The writer sits alone at the kitchen table, munching on Belvitas and sipping at a glass of milk. Coffee is brewing (pumpkin creme brulée), sunlight is streaming in through two windows, and the wretched mess of dirty dishes and recycling she confronted on first entering (and which—horribly—impeded access to the coffee maker) has been set to rights.
The day is off to a good start.
The writer winces and glances in the direction of the door leading out to the garage. “What the blazes…”
The door swings open, and a slender fellow with a mop of red hair stumbles in the door. “Morning!” he says with a smile. “I’m dreadfully sorry about the racket. Just knocked over some brooms. It’s awfully messy out there.”
The writer sighs and sets down her glass of milk, raising her eyes heavenward in a plea for patience. “Corbin, what are you doing in my kitchen?”
“I don’t know,” comes the cheerful reply. “I thought you wanted to do a post with me. You did, didn’t you?”
“Yes, but did you have to stumble in while I’m eating breakfast?”
“Oh, breakfast!” His bright blue eyes light up. “May I join you?”
“May as well. Have a seat,” the writer says, gesturing to a chair opposite her.
Corbin thanks her with a nod and pulls off his cap, carefully smoothing the feathers adorning it. He looks up at the coat and hat rack, but it’s all full. With a shrug, he heads over to the table. As he sits down, his curious gaze roams over the table, taking in the stacks and stacks of blue packages covering its surface.
“Oreos?” he says, scooping up one and examining it. “What are these?”
“An American treat. They’re little cookies that come in different flavors. My parents are selling them on Amazon.”
Corbin nods, his mouth watering as he studies the packages more closely. “They look tasty. Mm, dark chocolate. And carrot cake and cinnamon bun and…”
“Corbin, enough. Set it down. You’re not eating those.”
“What about these?” he asks, picking up another package. “Most Stuf? Does that mean they have more filling?”
“Three times the usual amount. The calorie content is ridiculous. 110 calories in one Oreo.”
“Calories?” Corbin says, cocking his head to one side inquiringly. “What are those?”
The writer shakes her head, resisting the urge to slap her forehead. (It’s hard to remember all these things medieval characters don’t know about.) “Oh, never mind…”
“If you say so. Can I try one of these?” Corbin asks, holding up the Most Stuf package.
“No, set it down. And you’d better not “borrow” it, or steal it, or do anything else. I know what a troublemaker you are.”
“Trouble?” Corbin says, a hurt expression on his face. “I don’t cause trouble.”
“No, you only tried burning down a castle in the last book.”
“You liked it when I did that. You couldn’t stop laughing.”
The writer begins to reply, only to stop. As she looks at Corbin, her lips start to twitch. Quickly, she scoops up her glass of milk and takes a sip, hiding the smile threatening to break through.
Unfortunately, anyone—especially a clever fellow like Corbin—can see straight through her act. The grin returns to his face, and he laughs.
“See, you do like me! Everyone does. They can’t help it. I’m too charming.”
“And troublesome. Do you realize what a tight spot I’m in right now? I got most of a plot figured out and a grand, twisted ending all planned. And then I thought about what I need to do to get there and discovered that I’m stuck.”
“And the reason I’m stuck is you.”
“Me? What have I done?”
“You have just been you, that’s the problem. If you were more straight shooting like some of my other characters, this would be easier to work out. But no, you’re just this charming fellow roaming around Orrenda with a load of secrets tucked away inside you. And now I need to figure out how to get you to tell people those secrets.”
“Why should I? I’m on the…” Corbin breaks off, shaking his head. Across from him, the writer raises an eyebrow.
“No, no, never mind. It wasn’t anything important. I was just wondering if I might have some coffee, that’s all.”
The writer rolls her eyes, but gets up and pours him a cup of coffee. “Cream or sugar, Corbin? And how much?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I’ve never had coffee.”
The writer clucks her tongue as she brings him over the mug. “Oh, you poor soul. You’ve no idea what you’ve missed. Perhaps I should’ve added some Krupnikas to this instead of cream. Then you’d surely like it.”
“Krupnikas? What’s that?”
“As far as I know, my world’s version of your Liel.”
“Liel! Really? Can I have some?”
“Not now. Ours has alcohol in it.”
“I honestly can’t remember. And I’m not in the mood to bother about looking it up.”
Corbin only smiles, unperturbed. “Well then, I’ll content myself with coffee. But what did you want me for? Is it something important?”
“Very important. I used you as bribery.”
“Bribery!” Corbin exclaims, his face scrunching up with disgust. “Whatever for?”
“Oh, don’t get upset. It was for a good cause. I have a friend Katherine who’s also a writer. She’s been working on constructing a blog and I told her that if she got it up and I’d running, I’d do a post with you. And so, here we are.”
“Oh, do I get to see it? It’s the least you do in return for using me as bribery.”
The writer fetches her laptop and cracks it open. She shows Corbin “The Silver Pencil”. A grin breaks out on his face, and he claps his hands together enthusiastically (nearly knocking over his mug and spilling coffee all over the writer’s laptop.)
“Oh, it’s wonderful! Such beautiful craftsmanship. And look at Grogg! Veronica would like Grogg,” he adds wistfully. “I wish I could show him to her.”
The writer looks up at Corbin, another smile playing on her lips. “Still miss Veronica, Corbin?”
He nods, a dreamy expression on his face. “Who wouldn’t? There’s no one lovelier. But…” He sighs, dropping his head. “Never mind. It’s no good thinking of her now.”
“You may say that. But dear Corbin, we know how everyone loves you and I suspect your relationship with Veronica plays a big part in that. And if everyone likes seeing you together so much…”
“Well?” he exclaims, lifting his head, his eyes bright again. “What is it? Is there…”
“Hush, Corbin. They’ll find out soon enough. Back to Katherine’s blog. Tell me more about what you think of it.”
“I think you should read some of these books she recommends,” comes the prompt reply. “Look at this one: Toward the Gleam. Weren’t you planning to read that?”
“Yes, my only problem being that people want me to finish Battle for the Throne. I guess they want to read more about you.”
“Do they? Oh, that’s nice. I am one of the more charming characters, I suppose.”
“Yes, Corbin,” the writer says dryly. “No need to keep pressing the point. Now come, answer this question of Katherine’s: What would you like to see in her future blog posts?”
“Yes. He’s cute.”
The writer sucks in a sharp breath and slowly lets it out. “Corbin, that’s nice, but I think Katherine is talking about content. Would you like to see book reviews, short stories, articles about the craft of writing…?”
“What about articles on favorite characters? Do you think she’d do one about me? I like appearing in blog posts.”
The writer groans and buries her head in her hands. “Corbin…”
“What?” he says, giving her a puzzled look.
“Try to be helpful.”
“I am. Imagine if she put Grogg and me together! Wouldn’t that be wonderful?”
“As wonderful as you getting captured again. Come on, Corbin, give me an answer not centered around yourself, please.”
Corbin sniffs and leans over the laptop, chin cupped in one hand. After several moments’ thought, he speaks.
“Maybe articles about the craft of writing, especially ones about writing setting. I’m not a writer, but I’m interested in them.”
“Because I want you to write better scenes with me.”
(Here the writer lunges at Corbin. With a cry, he leaps back, knocking over his cup of coffee just as a cat is passing through the kitchen. The cat jumps a foot in the air as the mug crashes to the floor, sending coffee spewing in all directions. Fortunately, it misses the cat, and he bolts to safety upstairs.)
“Corbin!” the writer shouts. “What the blazes are you…”
“I’m leaving!” Corbin exclaims, snatching up his hat from his chair. “Dreadfully sorry. It’s an awful mess. I’ll call a servant to clean it up.”
“We don’t have servants, Corbin! This is a house, not a castle.”
“Oh, well, that’s a pity. Apologies again. Thank you for inviting me. I hope everything cleans up nicely. Goodbye.”
Corbin bolts back out the garage door, closing it with a bang. The writer herself slaps a hand down on the table in frustration.
“Oh, blast him! I could kill off his character for that.”
Grumbling, she puts on some music to play (as she often does when working) and sets to work cleaning up the mess. In the midst of mopping up coffee, the first song finishes and another begins playing, the happy, romantic “On the Street Where You Live” from My Fair Lady. As it is, this song also just happens to be one of the writer’s theme songs for Corbin.
As she listens to the song, picturing a scene from Book 3 in her head to it, a smile touches her lips, and she finds herself murmuring words another character has used to describe Corbin.
“Oh, he drives me mad.”