Sitting at a table in Dr. Schultz’s research library in Department 8, Candice and Carol waited patiently as Dr. Schultz searched the bookshelves for a particular volume to share with them.
“I know it is over here somewhere,” he said. “At least, I think it is. I’m worried I might not yet have transferred it to my collection here. Forgive me, I am still organizing my libraries.”
Candice asked, “What is this book you’re looking for?”
“A bit of archeology performed during the late 10th century in what is today Iraq.” He carefully opened one book, shook his head, and returned it to the shelf. “Not that one.”
Carold asked, “How is this connected to the ring?”
He said, “I believe it contains the first known description of the ring.” He pulled down another book and said, “Ah! This is it. I was worrying for nothing. Right here all along.” He carried an old, leather-bound book to the table in the middle of the room and sat down between the two women. “This is one of my proudest achievements when it comes to research. As far as I know, I’m the first one to make a connection between this book and The Cursed Ring.”
“‘The Cursed Ring?’” Candice repeated. “That’s what it’s called?”
The doctor smiled faintly. It was clear that he was gearing up for a lecture. “In fact,” he said. “Over the years, it has accumulated by a number of sinister nicknames: The Cursed Ring, The Ring of Death, The Demon’s Ring, Ring of Misfortune, et cetera, et cetera.”
Carol said, “I’m starting to understand why Mary would be interested in it.”
Dr. Schultz continued, “Here is what was known about the ring until I had my research breakthrough. The Smithsonian first acquired the ring around the time of the civil war. Apparently, some obscure Confederate general had been using it as a talisman in some time of ritual with a captive voodoo queen. The story is not exactly clear, but it would seem that the magic that was supposed to give him ultimate power against his enemies had actually stripped his life from him, leaving him an old desiccated corpse by the end of the ritual. When the general’s body was found, captured Confederate soldiers who knew the general explained what he had been attempting to do, and the ring entered the US government’s collection. Though, claims about it’s magical properties were discounted as superstition despite the evidence of the general’s body.
“Researchers at the Smithsonian soon connected the ring to stories from Europe of an evil magic ring that brought misfortune on its owners. The tales are varied and of doubtful veracity. One story tells of a beautiful French heiress who was afraid of losing the luster of her youth. She had acquired the ring at great expense and, soon after, disappeared. A short time later, a young girl, barely more than a baby, was found with the ring. The girl claimed to be the disappeared heiress transformed into a child by the magic ring, but no one was willing to believe her. Even though, when the girl reached adulthood, it was said she bore as striking resemblance to the missing heiress. People had assumed the girl was, in fact, the heiresses secret child although no one could recall a time when the woman might have been pregnant. Unfortunately for the girl, she did not receive any of the inheritance the heiress had been due, and ended up living her life in relative poverty as an adopted orphan working in a shop as a seamstress.”
Carol interrupted, “As fascinating as this is, Doctor, can you please give us the shorter version of the story. We have a lot of work to do today still.”
“Oh,” he said. “Of course. Well, to make a long story short. The ring has shown up throughout the past millennia in different places causing magical transformations to its unfortunate owners. Some were apparently transformed into animals, others into children, and still others seemed to just disappear. For the longest time, people who studied the ring were unable to figure out the true origin of the ring.
“Then, I happened upon this book here,” he said. Lifting up the book he had just brought to the table. “This is a reprint of the journals of a scientist from the Islamic Golden Age, Ahmed Ibn Fadul.” He carefully opened the leatherbound cover and turned the yellowed pages. “Here,” he said and pointed to a page full of Arabic text. “He describes a construction project in an area not far from Baghdad. While digging a foundation, workers had uncovered a hidden basement room. When the workers searched the room, they were frightened off by what they found and called for a knowledgeable man to examine it.”
“What did he find?” Candice asked.
Dr. Schultz smiled. “When Ibn Fadul arrived, he discovered many signs of pagan magic, Sumerian writing, ancient lamps, and in the center of it all, surrounded by arcane writing and geometric shapes carved on the floor, a ring. Based on the writing and other artifacts in the room, he speculated that the place had laid undisturbed for thousands of years.”
Carol said, “And, you believe that was the ring Mary stole, The Cursed Ring?”
“I am almost positive it is,” he said. “Here.” He pulled out a page from a folder on the table. “This is a translation of the text into English.”
Candice took the page and began to read Ibn Fadul’s notes, “‘The ring is of average size and composed of pewter, and set in it is an unidentifiable rough gem. The gem has a color that varies from green to purple with a seeming rainbow of other hues in between. I retrieved the ring myself, since the workers were too frightened of the markings on the floor to approach it. It may be superstition or the work of some watching demon, but I felt a chill run through me when I picked up the ring. After some short time examining it, I determined that it should be kept safe from the public in a protected government vault. It may be a work of evil, and so it is incumbent on good men of God to keep it securely away from those who might use it for evil. The men were then ordered to destroy all other items found in the room and the room itself. Then, an imam was called in to sanctify the ground where the room had stood.’”
Dr. Schultz flipped forward through the book and said, “It was years later that the ring was stolen from the vault along with other valuables, as Ibn Fadul mentions here. After that first disappearance, it did not show up in any known records for at least another century, and by then it had become known by it many nicknames.”
Carol asked Candice, “What do you make of that story?”
“Well,” Candice said. “The markings on the floor could have been magical runes and lines used for a spell. Of course, I can’t say what the spell was without knowing what the markings looked like.”
“I have a theory,” Dr. Schultz said. “One I have based on what you told us last night about the North Pole about how the elves collect magical energy there. You said they use some type of crystalline batteries. Is that correct?”
“Yes,” Candice said.
“My theory is that this ring, in particular the gem set in it, was used as a magical energy storage device by its creator. Additionally, I believe that the markings on the ground were part of a magical energy collection spell, similar to the one the elves use to gather magic at in the North Pole.”
“I see,” Candice said, nodding. “That could be true.”
“Wait,” Carol said. “So, you mean that the ring Mary stole was some kind of magical rechargeable battery?”
“Yes,” Dr. Schultz said, and his eyes brightened up. “I imagine it may have been the property of some kind of ancient Sumerian magician or maybe even an actual elf. It could be that the original owner used it for spells sometimes. First, the owner might charge it up in the circle, and then the owner would use the accumulated magic to power a spell.”
“Oh,” Candice said with worried look on her face. “This is bad. If that’s true, this is really bad.”
“Why?” Carol asked. “Mary doesn’t seem to have any trouble gathering up magic for spells without that ring. Why would a little magic ring make a difference?”
“Time,” the doctor said.
“Exactly,” Candice said. “I told you all last night that it took a whole year to store up the energy for Santa to travel the world while warping time. That’s what’s possible with a large collection system if it’s given a whole year to work. This ring was only part of a smaller collection system. Maybe the spellcaster would leave it to sit for a month to charge it up for small spells. The thing is, It would be possible to store a lot of energy in a small crystal if it was charged slowly for a long enough time.”
“Oh,” Carol said. “And, if the estimate was correct in the notes, then the ring could have sat there charging for…”
“Millenia,” the doctor said. “For thousands of years, the circle may have slowly charged that little gem. If the power stored in the North Pole for a year could create a spell powerful enough to warp time for the entire planet, then what could the power of thousands of years do?”
“Anything,” Candice said. “That ring could do just about anything in the hands of a skilled spellcaster. It could warp the fabric of reality in any conceivable way. It could even tear reality apart if it were misused. If that ring is what we think it is, then Mary has the power to cast any spell she wants over the whole world. She could transform the entire world or even destroy it.”
Carol sighed. “Yeah,” she said. “I see what you mean. This IS bad.”
“We have to stop her,” Candice said. “The longer she has the ring, the more likely it is that she will use it in a major way.”
“Agreed,” Carol said. “We better go follow up on our leads. Let start by talking with the little man we found in the farmhouse and see what he knows.”
“Good luck,” Dr. Schultz said. “And, if you do happen to take the ring back, be careful with it. We had it transported here with an armed guard. Don’t go wandering around with it on your finger.”
“Thank you, Doctor Schultz,” Candice said. “We’ll be careful. Don’t worry.”
“Yes, thank you,” Carol said while standing up. “Let’s go find that ring.”
Then, the two women exited the library, leaving Dr. Schultz alone with his books. As he started reshelving his collection, he paused and said to himself, “No, unfortunately, I cannot avoid doing it. I am going to worry.”