Friday, December 30, 2016

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

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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.
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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.
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"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."     
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"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?



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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
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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
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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.
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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.
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 Tom Phipps

Friday, December 23, 2016

Minuet is a Lucky Woman

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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



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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.
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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.
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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

Monday, December 12, 2016

Fuzz Can't Imagine


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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.
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"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."
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"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

Friday, December 9, 2016

Fuzz Reveals Himself

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Fuzz the Bear reveals himself to Rose and Lukus in The Collector Witch...


"Hello there my friends!" he called out as they approached. "Looks like rotten old Ugleeuh was right!”   
Rose and Lukus were astonished at the sight of him. He had an apt name all right, for his skin was indeed covered with a thin nearly velveteen chestnut fuzz, but that fact didn't prepare them for the shock of his looks. He was scrawny, long necked and huge headed, with stubby limbs and a ponderous melon for a paunch that scarcely cleared the ground when he stood.   (Ch 16)
 They had been back in Fuzz's den for some time before he limped in, bedraggled and winded. Still with his full pails of precious booty, he stumbled onto the floor at Rose and Lukus's feet without spilling a bit.
 "Oh my!" said Rose as she fell to her knees beside him. "You've been stung from head to toe! You must be in terrible pain." "Actually no," he said, managing a feeble grin. "Woozy to beat the band. Dizzy, dizzy! Pain didn't last long, though. Never does, but a bear with no hair does get nailed a lot. Makes me wonder if I'm even really fuzzy. No need for a fuss. I'm used to dealing with those old bees. I'll be fine once I catch my breath."
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"Well," said Rose, "you certainly don't look fine. You're soaked to the bone and covered with stingers." She turned to Lukus. "I think you should get a fire started so we can get him dried out."
Lukus set to work at once, impressing Rose with a nice crackling fire in short order. (Ch 17)
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“Fuzz,” said Rose, giving him a squint, “you certainly know a lot about Gastro, Ugleeuh and Niarg. Why is that?”
Fuzz was quiet for so long that she was not certain if he had heard her, or if she had hurt his feelings in some way, but at last he met her eyes and cleared his throat.
“Yes, I do know a good deal about those things,” he said, as he slowly rubbed the scar on his face. “You see I was, or am, perhaps Gastro’s best friend. I was there when all of this happened. Now I see by the looks of both of you, that you have dozens of questions, and before you start in with all of that, let me say that it is getting quite late and we need to get up very early to start on our journey in the morning. Perhaps you could grant an old bear a bit of a reprieve until tomorrow? We can then take up this tale once more as we travel, if it pleases the two of you to do so. And I will indeed answer anything you ask.”
“We'd love it,” said Lukus. “Just one teensy short little question and then we will fly straight to bed.” 
Fuzz nodded with a sigh.
“You aren’t really a bear, are you?”
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“No I’m not, Lukus. Gastro and I grew up together in Niarg and we've been close friends for as long as I can remember. When he vanished, I surmised that Ugleeuh'd had something to do with it and set out to discover just what. Eventually I came here in search of answers and found him, a sea monster. By then however, Ugleeuh had been banished here too, and she had no intention of letting me leave to tell the tale." He drew a deep breath as a bristly shudder swept through him. "It amused her mightily to turn me into...this. And so, I remain a bear to this day, and probably for all the rest of my days, as well. Now please, no more questions until we are underway tomorrow.”
Rose and Lukus each quietly hugged poor old Fuzz and went straightaway to bed as their heads reeled with a veritable avalanche of questions.   (Ch 17)
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"They arrested her and called for me, and I sent for Razzmorten while she still held the incriminating vial in her hand..."
"You?" said Rose. "Just who were you, anyway? Gastro's friend, sure, but you know so much. What was your connection with Niarg Castle?"
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"Captain of the Royal Guard, if you must. Sir Karlton Strong. And I remember the very day you were born, Rose."
"So when did you come?"
"Here? Well, I was Fuzz the Bear well before Lukus came along, I should think. But as I was saying, Ugleeuh still had the vial in her hand when we got there. The dishes were set on the floor before two good hounds which fell dead, gobbling them up." By now Fuzz had found a rock to sit on beside the path. He shook his head as if to clear away the memories. "That's the main reason for Ugleeuh's exile," he said as he clapped his forepaws onto both knees at once, launching himself onto his feet. "We've got to move. It's a long, dangerous way, yet."   (Ch 19)
Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps