The Thief and the Emperor

In a time before memory, a ruthless and distrustful Emperor once sat upon the throne of the known world. He was known for such decisiveness that the kings and lords that made up his empire followed his lead through doubt alone.

One day a thief was caught in the palace. In her impudence, she had tried to steal the Emperor’s crown from his bedside as he slept.

By the law of the land she was to be put to death but as she kneeled before the Emperor’s judgment she offered her judge a bargain:

“Great lord, if I can prove myself to be more powerful than even you, then release me and send me on my way with as much gold as I can carry. If not, then have me killed.”

The Emperor laughed at this most heartily.

“In other words, if I win then I gain nothing more than a little sport” he replied, “but if you win then I pay handsomely!”

But he was so impressed by her wit and her audacity that he spared her life and kept her as a prisoner and advisor in his court.

Over several years she aided her lord in negotiations with the kings at his command and proved so useful in his service that he began to rely on her more and more as time passed by.

One day a king from one of the only lands yet to be conquered by the empire’s great army arrived at the palace alone. He was presented to the court and ordered to tell them why he had come.

“I am here to grant you mercy, great Emperor.”

“Mercy!?” the Emperor scoffed.

“Yes imperial majesty. If you hand over your mighty wealth as ransom, then I shall let you live.”

But though the Emperor met this claim with great amusement, the king remained straight-faced.

The lie seemed so obvious and so brazen that he could not fathom what trickery it preceded. Thinking it better to be safe than sorry, he turned to his thief advisor.

“Horse dung! He’s an imposter!” the thief screamed, and the emperor had the visitor whipped and thrown out of his palace.

News of this outrage reached the other kings and lords: that the emperor now took council from a female thief and had kings beaten at her word.

The armies of the empire united and they marched together on the emperor’s palace.

Bruised but triumphant, the beaten king returned to claim his share of the prize. He ordered his men to grab the startled emperor as he sat on his throne and sent him away for execution.

The king then turned to the thief.

“Thank you!” said the king, “You have proven most useful and, as promised, your freedom and reward are granted!”

Seeing his betrayal, the emperor cursed and screamed at the traitor.

“Damn you thief! If only I’d killed you when I had the chance!”

“If only you’d taken my original wager”, the thief replied, “then I could have warned you and all of this would have been avoided…”

Then she leapt onto a wagon mounted with jewels and gold and rode off into the sunset.

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