The guards removed a wine cork from the outer wall, revealing a narrow hole. Dell motioned with his arm. “After you.”
We crawled inside, and the guards replaced the cork, leaving us in warm, dark quiet. Snowflakes scattered from our fur as we shook our bodies, drifting down to the wooden beam we stood on, and as my eyes adjusted, I could see we were inside a wall. As Dell led me through a well-chewed hole, my ears twitched at the sound of muffled human voices —a lot of them. Dell stopped, half of him brightly lit from the light coming from another hole, the source of the noise.
I followed, and as my feet hit the floor I realized the hole opened onto the top of the moulding of a room. A huge room filled with humans… very loud humans. All my instincts crashed over me as I fought a desire to hide in the darkest spot I could find.
Dell pulled out a small ring from a pocket in his jacket. “You’ll need this.”
I reached for it and stopped. “Is that a veilring?”
“Yes.” It looked too big, but when I put it on my finger, it shrunk to fit perfectly. “How do I look?” I immediately realized it was a stupid question. Veilrings only worked on humans.
Dell just grunted and walked along a wide molding near the ceiling.
Below us, a massive number of humans milled about. So many, in fact, that the room seemed like it was to burst from sheer numbers. I caught up to Dell. “What is this place?”
He kept his voice low. “This is the House of Commons.”
“They certainly make a lot of noise.” The only humans I’d ever seen were campers and hikers, who, I was learning, were pretty quiet… as humans go.
Dell frowned. “It all turned to garbage since they brought the television cameras in, pardon my French.”
“I mean, my language. Here we are.”
He led me through a mouse-sized door in the top corner of the room.
“Eve Pixiedrowner, meet Councilmouse Beatrice Brownbrow.”
Beatrice smiled and shook my hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. You’re practically a legend already.” Beatrice was a slight thing, a young, white mouse dressed in a practical, tight-fitting jumpsuit. There was a brown stripe of fur that ran across the top of her eyes.
“Excellent work with that Pixie.”
“Well, it seemed like the right thing to do.”
“Did it? Few mice would have risked their lives and face a pixie alone to save a human child.”
“Well, yes, thank you, I guess.”
“Did you save the wand?”
“Oh, no. Sorry.”
Beatrice waved this notion away as though it didn’t matter, but it seemed like it did. “How did you manage to drown it?”
“With a fish hook. Dragged him underwater.” I was afraid I sounded like I was bragging. “You know, what anybody would do.”
Beatrice blinked. “Right.”
“Squirrel wasn’t any help.”
We shared a smile. “No kidding… Sit down, please.” she gestured to some seats in the corner of the room and we sat on what appeared to be cushions from human ring boxes, if my memories of the human magazines served me correctly.
Dell started toward the exit. “If there’s nothing else?”
Beatrice smiled. “Of course, thank you.”
Dell stepped out, but then poked his head back in. “And welcome to the Council, Miss.”
I turned to Beatrice. “You want me to be an agent for the Micean Council?”
Beatrice sat back and smoothed the fabric over her thighs. “To cut to the chase, yes. I’m here to recruit you. The Council is in great need of brave, competent mice like you.”
I stood. “I’m sorry you had to waste your time—and an owl’s time, for goodness sake—just to get a `no,’ but I’m just a forest mouse.”
“Eve, the forces of evil never stop. I don’t need to tell you that our prosperity and safety depends on human civilization.”
I nodded. Even deer mice like me often depended on humans for much of our food. Mice in the wilderness that didn’t, who had to live off the land, had very hard lives. My brothers lived like that.
“And of all the animals that benefit from humans, only pigeons, owls, and mice have the desire to make sure human civilization flourishes, and the pigeons can’t even get organized to do much.”
“I’m not trained.”
“We’ll train you. The Council needs every mouse it can get. Don’t think that human civilization will be fine without our help. Have you ever heard of the Roman Empire?”
“Well, it was a very big deal a long time ago. A huge human empire, over in Europe. Very successful. This was before the Micean Council existed. The mice at the time were part of an organization called the Agency for the Governance of Nocturnal Creatures, based in Greece. The AGNC decided that humans would be fine without help from the animals, and, consequently, supernatural forces destroyed the entire empire. It started something we call ‘the dark ages.’ It was bad for humans, and what’s bad for humans is bad for mice.”
“I know we need the humans. I eat their food, and when I was young a human child saved my life… I just don’t see how I can help…”
“Listen.” Beatrice stood and put her hands on my shoulders. “This city has far more threats than the Council can handle. I’m neglecting a mission with my team right now to try to recruit you.” She sighed. “But that’s fine. Normally we send a trained team of three mice to handle a pixie. You’ve proven your worth in the field already, Eve, and we need you. More importantly, the children of Ottawa need you.”
My heart patted in my chest as I considered this. As I looked into Beatrice’s eyes the muffled sounds of the human beings beyond the door, arguing with each other over I didn’t know what, drifted to my ears. But as adult humans didn’t believe in the supernatural, and had no inkling of the shadowy world of dark magic that surrounded them, I knew they sure weren’t talking about how to keep faeries from harming their children.
I felt the veilring on my finger, smelled the new cloak on my back, and already felt like an agent. “D’accord, I’ll do it.”
Beatrice sighed heavily and squeezed my shoulders. “I’m so happy to hear that.”
“When does training start?”
“Later. There’s something urgent, and we’re sending you out tonight.” She walked to the end of the room to another door and opened it, then looked back at me and smiled. “Come on, agent Eve!”
I never got that training I was promised. I was thrown headlong into danger from day one.