the smuggler’s bible


He watches as they come through the city in high spirits, waving their spears and boasting. The crowd shuffles behind them into the tournament ground with a great deal of heavy sighing and melancholy expressions.

Palomides spits into the dirt. “You the guys?” he says.

“We’re the guys.”


Two on one is a chump’s game. Palomides kills Helake on the first pass before the brothers are ready. This leaves him in the less complicated (but arguably tougher) position of having a fair fight against a man who hates him. Thus and so, they start in on the sword work.


They waste a whole day slugging each other senseless before the other guy taps out.

“Fine,” he says, panting. “Fine. You can do the quest. Whatever.”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought.”

“Hey, you’re pretty good, though. Lemme guess, you must be, uhm, Lancelot? Maybe Lamorak.” He starts ticking off fingers. “Or else—wait, who’s the other one?”

“I’m Palomides,” Palomides says.

“Oh, okay. Cool. I mean you’re up there too, you know.”

“Thanks.” They stand awkwardly. “Would you mind telling the murderers that I’m here to fight them?”

“Who?” Helius and Helake say in unison. “You’re sure it wasn’t Lancelot?”


Everyone at the castle is friendly and they serve up a killer lunch. They tell Palomides he’s welcome to stay, but—hey, man, fair warning—the vibe can get sort of melancholy. And, yeah, once they bring it up he starts to notice all of the weeping and dolorous behaviors.

He asks if anything in particular need doing, and they tell him all about it.

“Don’t worry,” Palomides says on his way out the door, intending to drop a double-weight sack of revenge on somebody’s porch, “I’m like the fourth best guy in the world at this kind of stuff.”


Palomides is in the scrum of the tournament melee when he sees someone he recognizes. He has an instant to register the face, then spends the next few moments contemplating the rotating horizon and the air whistling in his ears. When he crawls out of the mud, it dawns on him—this kid’s got a grudge.

He stomps back through the crowd and shouts, “Try that again. I dare you.”

It seems like maybe the kid says something back. But if he does, Palomides can’t hear it over the ringing sound of a sword beating his helmet like a gong.