I grabbed the fishing line, dug my back claws into the wood, and braced.
The faerie kept flying, and I strained hard, intending to pull him back in.
But that’s not what happened.
He was a powerful flier, even wounded, and my arms were nearly pulled out of their sockets as he yanked me off the table and into the air. Now I was flying too, about three feet above the ground, holding tight to the fishing line.
The pixie looked down at me and yelled something else, then turned around and dragged me across the table. I caromed into the spark-burned salt and pepper shakers, knocking them aside like tiny bowling pins, but held fast. A moment later, I fell off the side of the picnic table and became airborne once more.
Furious at his failure to shake me, the pixie moved on to plan B: Burn the offending mouse loose. He flew right into the smoke and hovered like a hummingbird, dangling me as close to the smouldering coals as he could stand.
Unbeknownst to him, the moment before I entered the smoke, I took a deep breath. I closed my eyes to the searing and stinging, and held my breath, refusing to let go. Considering that letting go would result in me dropping into what was left of the campfire, I wasn’t tempted.
Plan B didn’t work.
I think faeries must hate fire and smoke even more than mice do, because in seconds, he was coughing. He shot out of the smoke column and we both took deep breaths of cool night air.
Tired of being swung all over the campsite, I started climbing up the line. He looked down, our eyes met, and I saw fear written across his face. “Get off my land!” I yelled, trying to sound as threatening as a female mouse could. Bet you’d really like that wand now, wouldn’t you?
In response, he wheeled in the air and streaked toward the nearby stream. Apparently, plan C was to drag me through the water.
As my feet touched the surface, I gulped air and spread my fur out to increase my surface area. A moment later, the cold mountain water closed over my head and all sound gave way to an underwater garble. It was just me, the line, and the stream. Still, I climbed.
Above me, I could just see the faerie through the surface of the water, his wings valiantly flapping. But I was heavy, and the water added resistance. The more he tried to fly across the stream, the closer he sank toward the surface.
At the last second, he rose sharply. Sound and warmth came back as I left the water, and I gasped, filling my aching lungs with air. My frigid paws still clung to the line, but they didn’t have much strength left. Keep climbing, old girl.
It was time to beat this faerie before he could think of a plan D.
I mustered the strength I could, twitched the last drops of stream from my tail, and climbed the last few inches of line. He tried kicking at me, hitting me with tiny fists, and twisting around. I ignored it all, wrapped all four paws around him and squeezed! His wings crumpled in the embrace, and we fell from the sky, slamming into the water. You want plan C? I’ll give you plan C…
I took a deep breath a moment before the water closed over me, and clung to him. I’d just been in the water so I was ready for it. The pixie wasn’t. I knew I had him. He had no wand and no air.
I had no fear.
We sank to the bottom, where the current dragged us across the muddy bottom until we got caught on a stick. I shoved the pixie beneath it, and as quickly as I could, wrapped the line around it. He flailed, thrashing in panic, but the line held him in place. We both needed air. But only one of us was going to get any.
Mission accomplished, I kicked off and rose to the surface. My head broke water and I gasped, then struggled to swim to shore and get out before I froze to death.
I walked back to camp, wringing water from my tail and fur with every step, and warmed myself by the dying campfire. The pixie wand I tossed into the fire (something I’d later regret) and sat watching eldritch tongues of green burn it to ash. The chickadee was there, watching me. He cocked his head and then flew into the night.
Thanks for nothing, buddy.
That’s how I got my full name: Eve Pixiedrowner.
But I wouldn’t know that until a few months later.