Find out how Robin Hobb became two different peopleS

You may already know that epic fantasy author Robin Hobb is the same person as contemporary fantasy author Megan Lindholm. But how did this state of affairs come about? How was one human being split into two authors?

Hobb herself explains, in the preface to her new book The Inheritance — which is a collection of stories she's written under both pen names. For the first time, Robin Hobb and her alter ego Megan Lindholm are sharing a table of contents, so you can witness their very different styles and approaches in the same place. We've got Hobb's preface, where she explains the story of how she came to use two different names for two different types of writing. And we've got excerpts from stories by both "authors."

Preface

Behind every story a writer writes, there is the story of how the writer came to the tale. In the introduction to each story in this collection, I hope to share a bit of what went on in my mind and in my life that prompted each story.

It is also true that behind every book, there is a story. This one is no exception.

I began my writing career when I was eighteen years old, as an aspiring children's author. I was newly married and living in a small village called Chiniak on Kodiak Island. The population was small, the local business was a combination gas station and convenience store that kept fitful hours, and initially there was little for me to do other than keep my small house trailer tidy and take long walks on the beach with my dog, Stupid. I had long known that I wanted to be a writer, so I borrowed a small portable electric typewriter from my sister-in-law, bought a ream of paper and some carbon papers, large brown envelopes for my SASEs (self-addressed stamped envelopes for rejection slips!), and a copy of Writer's Market. I was soon submitting short works to various children's magazines such as Humpty Dumpty, Jack and Jill,and Highlights for Children, in addition to many tiny magazines with very small circulations. In the beginning, rejection slips far outnumbered sales, but with each contact with the editorial world, I was learning.

By the time ten years had passed, I had realized that writing for children was hard work, much harder than simple words and linear plots had seemed at first glance. Trial and error had taught me that there was a corollary to the famous "Write what you know" advice. That was, "Write what you love reading." I had long been passionate about fantasy and science fiction, but equally daunted at the prospect of trying to compare my work with the tales from the writers I lionized. But by my midtwenties, I was venturing out with submissions to "fanzines," the small-press homemade magazines of the genre. Some were little more than mimeographed or Xeroxed pamphlets while others had ventured into glossy pages and illustrations. They were my proving ground as a writer, and I will forever owe a debt to magazines such as Space and Time, and editors such as Gordon Linzner.

When I began writing SF and fantasy for adults, I initially wrote as M. Lindholm. I was very happy with that sole initial in front of my surname. In 1978, I submitted a story to Jessica Amanda Salmonson that I hoped she would consider for her small-press magazine Fantasy and Terror. To my shocked delight, she wrote back saying that she would like to use it for her forthcoming feminist fantasy anthology, to be entitled Amazons! But she felt strongly that women writers needed to declare themselves as female. She urged me to put a name rather than an initial in my byline. I wrote back to her that I'd never been fond of my given name, Margaret, and that the nicknames such as Maggie, Peggy, Marge, and so on had never really felt like my own, either. I added, almost as an afterthought, that Megan was not so bad.

Months later, when the book came out, I was a bit astounded to see that I had a new byline. Megan Lindholm it was. I confess to having mixed feelings about it, then and still. A year or two later, when the first Ki and Vandien book, Harpy's Flight, sold to Ace Books, I realized that without my intending to I'd made an important decision. Since the story in Harpy's Flight featured the same characters as "Bones for Duluth," the story in Amazons!, I would have to use the same byline. Without giving it much thought, I'd become Megan Lindholm.

And Megan Lindholm I would remain for many years.

Leap forward in time yet another decade and a bit more. It was a time of change in my life. I had recently switched to a new US publisher, my career-shifting agent Patrick Delahunt had passed me on to a new agent, Ralph Vicinanza, and I was writing a story of a type I'd never attempted before. This was to be a big fantasy, on an epic scale, and written from the first-person point of view of a young man. I was writing in a style that I felt was completely different from any I'd ever used before. Perhaps it was a time to make a complete break with the past. The idea of changing my pseudonym greatly appealed to me. Although I remained very fond and proud of my works as Megan Lindholm, the drama of adopting a "secret identity" was irresistible. I jumped at the chance to become Robin Hobb.

My editors, my agent, and I all agreed that the change presented an opportunity for me to break out of my "Megan Lindholm" voice and tell a big compelling story in a very lively way, one that I hoped would reach new readers. I hadn't realized that I had begun to feel bound by what readers might expect of a Megan Lindholm book until I stepped away from that name. I wrote with a depth of feeling that I didn't usually indulge. When Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb was first published, I spent weeks with my nerves in a knot, wondering how this new series by a "new author" would be received.

The results were beyond my wildest hopes. I will never know how much the name change had to do with the success of Assassin's Apprentice and the other Hobb books that followed it. I don't think there's a way to quantify that. But it felt absolutely wonderful to have reached a wider readership. And for several years, I played my cards very close to my chest, concealing that Megan Lindholm and Robin Hobb were one and the same. I attended conventions as Megan Lindholm, and while I was there, I did not speak about my work as Hobb. I did not do any readings or signings for the initial Farseer books.

Beyond my agent and publishers, only two people knew the secret. One was Steven Brust, my collaborator on The Gypsy. I think Steve enjoyed keeping the secret, and he did it very well, for which I will always be grateful. The other person was Duane Wilkins of University Book Store, Seattle. I'd known Duane for years at that point. He'd been instrumental in helping my career as Megan Lindholm, supporting me with signings and readings as he did many, many fledgling SF and fantasy writers in the Seattle area. One night I received a call from him. He mentioned he hadn't seen me in a while, and we talked about various forthcoming books and what he thought of them. Then he brought up Assassin's Apprentice. It was very gratifying to hear him say nice things about the book I couldn't openly acknowledge as mine. But then he proceeded to say that he could tell it wasn't a first effort by any writer. And that he had noticed some stylistic resemblances. I kept my mouth shut. But then he asked me, directly, and there is no lying to old friends.

And Duane, too, kept the secret intact for me.

Of course, the information eventually leaked out, in drips and drops, and finally I did a Locus interview with Charles Brown in which I admitted that yes, Robin Hobb and Megan Lindholm were both my pseudonyms.

But to this day, they remain separate writers in my mind. They may use the same battered keyboard, the one with the letters worn off the buttons. They share office supplies and an assistant, and even do very similar online updates. But they are not the same author, but rather two writers with different styles, issues, and choices of tale. I think each writer continues to attract a different readership, though some readers tell me they enjoy stories by both writers. Even today, when I get a story idea, I immediately know if it belongs to Lindholm or Hobb, and the story is written accordingly. Robin tends to hog the word processor with her big books, but Megan has continued to write and publish shorter works.

This is the first time that a selection of stories by both pseudonyms has appeared in one volume. The Lindholm stories are, if you will, the inheritance that Hobb built upon. The styles and the subject matter differ from name to name, but if you check the DNA, you will find the shared genetics and the common fascinations.

There are old stories here, written when Megan Lindholm was first establishing herself, as well as new tales by both authors. Robin still tends to sprawl in her storytelling, so while she takes up as many pages, there are fewer stories by her in these pages.

To those readers who are encountering one (or both) of my bylines for the first time, welcome! And thank you for taking a chance on a "new" writer. And for those readers of Lindholm or Hobb who are taking the opportunity to acquire some of these stories in a more durable form, thank you, I hope you will not be disappointed.

An excerpt from "A Touch of Lavender" by Megan Lindholm

Find out how Robin Hobb became two different peopleS

I know the day my life changed. I was about three blocks from home, partway into the Skoag sector, listening to some Skoags on a street corner. Not listening, really, so much as watching them puff their greasy skins out until they looked like those stupid balloon animals Roxie the clown used to make for my Head Start class. Then when they were all puffed out, membrane ballooned over corally bone webs, they'd start making music, the skin going in and out just like speaker cones on really old speakers. They reminded me of frogs, because of how their throats puffed out to croak, and because of the wet green-yellow glints on their skins.

I kept a safe distance from them. Everyone did. From the Don't Do Drugs sessions at school, I knew what the stuff on their skin could do to me. I'd seen Skoag gropies, wandering around bald-eyed, hands reaching to grope any passing Skoag, to get one more rush even if it deafened them. Skoag gropies were always getting killed, squashed by cars and trucks they could no longer hear, or dreaming themselves to death, forgetting to eat or drink, forgetting everything but groping a fingerful of Skoag slime. But there were no gropies around these Skoags, and because they all still had crests, I knew they were new to Earth. Skoags usually lost their crests pretty fast in our gravity. One of these Skoags had the tallest crest I'd ever seen, like a king's crown, and purple like a deep old bruise.

There was a mixed crowd around the Skoags. Inlander tourists who'd never seen a Skoag before, taking videos, making tapes. Locals panhandling the tourists, sometimes pretending they were passing the hat for the Skoags. Older boys and a few girls, just hanging out, calling the Skoags dirty names to shock the tourists, making out with a lot of tongue. And a few kids like me, skipping school because the sun was shining and it wasn't too windy and we didn't feel like doing the weekly pee-in-the-bottle thing. The Skoags played for us all.

They'd been playing all morning, the usual Skoag set. They did "Happy Trails to You," and "Horiko Cries," and "When You Were Mine," and then "America the Beautiful." That was the weirdest thing about Skoags, how they'd pick up any music they fancied, and then play it back in any order. They'd started "Moon over Bourbon Street" when I saw my mom coming.

She and Teddy had gone to pick up her aid check that morning. But Teddy wasn't with her, and I knew from her face that another musician had moved out. I was glad in a selfish way, because for the next few days there'd be regular meals on the table, and more food, because the check would only be feeding us two, and Mom would talk to me twice as much as usual. Of course, she'd make sure I actually got up and went to school, too, but that wasn't much price to pay. And it wouldn't last long before she'd hold another party and reel in a new musician.

So I was determined to enjoy it while it lasted. So I ran up to her, saying, "Wow, Mom, you should hear this purple-crested one play, he's really something." I said that for about four reasons. First, so she wouldn't have the chance to ask me why I wasn't in school, and, second, to show that I wasn't going to notice that jerk Teddy was gone because he wasn't worth her time. Third, it cheered her up when I acted like I was interested in music. I think she always hoped I really would be like my father, would grow up to be a singer and redeem her, or justify her life or something. And fourth, because the purple-crested one really was something, though I couldn't have said why.

"You playing tourist, Billy Boy?" my mom asked me in her teasing way that she used when it was only she and I together again. And I laughed, because it was dumb the way the tourists from inland came down to our part of Seattle to spy on the Skoags and listen to them jam. Anybody who'd lived here ignored them the way you ignored supermarket music or a TV in a store window. All you ever heard from a Skoag was the same thing you'd heard a hundred times before anyway. So what I said was sort of a joke, too, to make her laugh and take the flatness out of her eyes.

But Teddy must have been better than I'd known, because her smile faded, and she didn't scold me or anything. She just stooped down and hugged me like I was all she had in the world. And then she said, very gently, as if I were the adult and she were the little kid explaining something bad she'd done, "I gave him our check, Billy Boy. See, Teddy has a chance to go to Portland and audition for Sound & Fury Records. It's a new label, and if things go like I know they will, he'll be into the big money in no time. And he'll send for us. We'll have a real house, Billy, all to ourselves, or maybe we'll get a motor home and travel across the country with him on tour, see the whole United States."

She said more stuff but I didn't listen. I knew what it meant, because once one of her guys had stolen both checks, her Career Mother Wage and my Child Nutrition Supplement. What it meant was bad times. It meant a month of food-bank food, runny peanut butter on dry bread, dry milk made up with more water than you were supposed to use, generic cereal that turned into sog in the milk, and macaroni. Lots and lots of microwaved macaroni, to the point where I used to swallow it whole because I couldn't stand the squidgy feeling of chewing it anymore. I was already hungry from being out in the wind all morning, and just thinking about it made me hungrier. There wasn't much food at home; there never was right before the aid check was due.

I just went on holding on to Mom, hating Teddy, but not much, because if it hadn't been Teddy, it would have been someone else. I wanted to ask, "What about me? What about us? Aren't we just as important as Teddy?" But I didn't. Because it wouldn't bring the money back, so there was no sense in making her cry. The other reason was, about three weeks before, Janice from upstairs had sat at our kitchen table and cried to Mom because she'd just given her little girls away. Because she couldn't take care of them or feed them. Janice had kept saying that at least they'd get decent meals and warm clothes now. I didn't want Mom to think that I wanted food and clothes more than I wanted to stay with her.

So I wiped my face on her shirt without seeming to and pulled back to look at her. "It's okay, Mom," I told her. "We'll get by. Let's go home and figure things out."

But she wasn't even listening to me. She was focused on the Skoags, actually on the one with the big crest, listening to over Bourbon Street" like she'd never heard it before. It sounded the same as always to me, and I tugged at her hand. But it was just like I wasn't there, like she had gone off somewhere. So I just stood there and waited.

My mom listened until they were done. The big purple-crested Skoag watched her listen to them. His big flat eye spots were pointed toward her all the time, calm and dead and unfocused like all Skoag eyes are. He was looking over the heads of the tourists and hecklers, straight at her.

When the song was finished, they didn't go right into another song like usual. Purple stood there, watching my mother and letting the air leak out of his puffers. The other Skoags looked at him, and they seemed puzzled, shifting around, and one made a flat squawk. But then they let their air out, too, and pretty soon they were all empty and bony, their puffer things tight against their bodies again. My mom kept staring at the Skoag, like she was still hearing music, until I shook her arm.

"I'm coming," she said, but she didn't. She didn't even move, until I shook her arm again and said, "I'm hungry."

Then she jerked and looked down at me finally. "Oh, my poor little kid," she said. She really meant it. That bothered me. I thought about it while we walked home. I wasn't any more selfish than any kid is, and kids have a right to be selfish sometimes. So I walked along, thinking that she really did know how awful this month was going to be and how much I hated squidgy macaroni, and she probably even knew that the sole was coming off my sneaker. But she'd still given the check to Teddy. And that was a hard thing for a kid to understand.

So we went home. Mom switched on the stereo and went right to work. She was real methodical and practical when there wasn't a musician to distract her. She sorted out what groceries we had and organized them in the cupboard.

Then she went through all the pockets of her clothes and dug inside the chair and got together all the money we had. It was ten seventy-eight. Then she sat me at the table with her, like I was one of her musicians, and told me how she was going to get us through the month. She explained that if I went to school every day, I'd get the free morning milk and vita-roll, and free hot lunch on my aid ticket. So I'd be mostly okay, even if there wasn't much for dinner. We'd get through just fine. After all, we were pretty tough, weren't we? And couldn't the two of us beat anything if we just stuck together? And were we going to let a month of crummy groceries knock down tough guys like us? All that stuff. But suddenly, in the middle of the pep talk, she got up and knelt by her stereo. She twiddled the knobs, frowning. "Signal's drifting, or something. Damn, that's all I need. For this to drop dead on me now." She tried about three different stations, then snapped it off. "Lousy speakers," she complained to me. "Everything sounds tinny."

It had sounded okay to me, but I didn't say anything. Instead, I sat still and watched her take out a pot and run water and take things from the cupboards for dinner.

We had oatmeal for dinner, and toast with peanut butter melting on it. Mom gave me the last of the brown sugar for my oatmeal. "Good grains and protein in this meal," she said wisely, as if she had planned it rather than scraped together what we had left. I nodded and ate it. It wasn't so bad. At least it wasn't macaroni.

That evening Mom sat at the table, reading a paperback that Teddy had left and wearing his old sweatshirt. I guess she felt pretty bad. Every so often, she'd turn on the stereo and fool with it for a while, then shake her head and snap it off. She'd read a little longer, and then she'd get up and turn the stereo on again, searching through the stations, but never finding what she wanted. In between, I was listening to the building sounds, spooky at night. The water heater in the utility room was growing and gurgling through the wall. I was coloring a Don't Do Drugs handout from school, wishing they'd given me more than three crayons. I wanted to color the spoon and syringe silver. Yellow just wasn't the same.

Mom had just snapped the radio off for about the twelfth time. In the quiet I heard a sound like someone dragging a bag of potatoes down our steps. Mom and I looked at each other. She lifted her finger to her lips and said, "Shush!" So I sat perfectly still, waiting. There came a slapping sound against the door, and whatever was slapping pushed against it too. The door thudded against the catch.

My mom's dark eyes went huge, scaring me more than the noises outside the door. She went to the kitchen and got our biggest knife. "Go to my room, Billy Boy," she whispered. But I was too scared to move. Like a monster movie, when the music screams and you know they're going to show you something awful, but you can't look away. I had to know what was outside. And Mom was too scared to make me obey. Instead she crept a little closer to the door, holding the knife tight. "Who's out there?" she yelled, but her voice cracked.

The pressure on the door stopped, and for a moment all was silent. Then there was a sound, sort of like a harmonica wedged in a trumpet, and someone blowing through it anyway. It was a silly cartoon sound, Doofus Duck smacked with a rubber mallet, and my mom looked so startled that I burst out laughing. It was a dorko noise. Nothing scary could make a sound like that. Then a voice spoke, a low, low voice, like cello strings being rubbed slowly.

"That is my name on my world. But humans call me Lavender."

"The Skoag?" Mom asked, but I was already past her and undoing the flimsy dead bolt on the door. I had to see it. It was so impossible for a Skoag to be outside our door at night that I had to see it was real. "Billy!" Mom warned, but I dragged the door open anyway.

The Skoag was there. The same purple-crested one we had listened to earlier. Only he looked a lot smaller with all his bladders deflated, not much bigger than my mom. He was wearing a sort of pouch thing on his front, and in it was a brown grocery sack, a bouquet of flowers wrapped in green tissue paper, and a skinny brown liquor store bag. He was draped in the transparent plastic robe Skoags were supposed to wear in human dwellings. His skin glistened through it in the watery streetlamp light like oil on a puddle, iridescent and shifting. His fat little flippers waved up and down slowly, like a fish underwater. His murky blue eye spots fixed on my mother.

She stared back at him. She still had the knife in her hand, but she had forgotten it. She crossed her arms, a closing, denying gesture. "What do you want?" she demanded, in the scared stubborn voice she kept for the landlord.

A little bladder above his eyes pulsed with his cello voice. "To come in."

"Well, you can't," she said, at the same time as I asked, "How did you get down the steps?"

"With great difficulty," he pulsed at me, but there was a violin squibble above the cello that made his answer a sort of joke. I grinned at him; I couldn't help it. He'd noticed me. He'd answered my question before he paid attention to what my mom had said, and he'd answered it in the way one buddy might kid with another. I felt two feet taller.

He looked back at Mom, waiting.

"Go away," she told him.

"I cannot," he said, all cello again. "Earlier today, I heard you listening to us. I think. My companions tell me it was not so, that I am tricking myself because I want too badly. But I am not deceived. I have hope only. I have brought gifts. Flowers and wine for you, as is fitting, and food for your child, who said he was hungry. May I come in?"

She just stood there, staring at him. A car shushed by in the rainy street outside, and the wind gusted, blowing cold air down our steps and in past the Skoag. And still they both just stood there, waiting for something.

"I love you," the cello thrummed, and the sound swelled, like a big warm wave washing through our apartment. The sound didn't end with the words, it went on with musiclike embroidery on the edges of the thought. I listened to it pass and fade, and then the silence came behind it, separating us again. The silence seemed unbearable.

"Come in," said my mother.

So Lavender came to live with us.

An excerpt from "Homecoming" by Robin Hobb

Day the 10th of the Fish Moon

Year the 14th of the Reign of the Most Noble and Magnificent Satrap Esclepius

Conditions aboard the ship are intolerable. Once more, I take pen to my journal to record the hardship and injustice to preserve a record so that those responsible may be punished. Although I am nobly born, of the House of Waljin and although my lord husband is not only noble, but heir to the title of Lord Carrock, the quarters given us are no better than those allotted to the common emigrants and speculators; that is, a smelly space in the ship's hold. Only the common criminals, chained in the deepest holds, suffer more than we do.

The floor is a splintery wooden deck, the walls are the bare planks of the ship's hull. There is much evidence that rats were the last inhabitants of this compartment. We are treated no better than cattle. There are no separate quarters for my maid, so I must suffer her to bed almost alongside us! To preserve my children from the common brats of the emigrants, I have sacrificed three damask hangings to curtain off a space. Those people accord me no respect. I believe that they are surreptitiously plundering our stores of food. When they mock me, my husband bids me ignore them. This has had a dreadful effect on my servant's behavior. This morning, my maid, who also serves as a nanny in our reduced household, spoke almost harshly to young Petrus, bidding him be quiet and cease his questions. When I rebuked her for it, she dared to raise her brows at me.

My visit to the open deck was a waste of time. It is cluttered with ropes, canvas, and crude men, with no provisions for ladies and children to take the air. The sea was boring, the view only distant foggy islands. I found nothing there to cheer me as this detestable vessel bears me ever farther away from the lofty white spires of Blessed Jamaillia City, sacred to Sa.

I have no friends aboard the ship to amuse or comfort me in my heaviness. Lady Duparge has called on me once, and I was civil, but the differences in our station make conversation difficult. Lord Duparge is heir to little more than his title, two ships, and one estate that borders on Gerfen Swamp. Ladies Crifton and Anxory appear content with each other's company and have not called upon me at all. They are both too young to have any accomplishments to share, yet their mothers should have instructed them in their social responsibility to their betters. Both might have profited from my friendship upon our return to Jamaillia City. That they choose not to court my favor does not speak well of their intellect. Doubtless they would bore me.

I am miserable in these disgusting surroundings. Why my husband has chosen to invest his time and finances in this venture eludes me. Surely men of a more adventurous nature would better serve our Illustrious Satrap in this exploration. Nor can I understand why our children and myself must accompany him, especially in my condition. I do not think my husband gave any thought to the difficulties this voyage would pose for a woman gravid with child. As ever, he has not seen fit to discuss his decisions with me, no more than I would consult him on my artistic pursuits. Yet my ambitions must suffer to allow him to pursue his! My absence will substantially delay the completion of my Suspended Chimes of Stone and Metal. The Satrap's brother will be most disappointed, for the installation was to have honored his thirtieth birthday.

Day the 15th of the Fish Moon

Year the 14th of the Reign of the Most Noble and Magnificent Satrap Esclepius

I have been foolish. No. I have been deceived. It is not foolishness to trust where one has every right to expect trustworthiness. When my father entrusted my hand and my fate to Lord Jathan Carrock, he believed he was a man of wealth, substance, and reputation. My father blessed Sa's name that my artistic accomplishments had attracted a suitor of such lofty stature. When I bewailed the fate that wed me to a man so much my senior, my mother counseled me to accept it and to pursue my art and establish my reputation in the shelter of his influence. I honored their wisdom. For these last ten years, as my youth and beauty faded in his shadow, I have borne him three children and bear beneath my heart the burgeoning seed of yet another. I have been an ornament and a blessing to him, and yet he has deceived me. When I think of the hours spent in managing his household, hours I could have devoted to my art, my blood seethes with bitterness.

Today, I first entreated, and then, in the throes of my duty to provide for my children, demanded that he force the captain to give us better quarters. Sending our three children out onto the deck with their nanny, he confessed that we were not willing investors in the Satrap's colonization plan but exiles given a chance to flee our disgrace. All we left behind-estates, homes, precious possessions, horses, cattle-all are forfeit to the Satrap, as are the items seized from us as we embarked. My genteel respectable husband is a traitor to our gentle and beloved Satrap and a plotter against the Throne Blessed by Sa.

I won this admittance from him, bit by bit. He kept saying I should not bother about the politics, that it was solely his concern. He said a wife should trust her husband to manage her life. He said that by the time the ships resupply our settlement next spring, he would have redeemed our fortune and we would return to Jamaillian society. But I kept pressing my silly woman's questions. All your holdings seized? I asked him. All? and he said it was done to save the Carrock name, so that his parents and younger brother can live with dignity, untarnished by the scandal. A small estate remains for his brother to inherit. The Satrap's Court will believe that Jathan Carrock chose to invest his entire fortune in the Satrap's venture. Only those in the Satrap's innermost circle know it was a confiscation. To win this concession, Jathan begged many hours on his knees, humbling himself and pleading forgiveness.

He went on at great length about that, as if I should be impressed. But I cared nothing for his knees. "What of Thistlebend?" I asked. "What of the cottage by the ford there, and the monies from it?" This I brought to him as my marriage portion, and humble though it is, I thought to see it passed to Narissa when she wed.

"Gone," he said, "All gone."

"But why?" I demanded. "I have not plotted against the Satrap. Why am I punished?"

Angrily, he said I was his wife and of course I would share his fate. I did not see why, he could not explain it, and finally he told me that such a foolish woman could never understand and bid me hold my tongue, not flap it and show my ignorance. When I protested that I am not a fool, but a well-known artist, he told me that I am now a colonist's wife and to put my artistic pretenses out of my head.

I bit my tongue to keep from shrieking at him. But within me, my heart screams in fury against this injustice. Thistlebend, where my little sisters and I waded in the water and plucked lilies to pretend we were goddesses and those our white and gold scepters . . . Gone for Jathan Carrock's treacherous idiocy.

I had heard rumors of a discovered conspiracy against the Satrap. I paid no attention. I thought it had nothing to do with me. I would say that the punishment was just, if I and my innocent babes were not ensnared in the same net that has trapped the plotters. All the confiscated wealth has financed this expedition. The disgraced nobles were forced to join a company composed of speculators and explorers. Worse, the banished criminals in the hold, the thieves and whores and ruffians, will be released to join our company when we disembark. Such will be the society around my tender children.

Our Blessed Satrap has generously granted us a chance to redeem ourselves. Our Magnificent and Most Merciful Satrap has granted each man of the company two hundred leffers of land, to be claimed anywhere along the banks of the Rain Wild River that is our boundary with barbarous Chalced, or along the Cursed Shores. He directs us to establish our first settlement on the Rain Wild River. He chose this site for us because of the ancient legends of the Elder Kings and their Harlot Queens. Long ago, it is said, their wondrous cities lined the river. They dusted their skin with gold and wore jewels above their eyes. So the tales say. Jathan said that an ancient scroll, showing their settlements, has recently been translated. I am skeptical.

In return for this chance to carve out new fortunes for ourselves and redeem our reputations, Our Glorious Satrap Esclepius asks only that we cede to him half of all that we find or produce there. In return, the Satrap will shelter us under his protective hand, prayers will be offered for our well-being, and twice yearly his revenue ships will visit our settlement to be sure we prosper. A charter for our company, signed by the Satrap's own hand, promises this.

Lords Anxory, Crifton, and Duparge share in our disgrace, though as lesser lords, they had less far to fall. There are other nobles aboard the other two ships of our fleet, but no one I know well. I rejoice that my dear friends do not share my fate, yet I mourn that I enter exile alone. I will not count upon my husband for comfort in the disaster he has brought upon us. Few secrets are kept long at court. Is that why none of my friends came to the docks to bid me farewell?

My own mother and sister had little time to devote to my packing and farewells. They wept as they bade me farewell from my father's home, not even accompanying me to the filthy docks where this ship of banishment awaited me. Why, oh Sa, did they not tell me the truth of my fate?

At that thought, a hysteria fell upon me, so that I could not continue my writing. I trembled and wept, with occasional shrieks bursting from me whether I would or no. Even now, my hands tremble so violently that this desperate scrawl wanders the page. All is lost to me, home, loving parents, and most crushing, the art that gave me joy in life. The half-finished works I left behind will never be completed, and that pains me as much as a child stillborn. I live only for the day that I can return to gracious Jamaillia by the sea. At this moment, forgive me Sa, I long to do so as a widow. Never will I forgive Jathan Carrock. Bile rises in my throat at the thought that my children must wear this traitor's name.

Day the 24th of the Fish Moon

Year the 14th of the Reign of the Most Noble and Magnificent Satrap Esclepius

Darkness fills my soul; this voyage to exile has lasted an eternity. The man I must call husband orders me to better manage our household, but I scarcely have the spirit to take up my pen. The children weep, quarrel, and complain endlessly, and my maid makes no effort to amuse them. Daily her contempt grows. I would slap her disrespectful scowl from her face if I had the strength. Despite my pregnancy, she lets the children tug at me

and demand my attention. All know a woman in my condition should experience a serene existence. Yesterday afternoon, when I tried to rest, she left the children napping beside me while she went out to dally with a common sailor. I awoke to Narissa crying and had to arise and sing to her until she calmed. She complains of a painful belly and a sore throat. No sooner was she settled than both Petrus and Carlmin awoke and started some boyish tussling that completely frayed my spirit. I was exhausted and at the edge of hysteria before she returned. When I chided her for neglecting her duties, she saucily replied that her own mother reared nine children with no servants to aid her. As if such common drudgery were something I should aspire to! Were there anyone else to fulfill her duties, I would send her packing.

And where is Lord Carrock through all of this? Why, out on deck, consulting with the very nobles who led him into disgrace.

The food grows ever worse and the water tastes foul, but our cowardly captain will not put into shore to seek better. My maid says that her sailor has told her that the Cursed Shore is well named, and that evil befalls those who land there as surely as it befell those who once lived there. Can even Captain Triops believe such superstitious nonsense?

Day the 27th of the Fish Moon

Year the 14th of the Reign of the Most Noble and Magnificent Satrap Esclepius

We are battered by storm. The ship reeks of the vomit of the miserable inhabitants of its bowels. The constant lurching stirs the foul waters of the bilge, so that we must breathe their stench. The captain will not allow us out on the deck at all. The air down here is damp and thick, and the beams drip water on us. Surely, I have died and entered some heathen afterlife of punishment.

Yet in all this wet, there is scarcely enough water for drinking, and none for washing. Clothing and bedding soiled with sickness must be rinsed out in seawater that leaves it stiff and stained with salt. Little Narissa has been most miserable of the children. She has ceased vomiting but has scarcely stirred from her pallet today, poor little creature. Please, Sa, let this horrid rocking and sloshing end soon.

Day the 29th of the Fish Moon

Year the 14th of the Reign of the Most Noble and Magnificent Satrap Esclepius

My child is dead. Narissa, my only daughter, is gone. Sa, have mercy upon me, and visit your justice upon treacherous Lord Jathan Carrock, for his evil has been the cause of all my woe! They wrapped my little girl in canvas and sent her and two others into the waters, and the sailors scarce paused in their labors to notice their passing. I think I went a little mad then. Lord Carrock seized me in his arms when I tried to follow her into the sea. I fought him, but he was too strong for me. I remain trapped in this life his treachery has condemned me to endure.

Day the 7th of the Plough Moon

Year the 14th of the Reign of the Most Noble and Magnificent Satrap Esclepius

My child is still dead. Ah, such a foolish thought to write, and yet still it seems impossible to me. Narissa, Narissa, you cannot be gone forever. Surely this is some monstrous dream from which I will awake!

Today, because I sat weeping, my husband pushed this book at me and said "Write a poem to comfort yourself. Hide in your art until you feel better. Do anything, but stop weeping!" As if he offered a squalling baby a sugar teat. As if art took you away from life rather than plunging you headlong into it! Jathan reproached me for my grief, saying that my reckless mourning frightens our sons and threatens the babe in my womb. As if he truly cared! Had he cared for us as a husband and a father, never would he have betrayed our dear Satrap and condemned us to this fate.

But, to stop his scowl, I will sit here and write for a time, like a good wife.

A full dozen of the passengers and two crewmen have died of the flux. Of one hundred sixteen who began this voyage, ninety-two now remain. The weather has calmed but the warm sunlight on the deck only mocks my sorrow. A haze hangs over the sea, and to the west the distant mountains smoke.

Day the 22nd of the Plough Moon

Year the 14th of the Reign of the Most Noble and Magnificent Satrap Esclepius

It has happened as I feared. I crouch on a great knee of root, my writing desk a chest of my meager possessions. The tree at my back is as big around as a tower. Strands and tangle of roots, some as big around as barrels, anchor it in the swampy ground. I perch on one to save my skirts from the damp and tussocky earth. At least on the ship, in the middle of the river, we were blessed with sunlight from above. Here, the foliage overshadows us, an eternal twilight.

Captain Triops has marooned us here in the swamp. He claimed that his ship was taking on water, and his only choice was to lighten his load and flee this corrosive river. When we refused to disembark, there was violence as the crew forced us from the ship. After one of our men was thrown overboard and swept away, our will to resist vanished. The stock that was to sustain us they kept. One of our men frantically seized the cage of messenger birds and fought for it. In the tussle, the cage broke, and all our birds rose in a flock to disappear. The crew threw off the crates of tools, seed, and provisions that were supposed to aid us in establishing our colony. They did it to lighten the ship, not to help us. Many fell in deep water, out of reach. The men have salvaged what they could of those that fell on the soft riverside. The muck has sucked the rest down. Now we are seventy-two souls in this forsaken place, of which forty are able-bodied men.

Great trees tower over us. The land trembles under our feet like a crust on a pudding, and where the men marched over it to gather our possessions, water now seeps, filling their footprints.

The current swept the ship and our faithless captain swiftly from our sight. Some say we must stay where we are, beside the river, and watch for the other two ships. Surely, they say, they will help us. I think we must move deeper into the forest, seeking firmer land and relief from the biting insects. But I am a woman, with no say in this.

The men hold council now, to decide leadership of our company. Jathan Carrock put himself forward, as being of the noblest birth, but he was shouted down by others, former prisoners, tradesmen, and speculators who said that his father's name had no value here. They mocked him, for all seem to know the "secret" that we are disgraced in Jamaillia. I walked away from watching them, feeling bitter.

My own situation is a desperate one. My feckless maid did not leave the ship with us, but stayed aboard, a sailor's whore. I wish her all she deserves! And now Petrus and Carlmin cling to me, complaining that the water has soaked their shoes and their feet sting from the damp. When I shall have a moment to myself again, I do not know. I curse the artist in me, for as I look up at the slanting beam of sunlight slicing through the intervening layers of branch and leaf, I see a wild and dangerous beauty to this place. Did I give in to it, I fear it could be as seductive as the raw glance of a rough man.

I do not know where such thoughts come from. I simply want to go home.

Somewhere on the leaves above us, it is raining.