Hubba Hubba slowly ran his beak along the length of the back of a chair in the empty parlour and turned square about to run it all the way back. "All right, all right," he said, pausing to give his feathers a shake before strutting on. "I said I would, I said I would. I did, I did. But now that it comes to it, I don't know what I think about being a crow again. And what if something goes wrong? What if Razzmorten is so weak that he can't handle the spell and turns me into a roach or a maggot? What if his spell gives out just as I fly in to spy on Spitemorta and Demonica? They'll kill me, is what. Pull out my feathers and wring my neck."
Without warning a long blade sliced the air near his head. "Help!" he quacked as he tumbled into a gasping heap of feathers on the floor. "Hey Queen! What is this, a test of my mortality or what? As you can see, I can handle apoplexy but my head would come right off with that thing."
"Hubba Hubba!" she cried, stopping amidst her next swing. "I didn't see you!"
"I'm so sorry! I just had Hebraun's claymore and...!"
"Minuet, what is all of this?" said Razzmorten, appearing as much without warning as she had.
"Why must these big missions always threaten to take off my head?" said Hubba Hubba, bristling and panting from the shadows.
"I'll learn this now, Father," said Minuet. "When Niarg goes to battle, they'll still have the crown to lead them forth."
"No!" said Razzmorten with a look of shock "Niarg needs you here. It can't afford to lose both Hebraun and you. If Spitemorta..."
"Ha!" barked Minuet bitterly, echoing in the arches of the ceiling. "Spitemorta! Yes! Let her come! When she does, I will cut out her black heart and feed it to the hogs. She took the light of my life and she'll meet her doom if she dares come at me."
"I will not cooperate with sweet and sour parrot. Traumatized, yes. Compliant? No. I refuse, I refuse. Queen, you and your awful sister..."
"What?" said Minuet as she stopped short to peer under the chair.
"I'll have you know that I'm not being dilatory," said Hubba Hubba with his tail fanned wide as he marched out from under the chair, running his beak along the floor as he came. "I'm right ready to set out on this mission without hesitation. I will not be threatened further..."
"Minuet please," said Razzmorten. "Hebraun would never have you do such a thing. For the love of the Fates, daughter, it's the very thing that got him killed."
"Yes, I know," she said, turning to face him, "and she did it. And that's exactly why I have to do this. You love me and don't want to lose me, so you want to stop me. Please know that I would never cause you grief. I own that I'm being vengeful, but you can rest assured that I'm not being rash. I'm set! You could ease my burden enormously by supporting my decision. If you can't, I'll not be resentful, but I'll not stray from my path."
"I'm going, I'm going!" said Hubba Hubba, pushing his beak around in circles on the floor. "You don't have to threaten me..."
"Hubba Hubba," said Minuet, "What makes you think I'm threatening you?"
"Right. Ugleeuh wasn't threatening me either. She was merely distraught. And you're just what, vengeful did you say?"
"Hubba Hubba! Here I've gone and had a grand packet of food made up for you..."
"What? With all my favorite treats?"
"See? Runs in the family. Put away your blade. I'm ready! I'm ready!"
"And what are you doing down there?" said Pebbles as she and the chicks alighted on the back of the chair.
"Here's Herio," said Minuet as she scooped up Hubba Hubba and gave him a scratch before letting him step off onto the chair. "Looks like he's ready."
"Well, so am I," said Hubba Hubba with a confused look as Pebbles rattled her beak through his cheek feathers.
"Ready enough for me to change you into a crow?" said Razzmorten.
Ch. 9, The Burgeoning
Carol Marrs Phipps
& Tom Phipps