Note: Author Rachel Hartman uses both he/him and they/them pronouns for Pathka, although in the book, only he/him and the quigutl pronoun ko are used. The author of this article is choosing to use he/him pronouns but recognizes that Pathka is, in Hartman's own words, genderfluid.
Pathka is a quigutl who befriends Tess. He appears in Tess of the Road, and together, he and Tess go on a journey to find the World Serpents: myth-like beings of quigutl folklore that supposedly exist beneath the surface of the Earth. He is an important character in Tess of the Road, and at the end of the book, he and Tess together join the crew of Countess Margarethe.
When Patkha met Tess, he was female. He was struggling to lay an egg that he was sure was going to kill him. He had not intended to have children; his male sibling Karpeth had raped him. Tess found him in her basement and, with Seraphina's translation help, successfully removed the last egg. Pathka nearly ate the egg, but instead let his female offspring, Kikiu, live. However, her name means "death" in the quigutl language, Quootla.
During the war, Pathka and some other quigutl left and went to Trowebridge. During that time, Pathka became male, as he was not planning on laying any more eggs. When Tess found him in a quigutl house in Trowebridge, he was chained to a workbench, as he had been causing trouble by deliberately hurting himself in the hope of calling Anathuthia, a World Serpent. She helped him escape, and the two went in search of the World Serpents.
Pathka and Tess reunite in Trowebridge. Tess helps Pathka escape from a quigutl house where he is essentially being held captive, and together, the two travel through Ninys to find the World Serpents. At the end of the book, he and Tess join the crew of Countess Margarethe, along with his offspring, Kikiu.
Pathka is very devoted to finding Anathuthia, often to the point where he puts others at risk to pursue his goals. For example, while trying to contact Anathuthia, he goes to the bottom of a well and cuts himself, hoping to signal her with his blood. This contaminated the town's water source, putting everyone at risk. He is also a terrible parent, and his relationship with his offspring, Kikiu, is a symbol for Tess's relationship with her mother, Anne-Marie. He blames Kikiu for everything and seems to resent her for the fact that her egg nearly killed him to lay.
Pathka and Tess are very close. They initially became friends when Tess, who was much younger at the time, saved Pathka's life as he was laying Kikiu's egg. She learned to understand Quootla, and Pathka understands Goreddi, so the two communicate by speaking their own languages to one another.
Kikiu is Pathka's offspring. Although the two seem to hate each other, they are also linked somehow, as their fatluketh, the quigutl rite of adulthood in which parent of offspring fight each other, was unsuccessful. Tess realizes that Pathka, like her mother, Anne-Marie, is a terrible parent, despite being her dear friend.