Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Return of the Journeyman

TOF is pleased to announce that "The Journeyman: In the Great North Woods" has been accepted for publication at Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact. Oorah.

Since two scenes have already been teased, perhaps a third is in order?


Rather than raise questions among the greenies, the princess of Cliffside Keep pretended to be “Anna Overcreek,” a shortgrass woman, with Chum acting as her common-law husband. She had dyed her hair, painted uuli symbols up her arms, and grown her braids to “married” length. There was no Cliffside Keep to be princess of, and House Tiger had been slaughtered in the battle. She had sworn eternal vengeance against House Moose, who had fought that day on the green side.
     “Tavern-gossip claims,” she said, “that Yar Yoodavig and the remnants of the Legion still fly the Tiger-striped banner.”
     Chum sighed and took the bird to the cutting board. “Maybe I can cut out the parts his knife touched. Teo, you can be the taste-tester. Princess,” he answered her unspoken question, “even if we did learn the formula for the thunderpowder like the Yar asked, I’ve no more pigeons and Yoodavig does not advertise his whereabouts.”
     “Oh!” said Teo. “Almost forgot. Saw a moosehead down by the Harbor.”
     The princess turned. “And you slew the treacher not on the spot?”
     “I was busy. Besides, he woulda died without knowing why, and that is a bad death.”
     Sammi looked at him. “There good one?”
     “Nah. Point is, lots of Moosers been to Cliffside Keep over the years, and it’d be a good idea if this guy didn’t get a close look at Anya here.”
     “Until you kill him,” Anya said. She snatched up her bonnet and scarf and stalked out of their rooms. Nor had she neglected to fasten the straps on her scabbards.
     Sammi waited a bit, before following. The three of them were taking turns secretly escorting the princess to the chandlery.
     “Don’t let her see you,” Chum warned.
     “What you expect to see, when Sammi follows?”

Afterward, Teo shook his head. “I thought castrating Mamu after the battle canceled that debt.” He meant the heir of House Moose, to whom Anya had been betrothed. Her refusal, though permitted by custom, had turned Mamu and his House to the greenies.
     Chum winced and stirred the pot. “Mamu shoulda waited to drag her back to Moose Hold before he went all frisky on her.”
     “Or at least disarmed her,” Teodorq suggested.
     “I think that’s why everyone’s supposed to get naked first.”

Teo preferred sleeping on the roof, but he was wakened shortly after drifting off by voices below. He snapped alert and pulled his short-sword from its place inside the bedroll. Slow awakening, no awakening, men said on the Great Grass. He stuck a dagger into his belt in case he had to fight with both hands and a smile on his face in case he didn’t have to fight at all.
     He threw back the roof hatch and the voices below ceased.
     Chum was still at the strew pot, but he had put the hacked-up pheasant aside. In its place he had a plump goose. He was chatting with one of the Big Hat’s minions, who sat with one leg crossed over his knee, though when the hatch door flew open, the fop’s hand had moved on his stick. Teo grunted. These overseamen were not as foolish as they appeared.
     Chum gestured at the goose. “Yo, Teo. That Big Hat you helped this morning gave us the bird.”
The Big Hat, Teo mused, had learned his identity, traced his residence, and knew the pheasant had been ruined in his defense. That was a lot of knowing, even if it had taken him until mid-afternoon to know it.
     Teo slid down the ladder. A rich man’s gratitude is never cause for heel-dragging.
     Mr. Fancy Pants stood and kissed both Teo’s cheeks. “My master, Lar Feddy, is grateful for your actions this morning,” the man said, “and sends this mean and paltry bird as recompense for the magnificent fowl you sacrificed in his protection. He was especially impressed by the grace with which you dispatched the two men. One does not expect polish and style from rude barbarians.”
     Teo scratched his crotch. “Nah, I guess not.”
     “Lar Feddy has made inquiries and has learned that you hire out as a bodyguard.”
     Teo crossed his arms and waited. There might be an evening’s employment out of his morning’s impulse. He wondered how much he dared raise his rates. This Lar Feddy seemed to have deep pockets as well as a big hat. But if he had “made inquiries” he likely knew Teo’s customary fee.
     “The Lar proposes,” the man went on, “to mount an expedition into the Great North Woods in search of antiquities. It will be a dangerous undertaking of several moon-laps duration – there are unpacified tribes, not to mention the usual hazards of a wilderness trek – and he needs a bold man to handle security. We Gay Companions will protect his person, but we want you to organize a crew to guard our digs and campsites. The governor,” he added with no change of expression, “has no soldiers to spare.”
     Nagarajan’s son was not deaf to the sound of opportunity banging with both her fists on his doorpost. He exchanged looks with Chum, and said, “I’ll need a staff: a camp-master, a hunter, a scout, a couple lieutenants.”
     The Gay Companion tossed a poke to Teo, who formed a fair estimate of its contents from its trajectory. “Hire as many as you think needful,” the man said, “up to the limits of that purse. The digging party will include twenty laborers, a cook and quartermaster, doctor, and two overseers as well as the archaeologist and his people.”
     Teo didn’t ask what an archaeologist was. He thought the size of the security detail depended more on the size of the threat than on the size of the threatened. “When do you want us?”
     “It will take half a moon-lap to gather the rest of the party, some of whom are arriving on Fair Zephyr. But plan to come by the governor’s guest house to render daily progress reports. Ask for Eiskwy Naldo.” He indicated himself with a wave of the hand.
     “And what if’n I take this here poke and light a shuck.”
     Eiskwy Naldo smiled and with spare motion whipped his walking stick around so the weighted end halted a bare thumb’s-width from Teodorq’s nose. “You won’t abscond,” the Gay Companion said. “Lar Feddy is a good judge of character. He is seldom wrong; and he is never wrong twice.”
(c)2015 Michael F. Flynn


  1. This is the version of the story to had to be cut before Trevor Q could accept it for publication in Analog, correct? Will the uncut version be included in the eventual (I assume) Journeyman novel?

    1. Much of the cutting was beneficial. But I still have the uncut version and if there is ever a Journeyman they may be judiciously returned.


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