The Odyssey Ends?

The Odyssey Ends?

fireplaceI opened the door to the conference room and stopped dead.

Gone was the large, airy room with a huge round table at the center, plush carpeting underfoot, and comfortable furnishings throughout. The chamber before me had the stark appearance of a one-room stone cottage with a hard-packed earthen floor. The room was sparsely furnished with a rustic wooden table and some stools. Across the room, a stack of logs blazed in a huge fireplace. In front of the hearth, Dragon reclined on her belly, front legs tucked under her chest. Her eyes were at half-mast as she stared into the fire, watching the dancing flames, apparently lost in thought.

I crossed the room and pulled up a stool. “Love what you’ve done with the place!”blue-dragon-facing-left

Dragon snorted and gave me an indifferent glance before returning to her musing.

I waited, figuring my friend would eventually say something; but after about 10 minutes, my patience wore thin. “So, come here often?”

Dragon rolled to her side and looked at me wistfully. “I do not know.”

“Oh?” I tried not to sound too curious. Dragon had been missing for more than two weeks, and had only returned several days ago, with no clear memory of where she had been, or what she had done. If this room represented the first glimmer of recollection, I did not want to push too hard, lest she lose it.

Elf clericDragon shook her head, as if trying to clear it. She began to shimmer, gradually shape-shifting into her customary form of an elf maiden. She took a seat on the edge of the hearth.

“Nothing has changed. As I told you the day I returned, I have snatches of what might be memories. So many images are swimming through my brain, and I can make no sense of any of them. I see people I do not know, and places with which I am not familiar. I thought if I created one of the places here, and studied it, I might recall more.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Did it work?”

“No.” Dragon’s elven brow furrowed, and her big, almond eyes grew moist.

I patted her hand. “Don’t give up. Give it some time. You’ll remember.” I paused, looking around. “There are two bowls of some sort of gruel or oatmeal on the table. If you were here, do you remember anyone being here with you?”

half-dwarf3“I think so. Someone prepared the porridge, and it was not me. It was a man, I think.” Dragon squeezed her eyes closed. “A . . . a dwarf.” She paused, then shook her head. “No. A half-dwarf. I think I remember him.”

“Well enough to create his illusion here?”

“Perhaps. I am not sure.” Dragon sighed. “Leave me, please. I just need more time to think, to meditate on the images in my mind’s eye, and put them all together.”

I nodded and rose. “I understand. Is that why you sent my Old Dwarf away?”

“I have not sent him away. I tried, but he refuses to let me out of his sight.”

I looked around the small room. “Where is he, then?”

broom 2Dragon giggled. She pointed to a broom propped up next to the hearth.

I gaped at her. “Wait. Do you really expect me to believe you turned my Old Dwarf into a broom? I thought dwarves were immune to magic.”

“Eh, I do na really be a broom, lass. The big beastie jest be makin’ me look like one.” The voice was coming from the bristly sweeper. “I do na be the one what be magicked. Ye be right – a dwarf can na be magicked. The magic be workin’ on e’ryone else. It be makin’ ’em see a broom, instead o be seein’ me. The beastie tolded me it be so I do na be distractin’ ’er whilst she be thinkin’.”

I chuckled. “I see.”

The elf maiden winked at me, then turned toward the broom. She addressed it in a very stern tone. “Brooms do not speak. If a broom breaks my concentration, that broom risks becoming acquainted with the inner workings of a dragon’s digestive system.”

The broom yelped and huddled closer to the wall. “This broom be real quiet-like now. Ye will na e’en be knowin’ it be here.”

I chuckled. “Well, I will leave you to your task of remembering. I hope I will see you both at dinner tonight.”

sleeping-dragon-2The elf maiden nodded, then shimmered and returned to her true form. As I left the room, Dragon was once again reclining on her belly, front legs tucked under her chest, staring into the fire. And the broom was standing quietly at attention near her by the hearth.

Later that day, Miles found me sitting on the deck, watching my Foreman and the lads performing some cavalry drills on their illusory horses in the backyard.

I looked up at him and smiled. “Hi, honey! It’s so nice, now that Dragon is back, that my Foreman and the lads have their horses back as well. They’re really looking good. Want to watch for a while?”

“Okay.” Miles sat down beside me, and took the glass of apple cider I poured for him. “I enjoy Dragon’s illusions. They’re entertaining, provide enjoyment, and she creates them for a good purpose. Your Arrogant One’s illusions are just annoying.”

“What do you mean?”

broom 2“Well, I just ran into a talking broom in the kitchen.”

My eyebrows shot up. “A talking broom?”

Miles nodded and chuckled. “My jaw almost hit the floor when I walked into the kitchen and saw a broom ransacking the refrigerator. Then it turned to me and started talking, and I collected my wits. I realized it was just another of the elf’s illusions. I guess I should be used to that by now.”

I frowned. “What did it say?”

“It said to tell you she’s back.” Miles snorted. “We already know that Dragon is back, so what was the point of creating the illusion of a talking broom to tell us this?”

I placed my hand on my husband’s arm. “Honey? Can you remember the broom’s exact words?”

Miles’ brow furrowed. “I think so. It was so silly. It was speaking just like your Old Dwarf. It said . . .” Miles cleared his throat and imitated my Old Dwarf’s gruff voice. “. . . Aye, there ye be, lad! Now ye be listenin’ real good. Ye be needin’ ta be findin’ yer lass and be tellin’ ’er thet she be back. Do ye be unnerstannin’? Ye be needin’ ta be tellin’ ’er right quick-like. She be back!” Miles chuckled. “Then it grabbed a ham and a bottle of cider from the refrigerator, and ran out of the kitchen and down the stairs.”

I frowned again. “I don’t think it meant that Dragon is back.”

Miles raised an eyebrow. “Well, what did your Arrogant One mean?”

“Oh, it wasn’t my Arrogant One. Come on, I’ll explain on the way. We need to get to the conference room.”

As we scurried down the stairs, I quickly gave Miles all the details of my earlier visit with Dragon in the conference room.

“So, then, who do you think your Old Dwarf meant . . . she be back?”

“I imagine he was referring to the only other female who was missing – the Great Wyrm.”

As we approached the door to the conference room, I placed my hand on my husband’s arm. “We should enter very quietly. I don’t want to distract the Great Wyrm if she’s in the middle of any magic.”

Miles nodded. “Indeed! I imagine that could have disastrous consequences.”

I nodded, and the two of us crept forward and slowly pushed the door open. The chamber was back to normal. Across the room, on the other side of the round table, Dragon and the Great Wyrm were deep in conversation in front of Dragon’s favorite illusory fireplace. In the corner, my Old Dwarf, reinstated to his normal appearance, was munching on a ham and washing it down with long swigs of apple cider.

The two wyrms saw us as we slipped into the room, and immediately broke off their conversation. They greeted us and beckoned us to join them.

I smiled broadly at the Great Wyrm. “It’s great to see that you are alive and unharmed! Dragon couldn’t remember anything that had transpired since the two of you disappeared from this room.”

A small puff of smoke erupted from the Great Wyrm’s nostrils. “Actually, Mistress Writer, Dragon remembers far too much. And I fear your other characters may remember more than is prudent.”

I frowned. “I see. Then how do you propose remedying that situation?”

blue dragon facing rightThe Great Wyrm furrowed her brow and gave the question some consideration. “If you would be so kind, would you gather all of your characters here this evening?”

I shrugged. “I’ll try to locate them all and gather them here, but what under pretense do you suggest I do so?”

The Great Wyrm gaped at me. “They will not simply obey and gather here at your command?”

I shrugged. “Most will come at my invitation. There are two who might prove difficult to convince, even if I phrase it as a command.”

A plume of dark smoke rose from Dragon’s snout. “They are the two who are most dangerous.”

The Great Wyrm scowled. “Well, no matter what means you must employ, it is imperative that you gather them here this night.”

dwarf-facing-rightMy Old Dwarf joined us, speaking around a mouthful of ham, making it even more difficult to understand him.

“Eh, donabewo’in’…”

“What?” The Great Wyrm looked at him as if he were quite mad.

My Old Dwarf swallowed half the food in his mouth and tried again. “Eh, do na be worryin’. I guar-un-tee e’rebody be here.” He hefted his battleaxe and grinned, and morsels of food fell out of his mouth. He picked them off his beard and shirt and popped them back into his mouth and continued chewing.

Looking down her nose at the dwarf’s lack of manners, the Great Wyrm sniffed disdainfully. “Be sure they are.”

For today's blog 001Miles looked at the big beast nervously, sweat forming on his brow. He cleared his throat and addressed her in a shaky voice. “Should Marge and I be here, too?”

The Great Wyrm tilted her head and studied us. “No . . . I do believe that will be necessary.”

Miles heaved a huge sigh of relief.

The big beast smiled, and turned to me. “As we will not see each other again after this night’s gathering, I would like to bid you fare thee will, thank you for your hospitality, and assure you that the hexed items have been removed from your world and placed in safekeeping. Once I depart this time, the conduit between the worlds will collapse. You need fear no further threat from any inhabitant of my world; nor will my world be threatened by anyone from this world, as they will find no way to traverse the expanse between worlds.”

I nodded. “And the purpose of the gathering tonight is to erase any memory of your visit and the surrounding circumstances from the mind of my characters, to prevent them from searching for a way to enter your world?”

“Exactly.”

“Then I will make sure all of my characters are here. I wish you farewell, good luck and safe travels. I am saddened by the thought that I will never see you again, never know what becomes of you, but I understand the reason.”

* * *

Breakfast the next day was hushed. I looked around the table at my characters. Cleric and Sorceress had dark circles under their eyes. My Bounty Hunter slumped in his chair, eyelids drooping and bloodshot eyes unfocused. My Foreman picked up his fork and made three attempts at stabbing a piece of flapjack before he just gave up, the fork clattering loudly onto the plate. The lads couldn’t stop yawning, and they both looked like they were going to topple into their plates, sound asleep. Dragon closed her eyes and rubbed her temples, and the gray smoke rings erupting from her snout fell to the floor with quiet thuds. My Arrogant One was surlier than usual, snarling at anyone who dared bother him with a request to pass this or that. Only my Old Dwarf seemed to be in good spirits, going back for four servings of scrambled eggs with potatoes and country gravy.

“You seem rather chipper this morning.” I watched my Old Dwarf, still shoveling food into his mouth after my other characters had wandered off.

“Yeah, you do appear bright-eyed and bushy tailed,” Miles remarked.

“Eh, tha overs been hafin’ a ri’ rou’ ni’ o it.”

My husband frowned. “What did he say?”

I shrugged. My Old Dwarf was harder to understand than usual, as he pushed his words through a mouthful of food.

“Again, please, in understandable syllables?”

He chugged down half a bottle of cider and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand before repeating himself. “Tha others been havin’ a right rough night o it.”

“Oh? And how do you know that?”

“Wale, I be there, dinna I? Wit them and the great beastie?”

I jumped up and clapped my hand firmly over the old reprobate’s mouth. Miles looked around for any sign of my other characters.

“You remember that?” My voice was a harsh whisper.

My Old Dwarf pushed my hand away. “O course I be rememberin’ thet, lass.”

“Shhhhhhhhhhhhh!” Miles looked aghast.

dwarf“O course I be rememberin’ thet.” He dropped his voice to a loud whisper. “I be rememberin’ all o it, from the first time the lad here be talkin’ like the Innkeeper and ye be findin’ summat here from tha other world, almost a year ago; all the way ta tha great beastie magickin’ e’ryone lastest night afore she be goin’ home, so’s they do na be rememberin’ and knowin’ there do be a way ta git ta thet world from here. I remember e’ry bit o it. I be tellin’ ye and tellin’ ye, lass, a dwarf can na be magicked!”

I could feel the color draining from my face, and I could see Miles turning just as pale.

“Great. I just hope none of the others ever find out what you remember.”

“An’ jest how da ye be thinkin’ they be findin’ oot? I do na be no blabbertymouf! A dwarf be the very soul o discretion, lass. Ye kin be dependin’ on me.”

Is this odyssey finally over? Can my Old Dwarf be trusted to keep quiet about recent events? Let’s hope so! Be sure to come back again and join us for new adventures and misadventures. We’ll leave the porch light on for you!

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Thanksgiving (a few days late)

Thanksgiving (a few days late)

scrambled eggsMiles and I were sitting at the kitchen table, along with my characters. The mood was somber. Most of us were just pushing our breakfast around on our plates. The only ones exhibiting a hearty appetite were my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter. The rest of us were having a hard time choking anything down.

For today's blog 001Miles put down his fork and sighed. “It’s just not the same without her here. I never thought I’d miss her threatening to char my shoes with my feet still in them, or the way she ripped up the carpeting when she was writhing around, scratching her back.”

My husband was referring to Dragon, who had disappeared from the conference room more than two weeks ago, along with her companion, the Great Wyrm.

sorceress-facing-right

Sorceress wiped a tear from her cheek. “We have to accept the fact that Dragon might not be coming back.”

Elf

Cleric choked back a sob. “We must have faith! She will return. She will!”

Young hero 2

My Young Hero nodded, and patted Cleric’s arm. “Yes, Dragon will return, I am sure of it! She is powerful and resourceful. She can overcome any danger.”

Gypsy

My Gypsy sighed and shook his head. “It is all well and good to have faith, but we must also be realistic. We have no idea where she is. We know not if she left willingly or was taken by someone who, for all we know, could be even more powerful and more resourceful than Dragon.”

arrogant-one-facing-right

“I say good riddance to the big lizard.” My Arrogant One stuck his nose in the air and busied himself flicking imaginary lint from the sleeve of his robe.

 

dwarf-facing-right

My Old Dwarf jumped from his chair, practically snarling at the elf, and brandishing his war axe. “Ye be wantin’ ta be eatin’ yer teeth fer mornin’ meal?”

 

“Enough!” My glare encompassed my Old Dwarf as well as my Arrogant One, but my warning was for the elf. “In case you’ve been living under a rock or something and haven’t noticed, the rest of us consider Dragon a dear friend. Your remark is both offensive and in very poor taste.”

My Arrogant One assumed an injured air. My Old Dwarf continued to stand there for several long, tense minutes, glowering at the elf and slapping the flat of his axe against the palm of his hand. Finally, he lowered his weapon and wandered off, dejectedly, towards the stairs.

bounty-hunter

As soon as he was out of earshot, my Bounty Hunter snorted. “Any bets on where the old fool is heading? He checks that conference room a dozen times a day. He really believes that creature will return.”

foreman-facing-left

“And you don’t think she will?” My Foreman assessed my Bounty Hunter through narrowed eyes. “Do you know something the rest of us don’t?”

 

“No, but it is as the Gypsy said. We need to be realistic. Who knows what caused her disappearance? She may have decided to stay with that other creature, the Great Wyrm, wherever she resides. Or she may be trapped somewhere, or even dead. We need to get over it and move on.”

Young hero 2

My Young Hero jumped to his feet. His fists were balled at his side, his face was red and blotchy, and his voice cracked as he yelled at my Bounty Hunter. “One does not just get over the loss of a friend! If there is any chance at all she is still alive, we need to search for her and try to rescue her! There must be something we can – -”

 

 

Whatever more my Young Hero was about to say was lost in the sound of running feet and shouting. My Old Dwarf came racing back up the stairs, whooping and bellowing at the top of his voice. “She be back! Er’ybody! Dragon be back! Tha big beastie be back!”

dwarf

For a few moments, we all froze in stunned silence, staring at the dwarf. Then we all jumped up and stampeded to the conference room.

Dragon“What happened to you?” “Are you okay?” “Where have you been?” “Where is the Great Wyrm?” “Welcome home!” Everyone was talking at once, and Dragon appeared quite overwhelmed. Her eyes opened wide, she backed away from us, and dark smoke spewed from her snout.

dwarfImmediately my Old Dwarf pushed his way through the crowd, placing himself between us and Dragon. He stood facing the group with his feet apart, brandishing his war axe, protecting his friend. “Do na any o ye be havin’ the sense ye be born wit? The big beastie been through a great ordeal! She be needin’ ta be restin’ so’s she kin be recuperatin’! Ye kin all be seein’ ’er later. Now ye best be skedaddlin’!”

When we did not move quickly enough, the old reprobate punctuated his demand with a swipe of his axe, scattering those closest to him and Dragon.

Before anyone could get hurt, I started grabbing my characters by the arm and herding them toward the door. “My Old Dwarf’s right. Dragon needs her rest. She’ll let us know when she’s feeling better.”

There were a lot of protests and muttering, but finally only three of us remained in the conference room with Dragon – Miles, me, and my Old Dwarf. But the dwarf did not relent. Scowling, he raised his axe again. “I be meanin’ the two o ye, too!”

Miles yelped and headed for the door, but I grabbed his arm and pulled him back. I stood my ground and glared at my Old Dwarf. “No, you don’t mean us. We will stay and talk to Dragon. You can go and guard the door.”

Slowly, the dwarf lowered his weapon. All the color drained from his normally ruddy face. “Nay, lass! Tha lastest time I be guardin’ thet door, the big beastie been disappeared. I do na be makin’ thet mistake agin. Iffin I be guardin’ ’er, I be stayin’ right here, in the very room wit ’er, where I kin be keepin’ me eye right on ’er. I do na be losin’ ’er agin!”

I smiled and placed my hand on his arm. “All right, old friend. You can stay.”

dragonI turned toward Dragon, who was still cringing next to her illusory fireplace. Her eyes were still wide and the tip of her tail was twitching. I spoke to her in my most soothing tone. “Dragon? It is good to see you again, my friend.”

Getting no response, I moved slowly toward the creature, stopping just a few feet from her. “Can you tell us what happened? You have been gone for more than two weeks.”

Slowly relaxing, Dragon tilted her head and scratched her chin, as if trying to remember. “I am afraid I can remember nothing. I was unaware that I had been gone until that silly old dwarf welcomed me home while flinging himself at me and trying to wrap my tail in a bear hug. I awoke here this morning, curled up next to my fireplace, but I could not seem to remember how I had gotten here. As I tried to remember, things got more and more confused. I have so many images swimming through my brain, and I can not make sense of them. I see people I do not know, and places with which I am not familiar.” She stood there, palms up, shrugging and shaking her head.

I nodded. “It could be you have suffered a great physical or emotional trauma that has caused a problem with your short-term memory. It is equally possible that your recent memory has been suppressed through magical means.”

Dragon snorted. “It would take a remarkably powerful magic user to do that.”

Miles and I exchanged worried glances across the room.

“You know something.” Dragon’s eyes narrowed.

I nodded. “You have recently been in the company of a creature whose magical power is far greater than your own; someone who could have easily altered with your memory.”

Dragon’s jaw dropped.

Miles cleared his throat. He took a few cautious steps closer to me and Dragon and spoke softly. “Don’t worry, she was a friend. She wouldn’t have done anything to harm you. If she is responsible for your loss of memory, I’m sure she has done it to protect you.”

I sighed. “You will probably hear all about it from the others, so I might as well tell you. Do you remember trying to discover and remove the source of the tension and conflict among all my characters?”

Dragon frowned. She started to shake her head, but paused. “Yes . . . yes, I think I do.”

dragon-1964202_960_720“Well, in the course of your investigation, you were aided by another Dragon, the Great Wyrm. Although the others are unaware of her origins, I can tell you – she is from the world about which I wrote in the manuscripts . . . the manuscripts from which you and the others have fallen.”

“The world we characters have always referred to as our world?”

Book manuscript“Yes, that world. Although you confirmed that that world is not your world, not really. Your world exists only in the pages of my manuscripts.”

Dragon stared at me for a very long time. Finally, she nodded. “So, were the Great Wyrm and I successful? Has the source of the tension and conflict been identified and removed?”

“I would say you were most successful, although I don’t know the details of your accomplishment. I only know the conflict has ended, the objects you suspected of being the cause of the hex are gone, and everyone is back to normal. We all owe the two of you a great debt. The disputes here had reached a critical level, and it would not have been long before the other characters would have inflicted serious physical harm – maybe even fatal injuries – to each other, or to Miles and me.”

“Then I am grateful for the help the Great Wyrm provided me.” Dragon sighed, then yawned widely. “Whatever adventures I have had, I fear they have left me devoid of energy. Might I excuse myself? I am in need of a long sleep.”

Miles and I smiled at Dragon, and I nodded. “Of course. We will talk again, when you are feeling better. My Old Dwarf will remain and watch over you. He will see that you are not disturbed.”

* * *

Thanksgiving feastSeveral days later, Dragon still had not sorted out her memories of recent events, but there would be time for that later. Now, we were gathered in the kitchen for dinner. Miles placed the last serving platter on the groaning sideboard, and took his place at the table. I looked around at everyone seated there, and cleared my throat.

 

“Today is Thanksgiving, a day traditionally set aside to give thanks for the bounty and blessings of the past year. Since those of us at this table are of various religions, and worship different deities, I suggest a departure from the traditional prayer before meals that Miles and I usually say. Instead, why doesn’t each person take a turn to state briefly what they are most thankful for this year?”

The silence was deafening. All my characters looked at me as if I had asked them to dance naked on the table.

“Okay, good. I’ll start.” I paused to gather my thoughts.

dwarf“Nay, lass. I be startin’.” My Old Dwarf rose and looked around the table before continuing. “This Thanksgiving, I be most grateful for the safe return o our friend, Dragon.”blue-dragon-facing-left

 

At the other end of the table, Dragon blushed deeply.

 

“Asides from thet, I be grateful for the roof o’er me head, the food in me belly, and the kind lass and her lad who do na be kickin’ us oot, in spite o the way we al’ays be disruptin’ their lives and causin’ ’em problems.”

Around the table, many heads were nodding.

“Hear, hear!” My Young Hero stood up. “I think you have spoken what is in each of our hearts today.”

“Good! I be savin’ ye all tha trouble o sayin’ it! Now kin we be getting’ ta the food already?”

I laughed as everyone grabbed their plates and took them to the sideboard to fill. While the others started eating right away, Miles and I joined hands, bowed our heads, and quietly said grace. Listening to the laughter and good cheer around the dinner table, I realized we had a lot to be thankful for.

 

One of the things for which I am most grateful is a husband who understands my writing process, and is such a good sport that he willingly participates in it. Another thing for which I am grateful is you, dear readers. I hope you will continue to share our adventures and misadventures. We’ll always leave the porch light on for you.

 

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Where Am I?

Where Am I?

sleeping-dragon-2Uhhhhhhhggggggg. Where am I?

Drifting in and out of consciousness, Dragon knew not where she was, nor why she was there. She had not the strength to raise her head, or even open her eyes, to look around.

Dragon slowly became aware of a sharp pain in her stomach. She moaned softly. How long has it been since I last ate?

The huge beast tried to shift her position. She could feel herself start to panic. I . . . can . . . not . . . move.

She knew this feeling. She had felt it before. I feel . . . as though . . . I am bound . . . swaddled tightly . . . in thick cotton . . . or imprisoned . . . in unyielding iron bands. I can . . . barely breathe.

Slowly, the helpless beast drifted back into unconsciousness.

sunTime dragged on. Dragon continued to fade in and out of a coma. In her more lucid moments, she was aware of great discomfort. She could feel the sun beating down on her as hot as a dwarven forge, baking her. As her throat grew as parched as the desert sands in which she lay, she tried again and again to rouse herself. I must find water and food! I must! But she was too weak. Again, she fell comatose.

Dragon convulsed. It must . . . be night. It is . . . so cold. She lay there shivering for hours until the sun started baking her again the next day. She grew weaker and weaker.

“What be the beastie doin’ back ’ere?” A gruff voice made its way through the fog around Dragon’s mind.

sleeping-dragon-2Voices! Hello? Dragon tried as hard as she could to speak, to move, to open her eyes, but she remained as still as death.

“An’ jest how be I ta be knowin’ thet? She do na exactly be conversatable.”

“How long be she here?”

“I do na be knowin’ thet, neither. Bu I be knowin’ we be needin’ ta do summat. The beastie be dyin’.”

“So? What nevermind o ours be thet?”

Please. She was too weak to give voice to her thoughts. Please . . . help . . . me.

“Where be ye goin’?”

“I be goin’ aboot me business. Why?”

“I tolded ye. The beastie be dyin’. We be needin’ ta do summat fer ’er.”

Dragon heard the first speaker snort and got the feeling that he was walking away.

She felt someone pat her arm. “It do na make much nevermind ta him, mebbe, but it do be makin’ some ta me. You do na be dyin’ on me now, beastie! I be commin’ back as soon as I be able ta find someone what kin help.”

No! Please! Do not leave me here! I can not survive another day in this sun!

But the speaker was gone. The sun continued to grow hotter. Dragon was so dry she could not even produce a single tear.

* * *

healer“You should have summoned me sooner.” The speaker, a petite lass with reddish blond hair and flashing emerald eyes, handed the reins of her strawberry roan mare to her companion. The horse snorted, and looked balefully at the figure.

half-dwarf3The girl’s companion scowled and reluctantly took the reins the girl thrust at him, holding them at arm’s length. He was a man who showed signs of dwarven heritage in his stocky build, his red hair and beard, and his green eyes; but the man’s height – at least two full heads taller than the small female – hinted at some human blood as well.

“It be takin’ me a good long while ta be findin’ ye. Ye do na exactly be makin’ it easy.” He continued scowling.

“It is not supposed to be easy.” The girl arched her eyebrows and gave the man a pointed look.

The man scoffed. “So, be ye helpin’ ’er or no?”

sleeping-dragon-1The girl frowned. “The beast appears dead. She is beyond help.” She reached for her reins.

The man stood his ground. “Nay. There be nuttin thet be beyond yer help, nuttin what ye canna be puttin’ right.”

“I can not put death right.”

“Try.”

The girl stared at him through narrowed eyes. “Dare you test me, half-blood?”

“I dare. She be one o yourn. Ye be obligated ta help ’er.” The man jutted his chin and folded his arms across his chest.

The female laughed. “One of mine?” She shook her head. “Horses are mine, not dragons.”

“Ye helped one o ’em onest afore.”

“Did I?” The petite girl looked at him curiously. “How would you know about that? That was long before you were a gleam in your sire’s eye.”

“Do na I be Apprentice ta the foremostest historian o the land?” A sly smile peaked through his wiskers.

The girl frowned. “Let me consider your request.” She reached for the reins once more.

The man shook his head and held tight to the reins. “Ye kin be considerin’ it right here and right now.”

The girl narrowed her eyes threateningly, but the man just stood there, looking unimpressed.

She glanced at the huge carcass, half-buried in the shifting sands, then looked back at the man. “You could join her.”

The man shrugged.

The lass tilted her head and stroked her chin. “Death is designed to be final.”

Still the man just stood there.

The girl frowned. “No.”

The man did not budge.

“No, I tell you. The creature is dead. I will not change that. It is against the rules of nature.”

Again she reached for her reins, and again the man held tight. “The rules o our nature, the rules o our world do na apply ta ’er. She do na be from our world.”

The girl scoffed. “What are you talking about? Of course she is from our world. I know this dragon well.”

The man snorted. “Look again. She mebbe a shadow o the dragon ye be knowin’ so well, a memory o ’er, an image o ’er, an echo o ’er, but it do na be ’er.”

The girl’s brow furrowed. She walked over to the corpse and studied it. Suddenly her eyes widened and her hand flew to her mouth. “This . . . this can not be! How . . . ?”

“I be explainin’ it all ta ye later. Right now, ye be helping ’er.”

The girl glared at the man for many long minutes. Finally, she nodded.

* * *

sleeping-dragon-2Uhhhhhhhggggggg. Where am I?

Drifting in and out of consciousness, Dragon knew not where she was, nor why she was there. She had not the strength to raise her head, or even open her eyes, to look around, but she thought she heard something. Voices? She strained to listen.

“It be takin’ ye a durn good enough long time.”

Dragon did not see the speaker, who sounded as if he were standing some distance away; nor did she see the person to whom he spoke, although she heard the reply from right next to her.

“It is a long procedure. Did you think I just waved my hand and poof?”

Voices! Hello? Dragon tried as hard as she could to speak, to move, to open her eyes, but she remained as still as death. Help . . . me! Oh, please . . . please help me! But the voices faded as the beast once again slipped into oblivion.

* * *

“Beastie?”

Dragon opened one eye. A stocky man of mixed dwarven blood leaned over her. “Apprentice?”

 

“Aye, lassie, it be me.” He beamed at Dragon.

wooden doorDragon shifted her considerable bulk and struggled into a sitting position. She realized she was no longer burning hot nor freezing cold. Her throat was no longer parched and her stomach felt full. She looked around. They were in the woodland glade outside the Apprentice Historian’s stone hut.

“How did I get here?” She stretched, testing the soundness of her limbs and the strength of her muscles.

“A friend brung ye here.”

“The dwarf who first brought me here?”

The man’s face darkened. “Nay. It do na been him.”

“Who, then? I heard voices . . . I think.” She shook her head as if to clear it of cobwebs.

“It do na be makin’ no nevermind who it been.” He shook his head, then grinned again. “I knowed I be tellin’ ye ta be sure ta drop by an’ visit iffin ye e’er be back here in me lifetime, beastie, but I dinna e’er be expectin’ ta be seein’ ye so soon!”

Dragon looked worried. “How long has it been since I was last here?”

“Thet be dependin’ on what time ye be keepin’. Ye be remembering the Great Wyrm and me be tellin’ ye thet the passage o time be different in different worlds.”

dragon-1964202_960_720At the mention of her friend, Dragon’s eyes widened. “The Great Wyrm! Where is she? I must see her.”

“I do na be knowin’ where she be at the moment, beastie. I do na be seein’ ’er sincen the two o ye be leavin’ me hut together.”

“She did not come back with me?” Dragon jumped up.

“I do na be knowing thet, either, beastie. She dinna be wit ye when I founded ye in the desert.”

“Oh, no! She must be stranded back in the book . . . or lost between worlds!” Dragon started pacing, her tail thrashing around.

 

“Eh, now, ye be careful wit thet tail o yourn!” The Apprentice yelped and jumped out of the way of the lashing appendage.

“Oh, I am so sorry!”

“Eh, I do na be guessin’ ye done any real damage.” He settled himself on a log next to his chopping block. “But ye do na be needin’ ta be afeared none. I mebbe do na be knowin’ where the Great Wyrm be, but I do be knowin’ she be back here in this world. Whether she be here by her own devices or wit yer help, I do na be knowin’.”

Dragon stared at him incredulously. “How? How do you know she’s here?”

“She be the one what put it in me mind thet ye be needin’ help, and showeded me where I could be findin’ ye.”

“But . . . but you said you had not seen her.”

“I dinna be seein’ ’er. Thet one do na be needin’ ta be wit someone ta be conversatin’ wit ’em.”

Dragon smiled and nodded her understanding. “Well, I must find her. I must be certain that she is safe and that she has thwarted the plans of those who tried to eliminate her presence in this world.”

“Ye do na be needin’ ta be afeared. The Great Wyrm be safe and she be sortin’ out them what be needin’ some rememberin’ thet she do na be a creature ta be trifled wit.” The Apprentice grinned and winked at Dragon.

Dragon chuckled. “I can well imagine just how she would remind them to afford her her due respect.” The big beast sighed. “Well, I do not know whether to merely be relieved and grateful that she is okay, or also be disappointed that she does not need my help.”

The Apprentice nodded. “Well, whilst ye be decidin’, why do na ye change inta thet beauteous elfie so’s ye can be settin’ at table wit me fer evenin’ meal? Then, we can be jawin’ aboot how ye be gittin’ back ta Mistress Writer’s world without drainin’ e’ry bit o power and lifeforce from wittin ye.”

Dragon smiled. “Yes, that would be a good idea.”

* * *

fireplace2Uhhhhhhhggggggg. Where am I?

Dragon opened her eyes and looked around. She was surprised and somewhat befuddled to find herself curled up on the thickly carpeted floor of the conference room, next to her illusory fireplace.

Now how did I get here?

She stood up and stretched. Then she scratched her head and thought. The last thing I remember is . . . hmmmm. No, that’s not right. The last thing I remember is . . .

Just then, the Old Dwarf came stomping through the door. He stopped short, gaping at Dragon. A huge smile spread across his face. “Dragon! Ye be back!” He launched himself at the beast and gave her tail a huge bear hug.

 

“Back? Have I been away?”

Without replying, the Old Dwarf raced out of the room and up the stairs, whooping and bellowing at the top of his voice. “She be back! Er’ybody! Dragon be back!”

 

How did Dragon get safely back to this world? What new adventures await her and her friends now that she is back? Be sure to come back next week and join us for our Thanksgiving feast. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Time, Time, Time

Time, Time, Time

blue dragon facing right

 

The Great Wyrm paced. Time and time again, she circled the copse of date palms. Her huge, clawed feet and her long, bulky tail dredged a trench in the sand around the grove.

 

 

In the shade of the palm trees, Dragon remained comatose, unaware of the passage of time. It had been more than three days, and still she had not stirred.

sleeping-dragon-1The Great Wyrm ceased her pacing and studied her unresponsive companion. The smaller wyrm’s color was starting to return, although her scales remained dull and drab. Her breathing, so shallow and irregular three days past, was returning to normal.

The Great Wyrm reached down and stroked Dragon’s cheek with the back of one talon. Another day, maybe two, little one. Then, if you have not revived, I am afraid I must attempt to awaken you. Forgive me, but time is of the essence. She sighed. If only I had my powers, I could heal you without delay. Then again, if I had my powers, I doubt we would be here in this predicament.

The huge beast sighed again, and resumed pacing, going around and around and around. Suddenly she stopped and her head jerked up. Flying toward the stand of trees was another wyrm, this one just a hair smaller than Dragon. Its brilliant scales sparkled in the desert sun. It almost looked like a flying jewel.

 

The newcomer landed nearby, on the other side of the grove of trees. The Great Wyrm was by its side in an instant. The ancient behemoth tilted her head and studied the strange dragon. Something about the creature looked odd. It appeared to the Great Wyrm to be almost two-dimensional, something between illusion and reality.

speech-bubbleTrying to shrug off the feeling that something was amiss, the Great Wyrm reached out telepathically and greeted the other dragon in their ancient tongue, as was the custom of her species. There was no response. The Great Wyrm frowned. Not only did this newcomer not reply, the Great Wyrm could sense nothing from it. The creature’s mind was a total blank.

The intruder started to walk toward the trees and the Great Wyrm followed. The ancient wyrm reached out and touched the dragon, but recoiled. The beast felt strange, somewhat insubstantial.

The creature continued walking. The Great Wyrm tapped it on the shoulder, expecting some reaction, but the other creature totally ignored her. The Great Wyrm narrowed her eyes, and a growl rumbled deep in her throat. She reached out and shoved the dragon. The other creature caught its balance and continued walking toward the trees. It was heading straight toward the comatose Dragon.

The Great Wyrm moved ahead of the interloper and stood between it and Dragon. Stop! I will not allow you to harm her! When she got no response from her telepathic message, she repeated it aloud. Then she grabbed the unresponsive creature and held it fast, in spite of the feeling that her hands were about to go right through the insubstantial body.

Still the dragon did not react. Its legs continued to move, and had the Great Wyrm not been holding it, the dragon would have continued walking along its previous course.

The Great Wyrm turned the dragon around and faced it in the opposite direction, then released it. The dragon took a few steps, then pivoted and resumed its original course, faltering just a bit as it negotiated the trench left by the Great Wyrm’s pacing. It never acknowledged the presence of the Great Wyrm and never seemed to notice Dragon’s still form beneath the trees.

A faint voice in the Great Wyrm’s mind caused her to jump. Do not worry. It will do us no harm. Although we can touch the denizens of this world, I do not think them capable of interacting with us.

The Great Wyrm turned toward her ailing companion, a smile brightening her face. Little One! You are awake!

Am I? Yes, I suppose I am, although I do not feel very alert yet. She looked around. It is hard for me to believe we made it safely into the manuscript. I really did not believe you when you said I had the power to bring you here! Dragon smiled warmly at the Great Wyrm. She shifted her position to relieve a cramp in one of her wings, but made no attempt to rise. How long have I been unconscious?

The Great Wyrm stooped down and took Dragon’s hand in hers. It has been three days.

“Three days?” Dragon’s eyes flew open, and she forgot all about communicating telepathically. “Three days here?”

Her companion nodded.

Dragon blanched. “With the time we already spent in Mistress Writer’s world, how long have we been gone from your world?”

“I am not certain. As you know, time passes differently in the different worlds. We have either been gone 50 years, or it is two weeks before we left my world.” The Great Wyrm winked.

Dragon chuckled at that. She struggled to sit, but found she was still too weak. “Is there any food or water left?” Having remembered that everything in the manuscript world was insubstantial, Dragon had packed food and water for the trip, and had asked the Great Wyrm to bring it along.

“Of course! I should have offered it straight away!”

Dragon drank deeply, emptying two of the four large water skins. Then she wolfed down an entire roast she had pilfered from Mistress Writer’s kitchen. Finally, she leaned back and sighed. “Thank you! I feel a bit stronger now.”

 

“Now that your stomach is full, and your thirst slaked, you should sleep again. You need to regain your strength. The next leg of the journey may be even more arduous than the first.” The Great Wyrm could not disguise her look of concern, and Dragon swallowed a large lump in her throat.

“But we must make haste in returning to your world! Time is running out!”

The Great Wyrm nodded. “It is true, time will not wait for us. But if you attempt the spell before you have recovered sufficiently, all the time in the world will do us no good. We have but one chance to make this journey. Let us be sure you are up to the task.”

sleeping-dragon-2Dragon reluctantly agreed. As the sun began to sink below the horizon, the large beast rolled over and closed her eyes. She sighed, inwardly relieved that she would have more time to recuperate and prepare, but worried about the consequence of any further delay. Sleep was a long time coming that night.

It was another two days before Dragon dared to attempt the difficult crossing from the world inside Mistress Writer’s manuscript to the Great Wyrm’s world, the world about which Mistress Writer had written in her manuscript. Even though she felt as if she had recovered all of her power and strength, Dragon hesitated. She remembered the last time she had made this journey, and she had been alone then. Now, she had to transfer another being besides herself. She was not sure all of her power and strength would be sufficient. But she could not risk further delay. Time marched on.

Dragon sat with her back against the rough bark of a date palm. She firmly grasped the hand of the Great Wyrm, who sat beside her. The two wyrms gripped each other tightly; they dared not consider what would happen if they became separated.

Dragon concentrated as hard as a dragon can, putting every ounce of her considerable mental prowess and supernatural power into her endeavor. She intoned an ancient incantation in an archaic language, trying hard to remember the changes recently imparted by the Great Wyrm, changes that would – hopefully – transfer the ancient beast along with Dragon.

Time seemed to stand still. Ever so slowly, the two wyrms began to shimmer. Bit by bit by tiny bit, their great bulk faded from the shadow world of the manuscript until, finally, they disappeared altogether.

magic energy traceIt seemed to Dragon an eternity passed before she started taking shape again. As she slowly solidified, she realized she was no longer holding the Great Wyrm’s hand. Dragon struggled to look around at her surroundings, frantically searching the landscape for her companion; but there was no time to find her before Dragon lost consciousness, her enormous power drained completely.

 

Did the Great Wyrm safely make the journey between worlds, or does she remain stranded within the pages of a manuscript? Is Dragon merely exhausted, or has her time run out? Has her lifeforce been drained away along with her power? Be sure to return next week to find the answers. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Gone

Gone

Sleeping Woman 2“Mistress! Wake up! Please wake up!”

I heard the softly whispered words as if they came from a great distance; they were barely a tickle in my ear. I rolled over, my subconscious content that the voice was part of a dream.

“Mistress? Mistress! You must awaken!”

This time, the dream voice was louder, more urgent. And in my dream, someone was shaking me.

I tried to shrug it off, but the voice and the shaking persisted and became more demanding. Finally, I opened one eye. I was not dreaming.

Cleric and Sorceress were bending over me, trying their best to wake me without disturbing my husband, who was sleeping next to me. They almost succeeded.

“Hmmmm? Whasamatter?” Miles turned over. “You say something, honey?” His eyes fluttered, but remained closed.

“Ah, no, sweetheart.” I spoke in a soothing whisper. “You must be dreaming.”

“Mmmmmmm. ’K.” He snuggled further into his blankets.

I motioned to Cleric and Sorceress to keep quiet. They responded by grabbing my arm and dragging me out of bed. They handed me my robe, and helped me pull it on. Then they tugged me toward the door.

When we got out into the hallway, Cleric and Sorceress both started to whisper urgently, but their voices were jumbled together, and I could not understand them. Finally, Sorceress placed her hand over Cleric’s mouth and opened her own mouth to speak. Before she could say a single word, though, we heard someone behind us.

“Ahem.”

Easter 128We whirled around to face the sound. Miles had followed us into the hallway, and was leaning against the wall, watching us.

“So . . . I’m dreaming, huh? I’m dreaming that my wife is being kidnapped by two of her characters?” He raised an eyebrow sardonically.

“Kidnapped? Oh, no, Master Miles! We would never kidnap Mistress Writer!” Cleric’s eyes were wide and her cheeks burned scarlet.

Sorceress grabbed both Miles and me by our arms. “You must come right away! They are gone!”

I pulled my arm free of her grip. “Who is gone?”

“Dragon and the Great Wyrm.”

If I hadn’t been awake before, I certainly was now. “What do you mean, they’re gone?”

This time it was Cleric who placed her hand over Sorceress’ mouth. “We have been working for days with little rest, Mistress.” She shuffled her feet and shrugged. “After repairing the damage from the explosion, we all needed a respite.”

Sorceress pushed Cleric’s hand aside, and continued the tale. “We fell asleep. All of us. Well, at least Cleric and I, and the Gypsy lad.” She frowned. “We thought the other two were asleep as well – or in a trance, or reverie, or whatever replaces sleep with Dragons.”

gypsy-facing-rightMy Gypsy came up behind us and joined the conversation. “Obviously, they were not asleep. When the three of us awoke, the two wyrms were gone.” He turned toward me. “Your Old Dwarf was still awake and at his post, guarding the conference room. I just finished questioning him. They did not leave through the door.”

“Are you sure?” Miles looked skeptical. “They might have left without him seeing them. Maybe he fell asleep, or went upstairs to get a snack.”

My Gypsy shook his head. “After the mess he made of that door, he was determined not to fail again at his task. He said he never left his post, and I believe him. And that dwarf would never fall asleep on guard duty!”

“Was there any indication that the conduit finally appeared, and they went through that, back to the other world?” I pulled my robe closer around me and thought of all the possible reasons the two wyrms might have disappeared.

“No.” Sorceress shook her head. “If the conduit had appeared, Dragon and the Great Wyrm would not have been able to use it to return to the other world until certain alterations were made to the spell controlling the passageway.”

“They were going to instruct us, so we could make the alterations.” Cleric was wringing her hands.

“Could they have been taken by force?” As soon as the words left his mouth Miles ducked his head sheepishly, as if he realized just how absurd that sounded. Who could take two huge, powerful beasts by force, and not awaken the others in the room?

I frowned and shook my head. “I don’t see how. But standing here talking about it isn’t going to help us solve the mystery. Let’s go down and look around the conference room. Maybe we can figure it out.”

dwarf-facing-rightWe descended the stairs and found my Old Dwarf still standing guard at the conference room door. He looked at me, his eyes red-rimmed and his cheeks wet. “I be swearin’ ta ye, lass, I dinna e’er be leavin’ this spot, not tha whole o tha time since they been tendin’ me cuts and mendin’ the door. Tha big beasties dinna been leavin’ thet room through this door.”

“I know.” I patted him on his shoulder.

“Be they all right?” His voice cracked with emotion.

“I’m sure they’re fine.” I silently wished I was as confident as I sounded.

I stepped through the door and studied the room. The magic users’ grimoires, spell components, and magical paraphernalia were strewn across the table. I raked my hand through my hair, heaved a deep sigh, and turned toward the magic users. “Does everything look the same as when you went to sleep?”

My three characters examined the clutter on the table.

“It appears so, Mistress.” Cleric started to straighten her area.

My Gypsy followed suit, gathering his belongings in a somewhat neatened jumble. “Yes, nothing appears to be missing . . . well, except for two very large dragons.” He wiggled his eyebrows, but his attempt at humor fell flat. He sighed.

Sorceress frowned. She moved away from the table, and walked to a protected alcove at the rear of the room. She turned back toward us, her face drained of color. “The magic container is gone!”

“That can’t be good.” Miles frowned. “Are you sure?”

“Quite certain, Master Miles. It was right there when last I saw it.” She pointed to an empty spot in the alcove.box

We all took a quick look around the room, checking under the table and chairs, but the big, ornate chest that held the four hexed items from the other world was no longer in the conference room.

 

Book manuscriptI bent down and picked up a stray book I noticed under the settee by Dragon’s illusory fireplace. I realized after a quick glance that it wasn’t one of the magic users’ spell books. This was one of my manuscripts, and it was open to a passage describing the desert scene wherein Dragon had first met some of my other characters.

 

Suddenly, I knew where Dragon and the Great Wyrm were.

 

* * *

blue dragon facing rightdesert-2196352_960_720I blinked, trying to adjust my eyes to the azure of the cloudless sky and the endless expanse of sun-drenched sand gleaming gold in the early morning light.

I stretched, digging my claws deep into the sand. Then I slowly lowered my bulk and rolled onto my back, writhing. My intent was to use the fine particles of sand to burnish my scales to a polished finish, but it was not working. Although I could see and feel the sand, it was different. It lacked substance. I sighed and stood up again.

oasisI looked around. In the dubious shelter of a nearby copse of insubstantial palm trees, Dragon – the shadow, the echo, the memory of my younger self – still slumbered, exhausted by her efforts to bring us here. Her first trip here, back into the book from which she had fallen, had been difficult by her telling. This time, bringing along a creature not from this world, it was infinitely more strenuous. Still, the trip was imperative.

strange-dreamsDragon and her colleagues in magic, under my tutelage, had been unable to summon the conduit that connects my world with that of Mistress Writer, the world the Scrivener terms the real world. I am convinced that someone in my world interfered with the conduit.

Since it is essential that I return to my world, Dragon offered to make this sacrifice, first taking me into her world, the world inside the manuscript from which she fell into that real world; then, from the manuscript world, taking me into my own world. The first stage of the journey has left her totally exhausted. The next stage might well leave her dead.

 

 

Will the journey be the end of Dragon? Will she sacrifice her life so the Great Wyrm can return to her own world, hopefully in time to save it from the ravages of a terrible war? Be sure to come back next week and join us for the next chapter of this adventure. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

 

Another Theory

Another Theory

Miles and I were knocked back by the force of the explosion. We crashed into the wall and landed in a heap on the floor. I was seeing stars; then, through the stars, I saw Miles pull himself unsteadily to his feet.

I tried to focus on my husband. His lips were moving. I leaned closer to hear him over the ringing in my ears.

“Are you okay?” The furrowed brow and the look of concern in his eyes told me Miles had already asked me this, perhaps several times.

My ears were still ringing, and it felt like a Dwarven blacksmith was using my head for an anvil, so it took a few moments before I could think straight to answer.

“Ah . . . yeah . . . I guess so. Nothing seems to be broken. What about you?”

“I’m okay.” He leaned over and helped me up.

debrisWe looked around at the mess. The explosion had shattered the door to the conference room, virtually reducing it and the doorframe to a jumble of splintered planks and bent hardware. From under the debris, we heard a low moan. Then the wreckage shifted, and a rotund figure clambered to his feet.dwarf-facing-right

“Oooooooo. I be guessin’ I shouldna been doin’ thet.” My Old Dwarf looked at us apologetically. His armor was singed and dented, and there was a deep cut over his left eye.

 

“No, you should not have done that!” An angry voice spoke from inside the conference room. “Whatever were you thinking? You were specifically instructed not to attempt to enter this room under any circumstances!” On the other side of the splintered doorframe, the Great Wyrm scowled at the stout figure in the middle of the rubble. Behind her, Dragon, Cleric, Sorceress, and my Gypsy gaped.

My Old Dwarf turned crimson. He lowered his eyes and shuffled one foot back and forth. “Sorry. When ye dinna be openin’ tha door at me knock, or even be answerin’ me shout, we be afeared summat been happened ta ye!”

Dark smoke curled from Dragon’s snout. She stepped forward and scolded my Old Dwarf. “We explained to you when we commenced that the wards I would place on the door would not only prevent anyone outside the room from hearing us, they would also prevent us from hearing anything outside the room, so we would not be disturbed or have our concentration broken!”

My Old Dwarf’s shoulders slumped. “I fergot.”

I stepped forward and placed my hand on the old reprobate’s shoulder. “Please, it isn’t his fault. I didn’t know that you were unable to hear us. When you didn’t answer, I told my Old Dwarf that we had to somehow breach the wards and enter the room, as I feared the worst. But I didn’t intend for him to attack the door!”

The Great Wyrm raised an eyebrow. “Well, it matters not who was at fault, nor what your intentions. We must mend the injuries, repair the damage, and continue with our work with all possible speed.”

I nodded. Cleric hurried forward, wringing her hands. “Are your injuries extensive, Mistress?”

“No, actually I’m okay. I think Miles is, too.” I glanced at my husband, who nodded. “Just see to my Old Dwarf, please.”

As Cleric led the hapless dwarf to the far corner of the conference room where she could administer some healing herbs, I turned to the Great Wyrm. “Do you have time to fill us in on what’s been happening?”

“Let me just give the others some instructions, so they can complete these repairs as swiftly as possible. I will meet you in your office in just a short while.”

office-and-bookshelf-for-blog-002Miles and I walked down the hall to my office. “Do you think they’ll really be able to fix that mess?” He looked at me skeptically. “I mean really fix it, not just create the illusion that it’s been fixed.”

I frowned. “I suspect that they will have to really fix it, so they can ward it again and continue with their work without prying eyes and ears learning what’s happening. I’m not sure they could place wards on an illusory door.”

“You are correct, Mistress Writer. It is not possible to ward an illusion.” The Great Wyrm ducked her head and squeezed her bulk into my office. “It is, however, possible to effect real, physical repairs through the use of magic. Dragon and her friends will have the door fixed as good as new in short order.”

I smiled with relief.

“Now, let me apprise you of our progress. You will recall that Dragon had placed the four objects that had traveled through the conduit to this world from mine – the talisman, the horseshoe, the ruby ring, and the Royal Seal – into the magic container. It became apparent within a few days that those items had, indeed, been the source of the hex. Once the items were placed within the protective crate, all of your characters were freed from the violent impulses that had plagued them.”

I nodded my understanding. “Then, that’s why you and the others were in the conference room. You were attempting to return to your world with the items in question.”

strange-dreams“Well, we were attempting to summon the conduit. But it seems to be more of a problem than I anticipated. Since I lost my powers upon entering your world, I can not perform the necessary magic myself. I must instruct the others. But, even with all of their combined experience, skill, and power, they have not been successful.”

My husband rubbed his chin and frowned. “Are you certain that the characters in the conference room with you are who they appear to be?”

The Great Wyrm tilted her head and looked confused.

I explained. “We encountered my Old Dwarf by the front door as we were on our way down to the conference room to look for you and Dragon. Only, of course, it wasn’t my Old Dwarf. He was down guarding the conference room door.”

“Oh, I understand. You fear that one of the magic users assisting me might be an illusion, and therefore, not possessing the requisite power to cast spells.”

Miles and I nodded.

“No, Dragon would have detected the presence of illusory magic and exposed the fake.”

“If Dragon is real.” Miles gave the Great Wyrm a pointed look.

“Oh. I see what you mean.” The Great Wyrm shook her head. “No, Dragon is quite real. She is the one who cast the wards on the door, and as you saw for yourself, they worked.”

I frowned and raked my hand through my hair. “Do you have any other theories why your group has been unable to summon the conduit?”

The Great Wyrm narrowed her eyes and balled her clawed hands into fists. “I fear that someone in my world may have tampered with it.”

Miles and I both gaped at the huge beast. “But why?”

The Great Wyrm hesitated. She looked around, then leaned toward us and lowered her voice. “Perhaps this is not the place to discuss why. I can not cast the wards necessary to keep our conversation private.”

“Can we ask Dragon to cast the necessary wards?”

The Great Wyrm looked alarmed. “I do not believe she should be privy to this information, either.”

Miles and I exchanged worried glances. What could the Great Wyrm know that she would not want even Dragon to learn?

I chewed my lower lip and narrowed my eyes in thought. “Is there any way for Dragon to cast wards on this office without her being inside with us? Wards that would last for only a specific amount of time?”

“There is. Let me go beg her assistance.”

Moments later, Dragon returned with the larger creature. She remained in the hallway as the Great Wyrm once again squeezed her bulk through the doorway into my crowded office.

 

“Dragon understands what is necessary. She will ward the room against intrusion, physical or magical. The wards will remain in place for exactly 15 of your minutes.”

Miles and I nodded. Dragon reached in and closed the office door. We heard her chanting, and as she continued to cast her spells, her voice faded. When we could no longer hear the drone of her voice, the Great Wyrm turned to us and began without preamble.

“Mistress Writer, I do not believe you are the target of all that has transpired here. I believe I am. I fear I have fallen victim to an elaborate plot to remove me from my world.”

I frowned. “Why would anyone want to remove you from your world?”

The beast sighed. “Among the events of my world that you chronicled, Mistress Writer, was the rumbling of a great war. There were leaders of two disparate groups of desert dwellers who faced each other in battle.”

I paled. “Don’t tell me they’re at it again!”

The Great Wyrm chuckled. “Not unless they have continued their conflict in the next world.”

My eyes flew open. “They’re both dead?”

Passage of time - real worldPassage of time other world

The big beast nodded. “You see, Mistress Writer, time passes much differently in our two worlds. Here, it has only been a matter of years since you chronicled the events of which we speak. In my world, lifetimes have passed. Now there are other men, the descendents of those you knew, preparing to lead their people into a vicious and savage onslaught. I alone might stop them.”

“You alone?” Miles looked skeptical.blue dragon facing right

“I alone, Master Miles.” The Great Wyrm nodded. “I say this not out of conceit or hubris. It is fact. I am the Great Wyrm, the Ancient Beast. I command the knowledge and power that uncounted centuries of life imparts.”

I raked my hand through my hair again. “While you may be the only one who can stop this war, how did anyone orchestrate the events that brought you here? How would anyone know that Dragon would find a way into your world, or that she would bring you back here?”

“I do not know how anyone in my world became aware of the existence of Dragon or your other characters who have fallen out of your manuscripts and who now live with you. But they must have. They knew that Dragon would find a way to enter my world in order to protect you from the danger your hexed characters presented. They knew I would not be able to resist returning with Dragon to this world. Once I did, I was trapped.”

I shook my head. “I just can not imagine anyone having enough power to do this. You are arguably the most powerful creature in your world. Whoever has done this has power at least equal to yours, perhaps exceeding it.”

“I know.” The Great Wyrm spoke so softly, I hardly heard her words.

“Well, what are you going to do? How are you going to return to your world?” Miles folded his arms across his chest and gave the big beast a penetrating look.

“I do not know, Master Miles.” The creature sighed. “I just do not know. I suppose the only thing I can do is continue to work with Mistress Writer’s characters. Together, we may be able to find a way to thwart this plot, to free me from this trap.”

The sounds of the world outside my office started to intrude.

“We are done here. If all goes well, I will ultimately return to my world. If not, I suppose you best resign yourselves to having two wyrms at your dinner table henceforth.”

 

 

Will Dragon and her magically gifted colleagues be able to summon the conduit? Will the Great Wyrm be able to return to her world? Will we ever discover who orchestrated this trap? Be sure to join us again next week to see what happens. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

 

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An Explosive Development

An Explosive Development

Miles' Camera 128Arboretum art exhibit and back road birding 217Having a week just to ourselves had been a splendid treat for Miles and me. We went places and did things together, just the two of us, without any of my characters in tow – something we have not been able to do for quite some time.

But that doesn’t mean we were stress-free for an entire week. On the contrary, we never really stopped worrying about where my characters were and what they were doing, although we were able to put it out of our minds for longer periods of time than normal.

Now, however, it was time to get back to our topsy-turvy, fantastical world, and find out what had transpired in our absence.

“I’m surprised no one showed up for breakfast today.” Miles wore an expression that was half relief at having another breakfast sans characters and chaos, and half concern contemplating the myriad situations that might cause my characters to be absent.

I nodded. “Me, too. Especially my Old Dwarf. It takes dire circumstances to cause him to miss a meal.”

“I wonder if the hex has anything to do with it. Do you think Dragon and her friend were able to determine if the items they placed in the magic container actually were the source of the hex?” Miles finished unloading the dishwasher and putting the clean plates in the cupboard. He handed me the silverware tray, and I placed the clean utensils in the drawer.

“I think we should find Dragon and the Great Wyrm and find out.” I placed the dish towels back on the rack, and headed for the stairs. “They’re most likely in the conference room. Coming?”

Miles looked down at his shoes and sighed. “Wouldn’t you rather deal with them by yourself?”

“Still worried they’re going to char your shoes?” I snickered.

“Yes. With my feet still in them.” Miles frowned. “Isn’t that what Dragon always threatens?”

“I think your feet are safe, honey. Dragon loves to tease you, but she would never really do anything to harm you.” I gave my husband a reassuring pat on his arm. “Besides, it’s important for both of us to know what’s going on.”

“Oh, okay.” His reply was sulky, like a little child who was told they had to eat their vegetables. I laughed as we started down the stairs.

dwarfWe had only made it to the landing in the entryway when my Old Dwarf came bursting through the front door, almost colliding with us.

“Eh, the two o ye be back! Iffin I be knowin’ thet, I woulda been ta tha kitchen ta break fast wit ye this mornin’. Did ye be havin’ a good time this week past?”

“It was wonderful, thanks.” I steadied my husband, who had almost been knocked over by the old reprobate.

“How has everything been here? Have you been keeping a good eye on things . . . other than the refrigerator?” Miles gave the rotund figure a pointed look.

“O course. Do na I al’ays?” My Old Dwarf sounded indignant, and he scowled at Miles.

I smiled. “Good! Then you can fill us in. What’s been happening?”

“Eh, it been pretty quiet here. Nuttin much been happenin’.”

I stared at my Old Dwarf. Here was a character who could talk for 20 minutes, just to say we were out of bread. It struck me as somewhat peculiar that he had nothing more to say about the entire preceding week, other than it had been quiet. Surely something noteworthy must have happened.

“So . . . do you happen to know where Dragon is this morning?” I tried to sound nonchalant.

“I do na be seein’ much o tha big beastie. She been spendin’ most o ’er time wit tha udder one, tha bigger beastie.” My Old Dwarf gave me a sidelong glance. “Ye would na be knowin’ who she be, or where she be from, would ye?”

blue-dragon-2blue-dragon-facing-left

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hesitated, but Miles spoke up. “I seem to recall someone saying her identity was not important.” He studied his fingernails as he spoke.

“Wale, I be thinkin’ it be important!” My Old Dwarf looked thunderstruck. “I be wantin’ ta know jest wat sorta beastie I be sharin’ tha hoose wit.”

“Well, if she didn’t roast you and have you for dinner while Miles and I were enjoying our birthday week alone, I suspect that’s all you really need be concerned with.”

My Old Dwarf sputtered, but apparently could not think up a suitable comeback. Instead, he just turned on his heel and started marching up the stairs.

“Where are you off to?” I wasn’t certain I wanted him wandering around until after I had spoken with the two wyrms.

“I dinna be havin’ me mornin’ meal yet. I be off ta tha kitchen, ta be rem-a-dee-in’ thet sit-ee-a-shun, iffin ye must be knowin’.”

As my Old Dwarf disappeared around the corner at the top of the stairs, Miles touched my shoulder. He placed one finger over his lips, and pointed upstairs with his other hand. He mouthed a single word – illusion.

dwarf-facing-rightI frowned at that notion, but nodded to indicate to my husband that I understood him. We continued down the stairs and around the corner. There, in front of the closed conference room door, was my Old Dwarf, standing guard.

Miles gave me a knowing look, and spoke to me in an undertone. “I did remind you last week that your Arrogant One could create the illusion of any one of us.”

I nodded. “So, what tipped you off that the other dwarf was an impostor?” I kept my voice low, too, as we had not yet been noticed by the dwarf in front of the conference room.

“He was too curious about Dragon’s friend. I figure your Old Dwarf – the authentic one – already knows who she is.”

“Good point! You seem to have gotten to know my characters as well as I do, maybe better!”

My Old Dwarf looked our way, and his face brightened. “Eh, the two o ye be back! Iffin I be knowin’ thet, I woulda been ta tha kitchen ta break fast wit ye this mornin’. Did ye be havin’ a good time this week past?”

Miles looked at me and whispered, “Hmmm…it’s déjà vu all over again. Is it possible that this one is an illusion, too?”

I replied in a low voice. “Anything’s possible.” I greeted my Old Dwarf in a normal tone of voice and replied, “Last week was wonderful, thanks.”

He beamed at me and my husband. Then he pounded on the door and announced us in a thunderous bellow.

There was no response from behind the closed door, so my Old Dwarf banged harder and shouted louder. Then he turned toward Miles and me, winked, and spoke in a conspiratorial tone. “They been in thar for quite a spell. Dragon, ’er double, tha Gypsy laddie, Cleric, and Sorceress.”

“Oh?” I suspected I knew what they were doing in the conference room but I said no more, as I was still trying to decide if this dwarf was the genuine article.

“O, aye!” The rotund figure leaned on his immense war axe, nodded, and took on a very serious countenance. “Dragon gathered us up two days past to help ’er an’ ’er double. They be tryin’ ta find summat wat do na wanna be founded. They set me ta guardin’ tha door here, so’s nobody be disturbin’ ’em. But I do na be thinkin’ they be meanin’ thet tha two o ye be kept outen there.”

He turned back to the door and hammered on it so hard with his fists, I thought the door would splinter. He called out once more, his tone absolutely deafening.

Still, no response.

“Can’t we break the door down, or pick the lock, or something?” My husband’s forehead puckered with concern.

“Nay, laddie! Ye must na try ta force tha door!” My Old Dwarf grabbed Miles by the arm and swung him away from the doorway.

Startled, Miles yelped. “Why not?”

bounty-hunter-facing-other-direction“The probability of surviving an assault on the door is rather slim. I would suspect that one, or all, of the magic users involved have warded the door against physical and magical entry. Some of the wards can be rather innocuous. Others can be spectacularly fatal.”

We all jumped and turned toward the unexpected voice. My Bounty Hunter stood at the bottom of the stairs, leaning against the wall, studying us closely.

My Old Dwarf reacted before Miles or I could say a word. He halved the distance between himself and my Bounty Hunter in two steps and he hefted his war axe over his head. “Wat be ye doin’ here, and wat be ye knowin o wat be goin’ on here?”

My Bounty Hunter sneered scornfully at the old warrior. “It is not a stretch of my mental capabilities to deduce that if you are standing guard here, there is magic transpiring in there. Nor is it a stretch of anyone’s imagination to assume that the door is warded against the possibility that someone could defeat you . . . or lure you away with a ham sandwich and a pastry.”

My Old Dwarf growled – a deep, frightening, feral growl. He would have cleaved my Bounty Hunter in two had Miles and I not grabbed his arms and interrupted the downward swing of his great axe just long enough for my Bounty Hunter to jump out of the way. “I ne’er be abandonin’ me post! Ne’er! And it be takin’ a whole bunch more’n jest a wee snack ta be makin’ me ta even be thinkin’ aboot it, even fer jest a heartbeat!”

I tried my best to calm him, “It’s okay, old friend. No one who truly knows you would think for one moment you would ever leave your post.”

As Miles and I continued to hold the dwarf, I glared at my Bounty Hunter. “I don’t know what your game is, but you’re lucky my husband and I stopped my Old Dwarf. Next time, I might have second thoughts!”

My Bounty Hunter shrugged. “Methinks the old buffoon protests too much. It is obvious the magickers question his ability, if not his resolve; else why ward the door?”

At that, my Old Dwarf struggled harder to free himself from our grasp. “Jest let me at ’em! I be pulverizing ’em!”

“Later. Right now, we have more important work to do.”

“What be more important then defendin’ me honor?” I had never seen my Old Dwarf so angry. His face was scarlet, his eyes were dangerously narrowed, and he trembled with the exertion of every muscle straining against our grip.

I yelled at my Bounty Hunter. “Leave. Now!

Miles and I continued to hold the struggling dwarf as my Bounty Hunter made his way to the stairs. As soon as he disappeared up the steps, I gave my Old Dwarf a shake. “Listen. Listen to me! We must figure out how to breach the wards and enter that room. Something must have happened to Dragon and the others, or they would have opened the door by now.”

I repeated myself several times before the frenzied figure grasped what I had said. He stopped struggling and looked at me. His face crumpled, his emerald eyes filled with concern. “Summat happened? They be in trouble?”

I nodded.

Without another word, my Old Dwarf exerted tremendous effort and wrenched his arms free of our grasp. Before we could stop him, he raced back to the conference room door. He raised his mighty war axe and brought it down squarely in the middle of the door.

The resulting explosion was spectacular.

explosion

 

 

Did my Old Dwarf survive the explosion? Did we find Dragon and her colleagues-in-magic in the conference room? Be sure to come back next week to find out. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.