On the fourth day after my heart was broken I felt that perhaps I could stand, and once on my feet I began walking through the city. I could not bear to go to the places were once we would have strolled hand-in-hand but for chaos and mischance. Instead I strode down the piazza to the esplanade, where street-hawkers peddled all manner of comestibles. At first I assumed that I had lost all appetite and would never eat again, but I found the scent of roasted prumble fruit insistent; it stalked and circled my consciousness, demanding entry and attention. As I bought a meal of spiced prumble fruit wrapped in talmac leaves, I reflected on the transient nature of affection, and supposed I would never know love again.

I kept on walking, musing and mulling and munching as I went, and halted someplace I had never been before. I was in an open space of wide flagstones, imported from the Southern Peaks. These red-blood stones were studded with chips of glass and metal inset: evidence of some longago thaumaturgical working, though whether the aesthetic had been the purpose of the magic, or some side effect, I could not begin to guess. The hexagonal flagstones filled a space larger than a throwball field, lined with high redstone pillars topped with strange gold (or, I thought more likely, gilded) urns. In the center of the plaza I saw a fountain spraying a column of water twenty feet high.

A curious mixture of tourists and pickpockets enjoyed the plaza and its many sights. Vendors sold cheap luxury goods — beaded necklaces, hot muffins, dancing girls in a tent — and musicians busked, but none of this interested me. I knew I was in a holy place, for when I entered that plaza I saw an angel. The angel — for what else could move with such grace, and speak with such gentle strength? — wore the guise of a mere mortal tumbler, but easily I penetrated this disguise and saw my celestial savior’s true nature.

Hair like flowing water, eyes sharp and insightful, and most tellingly a lean, almost chiseled frame. My angel was one of the Lesser Races, either human or verrik, but what does that matter?

(A description of the Plaza of Aching, from the first chapter of the novel Ad-Ronon and the Verrik Angel by Lilopan Falesand, Dewhoney Press, published 1490.)


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