The Green Bird
Nov 23 2010 9:30am

The Green Bird

Kage Baker

To honor the magnificent career of Jack Vance, one unparalleled in acheivement and impact on the fantasy genre, George R.R. Martin and Garner Dozois, with the full cooperation of Jack Vance, his family, and his agents, created the tribute anthology Songs of the Dying Earth. The best of today's fantasy writers were invited to work in the unique and evocative millieu of the Dying Earth, wfrom which they and so many others have drawn so much inspiration, to create their own brand-new adventures in the world of Jack Vance's latest creation.

We hope you enjoy this complete story from Songs of the Dying Earth, about, in author Kage Baker's words, “a liar and thief in a doomed world of liars and thieves.”

* * *

It amused Justice Rhabdion of Kaiin to dispose of malefactors by dropping them down a certain chasm located at the edge of his palace gardens. 

Deep and steep-sided the chasm was, bottomed with soft sand, so that more often than not the objects of Justice Rhabdion’s displeasure survived the fall. This was all to the good, as far as Rhabdion was concerned, since it provided him with further subject for mirth. On claret-colored summer afternoons, he used to have his Chair of Office moved out on the balcony that overlooked his garden pleasaunce, and which, incidentally, gave him an excellent view into the chasm as well. There he would smile to watch the antics of the enchasmates, as they fruitlessly sought to escape or quarreled with one another. 

To further tease those unfortunates who had been so consigned, Justice Rhabdion had had vines of Saskervoy planted all along the chasm’s rim, prodigious black creepers, with scarlet leaves in shape and function like razors, save for their motility and the small voracious mouths set just above each stem. Each enchasmed newcomer attempted to depart by means of seizing and scrambling up the vines, generally at the cost of a finger or nose and never farther than the first third of the way before having to let go and fall. 

Rhabdion’s gardeners stinted the vines’ feeding, to keep them keen; and this in time diminished their effect, for the enchasmates quickly learned better than to grasp at the vines. Therefore in their impatience to feed, the vines took to hunting for themselves, snapping out to catch any bird or bat so unwise as to fly within their reach.

The enchasmates, having made slings out of sandal-laces, would then fire small stones, striking the vines and causing them to drop their prey, upon which the slingers themselves would then gladly fasten, bearing the small tattered flesh back to the shelters built under the more concave angles of the chasm’s walls. So were they provided with sustenance. Then it chanced that a mining engineer from Erze Damath displeased Justice Rhabdion in some wise, and was inadequately searched before being thrown down the chasm. Certain tools he had concealed in his boots, and, once resigned to his misfortune, he retreated under the most acute of the leaning walls and there excavated, patiently chipping away at strata of porous aggregate to make yet deeper shelter from winter hail and the melancholy red light of the sun. 

In time, his work provided the enchasmates with water, for he broke into a subterranean spring, relieving them thereby of the need to collect the bloody dewfall that dripped from the vines in early mornings—and with currency, for he struck upon a vein of purest gold, which was pounded into roundels and traded amongst them all in exchange for certain favors. 

So a kind of society grew up at the bottom of the chasm, with its own customs and pleasures, all unnoticed by Justice Rhabdion, whose eyesight had waned as he grew older. Still he sat on his balcony through the fine purple evenings, chuckling at the occasional howls of despair that rose to his hearing from below.

1. jharris25
This is awesome.
John Ginsberg-Stevens
2. eruditeogre
Great story. I can't wait to get the book. I wish I had been able to afford one of the Subterranean Press editions, but at least I can read it now.
Kurt Lorey
3. Shimrod
A scintillating exemplification of the lexical archaism that is Jack Vance.

Kage, you rock!
Clare Miller
4. clarekrmiller
Oh, my, that was delightful. Loved the ending.

There were a lot of typos, though. Vigilance, Tor copy editors!
5. KateMcL
You're right, Clare -- many typos!


“Offended? said Cugel. “Not in the least. There was ...

Add double closing quotes after the question mark.

... crossing were he to fill the hollow of his skull with more than one cantrap, and as many as three ...

"cantrap" should be "cantrip"

... their affection for a certain gree bird ...

"gree" should be "green"

“There is only one thing needful,” said Cugel. “I require a bar of metal, with which to
weight the end of my rope, and which will happily catch in the crook of the goddess’s arm
Add a space after the word "to" and delete the paragraph return.

... for it was so ensorceled as to permit entry only grudgingly, ...

"ensorceled" should be "ensorcelled"

... be doing sucha favor ...

Add a space after the word "such" ... and why are words being underlined instead of italicized throughout this story?

“What am I doing here? What are youdoing here? Why aren’t ...

Delete the extra space after the question mark, and add a space after the word "you".

... inches. “This is herresponsibility! I’ve waited for days ...

Add a space after the word "her".

There was a tavern in Kandive Court that was open ‘round the clock ...

That should be an apostrophe before the word "round," not an opening single quotation mark.

“Why, refuse her, man,” said Dame Trunadora, grinning through chapped and cololess lips ...

"cololess" should be "colorless".

“Oh, what is it? she cried. “Something’s the matter with my shoe ...

Add double curly closing quotes after the question mark.

“Who’s there? cried a sharp voice ...

Add double curly closing quotes after the question mark.
6. daylitesun
Loved this story!
7. sunny-side-up
Wonderful story! Though, why couldn't Daratello have transformed himself into a cat, or a red bird, or something else? But then, there might not have been a story ;)
Muhammad Rasheed
9. MRasheed
This was the best one in the collection. Very well done.

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