In the dim candlelight, flickering in the study, high in the northern parapet of the keep, and old man sits in a wooden chair. His wrinkled, crooked fingers caress the cover of a thick book, remembering the symbols and words embossed in leather with rich gold. His eyes are weak, faded with age. Gently he eases the cover open and strokes calloused fingers over the yellowed, frayed page within.
Seated on a cushion opposite the old man, the young Emir's son shifts restlessly. He clutches a silk robe tighter across his chest as a cool draft wafts in through the window. The old man's eyes turn towards the window, a hint of a smile curling his lips as the clouds move away from the moon.
“Shall I read to you, now, my boy?” the old man says, turning his gaze back to the book. The prince smiles at the old man and nods. With great care, the man turns a page and begins reading the hand-written words there.
“It came to pass, in the third month of the Year of the Gazelle, that the armies of Al-Shaheed, the Prince of Tears, came down across the mountains to the City of Rael. Like a great avalanche they cascaded down the mountainside beneath their green banners and pennants. The very earth shook with their movements and the moon was blotted out by the plumes of their camp fires at night. Three days they marched down from the mountains, three days the sentries on the walls of Rael watched. And waited.
On the second day, the women and children were sent out to the south, in caravans to cross the Toba Desert, to seek shelter in nearby Astylon. Those who remained were soldiers, merchants, tailors, any man with the strength to lift a weapon. They knew, as all who gaze upon the hordes of the Prince of Tears knew, that Death rode at the vanguard of the army.
This is not the story of that great battle and the fall of Rael. This is the story of the Heroes of the Toba. They crossed from the ashes of Rael among the scant few survivors of the once-great city in stories of legend to bring the Prince of Tears to his knees. All have heard their exploits and glories. This, then, is their story, their lives, in truth from one who walked with them.
-Journal of the Wanderer
35 years After the Fall”