Other Related Book
Location Arantis
Publication Details
Author(s) Dave Morris
Illustrator Russ Nicholson
Publisher Mammoth
Other Details
Cover illustrator Mike Posen
First published April 25 1994
Number 6
ISBN ISBN 0-7497-1675-4
Cover illustrator: John Hodgson
Publisher: Fabled Lands Publishing
First published: 2013
Number 4
ISBN: ISBN 978-1-90990-503-0

The Thief of Arantis (also known as The Best Thief in Arantis[1]) is a single-player role-playing Virtual Reality gamebook written by Dave Morris, illustrated by Russ Nicholson and published in 1994 by Mammoth (ISBN 0-7497-1675-4). It was retitled Once Upon a Time in Arabia when it was republished as an entry in the Critical IF gamebook series by Fabled Lands Publishing in 2013 (ISBN 978-1-90990-503-0).


It was described as follows:[2]

The Thief of Arantis was the proposed FF gamebook (FF 62?) that never got used and Dave Morris later turned into Twist of Fate, one of the Virtual Reality gamebooks that he wrote along with Mark Smith. This gamebook takes as it's setting the ports and coastal waters of Arantis. Its flavour, however, is derived from the Thousand and One Nights. It deals with the protagonist's picaresque adventures as he or she rises from being a common sailor to the exalted rank of adviser to the Sultan.

Stopping off in one of the richer ports of Arantis, the protagonist hears talk of a marvellous egg bigger than a house. This egg, laid by the fabulous giant Roc, is prized for its qualities of good fortune and rejuvenation. A single piece chipped from the shell could be worth 10,000 gold pieces or more. Naturally, as with most tavern stories, the details are hard to pin down. Everyone knows of the Roc's egg, but no one has much idea of where it might be found. Nonetheless, the protagonist is sure that it truly exists (he saw it on the cover of the book, after all) and sets out in search of the Roc's eyrie.

Along the way his ship is wrecked on an inaccessible stretch of shoreline. Luckily he alone survives and is brought before a wizard, who listens to his story with great sympathy. Moved by his plight, and taking his survival as sign of the favor of the gods, the wizard gives him some magic slippers that allow the wearer to levitate - once only. These should enable him to reach the Roc's eyrie.

Soon after arriving at the next city, however, the protagonist is mistaken for a notorious thief and is thrown into gaol, charged with having stolen a magnificent ruby from the Sultan's treasury. There a beggar who tells him a story about the legendary Roc befriends him. In return, the protagonist might choose to tell the beggar about his magic slippers. If he does, his trust is rewarded with treachery: he awakes the next day to find the beggar has escaped using the slippers, leaving behind only his mangy cat.

Unless he still has the slippers and uses them to levitate to freedom, the protagonist is still in the gaol a week later when the real thief is caught. This fellow, Azenomei, is thrown into the same cell, but the gaolers make no move to free the protagonist, assuming that even if he did not steal the ruby there must be some other crime he should pay for. That night the protagonist mentions his obsession with finding the Roc's nest. Much to his surprise, Azenomei agrees to help him on condition that they first go to the rescue of his sister, who has been carried off by a sinister Jinni to a citadel on the western edge of the Plain of Bronze.

Assuming the protagonist agrees, they escape from gaol that very night and within a week they have reached an oasis in the Desert of Skulls. The protagonist is summoned to the tent of a nomad princess who turns out to be a hideous ghoul. Although he should be able to survive this encounter relatively unscathed, it forces him and Azenomei to flee into the desert without filling their water bags. A few days later, weakened by thirst, they stumble on another oasis at twilight. A stranger they meet here tells the protagonist he has found the Oasis Beyond The Mirage, and reveals a vision where the protagonist's reflection in a pool seems to be accompanied by an evil, gold-eyed man. When they awake the next morning there is no sign of the oasis or the stranger, though they now have full water bags.

After a few further adventures they reach the Jinni's citadel. It seems deserted. With pounding heart the protagonist begins to search for Azenomei's sister, but somehow he loses Azenomei in the maze of corridors. At last he finds a scented chamber where the girl reclines on a divan to which she is bound by a golden chain. He is about to free her when the Jinni appears. It is his former companion, the one who called himself Azenomei! This is the meaning of the vision at the oasis. The Jinni reveals that he truly believes the protagonist to be the notorious jewel thief that the Sultan's guards mistook him for. The same thief once stole a great gem ("as big as the egg of the Roc that perches in its eyrie atop the Isle of Palms") from the Jinni's own hoard, and that is why he has lured the protagonist here. The protagonist's protestations of innocence are ignored and he is forced to fight for his life. Various items must have been gathered to stand any chance against the Jinni, but in fact the girl, who reveals knowledge of combat sorcery, helps the protagonist. After the battle she tells him she is actually the Sultan's daughter. Her old nurse taught her magic to her. However, she was not taught any spell to unlock the enchanted shackles binding her. For this, she says, the protagonist must get a jewelled key from the eyrie of the Roc.

Fortunately the Jinni has mentioned where the Roc can be found: on the highest peak of the Isle of Palms, which lies in the Gulf of Shamuz. The protagonist travels there and must use his magic slippers to levitate up to the nest. If he has already made use of the slippers, it is possible to succeed if he has bothered to keep the beggar's mangy cat. This miraculous animal has the property that its tail grows longer whenever an outrageous lie is spoken in its hearing. If the protagonist has treated the cat well and has learned of this power, he can cause the tail to reach right up to the Roc's nest and can climb up to get the jewelled key ...

The protagonist might not have met the Sultan's daughter, of course, in which case he can just take part of the egg as he originally intended. This will make him rich beyond the dreams of avarice. If he takes the jewelled key instead, though, then his reward is even greater. After freeing the girl and returning her to her father, he is rewarded with a Robe of Honour and becomes the Sultan's vizier. Throughout the city he is lauded as the most daring thief in the world, for he stole the jewelled key from the Roc's nest and the princess from the Jinni's palace. Thus, one who began by being mistaken for another ends by becoming the one he was mistaken for.

Another description of the abandoned adventure is thus[3]:

You are an adventurer traveling the land Arantis. As a port city, you hear an object of inestimable value and unmatched powers: a giant egg Roc, a mythical bird (borrowed from Oriental legend of Sinbad the Sailor). You start looking for the famous treasure, but many adventures await you. Starting with a shipwreck, the encounter with an evil Engineering and a misunderstanding which will take you to be confused by the authorities with a thief accused of stealing a precious stone to the Sultan. This quest seemed to allow more opportunities and paths, as well as many purposes as does finally being assimilated by popular legends, the Thief Arantis, or finish as Vizier of the Sultan. This adventure, clearly inspired by the 1001 Nights, was presented to the Fighting Fantasy collection in 1989, and amended for Virtual Reality version of the series was published in 1994.

It appears to have been submitted to Puffin Books in 1989 and for whatever reason was not published, surfacing in 1994 as part of a different series of books entitled Virtual Reality.


An evil and crafty nobleman has cheated you of all your wealth. But rather than starve as a beggar on the streets of Baghdad, you decide to leave in search of fame and fortune. Your travels take you to ghoul-haunted oases, magical palaces, lost cities of gold and uncharted isles full of mystery and danger. Threatened by bandits, fire wizards, thieves and fearsome creatures, you must risk all in your determined quest for justice.

Not luck but judgement!


Cover and Illustrations[]


The cover was designed and illustrated by Mike Posen. In the 2013 reprint new artwork by John Hodgson was used.

The Thief of Arantis Cover Variants
1994 2013
Mammoth Fabled Lands
£X.xx £6.99


The adventure was illustrated by Russ Nicholson. In the 2013 the art was replaced by public domain art by William Harvey (1796-1866).

The map was by Leo Hartas and remains in the 2013 reprint.

Intertextual References[]

Other Media[]

Main Characters[]





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