"If you find you don't fit the world, then you make the damn world fit you."
his short, pudgy man’s eyes seem constantly alight beneath deceptively-drooping lids, giving the unobservant the impression that he is either drunk or falling asleep. A slight mustache decorates his upper lip, and his mouth is perpetually “drooping” upwards, again contributing to his near-drunken appearance. Both his arms are wrapped in black ribbon; in one hand he carries a large red parasol, the size of a quarterstaff. In the other, he perpetually clutches a necklace of beads, wearing it almost as a bracelet, that is identical to those of monks from distant monastaries. Red and white robes cover his body, tied together by a red belt just beneath a rotund paunch. He would be a full three inches shorter, were it not for his wooden sandals, a three-inch block protruding from the bottom of each. He seems perpetually balanced on these – the only thing betraying his latent agility…
TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO
The boy easily palmed a small orange off the merchant’s cart without a single person noticing, slipping his hand deftly into the folds of his ragged, dirty clothes. These days, the only way he could get a meal was to steal it. No one was going to help him. No one was going to give him a free ride.
No one cared about the poor orphan boy.
In fact, few around here remained that even knew his name. The boy, however, seemed to prefer it that way. Anonymity had become his sanctuary. His father, a rich and successful merchant, had been jumped by a group of highway bandits during a business trip between their home and a distant city. Stubborn and obstinate as he had been, the boy’s father refused to cooperate with the bandits. Without warning, a bandit had appeared from behind and slit his father’s throat. The bandits then made off with the treasures the boy’s father had been transporting:
Tea. His father’s life had been ended for tea.
His mother, unable to cope with her husband’s death and the loss of their wealth, simply started drinking every night until she passed out. One morning, she simply didn’t wake up, and then the boy was an orphan.
The first time he stole was so that he wouldn’t starve.
FIVE YEARS LATER
The boy was sixteen now. A street gang called the Shiin Frost had taken him in as a thief. Their leader, a twenty-something year-old man named Tobin had noticed him slipping a coinpurse off a city guard in broad daylight, while the guard was scolding him for his vagrancy. This bold yet incredibly skillful act had interested Tobin, who approached the boy.
“That was some smooth movin’ back there, kid.”
The boy shrugged dismissively, hiding the coinpurse in his hand while looking away from Tobin. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Tobin laughed. “Rule number one, kid: when you’re lying to someone, look them in the eye. Every bad liar avoids eye contact. It’s the good ones that will look you straight in the face and feed you bullshit.” Tobin chuckled and gestured around. “And if you’re really good, mooks like them will eat it up time after time. For instance-” Tobin quickly made his way over to the bakery on the corner.
The boy watched in amazement as Tobin stormed into the bakery frantically. The baker didn’t have time to question before Tobin was speaking: “Sir! You gotta help me! My brother just got mugged! They stabbed him! I need a loaf of bread to stop the bleeding!” The baker looked incredulous for a moment, so Tobin continued. “Sir! If I don’t get bleeding stopped, my brother is going to die!” At the last word, Tobin broke down into tears, sobbing for his imaginary brother.
“Of course! Here! Come on, I’ll help you.” The baker handed Tobin a loaf of bread, then came out from behind the counter and followed Tobin outside right as a crowd of pedestrians walked by. Tobin easily slipped into the crowd while the baker attempted to look for him. Not seeing him, he started to head towards the back alley, away from his unattended bakery. At that exact moment, Tobin slipped back in and stole a wheel of cheese and a bottle of wine from the shelf at the back of the shop. He slipped out just as quickly, and was gone before the baker returned.
Returning to the boy, Tobin patted him on the shoulder and said, “Kid, you just learned two lessons right there. Number one, stick to the lie, no matter how outrageous. Two, when you see an opportunity, take it. Any hesitation, and I woulda been cooked.” He chuckled, leading the boy to a nearby alley. “Come on,” he said, breaking off a piece of bread and offering it to the boy, “I got a lot to teach you.”
The boy was now a man. He had shed his birth name long ago. He no longer remembered it. The name he had given the officials was fake. The name he had given his street informants was fake. The name he had given Tobin had been fake, but after his mentor had called him by this name for so long, it had begun to feel like his real name. It had become the least fake.
Mozzie, Tobin had called him. Mozzie had been a childhood nickname for something, but the boy couldn’t remember. Mozzie was his name now, and very few people even knew that one. He had traveled all over for the Shiin Frost. The gang was no longer a street gang. Now it was a full-blown empire, with tendrils reaching across almost every major city. Tobin, now an underworld king of sorts, held his former pupil in high regard. Mozzie had been given opportunities that a poor little orphan boy would never have received. Training in combat, tactics, and Bender-infused martial arts had given Mozzie a new perspective on how he fit into the world. Or rather, didn’t.
But, as Tobin said, if you don’t fit the world, make the world fit you.
Tobin and Mozzie had also shared a pet love of alchemy. This seemingly-inane hobby had amazingly lead to the two of them crafting new things.
Mozzie was the talent behind their alchemy. He knew it, Tobin didn’t seem to. Together, they had begun selling some of their home-brewed poisons. Tobin’s keen business sense always made the sale. As always, he fed them the bullshit and they ate it up. Gratefully.
Together, they had made a fortune.
“Mozzie, I have a special order going out tonight, and I want you to be in charge of the transport crew.” Tobin said one day. Mozzie thought this was odd, since he was usually not a part of transportation. But, regardless of their closeness, Tobin was the boss. Mozzie had no illusions about that.
The caravan was three people, Mozzie and two other henchmen Tobin had recently recruited. They drove the wagon out late at night, bribing the guards as they went. The men traveled well into the morning. Just before dawn, they pulled to the side of the road.
“What’s going on?” Mozzie asked. A second later, white lights exploded behind Mozzie’s eyes, stunning him with pain and surprise. He fell to the ground, but managed to stay conscious.
“Boss says you’re done. Nothing personal.” One of the henchmen replied. Then there was more pain, and as they kicked and beat him, and Mozzie began to lose consciousness, the only thing that went through his mind was a single question.
Several Hours Later
A traveling monk came upon a broken, near-lifeless husk of a man, beaten and savaged beyond all recognition. The monk, who was heading towards the nearby temple, gathered up the man and placed him in his wagon, hoping that this poor soul would live long enough to receive help.
When Mozzie awoke in the nearby monastery, he had three broken ribs, a fractured shoulder, a concussion, mild amnesia, two broken fingers, a broken nose, and one thought:
He would rebuild himself, both physically and financially. He would take all he had learned, all he could do, and harness it into rebuilding everything he had lost, then improving it. Then, and only then, he would find Tobin of the Shiin Frost, and he would slice that son of a bitch to pieces.