The book is about a dark-matter world. It involves space travel, many cultures, war and faith. Here are several of the characters:
He awoke from a terrible dream and found himself in the middle of a field covered with wheat stubble. The stubble had pierced his hands and face, and he was bleeding. A bell somewhere far away solemnly toned the hour: one, two, three. Dawn was still to the distant east, rushing toward him.
He went back to the mill and entered what he took to be an empty shed. There was straw on the floor and two animals, a feeding trough, and a basin of water. He recognized them as jackalopes, amiable creatures. They were used for pulling wagons and plows. They looked at him shrewdly.
There was early snow, and as it deepened, the pace slowed. John Narrowpath led his little group to a shelter, a wayside inn called the Flying Pig, with a good barn and as good a bar. The sign above the door indicated that the proprietor was Fiesta Rohling-Boyle. He took his wagon into the sturdy barn, unhitched his lopes, brushed the snow from their backs, and led them to a food trough and water basin. Fiesta was a jolly ample woman.
All had been tranquil until 930 AST. Sudlandt’s King Fugal IV had died, leaving his throne to his son, Fugal V. Fugal IV had been hard and trouble enough, but his son took all of his father’s worst traits and polished them until they sparkled. Grasping, unflinching, cruel, he had a temperature so low that Celsius himself could not measure it.
Dr. Hepatica Windblown was the monastery’s herbalist and an assistant to Dr. Cronkite. Tall as bamboo and lean as a reed, her nose formed a wondrous rudder. When she walked through a still room, she left a wake in the air.
One of the chairs was occupied by a man who was a stranger to Nathan. He was lean and hunched over like a rodent. He hadn’t shaved in days, leaving a wire stubble on his sallow cheeks and weak chin. His small shiny eyes glistened in the lamplight. He wore ragged clothes, and Nathan noticed that even the patches on his sleeves and knees were worn with loose multicolored threads on every one.
Willy Limpet was a small rather withered-looking middle-aged man with thin wispy hair, one who had missed out on the meaning of life completely. A widower with no children and few friends, he shuffled through each day wearing a furrow deepening in time.
Sylva Sylvaram was the one hundredth master of the Inchoate Polytechnic Institute (the Polytek) in Dolphene, capital of Nordlandt. He was tall, at least forty centimeters, stately, and immensely powerful. His was a presence such that when he entered a room, all conversation stopped and all eyes swept toward him. He had held his office for over fifty years, yet his face did not reflect the passage of time. His features were serene. His large forehead indicated his great intelligence. There was no friction in the machinery of his mind. When he moved his eyes to those of another, it was as if he could read the other’s thoughts. It would be unimaginable to lie to such a being; he would simply extract the correct answer if he willed to do so. His was a memory that never forgot; he could recall every detail of anything he had read and could quote whole passages of a conversation held years before.
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