Hail and well met, old friends and new readers! As promised, I, Dragon – in my familiar guise of an elf maiden, whose nimble fingers are more suited to the computer keyboard than are my dragon claws – will continue relating our adventure while Mistress Writer continues her malingering . . . er, I mean her convalescing.
Dawn was yet an hour away when I awoke. I heard Mistress Writer and Master Miles leave for the hospital, where Mistress Writer would be having a minor surgical procedure. I knew they would not return until late in the day.
I yawned widely and made my way to the kitchen, where I found the Foreman and the Young Hero. “You two have arisen early this morn.”
The Young Hero responded with a huge grin. “We are going to work our horses this morning. The Foreman is going to teach me more cavalry exercises.”
I smiled at his enthusiasm. “That is good news. I was hoping you could find some outdoor activities to occupy your day. Whilst you enjoy a day of dressage and flatwork, perhaps you would be so kind as to watch for the Arrogant One and the Bounty Hunter? My companions and I will be spell-casting today, and would not care to be disturbed.”
The Foreman nodded. “We will be vigilant.”
As they took their leave, the Old Dwarf entered the kitchen to break his fast. “Ah, Dwarf! I am glad you are here. Your services are needed.”
He pushed past me without responding and reached into the cold box. He retrieved an entire ham and a wheel of cheese, then moved to the pantry.
A plume of smoke rose from my nostrils as I watched the dwarf rummage through the pantry. He finally responded, as if it had taken all that time for my words to penetrate his thick skull. “Aye? Ye be needin’ a guard on the conference room door agin, whilst ye and yer three companions be doin’ yer magikin’?”
“No, not this time. This time I need you to find the Arrogant One and keep that annoying elf from casting any magic spells within this house.”
The dwarf continued to rummage, finally extracting a loaf of bread and several containers of condiments. He seemed oblivious to what I had just said.
My smoke grew darker and thicker, and I templed my clawed hands. “Dwarf?”
“I heerd ye, ye consarned beastie! Ye knowed ye be interruptin’ me breakfast?” He grabbed another container. “Ye be needin’ the elfie ta not be makin’ his illusions, aye? Jest in the hoose? Or anywhere?”
“Just within the house.”
“Fer how long?” He gathered the food and stuffed it in his pouch, then rummaged through the cold box for something to drink.
“I am uncertain. It may be just this day, or it may be for several weeks.”
He looked at me, his green eyes wide. “Weeks?”
He blinked, looking dazed. Then he grabbed a beef roast from the cold box, and another loaf of bread from the cupboard, and added them to his pouch.
“Ye be gittin’ word ta me when it be okay ta let the little popinjay come back in the hoose?”
“The elfie an’ his cohort, the Bounty Hunter, be spendin’ most o their time in the garden shed, in the loft. Thet be where ye be findin’ us.” He grabbed another beverage and tramped off without a backward glance.
I went immediately to the conference room and greeted my companions in magic, who were already assembled there. “We will not be disturbed. The Old Dwarf understands his mission, and has taken with him enough food and drink to last a normal individual three full cycles of the moon.”
“Then we’d best hurry. That will only last the dwarf a few days!” The Gypsy grinned and waggled his eyebrows, something he did frequently to indicate he was attempting to be humorous.
From my stern countenance and the smoke billowing from my nostrils, I presume the Gypsy realized I was not amused. His cheeks flamed, he ducked his head, and he shuffled his one foot back and forth. When he spoke, it was in a mumble. “Right. Well, let’s get started.”
“The lad has done an adequate job.” Coming from the Sorceress, this was praise of the highest order. “We should have no trouble linking our power and sustaining the spell for as long as needed.”
The Gypsy positioned himself in the conference room, where he had access to all the components he would need. Cleric took her position in front of Mistress Writer’s office. Sorceress and I took the upper level of the house. Sorceress stood near the bedchambers and I settled my bulk between the kitchen and the living room. From there, I had an unobstructed view of the front door and the doors to the deck.
I am not at liberty to share with you the precise incantation, nor the specific components utilized for the spell. Suffice it to say, at a signal from the Gypsy – a single word shouted loudly enough for the three of us to hear – Cleric, Sorceress and I linked our power with that of the Gypsy and quickly fell into the magic. It worked like the proverbial charm.
Less than a half hour after we linked our powers with that of the Gypsy and we cast the detection spell, the conduit appeared. It glimmered into view very near my elbow, and I called to the others to let them know.
Before my fellow spell-casters could make their way to my side, the conduit disappeared again. Sorceress, who had only to come down the hall from the bed chambers, caught a glimpse of it winking out of sight. Cleric and the Gypsy missed it altogether.
For the next two hours, we played cat and mouse with the conduit. Every time we recast the detection spell, the conduit would appear within moments, always in a different spot . . . and it would disappear just as quickly. Finally, it appeared in the conference room near the Gypsy, who was able to cast an immobilization spell on it.
The four of us gathered around the opening of the conduit. “Your immobilization spell does not seem to have damaged the conduit in any discernable way.” I nodded my approval to the Gypsy, and started my examination of the magical passageway. At the opening of the conduit, I sprinkled some components I had previously prepared for this purpose, and recited an incantation.
“Well?” Sorceress pressed closer.
“It is the very same conduit through which the items from our world were sent here.”
“Well, we hardly expected to find another conduit, now did we?” Cleric spoke a bit sharper than was her wont.
I raised an eyebrow and smoke began to emerge from my nostrils. “No, we had no such expectations; however, to take such a thing for granted is to court disaster.”
“Of course, of course. I just grow weary and impatient.” Cleric raked her hand through her hair in a gesture of frustration.
“We all grow weary and impatient.” Sorceress patted her friend on the shoulder, then turned to me. “Now that you have confirmed the identity of the conduit as the one that links our world with this one, how are we to determine if we are able to use it to enter our world?”
The Gypsy spoke up. “Dragon and I have discussed this. We had considered attempting to send a note through the conduit, back to the person in our world who sent the items to Mistress Writer, and ask him to respond in kind.”
Cleric furrowed her brow. “How long would we have to wait to know if that person received the note?”
“Too long. And there would be no way to guarantee the note would be received by that specific person. We do not want to alert anyone else who may not know of the existence of the conduit.” The Gypsy shook his head. “As I said, we had considered that course of action; however, we soon discarded the idea.”
“Then what?” Sorceress frowned.
I took a step toward the conduit. “The only way to know if we can use the conduit to enter our world is for one of us to attempt it.”
“You?” Sorceress quirked an eyebrow and folded her arms across her chest.
“Yes. I am the one best suited. I can employ my shapeshifting powers and take on the guise of a small creature. I had thought a dragonfly might remain unnoticed by anyone at the other end of the conduit. However, the Gypsy reminded me the last time I had changed into a dragonfly, I had found myself unable to hear. I could be in great peril if I arrived in our world without the use of my ears.”
Cleric’s eyes widened, and her hand flew to her mouth. “Oh, dear!”
The Gypsy stepped forward, grinning broadly. “Do not fear! Dragon and I have used Mistress Writer’s magic box to research the insects in this world. The one with the best hearing is something called a greater wax moth. Dragon has familiarized herself with this creature, and will shapeshift into that form to enter the conduit.”
Sorceress frowned. “Is such a creature fast enough and maneuverable enough should you encounter any dangers?”
“Its speed and maneuverability does not rival the dragonfly, but I will be on my guard and will immediately change back to my true form if danger presents itself. Now, you must maintain the immobilization spell while I enter the conduit.”
My three companions nodded somberly and wished me well.
I mumbled a few words and started to shrink and transform into a greater wax moth. Seconds later, I entered the conduit. Halfway through the passageway, I was stopped by some sort of invisible barrier. I flew back out.
I quickly transformed back to my natural state and explained what I had encountered.
Cleric’s eyes widened. “What will you do now?”
“I will attempt to overcome the barrier with my own magic. For that, I will remain in my true form.”
“Is that wise?” Sorceress looked doubtful. “Might you not destroy the conduit?”
“I do not believe I will damage it in any way. At any rate, I believe it worth the risk.” Before anyone could argue, I shrank just enough to squeeze my bulk into the conduit. I had taken barely a dozen steps along the passageway when I was again stopped by the invisible barrier. A lengthy examination and several incantations proved it to be impenetrable.”
When I finally emerged, my companions clamored for an answer. “Did you get through?”
“No. I was unable to defeat the barrier. However, since each of us is proficient in a different type of magic, methinks each of you should give it a try before we admit defeat.”
My three companions nodded their agreement. One by one, each entered the conduit. Each emerged unsuccessful. None of us were able to penetrate the barrier.
As the Gypsy released the immobilization spell and the conduit winked out of sight once more, I addressed my three companions. “I believe we can safely and accurately report to Mistress Writer that she need fear no more. There appears to be no way any of our number can use the conduit to enter our world. It appears to be a one-way passage. I will wait until Mistress Writer has recovered from her surgery before presenting her our report.”
Later that evening, as everyone else slumbered, I stole into Mistress Writer’s office. It took me considerable time to find what I sought in that mess, but I finally discovered the manuscripts from which I and my companions had fallen into this world.
I took them to the conference room and worked through the night, thoroughly examining them both physically and magically. As dawn broke, I wearily returned the manuscripts to Mistress Writer’s office.
I had much to share with her upon her recovery!
Be sure to return next week and see if Mistress Writer has recovered enough to receive my report. I shall leave the porch light on for you.