What’s Going On?

What’s Going On?

dwarfIt was almost lunchtime, so I headed to the kitchen to grab a quick bite. My Old Dwarf was already there, head and upper torso in the refrigerator as he rummaged through the food. I waited for a few minutes, then cleared my throat.

“Find what you’re looking for?”

The old reprobate yelped. He jumped, hitting his head, and let loose a string of dwarven oaths that all but turned the air blue. Rubbing his head, he looked at me through watering eyes. “What be ye aboot, lass? Do na ever be sneakin’ up on an unsuspectable soul like thet!”

“I believe you mean unsuspecting.”bounty-hunter-facing-other-direction

I turned to see my Bounty Hunter lounging against the wall, wearing an expression that showed both amusement and scorn. He continued to address my Old Dwarf, his voice dripping contempt. “Really, it is quite appalling the way you mangle words and phrases! It’s a wonder anyone can understand a word you say.”

Still rubbing the lump on his head, my Old Dwarf scowled at my Bounty Hunter. “Nobody never be havin’ no trouble unnerstandin’ me. Methinks ye been spendin’ too much time wit thet annoyin’ little fancy-pants elfie. ’Is airs and gold-plated words be rubbin’ off on ye.”

My Bounty Hunter snorted, causing my Old Dwarf to reach for his axe. In a flash, my Bounty Hunter had his dagger in hand. I stepped between them.

“Put the weapons away!”

The two characters stood engaged in a stare-down with each other, anxiously fingering their weapons.

“I said put the weapons away!” I glared at them until they reluctantly complied. “And if you two want to discuss proper grammar and elocution, could you do it somewhere else? I’d like to get some lunch and get back to work.” I pushed my Old Dwarf out of the way, then grabbed some leftover pizza from the refrigerator and heated it in the microwave. I took the pizza and a cold bottle of soda and headed back down to my office, leaving the two characters still glaring menacingly at each other. At the top of the stairs, I ran into Sorceress and Cleric.

“I said nothing of the sort. Try listening for once. You think you are so superior to everyone else, and nothing anyone else has to say is important enough for you to pay attention. You think you are the only one whose opinion matters!”

I gawked at Cleric, whose vitriol was most out of character.

“Well, you take offense at everything anyone says. I am so tired of tip-toeing around you, walking on eggshells, lest I offend you. You need to grow a thicker skin and stop being such a cry-baby.” Sorceress tossed her hair back and looked down her nose at her companion.

Ladies!” My eyes felt like they were popping out of my head as I gaped at the two companions. “I’ve never seen you two at such odds with each other.”

“Well, she started it!” The two of them spoke in unison, then whirled and stalked off in opposite directions.

I shook my head as I continued toward my office for my working lunch. As I passed the conference room, I heard angry voices within.

foreman“I don’t care if they’re illusory or not; I will not have you treat a horse that way! When you’re finished working your mount, you will cool him down, water him, and groom him before pasturing him.” I recognized the voice of my Foreman, who, in his world, had been a renowned horseman and a former member of the King’s Mounted Guard.young-hero-facing-left

“What difference does it make? The stupid things are not real. They are like toys or games. When you are finished playing with them, you walk away! And besides, what do you mean, you will not have it? Who died and made you king?”

I had never heard my Young Hero speak to anyone with such disrespect. I was about to stick my head in the door and say something, when a third voice chimed in. I recognized it as that of my Gypsy, my Young Hero’s best friend.

gypsy-facing-right“The Foreman’s right and you know it. So the horses aren’t real. So what? The whole purpose of Dragon creating them for us was so we could enjoy a part of the life we once cherished in our world. We need to treat these illusions as if they were real flesh-and-blood animals. Is this how you treated your pony back in our world – you ran him so hard he was in a lather and heaving for breath, then you just walked away from him as if he didn’t matter?”

I waited to hear my Young Hero’s response. What I heard was the sound of a fist solidly connecting with a face, and the crunch of a nose breaking. I reached for the door and almost got knocked over as my Young Hero burst out of the room. He shoved me aside, knocking my pizza and drink out of my hands, then ran up the stairs and out the door.

I left the mess in the hallway and went to check on my Gypsy. Blood streamed from his now-crooked nose, and he looked like a raccoon, with two black eyes. My Foreman was trying to stem the flow of blood.

“I’ll get Cleric.”

I ran back upstairs. Dragon was in the living room. She had my Arrogant One pinned to the floor and he was squealing like a stuck pig.

“What’s going on? Never mind, I don’t have time for this. Where’s Cleric?”

Dragon pointed with the end of her tail. I looked where she was pointing and saw Cleric on the deck. I opened the door and grabbed her arm. “My Gypsy’s been injured. Do you have your healing herbs?”

“I will get them.”

“Okay, meet us in the conference room.”

As I raced back through the living room, I called over my shoulder to Dragon. “Don’t kill him until I get back. I want to know what he’s done this time.”

Cleric was only a few steps behind me as I returned to the conference room. She applied her healing herbs to my Gypsy’s broken nose and soon stanched the flow of blood. Within a half-hour, his face was back to perfect condition.

“Thanks, Cleric.” I was relieved.

My Gypsy mumbled his thanks, then started to leave.

“Hold on there! Mind telling me what happened?”

“I lost an argument with a fist. I zigged when I should have zagged.”

“What was the argument about?” Even though I had overheard the incident, I wanted to hear my Gypsy’s version of events.

“Ask him.” The lad jammed his hands in his pockets and shouldered his way past me. A moment later, I heard the front door slam.

“Don’t ask me.” My Foreman’s voice was a deep growl.

“I wasn’t planning on it. I’ll talk to my Young Hero.”

“You do that.” And he, too, shouldered his way out of the room.

“Has everyone gone mad? What is happening?”

“I do not know what you are talking about.” Cleric stuck her nose in the air and flounced out of the room.

I stood there, stunned, for several long moments before I wandered, dazed, back to the mess in the hallway. It took me 15 minutes to scrape up the pizza, which had landed gooey-side down on the carpet. I was grateful the bottle of soda had been tightly capped when it fell. When I finished cleaning the pizza out of the rug, I climbed the stairs to the living room. Dragon and my Arrogant One were still there.

The beast was stretched out on the floor, her chin casually propped up on one hand. She was holding the elf in place with a single claw on his chest, a claw all three of us knew could skewer my Arrogant One with virtually no effort on Dragon’s part. The elf had stopped squealing and was now just whimpering piteously.

“Okay, what’s this all about?” I stood facing them, my arms folded across my chest.

“She’s going to kill me!” My Arrogant One shrieked. Then he broke down and sobbed.

“You are pathetic. You are an insect, not even worth my notice, let alone the effort to kill you.” Dragon yawned, opening her mouth as wide as possible. She showed every one of her teeth, each of which was as long as my forearm and as sharp as a dagger. She removed her claw from the elf’s chest and rolled over, wriggling and squirming as she scratched her back on the carpet.

My Arrogant One lost no time jumping up. He almost tore the French doors off their hinges as he made his escape. He ran out on the deck, down the stairs, and headed right for the garden shed. He ran inside and pulled the doors closed behind him. I swore, even at that distance, I could hear the bolt being slammed and the doors being barricaded.

I turned to face Dragon, who was still writhing on the floor, scratching her back. “Stop that. You’re tearing up the carpet. I’ve asked you before not to do that.” I frowned.

Dragon sat up and blew a cloud of smoke toward me. “So what? My back is itchy.”

“So put those nice sharp claws of yours to use. Don’t use the carpet. Your scales rip right through it!”

“In case you haven’t noticed, simpleton, my arms are not long enough to reach the itchy spots on my back.” Darker smoke started pluming from Dragon’s nose, and her mouth started to twist into a snarl.

“So create an illusion of another dragon and have it scratch your itchy back.”

Dragon blinked. “I can not believe someone of such inferior intellect could think of that, and I did not.”

“Gee, thanks. This inferior intellect is so happy to be of service.” I could hear the sarcasm dripping from my words, but Dragon seemed not to notice. I shrugged. “So you didn’t explain why you were about to skewer my Arrogant One.”

Dragon ignored me as she conjured a mirror image of herself, which immediately set about scratching Dragon’s itchy back. The beast wriggled in pleasure and directed her doppelganger to the itchiest spots. Finally, she sighed and released the spell. The other dragon disappeared in a puff of smoke. The Dragon who remained shrank until she was eye-level with me.

“Who says I need a reason to skewer that annoying elf?”

I raised an eyebrow. “Well, most times you have a reason for such behavior.”

She shrugged.

“I’d sure like to know what’s going on here today. Everybody seems to be at everyone else’s throat. My Old Dwarf and my Bounty Hunter almost came to blows, Cleric and Sorceress were squabbling, my Foreman and the lads were locking horns and my Young Hero actually hit his best friend. You tried to skewer the elf for no reason. And you weren’t the only one to forget their manners with me.”

Dragon ignored my gibe about her behavior toward me. “The lad hit the Gypsy?” Her eyes widened.

I nodded. “Gave him a bloody nose. That’s why I needed Cleric and her healing herbs.”

Dragon growled. “You are right. Something is going on.” She narrowed her eyes and templed her clawed fingers. She sat there for many long moments, deliberating. “It may be just the heat . . . or the boredom . . . but I think we should look for other possible causes. Most of us are good friends. We have been companions for a long time here in your world, longer in our memories of our own world. With the exception of the annoying elf and more recently the Bounty Hunter, we have never had any serious conflicts.”

“I agree. I was shocked at the incidents today, friend against friend, both in verbal conflict and in physical altercation.”

“I will investigate.”

“I appreciate that. Should I gather everyone together and tell them this behavior will not be tolerated?”

Dragon shook her head. “If it is just the heat and the boredom, I am sure most of us have realized that our actions are regrettable. If there is something more sinister at work, telling us that our behavior will not be tolerated will have no effect, other than possibly exacerbating it.”

“You say our actions, our behavior. Do you include yourself in this? Did you have no reason for attacking my Arrogant One? Or for disparaging my intelligence?”

Again she ignored my reference to her behavior toward me. “I am not sure. When I attacked the elf, I had a reason. Now, however, I can not recall what it may have been. Perhaps it was just his characteristic arrogance rubbing me the wrong way. Perhaps it was something more. Let me deliberate. Perhaps I will have a better answer for you in time.”

I nodded.

Dragon stood there, shuffling one foot back and forth.

I quirked an eyebrow and tilted my head. “Was there something else?”

“Well, I suppose I should apologize for being disparaging toward you.” She looked at me sheepishly and fidgeted.

“Well, I suppose I should accept your apology.” I winked, and we both smiled.

When Miles got home that evening, he asked me how my day had been. I just looked at him, rolled my eyes, and laughed. “Why don’t we go out to dinner? I’ll tell you all about it on the way.”

Be sure to come back next week and see if Dragon has discovered a reason for everyone’s uncharacteristically ill-tempered behavior. I’ll leave the porch light on for you.

The End?

The End?

Hail and well met, old friends and new readers! Once again, I, Dragon, will continue relating our adventure while Mistress Writer continues her recovery.

Elf facing rightSleeping Woman 2I tip-toed into Mistress Writer’s bedchamber. Cleric was sitting next to the bed, a look of concern on her face, while Mistress Writer slumbered. I gestured to Cleric to follow me into the hallway.

“How is the patient today?”

“I am worried, Dragon. I feel Mistress Writer should be up and about by now. Her procedure, which her doctors designated as minor surgery, was days ago.”

I frowned. “She has been up.”

“She has been out of the bedchamber.” Cleric was quick to correct me. “She has not been up. When she leaves the bedchamber, she reclines on the soft bench in the great room.”

blue-dragon-2Couch. Living Room. How long has it been since we fell out of Mistress Writer’s manuscripts? How long have we lived in this world? We should all make a better effort to refer to objects in the vernacular.”

Cleric scowled. “Do not confuse the issue. Whatever you call the furniture or the room, Mistress Writer remains prone most of the day!”

I returned Cleric’s scowl, and added some smoke for good measure. “She sits at the table for meals, and she walks around the house a bit. She has even stepped out onto the deck.”

Sorceress and the Gypsy joined us, and Sorceress addressed me. “Have you told Mistress Writer what we discovered about the conduit?”

“Not yet. I wish to wait until she is feeling well.”

“Maybe I could entertain her with some juggling, or tell her some jokes.” The Gypsy grinned and waggled his eyebrows.

He choked as I blew a cloud of smoke in his face. “Mistress Writer does not need to be entertained. She needs to heal. I strongly suggest we all give her the time she needs to do so.” I emphasized my suggestion with a snarl, making sure every one of my dagger-sharp teeth were visible. The Gypsy, still choking, nodded and waved his hand to indicate his understanding.

Days turn into weeksdoctor

The days stretched into weeks. Mistress Writer and her spouse, Master Miles, were as disheartened as were we, her characters, at her lack of improvement. She was still unable to sit for more than very short periods of time, and she spent most of her days wandering aimlessly around the house and yard. At Master Miles’ urging, she sometimes took her camera onto the deck and captured images of the myriad birds and creatures that visited the yard. But her spirits remained low. They sank even lower when her follow-up examination by her physician, four weeks after surgery, revealed that she was not healing as quickly as the doctor had anticipated.

“Another month of being relegated to the house and the yard! No nature walks! I have missed all of spring migration and now I will miss nesting season.” Mistress Writer, an avid bird watcher, spoke in a monotone. Her shoulders were drooped and she stared at her hands, clasped tightly on her lap.

“Your doctor does not wish you to take walks?” Sorceress raised an eyebrow.

“Only very slow, short walks around the house and yard. My doctor explained that there is still much swelling, and long walks would cause stress and friction in the area of the stitches. That would only delay healing further.” Mistress Writer sighed.

“Well, at least there is abundant wildlife in your back yard. You do not seem to be lacking for willing avian and mammalian subjects for your photography.” I gestured toward the deck, where a chipmunk struck a coy pose near the broom while several birds lined up on the railing.

“And you do seem to be somewhat more comfortable when sitting now.” Cleric plumped a pillow and positioned it on the couch behind Mistress Writer. “You may be frustrated now, but I am sure your next visit with your doctor will yield more encouraging results.”camera

Mistress Writer shrugged her shoulders and reached for her camera. I suppose you are right. I will try harder to make the best of it.”

 

Several more days passed before I found the opportunity to be alone with Mistress Writer. Master Miles was running errands and would be gone for several hours. The Foreman and the lads were working their horses in the front yard. Cleric and Sorceress were downstairs in the conference room drying herbs and preparing sundry powders, oils, and other materials used for healing and for a variety of spell components. The Arrogant One and the Bounty Hunter were still occupying the loft in the garden shed and, at my request, the Old Dwarf had stationed himself near the shed and was keeping those two under close observation.

I found Mistress Writer in the living room, watching and photographing the birds on the deck.

“Mistress?”

“Yes? What is it, Dragon?” She placed her camera on the coffee table and took a seat on the couch.

dragon facing right“We must talk.” I shrank to the size of a Cocker Spaniel and curled up on the couch next to her. “Do you remember, prior to your recent surgery, you had asked me and my fellow spell casters to determine if there was any way for us to enter our own world through the magic conduit which allowed passage of several items from there into your world?”

Mistress Writer nodded. “Have you made a determination?”

 

I inclined my head in assent. “My fellow magic users and I located the conduit. The Gypsy lad held it immobile for me while I examined it. I discovered a barrier within the conduit, through which I was unable to pass. Since each of my companions are proficient in a different form of magic, each of them in turn attempted, as I had, to defeat the barrier and pass through the conduit into our own world. None of them were able to do so. We have therefore concluded that the conduit is a one-way passage from our world into yours. We do not believe there is any danger the Arrogant One and the Bounty Hunter will find a way to use it to enter our world and become supreme rulers through the use of the annoying elf’s illusions.”strange-dreams

A smile slowly spread across Mistress Writer’s face. She took my scaly hand and squeezed it tightly as she sighed in relief. “Thank you, my friend. And I would like to thank Sorceress, Cleric, and my Gypsy, too. You all did a fine job, and I am very grateful”

“We are always glad to be of service.” I hesitated, a small plume of smoke drifting from my nostrils. “Mistress, I have need to discuss something else.”

“Okay. What do you need to discuss?”

I hesitated again. “Mistress, I wish to speak with you regarding one of your theories. I have reason to believe that you have erred.”

Mistress Writer quirked an eyebrow and tilted her head. “Oh? What theory is that?”

Book manuscript“You have postulated that we nine characters who have fallen from your manuscripts into this world exist simultaneously in two worlds. You claim we continue to exist in what you refer to as our world, the world about which you have written, and we exist in this world, the world you call the real world.”

books“That is correct. I have long thought this to be true; and as I confided in you after reading the books that passed through the conduit from your world to this one, I now have confirmation of my theory. The books chronicle adventures that have occurred in your world after those events about which I have written in my manuscripts. These more recent events involve most of you nine characters now residing here.”

I nodded.

“So, in what way have I erred?”

I took a deep breath. “Mistress, the nine of us did not come from that which we call our world. We never existed there.”

Mistress Writer gaped at me, as if she could not understand my words. “What do you mean, you never existed there? Did I not chronicle your adventures in that world?”

I licked my lips and swallowed hard. “We – the nine characters who fell out of your manuscripts and into this world – did not come from the world we refer to as our world, the world about which you wrote. We came from your manuscripts. We do not exist simultaneously in both worlds – the world we refer to as our world and this world that you call the real world – because we are not the same beings that exist in the world we refer to as our world. We are merely shadows, or memories, of those beings.”

Mistress Writer furrowed her brow. “And how did you come up with this notion?”

“As with you and your theory, Mistress, I have long held this notion. I just needed proof.”

Her eyes narrowed. “And how did you prove it?”

office-and-bookshelf-for-blog-002I forced myself to meet her scrutiny. “I invaded your office.”

She raised an eyebrow and crossed her arms over her chest. “My office? Why?” Her voice was steely, her expression grim.

At the sound of disapproval in her voice, I tucked my tail and hung my head. “Mistress, I had need of your manuscripts. The ones from which my fellow characters and I fell into this world.”

“And you could not have just asked to see them?”

“You were occupied with your surgery and then your recovery. I had no desire to trouble you.”

It was a long few moments before Mistress Writer spoke again. When she did, her voice was soft and gentle. “I appreciate your consideration. Of course, you are always welcome in my office, my cherished friend, and you are free to examine anything there.”

I had not realized until that moment I had been holding my breath. I let it out in a rush of relief. “Thank you, Mistress.”

“Now, tell me, how did my manuscripts prove your theory and disprove mine?”

“I am not sure I can explain it. I examined the manuscripts through both physical and magical means. With my unique and exceptional dragon powers, I determined there is much magic in those texts, in your words.”

Magic?” Mistress Writer scoffed.

I met her skeptical stare. “Magic.”

Her expression changed to one of alarm. “Are you saying someone enchanted my manuscripts?”

“No, Mistress, it is not an enchantment. It is a completely different type of magic. It is magic that you created, with your words.”

for-todays-blog-013morcantMistress Writer blanched, and her hand flew to her mouth. “No!” She stared at me for a few moments, then said in a quieter voice, “No! It cannot be. Morcant, the evil wizard I once wrote about in a story, accused me of being a witch. He avowed I did not chronicle the events of his trial and subsequent exile; he maintained that I caused the events through my writing.” She paused, searching my face for reassurance. “Did I? Did I cause those horrible events? Did I cause the events in your world?” Her eyes were wide with an apparent mix of fear and distress.

I smiled. “No, Mistress, you did not. You are no witch, Mistress, and the magic of your words did not cause events to unfold. They merely gave birth to us characters, not in the world of which you wrote, but within the pages of your manuscripts.”

“If my words gave birth to you, why did only you nine fall from the pages into this world?”

“Methinks mayhap we are your favorites.”Favorite

Mistress Writer snorted and shook her head. “Some of you, yes; but my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter? Favorites? Hardly!”

“Then I know not why only we nine fell from your manuscript pages, Mistress. I only know I am very glad I was one who did.”

Mistress Writer looked at me warmly. “Me, too, Dragon. Me, too.”

Be sure to come back and visit from time to time, cherished readers. Mistress Writer should be back to peak health soon, and who knows what mystery or adventure looms on the horizon? We will 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

 

What Do We Find?

What Do We Find?

Elf clericHail and well met, old friends and new readers! As promised, I, Dragon – in my familiar guise of an elf maiden, whose nimble fingers are more suited to the computer keyboard than are my dragon claws – will continue relating our adventure while Mistress Writer continues her malingering . . . er, I mean her convalescing.

Dawn was yet an hour away when I awoke. I heard Mistress Writer and Master Miles leave for the hospital, where Mistress Writer would be having a minor surgical procedure. I knew they would not return until late in the day.

blue-dragon-2

I yawned widely and made my way to the kitchen, where I found the Foreman and the Young Hero. “You two have arisen early this morn.”

 

The Young Hero responded with a huge grin. “We are going to work our horses this morning. The Foreman is going to teach me more cavalry exercises.”

I smiled at his enthusiasm. “That is good news. I was hoping you could find some outdoor activities to occupy your day. Whilst you enjoy a day of dressage and flatwork, perhaps you would be so kind as to watch for the Arrogant One and the Bounty Hunter? My companions and I will be spell-casting today, and would not care to be disturbed.”

The Foreman nodded. “We will be vigilant.”

As they took their leave, the Old Dwarf entered the kitchen to break his fast. “Ah, Dwarf! I am glad you are here. Your services are needed.”dwarf-facing-right

He pushed past me without responding and reached into the cold box. He retrieved an entire ham and a wheel of cheese, then moved to the pantry.

A plume of smoke rose from my nostrils as I watched the dwarf rummage through the pantry. He finally responded, as if it had taken all that time for my words to penetrate his thick skull. “Aye? Ye be needin’ a guard on the conference room door agin, whilst ye and yer three companions be doin’ yer magikin’?”

“No, not this time. This time I need you to find the Arrogant One and keep that annoying elf from casting any magic spells within this house.”

The dwarf continued to rummage, finally extracting a loaf of bread and several containers of condiments. He seemed oblivious to what I had just said.

My smoke grew darker and thicker, and I templed my clawed hands. “Dwarf?”

“I heerd ye, ye consarned beastie! Ye knowed ye be interruptin’ me breakfast?” He grabbed another container. “Ye be needin’ the elfie ta not be makin’ his illusions, aye? Jest in the hoose? Or anywhere?”

“Just within the house.”

“Fer how long?” He gathered the food and stuffed it in his pouch, then rummaged through the cold box for something to drink.

“I am uncertain. It may be just this day, or it may be for several weeks.”

He looked at me, his green eyes wide. “Weeks?

I nodded.

He blinked, looking dazed. Then he grabbed a beef roast from the cold box, and another loaf of bread from the cupboard, and added them to his pouch.

“Ye be gittin’ word ta me when it be okay ta let the little popinjay come back in the hoose?”

“I will.”

“The elfie an’ his cohort, the Bounty Hunter, be spendin’ most o their time in the garden shed, in the loft. Thet be where ye be findin’ us.” He grabbed another beverage and tramped off without a backward glance.

I went immediately to the conference room and greeted my companions in magic, who were already assembled there. “We will not be disturbed. The Old Dwarf understands his mission, and has taken with him enough food and drink to last a normal individual three full cycles of the moon.”

gypsy-facing-right“Then we’d best hurry. That will only last the dwarf a few days!” The Gypsy grinned and waggled his eyebrows, something he did frequently to indicate he was attempting to be humorous.

From my stern countenance and the smoke billowing from my nostrils, I presume the Gypsy realized I was not amused. His cheeks flamed, he ducked his head, and he shuffled his one foot back and forth. When he spoke, it was in a mumble. “Right. Well, let’s get started.”

Stu-04-NatGal“The lad has done an adequate job.” Coming from the Sorceress, this was praise of the highest order. “We should have no trouble linking our power and sustaining the spell for as long as needed.”

The Gypsy positioned himself in the conference room, where he had access to all the components he would need. Cleric took her position in front of Mistress Writer’s office. Sorceress and I took the upper level of the house. Sorceress stood near the bedchambers and I settled my bulk between the kitchen and the living room. From there, I had an unobstructed view of the front door and the doors to the deck.

I am not at liberty to share with you the precise incantation, nor the specific components utilized for the spell. Suffice it to say, at a signal from the Gypsy – a single word shouted loudly enough for the three of us to hear – Cleric, Sorceress and I linked our power with that of the Gypsy and quickly fell into the magic. It worked like the proverbial charm.

Less than a half hour after we linked our powers with that of the Gypsy and we cast the detection spell, the conduit appeared. It glimmered into view very near my elbow, and I called to the others to let them know.strange-dreams

Before my fellow spell-casters could make their way to my side, the conduit disappeared again. Sorceress, who had only to come down the hall from the bed chambers, caught a glimpse of it winking out of sight. Cleric and the Gypsy missed it altogether.

For the next two hours, we played cat and mouse with the conduit. Every time we recast the detection spell, the conduit would appear within moments, always in a different spot . . . and it would disappear just as quickly. Finally, it appeared in the conference room near the Gypsy, who was able to cast an immobilization spell on it.

The four of us gathered around the opening of the conduit. “Your immobilization spell does not seem to have damaged the conduit in any discernable way.” I nodded my approval to the Gypsy, and started my examination of the magical passageway. At the opening of the conduit, I sprinkled some components I had previously prepared for this purpose, and recited an incantation.

“Well?” Sorceress pressed closer.

“It is the very same conduit through which the items from our world were sent here.”

Elf facing right“Well, we hardly expected to find another conduit, now did we?” Cleric spoke a bit sharper than was her wont.

I raised an eyebrow and smoke began to emerge from my nostrils. “No, we had no such expectations; however, to take such a thing for granted is to court disaster.”

“Of course, of course. I just grow weary and impatient.” Cleric raked her hand through her hair in a gesture of frustration.

“We all grow weary and impatient.” Sorceress patted her friend on the shoulder, then turned to me. “Now that you have confirmed the identity of the conduit as the one that links our world with this one, how are we to determine if we are able to use it to enter our world?”

The Gypsy spoke up. “Dragon and I have discussed this. We had considered attempting to send a note through the conduit, back to the person in our world who sent the items to Mistress Writer, and ask him to respond in kind.”

Cleric furrowed her brow. “How long would we have to wait to know if that person received the note?”

“Too long. And there would be no way to guarantee the note would be received by that specific person. We do not want to alert anyone else who may not know of the existence of the conduit.” The Gypsy shook his head. “As I said, we had considered that course of action; however, we soon discarded the idea.”

“Then what?” Sorceress frowned.

I took a step toward the conduit. “The only way to know if we can use the conduit to enter our world is for one of us to attempt it.”

“You?” Sorceress quirked an eyebrow and folded her arms across her chest.

Spring Peeper Meadow and MN Landscape Arboretum 044“Yes. I am the one best suited. I can employ my shapeshifting powers and take on the guise of a small creature. I had thought a dragonfly might remain unnoticed by anyone at the other end of the conduit. However, the Gypsy reminded me the last time I had changed into a dragonfly, I had found myself unable to hear. I could be in great peril if I arrived in our world without the use of my ears.”

Cleric’s eyes widened, and her hand flew to her mouth. “Oh, dear!”

mothThe Gypsy stepped forward, grinning broadly. “Do not fear! Dragon and I have used Mistress Writer’s magic box to research the insects in this world. The one with the best hearing is something called a greater wax moth. Dragon has familiarized herself with this creature, and will shapeshift into that form to enter the conduit.”

Sorceress frowned. “Is such a creature fast enough and maneuverable enough should you encounter any dangers?”

“Its speed and maneuverability does not rival the dragonfly, but I will be on my guard and will immediately change back to my true form if danger presents itself. Now, you must maintain the immobilization spell while I enter the conduit.”

My three companions nodded somberly and wished me well.

I mumbled a few words and started to shrink and transform into a greater wax moth. Seconds later, I entered the conduit. Halfway through the passageway, I was stopped by some sort of invisible barrier. I flew back out.

I quickly transformed back to my natural state and explained what I had encountered.

Cleric’s eyes widened. “What will you do now?”

“I will attempt to overcome the barrier with my own magic. For that, I will remain in my true form.”

“Is that wise?” Sorceress looked doubtful. “Might you not destroy the conduit?”

“I do not believe I will damage it in any way. At any rate, I believe it worth the risk.” Before anyone could argue, I shrank just enough to squeeze my bulk into the conduit. I had taken barely a dozen steps along the passageway when I was again stopped by the invisible barrier. A lengthy examination and several incantations proved it to be impenetrable.”

When I finally emerged, my companions clamored for an answer. “Did you get through?”

“No. I was unable to defeat the barrier. However, since each of us is proficient in a different type of magic, methinks each of you should give it a try before we admit defeat.”

My three companions nodded their agreement. One by one, each entered the conduit. Each emerged unsuccessful. None of us were able to penetrate the barrier.

strange-dreamsAs the Gypsy released the immobilization spell and the conduit winked out of sight once more, I addressed my three companions. “I believe we can safely and accurately report to Mistress Writer that she need fear no more. There appears to be no way any of our number can use the conduit to enter our world. It appears to be a one-way passage. I will wait until Mistress Writer has recovered from her surgery before presenting her our report.”

office-and-bookshelf-for-blog-002Later that evening, as everyone else slumbered, I stole into Mistress Writer’s office. It took me considerable time to find what I sought in that mess, but I finally discovered the manuscripts from which I and my companions had fallen into this world.

Book manuscriptI took them to the conference room and worked through the night, thoroughly examining them both physically and magically. As dawn broke, I wearily returned the manuscripts to Mistress Writer’s office.

I had much to share with her upon her recovery!

Be sure to return next week and see if Mistress Writer has recovered enough to receive my report. I shall leave the porch light on for you.

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We Look For the Conduit

We Look For the Conduit

Elf clericHail and well met, old friends and new readers! Mistress Writer is still convalescing, so I, Dragon, have once again shapeshifted to my familiar guise of an elf maiden, whose nimble fingers are more suited to the computer keyboard than are my dragon claws. This week, I will attempt to recount for you the mission I and three of my companions undertook at Mistress Writer’s behest.

For any among you who are new to our adventures, let me explain. We are a group of characters, nine in number, who have fallen out of Mistress Writer’s manuscripts. We each have memories of our old lives, lived in a world Mistress Writer has termed medieval, a world of magic and fantastic creatures. It was a world much different from this world in which we now find ourselves, a world Mistress Writer calls the real world.

While all nine of us miss our own world and our former lives, two of our number are obsessed with finding a way to return there – the Arrogant One, an annoying elf skilled in the duplicitous magic of illusion, and the Bounty Hunter, a figure skilled in silent stalking, strategic deliberation, and malicious instigation.

Those two have caused much trouble for Mistress Writer and her spouse, Master Miles, as well as for the rest of us, in their quest to return to our world and – perhaps – to introduce there the illusion of weapons and technology from this world, affording the two of them world domination.

Mistress Writer has a theory that we characters can not return to our world. She believes us to already be there, existing simultaneously in both worlds. She says the we who exist there are continuing with our lives, unaware of the we who now live here. The recent discovery of certain items, including a set of books, that were sent through a magic portal from our world to Mistress Writer seems to support her theory. Mistress Writer revealed to me the books chronicle events in our lives that have occurred since we have come into existence here, although she will not share any details.

If we accept the premise we are unable to return to our world, having never actually departed from it, our world would appear safe from the diabolical plans of domination by the Arrogant One and the Bounty Hunter. However, Mistress Writer fears that the we who exist here in her real world may be able to enter our own world by means of the same magic conduit through which the books and other items entered this world.

I, along with three of my trusted companions, seek to discover if this would indeed be possible.

Elf facing right

 

First, there is Cleric, an elven priestess and healer who is gentle as a lamb and fierce as a mother bear, and who possesses powers she can neither understand nor explain.

Stu-04-NatGal

 

Second is Sorceress, a regally aloof member of a reclusive race, honored among her people as one of their greatest magic users.

 

gypsy-facing-rightThird is the Gypsy, a talented but undisciplined lad who has an intuitive understanding of magic, having learned at the knee of his witch/grandmother; but who would prefer to engage in horseplay or practice his lock-picking skills rather than study his magical craft.

blue-dragon-facing-left

 

Then there is me, Dragon, a most wise, clever, whimsical, and infinitely powerful member of the most magical race in our world.

 

In spite of our combined powers, and weeks of toil, the location of the magic conduit continues to elude us.

strange-dreams

“We have used every incantation, every power, every potion, and every artifact at our disposal.” Sorceress mopped the sweat from her brow and sighed heavily. “Still, the conduit remains hidden.”

Cleric raked her hand through her hair in the same gesture of frustration Mistress Writer so often uses. “We have examined the locations where Mistress Writer indicated each of the first four objects from our world was found. We have also examined the site where you, Dragon, found the last of the objects, the set of books. We have found only the trace magic from the conduit at each site. The conduit itself appears to have vanished.”

The Gypsy furrowed his brow and stroked his chin. “We know from having previously examined the books and the other four items that they all came through the same conduit, in spite of having been found in various spots within this house. If the conduit moves around, maybe it has not vanished. Maybe it has merely moved again. Maybe it is preparing for another item to pass from our world to this one. Perhaps it has even transported other items that we have not yet found.”

I snorted. “So, what do you suggest? That we go through this entire house, inch by inch, hoping that while we are examining one spot, we are not missing a moving target that is jumping between other spots?”

magic energy traceThe Gypsy raised an eyebrow at me, and chuckled. “No, I suggest a directional detection spell, one which will alert us to any change in magical energy within a specific radius, and pinpoint the location of that change. We would each take a section of the house, two of us upstairs and two down. We would cast our spells simultaneously, and then wait for the conduit to announce its arrival . . . or its departure, if it is already here somewhere.”

I nodded. “This sounds like a workable concept.” I narrowed my reptilian eyes and considered the Gypsy’s proposal, seeking any inherent weakness in his plan. “We would have to link our spells, to be cast as one, so the magic energy of one of our spells would not be detected as the change in magic energy we seek.”

Sorceress looked impressed. “This may work!”

Cleric nodded hesitantly. “It might . . . but only if the Arrogant One does not cast any spells in the time we are waiting. His use of magic anywhere within our target area would cause our spell to react.”

dwarfI templed my clawed hands, and pondered the problem. “I can have the Old Dwarf guard the annoying elf, to prevent him from using any magic during the time our spell is in effect. That way, the emergence or departure of the conduit would be the only magic that our combined spell would detect.”

Sorceress frowned and folded her arms over her chest. “If we do manage to locate the conduit, how do we proceed? Finding the conduit is only the first step. Our mission is to determine if it is possible for us to use it to enter our world. Once we locate it, we must prevent it from moving again until we have the time to complete our mission.”

I sighed. “That could prove a more difficult undertaking. Until we find the conduit, we can not examine it and determine the means by which we might immobilize it without damaging it. We may have to locate it numerous times before being able to complete our mission.”

The Gypsy nodded. He rubbed his hands together and grinned eagerly. “I think I can devise a directional detection spell that will use very little of our energy. If we use a complicated spell, we may exhaust ourselves too quickly. We have no way of knowing if we need to hold the spell intact for mere moments or for days before we find the conduit, or how many times we may have to recast it before we can complete an examination of the conduit.”

Cleric wrung her hands and chewed her lower lip for several moments. “But . . . but what if the conduit does not reemerge? We have no way of knowing if whoever sent these items from our world has more items to send. If not, the conduit may not be re-opened again.”

I frowned. “If the conduit does not reemerge by the next full moon, we shall have to consider alternative means of locating it.”

Sorceress tried unsuccessfully to stifle a yawn. “Forsooth, I am weary! Sunset is already a memory this day. Mayhap we should take our rest and convene here again upon the morrow?”

I nodded and turned to the Gypsy. “Will you be able to devise a spell for us by midmorning?”

He smirked. “In the vernacular of this world, piece of cake!”

The rest of us looked at him blankly.

He sighed and shook his head at us. “Yes. I will easily have it all prepared by that time.”

I nodded. “Then, until the morrow, rest well, my friends. I will instruct the Old Dwarf in his duties to prevent the annoying elf from interfering in our task, and I will meet you here again at midmorning.”

Be sure to return next week, cherished readers. While Mistress Writer continues to convalesce, I will share with you the results we achieved when we implemented the Gypsy’s spell. Until then, I will be sure the porch light is left on for you.

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What DID James Say?

What DID James Say?

Elf clericHail and well met, old friends and new readers. I fear Mistress Writer is still unable to sit and undertake the chronicling of events. Oh, do not be unduly concerned for her – she is recovering, albeit slowly. The way Master Miles dotes on her is almost dragon-like in its virtue. Under his tender care, and with the hovering presence of our own renowned elven healer, Cleric (along with the ministrations of Mistress Writer’s human doctors), she should soon be able to return to her duties.

Meanwhile, however, the events that transpired previous to Mistress Writer’s malady are of too great an import to leave you waiting and wondering for even one more week. Therefore, I, Dragon, have shapeshifted into my familiar guise of an elf maiden (whose fingers are nimbler on the computer keyboard than are my dragon claws), and I shall attempt to transcribe here all I remember of that day.

Downstairs in the conference room, Mistress Writer was just about to tell Master Miles what James (the human companion of my dear friend, Ollie) had said about the pages of the book she had sent him by some means she calls e-mail. Their conversation was interrupted, however, by a loud crash upstairs, followed by angry voices.

When Mistress Writer and Master Miles came charging up the stairs and into the living room, they found me separating two seemingly identical dwarves who were attempting to annihilate each other with axe and shield. I grasped each by the scruff of the neck and held them fast.

“What’s going on now?” Mistress Writer stood there, hands on her hips, scowling at me and my captives. She appeared very cross, even for her.

“Git this great beastie offen me!” One of the dwarves struggled valiantly to free himself from my iron grasp.

“Aye! Call offen yer scaly pet!” The other dwarf struggled, but not as fiercely.

Mistress Writer raised an eyebrow and gave me that aggravating look of hers that demanded an immediate explanation of the situation.

arrogant-one-facing-right

 

“That annoying elf.” I knew no further explanation was needed. Mistress Writer’s Arrogant One had obviously ignored her warning not to engage his power of illusion to create the image of any of her other characters.

 

“Which is which?” As clever as she is, Mistress Writer was unable to determine which of the dwarves struggling in my grasp was real and which was illusion. I, on the other hand, being a dragon and possessing immense magical power of my own, could easily tell them apart. I released the real dwarf and opened my great maw as if to swallow the other. The fake dwarf immediately disappeared in a shower of sparks.

The real dwarf stood sputtering like the proverbial wet hen, his language initially not fit to repeat here in polite company. He finally loosed his frustrations by taking a rather ineffectual swipe at me with his axe. “Ye great blitherin’ beastie! Ye incompetent hornie-toad! Ye be darin’ ta claim yerself capable o sensin’ magic? Ye shoulda knowed all along I be the real dwarf, ye colossal nincompoop!”

“I did.” I blew a large cloud of smoke in his face and then turned from him to face Mistress Writer. She shook her head and did her best to look annoyed with me, but I know she understands the relationship shared by her Old Dwarf and me. Had I not tormented him, he would have been offended.

“For what reason did my Arrogant One create the illusion of my Old Dwarf?” For one so clever, sometimes Mistress Writer can not fathom the simplest of situations.

“Causin the ridiculous little popinjay be knowin’ he can na best me in a fair fight, so he be creatin’ sommat what can – another me!” Her poor Old Dwarf could hardly choke out the words, coughing and sneezing away the last of the smoke I had blown at him.

“And he wanted to bash your skull for what purpose, exactly?” Really, perhaps I have overestimated Mistress Writer’s cleverness.

Her Old Dwarf just gaped at her, unable to respond.

“Their longstanding feud? The fact that your Arrogant One is a born troublemaker? Because your Bounty Hunter instigated him again?” I tried to offer the suggestions in such a way as to preserve Mistress Writer’s dignity.

“Right.” Mistress Writer raked her hand through her hair in that annoying gesture of frustration she employs so often. Yes, I have definitely overestimated her cleverness.

“Well, no harm done, I guess, so we can deal with the little twerp later.”

I raised an eyebrow at her, but nodded. “Of course.”

“Well, if the situation here is under control, I’m still waiting to hear what James had to say!” Master Miles voice was strained and practically dripping with typical human impatience.

Mistress Writer nodded. “Indeed. Well, James said . . . ” She paused and looked around, as if waiting for something to once again interrupt her pronouncement. When nothing occurred, she sighed with relief and continued, her words tumbling out with great speed. “James said he was unable to read a single word of the pages I e-mailed him. What’s more, he took the liberty of showing the pages to a trusted friend, a linguist who speaks, reads and writes countless languages and dialects including several ancient tongues. That person could not decipher a single word, either.”

She paused again, this time to catch her breath. “So, the books must have been enchanted so I alone could read them.”books

Master Miles gave his wife a blank stare. “Uh, honey? You aren’t the only one who can read them. I can, too, remember? If they were enchanted so only you could read them, how is it I am able to read them, too?”

Mistress Writer returned his blank stare, then shrugged. Good readers, did I really ever describe Mistress Writer as clever?

I cleared my throat, but before I could speak, her Old Dwarf chuckled. “Eh, lass, can ye really not be figurin’ thet out?”

Mistress Writer shook her head.

“Wale, I mighten not be understandin’ o most magics, but I be thinkin’ it be acause o the greatest magic o all – the great bond atween ye two. Ye not only be husband and wife in name and in fact, but ye two share the bond o deep and abidin’ love o two soul-mates. Ta me way o thinkin’ thet be a lot stronger then any other magics!” Her Old Dwarf winked broadly at the pair, who both blushed prettily and nodded their understanding, while I tried not to wretch at such naked sentimentality.

Quickly, before they could get all lovey-dovey, I cleared my throat again. “Yes, well now that that little mystery has been settled, I will be off. My companions and I believe we are close to a breakthrough on the other matter you wished us to explore. We hope we will soon have an answer for you.”

Good readers, I hope you will return again next week. If at that time Mistress Writer is still unable to assume her duties, I will once again relate to you all that I know. And, of course, we will leave the porch light on for you.

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Hold That Thought (just a little while longer)

Hold That Thought (just a little while longer)

books

Miles and I were finally settled in my office with the books. Before we continued reading the first one, the one featuring the image of the Innkeeper’s talisman on the first page, Miles placed his hand on my arm. “Honey, with all the drama in the conference room, you never did have the chance to tell me. What did James have to say about the e-mail you sent him? Could he read any of the pages of the book?”

“Ah, yes, the phone call.” I leaned back in my chair. “Well, James said –– ”

The conversation was interrupted by a commotion at the front door. Someone rang the doorbell several times in quick succession, then rapped loudly on the door and hollered something unintelligible.

Miles sighed. “Hold that thought.”

Easter 128That was three hours ago. Miles had gone to answer the door, and he had called down to me, “Honey, it’s the home delivery service with that big order of frozen food.” I had quickly placed the books back in the magic container Dragon had created for them, then headed upstairs to help Miles.

“Do we really need this much food?” Miles was staring at the huge chest freezer, which we had packed tighter than a circus clown car.

“You’ve seen my Old Dwarf eat. Do you really need to ask? Besides, it was on sale. I got it all for 65 percent off retail.”

Miles frowned and scratched his head. “Well, this food better last a good long while. I think we should put a lock on the freezer.”

dwarf“Eh, laddie, ye be hurtin’ me feelin’s.” My Old Dwarf entered the room, and his eyes lit up when he saw all the food. Miles quickly slammed the door of the freezer, and stood in front of the appliance as if to guard its contents. My Old Dwarf chuckled, then turned to me. “Lassie, methought ye be wantin’ ta knowed thet I seed yer Bounty Hunter in the conference room. The fancy box thet the scaly beast made fer ye ta keep the books safe was still shut tight, but I seed thet yer Bounty Hunter be having a right great interest in it.”

I blanched. “The books. How does he know where they are?”

My Old Dwarf shrugged. I grabbed him and Miles and we went to the conference room. My Bounty Hunter was gone. I was about to open the chest to check on the books when Miles pushed past me and sat on the trunk. I frowned. “Do you mind moving, honey? I need to check the books.”

box for books

Miles raised an eyebrow and jutted his chin toward my Old Dwarf. He lowered his voice so I had to lean in to catch his words. “Are we sure that’s really your Dwarf?”

I thought back to lunch earlier that same day, when my Old Dwarf and my Gypsy had dined with us and some of my other characters. Later, we had discovered that the two of them had been mere illusions, and none of us who shared the meal with them had realized they were fakes. I frowned and raked my hand through my hair.

“Old friend, could you go fetch Dragon for me? I need her here when I open the box.”

My Old Dwarf grunted and shrugged, then left the room.

“If he comes back with Dragon, we know he’s real. If not, he’s probably an illusion, although I would be surprised if my Arrogant One continued creating illusions of the other characters after I warned him off.”

Miles sighed.

“What’s wrong?”

“Conversations like this still make my head spin. If he comes back with Dragon, we know he’s real. You are talking about a character from a series of books you wrote. How can he be real?”

I chuckled. “Yeah, sometimes I have a hard time understanding it all.”

Miles stood up and gestured toward the chest. “While we’re waiting to see if he was real or illusion, why don’t we check on the books?”

“Good idea.” I opened the chest. “Looks like all four books are here. I would have been surprised if my Bounty Hunter had been able get to them. Dragon told me only she and I would be able to open the chest. Still, it’s best to check.”

“Indeed.” Dragon entered the room with my Old Dwarf in tow. The large beast narrowed her reptilian eyes, and tiny puffs of black smoke erupted from her nostrils. She started to reach for the books, when I let the lid drop.

“Oh, sorry! I lost my grip on the lid. I hope you didn’t get hurt!”

Dragon growled, and the black smoke grew thicker. “Careful, you clumsy creature!”

I raised an eyebrow. “I am a bit klutzy today. Perhaps you should open the chest yourself.”

Dragon glared at me. “I see no reason to open it again. You have already ascertained that the contents are undisturbed.”

“I have. Now I would like to ascertain that the two characters standing here are Dragon and my Old Dwarf, not two illusions. Open the chest, please.”

The ersatz dragon and dwarf dissipated in a shower of sparks.

strange-dreams

Miles gaped at me. “How did you know?”

I shook my head. “I didn’t. Not until I dropped the lid and it almost nailed Dragon’s hand. But I couldn’t take the chance.”

“What are you going to do now about your Arrogant One and your Bounty Hunter?”

“I’m not sure. I’m just so tired of their antics. I’ll figure out how to deal with them later. Let’s just lock the door now, and continue reading the books.”

Miles nodded, but then tilted his head and rubbed his chin. “Hey, wait a minute. You still haven’t told me what James said. Could he read the pages from the book or not?”

“Well, when he called me at lunchtime today, he said –– ”

There was a deafening crash upstairs, followed by angry voices. Miles and I exchanged worried looks, then said to each other, “Hold that thought.” We ran out of the conference room and up the stairs to see what had happened.
Elf clericHello, new readers and old friends! This is Dragon. I have shapeshifted into my familiar guise of an elven maiden, whose fingers are better suited to the computer keyboard than are my normal claws. Mistress Writer asked me to offer her apologies for this week’s blog (which I actually wrote in her absence). She recently underwent a minor surgical procedure, which has greatly limited her ability to sit and write. She sincerely hopes she will be able to return next week with more of this adventure for you. Until then, as per her request, I shall leave the porch light on for you.

 

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Another Distraction

Another Distraction

Lunch was an awkward affair, eaten in uncomfortable silence. I watched as my Old Dwarf, my Foreman and the two lads kept shooting dirty looks at my Bounty Hunter. The latter seemed completely unperturbed, perhaps even amused judging by the smirk that tugged at the corners of his mouth. As soon as they all finished eating they quickly excused themselves and left the room.

Easter 128“I’m glad that’s over.” Miles started to clear the table. “I wasn’t sure if your Bounty Hunter was going to get out of here in one piece.”

I gathered the glasses and silverware and followed Miles to the sink. “Yeah, if he doesn’t stop trying to stir up trouble, one of my other characters is going to throttle him good and proper, although he appears singularly unconcerned.”

Miles rubbed his chin thoughtfully as I filled the dishwasher. “He did put you on notice some time ago that he is not going to stop looking for a way to return to his own world, or at least force your other characters . . . and you . . . to search harder for a way for it to happen.”

I sighed. “Yeah, I know. He won’t accept my theory that he and the others are already in their own world, existing simultaneously in both worlds. I really do feel sorry for him and all my other characters who have fallen out of my manuscripts. They never asked to be here. They’re homesick, and they’re doing their best to learn how to live with foreign customs, and deal with advanced and – to them – alien technology. They’re cut off from everything and almost everyone familiar. In one way, I can’t blame any of them if they continue to search for a way home, even if I do not believe it possible. But my Bounty Hunter and my Arrogant One go about it in such an adversarial way, stirring up as much trouble as they can.”

Miles nodded. He took a washcloth and wiped the table as I started the dishwasher. “There. All clean. Are we bringing the books back here to continue reading?”

I shook my head. “No, I don’t think we can chance my Bounty Hunter or any of my other characters joining us. We need to do this in private.”

“The conference room?”

“Nope. Since they missed lunch, I assume Dragon, Sorceress and Cleric are still using the conference room.”

“That’s right. Aren’t they’re trying to determine if it is possible for your characters to enter their own world?”

I nodded.

“I thought your Gypsy was supposed to be working with them, but he was with us at lunch. What happened?”

I frowned. “I saw him with them earlier. I don’t know why he didn’t stay. And my Old Dwarf had been guarding the door for them while they worked, but he was at lunch, too. Since we have to stop by the conference room to pick up the books, I’ll ask Dragon. Then we’ll go to my office.”office-and-bookshelf-for-blog-002

“Should I bring my shovel?” Miles chuckled and winked at me.

“No more cracks about the condition of my office, thank you very much! There’s enough room to get in the door and over to the desk. No shovel required!” I poked him in the ribs, and we headed down the stairs. We were on the landing when I suddenly remembered. “Oh, by the way, that phone call at lunch? That was James. He received my e-mail.”

“Oh? What did he say about it?”

I started to reply, but as we reached the bottom of the stairs, I was startled to see my Old Dwarf standing guard at the door to the conference room. “I thought you went out in the yard with my Foreman and the lads after lunch. How did you get back down here so fast, and without us seeing you?”

dwarf-facing-rightMy Old Dwarf looked at me as if I had just sprouted another head. “Eh? What be ye talkin’ aboot, lass? I be standin’ here the whole o the morn and right through the midday meal. I never be desertin’ me post!” He sounded affronted at the very idea.

Miles frowned. “I saw you at lunch, too.”

The old reprobate shook his head. “Methinks ye both be daft!”

I quirked an eyebrow. “There are times I think so, too.”

“So, what be bringin’ ye two down here?”

“We need to do a bit of reading. Since you are still here, can I assume that Dragon and the others are still at work in the conference room?”

“Aye. They be hard at work. But the big beastie tolded me iffin ye came lookin’ fer yer books, I should be lettin’ ye in.”

I pushed open the door as quietly as I could to avoid distracting the occupants of the room. Still, Dragon’s sharp ears caught the almost imperceptible squeak of the hinges. She looked up from her grimoires and magical tomes and waved me in. She pointed to a chest in the far corner of the room. “I have integrated my magical protective grid into the fabric of Cleric’s enchanted box, and enlarged it to accommodate the books. The receptacle is absolutely secure. No one will be able to detect its contents and it will only open for you or me.”box for books

“Thanks, Dragon. I appreciate that.” I looked around and saw Cleric and Sorceress deep in conversation with my Gypsy. “Dragon, has my Gypsy been here with you the entire day?”gypsy-facing-right

The big beast tilted her head and peered at me as if trying to determine my reason for asking. “Yes, the Gypsy lad has been here. His insights have proven most valuable.”

“He hasn’t left the room, even for a short time?”

“No.”

“And, to the best of your knowledge, has my Old Dwarf been at his post by the door since his arrival this morning?”dwarf-facing-right

Dragon narrowed her eyes and black smoke started drifting from her nostrils. “You know as well as I, nothing could cause that one to abandon his duties. Nothing.”

I frowned, and rubbed the back of my neck. “Well, Miles and I just finished lunch. My Foreman, my Young Hero, and my Bounty Hunter ate with us . . . as did my Gypsy and my Old Dwarf.”

Dragon blinked. The smoke from her nostrils grew thicker. “You mean someone who appeared to be the Gypsy lad and someone who appeared to be the dwarf were with you at lunch.”

“Uh-huh. Or perhaps the ones at lunch were the real ones?” I raised an eyebrow and looked at her questioningly.

Dragon went to the door and seized my Old Dwarf. She dragged him into the room, ignoring his sputtering and cursing. She held him fast and called to my Gypsy. “Gypsy! Come here.”

My Gypsy came running over and Dragon grabbed him by his arm. She stood there, holding tight to both characters. They both struggled to yank themselves free of her vise-like grip. My Old Dwarf raised his war axe, but Dragon shook him like a rag doll until he dropped it.

“Be still!” Her voice filled the room like thunder. Both my Gypsy and my Old Dwarf stopped struggling and fell motionless.

Motionless, but hardly quiet.

My Old Dwarf’s voice grew every bit as loud as Dragon’s. His face was deep red and his scowl would have given pause to most creatures. “What be the meanin’ o this, ye daft beastie? Be ye tryin’ ta rip me arm outten me shoulder?”

My Gypsy also protested. “Yes, what are you doing? Why have you assaulted us in this manner?” It was clear from his expression he thought Dragon had gone completely mad.

Dragon gave them both another shake. “Stand still. Do not move an inch.” She tentatively loosened her grip on them, and they stood there gaping at her and rubbing their sore arms.

Miles entered the room and he, Sorceress, and Cleric all tip-toed over and stood next to me. “What is going on?”

 

“Deception and chicanery.”

The three of them looked at me and frowned, not comprehending. I held up my hand and gestured toward Dragon.

Dragon sniffed my Gypsy and my Old Dwarf. She poked and prodded them, then flicked her snake-like tongue over their faces as they both sputtered in protest. Finally, she mumbled a brief incantation and examined them once more.

She turned to me. “These are the genuine articles.”

“Then, the Gypsy and the dwarf at lunch today were illusions?”

“I presume so.” Dragon’s pronouncement was accompanied by a billowing cloud of smoke.

Miles frowned. “Your Arrogant One at work again?”

I nodded. “Most likely.” I turned to my Old Dwarf and my Gypsy. “Find my Bounty Hunter and my Arrogant One and bring them both here.”

The old reprobate nodded grimly, retrieved his axe from the floor where it had fallen, and took off up the stairs at a dead run, my Gypsy hot on his heels.

Miles and I hardly had time to tell the others what had transpired before and during lunch, when my Old Dwarf and my Gypsy brought their quarry into the room.

My Bounty Hunter draped himself casually into a chair, one booted foot propped up on the adjacent seat. My Arrogant One just stood there, his nose in the air.

I narrowed my eyes and faced the two of them. “Talk.”

“The elf was merely practicing his craft. No harm done.”

Before I could respond, my Arrogant One turned toward me, looking smug. He drew himself up and rocked back on his heels, grasping the front of his cloak. “I have been improving with practice, have I not? Not one of you present at lunch could detect that your precious dwarf and Gypsy were not real.”

I would have been able to tell.” Plumes of smoke poured from Dragon’s nose, and I could see sparks in her great maw as she spoke.

“Perhaps.” My Arrogant One shrugged.

I frowned. “For what reason did you create these illusions?”

The annoying elf stuck his nose in the air again. “As the Bounty Hunter stated – I was merely practicing my craft.”

I folded my arms over my chest, and lowered my voice to a threatening growl. “Well, if any of us ever again discover you practicing your craft by creating an illusion of any one of us, I will let Dragon deal with you.”

Dragon bared her dagger sharp teeth, each as long as the elf’s forearm, and thrust her face at his. The elf shrieked and scampered over to take refuge behind his cohort.

I tried to suppress a snicker, then continued, “If you need to practice, try creating the illusion that you are contributing something worthwhile to this household.”

My Arrogant One sputtered and gaped at me. He drew himself up once more and assumed an injured air. “I resent that implication.” Then he tossed his hair back out of his face, drew his cloak close about him, and marched out of the room.

“Ye be wantin’ em back, lass?” My Old Dwarf thumped the broad of his axe against the palm of his hand and started toward the door.

“No, let him go. He has been put on notice what will happen should he continue to practice such illusions.”

My Bounty Hunter smirked. “And if you have no further need of me, I, too, shall take my leave.” He strolled through the door and followed his companion up the stairs.

booksMore than an hour later, Miles and I were finally settled in my office with the books. Before we continued reading the first one, the one featuring the image of the Innkeeper’s talisman on the first page, Miles placed his hand on my arm. “Honey, with all the drama in the conference room, you never did have the chance to tell me. What did James have to say about the e-mail you sent him? Could he read any of the pages of the book?”

“Ah, yes, the phone call.” I leaned back in my chair. “Well, James said –– ”

The conversation was interrupted by a commotion at the front door. Someone rang the doorbell several times in quick succession, then rapped loudly on the door and hollered something unintelligible.

Miles sighed. “Hold that thought.”

Who could be at the door? Will I ever get to tell Miles what James said about the e-mail I sent him? Will my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter continue to cause problems? What will Dragon and her colleagues determine regarding the ability of my characters to enter their own world from this one? Be sure to come back and see what happens. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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