Book 1 of Stories of the Puzzle Lands
by Linda Nagata
The dried bunches of herbs that hung from the thatch were almost all gone by the time winter neared its end. Ketty used a forked stick to bring down the last one, though she wondered if it had any flavor left in it other than smoke. But as she lifted it from its hook, another item was revealed behind it. It looked to be a small pouch, hanging from its drawstring.
Putting the bundle of herbs aside on the table, she used her forked stick again, to fetch the pouch. It was heavier than she expected. Full of curiosity, she took it in her hand, and at once she heard the clink of coins. She put down the stick and hurried to the door.
It was a gloomy day, with frost still crunching on the ground, but it was light enough that she could see the sparkle of gold and silver when she peered into the pouch. She forgot to breathe as she poked her fingers at the coins. There were many different sizes and colors, most that she’d never seen before. But she’d seen a silver tarling once, one of the wedding gifts when her cousin was married. That alone had been enough to buy a new plough horse, and she saw at least two silver tarlings in the pouch, and they were not the grandest coins.
“Ah, Smoke,” she breathed in wonder. “You did not tell me we were rich.”
Linda Nagata is the author of multiple novels and short stories including The Red: First Light, a near-future military thriller nominated for the 2013 Nebula award. Among her other works are The Bohr Maker, winner of the Locus Award for best first novel; the novella “Goddesses,” the first online publication to receive a Nebula award; and the story “Nahiku West,” a finalist for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. Though best known for science fiction, she also writes fantasy, exemplified by her “scoundrel lit” series Stories of the Puzzle Lands.