Still Searching for Answers

Still Searching for Answers

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

“What’s wrong?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I nodded.

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, something involving magic.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crawford and Griff likewise had no knowledge of such power.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not Exactly Déjà Vu All Over Again

Not Exactly Déjà Vu All Over Again

For today's blog 001“Honey?”

My husband came into my office.

I looked up from the computer screen and saw a big frown on his usually cheery face. “Uh-oh. What did my characters do now?”

Miles laughed. “It isn’t your characters this time.”

“An historic moment! You’re frowning, and it isn’t because of anything my characters did!” I blinked. “Wait! This is weird. I feel like we’ve had this conversation before.”

Miles frowned and stroked his chin. “I get that same feeling. To quote baseball great Yogi Berra, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

I raked my hand through my hair and frowned. “Yeah, but I can’t quite remember the particulars.” I shrugged “Oh, well. Back to the problem at hand. If it isn’t my characters, then what is the trouble?”

“The heat element in the rain gutters out front doesn’t seem to be working. We’ve got icicles hanging from the gutters, and the beginning of an ice dam on the roof. There’s already a six-inch-thick glacier in the roof valley over the front porch, and I don’t think today’s temperatures will be high enough to melt it.”

I gaped at my husband. “Hold on! I’m sure we’ve had this conversation before!”

Miles wrinkled his brow. “I think you’re right, but how could that be?”

“We had problems with the heat element before. Let me check my files. I know I kept the receipt.”

looking for fileNote 2It took me about twenty minutes to find the receipt in the mess I termed my filing system. “Yeah, here it is. We had someone here to fix it in December of 2017. And the repair technician, Guy, attached a note to the receipt. It says if the heating element ever fails again, please call another company to deal with it.

“Oh, that’s right! How could we ever forget that? Your characters caused quite the hullabaloo. I thought Guy and his co-worker – I think his name was Bill? I thought the two of them were going to have coronaries!”

https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2017/12/17/just-another-typical-day/

I sighed. “Yeah. I remember that, too. And now the heating element isn’t working again?”

Miles nodded.

“Great. Well, why don’t we look at a few things before we make any calls?”

checked everythingWe checked that the unit was plugged in, we checked that the power switch was on, we checked that neither the ground-fault circuit interrupters nor the circuit breakers were tripped, and we checked everything else we could remember the repair technicians checking the last time we had a problem. They all looked ship-shape and Bristol fashion. We walked back to my office.

I frowned and chewed on my lower lip for a few minutes. “December 2017 . . . that was, what, 15 months ago?”

Miles nodded.

“Do you think we could risk calling the same company to send someone to look?

Miles shrugged. “Why not? I mean, what are the odds the same techs would still be working for that company?”

I brightened a bit. “True. Companies don’t seem to retain employees like they did years ago. I’ll give them a call and see if I can get anyone to come out.”

phone with caller IDI dialed the number and I was quickly connected to the company’s automated phone system. A recorded voice directed me to please listen to the entire message, as their menu options had recently changed.

I listened. The options sounded the same to me as they had 15 months ago – press one for sales, two for customer service. I pressed two. The same recorded voice told me to press one for billing inquiries or two for repairs and technical assistance. I pressed two, and got more options from which to choose. After navigating through all the correct options, I heard a different recorded voice sweetly advise me that all service representatives were helping other customers.

I looked over at Miles, who was waiting patiently next to my desk. “All service representatives are helping other customers. I guess they haven’t hired any more employees.” Back when we first contracted with them to install covered rain gutters and heating elements, the company only had a total of about a dozen employees, including Skit and Skat, co-vice-presidents in charge of rodent control in their warehouse.

Skit and Skat

The disembodied voice droned on, informing me that all calls were taken in the order received, and cautioning me to remain on the line. Then I was treated to some soothing music.

I glanced over at Miles again. “I’m on hold, with music. It sounds like the same crossover thrash version of the 1812 Overture, accompanied by yowling dogs and cats during a car crash that entertained me the last time I called them.”

noise 2

The music was blessedly interrupted at regular intervals by the sweet voice endlessly repeating how much they appreciated my business and assuring me that a customer service representative would be with me shortly.

Forty minutes later, I was finally connected with a live being, whose tired, irritated voice contrasted sharply with the sweet tones of the recorded voice on their automated system. After taking all the pertinent information, the representative put me on hold again, this time, blissfully music-free.

Another twenty minutes passed. I was beginning to think either I had been disconnected, or the customer service rep had forgotten about me. Then the tired, irritated voice came back on the line – this time sounding a lot more irritated. “Mrs. Tesch?”

“Yes, I’m still here.”

“Mrs. Tesch, our records indicate you just had the heating element replaced in December.”

December 2017I corrected the speaker. “December 2017.”

I heard the rep shuffling through some papers. “Oh, yeah, December 2017. Still, that’s only . . . what? 15 months ago? Why are you calling about it again? What’s the problem?”
eyes rolling
I sighed and rolled my eyes, even though I knew the other person couldn’t see me. “I should think that would be obvious. The problem is it’s not working again. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be calling for a repair technician to come look at it, would I?”

“Well, why isn’t it working?”
scowl
I scowled. “How should I know why it’s not working? Why don’t you just send a repair tech out here and let him determine why it’s not working?”

Completely ignoring that suggestion, the customer service rep proceeded to ask me questions. “Are you certain the heating element is plugged in?”

eyes rolling“Yes, I’m certain the heating element is plugged in.”

“Is the power switch in the on position?”

“Yes, the power switch is in the on position.”

eyes rolling“Are the ground-fault circuit interrupters tripped?”

“No, the ground-fault circuit interrupters are not tripped.”

“What about your circuit breakers?”

“None of the circuit breakers have been tripped.” I sighed. “Look, my husband and I have already checked out all the obvious things. We need a repair tech.”

I heard more shuffling of papers. “Well, Mrs. Tesch, we might be able to get someone out there next week. Or maybe we could refer you to another company?” The voice sounded hopeful.

I could almost feel the steam coming out of my ears. My voice dropped to a dangerous growl. “Look. By next week, the damage to the roof caused by the ice dams could be considerable and costly. We need someone here today.” When I got no response to that, I took a deep breath and pressed on. “Your company installed this system, and your repair techs worked on it last. So I suggest you get someone out here now.”

The voice responded, sounding considerably cowed. “Ah, yes ma’am. We’ll have someone there within the hour.”

Backyard 050MilesAfter hanging up the phone, I shared the details of the conversation with Miles, who looked impressed. “My wife, the tiger!”

I grinned. “Well, the tiger better go have a chat with her characters, so we don’t have a repeat of the last debacle! Care to accompany me?”

“Actually, no. I’d prefer not getting on the bad side of any of your characters, thanks.”

“Coward!” I gave Miles a quick peck on the cheek before scurrying off to round up my characters.

In less than 10 minutes, I had my characters rounded up and corralled in the conference room.

Elf facing rightCleric was the first to speak up. “Why did you wish to see us all here, Mistress? Is something wrong?”

I nodded. “There is a problem with the heating element in the rain gutters out front. The . . .”

Arrogant OneI was cut off mid-sentence. “Well, we certainly did not cause it!” My Arrogant One drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and grasped his cloak with both hands. My other characters nodded, and several muttered similar comments.

Dwarf“Aye, we be inn-o-sent, lass!” My Old Dwarf was beet-red, obviously upset at the notion he stood accused of anything.

I sighed and waved my hand dismissively. “I am not accusing anyone. I just wanted to let you all know the company is sending someone here to fix the problem.”dragon looking right

“The same repairmen they sent last time?” Dragon snickered.

I gave her a narrow-eyed glare. “I don’t know. What I do know is you are all to stay right here in the conference room until the repairmen finish their work and leave. I do not want a repeat of the trouble you caused last time.”

My Old Dwarf gaped at me. “But lassie! We just been tryin’ ta be helpful.”

I rounded on him. “Well, don’t. Just stay here, out of the way.”

My Old Dwarf’s face crumpled, and I almost felt bad about speaking so sharply. Almost. Until I remembered the murderous look in the dwarf’s eyes when Guy called him Gramps. And the looks on the repairmen’s faces when they witnessed Dragon change from her elf maiden guise to her true form.

“The repairmen will be here any minute. I don’t know how long it will take them to fix the problem. Not one of you is to leave this room until I come back here and tell you it’s okay. Understand?”

There was a lot of muttering and grumbling, but everyone nodded their understanding.

I headed up the stairs and had just reached the landing by the front entry when the doorbell rang. I opened the door to find an old man standing there, squinting through his coke-bottle glasses at a clipboard.

repairman

“Can I help you?”

The man looked up, startled. “Eh?”

I sighed, perceiving his eyesight was not the only sense with which he had problems. I raised my voice. “Can I help you?”

He relaxed. “Oh, yeah, maybe you can. Are you Mrs. Tesch?”

I nodded. “That’s me.”

He smiled hesitantly, and flashed me his company identification. “I’m Crawford. I was asked to look at your heating element.”
icicles
I pointed at the rain gutter, festooned with icicles. “There it is.” I pointed to the cord and the power switch. “It’s plugged in, the switch is on, and my husband and I have checked the ground-fault circuit interrupters and the circuit breakers.”

CrawfordCrawford looked taken aback. “Well, seems you folks did half my job for me.” He looked at the rain gutter and squinted at the notes on his clipboard, then turned back to me, grimacing. I wasn’t sure if the expression was directed at me, or if the man just had a touch of indigestion.

Crawford 3Suddenly, Crawford seemed a bit startled. He looked over my shoulder and seemed to be squinting at something behind me. I glanced behind me, but saw nothing. I turned back. Crawford was looking directly at me and giving me a big smile. “Well, Mrs. Tesch, why don’t you give me about an hour or so, and I’ll see if I can’t get this little problem resolved.”

Somewhat confused, I merely nodded. “Okay.” I looked in the direction of his truck but didn’t see anyone else. “Do you need some help? My husband could . . .”

“Oh, no, ma’am! The company frowns on non-employees assisting us. Insurance and all that, you understand.” Another big smile.

He turned to begin work, and I went back inside and returned to my chores. I thought Crawford’s estimate of an hour to be optimistic. I figured it would take the old man, working alone, several hours to complete the job.

I was surprised when, only about 40 minutes later, the doorbell rang. I ran to answer it.

Crawford stood there, a bill in one hand and a thick, flat cable in the other. “Here you go, ma’am. I replaced the heating element for you. The old one was damaged. It looks like a chipmunk or squirrel was gnawing on it, maybe last fall, and the melting snow just shorted out the unit. Happens all the time.” He showed me the damaged cable. I could see the bare wire and the scorch marks on the insulation.

After examining the damaged unit, I stepped outside and looked at the rain gutters and roof. The ice dams were gone, as was most of the snow.

“Wow! That was fast! How did you manage to clear all the ice and snow so quickly?”
Crawford 3
Crawford gave me a sly smile and a conspiratorial wink. “I have your friend to thank for that. Never could have done it without her.”

“My . . . friend?” I furrowed my brow and narrowed my eyes.

“Yeah.” He smiled again, looking like the cat that swallowed the canary. He leaned closer and lowered his voice. “You know, your dragon should get together with my griffin. I bet they’d have a grand old time together!”

Dragon and Griffon

Crawford leavingI gaped at him as he thrust the bill into my hand, turned, walked back to his truck, and hopped in. Before he drove away, Crawford rolled down his window and called back to me. “You know, there’s a great writers’ group that meets twice a month at the local Coffee Shoppe. Maybe I’ll see you there sometime. Be sure to bring your dragon!”

I stood gaping at the departing vehicle for several stunned moments. Then I turned and charged back into the house. “Dragon!

scaly dragon

Is it possible that other writers have had characters fall from their manuscripts? Hmmmmm. I guess we may never know for certain. Be sure to return every week to see what new adventures and misadventures await my band of displaced characters. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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

A Small Solution to a Big Problem

A Small Solution to a Big Problem

the knights pacedThe knights paced, wringing their hands and wincing at the sounds of Dragon’s screams. The beast continued to convulse, and cries of agony accompanied each tremor.

Sir Jenneseer 2“We must find a way to ease the beast’s pain!” Sir Jenneseer’s voice was raw with emotion. His furrowed brow and red-rimmed eyes mirrored the compassion and empathy for Dragon that was clearly etched on the faces of his companions.

sir daniver“I know of no way to help her.” Sir Daniver raked his hand through his hair and heaved a huge sigh. “The salve I applied to her wounds did little to alleviate the pain, and nothing to counter the cause. The drake’s venom is very powerful. It may prove fatal to friend Dragon.”

Sir Hrolf 2Arrogant OneSir Hrolf whirled and called to the Arrogant One, who was standing off to the side under a tree, scanning the hillside. “Elf! Is there nothing your magic can do for the beast?”

The Arrogant One scowled and shook his head. “I am not a healer. Even if I knew some basic spells of healing, I could not risk casting them. I still do not even know if the spell of concealment I cast worked properly.”

Sir Hrolf scoffed and slashed his arm downward in a dismissive gesture. “Surely it must have, else the drake would have been upon us by now.”

The elf sighed. “Mayhap. But, as I said, I am not a healer. Even if I was assured my magic would work perfectly, I do not have any skill in the healing arts.”

“But I know one who has such skill.” Sir Jenneseer spoke so softly, the others barely heard him. He repeated himself, louder.

Sir Daniver shook his head at his young charge. “Even if you know one, there is no way to safely leave this area to fetch a healer.”

The young knight blushed scarlet. “Not a healer, Sir Daniver. That is, not an ordained healer, like a cleric. But I do know someone who might help. And I am sure I can summon her here.”

The older knight gave him a quizzical look but brightened as the realization hit him. “Of course!” Sir Daniver smiled. “I had forgotten about your sister. She helped us search for the Lord of the Forest when we first discovered he was missing. She has healing powers?”
Summoning help
Sir Jenneseer nodded. “I am certain she does.” He reached into the pouch hanging on his belt and produced a stone, a heart-shaped piece of rose quartz. “She gave me this many years ago. She has its mate. We can communicate using the stones.”

Tasmin“There is no need, brother. I am already here.”

The three knights and the elf jumped and whirled to face the speaker, who stood just a few feet away.
Sir Jenneseer
“Tasmin!” Sir Jenneseer ran to his sister and embraced her warmly, then gently held her at arms’ length and gaped at her. “But . . . but how did you get here? And how did you know we needed your help?”

The hedge witch answered him with a tight-lipped smile. “The Lord of the Forest sent me news of your predicament. The unicorn provided me the formula and the ingredients for the antidote needed by yon beast. I will attend her. The four of you remain here.”

“Wait!” Sir Daniver’s eyes widened. “The Lord of the Forest lives? He is safe?”

“He is, but that is a tale for another time. Right now, your friend needs my help.”

* * *

Dwarf under weeping willowsThe Old Dwarf peeked out from under the branches of the stand of weeping willows. He had led the green drake down the hillside and across an expanse of forest. They had been playing cat and mouse for several hours, and the old warrior was tired. Iffins I kin jest be catchin’ me breath! He peered around but saw no sign of the monster. He leaned against the tree trunk and rested for another few moments. As he rested, he studied the deeply grooved trunk of the tree, and the easy handholds it provided. Nodding to himself, he grabbed hold of the tree and inched silently up the trunk and into the branches.

* * *

The green drake snaked through the underbrush, zeroing in on the scent of the frustrating creature he had stalked for more than two hours. Closer, closer, he edged toward the weeping willows and his quarry.

Gotcha! The drake pounced, but the rotund figure he had been stalking was gone. Impossible! Where did that little rodent go? The drake sniffed all around the weeping willows. The scent of the dwarf was strong, but the drake could not determine in which direction his small foe had gone. The creature growled and narrowed his eyes. Very well. I grow weary of this game. I will return to the hillside. The dragon should be dead by now, and the others will slake my appetite. The drake spread his wings and started to leap into the air, but a searing pain shot through his shoulder. He crashed to the ground, writhing in pain.

* * *

“Hehehe. Been ye lookin’ fer me, monster?” The Old Dwarf had caught the behemoth with his scalpel-sharp axe, neatly severing the tendons of one wing as the creature had been taking flight. “It jest be a real shame, be it not, thet I dinna be havin’ no poison ta be puttin’ on me blade.”

The dwarf dropped nimbly from the branches of the tree. He bent his knees as he hit the ground to absorb the impact of the fall, then he tucked his head and rolled onto his side. Then, he was up and running again, running for his very life, the wounded monster crashing through the trees right on his heels.

* * *

Hedge witchinjured dragonTasmin approached Dragon, carefully avoiding the convulsing beast’s flailing tail. She spread her arms and held her hands out, palm down, while she intoned an incantation. She felt another mind entering hers, and together the two minds tried to ease their way into Dragon’s mind. The intruding duo met with much resistance. Even mortally injured, Dragon’s will was strong. She fought the unknown invaders.

Sweat dripped from Tasmin’s brow, stinging her eyes. Her shoulders ached from holding her open-armed position. Still, she remained focused. She must reach Dragon and communicate. The beast’s life depended on it, as did her own, and the lives of her brother and his companions.

Slowly, the hedge witch and the mind linked with hers wormed their way through Dragon’s defenses. That’s right. Do not fear. We are here to help. Finally, Dragon understood, and quieted.

Tasmin took a large phial from her pouch and uncorked it. She slowly poured its contents into Dragon’s mouth, holding the beast’s head up. Be careful, my friend. Do not choke. And make sure you swallow every drop!

Tasmin gently eased Dragon’s head back onto the ground. The hedge witch stood and stretched. She beckoned her brother and his companions. “I have administered the antidote. The effects of the venom should soon be nullified. Then I will aid the beast in complete healing.”

“Aid her how?” The Arrogant One tilted his head and looked curiously at Tasmin.

Tasmin explained quickly. “As I am sure you are aware, in most circumstances, a dragon has the ability to heal itself of even the gravest illness or most terrible injury. But, in addition to her broken bones and torn flesh, your friend has been subjected to an almost lethal dose of poison from the green drake. It has slowed her natural ability to recover. I possess some skill as a healer. I will add my power to Dragon’s and help accelerate her recovery. I also act as a conduit for power greater than my own, power equal to Dragon’s. The Lord of the Forest will also lend his healing touch, through me.”

* * *

Return. Return to the clearing, to your friends.

dwarfThe dwarf cocked his head and tried to hear the voice. Eh?

Return to the clearing.

The dwarf shook his head at the voice in his head and continued running away from the clearing by the hillside. Nay! I canna be goin’ back ta tha clearin’! I canna be leadin’ this monster back ta tha udders, back ta tha beastie!

By the time you get to the clearing, all will be in readiness.
dragon looking right
Be tha beastie better? She do na be dyin’?

She is recovering.

Ye be tellin’ me true, you-nee-corn? The Old Dwarf puffed along, just ahead of the wounded drake.

Yes, venerable Dragon-friend. I am telling you the truth.

The rotund figure changed direction so fast he skidded right between the legs of his pursuer.

* * *

“We need to prepare our defenses.” Sir Daniver addressed the group. “Friend Dragon, it is good that you have recovered. You and the elf should prepare illusions, legions of dragons and knights, such as the ones with which you defended our castle last time you were in our lands.”Prepared
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/07/15/preparing/   and https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/07/22/home/

Dragon frowned. “That will not work against the drake, noble knight. He would immediately see the dragons and the knights were but illusion, no matter how solid and substantial they may be. It is one of the innate abilities of my kind.”

Sir Hrolf gasped and wiped the sweat from his brow. “We had been depending on that defense! If we cannot use illusion, what do you suggest? We certainly cannot use brute force. As mighty as you are, you were almost defeated by the drake in physical combat.”

Tasmin stepped forward, staring at the Arrogant One. “The elf holds the answer.”

arrogant one“What?”

Everyone gaped at the elf, who threw his hands up and gaped back at them. “I have no answers. If illusion will not work, what else have I to offer?”

The hedge witch gave the Arrogant One an enigmatic half-smile. “When the time comes, you will know what must be done.”

“Are you sure of this, Tasmin?” Sir Jenneseer gave his sister a sharp look.

“I am, brother. Do not worry. This is not just my opinion. I have it on good authority.” The hedge witch smiled again.

* * *

Green dragonDwarf facing rightThe Old Dwarf’s strength was flagging. His breath came in ragged gasps, and his heart pounded as if on the verge of bursting. Still, the rotund figure raced toward the hillside and the clearing beyond. He knew that one hesitation, one slip of a foot, one pause to take a breath, and he would be snatched up in the jaws of the monster that was so close on his heels, he could feel the drops of venom splashing from its maw onto his armor.

I be al’mos there. Jus’ a wee bit more an’ I be safe. The dwarf repeated those words like a mantra as he reached the hillside. With feet that felt like lead weights, the old warrior dropped to the ground and scrambled up the hill on all fours, grabbing saplings and grass and vines, and pulling himself up the steep incline. At the top, he somersaulted down the other side and into the clearing.

* * *

The others were waiting for the dwarf. As he tumbled into the clearing, Dragon snatched him and pulled him out of the path of the pursuing drake.

The drake, barely slowed by the almost-severed wing he dragged along, reared up to attack Dragon and the Old Dwarf, but the knights immediately set upon him. Unable to do any real damage, the knights still stabbed and slashed with their swords, harrying the monster and keeping him from his quarry.

As the drake whipped his tail around and swept his tormentors away, the Arrogant One leaped forward. Casting all doubt from his mind, the elf chanted a spell, articulating the words clearly and with confidence.

The drake roared. Within seconds, that roar was but a shrill whimper, as the hulking beast shrank to the size of a small terrier.

The elf grabbed the Old Dwarf. “Quick! Use your axe!”

Hardly aware of what he was doing, the dwarf brought his axe down, neatly severing the head of the miniaturized monster. The grizzled warrior promptly collapsed into Dragon’s arms.

* * *

Dragon and dwarfelf, knights, hedge witchMany hours later, the Old Dwarf awoke. He was in a luxurious bedchamber, on a cushiony mattress, his head on the softest of down pillows, with a warm comforter over his weary body. Dragon, in her favored guise of an elf maiden, was sitting next to him. The Arrogant One, the three knights, and a woman the dwarf did not recognize, were also crowded around the bed.

The old warrior sighed as he reached for Dragon’s hand. “Ye be na dead, beastie! Ye be na dead!” He patted her hand and gazed at her fondly, then abruptly scowled at her. “Do na e’er be doin’ thet ta me again! I ne’er been so afeared!”
Elf cleric close-upTasmin 2

Dragon laughed. “I am alive and well, thanks to Sir Jenneseer’s sister, Tasmin.” She gestured to the young woman, who nodded a hello to the dwarf. “Tasmin is a hedge witch with considerable healing power.”

The dwarf reached for Dragon, who helped her small friend into a sitting position. “Ah, thet be better.” He extended his hand to Tasmin. “I be right grateful ta ye, lassie.”

Tasmin blushed as she shook the dwarf’s hand. “I did have some help.”

The Old Dwarf looked around. “Wale, it be appearin’ likens we all be alive, though some o us be a bit worsen fer wear. Wot be happenin’ ta the drake?”

Dragon raised an eyebrow. “Do you not remember? The elf shrank him, and you decapitated him.”

“Ye been shrunkin’ ’em?” The dwarf looked impressed.

“It was a spell that created a small problem for me in the past (https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/10/14/a-small-problem/), but something . . . or someone . . . told me I could handle it this time.” The elf glanced over at Tasmin, who smiled.

“Wale I be plum speechless. Ye be right clever aboot thet, elfie!”

arrogant oneThe Arrogant One smiled smugly, looked down his nose at the dwarf, and stated calmly, “Do not call me elfie!”

Dwarf facing rightThe dwarf chuckled, then turned back to Dragon. “And where be tha you-nee-corn?”

“That is a long story, one I will share with you when we are back in the other world with Mistress Writer and the others. Speaking of which, come. It is time to go.”

After some heartfelt thank-yous and goodbyes were exchanged, Dragon, the Old Dwarf, and the Arrogant One left the castle and headed back to the spot where the Lord of the Forest would send them back whence they came.

* * *

That evening, we were all in the conference room. Dragon, my Old Dwarf, and my Arrogant One had related all that had transpired. Now, my Arrogant One was regaling his sidekick, my Bounty Hunter, (and anyone else who cared to listen) with the details of his exploits. Nearby, Dragon was back in her reptilian form, lounging in front of her illusory fireplace, a contented grin on her face. Flames periodically shot from her maw in the direction of my Old Dwarf, who giggled each time as he ducked behind his shield. “Ye be havin’ ta be faster than thet iffin ye be wantin’ ta be roastin’ me, beastie!” His eyes shined with affection and unwavering devotion for his old friend.

back home

Miles looked at me. “It’s good to have them all home again, safe and sound, isn’t it?”

I smiled and nodded.

Be sure to return each week to enjoy the adventures and misadventures of my little band of displaced characters. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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One Step Closer to . . .

One Step Closer to . . .

injured dragondwarf-facing-rightDragon thrashed and convulsed. The pain was excruciating, burning through her shattered body. But she heard a voice, a voice she knew well, the voice of a dear friend, a voice that should not be there. She must warn him! She struggled to say something, but only a scream of agony leapt from her lips. Then she fell silent.

* * *

dwarf“Oh, Beastie! Ye mus’ be keepin’ still! Ye mus’ be restin’ so’s ye kin be healin’ yerself!” The Old Dwarf swiped at the tears that streamed down his cheeks and soaked his grizzled beard. “Ye mus’ na be dyin’ on me, Beastie.”
Arrogant One
The rotund figure turned toward the Arrogant One. “Do ye be finished wit thet spell o hidin’ out yet?”

The elf frowned. “It is a spell of concealment, and I do not know if I am finished yet.” He wiped the sweat from his brow and dried his hands on his robes. “I have enunciated the proper incantation, but I have no idea if the spell was cast. If you will remember, I have been having difficulty controlling my power. Sometimes I cast a spell perfectly. Other times, my incantations produce no result at all. Still other times, a spell is cast, but it produces unintended results.” The Arrogant One lifted his hands, palms up, and raised his shoulders. “I have no idea if we are hidden from the drake.” He threw himself on the ground next to a tree. “I did warn you I would most likely be of no help.”
Sir Daniver 2
“Is there any way to check the results of the spell to see if it was cast and that the desired results were achieved?” Sir Daniver stared down at the elf.

“The only way we will know if it was successfully cast and produced the intended results is if the drake does not find us.” The elf looked apologetically at the knight. “I fear the only course open to us now is to wait.”

The Old Dwarf’s jaw dropped, and his eyes popped. “Ta be waitin’? Iffins we be waitin’ an’ tha spell do na be workin’, then we be tha creature’s dinner!”

The dwarf started pacing. He walked all the way around Dragon’s prone body which lay deathly still now, save an occasional shudder. He gave the beast a desperate look, reached down and stroked her muzzle again, then squared his shoulders and faced the others. “I do na be much likin’ thet plan. I be thinkin’, as wee as I be, I do na be easy ta be seen in tha dark. I be thinkin’ I best be skedaddlin’ outten here and be spyin’ on our unwanted neighbor, mebbe be coaxin’ ’em away.”

All three knights protested. “That is far too dangerous, good dwarf!” Sir Daniver shook his head emphatically.

“It be no more dangerous then it be ta jus’ be settin’ here on our bums, an’ be waitin’ fer tha monster ta be comin’ and eatin’ us.” The dwarf shouldered his axe. “Iffins yer spell be workin’, elfie, where be tha edge? Where do tha protected area be stoppin’ and tha unprotected area be startin’?”
Arrogant Oneinjured dragon
The Arrogant One stood and pointed at Dragon. “The beast is in the center of the area that should be encompassed by the spell. It is a roughly circular area that extends twice her length in every direction, to allow room for her thrashing and writhing. Everything inside should remain completely concealed to anyone outside that perimeter. No one outside should be able to see or hear those of us within the spell area.”

The Dwarf nodded. “Wale, I be leavin’ tha area. Iffin I do na be seein’ or hearin’ ye, I be supposin’ thet be meanin’ tha spell be workin’ good an’ proper like, and all ye be safe enuf while I be sayin’ me howdy-do’s ta tha drake.”

The Arrogant One grabbed the dwarf by the arm. “That will not work. First, you are a dwarf. You are not affected by magic, so you will still be able to see and hear us even if the spell worked properly. Second . . .”

But Sir Jenneseer interrupted, squaring his shoulders and grabbing his sword. “Then, it is up to one of us to test the spell. I will go.”

Sir Daniver stopped him. “No! I am the ranking knight. I will go.”

The elf shook his head. “No. I do not believe that will not work, either. That is the second thing I was going to explain to the dwarf. You were all within the affected area when I cast the spell. None of you are concealed from any of the others here. If one of you left the area, you would still be able to see and hear the rest, as well as be seen and be heard by us. And once you leave the protected area – presuming the spell actually took, and there really is a protected area – you would be seen and heard by anyone outside the area. The spell would not travel with you.”

The Old Dwarf scowled. “Ye be yammerin’ aboot too many iffins an’ whatnots. I be goin’. Mebbe I kin na be tellin’ iffin tha spell be workin’, but I kin be findin’ thet drake an’ be makin’ sure he do na be knowin’ tha whereaboots o all ye.”

Before anyone could stop him, the dwarf took off at a dead run and was promptly swallowed up by the dark shadows in the forest.

* * *

Drake watching 2The green drake had stopped his slow descent down the hillside. He could still taste the fear in the air, but it was much less pronounced than it had been just minutes before. He narrowed his reptilian eyes and scratched his chin with one long talon. What has changed? Why do they not fear as they did?

The behemoth risked raising his head and looking around. The moonless night had grown dark, but the drake’s exceptional night vision allowed him to see as clearly as in broad daylight. He looked down the hillside to the clearing, to the spot from which the smell of fear had emanated. The small clearing appeared empty. The drake reared back. What? How could they have moved the wounded dragon?

Out of the corner of his eye, the drake caught a slight movement. Something was making its way from the clearing through the trees and up the hillside. He sniffed the air. Intriguing! This creature does not smell of fear; rather, it exudes the overpowering scent of rage. Not as tasty as fear, but not too bitter a mouthful.

The creature slid down into the cover of the vegetation. Come to me, my tasty tidbit. You will make a satisfying appetizer. He smiled, his lips stretching over dagger-like teeth dripping with venom.

* * *

The Old Dwarf slipped silently from tree to tree, staying in the cover of the shadows. He moved slowly, with the skill and patience of one boasting centuries of practice stalking peerless foes.Dwarf hiding

He paused, cocking his head and cupping one ear. He could still hear the faint moans of his friend, Dragon, and the whispered conversations of the elf and the trio of knights. I be hopin’ real hard thet tha elfie’s magickin’ be workin’, causin iffin it do na be, thet drake’ll be hearin’ ’em fer sure! Do na they be havin’ brains enuff ta be keepin’ their moufs shut tight?

The rotund figure peered about, his sharp eyes almost slipping right over his quarry, so well camouflaged was the green drake in the shadowy vegetation. Once the Old Dwarf spotted the creature, he studied it for several minutes before making a move.

The dwarf turned and stomped loudly on a twig. Making sure the drake had heard him, the grizzled warrior took off at a dead run . . . and promptly tripped over a protruding root. He struggled clumsily to his feet, and started limping away, cursing under his breath. He could hear the drake bearing down on him.

The Old Dwarf tripped and stumbled his way along the hillside, farther and farther from his friends in the clearing. The drake was catching up with him quickly. The dwarf strained to stay out of reach of the deadly fangs and claws. Finally, he reached an area of almost impassable vegetation. His limp vanished, and he disappeared into the underbrush, scampering along like a mouse. Hehe. Be seein’ iffin ye kin be keepin’ up wit me now, ye accursed monster! Every so often, the dwarf made sure to make some noise, to keep the drake from abandoning the chase.

* * *

Unicorn and mermaidThe mermaid, resplendent with emerald green hair and scales, sat in the water by the edge of a pool. She stared into a large bubble hovering above her hand at eye level, watching a distant scene unfold. The green drake was crashing through the thick forest and dense underbrush, hot on the trail of the grizzled old dwarf. The plucky dwarf always managed to keep a few feet ahead of his pursuer.

“Why, that cunning rascal! He faked tripping over those protruding roots, to lure the drake away from the other dragon and her companions while the elf and the knights plan a defense. And the dwarf’s limp disappeared as soon as he reached adequate cover! He’s staying in an area of thick undergrowth, so the drake would be unable to see him at all if the monster took to the air! The dwarf has virtually grounded the drake.”

The unicorn, peering over the mermaid’s shoulder to see, bobbed his head and stamped his front hoof, splashing the shallow water. He placed his horn gently along the mermaid’s head, by her temple. She listened carefully to the voice in her head.

“You want to see the other dragon?” The mermaid wrinkled her brow.

The Lord of the Forest nodded again.

The mermaid waved her hand over the bubble, and the scene changed. She and the unicorn watched intently as the dragon convulsed. They could see the expression on the faces of the knights. The men were obviously distraught, but impotent to do anything for the ailing beast.

The unicorn laid his horn against the mermaid’s temple once again, and she closed her eyes to concentrate on the instructions the Lord of the Forest was conveying. After a long few moments, she nodded. “Yes, the dragon needs help. The drake’s venom must be neutralized. The knight called Jenneseer has a sister who is a hedge witch. She would be able to provide the antidote to her brother and his companions.”

The mermaid waited until the unicorn nodded his approval. “I will send someone to arrange it. I just hope we can get it done in time.”

The Lord of the Forest whickered softly and nodded, a faraway look in his eye.Unicorn 2

Will Dragon receive the antidote in time? Will the Old Dwarf be able to keep the drake away from Dragon and her companions? Will the elf be able to help the knights mount a defense against the drake? Be sure to return next week and find out what happens. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Fear

Fear

blizzardThe weather was miserable. We were enduring our umpteenth day with the temperatures dipping well below zero on the Fahrenheit scale, and the Arctic had nothing on us when it came to wind chill. I stopped listening to the weather reports when the meteorologist crowed about negative 55. Or maybe it was when he gleefully forecast another three-to-five inches of white stuff on top of the previous four three-to-five-inch snowfalls, much of which still covered our Minnesota neighborhood.

dragonArrogant OneThe chill in the air extended to the indoors, as my characters still blamed me for not preventing Dragon and my Arrogant One from heading off on their own, back to the land to which the wish listeners had taken us last May. They feared for the safety and wellbeing of their comrades.

Unicorn and dwarfAnd they blamed me for my Old Dwarf departing as well. When the Lord of the Forest revealed to my Old Dwarf that the elf had abandoned the mortally wounded Dragon, there was no stopping the head-strong dwarf. He and the unicorn had galloped into Dragon’s illusory fireplace and disappeared. We had heard naught from dwarf nor unicorn since. We feared we might never again see them.

wrapped-in-blanket.jpgI shivered, as much from the icy stares of my characters as from the winter weather. I sat on the couch, pulling a blanket closer around me. I hoped it was warmer wherever Dragon, my Arrogant One, and my Old Dwarf might be. And I feared we might never know.

* * *

injured dragonThe evening was unusually warm, and the trio of knights standing guard over Dragon sweated in their chain mail and plate armor. Despite the heat, Dragon was not sweating. She shivered and convulsed as the knights watched, helplessly.

Sir Hrolf 2“She needs to be kept warm.” Sir Hrolf looked around for something to place over the trembling beast. “We need blankets.”

sir daniverSir Daniver shook his head and raised his eyebrow at the younger knight. “She needs warmth, for sure, but one of our blankets would barely cover one of her taloned hands.”

Sir Hrolf ducked his head and blushed. “Well, we need something with which to warm her. She’s shaking so much, just the sound of her teeth chattering is sure to alert the green drake to our presence.”

“A fire would provide some heat, but it would also pinpoint our location for the drake or any other foe in the vicinity.” Sir Jeneseer rubbed the back of his neck and sighed.

Sir Daniver stroked his chin and furrowed his brow. “Leaves make a good blanket.”

“Sir?” His two young charges frowned.

“We could gather some limbs and large branches, weave them together with vines, place them over the beast, and pile as many leaves as possible on top of them.”

Sir JenneseerSir Jeneseer scoffed. “Sir, that may work to cover a horse, but this beast is far too large for us to cover with the available vegetation.” The young knight raked his hand through his hair. “Even if enough vegetation were available, the noise of us felling limbs from nearby trees and dragging them across the clearing would alert the green drake as surely as would a fire . . . or as will Dragon’s current shakes-and-shivers.”

Sir Daniver sighed. “You are right, of course. I am grasping at straws. If we cannot quiet the beast, we will surely have to deal with the drake that attacked her. I do not relish going up against a foe so powerful, yet we are honor-bound to protect Dragon.”

“We could use more able-bodied defenders to augment our numbers.” Sir Hrolf curled his lip. “I do not imagine the dishonorable elf might let slip news of our predicament once he reaches the castle.”

Sir Jenneseer snorted. “That one? He will speak only to those who will further his agenda and share only news that will aid in his quest.”

Sir Daniver nodded. “I fear we are on our own; and, as darkness is almost upon us, we need to set our defenses now.”
unicorn 2
Sir Hrolf nodded, but Sir Jennesser was staring at a figure approaching on the road that led from the other side of the clearing. “Look there! Is that the Lord of the Forest?”

The trio of knights watched as the equine walked sedately along the path. As it entered the clearing, the knights could barely make it out in the fading twilight.
Arrogant One riding off
Sir Daniver squinted in the direction of the figure. “Nay, that is not the unicorn. That is a horse and rider.” He continued to squint as the figure drew nigh. “Why . . . why, it is the elf! He has returned!”

* * *

Arrogant OneThe Arrogant One slid wearily from the horse’s back. He looked at Dragon, shivering and moaning in the shelter of the trees at the edge of the clearing. He turned to the knights. “Has there been any change in the beast’s condition?”

“You can plainly see there has not.” Sir Daniver crossed his arms over his chest. His words were soft, but his anger was barely concealed by his tone. “Why have you returned?”

The elf sighed. “The road would not end.”

“What?” The knight furrowed his brow. “I do not understand.”

The elf related the events of his futile attempt to flee to the safety of the castle. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/02/10/dire-plights/ “And so, I gave the horse his head, and he brought me back here.”

“What is the force behind such trickery?” Sir Hrolf frowned. “Would the wish listeners have done this?”Wish ListenersUnicorn 2

Sir Jenneseer shrugged. “Mayhap. Or perchance the Lord of the Forest guided the elf back here to assist us in defending this beast.”

The Arrogant One scoffed. “What help can I be? What chance do the four of us have to defend against the drake that inflicted such wounds on this beast? If she could not protect herself, how do you expect us to do better?”

Sir Hrolf smiled. “How did we have any chance of defending our castle when last you and your companions were in this land?”

The other two knights and the Arrogant One all looked at Sir Hrolf, their lack of comprehension clearly showing in their faces.

The young knight smiled again, smugly. “Magic.”

“Magic?” The elf gaped at the knight.

“Yes, magic. Illusory magic, such as you and your companions used to help us save our castle.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/07/22/home/

arrogant oneThe elf continued to gape. “You know my magic is unreliable at this time. That is why the beast and I are here in your world – to seek the source of the problem. And . . . and even if my power was up to par, I . . . I would need time to prepare . . .”

dwarf-facing-right“Well, ye be outten time, elfie.” The Old Dwarf seemed to appear out of nowhere at the elf’s elbow. “Ye best be gittin’ ta work.” The stocky figure’s face was grim, and the look he gave the elf left no doubt in the Arrogant One’s mind what would happen if he did not comply.

“How can we help?” Sir Janneseer approached the elf, his shoulders squared and his jaw set.

Before the Arrogant One could answer, the dwarf motioned for them all to be silent. He whispered to the elf. “Tha very firstest thin’ ye best be doin’ is ta be castin’ one o them ward thingies Dragon al’ays be usin. Ye be knowin’ wat I be talkin’ aboot. A spell ta be keepin’ pryin’ eyes and ears outten’ our bizz-ee-ness.” He motioned toward the nearby hillside. “Elsewise, we be havin’ some unwanted company real quick-like.”

The elf’s eyes widened, and his throat constricted. “I do not cast wards. That is one of Dragon’s talents! My aptitude is illusory magic!”

“Do na be handin’ me thet twaddle! I be rememberin’ thet time, more’n two years past, when ye be in league wit thet evil wizard, Morcant. Ye be kidnappin’ me and Cleric, and ye be hidin’ us in tha shed loft. Then ye be settin’ a magical barrier wat be keepin’ us hidden from everyone.”

The elf furrowed his brow. “Yes, yes, I remember! That was not a ward, but a spell of concealment, much like the one Dragon uses to keep the neighbors from seeing and hearing the illusory stable and horses she created for three of our company. I learned the spell from Morc . . . I mean, er, from another magic user.” He turned red as he remembered the incident. “Yes, I might be able to use that same spell here to hide us all from the drake. If my magic will work, that is.”

The dwarf gave a short nod of his head. “Ye be givin’ it yer best effort, elfie.”

The Arrogant One began mumbling an incantation, hoping against hope that he would be able to cast the requisite spell, with no unintended results. Beads of sweat formed on his brow, and he could barely choke out the conjuration.

* * *

Drake watching 2The drake moved quietly as a shadow through the grass. His green scales blended with the lush foliage, camouflaging him perfectly. He snaked his way down the hillside, inching along toward the wounded dragon and her companions. He tested the air, searching for the flavor of fear. He tasted it, strong and intoxicating, from some unknown source. It was not the dragon he had wounded earlier, nor her knightly companions. Perchance it was the other biped, whose species was unknown to him. But it mattered little. He tasted fear – stark, naked fear. He rolled it around in his mouth and savored it.

* * *

DwarfWhile the Arrogant One attempted to cast the necessary spell to conceal the group from the approaching drake, the Old Dwarf walked over to stand by Dragon. The creature was still convulsing and shivering, but not as violently as earlier. “Be she gittin’ better, or be she gittin’ weaker?”

Sir Daniver placed a hand on the dwarf’s shoulder. “We do not know enough about dragons to determine her condition. We can only wait and hope that she is on the mend.”

dragon looking rightThe dwarf reached out and stroked Dragon’s muzzle. “Beastie? I be here, beastie. Ye do na be dyin’ on me now. Ye do na be leavin’ me! Ye be gittin’ yerself healed up and well agin’, beastie.” The dwarf’s voice cracked, and he hid his face in his hands, so no one could see the tears streaming down his face.

* * *

Dragon struggled against the searing pain. The shattered bones in her arm were slowly knitting, and the leathery skin and skeletal frame of her wings were mending. The gashes that ran along her left side were still open and bleeding. They burned with the poison from the green drake, poison that now coursed through her feverish body. The pain was almost unbearable.

injured dragon

Suddenly, Dragon felt something else. Something was reaching through the pain, nudging at the edge of Dragon’s consciousness. A voice. Dragon heard a voice. Whose voice? She strained to hear. Did the voice say Beastie? She knew that voice! The diminutive owner of that voice was someone from her past, from two different pasts in two different worlds.

carved red dragoncarved dwarfIn the more distant world, that voice had been shy and sweet. The young owner of that voice had carved little gifts for her. There had been a miniature dragon, about the size of his fist, carved from a piece of reddish stone; and there had been a small, white figure with hair and beard, a reasonable likeness of her friend who had carved it.

dwarfDragon with smokeIn another world, a more recent world, that voice had grown gruff and cantankerous, but the aging owner of that voice was someone she knew would give his life to protect her, as she would give hers to protect him.

What is he doing here? He must not be here! Dragon thrashed about, frantically trying to find her friend. I must warn him!

Will Dragon be able to warn her friend, my Old Dwarf? Will she succumb to her wounds, or will her friend be able to save her? Will my Arrogant One be able to cast his spell, and hide the group from the green drake? Be sure to join us again next week as this exciting adventure continues. We’ll leave the porch light on for you!

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Dire Plights

Dire Plights

wide-eyed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Bounty Hunter stammered. “Well . . .”

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

* * *

Arrogant One riding off

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

Tangled branches

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

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

* * *

Drake watching 3

 

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

 

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

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Critical Decisions

Critical Decisions

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

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


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

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

injured dragon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drake watching

* * *

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

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

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

“Huh?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

wide-eyed

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

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