I was just heading for my office when Dragon, in her preferred guise of an elf maiden, emerged from the conference room. She had been in there working with the scrolls she had obtained at the Chris-Tal Clear Metaphysical Store.
Dragon looked tired but wore a satisfied smile. “I have cast the first spell, the one provided by Talia. I should now be well protected from our young neighbor, Marisol – or anyone else. No one should be able to see my true nature when I have used my shapeshifting ability to assume another form. And, unlike the previous ward I used when Marisol was around, maintaining this spell should not drain all my energy or use all my power.”
I smiled. “That’s good. Now, what about the scroll Christine provided – the incantation to prevent Marisol from seeing through your spell of concealment?”
Dragon shrugged and chewed on her lower lip. “I have prepared the spell components and I have committed to memory the words of the incantation. Now, I just need to be in the presence of the child so I can cast the spell.”
I frowned. “Should you take a walk through the neighborhood and see if you can get close enough to her to cast the spell, or should I invite her and her mother over for a visit?”
Dragon sighed. “Let me see if I can cast the spell without her seeing me. Then I can recreate the illusory horses and barn, restoring everything to its previous state, and cast the spell of concealment on it all. After that, we need to have Marisol visit. That way we can see if the spells provided by Talia and Christine are effective.
Several days later, Dragon found me in my office. “I was successful today! Marisol was playing in her front yard and I was able to approach unseen and cast the spell.”
I nodded. “And have you recreated the illusory horses and barn?”
Dragon shook her head. “I will do that now. I will cast the spell of concealment on the property first, so any illusions I create will be hidden from all but those of us who live here. Everything that is real will remain visible to all and sundry, but the horses and barn, as well as anyone riding them or working with them in any way, will go unnoticed by your neighbors and guests.”
I wrinkled my brow. “How long will that take? I don’t want to invite Bastina and Marisol over before you have completed.”
Dragon stroked her chin as she considered this. “It should take me a mere few hours, longer if I have unforeseen interruptions. Mayhap you could invite them for luncheon or tea tomorrow.”
“Okay, I’ll call Bastina later this afternoon and extend the invitation.”
The next day was a beautiful, sunny, crisp autumn day. At a little past noon, Dragon, Cleric, Sorceress, and I welcomed Bastina and Marisol to a picnic on the gazebo.
“Oh, my favorite! Creamy peanut butter and orange marmalade on Anadama bread!” Marisol danced around with a huge smile on her face. “How ever did you know?”
I returned her smile. “When I invited you and your mother over for a picnic, I asked your mom about your favorite foods.”
“That’s cheating!” Marisol giggled. “I imagined you had read my mind!”
Dragon was pouring beverages. “Milk, Marisol? Or lemonade?”
“I would rather have the lemonade, but I’ll have the milk, please. Mommy prefers I have that, especially when I’m eating anything sweet.” The precocious five-year-old rolled her eyes and leaned closer to Dragon, whispering in a conspiratorial voice. “Mommy says I need the calcium and vitamins more than I need the sugar.”
Dragon smiled and poured the child a large tumbler of milk. “And you, Bastina?”
The woman cast a wistful look at the lemonade, then glanced in her daughter’s direction. “Milk for me, too, please. I need set a good example for Marisol.”
The six of us were enjoying our lunch, when I almost choked on a mouthful of food. I watched, wide-eyed with trepidation, as my Gypsy galloped his mount straight toward us. He was less than a foot from the gazebo before performing a rollback and racing off in the opposite direction. I quickly glanced at Marisol and saw her mesmerized by something in the same spot by the gazebo where my character had just ridden his horse. I started sweating.
The entire scene had not gone unnoticed by Dragon. “Marisol, what has captured your attention, child?”
“Look!” Marisol pointed. “Can you see the hummingbird?”
I looked where the girl was pointing and was surprised to see the little Ruby-throated male hovering right next to us.
“Hummingbirds are attracted to the color red.” Marisol looked accusingly at Dragon. “If you were still a dragon, I would say you were the cause of the bird’s interest, but you refuse to be a dragon anymore. Perhaps he is attracted to my red hair-ribbon.” Marisol pulled the ribbon from her hair and held it out for the bird to see. After a quick inspection of the item revealed it not to be a food source, the tiny bird flew off.
Dragon and I exchanged looks of relief. The child obviously could not see Dragon’s true form, nor could she see the horses being ridden all around the yard. Both spells had been a success.
The rest of the afternoon went splendidly. Cleric and Sorceress discussed various herbs and their curative properties with Bastina while Dragon, Marisol, and I engaged in birdwatching. I was sorry to see the visit end as the mother and child thanked us for a lovely day and took their leave.
After our neighbors left, my Foreman and the lads cantered their horses up to the gazebo.
“I presume all went well?” My Foreman circled his high-strung ebony stallion.
“It did.” We all beamed.
My Young Hero patted his chocolate palomino pony on the neck. “I am so glad! That means we get to keep our horses. It has been so good to get back to riding! You know, the weather is forecast to be crisp and clear for the next few days. Perchance, could we all go on a trail ride?”
My Gypsy edged his black-and-white piebald closer to the gazebo and snatched a piece of cake. “You know, a trail ride would be wonderful. Maybe we could drop in on Anna and Colton. They should be home from the training facility by now.”
I grinned. “As a matter of fact, they are. Anna called me this morning, but I hadn’t had time earlier to tell you the news.”
“Oh, prithee, do tell us now, Mistress!” Cleric’s eyes were bright with interest. “How is Blue? Was the training facility able to develop his talents so he could work with Colton?”
“How is Colton?” My Gypsy nudged his horse closer again so he could hear. “Has he been able to get over the loss of Peaches, aka Mystery, and form a strong bond with Blue?”
“Well, you all remember the last time we heard from Anna, she reported a slight improvement in the relationship between the boy and his new pony.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/06/09/news/
My Gypsy nodded. “Yes, it was after Cleric and I went over to talk with Colton.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/05/26/an-anxious-day/
I smiled. “Well, since then, Colton and Blue have made tremendous strides. Several times at the training facility, Colton went missing at night from the dormitory where the clients and their families sleep. Each time, a staff member found the boy sleeping in Blue’s stall, snuggled up to the pony. And Blue has started standing at the gate, nickering for Colton as the time for their lessons approaches.”
My Gypsy and my Young Hero whooped for joy.
I grinned and continued. “As for the training, Blue took to it like a duck to water. Anna, Colton, and Blue have been at the training facility all this time, just arriving home a few days ago. Blue was evaluated and found to have the proper temperament to work with a blind rider, so the instructors began building on the training he had received when he was at the facility previously.”
Cleric interrupted. “That training was before John and his daughter found Blue at an auction. Did the staff at the facility ever find out what happened to Blue’s original owner, or how a highly-trained and valuable animal ended up at a second-rate auction?” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/05/19/a-good-deal-or-crazy/
I shook my head. “They have not been able to track down the family who acquired Blue from them those many years ago. They’re no longer at their former address, and no one at the stable where that family boarded Blue knows where they went or what happened to the pony. The family just settled their board bill one day, took the pony, and left. The stable owner thought they might have purchased their own farm, but he said the family was very closed-mouthed about it.”
“Strange.” Cleric wrinkled her brow and tilted her head. “Sorry, Mistress, please go on. How did Blue’s training progress?”
I smiled again. “He’s everything a blind rider could ask for. Blue seems to have a sense about the dangers he needs to watch for. He is exceptionally calm and gentle under all sorts of trying and potentially dangerous circumstances. He watches for all the things Colton is unable to see – overhanging branches, traffic, loose dogs, unfriendly horses being ridden too close, obstacles in their path. The trainers were so impressed with Blue! They said the only animal they have ever had at their facility who showed the same innate ability to work with a blind rider was Peaches.”
Cleric smiled smugly. “Mystery . . . er, Peaches . . . told me we would find the right replacement for her, a pony who would take care of Colton just as she had.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/05/05/a-new-mystery/
I nodded. “I’m really glad you convinced me to get Anna to go to that auction. We were all dubious, but you were right!” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/05/12/what-will-we-find-at-the-auction/
My Gypsy dismounted but held his reins so his horse couldn’t wander off. He snatched another piece of cake before asking, “So can we ride over there soon?”
“Is next week soon enough?” I grinned. “Anna has invited us over for an all-day trail ride and sunset barbecue next Wednesday. That will give them some time to get settled in back home.”
Cleric blushed. “It will also give some of us time to get in some riding. We need to work up to a long trail ride, so we do not end up unable to move after many hours in the saddle next week.”
I grinned. “Wonderful! I’ll call Anna tonight and let her know we’ll be there!”
Be sure to join us next week to see how Blue and Colton manage on the trail together. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.