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June 1 – Souls’ Release (Part 2)

Bookworm quickly moved to the side of the table, studying Beatrixe carefully. The large mouse’s chest moved with shallow breathing, and her eye opened slightly, then closed again. Bookworm sighed with relief. “She’s still alive.”

Myrtil let out a sigh, too. Tepic, though, seemed to be losing the life that had blazed up in him. “We… take her… home?”

“Not yet, Tepic,” said Canergak. “We have to finish this properly.” He looked Beatrixe over, and turned his attention back to Tepic. “Do you agree that she was cared for and kept alive in my care?”

“She were,” Tepic replied, life stirring again in his eyes. “‘Cept yer lost her.”

Canergak gestured to the now-quiet Bea. “I think not. But that is at an end, in any case. Take the Lieutenant’s hand, and I will take the other.” Bookworm held out one hand to Tepic, after spitting in it, and the other to Canergak. Both were grasped, and Canergak began reciting:

“Thus was our treaty written,
Thus was our agreement made,
Our words were our bond,
Logged where it could never fade,
But what was asked was given,
And now the price is paid.
Our deal is at an end,
Return to your life and trade.”

The man and the boy released her hands at the same time. Tepic straightened up, raising his arms, and shouted, “Free!” Canergak, though, simply took up the bag of notebooks and left, leaving Myrtil and Bookworm to express their relief. Tepic dug out his flute and began playing a joyful tune.

Myrtil asked, “Were you prisoner of those words that whole time?”

Tepic lowered the flute. “Errr… we gotta keep a promise, ain’t we?”

She nodded a little, but didn’t look at all mollified. “And that man knew how to release you that whole time and didn’t,” she muttered quietly.

Tepic quickly turned to Bookworm. “Err, Miss Book?”

“Yes?” she said.

“Yer don’t need ter spit at the end…”

“Oh.” Bookworm looked at her hand and shrugged, catching Myrtil’s grin out of the corner of her eye. “Well, let’s see about getting Beatrixe out of here.”

“We gotta get her back, too,” Tepic added.

“But she’s here,” Myrtil said, looking perplexed. She shook her head, seeming to want to dismiss that confusion, and asked, “So you won’t come back to the Factory, Tepic?”

“Let me rephrase that, Myrtil,” Bookworm put in before Tepic could answer. Then she fixed Tepic with a stern stare. “You *will* not be going back to the factory. Not, at least, until you’re well, and only if you want to.”

“Well… dunno how Mr. Popplefot will get by,” Tepic replied, digging his bare toe on the floor a little. “I might drop in ter give him a hand.”

“I’m sure Mr. Popplefot will manage, Tepic. You’re not indispensable there.”

“Well,” Myrtil put in, “he actually said he needed to talk to you sometime next week, Tepic. At the least, you would have to tell him you’ll be working less or resigning, so he can replace you.”

“Yep, it’s only fair,” Tepic said stoutly, and then put his flute to his lips again, playing another song.

“He should already know, actually. Mr. Canergak was supposed to talk to him,” Bookworm said.

Myrtil shrugged. “I dunno if he did or not, but what’s sure is that Mister Popplefot asked me to tell Tepic he wanted to see him…” She trailed off, staring at Beatrixe, who was stirring a little on the table. “She moved a bit!” she exclaimed, fidgeting excitedly.

Tepic stopped playing. “I knows one she’ll like!” He began playing another song, while Bookworm and Myrtil watched the prone figure intently. They were rewarded when Beatrixe began turning her head, and her remaining eye opened and looked around.

“Beatrixe?” Bookworm leaned over her. “Can you hear me?”

Beatrixe focused on Bookworm. “Oh… hi…” she said weakly. “Are you… you?”

Myrtil giggled a bit at that. Bookworm replied, “I think so. And Tepic is Tepic again, too.”

“Oh… good.” She laid her head back down.

“How are you feeling, Miss Beatrixe?” Myrtil asked.

“I was worried I’d never see you again. The you you’s…” She rolled her head, looking around again. “Was I dreaming?”

“I dunno,” Myrtil replied, “but you sure were bouncing. Tepic’s music brought you back.”

“I was kind of lost. They told me I’d hear the way, but I didn’t.” She looked from one to another. “Does that make sense?”

“Course!” exclaimed Tepic.

“Umm… doesn’t make sense to me,” Myrtil said, shrugging, “but I guess that’s normal.”

Beatrixe, meanwhile, had giggled a little and rolled over onto her side. Her even breathing indicated that she’d dropped off to sleep again. Tepic took the opportunity to discreetly check over her tail, and reassured himself that all there was to be seen was a healed bite wound.

Grinning at Tepic’s move, Myrtil asked, “Miss Book, do you need help carrying Miss Beatrixe to your house?”

“Yes, please, Myrtil,” replied Bookworm, thinking of the route they’d taken just recently with Tepic. “I’ll need both of you, I’m sure.”

“All right. I have my flappter outside in front of the entrance, if that can help. I can fly it and have someone make sure Miss Beatrixe doesn’t fall off.”

“That would be easier than hauling her up and down those stairs in a wheelchair.” Bookworm chuckled, which was echoed by Myrtil. “And Tepic was smaller, too,” the girl added.

Tepic looked from one to the other of them. “Eh?”

“Let’s get her released,” Bookworm said, not wanting to explain to Tepic quite then. She went downstairs and found Dr. Sonnerstein. Explanations took some time, as he was very skeptical at first toward Bookworm’s assurances that Beatrixe had improved markedly. She kept at him doggedly, though; Canergak had mentioned Beatrixe’s release as part of his formulae for releasing Tepic, so she was determined to make sure it happened. Dr. Sonnerstein accompanied her upstairs to check her over, and finally let himself be convinced that Bookworm would make sure she was well cared-for at her home.

They got the dozing Beatrixe into a wheelchair and took her downstairs and outside. Myrtil, with Tepic’s help, got her into the winged vehicle. “I’ll meet you there,” Bookworm said once she was sure they were all secure, and dashed off toward her home.

((To be continued…))

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