The Drama Never Stops

The Drama Never Stops

Dinner was over. I was on my way to my office to pick up where I had left off after lunch, trying to come up with ideas for my weekly blog. Hopefully, this time there would be no unexpected interruptions.
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2020/09/13/yet-another-big-problem/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2020/09/20/an-interesting-encounter/

Talia at the doorI was walking down the stairs and was on the landing by the front door when the doorbell rang several times in quick succession, followed by someone banging urgently on the storm door. Quickly opening the door, I was surprised to see Talia, one-half of the duo that owned and managed the Chris-Tal Clear Metaphysical Store and the person who was instructing our young neighbor, Marisol, in the control of her mysterious power. In the cool evening air that wafted through the open door, I could feel the heat of anger radiating from Talia. Her face was red, her nostrils were flaring, her eyebrows were drawn down in a severe frown, and her hands were balled into fists. She pushed her way past me into the house without even a hello or a by your leave.

“Where is she?” Talia crossed her arms over her chest and tapped a foot impatiently.

I frowned. “Hello, Talia. Wow! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? It’s so nice to see you again. I’m fine; thanks for asking. How have you been?” I hoped my sarcasm would take some of the wind out of the angry woman’s sails.

“What? Never mind. Where is she?” The furious scowl told me I had done nothing to deter Talia.

I sighed and raised an eyebrow. “Where is who, Talia?”

The woman glared at me with so much venom in her expression, I thought if looks could kill, I’d be six feet under!

“Where is Dray?” Talia’s mouth twisted as if the name left a sour taste in her mouth.

Dragon at top of stairs“I am here.” Talia and I turned around and looked up toward the voice coming from the top of the stairs. However, instead of the delicate and exotic maiden, Dray, there loomed Dragon, Dray’s true self. There was a menacing look on her reptilian face, and she flexed her clawed hands threateningly.

smoke poured from Dragon 2Before Talia could open her mouth, Dragon stormed down the stairs. “How dare you push your way into this house? How dare you speak to the Mistress that way?” Acrid smoke poured from Dragon’s nostrils, and she bared her teeth at Talia.

Talia angry 2“How dare you undermine the work I have been doing all these months with Marisol?” If Talia was intimidated by a snarling, smoke-breathing, ten-foot-tall dragon, she was certainly hiding it well.

Dragon scoffed. “Undermine? How have I undermined anything?” The huge beast waved away Talia’s reply. “It does not matter. You still have no right to barge into this house and . . .”

stunt“I have every right. Marisol’s training has been substantially set back by that incredibly brainless, idiotic, shortsighted stunt of yours at her birthday party. Why in the name of all that’s magic would you deliberately allow the child to see your true nature after I provided you a spell powerful enough to prevent that? And why would you purposely allow her to see the illusory horses after I gave you a spell of concealment strong enough to keep them hidden from her? I won’t even ask what you were thinking when you allowed Marisol to ride an illusory Pegasus!” Talia’s voice had risen in pitch and volume with each word, until she sounded much like my Arrogant One throwing a fit.

“I saw no harm in any of those actions.” Dragon, still fuming, spoke in a dangerously low voice, close to a growl.

Talia threw her hands in the air. “That’s the problem. You saw no harm. That’s because you don’t understand what we are dealing with. You don’t know what Marisol is, or what the child must do to control her power.” Talia was standing almost toe-to-toe with Dragon now, glowering up at the snarling beast looming over her, and the woman showed no signs of backing down.

“Uh, honey?”

MilesWe all whirled around to see my husband, Miles, standing at the top of the stairs.

“What is it, sweetheart?” I figured he was going to complain about the noisy altercation.

As he spoke to me, Miles kept a wary eye on Dragon and Talia, but they were not the cause of the concern in his voice. “Uh, our neighbor, Bastina, is on the phone. Is her daughter here?”

“Marisol?” I shook my head. “No, she’s not here now. She was with us earlier, in the backyard. It was just a little after lunchtime, and she didn’t stay long. She said she was going home.”

Miles furrowed his brow and rubbed the back of his neck. “You’re sure she said she was going home? Bastina says she hasn’t seen her daughter since lunch, and she sounds frantic.”

Marisol and rabbitDragon replied. “Marisol left here with the rabbit. She was going to walk with him back to her yard.”

“Rabbit? What rabbit?” Talia’s eyes widened, and she licked her lips nervously.

Dragon looked down her nose at the woman and snarled again. “Not that it is any of your business, but we had a visitor today, a rabbit. Marisol followed him here from her backyard. They left here together, to return to her yard.”

Normal rabbitTalia paled. “Are you talking about a normal rabbit, maybe someone’s pet or a backyard variety of wild rabbit?”

Six-foot-tall rabbit on gazebo“No, as a matter of fact, he was a six-foot-tall, talking rabbit.” I frowned. “Why? Is he a friend of yours?”

Miles cleared his throat. “Ah, honey? I hate to interrupt, but what should I tell Bastina?”

Before I could answer, Talia grabbed Dragon by the arm. “We have to go. Now.

Dragon blinked, then responded to the alarm in Talia’s voice. The beast lost no time shapeshifting into her familiar alter ego, Dray, and Talia immediately dragged her toward the door.

Talia and Dray leavingAs the two figures left the house, Talia called back over her shoulder. “Tell Bastina that Dray and I will find Marisol. And don’t mention the rabbit!”

Where is Marisol? Will Talia and Dray be able to find her? Why did Talia become so nervous at the mention of a rabbit? For these answers and more, be sure to come back again next week. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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An Interesting Encounter

An Interesting Encounter

Gaped 2“I. Am. Not. An. Illusion.” Again, the rabbit confirmed what Dragon had said. He spoke slowly and distinctly, as if talking to obtuse children. My Old Dwarf, Dragon, and I stood, speechless, gaping at the six-foot-tall creature.

“Jes’ wot be ye, then?” My Old Dwarf glared at the giant rabbit but lowered his axe.

“My name is Hab’itt.”

“Hab’itt the rabbit?” I raised an eyebrow and shook my head.

Dwarf facing rightRabbit 2My Old Dwarf brandished his axe again. “Yer name do na be makin’ no nevermind ta ussins. I been askin’ wot ye be. Ye be claimin’ ye do na be illusive . . .”

“Illusory.” Dragon corrected him.

“Aye, wot the beastie be sayin’. Ye be sayin’ ye do na be thet, so jus’ wot do ye be?”

Marisol 1Another voice asked, “Are you sure you’re not an illusion?”

We all whirled around to see the new speaker.

“I am quite certain, child. I told you that before.” The giant rabbit looked down at our young neighbor, Marisol, and twitched his whiskers at her.

“Marisol! What are you doing here, child, and what do you know of this creature?” Dragon frowned.

Our young neighbor remained silent. She bowed her head and shuffled her foot back and forth in the grass.

“Eh, come now, lassie. Iffin ye be knowin’ anythin’ aboot this ginormous critter, ye be needin’ ta be tellin’ us. Ye do na be needin’ ta be afeared.” My Old Dwarf spoke to Marisol, but kept his eyes on the rabbit, towering over them.

Marisol and rabbitHab’itt ignored the dwarf and hopped down from the gazebo steps. He spoke gently to the little girl. “You may tell them, child. No one will harm you.”

I frowned at the rabbit. “Of course, no one will harm her. We’re Marisol’s friends.”

Rabbit, Marisol and dragon“Indeed, we are.” Dragon looked at Hab’itt and sniffed disdainfully. She turned back to Marisol. “Child, I asked you what you know of this creature. Prithee, if you have knowledge, I ask that you share it with us.”

Marisol continued to shuffle her foot back and forth while she spoke. “The big bunny was hopping around my yard. He was sniffing at mommy’s garden. I saw him, but mommy didn’t. When I told her a big bunny was about to eat her plants, she looked where I was pointing, and she turned sort of pale for a minute. Then she shook her head and pursed her lips. She said she was going to call Talia and ask her to work with me some more.” Marisol’s lower lip trembled. “Did I do something wrong again, Dray?”

Dray hugging Marisol“Of course not, child.” Dragon shapeshifted into her familiar guise of the delicate and exotic maiden, Dray. She leaned down and scooped Marisol into a gentle hug. “It is not wrong for you to have power, and it is not wrong for you not to be in full control of it. You are still young, and you and Talia have more work to do. Eventually, she will teach you how to fully control your talent.”

“Talent?” Marisol scoffed. The child, who had just celebrated her seventh birthday, looked at Dray with a sadness too deep for her few years. “More like a curse. I see things others don’t see. I tell them what I see, and then they see it, too. Then they are afraid . . . not just of whatever I caused them to see. They are afraid of me. Mommy’s right. People think I’m a witch.”

“But you know you are not. You are a conduit. You are affected by magic, and you cause others to be affected by it as well.” I could see Dray struggling to find the right words to comfort and reassure the child. “Eventually, Talia will train you to control your ability so completely that you alone will see what others do not. You will not cause anyone else to see things they should not, and no one will label you a witch or a sorceress.”

“But it is so hard!” Tears started to spill down Marisol’s cheeks. “Talia makes me practice the exercises she taught me for hours each day. I don’t have time to have any fun anymore.”

Birthday memoriesI smiled at the little girl. “You had fun at your birthday party, didn’t you? You received some nice presents, and Dray made your special wish come true.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2020/08/30/a-birthday-wish/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2020/09/06/a-birthday-wish-come-true/

Marisol brightened at the memory. “Oh, yes! It was the best birthday I ever had!” Then the smile faded, and the tears started again. “But Talia has made me do an extra half-hour of exercises every day since then. She said seeing Dray in her true form and seeing the illusions of the horses and the Pegasus set me back in my training.”

“Hmmmm. And how did Talia happen to know of these events? I believe I swore you to secrecy.”

Talia closeup 2Marisol hung her head. “I’m sorry, Dray. Talia seemed to know something. She asked me about my birthday party. I started telling her about the one mommy and my aunt and uncle had for me, but she said not that one. So . . . I told her.”

“I see.” Dray frowned. “I am sorry if I am the cause of you having been given more work, but I fail to see how the events of that day would set you back in your training. I will speak with Talia.”

Marisol nodded. She wiped away her tears and tried to smile. “Dray, if the big bunny isn’t an illusion, why couldn’t mommy see him until I told her about him?”

Rabbit“I do not know. Perhaps Hab’itt can explain.” Dray turned to the giant lagomorph, who was still watching Marisol. The rabbit’s whiskers were still twitching, but he remained silent.

“Well?” Dray demanded.

“Well, what is it you wish to know?” Hab’itt looked at Dray, a curious expression on his face.

“Let us start with what you are, whence you hail, and for what purpose you are here.” Dray cocked an eyebrow, folded her arms over her chest, and waited.

Hab’itt frowned. “You are quite an inquisitive creature.” He sighed. “Very well. I am a rabbit. I have no idea what you call the place whence I hail. And I have no real purpose here, other than to find my way back home.” He paused and watched Dray’s reaction. “These answers do not satisfy you?”

“They do not.” She frowned.

My Old Dwarf scoffed. “How kin ye be a rabbit? Rabbits do na grow thet big.” He scowled at the giant creature.

Rabbit looking embarrassed“Perhaps in your experience they do not. But be assured, whence I come, I am considered a runt.” Hab’itt bent his head and smoothed his whiskers with his paws in what seemed to me a gesture of embarrassment.

“And where is that, exactly?” I frowned.

“As I said, I have no idea by what name you call my home.” The rabbit wrinkled his nose at me disdainfully.

I scoffed. “Well, suppose we narrow it down a bit. Maybe we can figure out what we call it if we know what you call it.”

“Home.” Hab’itt stretched and yawned, as if bored.

Dray raised an eyebrow. “And is your home in this world, or have you entered this world from another?”

Rabbit scratching“Define world.” Hab’itt seemed to sense our impatience, and quickly continued. “To me and my kind, there is only one world. Wherever there is life, it is part of that one world. But I can see you define the word differently.” He stopped and scratched behind his ears with one enormous back leg. “I would hazard a guess and say no, I do not come from this world as you define the word.”

“Then how be ye gittin’ here, ta this world . . . as we be definin’ tha word?” My Old Dwarf fingered his axe blade and narrowed his gaze at the big beast.

Hab’itt thought about that a moment, scratching behind his ear again. “I . . . I just walked. I am on a journey, a journey taken by each of my kind at a certain age. We travel the world . . . as we define the word . . . and learn things.”

I interrupted him. “I thought you said you had no real purpose here save finding your way back home.”

The rabbit shrugged. “I have no real purpose here . . . in this yard. I had a purpose, but my journey is over. I have completed my quest. I have learned things. But in the process, I lost my way back home.”

“What have you learned, Hab’itt?” Marisol asked softly.

Marisol and rabbit“I have learned that, in most places, to be different is to be shunned or feared, to be discriminated against, or to suffer intolerance or even violence. I have learned that the way of life enjoyed by my kind, a way of life marked by inclusion and tolerance and acceptance and peace, is rare and is not to be taken for granted. I have learned that I miss the comfort of that acceptance, and need return home.”

Marisol patted the rabbit’s huge paw. “I understand. That is what happens to me when people realize I’m different. They avoid me, or they are scared of me, or they call me names and threaten to hurt me.”

A tear slipped down Hab’itt’s face. “I am sorry you are treated this way, child. Some day, perhaps, things will change for you.”

After a few moments of silence, the rabbit sighed. “Well, I have enjoyed this conversation, but it is time for me to go. I must find my way home.” He looked around, shook his head, and thumped a back foot. “I must find my way home!” A note of panic entered his voice.

I raked my hand through my hair. “Can’t you just retrace your steps to find your way home?”

Hab’itt cocked his head and scratched behind his ear again. “Perhaps. Perhaps I have been overthinking the issue.”

me and Marisol“Dray, have you figured out how I was able to see the bunny right away, but mommy couldn’t see him until I pointed him out to her?” Marisol looked troubled.

Dray furrowed her brow and stroked her chin. “I believe it is because the rabbit is not of this world . . . as we define the word. You can see whatever exists in this world, no matter its place of origin, just as you can see through most spells of concealment, and just as you can see the true nature of any entity that has shapeshifted, transformed, or disguised their true nature through magical or physical means. But it is only through your power that others can see what you see.”

Marisol nodded and smiled. “I understand.” She looked at the big rabbit. “Well, I need to go home now, too, before mommy misses me. If you need to retrace your steps to find your way home, you need to go back to my yard, where I first saw you. Do you want to walk back there with me, Hab’itt?”

“It would be my pleasure, and my honor.” Hab’itt gave a sort of stiff bow and hopped slowly beside Marisol as she walked away. The little girl turned several times and waved goodbye to us.

Just before they turned the corner of the house, Hab’itt called back over his shoulder. “Dwarf! Tell the insufferable screechy one he is wrong. The rabbits in this yard enjoy your game. They realize they are in no true danger from you, and they are amused by your . . . colorful language.” He winked and disappeared around the corner.

“Eh, thet big critter be pretty smart! Tee-hee! Tha elfie will na be happy ta be hearin’ thet he be wrong aboot tha bunnies an’ I be right!”

Dwarf petting bunnyI chuckled as I watched one of the backyard rabbits stretch up to sniff at my Old Dwarf. It almost looked as if the rabbit were trying to entice the dwarf to chase him again. The dwarf absently started petting the animal.

I turned to Dray. “So, where do you think Hab’itt came from?”

“Not from this world . . . as we define the word.” She winked. “But how he traveled from his world to this one, I could not say.”

“I would na be worrin’ much aboot it. The big critter dinna be seemin’ dangerous.” My Old Dwarf was still petting the rabbit.

Dray nodded but frowned. “No, I daresay the rabbit meant no harm. However, if creatures from his world are in the habit of making these journeys, mayhap the next one that wanders through here might not be so benign.”

As Dray and I mulled over that dire possibility, my Old Dwarf suddenly yelped. “Ye consarned little scamp! Ye been nippin’ me!”

The chase is on againAnd the chase was on again, with the rabbit staying just out of range of the axe being wildly swung about by the dwarf, as the rotund figure huffed and puffed along behind the little critter, turning the air blue with his colorful language.

I looked at Dray and smiled. “You know, I think Hab’itt knew what he was talking about. That little bunny looks perfectly happy.”

Dray nodded. “As does the dwarf.”

As the chase headed along the side of the house, toward the front yard, I called after them. “Stay on this property! We don’t want any problems with the neighbors!”

I hoped my Old Dwarf heard me.

I hope you’ll visit with me and my little band of displaced characters again next week. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Yet Another BIG Problem

Yet Another BIG Problem

Dragon in front of fireplaceI stopped short as I was walking past the open door to the conference room and did a double-take. There was Dragon, curled up in front of her illusory fireplace. The fire was roaring, and the leaping flames should have been enough to transform the entire house into a sauna, as had often been the case in the past. Yet, I realized, I was perfectly comfortable.

I scratched my head, and cautiously entered the room. The temperature felt only slightly higher on that side of the doorway than it had in the hallway. I furrowed my brow and walked across the room toward Dragon and her fireplace. As I approached, the temperature rose exponentially, until I found myself bathed in sweat as I reached Dragon’s side.

Smoke rose from her snoutDragon opened one eye and glared at me. Without preamble, she immediately began complaining. “What is wrong with your Minnesota weather? It is only early September, and already the temperature has fallen into what your heat-measuring devices register as the thirties.” Angry black smoke rose from her snout. “The thirties! That is winter weather!”

I laughed. “Yes, I saw the temperature this morning was only 36 degrees Fahrenheit. But that was a fluke.”

Dragon scoffed. “A fluke? You mean an aberration? An anomaly? Not something normal for this time of year? I have a better name for it, human! An abomination! Your Minnesota weather is an abomination!

Comfortable autumn weatherI stifled a chuckle and tried to look sympathetic. “I know, I know. I’m not happy about it, either. But it’s not going to last. According to the weather forecast, we should be enjoying some extremely comfortable autumn weather for the next several weeks, with temperatures ranging into the high seventies most days, and only dipping to the mid forties overnight.”

“Well, that is somewhat better.” Dragon closed her eyes, but continued grumbling under her breath, and smoke continued to drift from her nostrils.

I chuckled and walked away. Stopping by the door, I called back to Dragon. “By the way, I must commend you. You seem to have found a way to bask by your fireplace without roasting the other inhabitants of the house.”

Dragon with smoke bubblesDragon turned blue, and the smoke started dripping like bubbles from her nose, as typically happened when she was embarrassed. “Errr, yes . . . well . . . when Ollie visited, he did suggest it would be only polite of me to find a way to control the heat . . . you know, out of consideration for my fellow characters and for you and Master Miles.”
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2020/08/16/an-old-friend-to-the-rescue/

Ollie (10)I smiled. “I knew I liked that big Old English Sheepdog!”

Mmmmm so do IDragon slowly morphed to her favored hue of deep red, and a dreamy look settled on her face. A silly smile pulled at her reptilian lips, as she nodded. “Mmmmmm . . . so do I.”

I shook my head. “Well, on that note, I think I’ll go up and see if Miles has lunch ready yet. Are you coming?”

* * *

Old Dwarf chasing rabbitDragon in front of fireplaceAfter lunch, Dragon returned to her fireplace, and I retired to my office to try to come up with some ideas for my weekly blog. As I gazed absently out the window while turning over several ideas in my mind, I saw my Old Dwarf chasing after a rabbit. He was threatening the creature with his axe, and even through the closed window, I could hear the old rapscallion cussing up a storm.

“I be gittin’ ye this time, ye consarned, ornery liddle critter, jest ye be seein’ iffin I do na! It ne’er be makin’ no nevermind how oft I be tellin’ ye ta be stayin’ outten Mistress Writer’s carrot patch, ye al’ays be sneakin’ in dere an’ be snitchin’ tha bestest carrots! Wale, thet be endin’ right here and now, ye furry little scobberlotcher! Ye cumberground! Ye quisby! Ye useless liddle smell-feast!”

I sighed and tried to ignore the kerfuffle, knowing full-well my Old Dwarf would never actually harm the rabbit. Both dwarf and rabbit seemed to enjoy these routine chases, the rabbit often stopping and waiting for his pursuer if the dwarf fell behind. The rabbit always managed to stay out of range of the dwarf’s weapon, whether by the critter’s own speed and skill, or by the fact that it really was just a game to the dwarf.

However, today’s hoo-hah was too loud and too prolonged to ignore. I left my office and headed to the backyard.

“Hey! Are you tormenting that poor, defenseless, little animal again?” I winked at my Old Dwarf, who abandoned the chase and sat down on the steps of the gazebo, huffing and puffing.

“Nay, lass! Ye be knowin’ thet I do na be harmin’ ’em none. I jus’ be ’splainin’ ta ’em thet he should na be pilferin’ all tha bestest carrots outten yer garden.”

Upset elf“Not harming him? Not harming him?” My Arrogant One joined the conversation, drawing himself up, rocking back on his heels, grasping his cloak with both hands, and screeching like a banshee at the dwarf. “You are terrorizing that poor creature, chasing him around, threatening him with your axe, and yelling obscenities at him at the top of your lungs.

My Old Dwarf snorted and looked up at the elf. “Eh, do na be gittin’ yer knickers in a twist! Ye be gittin’ more upset aboot it all then tha bunny be, elfie.”

Do not call me elfie!”

I took a quick inventory of the windows on the back of the house, checking for shattered glass, before turning back to my two characters. Before I could say anything, however, someone else joined the conversation.

“It would appear to me that there are good arguments on both sides of the issue.”

The deep, rumbling voice came from the other side of the gazebo. A moment later, a sleek, reddish-brown, six-foot-tall rabbit hopped up onto the structure and looked curiously at the dwarf and the elf.

Six-foot-tall rabbit on gazebo

My Old Dwarf chuckled. “Nay, elfie. Ye will na be makin’ a fool o me agin wit thet illusion.”

“Yeah, give it a rest.” I frowned at my Arrogant One. “It wasn’t funny the first time.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/07/07/hello-neighbor/

The elf blanched and shook his head. “I have created no illusion.”

RabbitThe rabbit appeared offended. He scrunched up his face, he flattened his ears against his back, and he thumped one hind foot. “Indeed, he has not! Hrumph! Do I look like an illusion?”

As the rabbit rose to his hind legs and glowered at us, my Arrogant One screeched and took off for the presumed safety of the garden shed.

My Old Dwarf kept an eye on the giant lagomorph as he addressed me in a dry voice. “Mebbe yer mister should be invitin’ this one ta dinner. It be lookin’ liken it be in tha carrot patch more’n oncet, and would be the makins’ o a fine rabbit stew.”

The rabbit curled his upper lip in obvious contempt. He looked the rotund dwarf up and down. “And you, sir, appear to have spent considerable time at your trough. Perhaps you would be the makings of a fine pig roast.”

Instead of taking offense, my Old Dwarf slapped his knee and doubled over, laughing until tears ran down his cheeks. “Thet be a good un! Ye be havin’ a fine wit aboot ye, rabbit.”

“What is going on here? Why has that blasted elf been shrieking? How am I to sleep with all that caterwauling? I have been courteous enough to keep the heat from my fireplace confined. Can the elf not be as considerate and curtail his noise? I thought he was going to shatter my crystal chandelier!”

The rabbit, the dwarf, and I all swung around and looked at the new speaker. Dragon was stomping down the stairs from the deck, black smoke spewing from her snout.

Rabbit and dragonMy Old Dwarf chuckled. “Eh, it be nuttin, beastie. Tha elfie been illusionin’ a big bunny, liken he been doin’ oncet afore. Then he been actin’ all skeerdidy-like, as iffins he dinna been knowin’ the critter be a fake, and then the liddle popinjay been runnin’ off.”

The rabbit pinned his ears back again and thumped his hind leg once more. His deep voice rumbled with anger. “I told you before, I am not an illusion.”

“Iffins ye be sayin’ so, bunny.” The dwarf chuckled again.

Dragon gave the oversized creature a perfunctory glance. “The rabbit is correct. He is not an illusion. Now, where is that annoying elf?”

wide-eyed“What?” I gaped, first at Dragon then at the rabbit. The former merely looked annoyed, but the latter gave me and the dwarf a smug look.

“I asked the whereabouts of the elf.” Dragon spewed some more smoke.

“No . . . not that. What did you say about the rabbit?”

Dragon with smoke bubbles2“I said he is not . . .” Suddenly it appeared that Dragon’s rational mind prevailed over her anger at the elf, and she realized exactly what she had said. Gaping at the rabbit, Dragon turned blue, and the clouds of smoke turned to bubbles, dripping from her nose. “He is not an illusion,” she finished weakly.

“He do na be an illusion?” My Old Dwarf’ eyes grew as large as saucers and he gulped.

“He isn’t an illusion?” My eyes were probably as large as my Dwarf’s.

“I. Am. Not. An. Illusion.” The rabbit confirmed what Dragon had said, speaking slowly and distinctly, as if talking to obtuse children. My two characters and I stood, speechless, gaping at the six-foot-tall creature.

Gaped 2

Why is there a six-foot-tall rabbit in my backyard? Where did he come from, and what does he want? Be sure to come back next week and see if we can get to the bottom of this. I’ll leave the porch light on for you. Oh, yeah – you might want to bring some carrots. Big carrots!

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A Birthday Wish Come True

A Birthday Wish Come True

Bastina dropping off MarisolWe had just finished setting up the party in the backyard Saturday morning when Bastina arrived with Marisol. After a quick thank-you to all of us and a reminder to her daughter to mind her manners, our neighbor drove off.

As soon as her mother was out of sight, Marisol dashed to the backyard. The disappointment in her face was obvious. As she turned to Dray, her lower lip quivered, and her eyes grew moist. “Dray? I . . . I thought I was going to see the horses.”

Party was set up“The day is young, child. Be patient.” Dray pointed to the gazebo, festooned with bunting and banners. Refreshments were set out on tables, and a pile of presents awaited the birthday girl.

Marisol’s jaw dropped and her eyes grew round. She slowly walked over to the gazebo, noting the Happy Birthday sign and the tables laden with cakes and beverages. She stopped and pointed to the boxes adorned with festive paper and bows. “Are . . . are these for me?”

Are these for me

Dray nodded. “There is a small something from me among those gifts, but my special present will come later, after refreshments.”

Marisol’s grin stretched ear to ear, and she nodded her understanding to Dray.

Start by opening presents“Happy birthday, Marisol!” I placed my hand on the child’s shoulder. “Why don’t you start by opening these presents, and then we can all have some refreshments before Dray gives you her special present.”

Marisol nodded. The child carefully unwrapped each gift, taking care not to rip the paper. Her eyes lit up when she opened the first gift, a collection of story books and jigsaw puzzles, all featuring horses or dragons.

BD gift for Marisol from everyone else

YH and company with Marisol“We know that horses and dragons are your favorites, and your mom told us you are quite the reader, reading well above your age level, and you love putting jigsaw puzzles together. So, this is from the four of us.” My Young Hero pointed to himself, then gestured to the group around him – my Foreman, my Gypsy, and my Bounty Hunter.

“Oh, thank you! These are wonderful!” Marisol couldn’t stop smiling as she looked through the collection.

BD gift for Marisol from Cleric and SorceressSorceress and Cleric with MarisolThe next gift was a children’s book about herbs and wildflowers. “This is from Clara and me,” Sorceress told Marisol. “Your mother told us you have recently shown an increased interest in this subject. I think you will find the illustrations and anecdotes in this book quite extraordinary.”

“Oh, it is beautiful!” Marisol leafed through the book. “I’ll enjoy it very much! Thank you!”

BD gift for Marisol from me and MilesNext, Marisol opened the gift from me and Miles. “Oh! Binoculars! A book on birdwatching, and a journal to keep a list of the birds I see! Thank you!”

“I remember you saying you enjoy observing the birds. Miles and I thought this might assist you in that activity.”

GoldfinchMarisol tried out the binoculars. “Oh, these are great! I can see a Goldfinch on that feeder pole!” She immediately opened her new journal and laboriously wrote the day, date, and location, along with the name of the bird, twice asking for help with spelling. When she finished, she grinned at me. “I will make great use of this gift!”

BD gift for Marisol from DragonNext, Marisol opened a leather-bound notebook, with her name and a picture of a dragon and a horse on the front. “Oh, this is exquisite!” The child ran her hand over the cover before opening it.

Elf cleric“You can paste pictures in there, or draw images, or write your ideas, your desires, your hopes . . . whatever pleases you.” Dray smiled at Marisol, and the child nodded.

“Thank you! I will treasure this, Dray!”

Marisol reached for the last present on the table, a gift bag. In it were several hand-crafted figurines and a small charm bracelet.

Bastina and Marisol see dwarfOld DwarfMy Old Dwarf stepped up. “I been makin’ tha wristlet fer ye, lass. I be knowin’ ye be right partial ta horsies an’ dragons, but I been includin’ a bunny, too, causin thet be how ye been meetin’ alla usins, when ye been followin’ me when I been chasin’ a bunny rabbit. But I dinna be knowin’ iffins ye be o an age where ye be likin’ gew-gaws like thet, so’s I be carvin’ a few little figures fer ye, too. Ye kin be keepin’ ’em on a shelf in yer room, or inna box wit yer udder trinkets.”

“Oh, these are marvelous!” Marisol smiled at my Old Dwarf. “I do like jewelry, and I will wear this always!” She put it on her wrist. “It’s a perfect fit! And I know just where I can put the figures, where I can see them every night before I go to sleep!”

BD cake for Marisol with candlesMarisol spent a few more minutes looking at all her gifts while Cleric served the cake and ice cream. “I made individual cakes so everyone could have their favorite. I made you the orange chiffon you liked last time.” Cleric handed Marisol her cake and the little girl made a silent wish and blew out the candles.

While we were all eating, Miles nudged me. “Your Arrogant One felt the party was beneath him?”

I shrugged. “I’ve been wondering that same thing. I noticed he was missing but didn’t want to make a big deal of it.”

After everyone finished eating, Dray took Marisol’s hand and walked her to the barn. She murmured an incantation under her breath. From the look on Marisol’s face, the spell worked.Dray shows Marisol the horses

“Oh!” Marisol stared at the steeds, who looked curiously at the newcomer.

Black horseForeman facing right closeupMy Foreman gave a hand signal for his horse to step forward. “The black stallion is mine. His name is Centaur. Would you like to pet him?”

Marisol nodded wordlessly, and my Foreman lifted her in his arms and let her pet the big horse.

“Oh! He’s so soft!”Gypsy horse

Gypsy close-up facing right“This one is Gypsy, and he’s soft, too.” My Gypsy led his horse over and Marisol cooed over him, too.

Giving Hero an appleYoung hero 2“And this is my pony, Hero. He loves apples. Would you like to fee him one?” My Young Hero showed Marisol how to hold her hand flat and let the pony take the apple gently from her hand.

Marisol giggled. “His whiskers tickle!”

Suddenly, my Arrogant One stepped out of the barn, leading a three-quarter size horse. “Marisol? How would you like to ride a pony?”

AO leading pony from barn

Marisol gaped at the elf leading the pinto to her and squealed. “Really? You’d let me ride?”

Arrogant One with Marisol and horseThe elf nodded. “Of course. This animal is quite gentle and will be an excellent mount for you.”

“Oh, yes! Yes, please!” Marisol seemed beside herself.

I rushed over to my Arrogant One. “No tricks.”

He gave me a look of pure innocence and continued talking to Marisol. “His name is Pegasus. Here, let me help you mount.”

Once Marisol was securely in the saddle, my Arrogant One led the pony around, first at a slow walk, then a little faster.

“Are you comfortable?” The elf brought the pony to a stop.

“Oh, yes!” Marisol’s eyes were shining as she leaned forward and patted the pony on his neck.

“If I give you the reins, do you think you could handle the pony on your own?”

I stepped forward. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“Please? I’ll be very careful,” Marisol pleaded.

The elf scoffed. “I will not allow the child to be harmed.”Riding by herself

Without waiting for permission, my Arrogant One handed the reins to Marisol.

“What do I do? How do I tell the pony to walk?”

My Foreman and the lads hastened to her side. My Foreman instructed the child in the basics of walk and trot, and how to stop the pony. The lads walked beside her, one on each side, until she was comfortable with controlling her mount.

“That was a nice thing to do.” I walked up behind my Arrogant One.

“You need not sound so surprised.” He sneered.

“Actually, I do. This is not exactly in character for you.”

AO learning magicThe elf turned to me, a wistful smile pulling at one side of his mouth. “When I was but little older than her, I wanted nothing more than to learn the art of illusion. I remember how thrilled I was when someone not only invited me to watch them perform some illusions but encouraged me to learn some of them. They spent all afternoon with me, teaching me, and then giving me space to try on my own. When something means so much to a person, even a little encouragement can mean the difference between elation and heartbreak.”

I raised an eyebrow at the elf, surprised that he would share something so profoundly personal.

Then he shrugged. “Besides, the beast ordered me to do it.” He turned from me and walked back to Marisol. “Do you know why he is named Pegasus?”

Marisol tilted her head and stroked her chin. “Pegasus was a figure in Greek mythology. Mommy and I read a book about him. He was a winged horse.” Her eyes grew large. “Does this horse have wings?”

The elf winked at her and nodded. Suddenly, the horse she was riding changed. In an instant, the saddle was gone, and the horse sprouted wings. “Hold the mane and ask him to fly.”

I screeched as the pony leaped into the air, but my Arrogant One held his hand out toward the pony, keeping it just a foot or so off the ground.

Marisol didn’t say a word, but the expression on her face spoke volumes. She looked like she had never enjoyed herself so much.

“Beast?” My Arrogant One looked at Dray questioningly.

She nodded, and shape-shifted into her true form, taking to the air with Marisol and Pegasus as my Arrogant One dropped his hand and his control over the winged horse.

FlyingMy heart just about stopped, and I held my breath as I watched Dragon and Marisol fly higher, circling the treetops for several long minutes. Then they floated back to the ground. Dragon changed back into Dray, and Pegasus was once more just a saddle horse. I think that was when I remembered to breathe again.

Marisol jumped out of the saddle, radiating joy and awe. Her eyes sparkled and a huge grin spread across her face. “Oh, thank you! Thank you, everyone! Thank you, elf, thank you, Dray! I will never forget this birthday as long as I live!”Marisol hugging Dray

We hope you enjoyed Marisol’s birthday party. Be sure to get a piece of cake and some ice cream before you leave, and please join us again next week for more exciting adventures with my little band of displaced characters. I’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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