Published in: After the King: Stories in Honor of J.R.R. Tolkien.
When black cloaked Sarah Canary wanders into a railway camp in the Washington territories in 1873, Chin Ah Kin is ordered by his uncle to escort “the ugliest woman he could imagine” away. Far away. But Chin soon becomes the follower. In the first of many such instances, they are separated, both resurfacing some days later at an insane asylum. Chin has run afoul of the law and Sarah has been committed for observation. Their escape from the asylum in the company of another inmate sets into motion a series of adventures and misadventures that are at once hilarious, deeply moving, and downright terrifying.
Nou Occitan is a place where duels are fought with equal passion over insults and artistic views alike. Giraut–swordsman, troubador, lover–is a creature of this swashbuckling world, the most isolated of humanity’s Thousand Cultures.
But the winds of change have come to Nou Occitan. As the invention of the “springer”–instantaneous interstellar travel, at a price–spreads throughout the human galaxy, the stability and purity of no world, no matter how isolated, is safe. Nor can Giraut’s life remain untouched. To his wonder, his is about to find himself made an ambassador to a different human world, a place strange beyond his wildest imaginings.