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.

The Year in Review

The Year in Review

Dragon looks up from fireplace“The year in review?” Dragon opened one sleepy eye. She raised her head and gave me a curious look. “What is that?”

I wrinkled my brow. I thought it quite self-evident, but I shrugged and offered Dragon an explanation anyway. “It’s just a brief summary of the events of the past year.”

“Oh.” She went back to basking next to her illusory fireplace, curling up tightly, dropping her reptilian head onto her arms, and tucking her tail around her nose.

Arrogant OneMy Arrogant One shuddered. “Who in their right mind would want to dwell on the events of this year past?”

I shrugged. “Many people would. It’s fun to recall some of the good times we had.”

wish listeners“Not everyone had good times. This year did not start out well for some of us.” The elf’s usual smug, superior look was replaced by a pensive expression. “Do you not remember? At the end of the previous year, I had developed a problem controlling my power. At the start of this year, Dragon and I returned to the land of the Wish Listeners to search for the cause and – mayhap – a remedy for my affliction.”

My Arrogant One grasped his cloak and pulled it tight around himself. His voice was so soft I had to strain to hear him. “Dragon almost died there. And I almost abandoned her to her fate, shaming myself and dishonoring the elven race.” His face was pale, and he drew his cloak even tighter around his shivering body.

the knights paced

Tendrils of black smoke 2

Dragon raised her head again, studying the elf through heavy-lidded eyes. “Yes, I remember that. The elf is right. It was not a good start to the year.” A small plume of black smoke drifted from her nostrils, underscoring her words.

Unicorn and dwarf 2My Old Dwarf walked over to Dragon and caressed her scaly face. “But thet you-nee-corn been tookin’ me ta tha udder world ta be savin’ ye, beastie. An’ tha elfie been doin’ right by ye in tha end, when it really been countin’ fer summat.”

Dragon considered this for a moment before nodding and resuming her basking.

bounty-hunterMy Bounty Hunter cleared his throat and nodded. “It was a long and frightening eight weeks. Those of us who remained here had no way of knowing where you were, what was happening, or if we would ever see you again.”

“There were a number of other frights and scares this past year.” My Young Hero blushed as he remembered. “I was beset by nightmares for a long spell.” He smiled warmly at me. “You helped me understand that even heroes can have nightmares.”

“Your fears were nothing compared to the terror I faced after meeting our young neighbor, Marisol. She quickly demonstrated not only the capability to see through my spell of concealment, but the capacity to see my true nature.” Dragon sat up again, dark smoke drifting from her nose.

Stu-04-NatGalSorceress entered the room as Dragon was speaking. She placed a tray of eggnog and Christmas cookies on the table, then turned to Dragon and nodded. “That was a frightening predicament for all of us. The child’s inexplicable ability may have revealed our existence to the inhabitants of this world beyond Mistress Writer and Master Miles.”

MilesTaking Marisol by the hand“Marisol and her mother, Bastina, were not the only new acquaintances this past year.” Miles helped himself to a glass of eggnog and a few cookies as he turned to me. “You and Dragon met that repairman who came out to fix the heat element in our rain gutters when we had a problem with the formation of ice dams. You remember him and his alleged griffin, don’t you?”Crawford and Griffin

“I assure you, Master Miles, there was nothing alleged about the griffon.” Dragon got a sappy look on her face, and her cheeks glowed bright red. “It was nice to meet someone who understood my nature and my presence here, and with whom I could communicate in the old ways of my race.”

Dray and Griff

Miles gave me a questioning look.

“The griffin apparently arrived here much the same way Dragon and my other characters did – falling out of someone’s manuscript. And, according to Dragon, Griff has the ability to communicate telepathically, the same way the Great Wyrms of Dragon’s world communicate.”Dragon and Griffin

“Oh.” Miles furrowed his brow and nibbled another cookie as he digested this information.

CrawfordGriff2I nodded. “Yes, I had almost forgotten about meeting Crawford. He and his friend, Griff, proved themselves to be allies and valuable resources. After the meeting of the writers’ group Lost in the Words, Crawford directed us to Christine and Talia, the owners of the Chris-Tal Clear Metaphysical Store. He said they might be able to help us determine just what Marisol is and whence she gets her power.”

Dragon chuckled. “But getting Talia to help was most difficult. Christine had to exert a great deal of persuasion on her partner. Still, the spells the two ladies provided remedied the problem, and we remain undiscovered by most in this world. And Talia did say when Marisol is older, Talia can teach her, train her to use her power rather than be used by it.”

Foreman facing right closeup“We made another new friend this year as well.” My Foreman raised an eyebrow as he settled into the recliner with a glass of eggnog in his hand. “And a new enemy, mayhap?”Gypsy

“By friend, of course, you mean either Didi or Arthur.” My Gypsy waggled his eyebrows and smirked. “But whoever could be the enemy of whom you speak?”

My Foreman guffawed. “Arthur is no friend.” He turned to me. “Mistress, did not Crawford predict you had made a powerful enemy in Arthur?”

I sighed. “He did. I thought after Cleric had put Crawford’s mind at ease over the circumstances surrounding the death of his nephew, the danger he represented was over. But then Crawford apparently interfered with my Arrogant One’s magic, causing one of the elf’s spells to go awry.”

“Didi turned out to be a friend, though.” My Gypsy smiled broadly. “She wrote an excellent article on Colton and his new pony, Blue.”

“Blue!” Cleric exclaimed. “The therapy pony is another new friend we have made this year!” Her smile faded as quickly as it had appeared. “Of course, we lost a good friend when Colton’s first therapy pony, Peaches – who we knew as Mystery – passed away.”

We all nodded somberly.

Young hero 2“But not everything that happened this past year was bad or sad or frightening,” my Young Hero reminded us. “Because of your strong bond with Mystery, and your ability to communicate with animals, Cleric, we attended the auction and found Blue for Colton.”

Colton and Peaches 2John, Casey, and Old Blue 2My Gypsy agreed. “We helped them both deal with their depression over losing their closest friend – Colton had lost his pony, Peaches, and Blue had lost his owner, Casey. Later, after Colton and Blue were working well together, we got to enjoy a wonderful trail ride with them and Colton’s mom. Colton and I had another outstanding competition identifying birds. That blind boy can identify birds by sound better than most sighted people can identify them by visual observation! And then we had a delicious barbecue after the ride.”

“Ye dinna been toldin’ me there be a barbecue at thet trail ride.” My Old Dwarf frowned. “Iffins I been knowin’ thet, I been learnin’ how ta be ridin’, too!”

We all laughed.

camera for blog“The trail ride was not the only fun any of us had this past year.” My Bounty Hunter rejoined the conversation. “Do you not all remember the debate over magic versus technology? We all went on a nature hike and were afforded the opportunity to use Mistress Writer’s magic box that she calls a camera. The wildlife pictures taken by the magic users were no better than those taken by those of us unskilled in the arcane arts.”

ruby-ring2My Old Dwarf scoffed. “Aye, lad, but I already been ‘splainin thet ta all o’ ye. It do na be becausin’ anythin’ thet tha lass be callin’ tech-nol-o-gee. Tha magic box really be magic, but tha magic be in tha object, liken me old ring o takin’ me places.”

I leaned closer to Miles and explained, “He means his ring of transportation.”

“Aye, lass, me ring o trans-port-tatin’. Tha magic be in tha ring, so’s even non-magic folk kin be usin’ it, same as tha magic box ye all be callin’ a cam-er-ah, what holds tha magic inside it.” My Old Dwarf shook his head at our lack of understanding.

I laughed. “I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on the technology issue.”

“That was not the only time we got to use the magic box . . . er, camera.” Cleric grinned.

“That’s right. We saw many different birds and animals when Mistress Writer took us on another nature hike at the beginning of summer, as well.” My Bounty Hunter smiled as he remembered. “Dragon had created illusory cameras for us, so we did not have to share. We all took a large number of photographs that day.”

“I remember.” I nodded and turned toward my Arrogant One. “And there was another time when you took some outstanding nature images, too.”

The elf flushed with pride and sat up a little taller.

“And when you and Master Miles were sick with pneumonia this past spring, Mistress Writer, I took a lot of pictures of the birds in your yard and on our deck to share with you after you recovered.” Cleric smiled at the memory.

“We should have taken pictures the previous month, when the weather was so bad, and all those robins were on the deck.” Dragon shivered as she remembered.

Cleric chuckled. “You were so fascinated by the robins, you shrank to the size of a housecat and climbed up on the back of the sofa to watch them.”

“The robins may have been the most numerous that day – I think there were almost a hundred on the deck – but they were not the only birds we saw,” my Gypsy recalled. “I think we identified 11 different species in the snow and ice, including two different hawks.”

“See?” My Young Hero grinned. “I told you not everything about this past year was bad or sad or frightening. We shared a lot of fun and good times as well.”

My Bounty Hunter nodded. “It makes me most anxious to see what the coming year will bring.”

We hope, dear readers, you have enjoyed following the adventures and misadventures of my little band of displaced characters this past year, and for all the years they have been creating chaos in this world. And we hope you will continue to join us in the coming year as we face whatever comes our way – good, bad, sad, or frightening. It will always be nicer for us if you come along and keep us company. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

Happy New Year

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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