I entered the Mundane World through a secret weir near the ceiling of the Rideau Centre Mall, and flapped my faerie wings until I was on the ceiling. I changed my colour to stay camouflaged. Not that anybody looks straight up in a mall.
I hitched a ride on a puffy purple coat outside into the winter then flew over Confederation Park to see more closely what I was up against. The National Aboriginal Veterans Monument (and the weir that was on it) was guarded by the same small pigeon flock I’d seen earlier. I hid, motionless, in the branches of the leafless, snow-covered, tree, because Imbingy the faerie (that’s me) had a reputation around here. The pigeons were there to guard against exactly what I planned to do: lure some kid to the Interstitium to have his spark devoured by a greater fae.
A few minutes’ observation revealed that only three of the pigeons were on constant guard duty. The others would come and go. Three normal pigeons maybe I could handle, but some of them might be wizards.
You never know, with birds.
I needed more muscle. I flew to the pedestrian-only Sparks Street and found my old buddy Moliason Gentry. He was on top of a restaurant, picking at a frozen crust of pizza.
“Moliason! Good to see you again!”
The crow jerked his head to make eye contact, the way birds do. “Imbingy…”
He swallowed a bit of crust and stood still, wary. He didn’t seem very happy to see me. No surprise there. Only his feathers moved, ruffled by the cold wind. He sighed heavily. “Come on, I don’t want anybody seeing me talking to you.”
I understood. I didn’t want to be seen out in the Mundane World either. We flew to the nest he’d fixed up above a downspout, a cozy collection of sticks and Styrofoam (great insulation). Moliason settled in and puffed up his feathers for warmth.
Moliason gestured to the rim of the nest with his beak. I sat down.
“What can I do for you?”
“It’s time for me to call in a favour.”
Moliason nodded. He understood.
Last year, Moliason was a decent but brittle sorcerer when a pack of Underworld creatures started tearing through Ottawa’s bird community. He wanted to defend himself, his children, and the other birds, but he lacked a teacher to help him advance in his magical powers into some… well, darker areas. There’s only so much you can do with brittle magic.
I had introduced him to a grizzled old creature in the woods and promised Moliason safety while he studied there. I also promised not to tell the cardinals, the natural rulers of the animals, about the forbidden magic he was learning. Moliason Gentry became quite good, and when he returned to the hidden supernatural battle being waged on the streets of Ottawa he was an important part of driving the Underworld creatures away. He owed me big time and he knew it.
“I’m going to bring a child through the ingress weir at Confederation Park. You’re going to help me. It’s guarded.”
Moliason nodded. “Pigeons. I know them.”
“Good! Who are they?”
Moliason sighed. “Two males. Battle pigeons, but unarmed. Claire is a sorcerer.”
“Brittle or deep?”
“Brittle. But don’t underestimate her.”
“Right. They’re going to try to stop me, and you’re going to make sure me and the kid get through.”
Moliason looked out into the cold, white sky. He didn’t want to make eye contact. “They’re good birds…”
“Yes, well, you might have to kill them, but think of all the lives you saved getting your own deep magic. Right, buddy?”
Moliason just sighed again. “After I do this, we’ll be square?” He looked back at me with those sharp, crow eyes. Did you know that the humans say birds are the descendants of dinosaurs? Sometimes, when you look in their eyes, you can almost feel the T-Rex genes staring back at you.
“We’ll make it a bit of a more formal contract, of course, but basically yes.”
Moliason thought for a minute, but eventually nodded, as I knew he would. Refusing to help me would put him on a fae’s bad side, and nobody wants that.
“I’m going to befriend this kid, and talk him into leaving. Might only take a few hours, maybe a day. When I get the kid out of the Lord Elgin Hotel, you’ll be waiting outside. I’ll be hidden on his back, and you’ll be out of sight. He’ll cross the street to the park and climb the statue and enter the ingress weir. At some point the pigeons will try to stop him, and you do what you can to make sure the kid gets through.”
“Do I need to kill anyone?”
“Maybe. Once the kid is through you will be free of fae debt.”
“What if he doesn’t get through, but I did my best fighting?”
I considered this. “Assuming you’re still alive, I suppose you are also free of debt.”
He made a show of thinking about it, but of course he nodded. Moliason Gentry wasn’t really in a position to turn me down.
Now I had to go kill a faerie myself—I needed to do something to convince Nathan I was one of the good guys.