The Dog Tales #8, A Swell Guy - By Lillow Mi 

   Spike loved living on the Farm even as the compelling pulls of Sugfissel, the multi-dimensional being of whom Spike is purportedly a part, tugged at him to explore the world, see new places, new dimensions and seek new opportunities. Even with these things pulling, Spike loved the Farm and loved staying put. He'd been off adventuring with Lillow on Clarabelle, Holy Boat, and now he was back and glad of it, settled in, the adventure done and no more calling. He hoped anyway, because he really felt that his adventuring days were over and thank goodness for that, he'd think, whenever he thought of it.  

   “Yip, yip yip!” a sharp voice announced. 

   Spike, who'd been lying in the early spring sunlight with his eyes closed, swatted at the sound, like a at a fly, then rolled over away from it.    

   “Yip! Yip! Yip!” the sharp, now angry voice repeated with more emphasis. Spike opened one eye and looked, then opened both and sat up, disconcerted at the sight of a small, I mean small like a Mouse, creature that was . . . Spike's eyes grew round, attached to a leash that was stretched taut as the Mouse, er, thing attempted to lunge at him, snarling and yapping. He followed the leash upward and arrived at a another disconcerting sight, a Darnalong, who fluttered her eyes at him disdainfully behind bright red cat-eye sunglasses. 

   He recognized Windy from the Clarabelle, Holy Boat, and asked, “Hi Windy, uh, what is that? And why's it snarling at me?” 

   Windy tugged at the leash and, with an angry look, the little thing subsided. “Oh, it's you Spike,” she said. “Yes, well this is my companion and certified pet Vladimir Tepesh, but you can just call him Vladdy, like I do.” Spike looked at the little thing who's sinister smile showed two large fangs and who's hungry eyes bore into him. There was a low growl, barely perceptible and Spike backed up.  

   “That's your pet?” Spike asked, amazed at the snarling, nasty little thing that was again straining its leash to get at him. 

   “Oh, you'll love him as soon as you get to know him,” Windy said, letting Vladdy get a little closer to Spike who backed up again. 

   “Get to know him?” Spike asked, wondering why anyone would want to get to know that little ball of spitting spite. 

   “Why yes . . .” Windy began, just as Rover walked up. Rover took one look at the snarling little thing, who seemed unintimidated by the presence of two much, much larger Dogs, and said “ROWF!!” so loud that Spike backed up again, but more importantly Vladdy jumped back and with a whimper and 

a frightened expression, hid behind Windy. 

   Windy seemed indignant, “I don't know why that keeps happening to you Vladdy! Gosh, Rover, why'd you do that?” 

   Rover was watching the thing with distaste, “Dunno, just seemed right. What is it?” 

   “Well, like I already said, this is my companion and certified pet Vladimir Tepesh. Vladdy, I call him.” Rover blinked, his disdain perhaps more apparent. Windy continued, “Why this is the sweetest little thing that . . .” 

   “Yeah, okay,” Spike growled, “but what is it?” 

   Windy stopped with a confused look. “Well! I must say,” now she looked angry, “I just don't see how that makes any kind of difference Spike! I mean lookit you! What's this Sugfissel thing about? Huh? Huh?” Spike's eyes got round. 

   Rover spoke,”She's got a good point Spike.” Spike looked at Rover with disbelief. 

   “Don't see anybody with a leash on anymore,” Alley remarked, strolling over from somewhere else. “Not here on the Farm, anyway.”  He sat and eyed the thing with wariness. 

   “Well, Vladdy does bite,” Windy said with a smile and a pooh-pooh gesture. “But otherwise he's a swell guy.” There was a long uncomfortable silence. 

   “Okay then,” Spike finally said, looking unsure, “So, uh, hello Vladimir. Nice to meet you.” 

   Vladimir looked around Windy's leg showing his fangs in a devilish smile, “I want to eat you,” he said in a low, oddly accented voice. 

   Spike stepped back, eyes wide. Rover said, “ROWF!” in his big voice again and also backed up. 

   Windy looked down, her eyes going round. “Vladdy! Now what did I tell you?” The thing looked sheepish and squirmed a little. “Isn't he sweet though?” she gushed, smiling at them. “Except for the eating you part. Vladdy, you apologize right now.” 

   “I'm sorry,” it said, “see, I want to eat you, I mean, yes, yes, I do, but I won't, cause you know, the leash, and all,” it glanced derisively at the leash, “so,” it shrugged, “let's be friends.” 

   With a dubious look Spike, and then Rover agreed, as long as there was no physical contact and the leash stayed on. Alley just walked away swishing his tail, back to the fringes without saying a word. 

   “Well that's that!” Windy said with a happy look. “Let's go home Vladdy.” She smiled at Spike, nodded at Rover and pulling the snarling Vladdy behind, walked away. “Maybe Uncle Mavrek will take you back now, huh?” she murmured as she dragged him away, still growling and snarling and stretching his leash tight. 

   “The thing doesn't have much charm, does it?” Spike asked, watching them go with a frown. He looked at Rover, “Windy thinks it's good.” 

   Rover huffed. “I think 'good' might have different meanings, depending on what end of the leash you're on,” he said, plopping down, watching Windy and Vladdy depart. Spike gave him a thoughtful look but remained silent.  

The Dog Tales #7, At The Howl - By Lillow Mi 

   Sweet Loretta loved going to salons, getting a shampoo and blow dry with creative styling, having her nails done then her back massaged and finally misted in heavenly scented spray derived from real flowers. Then she liked to visit the Doggie Donut Den and enjoy a delicious bacon flavored fritter with a saucer of high quality toilet water. Sweet Loretta was, in fact, a bon vivant, and Spike her unknowing suitor. Spike's intentions for visiting were always gastronomical while Sweet Loretta's for receiving him, and his dubious associates, were amorous. 

   Today was a special full moon howl night and excitement was high. Everyone who is anyone will be there. Sweet Loretta had her hair and nails done, her bacon flavored fritter and toilet water consumed, and her spirits high as she entered Gladstar Farm through the main gate. She felt safer as soon as she entered as well, because she was safer, and that made her smile wider. When she was by the Golly Orchard Fido came bounding by. 

   “Heyyy Sweet Loretta!” he called out as he bounded by. Sweet Loretta was startled by his sudden appearance and watched befuddled as he grinned back at her without even slowing.  

   With a shake of her head she continued on past the Golly Orchard then turned right, going cross-country to the back of the manor. She could see Spike and Rover at their usual places chatting and letting loose a few practice howls now and then, waiting until the actual howl started. Father Sun was just dropping below the horizon and darkness was descending. 

   “Sweet Loretta!” Spike barked as soon as he saw her. “Welcome! Gosh it's grand to have you here!” He swelled his massive Bulldog chest and grinned as he trotted over for their traditional sniffing and tail-wagging ritual. 

   “Thanks, Spike! Gladda be here!” she woofed. 

   “This is the big one, you know,” he said, looking important. “Yep, the Full Moon. Worshiped by howlers for millions of years and tonight we see her right here, real and big, and we howl!”  

   Sweet Loretta felt a shiver of excitement mixed with awe pass through her body. She looked to the horizon where the earth's single moon would soon appear, becoming the brightest thing in the night sky. The stuff of dreams and a call to the savage howl within that erupts at its sight. She glanced around, seeing Rover watching them but also watching for the moon while Fido stared with wonder at the sky. 

   Alley was perched atop the fence, swishing his tail casually as he watched the horizon but yawning occasionally and glancing around disdainfully, like none of this actually impressed him. Then he'd look again at the horizon. All their eyes expressed their yearning, their love and their awe, their faces open, accepting. 

   Then, to in-drawn breaths and ahhhs, there appeared a small but rapidly growing green/blue disk whose rising brought forth howls, unconscious, instinctual, first with one then another and by the time the moon was full up the entire pack howling full bore with Alley screeching along. A veritable symphony of love and appreciation. There was, of course, thunder and lightning with a small tornado, yet through it all our blessed Luna's face shone through, bright and compelling. Spike walked Sweet Loretta home after and they sat gazing at the dawn while off in the distance they could hear Lillow and Lorna start the morning crow. This Howl will be remembered.        

Cinderella 2020 - By Lillow Mi 

   My name is Yorga Jernfeld, and I'm a retired guard from the Women's Royal Prison here in Fæirie Land. I'd heard many stories in my time there, many interesting and heartfelt stories, stories that would break your heart if you let them, but who knows if any of them were real? I think they'd say anything to get some sympathy. But there was one I remember who made me wonder. Her name was Ella and she was a model prisoner whose reticence and despondency made her very popular with the guards. She was allowed special privileges and I was her guard on a couple of her outings. Something about her . . . I don't know. Somehow her words rang true. She was quiet at first, sullen, but as she got to know me, (I was considered one of the kinder guards by the prisoners) she told me a story about the good old days, as she called them, back when Prince Charming was still charming and she'd had it all. She said they'd attended all the balls and soirees of the upper echelons of society, and they were always in constant demand. 

   “Ah, society!” she'd sing, then swirl and laugh, imagining herself back in the glow of those halcyon days. Then she'd fall over and I'd help her up to continue hobbling along on our errand. She was talkative that day, our last together, perhaps because it was a beautiful spring day. 

   “Yes, Yorgy, I just about became Queen.” She looked at me through narrowed eyes. “You ever hear the story of Cinderella?” I nodded yes. It's a common enough Fæirie tale and I supposed everyone had. She was silent for a ways, then she began talking.    

   “It was the sisters, Yorgy, the sisters that took me down,” she said with a forlorn expression. “Thought I had 'em beat when I put on that slipper and it fit, Yorgy, it fit!” I think she was proudest of that. That it fit. 

   “But wasn't it your slipper Ella?” I asked. I was beginning to wonder if she might be Cinderella, though she hadn't actually said so. “Didn't you leave it when the Fæirie Godmother only gave you 'till midnight?” 

   “That was the problem, you know, what caused all the trouble.” She sighed with a wistful look. “Wasn't enough time.” She looked at me with tragic eyes. “Can you imagine? Midnight! What party ends at midnight?” Looking down she shook her head. “They called me Cinder back then, you know. 'Cause of all the ashes and soot from my work. Those sisters. Oh, they were nasty they were.” 

   “So the slipper fit . . . ?” I prompted. 

   “Yeah it fit alright! It was a miracle in technology, that slipper. And it fit Yorgy! It fit!” 

   “And the Prince?” 

    “He asked me to marry him! Right then and there!” She laughed and her eyes glittered. “I said yes, of course. We set the date for one year from that day, as was proper for a Prince and all. And what a year it was Yorgy! During the season we made every ball, soiree and gathering that the upper classes threw, many in our honor.  And for the off-season we traveled the world!” She gazed skyward with dreamy eyes. 

   “Sounds pretty wonderful Ella,” I said, smiling with her. 

   “It was . . . ” She seemed pensive and distant. “The Queen never liked me though. We never got close, nor the King,” she murmured quietly.  

   “So did you marry? What I heard was that you lived happily ever after, you know? Nothing about you actually getting married though, and I thought . . .” 

   “Do I look happy?” she snapped. She was indeed a wretched sight, broken down and feeble, while still young! Well, fairly young. I couldn't answer and she continued. “They just wanted a happy ending for the peasants, that's all. For people like us, to keep us in our place, make us think we have a chance.” Her mood turned dark and her countenance angry. We walked in silence for a ways. Then I asked again about the wedding. I couldn't help it, I was curious. Why couldn't they marry? 

   She grimaced, “There we were, a week before the wedding and in march the sisters. Evil they were Yorgy, and grinning at their malicious antics. They claimed the law stated that no crown prince could marry without the receipt of a handsome dowry from the bride's family.” She stopped and scowled. “I heard later they'd bought a few members of parliament and had the law written for them.” She looked away, “Don't know where they'd get the money though. Anyway, Chester, the Prince you know. Chester Charming. Chi-chi he used to say.” She laughed. “He'd go, 'I'm chi-chi-Charming! Chi-chi-Chester Charming!' And he was too, Yorgy! Oh, he was so charming. We laughed all the time! Always joyful together. Always.” She remained silent for a while as we walked. 

   “So you never married?” I asked. 

   “No, never. Oh Chester, my darling Chester, he said he didn't care about any stinking law, he'd made his choice and that was that.” She smiled at me. I could see the beauty still there behind the haggard lines. “But the courts sided with the sisters. Said the Prince was not free to marry anyone he wanted, especially someone from the poor side, if you know what I mean. They said he had an obligation to the Kingdom to uphold his station which meant, pretty much, that he must marry someone of his social standing. Someone of his class. That's wealth and power Yorgy.” 

   With a resigned look she continued, “He was the only heir you know. The only son yet he offered to renounce his Prince status and marry me as a commoner.” Now she looked sad and bitter. “That's when those people started to appear, people I didn't know, and they began accusing me of crimes, Yorgy, horrible crimes. Neither Chester nor I had any defense against their carefully contrived accusations and eventually they even had Chester looking at me with suspicion. Finally they locked me up so I couldn't cause them any more trouble.” She was silent for a long moment. “Somehow the sisters presented the Kingdom with a sizable dowry and Chester was forced to concede. Today he's a miserable King in a miserable marriage to a dominating Queen who, along with her sister, are the true rulers here. Everyone knows it.” She scowled. “While I languish in prison.” She paused, then whispered, “All for greed Yorgy. All for gold and power.” 


At The Emergent Sea - By Lillow Mi 

   There was a gnarly old tree growing down on the bottom. It was difficult to tell what it was the bottom of, but you could tell it was the bottom. You could also tell that the gnarly old tree was old. Maybe older than anything living. Maybe much, much older, but who could say? 

   We'd been traveling for days to get here. We started by going to Bluff, which is a strong potentiality point that semi-exists between certain dimensional structures that . . . okay, that's not very clear, I can see that. Let's see, how about it's a place between the realms of magic and the great unknown? Yeah, that seems reasonable, as long as you remember that the great unknown has many layers. You know, the first layers you might just zap through thinking about stuff, then, if you've a mind, a few layers more are discovered with some mindfulness, calm and reflective meditations. You begin to notice that each layer of understanding is becoming more beautiful and astonishing even as they become more difficult to attain. Many layers have layers of their own that baffle and amaze. It takes lots of work to get to Bluff even though it's just sideways from here. It's all pretty subtle. 

   Once you're in Bluff it's easy to get sidetracked and we are wary. We pass a restaurant we like and heavenly smells are wafting around in front of us but we persevere, remembering the importance of our mission. Hatred, greed and lies have brought the mythical world to its knees and even the magical realms are threatened. We must continue. We pass the Witch's Council, then the Kerfuffle and finally the local office of the Akashic Records, each beckoning, pulling at us in its own way. We continue resolutely and now we step into the Weird. We are floating in some sort of thick air, air that you can easily breathe and move around in yet feels like being in water. I know this to be the membrane that surrounds the Cosmic Ocean where the dreamer sleeps, but that is not our goal as we would not be able to return from that place. I steer us toward a giant lotus looking platform and we settle easily onto it. There is creation emerging in unlimited waves from everywhere on this green platform, waves that match the waves underneath, pulsing and radiating outward.  This unlimited potential flows upward until it emerges into the world of ideas. This is what we call the Emergent Sea.  

   The gnarly tree regards us as we regard it, of this I am sure. We are getting close I think, but too, I know the tree to be massive beyond reckoning. The air is thick yet easy to breathe. Sometimes when Ishmael speaks, I see little bubbles coming from his mouth that float slowly upward. I start to laugh but stop, realizing that to do so would release bubbles from my own mouth that have built up. Then I let them go, slowly, watching in wonder as they float past my face. With a tinge of fear I breathe in but the air is fine. I can see faint swirls in the air as Treywiz strides forcefully on, his cape flowing in the currents. We are all easy to laugh, feeling a peculiar buoyancy, perhaps due to the thick air but more likely due to the joy-filled love that is pouring over us in waves. It is a silent sound that's flying out of the om song and thrumming in the deepest tones you can imagine, then deeper, while soaring to the highest tones you can imagine, then higher, humming together, all together low and high and in between but each voice distinct, each voice heard when it begins and each voice heard when it ends, the om song continues no matter what, perhaps forever.    

   Finally we stand before the gnarly old tree, feeling its ancient beauty and grace while knowing that we could not see all of it, not all at once anyway, maybe never. Somehow, we understood that humanity's voice, which includes all the voices of magic, could decrease a lot, or even cease yet the om song would continue unabated. It would be different and many new voices would appear to fill the empty niches we'd leave behind but it would continue, nonetheless. Today's quarrels and wars mean nothing to the movement of time except perhaps to add grief and woe to the experience, neither of which is necessary. You do not need darkness to appreciate light nor do you need struggle to be strong, rather what is needed is joy, appreciation, and lots of love because the Emergent Sea will always provide. 

The Emergent Sea 

Part Three: Going Home 

   There has always been a meadow and there will always be a meadow. Even when the world is gone to dust the meadow's particular loving energy will endure. Our return from the Emergent Sea was peaceful and kind. We went first to our meadow's living room in front of Holly's Palatial Estate where we spread out on the chairs and couches. Kindness. Loving kindness is what the Emergent Sea has taught us because nothing else matters. 

   We have our beautiful earth to protect and nurture, our Mother Gaia, who is blessed by Father Sun, and this is where we will find peace and love or war and hell. It is always our choice, even when the monsters have us against the wall, it is our choice. Just following orders is an invalid response to atrocity, as is fear, because they are complicity. Here's the bottom line choices for all foundations: Love or Hate. All subsequent choices will then have their basis in and be colored by one or the other. Here, on this farm and in this meadow, we choose Love. 

   Spike and Rover, along with Ishmael, Lorna and Ishytoo, have gone to the Howling Wall to prepare, because tonight we will howl for love, justice, and the well-being of all people. The Moon and the Stars will bear witness to our resolve, knowing that tonight we vow to fight no more forever. 

   Sweet Loretta has come, howling for all the puppies and their mamas, along with Fido who has come bounding from over there to howl for them guys. We howl for freedom and equality for all. Here there is room for all and there is sustenance. I see Mother Moon smiling down on our efforts because she feels our resolve as we howl like we have never howled before. Lightning flashes and the winds scream around us, all standing tall and proud.   

   The next morning there is a mist over the meadow, overcast and sullen with a rainbow showing where Father Sun has peeked through. I like this rainy smell when the season is new and sniff contentedly as I stroll across the wet grass toward Holly's Palatial Estate where our chairs and tables have been set under its broad awning, providing a dry and protected spot in which to enjoy the farm's perennial favorite, tea and biscuits, while watching the rain. The rain is beloved in these environs and it is nice to admire it from a dry perspective. 

   We have all accepted our roles as doers of anonymous good. We are committed to random acts of kindness. We do not fight evil, rather with love we show its failings. We spread a quiet sense of peace and loving kindness that allows for the possibility of a better world. But do not mistake our loving kindness for passivity. We are steadfast defenders as well, defending innocent goodness in all its myriad forms. This is called resistance. It is through love and resistance that we will base our actions.  

   I keep trying to get back to the garden, well the meadow actually but I really like that phrase 'back to the garden.' Sounds epic, doesn't it? In any case I continue to try to recapture those halcyon days when adventure was around each corner or through each door or . . . well, it was just there, wherever. Now there is a vile cloud that haunts us, created by a despicable man complete with evil minions who haunt the well-being of my family and my friends and their families. His intention to hurt us is unmistakable. This is damn creepy. 

   Having said that, I know the meadow is our only answer to these atrocities. It's all we can do to somehow put love back into the equation. We send you all love and appreciation. Together we can get through this disgraceful national nightmare.    

The Emergent Sea, Part one: Again - By Lillow Mi 

    There has always been a fascinating allure to our meadow, itself more than just an assemblage of grass, flowers, shrubs, and trees, all a buzz with an incredible assortment of fauna, Fæiries and other curious beings. It seems more than all that, somehow more. It is primarily the magic of all these parts together that makes it so amazing but there's one more thing necessary to attain our meadow's level of creative perfection and that is location. Where it sits in the Universe. Not every spot can do this level of magic nor do a lot of the spots that can, do. When the rider said, “Can do,” it was understood to be in that spot particularly wherein it could be done. Couldn't be done in a swamp somewhere, pretty sure.         

   Anyway, this particular meadow said can do and did and there you go, a meadow of epic potential. We exist near the edge of its potentiality but manage to bask in it nonetheless, while drawing what we can of its magic. The muses walk through here naked and even the flowers move to the rhythms of a silent sound. We are seated beneath a Bodhi tree and occasional wafts of flower petals shower down from heaven. Holly, the meadow's loving mistress has served us tea and biscuits, the preferred treat of the meadow and we are jovial, luxuriating in the warmth of Father Sun, unaware of the passage of time. 

   This is, of course, where the action would begin, normally. Someone would arrive, say Windy for example, and deliver some sort of news that would require we take some sort of action and then away we'd go! Usually. Today this did not happen, signaling, well normally signaling, a red flag alert to our otherwise cautious minds. Today this also did not happen. With no message and no signal we remained in somnolent bliss.          

   Meanwhile, unbeknownst to us, the skies were filling with smoke and reverberating with the angry barks and bellows of war machines. The Orcs were leading an assault of Trolls against the cowering fabric of life after having forced the once protective polity into collapse under their corruption. The Grimn-Leapers have worked tirelessly behind the scenes helping to destroy the very society that had nurtured them, helping the shrieking Orcs and the marching Trolls bring it all down. It was almost too late when we were finally alerted. 

   I had slowly become aware of someone yelling at me in close range. Very close and my eyes shot open. Shaguti stood staring at me with that shocked look people get when they're shocked. 

   “Oh, uh, Shaguti. Gosh, uh . . .” I muttered, terribly disoriented, like I'd been awakened from a deep sleep. I was confused about where I was but could see chairs, like in the meadow, and the other Vanara waking the people slouched in them. I saw Ishmael sit up and shake his head. I looked at Shaguti. 

   “You have been mesmerized Lillow,” he said with a grimace. “A giant bubble was put over all of you! You were totally cut off until we got here.” 

   “Hadda break through the bubble,” Véebrishar added, walking up. 

   “Tough bubble too. Well made, took us hours,” Shaguti murmured. 

   “Meanwhile the Trolls are attacking and society is collapsing,” Véebrishar announced just as Ishmael and Jango arrived. 

   “Collapsing? Did I hear right?” Ishmael asked. “We're under attack?” 

   “I'm just now hearing about it,” I told him. “We were mesmerized, Ishmael.” 

   “Yes, we're under attack,” Shaguti confirmed gravely, while everyone else gathered closely around, staring in disbelief and horror. “Mesmerized, then attacked.” He paused, looking around at everyone, their eyes round and fearful. Then, looking at me he whispered, “The barbarians are at the gate.” 

   We knew what we had to do. It was time to visit the Emergent Sea.   

Next, Part Two: At The Emergent Sea

The Dog Tales #6, You're Always Welcome Here - By Lillow Mi 

   Tadfast Chop, herself a Dog of the Chihuahua persuasion, could not help but view the antics of Spike and his gang with mild trepidation. They were all denizens of Gladstar Farm but with different duties requiring different skills which gave a higher status to some, within the manor at least, or so Tadfast liked to believe. As head chef, in charge of a constantly bustling kitchen and a staff of hundreds, possibly millions, depending on the season, she was of clear importance, while Spike and that scruffy gang of his, well, not so much. Little of value that she could see, she mused, shaking her head, and smiling wryly. She thought of Rover, a ne'er-do-well living in Holly's Palatial Estate next door to Jack Ass, the meadow's keeper. Now Jack's doing a skillful job deserving of merit, she thought with a smile. But that Rover? Just a gangly brown-haired hound with big floppy ears and a serious expression. Vacant was how she saw it but everyone else called it serious, so whatever. She shrugged both mentally and physically. And how about that dandy Fido? She smiled as she began chopping a large pile of vegetables. Good looking guy who doesn't seem as disreputable as the others but still, a rather cavalier sort. And Alley! Do they even know he's not a Dog? They make so much racket with their howling who could tell? Why the Witches had to put up a magic noise blocker that sent their howls into outer space, but she doubted the Dogs knew about that. Tadfast had to laugh thinking of it. Despite everything, she loved that gang. 

   While Tadfast was ruminating about the Bulldog gang's indiscretions, Spike was himself embarking on a new mission with his friend Rover. He'd promised to show Fido their magical kitchen or cornucopia as Spike liked to think of it and Rover was glad to join him. Alley had been poking about and now surreptitiously joined them. Neither would have been surprised had they noticed. 

   They were about halfway across the meadow, the usual arrival point of Fido who normally came bounding across from wherever he came bounding from to here, right here usually, except that today, Fido, in fact, did not come bounding. Spike stopped abruptly while Rover continued, glancing back curiously before slowly coming to a stop. He did not turn around but rather twisted his head around to watch Spike. 

   “Where's Fido?” Spike asked, looking around. He assumed no one knew when no one answered and sat down to think about it. “So which way does he come bounding from?” he finally asked Rover but included Alley by glancing at him. 

   Rover looked around, then turned around and sat, facing Spike. “Seems like off thataway,” he said, waving with his nose to the east. 

   “Yeah thataway,” Alley said with uncertainty. “Pretty sure,” he added. 

   Spike growled low like he does and looked to the east. There was a broad expanse of meadow and beyond that were trees that marked the beginning of the forest where the eastern perimeter trail ran. Probably where Fido would be coming from, hopefully anyway, because beyond that was the Glamoury Wall, which he remembered vaguely from when he'd first arrived on the farm, having passed  through it, but since then he'd heard terrible things, things he believed despite having passed easily through it before. “Thataway, huh?” he asked. 

   “Pretty sure,” Rover answered. 

   They were stopped on their quest to visit Tadfast Chop who, perhaps for that very reason, had been thinking of them. Spike and Rover had hopes of fresh baked Dog biscuits while Alley hoped for a bowl of cream. Now, however, their plans had gone awry, all because today was also the day that Spike had promised to show Fido their treasure producing kitchen, only Fido was not here. 

   Spike continued to growl low and glance nervously to the east. “Well, there's nothing for it then. Let's go pick him up,” Spike snarled, starting to walk resolutely eastward. 

   Rover looked askance at this and said, “You know, now 'at I think on it, seems like he comes from thataway.” He nodded his nose toward Tadfast's kitchen to the west.   

   Spike stopped and looked back. “Thataway?” he asked. 

   “Seems like it,” Rover said, looking at the ground. 

   Alley, who had gone trotting ahead of Spike, turned back, and yelled, “No, you said this away!” 

   Spike looked back and forth between them with a darker look each time. Then, as he sat fuming, Alley sat waiting and Rover sat sitting, a figure appeared from the north, leaving the main drive by the Golly Orchard, and bounding their way. It was, of course, Fido. 

   “Hey guys!” he called as he neared. “Thanks for waiting for me. Gosh, running late today and I'm so excited to meet Tadfast and her magical kitchen that, well, things came up! Wouldn't you know it?” 

   “You would,” Alley agreed, strolling over. Then with a wink at Rover, “We didn't mind waiting though. Gooda see you!” 

   “Righto then,” Rover barked, “Let's do it!” He turned and led the way to Tadfast's kitchen with a bemused Spike following. 

   Spike felt a lot better when Tadfast, smiling indulgently, presented them with a large bowl of freshly baked biscuits and Alley with a large saucer of cream. 

   “Wow, this is even better than Sweet Loretta's,” Fido enthused. “Thanks Tadfast!” 

   “You can call me Taddy like the others do Fido. You're always welcome here.” 

   Rover and Spike beamed at their friend as Alley lapped up cream.

The Dog Tales #5, New Things - By Lillow Mi 

 The Dog Tales # 5  - New Things 

by Lillow M. Gladstar 

New things appear like donuts and donkeys, 

new things all gather wherever they may. 

It's a tall tale but listen, I don't really do this, 

it's just that these new things have got in my way. 

   “And that's another one!” Spike growled, walking down the path. 

   “Huh? Whazzat?” Alley asked, looking back. 

   “That new thing! Didn't you see it?” 

   Alley stopped and peered back, “No, I don't see anything unusual. Is it those flowers? They're new.” 

   “Yeah,” Spike barked. “We hadda walk around them!” He stopped and turned, glaring at the flowers. “See there? Last week we came this way and walked right on through. This week we gotta walk around!” 

   “Didn't bother me none,” Rover murmured from where he stood a few paces beyond Spike looking back. 

   “Gosh, those flowers are pretty,” Alley purred, walking toward them. Then he bent over and ate one. “Mmmm, pretty and tasty too!” 

   “Bah!” Spike growled as he turned and resumed walking.  

   Just then Fido came bounding over from wherever he comes from. “Hey guys!” he called out. “Wassup?” 

   Spike looked at him, “Oh hey Fido. Not much. We're just going to visit Sweet Loretta.” 

   “She got her hair done,” Alley said, rejoining the group. 

   “That so?” Fido said with a smile. “Mind if I join you?” 

   “Whatever,” Spike growled. 

   “Yeah, c'mon,” Rover said, grinning. “She serves the best Dog biscuits in town.” 

   “Thanks, I will!” Fido said, joining them. 

   “That's what broke us up, you know,” Alley said quietly, slipping up beside Fido. 

   “Huh? Broke what up?” Fido asked. 

   “Our group, the Doggone Three that's what. Best howling quartet in the county. And it was them Dog biscuits that done it,” he answered. “Those infernal Dog biscuits were everywhere! Wait'll you see sweet Loretta's spread, you'll see what I mean.” Then he took off across the meadow chasing what looked like a Fæirie flittering around in a teasing manner.  

   Spike grunted watching him go, Rover continued ambling in his usual lethargic manor and Fido fell in behind, wearing a thoughtful expression. 

   Alley rejoined them as they passed through the front gate and into the mythical world. They knew to be very careful in the mythical world as there were catchers that grab people and imprison them for no other reason than walking without a Human. The mythical realms were frightening. Fortunately Sweet Loretta's place was near and they made the journey with no mishaps. 

   Sweet Loretta was sitting in front of a small cabin her Humans had made for her in a small meadow. Spike liked the small meadow even though it was completely contained by wooden fences, except for the crack where his group slipped through of course. Spike felt safe there, perhaps because of the fences. It was behind a Human home and Sweet Loretta was kept well provisioned by the Humans who otherwise pretty much left her alone. Left to her own devices you could say. Anyway Sweet Loretta had a sweet set-up and Spike usually enjoyed visiting. 

   There were several leafy trees and a few mad Squirrels that Alley liked to chase in the small meadow. He said he'd never actually catch one, it was just the thrill of the chase, so to speak. Rover plopped down in some grassy shade with Fido nearby while Spike and Sweet Loretta sniffed each other's . . . well, you know how Dog's do. They were both tail wagging happy to see each other. Alley snorted disdainfully at the full bowl of Dog biscuits then strolled off to the meadow's far side where he knew the Squirrels hung out. 

   “Hey, gooda see you guys!” Sweet Loretta said, grinning wide. “Help yourselves to the biscuits!” Alley looked at her with disbelief while finding his hiding spot by the fence but Spike grinned as he grabbed a couple. 

   “Mmm, good,” he mumbled through his crunching. 

   “So whadya think of my new do?” Sweet Loretta asked, strutting around. She was a Poodle and there were large balls of fur left on her head, her feet and tail.  

   “That's all done?” Spike asked incredulously. 

   Fido's eyes got round and Rover sat up, both watching with concerned looks. Alley snickered but said nothing. 

   “Well, yes!” Sweet Loretta said with a scowl. “It's the newest craze, pretty sure.” Now she had a dreamy smile, “Anyway I feel sexy.” She looked at Spike with lowered, fluttering eyes. 

   Spike reared his head back with eyes wide, “Uh sure, yeah, that's a real nice haircut, uh huh, real nice.” 

   “Real nice,” Rover echoed. 

   “Uh-huh, nice,” Fido repeated, eyeing the Dog biscuits.  

   “Thanks!” Sweet Loretta said with her dreamy smile. “I do feel pretty.” 

   “Real purty,” Rover echoed. Spike gave him a questioning look, but Rover didn't look back. Instead he ambled over to the bowl and began munching. Eating was his superpower after all. Fido, realizing the Dog biscuit options were dwindling, quickly joined him. 

   Alley jumped out of hiding at a Squirrel who chattered and squeaked, not really saying anything, while running furiously across the grass and up a tree. Curiously most of the fauna in the mythical world cannot speak, including Dogs and Cats. That's why Spike and Rover like Sweet Loretta so much, because she can talk, and howl, plus the Dog biscuits of course. 

   Sweet Loretta smiled at Spike. Now he could smell the sickly-sweet scents that the barber had sprinkled on her. He backed up, looking over at Rover and Fido who were munching contentedly. 

   “Well gosh, Sweet Loretta,” Spike said, looking at her then backing up some more. “We just wanted to invite you to the howl tonight. Waxing moon you know, gettin' big,” he looked over at Rover, “So, uh, com'on you guys, we got business to attend to. Thanks Sweet Loretta. See ya tonight!” He began walking toward the fence opening. 

   Rover grabbed another mouthful of biscuits and followed, “Thags for da bithcuts, you look good!” Fido smiled and nodded agreement, unable to speak with his mouth full, as he trailed Rover. 

   “Yeah real pretty,” Spike said looking back, “really. Pretty.” Then looking forward and continuing on he muttered quietly, “And new.” 

     “Thanks, honey,” Alley called to Sweet Loretta, who was watching their departure wryly. “You look gorgeous!” The Squirrel chattered angrily from high in a tree.

The Clarabelle Rangers, Investigation #45 - By Lillow Mi 

I've been adventuring with a group of heroes called the Clarabelle Rangers, based out of the ancient spaceship Clarabelle – Holy Boat. The Rangers are led by Treywiz, a wizard, and include me, Ishmael, Spike, Dimitri the Pteronodon and Véebrishar, Jango and Shaguti who are three Monkeys of the ancient Vanara. Here's our recent adventure in the nearby mythical realm. 

The Clarabelle Rangers: Investigation #45 

by Lillow Mi Gladstar 

       The Rangers are investigating curious mental derangements leading to dystopian dictatorships. Many of the afflicted are not discernible at first glance or even at second or third glance. The way to know them is to let them gather to don and display their angry masks, but that carries risks. We have identified three main types though they are overlapping a lot of the time. With each type we have given the name we know them by in the magical realms. 

   The easiest to identify are the orange-sky flyers because they are always heavily armed. The orange-sky flyers are chaos incarnate. Their berserker rage is unfathomable and extremely dangerous. An orange-skied post-apocalyptic wasteland is their goal, although many of them don't know or care enough to know, it is, nonetheless an orange-skied wasteland that they strive for. They are ready to infiltrate any group to achieve these ends. These we call Orcs. 

   Another mental derangement that works toward dystopian dictatorships is the religious fanatic. Those whose leap of faith causes them to judge, slander and demean those they deem irreligious or worse, serving a false god (any god except theirs). They demand that all, regardless of faith, serve and obey their god and his rules, as they interpret them. Seeing themselves as the superior chosen people they oppress those whose color, social status, or lifestyle they detest based on something their god probably said once, claiming their god requires them to take action or he'll smite everybody. Action that, coming from god, their god, is seen as necessary (to prevent mass smiting) no matter how cruel or unusual, for the greater good of all. Except little if any good ever emerges from their machinations. These we call Grimn-Leapers. 

   Yet another derangement is the leader fixation of those whose minds are gone from rage and hate, seeking any revenge to assuage their guilt, awash in the Grimn-Leaper delusion, especially its skin color fantasy. They attach themselves firmly to their perception of a strong-armed father/leader who will tell the world how great they are and they will obey him blindly, undermining any who oppose. These we call Trolls. 

   We have been investigating these horrors because our neighbors in the mythical realms are in serious danger of falling under their sway. This would be hurtful to all realms. Projection, lies, and fear are how the madness is promoted and many with undeveloped thinking skills listen. We are concerned about magic's efficacy against this encroaching evil.   

   Today this big old place nearby seems to be suffering from a Grimn-Leaper and Troll invasion along with Orcs making raid-like runs through every so often, like they been doing all year. We don't believe most of them actually nest here but, because of the loving and accepting ways of those who do nest here, these creatures feel they must come and disrupt them. They don't like the foreigners these locals let in plus they don't like how they try to help them poor folk or how they try to help anybody for that matter. They just don't like people helping people. It's so that everyone can get really tough, like they are or at least like they'd be if you couldn't see them. They are hard to see but their presence is felt, and nobody gets anything for free, ever, but you can charge it if you don't have the cash. The whole thing smells bad and we approach slowly. 

   Treywiz, our expedition leader, takes the three Vanara around side trails, circling behind while I stay hidden with Dimitri, Ishmael, and Spike, watching the infernal gathering. There are about three hundred Trolls with Grimn-Leapers mixed in occupying the big old place. The occasional Orc is spotted, heavily armed and angry, ordering the Trolls about while the Grimn-Leapers nod agreement. We stay hidden awaiting Trewiz's signal. 

   Soon I see the Vanara in the distance. They have become huge, bigger than elephants, and wear fierce expressions as they march toward the Trolls who are backing up nervously. Véebrishar, Jango and Shaguti, the three Monkeys who are the Vanara are from an ancient race of noble Monkeys who fight evil with their magical powers. Now they roared and many of the Trolls turned to flee, only to find Dimitri the Pteronodon with his wings spread wide and howling raucously at them. They turned to the side and I was there with Ishmael and Spike and we were barking but the terrified Trolls, Grimn-Leapers and Orcs would have trampled us so we jumped out of the way. Kept barking though. Some of the Orcs started shooting their guns and rockets and a few Trolls dropped. We felt bad about that but at least they were going away and took the fallen with them. 

   When they were all gone the Fæiries and Elves came and started helping us try to get the smell out. Forest nymphs and many of the fauna helped too because the smell was pretty awful. Our suspicions that most the delusional dystopians did not nest here was confirmed when all but a few fled to another state. The few that were left here scurried and hid but we weren't interested in revenge. It was the multitude that existed in other states that was our concern. We knew they would not give us peace.

A Taradiddle: The Dog Tales #4 - By Lillow Mi 

Howlers Will Howl 

    It was a dark and stormy night and the moon was full. Spike was out back howling with Alley and his friend Rover when Fido first arrived. Fido appeared between lightning flashes and seemed to glow in the light of the moon, whenever it showed through the violently roiling clouds. You could hear banshees and angry ghosts wailing all around, like being inside a tornado. Spike loved this kind of weather and stood tall, his long Sugfissel tail flapping in the wind, howling with raucous gusto. Alley, who usually sat on top of the wall for these howlfests now sat in a protected spot against it, keeping out of the wind, watching, and adding a yowl from time to time. Being a black Cat he was somewhat difficult to see but you could hear him okay. Rover stood baying his soulful renditions beside and a little back from Spike, keeping his eyes closed against the wind but opening them wide whenever a lightning flash occurred. It was amazing! But all that glorious symphonic howling stopped when Fido appeared. Even the wind stopped and a lightning flash fizzled out halfway down. Now the full moon showed her face, thrusting the simpering clouds aside and making Fido really glow. 

   “Hello,” Fido said quietly. He could be heard now that all the racket, er symphonic harmonies have quieted.   

   Spike, who'd been leaning into the wind, had fallen over when it quit and was now standing up brushing himself off. He was scowling but stopped when he saw how much Fido was glowing. “Who're you?” he asked. Then looking around, “And what happened to our storm?” 

   Fido smiled. He was a small unassuming Dog of Scottish descent and his smile was engaging. “I'm Fido from beyond way over there and I couldn't help but notice your storm and its curious sounds.” He looked around. “It's a calm moonlit night everywhere but here, yet you're all howling up a storm. I just had to look. Why was it stormy?” 

   Spike shrugged, “I dunno. Just seems to happen when we howl.” 

   “It's part of our charm,” Alley added from the darkness. 

   “How come you glow?” Rover asked. 

   “It's part of my charm,” Fido answered smiling, “but really, I don't know. Maybe we all glow in moon light?” 

   “Wow, that's cool!” Alley said, sticking his paw out into the moonlight and watching it glow. 

   “Yeah, guesso,” Spike said sadly as the clouds dissipated. “But can ya howl?” 

   Fido smiled, stood tall and throwing his head back let loose a howl of flowing beauty with hints of pleading angst intermixed with joie de vivre and the triumph of victory. A soft breeze swirled around, dancing lightly to his howl while his glow seemed to increase. Everyone watched with wide eyes and gaping jaws. When he was done, he sat down and smiled. 

   “Yeah, guessat's okay,” Spike murmured with a worried look. 

   “Oh my gosh!” Alley purred, “That was fabulous! Best howl I've heard . . .” He stopped at Spike's angry look. “I mean it was swell. Not, of course, what we're used to, but uh, it was okay.” He ended with an encouraging smile. 

    Rover just watched, standing back with a concerned look. 

   “So can I join your howl?” Fido asked. 

   Alley was grinning and nodding yes as Spike answered, “Well, I dunno. We are professionals after all. Can't just take on anyone 'at comes along. I mean . . .” 

   “Sounded pretty good to me,” Rover said from the side. Spike looked over with a surprised look. “Real nice actually,” Rover continued, glancing at Alley who seemed pleasantly pleased and was nodding yes. 

   “Real nice?” Spike said quietly. He was realizing that Fido had sounded good. Real good. “Well, okay then,” he continued gruffly. “I guess you can join us.” Then he stuck his head up, “But always remember, I'm the boss. The head howler, you hear?” 

   “Of course,” Fido said, grinning wide. “You're the leader.” Spike briefly looked embarrassed but when the howl continued it was the most beautiful and least disturbing howl they'd ever done.        

Politics - By Lillow Mi 

   “There never was a solid border, you see, and that's why all the confusion, really,” Miss Mars said with a worried look. “It was just that people were going from everyday reality to magical illusion simply by walking along. No signs, you know. Nothing to let 'em know.”  Inspector Widefoot nodded wisely, jotting in his notebook. “I mean you gotta warn 'em, don't ya?” she finished. 

   “Well, yeah,” a Dwarf standing behind them muttered. “'Course ya do. Jess plain common sense anyhow. I mean you coming to a rocky patch, why, you warn 'em.” Miss Mars nodded agreement. 

   Inspector Widefoot looked up from his pad, eyebrows high. “Well, yes,” he replied, smiling, “simple enough really. You just find the border, a border that is always moving as you'll recall, sometimes normal, sometimes magical and then you put up a sign.” He smiled as the Dwarf scowled and Miss Mars looked confused. 

   “Can't you just attach it to the border?” Miss Mars asked. “So that it stays wherever the border goes?” Inspector Widefoot regarded her with wide eyes that slowly became thoughtful. The Dwarf spit on the ground and walked away. 

   Inspector Widefoot jotted a note then slapped his notebook shut. “I shall look into this Miss Mars,” he said with a determined expression. They both gazed in the direction the unsuspecting traveler had gone. A confused looking duck gazed back at them. 

   That duck was a human once, strolling along on his own private business, thank you, when he stepped on something squishy. He knew immediately he had done a bad thing, a really bad thing seeing the magical border whipping around like in a windstorm so he was not terribly surprised to find himself transformed into a duck. He'd known this was disputed borderland so he should have been more careful he berated himself, but it could be worse, he thought. All he had to do was step in that pile again and it would put him right. 

   Then the magical border disappeared, off somewhere else it would seem and he was left a duck. He looked over at what he'd stepped in and saw a large dropping from some animal, likely, that was not only disgusting, but no longer magically imbued. Miss Mars gave him a sad look and with a shake of her head walked away. He wiped the muck off his foot as best he could (curious things these duck feet) then followed Inspector Widefoot back to his headquarters, wondering what he might discover. There seemed no other course available. 

   Widefoot strutted into the headquarters building like a triumphant king entering his palace. Various secretaries and junior detectives suddenly became noticeably busier. 

   “Hardly and Widefoot! Into my office,” he called as he strolled importantly through the desks of his outer office and staff. Chester Widefoot, Detective Chief Inspector Widefoot that is (boss) had been criticized for hiring his son but claimed he didn't know that Chester Widefoot Jr. was his son. He seemed surprised when the similarities of name and family resemblance were pointed out, totally ignoring the woman who claimed to be his wife and Chester Junior's mother. He told the investigators that it was all poppycock, then he waved his hands mysteriously, saying, “Nothing untoward here. No nepotism here. Look away, look away.” And the investigators did just that, so that now Detective Widefoot Jr. is an up and coming member of Chief Inspector Widefoot's staff. His parents are so proud.     

   Chief Inspector Widefoot sat at his desk, sipping the coffee that one of his secretaries had left for him and rustled papers, a practice perfected from his own rookie detective days. Junior was the first to arrive followed quickly by Detective Olive Hardly, a promising young newbie like Junior except she probably wasn't the Chief Inspector's daughter. 

   “Curious case has come up with the magical border over in the disputed lands,” Chief Inspector Widefoot started. “Got another tourist turned into an animal, duck this time, rather routine I'm afraid, but what is interesting is an idea that I had when I was looking into it.” He looked around smugly. “See, I thought, well, why don't we just attach a sign to the border so that whenever the border moved the sign would move with it.” 

   “Brilliant!” Widefoot Jr. exclaimed. 

   “Sounds plausible,” Detective Hardly muttered as she jotted in her own notebook. “I'll get the department wizards on it immediately.” She snapped her notebook shut and walked away. 

   Later at the wizard's place, after the wizards had pretty much finished laughing at her, the head wizard explained, “See here detective, this problem is millions of years old and every possible solution has been thought of and tried already, many of them two or three times.” 

   Detective Hardly looked surprised then turned and stepped away, muttering, “DCI Widefoot isn't going to like this.” 

   “That disputed border's always been a headache,” Miss Mars, who just happened to be near, uttered sadly. “Looks like it's gonna stay that way now,” she finished with a sigh. 

   “It's been a real problem in my family,” said the duck, a familiar looking, though it's hard to tell with ducks, duck who also just happened to be near. 

   “Widefoot isn't gonna like this at all,” Detective Hardly repeated with a worried look as she left the wizard's place. Miss Mars and the duck followed. When they got to headquarters Detective Hardly pushed quickly in and they stood outside wondering what would happen next. Soon Chief Inspector Widefoot appeared and seeing them he stopped. 

   Clearing his throat and looking as dignified and important as he could, he spoke, “Ahem. I'm sorry to inform you, Miss Mars, but your fanciful idea about signs being attached to borders is the complete poppycock that I always thought it was, from the first, although, for your sake, I submitted it anyway.” He sniffed, shaking his head sadly as Miss Mars and the duck watched, expressionless. “They said no, of course, said it couldn't be done, silly idea really, so from now on we'll have no more foolishness on my watch! You understand? No ma'am, no more foolishness at all, by golly.” With that he strutted away, followed by Detective Widefoot Jr. and Detective Hardly who both sneered at her as they passed. No one noticed that the duck had already left. 

   Later that afternoon the magical border was back, moving slowly across the disputed lands with a rather obvious warning sign attached to it and moving along with it. A duck followed behind the sign and when it crossed a pile of something nasty that someone had stepped in earlier, why he just walked over and put his foot right in it and hey, presto, zap! There stood an ex-unsuspecting traveler who smiled brightly and walked away.