Deep Secrets: Part Two
At closing time, Ethan locked the Ring of the Lost back into its cupboard, along with the half-finished Ring of the Deep, and blew out the candles.
He put on his long coat and locked his workshop door, and then went out to lock the front.
Augustine Pyle came out of his store at the same time, and nodded cordially to Ethan.
The Ogrin’s face twisted, and he spat at the street next to Pyle’s feet.
Augustine watched his friend lock up his shop and shuffle away down the street.
“Ethan,” he said, but only after the Ogrin was so far away there was no chance he would’ve heard it. “Ethan, what are you doing in there?”
He shook his head and locked his own door. With a final glance at the hunched figure of Ethan retreating into the distance, the Wocky turned the other direction and started walking home.
A week later, the ring was done.
Ethan let it lie on the table, surrounded by little curls and scraps of stone he’d shaven off, and watched how it absorbed the light and threw it back.
It fascinated him. He picked it up, turned it around to see how the light tracked around the alternating bands of blue and turquoise.
A rough spot caught at his hoof, and the Ogrin polished it off carefully.
He’d kept the Ring of the Lost locked safely away while he worked, and now he stood up to get it out.
As soon as the light hit it, it lit up, and a hum that was not quite noise filled his mind. He went to pick it up, but his hooves were trembling, and it slipped easily past them, falling—
And didn’t hit the floor.
It hung there, an inch above the wood, vibrating.
Ethan got down on his knees and picked it up, holding onto it tightly. He took a step toward the table.
The two rings were vibrating in tandem, and it got stronger the closer they came. Ethan stopped halfway across the room, and it was all he could do to keep the Ring of the Lost from flying out of his grip.
One more step. He could manage that, surely—
He eased one back hoof forward, and then the other.
The Ring of the Lost gave a jerk and flew toward the table, and the just-finished ring jumped up to meet it in midair.
They hovered above the candle, circling each other. Ethan stayed where he was. They were going slowly enough that he could see he’d been right about their colors: they complimented each other perfectly.
Their rotation started to speed up, and the Ogrin shuffled back, one step at a time, until he was pressed up against a cabinet—the closest he could get to a wall. The colors of the two rings blurred together, into a streak of turquoise and blue, and one of red and gold.
And then their speed intermingled the colors, red and blue, turquoise and gold, and then it was all a muddle, and Ethan could no longer follow it with his eyes. He slid down the cupboard until he was huddled against it sitting on the floor.
The wind of the rings’ passage blew the candle out, and in the sudden darkness they fell onto the table with two muffled clinks.
Ethan got up slowly, waiting to make sure nothing more was going to happen, and relit the candle with shaking hooves. The light that bloomed showed that the rings were precisely as they had been before—the colors, the patterns, the design.
The flame danced on top of the candle, and reflections danced within the rings, too, merrily burning away.
It was Ethan’s tradition to try on the rings after he made them, but these he did not. He wrapped them carefully in the white paper the stone had been delivered in, not touching them more than he had to, and put them in his cabinet.
He locked it tightly, and then went out, putting on his coat and locking both doors behind him.
It wasn’t closing time, but between finishing the Ring of the Deep, and what he had witnessed between the two rings, Ethan thought he deserved an afternoon off.
Augustine was selling a necklace to a yellow Bruce when he caught the motion out of the corner of his eye and looked around to see Ethan shuffling away from his shop.
The Wocky frowned, distracted, and sold the necklace to the Bruce for half what it was worth.
Ethan went to the coffee shop on the next block over, slid into a booth, and ordered something. He wasn’t sure what until it came: a large coffee, with Kau milk and sugar, a pastry filled with raspberry jam, and three bags of walnuts.
The Ogrin never drank coffee, but he filled it with sugar and tore pieces off the pastry with nervous hooves. He ate hardly any of it.
What had that been? He’d never seen anything like it before. He had made beautiful pieces before, and sets of jewelry, but never—
He remembered how hard it had been to hold on to the Ring of the Lost as he walked toward the table, and shuddered, his hands trembling and nearly knocking over his coffee.
And then—the way they gleamed now—they had had that special something that every jeweler wanted his pieces to have, before. Now Ethan would swear they looked alive.
That they had looked at him.
He shivered, gulped his coffee, and spat it all over the booth. It soaked into the paper napkins stacked neatly on the table, spreading quickly through them.
How could people drink that?
The Ogrin paid his bill and left hastily.
Ethan had to walk past his shop to take the most direct route back to his house. He might as well look in, he thought, turning into the street. He wouldn’t even have to open the cupboard. Clean up a little, maybe; he’d left his tools lying all around, and the chips of stone he’d carved off.
The first thing he saw was Augustine standing in the middle of the road. The Wocky hurried up to meet him.
“Ethan, I’m sorry—I’d just turned my back for a moment and when I looked back—”
The Ogrin brushed past him, not even giving him the attention necessary to listen to his words, and went on toward his shop.
His front door hung open into the street.
“I didn’t go in,” Augustine was continuing. “I don’t know if they took anything, I’m so sorry, Ethan.”
The Ogrin took another step, and then turned back.
“You took them,” he said, his voice low. “Didn’t you.”
The Wocky frowned. “Took what, Ethan?”
“You know what I’m talking about very well, you dirty thief.” Ethan snorted. He raised his voice. “Thought you could get away with it, didn’t you? Wait until I go out, then break in. You’re the only one who saw, Augustine. You’re the only one who knew. But they’ll find you now, don’t worry, I’ll tell them everything.”
“I don’t know anything,” Augustine protested, but the Ogrin wasn’t listening any more—if indeed he ever had.
“You always did envy me. You always knew you weren’t as good as me. Not as clever as me. But you weren’t content with just stealing my customers, were you? No, you had to steal my—my life’s work—my—“
Ethan threw himself at Augustine, pummeling the Wocky’s broad chest with his hooves. A little ring of onlookers had formed, and they pulled Ethan off him easily: the Ogrin’s muscles were weak after years of sitting in his candlelit room and making jewelry. He could make precise measurements, precise cuts, but not pull free of his neighbors.
“You’re in on it, are you?” Ethan asked, struggling against their grasp. Many paws gripped his arms, his legs. “He recruited you—well, I’ll tell you what I think of you—”
It was a little later and much calmer that Ethan finally came back to his shop. He went through the front slowly: the door still hung open. His carefully laid out jewelry—those pieces he had selected for sale—were gone, the velvet from the trays torn and snagged.
The Ogrin ignored it all. He didn’t care about those.
The door to his workshop was open, too.
He pushed it open slowly and stepped in. He lit a candle and looked around. His tools were scattered everywhere, and some of them were gone. He would have to clean up to find out which ones they were. In the light of the lone candle, they all looked the same.
The lock hung off the handle of the cupboard in the far corner, open. The doors were parted just the slightest bit.
No one had touched the contents of this cabinet, Ethan found, when he stepped over and pushed them wide. Nothing was gone—
Except the rings.
The pieces of white paper he had wrapped them in lay strewn around the room in various states: crumpled, clean, midway. To Ethan they looked like snowflakes, gigantic snowflakes that had fallen—one, two, three, four—into his workshop.
They looked like they could melt and leave no sign they’d ever been.
To be continued...