Mystery Solved

Mystery Solved

breakfast-2Miles and I were in the kitchen, preparing breakfast, when Cleric and Dragon came rushing in.

Mystery and Cleric“Mistress Writer!” Cleric’s voice rang out with joy. She was absolutely glowing, and had her smile been any broader, she would have needed a second face to hold it all. “We were just in the shed visiting with Mystery. Now that she is free of the hold the snow devils had on her mind, I am able to communicate with her!”

“That’s wonderful!” I smiled broadly as I took her hands and gave them a squeeze. “I know how worried you were when you couldn’t reach her mind.”

“Indeed! I found it most disheartening that I, a cleric of the goddess of the horse, was able to communicate with essentially every animal in this world, save the one most favored by my deity!”

“Have you learned anything from her?” Miles glanced over at Cleric as he removed the large skillet of scrambled eggs from the stove.

Cleric nodded and clasped her hands together. “Oh, yes, Master Miles! Mystery is a most remarkable little horse!”

I raised an eyebrow. “I hope you’re not getting too attached to Mystery. Now that you and Dragon have assisted the snow devils to return to their home, we need to find Mystery’s owner and get her back home as well.”

Cleric looked wistful. “Well, I will certainly miss her. I do wish that I had had more time to get to know her. But I understand she needs to go back to her owner.”

arrogant-one-facing-right“And that needs to happen as expeditiously as possible.” My Arrogant One swept into the room, nose in the air, one hand fluttering about, waving dismissively at everyone. “I demand you remove that vile, odoriferous creature from my private retreat without delay!”bounty-hunter-facing-other-direction

My Bounty Hunter, following behind my Arrogant One like the elf’s ever-present shadow, nodded in agreement with his obnoxious cohort. “We really have been more than patient.”

dwarf“Wale, ye kin jest be patient a wee bit longer. It be time ta be breakin’ our fast, an the horsey kin be waitin’ ’till we be finished eatin’ our food.” My Old Dwarf pushed past the other two, scowling, and took his place at the table.

My Arrogant One was about to reply, but he bit back his words when he saw the warning look on my face. He and his companion took their seats with no further discussion, although the elf continued to stare daggers at my Old Dwarf. The rest of my characters arrived and soon everyone was seated and passing around platters laden with the delicious breakfast fare Miles had prepared.

I glanced longingly at the mouthwatering food being passed around as I took a container of fat-free yogurt from the refrigerator and sat down next to my husband. “I guess we should call the sheriff’s office this morning and report finding a horse in our yard.” I wrinkled my nose, as much at what had to be done as at the taste of the yogurt.

My Old Dwarf nearly choked on a mouthful of fried potatoes. “Oh, no, lass! Ye can na be meanin’ ta be doin’ thet!”

“Why not?” I feigned innocence.

My Old Dwarf scowled fiercely. “I be thinkin’ ye be knowin’ thet I do na much be fancyin’ anudder encounter wit the intrepid Deputy Dawg and ’is equally stalwart partner, Deputy Whitewash.” The old reprobate took another bite of potato from his fork before using the utensil to punctuate his next statement, stabbing the air in time with his words. “Asides, ye do na be wantin’ ta be havin’ Mace and Gloria ta be seein’ the horsey here. They’d be usin’ it as an excuse ta be even more snoopy-like than they already be.”

 

I laughed. “That’s true. But how are we to find Mystery’s owner and return her?”

From the other end of the table, Cleric addressed me. “Do not worry, Mistress. Dragon and I have devised a plan. Mystery told me whence she was abducted by the snow devils . . . well, she placed an image of it in my head. It is not far from here. Dragon can cast a spell of concealment on Mystery, and we can walk her off the property unbeknownst to Mace and Gloria. We can walk her all the way back to her home. It is just a mile or so down the road.” Cleric paused, and furrowed her brow. “I do think it best if we depart this very morn, though. Mystery is most anxious to return home. I got a sense of growing urgency from her when she thought about her owner.”

I nodded and took another spoonful of yogurt before answering. “I will accompany you and Dragon when you take Mystery home.”

“Good! You can commence right after breakfast!” My Arrogant One was issuing orders again. “Then the three of you can go in and clean out every trace of that malodorous beast.” He waved his hand in the direction of my Foreman, my Gypsy and my Young Hero.

“Excuse me.” My Gypsy glared at the elf. “Were you speaking to us?”

“Yes, yes, of course! The three of you enjoy taking care of barnyard animals. You can . . .”

You can stop right there.” My Foreman eyed the elf through narrowed eyes. “If you want the shed cleaned out, you can do it yourself.”

crystal-shatteringarrogant-one-facing-right“Me?” My Arrogant One’s voice shot up to that crystal-shattering shriek he so often employed. “I most assuredly will not!” He wrinkled his nose and studied his fingernails. “I was not the one who brought that creature into the shed. Besides, such menial labor is beneath my station.”

My Young Hero rolled his eyes and smirked. “You are always telling us how adept you are at magic. Just enchant a few brooms and mops and magic the mess away.”

My Arrogant One curled his lip contemptuously. “I am an illusionist, not a sorcerer.”

“Then why do ye na occasionally be creatin’ the illusion thet ye be workin’, instead o al’ays be expectin’ others ta be doin’ yer work fer ye, ye consarned, pompous, annoyin’ little elfie?” My Old Dwarf reached past the annoying elf for another helping of flapjacks.

My Arrogant One turned redder than a stop light. “Do not call me elfie!”

I think dogs three states away were howling in pain at the screeching elf.dogs howling

* * *

The sun was shining brightly, and the temperature was surprisingly warm when Dragon (in her usual guise of an elf maiden), Cleric, and I took Mystery out of the shed. The little horse was invisible to anyone but the three of us, thanks to Dragon’s spell of concealment. Dragon would wait until we were within sight of Mystery’s home before releasing the spell.

 

Once we left our neighborhood and started along the highway, I got nervous. “I hope Mystery’s traffic broke.”

Dragon tilted her head and furrowed her brow. “Traffic broke?”

“Trained not to spook from traffic.” I looked at the approaching vehicles. “At this time of day, I don’t think there will be much of a problem, but this is a popular truck route.”

Cleric turned to Mystery, placed a hand on the little horse’s neck, and spoke softly. Mystery nickered and bobbed her head up and down. Cleric continued to look at the horse, as if she were listening. I suspected that Mystery was planting another picture in Cleric’s mind in response to the question.

Cleric confirmed my suspicion. “From the images she shared, I do not believe Mystery will have any problem with traffic. She is accustomed to vehicles. A stable she called home at one time in her life was in a very urban area.”

We had only been walking about 15 minutes when Mystery whinnied and tugged hard on the lead. Cleric patted the little horse on her withers. “I believe this is where we turn, Mistress.”

Dragon wrinkled her nose and crossed her arms over her chest. “Are you sure?”

The thoroughfare Mystery was leading us onto was a wide dirt road. Despite the day’s spring-like weather, deep snow still covered the verge on both sides of the road, and an icy puddle of mud stretched the width of the lane at the bottom of a steep hill.dirt road with snow

I shared Dragon’s skepticism. “I don’t like the looks of this road, and I don’t know of any stables around here.”

Cleric smiled. “Mystery knows where she is going.”

We slogged along the slick, muddy dirt road for the better part of an hour. Conversation was limited mainly to squeals of distress as one or another of us slipped, accompanied by the muttering of a variety of colorful oaths. Finally, Mystery started tugging on her lead again, pulling us toward a two-track going off through the forest to the left.two-track

“This can’t be right.” I peered down the lane, but I could see nothing.

“There is evidence of a vehicle having used this road recently.” Dragon pointed to the tire tracks biting deep into the soft ground.

Cleric shrugged. “It is where Mystery desires to go.”

We trudged along the muddy track for another half-hour before Mystery came to a sudden halt at the mouth of a driveway. Through the trees, I could see a barn and some fencing. I turned to Cleric. “Is this the place?”barn

Mystery pawed at the ground and bobbed her head up and down.

“I would say so, Mistress.” Cleric patted the small horse, who nickered softly.

Dragon placed her hands on Mystery’s back and mumbled a few words. “There. I have released the spell. Let us take her in and see if her owner is home.”

AnnaI knocked on the door of the house, while Dragon and Cleric stood in the driveway with Mystery. The woman who answered my knock looked tired. I judged her to be in her forties, though she may have looked older than she really was. Her face was careworn, and she had dark circles under her brown eyes. Her unkempt sandy-brown hair was streaked with gray. She wiped her hands on her gingham apron before warily opening the door just a crack. “Yes?” Her voice was anxious.

“Please excuse the intrusion. I was wondering if you had lost a . . .”

I never got to finish. The woman looked over my shoulder and saw Mystery. She threw the door wide open and ran past me. She dashed down the steps and threw her arms around the little horse. “Peaches! Oh, Peaches!”

It took the woman a few minutes to compose herself. “Oh, you must think I’m fookish, making such a fuss over a horse.”

“Not at all.” I smiled warmly. “Would you like us to turn her out to pasture for you, or perhaps put her in a stall?”

The woman bit her lower lip and wrung her hands. “Are you in a hurry? Do you have time to hold Peaches here for a few moments? I’d like to bring my son out here. He’s been so upset since we discovered the horse was missing.”

“We have all the time in the world.” Cleric smiled at the woman and touched her arm reassuringly. The woman looked relieved and dashed back into the house.

Colton and Peaches 2She returned a few minutes later, holding the hand of a boy whom I judged to be about eight or nine years old. She carefully led him down the steps and over to the small horse she had called Peaches. The horse stood as still as a statue while the woman placed the boy’s hand on the animal’s nose.

“Peaches?” The boy’s voice was small, and he sounded uncertain.

Peaches nickered softly and nuzzled the boy’s arm.

“Peaches!” The boy whooped and threw his arms around the horse’s neck. “Oh, mom, she came back! I knew she would!”

“These nice ladies brought her back, son.”

The boy turned toward his mother’s voice. “Where are they, mom? I want to thank them.”

“They are right next to me. Ladies, please excuse my manners. I haven’t even introduced myself. I’m Anna, and I’d like you to meet my son, Colton.”

“Hello, Anna. Hi, Colton.”

The boy stuck his hand out and smiled in the direction of my voice.

Realizing he could not see, I walked around to face him and took his outstretched hand. “I’m Marge. These are my friends . . .” I didn’t know how to introduce them.

Sensing my problem, Dragon came to my rescue. “Most people can not pronounce my name. Just call me Dray. Our other friend is Clara. We are very pleased to meet you”

“Marge, Dray, and Clara.” The boy repeated our names softly as if trying to memorize them. “Nice to meet you! Thank you so much for bringing Peaches home.”

“You are most welcome, Colton.” Cleric beamed at the youngster and placed the horse’s lead line in his hand.

“Mom, can I ride her now?”

“Well . . .”

Peaches nickered and bobbed her head up and down.

paddock gateColton’s mom laughed. “I suppose you can. But don’t tire yourself out.” She took Colton’s hand and led him and Peaches over to a gate. She opened it and guided the boy and his horse through, and into the field beyond. “Stay in the paddock and give Peaches her head. There are still some icy spots here you can’t see.”

Colton riding Peaches bareback“I will, mom. Don’t worry. Peaches will take care of me.” He felt for the little horse’s back and hopped right up, bareback. Using just the halter and lead rope as a bridle and reins, he turned Peaches around and trotted off down the fence line.

Colton’s mom turned toward us. “I can’t tell you how much it means to Colton to have his horse back. We’ve been gone from the farm for the past month. Colton was having surgery on his eyes.” She paused and looked down at her hands. “It wasn’t successful.”

“I’m so sorry, Anna!” I placed a hand on her arm.

“Thank you.” She stood quietly, watching her son trotting the little horse around the field. Finally, she continued.

“While we were away, a friend was stopping by every day to take care of our animals. Unfortunately, he got sick. He asked someone else to take his place, another friend who had taken care of the farm for us in the past. However, that person wasn’t aware we had gotten a new horse since the last time he had been here. Peaches wasn’t missed until we arrived back home late last night and couldn’t find her.”

Anna turned toward us. “Where did you find her, and how did you know where to bring her home?”

I furrowed my brow. “She showed up in our neighborhood, and she’s been our guest for a while now. I was trying to find who might have lost her. I checked the internet, and talked with some sheriff’s deputies, but no one had reported a missing horse. I used to have horses, so I knew how to care for her while we searched for her owner.”

Cleric picked up the tale. “This morning, we noticed that Mystery . . . I mean Peaches – we called her Mystery because we did not know her name. Anyway, this morning, she seemed restless. When we put a halter and lead line on her, she started pulling us toward the road. We figured she was ready to go home, so we let her lead us here.”

 

 

“Bless you for that.” Anna smile warmly at the three of us. “Peaches is specially trained to work with a blind rider. She acts as my son’s eyes, and she gives Colton some semblance of normalcy in his life. Riding her, he can be the equal of his friends, share in their equine activities, and forget his handicap at least for a while.”

“I knew she was a remarkable animal!” Cleric beamed at Peaches and the confident young rider so capably handling the little horse.

Boy_on_a_Horse

We watched Colton and Peaches a while longer, then said our goodbyes, promising to return for a visit sometime. As we started home, I noticed Cleric’s eyes looked moist.

“Are you okay?”

She nodded. “I am going to miss that most remarkable horse. But this is one mystery I am overjoyed to have solved.”

 

We hope you’ve enjoyed our little Peach(es) of a Mystery. Join us again next week to see what my characters are up to. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Have Faith

Have Faith

Voice from MysteryHave faith.

“Who said that?” Cleric’s eyes darted wildly about the barn, seeking the source of the voice.

Dragon’s tail lashed and her brow furrowed. “It looked as if Mystery spoke, but the words did not come from the horse’s mouth. I heard them in my mind, not in my ears.”

The snow devils were buzzing and whirring. We heard it as well. One of you must have thought it.Elf

“I have no telepathic power.” Cleric’s voice was muffled as she continued to search for the source of the voice, poking behind bales of hay and sacks of grain, and peering into every dark corner.

Then it must have been you, creature.scaly dragon looking right

“It was not. Although I do possess telepathic power, I did not suggest having faith. Since I have no idea how to open the conduit and return you to your world, I have not sufficient faith at the moment to recommend it to others.”

“Well someone must have thought it. We all heard the same words within our minds. It could not be anyone’s imagination.” Cleric finished looking around the barn and returned to stand next to Mystery. She frowned as she stroked the small horse. “Since I see no one else in the barn with us, it must have been one of us.”

Cleric and snow devilThe snow devils buzzed loudly, conversing among themselves. One separated from the group and hovered in front of Cleric. When it addressed Cleric, its voice was respectful, a marked change from the belligerence and insistence previously coloring the voices of the snow devils. You, servant of the horse goddess, are one of faith. Perhaps you thought it, and somehow our own telepathic powers allowed us to hear your words in our minds.

Cleric blushed. “I did not think it. I am afraid my faith is not as great as you believe.”

But . . . but you serve a deity! To do so, you must have great faith!

Cleric turned deeper red and lowered her eyes. She fidgeted with her robes and scuffed one foot back and forth. When she finally spoke, her voice cracked with emotion. “I may serve a goddess, but . . . but I have disappointed her often. I have been disobedient, and . . . and I have been arrogant enough to believe I knew better than the one I purport to serve.” Cleric swallowed hard before tossing her head and looking up at the snow devils. “I am the last one of us who would admonish others to have faith.” A tear ran down her cheek as she turned away and buried her face in Mystery’s soft mane.

Dragon quickly shapeshifted, shimmering as she took on her customary guise of an elf maiden. She placed her arm around her friend’s shoulder. “That happened a long time ago, back during the events in our world which Mistress Writer chronicled in her books. I daresay the one you serve has forgiven you by now. I allow that you should forgive yourself as well.”

The snow devils huddled once more, humming, murmuring and whirring. Finally, one of the creatures swooped down closer to Cleric and Dragon. The two companions heard a callous voice in their minds. It matters not who said it; nor does your situation matter. We must focus on the task at hand.

Another of the miniature snow spouts dropped down and nudged the first one out of the way. It hovered directly in front of Dragon and Cleric. Its words were gentler. Do not think ill of us. Your failure to serve faithfully is distressful, and we do have compassion for your situation. However, our condition is becoming critical. We must return to our own world. If we do not, we will perish for sure.

Cleric nodded. She wiped the tears from her face and straightened her robes. “Dragon, we must find a way to locate their world and open the passageway, so they may return.”

And you must do it now!

“But how?” Dragon threw her hands up in despair. “If I knew how to locate your world, I might be able to create a conduit. But how do I find your world?”

Have faith.

As Dragon, Cleric, and the snow devils looked about once more for the source of the voice, the barn door opened. “Wale, there ye be! It be gittin’ late, an’ I be thinkin’ ye might be wantin’ some vittles.”Dwarf

The Old Dwarf pulled a turkey leg and a ham from his pouch and plopped them onto a bale of hay. “Ye’ll be wantin’ summat ta drink, too.” He kept rummaging through his pouch.

What is this? The voice was full of suspicion.

“He is our friend.” Cleric frowned, and her eyes flashed a warning at the snow devils. “Do not threaten him.”

“Huh? Be ye sayin’ summat, lass?” The Old Dwarf looked up and noticed the snow devils, now buzzing and droning loudly. He yelped and brandished his war axe. He stepped between the miniature snownadoes and his friends. “Do na be gittin’ any closer, ye swirly demons!”dwarf protecting friends from snow devils

Dragon grabbed the dwarf’s arm. “No! They are not demons! They are not from our world, and they mean us no harm!”

The old warrior slowly lowered his axe. He narrowed his eyes and glared at the snow devils for a few minutes. He scratched his bearded chin and turned to Dragon. “Ye be sure, beastie? They do na be dangerous?”

“They pose no danger. They seek only to return to their own world before they succumb to our rising temperatures.” Dragon raked her hand through her thick hair and sighed.

“Wale, how be it they be here in this world?” The dwarf tilted his head and studied the whirling columns of snow and ice.

Snow devils on mountain“They were inadvertently caught up in a magical conduit, a conduit that I and another were traveling through.” Dragon bit her lower lip. “But the conduit was collapsed, and I do not know how to recreate it, nor how to find their world.”

“Jest be axin’ the other beastie.” The dwarf reached over and picked up the ham. He sliced a chunk of it and popped it in his mouth.dragon-1964202_960_720

“I would, but the other one of my kind is no longer present in this world. With the conduit gone, I do not know how to contact her.”

Have faith.

“Yup. Thet be good advice.”

“You heard that voice?” Cleric gaped at the dwarf.

“O’ course I heerd it, lass! Wot, ye be thinkin’ I be deef?”

“But the words were not spoken. Dragon and I, along with the snow devils, have heard the voice telepathically, in our minds.”

The dwarf snorted. “Wale, mebbe ye be hearin’ voices in yer head, but I heerd it wit me ears. An’ it be plenny loud.”

Mystery whinnied and bobbed her head up and down.

“Aye, the little beastie be agreein’ – she musta heerd it, too.”

Third snow devilIt matters not who said it, nor who or what heard it, nor even how it was heard. What matters is finding a way for us to return to our world! Swiftly! If the other creature is the only one who might know the way, then you must contact her. The voice keened with desperation.

“But I have already told you, that is impossible.” Dragon’s shoulders slumped.

“Hah!” The dwarf snorted.

Dragon turned toward the dwarf. “What?”

“Ye never did be one ta be givin’ up, beastie.”

“I have never faced such an impossible task before.”

“Oh?” The dwarf’s eyes widened, but the corners of his lips twitched in amusement. “Ye be shockin’ me, beastie! I dinna be thinkin’ yer kind be havin’ such short rememberies.”

Dragon glared at the dwarf, but her anger waned swiftly. “You are right, my friend. We have all faced some impossible situations, have we not? And we triumphed.”
Cleric nodded in agreement and squeezed Dragon’s hand.

The Old Dwarf grinned. “Aye, ye al’ays be commin’ outten ahead causin ye be usin’ wot be atween yer ears. An ye do na be listenin’ ta anyone wot be sayin’ ye can na be succeedin’.”

Have faith.

This time, the words settled softly in the minds of Dragon and Cleric like a warm embrace. The two friends looked at each other.

 

“What paraphernalia do we need to create a magical conduit?” Cleric looked at Dragon, her eyes shining, her mouth set in a determined line.

The Old Dwarf smiled warmly at the two companions, then slipped quietly out the door, leaving them to their work.

* * *

It was after dark. Miles and I were sitting at the kitchen table, having a late-night conversation with my Old Dwarf. We heard the French doors in the living room opening, and the sound of someone stepping in from the deck. A few minutes later, Dragon and Cleric stumbled into the room. Dragon was still in her guise of an elf maiden, and she and Cleric were hanging on each other, trying not to fall.

I jumped up when I saw them. “Sit down! You both look exhausted!”

Cleric and Dragon collapsed onto chairs on opposite sides of the table, facing each other.

Easter 128Miles scurried to the refrigerator. “I’ll get you some dinner.”

“No, thank you, Master Miles. We are just too exhausted to even think about food.”

“Wot? How kin anyone be thet exhausted, thet they do na be wantin’ food?” My Old Dwarf gaped at Dragon and Cleric.

“Are you sure? Maybe some broth?”

“Nothing, really. But thank you.” Cleric tried to smile but seemed incapable of even that much effort.

“Here, lass, drink this. Ye, too, beastie.” My Old Dwarf poured them each a mug of his potent dwarven spirits.ale

“Oh, no, I cannot drink this!” Cleric looked aghast.

Dwarf“Do na be arguin’! Ye be needin’ summat ta put the fire back in ye.”

Cleric sipped the ale and made a face. “Oh, that is horrible!”

Dragon downed her mug in a single gulp. “But it does the job.” She nodded her thanks to my Old Dwarf.

I sat down next to Dragon. “Do you feel strong enough now to tell us what happened? Are the snow devils still in the barn with Mystery?”
“I can talk now. We have seen the snow devils safely back to their own world. After their hold on Mystery was severed, we returned the little horse to the shed for the night. She was sound asleep when we left.”

Cleric smiled. “The snow devils told us they abducted her from a stable a few miles down the road. You should be able to contact the owner and return Mystery in the morning.”

I gave the two companions an admiring look. “Wow! How did you manage to get the snow devils home?”

Cleric choked down another sip of ale. “We had faith, Mistress.” She and Dragon smiled and exchanged knowing looks.

“Thanks to you, my friend.” Dragon patted my Old Dwarf on his shoulder.

“Huh? Wot be ye talkin’ aboot?”

“The encouragement you gave us in the barn was most helpful.” Cleric placed her hand over his and smiled warmly.

“I be thinkin’ ye both be imaginatin’ thin’s. I do na be near thet barn all day.”

Dragon and Cleric gawked at him. “What do you mean? You were the one who told us . . .”

“I dinna be tellin’ ye nuttin’, beastie. I do na be knowin’ wot ye be talkin’ aboot. Likens I be sayin’, I be here wit the lass and ’er lad all day.”

Dragon and Cleric looked at each other, wide eyed. “Then who . . .?”

Have faith.

The words settled gently in their minds like a warm embrace.

Will Dragon and Cleric ever find out whose voice it was that told them to have faith? Will they ever learn who was in the barn in the form of my Old Dwarf? Will they ever reveal to me, Mistress Writer, the details of how they facilitated the return of the snow devils to their own world? And will Mistress Writer and Master Miles be able to return Mystery to her owner without being arrested as horse thieves? Be sure to come back and follow the further adventures and misadventures of my characters as they try to exist here, in the real world. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

 

More Confrontation

More Confrontation

Mystery 2Cleric’s eyes flew wide, and her jaw dropped. “What do you mean the horse might never regain her wits? What have you done to Mystery’s mind?”

One of the snow devils buzzed loudly. It sounded angry. We did what we needed to do. And now, you will help us. We have been too long gone from our world.

Cleric clenched her fists at her side. Her face flushed and her eyes narrowed as she glared at the snow devils. “I will render no assistance until you release your hold on this horse.”

Mystery munching hayCleric walked over to Mystery and patted the small horse on her neck. Mystery responded by briefly nuzzling Cleric before turning back to snatch another mouthful from the pile of hay. The little horse stood there, calmly chewing, seeming oblivious to the conversation and activity around her.

The angry buzzing of the snow devil became more intense. As soon as we depart, our hold on the horse will be broken. The disembodied voice in the minds of Cleric and Dragon sounded belligerent.

Elf facing rightCleric shook her head. She paced back and forth, punctuating her words with broad gestures. “That is not acceptable. The horse is the favored creature of the one I serve. I must protect this animal. You claimed it is also favored by the one you serve. How dare you do something potentially harmful to one of your deity’s favored creatures? You will release your hold on its mind immediately, or you will receive no cooperation from me.”

Second snow devil in barnAnother snow devil swooped down and confronted Cleric. If we release our hold on this horse, we may well lose our ability to communicate with you. If you want to help the horse, open the magical conduit that brought us here. When we depart, the horse will regain her wits.

Cleric ran her hand through her hair and bit her lower lip. She began pacing again, and remained silent for several long minutes. She stared at Mystery, still standing quietly and chewing a mouthful of hay. The horse twitched her ears back and forth, the only sign she was aware of anything around her save her food. Finally, Cleric sighed and nodded curtly to the snow devils. “Very well.” She turned to Dragon. “Do you have any idea how to open the conduit and facilitate the snow devil’s return to their own world?”

Elf cleric close-upDragon, still in her familiar guise of an elf maiden, shook her head and scoffed. “How would I?”

You would know, creature, because you and another of your kind caused us to be caught up in the magical conduit that brought us to this place.

Dragon glared at the snow devil. Her eyes were narrowed and her mouth was drawn into a thin line. “So you have said, but how can that be? You claim you are not from my world. My world and this world are the only worlds to which I have been.”

Fabricator! Prevaricator! The telepathic message assaulted Dragon’s mind.Dragon elf maiden turning red

“What?” Dragon’s eyes flashed, her nostrils flared, and her face turned bright red.

A third snow devil descended. You, creature, are a liar.Dragon breathing fire

In a flash, Dragon shapeshifted into her true form. “You dare question my veracity?” Fire shot from her maw, scattering the snow devils. “It is not wise for creatures of ice and snow to anger one who could evaporate them.”

Cleric grabbed Dragon’s arm. “Stop!”

Dragon growled and shrugged out of Cleric’s grasp. “What care you if I vaporize them?”

Cleric’s eyes flashed. “Other than the fact we know not what would happen to Mystery should the snow devils be harmed, there is a substantial possibility you could set fire to the barn!”Dragon breathing smoke

Dragon growled and lashed her tail. She spewed large clouds of black smoke from her nose, but she made no further displays of fiery anger.

Cleric straightened her robes and addressed the snow devils, who had gathered once more in the rafters. “I happen to believe my friend.”

snow devils in the barn 2

Then you are a fool.

Cleric felt her face grow quite hot, but she noticed Dragon did not react.

You are correct in your assumption. We did not allow the creature to hear us this time.

Cleric nodded. “Suppose you explain how my friend and her companion caught you up in a magical conduit. Then, mayhap I can conceive a plan to return you to your world.”

We were on a remote mountaintop on our world, reveling in a blizzard with our brethren. Suddenly the six of us were sucked into a vortex. We were powerless against the strong current of energy. We were carried along between various universes and deposited here in this world, along with this creature you call friend and another beast, almost identical to her. They were the ones who had created and traversed this passageway.

Snow devils on mountain

Dragon with smoke bubblesThis time, even thought the snow devils were addressing Cleric, they apparently allowed Dragon to hear as well. The big beast looked thunderstruck. She morphed, changing in color to a pale blue, and bubbles of smoke dripped from her nostrils. She shook her head several times. “No. No, it is not possible. Not unless . . .” She turned red again, and glared menacingly at the snow devils. “You must be from my world. That is the only other world I and my companion visited.”Second snow devil in barn

One of the snow devils scoffed. You journeyed to at least one other world, creature. Our world.

Dragon frowned. She though back to her recent travels, and shook her head again. This time she appeared to be trying to recall events rather than deny them. Suddenly, she paled once more. “Wait. I do remember another world, a world in which I was but a shadow, unable to interact with the people and creatures I encountered. But surely you are not from that world! https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2017/07/09/the-situation-worsens/

No, creature, we are not from that world.

“Then I do not understand.” Dragon’s shoulders slumped and her reptilian brow furrowed.

Snow devil in barnThe snow devils huddled together, buzzing, whirring, and droning. Finally one separated from the group and returned to face Dragon. You seem genuinely confused, creature. Perhaps you honestly do not remember being in our world. Or perhaps you and your companion never actually set foot on our world. Perhaps your conduit intersected our world, or passed so near as to capture us in your power stream. It matters not. All that matters is that you return us.

Third snow devilImmediately. Another snow devil buzzed angrily. Our power to maintain our corporeal existence wanes in this environment. Even now, I feel myself dripping as the temperature rises.

Dragon gaped. She raised her hands, palms up, in a gesture of frustration. “But I do not know how to return you to your world. I do not even know where your world is, or how I could find it.”

Would the other of your kind know?

“Mayhap. But I have no way to contact her. She is no longer present in this world, and it is my understanding the conduit between her world and this one has been collapsed permanently.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2017/12/03/the-odyssey-ends/

The snow devils started keening. We are doomed. We will soon perish if we do not return to our own world.

Cleric gaped at the snow devils. She turned to Dragon. “Can we do nothing to prevent their demise, to find a way to return them to their own world?”

Dragon shrugged. “If there is a way, I know not how.”

Have faith.

“What did you say?” Cleric stared at Dragon.

“I said if there is a way, I know not how.”

“I heard that. I meant what you said after that.”

Dragon furrowed her brow and shrugged again. “I said nothing else.”

Have faith. The voice was louder.

All eyes turned toward Mystery, as the little horse whinnied shrilly. She tossed her head and pawed the ground furiously.

Have faith. The voice seemed to be coming from the horse.

Voice from Mystery

 

What is happening with Mystery? To whom does the mysterious voice belong? Be sure to come back next week and find out what happens. And for readers just now joining us, please take the opportunity to explore the past episodes of our little adventures. Nine characters – Dragon, Cleric, Sorceress, My Old Dwarf, My Young Hero, My Gypsy, My Foreman, My Arrogant One, and My Bounty Hunter – have fallen from the pages of my fantasy manuscript. They have taken up residence with my husband, Miles, and me – Mistress Writer – in this, the real world. This has resulted in some pretty unreal consequences, sometimes dire, sometimes comical, but always entertaining. We would love for you to join us. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Communication, Confrontation

Communication, Confrontation

Cleric squared her shoulders, straightened her robes, and stepped closer to the little horse we had been calling Mystery, and the snow devil that hovered directly above the horse’s head. “Let us commence.”

Mystery and snow devil

Cleric patted the horse’s withers, and rubbed her muzzle. She was as much trying to relax herself as she was trying to reassure the horse. Not that Mystery seemed to need much reassurance. The little horse stood quietly, munching a mouthful of hay. It was the snow devil buzzing over her head that seemed less than reassured.

Cleric slowly placed her arms around Mystery’s neck, moving one hand up to hold the little horse’s head. She then leaned against the mare and placed her own face against Mystery’s. “It is all right, little one. You know me. I will not hurt you.”

Mystery munching hayMystery stood statue-still. Cleric continued cooing and speaking gently to her. After several moments, Mystery nickered, then gently pushed Cleric away. The little horse reached over and took another mouthful of hay and stood chomping on it. When she had finished that mouthful, she started pawing the ground and whickering.

Cleric’s shoulders drooped and she heaved a big sigh. She turned to face the rest of us. “It is no good. I still can not communicate with her.”

water bucketMystery trotted over to her empty water bucket and nudged it.

“She’s thirsty. I’ll go fill the bucket.” My Gypsy picked up the bucket and headed for the house to get some water.

Cleric sat on the bale of hay, her hands clasped tightly in her lap. “No matter how hard I try, I can not reach this little horse. I have never had any trouble communicating with the creatures of this world. How often have I convinced some bird or wild animal to pose for Mistress Writer’s camera? But now I, a cleric of the goddess of the horse . . . I can not communicate with an animal favored by the goddess I serve.” Tears pooled in Cleric’s cornflower blue eyes and leaked down her cheeks.

 

Dragon, still in her customary guise of an elf maiden, sat down next to Cleric and placed her arm around her friend’s shoulder. “Do not despair! You have barely started!”

“But I have tried before, without success. It is no different now. There is no indication that Mystery even hears my words, let alone understands them.”

My Gypsy returned with a bucket of water, and Mystery drained it. “I better get some more.”Gypsy close-up

Dragon nodded at my Gypsy. “After you bring more water, I think everyone should leave, save Cleric and myself. I may be able to assist, but too many people here will be a distraction.”

I nodded, and gestured to my Gypsy to go get another bucket of water. “I agree. Is there anything that the two of you need before we leave?”

“If someone would be so kind as to give Mystery a few flakes of hay in the empty stall, where there is sufficient room for Cleric and I to work, it would be a great help. And, perhaps a scoop of feed?”

My Foreman cut open the bale of hay and placed several flakes in the stall. My Young Hero put a scoop of oats in the feeder. My Gypsy returned with the bucket of water and hooked it inside the stall, then led Mystery in and removed her halter. Finally, we all wished Cleric and Dragon luck with their task. With one more look around to make sure everything was in place, we filed out of the illusory barn. Miles closed the doors behind us, and we made our way back up to the house.

* * *

Elf facing rightCleric stood by the stall door, looking dubiously at Mystery and the snow devil that still buzzed around the little horse’s head. “I am still uncertain of this.”Mystery and snow devil 1

Elf cleric close-upDragon nodded. “I understand, but I should be able to assist you. As you know, all dragons posses the ability to communicate telepathically with others of their kind. Some of us have developed greater telepathic ability. On occasion, I am able to connect with the mind of some other creature. Usually, it is an extremely intelligent and sensitive creature.” Dragon glanced skeptically at the snow devil, still hovering above Mystery’s head as the little horse ate. “If these creatures possess the requisite intelligence, perhaps I will be able to help amplify the telepathic message of the snow devils as they try to reach you through Mystery.”

Cleric grasped her friend’s hands. “I would be most grateful for any help you could offer.”

Dragon smiled encouragingly. “How do you normally communicate with the animals you convince to pose for Mistress Writer?”

Cleric sighed. “I communicate with most animals verbally, and I sense their response empathically. I speak aloud, asking them to draw nearer, or to sit on an open branch, or to remain still for a moment. They seem to understand, as usually they comply with my request. Then I sense their inclination or state of mind more than their actual words. Sometimes, they plant a picture in my mind. But never before have I heard someone speak directly in my mind, telepathically, as the snow devil apparently did earlier when it informed me of their need of my help.”

Dragon squeezed Cleric’s hand. “That is a good place to start. Mayhap you should try speaking to the snow devils. That is, speak aloud to Mystery, but frame your words as if you were addressing the entities who seek your help. Perchance you will hear their answer in words, in your mind, as you did earlier, or perchance you will just sense their intent.”

Cleric nodded. “You offered to attempt to amplify the telepathic message from the snow devils. How will you achieve that?”

“I will try to add the telepathic power of my mind to the empathic power you seem to possess.” Dragon squeezed her friend’s hand again. “Are you ready to start?”

Cleric nodded again, and ran her tongue over her lips nervously. “Yes.”

* * *

Mystery and snow devilCleric and Dragon entered the stall. Cleric faced Mystery, and spoke as if she was talking to the little horse, but actually she was directing her words to the snow devils. “I believe you said you require my help. How can I help you? What is it you want of me?”

The snow devil hovering above Mystery’s head started to buzz. It sounded like an angry bee. Cleric listened intently, and clearly heard the entity’s silent words reverberate loudly in her mind.

We need your help to return to our own world.

Cleric gasped, and her eyes widened.

“Did they reply? Did you hear them?” Dragon placed her hand on Cleric’s arm, and studied her friend’s face.

Cleric nodded. “How can I help you return to your own word? How did you get here in the first place?”

That creature standing next to you, currently disguised as a maiden, and another like her caused us to be caught up in a magical conduit and brought to this place.

“What?” The color drained from Cleric’s face. “Then you do come from our world? You are . . . demons?”

No! We come from another world. You have nothing to fear from us. We are not demons. We are guardians.

“Guardians?”

Yes. We endeavor to protect the faithful followers and the favored creatures of one of the deities of our world. That is why we ask for your help. Our immortal is akin to the one you serve. She watches over many creatures in our world, but the noble horse is her most favored being. That is the reason we can communicate with you through this horse.

Elf facing rightCleric gaped at the snow devil. “I . . . I am not certain I understand. First of all, if you are not from our world, how did my friend and another like her cause you to be caught in a magical conduit? Second, how do you propose I help you return to your own world? And finally, where did this horse we have named Mystery come from? Did she come with you from your world?”

Elf cleric“Yes, I would be interested in hearing your explanation as well.” Dragon frowned and crossed her arms over her chest.

Cleric looked at her friend. “Did you hear them too, or are you just hearing my side of the conversation?”

“Only yours, but that is enough for me to comprehend their accusation. I would like to know just how they claim I was instrumental in bringing them here, especially if they are not even from our world!” Dragon turned toward the snow devil hovering over Mystery’s head. She glared at it through narrowed eyes, her jaw tight, and her mouth set in a hard line. From the expression on her friend’s face, Cleric knew if Dragon had been in her true form, she would have been snarling, and undoubtedly black smoke would have been spewing from her nostrils.

Mystery and snow devilsAs Dragon glared at the whirling column of snow and ice, the snow devils that had remained in the rafters descended and joined their comrade buzzing around Mystery. They made a variety of sounds, whirring, buzzing, humming, and droning, as they appeared to be engaged in animated discussion with one another. Mystery seemed oblivious to the activity just inches above her head. The little horse just kept munching her hay and feed, calmly and quietly.

Snow devil in barn 2Finally, one of the miniature snownadoes move forward, approaching Dragon and Cleric. Once again, Cleric heard a voice in her head.

Does the creature disguised as a maiden, now standing next to you, deny her guilt in bringing us here?

“I am sure she has no idea of what you speak!” Cleric frowned at the snow devil and crossed her arms over her chest. “But since you are obviously telepathic, why do you not ask her yourself?”

We do not deign to communicate with base creatures.

Cleric’s jaw dropped. “My friend is most certainly not a base creature! Verily, Dragon is the wisest, most intelligent, most powerful, and most honorable creature I have ever known! Even my deity acknowledged her as a superior being. Back when Dragon and I first met, my goddess granted her a boon, and gave me the knowledge and power to expedite Dragon’s escape from an evil magician!”

Dragon 2Dragon sputtered. “They label me a base creature?” Her eyes flashed, and her nostrils flared. In seconds, she shape-shifted into her true form. Dragon snarled at the snow devils, and a cloud of thick, black smoke erupted from her snout.

And you justify our allegation, creature. This time, Dragon heard the voice as clearly as did Cleric.

Cleric grabbed Dragon’s scaly arm. “Dragon, no! You must not let them anger you, my friend!”

“Anger? I am beyond anger. I am outraged! How dare they term me a base creature?” The large beast continued to snarl, and her tail lashed furiously.

“You must calm yourself. It matters not what they believe. Your honor, your power, your wisdom, and your intelligence have never been questioned by those who know you!”

Second snow devil in barnAnother of the snow devils separated from the group and approached Cleric and Dragon. Our position may be untenable. Understand, in our world those of your kind are no more than violent beasts. However, we must believe what the servant of the horse goddess has said. If the one she serves deigned to help you, creature, we must accept that our perception of you was in error, even though your actions seem to support our initial belief.

Dragon glared at the snow devil for many long moments. Finally, she hung her head. Her reptilian cheeks glowed red and her eyes were downcast. “I suppose I was acting a bit beastly.”

You were.

Cleric sighed, and addressed her companion. “Why do you not return to your customary guise? You might appear less . . . beastly. Then mayhap we can get to the bottom of this problem, and determine how best to rectify it.”

Yes, please . . . and we must hurry. We must release our hold on this horse before too much more time elapses; else she might never regain her wits.

Cleric’s eyes flew wide, and her jaw dropped. “Why? What have you done to this horse?”

Mystery and snow devils

What have the snow devils done to the little horse dubbed Mystery? Will these alien creatures learn to trust Dragon? Will Cleric and Dragon find a way to send the snow devils back to their own world? And what will happen to Mystery if these creatures depart? Be sure to come back next week and see what happens. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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What Do They Want?

What Do They Want?

My Gypsy led the little horse we had dubbed Mystery into the illusory barn. Miles and I followed, along with Dragon, still in her guise of an elf maiden. Cleric dashed from the house and entered the barn just a step behind us. “I saw those deputies leave . . .” But her voice trailed off as she noticed my Gypsy pointing at something over our heads.snow devils in the barn 2

Inside the barn were a half dozen miniature snow devils, whirling around up in the rafters. As soon as we had entered the barn, they had become agitated, swooping around and making a sound like a buzz saw.

Without taking my eyes off the alien creatures, I addressed my Foreman and the lads. “How long have they been here?”

My Foreman furrowed his brow. “Well, we found Mystery in the yard when we came out before dawn this morning to feed and groom our mounts. We brought her into the barn, and before we could close the doors, the snow devils appeared out of nowhere and swooped in here behind us. They have been here ever since.”

My Gypsy rubbed the back of his neck. “They make me nervous, but they have not yet threatened us in any way. They just keep whirring around up there.”

Dragon watched the creatures buzzing and flitting around. “What is their purpose here?”

My Young Hero shrugged. “We do not know. We have made numerous attempts to talk to them, but they do not seem to understand us.”

As we spoke, one of the rotating columns of snow detached itself from the group and swooped toward us. Miles started to pull me out of the way, but I shook my head. “No, it’s okay. See? It isn’t attacking. It seems as if it just wants a closer look at us.”

snow devil checking out Dragon and ClericThe miniature snownado hovered for several long minutes in front of Cleric’s face, then did the same to Dragon. After it inspected them, it returned to the other snow devils, and the group resumed buzzing and humming.

“Whatever does it want?” Cleric’s eyes were wide with alarm, and beads of sweat were forming on her brow.

“I do not know, but it does not appear to mean us any harm.” Dragon placed a reassuring hand on Cleric’s arm.

Another of the snow devils – or perhaps the same one – came down and again closely studied the faces of Dragon and Cleric, buzzing from one to the other like a bee between flowers. It was as if it were trying to tell which was which. Finally, it returned once again to the other snow devils.

scaly dragon“Perhaps I should resume my true form.” Dragon did not wait for confirmation before she shapeshifted, shimmering as she transformed into a scaly beast about the size of Mystery.

Cleric and snow devilThe snow devils buzzed and whirled around. Once again, a single creature left the group, this time hovering in front of Cleric alone. It lingered there many long minutes, appearing to study Cleric’s face. Finally, it returned to the group once more. This time the buzzing and humming seemed much more frenetic.

“What do they want? Why does it keep returning to look at me?” The color had drained from Cleric’s face, and she swayed on rubbery legs. Miles and I grabbed her and eased her down onto a bale of hay.

“Try to relax.” I spoke soothingly to Cleric. “I know that in your world, snow devils are demons, but I don’t believe these snow devils are from your world. These creatures do not appear to be threatening us in any way.”

“Then what?” Cleric started rocking back and forth. “What do they want?”

“The only way to discover their purpose is to find a way to communicate with them.” Dragon started growing. In a moment, she was face-to-face with the snow devils buzzing around in the rafters. “Do not be afraid. We understand now you mean us no harm; therefore, you have nothing to fear from us.”

Dragon talking to snow devils

The snow devils showed no fear of Dragon. They did not even respond to her presence, other than to move to the other end of the barn, where they continued their frenzied buzzing.

“We already attempted talking to them. Several times.” My Gypsy sounded annoyed. “It is obvious they do not understand our language.”

“Perhaps if I attempt to reach them telepathically.” Dragon started to move toward them, but my Gypsy scoffed.

“Of course! Hearing your words in their minds rather than with their ears – if they have ears – will surely make the creatures understand you.” His voice dripped sarcasm with every word.

“As you say, if they have ears.” Dragon frowned and blew a cloud of dark smoke toward my Gypsy. “Mayhap they have not been hearing us. It can not hurt to try.” She continued making her way toward the snow devils.

Mystery and snow devil 1Ignoring Dragon, one of the miniature snowspouts dropped down and hovered over Mystery’s head. The little horse nickered and pawed the ground. She jerked the lead out of my Gypsy’s hand, and trotted over to stand in front of Cleric, who was still sitting on the bale of hay.

Cleric drew back, trembling violently. My Foreman and the lads jumped between her and Mystery, forming a protective semi-circle around their friend. My Gypsy grabbed for Mystery’s lead, but the small horse tossed her head and snorted at him.

“Wait. Don’t interfere. Let’s see what Mystery’s going to do.” I tugged the lads away from Cleric, and motioned to my Foreman to step back.

Cleric stared at me, wide-eyed. “M . . . mistress!”

“Relax. You know how gentle Mystery is. She won’t hurt you.”

“It is not Mystery I fear. What do these snow devils want of me?”

“I told you, I don’t believe they pose any threat.”

“Then what do they want?”

Elf facing rightCleric tilted her head, as if listening to someone. Then she jumped up and confronted me. “What? How do you know that?” Her voice was high-pitched and strained.

“How do I know what?” I furrowed my brow. “I didn’t say anything.”

“Well, who did?” Cleric looked around, but everyone wore blank expressions, and replied with shrugs and a chorus of “Not me.”

I studied Cleric. She was obviously overwrought. She stood, shoulders drooping, hands clasping and unclasping, sweat beading on her forehead. I touched her shoulder and spoke to her calmly. “Exactly what did you hear?”

“When I asked what the snow devils want of me, someone replied, “They need your help.”

Mystery neighed loudly and pawed the ground. Then she nickered softly and nuzzled Cleric’s hand. The snow devil continued to hover directly over the little horse’s head.

“Cleric!” Dragon, still in her true form, shrank back to Mystery’s size. She walked over to stand next to her friend. “I am not sure, but I believe the snow devils are attempting to communicate with you through the horse.”

“But I was unable to communicate with Mystery when we were examining her. I could not reach her mind. It remained closed to me, a complete blank. How can she now communicate with me?”

“Not Mystery. The snow devils, through her.”

Cleric rubbed her forehead. “I do not understand.”

Dragon with smoke bubblesDragon’s color morphed to a pale blue, and smoke bubbles dripped from her snout, something that often happened when Dragon was confounded. “I am not sure I do, either. However, you are apparently the only one who heard someone speak and it is obvious that the horse is attempting to get your attention.”

We stared at Mystery, who reached past Cleric and snatched a mouthful of hay. She stood there calmly munching on it while the snow devil continued buzzing directly above her head. For a long time, none of us spoke. Then Cleric cleared her throat.

“I am still not convinced of this. Why would the snow devils desire communication with me? Why not Dragon, or Sorceress, or even Mistress Writer?”

I shrugged. “The only way to know that is to listen to what they say.”

“But what if I can not hear them again?”

Dragon morphed back into her guise of an elf maiden, and put a hand on Cleric’s shoulder. “Be patient, my friend. Listen with your mind and with your heart. You will hear them.”

 

Cleric smiled and grasped Dragon’s hand. “I will endeavor to do so. But if indeed the snow devils are using Mystery to facilitate communication with me, how do I respond to them? Do I just talk to Mystery?”

My Gypsy nodded at Cleric. “You can try talking. Or you can attempt to reach Mystery telepathically again. Eventually you will find what works.”

Cleric turned to face me. “Mistress? What is your counsel?”

“I think someone needs to sort this out, find out just what is going on here. And from all indications, you are the one who has been singled out to do that. I say give it your best shot!”

Mystery and snow devilCleric looked around at everyone. Miles and I, along with all of Cleric’s friends, smiled encouragingly at her.

Cleric nodded and turned back toward Mystery and the snow devil hovering over the little horse’s head. She squared her shoulders, straightened her robes, and stepped closer to them. “Then, let us commence.”

 

Will Cleric and the snow devils be able to communicate? Why do they need her help? What is Mystery’s part in all this? Be sure to come back next week and see what happens! We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

More Visitors

More Visitors

gone!

We stood there, looking in all directions, but the cloud-muffled light of early evening revealed no sign of the small horse we had dubbed Mystery, nor the snow devils that had bolted from the garden shed with her.

“It’ll be dark soon.” I heaved a huge sigh. “There’s no sense in trying to track her now. The snow’s been trampled down here. In this light, I can’t even see if any of these tracks are fresh.”

My husband and I helped a group of my characters gather the equipment my magic users had been utilizing that afternoon in their examination of Mystery.

“I fear all our efforts were for naught.” Dragon shimmered as she shape-shifted into her customary guise of an elf maiden, then picked up some of her grimoires. “Not only did we fail to determine if Mystery is real or merely an illusion, we lost her to the snow devils.”

“I would hypothesize she is real, else why would the snow devils have taken her?” Cleric lifted an eyebrow at Dragon.

“You should have allowed me to stomp them.” My Foreman frowned as he and the lads picked up the folding tables.

“I agree.” Sorceress pursed her lips as she gathered her vials, potions, and herbs. “No telling what those demons will do to that little horse.”

I furrowed my brow. “I’m still not convinced the snow devils are evil, or that they meant any harm to Mystery.”

My Gypsy scoffed. “They took her, did they not?”

I shook my head. “No, they didn’t. She bolted out of the shed after them. She wanted to be with them.”

“You are right, Mistress.” Cleric’s eyes widened as she recalled the scene. “She did act as if she feared being separated from them.”

My characters gave that some thought as we walked back to the house.

As we put everything away in the conference room, I saw several of my characters yawning widely and rubbing their eyes.

“Everyone looks as tired as I feel. Let’s have a quick dinner, then hit the hay early tonight. We can look for Mystery in the morning.”

                                                            * * *
I did not sleep well, and I awoke with a horrible pounding in my head. I soon realized the pounding was not in my head, but on the bedroom door.

Pounding on door

The pounding woke Miles, too. “What the devil’s going on?” My usually cheery husband sat up in bed and glared at the door.

“Mistress? Master Miles? Come quickly.”

I recognized the panic in Cleric’s voice, and jumped out of bed. “What is it?” But she was already gone.

Miles and I dressed in record time, and sprinted down the hallway toward the living room. Cleric waited for us at the top of the stairs leading to the front door. She pointed, and we stopped dead. There, in the foyer below, my Old Dwarf was brandishing his battleaxe at two uniformed figures.

Dwarf and police officers 2

“Ye be waitin’ right here until tha lass and ’er mate be comin’ down ta be receivin’ ye. Ye do na be disturbin’ their bedchamber!”

“For the last time, sir, we don’t want to hurt you, but you need to put down that axe!” The speaker had her hand on the holster of her service revolver, and a big frown on her face.

“Wait!” I scrambled down the steps as fast as I could, with Miles right on my heels. “Wait! He’s harmless! The axe isn’t even real! It’s part of his Cosplay costume!”

The woman’s hand didn’t move from her holster.

I turned and faced my Old Dwarf. “It’s okay! Just lower the axe and go upstairs.”

“Be ye sure, lass? I kin be stayin’ iffin ye be needin’ me.” He looked past me and glared at the two officers.

“I’m sure!” I gave the old reprobate a shove toward the stairs.

2 Police OfficersMiles and I turned to the two uniformed figures. Their eyes never left my Old Dwarf as he trudged up the steps. Once he was out of sight, both officers visibly relaxed.

“Sorry about that!” This is all I need. How do I explain him to these officers? I’m surprised they didn’t tackle him and arrest him!

“He needs locking up!” The burly man made the statement in a voice that brooked no disagreement, but neither officer made a move to apprehend my Old Dwarf.

I grunted, raised my eyebrows, and lifted my hands, palms up, in a gesture meant to convey my thoughts: What can I do?

The woman stepped forward, still frowning. “Are you two the owners of this property?”

Miles and I both nodded. “I’m Marge, and this is my husband, Miles.” I forced a big smile as I made the introductions.

Notebook 2The woman nodded curtly as she took a small notebook from her pocket and jotted down our names before introducing herself. “Deputy Melody Whitewash.” She nodded toward the other figure, a barrel-chested man in sunglasses. “My partner, Deputy Dustin Dawg.”

Before we could snicker at Deputy Dawg’s moniker, the man spoke up. His gravelly voice was both commanding and accusatory. “We’re in the neighborhood this morning investigating reports of a loose horse rampaging through the yards last night, terrorizing the residents of this community.”

Terrorizing? I scoffed.

Deputy Whitewash pounced. In a flash, she was standing almost nose-to-nose with me. “What do you know about this horse?”

wide-eyed“Er, nothing.” I stared at her and her partner, hoping they would interpret my wide-eyed look as innocence.

They glared at me for a moment, then turned to Miles. He swallowed hard. “We don’t know anything. We didn’t see or hear any horse.”

Deputy Dawg drew himself up, hooking his thumbs into his belt. “That’s not what your neighbors said.”

I tilted my head and furrowed my brow. “Our neighbors? None of our neighbors were with us last night, Deputy, so I don’t know how they could know what we did or did not see or hear.”

He grunted.Police Officer in sunglasses

I wish he’d take his sunglasses off. It’s hard to tell what he’s thinking when I can’t even see his eyes.

Deputy Whitewash glanced at her notebook. “Your neighbors down the street, Mace and Gloria, informed us that last night’s incident was not the first time a horse was spotted running loose around here.”

I might have known those two were behind this interrogation. Mace did warn us that they’d be watching our property.

https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/01/14/the-return-of-the-neighbors/

Deputy Dawg nodded. “They believe you have direct knowledge of said horse, and that you may be harboring this animal in your shed.”

Elf cleric close-upBefore I could open my mouth, Dragon ascended the steps from the area of the conference room and joined us in the foyer. She was, to my great relief, in her customary guise of an elf maiden.

“Hello! I did not realize we had visitors.”

I glared at her. You liar! You can hear a pin drop three houses away! You knew we had visitors. You’ve heard every word!

Dragon smiled sweetly. “I am Missy’s cousin. Missy and her husband are hosting a family get-together this week.”

“Missy?” Deputy Dawg glanced over his partner’s shoulder at the notebook in her hand. “I thought you gave your name as Marge.”

“Oh, Missy is just the family’s pet name for her.” Dragon grinned and squeezed my arm.

That’s right. Keep it up. I’ll take care of you later, just see if I don’t!

Deputy Dawg just glared at us. At least I think he did. Behind the sunglasses, it was hard to see his expression. He turned back to face Dragon. “Deputies Dawg and Whitewash, ma’am. We’re in the neighborhood this morning investigating reports of a loose horse rampaging through the yards last night, terrorizing the residents of this community.”

He sounds like a broken record! Did he memorize those lines? They’re the exact same words he used to explain the purpose of his visit to Miles and me.notebook

“Were you here last night, ma’am?” Deputy Whitewash opened her notebook to a fresh page.

“Oh, yes, we all were. We were all tired, so we went to bed early. We are just now rising for breakfast. Would you care to join us?”

I could feel the color draining from my face. Oh, great, that’s all I need! Two law enforcement officers sharing breakfast with me and Miles and nine medieval characters that have fallen out of my fantasy novel manuscript! How, exactly, do I explain them to the deputies?

“No time, ma’am.” Thank you, Deputy Dawg! “We need to apprehend this wild animal before it does any damage or causes injury to one of the residents of this neighborhood.”

Wild animal? He can’t mean Mystery! I could barely keep from doubling over, laughing, as I pictured the calm little horse.

“Did you see or hear anything last night, ma’am?” Deputy Whitewash had her pencil poised over her little notebook.

“Why, no, nothing at all. As I said, we all went to bed early, and are just getting up now. I am a very heavy sleeper. The horse you speak of could have galloped right through my bedchamber, and I never would have woken.” Dragon simpered at the two deputies.

Deputy Dawg turned back to Miles and me. “Folks, we need to inspect your shed. Your neighbors allege that you’ve been hiding the horse in there for several days.”

three bales of hay in trunk 2“They also said you had transported hay to this location in the trunk of your car.” Deputy Whitewash checked her notes again.

Good grief! She makes it sound as if we were transporting a dead body! “Yes, we did have hay in the car.” I sighed. “As I explained to Gloria and Mace, we had purchased the hay for a friend, for her rabbits.”

“Yes, she said that was your contention.” Deputy Dawg didn’t sound as if he believed that any more than Mace and Gloria had.

“Can we see the shed, ma’am?” Deputy Dawg started to open the front door, apparently confident that we would never refuse his request.

“Can we see your search warrant?” I stopped the deputy in his tracks.

“Oh, pooh! These nice deputies do not need a warrant.” Dragon attached herself to Deputy Dawg’s arm and batted her eyelashes at the man. “We can go look at the shed right now.”

angry faceI am going to kill Dragon. I am! I am really going to kill her!

Left with no other choice, Miles and I grabbed our jackets and followed Dragon and the two deputies out the door.

Walking around the side of the house, I spotted my Foreman and the two lads in the doorway of the barn, across the yard from the shed. Mystery was with them. Great galloping gophers! Don’t let her get loose! Don’t let the deputies see her here!

Dragon led us to the shed. “Here we are, deputies.” She couldn’t have sounded sweeter if she tried.

Miles started to reach for the door, but Deputy Dawg pushed him aside. The two deputies stood on either side of the shed door, drew their weapons, and prepared to breach the shed.Police storming the shed

“Wait a minute!” I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. “Are you looking for a horse, or a desperate gunman?”

“Procedure, ma’am.” Deputy Dawg glared at me. At least I think he did. He was still wearing those sunglasses.

Deputy Whitewash did glare at me. “There might be more of your relatives in there. We can’t take a chance on confronting any more armed and dangerous people.”

Armed and dangerous? I guess she didn’t believe me when I said my Old Dwarf’s axe wasn’t real. Good grief!

As soon as the deputies opened the shed door, I saw my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter. Oh, someone please shoot me. Shoot me now!

 

The two of them rushed past the deputies, who seemed oblivious to their presence. Thank goodness for Dragon’s spell of concealment! She must have extended it to include these two clowns! Maybe I won’t kill her after all.

My Arrogant One confronted me and immediately started protesting our presence. He drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and grasped his robes in both hands. “Is not a person to be granted any privacy at all?” Can you say deja vu?

The elf was screeching in his typical glass-shattering tone. I winced, but the deputies seemed not to hear a thing.

My Bounty Hunter glared at the deputies, then turned to me. “Are you giving another tour?”

Miles tried to shush my characters, and shoo them off in the direction of the house. Deputy Dawg looked at him suspiciously. “Did you say something?”

“Nope. Just making some noise in case any critters got in here. I wouldn’t want to surprise a sleeping raccoon.” Oh, thank heaven Miles remembered what I said to Mace and Gloria when the same thing happened with them!

The two deputies slowly entered the cluttered shed, and warily looked around. They nosed into every corner and peered into every shadow. After a few minutes, they returned to the doorway.

“Well, did you find anything?”

ladder to barn loft 2Deputy Whitewash shook her head at me, but Deputy Dawg walked over to the ladder that led up to the loft. “What’s up there?”

“Piles of old junk.” I glared at him. “Don’t tell me you think the horse might have climbed up there?” Please don’t go up there and find the old horse equipment Gloria found. If you see all that stuff, you’ll never believe we don’t have a horse here!

“Of course not.” Deputy Dawg sounded indignant.

“Well, I guess your neighbors were wrong.” Deputy Whitewash sounded disappointed.

Dragon, Miles and I walked the deputies back to their car. Before he slid behind the steering wheel, Deputy Dawg issued a warning. “We may not have found the horse here today, but don’t think we won’t be keeping a close eye on this place in the future.”

Deputies leaving

Deputy Whitewash agreed. “If even half of what your neighbors told us about the goings-on here is true, you’ll probably be seeing a lot of us in the future!”

Oh, goody! I can hardly wait!

Dragon, Miles and I stood there, big smiles pasted on our faces, waving at the deputies until their vehicle was out of sight. Then we raced back to the barn.

apple for Mystery“Mystery!” I petted the little horse, and reached into my jacket pocket for an apple. She took it gently from my hand and heaved a contented sigh.

“Mistress, Master Miles, you had better come into the barn.” My Gypsy led Mystery into the illusory building, and we followed, with Dragon bringing up the rear.

Inside the barn were a half dozen miniature snow devils, whirling around up in the rafters.snow devils in the barn 2

Oh, gee, things just keep getting better and better!

 

Be sure to come back next week, as we continue the adventure of Mystery and the Snow Devils. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

But What If I Was Wrong?

But What If I Was Wrong?

Momentary chaos ensued.

When I opened the door so my husband and I, accompanied by a group of my characters, could leave the shed, a strong blast of frigid air nearly knocked us all off our feet. Then a half-dozen miniature snow devils rode in on the wintry gust, and my companions and I were all shrieking and squealing and yelping as we scrambled out of their way.hiding from snow devils

Cleric and Sorceress jumped for cover behind some sacks of grain. My Foreman, my Gypsy, and my Young Hero dove behind some bales of hay. Miles ducked behind a pile of crates. He tried to tug me along with him, but something, maybe the force of the wind itself, knocked me down. I quickly rolled out of the way of the snow devils, but managed to keep an eye on them.

The rimy creatures headed straight as an arrow toward Mystery. Dragon snarled and moved to protect the small, shaggy horse, but the snow devils danced out of her reach.

Dragon protecting Mystery from snow devilsI watched them, transfixed. They were paradoxical little creatures, their fiercely scowling faces a stark contrast to their graceful moves as they pirouetted around Dragon’s huge mass, deftly avoiding her claws and teeth. I noticed, along with their nimble moves to avoid Dragon, they were giving her illusory fireplace a wide berth.

“Shut the door!” I pointed as I yelled to anyone close enough to hear.

My Gypsy and my Young Hero sprang toward the door, almost falling over each other in their haste, but my husband was there first. Miles quickly pulled the door closed.

“Hotter!” I pointed at the illusory fireplace and immediately Dragon caused it to blaze as hot as a dwarven forge, as another one of my characters was wont to say.

rainingTrapped in the stifling shed, the snow devils were soon raining all over the floor. Within minutes, they were naught but some quickly evaporating puddles. As I looked at the liquid remnants of the whirling columns of snow and ice, I heaved a huge sigh of relief. “I won’t ever again complain about your fireplace!” I grinned at Dragon.

The huge beast shook her head and frowned. “Do not let down your guard! They are demons. They may be able to survive in non-corporeal form.” Then she mumbled a few arcane words, and returned the blaze in her illusory fireplace to its former level. The temperature immediately fell back into the comfort zone.

Miles reached down and helped me to my feet as my Foreman and the lads ran to check Mystery. The little horse seemed more interested in her hay than in the events transpiring around her.

Cleric and Sorceress joined Dragon in an inspection of the puddly remains of the snow devils. Miles and I stood back a bit and watched. When Dragon looked up, Miles caught her eye. “Did you notice?” My husband’s brow was furrowed, and he was rubbing his chin.

 

“Notice what, Master Miles?” Dragon tilted her head.

“The snow devils flew straight toward Mystery, but did not seem to be threatening her.”

The rest of us all gave Miles a blank look, but Dragon nodded. “Some of them could have easily attacked her while the rest kept me busy, but they did not. I do not understand their purpose.”

“Can you learn anything from their remains?” I glanced over at the spot on the floor Dragon, Cleric, and Sorceress had been examining, but it was almost dry.

“Mayhap we could have, had any physical part of them survived the heat.” Sorceress scowled at Dragon and me. “As it is, your plan of defense worked just a bit too well.”

I shrugged. “Well, not knowing what we were up against, I felt it best not to take chances. I spotted their Achilles’ heel and used it to our advantage.”

“Achilles’ heel?” Cleric wrinkled her brow and tilted her head.

“Their weakness, their vulnerability. The term comes from ancient Greek mythos.” I walked over for a closer look at the floor. “What are these?”

squiggly lines

Everyone crowded around for a look. There on the floor was what looked like tiny lines squiggling around. My Gypsy started to reach for one, but Cleric yelped and grabbed his arm.

“Do not touch them!” Cleric’s eyes were wide and her voice was full of fear.

“Why not? They look harmless enough.” My Gypsy reached for them again. This time Sorceress smacked his hand and frowned at the lad.

 

“Listen to Cleric! She understands the danger of demons. Let us all move back so they can not reach us.” Sorceress spread her arms and took a few steps back, propelling those around her away from the spot.

My Gypsy scoffed. “Are you trying to say these little lines dancing around on the floor are demons?”

Sorceress nodded. “They are the corporeal remains of the snow devils.”

mens-991728_1280“Then why not just stomp on them?” My Foreman started to move toward them, intent on crushing them under his boot.

“No!” I grabbed his arm and pulled him back. I sighed and raked my hand through my hair. “Just move away from them and let me think.”

blue-dragon-facing-left“What is there to think about?” Dragon looked at me as if I had lost my mind. “They are demons. We must destroy them. Is that not what you intended when you ordered them trapped and then melted?”

“It was.” I paused. I furrowed my brow and chewed on my lower lip. “But what if I was wrong?”

“What?” Cleric’s jaw dropped. “What do you mean?”

“Think about it. When I told you about the snow devils I saw in the yard, you assumed they were demons, like the snow devils in your world. The snow devils in your world, you said, are evil creatures that feed upon a person’s soul the way the mythical vampires of this world are said to feed on a person’s blood.”

“That is correct, Mistress.” Cleric tilted her head. “So why do you hesitate to destroy them?”

“Because, as Miles and Dragon noted, these snow devils had the opportunity to attack Mystery, but they did not. They did not actually attack any of us. We only assumed they were attacking. But what if we were wrong? What if these snow devils are not evil?”

Everyone gaped at me.

Elf facing right“Are you saying we may have harmed creatures that had no intent to harm us?” Cleric’s shoulders slumped. She held her stomach and looked as if she would be sick.Young Hero close-up

“What are we to do?” My Young Hero spoke softly, and he rubbed the back of his neck.

sorceress-facing-right“I will collect their remains and see if we can do anything to save them.” Sorceress quickly retrieved a glass vial from her equipment and looked around for some means by which to gather the wriggling strands.

“I may have something.” I went over to the sack of grain and removed the stiff paper label. “Try to scoop them up with this and place them in your vial.”Filaments in the vial

Once Sorceress had them in the vial, Cleric suggested adding a bit of snow. “Their bodies were made of snow and ice. Maybe if we provide them with some snow, they would revive.”

Sorceress looked at me and at Dragon. We both shrugged. “We have no experience with these creatures. There is no way to know what our actions will do.” Dragon’s tail twitched and a puff of black smoke erupted from her snout. “Whatever you do, be wary. If they are evil, as we originally presumed, we must be on our guard.”

“But don’t react too quickly.” I touched Sorceress on her arm. “We may have been mistaken when we thought they were attacking before. Let’s not make the same mistake twice.”

 

Everyone nodded somberly. Cleric opened the door and scooped up a bit of snow. She carefully added it to the vial in which Sorceress had placed the strands. Then we all crowded around and waited.

Long minutes passed. We were just about ready to give up when the contents of the vial began to move. First, it was just a few twitches. Then, gradually, all six filaments began wiggling. Their movements grew faster and faster until the snow and ice started moving with them, increasingly taking on the form of miniature columns of snow. Within a few moments, the reconstituted snow devils were whirling about. They began making a strange, high-pitched humming sound.Snow devils in vial

Cleric jumped back. “Are they humming? Chanting?”

I shrugged. “I can’t make out any words, but it may be an attempt to communicate.”

We all crowded closer. The sound grew louder. The container vibrated with the snow devil’s mysterious humming. Suddenly, the vial shattered, releasing the snow devils. The creatures quickly grew to their former size.

My Foreman yelled and ducked as the snow devils flew straight at us. “Look out!”

We all dove for cover, as the whirling creatures buzzed over our heads. Dragon snapped at them as they passed, but they eluded her.

The snow devils headed out the door, which had been left slightly ajar when Cleric had procured the handful of snow. Mystery whinnied frantically and bolted after them, barreling into the door and nearly taking it off its hinges.Mystery bolting after snow devils

 

It took us only seconds to regain our feet and burst out of the shed in pursuit. We stopped dead, looking all around. The yard was empty. There were no signs of Mystery or the snow devils.

 

gone!

 

Where did they go? What happened to Mystery and the snow devils? Will any of them ever return? Will we ever discover where they all came from, and why? Or is this to be an unsolved mystery? Be sure to come back next week and see what happens. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.