The city is tiny but it takes up so much space. In the tunnels, on the wagons and under the stars. One more push and then the darkness will cloak us, or crack. Dreams of a black crow with a blade of grass in its beak. City of wondrous walls and far-up windows, through which candle light bleeds. Oh yes, it’s historical. It’s bathed in the blue skies of a post-plague morning. It’s covered in mist. It’s prandial. Esoteric balladeers pepper their sets with sidelong glances at hourglasses and mead. Fake beards … okay. Someone pours tea from a giant steel kettle and we settle into our familiar jousting positions. City of interminable consultations with oracles. City of bad news recirculated through flues. City of underfloor heat and head-high smouldering looks. City of jawbones and dialectics. Shutters whirr, somewhere. Outside a stillness prevails, lording it over the jackdaws and scarecrows out on loan. City inside a glass globe. The patter of lower court officials. Thatched straw roof, earthern floor: between us, a grim troll. Padded walls and slops buckets. Boisterous boys and mincing girls. Some religious delegation gets the boot. Black ships in a steel harbour. Bodies hanging from trees, vines encircling their legs and arms. Signs posted randomly along passageways leading to wooden mines. Outlaws and prosody. Middle time. Kingdoms and fiefdoms, spiralling defenses and natural redoubts. Evenings of yearning. Days of speed. Colossal dreadnoughts and battering rams. Machines. No doubt. Destiny. The importance of lineage and custom. Books made from older books. Libraries made from the songs of extinct birds. Paradise, in a nutshell. Spherical lanterns and high-pitched wails. Torture chambers, yes. Wells, filled with old boots and armour. Metal horses. Arrows and pitch. Wheels and grinders. Midnight sorcery. Flying warriors. Snakes and beetles. City of the underclasses. City of rosewater. Inklings of sorry tales, chainmail speaking in tongues. Museums of lard. Fantastic noodle trails. Glory and desperation. Assault and counter-assault. Chips and fingers. Odes and elegies, sung in minor keys.

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