I sat across the kitchen table from my Foreman. He drained his mug of hazelnut coffee and poured himself another. I sipped my raspberry tea and waited.
“This coffee is far superior to most of what could be found in my world. Only the finest establishments in my world would offer such a flavorful brew. In the kingdom where I lived, only the inn in the capital city served it, and then only on special occasions.” My Foreman’s gray eyes seemed to be seeing back through time and space. He took a deep breath, and I imagined he was savoring the remembered aromas of a world to which he would never return.
“You are missing your world.” I nodded and took another sip of tea.
My Foreman tilted his head and wrinkled his brow. “Ye-es . . .” He drew the word out, then paused, seemingly searching for the right words. I waited
Several minutes later, he shrugged and continued in his soft voice. “Of course, I miss my world. All nine of us, your characters who fell from your manuscript, miss our world. It has been a monumental and formidable task to learn to live in your world.”
He took another long draught of his coffee. “But it is more than that, Mistress. I not only miss my world, I miss who I was in my world.”
“I’m not sure I understand what you mean.”
“Well, maybe you could understand better if I talk about some of your other characters who also fell from the manuscript.” My Foreman paused again, took another gulp of coffee, then sat, chewing on his lower lip.
Finally, he began. “Take Dragon. She is, as she was in our world, a dragon. She still has all the abilities of a dragon – her immense magical power, her ability to shapeshift and change size. And she uses these abilities here in this world all the time.” He searched my face for some sign that I understood.
I nodded and gestured for him to go on.
He squirmed in his seat but continued. “Your Arrogant One was a renowned illusionist in our world. He continues to practice his art and sharpen his skills in this world. And Sorceress and Cleric gather their herbs and botanicals, distill their potions, and cast their spells, just as they did before. Cleric has maintained her ability as a healer, often using her herbs and aptitude to treat a malady or mend a scrape for one of us. She also still has her ability to communicate with animals. She has used this gift to help coax wildlife closer so you and the others can capture better images of them with your magic boxes you call cameras. She has also helped our friend, Colton, by communicating with Peaches, whom we knew as Mystery, and later with Blue.”
I nodded. “Yes, Cleric especially has found many ways to use her talents in this world.”
Before my Foreman could continue, my Old Dwarf wandered into the room. “Eh, do na be mindin’ me. I jus’ be grabbin’ a wee snack fer meself.”
My Foreman frowned but said nothing. He waited silently until the dwarf had completed constructing his wee snack and had taken it with him. Watching the rotund figure leave the room, my Foreman heaved a deep sigh. “Well, you can see your Old Dwarf is still doing what he did best in our world.”
I chuckled. “Yes, he has brought from his world his number one ability – eating. That, of course, is closely followed by his number two ability – chasing rabbits through the neighborhood.”
My Foreman wrinkled his brow. “Yes, but even I must admit he does so much more than that. He is atoning for his sins.”
I wondered to which of the old reprobate’s myriad sins my Foreman alluded, but I held my tongue and listened.
“The dwarf displays a fierce loyalty toward all of us, but especially toward Dragon and Cleric. He would rather die than see them harmed. He was the one who went with the Unicorn, the Lord of the Forest, to rescue Dragon when she was injured in that other world, the land where the Wish Listeners previously had taken us.”
I furrowed my brow. “I had almost forgotten about that.”
My Foreman drained his cup and refilled it once more. Then he sat, lost in thought. I almost thought he had fallen asleep when he spoke again. “Yes, the dwarf keeps busy and content.” He took a sip of coffee but found it had grown cold. He fidgeted with the cup for a moment before continuing. “As for the lads – your Gypsy and your Young Hero – they were still finding their path in our world at the point when they fell from your manuscript. Your Gypsy remembers the magic he learned at his grandmother’s knee. He continues to dabble in it in this world, assisting your other magic users in their ventures, but he does not pursue it with any passion. Both lads vividly remember their lives with the horses. Your Young Hero’s father owned the horse breeding facility I managed, and your Gypsy – who grew up around horses and horse people in his own country – worked as a stable lad at that same farm. In this world, away from their beloved horses, they were unhappy – as was I – until Dragon magically created the illusory horses for us. That was enough for them.”
“But not for you?” I raised an eyebrow.
He sighed. “I suppose it should have been. Perhaps it was, at first. But at the point when I fell from your manuscript, I was no longer just finding my path in the world. I had advanced to being so much more than just a rider or a horseman. My years as a commander in the king’s mounted regiment were over. I was managing the largest and most prestigious horse breeding and training facility in the kingdom. I hired people, I fired people, I trained people, I trained horses, I made schedules, I did the accounting and met the payroll and ordered the feed and supplies, I found and cultivated clients, I made decisions regarding breeding and bloodlines, I doctored sick and injured horses . . . I had so much diverse responsibility. I thrived on a workday that always started before dawn and often stretched to midnight or later. My work was hard, physical labor combined with intellectual tasks.”
My Foreman fell silent, blushing. Finally, he muttered, “I suppose that sounded like a lot of boasting.”
“Not at all.”
I was about to say something more, but my Old Dwarf chose that precise moment to return to the kitchen. “Be ye two still here? I been thinkin’ ye be all done yer chin-waggin’ and jaw-flappin’ by now. It be almos’ lunchtime!” He headed for the refrigerator. “San-whichies agin taday?”
I looked at my watch and frowned. “You have another hour before lunch, and I thought Miles was going to make soup. I’ll have to go find him and remind him.”
My Foreman pushed his chair from the table and rose. “I will find him, Mistress. That seems to be my place in this world – I believe in your vernacular the appropriate term is go-fer.” He left the room, his head bowed and his shoulders slumped.
Still standing in front of the open refrigerator, my Old Dwarf harrumphed. “Wale, it do na be lookin’ like ye been doin’ much good, lass. Yer Foreman be lookin’ more depressed now than afore ye been tryin’ ta cheer ’em up.” He shook his head and tsk-tsked at me before going back to checking out the contents of the refrigerator.
I scowled at the dwarf, but the problem was, he was right.
Well, now I understand my Foreman’s problem. But what to do about it . . . my Foreman can’t exactly hire on as a farm manager in this world, now can he? I’ll have to think hard about this. Do any of you readers have a suggestion? Be sure to let me know and come back next week to see what happens. I’ll leave the porch light on for you.