The original blog post is over at Orbit, but here’s the cover in all its watery glory.
That’s our girl Cari there, by the way. And what’s going on?
Down, down, into the chill depths. Ilbarin City is almost unrecognisable, a corpse city, but sometimes the rippling blue light catches the outline of some monument or street corner, and it all snaps back in her memory. The strange impression that if she swims deep enough into the darkness she’ll reach the old docks of ten years ago, before the war, with the Rose waiting for her. Captain Hawse on the deck, looking up at her swimming down out of the sky. But she can never go deep enough.
Swim up. Claw back the light. She breaks the water, drags herself over to the raft, and slings another sack of yliaster onto the pile. Then down again. They can only work for two or three hours a day before exhaustion and cold defeat them, and if they don’t have enough yliaster by then they won’t eat.
The Kraken of Ishmere touched this land, and spawned horrors. There are places where the Kraken-shape was imposed on everything, a fractal pattern of tentacles and teeth repeated over and over. Tentacled fish warped into tiny Krakens, dust clouds swirling in the water that form into ghost-Krakens of mud and slime, rubble that’s sprouted razor-edged tendrils of stone. Swim through those cursed regions, and the Kraken-pattern replicates in your flesh. A doctor in the camp trades her services for chits, and excises Kraken-tumours with a stolen knife. In other places, other gods have left their mark. [SPOILER] warns them of traps left over by Smoke Painter: divers have found themselves in lush pleasure gardens under the summer moon, where veiled maidens teased them and fed them wine – only to discover it was all an illusion, and the wine drowned them. Where High Umur smote his lightning, the sea still rages and boils, fierce currents that drag unwary swimmers to their doom.
Cari dives again, looking for the telltale glimmer of the yliaster amid the broken stones. Swim down, scrape, scrape, claw at the rocks until there’s blood, smear the glimmering slime inside the sack. Then the moment of indecision – swim back up, or risk gathering a little more? Each return to the surface takes time, and even though her body craves the relief of fresh air, her soul is a leaden weight, dragging her down.
On the surface, everyone knows her. Her anonymity is gone. The guards know her. The other prisoners know her. The [SPOILER] and the Ghierdana know her. Worst of all, [SPOILER].
It’s all there in their hollow eyes.
Every time she swims down, she stays a little longer.