Back at headquarters, I sat next to Dichall’s bedding and held his hand. He was bandaged and unconscious. I’d left him behind, and felt terrible about it, but it looked like he might survive. Gretchen was there too. With her quick on-scene first aid, she’d saved his life. For now.
Beatrice Brownbrow came in and checked on him. Then she gave us a talking-to. “First of all,” she paced as she talked. “You’ve done a wonderful thing for the capital region. Killing a fae is far beyond the duties of a Micean Councilmouse. Yonya won’t be a problem again for a few years now.”
I looked up from the floor for a moment. “What?”
Beatrice knitted her brown brow. “You can’t truly kill a fae. They eventually re-manifest in the Interstitium.” She could really put her brow to effective use when she’s dressing you down. “But let me be very clear: you may not go on missions as Councilmice, using Council resources, behind my back. That’s how you get yourself and others hurt. You got lucky this time. Now, hand over the sword.”
She held out her paw and I put Grassblade in her hand.
“When you find something like this, you must hand it over to me or the owls. We will give you what we need, but you don’t know what else is happening. There are other things going on, other plans in progress. You need to trust us that powerful, enchanted items like this will be in the hands of those who need them the most. You let us distribute them—you wouldn’t want someone hoarding something that you could use, would you? Is that clear?”
“I suspect your behaviour is because of Dichall’s influence,” Beatrice now turned to him. Her brow somehow managing to knit further. “He’ll also get a talking to. When he wakes up.” She looked back to me, and her face softened at what she saw in mine. “He’ll survive, Eve. I’ve asked the cardinals for help. With hope, they’ll send a wizard bird soon who can fix him up proper.”
Beatrice sighed and looked from Gretchen to me. “Now I fear I have three loose cannons under my command.”
Gretchen sniffed. “I was against the whole idea…”
“Nathan is safe and your crazy stunt worked. Unfortunately, you’ll probably be lauded as heroes around here, and I’ll have to deal with more rule-breakers following your lead.” Beatrice sighed. “You’re both on guard duty at the cafeteria for a while. That’ll give you some time to think about what you’ve done.”
I was looking at the ground again. “Yes, agent Brownbrow.”
Beatrice was about to walk out when she turned to me. “Eve?”
I faced her.
“What you did out there was very brave. Even more so because you had a wounded Councilmouse on your team. I know that leaving him behind was hard.”
“The mission before the mouse.” My voice sounded weak.
Beatrice smiled sadly at me and walked out.
I stayed with Dichall, holding his paw. Several hours later, his eyes fluttered open. He looked at me and smiled.
“Hey Eve, on a scale of eight to ten, how attracted are you to me right now?”
I kissed him.
Guy Thomas here. I didn’t calm down until I’d driven back into the woods. I parked and started walking back to my cabin, my gun locked back under the seat of my truck. In the quiet of the forest, I broke down. I slid my back down a tree, sat in the snow and cried, all of the horror and fear and guilt of putting my kid’s life in danger finally catching up to me. But we’d saved Nathan, by the skin of our teeth.
When my eyes finally cleared of tears I looked up and saw a dark shape, slowly getting covered in snow. I walked over to it and saw the black bear who’d been helping me guard the weir without my even knowing it. The snow around her was red with her blood. “Celina” was the name the mice used.
One of her eyes opened.
The bear nodded weakly.
I got her body onto a flattened cardboard box and dragged her up a makeshift ramp into the bed of my pickup truck. I drove her into a veterinary clinic. The stunned techs tranquilized her before allowing her in the building.
“Here we go, girl.” I got her, with difficulty, into the office. In the waiting area was an old woman with her cat, and a man with a parakeet in a cage. A nurse looked up from behind the desk, her smile fading a bit when she saw that I’d brought a wounded bear into her clinic.
“Her name’s Celina Weirwarden. I’d like to check her in.”