Ah, come in, come in…
Lily - Passion
Such an odd girl. She seems far too introspective to be the Count's maid. Did you know she was sold to work at the bookbinder's when she had barely seen six summers? That would have crushed a different child – but Lily used it as an opportunity to teach herself to read. She appears quiet on the surface, certainly, but there's passion there, passion that will drive her in dangerous directions. And those eyes… so dark. You can see your whole self reflected there, not just the face you choose to present to the world. One to watch, definitely. Whatever happens around her, it should be interesting.
Mark - Ambition
That boy has seen a lot. He barely escaped from the slums with his life after the grey plague broke out, and then only because his father sold him to the doctor. He likes to think that he has risen above his past, but I beg to differ. There is something hard and sharp in his nature – he'll adapt to any situation if it keeps him away from the life he used to lead. He has great plans, but I wouldn't want to stand in his way. Mark is reaching for the stars, and he doesn't care how he gets there.
Doctor Theophilus - Compassion
Ah… Theo. I knew him when he was a boy. He hasn't changed. He was born to be a healer – he's always sought to make others' lives easier, no matter how much it costs him. A fool, but a harmless one. He may be the grandson of Count Stelli, but he does not have his grandfather's soul of iron. He will never make anything of his life, unless someone pushes him.
Count Stelli - Pride
Age has not reduced the Count's power, or his pride. Everyone still talks of him as the greatest astrologer in all Agora – they credit him with knowing everything. But I suspect he has spent too long shut up in his tower. While he is gazing at the stars, other forces may be gathering below.
Gloria - Obsession
One of my best customers. A professional praise-giver, one who advertises others' business. Of course, doing that constantly will tend to dampen your enthusiasm, but I am always available to help with that. She has quite a talent, when she has the right master. But I fear her judgement is not very sound. That may get her into trouble, if she isn't careful where she treads.
Laudate - Cynicism
He might be young, but no-one would wish to tangle with Mr Laudate. He's got an attitude as fiery as his hair, and a tongue as sharp as his wit. He's a praise-giver, like his sister Gloria, but he doesn't believe in the soft sell. They say that if the deal is right, there's nothing he can't praise enough, until everyone wants to buy. But I've seen many like him in my time – he'll burn himself out before long. Then, perhaps, we'll see what he's really like, beneath the shell.
Mr Prendergast - Complacency
Prendergast is not taken seriously by his colleagues at the law courts. And indeed, the genial old lawyer can appear to be something of a joke, with his round shape and greasy hands. But there is a shrewd mind there, working and planning beneath those dabs of perfumed oil. He would not be a great ally of Count Stelli if he truly were a fool.
Snutworth - Calm
An old friend of mine. At least, I believe he looks on me kindly. But sometimes it is hard to tell. I've never known anyone hide their true thoughts so well. He is the best of manservants, I hear – discreet and efficient. But a servant can stand unnoticed where a greater man could never go. Snutworth notices everything, and remembers every detail. Sometimes, I wonder whether he plans to put his knowledge to use.
Benedicta – Kindness
Now that's a girl who will soon fall into debt. She is too ready to give far more than she receives. It is possible that her knack for strange languages will save her from the worst of a debtor's life, but there is only so far that a smile will take you. If her brother and sister don't keep protecting her, who knows where she will end up. Still, I must admit, she can be good company.
Signora Sozinho - Sorrow
She was once one of the most famous singers in all Agora, until the divorce. It took everything from her – her wealth, her servants… and her voice. Quite literally – she is mute. They say she makes violins now, but they cannot speak for her. She receives very few visitors these days – the sound of her lone violin is too sorrowful for most to bear.
The Director of Receipts – Elusiveness
Our city's ruler. Distant, mysterious and unknowable. They say he can make people disappear with a thought. They say he knows everything that happens within the walls of our city. But I believe that “they” are too ready to believe in legends. That the earthly powers of the Director – absolute ruler of Agora – are in the hands of one man is disturbing enough. I hope he will always use them wisely.
Miss Rita - Restraint
I have heard tell of this woman, from my sources. She is supposed to be the Director's secretary, and a model of efficiency. But still… what a strain that must put on one woman – to keep so many secrets. Especially as it seems that she may have some of her own.
Miss Cherubina - Folly
Some people never need to grow up. Miss Cherubina has seen at least sixteen summers, but her mother, Matron Angelina, keeps her cosseted, like a little child. Then again, from what I hear this is not unwelcome, the silly girl thinks of little beyond dolls and jewellery. If she believes that she can be shielded from the world forever, then she is sorely mistaken.
Lord Ruthven - Ruthlessness
The Lord Chief Justice is a powerful man, no doubt about it. He has an interest in everything, and an eye for detail. Indeed, he is rumoured to be involved in secret societies, though no-one would dare mention this to his face. Many of his more notable enemies have ended their days in prison, sentenced by him to endless servitude. I, for one, would not wish to cross him.
Signor Sozinho - Loneliness
A musician famed across Agora, one of our city's foremost singers. But he is not happy. Of course, the tales of his divorce are still related across the city. His music is still excellent, naturally, but it is not the same as when he and his wife composed together. But nothing can bridge that divide. Not any more.
Inspector Greaves - Worry
Inspector Greaves is a loyal man. Loyal to the city, but also loyal to a sense of justice and fairness that the receivers, the law enforcement of Agora, do not always possess. That is dangerous in a man of his position, in these troubled days. It is little wonder that his face shows the lines of a life of worry and concern. He prefers not to take sides in political matters, but soon, I fear, he will have little choice.
Sergeant Pauldron - Anger
At what point does devotion become fanaticism? Pauldron is a receiver, one of those charged with upholding the laws of Agora, and none could be more active than he in defending his beloved city against thieves, troublemakers and debtors. But lately, he has been taking the crimes he deals with almost personally. I would not be surprised if he were disciplined soon. Even other receivers are uncomfortable in his presence.
Angelina - Indifference
Matron Angelina's orphanage is one of the finest in the city – the children that can be bought from there are easily moulded and instructed, she ruthlessly extinguishes any spark of rebellion. She herself is a deeply practical woman, nothing at all like her frivolous daughter. I believe that there is very little that she would not trade, if the offer were right.
Pete - Regret
Pete is not as old as he looks. But cares have worn down this old fisherman. I have offered to buy them from him on many an occasion, but he clings on to his pain. I would hazard a guess that whatever caused his misery is still important to him.
The people of Agora
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Author photographs by Gordon Ward
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