The Great Wyrm started to extricate her head from the window. Dragon, still in her familiar guise of an elf maiden, sat there, stunned. Can this really be happening? Is my future self really going back into the real world with me to help? Suddenly, she jumped up and started pacing, wringing her hands. “Wait!”
The Great Wyrm and the Historian’s Apprentice gaped at her.
“Things are happening too quickly. We need to discuss this further.”
The Wyrm gave Dragon a look of approval. “You have a good, logical mind. You like to consider all possibilities before taking action. This is good.”
“Why?” The Apprentice looked at the Wyrm curiously, then turned to Dragon. “Iffin the Great Wyrm be sayin’ she and ye can be findin’ the conduit, then it be so. Ne’er be doubtin’ the big beastie!”
“I do not doubt. I am sure we could find the conduit. But when I and three of my companions in Mistress Writer’s world – the real world as she calls it – found and examined the conduit, we discovered it is a one-way passage. None from the real world can use it to enter this world.”
The Apprentice nodded, understanding in his eyes. “Then ye do na be knowin’ how the big beastie’ll be gittin’ back here, once ye travel through the conduit ta Mistress Writer’s world.”
Dragon’s shoulders slumped. She turned to the Great Wyrm. “I know of no way for you to do so. Do you?”
“How did you get here from there?”
“I reentered the manuscript from which I and my companions had fallen into the real world. From there, it took every bit of my concentration and my power to enter this world. The effort totally exhausted me, and I lost consciousness. I do not know how long I remained in that state.”
The Great Wyrm frowned. She narrowed her eyes and small rings of smoke bubbled from her nostrils as she concentrated. “It is obvious I will not be able to retrace your route to return here. Since I did not fall from the manuscript, I can not enter it.”
“Exactly.” The elf maiden Dragon nodded.
“Still, there must be a way for me to return here.” The Wyrm’s frown deepened and the smoke thickened.
“Can ye not be reweavin’ the enchantment? Be makin’ it a two-way channel? Seems ta me thet be easy enough fer one o yer power. I seen ye do harder then thet.” The man shot the Wyrm a curious look before he tore another piece of bread from the loaf on the table and popped it in his mouth.
“No! You must not make the conduit a two-way passage!”
The man and the Wyrm gaped at Dragon, who was again wringing her hands and pacing.
“Why not?” The man frowned, and more smoke drifted from the Wyrm’s snout.
“If it became possible for anyone from the real world to use the conduit to enter this world, it would mean disaster for this world and its inhabitants.” The ersatz elf maiden chewed on her lower lip for several moments. Then she sighed and sat down again. She lowered her eyes and studied her hands as she spoke. “Several of my fellow characters are power-hungry. One is a fairly proficient illusionist. He would not hesitate to use his power to create illusions of the technology to which he has been exposed in the real world to gain power over the residents of this world.”
“Oh. Well, we can na be havin’ thet, now can we?” The man spoke around the mouthful of food he was still chewing, but Dragon and the Wyrm could make out his words well enough.
“No. We can not.” The Wyrm wrinkled her nose at the man’s lack of manners, then turned back to Dragon. “But it should not be a great problem. Once I return to this world, I can either destroy the conduit completely, or restore the part of the spell that prevents egress from Mistress Writer’s world.”
Dragon’s eyes lit up at that idea. “Yes. Yes, that would work very well.” She smiled.
“Then, is there anything else we need to discuss before we go in search of the conduit?”
“Let me consider for a moment.” Dragon’s brow furrowed and she began chewing her lip again. Finally she spoke. “Yes. When my fellow characters and I searched for the conduit, it was in a state of constant flux. It moved rapidly from one spot to another within Mistress Writer’s house, or disappeared altogether. So how do we know when we enter the conduit here where we will end up?”
The Apprentice scoffed and waved off Dragon’s concerns. “The conduit do na just be connectin’ this world ta Mistress Writer’s world. At the other end, it’ll al’ays be appearin’ close ta the scribe herself, or within her abode. Iffin ye be goin’ inta the conduit at this end, ye be goin’ outten it where ye be needin’ ta be at the other end.”
Dragon nodded. “Then there is just one more thing. I am sure we will find the conduit, eventually. However, it might be easier and quicker if we know more about its habits.”
“Its habits?” The Apprentice tilted his head and rubbed his bearded chin.
“Yes. You said it does not stay in one place, and it has been a while since you have seen it. When you have seen it, has it appeared here?”
The man furrowed his brow, but nodded. “Aye.”
“On a regular schedule?”
“Have you ever encountered it anywhere else?”
“At the Historian’s hut.”
“And how far is that?”
The Wyrm interrupted. “I know where the Historian lives. But the conduit is random. It follows no schedule, nor any route. We will have to use our power to locate it.”
Dragon nodded. “I can think of nothing else, then. I suppose it is time to go.”
“Safe travels.” The Apprentice rose and saw his guests out. “Remember, beastie, ye al’ays be welcome here.”
“Thank you. I will not forget.” The elf maiden gave the Apprentice a brief hug before turning to face the Wyrm. The elf started to shimmer, and in a short time she resumed her true form, a substantially smaller version of the Great Wyrm.
Dragon followed the Wyrm to the top of the mountain. I did not realize just how much larger than I this future me is! She did not look so massive when I first encountered her.
Dragon was startled to hear the Wyrm’s voice in her head, communicating telepathically, as was the custom of their species. Remember, you are but an image of sorts, a shadow, an echo, a memory of someone who used to live here. You have no idea how much time has passed since that creature, my younger self, flew these skies.
Dragon replied, also using telepathy. I am heartened to know that I lived . . . am living . . . a long life, growing in wisdom and power as well as size.
Dragon felt a sadness emanating from the Wyrm. You will probably outlive me, my dear, as you will never age. I do not know if Mistress Writer did us a favor or a grave disservice, suspending you in time like that.
Dragon pressed the Wyrm for an explanation, but the great beast would say no more.
* * *
Miles and I entered the house from the garage, and headed up to the living room. My characters trailed behind. The door slammed, and a cacophony of loud, angry voices followed us up the stairs.
Just moments before, my characters had been in the car with my husband and me, happily discussing the outing Miles and I had taken them on. Now that we were home, everything changed. As my characters gathered around Miles and me in the living room, they were all arguing over trivial concerns.
“I was the one who found the Red-tailed Hawk for Mistress Writer.” My Gypsy jerked a thumb toward his chest, and jutted his chin.
“Well, I was the one who persuaded it to pose so Mistress Writer could take so many beautiful pictures!” Cleric’s face was red and her lower lip stuck out in a pout.
“I helped, too!” Sorceress pursed her lips and folded her arms over her chest. “I was the one who kept that rambunctious red squirrel quiet, so it would not distract the hawk.”
“I was the one who found that big, furry creature.” My Foreman swaggered across the living room.
“You may have found the groundhog, but you never would have known what it was if I had not identified it for you! You thought it was a giant rat!” My Young Hero jeered as he planted his feet wide, and balled his hands into fists at his side.
“Well, I found that bird Mistress Writer had been looking for.” My Foreman scowled.
“If you are referring to the Green Heron, I was the one who found it.” My Gypsy turned toward his companion, his eyes flashing.
My Foreman snorted. “No, the other one. The Sashed Majestic Fishingbird.”
My Gypsy laughed. “You can’t even identify the creatures you see. That was a Belted Kingfisher!”
“Who cares what you call it?” My Arrogant One drew himself up and rocked back on his heels. He grasped the front of his cloak with both hands as he did when he was trying to look important. “While the rest of you were chasing after beasts and varmints and wing-ed creatures, the two of us had to haul all the food and supplies to the picnic site.” My Arrogant One’s voice was a petulant whine.
My Bounty Hunter nodded and commiserated with him. “Indeed. We worked while the rest of you enjoyed yourselves.” My Bounty Hunter clenched his hands and narrowed his eyes.
“Aye, the two o ye been doin’ a teensy little bit o work. But ye dinna been doin’ it alonesome like. Ye been havin’ help, dinna ye? Master Miles and I been doin’ the most o it. And what do it matter, anywho, who been doin’ what? We all been havin’ a good time, dinna we?” My Old Dwarf scoffed and shook his head.
But my Foreman pushed my Old Dwarf aside and stood squarely in front of my Arrogant One. “Elf, I am tired of your constant whining. So you and your cohort here had to help carry the food. You both ate it, didn’t you? So why shouldn’t the two of you help carry it?”
My Arrogant One blushed, turning scarlet right to the tips of his pointy ears, and he glared at my Foreman. “We always do more than our share. I do not know why we are never invited to join in the fun activities. We are not your pack animals, you know.”
“No, you’re not.” My Foreman’s glare took in both the elf and his companion. “My pack horses are a great deal more pleasant to be around.”
My Bounty Hunter drew his dagger, but my Old Dwarf knocked it out of his hand with the flat of his axe. “Nay, laddies. Ye be needin’ ta be keepin’ it civil. No weapons in the hoose.”
Suddenly, my Foreman backhanded my Old Dwarf, splitting the old reprobate’s lip. “I don’t need the likes of you defending me, dwarf.”
Listening to it all, Miles and I had exchanged numerous exasperated looks, but we remained silent. Now, however, I could no longer hold my tongue. “That is enough!” I stood there glaring at my pack of characters. “I’m tired of this. There will be no more of this bickering and fighting!”
My Gypsy snorted and narrowed his eyes menacingly. “And what will you do if we continue? Edit us out of the manuscripts? We all know you will not try that again.”
From the stairway, two voices thundered in unison. “No. She will not. If this conflict does not cease . . . immediately . . . the participants will answer to me.”
We all whirled around toward the source of the voices. We gaped as two Dragons climbed the stairs to join us in the living room, two Dragons identical in every respect save their unequal size.
What happens next? Do Dragon and the Great Wyrm have to subdue the other characters? Will they be able to send the items back to the other world? If so, will that be the end of the conflict, or will they two Dragons have to put their heads together and find another cause of the problem? Join us again next week for some of the answers. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.