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City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett



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Author: Robert Jackson Bennett

Publisher: Broadway Books

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Publish Date: September 9, 2014

ISBN-10: 080413717X

Pages: 464

File Type: Epub

Language: English

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Book Preface

And Olvos said to them: “Why have you done this, my children? Why is the sky wreathed with smoke? Why have you made war in far places, and shed blood in strange lands?”

And they said to Her: “You blessed us as Your people, and we rejoiced, and were happy. But we found those who were not Your people, and they would not become Your people, and they were willful and ignorant of You. They would not open their ears to Your songs, or lay Your words upon their tongues. So we dashed them upon the rocks and threw down their houses and shed their blood and scattered them to the winds, and we were right to do so. For we are Your people. We carry Your blessings. We are Yours, and so we are right. Is this not what You said?”

And Olvos was silent.

—BOOK OF THE RED LOTUS, PART IV, 13.51–13.59

SOMEONE EVEN WORSE

I believe the question, then,” says Vasily Yaroslav, “is one of intent. I am aware that the court might disagree with me—this court has always ruled on the side of effect rather than intent—but you cannot seriously fine an honest, modest businessman such a hefty fee for an unintentional damage, can you? Especially when the damage is, well, one of abstraction?”

A cough echoes in the courtroom, dashing the pregnant pause. Through the window the shadows of drifting clouds race across the walls of Bulikov.

Governor Turyin Mulaghesh suppresses a sigh and checks her watch. If he goes on for six more minutes, she thinks, we’ll have a new record.

“And you have heard testimony from my friends,” says Yaroslav, “my neighbors, my employees, my family, my … my

bankers. People who know me well, people who have no reason to lie! They have told you again and again that this is all just an unfortunate coincidence!”

Mulaghesh glances to her right along the high court bench. Prosecutor Jindash, his face the very picture of concern, is doodling a picture of his own hand on the official Ministry of Foreign Affairs letterhead. To her left, Chief Diplomat Troonyi is staring with unabashed interest at the well-endowed girl in the first row of the courtroom seats. Next to Troonyi, at the end of the high court bench, is an empty chair normally occupied by the visiting professor Dr. Efrem Pangyui, who has been more and more absent from these proceedings lately. But frankly, Mulaghesh is only too happy for his absence: his presence in the courtroom, let alone in this whole damn country, has caused enough headaches for her.

“The court”—Yaroslav pounds on the table twice—“must see reason!”

I must find someone else, thinks Mulaghesh, to come to these things in my place. But this is wishful thinking: as the polis governor of Bulikov, the capital city of the Continent, it is her duty to preside over all such trials, no matter how frivolous.

“So you all have heard, and you must understand, that I never intended the sign that stood outside of my business to be … to be of the nature that it was!”

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