Farewell

Farewell

Are we all in agreementThe tension in the room was palpable.

“Are we all in agreement?” The huge, red dragon looked around the room at her companions. “It must be unanimous.”

Arrogant Elf sneeringThe arrogant elf scoffed, his face twisting into a sneer. “Do you really need to ask? Of course, we are all in agreement!”

Bounty Hunter“Indeed.” The bounty hunter nodded and wiped his hand nervously on his leather leggings. “This is what each of us has hoped for since the day we first found ourselves marooned in this world.”

Cleric pleading“Oh, but things are different now!” The cleric’s cornflower blue eyes were wet, and she held her arms wide toward her companions, beseeching. “We have become accustomed to this world. We are finding it easier and easier to assimilate the customs and speech of this world. We are learning to use technology. We have made friends. How can we think of going back to our own world now? We should stay. We must stay.”

No!” The elf screeched, hitting a pitch that threatened to shatter glass and decibel levels that threatened the same fate for nearby eardrums. “We have nothing here that compensates for the loss of our old lives, back in our own world!”

“If we are missing our own world and our old lives, we can visit the illusory world we created for the foreman.” The cleric pleaded. “There is no need to actually go back home. We can stay here and enjoy the best of both worlds.”

Foreman“No.” The foreman shook his head sadly, his gray eyes clouded. “While I appreciate the effort you all made for me creating that illusion, and while it is a fabulous place, it is but a pale shadow of our world and our former lives there.”

Mace and Gloria and the deputies“But we have responsibilities here now.” The cleric still pleaded. “Who is going to protect Mistress Writer and Master Miles from their neighbors, Mace and Gloria, and from the sheriff’s deputies, Melody Whitewash and Dustin Dawg?”

The dragon waved dismissively at the cleric and chuckled. “With us gone, I highly doubt Mistress Writer and Master Miles will have any further altercations with those people.”

MorcantThe cleric tried again. “What if the evil wizard Morcant returns?”

The dragon narrowed her eyes menacingly. “That one will never escape his tower prison.”

ArthurThe cleric furrowed her brow. “Well, what about Arthur, that horrendous man who runs that writers’ club, Lost in the Words? Surly, Mistress Writer needs protection from him.”

The dragon scoffed. “Crawford and Griff will give her all the protection she needs from that slimy toad.”Crawford and Griff will take care of Arthur

The cleric changed tack and gave the dragon a coy look. “And what about Griff? Will you not miss him . . . and Ollie?”

Griff dual personasThe big beast frowned. “My affinity for Griff was nothing more than the pleasure of finding someone in this world with whom I could communicate in the old ways of my species and his, through a linking of the mind. There will be enough of my own kind back in our world; I will not unduly miss Griff. And as for Ollie . . . well, I admit leaving him behind is a deep regret, but one I will have to bear.”

Ollie

Colton and BlueCleric turned to gypsy, young hero, and foremanThe cleric turned to the Gypsy, the young hero, and the foreman. “And the three of you have no regrets leaving Colton and Blue?”

GypsyThe Gypsy sighed and raked his hand through his hair. “We will miss them, surely, but we have been missing so many from our world – the Innkeeper, the Blacksmith, our Sovereign King, the young hero’s family. We will gladly give up the ones here to reunite with the others there.”

Young Hero facing leftThe young hero agreed, his green eyes shining with fervor. “I have missed my parents and brother so much! Furthermore, I have always had the feeling I was in the middle of something of paramount importance when I fell out of the manuscript into this world. I agree with the Gypsy – we must go home.”

Marisol, Talia, ChristineThe cleric turned back to the dragon. “And what about Marisol? Will you leave her tutoring to Talia and Christine?”

Dragon shrugged. “They know more about Marisol and her powers than do I. The child will be in good hands.”

Cleric looked around the room but found no ally. A tear slipped down her cheek. “But there is so much still to do here. What about the books we have come to enjoy so much? We will never get to read Mistress Rabe’s next Piper Blackwell novel. We will not be here to assist Master Miles as he designs this year’s Christmas Village. We will never again be able to join Mistress Writer on nature hikes and engage in wildlife photography with her. We will not even know whose image and presentation she judged best in last week’s contest.”

Never do again

SorceressThe sorceress walked over to the cleric and took her hands. “Forsooth, there will be things from this world we will miss, people whose absence from our lives will leave a hole in our hearts. But we never really belonged here. We have family and friends in our own world whom we miss and who are missing us. We have things we are supposed to be doing back there. We must go.”

Old DwarfThe old dwarf walked over to the cleric and put his hand on her arm. “Tha magic lass be right, lassie. It do na be makin’ much nevermind how much we be gonna be missin’ this world an’ its people. It do na be makin’ much nevermind how much we be lovin’ Mistress Writer an’ Master Miles. Iffen we kin be goin’ back home . . . back home, lassie! . . . then there be nuttin an’ nobody here wat kin be makin’ it wort’ it ta us ta be stayin’.”

Cleric cryingTears streamed down the cleric’s face. “We . . . we will say goodbye to Mistress Writer and Master Miles, though, will we not? We cannot leave without saying goodbye, without telling them where we are going.”

The dragon shook her head. “It would make it much harder to go. We need to leave. Now.”

The arrogant elf jumped up eagerly. “Then let us proceed.” Suddenly he stopped and stared at the dragon, his eyes narrowing. “You are sure you know what you are doing, are you not?”

Dark smoke“You doubt me, elf?” Dark smoke started to rise from the dragon’s nose.

The elf drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and grasped his cloak with both hands. “I do not doubt, I question. You have always said there was no way for us to return home. Over the years, you have researched this and made numerous attempts. You decreed it impossible to return to our own world. Are you quite certain of the discovery you have made that you claim will make this possible?”

“I am.”

The elf stared at the beast for several more moments, then nodded curtly. “Then, let us not tarry. Let us bid this place farewell, and return to our own world, our old lives.”

* * *

I awokeThe house felt different this morning when I awoke. It wasn’t just that it was quiet – quieter than I had heard it in a long time. The house felt different. It felt empty. I hurried through my morning ablutions and hurried to the kitchen.

Miles had just finished making breakfast when I arrived in the kitchen. He had it laid out on the counter and I noticed he had only made enough for the two of us.Breakfast

“No one else is joining us for breakfast this morning?” I looked around for some sign of my characters. “Where are the slugabeds? I was hoping to announce the winners of the nature photography and research contest.”

Miles shook his head. “I haven’t seen anyone.” He motioned toward the table. “Oh, by the way, I found these here this morning when I came in to prepare breakfast. What are your manuscripts doing here? Was one of your characters reading them last night?”Manuscripts on table

I shook my head and frowned. “These should be in my office.” I picked them up and something fell from the pages onto the floor.

Miles reached down and picked it up. He looked at it curiously. “What’s this?”

I took it from him, and my heart almost stopped. “It’s . . . it’s a dragon scale.”Dragon scale

Miles looked at it again. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen one that shade of blue.”

“It’s Dragon’s true color. Here in this world, she was usually red. If she were confused or embarrassed, she would turn a light blue, and if she were angry or annoyed, she might turn black. But in her own world, she was a magnificent, breathtaking shade of deep blue.”

Me, shockedI studied the scale for several minutes. Suddenly, my eyes widened, and I ran downstairs. As soon as I reached the bottom of the stairs, I cried out.

“Honey? Honey, what’s wrong?” Miles ran after me.

Miles shockedI pointed, and Miles followed my gesture. His jaw dropped. “The conference room is gone!”

I nodded. There in front of us, where once there had been a huge room that changed shape and size according to the needs and whims of the magic users who had created it, there now stood just a blank wall.

Blank wall

“What have your characters done now? Did they decide to move it into the shed, or up on the roof?” Miles chuckled.

I shook my head. I rubbed the dragon scale, and a tear slipped down my cheek. “They’re gone, Miles.”

My husband looked stunned. “Gone? Your characters are gone?”

I nodded. “I believe Dragon intentionally left this scale for me with my manuscripts. I’m sure it was her way of letting me know, of saying goodbye.” I turned to my husband. “Miles, my characters found their way back into the books.”

I looked down once more at the deep blue dragon scale in my hand, and mouthed, Farewell, my dear friends! Farewell!Dragon scale

Well, my faithful readers, it has been a long and wonderful adventure, but it was time for my characters to return whence they came. There were no new situations in which to put them, no new ways for them to cause trouble for me and Miles. I hope you have enjoyed my little band of displaced characters and their antics through the years.

This also ends my weekly blog. I may still find things to share with you on occasion, but I am long overdue for a sabbatical. Stay well, and I hope you will have fond memories of my characters. I know I will miss them terribly.

I’ll be turning the porch light off now. I’ll be sure to turn it on again when I return.

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The Contest

The Contest

Cleric closeup“Mistress!”

Cleric skipped into my office without even knocking. “How would you like to judge our contest?”Me

I furrowed my brow. “What contest?”

Cleric smiled, her cornflower blue eyes shining. “While you have been busy all week with your writing, my companions and I have been busy as well. We have been taking nature photos all week. We remained indoors, of course, due to the snow earlier this week, and the abysmal cold. But we took a considerable number of photos through the windows.”Taking nature photos through the windows

I nodded. “The weather this week has been brutal for October, even by Minnesota standards.”

Cleric and camera 2Cleric frowned and nodded her agreement before continuing. “The rules of the competition are simple. We could take photos of whatever animals we fancied, but the images had to be taken with no magical assistance. I was not even to use my ability to communicate with animals to get them to pose for me.”

I nodded. “Sounds like a fair rule.”

Research and prepare presentationCleric smiled. “The other part of the competition was more difficult. We were to research and prepare a very brief presentation on the animals we photographed. So, there should be winners in two categories – the best image and the best research. So, will you judge our contest?”

I feigned indifference and examined my fingernails. “I suppose I could clear my schedule and do the honors.”

“Oh, thank you, Mistress. I told everyone we could count on you! We could meet in the conference room in a half-hour if you would be available then.”

When I nodded, Cleric jumped from her chair and skipped out the door. “I will let everyone know to have their images and presentations ready!”

Dragon in front of fireplaceCleric was as good as her word. A half-hour later, my characters met me in the conference room, each with a thumb drive containing their images. Although all were present, some were less enthusiastic than others. Dragon, her scales as black as her mood, was lying in front of her illusory fireplace, glaring.

LaptopCleric cleared her throat. “Ahem. Well, thank you all for being here, and for participating in this contest. Mistress Writer has agreed to be the judge, and I have already advised her of the rules of the contest. So, who wants to go first?” She gestured toward the laptop computer at the front of the room, where everyone would display their images.

Dragon opened one eye and snorted some black smoke. “This whole silly contest was your idea. I think you should go first.”

Smoke drifting from Dragon's snout

Cleric closeupNo one else volunteered, so Cleric inserted her thumb drive into the USB port on the laptop and began. “My first group of images is of Mourning Doves. Two of the images were taken after the snowstorm earlier this week, and the last one is from yesterday, after it cleared again.”

She gave everyone time to see her photographs, then began her presentation. “The Mourning Dove, or Zenaida macroura, is in the taxonomic order Columbiformes and the family Columbidae. Mourning Doves are extremely abundant year-round across the United States. Males and females look alike, with gray backs and wings, and gray to pale peach below. They have large, black spots on their wings. Both their tails and their beaks are long and thin, and their legs are pinkish. They are M-o-u-r-n-i-n-g Doves, not M-o-r-n-i-n-g Doves, called that after their mournful cries.”

Cleric waited for me to take some notes, then proceeded to her next animal of choice.

“These photos are of Northern Cardinals. The Northern Cardinal, or Cardinalis cardinalis, is in the order Passeriformes and the family Cardinalidae. The Northern Cardinal has a year-round range in the United States from the East to the Midwest. The female Northern Cardinal is one of the few female songbirds who sing. Both male and female Northern Cardinals have short, thick bills and prominent crests. The male is a very conspicuous red with a black mask and throat. The female is dull brownish, with warm tinges of red in her wings, tail, and crest.”

When I had finished taking notes on Cleric’s second set of images and presentation, she removed her thumb drive and sat down.

I nodded and smiled. “Very nice job, Cleric. Who’s next?”

Foreman facing right closeupMy Foreman looked around at his companions, and when no one else responded, he rose and came to the front of the room. Inserting his thumb drive, he began.

“I have three groups of birds here, various types of sparrows. I did not bother with the taxonomical information, as I cannot even pronounce the words. One of my more learned associates informed me the words were Latin, a language I have never heard.”

He paused and looked around at his audience before continuing. “The first group of photos shows the American Tree Sparrow, a winter visitor to this area. The American Tree Sparrow is a plump, long-tailed sparrow with a bi-colored bill, unstreaked underparts, and a dark spot in the middle of their chest. Their gray head is adorned with a rusty cap and eyeline. Male and female look alike.”

My Foreman brought up the next group of photos. “These are Chipping Sparrows. It is unusual to see these birds in this area at this time of year, but perhaps the ones I saw this week were late migrants. They were here at the beginning of the week, right before the snow, and I have not seen them since. The Chipping Sparrow is sometimes confused with the American Tree Sparrow, the first sparrow I showed and described. However, the Chipping Sparrow is slightly smaller, has no spot on its chest, and the eye stripe is black, not rusty. The Chipping Sparrow also lacks the bi-colored beak of the American Tree Sparrow.”

Changing photos once more, my Foreman continued. “The last group of sparrows I photographed is the White-throated Sparrow. This bird would not be mistaken for either of the two sparrows I previously detailed. As the name would indicate, their identifying mark is a crisp white throat patch. They are a large, plump sparrow with a long tail and stubby bill. They are beautifully marked, with a bold facial pattern of black and white crown stripes and yellow lores. In Minnesota, they breed in the north and migrate in the fall, though some overwinter here.”

My Foreman waited for me to nod, then retrieved his thumb drive and resumed his seat.

Young hero 2My Young Hero sprang to his feet. “If no one objects, I will go next.”

Before displaying any photos, the lad explained, “I was an opportunistic photographer. The three types of birds I will present were chosen simply because they were there and did not fly off when they saw me aiming my camera at them through the window. Unlike the three types of sparrows the Foreman chose, these birds are unrelated.”

My Young Hero inserted his thumb drive and began. “The first bird is a juvenile or immature Sharp-shinned Hawk. He will have the vertical streaking on his chest until he molts and acquires his adult plumage. This bird was guarding his freshly caught dinner, which I cropped out of the photo in deference to those persons of a delicate and sensitive nature. The Sharp-shinned Hawk is an accipiter, a type of hawk having short, broad wings and relatively long legs. It is admirably adapted for fast flight through woodlands, where it hunts its prey, mostly small birds.”

Switching photos, my Young Hero continued. “This bird is an American Crow. American Crows are opportunistic omnivores. This one was visiting the feeding station on the deck, gobbling the peanuts. Although he does not look it, he is larger than the Sharp-shinned Hawk. This all-black bird has a relatively short, squared tail, and a raucous, full-throated call.”

The lad brought up the next group of photos. “My third bird is the Blue Jay. He also has a raucous call, along with many other sounds. He even mimics the call of other birds. The Blue Jay is grayish-white below and various shades of blue and violet above. The Blue Jay’s wings and tail are barred black, with a bold, white wingbar, and he sports a black necklace and a prominent crest. Like the American Crow, the Blue Jay is a year-round resident of Minnesota, and is an opportunistic omnivore.”

My Young Hero shuffled through his notes. “I discovered a most interesting fact about Blue Jays while doing my research. Blue Jays are not really blue! Because of the structure of a Blue Jay’s feathers, they appear blue. I found this information on a website called The Buzz. If anyone wants to check it out themselves, you can find it at https://www.reconnectwithnature.org/news-events/the-buzz/nature-curiosity-why-are-blue-jays-blue.”

Blue Jay featherPrismThe lad waited while some of his friends copied down the information. “According to this website, Blue Jays do not have any blue pigment in their feathers. The pigment in a Blue Jay’s feathers is brown, but we perceive it as blue because of a phenomenon called light scattering. Light scattering is like the effects of a prism. A Blue Jay’s wings contain tiny pockets of air and something called keratin. Keratin is the same substance that is in our hair and fingernails. When light hits these pockets of air and keratin in the Blue Jay’s feathers, all the colors of the wavelength except blue are absorbed. The blue wavelength is refracted, making the feathers look blue.”

Dragon in front of fireplaceAs my Young Hero retrieved his thumb drive and returned to his seat, Dragon stirred. “Forsooth! That was most impressive. It almost shames me to make my presentation now.” Remaining prone, she tossed me her thumb drive, which I inserted into the computer. “Like my young friend, the Hero, I was opportunistic. In fact, some might argue I was lazy. I took pictures – admittedly poor quality – of some Ring-necked Pheasants because they were right outside the window and I could take the photos with a minimum of effort, and without leaving the comfort of my fireplace – the same way I am making this presentation. The plain, brown, speckled one is the female. The more colorful one is the male. They visit the yard occasionally, usually when it is cold and snowy, although I have seen them here in all seasons. They are what is known as a game bird, which mean some people think they taste good.”

Dwarf with sandwich and thumbdriveAs Dragon closed her eyes and continued her nap, my Old Dwarf stomped to the front of the room, a sandwich in one hand and his thumb drive in the other. He tucked his sandwich in his pouch and thrust his thumb drive at me. I removed Dragon’s thumb drive from the computer and inserted the dwarf’s, and he began.

“Wale, I be admittin’ I dinna be doin’ all tha research wot tha holy lass be tellin’ us ta be doin’, an’ I be tookin’ pictures o furry critters, not birdies. I be pho-toe-gryph-in’ some bunnies, some gray squirrelsies, some red squirrelsies, an’ some chippermunkers. They all be year-round residents o this area, though tha chippermunkers be a tad less hardy and be stayin’ in their holesies when tha weather be gittin too cold. I did be findin’ oot thet tha bunnies be Eastern Cottontails; tha gray squirrelsies be Eastern Gray Squirrels; tha red squirrelsies, wot be lessen’ half tha size o tha grays, be Red Squirrels, though they also be called Pine Squirrels, Spruce Squirrels an’ Chickarees; an’ tha chippermunkers be Eastern Chipmunks.”

Not even waiting for me to return his thumb drive, my Old Dwarf dug his sandwich from his pouch, took a big bite, and hastened back to his seat.

Gypsy close-up facing rightMy Gypsy rose and took his turn next. “I have three birds to present, all common visitors to the yard. We see two here year-round, but the third is a winter visitor only.”

My Gypsy inserted his thumb drive into the computer and brought up his first group of photos. “These are Black-capped Chickadees. These gray-and-white birds with black cap and bib are bold, curious little creatures that can be easily coaxed to take sunflower seeds from a person’s hand. Their call – chick-a-dee-dee-dee – sounds like they are scolding someone, while their song – heeey, sweetie – sounds like they are calling after someone.”

The lad perfectly imitated the chickadee’s call and song.

Gesturing to the next group of images, my Gypsy continued. “The Red-winged Blackbird is ubiquitous in this neighborhood in spring and summer, as they nest right in the reeds along the edges of the pond behind the houses. Their conk-a-reeeeeeeee rings through the neighborhood from early morning till late evening during mating and nesting season and the males often display their bright red-and-yellow epaulettes when trying to impress a potential mate or discourage a potential rival. They remain in the area year-round, but they are not as prevalent in winter.”

Bringing up his third group of images, the lad smiled. “These are Slate-colored Dark-eyed Juncos, birds many people hate to see, as they herald the cold weather and snow. In fact, these little birds are known as snowbirds, appearing in this area as winter sets in, and then retreating northward each spring to their breeding grounds. They have several beautiful songs, the first a loud musical trill of 7-23 notes, similar to the songs of both the Chipping Sparrow and the Pine Warbler. This is sung by the male junco.” My Gypsy whistled a perfect imitation of the song.

“They also have a much quieter song as well, a series of whistles, trills, and warbles sung by both male and female, that may sound like an American Goldfinch.” Again, my Gypsy demonstrated.

“In case you had not surmised, I chose these three birds because I love their calls. When they are in the yard, I can coax them close just by imitating their songs.” Smiling, my Gypsy took his thumb drive and returned to his seat.

Bounty Hunter full body 2My Bounty Hunter rose and shuffled to the front of the room, frowning and looking very reluctant to begin. He inserted his thumb drive into the laptop and shrugged. “I did not research the taxonomy of the birds I chose, nor can I imitate any of their calls. I chose woodpeckers because I am fascinated by them and I found no less than six different types in the backyard. I photographed all six, so you can see their similarities and differences.”

zygodactyl feetLooking around uncomfortably, my Bounty Hunter shrugged again and continued. “The woodpeckers I will present all possess characteristic zygodactyl feet. The first and the fourth of their four toes face backward and the second and third face forward. This allows them to easily grasp the limbs and trunks of trees. These woodpeckers can walk vertically up tree trunks while they forage for food and excavate nest holes.”

Woodpecker on vertical surfaceHe paused to collect his thoughts. “In addition to their strong claws and feet, these woodpeckers have relatively short, strong legs and stiff tails. When the woodpecker perches on a vertical surface, its tail and feet work together to give it support. Woodpeckers have strong bills for drilling and drumming on trees, and long sticky tongues for extracting the insects and larvae they favor for food. They also have very specialized skull and brain structure to prevent concussive damage to their brain while they bang away with their bills.”

Bringing up the first group of photos, my Bounty Hunter continued. “These are Downy Woodpeckers, the smallest of the North American woodpeckers. They range from slightly less than six inches to just under seven inches in length and have a wingspan of ten to twelve inches. They are a common, year-round resident of this state. Males have a red spot on the back of their heads, females do not.”

Changing images, my Bounty Hunter smiled. “This is the Pileated Woodpecker, the largest living North American woodpecker, and also a year-round resident of this part of Minnesota. It is approximately sixteen to nineteen inches long and has a twenty-six to thirty-inch wingspan. Males have a red cheek stripe, and both male and female have bright red crests.”

As he brought up the next group of images, my Bounty Hunter chuckled. “These are not more pictures of the Downy Woodpecker. These are another year-round resident, the Hairy Woodpecker. They are almost identical to the Downy, but larger. They are almost ten inches in length, with a fifteen-inch wingspan. In addition to size, you can tell these two woodpeckers apart by their outer tail feathers. The Hairy Woodpecker’s outer tail feathers are pure white, while the Downy usually has black or gray spots along the sides of the white outer tail feathers. Their bills also give clues to their identity. The Downy has a tiny, stubby beak, barely as long as the distance from the front of its head to its eye. The Hairy’s bill is much longer, nearly as long as the bird’s head. As with the Downy, males have a red spot on the back of their heads, and females do not.”

My Bounty Hunter paused a moment to bring up the next group of pictures. “Here is another year-round resident of this part of Minnesota. At nine to eleven inches long, and having a fifteen to eighteen-inch wingspan, this year-round resident, the Red-bellied Woodpecker, is close in size to the Hairy. The male Red-bellied Woodpecker has a red crown and nape, while the female has only the red nape. The name red-bellied is puzzling to many new birdwatching enthusiasts, as the red patch on their abdomen is often unnoticed, obscured by the pale feathers.”

My Bounty Hunter gestured to the next group of photos. “Minnesota is part of the breeding ground for the Red-headed Woodpecker, but these birds are not year-round residents. This immature bird stopped by for a quick bite to eat during his migration. He was only a day or so ahead of the cold snap and snow. Although quite attractive already, when this bird reaches adulthood, he will be a beauty, with a brilliant red head contrasting with black back, white wing patches, and an unstreaked white belly. Male and female are alike and range from seven and a half to almost ten inches in length, with close to a seventeen-inch wingspan.”

Northern Flicker aMy Bounty Hunter brought up a single photo. “This is a Northern Flicker, another year-round Minnesota resident. It is a mid-to-large sized woodpecker, with a length of eleven to fourteen inches and a wingspan of seventeen to twenty-one inches. Unlike the other woodpeckers I have presented, this one will be seen on the ground as often as in a tree. It does possess the characteristic zygodactyl feet of the woodpeckers, but a flicker eats mainly ants and beetles. It often digs them from the ground with its slightly curved bill, but it will also pluck ants and other insects from the crevices in the bark of tree trunks. This bird is a Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker, referring to the yellow shafts on his flight and tail feathers, as opposed to the Red-shafted Northern Flicker found further west. Both the male and female Yellow-shafted Northern Flickers have a black bib, spotted belly, and red nape. The black mustache marks this bird as a male.”

My Bounty Hunter removed his thumb drive and returned to his seat while Sorceress took his place at the computer.

Sorceress close-up“I have only two groups of images to share.” She gestured toward the laptop. “The first, here, are American Goldfinches. At this time of year, they all look rather drab and bedraggled, but in the spring, the males will molt into their breeding plumage of mostly brilliant yellow and black. They are year-round residents of the southern half of Minnesota, but many inexperienced birdwatchers do not recognize them in their dull winter garb.”

Changing images, Sorceress continued. “These, too, are finches, but they are House Finches. We are on the northern border of this bird’s year-round range. While the females are rather plain brown birds with streaky fronts, the males have reddish hues gracing their face and chests.”

Retrieving her thumb drive, Sorceress continued speaking while walking back to her seat. “Both the male American Goldfinch and the male House Finch have beautiful songs, full of twitters, trills, and warbles. I am sure, if anyone were interested, the Gypsy lad could imitate them for you. I cannot.”

Arrogant One full body 2My Arrogant One rose from his chair at the back of the room. He drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and grasped his cloak with both hands. “I have chosen a single bird, a bird with which I strongly identify.”

European Starling (2a)Approaching the laptop, the elf inserted his thumb drive. “This

is the European Starling.” He paused dramatically. “Like me, the starling is a foreigner in this country.” He paused again. “In winter, this dazzling, iridescent, black-and-brown bird is covered with white speckles and dots. In summer, he turns dark and glossy. He is an excellent mimic, copying the calls of up to 20 other species. The European Starling, a year-round resident everywhere in the United States, is an entirely unappreciated bird in this country.”

With that, my Arrogant One grabbed his thumb drive and flounced back to his seat.

“Well!” I stood and looked at my characters. “There were some excellent presentations, along with some great images. This is going to be a difficult contest to judge!”

Gentle readers, will you help me decide on the winners? Who do you think gave the best presentation? Who had the best image? Perhaps we should have first, second, and third place winners in both categories. Leave you choices for winner in the comments and be sure to come back next week. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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