That’s not actually the title of the book. But that’s definitely the theme of the book. My new book. I wouldn’t call it historical fiction, especially not when you toss in dragons into the bowl and mix it all up. The Book of Revelations, Armageddon, dragons, the end of the world. That’s the basic storyline. How about a sample chapter?
Indeed, back in 2014, I started writing three books. Two of those are complete, finished, awaiting publication. The third one is still work in progress, and that’s my biblical fantasy with a dash of majestic and magical to spice things up. Think of all the cliches and fun and drama, notch it up, and you’ve got yourself a nice and exciting read. Well, at least, that’s how I perceive it. But you might like it, too, who knows. That’s why I’m posting a rather random Chapter 9 from the book, for your perusal and critique. Enjoy.
The Name of the Beast
Simson had never really been afraid in his life, but the narrow staircase left little place for courage. A gust of wind, a slip of the foot, and he could end up on the hard red ground fifty cubits below, and no amount of his strength and prowess would help him then.
Iermiah climbed happily, without worry, despite his overnight binge. Simson followed, a hand brushing against the mud brick of the tower’s worn face. The worn stone was warm, and it tingled under his fingertips. As he cleared the last step, Simson breathed with ease. On the roof, there was another well of steps, but this one burrowed into the tower.
An unnatural eye socket of night, inviting them in.
“Are you ready, Ammonite?” Rami teased.
“As you are,” Simson lied.
The prophet waited. “Remember, you may not like the truths of what the wise men have to say.”
Omens. I need to know. “Lead the way.”
In they went. Torches illuminated the staircase, but strangely, the light didn’t reach out, Simson noted. To his relief, the stairwell was bigger, with wide, rough steps that wouldn’t let him slip easily. Soon enough, the square of the sky vanished, and they were inside a world that had only the amber of burning wood and pitch as its source of light.
Simson swore they descended for much longer than they had climbed. He lost sense of space as he followed the curl of the stairwell. To his left, there was a black chasm, and it dropped into perfect darkness.
Then, a doorway opened on the right side, where the wall of the tower should be.
Iermiah noticed his distress. “The tower looks smaller from the outside.” He offered.
“Where does that passage go to?” Simson realized he was whispering again.
“One of the libraries.” The prophet pointed at the glyph above the doorway. “The Library of Crafts.” Rami was looking at him quite intently. “All right, we go deeper.”
After another turn of the stairway, they reached another portal. “How many levels are there?”
Iermiah stepped up, coming closer. Simson felt exposed, vulnerable. A quick shove from the prophet, and he would lose his footing and plunge into that dizzying drop. But there was no malice in the other man’s eyes. “One level for each tongue of the world. There are seven hundred seventy and seven levels.”
Simson realized he was gaping. He closed his mouth shut. “So each library keeps scrolls in a different language?”
Iermiah shook his head. “No. But the book keepers will be able to read every language there is. If one cannot read something, another will.”
“And where are you taking me?”
The prophet shrugged. “Taking you? No. You will have to find out yourself.”
Simson balked. “I will have to descend and climb all these hundreds of levels?”
Iermiah pursed his lips. “Until you find what you seek.”
“Where are you going then?”
“I don’t know. I just know I must climb these steps, the same as you. We part ways when we part, and we meet again outside.”
Simson stood in front of the entrance, feeling something approaching fear. Twice now. “What does the sign read here?”
Iermiah glanced at the glyph. “The Library of Animal Kinds.”
Simson felt his eye twitch. “It makes no sense.”
On the next level, there were two doorways. “What do those say?”
Rami grimaced. “I do not know.”
“What do you mean? But you knew the other two!”
The prophet sighed. “Only because I entered those libraries before. I have been here…a few times. Each time, my search took me into a different vault. The first time I was lucky, and I stepped through the very first entrance, into the very first library. The second time, I do not even know how deeply I went. The third time…the libraries were marked differently. The Library of Crafts wasn’t the first level back then.”
“They shift all those books around?”
“Or entire levels,” Iermiah suggested unhelpfully.
Dark sorcery, Simson thought, his gut clenching.
They continued, deeper and deeper. Strangely, Simson felt no cold, thirst or hunger. His legs didn’t tire, even after he lost count of the steps for the fifth time. On a few occasions, Rami remarked on the glyphs above the dark passageways, but mostly, he was silent. Sometimes, the levels opened up into a single library, and sometimes there were three, five and ten corridors branching off.
“How many times have you been here?” Simson asked. Then, he heard a shuffling of feet. Both Iermiah and he stopped descending, but the scrap of soles persisted. Climbing up, coming their way was a man in brown robes. He didn’t acknowledge them. He moved on as if they didn’t exist.
“A book keeper,” the prophet remarked.
Like the doorways, they multiplied. Going up and down, in a slow, steady pace, heads bent down. Simson tried to greet them, but they did not respond. Or maybe they did not understand.
They resumed their downward journey.
“This is my fifth time,” Iermiah responded at length.
“And each time, you were sent by the malakhim?” The words echoed.
“No. Twice I had visions. Once, King Zidkiah sent me here, to find a cure for his child. And twice, I believe, I was ordered by a messenger. The last time, it was to learn -” He suddenly paused.
“This is where we part. For now.” Iermiah was standing under a glyph that, like so many others, meant nothing to Simson. For the third time that day, he had a strange feeling he had never experienced before. Lesser men might call it fear.
Without another word, the prophet stepped into the corridor, and it swallowed him. Simson stood there, wondering what he should do next. Follow Rami? No. He had to continue.
His feet took him further down into the heart of the tower, deep underground, away from sanity and sunlight. It was impossible to know how many thousands of steps he trod, how many doorways he passed. Robed men went by, and they never once spared him a single glance.
Then, he noticed a glyph, on a level with a single door opening. It was an eye, framed in a triangle. For some reason, he found this symbol important, meaningful.
He stepped into the library.
The trick of space made him dizzy again. An impossibly large vault opened before him, tall, wide, fading into the gloom, full of shelves and books. In front of the giant book cases, there was a small table, and a man sat behind it, writing. A guttering candle was all the light he had, but his hand moved with patience and precision.
Simson felt like a child as he stepped closer. Every sound reverberated, magnified. He could hear himself breathing. He could hear the tip of the quill scratching against expensive vellum. And he could hear his heart thudding.
“What is this library?” he croaked, cleared his throat, asked again. “What is it called?”
The man raised his head. Saw him, acknowledged him. He was neither old, nor young. Ageless really. A face that belonged in Ammon as it did it Mizr or Tsur. The man’s hair was shot with silver, but his face had no creases, no blemishes. A pale face, hidden away from the world above.
“This is the Library of Revelation.” Perfect Aramaic. Clear, pure.
Simson swallowed. He reached into his pouch, and removed the little piece of cloth. He placed it in front of the librarian.
The book keeper put down his quill. He looked at the stitching, turned it around. “You can read Aramaic?”
“Yes. Triv. But what does it mean?”
The other man rose from his chair, pushing it back with a screech of worn wood on cold stone. Holding the scrap in his hand, he walked into the gloom. Simson could hear him shuffling, he could hear him moving books on the shelves, but he could not see him. He waited, even though he burned to follow the keeper into the maze of scrolls and letters.
After a while, Simson lost all sense of time in this place. The man returned and sat back at his table. “It is a number. Six hundred and sixteen. Taryav.”
Simson nodded weakly. “But what does that mean?”
The keeper fixed him with a blank stare. “It is the name of the beast.”
Simson frowned. “What beast?”