Today, I’ve got another ‘Welcome To My World’ post for you – and it’s something awesomely different from the first! This time, the post is coming to you courtesy of Francis Knight, author of the Rojan Dizon books. Francis has provided me with a deleted prologue scene from her first book, Fade To Black. Below is a blurb and cover photo, for those who may not be familiar with it:
FADE TO BLACK
From the depths of a valley rises the city of Mahala. It’s a city built upwards, not across – where streets are built upon streets, buildings upon buildings. A city that the Ministry rules from the sunlit summit and where the forsaken lurk in the darkness of Under.
Rojan Dizon doesn’t mind staying in the shadows, because he’s got things to hide. Things like being a pain-mage, with the forbidden power to draw magic from pain. But he can’t hide forever.
Because when Rojan stumbles upon the secrets lurking in the depths of the Pit, the fate of Mahala will depend on him using his magic. And unlucky for Rojan – this is going to hurt.
And now for her post! Enjoy…
Welcome to My World
Mahala is a city made of contrasts and contradiction, founded on the principles of bloody-minded stubbornness, a determination to out-sneaky-bastard everyone else and, more lately, an undying devotion to the Goddess that they say made it all possible.
Over Trade, there is sun and faith and food. Under, there is dim-to-no light, crap to eat and a kind of stretched hope.
Take the twisting Spine from Top of the World, where the Archdeacon, mouth of the Goddess, can peer down from his lofty pinnacle on his grubby-souled subjects and bask in the glow of cardinals and bishops nodding to his every whim. See the Specials, men of the Goddess who answer only to her, and not to any man, Ministry or not, which in practice means they do what the Archdeacon says and woe betide any who get in their way.
Down through the vast estates of Clouds that steal our light, where those cardinals and bishops hold their fat bellies and dream of the Goddess, and how serving her means they can serve themselves. Through down to aspiring Heights where more lowly Ministry workers, the alchemists, lawyers, doctors, newsmen, look Up with ambition in their eyes, their souls tied to Ministry. See the Specials prowl these places like Namrat, death himself, to keep the faithful safe.
Follow the twisting Spine down, past the chugging, Glow-driven carriages, all brass icons of the Goddess, saints and martyrs. Through the rattle of the vast bulky factories of Trade that will shake your bones, the thumping heart of the city. Past shops and emporiums and boutiques with their flashing Glow signs screaming ‘Buy me, buy me!’. Gleaming walkways flit across the gaps like errant birds.
Down again, into Under, below the level of the mountains that ring us, hem us in, made us grow up rather than out. Down where the light is weak and so is hope, both stolen, sucked out by the men and buildings above. Down through the Buzz, where the rich and pious men of Over come if they’re feeling daring, so they can say they’re in touch with the real people of Under, yet where the food isn’t grey, the whores are clean, and the drugs won’t send you blind. Probably.
On the Spine goes, always down, between houses that seem squashed together by the oppressive weight of Over, the weight of layers of brick and steel and concrete, the weight of expectation and obedience that squeezes a hopeful man dry.
Down into what those Over call Hope City, once a proud beacon of the new and glorious Ministry, of its benevolence, its thought for the common man. No-Hope-Shitty its inhabitants call it, and they’ve got the right of it. Beside it hulks its twin sister, the Slump, a ruined tangle of rubble, monument to mages going batshit crazy and blowing themselves up. No wonder we’re illegal. Nothing lives there now bar the rats, but it’s a handy place to put all the dead bodies a city this size can produce.
Down here in No-Hope, walkways no longer fly, but crawl, or cling feebly like dead vines. Once, long ago, before Mahala filled the entire mountain pass with this vast upward sprawl, when we still had a king, No-Hope saw the sun. But the mage-king is long dead, and almost no one remembers how it was then, or if they did, they aren’t talking. The only advantage of No-Hope is, it isn’t Boundary, because Boundary is where the world as we know it ends.
Down this far and the air becomes full of the chemical stench of synth, an all-pervasive reminder that Ministry isn’t infallible. Synth, once hailed as the answer to all Mahala’s problems. With it, we no longer needed batshit crazy mages to power Trade, and synth had rendered them reviled and hunted. Synth had powered factories, run carriages, lit homes, cooked food, changed lives, changed the whole city to one dependent on the source—Ministry. Cheap and easy, it had pervaded our lives so thoroughly, we forgot what life was like before. We wanted to forget.
Until the synthtox came.
Even now, years after it was banned and the Ministry brought in Glow to replace it, synth seeps into us through the rain, worse where it pools. It eats our houses, chews on the underpinning of the city. It comes into our bones, our brains, our hearts, a long, slow death. Down in the almost perpetual dark of Boundary, at the bottom of all that is still considered Mahala, spreading pools wait for the unwary.
They say under Boundary, there’s worse. Namrat’s Armpit they call it, whispering the name of Death. The ‘Pit, the lost piece of Mahala, where we sprang from all those years ago when we were just a bunch of marauding raiders who set up home in a handy mountain pass, built a castle, decided to take on the world and won. Now the ‘Pit is sealed, to stave off the synthtox. Now Ministry even denies there is a world outside our walls, and it’s best to agree if you like your limbs where they are. Now instead of synth, or mages, we have new, clean Glow to power our factories, our life-blood trade, rule our lives.
Aren’t we lucky?
Mahala, city of contrasts, of sun and hope versus dark and despair. I love her, and I hate her too.
…So there you have it. How cool was that?
If this sparks your interest, you can find more information at Francis’ website, and find Francis herself on Twitter. Many thanks to her for providing this post, and I hope you all enjoyed it!