Welcome back to Tease Me Tuesday! I thought we might peek into Deception a bit today and show you a bit of Cyrus and Nadir’s beginnings.
* * *
THE robe Cyrus wore was new and made just for him, as were the pants and shoes. They were hard-earned, with mostly honest money. He turned this way and that in front of the glass, thrilling in the way the black silk hung on his body. It was not the first set of new clothes he’d acquired, but it never ceased to excite him when he could buy something like that for himself.
Especially since it was still a rare occurrence. Their last set of robes had started to look shabby, and the escort and protection jobs had become rarer and rarer. And those were even more difficult to obtain if they looked bad. So, they invested in new when they could.
All those years ago, after a simple washup in the river, they’d found people more willing to hire them. Unfortunately, the jobs had still been scarce. People simply didn’t have the extra money lying around to hire help.
They’d managed for a few years, doing odd jobs, learning how to handle weapons and how to defend themselves—and others. But they were still considered skinny, scrawny young boys by most and looked over for the bigger jobs.
So they’d been forced to find other means of supporting themselves. Working together had been a stroke of genius on Nadir’s part. But they’d decided early on that they weren’t comfortable stealing just anything from just anyone.
Then one evening as they sat at a table in the night market, watching people and discussing how to get their next job or money, Cyrus’s eye was caught by an argument going on at a nearby stall. He glanced at Nadir, whose attention had been caught as well, and they both tuned in.
“No, that’s the correct change! What do you take me for? I am a respected merchant! Do you dare accuse me of theft?” It was the very same apple seller from all those years ago, his large face red with anger and chins wobbling.
The woman across from him was just as angry, and there was righteous indignation pushing her. “You told me three dirhem, and I gave you a whole dinar! I should get seventeen dirhem back! You only gave me twelve!”
“I am not sure how you do your math, but the dinar is only worth fifteen dirhem right now!” the merchant shouted at her.
Cyrus and Nadir exchanged looks. They’d heard a very different exchange rate just that morning—the one, in fact, that the woman was claiming.
“Fine. If you do not wish to give me the correct change, then I will take my dinar back and spend it elsewhere.” She held her hand out with the dirhem in it.
The merchant shook his head. “I do not think so. You have made a contract for the sale! Take your apples and go before I call the guards!” He leaned forward threateningly, and Cyrus and Nadir both sat forward.
The woman drew herself up, anger radiating from her very being, and the two of them stood face to face for a long moment. “You will regret this,” she spat, snatching up the basket of apples and turning away.
The merchant snorted. “I can’t possibly regret seeing the last of you!” he shouted after her. She didn’t turn around or even acknowledge him, and Cyrus and Nadir both chuckled.
“Cy….” Nadir watched the merchant smirk down at the gold dinar he still held. “I think I just had an idea….”
Cyrus looked up at Nadir, whose eyes were still fixed on the merchant. “Oh?”
Nadir nodded. “Yes, yes I did. I know what we can do.”
LATER that evening, as the merchant tore down his stall, they waited. They’d watched him for the rest of the night, noting four more instances where he shortchanged a customer. They’d considered calling the guards themselves, but as they were still little more than street rats, they knew they wouldn’t be listened to.
Instead, as the merchant put the last of the leftover apples on his cart and bent over to pick up the stool he sat on, Nadir relieved him of the money pouch he kept tied to his belt. The merchant waved his hand in that general area as if swatting a fly, then turned to lift the stool onto the cart. He paused, counting the bushels of apples, and frowned when he came up short. He looked up, but seeing no one nearby, he shook his head and set the stool down. As he was about to lift the gate on the back of the cart, the money bag landed with a clatter of metal on the stool.
The merchant snatched it up and spun around, feeling for the one that was supposed to be on his belt. He roared when he didn’t find it, looking around wildly. When he spotted no one suspicious, he upended the money bag into his palm and counted carefully. When he figured out how much was missing, he growled, looking around one more time. When he didn’t see anybody, he slammed the tailgate closed, hurried around to the front, and grabbed his mule’s lead too roughly. The mule protested, but they moved out and away.
Up on the roof above, Cyrus and Nadir grinned at each other. “How much?”
“He shortchanged five separate people that we knew of. All total, it was twenty dirhem—or one dinar. I took the dirhem. We would be more likely to have those than a dinar.”
“Agreed,” Cyrus said, nodding. “That is enough to feed us for quite a while.”
Nadir nodded. “Yes. Now, I know who needs these the most,” he said, waving at the apple bushel between them.
“Oh?” Cyrus asked, getting to his feet.
“Yes. There is a small group of children a few streets over that have been struggling for food.” He brushed off his robes and tucked the dirhem into an inner pocket.
“Then let’s go.” Cyrus hefted the basket of apples in his arms, and after Nadir slipped over the roof and landed, he dropped it down to his partner. When he was sure Nadir had it, he followed.
* * *