~ The Find ~
Cullen held out his hand. “I found this yesterday. Lying in the mud, down by that old treasure ship we discovered.”
“Vincent said, we shouldn’t go there.” Mouse frowned at his friend’s open palm. His curiosity overcame his caution. “What’s it?” He moved closer.
“Just some old ring, I think. I didn’t have time to clean it.” Cullen shrugged. He dropped something mud-covered into his friend’s waiting hand. “Thought you could use the metal. Looks like it’s made of bronze.”
“Okay, good…” Mouse studied the find.
The face was carved with a symbol he didn’t recognise. Maybe he’d ask Vincent…
~ The Symbol ~
"It looks like a symbol for Sagittarius,” Catherine mused, holding the cleaned ring to the candlelight.
“Somebody you know about?” Mouse queried. He’d decided against asking Vincent, and risking his friend discovering the old treasure ship had been revisited.
“It’s a sign of the zodiac,” Catherine frowned at him. “Perhaps it’s a love token.”
Mouse looked confused. “Why carve that onto a ring?”
“See the bow, and crossed arrows?” Catherine prompted gently. “The archer.”
“Like Jamie.” Mouse’s blue eyes rounded. “Her birthday soon. He pointed to the ring. “Good as gift for her?”
“I think she would be very pleased.”
~ The Gift ~
“What is it, Mouse?” Jamie watched her good friend shuffle his feet.
He looked agitated. But then, anything which took Mouse too far from his comfort zone made him edgy.
“Got something for you,” Mouse muttered. “Been waiting for you.”
He looked around the room. The birthday party in the dining hall was winding down. Many had already gone to bed. Only the hardiest remained, eating leftovers, and enjoying William’s fine apple cider.
Father and Vincent were deep in a game of chess. Catherine stood, watching closely, waiting to challenge the winner.
“This is yours.” Mouse held out his hand.
~ The Ring ~
“Thanks, Mouse.” Jamie accepted the gift gingerly.
Like all tunnel dwellers, she took Mouse’s offerings with a healthy dose of caution.
“Good Mouse gift.” The tinker looked aggrieved. “For Jamie. Very special.”
“Sorry, Mouse,” Jamie apologised.
She untied the red ribbon bow. The soft cloth parted to reveal a ring. But not just any ring…
“Oh, Mouse…” Jamie whispered. “It’s perfect.” She held it up to the light. “Wherever did you find it?”
Mouse flushed with pride. “Cullen did. Down at the old wreck.”
“I thought I’d put that place out of bounds.” A large hand fell onto Mouse’s shoulder.
~ The Beginning ~
“Look, Vincent. See what Mouse gave me.” Jamie held out the ring. “Isn’t it beautiful?”
“The archer.” Vincent took the ring, scanning it closely. “Very nice, and truly appropriate.” He winked at Mouse, his hand tightening on the tinker’s shoulder. “But that ship’s still out of bounds. It’s far too dangerous down there. You know better, Mouse.”
“Mouse knows…” The tinker shrugged. “But the ring’s for Jamie. She deserves everything, and...” He faltered, flushing.
“She certainly does, Mouse,” Catherine replied, appearing at Vincent’s side.
“Are you encouraging him?” Vincent’s brows lifted.
“It’s a step in the right direction.” Catherine smiled.
Illustrations supplied by the author