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[Fiction][Rogues Folio] Ahezzar the Thief

Anemonean
Anemonean
✭✭✭
Hey esteemed fiction readers and writers of ESO!

Some of you may know me from my Thieving Maps and their accompanying story which has so far played out through brief Journal entries. If you haven't checked them out I'd love it if you gave them a read and let me know what you think!

I've loved doing the short-format fiction of the journal entries but was getting a lot of support to make something more long form via email so I decided to flesh out the story of my thief character into something that would enrich the experience of everyone who uses the maps and the Legerdemain guide. I'm also just super excited for the Thieves Guild update and wanted to do justice (heh heh) to the amazing storytelling this game has pulled off so far.

The entirety of the story, 8 Chapters so far, takes place in the years leading up to the start of 2E582 and follows the thief from innocent boyhood to his betrayal, arrest, imprisonment, escape and eventually his thiefdom. I plan to continue the book, weaving it through the already established journal entries (which plot the course of the book) and finally fleshing out the hidden story I've been telling myself this whole time.

You can read the entire work (as it stands so far), with added illustrations mostly taken from ESO's wonderful concept and loading screen art, here:

http://roguesfolio.tumblr.com/Story

I'd love to hear what y'all think!

Here's the first three chapters to whet your whistle:
ONE
Sentinel

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See dawn break, unconquered by night, as it has so many times since the mythic first, and a thousand Yoku sun gods, anon Magnus elsewhere, dance their waking creep o’er the Alik’r sands. Aloft the Steed wheels off its wine-dark stage and all wear their sweat in kind. In that reaching light, which splintermakes the shadows of palm and parapet alike, walks a boy of eighteen, water jug in hand, towards the dew sails of his fathers estate. See him now draw of the cistern’s lapis, like unto his eyes in that morning sun, and stopper the ampule with the hurried certitude of youth’s boredom. The name of his father, Anselm do Hegathe no Shira, was given him and he wears it with pride though conventions have strayed the old-form. He is called Ahezzar af-Anselm, son to the 3rd Vizier of Ramzi, high-king of all Hammerfell, and in the cockless meridian of morning he returns to the kitchens, his shadow made a man before him by the new day.

Rufa, already stinking of cardamom and clove, greeted the boy as he entered the kitchen, his apron stained brown with lambsblood and his wrinkled face streamed with tears before a pile of rough chopped onion.

“They make us cry to remind us, boy,” Rufa spoke as he opened the door. “These onions first grew in Yokuda, just like your ancestors and mine, but they did not make us cry in those old days. They know, if we don’t cry we will forget those lands and their lessons in the bliss of the present. Yes, when we cut the onion, as Ansei did cut the Atomos, we cry. Be thankful we cry.” The boy looked down, his eyes already stinging.

“Rufa, why does father play at being a Crown? We’re Forebears by blood.”

“Blood,” Rufa carefully chose his words, His eyes fixed on the boys own blue pools, “is a kind of tyranny. Ever we struggle, with or against it. Your father believes in Ramzi, he knows him to be just, whatever his failings.” Rufa poured the chopped onions into a cast iron pot in a plume of stinging steam. “There are fools who hate the king, just as there are fools who love him. Your people, my people, Crown or Forbear we are all Redguard and the new ways have merit like unto the old.” The onions began to sweat as Rufa stirred saying, “See how the onion, which made us cry, now becomes sweet. There are two sides to every story, boy. Best not judge the sweet off the sting or likewise the sting off the sweet. We must take the evil in man in like measure to the good so that we may find balance between the two. Satakal is the light and the dark both and while we walk his tail we know we will eventually come upon the head for it bites at the tail. Now bring that water over here- Yes, right there, that’s fine. Now, bring these leavings to the midden and go join your father, breakfast will be but a bit longer.”

Anselm sat at the table surrounded by maps of Sentinel, the city he and the boy called home. Some denoted public works, aqueducts and sewers, others plotted properties and still more showed causeways, trails and goat paths. Interspersed were star charts and harvest ledgers in a tea-stained jumble of velum and paper. The boy had always been fascinated by his fathers maps. It seemed he who could read them had a certain mastery over the land, just as those who read the stars seemed to have a mastery of fate. His father was dressed in simple robes for his office and at his hip hung an old Yokudan dagger, a orichalc heirloom from days when the warrior wave crashed upon the shores of Tamriel in times of further myth. Rufa soon entered the room with two plates of lamb and onion and a platter of unleavened bread and the scent of them filled the room to the arched ceiling and danced about the mosaic stars before wafting down to the boys nostrils. Anselm nodded Rufa back to the kitchen and set into the lamb in silence.

“Father, after my studies I’m meeting with Sayma. Lazar has invited us to his fathers estate for the Koomu Alezer’i.” the boy proclaimed, mouth half full of lamb. His father cast a stern look up from his meal and the maps he even now studied but his brow lightened as it alit on his son.

“Very well, Ahezzar. See that you give a kiss to Sayma for me and let Lazar’s father know I’ll be sorry to not attend myself. This Knahaten business will keep me, it seems for yet a while longer.” He unhooked the dagger from his belt and slid it across the table to the boy. “Wear your best robes and take the family dagger, I’ll not have my son looking so disheveled amongst such honorable company.”

Lazar’s father was also a Vizier to High-King Ramzi and the two boys had been friends since birth. Sayma was the boy’s betrothed since sixteen and they were to be married the following spring, though he and Lazar had vied for her affections for some time before. He and Lazar shared distant blood, both Forbears and sons of the Ra’Gada. Sayma was a Crown, daughter to the cartographer who supplied Anselm with his myriad maps. The boy finished his lamb and sopped the last of its drippings off the plate with a corner of bread.

“What news of the Flu father?” asked the boy.

“Grim indeed lad. It spreads unhindered across the southlands, scouring Hegathe and Rihad.” Anselm pulled forth a map from the pile. “See this.” he pointed to Hammerfell as the boy went to stand behind him “Sources say it will not span the Alik’r. The coastal winds keep us safe for a time, Tava keep us.” Anselm’s aged finger swept the area of the map he knew to be the desert, rendered here in ink with minuscule sloping dunes. “Ramzi has stopped trade across the desert for now and ships from the south and east are turned away in port.” He now pointed across the Illiac. “Even to our north the Gardner dynasty has fallen in Wayrest and the kingdoms of Highrock quake to the core.” Anselm put the map back atop the pile of papers as Rufa came back in to collect the plates. The boy clasped his father on the shoulder.

“I’m sure the royal alchemists will devise a cure before it sees our walls, father. Their cunning knows no limits.” he said and with that he helped Rufa in bringing the plates to the kitchen. Outside, the late summer sun had burned off the morning’s dew and Sentinel now bustled with all manner of city life.

Sayma greeted the boy at the his stable house with a playful kick from behind as he was bridling his camel, Ush Ush. “Oh noble Ahezzar do Sentinel af-Anselm No Shira!” she proclaimed in mocking platitudes “please do not punish this poor peasant for her insolence!”

He spun and grabbed her by the waist shouting, “I’ll have you flogged, scandalous wench!” They both broke into laughter and shared a kiss.

“Lazar is out by the road,” she said pointing. “He brought me out to meet you.” The boy vaulted himself onto Ush Ush and extended a hand which Sayma took and used to hoist herself behind him. The camel let out a bellow and the boy lightly whipped him with his crop, bringing the beast around to the road.

Lazar sat with graceful bearing atop his own camel, its auburn blanket and bridal contrasted against couplings of silver that glinted in the afternoon sun. His father, though occupying the same position in court, did not shun wealth as the boys father seemingly had, and it was never more apparent in Lazar and his mount than when the boy heeled the shabby Ush Ush abreast to him. “Suffer me a race, dear brother?” asked Lazar. “First to my estate’s gate shares the first dance with your lovely bride-to-be!”

The boy smiled at him. “I would, save this dreadful weight that sets to break poor Ush Ush’s back” he said stealing a coy glance at Sayma.
She pounded his shoulder with a laugh and, grabbing the crop from his hand, hollered, “Ugakta Ush Ush! They slander you!” as she whipped the camel to life. He took off in a cloud of sand with an angry bellow and the stupefied Lazar prodded his own camel to a run in their wake.

They reached the gate, Lazar ahead by a hair and laughing each. “A good race Ush Ush,” Sayma whispered in the camels ear. “Without this lumbering man you and I would go far in the cross-desert races!” The boy laughed as he dismounted and helped her to alight at the estate’s ornate gate. Lazar had already left his camel with a stableboy and now walked up to the boy with arms outstretched. The friends embraced in brotherly love while the stable boy came back for Ush Ush and lead him away, spitting, by the bridal.

“By Akatosh my brother, you nearly had me!” quipped Lazar and the boy twitched with an imperceptible wince at the imperial nomer. “But I declare, a battle so well fought deserves a feast and feast we shall! Come! Come! let us enter and be announced. I’m sure my father will love to see you both.”
TWO
The Party

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See The sun now set o’er the Illiac and the bays glister-danced surface makes a mirrored imago of the indigo and flaring pink desert sky. Ruptga’s many children turn in the burnishing firmament above and below the three companions walk a torch-lit footpath to the manor house from which there drifts muffled merriment and the doleful chords of an agarwood Ooud. At the outer perimeters of torchlight burrow-beetles and scorpions leave day’s dens to stalk the cooling sands and jackals call in high yelps from the hills. The camels are not restless this night, as Last Seed inches ever towards its ides, and they do chew in grain sacks and drink of trough with little concern for the acts of men. The three pause at the closed door of ornate cedar and ebony carvings and night’s calm is broken by the festival din inside.

“Here we are,” Lazar said with a smile, “Blessed Koomu Alezer’i to us all who have something to reap!” and winking at the boy with chin pointed toward Sayma, “And something to sow.”

Besilked servants bowed to the three and manned the cedar and ebony manor door and a valet announced them by all manner of appropriate honorifics to the guests within. The boy felt an unease at the pomp which reminded him more of how he imagined a Breton or Cyrod court to behave. Maybe, he thought, I am more Crown than I know, what a keen betrayal of blood! Indeed, The sins of the father are lived out through the son.

Lazar put his arm in the crook of the boys own which shook him from his thoughts and lead him through the foyer to where his father sat at a low table with other white whiskered men discussing obtuse politics and foreign affairs. “Ah, Lad!” the old man said heartily. “The favorite nephew I never had, how fair you this fine night? Has your father deigned bless us with his august wit?”

The boy shook his head. “No sir, Father is busy with issues of the Flu, he sends his deepest apologies and regrets at being unable to attend.”

The old man smiled. “Ever the sedulous servant, that man. As it is the Koomu Alezer’i I do give eight-fold thanks for his presence in court. We would all do well to model our lives on Anselm do Hegathe no Shira.” He slowly rose, hand on one knee then the other, with the creaks of age. “But come lad, you must now drink for two!” he exclaimed leading the boy to a counter where a servant poured tall glasses of pomegranate wine. The boy took the glass with thanks as Lazar came up beside him, a glass of his own outstretched and leading Sayma by the hand.

“My brother, I just now had to save your bride-to-be from the unctuous ramblings of old Yakul, who may have talked her to an early grave! Do be more careful.” Sayma shot the boy a sarcastic look from behind Lazar’s back and the boy could not help but laugh.

He quipped, “Indeed, Yakul’s breath alone could knock a camel to its knees.” They clinked their glasses together in salute.

Lazar spoke. “Long Life Ahezzar, I give thanks for my truest friend.”

The boy held his glass aloft in like kind. “Long life and a good woman to you Lazar, a friend such as you deserves both and more.”

Just then, in time to the distant toll of a bright bell, servants in bright silks streamed into the foyer and began leading the guests to the dining hall where they were arranged about a long cedar table, one unbroken trunk as long as a small ship and half as wide, upon which was set such a feast that even masterful Rufa might balk in disbelief. Lentil soups in ornate silver bowls and stacks of flatbreads like little towers littered the table, fruit salads and platters of grape leaves stuffed with beetle cheese surrounded a whole roast welwa whose eyes had been replaced with ruby dates and which held in its mouth a gold-leafed apple. Pomegranates and oranges and multitudes of nuts were squeezed in-between and around the platters and bowls so that the entire table, save the place settings, was full such that no wood could be seen. Above the table the ceiling, in mockery of usual superstitions, had been enchanted by a illusion mage to look as if twirling bare-chested dancers vaulted its heights, spinning with orange silks that looked as fire carried up in a desert whirlwind. The guests didn’t seem bothered by this flagrant use of elf-magicks save a few old raga who scoffed and glanced with disapproving looks that masked a thinly veiled interest in the gleeful bodies. The boy sat near the head of the table, next to Lazar and, further on, his father on the left and Sayma to his right whose attentions were turned to a noble woman intent on making her newest bangles seen at the cost of any meaningful conversation. In turn wine was poured and drained and platters emptied and returned, each course making like the skins of Satakal and beginning anew as the prior ended, until all sat with full bellies and swimming heads. Lazar leaned over to the boy and clasped his hand. “Brother, I’d like to speak to you in private after the dance, I have some news of benefit to us all.”

After the feast they danced in the twirling and stomping fashion of Hammerfell, Sayma sharing the first with Lazar but ever after dancing only with the boy and above on the ceiling the enchanted dancers twirled in time.

In the late hours of the evening Sayma took her leave of the boy with a kiss. “Tomorrow, my love, I’ll call on you when your lessons are complete but now I must go help my father with a shipment.” she twirled once more as she left and he stared long after her going until he felt Lazar’s hand on his shoulder.

They sat with a bottle of wine between them in Lazar’s study which had been built adjacent to his room when he announced he would follow his fathers footsteps into politics not six months back. The boy had no such aspirations, content he was to carry on the cartography of Sayma’s father when the time came for that. They sat in silence some time by the glow of a bug light Lazar’s father had imported from Morrowind to help his son study long into the night.

“My dear friend,” Lazar finally spoke. “Times are changing in Hammerfell. You’ve seen it, I don’t doubt, as have I.” He sat forward in his chair. “The king looses favor, even amongst the Crowns who loved him so, and alliances are being struck across the continent. Power is being consolidated while the Empire crumbles.” His eyes became transfixed on the lapis of the boy’s own. “The Crowns no longer know what is best for the people, only we Forbears see that an alliance is needed with the men of the north. Those southern elves are unifying as are the lands of the far east, but to what ends we do not yet know. It is time for change, my friend, true change!”

The boy, in some shock, exclaimed, “But the old ways, the Na-Totambu—“

“Are antiquated.” Lazar interjected. “Men of our blood pioneered the Yokudan’s future in bleakest day when they sailed east to Tamriel! Men of our blood will pioneer in this new time of need as well, the Na-Totambu and the Crowns will only serve to stifle us.” Lazar began to speak more fervently, his voice still low but rising. “You must understand. I think of you as more than a friend, you are a brother and I love Sayma and your father deeply. Try to see through my eyes, Ahezzar, I act in your intrests. I act to keep you all safe.” His eyes caught the bug light’s glow and incandesced as if by ancient fire “If we are to live as a free nation the king must be disgraced, or he must die.”

The boy looked fearful and incredulous. “You speak of treason Lazar. You are my friend but this is highest treason! My father, when he hears of this—“

Lazar interjected again, “Will join us, must join us. He is still Forbear by blood.”

The boys hands were clammy and a pit had developed in his throat, his best friend, the son of the king’s vizier, a traitor to Hammerfell of the highest order. He couldn’t think, he felt sick. Never had he felt he was in danger in the presence of his friend before but now he began to fear for his life. “B-but,” he stammered “How could— How would you—“

“The plague, Ahezzar, the Knahaten Flu. We will bring it into Sentinel and the king will be disgraced. The people will see it as punishment from the Divines for his failings as a king, and with luck he may believe it himself.”

A breath starved “No—“ was all the boy could muster, as if Tava’s wind had left his lungs for good.

“You surely fear for your safety, brother, I understand. This plague is nasty business. I give you my word you and your father, Sayma and her’s… I will do all I can to keep you safe in the coming storm. In its wake we shall have a new king, a Forbear king, who will lead us towards a bright future and, our part in it all will be unasked. We will be the secret heroes of the people, brother!”

The boys breath refused to return, “You— Can’t!”

“Can.” Said Lazar “Can and already have.” he looked down at his clasped hands “The first shipments of infected blankets were brought into the city walls by my agents today. Symptoms will begin to develop as early as tomorrow.”

“I— I must go.” the boy meekly mustered and he stood to leave. “I… I know not what to say. This is madness, Lazar.” Lazar was out of his chair in a flash and he grabbed the boys wrist hard, his fingers where pushing into his wrist.

He was shouting now, “I did this for all of us, brother! I did this for every last one of us. For you, for me, for Hammerfell, for Sayma!”

“Sayma will never forgive you!” Shouted the boy, “Nor will I!” He wrenched his wrist free and swung at Lazar but missed. “Lazar No lo’igra! Deceiver! Snake!” and with that he fled the manor with Lazar calling his name after him from the balcony. He reached the edge of the grounds and the stable house and set about cutting loose Ush Ush from his post and went galloping into the night with the stableboy running out souring confusedly after him.
THREE
Arrest

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The desert night had grown the kind of cold that sends lizards into deep sand but the boy’s blood ran hot and his mind raced as he rode back to his fathers estate. How could his trusted friend commit such a terrible act, and in the name of Hammerfell no less? How deluded and cruel. Yet could he truly not have seen it? How had not a glimmer of treachery shown in his friends eyes before? Did Lazar’s father know, or worse, was he accompliced? Thoughts of the night flashed about him with such lucidity that he swatted Lazar’s beaming face from his view as he rode. As the boy rounded the road to his estate he saw in the distance torch bearing figures outside heading up the footpath to his father’s door. Another figure sat on horseback a ways off at the roads edge and when he saw the boy’s approach he rounded his horse to face him. The boy quickly drew up with the reigns and Ush Ush, with a startled bellow, reared and turned in swift obedience to the command nearly knocking the boy from his perch. He kicked his heals and swatted the camel into a run. If Lazar’s men were already at his father’s they would not be long for Sayma’s as well. He tore through the streets of Sentinel and across the main bridge that spanned the low markets until he got to the harbor quarter where Sayma lived with her father. In a frenzy he burst into their house calling her name.

Sayma’s father was attending his desk and a commission when the boy thrust open the door with a shout in and in the commotion his pen snagged and carried an inky gash across the vellum simulacra of Sentinel, marring the estates he was studiously rendering. He rose angrily to his feat as fast as his old legs would let him and clasped the boy by both shoulders who was now panting and heaving and in-between trying to shout Sayma’s name.

“Sayma’s gone lad,” the old man said trying to calm the raving boy. “She’s out delivering maps to a client. Onsi’s Bones, what’s the peril, my boy?”

He was in tears now and couldn’t muster clear thoughts between his gasps. “Deceit— Traitor— Must get Sayma— leave quickly! The flu— Oh god the flu, Arman, it’s here. Sen Tang ***! Arman, please let me— Go!” He broke free of the mans concerned hands and fell to the floor but quickly gathered himself up. Arman looked with worry at the boy, whom he had never seen act with so little restraint, but his breath stunk of wine.

“My boy, please try to explain! For my sake, help me understand!” he exclaimed but the boy had pulled a scroll case off the wall and was stuffing it with rolled up city maps from across the continent and blank parchment.

“I’m sorry— I’m sorry—“ he shouted behind him as he flung wide the door, “I must get Sayma before—“

As he stumbled from the candle lit house into the midnight streets his eyes adjusted on a desperate scene. Around the door in a semi-circle stood Lazar’s men and a few members of the town guard, swords drawn at the ready and pointing inward towards him like a inverse sun. Behind them, yet a few more paces past the limits of the light spilling from the doorway, sat more men on horseback, the ones from his fathers estate. A few men advanced on him and in the scuffle one struck him where skull weds spine with the pommel of his sword sending the boy careening to the ground. As he struck the sandswept street with his face he felt himself fall farther, below the ground it seemed, as if in dark water. He was turning over and over in that blackness and he made to look up and saw his own body where it yet lay. Its hands were lashed and it was hoisted by two of the men crosswise an empty horse’s saddle where it was strung together by wrist and ankle below the horse’s midsection . A third man was trying to get a hand on Ush Ush but the beast reared free and stormed into the night in a haze of moonlit dust. He tried to call out to his body but his cries were mute and his limbs too numb to move. He felt himself rising back towards the limp vessel but as he reached the surface of the street the whole scene had faded into an inscrutable darkness.

Brief pulses of consciousness greeted the boy on that journey, one prompting struggling and another firm blow to the neck, but never for long enough for a bearing or even time for a thought to pass. In half consciousness he was an animal, reduced to instinct and fear, and in unconsciousness he felt, saw and thought nothing. The heartbeat of cognizance continued through the night until he finally grasped that he was no longer lashed to a horse but lay sideways on fine sand in pitch dark room where he finally slipped into a fitful sleep.
Edited by Anemonean on December 23, 2015 9:34PM
Calling all thieves, check out my Lockbox maps: http://roguesfolio.tumblr.com

Also announcing the all new Legerdemain & Thievery guide: http://roguesfolio.tumblr.com/Guide

And an all new work of fiction based on the maps: http://roguesfolio.tumblr.com/Story
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