‘Tis the Season for Cooperation

‘Tis the Season for Cooperation

Conference roomCleric 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?”

Dragon pops upThe 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.

Gypsy and Arrogant One“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.”

Dwarf“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 finds spellDragon 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 and Arrogant OneDragon 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.

Reviewing diagramsMiles 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/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/12/15/what-has-that-elf-done-now/

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.”

* * *

SickIt 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.lugged some large plastic bins

“I been doin’ tha heavy totin’, the fetchin’ o’ all tha decorations from yer storage closet.” My Old Dwarf’s chest puffed out.

Foreman following master plan 2

“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.”

Christmas village and decorations 25

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.

 

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

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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Preparing for Halloween

Preparing for Halloween

me questioning my Foreman“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.”Foreman's horse painted on pumpkin

He returned to painting a black stallion on his Halloween pumpkin.

Gypsy's Jack-o-lanternMy 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.

Dwarf's orange rock jack-o-lantern 2The 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?”

I nodded.

“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's pumpkinDragon 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.”

Young Hero's jack-o-lanternI 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.”
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/09/02/an-old-mystery-revisited/

I sighed and nodded. “Yes, I remember.”

Cleric's ghost and witch patternsI 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's black cat pumpkinSorceress 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/

Arrogant One's Haloween scene“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!”

Bounty Hunter's ScarecrowMy 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?”

remembering past halloweensCleric 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.

harvest“This holiday has its roots in the ancient celebration called Samhain, marking the end of summer and harvest, and the beginning of winter. ghosts, witchesIt 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.”haunted house

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.

Illustration for poem

                            Night Fears

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,
Imagination growls.

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.”Dwarf's second orange rock jack-o-lantern

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.

For today's blog 001As 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?”

following Miles“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.”

dragon talking“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.

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Lost

Lost

Holiday“So, what do you think we should do for the holiday?”

I wrinkled my brow and tilted my head, considering my husband’s question. “Holiday? What holiday?”

Miles chuckled and shook his head. “Memorial Day.”

I frowned. “It’s Memorial Day already? Where did the time go?”

Miles smiled. “Yup, it’s this coming Monday.”

I continued to frown. “I hate that it’s a holiday. It used to be – and still should be – a day for remembering and honoring those who died in active military service. Now, it just the beginning of the summer season, and an excuse for a three-day weekend, with barbecues, picnics, beach parties, etcetera.”


“What be this aboot a bar-be-cue and pick-a-nick?” My Old Dwarf stomped across the room and joined the conversation, a wide grin on his face. “Be ye needin’ me help ta pack up tha food?”

I scowled at him. “Barbecue and picnic. They’re the only two words you heard, aren’t they? I was just saying how Memorial Day is no longer observed in the way in which it was intended.”

“There be nuttin’ wrong wit honoring yer war dead by throwin’ a feast in their memory, lass, an’ raisin’ a mug or two in recognition o their courage and sacrifice. Thet be tha way we Dwarves be doin’ it!”

My husband smiled and shrugged at me. “Can’t argue with the Dwarven way!”

“Be thet ta mean we be goin’ on a pick-a-nick?” My Old Dwarf’s eyes brightened.

I sighed. “I suppose we could go on an outing.”

Elf facing right“What is this about an outing?” Cleric entered the room and caught part of the conversation. “Are we going on another nature trek to take pictures, Mistress?” Cleric’s eyes sparkled with anticipation, and she fidgeted with the cord on her robe.

I shrugged. “I suppose we could do some nature photography as part of the outing.”

“As long as ye do na be forgittin’ tha food!” My Old Dwarf smacked the flat of his axe against his palm for emphasis.

blue-dragon-facing-leftNow Dragon entered the room and the conversation. “Nature photography? Food? What is transpiring?”

“This coming weekend is Memorial Day weekend, and Miles thinks we should do something to celebrate. My Old Dwarf wants to have a picnic or barbecue, and Cleric would like to go on a nature hike. Do you have any preferences?”

“Yes. I think we should stay at home and enjoy a day of rest.”

arrogant-one-facing-rightMy Arrogant One, who had been right behind Dragon, grimaced and stuck his nose in the air. He commented in a petulant whine, “I thought you said it was a holiday. I suppose you are proposing a stayiday, like our last vacation was a staycation?”

I rolled my eyes as I remembered what my Arrogant One had said about that vacation. “The concept of vacation is new to me; however, I do understand it to involve travel away from one’s place of residence. We have traveled nowhere. For the past two weeks, we have not once taken leave of this place.

And when I had attempted to explain the concept of a staycation to him, he had declared the word to be merely another term for boring.
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2016/12/18/vacation-is-over/

I sighed. “Yeah, I agree. I guess staying home to celebrate a holiday would be much the same as staying home for a vacation.”

“It be all set, then.” My Old Dwarf rubbed his hands together. “I be helpin’ wit tha food.”

“Of course you will.” Dragon sighed a puff of smoke at the old reprobate, who just laughed at her.

“Ye be seein’, beastie. It be a whole lot o fun!”

Dragon lifted an eyebrow and snorted. “I suppose I will be required to go.”

I nodded. “I think it would be nice if we all went. And besides, you’ve enjoyed these outings in the past.”

“Very well.” Dragon shrugged. “It might not be completely unbearable.”

“I will let the others know.” Cleric started to leave the room.

Miles“Wait a minute! We haven’t even decided where we should go, or on which day of the three-day weekend.” I looked at Miles. “What do you think, honey?”

“Why don’t we go Saturday? We should be able to prepare enough food by then. And we can go to your favorite picnic area by that woodland lake.”

I nodded, and Cleric skipped off to inform my other characters of our plans.

My Old Dwarf grasped Miles by the arm and led him off to check out the freezer. “Be ye thinkin’ we be havin’ enough vittles, or be we needin’ ta go to tha market?”

The rest of the week passed quickly as we prepared for our outing. The night before our trek, I called all my characters together. “It’s been a while since we’ve all gone on an outing. Let me remind everyone of the rules. First, all weapons, wands, staffs, and spell components will be left at home. Second, you will all dress in the modern garb of this world. Third, you will behave in a civilized manner. Last, if we encounter anyone, you will tell no one who you really are. If anyone asks, you’re some out-of-town relatives and friends, visiting for a few weeks.” I glared at them. “Do you all understand?”

Everyone nodded. My Arrogant One sniffed disdainfully. “This is not our first outing! We do understand the rules of deportment.”

“That’s rich, considering the last time we went on an outing, I had to remind you that you could not wear your robes.”

My Old Dwarf snickered.

“And I had to remind you that you could not go wandering around in public in your chain mail!” I scowled at the two of them.

Everyone murmured promises of good behavior, but the next morning when we were packing the car, it was as if we had gone back in time. Everything was just as it had been the last time we went on an outing.

Despite the previous night’s agreements, I had to confiscate several weapons and one staff, and neither my Old Dwarf nor my Arrogant One wanted to change their outfits.

I frowned at my Old Dwarf. “I’m sorry, but I’ve told you before that you just can’t wander around in chain mail. It would draw too much attention.”

I turned to my Arrogant One. “And I have told you that your robes are far too extravagant for an outing like this.”

It took another 15 minutes, and a lot of animated discussion, to convince them, but by the time Miles had loaded the picnic hamper and coolers into the car, everyone was presentable and ready to leave.

Ninety minutes later we arrived at one of my favorite picnic areas, a beautiful lakeside venue. My characters were eager to get set up, and they piled out of the car the moment my husband had it parked. Miles and I unloaded our supplies, and my characters helped us carry everything down the trail to the picnic table in the shade of the trees by the lake.

Picnic table by lake

camera for blogEveryone pitched in and helped my husband prepare the food. After a huge lunch, I suggested we go exploring. “I know Cleric wanted to assist with some nature photography, so I brought my camera. You’re all welcome to join us if you wish, to check out the resident wildlife.”

Easter 128“I’m sorry, honey.” Miles looked at me apologetically. “With the medications I take, you know I can’t tolerate the sunlight. I must stay here in the shade. The rest of you go enjoy yourselves. I’ll just clean up everything here and then take a nap under these trees.”

I gave my husband a quick kiss, grabbed my camera, and headed down the path. Dragon, in her guise of an elf maiden was right behind me, along with Cleric and Sorceress. When I turned around to see who else was coming, though, I stopped dead in my tracks.

My Old Dwarf, my Bounty Hunter, and my Arrogant One were back in their medieval apparel, weapons drawn, ready to engage in a melee. My Foreman, my Gypsy, and my Young Hero were also in their traditional attire, astride their horses, preparing to joust.

 

What is going on here?” I think my sister in Connecticut, some 1300 miles away, could probably hear me shriek.

Dragon shrugged. “They wanted to hold a tournament. I did not see the harm.”

Didn’t see the harm?” I gaped at her.

Dragon sighed. “Do not fret. I have cast a spell of concealment. No one will ever see them.”

I frowned and crossed my arms over my chest. “No. This is not going to happen. You three dismount. Everyone get rid of the weapons and return to the clothes you were wearing when we left the house this morning. Now!

“Oh, Mistress, why can we not . . .” My Gypsy started to wheedle but stopped when he saw the look I shot him.

Muttering and sighing, all my characters returned to modern gear. The horses and weapons disappeared, fading slowly out of existence.

“Come on. We’ll all go for a nature hike. I daren’t let any of you out of my sight!”

Grumbling, my characters trudged along as we headed down the trail that took us around the lake and into the woods on the other side.

My Old Dwarf walked next to Dragon and whispered to her. “Sometimes I be wishin’ thet tha lass be a wee bit more understandin’ aboot us. It be difficult ta be tryin’ all the time ta be fittin’ inta a new life. Oh, I be knowin’ thet we be livin’ here in her world for a good long time now, but we a been livin’ in our own world a whole lot longer afore thet! It be hard ta be givin’ up tha life we been knowin’ then.”


“Indeed!” Dragon nodded. “I wonder how well Mistress Writer would adapt to being ripped from her own familiar world and finding herself suddenly dropped into a totally alien society.”

“Now thet be a thought!” My Old Dwarf chuckled at the notion.

small figure on trailNeither Dragon nor her companion saw the small figure on the side of the trail. It was only slightly smaller than the squirrels that were scampering through the tall grass. It had a white beard and long, rabbit-like ears. A sly grin spread across its stony face as it listened to the conversation between my Old Dwarf and Dragon.

Despite their initial grumbling, all my characters joined in with enthusiasm when we started to see wildlife along the trail. They began a friendly competition to find, and identify, each animal along the way.

My Gypsy was first, much to Cleric’s disappointment. He pointed to two birds in trees near the lake “Look! There are two male Red-winged Blackbirds!”

Not to be outdone, Cleric pointed. “And there are the females!”

 

My Young Hero spoke up. “There’s a Song Sparrow.”

My Gypsy looked where the other lad was pointing. “No, that is a Swamp Sparrow. That one is a Song Sparrow.” He pointed at another small bird in a nearby tree.

Sorceress pointed at a group of birds on the lake. “I believe I have heard you call those large birds Canada Geese, Mistress.”

I nodded.

Dragon pointed at a single goose, closer to the shore. “There is another one. What a lovely reflection!”

“That Mallard also has a beautiful reflection!” My Bounty Hunter pointed.

My Arrogant One pointed at a bird on the wooden fishing pier. “Is that another of the same type, a Mallard?”

My Gypsy nodded.

Our attention was drawn to a nearby copse of trees, where we heard a persistent tapping. We followed the trail away from the lake and into the woods, looking for the source of the sound. “There!” My Foreman pointed. “A Red-headed Woodpecker!”

“Red-bellied Woodpecker,” my Gypsy corrected him, as I took some photos.

“An’ there be three right furry little bunny rabbits.” My Old Dwarf pointed.

My Gypsy looked where the dwarf was pointing and laughed. “I believe two of them are squirrels.”

The Secret TrailWe continued along the trail, enjoying the warm weather, the scenery, and the camaraderie. We had walked a considerable distance when I spotted a path off to the right, marked by a sign proclaiming it a Secret Trail. “Hmmm. I thought I knew every trail in this park, but I don’t ever remember seeing that one before.”

I began to lead the group up the overgrown steps rising from the forest floor.

“Stop!” Dragon cried out. “This trail does not feel right.”

“What do you mean?” I called back over my shoulder from the top of the steps.

“Mistress, take heed! There is something amiss here.” Dragon was wide-eyed, and the color had drained from her delicate elven features.

I immediately turned around. “Let’s go back, then.”

But the woods at the bottom of the steps looked different. I could not see the trail leading back toward the lake. From our position at the bottom of the steps, steps which also looked much different than the ones we had started to climb, the trail branched off in three directions. To the right, the path was choked by protruding tree roots. To the left, the trail was lined with boulders. Straight ahead, a wide avenue passed under a canopy of trees.different steps

Wide avenue

This was not the park where we had had our picnic, where we had just been hiking and taking wildlife photographs. Where were we?

Where are my characters and I? How did we get here? Will we be able to find our way back to the picnic grove, and to my husband? Be sure to come back next week for another exciting episode. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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And on this Memorial Day weekend, my husband and I, as well as my characters, wish to offer tribute to all who have perished in the service of their country. They will never be forgotten!

Memorial Day 3

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays

Elf facing right“Mistress?”

“Hmmm?” I looked up from the table, where I was helping my husband set out the Christmas Eve buffet. Cleric’s brow was furrowed, and she was biting her lower lip. I placed the napkins in a pile at the end of the table, then walked with Cleric over to the sofa. “What’s wrong?”

“If it came upon a midnight clear, why do so many people dream of a white Christmas?”

I chuckled. We had been listening to holiday music on the radio all evening. Evidently, Cleric could not reconcile the various visions of Christmas.

arrogant-one-facing-rightMy Arrogant One did not wait for me to answer Cleric. “And why is Christmas such a big deal, anyway? We have been subjected to this banal music for more than a month now!” As usual, if something did not revolve around my Arrogant One, he felt it a waste of time.

I sighed. “I explained this last Christmas.”dwarf-facing-right

“Thet be a whole year gone away, lass. Ye do na be expectin’ the elfie ta be rememberin’ summat fer thet long, now do ye?” My Old Dwarf chuckled and my Arrogant One turned scarlet.

sorceress-facing-rightSorceress chimed in. “It has been a long time. Since we are all gathered together now, why do you not explain to us again what Christmas is all about?”

gypsy-facing-rightI looked around at my other characters, who all nodded and moved closer to listen. My Gypsy turned off the radio so everyone could hear. “Yes, just what is this Christmas that you make such a fuss about?”

 

“Well, as I explained last year, that’s really a hard question to answer. You see, in my religion, Christmas is a holy day. It is the celebration of an event that took place more than 2,000 years ago. It is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of our God, in human form. But other religions have different beliefs. Many people who celebrate Christmas today celebrate it as a secular holiday, not a religious holy day. For them, it is merely a day for giving and receiving gifts, and sharing good will and good times with family and loved ones. Then, still others do not celebrate it in any form.”

“I remember you reading from your Holy Book last year, the story of the baby being born in the manger.” My Young Hero furrowed his brow. “Could you read that again this year?”

I rose and retrieved my Bible, thumbing through it until I found Luke’s account of the Christmas birth.

angels-and-shepherdsNow it happened that, while they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to a son, her first-born. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the living-space. In the countryside close by there were shepherds out in the fields keeping guard over their sheep during the watches of the night. An angel of the Lord stood over them and the glory of the Lord shone round them. They were terrified, but the angel said, ‘Do not be afraid. Look, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by all people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. And here is a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’ And all at once with the angel there was a great throng of the hosts of heaven, praising God with the words: Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace for those he favours.

My characters sat, mesmerized as I read. They remained silent for a long few minutes following the reading.

Cleric broke the silence. “That was a beautiful story!” The others nodded in agreement.

I put the book away, and Miles called us over to the buffet table, which was groaning under the weight of sandwiches, salads, casseroles, eggnog and cookies. We all filled our plates, then we popped some CDs in the player and listened to “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem,” “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “Feliz Navidad,” “White Christmas,” “Jingle Bell Rock,” “Little Drummer Boy” and “Frosty the Snowman.” We finished with two of my personal favorites, “Mary, Did You Know?” and the Dar Williams classic “The Christians and the Pagans.”

 

Everyone clapped and Cleric spoke for them all when she said, “What great songs!”

dwarfBut then my Old Dwarf, on his third pint of eggnog, started to sing. My Foreman winced and covered his ears. “I think that’s our cue that it’s high time the festivities came to an end for the evening.”

He motioned to the lads, and my Bounty Hunter, who helped the off-key singer to his feet. Everyone said their goodnights and headed off to bed, my Old Dwarf still bellowing and hiccupping.

I started gathering the empty plates and glasses while Miles turned off the CD player and the lights on the Christmas tree. As we started to ascend the stairs, I murmured “Tonight felt like déjà vu.”

Miles nodded. “I think you’re right – I think this Christmas Eve is exactly the same as last year, including your Old Dwarf wrapping up the festivities with his off-key singing! At least this year, I have not been talking like the Innkeeper for the past week, and I didn’t find his talisman on the steps tonight.”

“True. I suppose I should be grateful that that mystery has been put to bed after more than a year.” I smiled. “If only I wasn’t so worried about what might happen next. With a house full of fictional medieval characters, one never knows what to expect.”

mistletoe2

I followed Miles up the steps. He stopped on the landing, reached over and switched on the porch light. Then, just like last year, he pointed at the mistletoe overhead and gently pulled me close for a kiss. “Merry Christmas, honey!”

I barely had time to respond “Merry Christmas!” before our lips melded in a tender holiday kiss.

Happy holidays to all our readers. No matter your beliefs, may peace and love be in your hearts now, and throughout the New Year!

happy-holidays-to-my-readers

Be sure to stop back from time to time to see what is happening with my characters. The porch light will always be on for you.

Thanksgiving (a few days late)

Thanksgiving (a few days late)

scrambled eggsMiles and I were sitting at the kitchen table, along with my characters. The mood was somber. Most of us were just pushing our breakfast around on our plates. The only ones exhibiting a hearty appetite were my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter. The rest of us were having a hard time choking anything down.

For today's blog 001Miles put down his fork and sighed. “It’s just not the same without her here. I never thought I’d miss her threatening to char my shoes with my feet still in them, or the way she ripped up the carpeting when she was writhing around, scratching her back.”

My husband was referring to Dragon, who had disappeared from the conference room more than two weeks ago, along with her companion, the Great Wyrm.

sorceress-facing-right

Sorceress wiped a tear from her cheek. “We have to accept the fact that Dragon might not be coming back.”

Elf

Cleric choked back a sob. “We must have faith! She will return. She will!”

Young hero 2

My Young Hero nodded, and patted Cleric’s arm. “Yes, Dragon will return, I am sure of it! She is powerful and resourceful. She can overcome any danger.”

Gypsy

My Gypsy sighed and shook his head. “It is all well and good to have faith, but we must also be realistic. We have no idea where she is. We know not if she left willingly or was taken by someone who, for all we know, could be even more powerful and more resourceful than Dragon.”

arrogant-one-facing-right

“I say good riddance to the big lizard.” My Arrogant One stuck his nose in the air and busied himself flicking imaginary lint from the sleeve of his robe.

 

dwarf-facing-right

My Old Dwarf jumped from his chair, practically snarling at the elf, and brandishing his war axe. “Ye be wantin’ ta be eatin’ yer teeth fer mornin’ meal?”

 

“Enough!” My glare encompassed my Old Dwarf as well as my Arrogant One, but my warning was for the elf. “In case you’ve been living under a rock or something and haven’t noticed, the rest of us consider Dragon a dear friend. Your remark is both offensive and in very poor taste.”

My Arrogant One assumed an injured air. My Old Dwarf continued to stand there for several long, tense minutes, glowering at the elf and slapping the flat of his axe against the palm of his hand. Finally, he lowered his weapon and wandered off, dejectedly, towards the stairs.

bounty-hunter

As soon as he was out of earshot, my Bounty Hunter snorted. “Any bets on where the old fool is heading? He checks that conference room a dozen times a day. He really believes that creature will return.”

foreman-facing-left

“And you don’t think she will?” My Foreman assessed my Bounty Hunter through narrowed eyes. “Do you know something the rest of us don’t?”

 

“No, but it is as the Gypsy said. We need to be realistic. Who knows what caused her disappearance? She may have decided to stay with that other creature, the Great Wyrm, wherever she resides. Or she may be trapped somewhere, or even dead. We need to get over it and move on.”

Young hero 2

My Young Hero jumped to his feet. His fists were balled at his side, his face was red and blotchy, and his voice cracked as he yelled at my Bounty Hunter. “One does not just get over the loss of a friend! If there is any chance at all she is still alive, we need to search for her and try to rescue her! There must be something we can – -”

 

 

Whatever more my Young Hero was about to say was lost in the sound of running feet and shouting. My Old Dwarf came racing back up the stairs, whooping and bellowing at the top of his voice. “She be back! Er’ybody! Dragon be back! Tha big beastie be back!”

dwarf

For a few moments, we all froze in stunned silence, staring at the dwarf. Then we all jumped up and stampeded to the conference room.

Dragon“What happened to you?” “Are you okay?” “Where have you been?” “Where is the Great Wyrm?” “Welcome home!” Everyone was talking at once, and Dragon appeared quite overwhelmed. Her eyes opened wide, she backed away from us, and dark smoke spewed from her snout.

dwarfImmediately my Old Dwarf pushed his way through the crowd, placing himself between us and Dragon. He stood facing the group with his feet apart, brandishing his war axe, protecting his friend. “Do na any o ye be havin’ the sense ye be born wit? The big beastie been through a great ordeal! She be needin’ ta be restin’ so’s she kin be recuperatin’! Ye kin all be seein’ ’er later. Now ye best be skedaddlin’!”

When we did not move quickly enough, the old reprobate punctuated his demand with a swipe of his axe, scattering those closest to him and Dragon.

Before anyone could get hurt, I started grabbing my characters by the arm and herding them toward the door. “My Old Dwarf’s right. Dragon needs her rest. She’ll let us know when she’s feeling better.”

There were a lot of protests and muttering, but finally only three of us remained in the conference room with Dragon – Miles, me, and my Old Dwarf. But the dwarf did not relent. Scowling, he raised his axe again. “I be meanin’ the two o ye, too!”

Miles yelped and headed for the door, but I grabbed his arm and pulled him back. I stood my ground and glared at my Old Dwarf. “No, you don’t mean us. We will stay and talk to Dragon. You can go and guard the door.”

Slowly, the dwarf lowered his weapon. All the color drained from his normally ruddy face. “Nay, lass! Tha lastest time I be guardin’ thet door, the big beastie been disappeared. I do na be makin’ thet mistake agin. Iffin I be guardin’ ’er, I be stayin’ right here, in the very room wit ’er, where I kin be keepin’ me eye right on ’er. I do na be losin’ ’er agin!”

I smiled and placed my hand on his arm. “All right, old friend. You can stay.”

dragonI turned toward Dragon, who was still cringing next to her illusory fireplace. Her eyes were still wide and the tip of her tail was twitching. I spoke to her in my most soothing tone. “Dragon? It is good to see you again, my friend.”

Getting no response, I moved slowly toward the creature, stopping just a few feet from her. “Can you tell us what happened? You have been gone for more than two weeks.”

Slowly relaxing, Dragon tilted her head and scratched her chin, as if trying to remember. “I am afraid I can remember nothing. I was unaware that I had been gone until that silly old dwarf welcomed me home while flinging himself at me and trying to wrap my tail in a bear hug. I awoke here this morning, curled up next to my fireplace, but I could not seem to remember how I had gotten here. As I tried to remember, things got more and more confused. I have so many images swimming through my brain, and I can not make sense of them. I see people I do not know, and places with which I am not familiar.” She stood there, palms up, shrugging and shaking her head.

I nodded. “It could be you have suffered a great physical or emotional trauma that has caused a problem with your short-term memory. It is equally possible that your recent memory has been suppressed through magical means.”

Dragon snorted. “It would take a remarkably powerful magic user to do that.”

Miles and I exchanged worried glances across the room.

“You know something.” Dragon’s eyes narrowed.

I nodded. “You have recently been in the company of a creature whose magical power is far greater than your own; someone who could have easily altered with your memory.”

Dragon’s jaw dropped.

Miles cleared his throat. He took a few cautious steps closer to me and Dragon and spoke softly. “Don’t worry, she was a friend. She wouldn’t have done anything to harm you. If she is responsible for your loss of memory, I’m sure she has done it to protect you.”

I sighed. “You will probably hear all about it from the others, so I might as well tell you. Do you remember trying to discover and remove the source of the tension and conflict among all my characters?”

Dragon frowned. She started to shake her head, but paused. “Yes . . . yes, I think I do.”

dragon-1964202_960_720“Well, in the course of your investigation, you were aided by another Dragon, the Great Wyrm. Although the others are unaware of her origins, I can tell you – she is from the world about which I wrote in the manuscripts . . . the manuscripts from which you and the others have fallen.”

“The world we characters have always referred to as our world?”

Book manuscript“Yes, that world. Although you confirmed that that world is not your world, not really. Your world exists only in the pages of my manuscripts.”

Dragon stared at me for a very long time. Finally, she nodded. “So, were the Great Wyrm and I successful? Has the source of the tension and conflict been identified and removed?”

“I would say you were most successful, although I don’t know the details of your accomplishment. I only know the conflict has ended, the objects you suspected of being the cause of the hex are gone, and everyone is back to normal. We all owe the two of you a great debt. The disputes here had reached a critical level, and it would not have been long before the other characters would have inflicted serious physical harm – maybe even fatal injuries – to each other, or to Miles and me.”

“Then I am grateful for the help the Great Wyrm provided me.” Dragon sighed, then yawned widely. “Whatever adventures I have had, I fear they have left me devoid of energy. Might I excuse myself? I am in need of a long sleep.”

Miles and I smiled at Dragon, and I nodded. “Of course. We will talk again, when you are feeling better. My Old Dwarf will remain and watch over you. He will see that you are not disturbed.”

* * *

Thanksgiving feastSeveral days later, Dragon still had not sorted out her memories of recent events, but there would be time for that later. Now, we were gathered in the kitchen for dinner. Miles placed the last serving platter on the groaning sideboard, and took his place at the table. I looked around at everyone seated there, and cleared my throat.

 

“Today is Thanksgiving, a day traditionally set aside to give thanks for the bounty and blessings of the past year. Since those of us at this table are of various religions, and worship different deities, I suggest a departure from the traditional prayer before meals that Miles and I usually say. Instead, why doesn’t each person take a turn to state briefly what they are most thankful for this year?”

The silence was deafening. All my characters looked at me as if I had asked them to dance naked on the table.

“Okay, good. I’ll start.” I paused to gather my thoughts.

dwarf“Nay, lass. I be startin’.” My Old Dwarf rose and looked around the table before continuing. “This Thanksgiving, I be most grateful for the safe return o our friend, Dragon.”blue-dragon-facing-left

 

At the other end of the table, Dragon blushed deeply.

 

“Asides from thet, I be grateful for the roof o’er me head, the food in me belly, and the kind lass and her lad who do na be kickin’ us oot, in spite o the way we al’ays be disruptin’ their lives and causin’ ’em problems.”

Around the table, many heads were nodding.

“Hear, hear!” My Young Hero stood up. “I think you have spoken what is in each of our hearts today.”

“Good! I be savin’ ye all tha trouble o sayin’ it! Now kin we be getting’ ta the food already?”

I laughed as everyone grabbed their plates and took them to the sideboard to fill. While the others started eating right away, Miles and I joined hands, bowed our heads, and quietly said grace. Listening to the laughter and good cheer around the dinner table, I realized we had a lot to be thankful for.

 

One of the things for which I am most grateful is a husband who understands my writing process, and is such a good sport that he willingly participates in it. Another thing for which I am grateful is you, dear readers. I hope you will continue to share our adventures and misadventures. We’ll always leave the porch light on for you.

 

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