A Shocking Discovery

A Shocking Discovery

pic 1Dragon growled, and acrid black smoke spewed from her reptilian nostrils. “What do you mean, the Lord of the Forest has disappeared? When did this happen? What have you done to find him?”

sir daniverSir Daniver sighed and leaned wearily on his shield. “It was several months ago when we first became aware of his absence. We were out patrolling our realm. We took the tree-lined avenue to where we first encountered you and your companions. We could see immediately things had changed. While the trails leading to the right and left appeared the same, still impassable, we were unable to find the trail that leads to the unicorn’s meadow.”

Sir Jenneseer“You undoubtedly recall I had confided in you that my sister is a hedge witch.” Sir Jenneseer’s voice was soft. He blushed scarlet and waited until Dragon nodded, then he continued. “We consulted her, and she used her limited magic to try to find the unicorn. When she was unable to determine what had happened, she sought assistance from some who are more powerful in their craft. They, too, were baffled.”

Sir Hrolf“Every day since our discovery, we have searched the entire realm for any sign of the mystical being.” Sir Hrolf made a sweeping gesture toward the castle and surrounding lands. “We have recruited others from our own fiefdom, and from our neighboring kingdoms, to aid us in our quest. We assure you, great and noble beast, we will not cease in our efforts until we find the unicorn or learn his fate.”

“Perhaps you would be more successful finding him.” Sir Jenneseer looked at Dragon hopefully. “Your power is greater than any in this world, apart from the unicorn himself.”

Dragon nodded. “If you cannot find the trail to his meadow, am I correct in assuming the neighboring realms have vanished as well? Those claimed by Medal`av`alia and the mermaid queen, Esmie?”

The ranking knight nodded sadly. “We can find no way into their queendoms, nor into the kingdom of the royal swan, King Mēzän. Where once the trails to those realms could be found behind the brush tangle, now there is no tangle. There is only a set of stone steps leading nowhere.”

Dragon frowned. “I will take to the air to search. You fetch your mounts and return to the convergence of the trails and the stone steps. I will meet you there.”

Before Dragon could move, the Arrogant One drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and grasped his cloak with both hands. “I will go nowhere save to look for the evil wish listener. I need to regain control over my power!” He gave Dragon a petulant look. “You promised to help me. We have no time to go off on another quest.”

dragon fireDragon’s eyes narrowed, and flames erupted from her maw. The elf dove behind the apple tree, out of the path of the deadly inferno. “Understand this, elf.” Dragon grabbed him and thrust her face to within inches of his. “Finding the Lord of the Forest is infinitely more important than solving your little problem. You will come with us now and aid in the search or your ashes will remain here forever.”

The Arrogant One’s eyes almost popped from his head, and his legs would not support him when the huge beast shoved him away. He fell to the side of the road as limp as a wet towel, whimpering and mewling like a scared child.

Sir Hrolf scowled. He reached down and grasped the elf by the arm, pulling him up. “The beast is right. Your problem pales in comparison to the disappearance of the Lord of the Forest. Come. You will assist us in our quest to find him.”

Still trembling, the elf nodded dumbly. He allowed the knights to lead him along the road toward the castle as Dragon took flight, heading in the opposite direction.

Arrogant OneBy the time the knights, with the elf in tow, arrived back at their castle, the elf had regained some of his composure and all his arrogance. “You go along, like puppets whose strings are pulled by the dragon’s talons. I will not. I will search for the evil wish listener and question him regarding my loss of control over my power. I will get the answers I seek while you waste your time on a quest that has no reward for me.”

“No reward for you?” Sir Daniver rounded on the elf. His face was as red as Dragon’s scales, and his voice shook the timbers of the castle. The elf wilted under his murderous gaze.

“You are not from this world.” Sir Jenneseer waved his hand dismissively at the Arrogant One. “You do not understand how important it is to find the Lord of the Forest .”

Sir Hrolf snorted. “The popinjay thinks nothing is as important as his own concerns. Foolish elf!”

The Arrogant One blushed, but still drew himself up haughtily. “The affairs of your world hold no interest or meaning for me. As you say, I am from another world. All that matters to me is discovering whether the cause of my affliction lies within this world. If it does, I wish to find a remedy and return whence I came.”

Sir Hrolf scoffed. “Mayhap the disappearance of the unicorn is somehow connected to your own affliction. By helping find the Lord of the Forest, you might help yourself.”

unicornSeeing the Arrogant One was unconvinced, Sir Jenneseer placed a hand on the elf’s arm. “Even if the two incidents are not connected, if your affliction originated in this world, then the Lord of the Forest is your best chance for remedy. As I stated to the Great Wyrm, the unicorn’s power is unrivaled. Help us find the mystical creature, for he might have the answers you seek.”
small figure on trail
The elf narrowed his eyes and stroked his chin. “Very well. But if we do not find him by sundown, I will leave this company and strike out on my own to seek the evil wish listener.”

The knights grumbled their displeasure with that idea, but the elf remained adamant. The group quickly saddled four of the swiftest chargers in the stable and departed without further discussion.

By the time the three knights and the elf had made their way back to the convergence of the three trails and the stone steps, the midday sun was directly overhead. They looked all around, but there was no sign of Dragon.

“Mayhap that is a good omen.” Sir Daniver looked hopefully at his companions. “Mayhap she has found the Lord of the Forest.”

The elf sneered. “Or, mayhap she has suffered the same fate as the unicorn.”

It was another hour before they spotted Dragon flying erratically toward them. As she landed, she cart-wheeled several times end over end before coming to rest in a heap. The knights could see she had suffered serious wounds. There were tears in the membrane of her right wing, her left wing was in tatters, her left arm was bent at an unnatural angle, and blood flowed from three long gashes running the length of her left side where her scales had been ripped away.
injured dragon
The three knights ran to her, and gently turned her to lie on her uninjured side. The ranking knight examined her wounds. “Noble beast, who or what did this to you?”
green dragon
It took Dragon several minutes before she was able to answer. Panting and wheezing, she forced out the words. “It was another of my kind . . . a large, green drake with leathery wings . . . horns upon his head, spikes down his back . . . and a spiked ball at the end of his tail.”

“Another of your kind?” Sir Daniver gasped, and all three knights gaped at her, disbelief in their eyes.

The elf narrowed his eyes and tilted his head. “Why is that so shocking? If the beast foolishly wandered into another dragon’s territory, it would stand to reason it might attack.”

Sir Daniver shook his head. “You do not understand! Other than your companion here, and the army of illusory dragons you helped create when we were mounting a defense of our castle, there have been no dragons on this world for the past millennia.”

* * *

dwarfMy Old Dwarf paced the length and breadth of the conference room. He kept punching his one fist into the palm of his other hand, muttering and grumbling, and throwing angry looks at me.

“Would you please calm down?” I stared at the dwarf. “Sit!” I pointed at a chair.

When the dwarf made no move to heed my bidding, my husband walked over and placed his hands on my Old Dwarf’s shoulders, guided him to the seat, and pushed him down. The dwarf sprang back up so fast, he looked like a jack-in-the-box.

“Ye shouldna e’er been lettin’ tha beastie be goin’ alone!”
Backyard 050
I frowned at the dwarf and crossed my arms over my chest. “She isn’t alone. She has my Arrogant One with her.”

“Thet be worse’n alone!” The old reprobate started pacing again.

Bounty Hunter“I agree with the dwarf.” My Bounty Hunter spoke softly, but there was fire in his eyes. “You should not have allowed them to leave without the rest of us accompanying them. I told you as much already.”

“I know you did.” I heaved a huge sigh.

Elf“Why did you allow them to go without us, Mistress?” Cleric wrung her hands. “We would have gladly gone and helped.”

“Would you have?” I raked my hand through my hair. “Would any of you have lifted a finger to assist my Arrogant One?”
sorceress-facing-right
Sorceress gave me a sullen look. “While few if any of us would risk ourselves for the elf, Dragon is our friend. We would have gone to aid her.”

My Foreman, my Young Hero, and my Gypsy all agreed.

“I jes’ be knowin’ tha beastie be in trouble.” My Old Dwarf looked at me, his red-rimmed eyes glistening with unshed tears. “I jes’ be knowin’ she be.” He started blubbering.

I placed my hand on the dwarf’s shoulder and spoke gently. “Look, I’m sorry. Maybe I made the wrong decision, but it was Dragon herself who said she and the elf should go alone.” I sighed again. “Anyway, it’s a moot point now. I have no idea where she and the elf are, or how to find them.”

“Why do ye na jes’ be askin’ tha you-nee-corn?”

“What?”

“Be askin’ tha you-nee-corn.” My Old Dwarf pointed.

I turned and gaped at the shimmering image of the Lord of the Forest standing in the middle of the room, in front of Dragon’s illusory fireplace.

unicorn

Why has the Lord of the Forest disappeared from his world, and why has a strange dragon appeared there? Is the unicorn here to lead us to Dragon and my Arrogant One? Will we find them before it is too late to help them? Be sure to come back next week and see what happens. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Searching for the Answer

Searching for the Answer

secret trailwide-eyedI stood staring at the spot on the snow-spattered rock steps where Dragon and my Arrogant One had been standing less than three seconds previous. I blinked, rubbed my eyes, and stared some more. They were gone. Without fanfare. Without a clap of thunder or a flash of lightning. Without a puff of smoke. Without tracks in the snow leading away from the spot where they had stood. And without me having the foggiest idea where they had gone, or how to find them.

Had the wish listeners heard them and granted their wish, transporting them into the other world? Or had something more nefarious captured them and taken them who-knows-where for purposes about which I could only guess?

I started to walk toward the stone steps to examine the area, but I stopped. Dragon’s words drifted back to me. Go home. I do not wish you to become entangled in any unforeseen events here.

Would I become entangled if I inspected the area? If the wish listeners had transported Dragon and the elf, I doubted I would be in any danger of also being transported. However, if some other entity had abducted my characters, I might also fall victim if I remained in the area.

I sighed and rubbed the back of my neck. Discretion is the better part of valor, I decided. Besides, Dragon was more than capable of taking care of herself and the elf. I turned and walked as quickly as I could through the snow, back to where the car was parked. The drive home was interminable.

* * *

dragon and arrogant one on stepsThe elf jumped. “What happened? Where are we?” He looked around at the lush green vegetation and felt the summery-warm breeze on his face. “Is this the place we seek?”

Dragon looked around. From their position half-way up the rocky stairway she saw a familiar trail at the bottom of the steps. She could see the trail branched off in three directions. To the right, the road was choked by protruding tree roots. To the left, the path was lined with boulders. Straight ahead, a wide avenue passed under a canopy of trees.

Wide avenue

A toothy smile spread across her reptilian face. “I believe we have been granted our boon. It appears we have been transported back to the world to which the wish listeners had taken us more than a half-year ago.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/05/

The Arrogant One visibly relaxed, then wrinkled his nose. “Oh, yes, I recognize it now.” He flicked a few specks of dust and pollen from his sleeve. “How do you recommend we proceed?”

stepsDragon descended the steps and beckoned the elf to follow. “I am sure you remember as well as I do that the left and right trails are impassable. And the center trail leads to the knight’s reclaimed castle.” Dragon paused and rubbed her chin with her taloned hand. After a few moments, she turned and looked back at the stairs. She blinked several times. “They should not be there.”

“What do you mean? The steps?” The elf sneered. “We just walked down those steps. Of course, they should be there.”

Dragon shook her head. “Do you not remember? After we descended the stairs last time, they disappeared. An almost impenetrable tangle of brush took their place. Once the Old Dwarf had chopped through that, we found other paths in place of the steps. We wandered for many hours before finding another set of steps by a stream. That was where we met Medal`av`alia, who claimed to be queen of these lands.”

The elf furrowed his brow. “Yes, I do remember that now. And she sent us back to speak with a talking tortoise, some fairy folk, and various other creatures.” The look on the Arrogant One’s face clearly showed how little he cared.

But Dragon nodded and continued. “And they sent us on to the mermaid queen, Esmie, and her strange minions – Baalizhene, Gobschlerck, and Dyrke.”

 

The elf scowled and spoke peevishly. “Yes, yes, and then we met Esmie’s daughter, Crown Princess of the realm Eloise. She in turn introduced us to her friend, the royal swan king, Mēzän. And then the mer-child sent us to meet the Forest King, who sent us back to aid the knights.” The Arrogant One sneered and crossed his arms over his chest. “But what does that have to do with our reason for being here now?”

Dragon snorted an acrid cloud of black smoke at the elf. “I am attempting to remember all with whom we came into contact here in this realm. Mayhap that will help us discern who might be behind your loss of control over your power, which, in turn, might point us in the direction we must proceed.”

The elf shrugged. “It matters not, since there is only one trail open.” He started to walk down the center path, under the canopy of stately trees.

dragon stops the elf“Wait.” Dragon scrambled after him and grabbed his arm. “If the trail that led us to Medal`av`alia and the others is gone, then we should inspect the two trails that were not open the last time we were here. Perhaps they have changed as well. Perhaps they are now passable.”

The elf snorted. “Even if one or both trails are now open, what difference does that make? We were never on those trails before, so the cause of my affliction could not be down one of those trails, now could it?” He pulled away from Dragon and continued walking.

Dragon glared at the back of the departing elf, and smoke started drifting from her snout, but after a few moments, she followed him.

It took several hours for the two companions to make their way along the tree-lined path. The ancient timbers leaned toward each other across the path, their branches forming a canopy overhead, shielding the travelers from the hot midday sun.

As they walked, Dragon appeared wary, and she continued to study their surroundings. “I do not remember this trail being so long last time.”

Her companion shrugged. “Hmmm. Mayhap you are correct. I do not recall. By the time we reached this point in our odyssey, I had lost all sense of time and distance.”

At the end of the twin line of trees, the road continued for several miles through open fields before starting the gentle ascent into the rolling hillside. As the two companions rounded a bend in the road, they stopped dead in their tracks, stunned by what they saw.

Where once stood the ruins of an ancient castle, defended only by a trio of gallant knights, there now stood a fine stronghold with a bustling population.

“Mayhap I should shape-shift.” Dragon stared at the towering structures that rose from the lush, green hills. “We have no way of knowing what sort of welcome a wyrm might receive from the residents of yon citadel.”

The Arrogant One nodded. “And mayhap we should camp here for the night. The sun hangs low in the sky now, almost kissing the horizon. It would be dark before we could complete the trek to the castle gates.”

Dragon shimmered, shape-shifting this time into a red-haired archer in forest-green travel garb. “Come. We will go back around the bend in the road, so we can spend the night unobserved by any castle guards.”

The duo set camp and dined on apples from a nearby tree before retiring for the night.

* * *

“What ho!”

The sky was already brightening when a loud voice invaded Dragon’s slumber, startling her awake. Dragon pulled herself to a sitting position and looked around, her mind still befogged with sleep. Her companion yelped as several other voices called out. In an instant, three knights had come up behind Dragon and the Arrogant One.

guests

“Fear not! We dost mean thee no harm!”

sir daniverDragon smiled, recognizing the voice of Sir Daniver, the commander of the trio of knights she and her companions had helped on their last foray into these lands.

Sir Daniver’s two companions, whom Dragon recalled as Sir Hrolf and Sir Jenneseer, quickly drew their swords and positioned themselves as if to defend Dragon and her elfin companion from some unseen menace.Sir Jenneseer 2Sir Hrolf

The ranking knight greeted them. “Hail and well met, travelers. Why dost thou camp here in the open when the protection of yon castle can be claimed a stone’s throw farther along this trail?”

“We did not realize travelers in this realm needed protection, Sir Daniver.” Dragon’s eyes twinkled at the knight’s confused look.

“Have we met, milady?”

“We have.” Dragon quickly assumed her true form, startling the two younger knights, who fell back onto their rumps in the grass.

“Friend Dragon!” A wide and welcoming grin split Daniver’s face. “Get up, you fools!” The commander reached down and helped his two officers to their feet. “It is the dragon who helped us defend our castle, and the popinjay is with her! Welcome, my friends!” He looked around quickly. “But where are the rest of your companions?”

dragon talkingDragon quickly explained why only she and the elf had returned to this realm. “Do you think you could help us discover who might be behind the elf’s affliction?”

Sir Daniver frowned. “I canst make no promises, but we shalt give all the aid we can.”

“Sir, perhaps our friends should consult the wish listeners.” Sir Hrolf addressed his superior.

wish listeners

Dragon looked to the ranking knight. “If the wish listeners are still around, we would, indeed, like to consult them.”

“They are still around.” He smiled. “They were so distraught at the misery they hadst caused, they granted us wishes we hadst not even yet made! They art responsible for presenting us with a grand citadel, and for its growing population of loyal serfs and vassals, all of whom have sworn allegiance to our flag.”

arrogant-one-facing-rightsmall figure on trail“What of the evil one?” The elf finally spoke. “I would not put it past him to be behind my misfortune.”

“Do you not remember?” Sir Jenneseer frowned. “The Lord of the Forest stripped that one of his power and exiled him from this land.”

“I remember.” The Arrogant One scowled. “But someone stripped of power can oft regain that power. I think we should look for him.”

Sir Daniver chewed his lower lip for a few moments, then nodded. “We shalt enquire of the goodly wish listeners. Perchance they know of his whereabouts.”

Dragon nodded. “If not, mayhap the Lord of the Forest might help us?”unicorn 2

Sir Daniver sighed and shook his head. “We know not what hath happened to him, but the Lord of the Forest hath disappeared.”

Dragon looked dumbstruck.

* * *

Bounty HunterBackyard 050“You just left them there? You didn’t stay to see what happened?” My Bounty Hunter glared at me.

I frowned. “I saw what happened. I told you – they disappeared.”

My Bounty Hunter started pacing. “We never should have allowed them to go alone! We should have gone with them, given them help and protection!”

I snorted. “I’m sure Dragon is more than capable of protecting herself and my Arrogant One.”

“And how long do we wait before going after them?”

I felt my face fall. I raked my hand through my hair, and replied in a voice raw with emotion. “I don’t know that we can go after them. I don’t know for sure where they went.”

My Bounty Hunter looked dumbstruck.

Will Dragon and my Arrogant One find answers in the other world? Will they return safely to this world? Be sure to come back next week to see what happens. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Will This Work?

Will This Work?

miles for blog 2 003dragon, elf, and me“He actually cried?” My husband’s eyes widened as he listened to my description of my meeting with my Arrogant One and Dragon.

https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/12/23/will-dragon-help/

I nodded.

“Wow! I always thought the elf had no feelings. He’s always so pompous, so snide, so aloof, so . . . so . . .”

“So arrogant?” I quirked an eyebrow.

“Exactly!” Miles took a few more minutes to digest the idea that my Arrogant One did, indeed, have feelings, even if those feelings were rather ego-centric. “So.” He finally looked at me again, his brow furrowed. “What are you going to do?”

“I thought I’d give Dragon a day or two to think about it, then approach her again . . . this time, sans elf.”

* * *

supervisingAlmost three weeks later, Miles was supervising a group of my characters. They were helping him with the removal and storage of the Christmas decorations when I walked into the family room, a room which had grown to take over the space usually occupied by the conference room.

My Gypsy and my Young Hero were taking down the decorations. Cleric and Sorceress were wrapping them and placing them in boxes. My Foreman and my Old Dwarf were placing the boxes in totes and crates and hauling them to the storage space under the stairs. Notably missing were my Arrogant One, my Bounty Hunter, and Dragon.

I walked over to Miles, who was directing the procedure like a traffic cop. “Well, I guess the holidays are officially over.” I sighed.

“Actually, they were over about a week ago, but I just hated to dismantle my Christmas Village.” Miles managed the Christmas decorations, and every year he outdid the previous year’s display.

“Well, don’t feel too bad, sweetheart. You can start putting the decorations back up in just about 46 more weeks.” I grinned.

“I was thinking I might start early next year, maybe the end of October.”

“Oh, no you don’t! You know the rules – Christmas decorations don’t go up until after Thanksgiving!” I laughed as Miles scuffed one foot back and forth and feigned a disappointed little-boy look.

Arrogant OneHe gave me an exaggerated pout, then smiled and gave me a quick kiss on my forehead. “Oh, all right. Say, on another topic, have you spoken to Dragon yet? I saw your Arrogant One moping around earlier today. He really looks miserable! I tried to convince him to join us, but he just hung his head and walked away. He didn’t even say anything nasty! Your Bounty Hunter tagged along with him. I think they went out to the shed.”

I shook my head. “With all the hustle and bustle around the holidays, I didn’t get a chance to see Dragon. I’ll go speak to her now.” I looked around the room uncertainly. “I presume I’ll find the conference room at the back of the walk-in closet in our bedroom. I don’t imagine she would have moved it again, would she?”

“Don’t ask me, honey. She’s your character.” Miles quirked an eyebrow at me, then turned back to the task of dismantling and storing the decorations.
bedroom
walk-in closetI went up the stairs and down the hall to the master bedroom. I walked into the big closet and saw the back wall was still shimmering. I assumed that meant I would find the conference room still there.

I approached the barrier warily, still not comfortable with the sensation of passing through the preternatural veil. As I got closer, my hair stood on end, and I could feel goose bumps on my arms. I stood there for several minutes, working up my nerve. Finally, I squared my shoulders and walked through the shimmering curtain into the conference room.
dragon reading
Dragon was reading in front of her illusory fireplace. She looked up as I entered the room. “I have been expecting you.”

“Oh?” I shook off the tingly feeling the magical curtain had produced. I walked over and glanced at the book she was reading, but I could not comprehend the symbols and glyphs. “Why were you expecting me?”

“I presumed you would wish to further discuss the elf’s predicament.”

“I would indeed.” I gestured to the book. “Have you been researching something concerning my Arrogant One’s malady?”

Dragon nodded. “Understand, however, I do so only because I fear I or one of your other magic users might be at risk of falling victim to the same malady. I care nothing for the elf’s discomfort with his situation.”

I nodded. “I know he’s not your favorite person.”
Dragon breathing smoke
Dragon snorted, and a cloud of acrid smoke erupted from her nostrils. “No, he is not. I doubt he is anyone’s favorite. In fact, he is detested by most. Even his closest associate, your Bounty Hunter, is scornful of him most of the time.”

I nodded in agreement. “Be that what it may, it would be nice to find the cause of my Arrogant One’s malady and – if possible – eliminate it and restore his power.”

dragon talkingDragon frowned. “It is not a matter of restoring his power – he never lost his power. What he lost was his ability to control that power, to wield it in a consistent manner. When he attempts to create an illusion or cast some other minor spell, the result could be anything from a perfectly cast spell, to no outcome at all, to some unforeseen and unintended result.”

I nodded again. “Yes, that is how he described his problem. So, what do you think has caused it? He says he has not had any physical ailments that might have created the problem.”

Dragon shrugged. “I have not been able to find anything in my books that might explain it.”

Creatures along the pathI sighed and raked my hand through my hair. “Well, my Arrogant One believes the problem started shortly after our return from the world to which the wish listeners transported us. Could something have happened there to cause his affliction?”

Again, Dragon shrugged. “I have no way of knowing that.”

I furrowed my brow and rubbed my chin. “Is there any way to return to that world and explore the possibility?”

Dragon shook her head. “I do not know how to open the passage between the two worlds.”

I paced up and down the room several times, thinking. “Perhaps you and my Arrogant One should come with me to that park from which we were transported.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/05/27/lost/    I looked hopefully at Dragon. “Maybe you could find the passage there.”

Dragon shrugged. “I doubt I will find anything useful. Remember, it was the wish listeners who opened the gateway.”  https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/06/03/our-little-odyssey/

“Perhaps if my Arrogant One wishes hard enough at that precise location, they will open it again.”

Dragon furrowed her brow. “If they do not, I know of no way to cross into their world. However, since I have no other ideas how to investigate this problem, we might as well try. But, first, I must talk with the elf. He must understand the importance of expressing his wishes precisely and unequivocally. We do not want any wishes granted that worsen the existing situation or cause another predicament.”

I nodded, and the two of us made our way out of the conference room through the ethereal barrier, then headed to the garden shed.
arrogant onebounty-hunter-facing-other-direction
“So, beast, you have decided to help.” Although the elf’s words were arrogant, his tone of voice was meek. He sat across from my Bounty Hunter, his shoulders stooped, his head hanging so low, it almost rested on his chest.
dragon
“Know that I do so not for you, but to ascertain the true cause of your malady. I do not wish to fall victim to the same condition; nor do any of our fellow magic-users.”

My Arrogant One nodded listlessly. His friend placed his hand on the elf’s shoulder, offering support.
Picnic table by lake
Dragon continued. “We will go to the place whence we were transported into the other world by the wish listeners. We will attempt to gain access to that world, to investigate the source of your malady.”

“How will we enter that world?” My Bounty Hunter furrowed his brow. “Do you know how to open the gateway?”
dragon and bounty hunter
“You will not. The elf and I will attempt to do so.” Dragon snorted a cloud of black smoke at my Bounty Hunter, who frowned at her in return.

“I thought I would accompany you and assist . . .”

Dragon cut him off. “You thought wrong.” She turned to my Arrogant One. “When we reach the spot where we left this world, we will attempt to attract the attention of the wish listeners, that they might transport us once again into their realm.”

Creatures along the path

“And how will you do that?” Again, my Bounty Hunter attempted to inject himself into the conversation.

Dragon glared at him but pointed to the elf and replied evenly. “He will wish.”

The large beast turned her gaze back to my Arrogant One. “But you will take care with your wish, lest you do more damage than good.” She thrust her reptilian face toward his pale elfin face. “Do you understand me?”

The elf nodded listlessly once more.

“Good. Now this is what you are going to do . . .”

I beckoned to my Bounty Hunter, who followed me out of the shed, leaving Dragon and my Arrogant One to make plans.

* * *

Elf cleric close-upArrogant OneThe next day, I drove Dragon, in her guise of an elf maiden, and my Arrogant One, to the picnic grove by the woodland lake where my husband and I had taken my characters for a Memorial Day picnic. My Arrogant One sat in the back seat, sullen and silent, for the entire 90-minute drive. Dragon sat in the front, her nose buried in her books.

frozen-lake-112131_960_720When we finally got there, the scene was very different from that day more than seven months past. Snow now covered the picnic grove and lake, and the trails were difficult to navigate. Hiking got easier, though, as we got further from the lake and deeper into the woods, where the snow wasn’t as deep.

“There!” My Arrogant One pointed. “Is that not the trail?”

We walked over to the snow-covered steps, and I examined the sign. Secret Trail.

secret trail

the secret trailI frowned. “This does not look right. The sign states that this is the Secret Trail, but it is the wrong color. The sign that was here during our fateful hike was darker, and it had yellow lettering.”

My Arrogant One shrugged. “So, something damaged the sign and it was replaced.”

“Perhaps.” Dragon narrowed her eyes and looked closely. “But the trail, too, seems wrong.”

“It is the same trail.” My Arrogant One sneered at Dragon. “It just looks different with the snow.”
different steps
“No. Dragon’s right. These steps are too narrow. They look like the steps in the other world.” I looked around, but nothing else seemed amiss.

“Well, I say it is the correct trail. I will walk up the steps and make my wish.”

My Arrogant One started to move, but Dragon grabbed his arm. “You will wait.” She turned to me. “You may go home. I do not wish you to become entangled in any unforeseen events here.”

I gaped at Dragon. “And how do you propose to get home?”

“When our work here is completed, I will summon you.”

I furrowed my brow and wrinkled my nose. “Magically?”

“Yes. I do not have one of those devices you in this world use to communicate over distances.”

Dragon started to shimmer. In a moment, she had assumed her natural form. She waved her clawed hand at me dismissively and turned to my Arrogant One. “Now you may proceed. But remember our conversation of last eve and heed my warning. Take care with your wish.”

dragon and arrogant one

My Arrogant One contorted his face into a snarl. “I wish only to regain control of my power.”

Dragon grabbed him. “No! We have no idea what is behind your malady. If the wish listeners attempt to grant you that wish, they may do more harm than good. We must wish to return to their land, that we might investigate the source of your affliction. Only when we have identified the source can we hope to cure your condition.”

My Arrogant One glared at Dragon for many long minutes. Finally, his shoulders slumped, and he nodded. “Very well, beast. But you best know what you are about.”

I turned to go, but quickly turned back. “How long . . .?” But they were gone.

Will Dragon and my Arrogant One succeed in finding the cause of the elf’s affliction? Will my Arrogant One regain control of his magic? Join us again next week and see what happens. I’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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