What Have my Characters Done Now?

What Have my Characters Done Now?

computer_keyboardpen and writing pad for blogAfter sufficiently recovering from my . . . uhm . . . small problem of the day before (https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/10/14/a-small-problem/), I decided I had neglected my Young Adult Fantasy series for far too long. But before I could return to my book manuscripts, I had to work on this week’s blog.

office-and-bookshelf-for-blog-002I went to my office, intent on getting my blog outlined and written. Evidently, my brain had other ideas. This is a frequent occurrence. A very frequent occurrence. To quote a famous sports figure, it was déjà vu all over again.

computer-308393_960_720I stared at the blank computer screen and tried to wrestle some ideas into submission. My fingernails tapped out a staccato beat on my desk, and I grumbled under my breath. Why did I ever start this blog? No one ever told me how difficult it would be to come up with fresh, new ideas every single week!

“Mistress?”

Elf facing rightI just about jumped out of my skin. If an idea had been about to cooperate and take shape, it was lost now. I spun my chair around, ready to bite someone’s head off. I found myself looking up into the soulful, cornflower-blue eyes of my Cleric, and bit back my impending outburst.

“What can I do for you?”

“I just wanted to make certain you were feeling better after your ordeal yesterday. I was so glad I was able to help.”

Cleric’s warm smile was infectious, and I returned it in kind. “I greatly appreciate your help. I assure you, I’m fully recovered, and now it’s back to work for me.” I glanced pointedly at the computer, my smile fading to a scowl.

“I shall take my leave, then, Mistress, so you can continue with your work uninterrupted.” She turned and skipped off down the hallway, leaving me and the blank screen to stare at each other again.

Pileated Woodpecker on suet logI sighed. I removed my glasses, cleaned them on my shirttail, and put them back on. I squirmed around in my chair. I looked out the window and stared at the huge Pileated Woodpecker on the underside of the suet log. Hmmm…maybe… My fingers moved toward the keyboard.

“Mistress?”

Young hero 2GypsyI jumped again, another idea flying out of my brain, probably never to return. For a second time, I swiveled my chair around, ready to give someone a severe tongue-lashing. This time, it was my Young Hero and my Gypsy sticking their heads in the door. I groaned.

“What is it?”

“It is almost noon. We thought you might want some lunch.” My Gypsy had obviously started without me, as he spoke around a mouthful of food.

food-dinner-pasta-broccoliMy Young Hero placed a small platter on my desk. “There were plenty of leftovers from last night’s dinner.”

“Yes, I had thought to have them for this night’s dinner.” I attempted to frown, but the food did smell good, and my stomach was growling. As usual, I had lost track of time while working on my blog.

After a quick bite to eat and some chit-chat with the lads, I thanked them and handed them the empty platter. They headed upstairs, and I turned back to my computer once more.

146-computer-free-vector-clip-art-lTwenty minutes later, my screen was still blank. I rubbed my head, which was starting to pound. Suddenly, I blinked several times rapidly and leaned in toward the computer. Oh, this is a great idea! My readers will love this! My hands were poised over the keyboard, ready to start typing.

“Mistress?”

I jerked, and my fingers tripped all over themselves, the letters on the monitor jumbling into an incoherent mess.

Arrogant One“What?” I whirled my chair around, ready to take no prisoners. My Arrogant One stood just inside my office door.

My eyes narrowed, and I slowly rose from my chair. “Out. Now.” I pointed to the door.

“But…”

“Now!” I advanced on the annoying elf, the perpetrator of my small misadventure of the preceding day.

He stammered. “B…b…but the Old Dwarf said…”

“If you aren’t out of here in the next 10 seconds, what I do to you will be a hundred times worse than anything my Old Dwarf could ever dream of doing!”

I took another step toward him, and my Arrogant One turned and fled down the hallway and up the stairs. I heard the back-door slam, so presumably the elf was going to take refuge in the shed.

One more time. I sighed as I returned to my seat. The great idea I had conceived just moments before would not revisit my brain. I spent the next half-hour staring at the blank screen, half-formed ideas chasing each other around my mind. Suddenly, my head jerked up and I smiled. Eureka! I started to type again.

“Mistress?”

“Aaaauuugh!”

sorceress-facing-rightI twisted around in my chair to see the latest intruder. Sorceress stood there, her brow furrowed.

I narrowed my eyes and crossed my arms. “What is it?”

Sorceress hesitated in the face of my obvious annoyance. “I am sorry. Am I disturbing you?”

“No, I always give a murderous look to every fifth person who interrupts my train of thought while I’m writing.” I glared at her.

“Mayhap I should return later.” She started backing out of the room.

“You’re here now. Why don’t you just tell me what you want?”

“Well…” She hesitated again, chewing on her lower lip.

“Well?”

“Mistress, do you remember the two sheriff’s deputies who were here earlier this year?”

I felt the blood drain from my face. Remember them? How could I forget them?

2 Police OfficersDeputy Melody Whitewash was a rather non-descript, but extremely efficient, law-enforcement officer. Her partner, Deputy Dustin Dawg, was a barrel-chested hulk who perpetually wore sunglasses, outdoors or in. They had first come to our door in February of this year, investigating a complaint lodged by our neighborhood nosey-bodies, Mace and Gloria, who claimed we were keeping horses on our residential property. I thought the deputies were going to shoot my Old Dwarf, who had held them at bay with his axe when he thought they might disturb my husband and me. (https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/02/18/more-visitors/)

I shuddered at the memory. “I remember them. What do those two want now?”

Sorceress wrinkled her nose and tilted her head. “Well, I am not certain what they want, Mistress.”

I furrowed my brow. “Oh?”

Sorceress nodded. “Your Old Dwarf has observed them skulking about the edges of the property.”

I sighed. The blog would have to wait. I needed to find out what the intrepid deputies were up to.exterior-interior-wonderful-white-wooden-entrance-glass-double-french-door-frames-as-modern-interior-accesories-decors-witching-french-door-inspirational-pictures-collection-interior-french-doors-whit-840x1120

I followed Sorceress up the stairs to the living room. We went over to the French doors leading to the deck and peered through the glass.

“See? There, in the next yard.” Sorceress pointed to the left.

Deputies trying to hideI tried not to giggle. “I wonder if Deputy Dawg really believes that tree is wide enough to hide him.”

Sorceress arched an eyebrow and shrugged. “It does a better job concealing him than that short bush does concealing his partner.”

I smirked and shook my head. “Do you happen to know where Dragon is currently? I need to ask her about the spell of concealment she has cast on the property. I don’t want to walk over to the edge of the yard and start talking to the deputies if they can’t see me. It might be hard to explain a disembodied voice.”

dragon talking“You need not worry.” Dragon had overheard the last part of the conversation as she entered the room. “The spell does not conceal anyone who is from your world, what you term the real world. It only conceals your characters and the illusions I have created, such as the barn, the paddocks, and the horses. If you walk out into the yard, the deputies will see you.”

I nodded. “Good. I think it’s time to have a conversation with the deputies. In the meantime, where are the precise boundaries of the spell? At what point would you or any of my other characters become visible to the residents of our real world?”

“Of course, you and Master Miles can see us wherever we are. Other people from your world would see us any time we leave the property.”

“You mean you are invisible until you step off the property, then poof! You’re visible?”

“That is correct.”

I frowned. “That’s no good. Can the spell be altered?”

Dragon nodded. “How do wish it altered?”

horses-all-gone-for-blog“I think from now on, if anyone wants to leave the property, they need to leave the house through the front door and be visible there, just as Miles and I are visible walking out of the house. That way, it looks natural when they walk down the sidewalk and step out onto the street. They don’t just suddenly appear and scare the heart and soul out of anyone who sees them. They should still be concealed by the spell if they are in the back yard.”

Dragon nodded again. “It shall be done.”

Sorceress sighed. “I best inform the others, so they all know to exit the property through the front door and down the driveway.”

I smiled at the two of them. “Thanks. Now I’m off to see what’s up with the deputies.”

Talking to deputiesAs I crossed the yard, the two deputies saw they had been spotted. They stepped out from behind the vegetation and tried to look nonchalant.

I pasted on a grim smile as I greeted them. “Deputy Whitewash! Deputy Dawg! It’s so nice to see you again. Is there anything I can help you with?”

“No, not a thing,” Deputy Whitewash assured me. Her partner merely grunted and gawked at the tree as if watching for squirrels.

I narrowed my eyes. “You seem to be surveilling my property. Is something wrong?”

“No, not a thing,” Deputy Whitewash assured me again, and again her partner merely grunted.

I folded my arms over my chest. “Then why are you watching my property?”

Deputy Dawg drew himself up, hooking his thumbs into his belt. “We’re not at liberty to discuss any ongoing investigations. Department policy.”

“Are you saying my husband and I are under investigation?”

“Didn’t say that.”
Police Officer in sunglasses
I frowned. 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. “Well, then, we’re not under investigation?”

“Didn’t say that, either.”

“Well then, unless you have a warrant allowing you to trespass on my neighbor’s property and stare at my house, I think you had best leave.”
Another person hiding

The two deputies glanced surreptitiously at a nearby tree as if looking for answers. That’s when I spied another figure hiding behind that tree. Judging from his attire, he was not a member of the sheriff’s department.

 

I balled my hands into fists and placed them on my hips. “Just what is going on here?”

SuitsI jumped back when a surprising number of figures, all similarly dressed in black suits, stepped into sight from behind trees, bushes, and the neighbor’s house. One man hurried over to stand in front of the deputies. “Ma’am, as Deputy Dawg indicated, we are engaged in an ongoing investigation and cannot discuss the details with civilians. If you return to your house, you will be safe.”

I scowled at the man. “So, something’s going on that makes my back yard unsafe?”

“We can neither confirm nor deny that, ma’am.”

“Then can you at least tell me who is involved in this ongoing investigation? You certainly don’t look like a sheriff’s deputy.”
Deputy Whitewash
Before the man could stop her, Deputy Whitewash replied, “He’s not. This is a joint taskforce between local law enforcement represented by the county sheriff’s office, and the FBI, ICE and Homeland Security.”wide-eyed

My jaw dropped. What had my characters done now?

 
Be sure to come back next week. If we’re not all in prison, we’ll be sure to leave the porch light on for you.

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A Small Problem

A Small Problem

...gloomy weatherThe sun didn’t last, either with the weather or with my character’s dispositions. The day after I had taken the nature hike with my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter
(https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/10/07/colorful-autumn-nature-walk/), the weather turned cool, overcast and gloomy again. Tempers returned to hot and fractious.

bounty-hunter-facing-other-directionMy Bounty Hunter raised his voice and waved his hands about in frustration. “Master Miles has purchased all the materials we need – roofing tiles, nails, tar paper. He has shown us where the ladders and hammers are. There is no excuse to further delay this work.”

Arrogant One facing right

“Just how do you propose to fix the shed roof in this weather?” My Arrogant One all but snarled at his companion.

My Bounty Hunter narrowed his eyes. “I propose to go out there and work hard at it and get it done before the rain starts again this afternoon. However, I would expect you to do it the same way you would do it in any weather. You will either attempt to accomplish the task through your usual chicanery and sleight of hand, or you will have someone else do the work for you, as always.”

“Chicanery? Sleight of hand?” My Arrogant One’s cheeks flamed. He drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and grasped his cloak in both hands. “I do not use chicanery! I am a master magician. I can repair that roof using my extraordinary power and no one will ever be the wiser!”

My Bounty Hunter snorted. “You tried that last week, remember? The roof with your magically accomplished repairs leaked worse than it had before!”

Having overheard the heated exchange, I shook my head and decided the wisest thing to do was to ignore the two quibblers and let them sort out their own differences.

...shed roof repairsAn hour later, I glanced out the back door. The clouds had dispersed, and I was pleased to see my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter hard at work on the shed roof repairs. While I was watching them, some songbirds came up and started eating from the feeders on the deck. I ran to get my camera.

When I got back, the little birds were gone and one of the neighborhood crows we had dubbed Charlie perched on the deck railing. I slowly opened the door and eased myselfonto the deck. “Hey, Charlie! Wanna pose for me, big guy?”

American Crow
Charlie reluctantly posed for one quick shot. Then he decided it would be more fun to go join his friends and harass my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter while they worked on the shed roof. I chuckled.

...shed roof repairs with crows
With the big birds at a safe distance, some of the smaller backyard denizens quickly returned to check out the food supply on the deck.

A Black-capped Chickadee landed on the bottom of the railing. Pausing just long enough to make sure the crows were still occupied, it quickly hopped over to grab some safflower seeds from the bowl.

One of a pair of White-breasted Nuthatches soon replaced the chickadee at the bowl while the other one checked out the pile of seed at the other end of the deck.

A juvenile Red-winged Blackbird visited one of the feeding stations while two others posed for me, showing off their beautiful brown-and-gold edged black feathers.

Some American Goldfinches, transitioning to their muted winter plumage, were glad to pose for me between snacks, while others watched from a nearby tree.

Three House Finches – two males and one female – with seed shells still clinging to their beaks, paused to let me snap a few quick images.

I was surprised to see a young Northern Cardinal, barely past the fledgling stage, come up on the deck to check things out. I quickly scanned the yard and saw its mom and dad in one of the hanging feeders.

I descended the stairs to the yard. A female Red-bellied Woodpecker checked me out from a tree trunk on the opposite side of the yard. Deciding I was no threat, she swooped down and plucked a safflower seed from the hanging feeder. One of the White-breasted Nuthatches walked, head-first, down another tree trunk, eyeing the feeder.

Some Dark-eyed Juncos foraging in the leaf litter near the deck eyed me warily as I stalked them with my camera.

A young Eastern Gray Squirrel watched me suspiciously from a tree but ran down quickly enough when I offered him a handful of grapes. He snatched them from me and hungrily munched a few right away before taking another to the safety of his tree.Young Eastern Gray Squirrel (4)


Young Eastern Gray Squirrel (5)
An Eastern Chipmunk, his cheeks bulging, let me take a few shots before he scampered away in the direction of the shed.

I followed him, hoping to get some more photos. I was just about to take another photo when I heard my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter arguing again.
...waving staff
“I’ll just shrink it all. It will make it much easier to haul up the ladder.” Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my Arrogant One raise his staff.

My Bounty Hunter shook his head and sneered at his companion. “The illusion of a smaller load will not make it any lighter.”

“Oh, this is not an illusion. This is a spell I learned from a wizard. It actually shrinks the object, reducing the mass and the weight.” The elf waved his staff.

The next thing I knew, I was eye-level with the chipmunk I was photographing....me photographing the chipmunk

For several long minutes, I was frozen in place, staring through the camera’s viewfinder at the tiny creature who was staring back at tiny me. Then I dropped to the ground, my rubbery legs unable to support me.

“What just happened?” I jumped at the sound of my own voice, which suddenly trilled like a chipmunk on helium.

...alarmed chipmunkThe chipmunk scooted up a tree and sat on a low branch, eyeing me and chirping its high-pitched staccato alarm.

I scowled at the noisy little critter. “Hey, what are you complaining about? I’m the one who’s suddenly five inches tall instead of my normal just-shy-of-five feet!” I winced at the sound of my squeaking.

I rubbed the back of my neck. What had happened to me? I remembered my Arrogant One’s words . . . the ones he had said right before he waved his staff. Oh, this is not an illusion. This is a spell I learned from a wizard. It actually shrinks the object, reducing the mass and the weight.

I blinked. Then I blinked again. Could I be the victim of a spell gone awry?
... in the tall grass
I rose on shaky legs and looked around, trying to get my bearings. All I could see was grass. I stood on my tippy-toes and looked up. Craning my neck, I saw the shed off to my right. Climbing through the jungle-like growth, I tried to make my way there. I needed to get my Arrogant One to put this to rights, and quickly!

...trying to get their attention 2I got to the ladder and stopped dead. I looked up at the ladder ascending to the shed roof. I looked up . . . and up . . . and up. Then I lost my balance and toppled over, landing on my . . . well, let’s just say I did not land in a dignified manner.

I picked myself up, dusted off the seat of my jeans, and considered the situation. The ladder was full-sized. I was chipmunk sized, but without the climbing ability of a rodent. How was I going to get my Arrogant One’s attention? I frowned and started jumping up and down and calling. “Hey! Hey, elf! Down here! Hey! Can you hear me?”

Again, my voice was akin to a chirping bird or a squeaking mouse. The only one whose attention I caught was Charlie the crow. I gave up and decided to try walking back to the house. It suddenly looked as if it were miles away! How many hours – or days, even – would it take me to fight my way across the yard through grass that now varied from waist-high to shoulder-high for me?

I hadn’t gotten very far when Charlie swooped down and landed right in front of me. The big crow eyed me curiously, and for a moment it looked as if I might become a birdie snack....Charlie and little me

“Whoa, Charlie. It’s me – the one who always makes sure you have plenty of corn to eat!” The large bird cocked his head and stared at me. I couldn’t blame him, since I was doing more squeaking than speaking.

Suddenly, the huge bird cawed, an explosion of sound that blasted my miniscule eardrums. I covered my ears and yelled. Actually, I squeaked some more, but louder and with more panic in my voice. “Go away! Get out of here! Go on, Charlie! Scram!”

Luckily, Charlie took the hint. He flew off toward the house, cawing urgently.

...startled rabbitI started off again, trying to make my way back to the house. As I walked, I became aware of a noise behind me, a thudding that was growing increasingly louder. I looked over my shoulder and saw two horses walking straight at me. My heart started racing, and I could hardly breathe. As the horses bore down on me, I started running, right past a startled rabbit.
...running from horse
The rabbit bolted, spooking the horses into a gallop. I tripped in the tall grass and lost my bearings. I headed off in another direction, and luckily fell into a shallow hole, just as one of the horse’s hooves came down right where I had just been standing.

...climbing out of the holeAfter a few minutes, I pulled myself up and tried to get out of the shallow depression. Well, it would have been shallow – it would have been hardly noticeable – had I been my normal size. As it happened, however, I was approximately the size of a chipmunk . . . a very small chipmunk . . . so it took me a few minutes to struggle out of the hole once the horses had moved away.

As soon as I was out of the hole, and I had caught my breath, I got my bearings again and headed toward the house. I looked around warily, hoping no other creatures would spy me trudging through the tall grass.

It seemed like hours later that I stood at the edge of the rock-strewn garden. I stopped to catch my breath. I grinned, congratulating myself for making it the length of the yard without being squashed by a horse or becoming a mid-day snack for any of the critters.

...snakeAs I stood there, my grin slowly faded. Maybe I had congratulated myself a little too soon. A snake was slithering in my direction. I froze in abject terror. I knew I couldn’t outrun a snake. And if there was another hole nearby, it wouldn’t be much help, as the snake could just follow me right into it. I was a goner!

Just as I convinced myself I was destined to perish in the stomach of a snake, Charlie swooped down, cawing loudly and chasing off my would-be attacker. Then a soft hand reached down and grabbed me....Cleric saving me

“Cleric!”

Cleric held me gently. “Charlie alerted me to your danger. How did you come to be in this predicament?”

I rubbed the back of my neck and sighed. “I’m not positive, but I believe I became collateral damage when my Arrogant One cast a shrinking spell on the material he and my Bounty Hunter were hauling up onto the shed roof.”

Cleric gasped. “Well, it appears they have finished their repairs and are gathering up their tools and supplies. We shall inform the elf of this calamity and have him reverse the spell immediately.” She squared her shoulders, made sure she had a good grasp on me, and marched toward the shed.

“Out of the way!” My Arrogant One bumped into Cleric as he and my Bounty Hunter struggled to take the ladder down from the side of the shed.

Cleric frowned and refused to be pushed aside. “Wait! You have caused a problem, and you must correct it at once!”

“What problem?” My Arrogant One sneered.Arrogant One

...confronting my Arrogant OneIn reply, Cleric held out her hand. My Arrogant One’s eyes widened, but my Bounty Hunter snickered. I skewered him with my narrow-eyed glare.

“Wha . . . what happened?” The elf backed away, his eyes growing as large as saucers.

“Evidently, Mistress Writer was caught by your shrinking spell.” Cleric scowled at the elf. “You must reverse the spell.”

My Arrogant One’s eyes grew so wide, I though his eyeballs were going to pop right out of his head. “But . . . but . . .” He swallowed hard. “I cannot reverse the spell.”

“What?” I shrieked in my little chipmunk-on-helium voice.

“What?” Cleric echoed in a more understandable tone.

“I already reversed the spell on the roofing materials, once we hauled them up onto the roof. I cannot reverse a spell twice.”

“If you reversed the spell already, why am I still this size?” I crossed my arms over my chest and glowered at the elf.

The elf’s cheeks flamed. “I . . . I surmise you were in the path of the original shrinking spell, but not in the path of the reversal spell.”

My Bounty Hunter snickered. “I would say you have a small problem.”

I scowled at him.

Cleric stared at my Arrogant One. “So, what do you propose to do?”

“I do not know.” My Arrogant One stroked his chin and considered the problem. After a few moments, he turned to my Bounty Hunter. “Go find Sorceress and Dragon. Mayhap they will have an idea how to deal with this.”

bounty-hunter-facing-other-directionStill snickering, my Bounty Hunter nodded and sauntered away.

What seemed like a lifetime later, he returned with Dragon, in her guise of an elf maiden, along with Sorceress, and my Gypsy. “I brought all the magic users. I thought you could use all the help you could get. I have already explained to them that you have a small problem.”

I glared at him. “That joke wasn’t funny the first time.”

While my Arrogant One, Cleric, Sorceress, and my Gypsy argued over the best way to return me to my own size, Dragon shape-shifted back to her true form. She sniffed me, then went over to my Arrogant One and started sniffing him.

“What are you doing?” The elf turned scarlet and batted at Dragon. “Get away from me, you vile beast!”

dragon talking“Be silent and remain still.” Dragon took a few more sniffs. Then she smiled a toothy grin and turned to address us all. “Magic has a distinctive odor. Each spell will have subtle aromatic indicators, easily detectable by a dragon’s superior sense of smell.”

“Then you know how to reverse the spell?” I looked at her hopefully.

“No. As the elf told you, the spell has already been reversed. It cannot be reversed a second time.”

My face fell. I fired a barrage of questions at Dragon, who held up her hand to stop me. “The original spell cannot be reversed again, but I am able to weave and cast a new spell that will have the same result as a reversal spell.”

“Will it take very . . .?”

I hadn’t even finished asking my question when Dragon waved her hand and mumbled a few unintelligible words. Poof! I was standing there, back at my full four-feet-ten-and-a-half-inches, slightly breathless but grinning ear-to-ear.

...ear-to-ear grin
That night, Miles asked me how my day had been. I raised an eyebrow. “Not bad. I just had one small problem.”...me and the chipmunk

Be sure to join us again next week for further adventures and misadventures. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Colorful Autumn Nature Walk

Colorful Autumn Nature Walk

Arrogant One facing rightstill raining

“I cannot believe it is still raining!” My Arrogant One stomped his foot and scowled as he looked out the door at the gloomy drizzle.

ShedBounty Hunter

“And I cannot believe you have not yet repaired the leaky roof in the shed.” My Bounty Hunter glowered at his companion.

My Arrogant One drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and grasped his cloak in both hands. “I have done my part. I do not see you offering to help!”

Dragon breathing smoke

Dragon shook her scaly head, and black smoke drifted from her snout. “I cannot believe you two are still complaining about everything! Did you learn nothing from our recent exercise, the Gratitude Scavenger Hunt?”

(Part 1) https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/09/23/were-doing-what/
(Part 2) https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/09/30/gratitude-scavenger-hunt/

My Arrogant One rounded on the bulky beast. “Oh, and I am to understand that by virtue of the fact you participated in that assignment, you are suddenly Little Miss Sunshine?”

Dragon blinked. “I do not believe there was anything sudden about it. I have always had a sunny disposition.”

What?” My Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter screeched in unison, and several other of my characters doubled over in laughter.

sorceress-facing-right“You are one of the most mercurial individuals I know.” Sorceress raised an eyebrow at her reptilian friend. “I am always tempted to consult my star charts before approaching you, to determine if you are more likely to aid me or incinerate me!”Elf

Cleric nodded, and she fidgeted with the silken cord belting her robes. “I fear I must agree with Sorceress. You are subject to extreme mood variations.”

dragon looking rightfireplace2Dragon harrumphed and glowered at her companions. “I see. Well, you do not have to worry about approaching me at all. I am going to the conference room and bask in front of my fireplace.” She stomped away in high dudgeon, and the rest of my characters resumed their complaining.

Two days later, the change in both the weather and my character’s attitudes was nothing short of amazing. The day dawned clear and bright and unseasonably warm after several weeks of cool, rainy weather. My characters chatted amiably during a rushed early morning meal. Anxious to be enjoying themselves outdoors, they gobbled their breakfast and dispersed to their individual activities shortly after first light.

My Foreman and the lads headed to the illusory stable to spend the day working their horses. Cleric, Sorceress, and Dragon went out to gather botanicals for their spell components. My Old Dwarf went with them to look for rocks and pieces of wood that might prove suitable for carving.

camera for blogMy husband saw me gathering my camera equipment and gave me a big smile. “No need to ask what you’re planning! Nature photography! Do you have someplace special in mind?”

I returned his smile and held up a brochure from a nearby wildlife preserve and nature center. “I think I’m going back to this preserve. I really enjoyed it last time I went. It has a variety of habitats – a big lake, a hardwood forest and a native pine woodlands, wetlands, prairie, and savanna. What are your plans for the day?”

Miles sighed. “I need to take my car in for servicing today. Then I have to stop by one of the lumber yards and pick up some roofing shingles for the shed.”

I nodded. “Well, okay, I’ll try not to miss you too much!” I gave him a hug and a quick peck on the cheek before we were interrupted.

“Mistress?”

I turned around and saw my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter standing there. To my experienced eye, they appeared suspect.

I furrowed my brow. “Yes?”

“Would it be possible for us to join you today?”

I had rarely heard my Arrogant One sound so meek. My frown deepened. “Why?” Realizing how rude I sounded, I backpedaled. “I mean, why would you want to? I didn’t think hiking and nature photography held much interest for either of you.”

“Quite the contrary!” My Bounty Hunter’s eyes widened, and he assumed an open and guileless demeanor. “We have enjoyed past nature walks we have taken with you.”

“And we must wait for Master Miles to purchase the necessary supplies, so we can repair the shed roof. Therefore, we have nothing pressing on our agenda for this day.” My Arrogant One seemed nervous, clutching his cloak and shuffling his foot.

I hesitated, an uneasy feeling coming over me as I watched my two characters standing there awaiting my decision, displaying uncharacteristic patience and courtesy. “Well, okay, but you know the rules. You’ll wear modern garments and take no weapons or magic paraphernalia.”staff

My Arrogant One’s eyes widened. “Not even my staff? You yourself use a walking stick, and my staff functions perfectly as such.”Walking stick - Marge

I narrowed my eyes and considered. “Very well, you may take a walking stick – but remember that is to be its only function.”Walking stick - Bounty Hunter

My Bounty Hunter’s mouth curved into a smarmy smile. “Then I, too, will bring one – I have a thick longbow that easily doubles as a walking stick.”

My uneasy feeling grew stronger.

“Okay, but I want no trouble from either of you on the trail today. If we encounter other people, they best not be able to tell your walking sticks are anything other than just that.”

They both nodded, but as I turned, I thought I saw them exchange furtive glances.

“Meet me at the car in 15 minutes.”

*  *  *

It took less than a half hour to drive to the preserve. I parked near the nature center and the three of us piled out of the car. I grabbed my camera and equipment, and we all took our walking sticks. I locked the car and pointed to a path exiting the parking lot to my left. “Let’s start with the trail to the lake.”

“Why not start at the nature center? We are right here.” My Bounty Hunter pointed to the building surrounded by bird feeders adjacent to the parking lot.

I shook my head. “I’d like to finish our walk there. Right now, there’s too much activity around that area. School groups go in and out all morning, and it can get noisy. The birds tend to stay away. But things quiet down in the afternoon, and the staff refills the feeders then, so our chances of seeing birds there will be better at that time.”

My two characters nodded. I led off, expecting them to follow me. Instead, they hung back a bit. I thought I heard them arguing, but when I glanced back over my shoulder, they were already scurrying to catch up with me.

We had not yet gotten out of the parking lot when my Bounty Hunter grabbed me by the arm. I yelped and pulled away.

He raised an eyebrow. “It is a good thing Cleric is not with us. She would be squealing right now.” He used his walking stick to point to a reddish-brown snake slithering across the blacktop.October Hike - snake 2

I ducked my head sheepishly, realizing my Bounty Hunter’s intentions had been harmless. “Uh, yeah. It looks like a Red-bellied Snake.” I took a few quick shots of it before it reached the edge of the asphalt and disappeared into the grass, and we continued walking toward the lake.

My Arrogant One studied the trees. “The foliage is surprisingly colorful! I did not think this would be a good year, with the earlier drought followed by the heavy rain over the last few weeks.”

I nodded. “I had the same misgivings. Glad to see we were wrong.” I took a few photos of the trees.

As we walked toward the lake, I pointed out the animals I saw, identifying them for my two companions as I took photos. “There’s an American Robin in that tree. There’s a White-breasted Nuthatch on that tree trunk, and another hanging upside down from that pine bough. And there’s an Eastern Chipmunk on that rock in front of the fallen log.”

We passed out of the woods and found ourselves next to a large lake.

“Canada Geese.” My Arrogant One pointed. “We have them on our pond, and we seem to see them on every outing.” He leaned on his staff and watched the birds swimming in the clear blue water.

I nodded, maneuvering to a good spot to get some photos. “They’re very common.”

“Look!” My Bounty Hunter pointed to some birds soaring silently overhead. “Those strange looking birds are not Canada Geese. What are they?”

“American White Pelicans. They’re one of the largest birds you’ll see in North America, and they have massive bills that they use to scoop up fish.” I tried to capture a few images of the birds in flight.

The squadron of pelicans landed on the far side of the lake, too distant for my camera to get any good shots. We left the lake and took the trail to the left, skirting a large wetland adjacent to the lake. We found two more Canada Geese there and I took their photos.

Then my Arrogant One pointed. “Are those not the tall birds you like so much? I believe you called them Sandhill Cranes.”

I nodded and smiled, taking photos of two crossing the meadow toward the tree line.

My Bounty Hunter tapped me on the shoulder and pointed. “Another one.” I snapped a quick photo as it tried to hide in the tangle of vegetation.

October hike - Sandhill Crane 3

As I turned, I spotted a few American Goldfinches eating the seeds of the wildflowers in the field, and I stopped to take several photos. “They flit around so quickly, it’s hard to get a clear image of them.”

After I got their pictures, I took some shots of a tall tree in the middle of the meadow, decked out in its coat of autumn yellow, then took several more photos of the fall foliage.

As I turned around, my companions were standing a few feet away, huddled together, examining their walking sticks and holding a whispered conversation. I furrowed my brow but held my tongue as they quickly rejoined me on the trail.

As we approached another section of woods, my Arrogant One pointed at something with his staff. “I am seeing a lot of similar-looking birds in the trees and bushes along the forest edge. What are they?”

“Fall warblers can be very confusing, but I believe they are Palm Warblers.” I took aim and snapped a few quick photos.

“That one looks different.” My Bounty Hunter pointed at another bird in a nearby tree. “Is that the one the Gypsy identified for me once as a White-throated Sparrow?”

I nodded. “I’m impressed you remembered!” I snapped the photo.

October Hike - White-throated Sparrow 1

My Bounty Hunter also spotted a Blue Jay high up in a bare tree, and my Arrogant One pointed out an Eastern Bluebird on an old fence post. I got photos of them both. Then, just before we entered the next wooded area, we found another snake. “This one looks like a Garter Snake.” I snapped his photo as well.

“Look here.” My Arrogant One pointed. “There are several different types of berries along this path.”

“They’re good food for the birds.” I took some photos of the berries before looking up at the nearby trees.

“Look! The berries have attracted some Cedar Waxwings. Those birds are basically fruit eaters. In the fall, hundreds of them can gather and strip a berry patch in minutes.” I scanned the trees. “This is a very small flock.”

“That one looks different.” My Arrogant One pointed to one of a pair of birds sitting on a bare branch. “But the one with it looks like the Cedar Waxwings you just showed us.”

“They’re both Cedar Waxwings. The one that looks different is a juvenile. I’m surprised there aren’t more with the flock.” I focused my camera and got a shot of the two birds.

October Hike - Cedar Waxwing with juvie

We continued along the path, and I took some more photos of the trees and wildflowers. Once again, my companions lagged behind. They were again whispering, but they quickly stopped and hurried to catch up with me.

Soon we were back at the nature center. There were numerous birds and critters feeding on the seed that had fallen from the feeders, or watching from the nearby trees. I identified a Red Squirrel, another Eastern Chipmunk, some Fox Sparrows, some Dark-eyed Juncos, some more White-throated Sparrows, and both male and female Northern Cardinals.

Finally, I figured I had taken enough photos, and I turned to my companions. “Ready to go home?”

“Already?” They both seemed disappointed.

“Miles will probably be home by now with those roofing supplies you need. And I need to start making dinner if we want to eat tonight.”

My two characters nodded reluctantly, and we walked across the parking lot to the car. As we took our places in the vehicle, I wondered about their behavior, their whispered conversations, and the furtive glances I thought I had seen them exchanging several times. After turning it over in my mind, I decided maybe I was just being paranoid. I decided it best not to spoil the good time we had had by confronting them. If something was afoot, I would probably find out soon enough.

Be sure to join us again next week. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Gratitude Scavenger Hunt

Gratitude Scavenger Hunt

6-19-13 - Miles 001“You know, it’s been blissfully quiet around here the past few days. Ever since you insisted your characters participate in that . . . what was it called? The Gratitude Scavenger Hunt? (https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/09/23/were-doing-what/) . . . we’ve hardly heard a peep out of them!” My husband sighed contentedly. “They don’t even take meals with us.”

“I know.” I smiled at him. “They really seem to be enjoying it. They even asked if they could have a few more days to work on it.”

“Are they all still working downstairs in the conference room?” Miles furrowed his brow and tilted his head.

“Yeah, why?”

He chuckled. “Well, it’s been four days now, and I haven’t heard anyone killing your Arrogant One yet.”

I laughed. “Well, Dragon arranged individual offices off the conference room, so everyone could work in private without interfering with each other or getting on each other’s nerves.”

Miles shook his head. “I still don’t understand how the conference room works. It looks different every time I go in there – a different size, a different shape . . .”

I gave his hand a squeeze as I tugged him out of his chair. “Don’t try to understand it, honey. It’s magic. Let’s just get some dinner.”

“The leftover corn chowder?” His eyes gleamed.

I nodded. “Yup. And some roasted cauliflower and broccoli.”

“Now, that’s magic! Race you to the kitchen!”

*  *  *

dragon talking

“Everyone has finished collecting or creating their items or images, or preparing their illusions, for the Gratitude Scavenger Hunt, Mistress.” Dragon’s maw stretched into a wide, toothy smile and her tail twitched with excitement.

“Very well. Let’s go down and see what everyone has.”

Miles and I followed the bulky reptile down the steps and into the conference room. Everyone’s items were displayed on the huge round table in the middle of the room. My characters milled around, each slowly taking their place next to their individual items.

“How do you wish to do this, Mistress?” Cleric fidgeted with her rope belt and shifted her weight from foot to foot.

“Well, let’s see.” I rubbed my chin while I considered several approaches. “I think the best idea is for me to read off each category from the list, and everyone can take turns presenting their items for that category.”

I looked around at my assembled characters, who nodded their understanding and agreement. I was surprised how nervous they all appeared. Cleric wasn’t the only one shuffling back and forth on her feet, and I thought I saw several characters sweating. I hoped that meant they had taken the activity seriously, perhaps had even learned something from it.

I picked up my list and began. “The first item you were to find was something that makes a beautiful sound. Who wants to start?”

gypsy-facing-rightMeadowlark singing - framedMy Gypsy eagerly stepped forward and held up a picture of a bird. “I chose a Meadowlark. Their sweet song is a magnificent sound.” He whistled, perfectly mimicking the slurred, flute-like melody of the Eastern Meadowlark.

Young hero 2horse neighing in frameMy Young Hero stepped forward next. “I think a horse makes a beautiful sound, neighing to a friend, or whinnying to greet the day.” He held aloft a picture taken from a magazine.

mens-991728_1280Horses galloping - framedMy Foreman nodded and raised his picture. “I think the sound a horse makes is beautiful, too, only I selected the thundering sound of their hooves as a herd of steeds gallops across a field.”

dragon looking rightWind blowing - framedDragon took center stage next, holding aloft a photo. “I think the sound of a loud wind rushing through trees is beautiful. I enchanted this picture to produce that sound.” As she murmured an incantation, the sound of rushing wind filled the room for a few moments.

Elf facing rightwind-chimesAs the sound died down, Cleric stepped forward, holding a small wind chime she had constructed. “I do not believe this would withstand the force of the wind from Dragon’s enchanted image, but I think when the chimes are tickled by a gentle breeze, the sound they produce is most beautiful.” Cleric gently shook the chimes, making a soft tinkling sound.

sorceress-facing-rightWaves lapping against the shore - framedSorceress waited for the melodious chimes to quiet before producing her item, an enchanted image of waves lapping against the shore. “It is the beautiful sound that used to lull me to sleep on my native island.”

Bounty Hunterwaterfall - framed“I am afraid I cannot produce the sound effects, but I chose this photo of a rushing waterfall to depict something that makes a beautiful sound.” My Bounty Hunter showed us the photo.

DwarfDinner gong“Well, I be havin’ sound ee-ffects!” My Old Dwarf grinned as he clanged a triangular gong. “I be thinkin’ there be nuttin’ wat be makin’ a sound as bee-you-tee-full as a dinner bell.”

Arrogant One facing rightThe last of my characters to share his first item, my Arrogant One, stood apart from the group. He was scuffing one foot back and forth in an uncharacteristic display of stage fright. He cleared his throat several times before mumbling his explanation. “The most beautiful sound I have ever heard was produced by an audience clapping and cheering.” He passed his hand over an enchanted image, and the room was filled with thunderous applause, and loud cheers and whistles.

Applause - framed

It took quite a few minutes to get my Arrogant One to silence his enchanted image, as he closed his eyes and basked in the conjured applause. But soon I had my characters back to the task at hand.

We moved quickly through the next four categories.

Lightning stormThe catagory find something that smells amazing produced few surprises, among them being Dragon’s choice of a lightning storm. “Have you ever really smelled the air after you see a huge bolt of lightning?” Her nostrils quivered, and her tail twitched in delight.

Field of wildflowersBounty Hunter’s field full of wildflowers was equally surprising. “What? You think someone in my profession cannot appreciate the delicate fragrance of wildflowers in bloom?”

Catnip was rather predictable as the item Sorceress thought smelled amazing, as was her choice of milk for the next category, find your favorite beverage. Both choices reflected her exotic heritage, and I could almost hear her purring as she made her presentations.milkcatnip

 

 

 

lemonade

Dragon’s choice of lemonade as her favorite beverage, however, was unexpected. “Not too sweet, though.” She grimaced. “Sugar negates the delightful burn of the acid.”

rose-quartzFind something that is your favorite color produced few surprises. Cleric’s choice of rose quartz was predictable. “It is the color associated with the deity whom I serve back in my world.”

Equally predictable in that category were my Old Dwarf’s choice of pewter mugs, my Arrogant One’s selection of gold coins, and my Gypsy’s option of a Northern Cardinal or Redbird.

sunflower

Again, it was Dragon and my Bounty Hunter who surprised me. “And what is wrong with the color of sunflowers?” My Bounty Hunter scoffed.

Sky after sunsetDragon smiled a toothy grin, then explained her choice. “The color of the sky right after sunset is most pleasing to me. It also has a very personal meaning.” She glanced at my Young Hero. “When I was younger, I had not yet developed my ability to change colors. Someone back in my world once likened my color to that of the sky at twilight.”

There were no surprises at all in the category find something useful to you.

fireplace2“Of course, I chose my fireplace.” Dragon looked around, her expression daring anyone to make a remark.

Battle axe“And I be lost wit-out me battle axe.” My Old Dwarf brandished it, then gave the axe head a quick swipe with a polishing cloth.

saddle

My Foreman nodded. “As I would be without a saddle.”

dagger - bullseye

“And I, without my dagger.” My Gypsy flipped it end over end at a target hanging on the wall, scoring a perfect bulls-eye.

 

My Young Hero claimed a bag of holding as his most useful item, while Cleric needed her healing herbs, Sorceress, her scrying bowl, and my Bounty Hunter, a disguise.

Magician's staff“My staff is my most useful item.” My Arrogant One puffed himself up. “It is a focus for my magic, a walking stick, and a weapon. I can also tie a bundle to it and carry it over my shoulder or tie a string to the end for a fishing pole.”

That brought us to the last category – find something to give someone else to make them smile.

Dragon scale 2“The best gift I could give someone to produce a smile would be one of my scales.” Dragon held a small iridescent scale in her hand. “It is not only beautiful, but it is almost indestructible, so the recipient could conceivably have it for a lifetime. It grants powerful protection and has magical properties that can be activated by those with the proper knowledge. How could such a wondrous gift fail to make someone smile?”

Wood carving

My Old Dwarf showed us a small wood carving he had made. “I be thinkin’ thet summat I be takin’ tha time an’ effort ta be makin’ wit me very ownest hands be puttin’ a smile on anyone’s face.”

flowers

My Foreman nodded. “I envy you your talent, my rotund little friend. All I have to offer to put a smile on someone’s face is a posy.”

dried flowers and herbsCleric smiled. “Those flowers would certainly make me smile. I also chose flowers, but mine are an arrangement of dried flowers and herbs.”

 

Charm

 

“I would give someone a charm or a talisman.” My Gypsy displayed his offering.

heart-shaped stonesMy Young Hero admired his friend’s item. “My gift would be similar.” He held out a handful of small rocks. “Nature created these heart-shaped stones. They made me smile, and I am sure they would do the same for anyone to whom I would bequeath them.”

book

“A book has always seemed a much-appreciated gift.” Sorceress held up a tome adorned with flowers.

bottle of wine or spirits

“As is a bottle of fine wine or spirits.” My Bounty Hunter indicated his item.

 

My Arrogant One was the last to present his item. All eyes turned to him, and we waited. He scuffed his toe back and forth on the carpet, and he hung his head. “I have never given a gift to anyone. I have nothing to make another smile.”

My other characters seemed unsurprised. “Selfish people rarely know how to make others smile.” Although Dragon meant it to be a whisper, her voice carried through the room, and I saw my Arrogant One’s face turn scarlet.

Surprisingly, it was my husband who came to the annoying elf’s rescue. Miles walked over to the conference table and picked up my Arrogant One’s staff. He turned to the pompous figure and held out the staff. “Take it.”

Cautiously, obviously fearing a trick, the elf reached out and took hold of the staff.

“Now, perform.” My husband turned and rejoined me and the others watching the elf.

“What?” My Arrogant One furrowed his brow and tilted his head.

“You have a great gift to share, with which to put a smile on everyone’s face. Create some illusions, give a performance. That is what you can give someone else to make them smile.” Miles raised an eyebrow at the elf.

Slowly, a smile spread across my Arrogant One’s face as understanding dawned. He drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and held his staff aloft. He treated us all to a truly amazing performance of illusory magic and sleight of hand. When it was over, the elf had no need of an enchanted image to create applause.

Performing illusion

Once the hurrahs had died down, I addressed the group. “I hope you all had some fun with this Gratitude Scavenger Hunt. I also hope you learned something from it.”

My characters all nodded and murmured among themselves. Finally, Dragon spoke for the group. “I believe it has become obvious to all of us that complaining is a waste of effort. If we are bored, we can always engage in fruitful and enjoyable activities. We are grateful to you for making us realize this.”

“I think we also learned to just look around us for things for which we can be grateful, like a beautiful sound or smell, a pretty color, a favorite beverage.” My Bounty Hunter nodded toward the conference table holding all the items he and his companions found for the Gratitude Scavenger Hunt.

“And I am grateful to have learned that everyone has something to give to others, and that giving is as pleasurable as receiving.” My Arrogant One smiled.

“Good lessons, all!” I beamed at my characters. “I hope you all keep your feelings of gratitude going forward.”

“Wale, I be real gratitudinal iffin dinner be ready soon.” My Old Dwarf winked and headed for the stairs.

We hope you all enjoyed the Gratitude Scavenger Hunt as much as my characters did, and I hope you enjoyed the insight into each character, with the choices they made for each category. In case you missed anyone’s presentation, here is the list of characters and the items they chose for each category.

Gratitude Scavenger Hunt

Be sure to join us next week for another adventure! We’ll leave the porch light on for you!

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Still Out Sick – Gypsy Filling in With Recycled Blogs

Still Out Sick – Gypsy Filling in With Recycled Blogs

gypsy-facing-rightHail, good readers! Prithee allow me to introduce myself. I am the Gypsy, sidekick and best friend of the Young Hero about whose exploits Mistress Writer has penned numerous tales. I fear I must report Mistress Writer’s malady has not improved since Dragon so kindly and so capably filled in for her last week. But, alas, now Dragon and half our number are ill as well. Dragon has beseeched me to fill in this week in presenting to you readers an entertaining and informative narrative. However, I most humbly confess I am no scribe!

Since any attempt I would make to author a blog would bore the average reader into a coma, I decided to just . . . what is the word Mistress Writer and Master Miles use? Oh, yes! I decided to recycle two earlier blogs.

Reviewing previous blogs, I have found several times in the past when Mistress Writer was ill. I narrowed down the accounts to two instances. Once, she was afflicted with a very bad cold. Another time, she had contracted an ailment she termed cabin fever. I selected these two blogs to recycle today as Mistress Writer seems to be suffering from both maladies now.

wren 2Also, both blogs relate to birds, a subject near and dear to my heart. I do not mean to brag – after all, I am the Gypsy, not the Arrogant One – but I am extremely knowledgeable about birds. I could identify every bird in my world by sight and by ear, and I have become almost as well versed in the birds of this world. I daresay I play an important role in the first of the two blogs I selected, identifying some birds for my less knowledgeable companions, and relating information about various types of birds. I hope you find both blogs entertaining and informative.

https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2016/02/28/todays-blog-is-for-the-birds/

https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/05/20/backyard-birding-bliss/

gypsy-facing-rightCharing shoes 2I do hope you enjoyed the two blogs I recycled. If so, I would consider it a great personal favor if you could leave a comment for Dragon. She warned me what would happen should I not do a good job filling in for her and Mistress Writer. She will char my shoes with my feet still in them – a threat she often makes to Master Miles. And I am most fond of both my shoes and my feet!

I sincerely hope that Mistress Writer and Dragon will have recovered sufficiently by next week that I can step down from my position as temporary scribe. We hope to see you again next week, when we can ascertain if that has happened! We will leave the porch light on for you!

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Filling in and Bringing You a Short History

Filling in and Bringing You a Short History

Elf cleric close-upGood morrow, faithful readers! Welcome friends, both longstanding and new! Dragon here, in my persona of an elf maiden, filling in for Mistress Writer. She is, unfortunately, under the weather. At least I think that is the proper idiom. She is once again afflicted with one of her frequent respiratory ailments. I believe I heard Master Miles, her longsuffering mate, tell someone Mistress Writer was coughing up a lung, not that I understand that bit of vernacular. I mean, really, how can someone cough up a lung?

Elf facing rightCleric is administering her healing herbs, and she reports that Mistress Writer is not coughing quite as much as she was, but progress is slow. At any rate, until Mistress Writer is sufficiently recovered to return to her computer keyboard, I fear you will have to bear with me as I attempt to take her place as wordsmith, historian, and entertainer.

manuscriptsA thought recently occurred to me. Although you have been reading for several years now of the adventures shared by me and my companions in this world, what Mistress Writer terms the real world, perchance you are not aware of our prior history. Before the nine of us fell from Mistress Writer’s manuscripts and came to live in this world, we were residents of another world, a world far different from this one. You may term it backward, as it is seriously lacking in your technology. Mistress Writer calls it a medieval world. She notes that it is populated with mythological creatures (such as your obedient servant) and abounds in magic (a force that many believe died out long ago in your world. They are wrong about the magic being gone, of course, but you did not hear that from me.)

Mistress Writer first introduced me into her second manuscript at the point of my initial encounter with her Young Hero, her Gypsy, and Cleric. But I can remember a time before that, a time about which Mistress Writer knows little or nothing. Long before I encountered the others, a dapper young dwarf used to visit me. He sometimes brought me gifts – little wood or stone carvings he made himself. He was an accomplished artist. He and I grew quite fond of each other, though the last time I saw him in my world was long before the events recorded in Mistress Writer’s manuscripts. I have reason to believe he is the Old Dwarf who was the focus of Mistress Writer’s first manuscript, the Old Dwarf who also now finds himself in this world with me and my other companions. Although he and I have never discussed the matter, it is obvious to us, as it should be to you readers, that the Old Dwarf and I share a very special friendship.

Mistress Writer had introduced me in her manuscripts at a point in history when I was a desert dweller. I had been residing there, in the extreme heat, for almost as long as I could remember. Perhaps that is why I so abhor the weather in this place called Minnesota where I now reside. The cold, which seems to last for so many more months than does the heat, seeps into my bones and chills my soul!

The first time I met the Young Hero, the Gypsy, and Cleric in my world, they were visiting my desert. As soon as I encountered them, I invited them to dinner. No, not as my guests; rather, as the main course. You will be relieved to know, I am sure, that did not happen. The four of us became fast friends. I even helped them on a quest!

The Young Hero and I grew particularly close. He was the one who gave me a pronounceable name. I cannot reveal it here, but I can say I was quite enamored of it.

Young hero 2The Young Hero, a half-dwarf, was the star, if you will, of the first two manuscripts in Mistress Writer’s series. He began as a naive and rather sheltered child, raised on a renowned horse farm owned by his adoptive human parents. His best friends – indeed, his only friends for many years – were his adoptive brother, his pony, the Gypsy, and Cleric. The Young Hero was forced by circumstances to grow up quickly. He was forced to assume a role that would, if he could successfully complete his quest, change his world. Although I cannot reveal the nature of his quest, nor if he had successfully completed it by the end of the second book (we know nothing about events past that point, as that was all Mistress Writer had written when we fell out of her manuscripts), I think you would enjoy the segment of his poignant tale with which I am familiar.

gypsy-facing-rightThe Gypsy, although not the star of Mistress Writer’s tales, was a capable sidekick and a valued member of the ensemble cast. He was a jack-of-all-trades. He and his people were eminent horsemen, and he had some knowledge of magic, learned at his grandmother’s knee. He favored a quick wit and a sharp blade when defending himself or his companions. He also had the peculiar talent of being able to flawlessly imitate any birdcall he heard.

The Gypsy and I had a contentious relationship. Initially, he was convinced that I would, indeed, have him for dinner someday. It took a long time for him to learn to trust me. Meanwhile, I delighted in teasing him and making him nervous.

ElfCleric, a pious young woman of elven heritage, was the deity-appointed protector of the Young Hero. I am obliged to admit she fascinated me. I was a creature of magic. I did not understand the concept of religion and deities. Cleric’s allegiance to her goddess made no sense to me. Her failure to obey one she claimed to serve made even less sense.

Oh! Mayhap I should not have revealed that information! Forsooth, Cleric is my friend, and I have no desire to embarrass her. Of course, her faith, coupled with her failure, is a large part of who she was, and how she faced the world. At the end of the second manuscript (which, again, was all Mistress Writer had completed at the time we fell out of them and into this world) Cleric had yet to learn a great deal of her own personal history. I hope her journey of self-discovery, which Mistress Writer is making the focal point of the third manuscript, is rewarding.

One of our number whom I met later in the events chronicled by Mistress Writer was Sorceress. This creature was easier for me to understand than was Cleric. Sorceress and I shared a love of, and a mastery of, magic. We also shared a sense of abiding loyalty to anyone we considered a friend.Stu-04-NatGal

None of us, not even Mistress Writer, have ever been able to understand what happened to Sorceress when she fell from the manuscripts. The Sorceress who now resides with us in this world bears little physical resemblance to the Sorceress we knew in our world. In our world Sorceress was not human. She was a member of an exotic race. But the Sorceress we know here and the exotic creature we knew in our world are one and the same. Sorceress remembers almost fainting the first time she laid eyes on my majestic form. She remembers aiding the Young Hero, the Gypsy, and Cleric in their quest. And she remembers a musty little man . . . but wait! You know nothing of him . . . yet.

Foreman facing right closeupAnother member of our ensemble, The Foreman, was a former cavalry officer who was wounded in battle and left a physical and emotional cripple. He found new purpose when the owner of the most important horse-breeding operation in the kingdom hired him as foreman. He found more than that when he had to save the adopted son of his boss and friend. Terrifying memories plagued the man, and for a time he was full of hatred and prejudice, which complicated his quest to rescue the half-dwarf.

Arrogant One facing rightTwo more of our companions, the Arrogant One and the Bounty Hunter, were not what you would call our friends in the adventure that Mistress Writer documented. The Arrogant One had only a cameo appearance in Mistress Writer’s second manuscript. The elf was, I must reluctantly admit, an illusionist extraordinaire. His haughty nature and atrocious manners, however, were evident even in his short appearance. I was appalled when Mistress Writer told me the Arrogant One will play a prominent part in the third manuscript.

bounty-hunter-facing-other-directionThe Bounty Hunter is a mystery to the rest of us. The Young Hero and his companions made more than one powerful enemy, and more than one bounty hunter was employed to thwart the Young Hero’s quest and retrieve items he had procured. I daresay the Bounty Hunter who ended up here with us could be any one of those bounty hunters, but he refuses to reveal himself to us. He even told us, when he first fell out of the manuscripts, that he was an assassin. Which one he is does not matter, as they were all cunning and dangerous foes. I am not certain I trust him in this world, especially as he and the Arrogant One have become, shall we say, thick as thieves.

DwarfThe Old Dwarf, the final member of our little band of expatriates, was the focus of the first manuscript, even if he was not exactly the hero. He was someone who generated ambivalence in those who knew him. I have heard him described as one who did all the wrong things for all the right reasons. Suffice it to say, he was the one who set in motion the series of events that Mistress Writer felt important enough to record for posterity.

I hope you have enjoyed this tiny glimpse into the history of the characters with whom you visit each week. The nine of us have changed considerably since our initial entry into this world (or at least most of us have – I doubt the Arrogant One will ever change, despite assurances by Mistress Writer) and I am sure we will continue to change and grow as we persevere in trying to fit into this alien and technologically advanced environment.

Mayhap someday, when Mistress Writer’s manuscripts are published, you will enjoy discovering the grand adventures the nine of us shared. Until then, as Mistress Writer says every week, be sure to come back next week for another of our little adventures. We will leave the porch light on for you!

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An Old Mystery Revisited

An Old Mystery Revisited

Sitting on deck watching horsesMy Foreman, my Gypsy, and my Young Hero had just finished a morning workout with their illusory horses. Cleric and I, along with the ersatz elf maiden, Dragon, had watched them from the deck as they put their horses through their paces. Now, Cleric set out a tall pitcher of lemonade and six glasses while my Foreman and the lads finished grooming their horses and turning them out to pasture.

Cleric filled a glass and passed it to me. “Watching the riding exhibition this morning, my mind kept straying back to Mystery . . . I mean Peaches . . . and her young master, Colton. I wonder how they are faring these days.”

shaggy pony facing the other wayI knew Cleric was referring to a small horse that had shown up in our yard last December. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2017/12/31/mystery/

Peaches and ColtonAfter a fantastic adventure that included Mystery being possessed by creatures inadvertently brought to our world by Dragon, we had finally discovered that the little horse was actually named Peaches. She was a very special horse, trained to work with a blind rider, and she was owned by a young boy named Colton. She gave Colton a bit of freedom and normalcy in his life. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/03/25/mystery-solved/

“Funny you should ask about Mystery.” I smiled.

“What about Mystery?” My Foreman gratefully accepted a glass of lemonade and sat down on a deck chair to drink it. The two lads also grabbed cool drinks and settled down to join the conversation.

I grinned. “Cleric had just mentioned our old friend, Mystery, a.k.a. Peaches, and the little horse’s master, Colton. I was about to tell her that Colton’s mom, Anna, called me this morning. Colton has invited us to go trail riding with him.”

Elf facing rightCleric furrowed her brow and chewed her lower lip. “Mistress, I have never ridden a horse.”

“The servant of the goddess of the horse has never ridden one of her deity’s favored creatures?” I gaped at Cleric, who blushed furiously and hung her head.Elf cleric

“I have never ridden, either.” Dragon pursed her lips. “I am not sure I want to.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Well, that’s up to you, but Colton will be very disappointed. He told his mom to be sure I understood that the invitation was for the three wonderful ladies who brought Peaches back to him – me, Dray, and Clara.”

Cleric’s cornflower blue eyes widened. “He remembered the names we used!” A smile flashed across her face, but immediately faded to a frown. “But even if we wanted to go riding, we do not have any horses.”

Dragon rubbed the back of her neck and furrowed her brow. “I suppose, if it is really important to the boy, I could produce some illusory horses, similar to the ones I created for our three resident horsemen.”

I nodded. “That would be wonderful, and I’m sure Colton will be happy to have us visit and go riding with him.”

My Young Hero cleared his throat. “Mistress, is there any way the three of us could join you?” He gestured at himself, my Gypsy, and my Foreman.

“Sure. Anna said we should feel free to bring more friends with us.”

The lad smiled, and he had a faraway look in his eyes. “I remember the splendid times I had with my brother, riding through the countryside. We were rarely, if ever, confined within a fence when we rode.” Suddenly, he blushed. “But I do not mean to complain! I know you, Dragon, have gone to a lot of trouble creating the illusory horses and stable for us, and keeping everything hidden from the neighbors with a spell of concealment. And you, Foreman, have spent much time instructing me and the Gypsy, and helping us improve our horsemanship.” He gulped some of the lemonade and fiddled with his glass. Finally, he sighed. “But it would be so nice to ride through woods and fields again.”

Dragon furrowed her brow and looked at me. “When is this trail ride?”

“This weekend, if we can make it.”

“Good. That will give me time to create three more illusory horses with the requisite interwoven spell of concealment, and for the three of us to become accustomed to our mounts. Or should that be four more horses? Will Master Miles be joining us?”

I shook my head. “No, I’m afraid my husband isn’t very keen on horses. He’ll hold down the fort here while we’re off riding.”

My Foreman grinned. “I will teach you ladies how to ride well enough to manage on this trail ride with Colton.”

I looked at my Foreman. “You can concentrate your efforts on Dragon and Cleric. I have no need of instruction. I just need to see if these old bones will hold together while I attempt to mount a horse after all these years.”

Dragon quickly went about creating the illusory horses – a palomino for herself, a strawberry roan for Cleric, and a small Appaloosa for me. “I remember you telling us that you had several Appaloosas back at your stable in New Jersey, and that the Appy was your favorite breed.”

I smiled, remembering those days.

With my Foreman and the two lads instructing them, it didn’t take Cleric or Dragon long to learn the basics of horsemanship and riding. Cleric seemed proud of her accomplishment, as she urged her mount into a trot. “I guess we have watched the three of you for so long, it has become ingrained already.”

“Are you sure they will be okay?” Miles watched the group trotting around the paddock.

I nodded. “They might not be expert riders, but they’ll be no worse off than someone who rents a horse at a public hack stable for an afternoon’s ride. They might be a bit sore the next day, but I’m sure I will be, too.”

Miles chuckled. “I’m sure you will. Have you given any thought about how to get to Colton’s place with the horses? I don’t imagine Dragon is going to conjure up trucks and trailers for you.”

“The farm we’re going to is not far from here. We’ll lead the horses off the property and down the road while they’re still under Dragon’s spell of concealment, just like we did with Mystery. To anyone seeing us, we’ll just look like a group of friends walking down the side of the road. When we reach the first dirt road, we’ll turn. There are no houses along that road, and little traffic. As soon as we’re far enough down that lane so we can’t be seen from the main road, Dragon will let the horses become visible and we’ll mount up and ride the rest of the way. We’ll do the reverse coming back at the end of the day. Now, I had better call Anna, and let her and Colton know when we’ll be there.”

Dragon, Cleric, and I spent the rest of the week working our horses, the other two learning how to ride passably well, and me slowly getting my muscles used to riding again so I would be able to endure several hours in the saddle. Early Saturday morning, my five characters gave up their usual garb and dressed in modern day outfits appropriate for riding, complete with Western boots.

We led our horses along the grassy verge of the main highway until we turned down a wide dirt road. A few yards along that lane, we were able to mount up. In minutes, we were at a two-track that went off through the forest to the left.

“This is so much faster than when we had to lead Mystery along this trail!” Cleric gently reined her horse down the path toward our destination.

“Four legs are always faster than two.” My Young Hero’s smile lit up his whole face.

A few minutes later, we arrived at the farm. Colton and his mom were waiting for us. Anna stood next to a showy dapple-gray. Colton was already mounted on Peaches, the little horse we had known as Mystery. Both horses whinnied a greeting, which our horses echoed.

“Hi, Anna! Hi, Colton!” I waved at them, and they waved back.

Anna smiled. “Hi! I was just about to tack up Rosie. It’ll only take me a few minutes.”

I nodded and trotted over to the fence to talk with her son. “Hey, Colton! Thanks for inviting us to go on a trail ride!”

“Hi, Marge!” I was surprised he remembered my voice. “I hear more than three horses. Who else did you bring?”

I motioned for everyone to come over. “Good ear, Colton! You know Clara and Dray.”

Cleric and Dragon exchanged greetings with the boy.

“And these are three more of my friends, Cab, Tor, and Rocky.” I introduced them, using names we had decided on earlier.

“Hi! I’m Colton and this is Peaches.” He patted his pony’s neck. “Do any of your horses kick or bite?”

I smiled. “Nope. You and Peaches are perfectly safe.”

“I was more concerned with my mom. Peaches is good at sensing other horses’ moods, but mom and Rosie sometimes don’t pick up on the clues. Rosie’s been kicked and bitten several times.”

“We will be certain to stay alert to our horses’ moods today, Colton. We will not allow anything to happen to your mother or her horse.” My Foreman, Tor, smiled at Colton, even though he knew the boy couldn’t see him.

“Thanks.” Colton smiled in the general direction of my Foreman’s voice. “Can you tell me about everyone’s horse?”

My Foreman nodded. “Well, Colton, I am on Centaur, a large black stallion with a long, wavy mane and tail.”

 

“Cab is riding Hero, a chocolate palomino pony.”

 

“Rocky has a black-and-white Gypsy Vanner, very imaginatively named Gypsy.”

 

“Dray is on a stocky palomino named Dragon.”

 

“Clara is riding Blessing, a tall strawberry roan.”

 

“And Missy is on Scribe, a black Appaloosa three-quarter horse with a small blanket.”

Appaloosa for me

Colton frowned. “Missy?”

“That’s their nickname for me.” I laughed. “I probably have more names than . . .” I was about to say more names than Carter’s has liver pills, but I doubted the youngster would get such an outdated reference. “More names than a cat has lives,” I finished lamely.

“Okay, I’m ready.” Anna swung up onto her horse and reined it around. “I hope no one objects to a short ride today, but I’m expecting a delivery of feed and hay later today. I need to be back in just a few hours.”

We all nodded and waited for Anna and Colton to exit the paddock and join us. Then we all rode our horses at a sedate walk, single file, down the driveway and along the wooded path away from the farm, with Colton proudly taking the lead.

Colton riding Peaches bareback

I watched the small boy and his horse as they led the way down the two-track next to their farm, and onto a wider trail through the woods. Colton rode confidently, obviously trusting his mount to keep him safe. It was hard to remember the boy was blind.

He half-turned in the saddle to talk to me. “So, what do you prefer, Marge or Missy?”

I thought about it for a moment. “Why don’t we stick with Marge?”

He nodded. “Okay, Marge.”

As we rode out of the woods and along the edge of a field, Colton pointed up to something in the trees. “Marge, do you hear that?”

I listened. “I hear a robin in the trees.”Bird - Robin
“Colton smiled. “Yup, American Robin.” Cheer-a-lee . . . cheer-a-lee the robin called again.

A loud conk-a-reeeeeeeee had Colton twisting toward the cat-tails on the opposite side of the field. “Red-winged Blackbird.”

 

I looked across the field. “You’re right! There’s one in the reeds and another in the trees.”

Another sound, a squeaky readle-eak had him pointing at the treetops. “Common Grackle.”Bird - Common Grackle

“You have a good ear.” I was impressed.

“Black-capped Chickadee!” He pointed to a tree where several small birds sang chick-a-dee-dee-dee. Then, before I could reply, he pointed at another tree-top serenader, singing cheer-cheer-cheer-cheer-purty-purty-purty. “Cardinal.” And twisting around in the saddle, he pointed in the direction of another bird singing witchety-witchety-witchety. “Common Yellowthroat.”

I called back over my shoulder to my Gypsy. “Hey, Rocky! Colton could give you a run for your money identifying birds by ear!”

My Gypsy trotted his horse up and joined us at the front of the group of riders. “Really?”

“Really! He’s identified six birds already.”

My Gypsy took up the challenge. “Did you hear that one? Eastern Phoebe in the tree to the left. Fee-beee.” He flawlessly imitated the bird, following it up with a perfect imitation of the buzzes and trills that were coming from the trees to the right. “Song Sparrows.”

 

The distinctive notes of an American Goldfinch reached my Gypsy’s ear – bay-beee . . . bay-beee – and he called back, imitating them perfectly.

“American Goldfinch!” Colton beamed at my Gypsy.

“Yes. There is a flock of goldfinches feasting on some thistle that has gone to seed in the clearing on the right.” My Gypsy pointed, then remembered Colton was blind, and he dropped his arm.

“Wow! You’re good!” Colton grinned at him. “I don’t know many people who are interested in birds, and I don’t know anyone at all who can imitate their calls!”

The two of them started a friendly competition. Colton identified the first bird, as it called queedle-queedle-queedle, then screeched cat! cat! cat! “Blue Jay!”

Bird - Blue Jay

“Yup! It just flew down and grabbed an acorn! But, that one was too easy!” My Gypsy’s tone let Colton know the lad was just teasing.

My Gypsy scored the next identification. A harsh chatter caught his attention, and he scanned the trees to the left. “Eastern Bluebirds! Two males, squabbling over some food.”

Not to be outdone, Colton pointed overhead, where a bird called cheer-up, cheer-a-lee, cheer-ee-o, chink. “Rose-breasted Grosbeak!”

Bird - Rose-breasted Grosbeak

My Gypsy quickly came back with “Cedar Waxwing! Zeee-zeee-zeee.” It was a perfect imitation of the bird calling from a lone tree in the middle of the field to the right.
Bird - Cedar Waxwing
My Young Hero nudged his horse up next to Colton and my Gypsy. “Hey, guys, what is that big bird sleeping on the log?”
Bird - GHO 3
Colton shrugged. “If I can’t hear it, I can’t identify it.”

“Yeah, Cab, no cheating! Ears only.” My Gypsy stuck his tongue out at his friend, who retaliated in kind. Just then, the bird woke up, turned around, and gave a sleepy hoo-ho HOOOO-hoo-hoo, peering at us with one half-opened eye.


Colton and my Gypsy cried out in unison. “Great Horned Owl!”

Colton turned in the saddle at a sound behind us, a loud drumming, followed by a muffled churr-churr-churr. “Red-bellied Woodpecker!” He grinned.
Bird - Red-bellied Woodpecker
He got the next one, too. “Barn Swallows.” He pointed to a tree where some birds were twittering and whirring.


Suddenly, I heard a familiar call. “Sandhill Cranes!”

Colton nodded. “They’re probably feasting in the cornfields on the other side of these woods. We can go there and see them.”

It didn’t take long to jog our horses over to the fields. As we rode closer, the rattling call of the flock grew louder and louder. I was impressed to see none of the horses were bothered by it. None shied from the sight of the big birds, either.

“Missy! These birds are as tall as you!” My Cleric grinned at me.

“Yes, thank you for noticing that.” I glowered at her, then chuckled to let her know I wasn’t really upset.

We spent a few long minutes gawking at the impressive birds before heading back through the woods. Suddenly, Colton ducked. “Ruby-throated Hummingbird!”

“How did you know?” I was amazed.

“I could feel Peaches tense up just as I heard several birds calling chee-dit almost in my ear.”

“There are a couple in the tree right above you!” My Gypsy confirmed the identification.


The boys continued their friendly competition, and by the time we arrived back at the barn, they had identified more than thirty species.

Colton and Peaches“We have to do this again!” Colton was all smiles as he swung down from his saddle and patted Peaches on her neck.

“Can we?” My Gypsy looked at me.

“I don’t see why not.”

We all dismounted. Anna and Colton unsaddled their horses and brushed them down before turning them out in the pasture. The rest of us loosened our saddles so our horses could have a breather before we started back to our own house.

Colton had a huge smile on his face as he thanked each one of us for coming on the trail ride. We promised to do it again soon as we tightened our cinches, mounted up and turned for home.

We hope you enjoyed our little trail ride this week. Be sure to join us again next week for another of our little adventures. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.
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