More Pieces of the Puzzle

More Pieces of the Puzzle

For today's blog 001“Do you think it’s safe for both of us to sleep at the same time? Shouldn’t one of us stay awake?” Miles paced around the bedroom, jumping at every noise he thought he heard.

I laughed. “Why shouldn’t we both get some sleep?”

“What if . . . well, you know.” My husband looked furtively toward the bedroom door.

“What if my characters decide to barge in here and do away with us as we sleep?” I quirked an eyebrow, and my lips twitched with a suppressed laugh.

“Exactly!” Miles eyes were wide, and there was sweat on his forehead.

“Not likely, dearest. My Old Dwarf will keep a good watch on the others, and no one will get anywhere near this room.”

“Are you sure?” Miles didn’t sound convinced. “They’ve been getting worse and worse, and not just with each other, either. The lads were very belligerent with me today, and I know Cleric and Sorceress had words with you. I’m really getting worried.”

I placed a hand on his arm. “I know you are, honey. But I promise we’re safe. Besides, what would you do if they did come barging in here?”

Miles shrugged, and looked at me helplessly.sleeping

“Exactly. So let’s get some shuteye.” And I was asleep almost before my head hit the pillow.

 

 

* * *

sleeping elfDragon, still in the form of an elf maiden, was asleep almost before her head hit the pillow. But her sleep was restless, and fraught with disturbing dreams. When she awoke the next morning, she had vague memories of the dreams, of violence breaking out among her companions back in the real world. She remembered dreaming of Mistress Writer and Master Miles being threatened, of the Old Dwarf being injured while defending them. Dragon shivered.

Elf clericLooking around the small hut and finding herself alone, she quickly rose and pulled herself together, rubbing the sleep from her eyes and dragging her hand through her thick hair several times in a futile attempt to tame her sleep-tangled tresses. Finally, she gave up and just used her innate dragon magic to get herself back into perfect order.

half-dwarf3“Wale, good day!” Dragon’s host, the Apprentice to a renowned historian, entered the hut, carrying an armload of firewood. “I hope I dinna be wakin’ ye. I be tryin’ me bestest ta be quiet-like. Ye dinna seem ta been sleepin’ very well last night. I hearded ye cry out more’n onest.”

Dragon blushed. “I . . . I was dreaming.”

The man gave her a sharp look. “More liken night-goblins, the way ye be thrashin’ and callin’ out.”

“Indeed. More nightmare than dream.”firewood

The Apprentice dropped the armload of wood by the fireplace and headed toward his larder. “Hope ye be liken’ porridge.”

“Porridge will be fine, thank you.”

As the man prepared the morning fare, Dragon found some bowls and spoons and set them on the table. She took a seat on one of the three-legged stools and waited.

The man ladled out some porridge into each bowl. Then he placed a crusty loaf of bread in the middle of the table, and took his seat opposite Dragon. “Be ye havin’ any in-tress in thet yarn I be offerin’ ta spin?”

“Oh, yes, I would like to learn who you feel may have reason to wish Mistress Writer harm.”

As the two of them broke their fast together in the small cabin, the man recalled for Dragon a tale of a long-ago war.

“It happened all the way back when Mistress Writer be here, chroniclin’ the goin’s-on o thet time. In them days, there be two powerful leaders o the desert dwellers. The one be rich beyond imagination. He lived in a huge palace in the royal city. He be a man o magics, and it be said he had more power in his littlest finger than most magickers ever knowed.”

Dragon frowned. She felt a stirring of a memory deep in the recesses of her mind. The man paused, studying her as he took a mouthful of porridge. After a few minutes, when Dragon said nothing, the man continued.

“The other leader be a poor man, the chieftain o a tribe o nomad peoples, who lived in a tent. He be a man o faith, not magics, but still he kept a witch ta advise ’em. Both men be as ruthless as any ever knowed hereaboots.”

He paused again for another mouthful of gruel and a bite of bread.

Dragon leaned forward on her stool. “Did Mistress Writer know these two men?”

“Aye, it be tolded thet she meeted ’em both whilst she be here. She meeted most o the people ye be findin’ in her tales. Elsens how could she write aboot ’em?”

vast desertDragon nodded, and the man continued. “The desert be a huge place, but it dinna be big enough fer them two leaders. They went ta war o’er a piece o it thet they both had use fer. The nomad chieftain offered enormous sacrifices ta his diety, unthinkable sacrifices, most folk said. Some even said he sold his very soul ta gain the upper hand in the battle.”

The man paused again. He rose and filled two tankards with fresh spring water and handed one to Dragon. He took a long draught, then wiped his mouth with his sleeve. He resumed his seat and took up the tale again.

“It been a huge battle. Most said it been more’n just a war atween two armies. They seed it as faith against magics. Lots o people all o’er this continent watched the outcome. Now, I canna be tellin’ ye which one o ’em winded the war. Iffin ye be wantin’ ta knowed thet, ye need ta read Mistress Writer’s books. But I kin be tellin’ ye the one who be defeated be a sore loser, and he blamed Mistress Writer fer his loss. He claimed thet she dinna just chronicle the events what happened, she caused ’em, wit her writtin’.”

Dragon’s delicately slanted elven eyes widened. “So, one of that man’s descendents would have cause to hold a grudge against Mistress Writer!”

The Apprentice poured himself another tankard of water. “Wale, descendents o both o ’em would. One, acause he losted the war. The other, acause he losted somethin’ very valuable. Thet one blamed Mistress Writer when one o his most valuable belongin’s be stoled.”

Dragon scoffed. “Mistress Writer would never steal anything.”

The man shook his head. “Never said she would. I be sayin’ the owner o thet valuable item blamed her, the same as the loser o the war blamed her. Causin Mistress Writer dinna be from this world, a lot o people thought she be a witch or a sorceress. They claimed she dinna just write what happened, she caused it to happen by writin’ it.”

morcantDragon gasped. It is just like Morcant, the evil wizard from another world that Mistress Writer wrote about. He, too, called her a witch and said she caused events by the words she wrote. “So, how do I determine which one’s descendants could be trying to harm Mistress Writer now?”

“Be ye sure it be either one? This still be just a theory o yourn. How be ye provin’ it?”

Dragon frowned. “I don’t know. Perhaps if I meet some of the descendants of the two leaders, I could question them.”

“Oh, aye!” The Apprentice scoffed. “Causin they be steppin’ right up and admittin’ they ensorcelled some items and sent ’em ta Mistress Writer’s world ta cause ’er harm.”

Dragon’s cheeks burned. “Well, do you have any suggestions?”

The man furrowed his brow and rubbed his red-bearded chin. “Nay. Mebbe ye should be askin’ the Great Wyrm. She be a right clever one. She mebbe could figger’ it out.”

Dragon shook her head. “I do not think so. She said only the historian’s apprentice could give me the information about the items he sent through the conduit.”

“Thet mebbe true, but I only sended the books. I dinna be the one what sended them other items. And there be nothin’ in them books what would be puttin’ Mistress Writer in danger.”

Dragon heaved a huge sigh. “Then I am no further in my quest for answers than I was when I started. I still do not know if the items are at the root of the discord among us characters. And even if they are, I do not know who sent them through the conduit.”

“Is that information truly necessary?”

dragon-1964202_960_720Dragon and the Apprentice jumped at the sound of another voice. They turned toward the sound, and saw the Great Wyrm poking her head through the small window on the other side of the room. The creature stretched her long, sinewy neck until her face was only inches from their’s.

As the two continued to gape at her without responding, the Great Wyrm repeated herself, slowly and distinctly, as if speaking to an obtuse child. “Is . . . that . . . in-for-ma-tion . . . tru-ly . . . nec-es-sa-ry?”

Dragon frowned. “I do not understand.”

The Great Wyrm sighed and tried again. “Do you really need to know who sent the items?”

“Well, yes.” Dragon scoffed.

“Why?”

Why?

“Yes, why?” Again, the Great Wyrm spoke as if to a child.

Dragon frowned and rubbed the back of her neck. “Well, how am I to eliminate the cause of the conflict if I do not know its source?”

The Great Wyrm growled softly, and tiny wisps of smoke curled from her nostrils. “Think.”

“I am thinking.” Dragon scowled and her voice was petulant.

“I can not believe I was ever that dull-witted.” The Great Wyrm sighed.

“Well, if you do not think the information of any value, perhaps you can tell me why.” Dragon’s face grew red and she jumped from her chair to confront the Great Wyrm.

“Something is causing conflict among you and your fellow characters, and you have all become a growing threat to Mistress Writer and her spouse, correct?”

Dragon nodded.

“And you believe the cause might be the items that were sent through a magic conduit from this world?”

Dragon nodded again.

“But you do not know for sure.” This time is was a statement rather than a question.

For the third time, Dragon nodded.

“Then eliminate these items. If they are the cause of the conflict, problem solved. If they are not, then you can concentrate your search in other areas.”

Dragon’s jaw dropped. The Great Wyrm smirked, and blew a cloud of smoke at the elf/Dragon.

Elf clericDragon caughed and waved away the smoke. “Why did I not think of that?”

blue-dragon-facing-left“Because you lack my years and my wisdom.” The Great Wyrm drew her reptilian lips back in an enormous, toothy smile.

 

half-dwarf3The man cleared his throat. “Afore ye be gittin’ all puffed up there, beastie, ye mind tellin’ ’er jest how she can be eliminatin’ them objects?”

 

The Wyrm blinked. “I do not see where there would be any problem with that.”

“Oh, ye do na?”

“No. I do not.”

Dragon sat down again and slapped her hand on the table in frustration. “I do. When I initially examined the items, back when they first appeared in Mistress Writer’s house, I only detected the magic trace from the conduit and the inherent magic of two of the items. There was no trace of any dark magic or harmful spell.”

The Wyrm and the Apprentice both nodded.

“If they are the source of the problem, and I was unable to detect that, there may be other spells I was unable to detect. Wards, perhaps, to prevent the items from being safely disposed of.”

“Ye dinna think o thet, now didya, beastie?” The man leaned back, a smug look on his face.

 

The Wyrm frowned. “I admit, I did not.”

“So what am I to do?” Dragon threw her hands in the air and jumped from her seat again.

“Perhaps if I were to examine the items.” The Wyrm tilted her head and quirked an eyebrow. “With my advanced years comes increased power and greater skill. Perhaps I could detect if there is any other magic attached to these items.”

“Perhaps you could. However, the items are still in Mistress Writer’s world.” Dragon’s shoulders slumped.

The Wyrm looked amused, her mouth forming an enigmatic half-smile. “Then I suggest we go there.”

“How be the two o ye gittin’ there?” The Apprentice eyed her curiously.

“The easiest way would be to go the same way as the original items and your books.”strange-dreams

“It been a while since I be seein’ thet conduit. It do na stay in one place.”

The Wyrm chuckled. “I doubt two dragons will have much trouble finding it.”

 

“Then ye best be off.” The man turned toward Dragon. “An’ ye be sure ta drop by an’ visit iffin ye ever be back here in me lifetime, beastie.”Elf clerichalf-dwarf3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* * *

 

Will Dragon and the Great Wyrm find the conduit? Together, will they solve the problem? Will Dragon and her companion characters return to a peaceful coexistence, and will Mistress Writer and Master Miles both be able to get a good night’s sleep, free of the worry of being murdered as they slumber? Come back next week and find out. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

 

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Where Be There?

Where Be There?

dwarf“Waddaya mean, where be there? The stout figure quirked an eyebrow and stared at Dragon, who was still in her guise of an elven maiden.Elf cleric

“I mean exactly what I said, small one. You stated we were almost there. So, where is there?” The elf frowned and folded her arms over her chest.

“Wale, where be it thet we be goin’?” The dwarf snorted and shook his head. He mumbled something under his breath, but Dragon’s sharp elven ears effortlessly picked it up. An’ I been thinkin’ dragons be smart. Wale, this one hafta been ahind the door when the smarts been handed out!

mountain sunsetDragon ignored the crack, and looked around. Her guide had led her half-way down the mountain into a forested vale. The scent of pine hung heavy in the chill air. The position of the sun, poised to slip behind the towering mountains, told Dragon evening was fast approaching. The two travelers had been trekking for hours without a break. Dragon’s stomach grumbled, reminding her they had not eaten on the trail.

angry dragonShe turned back to the dwarf. “I presume, if you actually are taking me to meet the historian’s apprentice, we are nearing his residence. And none too soon! I weary of walking, and my stomach needs to be filled.” She shimmered, and slowly transformed back to her true self. She grew and lengthened and enlarged until she loomed over the diminutive dwarf. “And if you are not leading me to meet the historian’s apprentice, perhaps you are what will be filling my empty stomach.” Her tail lashed, and smoke poured from her nostrils.

line of trees 2“Eh, do na be gittin’ yer dander up, beastie! The apprentice’s hoose be right through thet line o trees, not a hunnred paces inta the clearin’. Ye kin be sure he be havin’ plenty fer us ta feast on.” The dwarf started walking through the woods, then stopped and turned back toward Dragon. “An’ iffin ye do na be wantin’ ta hafta stick yer head in the winda ta reach the food, mebbe ye oughta be changin’ back ta an elfie.”

wooden doorSeeing the sense in the dwarf’s suggestion, Dragon complied, shrinking and changing back to the delicately beautiful elven form she favored. Once her transformation was complete, she swiftly moved to catch up with her dwarven guide, who was already trotting off through the woods. By the time she caught up with him, he was rapping on the sturdy wooden door of a small stone hut.

half-dwarf3A man opened the door. Dragon noted signs of dwarven heritage in his stocky build, his red hair and beard, and his emerald-green eyes; but the man’s height – at least two full heads taller than her dwarven guide – hinted at some human blood as well.

dwarf

 

Before the man could say a word, the dwarf jerked his thumb at Dragon. “The beastie be needin’ ta find an apprentice ta a renowned historian. I be figgerin’ thet might be ye.”

Elf cleric

Beastie?” The man looked at Dragon, taking note of her delicate elven form. He shook his head and spat. “What be wrong wit ye? Be ye blind? Do na ye be callin’ sech a beauteous creature a beastie!”

“Eh, she do na be so beauteous. Thet just be a shape she be changed inta. She be a Wyrm.” He pushed past the man at the door. “It be almost dinnertime. Ye be serving up soon?”

The man studied Dragon for a long moment before turning toward the dwarf, scowling. “I dinna be expectin’ company fer evenin’ meal.”Dining table and chairs

“Wale, be expectin’ some now.” The dwarf went right to the table and sat, obviously expecting to share the man’s dinner.

Dragon’s scowl mirrored the man’s. She hesitated to enter the cottage, and waited on the threshold. “Please excuse my companion. I do not believe he is in possession of any manners.”

The man waved away Dragon’s apology. “He never been.”

“Well, I do not wish to intrude on your evening meal. I will wait outside.”

The man stared at her. “Ye be here now. Set yerself at table. I be gittin’ some food.” Before Dragon could protest, the man pointed at the dwarf. “Ye do na be thinkin’ thet one’ll be waitin’ without while I be eatin’, now do ye? Iffin I can be makin’ enough for him, I can be makin’ enough fer ye.”

Dragon graciously inclined her head and murmured her thanks. She entered the house, closed the heavy door after her, and took a seat at the table across from the dwarf, near the crackling fire.fireplace

Candles

The man paused on his way to his larder. Night was fast approaching, and the room was growing dark. The man took a taper and lit it by the fire, then went around the room, lighting all the candles. Before heading for the larder again, he took another look at Dragon. “He be tellin’ true? Ye be a Wyrm, not an elf?”

“He speaks the truth.”

“Wale, then, waddya be eatin’? Meat, or elfie stuff – fruits, nuts, veggie-tables? I be havin’ anythin’ ye be wantin’.”

“I would be honored to share your meal, whatever you were planning to have yourself.”

The man stared some more, then chuckled and turned to the dwarf. “Ye mebbe oughta be spendin’ more time with the likes o her, dwarf. Mebbe some o her manners be rubbin’ off on ye.”

“Ye jest do na be takin’ no nevermind o me manners. I be as mannerful as the next dwarf.” The stout figure looked around the small hut. “Ye be servin’ ale wit the meal?”

The man’s lips twitched. “Wale, I be thinkin’ I be servin’ some elderberry wine. I be figgerin’ it might be more ta the elf’s liken.”

The dwarf almost fell out of his chair. His ruddy face darkened and he placed his fists on the table. “Wine? Wine? Ye best be joshin’! She be a Wyrm, not an elfie, ye numbskull! Ye best be servin’ some good dwarven spirits!”

Dragon and the man exchanged amused looks, their eyes twinkling and their mouths twitching with mirth.

Dragon was impressed with the meal. The man served a roast of some indigenous beast and a medley of roasted root vegetables. Dessert was a fruit compote, more something Dragon would have expected in the home of an elf, or perhaps a human, but never one of dwarven heritage. Both wine and dwarven ale were provided to wash down the meal. Conversation during the meal was almost nonexistent, limited to requests to pass this item or that.

dwarfThe dwarf ate three times what Dragon and the man together consumed, and washed it down with two large tankards of ale. Finally sated, he pushed his chair back from the table and loosened his belt. A satisfied belch shook the windows of the small cabin. “Wale, I be deliverin’ ye ta the apprentice, jest liken I said, so’s I be goin’ now. Iffin he do na be the one ye be seekin’, he’ll be tellin’ ye whereaboots ye can find some others.” And without a word of thanks to their host, the dwarf left.

Dragon stared after him, then shook her head. She turned back to her host and offered her thanks. “May I help clear the table?”

half-dwarf3The man nodded. “It’ll be givin’ us a chance ta conversate. The dwarf said ye be lookin’ fer a historian’s apprentice.”

“Yes. Unfortunately, I know not what apprentice, nor even which historian. I presume there is more than one in this land.”

“There be. I be one o ’em. Apprentice, thet be.”

“Unfortunately, I do not believe you are the one I seek. Judging by your language, you are not the one who wrote the books.”books

“Books?” The man’s eyes widened with interest.

“Yes, a series of four books.”

“I mebee the one ye seek. When I be writin’, I be usin’ a different language. I be speakin’ liken the dwarves what I be raised by, but I be writin’ liken the historian what I be teached by. Supposin’ ye be telling me more aboot these books, and what ye be needin’ ta see this apprentice aboot.”

Dragon hesitated, but saw no way to discern if this was the person she sought if she did not confide in him. So she began by explaining all about Mistress Writer, and how Dragon and eight other characters had fallen out of the pages of a manuscript into what Mistress Writer termed the real world.

 

She explained the discovery of a set of books written by the apprentice to a renowned historian, and four related objects, all of which had been sent through a magical conduit from this world to the real world.

She went on to detail recent events, wherein the characters had become more and more agitated and argumentative among themselves, and how the arguments had begun escalating into physical altercations. “I came here to find the person who sent the books and objects from this world to Mistress Writer. I need to determine if there is any way these books or the four objects that were sent from here are somehow the cause of the problems.”

The man’s brow furrowed, and he chewed his lower lip. Finally he nodded. “I be the apprentice ye seek. I be the one what sended them books ta Mistress Writer’s world, in the hopes thet she be findin’ ’em. But thet be all I sended – jest four books. I never sended them other things.”

Dragon frowned. “Who else knows about the magical conduit?”strange-dreams

The apprentice shrugged. “Lotsa folk be knowin’ the legends aboot the conduit between this world an’ the world o the mysterious scrivener, Mistress Writer. But I do na be knowin’ who else might be findin’ the conduit, or be knowin’ how ta be usin’ it.” The apprentice paused, stroking his beard and furrowing his brow. “Be ye sayin’ it be possible thet someone coulda hexed them objects what be sent from here?”

Dragon nodded. “It is quite possible. However, if they were hexed, it could only have been done by a master magician, someone with power equal to or greater than my own. When I examined the items shortly after they appeared in Mistress Writer’s house, the only magic I found on the horseshoe and the Royal Seal was the trace magic left by the conduit through which they passed. The ring and the talisman had, in addition to the trace from the conduit, the magic inherent to them as enchanted items. No other magic was revealed during my inspection.”

“Then what makes ye be thinkin’ they be hexed?”

“I do not think they are, I wonder if they are.” Noting the blank look on the apprentice’s face, Dragon sighed. “I am trying to prove them the cause of the trouble, or eliminate them as a possibility, since I have not been able to come up with any other plausible reason for the behavior and attitude of all of us characters. The four objects and the set of books were the only new things in Mistress Writer’s home when the trouble began, so it is not unreasonable to assume they are the cause.”

The apprentice nodded.

Dragon tilted her elven head and stroked her pointed chin. “Do you know of anyone in this world . . . particularly anyone expert in magic . . . who might have something against Mistress Writer?”

The apprentice frowned and shrugged. “It be a long, long time since the mysterious scrivener known as Mistress Writer visited this land. Not many alive taday would o knowed her in person.”

Dragon snorted. “Mistress Writer is not that old! Surely most of those about whom she wrote are still alive!”

The apprentice chuckled and shook his head. “The passage o time be different in her real world than it be here. In her world, mebbe it be only a few years since she been here. In this world, heaps o years been passed. Even I dinna be knowin’ ’er in person. It be me gran’ da what knowded ’er.”

Dragon’s jaw dropped open. Not many alive today would have known her? Her friends and companions not alive? The thought hit Dragon hard, and her eyes burned with tears. Suddenly her mind went back to the Great Wyrm, to her future self. That’s why she is . . .I am . . . so much larger and more powerful!

It took several minutes for Dragon to marshal her thoughts and emotions. Finally, she heaved a great sigh. “Then you are most likely correct. There would be no one here with a reason to harm her. I have wasted a trip here.”

“Now, do na be so hasty! I only said there do na be many alive taday who would o knowed her in person. Thet do na be meanin’ no one here would be havin’ reason ta be hurtin’ ’er.”

“Oh?”

“It be a long story. Mebee ye be knowin’ the beginnin’ o it, mebee no. Iffin ye be wantin’ ta hear it, I kin spin the yarn fer ye.”

sleeping elf

 

Dragon frowned again. “It has been a long day and a very long trek for me, through more than one world. If I may sleep this night, perhaps you could tell me the story tomorrow.”

 

 

 

What does the apprentice know? Who in that world might want to hurt the mysterious scrivener known as Mistress Writer? Be sure to come back next week and find out. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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.