Mystery Solved

Mystery Solved

breakfast-2Miles and I were in the kitchen, preparing breakfast, when Cleric and Dragon came rushing in.

Mystery and Cleric“Mistress Writer!” Cleric’s voice rang out with joy. She was absolutely glowing, and had her smile been any broader, she would have needed a second face to hold it all. “We were just in the shed visiting with Mystery. Now that she is free of the hold the snow devils had on her mind, I am able to communicate with her!”

“That’s wonderful!” I smiled broadly as I took her hands and gave them a squeeze. “I know how worried you were when you couldn’t reach her mind.”

“Indeed! I found it most disheartening that I, a cleric of the goddess of the horse, was able to communicate with essentially every animal in this world, save the one most favored by my deity!”

“Have you learned anything from her?” Miles glanced over at Cleric as he removed the large skillet of scrambled eggs from the stove.

Cleric nodded and clasped her hands together. “Oh, yes, Master Miles! Mystery is a most remarkable little horse!”

I raised an eyebrow. “I hope you’re not getting too attached to Mystery. Now that you and Dragon have assisted the snow devils to return to their home, we need to find Mystery’s owner and get her back home as well.”

Cleric looked wistful. “Well, I will certainly miss her. I do wish that I had had more time to get to know her. But I understand she needs to go back to her owner.”

arrogant-one-facing-right“And that needs to happen as expeditiously as possible.” My Arrogant One swept into the room, nose in the air, one hand fluttering about, waving dismissively at everyone. “I demand you remove that vile, odoriferous creature from my private retreat without delay!”bounty-hunter-facing-other-direction

My Bounty Hunter, following behind my Arrogant One like the elf’s ever-present shadow, nodded in agreement with his obnoxious cohort. “We really have been more than patient.”

dwarf“Wale, ye kin jest be patient a wee bit longer. It be time ta be breakin’ our fast, an the horsey kin be waitin’ ’till we be finished eatin’ our food.” My Old Dwarf pushed past the other two, scowling, and took his place at the table.

My Arrogant One was about to reply, but he bit back his words when he saw the warning look on my face. He and his companion took their seats with no further discussion, although the elf continued to stare daggers at my Old Dwarf. The rest of my characters arrived and soon everyone was seated and passing around platters laden with the delicious breakfast fare Miles had prepared.

I glanced longingly at the mouthwatering food being passed around as I took a container of fat-free yogurt from the refrigerator and sat down next to my husband. “I guess we should call the sheriff’s office this morning and report finding a horse in our yard.” I wrinkled my nose, as much at what had to be done as at the taste of the yogurt.

My Old Dwarf nearly choked on a mouthful of fried potatoes. “Oh, no, lass! Ye can na be meanin’ ta be doin’ thet!”

“Why not?” I feigned innocence.

My Old Dwarf scowled fiercely. “I be thinkin’ ye be knowin’ thet I do na much be fancyin’ anudder encounter wit the intrepid Deputy Dawg and ’is equally stalwart partner, Deputy Whitewash.” The old reprobate took another bite of potato from his fork before using the utensil to punctuate his next statement, stabbing the air in time with his words. “Asides, ye do na be wantin’ ta be havin’ Mace and Gloria ta be seein’ the horsey here. They’d be usin’ it as an excuse ta be even more snoopy-like than they already be.”

 

I laughed. “That’s true. But how are we to find Mystery’s owner and return her?”

From the other end of the table, Cleric addressed me. “Do not worry, Mistress. Dragon and I have devised a plan. Mystery told me whence she was abducted by the snow devils . . . well, she placed an image of it in my head. It is not far from here. Dragon can cast a spell of concealment on Mystery, and we can walk her off the property unbeknownst to Mace and Gloria. We can walk her all the way back to her home. It is just a mile or so down the road.” Cleric paused, and furrowed her brow. “I do think it best if we depart this very morn, though. Mystery is most anxious to return home. I got a sense of growing urgency from her when she thought about her owner.”

I nodded and took another spoonful of yogurt before answering. “I will accompany you and Dragon when you take Mystery home.”

“Good! You can commence right after breakfast!” My Arrogant One was issuing orders again. “Then the three of you can go in and clean out every trace of that malodorous beast.” He waved his hand in the direction of my Foreman, my Gypsy and my Young Hero.

“Excuse me.” My Gypsy glared at the elf. “Were you speaking to us?”

“Yes, yes, of course! The three of you enjoy taking care of barnyard animals. You can . . .”

You can stop right there.” My Foreman eyed the elf through narrowed eyes. “If you want the shed cleaned out, you can do it yourself.”

crystal-shatteringarrogant-one-facing-right“Me?” My Arrogant One’s voice shot up to that crystal-shattering shriek he so often employed. “I most assuredly will not!” He wrinkled his nose and studied his fingernails. “I was not the one who brought that creature into the shed. Besides, such menial labor is beneath my station.”

My Young Hero rolled his eyes and smirked. “You are always telling us how adept you are at magic. Just enchant a few brooms and mops and magic the mess away.”

My Arrogant One curled his lip contemptuously. “I am an illusionist, not a sorcerer.”

“Then why do ye na occasionally be creatin’ the illusion thet ye be workin’, instead o al’ays be expectin’ others ta be doin’ yer work fer ye, ye consarned, pompous, annoyin’ little elfie?” My Old Dwarf reached past the annoying elf for another helping of flapjacks.

My Arrogant One turned redder than a stop light. “Do not call me elfie!”

I think dogs three states away were howling in pain at the screeching elf.dogs howling

* * *

The sun was shining brightly, and the temperature was surprisingly warm when Dragon (in her usual guise of an elf maiden), Cleric, and I took Mystery out of the shed. The little horse was invisible to anyone but the three of us, thanks to Dragon’s spell of concealment. Dragon would wait until we were within sight of Mystery’s home before releasing the spell.

 

Once we left our neighborhood and started along the highway, I got nervous. “I hope Mystery’s traffic broke.”

Dragon tilted her head and furrowed her brow. “Traffic broke?”

“Trained not to spook from traffic.” I looked at the approaching vehicles. “At this time of day, I don’t think there will be much of a problem, but this is a popular truck route.”

Cleric turned to Mystery, placed a hand on the little horse’s neck, and spoke softly. Mystery nickered and bobbed her head up and down. Cleric continued to look at the horse, as if she were listening. I suspected that Mystery was planting another picture in Cleric’s mind in response to the question.

Cleric confirmed my suspicion. “From the images she shared, I do not believe Mystery will have any problem with traffic. She is accustomed to vehicles. A stable she called home at one time in her life was in a very urban area.”

We had only been walking about 15 minutes when Mystery whinnied and tugged hard on the lead. Cleric patted the little horse on her withers. “I believe this is where we turn, Mistress.”

Dragon wrinkled her nose and crossed her arms over her chest. “Are you sure?”

The thoroughfare Mystery was leading us onto was a wide dirt road. Despite the day’s spring-like weather, deep snow still covered the verge on both sides of the road, and an icy puddle of mud stretched the width of the lane at the bottom of a steep hill.dirt road with snow

I shared Dragon’s skepticism. “I don’t like the looks of this road, and I don’t know of any stables around here.”

Cleric smiled. “Mystery knows where she is going.”

We slogged along the slick, muddy dirt road for the better part of an hour. Conversation was limited mainly to squeals of distress as one or another of us slipped, accompanied by the muttering of a variety of colorful oaths. Finally, Mystery started tugging on her lead again, pulling us toward a two-track going off through the forest to the left.two-track

“This can’t be right.” I peered down the lane, but I could see nothing.

“There is evidence of a vehicle having used this road recently.” Dragon pointed to the tire tracks biting deep into the soft ground.

Cleric shrugged. “It is where Mystery desires to go.”

We trudged along the muddy track for another half-hour before Mystery came to a sudden halt at the mouth of a driveway. Through the trees, I could see a barn and some fencing. I turned to Cleric. “Is this the place?”barn

Mystery pawed at the ground and bobbed her head up and down.

“I would say so, Mistress.” Cleric patted the small horse, who nickered softly.

Dragon placed her hands on Mystery’s back and mumbled a few words. “There. I have released the spell. Let us take her in and see if her owner is home.”

AnnaI knocked on the door of the house, while Dragon and Cleric stood in the driveway with Mystery. The woman who answered my knock looked tired. I judged her to be in her forties, though she may have looked older than she really was. Her face was careworn, and she had dark circles under her brown eyes. Her unkempt sandy-brown hair was streaked with gray. She wiped her hands on her gingham apron before warily opening the door just a crack. “Yes?” Her voice was anxious.

“Please excuse the intrusion. I was wondering if you had lost a . . .”

I never got to finish. The woman looked over my shoulder and saw Mystery. She threw the door wide open and ran past me. She dashed down the steps and threw her arms around the little horse. “Peaches! Oh, Peaches!”

It took the woman a few minutes to compose herself. “Oh, you must think I’m fookish, making such a fuss over a horse.”

“Not at all.” I smiled warmly. “Would you like us to turn her out to pasture for you, or perhaps put her in a stall?”

The woman bit her lower lip and wrung her hands. “Are you in a hurry? Do you have time to hold Peaches here for a few moments? I’d like to bring my son out here. He’s been so upset since we discovered the horse was missing.”

“We have all the time in the world.” Cleric smiled at the woman and touched her arm reassuringly. The woman looked relieved and dashed back into the house.

Colton and Peaches 2She returned a few minutes later, holding the hand of a boy whom I judged to be about eight or nine years old. She carefully led him down the steps and over to the small horse she had called Peaches. The horse stood as still as a statue while the woman placed the boy’s hand on the animal’s nose.

“Peaches?” The boy’s voice was small, and he sounded uncertain.

Peaches nickered softly and nuzzled the boy’s arm.

“Peaches!” The boy whooped and threw his arms around the horse’s neck. “Oh, mom, she came back! I knew she would!”

“These nice ladies brought her back, son.”

The boy turned toward his mother’s voice. “Where are they, mom? I want to thank them.”

“They are right next to me. Ladies, please excuse my manners. I haven’t even introduced myself. I’m Anna, and I’d like you to meet my son, Colton.”

“Hello, Anna. Hi, Colton.”

The boy stuck his hand out and smiled in the direction of my voice.

Realizing he could not see, I walked around to face him and took his outstretched hand. “I’m Marge. These are my friends . . .” I didn’t know how to introduce them.

Sensing my problem, Dragon came to my rescue. “Most people can not pronounce my name. Just call me Dray. Our other friend is Clara. We are very pleased to meet you”

“Marge, Dray, and Clara.” The boy repeated our names softly as if trying to memorize them. “Nice to meet you! Thank you so much for bringing Peaches home.”

“You are most welcome, Colton.” Cleric beamed at the youngster and placed the horse’s lead line in his hand.

“Mom, can I ride her now?”

“Well . . .”

Peaches nickered and bobbed her head up and down.

paddock gateColton’s mom laughed. “I suppose you can. But don’t tire yourself out.” She took Colton’s hand and led him and Peaches over to a gate. She opened it and guided the boy and his horse through, and into the field beyond. “Stay in the paddock and give Peaches her head. There are still some icy spots here you can’t see.”

Colton riding Peaches bareback“I will, mom. Don’t worry. Peaches will take care of me.” He felt for the little horse’s back and hopped right up, bareback. Using just the halter and lead rope as a bridle and reins, he turned Peaches around and trotted off down the fence line.

Colton’s mom turned toward us. “I can’t tell you how much it means to Colton to have his horse back. We’ve been gone from the farm for the past month. Colton was having surgery on his eyes.” She paused and looked down at her hands. “It wasn’t successful.”

“I’m so sorry, Anna!” I placed a hand on her arm.

“Thank you.” She stood quietly, watching her son trotting the little horse around the field. Finally, she continued.

“While we were away, a friend was stopping by every day to take care of our animals. Unfortunately, he got sick. He asked someone else to take his place, another friend who had taken care of the farm for us in the past. However, that person wasn’t aware we had gotten a new horse since the last time he had been here. Peaches wasn’t missed until we arrived back home late last night and couldn’t find her.”

Anna turned toward us. “Where did you find her, and how did you know where to bring her home?”

I furrowed my brow. “She showed up in our neighborhood, and she’s been our guest for a while now. I was trying to find who might have lost her. I checked the internet, and talked with some sheriff’s deputies, but no one had reported a missing horse. I used to have horses, so I knew how to care for her while we searched for her owner.”

Cleric picked up the tale. “This morning, we noticed that Mystery . . . I mean Peaches – we called her Mystery because we did not know her name. Anyway, this morning, she seemed restless. When we put a halter and lead line on her, she started pulling us toward the road. We figured she was ready to go home, so we let her lead us here.”

 

 

“Bless you for that.” Anna smile warmly at the three of us. “Peaches is specially trained to work with a blind rider. She acts as my son’s eyes, and she gives Colton some semblance of normalcy in his life. Riding her, he can be the equal of his friends, share in their equine activities, and forget his handicap at least for a while.”

“I knew she was a remarkable animal!” Cleric beamed at Peaches and the confident young rider so capably handling the little horse.

Boy_on_a_Horse

We watched Colton and Peaches a while longer, then said our goodbyes, promising to return for a visit sometime. As we started home, I noticed Cleric’s eyes looked moist.

“Are you okay?”

She nodded. “I am going to miss that most remarkable horse. But this is one mystery I am overjoyed to have solved.”

 

We hope you’ve enjoyed our little Peach(es) of a Mystery. Join us again next week to see what my characters are up to. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Have Faith

Have Faith

Voice from MysteryHave faith.

“Who said that?” Cleric’s eyes darted wildly about the barn, seeking the source of the voice.

Dragon’s tail lashed and her brow furrowed. “It looked as if Mystery spoke, but the words did not come from the horse’s mouth. I heard them in my mind, not in my ears.”

The snow devils were buzzing and whirring. We heard it as well. One of you must have thought it.Elf

“I have no telepathic power.” Cleric’s voice was muffled as she continued to search for the source of the voice, poking behind bales of hay and sacks of grain, and peering into every dark corner.

Then it must have been you, creature.scaly dragon looking right

“It was not. Although I do possess telepathic power, I did not suggest having faith. Since I have no idea how to open the conduit and return you to your world, I have not sufficient faith at the moment to recommend it to others.”

“Well someone must have thought it. We all heard the same words within our minds. It could not be anyone’s imagination.” Cleric finished looking around the barn and returned to stand next to Mystery. She frowned as she stroked the small horse. “Since I see no one else in the barn with us, it must have been one of us.”

Cleric and snow devilThe snow devils buzzed loudly, conversing among themselves. One separated from the group and hovered in front of Cleric. When it addressed Cleric, its voice was respectful, a marked change from the belligerence and insistence previously coloring the voices of the snow devils. You, servant of the horse goddess, are one of faith. Perhaps you thought it, and somehow our own telepathic powers allowed us to hear your words in our minds.

Cleric blushed. “I did not think it. I am afraid my faith is not as great as you believe.”

But . . . but you serve a deity! To do so, you must have great faith!

Cleric turned deeper red and lowered her eyes. She fidgeted with her robes and scuffed one foot back and forth. When she finally spoke, her voice cracked with emotion. “I may serve a goddess, but . . . but I have disappointed her often. I have been disobedient, and . . . and I have been arrogant enough to believe I knew better than the one I purport to serve.” Cleric swallowed hard before tossing her head and looking up at the snow devils. “I am the last one of us who would admonish others to have faith.” A tear ran down her cheek as she turned away and buried her face in Mystery’s soft mane.

Dragon quickly shapeshifted, shimmering as she took on her customary guise of an elf maiden. She placed her arm around her friend’s shoulder. “That happened a long time ago, back during the events in our world which Mistress Writer chronicled in her books. I daresay the one you serve has forgiven you by now. I allow that you should forgive yourself as well.”

The snow devils huddled once more, humming, murmuring and whirring. Finally, one of the creatures swooped down closer to Cleric and Dragon. The two companions heard a callous voice in their minds. It matters not who said it; nor does your situation matter. We must focus on the task at hand.

Another of the miniature snow spouts dropped down and nudged the first one out of the way. It hovered directly in front of Dragon and Cleric. Its words were gentler. Do not think ill of us. Your failure to serve faithfully is distressful, and we do have compassion for your situation. However, our condition is becoming critical. We must return to our own world. If we do not, we will perish for sure.

Cleric nodded. She wiped the tears from her face and straightened her robes. “Dragon, we must find a way to locate their world and open the passageway, so they may return.”

And you must do it now!

“But how?” Dragon threw her hands up in despair. “If I knew how to locate your world, I might be able to create a conduit. But how do I find your world?”

Have faith.

As Dragon, Cleric, and the snow devils looked about once more for the source of the voice, the barn door opened. “Wale, there ye be! It be gittin’ late, an’ I be thinkin’ ye might be wantin’ some vittles.”Dwarf

The Old Dwarf pulled a turkey leg and a ham from his pouch and plopped them onto a bale of hay. “Ye’ll be wantin’ summat ta drink, too.” He kept rummaging through his pouch.

What is this? The voice was full of suspicion.

“He is our friend.” Cleric frowned, and her eyes flashed a warning at the snow devils. “Do not threaten him.”

“Huh? Be ye sayin’ summat, lass?” The Old Dwarf looked up and noticed the snow devils, now buzzing and droning loudly. He yelped and brandished his war axe. He stepped between the miniature snownadoes and his friends. “Do na be gittin’ any closer, ye swirly demons!”dwarf protecting friends from snow devils

Dragon grabbed the dwarf’s arm. “No! They are not demons! They are not from our world, and they mean us no harm!”

The old warrior slowly lowered his axe. He narrowed his eyes and glared at the snow devils for a few minutes. He scratched his bearded chin and turned to Dragon. “Ye be sure, beastie? They do na be dangerous?”

“They pose no danger. They seek only to return to their own world before they succumb to our rising temperatures.” Dragon raked her hand through her thick hair and sighed.

“Wale, how be it they be here in this world?” The dwarf tilted his head and studied the whirling columns of snow and ice.

Snow devils on mountain“They were inadvertently caught up in a magical conduit, a conduit that I and another were traveling through.” Dragon bit her lower lip. “But the conduit was collapsed, and I do not know how to recreate it, nor how to find their world.”

“Jest be axin’ the other beastie.” The dwarf reached over and picked up the ham. He sliced a chunk of it and popped it in his mouth.dragon-1964202_960_720

“I would, but the other one of my kind is no longer present in this world. With the conduit gone, I do not know how to contact her.”

Have faith.

“Yup. Thet be good advice.”

“You heard that voice?” Cleric gaped at the dwarf.

“O’ course I heerd it, lass! Wot, ye be thinkin’ I be deef?”

“But the words were not spoken. Dragon and I, along with the snow devils, have heard the voice telepathically, in our minds.”

The dwarf snorted. “Wale, mebbe ye be hearin’ voices in yer head, but I heerd it wit me ears. An’ it be plenny loud.”

Mystery whinnied and bobbed her head up and down.

“Aye, the little beastie be agreein’ – she musta heerd it, too.”

Third snow devilIt matters not who said it, nor who or what heard it, nor even how it was heard. What matters is finding a way for us to return to our world! Swiftly! If the other creature is the only one who might know the way, then you must contact her. The voice keened with desperation.

“But I have already told you, that is impossible.” Dragon’s shoulders slumped.

“Hah!” The dwarf snorted.

Dragon turned toward the dwarf. “What?”

“Ye never did be one ta be givin’ up, beastie.”

“I have never faced such an impossible task before.”

“Oh?” The dwarf’s eyes widened, but the corners of his lips twitched in amusement. “Ye be shockin’ me, beastie! I dinna be thinkin’ yer kind be havin’ such short rememberies.”

Dragon glared at the dwarf, but her anger waned swiftly. “You are right, my friend. We have all faced some impossible situations, have we not? And we triumphed.”
Cleric nodded in agreement and squeezed Dragon’s hand.

The Old Dwarf grinned. “Aye, ye al’ays be commin’ outten ahead causin ye be usin’ wot be atween yer ears. An ye do na be listenin’ ta anyone wot be sayin’ ye can na be succeedin’.”

Have faith.

This time, the words settled softly in the minds of Dragon and Cleric like a warm embrace. The two friends looked at each other.

 

“What paraphernalia do we need to create a magical conduit?” Cleric looked at Dragon, her eyes shining, her mouth set in a determined line.

The Old Dwarf smiled warmly at the two companions, then slipped quietly out the door, leaving them to their work.

* * *

It was after dark. Miles and I were sitting at the kitchen table, having a late-night conversation with my Old Dwarf. We heard the French doors in the living room opening, and the sound of someone stepping in from the deck. A few minutes later, Dragon and Cleric stumbled into the room. Dragon was still in her guise of an elf maiden, and she and Cleric were hanging on each other, trying not to fall.

I jumped up when I saw them. “Sit down! You both look exhausted!”

Cleric and Dragon collapsed onto chairs on opposite sides of the table, facing each other.

Easter 128Miles scurried to the refrigerator. “I’ll get you some dinner.”

“No, thank you, Master Miles. We are just too exhausted to even think about food.”

“Wot? How kin anyone be thet exhausted, thet they do na be wantin’ food?” My Old Dwarf gaped at Dragon and Cleric.

“Are you sure? Maybe some broth?”

“Nothing, really. But thank you.” Cleric tried to smile but seemed incapable of even that much effort.

“Here, lass, drink this. Ye, too, beastie.” My Old Dwarf poured them each a mug of his potent dwarven spirits.ale

“Oh, no, I cannot drink this!” Cleric looked aghast.

Dwarf“Do na be arguin’! Ye be needin’ summat ta put the fire back in ye.”

Cleric sipped the ale and made a face. “Oh, that is horrible!”

Dragon downed her mug in a single gulp. “But it does the job.” She nodded her thanks to my Old Dwarf.

I sat down next to Dragon. “Do you feel strong enough now to tell us what happened? Are the snow devils still in the barn with Mystery?”
“I can talk now. We have seen the snow devils safely back to their own world. After their hold on Mystery was severed, we returned the little horse to the shed for the night. She was sound asleep when we left.”

Cleric smiled. “The snow devils told us they abducted her from a stable a few miles down the road. You should be able to contact the owner and return Mystery in the morning.”

I gave the two companions an admiring look. “Wow! How did you manage to get the snow devils home?”

Cleric choked down another sip of ale. “We had faith, Mistress.” She and Dragon smiled and exchanged knowing looks.

“Thanks to you, my friend.” Dragon patted my Old Dwarf on his shoulder.

“Huh? Wot be ye talkin’ aboot?”

“The encouragement you gave us in the barn was most helpful.” Cleric placed her hand over his and smiled warmly.

“I be thinkin’ ye both be imaginatin’ thin’s. I do na be near thet barn all day.”

Dragon and Cleric gawked at him. “What do you mean? You were the one who told us . . .”

“I dinna be tellin’ ye nuttin’, beastie. I do na be knowin’ wot ye be talkin’ aboot. Likens I be sayin’, I be here wit the lass and ’er lad all day.”

Dragon and Cleric looked at each other, wide eyed. “Then who . . .?”

Have faith.

The words settled gently in their minds like a warm embrace.

Will Dragon and Cleric ever find out whose voice it was that told them to have faith? Will they ever learn who was in the barn in the form of my Old Dwarf? Will they ever reveal to me, Mistress Writer, the details of how they facilitated the return of the snow devils to their own world? And will Mistress Writer and Master Miles be able to return Mystery to her owner without being arrested as horse thieves? Be sure to come back and follow the further adventures and misadventures of my characters as they try to exist here, in the real world. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

 

More Confrontation

More Confrontation

Mystery 2Cleric’s eyes flew wide, and her jaw dropped. “What do you mean the horse might never regain her wits? What have you done to Mystery’s mind?”

One of the snow devils buzzed loudly. It sounded angry. We did what we needed to do. And now, you will help us. We have been too long gone from our world.

Cleric clenched her fists at her side. Her face flushed and her eyes narrowed as she glared at the snow devils. “I will render no assistance until you release your hold on this horse.”

Mystery munching hayCleric walked over to Mystery and patted the small horse on her neck. Mystery responded by briefly nuzzling Cleric before turning back to snatch another mouthful from the pile of hay. The little horse stood there, calmly chewing, seeming oblivious to the conversation and activity around her.

The angry buzzing of the snow devil became more intense. As soon as we depart, our hold on the horse will be broken. The disembodied voice in the minds of Cleric and Dragon sounded belligerent.

Elf facing rightCleric shook her head. She paced back and forth, punctuating her words with broad gestures. “That is not acceptable. The horse is the favored creature of the one I serve. I must protect this animal. You claimed it is also favored by the one you serve. How dare you do something potentially harmful to one of your deity’s favored creatures? You will release your hold on its mind immediately, or you will receive no cooperation from me.”

Second snow devil in barnAnother snow devil swooped down and confronted Cleric. If we release our hold on this horse, we may well lose our ability to communicate with you. If you want to help the horse, open the magical conduit that brought us here. When we depart, the horse will regain her wits.

Cleric ran her hand through her hair and bit her lower lip. She began pacing again, and remained silent for several long minutes. She stared at Mystery, still standing quietly and chewing a mouthful of hay. The horse twitched her ears back and forth, the only sign she was aware of anything around her save her food. Finally, Cleric sighed and nodded curtly to the snow devils. “Very well.” She turned to Dragon. “Do you have any idea how to open the conduit and facilitate the snow devil’s return to their own world?”

Elf cleric close-upDragon, still in her familiar guise of an elf maiden, shook her head and scoffed. “How would I?”

You would know, creature, because you and another of your kind caused us to be caught up in the magical conduit that brought us to this place.

Dragon glared at the snow devil. Her eyes were narrowed and her mouth was drawn into a thin line. “So you have said, but how can that be? You claim you are not from my world. My world and this world are the only worlds to which I have been.”

Fabricator! Prevaricator! The telepathic message assaulted Dragon’s mind.Dragon elf maiden turning red

“What?” Dragon’s eyes flashed, her nostrils flared, and her face turned bright red.

A third snow devil descended. You, creature, are a liar.Dragon breathing fire

In a flash, Dragon shapeshifted into her true form. “You dare question my veracity?” Fire shot from her maw, scattering the snow devils. “It is not wise for creatures of ice and snow to anger one who could evaporate them.”

Cleric grabbed Dragon’s arm. “Stop!”

Dragon growled and shrugged out of Cleric’s grasp. “What care you if I vaporize them?”

Cleric’s eyes flashed. “Other than the fact we know not what would happen to Mystery should the snow devils be harmed, there is a substantial possibility you could set fire to the barn!”Dragon breathing smoke

Dragon growled and lashed her tail. She spewed large clouds of black smoke from her nose, but she made no further displays of fiery anger.

Cleric straightened her robes and addressed the snow devils, who had gathered once more in the rafters. “I happen to believe my friend.”

snow devils in the barn 2

Then you are a fool.

Cleric felt her face grow quite hot, but she noticed Dragon did not react.

You are correct in your assumption. We did not allow the creature to hear us this time.

Cleric nodded. “Suppose you explain how my friend and her companion caught you up in a magical conduit. Then, mayhap I can conceive a plan to return you to your world.”

We were on a remote mountaintop on our world, reveling in a blizzard with our brethren. Suddenly the six of us were sucked into a vortex. We were powerless against the strong current of energy. We were carried along between various universes and deposited here in this world, along with this creature you call friend and another beast, almost identical to her. They were the ones who had created and traversed this passageway.

Snow devils on mountain

Dragon with smoke bubblesThis time, even thought the snow devils were addressing Cleric, they apparently allowed Dragon to hear as well. The big beast looked thunderstruck. She morphed, changing in color to a pale blue, and bubbles of smoke dripped from her nostrils. She shook her head several times. “No. No, it is not possible. Not unless . . .” She turned red again, and glared menacingly at the snow devils. “You must be from my world. That is the only other world I and my companion visited.”Second snow devil in barn

One of the snow devils scoffed. You journeyed to at least one other world, creature. Our world.

Dragon frowned. She though back to her recent travels, and shook her head again. This time she appeared to be trying to recall events rather than deny them. Suddenly, she paled once more. “Wait. I do remember another world, a world in which I was but a shadow, unable to interact with the people and creatures I encountered. But surely you are not from that world! https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2017/07/09/the-situation-worsens/

No, creature, we are not from that world.

“Then I do not understand.” Dragon’s shoulders slumped and her reptilian brow furrowed.

Snow devil in barnThe snow devils huddled together, buzzing, whirring, and droning. Finally one separated from the group and returned to face Dragon. You seem genuinely confused, creature. Perhaps you honestly do not remember being in our world. Or perhaps you and your companion never actually set foot on our world. Perhaps your conduit intersected our world, or passed so near as to capture us in your power stream. It matters not. All that matters is that you return us.

Third snow devilImmediately. Another snow devil buzzed angrily. Our power to maintain our corporeal existence wanes in this environment. Even now, I feel myself dripping as the temperature rises.

Dragon gaped. She raised her hands, palms up, in a gesture of frustration. “But I do not know how to return you to your world. I do not even know where your world is, or how I could find it.”

Would the other of your kind know?

“Mayhap. But I have no way to contact her. She is no longer present in this world, and it is my understanding the conduit between her world and this one has been collapsed permanently.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2017/12/03/the-odyssey-ends/

The snow devils started keening. We are doomed. We will soon perish if we do not return to our own world.

Cleric gaped at the snow devils. She turned to Dragon. “Can we do nothing to prevent their demise, to find a way to return them to their own world?”

Dragon shrugged. “If there is a way, I know not how.”

Have faith.

“What did you say?” Cleric stared at Dragon.

“I said if there is a way, I know not how.”

“I heard that. I meant what you said after that.”

Dragon furrowed her brow and shrugged again. “I said nothing else.”

Have faith. The voice was louder.

All eyes turned toward Mystery, as the little horse whinnied shrilly. She tossed her head and pawed the ground furiously.

Have faith. The voice seemed to be coming from the horse.

Voice from Mystery

 

What is happening with Mystery? To whom does the mysterious voice belong? Be sure to come back next week and find out what happens. And for readers just now joining us, please take the opportunity to explore the past episodes of our little adventures. Nine characters – Dragon, Cleric, Sorceress, My Old Dwarf, My Young Hero, My Gypsy, My Foreman, My Arrogant One, and My Bounty Hunter – have fallen from the pages of my fantasy manuscript. They have taken up residence with my husband, Miles, and me – Mistress Writer – in this, the real world. This has resulted in some pretty unreal consequences, sometimes dire, sometimes comical, but always entertaining. We would love for you to join us. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Communication, Confrontation

Communication, Confrontation

Cleric squared her shoulders, straightened her robes, and stepped closer to the little horse we had been calling Mystery, and the snow devil that hovered directly above the horse’s head. “Let us commence.”

Mystery and snow devil

Cleric patted the horse’s withers, and rubbed her muzzle. She was as much trying to relax herself as she was trying to reassure the horse. Not that Mystery seemed to need much reassurance. The little horse stood quietly, munching a mouthful of hay. It was the snow devil buzzing over her head that seemed less than reassured.

Cleric slowly placed her arms around Mystery’s neck, moving one hand up to hold the little horse’s head. She then leaned against the mare and placed her own face against Mystery’s. “It is all right, little one. You know me. I will not hurt you.”

Mystery munching hayMystery stood statue-still. Cleric continued cooing and speaking gently to her. After several moments, Mystery nickered, then gently pushed Cleric away. The little horse reached over and took another mouthful of hay and stood chomping on it. When she had finished that mouthful, she started pawing the ground and whickering.

Cleric’s shoulders drooped and she heaved a big sigh. She turned to face the rest of us. “It is no good. I still can not communicate with her.”

water bucketMystery trotted over to her empty water bucket and nudged it.

“She’s thirsty. I’ll go fill the bucket.” My Gypsy picked up the bucket and headed for the house to get some water.

Cleric sat on the bale of hay, her hands clasped tightly in her lap. “No matter how hard I try, I can not reach this little horse. I have never had any trouble communicating with the creatures of this world. How often have I convinced some bird or wild animal to pose for Mistress Writer’s camera? But now I, a cleric of the goddess of the horse . . . I can not communicate with an animal favored by the goddess I serve.” Tears pooled in Cleric’s cornflower blue eyes and leaked down her cheeks.

 

Dragon, still in her customary guise of an elf maiden, sat down next to Cleric and placed her arm around her friend’s shoulder. “Do not despair! You have barely started!”

“But I have tried before, without success. It is no different now. There is no indication that Mystery even hears my words, let alone understands them.”

My Gypsy returned with a bucket of water, and Mystery drained it. “I better get some more.”Gypsy close-up

Dragon nodded at my Gypsy. “After you bring more water, I think everyone should leave, save Cleric and myself. I may be able to assist, but too many people here will be a distraction.”

I nodded, and gestured to my Gypsy to go get another bucket of water. “I agree. Is there anything that the two of you need before we leave?”

“If someone would be so kind as to give Mystery a few flakes of hay in the empty stall, where there is sufficient room for Cleric and I to work, it would be a great help. And, perhaps a scoop of feed?”

My Foreman cut open the bale of hay and placed several flakes in the stall. My Young Hero put a scoop of oats in the feeder. My Gypsy returned with the bucket of water and hooked it inside the stall, then led Mystery in and removed her halter. Finally, we all wished Cleric and Dragon luck with their task. With one more look around to make sure everything was in place, we filed out of the illusory barn. Miles closed the doors behind us, and we made our way back up to the house.

* * *

Elf facing rightCleric stood by the stall door, looking dubiously at Mystery and the snow devil that still buzzed around the little horse’s head. “I am still uncertain of this.”Mystery and snow devil 1

Elf cleric close-upDragon nodded. “I understand, but I should be able to assist you. As you know, all dragons posses the ability to communicate telepathically with others of their kind. Some of us have developed greater telepathic ability. On occasion, I am able to connect with the mind of some other creature. Usually, it is an extremely intelligent and sensitive creature.” Dragon glanced skeptically at the snow devil, still hovering above Mystery’s head as the little horse ate. “If these creatures possess the requisite intelligence, perhaps I will be able to help amplify the telepathic message of the snow devils as they try to reach you through Mystery.”

Cleric grasped her friend’s hands. “I would be most grateful for any help you could offer.”

Dragon smiled encouragingly. “How do you normally communicate with the animals you convince to pose for Mistress Writer?”

Cleric sighed. “I communicate with most animals verbally, and I sense their response empathically. I speak aloud, asking them to draw nearer, or to sit on an open branch, or to remain still for a moment. They seem to understand, as usually they comply with my request. Then I sense their inclination or state of mind more than their actual words. Sometimes, they plant a picture in my mind. But never before have I heard someone speak directly in my mind, telepathically, as the snow devil apparently did earlier when it informed me of their need of my help.”

Dragon squeezed Cleric’s hand. “That is a good place to start. Mayhap you should try speaking to the snow devils. That is, speak aloud to Mystery, but frame your words as if you were addressing the entities who seek your help. Perchance you will hear their answer in words, in your mind, as you did earlier, or perchance you will just sense their intent.”

Cleric nodded. “You offered to attempt to amplify the telepathic message from the snow devils. How will you achieve that?”

“I will try to add the telepathic power of my mind to the empathic power you seem to possess.” Dragon squeezed her friend’s hand again. “Are you ready to start?”

Cleric nodded again, and ran her tongue over her lips nervously. “Yes.”

* * *

Mystery and snow devilCleric and Dragon entered the stall. Cleric faced Mystery, and spoke as if she was talking to the little horse, but actually she was directing her words to the snow devils. “I believe you said you require my help. How can I help you? What is it you want of me?”

The snow devil hovering above Mystery’s head started to buzz. It sounded like an angry bee. Cleric listened intently, and clearly heard the entity’s silent words reverberate loudly in her mind.

We need your help to return to our own world.

Cleric gasped, and her eyes widened.

“Did they reply? Did you hear them?” Dragon placed her hand on Cleric’s arm, and studied her friend’s face.

Cleric nodded. “How can I help you return to your own word? How did you get here in the first place?”

That creature standing next to you, currently disguised as a maiden, and another like her caused us to be caught up in a magical conduit and brought to this place.

“What?” The color drained from Cleric’s face. “Then you do come from our world? You are . . . demons?”

No! We come from another world. You have nothing to fear from us. We are not demons. We are guardians.

“Guardians?”

Yes. We endeavor to protect the faithful followers and the favored creatures of one of the deities of our world. That is why we ask for your help. Our immortal is akin to the one you serve. She watches over many creatures in our world, but the noble horse is her most favored being. That is the reason we can communicate with you through this horse.

Elf facing rightCleric gaped at the snow devil. “I . . . I am not certain I understand. First of all, if you are not from our world, how did my friend and another like her cause you to be caught in a magical conduit? Second, how do you propose I help you return to your own world? And finally, where did this horse we have named Mystery come from? Did she come with you from your world?”

Elf cleric“Yes, I would be interested in hearing your explanation as well.” Dragon frowned and crossed her arms over her chest.

Cleric looked at her friend. “Did you hear them too, or are you just hearing my side of the conversation?”

“Only yours, but that is enough for me to comprehend their accusation. I would like to know just how they claim I was instrumental in bringing them here, especially if they are not even from our world!” Dragon turned toward the snow devil hovering over Mystery’s head. She glared at it through narrowed eyes, her jaw tight, and her mouth set in a hard line. From the expression on her friend’s face, Cleric knew if Dragon had been in her true form, she would have been snarling, and undoubtedly black smoke would have been spewing from her nostrils.

Mystery and snow devilsAs Dragon glared at the whirling column of snow and ice, the snow devils that had remained in the rafters descended and joined their comrade buzzing around Mystery. They made a variety of sounds, whirring, buzzing, humming, and droning, as they appeared to be engaged in animated discussion with one another. Mystery seemed oblivious to the activity just inches above her head. The little horse just kept munching her hay and feed, calmly and quietly.

Snow devil in barn 2Finally, one of the miniature snownadoes move forward, approaching Dragon and Cleric. Once again, Cleric heard a voice in her head.

Does the creature disguised as a maiden, now standing next to you, deny her guilt in bringing us here?

“I am sure she has no idea of what you speak!” Cleric frowned at the snow devil and crossed her arms over her chest. “But since you are obviously telepathic, why do you not ask her yourself?”

We do not deign to communicate with base creatures.

Cleric’s jaw dropped. “My friend is most certainly not a base creature! Verily, Dragon is the wisest, most intelligent, most powerful, and most honorable creature I have ever known! Even my deity acknowledged her as a superior being. Back when Dragon and I first met, my goddess granted her a boon, and gave me the knowledge and power to expedite Dragon’s escape from an evil magician!”

Dragon 2Dragon sputtered. “They label me a base creature?” Her eyes flashed, and her nostrils flared. In seconds, she shape-shifted into her true form. Dragon snarled at the snow devils, and a cloud of thick, black smoke erupted from her snout.

And you justify our allegation, creature. This time, Dragon heard the voice as clearly as did Cleric.

Cleric grabbed Dragon’s scaly arm. “Dragon, no! You must not let them anger you, my friend!”

“Anger? I am beyond anger. I am outraged! How dare they term me a base creature?” The large beast continued to snarl, and her tail lashed furiously.

“You must calm yourself. It matters not what they believe. Your honor, your power, your wisdom, and your intelligence have never been questioned by those who know you!”

Second snow devil in barnAnother of the snow devils separated from the group and approached Cleric and Dragon. Our position may be untenable. Understand, in our world those of your kind are no more than violent beasts. However, we must believe what the servant of the horse goddess has said. If the one she serves deigned to help you, creature, we must accept that our perception of you was in error, even though your actions seem to support our initial belief.

Dragon glared at the snow devil for many long moments. Finally, she hung her head. Her reptilian cheeks glowed red and her eyes were downcast. “I suppose I was acting a bit beastly.”

You were.

Cleric sighed, and addressed her companion. “Why do you not return to your customary guise? You might appear less . . . beastly. Then mayhap we can get to the bottom of this problem, and determine how best to rectify it.”

Yes, please . . . and we must hurry. We must release our hold on this horse before too much more time elapses; else she might never regain her wits.

Cleric’s eyes flew wide, and her jaw dropped. “Why? What have you done to this horse?”

Mystery and snow devils

What have the snow devils done to the little horse dubbed Mystery? Will these alien creatures learn to trust Dragon? Will Cleric and Dragon find a way to send the snow devils back to their own world? And what will happen to Mystery if these creatures depart? Be sure to come back next week and see what happens. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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