Do We Get Any Answers?

Do We Get Any Answers?

Christine and TaliaI stood in the middle of Chris-Tal Clear Metaphysical Store, gaping at the two proprietresses. I looked again from the woman identified as Christine, with her medieval gown and ethereal appearance, to the woman claiming to be Talia, in her modern-day, business casual attire and down-to-earth looks.

Crawford’s words echoed in my head – when you go, be sure to talk to Talia. Christine is a nice girl, but she’s pretty clueless about real magic.

ChristineTalia2The diaphanous figure gliding about the store was clueless about magic? The businesswoman curiously watching me gaping at her was the expert on things magical and mystical? I was having a hard time wrapping my head around that thought.

Finally, Talia grinned. “I guess I’m not what you were expecting.”

“Actually, no.” I realized I was still staring and shook my head to dislodge the cobwebs that seemed to be slowing down my thought process and enmeshing my conduct. “Please pardon my lack of manners. I’m Marge and this is Dray.” I motioned toward Dragon, in her customary guise of an elf maiden. “We’re acquaintances of Crawford and Griff.”

Still grinning, Talia raised an eyebrow at Dragon. “Dray, huh? Interesting name.” She winked at Dragon, then turned back to me. “And Marge, is it?”

I nodded.

Talia leaning on display“Hmmmm…nothing unusual or mysterious about that name. So, Marge and Dray, Crawford sent you to see me?” Talia leaned back against a display of geodes and crystals and looked at us expectantly.

“He did.” I nodded. “Crawford mentioned that you were very knowledgeable about magic, and . . .”

“And you’d like to pick my brain for you latest book, short story, article, cosplay or fantasy role-playing adventure game?” She sighed, then gave Dragon a sharp look. “I should think you would know enough about magic to give her whatever help she may need.”

“Unfortunately, milady, that is not the case.” Dragon narrowed her eyes and gazed at Talia. “We seek information I do not possess, and for a reason of far greater import than that which you have suggested.”

Talia raised an eyebrow at Dragon but met her gaze with an unwavering stare of her own. After a few moments, she nodded curtly and turned to her partner, who was unenthusiastically dusting some displays. “Christine, I’ll be in conference in my office. Please see that we are not disturbed.”

Christine dusting shelves

Christine at cash registerThe young girl answered in her small, reedy voice that raised the hair on the back of my neck. “No prob.” She took a few more swipes at the display with her feather duster before gliding across the showroom floor and positioning herself near the cash register. “I can handle any retail transactions that might occur in your absence.”

I gave the gowned figure another hard look before following Talia and Dray, who were already walking toward the back of the cavernous store, but Christine studiously ignored me.

Talia's officeUpon entering Talia’s office, the co-proprietress of Chris-Tal Clear Metaphysical Store motioned for Dragon and me to sit on the small sofa, a piece of furniture that looked out of place with the antique wooden desk, wingback chair, and glass-fronted display cabinet. Talia eschewed a seat, and remained standing just inside the door, which she closed as soon as we were seated. I was startled to see this side of the door. It appeared to be a Gothic-arched wooden structure, with ornate, medieval-looking hinges, and door-pull handle. It looked nothing like the other side of the door, leading from the store to the office. That was a drab, gray, rectangular, metal door with a standard round doorknob.Doors

“So, what answers do you ladies seek?” Talia’s bored voice startled me from my thoughts about the door.

I furrowed my brow, trying to decide if I should use the ploy of having a character I needed to develop. I decided on the truth instead. “Crawford suggested you might have some knowledge of a form of magic we have encountered.”

MarisolTalia closeup 2Talia’s expression remained the same. She appeared disinterested, but I pressed on. “In a nutshell, there is a five-year-old girl in our neighborhood who has magic but is not a magician. She sees through spells of concealment, and she sees the true nature of any person or creature who has shapeshifted to another form. She can also cause others to see what she sees just by telling them what she sees. The child suspects there is something different, something special, about herself. She has even speculated she might be a witch, but she’s neither witch nor sorceress, at least not as we understand those terms. She cannot create illusions, she cannot conjure, she cannot enchant, she cannot cast any sort of spell.”

I paused, giving Talia time to digest the information. She furrowed her brow and tilted her head. Finally, she spoke. “So, you wish to know just what she is, and how to defeat her magic?”

Dragon and I nodded eagerly, moving to the edge of our seats.

Talia sighed. “I’m sorry. I don’t believe I can help you.”

I felt my shoulders slump, and I saw Dragon’s face fall. “I see. We had hoped you may have encountered magic of this particular nature and could explain it for us.”

Talia raised an eyebrow, crossed her arms defensively over her chest, and made a moue. “I never said I hadn’t encountered such a phenomenon before. I said I don’t believe I can help you.”

Dragon gaped at Talia. “You mean you are familiar with this magic?”

The woman nodded and narrowed her eyes. “That does not mean I will share what I know.”

“Why wouldn’t you?” I could feel my face flush with anger.

“Because, little writer-person, some things are best left alone by those outside the circle.” Talia sneered.

“Am I outside the circle?” I heard the threatening note in Dragon’s voice.

alleyway“You are outside your domain, Dray.” Talia gave Dragon a withering look. “Now, I believe it is time for you to leave.” She opened the door, and I gaped at the scene beyond the threshold. The door through which we had passed coming from the store into the office now opened onto the small alleyway behind the shop. I started to say something but found Dragon and I were suddenly out in the alley with the door closed behind us, without either of us having taken a step.

Dragon upsetIn a second, Dragon was in her beastly form. She swung her tail around with enough force to splinter a normal door, but all she achieved for her effort was a badly bruised tail. When she opened her maw and breathed fire at the door, it bounced back with such force, it almost fried us both.

“Dragon! Dragon! Stop!” I snatched her scaly arm and tried to get her to listen. “This isn’t accomplishing anything. Talia, for reasons of her own, will be no help. Let’s go home.”

Slowly, Dragon let go of her anger and shapeshifted back to the form of an elf maiden. “You are right. I am sorry for my actions. Let us go.”

Christine outside the storeWe trudged along the narrow alleyways back to the street. We were surprised, and a bit apprehensive, when we saw Christine standing in front of the store. She approached us and addressed us in her small, reedy voice. “Umm . . . don’t mind Talia. She gets a bit testy when she thinks any in her circle are being threatened.”

I frowned. “We threaten no one. In fact, the child about whom we seek information is a threat to us, to Dray and her companions who live with me.”

“Is the child in Talia’s circle?” Dragon lifted a delicate eyebrow. “Does Talia possess the same powers?”

Christine shuffled her foot in the dirt on the sidewalk. “I don’t know. You would have to ask Talia.”

I shrugged. “I don’t think Talia wants to speak with us.”

Christine laughed. “She will speak with you. Come.”

We followed Christine back into the store, exchanging puzzled looks behind her back.

Talia angry“You’re back?” Talia glared at us from half-way across the store.

Christine closeup“Oh, Tal, you’re being silly!” Christine laughed again, a melodious sound, like the tinkling of wind chimes. “They simply seek to protect themselves and theirs. Like you.” Christine’s eyes narrowed and she stared at her partner. “Now, be nice and tell them what they need to know.” Her voice was much more robust now, with an authority that was hard to ignore.

Talia looked at Christine, then at us. Her eyebrows squished together, and she ran a hand through her hair. She tilted her head and rubbed her chin. Her lips thinned, and her eyes narrowed. Finally, she sighed and nodded. “Fine.”

Christine led the way back to Talia’s office. As Dragon and I took our seats on the small sofa once again, I was startled to see the big glass-fronted display cabinet had been replaced with a different piece of furniture, one containing books, scrolls, and other items.Second time in Talia's office

Christine stared pointedly at Talia, who huffed at her partner. The disgruntled woman reached into a cubbyhole in the bookcase. She extracted a scroll and handed it to Dragon.scroll 2a “This will explain. There is a spell you can cast which will protect you from her energy. You should have all the necessary components; they are all rather common.” She sighed and lowered her eyes. “This is all I can do for now. When the child is older, she should come to see me. I can teach her, train her to use her power rather than be used by it.”

Dragon took the scroll, holding it close to her chest, but not opening it. “Thank you, Talia. Thank you, Christine. You do not know what this means to us.”

“I think we do.” Christine’s voice had returned to the ethereal, reedy sound that raised the hair on the back of my neck. “And if you ever need any more assistance, be sure to come back. Talia would be ever so delighted to help you.” She giggled at the murderous look on Talia’s face.

Dragon would not open the scroll in the car. “This is delicate and needs to be handled correctly. I will open it in my chambers, when I can concentrate properly.”

scrollrecipeI scowled. “But what if Talia deceived us? What if you open the scroll and it’s blank, or all it contains is . . . oh, I don’t know . . . a recipe for chocolate cake? Wouldn’t it be better to know that now, so we can turn around and go right back and confront her?”

Dragon smirked. “I do not believe Talia would have attempted deception while Christine was watching. I believe your friend, Crawford, was mistaken when he said Christine has no knowledge of magic. I believe she not only possesses great magic, she also possesses a will much stronger than that of her partner. I believe Talia is aware she would suffer great repercussions if she displeased Christine.”

“Well, let’s get home quickly, then, and see if this mystery is solved.”

What will Dragon find when she opens the scroll? Will it explain Marisol’s power? Will Dragon really be able to defeat the child’s magic? Be sure to come back next week and see what happens. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

Still Looking for Answers

Still Looking for Answers

CrawfordArt - leader - multi-genre (2)As the last member of the writers’ group Lost in the Words exited The Local Coffee Shoppe after their meeting, Crawford frowned at me. “You know, you’ve made a powerful enemy in Arthur. He doesn’t like anyone standing up to him or making him look small, especially in front of his peers.”

I scoffed. “So, what’s he going to do? Name a character after me and then kill off that character in the most horrible way imaginable?” I laughed.

Crawford raised an eyebrow at me. “Have you ever edited a character out of a manuscript?”for-todays-blog-013

My eyes flew wide, and I shuddered, remembering. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2017/08/06/unforeseen-consequences/

Crawford looked at my expression and nodded. “Then you understand what could happen if Arthur wrote you into a story, then edited you out.”

I made a metal note to come to the next meeting of Lost in the Words and be especially complimentary to Arthur.

Crawford led Dragon and me to a quiet table in a remote corner, as Griff went up to the counter to get us another round of beverages. The bistro was not quite as busy right now as it had been upon our arrival, but Crawford and Griff had some sensitive information to share with Dragon and me that we did not want overheard by anyone else.

“I’m so glad you came today . . . in spite of the fact you may have stirred up a peck of trouble with Arthur!” Crawford smiled and took his seat as Griff set a steaming cup of hot chocolate in front of me. “And I’m glad you brought your Dra . . . er, your friend, Dray.”

Griff placed an aromatic cup of spiced tea in front of Dragon, moved his chair closer to hers and sat, a huge smile on his face. “I’m glad Dray came, too. It seems we have much in common.”

The two of them exchanged a knowing glance, and Dragon turned to me and said in a quiet undertone, “Griff is a . . . visitor . . . to this area, much like me. And he and I can communicate in the old way.”

Dray and GriffI understood this to mean Griff had probably arrived in this world much the same as Dragon and my other characters. Perhaps he had fallen out of the pages of one of Crawford’s manuscripts. I also understood Dragon and Griff could communicate telepathically, as was the custom of dragons . . . and griffins, too, evidently – at least this particular griffin. I smiled at them, but they were already deep in silent communication, staring intently into each other’s eyes like a couple of besotted teenagers.

CrawfordMarisol 2With no further preamble, Crawford drew me back to the problem at hand. “So, you have . . . a character . . . you can’t quite figure out?”

Crawford and GriffinI nodded. “And Drag . . . er, Dray and I thought someone with a unique friend like Griff may have encountered someone like . . . my character . . . and might be able to share some information about her powers.”

“Well, as Griff and I told you when you presented this problem to the writers at the meeting, neither of us have ever encountered anyone who has magic power, but is not any conventional form of magician.”

My shoulders slumped and I heaved a big sigh.

“But I have friends,” Crawford continued, lowering his voice. He took a sip of his mochachino while covertly looking around the café. Apparently deciding no one was eavesdropping, he continued. “One friend in particular has been a wealth of information for me in my writing. She is my go-to person for anything involving magic that does not follow the accepted norms.”

I brightened at this information. “Do you think she would help me?”

Crawford frowned and rubbed his chin. “Well, I don’t know for certain that she will have any useful information or insights into your character’s powers, but I do believe she will talk with you. Just tell her I sent you.”

I nodded. “How do I contact her?”

Crawford reached into his wallet for a business card and handed it to me. “She and her partner run a New Age store, Chris-Tal Clear. The address and shop hours are on the card. It’s just an hour or so drive, southwest of here. When you go, be sure to talk to Talia. Christine is a nice girl, but she’s pretty clueless about real magic.”

* * *

Dragon elf maiden turning redIt was two days before I had time to go to the New Age store, Chris-Tal Clear. Dragon went with me, trying to avoid another encounter with Marisol. The child had visited again the day before, and Dragon was near exhaustion by the time the little girl left. “We must determine with what we are dealing! I can not continue expending such stores of energy trying to keep my true self hidden from her!” Dragon was in her guise of an elf maiden, but I could almost see smoke drifting from her flared nostrils.

“Is it important at this point to continue hiding your true nature from Marisol? After all, she has seen you already. She knows what you are.”

Dragon disagreed vehemently. “Yes, she knows, but I do not think we want the rest of the world to know. What happens if someone else enters the yard while she is there, and I am revealed? Already Mace and Gloria saw me. The two deputies saw me as well, and only their innate skepticism prevented them from believing their own eyes.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/08/04/it-was-a-nightmare/

Dragon shuddered and shook her head again. “No, I must continue keeping my true nature hidden from everyone, starting with Marisol.”

quaint town shopping districtI drove down the main street of the quaint little town where Crawford’s friend operated a New Age store. I had never been there before and was having trouble finding the shop. Finally, I pulled into a parking lot cattycorner from a strip of sturdy brick buildings that looked like they dated back to the early days of the Old West, when this community had been a boomtown. “Let’s look over there.”

Dragon and I walked across the street and entered an old-fashioned hardware store. “Maybe we can get directions here.”

HotelNo one there had ever heard of Chris-Tal Clear, nor were they familiar with the street where it was located. Neither was anyone in the next three stores we checked. Finally, the desk clerk at a restored nineteenth century hotel directed us to a place about five blocks away, on the other side of the railroad tracks.

alleywayOnce we crossed the tracks, the condition of the buildings changed considerably. The historic district we left, now years past its sesquicentennial, had meticulously restored buildings, clean and inviting. On this side of the tracks, the buildings were newer, but none looked as if they had ever been cared for. I doubted many had seen as much as a broom or a paintbrush in many years.

alleyway 2Checking the street signs at each intersection, we wandered around some back alleys before stumbling onto a street whose name matched the one on the business card. As we approached the middle of the block of derelict businesses, we finally saw what we were looking for – Chris-Tal Clear Metaphysical Store.

Chris-Tal Clear

Dragon lifted a delicate eyebrow as she surveyed the small, dilapidated storefront, with its dirty windows and peeling paint. “Are we sure about this?”

I scoffed. “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

“This is not a book.” Dragon wrinkled her nose. “Can someone who operates such a humble shop hold the answers we seek?”

doorknob fell off in my hand“Well, the only way to find out is to go in and talk to Talia.” I reached for the doorknob, which promptly fell off in my hand.

That is not a good omen.” Dragon frowned.

The door slowly swung open, and our jaws dropped.

Inside the dirty little storefront was a clean, bright, retail business with well-designed displays and more merchandise than could have possibly fit in the space defined by the exterior dimensions. Chris-Tal Clear had everything and anything connected to New Age, mysticism, or spiritualism. There were teas and essential oils, wands and crystal balls, potions and cauldrons, runes, stone art, jewelry, geodes, crystals, candles, incense, books, figurines, pentagrams. There was way too much to take in at a glance.

Christine2A diminutive woman, who appeared barely out of her teens, stood near the doorway. Her white hair matched the gown she wore, an outfit that looked more appropriate for a special ritual, an important ceremony, or a fancy costume party than for working in a store. She reached out and took the doorknob from my hand. “Sorry. Happens all the time.” Her voice was as small as she was, with a reedy, ethereal quality that raised the hair on the back of my neck.

I cleared my throat. “Hello. You must be Talia.”Talia2

A deeper voice laughed a throaty laugh. The sound came from the other side of the store, from a dark-haired woman in business casual attire. “No, that’s Christine, the Chris in Chris-Tal. I’m the second half of the team. I’m Talia.”

Dragon and I gaped at the two women, who couldn’t have been more different.

TaliaChristineI started to walk toward Talia, then took another look at Christine, in her long, Medieval gown. Looking back at the older woman in her super-short skirt, white silk blouse and dark blazer, I shook my head, trying to clear the cobwebs. “You’re Talia?”

question mark

Dragon murmured, “Do not judge a book by its cover.”

Why did Crawford tell me to speak with Talia and not Christine? Is Talia really the magic expert? Will she be able to shed any light on Marisol’s powers and their origin? Be sure to come back next week and find out. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

Still Searching for Answers

Still Searching for Answers

sending emailsFinding the writers’ group was not as easy as I had expected. I was not anticipating enough writers in a town of less than 13,000 people to support multiple writers’ groups.

Finding the online contact information for each group, I sent out numerous e-mails requesting information. I hoped that the information I requested might help me identify the group Crawford had mentioned. Find the group, find Crawford – and his alleged griffin – and find some answers about our mysterious young neighbor, Marisol, and her unique abilities. At least that was the plan.

Once I had sent the e-mails, I headed for the kitchen and some leftover vegetable soup.

* * *

I had not yet received a reply from any of the groups when Dragon emerged from her deep slumber a week later.

Elf cleric close-uptea and cake“You’re looking a lot better!” I smiled at the beautiful elf maiden, Dragon’s preferred guise. I pointed at the kettle boiling on the stove, and the cake server on the counter. “Tea and cake? It’s orange chiffon.”

“Yes, thank you. That sounds good.” She yawned and stretched. “Could we take our refreshments on the deck? Methinks I am in need of some fresh air.”tea and cake on the deck

We were settled on the deck, sharing our snacks, when I saw Dragon stiffen.

“What’s wrong?”

MarisolBefore Dragon could reply, the problem became evident. Our young neighbor, Marisol, skipped into view, rounding the corner of the house. She stopped and looked toward the back of the yard. Her shoulders slumped and her smile turned into a pout. Then she saw us on the deck, and she brightened again. “Hello!”

I returned her smile and waved. “Hello, Marisol. Does your mother know you’re here?”

Marisol accuses DragonThe little girl hung her head and scuffed her shoe back and forth in the grass. “No. I came to see if the horses were back, but I see they’re still gone. Why did you send them away?” She gave Dragon an accusing look. “And why aren’t you a dragon anymore?”

Dragon lifted a delicate eyebrow at Marisol. “Was I ever a dragon?”

Red and blue scalesThe child smiled. “Oh, yes, you were such a majestic dragon – all shiny scales, and sharp teeth and claws, and powerful wings! But you were so much prettier with red scales. When you had blue scales, you weren’t as shiny, and you had all those yucky smoke bubbles dripping from your nose.”

Dragon laughed “Your mother says you have a very wild and vivid imagination.”Dragon and horses

Marisol frowned and glared at Dragon. “It’s not my imagination. You are a dragon, and there were horses here.”

Marisol looks at cake“If you say so.” Dragon kept her tone light. “Would you like a piece of cake and a glass of milk?”

Marisol looked longingly at the cake. “I would, but I have to go home. Mommy will miss me soon and start looking for me.”

“Why didn’t you tell her you were coming to visit us?” I tilted my head and furrowed my brow. “I’m sure she wouldn’t mind, as long as she knew where you were. She just worries about your safety when you go off without telling her.”

The child shook her head. “She doesn’t want me coming here. She says she doesn’t want me being a bother.”

Dragon looked at Marisol. “It sounds as if you think your mother has another reason for not wanting you to come here, child.”Is she a witch 2

Marisol nodded and spoke somberly. “She’s worried about the things that happened here, when I said you were a dragon and when I saw the horses here.” The little girl heaved a huge sigh. “She thinks people are going to think I’m a witch. She worries that I might be a witch.”

“Are you?” Dragon’s tone was teasing, and she smiled warmly at the youngster.

“I don’t know. I guess I might be.” She turned and listened to something in the distance. “That’s my mommy calling me. I better go. Bye!”

And she was off, running toward the front of the house.

Dragon visibly relaxed once Marisol was out of sight. She sighed and drained her teacup in one swallow. “It takes much energy and control not to revert to my true form when Marisol is around me! We need to find out exactly what she is, and the precise nature and source of her ability, without delay. Have you had any luck tracking down the writers’ group of which Crawford spoke?”

“Not yet. I found a number of writers’ groups in the area, and I sent each an email soliciting information, but I’ve received no responses yet.” I poured us each another cup of tea.

MilesCrawford and GriffinMiles walked up behind us and joined the conversation as he snatched a piece of cake. “You’re talking about that guy who fixed the heat element in our rain gutters? The one who claims to have a griffin, and who told you about the writers’ group?” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/03/17/not-exactly-deja-vu-all-over-again/

I nodded.

Miles nibbled on the slice of cake and furrowed his brow. “Didn’t you say he told you they meet at a local coffee shop? Just call around until you find the shop that hosts their meetings.”

I blinked. “Why didn’t I think of that? Honey, you’re a genius!”You're my witness

Miles grinned as he popped the last bite of cake in his mouth. “You’re my witness, Dragon!”

* * *

The Local Coffee Shoppe“When Crawford said the local coffee shop, I didn’t realize he meant it literally.” I pulled into the last open parking spot in front of a storefront sporting the name The Local Coffee Shoppe in huge red letters. After Miles suggested calling around to local coffee shops, I easily tracked down the location, day, and time for the writers’ group Lost in the Words.

Dragon and I entered the cafe and looked around. There was a good crowd in the small bistro, but most patrons were sitting alone, or in groups of two or three. I didn’t see anything that looked like a writers’ group.

At the counter we ordered some beverages – a spiced tea for Dragon, and a hot chocolate for me – and asked about the meeting. The barista directed us to a large alcove I hadn’t noticed, where a diverse group of ten people were sipping beverages and shuffling papers around the surface of the tables they had pushed together.

I scanned the group and found Crawford. Looking at the others, I figured Crawford to be the oldest, somewhere between retiree and ancient. He was talking to a younger guy sitting next to him, well-groomed with a welcoming smile and intense eyes. The others – four more men and four women – ran the spectrum of age and styles from a matronly woman in a vintage dress and necklace and an older man with small, rectangular glasses and a bowtie, to a 20-something geek in sweats and several people in business attire.Writing group

Me and CrawfordCrawford looked up, and a big smile lit up his face. “Mrs. Tesch!” He came forward and gave me a warm handshake. “How nice to see you! And Dra . . .”

Dragon and CrawfordDragon quickly extended her hand. “I’m Dray. Nice to meet you.” She and Crawford seemed to exchange sly smiles as they shook hands, but the moment passed so quickly, I couldn’t be sure.

Crawford turned back to me. “So, are you here for the meeting?”

I nodded. “I remembered you mentioning the writer’s group, and I thought I’d come check it out. And, please, call me Marge.”

“Okay, Marge, is there anything specific you need help with?” He ushered us to the table.

“Yes, something involving magic.”

Art - leader - multi-genre (1)“You should have called and informed us you would be in attendance.” The bow-tied gentleman glowered. “The agenda for today’s meeting is already set.”

“Chill, Arthur!” Crawford scoffed. “Marge and her friend can sit in, and if there’s time at the end of the meeting, we can discuss her problem.”

Dray and GriffThe young man with whom Crawford had been speaking earlier smiled at Dragon. “Indeed, and if there isn’t any time left, some of us would be glad to stay after the meeting and discuss things.”

Dragon blushed prettily and inclined her head toward the young man as she took a seat next to him and I sat next to Crawford.

Arthur clapped his hands to get everyone’s attention. “This meeting of the Waconia chapter of Lost in the Words is hereby called to order. Since we have . . . guests . . . in attendance,” Arthur sneered in the general direction of Dragon and me, “we need to introduce ourselves – name, genre, publishing credits only. Let’s not waste time.” Looking around the group, he pointed to the matronly woman. “Lavinia, start, please, then clockwise around the table.”

Moving around the table, each member of the group gave a quick introduction. The group was as diverse in writing as in age and dress. Their work represented a wide variety of genres – sci-fi, romance, mystery, true crime, poetry, biography, history, science, education – and there were four fantasy writers in the group. I was very impressed. I was sure Dragon and I would find some answers here.

“Now that that’s done, let’s get down to work.” Arthur fixed one of the writers with a contemptuous look. “I hope you’re more prepared this week, Didi. Do you have your handouts?”

Didi2 - cozy mystery wannabeDidi glared at Arthur but passed out some papers to everyone. “This is an excerpt from chapter three of my manuscript. I’m sorry, I didn’t know there would be guests. There’s not enough for everyone.”

“No problem, Didi.” Crawford smiled. He shared his pages with me, and Griff and Dragon moved their chairs a little closer so they could share.

Didi's handoutI was appalled at the work Didi had chosen to share, full of misspellings, grammatical errors, dull characters, and stilted dialog. Still, I was shocked at Arthur, who tossed the pages back at her and said, “You’re really wasting our time here. There are so many problems with this, it would take us the next ten meetings to discuss them.” He pointed at the matronly lady, and asked, “Are you prepared, Lavinia?”

“I am. This is from my latest romance.”

Lavinia's handoutAs I read through the pages she shared, I was amazed at her talent. Everyone gave her good feedback on the excerpt, complimenting her choice of words and her pacing. Then Arthur tore it apart, nit-picking every detail. To hear him dissect Lavinia’s words, one would think her writing was little better than Didi’s.

The meeting went on in that same vein for the better part of two hours. Six of the ten writers shared their works-in-progress, and each in turn got good, helpful feedback and constructive criticism from the group before Arthur took his verbal scalpel and destroyed their work.

When he was finished dissecting Crawford’s work, he looked at his watch. “Well, I guess we have a few minutes before the meeting ends. I understand you have a work you’d like critiqued?” Arthur glared at me.

“Actually, I didn’t bring my work-in-progress. I’m . . .”

Arthur started to interrupt, but Crawford cut him off. “I think Marge said she was having a problem with magic. Why not let her explain and maybe someone here can help her work it out.”

Arthur turned beet-red when Crawford cut him off, and now he sat glowering at me. “Well? What is your problem? Or are you unable to articulate the issue?”

I glared at Arthur, then turned to the group. “In a nutshell, I have a character who has magic, but is not a magician. She sees through spells of concealment, and she sees the true nature of any person or creature who has shapeshifted to another form. She can also cause others to see what she sees just by telling them what she sees. But she is unaware that she has any magical talent. What I need is some sort of label for her and her ability. She’s not a witch, she’s not a sorceress. She cannot create illusions, she cannot conjure, she cannot enchant, she cannot cast any sort of spell. What is she, and what would you call her power?”

Lavinia - romanceThe matronly Lavinia wrinkled her brow. “This is fascinating, but out of my wheelhouse. Robaire, SueZ, Crawford, Griff, you all write fantasy. Maybe you could help our guest.”

Robert2 - fantasyRobaire waved his hand dismissively. “It’s your story. You can call your character and her ability anything you want.”

I frowned. “I was hoping that someone might have encountered this sort of magic before.”

Sue Z - fantasySueZ laughed. “You make it sound as if it were real. How could we have encountered something you are creating for your story?”

I gave her a rueful smile. “Of course, I meant maybe you had encountered it in a book. Maybe someone else has written about such a person, such a magic power, and that writer gave it a name.”

SueZ shook her head. “No, sorry, I don’t remember anything like that in the books I’ve read.”

Crawford and Griff likewise had no knowledge of such power.

Art - leader - multi-genre (2)“This is so ridiculous!” Arthur scowled. “As Robaire stated, it is your book. You need to formulate the rules of the magic system and name it and its practitioners. If you can’t do that without an advisory board, maybe you shouldn’t be a writer.” He gave me a disgusted look, the type of look one might give something on the bottom of their shoe. “You are a writer, aren’t you? You have been published? Or are you just another pathetic wannabe, like Didi there?” He jutted his chin toward the humiliated Didi, who glared back at him.

“I have not yet had a book published, but I have a good number of articles, poems, and short-stories published, including two stories in an anthology.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/12/02/its-here/

Arthur scoffed, but I continued. “And I’m sure there was a time in each writer’s life – even yours – when they were as inexperienced and unpublished as Didi. That doesn’t make them pathetic.”

Arthur turned beet-red again, and stood there opening and closing his mouth, but no sound came out. He looked like a fish gasping for air.

I turned away from him and addressed the rest of the group. “It was nice meeting everyone today. Thank you all for your input. I appreciate your time.”Writing group

Arthur couldn’t seem to leave fast enough, but the other writers came over and said a few words before departing. Didi looked as if she was going to kiss my hand. Instead, she just mumbled a heart-felt “Thank you!”

After the others left, Crawford invited me and Dragon to stay for another round of beverages with him and Griff. He leaned toward me and lowered his voice. “Griff and I may know someone who can help you.”Staying after

Who does Crawford know? Is it another fantasy writer? Be sure to come back next week and see if we can get any further identifying what Marisol is and whence she gets her power. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

Few Answers Yet

Few Answers Yet

It was several weeks before Dragon emerged from the conference room where she had been conducting research on the magic ability exhibited by our young neighbor, Marisol. The precocious five-year-old appeared to have extraordinary power. Not only could the child penetrate Dragon’s spell of concealment, observing the illusory stable and horses, she caused others to see through it as well. The child also was able to cause Dragon to revert to her true form from her guise of an elf maiden, allowing others to see the beast.

(If you are a new reader just joining us, or if you missed one or more installments of this latest mystery, here are the links to the previous episodes, in order:
1. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/07/07/hello-neighbor/
2. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/07/14/just-who-are-these-neighbors-and-what-do-they-see/
3. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/07/21/what-is-the-problem/
4. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/07/28/i-see-a-big-problem-here/
5. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/08/04/it-was-a-nightmare/
6. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/08/11/what-is-she/
7. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/08/18/jean-rabe-has-done-it-again/ )

Dragon and me in officeI was in my office when Dragon found me. “Mistress, prithee, a moment of your time?”

I looked up from my work and smiled. “For you, as many moments as you need, old friend.” I gestured to a chair. “Why don’t you shapeshift and take a seat?”

Dragon shook her big, scaly head. “I fear I am far too weary to undertake any shapeshifting right now. I must marshal all my strength just to maintain an acceptable size for this room.” She stood next to my workstation, leaning a bit on the desk to steady herself.

I looked at her with concern. “Are you sure you don’t want to wait a bit, maybe rest for a while, or have something to eat? We can always talk later.”

Dragon frowned. “No, I think I should share my information with you first. I am at the point of exhaustion right now. Once I take to my bed, I may slumber for many days.”

I nodded. “Then let’s talk. I presume you have completed your research. Have you determined what power Marisol possesses, and how she comes by it?”

Tendrils of black smoke 2BooksDragon’s frown deepened and tendrils of dark smoke began to drift from her nostrils. She started pacing unsteadily around my small office, her hands behind her back. “The research is as complete as possible. I possess many books on the arcane, mostly from my own world, but some from different worlds. I have found nothing in any of them that would allow me to put a label on Marisol. She is not a witch as we understand the word; nor is she a sorceress, a conjurer, or an enchantress.”

Is she a witch 2

I raked my hand through my hair and sighed deeply. “Then what? Or are you saying the child has no magical power?”

Dragon and me in officeshe is merely the receptacle 2Dragon shook her head so vehemently, she almost lost her balance. Grabbing my desk to steady herself, she explained. “No, the child has considerable power. But she does not wield the power, the way a witch or a sorceress or a magician would. She is merely the receptacle for the power.”

I stared blankly at Dragon.

dragon talkingspellcasting 2The big beast sighed and began to gesture with one hand. “You know how I and others like me perform our magic. We recite an incantation, and we combine specific spell components. We command certain things to happen, such as commanding an illusory horse to appear. We control the magic, and we achieve the result we desire.”

Dragon tilted her head and looked at me expectantly, and I indicated my understanding. “Marisol does not use incantations or spell components, correct?”

The beast gave me a toothy grin. “Correct. She does not control the magic within her. There is no such magic in my world, nor, as far as I have been able to determine, in yours. However, there are similar magics in other worlds. The magic that Marisol possesses might be a combination of a power that in some worlds is known as reactive magic, and another power called causative or influencing magic.”

I shook my head. “You lost me.”

 

Dragon sighed. “This may be difficult to explain.” She started pacing again. “Part of Marisol’s power might be similar to reactive magic.”

reactive magic

Dragon paused, collecting her thoughts. “Her power reacts to the presence of other spells or innate magic, sometimes in unexpected ways. Gaping at the childNormally, such power would allow the possessor to see through illusions. In Marisol’s case, it seems to allow her to penetrate a spell of concealment and see the hidden illusion. Marisol accuses Dragon who changes 2It also seems to allow her to see past my innate shapeshifting ability and see my true form.”

 

The beast stopped pacing and stared at me, waiting for me to signal my comprehension.

I gave a half-nod. “Okay, I think I understand that. But how does that allow others in her presence to see what she sees?”

Dragon cleared her throat. “That is the part of her power that would be referred to in some other worlds as causative or influencing magic. That power causes others to see what she sees, once she tells them what she sees.”

“Huh? I think you lost me again.”

Dragon sighed again. “If you will remember, no one saw the horses until Marisol said there were horses and pointed at them. And no one saw my true form until Marisol told them I was a dragon.”

I leaned forward and nodded. “I see. It’s not enough to merely be in the child’s presence. Someone has to hear her tell what she sees for them to see it.”

Dragon smiled again. “Exactly. That is the trigger that causes their ability to see. Thus, the term causative magic. It is also known as influencing magic, because she influences others to see what she sees through the telling.”

Bastina watches her daughterI narrowed my eyes in thought. “That would confirm what her mother said. Bastina mentioned that sometimes people think they see something her daughter has mentioned.”

Dragon nodded. “Yes. Bastina was very concerned about that.”

I frowned. “But you said she did not use an incantation. So how does she perform this magic feat?”

reactive magic“The child is most likely totally unaware of her power. It is simply there, an innate part of her. She does not consciously invoke her magic, it just happens.”

I heaved a deep sigh and took a few moments to consider this before asking Dragon, “So where does this magic come from?”

Dragon shrugged. “I have no idea. As I stated before, no such magic exists in my world. I have found no evidence of it existing here in your world, either.”

“Hmmm.” I furrowed my brow. “Just because the books you possess have no record of such magic in this world, it doesn’t mean such magic doesn’t exist here.”

Dragon nodded. “That is true. My ignorance of the existence of such magic is not proof that it does not exist. But for now, my research is complete.” She turned and started walking out of the room.

I jumped up and followed her. “Do you plan to continue researching this once you have rested? Are there sources other than your books you can use?”

Dragon grinned at me, a big, cheesy grin. “There is another source, but we will be doing the research.”

“We?” I blinked. “Do you want me to help you research it on my computer, checking references on the internet?”

Dragon placed a scaly hand on my arm. “We could do that. Or we could attend a meeting.”

I raised an eyebrow. “A meeting? Are we going to find a coven of witches to visit?”

coven

CrawfordDragon scoffed. “Hardly. I told you the child is not a witch. No, I think we join a writers’ group. We need to speak to a certain writer – what was his name? Crawford?”

griffinThe beast chuckled at my blank stare, then explained. “Perchance he and his griffin have encountered such magic and could share their knowledge with us. Or mayhap one of the other members of his group could reveal something. You should find when next this group meets.”

Dragon staggered off to get some sleep, leaving me staring out into space, thinking about Crawford and the griffin he purported to have. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/03/17/not-exactly-deja-vu-all-over-again/

Perhaps Dragon was right. Perhaps this man, allegedly a fellow writer of fantasy, could possess knowledge that would explain Marisol’s powers. It wouldn’t hurt to explore the possibility. After all, he certainly seemed to not only be aware of Dragon’s existence here, but to understand it.

I turned and went back to my office to research this writers’ group he mentioned. Now where did he say they met?writer's group

 

Does Crawford really have a griffin? If so, will he and his griffin have any knowledge of Marisol’s unique power? And what about the other writers in his group? Come back next week and see. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Jean Rabe Has Done it Again!

Jean Rabe Has Done it Again!

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

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

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

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

Cleric looks at laptop 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Jean Rabe.” Cleric bounced with excitement.

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

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

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

Showing laptop image to my characters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Illusory laptops

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

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

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

Sorceress snorted. “That buffoon?”

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

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

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

reading

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

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

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

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What Is She?

What Is She?

Bastina“Marisol? Marisol! Are you there?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Dray?” The little girl wrinkled her brow.

I pointed to Dragon.

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

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

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

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

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

Marisol nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bastina looked at me and raised her eyebrow questioningly.

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

“Why did she faint?”

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

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

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

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

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

I blinked. “Whatever do you mean?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Biological parents.” Bastina said softly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cleric nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

magic energy trace

 

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

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It Was a Nightmare!

It Was a Nightmare!

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

Marisol points out the horses

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

 

wide-eyedDwarf facing right

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I shrugged.

Deputy Dawg frowned. “Who called it in?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Wild? Wild?” Gloria scoffed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Staring at Maarisol

 

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

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