Found

Found

CougarThe attack had been so sudden, Talia had had no time to avoid the gargantuan mountain lion that now pinned her to the ground. Struggling mightily against the heavy creature, she managed to get an arm free. Simply by instinct, she made a few arcane gestures with her hand and muttered an incantation under her breath, the same spell she had used on Dragon to transform the mighty beast into a tiny lizard. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2020/10/04/the-search/

Nothing happened. Talia’s eyes widened and she gasped. I forgot! Once I entered the portal and was ushered into this world, my powers were gone!

snarling cougarThe cougar snarled and brought his face closer to Talia’s. Suddenly, he stopped, and his brow furrowed. He sniffed at Talia. “You aren’t the one I’m looking for.” He released Talia and stepped back. “I’m so sorry. You aren’t hurt, are you?”

Before Talia could answer, she heard the badger call out. “Hey, Rafferty! You gone crazy or something? Why’d you attack the puny human?”

Talia saw the big coyote snap at the badger and say something to him. The badger hung his head.

The other animals came running over. The coyote pup and the fox kit helped Talia up. The woman stood there, wobbling on rubbery legs.

The vixen nudged her kit aside and sniffed at Talia. “Here, dear, just lean on me and take a couple of deep breaths. You’ll be okay. I don’t think Rafferty injured you. I don’t smell any blood.” The fox then turned to the cougar, clucking gently at him in admonishment. “Rafferty, dear, what were you thinking?”

“I’m sorry.” He turned toward Talia. “I’m sorry lady. I saw you running after my friends and I thought you were the one who was trying to hurt them.” He threw himself to the ground and covered his face with his huge paws.

The giant coyote walked up to the cougar and put a paw on the other animal’s shoulder. “Rafferty, old buddy, that was a long time ago. That person isn’t here anymore. We’re all safe now.”

Rafferty looked up at the coyote and furrowed his brow again. “Are you sure, Chaz? I thought I saw her just yesterday, at the market.”

“Nah, Raff. You couldn’t have seen her. She’s long gone.” The coyote spoke gently.

Coyote pup and TaliaThe coyote pup whispered in Talia’s ear. “The person Rafferty thought he saw hasn’t been around since long before I was born. Poor cat. I don’t know exactly what happened all those years ago, but it must have been horrible for Raff. They say he hasn’t been quite right in the head since. When he gets really bad like this, my pop takes care of him, gets him the help he needs.”

Talia frowned. “But he’s a cougar. Why would your father help him?”

The pup scoffed and shot Talia a disgusted look. “Because he’s a friend.” The pup shook his head and curled his lip at Talia. “Don’t you help your friends? Isn’t that what you and the dragon are doing?”

Talia looked at the circle of animals and nodded thoughtfully.

Rafferty got up and shook, dust flying off his sleek, golden fur. “So, what were you all doing just now? The human was running after you. Were you playing a game?”

Chaz shook his head. “We’re looking for a little girl, a human child, who is lost.”

Cougar pleading“Oh, the poor little thing. I’ll help look for her! Can I help, Chaz? Can I?” The mountain lion closed his eyes and pleaded with the coyote.

“Sure, buddy, you can help. But she’s very small and delicate, Raff. Remember that if you find her. No claws. Velvet paws, Raff. You gotta use velvet paws.”

The cougar nodded and started jigging around, excited to help. “I’ll remember, Chaz. I promise.” Suddenly he stopped and his eyes widened. “Chaz! We gotta find that poor little thing before she gets hurt! What if that woman finds her? She’ll hurt the little girl, Chaz. She tried to hurt all of you.”

“Now, now, Raff. That’s all over, buddy. The woman’s gone. She’s gone, Raff.” Chaz patted his friend’s shoulder again.

“Are you sure he’s safe?” Talia addressed the foxes in a whisper while never taking her eyes off the mountain lion.

The reynard frowned and growled softly. “Of course, he’s safe. Do you think Chaz and I would allow him near our kids if he wasn’t?”

Talia blushed, but still looked unconvinced.

Rafferty and Chaz“Let’s go, then. Let’s find this poor little thing.” The mountain lion bounded off, only to come racing back. “Chaz? Which way do we go?” He looked confused, his whiskers trembling and his eyes unfocused.

“We’re going to follow the scent trail this way. I’ll take the lead. Why don’t you hang back and keep an eye on the young’uns, and on our human visitor? You can make sure they don’t get separated from the group.”

“Okay, Chaz. I’ll take good care of them.”

“I know you will, buddy. I know you will.” Chaz nuzzled Rafferty before loping off to take his lead at the head of the group.

The giant coyote led off, with Benny, the badger, close behind, still looking contrite over his earlier careless comments to Rafferty, the troubled mountain lion. The reynard and the vixen flanked them, and all four animals kept their noses to the ground.

Behind them, the coyote pup and the fox kit escorted Talia. The three of them kept their heads swiveling, their eyes peering at every ditch, furrow, tree, bush, and clod of dirt they passed.

They also kept a good eye on Rafferty, who trailed along behind. Sometimes the mountain lion strode along with purpose and determination; other times, he lagged, confused and unfocused. Several times he ran up to Talia and sniffed at her, then muttered, “No, you’re not the bad person. She’s not here anymore. She’s gone. Chaz said so.”

After one such incident, the fox kit bowed his head and whispered into Talia’s ear. “He’s been like this as long as I can remember. He’ll be fine for months at a time, then suddenly, something triggers his anxiety, and he imagines this woman around every corner or behind every bush.”

Junior nodded. “That’s why we have to watch him real close right now. If we find this missing child, my dad and Benny will want to get to her first. Rafferty might mistake her for that woman, since he keeps saying he’s seen her recently.”

Talia’s eyes flew wide, and her jaw dropped. She put her hand on the fox kit’s leg. “But your dad said the cat was safe.”

“He is.” The kit nodded confidently. “We make sure he stays that way.”

Raff sees DragonIt was late in the day with the sun dropping fast toward the horizon, when Talia and her group spotted Dragon and her troop coming toward them along the berm. As soon as he spotted Dragon, Rafferty stopped dead in his tracks. “What is that?”

“That’s just a dragon, Raff. She’s kinda like a big lizard with wings. She’s from another part of the world and she’s here with the lady looking for the lost child.” Junior spoke softly to the mountain lion. The cat shook his head as if to clear it, then started to back up, eyes wide and mouth slack.

“Dad? Dad!” Junior called to the big coyote several dozen yards ahead of them.

The big animal immediately sized up the situation and ran to his friend’s side. He spoke to the spooked cougar softly and reassuringly. “Hey, Raff, it’s okay, buddy. She’s a friend. She’s gentle as a kitten. See? The deer and the rabbits like her. She’s fine. Come on, Raff, I’ll introduce you.”

But Rafferty didn’t appear to want to meet the dragon. He threw himself down on the ground and covered his face with his paws. He lay there, trembling, until Dragon walked over and spoke to him.

Dragon approached the giant mountain lion quietly and gently. “Hello. You must be Rafferty. Your friends told me about you. I would consider it a great honor to meet you.”

Slowly, the big cat looked up. He furrowed his brow and tilted his head. “You would be honored to meet me?”

“Indeed, I would.” Dragon stood a few feet away, making herself look as small and nonthreatening as possible.

Rafferty looked at the other animals, who smiled and nodded at him. He slowly rose and timidly edged close enough to Dragon to sniff at her. “You smell funny.”

Dragon chuckled. “I imagine I do. My name is Dragon. It is my pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

BearsBefore the mountain lion could respond, two huge grizzly bears broke through the adjacent brush and lumbered into the field about a dozen yards away. The smaller bear was carrying something tiny in her arms, and the larger one looked around until he saw who he was looking for. “Hey! Hab’itt! Come on over here, buddy! Did you lose something?”

Rafferty’s eyes glazed over. “You caught her! You caught that dangerous woman! Good work!” He started bounding toward the bears, but Dragon tripped him.

“Oh, I am so sorry. Did I do that? Are you injured?” The scaly beast spoke gently, but positioned herself between the cat and the bears, blocking his view.

Marisol woke up as Hab’itt hopped over to the bears. “Hey, there, little one!” The giant rabbit smiled at the small girl, then looked at the bears. “Where did you find her?”

“She was asleep in our berry patch. She told us she had been with you in the carrot field but had wandered away. She was too tired to go back, so I offered to carry her. She fell back asleep halfway here.” The female bear gently placed the child on the ground. “There you go, Marisol.”

The bigger bear was looking over at Dragon and the mountain lion. “Is that Rafferty?”

Hab’itt followed the bear’s gaze and nodded.

The bear huffed and shook his head. “You better take care to keep him away from the child. He’s been a bit twitchy lately. If he’s having another of his episodes, there’s no telling what he might do.”

Hab’itt nodded. “I think he’ll be okay. It looks like Chaz is taking care of him. And there’s a dragon with him, blocking his view of the child. She came with the human female who came looking for Marisol. I don’t think that creature would let anything happen to Marisol.”

The bear nodded. “Well, Marisol, it was nice to meet you. Be sure to stop for a visit any time you’re in the neighborhood.”

Marisol smiled. “I will. And thank you.”

Marisol rubbed the sleep from her eyes and looked toward Dragon and Talia. She looked past them and stared at the cougar. After a few minutes, she frowned. “That big cat with my friends seems to need some help.”

Helping RaffWithout a second’s hesitation, the child skipped over to the other group, with Hab’itt following on her heels. Without a word, Marisol reached up and grabbed Dragon and Talia by the hand. She gazed silently at the mountain lion, who was nearby, shaking uncontrollably. “The cat needs your help. Say the words, Dragon. Say the words, Talia.”

“What words are those, child?” Dragon tilted her head and looked askance at Marisol.

The child pursed her lips. “The words that will help the big cat, of course.”

Dragon shook her head. “We have no power in this world.”

“I know.” Marisol smiled. “Say the words, Dragon, please. You, too, Talia.”

Dragon looked at Talia, who shrugged. Then they both began to intone an incantation. When they were finished, Marisol smiled again. The child tugged Dragon and Talia over to the mountain lion. “Hello, Rafferty. Are you feeling better now?”

Everyone fell silent as the big cat stopped trembling and slowly stood up. The cougar blinked several times rapidly, then squinted at Marisol. “I feel fine, thanks. Do I know you?”

Marisol shook her head.

Rafferty looked at Dragon. “I . . . I don’t know you either, do I?”

“No, you don’t know her, either.” Marisol nudged Dragon. “Well, if you’re feeling better, Rafferty, I think it’s time for me and my friends to go home. My mother will be worried.”

Hab’itt scratched behind his ear with one of his big back paws. “I . . . I guess I’ll take you back to the portal.”

“Thanks, Hab’itt, but I can find the way. I think Dragon and Talia want to talk to me.” Marisol patted the huge rabbit on his leg. “I hope you’ll come to our world . . . I mean our part of the world . . . and visit again sometime. I won’t tell my mommy if you eat any of her carrots.”

After a round of goodbyes and best wishes, the trio was on the way. As they began walking back to the portal, Marisol yawned. “Dragon, could you carry me?”

“Of course, little one.” The huge beast held out her arms, and soon Marisol was snuggled against her.

The early-rising full moon bathed the path with light, but Dragon still moved slowly so she would not trip and disturb the child in her arms.

As if sensing the beast’s concern, the child giggled. “It’s okay. I’m awake. We can talk if you’d like.”

Dragon furrowed her brow. “Yes, child, I would like to talk with you. Marisol, how did that spell work? Talia and I have no power here. I cannot even shapeshift.”

Marisol shrugged. “Your power is still within you; you just can’t call it forth. So, I did it for you. I called forth the power for you and for Talia.”

Dragon’s eyes widened, and she exchanged surprised glances with Talia. “But how did you know the mountain lion needed help?”

Saw his heartMarisol tilted her head and chewed her lower lip for several long moments before answering. “That’s harder to explain.” She paused again, choosing her words carefully. “I could see his heart.”

“You could see his what?” Talia furrowed her brow.

Marisol squirmed a bit in Dragon’s arms to better see Talia. “Well, you know how you say of someone who is kind and decent he has a good heart?”

Talia nodded.

“And if someone has lost someone he loves, you say he has a broken heart?”

Again, Talia nodded.

“Well, I could see Rafferty’s heart. I could see it was a good heart, and I could see it had been broken. I could see he needed help.”

Talia’s jaw dropped. “You could see the animal’s inner essence.”

Dragon gaped at the child as well. “That is a step beyond seeing a shapeshifter’s true nature. I have never known anyone who could see the very soul of a creature that clearly.”

Going homeMarisol shrugged, as if it were no big deal to her. She snuggled close to Dragon again and sighed. “I like that place. It was just like Hab’itt said – it’s a place of inclusion and acceptance and peace and tolerance, a place where everyone cares about everyone else, and no one cares if someone is different. I think I’d like to live in a place like that.”

Talia nodded and patted Marisol’s arm. “Perhaps you can, someday, child. Perhaps our world can be like that someday, if we all work hard enough to make it so.”

Be sure to come back next week and see what is happening with my little band of displaced characters. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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An Old Friend to the Rescue

An Old Friend to the Rescue

Almost a week had gone by, and still Dragon sulked in front of her blazing fireplace.

Dragon in front of fireplace

Temperature steadily risingArrogant One“The temperature outside has been steadily rising all week. Summer has returned with all its heat and humidity, and still that vile beast keeps that inferno blazing in the conference room! The entire house is like an oven! She gives no thought to the comfort of anyone save herself!” My Arrogant One scowled fiercely as he rose from the breakfast table. He drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and grasped his cloak with both hands. “I, for one, have no intention of subjecting myself to such maltreatment. I am retiring to the shed until someone takes that insufferable beast in hand.”

Old DwarfMy Old Dwarf stopped loading his fifth helping of flapjacks onto his plate and jumped up to face my Arrogant One. “Eh, thet insufferable beastie be me mostest specialest friend, so’s ye best be watchin’ yer tongue there, elfie, afore I be puttin’ a knot in it fer ye.”

The elf, predictably, reacted with a glass-shattering shriek. “Do not call me elfie!”

The dwarf chuckled and settled back to finish his breakfast as the elf stomped out of the room.

Bounty Hunter“The elf might be annoying, but in this case, he is right. Something must be done about that cold-blooded reptile before we all bake to death.” My Bounty Hunter threw his napkin on his plate and followed the elf to the relative comfort of the garden shed.

Young hero 2My Young Hero wiped the sweat from his brow. “The rest of us have discussed escaping into the illusory world created for the Foreman.” He refilled his glass from the pitcher of ice water and gulped it down. “Mistress, you and Master Miles are welcome to join us.”

“Thanks, but I think Miles and I should stay here. I’ll try to reason with Dragon again.” I raked my hand through my hair and turned toward my husband.

Miles talking to dwarfMiles frowned. “You better persuade her to get rid of that fireplace before all the paint in the house bubbles off the walls and the paneling warps.”

My Old Dwarf pushed himself away from the table and got slowly to his feet. “Good luck ta ye, lass. Ye be needin’ it! Tha beastie do na even be listenin’ ta meself.” The pain and worry over his friend showed in my Old Dwarf’s red-rimmed eyes, slumped shoulders, and shuffling gait as he left the room.

I sighed and looked at Miles again. Before I could say anything, the doorbell rang.

Cleric closeup“You and Master Miles finish your meal, Mistress. I will see who is at the door.” Cleric trudged out of the room, wiping the sweat from her face. Moments later, she raced back, eyes sparkling and a huge smile lighting up her face. “Mistress, there is someone here to see you! Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm begs an audience.”

I jumped out of my chair. “Ollie? Ollie’s here already? I only called his human this morning.”

“You called James?” Miles looked relieved. “Why didn’t you say anything?”

“You were busy making breakfast when I made the call. When I got to the breakfast table, my Old Dwarf was already here, and I didn’t want to mention it in front of him. He and Dragon share a close bond, but nothing like the bond Dragon shares with Ollie. I didn’t want to upset the old reprobate. You know how jealous he can get.”

“Do you really think Ollie can help?” My Gypsy looked skeptical.

“Only one way to find out.” I headed down the stairs and out the front door to welcome our guest.

Ollie and butterfliesWhen I arrived in the front yard, Ollie was sitting there, seemingly mesmerized by two butterflies fluttering around his head. I took a moment to study him. I had almost forgotten how handsome the Old English Sheepdog was, with his elegant head, his intelligent eyes, his muscular body, and his magnificent coat, beautifully patterned in blue merle and white.

Me greeting OllieWhen he saw me, Ollie jumped up and woofed in greeting, a goofy puppy-like grin on his face. When he tried to wag his little bobbed tail, his entire hindquarters wiggled comically with the effort. When he saw me trying not to laugh at his antics, he immediately stopped. He almost looked as if he were blushing, as if remembering he was no longer a puppy, and he quickly assumed a more dignified bearing.

I smiled. “Sir Oliver, it’s been too long since you honored us with a visit! It’s good to see you again.”

Ollie whined and nodded. “Too long, indeed, Marge. I have missed coming here. But please, call me Ollie. Sir Oliver is too formal between friends.”

I smiled and nodded. “Of course, Ollie. How have you been? And how are your human companions, James and Ron?”

Ollie (8)“We are all well, thank you, Marge.” Ollie’s human speech was well developed, as were his manners. “But, please, from what James told me, I would prefer we do our catching up later. James said Dragon needs my help.” Ollie’s distress was evident in his china blue eyes, and the way he started dancing around. He began mixing his canine vocabulary with his human words. “Woof! Where is she? What is wrong? Is she injured? Is she in danger? Woof! Woof! I need to help Dragon! What can I do?” He ended with a heartbreaking whimper.

“Relax!” I placed a hand on Ollie’s broad head and patted him reassuringly. “She is uninjured, and in no danger, save that of losing her friends. She is currently in the conference room, basking in front of her illusory fireplace.”

Ollie scratched behind one ear with a hind foot. Then he cocked his head and gave me a confused look. “Her fireplace? But it must be more than eighty-five degrees today!”

I nodded. “Dragon claims that anything under a hundred degrees is not comfortable for her.”

“Woof! How can she stand it, with her luxurious fur coat?”

“Fur coat?” I furrowed my brow and tilted my head. “Dragon has scales.”

How Ollie sees DragonOllie looked embarrassed. “Woof, woof! Of course! I forgot Dragon is a dragon. You see, when I look at Dragon, I see a beautiful female Old English Sheepdog!”

I chuckled. “I see. Well, at any rate, you can imagine how the rest of us feel with the house so hot.” I gestured toward the front door. “Maybe you can talk with her?”

“Woof, woof!” Ollie shook his head so hard, his ears flapped. “Oh, no, Marge! My own fur coat is quite thick, and I do not tolerate extreme heat very well. Perhaps you could tell her I am here, and I could wait for her in the back yard?”

I nodded and went inside as Ollie trotted around to the rear of the house.

A blast of hot air assaulted me when I opened the door to the conference room, driving me back and making me gasp for air. I steeled myself, pushed through the wall of heat, and entered the room. “Dragon? Dragon!

Smoke drifting from Dragon's snoutThe cranky beast opened an eye, and smoke poured from her snout. “If you are here to complain about the heat, save your breath. I find it most pleasant, and I intend to stay here and enjoy it.”

I shrugged. “Then should I tell your guest you choose not to see him?”

“What guest?” Dragon’s question was delivered with a snarl.

“Ollie has traveled all this way . . .”

Dragon was on her feetOllie (4a)Dragon was on her feet in a heartbeat, eyes wide and a silly grim stretching her reptilian lips. “Ollie? My Ollie . . . er, I mean my friend, Ollie, is here? Where? Show him in! Show him in!”

I folded my arms over my chest and raised an eyebrow. “Oh, I’m sorry.” I smirked. “Ollie has declined my invitation to come in to see you. He can’t tolerate extreme heat. He has a rather thick fur coat, you know. He said he’d be in the back yard if you cared to visit.”

The words were hardly out of my mouth when Dragon was through the doorway and racing up the stairs.

Sighing, I wiped away the rivulets of sweat running down my face and trudged down the hall to my office. I walked over and opened the window, hoping for a cool breeze to alleviate the oppressive heat.

I smiled at the scene unfolding before me. Ollie was racing in circles around Dragon, yipping and woofing for joy. Dragon bent over and let Ollie give her puppy-dog kisses, licking her snout and cheeks. Once Ollie had finished kissing her, he sat and looked at her with adoration in his eyes.

Dragon carressing Ollie seen through screen“I have missed you, dear one.” Dragon spoke softly and caressed Ollie, tenderly ruffling the fur on his head and gently scratching behind his ears.

Ollie closed his eyes in bliss as he replied, “I have missed you, too.”

I tip-toed away from the window to give them some privacy, but their voices carried through the screen.

“I am so overjoyed at seeing you, I forgot to ask what brings you here today.”

I held my breath, hoping Ollie wouldn’t tell Dragon I had called James to request Ollie’s help. I should have known Ollie would be discreet. He kept my secret.

“Woof. I just thought you might like a visit from a friend.”

When there was no response to Ollie’s statement, I imagined Dragon raising an eyebrow or shaking her scaly head at her canine friend.

“Growf? I felt that you were troubled, and I wanted to assure myself you are safe and well?”

I smiled. I knew I was right, and Ollie’s first response had elicited a skeptical look from Dragon. This time, Dragon must have accepted Ollie’s reply, as she answered him.

“I appreciate your concern, dear one, but as you can see, I am both safe and well.”

This time I imagined Ollie rolling his eyes, as he replied. “Woof! You know you cannot hide your emotions from me. Something troubles you. Cannot a friend offer some help, lend a willing ear?”

I heard Dragon sigh. She took some time before answering Ollie. “You are right. I am troubled.”

“I am listening.”

As Dragon explained her vexation to Ollie, I heard none of the anger or defiance in her words that had been directed at me the previous evening. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2020/08/09/the-summer-of-dragons-discontent/ Instead, there was an almost wistful tone to her voice.

Dragon talking to Ollie 1“For quite some time now . . . really, ever since falling out of Mistress Writer’s manuscripts and becoming stranded here in the real world with her and Master Miles . . . I have been the one everyone turns to for help. When some of my fellow characters yearned for their horses, I was the one expected to create illusory animals for them. When the Foreman longed for his old life, when he was feeling useless here, I was the one expected to create a solution.”

Dragon paused. She must have begun pacing. When she spoke again, her voice came from a different direction.

Dragon talking to Ollie 2“When the Arrogant One creates problems, when the neighbors observe something they should not, when the Young Hero is plagued with nightmares, when some mystery or danger or menace threatens us . . . it is always me, Dragon, who is expected to deal with it.”

There was another pause, and then her voice came from her original location.

Dragon talking to Ollie 3“Still, for all I do for everyone else, no one cares about my happiness or well-being. I desire to be warm. I am a creature of fire and heat, raised in the burning sands of the desert. Yet, they would deny me my fireplace, my warmth, my comfort.”

Ollie (7)All the while Dragon spoke, Ollie remained silent, not once interrupting to ask for details or suggesting she might be exaggerating. He waited patiently at each pause, not jumping in with advice or urging Dragon to continue. Ollie continued to remain silent for a long time after Dragon stopped speaking. Finally, I heard him reply, his human-speak combined with a series of whines and whimpers.

“I understand. You feel you carry everything on your shoulders, and you feel unappreciated and ill-used by those for whom you do so much.”

Ollie paused, and I assumed Dragon was nodding, as I heard no reply from her.

Ollie continued. “Do you hate them for it?”

“Who? Mistress Writer and Master Miles, and my fellow characters?”

“Yes.”

Dragon took a long few moments before answering. “Hate them? No. I would lay down my life for them.”

Ollie (10)What happened to summerOllie woofed. “Yes. That is your lot, your role in life. You are the Wise One and the Protector. The one who created you endowed you with greatness . . . great wisdom, great strength. For that, and all the burdens it places on you, do you resent the others – Mistress Writer, Master Miles, and your fellow characters?”

I heard Dragon reply in a small voice. “No.”

“Woof! Woof! Then embrace your role in life! Be the Wise One. Be the Protector. It would be no different, you know, if you were still in your own world.”

There was another pause.

Ollie (8)Dragon stepped forward“And remember. Not everyone who resides under the same roof with you is a creature of fire and heat. Not everyone in this house was raised in the burning sands of the desert. You alone are comfortable in such an inferno. And part of being the Wise One, part of being the Protector, is not causing harm or discomfort to those in your safekeeping. The Wise One should be able to find a way to remain warm and cozy while not baking the others in the process.”

I heard the sound of Dragon’s laughter, a combination of the melodious tinkling of crystal wind chimes, the gentle babble of a brook, and the soft sound of wind through reeds.Dragon carressing Ollie seen through screen 2

“Dear one! Methinks the One who created you endowed you with much greater wisdom than that with which I have been endowed. Thank you, my friend!”

I quietly left the office, hoping Dragon and Ollie wouldn’t discover I had been eavesdropping. Before I had even walked up the stairs to the kitchen, the house had dropped back to a comfortable temperature.

“Hey, honey?”

Miles looked up, expectantly, as I walked into the kitchen.

“Defrost the biggest, juiciest steak we have in the freezer. I’m inviting Ollie to stay for dinner, and he’s earned a tasty reward.”

Ollie's reward

 

My thanks to Ollie, and to his human companion, my social media friend, author James Stack, for Ollie’s guest appearance in this week’s blog.

Ollie 3

Ollie 1
Ollie dressed as James one Halloween

 

Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm – Ollie – is an Old English Sheepdog who is as wise as he is handsome.

 

 

 

Ollie's companion James StackOllie’s human companion, James Stack, is a recipient of the Freedom of Expression of Courage Award from PEN America. His memoir, WORLD’S FAIR, and collection of poetry, PLEASURES & SEASONS OF VERMONT, were published in 2013. His blog, Postcards From Lebanon, about his experience with chemotherapy, appeared on The Huffington Post during 2013/2014.

 

Be sure to come back next week and see what’s in store next for my little band of displaced characters. I’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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The Summer of Dragon’s Discontent

The Summer of Dragon’s Discontent

“Honey?”

InventoryI looked up as my husband entered the kitchen, where I was inventorying the contents of the refrigerator before moving on to the pantry. Tomorrow was grocery shopping day, and I wanted to make certain my list was complete.

MilesMe“What’s the problem?” Noting his annoyed look, I put down the list and gave him my undivided attention. “Did one of my characters get into some mischief again?”

 

“I’m not sure. Have you noticed how warm it is?” Miles took out a handkerchief and mopped his brow.

I nodded and frowned. “I have noticed, but I thought it was just me. I’ve been scurrying around here this morning like a chicken with my head cut off.”

ThermometerMiles shook his head. “No, it’s not you. It’s hot in the house. Too hot. It’s almost ninety degrees in here, and it’s only sixty-eight outside. I already checked the thermostat to make sure no one had accidentally turned on the heater. The slide switch was sitting right in the middle, between heat and air conditioning, in the off position.”

“So, why is it so hot in the house?”

We looked at each other for a moment, then both turned and yelled, “Dragon!

Dwarf with apple“If ye be lookin’ fer tha beastie, she been in tha con-fer-ence room, lastest I been seein’ ’er. She prob’ly still be there. She dinna be lookin’ much liken she be wantin’ ta be movin’.” My Old Dwarf entered the room, chomping on an apple. He made a beeline for the refrigerator. Holding the remains of his apple between his teeth, he started pulling out two loaves of bread along with everything that could conceivably go on a sandwich, and a whole lot that couldn’t, rendering my shopping list useless.

“You better go see what she’s up to.” Miles spoke to me but scowled at the dwarf. “I’ll stay here and try to make certain your Old Dwarf doesn’t eat us out of house and home.”Dragon in front of fireplace

I found Dragon in the conference room, as my Old Dwarf had predicted. She was curled up in a tight ball, sound asleep, in front of her blazing illusory fireplace. She had morphed to black. Her color often reflects her mood, I reminded myself.

“Dragon?” I tiptoed over to the beast and cautiously poked at her, but she did not stir. “Dragon!” I shouted practically in her ear. I had to shout several more times before she half-opened an eye. She greeted me with a growl.

“Nice to see you, too.” I frowned.

Smoke drifting from Dragon's snoutDragon’s eyes narrowed dangerously, the tip of her tail started twitching, and acrid smoke drifted from her snout. “I do not wish to be disturbed. I wish to warm myself.”

I scoffed. “You’ve made this room hotter than a dwarven forge with your illusory fireplace! And the whole house is like a sauna!”What happened to summer

Dragon nodded. Her reptilian lips stretched in a smile, revealing terrible, dagger-sharp teeth. “It is my only defense against your Minnesota weather.” She sat up and morphed back to her normal red color. “What happened to summer? Last week, it was deliciously hot. This week is it freezing!”

I snorted. “Hardly freezing! The temperature outside right now is a comfortable sixty-eight degrees Fahrenheit.”

Angry Dragon (2)“Comfortable for whom?” Black smoke plumed from her snout again. “In case you have forgotten, I am a creature of fire and heat, raised in the burning sands of the desert. When it reaches one hundred on your devices that record the heat, it is finally warm enough for my comfort.”

I glared at her. “Well, it had better not reach one hundred in this house! If you are cold, shape-shift to the form of a person and put on a coat. Or create an illusory desert to visit. Just keep the temperature in this house comfortable for the rest of the occupants, if you don’t mind!”

The beast’s tail twitched, and her reptilian eyes narrowed. “I do mind.”

“What?” I was taken aback by her response.

“I do mind.” She started to pout. “The comfort and care of every other occupant of this house is catered to before mine. I do not hear you complaining when your Old Dwarf raids the refrigerator a dozen times a day.”

“If you don’t hear me complain about that, it’s because you don’t listen very well.” I stared at Dragon, my brow furrowed and my hands on my hips. “What’s gotten into you, anyway? I’ve never heard you complain about not being treated the same as the others.”

“If you do not hear me complain about that, it is because you do not listen very well.” The beast turned my words back on me.

I gaped at the huge reptile. I had never before heard her complain about her treatment.

Continuing to pout, Dragon seemed intent on declaring every slight she felt she had suffered since falling out of one of my manuscripts and becoming stranded in this, the real world.

SingsongDragon,” she sing-songed. “The Foreman, the Gypsy, and the Young Hero miss their horses. Create some illusory mounts for them. Dragon, the Foreman misses his old life. Create an illusory world for him so he can feel useful again. Dragon, the Arrogant One is causing problems with his magic. Deal with him. Dragon, some neighbors have seen the illusory stable and horses. Do something. Dragon, the Young Hero is having nightmares. Help him. Dragon, something strange is happening. Investigate. Dragon, your fireplace is making the house too hot for everyone. Get rid of it.”

The beast paused to take a breath, glaring at me with an anger I had never before seen her direct toward me.

angry dragon

“The house is too hot for everyone?” She snarled. “Am I not part of the everyone living here? With all I do for everyone here, is not my comfort as important as that of the others?”

 

At a loss for words, I stood gaping at Dragon as she morphed back to black and curled up in front of her fireplace once more.

Dragon in front of fireplace

* * *

“Ye been noticin’ summat strange aboot tha beastie?”

Dwarf with sandwichWith his mouth full of the huge bite he had just taken from his sandwich, the Old Dwarf’s words came out more like “Yebenotsinsummitstrgeabotthabeasty?”Miles talking to dwarf

Miles gaped at the rotund figure. “What?”

The dwarf swallowed his food, took a big swig of dwarven brew to wash it down, then repeated himself. This time, Miles managed to follow the gist of the dwarf’s question.

“You mean stranger than just being a dragon, in a world where dragons don’t exist?” Miles raised an eyebrow at the dwarf. “No, I can’t say I’ve noticed anything else strange about her.”

The dwarf chuckled. “After us-ens bein’ here in yer world all this time, ye still do na be acceptin’ us, be ye? Ye be actin’ all tha time likens ye be wakin’ up some day an’ be findin’ all o us-ens ta have been jus’ a bad dream.”From Nicki 146

“One can only hope,” Miles replied dryly.

The dwarf shook his head and took another bite of his sandwich. This time, he waited until he had swallowed it and taken another drink before speaking, all the time eyeing Miles curiously. “So’s, ye do na been noticin’ any change in tha beastie’s behavin’?”

Miles shook his head. “No. What sort of changes do you think I should have noticed?

“Wale . . .” He crammed the last bite of sandwich into his mouth and chewed on it, a pensive look on his face. He took his time chewing that bite and took an extra-long swallow of brew when he had finished. He squared his shoulders and faced Miles as he spoke. “Now, I do na be for sure certain aboot it, but it be seemin’ ta me thet tha beastie jus’ do na been ’erself lately. E’er since we been returnin’ from tha make-believe world what she an’ tha other magickers been creatin’ fer tha Foreman, the beastie been seemin’ . . .” The dwarf struggled to find the word. “She been seemin’ all oot o sorts, sulky-like. Likens summat be on ’er mind, be eatin’ at ’er..”

Out of sorts

Miles considered this. “Well, you know her better than I do. I thought the two of you shared a pretty close bond. You would, no doubt, notice things about Dragon long before anyone else would.”

The Old Dwarf sighed. “Mebbe. But thet do na be meanin’ I be knowin’ what ta be doin’ fer ’er.”Who

Walking in on the last of the conversation, I thought sadly, I’m not sure I know what to do for her, either. But I might know someone who would.

 

What can I do . . . what can any of us do . . . to help Dragon? Be sure to come back again next week and see to whom we might turn to help Dragon. We’ll 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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‘Tis the Season for Cooperation

‘Tis the Season for Cooperation

Conference roomCleric stepped into the conference room, stopped dead, and gasped. Books, scrolls, parchments, and all manner of magical reference works were strewn about the large chamber. It looked as if a small tornado had torn through the area.

Following right on Cleric’s heels, Sorceress didn’t notice her friend had stopped. She plowed into her smaller companion, nearly knocking Cleric over. “Oof! Sorry! Did I injure you? Why did you stop so abruptly?”

Then Sorceress followed Cleric’s gaze. “Oh!” She looked about the room, her eyes growing big as saucers, her mouth agape. “Oh, my! What ever could have happened?”

Dragon pops upThe two companions jumped as Dragon’s reptilian head suddenly popped into view from behind a bookshelf, along with her leathery wings and scythe-like claws.

“Sorry. I did not mean to startle you. I have been trying to find a specific spell, and I seem to have misplaced it.”

“The spell you told Mistress Writer we would weave?” Sorceress paled.

Dragon nodded. “I have looked everywhere, but I cannot find it.” She frowned, smoke drifting from her snout. “I am fairly certain I remember it, but this is no time for fairly certain. I must be positive. We must use the correct components, combined in the prescribed manner, and we must enunciate the incantation flawlessly.”

“Indeed.” Sorceress pursed her lips. “A mistake could be disastrous.”

The three magic users turned their attention toward the door as two more characters entered the room, arguing loudly.

Gypsy and Arrogant One“If you had not been so eager to show off again, this never would have happened.” My Gypsy scowled at the other figure.

“I was not showing off. I was attempting to . . .” My Arrogant One’s voice trailed off, as he surveyed the formerly orderly room.

My Gypsy took a look and let out a long, low whistle. “Wow! What happened here? Did you attempt another spell, elf?”

The elf turned beet-red and his face contorted with anger. Before he could respond, however, Dragon interposed herself between the two figures. “Enough! There is no time for quibbling and squabbling. We have work to do.”

Dwarf“Work wot ye canna be doin’ iffins ye do na be havin’ the spell. Be ye findin’ it yet, beastie?” My Old Dwarf entered the room, munching on a sandwich, bits of food flying out of his mouth and lodging in his beard as he spoke.

My Arrogant One turned to face my Old Dwarf, looking down his nose at the old reprobate as he spoke. “You are totally disgusting. I have seen swine in their mud wallows exhibit better manners than do you!”

“An’ a good day ta ye, too, elfie.” The dwarf chuckled as he bit off another oversized mouthful of food.

“Do not call me elfie!”

“Ouch! I think you have outdone yourself this time, elf.” My Gypsy winced and rubbed at his ears. “I daresay dogs back in our own world are probably howling in pain at the pitch of your protestations!”

My Arrogant One opened his mouth to reply, but Dragon silenced him. “Enough! Any more bickering and the perpetrators will meet with a fiery end.” Dragon glared at the elf and the Gypsy.

Turning back toward the dwarf, Dragon sighed. “No, old friend, I have not found it yet.”

“It dinna be in yer hidey-box?”

Dragon finds spellDragon blinked. “Of course! Where else would I have placed it for safe-keeping?” The beast rushed toward her podium, shrinking as she ran. When she reached the podium, she squeezed herself into a small, hidden cubbyhole. When she emerged and returned to her previous height, she had a wooden puzzle box in her hand. Once she had manipulated the various pieces and opened the box, she extracted an ancient and fragile parchment. Scanning the piece, she smiled and nodded. “Yes, this is it.”

She turned toward her diminutive friend. “Dwarf, you will stand guard outside the door. Let no one enter. We must not be disturbed.”

The dwarf nodded once and took up his post, closing the door behind him.

Dragon and Arrogant OneDragon turned to the other magic users. “First, we must make certain we are alone, that no other entity is among us. We must also ensure that no spell has been cast by any magician that would compromise, change, or block our efforts here today. Once we have made those determinations, I will ward the room against entry and against eavesdropping, both mechanical and magical. Then and only then can we begin to weave this spell. It will take all of us, cooperating and sharing our abilities, to create this enchantment.” She glared at my Arrogant One. “Are you able to do this, to put aside your ego and ambition and cooperate with your fellow magic wielders?”

The elf turned beet-red again. “Of course, I can cooperate.” He looked as if he wanted to say more, but clamped his mouth shut and merely glared at Dragon and the others.

The beast narrowed her eyes and studied the elf for a few long moments. Finally, she nodded. “Very well. Then let us begin.”

* * *

While my Old Dwarf guarded the room where the magic users worked, my Foreman, my Bounty Hunter, and my Young Hero were sitting at the kitchen table, discussing with my husband his plans for this year’s Christmas Village.

Reviewing diagramsMiles passed some diagrams to the others. “See? This year will be different from past years. This year, I plan to keep the entire village confined to one half of the downstairs room but spread out over various levels.”

The other three nodded.

“And you require our assistance, Master Miles, in constructing your village?” My Young Hero examined the diagrams.

“Well, I suppose I could do it all myself, but I would appreciate any help you care to offer. I got the impression last year that you all enjoyed working on the holiday decorations with me.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/12/23/will-dragon-help/

“Oh, we did, sir, we did.” My Foreman furrowed his brow. “It is just that . . . well, last year we had the assistance of the others. This year, five of our company are in the conference room, trying to weave a spell of protection, so no outside magic can interfere with any they cast, as happened when someone interfered with the elf’s illusion on your neighbor’s house.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/12/08/the-what-is-missing/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/12/15/what-has-that-elf-done-now/

My Young Hero nodded. “Yes, and the dwarf stands guard for them. Without his muscle and their magic, it may take a bit more effort on our part.”

“I am sure it will take less effort for the four of us together than for poor Master Miles, were he to attempt it alone.” My Bounty Hunter took the diagrams from my Young Hero and nodded in approval at the plans.

“Very well.” My Foreman stood and extended his hand to Miles. “You can count on us, sir. When do we start?”

“First thing tomorrow morning.”

* * *

SickIt was three days later when Miles and I felt well enough to get out of bed. Cleric had been attending us through our sudden bout of illness, bringing us tea and broth at regular intervals, and wiping the sweat from our feverish brows.

At the breakfast table, Miles and I munched on toast and sipped tea as my characters sat quietly around the table, eying my husband and me with great concern.

When I finally felt strong enough to speak, I asked, “Were you able to weave the spell of protection?”

I addressed all my magic users, but it was Dragon who responded. “We were. It took us the entire day and well into the night, but we believe we were successful. Unfortunately, it is one of those spells whose failure is only revealed if someone succeeds in defeating it. Until such time, we can only hope we were successful. But did not Cleric explain all this to you already?”

I shrugged. “She may have, but I fear in my fevered state I was not comprehending or remembering.”

“Be tha two o’ ye feelin’ better now?” My Old Dwarf looked solicitously at Miles and me.

“We are.” I smiled, and Miles nodded in agreement.

“Then mayhap, sir, you feel well enough to accompany us downstairs?” My Arrogant One was being uncharacteristically polite.

Miles looked at him and nodded. “Sure.”

All my characters jumped up eagerly. Miles furrowed his brow and gave me an inquiring look, but I was just as curious as he.

Downstairs, my characters crowded around Miles, who gaped at the room. It had been transformed into a Christmas wonderland.

“We constructed the Christmas Village according to your designs, Master Miles.” My Young Hero looked shyly at Miles and shuffled one foot back and forth.

“An’ we been scatterin’ tha other holiday decorations aboot, too.” My Old Dwarf grinned.

“Do you like it?” My Gypsy eyed Miles nervously.

“We all . . . every one of us . . . cooperated to complete this for you while you and your good wife were ill.” One could not fail to notice the pride in my Arrogant One’s voice and bearing.lugged some large plastic bins

“I been doin’ tha heavy totin’, the fetchin’ o’ all tha decorations from yer storage closet.” My Old Dwarf’s chest puffed out.

Foreman following master plan 2

“I supervised and made sure we followed your master plan.” My Foreman held up the diagram Miles had created.

With my Gypsy and my Young Hero standing with him, my Bounty Hunter pointed at a number of the displays. “The lads and I set up the bulk of the layout.”

Dragon placed her one arm around Sorceress and her other arm around my Arrogant One. “We three did not set up as many of the displays as did the others, but we lent our magical talent to the exhibit. We animated several of the scenes. Your Santa and his mount move, your snowman really plays the piano, the fox and several of the other tree ornaments sing carols, your villagers walk down the ramp to the skating rink and ice skate, and your Abominable Snowman climbs the ladder and places the star atop the tree.”

 

Cleric looked at us nervously. “Although I am not of your faith, I am a cleric; therefore, I thought it appropriate that I set up the Nativity scene, the focus of your religious celebration.”

Christmas village and decorations 25

Miles looked around at the work my characters had completed while he and I had been bed-ridden. His smile grew and grew as he inspected each section of the village, and then scrutinized the placement of the other decorations. Finally, he turned to my characters, anxiously awaiting his judgment. “It’s perfect! Thank you! Thank you all!”

My characters began whooping with joy. “Merry Christmas, Master Miles! Merry Christmas, Mistress Writer!”

And Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you, dear readers, from Miles and me, and from my little band of displaced characters. We hope to see you here again next week. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

 

Some Insights into my Arrogant One

Some Insights into my Arrogant One

Arrogant One in office“I want you to see the photographs I took.”

My Arrogant One marched into my office, unceremoniously swept a pile of books and folders off a chair and onto the floor, and plopped himself down, a superior look on his face. He held out his camera and wrinkled his brow with irritation when I did not immediately jump to take it.

“Well?” He tapped his foot impatiently. “I have been waiting all afternoon to show these to you.”

On phone with AnnaColton giving Blue an apple“I’m sorry. Some of my other characters wanted to hear more details about Colton and his pony, so I’ve been busy.” I had received a call from Colton’s mom, Anna, that morning and had shared with my characters some news about Colton’s progress with Blue. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/06/09/news/

The elf yawned. “Boring.”

I frowned. “The others don’t think so, and neither do I. We happen to care about Colton.”

shaggy pony in barn“Why? If it had not been for that other malodorous pony that invaded our yard and my shed . . .”

My eyebrows shot up. “Whose shed?”

My Arrogant One blushed. “The shed,” he amended, quickly relinquishing his claim of ownership. “Anyway, as I was saying, if it had not been for that foul-smelling creature, we would not even be aware of the boy who had owned it.”
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2017/12/31/mystery/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/03/25/mystery-solved/

Her, not it. Mystery, aka Peaches, was a mare, a female pony.”

“Whatever.” My Arrogant One waved dismissively.

I sighed and shook my head. “So sorry, I forgot. If you do not directly benefit from someone or something, that person or thing is beneath your notice.”

The elf sneered. “The boy is not our responsibility, yet Cleric and the Gypsy lad would have us think of nothing else. That is all anyone spoke of at lunch today.”

ConversationI scoffed. “I think there’s something wrong with your memory. Everyone was involved in their own discussions until after lunch, when I shared the news about Colton. You yourself spent the entire time at lunch telling my Bounty Hunter all about the pictures you took.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/06/09/news/

“I was going to tell everyone about them until you monopolized the conversation.” The elf pouted.

I ignored his complaint. “What’s so important about these photos?”

He thrust the camera at me again. “Well, just look at them.”

Arrogant One's photosI took the camera and quickly downloaded the photos onto the computer. I brought up the images on the monitor and looked through them. There were three dozen images of various birds, mammals, insects, and flowers.

“Nice.”

“Nice?” The elf looked thunderstruck. “Nice? That is all you can say about them?”

I shrugged. “They’re nice. What else would you have me say?”

My Arrogant One jumped up, grabbed his camera, and stomped out of the room. I shrugged and went back to work, first gathering the items the elf had tossed aside and replacing them on the chair. I could reorganize them later. Right now, I had a blog to write.

Bounty Hunter in officeI hadn’t gotten the first paragraph typed when I felt the hairs on the back of my neck prickle, and I had the distinct sensation I was being watched. I looked up and saw my Bounty Hunter lounging against the door jamb. His posture was casual, but his eyes bore right into mine.

I frowned. “What’s your problem?”

“I had cause to speak with you, milady, but I saw you were busy, and I did not wish to disturb you.”

His eyes had lost some of their intensity, and he shuffled one foot back and forth across the carpet, but I was still wary. I glared at him long and hard before I replied.

“Well, you did. What did you want to talk about?”

“The elf.”

Arrogant One full body 2Bounty Hunter full body“My Arrogant One?” Somehow, I wasn’t all that surprised. Those two were pretty tight. If I had offended the elf, I should have expected his sidekick to take me to task. On the other hand, despite the two of them being all but joined at the hip, my Bounty Hunter never seemed to hold any illusions regarding the annoying elf. He came to me just as often to complain about his cohort as to defend him.

“Yes, your Arrogant One.” My Bounty Hunter walked across the room and gestured at the items piled haphazardly on the chair. “Do you mind if I move these?”

At least he had the courtesy to ask. “No, I guess not. Just put them on the floor. I’ll reorganize them and put them away later.”

manuscriptsBounty Hunter full body 2I studied my Bounty Hunter as he moved the items and took a seat. I was always a little guarded around him. I never quite understood him as well as I did my other characters. I didn’t even really remember him from my two unpublished manuscripts, the books from which my other characters had fallen. I was pretty sure my Bounty Hunter didn’t make his appearance until Book Three, which was barely started at this point.

I shook my head and tried to drag my thoughts back to the conversation. “So, what has my Arrogant One done now?”

“I wish to speak to you regarding the elf’s photographic efforts.”

“Oh?” I lifted an eyebrow. “Is his nibs still pouting because I failed to go into raptures over his images?”

My Bounty Hunter winced. “Mistress, I fear you fail to understand the importance the elf attaches to his efforts. Perhaps you could be a tad kinder, show a modicum of interest and enthusiasm.”

“Like you were showing when the elf was talking your ear off at lunch, telling you over and over, ad nauseam, of each and every tiny detail of each and every image?” I smirked.

My Bounty Hunter had the grace to look properly chastised. “I admit in spite of my best efforts to the contrary I allowed my boredom to show.” He shrugged. “But having you brush off his accomplishments is a far worse blow to his self-image than my boredom, which I doubt the elf even noticed.”

I scoffed. “Since when does my Arrogant One allow anyone’s actions, words, or opinions, to damage his self-image?”

“You would be surprised, Mistress.” He rose and headed toward the door. “You would be surprised.”

Arrogant One's photosAfter my Bounty Hunter left, I decided to give the photos another look. I was surprised to realize some of them were quite good, especially the flowers. Deciding I had been too dismissive of my Arrogant One, I went in search of him. I found him in the conference room, deep in discussion with Cleric.

Arrogant One and Cleric“But I am not asking you to show me how to do anything that would harm them. I only wish to be able to attract the animals closer and to get them to sit still long enough to capture their image.”

Cleric chewed on her lower lip as she listened to the elf. She fidgeted with her belt as she replied. “I wish I could help you, truly! But, forsooth, I fear my talent for communicating with animals is a clerical ability granted me, not a skill that can be taught.”

My Arrogant One scowled, and Cleric blanched. I hurried over to intervene. “You seemed to do quite well getting the animals to pose for you. I was impressed with your results.”

My Arrogant One gave me a penetrating look. “You did not seem all that impressed when I shared my images.”

Backyard 050I tried to look remorseful, wishing I had learned the art of blushing at will. “I apologize. I was in the middle of something when you came in, and I guess I was just upset at being interrupted. After I finished my work, I looked at the images again. They are quite good.”

“Really?” The elf looked at me suspiciously.

“Really. Why don’t we go back to my office and look at them again?”Elf

Cleric brightened. “Are these the photographs you were taking in the front yard this morning? I saw you when Sorceress, Dragon, and I returned from collecting our botanicals.”

The elf nodded.

“May I see them, too?” Cleric blushed. “I am very interested in photography. Perhaps I can learn something from you. The images you took on our nature walk were outstanding. I love the way you work with the lighting.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/06/02/a-change-of-pace/

arrogant one

My Arrogant One held his head high, grasped his cloak in both hands, and rocked back on his heels. “Of course. I would be most gratified to have you view my images.”

My Arrogant One and Cleric followed me to my office. I quickly removed the contents of two chairs and placed the materials neatly on a table, before the elf had a chance to knock everything on the floor again.

When we were seated, I jiggled the computer mouse to wake the machine from sleep mode, and a page of thumbnails of my Arrogant One’s photos filled the monitor.

Arrogant One's photos

“I love the flowers. As Cleric said, your use of light in your photography is impressive, especially for a novice.”

We viewed the photos, and I pointed at two of them. “On these two, you captured insects on the flowers.”

“Was that intentional?” Cleric leaned closer to inspect the images. “Or was it just a fortuitous accident?”

Insects on Butterfly Weed

“I will admit, I did not notice the flies on the milkweed until I studied the images later. However, the other insect on the purple coneflower – some sort of small grasshopper or katydid, I believe – was my intended subject.”Insect on Purple Conflower

“That is a splendid capture, exceptionally sharp and extremely vivid!” I congratulated the elf, who visibly puffed up with pride.

Butterfly (1)Butterfly (2)I brought up several other images. “You also got some nice images of the Monarch butterflies. They can be difficult to capture, as they don’t tend to stay still very long.”

After we admired the butterfly images, I brought up three other photos. “I am particularly impressed with these close-ups of the two dragonflies and the damselfly. They are tack sharp and the damselfly is especially vibrant. And, like the butterfly, they are difficult insects to capture this well as they tend to flit rather than alight.”

After Cleric and I made a few more positive comments, my Arrogant One asked, “What about the photos of the animals? To me, they seem lacking. I am certain I could have achieved better results if I could but coax them nearer and get them to pose.”

“Well, let’s see. Let’s examine the birds first.” I paused and studied the photos. “The fledgling American Robins might not be as sharp as some of your other photos, but they are cute images of a baby bird.”

My Arrogant One hung on every word as I critiqued his photos, nodding his understanding.

“The soft focus on the Blue Jay adds interest. It almost looks like a watercolor.”

Blue Jay

The elf nodded and looked pleased.

“I think you tried to get a little too close with the Downy Woodpecker. The focus is not as sharp as it might have been if you had just pulled away a bit. But the mouthful of suet and the reflection in the bird’s eye lend interest to the image.”

Downy Woodpecker

The elf studied the photo. “I see what you mean.”

“The images of the Hairy Woodpecker and the Red-bellied Woodpecker on the tree trunks are outstanding, not only as portraits of the birds but as behavioral studies, the way they show the birds in their natural surroundings.”

That comment garnered another proud smile.

“With the Red-winged Blackbird, you again used lighting to your advantage. The bird can be clearly seen, with a lot of definition to the feathers. Even the eye is visible, which can be difficult with a black eye on a black bird.”

Red-winged Blackbird

Another nod and a proud smile.

“And, finally, you couldn’t ask for a cuter shot of the Song Sparrow taking a dust bath. Again, it is a sharp portrait as well as a good behavioral image.”

Song Sparrow taking a dust bath

The elf was absolutely beaming.

I brought up the last five pictures. “Now the shots you got of the Eastern Chipmunks and the Eastern Cottontail bunnies are adorable.”

“Adorable?” My Arrogant One scoffed. “Just because they are, in your opinion, adorable animals, it does not follow that my images of them are any good.”

Eastern Chipmunk (2)Eastern Chipmunk“Oh, but they are!” Cleric gushed. “Look at the raised paw on the first chipmunk, and the stuffed cheeks on the second one. As Mistress said of several of your other photos, they are excellent portraits and wonderful studies in the behavior of the animals.”

The elf looked mollified. “And the rabbits?”

“The two shots of the bunnies that were eating are solid behavior studies, but the last one is, in my opinion, the best of the three.” I pointed. “The look of curiosity and boldness on that bunny’s face is priceless!”

Eastern Cottontail baby (3)

My Arrogant One wrinkled his brow. He nodded slowly, then asked, “Do you consider me the best of your characters at photography?”

I studied the elf’s face before I answered. “Is it important that you be the best?”

Arrogant OneHe glanced at Cleric and seemed reticent to say anything. Finally, he hung his head and shrugged. “It would be nice to be the best at something.”

Then, without another word, he jumped up from his chair and dashed out of the room.

Elf facing rightCleric and I sat, gaping after the departing elf. This was a side of my Arrogant One I had not seen before. From the look on her face, I don’t believe Cleric had ever seen it, either.

Finally, Cleric spoke. “Mistress?”

“Yes?”Cleric and camera

“I had hoped that I would learn to be the best photographer. Somehow, though, I do not believe it is as important to me as it is to your Arrogant One.”

I nodded again. “I wonder what makes it so important to him.”

“You do not know?” Somehow, my Bounty Hunter had entered the room unnoticed.

“No, I don’t.” I frowned.

Bounty Hunter full body 2Arrogant One full bodyMy Bounty Hunter smiled wistfully. “In our world, your Arrogant One was one of the most renowned illusionists in the elven kingdom until something happened, and he was forced into exile. Later, he became something even more important. He became accustomed to being treated with respect and deference, but never forgot what it was like to be scorned and humiliated. Here in your world, he is just an arrogant elf, not respected for anything. He is not the best illusionist, not the best at communicating with animals, not the best horseman, not the best with weapons, not the best at anything, really, except maybe causing trouble and dissension. He often feels that same humiliation he once knew in exile.”

He paused and let Cleric and I consider this before continuing. “So, when we went on that nature walk and you praised his photos, he thought he had found something at which he could excel.”

 

I nodded. “And that is why it is important to him. He needs at least one thing that will garner him praise and not derision.”

My Bounty Hunter smiled and saluted as he left my office. Cleric sat silently for many long moments before rising. “I think I will go ask your Arrogant One to teach me how to use light to make my photos better. And maybe I can help coax some animals into posing for him.”

I smiled and nodded. As she left, I turned back to my computer. I still had a blog to write. I wondered if my Arrogant One would object to me using some of his photos in my blog.

My Arrogant One and I hope you have enjoyed his photos. I can assure you he is very proud of them, and would love to hear from you if you like them, too.

Be sure to return next week for more of the adventures and misadventures of my little band of displaced characters. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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News

News

telephone1Backyard 050I hung up the phone and hurried out of my office. I went upstairs and stepped through the French doors onto the deck. I squinted and raised a hand to shield my eyes from the bright sun as I scanned the yard. I saw my Foreman, my Young Hero, and my Gypsy exercising their illusory horses, performing complicated maneuvers similar to those my Foreman would have used when he was a commander in the elite King’s Guard in his own world.

Dwarf and hamI looked around the rest of the yard, but didn’t see any of my other characters, so I went back inside. I headed for the kitchen, figuring it was the best place to look for at least one of my characters. Sure enough, my Old Dwarf didn’t disappoint. There he was, rummaging through the refrigerator, looking for a wee snack as he termed the full ham and the two loaves of bread he was appropriating.

“You do know it’s only an hour until lunch, right?” I raised my eyebrow as two jars of pickles, and a gallon each of coleslaw, potato salad, and pasta salad joined the food he had spread out on the kitchen table.

Dwarf and food

“Eh?” The old reprobate’s eyes widened in surprise. “Be it thet late already?” He opened the refrigerator again and snatched a six-pack of root beer. “I be havin’ ta be hurryin’ then, or I will na be done me snack in time ta be eatin’ me lunch.”

I shook my head. I knew better than to argue, so I just changed the subject. “I just saw my Foreman and the lads working their horses, but I can’t find anyone else. Do you know where the rest of the gang is?”

My Old Dwarf slapped a ham sandwich together and took a big bite. He talked around the mouthful of food, spewing crumbs all through his beard. “Yermisserbenookiniscar…”

I held up my hand. “Would you please learn some manners? Not only is that gross, I can’t understand a word you’re saying.”

Miles waving from carThe dwarf swallowed his half-chewed food, almost choking, then washed it down with a full can of soda. He wiped his mouth on his sleeve and began again. “I be sayin’ thet yer mister been tookin’ ’is car inta tha place wot be fixin’ it.”

“I know where my husband is. What about everyone else?

“Wale, I been seein’ tha annoyin’ elfie oot in tha front yard earlier. He been prack-tee-sizin’ wit thet camera. His sidekick, yer Bounty Hunter, been wit ’em, but dinna been lookin’ too happy aboot it.” He paused and stroked his grizzled beard. “An’ tha goodly lass been goin’ off early this mornin’ wit tha magic lass an’ tha big beastie. They be gittin’ low on bits an’ bobs fer their spells, an’ be needin’ ta be collectin’ some bo-tan-i-cals.”

 

I nodded, trying not to look disappointed. “Okay, I guess I’ll see everyone at lunch.” I looked pointedly at all the food the dwarf had piled up on the table. “That is, if there’s anything left for lunch!”

ConversationWhen we were all assembled for lunch, I was eager to share some news, but everyone was chattering away. Miles was telling me what repairs the mechanic had made to the car that morning; my Foreman and the lads were discussing equestrian maneuvers; Cleric, Sorceress, and Dragon were cataloging the botanicals and spell components they had collected; and my Arrogant One was crowing to my bored Bounty Hunter about the beautiful photos he had taken in the front yard. Only my Old Dwarf remained unconcerned about the conversations around him, digging into his lunch as if it had been days rather than minutes since his last meal.

On phone with AnnaWhen it looked like everyone was finished, I cleared my throat and announced. “I had a phone call from Anna, if anyone’s interested.”

Everyone looked up and gave me their full attention.

Gypsy“From Anna? Of course, we’re interested!” My Gypsy’s eyes widened with interest.

Elf facing right“Anna called? Oh, I hope there is good news!” Cleric leaned forward to hear.Young Hero close-up

“How are Colton and Blue?” My Young Hero also joined the conversation.

“Well, Anna said after Clara and Rocky visited, Colton made a determined effort to make friends with Blue.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/05/26/an-anxious-day/

“Did he have any luck?” My Gypsy almost held his breath as he awaited my answer.

I tilted my head and rubbed my jaw with my thumb. “Not at first. But a strange thing happened. Anna made arrangements to take Blue to the facility that trained Peaches, who we knew as Mystery, to have him evaluated. She wanted to make sure Blue had the potential to work with a blind rider before she and Colton invested too much time on the pony . . . and before Colton became attached to Blue.”

“That makes sense.” Cleric nodded. “It would be heart wrenching for Colton if he became attached to the pony and then they found out Blue was not suitable for him.”

I nodded. “While one of the trainers was evaluating Blue, she suddenly had the feeling she knew the pony. Since all their animals are microchipped, it was easy to confirm.”

“Microchipped? What is that?” Sorceress furrowed her brow.

“Yes, I have never heard that word.” My Bounty Hunter leaned in to hear.

microchipMicrochipping a horseI sighed and raked my hand through my hair as I tried to think of a way to explain microchipping to a group of medieval characters. “Well, a microchip is an electronic device about the size of a grain of rice. It is like a computer chip in that it contains information that can be used to identify an animal in case the animal is lost or stolen. The microchip is implanted in an equine’s nuchal ligament, which is just below the base of the mane, halfway between the horse’s poll and withers. Then the information contained on the chip can be read with a scanner.”

“I think I understand.” Sorceress nodded, but she and the others still looked confused.

“It sounds like a simple identify spell.” My Arrogant One looked bored.

The others brightened as they thought they understood now. I considered correcting the elf, but decided it was probably the only explanation they really needed. I shrugged.

“Yes, well anyway, when they scanned Blue’s microchip and checked their records, they found Blue had been trained at their facility many years ago. He had been matched up to a small boy who had Cerebral Palsy.”

John, Casey, and Old Blue“A boy?” My Gypsy frowned. “But John said Blue belonged to his daughter.”

“Yes, but remember John said he purchased the pony at an auction, not from a training facility.” My Young Hero steepled his hands as he spoke, and looked to me for further information.

I nodded. “The people at the training center have no way of knowing what happened to Blue after he left their facility. Sometimes a pony’s rider will outgrow the animal and move on to a larger horse. Sometimes the rider passes away. Sometimes the rider’s financial circumstances change, and they are no longer able to keep the horse. The animals are supposed to be returned to the facility if they are no longer needed, but sometimes, like with Blue, that doesn’t happen.”

My Young Hero raised an eyebrow. “So, when John and his daughter found Blue at an auction, they had no way of knowing he was a trained therapy horse, just what Casey needed. Boy, talk about finding a hidden treasure!”

I agreed. “Yup.”

“So, if Blue is a trained therapy horse, will he be suitable for Colton?” Cleric fidgeted with the belt on her robe.

Colton and Blue in round pen“Anna said the trainers are going to work with Blue and Colton. They already had their first session. The trainers put Blue on a lunge line and took him and Colton into the round pen. With the trainer maintaining control through the lunge line, they let Colton ride the pony. Blue was a perfect gentleman on the lunge line, and he responded to all Colton’s cues, so it might work out.” I smiled. “But the most encouraging thing happened after the session. Colton was helping put Blue back in his stall, and he held out an apple for the pony. Instead of walking away like he’s been doing, Blue took the apple and stood next to Colton while he ate it.”Colton giving Blue an apple

“That’s a big step! I bet Colton’s happy.” My Gypsy wore an ear-to-ear smile.

I furrowed my brow. “Well, it’s a good first step, and maybe Blue will come around in time, but Anna said Colton still needs time to work through his own feelings. He still misses Peaches and he feels guilty trying to make friends with Blue. He’s doing it mostly because of what you told him.” I directed my remarks to my Gypsy. “Anna said you made a big impression on Colton when you explained how much Blue misses his former owner, and how depressed the pony is. Colton’s doing his best to put his own feelings aside and help Blue. Anna said her son told her I have you and my relatives and friends to help me with the loss I’ve suffered, but Blue only has me.”

“He is a very empathetic child!” Cleric swiped a tear away. “I hope it works out for them.”

I got up and started clearing the table. “Anna said she’ll keep us in the loop, let us know how Colton and Blue make out with their training and their bonding. And she’ll let us know when they come home, if we want to visit.”

“You bet we will!” My Gypsy whooped, and my other characters nodded in agreement.

Be sure to join us again. Maybe the phone will ring, and Anna will share more news about Colton and Blue. In the meantime, maybe we can persuade my Arrogant One to show us the photos he took in the front yard. Or maybe we can discover what is behind his sudden passion for photography.

We’re always glad to have you along for the adventures and misadventures of my little band of displaced characters. And remember – we’ll leave the porch light on for you!

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An Anxious Day

An Anxious Day

Cleric popped into my officeCleric popped into my office for the third time that morning. “Have you heard from Anna yet?”

I folded my arms in front of me and frowned. I was tired and cranky. It had been a late night followed by an early morning, and I had a lot of work to do. I glared at Cleric. “What did I tell you the last two times you asked?”

“Ummmm…you said you would let me know as soon as you heard?” Cleric blushed and lowered her eyes.

I continued glaring. “And did I let you know anything?”

Cleric looked up and furrowed her brow. “Well, no, Mistress. That is why I am asking.”

I groaned and raked a hand through my hair. “Did it ever occur to you that I have not yet let you know anything because I have not yet heard anything?”

“Maybe I should come back later.” Cleric beat a hasty retreat.

“Yes,” I called after her loudly. “Maybe you should come back after I let you know I heard something!”

Old Dwarf popped into my office“Eh, now how kin ye be lettin’ tha lass be knowin’ ye been hearded summat iffin she do na be comin’ back?” My Old Dwarf entered my office and plopped himself down in a chair opposite me.

“Why are you bothering me?” I scowled at the old reprobate as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a half-eaten sandwich.

The dwarf gave me a look of pure innocence. He took a big bite of his sandwich and talked around the mouthful of food. “I be botherin’ ye, lass?”

“Ye be, er, I mean you are.” I averted my eyes and tried to ignore the bits of food that spewed onto the dwarf’s beard as he chomped his food open-mouthed. “What do you want?”

“I jus’ be wonderin’ wot been happenin’ las’ night at thet auction place ye an’ tha udders been off ta.”

I heaved a big sigh and gave him the short version. “Anna got a pony for Colton.”Anna, Blue, Colton

“Eh?” The dwarf raised one eyebrow and waited. “There mus’ be more ta tha story ’en jus’ thet.”

I glowered at the rotund figure. “Why do you want to know?”

“Jus’ cure-ee-os-ka-tee.”

“Yeah, well, curiosity killed the cat.”

“Wot cat?”

ColtonI heaved a bigger sigh but decided the only way to get rid of the dwarf and get back to work was to give him the rest of the story. “Okay, do you remember Colton, the boy whose pony showed up here several years ago?”

Mystery being led“Aye, he be tha owner o tha wee beastie ye been callin’ Mystery.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2017/12/31/mystery/

“That’s right, the one whose name was actually Peaches. She was a therapy animal, specially trained to work with Colton, who is blind.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/03/25/mystery-solved/

“Aye, I be rememberin’.”

“And you know Peaches died recently.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/04/28/sad-news/

The dwarf nodded and took another big bite of his sandwich.

Blue with ears pinned back“Well, shortly after we received the news that Peaches had died, Cleric had a dream. In the dream, Peaches told her where to find another suitable pony for Colton.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/05/05/a-new-mystery/

“So’s ye been tellin’ Colton’s mam aboot tha dream, an’ she been getting’ tha pony fer her laddie?”

I shook my head. “No, we couldn’t tell her about the dream. We could never explain that. But we did get her to go to the auction with us.”

My Old Dwarf grunted and stuffed the last bite of his sandwich into his mouth.

I saw he wasn’t going to budge from the chair until he heard every last detail, so I related all that had happened the previous evening at the auction. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/05/12/what-will-we-find-at-the-auction/ and https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/05/19/a-good-deal-or-crazy/

I finished with another sigh. “Since it was so late when we finished getting the pony settled, Anna decided to wait until today to tell Colton about it. She said she’d give me a call later today and let me know what happened.”

Just then, Cleric peeked into the office again. “Any word?”

Before I could explode, my Old Dwarf jumped up and hustled Cleric away, scolding her loudly. “Iffin tha lass been hearin’ anythin’, she been tellin’ ye. Now, ye do na be botherin’ ’er no more taday. She be busy.”

I rolled my eyes, shook my head, and tried to get back to work.

When the phone finally rang about a half-hour later, I checked the caller ID and snatched up the receiver.

On phone with Anna“Anna! What’s the good word?” I held my breath, hoping that Colton had been pleased with his new pony.

“Sorry, Marge, there is no good word today.” The voice on the phone was weary. “When I told Colton at breakfast this morning I had gotten him a new pony, he threw a fit.” Anna did an impression of Colton’s voice. “How could you do that? Peaches can’t just be replaced! She wasn’t a saddle or a truck or a pair of shoes. She was family!”

Anna paused, then continued in a normal tone. “And then he stormed off and locked himself in his bedroom. I could hear him in there crying for over an hour.”

“Oh, Anna, I’m so sorry! I knew it would be hard introducing a new pony so soon after he lost Peaches, but I didn’t think he would react like that. He didn’t even go out to meet Blue?”

“He wouldn’t hear of it.”

I apologized again. “Is there anything we can do?”Petting Old Blue

I heard Anna sigh. “No, but thanks. I’ll give it a few days and see if Colton will at least go out to meet Blue. If not, I guess I’ll have to return the pony to John.”

After promising to let me know if anything else happened, Anna hung up, and I went off in search of Cleric.

* * *

Old Dwarf and ClericThe aged dwarf led Cleric into the conference room. He looked into her cornflower-blue eyes, wet with unshed tears, and he spoke gently to her. “Now, lassie, yer heart be in tha right place, but I do na be thinkin’ thet ye be thinkin’ this through.”

“Wha . . .what do you mean?” Cleric hiccupped with the effort to control her tears.

“Lassie, ye be tha one wot been knowin’ Mystery better’en any o’ us. An’ ye be tha one wot Mystery been talkin’ ta in tha dream. Ye be tha one wot be knowin’ wit’oot a single doubt thet tha new pony be tha one tha laddie be needin’. But ye do na be tha one wot be needin’ ta be talkin’ ta tha laddie.”

Cleric’s brow furrowed. “Why not?”

Gypsy, Old Dwarf and ClericBefore the Old Dwarf could answer, the conference room door opened. The Gypsy lad walked into the room and joined the conversation. “I could not help overhearing . . .”

“Ye coulda been helpin’ it, laddie, iffin yer great big ear dinna been pressin’ agin tha door!” The twinkle in the dwarf’s emerald green eyes belied his annoyance at the lad.

Ignoring the jibe, the Gypsy addressed Cleric. “I agree with the dwarf. You are not the one to talk to Colton. I am.”

When Cleric started to protest, the Gypsy cut her off. “Look, you may be the one who knew Mystery best, but I think I am the one who bonded with Colton.”

Cleric tilted her head, considering her friend’s words. Finally, she nodded. “Very well. But I will go with you.”

The Gypsy turned to go. “We will take the horses.”

Cleric grabbed his arm. “Dragon released the spell after the trail ride last September. I do not have a horse.”

Dragon appears“I will create another illusory horse for you.”

The three companions jumped at the voice. They looked around and saw Dragon shimmering into sight, curled up in front of her ersatz fireplace.

The dwarf gaped at Dragon. “By tha great god’s beard! Be ye tryin’ ta be stoppin’ me heart in me chest? Where did ye be jumpin’ up from?”

Dragon puffed a small cloud of black smoke from her nostrils. “I have found it advantageous at times to remain concealed. Usually that means fewer disturbances of my nap.”

The big beast turned to Cleric. “I presume you want the same horse as before?”

Cleric nodded, and Dragon began intoning an incantation.

Just two hours later, Cleric and the Gypsy dismounted in Anna’s driveway. In the nearby paddock, Blue studiously ignored the newcomers but Anna’s dapple-gray mare, Rosie, whinnied a loud greeting at their approach. Anna appeared at the barn door moments later to see what was disturbing Rosie.

riding up to Colton's

“Clara! Rocky!” Anna called to them, addressing them by the names they had used before. “What brings you here?”

The Gypsy smiled. “We were just taking our horses out for a bit of relaxation on the trail, and we found ourselves on your road. We did not think you would mind an unannounced visit.”

“Of course not! You’re always welcome to drop in.”

“How is Old Blue settling in?” Cleric led her horse over to the fence and reached toward the pony to pet him, but he walked away.

Clara shrugged. “He isn’t a kicker or a biter. When Rosie ran up to him, he just ignored her and walked away. He pretty much ignores me, too.”

“And Colton?” The Gypsy furrowed his brow. “How is he with Colton?”

Clara sighed, and slumped her shoulders. “Colton refuses to come out and meet Blue. I don’t know how to convince him.”

The Gypsy pursed his lips and squared his shoulders. “Perhaps if I talked with him?”

Anna shrugged again. “Be my guest. He’s in his bedroom – upstairs, first door on the right.”

Rocky and ColtonThe Gypsy handed his horse’s reins to Cleric and walked to the house. He found Colton in his bedroom, the door wide open. Remembering Colton was blind, the Gypsy called to him before entering the room. “Colton? Hi! Remember me? Rocky? Clara and I were out riding, and we thought we would stop by and visit. May I come in?”

“Sure. I remember you.” Colton sniffled and rubbed at his eyes. The Gypsy could see the boy had been crying. Before he could say anything, Colton turned toward him and blurted, “Do you know what my mother did? She got a new pony for me! It’s as if Peaches was no different than a pair of shoes I outgrew, or a truck that broke down.” The boy balled his hands into fists, and he punched his pillow. “Peaches can never be replaced!”

Boy_on_a_Horse“Of course not!” The Gypsy sat on the bed next to Colton and put his hand on the boy’s shoulder. “Peaches was very special. She was more than just your pony. She was your friend. Friends can never be replaced.”

“That’s right!” Colton nodded. “I knew you’d understand!”

“Oh, I do!” The Gypsy’s voice caught in his throat. “My family raised horses. It was my job to gentle the colts once they were weaned. Every year, I made friends with these colts, and every year they left for new homes once I had gentled them.”colt

“That’s horrible! You lost your friends over and over again?” Colton’s blind eyes widened.

“I did, but then the next year I would have more colts to gentle, and I would make new friends. I came to realize that none of the colts I helped raise could ever be replaced, but I had enough room in my heart for each new colt that came along. I didn’t stop missing the ones that were gone, but I did make new friends that helped me not miss the old ones so much.”

Colton didn’t say anything for a long time. When he did speak, his voice held a new note of understanding. “You’re saying that this new pony isn’t to replace Peaches, but to help me cope with my loss?”

Coping with loss

The Gypsy nodded and smiled. “That is exactly what I am saying. But there is more to it, something you do not know about the pony.”

“What’s that, Rocky?” Colton sounded curious.

John, Casey, and Old Blue“Old Blue used to belong to a little girl, a girl who couldn’t walk and had to use a wheelchair. She and Blue were best friends. Blue took care of her the way Peaches took care of you. But a few months ago, the little girl died. Blue lost his friend, and now he’s just as sad as you are. He needs someone to help him cope with his loss, too.”

Colton frowned. “Is that the truth, Rocky? The pony’s owner died? You aren’t just saying that to make me feel sorry for the pony?”

“Colton, I do not lie to my friends.”

Colton paused, and furrowed his brow in concentration. Finally, he squared his shoulders and set his jaw. “Rocky, will you introduce me to the pony?”

“Sure I will, Colton! I have a feeling you two are going to be very good friends.”

Will Colton really give the pony a fair chance? Will Blue give Colton a chance? Be sure to come back next week and see what happens when Colton and Blue meet. I’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Colorful Autumn Nature Walk

Colorful Autumn Nature Walk

Arrogant One facing rightstill raining

“I cannot believe it is still raining!” My Arrogant One stomped his foot and scowled as he looked out the door at the gloomy drizzle.

ShedBounty Hunter

“And I cannot believe you have not yet repaired the leaky roof in the shed.” My Bounty Hunter glowered at his companion.

My Arrogant One drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and grasped his cloak in both hands. “I have done my part. I do not see you offering to help!”

Dragon breathing smoke

Dragon shook her scaly head, and black smoke drifted from her snout. “I cannot believe you two are still complaining about everything! Did you learn nothing from our recent exercise, the Gratitude Scavenger Hunt?”

(Part 1) https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/09/23/were-doing-what/
(Part 2) https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/09/30/gratitude-scavenger-hunt/

My Arrogant One rounded on the bulky beast. “Oh, and I am to understand that by virtue of the fact you participated in that assignment, you are suddenly Little Miss Sunshine?”

Dragon blinked. “I do not believe there was anything sudden about it. I have always had a sunny disposition.”

What?” My Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter screeched in unison, and several other of my characters doubled over in laughter.

sorceress-facing-right“You are one of the most mercurial individuals I know.” Sorceress raised an eyebrow at her reptilian friend. “I am always tempted to consult my star charts before approaching you, to determine if you are more likely to aid me or incinerate me!”Elf

Cleric nodded, and she fidgeted with the silken cord belting her robes. “I fear I must agree with Sorceress. You are subject to extreme mood variations.”

dragon looking rightfireplace2Dragon harrumphed and glowered at her companions. “I see. Well, you do not have to worry about approaching me at all. I am going to the conference room and bask in front of my fireplace.” She stomped away in high dudgeon, and the rest of my characters resumed their complaining.

Two days later, the change in both the weather and my character’s attitudes was nothing short of amazing. The day dawned clear and bright and unseasonably warm after several weeks of cool, rainy weather. My characters chatted amiably during a rushed early morning meal. Anxious to be enjoying themselves outdoors, they gobbled their breakfast and dispersed to their individual activities shortly after first light.

My Foreman and the lads headed to the illusory stable to spend the day working their horses. Cleric, Sorceress, and Dragon went out to gather botanicals for their spell components. My Old Dwarf went with them to look for rocks and pieces of wood that might prove suitable for carving.

camera for blogMy husband saw me gathering my camera equipment and gave me a big smile. “No need to ask what you’re planning! Nature photography! Do you have someplace special in mind?”

I returned his smile and held up a brochure from a nearby wildlife preserve and nature center. “I think I’m going back to this preserve. I really enjoyed it last time I went. It has a variety of habitats – a big lake, a hardwood forest and a native pine woodlands, wetlands, prairie, and savanna. What are your plans for the day?”

Miles sighed. “I need to take my car in for servicing today. Then I have to stop by one of the lumber yards and pick up some roofing shingles for the shed.”

I nodded. “Well, okay, I’ll try not to miss you too much!” I gave him a hug and a quick peck on the cheek before we were interrupted.

“Mistress?”

I turned around and saw my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter standing there. To my experienced eye, they appeared suspect.

I furrowed my brow. “Yes?”

“Would it be possible for us to join you today?”

I had rarely heard my Arrogant One sound so meek. My frown deepened. “Why?” Realizing how rude I sounded, I backpedaled. “I mean, why would you want to? I didn’t think hiking and nature photography held much interest for either of you.”

“Quite the contrary!” My Bounty Hunter’s eyes widened, and he assumed an open and guileless demeanor. “We have enjoyed past nature walks we have taken with you.”

“And we must wait for Master Miles to purchase the necessary supplies, so we can repair the shed roof. Therefore, we have nothing pressing on our agenda for this day.” My Arrogant One seemed nervous, clutching his cloak and shuffling his foot.

I hesitated, an uneasy feeling coming over me as I watched my two characters standing there awaiting my decision, displaying uncharacteristic patience and courtesy. “Well, okay, but you know the rules. You’ll wear modern garments and take no weapons or magic paraphernalia.”staff

My Arrogant One’s eyes widened. “Not even my staff? You yourself use a walking stick, and my staff functions perfectly as such.”Walking stick - Marge

I narrowed my eyes and considered. “Very well, you may take a walking stick – but remember that is to be its only function.”Walking stick - Bounty Hunter

My Bounty Hunter’s mouth curved into a smarmy smile. “Then I, too, will bring one – I have a thick longbow that easily doubles as a walking stick.”

My uneasy feeling grew stronger.

“Okay, but I want no trouble from either of you on the trail today. If we encounter other people, they best not be able to tell your walking sticks are anything other than just that.”

They both nodded, but as I turned, I thought I saw them exchange furtive glances.

“Meet me at the car in 15 minutes.”

*  *  *

It took less than a half hour to drive to the preserve. I parked near the nature center and the three of us piled out of the car. I grabbed my camera and equipment, and we all took our walking sticks. I locked the car and pointed to a path exiting the parking lot to my left. “Let’s start with the trail to the lake.”

“Why not start at the nature center? We are right here.” My Bounty Hunter pointed to the building surrounded by bird feeders adjacent to the parking lot.

I shook my head. “I’d like to finish our walk there. Right now, there’s too much activity around that area. School groups go in and out all morning, and it can get noisy. The birds tend to stay away. But things quiet down in the afternoon, and the staff refills the feeders then, so our chances of seeing birds there will be better at that time.”

My two characters nodded. I led off, expecting them to follow me. Instead, they hung back a bit. I thought I heard them arguing, but when I glanced back over my shoulder, they were already scurrying to catch up with me.

We had not yet gotten out of the parking lot when my Bounty Hunter grabbed me by the arm. I yelped and pulled away.

He raised an eyebrow. “It is a good thing Cleric is not with us. She would be squealing right now.” He used his walking stick to point to a reddish-brown snake slithering across the blacktop.October Hike - snake 2

I ducked my head sheepishly, realizing my Bounty Hunter’s intentions had been harmless. “Uh, yeah. It looks like a Red-bellied Snake.” I took a few quick shots of it before it reached the edge of the asphalt and disappeared into the grass, and we continued walking toward the lake.

My Arrogant One studied the trees. “The foliage is surprisingly colorful! I did not think this would be a good year, with the earlier drought followed by the heavy rain over the last few weeks.”

I nodded. “I had the same misgivings. Glad to see we were wrong.” I took a few photos of the trees.

As we walked toward the lake, I pointed out the animals I saw, identifying them for my two companions as I took photos. “There’s an American Robin in that tree. There’s a White-breasted Nuthatch on that tree trunk, and another hanging upside down from that pine bough. And there’s an Eastern Chipmunk on that rock in front of the fallen log.”

We passed out of the woods and found ourselves next to a large lake.

“Canada Geese.” My Arrogant One pointed. “We have them on our pond, and we seem to see them on every outing.” He leaned on his staff and watched the birds swimming in the clear blue water.

I nodded, maneuvering to a good spot to get some photos. “They’re very common.”

“Look!” My Bounty Hunter pointed to some birds soaring silently overhead. “Those strange looking birds are not Canada Geese. What are they?”

“American White Pelicans. They’re one of the largest birds you’ll see in North America, and they have massive bills that they use to scoop up fish.” I tried to capture a few images of the birds in flight.

The squadron of pelicans landed on the far side of the lake, too distant for my camera to get any good shots. We left the lake and took the trail to the left, skirting a large wetland adjacent to the lake. We found two more Canada Geese there and I took their photos.

Then my Arrogant One pointed. “Are those not the tall birds you like so much? I believe you called them Sandhill Cranes.”

I nodded and smiled, taking photos of two crossing the meadow toward the tree line.

My Bounty Hunter tapped me on the shoulder and pointed. “Another one.” I snapped a quick photo as it tried to hide in the tangle of vegetation.

October hike - Sandhill Crane 3

As I turned, I spotted a few American Goldfinches eating the seeds of the wildflowers in the field, and I stopped to take several photos. “They flit around so quickly, it’s hard to get a clear image of them.”

After I got their pictures, I took some shots of a tall tree in the middle of the meadow, decked out in its coat of autumn yellow, then took several more photos of the fall foliage.

As I turned around, my companions were standing a few feet away, huddled together, examining their walking sticks and holding a whispered conversation. I furrowed my brow but held my tongue as they quickly rejoined me on the trail.

As we approached another section of woods, my Arrogant One pointed at something with his staff. “I am seeing a lot of similar-looking birds in the trees and bushes along the forest edge. What are they?”

“Fall warblers can be very confusing, but I believe they are Palm Warblers.” I took aim and snapped a few quick photos.

“That one looks different.” My Bounty Hunter pointed at another bird in a nearby tree. “Is that the one the Gypsy identified for me once as a White-throated Sparrow?”

I nodded. “I’m impressed you remembered!” I snapped the photo.

October Hike - White-throated Sparrow 1

My Bounty Hunter also spotted a Blue Jay high up in a bare tree, and my Arrogant One pointed out an Eastern Bluebird on an old fence post. I got photos of them both. Then, just before we entered the next wooded area, we found another snake. “This one looks like a Garter Snake.” I snapped his photo as well.

“Look here.” My Arrogant One pointed. “There are several different types of berries along this path.”

“They’re good food for the birds.” I took some photos of the berries before looking up at the nearby trees.

“Look! The berries have attracted some Cedar Waxwings. Those birds are basically fruit eaters. In the fall, hundreds of them can gather and strip a berry patch in minutes.” I scanned the trees. “This is a very small flock.”

“That one looks different.” My Arrogant One pointed to one of a pair of birds sitting on a bare branch. “But the one with it looks like the Cedar Waxwings you just showed us.”

“They’re both Cedar Waxwings. The one that looks different is a juvenile. I’m surprised there aren’t more with the flock.” I focused my camera and got a shot of the two birds.

October Hike - Cedar Waxwing with juvie

We continued along the path, and I took some more photos of the trees and wildflowers. Once again, my companions lagged behind. They were again whispering, but they quickly stopped and hurried to catch up with me.

Soon we were back at the nature center. There were numerous birds and critters feeding on the seed that had fallen from the feeders, or watching from the nearby trees. I identified a Red Squirrel, another Eastern Chipmunk, some Fox Sparrows, some Dark-eyed Juncos, some more White-throated Sparrows, and both male and female Northern Cardinals.

Finally, I figured I had taken enough photos, and I turned to my companions. “Ready to go home?”

“Already?” They both seemed disappointed.

“Miles will probably be home by now with those roofing supplies you need. And I need to start making dinner if we want to eat tonight.”

My two characters nodded reluctantly, and we walked across the parking lot to the car. As we took our places in the vehicle, I wondered about their behavior, their whispered conversations, and the furtive glances I thought I had seen them exchanging several times. After turning it over in my mind, I decided maybe I was just being paranoid. I decided it best not to spoil the good time we had had by confronting them. If something was afoot, I would probably find out soon enough.

Be sure to join us again next week. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Gratitude Scavenger Hunt

Gratitude Scavenger Hunt

6-19-13 - Miles 001“You know, it’s been blissfully quiet around here the past few days. Ever since you insisted your characters participate in that . . . what was it called? The Gratitude Scavenger Hunt? (https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/09/23/were-doing-what/) . . . we’ve hardly heard a peep out of them!” My husband sighed contentedly. “They don’t even take meals with us.”

“I know.” I smiled at him. “They really seem to be enjoying it. They even asked if they could have a few more days to work on it.”

“Are they all still working downstairs in the conference room?” Miles furrowed his brow and tilted his head.

“Yeah, why?”

He chuckled. “Well, it’s been four days now, and I haven’t heard anyone killing your Arrogant One yet.”

I laughed. “Well, Dragon arranged individual offices off the conference room, so everyone could work in private without interfering with each other or getting on each other’s nerves.”

Miles shook his head. “I still don’t understand how the conference room works. It looks different every time I go in there – a different size, a different shape . . .”

I gave his hand a squeeze as I tugged him out of his chair. “Don’t try to understand it, honey. It’s magic. Let’s just get some dinner.”

“The leftover corn chowder?” His eyes gleamed.

I nodded. “Yup. And some roasted cauliflower and broccoli.”

“Now, that’s magic! Race you to the kitchen!”

*  *  *

dragon talking

“Everyone has finished collecting or creating their items or images, or preparing their illusions, for the Gratitude Scavenger Hunt, Mistress.” Dragon’s maw stretched into a wide, toothy smile and her tail twitched with excitement.

“Very well. Let’s go down and see what everyone has.”

Miles and I followed the bulky reptile down the steps and into the conference room. Everyone’s items were displayed on the huge round table in the middle of the room. My characters milled around, each slowly taking their place next to their individual items.

“How do you wish to do this, Mistress?” Cleric fidgeted with her rope belt and shifted her weight from foot to foot.

“Well, let’s see.” I rubbed my chin while I considered several approaches. “I think the best idea is for me to read off each category from the list, and everyone can take turns presenting their items for that category.”

I looked around at my assembled characters, who nodded their understanding and agreement. I was surprised how nervous they all appeared. Cleric wasn’t the only one shuffling back and forth on her feet, and I thought I saw several characters sweating. I hoped that meant they had taken the activity seriously, perhaps had even learned something from it.

I picked up my list and began. “The first item you were to find was something that makes a beautiful sound. Who wants to start?”

gypsy-facing-rightMeadowlark singing - framedMy Gypsy eagerly stepped forward and held up a picture of a bird. “I chose a Meadowlark. Their sweet song is a magnificent sound.” He whistled, perfectly mimicking the slurred, flute-like melody of the Eastern Meadowlark.

Young hero 2horse neighing in frameMy Young Hero stepped forward next. “I think a horse makes a beautiful sound, neighing to a friend, or whinnying to greet the day.” He held aloft a picture taken from a magazine.

mens-991728_1280Horses galloping - framedMy Foreman nodded and raised his picture. “I think the sound a horse makes is beautiful, too, only I selected the thundering sound of their hooves as a herd of steeds gallops across a field.”

dragon looking rightWind blowing - framedDragon took center stage next, holding aloft a photo. “I think the sound of a loud wind rushing through trees is beautiful. I enchanted this picture to produce that sound.” As she murmured an incantation, the sound of rushing wind filled the room for a few moments.

Elf facing rightwind-chimesAs the sound died down, Cleric stepped forward, holding a small wind chime she had constructed. “I do not believe this would withstand the force of the wind from Dragon’s enchanted image, but I think when the chimes are tickled by a gentle breeze, the sound they produce is most beautiful.” Cleric gently shook the chimes, making a soft tinkling sound.

sorceress-facing-rightWaves lapping against the shore - framedSorceress waited for the melodious chimes to quiet before producing her item, an enchanted image of waves lapping against the shore. “It is the beautiful sound that used to lull me to sleep on my native island.”

Bounty Hunterwaterfall - framed“I am afraid I cannot produce the sound effects, but I chose this photo of a rushing waterfall to depict something that makes a beautiful sound.” My Bounty Hunter showed us the photo.

DwarfDinner gong“Well, I be havin’ sound ee-ffects!” My Old Dwarf grinned as he clanged a triangular gong. “I be thinkin’ there be nuttin’ wat be makin’ a sound as bee-you-tee-full as a dinner bell.”

Arrogant One facing rightThe last of my characters to share his first item, my Arrogant One, stood apart from the group. He was scuffing one foot back and forth in an uncharacteristic display of stage fright. He cleared his throat several times before mumbling his explanation. “The most beautiful sound I have ever heard was produced by an audience clapping and cheering.” He passed his hand over an enchanted image, and the room was filled with thunderous applause, and loud cheers and whistles.

Applause - framed

It took quite a few minutes to get my Arrogant One to silence his enchanted image, as he closed his eyes and basked in the conjured applause. But soon I had my characters back to the task at hand.

We moved quickly through the next four categories.

Lightning stormThe catagory find something that smells amazing produced few surprises, among them being Dragon’s choice of a lightning storm. “Have you ever really smelled the air after you see a huge bolt of lightning?” Her nostrils quivered, and her tail twitched in delight.

Field of wildflowersBounty Hunter’s field full of wildflowers was equally surprising. “What? You think someone in my profession cannot appreciate the delicate fragrance of wildflowers in bloom?”

Catnip was rather predictable as the item Sorceress thought smelled amazing, as was her choice of milk for the next category, find your favorite beverage. Both choices reflected her exotic heritage, and I could almost hear her purring as she made her presentations.milkcatnip

 

 

 

lemonade

Dragon’s choice of lemonade as her favorite beverage, however, was unexpected. “Not too sweet, though.” She grimaced. “Sugar negates the delightful burn of the acid.”

rose-quartzFind something that is your favorite color produced few surprises. Cleric’s choice of rose quartz was predictable. “It is the color associated with the deity whom I serve back in my world.”

Equally predictable in that category were my Old Dwarf’s choice of pewter mugs, my Arrogant One’s selection of gold coins, and my Gypsy’s option of a Northern Cardinal or Redbird.

sunflower

Again, it was Dragon and my Bounty Hunter who surprised me. “And what is wrong with the color of sunflowers?” My Bounty Hunter scoffed.

Sky after sunsetDragon smiled a toothy grin, then explained her choice. “The color of the sky right after sunset is most pleasing to me. It also has a very personal meaning.” She glanced at my Young Hero. “When I was younger, I had not yet developed my ability to change colors. Someone back in my world once likened my color to that of the sky at twilight.”

There were no surprises at all in the category find something useful to you.

fireplace2“Of course, I chose my fireplace.” Dragon looked around, her expression daring anyone to make a remark.

Battle axe“And I be lost wit-out me battle axe.” My Old Dwarf brandished it, then gave the axe head a quick swipe with a polishing cloth.

saddle

My Foreman nodded. “As I would be without a saddle.”

dagger - bullseye

“And I, without my dagger.” My Gypsy flipped it end over end at a target hanging on the wall, scoring a perfect bulls-eye.

 

My Young Hero claimed a bag of holding as his most useful item, while Cleric needed her healing herbs, Sorceress, her scrying bowl, and my Bounty Hunter, a disguise.

Magician's staff“My staff is my most useful item.” My Arrogant One puffed himself up. “It is a focus for my magic, a walking stick, and a weapon. I can also tie a bundle to it and carry it over my shoulder or tie a string to the end for a fishing pole.”

That brought us to the last category – find something to give someone else to make them smile.

Dragon scale 2“The best gift I could give someone to produce a smile would be one of my scales.” Dragon held a small iridescent scale in her hand. “It is not only beautiful, but it is almost indestructible, so the recipient could conceivably have it for a lifetime. It grants powerful protection and has magical properties that can be activated by those with the proper knowledge. How could such a wondrous gift fail to make someone smile?”

Wood carving

My Old Dwarf showed us a small wood carving he had made. “I be thinkin’ thet summat I be takin’ tha time an’ effort ta be makin’ wit me very ownest hands be puttin’ a smile on anyone’s face.”

flowers

My Foreman nodded. “I envy you your talent, my rotund little friend. All I have to offer to put a smile on someone’s face is a posy.”

dried flowers and herbsCleric smiled. “Those flowers would certainly make me smile. I also chose flowers, but mine are an arrangement of dried flowers and herbs.”

 

Charm

 

“I would give someone a charm or a talisman.” My Gypsy displayed his offering.

heart-shaped stonesMy Young Hero admired his friend’s item. “My gift would be similar.” He held out a handful of small rocks. “Nature created these heart-shaped stones. They made me smile, and I am sure they would do the same for anyone to whom I would bequeath them.”

book

“A book has always seemed a much-appreciated gift.” Sorceress held up a tome adorned with flowers.

bottle of wine or spirits

“As is a bottle of fine wine or spirits.” My Bounty Hunter indicated his item.

 

My Arrogant One was the last to present his item. All eyes turned to him, and we waited. He scuffed his toe back and forth on the carpet, and he hung his head. “I have never given a gift to anyone. I have nothing to make another smile.”

My other characters seemed unsurprised. “Selfish people rarely know how to make others smile.” Although Dragon meant it to be a whisper, her voice carried through the room, and I saw my Arrogant One’s face turn scarlet.

Surprisingly, it was my husband who came to the annoying elf’s rescue. Miles walked over to the conference table and picked up my Arrogant One’s staff. He turned to the pompous figure and held out the staff. “Take it.”

Cautiously, obviously fearing a trick, the elf reached out and took hold of the staff.

“Now, perform.” My husband turned and rejoined me and the others watching the elf.

“What?” My Arrogant One furrowed his brow and tilted his head.

“You have a great gift to share, with which to put a smile on everyone’s face. Create some illusions, give a performance. That is what you can give someone else to make them smile.” Miles raised an eyebrow at the elf.

Slowly, a smile spread across my Arrogant One’s face as understanding dawned. He drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and held his staff aloft. He treated us all to a truly amazing performance of illusory magic and sleight of hand. When it was over, the elf had no need of an enchanted image to create applause.

Performing illusion

Once the hurrahs had died down, I addressed the group. “I hope you all had some fun with this Gratitude Scavenger Hunt. I also hope you learned something from it.”

My characters all nodded and murmured among themselves. Finally, Dragon spoke for the group. “I believe it has become obvious to all of us that complaining is a waste of effort. If we are bored, we can always engage in fruitful and enjoyable activities. We are grateful to you for making us realize this.”

“I think we also learned to just look around us for things for which we can be grateful, like a beautiful sound or smell, a pretty color, a favorite beverage.” My Bounty Hunter nodded toward the conference table holding all the items he and his companions found for the Gratitude Scavenger Hunt.

“And I am grateful to have learned that everyone has something to give to others, and that giving is as pleasurable as receiving.” My Arrogant One smiled.

“Good lessons, all!” I beamed at my characters. “I hope you all keep your feelings of gratitude going forward.”

“Wale, I be real gratitudinal iffin dinner be ready soon.” My Old Dwarf winked and headed for the stairs.

We hope you all enjoyed the Gratitude Scavenger Hunt as much as my characters did, and I hope you enjoyed the insight into each character, with the choices they made for each category. In case you missed anyone’s presentation, here is the list of characters and the items they chose for each category.

Gratitude Scavenger Hunt

Be sure to join us next week for another adventure! We’ll leave the porch light on for you!

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