The Mystery Continues

The Mystery Continues

We were stunned. My Foreman, my Gypsy, my Young Hero and I had just witnessed the apparent images of four of our friends floating dead in the pond. The lads collapsed in tears, and my Foreman and I struggled to control our emotions.

“They’re all dead. I can’t believe they’re all dead!” My Foreman’s voice cracked, and he buried his face in his hands.

“Don’t be too sure about that,” Miles said, entering the room.

I gave him a blank look. “But we just saw them in the scrying bowl — Cleric, my Old Dwarf, Dragon and Sorceress. They were all dead.”

Miles grinned. “Maybe this will make you feel better.” He reached around the doorjamb and drew someone into the room.

“Sorceress!”

Stu-04-NatGal

We were immediately on our feet, taking turns embracing her.

“Really! I rather doubt I have been gone so long as to warrant this welcome!”

“But, you’re alive! If you’re alive, maybe the others are, too!” My Gypsy was grinning ear-to-ear.

“Alive? Well, of course I am alive! What ever made you think I was not?”

Then we were all talking at once, explaining what we had just seen. Finally, Sorceress raised her hand and we all fell quiet. “I believe I understand. Please, sit down. Master Miles and I will share with you what we know.”

GypsyAs we sat, my Gypsy cleared his throat. “Sorceress, I am so glad you are okay, but I know we saw your corpse floating in the pond, along with the other three.” He wrung his hands and fumbled for words. “Did…did I do something wrong? Did I not pronounce the words of the incantation properly? Did I add the spell components in the wrong order, or in the wrong amounts?”

Sorceress smiled at him, and patted his hand. “I am sure it was nothing you did, my friend. I believe there was another force at work, interfering with your efforts.”

My Gypsy frowned, and cocked his head, but I understood immediately. “Morcant!”Morcant

Miles and Sorceress both nodded. Miles said, “I came downstairs to see if your Gypsy had finished his attempt at scrying. I heard a voice in your office. I went to the office door, and I could hear chanting. I couldn’t understand the words, though.”

“I had just returned from collecting spell components,” Sorceress said. “I saw Master Miles standing outside your office, Mistress. When he saw me, he looked relieved. He motioned to me to join him near the office door. I heard Morcant, and I could understand enough of the wizard’s incantation to know it was a spell of deception. After Master Miles informed me all of you thought I had gone missing, and the Gypsy was attempting to locate me or our missing friends by scrying, I realized Morcant was attempting to thwart the Gypsy’s spell.”

“So Morcant wants us to believe that you, Cleric, Dragon, and the Old Dwarf are all dead. But why?”

“Yes, why? I thought you said Morcant wasn’t involved,” Miles said.

I shrugged. “I believed he was, until my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter convinced me he wasn’t. Sorceress, do you remember when we questioned Morcant? When you threatened his familiar in order to get the wizard to confess? My Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter interrupted us, claiming Morcant knew nothing, and the wizard didn’t contradict them.”

“Yes, but something bothered me about that. The Arrogant One seemed to be there against his will. If you remember, when they burst into your office and stopped me harming the bird, the Bounty Hunter was prodding the Arrogant One with his crossbow.”

I narrowed my eyes. “Yes, I remember. At the time, I couldn’t understand why he’d do that, but in my surprise at learning none of them were involved in Cleric’s disappearance, I failed to question them.”

“Mistress? I realize something now I should have discerned then. Neither the Arrogant One nor the Bounty Hunter actually denied kidnapping Cleric. They only denied being in league with Morcant.”

I gaped at her. “You’re right,” I said, slapping my forehead.

My Foreman raked his hand through his hair and sighed. “Nothing makes sense! If they’re the ones who kidnapped Cleric, but they’re not working for the wizard, why would Morcant attempt to keep us from finding Cleric and the others?”

“Maybe we should ask the three of them.”

My Foreman nodded. “The lads and I will find the first two, and invite them to join us.”

“Miles and I will bring Morcant’s familiar in here, where there’s enough room for everyone.” I turned to Sorceress. “Does Morcant know you were listening to him?”

“No, so I shall stay hidden. If Morcant sees me here, through his familiar’s eyes, we may loose the advantage in the interrogation.”

I nodded, and motioned Sorceress toward a large closet, where she could observe covertly. My Foreman and the lads went off in search of my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter, while Miles and I went to my office. We collected the box containing Morcant’s familiar, the milky-eyed grackle, brought it to the conference room, and set it on the floor.box for bird

Within the hour, my Foreman and the lads returned, all but dragging my Bounty Hunter and my Arrogant One, struggling and protesting.

Arrogant One“Get your hands off me!” There was a loud rip, as my Arrogant One pulled away from my Gypsy. “Now look what you’ve done!” His face was almost as purple as his torn robe, and his voice was approaching a pitch that only dogs would be able to hear. “I demand to know why we have been dragged here!”

“Sit. Down.” I jabbed a finger at him and scowled. He paled, and immediately sat down, with no further argument.

“You, too!” I rounded on my Bounty Hunter who stumbled all over himself trying to get into his seat.

My Foreman blocked the door, and the lads stood behind my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter. Miles positioned himself next to the box containing Morcant’s familiar. I stood for many long minutes, just glaring at the two characters, squirming in their seats. Finally, I broke the silence, struggling to control my voice. “Where is she?”

“Who?” My Arrogant One raised his eyebrows and cocked his head.

“You know who! What have you done with Cleric?”

Bounty Hunter“We told you we had nothing to do with Cleric’s disappearance.” My Bounty Hunter’s voice remained even, but his eyes darted around the room as if looking for an escape route, and he continually clasped and unclasped his hands.

“No, you told me you had not kidnapped Cleric for Morcant. You never said you had nothing to do with her disappearance.”

My Arrogant One started to jump to his feet, but my Gypsy pushed him back into his seat. The elf tossed his head and assumed an injured air. He brushed off his robe and glared at my Gypsy. “I told you from the start that it was most likely the Old Dwarf who kidnapped her!”

“Enough of your deceptions! We know it was you two.” I indicated the scrying bowl and spell components on the table.

My Arrogant One scoffed. “You can not have seen anything in that! You would have said so earlier.”

“Not if my Gypsy just discovered a spell allowing him to use the scrying bowl to see into the past.”

My Arrogant One paled. He swallowed several times, and tried to speak, but no sound came out.

“Can’t you see she’s bluffing?” My Bounty Hunter shook his head and snorted. “If you saw Cleric’s abduction in that bowl, then why don’t you know where she is?” He sneered, and waved his hand dismissively.

“That was my fault.” My Gypsy played his role perfectly. His cheeks colored, and he shuffled his feet. “I got so excited when we saw the two of you abducting our friend, I lost the spell and we were unable to see where you took her.”

“The two of us?” My Bounty Hunter was on his feet. “You never saw the two of us do anything.”

Morcant’s familiar cackled and flapped his wings. As Morcant started to say something, Miles threw a towel over the screen top on the bird’s box, cutting Morcant off.

I nodded approvingly at Miles. “We’ll get to you later, wizard!” I turned back to my Bounty Hunter and my Arrogant One. “Talk. Now.”

“Or what?” My Arrogant One laughed.

“Or I will eradicate every mention of you from my manuscripts. You will cease to exist.”

My Arrogant One’s eyes grew large as saucers, and he began to sweat profusely. My Bounty Hunter started rocking back and forth in his chair, wringing his hands. Finally, they both nodded.

“I took Cleric,” my Arrogant One said in a small voice, forcing us all to lean toward him to hear. “At the time, it was my intent to trade her for the keys and make a deal with Morcant. While I was attempting to carry Cleric off, the Old Dwarf saw us, and came to her defense.”

I nodded and smiled, glad to have been proven right about the old scoundrel. “Go on.”

“I subdued the Old Dwarf by magic, and used magic to take them both to the shed loft. I left them there, bound and gagged, and created a magic barrier so no one could enter the loft. But somehow, someone defeated my barrier and removed them. I assumed it to be the Bounty Hunter.”

I turned to him. “Did you remove them from the loft?”

“How could I have? Am I a magician? How could I get past his barrier?”

“If not you, then who?” My Arrogant One glared at the smaller man. “I know that you, too, had contemplated capturing Cleric in an effort to obtain the keys and make your own deal with Morcant.”

“I admit the thought had crossed my mind, but Cleric vanished before I could act. By the time I had decided you were the one responsible for her disappearance, you had sealed off the loft and I was unable to get to her.”

“Then who breached my barrier and took her and the Old Dwarf?” My Arrogant One raised his palms and shook his head.

I scowled and turned to Miles. “Uncover the bird.”

Morcant's familiar

The milky-eyed grackle squawked and flapped violently as Miles removed the towel covering the box.

“Okay, Morcant, your turn!” I hoped my voice sounded sufficiently menacing. “We know you cast a spell of deception when my Gypsy was attempting to scry. Why?”

The wizard’s screechy response poured from the bird’s beak. “I was merely providing myself some entertainment. It is rather boring in this tower.”

I snorted. “Did you abduct Cleric and the Old Dwarf from the loft?”

“Tell me, witch, what do you plan to do to me if I do not talk? You can not eliminate me from your ridiculous scrolls and parchments.”

“Maybe not, Morcant, but I told you before I can place your familiar in a completely dark, totally soundless place, effectively plunging you into eternal blackness and silence.”

Morcant’s already shrill voice raised an octave. “Nay, beldame! Prithee, do not condemn me to such a fate! I admit to having a hand in the disappearance of the elf maiden and her stocky companion. But I did not abduct them, simply magically concealed them from all, including the elf who closeted them within the loft.”

“To what purpose?” my Arrogant One demanded. “I was willing to make a deal with you.”

“I did not believe you capable of obtaining the keys.”

My Arrogant One waved dismissively at the grackle. “With the Cleric to bargain with, I would have had those keys the moment I asked for them!”

I pushed my Arrogant One aside. “At this point, none of that matters. Morcant, release the spell. Immediately!”

The grackle cocked his head and studied me with one milky eye. “Very well.” His voice was sulky.

“And don’t try any tricks. If you do, I will make good on my threat.”

The grackle opened its beak, and Morcant began chanting. Five minutes later, he stopped. “It is done.”

I nodded, and beckoned the others. “Let’s go to the shed and rescue our friends.”Shed

We rushed pell-mell to the shed and scrambled up the stairs. As one, we stopped dead in the center of the loft, gaping.

The loft was completely empty.

 

shed loft

 

Did Morcant fail to release his spell? Did someone remove Cleric and the Old Dwarf from the loft? What ever happened to Dragon? Join us again next week, for the next installment of this mystery. I’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Gruesome Discovery

Gruesome Discovery

“What do you mean, Morcant is not involved?” Miles gaped at me, wide eyed, as if he thought I had gone crazy. “Ever since his familiar showed up here, you have said he was after the keys.”MorcantMorcant's familiar

“Oh, he is, I’m sure of that. And he will do whatever he can to secure them. But I do not believe he is behind Cleric’s disappearance.”

Miles cocked his head and wrinkled his nose. “But ever since Cleric disappeared, you have been convinced that someone snatched her in order to ransom her for the keys for Morcant. Why the change of heart?”

“My two chief suspects, my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter, have sworn they would not deal with Morcant.”

Miles quirked an eyebrow and shook his head. “And you believe them?”

“I do, actually. They have a rather compelling reason to not deal with Morcant. They realize he is not to be trusted. They fear they would not only not get the payment he promised for giving him the keys, they might actually lose their lives. So I think they are sincere about not dealing with him.”

Miles considered that, then nodded. “I suppose their fear would override their greed. But then who took Cleric? And where are your Old Dwarf and Dragon?”

“And Sorceress.”

Miles and I whirled around. My Foreman stood at the door to the conference room, white as a sheet.

“What?” I gaped at him. “Sorceress is missing, too?”

Stu-04-NatGal

He nodded. “I have been looking for her for the past hour. I wanted to know if she had salvaged enough of her spell components from Morcant’s familiar to attempt locating Cleric, or the Old Dwarf, or Dragon, through scrying. Sorceress is nowhere to be found.”

“You’re certain?”

“Reasonably so, but the lads are still searching. They’re pretty shook up.”

“They aren’t the only ones.” I slowly sank into a chair and leaned my arms on the table. “First Cleric disappeared, and from the evidence I found on the porch and the front walk, I presumed her to be kidnapped. At the same time, my Old Dwarf disappeared, and the signs pointed to the fact that he, too, might have been the victim of foul play. Then Dragon disappeared after she, in the form of a mouse, was knocked off the shed by Morcant’s familiar. Now, Sorceress is missing.” I looked at Miles and my Foreman, hoping one of them might have some answers.

“Let’s think this all out.” Miles took the seat next to me at the conference table. “You give no credence to your Arrogant One’s theory that your Old Dwarf is not a victim? You don’t believe his accusations that the dwarf could have kidnapped Cleric?”

I frowned and shrugged. “I’m not sure what to believe anymore. I find it hard to believe that anyone would have been able to take my Old Dwarf against his will, but I find it even harder to believe he would have abducted Cleric. First off, kidnapping isn’t his style. If he wanted the keys, he would try to obtain them by brute force. Second, he’s mostly a lot of bluff and bluster.”

“Don’t be fooled by the Old Dwarf, Mistress. He can be fierce, even downright vicious, if it serves his purpose.” My Foreman scowled. “I have had many encounters with him, remember.”Dwarf

“I don’t believe he would harm Cleric, though. He seems to hold her in high regard.”

“Don’t you remember what he tried to do to his own nephew? He believes the ends justify the means!” My Foreman clenched his jaw and narrowed his eyes.

“But there is no motive. As I said, if he were after the keys, he would attempt to take them, not bargain for them.”

Miles stood up and started pacing. “So, if he did not abduct Cleric, does the fact that they vanished at the same time mean the disappearances are related, or is that mere coincidence?”

“We really have no way of knowing, do we?” I sighed, and raked my hand through my hair.

“And we have no way of knowing if the subsequent disappearances of Dragon and Sorceress are related.” My Foreman banged his fist on the table. “How are we to find them? We don’t know how they went missing, or why, or who might be behind their disappearances!” His voice started to crack.

Just then, my Young Hero and my Gypsy joined us. They both slumped into nearby chairs, both staring at the floor and shaking their heads.

“I take it you had no success finding Sorceress.”

Young hero 2I had to lean forward to hear my Young Hero’s mumbled response. “We looked everywhere. In the house. In the yard. In the shed. Around the neighborhood. Nothing. There were no signs of foul play, as when Cleric and the Old Dwarf disappeared. Sorceress has simply vanished, just like Dragon.”

 

Gypsy“Mistress?” My Gypsy lifted his head. He squared his shoulders and licked his lips. “I think I may be able to find our missing friends. Sorceress has been teaching me to scry. I would like to attempt it. I checked her supplies, and there seems to be enough of the necessary spell components to try one time.” His eyes were pleading.

“Is that really wise? It could be dangerous.” I rubbed my chin. “What if Sorceress has placed wards on her scrying bowl and spell components to deter theft?”

“I do not believe she has, since she has allowed me the use of the bowl to practice. And nothing happened to Morcant’s familiar when he pilfered her supplies. But I can check for wards and protective spells before we start.”

I hesitated. “The spell itself is safe enough, right? To the caster, to the subjects, and to any observers?”

“Yes!” My Gypsy leaned forward and nodded. “This is one spell where there is no danger of injury to anyone. The worst that could happen is the spell won’t work. We won’t be able to see where our friends are. If so, we’ll be no worse off than we are right now. But if it does work…” My Gypsy didn’t need to finish that thought.

“Okay, get what you need and bring it here.”

He shot out of his chair and was half way up the stairs before I had completed the sentence.

“Do you really think it wise to let the lad play with such magic?”

I snorted at my Foreman. “That lad has been playing with magic since he was a babe! In fact, I remember a time that lad rescued you from a serious situation through the use of magic!”

“I haven’t forgotten. But that was Gypsy magic, learned at his grandmother’s knee. This is different.”

“If Sorceress has been working with him, I doubt there is any danger, except possibly to his ego, should he fail.”

Miles edged toward the door. “If you don’t mind, honey, I think I’ll go upstairs and make some coffee while your Gypsy does his thing.”

I did a double-take at my husband. “You don’t want to stay and observe? I thought you were always curious about my characters’ magic. You were ready to accept the invitation from Sorceress to join the group the night she used her powers of scrying to hear what the dragonfly was unable to hear.”

“Yeah, well, I’m afraid I would just be in the way. If your Gypsy lad is inexperienced with this spell, I wouldn’t want to distract him. Besides, honey, I haven’t had any coffee yet today. You know I need my coffee!”Coffee

I laughed, as Miles scurried out of the room.

A half hour later, my Foreman, my Young Hero, and I arranged our chairs in a semicircle flanking my Gypsy, who was seated at the conference table. On the table in front of him, my Gypsy had placed the scrying bowl, a vial of silvery liquid, and several pouches of herbs and powders. “I’ve already checked all these for wards and protective spells. They are all safe.”

 

 

He also had a notebook with the spell components and the words of various incantations written in a magic ink visible only to him. “The notebook is a safeguard for me while I am learning a new and complicated spell. It prevents me forgetting the order in which to add spell components, or fumbling for the words of an incantation at a critical juncture. The magic ink is insurance that no one else will acquire the knowledge without my permission.”

 

My Foreman nodded. “If I understand how this scrying is done, you need to concentrate your efforts on seeing just one person, not the entire group, right?”

“Yes, especially since we don’t know if they are together or in different locations. I think I should concentrate on finding Cleric or Dragon. They are the two with whom I have the strongest ties. I think maybe the better I know someone, the better chance I would have of finding them through scrying.”

I shifted in my chair, and considered the options. “Given a choice, I think I would prefer you find Cleric first. She’s been missing the longest.”

My Gypsy nodded. “Just remember, though, there is only enough of the liquid for one session. Whether I locate Cleric or no, I can not attempt to find a second person until I procure more spell components.”

As my Gypsy prepared himself for the task ahead, the rest of us tried hard not to squirm or in any way distract him. We all remembered how exhausted Sorceress was at the end of a session of scrying, and she was a powerful magic user, proficient in the art of divination. My Gypsy was a novice at this type of magic. It would, no doubt, be far more taxing for him than for Sorceress.

Clearing his throat several times, my Gypsy opened his notebook, unstoppered the flask, and poured the magic liquid into the bowl. Glancing only occasionally at the notebook, he began intoning the incantation that should allow us to see Cleric, adding certain ingredients to the liquid as he chanted. Gradually, as he fell into the magic, we could see a change in the surface of the liquid.

First, the silvery liquid grew cloudy and began slowly swirling. Little by little, it turned a murky green. Beads of sweat formed on my Gypsy’s forehead, and his breathing became labored as he worked to strengthen the spell.

Shadowy forms appeared in the liquid. Long, thick tendrils waved back and forth like dense underwater vegetation.

Murky aquatic vegetation

Gradually, a vague outline started to take form. It looked as if it were trapped by the waving tendrils.The form became progressively more defined. Eventually, an image emerged, floating up from the depths of the scene. Horrified, we gaped at the bloated form of an elf maiden, her skin grey, her lips blue, her sightless eyes wide open.

“Cleric!” My Young Hero practically leaped from his chair, bumping into my Gypsy. The image in the scrying bowl started to waver and fade. My Foreman and I pulled the dismayed lad back into his chair, while my Gypsy struggled not to lose the spell. After a few minutes, the image grew steady once more. We let out a collective sigh of relief.

As we forced ourselves to watch the repulsive image, other shadowy forms began to take shape in the murky depths. One by one, the distended corpses of my Old Dwarf, Dragon and Sorceress drifted up from the tangled bed of weeds. My Gypsy held the spell as long as he could, then collapsed back in his chair, gasping for breath. The images in the bowl disappeared, leaving naught but the silvery liquid.

The four of us sat there, too stunned to move. Finally, my Foreman jumped from his chair, and grabbed me by the shoulders. “They’re in the pond!” He let go of me, and fell to his knees. “They’re in the pond! They’re…they’re all dead!”

“Don’t be too sure about that.” Miles said, entering the room.

What does Miles know about Cleric and the other missing characters? Can the images in the scrying bowl be believed? Will the Writer and her remaining characters ever discover the truth? Come back next week and find out. I’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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