Thank you to all of my family and friends for your belief and encouragement over the years; to the wonderfully funny and supportive community of writers on Twitter, particularly Alan Edwards and Jen Kirchner, whose support and encouragement sometimes keep me up at night; to Syd Gill for the wonderful cover, which she managed to produce in spite of having to deal with…well, with me; and to Mom and Dad, for giving me so much I don’t even know how to start thanking you.
He sees the city. It stands beyond fields of broken sand and salt estuaries, at the edge of a frozen sea, opposite a forlorn tower of black metal and razor protrusions. It is a city of the living.
It looks unnatural, like it doesn’t belong. The city teeters at the edge of a frozen marsh. Transparent frost limes the outer city walls, and strange insects like cursive figures lie petrified in ice that has been colored dark with dirt and rust. A frozen sun illuminates the white-gray fields.
He feels as if he has never seen it before. Cold and bitter wind curls off the surface of the frozen sea, and it carries the smells of corrosive salt, alien fish, undine fog and arcane steam. The sky is striated in alternating layers of dark and light, a cross-section like aerial soil, and the horizon is simultaneously too far away and too close. The debris-filled sky is two dimensional, like a flat screen.
Nothing seems to belong. The world has been cleaved, and then fused back together by a blind hand. There is a sense of wrongness, a heavy and catastrophic air, a feel of the temporary. He feels and sees it, can almost taste it, even though he isn’t really there.
Is this a dream? A vision? Does it matter?
He sees into the heart of Thornn and gazes at its angled towers and iron catwalks, at its crenellated domes and flying bunkers. There are fields of half-built ships that will someday sail through the air. He sees the farm fields, bound in by razor wire and protected by automaton gun turrets made of ancient steel; they swivel on grinding gears fueled by sorcery. Low in the sky are dirigibles piloted by lightweight Gol aeronauts – they are un-people, dwarf and misshapen, bound by the shared knowledge that they have been changed but forever unaware of what was done to them. In a way, the Gol are representatives of the entire world.