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.
“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.
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.
“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.
Miles 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.”
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.
A 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?”
I 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?”
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!”
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.
Dragon 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.
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.”
“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.
“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.
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?”
“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.