Where am I?
I furrowed my brow. No, that’s not the right question. I know where I am. I’m on the couch in the living room. But how did I get here? Hmmm . . . I suppose Miles must have brought me here after I had . . . I had . . . fainted? Yes, fainted. But where was I before I fainted?
I pulled myself up into a sitting position. Miles and a group of my characters were gathered around the couch, eyeing me with worried looks and murmuring among themselves. I sighed and raked my hand through my hair. So . . . where was I before I fainted? I rubbed my forehead and sighed. No, that’s not the right question, either. I know where I was before I fainted. I was standing on the front steps. Miles and the others were on the front porch, gaping at me.
I shook my head to clear the cobwebs. No, the question should be where had I been before that? And how did I get from wherever I was to the front steps?
Cleric entered the room, her soulful cornflower-blue eyes wet with concern. She wordlessly placed a steaming cup of tea on the accent table in front of me, and dabbed at her eyes with a crumpled handkerchief. Then she hastily joined the others gathered around the couch.
Miles sat down next to me and took my hand, squeezing it reassuringly; but his expression was far from reassuring. His face was white, his breathing hard, his lips and chin trembling. He looked frightened half to death, and his concern was mirrored on the faces of all my assembled characters. “Honey, do you remember anything? Anything at all?”
I shook my head and my voice cracked when I spoke. “Not really. One minute, I was heading down the stairs to my office. I needed to finish the work I had been doing before Morcant’s familiar had shown up in the guise of Dragon. The next thing I knew, I was on the front steps, and you were all on the porch staring at me.” With trembling hands, I reached for the teacup, and took a long swallow, letting the warm liquid soothe me.
Cleric stepped forward, wringing her hands. “Mistress, Master Miles told us it was just past the noon hour when you left the living room and went down the stairs to go to your office. I had been waiting for you downstairs by the conference room door since mid-morning. I went upstairs to look for you around one o’clock. You had never arrived downstairs, but Master Miles said you never returned to the living room and he never heard you open the front door to go outside.”
“When Cleric reported you missing, we started looking for you immediately. It was after six in the evening when we saw you on the front steps, Mistress.” My Young Hero furrowed his brow and swallowed hard. “One minute, you were nowhere to be seen, and the next minute, you were just there, standing on the steps.”
I continued sipping my tea. When I had drained the cup, I handed it back to Cleric. I noticed my hands were still trembling. “What happened to me sounds exactly the same as the description you two gave of your recent disappearance.” I nodded toward my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter.
My Bounty Hunter nodded. “But what has caused these phenomena, and why are the three of us the only ones affected?”
My Gypsy crossed his arms over his chest. “Don’t you mean you are the only three affected thus far?”
The others gaped at him, but I nodded. “He’s right. Just because it has only happened to three of us thus far, that doesn’t mean the rest of you aren’t vulnerable. We really don’t know.”
“Let us review what we do know.” Ever poised, ever calm, Sorceress stepped up to take the lead. “First, both the Arrogant One and the Bounty Hunter recently disappeared from the back yard, near the bottom of the steps to the deck. Days later, when they were found in the garden shed, they claimed no knowledge of how they had disappeared, how long they had been gone, where they had been, or how they came to be in the shed.”
I looked at the other two, and they nodded. My Arrogant One replied softly, “Yes, that is an accurate account, milady.”
“Today, Mistress, you went missing from the upper stairway in the house. You remained missing for several hours and you reappeared on the front steps, with no knowledge of the circumstances or the elapsed time.”
I nodded in agreement.
“We need to find a link.”
Miles frowned. “What do you mean?”
“What do these separate incidents, or the people involved in them, have in common?”
I furrowed my brow, and chewed on my lower lip before answering. “Other than the fact that we disappeared, reappeared in a different place, and have no memory of it happening, let alone any understanding of how it happened, I’m not sure there is a link.”
Sorceress waved her hand dismissively. “There must be, and the sooner we find it, the sooner we can determine if any others are at risk. Let us start with the people involved.”
“Well, two of the people who disappeared are characters from a different world who fell out of my manuscripts, one a bounty hunter, the other a prestidigitator. I, a writer, come from this world, and I am, for lack of a better term, real.”
I could see by their scowls that the term real was not appreciated by my characters, although no one condemned the designation aloud.
“All right, we will accept that for now. What about the locations?”
“The other two were outside, and together, when they disappeared, and they reappeared inside the shed. I was in the house, alone on the upper stairway, when I disappeared, and I reappeared outside, on the front steps.”
Sorceress frowned. “Duration?”
“They were gone for days. I was gone for hours.” I shrugged. “Really, the only thing we have in common is the fact that none of us can remember what happened, or how long it was between the time we disappeared from one spot and reappeared in another.”
“I agree. I see no other similarities, either in our persons or in the disappearances and subsequent reappearances.” My Arrogant One spoke softly and respectfully, still shaken from his recent ordeal.
“You may have one other thing in common.” My Young Hero stepped forward. His brow was furrowed and he rubbed the back of his neck. “The keys.”
“The keys?” I raised an eyebrow.
“Mistress, you were in possession of the keys to the locks of the tower in which the evil wizard, Morcant, is spending his eternal exile.” He turned toward my Bounty Hunter and my Arrogant One. “And you two had an overwhelming desire to obtain them for Morcant’s familiar. That way, the bird might return to his own world and present the keys to his master, so the wizard could free himself.”
“Then Morcant is the link. Morcant is the one who caused these incidents. He was still trying to obtain the keys, first from my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter, and when that didn’t work, then from me.” I could hear the panic in my own voice.
“I do not believe Morcant is responsible.”
“Dragon!” I greeted my friend with a warm smile. “When did you get back? I thought you were staying to visit with Ollie and James.” My smile quickly faded. I narrowed my eyes and scooted away from the creature. “Wait. You are Dragon, aren’t you?”
The large beast looked at me solemnly. “I am. I returned as soon as James informed me of your difficulties.”
“Oh? And how are James and Ollie?” I tried to sound nonchalant.
“My good friend and his human are quite well, thank you.” Dragon tilted her head and chuckled. “You need not test me, Mistress. I assure you I am not an imposter.”
I shook my head and continued to eye her suspiciously.
“Should I describe Skygate Farm to you? It is really quite beautiful at this time of year, you know, with the glorious fall colors as far as the eye can see.”
I still hesitated.
My Old Dwarf stepped toward Dragon, brandishing his axe. “Ye better be tellin’ the truth, ye big lizard! Iffin ye be misrepresentin’ yerself, it’ll be the sharp edge o me blade that ye be feelin’!”
“Do not make me laugh, small one. You know perfectly well that not even your excellent blade can do me the slightest harm. Now, be a good dwarf and sheathe your weapon, before I have you for a bedtime snack.”
“Eh, thet be Dragon all right, not the wizard’s familiar in disguise!” My Old Dwarf returned his axe to its holder and chuckled. “Judgin’ by the way he skedaddled when I threatened ’em, I do na believe thet Morcant’s little birdie be knowin’ thet me blade be useless a’gin a dragon’s hide. Even iffin he do be knowin’ it, he must also be knowin’ thet his hide do na be so tough.”
I nodded and turned back to Dragon. “I’m sorry I doubted you.”
Dragon inclined her head graciously. “It is understandable, considering the wizard’s familiar deceived you once.”
“Indeed! So, why don’t you think Morcant is responsible for the disappearances?”
“Do you remember when the Arrogant One kidnapped Cleric, and the Old Dwarf was knocked unconscious when he tried to rescue her?”
I nodded and my Arrogant One blushed furiously.
“Well, the Arrogant One magically concealed them in the shed loft. Then Morcant used his own magic, through his familiar, to further conceal them, so even the Arrogant One could not find them.”
“Yes, I remember that.”
“When we finally did find them, they were exactly where the Arrogant One had left them. Morcant had not moved them from one place to another.”
I rubbed my chin and chewed on my lower lip. “Are you saying Morcant is not capable of moving his victims about?”
“If he was, I think he would have removed Cleric and the Old Dwarf from the shed loft, making it more difficult for us to find them.”
I slowly nodded. “But . . . well . . . if not Morcant, then who?”
“Ah, yes, that is the question, is it not? Who else has the power to make others go missing?”
“Well, beastie, hereaboots thet would only be ye and Sorceress.”
Dragon narrowed her eyes and snorted a blast of smoke at my Old Dwarf. “You dare accuse me? Or Sorceress?”
The old miscreant coughed and waved his hand to clear away the smoke. “Nay, nay, ye blasted beastie! I just be sayin’ who here be powerful enough ta manage it.”
Dragon snarled a warning, and Sorceress stepped between her and the dwarf. “Cease this immediately! We have no time for petty squabbles amongst ourselves. Dragon, the dwarf may not be the most diplomatic being, but he is correct. The two of us are the only ones here capable of such magic.”
“Then the logical assumption is this act was perpetrated by someone not here.”
I scowled. “That doesn’t exactly narrow down the suspect pool.”
“No, I do not suppose it does.” Dragon sighed, smoke rings drifting from her nostrils. “Mistress, you have had a long and harrowing day, as have the others; and I have had a long and tiring journey. I suggest we all retire for the night. Tomorrow, Sorceress and I can begin investigating the areas of the disappearances and reappearances Perchance we will be able to detect something that would help us trace this magic to its source.”
“May I be of assistance?” Cleric raised her eyebrows in a questioning manner, and offered a hopeful smile.
“And me!” My Gypsy lifted his head and jutted his jaw.
Sorceress smiled at the two of them. “I am sure everyone will be able to assist. Let us discuss this further at breakfast.”
I nodded. “It has been a long day, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who would welcome some rest.” I started to walk toward the stairs.
“You need not check the porch light, Mistress. It was shining like a beacon when I arrived here.”
“Thank you, Dragon!” Miles smiled gratefully and took my hand. “Let’s get some sleep, honey.”
Cleric and I would like to dedicate this week’s blog to the memory of our dear friend, Arlene, who recently passed from this world. Arlene was fond of my characters and enjoyed their adventures almost as much as I do. Her feedback and encouragement will be sorely missed. We’ll always leave the porch light on for you, Arlene!