“Faey lived, for those who knew how to find her, within Ombria's past. Parts of the city's past lay within time's reach, beneath the streets in great old limestone tunnels: the hovels and mansions and sunken river that Ombria shrugged off like a forgotten skin, and buried beneath itself through the centuries.”
“There was the gaudy patch of sunflowers beside the west gate of the palace of the Prince of Ombria, that did nothing all day long but turn their golden-haired, thousand-eyed faces to follow the sun.”
“How strange to be in a dream one moment and in the world the next, and to know the difference in the blink of an eye.”
“He had no place in the world, he said once, therefore he could go everywhere.”
“You have a very peculiar expression on your face,' he commented drowsily.
'I was just thinking.'
'About how we know what's real. How we wake out of a timeless place and recognize time. How you know me here, now, even when nothing or anyone else in this place is familiar. I might have been wandering through your dream, but you knew immediately which of me will bring you paper.'
He was silent for so long, still clasping her wrist, that she thought he must have fallen asleep without knowing it. He said finally, 'Say that again.'
'I can't,' she answered helplessly. 'It was just a thought. I gave it to you.'
'Something about dreams coming to life--'
'That's not what I said.”
“Explain to me again," he begged," why we are here."
She had told him once before; it had been like listening to a vivid, improbable dream.”
“if you speak of this I will tear out your voice and top it down the nearest drain”
“The river narrowed, quickened, its surface trembling like the eyes of dreamers.”
“Lydea was a blown flame; Lydea was yesterday; Lydea, alone on the streets of Ombria, was already changing into something neither of them would recognize, if she survived to see them again.”
“his hands moved busily among the puppets, choosing, discarding, until they pounced finally on the moon with her crystal eyes and her hands shaped like stars.
'I will be the moon,' Kyel said. 'You must make a wish to me.'
Lydea slid her fingers into the fox's head, with its sly smile and fiery velvet pelt. 'I wish,' she said, 'that you would take your nap.'
'No,' the prince said patiently, 'you must make a true wish. And I will grant it because I am the moon.'
'Then I must make a fox's wish. I wish for an open door to every hen house, and the ability to jump into trees.'
The moon sank onto the blue hillock of Kyel's knee. 'Why?'
'So that I can escape the farmer's dogs when they run after me.'
'Then you should wish,' the prince said promptly, 'that you could jump as high as the moon.'
'A good wish. But there are no hens on the moon, and how would I get back to Ombria?'
The moon rose again, lifted a golden hand. 'On a star.'
The governess smiled. The fox stroked the prince's hair while he shook away the moon and replaced it with the sorceress, who had one amethyst eye and one emerald, and who wore a black cloak that shimmered with ribbons of faint, changing colors.
'I am the sorceress who lives underground,' the prince said. 'Is there really a sorceress who lives underground?'
'So they --' Lydea checked herself, let the fox speak. 'So they say, my lord.'
'How does she live? Does she have a house?'
She paused again, glimpsing a barely remembered tale. 'I think she does. Maybe even her own city beneath Ombria. Some say that she has an ancient enemy, who appears during harsh and perilous times in Ombria's history. Then and only then does the sorceress make her way out of her underground world to fight the evil and restore hope to Ombria.'
The sorceress descended, long nose down on the silk. Kyel picked another puppet up, looked at it silently a moment. The queen of pirates, whose black nails curved like scimitars, whose hair was a rigid knoll in which she kept her weapons, stared back at him out of glittering onyx eyes.”
“Then, as Mag worried the crock into her basket, trying not to squash goats' eyes and violets, the young man reached across the counter and seized her hand. She gazed at him in wonder. He had thick, moist fingers, and she needed her hand to shift the eyes.
'Mag,' he said huskily. His heavy, earnest face was sheened with sweat and the bluish shadow of his first beard. 'How can you not see how we belong to one another? We've grown up together, like night and day. You are moon to my sun, you are silver to my aspiring gold - You would complete me -'
'Wait,' she pleaded. 'The crock is on the violets.'
'Marry me. Together we would become the marvel we seek, the transmutation of time into eternity -'
She snorted inelegantly, and felt something peculiar flowing through her bones, an unaccustomed panic, a desperate urgency she barely knew words for. He thought he recognized her as human. 'You are mistaken,' she said coldly. 'And from what I've seen of both alchemy and marriage, all the marvels lie in the expectation.”
“Tell me the story of the locket.'
'Once upon a time, my lord, in the best and the worst of all possible words, a princess fell in love with a young man who loved to draw pictures.'
'Very like your cousin. Every day for a year, she gave him a rose. She would pick it at dawn from her father's gardens and then take it to the highest place in the castle, a place so high that everyone had forgotten about it except for the doves that nested beneath the broken roof. There, she had found a secret door between the best and the worst of the worlds. Every day, they would meet on the threshold of that door. She would give him a rose, and he would give her a drawing of the city he lived in. They loved each other very much, but of course they could never marry, because they were from different worlds: she was a princess and he an artist who had to paint tavern signs to keep himself fed.”
“She descended, not through the nearest hole as was her childhood habit, but more sedately down a marble staircase that began life in the upper world as an innocent stairway from a cellar door. Below, Faey complained about her tardiness, but was too busy to press for explanations. A gentleman from the palace had sent a request, with gold, for a method of detecting poison. Mag sighed. It would be a smelly afternoon.”
“Lavender,' he commented, looking at the ribbons in her sleeve.
'The prince was tired, he said, of looking at so much black.'
'So am I,' he breathed. ...
Sorrow caught her, as it did sometimes unexpectedly: a thumbprint of fire in the hollow of her throat. She swallowed it, said only, 'Because you have been working so hard, my lord.'
'I'm not used to it yet.' He measured a trailing end of the ribbon at her wrist between his fingers, oblivious of the guards and hovering officials who had followed him. ... He added impulsively, 'Perhaps I'll come with you this afternoon.'
The thought made her smile. 'To my father's tavern? It's hardly for the likes of you.'
'I've been to --'
'I know, my lord: every tavern in Ombria but the Rose and Thorn. I wonder how you missed it.' Then, out of nowhere, a chill of fear blew through her; she heard herself say, 'We can't both leave the prince. Not both of us at once.'
He gave her a strange look, not of surprise, but a reflection of her fear, which she found odder still. He loosed the ribbon, nodded, his eyes returning briefly to the prince's door. 'Perhaps you're right. He knows where you're going?'
'He knows, my lord. But I'll be back before he remembers that I'm gone.'
'Be careful,' he said. 'Tell your father that I will come and draw in his tavern some day.'
But that was idle wishing, she knew. Already he was a legend in certain parts of the city, and legends, having made themselves so, rarely returned to repeat their feats. He seemed to read her mind. His eyes, clear, faintly smiling, held hers a moment.
'Not,' he said, 'an idle wish.'
A promise, his eyes told her. She blinked, then dismissed the half-glimpsed idea that had rolled like a sea creature on the surface of her mind, then dove back down, so deeply that she had forgotten it before she returned to her chamber.”
“This palace,' he had said, 'is a small city, past lying close to present like one shoe next to another. If you look at them in a mirror, left becomes right, present becomes past...”
“Lydea found Mag's knowledge astonishing, and had gotten into the habit of taking lessons with the prince. They helped each other study, sometimes with the aid of puppets.”
“She spread her hands. That morning they had been soft as feathers, jeweled, polished, and perfumed. Now they were crisscrossed with blood and dirt, wearing only bruises for jewels”
“And then he left the palace to roam the streets of Ombria, where he painted shadows as he searched for light within them, painted thick, barred doors, as he searched in their hewn, scarred grains for what it was they hid, painted high windowless walls as if, rebuilding them stone by stone on paper, he could dismantle them and finally see the secret life behind the real.”
“There are pieces to the puzzle missing,' Camas said. He was tugging his hair; his eyes glowed eerily in the red light from a stained-glass lamp. 'And pieces that don't yet fit. What, for instance, precipitates the shift from city to shadow city? Is it sorcery? Has it to do with the precarious state of affairs in the House of Greve? The powerless heir, the bastard who cannot act? What secrets are hidden within the secret palace? What is there to gain by anticipating and surviving the shift? Domina Pearl believes that it is possible, if one can remain aware during the transformation, to amass enormous knowledge and power. To rule the shadow city when it emerges, since no one else will remember the previous city, and who ruled then. All will be accepted as it is revealed. All of which is why I am so eager to speak with you. You live in Ombria's past, its ghosts and memories. How far back do you remember? Were you alive before the previous shift? How many transformations have there been? Many? One? None at all? How old are you?'
The illusion of Faey inclined her head gracefully; Camas continued without listening for answers. Faey spoke then, her voice sliding within, beneath his words. 'What do you expect to gain form what you call the transformation?'
Camas interrupted his own sentence with a word. 'Enlightenment. And the power that comes with an unbroken memory of the history of the city. Domina Pearl's knowledge of sorcery may not survive the transformation if she herself is not aware of the shift. I want to stay alive, be aware of the shift form city to shadow, and I will ally myself and my abilities to anyone powerful enough to maintain the integrity of existence, knowledge, memory and experience through the transformation.'
'Such as Domina Pearl?' the sorceress suggested. She kept her voice light, careless, but her eyes were very dark.
'Domina Pearl,' Camas agreed. 'Or you. Or perhaps even Ducon. He is another puzzle piece, I think. He is drawn to the hidden palace, and to the odd, unnoticed places in Ombria where the boundaries are visible between the city and its shadow. He draws them constantly.'
'So you would pledge your loyalty to him or betray him, depending on the moment?'
'Or her. Or you,' Camas answered, nodding briskly. Mag stared at him with wonder. 'Exactly. Depending on the moment.”
“The tutor's eyelids drooped; his thoughts drained out of his face like water seeping into earth.”
“That man would betray his own shadow. And for what? A child's tale.'
'Is it?' Mag looked at her. 'Is it only a tale?'
For a moment, the purple eyes grew dark, black as the little rags of shadows that Mag saw on empty streets or patches of barren ground, attached to nothing, seemingly blown at random from some place adrift in light.”
“As she moved swiftly and noiselessly through the vast palace cellar, odd noises weltered toward her. Voices and echoes of water rippled through the air as if, in some magic chamber, whales and dolphins cavorted among young maidens in great tanks of water. When she reached it, all the fish turned into laundry, stirred and beaten in steaming cauldrons by glum, limp-haired women as wet as mackerels.”
“When he held a candle across the threshold, the black swallowed the fire completely. When he tried to step across it, he felt nothing beneath his foot. Sometimes he heard rain, a bird-cry, wind soughing through tall trees; mostly he was aware only of an intimation of vastness, silence, as though he stood at the edge of a world.
He saw nothing. So he let the charcoal imagine what might lie on the other side of the door.”
“He is not here to help me with this; you must take his place.'
Ducon started to speak, faltered. He stared at her, the bruise on his face suddenly vivid against his pallor, as if she had struck him.”
“You are not thinking, are you my waxling? I didn't make you to think."
"Occasionally", Meg admited, "I have a thought."
"Well, Makings such as you are difficult and seldom flawless. You keep away from Domina Pearl. Shes buissniss for us, but she is ruthless. I don't want you anywhere near in her thoughts."
"I thought you said she is mostly imagination."
"So she is", Faey said sotfly, "and so are you. She'd melt you down like a chandle if you got in her way. Dont niggle arguments at me, just keep out of her shadow."
"I want you to go above, I need certain things. Don't be long; we'll have to work by noon.”
“Another thing they talk about a lot is water—and that’s a very crucial thing, which is not discussed very much in the United States but it’s probably the main reason why Israel is never going to give up the West Bank. See, this is a very arid region, so water is more important than oil, and there are very limited water resources in Israel. In fact, a lot of the wars in the Middle East have been about water—for instance, the wars involving Israel and Syria have usually been about the headwaters of the Jordan, which come from Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon. And as a matter of fact, one of the main reasons why Israel is holding on to the so-called “Security Zone” it seized in southern Lebanon [in the 1982 invasion] is that that area includes a mountain, Mount Hermon, which is a big part of the watershed that brings water to the region.”
“Okay, okay. So. First things first. Aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh! Second thing: I should probably say “thank you” for saving my life. Say it and then follow it up with something funny like… okay. Spinach joke. Spinach joke. Shit. Um… Oh, I know! What do anal sex and spinach have in common? If you’re forced to have either as a child, you won’t want it as an adult. Holy fucking Christ. What the fuck is wrong with me? There is no way I can make a spinach/molesting joke! I am a monster. Think of something else. Think of anything else!”
“Rage filled me at her words - cold, black, unending rage. Whatever happened to me, Mab would not hurt my sister again. She would not.”
“Character is that which reveals moral purpose, showing what kind of things a man chooses or avoids.”
“Those incapable of thinking gravely read gravity into frivolties which correspond to their own frivolous nature.”
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