The City froze hard that winter, iron-cold and stone-still. When the snows came, they settled in to stay. It had started with snowstorms that seemed as if they were angry with something, as the wind whirled snowflakes down onto the City's filthy streets and crumbling buildings. It had started in the last few days of the year as Boy and Willow had been swept along by the magician Valerian in his ultimately futile quest for survival.
Then, early on New Year's Day, the fury abated, but still for day after day large fluffy flakes of pure whiteness drifted gently down, covering the muck and the mire, hiding the decay of the old City beneath a thick layer of pristine white youth.
The snow obliterated broken slates and chimney stacks, removed all traces of dilapidated walls and rotting windowsills and laid a clean and soft white carpet along every alley, street, avenue and parade, that was renewed every night.
It was as if the snow was trying to purify the squalid City, or at least hide its evil under a shroud of forgetting. Each night the old, horrible and grim was replaced by something new, young and beautiful.
But there was a price for this rebirth. It was cold, bitterly cold, and the City froze deep, and deathly still.
With it, something inside Boy froze too.
Too much had happened, too quickly.
Valerian. Boy couldn't even begin to think, to understand, about Valerian. He could barely feel.
He struggled to order, let alone comprehend, the events of the Dead Days, at the end of the year that had just died, taking his master Valerian with it. And beyond Valerian's death, there was what the scientist Kepler had said, right before the end. The thing that had tormented Boy's brain ever since, the truth of which still lay obscured.
That Valerian was Boy's father.
The new year that had just begun had hardly been a few hours old when Boy's one comfort had been taken from him too.
Willow.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from The Dark Flight Down by Marcus Sedgwick. Copyright © 2005 by Marcus Sedgwick. Excerpted by permission of Wendy Lamb Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.