“In sessions over in Marrow, in the ransacked halls of the Arrad Chambers, they advocated for great sums of money to go to the Bridgers to repair their tarnished heirloom. We’d not get a penny of it. We were left to fend for ourselves. ”
“Heat in Embrace wraps close to the skin – saturating, condensation mingling with sweat. There’s a texture to it that I’ve not felt anywhere else. When the sun breaks, it doesn’t tip-toe through dawn. It’s there in its full fury, from moment of first light til its dusk retreat.
That summer the city blistered. The scrimshawers were kept busy repairing cracks in bone; the Trill’s moisture was the only thing that stopped the fleshwood from igniting. Our tempers though were frayed to wicks, ready to catch. Hulling day would be the spark.”
“As much as Maybes had leaders, Ezra was the Jubilant’s. When we took Oken, others in the Ginnels had a dozen ideas for different ways we could use him – whether that be as a bargaining chip with the council or turning him into the weapon the Jackal’s said he was. It took all my sway to keep him with the Jubilant. I reasoned that if Ezra could help a fool like me, then just maybe they could do the same with Oken.”
“Then, there were the Jubilant. They weren’t professional or ruthless; they weren’t calculating or swift-tongued – but, they had their ways. They were resourceful, broad-hearted and brave. Uncertain in a way that kept them open to other means of doing things.
Others liked to dismiss them. All they saw was the messes they created but they never watched for long enough to see that, no matter how dire the situation, they always found a way back out.”
“Us that used to play in the alleys and backstreets of Calvary had a game. A bunch of us would cluster together, locked arm-to-arm, roaring and vicious, pretending to be a remnant. Whoever was left got to be one of the Tenders, would try and take that giggling mass of bodies down. They’d pretend to be Carn nim Daker or Arbor’s Precident or another of their legends.
Everyone had their favourite, though there was one we always fought over. Oken nim Shalif, the slayer of Relict and the Ochre Hull. And on those streets where we played, we could see the tower where he was said to keep watch, asleep until Embrace needed him.”
“After their worldly Guidance, Tovak, died and Rialla’s Harbour was left without leadership, who else but Lena would dare say that they’re going to lead it as its new, folk-chosen head? Then to start harboring the likes of us – rebels and dissidents, maybes and ginnels – while her right to be there was still being questioned. Well, I guess shame on us for not seeing the day they built those barricades and declared themselves a free ward coming. That really was the start of things…”
“I’m getting ahead of myself though. I’m talking about Atrium and you’ve got no idea what or where that is.
Back then it was a forgotten sort of place, a few faded streets, not even a ward in its own right. All of Embrace had its weirdness from our departed remnants to deal with, but Atrium – jammed between the docks and the Tear, the Jackals and the Castings – had more than most.”
“Belka, you asked me before about my exile, about how I came to join Vilte’s parish, about why I left Embrace. I think I’m just about ready to tell that story. Now, there’s a lot to hear – about the revolution, about the Ginnels and the Swifts, the bastard nim Shifs and the defiant Maybes.
First though, let’s start with what’s important: that city is a fucking hole.”