Found

Found

CougarThe attack had been so sudden, Talia had had no time to avoid the gargantuan mountain lion that now pinned her to the ground. Struggling mightily against the heavy creature, she managed to get an arm free. Simply by instinct, she made a few arcane gestures with her hand and muttered an incantation under her breath, the same spell she had used on Dragon to transform the mighty beast into a tiny lizard. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2020/10/04/the-search/

Nothing happened. Talia’s eyes widened and she gasped. I forgot! Once I entered the portal and was ushered into this world, my powers were gone!

snarling cougarThe cougar snarled and brought his face closer to Talia’s. Suddenly, he stopped, and his brow furrowed. He sniffed at Talia. “You aren’t the one I’m looking for.” He released Talia and stepped back. “I’m so sorry. You aren’t hurt, are you?”

Before Talia could answer, she heard the badger call out. “Hey, Rafferty! You gone crazy or something? Why’d you attack the puny human?”

Talia saw the big coyote snap at the badger and say something to him. The badger hung his head.

The other animals came running over. The coyote pup and the fox kit helped Talia up. The woman stood there, wobbling on rubbery legs.

The vixen nudged her kit aside and sniffed at Talia. “Here, dear, just lean on me and take a couple of deep breaths. You’ll be okay. I don’t think Rafferty injured you. I don’t smell any blood.” The fox then turned to the cougar, clucking gently at him in admonishment. “Rafferty, dear, what were you thinking?”

“I’m sorry.” He turned toward Talia. “I’m sorry lady. I saw you running after my friends and I thought you were the one who was trying to hurt them.” He threw himself to the ground and covered his face with his huge paws.

The giant coyote walked up to the cougar and put a paw on the other animal’s shoulder. “Rafferty, old buddy, that was a long time ago. That person isn’t here anymore. We’re all safe now.”

Rafferty looked up at the coyote and furrowed his brow again. “Are you sure, Chaz? I thought I saw her just yesterday, at the market.”

“Nah, Raff. You couldn’t have seen her. She’s long gone.” The coyote spoke gently.

Coyote pup and TaliaThe coyote pup whispered in Talia’s ear. “The person Rafferty thought he saw hasn’t been around since long before I was born. Poor cat. I don’t know exactly what happened all those years ago, but it must have been horrible for Raff. They say he hasn’t been quite right in the head since. When he gets really bad like this, my pop takes care of him, gets him the help he needs.”

Talia frowned. “But he’s a cougar. Why would your father help him?”

The pup scoffed and shot Talia a disgusted look. “Because he’s a friend.” The pup shook his head and curled his lip at Talia. “Don’t you help your friends? Isn’t that what you and the dragon are doing?”

Talia looked at the circle of animals and nodded thoughtfully.

Rafferty got up and shook, dust flying off his sleek, golden fur. “So, what were you all doing just now? The human was running after you. Were you playing a game?”

Chaz shook his head. “We’re looking for a little girl, a human child, who is lost.”

Cougar pleading“Oh, the poor little thing. I’ll help look for her! Can I help, Chaz? Can I?” The mountain lion closed his eyes and pleaded with the coyote.

“Sure, buddy, you can help. But she’s very small and delicate, Raff. Remember that if you find her. No claws. Velvet paws, Raff. You gotta use velvet paws.”

The cougar nodded and started jigging around, excited to help. “I’ll remember, Chaz. I promise.” Suddenly he stopped and his eyes widened. “Chaz! We gotta find that poor little thing before she gets hurt! What if that woman finds her? She’ll hurt the little girl, Chaz. She tried to hurt all of you.”

“Now, now, Raff. That’s all over, buddy. The woman’s gone. She’s gone, Raff.” Chaz patted his friend’s shoulder again.

“Are you sure he’s safe?” Talia addressed the foxes in a whisper while never taking her eyes off the mountain lion.

The reynard frowned and growled softly. “Of course, he’s safe. Do you think Chaz and I would allow him near our kids if he wasn’t?”

Talia blushed, but still looked unconvinced.

Rafferty and Chaz“Let’s go, then. Let’s find this poor little thing.” The mountain lion bounded off, only to come racing back. “Chaz? Which way do we go?” He looked confused, his whiskers trembling and his eyes unfocused.

“We’re going to follow the scent trail this way. I’ll take the lead. Why don’t you hang back and keep an eye on the young’uns, and on our human visitor? You can make sure they don’t get separated from the group.”

“Okay, Chaz. I’ll take good care of them.”

“I know you will, buddy. I know you will.” Chaz nuzzled Rafferty before loping off to take his lead at the head of the group.

The giant coyote led off, with Benny, the badger, close behind, still looking contrite over his earlier careless comments to Rafferty, the troubled mountain lion. The reynard and the vixen flanked them, and all four animals kept their noses to the ground.

Behind them, the coyote pup and the fox kit escorted Talia. The three of them kept their heads swiveling, their eyes peering at every ditch, furrow, tree, bush, and clod of dirt they passed.

They also kept a good eye on Rafferty, who trailed along behind. Sometimes the mountain lion strode along with purpose and determination; other times, he lagged, confused and unfocused. Several times he ran up to Talia and sniffed at her, then muttered, “No, you’re not the bad person. She’s not here anymore. She’s gone. Chaz said so.”

After one such incident, the fox kit bowed his head and whispered into Talia’s ear. “He’s been like this as long as I can remember. He’ll be fine for months at a time, then suddenly, something triggers his anxiety, and he imagines this woman around every corner or behind every bush.”

Junior nodded. “That’s why we have to watch him real close right now. If we find this missing child, my dad and Benny will want to get to her first. Rafferty might mistake her for that woman, since he keeps saying he’s seen her recently.”

Talia’s eyes flew wide, and her jaw dropped. She put her hand on the fox kit’s leg. “But your dad said the cat was safe.”

“He is.” The kit nodded confidently. “We make sure he stays that way.”

Raff sees DragonIt was late in the day with the sun dropping fast toward the horizon, when Talia and her group spotted Dragon and her troop coming toward them along the berm. As soon as he spotted Dragon, Rafferty stopped dead in his tracks. “What is that?”

“That’s just a dragon, Raff. She’s kinda like a big lizard with wings. She’s from another part of the world and she’s here with the lady looking for the lost child.” Junior spoke softly to the mountain lion. The cat shook his head as if to clear it, then started to back up, eyes wide and mouth slack.

“Dad? Dad!” Junior called to the big coyote several dozen yards ahead of them.

The big animal immediately sized up the situation and ran to his friend’s side. He spoke to the spooked cougar softly and reassuringly. “Hey, Raff, it’s okay, buddy. She’s a friend. She’s gentle as a kitten. See? The deer and the rabbits like her. She’s fine. Come on, Raff, I’ll introduce you.”

But Rafferty didn’t appear to want to meet the dragon. He threw himself down on the ground and covered his face with his paws. He lay there, trembling, until Dragon walked over and spoke to him.

Dragon approached the giant mountain lion quietly and gently. “Hello. You must be Rafferty. Your friends told me about you. I would consider it a great honor to meet you.”

Slowly, the big cat looked up. He furrowed his brow and tilted his head. “You would be honored to meet me?”

“Indeed, I would.” Dragon stood a few feet away, making herself look as small and nonthreatening as possible.

Rafferty looked at the other animals, who smiled and nodded at him. He slowly rose and timidly edged close enough to Dragon to sniff at her. “You smell funny.”

Dragon chuckled. “I imagine I do. My name is Dragon. It is my pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

BearsBefore the mountain lion could respond, two huge grizzly bears broke through the adjacent brush and lumbered into the field about a dozen yards away. The smaller bear was carrying something tiny in her arms, and the larger one looked around until he saw who he was looking for. “Hey! Hab’itt! Come on over here, buddy! Did you lose something?”

Rafferty’s eyes glazed over. “You caught her! You caught that dangerous woman! Good work!” He started bounding toward the bears, but Dragon tripped him.

“Oh, I am so sorry. Did I do that? Are you injured?” The scaly beast spoke gently, but positioned herself between the cat and the bears, blocking his view.

Marisol woke up as Hab’itt hopped over to the bears. “Hey, there, little one!” The giant rabbit smiled at the small girl, then looked at the bears. “Where did you find her?”

“She was asleep in our berry patch. She told us she had been with you in the carrot field but had wandered away. She was too tired to go back, so I offered to carry her. She fell back asleep halfway here.” The female bear gently placed the child on the ground. “There you go, Marisol.”

The bigger bear was looking over at Dragon and the mountain lion. “Is that Rafferty?”

Hab’itt followed the bear’s gaze and nodded.

The bear huffed and shook his head. “You better take care to keep him away from the child. He’s been a bit twitchy lately. If he’s having another of his episodes, there’s no telling what he might do.”

Hab’itt nodded. “I think he’ll be okay. It looks like Chaz is taking care of him. And there’s a dragon with him, blocking his view of the child. She came with the human female who came looking for Marisol. I don’t think that creature would let anything happen to Marisol.”

The bear nodded. “Well, Marisol, it was nice to meet you. Be sure to stop for a visit any time you’re in the neighborhood.”

Marisol smiled. “I will. And thank you.”

Marisol rubbed the sleep from her eyes and looked toward Dragon and Talia. She looked past them and stared at the cougar. After a few minutes, she frowned. “That big cat with my friends seems to need some help.”

Helping RaffWithout a second’s hesitation, the child skipped over to the other group, with Hab’itt following on her heels. Without a word, Marisol reached up and grabbed Dragon and Talia by the hand. She gazed silently at the mountain lion, who was nearby, shaking uncontrollably. “The cat needs your help. Say the words, Dragon. Say the words, Talia.”

“What words are those, child?” Dragon tilted her head and looked askance at Marisol.

The child pursed her lips. “The words that will help the big cat, of course.”

Dragon shook her head. “We have no power in this world.”

“I know.” Marisol smiled. “Say the words, Dragon, please. You, too, Talia.”

Dragon looked at Talia, who shrugged. Then they both began to intone an incantation. When they were finished, Marisol smiled again. The child tugged Dragon and Talia over to the mountain lion. “Hello, Rafferty. Are you feeling better now?”

Everyone fell silent as the big cat stopped trembling and slowly stood up. The cougar blinked several times rapidly, then squinted at Marisol. “I feel fine, thanks. Do I know you?”

Marisol shook her head.

Rafferty looked at Dragon. “I . . . I don’t know you either, do I?”

“No, you don’t know her, either.” Marisol nudged Dragon. “Well, if you’re feeling better, Rafferty, I think it’s time for me and my friends to go home. My mother will be worried.”

Hab’itt scratched behind his ear with one of his big back paws. “I . . . I guess I’ll take you back to the portal.”

“Thanks, Hab’itt, but I can find the way. I think Dragon and Talia want to talk to me.” Marisol patted the huge rabbit on his leg. “I hope you’ll come to our world . . . I mean our part of the world . . . and visit again sometime. I won’t tell my mommy if you eat any of her carrots.”

After a round of goodbyes and best wishes, the trio was on the way. As they began walking back to the portal, Marisol yawned. “Dragon, could you carry me?”

“Of course, little one.” The huge beast held out her arms, and soon Marisol was snuggled against her.

The early-rising full moon bathed the path with light, but Dragon still moved slowly so she would not trip and disturb the child in her arms.

As if sensing the beast’s concern, the child giggled. “It’s okay. I’m awake. We can talk if you’d like.”

Dragon furrowed her brow. “Yes, child, I would like to talk with you. Marisol, how did that spell work? Talia and I have no power here. I cannot even shapeshift.”

Marisol shrugged. “Your power is still within you; you just can’t call it forth. So, I did it for you. I called forth the power for you and for Talia.”

Dragon’s eyes widened, and she exchanged surprised glances with Talia. “But how did you know the mountain lion needed help?”

Saw his heartMarisol tilted her head and chewed her lower lip for several long moments before answering. “That’s harder to explain.” She paused again, choosing her words carefully. “I could see his heart.”

“You could see his what?” Talia furrowed her brow.

Marisol squirmed a bit in Dragon’s arms to better see Talia. “Well, you know how you say of someone who is kind and decent he has a good heart?”

Talia nodded.

“And if someone has lost someone he loves, you say he has a broken heart?”

Again, Talia nodded.

“Well, I could see Rafferty’s heart. I could see it was a good heart, and I could see it had been broken. I could see he needed help.”

Talia’s jaw dropped. “You could see the animal’s inner essence.”

Dragon gaped at the child as well. “That is a step beyond seeing a shapeshifter’s true nature. I have never known anyone who could see the very soul of a creature that clearly.”

Going homeMarisol shrugged, as if it were no big deal to her. She snuggled close to Dragon again and sighed. “I like that place. It was just like Hab’itt said – it’s a place of inclusion and acceptance and peace and tolerance, a place where everyone cares about everyone else, and no one cares if someone is different. I think I’d like to live in a place like that.”

Talia nodded and patted Marisol’s arm. “Perhaps you can, someday, child. Perhaps our world can be like that someday, if we all work hard enough to make it so.”

Be sure to come back next week and see what is happening with my little band of displaced characters. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Tense Moments

Tense Moments

Shock, screamSomething ahead of them on the trail screamed, a prolonged, blood-curdling scream. Before the trio could react, another scream followed, louder, shriller, and more heart-stopping than the first. Then the sound of angry voices ensued.

Dragon and Talia remained frozen for several moments, eyes wide and hearts pounding. Then they leaped into action and began to race toward the ruckus. A dozen strides later, their companion, a giant rabbit, hopped in front of them, forcing them to an abrupt halt.

Hopper chuckled. “No need for alarm. I recognize the voices. This is a common occurrence.”

Still chuckling, Hopper led Dragon and Talia toward the source of the sound that had continued and intensified. Seconds later, they rounded a bend in the path and stopped, watching the scene unfold. Talia’s jaw dropped and she turned deathly pale as she saw the field full of giant animals.

What was screaming

“Ooooooooooooooooooooo! Ooooooooooooooooooooo!” A large badger was screaming at the top of its lungs.

“Ooooooooooooooooooooo! Ooooooooooooooooooooo!” A young coyote joined in the cacophony.

Father and son coyotes“Stop it, Junior! You’re giving me a headache!” The larger coyote next to the howling youngster snapped at him, then glared at the badger. “And you stop it, too, Benny. You’re such a diva.”

Fawn“Yeah, Benny!” A spotted fawn lifted her head from the basket of carrots and spoke around a mouthful of food. “Don’t be such a diva! Just stop already!”

Derick on Benny's tailBenny didn’t stop. “Ooooooooooooooooooooo! Ooooooooooooooooooooo! Get him off my tail. Get him off my tail!”

Coyote and foxesThe family of foxes started yipping along with Benny’s howling until the coyote silenced them with a hard stare.

The fawn looked over at the large deer. “Dad, get off Benny’s tail, will ya?”

The deer looked down, a confused expression on his face, but he did not move.

Twitchy the rabbitA small, two-toned rabbit sighed, looked up at the deer and shook his head, a look of disgust on his furry little face. “Derrick, would you please get off Benny’s tail before he damages our hearing with his infernal caterwauling? You’re always dashing around and never watching where you’re going. You’ve stomped on my paws more times than I can count, so I know it hurts like the dickens. Benny isn’t being histrionic.”

Derick the Deer“I’m sorry, Benny. I’m sorry, Twitchy. I’m sorry, everyone.” Derrick the deer finally seemed to understand. He carefully moved his hoof off Benny’s tail, only to place it dangerously close to a large rabbit’s front paw, a rabbit Dragon recognized as Hab’itt. The rabbit jumped back, narrowly avoiding knocking over another rabbit who had been sitting next to him, munching on some carrot greens. “Sorry, Hab’itt.” Derrick hung his head.

Habitt and Bracken“Oops. Sorry, Bracken!” Hab’itt steadied the other rabbit he had bumped into, as he glared at the clumsy deer.

Hopper laughed and moved lazily onto the field. “What a sorry bunch we have here today!”

brothers 2“Hey, Hopper! Where have you been, you big ox? We got tired of waiting, so we started the picnic without you.” Hab’itt hopped over to greet his brother with an affectionate nose-rub.

“Hey, you little runt! I hope you saved some carrots for me!” Hopper returned his brother’s greeting.

Suddenly, Hab’itt noticed his brother’s companions. “Oh, hello!” He cocked his head and sniffed at Dragon. “I met you while I was on my journey, didn’t I?”

https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2020/09/13/yet-another-big-problem/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2020/09/20/an-interesting-encounter/

Dragon nodded.

Talia closeup 2Rabbit 2“I don’t think I met you, though.” Hab’itt looked closely at Talia and sniffed at her. “I’m Hab’itt. Are you with the dragon?” He held out a paw to Dragon’s companion.

The woman nodded. “Pleased to meet you. I’m Talia.”

Dragon noted that her companion nodded affably as she shook the rabbit’s paw. Talia had evidentially become much more comfortable around large, talking rabbits since their initial encounter with Hopper, but Dragon saw that the woman nonetheless kept a careful eye on the other animals closing in around them.

“What brings the two of you here?” Hab’itt’s ears moved around like two elongated radar dishes as he spoke.

“They’re looking for a human child, a little girl who’s lost. They thought you may have brought her here, or that she followed you here without your knowledge.” Hopper twitched his nose.

Marisol 1Hab’itt thumped one back foot and gave Dragon a questioning look. “Marisol?”

Dragon nodded.

“Well, I didn’t bring her here, and I didn’t notice her following me.” Hab’itt called to the others, “Anyone see a human child around here?”

There was a lot of head shaking, and more than a few nos.

“How long has she been missing?” Hab’itt turned his attention back to Dragon and Talia.

Dragon frowned. “Her mother has not seen her since before the child followed you to our yard. I am not certain how long ago that is in your world. It was after dark of the day we met you when we tracked you and Marisol to the portal, but it was midday here when we emerged in this world a few moments later.”

Difference in time

Hab’itt nodded. “Yes, we have noticed time proceeds at different rates in different parts of the world.”

“Different parts of the world?” Talia furrowed her brow.

“Oh, that’s right. You weren’t there when I explained it to the dragon.” Hab’itt frowned. “You define world differently than we do. To me and my kind, there is only one world. Wherever there is life, it is part of that one world. You believe the portals connect one world with another world. We believe they connect one part of the singular world with another part.”

Talia raised an eyebrow but nodded her understanding.

Hab’itt scratched behind an ear with one giant back paw. “Getting back to how long the child’s been missing, I’m not sure if it’s still yesterday back where you came from, or if it’s a week from next Verday.” He laughed, indicating he was just joking.

Hopper frowned and twitched his ears. “This is no joking matter. A mother is frantic over her lost child. If the little girl is, indeed, in this part of the world, we need to find her and return her to her home.”

Hab’itt looked contrite, his ears flat against his neck and back, his eyes downcast. “You’re right. It’s nothing to joke about.” He turned toward Dragon. “You said you tracked both me and Marisol to the portal?”

Dragon nodded. “I could not tell precisely how much time had expired between your passage through the portal and when Marisol went through. If you did not go at the same time, if you did not take her with you, she was just moments behind you.”

“And you picked up her scent again on this side?” Hab’itt scrunched up his face as Dragon again nodded. “If she were that close, I should have seen her. At the very least, I should have heard her.” He wiggled his ears back and forth.

Priceless image“Well, the old bloodhound there will just have to keep tracking.” Talia pointed to Dragon, who gave her a stern stare as smoke started to drift from her nose.

“We’ll help.” The coyotes and the foxes raced over. “It should be easy to pick up the scent of a human. Let’s just sniff you a bit, so we won’t follow your scent.”

Talia blinked rapidly at the advancing animals and started backing away. “Uh, that won’t be necessary. Not that we don’t appreciate the offer, but I’m sure we can manage on our own.”

“We cannot.” Dragon frowned at Talia.

“But . . . but . . .” Talia stammered.

Coyote daddy“What?” The adult coyote fixed her with a steely stare. “You have something against coyotes or foxes?”

“Well, you’re carnivores,” she blurted. “I’m small enough compared to all of you, but Marisol wouldn’t even make one good-sized bite!”

Junior ewwwww“Ewwwwwwwwwwwww!” The coyote pup, sitting at his father’s side, made a gagging sound. “Carnivores? You think we eat meat? Gross!”

Dragon rounded on Talia, lecturing her. “This is not your world . . . or your part of the one world. Things are different here.” She turned to the animals milling around and shooting annoyed glances at the strangers in their midst. “Forsooth! My companion meant no disrespect. She is just ignorant of your customs and dietary proclivities. Any assistance you can render would be greatly appreciated.”

Talia with flaming cheeksTalia shuffled her feet and blushed scarlet. “Of course, if you say we need their help, I welcome it. But I thought your sense of smell was sufficient for the task.”

Dragon shook her head. “Under normal circumstances, I would have no trouble tracking Marisol. However, her scent trail goes off in several different directions.”

“How is that possible?” Talia furrowed her brow and raked her hand through her hair.

The young coyote rolled his eyes. “The child you are looking for evidently traipsed around this area, going this way and that, crossing and re-crossing her own trail as she went. She was probably exploring or attempting to remain hidden.” The pup gave Talia a superior look.

The older coyote nodded. “Junior’s right. So, I suggest we divide into two groups, each following the trail in a different direction. Dragon, you are obviously the one with the best sense of smell. You should take the rabbits and the deer with you. Since the badger, the foxes, and my son and I all have exceptional olfaction, we will go in a different direction. We will take the human female with us, as she is known to the little girl and will be able to reassure the child she will be safe.”

“But who is going to reassure me that I will be safe?” Talia muttered under her breath, giving the animals a nervous, sidelong glance.

“We also have great auditory modality,” the pup whispered to Talia with a sharp bark that passed for a laugh.

Reynard and coyote pupThe reynard walked over to the coyote pup and nudged him. He spoke to the youngster in a loud stage whisper. “Junior! Didn’t your parents teach you not to play with your food?” He gave Talia a wide-mouthed grin.

“Dear, don’t make her nervous!” The vixen frowned at her mate.

Too late! Talia thought, as she edged away from the group. She called to Dragon. “Are you sure I shouldn’t come with you?”

Dragon gave Talia a dismissive wave of her taloned hand and started off, leading her group along the scent trail to the west. The animals in Talia’s group headed off to the northeast.

“Come along, Tidbit . . .er, I mean Talia.” The big coyote sneered at her and started walking slowly and deliberately across the field, nose to the ground. After a few paces, he glanced back over his shoulder at Talia, rooted to the spot. He growled. “Do try to keep up!”

Despite her rubbery legs and pounding heart, once Talia started moving, she had but little trouble sprinting along with the long-legged giants in the pack, until something bolted from the hedgerow. It crashed headlong into her and almost knocked her senseless. She found herself flat on her back on the hard ground, looking up into the slavering maw of a giant mountain lion.

Cougar

Now what? Is Talia about to meet her end? What happened to all her powers? Will Dragon be able to find Marisol and return her safely to her own home? Be sure to come back next week and see what happens. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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The Search Continues

The Search Continues

End of the branch disappeared“What is it?” Talia was pale and wide-eyed. She stared at the tree branch Dragon was holding, the tip of which had vanished when Dragon had thrust it at the spot where Talia had been about to walk. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2020/10/04/the-search/

Dragon frowned. “It appears to be a portal. That is, a gateway or conduit between worlds.”

“A portal?” Talia peered at the air swirling around the end of the branch, like the ripples from a tiny pebble dropped into a mirror-calm lake. “So, what do we do now?”

Dragon held up her clawed index finger, indicating Talia should give her a minute to investigate. Then the huge reptile pulled the branch back from the portal and examined it. The tip was still intact and showed no signs of damage. Tossing the branch aside, she walked around the portal, giving the area a wide berth. She carefully studied the ground and sniffed all around the area. Finally, the beast turned to Talia. “I see no footprints on the far side of the portal; nor do I detect any scent of Marisol or Hab’itt past this point. It is obvious they went through the portal. Methinks the only course of action left to us is to follow them.”

“Fo . . . fo . . . follow them? Through the portal?

Dragon nodded.

Talia took a handkerchief from her pocket and dabbed at the beads of sweat that were forming on her forehead and dripping down into her eyes. “Errr . . . I really think Christine would be better suited for such an endeavor.”

Dragon knew the woman was referring to her partner, the other half of the team that managed the Chris-Tal Clear Metaphysical Store. “Christine is not here. You are.” Smoke started to drift from Dragon’s snout.

“She could be here in nothing flat. Just let me call her.” Talia fumbled for her cell phone.going through portal

“No time.” Dragon clamped a taloned hand around Talia’s wrist and pulled her into the portal.

Talia closed her eyes and held her breath as Dragon tugged her along. The trip was short, just like walking through an open door. One second, they were in one world, three seconds and an equal number of steps later, they were in another.

“Well!” Talia smoothed her jacket and looked around. “That wasn’t at all what I was expecting.”

“Oh?” Dragon looked at her questioningly.

Talia shrugged. “In the movies and on TV, when people go through a portal like this, they fall, or they float, and it takes a long time for them to emerge on the other side.”

Dragon nodded. “Some portals are like that. Conduits can be exceptionally long and take a great deal of time and effort to navigate. Gateways, on the other hand, are simple doorways between two adjacent worlds.”

Talia nodded. “I see. Well, now that we stepped through the door into this world, what do we do? How do we find Marisol?”

“We continue our previous endeavor. We look.”

looking upAs she was saying that, Dragon noticed that Talia was already looking. Looking up. And up. And gulping.

“Haa . . . haa . . . Hab’itt?” Talia’s voice squeaked and cracked as she looked up at a giant rabbit.

Hab’itt?” The immense animal towering over Talia threw his head back and laughed. “Do I look like that little runt?”

Dragon raised an eyebrow. “Hmmmm. It disappoints me to hear such words in the homeland of which Hab’itt spoke so fondly, the land to which he longed to return.”

“Oh?” The rabbit gave Dragon a long look. “And why is that?” He sat back and twitched his ears at her.

“Hab’itt spoke of a way of life enjoyed by his kind, a way of life marked by inclusion, tolerance, acceptance, and peace. Such flippant and discourteous speech, such name-calling, does not seem to fit into that idyllic picture.” Dragon wrinkled her nose at the big rabbit and smoke began to drift from her nostrils. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2020/09/20/an-interesting-encounter/

The rabbit laughed again. “Hab’itt described our homeland accurately. And the name-calling to which you refer is just a pet name, a sign of affection for my little brother.”

Dragon raised an eyebrow again and folded her arms over her chest. “Oh?”

Brothers“Indeed.” The rabbit smiled warmly. “I call him the little runt; he calls me the big ox.” Seeing Dragon remained unconvinced, he chuckled. “Have you never had a relative or friend who used a term of endearment that, to others, seemed unkind?”

Dragon blushed, thinking of the times the Old Dwarf had called her beastie. “Forsooth! You make a good point.” She reached out a clawed hand. “I am Dragon. This is Talia.”

The rabbit took her hand as best he could in his massive paw. “I am most pleased to make your acquaintance. I am Hopper.” He shook Dragon’s hand, then extended his paw to Talia, who took it a bit apprehensively.

“Our pleasure.”

“You are strangers to our land. Did you come to see my brother, or just to see the land he spoke of?” Hopper smoothed his whiskers with his front paws as he spoke.

Marisol 1Dragon shook her head. “Actually, we seek another from our land. We believe a small child either accompanied your brother, or followed him, to your land. We need to return her to her own home and family.”

Carrot Patch“A child, you say. Hmmm. Last I saw Hab’itt, he was with a group of friends in the carrot patch. I saw no small child with them.” Hopper looked from Dragon to Talia and back, then scratched behind one ear with a huge back paw. “What species is this child?”

“She is human.” Dragon saw a strange look on Talia’s face, and added, “to the best of my knowledge. At least, her appearance is that of a human.”

Hopper nodded. “Well, a human would stand out in these parts. We don’t have any, you see. But, of course, a young’un could be easily overlooked if she kept quiet. A small creature can find all sorts of places to hide. Not right here, of course.” The rabbit gestured around at the field in which they were standing amid the remains of grain stalks that had been mown for straw.

Nothing could hide here

Dragon nodded. “Forsooth, nothing larger than a small songbird could hide in this stubble.”

“But there, that’s a different story.” The rabbit nodded to the east. “If the human child you seek has entered that savannah, finding her could prove most difficult.” Hopper thumped one hind leg nervously and smoothed his whiskers again.

Dragon and Talia followed the Hopper’s gaze. The landscape beyond the agricultural field was dominated by thick grasses, ferns, and flowering plants rising shoulder-high to the giant rabbit in some places and dotted by ancient trees with girths large enough for even Hopper to hide behind.

Talia tapped her chin with one finger and noticed her fingernail had broken. “Shoot!” Frowning, she fished an emery board from her pocket and filed down the offending nail while Dragon rolled her eyes at the woman. When Talia finished, she turned and addressed Dragon. “I was thinking . . .”

“Always a difficult undertaking for you.” Dragon raised an eyebrow and smirked.

Talia angry 2Talia scowled at Dragon before repeating herself. “I was thinking . . . maybe you could fly over that area and take a look.”

Dragon furrowed her brow. “The vegetation there is so thick, I doubt I would be able to see Marisol from overhead.” The beast shook her head. “No, let me see if I can see her footprints or pick up her scent here in this field.”

Sidestepping the portal, Dragon looked closely at the ground. She grunted and shook her head. “This stubble makes it difficult to follow anyone’s trail.” She started sniffing. “Ah, yes! The child has been here, and rather recently.” She sniffed a few more times, turning her head this way and that. “Here. She went in this direction.” She pointed to the north.Priceless image

“You do make a good bloodhound.” Talia smirked.

Dragon glared at the woman, and smoke drifted from her nose. “Be glad I do. A keen nose may prove the only way to find Marisol.”

She turned her back on Talia and addressed the rabbit once more. “What is in that direction?”

Hopper twitched his nose and thumped his back foot again. “That is the way to the carrot patch. Perhaps the child did accompany my brother.”

Dragon nodded. “Or she followed him without his knowledge.”

Talia snorted. “Followed him or went with him, what does it matter? Let’s just go and get her.”

Watch the portalThe woman stepped forward, but Hopper grabbed her, snagging the collar of her jacket with his teeth and pulling her back. “Watch out for the portal!”

Blushing furiously and mopping the sweat from her brow, Talia murmured a thank you and carefully followed Hopper and Dragon.

The trio crossed the field to the eastern edge, then walked north along a berm for close to a quarter hour before Hopper led them onto a small path. “This way. The carrot patch is about a half-mile further on this path.”

What passed this wayDragon took a deep breath, trying to identify Marisol’s scent among the many around that area. After a few moments of sniffing, she nodded. “The child has passed this way.” She frowned, as she continued sniffing. “So have a number of other creatures – Hab’itt, several other rabbits, a deer, a family of foxes, a badger, and a band of coyotes.”

Talia blanched. “We best hurry.”

Suddenly, they heard a piercing scream from up ahead.

Piercing scream

Who screamed, and why? Is Marisol in danger? Be sure to join us again next week to see what is happening. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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The Search

The Search

Talia and Dray leaving houseTalia dashed from the house, dragging Dray. The two women made their way down the flagstone walkway, Dray tripping and stumbling as she was tugged along. When they reached the street, Dray stopped dead and jerked her arm free from Talia’s grasp. “Wait! Where are we going?”

“To Marisol’s.”

“Why?” Dray rubbed her wrist where Talia had been holding her in a vice-like grip.

Talia frowned. “Didn’t you say Marisol and some giant, talking rabbit left here together and were supposedly going back to her yard?”

Dray nodded.

“Then, obviously, that’s why we’re going there.” Talia rolled her eyes and shook her head at Dray.

Ferrari“Are we not taking your vehicle?” Dray gestured toward a flashy red Ferrari parked haphazardly at the curb.

“No. I don’t want Bastina to know we’re there. So, stay close to me and be quiet now. I’ll cast a spell of concealment over us.” Talia raised her hand and started to mumble an incantation.

Dray shook her head. “I think we should let Bastina know we are looking for Marisol. She is worried about her daughter.”

Talia angry 2Talia scowled. “You should know better than to interrupt when a spell is being cast. Hush!”

Ignoring Talia’s admonishment, Dray continued talking. “But Bastina . . .”

Talia cut her off. “We told Marge and Miles to tell Bastina we’re looking for Marisol. We don’t have time right now to deal with a frantic mother.”

She raised her hand again and resumed mumbling.

Dray wrinkled her brow. “Bastina will be more reassured if we are the ones to explain what is happening . . .”

Scowling, Talia grabbed Dray by the shoulders and gave her a shake. “I said you should know better than to interrupt when a spell is being cast. Hush!

smoke poured from Dragon 2Dray shimmered as she shapeshifted back to her true form. The angry dragon loomed over Talia and growled, black smoke spewing from her snout. “It is not wise to maltreat a wyrm, or to order one quiet.”

Talia’s eyes narrowed. “It isn’t wise to interrupt me when I’m trying to cast a spell. Some vainglorious reptile might just find herself transformed into a puny lizard and dropped down the nearest storm drain.”

Dragon snarled. “You dare not try; and if you did, you might not survive long enough to regret it.”

Talia scoffed. “Oh, please! Do you really think you could take me on?” She chuckled. “If we had the time, I would love to accommodate you. But right now, it is imperative that we find Marisol. So, get over yourself and come along . . . quietly!”

Gecko in puddleFiery dragonDragon roared, flames erupting from her mouth. The next thing she knew, she was a tiny lizard, swimming with all her might while trying not to drown in a tiny puddle full of fallen leaves next to the curb. Before she was half-way across the water, she was once again a dragon.

Momentarily stunned, she stood gaping at Talia, who crossed her arms over her chest and smirked.

Now can we go . . . quietly?”

Dragon narrowed her eyes and continued to stare at Talia for several long minutes. Finally, she nodded curtly and quietly followed Talia down the street toward Marisol’s house as the smug woman raised her hand and mumbled the incantation that would keep them hidden.

When they reached Marisol’s house, Dragon reached out and clamped a taloned hand firmly on Talia’s shoulder, causing the woman to wince. “Now . . . if you are quite certain you have successfully cast the spell of concealment . . . let us talk.” She raised her other hand traffic-cop style and silenced Talia when the woman opened her mouth to reply. “First, let me say this – do not ever again attempt to cast a spell on me.”

Attempt?” Talia snickered. “I thought I did a lot more than attempt. I thought I was quite successful.”

“For a brief moment at most, and then only because you caught me off guard. Believe me when I say that will never happen again.” Dragon narrowed her eyes, and smoke drifted from her nostrils.

Reached Marisol's house“Fine. Sorry.” Talia shrugged and snickered again, clearly not sorry at all. She attempted to move, but Dragon’s claws in the woman’s shoulder kept her pinned to the spot.

“Now, precisely what are we doing here?” Dragon scowled at Talia.

The woman sighed. “We’ve been through this. Do try to keep up. We are here because you said Marisol and some giant, talking rabbit were supposedly coming back here.”

When Dragon simply blinked and said nothing, Talia rolled her eyes and continued. “If they came back here, you should be able to track them from here, either magically or with your keen sense of smell.”

“Suppose they did not return here? Should we not have started tracking them from Mistress Writer’s yard, the last place I saw them?”

Talia scoffed. “I doubt the rabbit would have taken her anywhere else before coming back here. Even a child her age would be suspicious if the creature suddenly suggested a different destination.”

Dragon took a few moments to consider this before nodding. “So, do you believe the rabbit kidnapped Marisol upon their return here, or do you believe Marisol’s curiosity compelled the child to follow the rabbit when he continued on his journey?”

Now it was Talia’s turn to consider. She furrowed her brow and chewed her lower lip before answering. “I’m not sure. Did the rabbit seem like a kidnapper to you?”

Marisol and rabbitDragon shook her head. “No. Hab’itt seemed too open and too sensitive to engage in a violent transgression.”

Talia raised an eyebrow and giggled. “Hab’itt? Hab’itt the rabbit? You’ve got to be kidding.”

“That was the name he gave.” Dragon did not seem amused. “Do try to stay focused. Now, if Hab’itt did not kidnap Marisol, that leaves the distinct possibility that the curious child merely followed him, perhaps becoming lost somewhere along the way.”

Talia, doing her best to stifle her giggles, nodded. “We better check out this yard carefully and see if we can pick up their tracks.”

Dragon frowned. “It seems to me you have sufficient magic to track them yourself. I resent being dragged along to be used like a bloodhound.”

Priceless image“Bloodhound?” Talia giggled again. “Thank you for that priceless image. I admit that was a part of why I brought you along, but I was actually thinking more of having a comrade-in-arms, should the need arise for self-defense.”

Dragon scoffed. “You expect a murderous confrontation? From a rabbit?”

Marisol and rabbit“A six-foot-tall, talking rabbit.” Talia raised an eyebrow and gave Dragon a steely look. “I don’t suppose you noticed if he was disguised, magically or otherwise.”

Dragon shook her head. “I did observe he was not an illusion. Beyond that, I really did not examine him. I suppose he could have been hiding his true nature, but I should think Marisol would have seen through that. She saw him, as did I, as a large rabbit, capable of speech and coherent thought.”

Talia nodded. “Then let’s take a look around the yard and see if we can find any clues.”

It took about forty-five minutes for Dragon and Talia to thoroughly examine the acre-and-a-half of lawn and flower beds between the back of the house and the fence adjacent to the patch of woods to the north, but they uncovered no clues.

“Did you pick up their scent anywhere?” Talia pushed a lock of hair out of her eyes and squinted at Dragon.

Dragon made a gesture of frustration. “Marisol’s scent is everywhere, which I expected since it is her yard and she plays here daily. Hab’itt’s scent is here as well, but I am unable to determine where he entered the property, or whence he left.”

Talia frowned and tapped her chin with a perfectly manicured nail. “Maybe we should try going a couple feet past the end of the yard and see if you can find their scent out there. That might point us in the right direction.”

Going through the fenceDragon nodded and clambered awkwardly over the split-rail fence at the back of the yard. Talia squeezed through the rough wooden rails. “Darn! I snagged my blouse on the fence.”

Examining the damage to her expensive silk shirt, Talia failed to watch where she was going. She shrieked as Dragon grabbed her roughly and jerked her back.

Talia pulled away from Dragon and rounded on the beast. “Why did you grab me like that?” She glared at Dragon, who ignored her and focused on something behind the woman.

Talia turned around and followed Dragon’s gaze. She furrowed her brow. “What is it?”

Dragon picked up a fallen branch. She walked over to the spot Talia had been when Dragon had pulled her back. Carefully, the beast raised the branch about waist-high and thrust it forward. The end of the branch disappeared.

End of the branch disappeared

Dragon looked at Talia. “I daresay we have found whence they left Marisol’s yard.”

Talia’s eyes bulged. “And whence they left this world.”

What has happened to Marisol? Is she in danger? Will Dragon and Talia be able to find her and return her home? Come back next week for more of this exciting adventure. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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An Interesting Encounter

An Interesting Encounter

Gaped 2“I. Am. Not. An. Illusion.” Again, the rabbit confirmed what Dragon had said. He spoke slowly and distinctly, as if talking to obtuse children. My Old Dwarf, Dragon, and I stood, speechless, gaping at the six-foot-tall creature.

“Jes’ wot be ye, then?” My Old Dwarf glared at the giant rabbit but lowered his axe.

“My name is Hab’itt.”

“Hab’itt the rabbit?” I raised an eyebrow and shook my head.

Dwarf facing rightRabbit 2My Old Dwarf brandished his axe again. “Yer name do na be makin’ no nevermind ta ussins. I been askin’ wot ye be. Ye be claimin’ ye do na be illusive . . .”

“Illusory.” Dragon corrected him.

“Aye, wot the beastie be sayin’. Ye be sayin’ ye do na be thet, so jus’ wot do ye be?”

Marisol 1Another voice asked, “Are you sure you’re not an illusion?”

We all whirled around to see the new speaker.

“I am quite certain, child. I told you that before.” The giant rabbit looked down at our young neighbor, Marisol, and twitched his whiskers at her.

“Marisol! What are you doing here, child, and what do you know of this creature?” Dragon frowned.

Our young neighbor remained silent. She bowed her head and shuffled her foot back and forth in the grass.

“Eh, come now, lassie. Iffin ye be knowin’ anythin’ aboot this ginormous critter, ye be needin’ ta be tellin’ us. Ye do na be needin’ ta be afeared.” My Old Dwarf spoke to Marisol, but kept his eyes on the rabbit, towering over them.

Marisol and rabbitHab’itt ignored the dwarf and hopped down from the gazebo steps. He spoke gently to the little girl. “You may tell them, child. No one will harm you.”

I frowned at the rabbit. “Of course, no one will harm her. We’re Marisol’s friends.”

Rabbit, Marisol and dragon“Indeed, we are.” Dragon looked at Hab’itt and sniffed disdainfully. She turned back to Marisol. “Child, I asked you what you know of this creature. Prithee, if you have knowledge, I ask that you share it with us.”

Marisol continued to shuffle her foot back and forth while she spoke. “The big bunny was hopping around my yard. He was sniffing at mommy’s garden. I saw him, but mommy didn’t. When I told her a big bunny was about to eat her plants, she looked where I was pointing, and she turned sort of pale for a minute. Then she shook her head and pursed her lips. She said she was going to call Talia and ask her to work with me some more.” Marisol’s lower lip trembled. “Did I do something wrong again, Dray?”

Dray hugging Marisol“Of course not, child.” Dragon shapeshifted into her familiar guise of the delicate and exotic maiden, Dray. She leaned down and scooped Marisol into a gentle hug. “It is not wrong for you to have power, and it is not wrong for you not to be in full control of it. You are still young, and you and Talia have more work to do. Eventually, she will teach you how to fully control your talent.”

“Talent?” Marisol scoffed. The child, who had just celebrated her seventh birthday, looked at Dray with a sadness too deep for her few years. “More like a curse. I see things others don’t see. I tell them what I see, and then they see it, too. Then they are afraid . . . not just of whatever I caused them to see. They are afraid of me. Mommy’s right. People think I’m a witch.”

“But you know you are not. You are a conduit. You are affected by magic, and you cause others to be affected by it as well.” I could see Dray struggling to find the right words to comfort and reassure the child. “Eventually, Talia will train you to control your ability so completely that you alone will see what others do not. You will not cause anyone else to see things they should not, and no one will label you a witch or a sorceress.”

“But it is so hard!” Tears started to spill down Marisol’s cheeks. “Talia makes me practice the exercises she taught me for hours each day. I don’t have time to have any fun anymore.”

Birthday memoriesI smiled at the little girl. “You had fun at your birthday party, didn’t you? You received some nice presents, and Dray made your special wish come true.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2020/08/30/a-birthday-wish/
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Marisol brightened at the memory. “Oh, yes! It was the best birthday I ever had!” Then the smile faded, and the tears started again. “But Talia has made me do an extra half-hour of exercises every day since then. She said seeing Dray in her true form and seeing the illusions of the horses and the Pegasus set me back in my training.”

“Hmmmm. And how did Talia happen to know of these events? I believe I swore you to secrecy.”

Talia closeup 2Marisol hung her head. “I’m sorry, Dray. Talia seemed to know something. She asked me about my birthday party. I started telling her about the one mommy and my aunt and uncle had for me, but she said not that one. So . . . I told her.”

“I see.” Dray frowned. “I am sorry if I am the cause of you having been given more work, but I fail to see how the events of that day would set you back in your training. I will speak with Talia.”

Marisol nodded. She wiped away her tears and tried to smile. “Dray, if the big bunny isn’t an illusion, why couldn’t mommy see him until I told her about him?”

Rabbit“I do not know. Perhaps Hab’itt can explain.” Dray turned to the giant lagomorph, who was still watching Marisol. The rabbit’s whiskers were still twitching, but he remained silent.

“Well?” Dray demanded.

“Well, what is it you wish to know?” Hab’itt looked at Dray, a curious expression on his face.

“Let us start with what you are, whence you hail, and for what purpose you are here.” Dray cocked an eyebrow, folded her arms over her chest, and waited.

Hab’itt frowned. “You are quite an inquisitive creature.” He sighed. “Very well. I am a rabbit. I have no idea what you call the place whence I hail. And I have no real purpose here, other than to find my way back home.” He paused and watched Dray’s reaction. “These answers do not satisfy you?”

“They do not.” She frowned.

My Old Dwarf scoffed. “How kin ye be a rabbit? Rabbits do na grow thet big.” He scowled at the giant creature.

Rabbit looking embarrassed“Perhaps in your experience they do not. But be assured, whence I come, I am considered a runt.” Hab’itt bent his head and smoothed his whiskers with his paws in what seemed to me a gesture of embarrassment.

“And where is that, exactly?” I frowned.

“As I said, I have no idea by what name you call my home.” The rabbit wrinkled his nose at me disdainfully.

I scoffed. “Well, suppose we narrow it down a bit. Maybe we can figure out what we call it if we know what you call it.”

“Home.” Hab’itt stretched and yawned, as if bored.

Dray raised an eyebrow. “And is your home in this world, or have you entered this world from another?”

Rabbit scratching“Define world.” Hab’itt seemed to sense our impatience, and quickly continued. “To me and my kind, there is only one world. Wherever there is life, it is part of that one world. But I can see you define the word differently.” He stopped and scratched behind his ears with one enormous back leg. “I would hazard a guess and say no, I do not come from this world as you define the word.”

“Then how be ye gittin’ here, ta this world . . . as we be definin’ tha word?” My Old Dwarf fingered his axe blade and narrowed his gaze at the big beast.

Hab’itt thought about that a moment, scratching behind his ear again. “I . . . I just walked. I am on a journey, a journey taken by each of my kind at a certain age. We travel the world . . . as we define the word . . . and learn things.”

I interrupted him. “I thought you said you had no real purpose here save finding your way back home.”

The rabbit shrugged. “I have no real purpose here . . . in this yard. I had a purpose, but my journey is over. I have completed my quest. I have learned things. But in the process, I lost my way back home.”

“What have you learned, Hab’itt?” Marisol asked softly.

Marisol and rabbit“I have learned that, in most places, to be different is to be shunned or feared, to be discriminated against, or to suffer intolerance or even violence. I have learned that the way of life enjoyed by my kind, a way of life marked by inclusion and tolerance and acceptance and peace, is rare and is not to be taken for granted. I have learned that I miss the comfort of that acceptance, and need return home.”

Marisol patted the rabbit’s huge paw. “I understand. That is what happens to me when people realize I’m different. They avoid me, or they are scared of me, or they call me names and threaten to hurt me.”

A tear slipped down Hab’itt’s face. “I am sorry you are treated this way, child. Some day, perhaps, things will change for you.”

After a few moments of silence, the rabbit sighed. “Well, I have enjoyed this conversation, but it is time for me to go. I must find my way home.” He looked around, shook his head, and thumped a back foot. “I must find my way home!” A note of panic entered his voice.

I raked my hand through my hair. “Can’t you just retrace your steps to find your way home?”

Hab’itt cocked his head and scratched behind his ear again. “Perhaps. Perhaps I have been overthinking the issue.”

me and Marisol“Dray, have you figured out how I was able to see the bunny right away, but mommy couldn’t see him until I pointed him out to her?” Marisol looked troubled.

Dray furrowed her brow and stroked her chin. “I believe it is because the rabbit is not of this world . . . as we define the word. You can see whatever exists in this world, no matter its place of origin, just as you can see through most spells of concealment, and just as you can see the true nature of any entity that has shapeshifted, transformed, or disguised their true nature through magical or physical means. But it is only through your power that others can see what you see.”

Marisol nodded and smiled. “I understand.” She looked at the big rabbit. “Well, I need to go home now, too, before mommy misses me. If you need to retrace your steps to find your way home, you need to go back to my yard, where I first saw you. Do you want to walk back there with me, Hab’itt?”

“It would be my pleasure, and my honor.” Hab’itt gave a sort of stiff bow and hopped slowly beside Marisol as she walked away. The little girl turned several times and waved goodbye to us.

Just before they turned the corner of the house, Hab’itt called back over his shoulder. “Dwarf! Tell the insufferable screechy one he is wrong. The rabbits in this yard enjoy your game. They realize they are in no true danger from you, and they are amused by your . . . colorful language.” He winked and disappeared around the corner.

“Eh, thet big critter be pretty smart! Tee-hee! Tha elfie will na be happy ta be hearin’ thet he be wrong aboot tha bunnies an’ I be right!”

Dwarf petting bunnyI chuckled as I watched one of the backyard rabbits stretch up to sniff at my Old Dwarf. It almost looked as if the rabbit were trying to entice the dwarf to chase him again. The dwarf absently started petting the animal.

I turned to Dray. “So, where do you think Hab’itt came from?”

“Not from this world . . . as we define the word.” She winked. “But how he traveled from his world to this one, I could not say.”

“I would na be worrin’ much aboot it. The big critter dinna be seemin’ dangerous.” My Old Dwarf was still petting the rabbit.

Dray nodded but frowned. “No, I daresay the rabbit meant no harm. However, if creatures from his world are in the habit of making these journeys, mayhap the next one that wanders through here might not be so benign.”

As Dray and I mulled over that dire possibility, my Old Dwarf suddenly yelped. “Ye consarned little scamp! Ye been nippin’ me!”

The chase is on againAnd the chase was on again, with the rabbit staying just out of range of the axe being wildly swung about by the dwarf, as the rotund figure huffed and puffed along behind the little critter, turning the air blue with his colorful language.

I looked at Dray and smiled. “You know, I think Hab’itt knew what he was talking about. That little bunny looks perfectly happy.”

Dray nodded. “As does the dwarf.”

As the chase headed along the side of the house, toward the front yard, I called after them. “Stay on this property! We don’t want any problems with the neighbors!”

I hoped my Old Dwarf heard me.

I hope you’ll visit with me and my little band of displaced characters again next week. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Yet Another BIG Problem

Yet Another BIG Problem

Dragon in front of fireplaceI stopped short as I was walking past the open door to the conference room and did a double-take. There was Dragon, curled up in front of her illusory fireplace. The fire was roaring, and the leaping flames should have been enough to transform the entire house into a sauna, as had often been the case in the past. Yet, I realized, I was perfectly comfortable.

I scratched my head, and cautiously entered the room. The temperature felt only slightly higher on that side of the doorway than it had in the hallway. I furrowed my brow and walked across the room toward Dragon and her fireplace. As I approached, the temperature rose exponentially, until I found myself bathed in sweat as I reached Dragon’s side.

Smoke rose from her snoutDragon opened one eye and glared at me. Without preamble, she immediately began complaining. “What is wrong with your Minnesota weather? It is only early September, and already the temperature has fallen into what your heat-measuring devices register as the thirties.” Angry black smoke rose from her snout. “The thirties! That is winter weather!”

I laughed. “Yes, I saw the temperature this morning was only 36 degrees Fahrenheit. But that was a fluke.”

Dragon scoffed. “A fluke? You mean an aberration? An anomaly? Not something normal for this time of year? I have a better name for it, human! An abomination! Your Minnesota weather is an abomination!

Comfortable autumn weatherI stifled a chuckle and tried to look sympathetic. “I know, I know. I’m not happy about it, either. But it’s not going to last. According to the weather forecast, we should be enjoying some extremely comfortable autumn weather for the next several weeks, with temperatures ranging into the high seventies most days, and only dipping to the mid forties overnight.”

“Well, that is somewhat better.” Dragon closed her eyes, but continued grumbling under her breath, and smoke continued to drift from her nostrils.

I chuckled and walked away. Stopping by the door, I called back to Dragon. “By the way, I must commend you. You seem to have found a way to bask by your fireplace without roasting the other inhabitants of the house.”

Dragon with smoke bubblesDragon turned blue, and the smoke started dripping like bubbles from her nose, as typically happened when she was embarrassed. “Errr, yes . . . well . . . when Ollie visited, he did suggest it would be only polite of me to find a way to control the heat . . . you know, out of consideration for my fellow characters and for you and Master Miles.”
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2020/08/16/an-old-friend-to-the-rescue/

Ollie (10)I smiled. “I knew I liked that big Old English Sheepdog!”

Mmmmm so do IDragon slowly morphed to her favored hue of deep red, and a dreamy look settled on her face. A silly smile pulled at her reptilian lips, as she nodded. “Mmmmmm . . . so do I.”

I shook my head. “Well, on that note, I think I’ll go up and see if Miles has lunch ready yet. Are you coming?”

* * *

Old Dwarf chasing rabbitDragon in front of fireplaceAfter lunch, Dragon returned to her fireplace, and I retired to my office to try to come up with some ideas for my weekly blog. As I gazed absently out the window while turning over several ideas in my mind, I saw my Old Dwarf chasing after a rabbit. He was threatening the creature with his axe, and even through the closed window, I could hear the old rapscallion cussing up a storm.

“I be gittin’ ye this time, ye consarned, ornery liddle critter, jest ye be seein’ iffin I do na! It ne’er be makin’ no nevermind how oft I be tellin’ ye ta be stayin’ outten Mistress Writer’s carrot patch, ye al’ays be sneakin’ in dere an’ be snitchin’ tha bestest carrots! Wale, thet be endin’ right here and now, ye furry little scobberlotcher! Ye cumberground! Ye quisby! Ye useless liddle smell-feast!”

I sighed and tried to ignore the kerfuffle, knowing full-well my Old Dwarf would never actually harm the rabbit. Both dwarf and rabbit seemed to enjoy these routine chases, the rabbit often stopping and waiting for his pursuer if the dwarf fell behind. The rabbit always managed to stay out of range of the dwarf’s weapon, whether by the critter’s own speed and skill, or by the fact that it really was just a game to the dwarf.

However, today’s hoo-hah was too loud and too prolonged to ignore. I left my office and headed to the backyard.

“Hey! Are you tormenting that poor, defenseless, little animal again?” I winked at my Old Dwarf, who abandoned the chase and sat down on the steps of the gazebo, huffing and puffing.

“Nay, lass! Ye be knowin’ thet I do na be harmin’ ’em none. I jus’ be ’splainin’ ta ’em thet he should na be pilferin’ all tha bestest carrots outten yer garden.”

Upset elf“Not harming him? Not harming him?” My Arrogant One joined the conversation, drawing himself up, rocking back on his heels, grasping his cloak with both hands, and screeching like a banshee at the dwarf. “You are terrorizing that poor creature, chasing him around, threatening him with your axe, and yelling obscenities at him at the top of your lungs.

My Old Dwarf snorted and looked up at the elf. “Eh, do na be gittin’ yer knickers in a twist! Ye be gittin’ more upset aboot it all then tha bunny be, elfie.”

Do not call me elfie!”

I took a quick inventory of the windows on the back of the house, checking for shattered glass, before turning back to my two characters. Before I could say anything, however, someone else joined the conversation.

“It would appear to me that there are good arguments on both sides of the issue.”

The deep, rumbling voice came from the other side of the gazebo. A moment later, a sleek, reddish-brown, six-foot-tall rabbit hopped up onto the structure and looked curiously at the dwarf and the elf.

Six-foot-tall rabbit on gazebo

My Old Dwarf chuckled. “Nay, elfie. Ye will na be makin’ a fool o me agin wit thet illusion.”

“Yeah, give it a rest.” I frowned at my Arrogant One. “It wasn’t funny the first time.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/07/07/hello-neighbor/

The elf blanched and shook his head. “I have created no illusion.”

RabbitThe rabbit appeared offended. He scrunched up his face, he flattened his ears against his back, and he thumped one hind foot. “Indeed, he has not! Hrumph! Do I look like an illusion?”

As the rabbit rose to his hind legs and glowered at us, my Arrogant One screeched and took off for the presumed safety of the garden shed.

My Old Dwarf kept an eye on the giant lagomorph as he addressed me in a dry voice. “Mebbe yer mister should be invitin’ this one ta dinner. It be lookin’ liken it be in tha carrot patch more’n oncet, and would be the makins’ o a fine rabbit stew.”

The rabbit curled his upper lip in obvious contempt. He looked the rotund dwarf up and down. “And you, sir, appear to have spent considerable time at your trough. Perhaps you would be the makings of a fine pig roast.”

Instead of taking offense, my Old Dwarf slapped his knee and doubled over, laughing until tears ran down his cheeks. “Thet be a good un! Ye be havin’ a fine wit aboot ye, rabbit.”

“What is going on here? Why has that blasted elf been shrieking? How am I to sleep with all that caterwauling? I have been courteous enough to keep the heat from my fireplace confined. Can the elf not be as considerate and curtail his noise? I thought he was going to shatter my crystal chandelier!”

The rabbit, the dwarf, and I all swung around and looked at the new speaker. Dragon was stomping down the stairs from the deck, black smoke spewing from her snout.

Rabbit and dragonMy Old Dwarf chuckled. “Eh, it be nuttin, beastie. Tha elfie been illusionin’ a big bunny, liken he been doin’ oncet afore. Then he been actin’ all skeerdidy-like, as iffins he dinna been knowin’ the critter be a fake, and then the liddle popinjay been runnin’ off.”

The rabbit pinned his ears back again and thumped his hind leg once more. His deep voice rumbled with anger. “I told you before, I am not an illusion.”

“Iffins ye be sayin’ so, bunny.” The dwarf chuckled again.

Dragon gave the oversized creature a perfunctory glance. “The rabbit is correct. He is not an illusion. Now, where is that annoying elf?”

wide-eyed“What?” I gaped, first at Dragon then at the rabbit. The former merely looked annoyed, but the latter gave me and the dwarf a smug look.

“I asked the whereabouts of the elf.” Dragon spewed some more smoke.

“No . . . not that. What did you say about the rabbit?”

Dragon with smoke bubbles2“I said he is not . . .” Suddenly it appeared that Dragon’s rational mind prevailed over her anger at the elf, and she realized exactly what she had said. Gaping at the rabbit, Dragon turned blue, and the clouds of smoke turned to bubbles, dripping from her nose. “He is not an illusion,” she finished weakly.

“He do na be an illusion?” My Old Dwarf’ eyes grew as large as saucers and he gulped.

“He isn’t an illusion?” My eyes were probably as large as my Dwarf’s.

“I. Am. Not. An. Illusion.” The rabbit confirmed what Dragon had said, speaking slowly and distinctly, as if talking to obtuse children. My two characters and I stood, speechless, gaping at the six-foot-tall creature.

Gaped 2

Why is there a six-foot-tall rabbit in my backyard? Where did he come from, and what does he want? Be sure to come back next week and see if we can get to the bottom of this. I’ll leave the porch light on for you. Oh, yeah – you might want to bring some carrots. Big carrots!

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A Birthday Wish Come True

A Birthday Wish Come True

Bastina dropping off MarisolWe had just finished setting up the party in the backyard Saturday morning when Bastina arrived with Marisol. After a quick thank-you to all of us and a reminder to her daughter to mind her manners, our neighbor drove off.

As soon as her mother was out of sight, Marisol dashed to the backyard. The disappointment in her face was obvious. As she turned to Dray, her lower lip quivered, and her eyes grew moist. “Dray? I . . . I thought I was going to see the horses.”

Party was set up“The day is young, child. Be patient.” Dray pointed to the gazebo, festooned with bunting and banners. Refreshments were set out on tables, and a pile of presents awaited the birthday girl.

Marisol’s jaw dropped and her eyes grew round. She slowly walked over to the gazebo, noting the Happy Birthday sign and the tables laden with cakes and beverages. She stopped and pointed to the boxes adorned with festive paper and bows. “Are . . . are these for me?”

Are these for me

Dray nodded. “There is a small something from me among those gifts, but my special present will come later, after refreshments.”

Marisol’s grin stretched ear to ear, and she nodded her understanding to Dray.

Start by opening presents“Happy birthday, Marisol!” I placed my hand on the child’s shoulder. “Why don’t you start by opening these presents, and then we can all have some refreshments before Dray gives you her special present.”

Marisol nodded. The child carefully unwrapped each gift, taking care not to rip the paper. Her eyes lit up when she opened the first gift, a collection of story books and jigsaw puzzles, all featuring horses or dragons.

BD gift for Marisol from everyone else

YH and company with Marisol“We know that horses and dragons are your favorites, and your mom told us you are quite the reader, reading well above your age level, and you love putting jigsaw puzzles together. So, this is from the four of us.” My Young Hero pointed to himself, then gestured to the group around him – my Foreman, my Gypsy, and my Bounty Hunter.

“Oh, thank you! These are wonderful!” Marisol couldn’t stop smiling as she looked through the collection.

BD gift for Marisol from Cleric and SorceressSorceress and Cleric with MarisolThe next gift was a children’s book about herbs and wildflowers. “This is from Clara and me,” Sorceress told Marisol. “Your mother told us you have recently shown an increased interest in this subject. I think you will find the illustrations and anecdotes in this book quite extraordinary.”

“Oh, it is beautiful!” Marisol leafed through the book. “I’ll enjoy it very much! Thank you!”

BD gift for Marisol from me and MilesNext, Marisol opened the gift from me and Miles. “Oh! Binoculars! A book on birdwatching, and a journal to keep a list of the birds I see! Thank you!”

“I remember you saying you enjoy observing the birds. Miles and I thought this might assist you in that activity.”

GoldfinchMarisol tried out the binoculars. “Oh, these are great! I can see a Goldfinch on that feeder pole!” She immediately opened her new journal and laboriously wrote the day, date, and location, along with the name of the bird, twice asking for help with spelling. When she finished, she grinned at me. “I will make great use of this gift!”

BD gift for Marisol from DragonNext, Marisol opened a leather-bound notebook, with her name and a picture of a dragon and a horse on the front. “Oh, this is exquisite!” The child ran her hand over the cover before opening it.

Elf cleric“You can paste pictures in there, or draw images, or write your ideas, your desires, your hopes . . . whatever pleases you.” Dray smiled at Marisol, and the child nodded.

“Thank you! I will treasure this, Dray!”

Marisol reached for the last present on the table, a gift bag. In it were several hand-crafted figurines and a small charm bracelet.

Bastina and Marisol see dwarfOld DwarfMy Old Dwarf stepped up. “I been makin’ tha wristlet fer ye, lass. I be knowin’ ye be right partial ta horsies an’ dragons, but I been includin’ a bunny, too, causin thet be how ye been meetin’ alla usins, when ye been followin’ me when I been chasin’ a bunny rabbit. But I dinna be knowin’ iffins ye be o an age where ye be likin’ gew-gaws like thet, so’s I be carvin’ a few little figures fer ye, too. Ye kin be keepin’ ’em on a shelf in yer room, or inna box wit yer udder trinkets.”

“Oh, these are marvelous!” Marisol smiled at my Old Dwarf. “I do like jewelry, and I will wear this always!” She put it on her wrist. “It’s a perfect fit! And I know just where I can put the figures, where I can see them every night before I go to sleep!”

BD cake for Marisol with candlesMarisol spent a few more minutes looking at all her gifts while Cleric served the cake and ice cream. “I made individual cakes so everyone could have their favorite. I made you the orange chiffon you liked last time.” Cleric handed Marisol her cake and the little girl made a silent wish and blew out the candles.

While we were all eating, Miles nudged me. “Your Arrogant One felt the party was beneath him?”

I shrugged. “I’ve been wondering that same thing. I noticed he was missing but didn’t want to make a big deal of it.”

After everyone finished eating, Dray took Marisol’s hand and walked her to the barn. She murmured an incantation under her breath. From the look on Marisol’s face, the spell worked.Dray shows Marisol the horses

“Oh!” Marisol stared at the steeds, who looked curiously at the newcomer.

Black horseForeman facing right closeupMy Foreman gave a hand signal for his horse to step forward. “The black stallion is mine. His name is Centaur. Would you like to pet him?”

Marisol nodded wordlessly, and my Foreman lifted her in his arms and let her pet the big horse.

“Oh! He’s so soft!”Gypsy horse

Gypsy close-up facing right“This one is Gypsy, and he’s soft, too.” My Gypsy led his horse over and Marisol cooed over him, too.

Giving Hero an appleYoung hero 2“And this is my pony, Hero. He loves apples. Would you like to fee him one?” My Young Hero showed Marisol how to hold her hand flat and let the pony take the apple gently from her hand.

Marisol giggled. “His whiskers tickle!”

Suddenly, my Arrogant One stepped out of the barn, leading a three-quarter size horse. “Marisol? How would you like to ride a pony?”

AO leading pony from barn

Marisol gaped at the elf leading the pinto to her and squealed. “Really? You’d let me ride?”

Arrogant One with Marisol and horseThe elf nodded. “Of course. This animal is quite gentle and will be an excellent mount for you.”

“Oh, yes! Yes, please!” Marisol seemed beside herself.

I rushed over to my Arrogant One. “No tricks.”

He gave me a look of pure innocence and continued talking to Marisol. “His name is Pegasus. Here, let me help you mount.”

Once Marisol was securely in the saddle, my Arrogant One led the pony around, first at a slow walk, then a little faster.

“Are you comfortable?” The elf brought the pony to a stop.

“Oh, yes!” Marisol’s eyes were shining as she leaned forward and patted the pony on his neck.

“If I give you the reins, do you think you could handle the pony on your own?”

I stepped forward. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“Please? I’ll be very careful,” Marisol pleaded.

The elf scoffed. “I will not allow the child to be harmed.”Riding by herself

Without waiting for permission, my Arrogant One handed the reins to Marisol.

“What do I do? How do I tell the pony to walk?”

My Foreman and the lads hastened to her side. My Foreman instructed the child in the basics of walk and trot, and how to stop the pony. The lads walked beside her, one on each side, until she was comfortable with controlling her mount.

“That was a nice thing to do.” I walked up behind my Arrogant One.

“You need not sound so surprised.” He sneered.

“Actually, I do. This is not exactly in character for you.”

AO learning magicThe elf turned to me, a wistful smile pulling at one side of his mouth. “When I was but little older than her, I wanted nothing more than to learn the art of illusion. I remember how thrilled I was when someone not only invited me to watch them perform some illusions but encouraged me to learn some of them. They spent all afternoon with me, teaching me, and then giving me space to try on my own. When something means so much to a person, even a little encouragement can mean the difference between elation and heartbreak.”

I raised an eyebrow at the elf, surprised that he would share something so profoundly personal.

Then he shrugged. “Besides, the beast ordered me to do it.” He turned from me and walked back to Marisol. “Do you know why he is named Pegasus?”

Marisol tilted her head and stroked her chin. “Pegasus was a figure in Greek mythology. Mommy and I read a book about him. He was a winged horse.” Her eyes grew large. “Does this horse have wings?”

The elf winked at her and nodded. Suddenly, the horse she was riding changed. In an instant, the saddle was gone, and the horse sprouted wings. “Hold the mane and ask him to fly.”

I screeched as the pony leaped into the air, but my Arrogant One held his hand out toward the pony, keeping it just a foot or so off the ground.

Marisol didn’t say a word, but the expression on her face spoke volumes. She looked like she had never enjoyed herself so much.

“Beast?” My Arrogant One looked at Dray questioningly.

She nodded, and shape-shifted into her true form, taking to the air with Marisol and Pegasus as my Arrogant One dropped his hand and his control over the winged horse.

FlyingMy heart just about stopped, and I held my breath as I watched Dragon and Marisol fly higher, circling the treetops for several long minutes. Then they floated back to the ground. Dragon changed back into Dray, and Pegasus was once more just a saddle horse. I think that was when I remembered to breathe again.

Marisol jumped out of the saddle, radiating joy and awe. Her eyes sparkled and a huge grin spread across her face. “Oh, thank you! Thank you, everyone! Thank you, elf, thank you, Dray! I will never forget this birthday as long as I live!”Marisol hugging Dray

We hope you enjoyed Marisol’s birthday party. Be sure to get a piece of cake and some ice cream before you leave, and please join us again next week for more exciting adventures with my little band of displaced characters. I’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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The Summer of Dragon’s Discontent

The Summer of Dragon’s Discontent

“Honey?”

InventoryI looked up as my husband entered the kitchen, where I was inventorying the contents of the refrigerator before moving on to the pantry. Tomorrow was grocery shopping day, and I wanted to make certain my list was complete.

MilesMe“What’s the problem?” Noting his annoyed look, I put down the list and gave him my undivided attention. “Did one of my characters get into some mischief again?”

 

“I’m not sure. Have you noticed how warm it is?” Miles took out a handkerchief and mopped his brow.

I nodded and frowned. “I have noticed, but I thought it was just me. I’ve been scurrying around here this morning like a chicken with my head cut off.”

ThermometerMiles shook his head. “No, it’s not you. It’s hot in the house. Too hot. It’s almost ninety degrees in here, and it’s only sixty-eight outside. I already checked the thermostat to make sure no one had accidentally turned on the heater. The slide switch was sitting right in the middle, between heat and air conditioning, in the off position.”

“So, why is it so hot in the house?”

We looked at each other for a moment, then both turned and yelled, “Dragon!

Dwarf with apple“If ye be lookin’ fer tha beastie, she been in tha con-fer-ence room, lastest I been seein’ ’er. She prob’ly still be there. She dinna be lookin’ much liken she be wantin’ ta be movin’.” My Old Dwarf entered the room, chomping on an apple. He made a beeline for the refrigerator. Holding the remains of his apple between his teeth, he started pulling out two loaves of bread along with everything that could conceivably go on a sandwich, and a whole lot that couldn’t, rendering my shopping list useless.

“You better go see what she’s up to.” Miles spoke to me but scowled at the dwarf. “I’ll stay here and try to make certain your Old Dwarf doesn’t eat us out of house and home.”Dragon in front of fireplace

I found Dragon in the conference room, as my Old Dwarf had predicted. She was curled up in a tight ball, sound asleep, in front of her blazing illusory fireplace. She had morphed to black. Her color often reflects her mood, I reminded myself.

“Dragon?” I tiptoed over to the beast and cautiously poked at her, but she did not stir. “Dragon!” I shouted practically in her ear. I had to shout several more times before she half-opened an eye. She greeted me with a growl.

“Nice to see you, too.” I frowned.

Smoke drifting from Dragon's snoutDragon’s eyes narrowed dangerously, the tip of her tail started twitching, and acrid smoke drifted from her snout. “I do not wish to be disturbed. I wish to warm myself.”

I scoffed. “You’ve made this room hotter than a dwarven forge with your illusory fireplace! And the whole house is like a sauna!”What happened to summer

Dragon nodded. Her reptilian lips stretched in a smile, revealing terrible, dagger-sharp teeth. “It is my only defense against your Minnesota weather.” She sat up and morphed back to her normal red color. “What happened to summer? Last week, it was deliciously hot. This week is it freezing!”

I snorted. “Hardly freezing! The temperature outside right now is a comfortable sixty-eight degrees Fahrenheit.”

Angry Dragon (2)“Comfortable for whom?” Black smoke plumed from her snout again. “In case you have forgotten, I am a creature of fire and heat, raised in the burning sands of the desert. When it reaches one hundred on your devices that record the heat, it is finally warm enough for my comfort.”

I glared at her. “Well, it had better not reach one hundred in this house! If you are cold, shape-shift to the form of a person and put on a coat. Or create an illusory desert to visit. Just keep the temperature in this house comfortable for the rest of the occupants, if you don’t mind!”

The beast’s tail twitched, and her reptilian eyes narrowed. “I do mind.”

“What?” I was taken aback by her response.

“I do mind.” She started to pout. “The comfort and care of every other occupant of this house is catered to before mine. I do not hear you complaining when your Old Dwarf raids the refrigerator a dozen times a day.”

“If you don’t hear me complain about that, it’s because you don’t listen very well.” I stared at Dragon, my brow furrowed and my hands on my hips. “What’s gotten into you, anyway? I’ve never heard you complain about not being treated the same as the others.”

“If you do not hear me complain about that, it is because you do not listen very well.” The beast turned my words back on me.

I gaped at the huge reptile. I had never before heard her complain about her treatment.

Continuing to pout, Dragon seemed intent on declaring every slight she felt she had suffered since falling out of one of my manuscripts and becoming stranded in this, the real world.

SingsongDragon,” she sing-songed. “The Foreman, the Gypsy, and the Young Hero miss their horses. Create some illusory mounts for them. Dragon, the Foreman misses his old life. Create an illusory world for him so he can feel useful again. Dragon, the Arrogant One is causing problems with his magic. Deal with him. Dragon, some neighbors have seen the illusory stable and horses. Do something. Dragon, the Young Hero is having nightmares. Help him. Dragon, something strange is happening. Investigate. Dragon, your fireplace is making the house too hot for everyone. Get rid of it.”

The beast paused to take a breath, glaring at me with an anger I had never before seen her direct toward me.

angry dragon

“The house is too hot for everyone?” She snarled. “Am I not part of the everyone living here? With all I do for everyone here, is not my comfort as important as that of the others?”

 

At a loss for words, I stood gaping at Dragon as she morphed back to black and curled up in front of her fireplace once more.

Dragon in front of fireplace

* * *

“Ye been noticin’ summat strange aboot tha beastie?”

Dwarf with sandwichWith his mouth full of the huge bite he had just taken from his sandwich, the Old Dwarf’s words came out more like “Yebenotsinsummitstrgeabotthabeasty?”Miles talking to dwarf

Miles gaped at the rotund figure. “What?”

The dwarf swallowed his food, took a big swig of dwarven brew to wash it down, then repeated himself. This time, Miles managed to follow the gist of the dwarf’s question.

“You mean stranger than just being a dragon, in a world where dragons don’t exist?” Miles raised an eyebrow at the dwarf. “No, I can’t say I’ve noticed anything else strange about her.”

The dwarf chuckled. “After us-ens bein’ here in yer world all this time, ye still do na be acceptin’ us, be ye? Ye be actin’ all tha time likens ye be wakin’ up some day an’ be findin’ all o us-ens ta have been jus’ a bad dream.”From Nicki 146

“One can only hope,” Miles replied dryly.

The dwarf shook his head and took another bite of his sandwich. This time, he waited until he had swallowed it and taken another drink before speaking, all the time eyeing Miles curiously. “So’s, ye do na been noticin’ any change in tha beastie’s behavin’?”

Miles shook his head. “No. What sort of changes do you think I should have noticed?

“Wale . . .” He crammed the last bite of sandwich into his mouth and chewed on it, a pensive look on his face. He took his time chewing that bite and took an extra-long swallow of brew when he had finished. He squared his shoulders and faced Miles as he spoke. “Now, I do na be for sure certain aboot it, but it be seemin’ ta me thet tha beastie jus’ do na been ’erself lately. E’er since we been returnin’ from tha make-believe world what she an’ tha other magickers been creatin’ fer tha Foreman, the beastie been seemin’ . . .” The dwarf struggled to find the word. “She been seemin’ all oot o sorts, sulky-like. Likens summat be on ’er mind, be eatin’ at ’er..”

Out of sorts

Miles considered this. “Well, you know her better than I do. I thought the two of you shared a pretty close bond. You would, no doubt, notice things about Dragon long before anyone else would.”

The Old Dwarf sighed. “Mebbe. But thet do na be meanin’ I be knowin’ what ta be doin’ fer ’er.”Who

Walking in on the last of the conversation, I thought sadly, I’m not sure I know what to do for her, either. But I might know someone who would.

 

What can I do . . . what can any of us do . . . to help Dragon? Be sure to come back again next week and see to whom we might turn to help Dragon. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Eye, Eye, Eye!

Eye, Eye, Eye!

“What’s going on?” Crawford’s eyes were almost as wide as mine, his breathing almost as rapid.

“I wish I knew.”

My two companions, Crawford and Griff, gaped at me, and I realized I was shaking like a leaf. My mouth was dry, and my hands were sweaty as the three of us huddled in the center of a large backroom in the Chris-Tal Clear Metaphysical Store. The afternoon tea to which we had been invited was set out and waiting for us on a nearby table; but as we had been looking around, wondering where our hostesses were, the repast was not all we had seen. On three sides of us, the walls were watching us.

The walls were watching

Well, not precisely. Something appeared to be watching us. The walls were covered with staring eyes.

Eyes have been watching meAs we continued to crowd together, shrinking from the gawking eyes, I quickly brought my companions up to speed. I explained how several times in the past few weeks I had felt as if someone or something had been watching me at my house. I described the appearance of pairs of eyes watching me from my bedroom ceiling, from my computer monitor, and from the French doors opening from my living room to the deck.

Griff protects usAs I detailed the terrifying incidents, I could see Griff starting to change. In short order, a griffin stood with Crawford and me, his wings extended protectively around us. His wicked beak snapped, his lionish tail whipped back and forth, and one taloned foreleg rose, claws extended threateningly.

Crawford slumped against the creature’s feathery shoulder. “It’s times like this when I really appreciate Griff’s abilities.” The man turned toward me as he spoke. “So, now what do we do?”

I shrugged. “I’m not sure. Each time I saw the eyes watching me at my house, they disappeared almost immediately after I had noticed them. These eyes don’t seem to be going anywhere.”

Crawford furrowed his brow and stroked his chin. “Do you think Christine and Talia are behind it?”Talia enters room

“Do you think Christine and Talia are behind what?”

Startled, I looked in the direction of the voice, which sounded simultaneously annoyed and amused. Talia, one of the co-managers of the store, was standing causally by an open door I had not previously noticed.

In response, I pointed at one of the walls. Then I blinked. The wall was devoid of any eyes. I looked at the other two walls, but they, too, looked completely normal.

afternoon tea

Talia gave me an arch look. “I repeat – do you think Christine and Talia are behind what?”

Griff2Griff took a few steps forward. I was startled. Just a moment ago, he had been in his true form, that of a griffon. Now, in the blink of an eye, he was back to his assumed identity of a very human-looking being.

“We were just wondering if you and Christine were behind this fantastic tea, or if you had it catered.”

Talia laughed a deep, throaty laugh. “What? Are you casting aspersions on our cooking? Didn’t we impress you with our culinary skills the last time we invited you and Crawford to a meal?”

Griff and Crawford grabbed their stomachs and pretended to gag.

”Oh, no, we were quite impressed by your cooking . . . as were the staff of the emergency room when we both showed up there the next day with food poisoning!” Crawford winked.

afternoon teaTalia laughed again. “Don’t listen to them, Marge. They’re just teasing. Christine made the food for the last meal we shared, a festive Yule nosh, and no one got sick.” She gestured toward the table with the offerings for today’s tea. “I prepared today’s spread, and I can assure you it’s perfectly fit for human consumption.”

I forced a smile, then glanced around at the walls again, looking for signs that we were still under observation.

“So, where is Christine?” Crawford looked around, too. “It’s not like her to be late to eat.”

“She was just finishing up in the office. We were doing inventory today.”

I turned back toward Talia. “Oh, that reminds me. When I got here, I tried the front door. When I found it locked, I looked in the window. What happened to your store? It looked totally trashed.”

Another deep, throaty laugh. “Oh, that’s just our security system. If it looks like the business is derelict, no one will bother trying to break in.”

“I see. And are disembodied eyes part of your security system?” I arched an eyebrow at the other woman.

“Disembodied eyes?”

Chris enters roomWe all turned toward the new voice, a thin, reedy voice that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Christine glided into the room, looking as dreamy and diaphanous as the first time I had met her. “What is this about disembodied eyes?”

My companions and I explained to Christine and Talia what we had seen here in the backroom of their store. I also detailed the recent incidents at my house. As I spoke, their eyes got wider and wider.

 

 

“Are you positive of what you saw?” Talia’s voice was strained.

“I’m sure.” I nodded.

“Well, that certainly can’t be good.” Christine chewed on her lower lip for a moment, then brightened and gestured toward the table. “Well, we can’t do anything about it now. Why don’t we enjoy our tea?”

Taking Marisol by the handBefore any of us could respond, Talia spoke. “Yes, I’m afraid our other guests cancelled at the last minute. We had invited Marisol and her mother here, too. This was going to be a sort of celebration for the child.”

“Wait! You know Bastina and Marisol?” I gaped at Talia. “When we came to you for help with the child, I suspected you knew of whom we spoke, but you never actually confirmed you already knew them.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/09/15/do-we-get-any-answers/

Talia shrugged. “Well, because we didn’t. We only met recently. Christine and I needed a new supplier for our herbs, so we checked out a few local places. When they were unable to supply what we needed, someone suggested the herb shop that Bastina and her sister, Danica, manage.”

Christine nodded. “While we were there, we met the child, Marisol. We immediately realized she was the one of whom you and Dray spoke when you asked for our help.”

Talia smiled at me warmly. “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 wrinkled my brow. “I’m sorry Marisol and her mom weren’t able to come, then. But what of Dray? I don’t believe she received an invitation.”

“Oh, didn’t Dray get her invitation?” Christine frowned. “It must have gotten lost in the mail. But you should have brought her with you. You must have realized we would have invited her.”More eyes

I narrowed my eyes and tried to gauge the woman’s sincerity. Gradually, I realized something else was studying Christine as well. A huge, ornate pair of eyes was slowly materializing in mid-air behind her and Talia.

I screamed.

 

 

What is going on? Will I ever find out? Be sure to come back again next week and see if any answers are forthcoming. We’ll leave the porch lights on for you.

The Eyes Have It

The Eyes Have It

Backyard 050“I’m starting to think you’re right.”miles for blog 2 003

Miles gave me a surprised look. “Historic moment! My wife admits I’m right about something. Now . . . about what, exactly, am I right?” He cocked an eyebrow at me questioningly.

Falling out of manuscriptI stuck out my tongue at him. “Very funny. I often admit you’re right, wise guy!” I frowned and chewed on my lower lip. “I’m starting to think you’re right about my characters. They’ve been gone on their illusory trip for more than three weeks. Maybe they did find their way back into the manuscript. Or maybe they do like wherever they went on their trip better than they liked living here with us. Maybe they don’t even remember us.” I sighed gloomily. “I just wish we knew for certain.”

Grocery billsMiles took my hand in his. “I know you miss them terribly. And, as much as I complain about them, I must admit I miss them, too.” But then he smirked. “Of course, I don’t miss the grocery bills!”

“There is that. May I presume we don’t need to go shopping again this week?”

Miles lifted his eyebrows and shook his head. “If they don’t come back, I don’t think we’ll need to go grocery shopping for the foreseeable future, except for milk and other perishables.”

I sighed again. “Well, at least you and I have more time together.”

“Don’t sound so thrilled.” Miles winked and chuckled. “I’ve been thoroughly enjoying it.”

“So have I, honey!” I gave him a quick peck on the cheek. “But I’m afraid I won’t be spending this afternoon with you.”

Miles frowned. “Oh? Why not?”

“I received an invitation from Christine and Talia, from the Chris-Tal Clear Metaphysical Store. They would like me to join them for afternoon tea today.”

Chris and Talia

“Afternoon tea? And I’m not invited?” Miles pretended to pout for a moment before grinning.

I grinned back at him. “Nope, sorry, the invitation was just for me.”

Miles furrowed his brow. “Just you? Not you and Dragon?”

I shook my head. “Just me.”

Dragon studying scrollMiles started pacing. “Isn’t that a bit odd? Why would they invite just you, and not Dragon? Wasn’t Dragon with you when you first met Christine and Talia? And wasn’t it Dragon to whom they provided two much-needed spells?”
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/09/15/do-we-get-any-answers/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/09/22/an-unfulfilling-resolution/

I cocked my head and rubbed my chin. “I never thought about that, but you’re right. It is odd that they didn’t include Dragon . . . not that she’s here to accompany me.”

“Maybe they know she’s not here?” The furrow in Miles’ brow deepened. “Maybe they’re the ones who have been watching you?”
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2020/01/05/7507/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2020/01/12/the-eyes-of-the-something-are-upon-me/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2020/01/19/eyell-be-seeing-you/

My eyes widened at that thought, but before I could say anything, Miles continued. “Marge, something doesn’t feel right. Maybe you shouldn’t go there alone.”

I shrugged uneasily. “I’ve already accepted the invitation. Besides, what’s going to happen? I don’t think Christine and Talia are dangerous.”

“But you don’t really know much about them. And who else is going to be at this afternoon tea?” Miles was really frowning now, and I could see the worry in his eyes.

“I wasn’t apprised of the guest list. But really, Miles!” I gave my husband a reassuring hug. “I’m sure I’ll be just fine.”

I hoped I sounded more confident than I felt.

Later that day, I drove to the small town where Chris-Tal Clear Metaphysical Store was located. As I approached the area of the hamlet where the store was located, the streets seemed dirtier, the buildings looked more dilapidated, and more of the businesses appeared derelict than they had the last time I was there.

 

Looking in windowWhen I reached the store, I parked my car and walked up to the storefront. There were no lights on inside, and the front door was locked. I took my hand and tried to wipe away some of the grime from the window. When I peered inside, all I saw were empty shelves and overturned display cases. I gasped.

Wondering what was going on, I decided to go around to the back door. As I rounded the corner, I almost ran into two figures walking along the alleyway.

“Well, hello!”Met Crawford and Griff

I was startled to see Crawford and Griff. Crawford was an acquaintance whom I first knew as a repair technician. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/03/17/not-exactly-deja-vu-all-over-again/

Later, I had discovered Crawford was also a writer and member of the writers’ group Lost in the Words. He was the one who had directed me to Christine and Talia when one of my young neighbors caused a baffling problem. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/09/08/still-looking-for-answers/

“Hello!” I returned Crawford’s greeting with a smile.

Invitation 2“Are you here for the afternoon tea?” Crawford held up his invitation, a gilt-edged square embossed with black lettering.

“Yup.” I produced my own invitation, identical to his.

“Isn’t Dray with you?” Griff looked disappointed. Like my own characters, Griff had arrived in this world from the pages of a manuscript. He and Dragon were very taken with each other.

“No, she’s not.” I chewed on my lower lip while trying to decide how much to divulge. “She and my other friends are on a trip at the moment.”

“Oh.” Griff’s shoulders slumped.

Crawford reached out and patted Griff’s arm. “Well, we better go in. We don’t want to be late.” He reached out and opened the door.

afternoon teaInside, the room was bright and airy, with sunshine pouring in the windows. A nice afternoon tea had been set, but the room was otherwise empty. There was no sign of Christine or Talia.

Crawford looked at me and shrugged. “I guess it would be rude to start without our hostesses.”

I looked longingly at the delicious treats but nodded my agreement to Crawford. Suddenly I gasped.being watched at afternoon tea

“What is it?” Crawford turned to me.

I pointed. There on the wall, over one of the windows, a pair of eyes watched us.

Before Crawford could say anything, Griff grabbed both of us and turned us toward the opposite wall. Another pair of eyes peered from a wall motif.

second wall

When I turned toward one of the remaining walls, I almost screamed. It was covered with eyeballs.third wall

“What’s going on?” Crawford’s eyes were almost as wide as mine, his breathing almost as rapid.

“I wish I knew.”

What is going on? Why are there eyes, everywhere, watching us? Where are Christine and Talia? Hopefully, some answers will be forthcoming next week. Be sure to come back. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.