By: Jesse Leisch
“Come, children come. It is time for a tale,” the story teller said. He was and old crippled looking man. He wore old tattered robes with a big pointed hat, and carried a walking stick with what looked like a giant pearl on top of it. He had a great long beard that was as white as the snow, which seemed to reach his waist whenever he stood a certain way. His skin was wrinkly like he had spent too much time in the water, but his eyes were a bright green still filled with life. The only thing on him that looked of any value was a golden ring with a stone the same color as his eyes. The old story teller was a well-known man who traveled from village to village, telling wild tales of all kinds taking place in exotic lands filled with unique people.
The children quickly started to gather around, as well as some adults who happened to be in the tavern having a drink. The old storyteller was next to the fire place, sitting in an old mahogany rocking chair. He had been staying at this particular tavern for a few days now telling tales for free lodging. “Now what tale would you all like to hear today?” said the storyteller. Almost all at once the children started yelling out suggestions hoping theirs would be the one that got picked. It all turned very quickly into indistinct yelling, and the storyteller had to quiet them down. “Ha-ha, hush now children. My old ears can’t keep up,” he said. He then took a moment to survey the crowd when his eyes fell upon a little girl, maybe 12 years of age. She had dark brown curly hair that fell just past her shoulders, and her dark skin tone made her unique purple eyes stand out all that much more. Her name was Isabell, and she had a reputation for being quite intelligent, far beyond her years. “Ah Isabell, you’ve been so silent back there, like a mouse, please tell me what tale you would like to hear today?” said the storyteller.
Isabell took a moment to contemplate a tale would be a good one. She started tapping the bottom of her chin with her index finger, a habit she’d picked up whenever she was lost deep in thought. After what seemed a time, she looked up, “I would like to hear the tale of Lunt” she said. Many of the other children started murmuring and whispering amongst themselves.
“Oh I’ve never heard that one before,” another girl in the audience said.
“I don’t know, sounds kind of boring,” a boy sitting next to Isabell said to no one in particular. The old storyteller just leaned back in his chair stroking his beard.
“Ah the tale of Lunt, a fine story indeed,” the storyteller said while he continued to stroke his beard. “Very well, the tale of Lunt shall be the tale of the day,” he said while pulling out a pipe and lighting it with a match. He took a few puffs and began.
Lunt was a red-haired man who loved nothing more than to steal famous valuables. Whether they were heirlooms in distant families, or they were jewels belonging to a duke. In fact the more difficult the valuable was to get, the more likely it was that Lunt would try to steal it. He once stole a simple comb from the leader of a group of bandits, just because a drunk man at a tavern said he didn’t have the skills to do it.
“What is the value in that?” a boy said interrupting.
“Well, Lunt enjoyed proving people wrong, and he wanted to be known as the greatest thief ever as well,” the old storyteller said. Now over time, Lunt’s ambition to be the greatest thief started to affect him, he found that his red hair was a very distinguishable trait and soon enough his infamy grew too much. He started to get recognized by people in the villages; now as a thief, this is the worst thing that could happen to you.
“But I thought he liked it when it was really hard to steal something,” a little blonde haired girl said while raising her hand.
“He does indeed,” the storyteller said. In fact Lunt loved that he started to get recognized. It meant that he was on his way to becoming the world’s greatest thief. He also knew however, that he needed to perform a theft so great that even years after he was gone people would still remember him.
Now it just so happened, that Lunt had been hearing rumors that a great king would be in his area. This was to celebrate the wedding of his daughter to one of the Duke’s sons. Lunt had never stolen from a king before, nor had he ever heard of anyone else successfully stealing from a king.
“Is he going to steal his crown?” another one of the kids said.
“Yes,” the storyteller said with a big smile on his face. But not just any crown, this particular one is the greatest one that’s ever been created. It was solid gold, and lined with jewels all around it. All the money in the kingdom would not have amounted to its value. However with Lunt’s reputation getting so big, he knew the guards would be on the lookout for thieves. He couldn’t run the risk of being recognized before he could get close to it. It just so happened though that this particular king had a great interest in magic. He had his very own wizard that traveled with him everywhere he went. Though a great king would not just have any wizard, oh no, he had the great Nero traveling with him. Now Nero was a man who took great pride in his abilities. He was a world renowned enchanter who gained all of his fame from creating great artifacts with immense power. One such artifact was a ring that could alter ones appearance.
This sparked Lunt’s curiosity, for there would be nothing better for a great thief who gets recognized, than to be able to alter their appearance. All Lunt had to do was get the ring from Nero before anyone recognized him. He quickly set out with a plan in mind, and when he reached the castle the king was staying at, he put his plan into action.
First, he went around back to the kitchens and disguised himself as a cook, making sure to put a hat on to cover up his distinguishable red hair. He then went about regular chef’s duties biding his time until Nero asked for food to be delivered to his quarters. This was the perfect chance for Lunt to check out the castle. He needed to figure out where the king’s quarters were, as well as where all the guards were posted, and of course figure out an escape plan if things didn’t go his way. Now after walking through the castle and getting lost a few times, Lunt finally found the kings quarters. To his dismay however, there were two colossal sized guards standing on either side of the door leading to the king’s room. Lunt did not want to get in to a fight with them by any means.
After passing the king’s quarters and going down a few more hallways, Lunt finally arrived at the wizard Nero’s room. He stood outside the door for a moments to collect himself. He knew that he needed that ring, but was unsure of where it might be or what it might look like.
”Wait so you’re telling me, he doesn’t even know what the ring looks like?” said one of the boys in the front with a look of shock on his face.
“Indeed I am,” the storyteller said simply while leaning back in his rocking chair and taking a good long puff of his pipe before continuing. Lunt took a deep breath and knocked on the door, he waited a few moments, then a few more. No answer, so he knocked again, this time a bit louder. Deep down he was hoping Nero had been called away or fallen asleep in the time Lunt was surveying the castle. This would give Lunt the perfect opportunity to search Nero’s quarters for the ring. Lunt decided he would try one more time before breaking into the room. Just as Lunt went to knock, the door swung open, and there both men stood staring at each other. Nero was a bit taller than Lunt and had a big black beard that seemed dark as the night sky. He also wore simple robes that were a dark blue.
Nero was the first to break the silence, “Ah Lunt, I wandered when you would show up,” he had said with a slight smirk on his face.
“What? You must have me confused with someone else, I am but a simple cook,” Lunt said while awkwardly gesturing with his head to the food he was holding in his hands.
“No, I’m not. Please come in we have much to discuss,” Nero said while turning around and heading back in to his room. For a second Lunt just stood there stupefied, not knowing if it was a trap or not. “Are you coming or not,” Nero said from inside his room. Lunt reluctantly entered closing the door behind him. “Be sure to lock that door, don’t want anyone eavesdropping on our conversation,” Nero said sounding even more distant than before.
“So how did you know it was me?” Lunt said while taking the chef’s hat off his head.
“Because we have met before,” Nero said while coming around the corner. But he no longer looked like he had when he answered his door; he looked like a completely different person. A more familiar person but very different. His beard was gone, he had shrunken down about three inches or so, and had a huge belly now. It took Lunt a moment to figure out why this man looked so familiar, then it dawned on him. He was the same drunken man from the tavern that had dared Lunt to steal the comb from the bandit leader.
“You’re,” he paused, “from that tavern,” Lunt said, still awkwardly holding the plate of food.
“Yes I am, and you can put the food down over there on the table,” Nero said gesturing towards the dining room table while he removed the appearance shifting ring from his finger. As soon as the ring was off Nero transformed back to his old self.
“But why?” Lunt said while putting the plate down on the table and walking back over to Nero.
“Because I had heard rumors of a great red haired thief that could steal anything no matter how impossible it may be. So I sought you out and tested you,” Nero said very calmly.
“Ok, but why did you test me?” Lunt said curiously
“I need to steal something that I myself cannot get, even with all of the trinkets at my disposal.” Nero said gesturing to a trunk at the base of his bed behind him.
“Oh, and what might that be?” Lunt said cocking his head back and squinting his eyes.
“I need you to steal my magical staff back from the king. He has taken it from me and knows I will not leave his company without it.”
“And just what is in it for me?” Lunt said taking a step towards Nero.
“Two things,” Nero said holding up his first two fingers “One, I will let you keep my appearance changing ring,” holding up the very ring as he said it.
“And two?” Lunt said taking another step towards Nero.
“Two, I will tell the tale of Lunt in every village and city that I visit after I leave here,” Nero said extending his hand out that held the ring. Lunt took another step towards Nero, held out his hand for the ring, and with a big smile across his face said, “You have a deal, where is your staff?”
“Wait so you’re Nero the wizard!” a boy in the audience said.
“There was a time I went by that name, but now I simply prefer to just be called storyteller,” he said rocking back and forth in his chair. Just before the old man could get back to his tale more people came into the tavern. They were the parents of all the children, the hour had grown late and it was time for them all to head home. Many of them protested saying they wanted to hear the rest of the tale, but the parents were not hearing any of it. The storyteller quickly chimed in and told all the children that they could come back tomorrow, and he would pick up where he’d left off. After a few more moments the whole tavern was clear except for the storyteller and Isabell.
“Is there something I can help you with Isabell?” the storyteller said still rocking in his chair, puffing his pipe. Isabell walked toward him until she was standing directly in front of him.
“You’re not Nero, you’re Lunt,” Isabell said.
“Oh, and what makes you say that?” the storyteller said.
“Because the world’s greatest thief would have stolen the crown, the staff, and the ring,” she said staring the old storyteller directly in the eyes.
“You’re a very clever girl Isabell,” Lunt said lifting his pointed hat to reveal a golden crown lined with jewels.