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Tharkay first appeared in China to deliver William Laurence a letter from Admiral Lenton. The task imparted in the letter, to retrieve three dragon eggs from the Ottoman Empire, was of such importance that Laurence convinces Tharkay to be their escort on the dangerous over-land route rather than the comfortable sea-going route.
Tharkay's constant compaion was his eagle which perched on his arm. He was noted to have several scars on his hands and arms caused by the eagle pecking him. However, the eagle was killed in the avalanche caused by Temeraire's first encounter with the feral dragons.
Laurance and the crew are initially distrustful of Tharkay because of his disrespect for authority and secretive ways. However, when in Istanbul, Tharkay risks his life to help the crew's mission. He finally admits to Laurence that he does this on purpose. Since he is of mixed heritage, no one accepts him. He tells Laurence he would rather provoke freely expressed suspicion than endure slights behind his back. They part on amicable terms when Temeraire reaches Prussia, at which point the Prussians were expecting 20 dragons from Britain and are disappointed Temeraire is alone.
Tharkay then returns to the feral dragons and somehow convinces many of them to accompany him to "rescue" Temeraire. He and the dragons finally catch up with Temeraire durring the Siege of Danzig, where they are able to evacuate the city and foil Lung Tien Lien.
He then accompanied Temeraire's crew back to Britain with the feral dragons and Iskierka. At that point he no longer appeared to have any ties holding him from leaving his old life. He apparently had some sort of relationship with Sara Maden (the daughter of Avraam Maden, a banker in Istanbul who saw the money the British paid for the eggs) but was visibly upset when her father announced she was soon to be married.