Eve Pixiedrowner and the Micean Council Episode 72: Dichall: Recruiting the Monster by Jim Davies

“Wait here,” I jumped from Waffles’s back into the snow.

“Nuh-uh.” The dog closed his eye and shook his head. “I’m coming in with you.”

“No, I’m the diplomat, let me do the talking.”

“You can’t stop me. I suggest you figure out a way to use my presence to your advantage, diplomat.”

“Fine.” I returned his back and rode him inside.

The hut was some kind of alchemy laboratory. Waffles and I hid behind fireplace tool holder and looked around. Bottles of foul-smelling liquids of un-namable colours filled rickety shelves. Dead animal parts, dried and bound in string, hung from hooks in the walls and ceiling—components, no doubt, of potions, magical or otherwise.

Gombree stood in the middle of the room, talking to a dwarfish being whose back was to us, bent over a small, crowded lab bench. “I thought you’d have some ready! Don’t you keep Magnitrude’s foot cream on hand? Her talons hurt!”

The dwarfish creature turned to Gombree slowly. He had skin like a brown leather jacket, complete with buttons on the cheeks and a mouth that apparently could be literally zippered shut. He had three ghoulish green eyes, and two of them focused on Gombree. The other looked around wildly, as though tracking a fly. “Miss Magnitrude is not my only customer in Mangrato, dear sir.” His voice sounded like it was spoken through a paper bag. “You can wait in silence while I prepare it, or you continue babbling like a squork and hold me up. The consequences are up to you.” The beast pointed at Gombree’s head with one of seven fingers of his left hand.

Gombree seemed to shrink two inches, standing there, and shook his head.

The dwarfish beast dropped his finger. “That’s what I thought. Now, wait outside and leave me be. I’ll holler when it’s done, and you’ll be grateful.”

Waffles didn’t need to be told to skedaddle. He slipped back outside before Gombree could turn and see us.

Outside, Waffles looked around for a hiding spot. “Where should I go?”

“Don’t worry about it. It’s time to face him.”

Gombree stepped out and quietly closed the hut’s door behind him. When he looked turned around, he saw us standing there in the snow in front of us. He jumped. “Who—?!“

Perched on Waffles’s head, I waved to make sure he saw me, too. As he was a creature of magic, there was no need to activate my veilring to talk to him. “Gombree. I’m Dichall, of the Micean Council.”

Gombree jerked back, eyes wide. “A talking mouse!”

I narrowed my eyes. In this world of unending weirdness, he’s surprised by a talking mouse? But then I remembered that the animals in this world were mere brutes. I was as strange to him as he to me. “Yes, we’re from another world.”

Gombree removed his hat and scratched the top of his bald, green head. “A talking mouse…”

“And a talking dog!” Yipped Waffles.

“You must be from the Mundane World!”

“Yes, I’m Dichall Smileyes. I’m part of an organization called the Micean Council. We defend children from—well, from creatures like Magnitrude.”

“Not so smart to tell me this, mouse. I work for her. I should squash you right now.”

“You’d never catch us. This here is a Pomeranian. The fastest animal in the Mundane World.” I felt Waffles open his mouth to correct me and I smacked his ear to shut him up. “You’d just as well talk to us. You have to wait for your foot cream anyway.”

Gombree turned to back to the door for a moment, then to us. “Finey fine fine. What shall we talk about?”

“What do you want out of life, Gombree?”

Gombree blinked and cocked his head. “Huh. Nobody ever asked me that before. No, no. Not ever. I’m a simple creature, talking mouse. I guess I just want to live. To spend time with the trees. Have enough food. A place to rest my head away from the rain and snow. If you’re going to bribe me it’s not going to work!”

“You work for Magnitrude because she provides you with these comforts…?”

“Well. I wouldn’t say that. I mean, food and shelter aren’t exactly uncommon in Mangrato, really, it’s more… Well, Magnitrude kind of rules the roost around here, chickenly speaking.”

“If you don’t need her, why not go out on your own?”

“Frankly, mouse… she’d kill me. As I said, she’s in charge. And she’s powerful, I mean… She beats me even when I do what she says, I don’t want to think about what she’d do if I disobeyed.”

“So why don’t you leave?”

Gombree gestured with his arms, waving them about quickly. “Mangrato isn’t that big! I don’t know if you’ve had much of a chance to explore, but you can walk all the way around it in half an hour! And I can’t leave this locus. I know the woods too well to activate a geopattern. I’m stuck.”

“Sounds like you’re forced to work for her, but you’d rather not. Do you like what you and Magnitrude are doing to that little girl, Vivian?”

Gombree’s mouth twisted in disgust. “Don’t wring my mind with your words, mouse!”

“What if we took you with us? When we leave this locus.”

His eyes brightened despite his attempt to hide it, just for a second. “I’d never get out. I know the woods…”

“You could close your eyes and follow us. That’s how we got this dog in here.” I patted Waffles’s head. “Us mice don’t know the forest, and we have a shaman with us. We can activate the Geopattern. If you’re with us, you’d come too.”

“You mean… I could escape Mangrato? And come live in the Mundane World?”

I pondered this possibility for a moment. I’d really have to be trusting in Gombree’s good-heartedness to responsibly bring a wilder creature to the Mundane World where he could get up to goodness-knows-what mischief. But I found that I did trust him. My instincts said he was a simple, good-hearted creature that was in a terrible position, forced to work for a monster. “It wouldn’t be an easy life there, but you’d be free.”

The alchemist’s voice came through the window. “I’m almost done!”

Gombree looked back at the hut, startled, as though he’d forgotten what he’d been doing there in the first place. He turned back to me and whispered. “Yes, I’ll do it! Let’s go, now!”

“Not so fast. We didn’t come here to free you, we came here to free Vivian. She doesn’t know what she’s involved with, and she won’t come with us unless she sees for real the situation she’s in.”

“How’s she supposed to do that? Magnitrude has powerful glamours on her!”

“We brought some magical glasses. We need you to help us get them over Vivian’s eyes.”

Gombree’s eyes shifted on his feet and sweat appeared on his forehead as he wrestled with what to do.


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