Shadowbridge - By Gregory Frost


The first time Leodora spoke to a god, she had climbed to the top of the bridge tower and she was masked.

It was late in her third day on the span called Vijnagar, a broad segment on one of the infinite bridges that uncoil across the oceans of Shadowbridge. She went there to withdraw before her performance as the mysterious puppeteer known as Jax, to be herself awhile, and to answer to no one.

The towers—there were three supporting Vijnagar—were like great flat-topped and frieze-covered behemoths looming above the buildings and creatures on the surface that threaded the distances between them. Leodora climbed up the outside of the western pylon, going up the rungs hand over hand. To either side of her, statues of avatars and demons, monsters and heroes hung out from the corners to stare at one another, so that the climber between them could not help sensing the painted eyes that seemed to watch her hooded figure as it ascended. Most of their identities, along with their stories, were unknown to her. Like any span of Shadowbridge, Vijnagar had its own gods and tales, and she hadn’t been here long enough to collect many of the stories, but she did recognize some of the elements: the talaria that sprouted from one figure’s ankles, the gnarled knobkerrie brandished by another. These things described and adorned gods and heroes she’d heard of, whose tales she knew from elsewhere—some from the three spans she’d traveled before this. Other objects confounded her, and she hung awhile between sky and sea, trying to guess what purpose they served. One of the figures, in a long coat, leaned around from the back edge and held up a disk as if about to hand it to her. It looked like a shell strung on a necklace that, instead of circling his throat, plugged into his ears. What could that possibly be? And what legend could it be from? The next figure above him didn’t help her, either. Painted black, with spiked blue hair, sharp-tipped ears, and red eyes like flames, the figure’s identity eluded her, too.

She climbed on.

At the top she reached up and, finding gouged handholds, curled her fingers into them and pulled herself over the edge. Her blue shadow stretched before her. She lay against the cool stone to catch her breath, staring down the length of the walkway that ran to the far side of the tower. Finally she gathered herself up and knelt on one knee.

On both sides of the walkway stood more statues, figures larger than life, two rows of them hedging it all the way to the far side of the span, where presumably there were other rungs down the opposite pylon. The statues were positioned, as gods should be, overlooking the buildings and beings of Vijnagar. She wondered if the gods of enigmatic Edgeworld had cast the statues when they made this span or if it was the inhabitants of Vijnagar who had chiseled them. The nearest ones looked to have been brightly painted once upon a time, long ago. The colors had all but faded away.

Leodora got to her feet. The walkway was deserted. Unlike on the span of Phosphoros, where other people frequented the tops of the supporting towers, she was alone here. She pushed back the hood of her tunic and, reaching behind her, undid the ribbons of the domino mask that covered her head to the nose, then drew the mask away. She sighed as if all of her tension had been bound up in the disguise, as perhaps it had. The thick braid of her red hair unfurled from inside her hood.

Turning about, she beheld the world.

The sun hung like a spectacular gong behind thin clouds on the horizon, not quite ready to relinquish the sky to the two deformed moons of Saphon and Gyjio. They were creeping up into the eastern sky behind her like two furtive eyes while the sun’s dusking light spread molten gold across the sea and painted every spire and minaret with its fire.

This was the hour when sacrifices were performed and spells cast and oracles consulted; the time when light and darkness split the world down below, and one could seek for glimpses of each in the other.

The dying evening wind plucked at her loose clothes, the breeze sliding up her sleeves and dancing around her torso, billowing her tunic like a sail. It reminded her of a moment in the story of how Death came into the