Petpet Adventures: Mistress Maxie's Marvellous Circus - Part Seven
It was Harro who moved first. He glanced at Labez, who seemed cowed by this petpet half his size, and was still spluttering from being cut off. Eva was, for some strange reason, staring at the Miamouse's glasses, so it was left to him to actually do anything.
He leapt, knocking into the Miamouse and seizing the whistle with his teeth. His jaws closed on the metal, and he felt it warp. He spat it back onto the ground and wheeled to face the Miamouse. She seemed to be made of stern stuff, because she was still on her paws, amazement on her face, glasses askew.
"Just listen to us," Harro growled.
The Miamouse glanced at the mangled whistle, then pushed her glasses back on her face, arms crossed and face glowering. Eva snapped out of her daze and took a few steps forward, nudging Labez as she did so. The Magmut cleared his throat.
"Do you work here?" he asked.
"Obviously," was the terse reply. The Miamouse was now eyeing his flames and the distance to the closest book.
"Well, then could you help us?" he asked.
"You expect me to help you after you attacked my person?" the Miamouse snapped.
"Um..." Labez floundered.
"We need to find a record of all the students here," Eva said. Then before the Miamouse could interrupt, she launched into their story. Harro was impressed. Obviously the exercise of the routine gave her amazingly healthy lungs, because he only counted her taking three breaths in the entire tirade. She was left panting a bit after she had finished, though.
"And I'm terribly sorry about the flames," Labez said. "I just didn't really think about them. And I'm very careful at controlling them. I help my pet with her magic, after all." He didn't mention that he had fire pearls on his back. He wasn't sure what they were called in Faerieland, but he also wasn't sure what she would do if she found out what he was carrying them in a library.
The Miamouse was still taking in their story, suspicious, but she immediately looked at him in a new light.
"Who's your pet?" she asked briskly.
"Kaulisa. She's Kauvara's cousin," Labez replied.
"Ah..." The Miamouse adjusted her spectacles and flexed her paw like she was aching to be gripping a book or some parchment. "I've heard about her. She's was almost as gifted as Kauvara, and they were great friends. Then she decided to join a circus. I presume it's still the same one." She looked nervously at Labez again.
"If you'll follow me out of the library, I'll see what I can do to assist you, but I just feel a bit unsafe at the moment."
She ushered them towards the bookshelf on the left wall, and Harro wondered what was going on, until she swung open a door that was disguised as half a dozen books, revealing a hole in the wall. The hole was quite small. It would accommodate a Miamouse quite comfortably, but for any larger petpet would it would feel slightly too small. She indicated Labez should go first.
"And be quick about it, or you might burn a book!" she hissed.
Labez pushed his way through, his flames becomingly noticeably smaller for a few seconds, and carefully keeping the fire pearls from touching the walls. Then he was through, and the others followed.
They were in a long corridor that stretched off on either side, wider than the doorway so that two petpets going in the opposite direction could pass each other. The purple walls glowed with some sort of inner light. The Miamouse shut the door behind them and breathed a sigh of relief. She turned back to them. "My name is Tira," she said. "Now, follow me."
She hurried down to the right, and the others followed her. Every few minutes another Miamouse would pass them, sometimes holding a scroll, sometimes leading other petpets along the passageway. The Miamice looked brisk and business-like, exchanging a greeting and a few words, but any other petpet looked at them curiously.
Finally they stopped by another door. The outline was so very faint Harro was amazed Tira could find it in the featureless stretch of all, but the Miamouse pushed the door open and they squeezed out.
"What was that?" Labez asked, amazed, as the door closed to leave a very faint outline in a blank wall.
Tira gave him the look she seemed to have chosen just for him – it was suspicion and horror at the thought of all those books burning – and adjusted her spectacles in what seemed to be a nervous habit.
"That's the 'Mousehole," she said. "The Academy has an army of Miamice scribes to run errands for the faeries and various important pets. Every Miamouse must be able to read and write in Pet, but no one ever wants to speak it. The faeries built the corridor into the wall so we could easily access any area of the building quickly, but it's too small for any pets that might want to ruin the harmony of the establishment. We also keep track of all the petpets in the building so they don't get up to mischief." This last bit was accompanied by a stern look at all of them.
Harro looked up and realised they were in a small antechamber with a desk at one end and a door at both ends. A Gelert was scratching away with a quill, but he could also see a pair of green ears over the top of the desk.
"Garth!" Tira called.
The Miamouse on the desk moved to the edge and peeked over, then leapt the huge distance – for him – to the floor. He hurried over, paws stained black with ink.
"Yes, Tira?" he asked briskly. "What seems to be the problem?"
Harro could see that he was much older than Tira, with lines under his eyes, and was impressed with how quickly and efficiently he moved.
"I found these three in the Library—" Here the two exchanged an equally horrified look as Garth noticed the flames on Labez' back. "—and they need access to the academic records to find out where a pet they know lives."
Garth tapped one of his paws on the stone floor as he thought. "Well, that seems reasonable," he said. "However, any fire is not allowed in the records rooms, so you will have to stay behind, sir." This was directed at Labez.
The Magmut looked put out, but he nodded and sat down against the wall. Tira settled next to him, seeming determined not to let him near anything flammable, and Garth motioned to Eva and Harro.
"Follow me," he said.
He led them past the desk – the Gelert glanced down at them and then looked away – and through a door behind. Immediately Harro was struck with the musty smell of old paper. The room was quite large, and lined with shelves, similar to the library. The huge tomes on the shelves closest to the petpets looked extremely old, like they would crumble away with one touch.
Garth led them further into the room, where the books gradually became less careworn. There were empty shelves ahead of them when Garth stopped.
"So what year did this pet study at the Academy?" he asked.
Harro looked helplessly at Eva, whose face was screwed up in concentration.
"Well," she began. "Oscar's been in the Circus since it began, and he was chosen after the Meridell-Darigan War... Maybe eight or nine years ago?"
"Hmm." Garth climbed up a petpet-sized ladder to the nearest shelf and chose a book. Harro had some trouble with the ladder as he tried to climb up, but he eventually managed it, to find the Miamouse struggling to open one huge volume. He rushed forward to help, but the Miamouse held up a paw.
"You can look but don't touch," he said sternly, then managed to heave the book open.
Harro couldn't help but feel that if he had helped the Miamouse, the book wouldn't have thumped open quite so violently, but instead he kept quiet and sat down, curling his tail around his paws.
"How old are the books here?" he asked as the Miamouse leafed through the pages.
"We have records going back several centuries," Garth replied absently, not noticing Harro's astonishment. "Here we are, the Grarrls from nine years ago. What type was he?"
"Faerie," Eva replied. "Though he may have been another type and changed during his stay here." She began to look worried. "He could be from Tyrannia for all we know. They have lots of Grarrls there, don't they?"
"Name?" Garth prompted.
"Max," Harro said, as Eva was still stressing.
The Miamouse looked up in irritation as he pointed to a line of names. Harro couldn't read Pet, but the first word of each line looked about the same.
"There's about ten Maxes here," Garth growled. "I need something else."
"His last name is Maxwilliam," Eva said.
"Ah." Garth ran his paw down the list and stopped by a name. Eva peered over his shoulder, and she could obviously read Pet, because she mouthed some words to herself.
"It says 7593 Earth Faerie Close," she sad to Harro, then glanced down again. "Oh, it says something else," she said.
"Yes," Garth said, scanning the line. "According to these records, his brother graduated the same year. William Maxwilliam."
Eva snorted. "Their parents must have been very unoriginal." Her and Garth chortled together for a moment, before Harro spoke up.
"That must be his twin," he said. "It makes sense, them graduating in the same year."
"But there's no guarantee they still live at that address," Garth said, struggling to close the book, which was as thick as he was tall. Harro watched him struggle, but didn't offer to help this time.
"At least it's something," Eva said. She turned to Garth. "Thank you for helping us," she said.
Garth nodded." My pleasure," he said, finally succeeding with the book and leading them back down the ladder. "Now let's get back to Tira before she does something drastic like pouring water on your friend."
"She can't do that!" Eva objected. "That's my job!"
To their surprise, they found Labez and Tira sitting comfortably against the wall where they had left them, chatting animatedly.
"....but I personally think Grondik root is much better to use," Labez was saying. "It makes the texture much smoother, and when it's done the potion has the most delightful aroma."
"But Tanya was one of the greatest Potionmistresses the Academy has ever seen, and she absolutely hated the stuff," Tira argued back. Then they both caught sight of the new arrivals.
"What did you find out?" Labez asked, leaping to his paws.
"We found Max's old address when he was a student here," Eva said. "I say it's worth a try."
"The performance is tonight," Labez sighed. "I guess we have nothing to lose. The show won't feel right without Mistress Maxie there."
They left Garth behind and followed Tira through the 'Mousehole until they ended up at the entrance hall again. Tira made certain they actually left the building.
"We can't have you wondering around unaccompanied," she had said. "But if you're ever in the area again Labez, feel free to come and find me. Perhaps after you've found Max? I want to continue our discussion. And I'll let you know, I still don't think you're right!"
Labez smiled at her. "I'll try," he replied. "And you know I'm right."
He looked triumphant as they walked away. "She was smart, but she's only read about these things. She's never actually performed the procedures."
"Yes, you're a genius," Eva said indulgently. "Now help me find some signs."
They eventually found Earth Faerie Close, and then it just became an endless walk along the street, counting the numbers on the houses. When they reached 7593, they almost walked past it, but Eva was actually paying attention to her surroundings this time, and tugged them both back.
They peered over the purple wall into the garden beyond. It was full of lush green grass and numerous colourful plants. A small purple cottage sat in the centre of the garden, smoke merrily puffing out of the chimney. At least they knew someone was home.
"Look!" Eva said excitedly.
Harro looked in the direction she was indicating and saw a flash of bright green. The Floobix sitting on the roof was unmistakable, and they climbed the wall quickly, rushing towards her.
"Mistress Maxie!" Eva cried, echoed by Labez.
The Floobix looked up, and that's when Harro realised she had been crying.
To be continued...