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The Cold Thief

The Thief was equal measures smart and lucky.  He’d gotten to know the limits of his luck, and also the limit of his smarts, so he eked out a good living on the streets.  But one day he thieved a magic cloak.  The cloak itself was not magic, but the pocket sewn into it was.  He snatched it out of an alley while the washer-woman’s back was turned, and disappeared into the crowded market square around the corner.

The Thief was high strung and fidgeted, and while he might have never found the magic, luck was with him when he dropped the coin purse into the pocket, he had pinched the bottom of the sack and lowered it in wrapped in his hand.  To the bottom of the pocket it went, and to stop the coins from clinking together, he unpinched his thumb and index fingers, opening the rift in the bottom of the pocket.  All of a sudden the coin purse disappeared from the pocket and the rift sealed its self up behind the purse.  Which surprised the Thief.  He’d expected the coin purse to hit the ground and give him away.  He worked through the crowd and crisscrossed the city, finally ending up in his squatter’s hovel in the dilapidated west corner of the city.

He examined the pocket, turning it inside-out, it was an ordinary pocket.  He reversed it, and tried forcing his fingers through the bottom, but it wouldn’t give.  So he thought back to the way that he had placed the coin purse into the pocket.  He picked up a rock, and lowered it into the pocket, just so… and… it was gone!  He grinned a wicked smile, and thanked the Gods for delivering this cloak to him.  All he needed to figure out was how to retrieve the items he’d placed inside.

After a bit, he figured it out.  All you had to do was to place your hand into the pocket empty, and unpinch, then reach into the rift and think the item jumping into your hand, and there it was!  Well, this was quite the boon for a thief, after all, who wouldn’t want a magic cloak that could conceal stolen items for later removal?  He started dropping his meager possessions into the pocket, to gauge how much it would stow, and ran out of things to drop in…

So he went out to purchase some more things to try, feeling richer than he’d ever felt in his life.  He bought and swiped many different things, and eventually bought dinner from a stall just as they were closing for the evening.  A giant piping hot turkey leg was just what the witch doctor ordered, and he purchased a second to experiment with when out of sight of any prying eyes.

He finished the leg and tossed the bone to a stray dog that whined piteously in a corner of the alley.  Then he reached into the pocket with the hot turkey leg facing up and pinching the bone, and *shomp* it disappeared into the magic pocket.

The next morning he awoke in his bare squat and decided to breakfast before he ventured out.  He reached into the pocket and pictured the turkey leg, it leapt out into his hand and he dropped it!  It was still hot!  Fast hands snatched the bone out of mid-air and he whispered to himself conspiratorially:

“Oh all the wond’rous things I’ll steal…”

Then he bit savagely into the hot, and slightly dry meat.


“Off with his hand!”  The crowd chanted.

How could he have gotten himself into this predicament.  Perhaps having such a magic tool at his disposal had made him grow a bit lazy, and he’d certainly put on a stone or two, but now he was going to lose his hand!  He’d never work again!  Damn that stupid mistake, look at the pretty girls on your own time, not when stealing a richly jeweled necklace!

Down came the machete *CHOP*

“YEAAAAAAAR-AAAAWW” was what was followed by an inventive string-of-cursing.  The Thief yelled as blood spurted from his new stump.

He took off running as the crowd parted to let him by, lest he ruin their clothing.  And as tears streamed down his face, he whimpered in pain, ducking through alleys as quickly as he could get away from that damned merchant.

There was nothing around to tie off his stump, and as he fell to his knees, he desperately reached into the cloak pocket and unpinched with his left hand…. then he shoved his bleeding stump into it, in a desperate attempt to keep his remaining blood in his body.

And the pain disappeared.

The rift remained tight around his forearm.


Back at the stall, the jewelry merchant proudly held up the new trophy and tied it to the rope that held the rotting hands of other thieves who thought they were quick or smart or lucky enough to be able to rip him off.  To tell the truth, only about 3 of the 9 hands in various states of decay were genuine trophies, the others were purchased or scavenged from bodies dead from natural causes or the like.  But it enhanced his reputation to display the grisly mementos openly, and he’d invented short tales to go with each one that he didn’t have true tales to tell.

The market went back to the loud, ordinary bustle, and he had a few interested customers to attend, so he bullshitted his way through a transaction, while keeping a vigilant eye on his other wares.  He glanced back to his newest trophy as he heard a *pop*, and his jaw dropped as fast as his machete had.  Gone!  The whole string of hands!

“Noooooo!” he wailed.  And he dashed around his stall and out into the crowd to harangue those nearest to ask what happened to his precious mementos.

No one had seen anything.


If only he had his hand, maybe he could have gone to a healer, an expensive one, to have it reattached, but–

He felt something around his wrist, a sudden weight that seemed to want to drag him down!  He let out a startled “YELP!” and yanked his stump out of the rift.  Only, it wasn’t a stump!  There was his hand, as he flexed it, the rope with the other hands came flying out of the pocket and hit him in the face, some of the bones falling off and scattering around the alley.

“Ptoo-ack!”  he spat out a bit of rotting meat that had flaked off into his mouth, and he retched onto the building he’d leaned against, and scrabbled up while clawing at the rope and his new hand collection.    He reached down into the pocket with his newly re-attached hand, and deftly pulled a dagger from it, then cut the others off, and kicked the rope and attachments into the nearest dark corner of the alley.

He put the dagger away, and examined his arm and hand.  Aside from a bit of bloodstain all around where it was severed, and down the hand, it was completely and perfectly healed.   He immediately stuck his left hand into the pocket and retrieved a pilfered bar of soap, then with his right and got a cup full of water.    Then dumped most of the water on his arm and scrubbed at his hand with the soap, then rinsed.

From that moment on, he considered himself the luckiest thief in the world, and resolved to be much more careful about being caught than ever before.

As it was, it had been getting time to move to a new city.  The tale would spread quickly through the thieves gossip circles.  He set off for the local horse market, as he carried all of his important possessions on him in the secrecy of the cloak, in case he had to leave town quickly.


The new city smelled of opportunity.

The Thief took it all in, and located a modestly priced room in a modestly maintained part of town.  This time, he resolved, I will distance myself from the ordinary thieves and will put on the airs of a respectable businessman.  They will suspect their own mothers of stealing before they suspect that I am a thief.


It had cost him quite a bit initially, but he’d set himself up as the preeminent fence in his new home town.  The thieves trusted him, and he now moved in circles that were far above his former station.  The cloak was his constant companion, and he’d had fancy embroidery attached to disguise it’s humble beginnings.  He also took great pains to keep the cloak’s secrets.  No more pulling hot food out of pockets in public, or money unless absolutely necessary.  He wore his pouch on his waist, flagrantly daring thieves to take a grab at it.  And while it had been swiped twice, it was a simple matter of quickly finding a quiet secluded place, and reaching into the pocket for a quick retrieval.  Of course the thefts were reported , so as not to arouse suspicion, but when those thieves came to him to fence, he forced confessions and convinced them he had a magic coin bag that returned on his call.  They each agreed to steal for him to smooth things out, otherwise they would have been blacklisted or worse.


He started out on that fateful day with his favorite breakfast.  Poached eggs and lamb with assorted cheeses and a chalice of wine.  Little did he know it would be his last breakfast.

He finished up and paid the server his standard overage, then set off for his business office, at a leisurely pace.  He threaded his way through the marketplace, nodding discreetly to those thieves working the morning shift, and leering playfully at the early whores.

The blind beggar stood before him, blocking his path with a confidence that seemed unnatural.

“Give me the cloak.”  The beggar demanded.

“Haw-Ha-Ha-ha-ha-ha” The Thief burst out, clapping the beggar on the filthy shoulder, and he felt sorry for the poor soul, so he offered, “Tell you what, I’ll buy you a new cloak, less fancy than this one, and much warmer as well, how does that strike you?”

The blind man stared him down with a silent fury, and when he finally spoke, he said “That is my special cloak, and I would have merely killed you, but your insolence demands retribution” then the Thief turned to run.

He made it two steps before the cloak swirled around him and swallowed him whole., sucking it all into the pocket.

Then it vomited blood in a geyser as the pocket fell to the ground, and it rained hot, thick drops down onto the morning crowd, spattering all but the blind man.  The blind man groped for the pocket on the ground, and picking it up, turned it inside out, and reached from the bottom, made a complicated motion, and then shook the pocket back right side out as the cloak came to life around him.  A luxurious blood red, with black trim, and glowing gold accents along all the hems.

The crowd ran shrieking from the dark mage, as they realized who it was, abandoning their wares, dropping or throwing them at anyone in front to them so that, perhaps, the mage would kill the stunned and slow, and that they would be fast enough to escape.

“We have some work to do on you, my new creature.” he whispered into the pocket that was now located in his right sleeve.  “But first–”  He waved his hands out and splayed his fingers, “– this market looks a little depressed.”  He brought his arms down and clenched his hands into fists, and every person that had been within the radius of the market when it all had started, regardless of how far away they had run, collapsed and flattened into the ground, as their bones crushed and all their insides squirted out of their orifices and their skin split and oozed, coating everything near them in gore.

“I can’t really see to tell,” the mage chuckled, “but I think I’ve still got it.”

Then the mage took flight, and blasted across the city, ripping a gash through the earth and buildings all along the way, as if to dare anyone foolish enough to follow.


The mage crashed into the mountain, many days journey to the east, cratering the western slope.  He picked himself up, dusted off, and then pulled out the body of the Thief that had been drained of all blood.

He pulled out a vial of blue-green poision from another pocket in his cloak, and tasted a drop.  Sweet and deadly, he poured it into the crackling, dry mouth of the Thief, and spoke the incantation to multiply the fluids, and set them coursing in his veins.  He sat up with a start, and shuddered uncontrollably, as he began to scream, he was cut short by a quick slice of the mage’s pinky through the air.

“You are my creature, now.  And you will remain silent unless I find purpose for you to speak.  You could have handed over the cloak, and I would have killed you quickly, but your greed is apparently too large and has cost you your life.  Poison now flows through your veins, a sweet, blue-green chemical that resists freezing, and steals heat as well.  You’ve been made cold-blooded, and you will find yourself sluggish and dumb if you become too cool.  You can also steal and store heat, as you have more heat in you, you will become faster, and stronger.  My whims are your commands, and I can recall you at any time.  You belong to me, body, and twisted petulant soul.  There is no escape or release, as I can conjure you back from death at any time I wish.”

The thief’s eyes and cheeks bulged, and the mage made a quick half-circle with his pinky extended, which freed the thief to speak.  But all that came out was a tortured scream, as the magics began their painful transformation in earnest.

“I love my job, sometimes.” said the mage as his mouth twisted into a feral grin.