I needed to get the monster down from the wall. It panted, licking the wound on one of its arms – thinking it was safe.
It was our job to make sure it wasn’t.
Glancing around, I spotted some straws and pipe cleaners on the floor beside the craft table. Grabbing a long drinking straw, coloured like a candy cane, I dragged it to Gretchen. “Here, try to pry him free with this.”
Gretchen dropped the nail, and we heaved the straw to a vertical position.
“When it falls, I’ll get it.” I tried to sound brave, but my voice shook. I drew Dell’s blade.
Gretchen shoved the straw up the wall and under the bogoloblin, grunting with effort, then stepped back and lifted. The creature scrambled, struggling to stay attached. Gretchen redoubled her efforts, straining until the creature snapped away from the wall, falling to land a tail’s length away from me.
I lifted Dell’s blade above my head with both paws. Thrust downward.
As the blade descended on its heart, its rear arm swiped at me. The suction-cupped fingertip gripped the flat of Dell’s blade as surely as it had held the creature to the wall moments before. It wrenched the weapon from my hands and sent it soaring across the room, through the second story window of a dollhouse.
I ducked a second swipe, scampered on all fours across the room, and dove through the dollhouse’s front door. I slammed the door behind me and leaned against it, panting.
A peek out a window revealed the bogoloblin shoving Gretchen into the Fisher Price airplane, slamming the flight door shut. The ugly thing turned, screeched, and dashed toward me.
I jumped away from the window. It saw me! And Dell’s blade was upstairs.
A quick glance to the left into the dollhouse living room showed me a toy human woman sitting stiffly on a blue plastic couch next to a small, orange and white plastic cat. In front of me was the stairway up. The bogoloblin’s footsteps pattered louder. Closer. Move!
I leapt up the stairs as the door burst open behind me, flying off the hinges with a crack. The bogoloblin roared and reached, but my tail slipped through its claws.
At the top I glanced down. The bogoloblin was struggling to get through the doorway. A moment later, it disappeared from the door and my ears twitched at the sound of it climbing up the outside of the dollhouse.
I glanced around, frantically looking for the sword. Spotted it in the dollhouse’s master bedroom. As I took a step toward it, the bogoloblin stuck its claw through the window. I scrambled back.
The flyknocker! Where is it? I pulled it from my pack, cradling it in my forepaws. Eyes closed, I willed my spirit into it. The dead fly sprang to supernatural life in my hands. I stared at it for a moment, a thought forming in my mind: Go downstairs and make some noise!
The bug wavered in the air, then flew downstairs on undead wings.
A few heartbeats later, a loud mouse squeak sounded from below. The creature jerked its claw out the bedroom window and I heard scrabbling sounds descending outside. Slipping in, I snatched the blade from the bed, and turned to the bedroom window to see the face of the bogoloblin looking in at me.
Some of the scranch dust had fallen off of it, leaving parts of its head invisible again, its face a rough patchwork of strange reality.
Its claw shoved through the window. I leapt clear, but was trapped in that room.
My first instinct was to run, but with Dell’s blade in my hands, and his memory in my mind, I forced myself to do what I hoped it wouldn’t expect.
Straight to the window, the blade in my right paw, I knocked the creature’s arm away with my left, screaming what I hoped was a terrifying war squeak.
The bogoloblin’s one visible eye widened and the creature pulled back.
I leapt out the window, blade first, straight for the eye.
My aim was off.
As I crashed into the monster, the blade hit bone and slid down to its neck. Alright, that works too. I leaned in, forcing Dell’s blade through skin and veins. Yellow blood splattered my fur. The bogoloblin let go of the house and we tumbled down. The wind knocked out of me, I struggled to my feet, balanced on its chest, gripped the blade with my forepaws and twisted.
With a great roar and convulsion, the creature disintegrated beneath my feet. I staggered, dropping to the floor, and ended up on all fours, panting in a pile of dust.
Not long after, Gretchen and I stepped outside, carrying Dell’s body between us, and found Reginald Crazywing waiting. The crow, who’d been so sassy on the way here, was respectful in the presence of death as we tied Dell’s body to his back, and when we got back to the Micean Council headquarters, he lingered as Gretchen carried Dell away.
When Gretchen was out of earshot, Reginald jerked his head toward me. “Before you go…”
I turned to him.
He lowered his head to my level and spoke softly. “Listen, Eve, you don’t have to be a part of this. As you can see, it’s a dangerous business.” He cocked his head in that jerky way birds do. “What you’re seeing is just the beginning. The world is full of evil you don’t know anything about.” His black eyes glittered with dark magic. “You really have no idea. If I were you, I’d walk away. Let the Councilmice handle it. That’s what we crows do, and we’re doing fine. We’re everywhere.”
“Thanks, Reginald. I’ll think hard about that.”
A friendly rabbit dug a grave for Dell (no small feat in the frozen ground), and all the Councilmice in the building attended the funeral of their fallen colleague. Many mice, too many for me to remember, shook my paw and congratulated me on my courage and skill.
As we walked back to the building, I caught up with Beatrice, who was walking tail-in-tail with a handsome mouse.
She turned and gave me a sad smile. “Eve. I’d like you to meet my husband, Anders Kettlecrack.”
Her husband inclined his head toward me. “Enchanté.” The other deer mice in the woods had never taken an interest in me, and seeing these two together, tails intertwined, made my heart give a little pang. It would have been nice to have someone special on a cold, sad day like today.
Beatrice cleared her throat. “Congratulations, Eve, your first mission was a success.”
I looked at her face to see if she was kidding. She wasn’t. “A success?” I stopped walking. “What are you talking about? I let Dell get killed!”
Beatrice turned to me and held my shoulders. “There’s a rule we follow here at the Micean Council: The mission before the mouse. We’re soldiers. Mice make up the Council, but ultimately, we are all expendable. Evil must be kept in check. The fight is more important than any individual mouse.”
Righteous indignation bristled in my heart. “That feels wrong to me.” It seemed like a disrespect to Dell Grim, buried just minutes ago.
Beatrice gave a slight nod. “I understand. It’s something you’ll learn over time. For now, just think about it.”
We walked a ways more toward the Parliament building. “What now?”
“Get some sleep, Councilmouse.” Beatrice patted my back, “there’s trouble at the Kartoffel apartment building. You will meet your contact in an off-leash dog park tomorrow. A rat terrier. Your pigeon departs at 7am.”
I touched the red bead on my chest and felt the weight of Dell’s blade on my belt. “I’ll be there.”
Reginald was right about one thing: the Councilmice would handle it.
And I was a Councilmouse.