Zoe Brooks - Five Things About the City Pharsis
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Five Things About the City Pharsis
Here is Sarah's battered atlas and this is a map of trade routes. You see how Pharsis sits like a large spider in the middle of a web of routes. Silk from across the southern deserts, wood, paper and furs from the Northern forests, spices and herbs from the eastern mountains, wine from the hill country to the north, all are bought and sold in the city's many markets and thronging streets. You can buy anything you desire in this, the greatest port in the world.
The docks are the size of a small town and thousands of men work on the many wharfs and in the many brick warehouses. Every morning the men stand outside the gates waiting to be chosen. The best men, experienced and strong, are chosen first, then the rest and some walk away disappointed. The work pays well, but it is also hard and few men can last more than a month without some injury. I work shifts in the docks sometimes - they have need of a bone-setter like me. If a man is injured, he cannot work and if he cannot work his family will starve. I am like an angel to them. Outside the dock gates a woman healer like me would be hung for healing, but the dock-owners are so powerful that the law does not apply there.
The other great power in this city is the university. It sits within its gleaming white walls on one of the many hills looking down on the rest of us. Sometimes I look at it from my home and wonder what it is like inside. You can see that there are trees inside and no doubt gardens - there's no space for either in the rest of the city where every bit of ground is taken. I will never know unless I become a cleaner, for no women other than servants are allowed to enter. Sometimes in the sweltering heat of the summer the tensions between the students and townsfolk explode into violence. I end up tending the wounded then too.
Pharsis is not so much an anthill but a host of anthills, each one with its queens, workers and drones. Each area has its speciality - there is the jewellery quarter, the metalworkers' quarter, the area of vegetable and fruit. My area is the Carnival Road. It is a road of scents - flowers, spices and perfumes are all sold in the various undercover markets that front on to the road. Here you will Madame Elma's Finest Perfumes. Madame Elma taught me my trade - I am perfume-maker, the best in the city now that Elma has died.
If you walk down Carnival Road to the docks, past the boats selling freshly fried fish from huge pans hanging over braziers of burning charcoal, you will come to a shingle beach. This is a special place for me. I came here with my first boyfriend. He taught me to skim stones there and talked to me about his land beyond the sea. I often go there still, to be alone and think. I watch the ships come and go and sometimes I look up at the small promontory that sticks out from the southern cliffs. It is called Lovers' Leap.
BLURB: Love of Shadows
"I had always felt most alive, when I was healing. Without healing I was a tin top spinning out of kilter soon to catch the ground. It took all my energy to hold myself from skidding into chaos."
But in the city of Pharsis traditional women healers are banned from practising and the penalty for breaking the law is death by hanging. After being arrested and interrogated twice Judith is careful to avoid suspicion, but then scarlet fever breaks over the city like a poisonous wave, leaving in its wake the small corpses of children. What will the young healer do?
Love of Shadows is the second novel in The Healer's Shadow trilogy, which began with Girl in the Glass, and follows the lives of Judith and her Shadow, Sarah. It is a study in grief, love and defiance.
EXCERPT: Love of Shadows
“Peter,” I say. “I don’t think I’ve changed that dressing for a while.”
The rumble is growing to thunder and there are voices.
I pick up a clean dressing and a pot of ointment from the shelves and walk across the room.
As I bend over the bed, I try not to think of the light of flames moving along the house walls of the square. I try not to see the look of hatred on the faces of the torchbearers. I try not to listen. I try to focus only on Peter and my hand as it peels back the dressing. I try not to listen to the clamour.
Under my breath I say a prayer: “Angels who are blessed, take this darkness from me.”
And the darkness does clear, for a while. The wound is healing, so I apply some ointment to keep it clean and pick up the new dressing.
They are overhead now. There is no escaping the words, the room almost shakes with them: “Burn the witch! Death to the witch!”
My legs fail me and I slip to my knees. I am in the darkest of my nightmares, darkness shot through with flames. “Sarah, they are coming.”
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Zoe Brooks is a British writer and poet, who spends half her life in a partly restored old farmhouse in the Czech Republic, where she writes all her novels and poetry. She aims to write popular books, which have complex characters and themes that get under the reader's skin.
Zoe was a successful published poet in her teens and twenties, (featuring in the Grandchildren of Albion anthology). Girl In The Glass - the first novel in a trilogy about the woman and healer Anya was published on Amazon in March 2012, followed by Mother of Wolves and Love of Shadows. In May 2012 she published her long poem for voices Fool's Paradise as an ebook on Amazon.