The Year in Review

The Year in Review

Dragon looks up from fireplace“The year in review?” Dragon opened one sleepy eye. She raised her head and gave me a curious look. “What is that?”

I wrinkled my brow. I thought it quite self-evident, but I shrugged and offered Dragon an explanation anyway. “It’s just a brief summary of the events of the past year.”

“Oh.” She went back to basking next to her illusory fireplace, curling up tightly, dropping her reptilian head onto her arms, and tucking her tail around her nose.

Arrogant OneMy Arrogant One shuddered. “Who in their right mind would want to dwell on the events of this year past?”

I shrugged. “Many people would. It’s fun to recall some of the good times we had.”

wish listeners“Not everyone had good times. This year did not start out well for some of us.” The elf’s usual smug, superior look was replaced by a pensive expression. “Do you not remember? At the end of the previous year, I had developed a problem controlling my power. At the start of this year, Dragon and I returned to the land of the Wish Listeners to search for the cause and – mayhap – a remedy for my affliction.”

My Arrogant One grasped his cloak and pulled it tight around himself. His voice was so soft I had to strain to hear him. “Dragon almost died there. And I almost abandoned her to her fate, shaming myself and dishonoring the elven race.” His face was pale, and he drew his cloak even tighter around his shivering body.

the knights paced

Tendrils of black smoke 2

Dragon raised her head again, studying the elf through heavy-lidded eyes. “Yes, I remember that. The elf is right. It was not a good start to the year.” A small plume of black smoke drifted from her nostrils, underscoring her words.

Unicorn and dwarf 2My Old Dwarf walked over to Dragon and caressed her scaly face. “But thet you-nee-corn been tookin’ me ta tha udder world ta be savin’ ye, beastie. An’ tha elfie been doin’ right by ye in tha end, when it really been countin’ fer summat.”

Dragon considered this for a moment before nodding and resuming her basking.

bounty-hunterMy Bounty Hunter cleared his throat and nodded. “It was a long and frightening eight weeks. Those of us who remained here had no way of knowing where you were, what was happening, or if we would ever see you again.”

“There were a number of other frights and scares this past year.” My Young Hero blushed as he remembered. “I was beset by nightmares for a long spell.” He smiled warmly at me. “You helped me understand that even heroes can have nightmares.”

“Your fears were nothing compared to the terror I faced after meeting our young neighbor, Marisol. She quickly demonstrated not only the capability to see through my spell of concealment, but the capacity to see my true nature.” Dragon sat up again, dark smoke drifting from her nose.

Stu-04-NatGalSorceress entered the room as Dragon was speaking. She placed a tray of eggnog and Christmas cookies on the table, then turned to Dragon and nodded. “That was a frightening predicament for all of us. The child’s inexplicable ability may have revealed our existence to the inhabitants of this world beyond Mistress Writer and Master Miles.”

MilesTaking Marisol by the hand“Marisol and her mother, Bastina, were not the only new acquaintances this past year.” Miles helped himself to a glass of eggnog and a few cookies as he turned to me. “You and Dragon met that repairman who came out to fix the heat element in our rain gutters when we had a problem with the formation of ice dams. You remember him and his alleged griffin, don’t you?”Crawford and Griffin

“I assure you, Master Miles, there was nothing alleged about the griffon.” Dragon got a sappy look on her face, and her cheeks glowed bright red. “It was nice to meet someone who understood my nature and my presence here, and with whom I could communicate in the old ways of my race.”

Dray and Griff

Miles gave me a questioning look.

“The griffin apparently arrived here much the same way Dragon and my other characters did – falling out of someone’s manuscript. And, according to Dragon, Griff has the ability to communicate telepathically, the same way the Great Wyrms of Dragon’s world communicate.”Dragon and Griffin

“Oh.” Miles furrowed his brow and nibbled another cookie as he digested this information.

CrawfordGriff2I nodded. “Yes, I had almost forgotten about meeting Crawford. He and his friend, Griff, proved themselves to be allies and valuable resources. After the meeting of the writers’ group Lost in the Words, Crawford directed us to Christine and Talia, the owners of the Chris-Tal Clear Metaphysical Store. He said they might be able to help us determine just what Marisol is and whence she gets her power.”

Dragon chuckled. “But getting Talia to help was most difficult. Christine had to exert a great deal of persuasion on her partner. Still, the spells the two ladies provided remedied the problem, and we remain undiscovered by most in this world. And Talia did say when Marisol is older, Talia can teach her, train her to use her power rather than be used by it.”

Foreman facing right closeup“We made another new friend this year as well.” My Foreman raised an eyebrow as he settled into the recliner with a glass of eggnog in his hand. “And a new enemy, mayhap?”Gypsy

“By friend, of course, you mean either Didi or Arthur.” My Gypsy waggled his eyebrows and smirked. “But whoever could be the enemy of whom you speak?”

My Foreman guffawed. “Arthur is no friend.” He turned to me. “Mistress, did not Crawford predict you had made a powerful enemy in Arthur?”

I sighed. “He did. I thought after Cleric had put Crawford’s mind at ease over the circumstances surrounding the death of his nephew, the danger he represented was over. But then Crawford apparently interfered with my Arrogant One’s magic, causing one of the elf’s spells to go awry.”

“Didi turned out to be a friend, though.” My Gypsy smiled broadly. “She wrote an excellent article on Colton and his new pony, Blue.”

“Blue!” Cleric exclaimed. “The therapy pony is another new friend we have made this year!” Her smile faded as quickly as it had appeared. “Of course, we lost a good friend when Colton’s first therapy pony, Peaches – who we knew as Mystery – passed away.”

We all nodded somberly.

Young hero 2“But not everything that happened this past year was bad or sad or frightening,” my Young Hero reminded us. “Because of your strong bond with Mystery, and your ability to communicate with animals, Cleric, we attended the auction and found Blue for Colton.”

Colton and Peaches 2John, Casey, and Old Blue 2My Gypsy agreed. “We helped them both deal with their depression over losing their closest friend – Colton had lost his pony, Peaches, and Blue had lost his owner, Casey. Later, after Colton and Blue were working well together, we got to enjoy a wonderful trail ride with them and Colton’s mom. Colton and I had another outstanding competition identifying birds. That blind boy can identify birds by sound better than most sighted people can identify them by visual observation! And then we had a delicious barbecue after the ride.”

“Ye dinna been toldin’ me there be a barbecue at thet trail ride.” My Old Dwarf frowned. “Iffins I been knowin’ thet, I been learnin’ how ta be ridin’, too!”

We all laughed.

camera for blog“The trail ride was not the only fun any of us had this past year.” My Bounty Hunter rejoined the conversation. “Do you not all remember the debate over magic versus technology? We all went on a nature hike and were afforded the opportunity to use Mistress Writer’s magic box that she calls a camera. The wildlife pictures taken by the magic users were no better than those taken by those of us unskilled in the arcane arts.”

ruby-ring2My Old Dwarf scoffed. “Aye, lad, but I already been ‘splainin thet ta all o’ ye. It do na be becausin’ anythin’ thet tha lass be callin’ tech-nol-o-gee. Tha magic box really be magic, but tha magic be in tha object, liken me old ring o takin’ me places.”

I leaned closer to Miles and explained, “He means his ring of transportation.”

“Aye, lass, me ring o trans-port-tatin’. Tha magic be in tha ring, so’s even non-magic folk kin be usin’ it, same as tha magic box ye all be callin’ a cam-er-ah, what holds tha magic inside it.” My Old Dwarf shook his head at our lack of understanding.

I laughed. “I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on the technology issue.”

“That was not the only time we got to use the magic box . . . er, camera.” Cleric grinned.

“That’s right. We saw many different birds and animals when Mistress Writer took us on another nature hike at the beginning of summer, as well.” My Bounty Hunter smiled as he remembered. “Dragon had created illusory cameras for us, so we did not have to share. We all took a large number of photographs that day.”

“I remember.” I nodded and turned toward my Arrogant One. “And there was another time when you took some outstanding nature images, too.”

The elf flushed with pride and sat up a little taller.

“And when you and Master Miles were sick with pneumonia this past spring, Mistress Writer, I took a lot of pictures of the birds in your yard and on our deck to share with you after you recovered.” Cleric smiled at the memory.

“We should have taken pictures the previous month, when the weather was so bad, and all those robins were on the deck.” Dragon shivered as she remembered.

Cleric chuckled. “You were so fascinated by the robins, you shrank to the size of a housecat and climbed up on the back of the sofa to watch them.”

“The robins may have been the most numerous that day – I think there were almost a hundred on the deck – but they were not the only birds we saw,” my Gypsy recalled. “I think we identified 11 different species in the snow and ice, including two different hawks.”

“See?” My Young Hero grinned. “I told you not everything about this past year was bad or sad or frightening. We shared a lot of fun and good times as well.”

My Bounty Hunter nodded. “It makes me most anxious to see what the coming year will bring.”

We hope, dear readers, you have enjoyed following the adventures and misadventures of my little band of displaced characters this past year, and for all the years they have been creating chaos in this world. And we hope you will continue to join us in the coming year as we face whatever comes our way – good, bad, sad, or frightening. It will always be nicer for us if you come along and keep us company. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

Happy New Year

‘Tis the Season for Cooperation

‘Tis the Season for Cooperation

Conference roomCleric stepped into the conference room, stopped dead, and gasped. Books, scrolls, parchments, and all manner of magical reference works were strewn about the large chamber. It looked as if a small tornado had torn through the area.

Following right on Cleric’s heels, Sorceress didn’t notice her friend had stopped. She plowed into her smaller companion, nearly knocking Cleric over. “Oof! Sorry! Did I injure you? Why did you stop so abruptly?”

Then Sorceress followed Cleric’s gaze. “Oh!” She looked about the room, her eyes growing big as saucers, her mouth agape. “Oh, my! What ever could have happened?”

Dragon pops upThe two companions jumped as Dragon’s reptilian head suddenly popped into view from behind a bookshelf, along with her leathery wings and scythe-like claws.

“Sorry. I did not mean to startle you. I have been trying to find a specific spell, and I seem to have misplaced it.”

“The spell you told Mistress Writer we would weave?” Sorceress paled.

Dragon nodded. “I have looked everywhere, but I cannot find it.” She frowned, smoke drifting from her snout. “I am fairly certain I remember it, but this is no time for fairly certain. I must be positive. We must use the correct components, combined in the prescribed manner, and we must enunciate the incantation flawlessly.”

“Indeed.” Sorceress pursed her lips. “A mistake could be disastrous.”

The three magic users turned their attention toward the door as two more characters entered the room, arguing loudly.

Gypsy and Arrogant One“If you had not been so eager to show off again, this never would have happened.” My Gypsy scowled at the other figure.

“I was not showing off. I was attempting to . . .” My Arrogant One’s voice trailed off, as he surveyed the formerly orderly room.

My Gypsy took a look and let out a long, low whistle. “Wow! What happened here? Did you attempt another spell, elf?”

The elf turned beet-red and his face contorted with anger. Before he could respond, however, Dragon interposed herself between the two figures. “Enough! There is no time for quibbling and squabbling. We have work to do.”

Dwarf“Work wot ye canna be doin’ iffins ye do na be havin’ the spell. Be ye findin’ it yet, beastie?” My Old Dwarf entered the room, munching on a sandwich, bits of food flying out of his mouth and lodging in his beard as he spoke.

My Arrogant One turned to face my Old Dwarf, looking down his nose at the old reprobate as he spoke. “You are totally disgusting. I have seen swine in their mud wallows exhibit better manners than do you!”

“An’ a good day ta ye, too, elfie.” The dwarf chuckled as he bit off another oversized mouthful of food.

“Do not call me elfie!”

“Ouch! I think you have outdone yourself this time, elf.” My Gypsy winced and rubbed at his ears. “I daresay dogs back in our own world are probably howling in pain at the pitch of your protestations!”

My Arrogant One opened his mouth to reply, but Dragon silenced him. “Enough! Any more bickering and the perpetrators will meet with a fiery end.” Dragon glared at the elf and the Gypsy.

Turning back toward the dwarf, Dragon sighed. “No, old friend, I have not found it yet.”

“It dinna be in yer hidey-box?”

Dragon finds spellDragon blinked. “Of course! Where else would I have placed it for safe-keeping?” The beast rushed toward her podium, shrinking as she ran. When she reached the podium, she squeezed herself into a small, hidden cubbyhole. When she emerged and returned to her previous height, she had a wooden puzzle box in her hand. Once she had manipulated the various pieces and opened the box, she extracted an ancient and fragile parchment. Scanning the piece, she smiled and nodded. “Yes, this is it.”

She turned toward her diminutive friend. “Dwarf, you will stand guard outside the door. Let no one enter. We must not be disturbed.”

The dwarf nodded once and took up his post, closing the door behind him.

Dragon and Arrogant OneDragon turned to the other magic users. “First, we must make certain we are alone, that no other entity is among us. We must also ensure that no spell has been cast by any magician that would compromise, change, or block our efforts here today. Once we have made those determinations, I will ward the room against entry and against eavesdropping, both mechanical and magical. Then and only then can we begin to weave this spell. It will take all of us, cooperating and sharing our abilities, to create this enchantment.” She glared at my Arrogant One. “Are you able to do this, to put aside your ego and ambition and cooperate with your fellow magic wielders?”

The elf turned beet-red again. “Of course, I can cooperate.” He looked as if he wanted to say more, but clamped his mouth shut and merely glared at Dragon and the others.

The beast narrowed her eyes and studied the elf for a few long moments. Finally, she nodded. “Very well. Then let us begin.”

* * *

While my Old Dwarf guarded the room where the magic users worked, my Foreman, my Bounty Hunter, and my Young Hero were sitting at the kitchen table, discussing with my husband his plans for this year’s Christmas Village.

Reviewing diagramsMiles passed some diagrams to the others. “See? This year will be different from past years. This year, I plan to keep the entire village confined to one half of the downstairs room but spread out over various levels.”

The other three nodded.

“And you require our assistance, Master Miles, in constructing your village?” My Young Hero examined the diagrams.

“Well, I suppose I could do it all myself, but I would appreciate any help you care to offer. I got the impression last year that you all enjoyed working on the holiday decorations with me.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/12/23/will-dragon-help/

“Oh, we did, sir, we did.” My Foreman furrowed his brow. “It is just that . . . well, last year we had the assistance of the others. This year, five of our company are in the conference room, trying to weave a spell of protection, so no outside magic can interfere with any they cast, as happened when someone interfered with the elf’s illusion on your neighbor’s house.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/12/08/the-what-is-missing/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/12/15/what-has-that-elf-done-now/

My Young Hero nodded. “Yes, and the dwarf stands guard for them. Without his muscle and their magic, it may take a bit more effort on our part.”

“I am sure it will take less effort for the four of us together than for poor Master Miles, were he to attempt it alone.” My Bounty Hunter took the diagrams from my Young Hero and nodded in approval at the plans.

“Very well.” My Foreman stood and extended his hand to Miles. “You can count on us, sir. When do we start?”

“First thing tomorrow morning.”

* * *

SickIt was three days later when Miles and I felt well enough to get out of bed. Cleric had been attending us through our sudden bout of illness, bringing us tea and broth at regular intervals, and wiping the sweat from our feverish brows.

At the breakfast table, Miles and I munched on toast and sipped tea as my characters sat quietly around the table, eying my husband and me with great concern.

When I finally felt strong enough to speak, I asked, “Were you able to weave the spell of protection?”

I addressed all my magic users, but it was Dragon who responded. “We were. It took us the entire day and well into the night, but we believe we were successful. Unfortunately, it is one of those spells whose failure is only revealed if someone succeeds in defeating it. Until such time, we can only hope we were successful. But did not Cleric explain all this to you already?”

I shrugged. “She may have, but I fear in my fevered state I was not comprehending or remembering.”

“Be tha two o’ ye feelin’ better now?” My Old Dwarf looked solicitously at Miles and me.

“We are.” I smiled, and Miles nodded in agreement.

“Then mayhap, sir, you feel well enough to accompany us downstairs?” My Arrogant One was being uncharacteristically polite.

Miles looked at him and nodded. “Sure.”

All my characters jumped up eagerly. Miles furrowed his brow and gave me an inquiring look, but I was just as curious as he.

Downstairs, my characters crowded around Miles, who gaped at the room. It had been transformed into a Christmas wonderland.

“We constructed the Christmas Village according to your designs, Master Miles.” My Young Hero looked shyly at Miles and shuffled one foot back and forth.

“An’ we been scatterin’ tha other holiday decorations aboot, too.” My Old Dwarf grinned.

“Do you like it?” My Gypsy eyed Miles nervously.

“We all . . . every one of us . . . cooperated to complete this for you while you and your good wife were ill.” One could not fail to notice the pride in my Arrogant One’s voice and bearing.lugged some large plastic bins

“I been doin’ tha heavy totin’, the fetchin’ o’ all tha decorations from yer storage closet.” My Old Dwarf’s chest puffed out.

Foreman following master plan 2

“I supervised and made sure we followed your master plan.” My Foreman held up the diagram Miles had created.

With my Gypsy and my Young Hero standing with him, my Bounty Hunter pointed at a number of the displays. “The lads and I set up the bulk of the layout.”

Dragon placed her one arm around Sorceress and her other arm around my Arrogant One. “We three did not set up as many of the displays as did the others, but we lent our magical talent to the exhibit. We animated several of the scenes. Your Santa and his mount move, your snowman really plays the piano, the fox and several of the other tree ornaments sing carols, your villagers walk down the ramp to the skating rink and ice skate, and your Abominable Snowman climbs the ladder and places the star atop the tree.”

 

Cleric looked at us nervously. “Although I am not of your faith, I am a cleric; therefore, I thought it appropriate that I set up the Nativity scene, the focus of your religious celebration.”

Christmas village and decorations 25

Miles looked around at the work my characters had completed while he and I had been bed-ridden. His smile grew and grew as he inspected each section of the village, and then scrutinized the placement of the other decorations. Finally, he turned to my characters, anxiously awaiting his judgment. “It’s perfect! Thank you! Thank you all!”

My characters began whooping with joy. “Merry Christmas, Master Miles! Merry Christmas, Mistress Writer!”

And Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you, dear readers, from Miles and me, and from my little band of displaced characters. We hope to see you here again next week. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

 

What Has That Elf Done Now?

What Has That Elf Done Now?

Arrogant One full body 2Gaping hole“Freeze, elf!”

I glared at my Arrogant One, who was trying to tip-toe past me unnoticed after I had seen the gaping hole in the ground where our next-door neighbor’s house should have been. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/12/08/the-what-is-missing/

The elf let out a strangled yelp, and sprinted down the steps and out the door.

dwarf“Be ye wantin’ me ta be fetchin’ tha elfie back fer ye, lass?” My Old Dwarf narrowed his eyes and slapped the flat of his axe into his open palm. His grizzled, unkempt beard could not quite hide his smirk.Bounty Hunter full body

My Bounty Hunter stepped in front of the dwarf. “No!” Turning toward me, he bowed slightly. “Milady, the elf meant no harm. Please allow me to speak with him. I am sure I can convince him to return . . . without the use of weapons or force.” The man glowered at the dwarf.

I shook my head. “Speed is of the essence. We don’t have time for polite discussion, nor for lengthy negotiations. My Old Dwarf will go after the elf. You stay here and explain things to me.”

My Old Dwarf nodded, pushed past my Bounty Hunter, and took off at a dead run.

“So, talk.” I frowned at my Bounty Hunter.

The man crossed his arms over his chest and remained silent, eyeing me sullenly.

Dragon looks out doorGaping hole“Yes, talk.” Dragon had walked to the French doors and looked through the glass. Her bemused expression told me I had not imagined the crater at the front of the next property. “I daresay we would all be interested in hearing the explanation behind this.”

The rest of my characters jumped up from the table and crowded around the doors, soup bowls in hand, eating as they gasped and gaped at the hole.

“What has that elf done now?” Sorceress tsk-tsked and shook her head.

“It looks like he blew up the neighbor’s house.” My Young Hero’s eyes grew big as saucers as he stared at the chasm.

“No.” My Gypsy scoffed. “Had he blown it up, there would be debris, or at the very least, singed grass around the edges of the hole.”

My Foreman craned his neck to see over the heads of the two lads. “Seems like a very thorough excavation.”

“But where is the house?” Cleric peered at the hole as if expecting the house to rise from the depths of the cavernous opening.

6-19-13 - Miles 001MeMiles joined us, handing me my bowl of soup while balancing his own bowl and a plate of bread and butter for the two of us. “I noticed it yesterday. Rather, I noticed yesterday that the house was gone. Since no one was running around the neighborhood screaming, and there were no police cars or fire engines out front, I figured the owners must have just moved the house. They have been talking for quite some time now about buying some land in the country. I thought they were going to build a brand-new house, but then, when their house here went missing, I just figured they changed their mind.”Moving a house

I furrowed my brow. “I never saw or heard anything out of the ordinary yesterday. I would think the moving of a house would entail a lot of noise and commotion. Why didn’t you say something when you first noticed it missing?”

Miles shrugged. “You were in your office, working on your writing. I didn’t want to disturb you. And, after all, a missing house didn’t seem like such a big deal compared to some of the things I’ve seen since your characters moved in.”

I ducked my head and grimaced, feeling the heat in my cheeks. “Yeah, I guess you’re right about that.” I turned to my Bounty Hunter. “So, judging by your assertion that the elf meant no harm, I surmise my Arrogant One must have had something to do with the missing house. Are you ready to enlighten us?”

My Bounty Hunter sighed. He started to speak, but then apparently changed his mind and clamped his mouth shut without a word.

Dwarf brings back elfA commotion at the front door drew everyone’s attention. Most of my characters tried, somewhat unsuccessfully, to stifle their laughter as my Old Dwarf hauled my Arrogant One up the stairs by the scruff of his neck. The dwarf unceremoniously dumped the elf at my feet. “Here he be, lass. I be toldin’ ye I be fetchin’ ’em back fer ye right quick-like.”

My Arrogant One scrambled to his feet. He brushed himself off while glaring at my Old Dwarf. “I hardly think I deserved such manhandling. Surly that vile bantam could have requested me to return to the house without resorting to such coarse and brutal behavior!”

My Old Dwarf chuckled. “I did been askin’ ye ta come quietly, elfie, but ye been declinin’ me invite.”

“Do not call me elfie!”

Ah! The dulcet tone of my Arrogant One’s glass-shattering screech! It had been a long time since I last heard it. It took me a few moments of head shaking and ear rubbing to regain my hearing.

After recovering, I glared at my Arrogant One once more. “Talk.”

The elf drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, grasped his cloak with both hands, and sneered. “Just what would you have me say?”

Neighbor's houseI raised an eyebrow. “Suppose you tell me exactly what happened to our neighbors’ house.”

“House?” My Arrogant One fidgeted, shifting his weight from foot to foot while giving his fingernails a thorough inspection.

I could feel my patience waning quickly. “Stop playing dumb. What did you do to the house?”

“Why do you always assume I am responsible when something is amiss?” The elf’s whining was almost as annoying as his previous screeching.

“Because, as a rule, you are.” Dragon joined the conversation.

“Why do you not just tell them what happened?” My Bounty Hunter frowned at his comrade. “Mayhap they might help you.”

With a hang-dog face, my Arrogant One began to mumble an explanation. “I was just attempting to emulate one of your world’s great illusionists. The one who made some huge statue disappear.”

“David Copperfield? The Statue of Liberty?” I gaped at my Arrogant One. “I remember seeing that illusion on television back, oh, about 35 years ago or more. How did you ever learn of it?”Copperfield and Lady Liberty

Still mumbling, my Arrogant One replied. “Your magic box . . . er, computer. I was attempting to discover if your world had produced any notable illusionists. When I learned of this man’s feats, I decided to try a similar illusion.”

“So, it’s just an illusion?” I sighed in relief. “The house is really still there?”

I had to strain to hear the elf’s answer. “Errrr…we are not certain.”

“What?” I gaped at him. “What do you mean, not certain? Either the house is there or it’s not!”Neighbor's house disappearing2

My Bounty Hunter came to his friend’s rescue. “After the elf made the house disappear . . . er, appear to disappear . . . he was unable to end the illusion. We were going to examine the site where the house should be, but we were afraid that someone would see us.”

I waited for a further explanation, with my arms crossed over my chest, and my foot tapping in impatience.

“Well, if the house is still there, we did not want the occupants to see us standing there, as if we were peering in their window.” My Bounty Hunter ended with a shrug.

“Dinna it never been occurin’ ta ye thet ye could jus’ be disappearin’ yerselves an’ be takin’ a quick look-see?” My Old Dwarf chuckled at the hapless duo.

“Yes, that would seem logical.” Dragon raised a delicate eyebrow. “But then, considering of whom we speak, logic would not likely enter the equation.”

“We are right here.” My Arrogant One glared at Dragon. “You need not speak as if we were not; nor need you be so insulting.”

“Okay, let’s just skip the finger-pointing, the verbal barbs, and the bickering. Let’s just figure out what happened to the house.” I turned to my Arrogant One. “Make yourself invisible and go check it out.”

My Arrogant One lowered his eyes and shuffled one foot back and forth on the rug. “I would rather not.”

“Why not?” I could feel the vein in my temple start to throb.

“He does not want to risk further failure,” my Bounty Hunter explained.

Elf cleric close-upDragon tittered. “I can understand that.” She turned to me. “I will go, Mistress.”

Before I could answer her, she was gone. It was almost twenty minutes later when she reappeared.

“Well?”

Dragon furrowed her brow and chewed her lower lip for a moment before answering. “Well, Mistress, the good news is, it is just an illusion. The house remains as it should be.”

interfere“And the bad news?” I raised an eyebrow in quizzical fashion.

“The bad news is, I could not break the enchantment, either. It appears that some other magic user has interfered with the elf’s spell.”

“Another magic user?” I looked at Dragon, Sorceress, Cleric and my Gypsy, my only characters other than my Arrogant One with any ability in the arcane arts.

Art - leader - multi-genre (1)“It was none of us, Mistress.” Dragon twisted her mouth in a show of distaste. “If I am correct, our friend, Arthur, is involved.”

“Arthur?” I felt my jaw drop. “I had a feeling he might have some arcane ability. Crawford gave me a cryptic warning that I had made a dangerous enemy of Arthur.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/09/08/still-looking-for-answers/ I sighed. “But how did he find us, and what would be his purpose in messing up one of my Arrogant One’s illusions?”

“I know not how he located us, Mistress, nor could I speculate on his purpose. I do, however, suggest my fellow magic users and I study the threads of magic holding the illusion captive. Perhaps, together, we can remove Arthur’s spell, thus bringing your Arrogant One’s illusion to an end.”

I nodded, and the group of characters headed toward the door. “Do not worry, Mistress,” Dragon called back over her shoulder. “I will maintain a spell of concealment over us while we work.”

It was late that evening when my band of magic users returned to the kitchen for dinner, which the rest of us had eaten hours earlier. They dropped silently into their chairs, overcome with fatigue, barely able to deal with the task of eating.weave

I waited patiently while Dragon drained two cups of tea and half a bowl of leftover soup. Finally, she turned to me and gave me a weak smile. “It took a great deal of effort on our part . . . Arthur wove his magic tightly around the elf’s spell . . . but we finally separated the two magics and terminated the illusion.”

“Do you think he may do something like this again?”

Weave a new spell“I do not know, Mistress, but first thing tomorrow, my companions and I will start weaving a new spell of protection, one that will prevent any magic user, save the five of us, from casting any spells on your property, or from adding their magic to any spells we cast elsewhere.”

I nodded, but secretly wondered if Dragon and her companions were actually powerful enough to give us the protection we needed from Arthur, or any other magic user with inclinations toward either mischief or mayhem. It seemed such an impossible task! I sighed and hoped for the best as my exhausted characters wandered off to get some sleep.

 

How did Arthur find us? How did he know about my characters and their magic abilities? Why did he interfere with my Arrogant One’s spell? Was this somehow connected to our recent encounter with Arthur at Anna’s farm? Perhaps we will find the answers to these questions someday, but for now, I will be happy just knowing Dragon and the others are doing their best to keep us safe. Be sure to return next week for more of the adventures and misadventures of my little band of displaced characters. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

The WHAT is Missing?

The WHAT is Missing?

Look at this“Mistress, look at this!”

Dragon, in her guise of an elf maiden, burst into the room, with Cleric right on her heels. Dragon was waving a newspaper over her head, and an ear-to-ear grin lit up Cleric’s face.

“What is it?” I looked up from the book I was reading.

“It is Didi’s article about Colton and Blue. It is in the local newspaper this day.” Dragon handed me the paper, already opened to the aforementioned piece. “I think she did a wonderful bit of writing.”

What Didi wrote aboutCleric nodded in agreement. “Didi mentioned Peaches, Colton’s first therapy pony, whom we knew as Mystery. She touched on how Peaches had been prepared as a therapy horse, and how Colton and Peaches had been trained to work together. Then she explained briefly how, after Peaches passed away, Anna attended an auction and found a new pony for her son. She also gave a quick overview of Blue’s history, with just a brief mention of both Andrew and Casey.”

Two SidebarsDragon took up the story. “There are two . . . er . . . what I believe I have heard you refer to as sidebars. The first one highlights the benefits of equine therapy for the handicapped. The other is a short but glowing profile of the facility that trained both Peaches and Blue. The bulk of the main article, however, concentrates on the relationship between Colton and Blue, how they have bonded, and how Blue has given Colton freedom he would not otherwise have been afforded. Didi included several paragraphs detailing Colton’s ability to take Blue out on the trails without supervision. The article is augmented by a number of photos of the two of them, both in the arena and on the trails.”More photos with the article

I took the newspaper and scanned the article. When I reached the end, I sighed in relief and smiled. “No mention of the incident with Arthur, nor of your ability, Cleric, to communicate with animals.”

Cleric nodded. “I am relieved to know Didi had more integrity than to include sensational details in her article.”

DidiI frowned. “I know Didi was planning on writing several additional articles, more in-depth pieces, for various larger publications. I hope those articles reflect the same level of integrity.”

Dragon narrowed her eyes and gave me an enigmatic smile. “I believe Didi will continue to treat both Arthur’s grief and Cleric’s empathic abilities with respect and discretion. She is . . . a rather exceptional person.”

I was about to question Dragon regarding her cryptic comment about the journalist, Didi, when my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter stomped into the room, arguing loudly.argument

As their yelling and bickering escalated to pushing and shoving, I frowned at the intrusion. “Whoa! What’s up with you two?”

Arrogant One facing right“None of your affair!” My Arrogant One snapped at me as he continued glaring at his companion.Bounty Hunter full body

My Bounty Hunter, on the other hand, faced me and replied courteously, in a respectful tone of voice. “It is a private matter, milady. Please pardon our unseemly comportment.” He concluded with a bow, then grabbed my Arrogant One by the arm and steered the elf back out of the room and down the stairs.

As they clambered down the steps, I heard my Bounty Hunter’s voice. It sounded as if he were talking through clenched teeth. “You have really outdone yourself this time, elf! How do you plan to rectify the situation before anyone else discovers what you have done?”

I looked at Dragon and Cleric. “Any clue what that was all about?”

Both of my characters shrugged. “I never know what is going on with those two.” Cleric frowned.

Dragon nodded and raised one delicate eyebrow. “Whatever it is, you can bet it is not anything good.”

Cleric, Dragon, and I returned to our discussion of Didi’s newspaper article. We were still huddled together on the sofa when my husband, Miles, called to us from the kitchen. “Lunch is ready! Come and get it!”

We scurried to the kitchen and were soon joined by the rest of my characters. My husband ladled out steaming bowls of vegetable soup, while my Old Dwarf handed each of us a thick slice of homemade bread still warm from the oven.

MilesMeAs he filled my bowl, Miles asked me, “Marge, did our next-door neighbors mention anything to you about moving their house?”

I shook my head. “No, they didn’t mention anything about moving. Why? Is there a for sale sign in front of their house?”

Miles sighed and placed his hand on my shoulder. “No, honey. I didn’t ask if our neighbors said anything about them moving, I asked if they mentioned anything about moving their house.”

“What?” I furrowed my brow and cocked my head. “What are you talking about?”

“Haven’t you looked out the window lately? The neighbor’s house is gone.”

Gaping holeI immediately put down my soup bowl and walked back into the living room. I looked through the glass of the French doors and did a double take. I opened the doors and stepped out onto the deck for a better look. Sure enough! Where just this morning there had been a lovely, tan, two-story house with contrasting aqua trim, there now stood a gaping hole in the ground.

Arrogant One full body 2

As I turned around and walked, dazed, back into the house, I spotted my Arrogant One tiptoeing toward the stairs.

“Freeze, elf!”

 

 

What happened to my neighbor’s house, and what did my Arrogant One have to do with it? Be sure to come back next week and find out! We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

The Truth (Conclusion of The Interview)

The Truth (Conclusion of The Interview)

Colton NooooooPandemonium broke out at Arthur’s proclamation.

Colton continued to wail uncontrollably. “Nooooooo! You can’t destroy Blue! I won’t let you!”

Anna held her son tight, trying to calm him, but the boy continued to sob.

Dray, Clara, and I confront ArthurDray, Clara, and I loudly confronted Arthur, each of us vowing the man would never harm Colton’s pony, Blue. Arthur swore, just as loudly, that he would see to it the beast was destroyed, so it could never harm another person.Didi whistling

Didi moved around, trying to capture the chaotic exchange on her tape recorder. Finally, she put the recorder down. Placing two fingers to her mouth, she whistled shrilly. The rest of us fell silent, staring at her.

Didi taping Arthur“That’s better.” She picked up the recorder again. “Now, Arthur, you stated the police and medical examiner determined your nephew had died of head injuries as the result of having been trampled by Blue. But are you certain of the police and forensic report?”

The man scoffed. “Of course!”

Didi frowned. “Well, then, it seems to me, Arthur, that your story has a major flaw in it.”

“Oh?” The man sneered at Didi.

She nodded. “I covered an incident last year when a child was savaged by a vicious dog. The animal was deemed dangerous and the police destroyed the animal right there, at the scene of the attack.”

“So?” Arthur looked down his nose at Didi.

“So, if Blue killed your nephew, why didn’t the police destroy the pony as a dangerous animal?”

“Good question.” I nodded.

Arthur rolled his eyes and snorted. “When my nephew was trampled, there were no witnesses. The police said there was no proof the animal was dangerous. They claimed it could have been an accident. They refused to destroy the beast.” Arthur’s face contorted with hatred. “It was no accident. The animal struck out at me when I entered the stall. It was obvious to me what had happened. That pony is dangerous and must be destroyed!”

I shook my head and held up my hand to silence Arthur as Colton started wailing again.

Didi and ClaraBefore I could speak, Didi turned to Clara, the alter ego of my character, Cleric. “Clara, didn’t you say you are absolutely certain Arthur is mistaken, and Blue did not kill his nephew, Andrew?”

Clara nodded.

“And didn’t you say you knew exactly what had happened?”

Again, Clara nodded.Arthur and Clara

Arthur pushed Didi aside and confronted Clara, standing practically nose to nose with her. “How can you know anything? You weren’t there! No one witnessed my nephew’s death!”

“I cannot explain how I know . . .”

Arthur stopped her mid-sentence. “You can’t explain, because there is no way you could know!”

Clara sighed. “I assure you I know what happened as certainly as if I had been there. I cannot explain how I have this knowledge. You must trust me.”

“Whether or not we trust you, I’d like to hear what you have to say.” Didi checked her tape recorder once more before gesturing for Clara to begin.

Clara looked at me, cocking one eyebrow in an unspoken question. I nodded. She paced around for a bit, her expression one of deep concentration. I knew she was choosing her words carefully.

Finally, Clara stopped pacing and faced everyone. “I will tell you what I know of the events of that day.”

Arthur scoffed, but the rest of us nodded.

Arthur and Clara 2stable hand“Arthur, do you remember a young stable hand, a painfully thin teenaged boy adorned with several piercings, whose long, stringy hair appeared to have had only a nodding acquaintance with a comb? On the day in question, he was dressed all in black – jeans, shirt, windbreaker, baseball hat, sneakers – and he had what I believe are called earbuds in his ears, as he was listening to music from one of his electronic devices.”

Arthur nodded. “I forget the miscreant’s name, but I recognize the description.” He narrowed his eyes and stared at Clara. “How do you know what he was wearing that day?”

Ignoring his question, Clara nodded. “And was this boy a skillful handler of the horses in his care?”

Arthur snorted. “Him? Skillful? Hardly! He was always looking for shortcuts, trying to get away with the least amount of work possible.”

Horses in barn aisle“Exactly.” Clara nodded. “Now on the day your nephew was killed, that stable hand was supposed to bring the horses into the barn, one or two at a time, and place them in their stalls, where feed and hay were awaiting them. Instead, he just opened the pasture gate and yelled at the horses, whooping and hollering. Since the horses were accustomed to being fed at that time, they all charged into the barn. They milled around in the aisle before entering the open stalls. Many of them entered the wrong stalls, and several horses engaged in kicking matches as they sought to protect their own territory and feed. One of the larger horses, a rangy seal brown thoroughbred, entered Blue’s stall, nudging open the door which your nephew had left ajar. The horse charged into the stall and knocked Andrew over. Blue tried to protect the boy, but the pony was no match for the larger horse. That animal is the one that trampled the boy.”

Arthur scoffed. “Then why was Andrew’s blood all over the pony’s hooves and coat? And why hadn’t the stable hand tried to help Andrew when he entered the barn and found him in the pony’s stall?”

BlueClara shook her head and answered in a gentle voice. “The blood you saw on Blue was not Andrew’s. It was Blue’s. He was savagely kicked several times by the larger horse as he tried to protect Andrew. And the stable hand never saw Andrew because he never looked into any of the stalls. By the time that boy walked into the barn, the thoroughbred had eaten all the feed in Blue’s bucket and had gone into his own stall. Once the stable hand chased the rest of the horses into their stalls, all he did was close all the stall doors without checking.”

We all stood gaping at Clara, trying to wrap our brains around her tale.

Arthur was the first to speak. “You’re a liar!” His face was red, and his hands clenched into fists that he looked dangerously close to using. Dray stepped between him and Clara.

Narrowing her eyes as she stared at Arthur, Dray spoke calmly, but with steel in her voice. “My friend does not lie. For all the years I have known her, she has never uttered a falsehood. I am not certain she even knows how.”

“Then explain this fairy tale she has woven. There is no way she could have such detailed knowledge of that day unless she was there and witnessed the events she described.” Then Arthur’s eyes widened, and he pushed Dray aside to confront Clara once more. “Or are you saying you were there? That you did see what happened and made no attempt to save my nephew’s life?”

“I was not there,” Clara assured him.

“Then how do you know what happened?” This time it was Didi who asked the question. “Do you have proof of your allegations?”

ElfClara shook her head. “I cannot explain how I know these things, and I can offer no proof.”

“Because you are a liar!” Arthur folded his arms over his chest and glared at Clara.

“Without proof, it does seem a bit farfetched.” Didi frowned.

Clara chewed on her lower lip for several seconds. She gave me an apologetic look, then began. “I would like you to consider the . . . possibility . . . of what I am about to tell you, no matter how outlandish or improbable it sounds.”

Dray and I exchanged wary glances, as we both knew what Clara was about to reveal.

“I have an ability that is difficult for me to explain, and even more difficult for others to accept.” She paused, searching for the right words. “I can communicate, after a fashion, with most animals.”

“Are you trying to tell us you can talk with animals, and that’s how you know what happened to my nephew . . . because the pony told you?” Arthur looked at Clara incredulously, then doubled over with laughter. Once he stopped laughing and caught his breath, he placed his hand on Clara’s shoulder. “I was wrong! You’re not a liar, you’re delusional!”

Clara and Blue“I assure you, sir, I am neither. I do talk to animals, but they do not talk to me. They . . . respond to me. I have a sensitivity to animal’s emotions, and an empathetic ability to see images they place in my mind. I know what happened to your nephew because I saw it all happen through Blue’s thoughts as I stood with him in Anna’s barn earlier, calming him. He let me know through the images he placed in my mind, that your presence here upsets him because he knows you blame him for what happened to Andrew. He knows he is in danger from you, that your blind hatred drives you to destroy him.”

“That’s enough! You will never convince me that you can communicate with dumb animals; nor will I believe that pony did not kill my nephew. He must be destroyed!” Arthur tried to push past everyone and head for the door, but Anna and Colton stopped him.Colton

“No!” Colton was no longer crying. His voice was firm and commanding. “I believe Clara. I have worked with Blue. I can’t communicate with animals the way Clara does, but I have bonded strongly with Blue, and I know he is incapable of intentionally harming anyone, let alone a person he has been trained to help. You must believe Clara!”

“Clara, is there any proof you can offer of your ability?” Didi was still recording the conversation.

Clara lifted her hands, palms up, and shrugged her shoulders. “I do not know what evidence I can offer as proof. As none of you can know what goes on in an animal’s mind, how can I prove that I can?”

“You can’t.” Arthur sneered again. “And I refuse to believe some fairytale you have concocted.”

Colton persisted. “I believe you, Clara. You’ve told us of events that day that Arthur did not witness, so he does not believe you. Can you tell us anything about that day that Arthur would have seen?”

Clara wrinkled her brow and rubbed her jaw. Suddenly, she brightened. “Yes, I believe there is! I know what Andrew was wearing.”Andrew

Arthur scoffed, but Clara turned to him with a look of confidence. “Your nephew was wearing a red, short-sleeved pull-over shirt, crisp, dark blue jeans, and a pair of badly scuffed brown Western boots. His short, black hair barely peeked out from under a tan cowboy hat adorned with a brown, braided hatband.”

Arthur’s jaw dropped. He stared at Clara for what seemed like an eternity before collapsing in a heap on the couch. “There is no way you could know that, unless you were there.”

“Mom?” Colton reached for Anna, who understood. She led her son to the couch and helped him take a seat next to Arthur.

Colton and ArthurThe boy reached out, grasping for Arthur’s hand. “There’s no way Clara could know that, unless she was there . . . or unless she saw it through Blue’s mind, as she said she did. I believe her. I hope you can, too.” Receiving no response from Arthur, Colton pressed on. “I know Blue is innocent. He is gentle, and he is dedicated to helping me, as he was dedicated to helping his last owner, Casey, before me, and your nephew, Andrew, before her.”

Arthur looked at the boy, then at each of us. He heaved a shuddering sigh and closed his eyes against the tears that gathered in the corners of his eyes. Finally, he rose. “I guess I have no choice but to believe. I’m sorry, Colton, that my grief turned to hatred and rage. Your pony is safe from me now. I hope you have many years of happiness with him.”

He turned and left, and a few moments later, we heard his car heading down the driveway to the road.

“Well, I guess I can take those pictures of you and Blue now, Colton.” Didi smiled. “I have quite an article to write now!”Didi about to take pix of Colton and Blue

 

We hope you have enjoyed the multi-week mystery tale surrounding our friend, Colton, and his therapy pony, Blue. Be sure to return each week to see what my band of displaced characters and our friends are up to. We’ll leave the porch light on for you!