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

Do Heroes Have Nightmares?

Do Heroes Have Nightmares?

wide-eyedangry eyesI gaped at my Young Hero. Rarely had I seen this easy-going half-dwarf lad so upset. Never had I seen his ire directed at me.

I tried to keep my voice even. “What do you mean, I should know? Just what should I know?”

The lad continued to glare at me. “You should know what is going on. Are you not The Writer, The Scribe, The Chronicler? Are you not the one who knows everything about every one of your characters, even things we do not know about ourselves?”

Before I was able to compose a retort, my Young Hero stomped out the door and headed toward the barn. I stood there watching him, my mouth hanging open. Finally, I turned to my Gypsy. “What is he talking about?”

magic energy tracegypsy-facing-rightMy Gypsy lowered his eyes and shuffled his feet. “He has been dreaming about his past life, his life back in our own world. At least, that is what he thinks the dreams are. He . . . he has not been able to understand the dreams. He sees mere snippets of scenes in his dreams, moments that he feels are snatches of memories . . . memories he cannot fully recall. He is confused, frustrated . . . and more than a tad fearful.”

“I see.” I raked my hand through my hair and heaved a huge sigh. “I’m not sure how I can help him.”

My Gypsy rolled his eyes and scoffed. “As he said, Mistress, you are The Writer. If you cannot help him, then who?”

I had no answer.

* * *

Young hero 2Chocolate palomino pony 3While my Gypsy and I were talking about him, my Young Hero had stomped down the steps and had headed toward the barn. He had ducked between the wooden rails of the pasture fence and walked over to his pony, a saucy little chocolate palomino. He patted the pony, and the animal nuzzled his young master, nickering contentedly. As he stood there stroking the animal, the boy could feel much of the tension leave his body. After a few minutes, he walked over to the barn, intending to get a brush to groom the pony. Instead, the exhausted boy collapsed onto a bale of hay.

Palomino ponyThe boy awoke, his pony nudging him and whickering. He opened his eyes, and saw the golden pony standing over him. He stood up and patted the small yellow creature.

The pony turned and started walking away, through the emerald pasture. The boy followed the pony.

canyonThe landscape wavered. They were in a canyon. Something big was chasing the boy through the canyon, something big enough to kick up a huge cloud of red dust. The boy ran as fast as he could. He could hear two voices in the canyon, calling him. He knew these voices but could not quite remember to whom they belonged. Before he could identify the voices, their yells turned to screams and their screams mingled with the screams of his pony.

The screams went on and on and on.

* * *

“Wake up!”

foremanyoung-hero-facing-leftMy Foreman shook my Young Hero, first gently, then with more force. “Come on, wake up!”

My Young Hero jumped up and looked around. He was still in the barn. He could see his chocolate palomino pony through the open door. “Wha . . . what happened?”

“You tell me.” My Foreman frowned at him. “I was just coming out to work my horse, and I heard you in here screaming.”

Backyard 050“I heard you too, all the way up in the house.” I rushed to my Young Hero’s side and reached out to touch his shoulder, but he shrugged me away.

I sighed. “I can’t help you if you don’t tell me what’s happening.”

Without a word, my Young Hero turned and walked away.

* * *

Going into cliff wallghost in caveThe young half-dwarf touched the wall of the cliff. His hand went right through the stone. He pushed forward, and his whole body passed through the rocks, emerging in a dark cavern. A ghostly figure approached him, coming closer, closer, closer, until the boy screamed in terror.

* * *

“What is that caterwauling?” Dragon stomped into the living room, smoke drifting from her reptilian snout.

I ran into the room right behind her. “It’s my Young Hero. I think he’s having another nightmare.”

Dragon shaking Young Hero awakeDragon reached the prone figure on the couch and shook him awake. “Why did you not seek my help if you have been having nightmares?”

Instead of answering, my Young Hero glared at me.

Dragon looked from the boy, to me, and back again. “Well? Will someone tell me what is happening?”

My Young Hero attempted to stomp off again, but Dragon snagged him by the collar with one of her talons.

The smoke spewing from her snout grew darker, and she narrowed her eyes dangerously. “What is going on?”

The boy snarled. “Ask her.”

“I am asking you.” Dragon’s tone invited no argument.

I placed a hand on her arm. “It’s okay. Let him go.”

I turned to my Young Hero. “I don’t know what you think I know, but any time you want to talk, you know where to find me.”

* * *

The young half-dwarf was walking his pony across a meadow. Another boy, taller and of human heritage, walked with him, leading a larger version of the golden steed. Suddenly, the two boys saw something disappearing down a large hole under a fallen log. The half-dwarf leapt on his pony and raced toward the hole to see what was there.

The human boy swiftly mounted and rode his horse between the boy and the hole. “No! You cannot go with him! I will not allow it!”

The hole disappeared, and the human galloped away. The half-dwarf rode after him, pushing his pony to the limits of his speed and endurance. “Wait! Wait! Why will you not wait for me?”

The half-dwarf and his pony fell farther and farther behind the other horse and rider. Finally, the youth pulled his mount to a stop, slid from his pony, and fell to the ground, sobbing.

Why won't you wait

* * *

I walked into my office and found my Young Hero waiting for me. He sat on the edge of a chair, his hands clasped tightly in his lap. His tear-stained face was pale and drawn. He jumped up as soon as he heard me enter the room.

“Mistress.” He gave me a beseeching look but said no more.

I nodded and bade him sit. He slowly collapsed back into the chair. I sat at my desk and faced the lad, studying him for many long minutes. He sat, staring at the floor, silent.

Finally, I cleared my throat. “I understand you have been suffering nightmares for several weeks now.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/03/31/nightmares/

I paused, but got no response. “Would you care to tell me about them?” I tried to keep my voice soft and soothing.

“You do not know what I dreamt?” My Young Hero seemed confused.

I raised my hands, palms up, spread my arms, and lifted my shoulders. “How would I?”

He stared at me, wide-eyed. “You are The Writer.”

I raised an eyebrow at the boy. “You’ve said that to me before. I don’t know what you think a writer does, but my skill as a wordsmith does not grant me clairvoyance.”

“But you have written about the things that happened to me, to all your characters, in our own world.” He scooted to the edge of his seat again and looked at me earnestly.

I nodded. “I have, but not through clairvoyance or any preternatural means. I simply documented what happened.”

My Young Hero furrowed his brow and chewed on his lower lip. “Mistress, I cannot remember all that happened to me. I have been seeing things in my dreams that I feel . . . nay, that I fear may have happened to me, but I cannot recall.”

He told me of his dreams, the snippets of scenes his sleep-fogged brain had seen.

“And you think these dreams may actually be memories attempting to surface?”

The lad nodded.

I narrowed my eyes and stared intently at the lad. “Do you have any recollection of your previous life? Any at all?”

The boy nodded. “Some. I remember most vividly the things about which my fellow characters and I have spoken. I know that three of us – your Foreman, your Gypsy, and myself – were horsemen in my world. I know my father owned the largest and most successful equestrian breeding and training farm in the kingdom. I know that Cleric was my Protector – something akin to the concept of a godparent in your world, only with equal emphasis on physical protection and spiritual guidance. I know your Gypsy was my best friend. I know we spent a lot of time in an inn, and our friend, the Innkeeper, made a stew so renowned, the king himself used to come to the inn to sup.”

He paused, furrowing his brow as if trying to dredge up other memories. He shook his head. “Other than that, I have little knowledge of myself.”

I tilted my head and studied the boy. “Are you certain this is all you remember?”

He nodded.

I squirmed in my chair. “Is it necessary for you to know more?”

The boy sat, pondering. Finally, he looked me straight in the eye. “Yes, Mistress, I think it is. The dreams I have had – the people and events seem familiar, as if they are a part of my past, not a construct of my imagination.”

manuscriptI sighed heavily. “You know each of you – the characters who have fallen from my manuscripts and now reside here in this world – each of you fell from a different spot in the manuscripts. I do not know the exact moment at which any of you left the story.”

My Young Hero tilted his head and mulled over that information, then nodded.

I stood up and paced the length of the room. “Then you know I cannot reveal more than you already know.”

The boy frowned. “Why? If all of us characters get together and compare what we know, those of us who fell out of an earlier part of the manuscripts will discover what happened after.”

I nodded, hoping he did not notice the beads of sweat that were forming on my forehead. “Perhaps. Perhaps not. I certainly cannot prevent you from doing just that. But remember, none of you know all that happened. You each know only the tale from your own perspective. Even if you had fallen from the last page of the manuscripts, you would know little more than you know now – much of your stories remain unwritten. There are several more books for me to pen.”

My Young Hero slumped in his chair, disappointment written clearly in his face. Finally, he rose and headed for the door but stopped half-way there. He turned and looked at me. “Can you reveal but one thing to me, Mistress? There is one thing I must know.”

“What is it?”

“Why do you call me a Young Hero? I do not remember any heroics in my past life, and I certainly have done nothing heroic in this world. And the fear engendered by the nightmares that plague me points more to cowardice than heroism.” He stared at the floor, and continued in a timid voice. “Mistress, how could a hero have nightmares?”

fear vs heroismI pursed my lips and rubbed the back of my neck. “Fear and heroism are not mutually exclusive; nor is fear solely the province of cowards. Suffice it to say, the best definition of a hero I ever read was in a publication called Psychology Today. I keep the quote here on the wall over my desk. See?” I pointed to the memo on the wall.

What actually makes a hero? I’d argue it’s the willingness to make a personal sacrifice for the benefit of others.”

Framed quote in office

I paused, giving my Young Hero time to ponder that quote. After a moment, I continued. “Without revealing any details, I can assure you that you are the most heroic person I know. You sacrificed more than most for the benefit of others, for people you did not even know. Some of what you sacrificed was ripped from you by others, by happenstance, by fate. Some of what you sacrificed you surrendered yourself, knowing full well what you were giving up.”

I approached my Young Hero and placed my hand on his shoulder. “Wear the title proudly, Young Hero. Never doubt but you have earned it a hundred times over.”

A smile slowly spread over the boy’s face. When he turned and left the room, he held himself a little straighter, and there was a new confidence in his step.

Once I heard him going up the stairs, I scurried off to find Dragon.

Why do I need to speak with Dragon? What is it about my Young Hero’s memories that I find so disturbing? Be sure to come back next week as the tale continues. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

Nightmares

Nightmares

Sat bolt upright in bedA scream shattered the night, ripping me from a deep slumber. My husband and I sat bolt upright in bed and looked around, wide-eyed.

“What was that?” Miles tore his CPAP mask from his face and jumped out of bed.

“I don’t know, but I think we should . . .”

ElfAnother scream cut me off mid-thought. I grabbed my robe and pulled it on as Miles and I raced into the hallway, where we almost collided with one of my characters.

“What’s going on?”

Cleric was wringing her hands. “I fear your Young Hero is wrestling with another nightmare.”

I frowned. “He’s been having nightmares? How long has this been going on?”

Cleric lowered her eyes. “Several weeks now, and the problem seems to be getting worse.”

My frown deepened. “Then why is this the first time I’m hearing of it?”

Cleric blushed. “He asked that I not share this information with anyone, Mistress. I believe the lad is embarrassed. I only know about it because his best friend, your Gypsy, came to me and asked if I might help.”

I nodded. “And is there anything you can do for him?”

sleeping draughts and healing potionsCleric shook her head. “I have prepared sleeping draughts for him, and have even tried various healing potions, but I fear his nightmares still plague him.”

I sighed and raked my hand through my hair. “Do you have any clue what’s causing his nightmares?”

“No, Mistress, and that is why I have not been able to create the proper healing potion for him.” She hesitated, biting her lower lip. “Perhaps you should speak with him.”

My husband frowned and put his hand on my shoulder. “Honey, if the boy’s embarrassed, it might do more harm than good to question him about it. After all, if he wanted your help, he would have come to you.”

I furrowed my brow and scrunched my lips into a moue. “I know you’re right, but I can’t just ignore it if one of my characters is having problems.” I sighed. “For now, I’ll let you deal with it, Cleric. Miles and I will try to get some more sleep. But please try to convince my Young Hero to come to me. Perhaps I can help.”

* * *

Morning was barely breaking. The yellow disc of the sun was just starting its ascent into a cloudless, azure sky. Dew sparkled on the emerald-green grass. Wildflowers shone like brilliant gems scattered haphazardly around the meadow.

Surrounding the pasture, sturdy fences stretched for miles, the boards so dazzlingly white that even in the early morning light the young half-dwarf could not look at them without squinting. The youth walked along the fence-line, peering between the boards, searching the pasture. A cool breeze tousled his red hair, and birdsong filled his ears. The day was perfect, and the lad had not a care in the world.pasture fence

Slowly, the landscape changed. The fences, the grass, the flowers, were splattered blood-red. The smell of copper overpowered the fragrance of the wildflowers and assaulted the lad’s nose. He bent over and wretched. As he straightened, he saw something in the field.

pasture fence splattered with red

 

A scream tore from the boy’s throat.

scream

* * *

Young hero 2My Young Hero shuffled into the kitchen. His hair was unkempt, there were dark circles under his eyes, and he all but fell into a chair.

mug of coffeeWithout a word, Miles poured a large mug of coffee and placed it before the lad, who tried unsuccessfully to smile and nod his thanks.

“Rough night?” I quirked an eyebrow as I sat down across from my Young Hero.

He slurped some coffee and frowned. “No more than normal. Why do you ask?” I noticed he did not look at me as he spoke.

I sighed. “I ask because you look like something the proverbial cat drug in.”

The young half-dwarf shrugged and swallowed another mouthful of coffee. “Yeah. Well, I . . . ahh . . . I guess I did not sleep very well.”

I furrowed my brow. I took a deep breath and leaned closer to the lad. “Something bothering you?”

He glared at me. “Nothing.”

I shrugged. “Fine. But if anything is ever bothering you, talking might help.”

He scowled. “I will remember that.” He gulped down the rest of his coffee, pushed away from the table and stumbled toward the living room.

* * *

Second NightmareThe young half-dwarf and his companion had been walking for hours. The scorching sun beat down on them as they stumbled through the deep sand of the desert. A pack of jackals advanced toward them. Suddenly, men with swords surrounded them. At first, the men were protecting them from the vicious animals. But soon, the men turned their swords toward the boy. The young half-dwarf and his companion backed away. A hawk screeched and flew at the men. But the bird turned into a dragon and flew straight at the boy. The beast opened its gigantic maw and threatened to swallow the boy.

His scream went on for many long minutes.

scream

* * *

Miles and I ran to the living room. My Young Hero was sprawled on the couch. My Gypsy was bent over him, shaking him. “Wake up! Wake up!”

I grabbed my Gypsy by the arm. “What’s going on? Was that him screaming?”

My Gypsy nodded and frowned.

I looked at my Young Hero, who was struggling to sit up. “Are you okay?”

The boy’s cheeks flamed, and he refused to meet my eyes. When he finally answered, he mumbled. “I . . . I must have fallen asleep.”

Backyard 050I frowned. “That wasn’t the question. Are you okay?”

The lad shrugged. “Of course! Why would I not be?”

“Well, I don’t know. What I do know is this is the second time I have heard you calling out in your sleep. We heard you screaming last night and now again. What’s going on?”

My Young Hero sat there, silent. His mouth was a thin, angry line, but his eyes were full of fear.

I crossed my arms over my chest and tapped one foot impatiently. “Well?”

The lad glared at me, the fear in his eyes replaced with venom. “Well, you should know!”angry eyes

What is happening with my Young Hero, and why does he think I know anything about it? Be sure to come back next week. Maybe you can help me sort out this mystery. I’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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