"You're the Shamus," a voice two registers above my normal headache threshold piped. Seeing as I had once again taken in too much pixie nectar, my headache threshold had already been shattered. The voice drilled in through my ear, stabbed into my brain, and caused unfocused eyes to pop open in pain, which redoubled upon seeing the too cheerful sunlight.
"Are you all right?" the voice pitched higher as it asked the question, and I saw a squirrel perched on my desk, its head cocked to the side.
"Did you talk, or am I hearing voices again?" I slurred. I knew I slurred. My lips and tongue felt slack, but it sounded right in my head.
"It was me!" the squirrel was much too excited over that fact. I still had trouble wrapping my brain around the idea that some animals could speak. Not all, just some, and there didn't appear to be any rhyme or reason. Both wolves from Red Riding Hood and the Three Pigs, and the Bears from Goldilocks, but not the wolf from Peter and the Wolf, which I didn't even think qualified as a fairy tale, but they were here.
"Okay, I'm going to need you to talk much lower and softer. And I need some coffee."
"Some what?" The squirrel tried to lower its voice, but failed not quite spectacularly.
"Nevermind." I knew better than to stand, so I pulled a flask of the Juice from a desk drawer—It had taken months to get the carpenter to understand what I wanted in a desk—and took a swig. The blend of fruits, some of which I had been told were magical, washed through me, and my headache lessened to the point where a Tylenol would take care of it. Too bad there was no Tylenol here.
"Okay, so, what's your name, and why are you here?"
"My name is Chip." A squirrel named Chip. I had to resist the urge to say that was a name for a chipmunk. "I need some help. Dawn has been captured!"
"I'm guessing Dawn is the beautiful young maiden who lived in the forest you were friends with?"
"Yes! She's been captured!"
"Yeah. See, rescues really aren't my thing. For that you need to go to the castle and find the Prince. Or a knight. Both of them are perfect for the job."
"I did! They rushed out, but couldn't find her. No one knows where she is!"
"Please, not so excited. So, she's just gone? The royal huntsmen, the court wizard, all nothing?"
That was unusual, and meant some kind of serious mojo was going down for all of them to turn up empty.
Slowly, I stood, and grabbed my hat, a poor, leather version of a fedora, but it was better than what they wore around here. "All right, Chip, I'm on the case."
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