Dire Plights

Dire Plights

wide-eyed

fireplace2Miles and I, along with my remaining characters, stood staring into the flames long after the Lord of the Forest and my Old Dwarf galloped straight into Dragon’s illusory fireplace and disappeared.

Miles was the first to speak. “Wha . . . what just happened?”

I raked my hand through my hair and cleared my throat. “I . . . I’m not sure. I believe the unicorn just took my Old Dwarf into the land to which the wish listeners had taken us last May, the land to which Dragon and my Arrogant One have returned.”

“Your Old Dwarf said Dragon was dying.” Cleric’s face was pale, and she was wringing her hands.

I nodded, but my voice caught in my throat when I tried to reassure her.

My Bounty Hunter scoffed. “How could the dwarf possibly know that?”

“It appeared the unicorn communicated that information to the dwarf.” Sorceress wiped a tear from the corner of her eye.

“Nonsense!” My Bounty Hunter scowled. “What possible reason would the Lord of the Forest have to communicate with that oaf?”

My Gypsy raised an eyebrow and fixed my Bounty Hunter with a cold stare. “Oh, I don’t know. What possible reason would the Lord of the Forest have for taking that oaf with him?”

My Bounty Hunter stammered. “Well . . .”

My Foreman snorted. “Because, of all of us, the dwarf is the one who has known Dragon the longest. Their friendship long predates the events Mistress Writer chronicled in her first book about us. The dwarf has a special devotion to the beast.”

My Young Hero nodded and rubbed the back of his neck. “And I daresay I would not want to be that elf if what the dwarf said is true. If the elf deserted Dragon, the dwarf will not rest until the elf has answered for his cowardice.”

The rest of us nodded and murmured our agreement. My Bounty Hunter paled, and beads of sweat formed on his brow as he stared again into the fire.

* * *

Unicorn and dwarfThe Old Dwarf had barely been able to reach the unicorn’s mane, but he held on tight to the fistful he had grabbed. As the animal galloped toward the illusory fireplace, the dwarf leaped, and was jerked up onto the unicorn’s wide back. The old adventurer closed his eyes, muttered a few choice expletives, and hung on for dear life as they galloped into the fire.

The dwarf was aware of a surge of heat, heat so intense he may have passed out for a few seconds. Then he was falling, falling through fire, through steam, through mist, through branches of trees that reached out to break his fall. He ended his descent in a most undignified manner, on his bum. He jumped up, ignoring his sore rear and the multitude of scratches, bumps, and bruises he had acquired on his quick journey.

Path to the rightThe dwarf looked around. He was on a trail choked with protruding tree roots. He could see only a short distance ahead or behind, as the trail in both directions curved sharply. Mist tried to swallow all but the closest vegetation on the sides of the trail, but with his sharp eyesight, the dwarf could see what the mist sought to hide. The land on one side of the trail rose gently, while on the opposite side, a wide shoulder led to a steep drop-off.

The rotund figure placed a hand to his ear and listened, turning in all directions. Hearing nothing, he called softly. “You-nee-corn? Be ye hereaboots?” He listened again but heard nothing save the squawks and trills of the forest birds, and the chattering of a few squirrels.

“Okey-doky. I be guessin’ ye be only me transport inta this place, and now it be up ta me ta be findin’ tha beastie on me own. Wale, I be thankin’ ye, you-nee-corn.” The dwarf looked around, a scowl darkening his features. “But I mebbe be thankin’ ye a whole bunch more iffin ye actually be tellin’ me where ta be findin’ me friend.”

The silence mocked him. The dwarf sighed, hefted his axe, and started along the trail at a fast clip. “You-nee-corn? Iffin ye kin be hearin’ me, I be hopin’ this be tha right direction. Iffin I do na be findin’ tha beastie in a few hours, by sunset, I be guessin’ I be commin’ back and tryin’ tha other direction this night.”

* * *

Sir Daniver inspected the work completed by his two companions. The knights had replaced the clods of grass and dirt that Dragon had gouged up during her disastrous landing. They had erased their tracks from the small field and plumped up the tufts of grass that had been flattened.

Nodding his approval, the commander beckoned the other two under the cover of the trees. “Hopefully, our position will be undetectable from above, should the green drake be on the wing. Now we will stand vigil over our friend, Dragon, and try to comfort her as she heals.”injured dragon

Sir Jenneseer looked at Sir Daniver and gestured at the ugly gashes on Dragon’s side, her broken arm, and her tattered wings. “Did the balm you applied do any good?”

The older knight sighed. “It may have lessened her suffering by a small degree, but it was not a healing potion.” He gave his companion a sidelong glance. “Perchance you have such a potion? Something your sister, the hedge witch, may have shared with you?”

The young knight blushed scarlet and shook his head emphatically. “Nay! As much as I love my sister, I would never associate myself with the trappings of witchcraft or magic!”

“Pity.” Both men started and turned to find the third knight behind them, listening. When he realized he had spoken aloud, Sir Hrolf reddened, but shrugged. “Witchcraft and magic are not synonymous, but that is neither here nor there. Neither is inherently bad. Magic saved us and our castle when last this beast and her companions visited this world and aided us in our quest. We have oft accepted the magical aid of the wish listeners and the Lord of the Forest. It is my humble opinion that the time is long past when we should accept that magic is not evil, nor is it good. It is but a tool, like a sword or a hammer, and only the individuals wielding it can be evil or good.”

Sir Jenneseer furrowed his brow, but remained silent, keeping his thoughts to himself. Sir Daniver looked from one young knight to the other and shook his head. “That is a discussion for another time. Right now, let us do our best to keep the beast comfortable during her ordeal.”

As the three knights took up their positions watching over Dragon, the big creature began moaning and thrashing around.

“Watch out for her tail!” Sir Daviver pushed his two charges to safety. The three knights looked on helplessly as Dragon writhed and convulsed.

“We really could use some magic here.” Sir Hrolf looked pointedly at Sir Jenneseer.

* * *

Drake watching 2The green drakes’ spiked tail twitched. He narrowed his eyes, and something akin to a chuckle rumbled deep in his throat. If anyone had been watching him, they would have thought him amused at the scene below – at the naivety of the knights who failed to realize how exposed they were, oblivious to the exceptional hearing and sense of smell inherent in the scaly behemoth.

As the afternoon marched toward sundown, the green creature kept his own vigil. Occasionally, he would sniff the air, relishing the taste of fear emanating from the knights below. Sometimes he would cock his head, listening to the whispered assurances they shared with each other regarding their safety. Mostly, he just watched and chuckled.

* * *

Arrogant One riding off

The Arrogant One galloped at breakneck speed down the tree-lined lane. He put spur to his mount and urged it on ever faster. But the end of the lines of trees, where the road entered the open fields, never seemed to get closer.

When the horse could run no further, the elf pulled it up. Both rider and mount heaved for breath and sweat poured off them both. After many long minutes, when the elf could breathe again without searing pain in his chest, he dismounted and looked around. The avenue, with its canopy formed from the branches of the trees on either side of the road, went on interminably in both directions. The elf could see neither the opening where he had deserted his companions and fled for his own safety nor the other end of the path, where the trees ended and the trail meandered through the rolling landscape approaching the castle.

Wide avenue“No, no, no! This is all wrong!” The elf looked about, bewilderment and fear showing plainly in his wide-eyed stare. “I could see the end of the tree-lined section of the road from the spot where I left the others! This part of the road was not that long! What is happening?”

The elf collapsed by the side of the road. His horse, whose breathing had finally returned to normal, stood nearby, snatching a few mouthfuls of grass and leaves as it waited for its rider to rise and remount. The Arrogant One did not move.

Darkness was starting to fall when the elf finally roused himself. He struggled to his feet and remounted the patient horse, who had not abandoned his rider all afternoon. The elf looked in both directions. “Well, horse, I seem to have lost my bearings. The trail seems identical in both directions.” He looked down, but there were no tracks in the dirt to indicate whence he came. He looked up, but the canopy of branches and leaves overhead gave no clue. Finally, the elf loosened the reins and gave the horse his head. The animal turned and started walking sedately down the path.

* * *

The Old Dwarf trudged along the trail, climbing over fallen trees, crawling through exposed roots, and tripping over clods of dry earth and vegetation. He couldn’t tell how long he had been walking, but he knew he was getting tired. He wiped the sweat from his brow and looked at the sky. It was tinged with the first colors of the setting sun. He sighed.

“Wale, I be guessin’ I be takin’ the wrong direction. I be guessin’ I best be turnin’ aboot and be goin’ tha other way.” He took off his helmet and scratched his head. He looked abashed and scolded himself loudly. “Ye daft old dwarf! Now jest who be it ye be thinkin’ ye be tellin’ this to? There do na be anyone but yerself wot be goin’ ta be hearin’ ye.” The dwarf chuckled and replaced his helmet. He turned around to retrace his steps along the trail but stopped dead in his tracks and gaped. The trail he had just traversed was gone, hidden behind an impenetrable wall of tangled branches.

Tangled branches

The Old Dwarf dropped into a defensive crouch and brandished his axe as he looked all around for anyone who may have cast a spell creating the barrier. When he saw no one, he carefully arose. He narrowed his eyes and nattered to himself. “Be yon barrier ta be keepin’ me from tha path I be supposed ta be takin’? Or be it there ta be keepin’ me on the true path ta tha beastie?”

He looked around again and noted that dusk was quickly approaching. “I be guessin’ I best be keepin’ on in tha direction wot I been goin’. It would be takin’ too long ta chop through yon barrier and be goin’ back ta where I be started from.”

* * *

Drake watching 3

 

Darkness was settling over the small clearing. The green drake, high on the hillside, wriggled in anticipation. He knew there would be no moon this night, so soon it would be dark enough to conceal his movements. He lifted his head and sniffed the air again. Fear. It tasted so good. Soon, he would have his fill of it.

 

What does the green drake have planned? Will he succeed? Will the knights be able to defend themselves and Dragon from the drake and any unknown foes? Are Dragon’s wounds healing, or is she getting weaker? Will the Old Dwarf get to Dragon before she dies? And where is the Arrogant One? Be sure to come back next week and enjoy the next episode of this hair-raising adventure. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Critical Decisions

Critical Decisions

arrogant oneThe Arrogant One stared wide-eyed and uncomprehending at the three knights. “There have been no dragons on this world . . . for the past millennia?”
sir daniver
Sir Daniver nodded. “We had heard tales of the beasts, but never saw one until your previous visit to our world, when the evil wish listener brought you and your companions, including this one, here.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/06/03/our-little-odyssey/

Sir Hrolf 2Sir Hrolf stroked his chin thoughtfully. “We immediately recognized what she was. We were raised on the epic legends of dragonkind. There were grand tales of heroic knights slaying murderous creatures that ruled the skies and rained fire onto the villages below. There were tender tales of noble dragons who befriended humans and aided them, protecting them from danger, even from others of their kind. But the last report of a dragon sighting is almost lost in the mists of history. Supposedly, an army of knights wiped them from the face of the world a thousand years ago, slaying evil and noble beasts indiscriminately. It was a blot on the escutcheon of the knighthood.”


Sir Jenneseer 2
Sir Jenneseer nodded. “It is told that rather than receiving the hero’s welcome they all expected, the returning knights were stripped of their rank and discharged with dishonor for conduct contrary to the Knight’s Code of Chivalry. Many were disowned by their families as well. It was a dark time.”
Arrogant One
“Yes, yes, I am not interested in a history lesson.” The elf scowled and waved dismissively. “We need to return to the safety of the castle. We know not how many of these beasts there may be.”

Sir Hrolf shook his head. “Your companion can not be moved. Her condition is critical. While legend has it that a dragon has the innate ability to heal itself, even from wounds as serious as these, it will take time. We must remain with her and protect her.”

injured dragon

The Arrogant One gaped at the knights. He drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and grasped his cloak with both hands. “I have no intention of staying here. We would be no match for that other beast if it caught us out here in the open. We need the protection of the castle . . .”

Before the elf could finish, Sir Daniver backhanded him, knocking him off his feet. “You shame yourself, elf, and you shame your entire race. We will not be tainted by your dishonor. We will stay with the noble beast and guard her for as long as necessary.”

UnicornStruggling to his feet, the Arrogant One brushed himself off and glared at the knights. “Do what you will. I refuse to sacrifice myself for a creature that abandoned my quest. The beast pledged to help me find the source of my affliction. Instead, she went off in search of the Lord of the Forest, that . . . that second cousin to a donkey!” He scoffed. “And then the foolish beast was injured to boot! Let her be, I say. She got what she deserved. I intend to save myself!”

Arrogant One riding offHe turned on his heel, snatched the reins of his horse, vaulted into the saddle, and galloped off in the direction of the castle.

Sir Hrolf started to go after the elf, but Sir Daniver stopped the younger knight. “Let the elf go. We have an obligation to stay with this helpless creature and protect her – with our very lives, if necessary.”

“But . . .” Sir Hrolf hesitated to defy his commander. “But the elf, too, is in need of our help. There is much open ground between here and the castle.”

Sir Daniver nodded but placed his hand on the younger knight’s shoulder and addressed him firmly. “Let him go. He has made his choice and must face the consequences.”

Sir Hrolf acquiesced. Sir Daniver then directed his two companions to help him move Dragon into the cover of the shade trees. “This will conceal her from any creature flying overhead and help keep her cool.”

It was a monumental task for the three knights to move the huge beast. When they finally had her resting comfortably, Sir Daniver tasked the other knights to erase any signs of their presence from the clearing. “Smooth the grass, repair the areas that have been torn, disguise our trail. I will tend to the beast. I have some salve that might ease the pain of the wounds while the creature heals herself.”

From the top of a nearby hill, nearly invisible against the lush grass and trees, the green drake watched the activity below with intense interest.

Drake watching

* * *

unicornThe unicorn stood in front of Dragon’s illusory fireplace. The image of the mythical creature shimmered, fading in and out. My characters backed away, partially, I think, out of respect for the Lord of the Forest, and partially out of fear. Their faces showed equal parts awe and apprehension.

Miles grabbed my hand. “Honey? What is that horse doing in our house?”

I squeezed my husband’s hand. “He’s not a horse, Miles. He’s a unicorn. He’s the Lord of the Forest.”

“Huh?”

“Do you remember the tale I told you when my characters and I returned from our nature walk at the Memorial Day picnic last year?”Unicorn 2

“Mmm-hmm” My husband’s eyes never left the unicorn.

“Well, this is a creature of great power from the world to which the wish listeners had taken us.” I gave his hand another squeeze before letting go and walking toward the unicorn.

I approached the shimmering form cautiously. I was unsure if this apparition was a solid object or just an incorporeal image. When I stood in front of it, I bowed in a deep obeisance. “Great One! You honor us with your presence.”

The unicorn stood quietly, his eyes searching mine for many long minutes. Finally, he shook his head, wuffled, and started pawing. He looked over at my group of characters.

“I’m not sure, but I don’t think he wants to speak with me. I think it is one of you with whom he wishes to speak.” I backed away respectfully.
Dwarf
“But which o ussins do tha beastie be wantin’ ta conversate wit?” My Old Dwarf stared at the creature.

bounty-hunter-facing-other-direction“As the unicorn is a magical creature, it would most likely wish to communicate with someone who possesses great magic.” My Bounty Hunter pointed at Sorceress and my Gypsy. “With Dragon and your Arrogant One gone, these two would be the most likely candidates.”


Unicorn and dwarfI beckoned the two forward. They approached the unicorn and stood, waiting. As he had done with me, the creature seemed to search their eyes for many long minutes before repeating his display of shaking his head, wuffling, and pawing. He looked again at the group, then walked toward them, stepping daintily across the carpeted floor. Finally, the shimmering form stopped in front of my Old Dwarf.

“Do na be eyein’ me liken thet, beastie. I do na be havin’ no magickin’.”

The Lord of the Forest reached out and gently touched my Old Dwarf with his horn. The dwarf’s eyes widened, and he began to tremble. Finally, he turned to me. “She be dyin’! Tha beastie be dyin’!” He fell to his knees, and tears ran down his face, soaking his grizzled beard.

“Dragon? Dragon’s dying?” The color drained from my Bounty Hunter’s face.

My Old Dwarf nodded and blubbered, unable to choke out any words.

“Then what of the elf?” My Bounty Hunter whirled around and stalked forward toward the unicorn. “What has happened to the elf?”

The Lord of the Forest shook his head furiously, and he swished his tail. He snorted and bared his teeth at my Bounty Hunter. Then the creature turned back to my Old Dwarf, who was still on his knees, sobbing. The unicorn nickered and placed his head on the dwarf’s shoulder. My Old Dwarf seemed to calm down. Then the unicorn lifted his head and gently touched the dwarf again with his horn.Unicorn and dwarf 2

The dwarf looked at the unicorn and then stood and nodded. “Tha beastie be needin’ me help. I be goin’ wit tha you-nee-corn.”

“But what about the elf?” My Bounty Hunter grabbed my Old Dwarf’s arm. “What has happened to the elf?”

The dwarf shook free of my Bounty Hunter’s grasp and rounded on him, eyes narrowed, voice deep and threatening. “Tha cowardly little popinjay be abandonin’ tha beastie in ’er time o need. He be savin’ ’is own skin.”

My Old Dwarf turned to me. “I be goin’ wit the you-nee-corn. I will na be comin’ back wit’out I be bringin’ tha beastie.”

He grabbed the unicorn’s mane and swung himself up on its back. The two of them galloped across the room, disappearing into the depths of Dragon’s illusory fireplace.

The rest of us stood there, mouths open, eyes wide, unable to move.

wide-eyed

Will my Old Dwarf be able to help Dragon? Or will she perish in a strange land, with only the three knights standing vigil? What will happen to my Arrogant One? Will my three characters ever find their way back here, or will they be lost to us forever? Be sure to come back next week and see what happens. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Searching for the Answer

Searching for the Answer

secret trailwide-eyedI stood staring at the spot on the snow-spattered rock steps where Dragon and my Arrogant One had been standing less than three seconds previous. I blinked, rubbed my eyes, and stared some more. They were gone. Without fanfare. Without a clap of thunder or a flash of lightning. Without a puff of smoke. Without tracks in the snow leading away from the spot where they had stood. And without me having the foggiest idea where they had gone, or how to find them.

Had the wish listeners heard them and granted their wish, transporting them into the other world? Or had something more nefarious captured them and taken them who-knows-where for purposes about which I could only guess?

I started to walk toward the stone steps to examine the area, but I stopped. Dragon’s words drifted back to me. Go home. I do not wish you to become entangled in any unforeseen events here.

Would I become entangled if I inspected the area? If the wish listeners had transported Dragon and the elf, I doubted I would be in any danger of also being transported. However, if some other entity had abducted my characters, I might also fall victim if I remained in the area.

I sighed and rubbed the back of my neck. Discretion is the better part of valor, I decided. Besides, Dragon was more than capable of taking care of herself and the elf. I turned and walked as quickly as I could through the snow, back to where the car was parked. The drive home was interminable.

* * *

dragon and arrogant one on stepsThe elf jumped. “What happened? Where are we?” He looked around at the lush green vegetation and felt the summery-warm breeze on his face. “Is this the place we seek?”

Dragon looked around. From their position half-way up the rocky stairway she saw a familiar trail at the bottom of the steps. She could see the trail branched off in three directions. To the right, the road was choked by protruding tree roots. To the left, the path was lined with boulders. Straight ahead, a wide avenue passed under a canopy of trees.

Wide avenue

A toothy smile spread across her reptilian face. “I believe we have been granted our boon. It appears we have been transported back to the world to which the wish listeners had taken us more than a half-year ago.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/05/

The Arrogant One visibly relaxed, then wrinkled his nose. “Oh, yes, I recognize it now.” He flicked a few specks of dust and pollen from his sleeve. “How do you recommend we proceed?”

stepsDragon descended the steps and beckoned the elf to follow. “I am sure you remember as well as I do that the left and right trails are impassable. And the center trail leads to the knight’s reclaimed castle.” Dragon paused and rubbed her chin with her taloned hand. After a few moments, she turned and looked back at the stairs. She blinked several times. “They should not be there.”

“What do you mean? The steps?” The elf sneered. “We just walked down those steps. Of course, they should be there.”

Dragon shook her head. “Do you not remember? After we descended the stairs last time, they disappeared. An almost impenetrable tangle of brush took their place. Once the Old Dwarf had chopped through that, we found other paths in place of the steps. We wandered for many hours before finding another set of steps by a stream. That was where we met Medal`av`alia, who claimed to be queen of these lands.”

The elf furrowed his brow. “Yes, I do remember that now. And she sent us back to speak with a talking tortoise, some fairy folk, and various other creatures.” The look on the Arrogant One’s face clearly showed how little he cared.

But Dragon nodded and continued. “And they sent us on to the mermaid queen, Esmie, and her strange minions – Baalizhene, Gobschlerck, and Dyrke.”

 

The elf scowled and spoke peevishly. “Yes, yes, and then we met Esmie’s daughter, Crown Princess of the realm Eloise. She in turn introduced us to her friend, the royal swan king, Mēzän. And then the mer-child sent us to meet the Forest King, who sent us back to aid the knights.” The Arrogant One sneered and crossed his arms over his chest. “But what does that have to do with our reason for being here now?”

Dragon snorted an acrid cloud of black smoke at the elf. “I am attempting to remember all with whom we came into contact here in this realm. Mayhap that will help us discern who might be behind your loss of control over your power, which, in turn, might point us in the direction we must proceed.”

The elf shrugged. “It matters not, since there is only one trail open.” He started to walk down the center path, under the canopy of stately trees.

dragon stops the elf“Wait.” Dragon scrambled after him and grabbed his arm. “If the trail that led us to Medal`av`alia and the others is gone, then we should inspect the two trails that were not open the last time we were here. Perhaps they have changed as well. Perhaps they are now passable.”

The elf snorted. “Even if one or both trails are now open, what difference does that make? We were never on those trails before, so the cause of my affliction could not be down one of those trails, now could it?” He pulled away from Dragon and continued walking.

Dragon glared at the back of the departing elf, and smoke started drifting from her snout, but after a few moments, she followed him.

It took several hours for the two companions to make their way along the tree-lined path. The ancient timbers leaned toward each other across the path, their branches forming a canopy overhead, shielding the travelers from the hot midday sun.

As they walked, Dragon appeared wary, and she continued to study their surroundings. “I do not remember this trail being so long last time.”

Her companion shrugged. “Hmmm. Mayhap you are correct. I do not recall. By the time we reached this point in our odyssey, I had lost all sense of time and distance.”

At the end of the twin line of trees, the road continued for several miles through open fields before starting the gentle ascent into the rolling hillside. As the two companions rounded a bend in the road, they stopped dead in their tracks, stunned by what they saw.

Where once stood the ruins of an ancient castle, defended only by a trio of gallant knights, there now stood a fine stronghold with a bustling population.

“Mayhap I should shape-shift.” Dragon stared at the towering structures that rose from the lush, green hills. “We have no way of knowing what sort of welcome a wyrm might receive from the residents of yon citadel.”

The Arrogant One nodded. “And mayhap we should camp here for the night. The sun hangs low in the sky now, almost kissing the horizon. It would be dark before we could complete the trek to the castle gates.”

Dragon shimmered, shape-shifting this time into a red-haired archer in forest-green travel garb. “Come. We will go back around the bend in the road, so we can spend the night unobserved by any castle guards.”

The duo set camp and dined on apples from a nearby tree before retiring for the night.

* * *

“What ho!”

The sky was already brightening when a loud voice invaded Dragon’s slumber, startling her awake. Dragon pulled herself to a sitting position and looked around, her mind still befogged with sleep. Her companion yelped as several other voices called out. In an instant, three knights had come up behind Dragon and the Arrogant One.

guests

“Fear not! We dost mean thee no harm!”

sir daniverDragon smiled, recognizing the voice of Sir Daniver, the commander of the trio of knights she and her companions had helped on their last foray into these lands.

Sir Daniver’s two companions, whom Dragon recalled as Sir Hrolf and Sir Jenneseer, quickly drew their swords and positioned themselves as if to defend Dragon and her elfin companion from some unseen menace.Sir Jenneseer 2Sir Hrolf

The ranking knight greeted them. “Hail and well met, travelers. Why dost thou camp here in the open when the protection of yon castle can be claimed a stone’s throw farther along this trail?”

“We did not realize travelers in this realm needed protection, Sir Daniver.” Dragon’s eyes twinkled at the knight’s confused look.

“Have we met, milady?”

“We have.” Dragon quickly assumed her true form, startling the two younger knights, who fell back onto their rumps in the grass.

“Friend Dragon!” A wide and welcoming grin split Daniver’s face. “Get up, you fools!” The commander reached down and helped his two officers to their feet. “It is the dragon who helped us defend our castle, and the popinjay is with her! Welcome, my friends!” He looked around quickly. “But where are the rest of your companions?”

dragon talkingDragon quickly explained why only she and the elf had returned to this realm. “Do you think you could help us discover who might be behind the elf’s affliction?”

Sir Daniver frowned. “I canst make no promises, but we shalt give all the aid we can.”

“Sir, perhaps our friends should consult the wish listeners.” Sir Hrolf addressed his superior.

wish listeners

Dragon looked to the ranking knight. “If the wish listeners are still around, we would, indeed, like to consult them.”

“They are still around.” He smiled. “They were so distraught at the misery they hadst caused, they granted us wishes we hadst not even yet made! They art responsible for presenting us with a grand citadel, and for its growing population of loyal serfs and vassals, all of whom have sworn allegiance to our flag.”

arrogant-one-facing-rightsmall figure on trail“What of the evil one?” The elf finally spoke. “I would not put it past him to be behind my misfortune.”

“Do you not remember?” Sir Jenneseer frowned. “The Lord of the Forest stripped that one of his power and exiled him from this land.”

“I remember.” The Arrogant One scowled. “But someone stripped of power can oft regain that power. I think we should look for him.”

Sir Daniver chewed his lower lip for a few moments, then nodded. “We shalt enquire of the goodly wish listeners. Perchance they know of his whereabouts.”

Dragon nodded. “If not, mayhap the Lord of the Forest might help us?”unicorn 2

Sir Daniver sighed and shook his head. “We know not what hath happened to him, but the Lord of the Forest hath disappeared.”

Dragon looked dumbstruck.

* * *

Bounty HunterBackyard 050“You just left them there? You didn’t stay to see what happened?” My Bounty Hunter glared at me.

I frowned. “I saw what happened. I told you – they disappeared.”

My Bounty Hunter started pacing. “We never should have allowed them to go alone! We should have gone with them, given them help and protection!”

I snorted. “I’m sure Dragon is more than capable of protecting herself and my Arrogant One.”

“And how long do we wait before going after them?”

I felt my face fall. I raked my hand through my hair, and replied in a voice raw with emotion. “I don’t know that we can go after them. I don’t know for sure where they went.”

My Bounty Hunter looked dumbstruck.

Will Dragon and my Arrogant One find answers in the other world? Will they return safely to this world? Be sure to come back next week to see what happens. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Will This Work?

Will This Work?

miles for blog 2 003dragon, elf, and me“He actually cried?” My husband’s eyes widened as he listened to my description of my meeting with my Arrogant One and Dragon.

https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/12/23/will-dragon-help/

I nodded.

“Wow! I always thought the elf had no feelings. He’s always so pompous, so snide, so aloof, so . . . so . . .”

“So arrogant?” I quirked an eyebrow.

“Exactly!” Miles took a few more minutes to digest the idea that my Arrogant One did, indeed, have feelings, even if those feelings were rather ego-centric. “So.” He finally looked at me again, his brow furrowed. “What are you going to do?”

“I thought I’d give Dragon a day or two to think about it, then approach her again . . . this time, sans elf.”

* * *

supervisingAlmost three weeks later, Miles was supervising a group of my characters. They were helping him with the removal and storage of the Christmas decorations when I walked into the family room, a room which had grown to take over the space usually occupied by the conference room.

My Gypsy and my Young Hero were taking down the decorations. Cleric and Sorceress were wrapping them and placing them in boxes. My Foreman and my Old Dwarf were placing the boxes in totes and crates and hauling them to the storage space under the stairs. Notably missing were my Arrogant One, my Bounty Hunter, and Dragon.

I walked over to Miles, who was directing the procedure like a traffic cop. “Well, I guess the holidays are officially over.” I sighed.

“Actually, they were over about a week ago, but I just hated to dismantle my Christmas Village.” Miles managed the Christmas decorations, and every year he outdid the previous year’s display.

“Well, don’t feel too bad, sweetheart. You can start putting the decorations back up in just about 46 more weeks.” I grinned.

“I was thinking I might start early next year, maybe the end of October.”

“Oh, no you don’t! You know the rules – Christmas decorations don’t go up until after Thanksgiving!” I laughed as Miles scuffed one foot back and forth and feigned a disappointed little-boy look.

Arrogant OneHe gave me an exaggerated pout, then smiled and gave me a quick kiss on my forehead. “Oh, all right. Say, on another topic, have you spoken to Dragon yet? I saw your Arrogant One moping around earlier today. He really looks miserable! I tried to convince him to join us, but he just hung his head and walked away. He didn’t even say anything nasty! Your Bounty Hunter tagged along with him. I think they went out to the shed.”

I shook my head. “With all the hustle and bustle around the holidays, I didn’t get a chance to see Dragon. I’ll go speak to her now.” I looked around the room uncertainly. “I presume I’ll find the conference room at the back of the walk-in closet in our bedroom. I don’t imagine she would have moved it again, would she?”

“Don’t ask me, honey. She’s your character.” Miles quirked an eyebrow at me, then turned back to the task of dismantling and storing the decorations.
bedroom
walk-in closetI went up the stairs and down the hall to the master bedroom. I walked into the big closet and saw the back wall was still shimmering. I assumed that meant I would find the conference room still there.

I approached the barrier warily, still not comfortable with the sensation of passing through the preternatural veil. As I got closer, my hair stood on end, and I could feel goose bumps on my arms. I stood there for several minutes, working up my nerve. Finally, I squared my shoulders and walked through the shimmering curtain into the conference room.
dragon reading
Dragon was reading in front of her illusory fireplace. She looked up as I entered the room. “I have been expecting you.”

“Oh?” I shook off the tingly feeling the magical curtain had produced. I walked over and glanced at the book she was reading, but I could not comprehend the symbols and glyphs. “Why were you expecting me?”

“I presumed you would wish to further discuss the elf’s predicament.”

“I would indeed.” I gestured to the book. “Have you been researching something concerning my Arrogant One’s malady?”

Dragon nodded. “Understand, however, I do so only because I fear I or one of your other magic users might be at risk of falling victim to the same malady. I care nothing for the elf’s discomfort with his situation.”

I nodded. “I know he’s not your favorite person.”
Dragon breathing smoke
Dragon snorted, and a cloud of acrid smoke erupted from her nostrils. “No, he is not. I doubt he is anyone’s favorite. In fact, he is detested by most. Even his closest associate, your Bounty Hunter, is scornful of him most of the time.”

I nodded in agreement. “Be that what it may, it would be nice to find the cause of my Arrogant One’s malady and – if possible – eliminate it and restore his power.”

dragon talkingDragon frowned. “It is not a matter of restoring his power – he never lost his power. What he lost was his ability to control that power, to wield it in a consistent manner. When he attempts to create an illusion or cast some other minor spell, the result could be anything from a perfectly cast spell, to no outcome at all, to some unforeseen and unintended result.”

I nodded again. “Yes, that is how he described his problem. So, what do you think has caused it? He says he has not had any physical ailments that might have created the problem.”

Dragon shrugged. “I have not been able to find anything in my books that might explain it.”

Creatures along the pathI sighed and raked my hand through my hair. “Well, my Arrogant One believes the problem started shortly after our return from the world to which the wish listeners transported us. Could something have happened there to cause his affliction?”

Again, Dragon shrugged. “I have no way of knowing that.”

I furrowed my brow and rubbed my chin. “Is there any way to return to that world and explore the possibility?”

Dragon shook her head. “I do not know how to open the passage between the two worlds.”

I paced up and down the room several times, thinking. “Perhaps you and my Arrogant One should come with me to that park from which we were transported.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/05/27/lost/    I looked hopefully at Dragon. “Maybe you could find the passage there.”

Dragon shrugged. “I doubt I will find anything useful. Remember, it was the wish listeners who opened the gateway.”  https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/06/03/our-little-odyssey/

“Perhaps if my Arrogant One wishes hard enough at that precise location, they will open it again.”

Dragon furrowed her brow. “If they do not, I know of no way to cross into their world. However, since I have no other ideas how to investigate this problem, we might as well try. But, first, I must talk with the elf. He must understand the importance of expressing his wishes precisely and unequivocally. We do not want any wishes granted that worsen the existing situation or cause another predicament.”

I nodded, and the two of us made our way out of the conference room through the ethereal barrier, then headed to the garden shed.
arrogant onebounty-hunter-facing-other-direction
“So, beast, you have decided to help.” Although the elf’s words were arrogant, his tone of voice was meek. He sat across from my Bounty Hunter, his shoulders stooped, his head hanging so low, it almost rested on his chest.
dragon
“Know that I do so not for you, but to ascertain the true cause of your malady. I do not wish to fall victim to the same condition; nor do any of our fellow magic-users.”

My Arrogant One nodded listlessly. His friend placed his hand on the elf’s shoulder, offering support.
Picnic table by lake
Dragon continued. “We will go to the place whence we were transported into the other world by the wish listeners. We will attempt to gain access to that world, to investigate the source of your malady.”

“How will we enter that world?” My Bounty Hunter furrowed his brow. “Do you know how to open the gateway?”
dragon and bounty hunter
“You will not. The elf and I will attempt to do so.” Dragon snorted a cloud of black smoke at my Bounty Hunter, who frowned at her in return.

“I thought I would accompany you and assist . . .”

Dragon cut him off. “You thought wrong.” She turned to my Arrogant One. “When we reach the spot where we left this world, we will attempt to attract the attention of the wish listeners, that they might transport us once again into their realm.”

Creatures along the path

“And how will you do that?” Again, my Bounty Hunter attempted to inject himself into the conversation.

Dragon glared at him but pointed to the elf and replied evenly. “He will wish.”

The large beast turned her gaze back to my Arrogant One. “But you will take care with your wish, lest you do more damage than good.” She thrust her reptilian face toward his pale elfin face. “Do you understand me?”

The elf nodded listlessly once more.

“Good. Now this is what you are going to do . . .”

I beckoned to my Bounty Hunter, who followed me out of the shed, leaving Dragon and my Arrogant One to make plans.

* * *

Elf cleric close-upArrogant OneThe next day, I drove Dragon, in her guise of an elf maiden, and my Arrogant One, to the picnic grove by the woodland lake where my husband and I had taken my characters for a Memorial Day picnic. My Arrogant One sat in the back seat, sullen and silent, for the entire 90-minute drive. Dragon sat in the front, her nose buried in her books.

frozen-lake-112131_960_720When we finally got there, the scene was very different from that day more than seven months past. Snow now covered the picnic grove and lake, and the trails were difficult to navigate. Hiking got easier, though, as we got further from the lake and deeper into the woods, where the snow wasn’t as deep.

“There!” My Arrogant One pointed. “Is that not the trail?”

We walked over to the snow-covered steps, and I examined the sign. Secret Trail.

secret trail

the secret trailI frowned. “This does not look right. The sign states that this is the Secret Trail, but it is the wrong color. The sign that was here during our fateful hike was darker, and it had yellow lettering.”

My Arrogant One shrugged. “So, something damaged the sign and it was replaced.”

“Perhaps.” Dragon narrowed her eyes and looked closely. “But the trail, too, seems wrong.”

“It is the same trail.” My Arrogant One sneered at Dragon. “It just looks different with the snow.”
different steps
“No. Dragon’s right. These steps are too narrow. They look like the steps in the other world.” I looked around, but nothing else seemed amiss.

“Well, I say it is the correct trail. I will walk up the steps and make my wish.”

My Arrogant One started to move, but Dragon grabbed his arm. “You will wait.” She turned to me. “You may go home. I do not wish you to become entangled in any unforeseen events here.”

I gaped at Dragon. “And how do you propose to get home?”

“When our work here is completed, I will summon you.”

I furrowed my brow and wrinkled my nose. “Magically?”

“Yes. I do not have one of those devices you in this world use to communicate over distances.”

Dragon started to shimmer. In a moment, she had assumed her natural form. She waved her clawed hand at me dismissively and turned to my Arrogant One. “Now you may proceed. But remember our conversation of last eve and heed my warning. Take care with your wish.”

dragon and arrogant one

My Arrogant One contorted his face into a snarl. “I wish only to regain control of my power.”

Dragon grabbed him. “No! We have no idea what is behind your malady. If the wish listeners attempt to grant you that wish, they may do more harm than good. We must wish to return to their land, that we might investigate the source of your affliction. Only when we have identified the source can we hope to cure your condition.”

My Arrogant One glared at Dragon for many long minutes. Finally, his shoulders slumped, and he nodded. “Very well, beast. But you best know what you are about.”

I turned to go, but quickly turned back. “How long . . .?” But they were gone.

Will Dragon and my Arrogant One succeed in finding the cause of the elf’s affliction? Will my Arrogant One regain control of his magic? Join us again next week and see what happens. I’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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

Will Dragon Help?

Will Dragon Help?

Dragon in front of fireplaceMy Arrogant One shuffled out of my office, head down, shoulders slumped. I followed, trying to hurry him along. “The last time I saw Dragon, she was in the conference room, napping in front of her illusory fireplace. She’s probably still there. Let’s go see if she’ll help us.”

My Arrogant One gave a half-hearted nod, along with a bit of a shrug, and continued shuffling down the hallway away from my office. But as we approached the end of the hall, we both stopped dead in our tracks.

I stared. “Where’s the conference room?”

The door that led to the conference room was gone. Beyond the spot where it should have been, my husband, Miles, and several of my characters were decorating the family room . . . a much larger family room than I remembered.
MilesChristmas village and decorations (15)
“What was that, honey? Did you say something?” My husband looked up from arranging his Christmas village.

Where is the conference room?” I gaped at the family room, full of festive holiday decorations.

Is this where you want the stacked snowmena little further down, by the skating pond“Oh, Dragon moved it, Mistress.” My Gypsy placed a figure into the village. “Is this where you wanted the stack of snowmen, Master Miles?”

“Ah, no, put them a little further down, by the skating pond.” Miles pointed. “There, that’s good.”

“Dragon . . . moved . . . the conference room?” I shook my head and raked my hand through my hair.

Miles took the miniature houses“Yeah, she wanted to give us more room for my Christmas village and the other holiday decorations.” My husband seemed remarkably nonchalant about this as he took the ceramic houses my Gypsy and my Young Hero held out and positioned them at the far end of the display.

I watched Miles and the others bustle about, arranging various holiday decorations.

 

Finally, I asked, “Well, where did she move it?”

“Move what, honey?” Miles didn’t look up as he answered me.

“The conference room! Where did Dragon move the conference room?” My voice was starting to stray into the register usually reserved for opera divas . . . or my Arrogant One when my Old Dwarf called him elfie.

Miles paused and stroked his chin. “You know, I don’t think she said.”

Where do you want the sleigh“We would help you look, but right now, Master Miles has us assisting him with the decorations.” My Foreman slid past me with a sleigh filled with evergreen boughs. “Where did you want this, Master Miles?”

“Up there, please.” My husband pointed to a spot atop a tall cabinet.

My Foreman tried it there, frowned, then moved it to the back of the couch. “With respect, I think it would look better here, sir. It is a bit cluttered atop the cabinet.”

I gaped at them all, going about their tasks as if nothing was amiss. “Where . . . is . . . the . . . conference . . . room?

Placed the wreath on the closet door“You might try looking upstairs, Mistress.” Cleric handed a wreath to Sorceress, who placed it on the door to the storage closet.

“Yes.” Sorceress nodded “Maybe at the far end of the walk-in closet in your master bedchamber.”

What?” I felt as if they were all speaking a foreign language.
lugged some large plastic bins
My Old Dwarf and my Bounty Hunter lugged some large, plastic bins from the storage closet. My Bounty Hunter added his container to the pile and grabbed my Arrogant One by the sleeve of his cloak. “We could use your help, too.”

“Ah, no, I need the elf with me right now.” I frowned. “Come on, let’s check upstairs.”

Arrogant One facing rightThe elf and I trudged up the stairs and down the hallway to the master bedroom suite. “Wait here.” I did not want any of my characters traipsing around my bedroom. Who was I kidding? My characters seemed to traipse wherever they wanted, as evidenced by the fact they all seemed to know about the walk-in closet. Funny, I don’t remember ever giving them a tour.
Bedroom
While my Arrogant One waited impatiently in the hallway, I opened the bedroom door, crossed the room, and entered the walk-in closet. Sure enough, something was undeniably different. I stared, trying to figure it out. Oh, yeah – it was organized!

Other than that astonishing discovery, I also realized the wall at the far end of the closet had changed drastically. It appeared rather insubstantial, like a glittering haze. I shuddered.

walk-in closet

After staring at it for many long minutes, I squared my shoulders and cautiously approached the shimmering barrier at the back of the closet. “Dragon? Dragon, are you there?”

No answer.

I hesitated before warily reaching out toward the shimmering veil. It parted at my touch, revealing the scene beyond. There was the conference room, all right, with Dragon still fast asleep in front of her fireplace.

Dragon in front of fireplace

As I debated the wisdom of crossing the threshold and waking Dragon, my Arrogant One pushed in behind me, throwing me off-balance and cart-wheeling us both across the room. We landed unceremoniously in a heap atop the sleeping reptile.

Dragon leaped to her feet, throwing the elf and I onto the floor. My Arrogant One almost landed in the fireplace, while I rolled away from the hearth and bumped into the chess table.Dragon with smoke

“What is the meaning of this? Dragon glared at the interruption to her daily siesta.

“Sorry.” I struggled to my feet and brushed myself off. I turned to the elf, who had just done the same. “I thought I told you to wait in the hallway.”

“You were taking too long.” He glared at me. “Well, will the beast help or not?”

“I don’t know if Dragon will help. I haven’t even had the chance to talk to her yet.”

“Then I will ask her.” The elf turned scornfully toward Dragon. “Beast . . .”

I put my hand over his mouth. “I think I should do the talking.”

Dragon folded her reptilian arms over her scaly chest and glared at us through narrowed eyes. Wisps of dark smoke drifted from her nostrils, and she tapped one clawed foot impatiently. “Someone had best take the opportunity to speak with me, before I decide to have flambé for lunch.”

I sighed and related the story. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/12/16/what-is-the-source-of-the-problem/

Dragon settled herself on the floor in front of her fireplace while she listened. She rolled onto her belly and rearranged her bulk into a sphinx-like position, with her small arms curled like a cat’s under her chest, and her wings folded neatly out of the way. She watched us through slitted eyes. When I completed my tale, Dragon rose and paced the length of the room and back several times.

Well?” My Arrogant One’s voice was sharp and demanding.

Dragon rounded on him. “So, elf, you cannot control your magic with any regularity, and you know not why? All you can tell us is the problem commenced shortly after we arrived back from the land to which we had been transported by the wish listeners?”

My Arrogant One nodded. “That is correct.”

Dragon with smoke“So, what do you expect me to do about it?” Her question was delivered in a puff of acrid smoke.

The elf drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and grasped his cloak with both hands. “I expect you to help, of course, vile beast!”

I put my hand over the elf’s mouth again and held him fast as he squirmed and struggled. “What my Arrogant One means is he would be extremely grateful for any assistance you could render. Since you’re the one with the greatest power and ability, we thought it possible for you to determine if the source of his malady does, indeed, lie in the other world. If it does, you’d be the only one who could contact anyone from that world and remedy the situation.”

Dragon snorted. “Too much trouble. I have a better idea. The elf can just stop practicing magic altogether. He was never that good, so it would be no great loss to the world of magic.”
Dragon in front of fireplaceArrogant One crying
The huge beast turned and curled up in front of her illusory fireplace once more. As she started snoring loudly, I finally took my hand from in front of my Arrogant One’s mouth and released him. The elf just crumpled to the floor, his body racked with silent sobs.

Will we be able to convince Dragon to help, or has the Arrogant One annoyed her once too often? Be sure to come back to see what happens. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.Fixtures Light Elegant Lighting Fixture And Supply Company Intended For Front Porch Light Fixtures Front Porch Light Fixtures

(My husband and I, along with my characters, are taking a few weeks off for the holidays. We’ll be back on January 13. Happy Holidays!)

Happy Holidays

What is the Source of the Problem?

What is the Source of the Problem?

Arrogant One storms outAs my Arrogant One stormed out of the room, Dragon gazed after him, a confused look on her reptilian face. “What is bothering the elf? And how can he say I know nothing? He did not even listen to my hypothesis.”

“Don’t worry about him.” I raked my hand through my hair and sighed. “Let’s hear your theory regarding the recent events involving my Gypsy’s sketch.”
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/12/09/6486/

Birds in snow under deckDragon furrowed her scaly brow and cleared her throat. “Well, as you know, the Gypsy lad was at the window sketching the Ring-necked Pheasant he and Cleric observed by the bush next to the deck.”

I nodded.

ChessRook hitting DragonDragon pointed to the table where a chess board was set up. “While the Gypsy lad was sketching, the elf – engaged in a chess match with his cohort, your Bounty Hunter – accused me of snoring. He threw a chess piece at me upon which he had evidently cast a spell of enlargement, as it was considerably bigger when it hit me than the other pieces on the board.”

Again, I nodded. “Is there a point to this story? I think we all saw what was going on.”Dragon with smoke

Dragon narrowed her eyes, and a wisp of smoke drifted from her snout. “Do you wish to hear my theory, or not?”

“Yes, of course.” I rubbed the back of my neck. “Please continue.”

Dragon nodded and smiled smugly. “When the elf retrieved the chess piece, he did it by magic, having it first shrink and then return to his hand. However, he did not do it with a simple counter-spell, negating the enlargement spell. Since he threw the rook by physical means, there was no spell to counter to retrieve it magically. So instead of first removing the spell that had enlarged the rook, then casting a retrieve spell, he cast a single spell that both retrieved the rook and shrank it.”

I frowned. “I fail to see how that has anything to do with my Gypsy’s sketch.”

Dragon sighed. “Do you remember when the elf and his cohort were repairing the shed roof?”  https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/10/14/a-small-problem/

...waving staff

 

...me and the chipmunkI nodded. “Boy, do I!”

Dragon smirked. “I thought you might. Well, when the elf cast the spell to shrink the building materials, so they could be more easily lifted to the roof, your proximity to the objects targeted by the enchantment caused you to be caught in the spell. You shrank along with the actual target of the spell, the roofing tiles and supplies.”

I rubbed my chin. “Are you saying that my Gypsy’s sketch was caught in my Arrogant One’s spells?”

Dragon nodded.

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

dragon looking rightDragon pursed her reptilian lips and gave me a condescending look. She changed her tone of voice and spoke slowly, as if addressing an obtuse child. “Because it was not just the shrinking spell or the retrieval spell that affected the drawing. It was also the animation spell the elf had cast to bring his chess pieces to life. The combination of the three spells – the animation spell, the shrinking spell, and the retrieval spell – caused the picture to come to life, escape the paper on which it had been drawn, and fly around the house in the form of a miniature pheasant.”

I sighed. Her explanation corresponded with what my Arrogant One had already explained to me, but it was good to have Dragon’s confirmation on his theory. Remembering the elf’s desperate wish for secrecy, though, I merely nodded and acted as if this was the first time I was hearing it. “Okay, that makes sense. Thanks.”Dragon in front of fireplace

Dragon nodded and curled up again in front of her illusory fireplace. In seconds, she was sound asleep again and snoring loudly, making a sound similar to the purring of some giant cat.

Later, as I sat in my office attempting to do some writing, I thought about my Arrogant One’s dilemma. For some time now – several months, if the elf was being truthful – he had been noticing a problem with his magic. There was a fluctuation in his ability to cast spells, with results falling along the full spectrum from perfection to nonexistent to unexpected. If it was not a physical ailment causing his predicament, then what was the source of the trouble?

Methinks I need to talk with my Arrogant One. I shook my head. Did I really just say methinks? I’ve been spending way too much time with my characters. Soon, I’ll be saying things like forsooth and mayhap and dost.

It took me almost an hour to track down my Arrogant One. How do my characters manage to disappear so completely in a 12-room split-level? I guess that’s a mystery to be solved some other time.

“Do you have a few minutes?”

Arrogant One facing rightMy Arrogant One looked up at me and started to sneer. I raised an eyebrow, and crossed my arms over my chest. The elf blushed and ducked his head. “Of course, Mistress. What is it you need?”

“I thought we’d go have a private chat in my office and try to figure out a few things.”

Once we had settled ourselves behind the closed door of my office, I steepled my fingers and waited. My Arrogant One squirmed for several moments, scowling at me. Finally, he blurted out, “Why am I here? What is it you wish to discuss?”

“I want to try to understand what is happening to your magic. I want to find the source of your problem and see if it is possible to alleviate it.”

My Arrogant One furrowed his brow and chewed on his lower lip. Finally, he nodded. “How do you propose to do that?”

I shrugged. “I’m not really sure yet. Do you remember the first time you had a problem with your magic?”

The elf shook his head. “No. I thought it had been several months, as I told you, but my companion, your Bounty Hunter, postulated it has been longer.”

I frowned. “Okay. Tell me exactly what has been happening.”

He paused, tilting his head and fiddling with his cloak. When he answered, his voice was tinged with impatience. “As I previously explained, sometimes, my magic seems to work flawlessly. If I am, for example, creating an illusion, it is perfect in every detail. No one would know it is merely an illusion unless I told them.”

I nodded, trying to encourage the elf. “But other times . . .?”
Arrogant One
“Other times, I cast a spell, and it is as if someone with no magic ability at all recited the words of an incantation. They are just words, possessing no power within them. Nothing happens. Nothing!” My Arrogant One’s face crumpled, and I thought I saw tears gathering at the corners of his eyes. He bowed his head and composed himself. When he raised his head and spoke again, his voice was so soft, I could barely hear.

“I do not know what is worse – when nothing happens, or when something unintentional happens, as with the Gypsy lad’s sketch coming to life, or you being shrunk with the building materials.”

I nodded. “Think back. When was the last time your magic worked flawlessly?”

My Arrogant One squirmed in his chair again. “Well . . .” His face reddened.

“Well?”

“It was about a month ago. I . . . I created several illusions that were perfect in every detail. The others – not just my friend, your Bounty Hunter, but all your other characters – congratulated me on the fine job I had done.” He ducked his head and shuffled his foot, obviously not eager to give me the details of his illusions.

I ignored his discomfort. “Okay, think hard about that time and about the two times you spoke of when your magic had unintended results – when you shrank me, and when you animated my Gypsy’s sketch.”

The elf tilted his head and furrowed his brow. “I am not sure I understand your intention. What, exactly, do you wish me to think about?”

“Was there anyone present when your magic produced the unintended results who was not there when your magic performed flawlessly?”

The elf thought a moment, then his eyes widened. “Oh! You believe that someone may be interfering with my magic? Causing my spells to malfunction?”

“It’s a possibility, isn’t it?”

Arrogant OneMy Arrogant One stood and started pacing. His eyes narrowed, and he tugged at his robes. He muttered to himself, obviously trying to remember, but after a few moments, he sighed, shook his head, and threw himself back into the chair. “No. The most recent time, when I created the perfect illusions, all the others were there. No one was absent.”

I sighed and raked my hand through my hair. “Then you must think back. You must try to remember the first time your magic failed.”

Once again, my Arrogant One stood and started pacing. This time, it was longer before he threw himself back into the chair. “I cannot be certain, but it seems it started once we returned from that other land, that land to which the wish listeners lured us.”
Creatures along the path
I remembered that odyssey, a tale that had taken nine weeks of blogs to relate to my readers.
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/05/27/lost/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/06/03/our-little-odyssey/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/06/10/stranger-and-stranger-looking-for-the-way-home/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/06/17/the-search-for-home-continues/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/06/24/new-allies-or-new-enemies/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/07/01/next-leg-of-the-journey/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/07/08/the-way-home/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/07/15/preparing/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/07/22/home/

 

“Are you sure?” I stared at him. “After our return?”

My Arrogant One frowned, and rubbed his chin. “Yes! Yes, I . . . I think I remember! It was not long after our return when my friend, your Bounty Hunter, challenged me to a chess match. I am a superior player, and I was soon bored. I attempted to animate the chess pieces, just for fun. Nothing happened. I cast the spell again, and nothing happened again. The third time I cast the spell, the chess pieces remained unchanged, but some of the furniture came alive. Two chairs and a small table were chasing us around the room when – quite fortuitously – Dragon entered the room and dispelled the magic. After that, my power seemed to ebb and flow with no discernable reason for the instability.”

“And that was the start of your problems? You are quite certain? I ask because I know that some of the others have claimed for many years that you are not as accomplished at magic as you claim. Are you quite certain you had no problems before we were trapped in that land?”

The elf turned beet red. “I had no problems before that, I assure you. The others denigrated me because of their jealousy.”

I sighed. “Well, maybe something that happened in that other land affected your power.”

My Arrogant One shook his head. “I cannot think what that might be.”

I frowned. “I know you do not wish to discuss this with anyone else, but I really think Dragon may be able to help.”

Dragon and unicornBefore the elf could interrupt, I raised my hand and continued. “Dragon is the most powerful of my characters in the use of all types of magic, not just illusion. She can detect things in the traces of a magic signature that might lead to a solution for you. And, if it was anything that happened in that other land, Dragon is the only one who might be able to enlist the help of the Lord of the Forest, the unicorn who aided us in returning to this world.”

My Arrogant One sat, his eyes narrowed. He chewed on his lower lip as he obviously weighed the value of Dragon’s help against the humiliation he would feel at admitting to her or any of the others that he had lost control of his magic. Finally, he rose and nodded. “Very well. I will speak with her.”

I stood and walked with him to the door. “We’ll both go to her. Dragon owes me a few favors, and she may be more amenable to helping if the request comes from me.”

Will Dragon agree to help my Arrogant One find the cause of his problems? Will she be able to track down the source of his the fluctuation in his magic power? Be sure to come back next week and see what happens. We’ll leave the porch light on for you!

What’s Wrong Now?

What’s Wrong Now?

Arrogant One facing right“Stop snoring!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Birds in snow under deck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I frowned. “Why? What’s wrong?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I sighed. “Let’s go talk to the elf.”

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

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

“I’d like to talk to you.”

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

I raised an eyebrow. “Your chancellor?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I raised an eyebrow. “Oh?”

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

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

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

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

I nodded.

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

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

Again, I nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Yeah. I almost felt sorry for him.

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

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