The Year in Review

The Year in Review

Dragon looks up from fireplace“The year in review?” Dragon opened one sleepy eye. She raised her head and gave me a curious look. “What is that?”

I wrinkled my brow. I thought it quite self-evident, but I shrugged and offered Dragon an explanation anyway. “It’s just a brief summary of the events of the past year.”

“Oh.” She went back to basking next to her illusory fireplace, curling up tightly, dropping her reptilian head onto her arms, and tucking her tail around her nose.

Arrogant OneMy Arrogant One shuddered. “Who in their right mind would want to dwell on the events of this year past?”

I shrugged. “Many people would. It’s fun to recall some of the good times we had.”

wish listeners“Not everyone had good times. This year did not start out well for some of us.” The elf’s usual smug, superior look was replaced by a pensive expression. “Do you not remember? At the end of the previous year, I had developed a problem controlling my power. At the start of this year, Dragon and I returned to the land of the Wish Listeners to search for the cause and – mayhap – a remedy for my affliction.”

My Arrogant One grasped his cloak and pulled it tight around himself. His voice was so soft I had to strain to hear him. “Dragon almost died there. And I almost abandoned her to her fate, shaming myself and dishonoring the elven race.” His face was pale, and he drew his cloak even tighter around his shivering body.

the knights paced

Tendrils of black smoke 2

Dragon raised her head again, studying the elf through heavy-lidded eyes. “Yes, I remember that. The elf is right. It was not a good start to the year.” A small plume of black smoke drifted from her nostrils, underscoring her words.

Unicorn and dwarf 2My Old Dwarf walked over to Dragon and caressed her scaly face. “But thet you-nee-corn been tookin’ me ta tha udder world ta be savin’ ye, beastie. An’ tha elfie been doin’ right by ye in tha end, when it really been countin’ fer summat.”

Dragon considered this for a moment before nodding and resuming her basking.

bounty-hunterMy Bounty Hunter cleared his throat and nodded. “It was a long and frightening eight weeks. Those of us who remained here had no way of knowing where you were, what was happening, or if we would ever see you again.”

“There were a number of other frights and scares this past year.” My Young Hero blushed as he remembered. “I was beset by nightmares for a long spell.” He smiled warmly at me. “You helped me understand that even heroes can have nightmares.”

“Your fears were nothing compared to the terror I faced after meeting our young neighbor, Marisol. She quickly demonstrated not only the capability to see through my spell of concealment, but the capacity to see my true nature.” Dragon sat up again, dark smoke drifting from her nose.

Stu-04-NatGalSorceress entered the room as Dragon was speaking. She placed a tray of eggnog and Christmas cookies on the table, then turned to Dragon and nodded. “That was a frightening predicament for all of us. The child’s inexplicable ability may have revealed our existence to the inhabitants of this world beyond Mistress Writer and Master Miles.”

MilesTaking Marisol by the hand“Marisol and her mother, Bastina, were not the only new acquaintances this past year.” Miles helped himself to a glass of eggnog and a few cookies as he turned to me. “You and Dragon met that repairman who came out to fix the heat element in our rain gutters when we had a problem with the formation of ice dams. You remember him and his alleged griffin, don’t you?”Crawford and Griffin

“I assure you, Master Miles, there was nothing alleged about the griffon.” Dragon got a sappy look on her face, and her cheeks glowed bright red. “It was nice to meet someone who understood my nature and my presence here, and with whom I could communicate in the old ways of my race.”

Dray and Griff

Miles gave me a questioning look.

“The griffin apparently arrived here much the same way Dragon and my other characters did – falling out of someone’s manuscript. And, according to Dragon, Griff has the ability to communicate telepathically, the same way the Great Wyrms of Dragon’s world communicate.”Dragon and Griffin

“Oh.” Miles furrowed his brow and nibbled another cookie as he digested this information.

CrawfordGriff2I nodded. “Yes, I had almost forgotten about meeting Crawford. He and his friend, Griff, proved themselves to be allies and valuable resources. After the meeting of the writers’ group Lost in the Words, Crawford directed us to Christine and Talia, the owners of the Chris-Tal Clear Metaphysical Store. He said they might be able to help us determine just what Marisol is and whence she gets her power.”

Dragon chuckled. “But getting Talia to help was most difficult. Christine had to exert a great deal of persuasion on her partner. Still, the spells the two ladies provided remedied the problem, and we remain undiscovered by most in this world. And Talia did say when Marisol is older, Talia can teach her, train her to use her power rather than be used by it.”

Foreman facing right closeup“We made another new friend this year as well.” My Foreman raised an eyebrow as he settled into the recliner with a glass of eggnog in his hand. “And a new enemy, mayhap?”Gypsy

“By friend, of course, you mean either Didi or Arthur.” My Gypsy waggled his eyebrows and smirked. “But whoever could be the enemy of whom you speak?”

My Foreman guffawed. “Arthur is no friend.” He turned to me. “Mistress, did not Crawford predict you had made a powerful enemy in Arthur?”

I sighed. “He did. I thought after Cleric had put Crawford’s mind at ease over the circumstances surrounding the death of his nephew, the danger he represented was over. But then Crawford apparently interfered with my Arrogant One’s magic, causing one of the elf’s spells to go awry.”

“Didi turned out to be a friend, though.” My Gypsy smiled broadly. “She wrote an excellent article on Colton and his new pony, Blue.”

“Blue!” Cleric exclaimed. “The therapy pony is another new friend we have made this year!” Her smile faded as quickly as it had appeared. “Of course, we lost a good friend when Colton’s first therapy pony, Peaches – who we knew as Mystery – passed away.”

We all nodded somberly.

Young hero 2“But not everything that happened this past year was bad or sad or frightening,” my Young Hero reminded us. “Because of your strong bond with Mystery, and your ability to communicate with animals, Cleric, we attended the auction and found Blue for Colton.”

Colton and Peaches 2John, Casey, and Old Blue 2My Gypsy agreed. “We helped them both deal with their depression over losing their closest friend – Colton had lost his pony, Peaches, and Blue had lost his owner, Casey. Later, after Colton and Blue were working well together, we got to enjoy a wonderful trail ride with them and Colton’s mom. Colton and I had another outstanding competition identifying birds. That blind boy can identify birds by sound better than most sighted people can identify them by visual observation! And then we had a delicious barbecue after the ride.”

“Ye dinna been toldin’ me there be a barbecue at thet trail ride.” My Old Dwarf frowned. “Iffins I been knowin’ thet, I been learnin’ how ta be ridin’, too!”

We all laughed.

camera for blog“The trail ride was not the only fun any of us had this past year.” My Bounty Hunter rejoined the conversation. “Do you not all remember the debate over magic versus technology? We all went on a nature hike and were afforded the opportunity to use Mistress Writer’s magic box that she calls a camera. The wildlife pictures taken by the magic users were no better than those taken by those of us unskilled in the arcane arts.”

ruby-ring2My Old Dwarf scoffed. “Aye, lad, but I already been ‘splainin thet ta all o’ ye. It do na be becausin’ anythin’ thet tha lass be callin’ tech-nol-o-gee. Tha magic box really be magic, but tha magic be in tha object, liken me old ring o takin’ me places.”

I leaned closer to Miles and explained, “He means his ring of transportation.”

“Aye, lass, me ring o trans-port-tatin’. Tha magic be in tha ring, so’s even non-magic folk kin be usin’ it, same as tha magic box ye all be callin’ a cam-er-ah, what holds tha magic inside it.” My Old Dwarf shook his head at our lack of understanding.

I laughed. “I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on the technology issue.”

“That was not the only time we got to use the magic box . . . er, camera.” Cleric grinned.

“That’s right. We saw many different birds and animals when Mistress Writer took us on another nature hike at the beginning of summer, as well.” My Bounty Hunter smiled as he remembered. “Dragon had created illusory cameras for us, so we did not have to share. We all took a large number of photographs that day.”

“I remember.” I nodded and turned toward my Arrogant One. “And there was another time when you took some outstanding nature images, too.”

The elf flushed with pride and sat up a little taller.

“And when you and Master Miles were sick with pneumonia this past spring, Mistress Writer, I took a lot of pictures of the birds in your yard and on our deck to share with you after you recovered.” Cleric smiled at the memory.

“We should have taken pictures the previous month, when the weather was so bad, and all those robins were on the deck.” Dragon shivered as she remembered.

Cleric chuckled. “You were so fascinated by the robins, you shrank to the size of a housecat and climbed up on the back of the sofa to watch them.”

“The robins may have been the most numerous that day – I think there were almost a hundred on the deck – but they were not the only birds we saw,” my Gypsy recalled. “I think we identified 11 different species in the snow and ice, including two different hawks.”

“See?” My Young Hero grinned. “I told you not everything about this past year was bad or sad or frightening. We shared a lot of fun and good times as well.”

My Bounty Hunter nodded. “It makes me most anxious to see what the coming year will bring.”

We hope, dear readers, you have enjoyed following the adventures and misadventures of my little band of displaced characters this past year, and for all the years they have been creating chaos in this world. And we hope you will continue to join us in the coming year as we face whatever comes our way – good, bad, sad, or frightening. It will always be nicer for us if you come along and keep us company. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

Happy New Year

The WHAT is Missing?

The WHAT is Missing?

Look at this“Mistress, look at this!”

Dragon, in her guise of an elf maiden, burst into the room, with Cleric right on her heels. Dragon was waving a newspaper over her head, and an ear-to-ear grin lit up Cleric’s face.

“What is it?” I looked up from the book I was reading.

“It is Didi’s article about Colton and Blue. It is in the local newspaper this day.” Dragon handed me the paper, already opened to the aforementioned piece. “I think she did a wonderful bit of writing.”

What Didi wrote aboutCleric nodded in agreement. “Didi mentioned Peaches, Colton’s first therapy pony, whom we knew as Mystery. She touched on how Peaches had been prepared as a therapy horse, and how Colton and Peaches had been trained to work together. Then she explained briefly how, after Peaches passed away, Anna attended an auction and found a new pony for her son. She also gave a quick overview of Blue’s history, with just a brief mention of both Andrew and Casey.”

Two SidebarsDragon took up the story. “There are two . . . er . . . what I believe I have heard you refer to as sidebars. The first one highlights the benefits of equine therapy for the handicapped. The other is a short but glowing profile of the facility that trained both Peaches and Blue. The bulk of the main article, however, concentrates on the relationship between Colton and Blue, how they have bonded, and how Blue has given Colton freedom he would not otherwise have been afforded. Didi included several paragraphs detailing Colton’s ability to take Blue out on the trails without supervision. The article is augmented by a number of photos of the two of them, both in the arena and on the trails.”More photos with the article

I took the newspaper and scanned the article. When I reached the end, I sighed in relief and smiled. “No mention of the incident with Arthur, nor of your ability, Cleric, to communicate with animals.”

Cleric nodded. “I am relieved to know Didi had more integrity than to include sensational details in her article.”

DidiI frowned. “I know Didi was planning on writing several additional articles, more in-depth pieces, for various larger publications. I hope those articles reflect the same level of integrity.”

Dragon narrowed her eyes and gave me an enigmatic smile. “I believe Didi will continue to treat both Arthur’s grief and Cleric’s empathic abilities with respect and discretion. She is . . . a rather exceptional person.”

I was about to question Dragon regarding her cryptic comment about the journalist, Didi, when my Arrogant One and my Bounty Hunter stomped into the room, arguing loudly.argument

As their yelling and bickering escalated to pushing and shoving, I frowned at the intrusion. “Whoa! What’s up with you two?”

Arrogant One facing right“None of your affair!” My Arrogant One snapped at me as he continued glaring at his companion.Bounty Hunter full body

My Bounty Hunter, on the other hand, faced me and replied courteously, in a respectful tone of voice. “It is a private matter, milady. Please pardon our unseemly comportment.” He concluded with a bow, then grabbed my Arrogant One by the arm and steered the elf back out of the room and down the stairs.

As they clambered down the steps, I heard my Bounty Hunter’s voice. It sounded as if he were talking through clenched teeth. “You have really outdone yourself this time, elf! How do you plan to rectify the situation before anyone else discovers what you have done?”

I looked at Dragon and Cleric. “Any clue what that was all about?”

Both of my characters shrugged. “I never know what is going on with those two.” Cleric frowned.

Dragon nodded and raised one delicate eyebrow. “Whatever it is, you can bet it is not anything good.”

Cleric, Dragon, and I returned to our discussion of Didi’s newspaper article. We were still huddled together on the sofa when my husband, Miles, called to us from the kitchen. “Lunch is ready! Come and get it!”

We scurried to the kitchen and were soon joined by the rest of my characters. My husband ladled out steaming bowls of vegetable soup, while my Old Dwarf handed each of us a thick slice of homemade bread still warm from the oven.

MilesMeAs he filled my bowl, Miles asked me, “Marge, did our next-door neighbors mention anything to you about moving their house?”

I shook my head. “No, they didn’t mention anything about moving. Why? Is there a for sale sign in front of their house?”

Miles sighed and placed his hand on my shoulder. “No, honey. I didn’t ask if our neighbors said anything about them moving, I asked if they mentioned anything about moving their house.”

“What?” I furrowed my brow and cocked my head. “What are you talking about?”

“Haven’t you looked out the window lately? The neighbor’s house is gone.”

Gaping holeI immediately put down my soup bowl and walked back into the living room. I looked through the glass of the French doors and did a double take. I opened the doors and stepped out onto the deck for a better look. Sure enough! Where just this morning there had been a lovely, tan, two-story house with contrasting aqua trim, there now stood a gaping hole in the ground.

Arrogant One full body 2

As I turned around and walked, dazed, back into the house, I spotted my Arrogant One tiptoeing toward the stairs.

“Freeze, elf!”

 

 

What happened to my neighbor’s house, and what did my Arrogant One have to do with it? Be sure to come back next week and find out! We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

The Truth (Conclusion of The Interview)

The Truth (Conclusion of The Interview)

Colton NooooooPandemonium broke out at Arthur’s proclamation.

Colton continued to wail uncontrollably. “Nooooooo! You can’t destroy Blue! I won’t let you!”

Anna held her son tight, trying to calm him, but the boy continued to sob.

Dray, Clara, and I confront ArthurDray, Clara, and I loudly confronted Arthur, each of us vowing the man would never harm Colton’s pony, Blue. Arthur swore, just as loudly, that he would see to it the beast was destroyed, so it could never harm another person.Didi whistling

Didi moved around, trying to capture the chaotic exchange on her tape recorder. Finally, she put the recorder down. Placing two fingers to her mouth, she whistled shrilly. The rest of us fell silent, staring at her.

Didi taping Arthur“That’s better.” She picked up the recorder again. “Now, Arthur, you stated the police and medical examiner determined your nephew had died of head injuries as the result of having been trampled by Blue. But are you certain of the police and forensic report?”

The man scoffed. “Of course!”

Didi frowned. “Well, then, it seems to me, Arthur, that your story has a major flaw in it.”

“Oh?” The man sneered at Didi.

She nodded. “I covered an incident last year when a child was savaged by a vicious dog. The animal was deemed dangerous and the police destroyed the animal right there, at the scene of the attack.”

“So?” Arthur looked down his nose at Didi.

“So, if Blue killed your nephew, why didn’t the police destroy the pony as a dangerous animal?”

“Good question.” I nodded.

Arthur rolled his eyes and snorted. “When my nephew was trampled, there were no witnesses. The police said there was no proof the animal was dangerous. They claimed it could have been an accident. They refused to destroy the beast.” Arthur’s face contorted with hatred. “It was no accident. The animal struck out at me when I entered the stall. It was obvious to me what had happened. That pony is dangerous and must be destroyed!”

I shook my head and held up my hand to silence Arthur as Colton started wailing again.

Didi and ClaraBefore I could speak, Didi turned to Clara, the alter ego of my character, Cleric. “Clara, didn’t you say you are absolutely certain Arthur is mistaken, and Blue did not kill his nephew, Andrew?”

Clara nodded.

“And didn’t you say you knew exactly what had happened?”

Again, Clara nodded.Arthur and Clara

Arthur pushed Didi aside and confronted Clara, standing practically nose to nose with her. “How can you know anything? You weren’t there! No one witnessed my nephew’s death!”

“I cannot explain how I know . . .”

Arthur stopped her mid-sentence. “You can’t explain, because there is no way you could know!”

Clara sighed. “I assure you I know what happened as certainly as if I had been there. I cannot explain how I have this knowledge. You must trust me.”

“Whether or not we trust you, I’d like to hear what you have to say.” Didi checked her tape recorder once more before gesturing for Clara to begin.

Clara looked at me, cocking one eyebrow in an unspoken question. I nodded. She paced around for a bit, her expression one of deep concentration. I knew she was choosing her words carefully.

Finally, Clara stopped pacing and faced everyone. “I will tell you what I know of the events of that day.”

Arthur scoffed, but the rest of us nodded.

Arthur and Clara 2stable hand“Arthur, do you remember a young stable hand, a painfully thin teenaged boy adorned with several piercings, whose long, stringy hair appeared to have had only a nodding acquaintance with a comb? On the day in question, he was dressed all in black – jeans, shirt, windbreaker, baseball hat, sneakers – and he had what I believe are called earbuds in his ears, as he was listening to music from one of his electronic devices.”

Arthur nodded. “I forget the miscreant’s name, but I recognize the description.” He narrowed his eyes and stared at Clara. “How do you know what he was wearing that day?”

Ignoring his question, Clara nodded. “And was this boy a skillful handler of the horses in his care?”

Arthur snorted. “Him? Skillful? Hardly! He was always looking for shortcuts, trying to get away with the least amount of work possible.”

Horses in barn aisle“Exactly.” Clara nodded. “Now on the day your nephew was killed, that stable hand was supposed to bring the horses into the barn, one or two at a time, and place them in their stalls, where feed and hay were awaiting them. Instead, he just opened the pasture gate and yelled at the horses, whooping and hollering. Since the horses were accustomed to being fed at that time, they all charged into the barn. They milled around in the aisle before entering the open stalls. Many of them entered the wrong stalls, and several horses engaged in kicking matches as they sought to protect their own territory and feed. One of the larger horses, a rangy seal brown thoroughbred, entered Blue’s stall, nudging open the door which your nephew had left ajar. The horse charged into the stall and knocked Andrew over. Blue tried to protect the boy, but the pony was no match for the larger horse. That animal is the one that trampled the boy.”

Arthur scoffed. “Then why was Andrew’s blood all over the pony’s hooves and coat? And why hadn’t the stable hand tried to help Andrew when he entered the barn and found him in the pony’s stall?”

BlueClara shook her head and answered in a gentle voice. “The blood you saw on Blue was not Andrew’s. It was Blue’s. He was savagely kicked several times by the larger horse as he tried to protect Andrew. And the stable hand never saw Andrew because he never looked into any of the stalls. By the time that boy walked into the barn, the thoroughbred had eaten all the feed in Blue’s bucket and had gone into his own stall. Once the stable hand chased the rest of the horses into their stalls, all he did was close all the stall doors without checking.”

We all stood gaping at Clara, trying to wrap our brains around her tale.

Arthur was the first to speak. “You’re a liar!” His face was red, and his hands clenched into fists that he looked dangerously close to using. Dray stepped between him and Clara.

Narrowing her eyes as she stared at Arthur, Dray spoke calmly, but with steel in her voice. “My friend does not lie. For all the years I have known her, she has never uttered a falsehood. I am not certain she even knows how.”

“Then explain this fairy tale she has woven. There is no way she could have such detailed knowledge of that day unless she was there and witnessed the events she described.” Then Arthur’s eyes widened, and he pushed Dray aside to confront Clara once more. “Or are you saying you were there? That you did see what happened and made no attempt to save my nephew’s life?”

“I was not there,” Clara assured him.

“Then how do you know what happened?” This time it was Didi who asked the question. “Do you have proof of your allegations?”

ElfClara shook her head. “I cannot explain how I know these things, and I can offer no proof.”

“Because you are a liar!” Arthur folded his arms over his chest and glared at Clara.

“Without proof, it does seem a bit farfetched.” Didi frowned.

Clara chewed on her lower lip for several seconds. She gave me an apologetic look, then began. “I would like you to consider the . . . possibility . . . of what I am about to tell you, no matter how outlandish or improbable it sounds.”

Dray and I exchanged wary glances, as we both knew what Clara was about to reveal.

“I have an ability that is difficult for me to explain, and even more difficult for others to accept.” She paused, searching for the right words. “I can communicate, after a fashion, with most animals.”

“Are you trying to tell us you can talk with animals, and that’s how you know what happened to my nephew . . . because the pony told you?” Arthur looked at Clara incredulously, then doubled over with laughter. Once he stopped laughing and caught his breath, he placed his hand on Clara’s shoulder. “I was wrong! You’re not a liar, you’re delusional!”

Clara and Blue“I assure you, sir, I am neither. I do talk to animals, but they do not talk to me. They . . . respond to me. I have a sensitivity to animal’s emotions, and an empathetic ability to see images they place in my mind. I know what happened to your nephew because I saw it all happen through Blue’s thoughts as I stood with him in Anna’s barn earlier, calming him. He let me know through the images he placed in my mind, that your presence here upsets him because he knows you blame him for what happened to Andrew. He knows he is in danger from you, that your blind hatred drives you to destroy him.”

“That’s enough! You will never convince me that you can communicate with dumb animals; nor will I believe that pony did not kill my nephew. He must be destroyed!” Arthur tried to push past everyone and head for the door, but Anna and Colton stopped him.Colton

“No!” Colton was no longer crying. His voice was firm and commanding. “I believe Clara. I have worked with Blue. I can’t communicate with animals the way Clara does, but I have bonded strongly with Blue, and I know he is incapable of intentionally harming anyone, let alone a person he has been trained to help. You must believe Clara!”

“Clara, is there any proof you can offer of your ability?” Didi was still recording the conversation.

Clara lifted her hands, palms up, and shrugged her shoulders. “I do not know what evidence I can offer as proof. As none of you can know what goes on in an animal’s mind, how can I prove that I can?”

“You can’t.” Arthur sneered again. “And I refuse to believe some fairytale you have concocted.”

Colton persisted. “I believe you, Clara. You’ve told us of events that day that Arthur did not witness, so he does not believe you. Can you tell us anything about that day that Arthur would have seen?”

Clara wrinkled her brow and rubbed her jaw. Suddenly, she brightened. “Yes, I believe there is! I know what Andrew was wearing.”Andrew

Arthur scoffed, but Clara turned to him with a look of confidence. “Your nephew was wearing a red, short-sleeved pull-over shirt, crisp, dark blue jeans, and a pair of badly scuffed brown Western boots. His short, black hair barely peeked out from under a tan cowboy hat adorned with a brown, braided hatband.”

Arthur’s jaw dropped. He stared at Clara for what seemed like an eternity before collapsing in a heap on the couch. “There is no way you could know that, unless you were there.”

“Mom?” Colton reached for Anna, who understood. She led her son to the couch and helped him take a seat next to Arthur.

Colton and ArthurThe boy reached out, grasping for Arthur’s hand. “There’s no way Clara could know that, unless she was there . . . or unless she saw it through Blue’s mind, as she said she did. I believe her. I hope you can, too.” Receiving no response from Arthur, Colton pressed on. “I know Blue is innocent. He is gentle, and he is dedicated to helping me, as he was dedicated to helping his last owner, Casey, before me, and your nephew, Andrew, before her.”

Arthur looked at the boy, then at each of us. He heaved a shuddering sigh and closed his eyes against the tears that gathered in the corners of his eyes. Finally, he rose. “I guess I have no choice but to believe. I’m sorry, Colton, that my grief turned to hatred and rage. Your pony is safe from me now. I hope you have many years of happiness with him.”

He turned and left, and a few moments later, we heard his car heading down the driveway to the road.

“Well, I guess I can take those pictures of you and Blue now, Colton.” Didi smiled. “I have quite an article to write now!”Didi about to take pix of Colton and Blue

 

We hope you have enjoyed the multi-week mystery tale surrounding our friend, Colton, and his therapy pony, Blue. Be sure to return each week to see what my band of displaced characters and our friends are up to. We’ll leave the porch light on for you!

Arthur’s Allegation – (The Interview, part 5)

Arthur’s Allegation – (The Interview, part 5)

“Please tell me he’s lying.” Colton sobbed.

Colton crying

Arthur, angry faceClara and ColtonArthur’s face contorted with anger, but Clara didn’t flinch. She kept her hand on Colton’s shoulder and continued glaring at Arthur as she repeated what she had said to Colton. “Arthur is not lying, Colton, but he is mistaken. Blue did not kill anyone.”

“Are you sure, Clara?” Tears streamed down the boy’s face.

“I am positive.” Clara’s voice was firm.

Arthur scoffed. “You cannot possibly know what happened. I tell you, that animal is a killer!” He turned to the boy’s mother. “You must believe me! You don’t want that beast anywhere near your son!”

Arthur and AnnaAnna moved forward and stared at Arthur, her eyes narrowed and her mouth in a tight line. When she spoke, it was through clenched teeth. “You’re upsetting my son again! Let Clara tell us what she knows.”

Arthur shook his head defiantly. “Whatever she has to say, she is wrong. She cannot possibly know what happened.”

“I assure you I know exactly what happened,” Clara stated calmly.Colton crying

“Tell us, Clara. Prove to that man that Blue isn’t a killer!” Colton’s face was streaked with tears, and his voice cracked with emotion. Anna embraced her son as Clara moved to stand toe to toe with Arthur.

I stepped between them, frowning. “I have a better idea. Let’s hear what Arthur has to say first. Then Clara, you can explain how he is mistaken.”

“I am not mistaken!” Arthur glared at us, and his voice was close to a growl.

I refused to be intimidated. “Okay, then tell us . . . calmly . . . what happened. Why do you insist Blue killed your nephew?”

Beet red and narrow-eyed, Arthur started yelling. I held up a hand. “I said calmly.”

Didi taping ArthurIt took the man a few minutes to get regain his self-control. Finally, he shuddered, went back to the couch and flopped down, shoulders slumped and eyes averted. Slowly, he began. I saw Didi move closer with her tape recorder.

“My nephew had been diagnosed in infancy with Cerebral Palsy. It was not a severe case, but my nephew appeared to worsen as he reached school-age, even though CP is not a progressive disease.”

Art - leader - multi-genre (1)Arthur paused, sitting there, wringing his hands and clenching his teeth.Me

As Arthur’s silence stretched to many, long minutes, I spoke. “I’m so sorry.” As much as I disliked the man, I couldn’t help but feel real compassion for his pain.

He looked up, a confused look on his face, as if he had forgotten where he was. He scowled at me. When he continued, his voice was raw with emotion. “One of Andrew’s doctors suggested that equine therapy might help. I told my brother I thought the idea was insane, but he ignored my concerns.”

Andrew and BlueArthur jumped up and started pacing. “Andrew started attending therapy sessions at a facility where he was eventually paired up with one particular pony. The therapists told my brother they felt that Andrew and the pony had bonded well, and that the boy would make more progress if he consistently worked with just one animal. My brother instantly offered to purchase the pony, and the facility agreed. I think it was just a ploy to get all the money they could from my brother. That animal cost a king’s ransom.”

I nodded. “Trained therapy horses are very expensive. That, and the fact that not everyone has their own stable, is why most people who need equine therapy don’t purchase their own horses. They go to a facility that offers equine therapy on horses owned by the facility. That way, too, a trained therapist is always there to work with the client.”

Arthur shrugged. “My brother had a number of horses boarded at a large stable. The stable had several empty stalls, and my brother saw no problem with boarding the pony there, too. He bought the pony and hired a licensed therapist, well trained and experienced in equine therapy, to work with Andrew and the animal.”

“So, what happened?” I furrowed my brow as I studied Arthur for any signs of deception.

Andrew and Blue 2Arthur sighed and took a few moments to collect his thoughts. “Things went well for a while. Andrew adored the animal and actually seemed to be benefiting from his therapeutic riding.” Arthur paused, frowning. “After his therapy session one day, Andrew was supposed to sit in the clubhouse and wait for his father and me. We were riding two of my brother’s horses on the trails. But as Andrew had gotten older, he wanted to do more and more for himself.Andrew The way the police and medical examiner pieced it all together, Andrew managed somehow to get from the clubhouse to the barn all on his own. It was only about a hundred feet away, but that was a huge distance for Andrew with his forearm crutches. The police theorize Andrew entered the pony’s stall and attempted to place a halter and lead on the beast. The pony trampled Andrew, and the boy died of head injuries.” Arthur clenched his fists and his face was full of hate. “I was the one who found Andrew in the stall. That beast was standing over my nephew with Andrew’s blood on his coat and hooves.”

We all gasped.

“How awful for you!” Didi murmured, as she checked to make sure her tape recorder was still running.

Arthur, angry faceArthur’s face contorted with hatred again. “I told my brother to have the animal destroyed, but he wouldn’t listen. I was going to take matters into my own hands, but the stable owner found out. He stopped me and contacted my brother. Later that same week, my brother took the beast to an auction and sold it, without telling me. It has been ten years since Andrew was killed. It has taken me all this time to track down the animal. It must be destroyed before it can harm anyone else.”

“Nooooooo!” Colton wailed.

Colton Noooooo

 

 

Is Blue a killer? Will Arthur find a way to carry out his threat to destroy the animal? Or can Clara convince him of the pony’s innocence? Be sure to come back next week for the conclusion of this adventure. 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.

Will Arthur be a Problem?

Will Arthur be a Problem?

Arthur extracting himself from bushesI don’t know how he managed it, but Arthur succeeded in extracting himself from the shrubbery with no sign of embarrassment. He did not blush, he did not lower his eyes, he did not sweat or slump or shuffle his feet. In fact, he looked rather arrogant. His brown eyes narrowed behind his dark-framed glasses, and his mustache and goatee didn’t quite hide the smug smile that pulled at his mouth. He brushed off his threadbare suit with an air of impatience and looked down his nose at the assembled group gawking at him. Not exactly the actions I would expect from a grown man found lurking in the foliage.

“I asked what you’re doing hiding in a clump of bushes, Arthur.” I glared at the man.

“So you did.” His tone was dismissive, and he continued brushing off his jacket and slacks.

“Well?” I crossed my arms over my chest and raised one eyebrow.

Arthur ignored me.

annaArt - leader - multi-genre (2)“Who is this man?” Anna stepped toward us.

“This is Arthur, a journalist and author who runs the writer’s group Lost in the Words.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/09/01/still-searching-for-answers/

Anna placed her hands on her hips and gave Arthur the once-over. “So, what is he doing on my property, uninvited, and why is he lurking in the bushes, scaring my son’s pony?” Her voice was harsh, and her face hard.

“I don’t know, Anna.” We both continued to glare at the intruder. “Care to explain, Arthur?”

The man shrugged. “I am exercising due diligence.”

Rocky confronting ArthurMy characters, who had been edging closer and forming a semi-circle around Arthur, Anna, and me, snorted at the man’s explanation. Rocky moved forward, standing toe-to-toe with Arthur. “And just what is that supposed to mean? You almost caused Anna’s son, Colton, a serious injury by spooking his pony.”

“Yes.” Arthur snickered. “The pony is rather flighty for a therapy animal, one supposedly well-trained to work with the blind.”

“You seem to know an awful lot about my son’s pony.” Anna pushed past Rocky to confront Arthur. She was visibly struggling to keep her temper under control.

“Yes, I do. And now I know everything I need to know.” Arthur started to turn away, but my characters blocked his path.

I cleared my throat. “From the beginning, Arthur?” I worded it as a request, but I was sure my expression left no doubt it was a command.

Art - leader - multi-genre (1)Colton and BlueArthur sighed. “Very well. I was alerted to the possibility of a wonderful human-interest story. A boy, blind from birth, had a therapy pony who was so well trained to work with the blind, the boy was able to ride him on the trails all by himself with no chance of danger.”

newspaperArthur paused and studied his fingernails for several moments before continuing, a sour look on his face. “I have been tipped off before to possible story ideas. When I was younger and less experienced, I would go right to the subject and tell them I wanted to do a story. Half-way through an interview, I would realize there was no story. But people get angry after you’ve told them you are going to write a feature article about them in their local paper, but then you have to tell them they are not worth a story.”

He paused, looking down his nose at us. “So, I started to research more carefully, to verify the facts I was given before approaching potential subjects. Most times, I found the tips I had been given were baseless.”

Arthur pointed at Colton and Blue. “Case in point. I was told your son and his pony would make for wonderful copy. So, I decided to observe them, to see if the pony was as great as I had been told. And, of course, it’s not.”

“He is too!” Colton’s face was red, and his hands were balled into fists. “And there’s already a journalist who’s going to write a story about Blue and me.”

“Oh?” Suddenly, Arthur didn’t look so smug.

“Yes.” Anna nodded. “Someone contacted me yesterday. She said she was a friend of yours, Marge, so I figured you had told her about Colton and Blue.”

I shook my head. “I never mentioned them to anyone. What’s this journalist’s name?”

Anna’s brow furrowed, and she rubbed her chin. “Didi something-or-other. I can’t remember her last name.”

What?” Arthur guffawed, sounding like a braying donkey. “Didi? That hack? She can’t put two words together and have them make sense.”

Anna frowned and started rubbing her forehead. “Marge?”

Didi 2Backyard 050I reluctantly started to agree with Arthur, but then I saw Colton’s face crumple. I sighed. “I do know a writer named Didi. She’s a member of Lost in the Words. I never told her about Colton and Blue, but if you’ve agreed to let her write a story about them, I’ll help her.”

“That pathetic little sneak probably saw my notes and decided to scoop me.” Arthur was so angry he was almost spitting as he whirled to confront me. “And if she gave you as a reference, you were probably in on it with her! Two hacks trying to steal my story! Well, I get the last laugh! There is no story here!”

I shook my head. “I didn’t try to steal anyone’s story, Arthur, but I have news for you. The laugh’s on you. There’s a whale of a story here, and I’ll make sure Didi gets it all – every single column inch of it.”

I continued smirking until Arthur narrowed his eyes and took a step toward me. He lowered his voice to a near-feral growl. “You’ll regret this!”

I blanched and my blood ran cold as I remembered Crawford’s warning. “You know, you’ve made a powerful enemy in Arthur.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/09/08/still-looking-for-answers/

I gulped as I watched the writer turn on his heel, push past my characters, and storm off toward the road.

Blue calmed downOnce Arthur was gone, Blue settled down. Anna still wanted to cancel the ride, but Colton begged so hard, she capitulated. “But you must promise to keep Blue in the middle of the group, where other riders can help you if you get into trouble.”

“I promise, mom, but I just know Blue and I will be fine.”

Tor and Centaur

Various terrains for the ridewildlife on the trailMy Foreman, Tor, led off on his ebony stallion, Centaur, setting an easy pace. The trail wound through a variety of terrains. We rode through woods and past farm fields, through an outcropping of rocks, along the banks of a large lake, and across a shallow stream. Blue was nothing short of amazing, deftly taking his young, blind rider around all obstacles and never once shying at any of the birds and wildlife that popped up along the trail. Soon, Colton and Rocky were competing again to see who could identify the most birds.

“That’s four for me, and only three for you.” Colton laughed.

“Four? What four? You got two.” Rocky was laughing, too.

“Oh, no! I got four.” Colton was adamant. “I heard the cheer-cheer-cheer-purty-purty-purty of a Northern Cardinal back by Mr. Mulligan’s fence.”

Northern Cardinal - male (2)

“Okay, I will give you that one. It was a beautiful male. But I got a female Northern Cardinal along the outcropping of rocks further along the trail. So that’s one apiece.” Rocky sounded smug.

Northern Cardinal - female

Colton nodded. “Then in that same spot where you saw the female cardinal, I heard the feee-beee and the chick-a-dee-dee-dee-dee-dee of some Black-capped Chickadees. And I heard the Ol’-Sam-Peabody-Peabody-Peabody of a White-throated Sparrow there, too.”

“Okay, but that is still only three.” Rocky grinned.

Colton held up four fingers. “I also heard the eh-eh-eh of some White-breasted nuthatches there, making four for me. There were a lot of birds on that area. You said it looked like someone had thrown some bird seed and cracked corn on the rocks there.”

“Yes, I saw Dark-eyed Juncos and a Fox Sparrow eating there.”

Colton grinned. “Yup. Three for you, four for me.”

“I think you are cheating.” Rocky laughed. “I think Blue is telling you where the birds are hiding.”

Colton scoffed. “You’ve forgotten to listen. You’re only using your eyes, and a lot of times the birds are hidden.” Suddenly, a huge smile split his face as he pointed toward the lake we were riding past. “Do you hear that bird? Sort of like ohhh-OHH, ohhh-OHH? That sounds like a Trumpeter Swan. That’s five for me!”

Trumpeter Swans

Rocky looked over toward the sound. “Yes, there is a pair of swans there. But I also see some Wood Ducks and Pied-billed Grebes. So, we’re tied again, five apiece.”

“But I hear the honking of Canada Geese and the quacking of Mallards. Seven to five!” Colton laughed again.

Looking around as the trail veered away from the water, Rocky cried out in triumph. “A pair of American Goldfinches and an Eastern Meadowlark! We are tied again!”

Colton shook his head. “Sorry, but I hear the cheer-up, cheer-a-lee, cheer-ee-o of an American Robin in the tree. I’m ahead by one.”

American Robin

“There are some White-crowned Sparrows in the underbrush and on the ground. Tied again.” Rocky laughed.

“I hear something chattering.” Colton listened intently. “But I guess I can’t count a Red Squirrel, can I?”

Red Squirrel

“Nope. The contest remains a tie.” Rocky sounded smug.

By the time we had returned to Anna’s farm at the end of the ride, the score was still tied, and between them, the two boys had racked up an impressive total of 30 species.

barbecueIt took a while to unsaddle all the horses, water them, groom them, and turn them out to graze in the paddock, then wipe down our saddles and put all our saddle blankets on racks to dry from the horses’ sweat. My characters and I took care of Anna’s mount, Rosie, so Anna could start the barbecue. By the time we were done, the tantalizing smell of grilling dinner was causing our stomachs to rumble and our mouths to water.

picnic tableClara sat next to me at the picnic table. She smiled as we talked about the ride. “Blue is a superb successor to Peaches, or Mystery, as we knew her. Colton was listening for birds and talking to Rocky while depending on Blue to carry him safely along the trail, just like Mystery used to.”

I nodded and raised an eyebrow. “Well, Mystery did tell you where to find a new pony for Colton.”

Clara, my cleric, smiled at the memory. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/05/05/a-new-mystery/

Blue calmed downSoon Anna joined us. “What do you two think?” She nodded toward her son. “Didn’t Colton and Blue do great on the ride today?”

Clara and I nodded.

I grinned at Anna as she refilled our glasses with sweet tea. “I don’t think you could have found a better pony for Colton if you had cloned Peaches.”

“You will make sure this girl, Didi, does a good job on the article, won’t you?” Anna furrowed her brow. “If any of Colton’s classmates read it, I want Colton to be proud of the article.”

“Do you have Didi’s phone number?”

business card“I’ll give you her business card before you leave.”

“Then I’ll call her tomorrow and let her know I’ll help her with this.” I gave Anna a reassuring smile, and she returned it warmly.

The barbecue was a big hit. We were all enjoying ourselves so much, no one was in a hurry to go home. By the time my characters and I saddled up again and headed for home, we were all very full, very tired, but very happy.

Elf cleric close-up

Appaloosa for me 2“I saw Anna give you one of Didi’s business cards.” Dray was riding alongside me. “Are you really going to help her with the article?”

“You don’t think I should?” I frowned.

“I think there is more to Arthur than meets the eye, and I do not think he will like you helping Didi.”

“You may be right, but I’ve already promised Anna and Colton. So, I’ll deal with Arthur if the need arises.”

We will deal with Arthur . . . when the need arises.” Dray smiled a wicked smile.

What does Dragon, aka Dray, sense about Arthur? Will the need really arise to deal with him? Will I need Dragon’s help? Be sure to come back next week and see what happens. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

Still Searching for Answers

Still Searching for Answers

sending emailsFinding the writers’ group was not as easy as I had expected. I was not anticipating enough writers in a town of less than 13,000 people to support multiple writers’ groups.

Finding the online contact information for each group, I sent out numerous e-mails requesting information. I hoped that the information I requested might help me identify the group Crawford had mentioned. Find the group, find Crawford – and his alleged griffin – and find some answers about our mysterious young neighbor, Marisol, and her unique abilities. At least that was the plan.

Once I had sent the e-mails, I headed for the kitchen and some leftover vegetable soup.

* * *

I had not yet received a reply from any of the groups when Dragon emerged from her deep slumber a week later.

Elf cleric close-uptea and cake“You’re looking a lot better!” I smiled at the beautiful elf maiden, Dragon’s preferred guise. I pointed at the kettle boiling on the stove, and the cake server on the counter. “Tea and cake? It’s orange chiffon.”

“Yes, thank you. That sounds good.” She yawned and stretched. “Could we take our refreshments on the deck? Methinks I am in need of some fresh air.”tea and cake on the deck

We were settled on the deck, sharing our snacks, when I saw Dragon stiffen.

“What’s wrong?”

MarisolBefore Dragon could reply, the problem became evident. Our young neighbor, Marisol, skipped into view, rounding the corner of the house. She stopped and looked toward the back of the yard. Her shoulders slumped and her smile turned into a pout. Then she saw us on the deck, and she brightened again. “Hello!”

I returned her smile and waved. “Hello, Marisol. Does your mother know you’re here?”

Marisol accuses DragonThe little girl hung her head and scuffed her shoe back and forth in the grass. “No. I came to see if the horses were back, but I see they’re still gone. Why did you send them away?” She gave Dragon an accusing look. “And why aren’t you a dragon anymore?”

Dragon lifted a delicate eyebrow at Marisol. “Was I ever a dragon?”

Red and blue scalesThe child smiled. “Oh, yes, you were such a majestic dragon – all shiny scales, and sharp teeth and claws, and powerful wings! But you were so much prettier with red scales. When you had blue scales, you weren’t as shiny, and you had all those yucky smoke bubbles dripping from your nose.”

Dragon laughed “Your mother says you have a very wild and vivid imagination.”Dragon and horses

Marisol frowned and glared at Dragon. “It’s not my imagination. You are a dragon, and there were horses here.”

Marisol looks at cake“If you say so.” Dragon kept her tone light. “Would you like a piece of cake and a glass of milk?”

Marisol looked longingly at the cake. “I would, but I have to go home. Mommy will miss me soon and start looking for me.”

“Why didn’t you tell her you were coming to visit us?” I tilted my head and furrowed my brow. “I’m sure she wouldn’t mind, as long as she knew where you were. She just worries about your safety when you go off without telling her.”

The child shook her head. “She doesn’t want me coming here. She says she doesn’t want me being a bother.”

Dragon looked at Marisol. “It sounds as if you think your mother has another reason for not wanting you to come here, child.”Is she a witch 2

Marisol nodded and spoke somberly. “She’s worried about the things that happened here, when I said you were a dragon and when I saw the horses here.” The little girl heaved a huge sigh. “She thinks people are going to think I’m a witch. She worries that I might be a witch.”

“Are you?” Dragon’s tone was teasing, and she smiled warmly at the youngster.

“I don’t know. I guess I might be.” She turned and listened to something in the distance. “That’s my mommy calling me. I better go. Bye!”

And she was off, running toward the front of the house.

Dragon visibly relaxed once Marisol was out of sight. She sighed and drained her teacup in one swallow. “It takes much energy and control not to revert to my true form when Marisol is around me! We need to find out exactly what she is, and the precise nature and source of her ability, without delay. Have you had any luck tracking down the writers’ group of which Crawford spoke?”

“Not yet. I found a number of writers’ groups in the area, and I sent each an email soliciting information, but I’ve received no responses yet.” I poured us each another cup of tea.

MilesCrawford and GriffinMiles walked up behind us and joined the conversation as he snatched a piece of cake. “You’re talking about that guy who fixed the heat element in our rain gutters? The one who claims to have a griffin, and who told you about the writers’ group?” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/03/17/not-exactly-deja-vu-all-over-again/

I nodded.

Miles nibbled on the slice of cake and furrowed his brow. “Didn’t you say he told you they meet at a local coffee shop? Just call around until you find the shop that hosts their meetings.”

I blinked. “Why didn’t I think of that? Honey, you’re a genius!”You're my witness

Miles grinned as he popped the last bite of cake in his mouth. “You’re my witness, Dragon!”

* * *

The Local Coffee Shoppe“When Crawford said the local coffee shop, I didn’t realize he meant it literally.” I pulled into the last open parking spot in front of a storefront sporting the name The Local Coffee Shoppe in huge red letters. After Miles suggested calling around to local coffee shops, I easily tracked down the location, day, and time for the writers’ group Lost in the Words.

Dragon and I entered the cafe and looked around. There was a good crowd in the small bistro, but most patrons were sitting alone, or in groups of two or three. I didn’t see anything that looked like a writers’ group.

At the counter we ordered some beverages – a spiced tea for Dragon, and a hot chocolate for me – and asked about the meeting. The barista directed us to a large alcove I hadn’t noticed, where a diverse group of ten people were sipping beverages and shuffling papers around the surface of the tables they had pushed together.

I scanned the group and found Crawford. Looking at the others, I figured Crawford to be the oldest, somewhere between retiree and ancient. He was talking to a younger guy sitting next to him, well-groomed with a welcoming smile and intense eyes. The others – four more men and four women – ran the spectrum of age and styles from a matronly woman in a vintage dress and necklace and an older man with small, rectangular glasses and a bowtie, to a 20-something geek in sweats and several people in business attire.Writing group

Me and CrawfordCrawford looked up, and a big smile lit up his face. “Mrs. Tesch!” He came forward and gave me a warm handshake. “How nice to see you! And Dra . . .”

Dragon and CrawfordDragon quickly extended her hand. “I’m Dray. Nice to meet you.” She and Crawford seemed to exchange sly smiles as they shook hands, but the moment passed so quickly, I couldn’t be sure.

Crawford turned back to me. “So, are you here for the meeting?”

I nodded. “I remembered you mentioning the writer’s group, and I thought I’d come check it out. And, please, call me Marge.”

“Okay, Marge, is there anything specific you need help with?” He ushered us to the table.

“Yes, something involving magic.”

Art - leader - multi-genre (1)“You should have called and informed us you would be in attendance.” The bow-tied gentleman glowered. “The agenda for today’s meeting is already set.”

“Chill, Arthur!” Crawford scoffed. “Marge and her friend can sit in, and if there’s time at the end of the meeting, we can discuss her problem.”

Dray and GriffThe young man with whom Crawford had been speaking earlier smiled at Dragon. “Indeed, and if there isn’t any time left, some of us would be glad to stay after the meeting and discuss things.”

Dragon blushed prettily and inclined her head toward the young man as she took a seat next to him and I sat next to Crawford.

Arthur clapped his hands to get everyone’s attention. “This meeting of the Waconia chapter of Lost in the Words is hereby called to order. Since we have . . . guests . . . in attendance,” Arthur sneered in the general direction of Dragon and me, “we need to introduce ourselves – name, genre, publishing credits only. Let’s not waste time.” Looking around the group, he pointed to the matronly woman. “Lavinia, start, please, then clockwise around the table.”

Moving around the table, each member of the group gave a quick introduction. The group was as diverse in writing as in age and dress. Their work represented a wide variety of genres – sci-fi, romance, mystery, true crime, poetry, biography, history, science, education – and there were four fantasy writers in the group. I was very impressed. I was sure Dragon and I would find some answers here.

“Now that that’s done, let’s get down to work.” Arthur fixed one of the writers with a contemptuous look. “I hope you’re more prepared this week, Didi. Do you have your handouts?”

Didi2 - cozy mystery wannabeDidi glared at Arthur but passed out some papers to everyone. “This is an excerpt from chapter three of my manuscript. I’m sorry, I didn’t know there would be guests. There’s not enough for everyone.”

“No problem, Didi.” Crawford smiled. He shared his pages with me, and Griff and Dragon moved their chairs a little closer so they could share.

Didi's handoutI was appalled at the work Didi had chosen to share, full of misspellings, grammatical errors, dull characters, and stilted dialog. Still, I was shocked at Arthur, who tossed the pages back at her and said, “You’re really wasting our time here. There are so many problems with this, it would take us the next ten meetings to discuss them.” He pointed at the matronly lady, and asked, “Are you prepared, Lavinia?”

“I am. This is from my latest romance.”

Lavinia's handoutAs I read through the pages she shared, I was amazed at her talent. Everyone gave her good feedback on the excerpt, complimenting her choice of words and her pacing. Then Arthur tore it apart, nit-picking every detail. To hear him dissect Lavinia’s words, one would think her writing was little better than Didi’s.

The meeting went on in that same vein for the better part of two hours. Six of the ten writers shared their works-in-progress, and each in turn got good, helpful feedback and constructive criticism from the group before Arthur took his verbal scalpel and destroyed their work.

When he was finished dissecting Crawford’s work, he looked at his watch. “Well, I guess we have a few minutes before the meeting ends. I understand you have a work you’d like critiqued?” Arthur glared at me.

“Actually, I didn’t bring my work-in-progress. I’m . . .”

Arthur started to interrupt, but Crawford cut him off. “I think Marge said she was having a problem with magic. Why not let her explain and maybe someone here can help her work it out.”

Arthur turned beet-red when Crawford cut him off, and now he sat glowering at me. “Well? What is your problem? Or are you unable to articulate the issue?”

I glared at Arthur, then turned to the group. “In a nutshell, I have a character who has magic, but is not a magician. She sees through spells of concealment, and she sees the true nature of any person or creature who has shapeshifted to another form. She can also cause others to see what she sees just by telling them what she sees. But she is unaware that she has any magical talent. What I need is some sort of label for her and her ability. She’s not a witch, she’s not a sorceress. She cannot create illusions, she cannot conjure, she cannot enchant, she cannot cast any sort of spell. What is she, and what would you call her power?”

Lavinia - romanceThe matronly Lavinia wrinkled her brow. “This is fascinating, but out of my wheelhouse. Robaire, SueZ, Crawford, Griff, you all write fantasy. Maybe you could help our guest.”

Robert2 - fantasyRobaire waved his hand dismissively. “It’s your story. You can call your character and her ability anything you want.”

I frowned. “I was hoping that someone might have encountered this sort of magic before.”

Sue Z - fantasySueZ laughed. “You make it sound as if it were real. How could we have encountered something you are creating for your story?”

I gave her a rueful smile. “Of course, I meant maybe you had encountered it in a book. Maybe someone else has written about such a person, such a magic power, and that writer gave it a name.”

SueZ shook her head. “No, sorry, I don’t remember anything like that in the books I’ve read.”

Crawford and Griff likewise had no knowledge of such power.

Art - leader - multi-genre (2)“This is so ridiculous!” Arthur scowled. “As Robaire stated, it is your book. You need to formulate the rules of the magic system and name it and its practitioners. If you can’t do that without an advisory board, maybe you shouldn’t be a writer.” He gave me a disgusted look, the type of look one might give something on the bottom of their shoe. “You are a writer, aren’t you? You have been published? Or are you just another pathetic wannabe, like Didi there?” He jutted his chin toward the humiliated Didi, who glared back at him.

“I have not yet had a book published, but I have a good number of articles, poems, and short-stories published, including two stories in an anthology.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/12/02/its-here/

Arthur scoffed, but I continued. “And I’m sure there was a time in each writer’s life – even yours – when they were as inexperienced and unpublished as Didi. That doesn’t make them pathetic.”

Arthur turned beet-red again, and stood there opening and closing his mouth, but no sound came out. He looked like a fish gasping for air.

I turned away from him and addressed the rest of the group. “It was nice meeting everyone today. Thank you all for your input. I appreciate your time.”Writing group

Arthur couldn’t seem to leave fast enough, but the other writers came over and said a few words before departing. Didi looked as if she was going to kiss my hand. Instead, she just mumbled a heart-felt “Thank you!”

After the others left, Crawford invited me and Dragon to stay for another round of beverages with him and Griff. He leaned toward me and lowered his voice. “Griff and I may know someone who can help you.”Staying after

Who does Crawford know? Is it another fantasy writer? Be sure to come back next week and see if we can get any further identifying what Marisol is and whence she gets her power. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

Jean Rabe Has Done it Again!

Jean Rabe Has Done it Again!

Cleric healing DragonIt took Dragon several days, and many doses of Cleric’s healing herbs, to recuperate. After Marisol and her mother had departed, Dragon had collapsed, weak as a kitten. She had used vast stores of her energy and strength resisting Marisol’s not inconsiderable power.Dragon doing research

Now, Dragon was sequestered in the conference room with her scrolls, books, grimoires, and potions, trying to discover what the child might really be, the conceivable extent of her powers, and whence she acquired such power.

While awaiting Dragon’s results, I took the opportunity to do some reading. One of my favorite authors, Jean Rabe, had just released a new book, and I had downloaded it onto my computer e-book app. I was sitting on the living room couch enjoying it when Cleric found me.Cleric sees me reading

“What are you reading, Mistress?” She tried to see the screen of my laptop.

Cleric looks at laptop 2

I held it so she could look. “Jean Rabe’s new release – The Dead of Summer. It’s the third book in her Piper Blackwell mystery series.”

Cleric’s face lit up. “Oh, Dragon will want to read that once she has completed her research on Marisol. This is an author Dragon particularly likes. And I wish to read it after she has completed it.”

I gave Cleric a curious look. “Oh? I didn’t know you read mysteries.”

Cleric smiled. “I do not have time for much recreational reading. However, Dragon liked this author so much, I had to start reading her books to see what Dragon was raving about. When I was finished with them, I passed them on to Sorceress, who passed them on to your Gypsy lad and your Young Hero. I think everyone has read them now, with the possible exception of your Arrogant One.”

My eyes widened. “That surprises me. I had to convince Dragon to give Jean’s mysteries a chance. When she initially read the first one, she hated it.” I laughed.

Cleric’s cornflower eyes shone with mirth. “I remember. No dragons.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2017/12/31/mystery/

I nodded. “Dragon had read many of Jean’s fantasy books and was so disappointed with the mystery. She didn’t see the point of a book with no dragons, no magic. I’m glad she changed her mind.”

“Me, too.” Cleric settled in a nearby chair. “Else, I might never have discovered the delights of this author’s mysteries.”Joining the conversation

“What author are we discussing?” My Gypsy and Sorceress entered the room, simultaneously dropping into chairs and the conversation.Jean

“Jean Rabe.” Cleric bounced with excitement.

“Oh, I love the details she includes in her books.” My Gypsy leaned forward. “Her books in the genre you term fantasy are truly inspired. I believe she may have actually visited some of the worlds of which she has written. But even more, I enjoy her mysteries set in this world, the one you refer to as the real world. The particulars of her character’s daily lives and routines not only add flavor and charm, they have helped me better understand the people of your world and their idiosyncrasies.”

“She has just released the third book in her Piper Blackwell mystery series, and Mistress is reading it.” Cleric turned to me. “What did you say it is called?”

The Dead of Summer.” I turned the laptop so everyone could see it.

Showing laptop image to my characters

The Dead of Summer? That sounds intriguing.” Sorceress tilted her head, a half-frown pulling at her mouth. “But I am not sure I understand. The titles of her other two books in this series – The Dead of Night and The Dead of Winter – are common phrases in your language. As I understand it, the dead of night is the middle of the night, the quietest and darkest part of the night. The dead of winter is the middle of that season, when the nights are longest, and the temperatures are low. But I have never heard the idiom dead of summer.”

County FairI nodded. “I don’t think it’s a common expression, just a clever turn of phrase. The Dead of Summer starts with a deadly accident at a county fair. County fairs are the epitome of summer for a lot of people, one of the things they most identify with summer, especially in a rural area like the part of Indiana where this series of books takes place. So, the victims of this fatal accident are the dead of summer. So is the murder victim that is discovered later in the book.”

“Wow.” My Gypsy whistled. “Two intertwined mysteries? It sounds like Mistress Rabe has written another excellent book.”

Again, I nodded. “There’s a reader’s review on one of the book sites that agrees with that.” I brought it up on my laptop and read it to my characters.

Jean Rabe has done it again! Her third Piper Blackwell mystery, The Dead of Summer, is a real page-turner, and a worthy addition to the series!

The heart-stopping action erupts in the first sentence of the book and never slows down, keeping readers breathless and on the edge of their seats as novice sheriff Piper Blackwell and her small department are thrown into two major cases with tendrils reaching out far from their rural Indiana locale.

Whether you’re a fan of police procedurals, cozy mysteries, well-written and believable characters, or just darn good writing, you’ll become a fan of Jean Rabe and Sheriff Piper Blackwell. I can’t wait for the next one in this series!

Is she a witch“Oh, I cannot wait to read this one!” Cleric clapped her hands. “I hope Dragon takes a long time with her research on Marisol. Maybe then I can read the book after you, Mistress.” Cleric gave me a hopeful look.

I smiled. “Well, if Dragon was not tied up with her research, maybe she could create some illusory laptops so you could all read the book without waiting.”

Illusory laptops

“Like she created the illusory cameras for everyone!” My Gypsy grinned and nodded his understanding. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/06/02/a-change-of-pace/

“It is unfortunate Dragon may be occupied for quite some time with her research.” Sorceress made a moue.

Arrogant One full bodyI wrinkled my brow in thought. “My Arrogant One is an illusionist. Is this something he is capable of handling?”

Sorceress snorted. “That buffoon?”

Cleric tittered. “I do not believe the elf capable of creating an illusion of such advanced technology that would be solid and substantial enough to function properly.”

“Perhaps not on his own.” My Gypsy waggled his eyebrows and grinned. “But I wager with our help, he could manage it.”

My characters instantly took their leave to search for my Arrogant One, and I settled back to read The Dead of Summer.

reading

“The gut-punching clang of metal striking metal merged with the screams of fairgoers. Sheriff Piper Blackwell whirled toward the sound, swearing World War III had broken out in Spencer County…”

While Dragon does her research to find out what Marisol is, and to identify the source of the incredible power the child appears to wield, why not join me in reading Jean Rabe’s excellent series? You can follow the adventures of Sheriff Piper Blackwell in The Dead of Winter, The Dead of Night, and Jean’s latest release, The Dead of Summer. These and other books by Jean Rabe can be found at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo. And you can find Jean’s website at https://jeanrabe.com/, where you can subscribe to her newsletter.

Come back next week and see if Dragon has made any headway researching our latest mystery. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Characters I Write About and Characters I Write

Characters I Write About and Characters I Write

Young hero 2

NightmareI didn’t get a chance to talk to Dragon for the better part of a week. Thankfully, it was a fairly quiet week. My Young Hero no longer seemed to be wrestling with nightmares. If he was, he was doing it quietly.

Smoke drifting from Dragon's snoutOn Friday, I found Dragon in the conference room, shivering in front of her illusory fireplace. She greeted me with a growl.

“Nice to see you, too.” I frowned. “I’ve been looking for you all week. I need to talk to you.”

Dragon’s eyes narrowed dangerously, the tip of her tail started twitching, and acrid smoke puffed from her snout. “I do not wish to talk. I wish to warm myself.”

I scoffed. “You’ve made this room hotter than a dwarven forge with your illusory fireplace!”

Dragon nodded solemnly. “It is my only defense against your Minnesota weather. What happened to spring? Last week, the temperatures were just starting to rise to comfortable levels, and some flowers had started sprouting.” The unhappy beast scowled at me. “Then the ice and sleet and snow came again, and the temperatures are frigid!”

I laughed. “Oh, come now! The temperatures aren’t that bad, at least not by Minnesota standards, and the slush is already starting to melt. By Sunday, it should all be gone.”

“For how long?” The despondent creature hung her head and looked miserable.

“Hopefully until next winter, but in Minnesota, you never can tell. The latest snow ever recorded in MN was June 4, 1935, when one and a half inches fell in northern Minnesota.”

“Oh, you are just full of fascinating minutiae.” Dragon glowered at me.

I raised an eyebrow and chuckled. “Funny, you don’t look fascinated.” Before Dragon could respond, I quickly pressed on. “But I didn’t want to discuss the weather. It’s not like we can do anything about it anyway.”

Dragon growled and thumped her tail on the floor. “I have offered more than once to change your weather to something more agreeable.”

“And I told you that is not an option.”

“Did you?” Dragon gave me a coy look. “I am afraid I do not remember.”

“Funny thing, memory.” I steepled my fingers and gazed at Dragon. “And that’s exactly the topic I wish to discuss.”

“Oh?” The big beast looked interested in spite of herself.

I nodded and took a seat in the recliner, pausing a few moments to gather my thoughts.

manuscript“Dragon, do you recall when you fell from my manuscript and entered this world?”

Dragon frowned. “Of course, I do. It has been a number of years, but I clearly remember the look on your face when you entered your office and found me sitting at your desk.”

I smiled at the memory. “Ah, yes! I remember that day, too. You weren’t the first of my characters to make the passage from book to reality, so it wasn’t as much a shock as it could have been. Still…”

Dragon in officeThe memory of the scaly creature sitting on the arm of my chair, shock and disapproval clearly etched on her reptilian face as she surveyed the chaos I call an office, still made me chuckle.

I shook my head and dragged myself back to the conversation at hand. “But I am really more interested in your memories of the world from which you came. Do you remember what you were doing when you fell from the manuscript?”

Dragon frowned. She rolled onto her stomach and tucked her front arms under her chest, assuming a sphinx-like pose. She tilted her head in thought and remained silent for a long time before replying. “No. No, I do not.”

“What memories do you have of your previous existence?”

Dragon studied my face. “Why do I get the feeling it is not my memories that concern you?”

I ducked my head guiltily. “How easily you can see through me, old friend. You’re right . . . or at least partially correct. I am trying to understand something about a character’s memory once that character has fallen from the manuscript into this world.”

“Any character in particular?”

“Yes, but we can discuss that later. For now, I am curious about your memories. Since you first arrived here, it has been obvious you and my Old Dwarf share a very special bond.”

dragon and dwarf

 

Dragon nodded. “Indeed, we do.”

I frowned. “Yet, in the two manuscripts I penned, you never met.”

Dragon blinked. “Are you sure?”

I raised an eyebrow.

Dragon scratched her head. “But I have such clear memories.” She paused, then frowned. “Well, maybe not so clear. More like snatches of memories – friendly banter, small gifts the dwarf carved for me.”

I shook my head. “Those events were not part of the stories I chronicled.”

Dragon stared off into the distance. “No… no, I do not suppose they were. I was just a very young dragon then, barely more than a wyrmling.”

I wrinkled my brow. “So, if the memories are from before the events in my manuscripts, how is it you can recall them? Remember, you are not the Dragon about whom I wrote. You are the Dragon I wrote, the Dragon I created in my books. And the only memories you should have are the events in the book from which you fell.”

dragondragon-1964202_960_720Dragon pondered. “I believe I may have an explanation. The Great Wyrm. I believe she is the Dragon about whom you wrote, only much further along in her life than when you wrote about her. I believe she may have inadvertently shared some of her memories with me when she and I crossed paths.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2017/10/01/waiting-to-see-if-it-worked/

I raised my eyebrow. I was surprised she had worked that out. I put that tidbit of information aside and continued the conversation. “I see.” I sighed. “Well, that solves that mystery, but it doesn’t help me understand recent events regarding my Young Hero and his memories. Unlike you, he seems to be missing memories he should have.”missing memories

“Oh? Enlighten me.”

I raked my hand through my hair. “You remember my Young Hero recently suffered a spate of nightmares.”
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/03/31/nightmares/    and
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/04/07/do-heroes-have-nightmares/

Dragon nodded and frowned, a puff of black smoke escaping her nostrils. “Yes. He should have come to me for help.”

I waved at her dismissively. “Perhaps, but he was embarrassed. You know, a hero being frightened by bad dreams.”

“Ah, yes. He felt a hero should be brave enough to face his nightmares.” Dragon nodded sagely.fear vs heroism

“Exactly. But when he described his dreams to me, he said they were people and images he thought he should know but didn’t. He felt they were snatches of memories he could not clearly recall. From his descriptions, however, I recognized them as scenes from my first manuscript. I assume my Young Hero fell from my second book, as he has very clear memories of various people and events from that book – the Innkeeper, the snowball fight with my Gypsy . . .”
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2016/12/18/vacation-is-over/

Dragon nodded again. “So, you wonder why he has no memories predating the second book, even though you wrote about your Young Hero in the first book as well.”

“Exactly.”

Dragon shrugged. “You answered your own question. It is as you said of me, Mistress Writer. I am not the Dragon about whom you wrote. I am the Dragon you wrote, the one you created.”

I frowned, not understanding.

Young hero 2Young Hero passing out“Well, neither is your Young Hero the hero about whom you wrote. He is the hero you wrote, the hero you created. But, having fallen from your second manuscript, he is also not the hero you wrote in your first book. So, his memories would not be the memories of that hero. Those memories would be but an echo in his subconscious.”

I blinked. “I think I understand. You know, I may have to go back to my manuscripts and rewrite you. I don’t think I made you nearly as wise and insightful as you really are.”

Dragon smiled smugly. “Does that mean I can go back to warming myself by the fire, while you go change me in your book to a creature more closely resembling my most splendiferous self?”Dragon looks up from fireplace

I chuckled. “Go back to your fire, old friend. I’ll try not to disturb you again until spring is really here.”

“I can make that happen any time you say.” The big beast winked at me.

Be sure to come back next week and see what is happening with my little band of displaced characters. We might be in the middle of a heat wave by then. You never can tell about the weather in Minnesota, especially if a Dragon is involved. And, of course, we’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Elf facing rightHello, cherished readers. Cleric here. Shortly after the completion of this week’s blog, Mistress Writer went to see her doctor. (Why she never allows me to treat her, I cannot understand!) Mistress Writer has been diagnosed with pneumonia, and is undergoing treatment. Master Miles is experiencing heavy chest congestion and will see his doctor this week. We all hope Mistress Writer will be able to continue her duties preparing this blog for your entertainment; however, it may be a while before she is up to such strenuous activity. If we are absent for a time, please know we have not forgotten you, and we look forward to returning with more adventures and misadventures.