Another Distraction

Another Distraction

Lunch was an awkward affair, eaten in uncomfortable silence. I watched as my Old Dwarf, my Foreman and the two lads kept shooting dirty looks at my Bounty Hunter. The latter seemed completely unperturbed, perhaps even amused judging by the smirk that tugged at the corners of his mouth. As soon as they all finished eating they quickly excused themselves and left the room.

Easter 128“I’m glad that’s over.” Miles started to clear the table. “I wasn’t sure if your Bounty Hunter was going to get out of here in one piece.”

I gathered the glasses and silverware and followed Miles to the sink. “Yeah, if he doesn’t stop trying to stir up trouble, one of my other characters is going to throttle him good and proper, although he appears singularly unconcerned.”

Miles rubbed his chin thoughtfully as I filled the dishwasher. “He did put you on notice some time ago that he is not going to stop looking for a way to return to his own world, or at least force your other characters . . . and you . . . to search harder for a way for it to happen.”

I sighed. “Yeah, I know. He won’t accept my theory that he and the others are already in their own world, existing simultaneously in both worlds. I really do feel sorry for him and all my other characters who have fallen out of my manuscripts. They never asked to be here. They’re homesick, and they’re doing their best to learn how to live with foreign customs, and deal with advanced and – to them – alien technology. They’re cut off from everything and almost everyone familiar. In one way, I can’t blame any of them if they continue to search for a way home, even if I do not believe it possible. But my Bounty Hunter and my Arrogant One go about it in such an adversarial way, stirring up as much trouble as they can.”

Miles nodded. He took a washcloth and wiped the table as I started the dishwasher. “There. All clean. Are we bringing the books back here to continue reading?”

I shook my head. “No, I don’t think we can chance my Bounty Hunter or any of my other characters joining us. We need to do this in private.”

“The conference room?”

“Nope. Since they missed lunch, I assume Dragon, Sorceress and Cleric are still using the conference room.”

“That’s right. Aren’t they’re trying to determine if it is possible for your characters to enter their own world?”

I nodded.

“I thought your Gypsy was supposed to be working with them, but he was with us at lunch. What happened?”

I frowned. “I saw him with them earlier. I don’t know why he didn’t stay. And my Old Dwarf had been guarding the door for them while they worked, but he was at lunch, too. Since we have to stop by the conference room to pick up the books, I’ll ask Dragon. Then we’ll go to my office.”office-and-bookshelf-for-blog-002

“Should I bring my shovel?” Miles chuckled and winked at me.

“No more cracks about the condition of my office, thank you very much! There’s enough room to get in the door and over to the desk. No shovel required!” I poked him in the ribs, and we headed down the stairs. We were on the landing when I suddenly remembered. “Oh, by the way, that phone call at lunch? That was James. He received my e-mail.”

“Oh? What did he say about it?”

I started to reply, but as we reached the bottom of the stairs, I was startled to see my Old Dwarf standing guard at the door to the conference room. “I thought you went out in the yard with my Foreman and the lads after lunch. How did you get back down here so fast, and without us seeing you?”

dwarf-facing-rightMy Old Dwarf looked at me as if I had just sprouted another head. “Eh? What be ye talkin’ aboot, lass? I be standin’ here the whole o the morn and right through the midday meal. I never be desertin’ me post!” He sounded affronted at the very idea.

Miles frowned. “I saw you at lunch, too.”

The old reprobate shook his head. “Methinks ye both be daft!”

I quirked an eyebrow. “There are times I think so, too.”

“So, what be bringin’ ye two down here?”

“We need to do a bit of reading. Since you are still here, can I assume that Dragon and the others are still at work in the conference room?”

“Aye. They be hard at work. But the big beastie tolded me iffin ye came lookin’ fer yer books, I should be lettin’ ye in.”

I pushed open the door as quietly as I could to avoid distracting the occupants of the room. Still, Dragon’s sharp ears caught the almost imperceptible squeak of the hinges. She looked up from her grimoires and magical tomes and waved me in. She pointed to a chest in the far corner of the room. “I have integrated my magical protective grid into the fabric of Cleric’s enchanted box, and enlarged it to accommodate the books. The receptacle is absolutely secure. No one will be able to detect its contents and it will only open for you or me.”box for books

“Thanks, Dragon. I appreciate that.” I looked around and saw Cleric and Sorceress deep in conversation with my Gypsy. “Dragon, has my Gypsy been here with you the entire day?”gypsy-facing-right

The big beast tilted her head and peered at me as if trying to determine my reason for asking. “Yes, the Gypsy lad has been here. His insights have proven most valuable.”

“He hasn’t left the room, even for a short time?”

“No.”

“And, to the best of your knowledge, has my Old Dwarf been at his post by the door since his arrival this morning?”dwarf-facing-right

Dragon narrowed her eyes and black smoke started drifting from her nostrils. “You know as well as I, nothing could cause that one to abandon his duties. Nothing.”

I frowned, and rubbed the back of my neck. “Well, Miles and I just finished lunch. My Foreman, my Young Hero, and my Bounty Hunter ate with us . . . as did my Gypsy and my Old Dwarf.”

Dragon blinked. The smoke from her nostrils grew thicker. “You mean someone who appeared to be the Gypsy lad and someone who appeared to be the dwarf were with you at lunch.”

“Uh-huh. Or perhaps the ones at lunch were the real ones?” I raised an eyebrow and looked at her questioningly.

Dragon went to the door and seized my Old Dwarf. She dragged him into the room, ignoring his sputtering and cursing. She held him fast and called to my Gypsy. “Gypsy! Come here.”

My Gypsy came running over and Dragon grabbed him by his arm. She stood there, holding tight to both characters. They both struggled to yank themselves free of her vise-like grip. My Old Dwarf raised his war axe, but Dragon shook him like a rag doll until he dropped it.

“Be still!” Her voice filled the room like thunder. Both my Gypsy and my Old Dwarf stopped struggling and fell motionless.

Motionless, but hardly quiet.

My Old Dwarf’s voice grew every bit as loud as Dragon’s. His face was deep red and his scowl would have given pause to most creatures. “What be the meanin’ o this, ye daft beastie? Be ye tryin’ ta rip me arm outten me shoulder?”

My Gypsy also protested. “Yes, what are you doing? Why have you assaulted us in this manner?” It was clear from his expression he thought Dragon had gone completely mad.

Dragon gave them both another shake. “Stand still. Do not move an inch.” She tentatively loosened her grip on them, and they stood there gaping at her and rubbing their sore arms.

Miles entered the room and he, Sorceress, and Cleric all tip-toed over and stood next to me. “What is going on?”

 

“Deception and chicanery.”

The three of them looked at me and frowned, not comprehending. I held up my hand and gestured toward Dragon.

Dragon sniffed my Gypsy and my Old Dwarf. She poked and prodded them, then flicked her snake-like tongue over their faces as they both sputtered in protest. Finally, she mumbled a brief incantation and examined them once more.

She turned to me. “These are the genuine articles.”

“Then, the Gypsy and the dwarf at lunch today were illusions?”

“I presume so.” Dragon’s pronouncement was accompanied by a billowing cloud of smoke.

Miles frowned. “Your Arrogant One at work again?”

I nodded. “Most likely.” I turned to my Old Dwarf and my Gypsy. “Find my Bounty Hunter and my Arrogant One and bring them both here.”

The old reprobate nodded grimly, retrieved his axe from the floor where it had fallen, and took off up the stairs at a dead run, my Gypsy hot on his heels.

Miles and I hardly had time to tell the others what had transpired before and during lunch, when my Old Dwarf and my Gypsy brought their quarry into the room.

My Bounty Hunter draped himself casually into a chair, one booted foot propped up on the adjacent seat. My Arrogant One just stood there, his nose in the air.

I narrowed my eyes and faced the two of them. “Talk.”

“The elf was merely practicing his craft. No harm done.”

Before I could respond, my Arrogant One turned toward me, looking smug. He drew himself up and rocked back on his heels, grasping the front of his cloak. “I have been improving with practice, have I not? Not one of you present at lunch could detect that your precious dwarf and Gypsy were not real.”

I would have been able to tell.” Plumes of smoke poured from Dragon’s nose, and I could see sparks in her great maw as she spoke.

“Perhaps.” My Arrogant One shrugged.

I frowned. “For what reason did you create these illusions?”

The annoying elf stuck his nose in the air again. “As the Bounty Hunter stated – I was merely practicing my craft.”

I folded my arms over my chest, and lowered my voice to a threatening growl. “Well, if any of us ever again discover you practicing your craft by creating an illusion of any one of us, I will let Dragon deal with you.”

Dragon bared her dagger sharp teeth, each as long as the elf’s forearm, and thrust her face at his. The elf shrieked and scampered over to take refuge behind his cohort.

I tried to suppress a snicker, then continued, “If you need to practice, try creating the illusion that you are contributing something worthwhile to this household.”

My Arrogant One sputtered and gaped at me. He drew himself up once more and assumed an injured air. “I resent that implication.” Then he tossed his hair back out of his face, drew his cloak close about him, and marched out of the room.

“Ye be wantin’ em back, lass?” My Old Dwarf thumped the broad of his axe against the palm of his hand and started toward the door.

“No, let him go. He has been put on notice what will happen should he continue to practice such illusions.”

My Bounty Hunter smirked. “And if you have no further need of me, I, too, shall take my leave.” He strolled through the door and followed his companion up the stairs.

booksMore than an hour later, Miles and I were finally settled in my office with the books. Before we continued reading the first one, the one featuring the image of the Innkeeper’s talisman on the first page, Miles placed his hand on my arm. “Honey, with all the drama in the conference room, you never did have the chance to tell me. What did James have to say about the e-mail you sent him? Could he read any of the pages of the book?”

“Ah, yes, the phone call.” I leaned back in my chair. “Well, James said –– ”

The conversation was interrupted by a commotion at the front door. Someone rang the doorbell several times in quick succession, then rapped loudly on the door and hollered something unintelligible.

Miles sighed. “Hold that thought.”

Who could be at the door? Will I ever get to tell Miles what James said about the e-mail I sent him? Will my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter continue to cause problems? What will Dragon and her colleagues determine regarding the ability of my characters to enter their own world from this one? Be sure to come back and see what happens. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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The First Book

The First Book

Miles and I were sitting at the kitchen table. We were perusing the four books that had appeared last month on my bookshelf, ostensibly having traveled through a magical conduit from my characters’ world. Each book had on its first page an illustration of one of the four objects from their world that had previously been found in our home. The first book contained the illustration of a talisman identical to one belonging to the Innkeeper. The Innkeeper was one of the characters in my books, but not one of those who had fallen out of the pages of my manuscripts into this world.

I sipped my tea as we began reading.

The Innkeeper was once described by a now departed scrivener as “…corpulent, with a perpetually errant lock of hair he was constantly pushing out of his eyes. He oft wiped his flaccid face with his apron as he tended bar. He was successful at his profession. He could engage in ten separate conversations simultaneously, he would never allow a patron’s mug to empty, and he could deal with the most obnoxious drunk with aplomb – in short, he seemed a most typical and commonplace innkeeper. Yet, behind that facade was a most remarkable and resourceful secret agent, unquestionably loyal to his king, armed with a quick wit, quicker reflexes, and an arsenal of minor magics.”

My eyes widened and I nearly spewed my mouthful of tea all over the book.

My husband jumped. “What is it?”

“No wonder the books were enchanted to ensure my characters could not read them. The scrivener who’s quoted? That’s me! The passage we just read is from notes I made when I was chronicling the adventures that went into my first two books about these characters.”

Miles raised an eyebrow. “Honey, I know you always joke that you did not write those books, you merely recorded what happened; but do you really expect me to believe that?”

I just looked at him and shrugged. “Believe what you will.”

Miles looked at me for a long time; he furrowed his brow, and deep concern showed in his eyes. When I said no more on the subject, he heaved a deep sigh and shook his head. I got the feeling he was questioning the state of my mental health.

I picked up my mug of tea and took a few long gulps, draining it quickly. I set the mug down unsteadily, and refilled it. “Let’s continue.”

Many of the feats of the ersatz innkeeper were chronicled by the now departed scrivener, a mysterious figure known to many in this world only as Mistress Writer. As apprentice to one of the foremost historians in this world, I have taken it upon myself to continue Mistress Writer’s work. This volume records the more recent adventures of the Innkeeper, the various exploits that occurred following the departure of Mistress Writer.

According to my Master, there are whispered legends of a magical conduit that joins this world to the world in which Mistress Writer now resides. Perhaps someday I will find this conduit and divine a way to use it to send this journal, that Mistress Writer may include these exploits in future volumes of her work.

Miles looked at me incredulously. “This is a joke, right, honey? You really wrote all this, right? You can’t expect me to believe you were actually there! I mean, is there even real?”

I laughed. “So asks the man who has no problem with the concept of our home being populated by a bunch of medieval characters who have fallen from the pages of my manuscripts.” I raised an eyebrow at Miles, then snorted and shook my head. “No, this is not a joke; yes, there is real; and no, I did not write all this – only the parts attributed to Mistress Writer, the now departed scrivener. But apparently the person who did write all this, this apprentice historian, discovered the magical conduit and used it to send the books to me.”

For today's blog 001Miles sat there, gaping at me. Finally, he shook his head. “Right.”

“Well, what’s your explanation?”

My husband frowned and rubbed the back of his neck. “Well, if you didn’t write this as some sort of a joke, then . . . I don’t know.” He shrugged. “I guess I do have to believe you. As you said, I accept living with a bunch of characters from your books, and I have seen some exceedingly strange things. I guess if I can believe all that, I can accept that there is real, and you were there, somehow. I just don’t understand it all.”

I was about to reply, but a sound caught my ear. Someone was quietly opening the door leading from the deck to the living room. I put my finger over my lips and motioned to Miles to gather up the books. The door closed almost inaudibly, and soft footsteps crept across the living room, approaching the kitchen.bounty-hunter

“Oh! I’m sorry. I didn’t know anyone was here. I was just going to get a quick bite to eat. I hope I’m not intruding.” My Bounty Hunter looked genuinely startled to see Miles and me, but I knew he was capable of great guile.

I smiled sweetly. “Not at all. We were just going down to my office.”

My Bounty Hunter nodded. His gaze fell on the pile of books. His eyes widened. “Those books must be ancient!”books

I raised an eyebrow. “Why do you say that?”

“Aside from the musty odor?” He reached for one of the books, but Miles drew the pile away. Unperturbed, my Bounty Hunter gestured toward the volumes. “They look far more rudimentary in their structure than the books I have seen you reading. The pages are not a uniform size, and their edges are ragged, as if torn rather than cut. The leaves also appear to differ from your modern paper; they appear softer, thicker. They are parchment, perhaps, or vellum? The innards are rather crudely sewn to the bindings, exhibiting very uneven stitches, and the thread with which they are sewn is not of modern manufacture. The covers are leather, but not leather tanned in any contemporary process, judging by other leather products I have seen.”

Miles gaped at my Bounty Hunter, while I merely narrowed my eyes and gave him a penetrating look. “You are very observant.”

He shrugged. “Were I permitted to examine them more closely, I could expand upon my observations.”

“That won’t be necessary, thanks. Enjoy your snack.” I gestured for Miles to bring the books, and the two of us headed downstairs for my office, leaving my Bounty Hunter alone.office-and-bookshelf-for-blog-002

Miles wisely refrained from commenting on the condition of my admittedly messy office. He merely wrinkled his brow and scratched his head as I cleared a spot on my desk in which to work. “Why do you think your Bounty Hunter was so interested in the books? Do you think he knows where they are from, and the information they contain?”

I shrugged and shook my head. “I don’t know what he knows. Other than you and me, Dragon, Sorceress, and Cleric are the only ones who know about the books, and the fact that you and I are the only ones who can read them. I doubt any of them would be sharing that news with my Bounty Hunter. But he may have recognized the volumes as being from his world. He is extremely observant and he certainly could see they are not made of any modern materials or processes of this world. The one thing I’m sure he doesn’t know is their contents.”

Miles considered this, chewing his lower lip and looking at the books. “Why do you think whoever wrote the books, or whoever sent them here, enchanted them to keep your characters from reading them?”

I frowned. “Actually, I’m not sure I was correct in that supposition, that the books were enchanted specifically against my characters reading them. I don’t think anyone in that world would know about the characters who have fallen from my manuscripts into this world. At least they wouldn’t if my theory is correct, that my characters exist simultaneously in both worlds. So, rather than the books being enchanted specifically to keep my characters from reading them, perhaps they were enchanted to keep anyone except me from reading them, in case they never reached me and fell into the hands of someone sinister.”

“Then why can I read them?”

I blinked. “I have no idea.” I pondered a moment. “Perhaps they were enchanted to prevent anyone in the other world from reading them. Perhaps they can be read by anyone from this world.”

Miles tilted his head. “Seems plausible. How can we test your theory?”

I scowled. “I don’t know. I guess I would have to ask other people to look at the books and see if they could read them, but I don’t know who I could trust with the information disclosed in these volumes. I mean, I certainly can’t ask Mace and Gloria, now can I?”

Miles laughed, remembering the time a couple months ago when some new neighbors dropped by to complain about horses in our yard, and dozens of people living in our house. (https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2017/02/26/meeting-the-neighbors/) “No, I don’t think it would be wise to ask Mace and Gloria. But what about Dragon’s Old English Sheepdog friend, Ollie? Could you ask Ollie’s human companion? He is certainly aware of the situation with Dragon and your other characters, and it is obvious he can be trusted to be discreet.”

I shook my head. “James lives too far for me to visit and show him the books in person. I would have to scan a few pages from the books and then e-mail them to James. The problem is I’m not sure I want the scanned images on my computer. You know my characters have figured out how to use the computer. There would be too great a chance they would find the images.”

Miles shrugged. “What difference would that make? They can’t read them.”

“Duh! You’re right. I guess I could e-mail James and ask him to take a look at a few pages.”

“Why don’t you do that now? I’ll go prepare lunch.”

“Wow, is it that time already? Okay, you go make lunch. I’ll check with Dragon before I come up. She said she would have a protective container for the books by lunchtime, so I won’t have to stand guard over them while we eat.”

computer-and-monitorMiles gave me a quick peck on the cheek before leaving. I turned to my desk and started scanning a few pages into my computer, reasoning that if James couldn’t read the pages, we would have to examine other explanations for Miles’ ability to read the books.

After sending off the e-mail to James and leaving the books with Dragon to place in the protective container she constructed, I headed upstairs for lunch.

When I reached the top of the stairs, I heard a commotion. My Old Dwarf, my Foreman, and the lads were in the living room, having a heated discussion with my Bounty Hunter. When they saw me, they rushed over and accosted me.

“Is it true?” My Foreman folded his arms over his chest and gave me a penetrating look.

“Is what true?”

“Do you have in your possession a set of books that contains the secret of returning us to our own world?” Anger flashed in his eyes and resonated in his voice.

I gaped at him. “Who fed you that bunch of bologna?”

My Foreman frowned. “What does that mean, bunch of bologna?”

“It means someone lied to you.”

My Bounty Hunter stepped forward and quirked an eyebrow. “Oh?”

I scowled at him. “Why are you always trying to stir up trouble?”

“I saw the books.”

“You did. You saw four books on the table. But you read not one world of any of them. How do you purport to know what they contain?” My temper and my voice were both rising.

My Bounty Hunter shrugged. The others rolled their eyes and shook their heads. They shot him dirty looks as they headed to the kitchen for lunch. As my Foreman and I took our seats opposite each other, he mouthed an apology. I smiled and waved it away.

phone with caller IDJust as Miles was placing a huge bowl of spaghetti and meatballs on the table, the phone rang. Seeing the caller ID, I quickly grabbed it.

“Hi, James! What’s that? You got my e-mail? And?” I listened. “Really? That’s interesting. Thanks, James!”

 

What did James tell me? Could he read the pages I had e-mailed him? Be sure to come back next week and find out! We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Discussion and preparations

Discussion and preparations

The atmosphere was grim as my characters took their seats around the conference room table; all my characters save two, the two whose fate we were here to discuss. My Old Dwarf had discovered that my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter apparently had plans to introduce technology from this world into their medieval world if they could find a way to enter that world. Or at least, they would use my Arrogant One’s skill in creating illusions to make it seem as though they possessed advanced alien technology.

I turned to my Foreman, my Gypsy, and my Young Hero, who had been absent during the original disclosure of this matter. “Did anyone explain to you what’s going on?”

My Foreman nodded and folded his arms over his chest. “That annoying elf just can’t seem to stay out of trouble, and he keeps dragging the Bounty Hunter in with him.”

“I think that may be the other way around.” My Young Hero frowned. “I believe that it is the Bounty Hunter who keeps instigating, playing on the elf’s ego.”

“I think there is enough blame for the two of them to share.” My Gypsy quirked an eyebrow and inclined his head toward the other two as he took his seat.

dwarf-facing-right“Wale, I be thinkin’ it be aboot time we be doin’ summat aboot the two o them.” My Old Dwarf was pacing and slapping the flat of his war axe against the palm of his hand.

“I could always roast them.” Dragon wore a sly smile and a thin plume of black smoke drifted from her nostrils.

“No roasting.” My husband and I spoke in unison.

“What is your fascination with roasting?” Miles asked.

blue-dragon-2Dragon blinked and looked at my husband as if he had just sprouted another head. She spoke to him slowly and distinctly, as if speaking to an obtuse child. “I am a dragon.”

Miles looked at her, cocked his head, and shrugged.

Dragon sighed, shook her head and turned to me. “Methinks by now he should be able to reason it out. Mayhap you can explain it to him?”

“Some other time. Let’s just get down to business.”

The group quieted down and everyone took a seat, with Dragon stretching out on the nearby sofa. I looked around at my characters, all tight-lipped, with many clenching their fists. I heaved a big sigh and began.

“We all know what my Old Dwarf has reported – that my Arrogant One is practicing his illusions and that he and my Bounty Hunter are formulating plans to use the elf’s power of illusion to gain supremacy in your world, should they find a way to journey there.”

“We must not allow that to happen.” Dragon’s eyes were narrowed, the plume of black smoke from her nostrils was expanding, and her tone brooked no argument. The others around the table nodded and loudly voiced their agreement, some banging their fist on the table.

I held up my hands and the group fell silent. “Of course we must not allow it! But let’s discuss the likelihood of it ever actually happening. First, my Arrogant One must perfect his craft. Nothing short of a solid and substantial illusion will gain the results he and his cohort seek. In fact, anything less than a solid and substantial illusion could put their very lives in danger, when the people of your world realize they have been hoodwinked.”

My Old Dwarf stroked his beard. “Hmmm…thet be true enough. But how long be it afore the elfie can make a real-enough illusion?”

I gestured to Dragon, Sorceress, and my Gypsy. “The three of you have the most knowledge of, and experience with, magic. Just months ago, my Arrogant One was only able to create illusions that could be seen and heard, illusions that dissipated quickly if he lost his concentration. Now, the elf is already creating very realistic illusions. The piece of cake he created for my Old Dwarf had aroma, taste and texture. It was solid enough to be picked up, but it dissipated quickly when the dwarf tried to eat it. At this rate, how long might it be before the elf perfects his illusions?”

Sorceress frowned and stroked her chin. “It is difficult to predict. If the elf continues to practice diligently, his proficiency could continue to increase rapidly.”

My Gypsy nodded, but Dragon snorted. “You credit the elf with more aptitude than he possesses. All the practice in the world will not help one who lacks the innate power.”

I quirked an eyebrow. “Are you saying his illusions will never be good enough to carry out his plan?”

Dragon hesitated. “I am saying it is most unlikely. However, when one contemplates the results should he ever succeed, I do not believe we can take any chances.”

I nodded. “I tend to agree. But that is not the only consideration. The second and possibly more important point is this – is there any possible way for my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter . . . or for any of you . . . to find a way into your own world?”

“A way ta be returnin’ ta our own world do na ever be found by any o us yet.” My Old Dwarf’s shoulders sagged and he stared at his hands, which he held clasped tightly on the table before him. “But, ye be tellin’ us more’n once, lass, thet we already be there at the same time we be here.”

I nodded. “Yes, and that is the salient point. As you know, it is my contention that you all exist simultaneously in this world and in your own. So it would not be a question of returning to your world, it would be a question of entering it. My question is can that be done? If not, there is no point to this discussion. If there is no way for them to enter your world, it matters not how proficient my Arrogant One gets with his magic. He and my Bounty Hunter will never be able to take it to your world and carry out the plans they have formulated.”

My characters shifted around in their seats and murmured to one another. Finally, Dragon rose from the couch. “As with the previous question of the elf’s ability to create solid and substantial illusions, I do not believe we can afford to take a chance. Although mayhap there is no way for them to get to our world and implement their plan, if they do, the results would be devastating to our world.”

I chewed on my lower lip for a few minutes while I considered the alternatives. Finally, I raked my hand through my hair and sighed heavily. “Dragon, you are the most powerful of all the magic users among my characters. Could you, with the help of Cleric, Sorceress, and my Gypsy, conduct research and experiments to find if there is, indeed, a way for any of you present here to get to your own world? I do not believe that my Arrogant One can perfect his magic in the time it would take the four of you to make this determination.”

Dragon looked at the other three, who all nodded. She turned back to me and promised solemnly, “We will undertake this task. We will do everything within our power to ascertain whether we can go to our own world or no.”

“Thank you, all of you. Until that determination is made, we can make no decision regarding the fate of my Arrogant One or my Bounty Hunter. However, we all need to keep an eye on them, to gauge the elf’s progress with his magic. And we need to remain on guard around both the elf and his cohort. They must not know that anyone other than the two of them is trying to find a way to get to your world.”

My characters all nodded their agreement and then everyone left the conference room to retire for the night. I turned to Miles. “We better get as much sleep as possible tonight. You and I have a big job ahead of us starting tomorrow.”

My husband quirked an eyebrow. “The books?”

books

I nodded. “The books.”

The next morning, I ran into Dragon on her way to the conference room. “Are you and the others going to begin your task this morning?”

She nodded. “We will work diligently to determine as quickly as possible if there is any way for us, your characters who have fallen out of your manuscripts into your world, to enter our own world.”

“I appreciate the four of you working on this. First, though, could I trouble you to release the protective grid around the books that came here through the magical conduit from your world? Miles and I would like to begin perusing them.”

glowing-grid-for-blog“Of course.” Dragon ushered me into the conference room, where the books sat on the table within their protective grid. The big beast mumbled a quick incantation, and the grid disappeared. “Will you want me to return them to the magic grid when you are finished with them?”

“No, I don’t want to disturb the work you will be doing. Perhaps Cleric has another box like the one she gave me for the keys to Morcant’s tower . . . something in which I can place the books that will hide them from anyone searching for them by physical or magical means.”

Dragon frowned. “You will need something slightly more powerful. You will need something that also prevents the books themselves from initiating any transport or other magic.”

I gaped at the beast. “Do you really think the books capable of that? I thought the only indications of magic you found were the trace magic from the conduit and the trace magic you assumed was from a spell intended to prevent anyone from reading the books.”

“Yes, that is all we found. However, improbable though it may be, it is possible that some magic can hide even from magic users as skilled as myself and my companions. We should not take any chances.”

“Okay, do you happen to have such a container?”

“Not at the moment, but it should not take me long to enchant one. I know Cleric has another such as the one she previously gave you. I am certain she will allow us to use it for this purpose, and I will incorporate the magical protective grid into its fabric. Unless you think you will need it sooner, I can give it to you at the noontime meal.”

“Thanks, that will be fine.” I took the pile of books and headed for the door. Cleric, Sorceress, and my Gypsy greeted me as they entered the conference room to begin work on their task. My Old Dwarf nodded to me as he took up his post outside the door where he would stand guard to prevent anyone from disturbing the magic users as they worked.

I went upstairs and found Miles at the kitchen table. He had made a pot of coffee for himself, and a pot of tea for me, and he poured us each a cup as I took my seat next to him.

“Thanks. I have a feeling we may need the caffeine. We may be at this a long time.”

He sighed and nodded. “Which book do you think we should start with?”

I thought about it a moment. “Well, each of the four books contains on its first page an illustration of one of the objects that came through the magical conduit from my characters’ world. So, I guess we should read the books in the order the objects appeared in this world.”

Miles frowned and rubbed the back of his neck. “Are we certain of the order in which they arrived here? I thought we only knew for certain when we found them. How long might any of them have been here before being noticed?”

“Point well taken.” I sighed. “I’m reasonably certain that the talisman, the horseshoe and the ring were found shortly after their appearance, due to the locations in which they appeared. They could not reasonably have gone unnoticed for any length of time. It’s the Royal Seal I’m unsure of. As Dragon so kindly pointed out when I showed her where we found the object in my office, ‘among all this clutter . . . any given object could go undetected for years!’”office-and-bookshelf-for-blog-002

Miles chuckled. “Do you think she’s right?”

I blushed. “Well, I don’t really put much effort into keeping my office tidy. I suppose it might have gone unnoticed for some time, but certainly not years.”

“I’ve offered many times to clean and organize your office for you.”

I shot Miles a warning look. “Stay away from my office! It doesn’t need to be any more organized than it already is. I can lay my hands on anything I need within minutes.”

My husband chuckled again. “Okay. But how can we decide the order in which to read the books if we can’t be sure of the order in which the objects appeared?”

I frowned and drummed my fingers on the table while I thought. “Maybe it’s not all that important in what order we read them. Maybe we should just grab one and start.”

coin-talismanMiles reached out and chose a book at random. He opened it to the first page. We saw a beautiful illustration of the Innkeeper’s Talisman, the first of the four objects we had found. Miles himself had found the talisman on Christmas Eve. We examined the illustration carefully. It was a painstaking and detailed depiction of the amulet, but it gave no further clue as to the content of the book.

Miles and I exchanged looks and we both shrugged; then I turned the page and we began to read.

Be sure to come back and read over our shoulders as we explore the mysterious books. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Trying to Understand

Trying to Understand

for-todays-blog-013I sat there, slack-jawed and wide-eyed. My mind and my heart were both racing. I didn’t know which was the bigger bombshell – that Miles and I could read the four books that had entered our world through a magical conduit from the world of my characters, and my characters could not; or that my Old Dwarf suspected two of my characters were planning to find a way to return to their world in order to introduce objects from our world there.

Both pieces of information boggled my mind, and I was unsure which I should address first. Around me, Miles, my Old Dwarf, Dragon, Sorceress, and Cleric all awaited my reaction. Finally, it was Miles who broke the silence.Easter 128

“These books aren’t going anywhere, honey. Perhaps it would be best to deal with your Arrogant One and your Bounty Hunter first.”

All four of my characters present nodded their heads in agreement. Dragon was the first to speak. “I will return the books to their protective magical grid, just to be certain they go nowhere.”

“Thanks, Dragon. Now, what about my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter?”

 

dwarfMy Old Dwarf stepped forward. “Methinks the elfie be practi-sizin’ his illusion magic so’s he can be creatin’ stuff from this world one’st he an’ his accomplice be findin’ a way back ta our world.”

ElfCleric grimaced and rubbed the back of her neck. “If he creates illusions of any objects from this world in our world, especially any technology presently unknown in our world, it could cause panic and chaos.”

sorceress-facing-rightSorceress nodded. “Or it could lead to world domination by whoever appeared to hold that technology.”

My Old Dwarf nodded and stroked his beard. “I be thinkin’ thet be their plan, lass. The two o them, the annoyin’ elfie and his Bounty Hunter accomplice, be thinkin’ ta make themselves Sovereigns.”

blue-dragon-facing-leftDragon’s eyes narrowed dangerously, and she spewed forth a huge cloud of black smoke. “They must be stopped, by any means, even if it entails their destruction.”

“I be wit’ ye on this, beastie!” My Old Dwarf slapped the flat of his war axe against his open palm. “I be right there wit’ ye!”

As am I, I thought; but I said, “I need a clearer understanding of this. Why would my Annoying One want to create illusions of this world’s technology once he is back in your world? Why not just take the technology itself with him?”

tank for blogSorceress scowled and shrugged. “Mayhap some of the objects he wishes to take are too large, such as your world’s war machines. Mayhap he is uncertain if he and the Bounty Hunter would be able to take any real objects from here with them when they return to our world. Who knows his reasons?”

I nodded. “True. They have not yet found a way to get back to your world themselves, let alone finding a way to take things with them. And I imagine you are correct, too, about the size of some objects presenting a problem, if they could even procure the items. I see why he would have to use his magic to create illusions.”

Cleric narrowed her eyes and scowled. “That must be why he needs to practice his magic. Anything less than a solid and substantial illusion, such as those Dragon can create, would do little good.”

Miles frowned and scratched his chin. “I’m not sure I understand the concept of solid and substantial illusions.”

I looked at Dragon. “I’m not certain I have a good enough understanding of it myself. Could you explain it again?”

“Of course. Think of some of the illusions you have seen the annoying elf create. Think of the illusion of Morcant or of the Innkeeper. Those illusions did not last very long, did they?”

Miles and I shook our heads.

“When the elf loses his concentration, as he did when he became anxious that you were about to discover his chicanery, the illusion dissipates. Also, had you attempted to touch one of his illusions, it would have dissipated. You would not be able to lay your hands on it.”

Dragon looked first at Miles and then at me to see if we understood. We both nodded, and she continued. “Now, consider my illusions. When I create the illusion of the fireplace, you can see it, you can touch it, you can feel the heat emanating from it, you can smell the smoke, you can hear the crackle of the burning wood. I can leave the room, or lose my concentration, and the fireplace will remain. The same thing with the illusions of the horses I created for your Foreman and the lads. The horses can be groomed and ridden; you can smell them and hear them. Only a magic user greatly proficient in the detection of magic can tell the illusions are not real horses or a real fireplace. And the illusions will remain until I intentionally release the magic that creates them.”

Miles scowled and raked his hand through his hair. “So, if the Annoying One can perfect his magic of illusion, he would be able to create an illusion of anything with which he was familiar, and it would be virtually indistinguishable from the real thing?”

Dragon nodded. “However, I doubt that he will ever be that good – he was barely able to create an acceptable illusion that could be seen and heard! But you can understand why we can leave nothing to chance.”

Miles nodded; but I frowned, trying to remember a previous conversation. “But would the illusions create any real and lasting damage? Dragon, Sorceress once said you would have little trouble conjuring anything imaginable – a desert sandstorm, with wind enough to knock a person down, and heat enough to bake a person . . . or a blizzard, with snow enough to bury someone and cold enough to freeze someone in their tracks.”

Dragon and Sorceress both nodded.

“But then my Gypsy said illusions are just that – merely illusions. Once an illusion was dispelled, everything would revert to the same condition as before – no one would remain baked or frozen or deaf, although they would remember how they felt during the illusion.”

Again, Dragon and Sorceress nodded.

“So what benefit would my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter gain from the elf’s illusions?”

blue-dragon-2war for blogDragon narrowed her reptilian eyes and templed her scaly fingers. “You do not think as deviously as does the annoying elf. Picture a huge battle scene, with weapons and war machines from this world mowing down thousands of soldiers ostensibly from my world. If the elf could perfect his trade, he could create this illusion, and the illusion of the dead soldiers would remain to be examined by the residents of my world. The elf would be able to convince people that he has the power and the means to destroy them. They would acquiesce. He would take over as reigning monarch of the world.”

My jaw dropped. “Can he really do such a thing?”

Dragon sniffed disdainfully. “I highly doubt he would ever be so skilled – I would be pushed to the limits of my considerable power to create such a vast and encompassing illusion – but that is probably what he aspires to.”

sorceress-facing-rightSorceress had been shaking her head as Dragon described the scene of devastation she believed my Arrogant One might create. Now she crossed her arms in front of her and frowned. “Must you be so dramatic, Dragon? Must you always envision the most epic of outcomes? I believe you are overestimating what it would take for the elf to gain power. It would not take such a bombastic and grandiose display as you have described. I have watched Mistress Writer’s magic box and have seen historical accounts of wars in this world. I have seen depictions of flying machines that fired two rows of metal projectiles at people on the ground, in what I believe were called strafing runs. That, or anything similar, is all that would be needed. If the elf could create a solid and substantial illusion of even a single such machine flying through the air and firing projectiles that could rip through any known armor in our world, even the Great Wyrms would fear to go against him.”

 

Elf facing rightgun for blogCleric scoffed. “Pfft! Methinks you are both too dramatic! I daresay even a hand-held weapon from this world, firing high-velocity metal projectiles, would render the people in our world indefensible. The illusion of even such simple armament would give the Arrogant One and the Bounty Hunter great power.”

Dragon inclined her head. “You are both right, of course. I, too, have seen such things on the magic box, both the flying machines and the personal weapons. I should have remembered.” She turned back toward me. “Mayhap I was being a bit overly dramatic. I ought not to let my imagination run so wild. Indeed, it would take much less than I originally posited for the elf and his cohort to assume supreme power in our world.”

I sighed. “Then we must decide how to stop my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter from doing this. Alert my Foreman and the lads. We will meet in the conference room later this evening to make plans.”

 

Be sure to come back and see what is decided about my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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A Breakthrough?

A Breakthrough?

The decibel level rose swiftly. I could hardly hear myself think. On my right, Dragon, Sorceress and Cleric were all talking at the same time, as Dragon pushed several books at me. On my left, my Old Dwarf was also talking, or rather bellowing, as was his habit. All four of them kept raising their voices, each trying to be heard over the others. Miles, sitting beside me, looked dazed.

Finally, I leapt off the couch and threw up my hands. “Enough! You’re giving me a headache!”

Everyone gaped at me and silence fell over the group . . . for about five seconds.

Stop! I can’t hear any of you if you are all going to talk at the same time!”

blue-dragon-2Dragon stepped forward, waving one of the books. “Mistress, I think you will find this most curious.”

dwarf-facing-rightMy Old Dwarf stepped forward. “Be it curiouser then where ye can be findin’ the elfie, or what methinks him an’ his accomplice, the Bounty Hunter, be up to?”

Dragon frowned and puffed a large cloud of black smoke toward the dwarf. “Who cares where that despicable creature is? Neither he nor his cohort is of any consequence! And if you do not refrain from interrupting us, you might find yourself on tonight’s menu.”

My Old Dwarf’s eyes narrowed. He took a step nearer Dragon and slapped the flat of his axe on the palm of his hand. “Wale, I would na be too sure aboot thet, beastie.”

I stepped between them. “Dragon, will anything dire happen to any of us if you do not tell me your news right this instant?”

The large creature tilted her head and wrinkled her scaly brow in thought for a long moment before replying. “No . . . no I do not believe so.”

“Dwarf? What about your news? Does it demand immediate attention?”

The old reprobate frowned and stroked his beard, then he shook his head. “Wale, I do na be sure, but I do na be thinkin’ the two o them can git inta any mischief in short order. They be needin’ more time ta prepare.”

“Then I will hear you each in turn. Dwarf, why don’t you go to the kitchen and get a snack while Dragon, Sorceress, and Cleric fill me in on their discovery?”

My Old Dwarf’s face fell. I had to lean forward to hear his mumbled response. “Wale, lass, iffin ye do na be thinkin’ what I be sayin’ be as important as what the beastie and the two lassies have fer ye, I guess I could be findin’ something ta nibble on in the kitchen.”

I placed my hand on his arm. “Old friend, it isn’t that your news is less important. I just figure you have been so hard at work with your investigation, you have probably forgotten all about trivial concerns, like meals and such. As soon as you have eaten your fill, I will be glad to hear your report.”

He brightened and nodded, then rushed off to the kitchen. Dragon watched him leave. She turned back toward me and sniffed disdainfully. “If he is not to return until he has eaten his fill, we may not see him again until summertide.”

Easter 128I chuckled, and took my seat again. Miles looked at me, then stole wary glances at the other three. “Should I leave?”

Sorceress shook her head. “There is no need, Master Miles. You are aware of the items that have traveled through a magical conduit from our world to yours. There is no reason for you not to hear what we have to say to Mistress Writer.”

Cleric fidgeted with her robes, and tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. “We studied the books thoroughly. We first probed them by magical means, and then we conducted a physical examination of them.”

“And what did you find?”

Cleric continued fidgeting with her robes. “We can assure you the books pose no threat.”

Sorceress frowned, and clarified. “There were no traps or defensive wards on the books. We found only two traces of magic. One was from the conduit through which these books entered your world. The other, we could not identify.”

“So, what are the books?”

All three spellcasters shrugged.

books

Dragon handed me the pile of four books. “Please look at the first page of each book.”

coin-talismanI opened the book on the top of the pile. On the first page was a detailed illustration of a talisman. It looked exactly like the Innkeeper’s talisman that Miles had found on the steps on Christmas Eve. I handed the book to him, and we exchanged worried looks. We grew more concerned with each book I opened.

The second book had an illustration of a horseshoe, like the one I had found in the hallway near the master bedroom on New Year’s Eve. The third book had an illustration of a ruby ring, identical to the ring Dragon had found on the conference room table in early January. An illustration of the royal seal, an object I had discovered mid-January in my office, was on the first page of the last book.

As I finished looking at the illustrations, Dragon said “Other than the presence of the illustrations, we can not tell you what information the books contain. None of us can read the text. What is more puzzling, none of us are seeing the same text.”

“What? I don’t understand.”

“Each of us is quite adept at speaking and reading a number of languages. We can each read the languages that are most prevalent in our own geographic regions of our world. Each of us also has knowledge of several other written languages. Cleric is fluent in the priestly language of her order, and Sorceress and I both are well-versed in several magical scripts.”

“Okay, so the books are written in a language that is foreign to all three of you.”

“Not just that, Mistress.” Cleric wrung her hands. “We think this might account for the second trace of magic.”

I shook my head. “I don’t understand.”

Dragon sighed, loosing a dark cloud of smoke. “When we first examined the books, we took turns looking at each book. None of us could read any of the words. Then we gathered around one of the books and started to try and work it out together. That is when we realized we were not seeing the same things on the page.”

I raised an eyebrow. “A spell to prevent anyone from reading the books?”

“That is what we assume, Mistress.”

Miles had been leafing through the first book I had handed him. He nudged me and handed me the book, open to the middle. I looked at it and frowned. I picked up another of the books and opened that one to a random page. I stroked my chin. I handed the book to Dragon. “Are you quite certain none of you can read this?”

My three spellcasters huddled around the book. They exchanged glances and all three shook their heads.

Dragon handed the book back to me. She studied Miles and me for a long few moments, then her eyes widened. “You two can read the books.”

I nodded.

The three companions crowded closer. Their eyes flew open and they clamored excitedly. “What do they say? What is the nature of their texts?”

dwarfBefore I could reply, my Old Dwarf came in and plopped down in a chair. “There dinna be much in the way o snacks in the cold box! Ye mayhap be needin’ ta make a trip ta the food store.” He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and then wiped his hands on his tunic. “So’s ye be finished jawin’ aboot them books?”

Dragon growled, but I motioned her to silence. “Yes, we just finished, thanks. Now would you care to share your news?”

The dwarf puffed up and grinned. “Be right happy ta tell ye aboot it, lass. Wale, I be kinda put out when the elfie be slippin’ outten me grasp the other night, so’s I be spendin’ me time trackin’ ’em down. It be takin’ me some time, but I be findin’ ’em.”

“Where was the loathsome creature holed up?” Dragon was expelling clouds of black smoke again.

My Old Dwarf carefully studied his fingernails, then he locked eyes with Dragon. “Why be ye wantin’ ta know? Dinna ye be sayin’ he dinna be o no concern?”

Dragon growled and narrowed her eyes. “Do not annoy me, dwarf. I am tired and hungry, and it would take little provocation for me to make you my next meal.”

“Eh, ye be all bluster, ya ugly beastie!” The dwarf chuckled. “Anywho, the elfie be in the shed loft, with the Bounty Hunter.”

I held up a hand in warning to Dragon before she could make good her threat. “Did you find out what they are doing there?”

“Aye. The elfie be nursin’ his wounded pride and practi-sizin’ his magic. He be almost as good as ye, beastie, at creating illusions.”

I had to step in front of Dragon to keep her from lunging at the dwarf. “How dare you suggest that imbecilic toad is my equal?”CHOC CAKE

“Causin he be makin’ the illusion o a piece o chock-lit cake fer me, and it be mighty tasty!”

Cleric gasped but Sorceress snorted and rolled her eyes. “The Annoying One can create solid and substantial illusions?”

“Wale, almost.”

“Either he can or he can not, dwarf.” Dragon was still fuming.

“I could be seein’ it and smellin’ it. When I be pickin’ it up, though, it be lastin’ just long enough fer me ta be takin’ a big bite. I be tastin’ it, but almost liken summat ye snacked on afore, and ye still be havin some o it atween yer teeth.”

“What a lovely image.” Cleric wrinkled her nose.

I frowned. “So he has been practicing his magic in the shed?”

“Aye, lassie. An’ the Bounty Hunter be encouragin’ him. I be watchin’ and listenin’ fer a good long time whilst the two o them be jawin’ at each other. I be gittin’ the idea the Bounty Hunter be havin’ a new reason fer wantin’ ta find a way back ta our world.”

The old reprobate paused and gave everyone a sidelong glance. When he was sure everyone was listening, he leaned forward and tapped his nose several times with his index finger. He lowered his voice conspiratorially. “I be gittin’ the idea the two o them mayhap be tryin’ ta take sommat o this world back there.”

for-todays-blog-013

Be sure to come back and find out what the Old Dwarf suspects the other two plan to take back to their world; and maybe you can read over my shoulder while Miles and I peruse the books. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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