The Widow’s Quest Ends, part 2

The sun beat down on her back as she struggled to manipulate the surprisingly heavy base of the umbrella stand.  She remembered Abe commenting that it was heavy but this was far heavier than she had ever imagined.  She sat back on her heels, letting the run warm her face as she thought about how to maneuver the base so she could tighten everything down.  Finally decided to try the dolly, she fetched it from the garage and carefully positioned it under the base.

“Now, just be slow and careful and just go for it,” she said trying to talk herself into it while giving herself a dose of verbal Dutch courage.

She went for it slowly but quickly enough that she couldn’t talk herself out of the challenge.  Soon enough, the base was lifted up and Claudia slowly lowered the dolly to the ground under the shadow cast by the umbrella in the outside dining table, while saying a silent prayer that the plan was going to work.

As the dolly handles hit the ground, Claudia let out her breath that she hadn’t realized she had been holding.  “Well, step one complete.  Now time for step two and I pray Abe didn’t tighten any screws down so securely that a power tool is going to be required., s”  She muttered as she took a long sip of her iced tea.

Grabbing the screwdriver and the chair cushion, she sat down and prepared to do battle with the umbrella base.  The bottom had eight holes where she could just spy the head of a screw peaking out of each one.  “No time like the present,” Claudia said and bravely began to unscrew the bottom of the base from the top of the base.  Soon enough, all eight screws were loosened and one by one she released them from their holes.  One screw was being stubborn and she had to wriggle it but eventually it too came loose.

Pausing, Claudia stood and dusted herself off.  The sun was hot and she was sweaty.  The ice had melted and she quickly drained the watered down iced tea.  Heading back into the house for a fresh glass, she was hit by a blast of cold air as she opened the back door.  Shivering slightly from the sudden change in temperature, she kicked off her gardening clogs and made her way into the kitchen.  Pouring herself a fresh glass of tea, she added a mint sprig (slightly bruised of course).  Before heading out back, Claudia grabbed her favorite straw hat and tucked her hair up into the brightly colored hat. 

Hat, fresh tea, and sandals replacing gardening clogs Claudia headed back outside determined to tackle the remaining repair job.  As soon as she settled herself back down in front of the umbrella base, she immediately noticed the trickle of sand that had seeped out.  “Small problem easily remedied with a whisk broom and dust pan.”  The base had cooled enough that she could handle it long enough to begin prying it from the top.  Mind you, it was still hot but it no longer felt like lava pooling beneath her fingers.  As she pried, more sand spilled out and soon the blazing hot sand was like a small fire pit in front of her.  The two pieces separated and as they did, Claudia couldn’t believe the sight that was staring her in the face.

The treasure she had sought since that letter was sitting before her in all its amazing glory.  Gold bars twinkling in the sunlight, reflecting the sun and sparkling like a princess cut diamond.  Claudia’s first instinct was to back away from the treasure, afraid to believe it was real.  her second instinct was to pinch herself.  “Ouch, ok so I’m not dreaming.” She muttered. Afraid to leave the gold bars sitting out in the open for any longer than necessary, she looked around for something to put the gold bars in so she could take them inside.  She spied an empty potting container and quickly determined to utilize it to carry the bars in the house.

Paying little attention to how the bricks were arranged, she quickly gathered them counting them as she did so. 

“One, two, three … Twelve gold bricks.”  Claudia’s voice was low but filled with amazement. 

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The Widow’s Quest Ends, Part 1

Weeks had passed, the house was a curious mixture of immaculate and shambles.  Whole rooms torn apart, with various stages of things being in their proper place or scattered helter skelter all over the room.  Her family, Claudia knew, was concerned about her mental stability but she couldn’t stop.  That damn riddle of a quest Abe sent from the grave was behind everything but she couldn’t share the quest with anyone else.  This was her quest and she was determined to find the proverbial buried treasure.

Today Claudia had given into exhaustion and frustration and had retired to the back garden with a strong cup of coffee and a novel.  She was curled up in her favorite chair with the large patio umbrella Abe had purchased last summer.  The yard was in full summer bloom, a riot of color and smell.  Sunflowers as tall as herself, bright yellow and orange petals, heavy with seeds. Zinnias as large as dinner plates intermixed with the heady beds of lavender.   The sun was slowly climbing to it’s zenith.  The sky was brilliant blue and puffy white clouds floating through the heavens.

There was a gentle breeze, she was warm and relaxed.  The grief was receding into the background a little more each day but Abe’s absence was still a gaping hole in her life.  Even now, she found herself looking over expecting to see his long legs stretched out, his face turned up trying to catch the sun.  The  patio umbrella had a built in table and Claudia set her steaming coffee down as she settled into the chair.

She let the past weeks flit through her memories as she sat there enjoying the morning.  The images of the weeks, no months, since Abe’s death danced through her head.  Tears no longer freely flowed at the thought and memories of Abe and their life together.  Instead, those memories now brought her a sense of peace and comfort she hadn’t felt in a long time.  It was like Abe was there, constantly guarding and protecting her.  Claudia knew it was nonsense but she had come to think of Abe as her Guardian Angel.

Claudia flipped open her book and decided to lose herself in Regency England.  She she lost herself in the familiar pages of Emma.  She started to notice it slowly at first, the table was moving every time she took a sip of coffee.  She found it odd but brushed it off as a minor inconvenience that meant nothing.  By the time her coffee was finished, the sun was high in the late morning sky and she was relaxed and ready to return to the loving disaster zone her house had become.

Grabbing Emma and her coffee cup, she headed back into the house.  Once again, the table rocked and this time Claudia decided to attempt her very first home repair since her wedding day.  Resolute and determined, she walked back into the house and head straight for Abe’s tool box in the garage.  Grabbing the box without thinking she was startled to find herself sitting on the garage floor.

“Blasted thing is far heavier than it looks,” she muttered under her breath.  Heaving herself upright, she dusted the dirt that inevitable accumulates in a garage from her bum, and continued muttering under her breath to herself.

“So, what tool do I grab?”  She stared into the toolbox, her face screwed into a mask of confusion as she stared into the toolbox.  The collection of wrenches, screwdrivers, and other assorted tools was a baffling assortment of implements.  She bravely settled on a screwdriver that she knew contained multiple heads.  Grabbing a glass of water, she headed back outside determined to fix the table.

Plunking herself down in front of the wobbling table, she set about releasing the table from the umbrella.  It wasn’t a simple task however.  The table could be tightened down but first the umbrella had to be removed and the whole assembly shored up.  The umbrella was unwieldy and difficult to manage but she did so, now sweating under the midday sun.  Now the pole was sticking up from it’s base, which Claudia knew was heavy.  She unscrewed the pole and noticed it was wobbling. 

“Fine, the first home repair I attempt and it turns into an epic adventure.  Time to rely on myself so might as well start on the bloody umbrella base.” 

Dragon’s Head Village: It Begins part 2

m behind the fluttering curtains, watching the trio walking toward the cottage. Her childhood nemesis with her overbearing mother and her blonde haired brat in tow. “Oh yes,” she thought to herself with glee.

She gave into the selfish spite and joy she anticipated in the upcoming meeting. “Oh yes, I shall enjoy being the one with the upper hand for once. A knock rang out and she forced the gleeful smile from her face and answered the door with a pleasant smile affixed to her face.

“Good Morning ladies, I’m so glad you could make it today.” Elspeth face was smiling but the smile failed to reach her eyes.

Catha looked Elspeth square in the eyes, the challenge and questions evident in her face. “Good Morning Elspeth, how are you this fine morning?”

Hermonia could feel the tension in her mother’s grip but she didn’t understand the currents of tension she felt swimming all about her. Arsenic felt them too, he also felt the spite radiating from Elspeth like frosting sliding off a cake frosted too soon. He fluttered in discomfort and he spied Brock and he knew, just knew that trouble was brewing.

Elspeth stepped back and allowed them entrance into her cottage. She led them to the front room and sat down closest to the fire, she didn’t stop to offer her guests tea. She sat there and stared at them, waiting for her guests to speak, to need her assistance.

Rachel felt the tension and understood the undercurrents running through the room. Elspeth had been an unruly and hateful child, ignored by her mother and now, those same patterns were being played out with Elspeth’s own children. Brock and Flinn were as different day and night. Rachel glanced around and sure enough, there was grubby Brock sulking about in the corner spying on meeting, his beady eyes darting about like a rat.

Catha looked about for Flinn but he was not to be seen. Hermonia’s grip on her hand was tighter than it had ever been. She leaned down and whispered to Hermonia, “Go outside and amuse yourself until we are ready to leave.”
Hermonia didn’t hesitate she fled from the room and out the front door as quickly as her little legs would carry her. Arsenic reached out and held on to Hermonia’s hair as she fled the cottage. She came skidding to a stop half way to the gate, out of breath and confused.

“That woman is horrible, why on earth would any person willingly go see her?” Her voice quavered, her shoulders shook, and for the first time Arsenic worried that maybe she was too young for this adventure.

“Are you quite alright?” Arsenic asked, his reedy voice laced with concern.
“I’m fine, just shook up. I’ve never met anyone like her before. She was positively loathsome. But you said you wanted to talk and that it would be interesting. So what is it you have to tell me?”

“I’d like you to meet some friends of mine and join us.”

Hermonia studied Arsenic, he was up to something she was certain of that but what she did not yet know. Studying his face, Hermonia read no guile, no deceit, no malicious intent but she was still wary. “Alright, but be warned I am cautious after this morning. Something about this place is unsettling, I don’t like it.”

“Trust me, I wouldn’t suggest something I thought would hurt you. I think you will have fun and will be helping others.”

“Sounds like a plan I want to hear more about and I want to meet your friends who are in on it if I may?”

“Then by all means, let’s head for the meeting spot and met Crispin and Flinn.”

Jane’s Arrival

Jane rolled down the window and let warm evening breeze flutter across her face as she drove toward Smithson. The sun was sinking lower and lower in her rearview mirror as she drove, the evening sky a riot of oranges and pinks. A smile flicked across Jane’s face as she thought that how much she loved watching the sunset each evening relaxing in the quiet solitude of married life.

The miles slipped away and soon Jane found herself pulling into Smithson and pulling into Jo’s driveway. Jo’s house was alight with lights, the twinkling from the living room lamps twinkling away. Jane parked and grabbed her overnight bag from the trunk as Jo pulled open the front door. Light spilled onto the front yard, framing Jo in the soft, warm light from the living room. She had an outstretched hand with an ice-cold on the rocks margarita extended to Jane.

“Thought you could use a stiff drink after all that construction and upheaval the last several months.”

Jane grateful grabbed the margarita and took a good swig before replying, “Jo you are quite the mind reader and thank you for letting me impose like this.”

“Oh hush, nothing beats a long girl’s weekend and you know I have plenty of room.” Jo linked arms with Jane and they disappeared into the house.
Jo’s house was a lovely blend of the old and new, formal and comfortable, and it always smelled scrumptious. Tonight was no different and Jane’s stomach immediately rumbled in response.

Jo laughed, “Usual room and dinner is ready as soon as you are.”

Jane smiled in response and headed down the hall. Jo headed into the kitchen and found Sally pulling the pan of enchiladas from the oven. “Jane settling in?” Sally asked.

“I suspect so, she looks worn out and excited all at the same time. Truth be told, I’m glad she rang and asked to come stay,” Jo replied thoughtfully.

“I’m glad you invited me over for dinner. I quite like Jane and I adore her Pippa novels immensely.”

“They are quite popular at the library as well. I know she loves writing them but I also know they are incredibly personal and taxing for her to write.”

Jane caught the tail ending of Jo’s statement, “Personal and taxing for whom?” she inquired.

The two women laughed, “We are caught gossiping but it isn’t truly gossip is it when the subject is within earshot?”

Jane smiled, “No I suppose not, and yes the novels and personal and taxing but I wouldn’t trade being able to write engaging stories for an impersonal and non-taxing profession. Now, enough about me. Dinner smells wonderful and I’m famished. What can I do to help?”

The three friends settled into a comfortable and companionable silence. Efficiently and silently the women assembled a salad and laid the table. They sat and ate in a comfortable silence, soon enough they were all groaning and pushing themselves away from the table.

“I’m full, exhausted, and wired all at once.” Jane proclaimed as she cleared the table.

Jo and Sally picked up dishes and the three of them whipped the kitchen into shape in no time. After dinner drinks poured the women curled up in the living room.

Conversation was easy, they had been friends for many years and were comfortable in one another’s presence. Sally yawned and she slid her empty glass onto the table.

“That’s it for me ladies, I’m heading home for the evening. I’m beat and I know we will get into all kinds of mischief tomorrow.”

Jo and Jane followed suit and Sally easily slipped from the house. “I’m exhausted, do you mind if I call it a night?” Jane said, her voice weary with fatigue.

Jo smiled, “Go silly goose you don’t need my permission to turn in for the evening.” Jo shooed Jane down the hallway and headed back to the kitchen. Quickly she finished setting things right and headed for bed herself.
As she settled under the covers, she picked up her book and quickly lost herself in the pages of the The Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig.

Jane Departs

Jane woke from her unexpected yet restful nap to find herself curled up like the cat in a pile of clothes. She stretched and yawned and slowly slid from the bed. Her mood had improved with rest and she was eager to finish the packing for her trip to visit Jo. But first, she padded downstairs in search of that wonderful man that let her be herself even when she was moody, grumpy, and irritating to live with.

She found him in the kitchen making a late lunch for himself and slipped her arms around her waist. “I love you more today than yesterday and I was blessed the day we met.”

Fred grunted in response and pulled the mayo and leftover turkey out and began to make himself a sandwich. “Well, I’m guessing from the relaxed look on your face and the warm reception that the nap did you some good. And you made a mistake my love, it was I who was blessed the day we met.”

Jane giggled, it was an old argument and they both knew it would always be a draw. Fred smiled as he finished making sandwiches, “Now eat your sandwich and then finish packing. I called Jo, she’s expecting you for a late dinner tonight. She knows you need a break and girl time.”

Jane nodded her head, her mouth to stuffed to verbally respond to Fred’s statement. He chuckled, “glad that’s settled, now I love you but get out my dear. Jo’s expecting you and the house is a mess.”

Jane nodded her head in agreement as she reached for another chip and a grape. “I’ll be out of your hair in an hour or so. You are the best husband I could ever imagined.”

Fred nodded in agreement, “I am pretty amazing. Now go and relax and enjoy yourself.”

Jane smiled, slipped from the chair and made her way upstairs. Quickly restoring order to their bedroom. She quickly finished packing, comfortable clothes suitable for an extended girls weekend, and then jumped into the shower. Emerging feeling cleaner and much more awake, Jane dressed and grabbed the packed suitcase.
Fred had pulled her car out into the driveway for her she could see, even after all these years it was the little things that made her fall in love with him all over again every day. Fred was reading a golf magazine while watching golf Jane noted, as a slow smile lit her face. Bending over the back of his favorite chair, she kissed the top of his head. “I’m leaving now,” she whispered as Fred began to stand. “No don’t be silly, stay where you are and be comfortable. I love you. I will be home sometime next week. I’ll call you every night.”

Fred, ignoring his wife, stood and gently grasped the suitcase with one hand and grabbed her hand with the other. “Don’t be silly, golf will always be there and I always have time to walk my beautiful bride to the car.”

Jane smiled and squeezed his hand in response. “I love you Fred. I will miss you,” her voice husky with emotion.

Fred squeezed back, “I love you too but go have fun with Jo and Sally.”

Suitcase safely stowed, he opened the driver’s door and Jane slid behind the wheel. He shut the door and she rolled down the window. He leaned in and kissed her goodbye and she returned the kiss. “Be good,” she said as he backed away from the car.

Dragon’s Head Village: It Begins

Hermonia slipped her hand into her mother’s as they left the house. She had an unusually tight grip but was otherwise happy enough that no adult noticed the trepidation in her footsteps. Hermonia had a feeling about today and the family they were off to visit. It wasn’t anything anyone said or did exactly, more like the general air of underlying tension coming from her mum.

The early dawn had become a beautiful late summer day, crystal blue sky with puffy white clouds floating along as they walked. Hermonia tried to listen to the conversation between her mum and grandmum but wasn’t really interested. Instead, she waved at villagers as they walked and skipped to keep up with the adults.

Arsenic, Crispin, and Flinn were all at the meeting site, their heads bent together chatting nervously. Their voices were hushed and calm but there was an air of excitement and anticipation surrounding the trio. Arsenic flitted here and there between Flinn and Crispin. He could barely contain his excitement and anticipation of the day’s events.

“I’m off, I can’t wait any longer.” Arsenic stated, his voice hushed but the thrill of events to come tinging his voice with anticipation.

Before Flinn and Crispin could utter a word, Arsenic flew off and headed toward the path leading from the village to Elspeth’s cottage. He wanted to meet the trio on the path and to see if he could perch on Hermonia’s shoulder. He flew as quickly as he could to meet them and sure enough, not too far from the cottage Arsenic spotted them and flew to Hermonia’s shoulder and whispered “Good Morning wee one, how are you this fine day?”

Hermonia missed a skip and slipped her hand from her mum’s as she looked around for the voice that spoke to her. She caught the flash of crimson wings sitting on her shoulder and smiled acknowledgement. Arsenic understood she couldn’t answer without the adults giving her the odd glance or two so he said, “Mind if I just tag along and listen this morning?”

Hermonia cocked her head to the left, contemplating Arsenic’s unusual request. She shrugged her shoulders and shook her head in agreement. She was unsure of what was really going on with Arsenic but she welcomed his company.

The adults paused as they reached the garden gate for Elspeth’s cottage. “I know you and Elspeth never got along as children but you’ve both matured.”

Catha stared at her mother, her jaw tight and her eyes flashing with anticipation. “Mum, I love you but Elspeth and I will never be friends. I do not like her and I am uncomfortable bringing my daughter within her sights.” Catha’s voice held the fierce determination and protection of a mother who fears for the safety of her children.

Rachel stared at Catha, seeing the hardness and determination in her daughter’s eyes. “I know you will never trust Elspeth but she is the best herbalist I know. Keep the memories my dear but let go of the hurt and suspicion before it taints Hermonia’s relationships and dealings with the villagers.”

Catha listened to her mother’s words, knowing their truth but finding it hard to let go to past hurt where Elspeth was concerned. “I will try. I know you are right but the hurt is still very real Mum.”

Hermonia listened to their conversation but didn’t understand what they were talking about and stopped listening out of boredom. Knowing that they wouldn’t be paying attention to her while they spoke, Hermonia turned to Arsenic and said, “Morning, what’s up?”

Arsenic smiled and fluttered his wings. “Not much but I need to talk to you this morning if you have a chance to slip away from the adults. It will be interesting I promise.”

Hermonia nodded her head in agreement as her mother tucked her hand in hers, this time her mom was holding her hand tight. “Stick close please once we are inside and if I ask you to go outside and play, please don’t wait, just slip outside and play.” Hermonia nodded in agreement, knowing something was wrong but not understanding the reasoning behind the tense and terse request from her mother.

Rachael smiled assuredly and pushed open the garden gate and the three of them plus one made their way to Elspeth’s cottage.

Dragon’s Head Village: Actors and Patrons

Breakfast was over and Hermonia watched her mum and grandmum get ready for the day.  It seemed they took so long to get ready when they were already beautiful the way they were when they awoke.  Hermonia quickly grew bored watching adults primp and buried her nose in a book until they were ready.

Crispin devoured his breakfast and slipped out of the house when Zovah departed to tend to the bigger dragons.  “She won’t really miss me for a couple of hours and if she does,” he thought to himself “she’ll assume I’ve found some place warm and dark to nap.”

Flinn had returned with the rosemary and lilies as requested, and without a word of thanks his mother shooed him from the house.  “Just make yourself scarce while I have visitors this morning, they have no need or want to associate with the likes of you.”  Flinn was so accustomed to these slights and paid no attention.  He was actually grateful this time because he needed to go meet Crispin and Arsenic before his mother’s guests arrived.  Flinn slung his fishing pole on his left shoulder and headed off toward the river.  If his mother or Brock spared him a second glance, they would assume he had gone fishing for the day.

The rays of morning sun bathed Arsenic in light, creating a halo affect perfectly contrasting his red wings against the moss that made up his bed.  This was the one place where Arsenic didn’t kill the flora and thus he was happy sleeping here on the ground, smelling the moss, and curling up into a tight ball at night, a crimson speck on a bed of silvery green under the moon.  The morning sun quickly roused him and he fluttered awake and turned his face to the sun.  He allowed himself to soak up the warmth of the sun as his wings dried the last of the night dew from their crimson petals.

Warm, dry, and hungry Arsenic was ready to meet Flinn and Crispin.  He thought about stopping for some honey and biscuits made by his sisters but was too eager to learn how his plan was going to pan out.  He was cautiously optimistic, he just had one of those feelings.  He may be the worst flower fairy ever be Arsenic knew, deep in his soul, that he was meant for great things and those things were centered around helping the village.

Like actors backstage, our unlikely band of heroes were missing out on what was taking place in the village they all loved.  In the smallest house in town, at the furthest edge of the village square was the home of June and her four children.  This morning, like most morning, the children would go without breakfast.  June’s husband, Harold had left on a fishing trip two weeks ago but had yet to return.  The house had run out of food stocks and Harold had taken the family savings with him.  June hadn’t grown up in Dragon’s Head and was slow to make friends.  Her pride and shyness kept her from asking for help.  As she sent the children outside, June heard their stomachs rumble in protest and it was all June could do to not break down in tears of desperation and humiliation.

Arsenic flew by as the four children entered the front garden, he heard their stomachs rumbling and he paused to watch.  He perched himself on the window ledge and listened.  Despite their obvious hunger, the children were happy and cheerful.  Arsenic decided to spy on their mother and his first look at her face made him flutter to the window ledge like a petal falling from a flower.  The despair and guilt on the woman’s face moved Arsenic and he knew what the first mission would be.  Arsenic threw off the weight of emotion and sprung back into the air and flew as quickly as possible to the meeting with Flinn and Crispin.  It was time to meet the others and get Hermonia to join them in their cause.