I began writing When Kings Fall in November of 2011 and am hoping to have the final draft completed late this year. Based on a true story, When Kings Fall retells the misfortunes of a physician and his wife in political exile from Syria and their nomadic trek for a place to call home. It is set during the 1924 Arabian war, when the powerful armies of the Sultan of Najd and the King of Hejaz collided head-on, forcing the physician to make a difficult choice of allegiance; one which could tear him away from the woman he loves.
The prologue casts the physician as Hamza. I hope you enjoy the reading and wish you the very best in your travels and writing endeavors:
Prologue--The Day before the War (1924)
The great dune rose several hundred feet and leaned over like a wave about to crash on the Nafūd desert. A beastly sun exhaled, its fierce temper scorching the landscape and causing it to blur. Hamza wiped his forehead and dismounted. He adjusted his glasses before carefully walking atop the dune’s crest to the sultan.
The sultan cupped his hand over his brows and surveyed the western Tuwaiq escarpment, which disappeared into the gritty haze of the southern horizon. He lowered his hand. “It was eight months ago that we awaited them over there, doctor,” he said, pointing at the mouth of the escarpment. “There was not a sound, not even cries from the vultures. Finally, when the sun dipped at the desert’s edge, darkness came to life—”
He paused and looked morosely at Hamza.
“—a thousand tears of slaughter rained down on us, arrows bending the whims of fate and stealing all life in their path. There were screams everywhere, cries of our fallen. The enemy advanced upon us like marionettes in a dance of death. And we—we thought we were invincible, cursed by this arrogance ten decades in our blood. But like a crocodile stalking us in the rivers of our ignorance, the men of Medina struck, and devoured us.” The sultan’s eyes glimmered sadly. “Many children lost their fathers that day.”
Together, in silence, Hamza and the sultan paid homage to the landscape of broken arrows that sprawled out before them, remnants of the attack months earlier. At length, the sultan said, “Come, we do not have much time.” The two mounted and looked at the desolation one last time. Hamza tasted the salt at the edge of his lips, wiped more sweat from his face. The sultan’s stallion neighed at his master’s command, and the pair galloped off into the blistering heat, leaving behind them a cloud of sand and dust.
That night, under a full Arabian moon, Hamza was unable to fall sleep; the anticipation of tomorrow’s battle pounded in his heart like an unsung legend impatiently awaiting its birth. He’d had no idea what to expect when he accepted the post as the sultan’s first physician. His body was not meant for war; its delicate nature and fine hands had been groomed for the intricacies of medicine and the healing arts. Never had he imagined ending up folded in a fetal position, fending off a desert chill with the meager flesh that covered his bones. The cold of night edged its way into their tent, kissing his neck and sending chills down his spine. He pulled the blanket around him. He missed Yasmina. And he missed the sound of the crickets from his backyard in Damascus, the ones that would accompany his sleep into the wee hours of dawn. It wasn’t often that Hamza thought about the home from which he’d been exiled—instead harboring resentment for it—but tonight, in this strangling darkness, there was no other place he wished to be.
But his fatigue eventually overwhelmed him. Soon, all that was left was a faint picture of the woman who’d left him.