As my Arrogant One stormed out of the room, Dragon gazed after him, a confused look on her reptilian face. “What is bothering the elf? And how can he say I know nothing? He did not even listen to my hypothesis.”
“Don’t worry about him.” I raked my hand through my hair and sighed. “Let’s hear your theory regarding the recent events involving my Gypsy’s sketch.”
Dragon furrowed her scaly brow and cleared her throat. “Well, as you know, the Gypsy lad was at the window sketching the Ring-necked Pheasant he and Cleric observed by the bush next to the deck.”
Dragon pointed to the table where a chess board was set up. “While the Gypsy lad was sketching, the elf – engaged in a chess match with his cohort, your Bounty Hunter – accused me of snoring. He threw a chess piece at me upon which he had evidently cast a spell of enlargement, as it was considerably bigger when it hit me than the other pieces on the board.”
Again, I nodded. “Is there a point to this story? I think we all saw what was going on.”
Dragon narrowed her eyes, and a wisp of smoke drifted from her snout. “Do you wish to hear my theory, or not?”
“Yes, of course.” I rubbed the back of my neck. “Please continue.”
Dragon nodded and smiled smugly. “When the elf retrieved the chess piece, he did it by magic, having it first shrink and then return to his hand. However, he did not do it with a simple counter-spell, negating the enlargement spell. Since he threw the rook by physical means, there was no spell to counter to retrieve it magically. So instead of first removing the spell that had enlarged the rook, then casting a retrieve spell, he cast a single spell that both retrieved the rook and shrank it.”
I frowned. “I fail to see how that has anything to do with my Gypsy’s sketch.”
Dragon sighed. “Do you remember when the elf and his cohort were repairing the shed roof?” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/10/14/a-small-problem/
I nodded. “Boy, do I!”
Dragon smirked. “I thought you might. Well, when the elf cast the spell to shrink the building materials, so they could be more easily lifted to the roof, your proximity to the objects targeted by the enchantment caused you to be caught in the spell. You shrank along with the actual target of the spell, the roofing tiles and supplies.”
I rubbed my chin. “Are you saying that my Gypsy’s sketch was caught in my Arrogant One’s spells?”
I shook my head. “How could a mere shrinking spell or retrieval spell bring the picture to life?”
Dragon pursed her reptilian lips and gave me a condescending look. She changed her tone of voice and spoke slowly, as if addressing an obtuse child. “Because it was not just the shrinking spell or the retrieval spell that affected the drawing. It was also the animation spell the elf had cast to bring his chess pieces to life. The combination of the three spells – the animation spell, the shrinking spell, and the retrieval spell – caused the picture to come to life, escape the paper on which it had been drawn, and fly around the house in the form of a miniature pheasant.”
I sighed. Her explanation corresponded with what my Arrogant One had already explained to me, but it was good to have Dragon’s confirmation on his theory. Remembering the elf’s desperate wish for secrecy, though, I merely nodded and acted as if this was the first time I was hearing it. “Okay, that makes sense. Thanks.”
Dragon nodded and curled up again in front of her illusory fireplace. In seconds, she was sound asleep again and snoring loudly, making a sound similar to the purring of some giant cat.
Later, as I sat in my office attempting to do some writing, I thought about my Arrogant One’s dilemma. For some time now – several months, if the elf was being truthful – he had been noticing a problem with his magic. There was a fluctuation in his ability to cast spells, with results falling along the full spectrum from perfection to nonexistent to unexpected. If it was not a physical ailment causing his predicament, then what was the source of the trouble?
Methinks I need to talk with my Arrogant One. I shook my head. Did I really just say methinks? I’ve been spending way too much time with my characters. Soon, I’ll be saying things like forsooth and mayhap and dost.
It took me almost an hour to track down my Arrogant One. How do my characters manage to disappear so completely in a 12-room split-level? I guess that’s a mystery to be solved some other time.
“Do you have a few minutes?”
My Arrogant One looked up at me and started to sneer. I raised an eyebrow, and crossed my arms over my chest. The elf blushed and ducked his head. “Of course, Mistress. What is it you need?”
“I thought we’d go have a private chat in my office and try to figure out a few things.”
Once we had settled ourselves behind the closed door of my office, I steepled my fingers and waited. My Arrogant One squirmed for several moments, scowling at me. Finally, he blurted out, “Why am I here? What is it you wish to discuss?”
“I want to try to understand what is happening to your magic. I want to find the source of your problem and see if it is possible to alleviate it.”
My Arrogant One furrowed his brow and chewed on his lower lip. Finally, he nodded. “How do you propose to do that?”
I shrugged. “I’m not really sure yet. Do you remember the first time you had a problem with your magic?”
The elf shook his head. “No. I thought it had been several months, as I told you, but my companion, your Bounty Hunter, postulated it has been longer.”
I frowned. “Okay. Tell me exactly what has been happening.”
He paused, tilting his head and fiddling with his cloak. When he answered, his voice was tinged with impatience. “As I previously explained, sometimes, my magic seems to work flawlessly. If I am, for example, creating an illusion, it is perfect in every detail. No one would know it is merely an illusion unless I told them.”
I nodded, trying to encourage the elf. “But other times . . .?”
“Other times, I cast a spell, and it is as if someone with no magic ability at all recited the words of an incantation. They are just words, possessing no power within them. Nothing happens. Nothing!” My Arrogant One’s face crumpled, and I thought I saw tears gathering at the corners of his eyes. He bowed his head and composed himself. When he raised his head and spoke again, his voice was so soft, I could barely hear.
“I do not know what is worse – when nothing happens, or when something unintentional happens, as with the Gypsy lad’s sketch coming to life, or you being shrunk with the building materials.”
I nodded. “Think back. When was the last time your magic worked flawlessly?”
My Arrogant One squirmed in his chair again. “Well . . .” His face reddened.
“It was about a month ago. I . . . I created several illusions that were perfect in every detail. The others – not just my friend, your Bounty Hunter, but all your other characters – congratulated me on the fine job I had done.” He ducked his head and shuffled his foot, obviously not eager to give me the details of his illusions.
I ignored his discomfort. “Okay, think hard about that time and about the two times you spoke of when your magic had unintended results – when you shrank me, and when you animated my Gypsy’s sketch.”
The elf tilted his head and furrowed his brow. “I am not sure I understand your intention. What, exactly, do you wish me to think about?”
“Was there anyone present when your magic produced the unintended results who was not there when your magic performed flawlessly?”
The elf thought a moment, then his eyes widened. “Oh! You believe that someone may be interfering with my magic? Causing my spells to malfunction?”
“It’s a possibility, isn’t it?”
My Arrogant One stood and started pacing. His eyes narrowed, and he tugged at his robes. He muttered to himself, obviously trying to remember, but after a few moments, he sighed, shook his head, and threw himself back into the chair. “No. The most recent time, when I created the perfect illusions, all the others were there. No one was absent.”
I sighed and raked my hand through my hair. “Then you must think back. You must try to remember the first time your magic failed.”
Once again, my Arrogant One stood and started pacing. This time, it was longer before he threw himself back into the chair. “I cannot be certain, but it seems it started once we returned from that other land, that land to which the wish listeners lured us.”
I remembered that odyssey, a tale that had taken nine weeks of blogs to relate to my readers.
“Are you sure?” I stared at him. “After our return?”
My Arrogant One frowned, and rubbed his chin. “Yes! Yes, I . . . I think I remember! It was not long after our return when my friend, your Bounty Hunter, challenged me to a chess match. I am a superior player, and I was soon bored. I attempted to animate the chess pieces, just for fun. Nothing happened. I cast the spell again, and nothing happened again. The third time I cast the spell, the chess pieces remained unchanged, but some of the furniture came alive. Two chairs and a small table were chasing us around the room when – quite fortuitously – Dragon entered the room and dispelled the magic. After that, my power seemed to ebb and flow with no discernable reason for the instability.”
“And that was the start of your problems? You are quite certain? I ask because I know that some of the others have claimed for many years that you are not as accomplished at magic as you claim. Are you quite certain you had no problems before we were trapped in that land?”
The elf turned beet red. “I had no problems before that, I assure you. The others denigrated me because of their jealousy.”
I sighed. “Well, maybe something that happened in that other land affected your power.”
My Arrogant One shook his head. “I cannot think what that might be.”
I frowned. “I know you do not wish to discuss this with anyone else, but I really think Dragon may be able to help.”
Before the elf could interrupt, I raised my hand and continued. “Dragon is the most powerful of my characters in the use of all types of magic, not just illusion. She can detect things in the traces of a magic signature that might lead to a solution for you. And, if it was anything that happened in that other land, Dragon is the only one who might be able to enlist the help of the Lord of the Forest, the unicorn who aided us in returning to this world.”
My Arrogant One sat, his eyes narrowed. He chewed on his lower lip as he obviously weighed the value of Dragon’s help against the humiliation he would feel at admitting to her or any of the others that he had lost control of his magic. Finally, he rose and nodded. “Very well. I will speak with her.”
I stood and walked with him to the door. “We’ll both go to her. Dragon owes me a few favors, and she may be more amenable to helping if the request comes from me.”
Will Dragon agree to help my Arrogant One find the cause of his problems? Will she be able to track down the source of his the fluctuation in his magic power? Be sure to come back next week and see what happens. We’ll leave the porch light on for you!