The Beggar King excerpt

Excerpt, The Beggar King

  • Published in A Liaden Universe Constellation volume II, and also in Necessary Evils: Adventures in the Liaden Universe Book 11
  • See The Books (and other stories)


"I wonder, my son," his mother said, selecting a fruit from the bowl between them, "if you might dispatch a small errand for me at the Low Port."

Daav blinked, and sent her a look, half-expecting to meet more mischief in her face, though her voice had been serious enough. The glance he met was likewise serious.

"At the Low Port, ma'am?" he repeated, neutrally.


The riddle at Low Port: "Where do the pilots who visit Ilgay's Hell and Janif's Game Palace go after they depart the pleasures of the house?"

Daav considered her. "Surely, to their rightful berths, or to their clanhouses, the guildhall, or to the arms of a lover."

"But if...their lovers weep for their absence, and the guild assesses a fine against their licenses, and still they do not reappear?"

"How many?"

"Eight, over the last two relumma," she replied. "The full particulars are on the computer in the study, if you find yourself interested."

"Interested," he allowed...Pilots...pilots were the proper care of Korval, after all.


...'round the corner came a large, even an opulent, vehicle, ostentatiously fan-lifted above the narrow street, its mirror finish reflecting sky, worn faces, and old boots in egalitarian elegance. Daav drifted toward the back of the crowd, ears and eyes alert. Words moved around him, heard in snatches: "New boss . . . ," "free food, sometimes!" and "Possibly Juntavas, but work is work--"....

The car stopped and two of the traveling security force moved forward to open the door. A man alighted, moving with pilot grace, his body language eloquently alert. The clothes he uneasily wore were those of a prosperous merchant of no discernible clan. His copper-colored hair was slightly shorter than current fashion, and brushed severely back from a pale, round face. His eyes were very blue. That electric blue glance swept the crowd and he bowed an encompassing bow, saying a few words to those closest. His hands moved subtly, coins and perhaps vouchers appearing between his fingers, vanishing as quickly, and the word moved through the crowd: "Day work tomorrow . . ."


"What's your name, Trouble?"

"Daav," he said shortly, feeling the curiosity rise above his irritation. "And your own?"

"Clarence...."A bunch of pilots going missing on this port. That's my concern."


"Bring the pilot's winnings to Zara Chance's table," she commanded.

"It shall be done at once!" The croupier swore, and turned to give orders to certain of the house's other employees, who were standing nearby.

Zara Chance wove her fingers with Daav's and led him away from the wheel...