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.

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