The sun didn’t last, either with the weather or with my character’s dispositions. The day after I had taken the nature hike with my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter
(https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/10/07/colorful-autumn-nature-walk/), the weather turned cool, overcast and gloomy again. Tempers returned to hot and fractious.
My Bounty Hunter raised his voice and waved his hands about in frustration. “Master Miles has purchased all the materials we need – roofing tiles, nails, tar paper. He has shown us where the ladders and hammers are. There is no excuse to further delay this work.”
“Just how do you propose to fix the shed roof in this weather?” My Arrogant One all but snarled at his companion.
My Bounty Hunter narrowed his eyes. “I propose to go out there and work hard at it and get it done before the rain starts again this afternoon. However, I would expect you to do it the same way you would do it in any weather. You will either attempt to accomplish the task through your usual chicanery and sleight of hand, or you will have someone else do the work for you, as always.”
“Chicanery? Sleight of hand?” My Arrogant One’s cheeks flamed. He drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and grasped his cloak in both hands. “I do not use chicanery! I am a master magician. I can repair that roof using my extraordinary power and no one will ever be the wiser!”
My Bounty Hunter snorted. “You tried that last week, remember? The roof with your magically accomplished repairs leaked worse than it had before!”
Having overheard the heated exchange, I shook my head and decided the wisest thing to do was to ignore the two quibblers and let them sort out their own differences.
An hour later, I glanced out the back door. The clouds had dispersed, and I was pleased to see my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter hard at work on the shed roof repairs. While I was watching them, some songbirds came up and started eating from the feeders on the deck. I ran to get my camera.
When I got back, the little birds were gone and one of the neighborhood crows we had dubbed Charlie perched on the deck railing. I slowly opened the door and eased myselfonto the deck. “Hey, Charlie! Wanna pose for me, big guy?”
Charlie reluctantly posed for one quick shot. Then he decided it would be more fun to go join his friends and harass my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter while they worked on the shed roof. I chuckled.
With the big birds at a safe distance, some of the smaller backyard denizens quickly returned to check out the food supply on the deck.
A Black-capped Chickadee landed on the bottom of the railing. Pausing just long enough to make sure the crows were still occupied, it quickly hopped over to grab some safflower seeds from the bowl.
One of a pair of White-breasted Nuthatches soon replaced the chickadee at the bowl while the other one checked out the pile of seed at the other end of the deck.
A juvenile Red-winged Blackbird visited one of the feeding stations while two others posed for me, showing off their beautiful brown-and-gold edged black feathers.
Some American Goldfinches, transitioning to their muted winter plumage, were glad to pose for me between snacks, while others watched from a nearby tree.
Three House Finches – two males and one female – with seed shells still clinging to their beaks, paused to let me snap a few quick images.
I was surprised to see a young Northern Cardinal, barely past the fledgling stage, come up on the deck to check things out. I quickly scanned the yard and saw its mom and dad in one of the hanging feeders.
I descended the stairs to the yard. A female Red-bellied Woodpecker checked me out from a tree trunk on the opposite side of the yard. Deciding I was no threat, she swooped down and plucked a safflower seed from the hanging feeder. One of the White-breasted Nuthatches walked, head-first, down another tree trunk, eyeing the feeder.
Some Dark-eyed Juncos foraging in the leaf litter near the deck eyed me warily as I stalked them with my camera.
A young Eastern Gray Squirrel watched me suspiciously from a tree but ran down quickly enough when I offered him a handful of grapes. He snatched them from me and hungrily munched a few right away before taking another to the safety of his tree.
An Eastern Chipmunk, his cheeks bulging, let me take a few shots before he scampered away in the direction of the shed.
I followed him, hoping to get some more photos. I was just about to take another photo when I heard my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter arguing again.
“I’ll just shrink it all. It will make it much easier to haul up the ladder.” Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my Arrogant One raise his staff.
My Bounty Hunter shook his head and sneered at his companion. “The illusion of a smaller load will not make it any lighter.”
“Oh, this is not an illusion. This is a spell I learned from a wizard. It actually shrinks the object, reducing the mass and the weight.” The elf waved his staff.
The next thing I knew, I was eye-level with the chipmunk I was photographing.
For several long minutes, I was frozen in place, staring through the camera’s viewfinder at the tiny creature who was staring back at tiny me. Then I dropped to the ground, my rubbery legs unable to support me.
“What just happened?” I jumped at the sound of my own voice, which suddenly trilled like a chipmunk on helium.
The chipmunk scooted up a tree and sat on a low branch, eyeing me and chirping its high-pitched staccato alarm.
I scowled at the noisy little critter. “Hey, what are you complaining about? I’m the one who’s suddenly five inches tall instead of my normal just-shy-of-five feet!” I winced at the sound of my squeaking.
I rubbed the back of my neck. What had happened to me? I remembered my Arrogant One’s words . . . the ones he had said right before he waved his staff. Oh, this is not an illusion. This is a spell I learned from a wizard. It actually shrinks the object, reducing the mass and the weight.
I blinked. Then I blinked again. Could I be the victim of a spell gone awry?
I rose on shaky legs and looked around, trying to get my bearings. All I could see was grass. I stood on my tippy-toes and looked up. Craning my neck, I saw the shed off to my right. Climbing through the jungle-like growth, I tried to make my way there. I needed to get my Arrogant One to put this to rights, and quickly!
I got to the ladder and stopped dead. I looked up at the ladder ascending to the shed roof. I looked up . . . and up . . . and up. Then I lost my balance and toppled over, landing on my . . . well, let’s just say I did not land in a dignified manner.
I picked myself up, dusted off the seat of my jeans, and considered the situation. The ladder was full-sized. I was chipmunk sized, but without the climbing ability of a rodent. How was I going to get my Arrogant One’s attention? I frowned and started jumping up and down and calling. “Hey! Hey, elf! Down here! Hey! Can you hear me?”
Again, my voice was akin to a chirping bird or a squeaking mouse. The only one whose attention I caught was Charlie the crow. I gave up and decided to try walking back to the house. It suddenly looked as if it were miles away! How many hours – or days, even – would it take me to fight my way across the yard through grass that now varied from waist-high to shoulder-high for me?
I hadn’t gotten very far when Charlie swooped down and landed right in front of me. The big crow eyed me curiously, and for a moment it looked as if I might become a birdie snack.
“Whoa, Charlie. It’s me – the one who always makes sure you have plenty of corn to eat!” The large bird cocked his head and stared at me. I couldn’t blame him, since I was doing more squeaking than speaking.
Suddenly, the huge bird cawed, an explosion of sound that blasted my miniscule eardrums. I covered my ears and yelled. Actually, I squeaked some more, but louder and with more panic in my voice. “Go away! Get out of here! Go on, Charlie! Scram!”
Luckily, Charlie took the hint. He flew off toward the house, cawing urgently.
I started off again, trying to make my way back to the house. As I walked, I became aware of a noise behind me, a thudding that was growing increasingly louder. I looked over my shoulder and saw two horses walking straight at me. My heart started racing, and I could hardly breathe. As the horses bore down on me, I started running, right past a startled rabbit.
The rabbit bolted, spooking the horses into a gallop. I tripped in the tall grass and lost my bearings. I headed off in another direction, and luckily fell into a shallow hole, just as one of the horse’s hooves came down right where I had just been standing.
After a few minutes, I pulled myself up and tried to get out of the shallow depression. Well, it would have been shallow – it would have been hardly noticeable – had I been my normal size. As it happened, however, I was approximately the size of a chipmunk . . . a very small chipmunk . . . so it took me a few minutes to struggle out of the hole once the horses had moved away.
As soon as I was out of the hole, and I had caught my breath, I got my bearings again and headed toward the house. I looked around warily, hoping no other creatures would spy me trudging through the tall grass.
It seemed like hours later that I stood at the edge of the rock-strewn garden. I stopped to catch my breath. I grinned, congratulating myself for making it the length of the yard without being squashed by a horse or becoming a mid-day snack for any of the critters.
As I stood there, my grin slowly faded. Maybe I had congratulated myself a little too soon. A snake was slithering in my direction. I froze in abject terror. I knew I couldn’t outrun a snake. And if there was another hole nearby, it wouldn’t be much help, as the snake could just follow me right into it. I was a goner!
Just as I convinced myself I was destined to perish in the stomach of a snake, Charlie swooped down, cawing loudly and chasing off my would-be attacker. Then a soft hand reached down and grabbed me.
Cleric held me gently. “Charlie alerted me to your danger. How did you come to be in this predicament?”
I rubbed the back of my neck and sighed. “I’m not positive, but I believe I became collateral damage when my Arrogant One cast a shrinking spell on the material he and my Bounty Hunter were hauling up onto the shed roof.”
Cleric gasped. “Well, it appears they have finished their repairs and are gathering up their tools and supplies. We shall inform the elf of this calamity and have him reverse the spell immediately.” She squared her shoulders, made sure she had a good grasp on me, and marched toward the shed.
“Out of the way!” My Arrogant One bumped into Cleric as he and my Bounty Hunter struggled to take the ladder down from the side of the shed.
Cleric frowned and refused to be pushed aside. “Wait! You have caused a problem, and you must correct it at once!”
“What problem?” My Arrogant One sneered.
In reply, Cleric held out her hand. My Arrogant One’s eyes widened, but my Bounty Hunter snickered. I skewered him with my narrow-eyed glare.
“Wha . . . what happened?” The elf backed away, his eyes growing as large as saucers.
“Evidently, Mistress Writer was caught by your shrinking spell.” Cleric scowled at the elf. “You must reverse the spell.”
My Arrogant One’s eyes grew so wide, I though his eyeballs were going to pop right out of his head. “But . . . but . . .” He swallowed hard. “I cannot reverse the spell.”
“What?” I shrieked in my little chipmunk-on-helium voice.
“What?” Cleric echoed in a more understandable tone.
“I already reversed the spell on the roofing materials, once we hauled them up onto the roof. I cannot reverse a spell twice.”
“If you reversed the spell already, why am I still this size?” I crossed my arms over my chest and glowered at the elf.
The elf’s cheeks flamed. “I . . . I surmise you were in the path of the original shrinking spell, but not in the path of the reversal spell.”
My Bounty Hunter snickered. “I would say you have a small problem.”
I scowled at him.
Cleric stared at my Arrogant One. “So, what do you propose to do?”
“I do not know.” My Arrogant One stroked his chin and considered the problem. After a few moments, he turned to my Bounty Hunter. “Go find Sorceress and Dragon. Mayhap they will have an idea how to deal with this.”
Still snickering, my Bounty Hunter nodded and sauntered away.
What seemed like a lifetime later, he returned with Dragon, in her guise of an elf maiden, along with Sorceress, and my Gypsy. “I brought all the magic users. I thought you could use all the help you could get. I have already explained to them that you have a small problem.”
I glared at him. “That joke wasn’t funny the first time.”
While my Arrogant One, Cleric, Sorceress, and my Gypsy argued over the best way to return me to my own size, Dragon shape-shifted back to her true form. She sniffed me, then went over to my Arrogant One and started sniffing him.
“What are you doing?” The elf turned scarlet and batted at Dragon. “Get away from me, you vile beast!”
“Be silent and remain still.” Dragon took a few more sniffs. Then she smiled a toothy grin and turned to address us all. “Magic has a distinctive odor. Each spell will have subtle aromatic indicators, easily detectable by a dragon’s superior sense of smell.”
“Then you know how to reverse the spell?” I looked at her hopefully.
“No. As the elf told you, the spell has already been reversed. It cannot be reversed a second time.”
My face fell. I fired a barrage of questions at Dragon, who held up her hand to stop me. “The original spell cannot be reversed again, but I am able to weave and cast a new spell that will have the same result as a reversal spell.”
“Will it take very . . .?”
I hadn’t even finished asking my question when Dragon waved her hand and mumbled a few unintelligible words. Poof! I was standing there, back at my full four-feet-ten-and-a-half-inches, slightly breathless but grinning ear-to-ear.
That night, Miles asked me how my day had been. I raised an eyebrow. “Not bad. I just had one small problem.”
Be sure to join us again next week for further adventures and misadventures. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.