Bedlams edge, p.1

Bedlam's Edge, page 1

 part  #8 of  Bedlam's Bard Series

 

Bedlam's Edge
 



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Bedlam's Edge


  BEDLAM’S EDGE

  edited by

  MERCEDES LACKEY

  &

  ROSEMARY EDGHILL

  This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.

  Copyright © 2005 by Mercedes Lackey & Rosemary Edghill. All stories copyright © 2005 to individual authors.

  All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form.

  A Baen Books Original

  Baen Publishing Enterprises

  P.O. Box 1403

  Riverdale, NY 10471

  www.baen.com

  ISBN: 0-7434-0893-7

  Cover art by Bob Eggleton

  First printing, August 2005

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Bedlam’s edge / edited by Mercedes Lackey & Rosemary Edghill.

  p. cm.

  “A Baen Books Original”—T.p. verso.

  ISBN 1-4165-0893-7

  Fantasy fiction, American. 2. City and town life—Fiction. I. Lackey, Mercedes. II. Edghill, Rosemary.

  PS648.F3B43 2005

  813’.0876608321732—dc22

  2005011258

  Distributed by Simon & Schuster

  1230 Avenue of the Americas

  New York, NY 10020

  Production & design by Windhaven Press, Auburn, NH (www.windhaven.com)

  Printed in the United States of America

  AUTHOR ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:

  “Devil Went Down to Georgia,” copyright © 2005 by Mercedes Lackey

  “Unleaving,” copyright © 2005 by India Edghill

  “Old Order,” copyright © 2005 by Michael Longcor

  “Well Met by Moonlight,” copyright © 2005 by Diana L. Paxson

  “The World’s More Full of Weeping,” copyright © 2005 by Rosemary Edghill

  “The Waters and the Wild,” copyright © 2005 by Mercedes Lackey

  “The Remover of Difficulties,” copyright © 2005 by Ashley McConnell

  “Bright as Diamonds,” copyright © 2005 by Barb Caffrey & Michael B. Caffrey

  “Bottle of Djinn,” copyright © 2005 by Roberta Gellis

  “Red Fiddler,” copyright © 2005 by Dave Freer & Eric Flint

  “Unnatural History,” copyright © 2005 by Sarah A. Hoyt

  “All That Jazz,” copyright © 2005 by Jenn Saint-John

  “Six-Shooter,” copyright © 2005 by Ellen Guon

  “Mall Elves and How They Grew,” copyright © 2005 by Mercedes Lackey

  BAEN BOOKS by Mercedes Lackey

  Bardic Voices:

  The Lark and the Wren

  The Robin and the Kestrel

  The Eagle and the Nightingales

  The Free Bards:

  Four & Twenty Blackbirds

  Bardic Choices: A Cast of Corbies

  (with Josepha Sherman)

  The Fire Rose

  The Wizard of Karres

  (with Eric Flint & Dave Freer)

  Beyond World’s End

  (with Rosemary Edghill)

  Spirits White as Lightning

  (with Rosemary Edghill)

  Mad Maudlin

  (with Rosemary Edghill)

  Bedlam’s Edge

  (edited with Rosemary Edghill)

  Music to My Sorrow

  (with Rosemary Edghill)

  (forthcoming)

  Bedlam’s Bard

  (with Ellen Guon)

  Born to Run

  (with Larry Dixon)

  Wheels of Fire

  (with Mark Shepherd)

  Chrome Circle

  (with Larry Dixon)

  The Chrome Borne

  (with Larry Dixon)

  The Otherworld

  (with Larry Dixon &

  Mark Shepherd)

  This Scepter’d Isle

  (with Roberta Gellis)

  Ill Met by Moonlight

  (with Roberta Gellis)

  Castle of Deception

  (with Josepha Sherman)

  Fortress of Frost and Fire

  (with Ru Emerson)

  Prison of Souls

  (with Mark Shepherd)

  Lammas Night

  Werehunter

  Fiddler Fair

  Brain Ships

  (with Anne McCaffrey &

  Margaret Ball)

  The Sword of Knowledge

  (with C.J. Cherryh Leslie Fish,

  & Nancy Asire)

  The Shadow of the Lion

  (with Eric Flint & Dave Freer)

  This Rough Magic

  (with Eric Flint & Dave Freer)

  BAEN BOOKS by ROSEMARY EDGHILL

  Warslayer

  Tom O’ Bedlam’s Song

  For to see Mad Tom of Bedlam

  Ten thousand miles I traveled

  Mad Maudlin goes on dirty toes

  To save her shoes from gravel.

  Chorus:

  Still I sing bonny boys, bonny mad boys

  Bedlam boys are bonny

  For they all go bare and they live by the air

  And they want no drink nor money.

  Alternative Chorus:

  While I do sing, any food

  Feeding drink or clothing?

  Come dame or maid, be not afraid,

  Poor Tom will injure nothing.

  I went down to Satan’s kitchen

  To break my fast one morning

  And there I got souls piping hot

  All on the spit a-turning.

  There I took a cauldron

  Where boiled ten thousand harlots

  Though full of flame I drank the same

  To the health of all such varlets.

  My staff has murdered giants

  My bag a long knife carries

  To cut mince pies from children’s thighs

  For which to feed the fairies.

  No gypsy, slut or doxy

  Shall win my mad Tom from me

  I’ll weep all night, with stars I’ll fight

  The fray shall well become me.

  From the hag and hungry goblin

  That into rags would rend ye,

  All the sprites that stand by the naked man

  In the book of moons, defend ye.

  With a thought I took for Maudlin,

  And a cruse of cockle pottage,

  With a thing thus tall, Sky bless you all,

  I befell into this dotage.

  I slept not since the Conquest,

  Till then I never waked,

  Till the naked boy of love where I lay

  Me found and stript me naked.

  I know more than Apollo,

  For oft when he lies sleeping

  I see the stars at mortal wars

  In the wounded welkin weeping.

  The moon embrace her shepherd,

  And the queen of love her warrior,

  While the first doth horn the star of morn,

  And the next the heavenly farrier.

  Of thirty years have I

  Twice twenty been enraged

  And of forty been three times fifteen

  In durance soundly caged.

  On the lordly lofts of Bedlam

  With stubble soft and dainty,

  Brave bracelets strong, sweet whips, ding-dong,

  With wholesome hunger plenty.

  When I short have shorn my sour face

  And swigged my horny barrel

  In an oaken inn, I pound my skin

  As a suit of gilt apparel.

  The moon’s my constant mistress,

  And the lonely owl my marrow;

  The flaming drake and the night crow make

/>   Me music to my sorrow.

  The spirits white as lightening

  Would on my travels guide me

  The stars would shake and the moon would quake

  Whenever they espied me.

  And then that I’ll be murdering

  The Man in the Moon to the powder

  His staff I’ll break, his dog I’ll shake

  And there’ll howl no demon louder.

  With a host of furious fancies,

  Whereof I am commander,

  With a burning spear and a horse of air

  To the wilderness I wander.

  By a knight of ghosts and shadows

  I summoned am to tourney

  Ten leagues beyond the wide world’s end—

  Methinks it is no journey.

  The palsy plagues my pulses

  When I prig your pigs or pullen

  Your culvers take, or matchless make

  Your Chanticleer or sullen.

  When I want provant, with Humphry

  I sup, an when benighted

  I repose in Paul’s with waking souls,

  Yet never am affrighted.

  The Gipsy Snap an Pedro

  Are none of Tom’s comradoes,

  The punk I scorn, and the cutpurse sworn

  And the roaring boy’s bravadoes.

  The meek, the white, the gentle,

  Me handle not nor spare not;

  But those that cross Tom Rhinoceros

  Do what the panther dare not.

  That of your five sound senses

  You never be forsaken,

  Nor wander from your selves with Tom

  Abroad to beg your bacon.

  I now reprent that ever

  Poor Tom was so disdained

  My wits are lost since him I crossed

  Which makes me thus go chained.

  So drink to Tom of Bedlam

  Go fill the seas in barrels

  I’ll drink it all, well brewed with gall

  And maudlin drunk I’ll quarrel.

  —Anonymous

  DEVIL WENT DOWN TO GEORGIA

  Mercedes Lackey

  “The Damnyankees got the Devil with ‘em.”

  Seth Carpenter generally didn’t pay a lot of attention to the women when they gossiped around the fireplace of a night. Men didn’t bother with that kind of palaver. Maybe he was only thirteen, but he was a Man, by gum, because Pappy had put him in charge of the place when he went off fighting the Damnyankees.

  Except Pappy hadn’t done so good. He hadn’t been gone a month, when his stuff come back with a scrawled “We regrets to inform you, Miz Carpenter” note that the preacher had read to Mam a week later. Not that she didn’t already know when the stuff come back … didn’t take words on paper to tell her what’d happened.

  So now Seth was in charge, permanent like. Mam hadn’t liked it much, but he’d made some changes. Ground didn’t get plowed and stock tended by itself, and he didn’t see any good reason why his sisters couldn’t shed some petticoats, tie up their skirts, and put a hand to it too. Yep, and pick up Seth’s old squirrel rifle (he used Pappy’s now) and learn to shoot something for the pot.

  “Someone will see their legs!”

  That was a laugh. Even if they weren’t living in a holler so small it didn’t even have a name, who would see them legs but God and other womenfolk? And he didn’t reckon God cared.

  Girls didn’t care either. In fact, he reckoned Cassie fair relished being shut of them petticoats, the way she frisked around. They’d got through the summer and fall pretty good, better’n most, had a good harvest—and that was another change Seth had made. Army had taken Pappy, so he figgered they’d paid the Army ‘bout all they owed. Talked Mam around to that notion too, though, mind, it hadn’t taken much talking. Most of the harvest went into hiding, and so did the stock. And when collectors came around looking, there weren’t much to take away.

  Butchering hadn’t been easy, but by then, Mam had come around to the notion that there were times when womenfolk needed to do things as weren’t proper. So when time came to do the winter hunting and butchering, she’d been right there, looking a fair sight thinner without all that cloth flapping around. So they’d got the farm pig done and smoked up, and he’d got a wild sow too; pure luck, that was, she was in the larder now. Traded the rest of the pigs for what Mam didn’t do—and for white flour and gunpowder. Took down some geese and ducks in passage, smoked them. With winter here and frost on the ground of a morning, he was working now on his stalking gear, because deer cost a bullet apiece, and he didn’t reckon on wasting any.

  With winter solid, there was time for visiting, though, which, what with Seth and the girls all chopping wood, meant that as the Carpenter hearth was the coziest, and the Carpenter larder seemed a little better stocked than most, seems the womenfolk turned up here more often than not.

  Well, Seth didn’t mind. There was always a big pot of black-eyed peas with a hambone in it, plenty of johnnycake, and truth to tell, the women did come in handy. Didn’t mind helping Mam out before everybody settled to jabber. Did some sewing and the like for her. Had a quilting bee. Pretty handy.

  Except when they started turning their tongues to stuff like this.

  “Damnyankees don’t need no Devil t’ get up t’ deviltry,” he said sourly. “And anyrate, what you worried ‘bout? They ain’t never comin’ here. Even if they could find us, they ain’t nothin’ here wuth their time.”

  “They’s a holler full of womenfolk, all alone!” began one of the hens, starting that hysterical hencackle that’d get all the rest of the coop going.

  “They’s a holler full of womenfolk as can pick up they skirts and scoot in the woods, an’ nobody never gonna find us unless we wants t’be found!” said Cassie, cutting right through the palaver to the heart of it. “We got hidey-holes already, right an’ tight an’ cozy. Seth he’ped us. An’ if you ain’t, then you’re durn fools!”

  “Cassie!” said Mam, aghast. “Don’t speak unless you’re spoke to!”

  “No, she’s right, Mam,” said Seth, taking up his duty as The Man. He looked around at the half-shocked, half-frightened faces of the other women. “Jest ‘cause I don’t b’lieve the Damnyankees is comin’ here, don’t mean I don’t think we oughta be ready. We cain’t fight ‘em, so we gotta hide. They come here, they gonna find the house, with nothin’ in it but a kettle o’ beans, ‘nuff provisions for a week, mebbe, few clothes, and nothin’ else. Got the stock in hidin’, got the food in hidin’, an’ got hidey-holes all over them hills. An’ if’n you-all haven’t done the same, you oughta. Right, Cassie?”

  She nodded. He noticed then, as if he hadn’t seen her before, that she was getting pretty, with her corn-gold hair and her bright blue eyes.

  Now, maybe if there had been other men here, or even another boy Seth’s age, someone would have started talking about “coward’s ways” and “standing and fighting for what’s ours.” But there weren’t any other men, and in the past six-eight months, he’d come to learn that women—once you’d gotten ‘em past all that “proper” and “womanly” nonsense—were a lot more practical than men.

  So— “How’d you hide the stock?” asked one and “What kinda hidey-holes?” asked another, and pretty soon Cassie and Mam and Delia and Rose were telling the other womenfolk how to spread their provisions around, keep ‘em safe from varmints, how to look for places where, if you had to and the Damnyankees burned the cabin down out of spite, you could live out the winter all right.

  He had to watch ‘em—catch ‘em sharp when he thought one or another of ‘em was going to say “Oh, you can share—” or “I’ll just show you—” because you start telling and showing one woman and pretty soon all of ‘em knew where something was, and even if they was honest, being women, they couldn’t help but spill it out and there went your stash or your hidey-hole.

  Some of ‘em started on about it being too much trouble to take your stuff out of the larder and hide it ev
erywhere. It was harder work, true, keeping things going with the provisions hidden all over the place—you had to go out every few days to get the next couple of days’ supplies. Meaning Seth; he was the woodswise one, and he was careful to make sure nothing bigger nor a bluejay was spying on him. But since he was hunting anyway, every day, he’d made it part of his hunting round. And true enough, it had been hard to build varmint-proof shelters for the stock out in the woods, harder to go from shelter to shelter to tend the stock, but—they only had one mule, and if he got took, it would be bad. Chickens, now, they were Cassie’s special chore, and he reckoned she pretty well liked to go where he’d put ‘em. And pigs were doing all right.

  So if they could do it, so could everybody else. No need to go offer to share.

  “Hidey-holes ain’t gonna help you when the Devil rides up out from under Stormytop.” It was that same, dour-face biddy that had spoke up the first time. New face in the last couple weeks; somebody’s cousin, come here from some bigger town, place where they called thesselves a town. Hadn’t liked her when she’d been introduced, didn’t like her now. She squinted her eyes at him, and frowned. “Devil, he’s got him a pack o’ Hounds o’ Hell, an he’s got him a posse o’ Ghost Riders. They kin sniff you out wherever you are.”

  “Oh, yeah?” Seth said, thoroughly tired of this by now. “An’ what’d you know about it?”

 
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