To say Moskin Stormburg was devout would be a critical – nay, dangerous – understatement. Moskin Stormburg was unhinged. He believed so relentlessly in God and the blessed Lost Disciples, it wasn’t so much a matter of faith as obsession. When his neighbour made a disparaging remark about the monthly Daja ritual interfering with the kangoss playoffs, Moskin killed their family pet.
This, ultimately, was what led him to Fade.
He killed the morchi-bird in a manner laid out in an ancient Pinian text long since abandoned by the modern church, cleanly and painlessly severing its spine, setting aside the waste organs as tribute to the Brotherhood, feeding the musk bladder to the house-spirits, the eyes and brains and throllipers to the Gyrlei belonging to his neighbour on the other side, and tanning its skin and fashioning hide and feathers into a mulluck-wrap for one of the local homeless. This was a sacrifice of practicality, benefitting many, and it was the sort of thing the old books were full of. These days, of course, with the Disciples gone and the faithful tested in their beliefs by the seeing-is-believing crowd, the church had cut down on the roaring and the bloodletting, and all the real stuff.
 Knee-high, flightless, with powerful legs and jaws. Quite fierce, but with a bark considerably worse than its bite – particularly the more ornamental urban model.
 Small colonies of semi-sentient genetically-enhanced insects generally shared between rows of three or four interconnected Áea-folk dwellings, house-spirits tended to waste, helped find lost items, and kept the pest population down.
 Three-legged reptilian creatures said to have fallen from sentience back into an animal state, considered sacred charges by the Áea-folk. As the Gróbi were believed to have descended from the holy seed of the First Disciple and the Áea-folk from the Second, so were the Gyrlei believed to have sprung from the Third.
But Moskin had felt it, when he’d killed that yipping bird. He’d felt vindication, recompense for his neighbour’s disrespect, he’d felt the eyes of God open and he’d felt the ground shake as the Disciples took a titanic step nearer to him. And he’d had a vision, the next time he had slept. This wasn’t particularly unusual – biting his tongue at breakfast was sometimes enough to give Moskin a vision – but this time it had been so clear.
The Disciples were Lost, as all knew, behind the Veil that concealed Earth, of the distant shining realms of God. But with the right sacrifice, the Veil could be pierced. And as with all the great old magics, the required sacrifice was a heavy one. The morchi-bird, showing him the way, had just been the beginning.
Moskin had sold most of his belongings, everything but his birth blades and the clothes on his back, purchased a berth on the Koshanna Doof and a plot in Fade. Frankly, the people of Orbonyville were relieved to see him leave Barnalk Low. Moskin had a way of turning conversations into homilies, and a habit of staring fixedly at your forehead while he was talking, as if he was directly addressing the part of your brain that was telling you to run away. No, he wasn’t missed.
Fade was a curious place – a nation in its own right by the time Moskin arrived there, if a small one. Forty-odd miles long by ten at its widest point, it occupied the lowest stair of the Eden Road, that vast cascade of mountain-sized slabs curling down from Heaven and then … well, fading. Beneath the step on which Fade had grown over the years were three more of the massive formations, each more ephemeral than the last, even the topmost of which was too absent to support a living body, much less a thriving city-state.
Beneath that trio of ghostly stairs, there was … nothing. An empty gulf in which the great flatworld of Earth had once floated. Far below the gulf was the far terminus and the Eden Road continued down to Hell, descending back into solidity in a similar progression of misty stone. There was even a community on the first solid stair down there, known as Destarion’s Landing or, rather uncreatively, Rise.
But it was to Fade that most of the true faithful gathered, to huddle together on the dangling broken helix of the Eden Road and look out on the emptiness between Heaven and Hell, the emptiness that had swallowed Earth and the Disciples of God almost thirteen Firstmade centuries before.
After a few months in Fade, he’d acclimated well. He was no longer the craziest person on his street by a clear mile. In fact, quite often he wasn’t even the craziest at all. There were significantly crazier people living in Fade. The city was inhabited predominantly by Gróbs and Áea-folk like himself, the latter often accompanied by yapping nests of Gyrlei. His neighbours even proudly sported a pair of pedigrees that could talk, in a limited fashion. There were also assorted Heaven-folk, and of course a couple of thousand Molren.
It was ideal.