Undead and Uneasy Prologue

Once, there was a beautiful queen who was as terrible on the inside as she was glorious on the outside. She was vain, wicked, cold, and selfish. Her greatest pleasures were her coalfire earrings, terrible wieldy things that swung past her shoulders. Each stone was as big around as the ball of the queen's thumb, and it was said more than a thousand men died mining the bloodred rocks.

So conceited was this queen, and so greatly did she love her coalfire earrings, that she threatened a curse upon any who might steal them from her. So naturally, her people waited until the queen died before taking them.

The four thieves (who in truth cannot be called grave robbers, because no one waited until the hated queen was buried) went to her unguarded body and helped themselves. The body was unguarded because the parties celebrating the new monarchs (the dead queen's cousin, a plain but generous woman; and her husband, a shy healer) were in full swing, and no one especially cared about guarding a dead jerk.

The first of the four dropped dead before he could mount his horse. The second of the four died after his tent mysteriously caught fire the next night. The third made it to the coast, sold the earrings for a splendid sum, and promptly dropped dead of a brainstorm, what today is known as an aneurysm. What happened to the fourth is not known.

The man who bought the earrings had them in his shop for three and a half days. He sold the earrings to a man of some wealth and standing, just before his shop was struck by hundreds of successive strokes of lightning, sparing his life but driving him out of business forever, and leaving him with a lifelong fear of flashing lights and loud noises.

The man of wealth and standing was the manservant of a European prince (history is vague on which one). He delivered the earrings to his master, and one hour later, the prince ingested a lethal amount of tainted meat, along with half of one of the earrings, which was later extracted during the autopsy.

The earrings eventually reached London, but not after causing a series of increasingly odd and gruesome disasters along the way, including but not limited to a pig plague, a tomato blight, a series of foals born with five legs, multiple drownings several miles away from any natural source of water, and a viciously quick mammal that no one ever saw clearly enough to describe well.

The day the jewelry went on display at the BritishMuseum in their Return of Egyptian Antiquities Exhibit, the head of security suffered a fatal heart attack, the gift shop girl went blind, and three tour guides were stricken with crippling dysentery.

The earrings stayed in the museum for many years. Probably. The earrings, it seemed, disliked staying in one spot, and curators were known to snatch themselves bald looking for the jewels.

They turned up once in the Neanderthal exhibit, twice in the men's urinal on the second floor, six times in the gift shop (by now word of the "cursed" earrings had spread, and no museum employee, no matter how long her hours or how low her pay, dared touch them), and four times in the cafeteria (where an unwary museum guest nearly choked to death on one). They also went on an unscheduled, miniature tour around the world, disappearing and being found in no fewer than eight exhibits: Japan, Rome, Manila, Greece, the Americas, Britain, the Pacific, and the Near East. Each of the other museums, aware of the artifacts' history, returned the jewels to Britain quickly and without comment.

Eventually the BritishMuseum came under new management (the last curator having taken forced early retirement for mysteriously losing his fingers and his sense of smell) who, in an attempt to score points with the House of Windsor, made a gift of the earrings to Diana, the Princess of Wales.

Some time later, they came into the possession of a very old, very curious vampire who had the idea of breaking the earrings into a series of smaller stones and shipping them in twenty-five different directions around the planet. You know, just to see what would happen.

One of the stones ended up in Minnesota, right about at the turn of the twenty-first century. Nobody knows the exact date, because those involved in the shipment arrangements simply cannot be found.