It was the middle of the night. I had been in a deep sleep, but I felt myself drifting toward consciousness. I was aware of being gently shaken, and a soft voice was urging me to wake up. I opened my eyes and Cleric’s face was inches from mine.
I was used to it. My characters routinely woke me from a sound night’s sleep, usually to complain about something I had or had not written about them. Sometimes they woke me with a genuine emergency. From the look on Cleric’s face, I feared this might fall squarely into the latter category.
“Whadisit?” I tried not to mumble, but my brain was still mostly asleep.
“Mistress, can we go into the hall? We need to talk, and I do not wish to disturb Master Miles.”
“Too late.” The voice came from the other side of the bed, the annoyance barely muffled by the blankets under which Miles was snuggled. He pushed off the covers and sat up, yawning and grumbling.
Cleric blushed and clasped her hands tightly. “I am so sorry! But I must speak with Mistress Writer! Now! It is of the utmost importance!”
I sighed, knowing from the urgency of her tone resistance would be of no use. “Okay, let me grab my robe. Meet me in the kitchen. We can have some hot chocolate while we talk.”
By the time I had apologized to my husband, found my robe and pulled it on over my pajamas, and stumbled to the kitchen table, Cleric had two large cups of cocoa ready for us. I reached gratefully for the oversized cup, but before I could take the first sip of the warm, soothing elixir, Cleric grabbed my arm, nearly spilling the hot liquid all over us both. She was bouncing with excitement.
“Mistress, I have been talking with Mystery!”
I blinked then stared at Cleric, trying to determine if she had gone insane. I extracted my arm from her grasp and gulped my hot chocolate, hoping to get at least some in me, rather than on me. After a long drink, I set my cup back down, looked Cleric square in the eye, and cleared my throat. “Cleric, Mystery is dead.”
She nodded. “I know that, Mistress.”
“You can’t talk to a dead pony.”
“But I did, Mistress! I had a dream and . . .”
I slammed my hand onto the table. “You woke me up . . . because you had a dream?”
Cleric’s eyes widened, and her jaw dropped. “Well, yes, Mistress.” She grabbed my arm again. “Mystery told me . . .”
I pulled my arm from her grip. “Mystery told you nothing. Ponies don’t talk. Besides, she’s dead. You had a dream. I’m going back to bed. I suggest you do the same.”
Cleric grabbed my arm yet again. “But Mistress, this is important! Mystery told me where to find another pony for Colton.”
I gaped at Cleric, whose face was the picture of sincerity. “Let me get this straight. A dead pony told you . . . in a dream . . . where to find her replacement?”
Cleric nodded, smiling. She was obviously glad I understood. Trouble was, I didn’t.
I felt like pulling my hair out. Instead, I just raked my hand through my tangled tresses and took a deep breath. “Like I said, the pony told you nothing. Ponies don’t talk, especially dead ponies. You had a dream. I’m going back to bed and I suggest you do the same.”
I started to rise, but Cleric scoffed and continued as if I was sitting there hanging on her every word. “There is an auction, somewhere nearby, very soon. We need to find where and when it is being held. The pony will be there. Mystery told me we will know it when we see it.”
I shook my head vigorously, then hit it several time with the palm of my hand, trying to get my brain to work properly, because I was sure I couldn’t have heard Cleric correctly. “So . . . you don’t know where this auction will be, when this auction will be, or which pony being sold at this auction is the one that is to be Mystery’s replacement?”
Cleric beamed at me, indicating I had understood her perfectly. “I am sure you can find the auction, Mistress. You can research it on your magic box, your computer. There cannot be that many auctions in the immediate vicinity in the very near future. And when we get there, Mystery assured me we would know which pony Anna must get for Colton.”
I chuckled. “And, assuming we can find this auction, just how am I supposed to convince Anna she must purchase a certain pony, based solely on a dream you had wherein a dead pony communicated with you?”
“Oh, you will figure it out, Mistress. I have faith.” Cleric’s smile was warm and genuine, and I could see the tension leave her body as she assumed I would take care of everything. She was in for a rude awakening.
“I have a headache. I’m going back to bed. We’ll look into this possible auction in the morning.” The tension was not leaving my body.
“Oh, Mistress, can we not look into it now? I mean, what if the auction is tomorrow? We need to know about it as soon as possible.”
Realizing my character wouldn’t let me go back to bed until I had searched for this alleged auction, I headed for the stairs and beckoned her follow. Once we were seated more-or-less comfortably in my office, I started searching on the computer.
Two hours later, I was ready to throw in the towel. The closest horse and pony auction I could find was a three-hour drive, but it was not being held until two months from now. The auction being held the soonest, the following weekend, was a ten-hour drive. Not exactly checking off the boxes for immediate future or nearby.
Cleric’s cornflower blue eyes clouded, and she chewed her lower lip. Suddenly, she brightened. “Mistress, is there not some other place on your magic box you can look? What about all those places you call social media? Would not an auction like this be advertised there?”
I gaped at Cleric. It still took me aback when one of my medieval characters understood the workings of our modern world. I nodded and brought up several social media sites. On the third site, there it was. A small, weekly auction, held every Wednesday night, known more by word-of-mouth than a large advertising budget. A wide variety of merchandise was run through the auction each week, from horses and ponies, tack and equine equipment, to toys and household items. This week, the auction touted a special event, with a huge number of ponies to be sold. It was only 30 miles from Anna’s farm.
Should I trust Cleric and invite Anna to attend the auction with us? Will the pony Mystery told Cleric to find be there? If so, will Cleric be able to recognize it? Why don’t you come with us next week and see what happens? We’ll leave the porch light on for you.