Aug 5 2013

For no particular reason, an out-take from The Lost Steersman.


I was doing some file cleanup and backup and reorganization, and it brought to mind some scenes and bits that were edited out of the final versions of some of the Steerswoman books…

The things that were cut were all cut for various good reasons — mostly having to do with focus and pacing.  But I was a bit sorry to see this particular bit go, since without it something unexplained had to remain unexplained.

So, it occurred to me that some of you might be interested in seeing it…

Just a lost fragment that never made the final cut.  Incomplete — not even an entire scene.  And ending rather abruptly, as (so I now believe) I realized that it would not fit smoothly into the thread of the tale, and so just stopped writing it.

But interesting (well, to me), and an explanation of sorts.

It takes place the night before Rowan, Steffie and Zenna sail away in Janus’ nameless boat:


The boat shifted on the wharf-side, rocked back into position. Someone had come aboard. “Rowan?”

The steerswoman clambered up to the deck. “Here.”

Zenna was outlined by lights from the harborside buildings. “You took your time,” Rowan noted.

“I lost track. I found something interesting in the Annex.”


Zenna maneuvered awkwardly across the gently rocking deck. “Let’s go below. We need some light.”

“What is it?” Puzzled, Rowan led the way below, preceding Zenna and carrying the other woman’s crutches as she descended the companionway.

Seated at Janus’ little table, Zenna pulled an object from her satchel, handed it to Rowan. “Look at this.”

A steerswoman’s logbook, of a design standard forty years ago. Rowan turned to the first page. “Mira’s?” The leather was crusted with damp-mold. Rowan pried apart the warped pages.

Zenna leaned forward and indicated something tucked between two leaves.  Rowan pulled it out: a folded and refolded sheet. “Is it a map?” She lifted one edge, took one look —

Then dropped the book, snatched the candle nearer, set the chart on the table and set to unfolding it — but carefully, carefully, so as not to break the aged paper…

Fine lines, delicate colors, more like a work of art than a map. Roads mere gray threads, almost invisible in the candle-light; towns a spread of tiny rectangles, possibly indicating the individual buildings themselves. Rivers, brooks, every upthrust of crag and hill: all in maddening detail, in washes of color impossibly steady and pure. She had seen such a map before. “This is a wizard’s map.”

“I figured as much.”

Rowan’s mind was a flurry of excitement, as she mentally tested superpositions of known Steerswomen’s maps. “This part might be the northern limb of the Mountains.” She found a town she knew. “Here’s Terminus.” Farms were identifiable by the regularity of their limits but there were fewer than she knew there to be. “This map was already old when Mira found it.” Fields showed distinctive colors, perhaps schematically representing type of crop; or perhaps, Rowan thought with an eerie thrill, perhaps depicting the actual color of each kind of vegetation, as seen by an eye hung high above the world.

Zenna indicated the western section of the chart.

“Yes,” Rowan said, feeling a grin on her own face. Beyond the known mountains: yet more mountains, continuing, peak behind peak, and none of them to be found on any Steerswomen’s map, none of them seen by or known to any steerswoman. “This is wonderful! Look, look at this gray area; I think that’s a narrow valley, and if the color is right it must be blackgrass that’s growing there, like they have in the Outskirts. And look, this lake here, with the brook –” Rowan laughed out loud. “Skies above, Zenna, we’re looking at the source of the River Wulf!”

Zenna watched her, head tilted slightly back. She had recovered the logbook; now she held it toward Rowan, open to one page, where one sentence stood alone:

They know everything.

Rowan glanced at the words, shook her head at the distraction, and immediately returned to the treasure of the wizard’s chart. “Zenna, here, look at these faint numbers; they’re everywhere. When I saw them on Shammer and Dhree’s map, I thought at first that they might be elevations, but they don’t match ours at all…I wonder what they might be?”

Zenna placed the logbook before her again, on top of the chart. She indicated the lone sentence.

“What?” Rowan asked her.

As if the action constituted reply, Zenna riffled the rest of the pages, to the back of the book; all were blank.

Rowan looked down at it, then up into her friend’s face. Zenna was expecting some specific reaction. Rowan shook her head, spread her hands.

Zenna prompted her. “Who do you think ‘they’ are?”

“The wizards, I assume.”

“So do I,” Zenna said. “It explains a lot, don’t you think?”

Rowan was completely at sea. “What does it explain?”

“Mira. We were wondering how any steerswoman could ever possibly come to live and behave as Mira did. How she could ever abandon her work, and all regard for the work of the Steerswomen.”

Rowan looked at the map, at the words in the book. “I don’t understand.”

“But don’t you see? Mira somehow acquired this map — it’s very old, she might have come by it any number of ways — and she saw how much more the wizards know than we do.”

“But that goes without saying. Of course they know more than we do, about any number of things.”

“Everything we try to find out, they already know.”

“Possibly.” Rowan sat regarding the other woman, and worked through a number of intellectual recombinations of the information at hand, trying to fathom Zenna’s behavior. She failed. She threw out her arms helplessly. “And?”

Zenna’s frustration was melting into something like amazement. “You really don’t see, do you?”

“Not at all.”

Zenna looked at her for a long, disbelieving moment; then astonishingly, she laughed out loud. “Oh, Rowan!” She pushed herself erect and threw herself half-falling into Rowan’s arms, embracing her, laughing. “Oh, Rowan, bless you, please, never change! Stay like this for the rest of your life!”

Rowan held her, uncomfortably wedged amid arms, table, and chair-back. “You mean,” she said over Zenna’s head, “confused?”

“No, of course not.” Zenna clumsily extracted herself and regained her seat. “Rowan,” she began; and her expression was so filled with affection and admiration that Rowan felt disturbed and deeply uncomfortable at its inexplicability, “what’s more important: truth, or the act of discovering it?”

Rowan opened her mouth to reply, then hesitated. “You can’t separate the two. For a truth to exist, someone has to discover it.”

“And you’d like that someone to be you.”

“It’s what I love to do.”

“Suppose that you discovered something, something you thought was known only to you, then found that someone else had been there already, had already known everything you struggled to learn?”

Rowan shifted uncomfortably, made vague gestures. “I suppose I’d try to gain access to that person’s work. Perhaps the person knows even more, and could save me a lot of time and effort.”

“But it wouldn’t bother you?”

“Why should it?”

Zenna folded her hands and spoke slowly and patiently. “Suppose you were different than you are. Suppose that what you loved most was not just truth, nor the act of discovery,” and she stressed the next words, “but the fact of being the discoverer.”

Rowan felt she needed all of her concentration to follow this, and she closed her eyes, straining in thought. “I don’t see any distinction. A discoverer discovers. That’s what it means.”

“The fact of being the first one, of being that person who has struggled and striven, and has come back with knowledge that would not exist, but for you.”

“But the truth doesn’t care who discovers it.”

“People do care.”

Rowan was disappointed. “Are you saying that… that what Mira cared for was securing other people’s regard?” Such a petty thing…

“No. Not just other people’s. When one says ‘people’, one has to include oneself. We regard ourselves, Rowan. We think of ourselves, and we care about what we are.” Zenna pulled the logbook across the table, turned it so it faced her, flipped through the earlier pages. “I think Mira loved her life because it permitted her to be what she wanted to be. In her own eyes, not the eyes of others, it gave her stature, it gave meaning to her life. She wanted to be the one who finds things out. The first. New things, that no one had known before.

“She had been working in the western mountains, you know; that was her area. But when she found this map, she realized that the thing she loved about herself was untrue, a sham. It had all been done before, by others, and much better than she ever could have done.”

Rowan looked down at her scarred hands — human hands lying on the impossible, magical colors of the map. “But it doesn’t matter…”

“Not to you. It mattered to her. Try to see it her way. Think of the thing that you love best about yourself, and imagine it taken away.”

Rowan tried, failed. “I don’t know what I love best about myself…” She sought for it in her mind, but there seemed to be nothing to seek. “I… I don’t think I can break myself into pieces like that.” And viewed that way, it did seem there was something, not a separate thing, but more like an aspect; but she could not hold on to it. It was like trying to touch the green-ness of a leaf without touching the leaf. “Whatever it is,” Rowan said, “I don’t think it can be taken from me.”

“Perhaps you’re right about that.” Zenna’s face again showed that glowing admiration, and Rowan shied away from it almost physically, thinking: I‘ve done nothing to deserve that.

“Then,” Zenna continued, “imagine anything you love. Imagine it gone.”

Rowan found she had many specific examples. “I’d do what I can to get it back,” she said immediately.

“And if that were impossible?”

Rowan had not thought of Fletcher for months; she thought of him again now. “It depends on why it was lost. If it was taken from me, I think I’d try to exact some sort of justice.”

“And if that were impossible, too?”

Rowan threw up her hands. “I’d adjust to the situation and set my mind on something else. Are you saying simply that Mira was unwilling to accept a fact outside of her control? And is this intended to enable me to sympathize with her? Because it’s doing exactly the opposite; I hope you can see that.”

“Hm. I can see I’m getting nowhere. Has it ever occurred to you that not everyone is as strong as you are?”

“You’re using the term ‘strong’ in a very vague way. But, come to think of it, that doesn’t matter. Because, yes, I’m aware that some people are not as strong as I am, just as I’m aware that there are plenty of people far stronger than I, by whatever definition of the word you choose.”



That’s it; that’s all.   Left on the cutting-room floor, so to speak.