A Sanctioned Theft
Short story by Iris Carden
Orsinius Wishlet slept badly. His bed, made of socks and other lost soft fabrics, contained a piece of half-finished knitting complete with knitting needle. This night, no matter how often he changed position, he found the needle was sticking him.
When he finally did fall asleep, he was exhausted and his mind gave him fearful and terrible dreams. He dreamt of a terrible curved sword removing the head of a criminal. Then he dreamed of the sword coming for his head.
Orsinius woke to bright sunlight, in a strange place. He was in the middle of a large circle of giant stones. Some of the stones were stacked on others. He wasn’t alone. There was a tall old man beside him. The man had long white hair and a white beard, both hanging below his waist. Orsinius could smell magic, stronger magic than he had ever smelled.
“Good morning Mr Wishlet,” the old man said. “I presume you know who I am?”
Orsinius thought. His tired brain struggled a moment and then produced the name. He said, “You are the great Merlin, Sir.”
“Correct, Mr Wishlet. I have brought you here because I have a quest for you.”
“For me? Oh no, Sir, you must be mistaken. I’m not an adventurer who goes on quests. I am just a wisp, and I must confess, until today I have been a thief.”
The old wizard smiled. “Ah, but a thief is exactly who I need for this quest. I need a very special item stolen.”
Orsinius shook his head, then grasped it in both his hands. For the first time he realised how attached he was to his head, and how much he wanted it to stay on his neck. “Sorry Sir,” he said, trembling. “I am a reformed thief today. Lady Justice has told me she is getting tired of wisps stealing. I will resist the urge to take things I want now.”
“This is a sanctioned theft, Mr Wishlet.” Merlin said, “Lady Justice herself recommended you for it. She told me of your courage and audacity to steal from her house right in front of her. That’s the kind of courage and skill I need at this moment.”
“Lady Justice recommended me?” Orsinius thought of her razor sharp curved sword. “I will do whatever her Ladyship chooses, then and what you choose, of course, too Sir.”
“Excellent.” Merlin said. “Not far from here is an archaeological dig. That’s when humans dig up old things, to try to understand their ancestors. I can’t see the value of that myself. I lived with their ancestors and didn’t understand them most of the time. Among the things the archaeologists have found is a magic artefact. It’s far too powerful and dangerous to be in human hands. I know, because I once made the mistake of putting it in human hands. That human, admittedly, was exceptional.”
“You want me to steal this object, and bring it to you?” Orsinius asked.
“No. I want you to steal the object and take it somewhere the humans can’t possibly get it. Lady Justice tells me you make your burrow on the border between reality and unreality.”
“Yes, I do.”
“Good. That’s an excellent place to store it. No human will ever find it there.”
“You want me to keep a dangerous magical object in my home?”
“It will not harm you if you don’t misuse it. If you just store it with your valuables, it will be safe. If your try to use it for evil or selfish purposes, it will destroy you.”
Orsinius shook his head. He could see this going horribly wrong. “I don’t know. It sounds like a grave responsibility. I’m just a wisp. I can’t be guardian to such a dangerous magical object.”
“You can and you must,” Merlin said. “I have seen your future, Mr Wishlet, and you will indeed be guardian of Excalibur. Tomorrow you will discover you are much more than you believe you are today.”
“Tomorrow? What’s happening tomorrow?”
“I mean ‘tomorrow’ figuratively, to indicate the future, not specifically the day after today. Although the day after today will also bring you surprises. Now, I am going to the archaeological dig. I am going to talk to the people working there. I will point to the object I want stolen. You will use the interim to take it.”
Orsinius was very familiar with the interim, that time between moments. It was the tool he’d used to steal most of the objects in his collection, without humans being aware of his presence.
He dutifully followed Merlin to the dig site, and hid to watch as one of the workers greeted the wizard.
“Dr Merle, great to see you again! I’m sure you want to see our great discovery,” the man said.
“Yes, Dr Algester, from your description on the phone, I’m sure it’s quite something. I really didn’t want to wait for it to arrive at the museum.”
“It’s in our site office now. Right this way.”
Orsinius slipped from behind a rock, to behind a tree, following as the human and wizard entered a of caravan. He waited a few moments and then entered the interim, before following. Inside, frozen in time, the human and wizard were standing looking at a jewelled cup. Merlin, with hands behind his back, was pointing to an object on the table behind them.
That object was a sword. Unlike the scimitar he had seen Lady Justice wield the day before, this was a straight sword, and looked very plain. There were no jewels in the hilt, just some odd symbols engraved on the blade. He could, however, smell the magic radiating from it. It was almost as strong as the magic scent coming from Merlin himself. Orsinius now remembered where he had heard the word “Excalibur” before.
He had never been nervous about a theft before, but he was anxious as he picked up the mysterious sword. As soon as it was in his hand, he darted back to his burrow, back to the very deepest part, where he stored rare jewels. He very carefully placed the sword amongst his most precious treasures.
Now what? Should he polish it as he did with his other treasures? Would that be the correct way to show respect to such a powerful object. He decided that he should explain himself, in case the sword would misunderstand his intent.
“Great Excalibur,” he said, “I know you have been lost in the earth a very long time. With your permission, I will clean and polish you and try to bring you back to your former glory. If this is the wrong thing to do I apologise. I only wish to show the greatest respect.”
He found a soft cloth from his bed, brought it to his treasure-space and carefully polished the sword. As the sword began to gleam, it also seemed to grow warm in his hands. Warm and comfortable, as if it was content to be with him.
Orsinius Wishlet began as a character for a single story, but I’m beginning to think he may eventually deserve a book of his own.
Orsinius Wishlet Stories
Lost and Found was originally a one-off story, until the day I had the idea for A Wish Come True. After that, Orsinius and the world built around him just kept coming back to me.
Series 1 stories: