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In the great floating city of Sanctaphrax, blizzards howl through the streets as the Edgeworld descends into an endless winter. Quint, the son of a sky pirate, has just begun his training at the Knights Academytraining that involves heading out over the Edge on tethers to develop his flying skills. But when Quint breaks the rules and heads out to Open Sky on his own, he runs into the great sky leviathans known as cloud-eaters and must use all his skill and ingenuity if catastrophe is not to strike the Edgeworld. . . . From the Hardcover edition.
The School of Colour and LighT STudies
The academic, in his grubby, paint-spattered robes of faded ‘viaduct’ blue, turned the crank lever with his free hand. The cog wheels in the rotating tower high above him chattered and squealed like angry ratbirds, and a shaft of light cut through the dusty air. The academic levelled the brush in his other hand and tilted his head to one side, his pale yellow eyes fixed on the youth before him.
‘A little more to the left now, I think, Master Quint,’ he said, his voice soft but insinuating. ‘So the light catches you. Just so . . .’
Quint did as he was told. The early morning light streaming in from the high tower window fell across his face, glinting on his cheekbones, the tips of his ears and nose and, with its rusting pipes and gauges, the battered armour he wore.
‘Excellent, my young squire,’ the academic muttered approvingly. He dipped the tip of the hammelhornhair brush into the white paint on his palette and dabbed lightly at the tiny painting on the easel before him. ‘Now we must let the light work its magic,’ he murmured. The dabbing continued. ‘The highlights complete the picture, Master Quint. But I must insist that you hold still.’
Quint tried to maintain the pose – but it wasn’t easy. The tower was small and airless, and the heady odours from the pigments, the pinewood oils and the thinning varnishes were combining to make his eyes water and his head ache. The rusty, ill-fitting armour chafed his neck, and his left leg had gone quite numb. Besides, he was dying to see the finished portrait. It was all he could do not to turn right round and inspect it for himself.
‘The dawn light,’ clucked the academic. ‘There’s nothing like it for illuminating the subject . . .’ His pale yellow eyes darted back and forth over Quint’s features. ‘And what an illustrious subject we are, my young squire.’
He chuckled, and Quint tried not to blush.
‘The protégé of none other than the Most High Academe of Sanctaphrax . . .’ He turned away and began stabbing at the palette like a woodthrush after a spanglebug. ‘How lucky you are, Master Quint, not to have to scrabble about with the rest of us in the minor schools, but to be given a place at the most prestigious academy of them all. I wonder . . .’ The academic’s voice was laden with sudden spite. ‘I wonder what you actually did to deserve it?’
The academic’s eyes were fixed on Quint’s face once more. They were so pale that there was almost no difference between the irises and the yellowish white that surrounded them. It was a mark of his trade, Quint told himself, trying not to shudder. Just as years of working as an Undertown rope-turner resulted in spatula-shaped fingers, and just as a slaughterer tanner from the Deepwoods ended up with skin the colour of blood, so, as the years passed, the eyes of Sanctaphrax portraitists were gradually bleached by the vapours of the thinning varnishes they used – and Ferule Gleet had been a portraitist for many, many years.
‘I was the Most High Academe’s apprentice . . .’ Quint looked down, his cheeks blazing as he remembered the monstrous gloamglozer and the night of the terrible fire.
‘Keep still!’ rasped Gleet, irritatedly dabbing at the portrait. ‘Ah, yes,’ he smiled thinly. ‘There was that fire at the Palace of Shadows, wasn’t there? Strange and dreadful business . . . How is the Most High Academe? Recovering well, I hope.’
The pale yellow eyes bored into Quint’s once more.
‘As well as can be expected,’ the youth replied, but the words rang hollow in his ears as he thought o
Excerpted from Edge Chronicles: the Winter Knights by Paul Stewart, Chris Riddell All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.