I had a dream about a house with living statues guarding the door, including a Chinese-style dragon named Bluebell. And, like nearly any dream I can remember bits of, I spent some time turning it over and trying to make sense of it.
* * * *
“And here’s my house,” the mage said, waving at a two-story with cream siding and a bright purple trim, behind a wrought-iron fence painted the same purple.
“It looks… lovely,” Shan said, when Auber and Reagan both stood silent, staring at the building for several awkward moments.
“Thank you.” The mage opened the wrought-iron gate. “After you.”
Shan half-shoved Auber and Reagan into motion, herding them down the wide cobblestone path to the front door, which boasted a star mosaic of tile and mirror that glittered in the sun. Two large trees shaded the house and yard, with flowers and plants flourishing in beds everywhere. Little gravel paths wound around the beds in maze-like profusion, and white-stone statues dotted the yard.
A four-foot tall oriental dragon reared on one side of the path, a manticore—with a human head, lion body, and scorpion tail—curled up on the other side. That’s an odd way to carve a statue, Shan thought, just as the dragon turned to face them.
Reagan squeaked, a tiny sound that made Auber smile.
“Oh, hello, Bell,” the mage said cheerfully. “Haven’t seen you on guard duty in awhile.”
“Sometimes I like a break from the gardening.” The dragon stretched and settled on all four feet. “Spring is so busy.”
Auber saw something move deeper in the garden—a statue of a centaur peering from behind some bushes. When the centaur saw Auber, the statue ducked back out of sight, backing up too much, so a swishing white-stone tail emerged from the opposite side of the greenery. Smothering a giggle, Auber studied the rest of the statues. Some stayed still, but the manticore sleeping on the other side of the path opened and closed one eye in a wink.
Reagan loved to garden, and had fallen into a conversation with the mage and the dragon about the best kind of mulch to use for high sun exposed beds.
A loud throat clearing had no effect on them, or the bout of coughing the throat-clearing set off, so Shan finally decided to be rude. “Excuse me? Excuse me?”
“Oh, sorry,” the mage flushed and fussed with the pointy black hat with three blue-jay feathers stuck in its brim, perched precariously atop the mage’s black curls. “I love plants. I created my guards more to help me with the yard than to prevent intruders, though they’re very good at that.”
“Nearly ate a thief last week,” the dragon confirmed.
“Bluebell!” The mage shook a finger at the dragon. “My statues don’t eat people, they have no stomachs, so they—hey, why don’t we go inside? You needed a potion for finding something lost, right?” Stepping around the three of them, the mage led the way. “I have exactly what you need! Follow me!”
The teenagers exchanged worried glances, but if they didn’t locate the Shield of Namarr, they’d never rescue their friend Jamie, and the Stonespeller was the only one they could afford.
Sticking to the center of the path to avoid anything that might be lurking in the greenery, they walked into the open door, which swung shut behind them with a soft tap.