Imbingy, the faerie childhunter, had me pinned in the snow, his steely hands tightening around my throat. “Die, rodent!”
He thinks calling me a rodent is an insult? I’ll show him! I pulled my hind legs between us, put my back paws on his chest and pushed with everything I had left, and knocked him back. Air filled my lungs as I scrambled backward and grabbed my sword out of the snow. I whirled to face the faerie, but he’d flown up to the monument. I gasped. Nathan had already climbed halfway up. I’m going to lose him!
The shadow of a guardian pigeon passed over me. I looked up. “Mike! I need a lift!”
He nodded once. Snatching me up in his talons, he gave a powerful flap of his wings and shot up above the monument. Nathan had paused, waiting while Imbingy fought with Dichall and Gretchen, who were blocking the weir. “Drop me!”
I fell about thirty mice-lengths, sword out, and landed on Imbingy, who squealed as his head hit the bronze monument. I put Grassblade to his throat. “Don’t move.”
Imbingy, panting, looked, wide-eyed, at my magical sword that had made his skin sizzle, then closed his eyes and nodded, acknowledging defeat.
Moliason Gentry was gone, one pigeon badly wounded. The others alighted on the statue near us between Nathan and the weir.
Dichall invoked the power of his veilring. “Nathan, what are you doing here?”
It didn’t take Nathan long to get over the shock of hearing a mouse talk. Must have seen a lot crazy stuff today.
“I was going to the… the faerie realm.” His voice was uncertain.
Dichall held out his hands, palms out. “It’s dangerous there, Nathan. Creatures who want to hurt you live there.”
“I know!” Nathan’s hands and lips shook. “I don’t know what to do and I don’t know who’s the good guys!”
Dichall nodded toward my prisoner. “This faerie was trying to trap you.”
“Don’t listen to them!” Imbingy lifted his head, bumping into Grassblade. The magic sizzled on his throat. He winced and dropped his head back down.
Nathan’s eyes welled up with tears. “I want to go home.”
Dichall nodded again. “I think that’s a good idea. We’re with an organization called the Micean Council. We’re trying to protect you from the faeries. Don’t trust faeries, Nathan, or even any mouse who doesn’t have one of these,” he lifted his red bead. “I think you should go back to your mother, now, and stay safe.”
And with that Nathan ran back toward the hotel.
“Mike,” Gretchen turned to the pigeon, “can you make sure he gets back to the hotel safely?”
Mike nodded once. “I’m on it,” and flew after the boy.
Dichall turned to Imbingy. “All right, out with it. What’s going on here?”
Imbingy sneered at him.
“Give us some information, and maybe we can give you something you want. Which fae are you working for? Entillis? Yonya?”
Imbingy turned his head.
I narrowed my eyes, my temper running thin. “Tell us who you’re working for, or we’ll kill you.” It could be any of the three greater fae of Ottawa, which would be bad enough, but if there were more than one fae scheme at play, we needed to know about it.
Imbigny rolled his eyes at me. “My fae will kill me if I tell, so I’m dead either way!”
“There are things that will kill you tomorrow. I’m one of those things that will kill you today.”
He turned his head and spit, then faced me, eyes flashing. “I’m not afraid to die!”
I glanced at Gretchen and Dichall for guidance, but they were just rubbing their arms, trying to keep warm. I was cold too. “How about losing your feet?”
He snorted. “You don’t have it in you.”
I gritted my teeth, and swung Grassblade. It sliced through Imbingny’s ankle as if it was made of air. I whipped the blade around and put the point back to his throat while he was still screaming. “I don’t? Would you like to lose the other one, too?”
He screamed, loud enough to make us worry that he might attract some attention from the humans around. Luckily, Ottawa parks are pretty empty in the winter.
“I’ll tell you something, okay? This weir? It’s kept open by a human in this city. A sorceress named Sandra.”
“Give me the name of the fae.”
“You can’t win, mice. And I won’t betray my own people!”
I believed him, and put Grassblade through his heart and kept it there until his body faded away.
Back at the Micean Council headquarters, Dichall patted me on the back as we walked through the halls. “You did a good job back there, soldier. Sometimes we have to do hard things.”
“Doesn’t the Council have rules against things like that for a reason?”
“Yes. The Council can’t publicly condone such activities. But they expect us to do what we have to for the greater good when we need to.”
I glanced at Gretchen, who was suspiciously silent. “Are you on board with this?”
“Dichall knows it’s wrong.”
Dichall raised his paws. “I don’t want to talk about it. And I don’t want to talk about why I don’t want to talk about it.”
“And I don’t want to talk about why I don’t want to talk about why I don’t want to talk about it.”
This guy was impossible.
Beatrice Brownbrow brought us up a rope to a special room big enough to give audience to larger animals. Bracey the Talonted, the Northern hawk owl who’d brought me to the Micean Council, stood looking at us.
Beatrice cleared her throat. “Gretchen, Dichall, this is Bracey the Talonted. Eve, I believe you two have already met. Bracey, these Councilmice have some information for the Oversight Parliament.” She stepped back, then scurried back down the rope.
The huge creature was about four mice-lengths in height, perched on a dowel specially placed in the room for avian guests. She peered down at us with her huge eyes and blinked, one eye at a time.
“It’s an honour to meet you,” Bracey hooted.
She was polite and made no aggressive moves, but you have to understand that facing an owl is a terrifying thing for a mouse, no matter what the circumstances. Owls eat mice, and even though Northern hawk owls mostly eat voles, our Micean Council status was the only thing that kept us from becoming her lunch.
“I’m Gretchen Flix, and this is my colleague Dichall Smileyes.”
Bracey swiveled her head, looking first at Dichall, then at Gretchen. (owls can’t move their eyes, so they have to turn their heads to look at you. Weird, right?) “I should tell you that I’m not technically in the Oversight Parliament yet. I’m young and still in training. But the full Parliament owls are busy right now…”
Dichall crossed his arms. “We heard.”
I forced myself to look the owl in the eyes. “There has been a great deal of faerie activity of late in Ottawa. The Council is trying to keep it under control, at the street level, but we’re still trying to figure out the master plan, assuming there is one. We know that a fae has been trying to transfer spark to a sculptor named Clay Masterson. We caught a faerie childhunter trying to take a boy through the ingress weir at the Aboriginal Monument.”
Bracey sighed heavily. “I know that weir. We’ve been trying to close it for some months now.”
“Well, we found out that a sorcerer, a human, is using magic to keep it open. Her name is Sandra Logan.”
“Ah, that explains it. I’ll take care of her,” Bracey stepped toward the exit, ruffling her huge wings. “Thank you. Fly safe.” Must be an owl expression. She leapt into the air and was gone silently into the night.
When she was gone, I exhaled a breath I hadn’t realized I’d been holding. “We still need to find out the fae behind this. Let’s go see that faerie who told us about the sculptor…. ah, ah…”
Gretchen furrowed her brow. “Musk Muskmusk? He was sent to the hospital.”
I nodded. “That’s right… Let’s see if he knows anything
“But you’re going along with it?”
“I’m loyal to the Micean Council, and I respect their rules. But my loyalty is first to my team.” She twitched her whiskers and looked me in the eye. “If you two are going forward, I will help you.”
“Even if it is really stupid.” She sped up and left my side.
We snuck out the side of the building and started looking for a ride. The secrets we were keeping from the Council were starting to pile up.
Eventually they were going to fall over.