Chapter 14 Malkat Ifriqiya

Just then, a figure stepped from the shadows wearing black desert robes and a veil across his face. He had the appearance of a man, but his movements were not altogether human. The hyenas cowered before him, opening a path to the woman and newborn. Slowly he approached, reaching out for the infant. The woman threatened him with the burning torch. He let out a chilling laugh and put his hand into the fire, allowing the flames to engulf his arm. Calmly seizing the torch, he brandished it like a weapon, menacing the woman and child.

At that moment, the first rays of the sun cut through the cover of clouds like daggers. He tried to shield his eyes from the light, but he became disoriented, lurching about uncontrollably. The woman clutched the baby to her breast and, with only a moment's hesitation, threw herself and the child over the side of the mountain. The veiled figure stumbled about cursing the heavens. Then righting himself, he spread his arms wide and leapt into the abyss after them—his billowing black robes riding the wind down in long spiraling movements, like a vulture descending on carrion.