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Prologue from "Mulberry Grove : The Ring"

        “Leave me!” the queen commanded her servant.  “Tell the guards to stand watch at the door.  I want no one to enter until you hear my summons.”

     The servant bowed her head as she knelt to the ground.

     “As you wish, my queen.”

     The queen turned to face the terrace as the servant exited the room.

     “Remember,” she said adamantly, “no one is to enter until they hear my call.”

     “It shall be so,” the servant replied.

     Once the door closed, the queen walked over to an elaborate marble table.  On top of the table rested a gold box.  The box was studded with diamonds while one lone ruby adorned the elegantly decorated lid.

     “The secrets of the ages shall be whispered in my ears,” the queen said as she lifted the lid of the box.  “I shall be queen forever.”

     The queen gently picked up a piece of cloth that lay in the center of the box.  She held it close to her heart as she slowly walked onto the terrace.  The outline of the great city of Cairo greeted her as she stood in the afternoon sun overlooking the majestic pyramids.

     As she unwrapped the cloth, a ring sparkled in the sunlight.  The queen lifted it into the air and watched as the yellow stone from its center reflected onto the floor.

     “It is time,” she whispered.

     The queen placed the ring on her finger and closed her eyes.  She listened intently for someone or something to speak to her.  The only thing she could hear was the clamor of slaves working on the roadway below.

     “I have failed,” she thought.  “The spirits have betrayed me.”

     Without warning, the floor began to tremble.  The queen opened her eyes to find someone staring at her.  

     “It can’t be!” she said in astonishment.  “What manner of cruelty is this!”

     Before her stood the ghostly figure of a man.  He was wrapped in the cloth that was used to shroud the dead.  His emaciated face could be seen through the shreds in the fabric.

     “Foolish woman,” the man moaned.  “Your greed has overtaken you.  Did you think you could disturb the dead without any consequence?”

     The queen said nothing as she backed away from the specter.

     “Did you?” he moaned again.

     “I am the Queen of Egypt!” she roared.  “You shall pay dearly for your insolence.  Be gone or I will...”

     The man smiled broadly and began to laugh. 

     “It is you that shall pay dearly,” he bellowed. 

     With that, the ghost raised his hand and pointed toward the queen.

     “Guards,” she yelled loudly.  “Come quickly!”

     The guards pounded on the door but it wouldn’t open.  The queen tried to run but her feet were unable to move.

     “You shall receive what you have asked for,” the man continued.  “For disturbing the dead, you shall forever walk among them.  You shall become Queen of the Night.”

     The phantom waved his arm.  In an instant, the queen dissolved into a pile of salt.  Her crown, her jewelry, and her clothing fell onto the mound of crystals.  Her ghostly figure arose like a phoenix from the ground.  She walked toward the man and stood beside him.

     “Come walk with me,” he said as he took her hand.  “The priest should have warned you before you placed that ring on your finger.”

     The queen looked at him with a blank expression on her pale face.

     “You have no heart,” he continued.  “And now you must suffer the consequence.”

     In an instant, they both vanished.  The door to the queen’s room burst open and the guards gathered inside.  The only thing remaining was the pile of salt and the queen’s belongings. 

     “Beware the ring,” a voice called from the distance.  “Let this be a lesson to those who wear it.  Be possessed of heart, mind, and spirit if you are foolish enough to disturb where the living don’t belong.”

     The guards put their hands over their ears as the room filled with laughter.

     “I am still your queen,” a woman’s voice called out.  “I am still your queen.”

     The voice grew softer and softer until it faded away completely.

     “Pretty amazing,” said Andrew Alexander as he closed the tattered book.  “What a great story.  Do you suppose a ring like that ever existed?”

     The archeology professor got up from his desk and strolled over to Andrew.  He took the fragile document and placed it back in its protective case.

     “It’s quite possible,” he replied as he closed the seal on the case.  “Maybe someday you’ll find out.”

     “Yes, maybe,” laughed Andrew.  “Maybe.”