Friday, December 30, 2016

Next Time the Howlies Come for a Sheep, They'll Bring a Skillet

bf51b063de7632b16cebd4ed2335a69e
The howlies certainly loved their breakfast of roasted fish. After they followed Herio and Philpott back to the cave, they sat crowded around the entrance, staring inside as if the pair of them were about to hatch. The prospects of escaping looked more dismal than ever. And it was most difficult to fall asleep that night in the heavy closeness of the musky reek with all of those eyes watching them.
gigatopithecus_closeupMILK

They were awakened not long before daylight by being hauled to their feet and marched to the river, where they found several of the giants already up to their waists in the water, grabbing at catfish. Blue Eye even found their water bags and followed. This time breakfast lasted into the early afternoon, since the fish were harder to catch and five more howlies had appeared.
The next morning, Herio was awakened by a busy commotion outside to find the giants on their haunches, patiently peering in at him with wriggling fish in their fists. "Philpott," he said. "Do you see what's out here?"

Philpott rolled off his dusty pallet onto his knees. "Say," he said, giving his greasy head a good scratch, "we've got that little box of lard which we were starting to get hungry enough to nibble at. I've got it and my skillet." He began finding stones to set it on over the flames of a fire as Blue Eye waddled over with a fish in each hand to look him up and down with the silvery rings of his eyes. As he set to the task of making the fire, Herio began cutting up the fish. When the first piece went into the sizzling fat, a chorus of gasps broke out and the howlies crowded in to see. This breakfast lasted until evening, with the giants traipsing back and forth to the river all day.
photo-5-8
"Damn!" said Herio as he lay down on his pallet after dark. "What are we going to do tomorrow? Aren't we running out of lard?"
"Yeap," said Philpott.
Herio might have heard, but he was already snoring.
Herio jerked wide awake in the first broad light of day to the hearty medley of calls from a sunset thrasher in the gnarled twist of scrub oak, growing out of the rocks at the mouth of the cave. He was on his knees at once. "That mockingbird wouldn't be there with a crowd of howlies," he said, getting to his feet. "Philpott! I don't see a single giant out here."     
thrasher4

"Hey!" cried Philpott as he stepped outside. "Where the ding-dong blazes is my skillet? And my lard box. Those stinkers are thieves!"
"No time," said Herio.
"No there's not," said Philpott. And with that, they grabbed up their things and were out in the chilly mountain air at once, jogging as they buttoned and tied their clothes.
It was a long way down the length of the mountain ridge without the unicorns. Even so, they found themselves covering ground nearly as quickly as they had managed while mounted, following the howlie tracks uphill. By sunset, they reached the upper end of the great meadow above the dry wash where they had found signs in the sand made by the giants, the morning they set out. A mountain burrowing owl rasped and cackled from the rocks of the divide as they made their way out into the thin dry grass under the vault of deepening blue sky.
"Well we certainly had our adventure," said Philpott, walking backward for a step or two. "And we ended up with one of the wildest tales we'll ever have to tell, but we might not even have found out where they live, let alone doing anything to discourage them. We didn't change a thing. They'll just keep getting into our sheep."
"Oh yes we did," said Herio.
"My word, what?"
"And it's mainly what you did."
"I'd like to know what that was."
"Next time they come for a sheep, they'll bring a skillet."   
"I can see that I've talked to you longer than any sane fellow would've."
"That's it!" said Hero, stopping short and setting down his panniers. "We can butcher hit for them..." He squatted to stretch his back.
"I knew it was too late when you commenced to howling like one of them."
"No, wait," said Herio. "Look 'ee here. Weren't we starting to talk and trade? Really. I mean, we told them we were thirsty and they took us to water. We said we were hungry and they gave us fish. Then we cooked the fish and they let us go. Right?"
"Yea. For my bloomin' skillet."
"Let's say that we want to graze this pasture for a week," he said, standing up with his bags and starting to walk again. "We pay them a sheep first."
"What?"
"We take a wether up there..."
"You mean right back up to that stinking hole in the rocks?"
"Yea. We take a sheep up there and butcher and cook hit for them, and tell them hit's for a week's worth of pasture. They'd love it."
"I'll bet," said Philpott with a wide-eyed nod. "And how in the ever loving blue eyed world are you going to get the notion of a week's worth of future grazing across to those wooly bellied wizards?"
"I haven't figured out that one yet. But you'd have to take them the sheep first, at least."
"Well you kept wanting to draw pictures..."
"That's it!" cried Herio, whirling about, mid stride. "What if we figured out what sort of picture, and put it on a parchment and took it with us?"
"We?" said Philpott. "Well, I reckon I can help butcher a sheep. But you'd better have one damned good picture with you, is all I can say."
Ch. 10, DoomThe Heart of the Staff







Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Why Fantasy?



gardens
I grew up in the land of Eden, I swear, which I could not possibly appreciate until it was too late grazing-dairy-cattleto come back. I grew up on what was for its time, a large dairy farm, with a big pond, a huge woods and the third best creamchickens-in-apricot-orchards-permaculture producing dairy herd in the state. We also had sheep and occasional hogs. We had milk, home-made butter and cottage cheese out the ears. We butchered. We dressed chickens
Traditional-Orchards-Blos-001
and made cider. We had a five acre apple orchard in its prime, put up every bit of our own produce from our garden and had irises and peonies, gladiolas
IMG_0110
and snapdragons growing everywhere. We had no pesticides yet. Barn swallows swooped after flies, herons nested by the pond and every species of bird imaginable filled the air with their calls on a June day.
Hartwood-Farm-pond

Mom and Dad were positively crazy about each other. They got giddy and sang as they worked herbGardentogether. The neighbors were like extended family and everyone, I mean everyone got along. We went to the church down the road and we would go to each other's houses and have square July-6-8-040dances and big sings. Both sets of my grandparents were alive and well in their eighties, and the neighborhood was brimming with people born well before rosegardenthe twentieth century. I got taken to a lot of funerals, but I spent a lot of afternoons after Sunday dinner, rolling around on the floor, listening to old folksimages (3) tell about their parents breaking the first prairie sod with oxen or about what happened to them during the Civil War.
mckenzie_jersey_cowsSuddenly I found myself in college. I was going to come back home and farm, but Dad got Alzheimer's and sold most of the farm before anyone was awake enough to stop him.
Carol and I went west and taught on the reservations. Some of Leaping Lamb Farm gardensthat was pretty rough, but I always reckoned we could manage to get through it, since I knew 1340897947_a76bcd560e5dthat sooner or later we were coming home to what was left of the farm.
The day came. I knew that the family were all gone before we ever started home. I knew that nobody waved anymore. I wasn't surprised that everyone I knew had moved away, either. After all, we had to go west, ourselves. Due to the massive pesticide use with no-till farming, I didn't Farm_Pond_With_Egret_fsimages (2)expect many birds. There has not been a single whip-poor-will call since we returned. And a thief took every last one of the tools which I grew up watching my family use to work the land.
My grandma said: "Time is a river. You can't stick your foot into the same water twice."images
medieval-fighterI don't care. There still has to be an Eden to go back to. One's mind has to be able to escape to some place enchanted. There has to be one good place. Carol opened a door. She invented the land of Niarg. And we've been visiting there ever since.
tumblr_maxpysILgO1rbqpjlo1_1280
       
 Tom Phipps

Friday, December 23, 2016

Minuet is a Lucky Woman

Stone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle
Part Five
Hebraun collapsed onto the goose down settee beside Minuet in their private parlour. "I thought you'd already knitted a blanket, sweater, cap and booties for the baby," he said, glancing aside at her.
"You've been paying attention," said Minuet. "And I certainly did, but they were all blue."
"So, you suddenly don't like blue?"
"Oh Hebraun. You know that blue is for newborn boys. What if it turns out to be a girl?"
"Well, she'll no doubt look cute as a button in blue."
"Certainly, but the best dressed newborn baby girls wear pink."
"Do they? Who says so?"
"Well everybody."
"So, if you give Lukus and Soraya gifts that are blue and they have a girl, whom everyone must see in pink, then they won't let us be grandparents?"
"Stop teasing me," giggled Minuet.
"I'd never tease you, darling," he said with twinkling eyes amidst his dead serious face.
She knew, of course. "I guess it does seem silly, but, this is our very first grandchild," she said as she put aside her knitting. "It doesn't seem possible. Just yesterday I was knitting for Lukus, Hebraun. And the day before that, Rose. I certainly don't feel like a grandmother."
"Nor do you look it my sweet," he said, with admiration in his eyes, before looking away with a sigh. "On the other hand, I'm not only beginning to feel it, I'm beginning to look it. Grandfather that is. Old."
"I've never heard you say such a thing before," she said with wide eyes as she brushed back a strand of hair from his cheek. She knew that the talk flying 'round the kingdom was getting much worse, particularly since it was now fall and no cure had been found for the blight affecting the kingdom's crops. She bit her lip. "Surely everyone knows that if it comes to it, the grain in the crown's bins will be distributed to them to see them through the winter, right?"
"That was today's discovery," he said with a haunted look. "It's all tainted. It has some kind of strange powdery mildew growing on it, every bushel of it."
"That evil, evil woman!" she cried, springing to her feet. "Even Ugleeuh was never so vile."
Hebraun rose and put his arm around her. "We've no proof that Spitemorta has done anything, Minuet. You know that."
"And we're not going to get any, either. Not for magic. There'll be no physical traces at all. She'd had to have been caught in the act. This is a very dry year. There's no way that any granaries could possibly spoil on their own. They checked the wheat?"
"Yes, right after the barley..."
"And the rye?"
"Yes..."
"Millet?"
"Yes. And the bean stores are the worst of all."
"So, it's been done."
"It looks that way, said Hebraun. "The only option left to us is to purchase enough grain from our allies to survive the winter, it seems."
"And hope that Spitemorta doesn't get wind of it."
"Well, someone with magical abilities could keep watch over the new stuff, now that we know." He sank back onto the settee. "I hope your father returns soon, Minuet. I'm beginning to think Niarg won't survive without his help."
Minuet rubbed his shoulders. "You'll manage, love, you always do. Everyone's upset right now, but when it comes to it, they'll remember how you've always stood by them and seen to their needs even above your own. You'll see."
Minuet always made him feel better. "You know," he said, with a new twinkle in his eye, "you'd make some lucky fellow a mighty fine wife, my lady. Would you marry me?"
"Oh I would, sir," she said with a laugh, "except that I'm already married to the finest man I've ever known."
"Well, he's a lucky fellow."
"Yes, and I'm a lucky woman," she said pulling him onto his feet. "Now, I think it's time you got some rest, love."
Hebraun did not argue. He followed her, certain that if left to his own devices he could sleep for a week.
Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Friday, December 16, 2016

Rose's Nightmare



Scan10064
But Rose was going back, after all. However, it was hard and scary. They had to go through the swamp to get there, turning this way and that, endlessly. A horrifying beast with a row of eyes and a mouthful of fangs pursued them at their heels everywhere. They even talked to it, and it would answer them. They had to run without let up to keep from being bitten, but Rose never got out of breath. Instead, she felt wave after wave of burning fear. As they were about to leave the swamp, the beast caught and ate Lukus. He was quite calm about being eaten. As his insides were being gobbled up, he told her: "Be sure to say hello to Mother and Father for me." She could feel herself sobbing, by her shaking insides, but she wasn't crying.
 Scan10065
From there, she walked up the castle steps, feeling sadder than she had ever known. When she told Hebraun and Minuet what had happened to Lukus, they snarled at her with the same voices as the beast and blamed her for his death and disowned her. They sent her from the castle in shame, ordering her to go back and live with Ugleeuh. They said since she had allowed her brother to run away with her in the first place, her crime was as bad as Ugleeuh's had been and that the two of them were no different in their eyes.
 Scan10063
Hebraun and Minuet's voices were now familiar again, but they were Fuzz and Lukus's voices, instead. Why weren't they talking about her exile any more? "Drat!" she mumbled as she flopped over, giving her blankets a yank that exposed her feet. "I don't want to know the piddly things about their fire and the victuals from their packs. I never will get the sleep I never got." Somehow she couldn't cover her toes without sitting up. As she did, the dawn sun shone right into her eyes. "Very well then!" she grunted as she stamped upright and jerked her blankets off the ground into a wad. She bore a horrible feeling. She hesitated as a shudder ran up her back. She hoped she never had another nightmare as long as she lived.
"Surely, this feeling will go if I merely start my day," she said, and she quickly put on her clothes The_Collector_Witch_Cover_for_Kindleand went outside.




Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

It's Either Kill Trolls or Pack for Home


df8e67504802514821c6de82d606eb0d
The breeze rattled the cottonwood leaves overhead as it chased through the tall big bluestem grass beyond the butt and died away. Rose drew her bowstring to her cheek,
hesitated and planted her eighth arrow in the target. A warbling vireo went back to its
meandering medley from the crown of the cottonwood. Rose nocked her next arrow and
found the target with her eyes.
"My word!" said Fuzz as he walked up behind her. "That's a whole bouquet of arrows in the bull's eye. That looks like forty yard."
group
Rose nodded and lowered her bow. "Father always had us practice," she said.
"I remember seeing that light longbow of yours back home, but we were in such a rush that I never once saw you use it," he said with a nod at the target. "You're just plain good, particularly with this breeze. Have you missed any at all?"
"I've not yet been to the target."
Fuzz whistled. "Well what do you think of Olloo's spare bow? I'm all done feeding the birds, by the way."
Rose raised her bow and quickly put another arrow in the bull's eye. "I like it," she said, letting the breeze blow a strand of hair out of her face as she turned to look at him. "But it's not at all like the one Soraya had. This thing's longer and shoots almost like a proper 9204cacfb3a66323628d914d5330f62clongbow."
"Well that makes sense, out here in the open in the Strah," he said, giving her a quick peck on the cheek. "I knew Inney had got it for you, but I never asked you why. Are you wanting to be ready for Spitemorta or Demonica sometime after we get home?"
"I was thinking trolls."
"The raid..."
"Damned right!" she said with a fiery look. "Those were the sweetest three little kids I think I ever saw. That little towhead Aalin trotted up with her ringlets just a-bouncing and gave me a fistful of asters the very afternoon before the trolls came. I still see her face." she thrust out her chin and picked up another arrow. "You know, that makes four men, three young ladies, one of them about to be wed, and six little scoots like Aalin since we got here. They're going to get wiped out at this rate."
"Probably not. They've been out here doing this for the last thousand years."
Rose turned to face the target to find an old ewe and her pair of lambs in the way. "Yea?" Ewe and lambsshe said. "Well what about our wee baban on the way, aye? One of those trolls gets too close to our little girl to be, and I'll want to puncture the curse."
"So that's what this is about," said Fuzz. "Have you forgotten that trolls don't eat humans?"
"You think they'll look at her ears after they grab her up? And can you imagine any trolls raiding Balley Cheerey who'd check each little girl for pointed ears before stealing her away? They'd just grab her up, right? And if they saw their mistake, do you reckon they'd dutifully fetch her back here? They'd either eat her for dessert or kick her out in the woods with the wolves."
"Well, you're right," he said, squatting beside her and pulling a timothy head. "So what do you want to do?"
"Fight back!" she said, dropping to her knees beside him. "Or at least be able to. You Warbling Vireo, singing_6444know, I don't really understand why the Elves haven't wiped them out by now, Fuzz. Inney told me once about when they almost did. They tracked the monsters to their
stinking caves and killed nearly every one of the curses where they slept before the
handful which survived got away. And when they can do nearly everything just a little
better than we can, why didn't they ever hunt down those survivors and end the menace?
When I think of little Aalin, it makes me want to cry."
"Tramman was telling me about that, once," he said as he watched the ewe graze bite by bite to the foot of the target. "He said that they did indeed hunt down the trolls that got away and they were right certain they'd got all of them, too. So when the next troll raid occurred years and years later, they were completely unprepared and lost eleven children all in one night. Can you imagine?"
"Oh Fuzz, what are we going to do? It's a true paradise here without the troll raids. I've never in my life been around such wonderful, wonderful people. Inney's the sweetest kid I've ever known. And I really did want to have the baby right here. But the trolls scare me. And I find myself missing Niarg more, day by day. I keep thinking we should be there for the birth. It's where we really belong."
Neanderthal-Man_121713-617x416
Fuzz scooted closer, picked up her hand and closed his eyes as he kissed her wrist. "Then maybe we should go home, dear," he said. "The Elves have told Karl-Veur and me that we might well hire a fishing boat from Gwael to take us across the sea." He paused to look at her. "And there's nothing to stop us from doing it right now if we were to buy our
passage with some of the jewelry that washed up on the beach in your trunk. Now believe
me, I'd never just up and tell you to do such a thing..."
"I'll give every blooming jewel I thought was long lost if it takes it," she said. "Well, not the emerald necklace from Mother nor your earrings that match. Well. You know, I'd almost give those to go home."
"Then it sounds as though you might be serious. Well if you think it over and..."
"That would just waste time. I'm ready to go pack."
"Then I'll go talk to Tramman right now."
"Fuzz," she said, putting her hand on his arm before he got to his feet. "I will stay if you want."
"You really would, wouldn't you?"
“Of course I would.”
“That's why I'm crazy about you, Rose,” said Fuzz. “But I miss Edward. I mean, what must he think after all this time?”
Suddenly two half grown strike falcons appeared out of the grass and came dashing up to them across the butts with a rabbit apiece, startling the sheep.
"Carrey and Sidoor!" she said, shooting to her feet to hug Carrey's fluffy neck. "How'd Phororhacosthey get out?"
"Sidoor kept putting images of fat rabbits in my head, so I thought about you out here and turned them out."
“So what about our birds, Fuzz? We can’t leave them behind.”
“Of course not," he said as he watched the birds drop their rabbits and rip them into pieces small enough to swallow. "They go with us, and that’s all there is to it. Now, I think we should find Karl-Veur and see if he wants to go with us or stay here.”
"Or go back to the Dark Continent. After all, you know he misses Yuna and young Yann-Ber. I think we should let him know that it’s all right with us if he changes his mind about trying to get into Demonica’s good graces.”
“Oh sure. But I’ve got a feeling he's set on doing what he came with us to do, in spite of the price he has to pay.”
“Let's go,” said Rose as she unstrung her bow and picked up her quiver.
“Then we talk to Tramman and Obbree about hiring a fishing boat,” he said, taking her by The Reaper Witch 01 copythe hand.
“I’m for that,” she said, squeezing his arm.








Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Monday, December 12, 2016

Fuzz Can't Imagine


Stone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle

Fuzz the Bear sets out across the countryside in a frantic effort to keep the Heart out of the hands of the evil sorceresses Demonica and Spitemorta in Stone Heart. Along the way, he stumbles into a magical ward set by Demonica and is restored to his human form. He has not yet gotten used to being a human when Wizard Razzmorten and his party with Rose and Lukus find him and decide to help him recover the Heart...
"It's really great to see you, Fuzz," said Lukus, as Tors bore him alongside. "Maybe we can talk, now that we don't have to go single file. How long have you been changed back?" He realized that this might be an awkward question in the midst of asking it. "You've no idea how much Rose and I have missed you."
"Actually," said Fuzz as he stretched his neck, "my transformation is right recent and I'm not sure I've completely adjusted to the change. I was a bear for a lot of years, but I've no reason not to expect that things will all come back to me in time." He nodded at Rose.  "You know I'm finally beginning to question whether she's missed me or not. This change of mine still has me feeling awkward all over, but have I done something to offend her?"
"Don't you see?" said Lukus with an amused look.
"See what?"    
"Rose is eaten up with jealousy."
"Just how?" sputtered Fuzz. "Me? Surely not."
"Absolutely," said Lukus rocking forward with a chuckle.
medieval-woman-with-long-hair

"But my word. What could Rose possibly see in the likes of an old bear like me?"
"You're not a bear for one thing."
"Well, I suppose not, but that is all she's known me as, Lukus, and I'm old enough to be her grandfather. She can't possibly think of me in any other way."
"Ha! I don't remember a looking glass in your den, Fuzz, but if there is one, I'd lay great odds you've not peeped in it. You may be old as the hills in years, but you don't look much older than Rose. It looks like you stopped aging when Ugleeuh turned you into a bear. Why, you're downright handsome."
"Well, yes, I guess that's what they used to say," said Fuzz, with an uncomfortable blush, "but I'd still think that would be unlikely quick for Rose to..."
"Wrong again," said Lukus, bouncing with glee on Tors's back, as Tors swung a sympathetic look in Fuzz's direction. "Remember Spark's glamourie in the Grog Meadows?"
"Oh, you're right," said Fuzz with very wide eyes. "She saw me as I was when I was still Captain of the Guard at Castle Niarg, when we were trying to deceive the Grogs."
"Yea. And she's had a thing for you ever since that she refuses to admit...just like you've had for her. Ah...ah...ah, don't deny it. Don't you dare deny it, 'cause it was written all over your face back then, just as it is this very minute."
"You seem to have turned into an Elf, Lukus, reading me like that."
Lukus threw back his head with a vigorous laugh. "I'm married to one, actually."
"My word. Could it possibly be the very one Rose would pester you about those years ago when we were fleeing together?" said Fuzz, as Taflu suddenly fluttered into the air, escaping his notice altogether.
"Indeed. She's my utter ecstasy. And we expect a son."
"Oh, wonderful. I'm so very happy for you..."
"Yea, thank you. And you're dodging, Fuzz. I can't believe you didn't know Rose felt the same way about you."
images


"I..."
"That's all right, Fuzz," said Lukus with a merry smile. "I'm not trying to give you a hard time. Rose is doing that. And don't worry, she'll come right around as soon as you convince her that there's nothing between you and Myrtlebell."
"Myrtlebell!" gasped Fuzz. "Of course there's nothing between Myrtlebell and me. She and Edward were in dire need and I took her in. I'm her friend, but only in a patronly sort of way, don't you know. Nothing more. Is that what she thinks, that Myrtlebell and I are lovers? Good word! I was beginning to think this was about Rotundra."
Lukus threw back his head for another laugh as Fuzz peered at Rose in shock. "That's what's got her all huffed up. But it'll work out, Fuzz. You'll see," he said, on the verge of another eruption of laughter.
"I swear," said Fuzz. "You've become more of an Elf than you may realize."

Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps