Cleric stepped into the conference room, stopped dead, and gasped. Books, scrolls, parchments, and all manner of magical reference works were strewn about the large chamber. It looked as if a small tornado had torn through the area.
Following right on Cleric’s heels, Sorceress didn’t notice her friend had stopped. She plowed into her smaller companion, nearly knocking Cleric over. “Oof! Sorry! Did I injure you? Why did you stop so abruptly?”
Then Sorceress followed Cleric’s gaze. “Oh!” She looked about the room, her eyes growing big as saucers, her mouth agape. “Oh, my! What ever could have happened?”
The two companions jumped as Dragon’s reptilian head suddenly popped into view from behind a bookshelf, along with her leathery wings and scythe-like claws.
“Sorry. I did not mean to startle you. I have been trying to find a specific spell, and I seem to have misplaced it.”
“The spell you told Mistress Writer we would weave?” Sorceress paled.
Dragon nodded. “I have looked everywhere, but I cannot find it.” She frowned, smoke drifting from her snout. “I am fairly certain I remember it, but this is no time for fairly certain. I must be positive. We must use the correct components, combined in the prescribed manner, and we must enunciate the incantation flawlessly.”
“Indeed.” Sorceress pursed her lips. “A mistake could be disastrous.”
The three magic users turned their attention toward the door as two more characters entered the room, arguing loudly.
“If you had not been so eager to show off again, this never would have happened.” My Gypsy scowled at the other figure.
“I was not showing off. I was attempting to . . .” My Arrogant One’s voice trailed off, as he surveyed the formerly orderly room.
My Gypsy took a look and let out a long, low whistle. “Wow! What happened here? Did you attempt another spell, elf?”
The elf turned beet-red and his face contorted with anger. Before he could respond, however, Dragon interposed herself between the two figures. “Enough! There is no time for quibbling and squabbling. We have work to do.”
“Work wot ye canna be doin’ iffins ye do na be havin’ the spell. Be ye findin’ it yet, beastie?” My Old Dwarf entered the room, munching on a sandwich, bits of food flying out of his mouth and lodging in his beard as he spoke.
My Arrogant One turned to face my Old Dwarf, looking down his nose at the old reprobate as he spoke. “You are totally disgusting. I have seen swine in their mud wallows exhibit better manners than do you!”
“An’ a good day ta ye, too, elfie.” The dwarf chuckled as he bit off another oversized mouthful of food.
“Do not call me elfie!”
“Ouch! I think you have outdone yourself this time, elf.” My Gypsy winced and rubbed at his ears. “I daresay dogs back in our own world are probably howling in pain at the pitch of your protestations!”
My Arrogant One opened his mouth to reply, but Dragon silenced him. “Enough! Any more bickering and the perpetrators will meet with a fiery end.” Dragon glared at the elf and the Gypsy.
Turning back toward the dwarf, Dragon sighed. “No, old friend, I have not found it yet.”
“It dinna be in yer hidey-box?”
Dragon blinked. “Of course! Where else would I have placed it for safe-keeping?” The beast rushed toward her podium, shrinking as she ran. When she reached the podium, she squeezed herself into a small, hidden cubbyhole. When she emerged and returned to her previous height, she had a wooden puzzle box in her hand. Once she had manipulated the various pieces and opened the box, she extracted an ancient and fragile parchment. Scanning the piece, she smiled and nodded. “Yes, this is it.”
She turned toward her diminutive friend. “Dwarf, you will stand guard outside the door. Let no one enter. We must not be disturbed.”
The dwarf nodded once and took up his post, closing the door behind him.
Dragon turned to the other magic users. “First, we must make certain we are alone, that no other entity is among us. We must also ensure that no spell has been cast by any magician that would compromise, change, or block our efforts here today. Once we have made those determinations, I will ward the room against entry and against eavesdropping, both mechanical and magical. Then and only then can we begin to weave this spell. It will take all of us, cooperating and sharing our abilities, to create this enchantment.” She glared at my Arrogant One. “Are you able to do this, to put aside your ego and ambition and cooperate with your fellow magic wielders?”
The elf turned beet-red again. “Of course, I can cooperate.” He looked as if he wanted to say more, but clamped his mouth shut and merely glared at Dragon and the others.
The beast narrowed her eyes and studied the elf for a few long moments. Finally, she nodded. “Very well. Then let us begin.”
* * *
While my Old Dwarf guarded the room where the magic users worked, my Foreman, my Bounty Hunter, and my Young Hero were sitting at the kitchen table, discussing with my husband his plans for this year’s Christmas Village.
Miles passed some diagrams to the others. “See? This year will be different from past years. This year, I plan to keep the entire village confined to one half of the downstairs room but spread out over various levels.”
The other three nodded.
“And you require our assistance, Master Miles, in constructing your village?” My Young Hero examined the diagrams.
“Well, I suppose I could do it all myself, but I would appreciate any help you care to offer. I got the impression last year that you all enjoyed working on the holiday decorations with me.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/12/23/will-dragon-help/
“Oh, we did, sir, we did.” My Foreman furrowed his brow. “It is just that . . . well, last year we had the assistance of the others. This year, five of our company are in the conference room, trying to weave a spell of protection, so no outside magic can interfere with any they cast, as happened when someone interfered with the elf’s illusion on your neighbor’s house.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/12/08/the-what-is-missing/
My Young Hero nodded. “Yes, and the dwarf stands guard for them. Without his muscle and their magic, it may take a bit more effort on our part.”
“I am sure it will take less effort for the four of us together than for poor Master Miles, were he to attempt it alone.” My Bounty Hunter took the diagrams from my Young Hero and nodded in approval at the plans.
“Very well.” My Foreman stood and extended his hand to Miles. “You can count on us, sir. When do we start?”
“First thing tomorrow morning.”
* * *
It was three days later when Miles and I felt well enough to get out of bed. Cleric had been attending us through our sudden bout of illness, bringing us tea and broth at regular intervals, and wiping the sweat from our feverish brows.
At the breakfast table, Miles and I munched on toast and sipped tea as my characters sat quietly around the table, eying my husband and me with great concern.
When I finally felt strong enough to speak, I asked, “Were you able to weave the spell of protection?”
I addressed all my magic users, but it was Dragon who responded. “We were. It took us the entire day and well into the night, but we believe we were successful. Unfortunately, it is one of those spells whose failure is only revealed if someone succeeds in defeating it. Until such time, we can only hope we were successful. But did not Cleric explain all this to you already?”
I shrugged. “She may have, but I fear in my fevered state I was not comprehending or remembering.”
“Be tha two o’ ye feelin’ better now?” My Old Dwarf looked solicitously at Miles and me.
“We are.” I smiled, and Miles nodded in agreement.
“Then mayhap, sir, you feel well enough to accompany us downstairs?” My Arrogant One was being uncharacteristically polite.
Miles looked at him and nodded. “Sure.”
All my characters jumped up eagerly. Miles furrowed his brow and gave me an inquiring look, but I was just as curious as he.
Downstairs, my characters crowded around Miles, who gaped at the room. It had been transformed into a Christmas wonderland.
“We constructed the Christmas Village according to your designs, Master Miles.” My Young Hero looked shyly at Miles and shuffled one foot back and forth.
“An’ we been scatterin’ tha other holiday decorations aboot, too.” My Old Dwarf grinned.
“Do you like it?” My Gypsy eyed Miles nervously.
“We all . . . every one of us . . . cooperated to complete this for you while you and your good wife were ill.” One could not fail to notice the pride in my Arrogant One’s voice and bearing.
“I been doin’ tha heavy totin’, the fetchin’ o’ all tha decorations from yer storage closet.” My Old Dwarf’s chest puffed out.
“I supervised and made sure we followed your master plan.” My Foreman held up the diagram Miles had created.
With my Gypsy and my Young Hero standing with him, my Bounty Hunter pointed at a number of the displays. “The lads and I set up the bulk of the layout.”
Dragon placed her one arm around Sorceress and her other arm around my Arrogant One. “We three did not set up as many of the displays as did the others, but we lent our magical talent to the exhibit. We animated several of the scenes. Your Santa and his mount move, your snowman really plays the piano, the fox and several of the other tree ornaments sing carols, your villagers walk down the ramp to the skating rink and ice skate, and your Abominable Snowman climbs the ladder and places the star atop the tree.”
Cleric looked at us nervously. “Although I am not of your faith, I am a cleric; therefore, I thought it appropriate that I set up the Nativity scene, the focus of your religious celebration.”
Miles looked around at the work my characters had completed while he and I had been bed-ridden. His smile grew and grew as he inspected each section of the village, and then scrutinized the placement of the other decorations. Finally, he turned to my characters, anxiously awaiting his judgment. “It’s perfect! Thank you! Thank you all!”
My characters began whooping with joy. “Merry Christmas, Master Miles! Merry Christmas, Mistress Writer!”
And Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you, dear readers, from Miles and me, and from my little band of displaced characters. We hope to see you here again next week. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.