While Dragon’s Away, We Still Play

While Dragon’s Away, We Still Play

rocky path“Step lively, now! And be watchin’ yer footin’. There be lotsa loose rocks here aboot what ye can be turnin’ a foot on.” The dwarf looked Dragon up and down. “An’ mayhap ye oughta be shrinkin’ or changin’ yer shape or summat, causin the paths do na be very wide.” Then the dwarf turned and scurried off down the rock-strewn path along the escarpment.

Dragon blinked. The compact figure scooting along the path, beckoning her to follow, seemed exceedingly familiar and more than a bit annoying. She reached out and plucked him from the ground and brought him back next to her.

dwarf“Why ye consarned beastie! Ye overgrown lizard! Ye best be lettin’ go o me right quick like!” The dwarf struggled in Dragon’s grasp, squirming and sputtering like a wet hen.

Dragon frowned. “Oh, be still! You have not been harmed.” She blew a small cloud of smoke at him as she released him, sending him into a fit of coughing and cussing.

blue-dragon-2Dwarf facing rightA smirk tugged at Dragon’s reptilian lips as she watched the rotund figure. He seemed so like her companion, the Old Dwarf, whom she last saw back in the real world – the world in which she and eight other fictional characters who had fallen from the pages of some manuscripts now resided with Mistress Writer and Master Miles. I wonder what they are all doing right now. She sighed deeply, then gave herself a mental shake. No time for wool gathering! I must find and eliminate the cause of the hostility among all of us characters, before we do irreparable damage to each other, or to Mistress Writer and her husband.

She waited until the dwarf stopped choking on the smoke. “Be still, small one! Now tell me, do you know this apprentice historian whom I seek, or no?”

The dwarf rubbed his eyes and sneezed twice, then glared at Dragon. “As I be sayin’, beastie, I would na be at all surprised.”

Dragon growled and smoke curled from her nostrils. “That is not an answer.”

The dwarf jutted his chin and folded his arms across his chest. “O course it be an answer! It be the onlyest answer ye be gittin’ iffin ye be maulin’ me and blowin’ smoke in me face!”

Dragon narrowed her eyes. “Do not vex me! I have not the time for this. Either you know the person I seek or you do not. Which is it?”

dwarfThe dwarf shrugged. “I be thinkin’ mebbe I be knowin’ ’em, but I also be thinkin’ thet mebbe there be more’n one renowned historian in this world, and more’n one apprentice.” He eyed Dragon defiantly. “Why do na we just go see the apprentice I be thinkin’ ye be talkin’ aboot? Iffin he do na be the right one, mebbe he kin be tellin’ ye where ye can be findin’ others.”

Dragon scratched her head and thought. Seeing no other solution, she nodded. “What race is this apprentice?”

“What nevermind do thet be makin’?”

“Well, I thought to shapeshift, as you suggested, to better fit between the boulders lining the trail. I thought to shapeshift into a form that would be familiar to this apprentice, not intimidating or offensive.” Dragon frowned and tapped her foot impatiently.

“It do na matter what race ye be lookin’ like. The apprentice be used to visitors o many races. What be ye most comfortable changin’ inta?”

“I usually assume the form of an elf.”

The dwarf giggled. “Then, be an elfie!”

Dragon fumed. “I do not see the humor in being an elf.”

“Never said it be funny. Be ye comin’?” The last part of that, he called back over his shoulder as he took off down the trail again.

Elf clericDragon growled, but quickly changed into her elven persona and hurried off after the dwarf. The rotund figure scampered nimbly through the rocks, and the ersatz elf maiden had to work hard to catch up. For someone with such short legs, he certainly can move quickly!

As Dragon rounded a sharp bend in the trail, she almost fell over the dwarf, who was waiting for her in the middle of the path. “I be thinkin’ I losted ye there!” The dwarf’s eyes twinkled with merriment, and elf maiden Dragon studied him with curiosity as she caught her breath.

“I do not believe we have been properly introduced. My name is . . .”

“Eh, do na bother ta be tellin’ me yer name, beastie. I probably couldna be wrappin’ me mouth around it anywho.”

A frown marred Dragon’s delicate elven features. “So you plan to just continue calling me beastie?”

“Aye.” The dwarf jutted his chin and looked at her defiantly. “Lessens ye be havin’ a preference fer elfie. An’ ye can jest be callin’ me dwarf.”

Dragon arched an eyebrow and regarded the burly figure. “So, dwarf, do you always offer to help strange dragons?”

“Eh, ye do na be so strange. I seed ye with the Great Beastie, and she dinna be battlin’ ye, so’s I be figurin’ ye must be okay.” He started down the trail again at a good trot. “We best be movin’ out. We be havin’ a goodly piece ta go.” He looked back over his shoulder at Dragon. “An’ do be tryin’ ta be keepin’ pace now, beastie. I do na be wantin’ ye ta be gittin’ yerself losted.”

Dragon swiftly followed the dwarf, not allowing him to get too far ahead this time. “How far is it?”

* * *

mens-991728_1280

“How far is it?”

“It’s not far.” I gave my Foreman a sharp look. “Why? Did you have something better planned for today?”

He glared at me. “I do not care to spend a long trip in your undersized vehicle with that pompous elf and his smug cohort.”

“And I’m sure my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter don’t relish the idea of being cooped up in a car with you for any longer than necessary, either.” I crossed my arms over my chest and frowned. “But we are going. All of us.” I looked at my other characters, all standing around muttering. “We leave in fifteen minutes. Be sure you’re in modern attire, and leave all weapons, staffs, wands, and spell components here.” I turned to Sorceress and Cleric. “And I’m sorry, but this time, you will be unable to collect botanicals for your spell components. The place we are going today does not allow visitors to collect any specimens.”

Elf facing rightCleric nodded glumly. “Then I suppose our only purpose in going is to assist you in your wildlife photography.” She sounded resentful.

“No, that is not your only purpose, although I would appreciate any help you care to offer. I just thought everyone enjoyed these outings. We can all relax, and not be on each other’s nerves.”

“An’ there be food, lassies!” My Old Dwarf grinned.dwarf-facing-right

I returned the old reprobate’s smile. “Speaking of which, why don’t you go help Miles pack the food and beverages into the car, so we can leave as soon as possible?”

For someone with such short legs, he certainly can move quickly!

The trip got off to a rocky start, with tempers flaring and unpleasant words being exchanged. Within the first two blocks, Miles had to pull over twice so my characters could switch seats before the verbal bouts could turn physical. But by the time my husband maneuvered the car into a parking space at the nature preserve everyone was relaxed and exchanging friendly banter.

“Where be we settin’ up lunch?”

picnic-area

As soon as Miles pointed to the picnic grove on top of a small rise, my Old Dwarf grabbed one of the coolers from the trunk and scooted away. My Foreman and the two lads took the other coolers and picnic hamper, and Miles grabbed a cardboard box.

Lunch was a relaxed affair. Everyone enjoyed the sandwiches and soft drinks, and the friendly banter that had started in the car continued. Even my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter were joining in the conversations. When everyone had eaten their fill, Miles suggested we enjoy some activities.

From Nicki 146“Anyone up for tossing the old pigskin around?”

“Pigskin?” My Young Hero looked intrigued.

american-football“That’s a slang term for a football.” Miles opened the cardboard box he had carried from the car, and took out a football. “We also have a baseball, a volleyball, and some other things.”

“The feetsball be a good one ta toss aboot.” My Old Dwarf picked it up and tried to throw it to my Foreman, but the ball fell way short.

“Here, I’ll show you how to do it.”sports balls

As Miles showed my Old Dwarf how to throw a football, some of the other characters grabbed the rest of the equipment. Soon, most of then were engaged in tossing around a ball of some sort.

“Come on, Mistress!” My Gypsy had picked up an old tennis ball and was going to throw it.

“If you don’t mind, I’ll skip the ball games.” I picked up my camera. “I’d like to explore and see what I can photograph today.”camera for blog

“I think I would like to accompany you.” Cleric blushed. “I always enjoy helping you with the wildlife photos.”

“As do I.” Sorceress joined us.

I smiled and nodded. We waved to the others, and went in search of cooperative wildlife. We didn’t have to look far.

As we followed a well-worn path from the picnic grove, we saw a chipmunk on a small retaining wall, and another one in the field, munching on some berries, and I took a few quick shots.

“Look! There is a tiny bird on that limb.” Cleric pointed.

“It’s a Ruby-throated Hummingbird.”

“I do not see any ruby coloring on its throat.” Cleric’s brow furrowed.

I smiled. “Only the adult males have the red throats.”

“There is another one over there.” Sorceress pointed to a nearby tree.

Cleric used her affinity with the birds to convince both of the hummers to come closer for me to get good images.

“There is another small bird in that tree.” Sorceress pointed at a bird flitting through the branches. “I do not think that one is a hummingbird, though.”

“You’re right. It’s a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. It will never stay still long enough for me to get a photo!”

Cleric smiled. “Of course it will.” But even with Cleric coaxing the bird to sit still, I had but a fraction of a second to snap a picture.Three hikes 042

Two flashes of yellow through the leaves caught our attention. I quickly focused my camera. “The larger one is a Yellow Warbler. The smaller one, with the black mask, is a Common Yellowthroat.”

We walked a bit further and Cleric found a Black-capped Chickadee and an Eastern Phoebe. She persuaded both birds to pose nicely for me.

We continued to follow the path toward a small pond.

“Oh, look! There are frogs here.” Sorceress bent down to examine a large, warty, gray and cream amphibian.Three hikes 161

I corrected her as I quickly snapped a picture. “That’s a toad. I think it is known as an American Toad.”

“And this one?” Cleric kept her distance as she pointed to a bright green critter with black spots.Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve 116

“I believe that is a Leopard Frog.”

“What is that slime all over that section of the pond . . . and all over the turtles?” Sorceress wrinkled her nose as she pointed to the other side of the pond.

“That’s not slime. It’s actually vegetation. It’s most likely duckweed, a rather common aquatic vegetation.”

I took a few photos of the turtles and showed Sorceress and Cleric a close-up of the vegetation that covered them.

“Do the turtles eat this?” Sorceress was still wrinkling her nose.

“Yup.”

“Oh, look!” Cleric sounded delighted. “Dragonflies and butterflies!”

Sorceress and I laughed as Cleric ran over to the meadow and danced with the insects. When she finished, Cleric helped me get a few pictures, as I tried to identify the creatures for her and Sorceress.

“I believe the small white one is a Summer Azure. I think the yellow butterflies are Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, and the orange one is a Monarch.” I turned my camera toward the dragonflies. “I’m afraid I don’t know the names of these beauties.”

Station WagonBy the time we returned to the picnic grove, Miles and the others had gathered everything up and loaded it back in the car. On the drive home, one by one my characters fell asleep, tired out by a day of fun activity.

“You know this won’t last.” I kept my voice low, so I wouldn’t wake any of my characters. “As soon as we get home, the fighting will start again.”

Miles nodded. “We need to find the root of the problem. It has to be something around the house.”

I heaved a huge sigh. “Dragon is the one who could solve this mystery. I wonder where she is.”

* * *

Elf cleric

 

I wonder where we are. Dragon, still in her guise of an elven maiden, looked around curiously.

 

dwarf

As if reading her mind, her dwarven guide spoke. “Wale, we be almost there, beastie.” He grinned broadly.

 

“Oh? And where, exactly is there?”

 

Where is Dragon? Is the strange dwarf really taking her to see the historian’s apprentice? And will she find the solution to the problem? Join us next week as we continue this adventure. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

Unforeseen Consequences

Unforeseen Consequences

cryingdwarf-facing-right

There were tears rolling down my cheeks, not just because of what I knew I must do, but because of my Old Dwarf’s reaction. It broke my heart the way he looked at me, a tear slipping down his own cheek. He placed a hand on my arm. “Lassie?” His eyes were full of fear, his quavering voice pleading. “Ye can na really be doin’ this! Please, lassie! Do na!”

I hesitated, but the fracas upstairs continued to escalate. In recent weeks, my characters had been at each others throats. Arguments and fisticuffs had become a daily occurrence. My characters had become a potential danger, mostly to each other but conceivably to me and my husband, to visiting friends and relatives, even to the neighborhood. I could not allow that to happen.

I opened my manuscript, picked up my pen, and put a thick, blood-red line through the first character’s name. A hair-raising scream sounded from the living room, then all was silent.edited

I dropped the manuscript and the pen. My Old Dwarf and I raced up the stairs. My characters stood in a circle around my Arrogant One, gaping. The elf had gone quite pale. He stood, wide-eyed, grasping at his chest.

arrogant-one-facing-right

dwarfI started to speak, but my Old Dwarf pushed me aside and elbowed his way through the others to stand facing my Arrogant One. “What be the trouble?” His voice was gruff, and he glared at the elf.

My Arrogant One seemed incapable of speaking. He just stood there, grasping his chest and heaving for breath.

“What happened?” I looked at my Arrogant One, then at the rest of my characters.Elf

“He is a coward.” Cleric’s words dripped with venom and contempt.

“What?”

gypsy-facing-right“Your Foreman was about to deck him, and he got all dramatic, screeching and acting like he was dying.” My Gypsy snickered. “The big sissy!”

 

I raised an eyebrow, and turned to my Foreman. “Well? Is this true?”foreman-facing-left

My Foreman shrugged.

“What was the fight about?”

“Doesn’t matter.” My Foreman glared at me.

I sighed, and turned back to my Arrogant One. He remained pale as a ghost, and he was trembling violently. Suddenly his legs turned to jelly and my Old Dwarf barely caught him as he collapsed to the floor.

“Git ’em some water.”

When no one moved, my Old Dwarf jumped up and shoved my Gypsy toward the kitchen. “Water, laddie! Now! And ye be right quick aboot it!”

My Gypsy returned a few moments later and handed my Old Dwarf a glass of water. The old reprobate knelt down and helped my Arrogant One, who drained the glass in a few quick gulps.

Finally able to speak, my Arrogant One pulled himself up and pointed at Sorceress. He spoke with great effort, his voice weak but his anger strong. “You . . . you tried to kill me! You waited until the Foreman had distracted me, then you launched a magical attack!”

sorceress-facing-rightSorceress snorted. She folded her arms over her chest and looked down her nose at the elf. “You are mad.”

“Do not deny it! What I felt could only have been caused by a magical attack. You are the only one here with enough power to have hexed me so.”

“Did you?” I frowned at the powerful magic user.

“I did not.”

“Jest what be it feelin’ like, thet ye be suspectin’ magic?” My Old Dwarf again pushed me aside, and addressed my Arrogant One.

“It . . . it was like an iron band was placed around my heart and tightened. I could scarcely breathe. And at the same time, my very soul grew cold.” The elf shuddered. “It could only have been magic.”

“Eh, ye be daft. Ye probably be eatin’ sommat what din na be agreein’ wit ye.” My Old Dwarf scoffed.

My Arrogant One shook his head and twisted his mouth into a snarl. “No! You are wrong! It was magic! I myself am an expert user of magic. I can certainly recognize a magical attack when I feel it.”

I started to say something, but my Old Dwarf cut me off. “Ye be imaginin’ thin’s! Why would Sorceress be attackin’ ye?”

The elf drew himself up haughtily, rocked back on his heels, and grasped the front of his cloak with both hands. “I should think that is obvious. Naturally, she is jealous of my power and estate.”

“Oh, right. We are all so jealous of you.” Sorceress rolled her eyes.

My Gypsy guffawed. “Sorceress has more power and ability in her little finger than you do in your entire body. For that matter, so do I!”

“Enough! I don’t care who did what to whom, who is jealous of whom, who has more power and ability than whom! I just want this constant bickering and fighting to stop!” I glared at each and every one of my characters in turn. “Do you all understand?”

Young hero 2“And if the bickering and the fighting do not stop?” My Young Hero glared at me through narrowed eyes, and he clenched his hands into fists.

dwarf-facing-right“Then the ones what be doin’ the bickerin’ an’ the fightin’ will be answerin’ ta me.” My Old Dwarf stepped between me and my Young Hero. He glared at the youth and slapped the flat of his axe against the palm of his hand.

After a few tense moments, my Young Hero relaxed his hands and shrugged.

My Old Dwarf nodded and stepped back, but did not sheath his axe. “All righty, now. All o ye jest be goin’ aboot yer business.”

“But . . . but . . .” My Arrogant One stammered.

“But nuttin’! Ye do na be hurtin’ thet bad, elfie. Jest git!” My Old Dwarf slapped the flat of his axe against the palm of his hand again.

The other characters glared at the dwarf, but finally backed down without further argument. After they left, my Old Dwarf turned to me. “Ye and me be needin’ ta conversate, lass.”

“Oh?”

“Not here. In yer office.”

Once in my office, my Old Dwarf picked up my manuscript and my pen from the floor where I had dropped them. He did not hand them to me.

“Lass, do ye be havin’ any idea what ye be doin’? What danger ye be puttin’ yerself in?”

“Danger? What danger? What do you mean?”

“Ye be doin’ what ye al’ays be threatenin’ – ye be takin’ us outten yer manuscript.”

His tone of voice was matter-of-fact, not accusatory. I nodded.

“Do ye be realizin’ thet ye be havin’ ta take out every single mention o a character afore thet character be gone? If ye only be takin’ out some o the mentions o a character, thet character’ll be wounded, but not gone. Every time ye be takin’ thet red pen o yourn and crossin’ out another mention o a character, thet character be feelin’ it. Jest liken the fancy-pants elfie be feelin’ it when ye crossed out the first mention o him taday.”

My Old Dwarf paused and stared at me intently, as if trying to see if I understood. I said nothing, but gave a slight nod of my head.

“At some point, lassie, a character what ye be editin’ outten the manuscript will be realizin’ what be happenin’! Sorceress and the Gypsie lad will na continue ta be blamed. And wonst a character be realizin’ thet it be ye what be causin’ the pain, the chillin’ o the soul, thet character’ll be tellin’ the others. They’ll all be comin’ after ye, lassie. They’ll be killin ye, an’ yer mister, too, ta save themselves.”

for-todays-blog-013I felt my mouth fall open and my eyes grow as big as saucers. “I . . . I had never considered that.”

“Do na be doin’ any more editin’, lassie. I be beggin’, not jest fer me ownest life, but thet ye do na be puttin’ yerself an yer mister inta danger.” There was a catch in the old reprobate’s voice, and his eyes welled with tears, as he placed the manuscript and the pen back on my desk.

“Old friend, I never considered editing you out of the manuscripts! Whatever is causing this problem, this tension with the others seems to be magical in nature. You are a dwarf. You are not affected by magic.” I paused, then took his hands in mine. “But you didn’t know that when you placed yourself in danger to save me! You were willing to fight the others to protect me, even while you thought I would eliminate you from the manuscripts with the others.” My face was wet with tears.

“Eh, do na be blubberin’ now.” The dwarf’s face turned red, and he pulled his hands out of mine. “Jest be careful. An’ ye best be puttin’ these manuscripts away in a safe place.” He turned on his heel and was gone before I could say another word.

That night, as we got settled in bed, I told my husband everything that had transpired.easter-128.jpg

“The old guy was going to protect you, even though he thought you were going to eliminate him with the others?” Miles looked impressed. “I’m glad he’s got your back. I’m really worried that your characters are a genuine danger now.”

“Me, too. How I wish Dragon was still here!”

* * *

Dragon stood there for a long time, gaping at the Great Wyrm. Finally she stated rather than asked, “You are . . . me.”

The Great Wyrm chuckled, but gave Dragon a look of approval. “Not exactly. I am the Dragon about whom Mistress Writer wrote. You are an image of sorts, a shadow, an echo, a memory of the real me.”

Dragon frowned, trying to wrap her mind around this. Finally she shook her head and brought the conversation back. “You said time may be shorter than I know. How do you know this? And how can you help me?”

Dragon’s counterpart raised an eyebrow. “I know because I am a Great Wyrm. And I can not help you.”

“But you must!”

“Only the historian’s apprentice can give you the information about the items he sent through the conduit. You must seek him out.”

“Where will I find him?”

“You will have to figure that out. Have you not read the manuscripts?”

“No.”

“Then you do have a problem.”

Dragon roared and scorched the nearby trees with her dragonfire as the Great Wyrm leapt up and flew off. After a few seconds of the useless tantrum, Dragon took to the air and followed the other creature.

The Great Wyrm slowed her flight, allowing Dragon to catch up. The two flew in silence, side by side, over the great expanse of desert. They passed over the magnificent royal city, and a multitude of tiny encampments and oases in a sea of sand. After many hours, a mountain chain rose in front of them. The two beasts swooped down and landed in a small clearing in a pine forest atop a mountain peak.

“Does not any of this look familiar?” The Wyrm sounded impatient.

Dragon shook her head. “The only mountain I remember was on an island.”

The Wyrm frowned. “Then I really can not help you.”

blue-dragon-2Before Dragon could take another breath, she found herself alone in the clearing. She blinked and looked around. Where did she go?

 

“Be ye lost, beastie?”dwarf

Dragon whirled around and faced the speaker, a stout dwarf with a ruddy face, red hair and twinkling, emerald-green eyes.

“I am.” She eyed the dwarf with a mix of caution and curiosity.

“Where be ye wantin’ ta be?”

“I need to find someone.”

The dwarf tilted his head. After a few seconds, he snorted. “Whale, be ye gonna give me a clue?”

“Pardon?”

“Who be it ye be needin’ ta find?”

“I do not know, exactly.”

The dwarf shook his head and chuckled. “Whale, what do ye be knowin’, exactly?”

“The person I seek is an apprentice to a renowned historian.”

The dwarf nodded. He turned and started to walk away. Dragon sat there, befuddled. The dwarf had gone halfway across the clearing when he called back over his shoulder. “Be ye commin’, beastie?”

“Do you know the person I seek?”

“I would na be at all surprised, beastie. Now step lively!”

* * *

Can the Old Dwarf protect Mistress Writer and Master Miles? Will the strange dwarf help Dragon find the historian’s apprentice and get some answers? Be sure to come back next week and see. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

 

Is the End Near?

Is the End Near?

blue-dragon-2I . . . can . . . not . . . move.

I feel . . . as though . . . I am bound . . . swaddled tightly . . . in thick cotton.

I can . . . barely breathe.

Dragon tried to shake her head, but could not. She tried to open her eyes, but found to her surprise they were already open. She could see nothing. She would have clawed at her face, had she been able to move her hands and arms, to remove whatever obstructed her vision. She would have done so many things, but could do nothing but try to breathe. Slowly, the helpless beast drifted back into unconsciousness.

* * *

Easter 128“The outing went very well, don’t you agree?” Miles handed me a cup of tea.teacup

I thanked him for the tea and motioned to an almost-empty chair next to my desk. Miles moved the files and books that occupied it, and sat down. He looked at me expectantly.

I nodded, but a smirk played at the corners of my mouth. “Oh, yes, the picnic was a great idea! Everyone really enjoyed the meal. You and my Old Dwarf indulged in afternoon siestas, and the rest of us had a great time hiking and exploring nature. Everyone worked together to help me get oodles of photos. Sorceress and Cleric cooperated and collected scads of much-needed components for their spells. And it took almost two hours after we arrived home again for the bickering and the shouting and the brawling to begin anew.” I heaved a big sigh.

Miles gave me a searching look. “I don’t suppose you’ve had any luck determining the source of the tension? I mean, it surely must be more than simple boredom if the camaraderie your characters shared during the outing could deteriorate so quickly.”

I shrugged and frowned. “I’m no closer to finding the cause of the problem and solving it than I was before the outing. It’s obvious the problem is centered here, in or around the house. My characters were fine at the fireworks display on the Fourth of July, and they were fine at the picnic. But we can’t take them on a trip every day.”

I paused, chewing my lower lip. “I wish Dragon hadn’t left. I really need her wisdom and her sleuthing prowess right now. She’s the only one I know who could have discovered what is behind the outbreaks of hostility.”

“She left to protect us.” Miles crossed his arms over his chest and arched an eyebrow. “She was as affected by whatever is happening as your other characters are. She was afraid she would lose control of herself and harm us.”

I nodded, but furrowed my brow. “I know, and I appreciate that. But without her help, I may not be able to solve this problem before one of my characters seriously injures, or even kills, one of their companions . . . or maybe one of us.”

“What will you do?”

I sighed. “I may be forced to make good on my ultimate threat.”

My husband’s eyes widened. “Edit them out of the manuscripts?”

I nodded. “And, subsequently, out of existence.”

Long after the conversation had ended and Miles had left my office, I sat there, deep in thought. I couldn’t recall how many times I had threatened my characters with this . . . so many times, they often finished my if you don’t stop this immediately statement for me, in a sing-song chorus. “You will edit us out of the manuscripts.”

Of course, I had only seriously considered that option with one or two characters, and then, the thought was fleeting. The threat was more something I would hold over their heads than something I would actually do. Now, however, I was seriously contemplating eradicating my entire band of characters. It was not an act to be considered casually. Once they were edited from the manuscripts, they would cease to exist. And while I could always change my mind and return them to the stories, I did not know if it would be possible to return them to the real world.

I sighed. They’ve been with me for so long. They may be a nuisance, they may be a headache, they may be an expense, but they’re . . . family. A tear slipped down my cheek.

I gave myself a mental shake. Yes, they are, but they’re also a potential danger – to each other, to me and my husband, to visiting friends and relatives, to the neighborhood.

I looked at the manuscripts, sitting on my desk. I sighed again. Then I heard a door slam, followed by loud, angry voices upstairs. I hesitated, but as the voices grew louder I reached for my manuscripts. As I listened to the argument escalate into a brawl, I picked up my red pen.

* * *

blue-dragon-2Dragon gradually awoke. As her awareness increased, she realized her breathing had become less labored, and she found she could move unrestrained. She slowly opened her eyes and cautiously looked about. As the world around her came into focus, she saw she was still in the desert, still within the sheltering copse of trees in a large oasis. She frowned. A low growl rumbled deep in her throat, and a wisp of smoke drifted from her nostrils.oasis

The big beast tried to stand, but was too weak. She slumped back against the rough bark of a date palm. As her head cleared, she noticed something was different. She twisted around and looked hard at the palm tree. It looked different than it had, different than everything had looked, in the shadowy world within the pages of the manuscript. It didn’t look flat anymore. It looked solid, real.

A smile parted her reptilian lips. I have done it! I have slipped from the shadowy, insubstantial world inside the pages of the manuscript, into the world about which Mistress Writer penned her stories.

Dragon leaned back against the tree and drifted into a restorative sleep. When she awoke, she pulled herself unsteadily to her feet. Her throat was parched and her belly rumbled with hunger. She made her way to a nearby spring and threw herself on the ground. She plunged her snout into the pool and drank, long and deep. With her thirst slaked, she turned to finding some food. The trees of the oasis yielded barely enough fruit to take the edge off her hunger, so when she chanced upon a fairly fresh carcass of some hapless creature, she hesitated but a moment before gobbling it down. Not as good as Master Miles’ stew, but Mistress Writer once told me beggars can not be choosers. Dragon wrinkled her nose. I suppose I have a better appreciation of that axiom now.

With her belly full, the big beast settled herself under the date palm again and contemplated her next move. I need to find whoever sent those items and books through the magic conduit from this world to Mistress Writer’s world. Dragon’s brow wrinkled. How do I find this person? All I know about him is he claimed to be apprentice to one of the foremost historians of his world, this world. But who is his master, this foremost historian, and where will I find the two of them?

Dragon searched her memory for details about this world and its inhabitants. It was a large world, with a diverse population. This desert in the northern continent, where she found herself now, was home to two rival bands of desert dwellers. The northern continent was also home to one of the largest and most powerful of the human kingdoms of this world, as well as the sprawling dwarven kingdom. Several minor human kingdoms were scattered throughout the southern continent, with a large territory being occupied by Gypsies. The elven kingdom was far to the west, across a vast ocean, and islands to the south of their empire were claimed by a reclusive race about which Dragon knew very little.

The huge creature squirmed, scratching her itchy back on the rough bark of the tree while she thought. I do not believe this historian would be a desert dweller, a Gypsy or a recluse. Their cultures all rely more on oral tradition than on written accounts of their history. So, I suppose I must look for this person among the elves or the dwarves or within the largest of the human kingdoms.

The immense beast frowned. There must be a way to narrow it down more than that. To search for this historian among three such vast populations would take far too long. I must find them quickly. I have no way of knowing what is happening with my fellow characters back in Mistress Writer’s world, the real world, but the situation surely must be deteriorating.

“What else do you know about this historian?”

Dragon leaped up and whirled around. She found herself facing a huge dragon, a mirror image of herself. She must have stood there gaping for a long few moments, as the creature repeated itself.

“What else do you know about this historian?” This time, the Great Wyrm spoke slowly, enunciating each word with care, as if speaking to an obtuse child.

Dragon’s eyes widened. “I did not realize I was speaking aloud.”

“You were not.”

Dragon blinked. Of course! You, like me and like all of the Great Wyrms, are telepathic among our own kind. “I am sorry. It has been too long since I was last in the company of one of my own race.”

“Well, maybe we should pull up a couple of boulders and catch up over tea and cakes.” The other dragon’s voice dripped with sarcasm. “But I was under the impression your mission was urgent, and time was short.” The Wyrm stood there, its short arms folded over its chest, one foot tapping an impatient staccato as it waited for Dragon to respond.

Who are you, arrogant stranger, and how dare you chastise me, Dragon? Her eyes narrowed and black smoke began to spew from her nostrils. Still, the thought that this creature might be able to help compelled Dragon to control her anger and answer.

“I know only this: on five separate occasions, this person transported items through a magic conduit from this world to another world. The items included a talisman, a horseshoe, a ruby ring, the Royal Seal and a set of four books. In the first book, this person claimed to be apprentice to one of the foremost historians of this world.”

As Dragon spoke, the other creature settled itself sedately under a tree, its arms still folded across its chest, its eyes half closed. When Dragon was finished speaking, the Wyrm opened its eyes, tilted its head, and looked at Dragon expectantly.

After a few moments, Dragon frowned. “That is all I know.”

“Is it?” The Wyrm sounded amused.

“It is.”

“Then I really can not help you.”

Dragon snorted. “I do not remember asking for your help. It was you who imposed yourself on me.”

“Well, it was pretty obvious you were not doing such a great job figuring things out for yourself.” The Wyrm chuckled.

Dragon growled and unleashed a blast of her dragonfire. It bounced harmlessly off the Great Wyrm’s scales.

dragon-1964202_960_720“Testy, testy!” The Wrym chuckled again. Then, before Dragon could even blink, the Wyrm had her by the throat. “I would not advise doing that again.” The beast’s eyes narrowed, and its voice invited no discussion. “You remain a young wyrm, while I have aged, growing in both strength and wisdom. I am your superior in every respect. Take care, lest you annoy me beyond my tolerance.”

The Wyrm released Dragon, who fell back, shaken. She studied the Great Wyrm with anger, apprehension, and not a small measure of fear.

The Wyrm settled itself once more under the tree, and stared intently at Dragon. “Now, tell me what else you know about this apprentice historian you seek. And hurry. Time may be shorter than you know.”

Dragon eyed the beast warily. “Time may be shorter than I know? How do you know this? Who are you?”

The Wyrm gave Dragon a penetrating look. When it spoke, it addressed her by name, pronouncing her name in the ancient tongue of their race. Then it asked, “Do you not know?”

“I do not. Tell me. Who are you?”

The Wyrm again pronounced the name.

Slowly, Dragon’s eyes widened and her jaw dropped as realization swept over her.

* * *

I could hear the brawl still going on upstairs when my Old Dwarf stomped into my office, chuckling. “Thet Foreman o yourn be – – ” He stopped mid-sentence, turning deathly white as he saw me holding the manuscript and the red pen. “Lassie?” His eyes were full of fear, his quavering voice pleading. “Ye can na really be doin’ this!” A tear rolled down his cheek, matching the one slipping down my own. “Please, lassie. Do na.”

I took the pen and put a thick, blood-red line through the first character’s name.

edited

 

* * *

Who is this strange dragon, this Great Wyrm? Will it help Dragon find the historian’s apprentice? Will Dragon find the answers she seeks? Will any of my characters survive the red-penned purge? Be sure to join us again next week to find out. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

With Dragon Gone, It’s a Real Picnic

With Dragon Gone, It’s a Real Picnic

blue-dragon-2Dragon frowned, the smoke drifting from her nostrils growing increasingly black as she pondered her predicament. She steepled her clawed fingers and concentrated on finding a way to achieve her goal.

Back in the real world, Dragon lived with eight other fictional characters who, like herself, had fallen from the pages of some manuscripts; Mistress Writer, the creator of those manuscripts; and Master Miles, Mistress Writer’s spouse. Recently, Dragon and the other characters had been inexplicably at odds with one another. Arguments, loud and nasty, had become commonplace, occasionally erupting into fisticuffs. Tensions mounted, and Mistress Writer was at a loss to determine the cause of the problem or how to put an end to it.

Dragon rolled over and writhed around in the dirt, giving her itchy back a good scratching. Then she rolled back and continued thinking. I believe the incidents are somehow linked to the four items and a set of books from my world that have been transported to the real world of Mistress Writer through a magical conduit between the two worlds.

Dragon pictured the items – a talisman, a horseshoe, a ruby ring, and the Royal Seal – and a set of books. She had examined them at length in the real world, but could not determine how they would be causing the dissension among the characters. So she decided she needed to examine them in the world from which they came.

Of course, I can not do that, as they are no longer in that world. But the items, less the set of books, were in that world when Mistress Writer penned her tales. Therefore, they will be in the world of the manuscripts. Nothing there changes unless Mistress Writer edits the story.

Book manuscriptSo Dragon had devised a way to enter one of the manuscripts; however, she had not realized the full implications of the distinction between her own world and the world of the manuscripts. Here, within the pages of the manuscript, she had no way of examining the items thoroughly, or communicating with anyone who might have knowledge of the items, as nothing was truly present here. Everything here was merely images, shadows, echoes, and memories of the things and people about whom Mistress Writer had penned her stories.

Dragon’s frown deepened and the smoke that poured from her snout grew thicker than sludge and blacker than a raven’s feather. Perhaps it would be best if I can find some way to return to the real world and from there try to find a way into my world. Dragon knew the items she suspected of being at the root of the trouble with her and her fellow characters in the real world were gone from her world, but perhaps she could find and talk with the person who had sent them through the conduit to the real world.

Yes, Dragon decided. She would find a way to return to the real world, and then find a way into her own world. Dragon’s eyes narrowed. Or perhaps there is a way to slip from this world, inside the manuscript, directly into my home world. She steepled her fingers again, and concentrated.

* * *

All of them? On a picnic?” I eyed my husband dubiously. “Why on earth would we take any of them on a picnic, given how they have been behaving lately?”From Nicki 146

Because of the way they have been behaving lately.” Miles grinned and winked.

I gave him a blank look.

“When’s the last time you remember your characters getting along, not arguing or trying to bash each other’s skulls in?”

I wrinkled my brow and tried to think. Finally, I shook my head. “It’s been so long, I can’t remember.”

Miles chuckled. “It hasn’t been that long.”

“Oh?” I arched an eyebrow and waited.

“When we went to the fireworks display on the Fourth of July. Remember?”

I blinked. “That’s right! They all behaved reasonably well during the barbecue in the back yard, mostly because they were all too busy wolfing down the food and beverages to engage in any scrapping. But they were exceptionally well-behaved at the park during the fireworks, even my Arrogant One. No fights, no arguments. They were all chatting and laughing and enjoying each other’s company again.” I paused and considered this carefully. “Maybe the tensions and altercations are fueled by sheer boredom. Maybe a change of scenery and a picnic would be a good thing.”

Miles nodded.

It took longer than I thought it would to get everyone to agree to the picnic. My Old Dwarf was ready in a flash, as soon as I mentioned food. The others took a bit more convincing.

“You can not be serious. Me, go anywhere with the likes of them?” My Arrogant One drew himself up and rocked back on his heels, grasping the front of his cloak. “Never!”

The others responded in kind, no one wanting to go anywhere with any of the others.

I held my hand up and raised my voice. “All right, quiet down! Remember how much fun we all had at the Fireworks display?”

The only response was a bunch of muttering.

I scowled. “Well, I remember. It was a welcome respite from the way all of you have been behaving lately. So, like it or not, we are all going on a picnic. Miles is getting the food ready right now. And the same rules we had for the fireworks display will apply to this outing. First, all weapons, wands, staffs, and spell components will be left at home. Second, you will all dress in modern garb. Third, you will behave in a civilized manner. Last, if we encounter anyone today, you will tell no one who you really are. If anyone asks, you’re some out-of-town relatives and friends, visiting for a few weeks.” I glared at them. “Do you understand?”

I heard a few exasperated yeses, and saw a few heads nodding, grudgingly.

It took well over an hour to pack enough food and beverages for the picnic, and for everyone to pass my inspection. I had to confiscate several weapons and one staff, and neither my Old Dwarf nor my Arrogant One wanted to change their outfits.

I frowned at my Old Dwarf. “I’m sorry, but you just can’t wander around in chain mail. It would draw too much attention.”

I turned to my Arrogant One. “And your robes are far too extravagant for an outing like this.”

It took another 15 minutes, and a lot of yelling, to convince them, but by the time Miles had loaded the picnic hamper and coolers into the car, we were all ready to leave.

Within minutes of leaving, Miles and I were the only ones in the car watching the traffic and the passing scenery. Real world, 21st century vehicles go considerably faster than medieval fantasy world forms of transport. My characters had limited experience with car travel, and they were all white as sheets, with nary an open eye among them.

Pond for picnicNinety minutes later, we arrived at a beautiful lakeside venue. My characters breathed a collective sigh of relief, and almost fell out of the car the moment Miles had it parked. Their rubbery legs hardly supported them, so Miles and I took our time getting our supplies unloaded. When we were all fit and ready, we headed off down the trail toward the lake. My characters willingly helped us carry everything to the picnic table.

My Old Dwarf turned to my Foreman and the lads. “I be hungry enough ta eat e’ree one o yer horsies!”

I breathed a sigh of relief, as that remark was met with good-natured laughter from the others.

camera for blogEveryone pitched in and helped my husband to prepare the food. After a huge lunch, accompanied by much friendly banter and laughter, I suggested we go exploring. “I brought my camera, so I thought I’d check out the resident wildlife. You’re all welcome to join me, if you wish.”

birthdays-weekend-trip-to-wi-018“I’m beat!” Miles looked at me apologetically. “I think I’ll just clean up everything here and then take a nap under those trees.”

Dwarf facing right“Iffin ye do na be mindin a wee bit o company, laddie, methinks thet be soundin’ like a real comfy way ta be spendin’ the afternoon.”

So the rest of us left them behind as we started off down the path around the lake.

Sorceress stopped suddenly, looking at a patch of Yarrow. She placed her hand on Cleric’s arm. “You know, there are a lot of botanicals here that we could use in our spell components. Maybe we should collect them.”

Cleric nodded. “We can easily do that while assisting Mistress Writer with her photography.” She turned toward me. “Is that acceptable, Mistress? I know you have told us there are areas where collecting plants is forbidden.”

“There are no restrictions in this area. Just don’t remove too much from any one area. You don’t want to spoil it for others who want to enjoy the natural beauty here.”young-hero-facing-left

My Young Hero pointed toward the lake. “There are some flowers there, and some mushrooms. And I see some birds over there, too.”

Within minutes, Sorceress and Cleric had collected the Yarrow and ’shrooms, along with some Lady’s Slippers, Ornamental Onion, and Milkweed.

I got some photos of a female Hooded Merganser on the water, and a Great Egret and a pair of Canada Geese along the edge of the lake.

My Young Hero pointed out a bunch of turtles enjoying the sunny day, and a few fish in the water.

Then he found a bird flitting through the bushes at the side of the lake. It turned out to be a male American Redstart, and Cleric used her affinity with the birds to convince him to stop his frantic foraging and pose for a series of images.

Then Cleric coaxed a shy Common Yellowthroat out of the tangle of reeds and branches along the water’s edge so I could get some photos.

gypsy-facing-right“Listen.” My Gypsy held up his hand. “A Yellow Warbler!”

It only took us a moment to find it, and Cleric immediately convinced it to pose.

The lads found some Yellow-rumped Warblers, a Song Sparrow, some Eastern Bluebirds, and a number of Tree Swallows and Barn Swallows. Cleric spoke with each bird briefly and they all agreed to pose for us as well.

Before leaving the lake, my Bounty Hunter spotted a little Red Squirrel, and an Eastern Gray Squirrel, and I captured some images of them.

Stepping out of the woodlands surrounding the lake, my Gypsy stopped short. He whistled a few birdcalls, and was quickly answered by a House Wren and an Eastern Kingbird on a wire fence along the meadow.

My Foreman stood, mesmerized by the meadow blanketed with butterflies. “Amazing!”

“More furry critters, too.” My Bounty Hunter pointed to an Eastern Cottontail and a Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel.

Sorceress and Cleric found a treasure trove of flowers in and around the meadow. There was Salvia, Butterfly Weed, Purple Coneflowers, Black-eyed Susan, Bee Balm, Sumac, wild Petunias, clover, and a number of flowers I could not identify.

As I was taking a picture of a Bumblebee on a clover flower, I heard Cleric’s high-pitched squeal behind me. “Snake!

“Relax, it’s a harmless Garter Snake,” I informed her, quickly getting a few shots of it before it slithered away.

“Yes, well as I told you once before when we encountered such a creature, Mistress, I would just as soon it be harmless somewhere else. Preferably, somewhere far away!” My Cleric shuddered, and the rest of us shared a laugh.

As we continued along the loop trail, we reentered the forest and headed back toward the lake. My Arrogant One grabbed my arm and pointed, a look of awe on his face. There were Dragonflies everywhere!Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve 244

By the time we got back to our picnic site, my camera’s memory card was full and the battery drained, and Sorceress and Cleric had pouches full of botanicals.

On the way home, everyone chattered about the great time they had had. My Old Dwarf sighed. “It be a real shame the big beastie dinna be wit us today.”

Cleric nodded. “Dragon would have enjoyed this outing with all of us.”

“I be wonnerin’ where she be right now.”

* * *

blue-dragon-2Dragon was back in the desert, within a sheltering copse of trees in a large oasis. She was thirsty and her belly rumbled with hunger, but the water and food in the world of the manuscript was as insubstantial as everything else.

oasismagic energy traceDragon sat with her back against the rough bark of a date palm. She concentrated as hard as a dragon can, putting every ounce of her considerable mental prowess and supernatural power into her endeavor. She intoned an ancient incantation in an archaic language. Slowly, she began to shimmer. Bit by bit, her great bulk faded from the shadow world of the manuscript until, finally, she disappeared altogether.

It seemed to her a lifetime passed before she started taking shape again. As she solidified, she had only seconds to glance at her surroundings before she lost consciousness, her enormous power drained completely.

 

Be sure to come back next week and join us as Dragon faces new challenges and Mistress Writer continues to deal with her character’s frayed tempers. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Is it Reality or Something Else?

Is it Reality or Something Else?

pen and writing pad for blogdwarf-facing-rightPen in hand, I desperately tried to find the words. As my Old Dwarf lay, his lifeforce oozing red onto the floor . . . No, that wouldn’t do it. My Old Dwarf grew still, his face a sickly gray, his breath rattling . . . No, that was no good, either. Wait! Color slowly returned to my Old Dwarf’s face, as Cleric knelt next to him, tenderly holding his hand, administering her healing herbs . . .

Elf facing right“You must be joking. I think I am about to vomit!” Cleric leaned over me, reading what I had written. “What would possibly possess me to hold that harecop’s hand, tenderly or any other way? And why would I waste my time or my healing herbs on the likes of him?”

sorceress-facing-rightSorceress smirked. “Do not feign such indignation! You know the real reason you do not want to use your herbs is because you know you have no skill as a healer. You would do the dwarf more harm than good.”

Cleric’s fist connected with the other woman’s chin, and in a second a classic cat-fight erupted between the two.

I motioned for my Young Hero and my Gypsy. “Here, get them out of here!”

My Gypsy rolled his eyes. “Are you serious? You want me to pass up an opportunity like this? No way. Hey, everybody! I’ll give three-to-one odds Sorceress mops up the floor with Cleric!”

My Young Hero watched the two women fighting and frowned. “Make it four-to-one, and you’ve got yourself a bet!”

The other characters crowded around, reaching in their pockets and pouches, to find coins to bet. Cleric and Sorceress paused in their fisticuffs just long enough to place their bets before resuming the fight.

“What about odds on how long the dwarf can last? I will give ten-to-one he doesn’t make it another five minutes.” My Arrogant One sneered.

“Oh, wait, I’ll take some of that action!” My Foreman pushed the others aside to place his bet with the elf.

“What is wrong with all of you?” I was screeching, and I could feel my face contort with rage.

Easter 128“Ignore them!” Miles placed his hand on my shoulder. “You had better get writing. You’ll never save your Old Dwarf if you don’t get writing.”

I gaped at my husband, and nodded dumbly. It had been his idea for me to write my Old Dwarf back to health after my Bounty Hunter had stabbed him, but I didn’t know where to begin.

morcants-familiarAs I searched again for the right words, the window flew open and the milky-eyed grackle, the familiar of the evil wizard Morcant, flew in. It circled overhead, cawing and screeching. Morcant’s voice, high-pitched and grating, spewed from the bird’s beak. “You had no trouble finding the words to imprison me, witch! Are you saying you can not now find the words to save your dwarf? You claim yourself to be The Writer? I say thou art naught but a fraud! A charlatan! A cozener! A fake! An imposter!”

 

“Ye gods! Did you swallow a thesaurus?” My Bounty Hunter scoffed.

Ignoring the jibe, the milky-eyed grackle flew straight at me, screeching and pecking. I screamed.

 

“Honey? Honey! Wake up!” My eyes flew open as my husband shook me awake. I was shivering uncontrollably and my husband gathered me gently into his arms, tenderly stroking my hair. “Shhhhh . . . it’s okay. You were just having a bad dream.”

Slowly, I calmed down. I related my dream to Miles. “I know all my characters have been at odds lately, but in the dream, they were over the top! And then Morcant’s familiar was there, too!”

“Well, it’s no wonder you dreamed they were fighting – that’s all they seem to do anymore. But why Morcant would still be invading your dreams, I can’t understand. You said there was no way he was behind any of this.”

“I don’t understand that, either. I know we’re safe from him. And I don’t know why I dreamed you told me to write my Old Dwarf well after he had been stabbed.”

“Probably because I recently made a comment about the power of a writer’s words. Your sleeping brain took that and ran with it, giving your words magical powers.”

“I guess so. Anyway, I’m glad it was all just a dream!”

Miles and I snuggled back under our blankets and tried to get a few more hours sleep before the alarm clock would announce the start of another day.

* * *

Horseshoes . . . Dragon wondered why on earth she would have any interest in a barrel of old horseshoes. She poked through the keg, examining the curved bits of iron, but saw nothing that could explain why she was drawn to them.

horseshoe-for blogDragon turned to follow the Blacksmith as he left his workshop. The beast stopped when she spotted a solitary horseshoe nailed to the wall of the shop, directly over the door. It was fastened with the open end downward, a custom thought to spill luck and good fortune on all who passed beneath it. Dragon reached up and touched the horseshoe. She could barely feel the tingle of its inherent magic. She frowned. She should have been able to feel the magic of this talisman practically pulsating.

“Anyone here?”

blue-dragon-facing-leftDragon jumped. She was abashed at having been startled, her extraordinary hearing failing to detect the approaching figure.

foremanThe Foreman poked his head in the door. “Blacksmith? Are you here?”

“He is not.” Dragon answered him before remembering she was apparently invisible and inaudible to all here. The Foreman entered the shop and pushed past Dragon as if she were naught but a spiderweb in his path. The beast frowned again, and dark smoke spewed from her nostrils. I do not like being invisible! I have questions that need to be answered!

However, as she mulled things over, Dragon slowly decided there were distinct advantages to being unnoticed. She did not have to shapeshift in order to observe her quarry undetected. And she could go places dragons would never be welcome.

This night, Dragon followed the Blacksmith into town. She walked right into the Inn with him and sidled up to the bar. The Blacksmith beckoned to the barkeep, who turned out to be none other than the Innkeeper. Dragon had never met the Innkeeper, but she knew he was good friends with many of her companions. She followed the Innkeeper and the Blacksmith when they skulked off to the back room. There, the two of them engaged in animated conversation, mostly about things Dragon could not understand.

coin-talismanWhen the Blacksmith left, Dragon remained to observe the Innkeeper. As soon as he thought he was alone, the Innkeeper reached into his pouch and produced a small talisman. Dragon gasped. It was identical to the talisman that had appeared in the house of Mistress Writer and Master Miles, back in what the two of them termed the real world. Now she understood why she had been drawn to the barrel of horseshoes in the Blacksmith’s workshop. A horseshoe had also appeared in Mistress Writer’s home. In all, four objects – a talisman, a horseshoe, a ruby ring, and the royal seal – along with a collection of books had traveled through a magic conduit between her world and the real world. Can those items somehow be responsible for the tension and violence amongst my fellow characters there?

Again, Dragon cursed her invisibility. She needed to communicate with the people around her if she was to get answers.

Book manuscriptA few days past, back in the real world, when Dragon had entered Mistress Writer’s manuscript, the one from which she and her companions had fallen, she knew she was not truly entering the world she and the others had always referred to as their world. Many weeks ago, Dragon had discovered that she and the others did not come from their world at all. She remembered explaining to Mistress Writer: “We – the nine characters who fell out of your manuscripts and into this world – did not come from the world we refer to as our world, the world about which you wrote. We came from your manuscripts. We do not exist simultaneously in both worlds – the world we refer to as our world and this world that you call the real world – because we are not the same beings that exist in the world we refer to as our world. We are merely shadows, or memories, of those beings.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2017/06/04/3852/

However, when she had entered the manuscript, Dragon had not realized the full implications of that distinction between her world and the world of the manuscripts. Had she found a way to enter her world, the world about which Mistress Writer had written, she would be able to communicate with those she encountered there. But here, within the pages of the manuscript, she had no way of communicating with anyone, as they were not truly present there. They were merely the images, shadows, echoes, and memories of those about whom Mistress Writer had penned her stories.

Dragon frowned, the smoke drifting from her nostrils growing increasingly black as she pondered her predicament. She steepled her clawed fingers and concentrated on finding a way to achieve her goal.

* * *

dwarf“Lass, do ye be knowin’ where the great beastie be?”

I jumped at the sound of my Old Dwarf’s voice. I had almost forgotten his recent demise was nothing but a crazy dream. I had to take a deep, steadying breath before I could answer.

“Sorry, no, I don’t know where Dragon is. I haven’t seen her for a few days now.”

My Old Dwarf’s shoulders slumped, and he looked downcast. “Aye, I do na be seein’ ’er fer a bunch o days, too.”

“Did you need her for something?”

“Nay, lass, I just be lonesome fer ’er. She and me al’ays have a good time, sparrin’ and wrasslin’ aboot. I can na be doin’ thet wit any o the others right now. They all be takin’ thin’s too serious-like. Somebody be gittin’ bad hurted iffin ye can na be findin’ a way ta calm ’em all down.”

bounty-hunter-facing-other-direction“Can you really understand the incoherent blathering of that inarticulate ignoramus?” My Bounty Hunter was leaning against the wall, smirking.

My Old Dwarf’s eyes narrowed, and he reached for his axe. “Do na be botherin’ yerself ta find the big beastie, lass. I be thinkin’ I be findin’ a good enough target fer me axe-throwin’ practice.”

“No target practice in here.” I took the old rapscallion by the arm and urged him toward the kitchen. “Isn’t it just about lunch time?”

His eyes lit up, and I had to step lively to keep up with him as he made a beeline for the refrigerator. Miles was already in the kitchen, preparing some stew for lunch. He greeted us as we entered.

“Will everyone be having lunch today?”

“I imagine so. Everyone but Dragon, that is.”

“No word from her yet?” Miles deftly transferred the contents of the stewpot to a large tureen.

I shook my head.

“Is lunch ready yet?”

My Foreman and the lads walked into the kitchen and plopped themselves down at the table.

“Almost. But you still have time to go wash up.” I gave the three of them a pointed look.

“Yes, please do. In fact, you should bathe. You have been working around those malodorous equines all morning. The three of you stink!” Sorceress held her nose and scowled at them. Cleric, standing behind her, nodded her agreement.

My Gypsy jumped up so fast his chair clattered to the floor. “We stink? Have you smelled yourself lately? You’ve been working with those foul botanicals and components again and you reek!”

Cleric was about to say something, but I cut her off. “That does it. I’m tired of this entire hullabaloo. From now on, if you all can’t be polite and treat each other with some common courtesy, you can find somewhere else to have your meals. I don’t want to hear any more arguments and I don’t want to see any more brawling. Do you all understand?

If looks could kill, any one of my characters could easily have sent me on to my eternal reward. They sat down and sulked through the entire meal.

After lunch, my characters dispersed quickly, leaving Miles and I to clean up. I gathered the dishes from the table and brought them to the sink. Miles rinsed them and filled the dishwasher.

“Any clue yet what’s causing all this trouble with your characters? I’ve never seen them so argumentative and downright nasty with each other! It’s as if they all got a personality transplant from your Arrogant One.”

I shook my head. “I was depending on Dragon to help find the cause of the trouble. Now that she’s gone, I really don’t know how to deal with everything.” I paused, chewing on my lower lip. “Honey, do you think I should actually do what I always threaten to do? Should I just edit them all out of existence?”

“It seems a bit drastic, but if the situation does not improve, I guess you would have no other choice. Unless you just want to let them kill each other.”

“What would we do with the bodies?” Even as I said it, I knew my attempt at humor fell flat.

That evening, I sat in my office, flipping through my manuscripts. I had my red pen in hand, but I just couldn’t bring myself to start editing my characters into oblivion. Let’s see what tomorrow brings. I sighed, put my manuscripts back into the file cabinet, and headed for bed. On the way upstairs, I made sure the porch light was on.

The Situation Worsens

The Situation Worsens

blue-dragon-2It was after midnight. Dragon crept silently around the house, moving like a shadow from room to room. This house, a modest suburban bi-level in a small town in the Midwestern United States, had been her home now for longer than she could rightly remember. Dragon shared it with eight other fictional characters who, like herself, had fallen from the pages of some manuscripts; Mistress Writer, the creator of those manuscripts; and Master Miles, Mistress Writer’s spouse.

This house was far different from some homes Dragon remembered from sometime in the echoes of her long life – the huge mountain caverns filled with treasure, the great expanse of sand and wind and starlight of the desert, the majestic palaces of those who thought to own her. Compared to those, this frame dwelling was a humble house, an unpretentious house, a rather lowly and commonplace house.

Dragon was going to miss this house.

She crept along the hallway, peeking in at her companions, saying her silent farewells. The gentle Cleric, the regal Sorceress, the exasperating Old Dwarf, the valiant Young Hero, the waggish Gypsy, the reliable Foreman . . . Dragon would miss them all. The unscrupulous Arrogant One and the treacherous Bounty Hunter were a different story. Those two, Dragon never trusted, and they grated on her every nerve. Even now, Dragon could feel an almost uncontrollable urge to rip them apart as they slept. The big beast hurried away before she gave in to her violent impulse.

 

At the end of the hallway, Dragon listened discretely at the door of the master bedchamber. Hearing only the sounds of sleep, she entered and stood next to the bed. For a long time, Dragon gazed at Mistress Writer and her spouse as they slumbered. Finally, the huge creature leaned over and tenderly kissed the woman on her cheek, and gently tousled the man’s hair. Then she left, a single tear slipping down her reptilian face as she quietly closed the door behind her.

* * *

 

“If you do not like it, why do you not do something about it?” Cleric glared at Sorceress through narrowed eyes. Her hands, balled into fists, hung at her sides.

“Do not tempt me.” Sorceress sounded like a common fishmonger, her voice shrill and grating. She started to conjure a fireball, but my Old Dwarf smacked her hands with the flat of his axe, destroying the spell.dwarf-facing-right

“Ye do na be tossin’ fireballs aboot in the hoose!” His chin jutted out stubbornly and he glared at the two women. “I do na be likin’ ta be singed! Iffin ye be wantin’ ta fight, do it outside!”

gypsy-facing-right“Oh, no! Don’t be throwing those fireballs around outside, either!” My Gypsy’s voice was almost a snarl as he addressed Cleric and Sorceress. “The three of us are going to be riding our horses.”

 

My Foreman and my Young Hero nodded in agreement. “You spook one of our mounts, and see what happens.” My Foreman curled his right hand into a fist and thumped it menacingly into the palm of his open left hand.

“Why don’t you all go outside? And play nice!” Neither my tone of voice nor my steely glare left any room for argument, and in two shakes of a lamb’s tale, my characters had all scooted out the door.

“It’s getting worse, isn’t it?” Miles watched my characters drift into several groups, each seemingly intent on intimidating the others and taking charge of the outdoor area for their own activities.

I nodded. “They are at each other’s throats almost constantly. I have had to intervene in numerous confrontations to prevent serious injuries. Even Cleric, usually as mild and pleasant as a little lamb, has been acting more like a rabid wolf.”

“And still no idea where Dragon is?”

I shook my head. “She did warn us she might have to leave, for our protection, but she hurried off before I could ask her where she would go or how long she would stay away. I just hope she’s okay, wherever she may be.”

* * *

 

Dragon blinked against the bright desert sun. She reveled in the feel of the hot sand between her clawed toes. She flopped down and rolled onto her back, squirming and writhing, letting the gritty matter scratch away her itches and burnish her scales. When at last she finished, she rose and shook the sand from her bulky carcass. Then she raised one clawed hand and shielded her eyes from the brilliant blue of a cloudless sky. She gazed toward the distant horizon and recognized the royal city with its gold-and-ivory crowned spires and minarets of rose, black, and white marble.

The desert and its royal city felt familiar to Dragon; but it was the familiarity of a place oft heard about, not a place ever visited in person. Still, Dragon felt this spot held an importance in her life. She frowned and wondered. Would she find answers here?

While she stood pondering how to proceed, a slight movement between two dunes caught Dragon’s eye. She cautiously approached. There, stretched out asleep in the sand, was a huge wyrm, a mirror image of Dragon. Not daring to startle the great beast awake, Dragon sat and waited.

It was three days before the beast stirred. She – Dragon could see it was female – woke slowly, stretching and shaking the sleep from her muscles, and the sand from her scales. Presently, she padded over to a nearby oasis and took a long drink from the small pool. Then she looked around and sprang into the air, quickly flying off toward the royal city. Dragon watched her until she was just a small dot over the city.dragon-1964202_960_720

Dragon frowned. The creature had given no indication she had seen Dragon sitting right there, so close their wings had almost touched. And something more bothered Dragon about her near encounter with the great wyrm, though she couldn’t quite put her finger on it.

Dragon decided to follow the other dragon to the royal city. She spread her wings and launched herself toward the north. The city, which had seemed so distant, was beneath her in less than a dozen wing-beats. Dragon landed just outside the walls of the city, and shapeshifted quickly into her customary form of an elf maiden. She took a few steps toward the city gates, then stopped, shaking her head. What am I thinking? She quickly changed again, taking on the guise of a desert dweller.

Entering the city, Dragon immediately headed for the palace, although she could think of no reason why she should go there, nor any reason she should know exactly where to find it. Along the way, she passed through the bustling bazaar, where merchants and tradesmen hawked their wares. Observing them, something bothered Dragon, just as something about the other dragon had bothered her. Again, she could not quite figure what it was.

When she came to the palace, Dragon stopped dead in her tracks. She knew this place. It was more than a place she had heard of, but not a place to which she had ever actually been. She sensed this had not been a happy place in her personal history . . . but if she had never actually been here, how could that be? Dragon shuddered, and was overcome by an uncontrollable urge to flee this place. She assumed her true form, expecting to cause panic in the crowded streets. Instead, not a head turned in her direction.

Dragon looked around. Everyone was going about their business, completely ignoring her, a huge dragon standing there in the middle of the street. Dragon’s eyes narrowed. She took a few steps toward the palace and snarled at the guards. They ignored her.

Dragon sat back on her tail. Was all this an elaborate illusion, conjured by some unknown trickster? Dragon reached out and touched the nearest guard. She could feel him, although he showed no sign of feeling her touch. If he was illusion, he was a solid and substantial illusion, the type of illusion that only a master magician could conjure. Yet, why would a master illusionist create people and creatures that did not act as they should when confronted by a dragon? Dragon cocked her head and scratched her chin. She quickly cast a spell of detection, but no magic was revealed. These were not illusions.

Dragon studied the guards. They may not be illusions, but they did not look quite real. The guards appeared almost two-dimensional. They weren’t quite flat, Dragon realized upon closer inspection, but they lacked a certain substance. As Dragon pondered the situation, she realized that was what had bothered her about the other dragon – she, too, had not appeared quite real. She had looked more like a moving picture of a dragon – flat, two-dimensional, like some poorly animated cartoons Dragon had watched every now and again on Mistress Writer’s television. And in the bazaar – the people, buildings, wagons, animals had all shared an underlying two-dimensional feel. Dragon scratched her head, puzzled by this realization.

Dragon decided to leave this place. She took to the sky and winged her way south again. In no time, she was out of sight of the royal city. A few moments later, the desert gave way to mountains, then to forests and plains. Presently, Dragon found herself over another city. This one she did not recognize, although she somehow sensed this was where she needed to be. Here she would find the answers she sought. She hoped.

* * * 

The bickering among my characters had continued the entire day. Miles and I had broken up countless squabbles before they could escalate into physical confrontations. This time, we were too late.

Dwarf facing right“Do na be blamin’ yerself, lass.” My Old Dwarf lay on the kitchen floor, skewered by a carving knife. I tried, without much success, to stem the bleeding. The old rapscallion’s breathing was becoming labored. The light was leaving his eyes and his skin was growing gray and sweaty.

“Where is Cleric with her healing herbs?” I tried to keep the panic from my voice. I failed.

Elf“I am here. But why should I waste my herbs and my skills on that saddle-goose?”

I gaped at Cleric. “Because I order you to?”

She arched an eyebrow and looked down her nose at me. “Phht! And why should I obey orders given by such a dullard?”

“Because my Old Dwarf will die if you so not help!”

“No great loss.”

I scrambled to my feet and grabbed Cleric by the arm. I could feel my face contort in anger. “By all that’s holy, I swear if you let him die, I will destroy you. You have heard me threaten many times to delete one or more of you characters from the manuscripts. Trust me, I am not threatening now. It is a fact – if my Old Dwarf dies, you, Cleric, will cease to exist.” I whirled toward my Bounty Hunter. “As will you, you murdering scum!”

My Bounty Hunter scoffed. “It wasn’t murder. It was self defense. He charged me, waving that ax of his. I merely protected myself.”

I ignored him and forced Cleric to a kneeling position next to my Old Dwarf. “Do something! Now! Don’t let him die!”

Cleric sighed and rolled her eyes. She pulled some healing herbs from her pouch and applied them to the wound. She recited several prayers. My Old Dwarf did not respond. I grasped his hand, and felt his life slipping away.

“No!”

Miles knelt down next to me. He had a pen and a pad of paper. “Here. I want you to try something.”pen and writing pad for blog

“What?” My face was wet with tears.

“Write him back to life.”

“What?”

“You’re the writer. He’s one of your characters. Write him well again.”

I gaped at my husband, uncomprehending. “Write him well?”

Miles nodded.

I took the pen and paper and searched my mind for the right words. Could this really be done?

* * * 

blue-dragon-2Dragon had been watching the manor house at the sprawling horse farm a few miles outside the city. It was easy to wander around in plain sight of the occupants, who paid her no more heed than had the other dragon, or the palace guards in the royal city. Dragon recognized many of the people who came and went throughout the day. There was the Young Hero, and the Foreman. The Gypsy, the Cleric, and the Old Dwarf were there, too. There were others, many others, whom Dragon did not know. One of them was a blacksmith. new-years-horseshoeDragon followed him to his workshop behind the barn and found a barrel of old horseshoes. Horseshoes . . . Dragon was drawn to them, yet wondered why on earth she would have any interest in old horseshoes.

 

 

What is this strange yet familiar place where Dragon has gone, and why doesn’t anyone there see her? What is the significance of the horseshoes? Can Mistress Writer write her Old Dwarf back to health? Be sure to join us again next week to find the answers to these and other mysteries. I’ll leave the porch light on for you.

Fireworks

Fireworks

Easter 128“Mind if I join you? This looks like a good place to hide from all the fireworks.”

I looked up from my computer screen to see my husband, Miles, standing at the door to my office. He was wearing an uncharacteristic scowl. I motioned for him to come in.

“Fireworks? Honey, what are you talking about? It’s not even lunchtime yet. The fireworks won’t start until after dark tonight.”office-and-bookshelf-for-blog-002

Miles cautiously made his way through my cluttered office, maneuvering around obstacles and inching his way across the room as if he were walking through a minefield. He removed a few books and a pile of papers from the chair next to mine and sat down, still scowling. “Those fireworks will be tame compared to the ones that have been going on upstairs this morning.”

“Oh, no! Is one of my characters conjuring fireworks in the house? Who is it? My Arrogant One? My Gypsy? Sorceress? Dragon?” I jumped up, ready to go put a stop to such shenanigans.

“That type of fireworks wouldn’t be so bad!” Miles rubbed the back of his neck.

I sank back into my chair and eyed him warily. “Oh?” I wasn’t at all sure I really wanted to know.

Miles nodded ruefully. “So far this morning, I’ve broken up two fistfights between your Gypsy and your Young Hero, and a screaming match between Sorceress and Cleric.”

“Oh-oh.”dwarf

Miles held up his hand to indicate he was not finished. “Then your Old Dwarf almost lopped off my head with that great big axe he carries around.”

My eyes widened. “He did what? Why?”

“About an hour ago, I walked into the kitchen and found him making one of his little snacks – one that would feed the average family of four for a week. I made the near-fatal error of suggesting he wait until lunch.”

I chuckled. “Yeah, that would do it.”

blue-dragon-2Miles’ hand went up again. “Then I went back to the living room and found Dragon scratching her back on the carpet again. When I asked her to stop, she threatened to scorch my shoes with me still in them!”

I giggled. “She hasn’t made that threat in ages!”

“I don’t think it’s funny.” Miles scowled, and I tried to hide my grin. “Last but not least, your Foreman was arguing with your Arrogant One and your Bounty Hunter, and when they saw me standing there, they tried to gang up on me. Dragon put an end to that – she saved me after she herself had just threatened me!”

I sighed. “It’s a confusing time right now, honey. All my characters seem to be at each other’s throats. Dragon theorized it could be the heat or just plain boredom, but she also suggested there could be something more sinister behind it.”

Miles blanched. “You don’t think it could be Morcant again, do you?”

morcant

I shook my head. “No. I am confident that Morcant will never bother us again. When the three crones from his world retrieved his familiar from our world, they collapsed the magical conduit. Morcant will never again be able to send his familiar here.”

Miles sighed and nodded. “That’s good. But what about your Arrogant One?” Miles furrowed his brow. “Is there any way he could create a conduit between the two worlds?”

I snorted and shook my head again. “I don’t think his magic is anywhere near that powerful.”

“He could be the one causing the friction between all your characters, though.” Miles quirked an eyebrow and tilted his head.

“Yes, I suppose he could be behind it. If so, Dragon will discover it and put an end to it.”

“Do you or Dragon have any other theories about what could be causing this? I mean, one sort of expects your Arrogant One to rub people the wrong way, and I guess Dragon and your Old Dwarf can both be prickly at times. But for the lads to be brawling or Cleric and Sorceress to be at each other’s throats . . .” He shrugged. “They’ve always been the best of friends. There must be something more than heat or boredom fuelling the furor.”

blue-dragon-facing-left“Do you really think I’m prickly?”

Miles and I both jumped, and my husband turned beet red as Dragon stuck her head in the door, her broad grin displaying rows of dagger-sharp teeth.

“Dragon! Er . . . ah . . . I didn’t hear you come downstairs!” Miles stammered and turned from beet red to deathly white as Dragon continued to stare at him and grin.

Porcupine for blog“You didn’t?” Dragon feigned surprise. “I suppose I can be very stealthy when it serves my purpose.” The huge beast winked at Miles, then began to shrink. She entered the room and gracefully picked her way through my office, wrinkling her nose in disdain at the untidy conditions. As she approached Miles, she began to transform. By the time she reached his chair, she had shape-shifted into a very hefty porcupine. “Prickly, too.” She giggled.

Miles shrank back in his chair and pulled his feet up. He looked wide-eyed at the porcupine, and started to sweat.

“All right, Dragon! That’s enough! No skewering Miles with your quills. And no scorching his shoes, either – with or without his feet still in them!” I glowered at her.

Elf cleric“You don’t let me have any fun.” The ersatz porcupine shapeshifted into her familiar guise of an elf maiden. She conjured a chair and sat, facing Miles and me. She immediately turned serious.

“Master Miles, you were asking if your wife and I had any theories to explain the change in everyone’s demeanor. I agree with Mistress Writer that it can not be Morcant. However, I have discovered nothing else that can account for the recent conflicts. I have been too busy trying to keep my companions from inflicting serious bodily harm on each other, and have not really been able to devote much time to investigation.” She lowered her eyes and her cheeks turned bright red. “I have also been . . . busy . . . keeping my own violent tendencies under control.”

I reached out and took her hand. “It must be something very sinister indeed to bring out the beastly side of your nature.”

She nodded. When she spoke, I could barely hear her. “I have been thinking of shapeshifting into something that can do no harm to anyone. I can not risk incinerating any of you.” When she raised her head, I saw genuine fear in her eyes.

“Will that really do any good? To shapeshift into something harmless?” Miles quirked an eyebrow at Dragon.

“Miles is right. It wouldn’t do much good. Even if you took the shape of something innocuous, you are a dragon. In a fit of anger, you could immediately change back to your true state.”

“I could ask Sorceress and Cleric to cast a spell on me once I have changed, preventing me from changing back unless they released their spell.”

“No!” I jumped from my chair. “With everyone at odds with each other, you would not be safe. Under the influence of whatever is causing this, the two magic users could refuse to release the spell. Or, when Sorceress and Cleric were not around, you might encounter one of the others who might harm you if you were unable to defend yourself. No, there must be another way!”

Dragon nodded. “I will study on it further and see if there is an alternative. If there is not, I may have to go away until I would no longer be a threat to any of you.”

Before I could reply, Dragon jumped up and rushed from the room, shapeshifting back to her beastly form as she left.

I collapsed back into my chair. Miles and I sat looking at each other, stunned.

“Do you think it will come to that? Do you think Dragon will go away?” Miles seemed genuinely upset at the thought.

I shook my head and shrugged. “I hope not. I realize she feels we may be in some danger with her here, but I trust that she can exert enough control over herself that it would not come to that. And how will we find the cause of all this friction among the characters if she is not here to help?”

dwarfBefore we could discuss the matter further, my Old Dwarf came hotfooting it into the room. “Eh, be we havin’ a midday meal taday or no? I be starved!”

Miles wisely kept quiet and did not comment on the old reprobate’s appetite. We followed him back upstairs to the kitchen, where all my characters had assembled around the table.

Over a tense lunch, I guided the conversation to the festivities planned for that evening. Although July four was still several days away, our town had planned its celebration for the weekend.

I explained to my characters the early history of our country, and exactly what it was we celebrated each Fourth of July. My monologue was met with stony silence and narrow-eyed glares from my characters.

Finally, I got to something that sparked some interest. “So tonight, we will have a barbecue in the back yard.”

“A bar-bee-cue?” My Old Dwarf’s eyes lit up. “Food?”

“Yes, food.” At that, even the others started to look interested. “After that, we’ll go to the park to enjoy our town’s fireworks display.”

“Fireworks?” My Gypsy looked intrigued.

“Fireworks.” I nodded, but met with blank looks from most of my characters.

“Pyrotechnics.”

More blank looks.

“Huge, colorful showers of bright sparks in the sky, usually accompanied by loud booms.”

My Arrogant One’s eyes lit up at that, but my Old Dwarf frowned at Miles and me. “Jest ye two be goin’?” He started fingering his axe.

I hesitated. “You can all go, if you can agree to a few conditions.”

All nine of my characters glared at me. “What conditions?” My Foreman’s voice was almost a feral growl.

“First, all weapons, wands, staffs, and spell components will be left at home. Second, you will all dress in modern garb. Third, you will behave in a civilized manner. Last, you will tell no one who you really are. If anyone asks, you are our out-of-town relatives and friends, visiting for the holiday weekend.”

After considerable debate and grumbling, everyone agreed – even my Arrogant One.

The barbecue was delicious. I was glad I had made enough to feed the entire neighborhood, even though none of my neighbors were there. My Old Dwarf ate more than their share.

After eating, we ambled down to the park for the fireworks display. The closer we got to the park, the more relaxed my characters seemed to be. We found a grassy knoll no one had yet claimed and we set up our lawn chairs and blankets. As darkness fell, I was happy to see all my characters talking and laughing.

As always, the fireworks display was awesome. Every one of my characters sat, wide-eyed, oohing and aahing at the pyrotechnics.

As we walked back home, I was pleased at my characters’ behavior and lack of any incidents. As soon as we walked in the door, that all changed. Within minutes, the screaming and fighting had resumed. I beckoned to Miles. “Come on. I know a good place to hide from all the fireworks.”office-and-bookshelf-for-blog-002

Will we discover what is causing their hostilities? Will all my characters survive their unexplained acrimony? Will Dragon go away? Be sure to come back next week to find out. I’ll leave the porch light on for you.