Now I really need to get on with other pressing work (the follow-up to Frankenstein for one, the six gamebooks for our spring venture for another) but I'm going to keep tinkering with the files for Book 6: Lords of the Rising Sun whenever I have a spare moment, and that should certainly be ready in good time for Christmas.
In the meantime, here's a taster of Book 5. Most of the book was written by Jamie, but a small chunk of it was ghosted by Tim Harford and this was my own contribution:
From a distance the towers of Aku seem to hover in the air like a city in a mirage. Gardens of riotous foliage cascade like green waterfalls from the elegant pinnacles and domes. Windows of brightly stained glass glint and sparkle in the white sea-cast sunlight. Choir music drifts languidly from the highest minarets. Men and women in gorgeous silk robes glide decorously along the raised esplanades and balconies. For the masked nobles of Aku, life is one long round of banquets and masked balls.
Not so for the poor. The city is built right across the top of a narrow river canyon hundreds of feet high. The rich live in the city proper, the better-off merchants have mansions on the upper ledges of the canyon walls, and the slums of the poor cluster far down below. There they must endure the daily shower of sewage and refuse from above but, even so, many covet the sites directly under the city. This is because the nobles sometimes toss scraps of meat or half-eaten fruits from the balconies, or even whimsically drop coins off the marble balustrades; a desperate man can always dream of a windfall from on high.
Guards stand on duty beside the ramps leading to the noble palaces, as stiff and unmoving as figures of cast iron. These men are members of the Expunger caste. Their tunics are cut away leaving the right arms bare from the shoulder down, the skin patterned with a black filigree of tattoos swirling down the forearm and hand towards the long, iron-hard fingernails with which they can slay a foe with a single cobra-like stab.
On the terraces of the canyon wall just below you are the warehouses and homes of the merchant class. A few shrubs are the only decorative touch to relieve the grey tedium of those narrow peak-roofed dwellings. Aku is the capital of Uttaku. A great palace, resting on massive buttresses, sits above the city like a spider. In the palace lives the Faceless King and the nobles of the Court of Hidden Faces. You ask a passerby about the people of Uttaku. He tell you to go to an inn, where your questions will be answered.
The homes of the merchants are safely clear of the sewage outlets in the underside of the city, although a strong wind can sometimes carry an unpleasant whiff. In front of them runs a paved promenade where heavily laden ox-carts trundle day and night. From the edge of the promenade you can get a dizzying view of the harbour far below. Strains of delicate harpsichord music waft from the leafy terraces of the city suspended over the chasm.
A merchant pauses beside you and half closes his eyes, smiling serenely. For an instant you think he is also enjoying the music, but then he hawks and spits over the side. You see the gobbet of phlegm swoop down to catch a slum-dweller where he squats in front of his shack a hundred feet further down the cliff.
‘A-ha-ha!’ crows the merchant. ‘See that? The stupid dozer didn’t expect that, did he?’
Delightful people, the Uttakin. Their motto seems to be: no matter where you are in life's heap, always take time to dollop dirt on the guy below you.