The next night we snuck into Nathan’s room for the last time. Guy had arranged for a visit with him, and we were going to accompany him.
I invoked my veilring. “Nathan, it’s time to go. Your dad’s outside.”
“I’m not sure I want to go. I’m scared.”
Me too, kid.
“Nathan,” his mom’s voice came from the other room, “your dad just texted. Want me to walk you downstairs?”
We three mice shook our heads.
“No, Mom. I can go down myself.”
Dichall got out of Nathan’s way. “Now very quietly go put on your boots, coat, and tuque. We’re going outside now.”
I climbed up to Nathan’s shoulder. “Okay, now put Gretchen and Dichall in your pocket. I’m going to hide here and keep watch for anything. If anyone asks, tell them I’m your pet mouse.” I made sure my veilring was back on securely.
We emerged into the lobby and I felt very exposed. Heart pounding. Nathan’s breathing was hard. I could smell the fear on him. He has no idea what kind of danger we’re putting him in, the poor dear. I had to think of what would happen to him if we did nothing.
Through the rotating doors we went into the windy cold morning.
Guy opened the passenger side door of his pickup from the driver’s seat. “Hi, Nathan.”
“Hi, Dad!” Nathan climbed into the front seat of Guy’s truck.
Guy looked at me. “Eve…”
I nodded a hello.
We drove out into Elgin Street traffic, and Guy explained the plan to Nathan, which sounded even more ridiculous coming out of his mouth than it had coming out of ours.
Nathan squirmed, bumping me into his seat belt. “Why do I have to ride a bear from the cabin? Can’t you bring me?”
“I can’t move fast enough,” Guy stopped at a red light, then turned to look his son in the eyes and squeezed his shoulder. “I’ll be waiting at the truck.”
As we drove on the highway toward Quebec, I thought I saw something in the rear-view mirror. I stretched up to see more, and there it was: something was in the truck bed. I saw a suspicious butterfly wing. It had to be a faerie. Ottawa didn’t have any actual butterflies in the middle of winter, that was for sure.
I invoked my veilring. “Can we pull over?”
Guy shook his head. “We’re on a highway. What’s up.”
“Lower the window.” I scampered to Nathan’s other shoulder. “I have to take care of something in the back. Just drive as slowly as you safely can on this road.”
Nathan lowered the window and we were instantly hit with a frigid wind. I had to get this done before my paws froze. I gripped the rubber on the side of the car window and reached for a grip on the back of the truck cab. With some effort I managed to drop into the truck bed. The air turbulence was terrific. I stayed low to the metal floor, which sucked the heat from my paws. I got a better look at what I was dealing with. It was a faerie, all right. It must have been keeping watch outside of the hotel and hitched a ride to see where we were going. Had it heard anything of our plans? I had to eliminate it before it got any information back to Yonya.
It was about five inches long, with orange and black butterfly wings. The body was thin, like that of a snake, but with little bird-like legs coming out of it. Its head was humanoid, but elongated. Just behind the head were its orange and black butterfly wings. It was tucked up into a long, shallow canyon of metal just under the lip of the side of the truck bed. Our eyes met.
It dropped down to the floor and its many legs scrambled for purchase as it tried to come for me, but it left its wings out. The air caught them and sent it sliding toward the back of the bed. It closed its wings in time to keep from getting blown out.
I started toward it, and took advantage of the air situation: I stood, and allowed the wind to bring me toward my quarry rapidly. At the last minute I collapsed onto three paws and drew Grassblade.
The faerie shouted something, but it was impossible to hear anything over the wind. Its teeth were small, but its many claws might have been able to do some damage to me. What I wasn’t expecting was its tongue.
With the speed of a frog’s tongue it burst from its mouth toward me. I rolled out of the way but it caught my ear, sending a searing pain through it. The tongue snaked back into its mouth as fast as it had emerged.
I reached up and felt my ear. My paw came away bloody. Ow. I looked back at the faerie and it sneered at me. I held up Grassblade, vertically and just to the right of my head and started forward.
I knew the tongue would be too fast—once I had seen it, it would have been too late to do anything. When I saw its mouth begin to open again I swung my sword in front of me. The creature’s eyes widened as the end of its tongue fell at my feet. The rest of it, spurting bright pink blood, retreated back into its head. I looked down to see the end of the tongue, with a sharp thorn at the end of it. I saw it only for a moment before a crosswind picked it up and threw it overboard.
Effectively disarmed, the faerie scrambled up the back of the truck bed to escape. I flared my cloak and let the wind take me the rest of the way to the back, pointing Grassblade in front of me. With a sharp ting the sword missed my target and hit the metal of the truck’s back door. I looked up to see the tail of the creature about to go over.
I leapt and grabbed the tail with one paw and yanked down. It was heavier than I was, though, and I ended up getting pulled up. I had to release Grassblade to hold on and keep from going out the back of the truck. My paws were freezing and I felt my grip on the truck and the faerie weakening as the strong wind tried to pull the faerie from my grasp. Its wings battered, trying to get away. It looked back at me with wild eyes.
What was I going to do? My sword was below me, I had my two forepaws tied up, and my grip was loosening. The creature must have sensed it had the upper hand and smiled at me wickedly.
Then a car pulled up, close behind the truck. Guy had slowed down and other cars were having to pass him. This one came close. Just before it pulled into the other lane to pass, I released the faerie’s tail. With the might of the wind and his flapping wings, it couldn’t slow down its speed before it splattered against the windshield of the car behind us. As I pulled myself back into the truck bed, I saw the car’s windshield wipers clearing away the last of the beast.
I retrieved Grassblade climbed back into the cab.
Nathan took me in his hands and warmed my body. “What happened?”
My teeth were chattering too much to have a conversation. “I’ll tell you later.”
When we got to the woods, Guy parked by the side of the road near the trail to his cabin.
“Would you please roll down the window?” I tapped on the glass.
Celina Weirwarden, the black bear guardian of the Mabinogeon weir, lumbered out of the woods. Bracey fluttered to a nearby tree branch.
I turned to Guy. “Do you want to meet Celina?”
He shook his head. “I’m good.”
“Okay, Nathan, come on out.”
Nathan put one foot on the ground but froze when he saw Celina. “That’s a really big bear…”
This might be difficult.