While Dragon’s Away, We Still Play

While Dragon’s Away, We Still Play

rocky path“Step lively, now! And be watchin’ yer footin’. There be lotsa loose rocks here aboot what ye can be turnin’ a foot on.” The dwarf looked Dragon up and down. “An’ mayhap ye oughta be shrinkin’ or changin’ yer shape or summat, causin the paths do na be very wide.” Then the dwarf turned and scurried off down the rock-strewn path along the escarpment.

Dragon blinked. The compact figure scooting along the path, beckoning her to follow, seemed exceedingly familiar and more than a bit annoying. She reached out and plucked him from the ground and brought him back next to her.

dwarf“Why ye consarned beastie! Ye overgrown lizard! Ye best be lettin’ go o me right quick like!” The dwarf struggled in Dragon’s grasp, squirming and sputtering like a wet hen.

Dragon frowned. “Oh, be still! You have not been harmed.” She blew a small cloud of smoke at him as she released him, sending him into a fit of coughing and cussing.

blue-dragon-2Dwarf facing rightA smirk tugged at Dragon’s reptilian lips as she watched the rotund figure. He seemed so like her companion, the Old Dwarf, whom she last saw back in the real world – the world in which she and eight other fictional characters who had fallen from the pages of some manuscripts now resided with Mistress Writer and Master Miles. I wonder what they are all doing right now. She sighed deeply, then gave herself a mental shake. No time for wool gathering! I must find and eliminate the cause of the hostility among all of us characters, before we do irreparable damage to each other, or to Mistress Writer and her husband.

She waited until the dwarf stopped choking on the smoke. “Be still, small one! Now tell me, do you know this apprentice historian whom I seek, or no?”

The dwarf rubbed his eyes and sneezed twice, then glared at Dragon. “As I be sayin’, beastie, I would na be at all surprised.”

Dragon growled and smoke curled from her nostrils. “That is not an answer.”

The dwarf jutted his chin and folded his arms across his chest. “O course it be an answer! It be the onlyest answer ye be gittin’ iffin ye be maulin’ me and blowin’ smoke in me face!”

Dragon narrowed her eyes. “Do not vex me! I have not the time for this. Either you know the person I seek or you do not. Which is it?”

dwarfThe dwarf shrugged. “I be thinkin’ mebbe I be knowin’ ’em, but I also be thinkin’ thet mebbe there be more’n one renowned historian in this world, and more’n one apprentice.” He eyed Dragon defiantly. “Why do na we just go see the apprentice I be thinkin’ ye be talkin’ aboot? Iffin he do na be the right one, mebbe he kin be tellin’ ye where ye can be findin’ others.”

Dragon scratched her head and thought. Seeing no other solution, she nodded. “What race is this apprentice?”

“What nevermind do thet be makin’?”

“Well, I thought to shapeshift, as you suggested, to better fit between the boulders lining the trail. I thought to shapeshift into a form that would be familiar to this apprentice, not intimidating or offensive.” Dragon frowned and tapped her foot impatiently.

“It do na matter what race ye be lookin’ like. The apprentice be used to visitors o many races. What be ye most comfortable changin’ inta?”

“I usually assume the form of an elf.”

The dwarf giggled. “Then, be an elfie!”

Dragon fumed. “I do not see the humor in being an elf.”

“Never said it be funny. Be ye comin’?” The last part of that, he called back over his shoulder as he took off down the trail again.

Elf clericDragon growled, but quickly changed into her elven persona and hurried off after the dwarf. The rotund figure scampered nimbly through the rocks, and the ersatz elf maiden had to work hard to catch up. For someone with such short legs, he certainly can move quickly!

As Dragon rounded a sharp bend in the trail, she almost fell over the dwarf, who was waiting for her in the middle of the path. “I be thinkin’ I losted ye there!” The dwarf’s eyes twinkled with merriment, and elf maiden Dragon studied him with curiosity as she caught her breath.

“I do not believe we have been properly introduced. My name is . . .”

“Eh, do na bother ta be tellin’ me yer name, beastie. I probably couldna be wrappin’ me mouth around it anywho.”

A frown marred Dragon’s delicate elven features. “So you plan to just continue calling me beastie?”

“Aye.” The dwarf jutted his chin and looked at her defiantly. “Lessens ye be havin’ a preference fer elfie. An’ ye can jest be callin’ me dwarf.”

Dragon arched an eyebrow and regarded the burly figure. “So, dwarf, do you always offer to help strange dragons?”

“Eh, ye do na be so strange. I seed ye with the Great Beastie, and she dinna be battlin’ ye, so’s I be figurin’ ye must be okay.” He started down the trail again at a good trot. “We best be movin’ out. We be havin’ a goodly piece ta go.” He looked back over his shoulder at Dragon. “An’ do be tryin’ ta be keepin’ pace now, beastie. I do na be wantin’ ye ta be gittin’ yerself losted.”

Dragon swiftly followed the dwarf, not allowing him to get too far ahead this time. “How far is it?”

* * *

mens-991728_1280

“How far is it?”

“It’s not far.” I gave my Foreman a sharp look. “Why? Did you have something better planned for today?”

He glared at me. “I do not care to spend a long trip in your undersized vehicle with that pompous elf and his smug cohort.”

“And I’m sure my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter don’t relish the idea of being cooped up in a car with you for any longer than necessary, either.” I crossed my arms over my chest and frowned. “But we are going. All of us.” I looked at my other characters, all standing around muttering. “We leave in fifteen minutes. Be sure you’re in modern attire, and leave all weapons, staffs, wands, and spell components here.” I turned to Sorceress and Cleric. “And I’m sorry, but this time, you will be unable to collect botanicals for your spell components. The place we are going today does not allow visitors to collect any specimens.”

Elf facing rightCleric nodded glumly. “Then I suppose our only purpose in going is to assist you in your wildlife photography.” She sounded resentful.

“No, that is not your only purpose, although I would appreciate any help you care to offer. I just thought everyone enjoyed these outings. We can all relax, and not be on each other’s nerves.”

“An’ there be food, lassies!” My Old Dwarf grinned.dwarf-facing-right

I returned the old reprobate’s smile. “Speaking of which, why don’t you go help Miles pack the food and beverages into the car, so we can leave as soon as possible?”

For someone with such short legs, he certainly can move quickly!

The trip got off to a rocky start, with tempers flaring and unpleasant words being exchanged. Within the first two blocks, Miles had to pull over twice so my characters could switch seats before the verbal bouts could turn physical. But by the time my husband maneuvered the car into a parking space at the nature preserve everyone was relaxed and exchanging friendly banter.

“Where be we settin’ up lunch?”

picnic-area

As soon as Miles pointed to the picnic grove on top of a small rise, my Old Dwarf grabbed one of the coolers from the trunk and scooted away. My Foreman and the two lads took the other coolers and picnic hamper, and Miles grabbed a cardboard box.

Lunch was a relaxed affair. Everyone enjoyed the sandwiches and soft drinks, and the friendly banter that had started in the car continued. Even my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter were joining in the conversations. When everyone had eaten their fill, Miles suggested we enjoy some activities.

From Nicki 146“Anyone up for tossing the old pigskin around?”

“Pigskin?” My Young Hero looked intrigued.

american-football“That’s a slang term for a football.” Miles opened the cardboard box he had carried from the car, and took out a football. “We also have a baseball, a volleyball, and some other things.”

“The feetsball be a good one ta toss aboot.” My Old Dwarf picked it up and tried to throw it to my Foreman, but the ball fell way short.

“Here, I’ll show you how to do it.”sports balls

As Miles showed my Old Dwarf how to throw a football, some of the other characters grabbed the rest of the equipment. Soon, most of then were engaged in tossing around a ball of some sort.

“Come on, Mistress!” My Gypsy had picked up an old tennis ball and was going to throw it.

“If you don’t mind, I’ll skip the ball games.” I picked up my camera. “I’d like to explore and see what I can photograph today.”camera for blog

“I think I would like to accompany you.” Cleric blushed. “I always enjoy helping you with the wildlife photos.”

“As do I.” Sorceress joined us.

I smiled and nodded. We waved to the others, and went in search of cooperative wildlife. We didn’t have to look far.

As we followed a well-worn path from the picnic grove, we saw a chipmunk on a small retaining wall, and another one in the field, munching on some berries, and I took a few quick shots.

“Look! There is a tiny bird on that limb.” Cleric pointed.

“It’s a Ruby-throated Hummingbird.”

“I do not see any ruby coloring on its throat.” Cleric’s brow furrowed.

I smiled. “Only the adult males have the red throats.”

“There is another one over there.” Sorceress pointed to a nearby tree.

Cleric used her affinity with the birds to convince both of the hummers to come closer for me to get good images.

“There is another small bird in that tree.” Sorceress pointed at a bird flitting through the branches. “I do not think that one is a hummingbird, though.”

“You’re right. It’s a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. It will never stay still long enough for me to get a photo!”

Cleric smiled. “Of course it will.” But even with Cleric coaxing the bird to sit still, I had but a fraction of a second to snap a picture.Three hikes 042

Two flashes of yellow through the leaves caught our attention. I quickly focused my camera. “The larger one is a Yellow Warbler. The smaller one, with the black mask, is a Common Yellowthroat.”

We walked a bit further and Cleric found a Black-capped Chickadee and an Eastern Phoebe. She persuaded both birds to pose nicely for me.

We continued to follow the path toward a small pond.

“Oh, look! There are frogs here.” Sorceress bent down to examine a large, warty, gray and cream amphibian.Three hikes 161

I corrected her as I quickly snapped a picture. “That’s a toad. I think it is known as an American Toad.”

“And this one?” Cleric kept her distance as she pointed to a bright green critter with black spots.Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve 116

“I believe that is a Leopard Frog.”

“What is that slime all over that section of the pond . . . and all over the turtles?” Sorceress wrinkled her nose as she pointed to the other side of the pond.

“That’s not slime. It’s actually vegetation. It’s most likely duckweed, a rather common aquatic vegetation.”

I took a few photos of the turtles and showed Sorceress and Cleric a close-up of the vegetation that covered them.

“Do the turtles eat this?” Sorceress was still wrinkling her nose.

“Yup.”

“Oh, look!” Cleric sounded delighted. “Dragonflies and butterflies!”

Sorceress and I laughed as Cleric ran over to the meadow and danced with the insects. When she finished, Cleric helped me get a few pictures, as I tried to identify the creatures for her and Sorceress.

“I believe the small white one is a Summer Azure. I think the yellow butterflies are Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, and the orange one is a Monarch.” I turned my camera toward the dragonflies. “I’m afraid I don’t know the names of these beauties.”

Station WagonBy the time we returned to the picnic grove, Miles and the others had gathered everything up and loaded it back in the car. On the drive home, one by one my characters fell asleep, tired out by a day of fun activity.

“You know this won’t last.” I kept my voice low, so I wouldn’t wake any of my characters. “As soon as we get home, the fighting will start again.”

Miles nodded. “We need to find the root of the problem. It has to be something around the house.”

I heaved a huge sigh. “Dragon is the one who could solve this mystery. I wonder where she is.”

* * *

Elf cleric

 

I wonder where we are. Dragon, still in her guise of an elven maiden, looked around curiously.

 

dwarf

As if reading her mind, her dwarven guide spoke. “Wale, we be almost there, beastie.” He grinned broadly.

 

“Oh? And where, exactly is there?”

 

Where is Dragon? Is the strange dwarf really taking her to see the historian’s apprentice? And will she find the solution to the problem? Join us next week as we continue this adventure. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

Unforeseen Consequences

Unforeseen Consequences

cryingdwarf-facing-right

There were tears rolling down my cheeks, not just because of what I knew I must do, but because of my Old Dwarf’s reaction. It broke my heart the way he looked at me, a tear slipping down his own cheek. He placed a hand on my arm. “Lassie?” His eyes were full of fear, his quavering voice pleading. “Ye can na really be doin’ this! Please, lassie! Do na!”

I hesitated, but the fracas upstairs continued to escalate. In recent weeks, my characters had been at each others throats. Arguments and fisticuffs had become a daily occurrence. My characters had become a potential danger, mostly to each other but conceivably to me and my husband, to visiting friends and relatives, even to the neighborhood. I could not allow that to happen.

I opened my manuscript, picked up my pen, and put a thick, blood-red line through the first character’s name. A hair-raising scream sounded from the living room, then all was silent.edited

I dropped the manuscript and the pen. My Old Dwarf and I raced up the stairs. My characters stood in a circle around my Arrogant One, gaping. The elf had gone quite pale. He stood, wide-eyed, grasping at his chest.

arrogant-one-facing-right

dwarfI started to speak, but my Old Dwarf pushed me aside and elbowed his way through the others to stand facing my Arrogant One. “What be the trouble?” His voice was gruff, and he glared at the elf.

My Arrogant One seemed incapable of speaking. He just stood there, grasping his chest and heaving for breath.

“What happened?” I looked at my Arrogant One, then at the rest of my characters.Elf

“He is a coward.” Cleric’s words dripped with venom and contempt.

“What?”

gypsy-facing-right“Your Foreman was about to deck him, and he got all dramatic, screeching and acting like he was dying.” My Gypsy snickered. “The big sissy!”

 

I raised an eyebrow, and turned to my Foreman. “Well? Is this true?”foreman-facing-left

My Foreman shrugged.

“What was the fight about?”

“Doesn’t matter.” My Foreman glared at me.

I sighed, and turned back to my Arrogant One. He remained pale as a ghost, and he was trembling violently. Suddenly his legs turned to jelly and my Old Dwarf barely caught him as he collapsed to the floor.

“Git ’em some water.”

When no one moved, my Old Dwarf jumped up and shoved my Gypsy toward the kitchen. “Water, laddie! Now! And ye be right quick aboot it!”

My Gypsy returned a few moments later and handed my Old Dwarf a glass of water. The old reprobate knelt down and helped my Arrogant One, who drained the glass in a few quick gulps.

Finally able to speak, my Arrogant One pulled himself up and pointed at Sorceress. He spoke with great effort, his voice weak but his anger strong. “You . . . you tried to kill me! You waited until the Foreman had distracted me, then you launched a magical attack!”

sorceress-facing-rightSorceress snorted. She folded her arms over her chest and looked down her nose at the elf. “You are mad.”

“Do not deny it! What I felt could only have been caused by a magical attack. You are the only one here with enough power to have hexed me so.”

“Did you?” I frowned at the powerful magic user.

“I did not.”

“Jest what be it feelin’ like, thet ye be suspectin’ magic?” My Old Dwarf again pushed me aside, and addressed my Arrogant One.

“It . . . it was like an iron band was placed around my heart and tightened. I could scarcely breathe. And at the same time, my very soul grew cold.” The elf shuddered. “It could only have been magic.”

“Eh, ye be daft. Ye probably be eatin’ sommat what din na be agreein’ wit ye.” My Old Dwarf scoffed.

My Arrogant One shook his head and twisted his mouth into a snarl. “No! You are wrong! It was magic! I myself am an expert user of magic. I can certainly recognize a magical attack when I feel it.”

I started to say something, but my Old Dwarf cut me off. “Ye be imaginin’ thin’s! Why would Sorceress be attackin’ ye?”

The elf drew himself up haughtily, rocked back on his heels, and grasped the front of his cloak with both hands. “I should think that is obvious. Naturally, she is jealous of my power and estate.”

“Oh, right. We are all so jealous of you.” Sorceress rolled her eyes.

My Gypsy guffawed. “Sorceress has more power and ability in her little finger than you do in your entire body. For that matter, so do I!”

“Enough! I don’t care who did what to whom, who is jealous of whom, who has more power and ability than whom! I just want this constant bickering and fighting to stop!” I glared at each and every one of my characters in turn. “Do you all understand?”

Young hero 2“And if the bickering and the fighting do not stop?” My Young Hero glared at me through narrowed eyes, and he clenched his hands into fists.

dwarf-facing-right“Then the ones what be doin’ the bickerin’ an’ the fightin’ will be answerin’ ta me.” My Old Dwarf stepped between me and my Young Hero. He glared at the youth and slapped the flat of his axe against the palm of his hand.

After a few tense moments, my Young Hero relaxed his hands and shrugged.

My Old Dwarf nodded and stepped back, but did not sheath his axe. “All righty, now. All o ye jest be goin’ aboot yer business.”

“But . . . but . . .” My Arrogant One stammered.

“But nuttin’! Ye do na be hurtin’ thet bad, elfie. Jest git!” My Old Dwarf slapped the flat of his axe against the palm of his hand again.

The other characters glared at the dwarf, but finally backed down without further argument. After they left, my Old Dwarf turned to me. “Ye and me be needin’ ta conversate, lass.”

“Oh?”

“Not here. In yer office.”

Once in my office, my Old Dwarf picked up my manuscript and my pen from the floor where I had dropped them. He did not hand them to me.

“Lass, do ye be havin’ any idea what ye be doin’? What danger ye be puttin’ yerself in?”

“Danger? What danger? What do you mean?”

“Ye be doin’ what ye al’ays be threatenin’ – ye be takin’ us outten yer manuscript.”

His tone of voice was matter-of-fact, not accusatory. I nodded.

“Do ye be realizin’ thet ye be havin’ ta take out every single mention o a character afore thet character be gone? If ye only be takin’ out some o the mentions o a character, thet character’ll be wounded, but not gone. Every time ye be takin’ thet red pen o yourn and crossin’ out another mention o a character, thet character be feelin’ it. Jest liken the fancy-pants elfie be feelin’ it when ye crossed out the first mention o him taday.”

My Old Dwarf paused and stared at me intently, as if trying to see if I understood. I said nothing, but gave a slight nod of my head.

“At some point, lassie, a character what ye be editin’ outten the manuscript will be realizin’ what be happenin’! Sorceress and the Gypsie lad will na continue ta be blamed. And wonst a character be realizin’ thet it be ye what be causin’ the pain, the chillin’ o the soul, thet character’ll be tellin’ the others. They’ll all be comin’ after ye, lassie. They’ll be killin ye, an’ yer mister, too, ta save themselves.”

for-todays-blog-013I felt my mouth fall open and my eyes grow as big as saucers. “I . . . I had never considered that.”

“Do na be doin’ any more editin’, lassie. I be beggin’, not jest fer me ownest life, but thet ye do na be puttin’ yerself an yer mister inta danger.” There was a catch in the old reprobate’s voice, and his eyes welled with tears, as he placed the manuscript and the pen back on my desk.

“Old friend, I never considered editing you out of the manuscripts! Whatever is causing this problem, this tension with the others seems to be magical in nature. You are a dwarf. You are not affected by magic.” I paused, then took his hands in mine. “But you didn’t know that when you placed yourself in danger to save me! You were willing to fight the others to protect me, even while you thought I would eliminate you from the manuscripts with the others.” My face was wet with tears.

“Eh, do na be blubberin’ now.” The dwarf’s face turned red, and he pulled his hands out of mine. “Jest be careful. An’ ye best be puttin’ these manuscripts away in a safe place.” He turned on his heel and was gone before I could say another word.

That night, as we got settled in bed, I told my husband everything that had transpired.easter-128.jpg

“The old guy was going to protect you, even though he thought you were going to eliminate him with the others?” Miles looked impressed. “I’m glad he’s got your back. I’m really worried that your characters are a genuine danger now.”

“Me, too. How I wish Dragon was still here!”

* * *

Dragon stood there for a long time, gaping at the Great Wyrm. Finally she stated rather than asked, “You are . . . me.”

The Great Wyrm chuckled, but gave Dragon a look of approval. “Not exactly. I am the Dragon about whom Mistress Writer wrote. You are an image of sorts, a shadow, an echo, a memory of the real me.”

Dragon frowned, trying to wrap her mind around this. Finally she shook her head and brought the conversation back. “You said time may be shorter than I know. How do you know this? And how can you help me?”

Dragon’s counterpart raised an eyebrow. “I know because I am a Great Wyrm. And I can not help you.”

“But you must!”

“Only the historian’s apprentice can give you the information about the items he sent through the conduit. You must seek him out.”

“Where will I find him?”

“You will have to figure that out. Have you not read the manuscripts?”

“No.”

“Then you do have a problem.”

Dragon roared and scorched the nearby trees with her dragonfire as the Great Wyrm leapt up and flew off. After a few seconds of the useless tantrum, Dragon took to the air and followed the other creature.

The Great Wyrm slowed her flight, allowing Dragon to catch up. The two flew in silence, side by side, over the great expanse of desert. They passed over the magnificent royal city, and a multitude of tiny encampments and oases in a sea of sand. After many hours, a mountain chain rose in front of them. The two beasts swooped down and landed in a small clearing in a pine forest atop a mountain peak.

“Does not any of this look familiar?” The Wyrm sounded impatient.

Dragon shook her head. “The only mountain I remember was on an island.”

The Wyrm frowned. “Then I really can not help you.”

blue-dragon-2Before Dragon could take another breath, she found herself alone in the clearing. She blinked and looked around. Where did she go?

 

“Be ye lost, beastie?”dwarf

Dragon whirled around and faced the speaker, a stout dwarf with a ruddy face, red hair and twinkling, emerald-green eyes.

“I am.” She eyed the dwarf with a mix of caution and curiosity.

“Where be ye wantin’ ta be?”

“I need to find someone.”

The dwarf tilted his head. After a few seconds, he snorted. “Whale, be ye gonna give me a clue?”

“Pardon?”

“Who be it ye be needin’ ta find?”

“I do not know, exactly.”

The dwarf shook his head and chuckled. “Whale, what do ye be knowin’, exactly?”

“The person I seek is an apprentice to a renowned historian.”

The dwarf nodded. He turned and started to walk away. Dragon sat there, befuddled. The dwarf had gone halfway across the clearing when he called back over his shoulder. “Be ye commin’, beastie?”

“Do you know the person I seek?”

“I would na be at all surprised, beastie. Now step lively!”

* * *

Can the Old Dwarf protect Mistress Writer and Master Miles? Will the strange dwarf help Dragon find the historian’s apprentice and get some answers? Be sure to come back next week and see. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.