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While I am cleaning house, I check on Lady. She is curled up napping behind the couch. It looks so cramped back there, I move it away from the wall a few inches. She wakes and looks up at me and I smile at her.
I check on the boys who are napping as well then pet Buddy. I get an idea, go to the desk for paper and pencil but don’t get to write. I answer a knock at the door instead.
”Hello, Baldor. Come in.”
I step aside and he enters saying “Hello, Myelle.” We hug then I close the door.
”The boys are asleep.”
”I can see that. How are you all doing?”
“We are good. How have you and Issa been?”
”We are doing good as well.”
Buddy comes over and greets Baldor but Lady watches from behind the couch. Baldor gives him a pet then Buddy takes his favorite spot next to the playpen.
”What brings you here?” I ask.
”Do I need a reason?”
”No. Please, sit. Can I get you something?”
”No, thanks,” he says sitting on the couch. “I was hoping to spend some time with my grandchildren.”
”When they wake up, you can do just that. In the meantime, can you do something for me?” I explain that I want to give the dogs their own space. We figure out what to do and he goes to get the supplies.
A couple of hours later, accompanied by my father, he returns with the supplies. Together, they build a small room for the dogs in an unused space in the front room.
I get their dog bed and blanket and put them in there. Buddy investigates it then gives a bark. He goes to Lady but she refuses to leave the couch.
The 3 of us head into the kitchen.
Lady has finally taken to using the indoor dog house. It took her a couple of days to warm up to it. Buddy helped with the problem. Every time Lady would take an interest in a toy, he took it away and put it into the house. Lady watched would go to the entry and only put her head inside to grab the toy. I don’t know why she was weary of it, but eventually she figured out it was safe.
The boys are now sleeping through the night and so am I but was Buddy who woke me this morning. He lead me to their house. Inside, Lady was whimpering. When I crawled inside I could see why, she was whelping. I crawled out and quietly shut the door most of the way so she could have her privacy.
Just in time as I can hear the boys crying. I head upstairs to see to them.
Galen and Lucius have taken advantage of the house in the village and are staying there as they investigate the missing persons and misplaced animals dilemma. They have been asking around but no one seems to know anything.
Over breakfast, “This aimless wandering and asking people is getting us nowhere. We need to get into the Lodge and go through the employment records. We can get contact information from that and start knocking on those doors.”
”It seems like we have knocked n every door here, Galen. It is as if every one of them never existed.”
Galen looks up from his plate with a look of a look of having a scary thought. “Oh, no.”
”What if this is the work of dark sorcery? Some sort of revenge for loosing?”
”I hope you aren’t right. Let’s finish and head to the lodge. We will start over there.”
It is a new day and Antheia has risen early. Her children are peacefully asleep in the adjoining room so she puts on a robe and heads out into the balcony. Looking around, she can see the snow covered peaks in the distance and her village in the lower part of the valley. She can feel the sun rising and something stirs within her. Suddenly she is overwhelmed by a need to hunt and eat her prey.
But then her children wake and her maternal instincts take over and her inner dragon quiets; it will wait for a better time. She heads into their room, picks up Celine to feed her. She sits in her favorite rocking chair and nurses Celine. In his dragon form, Alexander toddles over and tries to climb into her lap but he is too big for that now and turns back into his Elvyn form.
”Mama” he says and lifts his arms.”
”You are going to have to wait until your sister is done.” She answers smiling down at him.
The nurse quietly enters the room with Alexander’s breakfast of warm cereal for the elf and raw meat strips for the dragon. She puts him into his special chair and feeds him. As soon as the cereal is gone, he turns dragon and is fed again then the nurse takes him to get cleaned up and dressed.
Antheia, despite missing her mate, sighs contentedly. Something about being with her children like this always brings her peace.
When the nurse returns with Alexander, it is time to get Celine cleaned up and dressed as well. The nurse takes her and Antheia turns her attention to her son who climbs into his mother’s lap. He takes a nipple before she can cover herself, sighs contentedly just like his mother did a moment ago and begins to suckle.
”You know, Alex, you won’t be able to do this much longer. It is time you only ate the food you are brought.” But she knows he doesn’t understand yet and wonders what will happen when she cuts him off and hopes she doesn’t have to.
Galen and Lucius stopped in long enough to fill me in, get supplies, and fill their stomachs. That was days ago and I haven’t heard from them. I am worried that something may have gone wrong. Of course, it could just be my imagination working overtime. I miss Galen and I suspect that he will be unhappy that he has missed this.
In other news, I have checked on Lady. There are 5 puppies and it looks like there will soon be another. She growled at me and I talked to her softly, reassuring her that all was okay.
The boys are napping and Buddy has cuddled up to me on the couch. He has stayed close to the dog house practically keeping guard.
Galen and Lucius find themselves locked out of the lodge so they search for a way in. They check all of the doors but none are unlocked. At the door that leads into the kitchen, Lucius manifests a key and tries it. It opens the door but not without a lot of wiggling and turning of the knob.
“Smells musty in here” Galen says as they enter. Galen goes for the light switch while Lucius pulls the shade on the single window.
”It smells like it has been empty for a long time.” Lucius answers as the darkness goes away. “Let’s try the office first.”
”Then we can take a look around.” As they cross the kitchen, “Looks like it was cleaned up before everyone left.”
”Then again, maybe not.” They find piles of dirty laundry along the wall leading into the office and the musty smell worsens there. “Smells like this is the source of that musty smell.” Lucius says.
Inside of the office, all seems to be in order. Galen goes to the file cabinet to find the employee files but all of the drawers are empty. He checks the desk but there is nothing there either. Without a word, he quickly heads to the lobby to use that computer, but it too is missing.
”What do we do now?” Lucius asks.
Stunned, Galen has no answer for him.
“Perhaps we should have a look around” Lucius suggests.
Nodding, Galen moves from the entry desk and heads first to the private dining room and goes through there slowly. With nothing to see, they head to the conference rooms beyond the lounge area.
In the first conference room, they find the computers and the boxed files. They agree to come back to those later and continue to the other conference rooms, then the guest rooms. With each taking a side of the hall, they quickly check the rooms on each floor.
On the top floor, at the dragon rooms, Lucius enters his room and finds an older dragon napping there. He quietly closes the door and moves on; wondering who left the door open. Signaling Galen to be quiet, he leads them back down to the conference room.
“What was that about?” Galen asks.
“There was a strange sleeping dragon in my room. It is best if we don’t disturb him.”
“How did he get in?” Galen asks.
“Someone left the outer door open. He is okay where he is for now; we can worry about him later. In the meantime, lets go through this stuff for answers.” Lucius picks up a box and takes it to one end of the conference table. Galen follows his lead and does the same thing.
Hours later, they discover that over the months, many employees left their job and it appeared that only a few were left. The final corporeal employees were let go due to dwindling customer numbers. As for the ghostly employees, it is noted in their files that they just vanished; a few at a time and never returned.
In the computers, they discover the dwindling business numbers until the final entry was such a low sales amount had the final accounting in the red.
“Looks like we got our answer as to what happened here.” Lucius says as he stretches and starts to yawn.
“Yeah, but what we need to find out, is what caused it.”
“We certainly do, but I am hungry and tired. Let’s get back to the house, have a meal and get some rest.”
“Good idea. Let me get a key for this place so we can lock up then we can go.” Galen gets up, heads for the front desk with Lucius following. Key in hand, they head out the back-kitchen door, lock up and head for the house.
Spring has come and gone and summer is upon us. Galen and Lucius returned home with a disappointing report a week later. It seemed that for some reason first the people then the ghosts followed by the animals, just left. Where they went and why remains a mystery.
Galen, me and the boys along with our dogs temporarily moved to the lodge to clean it up. The feeling of deja vue was strong. When we were done there, we moved to the big house in town.
Galen has been distant since we moved into the house and I don’t know why. I have tried talking to him but he won’t engage. He only talks about the local news and gossip. I wish I knew what was wrong. I have a feeling there is more to the story than he told about his time away. Otherwise, he helps with everything inside and outside.
We have put the puppies up for adoption. I made flyers and he put them up around town. So far there haven’t been any takers but it has only been a couple of days.
In the Mandrake Kingdom, things aren’t going well for Antheia and Lucius. The anti-royalty movement has caught on and is spreading through the towns like wild fire.
I haven't been in the castle for many months. As I open the door to our room, I call "Surprise, I'm home" but Ben isn't there. I knock softly on Belle's door before opening it but the room is empty. Where is everyone? As I walk down the hallway, I'm run over by blue ghosts. The fall event and castle challenge must be going on. I find Ben, Belle, and Sebastien in the game room. I touch Ben's shoulder and he swoops around, picks me up and twirls me through the air as he kisses me. "Sweetheart, I've missed you so much. How is the dragon queen?" "Hon, she's about the same. I left Cinder with her. I needed to see you so badly that I slipped away for a few days." I wave to a smiling Belle and Sebastien as we leave the room. We grab some food and drinks before heading to our room to catch up.
Ben and I cuddle on the bed. We talk about the big things for a short time and then move to the little day to day things that make us feel like we haven't been separated. Just like Facetime or a Zoom meeting, keeping in touch through our amulets or mirrors just doesn't cut it. Lying in his arms, I feel relaxed and at peace for the first time in forever. I fall asleep and am soon making the sound he calls my purr.