“I want you to see the photographs I took.”
My Arrogant One marched into my office, unceremoniously swept a pile of books and folders off a chair and onto the floor, and plopped himself down, a superior look on his face. He held out his camera and wrinkled his brow with irritation when I did not immediately jump to take it.
“Well?” He tapped his foot impatiently. “I have been waiting all afternoon to show these to you.”
“I’m sorry. Some of my other characters wanted to hear more details about Colton and his pony, so I’ve been busy.” I had received a call from Colton’s mom, Anna, that morning and had shared with my characters some news about Colton’s progress with Blue. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/06/09/news/
The elf yawned. “Boring.”
I frowned. “The others don’t think so, and neither do I. We happen to care about Colton.”
“Why? If it had not been for that other malodorous pony that invaded our yard and my shed . . .”
My eyebrows shot up. “Whose shed?”
My Arrogant One blushed. “The shed,” he amended, quickly relinquishing his claim of ownership. “Anyway, as I was saying, if it had not been for that foul-smelling creature, we would not even be aware of the boy who had owned it.”
“Her, not it. Mystery, aka Peaches, was a mare, a female pony.”
“Whatever.” My Arrogant One waved dismissively.
I sighed and shook my head. “So sorry, I forgot. If you do not directly benefit from someone or something, that person or thing is beneath your notice.”
The elf sneered. “The boy is not our responsibility, yet Cleric and the Gypsy lad would have us think of nothing else. That is all anyone spoke of at lunch today.”
I scoffed. “I think there’s something wrong with your memory. Everyone was involved in their own discussions until after lunch, when I shared the news about Colton. You yourself spent the entire time at lunch telling my Bounty Hunter all about the pictures you took.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/06/09/news/
“I was going to tell everyone about them until you monopolized the conversation.” The elf pouted.
I ignored his complaint. “What’s so important about these photos?”
He thrust the camera at me again. “Well, just look at them.”
I took the camera and quickly downloaded the photos onto the computer. I brought up the images on the monitor and looked through them. There were three dozen images of various birds, mammals, insects, and flowers.
“Nice?” The elf looked thunderstruck. “Nice? That is all you can say about them?”
I shrugged. “They’re nice. What else would you have me say?”
My Arrogant One jumped up, grabbed his camera, and stomped out of the room. I shrugged and went back to work, first gathering the items the elf had tossed aside and replacing them on the chair. I could reorganize them later. Right now, I had a blog to write.
I hadn’t gotten the first paragraph typed when I felt the hairs on the back of my neck prickle, and I had the distinct sensation I was being watched. I looked up and saw my Bounty Hunter lounging against the door jamb. His posture was casual, but his eyes bore right into mine.
I frowned. “What’s your problem?”
“I had cause to speak with you, milady, but I saw you were busy, and I did not wish to disturb you.”
His eyes had lost some of their intensity, and he shuffled one foot back and forth across the carpet, but I was still wary. I glared at him long and hard before I replied.
“Well, you did. What did you want to talk about?”
“My Arrogant One?” Somehow, I wasn’t all that surprised. Those two were pretty tight. If I had offended the elf, I should have expected his sidekick to take me to task. On the other hand, despite the two of them being all but joined at the hip, my Bounty Hunter never seemed to hold any illusions regarding the annoying elf. He came to me just as often to complain about his cohort as to defend him.
“Yes, your Arrogant One.” My Bounty Hunter walked across the room and gestured at the items piled haphazardly on the chair. “Do you mind if I move these?”
At least he had the courtesy to ask. “No, I guess not. Just put them on the floor. I’ll reorganize them and put them away later.”
I studied my Bounty Hunter as he moved the items and took a seat. I was always a little guarded around him. I never quite understood him as well as I did my other characters. I didn’t even really remember him from my two unpublished manuscripts, the books from which my other characters had fallen. I was pretty sure my Bounty Hunter didn’t make his appearance until Book Three, which was barely started at this point.
I shook my head and tried to drag my thoughts back to the conversation. “So, what has my Arrogant One done now?”
“I wish to speak to you regarding the elf’s photographic efforts.”
“Oh?” I lifted an eyebrow. “Is his nibs still pouting because I failed to go into raptures over his images?”
My Bounty Hunter winced. “Mistress, I fear you fail to understand the importance the elf attaches to his efforts. Perhaps you could be a tad kinder, show a modicum of interest and enthusiasm.”
“Like you were showing when the elf was talking your ear off at lunch, telling you over and over, ad nauseam, of each and every tiny detail of each and every image?” I smirked.
My Bounty Hunter had the grace to look properly chastised. “I admit in spite of my best efforts to the contrary I allowed my boredom to show.” He shrugged. “But having you brush off his accomplishments is a far worse blow to his self-image than my boredom, which I doubt the elf even noticed.”
I scoffed. “Since when does my Arrogant One allow anyone’s actions, words, or opinions, to damage his self-image?”
“You would be surprised, Mistress.” He rose and headed toward the door. “You would be surprised.”
After my Bounty Hunter left, I decided to give the photos another look. I was surprised to realize some of them were quite good, especially the flowers. Deciding I had been too dismissive of my Arrogant One, I went in search of him. I found him in the conference room, deep in discussion with Cleric.
“But I am not asking you to show me how to do anything that would harm them. I only wish to be able to attract the animals closer and to get them to sit still long enough to capture their image.”
Cleric chewed on her lower lip as she listened to the elf. She fidgeted with her belt as she replied. “I wish I could help you, truly! But, forsooth, I fear my talent for communicating with animals is a clerical ability granted me, not a skill that can be taught.”
My Arrogant One scowled, and Cleric blanched. I hurried over to intervene. “You seemed to do quite well getting the animals to pose for you. I was impressed with your results.”
My Arrogant One gave me a penetrating look. “You did not seem all that impressed when I shared my images.”
I tried to look remorseful, wishing I had learned the art of blushing at will. “I apologize. I was in the middle of something when you came in, and I guess I was just upset at being interrupted. After I finished my work, I looked at the images again. They are quite good.”
“Really?” The elf looked at me suspiciously.
“Really. Why don’t we go back to my office and look at them again?”
Cleric brightened. “Are these the photographs you were taking in the front yard this morning? I saw you when Sorceress, Dragon, and I returned from collecting our botanicals.”
The elf nodded.
“May I see them, too?” Cleric blushed. “I am very interested in photography. Perhaps I can learn something from you. The images you took on our nature walk were outstanding. I love the way you work with the lighting.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/06/02/a-change-of-pace/
My Arrogant One held his head high, grasped his cloak in both hands, and rocked back on his heels. “Of course. I would be most gratified to have you view my images.”
My Arrogant One and Cleric followed me to my office. I quickly removed the contents of two chairs and placed the materials neatly on a table, before the elf had a chance to knock everything on the floor again.
When we were seated, I jiggled the computer mouse to wake the machine from sleep mode, and a page of thumbnails of my Arrogant One’s photos filled the monitor.
“I love the flowers. As Cleric said, your use of light in your photography is impressive, especially for a novice.”
We viewed the photos, and I pointed at two of them. “On these two, you captured insects on the flowers.”
“Was that intentional?” Cleric leaned closer to inspect the images. “Or was it just a fortuitous accident?”
“I will admit, I did not notice the flies on the milkweed until I studied the images later. However, the other insect on the purple coneflower – some sort of small grasshopper or katydid, I believe – was my intended subject.”
“That is a splendid capture, exceptionally sharp and extremely vivid!” I congratulated the elf, who visibly puffed up with pride.
I brought up several other images. “You also got some nice images of the Monarch butterflies. They can be difficult to capture, as they don’t tend to stay still very long.”
After we admired the butterfly images, I brought up three other photos. “I am particularly impressed with these close-ups of the two dragonflies and the damselfly. They are tack sharp and the damselfly is especially vibrant. And, like the butterfly, they are difficult insects to capture this well as they tend to flit rather than alight.”
After Cleric and I made a few more positive comments, my Arrogant One asked, “What about the photos of the animals? To me, they seem lacking. I am certain I could have achieved better results if I could but coax them nearer and get them to pose.”
“Well, let’s see. Let’s examine the birds first.” I paused and studied the photos. “The fledgling American Robins might not be as sharp as some of your other photos, but they are cute images of a baby bird.”
My Arrogant One hung on every word as I critiqued his photos, nodding his understanding.
“The soft focus on the Blue Jay adds interest. It almost looks like a watercolor.”
The elf nodded and looked pleased.
“I think you tried to get a little too close with the Downy Woodpecker. The focus is not as sharp as it might have been if you had just pulled away a bit. But the mouthful of suet and the reflection in the bird’s eye lend interest to the image.”
The elf studied the photo. “I see what you mean.”
“The images of the Hairy Woodpecker and the Red-bellied Woodpecker on the tree trunks are outstanding, not only as portraits of the birds but as behavioral studies, the way they show the birds in their natural surroundings.”
That comment garnered another proud smile.
“With the Red-winged Blackbird, you again used lighting to your advantage. The bird can be clearly seen, with a lot of definition to the feathers. Even the eye is visible, which can be difficult with a black eye on a black bird.”
Another nod and a proud smile.
“And, finally, you couldn’t ask for a cuter shot of the Song Sparrow taking a dust bath. Again, it is a sharp portrait as well as a good behavioral image.”
The elf was absolutely beaming.
I brought up the last five pictures. “Now the shots you got of the Eastern Chipmunks and the Eastern Cottontail bunnies are adorable.”
“Adorable?” My Arrogant One scoffed. “Just because they are, in your opinion, adorable animals, it does not follow that my images of them are any good.”
“Oh, but they are!” Cleric gushed. “Look at the raised paw on the first chipmunk, and the stuffed cheeks on the second one. As Mistress said of several of your other photos, they are excellent portraits and wonderful studies in the behavior of the animals.”
The elf looked mollified. “And the rabbits?”
“The two shots of the bunnies that were eating are solid behavior studies, but the last one is, in my opinion, the best of the three.” I pointed. “The look of curiosity and boldness on that bunny’s face is priceless!”
My Arrogant One wrinkled his brow. He nodded slowly, then asked, “Do you consider me the best of your characters at photography?”
I studied the elf’s face before I answered. “Is it important that you be the best?”
He glanced at Cleric and seemed reticent to say anything. Finally, he hung his head and shrugged. “It would be nice to be the best at something.”
Then, without another word, he jumped up from his chair and dashed out of the room.
Cleric and I sat, gaping after the departing elf. This was a side of my Arrogant One I had not seen before. From the look on her face, I don’t believe Cleric had ever seen it, either.
Finally, Cleric spoke. “Mistress?”
“I had hoped that I would learn to be the best photographer. Somehow, though, I do not believe it is as important to me as it is to your Arrogant One.”
I nodded again. “I wonder what makes it so important to him.”
“You do not know?” Somehow, my Bounty Hunter had entered the room unnoticed.
“No, I don’t.” I frowned.
My Bounty Hunter smiled wistfully. “In our world, your Arrogant One was one of the most renowned illusionists in the elven kingdom until something happened, and he was forced into exile. Later, he became something even more important. He became accustomed to being treated with respect and deference, but never forgot what it was like to be scorned and humiliated. Here in your world, he is just an arrogant elf, not respected for anything. He is not the best illusionist, not the best at communicating with animals, not the best horseman, not the best with weapons, not the best at anything, really, except maybe causing trouble and dissension. He often feels that same humiliation he once knew in exile.”
He paused and let Cleric and I consider this before continuing. “So, when we went on that nature walk and you praised his photos, he thought he had found something at which he could excel.”
I nodded. “And that is why it is important to him. He needs at least one thing that will garner him praise and not derision.”
My Bounty Hunter smiled and saluted as he left my office. Cleric sat silently for many long moments before rising. “I think I will go ask your Arrogant One to teach me how to use light to make my photos better. And maybe I can help coax some animals into posing for him.”
I smiled and nodded. As she left, I turned back to my computer. I still had a blog to write. I wondered if my Arrogant One would object to me using some of his photos in my blog.
My Arrogant One and I hope you have enjoyed his photos. I can assure you he is very proud of them, and would love to hear from you if you like them, too.
Be sure to return next week for more of the adventures and misadventures of my little band of displaced characters. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.