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
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.