The Charlatan

The Charlatan

Status: In Progress

Genre: Young Adult

Houses:

Details

Status: In Progress

Genre: Young Adult

Houses:

Summary

It is illegal to indict a courier for the contents of any message they deliver. When the ruler of the wealthiest nation on earth receives a cryptic note marked by "The Charlatan," he learns that all of the gold he spent decades stockpiling is worthless. The richest country in the world becomes bankrupt overnight. Fearing public riots, surrounding countries declaring war, and with no clues revealing the identity of the Charlatan, the king breaks the law.

Our courier is suddenly an outlaw in her own country and is forced to run. Desperate to clear her name, she vows to find the Charlatan and bring them to justice. A simple task becomes complicated when the world is filled with liars and cheats, and the separating line between fair and unthinkable is gray.
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Summary

It is illegal to indict a courier for the contents of any message they deliver. When the ruler of the wealthiest nation on earth receives a cryptic note marked by "The Charlatan," he learns that all of the gold he spent decades stockpiling is worthless. The richest country in the world becomes bankrupt overnight. Fearing public riots, surrounding countries declaring war, and with no clues revealing the identity of the Charlatan, the king breaks the law.

Our courier is suddenly an outlaw in her own country and is forced to run. Desperate to clear her name, she vows to find the Charlatan and bring them to justice. A simple task becomes complicated when the world is filled with liars and cheats, and the separating line between fair and unthinkable is gray.

Chapter1 (v.1) - Shooting the Messenger

Author Chapter Note

Dedicated to all my fellow gals who swear like sailors.

This project is an exercise not only in writing, but also in dedication. I have loads of ideas I want to spill out, but no one will listen unless I tell them! I may have a slow pace, but if I can create something I'm proud of, I think it is worth it.

Enjoy yourselves,

<3 Tally

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: June 01, 2017

Reads: 45

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Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: June 01, 2017

A A A

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The bar hummed with nervous morning banter. The barkeeper poured round after round of cheap spirits while the morning crowd continued to chatter. On any other day, the crowd may have talked of recent family dramas, the new shop opening in the Vendor District, or their swiftly growing bank tabs. But the Citadel gossip today was on one single thing: the King’s Deal.

“How much gold do you reckon we managed to lift from them this time?”

“Do you think the King will build another hydro plant with it?”

Clara slipped past the excited bar crowd to use the latrine. She was relieved, in more ways than one, to finally sit down in a familiar place. As a courier, her work saw her travel to many beautiful and exciting places, but there was something regular about the capital that she missed when she was away. The excited chatter, new businesses frantically advertising their wares, decade-old businesses ringing up customer after customer, and the buzz of couriers weaving in and out of it all were soothing constants. They were sounds of home.

She had barely been back in the city a minute when whispers of the “King’s Deal” reached Clara’s ears. The monarch of the country of Velt spoiled his citizens with wealth beyond that of any ruling generation before him. At the center of the continent, a wealthy and rapidly growing country like Velt held power over anyone who wanted to do anything profitable. Velt was massive. Rich. Every move the King made to build wider or taller was an instant success. It went without saying that Velt would continue to prosper.

And yet, it was being said.

As she tidied herself and washed her face in the water basin, Clara’s thoughts returned to work. Her curiosity might soon be relieved, because she was on her way directly to the King. After that, home. Clara ached all over, and the cool air of the early morning was starting to seep through to her bones.

As she made her way past the chattering crowd again, a familiar voice pierced the babble.

“Clara! In early from your latest assignment? I’ve a bone to pick with you over our last round of Whistler’s Trail, what say you to a morning bout?” The barkeeper’s assistant, a young lady with sparkling eyes whistled over to Clara enthusiastically. She chuckled at Clara’s crude retort in response. “Then yeh better come by for moonrise. On me!” She waved after Clara theatrically before tending to a rather sour-looking gentleman who had just walked in. Charlie was a former classmate of Clara’s who had dropped out of courier training to become a barkeeper. You are stronger than I, Clara. I have not the heart to curse out those that would take advantage of me out in the wilds. The warmth and safety of the Citadel are where I’ll lay my strengths. Clara was fond of Charlie’s warm smile (and tolerance for her foul mouth), but was also a little bitter that Charlie had the privilege of watching the Citadel day by day. Clara decided that she would gladly come by at moonrise for updates on the latest capital gossip, and to contribute complaints about her own adventures.

But at this moment, Clara carried a message of critical importance for the country’s imperial monarch. What the message contained exactly, Clara didn’t know. She never did. Opening or tampering with a message was a violation of the courier creed, and equivalent to high treason. Especially if said message was for the highest authority of the richest country on the earth. Clara’s thoughts swam with scenes of her plunging into mountainous piles of gold after she completed such a significant delivery. All her years of scurrying across the continent on courier duties were going to pay off. In shining gold. She would be free to do what she’d like. She could spend hours upon hours defeating Charlie in unlimited rounds of Whistler’s Trail. She could tip generously. She could probably even retire young. Ideas bounced around her head as she made her way to the center of the Citadel.

Clara approached the towering steel structure that was the King’s dwellings. It stood magnificently at the center of the capital city. With its shiny veneer and jagged edges, it had always looked harshly industrial to her; even more so when it was encircled by billows of colourful gardens and greenery. The nation’s flag waved in the breeze at the very top of the metallic estate: a proud and regal gold. Clara climbed a flight of steps to the entrance, where she was admitted by the doorkeeper for a private audience with the King.

Clara waited patiently outside a heavily-guarded door. The interior of the massive building was just as shiny as the outside, with jewels and hand-carved marble statues littering the halls more than even the dust. If Clara could own even a broken tile from one of the latrines she passed by, she would never have to think about jobs or wages for the rest of her life. The door opened suddenly, and Clara jerked out of her daydreaming at once.

“Ah! A courier!” The King was a bright-eyed man and spoke in an almost singsong tenor. “Must be with word from Genesis about their half of our deal. Come,” he beckoned Clara forward, “Let us take a look.” He extended his hand to receive the letter Clara had retrieved from her coat. He inspected it for the courier seal and, deeming it authentic, he opened it. The other occupants of the room, two important-looking foreigners and the handful of guards who personally escorted the King everywhere, shuffled closer. Minutes passed in silence while the King read through what looked like a very professionally-inked note. “Who would handwrite their note in this day and age? Do they not have access to a printing press?” One of the guards mumbled. The more time passed, the more Clara felt that the King’s smug expression greyed. A bad feeling crept up on her. After a while, the King motioned to his guards to close the door to the room they were in. Trouble. At the click of the door being locked, the King looked up at Clara again.

“Who gave you this message?” His tone was colder than before.

“This delivery was assigned to me anonymously. I am not privy to such information.” The King should know that couriers operated with that kind of security. After all, the courier communication network was founded in the Citadel on his order. What was this really about?

“If you think this humorous, I can arrest you for high treason immediately.”

Clara was taken aback. High treason? “What are you talking about? I did not tamper with this message. Give it to the constabulary to check for signs of forgery; I assure you, they will find nothing.”

The King looked down at the note again and began to read aloud. “To the highest monarch of Velt, King Arc Jin. It is with great pleasure that I inform you that you have been mightily swindled. The ‘Deal’ that you foolishly gambled your entire country’s gold on was a bluff entirely formulated by me. Your moronic greed and your country’s grossly misplaced trust in their monarch have ruled in my favor. I now own all of Velt’s wealth and, by the time of your reading, all the rest of the world will know that you are bankrupt. Word will reach your streets soon after. The gold you have spent decades stockpiling is now worthless. You are ruined. Good day, The Charlatan.”

It looked like the King’s Deal was not another radical miracle of wealth. The richest and most powerful country in the world had nothing left? When the citizens found out...

“Riots. Impeachment. War.” The King finished Clara’s thoughts. “Do you know what this means for you, courier?” He stood, and Clara swore she saw a sly shadow flash across his face as he straightened. The ash that had painted his face only minutes before had vanished. His singsong tenor returned as he spoke. “I, King Arc Jin of the proud country of Velt, charge this courier with high treason, theft, and grand extortion. Punishable by death.”

What kind of blazing inferno of a job had she gotten herself into? Death? The word rung in her ears and Clara was silent a moment as she repeated it in her head. Then her ears grew hot, and she dropped all pretense and formality. “Are you a moron?!” she exploded. More than one occupant of the room jumped. Clara tried to recover her composure, but her tongue continued to spit fire. “Couriers act on neutral ground. You cannot detain or punish me for the contents of any letter I deliver unless I sign my name on the fouled page itself! It’s prohibited! Illegal!”

Her outburst earned her appalled looks from everyone in the room. It was not generally custom to curse at your King. Nor in front of diplomats. Clearing his throat, the King turned to the foreign diplomats standing to his right. “This courier admitted she was the Charlatan, correct? This is her handwriting?” He held up the letter in his hand for emphasis. Clara had to call upon every ounce of self-control to keep from launching herself at her King and earning a real cause for high treason. She glared at the two foreigners with fury burning in her chest. With the absence of a translator, they were either exceptionally fluent in Velte and wanted to butter up the King, or had absolutely no idea what he had just said but still wanted to seem agreeable, because they nodded quickly. “And my loyal subjects? They are also witnesses that would testify to this?” The King now turned to the guards behind Clara. They must also have nodded because the King smiled before turning back to Clara.

“In this room, courier, legality bows to me.”

And with that, Clara fell from esteemed courier to base criminal. The public would wake up the next sunrise to find her name and portrait neatly pasted to every wall of every building in the city, with the news that she alone had destroyed the country. With no gold to hoard anymore, the citizens of the Citadel, of all of Velt even, would likely come finish her themselves before she could even get the chance to hang. Thoughts whirled around her head as she felt herself being dragged across the room. To the door. She was going to the door. And past the door was a maze of a mansion made of impenetrable metal. And past that was the Citadel, protected by several layers of steel walls, the entire constabulary, and citizens loyal to the crown. There would be no escape from whatever hole she would be barred in. It was fight or flight.

Or both.

As the door opened and Clara was dragged across its threshold, Clara grasped the edge of the wall and put all her strength into holding onto it. The guard handling her growled and muttered something under his breath as he adjusted his grip on her. Annoyed by her squirming and refusal to cooperate, he forcefully pushed her through the door. He let go. In that split second he no longer had an iron grip on her arm, Clara launched herself back down the corridor from whence she came.

“Seize her!”

But Clara ran. Past the marble-tiled latrines, out through the rows of rose bushes, and between the myriad of stalls that lined the Vendor District. She sprinted past the shining Central Post Dispatch building, leaving behind her fellow couriers, her job, and the mountain of gold awaiting her. Not that it was worth anything anymore. Clara was an outlaw and Velt was bankrupt.


© Copyright 2017 R. Tally. All rights reserved.

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The Charlatan

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