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          How the ring had come to be caught in the highest most part of the oak tree was of no concern to the magpie. Nor did she have any concern for the people of the village, who wandered dazed and trembling, staring in fear at the vast burning crater that had appeared after the night’s terrible events. A fearful night of unearthly shrieks and blinding flashes in which homes had been shaken to rubble, and balls of light had blasted from the ground high into the night sky. A night of terror that had only ended when the world about them had been torn apart by a mighty thunderclap. And as the people below began to pick through the rubble and call for their loved ones, the magpie hopped from branch to branch, cackling with glee at finding something so gleaming and so pretty to adorn her nest with. 

          Grasping the glittering prize in her beak the magpie had flown back to her nest in a young beech tree by the village chapel. She had carefully placed it first here, and then there, and then back here again, before deciding to put it just where she could gaze upon it when the time came to brood her eggs. When her clutch of seven young had hatched, the poor magpie had been so busy flying to and fro with beakfuls of food that she didn't notice the ring slowly slipping under the growing young and down through their tangled home. By the time the fledglings had flown in summer, the ring had come to rest in the fork below the nest. 

          As the years passed the tree grew around and then swallowed the ring until it had been drawn deep, deep down into the trunk. Far away from daylight, far away from thieving magpies, and far away from the scores of children who came to play under the spread of the tree's branches, the ring lay hidden.          

          Almost four centuries later, the beech tree, darkened with rain and made darker still by the threatening winter sky, still harboured its treasure. It had guarded it while generation after generation in the village of Weston Pewsey had been born, had grown and had died. It had witnessed kings and queens come and go. It had witnessed wars bringing their destruction and misery to the world. It had seen the chapel become a school; quiet, sober worshippers giving way to noisy, laughing children who sought shade and shelter under its spreading branches. It had witnessed those who came seeking the ring, some with good intentions, and others with evil in their hearts. But always it had held the ring hidden deep in its bosom.

Copyright: Angus Rose

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