The Healer and the Thief | Teen Ink

The Healer and the Thief

September 11, 2013
By Tzvi Goldberg, St louis, Missouri
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Tzvi Goldberg, St Louis, Missouri
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The sun set behind the steep granite peaks of the Telahorn Mountains in the west, as the small company set up camp. Three large pavilions were set around a bonfire, and a dozen carriages were parked around them. Aurea Greenfinger took one last stroll around the camp before finally settling down to sleep. The slight breeze that came down from the mountains felt chilly on her skin, and her stomach was full from a hearty supper.
“…and Gerathom’s army is nearly a week behind us.” She heard a voice from inside one of the tents as she passed by. She recognized it to be that of the old knight, Feroll, who was the leader of the company. “Tomorrow we’ll reach Orboron. With our advance warning, the city should have about six days to prepare both defense and supplies before the enemy host arrives. Then…”
A large hand landed on her shoulder. “I doubt that is for you to hear.” The deep voice of a soldier said behind her.
She turned around startled. The man behind her was equipped with full body armor, a sheathed broadsword on his waist, a longbow strapped to his back, and a visor-closed helm on his head. The warrior removed his helm, to reveal rough auburn hair, sparkly hazel eye, and a youthful smile.
“Geron!” she smacked him lightly on the shoulder, like a playful kid. “You bastard! You nearly frightened me to death.”
“Then I’ll need to try harder next time. Now why don’t you head to bed? We’ll have to walk far tomorrow if we are to reach Orboron by nightfall.”
“I was just about to, if you don’t mind.
“To me it looked as if you were eavesdropping.”
She didn’t even bother to reply; she simply turned around and began to walk away without looking back.
“Sorry! Sorry!” Geron ran after her. “If you’re that curious, the general was just reviewing tactics to calm his men. They’re all terrified, with us being in Kothar’s area and all.”
“They have every right to be.” Aurea replied. “Kothar Bloodknife is responsible for many deaths.”
“I do not fear the thief, and I will put my life to save you, if he were to attack, m’lady.” He held her hand, bowed down, and kissed it.
“Even a brave and courageous knight like you should fear thieves, for ‘a thief is not an honest man’. He will not come at you by day with sword and shield, but with poison and knife while you sleep.”
“The thieves are dirty savages the Four Lands would be better off without. Kothar is the worst of them all.”
“Maybe, but he hasn’t always been a thief.” Aurea said quietly. “We used to be friends, him and I. Back when I was known as Kylie, and he was Martin. Back in school. Before… well, before this.”
The game. She meant before the game. She rarely talked about it, but she never forgot. She and countless other were trapped in a game. A highly advanced virtual reality game, but still a game, no matter how real it felt.
“We used to be friends.” Aurea said, a small tear twinkling besides her eye. “We used to hang out at the basketball courts after school. But I guess that was a different life.” She wiped the tear with her sleeve. “Now I am a famous healer, you are a brave warrior, and he is the second most wanted man in the Four Lands.”
She left Geron, who stood silently in place, and walked over to her pavilion. She placed her shoes on the ground by her straw mattress, and laid her green tunic on top. After putting on her night gown, she slipped into bed. Despite the cold air, the camp bed, and the racket outside, she fell quickly asleep.

A few short hours later, she awoke in terror to the sound of a battle-horn followed by savage battle-calls and cries of pain. Aurea slipped into her green tunic and rushed out of the tent. On the hillside that opened before her eyes, all hell had broken loose: tents, carts, and people alike were all ablaze. Mangled corpses lay on the ground, some charred beyond recognition. A faint whistle of an arrow rushing past her head snapped her to attention, and she quietly dropped to the ground.
The camp was under attacked.
As a healer, Aurea carried no weapons, and had no appetite for violence. Still, she had trained for combat in her years in the monastery, and was ready to defend herself. She searched the field for a weapon and quickly spotted one nearby. Slowly, she pulled herself over to where the body of an elfish soldier lay, and slipped a dagger out from a sheath on his waist. The blade was covered in warm, sticky blood and she instinctively dropped the dagger on the ground. It wasn’t from queasiness, she knew. Aurea was a healer, and accustomed to the sight of blood. But this was a dagger that had taken a life, and she wasn’t a warrior, a killer. She looked around. Hiding was not an option. The bandits had circled the camp, torching everything in sight. She kept the dagger. She would have to fight, and if necessary, kill.
She stood up cautiously, the bloody dagger in hand. In the darkness, she spotted a figure approaching her with a poleax. Without hesitation, she swiftly threw the dagger at the attacker. It hit him in the center of the chest, killing him on the spot. Actually killing a man was different than hitting the dummies she practiced on, but she couldn’t think about that now. Before she could recover, a taller figure stood up behind the dead one and fired an arrow over her head. Aurea instinctively ducked, and rolled forward. Grabbing the axe from the corpse, she rose on her feet, ready to strike. Then, she suddenly pulled back. The man in front of her was Geron.
Confused, she looked behind her. A bandit lay dead on the ground, a silvery arrow stuck in his forehead. She didn’t stop to thank Geron. There would be plenty of time for that later.
Suddenly four more bandits charged at them, each waiving a short-sword. An arrow from Geron killed one, and Aurea’s poleax took out another. The two others followed up the attack. Aurea evaded the pointy sword of the third bandit, but its slashing edge hit Geron's back, sending him tumbling. Enraged, Aurea reached for the man's sword arm and yanked him off balance, while at the same time gutting the remaining bandit on her right. As the third bandit stumbled, she knocked him out with the blunt end of the axe, stunning him. She tried not to go for the kill whenever that was an option.
Then, ignoring the battle that raged on around her, Aurea kneeled down besides Geron. It was too late. The bandit’s sword was brushed with poison. Geron was already dead, and the bandit would be soon as well.
“Freeze!” she heard a shout behind her. Five bandits encircled her, each pointing a bloody spear in her direction.
She looked up. Above her stood the large but clear figure of Kothar Bloodknife.
“Aurea Greenfinger,” The thief said, “or should I call you Kylie Hela?! My master Gerathom wishes to meet you.”
On Kothar’s command, one of the bandits hit Aurea in the head with the flat end of his sword, knocking her unconscious.

The next thing she knew, Aurea woke up in darkness. She could sense it wasn’t an ordinary room. Based on the persistent rumbling below her, she guessed she was riding in a carriage. She felt for her wrists. They were bound with thick iron cuffs that were nailed to the side of the carriage, as were her feet. She could not break free. Accepting the fact that she was stuck, Aurea tried to let her eyes adjust to the darkness and search her surroundings. Nothing. It was too dark; there could even be more prisoners in the carriage that she didn’t know about.
After a long time, or what felt like a long time, the carriage stopped. The doors of the carriage burst open, and bright sunlight blinded her. She heard the clatter of a key in a lock, and she was yanked out of the cell. Before she was blindfolded, Aurea glimpsed a small village beside a large river, and identified it as Helja, nearly a day’s travel from the campsite they were attacked in.
She was dragged to a nearby tent, where Kothat was waiting.
“Who do we have here,” the thief said when her blindfold was removed, “if not the great Aurea Greenfinger, tied and bound with steel?!” he was spinning a small, black knife between his fingers, and a sly smile was on his dark face. He sat sideways on a large wooden chair, so that one leg dangled off the right armrest. “I believe you received the royal treatment last night. Am I wrong?”
“Well,” she said sarcastically, “I preferred the camp bed, but at least the carriage walls kept the wind out …”
“Silence! I must ask you. Why do you keep fighting on the side of the weak? The weak will always fall beneath those with power. If you want to survive in this world, you must choose your allies more wisely, as I did.”
“Yes, but look at what you have become.” replied the healer calmly.
“How dare you look down on me?! I am the greatest thief this world has known. Kothar Bloodknife, trusted servant of the great one!” Kothar leaped out of his chair in anger, and threw the knife towards Aurea, hitting the wall behind her. He didn’t need to miss. They both knew that. This was merely a warning.
“I look down on who you are now, because I know who you once were. Martin Molnar. My friend.”
Kothar sniggered. “Martin no longer exists. There is no place for him here” He said. “I am Kothar, king of the thieves and servant of the mighty.”
“No! You are wrong!”
The way she shouted at him, without actually being angry, sparked a long forgotten memory in him. “You always looked out for Martin, pushing him to be his best, I can remember that.” He laughed. “But I am no longer him.”
“Stop saying that! It’s the game talking in you.”
“A game?! That’s what you think this is?!” Kothar said. “This is no longer a game. It is survival.”
“‘The day is for honest men; the night for thieves.’ ”Aurea quoted. “Day will come, and you will be defeated. Evil always is.”
“This is not one of your books! Good doesn’t always triumph. This is the real world.” He paused, “Well, sort of.”
That was it! She though. A little bit of Martin’s dry humor still existed underneath the dark persona of the man in front of her.
Then, it hit her. “What are you going to do to me?” She asked quietly.
“I won’t do a thing. Gerathom, on the other hand, has been waiting to get his hands on you for a long time now.”
“You wouldn’t. I know you. You wouldn’t turn me in.”
“You might have known Martin, but I am Kothar. And the conscience of a thief is not bothered by the petty lives of others.”
“Please, Martin. Please don’t do it. Have you forgotten our friendship and all we went through together as kids?”
“Of course not!” Kothar replied with a sly grin. “It was that friendship which saved your life when I killed your companions!”
“You did what?!” she couldn’t believe her friend would really kill someone, despite his threats. She just couldn’t.
“Relax. They were nothing but AI programs. Killing them wasn’t any worse than turning off a computer.”
“Not all of them were programs. Some were players like you and I.”
“Well, there’s not much difference then. Turning off a program, shutting down a brain… killing them means I live. Survival of the fittest, you taught me that.”
“You were right,” she said with anger. This was the first time that Martin remembered seeing her truly angry. “You are not Martin. He wouldn’t have killed those players. Killed other kids.” For some reason Martin did not understand, the words didn’t sound as true coming from her mouth, and they hurt him in ways he could not stand.
“Guards!” Kothar yelled. “Take the prisoner out. We leave for Maraforz in an hour.”
Again she was blindfolded, and dragged back to the small dark carriage that was her prison cell. The chains that bound her wrists were reattached to the side of the carriage, and the doors were slammed shut.


The next time the doors opened, it was quietly and slowly. The figure of a single man stood in the darkness of the moonless night. Slowly, as if he was unsure, the man reached for her cuffs, and silently unlocked them. He helped her out, and handed her the reins of a horse. Only once she was safely mounted, a pack of food on her back, did the man take the hood off his face.
“Kothar?!” she whispered, unbelievingly.
“Martin.” He whispered back. “You were right. This thief isn’t the real me.”
It all happened very quickly, and she was still drowsy and hungry. She didn’t ask any questions, though she later wished she had. Martin smacked the horse on the behind, and she was off for Orboron.

“Kothar!” the deep voice of the dark magician echoed through the empty steel halls of his black tower at the island of Maraforz.
“Yes, m’lord.” The thief cautiously entered the room. Gerathom was dressed in long black robes, and was slowly circling the room. A small crystal ball stood on a pedestal in the room’s center, enveloped in a blue flame. In the dim light, Kothar noticed brooding anger on the wizard’s face.
“That night, when the healer escaped.” The wizard began, carefully choosing each word. “Remember that night? How did she escape exactly? How did she reach Orboron in time to warn them and spoil my attack?”
Kothar gulped. It has been over a month since that night on the river’s edge. A month in which the wizard hadn’t seemed to suspect anything. “She must have been freed by one of her friends, m’lord. We saw that the locks had been picked when we opened the carriage. It must have happened in the dead of night. He was probably a highly trained thief.”
“A thief, you say? As highly trained as you, perhaps?” he was now circling him, gently rubbing his long, gray beard. “Very much like you indeed.”
He knows! Kothar thought, bolting towards the door, trying to escape.
With a wave of the wizard’s hand, the iron bulkheads slammed shut, and he was trapped.
“Fool!” Gerathom shouted. “You thought you could trick me! I am Gerathom the magnificent, ruler of the Four Lands!” The room grew darker as he spoke, as if storm clouds had filled the chamber.
The wizard raised his left arm, hand and fingers stretched out. Nearly ten feet away, Kothar rose slowly off the ground. He tried to fight, but it was no use.
“You, Kothar Bloodknife, a puny thief; you would defy me?!”
“I am not Kothar, not a thief. My name is Martin Mol…”
Before he could finish, Gerathom struck forwards with his right arm. A flash of lightning sprouted out from between his fingers, and struck Martin in the heart.

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