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No one in the city of Talif would have believed that the beggar, Amoros, once hailed as the son of a wealthy statesman. Now, the young aristocrat scrounges the streets for sustenance.

Following his father’s death, a lofty inheritance consisting of a large sum of money had been divided amongst him and his two brothers with the estate bequeathed to the eldest (not him); his portion, along with funds loaned from his brothers, he squandered on a series of failed business ventures which ultimately led to him being kicked out of the family manor in Jaklharah. He loathed his brothers ever since.

Amoros could not bear the shame of dwelling as a commoner in his home city, not while gossip about his financial failures and decline in social status circulated amongst the people. So, he hitched a ride with a caravan to Talif with the hopes of using his leftover savings to open a bakery and become rich! But fate was just as kind to him as it had been in his previous undertakings.

The moon gleamed like a tarnished silver coin in the hazy night sky. Amoros teetered down a narrow street holding an empty bottle of wine that he purchased along with a small meal after a fortunate day of begging. Anyone he personally knew would have been unable to recognize him. Where he used to walk in public wearing the finest clothes, he now wore, every day, the same unwashed, tattered rags—or rather, they wore him, for since his departure from Jaklharah, he lost a lot of weight and looked skinny as a corpse. His beard had grown long and unkempt. Wrinkles creased his sun-beaten face. A foul stench followed him like a cloud as an accumulation of dirt, dust, sweat, and grime clung to his skin.

Although the wine helped clear his mind and elate his soul, his thoughts still dwelled on his past misfortunes, and he cursed his bad luck. Then, in his peripheral, he caught sight of a figure sprawled in the shadows of an alley that gaped beside him. He stepped into the alley for a closer look and found a dead body lying in a pool of drying blood with its head resting on a loose brick. A satchel was slung upon its shoulder.

Amoros hoped to steal from the corpse anything which might alleviate his plight. He glanced around to make sure nobody would catch him in the act of thievery—or worse, accuse him of murder.

The coast was clear. He first searched the satchel. When he opened it, a dim, pale-blue radiance shone from inside, startling him for a moment. With trembling hands, he took out and held to his face a glass orb within whose depths a cloudy precipitate swished and swirled.

Unbeknownst to him, he acquired a magic orb that belonged to the high wizard of Talif but had been stolen by none other than the legendary thief, Carmerras Achimedias.

Carmerras, while heavily intoxicated, accepted a bet with a stranger (on more than he could afford) to steal a magic item from the wizard of Talif. Penetration by stealth into the wizard’s tower was said to be impossible; but the stealing of a jewel prized by the Queen of Luxuria, which had won Carmerras legendary acclaim, prepared him for this heist.

After months of planning and preparation, first, Carmerras scaled the iron-spiked fence surrounding the tower. Next, he slunk and hacked through a garden maze inhabited by exotic, feral plants which preyed upon men; he had lathered his skin beforehand in two coats of some slimy substance which worked as a repellent against these. While hiding amongst the overgrowth to avoid the scouring glares of the gargoyles looming about, he followed a stone path that led to the tower’s entrance. There, a three-headed hound guarded the front steps. He took out a flute and played a song—hitting the right notes and never missing a beat—to subdue the beast to sleep. Then, he disarmed the charm locking the front doors, having learned a bit of wizardry, and slipped inside.

He ascended the levels of the tower and stole into the wizard’s study, the door to which stood ajar. Nobody was in the room (the wizard had paused his study session to take a piss in the privy). A pale-blue orb resting on a table immediately caught Carmerras’s eye.

He tucked the orb into his satchel. Wasting no time for the fear of approaching footsteps, he opened a window, hooked a rope onto the sill, and climbed to the bottom of the tower before stealing away from the premises under the cloak of night.

He ran along the streets, as far from the tower as possible, until his throat burned and legs felt like twigs. He stopped in an alley to catch his breath. Sitting against the wall, he examined the orb inside the satchel and admired its dazzling brilliance. He became overjoyed at himself for pulling off such a risky heist; and of course, he looked forward to collecting his due from the stranger, having won the bet.

Once his weariness eased, he got up, slinging the satchel upon his shoulder. Then, as he turned to leave the alley, the legendary thief tripped on his feet. He fell, banging his head against a loose brick on the ground, and died almost instantly. There he laid, before Amoros who arrived at the alley later that night and presently held the orb.

The light of a swirling galaxy encased in a glass ball flickered like flames in his eyes. It felt delicate in his clasp—a device used by the wisest minds to study the secrets of the universe and unlock pathways onto knowledge that otherwise would have remained lost in the void of unknown. But to most folk, like Amoros, it served nothing more than an ornate decoration. Nevertheless, he recognized the orb possessed magical properties and reckoned it could be sold for a fortune on its beauty alone.

A smile cracked upon his lips as he imagined what the upcoming years of his life will look like:

The proceeds from the orb he uses not to fund another business venture but instead to kickstart a career as an investor. He invests the money into various shops and caravans in exchange for a stake of ownership and an entitled share of profits/losses. He manages and grows a portfolio of investments and eventually becomes the richest man in Talif! Yes, richer than the king even who, after hearing about Amoros’s wealth, yearns to wed one of his three daughters to him.

The king arranges a visit to Amoros’s luxurious palace which overlooks the city from the highest street and whose vast chambers, vaulted halls, terraces, and gardens are attended to by slaves and servants. He kisses the ground beneath the feet of Amoros in greeting and implores him to marry one of his daughters. The girls present themselves before him, each as beautiful as the rumors tell with long, jet-black hair which matches their eyes; lips red as wine; firm, pear-shaped breasts; slender waist, and apple-bottomed hips. They strip nude so he can better gauge their beauty. After appraising them, he decides to marry all three to their delight. During the wedding night, he consummates the marriage and becomes a prince.

Then, the king, being old and frail and past his prime, imparts the throne onto him, for who is worthier than he? And so begins the reign of Amoros, King of Talif. He learns and masters the skills needed to manage the affairs of the state (how much harder could it be than running a business? Not to mention, his father was a statesman, so it must be in his blood). The city prospers under his name. His wealth flows in fountains to all, trickling down to even the poorest beggar—such generosity the sliver of which had never been reciprocated to him by his brothers. 

He marches an army in a show of force to Jaklharah who defect without resistance and become part of Talifian rule. His procession parades through the streets with songs and banners. He meets his brothers face-to-face at the family manor. They cannot believe the wealth, power, and prestige he has amassed—which shadows the likes of all their forefathers combined—and regret treating him so harshly. On their hands and knees, kissing the ground, like dogs, they beg for his forgiveness; and like dogs, he has them castrated and enslaved as eunuchs to serve his bidding.

But after the capture of Jaklharrah, why stop there? He launches multiple military campaigns across the lands. Tributes pour in from conquered cities and townships as the Talifian Empire expands. His wealth grows and so does his fame, rivaling the likes of the greatest conquerors in history—nay, surpassing! He wins respect and honor, not just for being a wise emperor, but a steadfast, lionhearted warrior and cunning tactician as well. Battle after battle, he commands his soldiers from the front lines and drives them to where the fighting brews thickest. The faces of his enemies turn pale at the sight of him as he spearheads the attack, swinging his sword and thrusting his shield—

Suddenly, as Amoros imagined himself fighting in a battle, swinging an invisible sword in one hand and in the other, with which he held the orb, thrusting a shield, the orb slipped from his clasp and shattered on the ground, releasing tendrils of pale-blue smoke; and so shattered his hopes and dreams of escaping poverty.



Rafique Shabbir is a Canadian writer from Toronto, Ontario. In summer 2021, he self-published a short story anthology titled The Magician’s Tales under the pen name Gordon Blackwood. Two of his short stories, "Wonderful World" and "The Book of Raul", will be published later this year in the Slate and Spectatorial magazines, respectively. His favorite authors who have had a profound influence on his writing include JRR Tolkien, Clark Ashton Smith, and Ray Bradbury.


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