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Authors: Robyn Wideman

Siege of pailtar

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Siege of Pailtar

 

STONEBLOOD SAGA: BOOK THREE

 

Copyright © 2015 Robyn Wideman

 

Published November 2015

 

Parts of this story originally published as THE THIEF OF PAILTAR

 

 

1

Balta

 

“DON’T GET SAND UP YOUR BUTT!”

Nathan smiled as Ava’s thought came into his mind. Sitting on the beach below Aunt Avera’s house, Nathan had his feet in the water. He enjoyed the feel of the waves caressing his legs.

“Shouldn’t you be studying?” Nathan asked.

“I’m just making salve today. The Darcarion attacks put a good dent in our stocks. I don’t have to concentrate to grind pauro root.”

Ever since they had returned to Balta with the missing tomes of the Red Order, Nathan and Ava had been able to communicate via thoughts. They had been working on it for months, but it had taken the stimulus of Nathan almost dying to strengthen the connection to the point where they could send each other thoughts. Before, Nathan had needed to work hard to send a thought, or an emotion, to Ava. Now he sent them without even thinking about it. Sometimes she received thoughts that he hadn’t intended for her to hear. They were getting used to their new connection, but it was difficult.

“Are you going to the blacksmith shop today?”

Ever since they had found out about the plot by the king of Morthon to use the secrets of  the Red Order’s tomes to attack Balta, the king had ordered every blacksmith in town to work on armor and weapons. Breon, the owner of the smith shop that Nathan rented, had requested Nathan help make weapons. Nathan had been avoiding the task. “Maybe tomorrow, I’m happy to sit here and enjoy the beach.”

“You know they’re going to attack again, Nathan. It’s better to be prepared.”

“You don’t know that, Ava,” replied Nathan. “Perhaps they won’t attack now that we have the tomes.” Even though Ava didn’t say it, Nathan could sense her disapproval. She thought Nathan was being selfish. Maybe he was, but Nathan wanted time without fighting, even if it was for only a few short days. Ever since the death of his parents Nathan had been fighting and chasing down enemies. He missed the old childhood days of playing in the woods outside of their old village, Elderwood.

“I miss it too, Nathan, but this is our new home. We can’t let anything happen here. We aren’t little kids anymore. We need to do our part to help.”

Nathan sighed. Ava was right. “Okay, I’ll head over there now and see what they are making. I’m sure Breon’s apprentices would appreciate a break.”

“Good, besides you’ve been getting soft. You need the exercise.”

“We’ve only been back two weeks. I don’t think that is long enough of a holiday for one’s muscles to disappear,” communicated Nathan in protest.

“Whatever you say, fat boy,” replied Ava.

Nathan laughed. He was still growing into his northerner body, yet was bigger and stronger than most full-grown men in Balta. Only Ava would dare call him “fat boy” and despite the fact he wasn’t carrying any extra weight at all, he would concede that he could use the good strenuous workout that the blacksmith shop would provide. Fat boy indeed!

“I still can’t believe you got me a spot on the ship,” said Sharon.

“Why not?” asked Quinton. “You’ve been training hard. You’re better than me with your blades, and it’s not like we don’t have women on our ships.”

Sharon snorted, “You have woman cooks, healers, and two mages. There are no women warriors in Balta’s navy. And being better than a mage at swords play is not a very good recommendation.”

“Well, there haven’t been many female warriors applying to theNavy. Actually there aren’t many female warriors in Balta so the fact they aren’t part of the Navy isn’t a surprise. Besides, I’m the nephew of the king and you’re a heroine of Balta, and you know darned well you have beaten half of the crew in sparring so far. We’ve earned the right to be here.”

Sharon could not argue with that. She did feel like she had earned the right to join Quinton. She’d worked hard every day on her training, and she had beaten more than half of her training partners. Only the captain and his first mate were too skilled for her. But she was gaining on them. Being able to train every day they were at sea had been very helpful.

Since they had returned to Balta with the tomes, King Verbon had ordered the royal fleet to sea. Any Darcarion war vessels were to be attacked. Quinton’s father was in charge of the royal fleet and assigned Quinton and Sharon to the Lady Hawk, one of the fleet’s newest ships. Sharon did not know much about ships, but Quinton had assured her that is was a fine vessel. In fact, it was one of the fastest in the fleet.

“I wonder how long we’re going to patrol? We haven’t seen any signs of Darcarion ships the whole time we have been at sea,” said Ava.

“I’m not sure,” said Quinton. “But we have supplies for another two weeks before we have to head to shore. Unless there is an attack from Morthon we will stay at sea.”

“I doubt there’ll be any attacks. Now that Balthazar has the tomes, they’ll be afraid to attack.”

Quinton didn’t share Sharon’s optimism; King Ganus had attacked before without the tomes. He was determined to rule the entire continent. He wouldn’t stop until he succeeded. The question was where his next attack would come from. Quinton chose not to share his concerns with Sharon. Worrying about it wouldn’t help anything. “I hope you’re right.”

 

 

2

Pailtar

KIANA SLINKED AND SNEAKED her way across the dusty brick wall. She made her way down the alley, blending into the shadows. The target was a middle aged portly woman walking down the adjacent street. Kiana knew she had plenty of time to make it to the end of the alley before the woman would walk by.

The chubby woman walked slowly, stopping at each vendor. She would inspect the fruit at each vendor’s stall. She haggled over prices, and then moved on to the next vendor without buying anything. The woman moved around and shopped lots but bought nothing.

Kiana did not care why the fat lady was so fussy. All she knew was that the woman carried a small purse hidden in her dress. Kiana's assignment was to get that purse. Kiana planned to make her move when the fussy female walked past the end of this alley. If she noticed Kiana, the alley would give Kiana a quick escape route. The alley led onto a busy street where she would easily be able to blend into the crowd. Then she could completely disappear into the darker alleys of the docks district.

At the edge of the dark alley, Kiana stood against the golden brown and red brick building. She knew that her own attire, a simple brown pair of leggings with a faded mustard shirt, blended into the shadows of the building. Her brunette hair, tied into a ponytail, and sun bronzed face conveniently blended well with the natural colors of Pailtar.  For all intents and purposes she was almost invisible. When she stepped out onto the busy market street she would be visible, but unnoticed. Young, poorly dressed girls did not warrant anyone’s attention in Pailtar. In Pailtar, a port city on the northern coast of Mithbea, the odds were that a young girl walking alone was someone’s slave. If not a slave, a penniless pauper, or even one of the girls selling themselves to the old men willing to pay for a woman’s touch.

Kiana was not a normal child of Pailtar. She didn’t fit any of the normal descriptions attributed to the youth of the city. She lived at home, with both of her parents. She had spent the last five years attending school, had all her teeth and did not need to beg for food. 

On the other hand she was a thief, or rather was working to become a thief.

The Thieves’ Guild ran the streets of Pailtar. If you wanted to pick pockets, run cons, or be a cat burglar you either belonged to the Guild, or paid them for the privilege of stealing in their city. Kiana wanted to be part of the Guild.

Today was her testing day. She would be graded on a series of missions and tests. She didn’t know who was grading her or what she was being graded on, other than the letter had been specific about the fat blonde woman in the burgundy dress who liked to walk through the markets before noon on Sundays, and that she kept a small wallet on her.

Kiana watched the crowds mingle and move. She spotted the now familiar burgundy dress. Her target was moving closer by the minute. Soon she would be close enough to the alley for Kiana to make her move. Kiana had watched the woman from a distance for a while now. When the woman talked to vendors, she had a habit of holding her right hand slightly above her right hip. The position was not a natural one. She was not resting her hand on her hip, her hand was too high. No the woman was instinctively keeping her hand over her hidden pocket and the small purse inside.

Kiana smiled to herself. The woman was smart and careful. In normal circumstances this would be enough to keep from being robbed. Most pickpockets preferred easy targets, the men and woman who kept loose coins in easily accessed pockets, wallets tucked into vests and pants.

As the woman moved nearer, Kiana was able to get a closer look. So far she had only observed the woman at a safe distance. The shadows of the alley allowed her to take her time and closely study her intended mark before making her move. Now that the woman was closer, Kiana could see the seams of the subtly hidden pocket, sitting below a section of frilly material around the woman’s expansive midriff. The slight bump of the hidden wallet could be seen by the small shadows it created as the woman moved.

At first glance this seemed an easy target. While the woman kept her hand over the hidden pocket it was still in an easy position to slide one’s hand into. But something about the situation was wrong. Something about the way the portly woman walked was tingling Kiana’s senses.

Kiana frowned, her brow furrowed as she realized what the problem was. She sighed softly to herself. She should have known the Thieves’ Guild tests would not be that simple.

The problem was the way the woman moved. Not clunky, or heavily like you would expect a middle aged overweight woman to walk. No, the woman walked gracefully, like a dancer. Her weight shifted from foot to foot in perfect balance with no wasted motion.

Now that Kiana knew something was amiss, she studied the woman with extreme caution. Was she supposed to rob the woman? Or was the test about knowing when something about the mark was off. As the woman turned towards the nearby clothing vendor, Kiana could see that she had been right. Not only was something amiss about the woman. A whole lot was amiss!

First and foremost, when the “woman” turned, Kiana was able to see an Adam’s apple. The fat woman was a man! The blonde wig, makeup and extra padding in all the right places were an excellent disguise, but there are certain parts of the male anatomy that are hard to disguise. The prominent bump in a man’s larynx was a feature unique to the male population.

Now that Kiana knew the intended victim was a man, she had a choice. She could continue on, knowing the situation was likely a trap. Or she could quit, knowing that the risk had exceeded the possible return. She did not have to worry about failing the test; after all she was a legacy. Her mother had been a member of the Thieves’ Guild so Kiana was guaranteed entry into the Guild. The test would simply help to determine her areas of study and what level courses they would initially place her in.

Kiana though, cared little for what the test results would be. She had set out to pick this woman’s … person’s pocket and she did not like being thwarted. Kiana was as stubborn as a mule with a burr under its blanket.

Having decided to continue on, Kiana gave the market streets another look. Now that she knew the victim, or mark as they were called in guild talk, was an impostor she needed to know if the man was acting alone. Her eyes scanned the market streets, taking in all the details. Her mind worked like a library, cataloging each new detail, and processing it while she kept scanning. A warning went off in her head. She turned back to take another look at the man across the street, who was supposedly buying fruit from a vendor. The problem was the man wasn’t looking at the fruit; he was keeping an eye on the fake woman across the street. The man was far enough away that Kiana was not worried. If she succeeded in grabbing the purse she would be back in the alley before the man could react. If she wasn’t back in the alley before the man could cross the street, it meant she was already caught. Kiana kept scanning. A shadow across the top of the building directly across from her had a weird bump. Something or someone was on the edge of the roof watching the street.

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