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This page is about the book Orca. For the House of the Orca, see Orca. For the animal, see Orca (animal).
Orca Cover

Orca Cover

The story of Vlad Taltos and Kiera the Thief unravelling a conspiracy.

See also Meta:Orca (book).

Plot Outline[]

Kiera the Thief gets a message from an unexpected source, her troubled Easterner friend, Vlad Taltos. Vlad, still a fugitive from the Jhereg, has gone to Northport with a young Teckla boy named Savn, who is catatonic after killing the undead Loraan. (see Athyra). Vlad asks Kiera to steal some personal papers from Fyres, an important Orca businessman who has recently died.

One quick and easy (for Kiera, that is) burglary later, Kiera delivers the papers to Vlad. She does this on only one condition; he has to tell her why he wanted them. Vlad reluctantly agrees. It seems Vlad came to Northport in a quest to find a cure for Savn. In order to pay for Savn's treatment, Vlad has offered to get the healer, Hwdf'rjaanci, the deed for her tastelessly-decorated cottage; the elderly woman has been told that she has to move within six months. The problem is that the owners of the land on which the cottage sits have suddenly gone out of business, so simply buying the property proves to be impossible. Investigating the mortgage company has led Vlad to the man at the top of a complex structure of businesses; Fyres. Kiera says, "Ah ha."

Intrigued by Hwdf'rjaanci's plight, and the strange and elaborate opposition that Vlad has encountered in his investigation, Kiera offers to aid Vlad by using her connections in the Jhereg.

Kiera goes to visit Stony, an important member of the Jhereg Organization. Kiera learns that Fyres' businesses are an elaborate web of deception--designed to make him look important and powerful in order to secure bank loans--which he uses to make himself look even more important and powerful in order to get even more loans. Fyres died under somewhat suspicious circumstances on his yacht, but, according to Stony, no one had any interest in murdering him, since it jeopardized all the banks and businesses that have invested in his paper empire.

In fact, Fyres' death has caused numerous banks in Northport to enter a surrender of debts--including Hwdf'rjaanci's--others to institute a Hold of purchase and forced many other local businesses to close down completely.

Vlad learns of an Imperial investigation into Fyres' death, and becomes suspicious when he learns that only a week after the murder, the investigators have determined the cause to be accidental. This seems too fast for such a conclusion under such suspicious circumstances, and so Vlad dons a disguise and goes to investigate the investigators.

After baiting two of the agents in charge of the investigation, Loftis and Daythiefnest, Vlad goes to visit Fyres' daughters, Reega and Endra in order to gauge their reactions to his suspicions about the investigation. Endra's reaction seems fairly normal, but Reega reacts violently, vehemently denying the possibility that the investigation is anything less than thorough. Vlad says, "Ah ha."

After an encounter with two of the investigators, Domm and Timmer, who have been sent to follow him, Vlad realizes that the investigation is indeed a cover-up, and barely escapes with his life.

Using this information, Kiera takes over, and decides to make contact with the investigators herself. After determining that Loftis must be a member of the Special Tasks Group, Kiera uses inside knowledge to convince him that she represents higher-ups in the conspiracy to cover up Fyres' murder. This encounter points more suspicion at Fyres' daughters, but also at the Jhereg, and even at the Empire itself!

Returning to the hideously-decorated cottage, Kiera discovers that Savn has shown signs of improvement, and is talking. His conversation, while limited to the discussion of knives, is an encouraging sign.

Vlad and Kiera decide to try to work different sides of the problem in order to break down the conspriacy. Breaking into one of the out-of-business banks, Kiera retrieves a sack of papers that may contain clues about the financial side of the conspiracy. Vlad pores over this information, and eventually makes a connection from Lady Vonnith, the Bank's pointer, to Lord Shortisle, the Minister of the Treasury for the Empire! Vlad again says, "Ah ha."

Going to confront Vonnith, Kiera confirms that she is definitely involved in the cover-up. Using this as a basis to proceed forward, Kiera breaks into the Orca hall of records in the Imperial Palace in order to draw attention from the conspirators. Somewhat strangely, this action draws attention from Stony, the one Jhereg who had stayed clear of investing in Fyres' ventures in the first place.

During another meeting with Loftis, Vlad accompanies him to a small restaurant. Loftis has grown very suspicious of Vlad's involvement, and tries to arrest him. However, before he can act, a gang of ruffians ambushes the pair, and interestingly, it is Loftis, not Vlad, who is killed.

Looking to goad the conspirators into revealing more of their plot, Vlad visits Vonnith. He soon learns, however, that Vonnith has been expecting him, and Stony arrives with a cadre of bodyguards to take out Vlad. With the help of Loiosh, Vlad barely escapes; Loiosh, however, is seriously wounded, and Vlad and Rocza get him back to the cottage just in time. Savn, broken somewhat out of his comatose state by the presence of a patient in need, uses his skills as a physicker to heal Loiosh.

Suddenly, all the pieces start clicking together for Vlad and Kiera. They realize that the conspirators must have realized almost from the start that Vlad and Kiera were not who they claimed to be, and have been using the two to further the cover-up; first by using Vlad to set up Loftis, then by using him again to murder Stony. The scope of the cover-up, and the consequences should it become public, finally become clear: the Empire would be ruined financially should everything be revealed. Both Vlad and Kiera say, "Ah ha."

Meanwhile, Reega, Vonnith, possibly Endra, and others have been attempting to profit from the sale of the land owned by all of Fyres' companies. Their plan is to drive up the prices by threatening to evict the current tenants, then selling the land at inflated prices before absconding with the cash and disappearing. It also becomes clear that it was Shortisle using Stony and Reega for revenge against Fyres that led to his murder by the Jhereg in the first place.

At last understanding the breathtaking scope of the conspiracy, Vlad arranges with Timmer to help him eliminate Domm, the agent who had bungled the cover-up, and arranged for the death of her boss, Loftis. In return, Vlad is given the deed to a very small, ugly-looking cottage belonging to Hwdfr'jaanci.

With his major problem resolved, Vlad is forced to confront one final cover-up; the true identity of one of his oldest and dearest friends. After this Vlad takes Savn, who seems to be well on the road to recovery, back to his family in Smallcliff.

Meanwhile, Kiera and Cawti finish their meal, and Kiera sends her best wishes to little Vlad Norathar...

Role of the House[]

Vlad uses the Orca-like method of painstaking financial analysis, but has no sympathy for their greed.

Major Characters[]

Great Scenes[]

  • Kiera the Thief at work
  • Vlad pumps the investigators, Zelazny style
  • "He didn't break the stick"

Favorite Quotes[]

(all copyrights Steven Brust, quotes for review and enjoyment only)


Kiera and Funnel-head

I said, "Is Stony in?"

"Who wants to know?" said Funnel-head.

I smiled brightly. "Why, I do."

He scowled.

I said, "Tell him it's Kiera."

Their eyes grew just a little bit wider. That always happens. It is very satisfying.


Stony and Kiera

"Seen anything of that Easterner you used to hang around with?"

"You mean Vlad Taltos? The guy who screwed up the Organization representative to the Empire? The guy everyone wants to put over the Falls? The guy with so much gold on his head that his hair is sparkling? The guy the Organization wants so bad that anyone seen with him is likely to disappear for a long session of question and answer with the best information-extraction specialists the Organization can find? Him?"



"I hadn't thought so. See you around, Kiera."

"See you around, Stony."


Hwdf'rjaanci and Vlad in the morning:

"You've made the Klava," she said.

"Yeah," said Vlad, "I hope it isn't too strong."

"Don't make jokes," she said.


Vlad's new career strategy:

"I'll just work my way through these special Guardsmen, find out who their boss is, kill him, take his position, use that to get close to the Empress, kill her, take the Orb, and rule Dragaera myself, exploiting the Empire ruthlessly in order to enrich myself and punish those who have offended me throughout my life, in preparation for conquering the East and eventually making myself ruler of the entire world." He paused from whipping the eggs, looked at me, and nodded somberly. "Then I'd meet some girls, I'll bet."


Kiera notes one of Vlad's weaknesses:

I suggested to Vlad that if the Jhereg really wanted to find him, all they had to do was keep track of garlic consumption throughout the Empire. He suggested that I not spread the idea around, because he'd as soon let them find him as quit eating garlic.


By the time the klava was done, I was back with a crock of honey, and Vlad said, "You must be sure to permit me to be cut into pieces for you sometime."

"Been reading Paarfi again?"


Vlad, the collector

I collected my thoughts. Someday I hope to have them all.


Vlad is always willing to answer a rhetorical question

"What am I going to do with you?"

"You could paint me blue and trade me for bagpipes."

"Yes, that would be an option."

Vlad Taltos
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