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.”
That was three hours ago. Miles had gone to answer the door, and he had called down to me, “Honey, it’s the home delivery service with that big order of frozen food.” I had quickly placed the books back in the magic container Dragon had created for them, then headed upstairs to help Miles.
“Do we really need this much food?” Miles was staring at the huge chest freezer, which we had packed tighter than a circus clown car.
“You’ve seen my Old Dwarf eat. Do you really need to ask? Besides, it was on sale. I got it all for 65 percent off retail.”
Miles frowned and scratched his head. “Well, this food better last a good long while. I think we should put a lock on the freezer.”
“Eh, laddie, ye be hurtin’ me feelin’s.” My Old Dwarf entered the room, and his eyes lit up when he saw all the food. Miles quickly slammed the door of the freezer, and stood in front of the appliance as if to guard its contents. My Old Dwarf chuckled, then turned to me. “Lassie, methought ye be wantin’ ta knowed thet I seed yer Bounty Hunter in the conference room. The fancy box thet the scaly beast made fer ye ta keep the books safe was still shut tight, but I seed thet yer Bounty Hunter be having a right great interest in it.”
I blanched. “The books. How does he know where they are?”
My Old Dwarf shrugged. I grabbed him and Miles and we went to the conference room. My Bounty Hunter was gone. I was about to open the chest to check on the books when Miles pushed past me and sat on the trunk. I frowned. “Do you mind moving, honey? I need to check the books.”
Miles raised an eyebrow and jutted his chin toward my Old Dwarf. He lowered his voice so I had to lean in to catch his words. “Are we sure that’s really your Dwarf?”
I thought back to lunch earlier that same day, when my Old Dwarf and my Gypsy had dined with us and some of my other characters. Later, we had discovered that the two of them had been mere illusions, and none of us who shared the meal with them had realized they were fakes. I frowned and raked my hand through my hair.
“Old friend, could you go fetch Dragon for me? I need her here when I open the box.”
My Old Dwarf grunted and shrugged, then left the room.
“If he comes back with Dragon, we know he’s real. If not, he’s probably an illusion, although I would be surprised if my Arrogant One continued creating illusions of the other characters after I warned him off.”
“Conversations like this still make my head spin. If he comes back with Dragon, we know he’s real. You are talking about a character from a series of books you wrote. How can he be real?”
I chuckled. “Yeah, sometimes I have a hard time understanding it all.”
Miles stood up and gestured toward the chest. “While we’re waiting to see if he was real or illusion, why don’t we check on the books?”
“Good idea.” I opened the chest. “Looks like all four books are here. I would have been surprised if my Bounty Hunter had been able get to them. Dragon told me only she and I would be able to open the chest. Still, it’s best to check.”
“Indeed.” Dragon entered the room with my Old Dwarf in tow. The large beast narrowed her reptilian eyes, and tiny puffs of black smoke erupted from her nostrils. She started to reach for the books, when I let the lid drop.
“Oh, sorry! I lost my grip on the lid. I hope you didn’t get hurt!”
Dragon growled, and the black smoke grew thicker. “Careful, you clumsy creature!”
I raised an eyebrow. “I am a bit klutzy today. Perhaps you should open the chest yourself.”
Dragon glared at me. “I see no reason to open it again. You have already ascertained that the contents are undisturbed.”
“I have. Now I would like to ascertain that the two characters standing here are Dragon and my Old Dwarf, not two illusions. Open the chest, please.”
The ersatz dragon and dwarf dissipated in a shower of sparks.
Miles gaped at me. “How did you know?”
I shook my head. “I didn’t. Not until I dropped the lid and it almost nailed Dragon’s hand. But I couldn’t take the chance.”
“What are you going to do now about your Arrogant One and your Bounty Hunter?”
“I’m not sure. I’m just so tired of their antics. I’ll figure out how to deal with them later. Let’s just lock the door now, and continue reading the books.”
Miles nodded, but then tilted his head and rubbed his chin. “Hey, wait a minute. You still haven’t told me what James said. Could he read the pages from the book or not?”
“Well, when he called me at lunchtime today, he said –– ”
There was a deafening crash upstairs, followed by angry voices. Miles and I exchanged worried looks, then said to each other, “Hold that thought.” We ran out of the conference room and up the stairs to see what had happened.
Hello, new readers and old friends! This is Dragon. I have shapeshifted into my familiar guise of an elven maiden, whose fingers are better suited to the computer keyboard than are my normal claws. Mistress Writer asked me to offer her apologies for this week’s blog (which I actually wrote in her absence). She recently underwent a minor surgical procedure, which has greatly limited her ability to sit and write. She sincerely hopes she will be able to return next week with more of this adventure for you. Until then, as per her request, I shall leave the porch light on for you.