Cover and interior illustrations by John Anthony di Giovanni.
About the Book:
The Great Change (and Other Lies) is a novella-length collection that gathers four short stories related to Joe Abercrombie’s The Age of Madness, featuring old friends and new: from smugglers to kings, from diamond-cutters to dress-makers, from the most apparently insignificant of slaves to the most feared man in the Union, Old Sticks himself.
We follow the thread from the cotton-fields of Gurkhul to the heights of Aduan society, we follow a stone from the rivers of Kadir to the crown of the Union, we follow the iron from the prison-mines of Angland to a knife in the back of the old regime. And we follow the slow gestation of the Great Change itself, a revolution which will turn the whole world upside down…
Table of Contents:
- The Thread
- The Stone
- The Point
- The Great Change
Sabra picked the last few bolls from the latest plant, pods bursting open with white fluff, tossed them into her bag and blew a long sigh as she straightened. She squinted up at the sun, wiped the sweat from her forehead, slapped the fluff from her sore fingertips, shifted the strap of the bag on her sore shoulder, rubbed at her sore back and blew out another sigh. The usual routine.
“Hard work, eh?” said Kurin, nudging his hat back so he could wipe his own sweat-beaded forehead.
He always seemed to be close by. Tending to the next row of plants when they were picking. Stuffing the bale beside hers when they were packing. Setting his plate on the table next to hers when they were eating. She thought she caught him looking at her, sometimes. Or maybe she just wanted to think so. He was a fine-looking man, after all, with those broad shoulders and those good teeth and that easy smile.
She took a nervous glance about, worried the overseer might notice them talking, then remembered that the overseer was gone. Dragged through the dust behind a donkey then beaten to death with shovels, and not at all missed. They were not slaves any more. They were free, and could talk as much as they pleased. As long as they filled their quota.
It couldn’t be.
No one ever found anything here, upstream, at the top of the diggings. Nothing but sores and sunburn anyway.
It couldn’t be. As big as this?
But the more Faris looked at it, the more sure he became. Some grey-green rock clung to one side of it but, God, as he nudged it gently over with his rake he saw it was all crystal, bright sun flashing on its wet edges.
It couldn’t be. But what else could it be?
He hunched over it jealously, so the other boys working in his pit couldn’t see. He had never seen a stone a fraction of the size. As he lifted it from the water’s edge, with all the reverence he might give a holy relic, he could barely close his trembling fist around it.
He glanced up, heart thudding in his ears, but the closest guard was sitting in the shade of a boulder, head back and helmet tipped over his face, lazily waving away flies. The guards at this end of the diggings were never watching. No one ever found anything here, after all.
How often, after another back-breaking, skin-cracking, sun-blistered day, had he dreamed of shouting those wonderful words? I found one! Words that might win him a few good meals and the rest of the day off. But, in that moment, he started to think it was a poor reward for such a stone as this. Hafedieh would give him a far better one. All the boys said so. And for a stone like this it was worth the risk.
“And here we are,” said Swift, hopping down from the hoist. He wasn’t at all what one might have expected from an Inquisitor. A jovial man, prone to backslapping, with ruddy cheeks and an easy laugh. He had seemed quaint, even a little absurd, back in Jesper’s office in Ostenhorm. Those cheeks were just as ruddy and that laugh just as easy down here in the mine, in the darkness. But in these surroundings they somehow became more troubling than any amount of glaring menace.
It was a large cave. A natural gallery, perhaps. No doubt the ceiling was low, further in, as the tunnels wormed like grasping tentacles into the seam. So low the prisoners would have to work lying on their sides. But here near the entrance it was so high it became a mere rumour in the echoing darkness. The hooded lamps were turned down to a flicker as a precaution against explosive gases, and the place smelled like a burial. Or no, far worse: an exhumation.
Those few puddles of light crawled with people. If you could call them that. The ragged ghosts of men, women and children; emaciated, filthy, crooked, lurching lop-sided. Guards stood over them. Black-masked Practicals, sticks in their fists. Most of the workers did not look up, lost in their own misery. Only one woman met Jesper’s gaze. Black eyes, faintly gleaming, behind tangled hair, in a face so pale and pinched it hardly seemed alive. What was it in that look, that he could hardly bear to meet it? Jesper had seen poverty, in the slums of Adua and Valbeck, considered himself quite the connoisseur of depredation, but this was something more.
The Great Change
“This is the new dress, is it?” asked Glokta.
“It is.” Savine frowned down at herself, and sighed. “I suppose it will do.” She struck an apparently careless pose which she had no doubt practised for hours in the mirror. She does nothing by accident, after all. “What do you think?”
Ardee had told him, with evident pride, that Savine had selected the fabric herself, and specified the cut herself, and terrorised an entire team of seamstresses for three days in person. And woe betide the one who put a stitch out of place.
“As a noted connoisseur of lady’s tailoring…” Glokta twisted his face discerningly. “I would not wear it to court.”
Her face fell a little. “No?”
“It would never do to so thoroughly outshine Queen Terez herself.”
Savine pushed her tongue into her cheek. “Hmmm.” She tried not to show how delighted she was with his approval, and he tried not to show how delighted he was with her delight. At times he would catch glimpses of the child she had been. And almost want to weep that she is a child no more. And immediately aferward would see the woman she was fast becoming. And be choked with pride at all she might achieve.
Ah, the curse and the blessing of parenthood, that can coax a sentimental tear from the pitiless eye of even a monster like me. It felt strange, in a way, to have her in his stark office. Filling this place of death and pain and bloodless paperwork with hope, and beauty, and potential. It was frightening, even, to have her so near to the cells below. And to think, I was once a man with nothing to lose.
He had to clear a lump in his throat. “I’ve no doubt you will make a passable dressmaker, in due course.”
“I’ve no doubt I will make several marvellous ones.” She ran a careless finger across the map of the Union on the table top. To which I once nailed an inconvenient rival. “But for my own career I am aiming somewhat higher.”
“Mind you don’t aim so high you topple backwards. In that dress you could probably never get up.”
- John Anthony di Giovanni
- Joe Abercrombie
- United States
- eBook Edition