How to Weather the Weather

How to Weather the Weather

dwarf“Eh, I would na be botherin’ the big beastie, iffin I be ye, lass.” My Old Dwarf took a big bite out of an apple, and nodded toward the conference room door. “She be in a frightful mood!”

musical notes“Well, thanks for the warning, but I really wasn’t planning on bothering Dragon, or anyone else for that matter. I just need to get some notes I left in there.” I paused, listening. “But her mood can’t be all that bad. It sounds like she’s listening to music.”

The old reprobate took another bite of his apple before responding. “Oh, aye, she be listenin’ ta yer magic-box, tha one ye be callin’ a radidio. But she do na be enjoyin’ the tunes it be playin’ this day.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Oh? Why not?”

“Ye peoples be havin’ entirely too many sing-songs aboot the weather!”

I chuckled, then opened the door to the conference room. I was almost driven back by the surge of heat that met me. The room felt like the inside of a Dwarven forge, as my rotund, apple-munching friend would put it.

I looked across the room and saw Dragon lying rather morosely in front of her illusory fireplace. The radio was on, playing mostly holiday tunes. I crossed the room and pulled up a chair.

 

Dragon greeted me. “Go away.”

“And a good day to you, too!” I tried to hide my smirk.

Dark smoke began to rise from Dragon’s snout.

I raised an eyebrow at the big beast. “Is something bothering you?”

“Cold.”

Both of my eyebrows shot up at that statement. “How can you possibly be cold? The temperature in this room must be close to 90 degrees Fahrenheit!”

“I like it warm.” She looked at me scornfully. “I am a desert dweller.”

“I remember. The first time you met my Young Hero, my Gypsy, and Cleric, it was in your desert.”

Dragon nodded, and smiled at the memory. “I think the Gypsy was a bit frightened of me.”

I laughed. “That’s an understatement! I think Cleric and my Young Hero were a bit frightened of you. My Gypsy was terrified!”

Dragon giggled. “Yes, he was.”

“And you enjoyed keeping him terrified. How many times did you threaten to put him on your dinner menu?”

“About the same number of times I have threatened to char Master Miles’ shoes with his feet still in them.” Dragon grinned impishly.

“You are incorrigible.” I laughed again.

“No, I am cold.” Dragon started pouting again, a small plume of dark smoke drifting from her nostrils.

I furrowed my brow. “It used to get cold in your desert.”

sun“Only at night. With the rising of the sun each day, the warmth returned. Here, in this land of yours, the cold lasts for many cycles of your moon! It settles in my bones and makes me feel as if I will never be warm again!” The big beast sighed. “Yesterday was almost endurable! Then, without warning, the temperature turned as frigid as your cold box, where you store food.”

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I nodded. “Yesterday was nice. Here in the Twin Cities area, it reached 57 degrees Fahrenheit, breaking a record that stood for 76 years for the warmest temperature on that date. Much nicer than the 25 degrees and snow we have now. But the drop in temperature was hardly without warning. The weather forecasters had been predicting it all week.”

“I no longer listen to your climate diviners.” Dragon sniffed disdainfully. “I have never seen such inept magic users.”

I chuckled. “They are not diviners, and they are not magic users. They are scientists.”

Dragon looked at me scornfully. “Magic user, scientist . . . what is that expression you have in this world? Po-tay-toe, po-tah-toe, to-may-toe, to-mah-toe?”

“Well, that is an argument for another day. I have work to do. Enjoy the music.”

Before I could grab the notes I had come for and leave, Dragon sat up and asked me, “Why are there so many songs in this world that celebrate the weather? Especially bad weather?”

I put the notes back on the table and took my seat again. “What do you mean?”

“In the years I have lived in your world, and been subjected to your music, I have heard countless songs about stormy weather, rain, snow, hurricanes, wind, lightning, dust storms, tornadoes . . . almost every form of undesirable weather. I have heard precious few songs celebrating sunshine and heat.”

I giggled. “I daresay there are as many songs about good weather as there are about bad.”

“Not in my experience.” Dragon snorted.

“I know you had music in your world. What did you sing about?”

“Human bards sang songs about heroes and epic battles and fantastic events. Dwarves sang drinking songs. Elves sang to their deities. My species shared lifesongs.”

music

She sighed. “No one sang about the weather. Here, every other song seems to be about the weather! It is so annoying! Just listen – this is at least the tenth time in just two days I have heard this horrible song about frightful weather and snow!”

I smiled as Dean Martin’s voice drifted from the radio, inviting the snow to continue while he enjoyed someone’s company in front of the fire. “Well, it certainly fits today’s weather, doesn’t it?”

“Do not rub it in. I hate this weather. What good is snow? It is cold, it is wet, it is uncomfortable, and it does not even taste good!” Dragon shivered and placed another illusory log into her fireplace. “I believe this year I will simply hibernate through this glacial season.”

“And miss the holidays? Last year, you really enjoyed baking cookies with Cleric and me, and trimming the tree, and listening to the holiday music.”

Holiday fun

Dragon frowned. “Well, yes, I did. But it did not change the fact that it was cold. And if I participate in your holiday celebrations again this year, it will not change the fact that it is still cold.”

“I am afraid, my friend, that is a fact that can’t be changed. It’s winter, we live in Minnesota, and it’s cold.”

Dragon grinned that impish grin of hers again. “I wager I could change it.”

“Don’t even think about it!” I looked at her sternly.

“You are a killjoy!” Dragon frowned and tried another tack. “There is nothing to do in this weather!”

I snorted. “There is plenty to do! The lads have been enjoying having snowball fights and building snowmen, and learning from my Old Dwarf and my Foreman how to track animals in the snow. Cleric and Sorceress have also joined them for snow-shoeing and sledding and ice skating on the pond.”

Winter fun

Dragon scowled. “I notice that you do not participate in any of these activities.”

I sighed. “No, I do not. I hate the cold as much as you do.”

Dragon gave me a superior look. “Just think, then, how pleasant it would be if I changed the weather! If the weather were warm and sunny, your Foreman and the lads could ride their horses again. Everyone could go on picnics and help you capture images of the birds and creatures you encounter. Cleric and Sorceress could gather botanicals and other components for their spells. Master Miles could work on his vehicle. I would not feel as if I were permanently frozen. Everyone would benefit!”

I shook my head emphatically. “We would benefit until the world’s scientists tracked down the cause of the unusual weather! Then, your existence here, and that of your fellow characters, would be threatened.” I raked my hand through my hair. “How, exactly, would Miles and I explain the presence of a Dragon, some magic users, and other fictional medieval characters in this world?”

Dragon sighed. “Very well.”

I gave her a stern look. “You will not try to change the weather?”

“I will not.” Dragon curled up in front of the fireplace again and stared at the flames.

As I left the room, I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that this was not the last I would hear of Dragon’s desire to instigate some climate change.

 

arrogant-one-facing-rightA few hours later, my Arrogant One barged into my office unannounced and uninvited. He addressed me in his typical imperious tone that endeared him to absolutely no one. “Why was I not informed that everyone is going on a picnic?”

“What are you talking about? It’s 25 degrees and snowing . . .” My voice died and my throat tightened, until I confirmed the state of the weather with a quick glance through the window to the backyard. “What are you talking about?”

“Well, if you do not know, then I surmise I was not the only one not to receive an invitation.” The annoying elf sneered and marched out of the room. I shook my head and went back to work.

Easter 128About an hour later, Miles walked into the room. “Honey? Why are your Old Dwarf, your Foreman and the lads emptying our refrigerator?”

“What?” I tilted my head and looked at my husband as if he were speaking gibberish.

“Well, they told me it was for the picnic, but I really can’t see them having a picnic in this weather. So do you know what they’re actually up to?”

Again, I glanced out of the window to assure myself that Dragon had not conjured an early summer. “No, I don’t know what they’re up to, but I guess we should find out.

As we walked out of my office, we saw my Old Dwarf and the others scurrying into the conference room, laden with food and beverages. Miles gave me that annoying See? What did I tell you? look as the door swung closed behind my Foreman.

We arrived at the door seconds later, opened it, and stepped . . . outside?

Miles and I gaped at the scene before us. I felt like I was in a popular sci-fi show, enjoying a program on the holodeck. The scene encompassed what appeared to be at least 50 acres. Dragon was basking in the warm sunlight, in the middle of a meadow bursting with wildflowers. Birdsong filled the air, and wildlife passed right by us, unafraid.

My Foreman and the lads were walking their horses toward a bridle path through a large tract of hardwood forest.

Sorceress and Cleric were laying blankets under a Weeping Willow on the banks of a gurgling brook, and my Old Dwarf was arranging the food and beverages.

My Bounty Hunter and my Arrogant One were exploring what appeared to be the ruins of an old castle on the other side of the stream.

 

“Dragon!” My voice echoed off the distant cliffs.

blue-dragon-2“What?” The big beast lazily opened one eye.

“You promised!”

Dragon grinned. “I promised only that I would not change the weather. I said nothing about changes to your meeting room.”

musical notesAn unseen radio began playing, “Oh, the weather inside is delightful. The scene is such an eyeful. And since we’ve a sun-drenched meadow, forget the snow, forget the snow, forget the snow.”

 

Gotta love a Dragon who knows how to get her own way! Be sure to come back and join us for further adventures. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

 

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Another Distraction

Another Distraction

Lunch was an awkward affair, eaten in uncomfortable silence. I watched as my Old Dwarf, my Foreman and the two lads kept shooting dirty looks at my Bounty Hunter. The latter seemed completely unperturbed, perhaps even amused judging by the smirk that tugged at the corners of his mouth. As soon as they all finished eating they quickly excused themselves and left the room.

Easter 128“I’m glad that’s over.” Miles started to clear the table. “I wasn’t sure if your Bounty Hunter was going to get out of here in one piece.”

I gathered the glasses and silverware and followed Miles to the sink. “Yeah, if he doesn’t stop trying to stir up trouble, one of my other characters is going to throttle him good and proper, although he appears singularly unconcerned.”

Miles rubbed his chin thoughtfully as I filled the dishwasher. “He did put you on notice some time ago that he is not going to stop looking for a way to return to his own world, or at least force your other characters . . . and you . . . to search harder for a way for it to happen.”

I sighed. “Yeah, I know. He won’t accept my theory that he and the others are already in their own world, existing simultaneously in both worlds. I really do feel sorry for him and all my other characters who have fallen out of my manuscripts. They never asked to be here. They’re homesick, and they’re doing their best to learn how to live with foreign customs, and deal with advanced and – to them – alien technology. They’re cut off from everything and almost everyone familiar. In one way, I can’t blame any of them if they continue to search for a way home, even if I do not believe it possible. But my Bounty Hunter and my Arrogant One go about it in such an adversarial way, stirring up as much trouble as they can.”

Miles nodded. He took a washcloth and wiped the table as I started the dishwasher. “There. All clean. Are we bringing the books back here to continue reading?”

I shook my head. “No, I don’t think we can chance my Bounty Hunter or any of my other characters joining us. We need to do this in private.”

“The conference room?”

“Nope. Since they missed lunch, I assume Dragon, Sorceress and Cleric are still using the conference room.”

“That’s right. Aren’t they’re trying to determine if it is possible for your characters to enter their own world?”

I nodded.

“I thought your Gypsy was supposed to be working with them, but he was with us at lunch. What happened?”

I frowned. “I saw him with them earlier. I don’t know why he didn’t stay. And my Old Dwarf had been guarding the door for them while they worked, but he was at lunch, too. Since we have to stop by the conference room to pick up the books, I’ll ask Dragon. Then we’ll go to my office.”office-and-bookshelf-for-blog-002

“Should I bring my shovel?” Miles chuckled and winked at me.

“No more cracks about the condition of my office, thank you very much! There’s enough room to get in the door and over to the desk. No shovel required!” I poked him in the ribs, and we headed down the stairs. We were on the landing when I suddenly remembered. “Oh, by the way, that phone call at lunch? That was James. He received my e-mail.”

“Oh? What did he say about it?”

I started to reply, but as we reached the bottom of the stairs, I was startled to see my Old Dwarf standing guard at the door to the conference room. “I thought you went out in the yard with my Foreman and the lads after lunch. How did you get back down here so fast, and without us seeing you?”

dwarf-facing-rightMy Old Dwarf looked at me as if I had just sprouted another head. “Eh? What be ye talkin’ aboot, lass? I be standin’ here the whole o the morn and right through the midday meal. I never be desertin’ me post!” He sounded affronted at the very idea.

Miles frowned. “I saw you at lunch, too.”

The old reprobate shook his head. “Methinks ye both be daft!”

I quirked an eyebrow. “There are times I think so, too.”

“So, what be bringin’ ye two down here?”

“We need to do a bit of reading. Since you are still here, can I assume that Dragon and the others are still at work in the conference room?”

“Aye. They be hard at work. But the big beastie tolded me iffin ye came lookin’ fer yer books, I should be lettin’ ye in.”

I pushed open the door as quietly as I could to avoid distracting the occupants of the room. Still, Dragon’s sharp ears caught the almost imperceptible squeak of the hinges. She looked up from her grimoires and magical tomes and waved me in. She pointed to a chest in the far corner of the room. “I have integrated my magical protective grid into the fabric of Cleric’s enchanted box, and enlarged it to accommodate the books. The receptacle is absolutely secure. No one will be able to detect its contents and it will only open for you or me.”box for books

“Thanks, Dragon. I appreciate that.” I looked around and saw Cleric and Sorceress deep in conversation with my Gypsy. “Dragon, has my Gypsy been here with you the entire day?”gypsy-facing-right

The big beast tilted her head and peered at me as if trying to determine my reason for asking. “Yes, the Gypsy lad has been here. His insights have proven most valuable.”

“He hasn’t left the room, even for a short time?”

“No.”

“And, to the best of your knowledge, has my Old Dwarf been at his post by the door since his arrival this morning?”dwarf-facing-right

Dragon narrowed her eyes and black smoke started drifting from her nostrils. “You know as well as I, nothing could cause that one to abandon his duties. Nothing.”

I frowned, and rubbed the back of my neck. “Well, Miles and I just finished lunch. My Foreman, my Young Hero, and my Bounty Hunter ate with us . . . as did my Gypsy and my Old Dwarf.”

Dragon blinked. The smoke from her nostrils grew thicker. “You mean someone who appeared to be the Gypsy lad and someone who appeared to be the dwarf were with you at lunch.”

“Uh-huh. Or perhaps the ones at lunch were the real ones?” I raised an eyebrow and looked at her questioningly.

Dragon went to the door and seized my Old Dwarf. She dragged him into the room, ignoring his sputtering and cursing. She held him fast and called to my Gypsy. “Gypsy! Come here.”

My Gypsy came running over and Dragon grabbed him by his arm. She stood there, holding tight to both characters. They both struggled to yank themselves free of her vise-like grip. My Old Dwarf raised his war axe, but Dragon shook him like a rag doll until he dropped it.

“Be still!” Her voice filled the room like thunder. Both my Gypsy and my Old Dwarf stopped struggling and fell motionless.

Motionless, but hardly quiet.

My Old Dwarf’s voice grew every bit as loud as Dragon’s. His face was deep red and his scowl would have given pause to most creatures. “What be the meanin’ o this, ye daft beastie? Be ye tryin’ ta rip me arm outten me shoulder?”

My Gypsy also protested. “Yes, what are you doing? Why have you assaulted us in this manner?” It was clear from his expression he thought Dragon had gone completely mad.

Dragon gave them both another shake. “Stand still. Do not move an inch.” She tentatively loosened her grip on them, and they stood there gaping at her and rubbing their sore arms.

Miles entered the room and he, Sorceress, and Cleric all tip-toed over and stood next to me. “What is going on?”

 

“Deception and chicanery.”

The three of them looked at me and frowned, not comprehending. I held up my hand and gestured toward Dragon.

Dragon sniffed my Gypsy and my Old Dwarf. She poked and prodded them, then flicked her snake-like tongue over their faces as they both sputtered in protest. Finally, she mumbled a brief incantation and examined them once more.

She turned to me. “These are the genuine articles.”

“Then, the Gypsy and the dwarf at lunch today were illusions?”

“I presume so.” Dragon’s pronouncement was accompanied by a billowing cloud of smoke.

Miles frowned. “Your Arrogant One at work again?”

I nodded. “Most likely.” I turned to my Old Dwarf and my Gypsy. “Find my Bounty Hunter and my Arrogant One and bring them both here.”

The old reprobate nodded grimly, retrieved his axe from the floor where it had fallen, and took off up the stairs at a dead run, my Gypsy hot on his heels.

Miles and I hardly had time to tell the others what had transpired before and during lunch, when my Old Dwarf and my Gypsy brought their quarry into the room.

My Bounty Hunter draped himself casually into a chair, one booted foot propped up on the adjacent seat. My Arrogant One just stood there, his nose in the air.

I narrowed my eyes and faced the two of them. “Talk.”

“The elf was merely practicing his craft. No harm done.”

Before I could respond, my Arrogant One turned toward me, looking smug. He drew himself up and rocked back on his heels, grasping the front of his cloak. “I have been improving with practice, have I not? Not one of you present at lunch could detect that your precious dwarf and Gypsy were not real.”

I would have been able to tell.” Plumes of smoke poured from Dragon’s nose, and I could see sparks in her great maw as she spoke.

“Perhaps.” My Arrogant One shrugged.

I frowned. “For what reason did you create these illusions?”

The annoying elf stuck his nose in the air again. “As the Bounty Hunter stated – I was merely practicing my craft.”

I folded my arms over my chest, and lowered my voice to a threatening growl. “Well, if any of us ever again discover you practicing your craft by creating an illusion of any one of us, I will let Dragon deal with you.”

Dragon bared her dagger sharp teeth, each as long as the elf’s forearm, and thrust her face at his. The elf shrieked and scampered over to take refuge behind his cohort.

I tried to suppress a snicker, then continued, “If you need to practice, try creating the illusion that you are contributing something worthwhile to this household.”

My Arrogant One sputtered and gaped at me. He drew himself up once more and assumed an injured air. “I resent that implication.” Then he tossed his hair back out of his face, drew his cloak close about him, and marched out of the room.

“Ye be wantin’ em back, lass?” My Old Dwarf thumped the broad of his axe against the palm of his hand and started toward the door.

“No, let him go. He has been put on notice what will happen should he continue to practice such illusions.”

My Bounty Hunter smirked. “And if you have no further need of me, I, too, shall take my leave.” He strolled through the door and followed his companion up the stairs.

booksMore than an hour later, 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.”

Who could be at the door? Will I ever get to tell Miles what James said about the e-mail I sent him? Will my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter continue to cause problems? What will Dragon and her colleagues determine regarding the ability of my characters to enter their own world from this one? Be sure to come back and see what happens. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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The First Book

The First Book

Miles and I were sitting at the kitchen table. We were perusing the four books that had appeared last month on my bookshelf, ostensibly having traveled through a magical conduit from my characters’ world. Each book had on its first page an illustration of one of the four objects from their world that had previously been found in our home. The first book contained the illustration of a talisman identical to one belonging to the Innkeeper. The Innkeeper was one of the characters in my books, but not one of those who had fallen out of the pages of my manuscripts into this world.

I sipped my tea as we began reading.

The Innkeeper was once described by a now departed scrivener as “…corpulent, with a perpetually errant lock of hair he was constantly pushing out of his eyes. He oft wiped his flaccid face with his apron as he tended bar. He was successful at his profession. He could engage in ten separate conversations simultaneously, he would never allow a patron’s mug to empty, and he could deal with the most obnoxious drunk with aplomb – in short, he seemed a most typical and commonplace innkeeper. Yet, behind that facade was a most remarkable and resourceful secret agent, unquestionably loyal to his king, armed with a quick wit, quicker reflexes, and an arsenal of minor magics.”

My eyes widened and I nearly spewed my mouthful of tea all over the book.

My husband jumped. “What is it?”

“No wonder the books were enchanted to ensure my characters could not read them. The scrivener who’s quoted? That’s me! The passage we just read is from notes I made when I was chronicling the adventures that went into my first two books about these characters.”

Miles raised an eyebrow. “Honey, I know you always joke that you did not write those books, you merely recorded what happened; but do you really expect me to believe that?”

I just looked at him and shrugged. “Believe what you will.”

Miles looked at me for a long time; he furrowed his brow, and deep concern showed in his eyes. When I said no more on the subject, he heaved a deep sigh and shook his head. I got the feeling he was questioning the state of my mental health.

I picked up my mug of tea and took a few long gulps, draining it quickly. I set the mug down unsteadily, and refilled it. “Let’s continue.”

Many of the feats of the ersatz innkeeper were chronicled by the now departed scrivener, a mysterious figure known to many in this world only as Mistress Writer. As apprentice to one of the foremost historians in this world, I have taken it upon myself to continue Mistress Writer’s work. This volume records the more recent adventures of the Innkeeper, the various exploits that occurred following the departure of Mistress Writer.

According to my Master, there are whispered legends of a magical conduit that joins this world to the world in which Mistress Writer now resides. Perhaps someday I will find this conduit and divine a way to use it to send this journal, that Mistress Writer may include these exploits in future volumes of her work.

Miles looked at me incredulously. “This is a joke, right, honey? You really wrote all this, right? You can’t expect me to believe you were actually there! I mean, is there even real?”

I laughed. “So asks the man who has no problem with the concept of our home being populated by a bunch of medieval characters who have fallen from the pages of my manuscripts.” I raised an eyebrow at Miles, then snorted and shook my head. “No, this is not a joke; yes, there is real; and no, I did not write all this – only the parts attributed to Mistress Writer, the now departed scrivener. But apparently the person who did write all this, this apprentice historian, discovered the magical conduit and used it to send the books to me.”

For today's blog 001Miles sat there, gaping at me. Finally, he shook his head. “Right.”

“Well, what’s your explanation?”

My husband frowned and rubbed the back of his neck. “Well, if you didn’t write this as some sort of a joke, then . . . I don’t know.” He shrugged. “I guess I do have to believe you. As you said, I accept living with a bunch of characters from your books, and I have seen some exceedingly strange things. I guess if I can believe all that, I can accept that there is real, and you were there, somehow. I just don’t understand it all.”

I was about to reply, but a sound caught my ear. Someone was quietly opening the door leading from the deck to the living room. I put my finger over my lips and motioned to Miles to gather up the books. The door closed almost inaudibly, and soft footsteps crept across the living room, approaching the kitchen.bounty-hunter

“Oh! I’m sorry. I didn’t know anyone was here. I was just going to get a quick bite to eat. I hope I’m not intruding.” My Bounty Hunter looked genuinely startled to see Miles and me, but I knew he was capable of great guile.

I smiled sweetly. “Not at all. We were just going down to my office.”

My Bounty Hunter nodded. His gaze fell on the pile of books. His eyes widened. “Those books must be ancient!”books

I raised an eyebrow. “Why do you say that?”

“Aside from the musty odor?” He reached for one of the books, but Miles drew the pile away. Unperturbed, my Bounty Hunter gestured toward the volumes. “They look far more rudimentary in their structure than the books I have seen you reading. The pages are not a uniform size, and their edges are ragged, as if torn rather than cut. The leaves also appear to differ from your modern paper; they appear softer, thicker. They are parchment, perhaps, or vellum? The innards are rather crudely sewn to the bindings, exhibiting very uneven stitches, and the thread with which they are sewn is not of modern manufacture. The covers are leather, but not leather tanned in any contemporary process, judging by other leather products I have seen.”

Miles gaped at my Bounty Hunter, while I merely narrowed my eyes and gave him a penetrating look. “You are very observant.”

He shrugged. “Were I permitted to examine them more closely, I could expand upon my observations.”

“That won’t be necessary, thanks. Enjoy your snack.” I gestured for Miles to bring the books, and the two of us headed downstairs for my office, leaving my Bounty Hunter alone.office-and-bookshelf-for-blog-002

Miles wisely refrained from commenting on the condition of my admittedly messy office. He merely wrinkled his brow and scratched his head as I cleared a spot on my desk in which to work. “Why do you think your Bounty Hunter was so interested in the books? Do you think he knows where they are from, and the information they contain?”

I shrugged and shook my head. “I don’t know what he knows. Other than you and me, Dragon, Sorceress, and Cleric are the only ones who know about the books, and the fact that you and I are the only ones who can read them. I doubt any of them would be sharing that news with my Bounty Hunter. But he may have recognized the volumes as being from his world. He is extremely observant and he certainly could see they are not made of any modern materials or processes of this world. The one thing I’m sure he doesn’t know is their contents.”

Miles considered this, chewing his lower lip and looking at the books. “Why do you think whoever wrote the books, or whoever sent them here, enchanted them to keep your characters from reading them?”

I frowned. “Actually, I’m not sure I was correct in that supposition, that the books were enchanted specifically against my characters reading them. I don’t think anyone in that world would know about the characters who have fallen from my manuscripts into this world. At least they wouldn’t if my theory is correct, that my characters exist simultaneously in both worlds. So, rather than the books being enchanted specifically to keep my characters from reading them, perhaps they were enchanted to keep anyone except me from reading them, in case they never reached me and fell into the hands of someone sinister.”

“Then why can I read them?”

I blinked. “I have no idea.” I pondered a moment. “Perhaps they were enchanted to prevent anyone in the other world from reading them. Perhaps they can be read by anyone from this world.”

Miles tilted his head. “Seems plausible. How can we test your theory?”

I scowled. “I don’t know. I guess I would have to ask other people to look at the books and see if they could read them, but I don’t know who I could trust with the information disclosed in these volumes. I mean, I certainly can’t ask Mace and Gloria, now can I?”

Miles laughed, remembering the time a couple months ago when some new neighbors dropped by to complain about horses in our yard, and dozens of people living in our house. (https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2017/02/26/meeting-the-neighbors/) “No, I don’t think it would be wise to ask Mace and Gloria. But what about Dragon’s Old English Sheepdog friend, Ollie? Could you ask Ollie’s human companion? He is certainly aware of the situation with Dragon and your other characters, and it is obvious he can be trusted to be discreet.”

I shook my head. “James lives too far for me to visit and show him the books in person. I would have to scan a few pages from the books and then e-mail them to James. The problem is I’m not sure I want the scanned images on my computer. You know my characters have figured out how to use the computer. There would be too great a chance they would find the images.”

Miles shrugged. “What difference would that make? They can’t read them.”

“Duh! You’re right. I guess I could e-mail James and ask him to take a look at a few pages.”

“Why don’t you do that now? I’ll go prepare lunch.”

“Wow, is it that time already? Okay, you go make lunch. I’ll check with Dragon before I come up. She said she would have a protective container for the books by lunchtime, so I won’t have to stand guard over them while we eat.”

computer-and-monitorMiles gave me a quick peck on the cheek before leaving. I turned to my desk and started scanning a few pages into my computer, reasoning that if James couldn’t read the pages, we would have to examine other explanations for Miles’ ability to read the books.

After sending off the e-mail to James and leaving the books with Dragon to place in the protective container she constructed, I headed upstairs for lunch.

When I reached the top of the stairs, I heard a commotion. My Old Dwarf, my Foreman, and the lads were in the living room, having a heated discussion with my Bounty Hunter. When they saw me, they rushed over and accosted me.

“Is it true?” My Foreman folded his arms over his chest and gave me a penetrating look.

“Is what true?”

“Do you have in your possession a set of books that contains the secret of returning us to our own world?” Anger flashed in his eyes and resonated in his voice.

I gaped at him. “Who fed you that bunch of bologna?”

My Foreman frowned. “What does that mean, bunch of bologna?”

“It means someone lied to you.”

My Bounty Hunter stepped forward and quirked an eyebrow. “Oh?”

I scowled at him. “Why are you always trying to stir up trouble?”

“I saw the books.”

“You did. You saw four books on the table. But you read not one world of any of them. How do you purport to know what they contain?” My temper and my voice were both rising.

My Bounty Hunter shrugged. The others rolled their eyes and shook their heads. They shot him dirty looks as they headed to the kitchen for lunch. As my Foreman and I took our seats opposite each other, he mouthed an apology. I smiled and waved it away.

phone with caller IDJust as Miles was placing a huge bowl of spaghetti and meatballs on the table, the phone rang. Seeing the caller ID, I quickly grabbed it.

“Hi, James! What’s that? You got my e-mail? And?” I listened. “Really? That’s interesting. Thanks, James!”

 

What did James tell me? Could he read the pages I had e-mailed him? Be sure to come back next week and find out! We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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An Uneventful Day

An Uneventful Day

blue-dragon-2The weather had taken another turn. The month of March in Minnesnowta, Dragon was learning, is unpredictable. The previous day had been reasonably warm; the outdoor thermometer had registered an almost-comfortable 64 degrees Fahrenheit. Last night, the temperature had begun to fall and the area had come under a tornado watch. This morning, Dragon had awoken to see a dusting of snow in the yard, and the thermometer barely reaching 29.

fireplace2

 

Never a fan of the cold, Dragon retired to the conference room and curled up for a nap next to her illusory fireplace. As she snoozed, basking in the very real heat of the conjured flames, she heard the door open.

“Are you ready to embark upon our tasks? Yestereve you decided that it was too late in the day when the books were first discovered for us to begin our investigation; so we came early this morn, and the day stretches before us.”

sorceress-facing-rightDragon opened one sleepy eye and regarded Sorceress, who was already bustling around setting up her materials and apparatus. The large beast growled softly, closed her eye, and rolled over. “Cold. Sleepy. Go away.”

“We should begin our work. We have much to do.”

Dragon recognized Cleric’s voice, and opened both eyes. A small, dark plume began to drift from her nose.

“It is too cold to do any work.” Dragon scowled.Elf

Cleric mirrored the big beast’s scowl as she opened her pouch and placed several vials on the table. “Well, Mistress Writer is anxious to learn of our progress.”

“Or our lack thereof.” Sorceress frowned as she approached the books, safely enclosed within the glowing grid. “Besides, you can hardly say it is too cold to do any work in here. You have this room as hot as a Dwarven forge!”

Dragon chuckled. “I like the heat. It helps me think.” She slowly rose and stretched, yawning widely. “And, speaking of Dwarven forges, has Mistress Writer found her errant dwarf?”

Cleric shook her head. “No. The Old Dwarf is still missing. He was not at dinner last night, nor breakfast this morn.”

Dragon frowned at that. “It is unlike the rotund one to miss so many meals.”

Sorceress waved off Dragon’s concern. “Mistress Writer does not believe him to be in any peril. However, if you two insist on worrying, perhaps we may be able to assist in searching for him, if we can complete our investigation without further delay.”

Dragon nodded. “Very well, then, let us commence.” She mumbled an incantation, releasing the books from the glowing grid in which she had contained them. “Just be certain not to touch them.”

* * *

dwarfThe short, round figure stood concealed behind the big maple tree, munching a turkey leg. He carefully peeked around the thick tree trunk and looked out over the yard. The earlier dusting of snow had already melted in the morning sun, and the dwarf could no longer see the white puffs of breath in the air from the horses and riders he watched.

Only a few feet away from him, my Foreman and the lads were exercising their mounts. My Forman rode a spirited black stallion, my Gypsy was on a flashy black and white cob, and my Young Hero was astride a small chocolate palomino pony. They were performing cavalry drills, riding in circles and figure-eights, executing flying lead changes, half-passes, pirouettes, and diagonals. They were completely oblivious of their audience of one.

 

My Old Dwarf chuckled and took another big bite of turkey leg. Grease dripped into his beard, and he wiped his mouth on the back of his hand. Who be needin’ spells o concealment? In me own world, in me old life, I woulda been kilted a hunnert times over iffin I could na keep from bein’ seed when I be needin’ ta go unnoticed! And dwarves do na be havin’ the advantage o magic.

Gnawing the last of the meat from the turkey leg, the dwarf stowed the bare bone in his pocket. He glanced at the riders again, but they were at the other end of the yard. They had dismounted and were checking their equipment. The dwarf looked around the rest of the yard, watching for any movement. Seeing none, the old reprobate stealthily slipped from tree to tree along the edge of the wide expanse of lawn until he was in the back of the yard. After a few moments, he slunk over to the garden shed, opened the door a crack, and slipped inside. His eyes adjusted immediately to the dim light, an innate ability of his race. Hearing voices from the loft, the old one silently crept up the stairs and entered the attic unnoticed.

“I do not see why you feel the need to remain in hiding.” My Bounty Hunter propped his foot up on a box and studied his companion in the flickering light of the lantern.

My Arrogant One gaped at him. “Do you not? If I return now, that odious beast will probably roast me and have me for dinner!”

“Dragon?” My Bounty Hunter scoffed.

My Arrogant One’s voice rose to a pathetic whine. “Of course, Dragon! She has always been jealous of me! She constantly downplays my skill and makes light of my power. And you heard what she called me!” The elf slumped into a chair and sulked.

My Bounty Hunter tried to hide a snicker behind his hand. “Yes, I believe she called you a contemptible, aggravating, pompous, loathsome creature.”

My Arrogant One jumped from his chair and gestured wildly. “Yes! Yes! You see? She is insanely jealous! My life is not worth a single copper should I return!”

dwarf-facing-right“Eh, the beastie do na be jealous o ye, elfie! She just knowed good and well what ye be.”

The elf shrieked at the sudden appearance of the dwarf just a few feet away, and my Bounty Hunter jumped, knocking over the box.

“Ye knowed, elfie, thet dinna be very polite o ye ta just disappear the other night.”

Before the elf could find his voice, my Old Dwarf whirled around to face my Bounty Hunter, who was slowly raising his weapon. “I would na be doin’ thet, laddie, iffin I be ye. Drop yer crossbow and kick it o’er here. And ye can be handin’ o’er them thar knives ye keep in yer vest, too.”

For a long time, my Bounty Hunter stood and stared at the dwarf through narrowed eyes, taking his measure. Finally, he smiled an oily smile and placed his crossbow on the floor. He gingerly nudged it toward the dwarf, then fumbled in his vest pocket for his knives. Suddenly, he dropped to the floor and reached for his crossbow, but the dwarf brought his axe down on it, splintering the weapon.

“Thet coulda just as easy been yer head, laddie. Now, stop bein’ so foolish and hand over yer knives. And elfie?” My Old Dwarf glanced over his shoulder. “Ye best not be tryin’ ta magic me, liken ye did once afore.”

“Magic?” The Bounty Hunter frowned. “Oh, that’s right. I forgot you did that, elf. That was clever. Magic doesn’t work on dwarves, but you didn’t use it on him, did you? You levitated a fallen tree branch and used that to knock him out.”

Since my Arrogant One had not regained his voice, my Old Dwarf answered. “He did. But he’ll not be trickin’ me like that twice. Now, the two o’ye git o’er here and sit down. We be havin’ a lot of conversatin’ ta do.”

* * *

The three companions slumped over their worktable, exhaustion showing in their every expression and gesture. Cleric and Sorceress were dripping with sweat, and even Dragon looked a bit wilted.

The books in the center of the table were surrounded by vials and pouches. Remnants of many potions and powders were strewn about. The three spellcasters had spent the day attempting to magically probe the books to locate their source and purpose, along with any evidence of inherent danger.

“Well, there are several traces of magic on the books.” Dragon sighed, and tiny black smoke rings rose from her nostrils. “We all agree that the one trace is from the magic conduit through which the books entered our world, correct?”

Sorceress and Cleric nodded.

Sorceress wrinkled her brow. “It exactly matches the trace magic found on the four items from our world that have appeared here, so I believe we can presume these books came through the same conduit. That would indicate these books also originated in our world.”

Cleric frowned. “Perhaps, but how do we account for the second remnant of magic?”

Dragon shrank her considerable bulk to the size of a Cocker Spaniel and started pacing the length of the room. “I do not know. I do not recognize the magic, yet these books seem familiar to me.”

Sorceress scowled. “We have exhausted all magical means of examining the books. I fear we must risk the potential danger and begin our physical examination.”

Cleric’s eyes widened. “There are precautions we can take, are there not? Can not one of you cast a protective ward on the books to prevent them from harming us when we handle them?”

glowing-grid-for-blog“It will take much time to prepare such a spell. We are all fatigued. I believe we should wait until the morrow.” Without waiting for a response, Dragon swelled to her previous size. She immediately went to the table and prepared some spell components. While she worked, she recited an intricate incantation under her breath. When she finished, Dragon sprinkled the mixture over the books and cast her spell, once more creating a protective, glowing grid around the books.

“Return in the morning. We will continue then.” Without another word, Dragon went over and curled up in front of her fireplace once more. Within moments, she was snoring. Cleric and Sorceress shrugged, then quietly left the room.

fireplace2

* * *

I heard the door slam as Miles came in from the garage. “Honey, you home?”

“Right here.” I walked down the stairs.

12-28-13 - MN Arboretum 080“Sorry it took longer than I thought it would. The trouble wasn’t in the carburetor, it was the fuel pump. The mechanic didn’t have one in stock and he had to get his supplier to send a new one.” He handed me some bags, took off his jacket and hung it in the hall closet, then gave me a quick kiss hello. He pointed to the bags. “I stopped off and got some rotisserie chicken for dinner.”

“Oh, I knew there had to be a reason I married you! How did you know I wanted chicken for dinner?”

Miles grinned. “So how’s everything on the home front? Anything new and exciting happen today?”

“Nope. It’s been most uneventful here. All my characters must have taken the day off. I’ve seen neither hide nor hair of any of them the entire day.”

“Hmmm…that’s ominous. I wonder what they could be up to.”

 

Be sure to come back and see what my characters are up to in future episodes. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

 

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More Mystery

More Mystery

From Nicki 146The first thing Miles and I noticed when we walked into the kitchen for breakfast was the quiet. Miles looked around and a smile slowly spread across his face. “Sweet! Where is everybody?”

“I imagine my Foreman and the lads are in the yard, enjoying some time with their illusory horses. You certainly are their hero for suggesting Dragon cast that spell of concealment to hide their activities from the neighbors!”

Miles nodded and poured himself a cup of coffee. “Glad to help, especially if it keeps me in their good graces and keeps us from getting kicked out of the neighborhood. But where are the others? Not that I’m complaining about having the kitchen to ourselves for a change!” He took a frying pan from the cabinet and started cooking some sausage and eggs.

I reached into the refrigerator and grabbed a container of yogurt, then sat down at the empty table. I opened the container and swirled the yogurt around with my spoon while I considered the question. “Well, my Arrogant One has been in hiding since the night he created the illusion of the Innkeeper here in the kitchen. My Bounty Hunter, who instigated that incident, hasn’t exactly gone into hiding but he has been staying out of the way. I think they both fear the consequences of their actions.”

My husband scowled. “And well they should! The two of them almost had me convinced I was going mad!” He slid his breakfast from the frying pan onto a plate, and took a chair next to me.

I continued swirling my yogurt. “As for Dragon, Cleric and Sorceress, I believe they’re busy investigating the location and origin of the magical conduit that allowed those four items we found to pass from their world into ours.”

 

“And the dwarf?”

dwarfI frowned. “Hmmm. I’m actually not sure where my Old Dwarf is. I haven’t seen him in a while, but he must be around. He’s obviously been raiding the refrigerator with his accustomed regularity. Just one look at last week’s grocery bill will confirm that. I’ll ask Dragon if she has the old reprobate assisting her with the investigation.”

After breakfast, I started to go down to the conference room to talk to Dragon, but I encountered her on the landing as she was ascending the stairs.blue-dragon-facing-left

“I was just coming to see you!” Dragon and I spoke in unison. “You first. No, you.”

We both laughed and I took the lead. “I haven’t seen my Old Dwarf in a while. I was wondering if he’s been running errands for you.”

Dragon frowned, and a small cloud of smoke rose from her snout. “No, we have not required the rotund one’s assistance.” She paused, her frown deepening. “But now that you mention it, I do not remember seeing him of late, either.”

We walked down the lower staircase and were joined at the bottom of the stairs by Cleric and Sorceress.

“Have either of you encountered the Old Dwarf recently? Mistress Writer seems to have misplaced him.”

The two characters shook their heads.

“You do not think he has met with misfortune, do you, Mistress?” Cleric wrung her hands, and her eyes widened in alarm.

Sorceress also looked concerned. “Indeed! Was he not injured and abducted along with you, Cleric, when that horrible elf kidnapped you? Perhaps he has crossed paths with the insufferable one again?”

I waved away their concerns. “No, I don’t think he’s in trouble this time. The contents of the refrigerator show he’s still making his regular raids for snacks. I was just wondering why I haven’t seen him. I’m sure he’ll turn up sooner or later. So, Dragon, why were you coming to see me?”

Dragon puffed another smoke cloud from her nostrils. “The three of us have been examining the four items from our world, hoping to ascertain the origin of the conduit through which they arrived in this world. We also have been searching the areas where the items were found. Since the items themselves still retain a trace of the magic from the conduit, we were hoping that there would be similar traces in the areas where the items appeared.”

I nodded. “So are there any traces?”

Sorceress stepped forward, shaking her head. “We have found nothing so far. We searched unsuccessfully the lower stairway, where Master Miles found the Innkeeper’s talisman. We were not unduly concerned when we did not find any trace magic there, as it has been almost three months since that item appeared. Then we investigated the hallway near your bedchamber, where you found the horseshoe we assume belongs to the Innkeeper’s friend, the Blacksmith. Again, there was no trace of magic, and again we speculated it may be because of the length of time that has passed.”

I frowned. “What about the last two items?”

Dragon shrugged. “We have not yet completed our investigation. We did examine the conference room. It has only been two months since I noticed the ruby ring on the conference room table, so I had great hope. But, alas, nothing.”

“We were just coming to ask your permission to search your office, Mistress.” Cleric gestured down the hallway. “And we need you to show us the exact spot on your bookshelf where you and Master Miles discovered the Royal Seal, the last of the four items that have entered this world from ours.”

I nodded and led the way.

office-and-bookshelf-for-blog-002

I entered my office and tried to shift some of the mess out of the way, so the others could enter as well. Sorceress and Cleric squeezed in behind me. Dragon stood in the doorway. She looked around my office and snorted a plume of black smoke. There was no way she could squeeze her bulk into the small, crowded room. “Mistress Writer, I have seen swineherds who kept their charges’ pens neater than you keep your office!”

I scowled, and felt my cheeks flame, but reluctantly recognized the truth of her words. I mumbled an excuse. “I don’t often get the chance to clean my office. Usually, I’m either working on my writing here, or one of you is interrupting whatever task I am attempting.”

Dragon arched a delicate eyebrow. “The rest of your home is reasonably tidy.”

“Why, thank you ever so much for noticing!” Even I could hear the sarcasm dripping from my words.

Sorceress frowned and folded her arms over her chest. “Why do we not see where Mistress Writer and Master Miles found the Royal Seal? The discussion of the relative merits of neatness and order can wait.”

I gave Dragon one last sharp look, then pointed to an empty spot on my bookshelf between two groups of antique volumns. “We found it right here. I don’t know how long it had been here, though, before we noticed it.”bookshelf

Dragon wrinkled her nose in distaste. “Yes, among all this clutter, I imagine any given object could go undetected for years.”

Elf clericI opened my mouth but before I could fire back a retort, Dragon used her innate shapeshifting ability and transformed into an elven maiden. She easily slipped through the crowded room and made her way to the bookshelf, where she beckoned her two companions. The three of them gathered around the spot, cautiously feeling the empty area on the shelf, each intoning a different incantation to reveal trace magic. I waited, holding my breath in anticipation.

After several minutes, Sorceress and Cleric stepped back from the bookshelf. Their failure was reflected in their long faces.

“Another dead end?”

They nodded somberly. The elven Dragon, however, was deep in thought, her brow furrowed, her head tilted. “Mistress, what are the books on this shelf?”

I glanced at the books Dragon indicated, the books adjacent to the spot where the Royal Seal had been found. “Oh, they’re just those old books I picked up at a yard sale last year.”

Dragon shook her head. “I do not think so.”

“Oh?”

“If you remember, Mistress, you showed those books to me when you brought them home. They were in much better condition than these volumns, and their leather bindings were etched with gold leaf. I admired them so much you gave them to me for my treasure trove. These are distinctly different tracts.”

I furrowed my brow, trying to remember, then slowly nodded. “Yes, that’s right. I did give them to you. So, then, what are these books?” I reached for them, but Dragon put a restraining hand on my arm.

“Carefully, Mistress, carefully.”

I pulled my hand back quickly. “Why? Do you sense something? Could they be dangerous?”

“I do sense something about the books . . . something oddly familiar. I will not know if they pose a danger until I thoroughly examine them.”

Dragon turned to her two companions. “We will take the books to the conference room, where there is a larger area in which to study them. I need to make a carrier for them, so no one touches them in transit.” She opened her pouch and rummaged through its contents. “I need some botanicals for this – acacia, larkspur, wolfsbane, sandalwood, ague root, myrrh, and cinquefoil. Do either of you have these components?”

Sorceress and Cleric quickly provided the requested components. Dragon found an uncluttered corner of my desk on which to work. There she precisely measured and carefully combined the components, adding some additional ingredients she took from her own pouch. While she worked, she recited an intricate incantation under her breath. When she finished, Dragon sprinkled the mixture over the books and cast her spell, creating a glowing grid around the books.glowing-grid-for-blog

At a word from Dragon, the grid bearing the books rose into the air and glided toward the doorway. Effortlessly holding the spell intact, Dragon turned to me. “Cleric, Sorceress, and I will undertake the thorough examination of these books, first magically, then physically. We will confirm the absence of danger, or render any threat ineffective, before we handle them. We will then try to ascertain the identity and origin of the volumns. I will let you know what we discover.”

 

Be sure to come back and learn what Dragon and her companions discover about the old books, and if the books have anything to do with the four objects from their world that have mysteriously appeared here. And maybe we’ll even find my Old Dwarf! We’ll leave the porch light on for you!

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Meeting the Neighbors

Meeting the Neighbors

laundry2-for-blogI was downstairs in the laundry room when I heard the doorbell ring. Figuring someone else would get it, I continued sorting my darks and whites, my delicates and permanent press items, my heavy clothes, my towels, and my bedding. After a few moments, I heard the doorbell again, several times in quick succession, followed by a persistent loud rapping on the door. I dropped the laundry and dashed up the stairs, before whoever it was beat the door down.

neighborThere was a young man standing on the front porch sporting glasses and a neatly trimmed goatee. He was dressed casually in well-worn blue jeans and a black hoodie. He looked like one of the roofers who had been going around the neighborhood offering free estimates. As I opened the door, I pointed at the notice hanging beside the door. No soliciting.

The young man frowned. “I’m not selling anything. I’m your new neighbor from down the street.” He sounded annoyed.

“Oh! Well hi, neighbor! Nice to meet you!” I tried to sound chipper.

“Err, hi.” He hesitated. “Ma’am, you do know that this is a residential neighborhood, and it isn’t zoned for livestock, right?”

Unsure of where this was leading, I tried to keep my expression and my voice neutral. “Yes, I know that. I don’t know of anyone in this neighborhood who keeps livestock.”

“Ma’am, there’s a herd of horses in your yard.”

I raised an eyebrow at my new neighbor. “Horses.”

“Yes Ma’am. Horses. A whole herd of them.”

I folded my arms across my chest and leaned against the doorjamb. I gave him a look calculated to give the impression I found the idea preposterous. “A whole herd.”

He hesitated and rubbed his neck. “Well, at least four or five.”

“Ummm, sure.”

Now it was my neighbor’s turn to arch an eyebrow. He stepped aside and pointed. Sure enough, there were horses in my yard. A whole herd of them.horses-in-the-yard-for-blog-2

Before I could react, I heard someone running down the stairs behind me. I turned around and Dragon, in her guise of an elven maiden, joined us. “Oh, I thought I heard the doorbell!” She squeezed past me and smiled brightly at the man on the porch, who was gaping at her delicately pointed ears. “Hello! Have we met?”Elf cleric

“Ummm. No, we haven’t. I’m Mace. Mason. My wife and I just moved in down the street.” He couldn’t stop staring at Dragon’s elf ears.

“Oh, how very nice to meet a new neighbor!” Dragon continued to simper, batting her eyelashes at Mace. Finally, I placed my hands on her shoulders and forcibly moved her aside so I could rejoin the conversation.

“Mace just stopped by to admire our horses.” My voice was strained and I was frowning.

“Horses?” Dragon wrinkled her delicate elven brow and tilted her head. “I did not know we had horses.” She batted her eyelashes several more times.

Mace turned back toward the front yard and started to gesture, but the yard was empty, save a pair of robins checking out their favorite tree. Pushing his glasses up on his nose, he walked to the end of the porch and looked around the corner at the side yard. Then he stepped off the porch and walked to the other side of the house and looked. He removed his glasses and cleaned them on his shirttail. He replaced them on his face, squished his eyebrows together in a frown, and looked again. He scratched his head.horses-all-gone-for-blog

Dragon just stood there, smiling sweetly. I raised my eyebrows at Mace, shook my head and shrugged. He mumbled something that might have been goodbye or it was nice to meet you or I think I’m going crazy; then he wobbled off in a daze.

Dragon and I stayed on the porch as our new neighbor wandered back down the street toward his house. As we watched him go, we noticed him scratching his head several times. At one point, he turned and looked back at our property. We just waved nicely and continued watching until he arrived at his own house and disappeared into his garage. Between clenched teeth, I questioned Dragon. “Where did those horses go? Better yet, where did they come from in the first place?”

dragon facing right

Dragon just giggled. I ushered her inside, where she assumed her true form once again. The large creature stretched and galumphed up the stairs. I followed somewhat more sedately.

My Foreman, my Young Hero and my Gypsy were standing in the living room. All three of them were shuffling around and staring at the floor. They reminded me of three little kids caught with their hands in the cookie jar. I wondered how they were involved in this.

Dragon stretched out on the sofa. I crossed my arms over my chest, frowned and started tapping my foot impatiently. “Now. What about those horses?”

Dragon tittered. “They were very attractive horses, were they not?”

I scowled. I could feel the heat rising in my cheeks, and when I spoke, my voice was several decibels higher than I intended it to be. “It wouldn’t be so funny if that neighbor had taken photos and contacted the authorities. This is a residential neighborhood. We’re not zoned for keeping livestock. Miles and I could receive a summons and have to pay a hefty fine!”

My Foreman stepped forward. “Please, Mistress, do not be cross with Dragon. It was our fault.”

“Oh?”

foremanHe sighed and raked his hand through his hair. “In my world, I was foreman of the most renowned horse breeding farm in the kingdom. The Young Hero’s father owned that farm, and the lad has been around horses since infancy. The Gypsy was likewise born into the world of horses. His clan bred and raised some of the finest examples of horseflesh outside my homeland.”

I nodded. “You’re not telling me anything I don’t already know.”Gypsy

My Gypsy rubbed the back of his neck and stepped forward. “Mistress, you must understand our frustration! We miss our lifestyle. We have an affinity for horses, and their absence has left a great emptiness in our lives and in our hearts.”

Young hero 2My Young Hero looked at me, and continued in a ragged voice. “Dragon saw how much we missed our former lives, and she was just trying to help. She created the illusion of horses so that we might enjoy ourselves, grooming them, working with them, and riding them for a short while.”

I sighed. “I know how hard it has been on all of you since you fell out of my manuscripts and ended up in my world. You have had to adapt to a whole new world, totally foreign to you – new technology, new foods, new modes of dress, new rules and regulations, new everything. And you have done a remarkable job adapting to this situation.”

“We can but try!” Dragon twisted her lips in a sardonic smile.

I glared at her. “Indeed. But some of you need to try harder.”

She raised her eyebrows and looked at me with mock indignation. “Really?”

“Really! No matter the motivation, there can be no horses in the yard – genuine or illusionary.”

My Foreman heaved a big sigh. “Very well, Mistress. No more horses. We certainly do not wish to cause problems for you with your neighbors or with the authorities.”

The lads nodded, and Dragon shrugged.

The next morning, Miles and I were in the kitchen, compiling our weekly shopping list. “Honey, see if there’s a roast in the freezer. I know we have several bags of carrots, and I’d like to make a pot roast for dinner tomorrow night.”

musical notesAs Miles poked through the contents of the freezer, the doorbell rang. I put down the list. “I’ll get it. You keep looking through the freezer.”

 

neighbor-2There was a young woman standing on the front porch, her sandy blond tresses framing an open face. I immediately pegged her as one of the crew who had descended on the neighborhood earlier in the week, selling magazine subscriptions.

As I opened the door, I pointed at the notice hanging beside the door. No soliciting.

The young woman frowned. “I’m not selling anything. I’m your new neighbor from down the street.” She sounded nervous, and her wide-set eyes kept darting about. “I’m Gloria. I believe you met my husband, Mace, yesterday. I’m sorry, he didn’t remember your name.”

I tried to sound enthusiastic. “Well, hi, Gloria! Yes, Mace did stop by yesterday to introduce himself. My name’s Marge.”

I extended my hand, but Gloria just jumped back and looked as if it were a rattlesnake I was proffering.

I sighed and lowered my hand. “So, Gloria, what can I do for you today?”

“Well, to tell you the truth, Mace and I have been watching your house.”

I could feel the vein in my temple start to throb and my jaw tightened. “Oh? I can’t imagine why.”

Gloria tittered nervously. “Well, we’ve noticed a few unusual things here. Yesterday, for example, Mace swore he saw a whole herd of horses in your yard. I wasn’t home, but he told me all about it over dinner last night.”

“Well, I don’t know what Mace saw, but we don’t have any horses here.” I forced a smile.

“Of course, we both realize that now, but there are other concerns.”

“Such as?”

“Well, er, Marge, was it? Well, Marge, this neighborhood is zoned for single-family occupancy. How many families are living here?”

“One. My husband and I are the only residents.” I crossed my fingers behind my back, and hoped Gloria wouldn’t find my answer suspect. She did.

“We’ve seen dozens of people in your yard.”

I gaped at the woman. “Dozens? I don’t think so. We have a few out-of-town guests staying with us, but hardly dozens!”

“So you say.” Her voice had turned from nervous to haughty. She reminded me of my Arrogant One.

I kept a tight leash on my own voice. “Yes, so I say.”

“Well, if Mace and I see more than a few of your guests in the yard, we will be forced to take the matter to the authorities. And if your guests should overstay their welcome, that will be reported as well. After a period of time, you know, they will be assumed to be permanent residents.”

It was a good thing Gloria flounced away before I could react. I think assaulting my new neighbor would be high on the list of things that would land me in trouble with the authorities, right up there with having livestock in a residential zone and harboring close to a dozen characters from a fictional world.

That night after dinner, the elven maiden Dragon sat in the kitchen while Miles and I cleared the table and loaded the dishwasher. I told them about the visit from Gloria.

“Miles, I have already told Dragon and the others they can not be conjuring horses and riding them around where the neighbors can see them. My Foreman and the lads were upset enough about that. How can I tell them now they are to be confined to the house? It will be as if they were locked away in a prison cell.”

Dragon narrowed her eyes and grinned a wicked smile. “I could always roast Mace and Gloria.”

Miles and I glared at Dragon. “There will be no roasting!”

“It would solve the problem.” Dragon raised her eyebrows and shrugged.

I snorted. “You’d have to roast everyone in the entire neighborhood.”

“That is not beyond my capabilities.”

Miles and I shouted at the same time. “No!”

Dragon just shrugged.

I sighed and raked my hand through my hair. “Miles, what am I going to tell all my characters?”

Miles furrowed his brow, rubbed his neck, and opened his mouth to say something, but I cut him off. “They never asked to be dragged into our world, you know. And I don’t think it’s fair to place such unreasonable restrictions on them.”

Miles started to open his mouth again, but I continued. “Honey, what are we going to do? I like living here, and I don’t want any trouble with the neighbors or with the authorities. And how would we explain my characters, anyway?”

Easter 128Miles tenderly placed a hand over my mouth. “If you would just let me get a word in edgewise here, I might have an idea.”

I gently pushed his hand away. “Sorry.”

Miles steered me to the kitchen table and we sat down across from Dragon. “Do you remember when Cleric was kidnapped?”

My eyes widened. “How could I forget?”

“Well, while she and your Old Dwarf were being held in the shed loft, your Arrogant One had cast a spell that prevented anyone from seeing or hearing them.”

A smile spread across my face. “And you think maybe Dragon could cast a similar spell of concealment, so the neighbors can’t see anything in our yard!”

“Exactly!”

We turned toward Dragon, who beamed at us. “Very clever, Master Miles! I do not know why I did not think of that myself!”

I jumped up and planted a kiss on Miles’ forehead. “You’re brilliant!”

The next day, my husband and I watched my Foreman and the lads curry their horses and saddle them. They rode their mounts around the back yard for hours, and even from our seats on the deck, Miles and I could see the huge grins on my characters’ faces. When they were finished riding, they brushed the animals down again, then turned them loose to graze in the yard.horses-in-the-yard-for-blog-2

Several neighbors were in their yards, but not one appeared to see or hear anything. Not one glanced in our direction.

“This was an excellent idea, Master Miles!” My Foreman reached out and clapped him on the back. The lads grinned and nodded their agreement, and we all went back inside.

blue-dragon-2I excused myself and went down to the conference room to congratulate Dragon on the success of her spell. I found her deep in concentration, with the four items from her world on the table in front of her. I stood there watching her, as she placed her hands over each object and intoned an incantation, attempting to discover the location of the magic conduit and whoever created it. I quietly backed out of the room and softly closed the door.

 

 

Be sure to come back and see how Dragon is faring in her quest to unravel this mystery. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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A Broken Record and Half a Mystery Put to Rest

A Broken Record and Half a Mystery Put to Rest

“What’s going on here?” I could hear the panic in my own voice.

 

My husband, Miles, stood by the kitchen counter, ready to dish up some of his savory stew. Over by the stove stood the Innkeeper, stirring an identical pot of stew. The two figures seemed oblivious to each other.

“Did I ever tell you that the king himself came to my inn just for this stew?” Miles and the Innkeeper intoned in unison.

Miles jumped and twisted around at the sound of the voice behind him. Seeing the figure stirring the stewpot on the stove, he blanched and backed up, almost tripping over his own feet. He turned back toward me, fear and confusion in his eyes. “Marge?” His legs started to buckle.

My Foreman and I ran to Miles and gently guided him to a chair. I started to speak but before I could say anything, the Innkeeper vanished in a shower of sparks. I heard a yelp behind me and whirled around to find my Old Dwarf had seized my Arrogant One, and was handling him none too gently.

 

“Release me! Do you hear? I demand you take your hands off me at once, you ruffian!” The elf tried unsuccessfully to wriggle out of the dwarf’s grasp.

“I do na be thinkin’ so, Yer Imperial Annoyance. Methinks the lassie be havin’ some questions fer ye.”

blue-dragon-facing-left“If she does not, you can be assured I do, you contemptible, aggravating, pompous, loathsome creature!” My Arrogant One shrank back and whimpered as Dragon shoved her face within an inch of his, opening her maw and displaying her impressive mouthful of dagger-like teeth.

I glared at my Arrogant One, my face growing hot and my hands balling into fists at my side. Miles rose from his seat, gaping at the elf. My other characters stepped back, making a path for us. We slowly walked over to my Arrogant One. I grabbed the front of his cloak and gave him a shake. “What is the meaning of this?”

Miles, standing beside me, shook his head in disbelief. “You’ve been doing this to me? Why, elf? What have I ever done to you?”

My Arrogant One pulled out of my grasp. He faced Miles and puffed himself up. “You? You think this is about you? You are beneath my notice, human.” He sneered and turned away from my husband.

I narrowed my eyes. “And me, elf? Am I beneath your notice as well?”

My Arrogant One paled, but tossed his head back and looked down his nose at me. “I have nothing to say.”

My Old Dwarf chuckled and grabbed the elf again. “Oh, I bet ye be havin’ a lot ta converse aboot, elfie.” The old reprobate looked at me. “Ye be wantin’ ’em in the conference room, lassie? Or be he Dragon fodder tonight?”

“Take him to the conference room, please.”

“And do you want this one in the conference room as well?” I turned to see Sorceress hauling my Bounty Hunter back into the room by the scruff of his neck. “I noticed him slinking away and thought mayhap he was in need of a personal invitation.”

My Bounty Hunter shrugged his shoulders and looked at me with a guileless expression. “If you required my presence, Mistress Writer, you had but to ask. You needn’t send your witch after me.”

I locked eyes with him, but he didn’t flinch or look away. Finally, I replied to Sorceress. “Yes, I believe his presence would be beneficial.”

young-hero-facing-left“I think we should all attend this inquisition.” My Young Hero glared at my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter. “We all deserve to hear their explanations.”

I nodded, and everyone made their way downstairs to the conference room. Dragon and Sorceress led the way, with my Bounty Hunter in tow. Ahead of me on the steps, my Old Dwarf had a tight hold on my Arrogant One. As we reached the landing, he suddenly had a tight hold on naught but thin air.

“Hey up! Where be thet dang popinjay a-gone?” The dwarf looked around wide-eyed.

Hearing the commotion, Sorceress returned to the landing. One glance at my Old Dwarf told her the whole story. She turned to me, wringing her hands. “Oh, Mistress, this is my fault! I should have cast a ward on the elf, to prevent his escape.”

“No, it is not your fault. You had no way of foreseeing he would attempt to escape. None of us could predict that.”

gypsy-facing-right“We still have his cohort, the Bounty Hunter. Perhaps we should talk to him?” My Gypsy looked at me for a decision.birthdays-weekend-trip-to-wi-018

Miles looked confused. “Is he involved, too? Why have they done this? I thought your characters had come to accept me, perhaps even like me.”

My Young Hero reached out and touched Miles reassuringly on the shoulder. “Most of us do respect you and value your comradeship, Master Miles. And I am sure whatever the Arrogant One and the Bounty Hunter have done, their actions were not the result of any dislike for you.”

Miles smiled gratefully at the lad, and I nodded in agreement. “I think you’ll find, honey, that you were only a target of convenience.” I motioned the others to continue down the stairs. “Let’s see what my Bounty Hunter has to say about it all.”

Once we were all assembled around the conference room table, my Bounty Hunter started to lose some of his composure. His eyes darted about, as if he were searching for the best route of escape, and he continually licked his lips and clenched and unclenched his fists.

I looked about the table at my other characters, all staring at my Bounty Hunter with undisguised dislike, and I almost felt sorry for him. Almost. “So. Care to explain what has been happening?”

bounty-hunterMy Bounty Hunter gaped at me as if I had just sprouted another head. “Mistress Writer, I believe you know quite well what has been happening. I further believe you know my part in it all, and my motivation. We have had this discussion on numerous occasions.”

“Humor me.”

He just sat there, staring at me.

My Gypsy banged his fist on the table. “If you do not care to humor her, perhaps you will inform the rest of us of your little plot. Some of us have been worried sick over our friend, the Innkeeper, whom we were led to believe was in need of our help – led to believe by the trickery of the Arrogant One, whom, I deduce, you were encouraging for reasons of your own. We have a right to hear from you what has been done and why.”

The other characters nodded and loudly voiced their agreement, with much table-thumping for emphasis.

My Bounty Hunter sighed and raked his hand through his hair. “Well, the elf is always bragging about how great an illusionist he is. He claimed to be the equal of friend Dragon, who, as we all know, can produce solid and substantial illusions.”

Dragon snorted. “That charlatan dares claim himself my peer in ability and power? Outrageous!” A deep growl rumbled in her throat, and black smoke poured from her nostrils.

“Of course it is outrageous, but it got me to thinking. I could use the elf’s vanity to goad him into creating illusions that would cause the rest of you to search for a way to return to our own world. I encouraged the Arrogant One to create the illusion that Master Miles was speaking and acting like the Innkeeper. He put those words in Master Miles’ mouth, and caused Master Miles to assume the mannerisms of the Innkeeper. And tonight, he took it one step further, creating the illusion of the Innkeeper in the kitchen with Master Miles.”

My Bounty Hunter paused and took a deep breath before continuing in a smaller voice. “I chose the Innkeeper because of the affection so many of you have for him. I thought for sure if you felt he was in need of your help, you would move the heavens and the earth to find a way to return to him.

I heaved a deep sigh and shook my head. “Not this again! You sound like a broken record!”

My Bounty Hunter furrowed his brow. “A broken what?”

“Never mind. I keep telling you, over and over and over again, that you all are still in your own world. You did not cease to exist there when you fell out of my manuscripts and into this world. Therefore, even if the Innkeeper were in trouble, you – the you who exist in that world with him – would already be helping him. Why will you not accept that?”

My Bounty Hunter hung his head and mumbled. “Mistress Writer, I am not knowledgeable in the ways of magic. I do not fully understand how we all came to be in this world. All I know is the longing in my heart to return to that which I knew, that which I left behind, the mission I must finish. You have not presented me with any irrefutable proof of the claims you make. In the absence of such incontrovertible proof, I used what means I had available to me to try to find a way to get back to my world.”

ElfFor a long time, no one spoke. Finally, Cleric broke the silence. “Mistress, I think we all agree what the Bounty Hunter and the Arrogant One did was contemptible. However, I think all of us who find ourselves trapped here in your world can empathize with the Bounty Hunter’s desire to return. None of us really understand how we can exist in both places at the same time. Most of us accept it solely on your word. If the Bounty Hunter is unable to accept it, we can understand his misery and his motivation for exploiting the Arrogant One’s vanity.”

The others nodded.

“I see.” I looked around the room at the others, who all seemed in agreement with Cleric. I studied the Bounty Hunter, searching for any guile or deception. “Very well. I accept that you did not act out of malice toward my husband or toward anyone here. Therefore, you shall suffer no retribution for your misguided actions. But understand this: this stops here and now. Should you ever involve yourself in such deception again, you will suffer dire consequences.”

“I understand.”bounty-hunter-facing-other-direction

“And such leniency will not be extended to your vainglorious accomplice. My Arrogant One has stepped over the line once too often. When the elf is found, he will be dealt with most severely.”

My Bounty Hunter stared at me, wide-eyed. “Mistress Writer! I am responsible for the elf’s actions. I played on his ego to manipulate him into doing my bidding. If you can forgive me, surely you can find it in your heart to show him some mercy.”

Before I could reply, Dragon spoke. “No. You acted out of a deep yearning to return to your home. He acted, as he always acts, out of conceit and swagger. There is no comparison. He does not deserve mercy!”

I nodded, but my Old Dwarf chuckled. “Be ye sure ye do na be actin’ outten conceit yerself, beastie? The elfie claimed ta be yer equal. Dinna thet make ye a tad bit testy? Mebe thet be the real reason ye do na feel too kindly toward ’em?

blue-dragon-2Dragon narrowed her eyes and bared her teeth. Before I could stop her, she had engulfed my Old Dwarf in flames.

Dragon!

The huge creature extinguished her fiery breath. My Old Dwarf crawled out from behind his scorched shield and chuckled. “Eh, be thet the best ye kin do, beastie?”

Dragon took another breath, but I stepped in front of her. “Enough!”

The big creature exhaled slowly. “So sorry.” Her flippant tone belied her words.

“I think some tempers need to cool. Why don’t we go back upstairs and see if Miles can salvage any of the stew?”

Miles and my characters silently filed out of the room, giving Dragon a wide berth. When the others were gone, Dragon turned to me. “I wouldn’t really hurt the old rapscallion, you know.”

“Could have fooled me.” I scowled.

She smiled coyly. “Well, we have solved one part of the mystery. The Innkeeper was not trying to contact us and ask for our help.”

I shook my head and sighed. “No, he wasn’t.”

“There is more to the mystery, though. We still need to determine who created the magic conduit that allowed the four items from my world to enter this one.”

I nodded and sighed. “Not only who created it, but why.”

Dark, brooding smoke clouds drifted from Dragon’s nose. “Somehow I do not believe the Arrogant One or the Bounty Hunter will provide any answers to this mystery.”

 

 

 

Be sure to join us again as we try to find my Arrogant One and unravel yet anther part of this mystery. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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