A Reunion . . . or Two

A Reunion . . . or Two

Farther awayTClose enough to hithe companions, led by the strange local, Sangree, zigzagged their way toward the distant complex of barns. At times, the barns seemed close enough to hit with a well-thrown rock. Most times, they seemed to be getting farther and farther away. Every time Sangree changed direction, the landscape changed.

Puffing and panting, the Arrogant One grabbed Sangree’s arm. “We need a rest.”

“Past that copse of trees.” Sangree smiled and pointed to their right. “We can stop there for rest and refreshment.

The elf watched as the trees Sangree had pointed to seemed to slip towards their left. He looked down his nose at Sangree and scowled. “Are you quite certain you know where you are going?”

Arrogant One and SangreeSangree looked woundedSangree looked wounded. “Of course. I am the best guide in the town.”

“But we are not in the town now, are we?” the elf muttered.

“Of course not. We are on the road. The road goes away from the town.” Sangree gave the Arrogant One a look of pity. “I thought you were intelligent. I thought you could understand that.”

Sangree and DrayBefore the Arrogant One could react with his usual glass-shattering screeching, Dragon, still in her guise of a delicate maiden, stepped between the two figures. “How long will it take to get to the barns?”

Sangree smiled broadly. “Not long now.” He looked past Dragon, and his smile faded. He glared at the Arrogant One. “Unless some of your company are not able to keep up, and we have to make more than one rest stop. Then it could take much longer.”

Dwarf and Arrogant One“Do na be worryin’ aboot thet. Tha elfie be keepin’ up. I be makin’ sure o thet, even iffins I be havin’ ta be carryin’ ’em on me back.”

The Old Dwarf shot the Arrogant One a superior look, then quickly covered his ears as the elf screeched, “Do not call me elfie!

Surprised at elves“Elf?” Sangree looked surprised, as if he had not noticed the Arrogant One, as well as some others in the group, sported the pointed ears, slanted eyes, and delicate features characteristic of the race. “You are fey-kin?”

“What if I am?” The elf drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, grasped his cloak with both hands, and glared at the guide.

“The fey usually do not enter this world. You could be the reason the Changes are changing more rapidly.” Sangree scratched his head and chewed on his lower lip. “We may have to take a different route.”

“Are you saying that the presence of . . .?” Cleric started to question Sangree, but Dragon cut her off.

One of two things“Take whatever route is needed to get us there as quickly as possible.” Dragon turned toward her companions and lowered her voice. “The Foreman was lost before the Arrogant One, Cleric, or I entered this illusory land. That means one of two things. Either the fey have entered this land, or the rapid changes in the landscape have been brought about by our presence. Any of us – even the Foreman himself – who fell out of Mistress Writer’s manuscripts might be the catalyst for the rapid changes.”

“How?” Cleric wrinkled her brow in confusion.

“By virtue of the fact that none of us are from what the Mistress terms the real world.” Dragon’s tone was somber and edged with concern.

The Gypsy frowned. “Are you certain the Foreman became lost because of the changing landscape? Could that not be merely coincidental to his disappearance?”

Dwarf closeup“It do na be makin’ much nevermind wat the reason be fer ’is disappearin’. We be havin’ ta be findin’ ’em, and right quick-like. I be havin’ a bad feelin’ thet tha longer we be in this place, the harder it be ta be gittin oot agin.” The Old Dwarf looked about nervously as he spoke.

Dragon nodded and turned toward Sangree. “Let us proceed.”

The guide smiled broadly and started off at a trot in the opposite direction of the one he had previously indicated. “Come. Since speed is of the essence, we will see if the short-cut is still there.”Young Hero and Sangree

The Young Hero grabbed Sangree and pulled him to an abrupt stop. “See if it is still there? What if it is not?”

Sangree shrugged. “Then it will take us longer.” He smiled broadly. “But I will get you there. I am the best guide in the town.”

* * *

Foreman facing right closeupThe Foreman, Tor, heaved a huge sigh. He had been trying for hours to get information from the one called the Boss, but that man seemed incapable of giving a straight answer.

Tor looked out the barn door and beyond the stable yard. The landscape adjacent to the stable yard had changed again. The last time Tor had looked, it had been an orchard, the apple trees already heavy with ripe, red fruit ready for the harvest. Before that, it had been a hazy cypress swamp, and before that, a woodlot with a railroad track leading from the stable yard. Now, it was a sandy beach.

Tire of evasionHe sighed again and turned back toward the Boss. “I tire of your evasiveness. Where did you come from, how did you get here, and who were you before you came here and became the Boss?” He glared at the other figure, still squirming on the bale of hay, where Tor had none-too-gently seated him.

“I guess I come from the town. Ain’t that where you come from? And I guess I walked here. Ain’t that how you got here? An’ I guess I’ve always been the Boss . . . or I figured I always oughta been.” The man spoke glibly and had an infuriatingly smug look on his face. Tor could feel his patience stretching to the breaking point.

Before you were in the town. Where did you come from before you were in the town? And how did you get to the town?” Tor’s voice was strained, and his hands were balled into fists.

Another building out back“Sounds like them horses are getting’ restless. Ain’tcha gonna give ’em no feed or water?” The Boss pointed toward the door at the other end of the barn. “I think there’s another building out there, where they keep the grain and the hay. Ya can draw water from the well out back.”

When Tor made no move toward the door, the Boss scoffed. “Hypocrite! You were so concerned that the farrier did his job right and didn’t lame them up, but ya don’t give a rat’s arse if they go hungry or die of thirst.”

Tor grabbed the Boss and started dragging him toward the door. “You are right. The horses must be fed and watered. Come. You can answer my questions while you show me where everything is, and help me . . .”

“I’ll take care of them. That’s my job.”

Stable hand returnsTor whirled around to find the stable hand walking back into the barn. He gaped at the approaching figure. “I thought you had left for good.”

“Changed my mind.” The youth blushed, scuffed his boot back and forth in the dirt, and fidgeted with his collar. “Nowhere else ta go. Unnerstan’, I don’t wanna work for him no more. He ain’t my boss.” He jutted his jaw in the direction of the Boss. “But tha horses . . . gotta take care of ’em. It’s my job.”

Tor nodded. “May I offer some assistance?”

The lad shook his head. “Nah. I can manage. It’s my job. You jus keep that one outta my way.” He jerked his thumb at the Boss and glared at him before turning and walking down the barn aisle toward the back door. Tor could hear him talking softly to the animals as he passed each stall.

Tire of evasionWhen he turned back to the Boss, Tor was all but growling. “Now. You will answer my questions now.

The Boss settled back onto the bale of hay. “Sure thing! Whatcha wanna know?”

* * *

Twice in the next hour, the companions approached so close to the barns, they could hear the horses inside nickering and snorting. Once, they were sure they heard voices.

“Is that the Foreman?” The Young Hero started running toward the barns.

Gypsy grabs friend by tree“Look out!” The Gypsy grabbed his friend’s arm and swung him around, keeping the lad from running headlong into a massive oak tree as the landscape changed again.

“Wow! Thanks! That was close.” The Young Hero’s eyes widened as he stared at the tree that had seemed to pop out of thin air into his path.

“Did thet be tha Foreman wat ye be heardin’?”

“Mayhap, but I can not be sure, dwarf. I could not hear the voices well enough to make out any words.” The Young Hero hung his head.

Cleric patted the boy’s arm. “Do not worry. None of us could hear clearly.” She turned toward Sangree. “Why is it every time we get close to the barns, the landscape changes and we are farther away?”

“It’s the Changes. That’s what it does. I told you it was a treacherous region.”

Smoke drifting from Dragon's nostrilsDragon scowled at the man. Despite the fact she was not in her true form, smoke drifted from her nostrils. “Are you quite certain you are able to get us to the barns? Not just close enough to see and hear, but actually to the barns, so we may enter?”

“Yes, yes, quite certain. I am the best guide in the town. Trust me.” Sangree was wearing his too-broad smile again. “If we leave right this minute, we should be there within the hour.”

Amost walked off the cliffHe turned and almost fell off a previously non-existent cliff. “Oops. Wrong way. Be careful there! Watch your step!” He turned and led the group, muttering and grousing, away from the cliff’s edge.

Two hours and a dozen changes of landscape later, Sangree triumphantly led the weary group along the railroad track and into the stable yard.

Arrived

Smiling Sangree“See? I told you I’m the best guide in the town.” He smiled so broadly that Cleric feared his face might split wide open.

The Gypsy and the Young Hero started to run toward the open barn door, but Dragon grabbed them. “No! Do not run. Did you forget the incidents of the tree and the cliffs?”

“Oh, it’s okay. You can run now. We’ve departed the Changes. This area isn’t part of that region.” Sangree demonstrated by running to the building. Stopping by the open door, he gestured for the companions to follow. He was almost trampled as eight figures made a mad dash past him and entered the barn.

ReunionIn seconds, the companions spotted their lost comrade standing next to a figure seated on a bale of hay, and he spotted them. Tor and his friends ran to each other and suddenly everyone was talking at once.

Tor and the BossIn the pandemonium, the seated figure edged off the hay bale and started to slink toward the back of the barn. Tor ran back and grabbed him by his shirt collar. “You are going nowhere.” His thunderous voice silenced everyone else. Everyone except the person he had grabbed.

“Well, if you insist. I jus’ didn’t wanna intrude on yer reunion with yer friends here. Didn’t wanna git in tha way.”

The figure turned toward the companions and Dragon’s jaw dropped. “Arthur?”

Dragon and the Boss

What would Arthur – leader of the writers’ group Lost in the Words, and major antagonist to Mistress Writer and her characters –  be doing in an illusory world created by Dragon and her colleagues in spell casting? Be sure to come back next week and find out. I’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Change, Change, Change – What’s the Story?

Change, Change, Change – What’s the Story?

Continued along the roadThe companions continued along the road in the direction of the distant barns. Dragon, in the form of an exotic and delicate maiden, led the group. The Bounty Hunter brought up the rear, keeping an eye on the figure that appeared to have followed them from the village.

Farther awayLess than fifteen minutes later, the Gypsy lad yelped and grabbed Dragon by the sleeve. “Does it seem to you that the barns are farther than they were just moments ago?”

Dragon narrowed her eyes and stared toward the barns. “You may be correct. They do appear more distant.”

Landscape is changingThe Young Hero chimed in. “And the landscape is changing. The horses and fencing are gone, and the fields are less lush and full of weeds.”

Road is starting to twist“And the road is starting to twist.” The Arrogant One pointed to the road ahead, which was no longer straight. “The barns are no longer directly ahead, either.”

“Is that . . . a railroad track?” Sorceress gaped at the steel rails emerging from a copse of trees and merging with the road ahead.RR Tracks

“Not something one would expect to find in a medieval world.” Dragon gathered the companions closer and addressed the Bounty Hunter. “Are we still being shadowed?”

The man nodded.

“Perhaps we should find out who is following us and why, and what he knows about this changing landscape.” Dragon gestured for the Bounty Hunter and the Old Dwarf to go back and intercept their apparent pursuer.

“Wait!” The Arrogant One stopped them. “Dragon, you were concerned that if we separated, some of us might become lost, as the Foreman did. I suggest we either all wait here and see if our stalker catches up with us, or we all go back and confront him.”

Dragon furrowed her brow. “Excellent point. We do not wish to search for more than one lost soul.”

“Waiting seems the best option, as the person in question appears to be almost upon us.” Sorceress pointed to a rapidly approaching figure.

“Indeed! He seems to be getting closer at about the same rate the barns are becoming more distant.” The Young Hero furrowed his brow and kept glancing back and forth between the approaching man and the barns.

Moments later, the figure slowed his rapid advance and gave the companions a wary look. Nervously, he edged closer.

SangreeDragon and the others checked him out as he drew nearer. He appeared a singularly nondescript man, of indeterminate age and average height and weight. He was clad in an unremarkable brown leather tunic, dingy gray leggings, and well-worn boots. He carried nothing – neither weapon nor staff nor pouch.

“Thet one do na be much o a threat.” The Old Dwarf shook his head and gestured dismissively.

The figure stopped and bowed when he reached the companions. “Hail, travelers! I am Sangree. I saw you in the town and thought mayhap you were in need of a guide.”

Sangree and DrayDragon raised an eyebrow. “Travelers? Why do you believe us to be travelers?”

Sangree flashed a broad smile. “I know everyone from the town. I do not know you. So . . . travelers.” He puffed out his chest as if inordinately proud of having made that deduction.

Dragon nodded, apparently satisfied with that answer. “Sangree, have you seen any other travelers of late?”

Sangree furrowed his brow and put his hand to his chin. The tip of his tongue poked out of the corner of his mouth and his eyelids almost closed. He remained in that position for so long, Cleric whispered to Dragon, “Is he in a trance?”

Dragon shrugged and reached out to give him a shake. Her hand was only an inch from his shoulder when he opened his eyes, smiled broadly, and shook his head. “No, you are the only travelers I have seen.”

Dragon raised an eyebrow again.

Sangree and Bounty HunterThe Bounty Hunter rounded on the man. “Perchance, do you know where this road goes?”

“Away from the town.” Again, Sangree flashed a broad smile.

“We do na be carin’ where tha road be leadin’ from. We be wantin’ ta be knowin’ where it be leadin’ to.” The Old Dwarf scowled.

“The road leads to away from the town.” Sangree’s exasperated tone of voice tacked a silent Duh to the end of his statement.

The Gypsy chuckled. “Sangree, if we continue following this road in this direction, where will we end up?”

“Away from the town.” Another broad smile shone from Sangree’s face.

“Wonderful guide!” Sorceress snorted.

“Mayhap you are in need of a guide?” Sangree gave her a hopeful look.

“To what place can you guide us?” The Young Hero gave Sangree an encouraging smile.

“Away from the town.”

“This is getting us nowhere!” The Arrogant One scoffed.

Sangree and Cleric“Sangree?” Cleric approached the man. “Do you see that complex of barns in the distance?” She pointed to the barns, now barely visible on the horizon.

Sangree nodded.

“Can you guide us there?”

Sangree nodded again and set off across the field. “It is fortunate you asked me to guide you. You would most likely have gotten lost in the Changes if you had stayed on the road.”

“The changes?” Cleric looked confused as she and the others scurried to keep up with Sangree.

“Yes, that is what this area is called. Very treacherous region.” Sangree offered the companions his widest smile yet as he led them on a zig-zag route through the ever-changing landscape.

Ever-changing landscape

* * *

Stays the sameTor waited for the Boss to begin his story. The man hemmed and hawed but said nothing of import as he gestured to the barn and stable yard. “…stays the same. Always the same.”

Tor scowled at the man. “Yes, yes, you have said that several times now. I am more interested in knowing about you and how you came to be here, and what you really know about the phenomenon of the changing landscape.”

The stable hand nodded. “Me, too.”

The boss backhands the stable handThe Boss backhanded the youth, knocking him on his rump before Tor could intervene. Reaching down to help the young man to his feet, Tor gave the Boss a steely look. “I strongly advise against such actions.”

The Boss frowned. “You gonna stop me?”

“I will.” Tor met the man’s gaze.

Tor and Boss

The Boss shrugged again, then started wandering toward the barn. Tor followed him. Once inside the barn, the Boss made a big show of checking each horse. When he reached the bobtail at the far end of the barn, he opened the stall door, clipped a lead on the horse’s halter, and led him out into the center aisle. “There! See, he ain’t limpin’ none.”

Tor raised an eyebrow. “You were going to tell me your story . . . and what you know of this place.”

Shrugging again, the Boss led the horse back into the stall. Closing the stall door, the man looked toward Tor again, then beyond. He frowned. “Go on. Go on!

holding pipedropping pipeIt took only seconds for Tor to realize the Boss was talking to someone else. Tor whirled around to see the stable hand standing there with a length of pipe in his hand. The youth looked from the pipe to the Boss and then to Tor. Finally, he dropped the pipe.

“Ya can’t do that! I’m the Boss.” The other man’s face was like thunder, but his voice sounded more like that of a petulant child.

“Are ya?” The stable hand furrowed his brow and tilted his head.

The man looked taken aback by the question. “Well, I always have been.”

“Not no more.” The youth shook his head. “Don’t know how ya ever gots ta be Boss in the first place.” He turned and walked out of the barn.Stablehand leaves

The Boss gaped at the departing figure. “Well, that ain’t supposed ta happen.”

“What is?”

“Huh?” The Boss looked back at Tor.

“What is supposed to happen?”

“Well, I’m supposeta be the Boss. He’s supposeta work for me, do whatever I tell ’em to.”

“How did you get to be the Boss? For that matter, how did you come to be in this place?”

TalkWhen the Boss started to shrug again, Tor grabbed him and pushed him down onto a bale of hay. “You will sit there, and you will tell me what I wish to know.”

“Or what? Whattaya gonna do?” The Boss looked and sounded smug.

Tor narrowed his eyes. “Or I will leave you here with no one. It is hard to be the Boss when you have no one to follow your orders.”

“All right, all right. Don’t get yer knickers in a twist.” The Boss squirmed around until he found a more comfortable position. “So, waddaya wanna know?”

Tor sighed. I fear this may take a considerable amount of time.

Passage of time

Will Tor ever get to hear the Boss’ story? Will Sangree ever lead Dragon and the companions to this barn? And where has the stable hand gone? Be sure to come back next week as we continue this exciting tale. I’ll be sure to leave the porch light on for you.

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We Interrupt Our Regular Programming for This Important Public Service Announcement

We Interrupt Our Regular Programming for This Important Public Service Announcement

Intro - Searching for my ForemanIntro - DiscussWhile Dragon and her companions are searching for my Foreman, I – Mistress Writer (aka Marge) – have been continuing to interact with my friends on social media. We discuss many topics, such as climate change, politics, religion, music, old memories, current events, race relations, civil unrest, examples of policing (both good and bad), the plight of the farmer, and the latest releases by our favorite authors. (side note – Jean Rabe’s latest in the Piper Blackwell series, The Dead of Jerusalem Ridge, will be coming out July 15. Happy dance!)Intro - Happy dance

 

Intro - paragraph 2 - Civil and politeOn social media, as in real life, many of my friends agree with me on most major issues. Some do not. Of those who disagree with my point of view, most are civil and polite. Some, however, are sadly ignorant of how rational adults discuss and debate issues. So, I thought I would offer this primer for conducting discussions/debates on social media. In no particular order of importance, social media participants should remember these key points:

Point 1 - Not attacking1. If someone comments on your post and expresses an opinion different from yours, they are not attacking you, your ideas, your opinions, your self-worth, or even your post. They are expressing a different point of view. If you cannot accept people having a different opinion, stay off social media.

2. There is a difference between fact and opinion. Your “observations” are still just opinion. If you want your opinions accepted as fact, back them up with solid data.

Point 2 - Not facts

3. If someone backs up their opinion with facts, they are not getting all worked up, and they are not being aggressive, over the top, or irrational. They are providing facts to show you why they have an opinion that differs from yours.Point 3 - Backed up by fact

Point 4 - Don't reply4. If you do not want to engage someone in a discussion over your difference of opinion, just do not respond to their comments on your post. Or you can respond with a mature “We will just have to agree to disagree” rather than continue to put down their opinion and tell them they do not understand your post. They most likely understand you post perfectly. You made an observation, and they disagreed with your conclusion. Get over it.

Point 5 - Don't delete5. If you respond to someone’s comment and they accept that as an indication you would like to engage in a discussion, do not get upset with them and delete your entire post if they continue to disagree with you. That is the internet equivalent of the spoiled kid who takes his ball and goes home if he is not winning.

Point 6 - No profanity6. Do not use profanity. It does not give your opinion any more validity. It also does not make you seem “adult” or mature, it makes you look uneducated. As my sainted mother used to say, if you cannot express yourself without using profanity, then you need a better vocabulary. If you do use profanity and someone objects, do not tell them to grow up. They are the one showing maturity, proper behavior, and decorum.

7. If you do not want to continue discussing an issue, do not send a personal message to the other person berating them. Just stop responding to their comments online.

Point 7 - Personal message

Point 8 - Smart8. Do not try to persuade people you are right by telling them how smart you are. Telling people in your posts or in your comments that you are an intelligent person and therefore know more, or know better, than they do makes you look like a little kid stomping their foot and crying “But I’m smart! I’m smart! Listen to me! I’m smart!” Also, if you really are intelligent, it will come across in your conversation, without you having to point it out to others. Finally, if you really are intelligent, perhaps you should entertain the idea that other people are intelligent, too.

Point 9 - Respect9. Having an opinion that is different from the one a friend or relative has is not wrong, and it is no reason to get defensive or to threaten that person that you will lose respect for them if they continue to disagree with you. Saying that tells them you already have no respect for them. And guess what? It probably does not bother them one little bit. They probably have enough confidence in themselves and their opinion, and enough positive self-image, not to need your approval or that of anyone else.

10. If more than one person leaves comments on your post telling you that you are being very rude or condescending, you are likely the one with a problem, not them.

Point 10 - More than one comment

Point 11 - You have a problem11. If you find yourself frequently getting all upset over people disagreeing with you on social media, and you repeatedly insist you are right, and you berate others for holding a different opinion, you are likely the one with a problem.

Point 12 - Source12. Telling someone that they do not understand the issue because the media only tells us a small percentage of what is going on, and the media gets it wrong anyway, makes people wonder where you get your information, and what makes your source better than anyone else’s source.

Point 13 - Expert13. Telling someone you understand more than they do because you know someone who is an expert in the field is not valid. It is called namedropping. Maybe the person you disagree with knows people who are experts in the field, too, and maybe their experts know more than your experts.

Point 14 - Bully14. Aggressively trying to get another person to not express their opinion, trying to silence them, trying to intimidate them, belittle them, or tell them that people are laughing at them because of their comments – that behavior indicates you are a bully.

15. If you notice that no one is commenting on your posts anymore, please do not think it is because people have finally realized you are brilliant. What they have realized is you are not worth their time, as you have no idea how to share opinions with people in a mature and rational way. All you know is how to ram your opinion down other people’s throats.Point 15 - They realized

I am sure I have overlooked many items regarding discussions on social media that should be covered in this primer. If anyone wants to add to it, please feel free to comment. If I have said something you disagree with, please feel free to comment. I promise if you are civil and polite (and refrain from profanity) I will not delete your comment (or my entire blog post).

I hope to see all my readers again on Sunday, when the regularly scheduled storyline will continue. I’ll be sure to leave the porch light on for you.

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Confounding Developments

Confounding Developments

Glaring at the other two men

The Foreman, Tor, glared at the other two men. The first, the one called the Boss, was bound hand and foot on the ground. The other, the stable hand who had attacked Tor, stood, slouched and nervous, next to him.

Foreman closeup“Need I repeat myself?” Tor’s voice was a deep growl again. When neither man responded, he reiterated his earlier question. “What do you mean you cannot get there from here?”

The Boss snorted. “Ya stupid or sometin? I mean jus’ what I said.”

Tor glared at the two men again. He furrowed his brow and rubbed the back of his neck; then he paced back and forth. He looked up and down the road again, more carefully this time, but still nothing looked familiar. He scowled at the two men. He took off his hat, raked his hand through his hair, and plopped his hat back on his head. Finally, he spoke.

confused“Mayhap you are correct. I would allow I must be stupid, as I cannot grasp how I would be unable to get to one place from another, when I already came from that first place to the second. Nor do I understand the other thing you said – this is the stable where we met. Just the world around it changed.

The Boss snickered. “Untie me, an’ maybe I’ll explain.”

Tor shook his head. “I think I would feel safer if at least one of you remained secured.”

The Boss managed a shrug despite his restraints. “Your choice. But I don’t give out information when I’m . . . secured.”

Tor furrowed his brow again and chewed on his lower lip. Finally, he nodded. “I will untie you then. But if either of you move to assault me again, both of you will deeply regret it.”

The Boss shrugged again.

Tor addressed the stable hand. “You! Stand over there and do not move.” He pointed to a spot about ten feet away.

untiedAs the boy scrambled to do his bidding, Tor reached down and untied the Boss. As the Boss awkwardly struggled to his feet, Tor backed away to a safe distance.

The Boss rubbed his wrists and ankles. “Well, those bonds weren’t too tight. No harm done, I guess . . . lucky thing for you.” He sneered at Tor.

Tor merely raised an eyebrow at the other man.

“So, ya needs some answers. Maybe I gots ’em.” The Boss chuckled. “So, waddya gots ta trade? Money? Service? Goods? Information?”

Tor frowned. “I have nothing of value to you.”

seems to be fitThe Boss 2The Boss studied Tor, looking him up and down. “Ya seem to be fit. Ya could always work for me in payment of the information.”

Tor sneered. “I doubt the value of the information would be worth lowering myself to work for the likes of you.”

The Boss placed his hands on his chest and assumed an injured look. When he spoke, sarcasm dripped from his voice like thick syrup. “The likes of me? I’m hurt! How can ya say that? Ya don’t even know me.”

Tor scoffed. “I know you do not care for the horses in your charge, else you would have instructed your blacksmith not to lame the horse by trimming its hoof so short. I know your stable hand attacked me, presumably at your behest. And I know you are extremely rude. I do not believe I need know any more.”

The Boss laughed. “Ya might have sometin’ there. But if ya gots nuttin ta trade, I gots no information for ya.”

Tor studied the man for many long minutes. Finally, a smile tugged at the corners of Tor’s mouth, and he raised an eyebrow at the other man. “I believe I have already paid for the information. I contend I have already performed a service for you by freeing you from your bonds.”

The Boss scoffed. “Bonds ya wrapped me up in yerself. Hardly counts.”

Tor frowned, then squared his shoulders and set his jaw. “Then I shall take my leave and find my own answers.”

He turned to leave and stopped dead. He gasped, rubbed his eyes, and looked again. He closed his eyes tight and waited several minutes before slowly opening them again. He gaped at what he saw. It has happened again!

road ran straightThe sight he beheld confounded Tor. When he had first come to this place, a wide dirt road had run straight from the town to the stable yard, passing lush, white-fenced pastures full of magnificent horses. Nothing looks familiarWhen he had attempted to leave earlier this day, he had found the road was running past the stable yard, not into it. The horses had disappeared, and scrubby fields enclosed in rickety, brown post-and-rail fencing had replaced the lush pastures and pristine white fencing. This had led Tor to believe the stable hand and the Boss had taken him somewhere other than the place where they had first met, but the men insisted this was the same stable.

Now, the scene had changed again. No fields or fences of any sort were in sight, and instead of a road, Tor saw railroad tracks leading from the yard and meandering through a meager woodlot.railroad tracks

Railroad tracks? In a medieval world? Tor shook his head in disbelief and struck the side of his head with the palm of his hand, as if trying to knock loose some cobwebs.

Tor was so shocked by what he saw, he didn’t notice the other two men coming up behind him. He jumped when the Boss clapped him on the back, laughing.

stable yard stayed the samerailroad tracks“Now ya see what I mean? The stable where ya met us, it ain’t changed, see?” The Boss gestured at the barn and the stable yard. “Only the world around it changed.” He pointed to the woods and the railroad tracks.

Tor’s brow furrowed. “How? Why?”

The stable hand muttered. “Don’t know, do we?”

The Boss rounded on the boy, backhanding him hard across his face. “He weren’t askin’ you.”

The boy rubbed his cheek and mumbled.

“Wadidya say?” The Boss glared at him.

The boy ducked his head. “Said sorry, Boss.”

Tor stepped between the two men. “So, you are unable to explain this phenomenon, yet you expected payment for information you cannot provide.” Tor raised his eyebrow at the Boss.stepped between

The Boss chuckled. “Can’t blame a man fer tryin’.”

Tor snorted. “That is a matter open for debate.” He rubbed his chin. “So, do you know anything?”stable yard stayed the same

The Boss shrugged. “I know the barn and this stable yard are the only things what don’t seem ta change.”

“But you do not know why they remain unchanged and the rest of this world apparently transforms.” Tor phrased it as a statement.

The stable hand nodded, then cringed when the Boss shot him a threatening look.

Tor cocked his head and eyed the other two figures. “Are the two of you native to this world, or have you traveled here from another world?”What do you mean

The stable hand snorted. “Waddya mean, traveled from another world?”

Tor nodded, his expression showing he had expected that answer. Then he turned to the Boss. “And you?”

BossThe man stuffed his hands in his pockets and stood there belligerently, saying nothing, so Tor turned back to the stable hand. “You. How long have you worked for this man?”scratching head

The boy scratched his head. “Dunno. Always?”

Tor nodded. “But you.” He studied the Boss. “You have not always been the Boss. Am I correct?”

The man nodded.

“So, what is your story?”

The Boss sighed. “Well, I don’t suppose it would hurt any ta share it wichya. Maybe ya can even help figure it all out.”

 

What story will the Boss share with Tor? Will it help Tor figure out what is happening and how to get back to the real world? Be sure to come back next week. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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The Search Begins

The Search Begins

Falling out of manuscriptThe companions – eight of the characters who had fallen many years ago from the pages of a manuscript into what Mistress Writer termed the real world – stepped into the illusory world the magic users among them had created for their friend, the ninth companion to fall from the manuscript.

Foreman facing right closeupThat character, known as the Foreman, had become bored and unfulfilled in the real world. As he had explained it to Mistress Writer, he not only missed the world from which he had come, he missed who he had been in that world.What he had been There was no place in this real, technologically advanced world, for the manager of the largest and most prestigious horse breeding facility in the medieval world from which he had been torn.

The lads and Foreman with horsesEven the illusory horses and small barn and paddock Dragon had created for him and two of the other companions who had also been proficient horsemen in their world did not alleviate his sense of worthlessness. In the real world, he lamented, he had become little more than a go-fer.

So Dragon and the other magic users among the companions had created an illusory world for the Foreman, a world where he could once again manage a large and prestigious stable. But something had gone wrong.

Tor and the ladsThe Foreman had entered the illusory world in the company of the two lads. The lads had returned with glowing reports of how wonderful the world was, and with the Foreman’s promise to return that evening to sup with them and thank them properly for their gift. But the man had not returned that night.

When the Foreman still had not returned several days later, Dragon and the others had entered the illusory world and searched for him, but to no avail. They could find no trace of him, and none of the illusory residents of that world admitted to ever having seen him.

getting ready to scryvague outline appearedAfter that, Sorceress had used her ability to scry and had seen the Foreman. However, she could not pinpoint his location, so the companions once again entered the illusory world to track him down.

Elf clericDragon led the group as they emerged in the illusory world. The beast had transformed into her preferred – and less formidable – guise of a delicate and exotic maiden. She held up her hand and commanded the attention of her comrades. “Take heed! Stay together, remain aware of your surroundings, and do not assume the illusory beings inhabiting this world are harmless.”Dwarf facing right

“Eh, ye really be thinkin’ thet a bunch o peoples ye been makin’ up outten smoke an’ a fancy turn o phrase be posin’ any real danger ta us?” The Old Dwarf snorted.

Dragon scoffed at her diminutive friend. “Forsooth! Remember my prowess at creating illusions. My illusions are solid and substantial. They exhibit all the traits, characteristics, and features of the real item. Indeed, they are virtually indistinguishable from the real object. And I had the help of four other powerful spellcasters in creating this world, to strengthen and enhance my spell. Therefore, a person in this illusory world would be able to inflict as much damage as any real person.”

Sorceress close-up“Dragon is correct.” Sorceress furrowed her brow. “And if, perchance, something has interfered with the spell that created the illusion, the denizens of this world could be deadly.”

Gypsy close-upThe Gypsy lad frowned and rubbed his jaw. “I think the first thing we should do is examine the threads of magic that created this world and that keep it intact, to see if anything has tampered with the enchantment.”

Dragon nodded. “I examined it as much as possible from the outside, but a more thorough inspection should be feasible now that we are on the inside.”

Bounty Hunter head shotbeing watchedThe Bounty Hunter spoke in a low tone. “We need to find somewhere you can do that without drawing attention.” He nodded toward a small group of people at an open-air market, whispering among themselves and staring at the companions.

Cleric twisting cinctureCleric fidgeted with her cincture. “Dragon, could you not simply place a spell of concealment around us?”

Dray angry 2Dragon furrowed her brow and chewed on her lower lip. Even though she was not in her true form, smoke drifted from her nose as she obviously wrestled with her thoughts. “Perchance that would work if nothing has interfered with the spell creating the illusory world. However, since we do not know if the magic has been tainted, I do not know if a spell of concealment would work. And the fact that we already have people watching us makes it much harder. We cannot simply poofer out of sight.”

saw in the distance“When the Gypsy and I left him, the Foreman was headed toward a complex of barns and sheds he saw in the distance, past the fields of horses.” The Young Hero pointed down the road out of town. “Perhaps we should go there. The Bounty Hunter and I could search there for the Foreman, while the magic users could examine the threads of the spell shielded from sight within one of the buildings, with the Old Dwarf standing guard.”

The companions turned toward Dragon, their leader, who paced back and forth for a few minutes, rubbing the back of her neck. Finally, she nodded curtly, and the group started the long trek toward the farm.

The group moved along at a steady pace and by lunchtime they were a stone’s throw from the beginning of the fenced pastures.

“This looks like a good place to rest and partake of some refreshment.” The Bounty Hunter indicated several wooden picnic tables in a grassy spot next to a meandering stream that paralleled the road.

Picnic tables by stream

Dragon frowned. “Picnic tables? Those are anachronistic” Seeing the blank look on some of her friends’ faces, she explained. “They should not be here. They are not correct for this world, which was designed to represent a world similar to our own, a world that Mistress Writer would term medieval.”

“Eh, be they correct or nay, they be here, an’ there be no signs what be warnin’ anyone away.” The Old Dwarf made a beeline to the nearest table and started pulling food and beverages from one of the bags of holding Dragon had provided.

The others approached the tables with caution, looking around warily. Finally, having seen nothing else untoward, they sat and shared a midday repast.

well-traveled highway“Does anyone else find it strange that, although this road is wide and well maintained and has the appearance of a well-traveled highway, we seem to be the only ones using it?” The Gypsy reached for another sandwich as he spoke.

“It does make one wonder.” The Bounty Hunter nodded. “Perhaps we should ask the person who has been shadowing us ever since we left the village.”

The Young Hero’s eyes widened. “I noticed no one.”

Bounty Hunter full body 2The Bounty Hunter smirked. “I told you my skills would be useful. He is about a half league behind us.” He finished his sandwich and washed it down with three gulps of cool water while the others strained to see their pursuer. “Perhaps I should remain behind while the rest of you continue toward the barns. I could lay in wait here and find out what the rascal is up to.”

Dragon shook her head. “No, I think it best we stay together. We do not need to be searching for more than one of our company.”

“We will be separating at the barns. Why not now?” The Bounty Hunter frowned.

“The separation will not be so great a distance there, and the Old Dwarf will be able to keep his eye on both groups.”

The Bounty Hunter considered Dragon’s words, then nodded. “Very well. But if he still shadows us when we arrive at the stable, I may deal with him then.”

Dragon nodded. “Let us finish eating now and get on the road. We still have a distance to travel.”

First pastureNot long after, the companions came to the first of the pastures and the Young Hero stopped. “This should be where we left the Foreman.”

The Gypsy nodded. “We had come across the fenced pasture, and we were admiring the magnificent horses right before we parted company.”

Young hero 2Arrogant One“But this is wrong.” The Young Hero frowned. “These are not the same horses.”

The Arrogant One scoffed. “So, they rotated their stock, and different horses are now in this pasture.”

“No.” The Young Hero shook his head and gestured emphatically. “These are Appaloosas. That is a breed found in Mistress Writer’s real world. They should not exist in a medieval world.”Appaloosas 2

Sorceress furrowed her brow. “Perhaps a similar breed was developed in this illusory world.”

The Young Hero frowned. “True. Appaloosas are not the only spotted breed in the real world, so I suppose a breed of spotted horses could exist here.”

The Gypsy interrupted. “But the horses are not the only thing that has changed. The day we were here with the Foreman, the fencing was lime-washed bright white, like the fences around the horse farm he used to manage in our world.”

Horses in pasture

The companions gaped at the natural wood fencing, untouched by whitewash, paint, or stain.First pasture

“Are you certain we took the right road from the village?” Dragon addressed the lads.

“Positive,” the two friends answered in unison.road toward mountain range

The Gypsy turned from examining the fence. “There is only one road in and out of the village, and in the opposite direction, it takes a quick turn and heads directly for a mountain range.”

“Then let us proceed to the barns. Perhaps we will find the answer – and the Foreman – there.”followed him to barn

Are the companions on the right road? Is this the same pasture they saw before? What will they find when they arrive at the barns? Is someone following them? Be sure to come back next week. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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