Beloved, Notte by Ruthanne Reid

The City of Az’Kabek

As always, this is presented unedited, so pardon any strangeness. Enjoy!

Hestur, General of the Seven Armies, Black Hoof of Abaddon, and Kelpie’s Own King, told me all about Az’Kabek. I will keep it far shorter than he did. I will also include information that he, at the time, did not.

Az’Kabek was approximately thirty-two square kilometers – something like twenty square miles in total. The wall surrounding it was three hundred feet high, a mind-boggling height even today. So much care had gone into perfecting this city, into balancing life and death, into keeping it safe and fully provisioned: wheats and weaponries, husbandry and heroes, storehouses and soldiers with arsenals of power.

Winged guardians swept the sky, and their unseen power arched down to the wide, black walls which held pieces of their fallen brethren at their core.

The black, flame-hearted blocks were somehow their remains: hearts and hands, bones and burdens, combined in some mysterious process by Guardians themselves that they never told anyone, and no enemy could breach them. No weapon, no spell, no evil one with intent to harm could enter here – and I did not consider this for too long, far too long, but if I had not traveled with Sarin and the merchants long enough to truly master my hunger, I would never have gotten inside.

The Saqalu can kill our kind without wood.

It sounds like exaggeration, does it not? I was there, and it is still difficult to credit. It is easy to forget the power of the Saqalu, before they fell, easy to forget the way this world was before its heart was broken.


A three-times bestselling author, Ruthanne Reid has led a convention panel on world-building, taught courses on plot and character development, and been the keynote speaker for the Write Practice Retreat. Author of two series with five books and fifty-plus short stories, Ruthanne has lived in her head since childhood, when she wrote her first story about a pony princess and a genocidal snake-kingdom and used up her mom’s red typewriter ribbon in the process. When she isn’t reading, writing, or reading about writing, Ruthanne enjoys old cartoons with her husband and two cats, and dreams of living on an island beach far, far away. P.S. Red is still her favorite color.