Well, here’s a surprising little tidbit, and not the least because! It’s dated! Handwritten in the top right corner is “10/85.”
Which means we were in the midst of writing the book that became Carpe Diem, which went through a lot more changes than you might suspect, given the final, published version.
* * *
“Think I do it for kicks?”
Miri signed and folded into the study chair; stared at the leg of the reading table.
“What I do for kicks,” she told it seriously, “is read. Like to read. Read a lot, all things considered. In between stuff. Did a little story writing – adventure stuff, no big deal – when him an’ me was stuck on…well. That was OK. Liked that. Do it again, I guess, if I ever had the chance…runnin’ the Dulcimer – that was good, too.”
She glanced up and sighed again at the frown on Priscilla’s face.
“But that’s not what you wanted to know about. You wanted to know about the killing. And the answer to that is: It’s a job. What I do. About the only thing I know how to do, beside reading and runnin’ a bar and taking care of a cat and a couple scraggly pot-plants.”
She grinned wryly. “Val Con was here, he’d have an argument for that. Rats in his attic.”
She got up, wandered to the table and picked up a faceted paperweight, turning it this way and that in the light, sending fragmented rainbows around the room.
“Best job I could get, back on Surebleak. Other choices…Could’ve been a thief, I guess. Little enough to get into places – fast, quiet. Might’ve been pretty good. Not much worth stealin’ on Surebleak, though.” She put the paperweight down and drifted soundlessly to the window; stood looking down into the courtyard as Priscilla turned in her chair to watch.
“Or,” Miri told the window, or the courtyard, or herself, “I could’ve been a whore. Some future to that, on Surebleak, if you manage to set up an arrangement with one of the fatcats. If one of the fatcats had a taste for kids, that is.” She glanced down at herself and wrinkled her nose.
She glanced over her shoulder, meeting Priscilla’s eye, mouth quirking in what was meant, perhaps, to be a smile. “You’d’ve done fine.”
Priscilla felt her mouth soften into a smile as she extended a hand. “Miri, I didn’t –”
“No, you didn’t,” Miri agreed, stepping away from the window and slipping her hand softly into Priscilla’s. “Couldn’t. Joinin’ the mercs was the best choice outta no choices at all. Prolly would’ve ended up a whore. Robertson was startin’ to fiugre that I might be old enough, see, even if I was still little. Startin’ to figure he oughta be getting’ some return on his investment…Liz came back home to visit in the nick o’time.”
She squeezed Priscilla’s fingers and moved away, back to the window.
“Not too bad a choice, all in all. Got off Surebleak. Learned to take care of myself. Pick up some –” She shrugged. “Self-respect – there’s a concept.”
She shrugged again and waved a hand vaguely toward the library door.
“He’s payin’ that old fire-breather calls herself my aunt a – a life-price for me. Says it’ll be equal to what I’d earn during my life – as a master pilot.”
She laughed very softly.
“Rats in his attic.”
A small pause.
“Be nice, though.”
* * *
As I mentioned above, a surprising little scene, which continues to surprise, even after we get past the first surprise of an Actual Date.
Surprise Number Two – the Dulcimer. I remember the Dulcimer, but y’all may not. In the book that was not Carpe Diem, Val Con and Miri eventually came to own a bar called the Dulcimer, and guided it to notoriety in the Vandar music scene as the place to go for new licks and avant-garde playing.
Surprise Number Three – Miri seems to be referencing the action in “Fighting Chance” (published in Women of War, Tanya Huff and Alexander Potter, eds, DAW 2005), twenty years before it was written.
Surprise Number Four – that the jumping off point – the question that was asked just before Miri speaks that first sentence – appears to be that Priscilla – vessel of a goddess that she is – has in some way expressed doubt about Miri’s rectitude in terms of being-or-becoming a member of Clan Korval. I’m pretty sure that Priscilla has a lot more sense than that. On the other hand, clearly this was a discovery scene.
Surprise Number Five — I’m not sure that I knew Miri was a writer. I don’t necessarily have a problem with it, I just don’t think I’d known it.
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