“Son, son, son,” Hasami was twittering, “Oh, how could you wound your father so?”
The merchant lord was standing by the tall arched window, looking out onto the manor gardens. A rare rain had fallen the night before, and the green palms were particularly vibrant, steaming slightly in the morning sun.
Shizzal didn’t see this though, because Shizzal was staring down at his feet obstinately, small hands clenched behind his back.
“The talks I had, the bribes I had to make! Do you now how much your escapade has cost me? Why would you do such a thing?”
In reply, Shizzal spat on the polished tiles at Hasami’s feet.
Hasami was on him quicker than Shizzal would have given the rawboned man credit for. The Redguard’s pinchy fingers closed about his jawline, and Shizzal had to stretch his head up and back to keep from choking. He gawked up at Hasami, whose black eyes smoldered like coals.
Despite the glower, the Redguard’s voice was still soft and alluring. “You disappoint me, my son.”
“You’re not my dad,” Shizzal worked up the courage to say.
“Am I not?” Hasami stepped back and spread his arms. Shizzal rubbed furiously at his throat. “I allow you to live in my luxury. You eat food from my table, and you sleep in the room that I gave you. I even give you an allowance, my boy. Does this not make you my son?”
“Are the others all your sons too?” Shizzal returned, voice low and harsh in fright.
Hasami didn’t answer immediately, angry fires dancing in his eyes. But he cracked a smile, and turned towards the window again. “In time, yes, they shall be. There is much work and plenty of gain to be made under Hasami’s roof. That is why I take these poor children off the streets. It is for good cause: I teach them all the skills they need to know to become hard working citizens in the wide world, my dear. Cooking and cleaning, tanning and smithing…” He looked back at Shizzal out of the corner of his sly eye. “But you. Ah, but you. What am I ever to do with you? You seem only to be good for snatching purses from my honored guests.”
Shizzal just looked down at the floor. He hated the man, but he had to admit to himself Hasami hadn’t done anything terrible to him yet. He had had more food in the last week than he often got in a month, and the bed didn’t smell of gutter.
“Perhaps, just perhaps we can put those light hands to work,” said Hasami thoughtfully, and he swept back to Shizzal again, kneeling up front of the boy.
“What are you suggesting?” asked Shizzal with a squeak.
Hasami smiled. “Only this. Go out and play on the streets tomorrow, my little Shizzal. Play at finding treasures, buried by pirates and secreted away by corrupt kings. And when you have filled your pockets–” Hasami grinned, and his gold and yellow teeth gleamed. “–bring it back to me, and I shall show you how to make even more from it. Will you do that for me, my boy?”
Shizzal nodded slowly, eyes wide. He sprinted from the chamber as soon as Hasami got back to his feet.
Hasami’s grin disappeared, and the Redguard stared off after the young Dunmer thoughtfully. “You’ll learn,” he murmured, folding his hands and touching his red signet ring to his nose. A slow smirk grew under his interlocked fingers.