Which Way Did They Go?

Which Way Did They Go?

dragon looking rightDragon looked around cautiously. She stuck her head through the open conference room door and looked, first down the hallway toward Mistress Writer’s office, and then up the stairs toward the front entry. She sniffed the air, then tilted her head and cocked her ears, listening carefully. “I think they are gone.”

Stu-04-NatGalShe turned back to the conference room, where the companions had gathered. Sorceress nodded. “Yes. Mistress Writer and Master Miles left the house about 15 minutes ago. They said they would be gone all day. They told Cleric they are going to spend the day shopping, and then they plan to go to a restaurant and maybe to a movie after that.”

Dragon drew back her lips in a wide, toothy grin. “Good. We may commence.”

* * *

“Hey, Nolan! I thought you said that couple we’re watching left the premises.”

“They did, Johnson, about a half-hour ago.”

“Well, then, who’s that?” The man called Johnson pointed to a car leaving the garage of the property they were watching.

Walkie-talkie“I don’t know! Let me check. Maybe they came back when we were patrolling another area.” Nolan picked up his walkie-talkie. “Hey, Davis, you there? Over.”

The radio crackled, and a scratchy voice replied. “Yeah, I’m here. Who’s this? Over.”

“Davis, this is Nolan, at the stakeout. Are you still tailing that pair in the car? Over.”

“Sure, Nolan. Jakoby and I are right behind them. Why? Over.”

“Well Johnson and I just saw a car leave the garage. It looks the same as the car that left earlier, the one you say you’re following. We thought maybe they came back when we weren’t looking. Over.”

“Don’t know what to tell you. They didn’t return to their house. We’ve been following this car ever since it left your location about a half-hour ago. It’s heading east on 212, and it’s never been out of our sight. Over.”

“Okay. Stay with that car. Don’t lose them. Out.”

Nolan turned back to his partner. “Davis said . . .”

FedJohnson cut him off. “I heard. Contact Pruse and McFadden. They’re at the end of the street. Tell them to tail this new car.”

Nolan contacted the other team and relayed the message.

After a few seconds of silence, a reply crackled through the walkie-talkie. “Nolan, how long ago did you say this car left your location? Over.”

“Maybe five minutes. Why? Over.”

“You putting us on, Nolan? If it left your location five minutes ago, it should have passed us by now. There hasn’t been a car go past since the one Davis and Jakoby are tailing. Now quit trying to be funny! Over and out.”

Miles waving from carBefore Nolan could say anything, he and Johnson saw the garage door open again, and another car leave, identical to the first two. This time, they got a good look at the driver, who smiled and waved as the car drove slowly past them.

Johnson’s jaw dropped. “That’s the guy! That’s the guy we’re supposed to be watching. The one who left here earlier with his wife. The one Davis and Jakoby are tailing.”

Johnson grabbed Nolan’s walkie-talkie. “Davis and Jakoby! Pull that car over! Make sure the occupants are who you think they should be! You hear me? Pull it over! Pruse and McFadden, if a car tries to go past you, stop it!”

* * *

While Johnson and Nolan were trying to make sense of what was going on with the car, Deputies Whitewash and Dawg were patrolling the street east of the stakeout location.

“Whitewash! Look! There’s that crazy old coot with the suit of armor and the axe!”
Dwarf and rabbit
Deputy Whitewash looked in the direction her partner was pointing. She saw the armored dwarf sprinting down the street. He was cussing a blue streak and brandishing an axe at a large rabbit that appeared to be enjoying the chase. Several times, the long-eared critter slowed down and looked over its shoulder, almost appearing to be waiting for the rotund figure who was puffing and panting after it.

As the rabbit led the Old Dwarf closer to the deputies, Whitewash and Dawg heard the dwarf yelling. “I be gittin’ ye this time, ye ornery little beastie, ye jest be seein’ iffin I do na! Thet be tha lastest time ye be getting’ in Mistress Writer’s carrot patch!” He waved the axe wildly over his head.

The two deputies eyed the approaching figure with trepidation. As the dwarf continued chasing the rabbit toward them, they both removed their pistols from their holsters and released the safeties.

“Sir? Sir! Please put down that weapon.” Dawg dropped to one knee and aimed his gun at the dwarf.

“Sir, we don’t want to hurt you, but you must put down that weapon!” Whitewash stood with her feet planted firmly apart and took aim at the approaching figure.

Suddenly, the rabbit and its pursuer made a quick turn and disappeared between two houses. The deputies gave chase.

“Where did they go?” Dawg looked down the side yards separating the houses. Nothing was there.

“They couldn’t have run the length of the houses and gotten to the back yards so quickly!” Whitewash gaped in the direction they had seen the dwarf and the rabbit running.

Dwarf, rabbit, and deputiesSuddenly, they heard a commotion behind them. The rabbit was loping down the side of a house on the opposite side of the street, coming straight toward them. The dwarf was hot on its heels, still cussing and yelling and waving the axe around.

“How did they get over there?” Dawg’s eyes were as big as saucers.

As the two deputies raced toward the dwarf, the rabbit turned right and streaked past several houses before turning again and running between two buildings. The dwarf was still right behind the creature.

“Stop! Stop or we’ll shoot!” Dawg yelled at the back of the departing figure.

When Whitewash and Dawg reached the side yard the dwarf had run down, they saw nothing. Once again, they heard a commotion behind them. They turned and looked just as the rabbit and the dwarf popped out from between two houses on the other side of the street.

Whitewash blanched. “That’s not possible!”

Using their shoulder microphones, Dawg and Whitewash contacted several of the other law enforcement agents who were manning various stakeout locations throughout the neighborhood. Soon, four sheriff’s deputies and six federal agents were chasing the dwarf and the rabbit around the neighborhood.

Dwarf and rabbit 2The dwarf and the rabbit always seemed to disappear between two houses on one side of the street, only to reappear a few seconds later, a little further down the road, running from between two houses on the other side of the street. They kept leading the law enforcement officials further and further down the lane, heading east, away from the house under surveillance.

* * *

Half of the task force was chasing the dwarf heading east, and all but two of the remaining members of the team were at the far western end of the street trying to figure out what was happening with the car that was being tailed, and the other identical cars that Johnson and Nolan swore they had seen leave the garage. Only two agents were still watching the dwelling when Dragon, in her customary elven guise, left the house with Cleric and Sorceress. The agents watched as the three figures crossed the street and hurried to the house of their neighbors, Mace and Gloria.

Dragon tapped on the door, then opened it just wide enough for her and her two companions to slip through. The two agents immediately ran over to the house. One agent crept up onto the porch of the house the three figures had just entered while his partner stayed on the sidewalk and used her walkie-talkie to contact the team leaders. “Johnson? Nolan? Denhurst here. Over.”

The radio crackled. “Nolan here. What’s up, Denhurst? Over.”

“Three of the people from the house we have staked out just left that house and entered the home of our two informants, Mace and Gloria. Over.”

“Stay there. Try to keep them in sight. Mace and Gloria could be in danger. Johnson and I will be right there. Out.”

Moments later, Johnson and Nolan joined the other two agents on the porch of Mace and Gloria’s house. Johnson placed his right index finger over his lips and pointed with his other hand. The front window was open a few inches, just enough to let the agents hear what was going on.

In the living room, Gloria was throwing a hissy fit, screeching and waving her hands around. “What is this? What are you three doing here? How dare you come into my home?”
Confronting Gloria
Dragon narrowed her eyes. “We want to know what is going on, Gloria. We know you are the reason the task force is here, watching us.”

“Get out!” Gloria ran to the window and peeked through the curtains. “Get out now, before you bring them here!”

Sorceress snorted. “And why would you not want them here?”

Gloria’s face contorted into a snarl. “Get out! Get out! You’re going to ruin everything! It was the perfect plan. We convinced the sheriff’s deputies those annoying neighbors, Marge and Miles, and all you people constantly visiting them, are involved in illegal activities. When they saw all of you, particularly that crazy old coot that goes around in the suit of armor and an axe, it was easy to get them to open an investigation. Then, Deputy Dawg called in the feds and they formed a task force. They staked out that house and have you all under surveillance. That way, everyone’s attention is on that house, and nobody notices what Mace and I do. We can’t risk having them come in here and finding . . .”

Gloria’s voice trailed off, and she looked around the room, her eyes wide with fear. She wiped her damp palms on her jeans and sweat poured down her face in rivulets.

“Finding what, Gloria?” Cleric advanced on the woman. “What is it you do not want them to find?”

Just then, Dragon yelped. “I hear someone out front. Come, we must leave. Head for the back door!”

Johnson jumped. “They’re running! Denhurst, you and your partner get to the back of the house and stop them. Nolan, we’ll take the front door.”

Johnson and Nolan waited until Denhurst radioed that she and her partner were in position at the back of the house. Then they drew their weapons and kicked in the front door to Mace and Gloria’s house.

Gloria was just coming down the hallway and into the living room with a hamper of laundry when two federal agents burst through the front door with weapons drawn. Gloria screamed, and dirty socks and wet towels went everywhere.

* * *

neighborNeighbor 2 facing leftLater that afternoon, Mace and Gloria met with federal agents. They threatened to press charges against the members of the task force. Gloria was almost hysterical. “They broke our front door, and they tore our entire house apart! They kept saying over and over and over that the jig was up, that they had heard everything! They claimed that right before they broke in they had seen and heard me talking with three people from my neighbors’ house. They’re wrong! I was alone in the house when they broke in!”

Mace was not much calmer than his wife. “Gloria said they pointed weapons at her! I think they’re all crazy!”

Every member of the task force was brought in to be debriefed by their superiors. Four sheriff’s deputies and six federal agents all claimed they had been chasing a suspect going east through the neighborhood. Deputy Dawg kept babbling about the chase. “It was that crazy old coot in armor. He had an axe, and he was chasing a rabbit. We called to him to stop, to drop his weapon, but he wouldn’t. He just kept chasing the rabbit. They would run between the houses, but then they would disappear and pop out from between the houses on the other side of the street!”

The deputy’s nine colleagues sat there with him, looking dazed. They all kept nodding at Dawg’s account.

Meanwhile, Agents Johnson and Nolan, along with four of their fellow task-force members, were gibbering about a car that kept leaving the garage over and over and over, without ever first re-entering it. And Agent Denhurst and her partner kept blathering about people who had been in a certain house, talking with the owner, and who just disappeared.

Their superiors frowned. One sighed and raked his hand through his hair. “Maybe it’s time for some of these people to be put on leave.”

Another answered, “Maybe it’s time for them to check into a nice, quiet rest home.”

 

* * *

dragon talking

Dragon smiled at her companions. “That was a good day’s work.”
Arrogant One
The Arrogant One nodded. He drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and grasped his cloak in both hands, puffing out his chest with pride. “I told you I was an illusionist extraordinaire.”

“You did a great job with Master Miles and the car!” The Gypsy’s voice held a grudging admiration for the elf.

Cleric chuckled. “And with our little chat with Gloria as well! Do you think Gloria was able to convince the authorities that she never saw us in her house, let alone spoke with us?”

Sorceress smirked. “Serves her right if she cannot!”

The Old Dwarf doubled over with laughter. “An’ tha looks on tha faces o them deputies! I couldna be belivin’ me ownest eyes, as ye been havin’ tha illusion ye been creatin’ o me be chasin’ thet fool rabbit all o’er tha place! Do ye be thinkin’ tha deputies be still tryin’ ta be catchin’ me?”

Dragon smirked. “I do not believe we will have to worry about the deputies or any of the others ever again.”

* * *

Easter 128Backyard 050As Miles pulled the car into the driveway, I commented, “I hope my characters had a nice, quiet day today and didn’t get into any trouble.”

Miles looked at me as if I had grown a second head. “Yeah. Right. Like that would ever happen!”

We both sighed.

So now that my characters have taken care of the intrepid Deputies Whitewash and Dawg and the other members of the task force, what’s next? Be sure to come back next week and see! We’ll leave the porch light on for you!

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Are They Still There?

Are They Still There?

Suits“Are they still out there?”

I was referring to County Sheriff ’s deputies Melody Whitewash and Dustin Dawg, and a slew of federal agents, who had been skulking around the neighborhood for the better part of two weeks. They plainly had our property under surveillance but would not tell us why.
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/10/21/what-have-my-characters-done-now/

making dinnerMy husband, Miles, shrugged. “I’m not sure. They’ve become so much a part of the scenery, I don’t even notice them anymore.” He took the potato peeler and started working on the mountain of spuds. “We better get dinner in the crock pots, so we can go rake the leaves. In the past two weeks, I think every tree and bush has shed every one of their leaves.”

I chuckled. “Yeah. It’s getting harder for the Keystone Kops to find hiding places.”

I took the Santoku knife and began cutting up the rest of the vegetables. “I still don’t know why we are under investigation.”

“Deputy Dawg stated that he didn’t say we are under investigation,” Miles reminded me.

“He also stated that he didn’t say we aren’t.” I frowned. “If it was just him and Deputy Whitewash prowling around the neighborhood, I wouldn’t be too worried. I would figure our nosy neighbors, Mace and Gloria, were behind it, and it would blow over as soon as the deputies couldn’t find any evidence of whatever the busybodies had accused us of this time.”

Miles nodded. “I agree. But with the alphabet soup of federal agencies involved in this alleged taskforce, I tend to think it’s something much more serious, something that’s not going to blow over any time soon.” He finished with his potatoes and started adding them to the slow cookers.

I stopped chopping and brushed the hair out of my eyes. “I’m still worried that it somehow involves my characters. I know they all deny doing anything that would cause us to be under investigation, but I also know you and I haven’t done anything illegal.”

Miles sighed. “And if it isn’t you and me, that only leaves your characters. Whenever there’s trouble, your characters seem to be right in the thick of things.”

Book manuscript“Honey, you know if I could, I’d send them all back into my manuscripts. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to do that. I still don’t understand how they all fell out of my manuscripts and ended up here, so I have no way to reverse the process.”

“I know, sweetheart. I don’t blame you.” My husband reached over and patted my hand.

* * *dragon talking

“I know Mistress Writer and Master Miles blame us for these people, these law enforcement officials, watching this property.” Dragon addressed a gathering of her fellow characters.
bounty-hunter-facing-other-direction
“They may accuse us, but we are blameless.” The Bounty Hunter slouched against the wall of the conference room. He spoke softly and without rancor.

Arrogant One facing rightIn contrast, his compatriot, the Arrogant One, drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and grasped his cloak in both hands. When he spoke, it was in an annoying high-pitched screech, a peculiar combination of arrogance and petulance. “They have no right to accuse us of anything. We are entirely innocent of all transgressions.”

foreman-facing-left“We all agree that we have done nothing to validate Mistress Writer’s lack of faith in us in this instance. However, this has not always been the case.” The Foreman narrowed his gray eyes and glared at the Arrogant One. “Some of us have caused Mistress Writer and Master Miles much grief in the past. It is no wonder they do not believe in our innocence.”

sorceress-facing-rightThe Arrogant One turned beet red and opened his mouth to reply, but Sorceress cut him off, holding up her hand like a cop stopping traffic. “This is unproductive. Does it really matter whether Mistress Writer blames us? Does it even matter whether we are innocent? If these law enforcers remain in the area and continue to observe the activities of Mistress Writer and Master Miles, sooner or later they will discover us.”

Dwarf facing right“An’ why would thet be so bad?” The Old Dwarf rubbed his shield with a soft cloth, buffing it to a shiny finish. He smiled as he saw his bearded face staring back at him. Then he stood, picked up his battleaxe, looked at his friends and scoffed. “Wot could tha law enforcers be doin’ ta us iffin they be discoverin’ us, anywho?”
Elf facing right
“I do not fear what they could do to us, but what they would do to Mistress Writer and Master Miles.” Cleric spoke softly, her words catching in her throat, and tears stinging her cornflower blue eyes.

Gypsydagger - bullseyeThe Gypsy nodded. “It would not be pleasant for them, trying to explain who we are and whence we came.” His arm snaked out, and his stiletto flew across the room, scoring a perfect bulls-eye on the target mounted on the far wall. “I propose we do something to rid the area of these intruders.”

Young hero 2The Young Hero’s eyes widened, and his jaw dropped. “Surely you do not propose murder!”

“Of course not!” His friend frowned. “But a few well-placed pokes with a dagger might deter them.”

“No.” The Young Hero shook his head. “Violence will only make them determined to find the perpetrator. They would never leave the area.”

Dragon with smoke“There will be no violence.” Dragon’s tone of voice left no room for debate. “We must employ some other means to get these people to abandon their investigation and leave the area, and we must do it without involving Mistress Writer or Master Miles.”

“I suppose you have a plan?” The annoying elf sounded more like he was accusing the big reptile, rather than asking a question. He stood with his arms folded tightly against his chest, and he tapped his foot impatiently.

“Mayhap.” Dragon’s eyes closed to slits, and dark smoke wafted from her nostrils.

* * *

The brittle brown leaves crunched and crackled underfoot as Miles and I raked them into sizeable piles.

Pretend bird watchers“Yup, they’re still there.” I jerked my thumb toward our neighbor’s yard. Deputies Whitewash and Dawg, along with several men in suits, seemed fascinated by something they had apparently spotted in one of our trees. They all stood there along the property line, focusing their binoculars on the bare tree at the edge of the yard.

“What are they watching?” Miles turned and raised a hand to shade his eyes, so he could scan the tree. Then turned back toward me, lifted his palms and shrugged. “I can’t see anything.”

I grinned. “Don’t be fooled by the phony bird watching act. They only bolted from their hiding places and pointed their binoculars at that tree when they realized we had spotted them watching us again.”

Miles sighed. “This is getting more than a bit annoying. We can’t even rake leaves in our own yard in peace.”

“Maybe we should talk to them again?” I leaned on my rake and inclined my head toward the group. They were in a huddle, whispering and glancing over at us.

Miles snorted. “I doubt it would do any good.”

We continued raking as the men in suits wandered off in groups of two and three. Soon, only the deputies remained.

Deputy Whitewash“Excuse me, ma’am, sir.” Deputy Whitewash waved at us and beckoned us closer.

“What can we do for you, Deputy?” I called to her from my position in the middle of the yard, not taking a single step in her direction.

“My partner and I would be more than happy to assist you with your yard work.” Her smile did nothing to warm her expression; rather, it made her look like a vampire trying to mesmerize its victim.

“Thanks for the offer, but Miles and I can manage.” I hoped my smile didn’t look as contrived as hers.

Miles nudged me and whispered, “Hey, if they want to give us a hand . . .”

I cut him off, shaking my head. “They don’t want to help. They want permission to come onto our property, so they can snoop. And if we let these two on the property, all the others will take it as tacit permission to do the same.”

Miles raised his eyebrows and sighed. “I never thought of that.” He paused, giving me a searching look. “You know, either you have become a lot more cynical lately, or you’ve been reading way too many police procedurals.”

“I laughed and winked. “Both. Now let’s get these leaves raked.”

* * *

dragon looking right“Does everyone understand?” Dragon looked from one character to the next. Each nodded in turn, but Dragon saw reluctance in some faces.

“Some of you do not approve?” Smoke drifted from her nostrils.foreman-facing-left

“It is risky.” The Foreman frowned.

Dragon shook her reptilian head. “There is no risk. The elf and I will be doing most of the work.”Gypsy close-up

The Gypsy snorted. “And therein lies the biggest risk – the elf.”

The others murmured their agreement. Dragon lifted an eyebrow. “Elf, you and I share the most important roles. Are you quite certain you can manage? It must be done with perfect timing.”

Arrogant One facing rightThe Arrogant One drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and grasped his cloak in both hands. He looked down his nose at Dragon and the others. “Of course I can manage. I am, after all, an illusionist extraordinaire!”

“Very well. Tonight, you will study the rest of us. You will need to know every detail of our appearance. Tomorrow, we will commence.”

What is Dragon’s plan? And will it work, or just create more problems for Mistress Writer and Master Miles? Be sure to come back next week and see what happens. We’ll leave the porch light on for you!

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Preparing for Halloween

Preparing for Halloween

me questioning my Foreman“Are you all sure you haven’t done anything?”

I was speaking to my characters, who were all busy working on various Halloween decorations.

My Foreman’s gray eyes locked on my brown ones. He frowned and when he spoke, his voice was tinged with annoyance. “I believe you have asked us that 20 times or more in the past few days, Mistress. I do not believe the answer has changed. None of us has done anything to attract the attention of any member of law enforcement.”Foreman's horse painted on pumpkin

He returned to painting a black stallion on his Halloween pumpkin.

Gypsy's Jack-o-lanternMy Gypsy glanced over at my Foreman’s pumpkin, shook his head, and chuckled. “That does not look very scary.” The lad examined the pumpkin he was carving. His tongue stuck out of the side of his mouth as he concentrated. He took his silver stiletto and carefully carved a few more slivers from the jack-o-lantern’s nose. He cocked his head, giving his work a critical appraisal. He nodded in satisfaction. “This is how a Halloween pumpkin should look. As for your question, Mistress, I believe the Foreman is correct. Our answers will not change, no matter how often you ask.”

My Old Dwarf snorted. “An’ wot could we be doin’ wot would be causin’ trubble wit yer law enforcers?”

I raised an eyebrow at that statement.

Dwarf's orange rock jack-o-lantern 2The dwarf paused and squished his eyebrows together as he looked at the large, orange rock he was painting. After a few minutes of deliberation, he carefully brushed some black paint on the rock, creating a reasonable facsimile of a jack-o-lantern . . . if a jack-o-lantern was supposed to look like a sick rabbit. Looking up at me, he continued the discussion. “Dinna ye be sayin’ thet tha people wot be skulkin’ about tha neighbor’s yard be tha same difference as our king’s guard? Thet they don na be jest tha law enforcers o yer little town here, they be tha law enforcers o yer whole country?”

I nodded.

“Wale, there ye be havin’ it, lass! There do na be much any o ussins kin be doin’ wat be so bad as ta be merittin’ tha attention o tha king’s guard!”

My head hurt from trying to follow both my Old Dwarf’s logic and his convoluted use of language. I frowned. “You haven’t been out in public in your full set of armor, have you? Maybe chasing rabbits down the street, threatening to cleave them with your axe?”

My Old Dwarf turned red and sputtered, but he swore to his innocence.

I started pacing around the room. “Well, what about the rest of you? Dragon, you haven’t let yourself been seen by the neighbors when you have been in your true form, have you?”

Dragon's pumpkinDragon had shrunk to the size of a Chihuahua to work on her pumpkin, which she was decorating by magic. She did not look up at my question, but black smoke poured from her nostrils. “Do you really think me so foolish as to allow the inhabitants of your world to see me unless I fully intended them to do so?”

I stared at her. “Well, have you intended them to do so?”

“I have not.” She put the finishing touches on her pumpkin.

I shrugged apologetically and raked my hand through my hair. “Well, someone must have done something. The FBI and all those others do not investigate someone unless they have cause.”

Young Hero's jack-o-lanternI sighed and continued pacing around, as my characters continued to work on their projects. I stopped next to my Young Hero, who was trying to make his jack-o-lantern even scarier than the one his best friend, my Gypsy, was making. “What about you? Have you been riding your pony off the property?”

The lad’s eyebrows shot up, and his mouth fell open. “I would never! The only time I have ridden him off the property was when we all went on that trail ride with Colton and his mother. A number of us went on that ride, including you, Mistress, and – if you will remember – Dragon used her spell of concealment to hide us from the neighbors.”
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/09/02/an-old-mystery-revisited/

I sighed and nodded. “Yes, I remember.”

Cleric's ghost and witch patternsI walked over to Cleric, who was creating patterns to sew ghost and witch pillows. “I don’t suppose you can think of anything you may have done? Maybe when you and Sorceress were out collecting botanicals for your spells?”

Cleric rearranged her ghost on the work table as she considered the question. She looked up at me, her cornflower eyes clear and guileless. “I do not believe anyone in the neighborhood was around when we left the property, Mistress.”

Sorceress's black cat pumpkinSorceress put another dab of paint on her black cat pumpkin, then looked over at me. She agreed with Cleric, and her tone, like my Foreman’s, was edged with annoyance at the questions. “Even if someone had seen us gathering plants and flowers, I do not think they would have paid us any attention. We did not go on private property or take anything from the areas you have warned us about – state or county parks where gathering specimens is illegal.”

“And before you even ask, we have done nothing!” My Arrogant One gestured to himself and his sidekick, my Bounty Hunter. “We have been working hard on the repairs to the shed roof.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/10/14/a-small-problem/

Arrogant One's Haloween scene“Don’t remind me.” I scowled and looked at the illusory figures he was conjuring for Halloween. “You haven’t created any illusions that may have been seen by any of our neighbors, have you?”

My Arrogant One drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and grasped his cloak in both hands. He answered me in his usual tone – half arrogant, half petulant, and entirely annoying. “I said we have done nothing!”

Bounty Hunter's ScarecrowMy Bounty Hunter looked up from the scarecrow he was stuffing with straw. The corners of his mouth twitched. “I can vouch for that. We have been working on the shed roof. Even at other times, the elf is usually with me, and I have seen him do nothing that would attract the attention of the neighbors or the gendarmes.”

I sighed once more.

Cleric looked up from her patterns. “Mistress? How do you like our Halloween decorations?”

I tried to focus on the decorations my characters were creating. “They are quite good!”

Cleric’s dazzling smile only lasted a moment. Then she furrowed her brow and chewed on her bottom lip. “We looked through the magazines you gave us, to come up with ideas. We saw lots of ghosts, witches, skeletons, monsters, and other scary things, and many variations of a thing called a jack-o-lantern, but nowhere could I find an explanation of this holiday.”

My Gypsy furrowed his brow and clucked. “We have celebrated Halloween with Mistress Writer and Master Miles in previous years. Do you not remember, Cleric?”

remembering past halloweensCleric nodded. “I remember Mistress and her spouse buying lots of candy to give to visitors. I remember children dressed in costumes, some beautiful, some scary, some strange, coming to the door for these sweet treats. I remember a few decorations being placed around the front door. But I have never really understood the meaning of the day.”

“I also lack an understanding of this day and its history.” Dragon looked at me expectantly.

“Well, let’s see . . .” I tried to think of a simple way to explain Halloween to a group of characters from an alien world. My characters gathered around to listen.

harvest“This holiday has its roots in the ancient celebration called Samhain, marking the end of summer and harvest, and the beginning of winter. ghosts, witchesIt was believed that on that night, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred, and the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. Some believed it to be the time when magic was at its strongest, with witches, demons, and other creatures able to openly walk the earth. I think I read somewhere that the practice of wearing costumes – which people still do today on Halloween – came from the ancient custom of people disguising themselves so that they would not be recognized and harmed by the creatures that walked the earth. Of course, Halloween has changed greatly over the centuries, as other religions and cultures tried to change it and adapt it to their beliefs and customs.”

Cleric wrinkled her brow and stroked her chin. “So how has Halloween changed?”

“Well, that’s even harder to explain than the origin of the holiday. It is no longer widely celebrated as a harvest feast, nor a magical time. Now, it’s mostly just for fun. In modern times in this country, there are many ways people celebrate the holiday. I think the most widely recognized celebration is Trick or Treat. Children in costume go from house to house, greeting the residents with the words trick or treat, a playful threat to play a trick on anyone who doesn’t give the children treats. Some people celebrate Halloween by watching scary movies or telling ghost stories. Other people have Halloween parties or create a haunted house for people to walk through and view.”haunted house

My Arrogant One’s eyes lit up. “Create a haunted house?”

I scowled at him. “Don’t get any ideas! The houses aren’t really haunted, nor are they created through magic. The people who create them just place a lot of creepy decorations around their homes, and dress in scary costumes, like witches or monsters. There are no real spirits haunting the houses, and there is no real magic involved, not even illusion. And it’s all done just for fun.”

The elf sighed. “That is not very creative.”

“It’s creative enough. You need to remember that this world is different from yours. Magic is not as commonplace, nor are mythological creatures or any of the things we would term demons or monsters.”

“Mistress?” Cleric tugged on my sleeve. “Mistress, did you not once write a scary poem for Halloween? I believe I remember you reading it to us once.”

“Well, I wrote a little ditty once for Halloween, but I really don’t know how scary it is.”

My Young Hero furrowed his brow. “A Halloween poem?”

I shrugged. “Well, sort of. A mood piece that could be used for Halloween.”

My Gypsy scratched his head. “I do not remember hearing it, Mistress. Could you read it to us?”

“I suppose so, if you really want to hear it.”

Several of my characters nodded and murmured their assent.

“I’ll go get a copy.”

It only took me a few minutes to return with a copy of my poem, written many years earlier. I cleared my throat and read it.

Illustration for poem

                            Night Fears

Shadows steal through moonlit room,
Stairs creak and groan and sigh.
Tree limb taps on window pane
As wind moans through the pines.

Field mice scuttle through dry leaves;
Far off, some dog howls.
Trash cans rattle, curtains rustle,
Imagination growls.

Blood rushes, pounding in your ears,
Mouth grows desert dry.
Horror tiptoes from your heart
Up to strangle your mind.

 

 

My characters sat there, looking at me as if expecting more.

I sighed. “Sorry, folks, that’s it. Just a short little piece, nothing more. How did you like it?”

“Oh . . . oh, well, it is quite . . . interesting, Mistress.” Sorceress looked like a deer caught in the headlights as she attempted to be complimentary.

“Yes. Ah, very . . . very evocative.” My Foreman swallowed hard and turned away quickly.

“Wale, I be likin’ it, lass! It be turnin’ tha skin on me arms all ta gooseflesh, an’ tha hair on me neck be all standin’ up, bristly-like.” My Old Dwarf patted my arm before returning to his rocks. “Now, iffin ye be excusin’ me, there be a second rock wot be needin’ some paint.”Dwarf's second orange rock jack-o-lantern

I watched as the old reprobate transformed the second rock into a much better representation of a jack-o-lantern than his first effort had produced.

For today's blog 001As I was admiring my Old Dwarf’s latest effort, Miles entered the conference room.

I looked at him, taking in his worried expression. “Honey, what’s wrong?”

following Miles“Nothing, really, I guess. It’s just that those cops . . . detectives . . . investigators . . . agents . . . whatever they all are . . . are still lurking all around the neighborhood. There were two people in a county sheriff’s car at the end of our street, and they actually followed me to the supermarket!”

“This is getting ridiculous! I wish there was some way to stop it.”

dragon talking“I could take care of it for you.” Dragon’s voice dripped with sweetness, and the expression on her face was pure innocence.

“No roasting anyone!” Miles and I replied in unison.

Dragon shrugged. “As you wish.” She turned away, but not before I saw a sly smile parting her reptilian lips.

 

What is Dragon planning? And will it work? Be sure to come back next week and see. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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What Have my Characters Done Now?

What Have my Characters Done Now?

computer_keyboardpen and writing pad for blogAfter sufficiently recovering from my . . . uhm . . . small problem of the day before (https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/10/14/a-small-problem/), I decided I had neglected my Young Adult Fantasy series for far too long. But before I could return to my book manuscripts, I had to work on this week’s blog.

office-and-bookshelf-for-blog-002I went to my office, intent on getting my blog outlined and written. Evidently, my brain had other ideas. This is a frequent occurrence. A very frequent occurrence. To quote a famous sports figure, it was déjà vu all over again.

computer-308393_960_720I stared at the blank computer screen and tried to wrestle some ideas into submission. My fingernails tapped out a staccato beat on my desk, and I grumbled under my breath. Why did I ever start this blog? No one ever told me how difficult it would be to come up with fresh, new ideas every single week!

“Mistress?”

Elf facing rightI just about jumped out of my skin. If an idea had been about to cooperate and take shape, it was lost now. I spun my chair around, ready to bite someone’s head off. I found myself looking up into the soulful, cornflower-blue eyes of my Cleric, and bit back my impending outburst.

“What can I do for you?”

“I just wanted to make certain you were feeling better after your ordeal yesterday. I was so glad I was able to help.”

Cleric’s warm smile was infectious, and I returned it in kind. “I greatly appreciate your help. I assure you, I’m fully recovered, and now it’s back to work for me.” I glanced pointedly at the computer, my smile fading to a scowl.

“I shall take my leave, then, Mistress, so you can continue with your work uninterrupted.” She turned and skipped off down the hallway, leaving me and the blank screen to stare at each other again.

Pileated Woodpecker on suet logI sighed. I removed my glasses, cleaned them on my shirttail, and put them back on. I squirmed around in my chair. I looked out the window and stared at the huge Pileated Woodpecker on the underside of the suet log. Hmmm…maybe… My fingers moved toward the keyboard.

“Mistress?”

Young hero 2GypsyI jumped again, another idea flying out of my brain, probably never to return. For a second time, I swiveled my chair around, ready to give someone a severe tongue-lashing. This time, it was my Young Hero and my Gypsy sticking their heads in the door. I groaned.

“What is it?”

“It is almost noon. We thought you might want some lunch.” My Gypsy had obviously started without me, as he spoke around a mouthful of food.

food-dinner-pasta-broccoliMy Young Hero placed a small platter on my desk. “There were plenty of leftovers from last night’s dinner.”

“Yes, I had thought to have them for this night’s dinner.” I attempted to frown, but the food did smell good, and my stomach was growling. As usual, I had lost track of time while working on my blog.

After a quick bite to eat and some chit-chat with the lads, I thanked them and handed them the empty platter. They headed upstairs, and I turned back to my computer once more.

146-computer-free-vector-clip-art-lTwenty minutes later, my screen was still blank. I rubbed my head, which was starting to pound. Suddenly, I blinked several times rapidly and leaned in toward the computer. Oh, this is a great idea! My readers will love this! My hands were poised over the keyboard, ready to start typing.

“Mistress?”

I jerked, and my fingers tripped all over themselves, the letters on the monitor jumbling into an incoherent mess.

Arrogant One“What?” I whirled my chair around, ready to take no prisoners. My Arrogant One stood just inside my office door.

My eyes narrowed, and I slowly rose from my chair. “Out. Now.” I pointed to the door.

“But…”

“Now!” I advanced on the annoying elf, the perpetrator of my small misadventure of the preceding day.

He stammered. “B…b…but the Old Dwarf said…”

“If you aren’t out of here in the next 10 seconds, what I do to you will be a hundred times worse than anything my Old Dwarf could ever dream of doing!”

I took another step toward him, and my Arrogant One turned and fled down the hallway and up the stairs. I heard the back-door slam, so presumably the elf was going to take refuge in the shed.

One more time. I sighed as I returned to my seat. The great idea I had conceived just moments before would not revisit my brain. I spent the next half-hour staring at the blank screen, half-formed ideas chasing each other around my mind. Suddenly, my head jerked up and I smiled. Eureka! I started to type again.

“Mistress?”

“Aaaauuugh!”

sorceress-facing-rightI twisted around in my chair to see the latest intruder. Sorceress stood there, her brow furrowed.

I narrowed my eyes and crossed my arms. “What is it?”

Sorceress hesitated in the face of my obvious annoyance. “I am sorry. Am I disturbing you?”

“No, I always give a murderous look to every fifth person who interrupts my train of thought while I’m writing.” I glared at her.

“Mayhap I should return later.” She started backing out of the room.

“You’re here now. Why don’t you just tell me what you want?”

“Well…” She hesitated again, chewing on her lower lip.

“Well?”

“Mistress, do you remember the two sheriff’s deputies who were here earlier this year?”

I felt the blood drain from my face. Remember them? How could I forget them?

2 Police OfficersDeputy Melody Whitewash was a rather non-descript, but extremely efficient, law-enforcement officer. Her partner, Deputy Dustin Dawg, was a barrel-chested hulk who perpetually wore sunglasses, outdoors or in. They had first come to our door in February of this year, investigating a complaint lodged by our neighborhood nosey-bodies, Mace and Gloria, who claimed we were keeping horses on our residential property. I thought the deputies were going to shoot my Old Dwarf, who had held them at bay with his axe when he thought they might disturb my husband and me. (https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/02/18/more-visitors/)

I shuddered at the memory. “I remember them. What do those two want now?”

Sorceress wrinkled her nose and tilted her head. “Well, I am not certain what they want, Mistress.”

I furrowed my brow. “Oh?”

Sorceress nodded. “Your Old Dwarf has observed them skulking about the edges of the property.”

I sighed. The blog would have to wait. I needed to find out what the intrepid deputies were up to.exterior-interior-wonderful-white-wooden-entrance-glass-double-french-door-frames-as-modern-interior-accesories-decors-witching-french-door-inspirational-pictures-collection-interior-french-doors-whit-840x1120

I followed Sorceress up the stairs to the living room. We went over to the French doors leading to the deck and peered through the glass.

“See? There, in the next yard.” Sorceress pointed to the left.

Deputies trying to hideI tried not to giggle. “I wonder if Deputy Dawg really believes that tree is wide enough to hide him.”

Sorceress arched an eyebrow and shrugged. “It does a better job concealing him than that short bush does concealing his partner.”

I smirked and shook my head. “Do you happen to know where Dragon is currently? I need to ask her about the spell of concealment she has cast on the property. I don’t want to walk over to the edge of the yard and start talking to the deputies if they can’t see me. It might be hard to explain a disembodied voice.”

dragon talking“You need not worry.” Dragon had overheard the last part of the conversation as she entered the room. “The spell does not conceal anyone who is from your world, what you term the real world. It only conceals your characters and the illusions I have created, such as the barn, the paddocks, and the horses. If you walk out into the yard, the deputies will see you.”

I nodded. “Good. I think it’s time to have a conversation with the deputies. In the meantime, where are the precise boundaries of the spell? At what point would you or any of my other characters become visible to the residents of our real world?”

“Of course, you and Master Miles can see us wherever we are. Other people from your world would see us any time we leave the property.”

“You mean you are invisible until you step off the property, then poof! You’re visible?”

“That is correct.”

I frowned. “That’s no good. Can the spell be altered?”

Dragon nodded. “How do wish it altered?”

horses-all-gone-for-blog“I think from now on, if anyone wants to leave the property, they need to leave the house through the front door and be visible there, just as Miles and I are visible walking out of the house. That way, it looks natural when they walk down the sidewalk and step out onto the street. They don’t just suddenly appear and scare the heart and soul out of anyone who sees them. They should still be concealed by the spell if they are in the back yard.”

Dragon nodded again. “It shall be done.”

Sorceress sighed. “I best inform the others, so they all know to exit the property through the front door and down the driveway.”

I smiled at the two of them. “Thanks. Now I’m off to see what’s up with the deputies.”

Talking to deputiesAs I crossed the yard, the two deputies saw they had been spotted. They stepped out from behind the vegetation and tried to look nonchalant.

I pasted on a grim smile as I greeted them. “Deputy Whitewash! Deputy Dawg! It’s so nice to see you again. Is there anything I can help you with?”

“No, not a thing,” Deputy Whitewash assured me. Her partner merely grunted and gawked at the tree as if watching for squirrels.

I narrowed my eyes. “You seem to be surveilling my property. Is something wrong?”

“No, not a thing,” Deputy Whitewash assured me again, and again her partner merely grunted.

I folded my arms over my chest. “Then why are you watching my property?”

Deputy Dawg drew himself up, hooking his thumbs into his belt. “We’re not at liberty to discuss any ongoing investigations. Department policy.”

“Are you saying my husband and I are under investigation?”

“Didn’t say that.”
Police Officer in sunglasses
I frowned. I wish he’d take his sunglasses off. It’s hard to tell what he’s thinking when I can’t even see his eyes. “Well, then, we’re not under investigation?”

“Didn’t say that, either.”

“Well then, unless you have a warrant allowing you to trespass on my neighbor’s property and stare at my house, I think you had best leave.”
Another person hiding

The two deputies glanced surreptitiously at a nearby tree as if looking for answers. That’s when I spied another figure hiding behind that tree. Judging from his attire, he was not a member of the sheriff’s department.

 

I balled my hands into fists and placed them on my hips. “Just what is going on here?”

SuitsI jumped back when a surprising number of figures, all similarly dressed in black suits, stepped into sight from behind trees, bushes, and the neighbor’s house. One man hurried over to stand in front of the deputies. “Ma’am, as Deputy Dawg indicated, we are engaged in an ongoing investigation and cannot discuss the details with civilians. If you return to your house, you will be safe.”

I scowled at the man. “So, something’s going on that makes my back yard unsafe?”

“We can neither confirm nor deny that, ma’am.”

“Then can you at least tell me who is involved in this ongoing investigation? You certainly don’t look like a sheriff’s deputy.”
Deputy Whitewash
Before the man could stop her, Deputy Whitewash replied, “He’s not. This is a joint taskforce between local law enforcement represented by the county sheriff’s office, and the FBI, ICE and Homeland Security.”wide-eyed

My jaw dropped. What had my characters done now?

 
Be sure to come back next week. If we’re not all in prison, we’ll be sure to leave the porch light on for you.

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A Small Problem

A Small Problem

...gloomy weatherThe sun didn’t last, either with the weather or with my character’s dispositions. The day after I had taken the nature hike with my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter
(https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/10/07/colorful-autumn-nature-walk/), the weather turned cool, overcast and gloomy again. Tempers returned to hot and fractious.

bounty-hunter-facing-other-directionMy Bounty Hunter raised his voice and waved his hands about in frustration. “Master Miles has purchased all the materials we need – roofing tiles, nails, tar paper. He has shown us where the ladders and hammers are. There is no excuse to further delay this work.”

Arrogant One facing right

“Just how do you propose to fix the shed roof in this weather?” My Arrogant One all but snarled at his companion.

My Bounty Hunter narrowed his eyes. “I propose to go out there and work hard at it and get it done before the rain starts again this afternoon. However, I would expect you to do it the same way you would do it in any weather. You will either attempt to accomplish the task through your usual chicanery and sleight of hand, or you will have someone else do the work for you, as always.”

“Chicanery? Sleight of hand?” My Arrogant One’s cheeks flamed. He drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and grasped his cloak in both hands. “I do not use chicanery! I am a master magician. I can repair that roof using my extraordinary power and no one will ever be the wiser!”

My Bounty Hunter snorted. “You tried that last week, remember? The roof with your magically accomplished repairs leaked worse than it had before!”

Having overheard the heated exchange, I shook my head and decided the wisest thing to do was to ignore the two quibblers and let them sort out their own differences.

...shed roof repairsAn hour later, I glanced out the back door. The clouds had dispersed, and I was pleased to see my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter hard at work on the shed roof repairs. While I was watching them, some songbirds came up and started eating from the feeders on the deck. I ran to get my camera.

When I got back, the little birds were gone and one of the neighborhood crows we had dubbed Charlie perched on the deck railing. I slowly opened the door and eased myselfonto the deck. “Hey, Charlie! Wanna pose for me, big guy?”

American Crow
Charlie reluctantly posed for one quick shot. Then he decided it would be more fun to go join his friends and harass my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter while they worked on the shed roof. I chuckled.

...shed roof repairs with crows
With the big birds at a safe distance, some of the smaller backyard denizens quickly returned to check out the food supply on the deck.

A Black-capped Chickadee landed on the bottom of the railing. Pausing just long enough to make sure the crows were still occupied, it quickly hopped over to grab some safflower seeds from the bowl.

One of a pair of White-breasted Nuthatches soon replaced the chickadee at the bowl while the other one checked out the pile of seed at the other end of the deck.

A juvenile Red-winged Blackbird visited one of the feeding stations while two others posed for me, showing off their beautiful brown-and-gold edged black feathers.

Some American Goldfinches, transitioning to their muted winter plumage, were glad to pose for me between snacks, while others watched from a nearby tree.

Three House Finches – two males and one female – with seed shells still clinging to their beaks, paused to let me snap a few quick images.

I was surprised to see a young Northern Cardinal, barely past the fledgling stage, come up on the deck to check things out. I quickly scanned the yard and saw its mom and dad in one of the hanging feeders.

I descended the stairs to the yard. A female Red-bellied Woodpecker checked me out from a tree trunk on the opposite side of the yard. Deciding I was no threat, she swooped down and plucked a safflower seed from the hanging feeder. One of the White-breasted Nuthatches walked, head-first, down another tree trunk, eyeing the feeder.

Some Dark-eyed Juncos foraging in the leaf litter near the deck eyed me warily as I stalked them with my camera.

A young Eastern Gray Squirrel watched me suspiciously from a tree but ran down quickly enough when I offered him a handful of grapes. He snatched them from me and hungrily munched a few right away before taking another to the safety of his tree.Young Eastern Gray Squirrel (4)


Young Eastern Gray Squirrel (5)
An Eastern Chipmunk, his cheeks bulging, let me take a few shots before he scampered away in the direction of the shed.

I followed him, hoping to get some more photos. I was just about to take another photo when I heard my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter arguing again.
...waving staff
“I’ll just shrink it all. It will make it much easier to haul up the ladder.” Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my Arrogant One raise his staff.

My Bounty Hunter shook his head and sneered at his companion. “The illusion of a smaller load will not make it any lighter.”

“Oh, this is not an illusion. This is a spell I learned from a wizard. It actually shrinks the object, reducing the mass and the weight.” The elf waved his staff.

The next thing I knew, I was eye-level with the chipmunk I was photographing....me photographing the chipmunk

For several long minutes, I was frozen in place, staring through the camera’s viewfinder at the tiny creature who was staring back at tiny me. Then I dropped to the ground, my rubbery legs unable to support me.

“What just happened?” I jumped at the sound of my own voice, which suddenly trilled like a chipmunk on helium.

...alarmed chipmunkThe chipmunk scooted up a tree and sat on a low branch, eyeing me and chirping its high-pitched staccato alarm.

I scowled at the noisy little critter. “Hey, what are you complaining about? I’m the one who’s suddenly five inches tall instead of my normal just-shy-of-five feet!” I winced at the sound of my squeaking.

I rubbed the back of my neck. What had happened to me? I remembered my Arrogant One’s words . . . the ones he had said right before he waved his staff. Oh, this is not an illusion. This is a spell I learned from a wizard. It actually shrinks the object, reducing the mass and the weight.

I blinked. Then I blinked again. Could I be the victim of a spell gone awry?
... in the tall grass
I rose on shaky legs and looked around, trying to get my bearings. All I could see was grass. I stood on my tippy-toes and looked up. Craning my neck, I saw the shed off to my right. Climbing through the jungle-like growth, I tried to make my way there. I needed to get my Arrogant One to put this to rights, and quickly!

...trying to get their attention 2I got to the ladder and stopped dead. I looked up at the ladder ascending to the shed roof. I looked up . . . and up . . . and up. Then I lost my balance and toppled over, landing on my . . . well, let’s just say I did not land in a dignified manner.

I picked myself up, dusted off the seat of my jeans, and considered the situation. The ladder was full-sized. I was chipmunk sized, but without the climbing ability of a rodent. How was I going to get my Arrogant One’s attention? I frowned and started jumping up and down and calling. “Hey! Hey, elf! Down here! Hey! Can you hear me?”

Again, my voice was akin to a chirping bird or a squeaking mouse. The only one whose attention I caught was Charlie the crow. I gave up and decided to try walking back to the house. It suddenly looked as if it were miles away! How many hours – or days, even – would it take me to fight my way across the yard through grass that now varied from waist-high to shoulder-high for me?

I hadn’t gotten very far when Charlie swooped down and landed right in front of me. The big crow eyed me curiously, and for a moment it looked as if I might become a birdie snack....Charlie and little me

“Whoa, Charlie. It’s me – the one who always makes sure you have plenty of corn to eat!” The large bird cocked his head and stared at me. I couldn’t blame him, since I was doing more squeaking than speaking.

Suddenly, the huge bird cawed, an explosion of sound that blasted my miniscule eardrums. I covered my ears and yelled. Actually, I squeaked some more, but louder and with more panic in my voice. “Go away! Get out of here! Go on, Charlie! Scram!”

Luckily, Charlie took the hint. He flew off toward the house, cawing urgently.

...startled rabbitI started off again, trying to make my way back to the house. As I walked, I became aware of a noise behind me, a thudding that was growing increasingly louder. I looked over my shoulder and saw two horses walking straight at me. My heart started racing, and I could hardly breathe. As the horses bore down on me, I started running, right past a startled rabbit.
...running from horse
The rabbit bolted, spooking the horses into a gallop. I tripped in the tall grass and lost my bearings. I headed off in another direction, and luckily fell into a shallow hole, just as one of the horse’s hooves came down right where I had just been standing.

...climbing out of the holeAfter a few minutes, I pulled myself up and tried to get out of the shallow depression. Well, it would have been shallow – it would have been hardly noticeable – had I been my normal size. As it happened, however, I was approximately the size of a chipmunk . . . a very small chipmunk . . . so it took me a few minutes to struggle out of the hole once the horses had moved away.

As soon as I was out of the hole, and I had caught my breath, I got my bearings again and headed toward the house. I looked around warily, hoping no other creatures would spy me trudging through the tall grass.

It seemed like hours later that I stood at the edge of the rock-strewn garden. I stopped to catch my breath. I grinned, congratulating myself for making it the length of the yard without being squashed by a horse or becoming a mid-day snack for any of the critters.

...snakeAs I stood there, my grin slowly faded. Maybe I had congratulated myself a little too soon. A snake was slithering in my direction. I froze in abject terror. I knew I couldn’t outrun a snake. And if there was another hole nearby, it wouldn’t be much help, as the snake could just follow me right into it. I was a goner!

Just as I convinced myself I was destined to perish in the stomach of a snake, Charlie swooped down, cawing loudly and chasing off my would-be attacker. Then a soft hand reached down and grabbed me....Cleric saving me

“Cleric!”

Cleric held me gently. “Charlie alerted me to your danger. How did you come to be in this predicament?”

I rubbed the back of my neck and sighed. “I’m not positive, but I believe I became collateral damage when my Arrogant One cast a shrinking spell on the material he and my Bounty Hunter were hauling up onto the shed roof.”

Cleric gasped. “Well, it appears they have finished their repairs and are gathering up their tools and supplies. We shall inform the elf of this calamity and have him reverse the spell immediately.” She squared her shoulders, made sure she had a good grasp on me, and marched toward the shed.

“Out of the way!” My Arrogant One bumped into Cleric as he and my Bounty Hunter struggled to take the ladder down from the side of the shed.

Cleric frowned and refused to be pushed aside. “Wait! You have caused a problem, and you must correct it at once!”

“What problem?” My Arrogant One sneered.Arrogant One

...confronting my Arrogant OneIn reply, Cleric held out her hand. My Arrogant One’s eyes widened, but my Bounty Hunter snickered. I skewered him with my narrow-eyed glare.

“Wha . . . what happened?” The elf backed away, his eyes growing as large as saucers.

“Evidently, Mistress Writer was caught by your shrinking spell.” Cleric scowled at the elf. “You must reverse the spell.”

My Arrogant One’s eyes grew so wide, I though his eyeballs were going to pop right out of his head. “But . . . but . . .” He swallowed hard. “I cannot reverse the spell.”

“What?” I shrieked in my little chipmunk-on-helium voice.

“What?” Cleric echoed in a more understandable tone.

“I already reversed the spell on the roofing materials, once we hauled them up onto the roof. I cannot reverse a spell twice.”

“If you reversed the spell already, why am I still this size?” I crossed my arms over my chest and glowered at the elf.

The elf’s cheeks flamed. “I . . . I surmise you were in the path of the original shrinking spell, but not in the path of the reversal spell.”

My Bounty Hunter snickered. “I would say you have a small problem.”

I scowled at him.

Cleric stared at my Arrogant One. “So, what do you propose to do?”

“I do not know.” My Arrogant One stroked his chin and considered the problem. After a few moments, he turned to my Bounty Hunter. “Go find Sorceress and Dragon. Mayhap they will have an idea how to deal with this.”

bounty-hunter-facing-other-directionStill snickering, my Bounty Hunter nodded and sauntered away.

What seemed like a lifetime later, he returned with Dragon, in her guise of an elf maiden, along with Sorceress, and my Gypsy. “I brought all the magic users. I thought you could use all the help you could get. I have already explained to them that you have a small problem.”

I glared at him. “That joke wasn’t funny the first time.”

While my Arrogant One, Cleric, Sorceress, and my Gypsy argued over the best way to return me to my own size, Dragon shape-shifted back to her true form. She sniffed me, then went over to my Arrogant One and started sniffing him.

“What are you doing?” The elf turned scarlet and batted at Dragon. “Get away from me, you vile beast!”

dragon talking“Be silent and remain still.” Dragon took a few more sniffs. Then she smiled a toothy grin and turned to address us all. “Magic has a distinctive odor. Each spell will have subtle aromatic indicators, easily detectable by a dragon’s superior sense of smell.”

“Then you know how to reverse the spell?” I looked at her hopefully.

“No. As the elf told you, the spell has already been reversed. It cannot be reversed a second time.”

My face fell. I fired a barrage of questions at Dragon, who held up her hand to stop me. “The original spell cannot be reversed again, but I am able to weave and cast a new spell that will have the same result as a reversal spell.”

“Will it take very . . .?”

I hadn’t even finished asking my question when Dragon waved her hand and mumbled a few unintelligible words. Poof! I was standing there, back at my full four-feet-ten-and-a-half-inches, slightly breathless but grinning ear-to-ear.

...ear-to-ear grin
That night, Miles asked me how my day had been. I raised an eyebrow. “Not bad. I just had one small problem.”...me and the chipmunk

Be sure to join us again next week for further adventures and misadventures. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Colorful Autumn Nature Walk

Colorful Autumn Nature Walk

Arrogant One facing rightstill raining

“I cannot believe it is still raining!” My Arrogant One stomped his foot and scowled as he looked out the door at the gloomy drizzle.

ShedBounty Hunter

“And I cannot believe you have not yet repaired the leaky roof in the shed.” My Bounty Hunter glowered at his companion.

My Arrogant One drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and grasped his cloak in both hands. “I have done my part. I do not see you offering to help!”

Dragon breathing smoke

Dragon shook her scaly head, and black smoke drifted from her snout. “I cannot believe you two are still complaining about everything! Did you learn nothing from our recent exercise, the Gratitude Scavenger Hunt?”

(Part 1) https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/09/23/were-doing-what/
(Part 2) https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/09/30/gratitude-scavenger-hunt/

My Arrogant One rounded on the bulky beast. “Oh, and I am to understand that by virtue of the fact you participated in that assignment, you are suddenly Little Miss Sunshine?”

Dragon blinked. “I do not believe there was anything sudden about it. I have always had a sunny disposition.”

What?” My Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter screeched in unison, and several other of my characters doubled over in laughter.

sorceress-facing-right“You are one of the most mercurial individuals I know.” Sorceress raised an eyebrow at her reptilian friend. “I am always tempted to consult my star charts before approaching you, to determine if you are more likely to aid me or incinerate me!”Elf

Cleric nodded, and she fidgeted with the silken cord belting her robes. “I fear I must agree with Sorceress. You are subject to extreme mood variations.”

dragon looking rightfireplace2Dragon harrumphed and glowered at her companions. “I see. Well, you do not have to worry about approaching me at all. I am going to the conference room and bask in front of my fireplace.” She stomped away in high dudgeon, and the rest of my characters resumed their complaining.

Two days later, the change in both the weather and my character’s attitudes was nothing short of amazing. The day dawned clear and bright and unseasonably warm after several weeks of cool, rainy weather. My characters chatted amiably during a rushed early morning meal. Anxious to be enjoying themselves outdoors, they gobbled their breakfast and dispersed to their individual activities shortly after first light.

My Foreman and the lads headed to the illusory stable to spend the day working their horses. Cleric, Sorceress, and Dragon went out to gather botanicals for their spell components. My Old Dwarf went with them to look for rocks and pieces of wood that might prove suitable for carving.

camera for blogMy husband saw me gathering my camera equipment and gave me a big smile. “No need to ask what you’re planning! Nature photography! Do you have someplace special in mind?”

I returned his smile and held up a brochure from a nearby wildlife preserve and nature center. “I think I’m going back to this preserve. I really enjoyed it last time I went. It has a variety of habitats – a big lake, a hardwood forest and a native pine woodlands, wetlands, prairie, and savanna. What are your plans for the day?”

Miles sighed. “I need to take my car in for servicing today. Then I have to stop by one of the lumber yards and pick up some roofing shingles for the shed.”

I nodded. “Well, okay, I’ll try not to miss you too much!” I gave him a hug and a quick peck on the cheek before we were interrupted.

“Mistress?”

I turned around and saw my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter standing there. To my experienced eye, they appeared suspect.

I furrowed my brow. “Yes?”

“Would it be possible for us to join you today?”

I had rarely heard my Arrogant One sound so meek. My frown deepened. “Why?” Realizing how rude I sounded, I backpedaled. “I mean, why would you want to? I didn’t think hiking and nature photography held much interest for either of you.”

“Quite the contrary!” My Bounty Hunter’s eyes widened, and he assumed an open and guileless demeanor. “We have enjoyed past nature walks we have taken with you.”

“And we must wait for Master Miles to purchase the necessary supplies, so we can repair the shed roof. Therefore, we have nothing pressing on our agenda for this day.” My Arrogant One seemed nervous, clutching his cloak and shuffling his foot.

I hesitated, an uneasy feeling coming over me as I watched my two characters standing there awaiting my decision, displaying uncharacteristic patience and courtesy. “Well, okay, but you know the rules. You’ll wear modern garments and take no weapons or magic paraphernalia.”staff

My Arrogant One’s eyes widened. “Not even my staff? You yourself use a walking stick, and my staff functions perfectly as such.”Walking stick - Marge

I narrowed my eyes and considered. “Very well, you may take a walking stick – but remember that is to be its only function.”Walking stick - Bounty Hunter

My Bounty Hunter’s mouth curved into a smarmy smile. “Then I, too, will bring one – I have a thick longbow that easily doubles as a walking stick.”

My uneasy feeling grew stronger.

“Okay, but I want no trouble from either of you on the trail today. If we encounter other people, they best not be able to tell your walking sticks are anything other than just that.”

They both nodded, but as I turned, I thought I saw them exchange furtive glances.

“Meet me at the car in 15 minutes.”

*  *  *

It took less than a half hour to drive to the preserve. I parked near the nature center and the three of us piled out of the car. I grabbed my camera and equipment, and we all took our walking sticks. I locked the car and pointed to a path exiting the parking lot to my left. “Let’s start with the trail to the lake.”

“Why not start at the nature center? We are right here.” My Bounty Hunter pointed to the building surrounded by bird feeders adjacent to the parking lot.

I shook my head. “I’d like to finish our walk there. Right now, there’s too much activity around that area. School groups go in and out all morning, and it can get noisy. The birds tend to stay away. But things quiet down in the afternoon, and the staff refills the feeders then, so our chances of seeing birds there will be better at that time.”

My two characters nodded. I led off, expecting them to follow me. Instead, they hung back a bit. I thought I heard them arguing, but when I glanced back over my shoulder, they were already scurrying to catch up with me.

We had not yet gotten out of the parking lot when my Bounty Hunter grabbed me by the arm. I yelped and pulled away.

He raised an eyebrow. “It is a good thing Cleric is not with us. She would be squealing right now.” He used his walking stick to point to a reddish-brown snake slithering across the blacktop.October Hike - snake 2

I ducked my head sheepishly, realizing my Bounty Hunter’s intentions had been harmless. “Uh, yeah. It looks like a Red-bellied Snake.” I took a few quick shots of it before it reached the edge of the asphalt and disappeared into the grass, and we continued walking toward the lake.

My Arrogant One studied the trees. “The foliage is surprisingly colorful! I did not think this would be a good year, with the earlier drought followed by the heavy rain over the last few weeks.”

I nodded. “I had the same misgivings. Glad to see we were wrong.” I took a few photos of the trees.

As we walked toward the lake, I pointed out the animals I saw, identifying them for my two companions as I took photos. “There’s an American Robin in that tree. There’s a White-breasted Nuthatch on that tree trunk, and another hanging upside down from that pine bough. And there’s an Eastern Chipmunk on that rock in front of the fallen log.”

We passed out of the woods and found ourselves next to a large lake.

“Canada Geese.” My Arrogant One pointed. “We have them on our pond, and we seem to see them on every outing.” He leaned on his staff and watched the birds swimming in the clear blue water.

I nodded, maneuvering to a good spot to get some photos. “They’re very common.”

“Look!” My Bounty Hunter pointed to some birds soaring silently overhead. “Those strange looking birds are not Canada Geese. What are they?”

“American White Pelicans. They’re one of the largest birds you’ll see in North America, and they have massive bills that they use to scoop up fish.” I tried to capture a few images of the birds in flight.

The squadron of pelicans landed on the far side of the lake, too distant for my camera to get any good shots. We left the lake and took the trail to the left, skirting a large wetland adjacent to the lake. We found two more Canada Geese there and I took their photos.

Then my Arrogant One pointed. “Are those not the tall birds you like so much? I believe you called them Sandhill Cranes.”

I nodded and smiled, taking photos of two crossing the meadow toward the tree line.

My Bounty Hunter tapped me on the shoulder and pointed. “Another one.” I snapped a quick photo as it tried to hide in the tangle of vegetation.

October hike - Sandhill Crane 3

As I turned, I spotted a few American Goldfinches eating the seeds of the wildflowers in the field, and I stopped to take several photos. “They flit around so quickly, it’s hard to get a clear image of them.”

After I got their pictures, I took some shots of a tall tree in the middle of the meadow, decked out in its coat of autumn yellow, then took several more photos of the fall foliage.

As I turned around, my companions were standing a few feet away, huddled together, examining their walking sticks and holding a whispered conversation. I furrowed my brow but held my tongue as they quickly rejoined me on the trail.

As we approached another section of woods, my Arrogant One pointed at something with his staff. “I am seeing a lot of similar-looking birds in the trees and bushes along the forest edge. What are they?”

“Fall warblers can be very confusing, but I believe they are Palm Warblers.” I took aim and snapped a few quick photos.

“That one looks different.” My Bounty Hunter pointed at another bird in a nearby tree. “Is that the one the Gypsy identified for me once as a White-throated Sparrow?”

I nodded. “I’m impressed you remembered!” I snapped the photo.

October Hike - White-throated Sparrow 1

My Bounty Hunter also spotted a Blue Jay high up in a bare tree, and my Arrogant One pointed out an Eastern Bluebird on an old fence post. I got photos of them both. Then, just before we entered the next wooded area, we found another snake. “This one looks like a Garter Snake.” I snapped his photo as well.

“Look here.” My Arrogant One pointed. “There are several different types of berries along this path.”

“They’re good food for the birds.” I took some photos of the berries before looking up at the nearby trees.

“Look! The berries have attracted some Cedar Waxwings. Those birds are basically fruit eaters. In the fall, hundreds of them can gather and strip a berry patch in minutes.” I scanned the trees. “This is a very small flock.”

“That one looks different.” My Arrogant One pointed to one of a pair of birds sitting on a bare branch. “But the one with it looks like the Cedar Waxwings you just showed us.”

“They’re both Cedar Waxwings. The one that looks different is a juvenile. I’m surprised there aren’t more with the flock.” I focused my camera and got a shot of the two birds.

October Hike - Cedar Waxwing with juvie

We continued along the path, and I took some more photos of the trees and wildflowers. Once again, my companions lagged behind. They were again whispering, but they quickly stopped and hurried to catch up with me.

Soon we were back at the nature center. There were numerous birds and critters feeding on the seed that had fallen from the feeders, or watching from the nearby trees. I identified a Red Squirrel, another Eastern Chipmunk, some Fox Sparrows, some Dark-eyed Juncos, some more White-throated Sparrows, and both male and female Northern Cardinals.

Finally, I figured I had taken enough photos, and I turned to my companions. “Ready to go home?”

“Already?” They both seemed disappointed.

“Miles will probably be home by now with those roofing supplies you need. And I need to start making dinner if we want to eat tonight.”

My two characters nodded reluctantly, and we walked across the parking lot to the car. As we took our places in the vehicle, I wondered about their behavior, their whispered conversations, and the furtive glances I thought I had seen them exchanging several times. After turning it over in my mind, I decided maybe I was just being paranoid. I decided it best not to spoil the good time we had had by confronting them. If something was afoot, I would probably find out soon enough.

Be sure to join us again next week. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Gratitude Scavenger Hunt

Gratitude Scavenger Hunt

6-19-13 - Miles 001“You know, it’s been blissfully quiet around here the past few days. Ever since you insisted your characters participate in that . . . what was it called? The Gratitude Scavenger Hunt? (https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/09/23/were-doing-what/) . . . we’ve hardly heard a peep out of them!” My husband sighed contentedly. “They don’t even take meals with us.”

“I know.” I smiled at him. “They really seem to be enjoying it. They even asked if they could have a few more days to work on it.”

“Are they all still working downstairs in the conference room?” Miles furrowed his brow and tilted his head.

“Yeah, why?”

He chuckled. “Well, it’s been four days now, and I haven’t heard anyone killing your Arrogant One yet.”

I laughed. “Well, Dragon arranged individual offices off the conference room, so everyone could work in private without interfering with each other or getting on each other’s nerves.”

Miles shook his head. “I still don’t understand how the conference room works. It looks different every time I go in there – a different size, a different shape . . .”

I gave his hand a squeeze as I tugged him out of his chair. “Don’t try to understand it, honey. It’s magic. Let’s just get some dinner.”

“The leftover corn chowder?” His eyes gleamed.

I nodded. “Yup. And some roasted cauliflower and broccoli.”

“Now, that’s magic! Race you to the kitchen!”

*  *  *

dragon talking

“Everyone has finished collecting or creating their items or images, or preparing their illusions, for the Gratitude Scavenger Hunt, Mistress.” Dragon’s maw stretched into a wide, toothy smile and her tail twitched with excitement.

“Very well. Let’s go down and see what everyone has.”

Miles and I followed the bulky reptile down the steps and into the conference room. Everyone’s items were displayed on the huge round table in the middle of the room. My characters milled around, each slowly taking their place next to their individual items.

“How do you wish to do this, Mistress?” Cleric fidgeted with her rope belt and shifted her weight from foot to foot.

“Well, let’s see.” I rubbed my chin while I considered several approaches. “I think the best idea is for me to read off each category from the list, and everyone can take turns presenting their items for that category.”

I looked around at my assembled characters, who nodded their understanding and agreement. I was surprised how nervous they all appeared. Cleric wasn’t the only one shuffling back and forth on her feet, and I thought I saw several characters sweating. I hoped that meant they had taken the activity seriously, perhaps had even learned something from it.

I picked up my list and began. “The first item you were to find was something that makes a beautiful sound. Who wants to start?”

gypsy-facing-rightMeadowlark singing - framedMy Gypsy eagerly stepped forward and held up a picture of a bird. “I chose a Meadowlark. Their sweet song is a magnificent sound.” He whistled, perfectly mimicking the slurred, flute-like melody of the Eastern Meadowlark.

Young hero 2horse neighing in frameMy Young Hero stepped forward next. “I think a horse makes a beautiful sound, neighing to a friend, or whinnying to greet the day.” He held aloft a picture taken from a magazine.

mens-991728_1280Horses galloping - framedMy Foreman nodded and raised his picture. “I think the sound a horse makes is beautiful, too, only I selected the thundering sound of their hooves as a herd of steeds gallops across a field.”

dragon looking rightWind blowing - framedDragon took center stage next, holding aloft a photo. “I think the sound of a loud wind rushing through trees is beautiful. I enchanted this picture to produce that sound.” As she murmured an incantation, the sound of rushing wind filled the room for a few moments.

Elf facing rightwind-chimesAs the sound died down, Cleric stepped forward, holding a small wind chime she had constructed. “I do not believe this would withstand the force of the wind from Dragon’s enchanted image, but I think when the chimes are tickled by a gentle breeze, the sound they produce is most beautiful.” Cleric gently shook the chimes, making a soft tinkling sound.

sorceress-facing-rightWaves lapping against the shore - framedSorceress waited for the melodious chimes to quiet before producing her item, an enchanted image of waves lapping against the shore. “It is the beautiful sound that used to lull me to sleep on my native island.”

Bounty Hunterwaterfall - framed“I am afraid I cannot produce the sound effects, but I chose this photo of a rushing waterfall to depict something that makes a beautiful sound.” My Bounty Hunter showed us the photo.

DwarfDinner gong“Well, I be havin’ sound ee-ffects!” My Old Dwarf grinned as he clanged a triangular gong. “I be thinkin’ there be nuttin’ wat be makin’ a sound as bee-you-tee-full as a dinner bell.”

Arrogant One facing rightThe last of my characters to share his first item, my Arrogant One, stood apart from the group. He was scuffing one foot back and forth in an uncharacteristic display of stage fright. He cleared his throat several times before mumbling his explanation. “The most beautiful sound I have ever heard was produced by an audience clapping and cheering.” He passed his hand over an enchanted image, and the room was filled with thunderous applause, and loud cheers and whistles.

Applause - framed

It took quite a few minutes to get my Arrogant One to silence his enchanted image, as he closed his eyes and basked in the conjured applause. But soon I had my characters back to the task at hand.

We moved quickly through the next four categories.

Lightning stormThe catagory find something that smells amazing produced few surprises, among them being Dragon’s choice of a lightning storm. “Have you ever really smelled the air after you see a huge bolt of lightning?” Her nostrils quivered, and her tail twitched in delight.

Field of wildflowersBounty Hunter’s field full of wildflowers was equally surprising. “What? You think someone in my profession cannot appreciate the delicate fragrance of wildflowers in bloom?”

Catnip was rather predictable as the item Sorceress thought smelled amazing, as was her choice of milk for the next category, find your favorite beverage. Both choices reflected her exotic heritage, and I could almost hear her purring as she made her presentations.milkcatnip

 

 

 

lemonade

Dragon’s choice of lemonade as her favorite beverage, however, was unexpected. “Not too sweet, though.” She grimaced. “Sugar negates the delightful burn of the acid.”

rose-quartzFind something that is your favorite color produced few surprises. Cleric’s choice of rose quartz was predictable. “It is the color associated with the deity whom I serve back in my world.”

Equally predictable in that category were my Old Dwarf’s choice of pewter mugs, my Arrogant One’s selection of gold coins, and my Gypsy’s option of a Northern Cardinal or Redbird.

sunflower

Again, it was Dragon and my Bounty Hunter who surprised me. “And what is wrong with the color of sunflowers?” My Bounty Hunter scoffed.

Sky after sunsetDragon smiled a toothy grin, then explained her choice. “The color of the sky right after sunset is most pleasing to me. It also has a very personal meaning.” She glanced at my Young Hero. “When I was younger, I had not yet developed my ability to change colors. Someone back in my world once likened my color to that of the sky at twilight.”

There were no surprises at all in the category find something useful to you.

fireplace2“Of course, I chose my fireplace.” Dragon looked around, her expression daring anyone to make a remark.

Battle axe“And I be lost wit-out me battle axe.” My Old Dwarf brandished it, then gave the axe head a quick swipe with a polishing cloth.

saddle

My Foreman nodded. “As I would be without a saddle.”

dagger - bullseye

“And I, without my dagger.” My Gypsy flipped it end over end at a target hanging on the wall, scoring a perfect bulls-eye.

 

My Young Hero claimed a bag of holding as his most useful item, while Cleric needed her healing herbs, Sorceress, her scrying bowl, and my Bounty Hunter, a disguise.

Magician's staff“My staff is my most useful item.” My Arrogant One puffed himself up. “It is a focus for my magic, a walking stick, and a weapon. I can also tie a bundle to it and carry it over my shoulder or tie a string to the end for a fishing pole.”

That brought us to the last category – find something to give someone else to make them smile.

Dragon scale 2“The best gift I could give someone to produce a smile would be one of my scales.” Dragon held a small iridescent scale in her hand. “It is not only beautiful, but it is almost indestructible, so the recipient could conceivably have it for a lifetime. It grants powerful protection and has magical properties that can be activated by those with the proper knowledge. How could such a wondrous gift fail to make someone smile?”

Wood carving

My Old Dwarf showed us a small wood carving he had made. “I be thinkin’ thet summat I be takin’ tha time an’ effort ta be makin’ wit me very ownest hands be puttin’ a smile on anyone’s face.”

flowers

My Foreman nodded. “I envy you your talent, my rotund little friend. All I have to offer to put a smile on someone’s face is a posy.”

dried flowers and herbsCleric smiled. “Those flowers would certainly make me smile. I also chose flowers, but mine are an arrangement of dried flowers and herbs.”

 

Charm

 

“I would give someone a charm or a talisman.” My Gypsy displayed his offering.

heart-shaped stonesMy Young Hero admired his friend’s item. “My gift would be similar.” He held out a handful of small rocks. “Nature created these heart-shaped stones. They made me smile, and I am sure they would do the same for anyone to whom I would bequeath them.”

book

“A book has always seemed a much-appreciated gift.” Sorceress held up a tome adorned with flowers.

bottle of wine or spirits

“As is a bottle of fine wine or spirits.” My Bounty Hunter indicated his item.

 

My Arrogant One was the last to present his item. All eyes turned to him, and we waited. He scuffed his toe back and forth on the carpet, and he hung his head. “I have never given a gift to anyone. I have nothing to make another smile.”

My other characters seemed unsurprised. “Selfish people rarely know how to make others smile.” Although Dragon meant it to be a whisper, her voice carried through the room, and I saw my Arrogant One’s face turn scarlet.

Surprisingly, it was my husband who came to the annoying elf’s rescue. Miles walked over to the conference table and picked up my Arrogant One’s staff. He turned to the pompous figure and held out the staff. “Take it.”

Cautiously, obviously fearing a trick, the elf reached out and took hold of the staff.

“Now, perform.” My husband turned and rejoined me and the others watching the elf.

“What?” My Arrogant One furrowed his brow and tilted his head.

“You have a great gift to share, with which to put a smile on everyone’s face. Create some illusions, give a performance. That is what you can give someone else to make them smile.” Miles raised an eyebrow at the elf.

Slowly, a smile spread across my Arrogant One’s face as understanding dawned. He drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and held his staff aloft. He treated us all to a truly amazing performance of illusory magic and sleight of hand. When it was over, the elf had no need of an enchanted image to create applause.

Performing illusion

Once the hurrahs had died down, I addressed the group. “I hope you all had some fun with this Gratitude Scavenger Hunt. I also hope you learned something from it.”

My characters all nodded and murmured among themselves. Finally, Dragon spoke for the group. “I believe it has become obvious to all of us that complaining is a waste of effort. If we are bored, we can always engage in fruitful and enjoyable activities. We are grateful to you for making us realize this.”

“I think we also learned to just look around us for things for which we can be grateful, like a beautiful sound or smell, a pretty color, a favorite beverage.” My Bounty Hunter nodded toward the conference table holding all the items he and his companions found for the Gratitude Scavenger Hunt.

“And I am grateful to have learned that everyone has something to give to others, and that giving is as pleasurable as receiving.” My Arrogant One smiled.

“Good lessons, all!” I beamed at my characters. “I hope you all keep your feelings of gratitude going forward.”

“Wale, I be real gratitudinal iffin dinner be ready soon.” My Old Dwarf winked and headed for the stairs.

We hope you all enjoyed the Gratitude Scavenger Hunt as much as my characters did, and I hope you enjoyed the insight into each character, with the choices they made for each category. In case you missed anyone’s presentation, here is the list of characters and the items they chose for each category.

Gratitude Scavenger Hunt

Be sure to join us next week for another adventure! We’ll leave the porch light on for you!

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