The tension in the room was palpable.
“Are we all in agreement?” The huge, red dragon looked around the room at her companions. “It must be unanimous.”
The arrogant elf scoffed, his face twisting into a sneer. “Do you really need to ask? Of course, we are all in agreement!”
“Indeed.” The bounty hunter nodded and wiped his hand nervously on his leather leggings. “This is what each of us has hoped for since the day we first found ourselves marooned in this world.”
“Oh, but things are different now!” The cleric’s cornflower blue eyes were wet, and she held her arms wide toward her companions, beseeching. “We have become accustomed to this world. We are finding it easier and easier to assimilate the customs and speech of this world. We are learning to use technology. We have made friends. How can we think of going back to our own world now? We should stay. We must stay.”
“No!” The elf screeched, hitting a pitch that threatened to shatter glass and decibel levels that threatened the same fate for nearby eardrums. “We have nothing here that compensates for the loss of our old lives, back in our own world!”
“If we are missing our own world and our old lives, we can visit the illusory world we created for the foreman.” The cleric pleaded. “There is no need to actually go back home. We can stay here and enjoy the best of both worlds.”
“No.” The foreman shook his head sadly, his gray eyes clouded. “While I appreciate the effort you all made for me creating that illusion, and while it is a fabulous place, it is but a pale shadow of our world and our former lives there.”
“But we have responsibilities here now.” The cleric still pleaded. “Who is going to protect Mistress Writer and Master Miles from their neighbors, Mace and Gloria, and from the sheriff’s deputies, Melody Whitewash and Dustin Dawg?”
The dragon waved dismissively at the cleric and chuckled. “With us gone, I highly doubt Mistress Writer and Master Miles will have any further altercations with those people.”
The cleric tried again. “What if the evil wizard Morcant returns?”
The dragon narrowed her eyes menacingly. “That one will never escape his tower prison.”
The cleric furrowed her brow. “Well, what about Arthur, that horrendous man who runs that writers’ club, Lost in the Words? Surly, Mistress Writer needs protection from him.”
The dragon scoffed. “Crawford and Griff will give her all the protection she needs from that slimy toad.”
The cleric changed tack and gave the dragon a coy look. “And what about Griff? Will you not miss him . . . and Ollie?”
The big beast frowned. “My affinity for Griff was nothing more than the pleasure of finding someone in this world with whom I could communicate in the old ways of my species and his, through a linking of the mind. There will be enough of my own kind back in our world; I will not unduly miss Griff. And as for Ollie . . . well, I admit leaving him behind is a deep regret, but one I will have to bear.”
The cleric turned to the Gypsy, the young hero, and the foreman. “And the three of you have no regrets leaving Colton and Blue?”
The Gypsy sighed and raked his hand through his hair. “We will miss them, surely, but we have been missing so many from our world – the Innkeeper, the Blacksmith, our Sovereign King, the young hero’s family. We will gladly give up the ones here to reunite with the others there.”
The young hero agreed, his green eyes shining with fervor. “I have missed my parents and brother so much! Furthermore, I have always had the feeling I was in the middle of something of paramount importance when I fell out of the manuscript into this world. I agree with the Gypsy – we must go home.”
The cleric turned back to the dragon. “And what about Marisol? Will you leave her tutoring to Talia and Christine?”
Dragon shrugged. “They know more about Marisol and her powers than do I. The child will be in good hands.”
Cleric looked around the room but found no ally. A tear slipped down her cheek. “But there is so much still to do here. What about the books we have come to enjoy so much? We will never get to read Mistress Rabe’s next Piper Blackwell novel. We will not be here to assist Master Miles as he designs this year’s Christmas Village. We will never again be able to join Mistress Writer on nature hikes and engage in wildlife photography with her. We will not even know whose image and presentation she judged best in last week’s contest.”
The sorceress walked over to the cleric and took her hands. “Forsooth, there will be things from this world we will miss, people whose absence from our lives will leave a hole in our hearts. But we never really belonged here. We have family and friends in our own world whom we miss and who are missing us. We have things we are supposed to be doing back there. We must go.”
The old dwarf walked over to the cleric and put his hand on her arm. “Tha magic lass be right, lassie. It do na be makin’ much nevermind how much we be gonna be missin’ this world an’ its people. It do na be makin’ much nevermind how much we be lovin’ Mistress Writer an’ Master Miles. Iffen we kin be goin’ back home . . . back home, lassie! . . . then there be nuttin an’ nobody here wat kin be makin’ it wort’ it ta us ta be stayin’.”
Tears streamed down the cleric’s face. “We . . . we will say goodbye to Mistress Writer and Master Miles, though, will we not? We cannot leave without saying goodbye, without telling them where we are going.”
The dragon shook her head. “It would make it much harder to go. We need to leave. Now.”
The arrogant elf jumped up eagerly. “Then let us proceed.” Suddenly he stopped and stared at the dragon, his eyes narrowing. “You are sure you know what you are doing, are you not?”
“You doubt me, elf?” Dark smoke started to rise from the dragon’s nose.
The elf drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and grasped his cloak with both hands. “I do not doubt, I question. You have always said there was no way for us to return home. Over the years, you have researched this and made numerous attempts. You decreed it impossible to return to our own world. Are you quite certain of the discovery you have made that you claim will make this possible?”
The elf stared at the beast for several more moments, then nodded curtly. “Then, let us not tarry. Let us bid this place farewell, and return to our own world, our old lives.”
* * *
The house felt different this morning when I awoke. It wasn’t just that it was quiet – quieter than I had heard it in a long time. The house felt different. It felt empty. I hurried through my morning ablutions and hurried to the kitchen.
Miles had just finished making breakfast when I arrived in the kitchen. He had it laid out on the counter and I noticed he had only made enough for the two of us.
“No one else is joining us for breakfast this morning?” I looked around for some sign of my characters. “Where are the slugabeds? I was hoping to announce the winners of the nature photography and research contest.”
Miles shook his head. “I haven’t seen anyone.” He motioned toward the table. “Oh, by the way, I found these here this morning when I came in to prepare breakfast. What are your manuscripts doing here? Was one of your characters reading them last night?”
I shook my head and frowned. “These should be in my office.” I picked them up and something fell from the pages onto the floor.
Miles reached down and picked it up. He looked at it curiously. “What’s this?”
I took it from him, and my heart almost stopped. “It’s . . . it’s a dragon scale.”
Miles looked at it again. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen one that shade of blue.”
“It’s Dragon’s true color. Here in this world, she was usually red. If she were confused or embarrassed, she would turn a light blue, and if she were angry or annoyed, she might turn black. But in her own world, she was a magnificent, breathtaking shade of deep blue.”
I studied the scale for several minutes. Suddenly, my eyes widened, and I ran downstairs. As soon as I reached the bottom of the stairs, I cried out.
“Honey? Honey, what’s wrong?” Miles ran after me.
I pointed, and Miles followed my gesture. His jaw dropped. “The conference room is gone!”
I nodded. There in front of us, where once there had been a huge room that changed shape and size according to the needs and whims of the magic users who had created it, there now stood just a blank wall.
“What have your characters done now? Did they decide to move it into the shed, or up on the roof?” Miles chuckled.
I shook my head. I rubbed the dragon scale, and a tear slipped down my cheek. “They’re gone, Miles.”
My husband looked stunned. “Gone? Your characters are gone?”
I nodded. “I believe Dragon intentionally left this scale for me with my manuscripts. I’m sure it was her way of letting me know, of saying goodbye.” I turned to my husband. “Miles, my characters found their way back into the books.”
I looked down once more at the deep blue dragon scale in my hand, and mouthed, Farewell, my dear friends! Farewell!
Well, my faithful readers, it has been a long and wonderful adventure, but it was time for my characters to return whence they came. There were no new situations in which to put them, no new ways for them to cause trouble for me and Miles. I hope you have enjoyed my little band of displaced characters and their antics through the years.
This also ends my weekly blog. I may still find things to share with you on occasion, but I am long overdue for a sabbatical. Stay well, and I hope you will have fond memories of my characters. I know I will miss them terribly.
I’ll be turning the porch light off now. I’ll be sure to turn it on again when I return.