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by Rojodi
Rated: ASR · Short Story · Fantasy · #2284112
The Rings, those of the Magi
The night crept over the Carpathians, a cold breeze coming from the west. as the young man quickly made his way through a small mountain pass. He heard all the legends of vampires, of werewolves, of evil that would snatch his soul and bring it back to the depths of hell. He did not want to fall victim, did not want to be one of the unlucky few.

“Come on, hurry,” he demanded from his horse. As the hoof beats echoed off the mountain walls, he only looked forward, never looked back. If he were to be attacked, he thought, it would come from the front. With the last ray of light falling behind the Western range, he felt the air cool.

“Only a few more miles,” he whispered to himself, trying to calm his nerves. With every step the horse took, his heartbeat that much faster. In the distance, he saw the shimmering lights of his village. A calming wave overcame him, and he exhaled.

“Stop,” a commanding voice announced. In front of him, mounted on a stallion black as coal, was a man dressed in attire suggested nobility. “Hold fast,” he bid, his hand raised, and index finger was extended toward the young man.

The horse stopped immediately. The young man was almost thrown but held on. He looked at the man and felt a sudden wave of fear flow over him. He dismounted and started to pull the horse in the opposite direction.

“Fear me not young Kolodziej,” the man in black said, his voice calming and soothing. The youngster, Julian Kolodziej, turned and looked at the man. The fear was still there, still causing him to have the need to flee. As he turned once again to leave, the voice once again commanded him to hold.

“Who are you, and how do you know my name?” Kolodziej asked as he failed to move his horse from the spot. The nobleman just smiled and offered his hand as a show of friendship. With fear still in his heart, Kolodziej never looked at the stranger.

“Why do you not look at me?” the man asked as Kolodziej tried to move away.

“I fear you,” was the short answer he told the man. “Again, how do you know me?” he asked the man causing so much fear.

The man laughed; his deep voice echoed off the mountains like thunder. Kolodziej’s horse reared and bolted, leaving him stranded. The stranger turned and looked at the younger man. Kolodziej turned to run away but felt an evil grasp on his shoulder hold him still.

“You cannot leave me so easily again,” a voice that was now purely evil. Kolodziej knew it was evil, and knew he heard it once before.

“I know you,” Kolodziej said, the fear still in his very soul. “There is something in your laugh that reminds me of something, something I dreamed when I was younger,” he said as he instinctively reached for his necklace. The stranger backed away.

He realized there was something special in the necklace his grandmother gave him as a present for his past birthday. He took it out and looked at it: four rings on a gold chain.

“Why does this bother you?” he asked the man in black. As he raised it to allow for a better look, the stranger moved his arms over his head and screamed, a scream of pain and fear. Kolodziej looked at the rings and chain once again and smiled.

“I guess you fear these!” Kolodziej said in sudden realization. There was no more fear for now it was replaced by clarity. The young man knew these rings were his redeeming feature. He walked back to his horse, and with the rings now firmly in his hand, mounted it.

“Come, let’s go,” he told the animal. It obeyed his master.

“You will not leave me that easily,” the nobleman said as he tried to look upon the young man. The rings were still there and caused him great pain. With a roar that resembled that of a large animal trapped, the nobleman covered himself once again. Kolodziej spurred the horse to run. As the two were on the man, he suddenly disappeared. Not wanting to know why or how, Julian Kolodziej never stopped, never looked back.

The fire was warming as was the stew Julian Kolodziej was eating. As he sat at the table, he stared out the window, out to the mountain pass.

“What is out there?” his grandmother asked. With trepidation, he described his meeting, so to speak, with the nobleman.

“Was his voice deep and did it echo off the walls?” she asked, her face ashen turning as she spoke. Kolodziej nodded.

“And did he show fear when you raised the rings on your necklace?” she asked, a great desire for an answer in her voice. With an inquisitive look on his face, he nodded.

“They have found you,” was all she said as she turned to look out the window.

“Who are they?” he asked.

“Those who live in the shadows. Never mind that now. We must get you out of these mountains and to America,” she told her grandson

“Grandmother, what is so special about these rings?” Kolodziej implored. She stopped and looked at him, her love overtaking all concern.

“Julian, you know the legend of the three wise men. It is not a legend, but fact. The rings on the necklace are their rings.”

He looked at her incredulously. “I have four. But you’ve always told us there were Three Wise Men.”

“One belonged to a man who accompanied the Magi,” she began. “Someone the Gospel of Matthew never spoke of. Someone only we grandmothers were told about.” She looked out the window one more time and sighed. “All I can tell you now is that those rings saved your life tonight.”

“But grandmother,” he started to say. She turned away from the window and told him to get ready, he was leaving for America that same night.

“Four Wise Men?”

Mikołaj sat at his great-grandfather’s feet and shook his head. The teenager loved listening to the old man’s “Tales from the Old Country,” loved the folklore “Dziadzia Jules” told him, his sisters, and their cousins. He felt that the man, along with his grandparents, great-aunts, and great-uncles, were specifically telling him so the teen, the boy they loved to call Nicky, would share them with the world, like the young adult novels he has written and had published.

“Yes, four.”

“Did you ever bring all four to the U.S.?”

The old man closed his eyes and thought deeply. Did he want to tell him the truth or did he want to lie to protect the location of the rings? Such a dilemma. Knowing where they are would make for better stories, but then it would place them in danger to those who would want them – the vampires who believe the rings would allow them to walk in the daylight, the witches and warlocks who believe that they would bring incredible power. Julian Kolodziej sighed and sat up straight.

“Let me tell you about my stay in England,” the former steamwright for American Locomotive began. A new tale would hopefully distract his great-grandson from the question the older man did not want to answer.
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