Catania carefully used her knife to brush the dirt back over the hole she had dug beside the creek for her strawberries. She patted down the mould, jumped to her feet, and reached up to snatch a handful of leaves from outside the ditch to wipe her knife with. She sheathed the small tool and went for her bow. The sun was just beginning to wester, and Tyre would be walking home from the city again. She stopped to pick up her bow, and considered laying it inside the cave instead of carrying it; but decided to bring it along. She never guessed she would be called upon to use it—and she could never decide afterward if she was glad she had brought it.
Catania set off walking towards the city again, not really pleased with the prospect of another conversation with the centaur. At least she knew she could trust him not side with the humans and turn her in. He would die before he did so. She could think of no one else she trusted like that. She had not even been so sure of Lythia.
She scrambled up the familiar tree, waited for Tyre to appear, and started towards him. She met him halfway to his tower, and slipped out of the trees near him. He turned towards her in surprise.
“Catania!” he exclaimed, and she could not decide if he sounded glad to see her.
“Look,” she began, shifting her weight uncomfortably. How to begin?
“Whatever’s the matter?” he asked, coming to a complete stop and arching an eyebrow.
“Look, Tyre, it’s like this,” she stammered. “I accidentally shot Lord Daniel’s prize stag.” She slid the ring off her finger, where she had slipped it for safe-keeping and held it out to him. “I need you to melt this,” explained, lowering her voice, and glancing involuntarily up at the city wall. “You can keep the silver.”
“Melt it?” Tyre said—in his ordinary, loud voice—perplexed. He took it and rolled it between his fingers. “I’ll leave it on old Daniel’s porch with a blood-stained arrow for you. There is no need to make up excuses about accidents to me.”
“No,” Catania gasped, restraining her hands, though she longed to try and grab the trinket back from him. “You can’t do that! Moth and Horbrid will kill me!” she ended frantically, then winced as she realized what she had said.
“What, those good-for-nothing tramps Daniel calls wardens? What have they to do with it? Don’t tell me you went to them with a formal apology for unlicensed hunting, Catania!”
If the subject at hand had not been so grim, the young elf might even have laughed. “No, Tyre, of course not! I tried to hide it, but a raccoon dug it up, and they found it.”
“They know about you?”
“Yes, I’m afraid so. They found me a few years ago, and Horbrid let me stay. There has always been the chance of Moth sneaking out by himself and trying to cut my throat, he never really approved—but they said they would leave me alone and not tell if I stayed hidden and stayed quiet. They knew it had to be me when they got that (gesturing to the ring Tyre held), and they found me. I said I would have it melted.”
“I see. Why did you never tell me you let them catch you? Really, ’tis ridiculous. I shall have to see if I can melt it then. But I ought to give you half the silver back. Come on.” He started off down the road.
“What?” Catania stammered. “What would I do with it?”