Eve, Gretchen and I held our breath, listening.
Then a creak again, and her breathing resumed. After a few seconds Eve patted Waffles on the head again, and Waffles crept along the wall.
We could see her now, turning, trying to get comfortable. Magnitrude’s breathing slowed, became deep. She’s falling asleep!
Under the chaise Waffles crept, and then out the doorway on the other side.
We made it in. Of course, we had a lot more work to do.
Waffles continued to ascend the tower, anxious to get to Vivian but taking care not to alert anyone—or anything—to our presence.
In a particularly quiet hallway, Eve dared whisper: “Did you hear how Gombree was treated in there?”
Gretchen nodded. “Pretty roughly.”
“I think he could be an ally.”
I sniffed at this. “I would not trust anything in league with a wildry creature from a Pananima locus.”
Waffles stopped and tried to turn his head to us, which he couldn’t really do, as we were in the fur of his neck, but he gave it his best shot. “I know that you know that I helped a faerie once, and I’ve changed. You really should give people a chance, Dichall Smileyes.”
Eve looked at me. Her brow creased in worry at my expression. She sighed. “Well, maybe we won’t need his help. Let’s keep moving.”
We walked into Vivian’s room, high in the tower. We hadn’t seen anyone or anything for a while, so we felt comfortable talking to her without fear of being overheard.
Her eyes and smile went wide when she saw her dog. “Waffles!” She leaped off her pink canopy bed and embraced her dog. We mice jumped off just in time. Waffles licked her face excitedly.
I activated my veilring after a moment. “Hi Vivian. Remember us?”
Vivian carried Waffles back to her bed and sat with him on her lap. I’d never seen Waffles look so happy.
The girl’s eyes narrowed at us mice. “Yes.”
She looked even older than before. Magnitrude must have been stealing her youth during the short time we were away.
I pointed to Waffles. “If you look on his collar, you’ll see some glasses. They’re a present for you. They’re magical.”
Vivian carefully took the heavy glasses from Waffles’s collar and turned them over in her hands.
“They help you see what’s real. This is a magical place. The glasses, when you put them on, help you see what things really are.”
Vivian held a stony expression. “Miss Magnitrude told me not to listen to talking mice.”
Waffles looked down at us in alarm.
“We’re on your side, Vivian. We’re here with Waffles.”
Vivian looked unsure for a moment.
This wasn’t looking good. I spread his arms. “Just try them on.”
Vivian took a deep breath and shouted so loud that everyone in the tower would hear her: “MAGNITRUDE!”
My heart stopped.
There was no way out of the room except for Magnitrude’s way in. I followed Gretchen and Eve under the bed to hide. Waffles jumped down and followed. We stepped aside to get out of his way, they we all backed up as far as we could.
Eve grabbed Waffles by the whiskers. “Did you get the glasses?”
“No! I don’t have hands, Eve!”
Gretchen started looking at the underside of the bedding, presumably for a place to hide. But there was nowhere that Waffles would be able to go that would hide him from even a cursory look under the bed.
Footsteps, then the door opening.
We saw Magnitrude’s feet stop in the middle of the room. They were glamoured to look like normal human feet. “What is it?”
“The mice were here.”
“Mice!” Magnitrude walked toward the bed, and us, turning to sit next to Vivian.
“They gave me these glasses. They told me to put them on and—”
“You did the right thing calling me, Vivian. That was very responsible. The mice were trying to trick you. These glasses are cursed. I can feel it. I’m going to take them away so you’ll be safe. Where are the mice now?”
Don’t give us away…
Vivian hesitated. “I told them to go away. They left.”
My tail, which had been stiff with tension, relaxed. She lied for us.
The bed creaked as Magnitrude stood up. “I’ll take these and try to remove the curse. You don’t have to worry about the mice. They can’t hurt you as long as you don’t listen to them.”
“Thank you, miss Magnitrude.”
The monster in human disguise started to walk out, with our precious glasses with her.
I felt Eve run past me. “Go get Gombree’s help!”
I reached for her cape but missed. “Eve! Wait—” But I didn’t whisper any more for fear of being heard.
With a quick jump Eve landed on Magnitrude’s dress and held tight. She worked her way into a fold, unseen, unfelt, as the beast left the room with Jody’s magical glasses in her hands and my beloved Eve Pixiedrowner hiding in her dress.