"The city is."
Those were the city's words, a motto stamped in an ancient alphabet on even the oldest coins grubbed from forgotten wood-walled barrows split open during sewer excavations, carved on the lintels of the River Gate and the Sudgate, sewn in silk and jeweled banners hanging in the Assemblage of Burgesses so that those worthies might look up from their hard-won graft and consider for a moment whose fortunes they held in their hands.
Of late, Jason had been considering the merits of "the city was." This morning he walked the eastern wall, where the shift from "is" to "was" seemed all to easy to bring to light within the flame of the imagination. This expanse of ramified and crumbling stonework was the farthest point in the City Imperishable from the riverfront that was his accustomed haunt. He was here inspecting the defenses in lieu of Ignatius of Redtower, who remained obstinately absent.
"I will kill that dwarf," Jason whispered, his breath puffing into tiny clouds like the ghosts of his words. It was cold, cold far out of season for a time when the fall gardens should be setting and the leaves on the trees first veining to silver, red and brown.