A hideous claw snatched a single feather from Bracey’s tail as she hopped through the weir, carrying us on her back. She spread her wings and flew a short distance away, shouting “Get back! Get back!”
Eventua reached through the weir, her sickly arm swiping out of a window of nothing.
Louis Lifeinpink scampered away, keeping his dental pick between himself and the fae.
The fae scowled through the weir at us, her three eyes – each a different colour – flickering with malice. The weir was far too small for her to fit through. “Stay out of the Interstitium, Councilmice.” She slid her body up and out of sight.
We couldn’t tell if she’d flown far away or was waiting just on the other side. I certainly wasn’t going to stick my head in to find out.
We all exhaled audibly.
“Ready to go home?” The pigeon chirped, “It’s cold out here.”
Beatrice Brownbrow sat us down back at headquarters. “I’m assigning you three to the case because you’ve already had correspondence with the child under threat. However, our scouts have determined that the Lord Elgin Hotel is too clean, and the décor too minimal, for Councilmice to guard Nathan’s room in any practical way, so trying to stop Yonya’s agents from getting into the Hotel is not going to work. In situations like this, we try to get the child to talk the parents into getting everybody out of town.”
I adjusted my cloak, nervous that Beatrice would see Grassblade. “We’ll try.”
Beatrice nodded. “It might not work. But we can’t take on Yonya, and we can’t stop her minions, so this is the only way that I can see. We just have to keep things from boiling over until the owls are available to intervene.” Her eyes looked world-weary.
She sure wasn’t asking much, we just had to figure out how to get into a high-class hotel room without making humans scream, swing brooms, or call exterminators.
We called a brainstorming session and our fellow Councilmice came up with all sorts of suggestions. The only one that seemed like it might work, though, was to stow away on a delivery shipment. We agreed, sort of. There were plenty of nooks to hide in, and humans weren’t as vigilant about mice in the delivery entrances as where customers entered. So we decided to try it.
Benny Falafel, once more our ride into danger, flew a few circles until a delivery truck pulled up. He landed on top. “Here you go! Just find a place to snuggle down, and you’re in.” He adjusted his goggles and fluttered off.
We jumped onto the top of a giant, wrapped bundle of industrial-sized paper towel rolls and hung on. Once inside, we jumped down after making sure no one was looking, and scurried along the perimeter until we found a mouse hole to squeeze through. No traps, either. I felt hopeful.
Moving through the walls, and about the time we started to feel pretty lost, we ran into a non-Council mouse. He was right at home in the maze and more than happy to lead us to Nathan’s floor. “You’ll have to wait until the door opens, though,” he said as he paused at the exit hole and gestured with his tail across the hall. “It’s too tight to get through the cracks. Good luck!”
Veilrings or not, we felt way too exposed. A few small pictures on the wall weren’t much cover, but the single potted plant might work. We made a dash for it and did our best to stay hidden. Gretchen perched near the rim, watching until somebody opened the door. Dichall and I burrowed into the dirt. There wasn’t much room.
I could feel his body touching mine, and it was very distracting. “Move over!”
“Sshh!” Gretchen glared down at us.
Dichall did his best, but it was tight.
I settled in, my nose filled with the smells of the potted plant’s dirt and earth, a bouquet of nostalgia for my home in the wilderness. Nobody showed up for a few hours. Dichall fell asleep, and at one point rolled over, right up against me. Maybe my heart was softened by the smells of home, but the feeling of his body against mine felt electric. When his arm fell on my shoulder, I didn’t push it off. Finally, I heard him stir.
My mouth was right next to his ear. “Good morning.”
I watched his eyes notice how close we were. The only sound was our breathing. He looked me in the eyes but didn’t say anything, our whiskers almost touching. He really is a fine-looking mouse…
He wiggled his nose flirtatiously. “How about a kiss?”
My eyes flicked to Gretchen, who hadn’t heard him. “No!”
“You know what they say, you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince.”
“Are you saying you’re my prince?”
“No, I’m just saying that even if I’m a frog, you should probably kiss me, you know, to get the process moving.”
I stifled a laugh.
Gretchen waved her paw at us. “Okay, it’s time!”
We scrambled up in time to see the door open. Nathan’s mother came out and start down the hall – straight toward us! We all held our breath and tried not to move.
As soon as her back was to us, we sprinted at the slowly closing door, Dichall and I got through but Gretchen was too far behind. Thinking fast, I drew Grassblade and held it lengthwise between the door and the frame, praying that it wouldn’t bend or break. If it hadn’t been a magic sword, it probably would have, but it held, and Gretchen scurried through the crack. Freeing my sword took all of us, but with a big heave we pulled Grassblade free, and the giant door closed with a click, imposing in its finality. There was no way out of this room without a human opening that door.
We skirted the suite, around a gigantic piano, until we got into Nathan’s room. He was playing with rubber monsters.
We stepped into the open.
Nathan jerked in surprise.
Dichall waved to him. “Hi Nathan, remember us? We protected you from that faerie outside. by the statue.”
“Yes.” He was still. Wary.
Dichall took a step forward, trying to act friendly. “We believe that other faeries are going to be coming for you. It’s important that you leave this city.”
Dichall clapped his paws together. “As soon as possible.”
“But I have a, uh, a concert.”
Dichall nodded. “A concert?”
“It’s at the National Arts Centre. Hundreds of people have bought tickets to see me.”
I activated my veil ring so he could understand me. “I know, and I know it’s important to you. But your skills are so good that the faeries want to steal them.”
Spark, Gretchen had called it.
Nathan looked down at the rubber monsters in his hands; they didn’t look all that dissimilar from the creatures the Micean Council regularly fought.
“Do you think you could try to talk to your parents, maybe tell them that you really want to leave Ottawa right away?”
“Can I tell them about the faeries, and you?”
It was better to give the parents vague reasons for wanting to leave than patently fanciful reasons that could be dismissed as nonsense. But the real reason was that we really, really didn’t want adults knowing about the Micean Council. Luckily, most children wrote off any childhood experiences with the supernatural as fantasy when they grew up. Even the mention of it made me feel dread in my guts.
“That’s really not good idea. Adults… they usually just think kids are making things like that up and don’t listen. Just tell them you really, really want to go.” Nathan looked very skeptical, and I didn’t blame him.
The door knob rattled and we three mice sniffed her soy maple latte at the same moment. Everyone’s head jerked around and we stared at the opening front door
“Okay.” Dichall put a reassuring paw on Nathan’s leg. “Go talk to her. We’ll hide over there.” He pointed to a pile of clothes on the floor and re-invoked his veilring.
Nathan agreed and trotted out into the main room. We hid in the clothes and listened. The conversation went on for a few minutes. We could hear them talking and could tell that his mother was sympathetic, but not about to cancel a huge concert just because he had a bad feeling. He even cried about it, bless him, but she didn’t budge.
Nathan trudged back into the room. “She said no.” He looked like he was going to cry.
“Hey, hey,” I put a paw on his foot, “It’s not your fault.”
Nathan dropped down onto the bed and hung his head. “My dad would have said yes. He believes in your monsters.”
I glanced at Gretchen. “He—he does?”
Nathan nodded. “Mom says he went crazy a while back. I dunno, he seems fine to me. But he doesn’t live with us anymore. He says he’s protecting people.”
Dichall’s ears perked up. “Protecting people? How? What is he doing?”
Nathan sat cross-legged on the floor and leaned forward, speaking quietly. “He lives across the river, in the woods in Gatineau. He says he’s keeping the monsters away from people. Well, that’s what he said a while back. He doesn’t talk about it much though, because people think it’s weird.”
Dichall looked from Nathan to us and back again. “Um, can we talk in private for a minute?”
Nathan nodded and turn to stare out the window, a tear trickling out the corner of one eye.
Dichall deactivated his veil ring. “It sounds like the father’s guarding a weir. I’ve heard of humans doing that, if they discover how dangerous they are. Do we know of any weirs in the Gatineau hills?”
Gretchen shook her head. “No, but we might be able to find something out at headquarters.”
I cleared my throat. “I want to go talk to him. The father.”
Dichall’s jaw dropped. “Talk to an adult human?”
I knew how he felt. The very thought set off alarm sirens in my spirit. “I don’t like it either, Dichall, but if his dad knows about the fae, he might understand the danger his son is in. He might be an ally.”
Gretchen squinted her eyes. She was suspicious. “An ally for what?”
“I don’t know yet. Maybe he can get Nathan out of Ottawa.”
Dichall pursed his lips. “I don’t think we can save Nathan without confronting Yonya. Having an adult human on our side would be a big asset. Let’s do it.”
Gretchen narrowed her eyes, then shook her head and turned away from us, frustration radiating off of her like heat.
If we couldn’t get Nathan out of Ottawa, we might have to face Yonya. Nathan’s dad was one more thing we were going to have to keep from Beatrice and the Council.