Deep down within the walls of ancient Jericho, beneath the crumpled dust and forgotten stones, lies the crypt of the eldest of kings. The old ruler's stone-like form stands under a single torch of were-light, peering down from on high through rotten eyes, examining and studying the ancient text that lay open before him.

The shrewish man leans in close to the prince-turned-king, dressed in black and sorrow,
"You must understand, my liege. Your father made a few very specific requests at the moment of his death, on the old hills of Moridiae. And now, for the good of all, his wishes must be kept."

The dead king's dead eyes wander bewitched through the murk, peering into every crevice and crack of the tomb before him. The great stone tablet expands under his gaze, an endless scape of knowledge and power, the glory of ages splayed out in an infinite sheet of gray lines and slashes. The stories of ages past and to come, of knights and kings and angels, of valiant battles and crushing victories. He watches it all play out on the sheet of fine-chiseled stone.

The figure draped in shadow deposits the small sack of coins into the old shrew's hand, scoffing as he does so. The shrew does not know of the deal which he has struck, of the meaning that his words will have in coming times. He does not know of how much greatness his actions have done for the world, or what pains he has brought unto his former king. The man of the shadows does. He knows all too well.

Beneath the rotten king the one-and-many pages of the story in the stone push out at the world, the mad eyes and biting jaws of a thousand demons and things so much worse yearning against the confines of their rocky prison of knowledge. They seek the shores of their nighttime realm of text and tale, in which long-forgotten men of little meaning or purpose bash against each other in the undying sun. They seek the outside of the book, and freedom.

The foreman shouts at the foolish men below, as they shove and push at the rocky door to the king's tomb. He knows that everything is as the king would want it, and as the king would have it. He knows that all is as the new prince wishes it. He knows the story the young man told to his people of a great ruler who would make a great sacrifice for his people, to end the suffering of many in his eternal waking. He knows the horror of what he has condemned a dead man to do. He knows he will be paid well for his work.

The hands of the ancient king shake in their rest, scratching and stretching against the hard, cold steel of his courtly blade. But he does not escape, not now or ever. The bonds wrapped round his hands and legs tie him tight to the floor of the crypt, a prison in which he must stand for all eternity. His body ceased to ache eons ago, but still his mind trembles at the great thing before him.

The man in the dark hood raises a glass above his head, congratulating himself and his men. Now and forever they shall be free from the horror of the book, of the constant waste of good slaves and soldiers to the impossible terrors of the unrelenting stone. Free from the weight of the great stone tablet that had grown to know and despise. He turns back the glass, drinks, and is safe.

The eyes of the dead king burn at the images before him, sucked and pulled from their sockets by the terrible glory of the things below. He stares, into the great stone book that was buried with him, at the infinite horrors which reside within it. They twist and writhe before his gaze, seeking purchase against it with which to crawl into his mind and out into reality. But in the dead king's stare they find nothing but shadows.

The thousands of legions scream as they see freedom for but a moment, an instant in time for which they are free from the watching gaze of the horrid mortals. Free to ride forth, and do atrocity unto all the lands, as they so instinctively know they must. Free from the vigilant eyes and the burning light of those who would reject them. But then, a new watch appears over their great stone prison. A watch of terror and pride, of life and of death. All around their cold dead home there is a noise, of chanting and of whispers. Of the binding of a ruler.

The dead king of ages past screams in silence, the horror of that which he reads seeping through his wasted mind. He wishes only, in his ancient heart, for the cessation of the atrocity of the truth behind. He screams in his torment, and far above him the city stands triumphant. Until the end of the dead king's reign.

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