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Friday, December 2, 2011

Test of Metal - Tezzeret: A Man of Parts

Sorry for all the delays. Get ready for a long one. All of Tezzeret's childhood in one chapter.

Tezzeret: A Man of Parts

I remembered dying. Your own murder is not something that slips your mind.

That vicious little gutter-monkey Jace Beleren had reached inside my skull with the invisible fingers of his mind and scrambled my brain into … what? An omelet didn’t seem right—too orderly. Too intentional. A chopped salad? Not meaty enough. My brain felt like something sliced, or scooped, fried in bacon grease

(Oh hmm... A switch to a first person point of view.)

Enough time passes that Tezzeret begins to think that maybe he is dead... but he doesn't think dead people hurt as much as he does at this moment.

As an artificer by inclination as well as vocation, I have always known that anything worth doing is best accomplished in a deliberate, structured, and meticulous fashion. Feelings and dreams are useless, and imagination is worse. Reality doesn’t care how you think it ought to be, or what you fantasize it might be. Effective action is achieved only by the intelligent application of what is.

What Tezzeret knows is that he's not ready to move, but he's alive. Since he has no friends with the power to restore his mind... or any friends in general... he realizes he's mostly likely been resurrected by a being who either has no care one way or another about his discomfort by placing him in the pile of rocks that is making feel all sorts of uncomfortable or he's been saved by someone who is actively his enemy.

And his arm. His right arm. It hurts. Tezzeret refuses to look where he knows his right arm should be, because he knows why there's that pain he feels. Looking and seeing the truth will make it more real, and that's not something he wants to deal with at the moment.

Instead he takes a look at his surroundings and takes it all in. He's in a cave of some sort, and the jagged rocks that dig into his back are everywhere. A dark red stone that he doesn't recognize. When Tezzeret tries summoning his mana, he finds that there is no feeling of the power rushing into him and instead can see one of the nearby crystals begin glow just a tad bit brighter.

Tezzeret knows its time to face his reality and looks over to where his right arm used to be. Denial and rage pour out of him. Tezzeret screams and uncontrollable scream and then passes out.


Tezzeret began constructing his arm when he was about nine years old. He says he was approximately nine because his parents never bothered to celebrate his birthday or even tell him when it was, and so he's always lived having had to make the best guess of when he was born by comparing himself to other kids in Tidehollow.

In fact, his parents didn't even bother to give him a name. His father simply called him "boy."

Tezzeret is how I was called among the cave brats; a tezzeret is, in Tidehollow cant, the word for any small, improvised or homemade weapon kept concealed on one's body - knives made from beach glass wrapped in packing twine; slings and garrotes woven of one’s own hair, a carriage spring bent to protect the knuckles of one’s fist. The cave brats had dubbed me Tezzeret after I had used one to butt shank an older boy who had pushed me down into a muck puddle.

Both his parents were scrappers. The lowest of the low. His mother used to yell at his father about how she used to be whore and now has fallen so far as to now be a scrapper. He was about seven when she died.

She was begging for money, must too close for a carrige driver's taste. When he struck her with his whip she fell down under the carraige wheels and was crushed. The news spread among the locals and the kids of Tidehollow came up to him not to express concern and sorrow, but rather they came to laugh and jeer. That was how things were.

All Tezzeret's father could do was grab some potato sacks so they could gather her body for a proper burial.

"Even this," my father had said softly, in a bitterly sullen murmur as though reminding himself how angry he should be. "Even this, theyz tooken from me."

When I asked whom he meant, he sullenly nodded upslope. "Bankers 'n' merchants. Guildsfolk. Them as lives up the city."
I could not imagine why anyone rich enough to live upslope would want anything of ours, and I said so.

His father tells him it's not about wanting. They don't need to want. They have the power and they just take. When Tezzeret says that isn't fair, his father hits him across the head and tells him it's not about what's fair, it's about what is. When Tezzeret asks if there's anyone more powerful than the bankers, his father tells him that the mages might count, but then he tells him son to forget about it because he'll never see a mage for as long as he lives.

What Tezzeret took from the whole experience was that he needed to be stronger. But stronger in a smart way. Not just by gaining power, but by also smartly applying that power. He already had an appreciation of smartly applied power because of the incident that earned him his name. Of course, there was no harm in striving to become the strongest, and after that day, in his mind the word "strongest" was equal to "mage."

Over the course of the next several weeks, Tezzeret's world grew. He began his investigation in what it meant to be wealthy, have power, and be a mage. He came to understand that the materials that his mother and father scavenged for as scrappers was known as etherium, and how much etherium a person had was a good indicator of how much wealth and power they had. Some people merely had it in their clothes and jewelry, while the wealthiest had etherium merged with their flesh. The most powerful individuals from any race, be they human, vedalken, or sphinx, had entire limbs made out of it.

The day after his mother died, he joined his father in the family business. He was surprised at how technical it was to go looking for even the tiniest bit of etherium. To successfully find it in places where others hadn't already looked. He also discovered that he was a far better scrapper than he ever was. He thought he was smarter than his father, but instead his father recognized the truth. His son was a rhabadomancer. Someone who gains an affinity for searching out materials after coming in contact with a sample first.

Tezzeret recognizes now that he's not a particularly gifted rhabadomancer. If he were to search out gold or silver he would have a much, much harder time of it. It's just that etherium is an intense substance. It's loud.

With his son so successful as a scrapper, he decided to retire. And from then on it was a game of cat and mouse between them. Tezzeret knew he needed to accumulate a stockpile of etherium to accomplish his goals, and his father knew his son wouldn't voluntarily hand over every bit of the substance he found.

Working as a scrapper kept the skin of my hands and feet in a state of continual disrepair. My work involved wading through sewage-drenched cesspools and piles of rotting garbage, pulling out any item that might have come in contact with any etherium - even a smudge of the metal was valuable in its own right. I had no shoes or boots, and my hands were always scratched and torn, and usually infected. Every so often, I would discover slivers of etherium, almost like splinters of glass. The smallest - rarely more than a tenth of a gram - I could conceal by sticking them under the skin of my hands or my feet. Later, after my father was safely snoring in his drug-addled stupor, I could cut these splinters from my flesh and hide them away again.

Tezzeret learned to purposefully allow his father to catch him in the act of keeping etherium for himself so his father would feel like he was properly keeping a diligent eye on him. And not only that, but Tezzeret would reveal the hidden stash he'd been saving up, which was in fact, also a decoy. Tezzeret's true stash was actually on his own body. At one point he had forty-five grams of etherium splinters under his scalp and another thirty in his upper groin area and thighs. When he finally left Tidehollow at eleven years of age, Tezzeret had two-hundred grams of etherium hidden all over. The amount he needed to become an artificer's apprentice.

He didn't say good-bye to his father, and after three years as an artificer's apprentice he left there as well after determining he learned as much as he could. Because he gave the artificer an assumed name, he knew his father wouldn't be able to track him down. Actually, he didn't really feel like it was an assumed name. Since his parents never gave him a name in the first place, whatever name he chose to go by at a particular moment in time was his name.

I have known since a very young age that I am not like other people, be they human, vedalken, viashino, or elf. I have sometimes wondered if the root of that difference might lie in my concept of self, which seems distinctly at variance with the concept others have of themselves. Ask a man who he is, and he will tell you his name. Ask me who I am... and if I wish to give an honest answer, it will come only after a certain amount of detailed self-reflection. I am not a name, and no word truly names me. Who I am is a fluid concept.
It can make social encounters awkward.

Out from the artificer's wing, Tezzeret needed money once more. More etherium. And that wasn't hard to come by. Up here in the wealthier areas of Vectis, he assumed right that the paranoia of a certain group of people would compel them to want to store their wealth in the most compact form possible, making it all the more easier to hide. For Tezzeret that just meant it was fairly easy for him to come across hidden stashes buried in people's gardens and other locations.

(More on this later.)

Once he had gathered up five pounds of etherium, he was ready to join the Right Ancient Order of Mystic Constructionist Masters. In other words, the Mechanists' Guild. Artificers work with mundane materials. Mechanists work with magic to shape magical materials. How to imbue devices with mana and magical abilities. Once an apprentice mechanist becomes elevated to journeyman, they are taught how to work with etherium, and then masters are the ones who create full blown etherium devices.

Mana is, functionally, only power. That is, energy - the capacity to accomplish work. A device of etherium does not require mana to operate; etherium is, itself, a source of mana - and, as I learned in my tenure at the Guild, it is a conduit that channels power from outside the universe.

In the service of the artificer, I had been taught that energy and matter are fundamentally one and the same, regardless of the form of either, and that energy can be neither created nor destroyed. The only change we can force is to alter its form. Even mana is a finite resource. Etherium, on the other hand...

Well, etherium itself is a finite resource - but the power it channels is not.

Mechanists on the other hand, they taught him that by working etherium, one can touch the mind of god. However when Tezzeret would ask which god they were talking about, they always giving any definite answer.

As for the first creation of etherium... it was created by Crucius the Mad Sphinx. Every bit of etherium was created by him. The mechanists consider him to be no a sphinx at all, but an incarnation of god's will. His disappearance decades earlier and the fact that only the Hegemon of Esper has ever seen him only help to reinforce that concept.

The worship of Crucius has led to the formation of the cult of the Vanished Mad Sphinx who believe that every living creature must be infused with etherium to gain redemption. What everyone needed redemption from was a mystery however. Whatever their reasons, their beliefs created an inflated desire for the material which only served to elevate the price of etherium enormously.

But back to the mechanists' guild. Typically someone serves as seven years as a student, then ten more as a journeyman before they become a master. Tezzeret completed the whole process in five. Tezzeret is sure it's because of his unique upbringing compared to the wealthy students. When they were faced with a problem, they were used to just throwing money at it to find a solution. Down in the slums, if Tezzeret needed to make something that required gears and couldn't afford to buy the parts, could salvage them somewhere, or couldn't make one, he was forced to redesign the whole thing to work without gears.

Tezzeret always completed every assignment well ahead of everyone else, and so he took that extra time to create toys and other devices from scraps, to be sold in the bazaar to help finance his education. This led to Tezzeret buying scraps off the other students, which led to him becoming investigated once the teachers began noticing that the scrap bins were unusually empty.

They took a look at his workspace and asked him why it was filled with trash.

"With apologies for daring to disagree with my betters, Masters," I said, "none of these contain trash; their contents are simply materials I have not yet found a use for."
They elevated me to journeyman on the spot.

As a journeyman he could finally learn how to work etherium, and he knew exactly what he wanted to make. He had dreamed of it a decade earlier. He was ready to build his right arm. When still under the care of his father, his father once said to him that there were only two things that would never fail him. Death and his right arm.

Tezzeret thought his father was a fool. His right arm was nothing. But an arm of etherium was something else entirely.

There are some who have spoken of my arm, and claimed it to be psychological compensation for my lowly birth. Others have called it the badge of my self-creation. Still others have named it a symbol of power, a fetish, a talisman against self-doubt. All these people have one defining trait in common.

They’re idiots.

The circumstances of my birth are irrelevant. I have no need for a “badge” of any kind; I am the proof of my self-creation. And my arm is not, nor has it ever been, a symbol of power, nor of anything else. It's not a symbol.

It is power.

The lessons as a journeyman came easily to him, and in fact Tezzeret came up with techniques of his own. There is no one that is more capable than working etherium than he is.

I learned to make my new arm do not only all the work of my old one, but everything else my imagination could devise. Though I am no more gifted a mage than I am a rhabdomant, I again found ways to exploit my minimal talents to accomplish maximal results. When my arm was completed, it comprised more than ten pounds of solid etherium from shoulder to fingertip. Merely having that amount of the metal bound to my will allowed me to channel as much mana as a gifted mage—and more, as my arm constantly renewed its power, drawing upon what I now know is the substance of the Blind Eternities itself.

With no witness or assistance, once his arm was complete, Tezzeret severed his arm of flesh and bone right off and performed the ritual that would attach his new one. In the morning when the masters saw what he had done they had decided to immediately begin the preparations for the ceremony to elevate him to master. Tezzeret didn't care for the title. The name is nothing. Power is everything. He left before the ceremony was complete.

Within a week he was appraoched by the Seekers of Carmot. They'd been watching him for some time.

The Seekers of Carmot styled themselves a noble order, committed to the service of all Esper. The carmot from which they’d taken their name was an arcane substance necessary to the production of etherium, some sort of catalyst that allowed the Anointed Fellows to create etherium by infusing √¶ther into sangrite.

They created etherium.


And supposedly they would teach him the secret and were committed to giving it away until it was as common as dirt. Then Tezzeret learned the truth, and then they learned that he just wasn't good at creating devices, but also that he was good at using those devices to kill.

That day that he learned of their lies, he realized that everything was taken from him but his arm. In fact nothing really mattered but his arm. His arm was everything. So when he woke up in the red crystal cave with a normal arm of bone and flesh he knew what had been taken away from him. Everything.

...In the cave...

Tezzeret puts it all together. There is really only one being with the power and desire to do what had been done to him. He calls out for Nicol Bolas to show himself.

"You always were clever," he said, and casually backhanded me with one wall-size fist so hard that I flew across the cavern, slammed into a jagged wall, and sank to the floor, stunned into immobility.

"Hello, Tezzeret," said Nicol Bolas. "Welcome to the rest of your life."

* * *

Phew! That Was a Long One

We have the history of Tezzeret's childhood, the history and culture of Esper, the value of etheirum, and what Tezzeret's etherium arm personally means to him all in one chapter. This first person perspective is quite interesting, because it's not something you come across too often in fantasy. I'm sure we'll get to see plenty more chapters with this style, and I'll have more material to help me decide if I like it or not.

Buried Treasure

If people are so paranoid about trusting anyone with their wealth... would they really bury it in their gardens, when rhabdomancers are common enough that even Tezzeret's uneducated father knew what one was? It would seem like burying a stockpile of etherium in the dirt would be one of the things you'd want to avoid the most.

Actually, now that I think about it. Tezzeret it lucky that he didn't run into any other rhabdomancers while he was storing etherium under his skin, otherwise his life might have been cut short.

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