Good morrow, old friends and new readers! Dragon here (in my accustomed form of an elf, to facilitate easier typing).
With the stressful situation of trying to discover who hexed all of us characters and why, determining how to remove the hex, and deciding how to assist the Great Wyrm to return to her own world, we completely forgot about two rather special events. Both our own Mistress Writer and her mate, Master Miles, celebrated their birthdays this week past!
This year, we were so involved in our current mystery, we totally forgot! We are all quite ashamed! Well, all but that annoying elf, the Arrogant One. That one does not shame easily!
Once we remembered, we immediately decided we should do something very special for Mistress Writer and Master Miles. We concluded the best present we could possibly give them was the week off…alone!
They really enjoyed an entire week to themselves, not having to deal with us. Oh, do not misunderstand me, please! The Mistress and her mate are really quite fond of us. Well, most of us. Well, most of the time. But to be able to go out and enjoy themselves without worry or care was a real treat for them.
One of the days, they went to a beautiful spot, full of natural and cultivated beauty – the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. I have taken the liberty of going through Mistress Writer’s notes and photographs, in order to share with you good readers just a few of the images they took.
There was evidently an art exhibit at the Arboretum when Mistress Writer and Master Miles were there. If I am deciphering Mistress Writer’s notes correctly (she has the most illegible script I have ever encountered – no wonder she uses that magic machine that produces the pencraft for her!), the paintings on display were created by three brothers (Bob, Joe, and Jim Hautman) who live here in Minnesota, the state wherein we reside. Mistress Writer and Master Miles must have greatly appreciated these three artists, as they took a plethora of photos of these artists’ paintings. Here are just three of them:
Of course, visiting a place such as the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, one simply must enjoy the flowers.
There were also a number of seasonal displays to view, even a few provided by Mother Nature. By some magic unknown to me and my associates, some of the images were lacking in color!
Mistress Writer also took some photos of Master Miles. Again, some of the images were magically drained of color!
Master Miles managed to get a single image of Mistress Writer, who seems to become most distraught whenever a camera is pointed at her.
All in all, I believe they had a most enjoyable day without all us characters in tow.
Even in the absence of the Mistress and Master, however, our mystery continued. Be sure to come back next week, as we relate the further developments of this suspenseful adventure. We’ll leave the porch light on for you!
The tense silence around the breakfast table was broken by an unexpected voice. “Am I late? I’m so sorry. You really shouldn’t have waited the morning meal just for me.”
All eyes, which just moments before had been on me, instantly turned toward the source of the voice. To everyone’s surprise, my Bounty Hunter stood in the doorway, with a smirk playing around his mouth. He paused for just a moment to glance around the table before taking his place opposite my Arrogant One.
Everyone gaped at my Bounty Hunter, my Arrogant One most of all. “I thought you said you were leaving.”
“Did I?” My Bounty Hunter assumed an air of innocence.
“You did.” My Arrogant One’s voice was an indignant whine, like that of an aggrieved child. He turned beet red and scowled at his companion, as my other characters smirked or shook their heads. It seemed obvious that they felt my Arrogant One had spun the tale of my Bounty Hunter’s departure merely to garner attention and feed his own ego.
My Bounty Hunter glimpsed the expressions on the faces of my other characters. He gave my Arrogant One a sympathetic look. “Perhaps you misunderstood. I would never leave before partaking of such excellent fare.” My Bounty Hunter reached for the platter of scrambled eggs and slid a good sized portion onto his plate.
Dragon tilted her head and stared at my Bounty Hunter through narrowed eyes.
“Something wrong?” My Bounty Hunter cocked an eyebrow at Dragon, as he helped himself to a large serving of fried potatoes.
Dragon answered with an almost imperceptible shake of her head, but I did not fail to notice the further narrowing of her eyes, and the wisp of smoke that drifted from her snout. I studied my Bounty Hunter to see if he had also taken note, but he seemed oblivious, more absorbed by the food he was eating with gusto.
“Mistress, I hope you will excuse me. I find myself lacking in appetite this morning, and I do have other duties which demand my attention.” Without further explanation, Dragon left the room.
The Great Wyrm furrowed her brow as she watched Dragon leave. “Mistress, I beg leave to assist my compatriot.” The creature barely waited for my nod, then scurried after Dragon. The sound of their galumphing footsteps faded as they went down the stairs.
After the departure of the two wyrms, I turned my attention again to my Bounty Hunter. I could see nothing amiss as the man continued to eat a hearty meal, ignoring the disgruntled looks his friend, my Arrogant One, was shooting him across the table.
Conversation was notably absent during breakfast. Most of my characters seemed lost in thought, probably still considering what my Arrogant One had said earlier. The Bounty Hunter and I have never stopped trying to find a way back to our own world. And we are sure your pet lizard found a way. If she can, we all can.
I, too, found myself lost in thought. Are the two of them just trying to stir up trouble? Is my Arrogant One just seeking to be the center of attention once more? Or are they really still looking for the way to travel between worlds?
I played with my food, absentmindedly pushing it around the plate with my fork. If they are still seeking passage to the other world, do they seek to rule that world through the use of illusion? I know my Arrogant One could easily create illusions of the weapons and technology he has observed in this world; and that would be more than sufficient to take over a medieval world where such technology is unknown.
I jumped, jarred from my thoughts, when someone touched my shoulder. “Honey? Is there something wrong with the food?” My husband gestured at my plate, still full.
“Oh, Miles, I’m sorry. No, there’s nothing wrong with it, sweetheart. I’m just not really hungry this morning.”
Realizing all the others had departed, I helped Miles clear the table and fill the dishwasher. “I think I’m going to talk to Dragon. Something was definitely bothering her at the breakfast table this morning. Do you want to join me?”
“Sure, if you don’t think she and her friend would mind.”
“Why should they? Come on. They’re probably in the conference room.”
“Okay, but let me take my shoes off first.” Miles winked at me and smiled.
I laughed. “Still worried that one of them is going to char your shoes with your feet still in them?” That is one of Dragon’s favorite threats with which to tease my husband. Miles has never fully trusted that she is only teasing.
“No sense taking chances.” Miles removed his shoes and we went downstairs.
We found the wyrms in the hallway next to the conference room, apparently waiting to speak with me. As Miles and I drew near, Dragon placed her finger over her lips and bade us to remain silent. She grasped me by the arm and the Great Wyrm took hold of Miles. They drew us into the room, and Dragon closed and locked the door. She quickly mumbled an incantation, which I knew from past experience was to ward the room against the intrusion of uninvited eyes and ears.
She turned toward us, but before she could say anything there was a timber-rattling banging on the door, followed by a voice that could probably be heard three houses away. “Be ye in there, lass?”
Dragon quickly removed the wards and unlocked the door. My Old Dwarf burst in, crashing the door right into Dragon in his haste.
Clouds of angry black smoke erupted from Dragon’s nose as she glared at the rotund figure. I quickly stepped between them.
My Old Dwarf placed his hands on his knees and leaned over, taking a moment to catch his breath before he answered me. “I just be thinkin’ ye might be wantin’ ta know.” He continued panting heavily.
“Know what?” Dragon, the Great Wyrm, Miles and I spoke in unison.
My Old Dwarf finally caught his breath. “I be thinkin’ ye might be wantin’ ta know thet there be more’n one Bounty Hunter hereaboots.”
“Another bounty hunter has fallen out of my manuscript?” I frowned, trying to remember if I had written about more than one such person.
“Nay, lass. There do na be anudder one. There be more’n one o the same one.”
“You have seen more than one of the same man?” Dragon arched an eyebrow.
My Old Dwarf jutted his jaw. “Aye, Beastie, thet be wat I jest said.”
Seeing my puzzled look, he explained. “I seed the Bounty Hunter walkin’ out onta the deck wit his cohort. I turnded aboot an’ I seed ’em agin, by hisself, goin’ out the front door. I turnded aboot agin’ an’ he be still on the deck wit the annoying elfie. When the two o ’em left the deck, I followed ’em ta the shed. Then I runded all the way back ta the hoose ta tell ye aboot it. But ye do na be in the kitchen. The Bounty Hunter be there, all alone, raidin’ the cold box. So I runded down here ta find ye.”
Dragon frowned. Another plume of black smoke started curling from her nose. “I was just about to inform Mistress Writer of this.”
“Oh? You seeded the two o ’em, too?”
“I did not.”
As my Old Dwarf opened his mouth to say something else, Dragon blew a cloud of thick, black smoke right in his face. As my Old Dwarf stood there choking and waving the smoke away, Dragon turned to face me, a satisfied smile on her face and a twinkle of mischief in her eyes. When she addressed me, however, there was no humor in her voice.
“Mistress, I fear that was not your Bounty Hunter at the table this morning.”
“Oh? How do you know that?”
“I sensed illusory magic as soon as the Bounty Hunter entered the room, so I watched him very carefully. I noticed when he served himself, no food left the platter, although his plate filled.”
“What?” I considered what Dragon had just revealed. “But my Arrogant One seemed so irate when my Bounty Hunter appeared, showing the elf up as a liar! Are you certain the man was just an illusion?”
Dragon pursed her lips. “There is no doubt, Mistress. The annoying elf is a far better actor than he is an illusionist. And in light of what the dwarf has observed, can there be any doubt?”
“Aye, lass.” My Old Dwarf had finally stopped choking. “Ye can na be doubtin’ it, wat wit wat I seed and wat the Beastie sensed.”
I turned to the Great Wyrm. “Did you realize my Bounty Hunter was just an illusion?
She shook her head. “No, Mistress. Because I have lost my powers, I am unable to detect the illusory magic your dragon sensed.”
“Oh, that’s right. You mentioned your loss of powers earlier.” I raked my hand through my hair, and I chewed on my lower lip. Too many things were happening, and we needed to sort them out. “Okay, we’ll discuss the problem of your powers later. Right now, we need to figure out what’s going on with my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter.”
The Great Wyrm interrupted. She reached out and touched my Old Dwarf on his shoulder. “Old friend, would you take offense if we asked you to leave before we continue this discussion?”
My Old Dwarf glared at her. “Aye, I be takin’ offense. I be thinkin’ I earned me place in this conversatin’.” He looked at the rest of us. “But I do na be needin’ another invite ta leave. I be knowin’ when I do na be wanted.” He stormed out of the room and clumped up the stairs.
I made a mental note to make a special meal later just for him, to make amends.
Dragon quickly locked the door and reinstated the protective wards. “Let us continue.”
I frowned at her. “Why didn’t you say anything when you first realized that my Bounty Hunter wasn’t real?”
“I am sorry, Mistress. I did not want to alert the Arrogant One to the fact that I was aware of his illusion. I thought it best to come down here and check on the protective receptacle in which I had placed the items from the other world last evening.”
“Are the items still secure?” My husband looked at the container, worry showing clearly on his face.
“The items remain secure, Master Miles. As of this moment.” Dragon forced a weak smile.
“We also checked the set of books that were sent to you from the Apprentice to a renowned historian in our world.” The Great Wyrm pointed to four books piled on the corner of the table. “We found them in your office. From the layers of dust covering them, I would surmise no one has touched them for many months.” She and Dragon both wrinkled their noses.
I ignored their tacit disapproval of my rather pathetic housekeeping skills. “So, what are your thoughts?” I sat down and leaned back to listen.
Dragon shrugged. “Well, I think perhaps the annoying elf was attempting to give his cohort time to locate the conduit. The Arrogant One concluded that if we thought the Bounty Hunter was still here, we would not be searching for him, thus allowing the man to continue with his plans unimpeded.”
“That makes sense.” I pondered the situation, tapping my fingers on the table. “Well, since you have ascertained that the items in the chest are still secure, should we confront my Arrogant One now? Let him know we’re wise to him?”
“I do not believe that to be the best course of action.” The Great Wyrm frowned. “I believe it best to just keep the elf under close observation. In fact, it is my opinion that we should spend this day watching all of your characters.”
“To what end?”
“We need to determine if, in fact, the hex has been broken by the magical cloaking of the suspected items. We need to be absolutely positive that the characters can be trusted before we ask for their assistance.”
“How much assistance do you need? I thought the two of you were going to send the items back through the conduit by yourselves.” Miles furrowed his brow.
“That was our initial plan, Master Miles, but without my powers, that will be impossible.”
“Do you know what caused you to lose your powers?”
“I do not know with any certainty, Mistress Writer, but I believe it to be a result of entering this world from my own.”
I frowned. “Dragon entered this world from her own world, and she still has her powers.”
“It is different with Dragon. She fell from the pages of your manuscript.” The look on the Great Wyrm’s face warned me against pursuing the matter further.
“Okay. Let’s discuss what you need from the other characters.”
“We will need to enlist the aid of Sorceress, Cleric and the Gypsy. Their role in this endeavor will be critical.” Dragon explained what she and her companion had decided when they had discovered that the Great Wyrm was unable to call on her powers.
“So you can see how important it is to be certain they are no longer in thrall to the hex.” The Great Wyrm looked at us solemnly.
I nodded. “Well, I think it’s a good bet they’re free of the spell. They seemed a lot more like their old selves this morning. My Foreman and the lads were quite cheerful after spending the morning with their horses, and the lads were engaged in their typical high jinks. Sorceress and Cleric were cooperating again, gathering the components for their spells. They were all very polite and well-mannered.”
“What about the dwarf and the elf?” The Great Wyrm arched an eyebrow.
I chuckled. “Well, as I said before, their behavior can not be attributed to any hex; rather, that is their typical manner.”
“Well, we can take no chances.” The Great Wyrm was emphatic. “We must watch them all and report to each other if we see anything that would indicate they are still hexed.”
“Just be positive that whoever you report to is who you think they are.” Miles rubbed the back of his neck and frowned. “You know, that elf could create an illusion of anyone.”
That thought gave me a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.
Be sure to come back next week and see if we can get any closer to solving all these problems. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.
Lying on her side on the carpeted floor of the conference room, Dragon stirred restlessly. She was trapped at that accursed midpoint, that state of being half-awake but unable to wake completely; half-asleep, but unable to complete the transition to dreamland. Too many thoughts, too many worries, crowded her mind.
When will I know whether or not the items I have placed within the protective container are responsible for the conflict and violence among us characters?
When no answer was forthcoming, the huge beast shifted her bulk and squirmed around, rolling over to her other side.
I still feel agitated and combative. Is it because we did not deduce correctly the cause of the problem? Will my temper still be at the point of exploding when I rise in the morning?
Dragon rolled onto her belly and opened one eye for the briefest of moments, glancing at the Great Wyrm curled up just a few feet from her on the thick carpeting.
What if the others awake in the morning, still in thrall to the curse? How will the Great Wyrm return to her own world, if the others can not be trusted to help locate the conduit?
She squirmed around again, her brain still assaulted by the stream of worries.
If the items I placed in the container are not the source of the conflict and violence among my fellow characters, how will I find the true cause of the trouble?
Dragon rolled onto her back. She struggled to fully awaken from the half-sleep that held her, but she could not. More thoughts raced through her mind.
If the cause of the conflict and violence is not found and eliminated soon, how will I protect Mistress Writer and Master Miles from my fellow characters? From myself?
Dragon continued to toss and turn, moaning softly in her half-sleep, unable to suppress the thoughts that plagued her.
Nearby, the Great Wyrm sighed happily. She had long since reached the point in her life where she no longer needed true sleep. Instead, she entered a sort of trance or reverie in which she could meditate or dream. Tonight, her mind drifted to events in her distant past.
“What have you brought me, Small One?”
“Wot be givin’ ye the thought thet I mebbe brung ye summat, Beastie?” The dwarf’s emerald eyes twinkled with mischief, and beneath his ginger beard, his mouth twitched in amusement.
The beast stared, unblinking, at the diminutive figure. Slowly, she let her lips stretch in a terrible smile that showed every one of her dagger-sharp teeth. “Because you have no desire to become my breakfast?”
“Aye, thet be true enough.” The dwarf chuckled. “Wale, I dinna bring nuttin special, jest a wee trinket.” He pulled a small object from his pouch. It was a miniature dragon, about the size of his fist, carved from a piece of reddish stone.
The young beast snatched it from the dwarf and looked at it, her eyes wide with delight. She turned the intricately carved figure this way and that, carefully examining it and marveling at its lifelike quality. “It is beautiful! Did you carve it?”
“Aye. An’ here be another.” He held out a second figurine, this carved from a paler, rougher material.
The beast took this one more gently, almost reverently. “This . . . this is you, is it not?” She stared in awe at the figure, its carved hair and beard identical to the dwarf standing in front of her.
“Mebbe.” He shuffled one foot in the sand and looked at the dragon shyly. “Aye, it be meself. I be wantin’ ye ta be havin’ a rememberin’ o me.”
“A remembrance? But . . . why? I see you almost every week. I can not forget you in such a short time.” The beast’s brow furrowed.
The dwarf cleared his throat and took a long time to answer. “I be leavin’ this place fer a while, Beastie. I be goin’ back ta me own lands. I do na be knowin’ jest when I be travelin’ back here agin.” He turned from her, not wanting her to see him wiping the back of his hand over his eyes. After a moment, he turned back and mumbled, “I just dinna be wantin’ ye ta be forgettin’, no matter how long it be afore we seed each another agin.”
The Great Wyrm, deep in her reverie, sighed again. You never did come back, old friend. That was the last time I ever saw you . . . until now.
The beast had to remind herself that she had not really seen her old friend the previous evening. The old greybeard living here in the real world with Mistress Writer and her mate was merely an image, a shadow, an echo, a memory of her old friend, somehow brought to life when he fell from the pages of Mistress Writer’s manuscript. He appeared now as he was at the time when Mistress Writer chronicled his tale. Still, it was as close as the Great Wyrm would ever get to seeing him again – him and the others she had known then. She snuggled down deeper into the plush pile of the carpeting and resumed her reverie.
After you left, dwarf, it was so lonesome there in the desert, with nothing but lizards and snakes and scorpions for company. It was many long years before the others came, the Young Hero with his goddess-sworn protector, Cleric, and his best friend, the Gypsy. But, oh what fun I had with the three of them, and with Sorceress when she joined us later!
With another little sigh of pleasure, the ancient beast continued reliving her past joys until it was time to awaken to the challenges of a new day.
Miles and I were jolted awake by the sound of fireworks – both literal and figurative. We both jumped out of bed, threw on our jeans and sweatshirts, and ran to the living room.
“It do na be makin’ much nevermind ta me, the whyfore ye be doin’ it, ye consarned id-gee-it! There’ll be none o yer magicin’ in the hoose . . . especially loud magicin’! Ye’ll be wakin’ up the lass an’ her mate!”
My Old Dwarf stood there, blue in the face, jaw jutting, apparently oblivious to the fact that his shouting was almost as loud as my Arrogant One’s illusory fireworks.
I tried not to chuckle as I placed my hand on the dwarf’s shoulder. “Thank you, old friend, but it was time for Miles and me to be up, anyway.”
“But we prefer to awake to the sound of an alarm clock, or a gentle tap on our bedroom door.” Miles glared at my Arrogant One, who was standing there, nose in the air, rocking back on his heels, holding the front of his cloak with both hands. “Just what was your purpose in creating the illusion of fireworks?”
My Arrogant One’s voice, as always, was a combination of petulance and arrogance. “That oaf would not allow me passage to knock on your bedchamber door.”
“That oaf was as much protecting you from the consequences of disturbing my husband and me, as he was protecting us from being disturbed.” I leveled a no-nonsense look at the elf, who had the rare-for-him grace to look abashed.
Before we were able to ask the elf why he had wished to awaken us, Dragon and the Great Wyrm joined us.
“I see our efforts last evening were without success.” Dragon hung her head.
“You were not able to . . .?”
The Great Wyrm cut me off, noticing as I did the way my Arrogant One moved closer to listen. “We were not. However, Dragon was able to institute a temporary solution. Judging by the brouhaha, however, we presume it failed.”
“Don’t be so sure.” I motioned to my Old Dwarf to escort my Arrogant One into the kitchen, out of earshot. “Give us a few minutes. We’ll get breakfast started as soon as we can.”
My Old Dwarf pushed, shoved, and bullied the elf toward the kitchen, while the two dragons followed Miles and me to the corner of the living room.
I looked over my shoulder and lowered my voice. “What temporary solution did you attempt?”
I had to lean close to the Great Wyrm to hear her reply. “Since I found myself unable to call on my powers, Dragon used her skill to construct a magical container for the items from my world.”
Dragon nodded. “It was much like the chest in which you secured the keys to Morcant’s tower. If the items I placed in the container are the cause of the tension, the effects should have been nullified.”
“But in light of the altercation between the dwarf and the elf . . .” The Great Wyrm shrugged and quirked an eyebrow, which I took to mean she felt it obvious that the effort had failed.
“I wouldn’t jump to any conclusions.” I shook my head and furrowed my brow. “Remember, my Old Dwarf is immune to magical influences, so we can not attribute his behavior to any hex. And my Arrogant One does not require outside influence to sour his disposition.”
Miles chuckled. “That’s a diplomatic way to say that elf is just plain disagreeable!”
I smiled. “Yup. So let’s wait and see how the others behave this morning.”
“Where are the others?” Dragon looked about.
“I’m not sure. Let’s ask my Old Dwarf if he knows.”
As we headed to the kitchen, a noise drew our collective attention to the deck. My Foreman, my Young Hero and my Gypsy were meticulously wiping their shoes clean on the boot scraper before stepping inside onto the living room carpet. I grabbed Miles’ arm to keep from fainting.
Dragon cocked an eyebrow and a puff of white smoke shot from her nose as she snorted in surprise. “Perhaps . . .?” She looked at the Great Wyrm hopefully.
“Is breakfast ready? I’m starved! We’ve been working those horses since sunup!” My Gypsy headed for the kitchen, with my Young Hero right on his heels.
“Wash up first!” My Foreman beckoned to the lads as he headed to the bathroom to clean up.
The Great Wyrm nodded to Dragon. “Perhaps.”
“Who made you boss?” My Young Hero scowled and plopped himself down at the breakfast table.
“I don’t care who the boss is, I’m not sitting next to you if you don’t wash up! You smell like a horse! Let’s go!” My Gypsy yanked the other lad up by the arm and shoved him toward the bathroom. My Young Hero took a swing at him, but my Gypsy ducked.
“Perhaps not.” The Great Wyrm sighed.
But the two lads started laughing. They pushed and shoved and pretended to throw punches at each other as they headed for the bathroom.
Before anyone could comment further, we heard the front door open, then slam. Two sets of footsteps raced up the stairs. Cleric and Sorceress tore into the kitchen.
“We are . . . so sorry, Mistress!” Cleric addressed me breathlessly.
“We . . . we were collecting bo . . . botanicals for . . . our spell components.” Sorceress wheezed and panted as she tried to speak.
“We lost track of the time.” Cleric collapsed into a chair, still breathing hard.
“It’s no problem. We were just starting to gather for breakfast. My Foreman and the lads are washing up. They were apparently out for a morning gallop, and just came in.” My remarks were addressed to Cleric and Sorceress, but I was looking at Dragon and the Great Wyrm. I raised my eyebrows, and I mouthed in their direction, perhaps, and they both nodded.
Miles and I had breakfast on the table by the time everyone was seated. I looked around. “Where’s my Bounty Hunter?”
“That is what I wished to tell you earlier, when that barbarian would not let me pass.” My Arrogant One appeared very smug.
“So’s now ye kin be tellin’ all o us.” My Old Dwarf scowled at the elf.
“He left.” My Arrogant One folded his arms over his chest and sat there, smirking.
“He what?” I gaped at the elf.
“He left.” My Arrogant One repeated himself. “He is determined to find a way to return to our world. He said he knows the big lizard found a way – he said it is obvious she brought the other beast back with her from our world. He said if they found a way to move between the two worlds, he can too.”
I looked at Dragon and the Great Wyrm. They both shook their heads. “There is no way someone without great aptitude for magic could pass between the worlds.” Dragon sounded definite.
I looked at the elf again. “Do you know where or how he was going to attempt returning to the other world?”
“He did not confide in me. He merely promised that, if his efforts proved successful, he would return for me.”
I sat down and rubbed my forehead. “I thought this nonsense was over and done with ages ago. I thought you all understood there is no way for you to return to your own world.”
“The Bounty Hunter and I have never stopped trying.” My Arrogant One glared at me through narrowed eyes. “And we are sure your pet lizard found a way. If she can, we all can.”
I looked around the table. Every eye was on me as my characters waited to see how I would respond to the elf. I heaved a deep sigh. The day ahead suddenly looked a lot longer.
How, exactly, is my Bounty Hunter attempting to return to his own world? Was Dragon successful or not, attempting to disrupt the effects of the hex on my characters? Can she and the Great Wyrm enlist the help of the others to return the Great Wyrm to her own world? Be sure to come back next week to see what happens. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.
Dragon stood slack jawed, staring at the Great Wyrm, her eyes growing wider and wider with alarm. “What do you mean, you can not call upon your power?” Her voice began to crescendo with unaccustomed panic.
The Great Wyrm shook her head, as if trying to clear it. “Exactly what I said. I have been trying to summon the conduit, but I seem unable to center myself and call upon my power.” She was frowning, but her voice was calm.
Dragon’s thoughts went in all different directions. Oh, no! How could this happen? Why did we not foresee this possibility? What could be causing this? If the Great Wyrm can not summon the conduit, how will we find it? If she can not call upon her power, how will she reweave the enchantment? If she can not alter the conduit . . .
The Great Wyrm reached out and placed a hand on Dragon’s shoulder. Her gentle laughter sounded like the melodious tinkling of crystal wind chimes. “Do not panic so, little one!”
Dragon jumped. She had forgotten that her companion could hear her thoughts, that she and others of her species often communicated telepathically. She blushed, both at her forgetfulness and at being called little one. She scowled, and dark smoke drifted from her nostrils. She muttered, crossly, just loud enough for the Great Wyrm to hear. “I am not a little one!”
Her companion laughed again. “As I told you before, to me you are but a wyrmling.”
Dragon growled. Her eyes narrowed and the smoke spewing from her snout grew darker. “Fine. I am a wyrmling. A stupid, inept, inexperienced wyrmling. So, tell me, oh Wise and Ancient One, since this wyrmling is incapable of summoning the conduit or reweaving its enchantment, how do you propose we deal with your sudden lack of power?”
“First, you will compose yourself.” The Great Wyrm folded her arms over her chest as she addressed her companion in a stern voice. “I am going to assume your outburst is related to the situation we are attempting to resolve – that you are being adversely affected by the same thing that is causing the tension and violence among Mistress Writer’s other characters.”
Dragon blushed deeply, and hung her head. “I am sorry. I did not realize I was becoming so cross. Yes, whatever is causing the problem with the others is affecting me also. I felt it before – that is why I left this world, to prevent unintentionally harming Mistress Writer and Master Miles while I searched for a solution. I did not feel the tension while I was away, but shortly after our arrival here, I could feel my temper rising again. I will try harder to control myself.”
The Great Wyrm’s features softened and she nodded. “Good. As for the question of what to do now that I appear powerless, I suggest we put your power to work.”
“But I just admitted I am incapable . . .”
“Of summoning the conduit, yes.” The Great Wyrm nodded. “But you do have the requisite knowledge and power to construct a container for the objects we believe are causing the problem, a container enchanted to prevent the magic from those objects from having any effect on anyone or anything outside of the container. Then, if your colleagues in magic are freed from the hex, they can help us summon the conduit so I can return to my world.”
Dragon’s jaw dropped. “That is so simple! Why did I not think of it? And if simply placing the items in a protective container is sufficient to determine if the items are, indeed, the cause of the conflict and violence among us characters, why did we not consider that solution? It would have presented less risk than having you transport to this world to assist in a much more complex solution.”
The Great Wyrm smiled slyly. “I did consider it, but I could not turn down the opportunity to visit this world, to see all my friends again, to see Mistress Writer again.”
Dragon smiled and nodded. “I understand.” She turned away and was about to start constructing the container when she abruptly stopped and turned back to face the other beast. “Wait! Even if this works, and my friends are able to help us locate the conduit, you still can not use it to return to your world. Without your power, you can not reweave the spell.”
The sly smile on the Great Wyrm’s face grew. “No, I can not. But you and your colleagues can.”
“No, we can not!” Dragon furrowed her brow. “Can we?”
“Among you, you have enough power. I have the knowledge, which I will share with you. You will see. It will work.”
Dragon considered this for many minutes. “If you teach us how to reweave the spell, how can we be certain that none of my colleagues will use this knowledge for their own benefit?”
“Do you not trust your friends?” The Great Wyrm cocked her head and lifted an eyebrow.
“I do. Under normal circumstances, I would trust them with my life. However, recent events have shown me that even my friends can act in an untrustworthy manner, if outside forces are at work.”
The Great Wyrm nodded. “Of course. Your logical mind does seem to examine every possibility.” She gave Dragon a look of approval. Then she steepled her fingers and rested them under her chin. After a long while, the beast nodded. “I believe I can teach you a few spells that you can cast before I share my knowledge with your friends. The spells will not harm your friends. In fact, the spells will not be cast on them. Rather, they will be a precursor to the spell I will teach you and your friends, the one that will reweave the existing spell on the conduit. The spells you will cast will cause the spell I will teach you and your friends to be forgotten by all of you once it has been successfully cast.”
Dragon’s jaw almost hit the floor. “There are such spells? Spells that are not cast on a person or thing, but on another spell?”
“Yes, little wyrmling, there are such spells.” The great beast smiled and looked at Dragon with affection.
It took Dragon several hours to construct and enchant a container for the four items. As she placed the talisman, the horseshoe, the ruby ring and the Royal Seal inside the container, she paused. She looked at the Great Wyrm, who had been sitting quietly on the opposite side of the conference table while Dragon worked. She hoped the great beast could not see the worry in her expression as she closed the lid on the container. “What happens if these items are not the cause of the friction and violence among us characters? Then how do we proceed, so that you might return to your own world?”
When she received no reply, Dragon walked around the table and placed her hand on her companion’s shoulder. She repeated her question, a little louder.
The Great Wyrm stirred, returning slowly from the depths of her own thoughts. “I do not know. I suggest we face that problem if and when it becomes necessary.” She yawned, her maw stretching wide. “We will know nothing until the others awaken in the morning. I suggest we attempt to get some sleep before then. The coming day has the potential to be very busy and very demanding.”
Without waiting for Dragon to reply, the Great Wyrm rose, found a comfy spot on the thickly carpeted floor, and curled up to sleep. After a moment, Dragon followed suit.
What happens when Mistress Writer’s characters awaken in the morning? Will they be free of the hex? Will they be able to help the Great Wyrm return to her own world? Be sure to return next week and see what happens next in this adventure. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.
Miles and I leaned forward in our chairs, listening attentively. Dragon and another wyrm were sitting opposite us at the conference table. Dragon had shapeshifted to her customary guise of an elf maiden, so we could tell her apart from the Great Wyrm who sat beside her, a creature physically identical to Dragon’s true form.
Dragon had warded the room to ensure our conversation was not shared with anyone untoward, and she was now regaling us with recent events. She explained her painful decision to leave us, as much for our safety as to find a solution to the problem of the escalating tension and violence among my characters. She detailed her exploits entering the manuscript from which she and her fellow characters had fallen so long ago. She related her difficult journey from the manuscript to the world about which I had written in that manuscript. She described the apprentice to a renowned historian she had met, the one who had sent a set of books to me through a magical conduit that connected his world and ours. She shared with us all she had learned during her odyssey.
“That’s incredible!” Miles gave Dragon an admiring look. “You’ve had quite an adventure!”
The ersatz elf frowned. “I have, but I am relieved and happy to be back . . . although I am already feeling the effects of whatever is causing the outbreak of tension and violence among us characters.”
The Great Wyrm, a beast who had accompanied Dragon from the other world, took up the tale. She explained their deductions and their subsequent plans. “Once we eliminate from your surroundings the items that came through the conduit from the other world, once we send them back through the passageway, it should become obvious whether or not they are the cause of the conflict. If they are, your problem is solved. If they are not the cause, if the conflict still rages, then Dragon can concentrate her search in other areas.”
I furrowed my brow as the creature laid out their proposal. “That seems so simple!”
Dragon nodded and pursed her lips. “I really do not know why I did not think of it.”
The Great Wyrm smiled indulgently. “Children often overlook the obvious.”
“Children? I am certainly no child!” Dragon scoffed, her cheeks pinkening and her elven eyes narrowing in annoyance.
The Great Wyrm placed her hand on Dragon’s shoulder and spoke gently to her. “You are but a wyrmling to me. But that is a discussion for another time. Judging from the situation upon our arrival here, I think it is critical for us to start immediately.”
Dragon nodded. “I agree, but how do you propose we find the conduit and hold it in place? When I attempted to do so in order to study the passageway, I needed the assistance of three of my magical colleagues. I had been assuming we would recruit them to assist us in our present task. However, seeing their behavior earlier, I no longer believe those colleagues can be trusted. I believe they are too far under the influence of this sorcery.”
The Great Wyrm brushed aside Dragon’s uncertainty. “Do you believe two such mighty dragons will require anyone’s assistance finding and controlling the conduit?” She lifted an eyebrow at Dragon.
Dragon smiled abashedly. “No, I suppose not.”
I stood up. “Well, if you are planning to start immediately, I shall get the items for you. Then, if you do not need us, Miles and I will go get some shut-eye. We’ve had a long day with my other characters.”
“That is quite acceptable. We do not require your presence.” The Great Wyrm inclined her head as she spoke, and I got the distinct impression I was being dismissed.
Dragon seemed concerned, however. She furrowed her brow and chewed her lower lip. “Will you and Master Miles be safe sleeping tonight?”
“We will. My Old Dwarf will see to our safety. Unless you need him here to insure your work is not interrupted.”
The Great Wyrm shook her head. “We will not require his service. We will ward the room again before we begin.”
I retrieved the items from my office and left them with the two wyrms. Dragon shapeshifted back to her true form, and the two creatures already had their heads together, planning, as Miles and I left the conference room.
* * *
As soon as she had cast the wards securing the room from breach, physical or magical, Dragon turned back to her companion. “The first thing we need to do is locate the conduit.” Although she phrased it as a statement rather than a question, Dragon looked to the Great Wyrm for confirmation before proceeding.
The other creature wrinkled her brow and shook her head. “We need to do more than find the conduit. We need to summon it.” Seeing Dragon’s confusion, she explained. “After seeing the state of affairs with your fellow characters this evening, I realized we can not work on the conduit wherever it happens to appear. We must remain secure in this room, behind your wards. We can not have the others interfering, whether by innocent accident or by malicious intent.”
Dragon nodded, but frowned, and a small wisp of smoke drifted from her nostrils.
The Great Wyrm cocked her head. “What is troubling you?”
Dragon sighed and shrugged. “I am just annoyed that, once again, I did not see the obvious.”
Her companion smiled. “Do not be so hard on yourself. You would have reasoned it out eventually. You have a very logical mind. What you lack is my years of experience.”
“And how long must I wait to acquire that experience?” Dragon gave the other beast a sly sidelong glance.
The Great Wyrm merely smiled. “Let us concentrate on the task at hand.”
Dragon blushed and lowered her head. “Of course. We must complete our work with all possible haste.”
“I will summon the conduit.” The Great Wyrm closed her eyes and began softly thrumming. She continued for many long minutes, the soft drone growing louder and more strained.
“What is the problem?” Dragon gave the Great Wyrm a curious look that quickly turned to a look of alarm. “Are you in distress?”
The Great Wyrm shook her head, as if trying to clear it. “I do not know. I seem unable to center myself and call upon my power.”
* * *
What has happened to the Great Wyrm’s power? Will she get it back? Will she and Dragon be able to complete their mission and send the items back through the conduit? Will the Great Wyrm be stranded here, in the real world? Who is behind all this, and to what end? Be sure to come back next week and see what happens. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.
We all froze, rooted in place, gaping at the two Dragons. No one spoke. As relieved as I was to see Dragon, I was just as unsettled by the presence of the second beast. From the looks on the faces of everyone else in the room, they were just as unnerved by the appearance of a second Dragon as was I. As we all stood there watching, the larger of the two creatures began to shrink. In a moment, she was the same size as the other, and the two were indistinguishable from each other.
One of the two mirror-images growled, then spoke in a voice that brooked no argument. “I say again – if this conflict does not cease . . . immediately . . . the participants will answer to me.” Her eyes narrowed in anger, and her tail lashed violently.
The other Dragon placed a hand on the first one’s arm, silencing her. She stepped forward, looking around at the group assembled in the living room. She furrowed her brow and tilted her head. “What is this ridiculous clothing everyone is wearing?”
My Old Dwarf chuckled at the look on the big beast’s face. “Why ye be knowin’ good and well what it be, ye daft beastie! It be the clothin’ o the realm, modern togs. The lass an’ ’er lad took us all on an outin’, an’ they dinna be wantin’ us ta be standin’ out liken ogres at a tea party.” He paused and frowned, noting the confused look on the beast’s reptilian face. “But ye seed this afore, plenny o times! We be wearin’ it on e’ry outin’!” His brow wrinkled, and he glanced at the other Dragon. “Or mebbe . . . could it be ye dinna be seein’ it afore?” He tilted his head pensively, and stroked his beard.
The big beast who had asked about the clothing blinked and looked closer at the stocky figure. “Dwarf? Is that you, Dwarf?”
“Aye.” He turned back toward that Dragon. “Meself an’ no other. But jest who be ye thinkin’ I be?” The old reprobate gave that Dragon another quizzical look, then turned to study the other Dragon. He looked back and forth several times, from one to the other. Finally, he nodded. He had a pleased expression on his ruddy face, as if he had just figured out a difficult puzzle.
As my Old Dwarf was studying the two Dragons, the creature who had spoken to him was studying my Old Dwarf and the rest of the group assembled in the living room. There was a strange look on her face, and her eyes grew misty. “It . . . it is you! It is so good to see you again . . . all of you!” There was a definite catch in her voice as she looked around the room again.
“What trickery is this, and to what end?” My Arrogant One found his tongue. He narrowed his eyes and folded his arms over his chest.
The misty-eyed Dragon turned her head to see who spoke. “Well, it is good to see most of you again.” She returned my Arrogant One’s narrow-eyed glare, and dark smoke began to plume from her nostrils as a growl rumbled deep in her throat.
The other Dragon stepped forward. “What do you mean, trickery?” She, too, glared at my Arrogant One, and she, too, growled and spewed forth a plume of smoke.
My Arrogant One drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and grasped his jacket with both hands. “It is obvious only one of you is real; the other, a mere illusion.”
“Oh? You believe so, elf?” The misty-eyed Dragon blew a cloud of smoke at him.
The elf coughed violently, and his eyes watered as he waved away the smoke. “Of course I believe so!” His voice reflected his annoyance. “There is only one dragon in this world. The second one, therefore, is an illusion . . . and not a very convincing one. The illusory beast was not even the right size when the spell was first cast, and it had to be rather clumsily modified.”
“Not a very . . . ? Why you insufferable little twit!” The second Dragon backhanded him and sent him flying across the room. “Neither of us is illusory. You had best remember that before making any further insulting pronouncements.”
My Arrogant One landed in a heap, stunned by the force of the blow. My Bounty Hunter raced to help his companion, and in a few minutes had his cohort sitting up.
Once he regained his wits, my Arrogant One started screeching. “Why . . . why did you see what that uncivilized beast did? It could have killed me!”
My other characters stood, many slack-jawed, gaping at the Dragons. They edged closer together and started murmuring. I saw my Gypsy reaching under his shirt for his dagger, and both Sorceress and Cleric were reaching for their pouches.
My Old Dwarf grabbed Miles and me and pulled us away from the others, positioning himself between the two of us and my angry characters. He batted away the dagger that sailed through the air toward the Dragons.
“Thank you, old friend, but your intervention on our behalf is hardly needed.” One of the Dragons picked up the dagger and snapped it in two.
“True enough!” The old reprobate chuckled. “Gypsy, ye be needin’ ta be usin’ summat wit a wee bit more bite ta it, iffin ye be hopin’ ta be makin’ a dent in the beasties’ hides.”
My Gypsy pulled out another dagger. “Shall we see if this one is up to the job?”
“Stop it! Right now!” I glared at my Gypsy. “Put it away, before one of the Dragons decides to melt it, and you along with it!”
My Young Hero placed a hand on his friend’s arm. “You had best put it away. I fear the creatures might just do something rash.”
“Yes, put the dagger away . . . for now.” My Foreman spoke to my Gypsy, but his eyes were on me and the two Dragons.
My Gypsy glared at me for a long few moments before he pocketed his weapon. I turned and faced the two dragons. “I need to see you in the conference room.” I looked from one to the other, but they were as alike as two peas in a pod. “Both of you. Now.”
I motioned for Miles to join us, and instructed my Old Dwarf to keep an eye on the others.
“Aye, lass, I be keepin’ ’em in line, do na ye be afeerd.”
The four of us walked down the stairs in silence. The two Dragons went first, and I watched them carefully as they descend the stairs. I could detect absolutely no difference between the two of them – they were the same color, the same size, and they moved precisely the same way. It was like seeing double.
I could see my husband was watching the two huge beasts as well, though much more apprehensively. Miles was pale and sweat dotted his forehead. He lagged behind, trying to leave as much space as possible between him and the two Dragons.
The Dragons waited for us at the bottom of the stairs. They politely stepped aside, allowing my husband and me to enter the conference room first. Miles grabbed my hand and edged past the beasts, quickly. Once inside, we closed the door behind us. One of the Dragons mumbled a quick incantation, and I knew we could speak without fear of prying eyes or ears joining us.
The two Dragons moved to the opposite side of the conference table, and my husband scurried to give them a wide berth. Miles nudged me and mumbled under his breath, his voice barely loud enough for me to hear. “Two Dragons? Who is the second one and where did she come from?” He gulped as he noticed the two beasts eyeing him, “Marge, they aren’t going to char my shoes with me still in them, are they?”
I quirked an eyebrow and shrugged. The one Dragon just giggled, but the other spoke to Miles, her tone prim and respectful. “I do not know you, human, but I surmise you are Mistress Writer’s mate.”
Miles nodded dumbly.
“If the scribe, in all her wisdom, has deemed you worthy of such an honor, then be assured you have nothing to fear from me.” She drew her reptilian mouth back in a toothy smile. “Neither you nor your footwear are in any danger of being charred.”
Miles heaved a huge sigh of relief. He inclined his head toward the polite Dragon. “Thank you. But who are you? Er, that is, if you don’t mind me asking.”
The two Dragons exchanged troubled looks, obviously unsure how much to reveal to Miles, but I was pretty sure I had already figured it out. I placed a reassuring hand on my husband’s arm. “I don’t think we have time for lengthy explanations. And, besides, I don’t think her name is important, honey.”
Miles raised an eyebrow at that statement, as did both Dragons.
“What is important is she is here to help, I’m sure.” I looked at the two Dragons, who nodded their agreement.
“I surmise by the incident upstairs that we arrived none too soon,” one Dragon said.
“Has it been escalating since my departure?” asked the other.
“Yes, and yes. And I hope you can offer some suggestions how to defuse the situation.” I looked at the two Dragons. “But first, would it be possible for one of you to alter your appearance a tad, just so we can tell you apart?”
“Of course! I should have done so sooner!” The Dragon on the left immediately started to shimmer. In a matter of a few seconds, she had shapeshifted to her accustomed form of an elf maiden.
Miles looked at her, then at me. “This one is Dragon? Er, I mean our Dragon?”
“Yes, dear.” I smiled at the relief on my husband’s face.
The other Dragon, still in her beastly form, snarled. Dark smoke poured from her snout. “Your Dragon? You think she is a pet, a creature to be owned?” A threatening growl emanated from deep within her throat.
Miles yelped, and almost fell off his chair, but I remained calm. I patted the air in a conciliatory gesture. “Not at all! By our Dragon, we meant our familiar friend and comrade, Dragon. Most assuredly not our pet Dragon! We only used the possessive term to differentiate her from you, a newcomer to our land, and a stranger to Miles.”
The Dragon looked at the elf maiden, who nodded. The Great Wyrm lowered her head and ceased spewing forth smoke. “I apologize. I should not have taken offense. I should have known that the Scribe and her mate would not mean that term the way it sounded.”
I smiled. “Your apology, though entirely unnecessary, is gladly accepted.”
The Great Wyrm nodded. “Good. Then let us proceed with haste. My, er, companion has told me what has been happening, and I can see for myself the situation is dire. Let us explain what we propose to attempt.”
Will Dragon and her companion be able to put an end to the conflict and strife among Mistress Writer’s characters? Come back next week and see what happens. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.
The Great Wyrm started to extricate her head from the window. Dragon, still in her familiar guise of an elf maiden, sat there, stunned. Can this really be happening? Is my future self really going back into the real world with me to help? Suddenly, she jumped up and started pacing, wringing her hands. “Wait!”
The Great Wyrm and the Historian’s Apprentice gaped at her.
“Things are happening too quickly. We need to discuss this further.”
The Wyrm gave Dragon a look of approval. “You have a good, logical mind. You like to consider all possibilities before taking action. This is good.”
“Why?” The Apprentice looked at the Wyrm curiously, then turned to Dragon. “Iffin the Great Wyrm be sayin’ she and ye can be findin’ the conduit, then it be so. Ne’er be doubtin’ the big beastie!”
“I do not doubt. I am sure we could find the conduit. But when I and three of my companions in Mistress Writer’s world – the real world as she calls it – found and examined the conduit, we discovered it is a one-way passage. None from the real world can use it to enter this world.”
The Apprentice nodded, understanding in his eyes. “Then ye do na be knowin’ how the big beastie’ll be gittin’ back here, once ye travel through the conduit ta Mistress Writer’s world.”
Dragon’s shoulders slumped. She turned to the Great Wyrm. “I know of no way for you to do so. Do you?”
“How did you get here from there?”
“I reentered the manuscript from which I and my companions had fallen into the real world. From there, it took every bit of my concentration and my power to enter this world. The effort totally exhausted me, and I lost consciousness. I do not know how long I remained in that state.”
The Great Wyrm frowned. She narrowed her eyes and small rings of smoke bubbled from her nostrils as she concentrated. “It is obvious I will not be able to retrace your route to return here. Since I did not fall from the manuscript, I can not enter it.”
“Exactly.” The elf maiden Dragon nodded.
“Still, there must be a way for me to return here.” The Wyrm’s frown deepened and the smoke thickened.
“Can ye not be reweavin’ the enchantment? Be makin’ it a two-way channel? Seems ta me thet be easy enough fer one o yer power. I seen ye do harder then thet.” The man shot the Wyrm a curious look before he tore another piece of bread from the loaf on the table and popped it in his mouth.
“No! You must not make the conduit a two-way passage!”
The man and the Wyrm gaped at Dragon, who was again wringing her hands and pacing.
“Why not?” The man frowned, and more smoke drifted from the Wyrm’s snout.
“If it became possible for anyone from the real world to use the conduit to enter this world, it would mean disaster for this world and its inhabitants.” The ersatz elf maiden chewed on her lower lip for several moments. Then she sighed and sat down again. She lowered her eyes and studied her hands as she spoke. “Several of my fellow characters are power-hungry. One is a fairly proficient illusionist. He would not hesitate to use his power to create illusions of the technology to which he has been exposed in the real world to gain power over the residents of this world.”
“Oh. Well, we can na be havin’ thet, now can we?” The man spoke around the mouthful of food he was still chewing, but Dragon and the Wyrm could make out his words well enough.
“No. We can not.” The Wyrm wrinkled her nose at the man’s lack of manners, then turned back to Dragon. “But it should not be a great problem. Once I return to this world, I can either destroy the conduit completely, or restore the part of the spell that prevents egress from Mistress Writer’s world.”
Dragon’s eyes lit up at that idea. “Yes. Yes, that would work very well.” She smiled.
“Then, is there anything else we need to discuss before we go in search of the conduit?”
“Let me consider for a moment.” Dragon’s brow furrowed and she began chewing her lip again. Finally she spoke. “Yes. When my fellow characters and I searched for the conduit, it was in a state of constant flux. It moved rapidly from one spot to another within Mistress Writer’s house, or disappeared altogether. So how do we know when we enter the conduit here where we will end up?”
The Apprentice scoffed and waved off Dragon’s concerns. “The conduit do na just be connectin’ this world ta Mistress Writer’s world. At the other end, it’ll al’ays be appearin’ close ta the scribe herself, or within her abode. Iffin ye be goin’ inta the conduit at this end, ye be goin’ outten it where ye be needin’ ta be at the other end.”
Dragon nodded. “Then there is just one more thing. I am sure we will find the conduit, eventually. However, it might be easier and quicker if we know more about its habits.”
“Its habits?” The Apprentice tilted his head and rubbed his bearded chin.
“Yes. You said it does not stay in one place, and it has been a while since you have seen it. When you have seen it, has it appeared here?”
The man furrowed his brow, but nodded. “Aye.”
“On a regular schedule?”
“Have you ever encountered it anywhere else?”
“At the Historian’s hut.”
“And how far is that?”
The Wyrm interrupted. “I know where the Historian lives. But the conduit is random. It follows no schedule, nor any route. We will have to use our power to locate it.”
Dragon nodded. “I can think of nothing else, then. I suppose it is time to go.”
“Safe travels.” The Apprentice rose and saw his guests out. “Remember, beastie, ye al’ays be welcome here.”
“Thank you. I will not forget.” The elf maiden gave the Apprentice a brief hug before turning to face the Wyrm. The elf started to shimmer, and in a short time she resumed her true form, a substantially smaller version of the Great Wyrm.
Dragon followed the Wyrm to the top of the mountain. I did not realize just how much larger than I this future me is! She did not look so massive when I first encountered her.
Dragon was startled to hear the Wyrm’s voice in her head, communicating telepathically, as was the custom of their species. Remember, you are but an image of sorts, a shadow, an echo, a memory of someone who used to live here. You have no idea how much time has passed since that creature, my younger self, flew these skies.
Dragon replied, also using telepathy. I am heartened to know that I lived . . . am living . . . a long life, growing in wisdom and power as well as size.
Dragon felt a sadness emanating from the Wyrm. You will probably outlive me, my dear, as you will never age. I do not know if Mistress Writer did us a favor or a grave disservice, suspending you in time like that.
Dragon pressed the Wyrm for an explanation, but the great beast would say no more.
* * *
Miles and I entered the house from the garage, and headed up to the living room. My characters trailed behind. The door slammed, and a cacophony of loud, angry voices followed us up the stairs.
Just moments before, my characters had been in the car with my husband and me, happily discussing the outing Miles and I had taken them on. Now that we were home, everything changed. As my characters gathered around Miles and me in the living room, they were all arguing over trivial concerns.
“I was the one who found the Red-tailed Hawk for Mistress Writer.” My Gypsy jerked a thumb toward his chest, and jutted his chin.
“Well, I was the one who persuaded it to pose so Mistress Writer could take so many beautiful pictures!” Cleric’s face was red and her lower lip stuck out in a pout.
“I helped, too!” Sorceress pursed her lips and folded her arms over her chest. “I was the one who kept that rambunctious red squirrel quiet, so it would not distract the hawk.”
“I was the one who found that big, furry creature.” My Foreman swaggered across the living room.
“You may have found the groundhog, but you never would have known what it was if I had not identified it for you! You thought it was a giant rat!” My Young Hero jeered as he planted his feet wide, and balled his hands into fists at his side.
“Well, I found that bird Mistress Writer had been looking for.” My Foreman scowled.
“If you are referring to the Green Heron, I was the one who found it.” My Gypsy turned toward his companion, his eyes flashing.
My Foreman snorted. “No, the other one. The Sashed Majestic Fishingbird.”
My Gypsy laughed. “You can’t even identify the creatures you see. That was a Belted Kingfisher!”
“Who cares what you call it?” My Arrogant One drew himself up and rocked back on his heels. He grasped the front of his cloak with both hands as he did when he was trying to look important. “While the rest of you were chasing after beasts and varmints and wing-ed creatures, the two of us had to haul all the food and supplies to the picnic site.” My Arrogant One’s voice was a petulant whine.
My Bounty Hunter nodded and commiserated with him. “Indeed. We worked while the rest of you enjoyed yourselves.” My Bounty Hunter clenched his hands and narrowed his eyes.
“Aye, the two o ye been doin’ a teensy little bit o work. But ye dinna been doin’ it alonesome like. Ye been havin’ help, dinna ye? Master Miles and I been doin’ the most o it. And what do it matter, anywho, who been doin’ what? We all been havin’ a good time, dinna we?” My Old Dwarf scoffed and shook his head.
But my Foreman pushed my Old Dwarf aside and stood squarely in front of my Arrogant One. “Elf, I am tired of your constant whining. So you and your cohort here had to help carry the food. You both ate it, didn’t you? So why shouldn’t the two of you help carry it?”
My Arrogant One blushed, turning scarlet right to the tips of his pointy ears, and he glared at my Foreman. “We always do more than our share. I do not know why we are never invited to join in the fun activities. We are not your pack animals, you know.”
“No, you’re not.” My Foreman’s glare took in both the elf and his companion. “My pack horses are a great deal more pleasant to be around.”
My Bounty Hunter drew his dagger, but my Old Dwarf knocked it out of his hand with the flat of his axe. “Nay, laddies. Ye be needin’ ta be keepin’ it civil. No weapons in the hoose.”
Suddenly, my Foreman backhanded my Old Dwarf, splitting the old reprobate’s lip. “I don’t need the likes of you defending me, dwarf.”
Listening to it all, Miles and I had exchanged numerous exasperated looks, but we remained silent. Now, however, I could no longer hold my tongue. “That is enough!” I stood there glaring at my pack of characters. “I’m tired of this. There will be no more of this bickering and fighting!”
My Gypsy snorted and narrowed his eyes menacingly. “And what will you do if we continue? Edit us out of the manuscripts? We all know you will not try that again.”
From the stairway, two voices thundered in unison. “No. She will not. If this conflict does not cease . . . immediately . . . the participants will answer to me.”
We all whirled around toward the source of the voices. We gaped as two Dragons climbed the stairs to join us in the living room, two Dragons identical in every respect save their unequal size.
What happens next? Do Dragon and the Great Wyrm have to subdue the other characters? Will they be able to send the items back to the other world? If so, will that be the end of the conflict, or will they two Dragons have to put their heads together and find another cause of the problem? Join us again next week for some of the answers. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.