And so Belfiore and her maid Maria walked as quickly as they could past the carpenters as they crashed nails into the timbers that would hold the hanging ropes. They tiptoed past the drummers beating out their deadly rhythms. They marched past the braziers where the honeyed chestnut sellers were preparing their treats.
At the door to the Strong Room the guards let Belfiore pass. They were not guarding very much more than a few chests of silver and were busy worrying more about their jobs than who they let in.
The gold room echoed. The empty chests lay on their sides. Their lids were broken and on top of one there stood a mouse.
We are used to seeing mice scuttle and dash on all fours but this one was up on its hind legs with its head tilted right back as if searching for something on the ceiling.
It waved its front paws and then clasped them together as if in prayer.
‘Excuse me,’ said Belfiore.
The mouse looked straight at her and then did a backward flip and disappeared behind the treasure chest.
‘Oh dear,’ said Belfiore, ‘I didn’t mean to scare you.’
‘Who are you talking to?’ said Maria, ‘I don’t see anyone.’
‘I’m not scared,’ came a shrill little voice, ‘you made me jump that’s all.’
‘Oh my,’ said Maria, ‘a mouse.’ And she turned and fled.
‘Hee hee, saw the old lady off!’ said the mouse.
‘What poor manners,’ said Belfiore, ‘and here you are born and raised in the Castle of Zonza.’
The mouse appeared on top of the chest once more, this time brandishing a two inch sword. ‘I apologise your Highness,’ said the mouse, and he bowed, ‘but when you are small in a big world it is easy to get over excited when a giant flees.’
‘So you know who I am,’ said Belfiore, ‘please introduce yourself.’
‘Princess, he is my mouse,’ said Hector, ‘pay no attention. If he is rude please accept my profound apologies. I will eat him later.’
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