The Master Thief Myth in Erisdaire | World Anvil

The Master Thief

"Gather around, and listen to a story about the nameless thief and how one act cost him everything except his pride..."


In the early days before the Empire rose, when the world was wild and lawless, there was a thief who was exceptionally good at their chosen profession. Their name was connected with thefts which were supposed to be impossible, but happened. The crown of a king during their coronation day, to steal objects which hadn't yet been known to exist, any time there was a theft which could not reliably be blamed on another there were rumors the master thief had been the one to do it. To the master thief, and those who knew the thief personally, there was often amusement but all refused to verify anything one way or another most times. "The joy is in the act, not in having."
One day, while holding court in a roadside waystation and indulging in good drink and a few stories about a heist he could be proven to have done. A voice from the crowd spoke up and declared the thief could probably even steal from the god of thieves themselves, and while everyone was laughing it off or deflecting the thought, the master thief began to wonder if it was even possible. They began to make plans, researching carefully how to enter the divine realms unnoticed.
So it came to pass, the master thief entered into the realm of the god of thieves and stole from the realm one gold coin. After returning to the mortal world and showing it to one of their companions, the god was aware of who had done it and they were claiming it as their deed. So it was the god of thieves came to the master thief and gave them a choice; either return what was stolen, or suffer the consequences of stealing from a god.
The master thief claimed, rightly, that a stolen item returned was no longer stolen and furthermore it was no longer a worthy exploit to recount. The god simply smiled, and worked their own magic on the master thief, stealing all memory, all record of who they were from the world. Nobody would ever be able to remember the name, the face, or the life of the thief who dared to steal from a god. The credit for doing the task would be allowed to remain - the tale would be told to all who would listen to priests of the god of thieves, but the name would forever be stricken from reality until the coin was returned and a just recompense given for the deed.
So it was written, and the tale has been told for generations.


Due to various messages which have been attached to the myth, it is known fairly wide among the religions of the Empire and those of civilization. The story tends to vary wildly across time, but the core of it endures across languages.

Variations & Mutation

Several variants exist, some of the differences overlapping in order to make a staggering number of variants. The simpler and most common variants change the object stolen or obscure what it was entirely. The most common types change the gender or race of the master thief. Fewer, but a still notable number, of the variants known change whether or not there was a choice to return the stolen object to avoid punishment.

Cultural Reception

Among the many cultures, the message changes; it is almost always a cautionary tale but depending on the qualities the teller wishes to reinforce, the message is changed. Sometimes it is about hubris, sometimes honesty, and sometimes it is presented as the just fate of any thief and it was divine intervention to snare a thief which the law could not.
The myriad thieves' guilds, however, tend to borrow it as an origin story for their particular gatherings, saying either the master thief or one of the band had founded the order with the following cautions in mind: some things are not meant to be stolen, a thief should be well aware of the consequences of getting caught, and it is no shame to admit to limitations instead of being goaded into the impossible. At least one guild has their leader forswear their name and identity on achieving the rank in a tradition meant to honor the story and keep it very close to the present to reinforce the lessons.


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