What is the Source of the Problem?

What is the Source of the Problem?

Arrogant One storms outAs 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.”
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/12/09/6486/

Birds in snow under deckDragon 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.”

I nodded.

ChessRook hitting DragonDragon 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 with smoke

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/

...waving staff

 

...me and the chipmunkI 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?”

Dragon nodded.

I shook my head. “How could a mere shrinking spell or retrieval spell bring the picture to life?”

dragon looking rightDragon 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 in front of fireplace

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?”

Arrogant One facing rightMy 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 . . .?”
Arrogant One
“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.

“Well?”

“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?”

Arrogant OneMy 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.”
Creatures along the path
I remembered that odyssey, a tale that had taken nine weeks of blogs to relate to my readers.
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/05/27/lost/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/06/03/our-little-odyssey/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/06/10/stranger-and-stranger-looking-for-the-way-home/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/06/17/the-search-for-home-continues/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/06/24/new-allies-or-new-enemies/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/07/01/next-leg-of-the-journey/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/07/08/the-way-home/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/07/15/preparing/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/07/22/home/

 

“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.”

Dragon and unicornBefore 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!

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What’s Wrong Now?

What’s Wrong Now?

Arrogant One facing right“Stop snoring!”

I recognized the voice of my Arrogant One as I passed the conference room, so I stuck my head in to see what trouble he was currently getting into.

Rook hitting Dragon“Stop snoring!” My Arrogant One looked up from the chess board he was studying, took a rook, and chucked it at Dragon, who was sleeping in front of her illusory fireplace. As he released the small chess piece, the elf mumbled an incantation. By the time the rook bounced off Dragon’s thick, scaly hide, it was big enough to rouse her, though – luckily for my Arrogant One – not nearly big enough to do any damage.

Smoke drifting from Dragon's snoutDragon opened one eye and dark smoke spewed from her snout. She gave the elf a baleful look. “What?

“I said stop snoring.” The elf cast another spell and the rook shrank back to its previous size and returned to his hand. My Arrogant One’s attention returned to the chess board.

“I am not snoring.” Dragon opened both eyes and glared at the elf.

“You are snoring.” A chorus of voices responded with equal parts annoyance and boredom.

Anthology coverEvidently, my characters’ excitement over the anthology containing two of my stories (https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/11/25/woo-hoo-coming-soon/ and
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/12/02/its-here/) had faded. They had spent several days reading the book, and had engaged in animated discussions of every one of the more than 30 poems, essays, and stories in the collection.
(You can download a copy of the anthology here for free: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/909374?fbclid=IwAR15_opnZHJRPrY2-jioKWRHlnbgbGJd8nWucIKQOchZbZjr0amdKn5HUFI)

Now, however, they were back to their winter doldrums. Dragon closed her eyes and resumed her nap, while my other characters engaged in various activities around the room.
window and binoculars
Elf facing right“Oh, Mistress! I am glad you are here.” Cleric beckoned me from across the room. She was by the big picture window, binoculars in hand, studying some birds in the snow by the bush in front of the deck. “Come look at these birds. I do not recognize them!”

Birds in snow under deck

I started to walk toward the window, but paused, my attention arrested by the chess game between my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter. My Arrogant One had cast a spell of illusion on the chess pieces, causing them to appear alive. As the elf pointed to one of the knights, it galloped across the board and positioned itself on the square indicated by my Arrogant One.

“Tha elfie be cheatin’!” My Old Dwarf chuckled and tapped the side of his nose with his forefinger.

“I am not cheating! And do not call me elfie!” My Arrogant One’s shriek was somewhere in the upper register of human hearing, but it evidently was quite painful to Dragon, who snarled at the elf.

As my Bounty Hunter attempted to diffuse the situation between his cohort and Dragon, I just shook my head and continued toward the window.

As I approached, Cleric sighed and put down the pair of binoculars she had been using. “You are too late, Mistress.” She pointed at my Arrogant One. “The birds took flight at his screech.”

I ducked my head in a gesture of apology. “I’m sorry I didn’t come right over when you beckoned. There aren’t many birds you are unable to identify. I would have liked to see these mystery birds.”
Pheasant
gypsy-facing-right“You can.” My Gypsy turned to us and held out his sketch pad. “I drew a picture of one of them.”

I took the pad from him and looked, admiring his artwork.

Cleric, looking over my shoulder, gasped. “You have captured it precisely!” She beamed at the lad.

I studied the drawing. “Excellent detail! This is a male Ring-necked Pheasant. This species was introduced to this country from Asia more than a hundred years ago. It rapidly became a very common and much sought-after game bird. While it is not unusual to see Ring-necked Pheasants around backyard bird feeders, I haven’t seen any here in several years.”

Dark-eyed Junco“I hope they come back.” Cleric looked out the window, a wistful expression on her face. “Oh, look!” She brightened as she pointed to another bird. “A Dark-eyed Junco!”

My Gypsy studied the junco for a moment. “May I have my pad back, Mistress? I would like to try sketching this bird, too.”

As I handed him his sketch pad, I notice the page we had been looking at was almost blank. “Hey, what did you do, use disappearing ink?”
Something's missing
Gypsy stared at the page that had held his drawing. Now, there were just a few feathers remaining against a snowy backdrop. “No, Mistress, I used the colored pencils Master Miles gave us to use during our Gratitude Scavenger Hunt.” (https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/09/23/were-doing-what/ and https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/09/30/gratitude-scavenger-hunt/)

For today's blog 001Cleric, my Gypsy, and I gaped at the picture. Before any of us could say anything, my husband, Miles, entered the room. His brow was creased, and anxiety tinged his voice. “Honey, I think you better come upstairs, right now.”

I frowned. “Why? What’s wrong?”

As small as a RobinMiles raked his hand through his hair and grimaced. “There’s a bird flying around the kitchen. I don’t know how it got in the house – no one has opened any doors or windows.” Miles paused and rubbed the back of his neck. “That’s not all. This bird is . . . well, it’s strange-looking. It’s very colorful, and it has long tail feathers, but it’s no bigger than a robin. It almost looks like a miniature pheasant!”

Cleric, my Gypsy, and I bolted for the stairs, with Miles trailing behind.

“Wait!” My husband rushed to catch up with us. “Do you know something about this bird?”

Something's missing“Perchance.” My Gypsy looked at the bird, nodded, then turned to Miles and held out his sketch pad. “Just a few moments ago, there was a picture of a Ring-necked Pheasant on this paper. I drew it, so I know it was not an enchanted image. But now, somehow, the bird seems to have escaped the drawing and is flying around.”

Miles looked from the picture, which now displayed just a few feathers, to the bird, and back again. “How . . .?”

I shrugged. “Don’t know yet. First thing to do is catch the bird, so we can examine it. Someone go get Dragon.”

By the time my Gypsy returned with Dragon, who was grumbling and fuming over the interruption to her nap, Cleric had coaxed the small bird to perch on her finger. When Dragon spotted the small creature, she furrowed her scaly brow and tilted her head. “What is that?”

“That’s what we’re trying to figure out.” I explained the series of events and pointed to my Gypsy’s sketch pad. “Was that drawing enchanted?”

My Gypsy frowned. “I told you, Mistress, it could not be enchanted. I drew it, and I used no magic.”

I raised an eyebrow and chuckled. “I never suggested you enchanted it. There are a few other magic users around here, if you remember.”

My Gypsy blushed but nodded and handed the sketch pad to Dragon.
Dragon catches pheasant
Dragon examined the pad carefully. She nodded. “Let me see the bird.”

Cleric carefully transferred the nervous creature to Dragon’s outstretched, clawed hand. Gently, the huge beast examined the little bird before returning it to Cleric.

Dragon wrinkled her nose. “I do sense a residual trace of magic on the pad, and a stronger presence of magic on the bird itself. I would deduce that someone enchanted the picture to take wing but did not do a very competent job.”

I sighed and raked my hand through my hair. “Can you tell from the residual magic who cast the spell?”

Dragon tilted her head and frowned. “It has the feel of the pompous elf’s magic, yet, there is a difference.”

I sighed. “Let’s go talk to the elf.”

Cleric was still holding the bird. “Mistress, what should I do with him?”

I considered my options. “You better bring him but be sure he doesn’t get loose and start flying around again, please.”
Chess
Back down in the conference room, my Arrogant One had just won the chess match against his friend and cohort, my Bounty Hunter. They were about to set up the board for another game, when I walked over to them.

“I’d like to talk to you.”

My Arrogant One made shooing motions at me. “I am a very busy person. If you wish an audience with me, you will need to petition my chancellor.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Your chancellor?”

Bounty HunterThe elf nodded and made a sweeping gesture toward my Bounty Hunter. “My Chancellor.”

I snorted and turned to my other character. “Well, Chancellor, I have need of an audience with your lord . . . right now.”

My Bounty Hunter inclined his head and chuckled. “I will see if I can squeeze you into my lord’s very busy schedule.”

I narrowed my eyes. “Oh, will you look at that? I see an opening in his schedule.”

I took a seat next to my Arrogant One. Dragon stood behind the elf, with her hands on his shoulders, keeping him from springing out of his seat.

“Unhand me, you beast!” My Arrogant One turned beet red and struggled against Dragon’s hold.

“Sit still and listen.” Dragon’s voice invited no argument.

The elf squirmed, but to no avail. “Very well! What is it you want?”

I glared at my Arrogant One. “Did you enchant my Gypsy’s sketch pad, or the drawing he made of a pheasant?”

The elf scowled. “What are you talking about?”

My Gypsy showed him the sketch pad. “I drew a picture of the pheasant Cleric was watching by the bush. After a few minutes, this was all that was left of the sketch. And, a few minutes after that, Master Miles found a bird flying around the house. It appears to be a miniature pheasant.” He pointed to the bird Cleric was holding.

My Arrogant One sniffed indignantly. “Why would I waste my time on such foolishness?”

I raised an eyebrow. “I don’t know why you would do many of the things you do. However, Dragon detected residual magic on the sketch pad and on the bird. It is similar to the signature produced by your magic.”

My Arrogant One paled. He and my Bounty Hunter exchanged glances. “Err . . . I have no knowledge of any of this.”

“I think you do.” My Gypsy glowered at the elf.

I nodded. “I believe you know something, too. Now talk.”

DwarfArrogant OneMy Arrogant One squirmed out of Dragon’s grasp and bounded toward the door. My Old Dwarf jumped up, brandishing his axe and blocking the elf’s path. “Tha lass be wantin’ fer ye ta be conversatin’ wit ’er, elfie.”

To my surprise, my Arrogant One did not screech about being called elfie. Instead, he lowered his head and scuffed one foot back and forth. “Very well. I will tell you everything I know.” He looked around at everyone watching him. “But not here.”

I sighed. “My office. Now.” I beckoned to my Bounty Hunter. “You, too. I have a feeling you might know something about this as well.”

Once in my office, with the door closed firmly behind us, my Arrogant One was anything but arrogant. In a voice quavering with emotion, he began.

“I have been noticing a problem with my power.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Oh?”

The elf sat, hands clasped in his lap, shoulders slumped. “It appears that I may be losing control over my magic.”

I raised both eyebrows. “How long has this been going on?”

“For several of your months.” The elf spoke so softly, I could barely hear his response. “Sometimes, I can not perform any magic, not even the simplest illusions. Other times, I can cast a spell, but with unintended results.”

My Bounty Hunter cleared his throat. “Do you remember sometime in the beginning of the month you call October, we asked if we could accompany you on a nature hike?”

I nodded.

“I know you noticed us hanging back and engaging in whispered conversations.”

https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/10/07/colorful-autumn-nature-walk/

Again, I nodded.

“Well, we were attempting to determine the extent of my friend’s loss of control over his magic.”

My elf squirmed. “I was unable to create even the smallest illusion that day. I tried several times to create various birds for you to photograph, but to no avail.”

My Bounty Hunter placed a comforting hand on his friend’s shoulder. “The following week, there was that unfortunate incident when you were caught in the spell the elf used to shrink some materials we were hauling up to the shed roof to make repairs.”

https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/10/14/a-small-problem/

I frowned. “Yes, I remember that, too.”

 

My Arrogant One chewed on his lower lip. “We thought my condition was improving. Recently, I performed flawlessly, creating some perfect illusions.”

https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/11/11/which-way-did-they-go/
Miles waving from car
He sighed. “But today, I suppose the shrinking spell I placed on the rook I had thrown at Dragon, along with the spell I cast on the chess pieces to bring them to life, somehow combined to cause the Gypsy’s sketch to come alive and shrink.”

I raked my hand through my hair. “Perhaps you have a physical ailment that is wreaking havoc with your power? Have you recently had a cold, or any flu-like symptoms? Fever? Rash? Headaches?”

To each, my Arrogant One shook his head. “Nothing. Physically, I have felt fine.”

“Maybe you should discuss this with Dragon, Sorceress, and Cleric.”

My Arrogant One’s head shot up. “No! I would not humiliate myself in front of them!”

I shrugged. “Well, let’s go see if you’re able to undo the current problem, and get the bird back into my Gypsy’s picture. Then, I guess, you’ll just have to be careful when and where you perform your magic. Don’t use your power around anyone or anything on which it might have an adverse effect.”

My Arrogant One nodded and rose from his chair. He looked miserable, his eyes rimmed with red, his shoulders slumped, his head hanging. I almost felt sorry for him.

Back in the conference room, Cleric had returned to the window, and was bird-watching again. My Gypsy was next to her, sketching.

“Where’s the bird?” I looked around.
Dragon looks up from fireplacePheasant
Dragon looked up from her position in front of her illusory fireplace. “I was able to return the bird to its proper form and place it back in the sketch. I think I might know how the problem occurred.”

“You know nothing, beast!” My Arrogant One snarled, then turned on his heel and marched out of the room, my Bounty Hunter close behind.

 

 

Yeah. I almost felt sorry for him.

What is causing my Arrogant One to lose control of his powers? Be sure to come back next week and see if we find any clues. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

Fixtures Light Elegant Lighting Fixture And Supply Company Intended For Front Porch Light Fixtures Front Porch Light Fixtures

It’s Here!

It’s Here!

Elf facing right“I do not think Mistress Writer is in the mood to celebrate.” Cleric fidgeted with her belt and shifted her weight from one foot to the other.
Stu-04-NatGal
“Why would she not be? Is she not happy her stories have been published?” Sorceress furrowed her brow.

“Oh, she is very pleased with her accomplishment.” Cleric was quick to respond.
Dwarf
The Old Dwarf shook his head. “Thet do na be makin’ sense. Iffin tha lass be pleased, then why be she not wantin’ ta be celebratin’?”
foreman-facing-left
“I believe she is in pain. She has been complaining about her neck.” The Foreman shifted his position on the hard chair.

Cleric nodded. “She has been plagued by stiffness in her neck that causes sharp pains to extend behind her ear and to the top of her head. She spoke with her doctor about this when she went for her regular checkup. The doctor changed some medications Mistress is taking for some chronic conditions, and she sent Mistress to see a physical therapist. That is where she is right now. Master Miles drove her to her appointment.”

“A physic therapodist? Wot be thet?” The dwarf scowled.

Young hero 2The Young Hero chuckled. “It is pronounced phys-i-cal ther-a-pist. I looked it up on Mistress Writer’s magic box, the one she calls a computer. A physical therapist is someone who can help relieve a person’s pain and help them gain mobility through physical means, like exercise or massage, as opposed to the use of surgery or a lot of medicines.”

Physical therapy

Cleric sighed. “I do not understand why Mistress will not simply allow me to tend her with my healing herbs.”

GypsyThe Gypsy shrugged. “Mistress Writer has never been in favor of us utilizing the skills, materials, and processes of our world on her or others from this world. Maybe she is afraid things that work in our world would have adverse effects on someone from this world.”
Arrogant One facing right
“Mayhap.” The Arrogant One raised an eyebrow. “But she does allow us to perform magic sometimes.”

Sorceress shrugged. “Perchance she is just more comfortable with the physician and the medical processes with which she is familiar.”
Bounty Hunter
The Bounty Hunter sighed. “Are we going to sit here all day and discuss Mistress Writer’s maladies, or are we going to go to her office and read the book containing her stories?”

“Why is everyone so interested in her stories anyway?” Dragon sniffed and proceeded to inspect her claws. “What is so interesting about a romance involving a cowboy anyway?”

second story - cowboy tale
My other dragon
The dwarf doubled over with laughter. “It do na be her cowboy story wot ye do na be likin’, beastie. It be her story o thet other dragon!” He nodded and tapped the side of his forehead knowingly. “Ye still be jealous!”
Dragon with smoke
Dragon glared at the dwarf, and dark smoke spewed from her nostrils. “I am not jealous.”

“Right.” The Gypsy tittered.

“I am not.” Dragon shot him a baleful look. “As a matter of fact, I have read her story of the other dragon, and I agree with her completely. I was not right for that story. I am much too good and noble and playful.”

The Foreman shook his head. “Well, Mistress Writer is not the only person whose work is contained in this anthology. I, for one, would like to see some of the other works in there.”

The Gypsy stood and beckoned to his companions as he walked toward the stairs. “Come with me. We can borrow Mistress Writer’s portable computer, the one she calls a laptop. We can take that into the conference room, where there is enough room for everyone to sit comfortably. Then, with a little magic, Dragon should be able to make the words of the book go from the laptop to the wall, so everyone can see them.”

A few minutes later, the companions were all comfortably ensconced in the conference room. Dragon was curled up on the rug in front of her illusory fireplace while the others occupied sofas and chairs.

“So’s kin ye be gittin’ tha book ta be showin’ itself on tha wall?” The dwarf swigged a bottle of juice and chomped a handful of popcorn while he waited.

The Gypsy frowned as he tapped various keys on the laptop. “I do not think Mistress has placed the book into this device yet. Let me see if I can do that.”

“You need to download it. The link to it can be found on her Facebook page.” Cleric turned red as everyone turned to stare at her. “I was with her when she was getting the book on her office computer. I remember what she did.”

Cleric went over and sat next to the Gypsy. “Can you find her Facebook page?”

The Gypsy tapped a few more keys. “Yes, here it is. And here is the information.”

Margaret Tesch
Wednesday at 8:11 AM •
Well, today is publication day! I have two stories in this collection, and I am humbled to be part of such a wonderful, creative group of writers and poets.
On the Platform, Waiting: A Writer’s Group Anthology can now be downloaded and read through Smashwords.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/909374?fbclid=IwAR15_opnZHJRPrY2-jioKWRHlnbgbGJd8nWucIKQOchZbZjr0amdKn5HUFI

Cleric nodded. “Click on that link and it will take you to the place where you can get the book.”

The Gypsy clicked on it, and the page for Smashwords opened in another window.

“You have to go to that tab now.” Cleric pointed.

The Gypsy navigated to Smashwords and read: On the Platform, Waiting: A Writer’s Group Anthology. “Is that it?”

Anthology cover

Cleric nodded. “Now, do you see where it says Download?”

The Gypsy nodded.

“There are a number of ways you can download it to a computer or other device. Mistress explained it to me. She has something called Kindle for PC installed on her computers. So, to get the book to appear on this computer, you would click on the button that says mobi (Kindle). If this computer did not have a kindle device, there are other choices. No matter what type of computer or device you have, Mistress Writer says you can get the book. And, it is free.”

“Free! I like that! I was afraid we might have to wait for Mistress Writer to return and ask her to purchase it for us.” The Gypsy looked relieved.

The dwarf poked the Gypsy and grinned. “Dinna ye been sayin’ ye be knowin’ how ta be doin’ this?”

“Well, I was not positive, but if it is free, there is no trouble.” The Gypsy clicked on the button Cleric had pointed to and downloaded the book.

reading the book 2A few moments later, Dragon stood by the laptop and waved her clawed hand. The image on the computer appeared on the wall, big enough for everyone to see. She clicked on a few keys on the computer, and they began to read the book.

“Wow! There are more than 30 poems, essays, and stories in this collection, by more than 20 different writers.” The Foreman sounded impressed.

“Where shall we start?” The Gypsy looked at the others.

“Why do na ye start at the startin’ point?” The dwarf munched another handful of popcorn. “But somebody better be readin’ it out loud. I do na ever be learnin’ ta read good.”

So, they took turns reading, savoring the various works.

* * *

Hello, dear readers. Dragon here. Mistress Writer is still at her physical therapy appointment. But I know she would want you to know that if you would like to read this book, just follow the link and download the anthology for free. (Here it is again, so you will not have to go looking for it.) https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/909374?fbclid=IwAR3h3w9eYqa0V6X9tT7Yt3ZifNVEyOkIs0MAF2EifBlRVEMVAY5_xqhuO-8

I also know Mistress Writer would tell you that if you like the book, please consider leaving some feedback on Smashwords for the authors. It can be as simple as “I like it!” or it could entail a more in-depth review of a piece in the collection that entertained you or really resonated with you in some way. I know Mistress Writer and the other authors will look forward to hearing from you.

We hope you’ll be back again next week to visit. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

Woo-hoo! Coming Soon!

Woo-hoo! Coming Soon!

birthdays-weekend-trip-to-wi-018

“What are you going to tell Dragon?” My husband, Miles, looked at me, his brow furrowed and the corners of his usually smiling mouth turned down.

looking for dragon“Shhhh!” I poked my head out of the laundry room and scanned the hallway. Hearing Dragon snoring in the conference room, I returned to Miles and took one end of the fitted sheet he was trying to fold. “Keep your voice down. I don’t want her to hear us.”

Miles lowered his voice. “She’s going to find out eventually. It would be best if you told her. Remember how she reacted before?”

I nodded. I remembered the hurt in her eyes, the scorn in her voice, the look of betrayal on her reptilian face. I didn’t want to go through that again.

https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2016/01/24/dragon-or-green-eyed-monster/

“Well? What are you going to tell her, then?” Miles gave me a searching look.

I furrowed my brow and chewed on my lower lip as Miles and I finished folding the sheet. “I’ll think of something.”

Dwarf and hamA short while later, I was in my office with the door closed. My Old Dwarf shouldered the door open, turning the doorknob with one hand while munching a ham he held in his other hand. He plopped down in a chair next to me. “Be ye busy, lass?”

“I would have thought the closed door would convey that impression.” I gave him an icy glare.

“Oh, did tha door been closed? I dinna be noticin’.” He looked at my computer monitor. “What be ye doin’?”

I immediately minimized the window, hiding the image that had filled the screen. “Nothing important.”

Dragon with smoke“Good. Then we kin be chattin’.” He took a big bite of the ham, then continued talking around the mouthful of food. “Lass, I be worried aboot tha big beastie.”

I tried to ignore the bits of ham that fell from the dwarf’s mouth onto his grizzled beard. “Dragon? Why are you worried about her?”

“She be seemin’ out o sorts tha past few days.”

I sighed. “She gets this way every winter, you know that. She’ll spend the rest of the winter huddled in front of her illusory fireplace, grumbling and fuming about the cold.”

Smoke drifting from Dragon's snout

“Ye think thet be all there be ta it?” The dwarf looked relieved.

“I’m sure of it.” I gave him a big smile and a reassuring pat on his hand.

He jumped out of his seat and headed out the door, humming around another mouthful of food.

After my Old Dwarf left, I got up, closed the door, and returned to my computer. I brought up the image I had been viewing before the interruption.

Promo for anthology

“Is that about the book where your new dragon lives?”

I jumped up, almost knocking over my chair. I shot a quick glance at the door – it was still closed tight. “How did you get in here?” I gaped at Dragon.
Dragon asks about book
“That matters not. I am here.” She looked pointedly at the image on the monitor. “Is that about the book where your new dragon lives?”

I nodded, not knowing what to say.

“It is to be published soon?” Thin tendrils of smoke drifted from her snout.
Coming November 27
“Yes.” I pointed to the monitor. “It will be available online starting November 27.”

JourneysDragon stared at the image for several long minutes. “It states that the anthology explores the topic of journeys.”

Dragon looked at me, and I nodded my affirmation.

Dragon narrowed her eyes. “To what wondrous and exotic places does your new dragon go?”

I wrinkled my forehead. “He does not take a literal journey. The dragon in that story is on the journey of life, a journey of discovery.”

Dragon studied the image again. “The other stories, the essays, the poems in this anthology – do they all involve dragons?”

I laughed. “No.”
Dragon with smoke
Dragon frowned, and the smoky tendrils drifting from her nose darkened. “Are they all about journeys of life and discovery?”

second story - cowboy taleI tilted my head and rubbed the back of my neck. “Well, no. Each story, essay, and poem in the anthology is a unique interpretation of the concept of a journey. Each author has their own understanding of the topic. I, myself, have a second story in the anthology that involves a cowboy’s journey from grief, guilt, and blame to understanding and acceptance, and on to romance.”

Dragon remained silent as she digested this information. “Your new dragon is not in that story?”
My other dragon 2
I smiled. “No. He had no place in that story.”
Dragon with smoke bubbles
“As I had no place in his story?” Her voice was soft, but a note of petulance crept into her words. Her distress was plain to see, as she morphed to blue and started dripping smoke bubbles from her nose.

I nodded. “As you had no place in his story.”

dragon looking rightDragon snorted and returned to an angry shade of red. “Because, as you once told me, I am not right for the part? You claimed I was too noble, too experienced, too good, too playful. You claimed your new dragon did not have my knowledge, my compassion, my sense of fair-play, or my humor.” She glared at me.

“That is correct, my friend.” I reached out and placed my hand on her scaly arm.

Dragon stopped glaring. “You also once told me I could not meet your new dragon then, as you claimed I would be a good influence on him, which would be bad for your story…his story. But you also said I might meet him someday.”

I nodded, remembering the exchange.

“May I meet him now?”

I shook my head. “He is not like you. He lives only within the words of the story. You will have to read the story to meet him.”

“Then, may I read the story?”

“You may read that one, and all the other stories, essays, and poems in the anthology – after it is published on November 27. At that time, specific information will be released, detailing where and how it will be available.”
Promo for anthology
Dragon nodded. She turned back to the image on the computer monitor and stared at it again. “Tell me about the others whose stories, essays, and poems are in this anthology.”

I felt a big smile spread across my face. “They are a wonderful, diverse group of writers. We met in cyberspace some years ago when we all participated in an online workshop – the 2015 October Platform Challenge. That was a Writer’s Digest workshop presented by Robert Lee Brewer, then Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community. The workshop was designed to teach writers how to develop or improve a writing platform and promotion plan, as well as to cultivate a positive presence on social media.”

“That was three years ago.” Dragon seemed surprised. “Is that not when you started writing your blog?”

I nodded. “Starting a blog was one of the tasks for the workshop.”

Dragon eyed me curiously. “And your group has remained together since then?”

I nodded. “We have. We formed a writer’s group on one of the social media sites, and we still offer each other support and encouragement. This anthology was a major project for that group, and the members who served as editors gave tirelessly of their time and expertise to ensure the completion and eventual publication of our work.”

Elf clericDragon nodded. She began to shimmer and slowly shape-shift into her accustomed guise of an elf maiden.

“I look forward to reading their work.” She smiled at me. “Perhaps, when the anthology is released, my fellow characters and I can throw you a small party, celebrating the publication of your two stories in this anthology.”
My other dragon
I grinned and winked at her. “You would celebrate the publication of my new dragon’s story?”

Dragon tilted her head and paused a moment before answering. “Only if you promise someday we will be celebrating the publication of our stories.”

I sighed. “I will do my best.”

I hope you will all come back next week to find out how to get your copy of this anthology, called on the platform, waiting. I know all my readers will enjoy these works by my fellow writers and me. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Which Way Did They Go?

Which Way Did They Go?

dragon looking rightDragon looked around cautiously. She stuck her head through the open conference room door and looked, first down the hallway toward Mistress Writer’s office, and then up the stairs toward the front entry. She sniffed the air, then tilted her head and cocked her ears, listening carefully. “I think they are gone.”

Stu-04-NatGalShe turned back to the conference room, where the companions had gathered. Sorceress nodded. “Yes. Mistress Writer and Master Miles left the house about 15 minutes ago. They said they would be gone all day. They told Cleric they are going to spend the day shopping, and then they plan to go to a restaurant and maybe to a movie after that.”

Dragon drew back her lips in a wide, toothy grin. “Good. We may commence.”

* * *

“Hey, Nolan! I thought you said that couple we’re watching left the premises.”

“They did, Johnson, about a half-hour ago.”

“Well, then, who’s that?” The man called Johnson pointed to a car leaving the garage of the property they were watching.

Walkie-talkie“I don’t know! Let me check. Maybe they came back when we were patrolling another area.” Nolan picked up his walkie-talkie. “Hey, Davis, you there? Over.”

The radio crackled, and a scratchy voice replied. “Yeah, I’m here. Who’s this? Over.”

“Davis, this is Nolan, at the stakeout. Are you still tailing that pair in the car? Over.”

“Sure, Nolan. Jakoby and I are right behind them. Why? Over.”

“Well Johnson and I just saw a car leave the garage. It looks the same as the car that left earlier, the one you say you’re following. We thought maybe they came back when we weren’t looking. Over.”

“Don’t know what to tell you. They didn’t return to their house. We’ve been following this car ever since it left your location about a half-hour ago. It’s heading east on 212, and it’s never been out of our sight. Over.”

“Okay. Stay with that car. Don’t lose them. Out.”

Nolan turned back to his partner. “Davis said . . .”

FedJohnson cut him off. “I heard. Contact Pruse and McFadden. They’re at the end of the street. Tell them to tail this new car.”

Nolan contacted the other team and relayed the message.

After a few seconds of silence, a reply crackled through the walkie-talkie. “Nolan, how long ago did you say this car left your location? Over.”

“Maybe five minutes. Why? Over.”

“You putting us on, Nolan? If it left your location five minutes ago, it should have passed us by now. There hasn’t been a car go past since the one Davis and Jakoby are tailing. Now quit trying to be funny! Over and out.”

Miles waving from carBefore Nolan could say anything, he and Johnson saw the garage door open again, and another car leave, identical to the first two. This time, they got a good look at the driver, who smiled and waved as the car drove slowly past them.

Johnson’s jaw dropped. “That’s the guy! That’s the guy we’re supposed to be watching. The one who left here earlier with his wife. The one Davis and Jakoby are tailing.”

Johnson grabbed Nolan’s walkie-talkie. “Davis and Jakoby! Pull that car over! Make sure the occupants are who you think they should be! You hear me? Pull it over! Pruse and McFadden, if a car tries to go past you, stop it!”

* * *

While Johnson and Nolan were trying to make sense of what was going on with the car, Deputies Whitewash and Dawg were patrolling the street east of the stakeout location.

“Whitewash! Look! There’s that crazy old coot with the suit of armor and the axe!”
Dwarf and rabbit
Deputy Whitewash looked in the direction her partner was pointing. She saw the armored dwarf sprinting 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 be waiting for the rotund figure who was puffing and panting after it.

As the rabbit led the Old Dwarf closer to the deputies, Whitewash and Dawg heard the dwarf yelling. “I be gittin’ ye this time, ye ornery little beastie, ye jest be seein’ iffin I do na! Thet be tha lastest time ye be getting’ in Mistress Writer’s carrot patch!” He waved the axe wildly over his head.

The two deputies eyed the approaching figure with trepidation. As the dwarf continued chasing the rabbit toward them, they both removed their pistols from their holsters and released the safeties.

“Sir? Sir! Please put down that weapon.” Dawg dropped to one knee and aimed his gun at the dwarf.

“Sir, we don’t want to hurt you, but you must put down that weapon!” Whitewash stood with her feet planted firmly apart and took aim at the approaching figure.

Suddenly, the rabbit and its pursuer made a quick turn and disappeared between two houses. The deputies gave chase.

“Where did they go?” Dawg looked down the side yards separating the houses. Nothing was there.

“They couldn’t have run the length of the houses and gotten to the back yards so quickly!” Whitewash gaped in the direction they had seen the dwarf and the rabbit running.

Dwarf, rabbit, and deputiesSuddenly, they heard a commotion behind them. The rabbit was loping down the side of a house on the opposite side of the street, coming straight toward them. The dwarf was hot on its heels, still cussing and yelling and waving the axe around.

“How did they get over there?” Dawg’s eyes were as big as saucers.

As the two deputies raced toward the dwarf, the rabbit turned right and streaked past several houses before turning again and running between two buildings. The dwarf was still right behind the creature.

“Stop! Stop or we’ll shoot!” Dawg yelled at the back of the departing figure.

When Whitewash and Dawg reached the side yard the dwarf had run down, they saw nothing. Once again, they heard a commotion behind them. They turned and looked just as the rabbit and the dwarf popped out from between two houses on the other side of the street.

Whitewash blanched. “That’s not possible!”

Using their shoulder microphones, Dawg and Whitewash contacted several of the other law enforcement agents who were manning various stakeout locations throughout the neighborhood. Soon, four sheriff’s deputies and six federal agents were chasing the dwarf and the rabbit around the neighborhood.

Dwarf and rabbit 2The dwarf and the rabbit always seemed to disappear between two houses on one side of the street, only to reappear a few seconds later, a little further down the road, running from between two houses on the other side of the street. They kept leading the law enforcement officials further and further down the lane, heading east, away from the house under surveillance.

* * *

Half of the task force was chasing the dwarf heading east, and all but two of the remaining members of the team were at the far western end of the street trying to figure out what was happening with the car that was being tailed, and the other identical cars that Johnson and Nolan swore they had seen leave the garage. Only two agents were still watching the dwelling when Dragon, in her customary elven guise, left the house with Cleric and Sorceress. The agents watched as the three figures crossed the street and hurried to the house of their neighbors, Mace and Gloria.

Dragon tapped on the door, then opened it just wide enough for her and her two companions to slip through. The two agents immediately ran over to the house. One agent crept up onto the porch of the house the three figures had just entered while his partner stayed on the sidewalk and used her walkie-talkie to contact the team leaders. “Johnson? Nolan? Denhurst here. Over.”

The radio crackled. “Nolan here. What’s up, Denhurst? Over.”

“Three of the people from the house we have staked out just left that house and entered the home of our two informants, Mace and Gloria. Over.”

“Stay there. Try to keep them in sight. Mace and Gloria could be in danger. Johnson and I will be right there. Out.”

Moments later, Johnson and Nolan joined the other two agents on the porch of Mace and Gloria’s house. Johnson placed his right index finger over his lips and pointed with his other hand. The front window was open a few inches, just enough to let the agents hear what was going on.

In the living room, Gloria was throwing a hissy fit, screeching and waving her hands around. “What is this? What are you three doing here? How dare you come into my home?”
Confronting Gloria
Dragon narrowed her eyes. “We want to know what is going on, Gloria. We know you are the reason the task force is here, watching us.”

“Get out!” Gloria ran to the window and peeked through the curtains. “Get out now, before you bring them here!”

Sorceress snorted. “And why would you not want them here?”

Gloria’s face contorted into a snarl. “Get out! Get out! You’re going to ruin everything! It was the perfect plan. We convinced the sheriff’s deputies those annoying neighbors, Marge and Miles, and all you people constantly visiting them, are involved in illegal activities. When they saw all of you, particularly that crazy old coot that goes around in the suit of armor and an axe, it was easy to get them to open an investigation. Then, Deputy Dawg called in the feds and they formed a task force. They staked out that house and have you all under surveillance. That way, everyone’s attention is on that house, and nobody notices what Mace and I do. We can’t risk having them come in here and finding . . .”

Gloria’s voice trailed off, and she looked around the room, her eyes wide with fear. She wiped her damp palms on her jeans and sweat poured down her face in rivulets.

“Finding what, Gloria?” Cleric advanced on the woman. “What is it you do not want them to find?”

Just then, Dragon yelped. “I hear someone out front. Come, we must leave. Head for the back door!”

Johnson jumped. “They’re running! Denhurst, you and your partner get to the back of the house and stop them. Nolan, we’ll take the front door.”

Johnson and Nolan waited until Denhurst radioed that she and her partner were in position at the back of the house. Then they drew their weapons and kicked in the front door to Mace and Gloria’s house.

Gloria was just coming down the hallway and into the living room with a hamper of laundry when two federal agents burst through the front door with weapons drawn. Gloria screamed, and dirty socks and wet towels went everywhere.

* * *

neighborNeighbor 2 facing leftLater that afternoon, Mace and Gloria met with federal agents. They threatened to press charges against the members of the task force. Gloria was almost hysterical. “They broke our front door, and they tore our entire house apart! They kept saying over and over and over that the jig was up, that they had heard everything! They claimed that right before they broke in they had seen and heard me talking with three people from my neighbors’ house. They’re wrong! I was alone in the house when they broke in!”

Mace was not much calmer than his wife. “Gloria said they pointed weapons at her! I think they’re all crazy!”

Every member of the task force was brought in to be debriefed by their superiors. Four sheriff’s deputies and six federal agents all claimed they had been chasing a suspect going east through the neighborhood. Deputy Dawg kept babbling about the chase. “It was that crazy old coot in armor. He had an axe, and he was chasing a rabbit. We called to him to stop, to drop his weapon, but he wouldn’t. He just kept chasing the rabbit. They would run between the houses, but then they would disappear and pop out from between the houses on the other side of the street!”

The deputy’s nine colleagues sat there with him, looking dazed. They all kept nodding at Dawg’s account.

Meanwhile, Agents Johnson and Nolan, along with four of their fellow task-force members, were gibbering about a car that kept leaving the garage over and over and over, without ever first re-entering it. And Agent Denhurst and her partner kept blathering about people who had been in a certain house, talking with the owner, and who just disappeared.

Their superiors frowned. One sighed and raked his hand through his hair. “Maybe it’s time for some of these people to be put on leave.”

Another answered, “Maybe it’s time for them to check into a nice, quiet rest home.”

 

* * *

dragon talking

Dragon smiled at her companions. “That was a good day’s work.”
Arrogant One
The Arrogant One nodded. He drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and grasped his cloak in both hands, puffing out his chest with pride. “I told you I was an illusionist extraordinaire.”

“You did a great job with Master Miles and the car!” The Gypsy’s voice held a grudging admiration for the elf.

Cleric chuckled. “And with our little chat with Gloria as well! Do you think Gloria was able to convince the authorities that she never saw us in her house, let alone spoke with us?”

Sorceress smirked. “Serves her right if she cannot!”

The Old Dwarf doubled over with laughter. “An’ tha looks on tha faces o them deputies! I couldna be belivin’ me ownest eyes, as ye been havin’ tha illusion ye been creatin’ o me be chasin’ thet fool rabbit all o’er tha place! Do ye be thinkin’ tha deputies be still tryin’ ta be catchin’ me?”

Dragon smirked. “I do not believe we will have to worry about the deputies or any of the others ever again.”

* * *

Easter 128Backyard 050As Miles pulled the car into the driveway, I commented, “I hope my characters had a nice, quiet day today and didn’t get into any trouble.”

Miles looked at me as if I had grown a second head. “Yeah. Right. Like that would ever happen!”

We both sighed.

So now that my characters have taken care of the intrepid Deputies Whitewash and Dawg and the other members of the task force, what’s next? Be sure to come back next week and see! We’ll leave the porch light on for you!

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Are They Still There?

Are They Still There?

Suits“Are they still out there?”

I was referring to County Sheriff ’s deputies Melody Whitewash and Dustin Dawg, and a slew of federal agents, who had been skulking around the neighborhood for the better part of two weeks. They plainly had our property under surveillance but would not tell us why.
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/10/21/what-have-my-characters-done-now/

making dinnerMy husband, Miles, shrugged. “I’m not sure. They’ve become so much a part of the scenery, I don’t even notice them anymore.” He took the potato peeler and started working on the mountain of spuds. “We better get dinner in the crock pots, so we can go rake the leaves. In the past two weeks, I think every tree and bush has shed every one of their leaves.”

I chuckled. “Yeah. It’s getting harder for the Keystone Kops to find hiding places.”

I took the Santoku knife and began cutting up the rest of the vegetables. “I still don’t know why we are under investigation.”

“Deputy Dawg stated that he didn’t say we are under investigation,” Miles reminded me.

“He also stated that he didn’t say we aren’t.” I frowned. “If it was just him and Deputy Whitewash prowling around the neighborhood, I wouldn’t be too worried. I would figure our nosy neighbors, Mace and Gloria, were behind it, and it would blow over as soon as the deputies couldn’t find any evidence of whatever the busybodies had accused us of this time.”

Miles nodded. “I agree. But with the alphabet soup of federal agencies involved in this alleged taskforce, I tend to think it’s something much more serious, something that’s not going to blow over any time soon.” He finished with his potatoes and started adding them to the slow cookers.

I stopped chopping and brushed the hair out of my eyes. “I’m still worried that it somehow involves my characters. I know they all deny doing anything that would cause us to be under investigation, but I also know you and I haven’t done anything illegal.”

Miles sighed. “And if it isn’t you and me, that only leaves your characters. Whenever there’s trouble, your characters seem to be right in the thick of things.”

Book manuscript“Honey, you know if I could, I’d send them all back into my manuscripts. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to do that. I still don’t understand how they all fell out of my manuscripts and ended up here, so I have no way to reverse the process.”

“I know, sweetheart. I don’t blame you.” My husband reached over and patted my hand.

* * *dragon talking

“I know Mistress Writer and Master Miles blame us for these people, these law enforcement officials, watching this property.” Dragon addressed a gathering of her fellow characters.
bounty-hunter-facing-other-direction
“They may accuse us, but we are blameless.” The Bounty Hunter slouched against the wall of the conference room. He spoke softly and without rancor.

Arrogant One facing rightIn contrast, his compatriot, the Arrogant One, drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and grasped his cloak in both hands. When he spoke, it was in an annoying high-pitched screech, a peculiar combination of arrogance and petulance. “They have no right to accuse us of anything. We are entirely innocent of all transgressions.”

foreman-facing-left“We all agree that we have done nothing to validate Mistress Writer’s lack of faith in us in this instance. However, this has not always been the case.” The Foreman narrowed his gray eyes and glared at the Arrogant One. “Some of us have caused Mistress Writer and Master Miles much grief in the past. It is no wonder they do not believe in our innocence.”

sorceress-facing-rightThe Arrogant One turned beet red and opened his mouth to reply, but Sorceress cut him off, holding up her hand like a cop stopping traffic. “This is unproductive. Does it really matter whether Mistress Writer blames us? Does it even matter whether we are innocent? If these law enforcers remain in the area and continue to observe the activities of Mistress Writer and Master Miles, sooner or later they will discover us.”

Dwarf facing right“An’ why would thet be so bad?” The Old Dwarf rubbed his shield with a soft cloth, buffing it to a shiny finish. He smiled as he saw his bearded face staring back at him. Then he stood, picked up his battleaxe, looked at his friends and scoffed. “Wot could tha law enforcers be doin’ ta us iffin they be discoverin’ us, anywho?”
Elf facing right
“I do not fear what they could do to us, but what they would do to Mistress Writer and Master Miles.” Cleric spoke softly, her words catching in her throat, and tears stinging her cornflower blue eyes.

Gypsydagger - bullseyeThe Gypsy nodded. “It would not be pleasant for them, trying to explain who we are and whence we came.” His arm snaked out, and his stiletto flew across the room, scoring a perfect bulls-eye on the target mounted on the far wall. “I propose we do something to rid the area of these intruders.”

Young hero 2The Young Hero’s eyes widened, and his jaw dropped. “Surely you do not propose murder!”

“Of course not!” His friend frowned. “But a few well-placed pokes with a dagger might deter them.”

“No.” The Young Hero shook his head. “Violence will only make them determined to find the perpetrator. They would never leave the area.”

Dragon with smoke“There will be no violence.” Dragon’s tone of voice left no room for debate. “We must employ some other means to get these people to abandon their investigation and leave the area, and we must do it without involving Mistress Writer or Master Miles.”

“I suppose you have a plan?” The annoying elf sounded more like he was accusing the big reptile, rather than asking a question. He stood with his arms folded tightly against his chest, and he tapped his foot impatiently.

“Mayhap.” Dragon’s eyes closed to slits, and dark smoke wafted from her nostrils.

* * *

The brittle brown leaves crunched and crackled underfoot as Miles and I raked them into sizeable piles.

Pretend bird watchers“Yup, they’re still there.” I jerked my thumb toward our neighbor’s yard. Deputies Whitewash and Dawg, along with several men in suits, seemed fascinated by something they had apparently spotted in one of our trees. They all stood there along the property line, focusing their binoculars on the bare tree at the edge of the yard.

“What are they watching?” Miles turned and raised a hand to shade his eyes, so he could scan the tree. Then turned back toward me, lifted his palms and shrugged. “I can’t see anything.”

I grinned. “Don’t be fooled by the phony bird watching act. They only bolted from their hiding places and pointed their binoculars at that tree when they realized we had spotted them watching us again.”

Miles sighed. “This is getting more than a bit annoying. We can’t even rake leaves in our own yard in peace.”

“Maybe we should talk to them again?” I leaned on my rake and inclined my head toward the group. They were in a huddle, whispering and glancing over at us.

Miles snorted. “I doubt it would do any good.”

We continued raking as the men in suits wandered off in groups of two and three. Soon, only the deputies remained.

Deputy Whitewash“Excuse me, ma’am, sir.” Deputy Whitewash waved at us and beckoned us closer.

“What can we do for you, Deputy?” I called to her from my position in the middle of the yard, not taking a single step in her direction.

“My partner and I would be more than happy to assist you with your yard work.” Her smile did nothing to warm her expression; rather, it made her look like a vampire trying to mesmerize its victim.

“Thanks for the offer, but Miles and I can manage.” I hoped my smile didn’t look as contrived as hers.

Miles nudged me and whispered, “Hey, if they want to give us a hand . . .”

I cut him off, shaking my head. “They don’t want to help. They want permission to come onto our property, so they can snoop. And if we let these two on the property, all the others will take it as tacit permission to do the same.”

Miles raised his eyebrows and sighed. “I never thought of that.” He paused, giving me a searching look. “You know, either you have become a lot more cynical lately, or you’ve been reading way too many police procedurals.”

“I laughed and winked. “Both. Now let’s get these leaves raked.”

* * *

dragon looking right“Does everyone understand?” Dragon looked from one character to the next. Each nodded in turn, but Dragon saw reluctance in some faces.

“Some of you do not approve?” Smoke drifted from her nostrils.foreman-facing-left

“It is risky.” The Foreman frowned.

Dragon shook her reptilian head. “There is no risk. The elf and I will be doing most of the work.”Gypsy close-up

The Gypsy snorted. “And therein lies the biggest risk – the elf.”

The others murmured their agreement. Dragon lifted an eyebrow. “Elf, you and I share the most important roles. Are you quite certain you can manage? It must be done with perfect timing.”

Arrogant One facing rightThe Arrogant One drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and grasped his cloak in both hands. He looked down his nose at Dragon and the others. “Of course I can manage. I am, after all, an illusionist extraordinaire!”

“Very well. Tonight, you will study the rest of us. You will need to know every detail of our appearance. Tomorrow, we will commence.”

What is Dragon’s plan? And will it work, or just create more problems for Mistress Writer and Master Miles? Be sure to come back next week and see what happens. We’ll leave the porch light on for you!

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Preparing for Halloween

Preparing for Halloween

me questioning my Foreman“Are you all sure you haven’t done anything?”

I was speaking to my characters, who were all busy working on various Halloween decorations.

My Foreman’s gray eyes locked on my brown ones. He frowned and when he spoke, his voice was tinged with annoyance. “I believe you have asked us that 20 times or more in the past few days, Mistress. I do not believe the answer has changed. None of us has done anything to attract the attention of any member of law enforcement.”Foreman's horse painted on pumpkin

He returned to painting a black stallion on his Halloween pumpkin.

Gypsy's Jack-o-lanternMy Gypsy glanced over at my Foreman’s pumpkin, shook his head, and chuckled. “That does not look very scary.” The lad examined the pumpkin he was carving. His tongue stuck out of the side of his mouth as he concentrated. He took his silver stiletto and carefully carved a few more slivers from the jack-o-lantern’s nose. He cocked his head, giving his work a critical appraisal. He nodded in satisfaction. “This is how a Halloween pumpkin should look. As for your question, Mistress, I believe the Foreman is correct. Our answers will not change, no matter how often you ask.”

My Old Dwarf snorted. “An’ wot could we be doin’ wot would be causin’ trubble wit yer law enforcers?”

I raised an eyebrow at that statement.

Dwarf's orange rock jack-o-lantern 2The dwarf paused and squished his eyebrows together as he looked at the large, orange rock he was painting. After a few minutes of deliberation, he carefully brushed some black paint on the rock, creating a reasonable facsimile of a jack-o-lantern . . . if a jack-o-lantern was supposed to look like a sick rabbit. Looking up at me, he continued the discussion. “Dinna ye be sayin’ thet tha people wot be skulkin’ about tha neighbor’s yard be tha same difference as our king’s guard? Thet they don na be jest tha law enforcers o yer little town here, they be tha law enforcers o yer whole country?”

I nodded.

“Wale, there ye be havin’ it, lass! There do na be much any o ussins kin be doin’ wat be so bad as ta be merittin’ tha attention o tha king’s guard!”

My head hurt from trying to follow both my Old Dwarf’s logic and his convoluted use of language. I frowned. “You haven’t been out in public in your full set of armor, have you? Maybe chasing rabbits down the street, threatening to cleave them with your axe?”

My Old Dwarf turned red and sputtered, but he swore to his innocence.

I started pacing around the room. “Well, what about the rest of you? Dragon, you haven’t let yourself been seen by the neighbors when you have been in your true form, have you?”

Dragon's pumpkinDragon had shrunk to the size of a Chihuahua to work on her pumpkin, which she was decorating by magic. She did not look up at my question, but black smoke poured from her nostrils. “Do you really think me so foolish as to allow the inhabitants of your world to see me unless I fully intended them to do so?”

I stared at her. “Well, have you intended them to do so?”

“I have not.” She put the finishing touches on her pumpkin.

I shrugged apologetically and raked my hand through my hair. “Well, someone must have done something. The FBI and all those others do not investigate someone unless they have cause.”

Young Hero's jack-o-lanternI sighed and continued pacing around, as my characters continued to work on their projects. I stopped next to my Young Hero, who was trying to make his jack-o-lantern even scarier than the one his best friend, my Gypsy, was making. “What about you? Have you been riding your pony off the property?”

The lad’s eyebrows shot up, and his mouth fell open. “I would never! The only time I have ridden him off the property was when we all went on that trail ride with Colton and his mother. A number of us went on that ride, including you, Mistress, and – if you will remember – Dragon used her spell of concealment to hide us from the neighbors.”
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/09/02/an-old-mystery-revisited/

I sighed and nodded. “Yes, I remember.”

Cleric's ghost and witch patternsI walked over to Cleric, who was creating patterns to sew ghost and witch pillows. “I don’t suppose you can think of anything you may have done? Maybe when you and Sorceress were out collecting botanicals for your spells?”

Cleric rearranged her ghost on the work table as she considered the question. She looked up at me, her cornflower eyes clear and guileless. “I do not believe anyone in the neighborhood was around when we left the property, Mistress.”

Sorceress's black cat pumpkinSorceress put another dab of paint on her black cat pumpkin, then looked over at me. She agreed with Cleric, and her tone, like my Foreman’s, was edged with annoyance at the questions. “Even if someone had seen us gathering plants and flowers, I do not think they would have paid us any attention. We did not go on private property or take anything from the areas you have warned us about – state or county parks where gathering specimens is illegal.”

“And before you even ask, we have done nothing!” My Arrogant One gestured to himself and his sidekick, my Bounty Hunter. “We have been working hard on the repairs to the shed roof.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/10/14/a-small-problem/

Arrogant One's Haloween scene“Don’t remind me.” I scowled and looked at the illusory figures he was conjuring for Halloween. “You haven’t created any illusions that may have been seen by any of our neighbors, have you?”

My Arrogant One drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and grasped his cloak in both hands. He answered me in his usual tone – half arrogant, half petulant, and entirely annoying. “I said we have done nothing!”

Bounty Hunter's ScarecrowMy Bounty Hunter looked up from the scarecrow he was stuffing with straw. The corners of his mouth twitched. “I can vouch for that. We have been working on the shed roof. Even at other times, the elf is usually with me, and I have seen him do nothing that would attract the attention of the neighbors or the gendarmes.”

I sighed once more.

Cleric looked up from her patterns. “Mistress? How do you like our Halloween decorations?”

I tried to focus on the decorations my characters were creating. “They are quite good!”

Cleric’s dazzling smile only lasted a moment. Then she furrowed her brow and chewed on her bottom lip. “We looked through the magazines you gave us, to come up with ideas. We saw lots of ghosts, witches, skeletons, monsters, and other scary things, and many variations of a thing called a jack-o-lantern, but nowhere could I find an explanation of this holiday.”

My Gypsy furrowed his brow and clucked. “We have celebrated Halloween with Mistress Writer and Master Miles in previous years. Do you not remember, Cleric?”

remembering past halloweensCleric nodded. “I remember Mistress and her spouse buying lots of candy to give to visitors. I remember children dressed in costumes, some beautiful, some scary, some strange, coming to the door for these sweet treats. I remember a few decorations being placed around the front door. But I have never really understood the meaning of the day.”

“I also lack an understanding of this day and its history.” Dragon looked at me expectantly.

“Well, let’s see . . .” I tried to think of a simple way to explain Halloween to a group of characters from an alien world. My characters gathered around to listen.

harvest“This holiday has its roots in the ancient celebration called Samhain, marking the end of summer and harvest, and the beginning of winter. ghosts, witchesIt was believed that on that night, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred, and the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. Some believed it to be the time when magic was at its strongest, with witches, demons, and other creatures able to openly walk the earth. I think I read somewhere that the practice of wearing costumes – which people still do today on Halloween – came from the ancient custom of people disguising themselves so that they would not be recognized and harmed by the creatures that walked the earth. Of course, Halloween has changed greatly over the centuries, as other religions and cultures tried to change it and adapt it to their beliefs and customs.”

Cleric wrinkled her brow and stroked her chin. “So how has Halloween changed?”

“Well, that’s even harder to explain than the origin of the holiday. It is no longer widely celebrated as a harvest feast, nor a magical time. Now, it’s mostly just for fun. In modern times in this country, there are many ways people celebrate the holiday. I think the most widely recognized celebration is Trick or Treat. Children in costume go from house to house, greeting the residents with the words trick or treat, a playful threat to play a trick on anyone who doesn’t give the children treats. Some people celebrate Halloween by watching scary movies or telling ghost stories. Other people have Halloween parties or create a haunted house for people to walk through and view.”haunted house

My Arrogant One’s eyes lit up. “Create a haunted house?”

I scowled at him. “Don’t get any ideas! The houses aren’t really haunted, nor are they created through magic. The people who create them just place a lot of creepy decorations around their homes, and dress in scary costumes, like witches or monsters. There are no real spirits haunting the houses, and there is no real magic involved, not even illusion. And it’s all done just for fun.”

The elf sighed. “That is not very creative.”

“It’s creative enough. You need to remember that this world is different from yours. Magic is not as commonplace, nor are mythological creatures or any of the things we would term demons or monsters.”

“Mistress?” Cleric tugged on my sleeve. “Mistress, did you not once write a scary poem for Halloween? I believe I remember you reading it to us once.”

“Well, I wrote a little ditty once for Halloween, but I really don’t know how scary it is.”

My Young Hero furrowed his brow. “A Halloween poem?”

I shrugged. “Well, sort of. A mood piece that could be used for Halloween.”

My Gypsy scratched his head. “I do not remember hearing it, Mistress. Could you read it to us?”

“I suppose so, if you really want to hear it.”

Several of my characters nodded and murmured their assent.

“I’ll go get a copy.”

It only took me a few minutes to return with a copy of my poem, written many years earlier. I cleared my throat and read it.

Illustration for poem

                            Night Fears

Shadows steal through moonlit room,
Stairs creak and groan and sigh.
Tree limb taps on window pane
As wind moans through the pines.

Field mice scuttle through dry leaves;
Far off, some dog howls.
Trash cans rattle, curtains rustle,
Imagination growls.

Blood rushes, pounding in your ears,
Mouth grows desert dry.
Horror tiptoes from your heart
Up to strangle your mind.

 

 

My characters sat there, looking at me as if expecting more.

I sighed. “Sorry, folks, that’s it. Just a short little piece, nothing more. How did you like it?”

“Oh . . . oh, well, it is quite . . . interesting, Mistress.” Sorceress looked like a deer caught in the headlights as she attempted to be complimentary.

“Yes. Ah, very . . . very evocative.” My Foreman swallowed hard and turned away quickly.

“Wale, I be likin’ it, lass! It be turnin’ tha skin on me arms all ta gooseflesh, an’ tha hair on me neck be all standin’ up, bristly-like.” My Old Dwarf patted my arm before returning to his rocks. “Now, iffin ye be excusin’ me, there be a second rock wot be needin’ some paint.”Dwarf's second orange rock jack-o-lantern

I watched as the old reprobate transformed the second rock into a much better representation of a jack-o-lantern than his first effort had produced.

For today's blog 001As I was admiring my Old Dwarf’s latest effort, Miles entered the conference room.

I looked at him, taking in his worried expression. “Honey, what’s wrong?”

following Miles“Nothing, really, I guess. It’s just that those cops . . . detectives . . . investigators . . . agents . . . whatever they all are . . . are still lurking all around the neighborhood. There were two people in a county sheriff’s car at the end of our street, and they actually followed me to the supermarket!”

“This is getting ridiculous! I wish there was some way to stop it.”

dragon talking“I could take care of it for you.” Dragon’s voice dripped with sweetness, and the expression on her face was pure innocence.

“No roasting anyone!” Miles and I replied in unison.

Dragon shrugged. “As you wish.” She turned away, but not before I saw a sly smile parting her reptilian lips.

 

What is Dragon planning? And will it work? Be sure to come back next week and see. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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