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A Thief at Heart
Once, in a land ruled by enchantment, there lived a king who had a legendary lust for gold. Though he had not ruled long, the king was already a legend; spoke of around the hearths and in the halls of people everywhere. Some said that he had leveled thirty-five separate cities, just so that he could raid their coffers.
Others claimed that he had once infiltrated the vaults of Emperor Yuon of Gartonia, who was rumored to hold the wealth of twenty-one separate nations.
At the same time, in the same land, there was a thief (though he himself would’ve preferred to be called a venturing opportunist). He was just as widely talked of as the king. It was said that he could swindle anyone out of any amount of money. Be it one million gold pieces, or be it a single coin, the thief could get his hands on anything. There was a story that traversed all around the country, a story that the thief had taken from Baron Varj of Turesia a life-size statue made of pure diamond; payment for curing the Baron’s ill dog, who (it was later discovered) been made sick by the thief.
It would seem to anyone that these two men, both cunning conquerors, would meet sooner or later. Even the Fates couldn’t help themselves when they saw the true nature of these two men. Even they couldn’t keep them apart. It was good entertainment. So when the thief assumed the alias Edwin McGee, and marched into the king’s court, it was only a matter of time before he put his scheme into action.
King Tunkra was sitting in his marble dining hall, feasting on a magnificent meal that sat before him on a one-hundred yard long table. It was here that he discovered that there was someone to see him. A magician by the name of Edwin McGee. Tunkra was annoyed, though allowed the magician in, hoping that perhaps he would have some gold to spare.
“Your Highness, the sorcerer Edwin McGee of Ulland!” shouted the crier, as the thief shuffled into the hall. The King minimally acknowledged McGee with a nod.
“Majesty,” said McGee, bowing. “I bring you great news. I’ve heard tell that you, Highness, enjoy great riches. Mainly gold. Correct?”
“Yes,” said King Tunkra, listening eagerly. This man spoke of gold!
“Well, Lord King, in my studies of sorcery I have discovered a spell; one so powerful that it was locked away and hidden for centuries.”
“Yes, yes,” said the King, ready to cut to the chase.
“It is a spell that only the Mages of the Sacred Isles were permitted to use for one-thousand years.”
“Alright! Just tell me!” You could practically see King Tunkra salivating.
“Well, Highness, this spell has the power to supply you with a limitless supply of gold.”
“Gold…” King Tunkra trailed off, a glint in his eyes.
“Yes, Majesty. Pure, solid, unadulterated, gold.”
“Well, how does this spell work Magician McGee?” asked the King.
“Oh, it is very complex,” said McGee, waving his hand, dismissively. “I can perform it for you; at a small price however.”
“A price?” asked Tunkra hesitantly. He wasn’t used to paying for things.
“Yes,” said McGee. “Won’t cost much. Rather trivial really.”
“Well what is it!” screamed King Tunkra, stomping his feet. He wanted his infinite cache of gold!
“I seek your daughter’s hand in marriage,” came the reply. Tunkra stopped and thought about this for a moment. He had been married once, but his queen had died of a sickness that had racked the entire kingdom. Tunkra had truly loved his queen (and the dowry that came with her) but he loved his two daughters even more.
His eldest daughter, Aldra, was a quaint, pretty little thing, almost like a china teacup. Something to be set on a shelf and to observe from a distance. She was twenty-eight and had yet to bear children, though she was married to the affluent Duke of Arkansia, who was as such, heir to Tunkra’s throne.
King Tunkra’s second daughter was twenty-two years of age, as beautiful as her mother and sister, but quite different. She was not content to sit all day long, to entertain guests and throw parties for amusement. She was a headstrong woman, who did what she wanted, when she wanted. She rode horses bareback, she hunted game in the forest with the men, she even enjoyed participating in planning and mapping invasion routes and battle plans.
In essence she was not like most women. And it was for this that Tunkra held her so dear. Not that the King didn’t care for his other daughter, but his younger one had such a will that he couldn’t see her off to just any man.
“You seek Nadra’s hand?” asked King Tunkra surprised. Most of the other suitors he had proposed to her were instantly rejected. Some of them even left willingly, refusing to marry such a free spirit.
“Indeed,” said McGee, soundly. King Tunkra wrung his hands and considered some things. Likely, Nadra wouldn’t take the news lightly. The King had always given her the option to refuse any man; to never marry if that was her wish. But now when this man offered him such a prize, rescinding that option hardly seemed like a sacrifice.
“Maybe,” said the King slowly. “It would be best if the two of you spent some time with one another, to get to know one another. That way she won’t be so…surprised when I make the announcement. Perhaps a banquet tonight?”
“Yes, Majesty. That sounds magnificent,” said McGee bowing. After that, the thief was swept into the grandeur of palace life. He was led to a spacious room with a marble bath, a four poster bed, and many tapestries hanging from the walls.
When the attendants had finally left him alone, he sat back and laughed. King Tunkra had actually believed that he had such a spell. McGee doubted that there even was a place called the Sacred Isles! Tunkra truly would do anything for gold, even marry off his only eligible daughter to a stranger. McGee found it slightly deplorable, but it wasn’t as if he were totally innocent. Either way, it would not be long before he had the Princess Nadra’s dowry in his possession, and he would never have to see King Tunkra again.
The banquet was rather awkward at times. King Tunkra, Princess Nadra, Princess Aldra and her husband, the Duke, were all present. The King sat at the head of the great table; Nadra and the masquerading magician Edwin McGee sat across from each other. Aldra and the Duke were side by side, and smiled pleasantly, though it seemed as if they rarely smiled at one another. All of them sat clumped by King Tunkra at the head of the table, with the other ninety-five yards of marble hanging uselessly in space.
“How was the hunt today, Nadra?” asked Tunkra.
“Fine Father, as usual,” she said, neglecting to cut her meat daintily like her sister. “The turkeys weren’t as plentiful as yesterday, but we’ll survive.” And indeed they would. They were royalty.
Edwin McGee studied the paradoxical creature across from him. The Lady Princess was certainly beautiful; her hair the color the darkest of ebony, her skin the sweetest cream of fresh milk. The Princess’s eyes were green; both as radiant and striking as freshly mined emeralds. And then her lips, as red as a rose and as succulent as fresh fruit. In fact even her perfume smelled like apples.
On the other hand, Princess Nadra seemed to nonchalantly disregard her beauty. Now she wore a slimming dress the color of the setting sun, and her hair was let down to drape elegantly over her shoulders. However, previously when McGee had passed her in the hall she’d worn trousers and a shirt made of rough cloth. Her hair had been set on top of her head in a bun. She also seemed to disregard protocol, occasionally even rising herself to fetch a pitcher or new platter instead of ordering her servants do it for her.
“Don’t worry, Lady Princess,” said the thief looking upon her fondly. “The turkey hunting can only get better from here on out. Their mating always picks up in the fall.”
“Hmph,” snorted the Lady, rather indignantly. “If you truly did know anything about turkeys, you’d know that their mating season is in the spring time.”
McGee shrugged and simply replied, “I saw a large gobbler on my way into the city.” Nadra continued to eat, ignoring McGee.
“Well I can say from my own personal experience that I’ve been bagging fewer turkeys lately,” said the Duke. Princess Aldra nodded accordingly, taking a slight sip from the goblet before her.
“Well numerous or not, our hunters are still skilled enough to bring home entire flocks. And none are better than our Nadra,” beamed Tunkra.
“Oh Father,” said the Princess. “You know hunting isn’t my only strength. I can swim, fence, hike, ride, and do practically anything a man can do. Most of the time even better.” McGee found it difficult to take his eyes off the Princess.
“What are you staring at!?” shouted Nadra, rather rudely.
“Daughter,” said Tunkra soothingly, but Nadra refused to hear it.
“No Father, no!” she screamed, throwing down her silverware. “Don’t pretend that I don’t know why this…this buffoon is here! With all of this talk about turkeys and nonsense! You intend for me to marry him; likely for some kind of monetary gain to yourself! You truly are a cruel man, and I hate you!”
With that Princess Nadra stood and marched away, her handmaids scurrying away behind her. It was obvious to everyone at the table the pain that showed on King Tunkra’s face.
“Majesty, if the Princess does not wish such a union…” began the thief.
“No, no, she really is a charming woman,” said the King. “She’ll warm up to you with time.”
“Perhaps, Lord King,” said the Duke. “If the sorcerer could prove himself in someway that would show his dedication to the Lady Princess, maybe she would be more willing to the marriage.”
“Yes, yes,” said the King, nodding thoughtfully. “Do you have any suggestions for such a task?”
“Indeed,” said the Duke. “There’s a beast that’s been terrorizing my people for some time. Even my bravest knight couldn’t slay it. A darn thing too, because I gave him some of my finest weapons.”
“Alright, then. You, magician will go into the monster’s lair and kill it. Such a thing should not be too difficult with your magic.”
Edwin McGee was a bit taken back. Had these two royals really just volunteered him to slay a monster? Had they suggested that he kill a beast that even a knight could not? But the McGee remembered the Princess’s face; how angry she’d been at him, at the King. If these two royals really thought that killing a monster would win him favor with Nadra, who was he to dispute them?
“Alright,” said the thief. “I will slay your monster. I will bring its head to you on a platter.”
He’d demanded a sword. They’d been a bit reluctant to give it to him, but he demanded none the less. He had it in his hand, and as he marched into the hollow that was the beast’s lair, McGee began to wonder, why was he doing this? He knew that it was no longer the dowry that solely attracted him, or even the Princess’s beauty. He had felt something at that banquet, though he doubted Nadra shared his feelings.
As McGee trekked into the cave, he smelled nothing that he would expect to smell. No sulfur, no decay. No, there was only one thing that McGee really did smell. It was polish. Polish like that funky smell you get a whiff of right after your shoes have been shined. Why would he smell that in a cave?
And then, much to McGee’s surprise, he saw why. At his feet, entombed in what seemed to be a mold of gold, laid an enormous beast, nearly forty feet in length, and in the shape of a dragon. It lay on its stomach and its wings splayed out to its sides, as if in flight. Its many horns and spikes pointed out across its body like daggers ready to puncture anything that came near. Beautiful but deadly. And lastly were its eyes. Great golden globes, shining with intent and purpose, but clearly lifeless.
There was no dispute. This was the beast the thief was meant to kill. The problem was the thing was already dead.
And as Edwin McGee pondered what to do next, he saw it. An ordinary looking sword, presumably made out of tin, sticking out of the beast’s gut. It looked flimsy, as if a simple nudge might snap it in two. Its hilt was wooden with a few engravings carved around the pommel. All in all, it looked relatively ordinary, and certainly not very special. Or dangerous.
But McGee had a hunch that the plain looking thing had turned the dragon to gold. That it was responsible for this beast’s glamorous embalming. Just to be sure, he kicked a few pebbles in the thing’s direction. They skittered over the sword, and immediately transformed into mini gold nuggets. McGee was amazed. All this time, he believed that he’d been fooling the King, and yet here in a place where he would’ve been sure to meet his death, he’d found his salvation. A ticket to ride. His get out of jail free card.
And just then, McGee began to scheme once more. He began to hatch a plan, a plan that involved this magical sword and Tunkra, and Nadra, and all of them together. He would bring the sword to Tunkra, and show him its power. He would claim that he slew the dragon with his magic, and in the process, the everlasting gold spell had transferred to the sword. He would trade the sword for Nadra’s hand, and Tunkra would have his gold. It would all work out.
McGee had no real idea where the sword had come from. The Duke had claimed that he’d equipped his knight with one of his “finest weapons”. Was that this sword? This magic sword? McGee supposed that he would never know. Perhaps the Duke’s knight had slain the creature with it. Perhaps not. McGee really didn’t care to tell the truth. The monster was dead, and that was that.
His scheme was short, precise and sweet. Nadra would fall in love with him when she knew he had this power. Luckily Tunkra would love him just as much, though hopefully in a plutonic way. Hopefully everything would work out. Though, that had been McGee’s mentality with another scheme, once upon a time.
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"Madness in great ones must not unwatched go" --Claudius in William Shakespeare's Hamlet
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"People were created to be loved. Things were created to be used. The reason why the world is in chaos is because things are being loved and people are being used."