“Are you all sure you haven’t done anything?”
I was speaking to my characters, who were all busy working on various Halloween decorations.
My Foreman’s gray eyes locked on my brown ones. He frowned and when he spoke, his voice was tinged with annoyance. “I believe you have asked us that 20 times or more in the past few days, Mistress. I do not believe the answer has changed. None of us has done anything to attract the attention of any member of law enforcement.”
He returned to painting a black stallion on his Halloween pumpkin.
My Gypsy glanced over at my Foreman’s pumpkin, shook his head, and chuckled. “That does not look very scary.” The lad examined the pumpkin he was carving. His tongue stuck out of the side of his mouth as he concentrated. He took his silver stiletto and carefully carved a few more slivers from the jack-o-lantern’s nose. He cocked his head, giving his work a critical appraisal. He nodded in satisfaction. “This is how a Halloween pumpkin should look. As for your question, Mistress, I believe the Foreman is correct. Our answers will not change, no matter how often you ask.”
My Old Dwarf snorted. “An’ wot could we be doin’ wot would be causin’ trubble wit yer law enforcers?”
I raised an eyebrow at that statement.
The dwarf paused and squished his eyebrows together as he looked at the large, orange rock he was painting. After a few minutes of deliberation, he carefully brushed some black paint on the rock, creating a reasonable facsimile of a jack-o-lantern . . . if a jack-o-lantern was supposed to look like a sick rabbit. Looking up at me, he continued the discussion. “Dinna ye be sayin’ thet tha people wot be skulkin’ about tha neighbor’s yard be tha same difference as our king’s guard? Thet they don na be jest tha law enforcers o yer little town here, they be tha law enforcers o yer whole country?”
“Wale, there ye be havin’ it, lass! There do na be much any o ussins kin be doin’ wat be so bad as ta be merittin’ tha attention o tha king’s guard!”
My head hurt from trying to follow both my Old Dwarf’s logic and his convoluted use of language. I frowned. “You haven’t been out in public in your full set of armor, have you? Maybe chasing rabbits down the street, threatening to cleave them with your axe?”
My Old Dwarf turned red and sputtered, but he swore to his innocence.
I started pacing around the room. “Well, what about the rest of you? Dragon, you haven’t let yourself been seen by the neighbors when you have been in your true form, have you?”
Dragon had shrunk to the size of a Chihuahua to work on her pumpkin, which she was decorating by magic. She did not look up at my question, but black smoke poured from her nostrils. “Do you really think me so foolish as to allow the inhabitants of your world to see me unless I fully intended them to do so?”
I stared at her. “Well, have you intended them to do so?”
“I have not.” She put the finishing touches on her pumpkin.
I shrugged apologetically and raked my hand through my hair. “Well, someone must have done something. The FBI and all those others do not investigate someone unless they have cause.”
I sighed and continued pacing around, as my characters continued to work on their projects. I stopped next to my Young Hero, who was trying to make his jack-o-lantern even scarier than the one his best friend, my Gypsy, was making. “What about you? Have you been riding your pony off the property?”
The lad’s eyebrows shot up, and his mouth fell open. “I would never! The only time I have ridden him off the property was when we all went on that trail ride with Colton and his mother. A number of us went on that ride, including you, Mistress, and – if you will remember – Dragon used her spell of concealment to hide us from the neighbors.”
I sighed and nodded. “Yes, I remember.”
I walked over to Cleric, who was creating patterns to sew ghost and witch pillows. “I don’t suppose you can think of anything you may have done? Maybe when you and Sorceress were out collecting botanicals for your spells?”
Cleric rearranged her ghost on the work table as she considered the question. She looked up at me, her cornflower eyes clear and guileless. “I do not believe anyone in the neighborhood was around when we left the property, Mistress.”
Sorceress put another dab of paint on her black cat pumpkin, then looked over at me. She agreed with Cleric, and her tone, like my Foreman’s, was edged with annoyance at the questions. “Even if someone had seen us gathering plants and flowers, I do not think they would have paid us any attention. We did not go on private property or take anything from the areas you have warned us about – state or county parks where gathering specimens is illegal.”
“And before you even ask, we have done nothing!” My Arrogant One gestured to himself and his sidekick, my Bounty Hunter. “We have been working hard on the repairs to the shed roof.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/10/14/a-small-problem/
“Don’t remind me.” I scowled and looked at the illusory figures he was conjuring for Halloween. “You haven’t created any illusions that may have been seen by any of our neighbors, have you?”
My Arrogant One drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and grasped his cloak in both hands. He answered me in his usual tone – half arrogant, half petulant, and entirely annoying. “I said we have done nothing!”
My Bounty Hunter looked up from the scarecrow he was stuffing with straw. The corners of his mouth twitched. “I can vouch for that. We have been working on the shed roof. Even at other times, the elf is usually with me, and I have seen him do nothing that would attract the attention of the neighbors or the gendarmes.”
I sighed once more.
Cleric looked up from her patterns. “Mistress? How do you like our Halloween decorations?”
I tried to focus on the decorations my characters were creating. “They are quite good!”
Cleric’s dazzling smile only lasted a moment. Then she furrowed her brow and chewed on her bottom lip. “We looked through the magazines you gave us, to come up with ideas. We saw lots of ghosts, witches, skeletons, monsters, and other scary things, and many variations of a thing called a jack-o-lantern, but nowhere could I find an explanation of this holiday.”
My Gypsy furrowed his brow and clucked. “We have celebrated Halloween with Mistress Writer and Master Miles in previous years. Do you not remember, Cleric?”
Cleric nodded. “I remember Mistress and her spouse buying lots of candy to give to visitors. I remember children dressed in costumes, some beautiful, some scary, some strange, coming to the door for these sweet treats. I remember a few decorations being placed around the front door. But I have never really understood the meaning of the day.”
“I also lack an understanding of this day and its history.” Dragon looked at me expectantly.
“Well, let’s see . . .” I tried to think of a simple way to explain Halloween to a group of characters from an alien world. My characters gathered around to listen.
“This holiday has its roots in the ancient celebration called Samhain, marking the end of summer and harvest, and the beginning of winter. It was believed that on that night, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred, and the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. Some believed it to be the time when magic was at its strongest, with witches, demons, and other creatures able to openly walk the earth. I think I read somewhere that the practice of wearing costumes – which people still do today on Halloween – came from the ancient custom of people disguising themselves so that they would not be recognized and harmed by the creatures that walked the earth. Of course, Halloween has changed greatly over the centuries, as other religions and cultures tried to change it and adapt it to their beliefs and customs.”
Cleric wrinkled her brow and stroked her chin. “So how has Halloween changed?”
“Well, that’s even harder to explain than the origin of the holiday. It is no longer widely celebrated as a harvest feast, nor a magical time. Now, it’s mostly just for fun. In modern times in this country, there are many ways people celebrate the holiday. I think the most widely recognized celebration is Trick or Treat. Children in costume go from house to house, greeting the residents with the words trick or treat, a playful threat to play a trick on anyone who doesn’t give the children treats. Some people celebrate Halloween by watching scary movies or telling ghost stories. Other people have Halloween parties or create a haunted house for people to walk through and view.”
My Arrogant One’s eyes lit up. “Create a haunted house?”
I scowled at him. “Don’t get any ideas! The houses aren’t really haunted, nor are they created through magic. The people who create them just place a lot of creepy decorations around their homes, and dress in scary costumes, like witches or monsters. There are no real spirits haunting the houses, and there is no real magic involved, not even illusion. And it’s all done just for fun.”
The elf sighed. “That is not very creative.”
“It’s creative enough. You need to remember that this world is different from yours. Magic is not as commonplace, nor are mythological creatures or any of the things we would term demons or monsters.”
“Mistress?” Cleric tugged on my sleeve. “Mistress, did you not once write a scary poem for Halloween? I believe I remember you reading it to us once.”
“Well, I wrote a little ditty once for Halloween, but I really don’t know how scary it is.”
My Young Hero furrowed his brow. “A Halloween poem?”
I shrugged. “Well, sort of. A mood piece that could be used for Halloween.”
My Gypsy scratched his head. “I do not remember hearing it, Mistress. Could you read it to us?”
“I suppose so, if you really want to hear it.”
Several of my characters nodded and murmured their assent.
“I’ll go get a copy.”
It only took me a few minutes to return with a copy of my poem, written many years earlier. I cleared my throat and read it.
Shadows steal through moonlit room,
Stairs creak and groan and sigh.
Tree limb taps on window pane
As wind moans through the pines.
Field mice scuttle through dry leaves;
Far off, some dog howls.
Trash cans rattle, curtains rustle,
Blood rushes, pounding in your ears,
Mouth grows desert dry.
Horror tiptoes from your heart
Up to strangle your mind.
My characters sat there, looking at me as if expecting more.
I sighed. “Sorry, folks, that’s it. Just a short little piece, nothing more. How did you like it?”
“Oh . . . oh, well, it is quite . . . interesting, Mistress.” Sorceress looked like a deer caught in the headlights as she attempted to be complimentary.
“Yes. Ah, very . . . very evocative.” My Foreman swallowed hard and turned away quickly.
“Wale, I be likin’ it, lass! It be turnin’ tha skin on me arms all ta gooseflesh, an’ tha hair on me neck be all standin’ up, bristly-like.” My Old Dwarf patted my arm before returning to his rocks. “Now, iffin ye be excusin’ me, there be a second rock wot be needin’ some paint.”
I watched as the old reprobate transformed the second rock into a much better representation of a jack-o-lantern than his first effort had produced.
As I was admiring my Old Dwarf’s latest effort, Miles entered the conference room.
I looked at him, taking in his worried expression. “Honey, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing, really, I guess. It’s just that those cops . . . detectives . . . investigators . . . agents . . . whatever they all are . . . are still lurking all around the neighborhood. There were two people in a county sheriff’s car at the end of our street, and they actually followed me to the supermarket!”
“This is getting ridiculous! I wish there was some way to stop it.”
“I could take care of it for you.” Dragon’s voice dripped with sweetness, and the expression on her face was pure innocence.
“No roasting anyone!” Miles and I replied in unison.
Dragon shrugged. “As you wish.” She turned away, but not before I saw a sly smile parting her reptilian lips.
What is Dragon planning? And will it work? Be sure to come back next week and see. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.