Magnitrude dozed, and I did, too, nestled in her warm dresses.
We both woke at a knocking on the door. Gombree’s muffled voice came from the other side. “Mistress Magnitrude, I have your foot cream.”
“Yes, come in, come in! What took you so long?”
I moved as the door creaked open to cover me. Then I wriggled to get to a vantage point where I could see what was happening. Gombree entered and pulled a stool to the foot of the bed. He opened a jar of turquois glass and dipped his green fingers into it, pulling out a glob of pinkish cream that smelled of smelt. He rubbed it over his hands as Magnitrude stretched the talons of her feet.
“Rub it in good, now, you nematode! I was sleeping.”
Gombree nodded and started massaging her talons, taking care not to cut his fingers on her sharp claws, which waved dangerously near his face as she enjoyed the treatment.
I glanced past the door, now ajar, but could not see Waffles, Gretchen, or Dichall. I had reservations about separating us like this. Was there a plan? Were they even still alive? The fact that Gombree wasn’t telling Magnitrude anything about us mice gave me hope, but…
A thrill went through me when I saw Emerson flutter in, making lazy circles in the air. Unlike last time, Emerson was making no effort to hide herself. Was Gretchen trying to be seen? My question was answered when Emerson hovered over Magnitrude’s chicken head and landed on the tip of her beak.
Magnitude emitted a hideous sound, like a cross between a scream of a human and the screech of a hawk.
Emerson fluttered straight up and away from Magnitrude’s flapping, boneless arms. Gombree was so startled he fell over backward as Magnitrude rolled out of the bed and fell to the floor with a thump. “Kill it! By the magic of wildry, Gombree, kill that bug!”
“Uh, yes, mistress, of course mistress.” Gombree put his cap back on and scrambled to his feet.
But it seemed unlikely that Magnitrude even heard him as she stood and threw a pillow at Emerson. The bug narrowly missed being struck.
Magnitrude picked up another pillow, but Gombree grabbed it. “No, mistress, I’ll take care of it, don’t you worry aching your feet over it.” He ushered her out the door and closed it. Then he turned and looked around the room. “Eve? Show me where the glasses are!”
“Up there!” I emerged from hiding and pointed with Grim’s blade to the shelf.
Gombree stood on the bed and pulled the box down. He unlatched it and put the glasses into an interior pocket of his jacket.
We heard Magnitrude’s panicked voice from the other room. “Did you kill it yet?”
“Almost!” Gombree put the box back in its place.
“I’m Eve Pixiedrowner. Thank you for helping us.”
“Dichall wants me to try to get Magnitrude asleep again. Then we’ll show Vivian what she really is.” He turned to the door. “Magnitrude, I crushed it!”
I hid behind Gombree’s neck, tucked into his collar, with Emerson holding on to my cloak, before Magnitrude came back in. The smell was nigh intolerable.
“Where is it?” Magnitrude looked around the room.
I felt Gombree stiffen. “Where is what, mistress?”
“The moth! The dead moth you crushed! I want to see the corpse to make sure it’s dead.”
“Oh. It’s uh…”
“Well?” Magnitrude drummed her foot claws on the floor, waiting.
I whispered toward his right ear. “You ate it!”
“I ate it!”
Magnitrude was silent for a moment. “Oh. Well, good. But that’s disgusting, Gombree. You really are no better than a piglet.”
“Yes, mistress. That was scary. Perhaps you’d like to take a rest now, and forget about the bad buggy business?”
I felt Gombree’s skin start to sweat. Take it easy. You’re doing fine.
“I’m afraid I might be too wound up for a nap.”
“What if I rubbed in some more of your cream? Your feet didn’t get the full treatment due to the interruption.”
Magnitrude lay back down on the bed. “That’s true. Make sure you get it in under my claws!”
Gombree sat back on the stool and started working the salve into Magnitrude’s clawed feet again. After about twenty minutes, she was snoring. Emerson flew out of the room. Gombree quietly stood and tiptoed out the door.
I leaped down and embraced Waffles, Gretchen, and my beloved Dichall when they came out from behind a tuffet. “You’re all okay!” I held Dichall’s face and made sure.
He chuckled. “Healthy as a horse and ready to go home.” He turned to Gombree. “Go tell Vivian that Magnitrude wants her to look at her with the glasses. Hopefully, she’ll be scared enough to follow us back to the Mundane World.”
We followed Gombree away from the sleeping Magnitrude and to Vivian’s room. We waited outside because Vivian didn’t trust mice.
Vivian was playing with her dolls. “Hi, Gombree. Is it lunch time?”
“What? No. Soon. Miss Magnitrude wants you to put these on.” He pulled the glasses out of his coat.
Vivian looked at them for a few seconds. “But aren’t those from the mice?”
Gombree looked back at us with a confused expression. We quickly pulled away so Vivian wouldn’t follow his gaze and see us.
We listened as Gombree regained his composure and improvised: “Well, yes, but Magnitrude tried them, and thought the world looked quite beautiful through them. Come try them.”
We mice leaped atop Waffles, who hid himself behind a tapestry as the two of them walked past us. We followed at a safe distance.
Vivian put on the glasses and looked around the room. We mice watched from a hidden position, but Waffles was too big; he would have been seen.
Her eyes, looking large behind the lenses, blinked. “Doesn’t look different to me…”
Gombree gently herded her through the door into the room where Magnitrude was sleeping. “Now stay quiet…”
We couldn’t see Vivian from our vantage point, but we heard her terrified shriek after she saw what a monster her keeper was. Oh no, she woke Magnitude up.