What Do They Want?

What Do They Want?

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.snow devils in the barn 2

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.”

snow devil checking out Dragon and ClericThe 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.

scaly dragon“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.

Cleric and snow devilThe 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.”

Dragon talking to snow devils

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.

Mystery and snow devil 1Ignoring 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?”

Elf facing rightCleric 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 with smoke bubblesDragon’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!”

Mystery and snow devilCleric 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.

More Visitors

More Visitors

gone!

We stood there, looking in all directions, but the cloud-muffled light of early evening revealed no sign of the small horse we had dubbed Mystery, nor the snow devils that had bolted from the garden shed with her.

“It’ll be dark soon.” I heaved a huge sigh. “There’s no sense in trying to track her now. The snow’s been trampled down here. In this light, I can’t even see if any of these tracks are fresh.”

My husband and I helped a group of my characters gather the equipment my magic users had been utilizing that afternoon in their examination of Mystery.

“I fear all our efforts were for naught.” Dragon shimmered as she shape-shifted into her customary guise of an elf maiden, then picked up some of her grimoires. “Not only did we fail to determine if Mystery is real or merely an illusion, we lost her to the snow devils.”

“I would hypothesize she is real, else why would the snow devils have taken her?” Cleric lifted an eyebrow at Dragon.

“You should have allowed me to stomp them.” My Foreman frowned as he and the lads picked up the folding tables.

“I agree.” Sorceress pursed her lips as she gathered her vials, potions, and herbs. “No telling what those demons will do to that little horse.”

I furrowed my brow. “I’m still not convinced the snow devils are evil, or that they meant any harm to Mystery.”

My Gypsy scoffed. “They took her, did they not?”

I shook my head. “No, they didn’t. She bolted out of the shed after them. She wanted to be with them.”

“You are right, Mistress.” Cleric’s eyes widened as she recalled the scene. “She did act as if she feared being separated from them.”

My characters gave that some thought as we walked back to the house.

As we put everything away in the conference room, I saw several of my characters yawning widely and rubbing their eyes.

“Everyone looks as tired as I feel. Let’s have a quick dinner, then hit the hay early tonight. We can look for Mystery in the morning.”

                                                            * * *
I did not sleep well, and I awoke with a horrible pounding in my head. I soon realized the pounding was not in my head, but on the bedroom door.

Pounding on door

The pounding woke Miles, too. “What the devil’s going on?” My usually cheery husband sat up in bed and glared at the door.

“Mistress? Master Miles? Come quickly.”

I recognized the panic in Cleric’s voice, and jumped out of bed. “What is it?” But she was already gone.

Miles and I dressed in record time, and sprinted down the hallway toward the living room. Cleric waited for us at the top of the stairs leading to the front door. She pointed, and we stopped dead. There, in the foyer below, my Old Dwarf was brandishing his battleaxe at two uniformed figures.

Dwarf and police officers 2

“Ye be waitin’ right here until tha lass and ’er mate be comin’ down ta be receivin’ ye. Ye do na be disturbin’ their bedchamber!”

“For the last time, sir, we don’t want to hurt you, but you need to put down that axe!” The speaker had her hand on the holster of her service revolver, and a big frown on her face.

“Wait!” I scrambled down the steps as fast as I could, with Miles right on my heels. “Wait! He’s harmless! The axe isn’t even real! It’s part of his Cosplay costume!”

The woman’s hand didn’t move from her holster.

I turned and faced my Old Dwarf. “It’s okay! Just lower the axe and go upstairs.”

“Be ye sure, lass? I kin be stayin’ iffin ye be needin’ me.” He looked past me and glared at the two officers.

“I’m sure!” I gave the old reprobate a shove toward the stairs.

2 Police OfficersMiles and I turned to the two uniformed figures. Their eyes never left my Old Dwarf as he trudged up the steps. Once he was out of sight, both officers visibly relaxed.

“Sorry about that!” This is all I need. How do I explain him to these officers? I’m surprised they didn’t tackle him and arrest him!

“He needs locking up!” The burly man made the statement in a voice that brooked no disagreement, but neither officer made a move to apprehend my Old Dwarf.

I grunted, raised my eyebrows, and lifted my hands, palms up, in a gesture meant to convey my thoughts: What can I do?

The woman stepped forward, still frowning. “Are you two the owners of this property?”

Miles and I both nodded. “I’m Marge, and this is my husband, Miles.” I forced a big smile as I made the introductions.

Notebook 2The woman nodded curtly as she took a small notebook from her pocket and jotted down our names before introducing herself. “Deputy Melody Whitewash.” She nodded toward the other figure, a barrel-chested man in sunglasses. “My partner, Deputy Dustin Dawg.”

Before we could snicker at Deputy Dawg’s moniker, the man spoke up. His gravelly voice was both commanding and accusatory. “We’re in the neighborhood this morning investigating reports of a loose horse rampaging through the yards last night, terrorizing the residents of this community.”

Terrorizing? I scoffed.

Deputy Whitewash pounced. In a flash, she was standing almost nose-to-nose with me. “What do you know about this horse?”

wide-eyed“Er, nothing.” I stared at her and her partner, hoping they would interpret my wide-eyed look as innocence.

They glared at me for a moment, then turned to Miles. He swallowed hard. “We don’t know anything. We didn’t see or hear any horse.”

Deputy Dawg drew himself up, hooking his thumbs into his belt. “That’s not what your neighbors said.”

I tilted my head and furrowed my brow. “Our neighbors? None of our neighbors were with us last night, Deputy, so I don’t know how they could know what we did or did not see or hear.”

He grunted.Police Officer in sunglasses

I wish he’d take his sunglasses off. It’s hard to tell what he’s thinking when I can’t even see his eyes.

Deputy Whitewash glanced at her notebook. “Your neighbors down the street, Mace and Gloria, informed us that last night’s incident was not the first time a horse was spotted running loose around here.”

I might have known those two were behind this interrogation. Mace did warn us that they’d be watching our property.

https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/01/14/the-return-of-the-neighbors/

Deputy Dawg nodded. “They believe you have direct knowledge of said horse, and that you may be harboring this animal in your shed.”

Elf cleric close-upBefore I could open my mouth, Dragon ascended the steps from the area of the conference room and joined us in the foyer. She was, to my great relief, in her customary guise of an elf maiden.

“Hello! I did not realize we had visitors.”

I glared at her. You liar! You can hear a pin drop three houses away! You knew we had visitors. You’ve heard every word!

Dragon smiled sweetly. “I am Missy’s cousin. Missy and her husband are hosting a family get-together this week.”

“Missy?” Deputy Dawg glanced over his partner’s shoulder at the notebook in her hand. “I thought you gave your name as Marge.”

“Oh, Missy is just the family’s pet name for her.” Dragon grinned and squeezed my arm.

That’s right. Keep it up. I’ll take care of you later, just see if I don’t!

Deputy Dawg just glared at us. At least I think he did. Behind the sunglasses, it was hard to see his expression. He turned back to face Dragon. “Deputies Dawg and Whitewash, ma’am. We’re in the neighborhood this morning investigating reports of a loose horse rampaging through the yards last night, terrorizing the residents of this community.”

He sounds like a broken record! Did he memorize those lines? They’re the exact same words he used to explain the purpose of his visit to Miles and me.notebook

“Were you here last night, ma’am?” Deputy Whitewash opened her notebook to a fresh page.

“Oh, yes, we all were. We were all tired, so we went to bed early. We are just now rising for breakfast. Would you care to join us?”

I could feel the color draining from my face. Oh, great, that’s all I need! Two law enforcement officers sharing breakfast with me and Miles and nine medieval characters that have fallen out of my fantasy novel manuscript! How, exactly, do I explain them to the deputies?

“No time, ma’am.” Thank you, Deputy Dawg! “We need to apprehend this wild animal before it does any damage or causes injury to one of the residents of this neighborhood.”

Wild animal? He can’t mean Mystery! I could barely keep from doubling over, laughing, as I pictured the calm little horse.

“Did you see or hear anything last night, ma’am?” Deputy Whitewash had her pencil poised over her little notebook.

“Why, no, nothing at all. As I said, we all went to bed early, and are just getting up now. I am a very heavy sleeper. The horse you speak of could have galloped right through my bedchamber, and I never would have woken.” Dragon simpered at the two deputies.

Deputy Dawg turned back to Miles and me. “Folks, we need to inspect your shed. Your neighbors allege that you’ve been hiding the horse in there for several days.”

three bales of hay in trunk 2“They also said you had transported hay to this location in the trunk of your car.” Deputy Whitewash checked her notes again.

Good grief! She makes it sound as if we were transporting a dead body! “Yes, we did have hay in the car.” I sighed. “As I explained to Gloria and Mace, we had purchased the hay for a friend, for her rabbits.”

“Yes, she said that was your contention.” Deputy Dawg didn’t sound as if he believed that any more than Mace and Gloria had.

“Can we see the shed, ma’am?” Deputy Dawg started to open the front door, apparently confident that we would never refuse his request.

“Can we see your search warrant?” I stopped the deputy in his tracks.

“Oh, pooh! These nice deputies do not need a warrant.” Dragon attached herself to Deputy Dawg’s arm and batted her eyelashes at the man. “We can go look at the shed right now.”

angry faceI am going to kill Dragon. I am! I am really going to kill her!

Left with no other choice, Miles and I grabbed our jackets and followed Dragon and the two deputies out the door.

Walking around the side of the house, I spotted my Foreman and the two lads in the doorway of the barn, across the yard from the shed. Mystery was with them. Great galloping gophers! Don’t let her get loose! Don’t let the deputies see her here!

Dragon led us to the shed. “Here we are, deputies.” She couldn’t have sounded sweeter if she tried.

Miles started to reach for the door, but Deputy Dawg pushed him aside. The two deputies stood on either side of the shed door, drew their weapons, and prepared to breach the shed.Police storming the shed

“Wait a minute!” I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. “Are you looking for a horse, or a desperate gunman?”

“Procedure, ma’am.” Deputy Dawg glared at me. At least I think he did. He was still wearing those sunglasses.

Deputy Whitewash did glare at me. “There might be more of your relatives in there. We can’t take a chance on confronting any more armed and dangerous people.”

Armed and dangerous? I guess she didn’t believe me when I said my Old Dwarf’s axe wasn’t real. Good grief!

As soon as the deputies opened the shed door, I saw my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter. Oh, someone please shoot me. Shoot me now!

 

The two of them rushed past the deputies, who seemed oblivious to their presence. Thank goodness for Dragon’s spell of concealment! She must have extended it to include these two clowns! Maybe I won’t kill her after all.

My Arrogant One confronted me and immediately started protesting our presence. He drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and grasped his robes in both hands. “Is not a person to be granted any privacy at all?” Can you say deja vu?

The elf was screeching in his typical glass-shattering tone. I winced, but the deputies seemed not to hear a thing.

My Bounty Hunter glared at the deputies, then turned to me. “Are you giving another tour?”

Miles tried to shush my characters, and shoo them off in the direction of the house. Deputy Dawg looked at him suspiciously. “Did you say something?”

“Nope. Just making some noise in case any critters got in here. I wouldn’t want to surprise a sleeping raccoon.” Oh, thank heaven Miles remembered what I said to Mace and Gloria when the same thing happened with them!

The two deputies slowly entered the cluttered shed, and warily looked around. They nosed into every corner and peered into every shadow. After a few minutes, they returned to the doorway.

“Well, did you find anything?”

ladder to barn loft 2Deputy Whitewash shook her head at me, but Deputy Dawg walked over to the ladder that led up to the loft. “What’s up there?”

“Piles of old junk.” I glared at him. “Don’t tell me you think the horse might have climbed up there?” Please don’t go up there and find the old horse equipment Gloria found. If you see all that stuff, you’ll never believe we don’t have a horse here!

“Of course not.” Deputy Dawg sounded indignant.

“Well, I guess your neighbors were wrong.” Deputy Whitewash sounded disappointed.

Dragon, Miles and I walked the deputies back to their car. Before he slid behind the steering wheel, Deputy Dawg issued a warning. “We may not have found the horse here today, but don’t think we won’t be keeping a close eye on this place in the future.”

Deputies leaving

Deputy Whitewash agreed. “If even half of what your neighbors told us about the goings-on here is true, you’ll probably be seeing a lot of us in the future!”

Oh, goody! I can hardly wait!

Dragon, Miles and I stood there, big smiles pasted on our faces, waving at the deputies until their vehicle was out of sight. Then we raced back to the barn.

apple for Mystery“Mystery!” I petted the little horse, and reached into my jacket pocket for an apple. She took it gently from my hand and heaved a contented sigh.

“Mistress, Master Miles, you had better come into the barn.” My Gypsy led Mystery into the illusory building, and we followed, with Dragon bringing up the rear.

Inside the barn were a half dozen miniature snow devils, whirling around up in the rafters.snow devils in the barn 2

Oh, gee, things just keep getting better and better!

 

Be sure to come back next week, as we continue the adventure of Mystery and the Snow Devils. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

But What If I Was Wrong?

But What If I Was Wrong?

Momentary chaos ensued.

When I opened the door so my husband and I, accompanied by a group of my characters, could leave the shed, a strong blast of frigid air nearly knocked us all off our feet. Then a half-dozen miniature snow devils rode in on the wintry gust, and my companions and I were all shrieking and squealing and yelping as we scrambled out of their way.hiding from snow devils

Cleric and Sorceress jumped for cover behind some sacks of grain. My Foreman, my Gypsy, and my Young Hero dove behind some bales of hay. Miles ducked behind a pile of crates. He tried to tug me along with him, but something, maybe the force of the wind itself, knocked me down. I quickly rolled out of the way of the snow devils, but managed to keep an eye on them.

The rimy creatures headed straight as an arrow toward Mystery. Dragon snarled and moved to protect the small, shaggy horse, but the snow devils danced out of her reach.

Dragon protecting Mystery from snow devilsI watched them, transfixed. They were paradoxical little creatures, their fiercely scowling faces a stark contrast to their graceful moves as they pirouetted around Dragon’s huge mass, deftly avoiding her claws and teeth. I noticed, along with their nimble moves to avoid Dragon, they were giving her illusory fireplace a wide berth.

“Shut the door!” I pointed as I yelled to anyone close enough to hear.

My Gypsy and my Young Hero sprang toward the door, almost falling over each other in their haste, but my husband was there first. Miles quickly pulled the door closed.

“Hotter!” I pointed at the illusory fireplace and immediately Dragon caused it to blaze as hot as a dwarven forge, as another one of my characters was wont to say.

rainingTrapped in the stifling shed, the snow devils were soon raining all over the floor. Within minutes, they were naught but some quickly evaporating puddles. As I looked at the liquid remnants of the whirling columns of snow and ice, I heaved a huge sigh of relief. “I won’t ever again complain about your fireplace!” I grinned at Dragon.

The huge beast shook her head and frowned. “Do not let down your guard! They are demons. They may be able to survive in non-corporeal form.” Then she mumbled a few arcane words, and returned the blaze in her illusory fireplace to its former level. The temperature immediately fell back into the comfort zone.

Miles reached down and helped me to my feet as my Foreman and the lads ran to check Mystery. The little horse seemed more interested in her hay than in the events transpiring around her.

Cleric and Sorceress joined Dragon in an inspection of the puddly remains of the snow devils. Miles and I stood back a bit and watched. When Dragon looked up, Miles caught her eye. “Did you notice?” My husband’s brow was furrowed, and he was rubbing his chin.

 

“Notice what, Master Miles?” Dragon tilted her head.

“The snow devils flew straight toward Mystery, but did not seem to be threatening her.”

The rest of us all gave Miles a blank look, but Dragon nodded. “Some of them could have easily attacked her while the rest kept me busy, but they did not. I do not understand their purpose.”

“Can you learn anything from their remains?” I glanced over at the spot on the floor Dragon, Cleric, and Sorceress had been examining, but it was almost dry.

“Mayhap we could have, had any physical part of them survived the heat.” Sorceress scowled at Dragon and me. “As it is, your plan of defense worked just a bit too well.”

I shrugged. “Well, not knowing what we were up against, I felt it best not to take chances. I spotted their Achilles’ heel and used it to our advantage.”

“Achilles’ heel?” Cleric wrinkled her brow and tilted her head.

“Their weakness, their vulnerability. The term comes from ancient Greek mythos.” I walked over for a closer look at the floor. “What are these?”

squiggly lines

Everyone crowded around for a look. There on the floor was what looked like tiny lines squiggling around. My Gypsy started to reach for one, but Cleric yelped and grabbed his arm.

“Do not touch them!” Cleric’s eyes were wide and her voice was full of fear.

“Why not? They look harmless enough.” My Gypsy reached for them again. This time Sorceress smacked his hand and frowned at the lad.

 

“Listen to Cleric! She understands the danger of demons. Let us all move back so they can not reach us.” Sorceress spread her arms and took a few steps back, propelling those around her away from the spot.

My Gypsy scoffed. “Are you trying to say these little lines dancing around on the floor are demons?”

Sorceress nodded. “They are the corporeal remains of the snow devils.”

mens-991728_1280“Then why not just stomp on them?” My Foreman started to move toward them, intent on crushing them under his boot.

“No!” I grabbed his arm and pulled him back. I sighed and raked my hand through my hair. “Just move away from them and let me think.”

blue-dragon-facing-left“What is there to think about?” Dragon looked at me as if I had lost my mind. “They are demons. We must destroy them. Is that not what you intended when you ordered them trapped and then melted?”

“It was.” I paused. I furrowed my brow and chewed on my lower lip. “But what if I was wrong?”

“What?” Cleric’s jaw dropped. “What do you mean?”

“Think about it. When I told you about the snow devils I saw in the yard, you assumed they were demons, like the snow devils in your world. The snow devils in your world, you said, are evil creatures that feed upon a person’s soul the way the mythical vampires of this world are said to feed on a person’s blood.”

“That is correct, Mistress.” Cleric tilted her head. “So why do you hesitate to destroy them?”

“Because, as Miles and Dragon noted, these snow devils had the opportunity to attack Mystery, but they did not. They did not actually attack any of us. We only assumed they were attacking. But what if we were wrong? What if these snow devils are not evil?”

Everyone gaped at me.

Elf facing right“Are you saying we may have harmed creatures that had no intent to harm us?” Cleric’s shoulders slumped. She held her stomach and looked as if she would be sick.Young Hero close-up

“What are we to do?” My Young Hero spoke softly, and he rubbed the back of his neck.

sorceress-facing-right“I will collect their remains and see if we can do anything to save them.” Sorceress quickly retrieved a glass vial from her equipment and looked around for some means by which to gather the wriggling strands.

“I may have something.” I went over to the sack of grain and removed the stiff paper label. “Try to scoop them up with this and place them in your vial.”Filaments in the vial

Once Sorceress had them in the vial, Cleric suggested adding a bit of snow. “Their bodies were made of snow and ice. Maybe if we provide them with some snow, they would revive.”

Sorceress looked at me and at Dragon. We both shrugged. “We have no experience with these creatures. There is no way to know what our actions will do.” Dragon’s tail twitched and a puff of black smoke erupted from her snout. “Whatever you do, be wary. If they are evil, as we originally presumed, we must be on our guard.”

“But don’t react too quickly.” I touched Sorceress on her arm. “We may have been mistaken when we thought they were attacking before. Let’s not make the same mistake twice.”

 

Everyone nodded somberly. Cleric opened the door and scooped up a bit of snow. She carefully added it to the vial in which Sorceress had placed the strands. Then we all crowded around and waited.

Long minutes passed. We were just about ready to give up when the contents of the vial began to move. First, it was just a few twitches. Then, gradually, all six filaments began wiggling. Their movements grew faster and faster until the snow and ice started moving with them, increasingly taking on the form of miniature columns of snow. Within a few moments, the reconstituted snow devils were whirling about. They began making a strange, high-pitched humming sound.Snow devils in vial

Cleric jumped back. “Are they humming? Chanting?”

I shrugged. “I can’t make out any words, but it may be an attempt to communicate.”

We all crowded closer. The sound grew louder. The container vibrated with the snow devil’s mysterious humming. Suddenly, the vial shattered, releasing the snow devils. The creatures quickly grew to their former size.

My Foreman yelled and ducked as the snow devils flew straight at us. “Look out!”

We all dove for cover, as the whirling creatures buzzed over our heads. Dragon snapped at them as they passed, but they eluded her.

The snow devils headed out the door, which had been left slightly ajar when Cleric had procured the handful of snow. Mystery whinnied frantically and bolted after them, barreling into the door and nearly taking it off its hinges.Mystery bolting after snow devils

 

It took us only seconds to regain our feet and burst out of the shed in pursuit. We stopped dead, looking all around. The yard was empty. There were no signs of Mystery or the snow devils.

 

gone!

 

Where did they go? What happened to Mystery and the snow devils? Will any of them ever return? Will we ever discover where they all came from, and why? Or is this to be an unsolved mystery? Be sure to come back next week and see what happens. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

A Devilish Situation

A Devilish Situation

Elf cleric close-upI looked at Dragon, standing there in her familiar guise of an elf maiden. She was trembling, her breathing was rapid and shallow, and her eyes were wide in terror, terror that was reflected in the eyes of all my characters.

My brow furrowed, and I tilted my head to one side. “Calm down! You’re shaking like a leaf! And what do you mean, Mystery could be something much more sinister? What on earth do you think she is?”

Mystery 2Dragon swallowed hard and tried to steady her breathing. Her voice, when she finally spoke, was thin and shaky. “I am not sure, Mistress. We found no evidence during our physical and magical examinations that Mystery is an illusion. However, I question the possibility that she is nothing more than a real horse. None of us, not even Cleric, have been able to communicate with her. Also, we know that she can walk right through my solid and substantial illusions as if they were not there, something a real horse should not be able to do. And now . . .” She paused and looked around nervously. “Now you tell us there have been hordes of snow devils in the yard and around the shed.”

snow devils in yard 2I scoffed. “Well, I wouldn’t say hordes. There were a lot, that’s true – maybe dozens – but the word horde implies sentience. A snow devil is not a living creature – it is no more than a rare meteorological phenomenon.”

“Perhaps in your world, Mistress.” Cleric joined the conversation.

Elf

I raised an eyebrow at Cleric’s statement. “Do I need to remind you we’re in my world? So the snow devils I saw here, in my world, are exactly what I just said – rare meteorological phenomena, rotating columns of snow, mini snownados or snowspouts. They are certainly not sentient, nor are they anything to fear.”

“You don’t understand, Mistress!” Cleric pushed her hair out of her face and sighed deeply. “You said that, in your world, a true snow devil is rare; yet you saw dozens of miniature snow devils in the yard today. Perhaps these small snow devils are not from your world. Perhaps they have crossed into your world through some magical conveyance.”

 

strange-dreams“Magical conveyance?”

“Yes, Mistress. A conveyance such as the magic conduit that, for a time, linked our world with yours. Or the passage that afforded entry into this world to that milky-eyed grackle who was the familiar of the evil wizard, Morcant.”

I blinked. “You think these snow devils are from a different world?”

“I think they may be, Mistress.” Cleric lifted her eyebrows, and raised her hands, palms up, in a gesture of uncertainty. My other characters all nodded.

“Well, why are they so scary? In your world, what are snow devils?” Even though he asked the question, Miles looked as if he really would prefer not to hear the answer.

 

 

Dragon grimaced. “In our world, Master Miles, snow devils are evil creatures that live in the coldest regions of our planet. They are similar to your world’s mythical vampires, only instead of feeding on blood, they feed upon a person’s soul.”

snow devil from other world

 

Miles gulped.

I raised an eyebrow and folded my arms over my chest. “And you think the snow devils in the yard have come from your world and have eaten Mystery’s soul – presuming an animal has a soul?”

“Perhaps not from our world, Mistress, but they may have come from some other world; and perhaps they have not consumed the horse’s soul, if she has one, but they may have possessed Mystery, or at least taken control of her mind. That may be why we can not communicate with her.” Dragon nervously glanced over at the small, scruffy horse, calmly munching her hay.

I snorted. “And why, exactly, would a snow devil want to possess a small, scruffy horse? What would be the benefit of such a deed?”

“Who knows?” My Gypsy was leaning against the wall of the shed, studying his silver stiletto. “My grandmother said that devils, demons, and other evil spirits often do things for no discernible reason.”

 

young-hero-facing-left“Your grandmother was the village witch, was she not?” My Young Hero walked over to stand next to his friend.

My Gypsy nodded. “She taught me many spells to safeguard against evil sprits.”

Elf facing right“And I know a ritual for exorcising demons.” Cleric sounded grim. “Perhaps the two of us should combine our efforts and make certain Mystery is no threat to anyone.”

I balked. “Whoa! Let’s slow down and think about this. I still tend to believe that the snow devils I saw are harmless meteorological phenomena. Is there any way to find out for sure without involving Mystery? I think today’s experiments were more than enough for her to endure.”

“She looks none the worse for wear to me, Mistress.” My Foreman was standing next to Mystery. He reached out and patted the little horse on her neck. “And she was very calm through the entire procedure. She even took a brief nap while the magic users worked.”

 

I sighed. “Well, if you really think there is a need for it, I suppose it wouldn’t hurt anything. Maybe first thing tomorrow, after you have rested.”

Cleric shook her head emphatically. “That may be too late, Mistress. If the snow devils are sentient creatures, evil spirits, then they must know by now we are aware of their presence here. We should start right away.”

I looked at the assembled group. “Are you sure you don’t need to rest first? I imagine what you’re proposing will be grueling. You have already been hard at work for more than five hours.”

“Well, we are exhausted.” Cleric chewed on her lower lip and rubbed her arm. “But I fear what may happen if we leave Mystery alone while we sleep, if perchance we are correct about the snow devils.”

Dwarf“Could someone stay with Mystery and keep watch? Perhaps my Old Dwarf?”

Cleric and my Gypsy considered this, but before they could answer, Dragon shook her head. “No. It would not be safe for him.”

I frowned. “Aren’t dwarves immune from most magic?”

Dragon nodded. “But this is not magic, Mistress. These are malevolent entities. No, your Old Dwarf would be as vulnerable as the rest of you.”

Easter 128“The rest of us?” Miles furrowed his brow and rubbed his jaw. “Are you saying that you are not vulnerable?”

“Not as vulnerable as the rest of you. At least, not in my true form.”

I raised an eyebrow. “How would Mystery react to you in your true form? Even if she is possessed or controlled by malevolent beings, we still don’t need to frighten the poor horse to death.”

Elf cleric close-upDragon raked her hand through her hair and heaved a huge sigh. “I have no wish to frighten the little creature, but the only way to tell how she might react is to let her see me in my true form.”

hobbledI nodded, albeit reluctantly. Miles and I watched as my characters moved everything away from Mystery that could potentially pose any danger of injury to the little mare. Then my Foreman slipped her halter onto her head, and fastened the lead. “Do you think we need to hobble her again, or perhaps use a twitch?”

Dragon shook her head. “I think, should she become terror-stricken at the sight of me in my true form, she would be safer not being so rigidly restrained. Just keep a tight hold on her lead, and do not allow her to flip over backward should she panic.”

My Foreman nodded, and my Gypsy and my Young Hero positioned themselves to lend a hand if needed. Cleric and Sorceress joined Miles and me by the door, well out of the way of potentially flailing hooves.

 

 

Dragon approached Mystery. She held out her hand to allow the little horse to sniff her, and she crooned to the mare in a reassuring tone. Mystery snuffled at her and nickered softly.

When she was sure the horse was calm enough, Dragon looked over at me and nodded. “When I transform, I will take on the appearance of my true self, but I will remain, at first, small and – hopefully – unthreatening.”

scaly dragonSlowly, Dragon began to shimmer. The beautiful elf maiden gradually shape-shifted into a scaly, reptilian figure about the size of a Chihuahua. Everyone present held their breath, but the only reaction from Mystery was a huge yawn and a slight wiggle of her ears.

After a few moments, Dragon began growing. She expanded to the size of a Beagle, then to the size of a Labrador Retriever. Mystery watched, bobbing her head up and down.

Mystery munching hayDragon continued increasing in size. Soon, she was as large as a Mastiff, and moments later she was the same size as the small horse. At that point, Mystery started fidgeting and pulling on her lead. Stretching her neck as far as she could, Mystery snatched a mouthful of hay from the pile behind my Young Hero, and stood there munching on it while eyeing Dragon.

Dragon looked at me. I shrugged and chuckled. “She reminds me of someone at a movie, munching on a handful of popcorn while enjoying the film.”

Dragon waited a few minutes, during which Mystery helped herself to a few more mouthfuls of hay. Then, the beast continued to grow, until she was almost double the height of Mystery. The little mare continued to wiggle her ears back and forth, bob her head up and down, and chomp on her hay. She showed no fear of the large, reptilian creature in front of her; in fact, she seemed entertained by the transformation.

Dragon with smoke bubblesDragon looked rather confused. Her color morphed to a pale blue, and smoke bubbles dripped from her snout.

Miles“Well, that was anti-climactic!” Miles ran his hand through his hair and stared at the small horse, who looked for all the world like she was ready to fall asleep now that the show was over.

“Well, at least we know I can stay with Mystery this night while the rest of you get some sleep. I do not believe she will suddenly decide to panic in the middle of the night.”

My Foreman slipped Mystery’s halter off and hung it up. “Okay, we will take all of today’s paraphernalia back to the house, and return here in the morning.”

Dragon turned to me. “Remind your Old Dwarf to keep your Arrogant One and your Bounty Hunter away from the shed. I do not want any interference from them.”

I nodded. Once we had gathered all the books and equipment again, I opened the shed door. I yelped, and there was a chorus of shrieks, squeals, and screams from the rest of the group. We all jumped out of the way as a horde of whirling snow devils whooshed past us and headed straight for Mystery.

Snow devils surrounding Mystery

 

 

What is happening? Where did these snow devils come from, and why are they after Mystery? Can Dragon and the rest of us protect the little horse from the demons? Be sure to come back next week and find out! We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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