Friday, February 8, 2013

Madame Rosina

I have received another letter from Minglemist, stuck to the clothesline with a very large, wicked thorn.  One wonders what sort of tree or shrub it was once attached to.  The letter got a bit damp, but I was able to salvage it, and the sketch looks fairly good after I ironed it.  Anyway, here is what Madeline has to say about Madame Rosina:

I met her on Tinkers' Lane.  It was a drizzly day and it seemed appropriate, somehow, that the mist should suddenly reveal such an enchanted sight.  Coming toward me was a tiny house on wheels, painted red, green and purple with gold trim, pulled by two spotted ponies with bells and feathered plumes on their bridles.  On the seat in front of the house sat a short, stout woman with dark hair trailing out of a red scarf, wearing a patched green dress, a purple velvet shawl and red pointed slipper-shoes.  Her skin was wrinkled but her dark eyes were sharp and clear.

"Hoo hoo," she called in a bird-like voice.  A fluttering wave of her fingers sent bracelets shimmying up her arm.  As the house on wheels grew closer I could read the curling letters arching over the doorway: Madame Rosina, Fortuneteller.

She halted the ponies and hopped spryly down from her perch.  Though stout around the middle, her legs were thin, her feet small and dainty.

"Heavens, what weather we're having," she said, shaking water droplets out of her shawl.

I wound up having a reading with her, though I don't take much stock in such things.  But the tiny creatures that came bubbling up out of her crystal ball flabbergasted me, and, I have a feeling, even surprised Rosina herself.  A tiny unicorn, a flock of birds, several sinuous dragons and a mermaid with a jeweled tail rose out of the ball in Rosina's hand and flew around my head.  Fairies of all shapes and kinds tumbled out, followed by swirling scenes of castles, pictures of dark caves with moss and spider webs drooping over the openings, and ancient, musty books, their fluttering pages filled with strange runes and markings.  Trolls, gnomes, evil-faced hobgoblins and drooling monsters, flute-playing elves, mountains and silver waterfalls spilling into opalescent pools crowded Rosina's tiny house.  Pandora's box had sprung open, releasing a never-ending stream of images crowding one upon another, until Rosina, with a shriek, threw a handkerchief over the globe, holding it tightly while a few last little hump-backed dwarves struggled out, chuckling like helium-breathing chipmunks before dissolving into a shower of dust.  Cautiously Rosina lifted the handkerchief.  One last dragon roared upwards, then the show was over.  Rosina's mouth was working like a catfish taking bait.  She struggled a moment to regain her composure, then tried to act as if she'd been in charge all along.  But I know different.  What did the vision mean?  Another mystery.  Minglemist is full of them, and it seems like they are all tangled up together like a snarled skein of yarn.  Why am I here?  Where am I going?  What is going to happen?  Something is, that's all I know!

Yours truely,
Madeline Brown

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Troll Town of Sparflea

More news has come from Madeline Brown in Minglemist:

I have been to Sparflea.  How I got there, with whom I went and what happened to me there must remain a secret for now, for various reasons.  But I will describe the town to you, because the sights and sounds and smells are so unique.

Sparflea is in the Felkie Valley along the Gwyndle River.  At first sight I thought it very dull and dingy, covered with a layer of smog rising from countless chimneys belching coal smoke into the air.  Factories were clustered on both sides of the river, surrounded by a hodgpodge of dwellings that seemed to be all connected, swarming over the flats and rising on the hillsides like a giant insect growing out of control.  But as I entered the city gates I was astonished at the riot of color greeting me.  The buildings were painted red and purple, pink and orange, black and blue, most of them connected by endless sets of rickety staircases, railings and clotheslines sporting polka dotted vests, lacy bloomers and striped knee breeches.  Haphazard boards nailed crookedly together formed complicated passageways leading nowhere and everywhere all at once.  It seemed an ineffecient means of getting around, as in order to get to your next door neighbor's you might have to go up and down several tmes, twist through a maze of walkways and duck under a line or two of laundry before arriving at a spot very close to where you started.  But maybe the trolls enjoyed walking.  I couldn't help gawking when I got my first look at them.  Trolls are large in every way: their heads, necks, limbs, feet and hands, features and voices.  The men have massive shoulders and enormous bellies, the women are pear-shaped with very broad hips.  Trolls' clothing is a bewildering array of checks, stripes, flowers and polka dots decorated with fringes, bells and brooches.  The women wear an astonishing amount of jewelry and the men sport chains and earrings.  Both men and women have large rings on almost every finger.  Purses and pocketbooks seem to be status symbols; the larger and gaudier the better.  Hats, tiaras, parasols and ribboned barrettes are also essential.  One other necessary troll adornment: strong perfume to disguise the fact that they don't bathe very often.  I discovered this as soon as I entered the crush of people bustling about.

The market places were especially aromatic; exotic food, garbage and nose-clogging perfume made every breath an adventure.  I passed by fortune tellers selling charms and potions, jugglers, dancers, musicians and tinkers, cages of exotic animals, kettles of mysterious-smelling brews, and game booths offering cheap prizes.  I browsed through a bewildering array of cheap and tawdry jewelry, statues, paintings, fabric, dishes, trinkets and knickknacks.

One thing you do not want to do is wander the streets of Sparflea after dusk.  I got caught doing just that, and barely escaped with my life.  Squinny-eyed little creatures gibbered under stairways and rummaged through trash bins.  These were gnomes, I learned.  It seems the troll women think it fashionable to carry baby gnomes around, or wheel them along in fancy little buggies.  But when the gnomes get old enough to scratch and bite, they're turned loose on the streets where they roam around in packs causing all kinds of mischief.  But far more dangerous than the gnomes are the chimera dragons that seep out of doorways when night falls, gathering together in the gloom, casting their burning eyes towards innocent people who don't understand what they are or how to avoid them.  Rows of taverns line the downtown streets, dark and unwelcoming in the gaslight, with shadowy figures spilling out the doors or huddling together in the alleys.

I was rescued, thank heavens, and now that the experience is behind me I want to go back - in the daytime, of course.  There are things I must do in Sparflea.  But that will have to wait....

Till later,
Madeline Brown

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Dragunculus trickeri, the Walleyed Flabbergaster

A letter has arrived from Madeline Brown in Minglemist.  Her employer, T. P. Dunlap, has identified another dragon species.  Here is what she sent:

I have not personally seen this dragon, so had to draw the picture based on T. P.'s description.  And as for the information on it, I'll let T. P. tell you himself.  The following is a copy of his notes:

This is the ugliest dragon imaginable with warts and wrinkles all over its blotchy grey body.  The head is big and blunt, the eyes small and peculiarly crossed, the snout turned up like a pig's, the body rotund and lumpish.  Small rounded ears are barely noticeable because of the leaves, grass, twigs and mud plastered to its head.  Perhaps this camouflage helps deter predators, though I can't imagine anything wanting to eat such a creature.  The fire they breathe is black and sooty and forms puddles on the ground.  Flabbergasters often sun themselves on the giant speckled mushroom that grows prolifically in Minglemist. 

Elijah Belltower, the man who first discovered Minglemist, and whose notes I have been studying, tells a wild tale about this dragon.  According to his story, whenever he approached a flabbergaster, the ground in front of him shifted and changed.  Hills became declines, trees migrated from the right side of his vision to the left.  The first time this happened to him he spent an entire hour attempting to climb a steep slope, but the flabbergaster he'd been trying to reach suddenly flew away and he found he'd been stepping in place the whole time and hadn't moved forward at all.  Of course I disbelieved this.  Belltower had been hallucinating.  He'd probably eaten some wild fungi with psychotropic properties.  Still, other strange facts he'd related about the dragons had proved to be correct, so I performed an experiment.  I walked slowly towards the two flabbergasters.  Sure enough, the landscape began to change.  I couldn't tell whether I was going uphill or down, and a thorny thicket in front of me proved to be illusion.  But not only my physical perceptions changed.  I began to have the peculiar feeling that there were two of me, the man walking along the ground and another man observing the walker.  The feeling was so uncomfortable I shut my eyes, turned around and walked the other way.  Immediately I felt normal again.  Now that time has passed I'm certain I must have been influenced by Belltower's strange ramblings, though I'm not at all impressionable.  And I still have the thought that someone or something is following me, daring me to turn around and look behind me.  What would have happened if I'd kept walking towards the dragons?  Here is what Belltower says in his notes:

Belltower:  When approaching the cross-eyed flabbergaster - beware!  The landscape shifts and we must shift with it, else we get stuck and can't move forward.  But do we go this way or that?  And who is it that watches us trying to decide?  Is it us up there, looking down?  And if so, why don't we help ourselves find the right path?  It is quite confusing the way we seem to be observing and acting all at once.  Who is the real us?  Are we one, or two?  Do the answers come from inside us, or somewhere out there?  Are we in the universe or is the universe in us?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Dragunculus plumbum, the Leadbelly Dragon

Madeline Brown has sent another letter from Minglemist with a new dragon sketch to add to her journal.  This one is causing T. P. Dunlap all sorts of problems.  He seems to take his research very seriously and is having trouble because Minglemist's natural laws are different from ours.  Judging from this picture, I can well imagine!  I'll let her tell you more...

The leadbelly dragon is very reclusive.  T. P. has been stalking it relentlessly, and finally saw not just one, but a whole swarm of them.  The leadbelly is nocturnal, so you have to go out at night.  They mostly live in old mining caves above the Felkie Valley, but these caves are also known haunts of hobgoblins, so not too many folks venture up there, and certainly not at night.  T. P., myself and our neighbors, Pennywink the pony girl and her brother Fezzle, sat on the river bank after dark recently and, by the light of the moon and a camp fire, were rewarded by a seeing host of little dragons swooping through the night air to catch green water nymphs just hatching and rising in swarms above the water.  T. P. was ecstatic, bursting with excitement, but when he caught one of the dragons in his net, it dissolved into a cloud of purple smoke, then materialized in the air again a few feet away!!!  T. P. was flabbergasted, to say the least.  "How can I do a proper scientific study when these creatures break all the rules?" he said, throwing his net down angrily.  But we stayed on, watching them, and had a very interesting conversation with Fezzle, who likened finding the dragon in the smoke to finding the oak tree in the acorn.  T. P. was hoping a very scholarly study of the dragons would win him fame and the approval of his colleagues at the university back home (they all think he's more than a bit off).  But he's being frustrated at every turn.  I'm enjoying the adventure here, and can't wait to see more of Minglemist!  

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Mairgrit, the Crabapple Fairy

Madeline has sent another letter with a picture of a fairy she has met in Minglemist.  She looks lovely, but according to Madeline she's sort of snooty.  I'll let her speak in her own words:

I have painted Mairgrit in her favorite tree.  She sits there almost every afternoon, viewing the orchard with a distant expression.  She won't speak to me; only lifts her nose and turns the other way.  And she's mean to poor Robert, the onion ghillie, as I mentioned in my last letter.  But she does make a picturesque sight, perched just so in her tree.  She makes me feel awkward, dressed in my scruffy jeans with my hair straggling over my shoulders.  Plus I wear glasses.  And my long legs always seem to be running into things.  But enough about my looks.  Other news:  I have not made any progress on finding the dragon rider, but he has to be somewhere.  I have met the neighbors who have a farm near the cottage we are staying in.  There are two children; Pennywink, who is about 17 and trains ponies, and Fezzle, a slow moving fellow with sandy hair and a turned up noseHe's 19, a year younger than me, short and stocky, as most of the river people are in the Felkie Valley.  Pennywink reminds me of a fox, small and quick, with a pointed chin and a mass of cinnamon colored hair. 

Well, I have to get supper for T. P., who has been out all day stalking another dragon, wearing some sort of a leaf and twig affair around his head for camouflage.  He has been making up all sorts of nasty smelling dragon bait and leaving it around the yard and garden at feeding stations.  So far the gad-about fairies have been eating most of it.  I've tried and tried to shoo them away, but they come right back, smacking their lips and talking in their strange language: "Humphledorfen stewie!" one will say, and the others nod their heads.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Robert, the Onion Ghillie

I have met Robert several times while walking the lane that runs between Barleytown and Boggy Meadow in Minglemist.  He works for an onion farmer and sells onions to whoever will buy them.  His business would probably pick up if he took a bath once in awhile.  He smells rather, well, oniony, and is always followed by a swarm of flies.  His voice is high and crackly, like a baby crow's, and though his life doesn't seem particularly comfortable, he is usually smiling.  Except when he's moping about Mairgrit, the snooty crabapple fairy.  She's very beautiful but she snubs poor Robert most of the time.  Occasionally she'll condescend to dance with him at parties on the green, and then he's over the moon happy for a day or two, flying down the lane with his onions bouncing like ping pongs.  I will try to get a painting done of Mairgrit, though I don't often see her.  T. P. doesn't want me going to Boggy Meadow.  He says it's a quagmire of shady characters, and quite dangerous.  But Mairgrit hangs out in a crabapple tree not far from where we're staying at 4 Sparrow Lane, Barleytown, so I'll get some sketches done if she'll allow it.  More soon!

Yours Truely,
Madeline Brown

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Waspish Stingle

I have been recieving mysterious letters for some time now from a young woman named Madeline Brown.  She and her employer, retired biology professor T. P. Dunlap, have apparently discovered a land called Minglemist.  The location is uncertain.  There was mention in the first letter of some crumbling old notes and a dragon scale found in the Professor's basement which spurred a frenzied search (what biologist would not be intrigued?).  Eventually Minglemist was found when T. P. fell through a hole in his garden hedge.  Now he and Madeline are in Minglemist to study the lesser dragons, some of the bizarre creatures living in this land.  I will post parts of the letters as they arrive in the hopes that someone else might find Minglemist so others can explore it.  Following is a description of one of the first dragons Madeline and T. P. encountered.

The waspish Stingle, Dragunculus stinglii, is one of the smallest dragons in Minglemist, and one of the nastiest.  Stingles are three inches long with another nine inches in the tail.  They are scaly red, brown, green or blue with pale yellow bellies.  Stingles eat insects, fruits, especially crab apples and berries, and small pebbles, which they crunch with disgustingly loud noises.  Stingles travel in swarms and hang out in low trees or thick brush.  Then when someone walks by they swoop down with raucous brays of laughter and sting the unlucky person on the face, neck and arms with their long, whip-like tails, breathing out clouds of sticky purple smoke which stains everything it touches.  T. P.'s white shirts are turning deeper and deeper shades of purple because he's been trying to capture some stingles in his net for study.  I have been carrying an umbrella when I go out the back gate to the outhouse (no modern conveniences in Minglemist).  There's a large swarm of stingles living in the honeysuckle hedge along the garden and they always come after me.  But the umbrella keeps them at bay.  Now if I can just get T. P. to put a lock on the outhouse door so the gad-about fairies don't keep getting into it and doing nasty things.  I got a terrible shock the first time I opened the door and found a small, ugly man with a huge nose perched over the hole, his trousers dangling around his ankles.  Ugh!!!!