At our request, Nathan gave us a cracker and I told him goodbye, we’ll be in touch, don’t trust faeries, etc. Out in the cold, I turned to my fellow Councilmice. “I think we should get in touch with an owl, and see if they know about the weir that Nathan’s father is guarding.”
Gretchen’s whiskers twitched. “Someone at the Council library probably knows about this weir already.”
“But if we go to the Council, they’ll learn about our plan.”
Gretchen clicked her teeth in frustration. “We are Councilmice. We do things through the Council.”
I drew Grassblade and held it between us. The metal was cold in my hands. “I think this might destroy the fae, if we can get to her. But if we let the Council know about our plans, they’ll take it away from us. We have a chance here to do some real good. I want to get the fae out of the Interstitium where she’s powerful, and deal with her here in the Mundane World.”
Gretchen turned to Dichall. “Aren’t you going to say anything?”
Dichall cocked his head. “Her plan might work.”
Gretchen harrumphed. “You’re biased.”
“What do you mean by that?”
Gretchen just rolled her eyes at him. “It seems I’m outvoted. Again. I don’t like it, but let’s go talk to an owl. If we can get a good enough plan, a sensible one, maybe we can go forward.”
We found a pigeon who, after turning us down, changed her mind about carrying us to an Oversight Parliament meeting place in exchange for a bite of the cracker. A few extra crumbs convinced her to keep her beak shut about it, too. Carbohydrate bribes were apparently a necessity for getting around town the easy way. I resolved to look into acquiring a larger pouch. Soon.
Owls, it turns out, are kind of hard to find. They’re normally not very common, particularly in the inner city, and owls who are agents of the Oversight Parliament are rarer still. To facilitate meetings, the Micean Council set up spots where mice could go to get messages to them. This one was at an old metal lunch box on the roof of a Tim Hortons. We went inside and huddled together for warmth while waiting for an owl.
I gathered up some sawdust and made a pile of it in the middle of the lunchbox for Gretchen, then stood back while she used her flint and steel to light it. A few puffs later, she managed to coax the infant flame into a cheery blaze. I dragged a stick inside and put it on. We’d probably have died without it. That lunch box was freezing.
About an hour later we heard something land outside. I peeked out of a little hole in the lunch box to make sure it was an owl. Most animals respected the Micean Council and would not eat them, but some animals, when they got hungry enough… I shuddered and tried to put the thought out of my mind.
I was thrilled to see that it was Bracey the Talonted!
We forgot all about the cold and ran outside. “Bracey!” I never thought I’d be so happy to see an owl.
“What can I help the noble Micean Council with?”
Gretchen skidded to a halt and stepped back into the shelter. “Do you mind if we talk from inside the lunch box? We’re freezing out here.”
We followed her back inside and Bracey leaned over to talk to us. Her face filled the entire opening.
Gretchen walked back to the fire. “Do you know of any large weirs in the Gatineau woods?”
Bracey blinked at us twice before responding. “Yes. The Mabinogion Weir is out there. A big one. It’s guarded by a deer and a bear. There’s a human out there too – built a cabin near it and we think he thinks he’s guarding it. Not that he could do much if it came right down to it, I don’t think.” She squinted at us. “Why do you ask?”
I held my cloak tighter around me. “We believe that human is the father of the child prodigy that Yonya is trying to drain of spark.”
The owl cocked her head to the side. I didn’t know owls could be surprised. “Oh really?”
“We’re trying to do what we can to save Nathan, but it’s proving difficult,” Dichall stuck out his paws to warm by the fire, one by one. “We want to go talk to this man.”
Bracey nodded. “I can fly you there. Let’s go.”
As we flew to the little cabin, I gazed over the Gatineau hills from a much higher perspective than I’d ever had. Below me stretched my home… what had been my home until a short time ago, anyway. I missed the simple life I’d had then. The trees and the smells were so different from the urban environment I now lived in, and nostalgia stirred deep inside of me.
Just after sunset, we landed on a branch a short distance from the cabin, and peeked around Bracey’s head to look into the window with her. A flickering light danced over the walls inside, smoke curled up out of a chimney, but the human was nowhere in sight.
Gretchen looked around at us. “I guess it would be polite to knock?”
“Hang on.” Bracey spread her wings and fluttered down to the front stoop.
I waited till she stopped moving before turning to Gretchen. “I don’t think he’d hear a mouse knocking.”
Bracey hopped up to the door. “Don’t forget, he’s never seen talking animals before. He might be a little surprised.”
Bracey pecked the door. Hard. “Ow.”
We heard someone moving inside, coming toward the door, so we dismounted and stood on the snowy stoop.
“Ready?” Dichall pulled off his veilring. I did too. Gretchen hesitated, seemed almost like she was about to run, then removed hers at the last second. The door opened, and a human man looked out, over us.
“Down here,” I squeaked.
The man looked down to see three clothed mice and an owl standing on his porch. He stared.
“Can we come in?” I gripped my cloak tighter around my body. “It’s cold out here.”
I was wondering when we’d get to meet Nathan’s dad on his home ground. Delightful as always, Jim!