Mystery

Mystery

Dragon reading books 2I opened the conference room door, and was almost driven back by the blast of sauna-like heat. Dragon was there, toasting herself in front of her blazing illusory fireplace while poring over a pile of books.

My characters have been in this world for a number of years now, and most have taught themselves to read at least a bit. Dragon reads voraciously. She has worked her way through my complete library of fantasy fiction. She loves to discuss the similarities and differences between the various worlds in those novels and her world, the world I wrote about in the manuscripts from which she and eight of her fellow characters fell into the real world.

Dragon with smoke bubblesToday, whatever Dragon was reading did not seem to be to her liking. She kept changing colors, growling softly, twitching the tip of her tail, shaking her head, and snorting clouds of smoke bubbles. I tried not to giggle at the sight of the smoke, dripping from her snout like the soap bubbles from a toy bubble-pipe.

“So, what are you reading?” I closed the door behind me, and walked across the conference room to stand beside the big creature.Dragon reading book

“A book.” Dragon narrowed her eyes and glared at me. She was obviously upset, either by my intrusion or by whatever she had been reading.

What book?” I braved her glare and tried to look over her shoulder at the book.

jean mugThe Dead of Winter by Jean Rabe.” Dragon growled softly again and shook her head slightly. There was a look of disgust on her reptilian face.

I raised an eyebrow at Dragon. “I’ve read that book. It’s excellent.”

Dark smoke drifted from the creature’s snout, and the look she gave me clearly said I did not know what I was talking about.

“Well, what’s wrong with it?” I tilted my head.Dragon

“No dragons.”

I laughed.

“I have read other works by this scribe. Mistress Rabe is a most excellent chronicler of events in worlds where Dragons and elves and dwarves and magic users abound. But this?” Dragon shook her head and snorted. “No dragons.”

I nodded. “Jean is well known for her sci-fi and fantasy novels.”

“Sci-fi?” Dragon tilted her head and furrowed her brow.

“Science fiction. A story that uses advanced technology – sometimes real and sometimes imaginary – and alien races from other planets the way a fantasy story uses magic, elves, dragons, dwarves and such.”

Sci-fi and fantasy

 

Dragon drew herself up and narrowed her eyes. “You talk as if magic and the creatures of which you speak are not real.”

I shrugged. “Well, dragons and elves and dwarves and the various other creatures that inhabit fantasy literature are not indigenous to this, the real world; and the existence of magic is an oft-debated subject. But, that is a topic for another day. We were discussing Jean Rabe’s book, The Dead of Winter, and why you don’t like it.”

Dragon growled softly again. “No dragons.”

Again I laughed. “I know it can be disappointing to some readers when one of their favorite authors switches genres, but the same fine craftsmanship, credible characters, and attention to detail that make Jean’s fantasy and sci-fi books so popular are what makes her mysteries so wonderful.”mystery

“Mysteries? Plural? This scribe has penned more than one of these?” Dragon pointed to the open book and grimaced.

“Oh, yes.” I nodded. “As a matter of fact, Jean has published a second book in the Piper Blackwell series, The Dead of Night, and I believe she is already working on her third. I’ve read both of her current mysteries starring Piper Blackwell, and I can’t wait for the next one to be published!”

Dragon blinked. “Why?”

“Because they’re excellent books!”

Dragon looked unconvinced and I sighed. “Jean’s first Piper Blackwell novel, The Dead of Winter, is a real page-turner. That means it’s so exciting, I didn’t want to put it down. Jean revealed the first dead body on page one, and the action never stopped.”

Dragon tilted her head, and stroked her chin. “Continue. What about the second book?”

“Well, in book two, The Dead of Night, I just love the way Jean weaves together the solving of two unrelated mysteries with historical details of the rural Indiana county where the action takes place. Minutiae of the character’s daily lives and routines add flavor and charm; the technical details of police procedure give it authenticity; and Jean’s penchant for detail that makes all her novels so realistic shines through in the discussion of topics such as computer hacking and banking fraud. Finally, all the twists and turns Jean introduces in the investigation of the crimes will keep readers guessing right up to the minute Piper and her deputy crack the cases.”

Dragon frowned. “Well, if you are so impressed with these books, I suppose I should reconsider. I will read them both and try to see the value of them, even if they have no dragons.”

I laughed. “I should think you would like mysteries. You have often been instrumental in solving them.”

“I suppose.” Dragon tilted her head and rubbed her reptilian jaw. “Perhaps I still do not feel completely familiar with your world. I can solve mysteries in my own world, or mysteries in your world that involve aspects of my world – features such as magic, and creatures that you would term mythical – but things like police procedure and . . . what did you say was included in the second book? Computer hacking? Banking fraud? Well, these are topics with which I have little familiarity or understanding.”

police procedure

I nodded. “I think you will find that Jean does an excellent job explaining these things. Her main character, Piper, is brand-new to the job of county sheriff. She needs to be instructed on some of these topics, too, so you will learn with her.” I looked at my watch. “But why don’t you leave that until later? Miles should have lunch ready by now.”

“I do not suppose your good husband would deliver some here? I do hate to leave the warmth of the fire.” Dragon tried to look beguiling, but her toothy smile was less than charming.

“I’m afraid not.” I chuckled. “He did set the thermostat a bit higher today, though, knowing how you hate the cold.”

“Then, I suppose I should refrain from terrorizing him with my usual threat to char his shoes with his feet still in them.” Dragon winked.

As we walked up the stairs, I frowned. It felt just as uncomfortably warm as it had in the conference room. “I better talk to Miles. I think he’s set the thermostat a bit too high.”

fireplace2Dragon giggled. When we reached the kitchen, I saw why – there was her fireplace, blazing away. The rest of my characters, assembled around the table for lunch, were panting and dripping with sweat. They all started shooting dirty looks at Dragon as we entered the room.

dwarf-facing-rightMy Old Dwarf jumped from his seat and commenced bellowing. “Ye consarned beastie! Ye might be all comfy-like wit all this heat, but tha rest o us be meltin’ away here! Iffin we be wantin’ ta be this hot, we be workin’ in a dwarven forge!”

Arrogant One facing right“Indeed!” My Arrogant One sniffed disdainfully. “Why must the rest of us be subjected to these intolerable conditions just because of that vile creature? My robes are wilting!”

My other characters nodded, several adding their own complaints, rather loudly.

I turned toward Dragon, my eyes narrowed, my expression grim. “Lose the fireplace.” My tone did not invite discussion. Dragon hung her head and sulked, but the fireplace disappeared, and the temperature in the room dropped immediately to a more comfortable level.

Dragon shimmered and shape-shifted into her alter-ego, an elf maiden, so she could sit at the table with us. Miles served lunch, ladling up bowlfuls of thick, creamy chowder, brimming with corn, carrots, potatoes, onions, and several of his secret ingredients.

Conversation during lunch was scant, limited to requests for additional servings of the steaming chowder, or slices of thick, crusty bread slathered with sweet butter. Once everyone had finished their second helping, and some were on their thirds or fourths . . . or more . . . pockets of quiet conversation started up among my characters.

foremanMy Foreman leaned across the table to address Dragon, who was sitting to my right. “That new horse was a bit rough, don’t you think? I mean, a winter coat is one thing, but that animal was absolutely scruffy when we first saw her. It took us hours to groom her, and she still looks a bit like a furball. Who did you conjure her for, anyway?”

Dragon stared at my Foreman as if he were speaking a foreign language.

My Foreman frowned, and red tinged his weathered cheeks. “What? Was she supposed to be a surprise for someone here? I am sorry if I let slip a secret.”

Dragon continued staring. Finally she replied, “I have no idea of what you speak. I have added no new mounts to your illusory stable.”

GypsyMy Gypsy snorted. “Well, then, what did we spend all morning working on?”

“I have no idea.” Dragon’s elven eyes showed concern, and she quickly rose from her seat. “Show me this new horse.”

I jumped up. “I think I better tag along.”

My Foreman and the lads led Dragon and me out the door to the deck, then across the stable yard to the barn. The stable was an elaborate illusion Dragon had created for my Foreman and the lads because they missed their former lives so much. In their world, my Foreman had been a legendary cavalry officer. When injuries had forced his retirement, he went on to become foreman of the largest horse breeding operation in the kingdom. That stable had been owned by the parents of my Young Hero, who had grown up around horses. My Gypsy, too, had been raised around horses. His people had earned their livelihood breeding, training and selling fine Gypsy horses.

One of the best features of the illusory stable, in my opinion, was the spell of concealment Dragon had woven into the illusion. None of our neighbors or visitors to our home ever saw anything other than our normal back yard, even when the horses were grazing in the pasture or being ridden in the paddock.

We ducked through the paddock fence and walked to the barn. My Young Hero opened the barn door and lit the lamp. From the first stall, we heard a deep nicker. My Foreman’s spirited black stallion stuck his head over the stall door, a snatch of alfalfa trailing from his mouth. In the second stall, my Gypsy’s flashy black-and-white cob was crunching a carrot. Standing on tip-toe, I checked the third stall. My Young Hero’s chocolate palomino pony was sleeping in a corner. The remaining stall was open and empty.

“So, where’s this new horse?” I looked at my Foreman and the lads, who were all frowning.

“She was here this morning. We put her in the stall next to my pony.” My Young Hero took the lamp and moved toward the back of the barn, where the feed and tack were stored. “Wait. There she is.”

shaggy pony in barnThe horse was cowering in the shadows in the far corner. As we approached, she scooted past us and stood just inside the open door, eying us intently. Standing in the doorway, backlit by the harsh glare of sunlight bouncing off the snow in the paddock, the shaggy mare was difficult to see. She appeared to be a large pony or small horse. I judged her coat condition to be equal parts winter growth of hair and lack of a regular deworming regime. Other than the light mane and tail, her color was dubious. I reckoned she could be a chocolate palomino, like my Young Hero’s sleek pony, or perhaps a flaxen sorrel. She watched us all warily, flicking her ears back and forth, and flaring her nostrils.

Dragon motioned us all to stay back. She quietly approached the mare, who snuffled suspiciously at the elfin figure. Dragon reached out and placed her hands on the horse, who trembled but submitted. Dragon stroked the horse gently, while mumbling some arcane words in an ancient language. Finally, Dragon turned to us. All color had left her face.

question mark“I can not tell if this horse is real or illusion. If illusion, she has been created by a magic user even more gifted and skilled than myself. She is solid and substantial, and I am unable to detect the slightest aura of magic around her. If real, I can not tell if she is from this world or another. I sense nothing from her. She is a mystery.”

“Mystery.” I looked at the nervous little mare, and then at Dragon. “That’s a good name for her.”

Be sure to come back and join us as we attempt to solve the mystery of Mystery. We’ll leave the porch light on for you. And if you love a mystery as much as I do, be sure to check out Jean Rabe’s excellent Piper Blackwell books, The Dead of Winter and The Dead of Night.

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays

Elf facing right“Mistress?”

“Hmmm?” I looked up from the table, where I was helping my husband set out the Christmas Eve buffet. Cleric’s brow was furrowed, and she was biting her lower lip. I placed the napkins in a pile at the end of the table, then walked with Cleric over to the sofa. “What’s wrong?”

“If it came upon a midnight clear, why do so many people dream of a white Christmas?”

I chuckled. We had been listening to holiday music on the radio all evening. Evidently, Cleric could not reconcile the various visions of Christmas.

arrogant-one-facing-rightMy Arrogant One did not wait for me to answer Cleric. “And why is Christmas such a big deal, anyway? We have been subjected to this banal music for more than a month now!” As usual, if something did not revolve around my Arrogant One, he felt it a waste of time.

I sighed. “I explained this last Christmas.”dwarf-facing-right

“Thet be a whole year gone away, lass. Ye do na be expectin’ the elfie ta be rememberin’ summat fer thet long, now do ye?” My Old Dwarf chuckled and my Arrogant One turned scarlet.

sorceress-facing-rightSorceress chimed in. “It has been a long time. Since we are all gathered together now, why do you not explain to us again what Christmas is all about?”

gypsy-facing-rightI looked around at my other characters, who all nodded and moved closer to listen. My Gypsy turned off the radio so everyone could hear. “Yes, just what is this Christmas that you make such a fuss about?”

 

“Well, as I explained last year, that’s really a hard question to answer. You see, in my religion, Christmas is a holy day. It is the celebration of an event that took place more than 2,000 years ago. It is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of our God, in human form. But other religions have different beliefs. Many people who celebrate Christmas today celebrate it as a secular holiday, not a religious holy day. For them, it is merely a day for giving and receiving gifts, and sharing good will and good times with family and loved ones. Then, still others do not celebrate it in any form.”

“I remember you reading from your Holy Book last year, the story of the baby being born in the manger.” My Young Hero furrowed his brow. “Could you read that again this year?”

I rose and retrieved my Bible, thumbing through it until I found Luke’s account of the Christmas birth.

angels-and-shepherdsNow it happened that, while they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to a son, her first-born. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the living-space. In the countryside close by there were shepherds out in the fields keeping guard over their sheep during the watches of the night. An angel of the Lord stood over them and the glory of the Lord shone round them. They were terrified, but the angel said, ‘Do not be afraid. Look, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by all people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. And here is a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’ And all at once with the angel there was a great throng of the hosts of heaven, praising God with the words: Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace for those he favours.

My characters sat, mesmerized as I read. They remained silent for a long few minutes following the reading.

Cleric broke the silence. “That was a beautiful story!” The others nodded in agreement.

I put the book away, and Miles called us over to the buffet table, which was groaning under the weight of sandwiches, salads, casseroles, eggnog and cookies. We all filled our plates, then we popped some CDs in the player and listened to “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem,” “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “Feliz Navidad,” “White Christmas,” “Jingle Bell Rock,” “Little Drummer Boy” and “Frosty the Snowman.” We finished with two of my personal favorites, “Mary, Did You Know?” and the Dar Williams classic “The Christians and the Pagans.”

 

Everyone clapped and Cleric spoke for them all when she said, “What great songs!”

dwarfBut then my Old Dwarf, on his third pint of eggnog, started to sing. My Foreman winced and covered his ears. “I think that’s our cue that it’s high time the festivities came to an end for the evening.”

He motioned to the lads, and my Bounty Hunter, who helped the off-key singer to his feet. Everyone said their goodnights and headed off to bed, my Old Dwarf still bellowing and hiccupping.

I started gathering the empty plates and glasses while Miles turned off the CD player and the lights on the Christmas tree. As we started to ascend the stairs, I murmured “Tonight felt like déjà vu.”

Miles nodded. “I think you’re right – I think this Christmas Eve is exactly the same as last year, including your Old Dwarf wrapping up the festivities with his off-key singing! At least this year, I have not been talking like the Innkeeper for the past week, and I didn’t find his talisman on the steps tonight.”

“True. I suppose I should be grateful that that mystery has been put to bed after more than a year.” I smiled. “If only I wasn’t so worried about what might happen next. With a house full of fictional medieval characters, one never knows what to expect.”

mistletoe2

I followed Miles up the steps. He stopped on the landing, reached over and switched on the porch light. Then, just like last year, he pointed at the mistletoe overhead and gently pulled me close for a kiss. “Merry Christmas, honey!”

I barely had time to respond “Merry Christmas!” before our lips melded in a tender holiday kiss.

Happy holidays to all our readers. No matter your beliefs, may peace and love be in your hearts now, and throughout the New Year!

happy-holidays-to-my-readers

Be sure to stop back from time to time to see what is happening with my characters. The porch light will always be on for you.

Just Another Typical Day

Just Another Typical Day

For today's blog 001“Honey?”

My husband came into my office.

I looked up from the computer screen and saw a big frown on his usually cheery face. “Uh-oh. What did my characters do now?”

Miles laughed. “It isn’t your characters this time.”

“An historic moment! You’re frowning, and it isn’t because of anything my characters did!” I smiled. “So, what is the trouble?”

“The heat element in the rain gutters out front doesn’t seem to be working. We’ve got icicles hanging from the gutters, and the beginning of an ice dam on the roof. There’s already a six-inch-thick glacier in the roof valley over the front porch, and I don’t think today’s temperatures will be high enough to melt it.”

 

Dollar signs waving goodbye 3“Hmmmm…that’s not a good way to start our morning. An ice dam can cause serious damage to the roof.” I sighed, as images of dollar signs waving goodbye danced through my head. “I’ll see if I can find the paperwork for the company that installed the gutter covers and heat element, and I’ll give them a call.”

looking for filephone with caller ID

About two hours later, I located the correct paperwork in my rather disorganized file cabinet, and made the call. I was quickly connected to their automated phone system. After navigating through all the correct options, I heard a recorded voice sweetly advise me that all service representatives were helping other customers. All? How many service reps can they possibly have? They only have about a dozen employees, total, including Skit and Skat, co-vice-presidents in charge of rodent control in their warehouse.

Skit and Skat

The disembodied voice went on to inform me that all calls were taken in the order received, and cautioned me to remain on the line. Then I was treated to some soothing music (I think it might have been a crossover thrash version of the 1812 Overture, accompanied by yowling dogs and cats, during a car crash). The music was blessedly interrupted at regular intervals by the sweet voice endlessly repeating how much they appreciated my business and assuring me that a customer service representative would be with me shortly.noise 2

Ninety minutes later, I was finally connected with a live being, whose tired, irritated voice contrasted sharply with the sweet tones of the recorded voice on their automated system. After taking all the pertinent information, the representative assured me that one of their technicians would be dispatched immediately. He should arrive within the hour. I went to find Miles and let him know help was on the way.

truckThree hours later, I was in the kitchen when I heard a truck pull into our driveway. I looked out the window and watched the driver get out and head up the walkway to the front door. Before he could ring the doorbell, the door flew open, and my Old Dwarf burst out, holding his battle axe.

“Oh, no!” I raced for the stairway, but couldn’t get there fast enough. I heard my Old Dwarf bellowing at the man.

dwarf“Be ye tha laddie who be fixin’ tha mess wit’ tha ice on tha roof?”

As I raced down the stairs, I glanced through the open front door and saw the man nod.

I heard my Old Dwarf again. “Ye be late, laddie! Tha lass an’ ’er lad be expectin’ ye hours ago.”

I pushed my way out the door and tried to move my Old Dwarf aside, but it was like trying to move a house. The old reprobate just stood there.

“Last job took longer than expected.” I saw the man frown and size up my Old Dwarf. “You don’t want to use that axe on the ice. You could damage the roof shingles and the rain gutters.”

“I do na be plannin’ ta be usin’ it on the ice, laddie.” My Old Dwarf narrowed his eyes and glared at the stranger.

“Well then, Gramps, I suggest you be a good little dwarf and put it away. Aren’t you kinda old for Cosplay?”

I heaved a huge sigh of relief. He thinks my Old Dwarf is in costume for a game. Maybe we can get this job done without my characters causing any problems.

Good little dwarf?” The outraged warrior’s voice shook the windows of our house, and probably those of every house on the block. “Gramps? Why, ye cocky little striplin’! I be teachin’ ye some manners!” He squared his shoulders and raised the battleaxe.

I shrugged. Or maybe not.

“All right, enough of that! Why don’t you go in the house? I think your fellow Cosplayers are waiting for you.” As I spoke, I managed to finally push my way past the rotund figure.

My Old Dwarf lowered his axe and looked at me, brow furrowed. “Tha what players? What be ye talkin’ aboot, lass?”

“Never mind. Just go find Miles and tell him the service tech is here.” I gave my Old Dwarf a hard shove toward the house. Then I turned and greeted the man, who was frowning at the departing figure. “Hi, I’m Marge. I called your company today about a malfunction in the heating element.”

repairman“Nice to meet you, ma’am. I’m Guy. My assistant, Bill, is in the truck, phoning in the report from our last job. He’ll be with us shortly.” He spoke to me, but his eyes remained on my Old Dwarf, who was shuffling through the front door. “Hey, that old geezer isn’t dangerous, is he?”Dwarf facing right

 

“Who, Gramps?” I felt beads of sweat start to form on my brow. “Nah, he’s harmless as a kitten.”

 

“Glad to hear it. Now, before we get started, let’s go over the checklist.”

“Checklist?”

“Yeah. Now it’s obvious by the icicles and the start of an ice dam on your roof, the heating element inside the gutters isn’t working.”

“Eh, the lad be real sharp. He be seein’ right aways there be a problem.” My Old Dwarf was back, snickering.

gypsy-facing-right“Or maybe he is just very good at repeating things?” My Gypsy joined us. He gave Guy a sidelong glance, then leaned against the porch railing and started cleaning under his fingernails with his stiletto.

“Another Cosplayer?” Guy looked my Gypsy over head to toe. “At least you’re more the age for it, though your costume isn’t nearly as good as his.”

I turned to face my characters, counting to ten under my breath. “Where’s Miles?”

“Here I am.” Miles was pulling on a jacket as he walked out of the house.

“Good.” I turned back to my characters. “Now, why don’t you go back inside?”

“I be thinkin’ we be stayin’ right here, lass.”

“That’s a good idea, Gramps.” Guy patted my Old Dwarf on the back as he maneuvered past him toward the door. “You and the Gypsy can keep an eye on my truck. When Bill gets off the phone, tell him I had to go inside with Marge and Miles to check on some things.”

My Old Dwarf turned red as a beet and started stammering. “Gramps? Who be ye callin’ Gramps?” But Guy had already ushered Miles and me through the door, which he closed in the dwarf’s face.

“That’s some pretty nice armor your Gramps has. Better than a lot of Cosplayers I’ve seen at conventions. Nice weapon, too. The Gypsy’s not that great, though. Now, let’s go over this checklist.” Guy looked at his clipboard. “When you discovered the icicles, did you check to see if the heating element switch was in the on position?”

Arrogant One facing rightbounty-hunter-facing-other-directionBefore I could answer, my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter came hurrying up the steps. My Arrogant One bumped into Guy.

 

“Imbecile! Watch where you are going!” The annoying elf acted as if he were the injured party. “You could have ripped my robes.”

“Now that’s another impressive costume. Is it real silk?” Guy made the mistake of reaching out to touch my Arrogant One’s cloak.

The way the elf screeched, you’d think Guy had thrown acid on his clothes. “How dare you? Do not lay a finger on these robes! Do you know who I am?” He rocked back on his heels, grasped his cloak with both hands, and looked down his nose at Guy.

“Oh, sorry, didn’t know you were in character.” Guy turned back to Miles and me. “They usually don’t act like that until they’re at a convention. Now where were we?”

Sorceress and Cleric had come upstairs to see what the commotion was all about. Cleric looked at Guy and tilted her head. “Why, I believe you were standing right here in the entryway.”

Guy just blinked.

“Okay, everyone, upstairs, please, so Miles and I can finish going over this checklist with Guy?”

Cleric and Sorceress looked disappointed; my Bounty Hunter and his elf sidekick looked belligerent. I gave them one of my patented glares, and the four of them scurried up the stairs.

ChecklistFor the next half hour, Miles and I walked around the house with Guy, checking on switches, outlets, ground-fault circuit interrupters, circuit breakers, and a bunch of other things, as the repair technician marked off each item on his checklist. Then he excused himself when his cell phone rang.

“Bill’s ready. Let’s go out and look at the heating element.”

Miles and I followed Guy back outside. My Foreman and my Young Hero had joined my Old Dwarf and my Gypsy, and they were all watching Bill.

“Okay, why doesn’t everyone go back inside, so Guy and Bill can work?”

My Old Dwarf stayed where he was, but my Foreman and the lads filed past me and into the house. The three of them lowered their heads and tried to hide identical smirks. I frowned, wondering what they were up to, but decided I didn’t have time to find out. I turned toward Bill, who glanced up and smiled. “Well, the switch is on, and the outlet is working.”

I raked my hand through my hair in frustration. “I believe we’ve already determined that, Bill. We just spent the last half-hour going over all that on Guy’s checklist!”

repairman 2Bill smiled. “Yeah? Well what did you decide, Guy?”

“I think the heating element isn’t working.”

“Ya think?” My voice was sharper than I had intended. “That’s what I told your receptionist when I called, five hours ago! I’m so glad we’re all in agreement. Now what do you plan to do about it?”

Bill smiled. “Well, what do you think, Guy?”

“First thing we’ll have to do is get all that ice out of there, so we can examine the heating element and see where the problem is.”repairman 2 turned

Bill smiled. “I’ll get the equipment and a ladder.”

dwarfMy Old Dwarf hefted his axe. “Ye be needin’ some help wit thet?”

Bill smiled. “What do you think, Guy?”

Guy frowned. “I told you, Gramps, you can’t use that axe on the ice. It will damage the roof shingles or the gutters.”

I expected another outraged outburst from the old reprobate over the use of the term gramps. Instead, my Old Dwarf just smirked. “Oh, I do na be needin’ no axe. Mm friend here be an expert at meltin’ ice.”

Elf clericDragon, in her familiar guise of an elf maiden, stepped around the side of the porch. Guy gawked at her. “Wow! Your costume is even better than the dwarf’s!”

Dragon simpered at Guy. “You should see my other costume.” She started to shimmer.

Miles grabbed my arm. “Honey, do something!” But all I could do was watch in morbid fascination, the way people do at car wrecks.

Moments later, Bill wasn’t smiling any more. He and Guy were screaming so loud I think people three states away could hear them. They made a mad dash for their truck.

blue-dragon-facing-left

Within seconds, Dragon managed to melt all the icicles and eliminate the ice dam without damaging anything. Then, she transformed back into an elf and approached the truck.

“Now about that heating element.”

Bill smiled. Granted, his eyes looked a bit glazed, and he was babbling incoherently, but he was smiling. Guy was just trying to keep his eyes from popping out of their sockets.

Miles and I rushed over to the truck. Guy quickly locked the doors against us.

Illusionists“Hey, it’s all right! It was all an illusion!” Miles pointed at Dragon and my Old Dwarf. “These two aren’t mere Cosplayers, they’re also magicians . . . illusionists of the highest order!”

Thank goodness for my quick-thinking husband!

“Yeah, you know.” I nodded. “Like Copperfield or Blackstone or Penn and Teller.”

It took a lot of talking for Miles and I to convince Guy and Bill that what they saw was merely an illusion. Even after we had convinced them, they seemed wary of Dragon and my Old Dwarf. Finally, Guy opened the door of the truck just a crack. “Why don’t all of you . . .” he gave Dragon and my Old Dwarf a sharp look. “Why don’t all of you go back in the house? Bill and I will let you know when we’re done here.”

About an hour later, the doorbell rang. My husband went to the door as I glared at my characters, daring them to make a move. Miles returned a few moments later. “They left the invoice in the storm door. They replaced the heating element.”

“What’s the cost?”

Note 2

“It’s marked paid-in-full. Guy attached a note, though. It says if the heating element ever fails again, please call another company to deal with it.”

 

Ah, yes, the joys of having a house full of fictional medieval characters.

 

Be sure to come back and see what new troubles my characters can cause for me and my husband. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

How to Weather the Weather

How to Weather the Weather

dwarf“Eh, I would na be botherin’ the big beastie, iffin I be ye, lass.” My Old Dwarf took a big bite out of an apple, and nodded toward the conference room door. “She be in a frightful mood!”

musical notes“Well, thanks for the warning, but I really wasn’t planning on bothering Dragon, or anyone else for that matter. I just need to get some notes I left in there.” I paused, listening. “But her mood can’t be all that bad. It sounds like she’s listening to music.”

The old reprobate took another bite of his apple before responding. “Oh, aye, she be listenin’ ta yer magic-box, tha one ye be callin’ a radidio. But she do na be enjoyin’ the tunes it be playin’ this day.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Oh? Why not?”

“Ye peoples be havin’ entirely too many sing-songs aboot the weather!”

I chuckled, then opened the door to the conference room. I was almost driven back by the surge of heat that met me. The room felt like the inside of a Dwarven forge, as my rotund, apple-munching friend would put it.

I looked across the room and saw Dragon lying rather morosely in front of her illusory fireplace. The radio was on, playing mostly holiday tunes. I crossed the room and pulled up a chair.

 

Dragon greeted me. “Go away.”

“And a good day to you, too!” I tried to hide my smirk.

Dark smoke began to rise from Dragon’s snout.

I raised an eyebrow at the big beast. “Is something bothering you?”

“Cold.”

Both of my eyebrows shot up at that statement. “How can you possibly be cold? The temperature in this room must be close to 90 degrees Fahrenheit!”

“I like it warm.” She looked at me scornfully. “I am a desert dweller.”

“I remember. The first time you met my Young Hero, my Gypsy, and Cleric, it was in your desert.”

Dragon nodded, and smiled at the memory. “I think the Gypsy was a bit frightened of me.”

I laughed. “That’s an understatement! I think Cleric and my Young Hero were a bit frightened of you. My Gypsy was terrified!”

Dragon giggled. “Yes, he was.”

“And you enjoyed keeping him terrified. How many times did you threaten to put him on your dinner menu?”

“About the same number of times I have threatened to char Master Miles’ shoes with his feet still in them.” Dragon grinned impishly.

“You are incorrigible.” I laughed again.

“No, I am cold.” Dragon started pouting again, a small plume of dark smoke drifting from her nostrils.

I furrowed my brow. “It used to get cold in your desert.”

sun“Only at night. With the rising of the sun each day, the warmth returned. Here, in this land of yours, the cold lasts for many cycles of your moon! It settles in my bones and makes me feel as if I will never be warm again!” The big beast sighed. “Yesterday was almost endurable! Then, without warning, the temperature turned as frigid as your cold box, where you store food.”

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

 

I nodded. “Yesterday was nice. Here in the Twin Cities area, it reached 57 degrees Fahrenheit, breaking a record that stood for 76 years for the warmest temperature on that date. Much nicer than the 25 degrees and snow we have now. But the drop in temperature was hardly without warning. The weather forecasters had been predicting it all week.”

“I no longer listen to your climate diviners.” Dragon sniffed disdainfully. “I have never seen such inept magic users.”

I chuckled. “They are not diviners, and they are not magic users. They are scientists.”

Dragon looked at me scornfully. “Magic user, scientist . . . what is that expression you have in this world? Po-tay-toe, po-tah-toe, to-may-toe, to-mah-toe?”

“Well, that is an argument for another day. I have work to do. Enjoy the music.”

Before I could grab the notes I had come for and leave, Dragon sat up and asked me, “Why are there so many songs in this world that celebrate the weather? Especially bad weather?”

I put the notes back on the table and took my seat again. “What do you mean?”

“In the years I have lived in your world, and been subjected to your music, I have heard countless songs about stormy weather, rain, snow, hurricanes, wind, lightning, dust storms, tornadoes . . . almost every form of undesirable weather. I have heard precious few songs celebrating sunshine and heat.”

I giggled. “I daresay there are as many songs about good weather as there are about bad.”

“Not in my experience.” Dragon snorted.

“I know you had music in your world. What did you sing about?”

“Human bards sang songs about heroes and epic battles and fantastic events. Dwarves sang drinking songs. Elves sang to their deities. My species shared lifesongs.”

music

She sighed. “No one sang about the weather. Here, every other song seems to be about the weather! It is so annoying! Just listen – this is at least the tenth time in just two days I have heard this horrible song about frightful weather and snow!”

I smiled as Dean Martin’s voice drifted from the radio, inviting the snow to continue while he enjoyed someone’s company in front of the fire. “Well, it certainly fits today’s weather, doesn’t it?”

“Do not rub it in. I hate this weather. What good is snow? It is cold, it is wet, it is uncomfortable, and it does not even taste good!” Dragon shivered and placed another illusory log into her fireplace. “I believe this year I will simply hibernate through this glacial season.”

“And miss the holidays? Last year, you really enjoyed baking cookies with Cleric and me, and trimming the tree, and listening to the holiday music.”

Holiday fun

Dragon frowned. “Well, yes, I did. But it did not change the fact that it was cold. And if I participate in your holiday celebrations again this year, it will not change the fact that it is still cold.”

“I am afraid, my friend, that is a fact that can’t be changed. It’s winter, we live in Minnesota, and it’s cold.”

Dragon grinned that impish grin of hers again. “I wager I could change it.”

“Don’t even think about it!” I looked at her sternly.

“You are a killjoy!” Dragon frowned and tried another tack. “There is nothing to do in this weather!”

I snorted. “There is plenty to do! The lads have been enjoying having snowball fights and building snowmen, and learning from my Old Dwarf and my Foreman how to track animals in the snow. Cleric and Sorceress have also joined them for snow-shoeing and sledding and ice skating on the pond.”

Winter fun

Dragon scowled. “I notice that you do not participate in any of these activities.”

I sighed. “No, I do not. I hate the cold as much as you do.”

Dragon gave me a superior look. “Just think, then, how pleasant it would be if I changed the weather! If the weather were warm and sunny, your Foreman and the lads could ride their horses again. Everyone could go on picnics and help you capture images of the birds and creatures you encounter. Cleric and Sorceress could gather botanicals and other components for their spells. Master Miles could work on his vehicle. I would not feel as if I were permanently frozen. Everyone would benefit!”

I shook my head emphatically. “We would benefit until the world’s scientists tracked down the cause of the unusual weather! Then, your existence here, and that of your fellow characters, would be threatened.” I raked my hand through my hair. “How, exactly, would Miles and I explain the presence of a Dragon, some magic users, and other fictional medieval characters in this world?”

Dragon sighed. “Very well.”

I gave her a stern look. “You will not try to change the weather?”

“I will not.” Dragon curled up in front of the fireplace again and stared at the flames.

As I left the room, I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that this was not the last I would hear of Dragon’s desire to instigate some climate change.

 

arrogant-one-facing-rightA few hours later, my Arrogant One barged into my office unannounced and uninvited. He addressed me in his typical imperious tone that endeared him to absolutely no one. “Why was I not informed that everyone is going on a picnic?”

“What are you talking about? It’s 25 degrees and snowing . . .” My voice died and my throat tightened, until I confirmed the state of the weather with a quick glance through the window to the backyard. “What are you talking about?”

“Well, if you do not know, then I surmise I was not the only one not to receive an invitation.” The annoying elf sneered and marched out of the room. I shook my head and went back to work.

Easter 128About an hour later, Miles walked into the room. “Honey? Why are your Old Dwarf, your Foreman and the lads emptying our refrigerator?”

“What?” I tilted my head and looked at my husband as if he were speaking gibberish.

“Well, they told me it was for the picnic, but I really can’t see them having a picnic in this weather. So do you know what they’re actually up to?”

Again, I glanced out of the window to assure myself that Dragon had not conjured an early summer. “No, I don’t know what they’re up to, but I guess we should find out.

As we walked out of my office, we saw my Old Dwarf and the others scurrying into the conference room, laden with food and beverages. Miles gave me that annoying See? What did I tell you? look as the door swung closed behind my Foreman.

We arrived at the door seconds later, opened it, and stepped . . . outside?

Miles and I gaped at the scene before us. I felt like I was in a popular sci-fi show, enjoying a program on the holodeck. The scene encompassed what appeared to be at least 50 acres. Dragon was basking in the warm sunlight, in the middle of a meadow bursting with wildflowers. Birdsong filled the air, and wildlife passed right by us, unafraid.

My Foreman and the lads were walking their horses toward a bridle path through a large tract of hardwood forest.

Sorceress and Cleric were laying blankets under a Weeping Willow on the banks of a gurgling brook, and my Old Dwarf was arranging the food and beverages.

My Bounty Hunter and my Arrogant One were exploring what appeared to be the ruins of an old castle on the other side of the stream.

 

“Dragon!” My voice echoed off the distant cliffs.

blue-dragon-2“What?” The big beast lazily opened one eye.

“You promised!”

Dragon grinned. “I promised only that I would not change the weather. I said nothing about changes to your meeting room.”

musical notesAn unseen radio began playing, “Oh, the weather inside is delightful. The scene is such an eyeful. And since we’ve a sun-drenched meadow, forget the snow, forget the snow, forget the snow.”

 

Gotta love a Dragon who knows how to get her own way! Be sure to come back and join us for further adventures. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

 

The Odyssey Ends?

The Odyssey Ends?

fireplaceI opened the door to the conference room and stopped dead.

Gone was the large, airy room with a huge round table at the center, plush carpeting underfoot, and comfortable furnishings throughout. The chamber before me had the stark appearance of a one-room stone cottage with a hard-packed earthen floor. The room was sparsely furnished with a rustic wooden table and some stools. Across the room, a stack of logs blazed in a huge fireplace. In front of the hearth, Dragon reclined on her belly, front legs tucked under her chest. Her eyes were at half-mast as she stared into the fire, watching the dancing flames, apparently lost in thought.

I crossed the room and pulled up a stool. “Love what you’ve done with the place!”blue-dragon-facing-left

Dragon snorted and gave me an indifferent glance before returning to her musing.

I waited, figuring my friend would eventually say something; but after about 10 minutes, my patience wore thin. “So, come here often?”

Dragon rolled to her side and looked at me wistfully. “I do not know.”

“Oh?” I tried not to sound too curious. Dragon had been missing for more than two weeks, and had only returned several days ago, with no clear memory of where she had been, or what she had done. If this room represented the first glimmer of recollection, I did not want to push too hard, lest she lose it.

Elf clericDragon shook her head, as if trying to clear it. She began to shimmer, gradually shape-shifting into her customary form of an elf maiden. She took a seat on the edge of the hearth.

“Nothing has changed. As I told you the day I returned, I have snatches of what might be memories. So many images are swimming through my brain, and I can make no sense of any of them. I see people I do not know, and places with which I am not familiar. I thought if I created one of the places here, and studied it, I might recall more.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Did it work?”

“No.” Dragon’s elven brow furrowed, and her big, almond eyes grew moist.

I patted her hand. “Don’t give up. Give it some time. You’ll remember.” I paused, looking around. “There are two bowls of some sort of gruel or oatmeal on the table. If you were here, do you remember anyone being here with you?”

half-dwarf3“I think so. Someone prepared the porridge, and it was not me. It was a man, I think.” Dragon squeezed her eyes closed. “A . . . a dwarf.” She paused, then shook her head. “No. A half-dwarf. I think I remember him.”

“Well enough to create his illusion here?”

“Perhaps. I am not sure.” Dragon sighed. “Leave me, please. I just need more time to think, to meditate on the images in my mind’s eye, and put them all together.”

I nodded and rose. “I understand. Is that why you sent my Old Dwarf away?”

“I have not sent him away. I tried, but he refuses to let me out of his sight.”

I looked around the small room. “Where is he, then?”

broom 2Dragon giggled. She pointed to a broom propped up next to the hearth.

I gaped at her. “Wait. Do you really expect me to believe you turned my Old Dwarf into a broom? I thought dwarves were immune to magic.”

“Eh, I do na really be a broom, lass. The big beastie jest be makin’ me look like one.” The voice was coming from the bristly sweeper. “I do na be the one what be magicked. Ye be right – a dwarf can na be magicked. The magic be workin’ on e’ryone else. It be makin’ ’em see a broom, instead o be seein’ me. The beastie tolded me it be so I do na be distractin’ ’er whilst she be thinkin’.”

I chuckled. “I see.”

The elf maiden winked at me, then turned toward the broom. She addressed it in a very stern tone. “Brooms do not speak. If a broom breaks my concentration, that broom risks becoming acquainted with the inner workings of a dragon’s digestive system.”

The broom yelped and huddled closer to the wall. “This broom be real quiet-like now. Ye will na e’en be knowin’ it be here.”

I chuckled. “Well, I will leave you to your task of remembering. I hope I will see you both at dinner tonight.”

sleeping-dragon-2The elf maiden nodded, then shimmered and returned to her true form. As I left the room, Dragon was once again reclining on her belly, front legs tucked under her chest, staring into the fire. And the broom was standing quietly at attention near her by the hearth.

Later that day, Miles found me sitting on the deck, watching my Foreman and the lads performing some cavalry drills on their illusory horses in the backyard.

I looked up at him and smiled. “Hi, honey! It’s so nice, now that Dragon is back, that my Foreman and the lads have their horses back as well. They’re really looking good. Want to watch for a while?”

“Okay.” Miles sat down beside me, and took the glass of apple cider I poured for him. “I enjoy Dragon’s illusions. They’re entertaining, provide enjoyment, and she creates them for a good purpose. Your Arrogant One’s illusions are just annoying.”

“What do you mean?”

broom 2“Well, I just ran into a talking broom in the kitchen.”

My eyebrows shot up. “A talking broom?”

Miles nodded and chuckled. “My jaw almost hit the floor when I walked into the kitchen and saw a broom ransacking the refrigerator. Then it turned to me and started talking, and I collected my wits. I realized it was just another of the elf’s illusions. I guess I should be used to that by now.”

I frowned. “What did it say?”

“It said to tell you she’s back.” Miles snorted. “We already know that Dragon is back, so what was the point of creating the illusion of a talking broom to tell us this?”

I placed my hand on my husband’s arm. “Honey? Can you remember the broom’s exact words?”

Miles’ brow furrowed. “I think so. It was so silly. It was speaking just like your Old Dwarf. It said . . .” Miles cleared his throat and imitated my Old Dwarf’s gruff voice. “. . . Aye, there ye be, lad! Now ye be listenin’ real good. Ye be needin’ ta be findin’ yer lass and be tellin’ ’er thet she be back. Do ye be unnerstannin’? Ye be needin’ ta be tellin’ ’er right quick-like. She be back!” Miles chuckled. “Then it grabbed a ham and a bottle of cider from the refrigerator, and ran out of the kitchen and down the stairs.”

I frowned again. “I don’t think it meant that Dragon is back.”

Miles raised an eyebrow. “Well, what did your Arrogant One mean?”

“Oh, it wasn’t my Arrogant One. Come on, I’ll explain on the way. We need to get to the conference room.”

As we scurried down the stairs, I quickly gave Miles all the details of my earlier visit with Dragon in the conference room.

“So, then, who do you think your Old Dwarf meant . . . she be back?”

“I imagine he was referring to the only other female who was missing – the Great Wyrm.”

As we approached the door to the conference room, I placed my hand on my husband’s arm. “We should enter very quietly. I don’t want to distract the Great Wyrm if she’s in the middle of any magic.”

Miles nodded. “Indeed! I imagine that could have disastrous consequences.”

I nodded, and the two of us crept forward and slowly pushed the door open. The chamber was back to normal. Across the room, on the other side of the round table, Dragon and the Great Wyrm were deep in conversation in front of Dragon’s favorite illusory fireplace. In the corner, my Old Dwarf, reinstated to his normal appearance, was munching on a ham and washing it down with long swigs of apple cider.

The two wyrms saw us as we slipped into the room, and immediately broke off their conversation. They greeted us and beckoned us to join them.

I smiled broadly at the Great Wyrm. “It’s great to see that you are alive and unharmed! Dragon couldn’t remember anything that had transpired since the two of you disappeared from this room.”

A small puff of smoke erupted from the Great Wyrm’s nostrils. “Actually, Mistress Writer, Dragon remembers far too much. And I fear your other characters may remember more than is prudent.”

I frowned. “I see. Then how do you propose remedying that situation?”

blue dragon facing rightThe Great Wyrm furrowed her brow and gave the question some consideration. “If you would be so kind, would you gather all of your characters here this evening?”

I shrugged. “I’ll try to locate them all and gather them here, but what under pretense do you suggest I do so?”

The Great Wyrm gaped at me. “They will not simply obey and gather here at your command?”

I shrugged. “Most will come at my invitation. There are two who might prove difficult to convince, even if I phrase it as a command.”

A plume of dark smoke rose from Dragon’s snout. “They are the two who are most dangerous.”

The Great Wyrm scowled. “Well, no matter what means you must employ, it is imperative that you gather them here this night.”

dwarf-facing-rightMy Old Dwarf joined us, speaking around a mouthful of ham, making it even more difficult to understand him.

“Eh, donabewo’in’…”

“What?” The Great Wyrm looked at him as if he were quite mad.

My Old Dwarf swallowed half the food in his mouth and tried again. “Eh, do na be worryin’. I guar-un-tee e’rebody be here.” He hefted his battleaxe and grinned, and morsels of food fell out of his mouth. He picked them off his beard and shirt and popped them back into his mouth and continued chewing.

Looking down her nose at the dwarf’s lack of manners, the Great Wyrm sniffed disdainfully. “Be sure they are.”

For today's blog 001Miles looked at the big beast nervously, sweat forming on his brow. He cleared his throat and addressed her in a shaky voice. “Should Marge and I be here, too?”

The Great Wyrm tilted her head and studied us. “No . . . I do believe that will be necessary.”

Miles heaved a huge sigh of relief.

The big beast smiled, and turned to me. “As we will not see each other again after this night’s gathering, I would like to bid you fare thee will, thank you for your hospitality, and assure you that the hexed items have been removed from your world and placed in safekeeping. Once I depart this time, the conduit between the worlds will collapse. You need fear no further threat from any inhabitant of my world; nor will my world be threatened by anyone from this world, as they will find no way to traverse the expanse between worlds.”

I nodded. “And the purpose of the gathering tonight is to erase any memory of your visit and the surrounding circumstances from the mind of my characters, to prevent them from searching for a way to enter your world?”

“Exactly.”

“Then I will make sure all of my characters are here. I wish you farewell, good luck and safe travels. I am saddened by the thought that I will never see you again, never know what becomes of you, but I understand the reason.”

* * *

Breakfast the next day was hushed. I looked around the table at my characters. Cleric and Sorceress had dark circles under their eyes. My Bounty Hunter slumped in his chair, eyelids drooping and bloodshot eyes unfocused. My Foreman picked up his fork and made three attempts at stabbing a piece of flapjack before he just gave up, the fork clattering loudly onto the plate. The lads couldn’t stop yawning, and they both looked like they were going to topple into their plates, sound asleep. Dragon closed her eyes and rubbed her temples, and the gray smoke rings erupting from her snout fell to the floor with quiet thuds. My Arrogant One was surlier than usual, snarling at anyone who dared bother him with a request to pass this or that. Only my Old Dwarf seemed to be in good spirits, going back for four servings of scrambled eggs with potatoes and country gravy.

“You seem rather chipper this morning.” I watched my Old Dwarf, still shoveling food into his mouth after my other characters had wandered off.

“Yeah, you do appear bright-eyed and bushy tailed,” Miles remarked.

“Eh, tha overs been hafin’ a ri’ rou’ ni’ o it.”

My husband frowned. “What did he say?”

I shrugged. My Old Dwarf was harder to understand than usual, as he pushed his words through a mouthful of food.

“Again, please, in understandable syllables?”

He chugged down half a bottle of cider and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand before repeating himself. “Tha others been havin’ a right rough night o it.”

“Oh? And how do you know that?”

“Wale, I be there, dinna I? Wit them and the great beastie?”

I jumped up and clapped my hand firmly over the old reprobate’s mouth. Miles looked around for any sign of my other characters.

“You remember that?” My voice was a harsh whisper.

My Old Dwarf pushed my hand away. “O course I be rememberin’ thet, lass.”

“Shhhhhhhhhhhhh!” Miles looked aghast.

dwarf“O course I be rememberin’ thet.” He dropped his voice to a loud whisper. “I be rememberin’ all o it, from the first time the lad here be talkin’ like the Innkeeper and ye be findin’ summat here from tha other world, almost a year ago; all the way ta tha great beastie magickin’ e’ryone lastest night afore she be goin’ home, so’s they do na be rememberin’ and knowin’ there do be a way ta git ta thet world from here. I remember e’ry bit o it. I be tellin’ ye and tellin’ ye, lass, a dwarf can na be magicked!”

I could feel the color draining from my face, and I could see Miles turning just as pale.

“Great. I just hope none of the others ever find out what you remember.”

“An’ jest how da ye be thinkin’ they be findin’ oot? I do na be no blabbertymouf! A dwarf be the very soul o discretion, lass. Ye kin be dependin’ on me.”

Is this odyssey finally over? Can my Old Dwarf be trusted to keep quiet about recent events? Let’s hope so! Be sure to come back again and join us for new adventures and misadventures. We’ll leave the porch light on for you!