Will This Work?

Will This Work?

miles for blog 2 003dragon, elf, and me“He actually cried?” My husband’s eyes widened as he listened to my description of my meeting with my Arrogant One and Dragon.

https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/12/23/will-dragon-help/

I nodded.

“Wow! I always thought the elf had no feelings. He’s always so pompous, so snide, so aloof, so . . . so . . .”

“So arrogant?” I quirked an eyebrow.

“Exactly!” Miles took a few more minutes to digest the idea that my Arrogant One did, indeed, have feelings, even if those feelings were rather ego-centric. “So.” He finally looked at me again, his brow furrowed. “What are you going to do?”

“I thought I’d give Dragon a day or two to think about it, then approach her again . . . this time, sans elf.”

* * *

supervisingAlmost three weeks later, Miles was supervising a group of my characters. They were helping him with the removal and storage of the Christmas decorations when I walked into the family room, a room which had grown to take over the space usually occupied by the conference room.

My Gypsy and my Young Hero were taking down the decorations. Cleric and Sorceress were wrapping them and placing them in boxes. My Foreman and my Old Dwarf were placing the boxes in totes and crates and hauling them to the storage space under the stairs. Notably missing were my Arrogant One, my Bounty Hunter, and Dragon.

I walked over to Miles, who was directing the procedure like a traffic cop. “Well, I guess the holidays are officially over.” I sighed.

“Actually, they were over about a week ago, but I just hated to dismantle my Christmas Village.” Miles managed the Christmas decorations, and every year he outdid the previous year’s display.

“Well, don’t feel too bad, sweetheart. You can start putting the decorations back up in just about 46 more weeks.” I grinned.

“I was thinking I might start early next year, maybe the end of October.”

“Oh, no you don’t! You know the rules – Christmas decorations don’t go up until after Thanksgiving!” I laughed as Miles scuffed one foot back and forth and feigned a disappointed little-boy look.

Arrogant OneHe gave me an exaggerated pout, then smiled and gave me a quick kiss on my forehead. “Oh, all right. Say, on another topic, have you spoken to Dragon yet? I saw your Arrogant One moping around earlier today. He really looks miserable! I tried to convince him to join us, but he just hung his head and walked away. He didn’t even say anything nasty! Your Bounty Hunter tagged along with him. I think they went out to the shed.”

I shook my head. “With all the hustle and bustle around the holidays, I didn’t get a chance to see Dragon. I’ll go speak to her now.” I looked around the room uncertainly. “I presume I’ll find the conference room at the back of the walk-in closet in our bedroom. I don’t imagine she would have moved it again, would she?”

“Don’t ask me, honey. She’s your character.” Miles quirked an eyebrow at me, then turned back to the task of dismantling and storing the decorations.
bedroom
walk-in closetI went up the stairs and down the hall to the master bedroom. I walked into the big closet and saw the back wall was still shimmering. I assumed that meant I would find the conference room still there.

I approached the barrier warily, still not comfortable with the sensation of passing through the preternatural veil. As I got closer, my hair stood on end, and I could feel goose bumps on my arms. I stood there for several minutes, working up my nerve. Finally, I squared my shoulders and walked through the shimmering curtain into the conference room.
dragon reading
Dragon was reading in front of her illusory fireplace. She looked up as I entered the room. “I have been expecting you.”

“Oh?” I shook off the tingly feeling the magical curtain had produced. I walked over and glanced at the book she was reading, but I could not comprehend the symbols and glyphs. “Why were you expecting me?”

“I presumed you would wish to further discuss the elf’s predicament.”

“I would indeed.” I gestured to the book. “Have you been researching something concerning my Arrogant One’s malady?”

Dragon nodded. “Understand, however, I do so only because I fear I or one of your other magic users might be at risk of falling victim to the same malady. I care nothing for the elf’s discomfort with his situation.”

I nodded. “I know he’s not your favorite person.”
Dragon breathing smoke
Dragon snorted, and a cloud of acrid smoke erupted from her nostrils. “No, he is not. I doubt he is anyone’s favorite. In fact, he is detested by most. Even his closest associate, your Bounty Hunter, is scornful of him most of the time.”

I nodded in agreement. “Be that what it may, it would be nice to find the cause of my Arrogant One’s malady and – if possible – eliminate it and restore his power.”

dragon talkingDragon frowned. “It is not a matter of restoring his power – he never lost his power. What he lost was his ability to control that power, to wield it in a consistent manner. When he attempts to create an illusion or cast some other minor spell, the result could be anything from a perfectly cast spell, to no outcome at all, to some unforeseen and unintended result.”

I nodded again. “Yes, that is how he described his problem. So, what do you think has caused it? He says he has not had any physical ailments that might have created the problem.”

Dragon shrugged. “I have not been able to find anything in my books that might explain it.”

Creatures along the pathI sighed and raked my hand through my hair. “Well, my Arrogant One believes the problem started shortly after our return from the world to which the wish listeners transported us. Could something have happened there to cause his affliction?”

Again, Dragon shrugged. “I have no way of knowing that.”

I furrowed my brow and rubbed my chin. “Is there any way to return to that world and explore the possibility?”

Dragon shook her head. “I do not know how to open the passage between the two worlds.”

I paced up and down the room several times, thinking. “Perhaps you and my Arrogant One should come with me to that park from which we were transported.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/05/27/lost/    I looked hopefully at Dragon. “Maybe you could find the passage there.”

Dragon shrugged. “I doubt I will find anything useful. Remember, it was the wish listeners who opened the gateway.”  https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/06/03/our-little-odyssey/

“Perhaps if my Arrogant One wishes hard enough at that precise location, they will open it again.”

Dragon furrowed her brow. “If they do not, I know of no way to cross into their world. However, since I have no other ideas how to investigate this problem, we might as well try. But, first, I must talk with the elf. He must understand the importance of expressing his wishes precisely and unequivocally. We do not want any wishes granted that worsen the existing situation or cause another predicament.”

I nodded, and the two of us made our way out of the conference room through the ethereal barrier, then headed to the garden shed.
arrogant onebounty-hunter-facing-other-direction
“So, beast, you have decided to help.” Although the elf’s words were arrogant, his tone of voice was meek. He sat across from my Bounty Hunter, his shoulders stooped, his head hanging so low, it almost rested on his chest.
dragon
“Know that I do so not for you, but to ascertain the true cause of your malady. I do not wish to fall victim to the same condition; nor do any of our fellow magic-users.”

My Arrogant One nodded listlessly. His friend placed his hand on the elf’s shoulder, offering support.
Picnic table by lake
Dragon continued. “We will go to the place whence we were transported into the other world by the wish listeners. We will attempt to gain access to that world, to investigate the source of your malady.”

“How will we enter that world?” My Bounty Hunter furrowed his brow. “Do you know how to open the gateway?”
dragon and bounty hunter
“You will not. The elf and I will attempt to do so.” Dragon snorted a cloud of black smoke at my Bounty Hunter, who frowned at her in return.

“I thought I would accompany you and assist . . .”

Dragon cut him off. “You thought wrong.” She turned to my Arrogant One. “When we reach the spot where we left this world, we will attempt to attract the attention of the wish listeners, that they might transport us once again into their realm.”

Creatures along the path

“And how will you do that?” Again, my Bounty Hunter attempted to inject himself into the conversation.

Dragon glared at him but pointed to the elf and replied evenly. “He will wish.”

The large beast turned her gaze back to my Arrogant One. “But you will take care with your wish, lest you do more damage than good.” She thrust her reptilian face toward his pale elfin face. “Do you understand me?”

The elf nodded listlessly once more.

“Good. Now this is what you are going to do . . .”

I beckoned to my Bounty Hunter, who followed me out of the shed, leaving Dragon and my Arrogant One to make plans.

* * *

Elf cleric close-upArrogant OneThe next day, I drove Dragon, in her guise of an elf maiden, and my Arrogant One, to the picnic grove by the woodland lake where my husband and I had taken my characters for a Memorial Day picnic. My Arrogant One sat in the back seat, sullen and silent, for the entire 90-minute drive. Dragon sat in the front, her nose buried in her books.

frozen-lake-112131_960_720When we finally got there, the scene was very different from that day more than seven months past. Snow now covered the picnic grove and lake, and the trails were difficult to navigate. Hiking got easier, though, as we got further from the lake and deeper into the woods, where the snow wasn’t as deep.

“There!” My Arrogant One pointed. “Is that not the trail?”

We walked over to the snow-covered steps, and I examined the sign. Secret Trail.

secret trail

the secret trailI frowned. “This does not look right. The sign states that this is the Secret Trail, but it is the wrong color. The sign that was here during our fateful hike was darker, and it had yellow lettering.”

My Arrogant One shrugged. “So, something damaged the sign and it was replaced.”

“Perhaps.” Dragon narrowed her eyes and looked closely. “But the trail, too, seems wrong.”

“It is the same trail.” My Arrogant One sneered at Dragon. “It just looks different with the snow.”
different steps
“No. Dragon’s right. These steps are too narrow. They look like the steps in the other world.” I looked around, but nothing else seemed amiss.

“Well, I say it is the correct trail. I will walk up the steps and make my wish.”

My Arrogant One started to move, but Dragon grabbed his arm. “You will wait.” She turned to me. “You may go home. I do not wish you to become entangled in any unforeseen events here.”

I gaped at Dragon. “And how do you propose to get home?”

“When our work here is completed, I will summon you.”

I furrowed my brow and wrinkled my nose. “Magically?”

“Yes. I do not have one of those devices you in this world use to communicate over distances.”

Dragon started to shimmer. In a moment, she had assumed her natural form. She waved her clawed hand at me dismissively and turned to my Arrogant One. “Now you may proceed. But remember our conversation of last eve and heed my warning. Take care with your wish.”

dragon and arrogant one

My Arrogant One contorted his face into a snarl. “I wish only to regain control of my power.”

Dragon grabbed him. “No! We have no idea what is behind your malady. If the wish listeners attempt to grant you that wish, they may do more harm than good. We must wish to return to their land, that we might investigate the source of your affliction. Only when we have identified the source can we hope to cure your condition.”

My Arrogant One glared at Dragon for many long minutes. Finally, his shoulders slumped, and he nodded. “Very well, beast. But you best know what you are about.”

I turned to go, but quickly turned back. “How long . . .?” But they were gone.

Will Dragon and my Arrogant One succeed in finding the cause of the elf’s affliction? Will my Arrogant One regain control of his magic? Join us again next week and see what happens. I’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Will Dragon Help?

Will Dragon Help?

Dragon in front of fireplaceMy Arrogant One shuffled out of my office, head down, shoulders slumped. I followed, trying to hurry him along. “The last time I saw Dragon, she was in the conference room, napping in front of her illusory fireplace. She’s probably still there. Let’s go see if she’ll help us.”

My Arrogant One gave a half-hearted nod, along with a bit of a shrug, and continued shuffling down the hallway away from my office. But as we approached the end of the hall, we both stopped dead in our tracks.

I stared. “Where’s the conference room?”

The door that led to the conference room was gone. Beyond the spot where it should have been, my husband, Miles, and several of my characters were decorating the family room . . . a much larger family room than I remembered.
MilesChristmas village and decorations (15)
“What was that, honey? Did you say something?” My husband looked up from arranging his Christmas village.

Where is the conference room?” I gaped at the family room, full of festive holiday decorations.

Is this where you want the stacked snowmena little further down, by the skating pond“Oh, Dragon moved it, Mistress.” My Gypsy placed a figure into the village. “Is this where you wanted the stack of snowmen, Master Miles?”

“Ah, no, put them a little further down, by the skating pond.” Miles pointed. “There, that’s good.”

“Dragon . . . moved . . . the conference room?” I shook my head and raked my hand through my hair.

Miles took the miniature houses“Yeah, she wanted to give us more room for my Christmas village and the other holiday decorations.” My husband seemed remarkably nonchalant about this as he took the ceramic houses my Gypsy and my Young Hero held out and positioned them at the far end of the display.

I watched Miles and the others bustle about, arranging various holiday decorations.

 

Finally, I asked, “Well, where did she move it?”

“Move what, honey?” Miles didn’t look up as he answered me.

“The conference room! Where did Dragon move the conference room?” My voice was starting to stray into the register usually reserved for opera divas . . . or my Arrogant One when my Old Dwarf called him elfie.

Miles paused and stroked his chin. “You know, I don’t think she said.”

Where do you want the sleigh“We would help you look, but right now, Master Miles has us assisting him with the decorations.” My Foreman slid past me with a sleigh filled with evergreen boughs. “Where did you want this, Master Miles?”

“Up there, please.” My husband pointed to a spot atop a tall cabinet.

My Foreman tried it there, frowned, then moved it to the back of the couch. “With respect, I think it would look better here, sir. It is a bit cluttered atop the cabinet.”

I gaped at them all, going about their tasks as if nothing was amiss. “Where . . . is . . . the . . . conference . . . room?

Placed the wreath on the closet door“You might try looking upstairs, Mistress.” Cleric handed a wreath to Sorceress, who placed it on the door to the storage closet.

“Yes.” Sorceress nodded “Maybe at the far end of the walk-in closet in your master bedchamber.”

What?” I felt as if they were all speaking a foreign language.
lugged some large plastic bins
My Old Dwarf and my Bounty Hunter lugged some large, plastic bins from the storage closet. My Bounty Hunter added his container to the pile and grabbed my Arrogant One by the sleeve of his cloak. “We could use your help, too.”

“Ah, no, I need the elf with me right now.” I frowned. “Come on, let’s check upstairs.”

Arrogant One facing rightThe elf and I trudged up the stairs and down the hallway to the master bedroom suite. “Wait here.” I did not want any of my characters traipsing around my bedroom. Who was I kidding? My characters seemed to traipse wherever they wanted, as evidenced by the fact they all seemed to know about the walk-in closet. Funny, I don’t remember ever giving them a tour.
Bedroom
While my Arrogant One waited impatiently in the hallway, I opened the bedroom door, crossed the room, and entered the walk-in closet. Sure enough, something was undeniably different. I stared, trying to figure it out. Oh, yeah – it was organized!

Other than that astonishing discovery, I also realized the wall at the far end of the closet had changed drastically. It appeared rather insubstantial, like a glittering haze. I shuddered.

walk-in closet

After staring at it for many long minutes, I squared my shoulders and cautiously approached the shimmering barrier at the back of the closet. “Dragon? Dragon, are you there?”

No answer.

I hesitated before warily reaching out toward the shimmering veil. It parted at my touch, revealing the scene beyond. There was the conference room, all right, with Dragon still fast asleep in front of her fireplace.

Dragon in front of fireplace

As I debated the wisdom of crossing the threshold and waking Dragon, my Arrogant One pushed in behind me, throwing me off-balance and cart-wheeling us both across the room. We landed unceremoniously in a heap atop the sleeping reptile.

Dragon leaped to her feet, throwing the elf and I onto the floor. My Arrogant One almost landed in the fireplace, while I rolled away from the hearth and bumped into the chess table.Dragon with smoke

“What is the meaning of this? Dragon glared at the interruption to her daily siesta.

“Sorry.” I struggled to my feet and brushed myself off. I turned to the elf, who had just done the same. “I thought I told you to wait in the hallway.”

“You were taking too long.” He glared at me. “Well, will the beast help or not?”

“I don’t know if Dragon will help. I haven’t even had the chance to talk to her yet.”

“Then I will ask her.” The elf turned scornfully toward Dragon. “Beast . . .”

I put my hand over his mouth. “I think I should do the talking.”

Dragon folded her reptilian arms over her scaly chest and glared at us through narrowed eyes. Wisps of dark smoke drifted from her nostrils, and she tapped one clawed foot impatiently. “Someone had best take the opportunity to speak with me, before I decide to have flambé for lunch.”

I sighed and related the story. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/12/16/what-is-the-source-of-the-problem/

Dragon settled herself on the floor in front of her fireplace while she listened. She rolled onto her belly and rearranged her bulk into a sphinx-like position, with her small arms curled like a cat’s under her chest, and her wings folded neatly out of the way. She watched us through slitted eyes. When I completed my tale, Dragon rose and paced the length of the room and back several times.

Well?” My Arrogant One’s voice was sharp and demanding.

Dragon rounded on him. “So, elf, you cannot control your magic with any regularity, and you know not why? All you can tell us is the problem commenced shortly after we arrived back from the land to which we had been transported by the wish listeners?”

My Arrogant One nodded. “That is correct.”

Dragon with smoke“So, what do you expect me to do about it?” Her question was delivered in a puff of acrid smoke.

The elf drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and grasped his cloak with both hands. “I expect you to help, of course, vile beast!”

I put my hand over the elf’s mouth again and held him fast as he squirmed and struggled. “What my Arrogant One means is he would be extremely grateful for any assistance you could render. Since you’re the one with the greatest power and ability, we thought it possible for you to determine if the source of his malady does, indeed, lie in the other world. If it does, you’d be the only one who could contact anyone from that world and remedy the situation.”

Dragon snorted. “Too much trouble. I have a better idea. The elf can just stop practicing magic altogether. He was never that good, so it would be no great loss to the world of magic.”
Dragon in front of fireplaceArrogant One crying
The huge beast turned and curled up in front of her illusory fireplace once more. As she started snoring loudly, I finally took my hand from in front of my Arrogant One’s mouth and released him. The elf just crumpled to the floor, his body racked with silent sobs.

Will we be able to convince Dragon to help, or has the Arrogant One annoyed her once too often? Be sure to come back to see what happens. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.Fixtures Light Elegant Lighting Fixture And Supply Company Intended For Front Porch Light Fixtures Front Porch Light Fixtures

(My husband and I, along with my characters, are taking a few weeks off for the holidays. We’ll be back on January 13. Happy Holidays!)

Happy Holidays

What is the Source of the Problem?

What is the Source of the Problem?

Arrogant One storms outAs my Arrogant One stormed out of the room, Dragon gazed after him, a confused look on her reptilian face. “What is bothering the elf? And how can he say I know nothing? He did not even listen to my hypothesis.”

“Don’t worry about him.” I raked my hand through my hair and sighed. “Let’s hear your theory regarding the recent events involving my Gypsy’s sketch.”
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/12/09/6486/

Birds in snow under deckDragon furrowed her scaly brow and cleared her throat. “Well, as you know, the Gypsy lad was at the window sketching the Ring-necked Pheasant he and Cleric observed by the bush next to the deck.”

I nodded.

ChessRook hitting DragonDragon pointed to the table where a chess board was set up. “While the Gypsy lad was sketching, the elf – engaged in a chess match with his cohort, your Bounty Hunter – accused me of snoring. He threw a chess piece at me upon which he had evidently cast a spell of enlargement, as it was considerably bigger when it hit me than the other pieces on the board.”

Again, I nodded. “Is there a point to this story? I think we all saw what was going on.”Dragon with smoke

Dragon narrowed her eyes, and a wisp of smoke drifted from her snout. “Do you wish to hear my theory, or not?”

“Yes, of course.” I rubbed the back of my neck. “Please continue.”

Dragon nodded and smiled smugly. “When the elf retrieved the chess piece, he did it by magic, having it first shrink and then return to his hand. However, he did not do it with a simple counter-spell, negating the enlargement spell. Since he threw the rook by physical means, there was no spell to counter to retrieve it magically. So instead of first removing the spell that had enlarged the rook, then casting a retrieve spell, he cast a single spell that both retrieved the rook and shrank it.”

I frowned. “I fail to see how that has anything to do with my Gypsy’s sketch.”

Dragon sighed. “Do you remember when the elf and his cohort were repairing the shed roof?”  https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/10/14/a-small-problem/

...waving staff

 

...me and the chipmunkI nodded. “Boy, do I!”

Dragon smirked. “I thought you might. Well, when the elf cast the spell to shrink the building materials, so they could be more easily lifted to the roof, your proximity to the objects targeted by the enchantment caused you to be caught in the spell. You shrank along with the actual target of the spell, the roofing tiles and supplies.”

I rubbed my chin. “Are you saying that my Gypsy’s sketch was caught in my Arrogant One’s spells?”

Dragon nodded.

I shook my head. “How could a mere shrinking spell or retrieval spell bring the picture to life?”

dragon looking rightDragon pursed her reptilian lips and gave me a condescending look. She changed her tone of voice and spoke slowly, as if addressing an obtuse child. “Because it was not just the shrinking spell or the retrieval spell that affected the drawing. It was also the animation spell the elf had cast to bring his chess pieces to life. The combination of the three spells – the animation spell, the shrinking spell, and the retrieval spell – caused the picture to come to life, escape the paper on which it had been drawn, and fly around the house in the form of a miniature pheasant.”

I sighed. Her explanation corresponded with what my Arrogant One had already explained to me, but it was good to have Dragon’s confirmation on his theory. Remembering the elf’s desperate wish for secrecy, though, I merely nodded and acted as if this was the first time I was hearing it. “Okay, that makes sense. Thanks.”Dragon in front of fireplace

Dragon nodded and curled up again in front of her illusory fireplace. In seconds, she was sound asleep again and snoring loudly, making a sound similar to the purring of some giant cat.

Later, as I sat in my office attempting to do some writing, I thought about my Arrogant One’s dilemma. For some time now – several months, if the elf was being truthful – he had been noticing a problem with his magic. There was a fluctuation in his ability to cast spells, with results falling along the full spectrum from perfection to nonexistent to unexpected. If it was not a physical ailment causing his predicament, then what was the source of the trouble?

Methinks I need to talk with my Arrogant One. I shook my head. Did I really just say methinks? I’ve been spending way too much time with my characters. Soon, I’ll be saying things like forsooth and mayhap and dost.

It took me almost an hour to track down my Arrogant One. How do my characters manage to disappear so completely in a 12-room split-level? I guess that’s a mystery to be solved some other time.

“Do you have a few minutes?”

Arrogant One facing rightMy Arrogant One looked up at me and started to sneer. I raised an eyebrow, and crossed my arms over my chest. The elf blushed and ducked his head. “Of course, Mistress. What is it you need?”

“I thought we’d go have a private chat in my office and try to figure out a few things.”

Once we had settled ourselves behind the closed door of my office, I steepled my fingers and waited. My Arrogant One squirmed for several moments, scowling at me. Finally, he blurted out, “Why am I here? What is it you wish to discuss?”

“I want to try to understand what is happening to your magic. I want to find the source of your problem and see if it is possible to alleviate it.”

My Arrogant One furrowed his brow and chewed on his lower lip. Finally, he nodded. “How do you propose to do that?”

I shrugged. “I’m not really sure yet. Do you remember the first time you had a problem with your magic?”

The elf shook his head. “No. I thought it had been several months, as I told you, but my companion, your Bounty Hunter, postulated it has been longer.”

I frowned. “Okay. Tell me exactly what has been happening.”

He paused, tilting his head and fiddling with his cloak. When he answered, his voice was tinged with impatience. “As I previously explained, sometimes, my magic seems to work flawlessly. If I am, for example, creating an illusion, it is perfect in every detail. No one would know it is merely an illusion unless I told them.”

I nodded, trying to encourage the elf. “But other times . . .?”
Arrogant One
“Other times, I cast a spell, and it is as if someone with no magic ability at all recited the words of an incantation. They are just words, possessing no power within them. Nothing happens. Nothing!” My Arrogant One’s face crumpled, and I thought I saw tears gathering at the corners of his eyes. He bowed his head and composed himself. When he raised his head and spoke again, his voice was so soft, I could barely hear.

“I do not know what is worse – when nothing happens, or when something unintentional happens, as with the Gypsy lad’s sketch coming to life, or you being shrunk with the building materials.”

I nodded. “Think back. When was the last time your magic worked flawlessly?”

My Arrogant One squirmed in his chair again. “Well . . .” His face reddened.

“Well?”

“It was about a month ago. I . . . I created several illusions that were perfect in every detail. The others – not just my friend, your Bounty Hunter, but all your other characters – congratulated me on the fine job I had done.” He ducked his head and shuffled his foot, obviously not eager to give me the details of his illusions.

I ignored his discomfort. “Okay, think hard about that time and about the two times you spoke of when your magic had unintended results – when you shrank me, and when you animated my Gypsy’s sketch.”

The elf tilted his head and furrowed his brow. “I am not sure I understand your intention. What, exactly, do you wish me to think about?”

“Was there anyone present when your magic produced the unintended results who was not there when your magic performed flawlessly?”

The elf thought a moment, then his eyes widened. “Oh! You believe that someone may be interfering with my magic? Causing my spells to malfunction?”

“It’s a possibility, isn’t it?”

Arrogant OneMy Arrogant One stood and started pacing. His eyes narrowed, and he tugged at his robes. He muttered to himself, obviously trying to remember, but after a few moments, he sighed, shook his head, and threw himself back into the chair. “No. The most recent time, when I created the perfect illusions, all the others were there. No one was absent.”

I sighed and raked my hand through my hair. “Then you must think back. You must try to remember the first time your magic failed.”

Once again, my Arrogant One stood and started pacing. This time, it was longer before he threw himself back into the chair. “I cannot be certain, but it seems it started once we returned from that other land, that land to which the wish listeners lured us.”
Creatures along the path
I remembered that odyssey, a tale that had taken nine weeks of blogs to relate to my readers.
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/05/27/lost/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/06/03/our-little-odyssey/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/06/10/stranger-and-stranger-looking-for-the-way-home/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/06/17/the-search-for-home-continues/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/06/24/new-allies-or-new-enemies/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/07/01/next-leg-of-the-journey/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/07/08/the-way-home/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/07/15/preparing/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/07/22/home/

 

“Are you sure?” I stared at him. “After our return?”

My Arrogant One frowned, and rubbed his chin. “Yes! Yes, I . . . I think I remember! It was not long after our return when my friend, your Bounty Hunter, challenged me to a chess match. I am a superior player, and I was soon bored. I attempted to animate the chess pieces, just for fun. Nothing happened. I cast the spell again, and nothing happened again. The third time I cast the spell, the chess pieces remained unchanged, but some of the furniture came alive. Two chairs and a small table were chasing us around the room when – quite fortuitously – Dragon entered the room and dispelled the magic. After that, my power seemed to ebb and flow with no discernable reason for the instability.”

“And that was the start of your problems? You are quite certain? I ask because I know that some of the others have claimed for many years that you are not as accomplished at magic as you claim. Are you quite certain you had no problems before we were trapped in that land?”

The elf turned beet red. “I had no problems before that, I assure you. The others denigrated me because of their jealousy.”

I sighed. “Well, maybe something that happened in that other land affected your power.”

My Arrogant One shook his head. “I cannot think what that might be.”

I frowned. “I know you do not wish to discuss this with anyone else, but I really think Dragon may be able to help.”

Dragon and unicornBefore the elf could interrupt, I raised my hand and continued. “Dragon is the most powerful of my characters in the use of all types of magic, not just illusion. She can detect things in the traces of a magic signature that might lead to a solution for you. And, if it was anything that happened in that other land, Dragon is the only one who might be able to enlist the help of the Lord of the Forest, the unicorn who aided us in returning to this world.”

My Arrogant One sat, his eyes narrowed. He chewed on his lower lip as he obviously weighed the value of Dragon’s help against the humiliation he would feel at admitting to her or any of the others that he had lost control of his magic. Finally, he rose and nodded. “Very well. I will speak with her.”

I stood and walked with him to the door. “We’ll both go to her. Dragon owes me a few favors, and she may be more amenable to helping if the request comes from me.”

Will Dragon agree to help my Arrogant One find the cause of his problems? Will she be able to track down the source of his the fluctuation in his magic power? Be sure to come back next week and see what happens. We’ll leave the porch light on for you!

What’s Wrong Now?

What’s Wrong Now?

Arrogant One facing right“Stop snoring!”

I recognized the voice of my Arrogant One as I passed the conference room, so I stuck my head in to see what trouble he was currently getting into.

Rook hitting Dragon“Stop snoring!” My Arrogant One looked up from the chess board he was studying, took a rook, and chucked it at Dragon, who was sleeping in front of her illusory fireplace. As he released the small chess piece, the elf mumbled an incantation. By the time the rook bounced off Dragon’s thick, scaly hide, it was big enough to rouse her, though – luckily for my Arrogant One – not nearly big enough to do any damage.

Smoke drifting from Dragon's snoutDragon opened one eye and dark smoke spewed from her snout. She gave the elf a baleful look. “What?

“I said stop snoring.” The elf cast another spell and the rook shrank back to its previous size and returned to his hand. My Arrogant One’s attention returned to the chess board.

“I am not snoring.” Dragon opened both eyes and glared at the elf.

“You are snoring.” A chorus of voices responded with equal parts annoyance and boredom.

Anthology coverEvidently, my characters’ excitement over the anthology containing two of my stories (https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/11/25/woo-hoo-coming-soon/ and
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/12/02/its-here/) had faded. They had spent several days reading the book, and had engaged in animated discussions of every one of the more than 30 poems, essays, and stories in the collection.
(You can download a copy of the anthology here for free: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/909374?fbclid=IwAR15_opnZHJRPrY2-jioKWRHlnbgbGJd8nWucIKQOchZbZjr0amdKn5HUFI)

Now, however, they were back to their winter doldrums. Dragon closed her eyes and resumed her nap, while my other characters engaged in various activities around the room.
window and binoculars
Elf facing right“Oh, Mistress! I am glad you are here.” Cleric beckoned me from across the room. She was by the big picture window, binoculars in hand, studying some birds in the snow by the bush in front of the deck. “Come look at these birds. I do not recognize them!”

Birds in snow under deck

I started to walk toward the window, but paused, my attention arrested by the chess game between my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter. My Arrogant One had cast a spell of illusion on the chess pieces, causing them to appear alive. As the elf pointed to one of the knights, it galloped across the board and positioned itself on the square indicated by my Arrogant One.

“Tha elfie be cheatin’!” My Old Dwarf chuckled and tapped the side of his nose with his forefinger.

“I am not cheating! And do not call me elfie!” My Arrogant One’s shriek was somewhere in the upper register of human hearing, but it evidently was quite painful to Dragon, who snarled at the elf.

As my Bounty Hunter attempted to diffuse the situation between his cohort and Dragon, I just shook my head and continued toward the window.

As I approached, Cleric sighed and put down the pair of binoculars she had been using. “You are too late, Mistress.” She pointed at my Arrogant One. “The birds took flight at his screech.”

I ducked my head in a gesture of apology. “I’m sorry I didn’t come right over when you beckoned. There aren’t many birds you are unable to identify. I would have liked to see these mystery birds.”
Pheasant
gypsy-facing-right“You can.” My Gypsy turned to us and held out his sketch pad. “I drew a picture of one of them.”

I took the pad from him and looked, admiring his artwork.

Cleric, looking over my shoulder, gasped. “You have captured it precisely!” She beamed at the lad.

I studied the drawing. “Excellent detail! This is a male Ring-necked Pheasant. This species was introduced to this country from Asia more than a hundred years ago. It rapidly became a very common and much sought-after game bird. While it is not unusual to see Ring-necked Pheasants around backyard bird feeders, I haven’t seen any here in several years.”

Dark-eyed Junco“I hope they come back.” Cleric looked out the window, a wistful expression on her face. “Oh, look!” She brightened as she pointed to another bird. “A Dark-eyed Junco!”

My Gypsy studied the junco for a moment. “May I have my pad back, Mistress? I would like to try sketching this bird, too.”

As I handed him his sketch pad, I notice the page we had been looking at was almost blank. “Hey, what did you do, use disappearing ink?”
Something's missing
Gypsy stared at the page that had held his drawing. Now, there were just a few feathers remaining against a snowy backdrop. “No, Mistress, I used the colored pencils Master Miles gave us to use during our Gratitude Scavenger Hunt.” (https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/09/23/were-doing-what/ and https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/09/30/gratitude-scavenger-hunt/)

For today's blog 001Cleric, my Gypsy, and I gaped at the picture. Before any of us could say anything, my husband, Miles, entered the room. His brow was creased, and anxiety tinged his voice. “Honey, I think you better come upstairs, right now.”

I frowned. “Why? What’s wrong?”

As small as a RobinMiles raked his hand through his hair and grimaced. “There’s a bird flying around the kitchen. I don’t know how it got in the house – no one has opened any doors or windows.” Miles paused and rubbed the back of his neck. “That’s not all. This bird is . . . well, it’s strange-looking. It’s very colorful, and it has long tail feathers, but it’s no bigger than a robin. It almost looks like a miniature pheasant!”

Cleric, my Gypsy, and I bolted for the stairs, with Miles trailing behind.

“Wait!” My husband rushed to catch up with us. “Do you know something about this bird?”

Something's missing“Perchance.” My Gypsy looked at the bird, nodded, then turned to Miles and held out his sketch pad. “Just a few moments ago, there was a picture of a Ring-necked Pheasant on this paper. I drew it, so I know it was not an enchanted image. But now, somehow, the bird seems to have escaped the drawing and is flying around.”

Miles looked from the picture, which now displayed just a few feathers, to the bird, and back again. “How . . .?”

I shrugged. “Don’t know yet. First thing to do is catch the bird, so we can examine it. Someone go get Dragon.”

By the time my Gypsy returned with Dragon, who was grumbling and fuming over the interruption to her nap, Cleric had coaxed the small bird to perch on her finger. When Dragon spotted the small creature, she furrowed her scaly brow and tilted her head. “What is that?”

“That’s what we’re trying to figure out.” I explained the series of events and pointed to my Gypsy’s sketch pad. “Was that drawing enchanted?”

My Gypsy frowned. “I told you, Mistress, it could not be enchanted. I drew it, and I used no magic.”

I raised an eyebrow and chuckled. “I never suggested you enchanted it. There are a few other magic users around here, if you remember.”

My Gypsy blushed but nodded and handed the sketch pad to Dragon.
Dragon catches pheasant
Dragon examined the pad carefully. She nodded. “Let me see the bird.”

Cleric carefully transferred the nervous creature to Dragon’s outstretched, clawed hand. Gently, the huge beast examined the little bird before returning it to Cleric.

Dragon wrinkled her nose. “I do sense a residual trace of magic on the pad, and a stronger presence of magic on the bird itself. I would deduce that someone enchanted the picture to take wing but did not do a very competent job.”

I sighed and raked my hand through my hair. “Can you tell from the residual magic who cast the spell?”

Dragon tilted her head and frowned. “It has the feel of the pompous elf’s magic, yet, there is a difference.”

I sighed. “Let’s go talk to the elf.”

Cleric was still holding the bird. “Mistress, what should I do with him?”

I considered my options. “You better bring him but be sure he doesn’t get loose and start flying around again, please.”
Chess
Back down in the conference room, my Arrogant One had just won the chess match against his friend and cohort, my Bounty Hunter. They were about to set up the board for another game, when I walked over to them.

“I’d like to talk to you.”

My Arrogant One made shooing motions at me. “I am a very busy person. If you wish an audience with me, you will need to petition my chancellor.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Your chancellor?”

Bounty HunterThe elf nodded and made a sweeping gesture toward my Bounty Hunter. “My Chancellor.”

I snorted and turned to my other character. “Well, Chancellor, I have need of an audience with your lord . . . right now.”

My Bounty Hunter inclined his head and chuckled. “I will see if I can squeeze you into my lord’s very busy schedule.”

I narrowed my eyes. “Oh, will you look at that? I see an opening in his schedule.”

I took a seat next to my Arrogant One. Dragon stood behind the elf, with her hands on his shoulders, keeping him from springing out of his seat.

“Unhand me, you beast!” My Arrogant One turned beet red and struggled against Dragon’s hold.

“Sit still and listen.” Dragon’s voice invited no argument.

The elf squirmed, but to no avail. “Very well! What is it you want?”

I glared at my Arrogant One. “Did you enchant my Gypsy’s sketch pad, or the drawing he made of a pheasant?”

The elf scowled. “What are you talking about?”

My Gypsy showed him the sketch pad. “I drew a picture of the pheasant Cleric was watching by the bush. After a few minutes, this was all that was left of the sketch. And, a few minutes after that, Master Miles found a bird flying around the house. It appears to be a miniature pheasant.” He pointed to the bird Cleric was holding.

My Arrogant One sniffed indignantly. “Why would I waste my time on such foolishness?”

I raised an eyebrow. “I don’t know why you would do many of the things you do. However, Dragon detected residual magic on the sketch pad and on the bird. It is similar to the signature produced by your magic.”

My Arrogant One paled. He and my Bounty Hunter exchanged glances. “Err . . . I have no knowledge of any of this.”

“I think you do.” My Gypsy glowered at the elf.

I nodded. “I believe you know something, too. Now talk.”

DwarfArrogant OneMy Arrogant One squirmed out of Dragon’s grasp and bounded toward the door. My Old Dwarf jumped up, brandishing his axe and blocking the elf’s path. “Tha lass be wantin’ fer ye ta be conversatin’ wit ’er, elfie.”

To my surprise, my Arrogant One did not screech about being called elfie. Instead, he lowered his head and scuffed one foot back and forth. “Very well. I will tell you everything I know.” He looked around at everyone watching him. “But not here.”

I sighed. “My office. Now.” I beckoned to my Bounty Hunter. “You, too. I have a feeling you might know something about this as well.”

Once in my office, with the door closed firmly behind us, my Arrogant One was anything but arrogant. In a voice quavering with emotion, he began.

“I have been noticing a problem with my power.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Oh?”

The elf sat, hands clasped in his lap, shoulders slumped. “It appears that I may be losing control over my magic.”

I raised both eyebrows. “How long has this been going on?”

“For several of your months.” The elf spoke so softly, I could barely hear his response. “Sometimes, I can not perform any magic, not even the simplest illusions. Other times, I can cast a spell, but with unintended results.”

My Bounty Hunter cleared his throat. “Do you remember sometime in the beginning of the month you call October, we asked if we could accompany you on a nature hike?”

I nodded.

“I know you noticed us hanging back and engaging in whispered conversations.”

https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/10/07/colorful-autumn-nature-walk/

Again, I nodded.

“Well, we were attempting to determine the extent of my friend’s loss of control over his magic.”

My elf squirmed. “I was unable to create even the smallest illusion that day. I tried several times to create various birds for you to photograph, but to no avail.”

My Bounty Hunter placed a comforting hand on his friend’s shoulder. “The following week, there was that unfortunate incident when you were caught in the spell the elf used to shrink some materials we were hauling up to the shed roof to make repairs.”

https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/10/14/a-small-problem/

I frowned. “Yes, I remember that, too.”

 

My Arrogant One chewed on his lower lip. “We thought my condition was improving. Recently, I performed flawlessly, creating some perfect illusions.”

https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/11/11/which-way-did-they-go/
Miles waving from car
He sighed. “But today, I suppose the shrinking spell I placed on the rook I had thrown at Dragon, along with the spell I cast on the chess pieces to bring them to life, somehow combined to cause the Gypsy’s sketch to come alive and shrink.”

I raked my hand through my hair. “Perhaps you have a physical ailment that is wreaking havoc with your power? Have you recently had a cold, or any flu-like symptoms? Fever? Rash? Headaches?”

To each, my Arrogant One shook his head. “Nothing. Physically, I have felt fine.”

“Maybe you should discuss this with Dragon, Sorceress, and Cleric.”

My Arrogant One’s head shot up. “No! I would not humiliate myself in front of them!”

I shrugged. “Well, let’s go see if you’re able to undo the current problem, and get the bird back into my Gypsy’s picture. Then, I guess, you’ll just have to be careful when and where you perform your magic. Don’t use your power around anyone or anything on which it might have an adverse effect.”

My Arrogant One nodded and rose from his chair. He looked miserable, his eyes rimmed with red, his shoulders slumped, his head hanging. I almost felt sorry for him.

Back in the conference room, Cleric had returned to the window, and was bird-watching again. My Gypsy was next to her, sketching.

“Where’s the bird?” I looked around.
Dragon looks up from fireplacePheasant
Dragon looked up from her position in front of her illusory fireplace. “I was able to return the bird to its proper form and place it back in the sketch. I think I might know how the problem occurred.”

“You know nothing, beast!” My Arrogant One snarled, then turned on his heel and marched out of the room, my Bounty Hunter close behind.

 

 

Yeah. I almost felt sorry for him.

What is causing my Arrogant One to lose control of his powers? Be sure to come back next week and see if we find any clues. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

Fixtures Light Elegant Lighting Fixture And Supply Company Intended For Front Porch Light Fixtures Front Porch Light Fixtures

It’s Here!

It’s Here!

Elf facing right“I do not think Mistress Writer is in the mood to celebrate.” Cleric fidgeted with her belt and shifted her weight from one foot to the other.
Stu-04-NatGal
“Why would she not be? Is she not happy her stories have been published?” Sorceress furrowed her brow.

“Oh, she is very pleased with her accomplishment.” Cleric was quick to respond.
Dwarf
The Old Dwarf shook his head. “Thet do na be makin’ sense. Iffin tha lass be pleased, then why be she not wantin’ ta be celebratin’?”
foreman-facing-left
“I believe she is in pain. She has been complaining about her neck.” The Foreman shifted his position on the hard chair.

Cleric nodded. “She has been plagued by stiffness in her neck that causes sharp pains to extend behind her ear and to the top of her head. She spoke with her doctor about this when she went for her regular checkup. The doctor changed some medications Mistress is taking for some chronic conditions, and she sent Mistress to see a physical therapist. That is where she is right now. Master Miles drove her to her appointment.”

“A physic therapodist? Wot be thet?” The dwarf scowled.

Young hero 2The Young Hero chuckled. “It is pronounced phys-i-cal ther-a-pist. I looked it up on Mistress Writer’s magic box, the one she calls a computer. A physical therapist is someone who can help relieve a person’s pain and help them gain mobility through physical means, like exercise or massage, as opposed to the use of surgery or a lot of medicines.”

Physical therapy

Cleric sighed. “I do not understand why Mistress will not simply allow me to tend her with my healing herbs.”

GypsyThe Gypsy shrugged. “Mistress Writer has never been in favor of us utilizing the skills, materials, and processes of our world on her or others from this world. Maybe she is afraid things that work in our world would have adverse effects on someone from this world.”
Arrogant One facing right
“Mayhap.” The Arrogant One raised an eyebrow. “But she does allow us to perform magic sometimes.”

Sorceress shrugged. “Perchance she is just more comfortable with the physician and the medical processes with which she is familiar.”
Bounty Hunter
The Bounty Hunter sighed. “Are we going to sit here all day and discuss Mistress Writer’s maladies, or are we going to go to her office and read the book containing her stories?”

“Why is everyone so interested in her stories anyway?” Dragon sniffed and proceeded to inspect her claws. “What is so interesting about a romance involving a cowboy anyway?”

second story - cowboy tale
My other dragon
The dwarf doubled over with laughter. “It do na be her cowboy story wot ye do na be likin’, beastie. It be her story o thet other dragon!” He nodded and tapped the side of his forehead knowingly. “Ye still be jealous!”
Dragon with smoke
Dragon glared at the dwarf, and dark smoke spewed from her nostrils. “I am not jealous.”

“Right.” The Gypsy tittered.

“I am not.” Dragon shot him a baleful look. “As a matter of fact, I have read her story of the other dragon, and I agree with her completely. I was not right for that story. I am much too good and noble and playful.”

The Foreman shook his head. “Well, Mistress Writer is not the only person whose work is contained in this anthology. I, for one, would like to see some of the other works in there.”

The Gypsy stood and beckoned to his companions as he walked toward the stairs. “Come with me. We can borrow Mistress Writer’s portable computer, the one she calls a laptop. We can take that into the conference room, where there is enough room for everyone to sit comfortably. Then, with a little magic, Dragon should be able to make the words of the book go from the laptop to the wall, so everyone can see them.”

A few minutes later, the companions were all comfortably ensconced in the conference room. Dragon was curled up on the rug in front of her illusory fireplace while the others occupied sofas and chairs.

“So’s kin ye be gittin’ tha book ta be showin’ itself on tha wall?” The dwarf swigged a bottle of juice and chomped a handful of popcorn while he waited.

The Gypsy frowned as he tapped various keys on the laptop. “I do not think Mistress has placed the book into this device yet. Let me see if I can do that.”

“You need to download it. The link to it can be found on her Facebook page.” Cleric turned red as everyone turned to stare at her. “I was with her when she was getting the book on her office computer. I remember what she did.”

Cleric went over and sat next to the Gypsy. “Can you find her Facebook page?”

The Gypsy tapped a few more keys. “Yes, here it is. And here is the information.”

Margaret Tesch
Wednesday at 8:11 AM •
Well, today is publication day! I have two stories in this collection, and I am humbled to be part of such a wonderful, creative group of writers and poets.
On the Platform, Waiting: A Writer’s Group Anthology can now be downloaded and read through Smashwords.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/909374?fbclid=IwAR15_opnZHJRPrY2-jioKWRHlnbgbGJd8nWucIKQOchZbZjr0amdKn5HUFI

Cleric nodded. “Click on that link and it will take you to the place where you can get the book.”

The Gypsy clicked on it, and the page for Smashwords opened in another window.

“You have to go to that tab now.” Cleric pointed.

The Gypsy navigated to Smashwords and read: On the Platform, Waiting: A Writer’s Group Anthology. “Is that it?”

Anthology cover

Cleric nodded. “Now, do you see where it says Download?”

The Gypsy nodded.

“There are a number of ways you can download it to a computer or other device. Mistress explained it to me. She has something called Kindle for PC installed on her computers. So, to get the book to appear on this computer, you would click on the button that says mobi (Kindle). If this computer did not have a kindle device, there are other choices. No matter what type of computer or device you have, Mistress Writer says you can get the book. And, it is free.”

“Free! I like that! I was afraid we might have to wait for Mistress Writer to return and ask her to purchase it for us.” The Gypsy looked relieved.

The dwarf poked the Gypsy and grinned. “Dinna ye been sayin’ ye be knowin’ how ta be doin’ this?”

“Well, I was not positive, but if it is free, there is no trouble.” The Gypsy clicked on the button Cleric had pointed to and downloaded the book.

reading the book 2A few moments later, Dragon stood by the laptop and waved her clawed hand. The image on the computer appeared on the wall, big enough for everyone to see. She clicked on a few keys on the computer, and they began to read the book.

“Wow! There are more than 30 poems, essays, and stories in this collection, by more than 20 different writers.” The Foreman sounded impressed.

“Where shall we start?” The Gypsy looked at the others.

“Why do na ye start at the startin’ point?” The dwarf munched another handful of popcorn. “But somebody better be readin’ it out loud. I do na ever be learnin’ ta read good.”

So, they took turns reading, savoring the various works.

* * *

Hello, dear readers. Dragon here. Mistress Writer is still at her physical therapy appointment. But I know she would want you to know that if you would like to read this book, just follow the link and download the anthology for free. (Here it is again, so you will not have to go looking for it.) https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/909374?fbclid=IwAR3h3w9eYqa0V6X9tT7Yt3ZifNVEyOkIs0MAF2EifBlRVEMVAY5_xqhuO-8

I also know Mistress Writer would tell you that if you like the book, please consider leaving some feedback on Smashwords for the authors. It can be as simple as “I like it!” or it could entail a more in-depth review of a piece in the collection that entertained you or really resonated with you in some way. I know Mistress Writer and the other authors will look forward to hearing from you.

We hope you’ll be back again next week to visit. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

Woo-hoo! Coming Soon!

Woo-hoo! Coming Soon!

birthdays-weekend-trip-to-wi-018

“What are you going to tell Dragon?” My husband, Miles, looked at me, his brow furrowed and the corners of his usually smiling mouth turned down.

looking for dragon“Shhhh!” I poked my head out of the laundry room and scanned the hallway. Hearing Dragon snoring in the conference room, I returned to Miles and took one end of the fitted sheet he was trying to fold. “Keep your voice down. I don’t want her to hear us.”

Miles lowered his voice. “She’s going to find out eventually. It would be best if you told her. Remember how she reacted before?”

I nodded. I remembered the hurt in her eyes, the scorn in her voice, the look of betrayal on her reptilian face. I didn’t want to go through that again.

https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2016/01/24/dragon-or-green-eyed-monster/

“Well? What are you going to tell her, then?” Miles gave me a searching look.

I furrowed my brow and chewed on my lower lip as Miles and I finished folding the sheet. “I’ll think of something.”

Dwarf and hamA short while later, I was in my office with the door closed. My Old Dwarf shouldered the door open, turning the doorknob with one hand while munching a ham he held in his other hand. He plopped down in a chair next to me. “Be ye busy, lass?”

“I would have thought the closed door would convey that impression.” I gave him an icy glare.

“Oh, did tha door been closed? I dinna be noticin’.” He looked at my computer monitor. “What be ye doin’?”

I immediately minimized the window, hiding the image that had filled the screen. “Nothing important.”

Dragon with smoke“Good. Then we kin be chattin’.” He took a big bite of the ham, then continued talking around the mouthful of food. “Lass, I be worried aboot tha big beastie.”

I tried to ignore the bits of ham that fell from the dwarf’s mouth onto his grizzled beard. “Dragon? Why are you worried about her?”

“She be seemin’ out o sorts tha past few days.”

I sighed. “She gets this way every winter, you know that. She’ll spend the rest of the winter huddled in front of her illusory fireplace, grumbling and fuming about the cold.”

Smoke drifting from Dragon's snout

“Ye think thet be all there be ta it?” The dwarf looked relieved.

“I’m sure of it.” I gave him a big smile and a reassuring pat on his hand.

He jumped out of his seat and headed out the door, humming around another mouthful of food.

After my Old Dwarf left, I got up, closed the door, and returned to my computer. I brought up the image I had been viewing before the interruption.

Promo for anthology

“Is that about the book where your new dragon lives?”

I jumped up, almost knocking over my chair. I shot a quick glance at the door – it was still closed tight. “How did you get in here?” I gaped at Dragon.
Dragon asks about book
“That matters not. I am here.” She looked pointedly at the image on the monitor. “Is that about the book where your new dragon lives?”

I nodded, not knowing what to say.

“It is to be published soon?” Thin tendrils of smoke drifted from her snout.
Coming November 27
“Yes.” I pointed to the monitor. “It will be available online starting November 27.”

JourneysDragon stared at the image for several long minutes. “It states that the anthology explores the topic of journeys.”

Dragon looked at me, and I nodded my affirmation.

Dragon narrowed her eyes. “To what wondrous and exotic places does your new dragon go?”

I wrinkled my forehead. “He does not take a literal journey. The dragon in that story is on the journey of life, a journey of discovery.”

Dragon studied the image again. “The other stories, the essays, the poems in this anthology – do they all involve dragons?”

I laughed. “No.”
Dragon with smoke
Dragon frowned, and the smoky tendrils drifting from her nose darkened. “Are they all about journeys of life and discovery?”

second story - cowboy taleI tilted my head and rubbed the back of my neck. “Well, no. Each story, essay, and poem in the anthology is a unique interpretation of the concept of a journey. Each author has their own understanding of the topic. I, myself, have a second story in the anthology that involves a cowboy’s journey from grief, guilt, and blame to understanding and acceptance, and on to romance.”

Dragon remained silent as she digested this information. “Your new dragon is not in that story?”
My other dragon 2
I smiled. “No. He had no place in that story.”
Dragon with smoke bubbles
“As I had no place in his story?” Her voice was soft, but a note of petulance crept into her words. Her distress was plain to see, as she morphed to blue and started dripping smoke bubbles from her nose.

I nodded. “As you had no place in his story.”

dragon looking rightDragon snorted and returned to an angry shade of red. “Because, as you once told me, I am not right for the part? You claimed I was too noble, too experienced, too good, too playful. You claimed your new dragon did not have my knowledge, my compassion, my sense of fair-play, or my humor.” She glared at me.

“That is correct, my friend.” I reached out and placed my hand on her scaly arm.

Dragon stopped glaring. “You also once told me I could not meet your new dragon then, as you claimed I would be a good influence on him, which would be bad for your story…his story. But you also said I might meet him someday.”

I nodded, remembering the exchange.

“May I meet him now?”

I shook my head. “He is not like you. He lives only within the words of the story. You will have to read the story to meet him.”

“Then, may I read the story?”

“You may read that one, and all the other stories, essays, and poems in the anthology – after it is published on November 27. At that time, specific information will be released, detailing where and how it will be available.”
Promo for anthology
Dragon nodded. She turned back to the image on the computer monitor and stared at it again. “Tell me about the others whose stories, essays, and poems are in this anthology.”

I felt a big smile spread across my face. “They are a wonderful, diverse group of writers. We met in cyberspace some years ago when we all participated in an online workshop – the 2015 October Platform Challenge. That was a Writer’s Digest workshop presented by Robert Lee Brewer, then Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community. The workshop was designed to teach writers how to develop or improve a writing platform and promotion plan, as well as to cultivate a positive presence on social media.”

“That was three years ago.” Dragon seemed surprised. “Is that not when you started writing your blog?”

I nodded. “Starting a blog was one of the tasks for the workshop.”

Dragon eyed me curiously. “And your group has remained together since then?”

I nodded. “We have. We formed a writer’s group on one of the social media sites, and we still offer each other support and encouragement. This anthology was a major project for that group, and the members who served as editors gave tirelessly of their time and expertise to ensure the completion and eventual publication of our work.”

Elf clericDragon nodded. She began to shimmer and slowly shape-shift into her accustomed guise of an elf maiden.

“I look forward to reading their work.” She smiled at me. “Perhaps, when the anthology is released, my fellow characters and I can throw you a small party, celebrating the publication of your two stories in this anthology.”
My other dragon
I grinned and winked at her. “You would celebrate the publication of my new dragon’s story?”

Dragon tilted her head and paused a moment before answering. “Only if you promise someday we will be celebrating the publication of our stories.”

I sighed. “I will do my best.”

I hope you will all come back next week to find out how to get your copy of this anthology, called on the platform, waiting. I know all my readers will enjoy these works by my fellow writers and me. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Working on the Calendar

Working on the Calendar

Month of Novembermarge.jpg“Wow! I can’t believe it’s already the middle of November!” I could feel the beginnings of a real panic attack.

My husband, Miles, nodded. “Five weeks from this Sunday is Christmas.”

I could feel myself start to sweat. “Did you have to remind me?”
Miles
Miles grinned.
Days turn into weeks
I frowned and raked my hand through my hair. “I have to get working on my presents for my sister and my son! I have to get them done in time to mail them.”

Elf facing right“Are you making calendars for them again this year?” Cleric had been listening and now joined the conversation. “The ones featuring your wonderful photographs of the birds we have seen this past year?”

Calendar“Well, I don’t know how wonderful my photos are, but, yeah, that’s the plan. Unfortunately, I haven’t had much time to work on them. And I didn’t take nearly as many photos this year as I have in past years, so it will be harder to find photos I can use.”

“Mayhap I can help?” Cleric shuffled her foot back and forth. She ducked her head and peeked at me, eagerness showing in her soft cornflower eyes.

“Well, I guess two pairs of eyes are better than one.” Before Cleric could get too excited, I added, “It’s tedious work. We have to look through an entire year’s accumulation of photos and pick out the best ones for each of the 18 months, plus one for the cover.”

Cleric furrowed her brow and rubbed her neck. “Eighteen months, Mistress? I thought your years had only 12 months.”

I chuckled. “They do, but I usually do an 18-month calendar. It will have the 12 months of one year, and the first half of the following year. That way, I can use more photos . . . presuming I have enough.” I frowned. “This year, I might have a hard time finding enough for a 12-month calendar.”

“I am certain you have more than 12, or even 18, photos you can use, Mistress!”

“Perhaps, but I usually try to use more than one photo per month, sometimes as many as four.”

gypsy-facing-right“Why do you use so many?” My Gypsy, who had been listening quietly from his chair by the window, came over and joined the conversation. “Why not just one per month?”

“Mostly for aesthetics. One big photo per month might be beautiful, but if I prefer to vary the number. Some months I place two photos side-by-side, some months I position two photos with one under the other. Some months I arrange three, and some, four. I just think it makes the calendar more interesting.” I paused, then mumbled, “Besides, in past years I have had too much trouble picking just 13 to 19 photos from an entire year’s worth of images, not that I will have that problem this year.”

“Then, it is a good thing that Cleric and I are going to assist you this year.” My Gypsy waggled his eyebrows and gave me a lopsided grin.

I turned to Miles. “If anyone is looking for me, Cleric, or my Gypsy, we will be in my office, working on the calendars.”

Miles dropped a quick kiss on my forehead, winked and commented, ‘I didn’t think there was enough room in that office for more than one person.”

office-and-bookshelf-for-blog-002

* * *

office - getting down to workAfter spending more than a few minutes clearing off some chairs and moving an assortment of files and papers from my desk, the three of us sat down facing the computer monitor.

computer mouseMy Gypsy started to reach for my computer mouse. “How do we begin?”

I gave his hand a gentle slap. “We begin by not touching anything.”

He frowned. “Then how do we see the photographs?”

“I think Mistress means you and I do not touch anything.” Cleric raised an eyebrow at the lad.

“Exactly.” I reached for the mouse. “I have all the photographs stored on the external hard drive, arranged in files according to date. We’ll start with the ones from last November and December, any photos taken after I created the calendars last year.”

I clicked on a few icons and brought up the files of photos from 2017. “Hmmm…”

“What is it, Mistress?” Cleric tried to see what I was looking at.

Thumbnails“It seems I was late doing the calendar last year, too. So, we can’t use any photos taken before November 28. The next date I took any photos of birds was December 29.” I opened the file, and the monitor was immediately filled with thumbnails of the photos.

“These are hard to see.” My Gypsy craned his neck and squinted.

Song Sparrow“No problem. I’ll bring them up one at a time and we can see them.” I clicked on the first photo, making the single image fill the screen.

My Gypsy nodded as he looked at the image. “That looks like a Song Sparrow on the deck eating the millet spray you offer.”

Cleric examined the photo. “That would be a good image to include. It is a bird we see a lot here in the yard and on the deck.”

I frowned and shook my head. “Yes, it’s a good bird to include, but the image is not good enough. It’s not sharp enough. I want images that are crisp.”

White-breasted NuthatchWe passed over several others, including an image of a White-breasted Nuthatch taking a peanut from a bowl. “That’s a good one.” My Gypsy argued. “It’s very crisp.”

“No, it’s just not good enough. I didn’t get the entire bird in the photo – I cut off part of the tail.”

Cleric sighed. “You are very fussy, Mistress! The picture looks good enough to me.”

I nodded. “Yes, I am fussy. I know I took better photos. We just have to look for them. I told you this was a tedious job. Are you sure you want to help?”

Cleric blushed. “Oh, yes, Mistress! I did not mean to complain!”

We went back to examining the first set of photos. The only one all three of us could agree on from this set was a Red-bellied Woodpecker in a snowy tree.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

“Well, let’s see what I took in 2018.” I opened another file.

It took us a while to find enough photos for the cold-weather months. I scowled. “You know how much I hate the cold! So, the only photos I take in the cold are those I can take through the glass windows on the French doors to the deck.”

American Tree SparrowMy Gypsy was glad when I accepted one of his favorites, an American Tree Sparrow sitting on the deck railing. “It is a good, clear image. You can see all the identifying marks – the rusty cap and line through the eye, the dark spot on his chest, and the two-colored beak. Also, the expression on his face makes it look like he was posing for the camera. I really like this image!”

Blue JayCleric smiled when I also accepted her suggestion, the Blue Jay who was sitting in a tree. “I like the varying shades of blue, violet, gray, and black on the Jay. And, even though I enjoy the photos of the birds on the deck and in the feeders, I love to see them in the trees. I also like the way this bird is looking straight at the camera. He almost looks amused at having his picture taken.”

Dark-eyed Junco (1)I included one of my favorites, too. “I love this image of the Dark-eyed Junco. They’re known as snow birds and arrive here shortly before the cold weather sets in for the season, so this one is perfect for one of the winter months of the calendar. And this image is interesting with the bird holding one leg up underneath him to keep it warm. You can also see the safflower seed he’s eating.”

Once we had all the photos we needed for the winter months, I was hoping it would be easy to find the ones we needed for the warmer months. We had many more photos from which to choose. When Cleric and my Gypsy took a trip down memory lane with each set of photos, though, it slowed things down to a crawl.
Sandhill Cranes
“Oh, I remember this nature walk! It was at Carver Park Reserve, and we found these two Sandhill Cranes in a field right near the entrance to the park.” Cleric smiled and clapped her hands at the memory.

“I do not remember that.” My Gypsy frowned.

Cleric wrinkled her brow and tilted her head. “I do not believe you went with us that day. You remained here, to work with your horse. Mistress took me with her to help convince the birds to pose for her.”

The lad nodded. “Oh, of course! I remember you telling me about it when you returned home.”

GoslingAs I opened another folder and started going through the photos, my Gypsy pointed to one he remembered. “I was with you that day. It was early spring at the Arboretum. Most of the Canada Geese were still sitting on their nests, but two pairs already had goslings following them around. They were extremely protective of their young, but Cleric finally convinced one pair to let you take this picture of their smallest baby.”

DucklingI nodded, remembering. “This will be a good photo for the calendar, along with that late-hatched Mallard duckling we saw at Shakopee Memorial Park in July.” It took me a few moments to find that image. “Were you with us that day?”

“No, I missed that one, too. But I am sure Cleric was there.”

Cleric nodded. “I remember how surprised you were when we saw the fuzzy duckling. You said it must have been from a second nesting, as all the others were older and already fully feathered.”

I nodded and brought up two photos of the older ducklings. “I don’t think we’ll use the images of the older ducklings, though. We have better photos to use.”

Bald Eagle on office buildingAs we looked through some photos from Purgatory Creek Park, Cleric pointed to an image of a Bald Eagle on the roof of an office building adjacent the park. “Are you going to use that one?”

“No, I used a similar one last year. I think this year I should use a picture of that young eagle that was making a practice nest on the streetlight.” I quickly found those photos.


“I remember that!” My Gypsy chuckled. “The branches and vegetation he was using kept sliding off the light!”

As we continued to go through the photos, Cleric furrowed her brow. “We have a good number of photos of birds we saw on our nature walks. We should balance that with images of birds at the feeders. You should use this one of the young Baltimore Oriole on the hummingbird feeder, and the one of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird on the same feeder later that day.”

“And I like the Gray Catbird and the Yellow-rumped Warbler on the feeder poles.” My Gypsy pointed to the images.

American Robin (3)“Okay, we’ll include them, and this close-up I got of the American Robin. But there are still some from our walks I want to use. I want to include a few of the Eastern Bluebirds and two of the Common Yellowthroat.”

Cleric looked at the photos I had chosen and nodded. “And do not forget some of the photos you have taken of waterfowl.” She pointed at several images. “You took wonderful images of the American Coot, the Lesser Scaup, and the Pied-billed Grebe at Memorial Park in Shakopee.”


“And the Horned Grebe and the Ruddy Ducks at Purgatory Creek,” my Gypsy added, also pointing at the images on the monitor.

“I will include them,” I agreed.

Wild Turkey (2)I checked the images we had chosen and the spreadsheet where I listed the photos according to the month for which they would be used. “We still have a few months to fill. I think I’ll include that image of the Wild Turkey I took at Westwood Hills Nature Center. It would be perfect for November.”

It took us all day, but we finally found enough images for the calendar, including three of Red-winged Blackbirds (an adult male, a juvenile, and an adult female), one of a White-throated Sparrow, and one of a Swainson’s Thrush I would have overlooked if it hadn’t been for my characters helping me.

“This was so much fun! Now we have to start thinking about the calendars you will create next year.” Cleric smiled. “We need to plan lots of nature walks!”

We look forward to all our readers joining us for next year’s nature walks. Who knows what we might find! Of course, that’s a long time from now, so meanwhile, be sure to return each week to see what my characters are up to. We’ll leave the porch light on for you!

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