Chapter 1

It was almost as if I could physically see what I was drawing, but it was actually inside my mind... or was it?

Let me back up a minute. I am a freelance artist. I draw cover art and illustrations for fantasy novels. I also do some sketching, and occasional portrait work, at renaissance fairs. I made a decent living at it, because to me, I seemed to SEE what I was drawing. It's hard to explain. I will touch a bit more on that, later.

Sketching at the fair, was easy. The subject was right there in front of me. My "nine to five job", for the book publishers, was actually done out of my home. I picked which of those jobs I wanted to do. When you're a success in your job, as I am, you can more easily set your own rules and work schedule.

I had a studio in my house with all my supplies, and when I was done with an assignment, I would usually mail it into the office of the company that commissioned it. Sometimes, not often, I would hand deliver it.

I earned in the mid to high five figures a year. That satisfied my wants and needs. It kept me in all the colored pencils, chalk, charcoals, paints, brushes, and sketch pads I needed; as well as the more mundane 'roof over my head', food, and transportation.

If I were doing portraits, I would purchase the canvas when I was given the commission.

Every once in a while, though, I would get the urge to do one of my fantasy settings in oils. That was why I had a few various sized canvases on hand, almost all the time.

I had been looking forward to the upcoming fall renaissance fair. It would be held only about thirty miles from where I lived. True, it was out in the country, but it was a sprawling thing, and needed the space. Water and concessions were shipped in from all the surrounding communities. The local motels were booked, so I was going full out this year. I had packed my tent, and other odds and ends, into my trailer.

I had my 'period tent', and a small iron 'pot-bellied' style stove. They would serve due to their style and type. Naturally, I brought bedding and clothing. I would rent a space within the fair to ply my trade. I brought out the supplies that fit into the period of the fair, and loaded everything into my trailer.

I was now ready to make the trip. I did not want to miss a single day of the two-week period that the fair ran. I had already prepaid for a good spot. I had put my confirmation that my reservation had been made, along with my receipt number for my payment in the van's 'glove box'.

The reason my tent had to be 'period', was because I was going to be set up to sleep and work out of it, for the length of the fair. The tent was to be located in the merchant's portion of the fair... specifically, in artist's row. This was where all persons stayed, who showed up to make and sell handcrafted items to the public. This meant it was my section, of course. I had reserved a good location, too.

While it was a fair that was supposed to be set in a specific time, it also had a fantasy tinge to it. A combination of the best of two worlds, if you asked me. My tent was in two parts really. The back half was for sleeping, and in it I had my bed. A very large cooler and my cot with my air mattress were to stay unseen. A small trunk with my clothing, and the propane camp stove completed my quarters.

All the 'unseen' items were protected from view by the addition of a flap that made my large tent into two rooms.

The front room was where all my paining and sketching supplies were kept. My easel was there, along with my drawing and painting supplies. I had brought special drawing paper of various sizes. I could use it instead of the regular stuff, if I wanted to, or the customer decided on an upgrade. Otherwise, they got standard paper. I did have a few small canvases with me, in case I decided to do a quick 'at the fair' portrait.

I was not pleased. I had paid big bucks for a premium spot, and they had put me in almost the very last slot in artisan's row. Only one other tent/booth was set up beyond me, and they were almost against the woods. I complained, but the guy who was in charge said I had arrived too late for the good slots, and that mine had been given away. I looked over the copy of my contract, and there was no time limit on when I had to be there. Just set up and be in place by the opening of the fair.

I wasn't the only one who this guy was screwing, either. Somehow, he had gotten the idea that since the regular person had left him in charge, he could change things to suit himself. Our complaining had no effect on him at all.

The regular assigner was absent due to an emergency of some sort, and would not be back until sometime after the fair started. I put in a call to my attorney and asked him if he could look over my contract, and explained what had happened. He said if I faxed him a copy he would get on it right away, so that's what I did.

Since there was nothing I could do until my attorney got back with me, or the regular manager showed up to settle this matter to our satisfaction, I set up and worked the first few days of the fair.

My business was slow to say the least. The crowd did not come this far. While some did, they were the few exceptions. Most of the crowd stayed around the central part of the fair, those areas that were the PREMIUM areas, for which I had paid, and which I had been denied.

Three days into the fair Marsha Starling, the coordinator and fair master, finally showed up. She was the head honcho. We learned she was there, when a runner dressed in period garb came by. He stopped and told me I was wanted in the admin trailer. I made my way as quickly as I could to the admin trailer, after I had arranged for someone to watch my area for me, while I was gone. There were several people there already.

"Ah, Mr. Farrow, I'm pleased you responded so quickly. I 'm just sorry that it is under these circumstances, though. I understand your dissatisfaction with what has occurred and I am ready and willing to refund your monies for the spot you lost. Is this satisfactory to you?" she asked me.

I pulled out my copy of the contract, and pointed out the highlighted sections. She read them and looked up at me.

"I want the spot I was guaranteed when we signed this contract, and I paid my premium. I want a refund for the days I was illegally kicked out of my slot by your high handed 'on site manager', and I want compensation for revenues lost due to my poor position."

I paused, and pulled out a copy of newspaper clippings.

"You will note you advertised I was attending this fair. My name is a 'drawing card'. While I did have visitors based on this article, I did not receive the slot I was promised, nor the traffic that such a slot would bring. I want that slot now," I said and grimly folded my arms in front of my chest.

People looked uncomfortable. It was not my fault, yet I was being made to feel the villain, here. I was a victim, the same as whoever would have to give up the place they had been given by mistake.

"I understand your anger and feelings. However, at this point it would not be fair to the person who now has the slot to have to give it up and move at this late date in the fair, don't you think?" she said, trying to lay on the guilt.

"I think this mess is due to the asshole you left in charge. I want what was promised to me. I was within contract guidelines the entire time. I can always leave, you know," I said and waited.

"I'm sorry you feel that way. I will give you my decision within the hour," she said finally.

I looked at her and felt like I had been punched in the stomach. I threw up my hands, and left to go back to my tent. I sat and fumed over this situation. This had to be the worst fair I had ever attended in my life.

They didn't even have the guts to face me. I was sent a note by way of the official fair messenger, dressed all in his period finery. The message stated that while I had been within specified contract times, since I had failed to make my dissatisfaction known earlier, I was not being moved. They would refund the premium slot money, but that was all.

They were crazy! I called my attorney and gave him the go ahead to start legal action. Since it was getting late, tonight, I would start packing tomorrow morning.

It only took me two hours to get torn down and packed up, once I started. I was approached by several people, who wanted to know why I was leaving the fair so early.

I explained what had happened, and the favoritism that was being shown to certain people. I said that I had paid for a premium spot, and they had broken their contract. I showed them my letter and my contract, and they were stunned.

Marsha Starling and another person showed up, just as I had finished packing. She had some papers in her hand.

"What's the meaning of this Mr. Farrow?" Marsha asked me, holding up a paper.

"Umm. You read the papers, and they informs you of things," I replied snidely.

"It seems to be a summons and a legal action naming me, the manager who was on duty, and the fair organizers for damages to your business and your person. It also wants me to show cause as to why this fair should not be shut down. It also appears our bank accounts are frozen.

"Mr. Farrow, I really do understand your anger and disappointment. But don't you think over-reacting like this is not going to do anyone any good? It's going to hurt all the people who put so much time and hard work into making this fair run, as well as all the people looking forward to the fair," she said with exasperation.

I honestly felt bad about it, but I was determined not to let her know just how badly I felt. I had already instructed my attorney not to fight too hard when they tried to keep the fair open, but to see if he couldn't win a stiff fine, and money for me to pay his bill.

"On the advice of my attorney, I have to ask you to please direct all questions pertaining this action to him," I said.

I got into my car and drove off.

By the time I got home, I was a lot calmer, and very sad. I had so been looking forward to this fair!

The whole situation was unfortunate from the start, but if you let people walk all over you, they will continue to do it. A person has to put his foot down in self-defense, or get screwed constantly. It's a shame people are that way, but there you have it.

As soon as I got home I carefully backed my vehicle, trailer and all, into the drive. I decided to unpack it, tomorrow. I was itching to get back to my study and do some work. It was the only thing that seemed to settle me down. It also took my mind off my problems.

I headed straight back to my studio, ignoring the answering machine and other things, in favor of relaxing with my work. I really enjoyed drawing, sketching, and painting. I went over to my sketch board and looked at the scene I had left there.

It was a robed man... a wizard, was what I thought him. His great staff was held crosswise across his chest at arms length from his body, projecting a shield of some sort. The flames that were hitting the shield, were being turned away by the wizard's power. The flames were from a fire-breathing dragon, who was mostly inside a huge cave.

The dragon was a darkly dry and leathery gray. Its eyes were redly glowing. Evil seemed to radiate from the dragon, but the wizard was holding his own. I had made several sketches of this scene, as it had developed in my imagination, showing the evolution of this fight.

I grabbed a clean smock (well, it had been washed, though it still had many old stains), donned it, and went back to sketching. The story unfolded before my eyes. Slowly the wizard was being pushed back, and the dragon was emerging from the cave. I could now get more detail as to what the dragon looked like.

The folded bat-like elbows of its wings projected forward, almost to its head. They were closed tightly about its body. If it were to open those wings, it would have a huge wingspan indeed. The wizard's robe covered his body, but the cowl had fallen back from his head. It revealed long flowing dark hair, and a neatly trimmed beard.

Still, the dragon seemed to be gaining ground. The wizard slowly retreated, his staff held before him crosswise, projecting that shield, and protecting himself from the dragon's flames. I went into a frenzy of sketching. What emerged, was even more disturbing. The wizard seemed to be losing!

One of the things about my sketching, was that I seemed to SEE what was happening before me. It was as though some part of my mind could actually see this happening, somehow. The wizard needed help, or he would die. I knew this. The dragon was slowly overpowering him!

I did not want the wizard to lose. I did something that I normally didn't do. I started adding my own magic to the scene. I knew what I wanted to do, and I could actually see it in my minds eye. I drew a pencil thin beam of light coming through the overcast clouds. It drilled into the top of the dragons scull.

For three panels I drew the beam going into the dragon's head further and further, until it exited through the lower jaw, striking the ground. The dragon collapsed with a great shudder, and was dead.

I quickly sketched the wizard leaning on his staff. His right hand was grasping the staff firmly, while his left stroked his beard. There was a thoughtful expression on what little we could see of his face.

I set my colored pencil down, and stretched. I had been at it for a while now, and I seemed drained for some reason. I got up and went to make a cup of tea.

Coffee is much over rated, if you ask me. Tea was very good. It was my 'beverage of choice.' With a little lemon juice squeezed into it, and a dollop of honey, it was the perfect drink.

When I got back to my studio, I set my cup down on the counter next to my sketching table. I cocked my head and stared at the last picture I had drawn. It had changed, and changed dramatically.

My last sketch now showed the wizard with his arms raised. He seemed to be saying something. A moment later, I watched in disbelief as the figure in my drawing slowly turned my way, and pointed his staff in my direction.

I felt a shock go through me, as the staff lined up on me. It was like an electrical charge or a shock of some sort. The Wizard was staring directly at me. I knew this could not be happening! Sketches did not come to life on their own! They did not move like this!

"GREETINGS," I heard him say, his voice clearly and loudly ringing in my head.

I knew instantly it came from the wizard in my drawing.

I panicked.

I closed the cover on my drawing board, and overturned my chair as I got up from my seat. This could not be happening! I must be suffering a breakdown of some sort. That had to be it. Drawings do not take on a life of their own, and speak to you!

I left the studio, and went into the living room. I collapsed on the couch, shaking from what had happened.

'This could not have happened!' I said silently to myself. 'Think, Frank. What could have caused this?'

Ok, I was emotionally drained from my fight with the fair people. I had driven straight home after getting a not very good night's sleep.

That must be it.

I made myself another cup of tea, the one in my studio totally forgotten. After it was finished heating, I fixed it the way I liked it, and went back to the living room, still avoiding the studio.

The phone ringing woke me up. I didn't believe it. I had fallen asleep, with the cup of tea still in my hand. Wow.

I put the cup on the end table and answered the phone. It was my attorney informing me that counter offers were coming in, and that a judge had already unfrozen the fair's accounts. She had thrown out everything except my suit for damages. Quick work, for the legal system, if you asked me. Still, we had expected this, and it was only the first day.

My attorney said they were offering twice the fee I paid, and a written apology. While it sounded nice, it did nothing to void my anger at the unjust and highhanded manner in which I had been treated. I told him 'no'. He said 'fine', and wanted to know if I had any specific instructions on what to accept or to ask for, as a deal. I told him get the best he could, and we ended the conversation.

It was now late afternoon my time, and I had been napping for over two hours. I went into the kitchen and heated a can of beef stew. I nuked it in the microwave.

I thought about what had happened while it heated.

I could not get it out of my head. I had to go see for myself. But first, I was going to eat. Priorities, after all, were everything. I poured myself a glass of milk, and took my bowl of nuked stew to the kitchen table. I forced myself to eat slowly, as I considered everything that had happened since my return.

I was standing before my sketch board. The cover still closed, just as I had left it. That, in itself, was a relief. I breathed a deep sigh and slowly reached for the cover. I flipped it open. The last picture I had drawn had changed, again.

Now it showed the wizard sitting at a table, reading a book of some sort, with several candles around him for light. There was also a lamp of some sort... oil, I thought. As I looked at the picture, it started moving again. I gasped as it did so. He seemed to peer, almost squinting in my direction.

"AGAIN, I GREET YOU. WHAT DO YOU WISH OF ME?" said his very loud voice in my head, too loud.

"Please, not so loud, you're giving me a headache," I gasped out, holding my head.

"I apologize to you. Is this any better?" he asked me in a more gentle voice.

"Yes," I answered with wonder.

He heard me! We were talking together!

"I thank you for the gift of help you gave me. It was most appreciated at the time and it still is," he said and bowed slightly in my direction.

"Ah, anytime," I said inanely.

"What spell did you use? I am unfamiliar with the one you performed so magnificently on my behalf," he asked me almost eagerly.

Spell? I drew a damn picture, for crying out loud! I thought. Well, I suppose it could have been an offshoot of a laser. I had been thinking that a laser would take that sucker out nicely when I drew the picture, and it did.

"The, ah, spell was designed to gather existing light, and concentrate it immensely. Then it refocused the light down to a small narrow beam. Then the beam was loosed onto the dragon's head," I replied, thinking fast on my feet.

He thoughtfully scratched his chin and nodded.

"I can see how this would happen, but I do not understand the mechanism for doing it," he finally stated.

"How is it we are talking?" I asked.

I had been bursting to ask him to explain this too me. After all, it was not everyday that my pictures took a life of their own!

"I assumed you wished to communicate with me. I could feel your presence," he responded.

"I had no idea I could do this at all," I finally confessed.

His bushy eyebrows rose, and he looked shocked.

"You had no idea of what you were doing?" he asked and struggled to keep volume control.

"Hey, I am an artist, a painter! I draw pictures. That's how this all happened," I responded.

"IDIOT!" he screamed at me.

My hands went to my head as pain stabbed afresh in it. I cut the connection by flipping the cover closed again.

While the relief was instant, I still had a headache. I rose and went to my bathroom. I opened my medicine cabinet and took three aspirin.

Damn! I seemed to be a disappointment to the guy.

Edited by TenderLoin

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