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Blood-red light cascades through languorous folds of sheer cloth. Hell-bright embers breathe into the gloom as billowing ribbons of thick, dark incense wrap their tendrils of smoke around your body like the curious hands of a lover.
Heady red musk, myrrh and honey, drops of cinnamon and crushed cardamom pod, the taste of opium-laced black wine, sweet oudh, and threads of saffron.
A scent aflame with rage, swirling in the red haze of hatred: dragon’s blood spiked with black pepper, clove, and cinnamon.
Calliope music played: a Strauss waltz, stirring and occasionally discordant. The wall as they entered was hung with antique carousel horses, hundreds of them, some in need of a lick of paint, others in need of a good dusting; above them hung dozens of winged angels constructed rather obviously from female store-window mannequins; some of them bared their sexless breasts; some had lost their wigs and stared baldly and blindly down from the darkness.
And then there was the carousel.
A sign proclaimed it was the largest in the world, said how much it weighed, how many thousand lightbulbs were to be found in the chandeliers that hung from it in Gothic profusion, and forbade anyone from climbing on it or from riding on the animals.
And such animals! Shadow stared, impressed in spite of himself, at the hundreds of full-sized creatures who circled on the platform of the carousel. Real creatures, imaginary creatures, and transformations of the two: each creature was different. He saw mermaid and merman, centaur and unicorn, elephants (one huge, one tiny), bulldog, frog and phoenix, zebra, tiger, manticore and basilisk, swans pulling a carriage, a white ox, a fox, twin walruses, even a sea serpent, all of them brightly colored and more than real: each rode the platform as the waltz came to an end and a new waltz began. The carousel did not even slow down.
“What’s it for?” asked Shadow. “I mean, okay, world’s biggest, hundreds of animals, thousands of lightbulbs, and it goes around all the time, and no one ever rides it.”
“It’s not there to be ridden, not by people,” said Wednesday. “It’s there to be admired. It’s there to be.”
A place of power and possibility, of gods diabolical and celestial: glowing amber and heady cinnamon, the green of growing things and the white of thunderclaps, sweet myrrh and sacred styrax, forest moss and blood-soaked battlefields, papyrus and clay, rose petals, wildflowers, abbatoirs, and honey.
Wherein the Magician and the Fool are one, spinning the story and juggling the knives that drive a man’s fate.
Frankincense and star anise, bergamot and clove bud, rue and green cinnamon, saffron and carnation, cedar and vanilla absolute.