber, free to use his skinweler to reach you, if you don't mind my putting it that a-way. They took me by surprise. Had I not cooperated, I'd be dead or sitting in the dungeon and you'd not know a thing about it."
"I'll be right there..."

Doom








Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps
Heart of the Staff Box

Friday, June 19, 2015

Abaddon Goes Into the Mountain




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Lance shifted on his saddle in the thick whirling snow and gathered his collar over his muffler as he peered from under his hat at the top of the mountain. "Well Abaddon," he called out cheerfully over the wind, "we'll be over the top directly and we'll be getting out of this weather!"
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"My momma's goin' 'o kill you for stealing me away from her," said Abaddon with a baleful snarl. "And when I tell her all about it, she'll hurt you a whole lot for a long, long time before she stops your heart."
"Oh, she'll have to catch us first," said Lance buoyantly, as a shudder ran through him.
"She'll catch you, all right! Oh, yes she will! And it'll be a lot of fun!"
"After five long days in the cold, it's a mercy we won't have to sleep out in this," thought Lance with another shudder as the unicorns stepped their way up, crunching loose shards of stone through the new layer of snow. Having grown up here, he was familiar with the sudden fierce winter storms up in the Pitmaster's Kettles. He glanced aside at Abaddon. In spite of how good he'd always been with children, the boy unnerved him. "I'll do it for James," he thought, wishing he did not have to. Abaddon looked up at him with a red-eyed glower, as if he knew exactly what he had just been thinking, giving him a sudden bristle of goose flesh. He quickly turned away. "Surely he doesn't read thoughts. I've never heard that Spitemorta does." He looked back again to suddenly feel guilty for thinking all of this at the sight of Abaddon looking right at him with the innocent smile of a boy on an adventure. He smiled back and began searching for the path over the top. "Here we go!" he called out. "Right yonder! Just keep Sheba close to Stepper and we'll soon be out of the weather in the heart of this ol' mountain!"
"What do you mean? You don't mean we're going clean inside it, do you?"
"Sure do," said Lance with a nod. "This is a vulcan mountain. Its top was once a cauldron of melted red-hot rock. If it weren't for the snow, you'd see frozen rivers of rock running down it's sides from long ago. That's what all the black rock between the trees was, 'way back down below, before we ever started up here. The top of each one of these mountains for miles and miles is a deep pit. that's why they're called the Pitmaster's Kettles. And here we are." He slapped his hand onto his hat in the furious wind at the very top of the slope as his unicorn hesitated between a pair of boulders on the rim, stepping restlessly from side to side before finding his first steps of the steep decent beyond. "See out yonder? the whole top of this mountain is naught but a giant deep hole. And here we go, on the path right down into the mountain, but you watch out and keep Sheba close behind. I don't want you falling off the side. It's a long way down."Extinct-volcano-crater-Mo-013
"I better not fall. My momma would kill you even worse if I did."
"Yea, and your dad wouldn't be too happy either."
Abaddon gave a contemptuous snort, but quickly donned a look of excited expectancy in spite of himself. Soon they were below the wind, carefully finding their way down the narrow path, knocking loose rocks to go skittering and bounding off into the depths. He anxiously peered down into the crater, but strain as he might, he could not see the bottom. "Hey," he demanded. "It's gettin' darker and darker. How are we going to see? In fact, what's going to keep us from falling off?"
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"Stepper and Sheba. The unicorns see a lot better in the dark than we do and they're completely sure-footed if you don't rush them. They'll find their way. Besides, it'll get lighter before long."
"You're crazy. It's been getting darker and darker."
"Well, when you get down far enough, there's quite a lot of glow lichen growing, though we're not far enough to tell it yet. Have you noticed it getting warmer?"
"The wind's died down is all. It's not any warmer."
"Well, what do you suppose happened to all the snow, Abby?"
"You're not allowed to say things like that! You're supposed to call me 'Your Highness!'"
"Well, maybe when you earn it..."
Abaddon drew a breath for a furious shout, but fell silent with a gasp at the sudden sight of a faint glow, far below in the blackness.





Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps