I See a Big Problem Here!

I See a Big Problem Here!

Cell phoneBackyard 050

I put down my cell phone and turned to face my characters.

Cleric twisting cord belt“Well? Did you reach them? Did you invite them over? Are they coming?” Cleric’s cornflower blue eyes were clouded with concern, and she twisted the cord belt of her robe. She had been the one who suggested inviting our least favorite neighbors, Mace and Gloria, to join us for some backyard birdwatching.

Mace and Gloria birdingI nodded. “Yes, they will be here in about an hour, binoculars and field guides in hand. They are very anxious to show off how much they’ve learned since the last time they attempted any backyard birdwatching here.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2017/06/11/fun-and-mayhem-with-the-neighbors/

Dragon’s brow furrowed. “Should I strengthen the wards and the spell of concealment?”

I shook my head. “No, that would defeat the purpose of the experiment. We invited them here to determine if your spell of concealment has been breached. We want everything to be the same when they get here as it was earlier today, when Marisol and Bastina were here and saw what they should not have seen.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/07/07/hello-neighbor/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/07/14/just-who-are-these-neighbors-and-what-do-they-see/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/07/21/what-is-the-problem/

I furrowed my brow, trying to foresee any problems. “I know that Mace and Gloria – in fact, the entire neighborhood – has seen all of you. You all attended the neighborhood get-together with Miles and me last August.”

All my characters nodded, and my Arrogant One snickered. “Ah, yes, the get-together. I seem to remember a stage production of some note.” He snickered again, shooting an amused look at Dragon, who glared at him through narrowed eyes.

“Yes, we remember the entire incident . . . er, day.” A puff of black smoke escaped from her snout.
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/07/29/a-ducky-day-for-collecting-flora-and-overhearing-a-murder-plot/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/08/05/to-die-for-stroganoff/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/08/12/solutions-or-more-problems/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/08/19/the-case-of-the-poison-mushrooms/

I gave Dragon and the elf a quizzical look but decided not to pursue the subject. “As I was saying, even though our neighbors have seen all of you, I think it best if only Dragon and Cleric are here with me when Mace and Gloria arrive.”

“Why is that, Mistress?” Cleric tilted her head and fidgeted with her robes.

“Because I believe you were the only two Mace and Gloria saw with me the day they came to visit, and we ended up birdwatching. I think it would be a good test of Dragon’s concealment spell if everyone else went about the same activities as the last time. Oh, and don’t forget – don’t call me Mistress in front of them!”

Cleric nodded.

My Gypsy turned toward my Foreman and my Young Hero. “I believe the three of us were working our mounts.” They headed off toward the barn.

My Arrogant One gestured toward my Bounty Hunter. “My associate and I shall repair to our refuge in the shed, where we were last time.” He turned with a flourish and swept his cloak around him as he and his companion headed toward the garden shed.

sorceress-facing-right

Sorceress stroked her chin and narrowed her eyes in thought. “Ah, yes! I remember! I was in the house.” She turned and took her leave.

“An’ I been chasin’ thet durn bunny rabbit.” My Old Dwarf glowered at the rabbit, who had returned to raiding the carrot patch.Dwarf chasing rabbit

Elf facing rightElf cleric“I will go get some iced tea and cake for our guests.” Cleric hurried toward the house as Dragon shape-shifted back to her customary guise of an elf maiden.

Cleric returned with the refreshments just as Mace and Gloria rounded the corner of our house and waved in greeting.

neighbor-2neighbor“We’re so glad you called!” Gloria was practically bouncing with excitement. “I’ve been saying to Mace now that we’re more experienced, we should get together with you again for some more birding. See, I even have the right word now. Real bird watchers call themselves birders.” She smiled smugly as she flaunted her newfound vocabulary.

Gloria plopped into a chair between Dragon and Cleric, directing Mace into the chair next to me. She continued to dominate the conversation as Cleric served refreshments, chattering on and on about the various birds she and Mace had seen recently in their yard and at various local parks. I slowly relaxed as our guests did not seem to notice anything out of the ordinary when they picked up their binoculars and began scanning our yard for birds. The horses walking past the feeders were apparently invisible to them.Horses and birdfeeders

“We have everything set up to attract the birds. In addition to the regular feeders, we’ve put some peanuts, dehydrated mealworms, and grapes on an old table at the end of the gazebo boardwalk, and we’ve scattered some millet spray on the boardwalk, to entice the birds to come closer.” I pointed to the areas as I spoke.birdwatching with Mace and Gloria

“That’s a good idea.” Mace nodded sagely. “I know some birders frown on that. They prefer to see and photograph birds in their natural habitat, rather than at feeders. Some say attracting birds to feeders is a lazy way to bird, almost akin to cheating. But Gloria and I disagree. We do it a lot when we’re photographing the birds in our yard. We found, in addition to attracting them closer – an important consideration if you don’t have a powerful zoom lens – it helps keep them in one place longer. Normally, they’re flitting around so much, we can’t get a clear, focused image.”

camera for blogI nodded as I picked up my camera. “I agree. I take lots of photos of birds in their natural habitat, in trees and bushes and foraging in the grass, but I also enjoy seeing them at the feeders. I find I can get a much better look at them that way.”

“Oh, first bird of the day! First bird of the day!” Gloria bounced up and down and crowed as if she had just won some fantastic competition. “There are Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at the nectar feeders!”

“Wow!” Mace pointed at another of the nectar feeders. “The bees are sure making it difficult for the birds!”Bees on nectar feeder

I nodded. Before I could reply, Gloria squealed. “Look at those two Black-capped Chickadees. The one on the left looks a lot like the one we saw here before, the one with the feather disorder. Remember that one?”

Black-capped Chickadee

I turned my camera toward the birds in question and clicked a few photos. Checking the images, I nodded. “Yes, the one in the tree above the feeders looks like the one we saw previously. Its feathers aren’t as bad as the one we saw before, but you can see the difference between the ruffled feathers of the one chickadee and the smooth plumage of the chickadee posing on the dead branch to the right.”

Mace and Gloria examined the images I had taken and nodded.

Cleric pointed toward the table. “It seems some Blue Jays have decided to visit the feeding station. There are some on the table, and two waiting on the railing.”

“And the chipmunks are sneaking up onto the boardwalk and grabbing their share of the spray millet before the birds get it.” Dragon smiled and pointed.

“They’re so cute, but they’re such brazen little thieves!” Gloria laughed, as we all watched the action at the far end of the walkway.

“There’re some waterfowl at the back of the yard, by the pond.” Mace studied them with his binoculars. “The two larger ducks look like female Mallards. The four smaller ones are Wood Ducks, a male and three females.”

“And there’s a Canada Goose, too.” Gloria smiled broadly, showing off her knowledge. “Mace and I had been calling them Canadian Geese, but a naturalist at the park corrected us.”

“Marge, what are those brown birds with the streaked fronts and sort of scalloped markings on their backs?” Mace pointed to some birds foraging in the grass. “We’ve seen a few in our yard but can’t find them in our field guide.”

I smiled. “They’re juvenile Brown-headed Cowbirds. They’re barely more than fledglings. Their various adoptive parents stopped feeding him about two weeks ago.”

“Adoptive parents?” Gloria tilted her head and gave me a quizzical look.

I nodded. “Brown-headed Cowbirds are brood parasites. A female cowbird doesn’t make a nest or raise her own babies. She lays her eggs in the nests of other bird species, who then raise the young cowbirds. Each of these juveniles was raised by a different set of parents.”

“Why do they do that?” Dragon looked intrigued.

“Originally, they followed the herds of bison that roamed the country, feeding on the insects the herds stirred up from the grasslands. If they took the time to make a nest and raise their own babies, they’d starve, as the herds of bison wouldn’t be waiting around for them.”

Gloria’s eyes widened. “Wow! No wonder we couldn’t figure out what those birds were – there were no adult Brown-headed Cowbirds around them!”

Mace scanned the yard again. “There’s an adult American Robin splashing around in your birdbath, and another one on the fence, waiting its turn. And I see a fledgling robin on the fence, too. I remember you said the youngsters had speckled fronts.”

“And there’s an adult robin eating on the table, now that the Blue Jays have moved.” Gloria pointed.American Robin adult on table

“Our hanging feeders are very busy now, too.” Cleric pointed at the various feeders as she identified the birds. “A pair of Northern Cardinals is in the safflower feeder. There is a female American Goldfinch enjoying the sunflower chips in one of the cage feeders, and a male is in the feeder next to it.”

“Another male goldfinch is in the tree above the feeders, waiting his turn.” Dragon pointed.American Goldfinch male in tree

“He may have to wait a while.” I pointed back to the feeders. “A White-breasted nuthatch just chased the male goldfinch from the cage feeder. There’s another nuthatch on one of the suet feeders, while a third one’s on the tree trunk waiting his turn.”

“Now, a Chipping Sparrow is eating the sunflower chips.” Gloria pointed. “And one male House Finch is in the other cage feeder, and a second male House Finch is in the safflower feeder. The female House Finch is on the feeder pole, waiting.”

“The Gray Catbirds are watching us from the feeder poles.” Mace gestured toward the north side of the gazebo. “And there’re Downy Woodpeckers, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, and Red-winged Blackbirds on the suet feeders in the back of the yard, and in the trees surrounding those feeders. You really have a busy yard today!” He looked impressed.

“Looks like you still have a rabbit problem.” Gloria smirked.Dwarf chasing rabbit

I followed her gaze and froze mid-smile. My Old Dwarf was running right toward us, cussing a blue-streak and brandishing his axe at a swiftly fleeing rabbit. He stopped next to the gazebo. “Do na be worryin’, lass. I be gittin’ tha little varmint!”

“Oh, look!” Gloria pointed right at my Old Dwarf and laughed again. “It looks just like that big rabbit is talking to us!”

Eastern Cottontail talking

I heaved a huge sigh of relief and relaxed once more. It was obvious Dragon’s spell of concealment was working well. I started to point at another bird when we were all startled by a new voice behind us.

“Excuse me, please. I hope you don’t mind, but I came back to see if I could pet the horses today.”

Marisol stood next to the gazebo, pointing at the three illusory horses my Foreman and the lads had just released into their simulated pasture. “Is that why you’re here, too? For the horses?” The small child addressed Gloria and Mace.Marisol points out the horses

I swallowed hard, then almost went into a dead faint as I saw my neighbors gaping at the spot where Marisol had pointed.

“I knew you had horses here!” Mace jumped up and whirled around to face me. “I knew it wasn’t my imagination that first time I came here. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2017/02/26/meeting-the-neighbors/

Very blue dragonDragon blanched, shapeshifting into a very blue version of her true self, smoke bubbles dripping from her snout at an alarming rate. “But . . . but how can you see them? You did not see them before!”

Cleric turned toward Marisol, studying the little girl. “No, they did not see them before. They did not see them until this child pointed them out.”Gaping at the child

Dragon, Cleric, and I gaped at Marisol, who was staring, transfixed by the horses and ignoring us.

Gloria turned from gawking at the horses. She saw Dragon in her true form, screamed, and fainted into her husband’s arms. Mace eased his wife’s limp form off the gazebo, away from Dragon. Then he pulled his cell phone from his pocket and called the county sheriff.

 

Is Marisol a witch? How else could she have defeated Dragon’s spell of concealment? How do we talk our way out of this with Gloria and Mace, and with the local authorities? Are my characters about to be revealed for what they really are? Come back next week and see what happens. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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What Is the Problem?

What Is the Problem?

wide-eyedTaking Marisol by the handMy characters and I stood, gaping, as the woman and child walked down the side yard and turned toward their home. They had arrived in the back yard, having followed my Old Dwarf after they saw him, in full armor and brandishing an axe, chasing a rabbit down the street past their house. Once in the yard with us, the child – and possibly her mother – had seen Dragon in her true form, and all the things Dragon’s spell of concealment was supposed to hide from prying eyes.
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/07/07/hello-neighbor/ https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/07/14/just-who-are-these-neighbors-and-what-do-they-see/

After they departed, we all stood for a stunned few seconds. Then panic set in.Pandemonium

It was pandemonium. Everyone was talking at the same time, voices rising, angry accusations being flung back and forth. It took me three tries to get my character’s attention.

“Quiet, everyone! Just settle down. We aren’t getting anywhere this way. Quiet!” I raised my voice to be heard over the racket.Arrogant One accusing Old Dwarf

Everyone fell silent, except for my Arrogant One, who ignored me. He pointed to my Old Dwarf. “If that witless lout had not gone gallivanting through the neighborhood chasing that rabbit, we would not be in this predicament.” The elf drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, grasped his cloak with both hands, and sneered at the dwarf.

“Let’s not be making any accusations.” I frowned.

“Eh, wot tha elfie be sayin’ be true ’nuff, lass.” The old reprobate hung his head and sighed. “If I only been stayin’ on yer property, liken’ ye al’ays be tellin’ me ta be doin’, mebbe yer neighbors wouldna been seein’ me. An’ then they wouldna been followin’ me an’ been seein’ everythin’ here.”

Dragon with smokeDragon shook her scaly head, and black smoke drifted from her nostrils. “Dwarf, you should not have been chasing the rabbit through the neighborhood, that is true. But even if you had remained here, if my spell of concealment has failed anyone can see us now even if they do not come onto the property. Our current predicament is, I fear, my doing, not yours.”

My Arrogant One gave Dragon a smug look. “Yes, well if you require assistance maintaining a spell of concealment, I am at your service.”How to hide all this

Dragon snorted. “You? You could not conceal a hummingbird! How do you propose to assist in the concealment of a barn, a paddock, a pasture, three horses, and a host of medieval characters?”Bounty Hunter Intervened

My Arrogant One’s cheeks flamed scarlet, but before he could reply, my Bounty Hunter stepped between the elf and Dragon. “Rather than lay blame, shouldn’t you be negating the spells of illusion that created all this? That way, in the possible absence of a spell of concealment, there will be nothing untoward for anyone to see.”Witches

Elf facing right“But that may not be necessary.” Cleric furrowed her brow and chewed her lower lip as she walked toward Dragon. “Maybe your spell of concealment has not failed, Dragon. Did not the child, Marisol, claim she and her mother were witches? Perhaps this is why they could see everything here.”Table set for spellcastingsorceress-facing-right

Sorceress nodded. “In our world, many who use herbs and botanicals practice some form of magic.” She turned to face me. “Is it possible the woman and child are witches?”

Dragon snorted again, black smoke shooting from her nostrils. “Do you think I would not have recognized someone with magical ability?”

I raked my hand through my hair and sighed. “Well . . .”gypsy-facing-right

“Witches? Magic? In this world?” My Gypsy raised an eyebrow. “You keep telling us that there is no magic in your world, only technology.”Dwarf facing right

“An’ iffin ye be rememberin’, I be already provin’ thet all thet jest be a lot o twaddle! Tha thingamabobs wot be called teck-noll-o-gee here be jest liken tha items in our world wot be havin’ magic in ’em, so’s thet anybody kin be usin’ ’em, iffin they be havin’ magical ability or no.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/03/24/magic-or-technology/

Young hero 2“And, if you will remember, Mistress Writer never said there was no magic in her world, only that the things that seemed magical to us – computers, cameras, cars, sewing machines, cash registers – were not magical.” My Young Hero rubbed his jaw. “I think that is different than saying there is no magic. There still could be witches in this world, could there not?”

I furrowed my brow. “Well . . . there are those in this world who claim to have magic power. Some call themselves witches, others have different names.”foreman-facing-left

My Foreman cleared his throat. “Then, rather than dispel the illusory magic, perhaps it would be better to find out if the small child and her mother really do possess magical ability. If they do, and that is why they can see the horses and everything that the spell of concealment is designed to hide, then that would prove Dragon’s spell did not fail.”

I tilted my head, considering. “I’m not sure how we would go about proving they’re witches. Perhaps it would be easier to find out if anyone else in the neighborhood can see what should be hidden from them.”Dragon with smoke bubbles

“But if we wait, and find out my spell of concealment has failed, how do we deal with others seeing everything?” Dragon was turning blue again, as she did when she was confused or nervous. Smoke bubbles dripped from her nose.

“We can deal with that problem if and when the need arises.” Sorceress frowned. “I agree we need to see who, beside Marisol and Bastina, can see what should be hidden.”Mace and Gloria birding

Cleric turned to me, a moue tugging at her lips. “Perhaps it is time to invite your good friends, Mace and Gloria, back for a bit of bird-watching? https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2017/06/11/fun-and-mayhem-with-the-neighbors/

Cell phoneI paled at the thought but realized Cleric might have the best idea. And the sooner we managed to get them into our back yard, the sooner we would know if we were dealing with a failed spell, or witches in the neighborhood. I picked up my cell phone to call my least-favorite neighborhood nosy-bodies.

Will Mace and Gloria accept an invitation to engage in some backyard birdwatching with us? If they come, will birds be the only things they see? If Dragon’s spell is still concealing the illusions on our property, how did Marisol and Bastina see everything? Do we have witches in the neighborhood? Be sure to come back next week and see what happens. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Just Who Are These Neighbors and What Do They See?

Just Who Are These Neighbors and What Do They See?

Laughing at Dragon

Dragon bent down and gawped at the small human who called herself Marisol. The child showed no fear of the behemoth; in fact, when the befuddled beast turned blue, and smoke bubbles started dripping from her nose, the little girl giggled.Taking Marisol by the hand

“Marisol! Mind your manners!” Bastina hurried over to her daughter and took her by the hand.

“But, mommy, the dragon is dribbling bubbles from her nose!”

Bastina blushed scarlet. “I am so sorry. My daughter has an extremely vivid imagination and has not yet learned to hold her tongue.”

Dragon tilted her head, giving me a confused look, and I raised an eyebrow before turning to the woman and child. “Hello! There’s no need to apologize. My name is Marge, and these are some out-of-town relatives who are visiting.” I tried hard to remember the names my characters had previously used in public, but I ended up just waving my hand in their general direction and foregoing the individual introductions.

“Hello! As my daughter already told you, my name is Bastina, and this is Marisol. We live on the next street over. I’m so sorry we invaded your yard this way.”

“No problem.” I gave her and the child my best welcoming smile. “Always glad to meet one of our neighbors.”

We met before“I believe we have met before, actually.” Bastina peered at me thoughtfully. “It was over a year ago, but I’m sure it was you. I have a pretty good memory for faces. You and one of your relatives were making some purchases at the herbal shop my sister and I operate. It’s the one at the organic farm she and her husband own at the edge of town. I was waiting on customers that day, and I rang up your order.”

I furrowed my brow, trying to remember.Herbs and botanicals

Cleric walked over and joined the conversation. “I remember.” She turned to me. “You drove me to the farm so I could procure some herbs when the rest of our . . . relatives . . . came down with that serious malady.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/04/15/what-next/

“Of course! I remember now!” I turned to Bastina. “You really do have a great memory for faces. That was ages ago!”

“Your shop is very impressive!” Cleric smiled at Bastina.

“Thanks! Danica and I try to provide a variety of hard-to-find herbs and botanicals along with the more common ones. We persuaded her husband to let us open the shop there.”

“Is your brother-in-law an herbalist, too?”

Bastina shook her head. “No, just my sister and I. Robert grows organic vegetables, but he has turned over about ten acres to me and Danica for our herbs.”

Witch and cauldronMarisol giggled again. “Mommy uses lots of herbs. She’s always brewing something with them. She’s a witch.”

Bastina’s eyes flew wide and her jaw dropped. “Oh, baby! Why would you say such a thing?”

Marisol’s sunny countenance turned stormy in a flash. “Mommy, I have told you and told you – I’m not a baby anymore. I’m five years old, and you said yourself that’s practically grown up! And you are a witch. So am I.”

Bastina blushed again. “As I said, she has a wild imagination.”

“I really do.” The little girl nodded somberly, then broke into a wide smile.

Marisol with elf Dragon“How precious.” While we had been talking, Dragon had slipped away unnoticed. Now, returned in her accustomed guise of an elf maiden, she studied the small human. Dragon tilted her head and stroked her chin as if trying to figure something out.Red and blue scales

Marisol stared at her. “You look better with red scales than blue.”

“Scales?” Dragon lifted a delicate eyebrow at the child. “I have scales?”

“Well, not anymore.” Marisol giggled and started to say something else, but her mother grabbed her by the hand again.

“Marisol! Your manners, child!”

“I’m sorry.” The half-frown, half-pout on her little face belied Marisol’s apology. “Mommy, can I go pet the horses now?” She pointed at the three illusory horses milling about in front of an equally illusory barn.

“Horses?” Bastina looked where her daughter was pointing and frowned. “There are no horses.” The woman looked at us again, rolled her eyes and shrugged. “I don’t know where she gets such an imagination!”

black stallion 2 for blog“But I am not imagining the horses. They’re beautiful! One is a big, powerful-looking horse, the color of ob . . . ob . . .”

“Obsidian?” Bastina prompted her daughter.

“Yes, obsidian. Thank you, mommy. I think he may be a Fr . . . Free . . .”

“Friesian?” Bastina suggested.

Gypsy Vanner 2Chocolate Palomino PonyMarisol nodded. “The second horse, a black-and-white pinto, looks like a Gypsy Vanner with long, feathery hair on its legs. And the third one is a small, saucy-looking chocolate palomino pony.”

I shot Dragon a look of alarm, then stooped down to be eye-level with the little girl. “Well, you have quite the vocabulary for a five-year-old! Not many children your age would know the word obsidian. And you certainly know your horses!”

Marisol readingThe little girl beamed. “Mommy and I read all the time. I like to learn new words. And I love horses! Mommy gave me a picture book of different types of horses. I can recognize Palominos, Appel-loosas, Arabians, Pintos, Free . . . Free. . .”

“Friesians.” Bastina supplied the word again.

“Yes, and Gypsy Vanners. Horses are my favorite animals! Well, them and dragons.” Marisol giggled and gave Dragon a knowing look before turning back toward the horses. “Horses are so graceful. And fast! Faster than the rabbit the short man in the funny metal suit was chasing.” The child frowned up at her mother. “I hope you aren’t going to say that was my imagination, too, mommy! I know you saw the man and the bunny!” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/07/07/hello-neighbor/

Bastina and Marisol see dwarf

Bastina furrowed her brow. “Well, I saw something. It looked like someone chasing an animal. It appeared to be a small dog or a cat, but I suppose it might have been a rabbit.”

“It was a bunny, mommy!” Marisol frowned and crossed her arms over her chest. “And the man who was chasing it was short and fat and he wore a metal suit.”

“Marisol!” Her mother looked equal parts shocked and embarrassed. “You do not refer to someone as fat. That is rude!”

“Eh, do na fret, lass.” My Old Dwarf chuckled as he walked over to Bastina and her daughter. “Tha wee lassie be right. I do be a mite fluffy aroon’ me girth.”

metal suitMarisol smiled at the dwarf. “And your suit is made of metal, isn’t it?” Marisol reached out and touched the armor on the dwarf’s shoulder.

“Aye, lassie, it be a type o plate mail armor. It be protectin’ me, but still be lettin’ me be movin’ aboot free and un-en-cum-burred like.”

“And you were chasing a bunny?”

“Aye! Tha durn varmint been inta tha carrot patch agin, so’s I been chasin’ it . . . ’till it been suddenly growin’. It been gittin’ taller ’en me! An’ then it been turning aboot an’ been chasin’ me!”

Marisol laughed. “Silly! Rabbits don’t grow that big, and they don’t chase people, not even short people!”

“Marisol!” Bastina scowled.

“I’m sorry, mommy! But he is silly. And he is short.”

“I apologize for my daughter.” Bastina took the little girl by the hand. “She is usually much better behaved! I think she needs a nap. It was so nice to meet you all.”

“Mommy, naps are for babies.” Marisol pouted.

“Naps are also for young ladies who have forgotten their manners.” Bastina’s tone of voice invited no further discussion.

“Okay.” Marisol scuffed her foot back and forth in the dirt. “Can I come back later and pet the horses?”

“Baby, there are no horses.” Bastina sighed.

Horses by barnMarisol turned to me and pointed toward the back of the yard. “There are horses over there in front of that barn, aren’t there? Three horses, just like I said before?”

I swallowed hard, not knowing how to answer. Dragon saved me.

“Do you believe there are horses there?” She knelt down to speak with the child.

Marisol nodded.

“Then there must be.” Dragon leaned closer to Marisol and lowered her voice. “And do you believe that I am a dragon, and I could gobble you up?” A puff of smoke drifted from Dragon’s delicate elfin nose.

Marisol giggled. “No, you’re not a bad dragon. You don’t eat people.” She threw her arms around Dragon’s neck and whispered in her ear. “And I still think you look prettier with red scales, not blue.”

scaly dragon looking right

Startled, Dragon shape-shifted back to her true form.

Bastina gasped and her eyes widened, but in an instant, her expression returned to a frown directed at her daughter. The change was so quick, I wondered if I had imagined her initial reaction.

“See mommy?” Marisol crowed. “I told you she’s a dragon.”

Bastina took Marisol’s hand. “Child, I don’t know what I’m going to do with you! Such an imagination!” But the woman glanced nervously at Dragon as she exchanged farewells with us and led her daughter away.Taking Marisol by the hand

wide-eyedMy characters and I stood, gaping, as the woman and child walked down the side yard and turned toward their home. After a stunned few seconds, we all started talking at once.

 

What is going on? Is Marisol really a witch? What about her mother? Why would the woman pretend not to see things she obviously sees? Have we seen the last of mother and daughter? Be sure to come back and find out. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Hello, Neighbor

Hello, Neighbor

Marisol and Bastina in gardenMarisol sat on a blanket on the front lawn while her mother tended the garden. The little girl wrinkled her nose as her mother turned over the rich, black soil. She furrowed her brow and tilted her head as her mother pulled out some plants and discarded them, and placed fertilizer around others. After a while, she lost interest in her mother’s activity, and turned to her pile of picture books.

About 20 minutes later, Bastina glanced up from her gardening. Her daughter seemed content sitting on the blanket. She had obviously tired of leafing through her picture books, which lay scattered on the grass next to the child. Now, Marisol was putting together the 10-piece jigsaw puzzle, dumping the pieces out of the frame, and putting it together again, over and over.

The young woman sighed and looked wistfully at her daughter. Oh, why can’t she take an interest in the garden? Most children delight in digging in the dirt. Bastina shook her head vigorously, as if to dislodge that thought. No, she decided. There will be time enough for Marisol to learn her craft when she is older. For now, it is sufficient that she just enjoys being a child.

Bastina put down her trowel and pruning shears, stood, and stretched. Her muscles ached more today than a thirty-year-old’s muscles should. The woman performed a quick mental inventory of her supply of herbs, deciding she would try some chamomile tea and a peppermint rub later. She walked over and sat down on the blanket next to her daughter. “Have you finished looking at your books, baby?”

Marisol’s little face darkened like a thundercloud. “I didn’t look at them, mommy. I read them. I keep telling you I’m not a baby anymore.”

Bastina and Marisol on blanketThe little girl’s mother smiled indulgently at her daughter. “Oh, yes, I forgot. You’re a whole five years old now, not a baby at all! In fact, you’re practically grown up! So, perhaps you would be so kind as to finish weeding that flower bed for me while I relax?”

Marisol shook her head and frowned. “You know I don’t like digging in the yucky dirt, mommy. There are worms and bugs and other nasty things in it! And the last time I pulled a plant out of the garden, you got very cross. You told me it was not a weed, but a plant that would have produced a very beautiful flower.”

Bastina was about to answer her daughter, but she noticed the little girl was no longer paying any attention to their conversation. Marisol was looking toward the street at something – something quite fascinating, Bastina thought, if the expression on the little girl’s face was any indicator.

The young woman turned around to see what had captured her daughter’s attention. She shook her head and did a double-take, unsure she had seen correctly the first time. She and her daughter jumped up and stared at the approaching spectacle.

Bastina and Marisol see dwarfA dwarf in full plate armor was clomping down the street. He was cussing a blue streak and brandishing an axe at a large rabbit that appeared to be enjoying the chase. Several times, the long-eared critter slowed down and looked over its shoulder, almost appearing to wait for the rotund figure puffing and panting after it.

“Oh, my!” Bastina’s eyes widened.

Marisol tugged on her mother’s sleeve. “Mommy, can I go play with the man in the funny metal suit, and his bunny?”

* * *

Dwarf chasing rabbitI was lounging in the gazebo, reading a book. Sorceress, Cleric, and Dragon sat nearby, watching my Foreman and the lads work their illusory horses. I glanced up as my Old Dwarf raced past us, brandishing an axe, chasing a rabbit through the yard. “I be gittin’ ye this time, ye ornery little beastie, ye jest be seein’ iffin I do na! Thet be the lastest time ye be getting’ in Mistress Writer’s carrot patch!” The rabbit seemed to be enjoying the chase, slowing up whenever it seemed the dwarf might be lagging too far behind.

I smiled and returned to the book. Seconds later, I dropped the book and yelped as my Old Dwarf raced past again. The rabbit, now over 6 feet tall, was in hot pursuit of the diminutive figure.Rabbit chasing dwarf

I heard a snicker behind me. Without even looking around, I knew it was my Arrogant One. “Cut it out.”

“But it is so much fun!” The elf’s voice was an annoying combination of petulance and arrogance.

“Release the spell. End the illusion. Now.” I turned and glared at my Arrogant One.

Dragon and Arrogant One“Yes. Do it immediately!” Dragon turned toward the elf and smoke spewed from her snout.

“Oh, very well.” The elf snapped his finger and the rabbit disappeared.

My Old Dwarf stomped over and stood next to the gazebo. “I be bettin’ ye be thinkin’ thet be real funny.” The dwarf doubled over, gasping for breath.

My Arrogant One scoffed. “Yes, I do think it quite amusing that you are too witless to realize a small, helpless rabbit you are chasing relentlessly around the yard and through the neighborhood is not likely to suddenly grow and turn on its tormentor.”

I could feel the blood drain from my face. “Wait. Did you say through the neighborhood?” Without waiting for the elf’s reply, I rounded on my Old Dwarf. “How many times do you need to be reminded to stay on our property, protected by the spell of concealment? Do you want people to see you?”

“Ummmm . . .” My Old Dwarf shuffled his foot and fidgeted with his axe. “Lass? I be afeared thet mebee some people be seein’ me . . . right now.”

“What?” If I had been standing, I doubt my legs would have supported me.

wide-eyed

“Hello?”

My characters and I turned as one to face the new voice.

A small child tugged on the hand of a young woman, urging her further into our backyard. “See, mommy? I told you the man in the funny metal suit chased his bunny into this yard.” The little girl pointed, then her eyes grew big and round as saucers as she spied something else. “And, Mommy, look! They have horses!”

They see us

 

“Dragon?” My mouth went dry, and I could hardly speak. “They can see everything!”

Dragon’s eyes widened. “Forsooth! This is not good.” Her voice was barely a croak.

“Oh, hello!” The little girl let go of the young woman’s hand and walked up the steps of the gazebo. “We followed that man in the funny metal suit. He chased a rabbit into this yard.”

Marisol meets DragonThe little girl walked right up to Dragon and gave her an appraising head-to-toe look. “I am Marisol.” She pointed to the young woman. “And that is my mother. Her friends call her Bastina, but I call her mommy. We live down the street. What’s your name? Do you live here?”

Dragon with smoke bubbles

Dragon bent down and gawped at the small human, who showed no fear of her. The flummoxed beast turned blue, and smoke bubbles started dripping from her nose.

 

Has Dragon’s spell of concealment failed? If not, how did Marisol see everything in our yard? Can her mother see it all, too? Be sure to come back again as we get to know these two neighbors. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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