Kage Baker, as I have often said, left me notes.

Some of them are little snapshots of shopping trips 20 years old, her neat calligraphied script detailing old menus and sudden cravings – oh, God, that summer where we compulsively poured George Washington Brand Bechamel Sauce over everything! Some are packing lists for Faire weekends (4 pairs of socks, my bollocks knife, ink bottle, rum). But some are notes on stories. And some are rather more than just notes.

I keep finding pages of stories. None of them are complete, and most are very old; ideas that ran through Kage’s mind one day and were recorded for as long as she had time to spare. Others are just cryptic outlines – quartz focuses mental energy. Migraines, weak mind, bad control? Find out about Salvia Divinorum. Throw this note away! But she never did, because she couldn’t throw things away, and it has risen to my hand over the last year like a tickled trout in a quiet stream.

Some of the notes are fortified by years – decades – of conversation in my memory. Some are on topics I barely remember. Some are flat-out surprises, or something Kage used for something utterly else over the years. I’ve begun piecing some of them togethera Mars story, the Sad Tale of the Stupid Little Nuns (that’s what Kage actually called it), recollected scraps of the legends on which she built her own worlds.

Like the Fog King.

And since Tom and Margaret asked, here’s how one of them begins. Surprise!

The Lacquers of Axe Bay had been Runners for 7 generations.

Lots of girls came to the profession from orphanages or broken families; it was the sort of industry that acquired unwanted little girls. Runners said, referring to the lean, small-breasted physique that best typified them, that they were the orphans with no tits: girls with big breasts tended to end up in other sorts of Houses. But every city and every Mother House had its born aristocracy, as well – families that bred for long legs and stamina and good memories, matriarchies of news agents and couriers. They took lovers but no husbands, and sent their sons to be athletes, dancers and caravan-masters.

The Lacquers were like that. Even their short, plump, absent-minded daughters went into the trade, running Mother Houses instead of the red roads. Someone needed to keep the books and contracts,  order the House, and oversee the Rose Gardens. Those were the training barracks attached to every Mother House.

The Rose Gardens grew runners. They grew girls strong and clever, but especially fast. And the flowers in the Rose Gardens grew thorns, too: they learned to use the long razors that were worn under sleeves, and to kick a man’s heart out through his back. Those arts were only taught by Runners, to Runners, in the safety of the Mother House. They were the great secrets that let women quarter the land from one coast to the other, swift and unmolested. There was always a Lacquer on the staff that trained girls to use the Thorns.

The Rose Gardens ranged from the nurseries where the babies slept, to the permanent rooms that graduated Runners kept at the Mother House. Some women took private dwellings, and families like the Lacquers had great houses of their own. But all the training was done at the Mother House, and  so every Runner knew what it was like to live in the long halls and time her life to the hour-bells in the House’s tower. Under the Discipline, they called it.

Wenekla Lacquer’s older sisters had tried to scare her with it when she was very  young. They would troop home every evening – the Lacquer daughters were usually day   students – and impress their little sisters with warnings of the hard work and exhausting training that awaited them. They told horror stories about the rigours and dangers of the road. They sparred in the front hall, with whirling kicks and salmon leaps, swinging the little girls around at arm’s length like shrieking kites, knocking over chairs and kicking vases off the shelves.

“They come home for dinner because they’re like wild cattle,” one of the Many Aunts would grumble when the tide of girls arrived. “They eat too much and they stampede everywhere! The Mother House won’t have them!””

“Oh, Auntie-Momma, you know you love us,” they would protest, and roar off to the dining room with the smaller girls tumbling like bubbles in their wake. The Aunt would pluck up whatever little sister had been abandoned by the tide – Wenakla, like as not, who was a small child – and follow after them, abjuring Wenakla: “You’ll be a better girl when you go to the Sisters, won’t you?”

Wenekla always promised she would. She could hardly wait to go.

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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14 Responses to Notes

  1. Margaret says:

    Thank you SO much. Will we get to hear more about Wenakla and how it went for her in the Rose Garden and the Mother House and after? I suppoose I could try to use my imagination, but I do like what Kage’s and yours produce so much better.


  2. Tom says:

    Thank you, Kate; what a tidy little door, to open on such a wide and wondrous world.


  3. MaggiRos says:

    How wonderful! Oh, how wonderful it would be to know the story that rises out of this world. All I can do now is hope. 🙂


  4. Chris Springhorn says:

    Charming surprise! “Sad Tale of the Stupid Little Nuns” – that would be a great title for a *naughty* story.


  5. Carol Light says:

    Yes, please finish this story. In just a few paragraphs, the world was sketched, the characters defined, and the plot lines laid.

    Don’t leave us stranded here at the beginning……………please.


  6. Kate says:

    My gosh, dear hearts, that was fast! Holy moley.
    Don’t worry, Carol. Yes, there will be more. There is more, and it will show up here; I mean to mine it for a few days. We shall see what you all think, eh?


  7. Buffalo says:

    “….to kick a man’s heart out through his back.”
    Pure Kage. How lovely to hear her voice again.
    Thank you.


  8. Kate says:

    Oh, I agree, Buff. And good to share her voice with you folks. She had a way with words …


  9. Margaret says:

    Heehee – I’ve converted an old friend to being a Kage Baker fan. She doen’t have computer access, so I get to tell her the stories you post here, and this morning we went out for breakfast, where I recounted the story of Wenakla and her sisters and Auntie, so far as has been revealed. I feel a bit like Scheherezade (elderly model).


  10. Kate says:

    Margaret – telling Kage’s stories to a friend over breakfast is almost the BEST way to share them! It’s how most of them were initially composed. I am so glad to hear you are doing that.


  11. Margaret says:

    A late-blooming thought: When I read the phrase ‘Sad Tale of the Two Stupid Little Nuns,” for some reason my brain assumed it must refer to the two goddess-worshippers in The Empress of Mars who tried to tell Mary about the Eeeevils of her way of life and subsequently met a well-deserved fate. Not them? Another story yet? Oh good!


  12. Kate says:

    Margaret – nope, not about the Ephesians. Kage disliked the Ephesians and never wrote a story about them, especially not with any implied cuteness. They were always villainesses, stooges, thugs … Those two bouncers in Empress were also based in large part on the jocks at our all-girls high school – the ladies of the Girls Athletic Association, who were the school’s security system, hall monitors and general SS thugs. They tended to be large, blonde and shaped like the daughter of Barbie and GI Joe, and both Kage and I were their natural prey.


  13. Margaret says:

    Oh yes, I was for a year in a high school in Connecticut that had – Ick! Feh! – high school sororities, and every one of those blazer-wearing wenches probably grew up to be an Ephesian; as I recall, several of them were also on the field hockey team. We moved there from New Mexico and I was an object of scorn because on non-school days, I wore blue jeans, which had previously been more or less my usual outfit. (This was in the 1950s, when denim was mostly seen on farmers if you lived east of the Mississippi.) I was never in my life so glad as when my father got bored with that job after only a year and we moved elsewhere – no dear old school friends left behind in that move.


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