The Poles Reversed - An Alternate Universe Fiction
-Written by Gale-
Please Note Before Reading - This is a rough draft and is in need of a beta. While I cannot claim the characters (or even the whole of the basic plot here) as mine, I can call the idea mine. I'm not making any money off of this. I'm just having fun, and hoping you will, too. I interpret some of the characters in the Aladdin series as I feel they are, and this includes their counterparts in this alternate universe as well. You are welcome to disagree but please do not write off the entire story just because of that.
That in mind, I'll re-iterate the Alternate Universe part, and explain to you what the basic premise is, if the summary on the mainpage wasn't enough. This is what the world would be like if Aladdin and Mozenrath's places were switched, where Mozenrath grew up poor but heinously lucky, and Aladdin grew up with raw magical abilities and the apprentice of the most feared wizard in the Seven Deserts. I tried to take into account a lot of aspects of their personalities that would remain intact, and also their basic effect on the people, animals, and things around them. This story will start off predominantly about Mozenrath, starting where we first met Aladdin. Don't worry; I intend to bring Aladdin into the picture; you just have to be patient for it. Also note that this is not intended to be a Mozenrath/Jasmine romance. Call me crazy, but I'm very Aladdin+JasmineOTP. So you'll just have to see how I develop that.
Also! This being the first chapter, I may produce a lot of questions right off the bat. Please refer to the author's notes at the end.
Chapter #1: The Apothecary
"The quality is to your liking?"
Mozenrath curled his lip up at the hulking figure of Hamar, head of the Thieves' Guild hosted in Agrabah's Skull and Dagger. He, himself, was a young thing at around twenty years of age (he'd forgotten his exact birthdate years ago and therefore was not certain), fair and faintly thin under the coverings of somewhat respectable robes for a man of his profession. He pinched a few leaves of the asphodel between his long fingers and lifted it to his nose to smell it. It was a wonder he could get an aroma with how his host reeked, but that could only verify its potency. He examined each of the other offerings similarly, sometimes not touching or not smelling in instances where doing so could have made him very sick, and when finally satisfied, he drew a pouch of dinars from his robes and lay them on the table. "I will take the asphodel and the mandrake root," he said. He knew there would be little objection; it was not as though he could transport everything right now.
"All of it?"
Hamar eyed the pouch skeptically. "Both are imported from the West," he informed him, and Mozenrath snorted at the man's assumption that he did not know. However, given his youth, it was probably easy to think that he might not be as well-rounded as his mentor before him.
"I am aware of this," Mozenrath returned, the picture of calm, "and you should find the amount I've given to be sufficient for the amount of the product sold."
Hamar's hand found a blade on his belt, and he brandished it menacingly. "No tricks."
Mozenrath held up his hands as though to ward off the very stench of him. "No tricks. Feel free to count if you do not believe me. Honor among thieves, remember?"
"You are not a thief, boy," hissed the larger man.
He paused, realizing the man had a point. He wasn't a thief, not anymore -- no matter what Rasoul and Fajuul insisted. The Captain of the Guard and his lackey were constantly about the shop these days, now that poor Rashid had finally passed. They were content to ignore him while there was an adult to look over his shoulder and keep an eye on what he did. With that bit of security gone, though it'd been nearly eight years since the last time he even picked a pocket (ignoring the fact that he'd always been better at talking people out of their money than just taking it), the two were back to eyeing him like the street-rat they continued to believe he was. Rashid had always told him that he was blessed, and given that most homeless boys his age were known to die in the streets, often handless, Mozenrath was inclined to agree. The constant presence of the guards merely reminded him not to assume that even gifts of good fortune could not be without their price.
Truth be told, though, he was also too stubborn to let go of his present course.
"Very well, then," he retracted, "you will have to take my word as an upstanding citizen."
Hamar laughed and scooped up the money. "What kind of upstanding citizen would do business with the Thieves' Guild?" he sneered.
Mozenrath shrugged. It was Hamar's problem if he couldn't accept a promise at face value. Mozenrath, on the other hand, took his promises very seriously, and was known to show his ire when that single creed was affronted. Rashid had always told him his temper was his worst quality, but he knew better than to lose it in a place like the Skull and Dagger, no matter how impudent his present counterpart happened to be. He was constantly of the belief that most adults were stupid, and Hamar regularly made a job of proving him right.
"I'm harming no one by making these available to those that know how to use them properly," he said. He was careful not to say 'no one gets hurt', as he could never really trust where Hamar and others like him were getting these things from. He closed the pouches for each of the ingredients he wished to take and quickly tucked them away. While he'd been at this for well over two months, now, and not a single thief had made a move to harm him, he knew better than to linger where he was likely not wanted. "Another fortnight and I will return with a mind to buy more."
"And I'll be waiting with fresh produce for you."
The two shared nods and passed one another. Mozenrath kept his hand on the two pouches he'd taken as he left. Once he made it to more savory territory, he was not at all surprised to find his purse had been lifted. It did not bother him at all. He never took any more money to pick up supplies than what he felt the goods were worth, anyway. It'd become a habit of his, really, and a tip Rashid had given to him early on. Drive a hard bargain up front, ask for more product for less money than you actually want, and allow the rest to be taken if his compatriots had the nimble fingers for it. The thieves were more apt to do business peacefully if they believed they could pull the wool over their customers' eyes.
A few well-chosen twists, turns and shortcuts, and Mozenrath found himself once again standing before his present home. The building was sizeable, though certainly not one of the larger ones; its mass comfortably held his stores and a loft on the second floor for him to inhabit. It did not lay on as busy a road as the main avenue leading up to the Palace, where the Marketplace lay, but the place was bustling in its own right. Where the Marketplace's main source of business was food and other goods such as fabric and jewelry, this street was best for the traveling performers, musicians, and illusionists. Though he'd grown up with a the cold dirty floors of alleyways and rooftops to call his bed for the night, he'd spent so long under a single roof, now, that the noise often woke him early with the coming crowd. It wasn't something he complained about, really, as he liked to get to work as early as possible.
He was mostly grateful for his fortune -- that Rashid, having been fast enough to catch a young, undernourished Mozenrath with his hand in his pocket, had seen what he called 'potential' in the boy, and thought him smart enough to take him in and give him the education he needed. He'd really been the first person to ever trust him, and Mozenrath would not admit that the man had been infinitely patient with him as well. Now that he was gone, however, he sometimes wanted nothing more than to just leave Agrabah and ignore the obligations the man had left him. Mozenrath often told himself that he was too young to have the well-being of every citizen resting on his shoulders, and such a job required someone who cared enough.
However, like the idiot he was, he had promised to keep the business going. All good fortune had its price, he told himself. If it meant that he might have to feel a little restless time and again, then so be it. He could have still been on the streets, or worse, in the dungeons.
Shaking his head to himself, he escaped into the shade of his home, the scent of fresh cut herbs invading his senses almost immediately. Mozenrath sighed with exhilaration and let the curtain separating his home from the outside world fall behind him.
A familiar skeek and titter caught his glance just in time for him to hold his arm out. Abu landed on his wrist neatly and climbed his way up to his shoulder, using his nimble tail as a support for balance and coiling it around Mozenrath's limb tightly until he reached his destination, where it replaced itself around the back of his neck.
Mozenrath noted the piece of fruit the monkey carried in one of his paws, but only when he began nibbling on it. As he did not recall purchasing that particular type, he could only assume that the hairy little thief stole it -- a good reason why he never took the animal with him to do business. He would have made Hamar and the others most uncomfortable.
With an odd smile, Mozenrath reached up and stroked the fur on the monkey's neck and shoulders with the ends of his fingers, an motion the animal returned gratefully with a nuzzle.
"Get it?" the cappuchin asked between mouthfuls.
"Yes." Mozenrath produced the two pouches and handed them to the monkey. Abu shoved the rest of the fruit into his mouth and took them in his arms. "Tuck them away in the usual place, please." He honestly had no idea where that was, but waited patiently as the animal scampered off to do as he asked. Abu was more adept at nicking and hiding things than any human being could be, so it was only natural that Mozenrath trusted him to conceal any illegal herbs and potions he might be stashing away for special sales.
He passed the time until Abu's return by gathering together a few bottles he'd set aside the night before. Omar, one of the venders at the bazaar, came to him the day before with a request for medicines for his wife. As Mozenrath recalled, she was expecting again, which explained the nature of the elixirs that her husband requested and paid for. They would have to be taken to him today.
"Done!" Abu exclaimed as he landed on the counter next to him. Normally, his sudden appearances could startle Mozenrath if his mind was elsewhere; however, at this particular moment, something entirely more distracting had his attention than just his work.
Mozenrath noted the shuffling of feet under the curtain leading out. He shushed his companion. "Customers," he whispered conspiratorially. "Remember, monkeys don't talk."
The last part was said with a wink, as it'd become a ritual phrase for the two of them over the years; he made a point to say it whenever they was company upon them. As far as Mozenrath knew, however, Abu never spoke the way he did before they came into one another's lives. Rashid tried to explain it to him once, called Abu his Familiar. He knew Rashid practiced minimally, but outside of the making of medicines and potions, Mozenrath never considered himself terribly mystically inclined, though the subject fascinated him to no end.
It did not please Mozenrath in the slightest that his earlier thought of the Captain of the Guard, with the shift of a curtain, had gone from simple reminiscing to a prophecy in disguise.
Rasoul had to duck and sidestep for the doorway to admit him, and Fazuul was not so lucky. His bulk fully met the ends of the doorway on both sides, and it took a few seconds for him to pass through. The end result remained the same, and the two guards came to a stop just before the counter. Though Mozenrath could hardly see past them to the street outside, he was sure a few others waited for them there. He made a point to keep his eyes on his work for as long as was humanely possible, only rewarding his full gaze to them at the sound of an impatient clearing of the throat by the Captain of the Guard.
"You're late this week," he offered boredly, realizing it'd been a full eight days since their last visit. They were usually so much more punctual.
"Things have been busy, street rat," said Rasoul.
"Yes, I've heard. How many suitors in the palace in the last month or so? Seems as though enough for each day, wouldn't you say?"
While Fazuul began to count them off on his fingers, Rasoul was not so easily deterred from his need to put Mozenrath in his place. "And you would do well to remember that you're not of great enough importance to override everything that happens in this city."
Mozenrath offered a sour smile. Despite the fact that the captain's over enunciation of every other word produced an odd slaver of spittle on the man's chin that begged laughter, the boy wouldn't be stupid enough to openly invite the giant dunderhead's anger. "It gladdens me to know that I've earned at least semi-regular visits, then," he said smoothly. "Now, is there anything I can do for the two of you this morning? While I'm certainly not above aiding the servants of our esteemed Ruler in matters of peacekeeping, I do have a great deal to take care of today --"
"Yes, yes, you're very busy," the Captain of the Guard sneered, and already he was poking about at the jars lining all the shelves. "Rumor has it that you've brought in a new shipment recently."
"Yes, fresh spices and herbs brought in from the traders," he returned, hardly missing a beat. He knew the man was referring to the things he'd just made Abu stash away, and in his own way of showing this, he languidly stroked the animal perched on his shoulder. "The more important things are finally back in season again, so the quality is much better --"
"You know what I am referring to."
Mozenrath shrugged. "I am afraid I don't, but if you suspect foul play, Rasoul, feel free to have a look around." He gestured at the room around him, then set to crushing some herbs. "In the meantime, however, I would appreciate it if you would keep the noise to a dull roar; I have an order to finish, still."
Rasoul glowered at the boy, nostrils flaring with their usual indignation. Mozenrath was reminded again that the man too strongly resembled an ox. The image would have been perfect if he could have offered the man some greens to chew on without getting his nose punched through to the back of his head. Lucky as he happened to be, he wasn't stupid.
He kept an eye on the two as they browsed the shop and even paused in his work to allow them behind the counter, confident that whatever they were looking for would not be found. He had to silently appreciate how serious the two were about their work, in the sense that Rasoul would randomly snatch up something he thought looked suspicious, thinking he'd caught Mozenrath in the act, only to discover, to his displeasure, that he was wrong. Again. No matter how many times the result came out the same, he kept doing it, and that was fine for Mozenrath. It wasn't as though he had much else to entertain him.
As always, though, the fun ended all too soon, and coming up empty handed, Rasoul barked at Fazuul to follow him and made his exit. Mozenrath shook his head almost sadly. Right side or not, he took pride in knowing the Captain of the Guard would likely always be too stupid to catch him in the act of -- well, anything.
Abu mimicked his gesture, removing his fez to add to the image of tragedy, and Mozenrath smirked. "You didn't lift anything else in the Marketplace but that fruit, did you?" he asked.
The monkey had the nerve to look shocked. "Who, me?"
"No more," he said, and sighed as an afterthought; how many times had they had this discussion before? "At least not for a while; I don't buy food so that you can go nicking your own, and I'm not speaking for you the next time Omar catches you." Yes, the same discussion, word for word. Mozenrath felt more like he kept at it out of habit. He never really cared -- not really. Rashid did, and that was how the habit got started in the first place.
Like always, Abu did his best to look contrite, then bounded to the top of one of the shelves, likely to get a few bites out of some of the other things he took. It was rare when the capuchin took just one thing, after all. Mozenrath didn't bother to chase after him over it; he learned years ago that doing that just never worked.
The next time his doorstep was darkened, he had considerably less warning than when the guards arrived. The tall man swept in, fine cloak billowing about him dramatically. Abu screeched and vacated his perch when it was invaded by the visitor's constant companion, a red parrot. Mozenrath found the monkey once again occupying his shoulder and neck before the man even reached the counter.
The Grand Vizier, Jafar, was an immeasurably thin man, though most of his bony frame was hidden cleverly under the layers of bulky cloth that covered him -- all save for his face and hands, of course, whose fingers were so long and thin that Mozenrath often wondered if the man was not simply death warmed over. He often shied from contact with the man at all costs (not that a man of his stature would lower himself to touch a commoner), partly fearing his touch would be dry and cold, and that under all of the silks and jewels, he truly was a corpse.
He was a regular customer, of course, though that fact was not known to anyone but the two of them and their animal accomplices. Mozenrath supposed that when the man required items of a less than savory nature, it was less demeaning for him to ask the local apothecary than it would have been to try walking into the Thieves' Bazaar. As he'd learned in times when Rashid was still the maintainer of the stores, Jafar was a light practitioner of the arts, much like Rashid, himself. Rumor was that he was the son of the Grand Vizier before him, and on and on. The Sultans had long forgotten about the rumored secret passages and chambers in the Palace, and these were secrets that Jafar's line supposedly continued to carry and use to their advantage. Among the less oblivious in Agrabah, it was a well known rumor that Jafar controlled more palace affairs than the Sultan, himself, so the idea of his knowing the place like the back of his hand was more than likely.
It was lucky, Mozenrath supposed, that he'd chosen to restock his secret stores today of all days. Jafar made up most of his profit in that area.
The Grand Vizier's thin eyes surveyed the dim expanse of the room with some repugnance before finally falling on the boy, himself. He grunted to himself, then smirked. "You have what I ordered."
"Acquired this morning." Mozenrath glanced at Abu, who climbed down off of his shoulder and disappeared from the room. He kept an eye on the man's bird, who wisely did not move from his place atop the shelf, and from that place seemed to be serving as a lookout near the door. This sort of exchange took place regularly, but Mozenrath always felt wary enough not to trust the bird or its owner. To date, though, it'd never followed Abu, so he knew the location of his more expensive items were kept safe and secret.
"How efficient," Jafar said, hissing the last word past his teeth. Mozenrath almost expected a forked tongue to emerge. "I have to say, you have been holding things up rather well since your Master's passing. I am to assume your interests remain unwavering?"
"You are correct," Mozenrath replied. He felt a brush on his leg, telling him Abu had returned with what he required and was now deftly placing the pouches on the shelf under the counter. "Though the arts remain a minimal extension of my work, as always."
"A pity. I'm sure you could amount to a great deal with time and patience."
"Your confidence is appreciated, Your Excellency," he said, somewhat tightly. He reached under and brought up the pouches, opening each and removing a few leaves and roots from them for Jafar to examine. He never liked the way the man would get to talking about magic, hinting that he knew ways to advance him. Though Mozenrath always felt tempted, he did not fall easily, nor did he completely trust the Grand Vizier enough to make good on his offers.
Understanding that conversation was closed, Jafar leaned forward to scrutinize the mandrake first. The scene was very similar to the display Mozenrath, himself, put on when picking which pieces to buy from Hamar, though there were added flourishes and gestures that Mozenrath supposed were supposed to make Jafar look more professional and knowledgeable. After a long pause, the man decided the sample was to his satisfaction and proceeded to regard the asphodel in a similar manner. He had to reach further across the table to access it, and the drape of his over robe and mantle fell in such a way that something underneath was uncovered, and Mozenrath twitched at a flicker of light that touched his eyes.
Jafar noted his shift and looked up. "Something the matter?"
Mozenrath squinted, realizing the source of the light had been something reflective. The Grand Vizier, seeing what had caught his notice, smiled almost as if he were placating a child and withdrew a mirror from his robes. It was no larger than the palm of his hand, metal framed and wholly unremarkable. What an unusual thing to carry, Mozenrath thought.
"No wise magician travels without one," Jafar said, probably in the hopes of putting off his own superior insight by telling him this.
"Why is that?" Mozenrath asked, genuinely curious.
"Oh, many reasons," the man went on casually, appearing pleased at the opportunity to show off. "It wards foul spirits -- the Evil Eye, they say -- and is known to come in handy when faced off another magician, as well." Jafar smirked. "But that is a lesson for another day."
"Interesting." In truth, Mozenrath would have appreciated a shorter explanation, and had only been half-paying attention. "I shall bear that in mind." He was never sure what inspired this attention, but Jafar had taken an active role in giving random lectures to him, and had been since he'd come into Rashid's tutelage. It'd annoyed his old master, as well, and Mozenrath had always been cautioned to keep an eye on him.
"I'll take both," Jafar said, dropping a purse on the counter. "I need not remind you that I was never here. My patronage relies solely on that."
"Of course, Your Highness." Mozenrath took the money and slid it over to his side. Though he had a mind to speak, he was sure not to open his mouth until he had it tucked away. "Though you have promised me that you would deal with the guards constantly coming and going."
Jafar's brow raised in a way that could only feign surprise. "I was under the impression that such problems were taken care of. You have my deepest apologies," he said with an exaggeratedly magnanimous nod, "and my promise that this will be rectified."
It was Mozenrath's turn to look scrutinizing, "So long as My Lord bears in mind that if I am discovered, he will have to be named as a buyer."
Jafar's demeanor turned from faux-concerned to foreboding. His eyes seemed to darken, and his hand tightened on the handle of his cane. Mozenrath almost expected to hear the bones of his fingers cracking. The Grand Vizier cocked his head toward the bird, who flew back to his shoulder with a flutter that lift loose feathers drifting in the air in its wake.
"You would do well to remember who you are trying to threaten, Mozenrath," Jafar said coldly. "It is my business that keeps your little establishment from shriveling up and dying. Your Master knew that."
Mozenrath managed an almost pleasant smile, "And I am sure neither of us would want to do anything to damage this arrangement of ours, My Lord."
Jafar watched him, fully scowling, and spoke tightly. "Of course not. Good day, Mozenrath." The parrot on his shoulder awk!ed in agreement as he swept his way out into the city beyond.
Abu climbed atop the counter. "Creepy," he squeaked.
Mozenrath nodded in agreement. "I could not have said it better, myself, Abu." His fingers lingered over the sealed bottles he'd prepared for Omar, the ones that still awaited delivery. If he hadn't found the need to go to the Skull and Dagger that morning, they already would have been taken to him. Knowing that he would only find other things to distract him if he waited, he scooped them up. "Come to the Marketplace with me?" he asked his companion. Abu climbed onto his arm. "Paws to yourself, though."
"And remember, Monkeys don't talk."
TO BE CONTINUED.
Next Chapter - Mozenrath's life becomes a mite more complicated when he saves a strange young lady from the wrath of fruit vendor, Farouk.
1. About Abu - Yes, I'm sure some of you were first bothered to see that Mozenrath has him instead of Xerxes. The fact of the matter was that there was no possible way to keep the animals with their canon owners and make it make sense.
2. Why is Abu Talking? That's a bit complicated. I ran with the idea of an owner's influence on a familiar. You see it with Jafar, and how advanced Iago's level of speech is. You see it with canon!Aladdin and Abu -- Abu can manage some words in the series. And then with Mozenrath and Xerxes; Mozenrath is a bit more advanced than Aladdin, and therefore his familiar can express fuller thoughts than Abu can. I decided not to switch that part out, as it seems that magical potential has no bearing on how well a person bonds with their familiar. (Jafar is by no means a powerful wizard, for instance.) So, Abu talks better than he did in the series because that's just the kind of influence Mozenrath has on him.
3. Mozenrath would never do that! You have to bear in mind that this is an AU, as I did, and I therefore had to take into account how much of Mozenrath's personality was due to his upbringing. I then had to decide what would stay, and what new bits of his personality would be the result of this new life. In later chapters, I hope to show that Mozenrath is still a bit of a bastard at the heart of things, though an oddly scrupulous one, and still very much a brat. He takes the place of the diamond in the rough in this story, but rather than have his status as what hides his worth, like with Aladdin, it's his attitude that conceals most of it. I wanted very much to make Mozenrath his very own person, as opposed to just rewriting the screenplay of the movie and putting his name in place of Aladdin's. I have the story fully outlined, and with hope you'll be seeing more soon. I hope everyone likes the changes.