Jean Rabe Has Done it Again!

Jean Rabe Has Done it Again!

Cleric healing DragonIt took Dragon several days, and many doses of Cleric’s healing herbs, to recuperate. After Marisol and her mother had departed, Dragon had collapsed, weak as a kitten. She had used vast stores of her energy and strength resisting Marisol’s not inconsiderable power.Dragon doing research

Now, Dragon was sequestered in the conference room with her scrolls, books, grimoires, and potions, trying to discover what the child might really be, the conceivable extent of her powers, and whence she acquired such power.

While awaiting Dragon’s results, I took the opportunity to do some reading. One of my favorite authors, Jean Rabe, had just released a new book, and I had downloaded it onto my computer e-book app. I was sitting on the living room couch enjoying it when Cleric found me.Cleric sees me reading

“What are you reading, Mistress?” She tried to see the screen of my laptop.

Cleric looks at laptop 2

I held it so she could look. “Jean Rabe’s new release – The Dead of Summer. It’s the third book in her Piper Blackwell mystery series.”

Cleric’s face lit up. “Oh, Dragon will want to read that once she has completed her research on Marisol. This is an author Dragon particularly likes. And I wish to read it after she has completed it.”

I gave Cleric a curious look. “Oh? I didn’t know you read mysteries.”

Cleric smiled. “I do not have time for much recreational reading. However, Dragon liked this author so much, I had to start reading her books to see what Dragon was raving about. When I was finished with them, I passed them on to Sorceress, who passed them on to your Gypsy lad and your Young Hero. I think everyone has read them now, with the possible exception of your Arrogant One.”

My eyes widened. “That surprises me. I had to convince Dragon to give Jean’s mysteries a chance. When she initially read the first one, she hated it.” I laughed.

Cleric’s cornflower eyes shone with mirth. “I remember. No dragons.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2017/12/31/mystery/

I nodded. “Dragon had read many of Jean’s fantasy books and was so disappointed with the mystery. She didn’t see the point of a book with no dragons, no magic. I’m glad she changed her mind.”

“Me, too.” Cleric settled in a nearby chair. “Else, I might never have discovered the delights of this author’s mysteries.”Joining the conversation

“What author are we discussing?” My Gypsy and Sorceress entered the room, simultaneously dropping into chairs and the conversation.Jean

“Jean Rabe.” Cleric bounced with excitement.

“Oh, I love the details she includes in her books.” My Gypsy leaned forward. “Her books in the genre you term fantasy are truly inspired. I believe she may have actually visited some of the worlds of which she has written. But even more, I enjoy her mysteries set in this world, the one you refer to as the real world. The particulars of her character’s daily lives and routines not only add flavor and charm, they have helped me better understand the people of your world and their idiosyncrasies.”

“She has just released the third book in her Piper Blackwell mystery series, and Mistress is reading it.” Cleric turned to me. “What did you say it is called?”

The Dead of Summer.” I turned the laptop so everyone could see it.

Showing laptop image to my characters

The Dead of Summer? That sounds intriguing.” Sorceress tilted her head, a half-frown pulling at her mouth. “But I am not sure I understand. The titles of her other two books in this series – The Dead of Night and The Dead of Winter – are common phrases in your language. As I understand it, the dead of night is the middle of the night, the quietest and darkest part of the night. The dead of winter is the middle of that season, when the nights are longest, and the temperatures are low. But I have never heard the idiom dead of summer.”

County FairI nodded. “I don’t think it’s a common expression, just a clever turn of phrase. The Dead of Summer starts with a deadly accident at a county fair. County fairs are the epitome of summer for a lot of people, one of the things they most identify with summer, especially in a rural area like the part of Indiana where this series of books takes place. So, the victims of this fatal accident are the dead of summer. So is the murder victim that is discovered later in the book.”

“Wow.” My Gypsy whistled. “Two intertwined mysteries? It sounds like Mistress Rabe has written another excellent book.”

Again, I nodded. “There’s a reader’s review on one of the book sites that agrees with that.” I brought it up on my laptop and read it to my characters.

Jean Rabe has done it again! Her third Piper Blackwell mystery, The Dead of Summer, is a real page-turner, and a worthy addition to the series!

The heart-stopping action erupts in the first sentence of the book and never slows down, keeping readers breathless and on the edge of their seats as novice sheriff Piper Blackwell and her small department are thrown into two major cases with tendrils reaching out far from their rural Indiana locale.

Whether you’re a fan of police procedurals, cozy mysteries, well-written and believable characters, or just darn good writing, you’ll become a fan of Jean Rabe and Sheriff Piper Blackwell. I can’t wait for the next one in this series!

Is she a witch“Oh, I cannot wait to read this one!” Cleric clapped her hands. “I hope Dragon takes a long time with her research on Marisol. Maybe then I can read the book after you, Mistress.” Cleric gave me a hopeful look.

I smiled. “Well, if Dragon was not tied up with her research, maybe she could create some illusory laptops so you could all read the book without waiting.”

Illusory laptops

“Like she created the illusory cameras for everyone!” My Gypsy grinned and nodded his understanding. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/06/02/a-change-of-pace/

“It is unfortunate Dragon may be occupied for quite some time with her research.” Sorceress made a moue.

Arrogant One full bodyI wrinkled my brow in thought. “My Arrogant One is an illusionist. Is this something he is capable of handling?”

Sorceress snorted. “That buffoon?”

Cleric tittered. “I do not believe the elf capable of creating an illusion of such advanced technology that would be solid and substantial enough to function properly.”

“Perhaps not on his own.” My Gypsy waggled his eyebrows and grinned. “But I wager with our help, he could manage it.”

My characters instantly took their leave to search for my Arrogant One, and I settled back to read The Dead of Summer.

reading

“The gut-punching clang of metal striking metal merged with the screams of fairgoers. Sheriff Piper Blackwell whirled toward the sound, swearing World War III had broken out in Spencer County…”

While Dragon does her research to find out what Marisol is, and to identify the source of the incredible power the child appears to wield, why not join me in reading Jean Rabe’s excellent series? You can follow the adventures of Sheriff Piper Blackwell in The Dead of Winter, The Dead of Night, and Jean’s latest release, The Dead of Summer. These and other books by Jean Rabe can be found at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo. And you can find Jean’s website at https://jeanrabe.com/, where you can subscribe to her newsletter.

Come back next week and see if Dragon has made any headway researching our latest mystery. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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What Is She?

What Is She?

Bastina“Marisol? Marisol! Are you there?”

I looked up and saw Marisol’s mother, Bastina, standing in our side yard. She was craning her neck and trying to see around the deck and gazebo.Marisol, Dragon and Cleric

I waved at her. “She’s here!” I gestured toward the small child, who was standing next to the gazebo under the intense scrutiny of Dragon (in her accustomed guise of an elf maiden) and Cleric. “Come on back!”Taking Marisol by the hand

Bastina hurried over to her daughter and took her hand as she addressed me. “I’m so sorry! I rang your doorbell, but there was no answer. I saw the sheriff’s car pull out of here a few moments ago, and I was worried when I couldn’t find Marisol.”

Marisol accuses Dragon first time“I came to see if I would be allowed to pet the horses, Mommy.” Marisol’s little face was crumpled in disappointment. “But the horses are gone. I think the dragon sent them away.” She pointed an accusing finger at Dragon, who started to shimmer and shapeshift to her true form.

Bastina’s eyes widened, but the shimmering stopped almost as swiftly as it started. The woman quickly composed herself, and I hoped she had not seen anything.

refreshments 2“Would you like some refreshments? We still have plenty of iced tea and cake.” I smiled at the nervous woman and gestured toward an empty chair on the gazebo.

Bastina looked at the refreshments set out on the table. “Oh, you’re expecting company! Marisol and I should leave.”

“No, we’re not expecting anyone else. Two of our other neighbors – Mace and Gloria – were here earlier, engaging in some backyard birdwatching with us, but they just left.Marisol accuses Dragon second time

Marisol giggled. “You should have seen the lady, mommy! She fainted when the dragon stopped hiding.” She pointed at Dragon again, and this time it took a bit longer for the beast to control her shapeshifting.

This time, I was sure Bastina had seen something. Her eyes were wide, and she pulled her daughter closer to her.

I pasted a forced smile onto my face, and beckoned mother and daughter to the chairs next to me. “Wouldn’t you like a piece of cake, Marisol? If you don’t like iced tea, maybe Dray could find some milk for you.”

“Dray?” The little girl wrinkled her brow.

I pointed to Dragon.

“Oh, you mean the dragon.” Marisol giggled.

Marisol accuses Dragon againFor a split secondThis time, Dragon struggled in vain to control her shapeshifting. As we all watched, the beautiful maiden began to shimmer. Then a large dragon stood next to Cleric, morphing from blue to red. It was a very long moment before the shimmering stopped, and Dragon was back to her customary guise. She had more than a hint of surprise on her delicate features.

fearSurprise was not the word I would use for Bastina’s expression. Abject terror would come closer; still, even those words couldn’t adequately describe the look of horror and shock on the woman’s face as she collapsed into a chair.

I poured her a glass of iced tea, trying to act as if nothing out of the ordinary had just occurred.

Dragon smiled at Marisol. “I will go get you a glass of milk, child. Then I think we should talk.”

Marisol nodded.

Birdwatching“So.” I struggled to make conversation. I gestured toward the binoculars, field guide, and camera sitting on a second table nearby. “Are you interested in birdwatching?”

Bastina gave an almost imperceptible shake of her head, and she seemed to have trouble speaking. “N . . . no. Well, I mean, I d . . . do love birds. I . . . I love all animals, really. But I’ve . . . I’ve never spent any time actively observing them.”

“I do.” Marisol pirouetted and smiled broadly. “I spend a lot of time actively observing animals. And people, too. And dragons.” She giggled again as Dragon returned with a tall glass of milk. This time, Dragon remained in her guise, seemingly effortlessly. I wondered what had changed.

“Well, little miss, why do you not come up here and sit with this fierce old dragon and drink your milk? I will cut you a slice of cake to go with it. Which would you prefer – orange chiffon or chocolate?” Dragon smiled at the little girl who immediately joined Dragon and Cleric on the Gazebo.

milk and cake for Marisol“May I have a large slice of the orange chiffon, please? I really like orange, and I do not care for chocolate at all.” Marisol reached for the glass and took a big swallow of milk.

Bastina anxiously watched her daughter but started to relax when Dragon remained in her non-beastly guise.

“Your daughter’s manners are most impressive.” Cleric smiled at Bastina, who glowed with maternal pride. “I do not think we had the opportunity to properly introduce ourselves when we met earlier. My name is Clara. My sister, Dray, and I are Missy’s cousins.”

Missy? I must have misunderstood.” Bastina’s brow furrowed. “I thought I caught your name as Marge.”

“It is Marge, but you know how it is with pet names among family. They’ve always called me Missy, as far back as I can remember.” I smiled tightly.

iced tea and cake for Bastina“May I cut you a slice of cake, too, Bastina?” Dragon held the cake knife and indicated the two desserts.

“Yes, thank you. I would prefer the chocolate, please. I confess to being a chocoholic.” The woman smiled wistfully at her daughter. “Marisol does not share many of my tastes.”

“I don’t look like mommy, either.” Marisol noted, after swallowing a mouthful of cake. “I more closely resemble my father.”Deputies arrive

Before I could comment, Bastina changed the subject. “So why was the sheriff’s car here earlier?”

Marisol started laughing. “The man was all upset when the lady he was with fainted. He called the police on his cell phone. When the officers got here, the lady was so funny! She was screeching at the officers, and they got mad at her and the man. The man and woman went home as soon as the officers left.”

Bastina looked at me and raised her eyebrow questioningly.

I could feel my cheeks grow warm. “It was a misunderstanding. As your daughter said, Mace got upset when Gloria fainted.”

“Why did she faint?”

“I think she had a touch of heat stroke.” I hoped I sounded convincing.

Marisol accuses DragonMarisol laughed again. “She fainted when she saw the dragon.” The child pointed at Dragon again, but nothing happened.

I let out a huge sigh of relief. “How’s the cake, Marisol? Would you like Dray to cut you another piece?”

Marisol looked at her mother for approval before nodding. “Yes, please. This is delicious.”

Bastina leaned toward me and spoke in a whisper. “Did the woman see anything? Something that might have caused her to faint?”

I blinked. “Whatever do you mean?”

Bastina watches her daughterBastina smoothed her napkin and folded her hands tightly in her lap. She frowned and chewed on her lower lip for a moment before answering. “I . . . I don’t really know how to explain it. Sometimes . . .” Her voice trailed off and she sat there staring at her daughter.

“Sometimes people think they see something your daughter has mentioned?” Dragon gave Bastina a knowing look.

Bastina gaped at Dragon. “Why . . . why, yes! That’s what happens . . . sometimes. How did you know?”

“Oh, I have some experience with children. Occasionally, when a youngster has an exceptionally active imagination, their . . . enthusiasm . . . causes others to imagine they see the same things the child claims to see. It is a sort of sympathetic reaction.”

“Really?” Bastina seemed relieved. “Then, it is normal?”

Dragon nodded, and Bastina visibly relaxed, tucking into her cake with gusto.

Is she a witch“Mommy always worries about me.” Marisol looked at her mother sadly. “I tease her and my Aunt Danica that they’re witches because they’re always brewing their herbal concoctions, but mommy fears I might actually be a witch. I’m adopted, you see, and mommy doesn’t know much about my bi . . . bio . . .”

“Your real parents?” Dragon prompted the little girl.

Marisol frowned and shook her head. “Mommy is my real parent. She chose me, and she is the one who takes care of me. No, I mean my bio . . .”

“Biological parents.” Bastina said softly.

Marisol nodded sagely. “Yes, my bio-logical parents. They’re the ones who created me, but they aren’t my real parents. For some reason, they gave me away. Maybe they died, and there were no other family members who could care for me, or maybe they just didn’t want me. Maybe they created me by accident and didn’t know what to do with me. So, mommy adopted me, and she’s my real parent.”

“I see you’ve discussed this at length with Marisol.” I tilted my head and looked at the little girl, and then at her real mother. “She has a very good understanding of adoption for one so young.”

Bastina nodded. “I’ve never hidden it from her. I wanted her to know that she was special, and I chose her to be my child.”Cleric and Marisol

“Do you remember your biological parents at all, Marisol?” Cleric studied the little girl closely.

Marisol scrunched her eyebrows down and stuck her tongue out of the corner of her mouth as she considered the question. “Not really. I was just a baby when mommy adopted me. Why?”

“Well, you mentioned that you resemble your father. Were you referring to your biological father, or your real father?” Cleric took a sip of her tea.

“I don’t have a real father. Mommy isn’t married. But it’s something she and I say when people comment on the lack of resemblance between me and mommy.”

Cleric nodded.

Taking Marisol by the hand“Well, we want to thank you for your hospitality, but Marisol and I really should get home. We’re going over to the farm this afternoon. I’m working at the herb shop.” Bastina stood up and beckoned to Marisol.

The little girl turned to me. “Thank you so much for the cake and milk. May I help clear the dishes before mommy and I leave?”

Dragon waved her off. “Oh, that will not be necessary, child. Clara and I will take care of that. When you get to be old like us, it helps to keep busy. You run along and have fun with your mommy at the farm.”

Marisol giggled. “Dragons live for a very long time, don’t they? How old are you?”

“Marisol! It’s rude to ask someone their age!” Her mother’s tone was sharp, and she blushed furiously. “Please excuse my daughter.”

Marisol accuses Dragon 2Dragon winked at Bastina. “Do not apologize for the child. It is never rude to ask a dragon their age.” She turned to Marisol and replied in a stage whisper. “I am several centuries old.”

Marisol laughed, and Bastina seemed relieved as they departed.Dragon collapses

As soon as they were out of earshot, Dragon toppled into a chair. She grew pale and her breathing was labored. “That child has amazing power! It drained every bit of my strength and energy to counter her magic.”

Is she a witch 2I gaped at Dragon. “You mean she really is a witch? Then that bit you told Bastina about people having a sympathetic reaction causing them to see things the child mentioned was untrue.”

Dragon shook her head. “No, not a witch. Something else. I need to do my research. And, yes the sympathetic reaction of which I spoke was untrue, just something to put the woman’s mind at ease. But I am on the verge of collapse. For now, I need to sleep, to rejuvenate and regain my strength. We will talk when I awaken.”

“I will prepare some of my healing herbs for you before you sleep.” Cleric helped Dragon to her feet, and they slowly made their way to the house, Dragon leaning heavily on Cleric.

I remained on the gazebo, lost in thought. What power could this child have so great as to drain all of Dragon’s considerable power, and where did she acquire it?

magic energy trace

 

Will Dragon discover just what Marisol is, and what power the child possesses? Be sure to come back next week and find out. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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It Was a Nightmare!

It Was a Nightmare!

It was a nightmare! No, actually it wasn’t. It might have been better if it was.

Marisol points out the horses

Marisol had pointed at the illusory horses, and a carefree afternoon of birdwatching had come to an abrupt end. Mace and Gloria had seen the horses. They had also seen Dragon in her true form. Gloria had screamed and fainted, and Mace was currently yelling into his cell phone. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/07/28/i-see-a-big-problem-here/

 

wide-eyedDwarf facing right

I caught a few words as Mace frantically hollered at someone on the phone . . . police . . . situation . . . When I heard him give my address and heard the word dangerous, I rounded on my Old Dwarf. “Go! Grab my Foreman and the lads and get out of here!”

Immediately grasping the urgency of the situation, the dwarf hot-footed it for the shed, grabbing the other three as he ran.

Very blue dragonI turned toward my remaining two characters. “Dragon!” I got no response. The befuddled creature was standing there, a very blue version of her true self, with smoke bubbles dripping from her snout at an alarming rate.

Cleric twisting cord beltCleric tried to help. She jabbed her friend in the side. “Dragon! Dragon!” I could hear the panic in Cleric’s voice, but there was no response from Dragon, who continued to stand there dripping smoke bubbles and staring off into space.

Dragon!” I grabbed the beast’s scaly arm and shook it. Slowly, Dragon seemed to come out of her muddled state. She blinked and looked at me.

I shook her arm again. “Dispel the illusions. Eliminate the horses and barn! And change from your true form. Quickly!

Deputies arriveYard looks normalIt took a few minutes before Dragon’s brain caught up with my instructions, but by the time a sheriff’s department car roared into our driveway, sirens blaring and lights flashing red and blue, the yard looked normal and Dragon was no longer in her beastly form.

County Sheriff’s deputies Melody Whitewash and Dustin Dawg, whom we knew from previous dealings, raced into the backyard, guns drawn. “Everyone stand where you are. Put your hands in the air. Now!”Weapons drawn

I wasn’t completely certain which deputy had growled the orders, but I wasn’t going to argue with either one of them. Apparently, Cleric and Dragon had also decided discretion was the better part of valor. We stood as still as statues on the gazebo, barely breathing, with our hands raised high.

After looking around and seeing no immediate threat to themselves or anyone else, the two deputies lowered their weapons, but did not go so far as to holster them. Deputy Whitewash kept a close eye on everyone, as Deputy Dawg stepped forward.

Deputy Dawg“Okay, put your hands down . . . slowly.” Deputy Dawg glowered at me and my characters.Deputy Whitewash

Deputy Whitewash gave us a disgusted look. “Every time there’s trouble in this neighborhood, we know who’s going to be in the middle of it.”

Her partner nodded. “So, what seems to be the problem this time? Dispatch said it was a dangerous situation, proceed with extreme caution.” He glared at me.

I shrugged.

Deputy Dawg frowned. “Who called it in?”

Gloria fainted“I did!” Mace was standing next to the gazebo, propping up his wife, whose legs were still too rubbery for her to stand unaided.

Deputy Dawg nodded curtly. “Mace! Good man. So, what’s going on?”

Gloria tells what happened“I’ll tell you what’s going on!” Gloria somehow found enough strength to pull herself away from her husband’s support. She staggered but managed to stand on her own two feet. As soon as she was stable, she started shrieking. Her high register and extreme decibel level could put my Arrogant One to shame. “They have horses here again! A whole herd of them! And there was a huge creature here, too – some kind of weird lizard with blue scales and smoke bubbles pouring from its snout!”

Deputy Dawg and Deputy Whitewash both snickered and rolled their eyes at Gloria while they holstered their pistols.

“Gloria, have you been . . . imbibing?” Deputy Whitewash said it gently, but with an unmistakable undertone of scorn.

“I have not!” Gloria put her hands on her hips and glared at the deputy, who backed off, raising her hands in apology.

“Well, how do you explain it, then?” Deputy Dawg was not so gentle. “You’re staggering around making wild claims . . .

“Wild? Wild?” Gloria scoffed.

“Wild.” Deputy Dawg scowled. “Where are the horses? Where’s this big, blue lizard? There are serious penalties for making a false report to law enforcement authorities, you know!”

“There were horses.” A small voice drew the attention of the deputies. Marisol stood between the deputies and the gazebo, looking very solemn.Marisol and Officer Whitewash

Deputy Whitewash knelt next to the child. “And who are you?” She smiled and appeared to be trying her best to seem unintimidating. I thought she needn’t bother. The child seemed pretty hard to intimidate.

“My name is Marisol. I live with my mommy, over on the next street. I came here to see if I would be allowed to pet the horses.”

“Horses?” Deputy Whitewash tilted her head. “I don’t see any horses.” She gestured at the yard, where the only animals in evidence were birds, rabbits, and chipmunks.

“There were horses.” Marisol stomped her foot and scowled at the deputy. “Just not a whole herd, like the hysterical lady said.” The little girl raised her hands and put air quotes around the words whole herd, and she crinkled her nose at Gloria.

Horses by barnGloria gave Marisol a withering look, but the child ignored her and continued speaking earnestly to the deputy. “There were just three horses. One was a big, powerful-looking horse, the color of ob . . . ob . . . obsidian.” The little girl struggled with the word. “I think he may be a Friesian. The second horse was a black-and-white pinto. That one looked like a Gypsy Vanner with long, feathery hair on its legs. And the third one was a small, saucy-looking chocolate palomino pony.”

“My, my, my!” Deputy Whitewash raised an eyebrow at the child. “Such vivid descriptions! You certainly seem to know a lot about horses!” She stood and walked back toward her partner, her mouth twisting into a sardonic smile.

Marisol reveals DragonMarisol smiled widely. “They’re my favorite animals. Except for dragons.” The child turned toward Gloria. “The creature you saw wasn’t a lizard. It was a dragon. It was her.” She pointed to a very un-dragonlike Dragon, standing quietly on the gazebo with an angelic look on her face. “She can change colors, too. She’s much prettier with red scales than with blue.”

For a split secondEveryone looked at Dragon. For a split second, the beautiful maiden seemed to shimmer. For a split second, a large dragon seemed to be standing next to Cleric, morphing from blue to red. That split second felt like an eternity to me. Then just as quickly as it began, the shimmering stopped, and Dragon was back to her customary guise, with just a hint of surprise on her delicate features.

Mace, Gloria, and the two deputies did a double take. A small shriek escaped from Gloria, and Mace made a noise like he had just had the wind knocked out of him. Deputies Dawg and Whitewash blinked rapidly, rubbed their eyes, and gaped at Dragon for a long moment.

Warning MaceFinally, Deputy Dawg shook his head and snorted. “Okay, little girl, that’s enough of your preposterous stories.” He turned back to Mace and Gloria. “I don’t know what your game is, but we don’t have time for this nonsense. Call us out again for something outlandish like this, Mace, and you’ll be the guest of the county for a good, long stretch.”

The two deputies turned as one and marched in perfect cadence back to their vehicle, mumbling and grumbling. They backed out of our driveway, tires squealing, and took off down the street, quickly disappearing around the curve.

Once the protection of the armed officers was gone, Mace and Gloria lost no time exiting the yard toward the safety of their own house. Wide-eyed and shaking, they gave me and my characters a wide berth as they raced past.

“Well. That was exciting.” I collapsed onto a chair.

“What happened to the horses?” Marisol’s little face crumpled. “I really wanted to pet the horses.”

Cleric and Dragon stared at the child. “What are you, child?” Dragon murmured, as she narrowed her eyes and studied Marisol. “How do you do what you do?”

Staring at Maarisol

 

So, what is Marisol? How does she do what she does? Join us again nest week as we explore this troubling mystery. We’ll leave the lights on for you.

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I See a Big Problem Here!

I See a Big Problem Here!

Cell phoneBackyard 050

I put down my cell phone and turned to face my characters.

Cleric twisting cord belt“Well? Did you reach them? Did you invite them over? Are they coming?” Cleric’s cornflower blue eyes were clouded with concern, and she twisted the cord belt of her robe. She had been the one who suggested inviting our least favorite neighbors, Mace and Gloria, to join us for some backyard birdwatching.

Mace and Gloria birdingI nodded. “Yes, they will be here in about an hour, binoculars and field guides in hand. They are very anxious to show off how much they’ve learned since the last time they attempted any backyard birdwatching here.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2017/06/11/fun-and-mayhem-with-the-neighbors/

Dragon’s brow furrowed. “Should I strengthen the wards and the spell of concealment?”

I shook my head. “No, that would defeat the purpose of the experiment. We invited them here to determine if your spell of concealment has been breached. We want everything to be the same when they get here as it was earlier today, when Marisol and Bastina were here and saw what they should not have seen.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/07/07/hello-neighbor/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/07/14/just-who-are-these-neighbors-and-what-do-they-see/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/07/21/what-is-the-problem/

I furrowed my brow, trying to foresee any problems. “I know that Mace and Gloria – in fact, the entire neighborhood – has seen all of you. You all attended the neighborhood get-together with Miles and me last August.”

All my characters nodded, and my Arrogant One snickered. “Ah, yes, the get-together. I seem to remember a stage production of some note.” He snickered again, shooting an amused look at Dragon, who glared at him through narrowed eyes.

“Yes, we remember the entire incident . . . er, day.” A puff of black smoke escaped from her snout.
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/07/29/a-ducky-day-for-collecting-flora-and-overhearing-a-murder-plot/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/08/05/to-die-for-stroganoff/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/08/12/solutions-or-more-problems/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/08/19/the-case-of-the-poison-mushrooms/

I gave Dragon and the elf a quizzical look but decided not to pursue the subject. “As I was saying, even though our neighbors have seen all of you, I think it best if only Dragon and Cleric are here with me when Mace and Gloria arrive.”

“Why is that, Mistress?” Cleric tilted her head and fidgeted with her robes.

“Because I believe you were the only two Mace and Gloria saw with me the day they came to visit, and we ended up birdwatching. I think it would be a good test of Dragon’s concealment spell if everyone else went about the same activities as the last time. Oh, and don’t forget – don’t call me Mistress in front of them!”

Cleric nodded.

My Gypsy turned toward my Foreman and my Young Hero. “I believe the three of us were working our mounts.” They headed off toward the barn.

My Arrogant One gestured toward my Bounty Hunter. “My associate and I shall repair to our refuge in the shed, where we were last time.” He turned with a flourish and swept his cloak around him as he and his companion headed toward the garden shed.

sorceress-facing-right

Sorceress stroked her chin and narrowed her eyes in thought. “Ah, yes! I remember! I was in the house.” She turned and took her leave.

“An’ I been chasin’ thet durn bunny rabbit.” My Old Dwarf glowered at the rabbit, who had returned to raiding the carrot patch.Dwarf chasing rabbit

Elf facing rightElf cleric“I will go get some iced tea and cake for our guests.” Cleric hurried toward the house as Dragon shape-shifted back to her customary guise of an elf maiden.

Cleric returned with the refreshments just as Mace and Gloria rounded the corner of our house and waved in greeting.

neighbor-2neighbor“We’re so glad you called!” Gloria was practically bouncing with excitement. “I’ve been saying to Mace now that we’re more experienced, we should get together with you again for some more birding. See, I even have the right word now. Real bird watchers call themselves birders.” She smiled smugly as she flaunted her newfound vocabulary.

Gloria plopped into a chair between Dragon and Cleric, directing Mace into the chair next to me. She continued to dominate the conversation as Cleric served refreshments, chattering on and on about the various birds she and Mace had seen recently in their yard and at various local parks. I slowly relaxed as our guests did not seem to notice anything out of the ordinary when they picked up their binoculars and began scanning our yard for birds. The horses walking past the feeders were apparently invisible to them.Horses and birdfeeders

“We have everything set up to attract the birds. In addition to the regular feeders, we’ve put some peanuts, dehydrated mealworms, and grapes on an old table at the end of the gazebo boardwalk, and we’ve scattered some millet spray on the boardwalk, to entice the birds to come closer.” I pointed to the areas as I spoke.birdwatching with Mace and Gloria

“That’s a good idea.” Mace nodded sagely. “I know some birders frown on that. They prefer to see and photograph birds in their natural habitat, rather than at feeders. Some say attracting birds to feeders is a lazy way to bird, almost akin to cheating. But Gloria and I disagree. We do it a lot when we’re photographing the birds in our yard. We found, in addition to attracting them closer – an important consideration if you don’t have a powerful zoom lens – it helps keep them in one place longer. Normally, they’re flitting around so much, we can’t get a clear, focused image.”

camera for blogI nodded as I picked up my camera. “I agree. I take lots of photos of birds in their natural habitat, in trees and bushes and foraging in the grass, but I also enjoy seeing them at the feeders. I find I can get a much better look at them that way.”

“Oh, first bird of the day! First bird of the day!” Gloria bounced up and down and crowed as if she had just won some fantastic competition. “There are Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at the nectar feeders!”

“Wow!” Mace pointed at another of the nectar feeders. “The bees are sure making it difficult for the birds!”Bees on nectar feeder

I nodded. Before I could reply, Gloria squealed. “Look at those two Black-capped Chickadees. The one on the left looks a lot like the one we saw here before, the one with the feather disorder. Remember that one?”

Black-capped Chickadee

I turned my camera toward the birds in question and clicked a few photos. Checking the images, I nodded. “Yes, the one in the tree above the feeders looks like the one we saw previously. Its feathers aren’t as bad as the one we saw before, but you can see the difference between the ruffled feathers of the one chickadee and the smooth plumage of the chickadee posing on the dead branch to the right.”

Mace and Gloria examined the images I had taken and nodded.

Cleric pointed toward the table. “It seems some Blue Jays have decided to visit the feeding station. There are some on the table, and two waiting on the railing.”

“And the chipmunks are sneaking up onto the boardwalk and grabbing their share of the spray millet before the birds get it.” Dragon smiled and pointed.

“They’re so cute, but they’re such brazen little thieves!” Gloria laughed, as we all watched the action at the far end of the walkway.

“There’re some waterfowl at the back of the yard, by the pond.” Mace studied them with his binoculars. “The two larger ducks look like female Mallards. The four smaller ones are Wood Ducks, a male and three females.”

“And there’s a Canada Goose, too.” Gloria smiled broadly, showing off her knowledge. “Mace and I had been calling them Canadian Geese, but a naturalist at the park corrected us.”

“Marge, what are those brown birds with the streaked fronts and sort of scalloped markings on their backs?” Mace pointed to some birds foraging in the grass. “We’ve seen a few in our yard but can’t find them in our field guide.”

I smiled. “They’re juvenile Brown-headed Cowbirds. They’re barely more than fledglings. Their various adoptive parents stopped feeding him about two weeks ago.”

“Adoptive parents?” Gloria tilted her head and gave me a quizzical look.

I nodded. “Brown-headed Cowbirds are brood parasites. A female cowbird doesn’t make a nest or raise her own babies. She lays her eggs in the nests of other bird species, who then raise the young cowbirds. Each of these juveniles was raised by a different set of parents.”

“Why do they do that?” Dragon looked intrigued.

“Originally, they followed the herds of bison that roamed the country, feeding on the insects the herds stirred up from the grasslands. If they took the time to make a nest and raise their own babies, they’d starve, as the herds of bison wouldn’t be waiting around for them.”

Gloria’s eyes widened. “Wow! No wonder we couldn’t figure out what those birds were – there were no adult Brown-headed Cowbirds around them!”

Mace scanned the yard again. “There’s an adult American Robin splashing around in your birdbath, and another one on the fence, waiting its turn. And I see a fledgling robin on the fence, too. I remember you said the youngsters had speckled fronts.”

“And there’s an adult robin eating on the table, now that the Blue Jays have moved.” Gloria pointed.American Robin adult on table

“Our hanging feeders are very busy now, too.” Cleric pointed at the various feeders as she identified the birds. “A pair of Northern Cardinals is in the safflower feeder. There is a female American Goldfinch enjoying the sunflower chips in one of the cage feeders, and a male is in the feeder next to it.”

“Another male goldfinch is in the tree above the feeders, waiting his turn.” Dragon pointed.American Goldfinch male in tree

“He may have to wait a while.” I pointed back to the feeders. “A White-breasted nuthatch just chased the male goldfinch from the cage feeder. There’s another nuthatch on one of the suet feeders, while a third one’s on the tree trunk waiting his turn.”

“Now, a Chipping Sparrow is eating the sunflower chips.” Gloria pointed. “And one male House Finch is in the other cage feeder, and a second male House Finch is in the safflower feeder. The female House Finch is on the feeder pole, waiting.”

“The Gray Catbirds are watching us from the feeder poles.” Mace gestured toward the north side of the gazebo. “And there’re Downy Woodpeckers, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, and Red-winged Blackbirds on the suet feeders in the back of the yard, and in the trees surrounding those feeders. You really have a busy yard today!” He looked impressed.

“Looks like you still have a rabbit problem.” Gloria smirked.Dwarf chasing rabbit

I followed her gaze and froze mid-smile. My Old Dwarf was running right toward us, cussing a blue-streak and brandishing his axe at a swiftly fleeing rabbit. He stopped next to the gazebo. “Do na be worryin’, lass. I be gittin’ tha little varmint!”

“Oh, look!” Gloria pointed right at my Old Dwarf and laughed again. “It looks just like that big rabbit is talking to us!”

Eastern Cottontail talking

I heaved a huge sigh of relief and relaxed once more. It was obvious Dragon’s spell of concealment was working well. I started to point at another bird when we were all startled by a new voice behind us.

“Excuse me, please. I hope you don’t mind, but I came back to see if I could pet the horses today.”

Marisol stood next to the gazebo, pointing at the three illusory horses my Foreman and the lads had just released into their simulated pasture. “Is that why you’re here, too? For the horses?” The small child addressed Gloria and Mace.Marisol points out the horses

I swallowed hard, then almost went into a dead faint as I saw my neighbors gaping at the spot where Marisol had pointed.

“I knew you had horses here!” Mace jumped up and whirled around to face me. “I knew it wasn’t my imagination that first time I came here. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2017/02/26/meeting-the-neighbors/

Very blue dragonDragon blanched, shapeshifting into a very blue version of her true self, smoke bubbles dripping from her snout at an alarming rate. “But . . . but how can you see them? You did not see them before!”

Cleric turned toward Marisol, studying the little girl. “No, they did not see them before. They did not see them until this child pointed them out.”Gaping at the child

Dragon, Cleric, and I gaped at Marisol, who was staring, transfixed by the horses and ignoring us.

Gloria turned from gawking at the horses. She saw Dragon in her true form, screamed, and fainted into her husband’s arms. Mace eased his wife’s limp form off the gazebo, away from Dragon. Then he pulled his cell phone from his pocket and called the county sheriff.

 

Is Marisol a witch? How else could she have defeated Dragon’s spell of concealment? How do we talk our way out of this with Gloria and Mace, and with the local authorities? Are my characters about to be revealed for what they really are? Come back next week and see what happens. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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What Is the Problem?

What Is the Problem?

wide-eyedTaking Marisol by the handMy characters and I stood, gaping, as the woman and child walked down the side yard and turned toward their home. They had arrived in the back yard, having followed my Old Dwarf after they saw him, in full armor and brandishing an axe, chasing a rabbit down the street past their house. Once in the yard with us, the child – and possibly her mother – had seen Dragon in her true form, and all the things Dragon’s spell of concealment was supposed to hide from prying eyes.
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/07/07/hello-neighbor/ https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/07/14/just-who-are-these-neighbors-and-what-do-they-see/

After they departed, we all stood for a stunned few seconds. Then panic set in.Pandemonium

It was pandemonium. Everyone was talking at the same time, voices rising, angry accusations being flung back and forth. It took me three tries to get my character’s attention.

“Quiet, everyone! Just settle down. We aren’t getting anywhere this way. Quiet!” I raised my voice to be heard over the racket.Arrogant One accusing Old Dwarf

Everyone fell silent, except for my Arrogant One, who ignored me. He pointed to my Old Dwarf. “If that witless lout had not gone gallivanting through the neighborhood chasing that rabbit, we would not be in this predicament.” The elf drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, grasped his cloak with both hands, and sneered at the dwarf.

“Let’s not be making any accusations.” I frowned.

“Eh, wot tha elfie be sayin’ be true ’nuff, lass.” The old reprobate hung his head and sighed. “If I only been stayin’ on yer property, liken’ ye al’ays be tellin’ me ta be doin’, mebbe yer neighbors wouldna been seein’ me. An’ then they wouldna been followin’ me an’ been seein’ everythin’ here.”

Dragon with smokeDragon shook her scaly head, and black smoke drifted from her nostrils. “Dwarf, you should not have been chasing the rabbit through the neighborhood, that is true. But even if you had remained here, if my spell of concealment has failed anyone can see us now even if they do not come onto the property. Our current predicament is, I fear, my doing, not yours.”

My Arrogant One gave Dragon a smug look. “Yes, well if you require assistance maintaining a spell of concealment, I am at your service.”How to hide all this

Dragon snorted. “You? You could not conceal a hummingbird! How do you propose to assist in the concealment of a barn, a paddock, a pasture, three horses, and a host of medieval characters?”Bounty Hunter Intervened

My Arrogant One’s cheeks flamed scarlet, but before he could reply, my Bounty Hunter stepped between the elf and Dragon. “Rather than lay blame, shouldn’t you be negating the spells of illusion that created all this? That way, in the possible absence of a spell of concealment, there will be nothing untoward for anyone to see.”Witches

Elf facing right“But that may not be necessary.” Cleric furrowed her brow and chewed her lower lip as she walked toward Dragon. “Maybe your spell of concealment has not failed, Dragon. Did not the child, Marisol, claim she and her mother were witches? Perhaps this is why they could see everything here.”Table set for spellcastingsorceress-facing-right

Sorceress nodded. “In our world, many who use herbs and botanicals practice some form of magic.” She turned to face me. “Is it possible the woman and child are witches?”

Dragon snorted again, black smoke shooting from her nostrils. “Do you think I would not have recognized someone with magical ability?”

I raked my hand through my hair and sighed. “Well . . .”gypsy-facing-right

“Witches? Magic? In this world?” My Gypsy raised an eyebrow. “You keep telling us that there is no magic in your world, only technology.”Dwarf facing right

“An’ iffin ye be rememberin’, I be already provin’ thet all thet jest be a lot o twaddle! Tha thingamabobs wot be called teck-noll-o-gee here be jest liken tha items in our world wot be havin’ magic in ’em, so’s thet anybody kin be usin’ ’em, iffin they be havin’ magical ability or no.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/03/24/magic-or-technology/

Young hero 2“And, if you will remember, Mistress Writer never said there was no magic in her world, only that the things that seemed magical to us – computers, cameras, cars, sewing machines, cash registers – were not magical.” My Young Hero rubbed his jaw. “I think that is different than saying there is no magic. There still could be witches in this world, could there not?”

I furrowed my brow. “Well . . . there are those in this world who claim to have magic power. Some call themselves witches, others have different names.”foreman-facing-left

My Foreman cleared his throat. “Then, rather than dispel the illusory magic, perhaps it would be better to find out if the small child and her mother really do possess magical ability. If they do, and that is why they can see the horses and everything that the spell of concealment is designed to hide, then that would prove Dragon’s spell did not fail.”

I tilted my head, considering. “I’m not sure how we would go about proving they’re witches. Perhaps it would be easier to find out if anyone else in the neighborhood can see what should be hidden from them.”Dragon with smoke bubbles

“But if we wait, and find out my spell of concealment has failed, how do we deal with others seeing everything?” Dragon was turning blue again, as she did when she was confused or nervous. Smoke bubbles dripped from her nose.

“We can deal with that problem if and when the need arises.” Sorceress frowned. “I agree we need to see who, beside Marisol and Bastina, can see what should be hidden.”Mace and Gloria birding

Cleric turned to me, a moue tugging at her lips. “Perhaps it is time to invite your good friends, Mace and Gloria, back for a bit of bird-watching? https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2017/06/11/fun-and-mayhem-with-the-neighbors/

Cell phoneI paled at the thought but realized Cleric might have the best idea. And the sooner we managed to get them into our back yard, the sooner we would know if we were dealing with a failed spell, or witches in the neighborhood. I picked up my cell phone to call my least-favorite neighborhood nosy-bodies.

Will Mace and Gloria accept an invitation to engage in some backyard birdwatching with us? If they come, will birds be the only things they see? If Dragon’s spell is still concealing the illusions on our property, how did Marisol and Bastina see everything? Do we have witches in the neighborhood? Be sure to come back next week and see what happens. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Just Who Are These Neighbors and What Do They See?

Just Who Are These Neighbors and What Do They See?

Laughing at Dragon

Dragon bent down and gawped at the small human who called herself Marisol. The child showed no fear of the behemoth; in fact, when the befuddled beast turned blue, and smoke bubbles started dripping from her nose, the little girl giggled.Taking Marisol by the hand

“Marisol! Mind your manners!” Bastina hurried over to her daughter and took her by the hand.

“But, mommy, the dragon is dribbling bubbles from her nose!”

Bastina blushed scarlet. “I am so sorry. My daughter has an extremely vivid imagination and has not yet learned to hold her tongue.”

Dragon tilted her head, giving me a confused look, and I raised an eyebrow before turning to the woman and child. “Hello! There’s no need to apologize. My name is Marge, and these are some out-of-town relatives who are visiting.” I tried hard to remember the names my characters had previously used in public, but I ended up just waving my hand in their general direction and foregoing the individual introductions.

“Hello! As my daughter already told you, my name is Bastina, and this is Marisol. We live on the next street over. I’m so sorry we invaded your yard this way.”

“No problem.” I gave her and the child my best welcoming smile. “Always glad to meet one of our neighbors.”

We met before“I believe we have met before, actually.” Bastina peered at me thoughtfully. “It was over a year ago, but I’m sure it was you. I have a pretty good memory for faces. You and one of your relatives were making some purchases at the herbal shop my sister and I operate. It’s the one at the organic farm she and her husband own at the edge of town. I was waiting on customers that day, and I rang up your order.”

I furrowed my brow, trying to remember.Herbs and botanicals

Cleric walked over and joined the conversation. “I remember.” She turned to me. “You drove me to the farm so I could procure some herbs when the rest of our . . . relatives . . . came down with that serious malady.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/04/15/what-next/

“Of course! I remember now!” I turned to Bastina. “You really do have a great memory for faces. That was ages ago!”

“Your shop is very impressive!” Cleric smiled at Bastina.

“Thanks! Danica and I try to provide a variety of hard-to-find herbs and botanicals along with the more common ones. We persuaded her husband to let us open the shop there.”

“Is your brother-in-law an herbalist, too?”

Bastina shook her head. “No, just my sister and I. Robert grows organic vegetables, but he has turned over about ten acres to me and Danica for our herbs.”

Witch and cauldronMarisol giggled again. “Mommy uses lots of herbs. She’s always brewing something with them. She’s a witch.”

Bastina’s eyes flew wide and her jaw dropped. “Oh, baby! Why would you say such a thing?”

Marisol’s sunny countenance turned stormy in a flash. “Mommy, I have told you and told you – I’m not a baby anymore. I’m five years old, and you said yourself that’s practically grown up! And you are a witch. So am I.”

Bastina blushed again. “As I said, she has a wild imagination.”

“I really do.” The little girl nodded somberly, then broke into a wide smile.

Marisol with elf Dragon“How precious.” While we had been talking, Dragon had slipped away unnoticed. Now, returned in her accustomed guise of an elf maiden, she studied the small human. Dragon tilted her head and stroked her chin as if trying to figure something out.Red and blue scales

Marisol stared at her. “You look better with red scales than blue.”

“Scales?” Dragon lifted a delicate eyebrow at the child. “I have scales?”

“Well, not anymore.” Marisol giggled and started to say something else, but her mother grabbed her by the hand again.

“Marisol! Your manners, child!”

“I’m sorry.” The half-frown, half-pout on her little face belied Marisol’s apology. “Mommy, can I go pet the horses now?” She pointed at the three illusory horses milling about in front of an equally illusory barn.

“Horses?” Bastina looked where her daughter was pointing and frowned. “There are no horses.” The woman looked at us again, rolled her eyes and shrugged. “I don’t know where she gets such an imagination!”

black stallion 2 for blog“But I am not imagining the horses. They’re beautiful! One is a big, powerful-looking horse, the color of ob . . . ob . . .”

“Obsidian?” Bastina prompted her daughter.

“Yes, obsidian. Thank you, mommy. I think he may be a Fr . . . Free . . .”

“Friesian?” Bastina suggested.

Gypsy Vanner 2Chocolate Palomino PonyMarisol nodded. “The second horse, a black-and-white pinto, looks like a Gypsy Vanner with long, feathery hair on its legs. And the third one is a small, saucy-looking chocolate palomino pony.”

I shot Dragon a look of alarm, then stooped down to be eye-level with the little girl. “Well, you have quite the vocabulary for a five-year-old! Not many children your age would know the word obsidian. And you certainly know your horses!”

Marisol readingThe little girl beamed. “Mommy and I read all the time. I like to learn new words. And I love horses! Mommy gave me a picture book of different types of horses. I can recognize Palominos, Appel-loosas, Arabians, Pintos, Free . . . Free. . .”

“Friesians.” Bastina supplied the word again.

“Yes, and Gypsy Vanners. Horses are my favorite animals! Well, them and dragons.” Marisol giggled and gave Dragon a knowing look before turning back toward the horses. “Horses are so graceful. And fast! Faster than the rabbit the short man in the funny metal suit was chasing.” The child frowned up at her mother. “I hope you aren’t going to say that was my imagination, too, mommy! I know you saw the man and the bunny!” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/07/07/hello-neighbor/

Bastina and Marisol see dwarf

Bastina furrowed her brow. “Well, I saw something. It looked like someone chasing an animal. It appeared to be a small dog or a cat, but I suppose it might have been a rabbit.”

“It was a bunny, mommy!” Marisol frowned and crossed her arms over her chest. “And the man who was chasing it was short and fat and he wore a metal suit.”

“Marisol!” Her mother looked equal parts shocked and embarrassed. “You do not refer to someone as fat. That is rude!”

“Eh, do na fret, lass.” My Old Dwarf chuckled as he walked over to Bastina and her daughter. “Tha wee lassie be right. I do be a mite fluffy aroon’ me girth.”

metal suitMarisol smiled at the dwarf. “And your suit is made of metal, isn’t it?” Marisol reached out and touched the armor on the dwarf’s shoulder.

“Aye, lassie, it be a type o plate mail armor. It be protectin’ me, but still be lettin’ me be movin’ aboot free and un-en-cum-burred like.”

“And you were chasing a bunny?”

“Aye! Tha durn varmint been inta tha carrot patch agin, so’s I been chasin’ it . . . ’till it been suddenly growin’. It been gittin’ taller ’en me! An’ then it been turning aboot an’ been chasin’ me!”

Marisol laughed. “Silly! Rabbits don’t grow that big, and they don’t chase people, not even short people!”

“Marisol!” Bastina scowled.

“I’m sorry, mommy! But he is silly. And he is short.”

“I apologize for my daughter.” Bastina took the little girl by the hand. “She is usually much better behaved! I think she needs a nap. It was so nice to meet you all.”

“Mommy, naps are for babies.” Marisol pouted.

“Naps are also for young ladies who have forgotten their manners.” Bastina’s tone of voice invited no further discussion.

“Okay.” Marisol scuffed her foot back and forth in the dirt. “Can I come back later and pet the horses?”

“Baby, there are no horses.” Bastina sighed.

Horses by barnMarisol turned to me and pointed toward the back of the yard. “There are horses over there in front of that barn, aren’t there? Three horses, just like I said before?”

I swallowed hard, not knowing how to answer. Dragon saved me.

“Do you believe there are horses there?” She knelt down to speak with the child.

Marisol nodded.

“Then there must be.” Dragon leaned closer to Marisol and lowered her voice. “And do you believe that I am a dragon, and I could gobble you up?” A puff of smoke drifted from Dragon’s delicate elfin nose.

Marisol giggled. “No, you’re not a bad dragon. You don’t eat people.” She threw her arms around Dragon’s neck and whispered in her ear. “And I still think you look prettier with red scales, not blue.”

scaly dragon looking right

Startled, Dragon shape-shifted back to her true form.

Bastina gasped and her eyes widened, but in an instant, her expression returned to a frown directed at her daughter. The change was so quick, I wondered if I had imagined her initial reaction.

“See mommy?” Marisol crowed. “I told you she’s a dragon.”

Bastina took Marisol’s hand. “Child, I don’t know what I’m going to do with you! Such an imagination!” But the woman glanced nervously at Dragon as she exchanged farewells with us and led her daughter away.Taking Marisol by the hand

wide-eyedMy characters and I stood, gaping, as the woman and child walked down the side yard and turned toward their home. After a stunned few seconds, we all started talking at once.

 

What is going on? Is Marisol really a witch? What about her mother? Why would the woman pretend not to see things she obviously sees? Have we seen the last of mother and daughter? Be sure to come back and find out. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Hello, Neighbor

Hello, Neighbor

Marisol and Bastina in gardenMarisol sat on a blanket on the front lawn while her mother tended the garden. The little girl wrinkled her nose as her mother turned over the rich, black soil. She furrowed her brow and tilted her head as her mother pulled out some plants and discarded them, and placed fertilizer around others. After a while, she lost interest in her mother’s activity, and turned to her pile of picture books.

About 20 minutes later, Bastina glanced up from her gardening. Her daughter seemed content sitting on the blanket. She had obviously tired of leafing through her picture books, which lay scattered on the grass next to the child. Now, Marisol was putting together the 10-piece jigsaw puzzle, dumping the pieces out of the frame, and putting it together again, over and over.

The young woman sighed and looked wistfully at her daughter. Oh, why can’t she take an interest in the garden? Most children delight in digging in the dirt. Bastina shook her head vigorously, as if to dislodge that thought. No, she decided. There will be time enough for Marisol to learn her craft when she is older. For now, it is sufficient that she just enjoys being a child.

Bastina put down her trowel and pruning shears, stood, and stretched. Her muscles ached more today than a thirty-year-old’s muscles should. The woman performed a quick mental inventory of her supply of herbs, deciding she would try some chamomile tea and a peppermint rub later. She walked over and sat down on the blanket next to her daughter. “Have you finished looking at your books, baby?”

Marisol’s little face darkened like a thundercloud. “I didn’t look at them, mommy. I read them. I keep telling you I’m not a baby anymore.”

Bastina and Marisol on blanketThe little girl’s mother smiled indulgently at her daughter. “Oh, yes, I forgot. You’re a whole five years old now, not a baby at all! In fact, you’re practically grown up! So, perhaps you would be so kind as to finish weeding that flower bed for me while I relax?”

Marisol shook her head and frowned. “You know I don’t like digging in the yucky dirt, mommy. There are worms and bugs and other nasty things in it! And the last time I pulled a plant out of the garden, you got very cross. You told me it was not a weed, but a plant that would have produced a very beautiful flower.”

Bastina was about to answer her daughter, but she noticed the little girl was no longer paying any attention to their conversation. Marisol was looking toward the street at something – something quite fascinating, Bastina thought, if the expression on the little girl’s face was any indicator.

The young woman turned around to see what had captured her daughter’s attention. She shook her head and did a double-take, unsure she had seen correctly the first time. She and her daughter jumped up and stared at the approaching spectacle.

Bastina and Marisol see dwarfA dwarf in full plate armor was clomping down the street. He was cussing a blue streak and brandishing an axe at a large rabbit that appeared to be enjoying the chase. Several times, the long-eared critter slowed down and looked over its shoulder, almost appearing to wait for the rotund figure puffing and panting after it.

“Oh, my!” Bastina’s eyes widened.

Marisol tugged on her mother’s sleeve. “Mommy, can I go play with the man in the funny metal suit, and his bunny?”

* * *

Dwarf chasing rabbitI was lounging in the gazebo, reading a book. Sorceress, Cleric, and Dragon sat nearby, watching my Foreman and the lads work their illusory horses. I glanced up as my Old Dwarf raced past us, brandishing an axe, chasing a rabbit through the yard. “I be gittin’ ye this time, ye ornery little beastie, ye jest be seein’ iffin I do na! Thet be the lastest time ye be getting’ in Mistress Writer’s carrot patch!” The rabbit seemed to be enjoying the chase, slowing up whenever it seemed the dwarf might be lagging too far behind.

I smiled and returned to the book. Seconds later, I dropped the book and yelped as my Old Dwarf raced past again. The rabbit, now over 6 feet tall, was in hot pursuit of the diminutive figure.Rabbit chasing dwarf

I heard a snicker behind me. Without even looking around, I knew it was my Arrogant One. “Cut it out.”

“But it is so much fun!” The elf’s voice was an annoying combination of petulance and arrogance.

“Release the spell. End the illusion. Now.” I turned and glared at my Arrogant One.

Dragon and Arrogant One“Yes. Do it immediately!” Dragon turned toward the elf and smoke spewed from her snout.

“Oh, very well.” The elf snapped his finger and the rabbit disappeared.

My Old Dwarf stomped over and stood next to the gazebo. “I be bettin’ ye be thinkin’ thet be real funny.” The dwarf doubled over, gasping for breath.

My Arrogant One scoffed. “Yes, I do think it quite amusing that you are too witless to realize a small, helpless rabbit you are chasing relentlessly around the yard and through the neighborhood is not likely to suddenly grow and turn on its tormentor.”

I could feel the blood drain from my face. “Wait. Did you say through the neighborhood?” Without waiting for the elf’s reply, I rounded on my Old Dwarf. “How many times do you need to be reminded to stay on our property, protected by the spell of concealment? Do you want people to see you?”

“Ummmm . . .” My Old Dwarf shuffled his foot and fidgeted with his axe. “Lass? I be afeared thet mebee some people be seein’ me . . . right now.”

“What?” If I had been standing, I doubt my legs would have supported me.

wide-eyed

“Hello?”

My characters and I turned as one to face the new voice.

A small child tugged on the hand of a young woman, urging her further into our backyard. “See, mommy? I told you the man in the funny metal suit chased his bunny into this yard.” The little girl pointed, then her eyes grew big and round as saucers as she spied something else. “And, Mommy, look! They have horses!”

They see us

 

“Dragon?” My mouth went dry, and I could hardly speak. “They can see everything!”

Dragon’s eyes widened. “Forsooth! This is not good.” Her voice was barely a croak.

“Oh, hello!” The little girl let go of the young woman’s hand and walked up the steps of the gazebo. “We followed that man in the funny metal suit. He chased a rabbit into this yard.”

Marisol meets DragonThe little girl walked right up to Dragon and gave her an appraising head-to-toe look. “I am Marisol.” She pointed to the young woman. “And that is my mother. Her friends call her Bastina, but I call her mommy. We live down the street. What’s your name? Do you live here?”

Dragon with smoke bubbles

Dragon bent down and gawped at the small human, who showed no fear of her. The flummoxed beast turned blue, and smoke bubbles started dripping from her nose.

 

Has Dragon’s spell of concealment failed? If not, how did Marisol see everything in our yard? Can her mother see it all, too? Be sure to come back again as we get to know these two neighbors. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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