“What is Dragon’s problem?”
I looked up from my computer, and my husband leaned over and gave me a quick peck on the cheek before continuing. “I know she’s moody most days, but she’s really outdoing herself today.”
I put my finger over my lips, trying to signal Miles not to say any more, but he kept talking.
“Do you know she threatened me? Again! She told me she’s going to char my shoes with my feet still in them. She hasn’t said that in ages, and now she’s threatened me with it three times in the last hour!”
“Ah, honey . . . this may not be the best time to discuss this matter.” I inclined my head and my eyes darted toward the back of the room.
Miles looked over the mess and mayhem that was my office, and realized Dragon was standing next to the bookshelf in the alcove at the far end of the room. A toothy grimace spread across her reptilian face.
“Oops.” My husband turned bright red, then gulped. “I’m dead meat, aren’t I?”
Dragon put down the book she had been perusing, and fixed Miles with an icy stare. “I am not moody.”
Miles raised his eyebrows. “If you say so.”
“I do.” She walked toward him, closing the gap between them in two steps, incredibly not disturbing any of the precariously positioned clutter with her great bulk.
The huge beast towered over my husband. She leaned over, pushing her face right into his. She glared at him, nose to nose, for several long, agonizing moments, then straightened up and left the room without another word.
I jumped up and caught Miles by the arm and guided him into a chair as his legs turned to rubber. He looked at me, wide-eyed, with beads of sweat on his forehead. “Why didn’t you do something? She might have eaten me . . . or roasted me . . . or –”
“Oh, honey, Dragon would never harm you. She gets her giggles from intimidating you.” I gave him a peck on the cheek and affectionately tousled he hair. “Besides, it’s your own fault. I tried to tell you this was not a good time to talk about her.”
After he had calmed down, Miles got up and walked over to the door. He glanced into the hallway to make sure Dragon wasn’t standing there, listening. When he was certain the big beast had departed, he turned back to me. “So, what is her problem today?”
I sighed and dragged my hand through my hair. “She’s feeling guilty.”
“Why?” Miles sat down again.
“She believes that she’s responsible for the recent illness that incapacitated so many of her comrades.”
Miles furrowed his brow. “How could she be responsible?”
I shrugged. “She’s convinced herself, since she can’t find any other source of the malady, that it must have been introduced into our world by the snow devils. And, you remember, she’s the one who inadvertently captured them in her magical conduit and brought them here.”
Miles tilted his head and rubbed his chin. “How can she be sure the snow devils were the source of the illness?”
I sighed again. “I don’t think she is sure, but she’s desperate to find the cause. She fears that such a disease could strike again.”
Miles scoffed and shook his head. “Knowing where it came from isn’t going to prevent it from happening again. And, anyway, she could be wrong. The virus or bacteria causing the illness could have come from anywhere. Since it didn’t affect us, it could have been a common germ from our own world for which your characters had no immunity.”
“I know. I pointed that out to Dragon. She dismissed that argument, saying she and Cleric weren’t affected, either, so it couldn’t have been a germ from this world. She thinks her explanation makes the most sense.” I sighed again. “Dragon is all too ready to assume blame for the whole incident. So, cut her some slack. Be nice to her or avoid her for a while until this all blows over.”
“And maybe I should invest in some fireproof shoes, in case I can’t stay out of her way?” Miles winked at me and left.
Two hours later, Cleric knocked on the door. “Mistress? Master Miles requested me to ask you if you could assist him upstairs.”
I looked up. “Uh, sure. Just let me save this story I’ve been working on.”
Cleric crossed the room and looked over my shoulder at the computer. “What are you writing about?”
“Oh, it’s just a silly kid’s story, with talking animals.”
“Oh, that sounds delightful! May I read it?”
“Well, it’s nowhere near finished yet, but sure, you can read it next time I work on it – probably sometime this afternoon, after I finish helping Miles.” I tilted my head and winked at Cleric. “Maybe you could even help me write it.”
About a half-hour later, I called down the stairs to Cleric, “I’ve got to go out for a while. Miles and I need to do some shopping. I’ll see you when I get home.
* * *
Cleric paced back and forth in the hallway outside my office door. She chewed on her bottom lip and wrung her hands. She scuffed her foot back and forth and straightened her robes. She walked to the foot of the stairs and looked up, staring as if willing me to walk in the front door. After a few minutes, she sighed and walked back to my office. She stood there for a few more moments before entering the room.
Mistress Writer will not mind if I look at the story without her being present. Cleric looked at my computer and hesitated. I have watched the Gypsy activate this machine countless times, when we characters used to sneak in here and read Mistress Writer’s manuscripts and look at her photographs. Now, how did he do it? She began to tap on the keyboard.
* * *
“Let’s try to get these groceries inside and put away as quickly as possible. I promised Cleric she could read that children’s story I’ve been working on, and I know she’ll be chomping at the bit.” I took two bags from the trunk of the car and headed for the door.
Miles grabbed two more bags and followed close behind. “Okay, but let’s be careful. I don’t want to run into Dragon.”
We reached the kitchen with no sign of Dragon. We placed the bags on the counter and started to go back for the rest of the groceries. As we walked through the living room, we were almost knocked over. My Old Dwarf came tearing past us, yelling, cussing, and waving his battle axe, in pursuit of a rabbit.
“Ye be commin’ back here, ye consarned varmit! How did ye be gittin’ in the hoose, anywho?”
I grabbed my Old Dwarf as he made a second pass, chasing the rabbit around the room.
“Whoa! What are you doing? Put that axe down!”
“Yeah, ya big bully! Put that axe down!” The rabbit turned and scolded my Old Dwarf.
My jaw dropped.
Miles grabbed my arm. “D . . . did that rabbit just say something?” My husband gaped at the small, white creature, who hopped over to stand in front of him.
“Hey, bub, don’t cha know it’s rude ta stare?”
I sighed. “Okay, not funny. Where’s my Arrogant One?”
“You mean this is one of the elf’s illusions?” Miles wiped his brow and looked relieved.
“It must be.” I frowned.
“Hey, sista, do I look like an illusion?” The rabbit thumped her hind foot and glared at me.
I turned to my Old Dwarf. “Find the elf.”
He nodded curtly and took off for the garden shed.
I heard footsteps behind me and turned to see Sorceress walking up the stairs. She nodded a greeting to Miles and me and walked over to stand with us. She crossed her arms over her chest and stared at the rabbit, who was now wandering around, inspecting the room. “I see you have met our visitor.”
I nodded, still frowning. “How long has she been here?”
“I am not sure, but some of her friends are in the conference room.” She raised an eyebrow and grimaced.
“Well, I just sent my Old Dwarf in search of my Arrogant One. As soon as the elf is here, he can get rid of the visitors.”
“Oh, these are not the elf’s illusions.” Sorceress shook her head.
“Then what?” My frown deepened.
“Toldja, sista. I ain’t no illusion!” The rabbit was standing in front of me again, a smug look on her furry little face.
“Then where did you come from?” As I realized what I said, I snorted and shook my head. “I don’t believe I’m trying to have a conversation with a rabbit.”
“Why not?” The rabbit looked insulted.
“Rabbits don’t talk.”
“Oh yeah?” The smug creature grinned.
I turned back to Sorceress. “You said this was not one of my Arrogant One’s illusions. So, where did a talking rabbit come from, and why is she here?”
“I think you best seek those answers from Cleric.”
Before I could inquire about Cleric’s part in all this, my Old Dwarf came back in, dragging my Arrogant One by the collar. The elf was screeching in his normal glass-shattering pitch. “Let go of me! I demand you release me this instant, you oaf!”
“As ye be wishin’, elfie.” The old reprobate deposited the elf at my feet.
“Sorry, we apparently don’t need him after all. I’ve been informed the rabbit, and several other visitors, are not his illusions.”
“Oh, well. No harm be done ’em.”
“No harm? Why you . . .”
But we didn’t get to hear what my Arrogant One had to say. At that moment, a large deer bolted up the stairs, wailing. “My baby! That beast is going to barbecue my baby!”
Miles jumped back out of the deer’s way, pulling me with him. He gaped at the panicky animal, then turned to me. He looked almost as panicked as the deer. “Honey? What’s going on?”
Over the wailing and bleating of the deer, I shouted, “Why don’t we go down to the conference room and try to find out?”
The deer snorted and galloped down the stairs, the rabbit hot on her heels. Miles, Sorceress, and I followed at a more dignified pace. After a moment’s hesitation, my Old Dwarf grabbed my Arrogant One by the collar and ran after us, dragging the screeching elf behind him.
I stopped dead just inside the doorway of the conference room. On the one side of the room were the deer, the rabbit, a fawn, a trio of baby raccoons, and some baby birds. On the other side of the room was Dragon, glaring at the assembled animals and spewing black smoke. Cleric was in the middle, facing Dragon. Her arms and legs were spread wide, as if shielding the animals from Dragon, and tears were streaming down her face.
“Ya bedda do sometin’ quick, sista! Ya got yerself a baaaad situation here!” The rabbit hopped over and stood next to me. “Ya ain’t gonna let that there big, scaly brute barbecue us poor, defenseless little animals, now are ya?”
“What in the name of Sam Hill is going on here? Where did these animals come from?”
At my explosive outburst, everyone turned and stared at me. For a long few moments, you could hear a pin drop. Then chaos broke loose as Cleric, Dragon, and all the animals started talking at once.
Where did these animals come from? What part did Cleric have in their appearance? Why does Dragon want to barbecue them? Be sure to come back next week and see how this baaaad situation is resolved. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.