The piano player drums away with her left hand, dropping all five fingers onto the keys as if they weigh too much to hold up. The rhythms bounce off the rhythms of what her right hand does, what she sings. It’s like there’s three different people in that little skinny body, one running each hand, the third one singing. But they all know what they’re doing.
“I’m taking Bodwon with me,” Erm Kaslo said. “He’s handy.” Diomedo Obron did not look up from the ancient tome in which he had been immersed when his security chief entered his work room. “All right,” he said.
Remembering Cimmeria: I walk through the bazaar, between the stalls of the spice sellers, smelling turmeric and cloves, hearing the clash of bronze from the sellers of cooking pots, the bleat of goats from the butcher’s alley. Rugs hang from wooden racks, scarlet and indigo. In the corners of the alleys, men without legs perch on wooden carts, telling their stories to a crowd of ragged children, making coins disappear into the air.
This is the thing about my sister and I: we’ve never gotten along, even when we’ve gotten along. This is what happens when you have parents who fetishize family, and the viscosity of their blood relative to water: you resent the force with which they push you together with this person who is, genetics aside, a stranger. And that’s what my sister is: a stranger.
“I’d say there are at least three hundred of them,” Kaslo said. “Mostly men, but quite a few women. I don’t see any children. I see clubs, knives, some homemade spears.” He turned from the narrow slit of unglazed window that pierced the castle wall.
The torch of the Statue of Liberty blazed with an unearthly light. The steamship lumbered through the retina-stinging nimbus which draped the colossal lady and her fortress pedestal in a luminescent haze. Cellach mac Rath crowded with the rest of the bedraggled masses on the deck and watched his destiny loom ever closer: the towers of Manhattan, garlanded with gargoyles and lit with the fires of a million lanterns.
Quentin Ketterly stood in the Gold Star Saloon and lit his cheroot with one hand, the other resting lightly on his hip, very close to his waistcoat pocket. He stared across the room at the five men playing poker at a nearby table. His eyes tracked the movement of the cards that they held and played, though his mind was on another set of Cards entirely.
In the last month of his life, when his runaway liver has all but eaten his body, Lord Joseph orders his slave to set his flimsy frame upright, like the sacred pillar of the God Osiris in the annual festival of rebirth. Joseph has other things on his mind, however, than his journey to the next world.
That day, the world turned upside down. We didn’t know why it happened. Some of us wondered whether it was our fault. Whether we had been praying to the wrong gods, or whether we had said the wrong things. But it wasn’t like that—the world simply turned upside down.
It was named the City of Lights. It had known other names in the long history of Earth, in the years before the sun turned wan and plague-ridden, before the moon hung vast and lurid in the sky, before the ships from the stars grew few and the reasons for ambition grew fewer still. It stretched as far as the eye could see . . . if one saw it from the outside, as the inhabitants never did.