“It protects you from all physical harm, my dear Sir, and even from death itself; but it cannot protect you from evil,” said the old woman, holding up the necklace to the light. It was fashioned of silver and jet, and the dingy shards of sunlight that struck the petrified stones cast a rainbow of hues against the opposite walls of the shop.
“What do you mean, it can’t protect me from evil itself? What evil exists beyond physical harm?” the young man, well-dressed, and in the latest fashions, smirked slightly.
“Ah!” said the crone, “that, you would know best. But, I’ve had this trinket in my keeping since I was a girl of your age, or even younger. Yet I can assure you that not all evil is physical….”
“Well, be that as it may, I’ll take it, if only as a curiosity to amuse my friends. What will you charge for it?”
“Nothing?! It is not for sale, then?”
“It is not for sale, but it can be had. Such as this may only be passed on; it cannot be bought. Not for money, anyways.”
“Well, then, must I do something in exchange for it?” the young man began to grow wary.
“Yes, indeed! You must do me a favor; a simple thing, really.”
“And what favor is that?”
“You must bring me a single drop of blood from a child; one of no more than two years of age.”
“What absurd nonsense! Why on earth would I consent to such a thing?”
“Ah, again, you would know best. But, let me demonstrate….” The old woman rose and stepped toward the fireplace. She thrust her hand into the coals and picked one up in her bare hand. Then she turned and walked toward the young man.
“You see what I am holding?” she asked.
“And you see that I take no harm from the coal?”
“Yes, I see that, too.”
“Well, then, such is the virtue of this necklace that neither coals, nor hail, nor flood can harm me or any who holds it.”
“Ha! Or it could be, woman, that this is just sleight of hand! Here, let me handle that coal that you claim harms you not.”
The crone smiled. “Certainly,” she said, and placed the glowing ember into his palm.
Immediately the young man screamed and flung the cinder away. Sparks flew from the corner where it was cast.
“My God, woman! You’ve maimed me!” he cried, holding up his seared palm.
“Nay, Sir, I’ve but let you observe the power of the necklace. Here, place it about your neck, and you will find that all is healed once more.”
The woman lifted the necklace over his head, and immediately the searing pain in his hand ceased. He held his palm aloft and looked at it; there was no sign of the charring that he had just experienced.
After a few moments of wonder, he looked craftily at the woman. “One drop of blood, you say?”
“Just one,” she responded.
“But…from a child? Must it be from a child?”
“Aye, else it becomes but another trinket. Its power will fade, even from you ere long, unless the pact is made.”
“Yes, the pact required for you to have it. A single drop of blood from a child…and your own soul in the bargain.”
“I don’t believe in the soul, so that part is easy….”
“Ah! Neither did I, good Sir, neither did I! But, since I’ve held this trinket, I’ve come to,change my mind.”
“That, I shall never do!”
“Then you’re the right one to have her next then, Sir; the necklace, I mean. Sure as I’m a sinner, you are her next owner! But, mark my words, you need not commit your soul at the start; just the drop of blood of an innocent is required. The rest will come in due time….”
Jef Murray is an internationally known Tolkien and fantasy artist/illustrator and counterfeit essayist. His paintings, sketches, and writings sprout sporadically from the leaves of Tolkien and Inklings publications (Amon Hen, Mallorn, Beyond Bree, Silver Leaves, Mythprints) and Catholic journals (The St. Austin Review, Gilbert Magazine, The Georgia Bulletin) worldwide. Visit Jef’s website at www.JefMurray.com.
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