Before the two men went their separate ways for the evening, Mo and Dustfinger made a carefully laid out plan for tomorrow's events. Only a few days prior did Firefox threaten to enslave all the children of Ombra and make them work in the Silver Mines if the women of the town did not surrender the Bluejay. This cruel act infuriated Mortimer; or perhaps it was his new alter ego, the Bluejay, that found this injustice horrifying. Either way, Mo was determined to save those poor defenseless children. Firefox's men had already captured them in the middle of the night and imprisoned them in Ombra castle's dungeon cells.
Mo had told one of the Motley spies earlier that day to spread the word of the Bluejay's surrender. If it meant giving up his own life to save those kids, he was ready to take that plunge. He could just imagine the smug smile on Firefox's face when word would eventually reach his ears. It made his stomach turn.
Resa and Meggie repeatedly begged him to reconsider this venture. His wife pleaded with him to think about their unborn child, about how it would feel to grow up without its father. Although he loved his family more than anything else in the world, the Jay was consumed by his desire to bring justice to the Inkworld. The thought of its inhabitants suffering day after day at the hands of the Adderhead and his followers unsettled Mo's heart. He knew he could never live with himself if he simply ignored the chaos surrounding him. He was falling deeply in love with this new world and so felt the need to protect it, even at the cost of his life.
Later that evening, while Silvertongue walked with the Black Prince discussing plans for tomorrow, he spotted Meggie standing next to a tree, alone. He excused himself from his friend's company and strolled over to his daughter. He put a gentle hand on her shoulder, which made her jump a bit and turn her head swiftly.
"Shouldn't you be asleep, young lady? It's very late. Is there something on your mind?" He bent down slightly to look her in the eyes. She had grown so tall over such a short period of time. How did he miss that? He smiled kindly as he waited for an answer.
Meggie merely shrugged and looked straight-ahead, avoiding eye contact with her father. "You're so set in your ways, Mo. So much so that it doesn't seem like anything Resa or I say gets through to you. You've changed so much." She couldn't hold back tears any longer, as she finally looked deep into her father's eyes. "You've, literally, become the Bluejay. A fictional character created by Fenoglio. It was never meant to be anything more than words of hope for the poor people in this world. Nothing more! Yet you gladly took on the part as if it's been who you are all along. Why, Mo? I don't understand."
The bookbinder held his daughter close and stroked her golden locks to offer what little comfort he could, considering the circumstances. "Meggie, please don't cry. I honestly don't know what's happening to me. But I do know that it feels right. I feel in my heart that I was meant to be the Bluejay. Perhaps Fenoglio is somewhat responsible for these feelings, or perhaps not. One way or another, this is who I have become and maybe what I always have been. There's a possibility this side of me has laid dormant all of these years, waiting for its moment to shine."
He lifted his daughter's chin so she could see the sincerity in his eyes. "Now is that time, Meggie. I've got to save those children. I could never live with myself if I did nothing but let them fall into slavery at the hands of that bastard, Firefox. Would you?"
Meggie knew he was right. She'd feel terrible if nothing was done to help those poor children. But that wasn't enough to ease the fear she held for her father's life. She had no way of knowing if he'd come back alive. She had never known a fear so intense till this very evening.
She shook her head in response. "But why can't the Black Prince and his men do it? You can stay behind with me and Resa where it's safe." Her eyes were practically screaming at him to consider this option.
Mo wiped the tears from her eyes and kissed her forehead. "You know I can't do that. Besides, Firefox wants the Bluejay. Sending the Black Prince instead would be a waste of time, not to mention reckless. That blood thirsty rat will be waiting for my arrival at the castle gates and who am I to disappoint him?"
There it was again... that mischievous smile that only began showing itself when Mo was turning into the Bluejay. Meggie hated that smile. She wanted her father back. She wanted his smile. Secretly, she cursed Fenoglio and the Inkworld he created. She missed Elinor's house more than ever.
Mo gently moved the hair from in front of her eyes and cupped her pretty face in his hands. "I'll be fine, Meggie. Dustfinger will be with me for added protection. So don't worry, okay?" He softly kissed her forehead once more.
"So he really is back?" She asked with a twinge of hope and happiness in every syllable.
Mo smiled. "He sure is. I made sure of that." He dared not tell her about the horrid deal he made with Death. He wanted to shove any doubts into oblivion. He wanted the courage, confidence, and strength he acquired while he assumed his Bluejay identity to shine above all else. His precious daughter's life was on the line, after all, as well as his own and Dustfinger's. For a moment, his heart felt heavy, but he immediately shook it off. There was no room for doubt with so much at stake.
Meggie's heart, on the other hand, remained heavy and remorseful. Though she was happy and relieved that the fire-tamer was alive and well, she knew that the distance between her and Farid would only stretch further because of it. She saw him less and less every day, resulting in her heart wavering little by little. She was no fool. She knew that the way Farid stared at Dustfinger was much more passionate than the way he looked at her. She sighed heavily. Why did love have to hurt so much?
She smiled warily. "That's good to hear. I'm sure Farid, the Black Prince, and Roxanne will be thrilled to see him again. I missed him, too."
Her father smiled back, almost triumphantly. "I think we all missed him. This world would seem quite empty and lonely without him." He stood upright and outstretched his hand to his beloved daughter. "Now let's go get some rest. Tomorrow is a big day."
Oh how she loved Mo. He was her everything and she didn't want to lose him. Would he stand a chance against Firefox and his men? Stop thinking such things, Meggie! She scolded herself. He'll be just fine. Dustfinger will protect him, I'm sure of it. Everything will be fine… She repeated that last statement over and over again in her head as she walked hand-in-hand with her father back to the tents. It was like a secret mantra to help calm her wary heart.
To help her sleep, she kindly asked Batistta to sing encouraging songs about the Bluejay and his triumphs. He gladly accepted and in moments, Meggie was fast asleep. As Batistta continued his hymns of hope, he worked on the finishing touches to the Bluejay's newest accessory: a mask adorned with bluejay feathers.