Happy Holidays, everyone!
Welcome to my stop in the Bluestocking Belles’ Follow Your Star Home blog hop. Read on for a free short story about one of the many travels of the magic ring — the same ring that appears in all of the stories in Follow Your Star Home, our 2018 Holiday anthology — and comment for an entry in our holiday prize. Then, go to our blog hop page for links to the other Belles’ stories and for more information about our giveaway.
The blog hop is running for a fortnight, so keep checking back frequently to see if a new story has been posted.
7 January 1815
I hope all is well with you. I have the most exciting news to share. I have found the Lost Ring of Frigg! I am enclosing it as a gift for you, for I fear you could use its power far more than I.
Use it well and with all my heart.
The letter above left Bloomfield Park the very afternoon of the 7th of January and bore witness to a somewhat incredible, though small in the grand scheme of things, series of events on its journey north before arriving at its final destination: Scotland.
Here is one of those stories:
He was running terribly late.
George Torchwood scooped up the outgoing post from the silver salver in the front hall of Bloomfield Park and darted down the hall, across the kitchen, and out the rear servant’s entrance, headed for the stables. Lady Ross had specifically instructed him to deliver the pile of letters to the post office in Bath before the last mail coach departed. He only had thirty minutes; this was going to be close.
The stablemaster met him at the grand doors to Bloomfield Park’s magnificent stables, reins in hand and guiding a beautiful black mare, all saddled and ready. The burly man rubbed a hand down her muzzle. “She’s the fastest we have to hand at the moment, George.”
George reached for the saddle horn, his bag of mail slung over one shoulder, slid his foot into the stirrup, and hoisted himself onto the mare. Once settled, he patted the horse’s neck affectionately. “Aye, I’ve ridden Andromeda before; she’ll do.”
Ten minutes later, George was half way to Bath and making adequate time when a loud crack sounded, echoing loudly through the air. He turned in time to see a sizable limb falling from the sky towards him.
She was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen and vaguely familiar.
George blinked his bleary eyes and tried to focus on the angelic face hovering above him. On instinct, he attempted to sit up, but the woman laid a gentle yet firm hand on his shoulder. “Easy now. Ye’ve taken a nasty tumble.”
He settled back into the soft pillows beneath him and felt a feint stab of discomfort. He reached up to touch his forehead, only distantly noting the strange added weight on his hand. He lightly probed his face and winced when he touched a goose-egg-sized lump at his hairline.
The woman pulled his hand away. “Oh, you. Leave it be.”
He smiled at her concern and the strength behind her command. He cleared his throat and blurted out, “Name’s George.”
Smooth, George. Quite, smooth.
She blushed slightly and dipped her head. “Moira.”
“Moira…” he repeated, his voice laced with awe. And then she smiled, and he suddenly remembered why she’d seemed vaguely familiar. He’d seen her at a village fair last summer, where he’d been helping his sister sell her hand-made embroidered linens. They’d never had a chance to speak, and he’d been largely disappointed when he’d finally managed to break away and couldn’t find her. She could have been from anywhere; he himself hadn’t been local. “I remember you…at the fair…near Oxford?”
Her face brightened. “Yes, that’s it.” She had a nice laugh. She dipped her head as if offering him a curtsey. “It’s nice to finally meet you.”
He glanced away, to hide just how large a grin he wore, and realized she still held both his hands in hers. He noted her absently rubbing her thumbs over his knuckles. He quite liked her touch. He liked her touch quite a bit, indeed. Her skin was so warm, so soft.
Once again, they shared shy smiles, then glanced away. This time, he felt a slight blush rise in his own cheeks.
It was then that he fully noted the abnormal weight on his hand, for he wore a man’s ring, gold with a star engraved on the top. “What is this?” he asked, his eyes darting toward the ring in question.
Moira followed his gaze. “I don’t know. You were wearing it when I found you.”
“That’s impossible.” He’d never seen it before. Besides, that ring was probably worth more than he made in a year, perhaps more. “It’s not mine.”
For a moment, they both stared at it, equally confused.
“That is strange.” She met his eyes. “Do you remember what happened?”
He made to put a hand to his brow, and she squeezed his hands to stop him.
“Thanks.” That would have bloody well hurt. “Um. There was a loud crack, then I spun about in my saddle in time to see a large tree branch falling towards me, but not enough time to dodge it. Then, nothing.” Once again, he tried to run his hands through his hair, and once again, she held on tight. Apparently, he performed the gesture more often than he realized.
She frowned; her forehead wrinkled adorably. “There wasn’t a branch nearby where we found you.”
That was strange. “My horse?”
She nodded. “Tethered in the lean-to ‘round back.”
“Oh God, my bag of letters? What day is it?” He tried to sit.
“Shhh… they’re over there.” She gestured towards a corner of the room where his bag lay. “And it’s the 8th of January.”
This time he had to bite his tongue as he successfully pulled his hand free and ran it down his face. Right over his injury. But never mind that. “Oh, no, Lady Ross wanted those letters to the post office yesterday; she’ll be cross.”
Moira shook her head. “Lady Ross will understand. She may be opinionated, but she’s a generous sort.”
“You know her?”
Moira laughed and shrugged. “Who doesn’t? She’s infamous…and a neighbor.”
“Still—” George once again attempted to sit. “I must go. I must…”
Moira stayed him with a hand to his chest. “It’ll keep, George. You’ll be dizzy with that nasty bump; give it a day. There’s nothing in that bag worth risking further injury for, I’m sure.” She gently pulled back a lock of his hair that had fallen over his eye.
Aye. Maybe, she was right.
That night, as he settled down to sleep, he removed the strange star-ring and placed it on the table by the bed. He smiled as he drifted off, more than pleased to have found his mystery woman from the fair; she was as wonderful as he’d imagined she’d be.
And in the morning, neither one of them remembered the mysterious ring, nor noticed that it was gone; it’s job complete.
Where did it go, you ask? Well, that is a story for another day.