Progress

Progress

Elf facing right“Have we all the necessary components for the spells?”

Cleric was sorting the contents of her pouch, placing vials of colorful liquid and neatly tied bunches of dried herbs on the table. As she spoke, she glanced at Sorceress and Dragon, who were assembling their apparatus and materials on the other side of the table. The books, in their protective grid, sat in the middle.

Sorceress frowned. “I am unsure. I do not know if we have anticipated all the sundry dangers from which we potentially need protection. I am not certain of the appropriate spells needed to insure safety, as we begin the physical examination of the tomes.”

Dragon narrowed her reptilian eyes. “I am not convinced we need many enchantments. We only detected two traces of magic on the books when we used our combined powers to probe them. One was the trace magic from the conduit through which the books entered this world. The other trace, albeit unidentified, did not appear dangerous. It most definitely was not a defensive ward to prevent the books from being opened.”

Cleric wrung her hands. “Are you certain? I, for one, do not relish the thought of being incinerated, or potentially enduring some other fate which could quite possibly prove a thousand times more ghastly!”

Dragon snorted derisively. “Of course I am certain. Do you think I can not identify a ward when I encounter one?”

Cleric felt her cheeks grow hot. “I did not say that!”

Sorceress gave her two companions a sharp look. “Enough! We do not have time to argue.” She stroked her chin as she considered the problem. “Perhaps we do not need to place spells on the books; rather, we should cast protections on ourselves.”

Cleric chewed her lower lip, and continued wringing her hands. “That will defend us, but what of the others? What about Mistress Writer and the other inhabitants of her world? We do not wish to loose some dangerous entity upon them.”

Dragon snorted again, producing a large puff of black smoke. “Do you really believe these books contain anything that we can not control or defeat?”

Cleric scowled at Dragon. “Well, we have no way of ascertaining that short of opening the books and seeing if anything is released into this word. But at that point, I suspect it may be too late.”

Sorceress sighed. “Do not fret so! Consider – Dragon and I are two of the most powerful magic users of our world. Your clerical power is likewise most impressive. Methinks there are few entities from our own world the three of us could not defeat. And did we not determine that these books had their origin in our world? Did they not bear traces of magic from the same conduit through which four objects from our world traveled to this?”

Cleric rubbed the back of her neck. “I know we have great individual power, and greater still combined. And I know we believe these books to have originated in our own world, where there are few threats we could not defeat. But I still feel we need to approach the unknown danger of these books cautiously.” She frowned and narrowed her eyes, then suddenly brightened. “I know! Dragon, mayhap you could enlarge the protective grid to encompass not just the books, but the entire table with all of our paraphernalia, and the three of us? Then if anything does escape the books, it will still be contained. If we deem it dangerous, we can deal with it before it can cause any harm to this world or its inhabitants.”

Dragon inclined her head. “I believe that to be an excellent idea!” She concentrated on the glowing grid containing the books, and mumbled an incantation under her breath. The grid shimmered and grew, until the table and everything on it, as well as the three companions, stood inside the force field.

Sorceress and Cleric cast protective spells on themselves and on Dragon; then they nodded at Dragon, who reached a huge claw toward the first of the books. The trio of spellcasters steeled themselves.

* * *

bounty-hunter“What is it you want from us, dwarf?” In contrast to the steel in his voice, my Bounty Hunter’s posture was relaxed. He was sprawled in a plastic lawn chair, one booted foot propped on a nearby wooden crate. Even though my Old Dwarf had confiscated all my Bounty Hunter’s weapons, the man wisely kept his hands motionless, casually folded in his lap.

arrogant-oneMy Arrogant One was the antithesis of my Bounty Hunter. He remained in constant motion, pacing nervously about the shed loft, gesturing wildly. When he spoke, his voice was a petulant whine. “Yes, dwarf, what is it you want of us? We have done nothing to you.”

DwarfThe dwarf’s eyes twinkled and he feigned an aggrieved posture, clapping his hand over his heart. “Eh, but ye hurted me feelins, elfie! Ye ducked outten me grasp and poofered away thet night, when we be headin’ down the stairs to the conference room for a little chat, an’ ye dinna even be sayin’ fare-thee-well.”

“Chat? Chat?” The elf’s voice rose several octaves, and he started sputtering. “Why . . . why . . . that was no chat you and the others had in mind that night! You were dragging me to an inquisition, possibly to an execution!”

“Balderdash! The lass would na execute ye. Thet do na be her way.”

“You do not consider Mistress Writer’s threat to delete a character from a manuscript, effectively erasing that character’s very existence, tantamount to an execution?” My Bounty Hunter snorted and shook his head.

“The lass would na e’er do thet. It be a threat she be usin’ all the time ta keep us all from gettin’ too far outten line. But she would na e’er follow through on the threat.”

My Arrogant One sneered and waved dismissively at the dwarf. “Well, I would prefer not taking the chance that you may be wrong, dwarf!”

My Bounty Hunter shifted in his chair and cleared his throat. He stared at my Old Dwarf through narrowed eyes. “Whether Mistress Writer would make good her threats or no, dwarf, that does not address the question of your presence here, or what it is you seek from us.”

My Old Dwarf shrugged. “Wale, now, it seems ta me ye be sayin’ a lot at thet little confab the lass held. I be unnerstandin’ yer reasons fer involvin’ yerself with the elfie, and havin’ him conjure illusions o the Innkeeper. Ye be wantin’ ta find a way home, an’ I can appreciate thet as a motive.” The dwarf turned toward my Arrogant One. “But, ye, elfie . . . ye declined the invite ta thet little chat, so ye ne’er did be sayin’ jest why ye be conjurin’ the illusory Innkeeper. I jest be wonderin’ what ye be gettin’ outten it all.”

“I do not see where that is any of your concern, dwarf.” The elf raised his head and looked down his nose at the diminutive figure.

“I be makin’ it me business.” The Old Dwarf’ eyes narrowed, and his voice took on a threatening tone. “Why be ye doin’ it?”

The elf blushed and lowered his eyes. “I grew weary of Dragon and her airs. She always belittles me, discounts my tremendous power and incredible skill. I simply wanted to prove to her . . . to you all . . . that I am her equal. I can conjure solid and substantial illusions, just as well as can that beast.”

My Old Dwarf frowned. “Hmmm . . . solid and substantial, huh? Iffin I be remberin’ right, the Gypsy lad explained thet. He said thet a good illusionist can make sommat what can be seed, and it looks real. But, if somebody be touchin’ the illusion, it be gone. A really great magic user can be makin’ it so the thing can be touched, smelt, heered, or even tasted. Unless ye be adept at detectin’ magic, ye can na be tellin’ it from summat real. It be liken them horsies what the big beastie made for the Foreman and the laddies.”

My Arrogant One nodded.

“So’s, elfie, ye be sayin’ ye can make sommat what can na be told from the real thing?”

The elf struck a defiant pose, drawing himself up on the balls of his feet and grasping the front of his cloak with both hands. “Are you implying I can not?”

“Nay, popinjay, I would na be implyin’ sech a thin’. I be sayin’ it, straight out and plain.”

“How dare you!” My Arrogant One turned beet red.

“Oh, I dare, elfie, I dare.” The dwarf chuckled. “Be ye wantin’ ta prove me wrong?”

“I see no reason to prove anything to you, you reprehensible creature.”

“Eh, ye be hurtin’ me feelins agin, elfie.”

My Arrogant One’s screech scared a flock of little brown bats from the eaves of the shed loft. “Stop calling me elfie!”

My Old Dwarf doubled over with laughter. My Bounty Hunter merely snickered as he swiveled in his seat to face the elf. “Why do you not show the dwarf? You just said your purpose in conjuring the image of the Innkeeper was to show us all the extent of your power.”

The elf glared at his companion for many long minutes before turning and addressing my Old Dwarf. “Very well, Dwarf. What illusion would you have me create?”

CHOC CAKEThe dwarf grinned. “Wale, now, mebbe one o them chock-lit cakes liken what the lass bakes? Iffin ye be creatin’ the illusion as well as ye claim ye can, I should be able ta see it, smell it, pick it up and take a big bite thet can be tasted.”

The elf scoffed. “Of course you would want me to create the illusion of something edible.”

“An’ why not?” The dwarf puffed himself up and crossed his arms over his chest. “What better way ta be provin’ yer skill than with sommat what be needin’ more than jest me eyes ta enjoy it?”

* * *

By early evening, Miles and I were finally starting to feel better. We emerged from our sickroom and went to the living room. The house was blissfully quiet.

Miles frowned. “Where do you suppose everyone is?”

I glanced out the door. “Well, it appears my Foreman and the lads are in the yard, taking advantage of the last of the daylight to work with their horses. I imagine Dragon, Sorceress and Cleric are still in the conference room, examining the books. I really don’t know where the others are. I suggest we just enjoy the peace and quiet while it lasts.”

My husband smiled and nodded as we headed to the kitchen. I opened the refrigerator. “What would you like for dinner, honey?”

Miles sat at the kitchen table. “Anything but soup! I think we’ve had enough of that for quite a while.”

“Okay, you pop some bread in the toaster, and I’ll scramble some eggs.”Dwarf facing right

After a light meal, we went back to the living room. We had just settled down on the couch for a quiet evening of television when my Old Dwarf came bursting through the door. “Eh, ye be up! Good! I found the elfie. Methinks I be knowin’ what the little popinjay an’ his cohort be up ta! Ye be wantin’ ta heered this.”

Before my Old Dwarf could continue, Dragon came running up the stairs, with Sorceress and Cleric in her wake. She was holding several of the books they had been examining. “Oh, good, you are both up! We’ve finished our examination of the books. You need to see this!”

Miles and I exchanged weary glances. “So much for a quiet evening.”

 

Be sure to come back to find out what my Old Dwarf has to say about the plans he believes my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter have made, and to find out what my three spellcasters have discovered about the books. Don’t worry, we’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Sick Day

Sick Day

Elf facing right

Cleric tip-toed out of the master bedroom and crept quietly down the hall to her waiting companions gathered in the living room.

“Mistress Writer and Master Miles are still not feeling well. They are extremely fatigued and they still find it difficult to catch their breath. They do not have much appetite – I could only get them to take a bit of soup and some herbal tea. They are both sleeping now, so we must all avoid noise and commotion near the hallway to their bedchamber.”

My foreman nodded. “The lads and I will be in the yard. We can get in a few hours of work with the horses.”

 

Dragon nodded, and gestured toward Cleric and Sorceress. “The three of us will be in the conference room. Does anyone know the whereabouts of the Old Dwarf or the Bounty Hunter?”

 

My Gypsy shook his head. “No one has seen the dwarf in quite some time. He’s been missing almost as long as the Arrogant One. He may be trying to find that annoying elf. As for the Bounty Hunter, he’s been missing since yesterday.”

Sorceress frowned. “Well, keep your eyes open for them. We do not want anyone disturbing Mistress Writer and Master Miles. They need their rest.”

Cleric wrung her hands. “I hope they are feeling better soon.”bookshelf

“Indeed.” Dragon nodded. “Meanwhile, the three of us best begin the next phase of our examination of the books. I am certain Mistress Writer will want to know of our findings as soon as she is feeling better. We must be certain we have answers for her by then.”

 

sick for blog
My apologies for the blog this week – both Miles and I have been under the weather with a viral infection of the respiratory system. Be sure to come back next week and see if we are well enough for Dragon to reveal whatever she and the others discover about the books. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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An Uneventful Day

An Uneventful Day

blue-dragon-2The weather had taken another turn. The month of March in Minnesnowta, Dragon was learning, is unpredictable. The previous day had been reasonably warm; the outdoor thermometer had registered an almost-comfortable 64 degrees Fahrenheit. Last night, the temperature had begun to fall and the area had come under a tornado watch. This morning, Dragon had awoken to see a dusting of snow in the yard, and the thermometer barely reaching 29.

fireplace2

 

Never a fan of the cold, Dragon retired to the conference room and curled up for a nap next to her illusory fireplace. As she snoozed, basking in the very real heat of the conjured flames, she heard the door open.

“Are you ready to embark upon our tasks? Yestereve you decided that it was too late in the day when the books were first discovered for us to begin our investigation; so we came early this morn, and the day stretches before us.”

sorceress-facing-rightDragon opened one sleepy eye and regarded Sorceress, who was already bustling around setting up her materials and apparatus. The large beast growled softly, closed her eye, and rolled over. “Cold. Sleepy. Go away.”

“We should begin our work. We have much to do.”

Dragon recognized Cleric’s voice, and opened both eyes. A small, dark plume began to drift from her nose.

“It is too cold to do any work.” Dragon scowled.Elf

Cleric mirrored the big beast’s scowl as she opened her pouch and placed several vials on the table. “Well, Mistress Writer is anxious to learn of our progress.”

“Or our lack thereof.” Sorceress frowned as she approached the books, safely enclosed within the glowing grid. “Besides, you can hardly say it is too cold to do any work in here. You have this room as hot as a Dwarven forge!”

Dragon chuckled. “I like the heat. It helps me think.” She slowly rose and stretched, yawning widely. “And, speaking of Dwarven forges, has Mistress Writer found her errant dwarf?”

Cleric shook her head. “No. The Old Dwarf is still missing. He was not at dinner last night, nor breakfast this morn.”

Dragon frowned at that. “It is unlike the rotund one to miss so many meals.”

Sorceress waved off Dragon’s concern. “Mistress Writer does not believe him to be in any peril. However, if you two insist on worrying, perhaps we may be able to assist in searching for him, if we can complete our investigation without further delay.”

Dragon nodded. “Very well, then, let us commence.” She mumbled an incantation, releasing the books from the glowing grid in which she had contained them. “Just be certain not to touch them.”

* * *

dwarfThe short, round figure stood concealed behind the big maple tree, munching a turkey leg. He carefully peeked around the thick tree trunk and looked out over the yard. The earlier dusting of snow had already melted in the morning sun, and the dwarf could no longer see the white puffs of breath in the air from the horses and riders he watched.

Only a few feet away from him, my Foreman and the lads were exercising their mounts. My Forman rode a spirited black stallion, my Gypsy was on a flashy black and white cob, and my Young Hero was astride a small chocolate palomino pony. They were performing cavalry drills, riding in circles and figure-eights, executing flying lead changes, half-passes, pirouettes, and diagonals. They were completely oblivious of their audience of one.

 

My Old Dwarf chuckled and took another big bite of turkey leg. Grease dripped into his beard, and he wiped his mouth on the back of his hand. Who be needin’ spells o concealment? In me own world, in me old life, I woulda been kilted a hunnert times over iffin I could na keep from bein’ seed when I be needin’ ta go unnoticed! And dwarves do na be havin’ the advantage o magic.

Gnawing the last of the meat from the turkey leg, the dwarf stowed the bare bone in his pocket. He glanced at the riders again, but they were at the other end of the yard. They had dismounted and were checking their equipment. The dwarf looked around the rest of the yard, watching for any movement. Seeing none, the old reprobate stealthily slipped from tree to tree along the edge of the wide expanse of lawn until he was in the back of the yard. After a few moments, he slunk over to the garden shed, opened the door a crack, and slipped inside. His eyes adjusted immediately to the dim light, an innate ability of his race. Hearing voices from the loft, the old one silently crept up the stairs and entered the attic unnoticed.

“I do not see why you feel the need to remain in hiding.” My Bounty Hunter propped his foot up on a box and studied his companion in the flickering light of the lantern.

My Arrogant One gaped at him. “Do you not? If I return now, that odious beast will probably roast me and have me for dinner!”

“Dragon?” My Bounty Hunter scoffed.

My Arrogant One’s voice rose to a pathetic whine. “Of course, Dragon! She has always been jealous of me! She constantly downplays my skill and makes light of my power. And you heard what she called me!” The elf slumped into a chair and sulked.

My Bounty Hunter tried to hide a snicker behind his hand. “Yes, I believe she called you a contemptible, aggravating, pompous, loathsome creature.”

My Arrogant One jumped from his chair and gestured wildly. “Yes! Yes! You see? She is insanely jealous! My life is not worth a single copper should I return!”

dwarf-facing-right“Eh, the beastie do na be jealous o ye, elfie! She just knowed good and well what ye be.”

The elf shrieked at the sudden appearance of the dwarf just a few feet away, and my Bounty Hunter jumped, knocking over the box.

“Ye knowed, elfie, thet dinna be very polite o ye ta just disappear the other night.”

Before the elf could find his voice, my Old Dwarf whirled around to face my Bounty Hunter, who was slowly raising his weapon. “I would na be doin’ thet, laddie, iffin I be ye. Drop yer crossbow and kick it o’er here. And ye can be handin’ o’er them thar knives ye keep in yer vest, too.”

For a long time, my Bounty Hunter stood and stared at the dwarf through narrowed eyes, taking his measure. Finally, he smiled an oily smile and placed his crossbow on the floor. He gingerly nudged it toward the dwarf, then fumbled in his vest pocket for his knives. Suddenly, he dropped to the floor and reached for his crossbow, but the dwarf brought his axe down on it, splintering the weapon.

“Thet coulda just as easy been yer head, laddie. Now, stop bein’ so foolish and hand over yer knives. And elfie?” My Old Dwarf glanced over his shoulder. “Ye best not be tryin’ ta magic me, liken ye did once afore.”

“Magic?” The Bounty Hunter frowned. “Oh, that’s right. I forgot you did that, elf. That was clever. Magic doesn’t work on dwarves, but you didn’t use it on him, did you? You levitated a fallen tree branch and used that to knock him out.”

Since my Arrogant One had not regained his voice, my Old Dwarf answered. “He did. But he’ll not be trickin’ me like that twice. Now, the two o’ye git o’er here and sit down. We be havin’ a lot of conversatin’ ta do.”

* * *

The three companions slumped over their worktable, exhaustion showing in their every expression and gesture. Cleric and Sorceress were dripping with sweat, and even Dragon looked a bit wilted.

The books in the center of the table were surrounded by vials and pouches. Remnants of many potions and powders were strewn about. The three spellcasters had spent the day attempting to magically probe the books to locate their source and purpose, along with any evidence of inherent danger.

“Well, there are several traces of magic on the books.” Dragon sighed, and tiny black smoke rings rose from her nostrils. “We all agree that the one trace is from the magic conduit through which the books entered our world, correct?”

Sorceress and Cleric nodded.

Sorceress wrinkled her brow. “It exactly matches the trace magic found on the four items from our world that have appeared here, so I believe we can presume these books came through the same conduit. That would indicate these books also originated in our world.”

Cleric frowned. “Perhaps, but how do we account for the second remnant of magic?”

Dragon shrank her considerable bulk to the size of a Cocker Spaniel and started pacing the length of the room. “I do not know. I do not recognize the magic, yet these books seem familiar to me.”

Sorceress scowled. “We have exhausted all magical means of examining the books. I fear we must risk the potential danger and begin our physical examination.”

Cleric’s eyes widened. “There are precautions we can take, are there not? Can not one of you cast a protective ward on the books to prevent them from harming us when we handle them?”

glowing-grid-for-blog“It will take much time to prepare such a spell. We are all fatigued. I believe we should wait until the morrow.” Without waiting for a response, Dragon swelled to her previous size. She immediately went to the table and prepared some spell components. While she worked, she recited an intricate incantation under her breath. When she finished, Dragon sprinkled the mixture over the books and cast her spell, once more creating a protective, glowing grid around the books.

“Return in the morning. We will continue then.” Without another word, Dragon went over and curled up in front of her fireplace once more. Within moments, she was snoring. Cleric and Sorceress shrugged, then quietly left the room.

fireplace2

* * *

I heard the door slam as Miles came in from the garage. “Honey, you home?”

“Right here.” I walked down the stairs.

12-28-13 - MN Arboretum 080“Sorry it took longer than I thought it would. The trouble wasn’t in the carburetor, it was the fuel pump. The mechanic didn’t have one in stock and he had to get his supplier to send a new one.” He handed me some bags, took off his jacket and hung it in the hall closet, then gave me a quick kiss hello. He pointed to the bags. “I stopped off and got some rotisserie chicken for dinner.”

“Oh, I knew there had to be a reason I married you! How did you know I wanted chicken for dinner?”

Miles grinned. “So how’s everything on the home front? Anything new and exciting happen today?”

“Nope. It’s been most uneventful here. All my characters must have taken the day off. I’ve seen neither hide nor hair of any of them the entire day.”

“Hmmm…that’s ominous. I wonder what they could be up to.”

 

Be sure to come back and see what my characters are up to in future episodes. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

 

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More Mystery

More Mystery

From Nicki 146The first thing Miles and I noticed when we walked into the kitchen for breakfast was the quiet. Miles looked around and a smile slowly spread across his face. “Sweet! Where is everybody?”

“I imagine my Foreman and the lads are in the yard, enjoying some time with their illusory horses. You certainly are their hero for suggesting Dragon cast that spell of concealment to hide their activities from the neighbors!”

Miles nodded and poured himself a cup of coffee. “Glad to help, especially if it keeps me in their good graces and keeps us from getting kicked out of the neighborhood. But where are the others? Not that I’m complaining about having the kitchen to ourselves for a change!” He took a frying pan from the cabinet and started cooking some sausage and eggs.

I reached into the refrigerator and grabbed a container of yogurt, then sat down at the empty table. I opened the container and swirled the yogurt around with my spoon while I considered the question. “Well, my Arrogant One has been in hiding since the night he created the illusion of the Innkeeper here in the kitchen. My Bounty Hunter, who instigated that incident, hasn’t exactly gone into hiding but he has been staying out of the way. I think they both fear the consequences of their actions.”

My husband scowled. “And well they should! The two of them almost had me convinced I was going mad!” He slid his breakfast from the frying pan onto a plate, and took a chair next to me.

I continued swirling my yogurt. “As for Dragon, Cleric and Sorceress, I believe they’re busy investigating the location and origin of the magical conduit that allowed those four items we found to pass from their world into ours.”

 

“And the dwarf?”

dwarfI frowned. “Hmmm. I’m actually not sure where my Old Dwarf is. I haven’t seen him in a while, but he must be around. He’s obviously been raiding the refrigerator with his accustomed regularity. Just one look at last week’s grocery bill will confirm that. I’ll ask Dragon if she has the old reprobate assisting her with the investigation.”

After breakfast, I started to go down to the conference room to talk to Dragon, but I encountered her on the landing as she was ascending the stairs.blue-dragon-facing-left

“I was just coming to see you!” Dragon and I spoke in unison. “You first. No, you.”

We both laughed and I took the lead. “I haven’t seen my Old Dwarf in a while. I was wondering if he’s been running errands for you.”

Dragon frowned, and a small cloud of smoke rose from her snout. “No, we have not required the rotund one’s assistance.” She paused, her frown deepening. “But now that you mention it, I do not remember seeing him of late, either.”

We walked down the lower staircase and were joined at the bottom of the stairs by Cleric and Sorceress.

“Have either of you encountered the Old Dwarf recently? Mistress Writer seems to have misplaced him.”

The two characters shook their heads.

“You do not think he has met with misfortune, do you, Mistress?” Cleric wrung her hands, and her eyes widened in alarm.

Sorceress also looked concerned. “Indeed! Was he not injured and abducted along with you, Cleric, when that horrible elf kidnapped you? Perhaps he has crossed paths with the insufferable one again?”

I waved away their concerns. “No, I don’t think he’s in trouble this time. The contents of the refrigerator show he’s still making his regular raids for snacks. I was just wondering why I haven’t seen him. I’m sure he’ll turn up sooner or later. So, Dragon, why were you coming to see me?”

Dragon puffed another smoke cloud from her nostrils. “The three of us have been examining the four items from our world, hoping to ascertain the origin of the conduit through which they arrived in this world. We also have been searching the areas where the items were found. Since the items themselves still retain a trace of the magic from the conduit, we were hoping that there would be similar traces in the areas where the items appeared.”

I nodded. “So are there any traces?”

Sorceress stepped forward, shaking her head. “We have found nothing so far. We searched unsuccessfully the lower stairway, where Master Miles found the Innkeeper’s talisman. We were not unduly concerned when we did not find any trace magic there, as it has been almost three months since that item appeared. Then we investigated the hallway near your bedchamber, where you found the horseshoe we assume belongs to the Innkeeper’s friend, the Blacksmith. Again, there was no trace of magic, and again we speculated it may be because of the length of time that has passed.”

I frowned. “What about the last two items?”

Dragon shrugged. “We have not yet completed our investigation. We did examine the conference room. It has only been two months since I noticed the ruby ring on the conference room table, so I had great hope. But, alas, nothing.”

“We were just coming to ask your permission to search your office, Mistress.” Cleric gestured down the hallway. “And we need you to show us the exact spot on your bookshelf where you and Master Miles discovered the Royal Seal, the last of the four items that have entered this world from ours.”

I nodded and led the way.

office-and-bookshelf-for-blog-002

I entered my office and tried to shift some of the mess out of the way, so the others could enter as well. Sorceress and Cleric squeezed in behind me. Dragon stood in the doorway. She looked around my office and snorted a plume of black smoke. There was no way she could squeeze her bulk into the small, crowded room. “Mistress Writer, I have seen swineherds who kept their charges’ pens neater than you keep your office!”

I scowled, and felt my cheeks flame, but reluctantly recognized the truth of her words. I mumbled an excuse. “I don’t often get the chance to clean my office. Usually, I’m either working on my writing here, or one of you is interrupting whatever task I am attempting.”

Dragon arched a delicate eyebrow. “The rest of your home is reasonably tidy.”

“Why, thank you ever so much for noticing!” Even I could hear the sarcasm dripping from my words.

Sorceress frowned and folded her arms over her chest. “Why do we not see where Mistress Writer and Master Miles found the Royal Seal? The discussion of the relative merits of neatness and order can wait.”

I gave Dragon one last sharp look, then pointed to an empty spot on my bookshelf between two groups of antique volumns. “We found it right here. I don’t know how long it had been here, though, before we noticed it.”bookshelf

Dragon wrinkled her nose in distaste. “Yes, among all this clutter, I imagine any given object could go undetected for years.”

Elf clericI opened my mouth but before I could fire back a retort, Dragon used her innate shapeshifting ability and transformed into an elven maiden. She easily slipped through the crowded room and made her way to the bookshelf, where she beckoned her two companions. The three of them gathered around the spot, cautiously feeling the empty area on the shelf, each intoning a different incantation to reveal trace magic. I waited, holding my breath in anticipation.

After several minutes, Sorceress and Cleric stepped back from the bookshelf. Their failure was reflected in their long faces.

“Another dead end?”

They nodded somberly. The elven Dragon, however, was deep in thought, her brow furrowed, her head tilted. “Mistress, what are the books on this shelf?”

I glanced at the books Dragon indicated, the books adjacent to the spot where the Royal Seal had been found. “Oh, they’re just those old books I picked up at a yard sale last year.”

Dragon shook her head. “I do not think so.”

“Oh?”

“If you remember, Mistress, you showed those books to me when you brought them home. They were in much better condition than these volumns, and their leather bindings were etched with gold leaf. I admired them so much you gave them to me for my treasure trove. These are distinctly different tracts.”

I furrowed my brow, trying to remember, then slowly nodded. “Yes, that’s right. I did give them to you. So, then, what are these books?” I reached for them, but Dragon put a restraining hand on my arm.

“Carefully, Mistress, carefully.”

I pulled my hand back quickly. “Why? Do you sense something? Could they be dangerous?”

“I do sense something about the books . . . something oddly familiar. I will not know if they pose a danger until I thoroughly examine them.”

Dragon turned to her two companions. “We will take the books to the conference room, where there is a larger area in which to study them. I need to make a carrier for them, so no one touches them in transit.” She opened her pouch and rummaged through its contents. “I need some botanicals for this – acacia, larkspur, wolfsbane, sandalwood, ague root, myrrh, and cinquefoil. Do either of you have these components?”

Sorceress and Cleric quickly provided the requested components. Dragon found an uncluttered corner of my desk on which to work. There she precisely measured and carefully combined the components, adding some additional ingredients she took from her own pouch. While she worked, she recited an intricate incantation under her breath. When she finished, Dragon sprinkled the mixture over the books and cast her spell, creating a glowing grid around the books.glowing-grid-for-blog

At a word from Dragon, the grid bearing the books rose into the air and glided toward the doorway. Effortlessly holding the spell intact, Dragon turned to me. “Cleric, Sorceress, and I will undertake the thorough examination of these books, first magically, then physically. We will confirm the absence of danger, or render any threat ineffective, before we handle them. We will then try to ascertain the identity and origin of the volumns. I will let you know what we discover.”

 

Be sure to come back and learn what Dragon and her companions discover about the old books, and if the books have anything to do with the four objects from their world that have mysteriously appeared here. And maybe we’ll even find my Old Dwarf! We’ll leave the porch light on for you!

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