“No, it can not be good!” Dragon repeated her words, this time more forcefully, as she – in her customary guise of an elf maiden – continued glaring at Christine and Talia. “Not good at all!”
Talia returned Dragon’s glare through narrowed eyes, but Christine seemed relieved at Dragon’s presence.
I smiled broadly and addressed Dragon by the name she used in public. “Dray! When did you . . .?”
But Dragon held up a hand to silence me. “My apologies for my prolonged absence, Mistress. When I returned this day, Master Miles apprised me of the recent events, and of your current whereabouts. I came immediately.” She glared at Christine and Talia again. “It would seem I arrived not a moment too soon.”
“Indeed?” Talia scowled, and pushed her hair off her face. “Perhaps if you had been here earlier, we wouldn’t have had this problem.”
Dragon ignored Talia’s complaint, and glowered at the co-owners of the Chris-Tal Clear Metaphysical Store, the establishment in whose back room we currently stood. “Have you had such an incident previous to this day’s appearance?”
Christine shook her head. “No. No one has ever been able to penetrate our wards before.”
Dragon furrowed her brow. “Are your certain your wards are in place and activated at this time?”
“Of course!” Christine scoffed.
“No.” Talia’s voice was so soft, we almost missed what she said.
“No?” Christine rounded on Talia, her eyes hard, her mouth set in a grim line. “And why not?”
Talia hung her head and mumbled. “The wards are still active for the store itself, to protect our inventory, but I released them back here. I thought it best, since we were expecting people for afternoon tea.”
“Really, Talia, what were you thinking?” Christine rolled her eyes and her mouth formed a moue. “It never occurred to you to just modify the wards to allow our guests to enter, but still keep others from intruding? Who knows what was behind this invasion or what mischief might have been done?”
Talia continued to hang her head, and her cheeks flamed, but she gave no reply.
“Well, it is water under the bridge now.” Dragon sighed. “I doubt any harm has been done, though. Since this is the first time such a thing has occurred here, I doubt you were the target.”
Crawford furrowed his brow. “I would agree, Dray.”
Griff nodded in agreement. “Me, too. Marge has detailed for us what has been happening at her house. I would imagine she is the intended target.”
“But the fact that whoever – or whatever – is spying on Marge did so here at our store may indicate there is a connection to us as well.” Christine frowned.
Dragon stroked her chin as she considered this. She paced the length of the big room, then stopped and faced me. “Mistress, correct me if I am wrong, but I can think of only two connections you have to Christine and Talia.”
I furrowed my brow and chewed on my lower lip for several moments before nodding. “Well, I suppose it is obvious the first connection would be Crawford and Griff.” I gestured toward them as I spoke. “Crawford was the one who suggested Christine and Talia might be able to help with Marisol. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/09/08/still-looking-for-answers/
Dragon nodded. “Therefore, the second connection, logically, would be Marisol herself.”
I agreed. “But since Crawford and Griff were present here with me today when the eyes appeared, I doubt they are behind the apparitions at home.”
“That leaves Marisol.” Dragon frowned.
“Yes. This was supposed to be a celebration of sorts for her today, if I understood Talia earlier.” I raised a questioning eyebrow at Talia.
The woman nodded and cleared her throat. “We recently met the child when we visited the herb shop her mother manages. We realized almost at once she was the one of whom you had spoken. Since that meeting, I have been working with Marisol, teaching her control. I was hesitant to take her as a pupil at her tender age, but she’s proven very insightful, and a quick study. Today was to be a congratulatory fete for her, as well as a thank-you to you for alerting us to her problem. Crawford and Griff were invited as a thank-you to them for sending you to us.”
I rubbed my jaw. “So, the child knew I was going to be here?”
I raked my hand through my hair. “It looks pretty clear to me that the child is behind this.”
Dragon narrowed her eyes and turned again to Talia and Christine. “You two need to see if you can determine the identity of the intruder here. I will do the same at the house. If we determine it is Marisol, I suggest you work a little harder with her, Talia. Perhaps teach the child what is and what is not acceptable behavior for one who wields powers such as hers.”
Talia nodded, her cheeks burning at Dragon’s implied reprimand.
Dragon turned back to me. “We need to go home, Mistress. There, I will attempt to determine the identity of your intruder, and how they got past the new spells of protection I and my fellow magic users recently cast. As I explained to you at the time we cast it, it is one of those spells whose failure is only revealed if someone succeeds in defeating it.”
I nodded. “Do you agree that it is most likely Marisol?”
Dragon shrugged. “She is extremely powerful.”
Crawford furrowed his brow. “I hope you don’t mind if I point something out, but I believe you may be barking up the wrong tree. When you first told me about the child, you described her as one who has magic, but is not a magician. You said she’s not a witch or a sorceress; she cannot create illusions, she cannot conjure, she cannot enchant, she cannot cast any sort of spell.” The man paused to make sure Dragon and I were following. When we both nodded, he continued. “Whoever is spying on you is capable of casting spells. They are capable of defeating Dray’s wards and spells of protection.” He paused again, looking from me to Dragon and back again. “Ladies, I believe you are looking for a powerful spell caster.”
I blinked and my jaw dropped.
What powerful spell caster would be spying on me and why? Can Dragon and the others get to the bottom of this? Be sure to come back next week and see what happens. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.