Tag Archives: Jadie

A Most Unusual Guardian, Part Three

A Most Unusual Guardian
By Aaron Canton
—Part Three—

 

 

Architecture firms; vendors of building supplies—wood, metal, hired men to dig and build; government offices where zoning and building permissions were handled, filed in triplicate, and then buried in a maze of paperwork; mage halls containing magic-trained mercenaries prepared to serve in whatever capacity their mystical arts could assist with; restaurants, cafés, and the seediest of pubs where said mages congregated after work; more firms, more vendors, more offices…

It was nearly midnight by the time Jadie dragged herself to the little inn she’d decided would be her new base of operations. Her room at the Stately Lady was too obvious and ostentatious; Gerard might know of it already. So she instead removed the flower from her hair, wrapped herself in a cloak and hood, and checked herself into a quiet room in the Flaming Pitch just outside Viscosa’s walls. There, she thought, she could go over what she knew and suspected about Renatta’s vault so she could work on her plan.

The broad strokes were simple: Gerard had the amulet, and Jadie wanted it. She didn’t know where he was, where he was staying, or what safe houses he might have—but she knew he’d break into the vault soon so as to steal the second amulet. She just had to get into it first, wait for him, then get around him and lock him inside the vault before fleeing and tipping off Renatta that a thief was around. Then Renatta could have Gerard arrested and interrogated until he gave up the location of the first amulet—or until he simply dropped it, if he had it on him. And then Violet would be happy again, and Jadie could go to Warus with a clear conscience.

Actually getting into the vault was another matter entirely. Jadie had found the mages, architects, and builders who had set up Renatta’s new treasury. Although she’d convinced them to tell her much of what they’d done—and burgled their offices to look at the detailed schematics—so far all that was accomplished seemed to intimidate her. The vault was a new basement structure next to the Renatta mansion consisting of one room set at the far end of a long, narrow hallway. That corridor was an absolute nightmare to get through without knowledge of the “safe” path. There were sections with physical traps that would launch arrows dipped in paralyzing powders or simply drop the intruder into a pit while sounding an array of magical alarms, followed by sections full of wards that would wreck any intruder. Some of the trapped sections were even timed, with spells set to go off if a visitor stepped on the entrance ward but didn’t reach the exit one in time (presumably on the basis that an intruder would be more hesitant and take longer than someone who actually knew the route). One could make their way through easily by knowing the right path, the flagstones to step on and those to avoid… but of course that was the one thing she hadn’t been able to finagle out of those who had built the vault.

Yes, she had her plant magic, and she was a pretty good thief besides, but this was the hardest mission she’d ever tried to crack by far. She didn’t even know if her instructors could manage it, much less her.

But if she was having trouble, she decided, Gerard might be having more—after all, however talented he was, he didn’t have her plant magic. And besides, he was arrogant enough that he might wait a few days for the baron to bolster security before making his run for the amulet. So Jadie probably had time. She could get local supplies, write to Westwick and have them send her some resources, do more scouting, maybe find some former employees of the baron’s who could be persuaded to talk—

She entered her room while deep in thought, saw the pile of gold sitting on the table, and swiveled just in time to see Gerard the Fang walk into the room behind her. “Jadie Rivers,” Gerard said, eyes twinkling. “Your ten percent.”

“What?” Jadie asked after a few moments of reeling from shock. “What ten percent?”

Gerard shut the door behind him and bowed slightly. “From the little job we did earlier. You were gone when I got back to your vantage point on the street, and you didn’t seem to be coming back to your room at the Stately Lady, so I took the liberty of giving it to you here. The amulet was already valuated by my client, so I figured I could take care of the payment here and now.” His mouth curved upwards into a smile. “After all, good help deserves to be paid promptly—and you were superlative, Jadie. Well done.”

Jadie took a deep breath to clear her mind enough to work out what to say next. “How did you find me?” she demanded at last.

Gerard clicked his tongue. “Surely you were taught the easiest way to follow someone is to simply figure out where they’re going and beat them there? I know how the thieves guild trains its students to look for hide-outs—places outside the center of town and away from guards, places frequented by day laborers and short-term guests where they won’t be noticed, places with solid walls so the rooms are defensible if an enemy does manage to track you down… really, when you think about it, this was the most suitable place by a mile according to all the rules you know. So I chatted with the clerk, paid to assign you this room when you arrived, and waited for you to show up.”

Jadie flushed in embarrassment. “Then why wait around?” she asked. “You could have just left the gold. I’d have figured out where it came from.”

“Well, when someone does a job for me and takes off before I can pay them, it makes me curious.” Gerard raised an eyebrow. “Something wrong?”

She knew she could try to bluff or lie, but Jadie had a feeling that wouldn’t work on Gerard the Fang. And besides, Jadie thought, he needed to know she hated what he’d done to Violet. She was representing the Westwick Thieves Guild, after all. He had to know they wouldn’t tolerate this.

“You robbed a child,” she said at last. “I thought you were going after the father. I mean, he totally deserves it. But you stole from the girl.” She clenched a fist. “You hurt her, and she didn’t deserve it. She’s just a kid.”

Gerard looked at Jadie for a long moment before a smile slipped across his face. “Really?” he said. “A thief with scruples? What are they teaching at your guild?”

“That we have a responsibility to others,” growled Jadie. “That because we take, we also have to give back; protect; look out for innocents.” Her eyes narrowed. “What client was so important that you robbed the girl instead of anyone else in this city?”

“A Warus warlord,” said Gerard easily. “The trinket I took was a gift from the king signifying his favor. A lot of warlords would like such a jewel that indicates they’ve earned the favor of the king of Raleigh. It tends to… help one’s negotiating position.”

“The king obviously didn’t give the amulet to a warlord!” insisted Jadie. “Somebody will tell the king—”

Gerard chuckled. “Really? Would you? Knowing there was a chance, however faint, the king really had given the amulet to that warlord and he might interpret your comment that he could never have done such a thing as calling him stupid for making that decision?” He shook his head. “Nobody will challenge it. My client will enjoy a very nice advantage in the trade negotiations. And I, of course, had the satisfaction of putting one over on Baron Renatta, who was so crude as to boast at a dinner party last month that thanks to his new vault, nobody could rob him—which I took as a personal challenge. Of course, catching him napping outside the vault is no big deal… so I’ll have to crack the vault itself later. Just to show I can.”

Jadie didn’t respond for a long moment. She had to get rid of him, she thought, so she could work out her plan to break into the vault. If she got all her supplies quickly enough, she could probably do it within a few days; maybe she could scare him into laying low until then. “I’ll report you to the Westwick Thieves Guild,” she said at last. “They’ll stop you.”

“I would be honored if they tried,” said Gerard lightly. “It’s been too long since I’ve had a proper nemesis. The last one was… almost three years ago, I think. I almost wish I hadn’t dropped him into that cursed tomb; he made things fun.” He shrugged. “But that’s for the future. Will you tell your guild about me before or after you try to break into the vault yourself and steal my prize?”

Jadie’s mouth dropped. “What—”

“My dear Jadie, I’m just as capable of finding out who Renatta hired to build his vault as you are. I talked to a few key apprentice mages and assistant architects when I arrived in town, told them to let me know if anybody odd questioned their masters. And you would not believe the reports they sent me today.” His eyes gleamed. “You want to hit the vault before me so you can get the second amulet for yourself. Come on, Jadie. We’re both thieves. You can protest about robbing kids all you want; we both know we both want the same things.”

That wasn’t true, Jadie thought—she didn’t want the amulet; she just wanted to stop Gerard. But if he’d finally made a mistake about her, she wasn’t going to tell him. “Yeah,” she insisted. “I do. And I’ll get it too.”

Gerard chuckled. “Jadie. I do respect your abilities, and in ten years or so you may be one of the best thieves in Raleigh. But right now, Renatta’s vault is… quite simply, it’s out of your league. I myself may have some difficulty. A novice like you? No chance.” He held up a hand. “As a professional courtesy, from one thief to another—you aren’t ready for this.”

There was no hint of deception in his voice that Jadie could make out—he meant it. And he was probably right too, Jadie knew. But she couldn’t stop; Violet needed her. “Guess we’ll see soon enough.”

“We certainly will,” said Gerard. “Tonight, in fact.”  Jadie couldn’t stop her mouth from dropping, and Gerard’s eyes twinkled. “Yes, Jadie. Tonight. In and out by sunrise. Exactly at sunrise, in fact, because that’s when a silver caravan passes by the Renatta mansion, and I figure I might as well nab that too while I’m here. What, were you thinking I’d need a few days to get ready?” He turned towards the door, but then looked back at her and shot a grin over his shoulder. “Sorry, Jadie, but that’s the difference between a talented amateur and a pro like me. So if you’re really dead-set on trying this, then… well, good luck. You’ll need it.”

When he reached for the door, Jadie grasped at her vines and sent them at him in pure desperation—but his eyes flicked down to the reflective brass of the doorknob, where the vines were dimly reflected, and he easily spun to the side and dodged. “Really?” he asked as Jadie’s vines retracted. “That’s it?” And then he slipped out the door before Jadie could attack him again.

Jadie waited until his footsteps had faded away before slamming the door shut and locking it. Then she sank to the ground, putting her head in her hands. “Now what?” she muttered. “I have to get into the vault tonight? I don’t have supplies, tools, help from Westwick—what am I supposed to do?” She thought of her mission, the crucial job she had to do in Warus. Maybe, she thought, she really should give up and lie low until it was time for her to leave.

But then she thought of Violet, with her red cheeks and tear-streaked face. And she thought of Gerard’s smug face, his glib dismissal that anything mattered besides seizing goods from whoever had them. She couldn’t let that stand. She had to do something.

After all, if she did otherwise—if she took from others but did nothing to help those who needed it—was she really all that much better than Gerard?

After a long moment, she pushed herself to her feet, then went to a counter and spread out the plans stashed in her pack. If she had to get into the vault tonight, then she would. That was all there was to it.

A Most Unusual Applicant, Part One

A Most Unusual Applicant
A Story by Aaron Canton
-Part One-

There came a time in every thief’s life, thought Jadie Rivers, when one was forced to do some unsavory things. The path of a successful burglar wasn’t all about snatching gold-laden purses under the moonlit night or scaling thousand-foot walls in pursuit of treasures that would put a dragon’s hoard to shame. No, there was plenty of unpleasant work as well, some almost bad enough to make Jadie regret the day she joined the Westwick Thieves Guild.

But it was necessary, so—with a small sigh—she approached the nearby clerk and checked in for the inspection that was her gateway to honest employment.

Jadie’s shoulders slumped as she returned to the cluster of hopefuls at the other side of the courtyard. She had nothing against legitimate income in principle, particularly when rich people left theirs in pockets, bags, or treasure chests with easily picked locks, but real work wasn’t her style. She’d much rather sneak into a noble’s estate and make off with their gold, then enjoy sumptuous luxury to her heart’s content without the tedious effort needed to procure it honestly. As a result, this mission’s requirement that she obtain a day job and actually perform its duties—show up on time, report to superiors, even file paperwork—was dragging her down.

Still, she thought, it was necessary, and the end would be worth it. The Westwick Thieves Guild wasn’t just about enriching its members; in exchange for the Raleigh government permitting Westwick to exist tax-free and the guild to exist at all, the thieves also identified and eliminated threats to the nation the government couldn’t deal with openly. During her last mission in Atalatha, Jadie had uncovered evidence elements in the nation of Warus were involved in a conspiracy against Raleigh, and members of the diplomatic missions to Warus were likely involved. Now it was her duty to do whatever it took to unearth those conspirators, stop the plot, and maybe even save the country…even if that meant taking a job with the diplomats in order to get close to the traitors.

Of course, to do any of that, she had to get the job. Having broken into the records office and checked up on the other applications, Jadie knew only one of the other candidates stood a chance against her impeccably forged credentials: Taryn Petrin, the arrogant son of a minor baron in the Raleigh hinterlands whose affairs were already the talk of Viscosa’s seedier bars. He was exactly the kind of person she loved to rip off, and despite her grumpiness with her current assignment, she would enjoy getting him out of the way.

She hid a smile as she meandered between the groups of applicants and drifted towards Taryn, who was chuckling at two other candidates. “Don’t feel bad when you don’t get the post,” he said. “My dad’s pulling a few strings. Yeah, needed to get out of town for a bit ‘cause of this seamstress, and…well, it was just a fling, but now she’s raising this whole stink about it.” He waved a hand airily. “Such a bother.”

Jadie rolled her eyes as she leaned against a tall tree on one edge of the courtyard. It was bigger than the others and had longer roots, some of which stretched under the cobblestones and even broke through them in a few places. Hey, she thought to the tree. That guy is a total jerk. Wouldn’t it be fun if you lifted that root a little bit and tripped him into that puddle?

She grinned at the tree’s resistance. Her magic, slight though it was, let her encourage plants to help her in subtle ways. She was best with flowers and vines—trees were stubborn and slow to move—but this particular tree was already bursting through cobblestones, so Jadie figured it had energy to spare. Come on. I’d really appreciate it, and he definitely deserves it. She giggled to herself and tried to push that laugh towards the tree along with her thoughts. What d’ya say?

            Nothing happened for a moment, but then the tree seemed to shudder. Seconds later, Taryn yelped as a root tangled between his feet, and he tripped into a muddy puddle.

Jadie rushed forward and helped lift the sputtering heir while the others laughed. Her sleeve rippled as she moved, and a vine she kept coiled around her arms darted out from under her sleeve and flicked a handful of swamproot seeds at him before slipping back under cover. She directed the seeds to open just as her vine let them go, and Taryn had barely regained his balance and snapped that his father would punish whoever had tripped him before the odor from the now-open seeds drifted over his body. His threats cut off with an agonized cough, and Jadie suppressed her smile.

The clerk brought the other members of the Warus diplomatic mission into the courtyard, and Jadie couldn’t stop herself from grinning anymore. The candidates stood in their finest outfits—Jadie had a massive flower in her hair she’d brought from her personal garden in Westwick, not to mention a gorgeous outfit she’d bought from Viscosa’s finest clothier the previous day—except for Taryn, who was now soaked with mud and stank of swamproot. The members of the diplomatic mission stared at Taryn, then swiveled to face the clerk, who quickly made a placating gesture as if the heir was no longer under consideration. Everything, Jadie thought, was going according to plan.

A cursory inspection followed, but Jadie could tell the decision had already been made, and soon enough, the clerk moved in front of the applicants and raised a hand. “We have made our decision,” he said. “The applicant who will join our mission is…”

Jadie tensed, though most of her thoughts were concentrated on whether she’d have time to spend a few more days at the Stately Lady—Raleigh’s best, and most expensive, inn—before leaving. She’d made a lot of money in Atalatha, after all, and she wasn’t the type to leave it sitting around in her guild account.

“Jasper Harsten,” finished the clerk. “The rest of you are dismissed.”

It took Jadie a moment to realize what the man had said, at which point she couldn’t help swiveling to gape at Jasper—a slim man with chalky skin and thinning hair—in disbelief. Jasper’s application had been unremarkable; he’d served on a few missions in minor capacities, but never to a nation as chaotic and unstable as Warus. He was unqualified for the job, and—

And he wasn’t reacting. Jadie realized Jasper didn’t look excited that he’d gotten the position, or disappointed that he’d been forced into a job he didn’t want, or even annoyed that the process had taken so long. He looked bored. Like he’d expected it.

His appointment had been fixed.

Jadie remained frozen for a few seconds longer but, just before the clerk again told her she was dismissed, turned on her heel and walked away with a big smile on her face. Someone, either the Warus conspiracy or other corrupt officials, thought they could mess with Raleigh’s diplomatic efforts.

And Jadie Rivers, world-class thief, would show them just how wrong they were.

Art – Jadie Rivers by June Jenssen Part Two

Two weeks ago, we were lucky enough to show you the beginning stages of another of June Jenssen’s pieces of art.  We commissioned her to work on Aaron Canton’s character, Jadie Rivers.  It’s been a very interesting thing, having two people who I’ve never met (beyond speaking to on the internet) come together to make a character and a visual element that’s so evocative.  I’m proud of the relationships we’ve forged, and I think the product of that relationship is magnificent to behold.

Picking right up where we left off, this is June’s follow-up to the third sketch she made.

Jadie 4

As you can see, there are more highlights on the picture, and you can see the textures a little better.  If it was even possible, it’s beginning to look like an even more complete piece.

Jadie 5

Even more highlights help to make Jadie’s top and hair pop a little bit more.  At this point, June told me she had to let it “simmer” while she figured out what came next for the piece.  If she had told me it was done, I wouldn’t have had any problems with it.

Jadie Finished

This was the final version of the piece that June had worked on.  She managed to put together a beautiful portrait of a character that I hope to see a lot more of in the Tellest universe.  Jadie Rivers is an awesome addition to our literary world, and I hope Aaron Canton is proud of her inclusion!

Art – Jadie Rivers by June Jenssen

A few months back, we were given the awesome opportunity to expand the world of Tellest by inviting Aaron Canton to create a new character and a new experience.  While he had already done a small piece for us in Practical Warrior, it was A Most Unusual Patriot that had us absolutely hooked.  And the biggest reason for that was his amazing character, Jadie Rivers.

We had a chance to do something cool with Aaron’s character recently—something we haven’t done with any of the other non-Michael DeAngelo storytellers.  We worked with June Jenssen again to bring Jadie to life, and she did, in a big way.

Jadie 1

As we’re ought to do, we started with a sketch of the character.  I love seeing these pieces come together, and Jadie was already very lively even in this form.

Jadie 2

After that first phase, a little color went a long way.  We knew that we wanted Jadie to be a bit on the younger side.  She’s got an innocence that the harsh world of Tellest hasn’t really stolen away yet, though she knows that there are some inevitable truths to it.

Here, we can see the flowers on her bodice and in her hair, and the vines that are creeping out from her sleeve.  Jadie is able to coerce plants to do her bidding—more a plea than a demand.

Jadie 3

As we worked our way toward the final piece, you could start to see the character brightened and more detailed.  June took careful time to make sure that we ended up with exactly what we wanted, and even these first few steps made us sure we were going to be fine.

Stay tuned for the second of the two parts in the weeks to come!

A Most Unusual Patriot – Part Two

Last week, we introduced you to a new story set in the world of Tellest.  Aaron Canton had worked with us before (and if I have it my way, he’ll continue to work with us well into the future!), and we were happy to have his personal touch on Tellest once more.

A Most Unusual Patriot introduces a new hero to the world.  Jadie Rivers is a young, ambitious member of Westwick’s thieves guild, and after a strange bit of diplomacy, a treaty is signed with the gnolls of Warus – the perfect opportunity for her to investigate and put her skills to “good” use.  But when she stumbles upon Hwarl, a gnoll gladiator, she uncovers a more sinister plot.

Read on and enjoy the second part of Aaron Canton’s A Most Unusual Patriot!

A Most Unusual Patriot
-Part Two-

 

 

The Coliseum was one of the star attractions of Atalatha.  A towering structure of marble and granite, it was easily the largest building in the city, and it could be seen from almost any road within Atalatha’s walls.  The fights were attended by large crowds of people, and those people had equally large amounts of money for gambling, concessions, and souvenirs.  Pickpocketing her way through the Coliseum was definitely on Jadie’s list of things to do before returning to Westwick.

But not yet.  At the moment, she had a tunic to return and a conspiracy to deal with.  She just had to infiltrate Hwarl’s room, she thought, and uncover his weapons cache.  Then she could expose the conspiracy and save the day.  There would be time to loot the city later.

Truth be told, she was slightly annoyed that Lady Trefaer had never showed up at the treaty party the previous night.  It surely wouldn’t be held against her that the rumors of her appearance were inaccurate, but the very idea of returning to her teachers without completing the mission rankled.  Still, she was going to stop Hwarl and his conspiracy.  That would hopefully outweigh her failure.

The gladiator quarters, a four-story building with dozens of rooms and a courtyard for sparring, were located two blocks from the Coliseum.  Jadie reached it just before lunch, having checked to make sure that Hwarl was scheduled for a duel at that time, and made her way to his room.  She reached his room and examined the lock for a moment before knocking to make sure nobody was home.  Her right hand was already fingering the silver lockpick in her pocket.

But footsteps sounded from within the room, and Jadie only just managed to fix a smile to her face before the door swung open to reveal a massive human.  She saw two more guards in the room behind him, sitting and eating sandwiches, but the man at the door moved to block Jadie’s vision.  “You’re not Stebbins or Rawlston.”

Who?  Jadie passed Hwarl’s tunic to the man.  “Laundry for Mr.  Hwarl.  Is he in?”

“He’s dueling,” said the man and began to shut the door.

“Sorry to disturb you!” Jadie managed to chirp just before it closed.  “Nobody told me he had people here.  I was just going to leave the tunic on the door—”

“We’re new,” snapped the man.  “And we’re just here for the week, so if you have any more laundry you won’t need to worry about ‘disturbing’ us after that.”

New?  He must have got them while he’s waiting for the deal to go through, thought Jadie.  “Actually,” she began, but the door had already shut in her face.

She stared at it for a moment.  Okay.  He has guards in his room, and it sounds like more are guarding him personally.  If I want to search the room, I’ll have to fight them.  She paused.  That could be a problem.

Jadie wasn’t inexperienced in combat, at least as far as thieves went.  She knew about fighting like a thief fought—a push at the top of a ridge, a knife in the back from the shadows, a few drops of poison into an unguarded chalice of wine.  But if she broke into Hwarl’s room, she’d be stuck in a heads-up fight against several brutes.  She wasn’t likely to win that one, magic or no.

Sighing, she left the gladiator quarters and walked to a local park.  Sitting with her hands nestled in the flowers, nudging them into pleasing patterns as she rested, she went over her options.  Fighting all his guards wasn’t an option.  Nor was going to the authorities.  She wasn’t that well-versed in politics, but even she knew the government would be reluctant to arrest a gnoll from Warus the day after signing a treaty with one of the most influential gnoll packs in Warus.  She’d need hard evidence before risking that, and she didn’t have it.

But she still had to do something.  The entire reason Westwick was permitted to exist without paying taxes to the crown was that, as her teachers had drilled in to her, the Thieves Guild had another duty besides simply enriching themselves and their community.  It was their job to deal with threats to Raleigh, its cities, and its people that couldn’t be handled by the authorities.  If she failed, she would let down her whole community—and the Thieves Guild, which had permitted her to join their ranks at an unusually young age, proclaiming that they believed she would be an asset to their team.  Giving up was not an option.

I could try to surprise Hwarl and his bodyguards in an alley, but what if Hwarl just goes straight between the Coliseum and his quarters for the next week? thought Jadie.  Or I could try to pick off his bodyguards.  But then he’d just get more, and he’d be alerted.  I need some way to isolate him from them.  Does he go anywhere without them?

And then it hit her.  The Coliseum.  Duels are one-on-one.  He can’t bring his bodyguards into the arena with him.  And I could sign up, challenge him…

She’d still have to beat a trained fighter in a fair fight, but at least she wouldn’t be outnumbered.  And she did have some advantages.  He might underestimate her, for one.  She had magic, for another.

A rose curled around her hand, the thorns nestling between her fingers like a gauntlet, and she allowed herself to smile.  She could make it work, she thought.  Do her Guild proud, and her community too.

And score a great victory while she was at it.