EXCERPTS FROM THE NOVEL
‘How is a country like a woman?’ Go ye to Nymiria, all ye mighty and unfallen! There the King’s Bride doth trim her wicks — Lost in time.
She Who Shakes the Arrows
THE KNIGHTS OF THE WEST
In the western transept, the Knights of Sideleer had gathered. Known as the Knights of the West they were all in their plates except for their helmets and gauntlets, which they disregarded indoors for many reasons, but today more for a round of Crooks, also known as Six-Wickets. The game was known as croquet in Liorganda. Given their cross-blooded pedigree, varying by broad sweeps between the logic of men and the passions of their long-souled ancestors, each of the First Families of Nymiria integrated an ancestral tree into their motifs. For the Sideleers it was the Soft Maple, sometimes called the Shang Mapel or Blood Maple, whose bright red hue appeared in their flags, their murals, and field banners often bordered in black. In honoring their premier pact with those secretive burrowers, the Lowering Folk, and as a dividend of it, the Nymirians used a peculiar lacquer that gave anything treated with it the appearance of stone. Variations in the formula, called marlandring, along with coloring, created the many looks of rock: speckled, glazed, glinting, grained, glassy, streaked or whatever appearance one desired. It was favored in armor and shields and always fascinated guests who mistook most of the country’s military metalwork for stone. For the Sideleers their armor, their shields, and sometimes their weapons, were lacquered like black-flecked red marble, scarlet to cerise, complemented with scripted trim, tassels or hems, and discreetly flared to reflect the daggered leaves of the Shang Mapel.
A LAMENT FOR THE YOUNG
“You forget you’re old until something young and beautiful walks by you. Like the first flowers of spring: always faithful to their yearly appointments, but always in bloom before you expect them. This proves the fault lies with us. She smiles, if only because she is too young to know how unfortunate the days are. The young are decades from dread,” Suleon gave Allesson’s shoulder a parting squeeze, joking, “And you, young man, could be that dread.”
THE LOWERING FOLK
“Giants: what a grand impression you have of yourself.” The Archduke recalled, “The Lowering Folk, those grumpy old chiselers of the mountains, were said to be giants in high and far off times—the Towering Folk: the lake-striding Tiothanai, born of angels.” The Archduke gestured to the many ivory blocks that decorated the room. At a glance, they appeared as giant cubes, three feet per side, and polished to a shine. They were, in fact, giant molars that had been hewn down to simpler purposes, such as chairs and end tables, enchased with elegant runes. “As penance for their pride they were reassessed, this time according to what they lacked—humility—and retrenched in proportion to their wisdom; scaled down to the small and irritable tunnelers they remain to this day,” the Archduke remembered. “Chased into the depths by the ringing hours, when an iron star broke and turned the sky into a trumpet for a thousand years: ‘...angel-struck, did all the Yorm thence swoon.’”
THE BLUE ASTOR INSCRIPTION
Among all others I find no master:
Blackthorns alone may take me up—their Blue Astor.
THE IMPIETY OF URNLORIS
“Peace and rain aren’t worth praying for, boy,” Urnloris jeered. “Didn’t
you know? The sky’s empty. There are no mansions behind the sun, no iron stars. Nobody is listening. And if they are, they’re as likely to throw lightning as sunshine. Plagues and firebolts, they are the currency of heaven. A Cloak of Tatters is better than all that, lest we eat bread by weight! Come to it: if you want to beg—beg to me. Pray to the Hiss of Witches!”