Fran Wilde: Updraft

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Fran Wilde Updraft
  • Название:
    Updraft
  • Автор:
  • Издательство:
    Tor Books
  • Жанр:
    Фантастика и фэнтези / на английском языке
  • Год:
    2015
  • Язык:
    Английский
  • Рейтинг книги:
    5 / 5
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Updraft: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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In a city of living bone rising high above the clouds, where danger hides in the wind and the ground is lost to legend, a young woman must expose a dangerous secret to save everyone she loves. Welcome to a world of wind and bone, songs and silence, betrayal and courage. Kirit Densira cannot wait to pass her wingtest and begin flying as a trader by her mother's side, being in service to her beloved home tower and exploring the skies beyond. When Kirit inadvertently breaks Tower Law, the city's secretive governing body, the Singers, demand that she become one of them instead. In an attempt to save her family from greater censure, Kirit must give up her dreams to throw herself into the dangerous training at the Spire, the tallest, most forbidding tower, deep at the heart of the City. As she grows in knowledge and power, she starts to uncover the depths of Spire secrets. Kirit begins to doubt her world and its unassailable Laws, setting in motion a chain of events that will lead to a haunting choice, and may well change the city forever — if it isn't destroyed outright.

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Fran Wilde


Updraft

To Iris & Tom

PART ONE. ALLMOONS

1. DENSIRA

My mother selected her wings as early morning light reached through our balcony shutters. She moved between the shadows, calm and deliberate, while downtower neighbors slept behind their barricades. She pushed her arms into the woven harness. Turned her back to me so that I could cinch the straps tight against her shoulders.

When two bone horns sounded low and loud from Mondarath, the tower nearest ours, she stiffened. I paused as well, trying to see through the shutters’ holes. She urged me on while she trained her eyes on the sky.

“No time to hesitate, Kirit,” she said. She meant no time to be afraid.

On a morning like this, fear was a blue sky emptied of birds. It was the smell of cooking trapped in closed towers, of smoke looking for ways out. It was an ache in the back of the eyes from searching the distance, and a weight in the stomach as old as our city.

Today Ezarit Densira would fly into that empty sky — first to the east, then southwest.

I grabbed the buckle on her left shoulder, then put the full weight of my body into securing the strap. She grunted softly in approval.

“Turn a little, so I can see the buckles better,” I said. She took two steps sideways. I could see through the shutters while I worked.

Across a gap of sky, Mondarath’s guards braved the morning. Their wings edged with glass and locked for fighting, they leapt from the tower. One shouted and pointed.

A predator moved there, nearly invisible — a shimmer among exploding gardens. Nets momentarily wrapped two thick, sky-colored tentacles. The skymouth shook free and disappeared. Wails built in its wake. Mondarath was under attack.

The guards dove to meet it, the sun dazzling their wings. The air roiled and sheared. Pieces of brown rope netting and red banners fell to the clouds far below. The guards drew their bows and gave chase, trying to kill what they could not see.

“Oh, Mondarath,” Ezarit whispered. “They never mind the signs.”

The besieged tower rose almost as tall as ours, sun-bleached white against the blue morning. Since Lith fell, Mondarath marked the city’s northern edge. Beyond its tiers, sky stretched uninterrupted to the horizon.

A squall broke hard against the tower, threatening a loose shutter. Then the balcony’s planters toppled and the circling guards scattered. One guard, the slowest, jerked to a halt in the air and flew, impossibly, backwards. His leg yanked high, flipping his body as it went, until he hung upside down in the air. He flailed for his quiver, spilling arrows, as the sky opened below him, red and wet and filled with glass teeth. The air blurred as slick, invisible limbs tore away his brown silk wings, then lowered what the monster wanted into its mouth.

By the time his scream reached us, the guard had disappeared from the sky.

My own mouth went dry as dust.

How to help them? My first duty was to my tower, Densira. To the Laws. But what if we were under attack? My mother in peril? What if no one would help then? My heart hammered questions. What would it be like to open our shutters, leap into the sky, and join this fight? To go against Laws?

“Kirit! Turn away.” Ezarit yanked my hand from the shutters. She stood beside me and sang the Law, Fortify:

Tower by tower, secure yourselves,

Except in city’s dire need.

She had added the second half of the Law to remind me why she flew today. Dire need.

She’d fought for the right to help the city beyond her own tower, her own quadrant. Someday, I would do the same.

Until then, there was need here too. I could not turn away.

The guards circled Mondarath, less one man. The air cleared. The horns stopped for now, but the three nearest towers — Wirra, Densira, and Viit — kept their occupied tiers sealed.

Ezarit’s hand gripped the latch for our own shutters. “Come on,” she whispered. I hurried to tighten the straps at her right shoulder, though I knew she didn’t mean me. Her escort was delayed.

She would still fly today.

Six towers in the southeast stricken with a coughing illness needed medicines from the north and west. Ezarit had to trade for the last ingredients and make the delivery before Allmoons, or many more would die.

The buckling done, she reached for her panniers and handed them to me.

Elna, my mother’s friend from downtower, bustled in the kitchen, making tea. After the first migration warnings, Ezarit had asked her to come uptower, for safety’s sake — both Elna’s and mine, though I no longer needed minding.

Elna’s son, Nat, had surprised us by helping her climb the fiber ladders that stretched from the top of the tower to the last occupied tier. Elna was pale and huffing as she finally cleared the balcony. When she came inside, I saw why Nat had come. Elna’s left eye had a cloud in it — a skyblindness.

“We have better shutters,” Ezarit had said. “And are farther from the clouds. Staying higher will be safer for them.”

A mouth could appear anywhere, but she was right. Higher was safer, and on Densira, we were now highest of all.

At the far side of our quarters, Nat kept an eye on the open sky. He’d pulled his sleeping mat from behind a screen and knelt, peering between shutters, using my scope. When I finished helping my mother, I would take over that duty.

I began to strap Ezarit’s panniers around her hips. The baskets on their gimbaled supports would roll with her, no matter how the wind shifted.

“You don’t have to go,” I said as I knelt at her side. I knew what her reply would be. I said my part anyway. We had a ritual. Skymouths and klaxons or not.

“I will be well escorted.” Her voice was steady. “The west doesn’t care for the north’s troubles, or the south’s. They want their tea and their silks for Allmoons and will trade their honey to the highest bidder. I can’t stand by while the south suffers, not when I’ve worked so hard to negotiate the cure.”

It was more than that, I knew.

She tested the weight of a pannier. The silk rustled, and the smell of dried tea filled the room. She’d stripped the bags of their decorative beads. Her cloak and her dark braids hung unadorned. She lacked the sparkle that trader Ezarit Densira was known for.

Another horn sounded, past Wirra, to the west.

“See?” She turned to me. Took my hand, which was nearly the same size as hers. “The skymouths take the east. I fly west. I will return before Allmoons, in time for your wingtest.”

Elna, her face pale as a moon, crossed the room. She carried a bowl of steaming tea to my mother. “For your strength today, Risen,” she said, bowing carefully in the traditional greeting of lowtower to high.

My mother accepted the tea and the greeting with a smile. She’d raised her family to the top of Densira through her daring trades. She had earned the greeting. It wasn’t always so, when she and Elna were young downtower mothers. But now Ezarit was famous for her skills, both bartering and flying. She’d even petitioned the Spire successfully once. In return, we had the luxury of quarters to ourselves, but that only lasted as long as she kept the trade flowing.

As long as she could avoid the skymouths today.

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