Fallen stones and scorched debris littered the path.
The men skirted the wreckage as though they were working their way around an ancient labyrinth. Soon they pushed past several stragglers and into the city proper. As they wound their way through its outskirts, the proof of all that had been lost drove them silent. Much of Rey was still burning. Now it was no longer a ruined labyrinth but rather a maze of destruction. A maze to mirror his thoughts—lost. Scorched metal lay melting at their feet, further halting their progress. For at first glance what appeared to be the result of a siege was now anything but.
There were no signs of siege warfare anywhere. No arrows in the dirt. No ballistae iron buried into stone walls. Instead, Khalid saw a woman pressed against the remains of a fruit stand. Squashed melons lay strewn about, their sickly sweet smell weaving through the noxious fumes. The woman was silent.
At her feet, a small child whimpered. Pleading with her to wake up. Before Khalid could dismount, the soldier at his side had slid to the ground and scooped the little boy into an embrace. Though the gesture of kindness warmed Khalid, it did little to assuage his fears. Little to mitigate his fury. The men paused outside the palace gates. They were smashed to pieces, as though something had torn them from their moorings and hurled them through the sky. No weapon he could envision was capable of such destruction, save for a giant ax cleaving through the very battlements.
Battlements of iron and steel and stone. Battlements that were meant to withstand a siege for days, if not weeks. Now they had been reduced to nothing but smoldering rubble. In a matter of a night. Sections of the palace lay in ruin. Two corners continued to blaze bright.
Burning finery was scattered across the entrance courtyard. As Khalid moved through the courtyard, he found a few brave souls remained within, continuing to usher others to safety. She directed those nearby as to where they needed to go—as to what they needed to do—without even once looking up from her work. Khalid proceeded closer. What sort of evil brought about this?
Jalal hesitated. Averted his gaze for a moment. A storm the like of which I have never seen.
Horses of the Dawn
At that, Khalid locked on his cousin. He spoke in a harsh whisper. With great care, they secured the young servant girl and sent the wagon on its way. Then Khalid turned once more to his cousin. A storm. The like of which he had never before seen. The sort with the fury of the gods at its back. Nothing compared to the horror of certainty. But I want to know where she is. At that, Jalal inhaled through his nose, his expression harrowed.
Then he faced Khalid head on. His rage made the sound crack with the fierceness of a whip. He wanted to scream in fury at Jalal. To swear and yell to all the heavens. Tariq Imran al-Ziyad? As Khalid had just learned from his inquiries along the border between Khorasan and Parthia, this was the boy responsible for the budding unrest. Responsible for organizing a force against Khalid. You sent Shahrzad away with a boy I would not trust with a dying snake.
He promised me he would. Look around you with the eyes of a man, not the heart of a boy. Not an admonition, but a plea. Jalal moved closer. His eyes roved across the sight of his broken palace. His responsibilities were here. Khalid closed his eyes. His responsibilities had always been here. Shahrzad was safer when she was not with him. Even if it meant she was with the son of Nasir al-Ziyad. His hands fell from his reins.
With a nod, Jalal walked away. Walked back to where he was needed. Through the haze of thoughts, Khalid heard his cousin order Despina from the city. He heard his cousin demand that all remaining women and children leave until the fires were held at bay. If there is anything this chaos has taught me, it is to know my place.
Better than anyone.
Dawn of Dragons: The Complete Trilogy
I Know You Remember is out today! PenguinTeen : Happy BookBirthday rahdieh! PenguinTeen : TheNovl Well The Mirror and the Maze The city burned bright from leagues away. Followed by pure, unmitigated fury. Would not dare put his years of threats into action.
Everything and everyone he loved was in that city. His cousin. His uncle. Khalid had left everything behind in Rey.
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