The Fourth Ring

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There were four of us, but she laid only 3 rings on the table. Talia stared at the old woman bent at the waist. The only way to enter the city was to own one of the magical rings that was in front of her. Only two old crones sold the very limited rings, and you had to pay the 5 gold coins for each ring. Talia had exactly 20 gold coins, her father had saved and hidden as a last resort. He asked Talia to purchase 4 of the magical rings, and Talia had passed the vendors and their sweet smelling food, her stomach growling to purchase the rings. She had been tempted, Oh, more than tempted to quench her thirst and feed her hunger. She couldn’t remember the last time she had a meal, her father just feed her sick mother, her tiny brother Tuan and Talia rationed water. And Talia had walked several miles on an empty stomach in the blistering heat. Her bare feet was scorched. Only for this old woman to refuse giving her more than 3 rings.

“Please” Talia whispered in a scratchy voice. “My father, mother, little brother and I have to enter the City” she pleaded. “Or our mother would die”

The Old crone just stared at Talia, her cataract clouded eyes unfocused. She shook her head and before Talia could blink vanished into the hot desert air.

Tears welled in Talia’s eyes. She had to save her mother. Her brother was too small to be left behind and mother needed father to find the healer.

She sat under a date tree waiting for her parents to come. After what seemed like hours, her father came into view, carrying the thin bundle – her mother. Tuan clung to father’s leg.

They didn’t talk, Talia just handed the three rings to her father, who passed it around, then they began walking towards the giant gates. Just as they neared the gates, Talia hesitated, Tuan showed the ring and was permitted to go in, her mother next, her father followed.

Talia’s heart beat wildly, her whole body was drenched in sweat. She felt dizzy, nauseous. The huge black guard at the gate looked so forbidding. His prickly black beard reaching his waist. He looked sharply at Talia.

Gods, she didn’t have a ring. she didn’t have a ring. They were going to kill her. She didn’t have ring.

A sharp pain burned her index finger on the right hand. Flinching in pain she looked at her hand and gasped.

She had a ring.

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