The Word for One in Russian

There are two ways into the city — which do not meet in the middle like you’d expect — through Northgate and Southgate. One comes in the old, neglected way, from the sea. It has been generations since any enemy has travelled the slow path over the waters, and the guards at the port are genial and lax. Only the rusted sides of trading vessels grow pitted in that crossing, now.

The sea opens to the north and the west, and that is the way he comes, rainforests sliding by to the south and steep-sided forested islands scattered to the north. They have deepened the Mill harbor, he sees: the gray monsters float there, blank eyes watching sleepily over the channel. The largest behemoth has its name tattooed on its side, in elaborate curlicues; Quinbus Flestrin, the Man-Mountain. An empty boast, One knows, this Flestrin has destroyed no armadas.

When the towers of the city cross the horizon it is midnight and One is dreaming, an old nightmare. He does not remember his father, but in his dreams, giants and trolls boil forth from the wet places between his thighs, hags and niskies from the tangle of hair in his armpits. He cries out in his sleep and buries his spear in the old man’s temple, his brothers dim and violent across the sleeping bulk.

One’s breath plumes into the morning air as he watches the Needle. When will you leave me alone, you monster? Is this not a beautiful world I have made from your body?