Excerpt from the Prologue:
He felt as old as the hill he climbed. The vaunted, once-strategic, and impossibly high Hill of Vaws challenged him daily to climb its height and worship at the temple atop its craggy summit. The mound in the desert had once been relevant; now it looked out over a wide, empty and sere desert. Atop the hill’s scrub-covered crust, an equally ancient temple clung barely to live, kept going only by the priest and his four apprentices. A joint popped and he reflected again on retiring. But a glance at the gilded star atop the shrine, its glittering outline and the shadow it cast upon the hill, reminded him of his purpose here. Chapped lips creaked open in a half smile.
A joint popped and he reflected again on retiring. But a glance at the gilded star atop the shrine, its glittering outline and the shadow it cast upon the hill, reminded him of his purpose here. Chapped lips creaked open in a half smile.
The golden star was a beacon of sorts, a thing by which to herald the Liberator, Savior, Redeemer, or Protector as He was wont to be named. Though the star reflected light, it was said that it would glow like the sun should the Liberator come. The priest, the star, the pillar, the chapel, and even the hill itself waited patiently for the Son of Man. “Glow like the sun,” the priest panted.
At one time, twelve wise men had kept constant vigil inside the chapel; they had long since passed on, leaving only the old priest and his apprentices. Finding young men to devote their lives to a run-down building atop a barren hillside in the middle of nowhere was almost impossible—and he wasn’t sure how long these men would remain. The perils of youth.
The ancient priest put his head down and trudged the remaining feet to the top of the hill. He was bent over with exhaustion and sore, tired muscles. It took an effort to straighten his frame, and a chorus of pops and snaps sounded. The priest grimaced and gazed out at the brown and dusty desert that stretched on in seemingly endless directions all around the hill.
A few scrubby trees near the chapel provided shade and aromatic herb bushes imparted the area with a sweet and heady fragrance. Being the highest point in the area, the vantage provided a vast overview of... nothing. Far beyond his vision, behind a cloud of dust, the large city of
hulked in its teeming of humanity. Jerusalem ... the old priest sniffed at that word—he called it by another name entirely, Urušalimum, an ancient name for an ancient settlement. Jerusalem