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The Ring -- II

This piece is FICTION. No defamation of JRR Tolkien or any other 'magic ring' story is intended.

©00 Levite

part 4 Continued from Ring 1

          The next show was a dead end.
          As was a stop at two Antiques Malls on the way home.
          Our next bit of excitement came from an ad we had placed with an online flea market looking for Eastern European Jewelry.
          I got an email from a woman claiming she had a 'large collection of Gyspy and Russian jewelry'. I mailed her back telling her we were interested in looking at it. In the return email I found out she was in California.
          "It'll be a long wild goose chase." I said not real enthusiastic about it. "And expensive."
          "Money is not the issue now." Dad said. He had been selling and trading things left and right almost daily now. It was to the point that his 'hobby' business liscense was going to have to be upgraded and he was now claiming me and Jean as employees for tax purposes. "Besides, this will be a business trip."
          All I could do was nod and ask when we were leaving.
          "There's a show in LA two weeks from now. We'll hit it while we're there." Jean said showing me a printout.
          "So I'm the last to know."
          They smiled.

          You'd think a woman's accessories show in Los Angeles would be something really special. You'd expect it to be held in a cavernous hall with hundreds of displays and vendors and a TV remote doing a special on a new line of Internet access wired handbags. You might think it would have TV stars by the school bus load and big name designers competing for attention on the PA system. I expected it to be a glitzy version of the New York show.
          It wasn't. I'd been to better shows in places like Pittsburgh and Rehoboth, Delaware.
          The building was old and rather dumpy, the air was hot and smelled of diesel exhaust about half the time. And the only Star I saw hadn't worked in about ten years.
          And there wasn't a magic ring in the house.
          Dad sold everything we'd brought with us in less than an hour for at least twice what some of it was actually worth back in the real world, or at least outside LA, ensuring that we'd have money both to do some sight seeing and send some souvenirs home to the kids. We spent Saturday roaming the city and saw enough of the tourist type stuff to satisfy us.
          "You kids go ahead, I'm going to sit in my room in the dark and recover from sunstroke."
          We had found out that it really wasn't a good idea to rent a convertible to tool around in.
          Jean and I went downstairs to what the hotel had called a 'Star Studded Weekend Bash'. I expected it to be hosted by the same has-been that had been hamming it up on stage at the show. Instead it was two fairly well known actresses that traded face-lift and boob-job jokes for a few minutes before they sang a song, proving they couldn't sing, then they introduced a rock and roll group that was in the middle of making a comeback tour, and they could sing.
          I called the room and told Dad he had to come down to see who we had found.
          It wasn't exactly a mistake.
          One of the actresses was Dad's about third all time favorite TV star in the world.
          I had Agnito on when I walked up to them and asked them if I could buy them a drink and introduce them to my father. I don't know if it helped or not, but it sure didn't hurt.
          Dad was as charming as he had ever been, and they seemed to be very impressed with him.
          They even introduced him as one of their greatest and 'most darling' fans between sets by the band. And the next round of drinks was on the house.

          Dad ended up spending the rest of the weekend with one of them, maybe both of them for all I know, while me and Jean went out to the Valley to look for our Gypsy Jewelry collector.

          "Oh, yes. It is all authentic." She said for the third time.
          "So it would seem." I said ignoring a casting mark that I knew was from Japan.
          We bought a few pieces to stay in the ladies good graces, asked her to stay in touch if she got any new rings or religious tokens, and drove back to the city.
          "It's a nice piece. I think Dad will like it." Jean said looking at a large heavy crystal bracelet.
          I chuckled. "I think dad can give it to his Star as a momento of the weekend."
          Something caught my eye. I pulled into the parking lot of a rather run down flea market. I reached into my pocket and put on Agnito.
          "We've got one." I said as Jean looked at me strangely.
          She closed her eyes for a second. "You're right. Want me to go in and get it?"
          I shook my head. "It might not be that easy. Let's both go in."

          The place was over run with junk.
          Not merchandise or curios. Not even collectibles or 'Folk' objects. This stuff was Junk!!!
          We found the proprietor watching sports on a leaning TV and sipping from a large plastic glass.
          "Anything you folks want just make me an offer on."
          I saw the cloth tray with several rings in it. One of them was a Sanatio. I had picked up a brass lantern walking through the store to have something to talk about besides what we were after. Jean had an old wooden toy.
          "We'll just take these." I said reaching into my pocket.
          "Good choices, that's the finest lantern in the place." He said.
          If I had picked up a coal bucket with a hole in the bottom it would have been the finest in the place.
          "Does Dad still collect old rings?" Jean asked me looking at the tray in the case.
          "I think so, Jean. How much are they?" I asked the man, he was looking at my wallet with some hunger in his eyes.
          "Which one. Or tell you what. Make me an offer on all of them."
          I looked at the tray. There was at least a dozen rings in it. Most of them said eight dollars on them, which meant he'd come down to at least five if you haggled with him.
          "Fifty bucks. You can keep the tray."
          He looked at the toy and the lantern. "Since you're buying those too... Done." He reached down and picked them up in one dusty handful and gave them to me as I handed him the money for his sale for the day. He punched it into a three footed electronic cash register and stuffed the money into his pocket. "You folks have a good day."
          We waited until we were down the highway a mile from the store before we hooted and hollered and honked and sang about our prize.
          It was a Sanatio. The small circles of gleaming platinum around the inside and outside of the ring looked as though they had been forged last week. It and the other rings that had been in the tray were all dusty and corroded as everything else in the shop had been, but as soon as Jean held it up to the sun it shone with a brightness that hurt your eyes.
          "I love it." Jean said. "It's the prettiest one I've seen yet."
          The compliment made the Sanatio shine even brighter.

          Dad excused himself from his lovely and charming companion and walked across the dining room to see us.
          "The Gypsy trove was a bust." He said looking at us.
          "But." Dad repeated to Jean.
          She handed him the Sanatio.
          "What a blessing." He said.
          "A blessing?" I wondered at his choice of the word.
          "It couldn't have turned up at a better time." He said holding it gently.
          "She's dying." Jean said looking across the room at his friend.
          "Not yet, but yes." Dad said.
          "You can't wear two rings."
          He looked at me and put it on his right hand. "Just for a little while." His eyes were as sad as they had been when Mom had laid on her deathbed. "Just for a little while."
          She was waving for us all to come over. "Please. Join us." She said. Prompting some stares and one request for an autograph.
          Dad nodded and brought us to their table. The matre de waved two attendants over who re-arranged the table from an intimate dinner for two to a setting for four in no time flat.
          When we sat down I noticed that Dad took her hand in his right hand. His Sanatio hand.
          The talk was lively and pleasant. She told stories about the lively world of TV shows in the sixties and seventies, and what she had been doing since. Dad told her about our trips around the country as his collection of antique rings had grown.
          "Sounds fascinating. I love old jewelry." She smiled.
          "Show her this." I handed Dad the crystal bracelet. He smiled and clasped it around her wrist.
          "It's heavy." She said first. "And it's lovely."
          "Looks better on you than on me." I said.
          "Yes it does." Dad said smiling at her. "It's yours."
          "I can't accept this." She said. "We just met."
          Dad's smile spoke volumes but he was gracious and said he wanted her to have it.
          "They won't take no for an answer. Trust me, Ma'am." Jean said to the lady.
          "Please, Jean. Call me Toni, it's my real name." She smiled her perfect smile to us. Then she thanked dad and kissed his cheek. "I feel like dancing. We should go out tonight. A double date before you go back."
          Toni had won me over as well as Jean and Dad.

          We went out and painted the town the way it should be painted.
          Toni knew people at clubs where they wouldn't have let me drive past otherwise. We got great seats for a stage show by a TV comedian. And when he saw Toni in the audience he called out her name and made her take a bow. We met a couple of major stars who smiled and winked when Toni introduced dad as her 'new friend'.
          We ended up at an after hours club with a slightly more adult theme than we would have been comfortable with back home. But here too, Toni was right at home and had one of the young women do 'her old act' for us.
          "When my first series was canceled in, let's see, '62 or 3.... Anyway. I did an old burlesque nostalgia act here to pay the rent until I got some commercial work. Then the other series came up, and I never had to do it again. But I stayed in practice and taught it to some of the newer girls." She said with only a hint of a blush.
          The girl was excellent at the 'peep and tease' style of show dance, and it was easy to imagine Toni doing it when she was younger. She had that graceful air about her that it required.

          It was two in the morning when we walked out of the club.
          Dad asked Toni if she'd rather we drove her home or would she like to come back to the hotel for a nightcap and a long talk to some soft music. He hadn't let her hand go almost all night. She smiled and said the talk sounded wonderful.

          "Dad and a TV star." I said letting hot water wash the LA nightlife off me in the shower.
          "Stranger things have happened. And it's good for him."
          I kissed my wife and thanked her for her understanding as I walked out of the bathroom.
          "How do you know it wasn't the ring?" She asked me letting Lumin flicker in the lights of the city outside our window.
          "Ring or not. It's still you."

          In the morning I knew something was up before we got to the dining room for the 'Business Breakfast Buffet.'
          Jean looked at me holding my hand. "Don't get worked up."

          Toni was leaving LA to come join us on our mission.
          She was wearing Sanatio.
          "I feel like I'm fifty again." Toni smiled at us.

          On the plane back home the women sat together and talked about us. Me and Dad sat together and talked about the Rings.

part 5

          Now there were four of us around the table.
          And then I was facing the figure across the fire.
          "You are no closer to the ONE."
          "What are we doing wrong?" I asked him.
          He stood there and seemed to be looking at me.
          "What can we do different. What can I do?"
          "Reach out. Reach out to Dominatus. Call it. It will lead to you it."
          "I thought we had been."
          "The Rings are Circles." It said.

          "What was that about?" Toni asked us.
          "What did you see?" I asked her.
          "A fire in a dark place."
          "Did you see a figure in a long brownish robe?" Jean asked.
          "No." She looked at Dad. "I heard some whispering voices. But I couldn't see anything."
          "That's not right." I said putting Agnito firmly on my finger. I closed my eyes and tried to force myself to see the Mysterious Monk and his fire.

          "Yes." It said finally.
          "Why can't Toni see you?"
          "She is not wearing one of the Three."
          "Our rings may not be equal. But she is one of us. And we need her. That's why she was led to us, or us to her. Why else would we have a Sanatio?"
          "That is not even one of the Nine. She has ring that was made without the full power of the skill realized."
          "So what? She wants to help us, and Dad is in love with her."
          The figure seemed to flicker in the firelight.
          So Be It

          I could see Dad, Jean, and Toni in the firelight. On the other side of the fire were three robed figures, and one of them was obviously a woman.
          The four of us from my kitchen joined hands instinctively.
          "Who are you?" Dad asked quietly.

           We Are What You Call The Kabbalahists

          This voice was very different than the other I had heard. Deeper, more resonate. I could tell it held great authority and power. And maybe even our very lives.
          I glanced at Dad and Jean. Then I caught Toni's eye. She spoke the next question.
          "How long have you been dead?"

           Kabbalah Does Not Die

          although we died

          'That was deep', I thought to myself. But I asked the next question.
          "Why can't you control the One like you do us and our Rings."

          The Rings are not yours- We own them if anyone does

          you may wear them for a time

           We Influence, Not Control

          The ONE is beyond our power to influence

          I had a follow-up question I had just thought of. "None of us are Jewish, let alone Kabalists, we're not Christian. I don't think we're even really religious. Why did you pick us?"

          For those very reasons

           We Did Not Want Someone With Preconceived Notions And Ideas

          open minds clear hearts work best

          We looked at each other. Jean nodded.
          "If we manage to call Dominatus to us, what can we do with it. Can we destroy it or something?"

           It Cannot Be Unmade

          the power that made it no longer exists- it alone could unmake it

          It would be enough if you find it and secrete it for a time

          Dad spoke up again. "Where is it?"

           We Do Not Know.

          We were back around the kitchen table.
          I sighed. "That went well."
          Toni was wiping her eyes. "Was that real?"
          Jean shrugged. Dad nodded.
          I just sat there and pulled Agnito off my finger before my head exploded.
          Dad licked his lips to speak. "It was real as far as we all saw and heard the same things, and that they were probably the Kabbalists that were involved in making the rings. Whether or not they were actually the ones that did it... Who knows."
          "They weren't." I said flatly.
          "He knows that kind of thing." Jean said to Toni.
          "I think they may even be a memory locked inside the rings."
          "But they answered our questions. They changed what they were doing to bring Toni into it." I said.
          Dad nodded. "I said THEY are a memory in the rings, not the vision. Their essence, what they were, is locked up in here." He tapped Aevum. "Which is why Dominatus cannot be unmade, because of the power locked up in it."
          "Is Dominatus really the Ruling Ring?" Toni asked.
          "The Ruling Ring of the other Rings. I don't think it could rule the world or anything." Dad said.
          "But if you controlled the other rings. Including the Dico and Regium. And the Abundantia and Facultas... They could, and in pretty short order. Rule the World."
          Jean looked at me with patience. "But they've said before, it would take time to learn how to use its power, and to find the other Rings."
          I nodded. "Yet Rasputin figured it out."
          The others exchanged glances and finally nodded.

          My sister brought our kids home and we gave them their gifts. And there were a few things for Carrie and a couple of things for her to take home to her kids.
          She thought Toni was the most wonderful woman Dad had met in years. The women sat in the living room and talked about us while me and Dad put the kids to bed. Then she had to hit the road again.
          We talked far into the night over coffee about many things besides Rings before Dad and Toni went to his place.

          There was one advantage to having Toni around when we went to the next show I hadn't thought about.
          The traffic at our booth increased tenfold.
          Which means we sold more, got to appraise more, and thusly had more chances to come across another Ring. And earned more money to boot.
          I had cut my job back to part-time, working just enough to keep our health insurance and credit union membership active. Money wasn't the issue, but kids needing braces was. With a Sanatio in the family minor earaches and upset tummies were made all better by sitting on 'Aunt Toni's' lap for a few minutes.
          But I felt that we had already located four of the Nineteen Rings of Power, and one of the Lessor Rings. Given the fact that they were known to be scattered all over the world, what were the chances that one of them would just happen to turn up at a Jewelry show?
          But with the four of us wearing our Rings and Dad having the Facultas in his pocket, there was a very good chance than one of the others, or maybe the One would come looking for us.
          But two shows, and about three hundred Toni screen-name autographed pictures later, we hadn't even felt like we had even been close to another Ring.

part 6

          I had taken to throwing darts at a map to decide where to look next.
          Part of the problem was we really didn't know how to Use the Power of the Rings. We wore them, and they did whatever they did. To us, with us, for us, whatever.
          Dad had been reading everything, then re-reading it, and discussing it with Toni and reading it again.
          Then about a week after a fruitless trip to Milwaukee they had news.
          "The Kabbalists were right." Toni said.
          "I figured that." I said sourly.
          "But how do we use them?" Jean asked.
          "They told us." Dad said.
          I sat there and suddenly looked up at Jean.
          She said it before I could. "Circles. Open minds. Could it be that simple?"
          I took Agnito out of my pocket and looked at it. "Probably."

          It took some preparation, and Dad thought we needed to 'purify' ourselves somewhat before we did it.
          I had never meditated on more than a full court press during the basketball playoffs, but now I found myself sitting in a darkened room listening to soft instrumental music trying to clear my mind and not worry about estimating my taxes for the quarter. We sat there most of Saturday morning.
          After awhile of this we all moved into more or less a circle with our rings on. Dad had Facultas in his pocket like usual.
          I tried to keep my mind clear as I felt the pressure on my consciousness from the ring.

          This was different from when we contacted the figures on the other side of their fire. I could see Toni sitting opposite me, but I couldn't see her at the same time. In fact, the room was blurry.
          Then I could feel others in the room with us.
          Here and there I got a glimpse of other rings on the fingers of shadowy figures standing outside our circle. Some of the people seemed like I was glimpsing them from a long way off, or through a haze of many years.
          Dad had his eyes closed, but now he opened them and looked at each of us until he made eye contact with us. "Think about the Dominatus, and whoever has it."
          I tried to picture it in my mind.
          The image of a solid looking ring with darker bands of gold around the very edges of it came to me. I could see it clearly, in great detail. Then I remembered Dad's favorite story and tried to see if it had writing on it. But the image wavered so I relaxed and just looked at the ring.
          "I see it too." Jean said to me. Dad and Toni nodded.
          Dad looked around the room. "I know."
          I looked at him. "What?"
          "It has been found. Yet it is not worn."
          Toni and Jean were looking at him.
          "They do not know what it is."
          Jean nodded slowly, "I feel confusion and. Despair."
          "They are in pain." Toni said.
          I didn't get any sensation from whoever had the Ruling Ring. But then I felt something from the Ring I saw in my mind. It was being called, yet not by us. A name floated into my head.
          "Gregory Novykh... Rasputin." I said softly. "But he is dead."
          "Yes." Dad said. "Yes and no."
          I understood. He had died. Yet his influence on the Ring remained. Perhaps part of him remained as well.
          Then a face appeared above and around the vision of the ring. The face was younger than the Mad Monk. The man didn't have the full long beard. But the eyes.
          "He is Rasputin. Yet he doesn't know it." Jean said.
          "And he wants the Ring, and it wants him." I muttered as our peril became clear.

          We sat in the circle a long time. Discussing everything in fine detail. Finally I had to take Agnito off and rub my temples.
          "Do we know his name?" Toni asked me.
          "I think so." I said grimacing in pain. "Greg....Greg Something..." I said slowly trying to recall it.
          "Archer." Jean said for me. "Greg Archer."
          I nodded. "Yeah."
          "And he's in New Jersey." Dad said.
          "But he doesn't have Dominatus."
          "Not yet. And he doesn't know he is actually looking for it. But he is. And it is actively searching for him." My wife said.
          "So who is its current owner? And where are they?" I asked.
          "It's an old woman." Toni said. "In great pain."
          "She's in a nursing home." Jean said. "But I couldn't tell where."
          "Virginia. Just outside DC." Dad said.
          I looked at them. "Let's go."
          "And do what? Break into a nursing home and steal a ring from a bedridden widow?" Jean asked me.
          "Well, that's a little more direct than I would have planned, but yeah."

Continued in Ring 3

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