The Thief and the Golden Apple

Once upon a time there was a golden apple purported to have a wealth of magical properties. The apple itself was situated inside a locked vault surrounded by a guarded castle by order of the king of the realm. He had had the apple for some time, since just after the death of his wife, whose life would have been saved had the apple been found soon enough. But those who were sent in pursuit of what was, at the time, little more than a fable, came back too late to save the queen.

            After the queen’s death, and, more to the point, because of it, the king locked up the apple so that no other person could have access to its powers, claiming that this was the will of God. And so, a good many people who would otherwise have been saved, were lost.

            Now, it so happened that several years after the queen’s death a thief was passing through this particular king’s realm, and in the midst of her time in inns and lodging houses, she heard tell of the fabled apple set behind lock and key. The thief found in a challenge a kind of infinite excitement, and so set about a plan to try and break in; first to the castle, then to the vault, and then to escape with the apple.

            The plan went as the thief expected until the very last moment when she was about to hoist herself over the castle’s battlements. She was apprehended by the king’s faithful sorcerer—a man apt to do the king’s bidding without question. But as he cast his spell on the thief and the apple, he failed to remember that one of the apple’s key properties was in resisting forced magic. And so, the thief laughed and crept over the wall to freedom.

            When she had arrived in her lodgings, she placed the apple on the bed and stared at it for some time. She had heard the legends of its powers, and knew what it was she possessed. She herself had no ailments that the apple could cure. But she knew that she could get a great price indeed for a product of such magical potency. To make the sale, however, would take some time.

            As she planned and plotted her recourse in the coming days, she would lunch in the king’s city, and she could not help but witness sickly beggars at street corners, the dead carried through the roads on carts, and the weight of the chief physic as he made his way to and fro the sick houses about the city. Her eyes were ever heightened on those of ill health most likely because of the prize she possessed, until the thought of it bore down on her so heavily, that she turned the apple over to the physic. And in so doing she was able to do what the king could not.

            The king knew, by means of his sorcerer, of the apple’s loss, and at first was filled with rage. And as he saw the health of his citizens improve, he knew what it was the thief had done with the magic apple. But as he saw the change in his city, the health of his people, and the sounds of whistles and bells floating about him, a change came over his heart.

            He put out an order to his best trackers for the thief to be brought to him, and it did not take long for her to be apprehended. Fearing the worst, she came before the throne trembling. But there was little point in her terror, for the king placed his hand in the thief’s and thanked her.

            Thus, it was that the king was set free from his grief.

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