Could it be True?

Could it be True?

Colton continued to glare in the direction of Arthur’s voice. He repeated his question, his voice cracking with emotion. “What do you know about Blue, and why does your presence upset him so much?”

Colton confronts Arthur

My companions and I watched as Arthur glared back at the blind boy for many minutes. After a long, uncomfortable silence, Arthur sneered. “I know, boy, that pony of yours is totally unsuitable for you or any handicapped rider. He is a danger, a menace, and should be destroyed.”Colton angry

What?” Colton yelped. “Blue’s not dangerous! I’ll never let you destroy him!”

Didi quickly turned on her tape recorder as Anna, Clara, Dray, and I rushed to stand between Colton and Arthur. “Don’t worry, son.” Anna spoke to the boy but glared at Arthur. “No one will harm Blue.”

Arthur and AnnaWhen Arthur snorted, Anna went into full mama bear mode and unleashed her fury on him, standing nose to nose with the man. Her face was bright red and she was almost snarling. “How dare you upset my son and threaten his pony?”

John, Casey, and Old BlueColton and Peaches 2Arthur stepped back but refused to cower before Anna as she continued. “We’ve seen no evidence the pony is dangerous. The man who sold him to us provided glowing accounts of Blue’s gentleness, and the pony’s devotion to the man’s wheelchair-bound daughter. When we acquired Blue, he had recently lost his young mistress. Likewise, Colton had recently lost his beloved pony. Once the two of them worked through their respective grief, they worked well together. You seem to be the only one who considers the pony dangerous and it’s only been when you’re around that Blue has been anything less than the perfect therapy horse.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about.” Arthur’s eyes mirrored Anna’s anger. “Listen to me! You don’t want that animal around your boy. That pony will hurt Colton! It is only a matter of time.”

Anna scoffed. “On what are you basing your accusations?”

Arthur’s hands curled into fists and his eyes and voice grew hard. “That pony killed my nephew.”

What? You’re lying!” Colton was near tears. “Mom? Please tell me he’s lying.”

Anna couldn’t answer her son. All she could do was gape at Arthur in disbelief.

Clara gently placed her hand on the boy’s shoulder. She glared at Arthur as she spoke to the boy. “Arthur is not lying, Colton, but he is mistaken. Blue did not kill anyone.”Clara and Colton

Is Blue a killer? Why does Cleric, aka Clara, believe that Arthur is mistaken? Be sure to come back next week for more of this mystery. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

Arthur Hijacks the Interview

Arthur Hijacks the Interview

angry scream of a ponyRunning to barn

The angry scream of a pony spurred us on as we raced toward the barn. Running inside, Dray, Didi, and I skidded to a halt several feet behind Anna and Arthur.

Clara was in a stall at the back of the barn, trying to calm Blue, who was stomping, kicking, and baring his teeth. Blue’s young, blind master, Colton, was in the aisle, facing in the general direction of his mom and Arthur.

In the barn

DidiArt - leader - multi-genre (2)“But why, mom? I don’t understand! I thought Didi was writing about me and Blue.” Colton’s forehead was furrowed, and his hands were clenched. “Blue doesn’t like Arthur, and I don’t, either. I don’t trust that man.”

“Don’t talk back to your mother.” Arthur narrowed his eyes. “She said I am going to write the article, and that’s that. Now, come inside so I can interview you and your mother.”

“No.” Colton stayed where he was, face red and arms folded across his chest. “You need to leave. You’re upsetting Blue.”

“Colton!” Anna gaped at her son. “Don’t be rude! Now come in the house so Arthur can interview us.”

Colton shook his head and didn’t budge. “I won’t, mom!”

 

ElfClara slipped out of the stall, latching it behind her to keep Blue contained. “It is all right, Colton. We shall all go in.” Although Clara spoke to Colton, she raised an eyebrow in the direction of Dray and me and gave us a slight nod.

Arthur objected. “You’re not wanted or needed here. Anna, the boy, and I will go . . .”

Elf cleric close-up“We must insist, Arthur. We will accompany you into the house and observe the interview.” Dray gave Arthur a withering look.Anna angry with Dray

“Now wait just a minute!” Anna turned and glared at Dray. “How dare you invite yourself into my home?”

“Anna, trust us.” I started to move toward her, but Arthur blocked my way.

Colton spoke up. “Mom, I won’t go in and talk to Arthur unless our friends go with us.”

Anna looked confused. Arthur took her hands in his and started speaking in his most beguiling voice. “Anna. They don’t need to be here. You know I’m right, Anna. Tell them to leave. Tell your son to come with us.”Arthur trying to cajole Anna

Anna stared at Arthur for several long minutes before responding. When she did, her voice was calm. “Of course, Arthur. Marge, you and your friends need to leave. Colton, come with me.”

Colton stood his ground. “No, mom. I’m sorry, but I will not go without our friends.”

Finally, seeing no way around it, Arthur threw his hand up in disgust. “All right, then. They can stay. Let’s just get this done.”

Arthur interviewingOnce everyone was settled in the living room, Arthur began. He covered much of the same information Didi had during her interview of Colton and Anna – Colton’s previous pony, how Colton and Anna had acquired Blue, how the pony had performed on the previous day’s trail ride. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/10/27/the-interview/

During the interview, Colton was polite, my companions and I remained quiet, and Anna seemed mollified about our presence. But then, the interview took a curious turn.

“When you discovered the pony you call Blue had been trained as a therapy horse, didn’t you think it peculiar he was so sour and unresponsive?”

John, Casey, and Old BlueColton and Peaches 2Arthur had addressed the question to Anna, but Colton cut her off as he jumped to his pony’s defense. “Blue had just lost his owner. He was in mourning. Of course, he was sour and unresponsive.” The boy’s voice was strained, and his face was red. “I had just lost my first pony, Peaches, and I was just as bad. It took us time to get over our respective losses and begin to work together.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/05/19/a-good-deal-or-crazy/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/05/26/an-anxious-day/

Arthur scoffed. “The way the animal acted yesterday and again today – balking, spooking, and running off with you – you have to admit he is not a good animal for someone with a disability.”

Again Arthur had addressed the comment to Anna, but again it was Colton who responded. “If you will remember, sir, it was your presence that caused Blue’s behavior. After you left yesterday, he was the model of a perfect therapy horse on the trail.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/10/06/heading-for-the-trail-ride/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/10/13/a-surprising-situation/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/10/20/will-arthur-be-a-problem/

“That’s true.” Anna looked confused.

Arthur trying to cajole AnnaArthur immediately jumped up, pulled Anna from her seat, and took her hands in his. “Anna. You know I had nothing to do with the pony’s behavior, Anna. He is just not a suitable animal.”

Before Anna could respond, Clara walked over to her and pulled Anna away from Arthur. “Do not listen to this man, Anna. He is a mesmerist.”

“What?” Arthur scoffed, although he turned beet red. “Don’t be ridiculous.”

Dray confronts Arthur“So that is why you cannot influence Colton. He is blind, and a mesmerist must be able to maintain eye contact with his subject.” Dray narrowed her eyes.

Anna looked confused. “I don’t understand what’s going on here.”

Clara raised an eyebrow at me questioningly, and I nodded. She turned to face Arthur. “Would you care to explain your purpose here, Arthur, or shall I?”

Arthur all but snarled as he answered her. “I don’t know what you think you know, but my only purpose here is to get a story.”

Clara confronts Arthur“I think not.” Clara stood her ground as Arthur glared daggers at her. “You are here because of a past connection with Blue.”

Arthur’s eyes flew wide and he looked as if Clara had slapped him. He gaped at her for many long minutes, his labored breath coming in jagged gulps. Finally, he calmed himself, and reached for Clara’s hands. “You don’t know what you’re talking about, my dear.” He gave her an ingratiating smile.

Blue with ears pinned backClara snatched her hands away from Arthur. “Oh, but I do, sir. And you will find that in addition to Colton, your hypnotic abilities will work neither on me nor on Dray. So, why not explain your true reason for being here. You may start with Colton’s pony, the one you referred to as the pony you call Blue. If you have no previous connection to the animal, how did you know he used to go by a different name?”

Arthur squirms and stammersI snickered at the sight of Arthur squirming and stammering. I had suspected, when my cleric, Clara, had raised her eyebrow and nodded at me in the barn, she had learned something from Blue.

“Well, Arthur? I’d like to hear an explanation.” Anna frowned at him.

“So would I!” Colton glared in the direction of Arthur’s voice. “What do you know about Blue, and why does your presence upset him so much?”

Colton confronts Arthur

Yes, why does Arthur’s presence upset Blue so much? And what is his real motive for wanting to write this story? Be sure to come back again next week and see if we can get to the bottom of this little mystery. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

The Interview, Part Two

The Interview, Part Two

Colton getting Blue from paddock

Colton was wearing an ear-to-ear grin as he maneuvered confidently across the yard, opened the gate to the paddock, and snapped a lead onto Blue’s halter. “That’s a good boy, Blue. You and I are going to have our picture taken.”

Blue pricked his ears forward, listening to his young master. He bobbed his head up and down and allowed Colton to lead him from the paddock. He waited patiently as the boy turned and closed the gate behind them.Colton leading Blue

Colton started to lead the pony toward us, the two of them easily avoiding some bales of hay and several other obstacles. The boy patted the pony’s neck, and Blue rubbed his face on Colton’s shoulder, nickering softly.

Didi taking picturesI stood with Colton’s mother, Anna, and my companions, Dray and Clara (the alter egos of two of my characters, Dragon and Cleric). We all swelled with pride as we watched Colton, sightless since birth, and his pony, Blue, work faultlessly as a team. The reporter, Didi, snapped photos to go with her human-interest story on the blind boy and his therapy horse.

Suddenly, Blue stopped dead, feet planted firmly. Colton came to an abrupt halt when he reached the end of the lead that attached him to the pony.

AnnaDeja vu“Oh, not again!” Anna started sprinting across the yard as Blue pinned his ears back. The pony turned and trotted across the yard and into the barn, practically dragging Colton along with him.

“What happened?” Didi’s eyebrows shot up as she turned to us.

Where Arthur had lurked before“I’m not sure, but I think we may have uninvited company again.” I motioned to Clara. “You go with Anna and Colton. See if you might help calm the pony.” I gestured to Dray and Didi and led them to the area where Arthur had been found lurking the previous day.

A quick examination of the bushes and surrounding area turned up nothing. I frowned. “I was fairly certain we’d find something here . . . or, rather, someone.”

“You mean Arthur?” Didi raised an eyebrow.Arthur in a tree

I nodded. The three of us continued to look around but found nothing. Suddenly, Dray stopped and looked up, scanning the trees. She pointed to a nearby red elm and turned her head toward me. “Do you see something strange in that tree?”

I nodded. “A rather large nut, if I’m not mistaken.”

Didi giggled, then quickly raised her camera and documented Arthur’s extremely graceless descent. He managed to rip his coat in several places and skin his knuckles. As he dropped to the ground, he glared at Didi. “Put that camera away!”

“Arthur, aren’t you a bit old to be climbing trees?” I folded my arms over my chest and narrowed my eyes. “Just what were you doing up there, anyway?”What are you doing here again

Arthur scowled. He sucked on his raw knuckles, then examined his ripped coat before answering. “I have not abandoned the idea of writing this article. I am quite certain you and Didi will fail miserably at interviewing the boy and his mother and will embarrass yourselves no end. Then perhaps the boy’s mother will allow me to handle this story. I have not only the talent to write it, but also the contacts to place it in a prestigious publication, not merely a local rag.”

I raised an eyebrow. “I thought you said there was no story here.”

Arthur shrugged. “I may have been premature in my assessment. I’ve decided to continue researching.”

Me and ArthurI frowned. “Care to explain why you were conducting your research from the branches of a tree?”

Arthur gave me a look of pure innocence. “I did not want to spook the boy’s pony again. I thought by placing myself above its eye level, I would remain unnoticed.” He snickered. “But I can see that was not the case. Once again, the pony has proven it is not the astounding super-star of the therapy horse world it is reputed to be.”

I shook my head. “If anything, Blue has proven he can recognize danger wherever it lurks and protect Colton from it. Now, I suggest you leave before Anna comes out here and finds you trespassing again. She may call the police this time.”

“I’ll take my chances.” Arthur gave us a smug smile.

Arthur and DrayDray studied Arthur intently. “Why is it so important to you to write this article?”

Arthur looked down his nose and gave her the same look one would give something found stuck to the bottom of one’s shoe. “What business is that of yours?”

Dray narrowed her eyes and glared at Arthur.

I cleared my throat. “Answer her, Arthur.”

Arthur assumed another innocent look. “All right. Who said it is important to me?”

Dray snorted. “Well, you are putting far too much effort into it for it not to be important to you.” She gave him another intent look. “And I really think there is more to it than just wanting Didi and Missy to look bad.”

“Missy?” Arthur furrowed his brow and tilted his head.

“That’s what some of my friends call me.” I waved off further questions. “But let’s stay on topic. I agree with Dray. I think there is more to this.”

“Think what you want.” Arthur’s expression turned hard. “But know this – if I determine there is a good story here, I will be the one to write it, or no one will.”

Dray confronts Arthur“Again I ask – why is it so important to you to write this article?” Dray walked toward Arthur. “And I would suggest being forthcoming in your answer. I will know if you are lying.” Even in her guise of a beautiful and delicate elf maiden, there was something feral, something dragon-like, in Dray’s expression. It did not go unnoticed by Arthur, who gulped and tugged at his collar.

Before he was able to answer, Anna stormed out of the barn and over to where we were standing. She stood practically toe-to-toe with Arthur “Are you trying to cause my son serious injury?”

Anna looked as if she would strike the man, so I stepped between them and placed a hand on her shoulder. “Is Colton okay?”

Arthur and AnnaShe nodded. “No thanks to that man, though.” She pushed me aside and resumed yelling at Arthur. “What were you thinking? You saw yesterday what your presence here did. Why are you here again? Are you purposely trying to upset my son’s therapy horse?”

Arthur sneered. “Some therapy horse! I thought animals trained to work with the blind are supposed to be rock-steady and not spook from anything.”

I laughed. “You know, for someone who wants so badly to write a story on Blue and Colton, you sure aren’t showing the pony much respect.”

“Write a . . .?” Anna gaped at Arthur. “I thought I made it clear someone else is writing the story about my son and his pony.”

Arthur glared at us. “This article is rightfully mine. These two hacks stole my notes. They’re not only untalented, they’re also unethical. They have no business writing this story.”Dray and Arthur

Dray narrowed her eyes, and when she spoke her voice was almost a feral growl. “I do not appreciate you casting aspersions upon my friend. Now, one last time I ask you – why is it so important to you to write this article?”

Arthur ignored Dray and focused all his attention on Colton’s mother, grasping her arms. “Anna.” His addressed her in his smarmiest voice. “Anna, you know I’m right. You know I should be the one to write this story.”Arthur speaks to Anna

Anna stared at Arthur. Several emotions flickered across her face – anger, fear, confusion, and finally a calm acceptance. “Of course, Arthur. You will write this story. Come, you need to interview Colton.”

Didi, Dray, and I gaped at the departing figures as Anna led a smug Arthur toward the barn.

“What just happened?” I scratched my head.

 

Running to barnangry scream of a pony“I am not sure, but I think we need to follow them. Clara is still in the barn.” Dray took off after Anna and Arthur at a dead run. I grabbed Didi’s hand and followed. Halfway across the yard, we heard the angry scream of a pony.

 

 

What is happening? Why did Anna suddenly agree to Arthur writing the article? And what has Blue so upset? Be sure to come back next week and find out. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

The Interview

The Interview

Appaloosa for mesleeping womanYesterday’s trail ride had been fun, but it had been a long day, and I was sore from so many hours in the saddle after an extended hiatus from riding. Miles let me sleep in – I love that guy! – so, it was mid-morning before I stumbled into my office to start my day’s work.

Office

First on the agenda was contacting Didi. I fished her business card out of my pocket and dialed the number.

Calling DidiAfter identifying myself, I had to listen to five minutes of how grateful Didi was for my support at the last meeting of the writers’ group Lost in the Words. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/09/01/still-searching-for-answers/

Didi 2Lavinia2 - romanceDidi’s voice was strained. “You have no idea how nasty Arthur can be. He treats everyone as if they were untalented hacks – even Lavinia, who has been writing best-selling romance books for the last three decades – but he seems to have singled me out for especially harsh critiques and scornful treatment. If not for the other members, I think I would have quit Lost in the Words and given up on writing.”

Didi's handout“Well . . .” I tried to put it tactfully. “I do agree that Arthur’s treatment of all the writers in the group – you in particular – was disgraceful. However, he did have a point about your contribution. It was riddled with misspellings and grammatical errors, and those seemed to be the least of the problems.”

Didi sighed. “I know. I just threw it together in five minutes before coming to the meeting. I wasn’t very inspired after the way Arthur treated me at the meeting before that one. Trust me, though, it could have been an absolutely perfect excerpt from the works of Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, Leo Tolstoy, Jane Austin – any of the greats – and Arthur still would have nit-picked it to death.”

I grunted. “He really seems to have a problem. More than one, actually. Yesterday, a group of my friends and I went to another friend’s horse farm for a trail ride, and Arthur was there.”

Didi snorted. “I didn’t think Arthur knew one end of a horse from the other, although I do think his actions remind me of one end.”

Hello ArthurI laughed. “Well, he wasn’t there for the ride. Actually, we discovered him creeping around in the bushes.”

What? Why on earth would he be creeping around in the bushes?”

“He was doing his due diligence, as he termed it. He was researching a story, a story that we were informed you are actually going to write.”

The silence was deafening. Finally, Didi replied. “Ummm . . . you must mean the human-interest story about the blind boy and his therapy horse.”

“Yes, that’s the story. Anna, the boy’s mother, told me you contacted her about it, and you told her you were a friend of mine.”Didi blushing

“I . . . I may have dropped your name.” From the sound of her voice, I could picture Didi blushing beet red.

“How did you learn of Colton and Blue, and how did you know I was friends with Anna and Colton?”

notebookDidi hesitated, but then sighed and the words rushed out. “I found Arthur’s notebook in the parking lot before the last meeting of Lost in the Words. He must have dropped it. When I picked it up, I swear I was only checking it to see to whom it belonged. I wasn’t going to read it, but it just fell open to his notes on Colton and the pony. A name was in there, listed as a friend of the boy and his mother, and a possible source for background information and quotes. When you were introduced at the meeting, I realized you were the person named in the notes. Marge, you have to believe me – when I first read Arthur’s notes, I wasn’t planning on stealing his story. But then he embarrassed me so badly in front of everyone . . . again . . . I decided to get even with him by scooping him on this story. And after the support you gave me when Arthur was so vicious toward me, I rationalized that I could stretch the truth a little and claim we were friends.”

“Well, I don’t condone it, but I certainly understand. But when Arthur found out you were doing the story, he called you a hack. Anna got upset and asked me to help you with the article.”

“Well, I really don’t need any help, but I do understand Anna not trusting me if Arthur bad-mouthed me. So, I guess I’ll accept any help you care to give me.”

Didi told me she had arranged the interview with Colton for two o’clock that afternoon. I told her I would meet her there.

dragon talkingAs I hung up the phone, I turned and saw Dragon waiting at the door to my office. “Was that Didi?” She motioned toward the phone.

I nodded. “She’s interviewing Colton and Anna this afternoon. I told her I’d meet her there.”

“You will be careful, will you not? I do not trust that Arthur has so quickly and easily relinquished his claim on the story.”

“I’ll keep a sharp eye on the bushes.” I winked.

Dragon nodded somberly. “Perhaps I should accompany you. Two pairs of sharp eyes on the bushes are better than one.”Elf

I nodded. “Maybe Cleric would like to come, too.”

Dragon considered this for a moment, then nodded. “I will go ask her.”

I told Dragon we would leave directly after lunch.

arriving at Anna'sliving roomWe pulled into Anna’s driveway just behind Didi. Anna and Colton were in the yard waiting for us. Once the introductions were made, Anna invited us inside where she had refreshments set up in the living room.

After some general chit-chat, Didi set up a tape recorder and began the interview. I was surprised at her professional yet warm handling of the session. She quickly put Anna and Colton at ease and asked thought-provoking questions. She learned of Colton’s blindness and the number of unsuccessful surgeries over the years as the doctors tried to give him the sight he had lacked since birth.Colton and Peaches 2

Colton was very forthcoming as they discussed his feelings of isolation, and how his first therapy pony, Peaches, had helped him. Colton told Didi how much he loved Peaches, and how devastated he was by his pony’s death.

interviewThen Didi led Anna and me into a discussion of how we had found Blue. Dragon and Cleric, in their alter-egos of Dray and Clara, joined in the conversation as well. We did not mention the history my characters and I had had with Peaches, whom we had originally known as Mystery. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/04/28/sad-news/

Nor did I mention how we had learned of the auction where we found Blue. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/05/05/a-new-mystery/

We did explain how I had talked Anna into going with us and several other friends to an auction, how we had found Blue, and what transpired since that night.
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/05/12/what-will-we-find-at-the-auction/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/05/19/a-good-deal-or-crazy/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/05/26/an-anxious-day/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/06/09/news/

We then told Didi about yesterday’s trail ride, keeping all the information about Arthur strictly off the record. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/10/20/will-arthur-be-a-problem/

DidiColton“How bizarre!” Didi shook her head. “But, really, nothing that man does can surprise me.” She turned her attention back to Colton. “Well I’m sorry I wasn’t here for the trail ride, Colton. It sounds like you and Blue were great together. I would have loved to get some photos of the two of you on the trail to accompany the article.”

“We could go out on the trail now, and you could get some photos.” Colton sounded hopeful.

Anna chided her son. “Colton, no one has their horse here today. I don’t even know if Didi rides.”

“I’m afraid I don’t.” Didi furrowed her brow. “But, if it’s okay with you, maybe I can walk out on the trail a little way with Colton and Blue and take some pictures.” When she saw Anna’s worried look, she hastened to assure her. “We’ll be ever so careful, and maybe one of you could come with us and make sure Colton is safe.”

“Mom?” Colton’s voice was beseeching.

Anna sighed. “Well, okay. I’ll come with you and keep Blue on a lead-line.”Colton's face crumpled

Colton’s face crumpled. “Aw, mom! How will that look in the pictures? Like I’m a little kid being led around on some pony-ride mount. Didi and her readers want to see that Blue is as great as we told her he is!”

I laughed. “Colton, I’m sure your mom will take the lead off Blue as soon as you’re posed for the photos.” I looked at Anna and raised my eyebrow questioningly.

annaAnna shot me a look that clearly said she wished I had consulted her before saying anything to her son, but finally she capitulated. “Okay, as long as Blue seems calm, and I’m convinced nothing will spook him.”

Colton whooped, and jumped out of his seat. “I’ll go get my jacket.”

Once he had his jacket, Colton proudly led us outside and went to get Blue. The boy had an ear-to-ear grin as he maneuvered alone across the yard, opened the gate to the paddock, snapped a lead onto Blue’s halter, and started to lead him toward the group.

As Yogi Berra would say, what happened next was déjà vu all over again.

Deja vu

 

Be sure to come back next week to see what happened. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

Heading For The Trail Ride

Heading For The Trail Ride

Morning

The day of the trail ride dawned clear and bright, with a cool autumn nip in the air. A gentle breeze carried with it the sharp tang of woodsmoke from several fireplaces throughout the neighborhood, and birdsong fell from the trees like rain.

Grooming horses

My Foreman and the lads had been up since before dawn, first feeding and watering the illusory horses, then grooming them to a shiny gloss before saddling them. Dragon, Cleric, and I joined them at a more reasonable hour.

“Well, it looks like thanks are in order.” I nodded my appreciation to the three horsemen, who had taken care of our mounts as well as their own.

“We could not wait for you slugabeds to join us.” My Gypsy waggled his eyebrows and grinned at us, as Cleric tried to stifle a big yawn.

“Oh, prithee, stop being so jocular this early in the morn!” Cleric scowled at my Gypsy, then rubbed her eyes and tried unsuccessfully to stifle another yawn.

“Indeed,” Dragon agreed, glowering at the lad. “If such annoying gleefulness continues, I may be forced to start this evening’s barbecue a bit early.”

“He’s been like this all morning.” My Foreman chuckled and reached over to tousle the lad’s hair. “Now, if you ladies are sufficiently awake, mayhap you should mount up and walk your horses around the paddock to loosen up a bit.”

Dragon scoffed. “Is it not too early?” She turned to me. “What time are Anna and Colton expecting us?”

what time is it

“They thought we could begin our trail ride from their place between nine and ten this morning.” I checked my watch. “If we leave now, we should have no problem arriving at their place by then.”

Dragon sighed. “Then let us mount up, and I will cast a new spell of concealment over horses and riders alike, so we can leave this property unseen by any of our neighbors. I can release the spell once we are on the backroad, hidden by the trees and brush.”

We all nodded.

Appaloosa for meAs I swung up onto the compact blanket Appaloosa Dragon had created for me, I called to my characters, “Everyone needs to remember the names we used last time. Do not slip and call me Mistress. You may call me Missy, as is your custom in public, even though Anna and Colton will be calling me Marge. This black and white appy I’m riding is Scribe.”

Tor and Centaur

My Foreman nodded as he stepped up onto his ebony stallion. “I am called Tor, and my mount is Centaur.”

Rocky and Gypsy

My Gypsy vaulted into the saddle of his black-and-white cob. “My name is Rocky, and this is Gypsy.”

Cab and Hero

My Young Hero gave his chocolate palomino pony a pat on the neck as he mounted. “I am Cab, and this is Hero.”Clara and Blessing

 

Cleric led her tall, strawberry roan mare over to the mounting block. “The name I use is Clara, and I ride Blessing.”Dray and Dragon

Dragon clambered onto her stocky Palomino. “I am known as Dray and my mount is Dragon.”

I smiled, satisfied that everyone would remember. As Dray nudged her horse to stand next to mine, I raised a questioning eyebrow at her. “Have you completed casting your spell?”

Dray nodded. “We can leave the property unseen.”

We walked our horses single file along the side of the house and onto the street. As we proceeded past the other houses in the neighborhood, invisible to all and sundry, we had to dodge several cars pulling out of driveways as people headed off for work and school. When we passed Bastina’s house, I saw her and her daughter, Marisol, standing in their front yard.Riding past Marisol

Squirrel and horsessquirrelI almost fell off my horse in a dead faint when I saw the little girl’s eyes widen, and I watched her tug on her mother’s skirt. When she pointed in our direction, Dray and I exchanged looks bordering on shear panic. Our wide-eyed dread turned to relief, as Marisol continued to point, her gesture following the path of a fat, sassy squirrel that had been running alongside our horses. The child and her mother laughed at the animal as it scrambled up a tree, and sat there, clutching an acorn and scolding loudly. We continued trotting along the street and headed, still unseen, toward our destination.

Dirt roadovergrown two-trackIt took us less than an hour to make the trip to Anna’s farm. Half-way there, after traveling for fifteen minutes along a wide dirt road remarkably devoid of traffic, Dray released the spell of concealment that had kept horses and riders hidden from passersby. Moments later, we left the road and walked our mounts carefully along an overgrown two-track that would take us to our destination.

As we trotted up the driveway, we saw Anna saddling her flashy dapple-gray mare, Rosie. We waved and exchanged greetings.

“Where are Colton and Blue?” Clara was looking around, a worried expression on her face. “The last time we came here for a trail ride, Colton was already mounted and waiting for us.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/09/02/an-old-mystery-revisited/

“Oh, don’t worry! Colton’s been waiting for you for over an hour now. He was so nervous you wouldn’t be able to come today, even though I told him a dozen times or more you accepted the invitation.” Anna smiled broadly. “He just took Blue into the barn a few minutes ago. He forgot his jacket there when he fed Blue this morning, and he thinks he might need it today.”

Colton and BlueMoments later, the young boy came out of the barn, shoving one arm into the sleeve of his jacket as he held his pony’s lead with the other hand. “Did I hear voices?”

“Hi, Colton!” A chorus of greetings brought a huge smile to Colton’s face.

“Hi, everyone! I was hoping you’d come! I can’t wait to get on the trail and show you all how great Blue is!” Colton, blind since birth, continued walking toward our voices, unaware his therapy pony, Blue, had stopped dead, feet planted firmly. Colton came to an abrupt halt when he reached the end of the lead that attached him to the pony.

“Wha…? What’s wrong, Blue?” Colton felt his way back along the lead line and stroked Blue’s neck once he reached the balky pony. “It’s okay, Blue. These are our friends.”

Anna furrowed her brow. “What’s wrong? Blue never acted this way around the other horses and ponies at the training facility.”

“It’s not surprising.” I motioned to my characters to move their horses back a bit. “Blue knew all the other animals at the facility and was comfortable around them. He probably just needs a few minutes to get to know us and our horses. Maybe if we introduced our mounts one at a time . . .”

But Blue wasn’t having any part of it. He pinned his ears back, turned, and trotted back into the barn, practically dragging Colton along with him.Colton and Blue going back to barn

 

 

What’s happened to Blue? Why is he acting this way? Be sure to come back next week and see what’s happening. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

It Worked!

It Worked!

Meeting up with Dragon outside conference room 2Scrolls from Chris-Tal ClearI was just heading for my office when Dragon, in her preferred guise of an elf maiden, emerged from the conference room. She had been in there working with the scrolls she had obtained at the Chris-Tal Clear Metaphysical Store.

Should be safe from MarisolDragon looked tired but wore a satisfied smile. “I have cast the first spell, the one provided by Talia. I should now be well protected from our young neighbor, Marisol – or anyone else. No one should be able to see my true nature when I have used my shapeshifting ability to assume another form. And, unlike the previous ward I used when Marisol was around, maintaining this spell should not drain all my energy or use all my power.”

I smiled. “That’s good. Now, what about the scroll Christine provided – the incantation to prevent Marisol from seeing through your spell of concealment?”

Conference roomDragon shrugged and chewed on her lower lip. “I have prepared the spell components and I have committed to memory the words of the incantation. Now, I just need to be in the presence of the child so I can cast the spell.”

I frowned. “Should you take a walk through the neighborhood and see if you can get close enough to her to cast the spell, or should I invite her and her mother over for a visit?”Where to cast the spell 2

Dragon sighed. “Let me see if I can cast the spell without her seeing me. Then I can recreate the illusory horses and barn, restoring everything to its previous state, and cast the spell of concealment on it all. After that, we need to have Marisol visit. That way we can see if the spells provided by Talia and Christine are effective.Cast second spell

Several days later, Dragon found me in my office. “I was successful today! Marisol was playing in her front yard and I was able to approach unseen and cast the spell.”

I nodded. “And have you recreated the illusory horses and barn?”

Horses by barnDragon shook her head. “I will do that now. I will cast the spell of concealment on the property first, so any illusions I create will be hidden from all but those of us who live here. Everything that is real will remain visible to all and sundry, but the horses and barn, as well as anyone riding them or working with them in any way, will go unnoticed by your neighbors and guests.”

I wrinkled my brow. “How long will that take? I don’t want to invite Bastina and Marisol over before you have completed.”

Dragon stroked her chin as she considered this. “It should take me a mere few hours, longer if I have unforeseen interruptions. Mayhap you could invite them for luncheon or tea tomorrow.”

“Okay, I’ll call Bastina later this afternoon and extend the invitation.”

The next day was a beautiful, sunny, crisp autumn day. At a little past noon, Dragon, Cleric, Sorceress, and I welcomed Bastina and Marisol to a picnic on the gazebo.

Picnic 2

Me and Marisol“Oh, my favorite! Creamy peanut butter and orange marmalade on Anadama bread!” Marisol danced around with a huge smile on her face. “How ever did you know?”

I returned her smile. “When I invited you and your mother over for a picnic, I asked your mom about your favorite foods.”

“That’s cheating!” Marisol giggled. “I imagined you had read my mind!”

Marisol accuses Dragon 2Dragon was pouring beverages. “Milk, Marisol? Or lemonade?”

“I would rather have the lemonade, but I’ll have the milk, please. Mommy prefers I have that, especially when I’m eating anything sweet.” The precocious five-year-old rolled her eyes and leaned closer to Dragon, whispering in a conspiratorial voice. “Mommy says I need the calcium and vitamins more than I need the sugar.”

Dragon and BastinaDragon smiled and poured the child a large tumbler of milk. “And you, Bastina?”

The woman cast a wistful look at the lemonade, then glanced in her daughter’s direction. “Milk for me, too, please. I need set a good example for Marisol.”

Gypsy galloping horse at gazeboThe six of us were enjoying our lunch, when I almost choked on a mouthful of food. I watched, wide-eyed with trepidation, as my Gypsy galloped his mount straight toward us. He was less than a foot from the gazebo before performing a rollback and racing off in the opposite direction. I quickly glanced at Marisol and saw her mesmerized by something in the same spot by the gazebo where my character had just ridden his horse. I started sweating.

The entire scene had not gone unnoticed by Dragon. “Marisol, what has captured your attention, child?”

Marisol and I with hummingbird“Look!” Marisol pointed. “Can you see the hummingbird?”

I looked where the girl was pointing and was surprised to see the little Ruby-throated male hovering right next to us.

Marisol and Dragon with hummingbird“Hummingbirds are attracted to the color red.” Marisol looked accusingly at Dragon. “If you were still a dragon, I would say you were the cause of the bird’s interest, but you refuse to be a dragon anymore. Perhaps he is attracted to my red hair-ribbon.” Marisol pulled the ribbon from her hair and held it out for the bird to see. After a quick inspection of the item revealed it not to be a food source, the tiny bird flew off.

Dragon and I exchanged looks of relief. The child obviously could not see Dragon’s true form, nor could she see the horses being ridden all around the yard. Both spells had been a success.

talking about herbsBirdwatchingThe rest of the afternoon went splendidly. Cleric and Sorceress discussed various herbs and their curative properties with Bastina while Dragon, Marisol, and I engaged in birdwatching. I was sorry to see the visit end as the mother and child thanked us for a lovely day and took their leave.

After our neighbors left, my Foreman and the lads cantered their horses up to the gazebo.

“I presume all went well?” My Foreman circled his high-strung ebony stallion.

“It did.” We all beamed.

My Young Hero patted his chocolate palomino pony on the neck. “I am so glad! That means we get to keep our horses. It has been so good to get back to riding! You know, the weather is forecast to be crisp and clear for the next few days. Perchance, could we all go on a trail ride?”trail ride

Anna, Blue, ColtonMy Gypsy edged his black-and-white piebald closer to the gazebo and snatched a piece of cake. “You know, a trail ride would be wonderful. Maybe we could drop in on Anna and Colton. They should be home from the training facility by now.”On phone with Anna

I grinned. “As a matter of fact, they are. Anna called me this morning, but I hadn’t had time earlier to tell you the news.”

“Oh, prithee, do tell us now, Mistress!” Cleric’s eyes were bright with interest. “How is Blue? Was the training facility able to develop his talents so he could work with Colton?”

“How is Colton?” My Gypsy nudged his horse closer again so he could hear. “Has he been able to get over the loss of Peaches, aka Mystery, and form a strong bond with Blue?”

“Well, you all remember the last time we heard from Anna, she reported a slight improvement in the relationship between the boy and his new pony.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/06/09/news/

My Gypsy nodded. “Yes, it was after Cleric and I went over to talk with Colton.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/05/26/an-anxious-day/

I smiled. “Well, since then, Colton and Blue have made tremendous strides. Several times at the training facility, Colton went missing at night from the dormitory where the clients and their families sleep. Each time, a staff member found the boy sleeping in Blue’s stall, snuggled up to the pony. And Blue has started standing at the gate, nickering for Colton as the time for their lessons approaches.”

 

My Gypsy and my Young Hero whooped for joy.

Colton and Blue in round penI grinned and continued. “As for the training, Blue took to it like a duck to water. Anna, Colton, and Blue have been at the training facility all this time, just arriving home a few days ago. Blue was evaluated and found to have the proper temperament to work with a blind rider, so the instructors began building on the training he had received when he was at the facility previously.”

Cleric interrupted. “That training was before John and his daughter found Blue at an auction. Did the staff at the facility ever find out what happened to Blue’s original owner, or how a highly-trained and valuable animal ended up at a second-rate auction?” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/05/19/a-good-deal-or-crazy/

I shook my head. “They have not been able to track down the family who acquired Blue from them those many years ago. They’re no longer at their former address, and no one at the stable where that family boarded Blue knows where they went or what happened to the pony. The family just settled their board bill one day, took the pony, and left. The stable owner thought they might have purchased their own farm, but he said the family was very closed-mouthed about it.”

“Strange.” Cleric wrinkled her brow and tilted her head. “Sorry, Mistress, please go on. How did Blue’s training progress?”

Everything he could ask forI smiled again. “He’s everything a blind rider could ask for. Blue seems to have a sense about the dangers he needs to watch for. He is exceptionally calm and gentle under all sorts of trying and potentially dangerous circumstances. He watches for all the things Colton is unable to see – overhanging branches, traffic, loose dogs, unfriendly horses being ridden too close, obstacles in their path. The trainers were so impressed with Blue! They said the only animal they have ever had at their facility who showed the same innate ability to work with a blind rider was Peaches.”

Cleric smiled smugly. “Mystery . . . er, Peaches . . . told me we would find the right replacement for her, a pony who would take care of Colton just as she had.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/05/05/a-new-mystery/

I nodded. “I’m really glad you convinced me to get Anna to go to that auction. We were all dubious, but you were right!” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/05/12/what-will-we-find-at-the-auction/

My Gypsy dismounted but held his reins so his horse couldn’t wander off. He snatched another piece of cake before asking, “So can we ride over there soon?”

“Is next week soon enough?” I grinned. “Anna has invited us over for an all-day trail ride and sunset barbecue next Wednesday. That will give them some time to get settled in back home.”

Cleric blushed. “It will also give some of us time to get in some riding. We need to work up to a long trail ride, so we do not end up unable to move after many hours in the saddle next week.”

I grinned. “Wonderful! I’ll call Anna tonight and let her know we’ll be there!”

Be sure to join us next week to see how Blue and Colton manage on the trail together. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

An Unfulfilling Resolution

An Unfulfilling Resolution

Dragon studying scrollDragon was in the conference room for what seemed like an eternity. She had closeted herself in the room with the scroll Talia had given her at the culmination of our visit to Chris-Tal Clear Metaphysical Store. When she opened the door and beckoned, she appeared to be vacillating between extreme agitation and looking like the cat that ate the canary.

I entered the room with trepidation. “I sense there is a wee problem.” My raised eyebrow underscored the sarcasm dripping from my words.

Dragon narrowed her reptilian eyes and a growl rumbled deep in her throat. “There was.” The beast began pacing around the room. “While not precisely deceitful, Talia was not quite straightforward with us regarding the information on the scroll.” She stopped pacing and looked at me. “When she handed me the scroll, Talia said this will explain, did she not?” Not waiting for me to reply, she continued, her tail lashing and her voice strained. “Unfortunately, it does not explain. It neither names the form of magic exhibited by Marisol, nor identifies the source.”

I frowned. “Then the scroll is useless?”

Marisol accuses Dragon who changes 2“Not entirely.” Dragon furrowed her brow as she resumed pacing. “It does contain a spell to shield me from Marisol’s power, so she will no longer be able to see my true nature, nor cause me to shapeshift to my beastly form if she says something in the presence of others. Of course, that enchantment works directly on me, not on Marisol.”

I wrinkled my brow and raked my hand through my hair. “I don’t think I understand. If the child is no longer able to see your true nature or force you to shapeshift, how can you say the spell doesn’t affect her?”

Dragon explaining to meDragon stopped pacing and rolled her eyes. “After all this time, you still do not understand wards?” She scoffed. “The spell works on me, not on Marisol, because the spell is constructed to protect me. It is like placing a ward on your door. The ward keeps thieves out, not by affecting the thief, but by preventing their lock-picking skill or magic from affecting the door.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Hmmm . . . I think I understand.”

Nodding curtly, Dragon explained, “The spell from Talia is merely a more advanced version of the spell I have been using, but one that requires far less energy to cast and maintain.”

Gaping at the child“I smiled. “That’s good. Now what about her ability to see through your spell of concealment?”

“Well, that is interesting.” The way Dragon pronounced the word interesting, I knew she found it anything but.

I rubbed my chin. “Explain?”

Dragon began pacing again. “Included in the information Talia shared in the scroll was the suggestion that it would be very difficult to cast a spell on the child. Of course, I took offense at that suggestion, as I am sure my power would be adequate to the task.”

I nodded, not daring to comment.Angry Dragon

“But because Talia evidently did not deem me powerful enough, she did not share a spell to prevent Marisol from seeing through my spell of concealment.” Smoke started to drift from her snout and her tail was twitching.

“I sense there’s more.” I gestured at the beast to continue.

2 scrolls“Indeed, there is.” The smoke disappeared and a hint of a smile tugged at the corners of Dragon’s mouth. “When I reached the end of the scroll Talia had given me, I noticed that the parchment felt strange. It felt as if it were too thick. I examined it, and found a second scroll adhered to the first, like two pages of a book stuck together. It took me considerable time and effort to separate them without damaging either one.”

I wrinkled my brow. “And what did the second scroll contain?”

dragon talkingTalia closeup 2Dragon smiled widely, the canary-eating cat look returning to her face. “It contained the spell Talia did not share.”

“Are you certain she didn’t share it? Maybe she placed it on a second parchment rather than putting both on the same one.”

Dragon shook her head. “No, I am certain Talia did not mean for me to have this spell. It is not in the same hand that wrote the other one.”Christine closeup

I gaped at Dragon. “Do you think Christine gave it to you?”

The behemoth nodded. “That is what I surmise.”

I chuckled. “Boy, did Crawford have things all catawampus regarding the nature of those two women! So, do you have the components you need for both spells?”

Dragon shook her head. “Unfortunately, no. With the miserable, wet weather we have had all summer, Cleric, Sorceress, and I have been unable to gather and prepare the botanicals we need for our spells. Our stores are very low, and I am missing some key herbs and other components.”

I sighed. “Then I guess we’ll be visiting the herbal shop.”

At the farmAn hour later, I turned my vehicle into the driveway at the organic farm where Marisol’s mother and aunt ran a shop specializing in herbs and other botanicals. Dragon, in her guise of an elf maiden, was sitting next to me, and Cleric and Sorceress were in the back seat. All three had long lists of supplies they needed to purchase.

As we wandered around the displays outside the big barn that housed the shop, my three characters added various herbs and botanicals to their baskets, while I checked out the organic produce. We were just heading toward the shop when Marisol’s mother, Bastina, saw us and came over. She had a thin smile pasted on her careworn face. “Hello, ladies! It’s so nice to see you again! Are you finding everything you need? We have so much more inside.”Elf

sorceress-facing-rightCleric nodded. “We found some items here, but we have many items to procure this day.”

Sorceress agreed. “We were going to look inside for the rest.”

Elf clericDragon furrowed her brow. “Perhaps if we show you our lists, you could save us some time by pointing us in the right direction for the rest of these items.”

Bastina“Of course.” Bastina smiled as she took the lists. She started to skim the contents, and her smile slowly disappeared. “These do not look like the ingredients for a curative broth.” She gave Dragon a sharp look. “What on earth will you be doing with these?”

Dragon merely raised an eyebrow at the question.

Bastina turned beet red. “Oh, my! Where are my manners? It’s none of my business what items you get or why. Here, I will show you where to find everything.”

Talking with BastinaI noticed Sorceress nudge Cleric and nod toward some nearby hay bales. Cleric smiled and cleared her throat to get Dragon’s attention. She used her chin to point at the heap of hay, and Dragon gave an almost imperceptible nod.

“Wait, Bastina.” Dragon’s lips twitched, and she winked at Bastina. “Perhaps it is best you know.”

I gaped at Dragon, worried about what she was going to say.

“We use these herbs and botanicals, along with other components, to cast spells.” Dragon smiled slyly at Bastina. “Right now, we are working on a spell that will prevent your daughter from seeing my true nature, that of a dragon. And she will no longer be able to see the horses on our property, or other things over which I have cast a spell of concealment.”

“I knew you were a dragon!” Marisol jumped out from behind a stack of hay bales, where she had been hiding and eavesdropping. “And I knew you had horses in your yard!” The precocious five-year-old turned to her mother and stamped her little foot. “And you didn’t believe me, mommy!”Dragon talking to Marisol

Dragon squatted down next to the child. “I was hoping to keep it our secret, but I suppose it is only right your mother knows the truth.”

Bastina picking up MarisolBastina picked up her daughter, swung her high up over her head, and then gave her a hug. “I’m sorry I ever doubted you, little one.” She smiled and exchanged a conspiratorial look with Dragon. “So, Dray, tell me how this spell works. Will Marisol have to drink some awful-tasting potion? Or will she have to spend the night alone in the forest during a full moon?”

“Oh mommy!” The child giggled. “That’s not how magic works.”

“You are right, it is not.” Dragon chuckled. “No, there will be no yucky potions to drink, nor any cold, lonely nights in the woods with only the creatures of the dark for company. I will prepare the spell components and recite the incantations and poof! You will never see me as a dragon, nor will you see any of those things I have hidden by means of magic.”

Bastina smiled gratefully at Dragon, but Marisol’s face crumpled, and a tear slid down her cheek. “I will never see your shiny red scales again, or your fearsome teeth and claws? And I will never get to pet your horses?”

“I am afraid not, my little friend. Perhaps when you are older, I can introduce you to someone who will help you understand.”

Marisol brightened, but her mother’s brow furrowed. “Child, why don’t you go and help your Aunt Danica?”

“Okay, mommy. Goodbye, Dragon! Goodbye, witches.” Marisol waved at me and my characters and ran off to find her aunt.

BastinaElf clericBastina was wringing her hands. “Dray, you were just . . . well, you saw my daughter hiding behind the hay bales and you were just making sport, right? Just going along with her and her imagination?”

“Of course, Bastina. What else?” Dragon’s face was the picture of innocence.

“It’s just that . . . well, when you mentioned someone who could help her understand . . . well, I just thought . . .” Bastina’s voice trailed off, and she shrugged. “Well, I don’t know what I thought.”

“You thought, perhaps, I was suggesting your daughter really does posses some sort of power, and that I knew someone who could help her learn to control it and use it properly?” Dragon raised an eyebrow and made a moue.

“Silly, isn’t it?” Bastina scoffed.

“Silly,” Dragon agreed.

As we headed to the barn to complete our shopping, Dragon smiled wistfully and leaned toward me. In a voice so low I had to strain to hear, she whispered, “I know this is an issue that needs to be revisited at some point in the future, but for now I am relieved to have a temporary resolution, even if it means not being quite honest with Marisol and Bastina.”

I nodded, and looked over my shoulder Bastina. I saw her furrowing her brow and chewing on her bottom lip as she trailed along behind us. I sighed.

Does Bastina suspect Dragon isn’t just joking? Will the woman ever figure out the truth about her daughter? At least we won’t have to worry anymore about Marisol seeing things she shouldn’t. I wonder what misadventures await my little band of displaced characters next. Be sure to come back and join us again next week. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.