My Gypsy led the little horse we had dubbed Mystery into the illusory barn. Miles and I followed, along with Dragon, still in her guise of an elf maiden. Cleric dashed from the house and entered the barn just a step behind us. “I saw those deputies leave . . .” But her voice trailed off as she noticed my Gypsy pointing at something over our heads.
Inside the barn were a half dozen miniature snow devils, whirling around up in the rafters. As soon as we had entered the barn, they had become agitated, swooping around and making a sound like a buzz saw.
Without taking my eyes off the alien creatures, I addressed my Foreman and the lads. “How long have they been here?”
My Foreman furrowed his brow. “Well, we found Mystery in the yard when we came out before dawn this morning to feed and groom our mounts. We brought her into the barn, and before we could close the doors, the snow devils appeared out of nowhere and swooped in here behind us. They have been here ever since.”
My Gypsy rubbed the back of his neck. “They make me nervous, but they have not yet threatened us in any way. They just keep whirring around up there.”
Dragon watched the creatures buzzing and flitting around. “What is their purpose here?”
My Young Hero shrugged. “We do not know. We have made numerous attempts to talk to them, but they do not seem to understand us.”
As we spoke, one of the rotating columns of snow detached itself from the group and swooped toward us. Miles started to pull me out of the way, but I shook my head. “No, it’s okay. See? It isn’t attacking. It seems as if it just wants a closer look at us.”
The miniature snownado hovered for several long minutes in front of Cleric’s face, then did the same to Dragon. After it inspected them, it returned to the other snow devils, and the group resumed buzzing and humming.
“Whatever does it want?” Cleric’s eyes were wide with alarm, and beads of sweat were forming on her brow.
“I do not know, but it does not appear to mean us any harm.” Dragon placed a reassuring hand on Cleric’s arm.
Another of the snow devils – or perhaps the same one – came down and again closely studied the faces of Dragon and Cleric, buzzing from one to the other like a bee between flowers. It was as if it were trying to tell which was which. Finally, it returned once again to the other snow devils.
“Perhaps I should resume my true form.” Dragon did not wait for confirmation before she shapeshifted, shimmering as she transformed into a scaly beast about the size of Mystery.
The snow devils buzzed and whirled around. Once again, a single creature left the group, this time hovering in front of Cleric alone. It lingered there many long minutes, appearing to study Cleric’s face. Finally, it returned to the group once more. This time the buzzing and humming seemed much more frenetic.
“What do they want? Why does it keep returning to look at me?” The color had drained from Cleric’s face, and she swayed on rubbery legs. Miles and I grabbed her and eased her down onto a bale of hay.
“Try to relax.” I spoke soothingly to Cleric. “I know that in your world, snow devils are demons, but I don’t believe these snow devils are from your world. These creatures do not appear to be threatening us in any way.”
“Then what?” Cleric started rocking back and forth. “What do they want?”
“The only way to discover their purpose is to find a way to communicate with them.” Dragon started growing. In a moment, she was face-to-face with the snow devils buzzing around in the rafters. “Do not be afraid. We understand now you mean us no harm; therefore, you have nothing to fear from us.”
The snow devils showed no fear of Dragon. They did not even respond to her presence, other than to move to the other end of the barn, where they continued their frenzied buzzing.
“We already attempted talking to them. Several times.” My Gypsy sounded annoyed. “It is obvious they do not understand our language.”
“Perhaps if I attempt to reach them telepathically.” Dragon started to move toward them, but my Gypsy scoffed.
“Of course! Hearing your words in their minds rather than with their ears – if they have ears – will surely make the creatures understand you.” His voice dripped sarcasm with every word.
“As you say, if they have ears.” Dragon frowned and blew a cloud of dark smoke toward my Gypsy. “Mayhap they have not been hearing us. It can not hurt to try.” She continued making her way toward the snow devils.
Ignoring Dragon, one of the miniature snowspouts dropped down and hovered over Mystery’s head. The little horse nickered and pawed the ground. She jerked the lead out of my Gypsy’s hand, and trotted over to stand in front of Cleric, who was still sitting on the bale of hay.
Cleric drew back, trembling violently. My Foreman and the lads jumped between her and Mystery, forming a protective semi-circle around their friend. My Gypsy grabbed for Mystery’s lead, but the small horse tossed her head and snorted at him.
“Wait. Don’t interfere. Let’s see what Mystery’s going to do.” I tugged the lads away from Cleric, and motioned to my Foreman to step back.
Cleric stared at me, wide-eyed. “M . . . mistress!”
“Relax. You know how gentle Mystery is. She won’t hurt you.”
“It is not Mystery I fear. What do these snow devils want of me?”
“I told you, I don’t believe they pose any threat.”
“Then what do they want?”
Cleric tilted her head, as if listening to someone. Then she jumped up and confronted me. “What? How do you know that?” Her voice was high-pitched and strained.
“How do I know what?” I furrowed my brow. “I didn’t say anything.”
“Well, who did?” Cleric looked around, but everyone wore blank expressions, and replied with shrugs and a chorus of “Not me.”
I studied Cleric. She was obviously overwrought. She stood, shoulders drooping, hands clasping and unclasping, sweat beading on her forehead. I touched her shoulder and spoke to her calmly. “Exactly what did you hear?”
“When I asked what the snow devils want of me, someone replied, “They need your help.”
Mystery neighed loudly and pawed the ground. Then she nickered softly and nuzzled Cleric’s hand. The snow devil continued to hover directly over the little horse’s head.
“Cleric!” Dragon, still in her true form, shrank back to Mystery’s size. She walked over to stand next to her friend. “I am not sure, but I believe the snow devils are attempting to communicate with you through the horse.”
“But I was unable to communicate with Mystery when we were examining her. I could not reach her mind. It remained closed to me, a complete blank. How can she now communicate with me?”
“Not Mystery. The snow devils, through her.”
Cleric rubbed her forehead. “I do not understand.”
Dragon’s color morphed to a pale blue, and smoke bubbles dripped from her snout, something that often happened when Dragon was confounded. “I am not sure I do, either. However, you are apparently the only one who heard someone speak and it is obvious that the horse is attempting to get your attention.”
We stared at Mystery, who reached past Cleric and snatched a mouthful of hay. She stood there calmly munching on it while the snow devil continued buzzing directly above her head. For a long time, none of us spoke. Then Cleric cleared her throat.
“I am still not convinced of this. Why would the snow devils desire communication with me? Why not Dragon, or Sorceress, or even Mistress Writer?”
I shrugged. “The only way to know that is to listen to what they say.”
“But what if I can not hear them again?”
Dragon morphed back into her guise of an elf maiden, and put a hand on Cleric’s shoulder. “Be patient, my friend. Listen with your mind and with your heart. You will hear them.”
Cleric smiled and grasped Dragon’s hand. “I will endeavor to do so. But if indeed the snow devils are using Mystery to facilitate communication with me, how do I respond to them? Do I just talk to Mystery?”
My Gypsy nodded at Cleric. “You can try talking. Or you can attempt to reach Mystery telepathically again. Eventually you will find what works.”
Cleric turned to face me. “Mistress? What is your counsel?”
“I think someone needs to sort this out, find out just what is going on here. And from all indications, you are the one who has been singled out to do that. I say give it your best shot!”
Cleric looked around at everyone. Miles and I, along with all of Cleric’s friends, smiled encouragingly at her.
Cleric nodded and turned back toward Mystery and the snow devil hovering over the little horse’s head. She squared her shoulders, straightened her robes, and stepped closer to them. “Then, let us commence.”
Will Cleric and the snow devils be able to communicate? Why do they need her help? What is Mystery’s part in all this? Be sure to come back next week and see what happens! We’ll leave the porch light on for you.