Baal, p.1
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       Baal, p.1
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           Robert McCammon
Baal
Prologue

 

  Part ONE

  Prologue

  FURY STUNG THE SKY.

  Kul-Haziz smelled it. It had the odor of clashing weapons, of men's sweat, of new blood, of old sins.

  Smelling it, he narrowed his eyes and looked over the backs of the grazing flock to the north. The sun hung high in a white sky, burning as it had for a thousand years. Its eye saw what was happening beyond the crags, beyond the flat plains, over meadows and hills in the distance. It saw what he could not. He could only smell.

  His eyes fixed on the grim horizon, Kul-Haziz took his gnarled staff and walked slowly among his flock, softly nudging the flanks of the sheep. He was a man who, with his wife and young son, had always followed the rainfall because the rainfall meant new grass. Life for the flock. Now, in the distant north toward the city of Hazor, he saw the gathering of dark shapes that looked like rain clouds. But no. There was no odor of rain in the air. He would have smelled it days before. No, not rain. Only the smell of fury.

  Behind him, inside a goatskin tent, his wife looked up from her mending. On the other side of the rolling, slightly sloped plain his son had been striking his staff on the ground to urge straying animals back to the flock. Now he looked toward his father.

  Kul-Haziz stood like stone on the hillside. He put his hand over his eyes to shield them from the sun. He didn't know what was happening. He had heard the stories from other nomadic families: the wrath of Yahweh has fallen upon us. We are a doomed race, they said with blabbering tongues. Yahweh will destroy us all for our wickedness. So said the shepherd prophets, the nomads of the grasslands, the kings of the hills. His heart beat within him. It sounded like someone crying out for knowledge.

  His son reached him through the flock. He grasped his father's hand.

  There was a flash like lightning, but no lightning. Far away in the distance, to the north, toward the city of Hazor. It was bright blue and blinding, intense, terrible. Kul-Haziz clapped a hand over his eyes. His son held to him, hiding his face. Behind him his wife cried out and the sheep scattered all around. Kul-Haziz felt the heat on his hand. When it had died away he looked again and saw nothing. His son was staring up at him, his eyes asking a question the man could not answer.

  And then he saw it. Over the far crags, beyond the flat plains: trees bending in a fierce wind, breaking off and flying through the air, their branches turning to fire. And the grasslands beyond blackened as if an army were marching across them, leaving Hazor behind. The fire army crawled across the plains below, scorching them. Thornscrubs exploded in flame. Fire ripped the sands.

  As the wind reached Kul-Haziz up on the grass-covered hill it whirled around him, tore at his rags, whispered the secrets into his ear. The flock bawled.

  Only a short time now before the fire would come. It had consumed Hazor and was now devouring every living thing on all sides of that city. Kul-Haziz knew his family could take only a few more breaths before the warming air turned to raging white flame.

  At his side his son said, "Father?"

  The prophets had been right. Their skulls and sticks, their writing across the sky had foretold the coming of the end. It had only been a matter of time.

  Kul-Haziz said, "The great god Baal is no more. "

  He stood like stone.

  Burning stone.

 
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