Our Happy Holiday as the Mystery Continues

Our Happy Holiday as the Mystery Continues

snowman2After a week, the snow wasn’t looking so dazzling white, or as attractive to my characters. The inaugural snowball fight of the winter was followed by several more the next day, and the next; and then almost everyone joined in to make a huge snowman. But after that, the novelty seemed to wear off and fewer and fewer of my characters ventured out into the frozen yard. By Christmas Eve morning, everyone was content to stay inside.

One who had from day one staunchly declined all invitations to romp in the snow was Dragon. She stared through the French doors at the frozen white expanse and growled softly. “Why would I want to go out in the snow? It is cold, it is wet, it is uncomfortable. And it does not even taste good!”

My Young Hero laughed. “I bet your friend, Ollie, loves the snow.”

blue-dragon-2Dragon fixed my Young Hero with an intense stare. “My friend, Ollie, has a luxurious fur coat. Does this look like a fur coat?” She gestured to the shimmering cerulean blue scales covering her body. “I think not.”

My Gypsy nudged my Young Hero, mirth twinkling in his black eyes. “You could always shapeshift into something warm and furry, Dragon.”

The large creature cocked her head. There was a dreamy look in her eyes, and tiny smoke rings drifted lazily from her nostrils. “Perhaps . . . if someone warm and furry were here to romp with. But, lacking anyone with a thick fur coat to help me stay warm, I will retain my most majestic appearance and lie here by the fire and stay toasty.”

fireplace2“Fire? What fire?” My head jerked up and the book I had been reading slipped off my lap and thudded onto the floor. My jaw almost hit the floor with it, as I saw a crackling fire in a rustic stone fireplace along the wall where the television used to be. “But we don’t have a fireplace!”

Dragon stretched her reptilian lips into a reasonable facsimile of a coy smile. “Oh?”

As she spoke, the fireplace by which she was sprawled slowly disappeared.

I frowned at her as I retrieved my book. “Cute. I would appreciate it if you characters wouldn’t do things like that! You know the problems illusions have caused, or have you already forgotten the fright I suffered when my Arrogant One conjured the illusion of the evil wizard Morcant right outside my office window? I could really live without those types of frights!”

“So, what do you suggest we do for entertainment, if we can not torment you?” Dragon grinned a toothy smile.

“Well, I thought you and Cleric and Sorceress would be trying to figure out why Miles suddenly started acting and talking like your friend, the Innkeeper.”

“Too little information to go on.” Dragon shrank to the size of a Cocker Spaniel and started writhing on the floor, scratching her back on the carpet, her hard scales tearing tufts of fiber.

“Stop that.” I glared at her. “What do you mean, too little information?”

She ignored me and continued to enjoy a nice scratch. “I mean exactly what I said. We do not have enough information to determine the reason Master Miles acted and spoke as he did.”

“I think it is obvious.” My Young Hero’s jaw tightened and his hands curled into fists at his side. “Something has happened to the Innkeeper. He needs our help.”

The corners of my mouth turned down. “I told you if that were the case, you would help him. Not the you that exists here in this world, but the you who exists in that world.”

My Young Hero’s shoulders slumped, but he nodded. “I know, but that does not make the me in this world worry any less about my friend.”

“Nor this me, either.” My Gypsy placed his hand on his friend’s shoulder. “But if Mistress Writer says the we that exist there will help him, then we must accept that.”

“Good.” I looked at my watch. “Well, it is time for me to get to work in the kitchen. Perhaps you two strapping lads can go downstairs and give Miles a hand with the Christmas tree.”

“Christmas tree?”

“Yup. It’s that time of year again. I’m going to finish baking the Christmas cookies, and Miles is setting up the tree and the last of the decorations.”

The two lads looked at each other, dubious expressions on their faces, but then they both shrugged. “Sure, we’ll give Master Miles a hand.” They tromped off down the stairs just as Cleric entered the room.Elf

“Did I hear you say you are going to bake some more cookies?” Her blue eyes were alight with interest.

“Yup. Would you like to help?”

“Oh, yes! I love baking!”

Elf clericDragon quickly shapeshifted, taking on the appearance of an elf maiden, almost a twin to Cleric. “I like baking, too.” She looked at me hopefully.

I smiled. “Good! Let’s get working, then.”

As I set the oven to preheat, Cleric got the cookie sheets out. “What type of cookies will we bake?”

“Today, we are going to bake Norwegian Wreaths, what my mother used to call Norwegian Christmas cakes.”Norwegian Christmas Wreath cookies

“These are special for Christmas?” Dragon looked at the cookbook “Classic Christmas Recipes” propped up on the kitchen counter.

“I believe they are. At least, Christmas is the only time of year I remember my mother making them.”

Dragon frowned. “Mistress? You have been making Christmas cookies all week; Master Miles has been putting up Christmas decorations and now a Christmas tree; you have had Christmas music playing on your magic box, and you have been shopping for Christmas presents for your family members.”

I nodded and reached for a measuring cup. “Yes, Christmas takes a lot of preparation.”

“So, just what is this Christmas that you make such a fuss about?”

I paused, my brow furrowed. “That’s really a hard question to answer. You see, in my religion, Christmas is a holy day. It is the celebration of an event that took place more than 2,000 years ago. It is the celebration of the birth, in human form, of Jesus Christ, the Son of our God. But other religions have different beliefs. Many people who celebrate Christmas today celebrate it as a secular holiday, not a religious holy day. For them, it is merely a day for giving and receiving gifts, and sharing good will and good times with family and loved ones. Then, still others do not celebrate it in any form.”

Cleric tilted her head and chewed her lower lip. “Are there many different religions in your world, Mistress?”religions

“Oh, yes, just as there are in your world.”

“How do followers of different religions get along with each other, with persons not of their own faith?”

I put down my mixing spoon and bowl, and wiped my hands on my apron. I frowned and chewed on my lip for a long while before answering. “Well, I wish I could tell you we all get along fantastically, and we all respect each other’s beliefs. Unfortunately, that is not so. Some people feel their beliefs should be the ones held by all people. They get angry with people who believe differently. Some even hate people of other faiths, and many wars have been waged and much violence has been committed in the name of religion.”

Dragon gaped at me. “Surely all people do not feel this way?”

“No, not all. Perhaps not even most. Many people are very accepting of all people, regardless of their faith. They live in harmony with everyone, and do not disrespect other people’s religious beliefs.”

Cleric and Dragon fell silent for a while, and we continued mixing the cookie dough and forming the wreaths on the cookie trays. I put the first two trays in the oven and set the timer. Cleric and Dragon began to wash out the measuring cups and clear the counter so we could cool the trays as they came out of the oven.

After a few minutes, Cleric put down the dishcloth and looked at me. “Mistress?”

“Yes?”

“I am glad you respect people who do not believe as you do.”

I smiled warmly at her.

christmas-treeLater that evening, my characters joined Miles and me around the Christmas tree. We sang carols and ate cookies and drank eggnog. Then we went over to the Nativity scene that Miles had set up at the other end of the room. From the Bible, I read aloud Luke’s account of the Christmas birth.

angels-and-shepherdsNow it happened that, while they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to a son, her first-born. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the living-space. In the countryside close by there were shepherds out in the fields keeping guard over their sheep during the watches of the night. An angel of the Lord stood over them and the glory of the Lord shone round them. They were terrified, but the angel said, ‘Do not be afraid. Look, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by all people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. And here is a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’ And all at once with the angel there was a great throng of the hosts of heaven, praising God with the words:Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace for those he favours.

My characters sat, mesmerized as I read. They remained silent for a long few minutes following the reading.

Cleric broke the silence. “That was a beautiful story!” The others nodded in agreement.

I put the book away, and we had some more eggnog and cookies. Then we popped some CDs in the player and listened to “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem,” “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “Feliz Navidad,” “White Christmas,” “Jingle Bell Rock,” “Little Drummer Boy” and “Frosty the Snowman.” We finished with one of my personal favorites, the Dar Williams classic “The Christians and the Pagans.”

Everyone clapped and Cleric spoke for them all when she said, “What great songs!”

DwarfBut then my Old Dwarf, on his third pint of eggnog, started to sing. My Foreman winced and covered his ears. “I think that’s our cue that it’s high time the festivities came to an end for the evening.”

He motioned to the lads, who helped the off-key singer to his feet. Everyone said their goodnights and headed off to bed, my Old Dwarf still bellowing and hiccupping.

I started gathering the empty plates and glasses while Miles turned off the CD player and the lights on the Christmas tree. As we started to ascend the stairs, Miles stopped and leaned over. He picked up a small object from the bottom step.

“Honey, did you drop this, or does it belong to one of your characters?”coin-talisman

He held out what looked like a coin, a little larger than a dime. I took it from him and examined it carefully. It was a small silver talisman, round and flat, with fine runes etched on either side. I could feel the color drain from my face.

“What’s wrong?”

“This talisman belongs to my characters’ friend, the Innkeeper.”innkeeper

Miles furrowed his brow. “Maybe he gave it to one of your characters before they came here?” He sounded hopeful.

I shook my head.

“Well, how did it get here?”

“How did my characters get here? It must have fallen out of one of my manuscripts, just as they did. The question is, why now? Why did this appear here now, just as you have been speaking and acting like the Innkeeper? It can’t be a coincidence.”

Miles frowned. “Well, whatever the reason for it, we will figure it out tomorrow. Let’s go upstairs and get some sleep, so we can attend Christmas Mass in the morning.”

mistletoe2I nodded dumbly and followed him up the steps. He stopped on the landing, reached over and switched on the porch light. Then he pointed at the mistletoe overhead and gently pulled me close for a kiss. “Merry Christmas, honey!”

I barely had time to respond “Merry Christmas!” before our lips melded in a tender holiday kiss.

 

happy-holidays-to-my-readers

Happy holidays to all our readers. No matter your beliefs, may peace and love be in your hearts now, and throughout the New Year!

Be sure to stop back from time to time to see what is happening with my characters. The porch light will always be on for you.

Fixtures Light Elegant Lighting Fixture And Supply Company Intended For Front Porch Light Fixtures Front Porch Light Fixtures

Vacation Is Over

Vacation Is Over

computer_keyboardI had been sitting at my computer all morning, going through e-mails, catching up with social media, and editing a piece of fiction I was working on. I rose stiffly and stretched, trying unsuccessfully to work out a few kinks and knots in my lower back.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAI hobbled to the window and gazed at the arctic scene outside. The recent snowstorm had dumped close to a foot of fluffy powder on us. Not entirely unexpected for December in Minnesnowta, but I could have been quite happy without it. My characters seemed to be enjoying it, though. I watched as two of them pelted each other with snowballs. Having earlier shoveled the snow from the deck and the front walk, I knew it to be too dry for proper snowballs. I suspected one of my characters had added some magic to hold them together. I chuckled.

arrogant-oneA noise behind me drew my attention back to the room. The door burst opened, and an elegant looking elf dressed in silk and satin swept into my office without knocking. It was my Arrogant One, fully recovered from our recent adventure and completely reverted to his former temperament. He threw me a sullen look and flung himself into a chair. He began without preamble, and his voice took on the haughty tone I had been accustomed to hearing from him before a dreadful fright had caused a temporary improvement in his demeanor. “You told your readers we are on vacation.”

I raised an eyebrow at him. “And so we are.”

“The concept of vacation is new to me; however, I do understand it to involve travel away from one’s place of residence.” He paused, scowling. “We have traveled nowhere. For the past two weeks, we have not once taken leave of this place.”

I cocked my head and folded my arms across my chest. “Well, yes, many times a vacation does involve travel. However, a vacation can also consist of just a break in one’s routine, with no travel involved. Such a vacation has come to be known in popular jargon as a staycation.”

Staycation?” My Arrogant One snorted. “I surmise that to be merely another term for boring.” He rose and looked down his nose at me.

I shrugged. “If you’re bored, why don’t you go join the others? I believe they are having a snowball fight in the back yard.”

“Children’s games!” He grasped the front of his robe with both hands, and rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet. “My time is much too valuable to spend in such trivial and undignified pursuits.” Without waiting for a response, the annoying elf turned on his heel and flounced toward the door, almost running into a stout figure entering the office.

dwarf“Whoa now, laddie! Ye best be watchin’ where ye be goin’!”

My Arrogant One’s lips curled into a snarl. “We do not seem to be going anywhere!” He shoved my Old Dwarf aside, and marched off down the hall toward the stairs.

“Wall, he seems ta be his old, charming self agin. What be the popinjay’s problem?” My Old Dwarf tramped over to a chair and climbed into it.

“Boredom. Evidently, our vacation is leaving something to be desired.”

“Aye, summat liken a gitaway?” My Old Dwarf raised an eyebrow at me, tapped the side of his nose with his index finger, and nodded.

“Oh, not you, too?” I raked my hand through my hair and heaved a big sigh.

“Wall, it do be me understandin’ thet a vacation requires actually goin’ someplace and doin’ summat.”

I started to counter with the argument that a staycation is a valid form of vacation, but I noticed the twinkle in the old reprobate’s emerald eyes and recognized that I was being made sport of. I threw my hands up and laughed.

“So, old friend, what brings you to my office today?”

“It be almost lunchtime, lassie, and yer man be re-fixin’ some o thet tasty stew from yestereve. He axed me ta fetch ye up.”

I quickly put my computer in sleep mode, and my Old Dwarf and I headed upstairs to the kitchen.

As we reached the top of the stairs, we were greeted by a wondrous aroma from the kitchen, as Miles added the finishing touches to the leftover stew. Some of my other characters were already filing through the living room and into the kitchen, licking their lips, rubbing their bellies, and jostling for places at the table.

Before my Old Dwarf and I could make our way to the kitchen, the French doors to the deck burst open, and my Young Hero and my Gypsy tumbled inside. The two boys were shoving and giggling. Their cheeks were rosy and their clothes were splattered with snow.

Just as they came inside, my Young Hero pushed a snowball right into my Gypsy’s face. The young lad whooped gleefully, and hooted at his friend. The dark-haired youth just stood there, eyes wide, mouth opening and closing like a fish, with snow dripping down his face. The ruddy-faced lad continued to laugh at his friend, who slowly wiped the slush from his hair and face.

My Young Hero noticed me and my Old Dwarf standing there watching the high jinks. He quickly closed the door and motioned to his companion, who turned toward me.

“Mistress!” My Gypsy greeted me with mischief dancing in his black eyes. “We saved one for you,” he said, dipping his hand into his pouch and producing a snowball.

Easter 128As he threatened to toss it at me, Miles popped in from the kitchen and warned, “There will be no snowballs in here, boy-o! I just cleaned this place!”

My Gypsy’s eyes almost popped from his head. “What did you say?”

Miles repeated himself and bustled over to the lads, towels in hand. “Here! Dry yourselves off, then mop up all this snow you brought in!” His scowl left no room for argument.

My Gypsy took the proffered towel but just stood there holding it. He cocked his head to one side, his gaze unfocused. A smile played at the corner of his mouth, and he sighed quietly.

My Young Hero furrowed his brow and stared at his companion. “What is it?”

My Gypsy continued to stare off, and his friend reached over and nudged him on the shoulder.

“Hey! What is it? You seem far away.”

“Huh? Oh, it’s nothing.” My Gypsy shook his head hard, as if trying to clear it. “I was just thinking.”

“About?”

“About the last time we made snowballs. Remember? I tried to throw one at our friend, the Innkeeper, and he said the very same thing to me. There will be no snowballs in here, boy-o! I just cleaned this place!innkeeper

My Young Hero rubbed his jaw and swallowed hard. When he spoke, his voice was barely audible. “Yes. Yes, I remember.”

“Ye laddies al’ays seemed right fond o the Innkeep. I never met him meself, but I remember ye telling me ye spent a lot o hours in his establishment.”

The lads nodded, wistfully.

ElfCleric walked in from the kitchen and joined the conversation. “He was always such a jovial person. He was a good friend to all of us, and a sort of father figure to the boys. I often wonder what happened to him . . . what is happening to him?” She tilted her head and furrowed her brow. She looked at me, obviously expecting an answer.

“Is happening.”

Arrogant One facing rightI jumped at the voice at my elbow. I turned to see my Arrogant One standing there, a smug expression on his face.

“Is happening,” he repeated, narrowing his eyes and glaring at me as if daring me to dispute that claim. When I said nothing, he continued. “I trust time has not stopped in our world just because we have fallen out of the pages of your manuscripts and into this insufferable existence.” The annoying elf adjusted his robes and sneered. “After all, you keep insisting that we all still exist in our own world, at the same time as we are captive here.”

“Captive is a harsh word. I assure you, if I could send you all back, I would have done so immediately upon discovering you here.”

“But that still does not answer the question.” My Arrogant One sneered at me, and moved to the center of the room, a move obviously calculated to better play to his audience.

bounty-hunterMy Bounty Hunter stole his thunder, joining the conversation from the edge of the room. “No, it does not. Mistress Writer, are you quite certain we are still a part of what is happening in our world? Are you quite certain we exist in both worlds at the same time? And, if so, why do we have no knowledge of what is happening to our other selves?”

I frowned. My Bounty Hunter and I had had this conversation before. If I reminded him of our previous discussion, I would be divulging alarming information to another character. I wondered if my Bounty Hunter could be seeking to provoke such a revelation. I looked at him, but his expression revealed no ulterior motive.

My Arrogant One quickly tried to reclaim the limelight from him. He drew himself up and stood there, glaring at me. “Indeed! If we really do, as you claim, exist in both worlds, why do we not know what we are doing in our own world? What proof can you offer that your claim is valid?”

I met his gaze and held it for several long minutes before addressing all my characters. “I can offer no absolute proof, only my own observations.” I paused and licked my lips, trying to find the right words. “As you know, you did not all arrive here together. Each of you fell out of my manuscripts at a different time.”

All of my characters looked at each other and nodded.

“Yet, you each have memories of things that you did together in your own world, things that were happening after one or more persons with whom you shared your adventure had come to exist in this world. Those persons already residing here have no memory of that specific adventure in your world, but you do. How could you have been doing anything with a person who no longer existed in your world?”

I saw nothing but confusion in the faces of my characters. I tried again.

“Old Dwarf, you and my Young Hero have been here the longest. Yet, Cleric, my Gypsy, and my Foreman can all tell of a year-long adventure they shared with the two of you; an adventure of which you have no memory, as it happened after you had fallen out of my manuscript here in this world.”

My Old Dwarf frowned. “Iffin ye sez so, then it be so. But it do na make much nevermind ta me. I be here now, and this world be the one I have ta live in. So, why do na we git ta eatin’ thet stew afore it turns cold agin?”

Miles nodded. “Okay, let’s eat. All, except you two.” He frowned at the two lads, still dripping snow on the living room carpet. “You boy-os clean up this mess before you get anything to eat!”

My Gypsy grinned and waggled his eyebrows. “Ah, Master Miles, you really do sound just like the Innkeeper!”

I stroked my chin and narrowed my eyes, as I followed my husband and the others to the table for lunch.

Conversation at the table was sparse, as everyone attacked the leftover stew with gusto. As several characters took their second or third helping, Miles prepared two heaping plates and set them aside for the lads. When the boys finally joined us at the table, the others were already finished eating and had wandered off. Miles quickly reheated the meal for the lads.

“Here ya go, boy-os. Nice hot stew. And I’ll get some mulled wine to go with it.” He brushed a straggly strand of hair out of his eyes and wiped his face with his apron.

I gaped at my husband. “Miles?”

“Hmmm?”

“Mulled wine?”

“Huh? Did I say that?” He gave me a sheepish look and shook his head. “Hot cocoa. I meant to say hot cocoa.”

The lads looked from Miles to me, and back again. They wore matching frowns.

“Mistress?” My Young Hero swallowed hard. “Before today, Master Miles has never referred to us as boy-os.”

“But you know who did.” My Gypsy’s eyes were as big as saucers.

“The Innkeeper.” The two of them said it in unison.innkeeper

“And I can’t remember how many times I saw the Innkeeper brush that errant lock of hair from his eyes.” My Gypsy stared at Miles.

“And he used to wipe his face on his apron all the time!” My Young Hero’s voice quavered. “I have never before seen Master Miles do that.”

Miles looked at the three of us, gaping at him.

“What’s wrong? What’s happening?”

I chewed on my lower lip while I considered the problem. “I’m not sure.”

“I am.” My Young Hero spoke with conviction. “Something has happened in our world. The Innkeeper is in trouble!”

“We must help him!” My Gypsy leaped up.

I placed a restraining hand on his arm. “If something is wrong in your world, you will deal with it. The you that is still there, that is. There is no way for the you that is here to help someone back there.”

My Gypsy pursed his lips and ran his hand through his hair. My Young Hero nodded hesitantly and dropped his gaze to the floor. Miles stepped forward and offered his reassurance. “Don’t fret, boy-os. The Blacksmith will lend a hand. Old Smyth could always be relied on!”

blacksmith-2

My jaw dropped.

“Honey? How do you know about Old Smyth?”

 

Be sure to come back each week and see what’s happening! We’ll leave the porch light on for you!

Fixtures Light Elegant Lighting Fixture And Supply Company Intended For Front Porch Light Fixtures Front Porch Light Fixtures

Still on Vacation!

Still on Vacation!

Welcome old friends and new readers! My characters and I are enjoying another week of vacation.

I am sure many of you are still engaged in reading the excellent tale The Legend of Leonard Letterman by DMG Byrnes, which I shared last week. For those of you who have read all of the available episodes, I would like to introduce you to several websites I enjoy.

Often, I would like to read a short piece of fiction, something that would fit comfortably between doing the laundry and editing my books, between household chores and catching up with friends on social media, something for occasions when I just don’t have the time or inclination to peruse a novel-length tale.

At those times, here are some of the websites I turn to for quick diversion, websites that are both entertaining and easy to navigate:

http://themoonlitroad.com/

http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/fictionindex.html

http://dailysciencefiction.com/

http://www.readshortfiction.com/

http://americanshortfiction.org/category/web-exclusives/

http://fiction.eserver.org/short/

I hope you enjoy some or all of them. If you know of other websites that offer short fiction, please feel free to share with everyone in the comments.

My characters and I will be back…sooner or later! We think of you all often, and we’ll leave the porch light on for you.

Fixtures Light Elegant Lighting Fixture And Supply Company Intended For Front Porch Light Fixtures Front Porch Light Fixtures

Taking a Vacation – Be Back Soon

Taking a Vacation – Be Back Soon

Welcome old friends and new readers! My characters and I are taking a small vacation. Here to keep you entertained in our absence is my friend and colleague DMG Byrnes.

dmg-byrnes-for-blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

In her own words, from her “About” page on her blog: DMG Byrnes is an author with a book addiction; reading and writing them. She is in the process of looking for the right agent to represent her first novel, The Foretelling Spark, and plotting a fantasy novel she hopes to begin writing later this year. She also writes poetry, short stories, and the occasional article. DMG is an artist with a passion for art in its many forms. She has a special love for photography and occasionally collaborates with other artists as photographer or model. She also draws, paints, and loves to craft. She is a survivor of abuse and sexual assault, a chronic illness warrior, and on the side, a dragon tamer. She has a Bachelor’s degree in psychology that took her 9 years to earn and taught her that if it’s important enough to you, you’ll make it happen, no matter how slowly you have to go; a lesson she tries to remember when she’s writing.

DMG has kept me on the edge of my seat through the many episodes of her ongoing tale, The Legend of Leonard Letterman. Fantasy and mystery enthusiasts, this one is right up your alley! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. If so, please leave DMG a note and let her know; better still, follow her blog!

Without further ado, here is DMG Byrnes and The Legend of Leonard Letterman:
https://dmgbyrnes.com/fiction-fridays/the-legend-of-leonard-letterman/