Coffee Break Read – The Diadem of a Thousand Stars

At that precise moment, Edward knocked softly on the door and entered. ‘One of Percival’s young men is here, with a delivery for the Wolflady.’
‘Bring him in then.’
A very young man came in carrying a battered cardboard box in both hands. He wore a grin of triumph on his homely features. He bowed. ‘We’ve been trying to make this for days now, and we just cracked it. Percival said to bring it
here as fast as possible if we could make it work.”What is it?’
He put the box down on the table and took out a seven-pointed diadem, made in some white metal. It was obviously smith’s work, being delicately fashioned, and having many white stones set in its soaring points. The boy touched a switch on the side of the crown and every white stone suddenly burned with a fierce blue light.
‘Well, I’m buggered’ said Ragnar. ‘The diadem of a thousand stars.’
‘Sheesh. That’s clever’ Tatiana crowed.
‘Bloody genius’ Edwiga agreed.
I had absolutely no idea what had them all so excited. Yes, it was a clever toy, but I couldn’t see its relevance.
The boy read the question in my eyes and switched off the blue lights then grinned again. ‘According to Percival’s reading of the legends surrounding the Winter Queen, she is supposed to wear the diadem of a thousand stars. A seven-pointed crown, in which live all the stars in the night sky. The stars are said to shine with their own brilliance and illuminate the Queen with their cold, blue light. And we made it! We only bloody made it! Percival found a case of these tiny, cold lights months ago and put it aside to look at later. He reckoned now would be a good time to see if we could make them work. It took a bit of fiddling, but we got there. Then the smiths did the metalwork, brilliantly – every stone unscrews. We unscrewed ’em all, soldered a tiny blue light behind each one, wired it up, fashioned a battery pack that fits in the crown itself, and screwed all the stones back in. There ain’t quite a thousand, but we think there are enough to look impressive. Batteries and lights have been tested at sub-zero temperatures and have a life of twelve hours minimum. Good enough?’
‘Oh yes’ Ragnar breathed. ‘Let your hair down and put it on Rosie.’
I did as he asked, finding it a comfortable fit, and not too heavy.
‘Now light her up.’
‘How do I do that?’
‘Feel along the band just behind your right ear.’
I found the tiny switch and pressed it.
‘Oh my gods’ Tatiana breathed. ‘I can scarcely believe my eyes, and I know how it was done.’
I reached up and pressed the tiny switch again, then took off the diadem. I turned to the young techie.
‘Thank you, my friend.’
He blushed.
‘You are more than welcome my lady. May I say something?’
‘Yes.’
‘I didn’t think this Winter Queen idea had any merit. Then you put that thing on and lit it up. It was all I could do not to get down on my knees and worship. Your crazy plan really just might work. Bless you.’
He bowed, blushed again and all but ran from the room.
‘Another one more than half in love with you’ Tatiana laughed. ‘To think that not so long ago I would have been jealous. Now? Now I know what a responsibility you are carrying and I’m selfishly glad it’s not me with the perfect face. Do you know the thing that really freaked me out? Any woman but you would have looked at herself in a mirror when she was wearing a crown of lights. I don’t suppose it even occurred to you. Did it?’
‘No’ I said with some asperity. ‘Is this a failing in me?’
She smiled a bit sadly.
‘No Rosamunde, it’s a strength. And one that makes me feel quite shallow.’

From The Barefoot Runners by Jane Jago.

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