Missing

Missing

I yawned and rubbed my eyes. I saved the rough draft of my blog, and put my computer into sleep mode. I headed for the stairs, eager to put myself into sleep mode as well…or, to use my Cleric’s newly acquired idiom, I was eager to hit the hay.

doorwayWhen I reached the top of the first flight of stairs, I stopped dead. The front door was ajar; the yellow glow from the porch light spilled across the vestibule floor. I saw a scrap of material caught on the door latch. I snatched it and examined it closely. It was a bit of simple homespun, the material from which my Cleric’s robe was fashioned.

I slowly pushed open the door and stepped cautiously onto the porch. The freshly painted floorboards were scratched and scraped. The welcome mat had been dragged halfway down the front walk, and there were black scuff marks trailing a few feet past that point. I listened, but the only sounds were the rhythmic chirps of the crickets, the deep croaks of the frogs, the gentle hoot of an owl, and the annoying rumble of nearby highway traffic.

I slowly backed into the house and closed the door as quietly as I could. Then I turned and ran upstairs, taking the steps two at a time. At the top of the steps, I rounded the corner to the kitchen and I almost collided with my Foreman.mens-991728_1280

“I want everyone in the conference room right now,” I ordered sharply. He started to question me, but I cut him off. “Everyone. Now!”

I ran back down the stairs. Within minutes, most of my characters had gathered in the conference room. The only ones missing were my Cleric and my Old Dwarf.

“What is going on?” my Sorceress demanded. She yawned loudly and raked a hand through her sleep-tousled hair in an unsuccessful attempt to tame it.

“Yes, what is the panic at this time of night?” my Gypsy asked around a mouthful of cold chicken. “We were just getting a bit of a snack before bed.”

“Sit down,” I ordered. My characters took note of my voice, cracking with fear and anger, and slowly sank into their seats.

“Mistress?” my Young Hero addressed me. “What is it? Why are you so distressed?”

Elf facing right“I believe Cleric has been abducted.” As I waited for my words to sink in, I watched my characters carefully, trying to scrutinize their facial expressions. I saw expressions ranging from shock to concern to irritation to anger. What I didn’t see were any faces that looked guilty.

 

Suddenly, everyone was talking at once. “When did it happen?” “How do you know?” “Who took her?” “How can we get her back?”

I raised my hand, and the room fell silent. “Cleric and the Old Dwarf were with me in my office earlier this evening. We were discussing the latest award for which the blog has been nominated. The Old Dwarf left first, to raid the refrigerator. Cleric left shortly thereafter. She was going to turn on the porch light, then go up to bed. I stayed to work on my blog. It was about two hours later when I finally started upstairs. When I reached the front door, there were obvious signs of a struggle.”

I paused. I watched the assembled group through narrowed eyes, still trying to gauge each character’s reaction. After a moment, I continued. “The light had been turned on, but the door was ajar. I saw something caught on the latch.” I held up the small square of material. Before I could continue, my Foreman jumped up and grabbed the scrap from my hand.

“This is homespun!” he exclaimed, his voice thick with emotion. “This came from Cleric’s robe!”

I nodded.

“Why do you assume she has fallen victim of foul play?” my Arrogant One asked, waving his hand dismissively. “She may have merely stepped outside for a breath of fresh air, a stroll in the moonlight. She could have caught her own robe on the door latch.”

I shook my head, and related all I had seen when I had stepped out onto the porch.

My Young Hero paled. “Cleric has been my ordained Protector since birth. I owe her my life many times over. With her unique powers and cautious nature, I can not imagine how she came to be abducted!” His voice cracked and his lower lip quivered.Young hero 2

“I can’t fathom how it occurred, either, or who may be behind such a deed, but I intend to find out and to rescue Cleric,” I avowed.

“You say the Old Dwarf was with you and Cleric in your office?” my Sorceress asked. I nodded. “Then where is he now?” she inquired archly.Dwarf

“I had presumed him to be in the kitchen, having dinner,” I replied. “At least, that was his stated intent when he left the office.”

“He never joined us there,” my Foreman noted with a frown. “And I could not find him when I was gathering everyone for this meeting. He was in none of his usual spots.”

“Well, then,” my Arrogant One scoffed, the superior tone of his voice grating on my nerves, “I would say we have a good idea who abducted Cleric.”

“I do not believe that,” my Young Hero stated, shaking his head emphatically. “The Old Dwarf may be gruff, but he holds Cleric in great esteem. He would never harm her.”Dragon

“He better not,” Dragon avowed, smoke curling from her nostrils.

 

 

 

“Well, if we are to find Cleric, we best start immediately,” my Foreman remarked. He scowled and raked his hand through his hair. “I suggest we all go out and search the area. Perhaps we can follow the trail…”

“No,” I cut him off. “I want everyone to stay inside. If we all go out tramping about, we could easily destroy any footprints or other clues the abductor may have left.”

“Well, we can not just sit around and do nothing,” my Young Hero cried, and my Foreman, my Gypsy, and my Sorceress emphatically agreed.

“We won’t,” I promised them. “I have an idea.”

Dragon cocked her head and looked at me. She smiled a wicked smile, showing her dagger-like teeth. Smoke billowed around her head. “Does your idea involve roasting the culprit?” she asked in a growling voice.Fierce Dragon

I chuckled. “Let’s find the culprit first. Then we can discuss roasting.”

Dragon nodded.

 

 

“Dragon, would you come with me, please?” I asked. “Everyone else is to remain here until I return.”

“Why are we to stay here?” my Arrogant One demanded. “As long as we do not leave the house, why should we be confined to this room?”

“Once Dragon and I finish, I would like everyone here, so I can present our findings,” I replied glibly. “I do not wish to waste time having Foreman hunt you all down again.”

“And just how long are we to be confined here?” my Arrogant One demanded, arms folded over his chest and jaw tightening.

“As long as it takes,” I replied evenly, my eyes narrowing.

“This is outrageous!” my Arrogant One objected vehemently.

“Perhaps. At any rate, no one is to leave this room,” I told him.

“And if I decide not to stay?” he asked, walking toward the door.

Stu-04-NatGal

“Oh, you will stay,” my Sorceress declared, stepping in front of him. She bounced a fireball in her hand, and the look on her face dared my Arrogant One to defy her. He hesitated but a second, then flounced back and threw himself down in his chair and pouted.

Confident that everyone would remain in the conference room, I led Dragon up to the front door. I asked her to check around as unobtrusively as possible. She nodded, shrank to the size of a mouse, and slipped out the door. Thirty minutes later, she returned.

“The tracks did not continue past those skid marks on the front walk,” Dragon revealed. “It is as if whoever made those marks just vanished into thin air. I checked around the entire neighborhood, but saw no sign of Cleric or the Old Dwarf. I did, however, see Morcant’s familiar in the big maple tree in the back yard.”

Morcant's familiar“The bird could not have abducted anyone, but that doesn’t mean he’s not somehow involved,” I mused.

Dragon nodded. “Perhaps, if I keep a close watch on the creature, I will learn something,” she suggested.

“I agree, but a dragon, regardless of size, will hardly go unnoticed,” I warned.

“But a dragonfly could,” Dragon suggested with a wink of her eye.

I smiled and nodded.

“I shall go immediately and find a spot from which to observe,” Dragon decided. “With a dragonfly’s eyesight, I can easily see even at night. If Morcant’s familiar leaves his perch, I can follow without the bird ever knowing I am there. And should anyone else be prowling about, I can see them as well.”

“Be careful,” I cautioned. “A dragonfly can be a tempting morsel to a bird, or any number of other predators.”

“I will be careful,” Dragon promised. She closed her eyes and began to shimmer. In a few moments, she began to shape-shift, taking on the appearance of a stunningly beautiful golden dragonfly. I opened the door for her, and she flew off, disappearing into the darkness beyond the glow of the porch light.Spring Peeper Meadow and MN Landscape Arboretum 044

I waited a few minutes, then returned to the conference room. The moment I entered the room, my Arrogant One jumped up and demanded, “Well? Are we free to go now?”

“Your concern for Cleric is truly touching,” I stated through clenched teeth.

My Foreman and my Young Hero shoved my Arrogant One aside. “Have you found Cleric?” my Foreman asked, wrinkling his brow and biting his lower lip.

“Is she safe?” my Young Hero added, wringing his hands.

“I’m sorry, I have not found her yet,” I replied softly.

“What of the Old Dwarf?” my Bounty Hunter inquired, giving me a sidelong glance and fiddling with his crossbow. “Have you found him yet?”

“No, he also remains missing,” I replied.

My Arrogant One just smirked, as much as to say, “I told you so.”

“And Dragon?” my Gypsy asked.

“On an errand for me,” I answered. That raised some eyebrows, but a dour look from me quelled any further discussion.

“Well, if this is all you have to report, you have wasted close to an hour of my valuable time,” my Arrogant One carped.

“As if any of us care about you or your valuable time,” my Sorceress muttered under her breath.

Arrogant One“If you have no further objections,” my Arrogant One continued in a petulant tone, “I will take my leave of this tedious, vexatious, and dreadfully inefficient assemblage.” Without waiting for a reply, he tossed his hair back, grasped the front of his cloak and marched out the door. The rest of us doubled over with laughter.

“All that was missing were the court trumpeters,” my Sorceress snickered.

“So, now that the jester is gone, is there anything else you can tell us?” asked my Foreman.

I shook my head. “I wish there was.”

“What can we do?” asked my Young Hero. “And please do not tell us to do nothing. Cleric is a cherished friend, and we must do everything possible to help effect her rescue.”

“I know how difficult this is on all of you, but I promise it would be better if you did nothing,” I advised them all.

My Gypsy tilted his head and studied me for many long moments. Finally, he brightened and said, “You do know more than you are telling us, don’t you? You know where she is, and who took her?”

“Not yet.”

I motioned them out of the room. “It is time we all got some sleep. We will think better, fresh in the morning.”

“As if any of us will sleep this night,” muttered my Foreman, as he shuffled out the door, shoulders slumped and worry lines creasing his brow. The others followed, looking much the same. All except my Bounty Hunter. He looked like a man with a purpose.

As I ascended the stairs, I stopped by the front door. Somewhere out there, beyond the sphere of light from the porch lamp, a dragonfly kept vigil, hoping to find a clue that would lead to the missing Cleric. I wished her well.

ElfSpring Peeper Meadow and MN Landscape Arboretum 044

 

 

 

 

 

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Another Award!

Another Award!

DwarfMy Old Dwarf came bursting into my office the same way he bursts into every room he enters – with a sense of urgency and air of self-importance in contrast to the twinkle in his green eyes and the grin under his grizzled beard. Today, he was dragging my Cleric behind him.

“Ah, there ye be, lassie!” he greeted me breathlessly, as the elf disentangled her hand from his and tried to regain her composure. “Cleric here tolded me yer blog be nominated fer another award!”

“Yes, it has been,” I confirmed.

“Thet be real good! We finally be gittin some recognition!” He beamed.

“First of all, I’m getting the recognition, or rather my blog is, not you and your companions.”

“Argle-bargle!” he exclaimed, his grin turning to a look of astonishment. “Ye be knowin full well we be the ones thet be doin all the work and ye jest scribble it all down.”

“Yeah, right,” I agreed, rolling my eyes and chuckling.

My Cleric gave me an apologetic look and held her hands up helplessly. I gestured to her not to concern herself.

“Second,” I continued, “it’s another award just like the last one. It’s just a nice way for bloggers to recognize other bloggers’ efforts and help promote each other’s blogs. No one ever actually gets the award. Just the nomination is the award.”

My Cleric nodded her understanding, but my Old Dwarf bristled. “No one ever be actually gittin the award? What nonsense be thet?”

“That’s just the way it is,” I replied with a shrug. “Sort of like saying attagirl, in recognition of someone’s work.”

Before my Old Dwarf could argue the point, my Cleric stepped in between us. “The first award for which your blog was nominated was the Liebster Award,” she noted. “What is this new award, and what are the requirements, Mistress?”

“This one is the Sunshine Blogger Award,” I told her.sunshine blogger award

My Old Dwarf snickered and commented, “It be right obvious yer not be gittin that one on account o yer disposition.”

I ignored him and continued, “The requirements are much the same as for the other award. I don’t have to share 11 facts about myself this time, but I do have to answer 11 questions posed by the nominating blogger, then compose 11 questions for my nominees.”

“Who nominated you for the Sunshine Blogger Award?” my Cleric inquired.

“Another of my online friends and colleagues, Elizabeth Eisenhauer, a very talented writer whose blog is https://truestoryreally.wordpress.com. I greatly appreciate her nominating me for this award.”

“Have you answered her questions yet?” my Cleric asked.

“I was just about to do that,” I replied with a smile, gesturing to my computer screen.

“Well, we kin stay and help ye, lassie, iffin ye want,” my Old Dwarf offered.

My Cleric and I exchanged anxious glances. “You can stay, but no kibitzing,” I warned.

“Who, me?” my Old Dwarf asked, his eyes wide as he protested his innocence. I just gave him a stern look, and turned to my ClericElf

“Why don’t you read the questions?” I suggested.

 

My Cleric nodded. “Number one,” she read. “Do you have a motto, or a quote that you try to live by?”

I frowned, thinking. “I actually know a song that sums up the way I try to live – Fill The World With Love from Goodbye, Mr. Chips.”

My Old Dwarf snorted and shook his head, but my Cleric smiled warmly. “I know that is your favorite song,” she commented before reading the next question. “How is being an adult different from what you expected?”

I laughed. “At my age, I can’t really remember my expectations of adulthood; and since I staunchly refuse to grow up, I guess I’ll never know the reality of adulthood.”

My Cleric shook her head. “Oh, Mistress, you are joking, are you not? You are a very responsible adult.”

I just smiled a Mona Lisa smile and motioned to my Cleric to go on to the next question.

“If you could have a superpower, what would it be?” she read.

“Superpower,” I mused. “Well, I have never had the desire to fly or lift a hundred times my weight or see through things with x-ray vision…” I paused, considering my options. “I think the power to heal would be the greatest superpower in the world, and the one I would want,” I decided. “To heal physical ills, as well as those afflicting the mind and the soul or spirit.”

“Like my clerical ability!” My Cleric beamed at me, and I nodded.

My Old Dwarf snorted again. “With all the superpowers ye could be havin thet would git ye power, fame, or enough gold ta fill the coffers of a dozen kings, ye want the power ta heal peoples?”

I nodded. My Old Dwarf just shook his head. “Yer about as clay-brained as they come!”

I laughed. “What’s next?” I asked my Cleric.

My Cleric looked at the list of questions again. “Number four – is there anything you are bad at – really bad at – that you enjoy doing anyway?” she read.

“Singing,” I replied without hesitation. “I am totally tone-deaf, I have a tin ear as they say.”musical notes

“Now thet be somethin we can attest to,” my Old Dwarf agreed. “Ye can na carry a tune in a suitcase, but ye al’ays be singing.”

“I think you have a very…adequate singing voice,” my Cleric stated, and I smiled at her.

“Next question,” I directed.

My Cleric hesitated. “Mistress? I am afraid I do not understand this question.”

I looked at the computer screen. “Plotter, pantser, or something in between?” I read. “It’s a question about writing style,” I explained. “I’m a dyed in the wool pantser with just enough plotter to figure out my beginning and my ending. Then I fly by the seat of my pants until I get from point A to point B. I never know what’s going to happen next until I write it.”

“Eh, yer no plotter or pantser,” my Old Dwarf grumbled. “Ye jest scribble down our adventures as we have em, and ye call yerself a writer. Ye be a scribe, a chronicler!”

“I won’t argue that point,” I conceded, trying to hide my smile. “So what’s the next question?” I asked my Cleric.

“Number six,” she read, “What do you remember most vividly about your childhood?”

“I have many vivid childhood memories, but I don’t think the question really means one specific memory.” I paused, frowning. “I guess what I remember most vividly about my childhood is never measuring up. I was never fast enough, agile enough, smart enough, pretty enough or behaved well enough. I was the one always picked last for teams, I was the one whose parents and teachers alike always asked why I could not be more like my older sister, I was the one who sat at home alone on date nights. Perhaps that is why I still harbor feelings of inadequacy.”

My Cleric’s eye’s widened. “Oh, Mistress…” she began, but I cut her off. “It’s okay. Let’s just move along. What’s the next question?”

My Cleric looked, and read, “What is the most unusual thing about your blog?”

“I’m not sure anything is unusual about it,” I said, puzzling over it. “I’ve only been blogging less than a year, and my blog is still evolving. Currently I blog about the adventures that befall a group of characters from my unpublished Young Adult Fantasy series, now that they have escaped into the real world. I don’t know if that is unusual. I don’t know if other bloggers do that.”

“Escaped into?” my Old Dwarf thundered, as his face turned red as a beet. “We fell from the pages o yer manuscripts into this world o yourn. We be trying ta escape outten it and back into our own world!” He crossed his arms over his chest, and glared at me.

“Sorry,” I replied. “Poor choice of wording, I suppose.”

“And ye still insist ye be a writer!” My Old Dwarf snorted and shook his head.

“Yeah, well, let’s just go on to the next question.”

My Cleric quickly read it off. “What one thing would you grab (aside from people and pets) if there was a fire?” She shuddered at the thought.

“That’s a tough one. Any of the things I would like to save are probably too heavy, bulky and awkward for me to quickly grab and carry out of the house – all my writing files, my computer, my collection of autographed and personalized RA Salvatore books…” I paused. “I suppose, practically speaking, I would grab as many family photos as I could carry, especially of family members who have passed away.”

My Old Dwarf instantly softened. He surprised me by nodding and patting my hand. “Aye, lassie, memories and family – two things I know ye be holding dear.”

My Cleric quirked an eyebrow at the old humbug, and diplomatically went on to the next question. “When did you know you were an adult?” she asked me.

“I’ve never been an adult. I refuse to grow up.”

My two characters clucked and shook their heads, then my Cleric read, “Number ten – where was your last vacation?”

“Vacation? What’s that?” I quipped. “Miles and I took a long weekend in Wisconsin almost two years ago. We went to Crex Meadows Wildlife Area to watch the Sandhill Cranes stage for fall migration, and we drove around the national forest and explored some quaint little towns off the beaten path. We had breakfast every day at Country Cafe On Main in Grantsburg, where we got what Miles declared to be the world’s best French toast.” I smiled at the memory.

“One final question,” my Cleric declared with a smile. “Did you notice that these questions are in alphabetical order?”

I gaped at the questions on the computer screen. “No, I didn’t!” I laughed.

“So, now thet ye have answered the questions, what be next?” my Old Dwarf asked.

Now, I have to nominate some bloggers for the award, and compose 11 questions for them. If any of them care to accept the award, they have to answer the questions, then nominate up to 11 other bloggers for the award, and compose 11 questions for them to answer.”

“Who will you nominate this time, Mistress?”

I brought up another window on the computer, and pointed. “Here’s my list.”

Eliza Winkler – https://sheepcarrot.wordpress.com/

Kim Bailey Deal – www.kimbaileydeal.net

Deidra Alexander – https://deidraalexander.com/

A.J. McCarthy – https://ajackmccarthy.com/blog/

Marie Rogers – https://marieqrogers.com/

Melissa Mayntz – http://backyardbirdsutah.blogspot.com/

“And what questions be ye givin em ta answer?” my Old Dwarf asked.

“Well, I’m going to cheat on this one. I think the questions I composed for the nominees of the Liebster Award will work just fine for the nominees of the Sunshine Blogger Award, too. I’ll use them.”

I brought the list up and copied and pasted it to the rough draft of this week’s blog.

1. How long have you been blogging, and what motivated you to start your blog?
2. In a single sentence, what is your blog about?
3. How did you decide on the name for your blog?
4. Where do you get the ideas for your blog posts and how often do you post?
5. Do you ever get “writer’s block,” and, if so, how do you deal with it?
6. What’s your favorite post that you’ve written? Could you provide a link to that post?
7. What is the best advice you can give your fellow bloggers about how to get new subscribers?
8. Do you belong to any writers’ or bloggers’ associations and, if so, which ones?
9. Where will we find you on social media?
10. Other than blogging, what is your favorite activity?
11. What one thing would you like to be remembered for?

“So’s thet be it?” my Old Dwarf asked. “We kin be havin some dinner now?”

I laughed. “I believe dinner was several hours ago. It’s just about bedtime!”

My Old Dwarf looked crestfallen.

“Well, maybe, if you’re real lucky, the lads left you a snack in the refrigerator,” I teased.

My Old Dwarf brightened at that thought, and scurried off to raid the refrigerator.

“Do you have further need of my assistance this night, Mistress?” my Cleric inquired.
“Or are you going to…how did you put it last week? Are you going to hit the hay?” She smiled, as she mastered another modern idiom of this world into which she had fallen.

“No, I’m going to stay here and work on this blog a little bit longer, but you can go. Just please remember to turn on the porch light on your way upstairs.”

“I will remember, Mistress. We must always leave the porch light on for our potential visitors.” She graced me with one last, warm smile before skipping out of my office and heading up the stairs.

I returned my attention to the computer. I never heard the scuffle at the front door.

 

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Liebster Award nomination

Liebster Award nomination

My Cleric delicately cleared her throat. I jumped. “How long have you been there?” I demanded.

“Only a short time, Mistress. You seemed so engrossed in your writing, I did not wish to disturb you.”

I grunted a thank-you, and returned my attention to the computer screen.

She cleared her throat again.

“Did you need me for something?” I asked, testily.Elf facing right

“No. I was just wondering what you are writing.”

 

I sighed. “I have been nominated for a Liebster Award. According to the directions for accepting the award, it seems I have to answer some questions.”

My Cleric cocked her head and furrowed her brow. “What is a Liebster Award?”

“It is an internet award given by bloggers to other bloggers,” I explained. “It is a way to help promote fellow bloggers, and give their blogs some exposure.”

“Peer recognition. That is very prestigious,” my Cleric responded.

I shrugged. “Yes, that is one way to view it. Some nominees may view it as too similar to a chain letter, though. If you accept the award, you are required to share 11 facts about yourself, answer 11 questions posed by the nominating blogger, and then nominate up to 11 other bloggers at the end of the blog you have written about the award.”

“How do you view it, Mistress?”

“I’m all for anything that helps promote my blog and writing, or that gives me the opportunity to help promote other bloggers.”

“So, you are accepting the award,” my Cleric stated shrewdly. “Who nominated you?”

“One of my online friends and colleagues, DMGbyrnes. You have heard me speak of her. She is the very talented writer and blogger whose blog can be found at https://dmgbyrnes.com. I need to thank her for this award!”

“Yes, you must,” my Cleric agreed. “So the first requirement for accepting this award is to share 11 facts about yourself?”

“Yes, but that is something I already did in my blog just a few months ago. So I think I will just provide a link to that entry.”

“Oh, yes, I remember that one. It was very enlightening!” My Cleric nodded approvingly.

“So if anyone wants to read the facts about me, they can go here.” I typed in the URL: https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2016/02/07/10-or-more-things-you-might-not-know-about-me/

“Or,” my Cleric suggested, “they could go to the About Me section of your blog. I remember you reading that to me once. Not as insightful, perhaps, as your other blog entry, but it does introduce you adequately.”

I nodded, and typed another URL: https://margecutter.wordpress.com/about-me-margaret-tesch/

“The two combined should provide readers with a well-rounded view of you,” my Cleric commented. “Now, what about the questions your colleague, DMGbyrnes, posed?”

Liebster Award

“Let’s see…the first question is If you’re a Harry Potter fan (I concede that there are some out there that aren’t), do you enjoy the movies?

“Who is Harry Potter?” my Cleric asked.

“He’s a fictional wizard,” I explained, “the subject of a series of novels that were made into movies. I loved the books, and I also thought the movies were excellent.”

“A wizard, is he? I shall have to read those books! What is the second question?”

Do you have a preference for hard copy books or ebooks? Well, that’s easy – hard copy books. I’m a dinosaur – I don’t own any form of e-reader.”

“E-reader?” My Cleric furrowed her brow again.

“An electronic device for reading books and other publications. Similar to my computer.”

“Oh.”

“Third question – Do you have a story you want to write but keep putting it off for some reason? If so, why? Hmmm. Yes. I have any number of stories in my mind, and in my idea file here in my office. Many are more than just ideas, they are outlines or even beginnings of stories that I have already started writing, but never finished. Why?” I gave my Cleric a side-long glance. “Because I found a group of characters who insisted I drop everything and write their stories. I am on book three of an envisioned seven-book series, which I hope will someday be published. So I don’t put much effort into other writing at the moment.”

My Cleric blushed. “You have put aside your other writing for us?”Elf

I nodded.

“I am touched,” she said, and gave me a huge smile.

I chuckled and went on to the next question. “How long have you been blogging? Let’s see…I have only been blogging since October 2015, when one of the exercises in the Writer’s Digest 2015 October Platform Challenge was to start a blog.”

“I remember,” my Cleric mused. “You were blogging for quite a while before you started writing about the adventures we, your characters, have had since entering your world.”

I nodded and glanced at the questions again. “How do you deal with self-doubt?

“Oh, Mistress, you have no need to doubt yourself,” my Cleric exclaimed, laughing.

“Well, I thank you for that, but I happen to be riddled with self-doubt, and I don’t deal well with it. I lose a lot of sleep, I stress, I overeat, and I seek assurance from others that my writing measures up.”

“Of course it measures up!” she replied with a firm nod of her head.

I just smiled.

“Next question. Have you been to a writer’s conference? Or do you plan to soon/this year? Many years ago (no, I won’t say how many years), I attended one. I would love to attend more now that I feel my writing has reached a critical stage. But an aspiring author can spend a fortune on conferences and seminars, including travel, lodging and meals, and it just is not in this writer’s budget.”

My Cleric frowned. Before she could comment on the sorry state of my finances, I read the next question. “Do you have a favorite hat? If so, what is it?

My Cleric laughed. “You are not what I think of as a hat person, Mistress. The only one I ever see you wear is that floppy one with the string.”

“That’s my favorite hat!” I agreed. “It shades my face while I am hiking, keeps my hair out of my face when I am taking nature photos, and the hatstring keeps it on my head on windy days.”

“And it is just so flattering,” my Cleric teased.

“It gets the job done.” I chuckled, and read the next question. “What is one writing (or other) goal you’ve set and met so far?

“You have been published,” my Cleric stated. “Is that not the goal of every writer?”

I nodded. “Yes, I have met my goal of being a published writer. A lifetime ago, I had a nice freelance writing career for a few years before life interfered. I had several hundred articles in local, regional and national publications, mostly in the field of equine sports. I also had a few poems and pieces of short magazine fiction published. Now my goal is to take it to the next level, to become a published author and see my books in print.”

My Cleric smiled warmly and nodded. I read the next question. “Do/What is your favorite medium of visual art? (painting, sketch, sculpture, photo, etc.)?

“Oh, I know,” my Cleric enthused. “That has to be your nature photography!”

“Indeed! Next to writing, it is my favorite activity, and the only visual art I create.”

I continued to the next question. “You’re leaving the house for the day and are bringing a bag of things you need/stuff to do. What are 5 things you’re definitely bringing. (Assume no catastrophe, just a day away from your home/working area).”

I sat thinking, and my Cleric looked at me expectantly. “Well, I suppose it would depend on where I am going. But if I am leaving for the day, I don’t think I would be going shopping. I guess I would be going birdwatching and taking nature photos. So I would need my camera, my walking stick, a bottle of water or iced tea, some sunscreen, and insect repellant.”

“Yes, you always triple check that you have those items before you go,” my Cleric agreed.

“Last question,” I said, reading from the list. “Name something on your bucket list.”

“What is a bucket list, Mistress?”

“It’s a list of things you want to do or accomplish in your lifetime,” I explained. “When I was younger, I had a lot of things on my list, but I have accomplished many of them. If I had to name one thing I still need to accomplish, it is to become a published author.”

 

“And I know you will, Mistress!” My Cleric beamed at me.

I returned her smile. “Well, that’s just about it for the requirements for accepting this Liebster Award. All I have to do now is nominate up to 11 other bloggers, and write 11 questions for them to answer.”

“Do you know 11 other bloggers who have not yet received this award, and who would appreciate the honor?” my Cleric asked.

“Well, let’s see…probably not 11. Many of the bloggers I enjoy have already been nominated for this or similar awards. But I should know a few who are newer, who have not received this award, and who deserve to have some exposure. Let me look…”

My Cleric waited patiently as I went through the book marks on my computer.

“Here,” I said to my Cleric after an exhaustive search. “Here are the bloggers I would like to nominate for the Liebster Award.” Liebster Award

My Cleric looked over my shoulder as I typed the names:

A Marie Silver – http://amariesilver.com/

Ally McCormick – http://allymccormick.com/

Charity Rau – https://charityrau.wordpress.com/

Majida Rashid – https://apakistaniwomansjourney.wordpress.com/

James Stack – https://siroliverofskygatefarm.com/
“I recognize two of them,” my Cleric commented. “We met AMarie and some of her characters in several crossover adventures back in December last, did we not? And is not the last blogger on your list Dragon’s friend, Ollie, and his human?”

I nodded. “Yes, indeed. AMarie’s characters were fun to work with, weren’t they? And I could never leave Ollie and James off the list. Dragon would never let me hear the end of that!”

My Cleric smiled. “I look forward to reading the works of the other bloggers you are nominating. What questions have you composed for them?”

“I still have to write the questions I will pose to my Liebster Award nominees,” I told my Cleric. “You can read along over my shoulder, as I type.”

My fingers stumbled over the keyboard in their usual clumsy fashion. Twenty minutes later, I was finished.

question mark

1. How long have you been blogging, and what motivated you to start your blog?
2. In a single sentence, what is your blog about?
3. How did you decide on the name for your blog?
4. Where do you get the ideas for your blog posts and how often do you post?
5. Do you ever get “writer’s block,” and, if so, how do you deal with it?
6. What’s your favorite post that you’ve written? Could you provide a link to that post?
7. What is the best advice you can give your fellow bloggers about how to get new subscribers?
8. Do you belong to any writers’ or bloggers’ associations and, if so, which ones?
9. Where will we find you on social media?
10. Other than blogging, what is your favorite activity?
11. What one thing would you like to be remembered for?

“Those are very interesting questions,” my Cleric commented as I finished typing and hit save. “Is that everything now?”

“Yup…for me. Now if a blogger decides to accept the award, they need to nominate up to 11 other bloggers for the award as well. Then they just have to share 11 facts about themselves, answer the 11 questions I posed, and devise 11 new questions to pose to their nominees.”

I hit save again, just to be sure. I did not want to have to retype all that! Then I yawned and told my Cleric, “I’m beat now. I think I’m ready to hit the hay.”

She gave me a blank look.

“It’s bedtime. I’m going to go to sleep,” I clarified.

“Oh!” She brightened. “Good night, Mistress! May you have pleasant dreams this night!”

“You, too!” I replied.

I smiled and headed upstairs. I turned on the porch light as I passed the front door – I never know when we might have visitors.

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The Keys, epilogue – The Mystery Rehashed

The Keys, epilogue – The Mystery Rehashed

It sounded like bedlam as I approached the conference room door. Inside the room, my characters were all engaged in loud, animated discussions, and several of them were yelling at each other across the room. The racket ceased the instant I walked through the door.

All eyes were on me, as I took my seat at the round table, and gestured for the others to be seated. I began without preamble. “I assume Cleric has shared with you the conversation she and I had regarding Morcant, the recent appearance of his familiar at my window, and his connection to a set of keys in my possession.”

Everyone nodded.

“Good. I can not emphasize strongly enough the danger Morcant represents…to his own world, to other worlds including this one, and to me personally. He simply can not be allowed to retrieve the keys. Therefore…”

DragonDragon tugged at my sleeve. Her reptilian brow was creased, and a frown distorted her delicate snout. “Mistress, are you certain the keys in your possession are the ones used to imprison Morcant?” she asked. “When I found them here, I was absolutely positive that they were a set of keys I once had in my treasure trove, an item I collected in my own world when I was still a wyrmling.”

Gypsy

Before I could reply, my Gypsy interrupted. “They can’t be from Morcant’s world; nor can they be Dragon’s keys,” he objected, shaking his head emphatically. “I tell you, I recognized them from a legend I heard countless times as I was growing up. The keys are Gypsy – the bows and the bits are of a unique design. They are quite unmistakable!” he insisted, his voice intensifying.

Stu-04-NatGal

My Sorceress rose and faced the Gypsy, crossing her arms and narrowing her eyes. “And I still believe them to be keys from my civilization, keys to a magical bridge,” she maintained, scowling.

Elf facing right“I was so certain they were the keys my Order was tasked to safeguard,” my Cleric stated softly, biting her lower lip and looking downcast.

My Old Dwarf jumped to his feet. “Ye all be daft! They be Dwarven keys, ta a great DwarvenDwarf treasure! Otherwise, how be it thet I can sense the magic o them?” he demanded, sticking his chin out defiantly and smacking the palm of his open hand with the flat of his battleaxe.

“Sit down and be quiet!” I commanded.

My Old Dwarf looked taken aback, but meekly resumed his seat. The others quieted and waited for me to continue.

“Yes, Dragon, I am certain of the origin of the keys. But you are correct – they are the same keys you added to your treasure trove as a wyrmling,” I disclosed. “How they came to be in your world, I do not know. Perhaps the same way they…and all of you…materialized here, in the real world. Perhaps they fell out of the pages of one manuscript and into the pages of another.” My gaze moved from Dragon’s face to the others around the table.

Keys 015

“They are also the same keys your Order safeguarded, Cleric. They may even be the keys of legend among other societies in your world, which would explain the basis of your beliefs regarding the keys,” I explained, looking at my Gypsy, my Sorceress and my Old Dwarf. “It seems this trio of keys has slipped from world to world, from people to people…or, in some cases, from people to dragons…and from one point in time to another, and now they are here.”

My characters sat and chewed on that information for a while. Finally, my Old Dwarf stood up and began pacing. “Iffin these keys be the keys o Dwarven legend, or o Gypsy legend, or o legend o the civilization Sorceress hails from, why do ye na just be givin’ one o us the keys? Do na we have a claim on em?” He stopped pacing and stood, facing me, eyes narrowed and fists balled at his side.

“The safety of our worlds must be placed above any personal claim or likelihood of profit,” I argued, meeting his steely glare.

“The Mistress is correct,” my Cleric came to my defense. “The keys had been entrusted to my Order to safeguard due to their danger. It was said that they could be used to unleash a cataclysm!”

“Or unlock a monumental treasure!” my Old Dwarf countered with a snort.

Arrogant One

“I agree with the Old Dwarf,” my Arrogant One stated, rising from his chair, grasping the front of his cloak and rocking back on his heels in a self-important manner. “How do we know what you say is true? Perhaps you just wish to acquire these riches yourself.”

 

My Bounty Hunter rose and nodded in agreement, but I cut him off before he could say a word.

“I really don’t care if you believe me or not, any of you!” I retorted, glowering at the assembled group. “I know the origin of the keys, and the dangers of letting them fall into the wrong hands. The keys are now in my possession, where they shall remain. They are magically concealed, so Morcant’s familiar will have no way to locate them, nor will any of you. For your own protection and the protection of both our worlds, I will share the location of the keys with no one, not even Miles. And there will be no further debate on the issue.”

I heard some grumbling, and most of my characters nodded rather reluctantly. However, my Foreman stepped forward, his brow furrowed and his jaw tense. “Are you quite certain, Mistress, that the keys can not escape from their place of concealment, and slip back into our world?”

mens-991728_1280Young hero 2

 

“If there is any chance of them being a threat to our king, we have a duty to try to retrieve and destroy the keys,” my Young Hero added.

“I assure you, they can not escape nor be taken, either physically or through the use of magic; therefore, they pose no threat to your king, or anyone in your world,” I avowed.

The two characters nodded and visibly relaxed, so I continued, “I have not seen Morcant’s familiar since his initial appearance, but I doubt that he has abandoned his quest to recover the keys. Even though there is no way for him to succeed in his mission, there is no end to the mischief and misfortune he might wreak. Should anyone see a rather runty Common Grackle with milky white eyes, drive him off.” My tone invited no argument.

My characters nodded, all but my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter. The two of them huddled together, whispering and giving the rest of us sidelong glances.

Doing my best to ignore them, I proceeded to the next issue. “Now that that matter is settled, I understand we had visitors recently,” I commented, feigning innocence.

Suddenly, the floor, the ceiling, or their own hands and feet seemed the most fascinating objects my characters had ever seen, as they shifted and fidgeted uneasily in their chairs. I waited, but not one of my squirming, red-faced characters replied.

Well?” I finally demanded. “Did we, or did we not, have visitors?”

Blushing furiously and biting her lower lip, my Cleric replied cautiously, “Well, yes and no, Mistress.”Elf

“Yes and no?” I quirked an eyebrow and crossed my arms in front of me. “Which is it? Yes or no?”

 

 

“Technically,” Dragon offered, in a shaky voice, “It is both.” She shrank to the size of a mouse, and scurried under my Cleric’s robes, where she peeked out at me, trembling.

“Explain!” I thundered.

More squirming and fidgeting ensued. Finally, my Sorceress stepped forward. “Five people were here two weeks past. They came seeking answers to the mystery of the keys. We each told them what we knew…”

“Or what we thought we knew,” my Cleric interjected, wringing her hands.

“When it became obvious to them that definitive answers could only come from one source, they requested an audience with you,” my Gypsy continued the explanation.

“Then why didn’t you summon me?”

“It was quite late, Mistress, and…” my Cleric faltered.

“And we had no wish ta be disturbin ye at thet hour, lassie” my Old Dwarf finished her statement.

I quirked an eyebrow. “Oh, really? Since when do any of you worry about disturbing me, at any hour?”

“Actually, we feared that we had already revealed too much to the visitors,” the Gypsy said, hanging his head.

“So, what did you do?” I asked, remembering other times they were called upon to exercise their problem-solving skills. I could feel beads of sweat forming on my forehead.

DragonDragon, still mouse-sized, slowly emerged from beneath my Cleric’s robes. Gradually, she increased in size, until she could look me in the eye. She squared her shoulders and set her jaw. “We four,” she confessed, indicating herself, my Cleric, my Gypsy and my Sorceress, “joined hands and used our combined powers to send them back in time. We sent them back to the moment they had arrived on our street. Then, before they could determine the correct house, we turned out the porch light. They assumed they were lost, and they left.”

“So, you see, technically we did have visitors, and we did not have visitors,” my Sorceress finished with a smirk.

I stood there, gaping at the foursome. I didn’t know whether to be impressed or terrified that they were able to manipulate time and space that way. Before I could find my voice, my Cleric tilted her head and stroked her chin.

“Mistress, it just occurred to me, we might be able to use a similar spell to send Morcant’s familiar back to his own world. Once there, he would not be able to return here, as he needs to follow the magic signature from the keys in order to slip from world to world. As long as the keys are concealed, there will be no magic energy to follow.”

My Arrogant One’s head shot up at that. “Why have you never revealed the extent of your power?” he snarled. “If you can do that, you can use your magic to return us all to our own world!”

“We can not,” replied my Sorceress somberly.

“And just why can’t you?” my Bounty Hunter demanded, pushing past my Arrogant One to confront the foursome.

“Because,” Dragon replied, “even with our combined power, sending someone between worlds is dangerous. If the distance is too great, our energy could be drained before the completion of the spell, with disastrous results.” She thrust her face toward him and grimaced, revealing her mouthful of razor-sharp teeth. “Would you care to risk that possibility?” she asked.

My Bounty Hunter recoiled, and blustered, “Why you accursed beast! I should…”

Bounty HunterAnother dragon

Smoke poured out of Dragon’s nose. I stepped in between them, and pushed my Bounty Hunter back to his side of the table. “Sit down!” I commanded vehemently, shoving him into his chair.

I turned back to Dragon, who shrank a bit from my stern glare. “If the spell is so unreliable and potentially dangerous, are you sure you should attempt it on Morcant’s familiar?”

“Would it really matter if the bird met with disastrous results?” my Sorceress asked, coldly.

I frowned. “Actually, it would.”

My Sorceress quirked an eyebrow at me, and shrugged.

“Let me give this some thought. In the meantime, if we should have any more visitors, I want to be notified immediately, regardless of the time or circumstances. Is that understood?”

All of my characters nodded. I rose and walked out of the room, which came alive with the buzz of hushed conversation as soon as I left. I walked upstairs, pausing by the front door to look outside. The sun had set an hour ago, and the darkening street was empty. Some birds were still calling softly from their roosts in the trees, and a dark shadow winged overhead.

I thought about Morcant, trapped in the tower for eternity. I thought just how much longer eternity could seem, if his familiar were to be lost to him. Even Morcant’s crimes did not seem to warrant endless isolation, I mused.

I sighed wearily, and tried to push aside the troubling thoughts. I turned on the porch light and headed upstairs to sleep. Attracted by the light, a visitor entered the front yard. Just beyond the reach of the soft glow of the lamplight, an undersized and bedraggled Common Grackle with milky white eyes half hopped and half flew to a tree branch. He cocked his head and watched me through the window as I ascended the stairs, then settled himself for the night, hidden among the leaves.Morcant's familiar

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