This piece is FICTION. No defamation of JRR Tolkien or any other 'magic ring' story is intended.
My father had always been fascinated by the 'sword and sorcerer' stories and especially enthralled by the idea of a magic ring. When we were children he'd read the stories to me and my sister until we could quote parts back to him. Years later he kept fascinated to the point that he would browse online auctions and buy antique rings of dubious authenticity. Always with the hope that one of them might be part of a legendary curse or have a history that was a link, however tenuous, to the fantasy world he had read about. His hobby kept him interested in the world after mom passed away, and slowly he quit grieving and began living again.
He never found the Ruling Ring, or even a magic ring that would do anything besides turn his finger green. But he did amass quite the collection of odd rings of all sorts, not to mention a large number of necklaces and pins, bracelets and earrings, and other jewelry items. And by default, I became a passable expert on the more unusual of them.
We had 'Dragon Talisman' rings made by gypsies to protect you from evil. There were signet rings from several royal houses of Europe. Quite a few were from the Far East with intricate designs and small gleaming stones set in them. A few rings had documentation that told their story back several hundred years, still others we only had guesses about, others were fairly new reproductions of classic pieces.
As dad aged and had to quit work at the factory he took his collection and went on the road to craft and antique shows. At the shows he bought and sold and swapped rings of all sorts. Always adding more than he got rid of. When he got home we would all gather around while he produced his new treasures and we looked them up in books and on the Internet to see if there was a story behind them.
Sometimes there was, most of the time there wasn't.
But the book value of his collection kept rising to the point where I added a rider on our insurance policy to cover them.
A couple of years later his health got a little worse and he couldn't travel by himself any more. So me and my sister, Carrie, took turns taking time off work once a month and, with our own families in tow, we'd make a trip to Nashville or Baltimore to a show. Our spouses would take the kids to a park or the zoo or something and we'd sit with Dad and his rings and try to answer questions or finalize a deal for him.
It was my turn to go with him to a show with him in Philadelphia.
"Oh, boy! We going to the Franklin again?" My oldest daughter said excitedly.
I nodded. My wife looked skeptical. "I'll stay with Dad, you go do all that walking." She said.
"Goodie." The kids answered cheering.
"OK." I said to Jean resigning myself to the Fates.
Dad was all for it. "Jean's good with the customers." He hugged my wife with a grin.
And off to Philly we went.
Saturday morning after sitting up Dad's tables on the show floor... Yes, tables. His collection had grown to occupy a couple of folding tables of ring and bracelet displays under glass lids. The more unique pieces were in an upright stand with lights that made the jewelry gleam. We got everything set up and I took the kids to the institute.
Many miles and a good many dollars later we went back to the center and found Dad deep in conversation with a old woman and an even older man. I smiled and greeted them and smiled at my wife.
Her face was almost white, her eyes were wide. "Please try to talk him out of it." She said in a low voice.
"What? What's going on?" I thought for a minute they were wanting to buy the entire collection or something.
"They're trying to sell him a couple of rings that I don't like the looks of."
I figured they had some satanic signs on or were made out of human bone or something. Both of which had passed through the collection over the years.
"Here he is. Rick, come here." Dad said looking up with a smile. "I found them."
With those three words I knew what he meant. Deep inside me, something stirred.
In Dad's hand were two small, plain looking rings. One with a thin line around it as its only decoration. The other had a band of silver through it.
The chill that went through my body was absolutely unreal.
Dad's smile was the broadest I had ever seen.
The old couple nodded at me.
"We've got to buy them." Dad said.
"How much?" I managed to say.
"One dollar each." The old man answered. "That's what I paid for them when I bought them."
I nodded. "Of course." I reached into my pocket for some money.
"I've already paid them." Dad said putting one of the rings on his hand. It fit like it had been made for him even though it had looked far too small for him. Nothing noticeable happened to Dad other than his smile got broader.
"Thank you." The old man said. The woman nodded at us, and they walked away arm in arm.
My wife was holding the kids and looking like she expected something terrible to happen to us at any minute.
"So what is it?" I asked Dad.
"An 'Aevum' ring."
"I thought those were just a tall tale." I answered trying to recall what I had read about them.
"So did I." He held out his hand to me with the other ring in it. I took the silver-banded one. "Have a tall tale of your own. It's an 'Agnitio' ring."
My wife gasped as I took the ring. It was cold in my hand, the gleam of the silver against the gold was almost too intense to look at. It looked too small for me, but as I slipped it on my finger it fit. Perfectly.
I didn't feel any different. I thought that maybe it was just a pretty ring.
Jean sent the kids to the snack bar with s few dollars each to distract them.
Dad was still admiring his shiny new ring when a lady stopped at our booth and looked at the case of rings with matching earrings or bracelets.
"These are darling. What are they?" She asked us pointing at a set.
I looked into the case at the indicted items. I thought about them for a second. "Those are twelve caret gold with Thai rubies made in India just before World War Two. The stone in the ring is a deep red star ruby that in spite of its shape has not been cut but was hand polished. The earrings had been reset with their original stones in 1962 by a jeweler in New York. There is also a matching pin which is..." I moved to a smaller case of items we usually didn't display and picked up the piece I wanted. "It was made by the same craftsman although two of its stones are not original, they are rubies however and unless you have it professionally appraised you can't tell which they are." I handed her the pin.
Dad and Jean were in shock.
The lady evaluated the pin and made an offer on the entire set. I came down a little on the posted price and reminded her that it came with the pin, the price in the case was just for the ring and earrings.
She smiled broadly and got out her wallet.
After she left Dad looked at me with a huge grin. "The Agnito works!" He said.
That chill was back. "We didn't know anything about those rubies." I said slowly.
"Not like that. I thought they were Indian, but we'd never confirmed anything. And I'd never associated that pin with them."
"The full set was originally a gift for a British Officer's wife." I said slowly.
"How would you know that?" Jean asked me.
"I just do." I looked at the ring. "Agnito. Knowledge." Then I looked at dad's. "Aevum. Life."
He nodded. "And they work." He said and stood up. He took a deep breath. "I feel wonderful."
"But that old man had the life ring. And he looked like he was ready to collapse."
"He hadn't worn it in years. They agreed together to be rid of the rings and finish their lives together." Dad said. "He was over a hundred and twenty years old, she was his third wife. He didn't want to bury another one."
Jean thought that was romantic. Then she looked at my ring. "Where did these come from? Who made them."
"Long ago. Far away. Kabalistic Goldsmiths experimented with the idea of incorporating latent mystic powers into various objects. Their Rings were the most powerful of all their works." I nodded. "There were other Rings. A lot of minor rings, 'Sanatio', 'Adamo', even 'Abundantia', a few others. The most important one was... 'Dominatus'."
"The Ruling Ring." Dad smiled.
I nodded. "Sanatio was for physicians, it gave the power to heal. Adamo was more into physical pleasures and made the wearer a real 'ladies man'." I smiled at Jean.
"And Abundantia was for money?" She asked me.
"Wealth in general." I looked at my ring. "And Dominatus. It still exists." I rubbed my temple with a finger as I talked.
"How about 'Imperium'?" Dad asked.
"It was never made. Or if it was made, it didn't work. However, the 'Regnum' were, and did." I looked at him. "One was handed down in the Ottoman family for years, but it vanished during First World War."
"How many are there?" Jean asked me. Evidently she was getting more comfortable with having a Ring of Power in the family.
"Dozens. Most were little more than a lucky charm, or only had a little power. These." I gestured to the thing shining on Dad's finger. "These had real power. And in a couple of cases, a lot of it." I put my other hand across my forehead. "I've got one heck of a headache."
"Take off the ring." Jean said with concern in her voice.
I nodded. I knew that was the source. I slipped it off my finger and held it in my hand. The headache eased a little. "The Rings of Power had Hebrew names of course, but they were not used by anybody other than their makers. The Latin names, and badly used Latin at that, were attached to them by their peculiar abilities by some outsiders sometime later. And the names were all masculine, even though a ring is usually referred to in the feminine." I felt my knowledge of proper Latin fading a little.
"What happened to the makers?" Dad asked me.
The headache was almost gone. I smiled with relief. "They were evidently consumed by their own creations. Some were tried as sorcerers and burned. But the very church officials that sentenced them to death found the rings most helpful and kept them for themselves. Several of the rings are in... ahhh, various treasure troves of the Church, and..." I lost the thought. "I forgot what I was going to say. But I remember other bits and pieces."
Dad laughed. "The effect of the ring wore off. But you do retain some of it. Perhaps, with time, you'll remember more of it.""
"Yeah, the headache seems to come with the knowledge." I smiled and looked at the ring in my hand. "I wonder if I'll ever get used to it."
Dad felt so good that he drove home. Then he roughhoused with the kids until we left for our own house.
We were all exhausted from the trip. Jean fell asleep on the couch as soon as the kids were in bed. I stayed up reading for another hour or two, the ring next to me on my nightstand.
"What are you going to do with the ring?" Jean asked me in the morning over coffee.
"Keep it. Maybe wear it once in awhile just to see if it still gives me a headache." I glanced at her. "You want me to put it away and forget about it."
"I want you to throw it in the river or bury it someplace forever."
I shook my head. "From the legend, these things have a way of taking care of themselves. If I threw it in the river, it'd turn up eventually, if I dropped it in a foundation hole and they poured concrete on it, sooner or later, it'd surface."
"But it wouldn't be our problem any more. What it does to you can't be a good thing."
A thought came to me that must have been inspired by the ring to protect itself. I took it out of my change purse and handed it to her. She didn't want to take it, but did. "Here. You get rid of it." I said seriously.
She held it for a minute, then slowly put it on with almost dread in her eyes. "It fits! And your fingers are bigger than mine."
"It's not a bad thing in and of itself. The knowledge it gives is just knowledge. Its what's in the heart of the wearer that makes it good or evil." She said a little more slowly and exactingly than normal.
"Yes, that's right."
She looked at me with deep eyes, but it was her voice. "It has come to you for a reason. For a greater purpose than just to rest in a collection of oddities. There are great powers involved. Such a time has not befallen us since the Austrian wore a Regnum and tried to restore Rome."
"Austrian?" I asked her.
"Adolf Hitler." Jean said. Her eyes were cold.
"What do I need to do?"
She didn't seem to be my wife any more. Somebody, or something, else was speaking to me with her voice. "Although all the Regnum remains hidden, Dominatus has been found."
She nodded and slowly took off the ring. "That was awesome."
"That's a word I'd agree with."
"No, you don't understand. I could SEE the men that made these." She glanced at the ring as she handed it back to me. "It looked like they were in Turkey or someplace, hundreds of years ago. I heard a Master talking about their power and how the rings needed to be kept in their circle for the good of all humanity." She had tears in her eyes. "They want you to find it. Find Dominatus and hide it for another millennium."
I looked her in the eye as I took the ring and put it on my finger. "I will. I'll do whatever I have to do to find the One."
"No. We will."
"Dad!" Jean and I said together.
"I had the oddest dream last night." He said with a slight smile.
"Oh?" I said.
"And this morning I followed up on it. Remember that box of jewelry I bought at that estate auction a couple of months ago?"
We nodded. "In the dream I went back through all that stuff and I found something of great importance. And I just had to give it to you." He said to Jean.
In my gut I knew Dominatus wouldn't be found that easily. It wasn't.
Dad fished into his shirt pocket and brought out a ring. "Before I got my coffee I went down and took that jewelry box apart. This was in the bottom underneath the drawer stuck in some sticky stuff. I cleaned it up and..." He handed it to Jean.
"Which ring is it?"
"I don't know." Dad said. "I don't recognize it."
I slipped Agnito on my finger and looked at the ring. Now I could see hair thin strands of copper woven into the gold. "Lumin." I said. "Put it on."
Jean looked at me with doubt in her eyes, but there was also a new level of trust there. She put it on her finger and looked at it.
"Well?" Dad said.
"Give her a minute."
"Your whole life has been dedicated to this." Jean said thoughtfully to Dad. "I can see the pattern there. Don't you?"
"Lumin." Dad muttered. "Light?"
"That, but mainly Insight. Understanding clearness." I answered.
Jean smiled at us. "Perfect." She looked at me. "He was given the Life ring to give him the life to be your advisor and guide with his lifetime of wisdom to find and protect Dominatus."
"But I've got the knowledge ring." I said defending my ring.
"Knowledge, yes. But not the wisdom to use it. Now I have the understanding to apply both to the hunt." Jean held out her left hand. Lumin gleamed on her middle finger in contrast to her wedding set.
"You can only wear one ring at a time." Dad said. Then he paused. "With two exceptions."
"Dominatus." I muttered.
"And Fortitudo. The physical strength ring."
"The Hercules Ring." Jean said. "I remember reading about that one."
I nodded. "But it went down on a ship years ago. It's at the bottom of the Mediterranean."
"These rings have a way a way of taking care of themselves." Jean said slowly.
"That sounds familiar." I said. She laughed. "OK. We're in. But what about them?" I nodded to the living room where the kids were watching TV.
"I'll call Carrie." Jean said. "She'll watch them." Jean walked across the room to the phone.
I slipped off my ring. The headache was back, then I noticed something. "Yours doesn't bother you?"
She shook her head. "I feel more focused and calm than I have in ages." She dialed the number.
"Figures." I muttered.
"Now for the important question." Dad said to me. "Does your ring give you the ability to make better coffee."
"Hint taken." I said and went to the cabinet for a cup.
We went back to Dad's and got out everything he had about the old legends and the Rings. Which wasn't much.
"More truth is in the fiction about them than in all the scholarly works." Jean said closing an old book.
"Probably." Dad nodded. "We should consider that."
"But there are more than three rings. And none of them made anybody invisible." I said not understanding.
"No. Not in the physical sense. But Dominatus could make you seem invisible, to your enemies after a fashion." Dad answered. "And the others. While there was no Ring of Fire. There were some equivalents, Passion with Adamo."
"The Facultas rings would make you resourceful and able to make every opportunity pay." I nodded slowly. "Those rings has probably been responsible for more fortunes made in the last five hundred years than you could count."
"How many of each kind of ring were there?" Jean asked me.
"Usually several. The Adamo rings were popular with the princes and men of the royal courts, and even a few women." I grinned. "There were about a dozen of them. The Sanito" I paused for a second. "I'm not sure, but there are at least that many." Then I stopped dead in my tracks, the sugar bowl in my hand began to tremble.
"What?" Dad said.
There were tears in my eyes.
Jean hung up the phone and looked at me with concern.
"Agnito works. It really does." I muttered quietly. "Of the rings that had great power in them, there were not that many. There were Nine Regnum and Dicio rings. Rings to give authority and make the wearer a king... or dictator. There were Seven Rings of the Abundantia/Facultas types. Some for gathering wealth, others for creating it. And Three others." I looked at Jean, "Lumin. The Light of Understanding." I looked at Dad. "Aevum. The Wisdom from a Long Life." Then I looked at my own hand. "Agnito. Knowledge of all the World."
The room became dead quiet for several minutes. Even the kids yelling and running outside seemed muffled.
"Three, Seven, Nine..." Dad said slowly.
"And One." Jean added.
"And One." I whispered.
The first thing we had to do was track down over all the Earth and through the last thousand years for the last report of a ring that could possibly be Dominatus. And it took weeks to research and discussion to narrow it down.
There were lots of clues. Sudden rises to prominence and power from obscurity, vanquishing all before them. And, as was the history of Dominatus, just as sudden of a fall to ruin.
"Could Hitler or the Mussolini had had Dominatus instead of just a Dicio?" Jean asked as we shuffled history books and timelines.
Dad nodded. "It's possible. But I think if one of them had it, they would have probably won the war before they fell."
Agnito was giving me another headache. But this time I had been able to wear it longer than usual. It seemed to like the heavy academic work but finally I had to take it off and rest my eyes. As I relaxed I was able to put into words the idea I had been toying with. "We've been looking in the wrong place. Or for the wrong type of person. Maybe both. Dominatus wasn't about military conquest or political power. It controlled the other rings, and thereby, their wearers. To some degree it could even influence the minds of others around its owner, whether or not they had a ring.We need to look for who was pulling the strings of the leaders. Who was in the shadows."
"Rasputin." Jean said suddenly.
"Exactly." I smiled and rubbed the headache out of my head.
"Grigori Effimovich Rasputin" Dad said in rough Russian pointing to a picture in a book. "But he's not wearing a ring."
"Let's keep looking anyway. It fits the story." Jean said as we stared at the Mad Monk's image.
"Perhaps..." I looked at the ring in the palm of my hand. "Perhaps he didn't have to wear it all the time to exert control over the Tzar and his Regnum."
"That chain around his neck, it's not showing his crucifix." She smiled, "It could have a ring on it as well."
Dad looked at another picture of the man. "I think we're on the right track. He came from nowhere to the very circle of power of a great nation, and just as quickly dropped from it."
There was conflicting shaky accounts of what happened to Rasputin's possessions after he was murdered. But one thing seemed clear. Either the ring was not on him when he was killed, or the people that pulled him from the river after he had been poisoned, beaten, shot, and drowned kept it and didn't say a word. During his life Rasputin had an undeniable effect on the people around him. He indulged his passions for debauchery of all sorts right in the very Palace, the people associated with the Tzar either liked him, or hated him. Yet he survived multiple attempts on his life and continued on his way. There was something about the Mad Monk that made him the focal point of the early storm of revolution. Something brought the brief but sharp focus of history to bear on the man. Was it The One Ring? Or was it just and incredible man in the right place at the right time.
In either case, if Rasputin had Dominatus, it had vanished from history again.
Dad's brow was furrowed deeply. "OK. Let's work on the assumption that Rasputin had it. Is there any evidence that it ever left Russia after his passing from the scene."
There were many possibilities over the last hundred years. But none fit the requirements exactly.
"I don't think it's been found since 1916." Jean said closing a book about the Kennedys. "Or if it's been found, it hasn't been used."
Dad nodded. "I agree. But where is it?"
"St. Petersburg?" I asked the air.
"No." Jean said. "If it had been, The Three would have gone there to recover and guard it. It's evidently in this country. Perhaps in a museum or personal collection of antiques or something. Like yours."
"It's not in my collection." Dad said sadly. "But I do know a few with collections of unusual rings and jewelry. We can't ignore the fact that maybe it was incorporated into a broach or a setting on a necklace or something."
Jean nodded. "Very true."
My headache was fading into a bad dream. "OK, where do we start?"
Dad smiled strangely. "Now that we know for sure that they do exist. I want to know how they made them."
"Those secrets have been lost to time." Jean said.
"Not entirely." I said taking my ring back out. "Not entirely."
"Don't go for it right now." Dad said.
"I remember some of it without wearing it. They incorporated some of the elements with mystical properties related to some of the signs of the Zodiac and the Hebrew Alphabet and made them with a carefully prescribed sequence for the combining of the metals. None of them is pure gold, though they all contain some gold that was believed to be part of the Ark of the Covenant."
Dad was silent for a minute, he looked at Aevum. "Even wearing the ring itself I have trouble believing this gold was once part of the Ark."
Jean was skeptical as well. "But it would explain their power."
Shrugging I didn't answer directly. "Their power is undeniable. Wherever it comes from."
We picked at our lunch for a few minutes before anybody said anything else.
"Are any of the rings actually evil in and of themselves?"
I looked over at Jean. But Dad spoke first. "Only Dominatus has a truly evil reputation."
"Absolute power corrupts absolutely." She answered.
"It was made to guide the use of the others and keep their wearers in line." I said. "But they seemed to have forgotten one thing."
"Who keeps the wearer of the Ruling Ring in line." Dad muttered slowly.
I looked at Agnito and thought about it, "I seem to remember several Councils of the Kabalists to choose who was to inherit Dominatus, but then, during one of Eastern Europe's many turmoils it seems to have come up missing, and the Council never happened."
"When was the last Council to be held?"
"I don't remember exactly, but I think it was in the early 1700's, someplace in Romania."
Jean nodded sharply. "The Kabalistic society that did this was clustered around the Black Sea."
Dad agreed. "Everything I've read points that way."
"But as the Jews were scattered and their Mystics chased underground or into ghettos the rings went with them, or were lost and found, only to be lost again." I surmised.
"Now these Three are here, thousands of miles from where they were forged. And they are on a mission." Dad smiled.
"What would happen to us if we refused that mission?" Jean asked.
I looked at Agnito, it seemed to be glowing slightly in my palm.
Dad shook his hand and stared at Aevum. "She was kidding!" He shouted.
"OUCH!" Jean exclaimed at the same time. "It's HOT!"
"OK, OK, we get the idea. Some things just can't be refused." I said to my ring as it became hot in my hand.
The Three calmed down.
Jean's eyes were wide. "They know what we're doing and what we're talking about."
"Not the rings." I said laying it carefully on the table. "The Mind that guides them and guided their makers."
"The Ark was a telephone for calling GOD." Dad said.
"And these may have been made from its gold." Jean whispered.
Dad's face was long. "Speaking of that. What about the Deus ring?"
I was silent for a minute staring at Agnito. Unable to recall anything about that one I put it on.
I wasn't in the kitchen any more.
The room, if room it was, was pitch black with a small fire in front of me. A figure stood on the other side of the fire.
"You asked about the Deus." It said to me in clear English although its mouth never moved.
"No. My father asked about that ring."
"It was made."
In my mind I could see the Ring. Three rings of pure gold intertwined and forged into one.
"What did it do?"
"With it the wearer could almost see God as Moses did."
The implication of that was not lost on me even though I didn't have a perfect attendance pin from Sunday School.
"Moses was a man God knew face to face." I muttered.
"Yes." The figure said in a low voice.
"Was that all it did?" I asked.
"That was enough."
"Where is it?"
Then I was back in the kitchen.
"I just had the most extraordinary vision." Jean said.
"So did I." I said just as Dad said the same thing.
"We had the Three on and were all thinking about the same thing at once."
We compared notes. It had been the exact same vision. But we had asked slightly different questions. And the figure on the other side of the fire answered them.
Dad had asked the figure who had worn the Deus ring. The figure had answered with what appeared to be a riddle.
"Some were Godly, some were not. All learned to Fear God, though not all put that Fear to good use."
Jean asked the figure if he was there to help us on our mission before we were sent back.
"If we feel it is required."
"Who are you?" She asked the figure across the fire. "Did you make the rings?"
"We are they. Though I am not."
Dad chuckled as Jean repeated it. "I think our friend in the cave likes riddles." He said laughing.
"Cave? I thought it was a large room in an old building."
Jean shook her head. "I felt it was outside."
"It wasn't around here anyway. Maybe not here in time either." Dad said thoughtfully.
"We're going to have to learn how to call him and ask direct questions that he won't answer with a riddle." I said putting my ring back on the table. My temples were just beginning to throb and I didn't want a full-blown headache right now.
"I did ask him one question about the mission." Dad said after we were all lost in our thoughts for a couple of minutes.
That commanded our full attention.
Dad nodded and continued. "He simply said 'Use the rings.'"
"Oh, nice." I answered.
"No. He was right. Remember in that story. How the Ruling Ring called the others to itself?" Jean asked me.
"Oh. Yeah. Sorry."
Dad shook his head slightly. "I don't think its going to work just like that. But the Three together might call out the others, and maybe even draw out Dominatus."
"What if somebody is wearing it?"
"I asked him that." Jean said.
"Could Dominatus control us?"
"Yes." The figure said. "But not immediately. He who wears it would have to learn its potential and how to control it. And together, the strength of the three could even control the One for a time against a weaker will."
I sighed and looked at Agnito gleaming on the table. What other mysteries did it conceal? How much knowledge was available to it, and through it, to me? I glanced at Dad's hand, Aevum shone there. The Wisdom of Long Life. Dad wasn't a spring chicken, but he wasn't all that old. Yet that ring had chosen him. Jean's Ring of Understanding looked natural on the middle finger of her left hand. She was already the most understanding woman I had ever met, one of the reasons I had married her. Yet this was a different type of understanding. Could the three of us, with the Three of them, find It?
"And find it in time." I added out loud to my thoughts.
"We will." Jean said. "We have to."
"I've got an idea of where to start." Dad said.
"The New York show is next weekend." I said remembering the schedule he had on his refrigerator.
He nodded. "I've always wanted to do that show. One of us will watch the table, the others, wearing their rings, scour the place and see what turns up."
"How will we know if another ring, or if Dominatus is there?" I asked already having a good idea of the answer.
"I think They." She held up Lumin. "Will let us know."
The New York Accessories Show was the largest collection of everything wearable I had ever seen. Not just jewelry. There was purses, hair things, glasses, belts, and so on. It wasn't supposed to be a clothing show, but about half of the displays and booths had clothing sponsors that the jewelry makers used to highlight their wears. And of course all the models were wearing the latest designer originals while the showed off the bracelets or hat she was being paid to wear.
Jean's folks watched the kids for the weekend so we didn't have that distraction.
To me, our chances of finding any Ring were small. Let alone the chances that Dominatus was anywhere nearby.
We carried our few boxes and displays into the huge center. I took the early shift after we set up our tables inside a larger booth rented by several small dealers and hobbyists together. Then as I was sitting there fiddling with Agnito in my pocket an older lady came into the booth with a jewelry box.
I did not consciously put Agnito on. It put itself on my finger.
"Yes ma'am." I said to her as she stopped walking and looked around.
"I need to sell these. They were my husband's." She handed me the box. "Would you be interested?"
"Sure. Let's get out of the way and I'll see what you've got."
I pulled a chair out for her and she sat down telling me about how she had to sell these to get enough money to go to her sister's funeral. I told her how sorry I was and thanked her for giving me first chance look at the things.
"How much do you need for a ticket to Denver?" I asked her sitting the box on the table.
"It's over three hundred dollars since I have to leave Wednesday. But I hoped to get at least some of it out of these things."
I took out my wallet without batting an eye and handed her three hundred and fifty four dollars. "I'll take it all. And this is all I've got until my wife gets back."
"But my son took all the good pieces. I thought his cuff links might be worth some but..." She looked at the money. "You haven't even looked at the things."
"I don't have to. I think your husband's cuff links are rare and I want to have my father look at them. You need to get your ticket today while you can still get a little cheaper rate from Trans Global. So..."
"Thank you." She said with a tear in her eye. "Thank you so much."
I waited until she hurried back down the aisle clutching her purse tightly before I opened the drawer of the jewelry box.
Sitting there was a ring.
"Facultas." I said picking it up. It had been discolored, almost tinged with greenish blue corrosion. But as I touched it the green vanished and it gleamed brightly with several bright bands of copper and silver through the gold.
I was still holding it when Jean and Dad came running back.
"Is It?" Jean asked me with wide eyes. Then she glanced at the ring. "No, its not." She held up Lumin, "It told me."
Dad was admiring it. "Abundantia or Facultas?"
"Facultas. The silver band is wider than the copper." I answered. Now I felt a slight headache building, it hadn't bothered me throughout the entire exchange with the lady. "And it only cost me three hundred and fifty dollars. It came in this." I patted the box and slipped Agnito into my pocket.
Jean opened it and took out the cuff links. "These are nice."
Dad looked at them and smiled. "Real diamonds."
"You can tell from there?" Jean asked him.
"No. I can't. It can." He gestured with his ring finger.
"But who are we going to get to wear it?" Jean said.
I put the ring on my finger. And had it back off in less than a minute. It had begun burning my finger.
"Won't work." Dad said evaluating a lapel pin.
"I just found that out." I said shaking my hand.
"You did all right. Besides the ring, which is essentially priceless, this other stuff is worth what you paid for it."
Jean was smiling. "But now he doesn't have lunch money."
We had laughed at my being broke and discussed the random chances of our first customer bringing us one of the Nine.
"Wasn't chance. Not at all. The Three together called it. And it told its owner to bring it here." Jean said.
"It's owner died five years ago." I said.
"Still, she responded."
"She needed the money to get to Denver." I knew I was playing the skeptic for her benefit.
"But of all the dealers not just here today, in all of New York City, she came to you."
That was hard to argue with. Then I remembered how Agnito had put itself on my finger as she had walked into the booth. I told them about it.
"See, these rings take care of themselves." Jean smiled using my line on me again.
"Well. Now we have four Rings of Power, and there are three of us. That doesn't add up."
"Does somebody have to wear it for it to work? I asked.
"Yes and No." The figure said from the other side of the fire.
I glanced down, Agnito was on my finger. "Explain."
"To use the full Power of the Ring it must be worn. Yet, even as you've discovered, just possessing the ring gives one some measurable power and control."
"I hate it when he does that." Dad said blinking in the sudden brightness of the convention center again.
We had all asked about the same questions this time. Except Jean had thought to ask the figure on the other side of the fire something else.
"I wanted to know if she knew if there were any others in New York."
"She?" Dad asked.
"I wasn't sure last time. I didn't get a real good look, but this time I am sure the person there is a woman."
I looked at dad with wide eyes. "I saw a beard on mine. It looked like an old priest or rabbi."
"Mine didn't have a beard, but it was a man from what I could tell."
"Anyway, what did she say about other rings in the City?"
"There is one other here, but it is not the one we seek."
We were interrupted by, of all things, customers. Dad sold the new cuff links for almost half of what I paid for the box and all. Then he sold a set of earrings and a matching pin for the full price he had on them. Finally when he sold an old class ring I noticed something in his shirt pocket.
"Facultas." I whispered to Jean. She laughed.
That night in the hotel we sat around the table in our room and looked at the new ring and discussed what to do next.
"It's a shame we don't have somebody to wear it and take full advantage of it." Dad said.
"It seems to work fine. You made more today than we did at the last three shows together." Jean said. "And it was just in your pocket."
Dad had to admit it seems to have been working pretty well.
We spent a good deal of time working through the books we had bought in New York about the Kabbalah. Some of the books were a hundred years old, others were brand new, but all were difficult to understand. Even wearing one of the Rings didn't help much.
It was clear however that the different powers of the rings related to different levels of emanations within their Tree of Life and other aspects of the mystical beliefs of their order.
"I'll never understand this stuff. I'm not even Jewish." I said plowing through yet another book.
"We don't have to understand all of it." Dad said with great patience. "All we have to find are clues as to what characteristics each ring exhibits or look for in an owner that will help us locate the One."
"But there is nothing in any of these about rings." I said closing a book. Then I saw something on the back cover that caught my attention. "And no wonder." I pointed to the line of type about the original author and showed it to Dad.
"The Rabbi was Spanish." He said.
Jean understood immediately and looked at the fine print of the Web page she was reading. "This one was edited in France. We're on the wrong end of the continent."
Nothing we had we either written by a Kabalist from Eastern Europe, Russia, Turkey or anyplace in that area.
"No wonder." I said sighing and stacking the books up.
"I'm not giving up yet." Dad said. "We've connected a couple of the rings to specific parts of the Tree. Maybe we can surmise the rest."
"Sounds like a job for the Ring of Wisdom." I said with a smile.
"The Ring of Understanding could help a lot." He answered.
"Tomorrow. I'm beat." Jean said almost yawning.
Dad grinned and took opened another book. While munching a handful of baked potato chips.
Jean looked at me strangely as I put Agnito on my nightstand.
"What?" I asked her when she was still watching as I walked toward the bathroom.
"You don't seem too worried about your ring."
I looked at it. "Well. You never take yours off."
"I like wearing it."
"Mine gives me a headache." I said picking up my toothbrush. "You seem to have warmed to the idea of these things though." I held her hand and looked at Lumin.
"I still don't want them controlling our lives. Once this is over, I want to find another home for them."
I fingered the ring on her hand. "Agreed." I said.
The kiss was long and intense. The passion was long and intense as well.
Back to the Desk