Kage Baker never actually stopped writing any story. She just stopped writing most of them down.
But she would still tell the stories, as they occurred to her. They all began as told tales, to the solitary audience of me; that’s how the addenda, codices and marginalia continued. Often in the car, of course – for Kage, forward motion translated literally into plot line. Others … in restaurants, or grocery stores, or while gardening, as something struck her fancy and initiated a phase-change cascade somewhere in her mind. It was a common beginning to conversation of an evening, when Kage would suddenly turn the sound down on Top Gear or Ghosthunters, and remark casually, “You know, there’s an active trade in bone jewelry crafted specifically for the markets of the Children of the Sun. Demons carve the stuff, and trade it to the Yendri. The Yendri won’t work it, because they’re too prissy, but they’ll broker it to the Children. And then pay the demons on commission. And you know what the awful part is? The carvings are made from the bones of the Children of the Sun themselves.”
“Why? What happens if they find out?” I really wanted to know.
“I don’t know. Yet.” And Kage would look thoughtful and turn the sound back up.
I haven’t found the notes. Yet.
But this morning I found a charming note from Margaret (Hi, Margaret!) explaining that since they’d had some good lightning last night where she lived, she was happy to celebrate the Dread Gard’s birthday today. A philosophy with which I am in total agreement. And I sat down to tell her so, and this happened:
“The Dread Gard’s birthday: There will be many wild celebrations in the Black Halls, and the wine will run like … not blood, because not even demons sling good booze around on the floor. Water will have to suffice. Little sweet cakes (Not cupcakes! Kage snarled at me when I suggested that, once.) with cream frosting and custard filling and delicately piped skulls on them in black icing. In the Officer’s Mess they will be toasting him in Black Moons (Guinness and champagne, more or less). Last man standing and still able to say his name wins. It’s usually Gard.
But down in the top level of the cellars, where the household shrines are, there will be a constant stream of quiet visitors. These aren’t shrines the Family visits; the demons built and furnished them. This day, men and women of the household – especially the army – will go in and leave their prayers and thanks round the feet of a statue of Gard, notes and small bits of metal written on like potsherds; shards of weapons are the most popular. The paint over the chest of his statue will be worn right away from all the fond touches over his heart.
Tomorrow, hung-over, they will ceremoniously repaint it.”
That’s a gift from Kage. It came pouring into my head as clearly as if she were speaking it. While I was making the bed. Which is still sitting there unmade, as I went straight to the computer and started writing in a white heat. And that’s how it was when she told me the stories, Dear Readers; bits and pieces that she said aloud and trusted to my ears to catch.
The notes she left – decades old, on cocktail napkins and that damned erasable typing paper, sometimes on the endpapers of books or candy wrappers turned inside out – are frustrating and myriad and all, all undated. But they are as pages of crystal engraved with incorruptible gold compared to the whispering in the back of my mind … still, sometimes it goes clarion on me and I get a bit like that.
String enough of them together, and there’s a story. In the meantime – Happy Birthday, Gard. Live forever, Master of the Mountain!