I woke from a months-long sleep in my tunnels to the sound of something large landing on the surface above me. I swiveled my ears and detected something much smaller landing near it.
A muffled voice: “Eve? Eve Pixiedrowner? Are you down there?” THAT sounded like a mouse. But what was the big thing?
Goodness, it was early. What was it? January? It was too dark underground to tell, but it was certainly too cold to be spring time. I groggily fumbled for a seed I’d stored the autumn before, and ate it.
“Eve?” the voice called again.
I stretched. What self-respecting mouse would be outside in the Quebec winter? Shouldn’t he be in his own tunnels instead of waking me up in the middle of a decent hibernation? “I’m coming, just give me a minute!”
I headed out of my burrow, scrambled up the tunnel, and clawed through the snow to see an enormous barred owl towering over me. I gasped, dove back into the tunnel, heart racing, and made sure my tail wasn’t sticking out.
The voice again: “I’m with the Micean Council. My name is Dell Grim.”
The other mouse was between me and the owl, and when I didn’t hear the bird move, I took a deep breath, then popped my head out for a second look. There! A rather dashing mouse, standing waist-deep in the light powder, wearing a leather coat and a hat between his ragged ears.
“You’re Eve Pixiedrowner?” his voice was deep and soft.
“Well, I’m Eve… You’re Micean Council?” I’d never had a full name before. Animals normally only have one name, unless the community decides to give them a surname for some deed or other special reason. I wasn’t real sure I liked the implications of this.
Dell opened his coat slightly, revealing a red bead necklace.
I was satisfied with his credentials. “Yes, that’s me.”
“The council wants to meet with you.” A wind blew through the cold Quebec forest, and Dell grabbed his hat to keep it from flying off. A sparkle of gold on his finger caught my eye – probably the magic veilring Micean operatives were rumored to possess that kept his clothing, and activities, invisible to humans. I didn’t have one.
The owl’s huge head turned toward me, each eye the size of the tunnel I was still mostly hiding in. I shivered, and tried to ignore it. “You want me to go to Ottawa?”
Dell twitched his nose, freeing a lone snowflake that had been clinging to the tip. “The Council wants you.” He turned and gestured to the owl. “Please…”
A deep, sonorous voice echoed from somewhere deep inside the bird’s chest: “I am Orville Parkguard, here to give you a ride to the Council headquarters in the Parliament building.”
He sank down, and Dell climbed on to his back, gathered a thin leather strap tied around the owl’s neck in his hands, then turned to me.
I didn’t move. “What does the council want with me? I’m just a forest mouse.”
“Just a forest mouse?!” the owl screeched, its demeanor shaken. “News of what you did for that family of humans is well known, even among the owls!”
My thoughts went back several months to a certain, annoying, bird. That little chickadee must have had a big mouth. I looked down into my tunnel, which led to my burrow, where I was supposed to be. It was warm there. Or warmer than it was out here, anyway. “I have food saved for the winter…”
Dell leaned forward. “It’s important. They just want to talk to you. We can bring you back here, after, if you want to.” From a satchel, he drew out a red cloak and tossed it to me. It fluttered to the ground, and my gaze followed it, entranced. It was beautiful. I’d never had clothes before, nor a veilring to hide them from human eyes.
“Come on!” Impatience had crept into Dell’s voice. “They sent an owl, for goodness sake!”
He had a point. Had it not been urgent, they would have just sent a pigeon.
Clinging to Dell, I huddled against his back with my red cloak flapping behind us as Orville launched into the sky and set off above the trees, I felt a thrill of excitement. So my name was Pixiedrowner. It was kind of bad-ass. I liked it.
The view was amazing. I’d never ridden a bird before, and within seconds I could see the entire small patch of the Gatineau hills where I’d spent the entirety of my life. And then it was gone, and we flew through dots of snow toward the Ottawa River. As we drew near, the tower of Parliament came into view, and the city lights.
Orville spread his wings, decelerating as we approached a high ledge of the tower, while two mice on the ledge waved little flags, directing him where to land.
I let out a deep breath, thankful to be safely on solid ground again, only to realize I was outside, on a ledge, about eight stories up.
“I’ve got ‘cha, miss,” one of the guards took my fore paw and helped me down. Dell followed. Orville immediately took wing and flew out of sight.
“Where’s he going?”
“Owl business,” Dell shrugged, “come on, let’s get you inside.”
I nodded and followed him into the unknown….