What’s STILL Going On?

What’s STILL Going On?

bird photographerI was growing increasingly impatient. My second – and hopefully last – follow-up with my surgeon was still a week away, so my restrictions had not yet been lifted. But I was feeling much better and was chomping at the bit to resume my normal activities, particularly my nature walks with my camera.

Elf facing rightCleric regarded me with sympathy, but shook her head. “Why do we not just relax on the veranda and you can take some more photos of your backyard birds and creatures? You know I always enjoy assisting with that endeavor.” Cleric had a true affinity with the birds, and often joined me when I photographed them, coaxing them to venture closer and strike interesting or amusing poses.

I frowned. “I suppose we could, although I would much rather go on a nice, long hike and see some different creatures for a change. It has gotten to the point with my backyard birds that as soon as they see me, they fly off screaming, it’s that annoying woman with the camera again!

Cleric eye’s widened. “I did not know you could understand their language! Do you speak it as well?”

I felt my lips twitch. “I was being facetious.”

Cleric’s face turned crimson, and she scowled. “Well, how was I to know? Why do you say something you do not mean?”

I ducked my head. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to confuse or frustrate you.”

Cleric smoothed her robes, and her ruffled feelings seemed to smooth over as well. “You get your camera. I will get us some cold drinks and meet you in a few minutes at the gazebo.”

Stu-04-NatGalBefore either of us could move, Sorceress swept into the room in an obvious state of agitation, glaring at us through narrowed eyes. Without acknowledging me at all, she addressed Cleric in an abrasive tone. “There you are! I have been reminding you every day for the past week we need to replenish our spell components. We must gather and prepare the herbs and other botanicals we need. I am tired of waiting! I am going out today to collect whatever I can find. Are you coming?”

Cleric’s eyes widened and her face reddened again. Her hand flew to her mouth. “I forgot!”

“You have become most unmindful of things lately!” Sorceress tossed her hair back, crossed her arms over her chest, and looked down her nose at her erstwhile friend.

“I am sorry. I just told Mistress Writer I would sit with her in the garden and – – ”

Sorceress swept her hand down, silencing Cleric in mid-sentence. “Well, I have enough to do to find and prepare my own botanicals. If you wish to replenish your stock of components and healing herbs, you will have to find the plants yourself.” Without another word, she whirled and left the room.

The normally amiable Cleric called in a petulant tone after the departing figure, “Fine! I will do just that!” She turned back to me. “I will get our beverages.” She stomped off toward the kitchen, muttering under her breath.

I raised an eyebrow and pondered the scene I had just witnessed between two characters who had, up until recently, been good friends. It seemed there was a lot of friction among my characters lately. I shrugged. I really couldn’t do anything about it until Dragon determined what was causing the problem.

I gathered my camera, my wide-brimmed hat, and some peanuts and millet spray for the birds, and headed out to the gazebo to wait for Cleric. I had hardly taken a seat when I saw my Arrogant One tear around the corner of the garden shed. My Old Dwarf was in hot pursuit, barely a step behind the elf, slashing at him with his war-axe. Several paces behind the dwarf was my Bounty Hunter, dagger in hand.

dragon-1964202_960_720Before I could intervene, Dragon appeared, flying over the top of the shed. She swooped down and snatched up my Old Dwarf, saving my Arrogant One from the dwarf, and the dwarf from my Bounty Hunter. As she escorted the old reprobate to safety, the other two fled inside the shed, and barricaded the doors.

Dragon deposited my Old Dwarf beside the gazebo, but kept a grip on his arm. He was sputtering like a wet hen, and cussing like a . . . well, like an angry dwarf. I stood and placed my hands on my hips. “What is going on?”

“Jest let me be gittin’ me hands on thet little popinjay! Let me at ’em!” The dwarf shook with rage.

I raised an eyebrow. “What did my Arrogant One do now?”

The dwarf was apoplectic. His face was so red, it could double for a stop sign, and he could hardly choke the words out. “I be findin’ a piece o me fave-o-rite chock-lit cake in the shed. I be jest aboot ta take a great big bite o it, an’ thet wretched excuse fer a magicker disappeared it! It do na be real a’tall! It be jest another o his illusions!”

I nodded. “So for that you were trying your best to cleave him in two?”

“Wale, o course I be after ’em fer thet! Waddaya be thinkin’? Thet be me fave-o-rite food he be messin’ wit!” He continued to shake with rage, and he struggled against Dragon’s hold.

I looked at Dragon. “And my Bounty Hunter was just trying to protect my Arrogant One?”

Dragon nodded.

I looked back at my Old Dwarf. “Well, since I don’t want you breaking down the shed door, why don’t you just go to the kitchen? I think you’ll find some real chocolate cake in the cake saver on the counter.”

The dwarf stopped shaking and broke into a delighted grin. Dragon released her grip on his arm, and he trotted off to find the cake.

I waited until he was out of earshot. “Have you determined what is causing these conflicts?”

blue-dragon-2

 

Dragon shook her head and a thin plum of smoke drifted from her nostrils. “I have not yet determined if it is the heat, or boredom, or if something more sinister is behind these incidents.”

“Well, I hope you make that determination soon. Sorceress and Cleric had another tiff just a few moments ago.”

“And your Gypsy and his best friend, your Young Hero, almost resorted to fisticuffs again this morning.”

“This is becoming very worrisome.” I frowned, and thought of something peculiar. “If it is something sinister causing the friction between friends, how is it that my Old Dwarf is affected? I thought dwarves were immune to magic.”

“They are. But dwarves are also contentious by nature. Your Old Dwarf is particularly cantankerous and quick-tempered, so I would attribute his conflicts to his normal demeanor, rather than whatever is fueling the clashes among the others.”

I nodded. “That makes sense. But what of you? You have been rather testy lately, as you yourself acknowledged the other day. I can not imagine you being affected by a sinister spell without realizing what is happening and resisting it. You’re magic is too powerful.”

“Perhaps. But, unlikely though it may be, there is always the possibility of a more powerful force behind this.”

I shuddered.

“I do not really believe that is the case, but to ignore the possibility could court disaster. I will continue investigating, and I will let you know if I discover anything. Meanwhile, enjoy your afternoon of nature photography with Cleric.”

iced tea for blogDragon and Cleric greeted each other affably as Cleric placed a pitcher of ice cold fruit punch and some glasses on the table next to my camera. “Will you be joining us, Dragon? I can get another glass.”

“Another time, my friend. I fear I have more pressing obligations at the moment.”

Dragon nodded to us and took her leave. Cleric poured us each a tall, cool glass of punch. I scattered some peanuts and millet spray to attract the birds, and Cleric hummed a special tune, a haunting weave of windsong and magic. Then we sat back to wait for some photogenic creatures to grace us with their presence. We didn’t have long to wait.

The first bird to visit was a Common Grackle. He flew down to the gazebo railing, and conversed with Cleric for a few moments. Then the bird quickly hopped down and approached me, almost seeming to study me as I took his photo.Backyard 055

Cleric leaned toward me and spoke in a whisper. “Grackles are beautiful birds, with their intelligent faces and their iridescent feathers, but I fear every time I see one, I think back to the evil wizard Morcant, who had a grackle as his familiar.”

morcantmorcants-familiar

 

I shuddered. “Yes, Morcant is always in the back of my mind, too, whenever I see a grackle.”

Next, Cleric coaxed a couple of Mourning Doves down to the railing, imitating their peaceful coo. The first one seemed a bit nervous as I took his picture, but the second was totally relaxed as Cleric continued to coo at them.

A male Red-bellied Woodpecker ventured down to snatch up some peanuts as his mate and their young stayed well-hidden in the nearby tree, calling to him to hurry. Even Cleric could not convince them to join us.Backyard 054

The peanuts were also the enticement that brought a Blue Jay down, but it was Cleric who coaxed him into posing for a brief second before he flew off with his prize.Backyard 059

The millet spray attracted a hungry Song Sparrow. First, he landed in a nearby tree to check us out and he and Cleric engaged in a songfest. Following their concert, he flew down to eat while I took his picture.

Backyard 131

The heat and the humidity rose as the afternoon progressed. Cleric and I appreciated an occasional cool breeze as we sipped our fruity drinks. Suddenly, Cleric paused, her glass halfway to her lips. She giggled and pointed. I looked, and there was a small chipmunk spying on us from the corner of the gazebo. I grabbed a quick shot of him as he and Cleric exchanged greetings.Backyard 001

The rest of the afternoon passed pleasantly, in spite of the mugginess. A variety of birds and critters stopped by to converse with Cleric and pose for my camera.

Several Gray Catbirds visited with us, calling to us from the nearby feeder area.

With a little coaxing from Cleric, a male House Finch struck a pose for me atop a feeder pole.Backyard 020

A fledgling American Robin checked us out from atop the neighbor’s fence, while his sibling sampled the grapes in the fruit feeder.

A Painted Turtle eyed us curiously before trudging off toward the pond.Backyard 044

One Baltimore Oriole called a cheery hello before taking a long sip of nectar from the nearby feeder, while a second waited her turn impatiently atop the feeder pole.

A fledgling Red-winged Blackbird kept an eye on us while waiting for mom or dad to return with some food, while a fledgling Downy Woodpecker checked us out from the nearby suet log.

Finally, two Mallard drakes and one hen waddled up from the pond and stopped a few feet from the gazebo. They engaged in a lively conversation with Cleric as I captured their image.Backyard 064

“Well, the ducks wanted us to know the weather is soon going to take a turn. They think we should return to the shelter of the house.” She reached for our glasses and placed them on the tray with the empty pitcher.

I blinked. “Really?”

gathering clouds for blog“Indeed. Look, already clouds are gathering to the west, and the breeze is increasing. I believe they know what they are talking about.”

I chuckled. It never ceased to amaze me the way Cleric could communicate with the birds. “Okay, let’s go back to the house. We wouldn’t want to get caught in a sudden shower.”

As we approached the house, we could hear angry voices. I recognized them as that of my Old Dwarf and my Foreman. I shook my head and sighed as we stepped through the French doors into the living room. “Now what’s going on?”

Elf facing right

“Why would you care?” Cleric snapped at me. The tray she was carrying clattered to the floor when she thrust it at me and I failed to grab it. Without apology, Cleric turned and stalked away.

 

My mouth fell open and I stood there, totally bewildered.

Be sure to join us again next week. Perhaps Dragon will shed some light on these conflicts. I’ll leave the porch light on for you.

Fun and Mayhem With the Neighbors

Fun and Mayhem With the Neighbors

gazebo for blogI was sitting on a very soft cushion I had placed on a hard plastic lawn chair in a shady corner of the gazebo. I was five weeks into what should have been a two week recuperation following a minor surgical procedure. It had been less than a week that I could sit comfortably.camera for blog

I had brought my camera with me, as I had hoped to engage in a little backyard nature photography, but it remained untouched on the table. Instead, I was being entertained by three of my characters.

 

My Foreman, my Young Hero, and my Gypsy were schooling their horses in the back of the yard. These were illusory horses provided by their companion, Dragon, who had also cast a spell of concealment to keep the neighbors from noticing the goings-on. I watched as the three expert riders walked, trotted, and cantered their mounts on the flat, then over a cavaletti, after which they performed diagonals and figure-eights and flying lead changes. Then my Foreman, mounted on his spirited black stallion, demonstrated a piaff, a passage, and a pirouette, followed by a half-pass directly to the gazebo, and a low, courtly bow to me. I applauded and smiled my appreciation of the skill of horse and rider. It was fun to watch. Or it was until I almost fell off my chair.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Dragon, in her guise of an elf maiden, stepping out of the house onto the deck. She was wearing an enormous smile, and she was escorting two people. The man was sporting glasses and a neatly trimmed goatee, and was dressed casually in well-worn blue jeans and a black hoodie. The woman, in a matching outfit, had sandy blond tresses framing an open face. I recognized them as our neighbors, Mace and Gloria, who had moved into a house down the street earlier this year. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2017/02/26/meeting-the-neighbors/

Elf clericneighborneighbor-2I felt my heart leap into my throat as Dragon led the visitors down the steps and right toward me.

Oh, no! Not them! Not now! What is Dragon thinking? What is Mace going to say about the horses being here again? How can I explain this?

I tried to rise to greet the visitors, but my legs felt like rubber. Gloria reached out and grabbed me before I fell flat on my face, and she eased me back into the chair. “Oh, please don’t get up! Mace and I heard from one of our other neighbors that you were recovering from surgery. We just dropped by to see how you were doing.”

“Well, I’m coming along slowly.” I tried to smile, but my eyes were darting all over the yard.

Where are they?

ShedOut of the corner of my eye, I saw my Foreman swing down from the saddle and quietly lead his horse away. He and the others led their mounts back to the shed to unsaddle and groom them. My heart was racing, my palms were sweaty, and I’m sure every bit of color must have drained from my face, but Gloria and Mace didn’t seem to notice anything.

“Gloria brought a lovely casserole! I put it in the refrigerator.” Dragon moved some chairs closer to the table and motioned for Mace and his wife to sit.

“Thank you, Gloria! That is so thoughtful!”

I hope my face doesn’t break from forcing this smile.

“I would have made more if I had known your out-of-town relatives were staying with you again. I hadn’t seen anyone around lately, so I only made enough for you and your husband.”

“Oh, well, that’s okay. I mean, how could you know? They haven’t been outside much. They came to help take care of me, after the surgery.”

Good lord, I must sound like a blithering nincompoop!

But Mace and Gloria didn’t seem to be listening. “Hey, what’s that?”

“What? Where?” I almost gave myself a bad case of whiplash, checking the yard for errant characters.

binoculars and field guide“That bird there.” Mace pointed to something perched atop one of the shepherd’s staff poles holding a bird feeder. Immediately, Gloria grabbed a pair of binoculars from her pocket and strained to see the little bird, as Mace pulled a small field guide from his pocket.

“Oh, Mace and Gloria are birdwatchers! Isn’t that nice?” Dragon smiled broadly. “Mis . . .”

No! Don’t say Mistress Writer!

“Missy and her husband love bird watching. In fact, she’s been taking pictures of the birds here in the yard today.” She gestured toward the camera sitting on the table.

Mace frowned. “Missy? I thought your name was Marge.”

“Oh, that’s just a little pet name we have for her.” Dragon smiled and winked, and I sighed and tried not to collapse with relief.

Gloria lowered her binoculars. “You’re a birdwatcher, too?”

I nodded, and swallowed hard, trying to find my voice.

“Well, maybe you can help us, then. Mace and I are just beginners, and we don’t know all the different birds yet.”

“Ah, ahem . . . er, sure. Well, that little bird is a Black-capped Chickadee.” I gestured toward the small black and white creature who was still eyeing us from atop the pole.Backyard 078

Mace cocked his head and furrowed his brow. “Are you sure? It doesn’t look like a chickadee to me. Aren’t chickadees . . . well . . . smoother, sleeker?” He paged through his book.

“Yes, I’m sure. But you’re right – most are sleeker. This one has an abnormality of the feathers on its belly – it looks like it’s having a bad feather day. Here, I took a picture of this bird earlier this week. I’ll zoom it in and you can get a closer look at it.” I took a few minutes to find the photo, then passed the camera to Mace and Gloria.

“Hmmm…strange looking.” They compared the photo to the one in the book.

I took the camera again, and searched for another photo. “Here. Here’s a normal chickadee.”Backyard 039

They looked at that, then at the book. “Now this one looks just like the one in the book.”

“Field guides are great, but you have to remember that not every bird is a text-book example of its species. If you look at these two photos carefully, you can see they are the same species.”

They painstakingly compared the photos of the two birds, as I pointed out the field marks – the black cap and bib, and the white cheeks, the long, narrow tail and the small, the thick bill – then they nodded.

Gloria saw some movement in a nearby tree, and picked up her binoculars again. “Is that a Baltimore Oriole?”Backyard 008

I looked at the bird Gloria was pointing to and nodded. “And there’s another one.” I pointed to one who had taken over the chickadee’s perch.Backyard 051

“Cool!” Mace took a notebook from his pocket, pushed up his glasses, and started writing. “Lifelist. The chickadee and the oriole are only our tenth and eleventh birds.” He sounded sheepish.

I smiled, and spent the next half hour helping Mace and Gloria add to their brand-new lifelist.

“There’s a male American Goldfinch . . . and there’s the female.”

“There’s a Gray Catbird . . . and there’s a Common Grackle.”

“Oh, look!” Gloria pointed to the tree stump in the back of the yard. “There’s one I know – a Red-winged Blackbird!”

“Yup, that’s an adult male, displaying for the female, who’s over there on the fence.”

“She doesn’t look anything like the male!” Mace looked wide-eyed at the bird, then continued jotting down the names of the birds they were seeing.

Gloria had her binoculars up again. “What is that one? The one on the fence, with al the speckles?”

“That’s a fledgling American Robin, and there is the adult, on the edge of the birdbath.”

“Fledgling?” Mace wrinkled his brow.

“A young bird, already out of the nest, but not yet self-sufficient. The adults still feed and protect the fledglings.”

“It doesn’t look much like the adult!” Mace studied it carefully.

“No, it doesn’t. You’ll find that to be true of a lot of birds. It can make identifying a nestling or a fledgling very difficult. Even some sub-adult birds. Some birds, like Bald Eagles and certain gulls, for example, don’t get their full adult colors for years.”

Gloria and Mace looked impressed by this avian trivia.

Just then, I yelped as my Old Dwarf raced past the gazebo, brandishing an axe, chasing a rabbit. “I be gittin’ ye this time, ye ornery little beastie, ye jest see iffin I do na! Thet be the lastest time ye be getting’ in Mistress Writer’s carrot patch!”

Not now! Not now!

I almost fainted, but our visitors didn’t seem to find anything untoward as my Old Dwarf continued to chase the rabbit all around the yard, hollering and cussing up a storm.

“That’s a pretty lively pair of rabbits.” Mace nodded toward the rabbit and the dwarf.

“We’ve had a problem with rabbits eating the vegetables in our garden.” Gloria flipped her hair out of her face. “We found a few commercial products that work well to keep them away from the plants without harming the animals.” The rabbit raced past the gazebo again, my Old Dwarf in hot pursuit. “I can recommend some, if you’d like.”

I nodded dumbly.

What I’d really like is something to keep my characters out of trouble, thankyouverymuch!

“Oh, hello! I did not know we had guests.”

I give up!

Gloria and Mace were gaping as Cleric walked down the steps and joined us on the gazebo. They looked at Cleric, then Dragon, then Cleric again.

“Oh, you haven’t met my sister, have you?” Dragon was smiling and her eyes were twinkling as she gestured toward Cleric. “She’s quite a bit younger than me, but everyone says we look like twins. Sis, these are Mace and Gloria. They live down the street.”

“How nice to make your acquaintance.” Cleric bobbed a little curtsey.

“Charmed.” Mace spoke in a flat voice and gave Cleric a look as if he were trying to figure out what planet she was from.

“Oh, my! I do believe that rabbit is leading the Old Dwarf a merry chase.” Cleric giggled as the old reprobate ran by, still brandishing his axe and cursing a blue streak.

“Old Dwarf?” Gloria frowned and tilted her head.

“Oh, we give some of the creatures here little nicknames.” Dragon winked.

Is this nightmare over yet?

“Oh, look!” This time it was Mace pointing. “What is that?”

With great trepidation, I followed his gaze, then sighed with relief that it wasn’t another of my characters. “That’s a female Wood Duck. There’s the male, over there.”

My relief was short-lived.

“There you are!” The imperious voice announced the presence of my Arrogant One. I turned around and saw him headed for the gazebo. I felt the color drain from my face.arrogant-one

No, no, no, no, no, no, no! Oh, by all that’s holy, how do I explain this one?

“Mace, Gloria, can I get you something to drink?” Dragon seemed as oblivious to the presence of the annoying elf as were my neighbors.

“Oh, no, thanks. We should really be going. Marge is looking a bit pale. I hope our visit hasn’t been too much for you today.” Gloria was looking at me with concern.

“Oh, not at all. It’s been fun! Thanks again for the casserole. I’ll return the dish as soon as I can.” I smiled weakly.

My Arrogant One pushed past Dragon and Cleric and stood in front of me, glowering, his hands on his hips. “I can not tolerate horses in the shed! The Bounty Hunter and I use the shed loft as our refuge, and the others know it. They put those noisy, filthy, smelly animals in there to spite me! I demand you have them removed this instant!”

Dragon shoved him aside under the pretext of moving some chairs aside.

Mace and Gloria stood up. “Thanks for sharing your expertise today. We added some new birds to our lifelist, and we learned that not every bird will look like the picture in the field guide.” Mace tucked his list and his book back in his pocket.

“We really need to do this again.” Gloria smiled brightly.

“Are you even listening to me?” My Arrogant One’s voice rose in octave so high, I expected to hear all the neighborhood dogs start to howl.

I smiled at Gloria. “I’d really like that.”

Oh, how I lie!

“We’ll see our guests out. You should just stay here and relax.” Dragon gave me a broad grin and a wink as our two neighbors followed her and Cleric. I waved as they disappeared around the corner of the house.

My Arrogant One, his face as red as a beet, continued to screech at me, and my Old Dwarf raced past once more, turning the air blue with his language as the rabbit continued to taunt him. I saw my Bounty Hunter yelling at my Foreman and the lads as they led their horses out of the shed and turned them loose to graze, and I heard Sorceress slam the door as she came out of the house to investigate the commotion.

Relax? I’m going to kill these characters! Or maybe it’s just time to make good my periodic threat to them, and edit them out of my manuscripts and out of my life!

 

I laid my head down and tried to think happy thoughts, thoughts of a time before my characters had fallen out of my manuscripts, thoughts of normalcy.

Backyard 052

 

Be sure to stop by next week and see if any of my characters survive that long. I’ll leave the porch light on for you.

 

The End?

The End?

Hail and well met, old friends and new readers! Once again, I, Dragon, will continue relating our adventure while Mistress Writer continues her recovery.

Elf facing rightSleeping Woman 2I tip-toed into Mistress Writer’s bedchamber. Cleric was sitting next to the bed, a look of concern on her face, while Mistress Writer slumbered. I gestured to Cleric to follow me into the hallway.

“How is the patient today?”

“I am worried, Dragon. I feel Mistress Writer should be up and about by now. Her procedure, which her doctors designated as minor surgery, was days ago.”

I frowned. “She has been up.”

“She has been out of the bedchamber.” Cleric was quick to correct me. “She has not been up. When she leaves the bedchamber, she reclines on the soft bench in the great room.”

blue-dragon-2Couch. Living Room. How long has it been since we fell out of Mistress Writer’s manuscripts? How long have we lived in this world? We should all make a better effort to refer to objects in the vernacular.”

Cleric scowled. “Do not confuse the issue. Whatever you call the furniture or the room, Mistress Writer remains prone most of the day!”

I returned Cleric’s scowl, and added some smoke for good measure. “She sits at the table for meals, and she walks around the house a bit. She has even stepped out onto the deck.”

Sorceress and the Gypsy joined us, and Sorceress addressed me. “Have you told Mistress Writer what we discovered about the conduit?”

“Not yet. I wish to wait until she is feeling well.”

“Maybe I could entertain her with some juggling, or tell her some jokes.” The Gypsy grinned and waggled his eyebrows.

He choked as I blew a cloud of smoke in his face. “Mistress Writer does not need to be entertained. She needs to heal. I strongly suggest we all give her the time she needs to do so.” I emphasized my suggestion with a snarl, making sure every one of my dagger-sharp teeth were visible. The Gypsy, still choking, nodded and waved his hand to indicate his understanding.

Days turn into weeksdoctor

The days stretched into weeks. Mistress Writer and her spouse, Master Miles, were as disheartened as were we, her characters, at her lack of improvement. She was still unable to sit for more than very short periods of time, and she spent most of her days wandering aimlessly around the house and yard. At Master Miles’ urging, she sometimes took her camera onto the deck and captured images of the myriad birds and creatures that visited the yard. But her spirits remained low. They sank even lower when her follow-up examination by her physician, four weeks after surgery, revealed that she was not healing as quickly as the doctor had anticipated.

“Another month of being relegated to the house and the yard! No nature walks! I have missed all of spring migration and now I will miss nesting season.” Mistress Writer, an avid bird watcher, spoke in a monotone. Her shoulders were drooped and she stared at her hands, clasped tightly on her lap.

“Your doctor does not wish you to take walks?” Sorceress raised an eyebrow.

“Only very slow, short walks around the house and yard. My doctor explained that there is still much swelling, and long walks would cause stress and friction in the area of the stitches. That would only delay healing further.” Mistress Writer sighed.

“Well, at least there is abundant wildlife in your back yard. You do not seem to be lacking for willing avian and mammalian subjects for your photography.” I gestured toward the deck, where a chipmunk struck a coy pose near the broom while several birds lined up on the railing.

“And you do seem to be somewhat more comfortable when sitting now.” Cleric plumped a pillow and positioned it on the couch behind Mistress Writer. “You may be frustrated now, but I am sure your next visit with your doctor will yield more encouraging results.”camera

Mistress Writer shrugged her shoulders and reached for her camera. I suppose you are right. I will try harder to make the best of it.”

 

Several more days passed before I found the opportunity to be alone with Mistress Writer. Master Miles was running errands and would be gone for several hours. The Foreman and the lads were working their horses in the front yard. Cleric and Sorceress were downstairs in the conference room drying herbs and preparing sundry powders, oils, and other materials used for healing and for a variety of spell components. The Arrogant One and the Bounty Hunter were still occupying the loft in the garden shed and, at my request, the Old Dwarf had stationed himself near the shed and was keeping those two under close observation.

I found Mistress Writer in the living room, watching and photographing the birds on the deck.

“Mistress?”

“Yes? What is it, Dragon?” She placed her camera on the coffee table and took a seat on the couch.

dragon facing right“We must talk.” I shrank to the size of a Cocker Spaniel and curled up on the couch next to her. “Do you remember, prior to your recent surgery, you had asked me and my fellow spell casters to determine if there was any way for us to enter our own world through the magic conduit which allowed passage of several items from there into your world?”

Mistress Writer nodded. “Have you made a determination?”

 

I inclined my head in assent. “My fellow magic users and I located the conduit. The Gypsy lad held it immobile for me while I examined it. I discovered a barrier within the conduit, through which I was unable to pass. Since each of my companions are proficient in a different form of magic, each of them in turn attempted, as I had, to defeat the barrier and pass through the conduit into our own world. None of them were able to do so. We have therefore concluded that the conduit is a one-way passage from our world into yours. We do not believe there is any danger the Arrogant One and the Bounty Hunter will find a way to use it to enter our world and become supreme rulers through the use of the annoying elf’s illusions.”strange-dreams

A smile slowly spread across Mistress Writer’s face. She took my scaly hand and squeezed it tightly as she sighed in relief. “Thank you, my friend. And I would like to thank Sorceress, Cleric, and my Gypsy, too. You all did a fine job, and I am very grateful”

“We are always glad to be of service.” I hesitated, a small plume of smoke drifting from my nostrils. “Mistress, I have need to discuss something else.”

“Okay. What do you need to discuss?”

I hesitated again. “Mistress, I wish to speak with you regarding one of your theories. I have reason to believe that you have erred.”

Mistress Writer quirked an eyebrow and tilted her head. “Oh? What theory is that?”

Book manuscript“You have postulated that we nine characters who have fallen from your manuscripts into this world exist simultaneously in two worlds. You claim we continue to exist in what you refer to as our world, the world about which you have written, and we exist in this world, the world you call the real world.”

books“That is correct. I have long thought this to be true; and as I confided in you after reading the books that passed through the conduit from your world to this one, I now have confirmation of my theory. The books chronicle adventures that have occurred in your world after those events about which I have written in my manuscripts. These more recent events involve most of you nine characters now residing here.”

I nodded.

“So, in what way have I erred?”

I took a deep breath. “Mistress, the nine of us did not come from that which we call our world. We never existed there.”

Mistress Writer gaped at me, as if she could not understand my words. “What do you mean, you never existed there? Did I not chronicle your adventures in that world?”

I licked my lips and swallowed hard. “We – the nine characters who fell out of your manuscripts and into this world – did not come from the world we refer to as our world, the world about which you wrote. We came from your manuscripts. We do not exist simultaneously in both worlds – the world we refer to as our world and this world that you call the real world – because we are not the same beings that exist in the world we refer to as our world. We are merely shadows, or memories, of those beings.”

Mistress Writer furrowed her brow. “And how did you come up with this notion?”

“As with you and your theory, Mistress, I have long held this notion. I just needed proof.”

Her eyes narrowed. “And how did you prove it?”

office-and-bookshelf-for-blog-002I forced myself to meet her scrutiny. “I invaded your office.”

She raised an eyebrow and crossed her arms over her chest. “My office? Why?” Her voice was steely, her expression grim.

At the sound of disapproval in her voice, I tucked my tail and hung my head. “Mistress, I had need of your manuscripts. The ones from which my fellow characters and I fell into this world.”

“And you could not have just asked to see them?”

“You were occupied with your surgery and then your recovery. I had no desire to trouble you.”

It was a long few moments before Mistress Writer spoke again. When she did, her voice was soft and gentle. “I appreciate your consideration. Of course, you are always welcome in my office, my cherished friend, and you are free to examine anything there.”

I had not realized until that moment I had been holding my breath. I let it out in a rush of relief. “Thank you, Mistress.”

“Now, tell me, how did my manuscripts prove your theory and disprove mine?”

“I am not sure I can explain it. I examined the manuscripts through both physical and magical means. With my unique and exceptional dragon powers, I determined there is much magic in those texts, in your words.”

Magic?” Mistress Writer scoffed.

I met her skeptical stare. “Magic.”

Her expression changed to one of alarm. “Are you saying someone enchanted my manuscripts?”

“No, Mistress, it is not an enchantment. It is a completely different type of magic. It is magic that you created, with your words.”

for-todays-blog-013morcantMistress Writer blanched, and her hand flew to her mouth. “No!” She stared at me for a few moments, then said in a quieter voice, “No! It cannot be. Morcant, the evil wizard I once wrote about in a story, accused me of being a witch. He avowed I did not chronicle the events of his trial and subsequent exile; he maintained that I caused the events through my writing.” She paused, searching my face for reassurance. “Did I? Did I cause those horrible events? Did I cause the events in your world?” Her eyes were wide with an apparent mix of fear and distress.

I smiled. “No, Mistress, you did not. You are no witch, Mistress, and the magic of your words did not cause events to unfold. They merely gave birth to us characters, not in the world of which you wrote, but within the pages of your manuscripts.”

“If my words gave birth to you, why did only you nine fall from the pages into this world?”

“Methinks mayhap we are your favorites.”Favorite

Mistress Writer snorted and shook her head. “Some of you, yes; but my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter? Favorites? Hardly!”

“Then I know not why only we nine fell from your manuscript pages, Mistress. I only know I am very glad I was one who did.”

Mistress Writer looked at me warmly. “Me, too, Dragon. Me, too.”

Be sure to come back and visit from time to time, cherished readers. Mistress Writer should be back to peak health soon, and who knows what mystery or adventure looms on the horizon? We will leave the porch light on for you.

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What Do We Find?

What Do We Find?

Elf clericHail and well met, old friends and new readers! As promised, I, Dragon – in my familiar guise of an elf maiden, whose nimble fingers are more suited to the computer keyboard than are my dragon claws – will continue relating our adventure while Mistress Writer continues her malingering . . . er, I mean her convalescing.

Dawn was yet an hour away when I awoke. I heard Mistress Writer and Master Miles leave for the hospital, where Mistress Writer would be having a minor surgical procedure. I knew they would not return until late in the day.

blue-dragon-2

I yawned widely and made my way to the kitchen, where I found the Foreman and the Young Hero. “You two have arisen early this morn.”

 

The Young Hero responded with a huge grin. “We are going to work our horses this morning. The Foreman is going to teach me more cavalry exercises.”

I smiled at his enthusiasm. “That is good news. I was hoping you could find some outdoor activities to occupy your day. Whilst you enjoy a day of dressage and flatwork, perhaps you would be so kind as to watch for the Arrogant One and the Bounty Hunter? My companions and I will be spell-casting today, and would not care to be disturbed.”

The Foreman nodded. “We will be vigilant.”

As they took their leave, the Old Dwarf entered the kitchen to break his fast. “Ah, Dwarf! I am glad you are here. Your services are needed.”dwarf-facing-right

He pushed past me without responding and reached into the cold box. He retrieved an entire ham and a wheel of cheese, then moved to the pantry.

A plume of smoke rose from my nostrils as I watched the dwarf rummage through the pantry. He finally responded, as if it had taken all that time for my words to penetrate his thick skull. “Aye? Ye be needin’ a guard on the conference room door agin, whilst ye and yer three companions be doin’ yer magikin’?”

“No, not this time. This time I need you to find the Arrogant One and keep that annoying elf from casting any magic spells within this house.”

The dwarf continued to rummage, finally extracting a loaf of bread and several containers of condiments. He seemed oblivious to what I had just said.

My smoke grew darker and thicker, and I templed my clawed hands. “Dwarf?”

“I heerd ye, ye consarned beastie! Ye knowed ye be interruptin’ me breakfast?” He grabbed another container. “Ye be needin’ the elfie ta not be makin’ his illusions, aye? Jest in the hoose? Or anywhere?”

“Just within the house.”

“Fer how long?” He gathered the food and stuffed it in his pouch, then rummaged through the cold box for something to drink.

“I am uncertain. It may be just this day, or it may be for several weeks.”

He looked at me, his green eyes wide. “Weeks?

I nodded.

He blinked, looking dazed. Then he grabbed a beef roast from the cold box, and another loaf of bread from the cupboard, and added them to his pouch.

“Ye be gittin’ word ta me when it be okay ta let the little popinjay come back in the hoose?”

“I will.”

“The elfie an’ his cohort, the Bounty Hunter, be spendin’ most o their time in the garden shed, in the loft. Thet be where ye be findin’ us.” He grabbed another beverage and tramped off without a backward glance.

I went immediately to the conference room and greeted my companions in magic, who were already assembled there. “We will not be disturbed. The Old Dwarf understands his mission, and has taken with him enough food and drink to last a normal individual three full cycles of the moon.”

gypsy-facing-right“Then we’d best hurry. That will only last the dwarf a few days!” The Gypsy grinned and waggled his eyebrows, something he did frequently to indicate he was attempting to be humorous.

From my stern countenance and the smoke billowing from my nostrils, I presume the Gypsy realized I was not amused. His cheeks flamed, he ducked his head, and he shuffled his one foot back and forth. When he spoke, it was in a mumble. “Right. Well, let’s get started.”

Stu-04-NatGal“The lad has done an adequate job.” Coming from the Sorceress, this was praise of the highest order. “We should have no trouble linking our power and sustaining the spell for as long as needed.”

The Gypsy positioned himself in the conference room, where he had access to all the components he would need. Cleric took her position in front of Mistress Writer’s office. Sorceress and I took the upper level of the house. Sorceress stood near the bedchambers and I settled my bulk between the kitchen and the living room. From there, I had an unobstructed view of the front door and the doors to the deck.

I am not at liberty to share with you the precise incantation, nor the specific components utilized for the spell. Suffice it to say, at a signal from the Gypsy – a single word shouted loudly enough for the three of us to hear – Cleric, Sorceress and I linked our power with that of the Gypsy and quickly fell into the magic. It worked like the proverbial charm.

Less than a half hour after we linked our powers with that of the Gypsy and we cast the detection spell, the conduit appeared. It glimmered into view very near my elbow, and I called to the others to let them know.strange-dreams

Before my fellow spell-casters could make their way to my side, the conduit disappeared again. Sorceress, who had only to come down the hall from the bed chambers, caught a glimpse of it winking out of sight. Cleric and the Gypsy missed it altogether.

For the next two hours, we played cat and mouse with the conduit. Every time we recast the detection spell, the conduit would appear within moments, always in a different spot . . . and it would disappear just as quickly. Finally, it appeared in the conference room near the Gypsy, who was able to cast an immobilization spell on it.

The four of us gathered around the opening of the conduit. “Your immobilization spell does not seem to have damaged the conduit in any discernable way.” I nodded my approval to the Gypsy, and started my examination of the magical passageway. At the opening of the conduit, I sprinkled some components I had previously prepared for this purpose, and recited an incantation.

“Well?” Sorceress pressed closer.

“It is the very same conduit through which the items from our world were sent here.”

Elf facing right“Well, we hardly expected to find another conduit, now did we?” Cleric spoke a bit sharper than was her wont.

I raised an eyebrow and smoke began to emerge from my nostrils. “No, we had no such expectations; however, to take such a thing for granted is to court disaster.”

“Of course, of course. I just grow weary and impatient.” Cleric raked her hand through her hair in a gesture of frustration.

“We all grow weary and impatient.” Sorceress patted her friend on the shoulder, then turned to me. “Now that you have confirmed the identity of the conduit as the one that links our world with this one, how are we to determine if we are able to use it to enter our world?”

The Gypsy spoke up. “Dragon and I have discussed this. We had considered attempting to send a note through the conduit, back to the person in our world who sent the items to Mistress Writer, and ask him to respond in kind.”

Cleric furrowed her brow. “How long would we have to wait to know if that person received the note?”

“Too long. And there would be no way to guarantee the note would be received by that specific person. We do not want to alert anyone else who may not know of the existence of the conduit.” The Gypsy shook his head. “As I said, we had considered that course of action; however, we soon discarded the idea.”

“Then what?” Sorceress frowned.

I took a step toward the conduit. “The only way to know if we can use the conduit to enter our world is for one of us to attempt it.”

“You?” Sorceress quirked an eyebrow and folded her arms across her chest.

Spring Peeper Meadow and MN Landscape Arboretum 044“Yes. I am the one best suited. I can employ my shapeshifting powers and take on the guise of a small creature. I had thought a dragonfly might remain unnoticed by anyone at the other end of the conduit. However, the Gypsy reminded me the last time I had changed into a dragonfly, I had found myself unable to hear. I could be in great peril if I arrived in our world without the use of my ears.”

Cleric’s eyes widened, and her hand flew to her mouth. “Oh, dear!”

mothThe Gypsy stepped forward, grinning broadly. “Do not fear! Dragon and I have used Mistress Writer’s magic box to research the insects in this world. The one with the best hearing is something called a greater wax moth. Dragon has familiarized herself with this creature, and will shapeshift into that form to enter the conduit.”

Sorceress frowned. “Is such a creature fast enough and maneuverable enough should you encounter any dangers?”

“Its speed and maneuverability does not rival the dragonfly, but I will be on my guard and will immediately change back to my true form if danger presents itself. Now, you must maintain the immobilization spell while I enter the conduit.”

My three companions nodded somberly and wished me well.

I mumbled a few words and started to shrink and transform into a greater wax moth. Seconds later, I entered the conduit. Halfway through the passageway, I was stopped by some sort of invisible barrier. I flew back out.

I quickly transformed back to my natural state and explained what I had encountered.

Cleric’s eyes widened. “What will you do now?”

“I will attempt to overcome the barrier with my own magic. For that, I will remain in my true form.”

“Is that wise?” Sorceress looked doubtful. “Might you not destroy the conduit?”

“I do not believe I will damage it in any way. At any rate, I believe it worth the risk.” Before anyone could argue, I shrank just enough to squeeze my bulk into the conduit. I had taken barely a dozen steps along the passageway when I was again stopped by the invisible barrier. A lengthy examination and several incantations proved it to be impenetrable.”

When I finally emerged, my companions clamored for an answer. “Did you get through?”

“No. I was unable to defeat the barrier. However, since each of us is proficient in a different type of magic, methinks each of you should give it a try before we admit defeat.”

My three companions nodded their agreement. One by one, each entered the conduit. Each emerged unsuccessful. None of us were able to penetrate the barrier.

strange-dreamsAs the Gypsy released the immobilization spell and the conduit winked out of sight once more, I addressed my three companions. “I believe we can safely and accurately report to Mistress Writer that she need fear no more. There appears to be no way any of our number can use the conduit to enter our world. It appears to be a one-way passage. I will wait until Mistress Writer has recovered from her surgery before presenting her our report.”

office-and-bookshelf-for-blog-002Later that evening, as everyone else slumbered, I stole into Mistress Writer’s office. It took me considerable time to find what I sought in that mess, but I finally discovered the manuscripts from which I and my companions had fallen into this world.

Book manuscriptI took them to the conference room and worked through the night, thoroughly examining them both physically and magically. As dawn broke, I wearily returned the manuscripts to Mistress Writer’s office.

I had much to share with her upon her recovery!

Be sure to return next week and see if Mistress Writer has recovered enough to receive my report. I shall leave the porch light on for you.

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We Look For the Conduit

We Look For the Conduit

Elf clericHail and well met, old friends and new readers! Mistress Writer is still convalescing, so I, Dragon, have once again shapeshifted to my familiar guise of an elf maiden, whose nimble fingers are more suited to the computer keyboard than are my dragon claws. This week, I will attempt to recount for you the mission I and three of my companions undertook at Mistress Writer’s behest.

For any among you who are new to our adventures, let me explain. We are a group of characters, nine in number, who have fallen out of Mistress Writer’s manuscripts. We each have memories of our old lives, lived in a world Mistress Writer has termed medieval, a world of magic and fantastic creatures. It was a world much different from this world in which we now find ourselves, a world Mistress Writer calls the real world.

While all nine of us miss our own world and our former lives, two of our number are obsessed with finding a way to return there – the Arrogant One, an annoying elf skilled in the duplicitous magic of illusion, and the Bounty Hunter, a figure skilled in silent stalking, strategic deliberation, and malicious instigation.

Those two have caused much trouble for Mistress Writer and her spouse, Master Miles, as well as for the rest of us, in their quest to return to our world and – perhaps – to introduce there the illusion of weapons and technology from this world, affording the two of them world domination.

Mistress Writer has a theory that we characters can not return to our world. She believes us to already be there, existing simultaneously in both worlds. She says the we who exist there are continuing with our lives, unaware of the we who now live here. The recent discovery of certain items, including a set of books, that were sent through a magic portal from our world to Mistress Writer seems to support her theory. Mistress Writer revealed to me the books chronicle events in our lives that have occurred since we have come into existence here, although she will not share any details.

If we accept the premise we are unable to return to our world, having never actually departed from it, our world would appear safe from the diabolical plans of domination by the Arrogant One and the Bounty Hunter. However, Mistress Writer fears that the we who exist here in her real world may be able to enter our own world by means of the same magic conduit through which the books and other items entered this world.

I, along with three of my trusted companions, seek to discover if this would indeed be possible.

Elf facing right

 

First, there is Cleric, an elven priestess and healer who is gentle as a lamb and fierce as a mother bear, and who possesses powers she can neither understand nor explain.

Stu-04-NatGal

 

Second is Sorceress, a regally aloof member of a reclusive race, honored among her people as one of their greatest magic users.

 

gypsy-facing-rightThird is the Gypsy, a talented but undisciplined lad who has an intuitive understanding of magic, having learned at the knee of his witch/grandmother; but who would prefer to engage in horseplay or practice his lock-picking skills rather than study his magical craft.

blue-dragon-facing-left

 

Then there is me, Dragon, a most wise, clever, whimsical, and infinitely powerful member of the most magical race in our world.

 

In spite of our combined powers, and weeks of toil, the location of the magic conduit continues to elude us.

strange-dreams

“We have used every incantation, every power, every potion, and every artifact at our disposal.” Sorceress mopped the sweat from her brow and sighed heavily. “Still, the conduit remains hidden.”

Cleric raked her hand through her hair in the same gesture of frustration Mistress Writer so often uses. “We have examined the locations where Mistress Writer indicated each of the first four objects from our world was found. We have also examined the site where you, Dragon, found the last of the objects, the set of books. We have found only the trace magic from the conduit at each site. The conduit itself appears to have vanished.”

The Gypsy furrowed his brow and stroked his chin. “We know from having previously examined the books and the other four items that they all came through the same conduit, in spite of having been found in various spots within this house. If the conduit moves around, maybe it has not vanished. Maybe it has merely moved again. Maybe it is preparing for another item to pass from our world to this one. Perhaps it has even transported other items that we have not yet found.”

I snorted. “So, what do you suggest? That we go through this entire house, inch by inch, hoping that while we are examining one spot, we are not missing a moving target that is jumping between other spots?”

magic energy traceThe Gypsy raised an eyebrow at me, and chuckled. “No, I suggest a directional detection spell, one which will alert us to any change in magical energy within a specific radius, and pinpoint the location of that change. We would each take a section of the house, two of us upstairs and two down. We would cast our spells simultaneously, and then wait for the conduit to announce its arrival . . . or its departure, if it is already here somewhere.”

I nodded. “This sounds like a workable concept.” I narrowed my reptilian eyes and considered the Gypsy’s proposal, seeking any inherent weakness in his plan. “We would have to link our spells, to be cast as one, so the magic energy of one of our spells would not be detected as the change in magic energy we seek.”

Sorceress looked impressed. “This may work!”

Cleric nodded hesitantly. “It might . . . but only if the Arrogant One does not cast any spells in the time we are waiting. His use of magic anywhere within our target area would cause our spell to react.”

dwarfI templed my clawed hands, and pondered the problem. “I can have the Old Dwarf guard the annoying elf, to prevent him from using any magic during the time our spell is in effect. That way, the emergence or departure of the conduit would be the only magic that our combined spell would detect.”

Sorceress frowned and folded her arms over her chest. “If we do manage to locate the conduit, how do we proceed? Finding the conduit is only the first step. Our mission is to determine if it is possible for us to use it to enter our world. Once we locate it, we must prevent it from moving again until we have the time to complete our mission.”

I sighed. “That could prove a more difficult undertaking. Until we find the conduit, we can not examine it and determine the means by which we might immobilize it without damaging it. We may have to locate it numerous times before being able to complete our mission.”

The Gypsy nodded. He rubbed his hands together and grinned eagerly. “I think I can devise a directional detection spell that will use very little of our energy. If we use a complicated spell, we may exhaust ourselves too quickly. We have no way of knowing if we need to hold the spell intact for mere moments or for days before we find the conduit, or how many times we may have to recast it before we can complete an examination of the conduit.”

Cleric wrung her hands and chewed her lower lip for several moments. “But . . . but what if the conduit does not reemerge? We have no way of knowing if whoever sent these items from our world has more items to send. If not, the conduit may not be re-opened again.”

I frowned. “If the conduit does not reemerge by the next full moon, we shall have to consider alternative means of locating it.”

Sorceress tried unsuccessfully to stifle a yawn. “Forsooth, I am weary! Sunset is already a memory this day. Mayhap we should take our rest and convene here again upon the morrow?”

I nodded and turned to the Gypsy. “Will you be able to devise a spell for us by midmorning?”

He smirked. “In the vernacular of this world, piece of cake!”

The rest of us looked at him blankly.

He sighed and shook his head at us. “Yes. I will easily have it all prepared by that time.”

I nodded. “Then, until the morrow, rest well, my friends. I will instruct the Old Dwarf in his duties to prevent the annoying elf from interfering in our task, and I will meet you here again at midmorning.”

Be sure to return next week, cherished readers. While Mistress Writer continues to convalesce, I will share with you the results we achieved when we implemented the Gypsy’s spell. Until then, I will be sure the porch light is left on for you.

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What DID James Say?

What DID James Say?

Elf clericHail and well met, old friends and new readers. I fear Mistress Writer is still unable to sit and undertake the chronicling of events. Oh, do not be unduly concerned for her – she is recovering, albeit slowly. The way Master Miles dotes on her is almost dragon-like in its virtue. Under his tender care, and with the hovering presence of our own renowned elven healer, Cleric (along with the ministrations of Mistress Writer’s human doctors), she should soon be able to return to her duties.

Meanwhile, however, the events that transpired previous to Mistress Writer’s malady are of too great an import to leave you waiting and wondering for even one more week. Therefore, I, Dragon, have shapeshifted into my familiar guise of an elf maiden (whose fingers are nimbler on the computer keyboard than are my dragon claws), and I shall attempt to transcribe here all I remember of that day.

Downstairs in the conference room, Mistress Writer was just about to tell Master Miles what James (the human companion of my dear friend, Ollie) had said about the pages of the book she had sent him by some means she calls e-mail. Their conversation was interrupted, however, by a loud crash upstairs, followed by angry voices.

When Mistress Writer and Master Miles came charging up the stairs and into the living room, they found me separating two seemingly identical dwarves who were attempting to annihilate each other with axe and shield. I grasped each by the scruff of the neck and held them fast.

“What’s going on now?” Mistress Writer stood there, hands on her hips, scowling at me and my captives. She appeared very cross, even for her.

“Git this great beastie offen me!” One of the dwarves struggled valiantly to free himself from my iron grasp.

“Aye! Call offen yer scaly pet!” The other dwarf struggled, but not as fiercely.

Mistress Writer raised an eyebrow and gave me that aggravating look of hers that demanded an immediate explanation of the situation.

arrogant-one-facing-right

 

“That annoying elf.” I knew no further explanation was needed. Mistress Writer’s Arrogant One had obviously ignored her warning not to engage his power of illusion to create the image of any of her other characters.

 

“Which is which?” As clever as she is, Mistress Writer was unable to determine which of the dwarves struggling in my grasp was real and which was illusion. I, on the other hand, being a dragon and possessing immense magical power of my own, could easily tell them apart. I released the real dwarf and opened my great maw as if to swallow the other. The fake dwarf immediately disappeared in a shower of sparks.

The real dwarf stood sputtering like the proverbial wet hen, his language initially not fit to repeat here in polite company. He finally loosed his frustrations by taking a rather ineffectual swipe at me with his axe. “Ye great blitherin’ beastie! Ye incompetent hornie-toad! Ye be darin’ ta claim yerself capable o sensin’ magic? Ye shoulda knowed all along I be the real dwarf, ye colossal nincompoop!”

“I did.” I blew a large cloud of smoke in his face and then turned from him to face Mistress Writer. She shook her head and did her best to look annoyed with me, but I know she understands the relationship shared by her Old Dwarf and me. Had I not tormented him, he would have been offended.

“For what reason did my Arrogant One create the illusion of my Old Dwarf?” For one so clever, sometimes Mistress Writer can not fathom the simplest of situations.

“Causin the ridiculous little popinjay be knowin’ he can na best me in a fair fight, so he be creatin’ sommat what can – another me!” Her poor Old Dwarf could hardly choke out the words, coughing and sneezing away the last of the smoke I had blown at him.

“And he wanted to bash your skull for what purpose, exactly?” Really, perhaps I have overestimated Mistress Writer’s cleverness.

Her Old Dwarf just gaped at her, unable to respond.

“Their longstanding feud? The fact that your Arrogant One is a born troublemaker? Because your Bounty Hunter instigated him again?” I tried to offer the suggestions in such a way as to preserve Mistress Writer’s dignity.

“Right.” Mistress Writer raked her hand through her hair in that annoying gesture of frustration she employs so often. Yes, I have definitely overestimated her cleverness.

“Well, no harm done, I guess, so we can deal with the little twerp later.”

I raised an eyebrow at her, but nodded. “Of course.”

“Well, if the situation here is under control, I’m still waiting to hear what James had to say!” Master Miles voice was strained and practically dripping with typical human impatience.

Mistress Writer nodded. “Indeed. Well, James said . . . ” She paused and looked around, as if waiting for something to once again interrupt her pronouncement. When nothing occurred, she sighed with relief and continued, her words tumbling out with great speed. “James said he was unable to read a single word of the pages I e-mailed him. What’s more, he took the liberty of showing the pages to a trusted friend, a linguist who speaks, reads and writes countless languages and dialects including several ancient tongues. That person could not decipher a single word, either.”

She paused again, this time to catch her breath. “So, the books must have been enchanted so I alone could read them.”books

Master Miles gave his wife a blank stare. “Uh, honey? You aren’t the only one who can read them. I can, too, remember? If they were enchanted so only you could read them, how is it I am able to read them, too?”

Mistress Writer returned his blank stare, then shrugged. Good readers, did I really ever describe Mistress Writer as clever?

I cleared my throat, but before I could speak, her Old Dwarf chuckled. “Eh, lass, can ye really not be figurin’ thet out?”

Mistress Writer shook her head.

“Wale, I mighten not be understandin’ o most magics, but I be thinkin’ it be acause o the greatest magic o all – the great bond atween ye two. Ye not only be husband and wife in name and in fact, but ye two share the bond o deep and abidin’ love o two soul-mates. Ta me way o thinkin’ thet be a lot stronger then any other magics!” Her Old Dwarf winked broadly at the pair, who both blushed prettily and nodded their understanding, while I tried not to wretch at such naked sentimentality.

Quickly, before they could get all lovey-dovey, I cleared my throat again. “Yes, well now that that little mystery has been settled, I will be off. My companions and I believe we are close to a breakthrough on the other matter you wished us to explore. We hope we will soon have an answer for you.”

Good readers, I hope you will return again next week. If at that time Mistress Writer is still unable to assume her duties, I will once again relate to you all that I know. And, of course, we will leave the porch light on for you.

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Hold That Thought (just a little while longer)

Hold That Thought (just a little while longer)

books

Miles and I were finally settled in my office with the books. Before we continued reading the first one, the one featuring the image of the Innkeeper’s talisman on the first page, Miles placed his hand on my arm. “Honey, with all the drama in the conference room, you never did have the chance to tell me. What did James have to say about the e-mail you sent him? Could he read any of the pages of the book?”

“Ah, yes, the phone call.” I leaned back in my chair. “Well, James said –– ”

The conversation was interrupted by a commotion at the front door. Someone rang the doorbell several times in quick succession, then rapped loudly on the door and hollered something unintelligible.

Miles sighed. “Hold that thought.”

Easter 128That was three hours ago. Miles had gone to answer the door, and he had called down to me, “Honey, it’s the home delivery service with that big order of frozen food.” I had quickly placed the books back in the magic container Dragon had created for them, then headed upstairs to help Miles.

“Do we really need this much food?” Miles was staring at the huge chest freezer, which we had packed tighter than a circus clown car.

“You’ve seen my Old Dwarf eat. Do you really need to ask? Besides, it was on sale. I got it all for 65 percent off retail.”

Miles frowned and scratched his head. “Well, this food better last a good long while. I think we should put a lock on the freezer.”

dwarf“Eh, laddie, ye be hurtin’ me feelin’s.” My Old Dwarf entered the room, and his eyes lit up when he saw all the food. Miles quickly slammed the door of the freezer, and stood in front of the appliance as if to guard its contents. My Old Dwarf chuckled, then turned to me. “Lassie, methought ye be wantin’ ta knowed thet I seed yer Bounty Hunter in the conference room. The fancy box thet the scaly beast made fer ye ta keep the books safe was still shut tight, but I seed thet yer Bounty Hunter be having a right great interest in it.”

I blanched. “The books. How does he know where they are?”

My Old Dwarf shrugged. I grabbed him and Miles and we went to the conference room. My Bounty Hunter was gone. I was about to open the chest to check on the books when Miles pushed past me and sat on the trunk. I frowned. “Do you mind moving, honey? I need to check the books.”

box for books

Miles raised an eyebrow and jutted his chin toward my Old Dwarf. He lowered his voice so I had to lean in to catch his words. “Are we sure that’s really your Dwarf?”

I thought back to lunch earlier that same day, when my Old Dwarf and my Gypsy had dined with us and some of my other characters. Later, we had discovered that the two of them had been mere illusions, and none of us who shared the meal with them had realized they were fakes. I frowned and raked my hand through my hair.

“Old friend, could you go fetch Dragon for me? I need her here when I open the box.”

My Old Dwarf grunted and shrugged, then left the room.

“If he comes back with Dragon, we know he’s real. If not, he’s probably an illusion, although I would be surprised if my Arrogant One continued creating illusions of the other characters after I warned him off.”

Miles sighed.

“What’s wrong?”

“Conversations like this still make my head spin. If he comes back with Dragon, we know he’s real. You are talking about a character from a series of books you wrote. How can he be real?”

I chuckled. “Yeah, sometimes I have a hard time understanding it all.”

Miles stood up and gestured toward the chest. “While we’re waiting to see if he was real or illusion, why don’t we check on the books?”

“Good idea.” I opened the chest. “Looks like all four books are here. I would have been surprised if my Bounty Hunter had been able get to them. Dragon told me only she and I would be able to open the chest. Still, it’s best to check.”

“Indeed.” Dragon entered the room with my Old Dwarf in tow. The large beast narrowed her reptilian eyes, and tiny puffs of black smoke erupted from her nostrils. She started to reach for the books, when I let the lid drop.

“Oh, sorry! I lost my grip on the lid. I hope you didn’t get hurt!”

Dragon growled, and the black smoke grew thicker. “Careful, you clumsy creature!”

I raised an eyebrow. “I am a bit klutzy today. Perhaps you should open the chest yourself.”

Dragon glared at me. “I see no reason to open it again. You have already ascertained that the contents are undisturbed.”

“I have. Now I would like to ascertain that the two characters standing here are Dragon and my Old Dwarf, not two illusions. Open the chest, please.”

The ersatz dragon and dwarf dissipated in a shower of sparks.

strange-dreams

Miles gaped at me. “How did you know?”

I shook my head. “I didn’t. Not until I dropped the lid and it almost nailed Dragon’s hand. But I couldn’t take the chance.”

“What are you going to do now about your Arrogant One and your Bounty Hunter?”

“I’m not sure. I’m just so tired of their antics. I’ll figure out how to deal with them later. Let’s just lock the door now, and continue reading the books.”

Miles nodded, but then tilted his head and rubbed his chin. “Hey, wait a minute. You still haven’t told me what James said. Could he read the pages from the book or not?”

“Well, when he called me at lunchtime today, he said –– ”

There was a deafening crash upstairs, followed by angry voices. Miles and I exchanged worried looks, then said to each other, “Hold that thought.” We ran out of the conference room and up the stairs to see what had happened.
Elf clericHello, new readers and old friends! This is Dragon. I have shapeshifted into my familiar guise of an elven maiden, whose fingers are better suited to the computer keyboard than are my normal claws. Mistress Writer asked me to offer her apologies for this week’s blog (which I actually wrote in her absence). She recently underwent a minor surgical procedure, which has greatly limited her ability to sit and write. She sincerely hopes she will be able to return next week with more of this adventure for you. Until then, as per her request, I shall leave the porch light on for you.

 

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