By: Ethan Rampersaud
He was a thief. He only knew how to take, and did not know giving, at least in its purest form. He would give people fear, hatred and paranoia, for they knew not when their next possession would disappear into the hands of a vagabond. Ever since he was thrown out as a mistake at six years of age, being an illegitimate child of a lord and his servant, who was an attractive and robust young lady at the time, he took it upon himself to begin his Machiavellian trade and did whatever it took to survive in the streets of Dempsey. Rather than take himself to the Sunray Orphanage, where he would be restricted and mothered the rest of his childhood by some old crone, he sought independence and liberty, and he had found it in the talismans and souvenirs and coins and gifts and lockets and rings and weapons and foods he retrieved from the unwary.
Wherever there was food, the boy took it, for he could not afford the cost of the bakers’ and chefs’ decadent masterpieces. Wherever there were precious jewels and metals, the boy, out of the sight of the honest people, made them vanish in his cruel magic act, for he could put them on the black market and make a nice profit to purchase some necessities for his enjoyment. Wherever he was, he would find a vacant home to sleep in for the night. If he was lucky, however, he would pay the lofty price for a room in the inn, purchasing it whilst concealing his identity with cunning disguise and trickery. Whenever he was caught, he would bribe his catcher, and they, favoring temporary and petty coin over obstinate and great justice, would let the boy walk free with his spoils while counting the “massive” amount of coin they had earned.
At the age of eighteen, the boy became a man, left the city of Dempsey, and purchased a grand mansion that had thirty bedrooms, a grand living room, a dedicated staff of servants, and a concealed basement in which he kept all his spoils and treasures, memorabilias of heists and thefts long past. The mansion was located near the city of Greenwall, a city surrounded by a dense cluster of trees. But even then was he not satisfied. Over the course of twelve years, he had found thievery to be a sport, an enjoyable pastime that had beneficial rewards.
One day, the young man decided to steal from one of the townsfolk in the city. When he entered the city in the cover of a moonless, starless night, he targeted a small, cozy residence that lay next to the city wall. At the doorstep of the small house, he had discovered a woman, barely in her middle age, who had calloused hands, a somber expression, and a face covered in soot and grime. As the young man attempted to walk up to the woman, the woman turned back, to his surprise, and saw him standing in a crouched position, profiling the look of a criminal.
“Thieving is not a good act,” she chastised to the man as if he were still a boy. “You are a poor lost soul, and have neglected the teachings of good.”
“Well,” asked the thief, “Are you going to turn me in now?”
“Of course not, I would like you to come in to my home.”
The man, taken aback by this quick forgiveness, decided to comply with the woman, lest he be thrown into jail by the guards of Greenwall, who were not as tempted by bribes and far less avaricious as the ones in Dempsey, having a code of honor. The inside of the house was a squalid mess, with pots and pans being flung everywhere, piles of unwashed dishes and utensils, and the reeking stench of mold filling the room.
“Sorry about this mess, I haven’t had the time to clean, especially since you arrived here as an unexpected guest,” the woman said, looking at her filthy home.
“No. It’s alright. You didn’t have to be so lenient with me, so I thank you.”
The woman offered the man a cup of redgrass tea, the favorite drink of his that he always stole at the taverns in bottles because of the sweet and spicy fragrance and taste. While he sat down, he drank the tea with thoughts swirling in his head: What am I doing here? Why did she, out of everyone, save me, not asking for bribes nor reparation?
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the woman asked the man a question.
“Were you disowned as a child?”
“No,” the man lied, concealing his past, “Why do you ask?”
“It’s just that… that I had a child when I was 18. I am now 36 years old, and from the look of you, I can say you are as old as my son would have been today, which would have been eighteen. I worked for a renowned lord, who was only four years older than me, in the city of Dempsey. Since our child was born a crime of God and nature, and the man was already married to his shrewd and suspecting wife, we had to hide him for six years. Then, when we could no longer hide him, his wife discovering our secret, we had to leave him out in the streets. Hoping the nearby Sunray orphanage would have taken him in, we visited the headmistress and asked if a boy named Monchestre had shown up. However, she said he did not see a boy by that name. I knew from that point we had lost him for good. From that point on, I mourned my loss with guilt and shame, knowing my son was in the streets, wandering, knowing his parents saw him only as a mistake. I sought to redeem myself by helping those on the streets, who rely on stealing and thieving to survive.”
Monchestre. He hadn’t heard that name in a long time. That was the name of a mistake, of neglect, of a crime. He had finally found her, after twelve years, twelve years that was shown on her face and hands. It was their love, their passion, that made him. But was it her fault? He was in an unruly morass of love and hate, seething with anger from denial, denial that had to be done. He was a sign of their taboo love, their passion, and for that he bore the burden. He couldn’t take it. The memories and the pain all swelled up in him like a sore wound, burning like lava in his nerves. He had to leave.
“I have to leave now,” he said, ending the conversation abruptly. “Thank you for inviting me to your home.”
He gingerly opened the door, walked out, never looking back, no last goodbyes.
As the man exited the shanty and entered the Greenwall air, scented with pine and oak, he made his way down the city square. It was a quiet night, and he decided to saunter around for a while before heading back to his residence. As he made his way to one of the stalls, a stall with jewelry and finery, his eyes met with a sapphire locket, surrounded by silver and in the shape of a heart, a heart of blue, blue as the sea, locked in a display case for all to see, but not to touch. No one was around to watch him do it, except the eyes of morality. But what has morality done for him? He approached the stall and the display case, lock picks in hand.